Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas presents

After our trip to San Francisco (more pictures to come...eventually), I had a serious case of camera envy. My husband's camera isn't terribly fancy, but it takes (or maybe HE takes) much better pictures than I get with my little point and shoot. Not that small cameras don't have their place in the world. Having something that will slip into a purse or pocket is great for taking spur of the moment pictures or shots at writers conferences--except now if I remember to take any pictures, I tend to use my phone. But a bigger camera with better lenses--in this case, a single lens reflex (SLR)...well, there really is no comparison.

Back when I was in college many, many moons ago, I took a photography course. I had somewhat artsy aspirations then and an SLR with a zoom lens...which used film. (I even learned to develop black and white film.) I wasn't a particularly educated photographer; I just liked to look through the lens and take pictures. Sometimes they turned out well...and sometimes not so much. But it was fun. Once I had kids, I took pictures of them. It's much easier to photograph a baby in an infant seat than the same baby--older, of course--running cross country. By the time I pushed the shutter button, all I usually got was the heel of his spikes. And then the babies went off to college and I never made the jump to digital.

So now I've got my fancy camera--not TOO fancy, I hope--and I'm pouring over the instruction booklet. Son #2 just spotted a heron in the park across the street. Husband ran to open the front door while I grabbed the camera and tried to remember how to turn it on. I did get a picture of the bird as he (or she) took off again, but the photo won't be making its appearance here. The only way I know I captured the image was to use another cool camera function and zoom in on the picture to find the blurry image of the large bird with its wings outstretched.

I think for a while--hopefully not forever--I'll have more luck shooting pictures of trees.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday music

Need some music to get in the holiday spirit? Here's a flash mob rendition of the Hallelujah chorus that made the rounds last year, but is till a winner in my book.

And the Maccabeats had a hit last Hanukkah with Candlelight. This year they're back with Miracle.

Enjoy! I'm off to finally decorate our Christmas tree. Yes, I'm a little behind.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy holidays!

I love the holidays, but I'm sadly not very organized about them anymore. I seem to have had writing deadlines clustered around these dates in the last few years--a nice "problem" to have, I will admit. And now that all my kids are adults, the season has an entirely different energy level than it did when they were children. We used to have to decree that no one could get up before 6 on Christmas morning; now we have to wake some boys up or we wouldn't start opening presents until afternoon.

This year we'll miss third son--he's staying in California with his fiancee and her family--but we'll have oldest son and his wife back from Denver. In fact, they'll be living with us while they look for apartments--oldest son has taken a job here. (Yay! says mama.) But having guests--especially a female guest who might actually appreciate some level of cleanliness--requires a massive tidying effort. And I'll confess my house is massively untidy. So with Bookmas over, I'm hanging up my blogging hat for a bit; I do hope to get back here on a somewhat regular basis in the new year. I still have San Francisco pictures to share!

Have a wonderful holiday time with family and friends--and find time to read a good romance, if you can.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bookmas Day 12

I wrote the first few drafts of our family Christmas letter yesterday. I usually try to get it done around Thanksgiving, but I was too busy with various book production tasks to do it then.

Some folks start foaming at the mouth at merely the mention of a Christmas letter. Actually, I'm related to some of them. We heard through the grapevine that a particular person connected by marriage didn't appreciate getting our news, so we obligingly took them off the mailing list. And I can still remember how, when I was growing up, my folks and I used to laugh--and not in a good way--at the few Christmas letters we'd get.

I confess, I don't really understand that reaction now.

I started our Christmas letter tradition when I realized I was writing virtually the same thing to everyone on my Christmas card list. I just don't have that exciting a life nor that much time or creativity at holiday time (if ever) to compose a deep, detailed missive to everyone--that's true now, but it was even more true when I had four little boys age seven to zero. If I wrote it once--on the computer and thus, as an added bargain, saving me writer's cramp--I could fill everyone in on our doings and then add a short personal note where appropriate.

