Sad, Sad Truths

The Hobbit might be the most important book in my life.  It’s the book that introduced me to adult (more or less) fantasy fiction.  It opened the door to The Lord of the Rings.  It made me start my first novel (a horrible fanfic-y tangle of a book, started with my best friend in eighth grade, and the less said about that, the better.)

I recently re-read The Hobbit, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it held up.  I laughed at bits of humor (the dwarves’ staged approach to Beorn’s house, for example), and I enjoyed Bilbo’s clever solutions (shutting the dwarves up in the barrels that were destined for Laketown).  The book was a picaresque (well, except for the last few chapters), and those types of episodic adventure stories can be pure candy.

Alas, I wasn’t a fan of the first Hobbit movie.  I thought it was over-long and under-storied, even though it brought in vast swaths of story that had nothing to do with The Hobbit.  At the time that I watched it, I hadn’t read the book in over 20 years, so I assumed that I’d forgotten some of the diversions (but I was wrong — they just weren’t there in Tolkien’s book.)


When The Desolation of Smaug came out, I decided to save my pennies and rent the movie when it was available.  When it became available through Netflix, I wanted to watch other things first, so I waited a few months before getting to Smaug.

And that brings us to last night.

Last night was a perfect night for Hobbit-watching.  We had an open swath of time, with no other commitments.  We had popcorn popped.  We were looking forward to the film.

And that enthusiasm lasted for about 10 minutes.  Where was the funny staged approach of the dwarves to Beorn’s house?  Where were the magical animals who waited on the weary travelers?  Where was the eccentric host who taught vegetarian dining to his guests well before vegetarian was a trend?

Okay, so the movie decided to elide Beorn.  There was a lot of story to be told.  Including a half-hour (I think — maybe it only felt that long) river escape from orcs.  And a dwarf-elf maybe-love story, featuring Kate from Lost (who’d clearly wandered in from another movie, because she sure as hell wasn’t in the book.)  And, and, and…

We turned off the movie when we got to the Master.  I didn’t care about dwarves getting hit with fish.  I really didn’t care about Laketown politics, involving characters I’d never really met.  (It was like George Lucas’s interminable Senate scenes, all over again.)

We actually fast-forwarded to two scenes with Smaug.  Great CGI.  Great voicing, by Mr. Cumberbatch.  Of course, those furnaces and that molten gold and all, those belonged to a different movie.

So, yeah.  With regret, we won’t be watching the last of the Hobbit movies.  I once joked that I wanted to see the Director’s Cut of this one — all nine hours cut down to a two-hour film based on the book.  But I don’t know if I’d even watch that.

Sigh.  I know that movies are different from books.  I understand that changes need to be made, to make things film-able, to capture a traditional screenplay structure, to feed the movie-making beast.  But those challenges are different from writing an entirely different film, from creating a fanfic movie that happens to take place somewhere that resembles Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  And that’s the sad, sad truth.

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Take Me Out to the … Theater

Well, no one can accuse us of being one-track, here in Klaskyville!  Our weekend spliced together a bunch of our favorite things, including:


  • On Friday, dinner at Rustico, a restaurant that is just a few blocks from the house.  We split appetizers (including the killer “Risotto Tots”, which are pretty much the perfect adult answer to Ore-Ida), I enjoyed the trout on a bed of farro, and then we split the S’more Cheesecake.  Splitting the dessert was probably a good idea, because I could have eaten about half a dozen of them.  I might never have walked again, but I would have rolled out of there a very happy woman.
  • On Saturday, a ball game at Nationals Park.  After a 1.25-hour rain delay, they finally took to the field.  Jordan Zimmermann gave up two runs in the top of first, and we settled in for a loooooong afternoon/evening, but the team came right back in the bottom of the first, and handily won the game.  My baseball cap’s record goes unsullied.
  • On Sunday, an incredible production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE at Studio Theater.  The tickets were expensive and parking was a pain when we got to the theater.  The ushers were oddly off-kilter (sending us to our seats by way of some unmarked back stairs, then nearly losing us in the pitch black of the theater as they didn’t quite lead us to our seats.)  Some of the audience members were … not used to theater (talking out loud for large parts of the show), and one guy in the back had a constant cough.  In other words, it should have been a disastrous day at the theater.  But it wasn’t.  It was magical.  The production was incredible, the performers were superb, and I found myself getting really emotional at the end of the second act (which is all about the cost of being an artist, of creating a foundation to support an artistic career, and of having the courage to change artistic directions.)  So, it was worth it — all the hassles.  And then some.

In between, there was reading, and knitting and televisioning and scritching kitties.  So, really a lovely weekend.  Which makes it just that much harder to settle down and write today.

But write, I must.  I’m drafting the penultimate chapter of ALWAYS RIGHT!  Onwards!

