The Dogs Ate My November

Yes, I know I’ve been lax in posting. November was fraught with dogs.

It began down in SC where Bob and I were working on Wild Ride and my girl Petal turned into Mary Imogen who had a dog named Al, who I discovered in my pictures folders, one of the Chinese Cresteds I’d found in Google Images during the D&G image search. I love this dog:

Al

so I put him in Wild Ride as Al, named after:

Albert

(Check out the matching tongues.) Bob said, “That is one ugly dog,” but I thought Skylar (Al’s real name) was darling so I went back to Google Images to see where I’d found him to see if there were more pictures on that page. And it turned out that he was on a rescue page for Crest Care, the Chinese Crested Rescue group. Yes, folks, Skylar was available for adoption.

I’d explain what I did next, but you already know. My application was processed, my references were checked, and while I waited on the home visit, Bob and I finished the first two scenes in Wild Ride with Al playing a vital role, and sent the proposal off into the black hole that is publishing in November and December.

Then I moved on to Dogs and Goddesses with Lani and Krissie because we came to realize that if we didn’t get a proposal together, it would take us eight years to write the book because we always dropped it for contracted books. So for two weeks we worked on getting the scenes we’d already done into tighter shape and wrote some new ones so that we had a complete first act. Thirty thousand words of scenes, actually. That’s 120 pages. We did it by using the conferencing site, Campfire, and keeping it open all day so that we were virtually in the same room with each other. Occasionally we got a little punch drunk, but we finished that proposal at midnight on the 26th.

I did go home during that two weeks for one Sunday afternoon for Thanksgiving because my brother was cooking and he’s terrific, so we had a classic family dinner with “Please pass the rolls” and “No, not that way,” and while I was there, I happened to mention Al/Skylar, and they printed out his picture. Also in November, Kyra Kirkwood from Dog Fancy magazine called to interview me about the rescue dogs in my novels, and asked me what I was working on now, and I said, “Well, Dogs and Goddesses, and then a book called Wild Ride that has a dog in it I’m in the process of adopting.” And I sent her Al/Skylar’s picture and she loved him, too, and said, “Tell me when you get him.” And in the middle of all this, the generous woman who was supposed to do my home inspection and who had already traveled more than a thousand miles that week for Crest Care, hit a deer on her way, and those of you who are familiar with deer-meets-car accidents know how dangerous that is. She was fine, she said, but I knew from sudden impact accidents of my own that she’d feel horrible for at least a week so I knew it would be awhile longer until Skylar got to Cincinnati. I told Krissie and Lani, who were also waiting to hear about him, and we all said, “Darn,” and Lani said, “Well, send me his measurements when you get him so I can knit him a sweater,” and then we got back to work.

On Monday the 26th, we sent the D&G proposal off to the agents to read and I was settling in to Always Kiss Me Goodnight again when Crest Care e-mailed and said they were ready to re-schedule the home inspection, but that Skylar had been adopted. It was just like in the movies when the background music is playing happily and then you hear the needle scratch across the record. My first reaction was to say bad things, but these are lovely women who rescue dogs, for heaven’s sake; no beating up on good people. They told me they could show me other Chinese Cresteds after I passed the home inspection, but at that point, I was so fixated on Al that I said, “I’ll get back to you.”

So I told my parents, and Kyra at Dog Fancy, and Lani and Krissie, and then I sat on the bed and thought, “Be mature. You want a Chinese Crested, and there are other wonderful dogs out there that need a home.” And then I thought, “No, I wanted Skylar, damn it, he’s in my book.” I know. Sometimes I’m amazed at the four-year-old that is me. While I was sitting there being immature, Wolfie crawled into my lap and said, “Cookie,” or words to that effect (I’ve been writing Dogs and Goddesses a long time), and I picked up my laptop and typed in Dachshund Rescue Ohio” and found the site for the place that had given me Wolfie seven years ago. (The pet rescues are linked under PetFinder.com, so if you’re looking for a particular breed, go there and it will direct you to that breed’s rescue sites.)

And there was Milton.

