Monday, July 7, 2014

Under Drone Attack

We moved. 

Just like that. Two weeks ago we were happily tucked into our little condo on the edges of a park where we fed the birds and our cats chirped happily at them out the window. Then we found a place to live. Called the movers. Stuffed the cats in carriers and drove a half mile down the street to a new house.

At first my biggest problem was what to put where. Then it became where are the cats. They had all new hiding places and had become even more diligent about hiding due to the fact that they were mad that we had moved at all. Cats are territorial. They don't like change. They're even worse than me.

I've spent all the time in the new house running around making sure the house was secure. That the cats couldn't get out and no one that I didn't know couldn't get in. In between, I've been unpacking boxes and packing boxes. It seems like a never ending story.

Lasst night after our fifth trip to Lowe's in as many days, we were bringing a load of miscellaneous stuff to the new house from the old house when we were called over for introductions and merrymaking with the new neighbors.

It was a jolly good time. New people are interesting. They have all new points of view. The nice old lady who lives across the street from us is of the opposite political persuasion from The HMA and I, and not knowing any better she attempted to persuade him to see the world from her point of view. This was not going to happen.

As I was standing there in the middle of the street wondering how he was going to sweet talk his way out of this dilemma, a man (with what my imagination believes was a heavy Russian accent) appeared and started pointing into the sky above our house and yelling, "What is that? There in the sky?"

We all looked up at the roof above the house that we had just moved all of our most prized possessions into -- and there it was. A lighted object hovering above our back yard. It darted side to side and up and down. If I didn't know better, I would say that ET had landed in my backyard and was going to be hiding out in my closet with the cats. It reappeared twice. My husband identified it as a drone. And while I had heard that Amazon was going to start same-day deliveries via drones and someone else was thinking of using it to deliver pizzas -- I honestly never believed that a drone would be flying over my backyard.

And yet, it happened. We have a microwave that cooks frozen food in less than three minutes. We have wireless phones. We have a trash can that opens with a wave a of a hand. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

So when you get our change of address card next week, don't be surprised that we signed it "with love from The Jetsons." That is if we're still here. If we haven't been kidnapped by aliens...Or Jeff Bezos.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beat Up In A Back Alley

When I was little, I lived in a neighborhood with alleys. Not right behind our house, but in the general vicinity. Behind our house, the alley had been reclaimed and our yard backed up to the yard of our neighbors. They had a little dog, and we had a little dog, and the two little dogs would run along the fence next to each other for countless hours of doggie pleasure while we leaned over the back fence and gossiped. The houses across our street had an alley behind them. And the street beyond that had an alley behind the houses. When I was a kid, these alleys were cool. That's where the garbage trucks came through to pick up the trash. In some cases, that's where the garage was. (No one had a garage that was attached to the house. Way too plush!) The alleys were the shortcuts we took when we were on our way somewhere fun in the neighborhood on a long hot summer day. Those were the days when your mom told you to be back to the house by sunset -- which was like ten o'clock at night. You didn't have to tell anyone where you were for hours. No texting, no cell phoning. Ah, bliss.

It's been probably thirty years since I lived in a neighborhood with an alley. But we live in a condo with a garage alley. The front of the condos all face the street and the rear of the condos are where the attached garages are located. It creates kind of a garage alley. It's where our trash is picked up. There's a constant stream of traffic. Neighbors coming and going. A few people even use this space for kickball and barbecuing.

Recently, I've been participating in another traditional activity of alley life -- getting my ass kicked.  This week, I got into two different rumbles with two different neighbors. The first was with a mean-looking junkyard dog of a tow truck driver who had completely blocked access to the alley. I had groceries in the car, and so I asked politely how long he was going to take to load what I could only guess was a motorcycle he was repossessing onto his truck. He looked at me -- shot daggers at me -- and refused to answer. Three times, I asked! Three times, he gave me the look of death but refused to utter one word. The guy who was my actual neighbor was supervising the pick up. He also said nothing (three times!) and went into the garage and closed the door ASAP. 

The next day, we backed out of our garage to find a girl in an SUV parked in the middle of the alley in order to have a flirt with the young man who lives at the end of the street. He spends a great deal of time in his garage fixing up his car, and always waves amiably to the HMA when he goes by in his loud American muscle car. But this time things were different. We suggested the girl in the SUV  pull to the side of the alley. The young man suggested we drive around her. Loudly! So I made our suggestions again -- with some swear words thrown in for good measure. That's right, I'm one of those saucy old women who cusses like a sailor. Snarling ensued. I don't think I would've been so upset, if I didn't have the earlier altercation.  

