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Crazy Weekend Survived!

I made it through my craziest holiday weekend, including a non-stop Saturday on the kind of cold, rainy day that’s just made for staying home, cuddled under a blanket with hot tea and a book. The holiday stuff gets a little easier now. I just have a party tonight, a choir rehearsal Saturday, and two performances Sunday morning.

I may be missing cable a little when it comes to the TV Christmas movies because the ion ones are just so bad. The scripts are actually decent, but the production values are pretty terrible, which makes them more frustrating. Put these stories with the slightly higher budget from the cable networks, and we might have something. But there was one I watched last week that had terrible sound, like they’d filmed it on an iPhone, using the built-in microphone. The background noise and the dialogue were at the same volume. In some scenes, there was a weird echo effect that sounded like when someone’s microphone isn’t on during a TV newscast and you can kind of hear them through someone else’s microphone, but it’s tinny and a bit echoey, like it’s coming from a distance. In some scenes in a location with a wood floor, you could hear everyone clomping around — even when the characters in a scene weren’t walking, so it must have been the crew moving around. Even if your budget is the change you found in your sofa cushions, you can tell your crew to take their shoes off.

Then this weekend I watched one I’d recorded, and the acting was so bad and stilted that it wasn’t even at community theater levels. It was closer to “we’re studying Shakespeare and reading the plays out loud in class.” There have got to be plenty of people who can act without sounding like they’re reading cue cards. It made me wonder if they just cast local people when they filmed in a small town, or if maybe they funded this through Kickstarter and one of the reward levels was that you got cast in the movie, regardless of acting experience.

Fortunately, there are a few movies on Amazon and others on various other streaming sites, and I’m not watching that much TV, anyway. Last night, I listened to an early music program on the local classical radio station, and it was lovely.

Now, though, I’ve got a short story to revise, a book to revise, and a proposal to write, plus I have more singing this weekend, so I have music to practice.

Sidetracked

I got sidetracked the last couple of days and sort of forgot to post. Wednesday morning, I got caught up in watching President Bush’s funeral. I saw him in person several times and actually met him once. When I was in journalism school and interning in radio news, I covered the state Republican convention when he was running for president and was there to cover his keynote speech. Then while he was president, he was the commencement speaker for my college graduation (it was cool having the president of the United States as the speaker, but the security was a bit of a hassle, as we had to get there and line up hours before the ceremony).

I met him after he was president. I was doing trade show media relations for Ericsson, and we were at a major industry event. The Ericsson US headquarters at the time was in Richardson, Texas, and it was technically Ericsson US being represented at the event, so everyone’s name badge listed Richardson as the location, including the people who came over from Stockholm. Because I have a Scandinavian last name, I always ran into some confusion at these events. My family’s from Norway, but according to the Swedes, my name is actually Swedish, and all the Swedes from Ericsson assumed I was one of them. Even the president of Ericsson thought I was one of his people from the Stockholm office.

Former President Bush was the keynote speaker for this event, and after his speech they were giving him a tour of the major booths in the expo, doing technology demonstrations for him. When he was walking up to our booth, we were all standing there, watching, and he spotted me, said, “A Texan!” and came over to shake my hand. We couldn’t figure out how he managed to pick out the actual Texan among a group of people with Swedish names in the Ericsson booth, when all of us had Texas as our location on our name badges. I hadn’t come close enough to him at those previous events for him to be able to recognize me, if he would have even remembered me. It was just some weird internal radar, I guess. At any rate, he was very nice and surprisingly large, and my hand totally disappeared into his.

I’d just put the funeral on for background noise, but ended up watching and totally forgot about what else I was supposed to be doing that morning.

Then yesterday, I had the guy coming out to give my heater its annual checkup in the afternoon, so I spent my morning doing some frantic tidying. I’d just had the message about my checkup being due, and I was surprised to be able to get an appointment the next day, but that meant I didn’t have that much time, and my housekeeping hadn’t quite recovered from two trips in November. But now I have my usual Saturday chores mostly done, so the house won’t fall apart after a busy Saturday when I wouldn’t have had time to do much cleaning.

