Shopping, Reading, and Random Thoughts

I was going to stay home and nurse my cold today, but the weather was so pretty (after a dreary, rainy day yesterday) that I found an excuse or two to go out.  When I stopped by Office Depot for a box of my favorite pens, I found myself unable to resist buying a pair of 8 gigabyte flash drives, on sale for $9.00 apiece.  I don’t need them.  I have flash drives all over the place, in my purse, on my desk, little ones in a box, more on my desk at work.  I remember when the first flash drives (I think most people referred to them as thumb drives then) came out–they held 128 megabytes of data and cost a hundred dollars or more.  I had friends who carried them around like talismans, their novels-in-progress safely hanging from lanyards around their necks.  Heck, not too many years ago I was working on a computer with a hard drive that only held 2 gigabytes.  Nine bucks–how could I pass them up?

Office Depot is located next door to Half Price Books, and how could I pass that up?  I went in looking for a copy of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, a book I remember fondly from my childhood (mumble mumble) decades ago.  A new movie version is just coming out, reminding me of the book  (although the movie, an animated Japanese film redubbed in English, is called, for reasons I can’t explain, The Secret World of Arrietty, after the protagonist of the book).  There were no copies of Norton’s books in the store, but I did stumble across a biography of L. Frank Baum, Finding Oz by Evan I. Schwartz, a bargain at two bucks, and I picked up another of Phyllis A. Whitney’s novels, Woman Without a Past.

Full shopping disclosure:  last week I ordered Deader Homes and Gardens, the latest comic mystery from one of my favorite authors, Joan Hess, from Amazon.  Being no fan of shipping charges, I found something else to buy (The Help on DVD) to bring the total up to the free shipping level.  Just made it, at $25.20.  Never mind that I’m working on a couple of Amazon gift cards that will keep me in books and movies for a while.  I’m still too cheap to pay for shipping if I can avoid it.  Yes, I know, I bought something instead, but it was something I wanted.  And we all know perfectly well why Amazon offers free shipping–so we’ll buy more stuff.

Sigh.  More books for the To Be Read Shelf.  You may have noticed I’ve had the same three books on my “What I’m Reading” sidebar for the last ten days or more.  I haven’t forgotten to update it.  I’ve really been that slow.  Busy at work, on day 50 of the current writing challenge (mostly editing on Bathtub Jinn lately, and I still need to work on that tonight).  The last book I finished was Haywood Smith’s The Red Hat Club, a funny, charming, and touching novel well worth reading. 

 We need a t-shirt, or a bumper sticker: She who dies with the most books wins.

Reading and writing and never enough time!

Between a couple of busy weeks at the Scorekeeper and an equally busy social weekend last week, I’m further behind than ever with reading, although I’m trying very hard to keep my head above water on writing.  In spite of my general need for more sleep, I stayed up late Thursday night to finish reading Colleen Thompson’s Phantom of the French Quarter, a nifty romantic suspense tale from Harlequin Intrigue.

When I finished Colleen’s book, I looked around at the shelves of unread books in my bedroom and went into my usual short-term mental paralysis.  Like the proverbial kid in the candy store, I find myself with too much to choose from.  I settled on John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, at least in part because it was close at hand.

The overstock never stops me for long, at either reading or collecting more books.  Last Saturday Jo Anne and I went to a reception and booksigning for Haywood Smith (small world story here:  Haywood’s sister Elise, hostess and provider of truly lovely food, is the head office nurse for Jo Anne’s physician.  I find it extremely difficult to resist anyone who says, “Please, let me feed you.”).  I had met Haywood several years ago when she was guest speaker at a West Houston RWA meeting, shortly after the release of Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, and I have enjoyed her books ever since.  The opportunity to chat with Haywood over chicken salad for an hour or so was a real treat; she is as charming and funny as her books.  I came away with signed copies of her new release, Wife-in-Law, and one that I had missed, Wedding Belles.

I also discovered that I had missed two of Haywood’s books along the way, so this morning I stopped at Half-Price Books and found a copy of The Red Hat Club.  Two or three books over I spotted a copy of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle.  Dodie Smith was a British playwright and novelist who is best remembered as the author of The Hundred and One Dalmations, a book I read and loved when I was a kid.  I don’t remember reading I Capture the Castle, but apparently it has quite a following and comes highly recommended by J.K. Rowling.  So I brought that home–how far wrong can I go for seven dollars?–along with a copy of Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, another book I’ve heard discussed on NPR.

Meanwhile, on the writing front, I’m on day 98 of my current streak, planning to finish Bathtub Jinn in time for this year’s Golden Heart deadline.  This evening I hung a new corkboard in my writing nook (replacing the giant three-dimensional macrame elephant’s head engineered and constructed years ago by my late father) and decided that the empty space above it was the perfect spot for my Golden Heart Finalist certificate, which has languished since July 1 in a manila envelope. 

Just to prove that writing contests are pretty much unpredictable, this week I received scores from one that Bathtub Jinn did not final in.  Translating the scores into percentages (to protect the innocent, as they used to say on Dragnet):  two judges published in romance gave the entry scores of 95 and 92 percent.  The third judge, published in some other genre, gave it 53 percent.  This was not a drop-the-lowest-score contest, so the coordinators sent it to a discrepancy judge (unpublished), who gave it a cautious 77 percent score.  I’m sure those results demonstrate something, but I’m never sure what. 

Nobody’s going to come knocking at my door, or even my email inbox, looking for a manuscript to buy, so this afternoon I sent Bathtub Jinn off to another contest.  If I throw the bait out often enough, maybe I’ll get a bite.  If I keep it in my computer, that’s where it will stay.

And I’ll only make day 98 if I do some writing tonight.