Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Finally Made it Into the "We Are Not Afraid" Gallery

I love the Brits.

Only in England could a wonderful site like We Are Not Afraid bloom into a Web phenomenon by the middle of July of last year. It was a response to the temptation to give into despair after the subway bombings last July. I loved the site and sent them a "We Are Not Afraid" photo of my own, which is now linked to this page (I'm in the upper right hand corner).

After 9/11, I was dismayed by the "let's let the terrorists terrify us" attitude that the American people adopted after the attacks. I wrote an essay in the fall of 2001, saying why I thought this attitude was such a serious mistake.


Today, in filling out the paperwork for the mortgage on our new house, one of the forms was a "Patriot Act" form, saying the government the government has the right to review applications for loans for possible money laundering activities...
Yes, of course we completed the form, but still!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Really, Really Finished My Novel Today

Which is ironic to say the least.

Exactly one year ago today, I wrote in this blog:

I didn't just tinker yesterday - I wrote over 1,000 words. I haven't written that much fiction at once in a long time. And I've added about another 500 words today, so far.

I've battled writers block for nearly 30 years. As a result, I haven't really submitted very much, and focused on writing at work (which generally went fine) and Web writing (which has generally come pretty easily to me).

The "tinkering" I was talking about was on a novel I now call IRL. I got the idea for it about five years ago when I was back in college and was lucky enough to have Chuck Kinder as my writing instructor that semester. It started off as a little scene, and, a little at a time, became a 17,000 word pieces-of-a-few-chapters-plus-outline.

When I was laid off about a year ago, I thought long and hard about working on this some more. After a few weeks, I was writing a little. In April and May, around some contracts, I wrote quite a bit. Once the summer hit, I was working more on Interaction (last year's Worldcon; a common volunteer job for the un/underemployed).

Then, I had a bad combination of illness, false finishes, writers' block, and contract jobs (usually for pay,which was better than nothing). I really didn't write much of it between late July and late January, though I did fall into tinkering with it some. At one point, I said I was done, but I was wrong.

In early February, I reexamined the beginning and the ending. I threw out the first five thousand words, and changed the ending. After writing seven thousand words of a new ending, I threw that one out too.

And then, I lost most of last week in house hunting/financial things/other stuff around buying a new house.

I knew I had to finish this week because I have to start packing!

With this deadline in mind, I've written very steadily lately and completely redid the ending.

I don't know if this book will ever sell or not. It may be, like many first novels, something that I'll look back on as a learning experience. Or maybe it'll sell a few copies. Who knows. I only know I have a letter to an agent that hasn't been bounced back to me (yet).

And I finished my novel! Maybe not in time for "Write Your Novel" month, but what-the-hell...

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Book Inventory...

We plan to have professional movers handle most of our move. We're getting old, our friends are getting old, et.c. So, starting this week, I have companies coming out to give us an estimate.

We collect books. I estimate we have somewhere around 15,000 books and another 2,000 magazines. We haven't done a real inventory in a while, but I have spent part of the last few days inventorying the bookcases.

I found we have 69 bookcases, and about another 10 random book shelves over doors and the like (book collectors understand the need to use as much space as possible!). To complicate this slightly, we also have one large built-in bookcase and one small built-in one, so we have to account for the stuff in them, and remember to buy/build that many more bookcases when we move. We will probably be getting rid of some of the books at an upcoming yard sale, but I don't expect we'll get rid of all that many.

We have at least 890 shelf feet of books and magazines.

But wait, there's more.

Jim has already packed about 30 boxes of books, magazines and misc. papers. So that means, you guessed it, building/buying even more bookscases so we can put everything out again.

Jim builds nice, study bookcases, and we plan to build a few between the time we close on the house and the time we move in a few days later. The house has modern heating and cooling, so while we won't have to worry about radiators, we will have to worry about floor vents and having many more electical outlets than we're used to.

But, it will be nice to be in a house big enough to display the collection without everything being so cluttered.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

We Bought a New House!