Maybe it's not the people. Maybe alleys are bad. Maybe it's best to go back to a time when all the alleys were reclaimed, and all you did with the neighbors who lived behind you was hang over your back fence and have a good chat while a couple of dogs capered around your feet.

Those were the good ole days.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pa Ingalls: Hipster Sex Symbol

It has come to my attention that there is a new hipster trend that makes me realize I am officially old and out of touch with what is 'cool'. I was okay with the tattoos, but I didn't want one. I was a little intrigued by the ombre hair dying trend, but it seemed in opposition to covering my grey hairs. High-waisted jeans? Been there, done that. But I just don't understand the new obsession with beards.

I'm not talking about neatly groomed facial hair. (It should be noted that The HMA sports facial hair. It makes him even more handsomer.) What I'm talking about is the trend that has men growing facial hair that makes them look like Pa Ingalls. (See above photo with the missus. Pa's on the left.)

I've always thought that Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top was a fine guitarist and singer/songwriter, but sex symbol? Not. Turns out he was way a head of the trend, because now every  hot young man I see is sporting an out of control beard that makes him look like he's living in a little house on the prairie.  Beards are better. Right? If it's on BuzzFeed, it must be true.

And I am a die-hard hockey fan. It is playoff beard season. Now is when you can see physical evidence of who is a grizzled veteran, and who is a 'barely a few whiskers on his chiny-chin-chin' rookie.  I respect the playoff beard, but this non-playoff beard trend is something else altogether. 

When I was at the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans last month, there were a half dozen cover models floating around in the lobby bar on any given day. One of them was built like a body builder -- with long, flowing whiskers dribbling down his chest. I found myself enamored of him. Was I repulsed or attracted? I couldn't decide.  It did remind me that it had been a long time since I had read any Tolstoy. Maybe I should give "War & Peace" another chance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Praise of Geek Girls

I cannot begin to tell you how much of my life I wasted trying to look like I was "cool". I think it is enough to say that looking back on it now, it was too much.

I wasn't born to be cool. My parents didn't care about keeping up with the Joneses or the latest fashion trends. They were into their families and each other. They had old fashioned hobbies that involved buying antiques, sailing old boats and reading. Pop culture wasn't on their radar.

I struggled to be cool.  I can remember begging my mom to buy me earth shoes because they were "cool" and the guy at the store talked her out of letting me have a pair and I got a facsimile of earth shoes. I wanted a clear plastic tote for school that could be purchased at Kmart. I got a boat tote from LL Bean. It was always close, but not quite.

It mattered so much to me that I wasn't one of the cool kids. Ever. And I honestly believed that I would grow out of my awkward years and become a cool kid as an adult. A "cool kid" late bloomer, as it were. Oh but I was wrong.

Once a geek, always a geek. I only wish it hadn't taken me so long to embrace it.

I am a geek. A nerd. A freak. Insert [your name here] for someone who doesn't blend. 

I like figure skating. I like reading books. I like gardening and I like cats. I have more in common with Amy Farrah Fowler than Amy Poehler. I have had more bad hair days than good. I have had zits so big that I gave them names. I have walked out of public restrooms with my skirt tucked into my pantyhose. I have commuted 25 miles from home to job with the buckle of my trench coat dragging on the freeway. None of these things will ever make you a nominee for the cool kids club.

So if you can't join them, you have to form your own club. I only wonder why I waited so friggin' long.

I am now accepting new membership applications for the geek girls club. You'll know if you qualify.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nancy Drew Grows Up

I am not watching a lot of television these days. I find that it interferes with the stories that I'm trying to tell. I do watch "Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family" reruns. They never fail to make me laugh. My husband and I have a few shows that we watch together -- "The Voice", "Good Wife", and "True Detective". And then we each have a few guilty pleasures that we tape and watch alone. One of my guilty pleasures is Masterpiece Theatre, or even better, Masterpiece Mystery. Ah, Heaven.

I used to get up at five o'clock in the morning to watch fifteen minutes or so of these all by myself. They were so delicious. Most weeks, I don't get to watch them until Saturday mornings when I sneak downstairs and watch them. It's like being a kid again when I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons.

Currently, Masterpiece Theatre is the second season of "Mr. Selfridge" starring Jeremy Piven. I haven't been able to get into the show and I don't have any use for Jeremy Piven. ( I doubt he'd have any use for me, if he knew me.) That has left me without any guilty pleasures to enjoy. Until someone Tweeted last week about a show that was about four grown up Nancy Drews set in London.

