Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turkeys and Trolleys

I have no idea how to start this entry.  There is so much going on, but nothing is new.  Now how do I explain that?  Days slip by me and I know it's only going to get worse the closer we get to Christmas.  Maybe I should just do a bit of catching up with you.

First of all, I will report that reading Melissa Wyatt's manuscript was pure joy.  Who wouldn't love a story with a castle, a curse, a ghost, and a love story wrapped in frilly dresses with background music from a pianoforte?  Melissa is trying desperately to find a snappy descriptor for the book and she admits the one that suits best is Pride and Prejudice meets Dark Shadows but without the vampire.  My Christmas wish for her is that her agent finds a nice house for it quickly.

The Repast and the Reheated.
We went to my brother's house on Thanksgiving.  He has an old Victorian that fits all of us inside with elbow room to spare.  Everyone brings one or two side dishes and so a huge meal is accomplished with little bother as far as big meals go.  I was somehow typecast years ago as the bringer of the dreaded but obligatory Green Bean Casserole.  Don't get me wrong; everyone loves it and eats it all up and that is why it is needed every year; but how many green bean casserole makers get petted and praised and begged for a recipe?  None I know of.  It doesn't get the "Oh!" the turkey gets or the "Ahhh!" the stuffing and herbed mashed potatoes get.  The comments that flutter around the green bean casserole are usually more like, "Did Aunt Shelley make this?"  I haven't deciphered the true meaning behind that yet.  But all was not lost this year.  I, Shelley, was asked to also provide the cranberry dish!  What joy was found in Shelleyville that day as the bowl emptied of its Maple Cranberry Sauce.  I will always remember it fondly.

The next evening I put a turkey in my own oven and stayed up late that night picking the meat from it.  On Saturday we were having Deb and Jon to the house.  Jon graciously spent most of his time laying on a wet floor fixing a plumbing problem underneath the utility sink that my mechanic husband couldn't fix.  Well, you have to do something like a mini turkey dinner to pay for that, don't you?  Deb brought her knitting along and we both worked on Christmas gifts in between my kitchen duties.  That evening we took both vans and another three people, and drove an hour and a half up scary mountain roads to get to Rockhill Trolley Museum.  We had a good time riding the restored trolleys on the short track that was decorated with Christmas lights.  Two trolleys were making the trip and we rode both with a break for hot cocoa and cookies in between.  Just a nice little intro to the high speed ride we are all on now that won't stop until the wrapping paper is strewn across the floor Christmas morning.  I'll leave you with some photos of the adventure and hope you take time to have your own adventures during this busy time!

One departing; waiting on another.


Jon, Jim, Cecelia, and Stephen

Jon, holding Aislinn, and the conductor

Jon, Deb and Aislinn at the ticket window

Olivia and her dad


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wi-fi'd Have Known.

For those who don't know, I am a writer of sorts.  I don't have many credits at all and my books were all accomplished in the pre-Kindle days.  My first published book, a young adult mystery titled FOR MIKE, was published by Random House's young adult division and garnered an Edgar nomination.  It didn't win, but it gave me the experience of a lifetime when I got to go to the Edgar Awards banquet in NYC, where I was met by pen friend and author Evan Hunter, aka Ed McBain.  I think meeting him was better than getting the award which is after all, just a ceramic bust of Poe that isn't even very attractive.

In my writerly life I've inevitably had my circle of friends become more writers than not, and it's one of those friends who led me into a Kindle experiment that I'm quite proud of actually (as if I developed the device and its magical abilities myself).  I met Melissa Wyatt many years ago when she was working on a YA novel that was to become her first book, RAISING THE GRIFFIN.  For the last five years Melissa has been working on a different sort of book, but even as I write that I am laughing a bit since she certainly wouldn't put it that neatly.  This novel has nearly driven her to madness with its puzzling, Gothic plot and its reluctance to comply with her wishes in a neat, lady-like manner, which if you knew Melissa, you'd know that is how she expects everything in her life to come about.  (And she does deserve it, really.  Melissa exudes Lady.)  One day last month she announced she was finished with the novel and was sending it to her agent.  Five years of hell, she said.  I thought of all the phone time when I tried to help with sticky parts, the ancient lore we'd looked up, the what-if games we played.  "It was so fun!" I said.  Melissa screamed.

After she recovered from the vapors she asked if I would read the manuscript.  Yes, the agent already had it, but he was a man and he might not appreciate the plot through the layers of lace and damask.  (This is a period piece where Ladies do what Ladies do.)  It's quite long also and quite costly to print and mail, so the idea of putting it onto my Kindle came up.  I knew it was supposed to be possible.  So yesterday we decided to make it happen.