And that’s why I totally forgot to write blog posts for a couple of days. Maybe I’ll do better next week.

Done/Not Quite Done

I got to the 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month goal, but I still have a couple of scenes to write to finish the story, so that will be today’s fun. Then it’s on to other projects.

I’ve decided that I’ll survive not having access to all the made-for-cable Christmas movies. I still have access to plenty of seasonal programming, but it’s nice not to have something on every night that part of me feels obligated to watch. I did do a bit of a Christmas movie binge yesterday. There was an older one on one of the local stations, and then I watched a couple on ion. So I may have had my fix for the year, though there’s one on ion next Sunday that looks potentially spectacularly awful, in which they seem to be telling the Snow White story in a modern setting at Christmas. I’ve got a concert that night, but I think I’m going to have to DVR it.

This is probably when I should mention that I’ve written a Christmas story. It was originally a screenplay that I was targeting toward Freeform (ABC Family at the time I wrote it). I’d analyzed what was in their movies, and this had all the ingredients I thought would appeal to them. Then when I realized I wasn’t crazy about the idea of doing all the things I might have to do to sell it as a script, I rewrite it in prose form and released it as an e-book. It’s a short read, pretty much a one-sitting thing. It’s called Twice Upon a Christmas, and I guess you could call it a sweet contemporary paranormal romantic comedy. Look for it at the usual places you get e-books.

I had the germ of an idea for a new one hit me last night, but I have other things I need to work on first.

Grocery Glitches

Yesterday got disrupted by having to deal with a grocery glitch. After lunch, while I waited for the kettle to boil to make some afternoon tea, I put away my groceries. The bill had been a bit higher than I’d expected, but I knew I was doing a massive re-stock and buying holiday cooking supplies, so I hadn’t argued at the store. But as I put the groceries away, I was trying to do an estimated running total, and I didn’t get anywhere near the right amount. So I looked at the receipt and saw that it wasn’t just my groceries on it. The first half was the previous person’s order, with mine added on. Then I noticed that the credit card digits showing on it had nothing to do with mine, and it was even a different kind of credit card. So, I ended up running back to the store to straighten it all out. I had to stand in line at customer service, and it baffled the clerk there, who called in a manager. Two managers eventually came over, and they were baffled. They had to call in their front-end supervisor. That involved a lot more waiting (they paged him several times). He groaned because apparently this has been coming up with their latest system upgrade. He copied my receipt so they could investigate further. Fortunately, the person ahead of me has a Kroger Plus account, so they might be able to get in touch with her. They added up my actual bill (nearly $100 less than it had been), and I paid that. I haven’t noticed any odd charges on my card, so it looks like it didn’t get charged at all the first time, either for my groceries or the next person’s.

And I was able to pick up something I realized I’d forgotten.

I think they were a little surprised that I came back to draw this to their attention when it actually worked in my favor, with someone else paying for my groceries. And unless this person pays close attention to her credit card account and notices that the amount is off, she might not notice this unless the store is able to do something to either contact her or void the transaction without having her card.

But I don’t know that I could have lived with myself taking advantage of something like that.

Anyway, I guess that’s a lesson to question when something seems that off and to keep an eye on your credit card statements. I’d have saved myself a trip if I’d said, “Whoa, how did I buy that much? That doesn’t seem right,” right there at the register.

But that was more than an hour out of my afternoon. Still, I’ve got an easy run toward completing the 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month goal. I may or may not get to the end of the story today.

Ready for Crazy Time

It’s not even lunchtime yet, and so far today I’ve written 1,000 words and done my major pre-Christmas shopping expedition. I’ve bought most of my Christmas gifts and did the big grocery run, so I should be set for everything but produce, dairy, and specific ingredients to make certain things until after Christmas. The cupboard had been looking pretty bare. I didn’t even have the key ingredients I needed to make anything out of leftover turkey (bad planning on my part — I should have stocked up on that stuff before Thanksgiving).