Milton

So I e-mailed the rescue and sat back to work on Always Kiss Me Goodnight since it was going to be days if not weeks until I’d completed the adoption process, and five minutes later, the coordinator e-mailed me back and gave me the phone number of Kathleen, the woman who ran the rescue. I called her, ready to fill out the application, get my references checked, and wait on the home visit, but she said, “I remember you. You write. You have Wolfgang.” And then she told me about Jake and Abby,and a few of the others, discussing all of their personalities, and I said, “They all sound great, but I think Milton . . .” and she said, “I’ll bring Milton and Oscar and a couple of the others, and we’ll see which one seems right for you. How about day after tomorrow?”

Dachshunds. They’re speed demons.

Then Wednesday didn’t work–it turned out that Milton’s last people hadn’t given him his shots–but on Thursday, Kathleen brought nine dogs out, and my backyard looked like the Sprint commercial which brightened my day considerably. And in the middle of the pack was this little blonde longhaired dachshund who looked frightened, so I picked her up, and Kathleen said her name was Gorgeous, and she and another dog from the same house, Tinkerbell, had just been given up to the rescue by a woman who was dying, in fact she’d just picked them up. So I stood there patting poor trembling Gorgeous and thought, “I don’t need two dogs.” Meanwhile Milton, who is the most cheerful dachshund since the breed began, had stolen my heart. But Gorgeous had her head on my shoulder, and then Kathleen said, “We really don’t want to split up Gorgeous and Tinkerbell . . .

I know, I know. But as Lani pointed out, they’re all under ten pounds so all of them together really make one dog. And Wolfie liked them.

I just adopted three dogs.

So here’s Veronica, formerly Gorgeous, and if you’re an old movie fan you’ll know why it’s Veronica now:

Veronica

But here’s a hint if you’re not:

Veronica Lake

And then Tinkerbell, who I renamed Pink, was too independent to pose but I got her and Milton on the bed, watching the deck door, so here’s a candid:

P & M

I mean, really, which one would you have sent away? Veronica is an English Cream long-haired dachshund, Pink is a piebald dachshund, and Miltie is . . . Miltie. He’s a long-haired dachshund whose hair isn’t all that long, but it doesn’t matter because it’s Miltie. And now I’m thinking maybe Miltie is in Wild Ride. And if I ever do a sequel to Fast Women, Veronica is a shoo-in.

Which brings me to what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving: Petfinder. If you’ve been thinking about getting a pet, please go look there even if you’re sure you don’t want to adopt a rescue. Most of the breeds have puppies available, and the rescue groups have the dogs checked out by a vet and treated for anything that’s wrong, and do any basic training that the dog may have missed from being in a neglectful home. The foster parents can always describe the dog’s personality, what kind of home life he’ll do well in (alone or with other dogs, gets along well with children, quiet or needs a lot of exercise, etc.), and will do everything he or she can to make sure you’re the right fit, something you’re never going to get at Petland. And while everybody wants puppies, older dogs who are already house-broken and through the I’ll-chew-anything stage can be a much better experience for most people. All my dogs have been rescues and every one of them has been an absolute joy, even weird little Wolfie with his overbite and his issues. Especially weird little Wolfie with his overbite and his issues.

So what with Al and Wild Ride and Dogs and Goddesses and Veronica and Pink and Milton, I had a damn good November because the dogs ate it. Go cruise the PetFinder.com site and maybe it’ll happen to you, too.

Mary Imogen

I’m working on Emmeline/Always Kiss Me Goodnight right now, but Bob and I are setting up Wild Ride in the usual way: he’s choosing a classic Western to draw on a hero type for his guy Ethan (still hasn’t chosen an actor as a placeholder, though), and I’m choosing the first of what will probably be two or three women to combine as my girl Mary Imogen. If you want to read about Ethan, go here.

As for Mary Imogen, my plan was to NOT do an angry heroine this time. MI’s a little obsessive and hyper-self-critical and driven and hypomanic, so it seemed overkill to make her angry, too. I mean, people have to like this woman. I tend to fill in back story as I write, while Bob does his up front, but I know MI got fired from her last job for going beyond the call of duty because she’s an obsessive perfectionist; I’ll find out the rest as I write. Actually, I found that out as I wrote the first scene. But Bob needs a placeholder now, so I sent him a Kristin Chenoweth video from YouTube, telling him that MI was not that short, and definitely not that thin, and absolutely no hair extensions, but otherwise, that was her tense, driven self. Then I realized the character that Chenoweth is playing in this song is, uh, angry. And that maybe it’s time I did a short heroine. (Still definitely a no on the thin and the extensions, though.) So I’m still open on MI, but I can tell you for sure she’s gonna have issues.

