Thank you all for your positive thoughts and for the suggestions about what to do in San Diego! Hubby got home late Tuesday afternoon on the Amtrak Texas Eagle, taking the final leg from San Antonio to Dallas and then hopping the DART train up to Richardson. Whew! He was pretty peeved that I couldn’t drive down to Dallas’ Union Station at 5 PM to pick him up there, but the traffic would have been terrible, and both my car and I were having a bit of stomach sickness. But the important thing is that he got home safely! And brought me a couple of shells as souvenirs. His business dealings were a great success, and the company thanked him by plopping a couple of new projects on his desk.

It’s still SO UNFAIR that I didn’t get to go, but I did manage to keep my fragile ones happy and healthy here at home. Well, pretty much . . . we did catch some kind of little stomach virus that we are STILL not rid of, but we’re okay.

I really, REALLY need to blog about our Houston trip. Mainly about how if you have the chance to visit Houston, you should stay at least one night at the Robin’s Nest Bed and Breakfast in the Montrose/Museum district near downtown. It was a complete pleasure to stay in Robin’s main house on the first floor in one of the guest rooms with attached bath! I will write more about this (the most fun Mama has had in DECADES, she said) as soon as I can concentrate, but meanwhile visit the website at and see what the B&B has to offer. We had never stayed in a B&B, and everyone else was very skeptical, but I had my expectations fulfilled and exceeded! We even got to drive around downtown Houston in the five o’clock traffic, which was as terrifying as you might expect.

More later. Gotta do something about dinner . . . probably chicken&stars soup and crackers all around.


Send positive thoughts–hubby’s on the road

Send positive thoughts and/or prayers: Hubby has just set forth in rented car from Los Angeles down to San Diego. Said to take around 2-1/2 hours.

I can’t help but worry. He’s a good driver and it’s daytime, but still.

We dropped him at the train station in Houston on Monday night (and I’ll post about that later), so he’s been on the Sunset Limited for a couple of days in the largest sleeping room (*envy*). But now he has to drive to his hotel just north of San Diego, and tomorrow is the BIG SYSTEM TEST deal. He has five circuit boards (cards) in his luggage that constitute a large part of their new product, and he’s got to make them work and run the demo for the customers. At the same time, he has to make sure that the subcontractors’ software and hardware is working properly, because he has to sign off on that on Friday night. If it doesn’t work right, the customer can’t know, but he can’t let it slip by him, either. Whew! But he said, “I’m not worried about that. I can make it work.” *grin* I believe that, too. I’m just worried about him having to drive in an unfamiliar area. He tends to have these rage fits if he doesn’t see immediately which lane to be in or where to turn–that’s where I come in, to point out the proper path and keep him from blowing a fuse. (“Blownfuse und poppencorken mit spritzensparken,” for those who get the reference.)


He packed his cell phone bluetooth earpiece (in luggage in back seat), so he said he can’t talk to me while driving this drive–it’s against the law in CA to drive and hold the phone. So now we pray and worry for his safety in that mean old California traffic.

I jest to some extent; if he can drive in Houston, he can drive in Calcutta! That place is INSANE. We took a short tour and I made my mother cry by taking her on a surprise visit to my childhood home in Memorial Bend in the Gaywood development, which has had a huge revival lately. Our old house is beautiful–they remodeled it with sensitivity and didn’t change the character at all. Wish I could clone it on the edge of the beach in Big Sur. Paradise on Earth! But anyway, no one was home and there were contractors working in the yard, so I just walked up to the house and took photos of the entrance, the back yard, and all that stuff. They didn’t shoot me. Mama and the dog were waiting in the front parked on the street with the motor running (A/C at full blast), and she panicked after I didn’t come RIGHT back, and finally honked. I was taking a shot of the street sign and our neighbors’ old house. Figured I was pushing it and bolted for the car.

It brought back a lot of buried memories for both of us. We were so happy there when my dad worked at NASA. My baby-sitter’s house and the one next door to it are still exactly the same, as is the one next door where my best friend Clare Ann Jones used to live. Then (1960s), ’twas an earthly paradise; alas, sic transit gloria mundi*: everything that made it OURS is gone now, most of it having come WITH us, of course. The area is still beautiful, but we’ve lost our acclimatization, and now it’s too humid and uncomfortable to bear.

*(And, NO, that doesn’t mean “Gloria got sick on the bus Monday.”)