Are they kidding me? Nancy Drew. London. 1950s. What's not to like?

I Googled it as fast as I could. I discovered a show called "Bletchley Circle" about a group of women who met during World War II at Bletchley Park, the famous coding and cyphering center. The show takes place ten years after the war when this group of extraordinary women are leading ordinary lives, until one of them decides to solve a mystery that the police can't. Fabulousness ensues!

To add to my extreme joy I have learned that there will be a second season of "Bletchley Circle" coming soon. Yahoo! How much do I love this? And when I went to follow the show's official Twitter feed today, I knew it was the show for me. The Twitter feed handle is @ladynerds.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Can I Have Sex With Ryan Gosling If I'm Married To George Clooney?

Let's say, just for the sake of discussion, that I'm married to George Clooney. It's true, I am an optimist, but it could happen, and my current husband knows that George Clooney is at the top of my laminated list.

Okay, as long as we're doing magical thinking, let's make this more interesting -- let's say YOU are married to George Clooney. We are all now very jealous because he's kind, movie star-handsome and most of all – super-supportive of your writing career.

But, one dark and stormy night Ryan Gosling shows up on your doorstep. He whispers wickedly sweet nothings in your ear, flashes his six-pack abs, and begs you for one delicious night of passion.

What do you do?

I don't think anyone would be critical if you succumbed to the seductive prowess of Mr. Gosling. Your friends and writing buddies would probably encourage you to go for it. They'd even offer to periodically text you with helpful and encouraging tidbits of advice.
Sure, there would be a few who would say you are betraying Mr. Clooney, but you could say they are just jealous.

On the other hand, if we return to the original scenario, and I was married to Mr. Clooney and was being seduced by Mr. Gosling, my BFF would call me on my game. "Hey, you crazy commitment-phobe," she'd say, "It's time to get back to the real world and finish what you've started. "

You see, she knows the truth. She knows how hard it is to write and rewrite a manuscript to completion. It takes courage. It takes commitment. It takes focus.

Which brings us to my current situation – I am in the process of rewriting my rewrite of my work-in-progress, which, for our purposes here, we shall call "Mr. Clooney." I love the protagonist, who has developed into such a strong and intriguing character. Her love interest has also surprised me throughout the story, and if I manage to stick to my current writing schedule, I will finish the rewrite in the next three weeks.


However… now, with the finish line clearly in sight, I've had a sudden burst of creative inspiration. It's a brilliant idea for a new book. I love the protagonist. She is amazing, and fresh and new. I call this idea "Mr. Gosling."

Not surprisingly, "Mr. Clooney" is starting to feel like a stale, longterm relationship. I know every sigh my heroine makes, every under-his-breath utterance by the hero, every plot twist, and every dark moment by heart. But "Mr. Gosling" is fresh and new. I get goose bumps when I think of another new plot twists and scenes.

I have made a commitment to the telling the stories of the characters I've created in "Mr. Clooney." And while a break from rewriting and reworking could be restorative, it might also allow me to avoid crossing the finish line.

It's a lesson in courage and commitment for me as a writer not to abandon this project. I just hope I have what it takes to remain faithful to Mr. Clooney. It may be the only long-term relationship he ever has.

Are you currently involved in a similar love triangle? I welcome your tips and suggestions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Novel Idea

When I went to film school I always wanted to write a screenplay with a female protagonist. Why would I write anything else? Unfortunately, I was always told that scripts with female leads were "not easy to sell.' You needed to write something that was "high concept" or an "action-film" or maybe something that was based on a comic book. That was the sure-fire winner in Hollywood. After a few years, I decided to turn to my first love: romance novels. 

At the heart of most romance novels you could almost always find a woman. Strong, vulnerable and in search of a good man. Of course, romance novels have changed since I was thirteen. Telling part of the story from the POV of the male hero is a must. And it is with great delight that romance novels have now started to feature the romance of same-sex characters. Romance writers have progressed!

Isn't it intriguing that meanwhile over in Hollywood, where mining for a "new and original" idea means scouring the Young Adult shelves in Barnes & Noble, very little has changed. In fact, if anything, things have gotten even worse. It's sad when the winner of the Best Actress Oscar refers to movies with female leads as niche films. And the number of women working in front and behind the camera is shrinking instead of growing.

What is wrong with Hollywood? Can it be fixed?