People have been asking what the HWSW for 2008 is going to be since we did a year in the life of two writers for 2006 and the writing workshop for 2007. The answer: there is no HWSW in 2008. Bob and I are both working on several books, and it’s going to be all we can do to keep our personal blogs going. So on his suggestion, we’re going to respond to each other here on Argh and on his blog, which the last time I checked was still called Bob Mayer. (He’s a no-frills kind of guy.) And since we don’t have a contract for Wild Ride yet, this could all be jumping the gun anyway. But since he put up Ethan’s back story, the least I can do is give you a link to the video I sent him for MI.

Of course, six months from now, MI will look like Lucy Lawless. I just never know until I get there. And the good news is, you get to watch me fumble around trying to find her right here. And in the process lose all respect for me, but then anybody who’s been reading this blog for any length of time has pretty much lost any illusions in my direction anyway.

MI and Ethan. Did I mention this isn’t a romance?

The Poetry of Bob

I’ve been pedal to the metal for so long this month, I haven’t even stopped to breathe, so when I realized I hadn’t entered Agnes in the Ritas, I went flipping through the e-mails Bob had sent me to find the one with his RWA membership number on it, moving at the speed of light because I had to get back to Dogs and Goddesses. But the funny thing was, as I flipped through literally hundreds of e-mails, they started to look like poetry. What had been annoying–would it kill him to write a whole paragraph?–became Art.

And so I present the Poetry of Bob, all complete e-mails, in their entirely, punctuated and spaced just as he sent them to me, the Poet Laureate of the Green Berets or, as he told me in one e-mail:

that’s me
a senstive soul
a poet-warrior

They’re really beautiful in their brevity and complexity:

I am
you. Well. who knows.

Full of paradox and rhythm:

not crashing yet
I said before I crash
Geez

Full of imagery:

blue paint
blue carpet
not good

Not afraid of non-sequiturs:

you and the vampires
i’m going to bed

Accepting of life’s reversals:

perhaps
the system failed

Sometimes epic:

relax
it’ll be fine
we’ll get rejected
end up living under a bridge
the river will flood

doomed

Sometimes terse:

yepper
you win

What I love about these is that they’re entire e-mails, and he put the space breaks in where they are here. He just does it naturally. Of course I have ten thousand more that are bitching about publishing and making fun of me, but the fact that these gems are in there, too, well, it just gives me faith in the poetry in the man’s soul.

Bob. Poet-Warrior. The man who wrote:

Sounds good.
But we’re still doomed.
Doomed I tell you.

and

Book done yet?

You read them here first.

Addendum: It occurs to me that I may not have myself clear:
Bob does not think he’s writing poetry.
Bob is just answering my e-mails.

Building a Little Birdhouse in my Soul

I’m home and I’m happy. Part of that is because I’m off the road, and part of that is because I love my work, and part of that is because I have the best friends in the world, but sometimes happiness is also in the details. For example:

Rachel brought me tons of chocolate from England, and I’m still eating it. And whenever I pick up a piece, I think of Rachel, and how wonderful it was to finally meet her. Especially since she brought me so much chocolate. It adds an entirely new dimension to calories.

If I had known that squirrels and birds and coyotes would leap in the car and sing with me if I bought a Jeep Liberty, I’d have gone that way instead of the Prius. The Prius did get 46 miles to the gallon on the trip to SC, but I’ll sacrifice the environment to sing with wildlife. That commercial just makes me really happy.

Pushing Daisies is the new Buffy. With dialogue like, “That wasn’t the Truth Bus, that was the Bitchy Crosstown Express,” and Kristen Chenowith as Olive singing “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” this show has made me its viewer slave. I’m in complete sympathy with the writers’ strike except that there won’t be new episodes after Thanksgiving if they don’t come to terms, and I need my Pushing Daisies fix. Do not deprive me of Olive. I love Olive. Even if she did lie about the jockey thing. And don’t get me started on Swoozie Kurtz and Ellen Greene as the aunts. Or Chi McBride as the detective. The leads are lovely, too, but it’s the supporting cast that makes me insane with delight.

