Adjusting to Change

Change is seldom easy, even when you’ve been looking forward to it.  Not that I’m complaining about my new schedule, not at all.  This is my second long weekend, and it’s not over yet.  Tomorrow is Monday, and I don’t have to go to work, don’t have to get up at 6:15, don’t have to drive into Houston.

It’s just that I’m having my usual trouble relaxing, reminding myself that my schedule is looser now, that I don’t really have anything pressing I have to do before tomorrow.

I’ve been sleeping seven or eight hours a night,  instead of the five or six I’ve been managing with for so long.  I wonder how long it takes to recover from chronic sleep deprivation, and one friend tells me he’s still trying to catch up with the sleep he lost doing shift work forty years ago.  Another friend, who retired from teaching to write full time a few years back, tells me I’ll soon be just as busy as I ever was.  She may be right, but I’m hoping most of that busyness will be of my own choosing.

I’m still too tired to read much when I get into bed, but this afternoon I sat and read for an hour (Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey)–while doing the laundry, before an hour of ironing.  Some things don’t change.  I haven’t cracked any of the DVD movies I’ve been saving, but I’ve caught up on a few TV shows On Demand.

We’ve gotten some rain this week, and today it was overcast, relatively cool, and extremely humid.  Fortunately I mowed the lawn last Monday, but that’s about all I’ve done in the yard, except for collecting several bags of toad stools before they could spread even more spores across the lawn.  And the rain woke up the mosquitos.

More BooksI’ve done some shopping, of course, some of it necessary (groceries) and some for fun (books).  I’m still buying books, or downloading them to my Kindle, far faster than I’m reading them, but that’s nothing new.  Last weekend I went to Barnes & Noble for several books by friends (Lady in Red by Maire Claremont, Summer Is For Lovers by Jennifer McQuiston, Spy’s Honor by Amy Raby, and Find Me by Romily Bernard), and that lovely anthology of the first five Oz books–with the original illustrations!  This weekend, I went to Half Price Books and picked up the latest novels by two authors I’ve read regularly since their first books came out, Sue Grafton’s W Is For Wasted and Steve Berry’s The King’s Deception.

Yesterday I did get up at 6 AM, to make the long drive across town to the West Houston RWA meeting.  My term as president is almost over–one more meeting, and some planning and paperwork to take care of, and then I can pass that on to the next board.  It’s not an onerous job, but it’s time consuming, and two years is quite enough.  I’m lightening the load.

I’m still a bit in vacation mode.  I haven’t made appointments or plans for any of those easier-done-on-a-weekday projects I’ve been saving.  But I’m working on my latest writing project again, and I have eight pages to read to my critique group tomorrow evening.

And lots of books to read.

More From RWA 2011

The RWA conference got off to a great start this morning with a panel of NYTimes bestsellers:  Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, and Tess Gerritsen.  I’ve been a big fan of Berry’s thrillers from the beginning, starting with The Amber Room.  Right now my copy of The Emperor’s Tomb is waiting for me, bookmarked around page 150, and next to it The Jefferson Key.  So I was looking forward to his appearance, and I found Gabaldon and Gerritsen just as entertaining.  All three answered questions about how they sold their first novels, their writing habits, and told any number of hilarious stories.  Berry wrote for twelve years and eight manuscripts before he sold The Amber Room.  Gabaldon wrote Outlander as a “practice novel,”  and to this day can’t explain it in an elevator pitch.  Gerritsen wrote romantic suspense novels for years before she decided to write a medical thriller; until then she had never mentioned to her agent that she was a physician.

The crowd nearly filled the enormous Broadway Ballroom, and president Dorien Kelly announced that the conference has over 2100 registered attendees, from all fifty states and more than twenty other countries.  No question that the hotel is teeming with women (and a few men) sporting RWA badges adorned with a variety of pins and ribbons, carrying two thousand matching tote bags.

We returned to the Broadway Ballroom for an excellent lunch, expertly served to a packed room in the unbelievable din of the crowd.  Fortunately the microphones and giant TV screens allowed everyone to hear Madeline Hunter’s keynote address.

Jo Anne and I spent the afternoon at the PRO retreat, a set of workshops for members who have completed and submitted at least one manuscript.  The session focused on industry matters and featured a marketing executive from HarperCollins along with agents and authors.  An impressive list of PRO members also graduated from PRO to PAN (Published Author Network) status.