Tonight, we bought our brand new house in the country. It's a neat, large house and it has woods. It's out past the airport, but it's only a half hour to downtown Pittsburgh.

We definitely will not be at Codclave.

We'll probably be at Midwestcon, but maybe just for Saturday night.

We'll be at Confluence, but we might have to commute.

We expect to be at LAcon, but will probably skip the post-con trip to wine country.

We'll be closing in just over six weeks and will probably move sometime in May.

If anyone's looking for an inexpensive, conveniently-located home in Mount Lebanon, drop me a line.

I Really HATE to be Sold to...

Jim and I are considering buying a new house (details when we know something for sure). The problem with buying a new house (or anything that's at all expensive) is dealing with "sales representatives."

Now, most of the real estate agents/builder's reps I've spoken to over the last couple of months have been pretty nice. Until recently, I've always stressed that we're "just looking." We didn't get really serious until recently. So far, I have no real complaints.

However, I can say without a doubt that when we do go to get a mortgage it will not be from one particular mortgage company. I'd rather not mention names, in case it turns out this guy is something of a loose cannon. But we put our potential mortgage information in through LendingTree.com. While the builder we're likely to buy a house from has a mortgage plan, we feel it's in our best interest to comparison shop (and, so far, the builder's plan is coming in cheapest anyway).

So we got a bunch of offers from Lending Tree. We even had one guy call, so I called him back as the rate he quoted was comparable to our builder. We talked for about five minutes. I stressed we were only looking for a 15 or 20 year mortgage, and we wanted the loweest rate we could qualify for.

And then he said something like, "There's really no problem with paying more interest..."

And then I said, "If that's the way you feel, then we really can't work together," and I hung up.

Now, granted, that's kind of abrupt and rude on my part, and I don't apologize for that at all. I said what I wanted - I wanted to pay as little interest as I could. I was very specific. We have a good credit rating and we'll be making a good-sized downpayment. We don't need to play the "Gee, what if I don't qualify?" game. I know we will qualify.

So the guy called back, and I said, specfically, "Do Not Call Back." And then I hung up.

The bottom line is, you cannot sell me. If you try to sell me, you will lose me as a potential customer.

And this is the bad thing about buying a piece of property. I know the selling thing will only be worse in the future. At least once we do commit ourselves to a piece of property, I can say, "We have no money to buy anything."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar and Life Notes

I haven't been writing much online lately for two important reasons:

* I'm really, really close to finishing my novel
* Jim and I have seriously looking for a new house

So these two priorities are taking over everything else for the time being. But I promise I will be ready for next weekend's Confluence Brainstorming at the PARSEC meeting.

My other typical priority for this time of year is to write a little essay on the Oscars and make predictions. I will watch the Oscars tonight, and here are my predictions for the evening:

Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actress: Reese Witherspoon
Supporting Actor: George Clooney (but don't count Jake Gyllenhaal out!)
Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz
Animated Feature: Corpse Bride
Art Direction: King Kong
Cinemetography: New World
Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha
Directing: Ang Lee
Documentary Feature: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Documentary Short: The Mushroom Club
Film Editing: Constant Gardener
Foreign Language: Joyeux Noël
Make-up: Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Music: Memoirs of a Geisha
Song: Traveling' Through
Picture: Good Night and Good Luck
Short Film Animated: Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
Short Film Live Action: The Six Shooter
Sound Editing: War of the Worlds
Sound Mixing: King Kong
Visual Effects: King Kong
Adapted Screenplay: (this may be the hardest category...) Brokeback Mountain
Original Screenplay: Good Night and Gook Luck

While movies, on the whole, weren't so hot last year, some were, as usual, exceptional. Brokeback Mountain was such a mornful, spare movie, and Jake Gyllenhaal's superb performance was generally ignored (except by the BAFTAs). History of Violence was a real grabber, and given that Cronenberg, Mortensen and Bello were ignored for their excellent work, the movie could wind up with best Adapted Screenplay. But I do think George Clooney will win at least one Oscar tonight, and if he looses Supporting Actor, he'll probably take Original Screenplay.