Krissie and Lani and I have decided to move to Oregon and buy land and build three houses and a common office building and start a commune. We were talking in Campfire about calling it Mesopotamia, but then Krissie suggested Clitoris, and Clitoris, Oregon just has a nice ring to it, but then Lani pointed out that the guys would never find it. We laughed for a long time. I can’t wait to move to Clitoris, Oregon. The guys can use GPS.

It’s finally cool enough that I can wear my long red velvet dress. I love this dress. It has a v-neck and buttons down the front and it’s heavy enough to drape really well without dragging me down, and it’s warm, and I feel dramatic and creative in it. You know, you really can’t underestimate the value of clothes that make you feel like the Real You. I am so a red-velvet-dress, sequined-beach-skirt kind of woman. And yet I dress in black pants and jackets when I go out. I must begin to embrace color. Stopping just short of the Red Hat Club.

Speaking of wildlife, there’s an insane woodpecker that keeps flying into the big window in my TV room. Like three times a day. For months. No exaggeration. He keeps doing the exact same thing over and over and getting the crap knocked out of him (you should see this window) and yet he never learns. I’m calling him “Bob.” (And somewhere from the direction of Seattle comes the mutter, “Humor. Har.”) Anyway, now when he hits, instead of getting annoyed, I just say, “Hi, Bob,” and laugh. But I am hoping he goes south for the winter.

I’m working on three books right now. This should be stressful, but I love them all so much, I’m just having a wonderful time. Oddly enough, they’re all paranormal. I don’t know how that happened. One’s a ghost story, one’s about a goddess who rises, and ones about a portal to an alternate universe. It wasn’t a plan to do that, it just happened. I told somebody that and she said, “Paranormal is over.” Not in Crusie world, it isn’t. Besides, I don’t think you can call a genre that began with Beowulf “over” ever. Although Beowulf may be now that Angelina Jolie is playing Grendel’s mother in spike heels. Also, I don’t care. Markets come, markets go, good stories are forever. Also, I think anybody who says, “Paranormal is over” when you’re telling her how happy you are about the book you’re working on is probably not a soul mate, so I’ll just take my happiness back to Clitoris where they get me.

I’m in love with the new Mac OS, Leopard. I know. Hi. My name is Jenny and I’m a Mac Geek, but really, this is so amazing. My first fave thing: you can put folders in the dock now so they’re not all over your desk top but, even better, whatever the first file in the folder is becomes the icon, so if I put a space before an image’s label, it becomes the first one and the icon. So here are the folders for the three books I’m working on it the dock:
Files in Dock
The little girl is Alice from Always Kiss Me Goodnight, the three daisies are the women from Dogs & Goddesses, and the dog is Albert from Wild Ride. It makes me happy just looking at them.

I suppose you’re all gagging now. The last time I talked to Mollie she said, “You can stop telling me how happy you are. I get it.” Really, I’m all Ellen Greene singing “Build a little birdhouse in your soul” lately. Then winter will come and I’ll get depressed, so I’ve ordered those lights that make you perk right up even in February so with luck, I can keep on building my birdhouse. And if not, well, hell, it was fun while it lasted. And spring will come some day, and eventually we’ll all be in Clitoris where there will be nothing but good times ahead.

But enough about me. What’s in the birdhouse in your soul? Because happiness is in the details, and you should share.

Collaging at Cherry Con

There is no one right way to collage for fiction writing, no one way a collage should look as the Cherries demonstrated at the Collage Pizza Pajama Party we had at Cherry Con. We started at six with pizza, scissors, glue, and every old magazine and catalog I had at my house and could fit in my car. I had colored cardboard so they could give themselves a headstart by picking the color that best fit their book, a good way to move out of left brain thinking and into right. I told them to flip through the magazines and find things that felt like the book, not pictures that illustrated it but things that felt like their stories. Then I gave them scissors, bowls of Elmer’s glue and brushes, scotch tape, and the rest of the night to work and they got down to it, working late into the night and some returning to their work the next day. There are always those who think I’m nuts but give it a shot anyway, and they’re always the biggest converts to the process, but everybody found something in their work. Here are four with comments:

From Brooke Brannon:

CollageBrooke

The CherryCon collage showed me the path through the story, which I didn’t have before. And it’s so obvious – it’s in the damn myth! – but I was focusing so much on plot and blah blah blah that I didn’t see it before. Finding pictures that resonated with me, and then playing with them until they made a sort of nonverbal sense, showed me the throughline of the story.