By the end of the day I had added another five free books to my stack (they appear on the chairs in the ballroom, courtesy of the speakers’ publishers), visited the Goody Room filled with promotional items, and made a pass through the Book Fair, which offers books by the dozens of speakers and assorted craft books (and I resisted temptation there!).

After some time in our room to rest our feet and check our email, we decided it was time to get out of the hotel for a while.  We went all the way across the street to Junior’s where we feasted on corned beef and pastrami reubens, onion rings the size of lawnmower tires, dill pickles and pickled beets.  (We brought back a third of the sandwiches and a slice of cheesecake.)   As we ate out on the sidewalk patio, in balmy weather, we watched a mounted police officer issue a ticket to a parked UPS truck, while taxi cabs and delivery trucks whizzed by at amazing speeds and pedestrians of every description wandered past.  A second police horse arrived and the two horses and their officers doubled as ambassadors for the city as passersby, adults as well as children, stopped to admire and pet them (the horses, although the cops were quite attractive, too).

Many  of the special interest RWA chapters had events tonight, but Jo Anne and I sat and visited with friends.  Visited the bar a couple of times, too.

Tomorrow: workshops, an appointment with an agent, luncheon featuring the annual RWA servicce awards, and a reception for the Golden Heart and Rita contest finalists.

Books, books, books.

I braved the heat to do some shopping today, looking for a birthday present for my neighbor, and the autopilot in my car dragged me into the parking lot at Half-Price Books.  It often does, despite my continuing insistence that I don’t need more books.

I think I’ve actually bought, and read, more paper books than electronic since I bought my Kindle about three months ago.  And since  the Houston NPR station, KUHF, split into two channels, one news/talk and one classical music, I hear about even more interesting books, both the newly published and those going into paperback release, giving one show or another a good excuse to rerun an interview from last year.

A couple of weeks ago such an interview sent me over to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of Empire of the Summer Moon, the story of Quanah Parker, the last great chief of the Comanche, and the son of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was captured by the Comanche as a girl and grew up as one of them.  This week it was Last Call, a history of Prohibition.

So there I stood in the U. S. History alcove at Half-Price Books, staring at the shelves, neatly alphabetized by author, completely unable to remember the name of the writer whose interview had made me want to find the book.  What to do?  Well, I pulled my Kindle out of my purse, flipped the switch, turned on the wireless connection (I have the 3G version, which works anywhere you can get a cell phone signal), and searched the Kindle store for the book.  There are a LOT of books with the title Last Call, but there at the top was the one I wanted, by Daniel Okrent.  (No wonder I couldn’t remember the name.)  And there on the shelf was a copy of the hardback edition.

I also found a DVD for a friend, the birthday present I wanted for my neighbor (three novels by the very talented Deeanne Gist, who writes Inspirational Historical Romances that appeal even to Non-Inspired readers like me), and The Virgin’s Lover, a novel by Phillipa Gregory, whose books take me back to the sweeping historical fiction I read as a girl.

Last night I finished reading The Restorer, by Amanda Stevens, an excellent and scary romance/mystery about an archeologist who specializes in cemetery restoration.  (I have a degree in archeology and anthropology myself, and I never knew there was such a specialty.)  My only complaint about this book is that the sequel won’t be out until November.

Both Amanda and Deeanne are members of the West Houston RWA chapter, as are two other friends who are releasing some of their backlist books in electronic form.  Before Colleen Thompson wrote gritty romantic suspense, she wrote edgy historical romance under the name Gwyneth Atlee.  Several of these are now available again as ebooks.  Cheryl Bolen writes wonderful Regency era romances, and some of her out-of-print titles can now be downloaded as well.

Time to pick something from my ever-burgeoning collection of unread books.  I don’t think I’m quite ready to return to the world of The Hunger Games.  Maybe I’ll revisit Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris’ latest tale.  Or find out what’s happening with Cotton Malone in Steve Berry’s new one.  Or go to sleep, because I have to go to work in the morning.  Naw, that’s too practical.  The only problem with all those unread books (including the three I bought yesterday after the meeting) is choosing the next one to read.

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