Thursday Thoughts

Just saying Hi tonight.  I’m still determined to finish my WIP by the end of the month, not that I’ve made much progress so far this week.  The Michael Hauge workshop pretty much derailed the weekend (well worth it), not to mention the three contest entries I had left to the last minute for judging.  Fortunately they were all quite good–I even gave one a perfect score.  By the time I finished those on Monday night and went to a meeting of the HBA RWA chapter on Tuesday night, I’d run up a string of six or seven nights going to bed at one AM.  Keep in mind I have to get up at 6:30 on weekdays, and 5:30 last Saturday, so Sunday was my only chance to sleep in.  Add to that the cold I’ve caught from my BFF Jo Anne, and by Wednesday I was a zombie.  So I wrote a couple hundred words (keeping up my run, Day 130) and crashed at 11.  Still have the cold, but at least I got a good night’s sleep. 

I’ve had very little time for reading this week, but that hasn’t stopped me from collecting more books.  At the West Houston RWA meeting on Saturday, I picked up Deeanne Gist’s latest, Love on the Line, along with a second copy for my neighbor.  Bethany House gives Deeanne’s books the most charming covers.  I also picked up Kerrelyn Sparks’  Sexiest Vampire Alive, the latest in her Love At Stake series.  On Monday night I found a box of books on my doorstep:  Sue Grafton’s V Is for Vengeance, Marcia Muller’s City of Whispers, and Jack McDevitt’s Firebird.  So many books, so little time.

This past summer, Houston radio station KTRH abandoned its long, proud history of news programming and surrendered to conservative talk.  Even the morning news is now more conservative opinion chat than actual news (and I exchanged a few emails with the station manager on that topic one morning when I woke up to a particularly offensive mockery of one of our area congresswomen).  Fortunately our NPR station has split, amoeba-like, to give birth to full-time news and information on one channel and full-time classical music on another.  KUHF does carry local news, but I was delighted to learn recently that many of the people thrown overboard by the KTRH shipwreck are involved in the launch (to stretch the metaphor a little too far) of a new 24/7 news station, NEWS 92 FM.  Should be on the air next week, and I’m hoping the venture will be a huge success. 

Here’s another of those pictures that wander around cyberspace with no atrribution.  Made me chuckle.

Somebody missing a cat?

I was looking for a change of pace

after finishing Suzanne Collins’ excellent but unrelentingly bleak Hunger Games, something cheerful, like a murder mystery, so I picked up Earlene Fowler’s Spider Web, the latest in her Benni Harper series.  A note at the beginning of the book led me to think about another type of pace: the connection between the passage of time in the real world and in the world of a long-running fictional character.

Spider Web is Fowler’s fifteenth novel about Benni Harper.  The first in the series, Fool’s Puzzle, published in 1994, took place in November 1992.  The current novel is set in March 1998.  Fowler mentions in her note the problems of remembering (or researching) details of technology used twelve or thirteen years ago, but she has, I think, another reason for fastening her series to an internal calendar.  Benni’s husband suffers from PTSD induced by his service in Viet Nam.

Another series with a strong internal timeline is Sue Grafton’s, beginning with A Is for Alibi, published and set in 1982.  The latest novel, U Is for Undertow, published in 2009, takes place in April 1988.  So Kinsey Milhone has aged about six years in the nearly thirty years Grafton has been following her adventures.  She lives and works in a world much less affected by cell phones and computers, and makes us realize how fast technology has moved in the past quarter century.  (V Is for Vengeance is scheduled for November 2011.)

Not all writers treat the passage of real and fictional time the same way.  Marcia Muller has written 27 books featuring Sharon McCone since Edwin of the Iron Shoes was published in 1977.  Talk about technology flying past!  Sharon and her colleagues have aged a few years, yes, changed jobs and relationships, at a much slower pace than real time.  But they have adapted to cell phones, computers, and all the rest of modern technology.  Muller identifies days and months within the books, but not years.  Coming Back, published in 2009, feels every bit as contemporary now as the first book did nearly 35 years ago.  (City of Whispers is due in October 2011.)

I was surprised when I pulled Janet Evanovich’s first Stephanie Plum novel, One for the Money, off the shelf and saw that it was published in 1994.  Stephanie, Joe, Ranger, and the rest of the gang exist in a timeless world, flying through their cases at a furious rate, unhampered by reality.  One book a year (Smokin’ Seventeen will be out shortly) in our lives, one case every few weeks in Stephanie’s.

I don’t know exactly how or why these authors, or many others who have kept their characters alive through many books and many years, make their decisions.  No doubt some plan their methods in advance, while others are taken by surprise by success.  These four authors have proved that there is no one solution to keeping series characters growing without growing old.

Where, oh where has my reading time gone?

I love to read.  I could read before I started school.  I buy books like a junkie.  I know perfectly well I’ll never catch up with my To Be Read shelves, and I buy more books anyway.  There was a time when I read several a week.  That was before I had a full time job with a long commute.  Before I was writing seriously.  These days by the time I get into bed with a book, I’m already half asleep.

In early February we had a Weather Day.  Not the kind we’re used to here on the Texas Coast (Hurricane Ike springs to mind), but sleet, a little snow here and there, and ice on the freeways.  Just another day in, say, Chicago, but no one in the Houston area knows how to drive on icy roads.  I certainly don’t–I was born in Wisconsin, but I learned to drive in South Florida, and I haven’t lived north of Interstate 10 since.  So I called in afraid-to-drive and had an unexpected Friday off.

And I spent most of it reading.  I sat down on the couch with a thick mystery novel (Sue Grafton’s U Is For Undertow) and read the whole thing.  My Weather Day turned into the most relaxing day off I’d had in ages.  No errands, no chores, no waiting for a repairman or a delivery, just a whole day with a book.

Many years ago, I read a book called Where Were You Last Pluterday?, one of those literary European science fiction novels translated and published by DAW Books, back when all their covers were yellow and numbered.  I remember nothing at all about the plot, just the premise:  the elite of society had access to an extra day of the week, Pluterday.  If I could find just a few Pluter-hours here and there, I would spend them reading.

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