And yes, I've gotten those eye-rolling letters that non-fans of the genre like to point to and make fun of. It was one such letter that contributed to my decision to write my own. (Akin, I suppose, to what some authors say motivated them to write their first book--they thought they could do better than something they'd read.) While I hope my letters are both mildly entertaining and informative, I also hope the people I send them to are my friends who are really just interested to see what the MacKenzie clan has been up to this year. I know I look forward to reading their news no matter how well or how awkwardly written. And that letter that made me roll my eyes and set me on the Christmas letter path? I was still very happy to get it.

Back when I was growing up, my folks used to send Christmas cards with their name imprinted--not even a signature. I'm not faulting them. In fact, I looked forward to my dad bringing home the books of cards for us to pour through and choose from. And, due to his job, he had to send cards to business associates--a Christmas letter would not have been appropriate. But, hey, if you're on my list and you send me a card, I want to hear your story!

Last Bookmas clue: metal mannequin.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bookmas Day 11

I'm SO far behind on all things Christmas, so this will be a short post, too, and maybe even lamer than the others ;)

1. I'd really get excited if there was anything about AAAs, but I'm not holding my breath.

2. Not out of.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bookmas Day 10

Yay! Copy edits are handed in!!! Now I should get back to work on the book that's due in May, but I just can't. I have to catch up with everything I let slide. And then there's the little matter of holidays coming.

I also realize I've been rather remiss in linking back to the BookEnds blog that explains Bookmas. You can find it here.

I had to laugh when I saw the answer to Lauren's clue. I was an English major, and frankly I think it set my writing back years. I went to college thinking books were magical, that they conveyed some sort of truth and emotion and meaning. And then I read Lost in the Funhouse (John Barth), Trout Fishing in America (Richard Brautigan), and The Crying of Lot 49 (Thomas Pynchon). I just didn't get it. Even Vonnegut left me cold. I guess I was always meant to be a genre writer, though I don't believe romance had yet been "discovered" as a genre.

But I did like this author that Lauren doesn't. I don't believe I ever took a class in this person's work, but I do have a few of his/her writings around here somewhere. and I certainly smile when I read his/her name. Just goes to show, I guess, that so much of literature is taste. We all like different books for different, good reasons.

So here's my clue: Actually, I write on the living room love seat.

Oh, and please pardon my typos. I seem to be all copy edited out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bookmas Day 9

Not much more than a clue today--I'm still working away on the copy edits. They are due, so they must be done.

I have a somewhat painful writing method, alas. I agonize over Every. Single. Word. I almost repeat the process on copy edits. Those are a little bit easier, as they are more polishing than creating or even editing, but they are still hard. Whine.

So here are the clues: 1. I thought I'd read this author when I was growing up, but maybe not. Anyway, she died a few years ago, having made it well past the century mark. 2. I have to admit Georgette Heyer was my gateway drug, not this author. 3. This guy wrote romance many, many, many years ago. (He's the oldest of this bunch.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bookmas Day 8

I'm still working on copy edits, so another short post.

You can't go to San Francisco without visiting the sea lions on Pier 39. My youngest son and I stopped by when I was in SF for the Romance Writers of America conference in the summer of 2008. Mr. M couldn't get away from work that year, so I dragged him over to see the animals this September. I think there are fewer of them now--they did all clear out in November 2009, but at least some came back. Here's a link to the web cam--as I check it now, no one's at home, but I'm writing this Sunday evening.

Bookmas clues: I went to this author's website to see what her books were about. They sound really interesting, so maybe I'll add her to my Christmas list. 1. Do this too long and you'll have a yucky, moldy mess. 2. Wonder if she ran into the cow?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bookmas Day 7

I'm still wading through copy edits, so this post will be quick. I think I'm out on the Municipal Pier here. You can see some of the San Francisco skyline behind me. The building up on the hill on the left is the Coit Tower--it has some great murals--and our legs got quite the workout hiking up to it. (Though any walking in SF is good exercise.) The pointy building is the Transamerica Pyramid. I was puzzled by that ship the last time I was in SF--it's part of the Maritime Museum. It's late 19th century, so not of immediate interest to a Regency writer. The water behind me is the Aquatic Park Cove, shared by boats and swimmers--and I suspect some seals and sea lions (though I'll confess I'm a little unclear of the difference between those two.)