I have two days before holiday madness really kicks in, and I actually should start some of the cooking tomorrow. Then I have two things to go to Saturday. I’m probably going to put up my decorations on Sunday. There’s something I want to go to on Monday. The neighborhood tree lighting is Tuesday night. Next Friday is baking day. Next weekend is my official Holiday Crazy Weekend — On Saturday, I’ve got a choir rehearsal in the morning, a luncheon, then a meeting in the afternoon. Sunday morning my children’s choir sings in the early service and I’m singing in a concert that night. Whew! Then there’s a party Monday night, but it’s a spa night, and I may need it by then. I have more choir stuff the following weekend. So I guess it’s good that I got a lot of errands out of the way today.

Once I get the crazy done, I’m looking forward to some quiet. I need to find some appropriate seasonal reading material since not having cable means I’m missing out on the frenzy of Christmas movies. I get the ones on the ION network, and there are a few streaming on Amazon, but I’m not getting all the Hallmark, Lifetime, and Freeform movies. I think it’ll be nice reading instead, with some music playing, a mug of cocoa, and a cozy blanket around me. If you’ve read a good book that’s kind of like the TV Christmas movies — a bit romantic (but more romantic comedy, less on the heavy-duty, sexy romance) with great holiday atmosphere, I’d love some recommendations.

And now for lunch, then more work.

The Joy of Not Commuting

I’m in the home stretch of this draft of the book, and barring a major disaster, I should easily hit the word count I was aiming for. I might even get to the end of the story. I’m quite proud of myself for having made my target word count yesterday, in spite of being out all afternoon.

I had a bit of a flashback to my commuting days, since I was driving home in rush-hour traffic, and I had to stop by the grocery store on my way home, since I needed milk for breakfast today. I even drove part of a stretch of road I used to take when I commuted, though I was going in the opposite direction from the way I used to come home. It made me so glad I don’t have to do that on a daily basis anymore. I can go to the store on weekdays during the day when it’s not so crowded, and I can usually avoid rush-hour traffic. I don’t get on the road at that time of day if I can help it.

I’m so appreciative this morning to be working at home, currently still in my pajamas, bundled under the electric blanket on my bed. I’ll move to the office later, but the mornings are chilly, and it’s nice to luxuriate for a little while.

I swear, I’ll have more interesting things to say next week when I get this draft done and can think about something else, for a change.

Return to the Office

I write this today from my desk in my office. You have no idea what a monumental achievement that is. I spent much of Saturday filing the things that had piled up on my desk, then managed to empty one of the “to be filed” boxes in my office. It’s still a work in progress and there’s a lot more to do, but now it’s not entirely unpleasant to work in here, so I thought I’d give it a try today. Yesterday was so cold that I allowed myself another day curled up on the bed under the electric blanket, but I have some stuff to print today, which meant hauling the laptop upstairs anyway. I’m hoping that moving around and changing my sitting position will mean less back/shoulder/neck pain. Too long in any one position is bad, but moving my working location throughout the day may help.

The trick to working in my office will be to stay focused on the work instead of doing all the stuff I want to deal with in the office. Today, I have no time for getting sidetracked since I have to go this afternoon to speak to a college class. I’ve already done half my writing quota for the day and need to do the rest before lunch.

But if I can do this much before lunch, that opens up a world of possibilities …

Writing through the Holidays

The nice thing about an early Thanksgiving is that it gives us a bit of a grace period between Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. December doesn’t start until next Saturday, and Advent begins next Sunday. That makes this a relatively quiet week, holiday-wise, so there’s a chance to recover between holidays.

