Getting that Word Count While Traveling – How Do You Do It?

I’m delighted to announce that THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is up for preorder!! A few others will be coming soon, but – as with many things – Amazon is fast and efficient, making us both love and loathe them. Smashwords wants me to promise to upload the final doc ten days before release and I … just can’t. Ten days is forever in my world, regrettable as that may be. But, hey! The book is coming along really well, and I’m tentatively thrilled with it.

~knocks on wood~

~tosses salt over shoulder~

~pets black cat and gives it extra treats~

Want to see a little snippet? Okay! But you have to click over to the SFF Seven, where our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Writing On The Road: How to stay on task while traveling. See what I did there? Tasty, tasty click bait! 😀

Meeting Real Writers and Readers

I had to be in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the #dayjob this last week. One of the best parts of traveling for the job is getting to meet the people I usually only talk to online. On this trip, I got to meet two people, one who was already a good friend.

In the last six months, Carolyn Crane has become first a favorite author, then an online friend and then a critique partner. We were hooked up through a bit of savvy writer-matchmaking by Sullivan McPig. This was our first time, after increasingly copious online conversation, to meet in person.

We had dinner twice and, yes, talked a whole bunch. She even introduced me to her husband, who was a little dubious about who the hell I was, anyway. Carolyn got to meet my boss, Laurie, who joined us for some wine. We ruminated on how much the internet has added to our friendship connections this way. Without the internet, it’s highly unlikely that an enthusiastic reader in The Netherlands would have connected me to a writer who lives in another city and with whom I share so much.

The other person I met up with is Susan Doerr, who works at a book publisher (U. Minn Press). We had drinks after work and chatted about books we both love. She’s been lovely to me about my own books and asked lots of questions. When I told her about plans for stories I’m working on (*cough*Rogue’s Pawn 2*cough*), she actually jumped up and down with excitement about getting the “inside scoop.”

We may also have gossipped a little about various industry folks. Shhh….

But the whole conversation made me think about what readers like to know about the authors they read. I fill out the blog interviews and it’s hard to answer some of the questions because I often feel like so much of it is old hat. What can I possibly say about myself that everyone doesn’t already know? It’s easy to forget the enthusiastic readers on the other side of that equation – even though I am one, too.

So, I’m back home again at my house in the country, and savoring the wonderful in-person conversations I was privileged to share with these two very sharp, totally fabulous women. And I’m going to try to remember that, despite the physical distance and the lack of cocktails, real people are on the other side of these conversations.

Here’s to internet friends!

Why I’m Not Ashamed to Travel Heavy

Colorado comes up with some pretty great skies, too. Credit where it’s due!

I’m back from the long Birthday Weekend – our annual family celebration in which we all gather someplace fun and whoop it up in honor of three birthdays: mine, my aunt’s and my stepdad’s. Because this year was Stepdad Dave’s Big Birthday (75), he got to choose the location and he picked his favorite spot, Lake Dillon. Stepsister Hope made an appearance from Tucson, too, which made it all that much more fun. 

We arrived at the condo Friday evening, had some great meals, drank a lot of wine, hiked a bit, boated some, shopped the outlet mall, hung out a lot. On Monday morning we headed down to Denver and took in a Rockies game that night. Baseball is seriously the only sport I like watching – mostly because I get to sit outside in nice weather and drink beer, I think. The stats and strategy appeal to math-brain me, too.

On Tuesday morning, David and I drove home to Santa Fe and settled back in.

One thing this kind of multi-stage trip meant, is that we loaded and unloaded the car several times. And, because we took my two-seater jag to make the road-trip even more pleasant, the loading part involved Tetris-like skills to fit everything in. Though we divested ourselves of birthday gifts, I ended up receiving some, too, so that was a zero-sum game. I  may also have acquired a few things during our shopping excursion. Also, the chilly late-summer nights in the mountains required layers and the range of activities from boating to fancy dinner out demanded multiple outfit types.

At least for me.

David, of course, brought a smaller suitcase, but I brought my bigger one. No dash-bag for this kind of trip.

This is one of my things – I travel heavy. And yeah, those of you who read me regularly know I travel quite a lot, for fun, the day job and the writing career. Seems like I always encounter the common wisdom that you should learn to travel light. The advice is always how to maximize carry-on space, mix and match outfits, turning things inside-out for additional wearings. The mantra is presented as a personal virtue – as if there’s something good and right and holy about traveling light.

I say balderdash to that.

I travel heavy and I’m not ashamed. If I’m working for five days? I bring at least six outfits. Maybe I’ll have a wardrobe error with one. Maybe I’ll drink too much beer at the baseball game and the tight waist on that one skirt won’t fit right. Maybe I just plain won’t feel like wearing something. Because I travel a lot, I want the comforts of home with me. I have no desire to do without. I bring my furry house slippers and my favorite hair-dryer.