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Business As Usual (Baseball Edition)

So, we went to see the Nats play last night.  And it was yet another boring, hum-drum baseball game.  (Insert boring, humdrum details about weird 5:00 start, wait to get Racing President Taft bobblehead, etc.)


When we got to our seats, I became a subversive agent for good.  When one climbs the stairs in our section, rows A-D can *only* be reached by turning to the right.  Rows E-N can *only* be reached to the left.  There are no signs and no ushers, and we (in row G), spend a substantial part of each game redirecting people who climb up to row D and then look puzzled (while blocking our view of the game.)  Yesterday, I brought a small paper sign with directional arrows and taped it to the glass wall.  And not *one* person got confused for the entire course of the game.  (At least that I saw.  I was mostly watching the game, and not the crowd.)  I intend to bring signs to future games!

The game itself was a back and forth struggle, with the lead changing dramatically four times.  (Insert long discussion for baseball lovers.)  In the end, we won in extra innings.  Of course there were extra innings, because *I* was at the game.  The Nats play extra innings in the majority of games I attend, or so it seems.  (Sometimes, it’s just that Strasburg pitched, so it seems like extra innings with the slooooow play.)

The key feature of the game, though, was this:  I wore my  baseball cap, and they won.  Every time I wear my baseball cap and attend a game, they win.  If I attend a game and forget my cap, they lose.  (My cap is their old DC design, in traveling blue, with a blue bill — I never see anyone else with it.  That must be why it’s lucky!)  When Soriano blew the save, I thought the luck of my cap had been depleted, but no!  It held true!

(And yes, baseball fans are superstitious.  So are baseball players.  Those superstitions figure heavily into ALWAYS RIGHT, the Diamond Brides book I’m writing now.)

So, we ended up winning, and we were home 4.75 hours after the game started.  So maybe that 5:00 start wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

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The Deeply Personal

Yesterday was Errand Day here in Klaskyville. As I was walking back from the post office, I was held at a crosswalk, so that traffic could turn.  Given the caravan of 18-wheelers completing the turn and not yielding to oncoming traffic when they had the plain green light (no, I don’t know why they were there; they had *no* markings on any of the five trucks), the wait was a bit longer than expected, which gave me a chance to study the personalized license plates of the cars to my left and on the cross-street to my right.

imagesI mostly think that personalized plates are silly.  I don’t understand paying extra for them, and most of the time they seem to reflect inside jokes that just seem a bit absurd when shared with the outside world.  I’ve never owned a personalized plate (although I came close when my parents bought a silver Datsun station wagon and considered the plate “HI HO AG”.)  Mark once applied for a personalized plate with the names of his two cats, but the application was rejected as “vulgar” (the plate would have read “TED YAZ”, and no, we’ve never figured out what’s vulgar about that.)

So…  Yesterday’s plates.  (I didn’t get pictures of either.)

The first was on a white Toyota Corolla.  The driver was a crew-cut white guy, with a squint that rivaled Clint Eastwood’s best.  The plate was a specialty one, yellow with black letters, the “Don’t Tread on Me” plate, and the text was “NVA TP”.  For those who, like me, thought this was some sort of ad for toilet paper, the bottom half of the back window of the car was covered with helpful bumper stickers, all proclaiming Northern Virginia Tea Party.  (I seriously questioned whether he could see out the window, with all the paper glued to the glass.)

The second plate was on a gold Cadillac, one of the huge ones, maybe from the 1970s?  The woman driving was probably in her sixties.  She had a huge dyed-black bouffant hairdo.  In her bright-red talons, she held a cell phone with one hand, and a pink donut with sprinkles in the other.  She looked as if she’d enjoyed many donuts in the past — about 400 pounds worth.  And her license plate said “KUTYPY”.

I sort of wanted the cars to collide, just so I could see what happened when NVA TP and KUTYPY were mixed together.  KUTYPY could have sat on NVA TP, winning the battle before it began.

The caravan of trailers finally passed, and I went on my way.  But I’m pretty sure I won’t be buying a personalized license plate any time soon.

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Re-Arranging Deck Chairs

I’ve lived in the same house for twenty-two years.  That notion astonishes me — especially because, on some days, I think I’m only about 25 years old.  (I’m not trying to lie about my age.  I just forget the real answer and have to stop and think about it!)


Over the years, I’ve done some redecorating.  I used to have wallpaper in both bedrooms and in the entry hall — that’s been taken down and painted over for more than a decade.  The living room walls used to be the lightest shade of blue that the human eye could register as blue, but they’ve been yellow for ages.  My office used to have a deep lavender wall, covered over with white lattice, like you’d see in a garden, but it’s now a uniform green-blue shade that I call “chameleon” for the way it changes in the light.