Which is good because this is going to be a busy week for me. I’m speaking to a university writing class tomorrow, I have a pretty intense choir night Wednesday, and I’m wrapping up a book. The book isn’t on a real deadline, as it’s mostly a personal project, but I figure that since it’s National Novel Writing Month, I might as well go with it, even though I didn’t start until halfway through the month. I’m a cinch to get to the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words, but I suspect I’ll end up going beyond that to get the whole story in, and I don’t know if I’ll get all that done by the end of the month.

Then I’ll have written two rough drafts in two months. Whew! December will be devoted to revising rough draft #1, which is due in January. I may work on something else for fun the rest of the month. Then January will be for revising rough draft #2 and proofreading draft #1. After that, it’s Rebels #4.

I think I’m going to keep up my current work schedule on most days in December, but when there’s the option for a fun holiday event or activity, I’ll let myself take time off for it. For instance, the classical radio station is doing a week of live lunchtime concerts downtown, and I plan to hit at least one of them. On nice evenings, I’m going to try to take a twilight walk to look at Christmas lights (the extra exercise will be good for me). There will be at least one shopping day, maybe a weekday trip or two to the nice malls.

I had a good Thanksgiving, and I even managed to get in at least a minimum word count while I was out of town, which I generally haven’t been able to do. I usually really slack off in writing time in December, so we’ll see if I can maintain some kind of consistency and also enjoy the holidays. Not having cable will help, since I won’t be able to spend all my evenings watching cheesy Christmas movies.

Cold With a Cold

I’m back home after my quick weekend trip to the Louisiana Book Festival. It was a really nice event. I think my panel went pretty well, and I had a steady flow of people at the signing. A couple were already fans who brought books to be signed, but the rest seemed to be just discovering me, which was nice.

Unfortunately, I got sick while I was there, either being hit with a massive allergy attack or coming down with a cold, so I didn’t get to enjoy the festival fully. It was a bit colder than they forecast. I’d packed for the forecast, but it was really cold, and that didn’t help matters. I was fine during my events in the morning, just with a slightly sore throat, but it got worse as the day went by. After I checked out of my hotel, I just spent the afternoon in the author hospitality room before I headed for the airport, and I fell into bed as soon as I got home.

I’m feeling better now, but I’m giving myself today as a “light duty” day since I’m sick, it’s a national holiday, and the weather is good for a sick day, all cold and gloomy. I’m working on brainstorming a story idea, but I may also let myself watch a movie that kind of counts as “research.”

Tomorrow if I keep feeling better, I can go back to “normal.”

One More Event

This weekend, I’ll be a speaker at the Louisiana Book Festival, my last big book event of the year. I think they’re stretching the definition of “Louisiana author” a little bit, but they invited me. I don’t even know if they know of my Louisiana connections (my family is from Louisiana, and I lived there briefly when I was a baby). It’s ironic that this is my first big state book festival invitation. So far, Texas hasn’t been interested in me for the state book festival, state teen book festival, or even regional teen book festival. Texas needs to up its game! I also haven’t heard anything from Oklahoma (my actual native state).

I’m on one of the panels for teens, but I’m not sure what kind of audience we’ll have for the first panel in the morning. The up side of that is that I have the rest of the day free to go to the panels I find interesting. And there’s the south Louisiana food. I’m hoping to get a little gumbo and maybe a beignet while I’m there.

It’s just a one-night trip, but I’m doing my usual overpreparation, as though I’ll be gone for a week. My wardrobe planning keeps changing as the weather forecast keeps changing. I was going to buy a new dress for cooler weather, but now it’s going to be chilly enough (and I’ll have to be outdoors enough) that I think I’ll just go with slacks and a sweater, and I have plenty of sweaters I seldom get to wear. There’s a party the night before, and it will probably be too chilly to wear my little black dress unless I also wear a coat, so I think I’ll do a skirt and sweater for that. That means I won’t have to go shopping. I really need to purge my wardrobe before I add more to it.

So, if you’re in Louisiana and coming to the book festival, I hope to see you!