Wearing clothes I feel good about, when I want to, that I feel like look good, is a big part of my confidence, my public face to the world.

Yes, my suitcase is heavy. I figure, as long as I’m willing to lift it myself, I have that privilege. It can be funny, because I’m a fairly small woman, but I’m stronger than I look. More than once I’ve handed my suitcase to a cabbie who then sagged under the weight, looking surprised. I do try to warn them, but that doesn’t mean they listen.

David, though – he always carries my suitcase for me. Every time. Always I tell him I can carry it – because I do feel a little self-conscious that it weighs three times what his does – and always he gives me his slow smile and says he’ll get it. I hear the words he doesn’t say. He loves me. He accepts me for who I am, heavy suitcase and all.

Gifts beyond price.

Well-Conditioned



I have this theory about hotel air-conditioners.

One can’t hep these things, really. When one travels way too much. Like I do. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, in the last three to five blogs or so.

Anyway, the state of the modern hotel room is this: you must run AC. Most of the windows are sealed shut, if they ever opened at all. And if you do open them, it’s usually too loud from all the 1) airplanes, 2) people screwing around in the parking lot, 3) traffic, 4) air conditioners.

No, really.

The roar of air conditioners outside the hotel forces one to close the window and…run the air conditioner.

However: Not all thermostates are alike. This is my theory, earth-shattering though it may not be.

This morning I had a conversation with a guy in the fitness room. Which is a hotel euphemism for “really small extra room into which we’ve jammed random pieces of exercise equipment.” We talked aobut how all treadmill s are not alike. That 4 mph is clearly not 4 mph for all treadmills.

This may seem like a minor, even obsessively nitpicky, point.

But you get accustomed to running at a particular speed. And the fact that the exercise machine has a digital readout implies a certain level of scientific accuracy. As if, in our common physical universe, 4 mph might be the same in a hotel in Georgia as it is in a hotel in California. Which is demonstrably not true.

And so it is with the thermostat.

One would think one could find a particular temperature, say 68, that might be one’s ideal room temperature. But 68 in one hotel in another’s 64 is another’s 74. Perhaps, I’m meant to think it’s just me, but three hotels in five nights provides pretty clear empirical evidence.

I suspect it has to do with the individual hotel’s AC system. And the motion-sensor deals kind of stop the thing running at night. Either that, or they tone down the AC at night, to save on money, you know.

Just goes to show, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Either that or hotel physics are as questionable as restaurant physics.

Entirely possible.

A Font of Useless Information

So, did you guys know there’s this whole campaign to ban the use of comic sans?

No, really. There is.

Maybe saying “whole campaign” is a stretch since, so far as I can tell, it could be just one guy representing himself as a movement. But there is a website dedicated to it. Of course, anyone can throw up a website and start a “movement” to ban, say, the use of the color yellow.

I first saw the “ban comic sans” manifesto in one of the offices I visited this spring. That’s one of the interesting parts — okay, maybe the ONLY interesting part — of visiting a different cubicle farm every-other week in different parts of the country: seeing what people post on their hollow fabric half-walls. I should post some on here, actually. It was particularly interesting over the course of the election year, to see what people in different regions were het up about. But I digress.

Anyway, the ban comic sans manifesto — and I’m 99% sure they’re serious and not just really good at deadpanned satire, but I’m willing to entertain correction there — explains that the font (you knew this was about a font, right?) “comic sans” was created for cartoons and has enjoyed this extended life for which it was never intended. The people excited about this are the typesetting nostalgics.

Me, I’ve never cared about font that much. Except, hey, yes I use comic sans in my email and IM. I picked it long ago (15 years ago?) because I liked the way it looked. My only other opinion on font is when people make you use Courier, which is a nonproportional font and is thus ugly and inefficient for an electronic age, IMHO.

I have one friend who’s written about her father being a typesetter and the smell of ink, but I’m not sure she cares so much about font. Another friend gets really excited about font and spends a fair amount of time on which ones have which little doodad (I know there’s a real term for it — I forget what it is, this is how much I don’t care) at the top of the “l,” say.

We all need our causes, I suppose. And far be it for me to say someone’s cause is, well, insignificant in the grand scheme, when I have a special place in my heart for frivolous enterprises.

But I just keep thinking about bread & circuses.

I said something about bread & circuses to someone the other day and she didn’t know what I was talking about, so I think it bears repeating, just in case. The phrase was coined by Juvenal, a Roman satirist, referring to the observation that the people won’t care about politics as long as they get food and entertainment.

This is such a pivotal time. There are so many really important changes underway.

And we’re concerned about a font?

(P.S. I tried to format this in comic sans, but blogger won’t allow it!)