From Molly Haselhorst:

CollageMolly

I have to say that I’m finding it was eerily revealing. The more I’m working on this book, the more I’m, realizing The Collage Knew That. It’s almost creeping me out. For that to work, I think it required the time limit– that mad, late-night, glue everywhere assembly process. (The wine may have been important, too).

From Chandra Years:

CollageChandra

I’m with Molly. I’ve never tried collage before, and this was a story I was stalled on. But the collage has really opened it up – and thanks to the collage, I’m realizing water has a lot to do with the story. I already had a scene set at the beach, but now there’s water, water everywhere and it’s encapsulated in the picture of the slightly sinister pool, plus the picture of Shia LaBeouf throwing the pail of water – anyway, it’s all swirling around my head even if I’m not being very articulate about it yet. The best thing is that I’m no longer stalled and words are actually forming on the computer screen. So that’s good.


From Betsy Hanes Perry:

CollageBetsy

The collage mostly helped because it made me realize that Clarissa was furious. That picture in the middle is important, the girl with the curly hair with the knife. It looks nothing like Clarissa, but it is her. And I realized that so far Clarissa had been the passive victim, while in fact she was absolutely livid and she needed to be acting on that anger. The guy with the blindfold, again, is telling me something about the Emperor I haven’t pinned down yet. (Note the matching girl with the blindfold in the lower right hand corner. She’s much easier to interpret.) And I like the snake. I have no idea what it’s doing. It was a dragon when I cut it out of the magazine, but now it’s a snake. With diamonds. The biggest thing I took away as far as technique goes is that I’d strongly, strongly encourage hypercritical people like me to collage with a distraction in place. That way, you can’t obsess over whether you’re doing it exactly right; you just paste and go on. My home collages failed because I was trying too hard to get it right and the subconscious couldn’t kick in.

You can see the books in these collages, feel the kind of stories they’re going to be. And since these are just the beginnings, since the writers will layer on more images, add more things, the collages will grow in complexity as the books are layered. Collages, like stories, are works in progress, conduits to the hidden parts of stories as they unfold. That’s why they’re so powerful.

And so much fun to look at.

On the Road: Isle of Palms

So I’m sitting in a condo on the Isle of Palms, listening to the ocean roll outside the window which I usually find infinitely comforting but since this complex is about to fall into the ocean, I am finding it less so at the moment. It’s 5AM, but I’ve woken up and now I can’t get back to sleep so here we are. And I have internet access which is not always the case here. In fact, there’s a good chance I’ll lose it before I finish this post, so don’t look at the time to see if it’s really 5AM when I posted. And for those of you who are wondering where the HWSW post is, WordPress refuses to let me on the damn blog.

All of this might lead you to think that I’m a little cranky, but actually I’m very happy. I’ve had a wonderful time in South Carolina at the beach house and now here for the weekend, lots of good things happened, I met terrific people, and tomorrow I start the drive home and it will be beautiful. In fact, I’m chipper as all hell even though 5AM is not my preferred time to write. Of course, my brain thinks it’s 6AM since we fell back into Daylight Savings Time this weekend and by the way, that makes no sense at all since it put kids at bus stops in the dark. I say, adjust to the seasons, people. Leave the clocks alone.

Where was I? Right, the weekend.

So I taught a class and terrorized people each day and then met my critique group on the third floor and terrorized them each night, so my work is done. My critique group, by the way, was spectacular and, even better, very sturdy. Cathy, Mary Jo, Allison, Suzanne, Shane, and (by the weekend) Ann all took some pretty stringent criticism and not only rolled with it but worked like crazy to revise. It is such a pleasure to work with people who sort through what you’ve said, take what seems right and discard the rest, and then make their stories better. I’d head out to walk the beach and there would be Allison, sitting on the porch with the ocean in front of her, eyes glued to her notes, scribbling like crazy, or Shane hiding around a corner, poring over her pages. I’d think, “Oh, look, writers, not people who want to be published,” and then go walk on the beach which is how I screwed up my knees, I think, but it was worth it. The ocean, in case I haven’t mentioned it, is a beautiful thing.