Anyway, I don’t know how I’ll stand it here until he gets back. I really wish I could have gone with him. Mama was all packed for two weeks and ready to go all the way there. We kept hoping until the last moment that he’d decide to forego the train and drive. But he said that the company couldn’t get its money back for the train ticket and it would go on his record as a “derogation” and might get him fired, in this climate. I’m not so sure of that, as he is their boy wonder for these cards and this software, but I suppose it could’ve led to some ugliness. *sigh*

At least we got to go to Houston. I have a long post I’m going to do about Robin’s Nest Bed and Breakfast, where we spent the afternoon and night on Monday. But I’m still too tired, and there’s so much to do here at Casa el Dumpo. Do you suppose if I enclosed the garage and the treehouse out back in the big mulberry tree that I could run it as a B&B? Mama thinks that would be too much work, as I am notoriously lazy. And who would want to stay HERE?! Good question. I sure don’t. Itching to get back on the road.

(Cue Willie Nelson song.)

And if you will, say a little prayer for his safety and bringing him home safe. . . .

San Diego: anyone know it?

You know–that place on the water with the world-class zoo and the lovely marina. Hubby’s boss told him that he might be sent out there in a couple of weeks to witness and assist with the testing of one of their new products.

So . . . if you had a day to do a bit of sightseeing, and you didn’t want to do SeaWorld (we’ve been to the one in Texas anyhow) or anything that you can do most places, what would you do? I’m thinking the beach and the boardwalk, myself.

Now, don’t get the idea that *I* might get to go. I did assume that I could tag along if I paid my own way, but that’s not a given. Sure, I looked up the Pacific Terrace Hotel (that’s my first choice) and checked on the tourist bus tours and so forth, just for grins. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, along with everything else. But still, I’d like to have someplace he can go that is off the beaten path.

As usual, the status quo

CRAFT: When is a character inconsistent? Complex?

Just a quick note before I take off to do errands. TV said (and I always DO WHAT THE TEEVEE SAYS DRAT IT) to get out before noon and stay home out of the heat and pollution afterward.

On a critique-group mailing list, a critter said that the book under discussion had a major problem in that the heroine was “inconsistent.” She thought the character should be completely revamped to be believable.

Now, what was it that bothered the critter? The heroine is a vice president of sales in a large corporation. She’s tough, realistic, and practical. Frugal, not a money-waster. Wears navy blue business suits even on casual Fridays. But she has a quirk: she keeps catalogs such as Victoria’s Secret, Frilly, Rockabilly Girl, and the like at her desk, and now and then she flips through them and orders a totally frothy dress or prom dress or something else outrageous. She never wears them or goes anywhere to wear them, but she has them in one of her closets at home “just in case” she ever gets an invite to a place she can wear them. (To business banquets she wears something designer and subdued.)

I say this is not inconsistent, but a character quirk that deepens the character and makes her more real.

The crit group is dithering.

What say you?

(It’s not one of my books, or the heroine’s obsession would be something much more offbeat, such as . . . you don’t wanna know. *grin*)

My car had a bad horoscope today *BEEP*

At hour 10, minute 11, and second twelve today, the date/time was
07/08/09 10:11:12.

Right around then, we were sitting peacefully in my van at the drugstore drive-through, having just picked up Mama’s diabetes test strips. I was just about to put the transmission in “D” when. . . .


Some idiot pulled up behind us and RAN INTO US.

It was a fairly hard “tap,” although only a tap. We went forward an inch, caught by our seat belts and shoulder harnesses. I looked into the rear view mirror and saw a compact white car that had bumped us. The driver started honking.

I pulled a few feet forward out of the drive-through lane while the driver continued to honk, jumped out, and examined the back of the car. There was a sort-of scratch on the back of the bumper, but nothing major. I looked back at the white car, and nothing seemed amiss except that she was still tapping on her horn. In a moment a little old woman jumped out and started pointing to her front license plate, jabbering away. I couldn’t understand a thing she said; she had on a white headpiece of some type, so maybe she was speaking a foreign language–or maybe she just had a language of her own. I called, “Doesn’t look like there’s any damage!” Then I jumped back into the car.

“Let’s make like bananas and split,” said my mother. “She looks like some kind of flake.”

“Or maybe she doesn’t have good depth/distance perception because of some drug she’s on. And that’s why she didn’t stop in time.” But I was glad enough to pull away.

“I got her license plate number.”

We shouldn’t need it, but if something DID go wrong with the car, I suppose it would be good to have.

Then we stopped by Poor Richard’s Cafe (a home cooking establishment that my mother constantly refers to as LITTLE Richard’s Cafe, and I think it would be a lot cooler if that were actually the name) to pick up a Southern Breakfast (they make ’em all day) for her and a half-club sandwich for me. The checkout tag read “SOB CLUB.” So now we’re in a new club! And no dues!

I got outside to find that some other crazy people had been backing into the parking spot next to mine (I left the motor running so Mama and dog could have A/C) and were taking their third try about a half-millimeter from my car. “Did I hit you?” shouted the crazy man at the wheel. “My wife’s gonna give it another try.” He hopped out and they did Chinese Fire Drill to swap seats. I could only stand and watch as they pulled out and backed in yet again. This time there was enough room for them to squeeze out and for me to squeeze in.