I’m starting to feel an itch to move.  My dream house, just around the corner, went on the market last month, but it was priced at $1.8 million.  (Yeah, I dream big.  No, the price wasn’t typical of the neighborhood, not by a long shot.)

It doesn’t make any *sense* for me to move.  I’m a few blocks from a subway station, and I’m surrounded by almost every store I need.  I can walk to a grocery store, a drug store, and the post office, and there’s a shopping mall a block away.  There’s a farmer’s market that sets up once a week across from the subway station.  I (mostly) have good neighbors, including one who is a close enough friend that she looks in on the cats when I travel.

But I want to change things.  I want another room in the house, so I can set up a treadmill.  I want a cozy reading nook.  I want room to maintain a yarn stash, and a fabric stash, too.  I want the peace and quiet of a suburban street, and I wouldn’t mind a garden plot for fresh tomatoes.

Mind you, I don’t use the exercise equipment I own now.  And I can read in two chairs, a couch, and my bed.  I have a coffee table with drawers for yarn, and an under-bed box for fabric.  Suburban streets require a distance from all the things I access on a daily basis now, and I can get those tomatoes (and thieving birds, rodents, and deer) without all the work, from the farmer’s market.

So it’s time to change things up in Klaskyville.  First up, this past weekend, was rearranging the guest bedroom — same furniture in a different configuration, making the whole space look fresh.

Next up will be a new reading chair, to be delivered this weekend.

After that, we’ll go big — probably paint the entire interior of the house.  I’ve been thinking various neutrals, variations on taupe, but now I’m considering greys (and I’m not the only one who gets a vote!)  And there’s a shadow of a hint of a possibility of a chance that we’ll redo one of the bathrooms — because in the current market that could be a huge “plus” in the sale-ability column, and we might as well enjoy it before we sell.

Because it’s likely to be another ten years before I move out of this place.  So I better make it what I want it to be.  Do you have any favorite “refresher” tips for spaces that feel a bit *too* familiar?

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Do You Re-read Books?

This past weekend, I curled up in my comfy red-and-gold chair (after removing the gold cat, who makes the chair more gold than red), and I re-read THE HOBBIT.  I haven’t read THE HOBBIT since …  maybe college?  High school?  Maybe even junior high?


(I know that I first read the book as required reading in fifth grade, and I re-read it numerous times in middle school.  The copy I read this past weekend was highly annotated — I planned on turning the novel into a play, and I struck through vast quantities of narration so that all of the dialog was ripe for the plucking.  The strike-throughs didn’t keep me from reading this time around, but I can’t *imagine* what I was thinking about my future as an adaptor.  Although, I did adapt THE LITTLE PRINCE and ILLUSIONS for successful school plays in ninth grade, so maybe I *was* onto something!)

In any case, it was a fun book to re-read.  I remembered huge swaths of the story (although, oddly, I’d almost completely forgotten about Beorn.)  I justified my wrath with the bloated movie version.  I laughed at some of the quaint language.

I actually intend to re-read LotR in the near future.  But generally, I don’t re-read books very often.  I don’t have a lot of time to read, because I work from home, so I no longer have a subway commute to fill with great books.  I’m a slow reader, so any book I choose to read represents a fairly substantial investment of my time.  A lot of my reading choices are occupied by books that I *must* read — either for editing clients, or for the Book View Cafe co-op, or to stay abreast of developments in the genres where I write.  All of those factors combine to make re-reads “cost” a lot.

But there are long lists of books I want to re-read — Patricia McKillip’s THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD.  R.A. MacAvoy’s TEA WITH THE BLACK DRAGON.  The early Pern books.  Etc., etc., etc.  Obviously, I need to manage my time a lot better than I’m currently doing.

So.  How about you?  Do you re-read books?  If you do, how do you choose which ones to re-read?  How often do you set aside books, realizing that they aren’t as good as you remember them to be?  How often do you discover greater depths that you missed on earlier rounds?

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STOPPING SHORT — In Stores Today!

What a coincidence!  We’re just about two thirds of the way through the summer, and today we’re two thirds of the way through the Diamond Brides Series with the official release of STOPPING SHORT!  (Amazon Kindle | Apple | B&N Nook | Book View Cafe | Createspace Print | Kobo) (More links coming soon!)  If you like tortured heroes with buried secrets, this book is for you!  Or maybe you enjoy a widow’s story, a heroine who thinks she’ll never love again…


STOPPING SHORT is the first Diamond Brides book that takes place outside of Raleigh, North Carolina.  It’s spring training, and the Rockets are down in Coral Crest, Florida, where all sorts of rules are relaxed.  Here’s the “back of the book” copy:

Drew Marshall, the Raleigh Rockets’ bad-boy shortstop, is about to be cut from the team.  In the midst of spring training his baseball skills are slipping, and his recent scrapes with the law have put him in hot water.