I'm basically afraid of technology.  If I push the right button and something responds in the right way I am happy.  If it doesn't I am terrified, and I don't experiment ever!  But I got onto the help pages and shared what I read with her and the steps seemed fairly straightforward.  I found my Kindle's email address (who knew it had one?) and gave it to her, and I told my account that it could accept email from her address.  Then, while we were on the phone, I turned my Kindle on, enabled the wireless, and she sent the email with the attached book file.  And we waited.  "How was supper?"  "Fine, fine."  "Is it there yet?" "No."  We waited some more.  I went to my account on amazon and saw that I had a pending arrival.  That must be it!  But it wasn't on my Kindle.  Oh something came over in a bit and we both got excited about it, but it was a message saying there was something coming and to turn on the wireless so it could download.  Well, I had it on!  But it wasn't coming!  "It's not here!  Something's broken, I've done something wrong!"  By now my mind is shouting, "Abort! Abort!"

I took a deep breath, told her I'd call her back, and looked at the message I'd received for the umpteenth time.  It gave me a number I could call if I experienced difficulties.  I thought it time.  A personable young man answered my call.  His name was Ryan and he asked me enough to tap into my account.  He said he did indeed see the one pending delivery I was trying to download.  "Is your device connected to wi-fi right now?"  Yes, it was.  "Do you have wireless in your home?  Is that what it is connected to?"  Well yes, I do, but I don't have the Kindle connected to that ever, since I forgot the password and can't find the written copy so I just use the 3G feature to download my books.  I thought I heard a small chuckle, but he hid it well.  "The 3G is like a cell phone type of signal.  You need the wi-fi to download a personal document."  Well, shoot me in the foot.  I told Ryan how embarrassing it was on my end to be an old fuddy who had to be told the obvious and that he must get tired of spoon-feeding old people who call in a dither because their Kindle isn't doing what they think it should be doing.  He laughed and said, "Not at all, and you seem to know quite a lot about your device."  What a sweet talker!  I told him I would run out to the local library if I had to borrow wi-fi and retrieve my book.  We ended on a very happy note.

Before I called Melissa back to inform her of the news I decided to ring Frankie and ask if he knew my password.  He did!  I didn't think twice... I went back to the menu screen that Ryan had led me to and found my wi-fi signal listed, its little lock symbol no longer a barricade.  I blasted that lock and watched my Kindle put on that signal like a young miss throwing on her pelisse.  Then, the pending delivery was delivered!  HOSREV.  What??  It's also embarrassing that it took me several minutes to realize this stood for HEART OF STONE REVISION.  Melissa and I rejoiced and made merry.  I was proud; she was proud; all was well.

One final note.  I anxiously waited for my daughter to arrive home from her night classes, excited to show her what I had on my Kindle now.  Olivia is always berating my technical abilities.  She says I shouldn't even be allowed on Facebook!  When she got here and was busy making a plate from supper leftovers, I put the Kindle under her nose.  Her eyes scanned the title page and then widened.  "How did you get that?"  I put on my best poker face.  "I hacked into Melissa's computer."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Blustery Beach Non-writing Retreat

This past weekend my daughter and I went along on what was supposed to be a writing retreat with my friend Lois, who had been given use of a beach house in OC, Maryland.  Another writer was scheduled to go with us but at the last moment she had to back out.  So it was just the three of us heading down to the cold, windy shore.  The house was wonderful, with a back deck you could crab from in crabbing weather.  I took my computer but am sad to say that once we realized there was no Internet it never made its way out of the fake leather case.
Lois, Olivia, me and the candy!

On Saturday morning we ate a quick breakfast and headed out to the boardwalk.  You have to go to the boardwalk, don't you?  No matter that the wind was driving the sand from the beach right to your feet. Lots of doggies out there that morning and we all petted a few and stopped in a few shops (read Candy Kitchen).  My daughter has a college friend who lives near the house and she showed up on Saturday afternoon.  Her arrival signalled a late meatball sub lunch, an hour or so of reading the fun James Whitcomb Riley poems aloud and a silly game involving attaching names to our heads with yarn so we could ask questions and figure out who we were.  I was, in turn, The Mothman and the Utz Potato Chip girl.  Believe it or not I figured out the first one in way fewer questions.  Lois did indeed get some writing accomplished and Olivia got almost two crochet headbands finished. I really didn't do much. (I think I might put that on a headstone for myself, though you won't find my body there since I don't plan on being put in the ground!)

I think I've had enough travelling to last me for a while.  I don't travel well.  When the transporter from Star Trek becomes available I am buying one.  I like to think about going places, and usually love it when I get there, but hate the travel.  I was still a bit butt-weary from the West Virginia/Kentucky trip.  Plus, when I get home I always go through a little culture shock.... from the lack of culture that greets me.  This house is always a mess and it only becomes more evident when you step into it from a neat hotel room or gorgeous beach house.  I don't need that harassment.

But now there is nothing on the horizon except the holidays and here, in the second week of November, I feel that horizon coming at me fast as Mr. Squidjicum can skin forty-eleben cats! (JWR)