“I think I clipped your rear view mirror a couple of times,” he shouted as they ran into the restaurant. “Did I break it?”

“Looks OK,” I called back as I jumped into the van. “I’d better get this van home before something worse happens to it! It was born in September, and things must be dangerous for Virgos today.”

“Vamoose,” said Mama. Dog barked in agreement. “Make like a tree and leave. Make like the wind and blow.”

“I get the picture.” But I was extra-careful getting us back home and safely parked in our own driveway. We got inside, locked the doors, and pulled down the window shades, feeling we had made a lucky escape from whatever ELSE lurked outside.

“It’s because today at 12:34 and 56 seconds, the digital clocks read 12:34:56:78,” she said cryptically. “Bad luck in China, and here, too.”


I’ve learned not to argue.

Double standards

“Remakes” and “retellings” seem to be in style. Especially in romance and YA. I haven’t read any of these, but here’s a laundry list of favorably reviewed current fiction based on classics.

Gordon Korman’s _Jake Reinvented_ is based on _The Great Gatsby._ Jake plays the Jay Gatsby character who arrives in town and starts throwing killer parties every Friday night that make him the coolest guy. He has eyes for Didi, the hot cheerleader. Her boyfriend, Todd, isn’t too happy about it. Rick (the Nick Carraway character) narrates the tale.

Alan Gratz has “reshaped” (to use the words of the reviewers) Shakespeare’s plays into modern mysteries starring teenaged characters. SOMETHING ROTTEN is a twist on Hamlet and SOMETHING WICKED is Macbeth reimagined.

_The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love_ by A. E. Cannon is a pastiche of _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_.

_Enthusiasm_ by Polly Shulman is a take on Jane Austen. Of course, the ’80s film “Clueless” was supposed to be like _Emma_.

Eileen Cook’s YA _What Would Emma Do?_ is said to be a modern version of The Crucible, and her _Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood_ is being called the modern-day version of _The Count of Monte Cristo_.

The YA novel _Troy High_ is a modern-day retelling of the Trojan War, based mostly on the Iliad.

Terry Pratchett’s _Masquerade_ is a spoof of _Phantom of the Opera_. Terry Prachett’s _Eric_ is a rewrite of Faust, with the Faust character being 15 years old.

Holly Black’s VALIANT is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, as is Alex Flinn’s BEASTLY. Jackson Pearce retells Shakespeare’s Tempest in AS YOU WISH, and the Cinderella retelling titled ASH is by Malinda Lo. RADIANT DARKNESS, by Emily Whitman, is a retelling of the story of Persephone and Hades. A CURSE DARK AS GOLD is a feminist industrial age retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin” done by Elizabeth Bunce.

Huckleberry Finn itself is a sort of retelling of The Odyssey. (That one I’ve read.)

So why is it that if I say my Pundit novel is loosely based on or is a homage to the Tracy-Hepburn film DESK SET (updated), or I mention that I’d like to do a retelling of some other film classic such as TEACHER’S PET, editors fall apart, having a cow? If Hollyweird can try remaking THE WOMEN (and screw up royally in the attempt), why can’t I update or spoof DESK SET (without stealing the dialogue, of course)?

Why is it that when Chevy Chase’s character in “Fletch” uses false names out of classic films or fiction it’s OK, but when one of my characters does it in a funny novel, everyone yells, “That pulled me out of the story”? And why am I not allowed to reply with, “Well, then, increase your reading comprehension! Don’t read Benchley, Thurber, P. G. Wodehouse, or anyone clever until you do.”??

Rhetorical questions.

I looked at the paperback fiction in the supermarket today. I browsed the racks at Target and Wal-Mart this past weekend. You know what the problem is? I simply don’t like any of those popular or best-selling books. The style doesn’t appeal to me (based on the first page and a random page or two), the plots don’t appeal to me, the Muses don’t sing. The books I like are at least several years old. I am out of step with what is considered The Grail of fiction today. This is the basic problem with my trying to publish.

Something’s gotta give. I suspect it won’t be my sensibilities and proclivities. (They gave at the office.)

The Faust retelling that I love best is Dudley Moore and Peter Cook’s original version of the movie “Bedazzled.” It’s a witty, cerebral take on the Faust legend that has at least one literary allusion per film minute (it seems). Of course I figure most people who watch this 1967 version nowadays won’t get all of the asides; a lot of the Faust references might be lost on them. (The bit about “he who sups with the devil should use a long spoon” is very subtle.) Still, they’d probably laugh. This movie came before most of the Monty Python humor, but epitomizes that kind of British sensibility. It’s well worth catching the next time it’s on cable. Note that I am NOT talking about the Brendan Frazier remake, which went for the slapstick.