Drew’s agent hires spin doctor Jessica Barnes to save the shortstop’s career.  Although she knows nothing about baseball, she is determined to work day and night to save Drew – and to prove she’s over the death of her risk-taking husband.

Jessica’s campaign spirals out of control when a well-intentioned teammate announces she is Drew’s secret fiancée.  Now trapped in the same hotel room, the couple crafts a fake relationship to satisfy ravenous reporters, all the while doing their best to resist a mutual attraction that’s hotter than the Florida weather.

But how can a relationship survive when it’s built on secrets and lies?

There’s an excerpt available online:

So?  What are you waiting for?  STOPPING SHORT is a fun, sexy summer read.  Get your copy today!

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On Live Rats and Dead Dogs

Back in college, I was very active in theater — I stage managed many plays, and I was house manager for the university’s Program of Theater and Dance.  I never got on stage myself (and for that, the community was very grateful!) but I supplemented my hands-on experience with a number of courses on theater, including a class on Shakespeare, one on modern drama (mostly, early 20th c), and one on contemporary drama (late 1960s and forward.)

One of my drama professors drilled home the point that when a playwright calls for something difficult in the staging of his plays (especially children and animals), he must truly think it’s important.  Therefore, the three identical sets of plants in Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST (one set alive and well for the first act, one set dying for the middle act, one set dead for the third act) are an indication of the significance of those plants to the narrative.  (Personally, I think Shepard just hates stage managers — witness other requirements for his plays, including screen doors that are cut through, bottles that are shattered, etc.)

I was reminded of this theory, in spades, last night when we saw the National Theater telecast of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT.  The play *opens* with a very realistic dead dog, staked to the stage with a garden fork.  Throughout much of the play, the main character (an autistic 15-year-old) carries his live rat — through a variety of settings, including an imagined trip to outer space.  (There’s another challenging staging thing late in the play, but I won’t mention it, lest I spoil the story…)

By and large, I think it was worth the effort to “kill” the dog and keep the rat alive.  Both add great depth to the story.  When I first heard they were making a play out of this novel (told from the point of view of the 15-year-old, with many of his tics incorporated into the narration), I couldn’t imagine how they could stage it.  Not all of their efforts worked, but the show was very imaginative.  The parts of the story that were most difficult for Christopher were most difficult for the audience — the production uses sound and light and movement to represent the disorientation of the main character.

This production is also quite meta — the characters know that they’re in a play, and they comment occasionally on that fact.  At times, the entire thing felt *too* staged, too “created”, but there were genuine emotions evoked.  The characters were complex — none of the main characters is all good or all bad, and no one has an easy life.

This is only the second telecast I’ve seen, and I was impressed with the presentation.  The team uses multiple cameras, sometimes from angles that the theater audience can’t experience.  The close-ups give a much more intimate view of the actors (even if they take away a bit, showing the microphones, etc.)  I’ll definitely consider other performances in the future!

(I was reminded, as I watched the show, of Kazuo Ishiguro talking about his novel REMAINS OF THE DAY, which he said he wrote specifically to be not-filmable, as a form of art separate from the television and film that he loved growing up.  Of course, it was transformed into an incredible movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.  I suspect Mark Haddon never contemplated his slender novel turning into a play either!)

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Notebook of Doom

So, Saturday night, we went to a baseball game, as one does.

(Before that, we went to dinner, as one does.  To Medium Rare, which serves bread, salad, steak frites, and that’s it.  And we had a fantastic dinner — better than I’d expected, with perfect, salty, crisp frites that complemented the steak perfectly!)

Anyway, we went to a baseball game.  And the Nationals knocked around the Brewers pitcher pretty badly in the first inning, so the game had a pretty relaxed, easy-going feel.  And about halfway through the fifth inning, I all of a sudden realized that I didn’t need to write the next scene in CENTER STAGE, because it was boring and talk-y and didn’t tell the reader anything the reader didn’t already know.

But I *did* need to add a scene with a direct confrontation between two major characters, one where one guy says, “Do this and there’ll be Consequence X” and the other guy says, “I’m doing this, so get your consequences ready.”

Being an author, even an author at a baseball game, I had a notebook with me.  So I took out my pen and I scribbled away at a full page of dialog, using the extensive abbreviation scheme that I created in law school, so that I could transcribe hours of notes on Commercial Paper and other classes that left me clueless.

Today, I’ll be writing up that scene.  And I have the cheerful feeling that it’s already half done.  It’s almost like I get to spend the day editing instead of writing!  Yay, yay, yay.

And the Nats won.

And I spent yesterday at the Washington Romance Writers summer barbecue, chatting with friends, eating a killer chocolate cake I had no business enjoying as much as I did, and having a grand time away from the computer.

So, today is pretty much perfect :-)

How about you?  Did you have a good weekend?

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