My Bookmas clues: 1. What Regency debutantes might do at Almack's; 2. Piccadilly after hours; 3. I was in fourth grade; we were washing our desks.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bookmas Day 6

Taking a break from the San Francisco pictures to talk about copy edits, since that's what I'm working on at the moment.

Once I hand in a book, I heave a big sigh of relief, but I know I'll see that manuscript again. And I do. After a certain amount of time, copy edits come. They used to show up on my doorstep; now they come on my computer. (The copy edits I have in hand now are for my June 2012 release, Bedding Lord Ned.) Hopefully, the editors will have identified all the problems--awkward sentences, places where I've been inconsistent (changing the hero's eye color for example), sentences where I've misspelled a word (maybe "it" instead of "if") or made some other error.

Copy edits are my last chance to make major changes to the story. If it's been a few months since I've seen the book, I may have lots of changes I want to make. In this particular case, I just handed the manuscript in at the end of September, so I'm not finding much I want to change--or at least I haven't yet. And I'm also hunting for typos myself. I think I might have been a copy editor in a former life--I'm finding little mistakes that no one else has flagged. Which actually makes me happy. If I didn't find any errors, I'd worry I'd let my brain and eyes glaze over.

Once I send the copy edits back--they are due on Monday--I'll see the story one more time in page proofs. This is the manuscript laid out like a book; changes at this stage can cost money, so I really try to limit myself to correcting typos--which hopefully, if I've done a good job at the copy edit phase, will be few and far between. And I know that no matter how closely I or anyone else edits, there will be mistakes that make it into print.

The other thing about copy edits and page proofs--I think many writers are so sick of the book by this point they want to throw it out and start over. I know I do. But I've learned to tell myself--or have my writer friends tell me--that I'm just too close to it to judge any more. I've been reading it in a way no sane reader would. I'm seeing all its warts, real or imagined. I want to be done with it and get back to the book I'm working on now.

It's time to kick this baby out of the nest and let it fly on its own.

And now the Bookmas clues: 1. Not a story by H.G.Wells. 2. I like to have my characters quote this guy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bookmas Day 5

Our main reason for going to San Francisco was to see our third son and his fiancee and meet some of her family. (She and they are native Californians.) After spending the weekend with them, though, we were on our own. We took the BART--much like our D.C. Metro, which I think might have been modeled on BART--into the city. We came armed with maps and recommendations of sights to see and places to eat.

This, I think, is a picture of the Ferry Building. It's a great place to eat--it's filled will all kinds of restaurants and sometimes a farmer's market as well. On our first tourist excursion, we had lunch at The Slanted Door at the recommendation of my son's future mother-in-law. She didn't steer us wrong--the food was interesting and delicious. We went back to the Ferry Building later in our trip to have breakfast at Frog Hollow Farm and shared a sandwich from the Cowgirl Creamery. Our daughter-in-law to be recommended the Blue Bottle Coffee Co. but since neither of us is a huge coffee drinker, we gave it a pass. I was afraid the caffeine would have me wired all day and night. We did enjoy browsing all the shops--you can do that virtually here.

Today's Bookmas clues: 1. My oldest son has written a book. He gave me the manuscript to look at, and one of my "helpful" comments was that he was using the British, not the American, spelling of this word that appears in one of Jessica A's titles. 2. One of the words in the other title showed up on a poster that became part of a copyright battle.