Reviews of the film over at Amazon mention that “it’s slow” and “it’s too talky.” Well . . . that’s exactly the kind of thing I like. Out of step. Knew it already. Don’t really care. Must be hopeless.

And speaking of remaking THE WOMEN (which I was, upstairs–try to keep up), I always wanted to. I hate the ending of the original, of course, where the heroine crawls back to the stupid man who cheated. I’ve always wanted her to push him OFF the roof of the hotel instead of running into his sticky old arms. But the basic IDEA and premise is still really cool and would fly today. Here’s how I would steal it:

A woman’s friends are a bunch of jealous, meddling cats who want to break up her marriage. A few believe it’s “for her own good,” but others are just destroyers of anything they touch. They believe the husband is cheating, and they try every way in the world to have the woman “run across evidence” of this. Finally they send her to a talky manicurist who gossips about him without realizing she’s the wife with the “horns.” The heroine resolves not to let the cats know that she was clued in, but to investigate it. Pretty soon the mistress (or purported mistress) is practically in her face in public, and she snaps and confronts the husband. In the original, he’s guilty. In my version, he wouldn’t be, but it would sure LOOK that way. And the purported mistress would be a woman who WANTS to get him, and therefore she plays along and pretends to already be cheating with him. This way, there could be a reconciliation that wouldn’t be a total turnoff. The various women who manipulated the situation would get their comeuppances, but in different ways from the original.

I think I could make that work, but I’m not going to do it, at least for a while. I should watch that remake before I get too carried away. Heard it was worthy of going straight to DVD at best. But I ought to see for myself (and see what I could steal and twist, of course!)

My version would be all talky, ideally.

If you like talky stuff, let’s talk. We can have our own club. So there!

Wonder what’s going on with the Benchley contest?

The Robert Benchley Society held its annual essay contest this year, just as it has for several years, and I entered an essay. July 1st was the day they were supposed to announce the semifinalists. Well . . . no word yet.

But that wouldn’t be disturbing by itself. The news blog at hasn’t been updated since May; they never posted the list of preliminary round judges or named the celebrity judge for the final round. And e-mail to the two people who maintain the blog and head up the society has gone unanswered.

This morning I got e-mail from a fellow contestant who got my e-mail addy from a comment I had made on the Benchley blog asking when we’d be hearing. He was concerned that they might’ve pulled a fast one–there are entry fees involved, and he figured the total (what with all the essays that are posted on the preliminary round webpage) of fees as almost $500.00.

I don’t think that’s it at all. (For one thing, they have held an annual gathering for years, and I think they’re pretty high-profile. For another, I’ve corresponded with the guys who head up the Society, and they seem like good people. Of course that’s always what *I* think. *grin*)

My first clue came when they never named anyone as a preliminary or celebrity judge. Do you suppose they’re having trouble finding anyone who’s willing to take on the task? It’s very time-consuming to read and rank all the essays; I always end up reading contest entries more than once when I judge for RWA or a similar group, and I fret over the scoresheet and over my comments. You sometimes don’t realize the time/energy commitment this is until you’ve done it once . . . and you might not volunteer again.

I have the feeling that they’re having problems getting judges, especially a celebrity judge. The celebs have discovered that it takes a lot of time to read and decide, and maybe there’s not enough honorarium money to pay them. Perhaps the people who used to shoulder the responsibility are ill or otherwise out of pocket. I found out the hard way that to be a newsletter editor or vice president of some group (any group! From a ham radio club to a writers’ circle to a Sunday school class) is NOT easy or simple. When life intervenes and you can’t keep all the plates spinning, the doodoo hits the fan. Everyone wants his/her newsletter on time and as good as usual. Running this contest must be similar, or even worse.

I can’t find any mention of the contest on the ‘net this year, though, outside of the Society’s own web pages. Usually there’s at least one press release by this time. That’s another reason I wonder if there are personal problems preventing the usual crew from manning the helm. Contestants don’t know where to turn next, except perhaps the press . . . but who IS the press nowadays? I mean, maybe the New York Times could do a story on the contest and how it’s in limbo, but they wouldn’t want to do that until about a month has gone by. They might have better luck investigating, as they are “The Press” and not just a couple of contestants.

On the other hand, we’re impatient because we want to know whose essays made the final round. We might just be making too much of it. The announcement could come within the next couple of days, after all.

If they’re having trouble finding a judge, I’d be happy to serve . . . my essay this year is (I think) funnier than the one I did last year, but perhaps I am not unbiased. **GRIN**

I am still happy to have my essay online where it might get read by people who run across it. I’m a real sucker for publication/publicity, and my weblog/journal just isn’t enough. I need to be famous!