Of course, one problem with working with writers is that their grasp on reality isn’t strong. On the day I wore my beach skirt–let me tell you how much I love that beach skirt–I walked along the edge of the water and, surf being what it is, sometimes it came up higher and washed over my feet and I kicked at it because that felt good. These were not high kicks. Little ankle kicks as I walked, the kind that would also kick leaves out of your path or your writing partner on the ankle. Small, perfectly normal kicks. Then I got back to the porch and two writers who shall be nameless–let’s call them Ann and Shane–were laughing and told me that I looked like a Tampax commercial walking out there along the ocean, kicking them there waves. Okay, what they actually said was that I looked like a commercial, and I said, “Tampax?” but still. Then Shane said, “The best part was when you twirled around.” I said, “I do not twirl,” and I would like to make it very clear here that there is no way in hell I would have twirled on the beach. Many of you have met me and can attest to the fact that by nature, I am not a twirler. But Shane, who looks like an angel but is actually a child of the devil, “No, I’m sure you twirled. And maybe leaped.” And Ann, who is also evil, said, “Oh, I loved it when you twirled.” Or something like that.

Now here’s the thing about going out in public: people tease you and then somebody overhears and thinks it’s the truth and things just go all to hell on the internet. So I said firmly and loudly, “I did not twirl” and went inside before they added a dog and a guy on a horse to the story. Writers. But of course, the twirling thing did not die. So a couple of days later we’re at dinner, and Ann says, “Boy, I wish I’d had my cellphone with me because we could have taken a video of you twirling.” And Shane looked at her and said, “Ann, we couldn’t have taken a video, we made that up.” And Ann stopped and said, “Oh. Yeah. We did.” See. THIS is how rumors start.

There was no twirling.

There was, however, much hilarity and good times and interesting things, although I missed the return of the three-hundred pound sea turtles to the ocean which Mary Alice Monroe told us about because she’s part of the sea turtle rescue people. I understand it was touching although it took the male turtle longer than the female turtle, not because he wouldn’t ask for directions which somebody said but because (according to Mary Alice) once sea turtles are born, they head straight for the ocean where there is food and sex, and the females come back on land to lay eggs but the males never do (as Bob said, “No point”) so the females know how to get back to the water but the males are clueless. But he finally made it, and everybody said it was very touching, but I was at breakfast with Bob plotting the next book because I racked up my knee and couldn’t have made it down the beach anyway. So everybody else got a male sea turtle heading for the ocean, and I got Bob heading for a sausage and egg on a bagel. Not that he wasn’t as delightful as always, but you know, he’s not a giant sea turtle.

Meg and Jen also arrived on Friday so it was like old home week, the gang back together, and they brought Kathy Seidel whom I hadn’t seen since she tried to kill me in DC after that Smithsonian thing, so that was fun, too. They all looked fabulous and I looked like I’d been rode hard and put away wet since my fashion sense, never strong, had pretty much eroded by then. I remember feeling really put upon when I had to start wearing shoes again since we were moving to the condo. As much as I love shoes, they really seemed like a frill at the beach house. I also stared balefully at my mascara before I put it on. Reality. Bummer.

But it was good to be away from the house for awhile: twenty-five women in a beach house for a week can give you estrogen overload, but three days in a condo with Bob pretty much cures that. I was in front of the house loading my car when he pulled into driveway, and I waved, and he got out and looked at my hair–I’ve let it go gray and cut it short–and said, “You look better.” I said, “Just for the record, ‘You look better’ is not a compliment.” He said, “It is in Bob World.” Maybe some day I’ll work up to “You look good,” but I’m not holding my breath.

And the weekend was great although since some of the people from the week before left and many new people came in, it did seem odd to have all those strangers in Our Beach House. Or as Shane put it, “Somebody moved my peanut butter.” That same person drank my Diet Coke, too. Yes, we both realized that the house was stocked for everybody and that technically the peanut butter and Diet Coke were not ours, but frankly, we’d been there a week, and then here came these Janie-Come-Latelys who moved in and disrupted the beach . . . well, we knew how the sea turtles felt. The female ones.

There’s a lot more but I can’t remember anything now because it’s 5:45 and I need to go back to sleep. Well, I remember Meg telling a story about somebody who pitched to her at a conference and said that she couldn’t explain the story because it was a secret, and Meg said, “Maybe you need a secret agent.” Oh, and there is no picture of the shawl because after it was finished, I gave it to Meg so she could keep warm and she looked fantastic in it, so I said, “Keep it,” except that I didn’t put the shells on it so it’s just a boring shawl that’s about four thousand yards long–I may have lost my grip on the length–but she didn’t seem to mind, although she’s probably somewhere now going, “Crusie, this shawl needs edited.”