Oh, and an update to Monday's blog. My husband informed me that he didn't have that jeans jacket in college--he didn't get it until he got back from the Peace Corps a couple years later, which was still a few months before we met in the fall of 1976.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bookmas Day 4

My mother-in-law is a huge golf fan, so we had to get a picture of Pebble Beach. (The golf course here--I'm not sure what this beach is called.)

I'm afraid I don't get the whole golf thing. Well, I don't mind mini golf--you know, when you try to get the ball into the clown's mouth or between the windmill blades--but "real" golf? Meh. I agree with Mark Twain that: "Golf is a good walk spoiled."

But I suppose I should also confess I went to the University of Notre Dame and am totally uninterested in football. I will occasionally be lured into watching a little of the Super Bowl to see the ads and have some of the snacks--and I'll usually watch a little of the Puppy Bowl--but if the whole thing was cancelled, I wouldn't shed a single tear.

I like competitive swimming, which my husband thinks would be improved if it took a page from mini golf and added obstacles. Actually one outdoor long course meet did have a little of that going. A duck decided to go for a swim, too. He (or she) kept switching lanes. The swimmers were doing backstroke, so they never knew, but the spectators were amused. (Though maybe not the parents of the swimmers in the duck lanes--but the duck never interfered, so all was good.)

Here are my Bookmas clues: 1. One of the names of this company reminds me of a children's game. 2. If we all go digital, we won't need these any more.

By the way, I do like to clamber up on rocks, much to my height-averse husband's consternation. Here's me viewing Pebble Beach:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bookmas Day 3

I think this was taken at Point Lobos State Reserve. (I definitely should have done something with these photos closer to the time they were taken.) We had great weather the entire trip, but you can see here that this particular day was overcast--I think that's fog hovering at the top of the picture. Consequently, some of the shots look as if they were taken in black and white--but you can clearly see that the camera did do color. (In the old days there was color or black & white film...I guess now there are camera settings?)

I'm not usually so colorful. The windbreaker I dug out of the back of the closet--it seemed the perfect weight for the trip. I think I bought it when the kids were playing soccer, thinking that this way they could find me in the crowd. It was when they still wanted to find me, so they must have been in grade school--which would make this jacket somewhere around 15 years old. The hat is new. It wasn't my first choice, but it was in stock at L.L. Bean (which is where I got the windbreaker years ago--I've got a fair number of L.L. Bean items in my closet) and I needed something for the trip. I've been trying to keep out of the sun, but it's also a rain hat--AND it has a string to keep it on when the weather gets windy, which it did a lot on our hikes along the coast in San Francisco.

The scarf...well, my only other choice was a burnt orange, and that really would have been over the top.

My Bookmas clues: 1. This piece must have given Kim's brain and tongue a work out. 2. Our summer swim coach, looking for a "G" rated film to show the teens on the team, rented a film version of this novel. I guess it was a little slow for the modern--well, ok, this was probably about fifteen years ago...hmm, maybe that windbreaker is older than I think... Anyway, the swimmers, even the girls, thought the movie was endless. (Looking online, it says it runs for 130 black and white.) It became a swim team joke.

And speaking of old jackets, my husband owns--and still wears--a jeans jacket he got in college, long before he met me.

Here's proof that my colorful getup makes me easy to find:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bookmas Day 2

This was from one of our hikes--we did a LOT of hiking. And Mr. M took a lot of pictures, but I promise not to show you them all. I will confess, though, that I now have a serious case of camera envy--as reflected in my list for Santa.

My Bookmas clue: This book is set in one of my favorite cities, but not in my favorite time period.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bookmas Day 1

Another San Francisco picture. We've got seagulls around here--I'm not quite sure why, since we're not on the coast--but I've never seen one hang out on a car's roof. Maybe the Californian seagulls are more laid back?

Here's my Bookmas clue. (You can find the puzzle here.)

I'm pretty sure I've never read this book, though looking at the copyright date, I certainly could have. I did see the musical of a slightly different name and, no offense to Jessica who's my agent and clearly an excellent judge of literature, but I found it quite creepy.