But I do need to thank Kieran and Sharon who schlepped us out to the condo and carried all our stuff up in the middle of the night–I’d heard of Southern hospitality but I had no idea how far Southern girls will go to make you feel taken care of–and Laura who said over and over again, “I’m going out, can I get you anything?” and brought magazines for collage and fed me Aleve, and Nina who put the whole thing together, and the Low Country Romance Writers for being the Low Country Romance Writers, which is a very good thing. And if they ever do this again, you should go.

On the Road: Beach Skirts and Other Pleasures

So now I’m where I was going and the ocean is as beautiful as ever and it was worth the long drive which was pretty great all by itself. The second half started after I left the hotel and was trying to find my way back to the highway and saw a Michael’s. Well, you know how that is. Thank God it was a Michaels; if it had been a Hobby Lobby, I’d never have gotten out of town. So I went in because I decided I wanted to make a beach shawl or a shrug during the week and then I found this felting wool in a color called Ocean Blues so of course I bought it. I figured if it didn’t look right for a shawl or a shrug as I worked on it, I could felt it and it’d be a scarf. I’ve been working on it all week and people kept asking me what it is (peopel here are very goal-oriented). I kept saying “I don’t know” because nobody who asks “What are you making?” wants a speech about how it could be this or that or whatever. But it did make me seem unfocused. So now it’s almost done and it’s a shawl. I’d love to felt it to see what happens but unfelted it looks like fish net which is good for the whole beach thing, plus I’ve been picking up shells with holes in them to sew to the fringe and shells don’t felt well. So it’s a shawl. I was about halfway through it when I looked at it and realized the yarn was variegated. I mean, you could tell it was variegated immediately when you looked at the skein, I just hadn’t realized I’d bought sixteen skeins of variegated yarn again. The damn stuff is insidious.

Then back on the road and two hours after I bought variegated yarn (the shame, the shame), I stopped for breakfast. There’s something about pulling into an IHoP in Columbia, SC, with “Born to Run” blaring on the stereo that makes you glad you’re an American. Plus there’s the great dialogue you overhear. The woman in the booth behind me was saying, “Look into my eyeballs. You look into my eyeballs,” to somebody when I sat down. But my all time favorite Dialogue Overheard At IHoP was from a mother talking to one of her sons who’d just popped the other one: “Justin, we don’t hit family.”

That’s goin’ in a book.

And now I’m here. This is the sixth day of a six-day retreat at the ocean, twenty-some women crammed into a pretty big beach house with the ocean rolling in and out just yards away. I have taught my butt off this week but the students I’ve had have been wonderful: focused, dedicated, cheerful, and amazingly hard-working. The only drawback to this retreat is that you have to share a room and in some cases a bed–I’m a diva so I said, “I don’t think so” because that was a deal-breaker for me–but once you get past that big drawback, everything here is perfect. It’s the Low Country RWA Jumpstart Master Class; the real retreat starts Friday night but that sounds more hectic and less retreat-ish than this week, which has been full of optional classes and equally optional beach walks. Jen, Meg, and Bob are coming in for the weekend, so I’m expecting it to be party central here after a lovely, slow week of talking on the porch and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean. I’ve slept better here than anyplace else I’ve ever been except on a ship where the roll always puts me to sleep. Of course, I’m not sharing a room or a bed, so that helps a lot.

And today I’m celebrating by wearing my favorite long beach skirt. It’s pretty over the top–chartreuse with turquoise embroidery and sequins with little bells on the belt ties–but I love it and I was determined to walk on the beach at least once in it. Of course, now the sky is lowering and it looks like rain, but I’m getting out there sometime today after I get some work done and teach my final class for the week, this one on collage. There are some people who look skeptical but I’ve done this before. They’ll be up to their eyeballs in glue before dinner.

So life is still good on the road. And bless Jane Espenson for being such a star and blogging while I drove. She can come back anytime, especially since I forgot to ask her about graphic novels. We’ll have to lure her back. I’ll start looking for heirloom tomatoes as soon as I get back. Or maybe she likes variegated yarn. I’ve already got that.