Why love Syracuse?

Because it is cool and friendly and human-sized, that’s why.

We moved to Syracuse, NY when I was in first grade. We moved out of the city itself when I was 14, but stayed in the area. I left for college when I was 19 and swore I’d never return.

So, of course, I’m moving back to the area in July. (More on that later.)

On Saturday night, Beloved Husband and I drove to downtown Syracuse to enjoy the Taste of Syracuse, a two-day festival set in the middle of downtown. What is the point of the festival? To eat, listen to music, and eat some more. (I told you it was a great place.) The corridors where the food tents were set up were a little crowded (point for next year’s planners; space them out a bit more), but the food was good. The beer and wine was expensive enough that nobody got hammered and became obnoxious. It was the blend of races and ages that I remember from my childhood, and pretty much everyone was relaxed and smiling. Kids played in a huge fountain. Music and the smell of barbecue in the air. We saw friends and family members and laughed a lot.

What really took us down there was the band After FX. If you live in Central New York, make a point of seeing these guys – they rock the house!!! We are friends with the bass player, so we’re biased, but the crowd was huge when they started playing and there were loads of people dancing in the streets (including yours truly). The following day was my first wedding anniversary with BH. The night spent dancing and grooving in Syracuse was the perfect celebration.

Mer and I have spent the afternoon laughing about some pranksters from Cornell. I wish I could hang out with them!

Many, many thanks to everyone who wrote in about the Book Meme. I went to the library and brought home some Vonnegut. I’ll let you know about it. In the mail today came the news that CATALYST will be published in Germany (no date yet), and I received the British version of PROM (available in the UK next month). It has a very different cover. I’ll scan it in and post it on the website, which reminds me I have some other updates to do. Mer leaves for work in an hour and I’m going to try and write then. She is done, done, done with school. I took her to lunch yesterday after her last final. It is a strange and wonderful feeling.

That Book Meme Thing

I’ve been tagged, thanks to dirtylibrarian.

Total number of books I’ve owned I gave away most of my books two years ago when I moved to this apartment. I think I’m down to about 250. At one point it was probably 600. I am on a book diet until the current crop of children (three of them) finish college (2009). That means I only get to buy books I absolutely need to mark up for research. Everything else has to come from the library.

Last book I bought Defenders of Liberty: African Americans in the Revolutionary War by Lt. Col. Michael Lanning.

Last book I read Idoru by William Gibson. I returned this to the library without finishing it. Just could not get into the story. I recently read his Pattern Recognition which was much easier to follow.

Last book I finished Last Car to Elysian Fields by James Lee Burke. I go on kicks where I find a mystery author I like, then obsessively read everything that author has written. Burke sets his mysteries in southern Louisiana. They are often tied to racial incidents which happened two generations earlier. He is great at describing setting, and has a fun cast of secondary characters. He also has some trademark descriptions which seem to show up in every single story, which amuses me. Right now I’m reading Yellow Dog by Martin Amis. I love all of his stuff.

Five books that mean a lot to me: 5? *sighs*

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block. When I first read this I said to myself “You’re allowed to do this in a book?” It changed everything for me.

Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life by Elizabeth George. I love her fiction and have learned massive amounts from this writing guide.

Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Masterful and heart-wrenching. Taught me about blending humor with tragedy.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Childhood favorite and old friend.

Random House Unabridged Dictionary. Contains all the tools I use every day.

If you fill out this meme (which is kind of like a quiz, if you’ve never seen the word before), leave a link to yours in the comments section. I want to see what books are important to you guys.

I’m back in PA where it is hot and humid and I’m already cranky about it. Today’s goal is an absurdly high number of words to be written in the WIP. Might also go to the gym to deal with my crankiness.

In non-cranky, non-book news, BH and I had a blast in Syracuse Saturday night. Details and info about a great band tomorrow.

Oh, and I keep forgetting to report this. I saw a porcupine. A real one. A real, live one bumbling down the side of the road. It was neat.

My weekend rants

We worked on the house and yard pretty late, ate dinner at 9:30, then we sat outside on our new patio. (I love that word. It feel so retro-50s. Patio. Patio. Patio.) We have a cool table with a firepit in it, so my BH made me a fire, and we lit citronella torches that kept the mosquitoes away. And then, because he is the most patient man I know, BH listened to me rant about various and sundry things until 1:30 in the morning. He is probably praying he grows up into one of those old guys who is deaf and needs hearing aids so that when I shift into Full Rant Mode he can turn the hearing aids off. That sure would have helped him last night.

I am trying not to rant today.

Except I have to. Must Rant About Star Wars. (warning – movie spoilers ahead)

We saw it last week with our son and a friend of his. As a social outing, it was a blast. As a movie….. meh.

Here is what I liked: the tying up of loose ends, even when it was not done in a fully convincing manner. It was oddly satisfying in that respect. Scenes in which the future Leah and Luke are born, when they are delivered to foster parents, etc., felt like putting down the last pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This “episode” had loads of scene changes, and more diverse backgrounds than any of the others. I’m looking forward to watching the DVD just so I can freeze and study the different planets and cities. And from the story structure POV, being able to experience foreshadowing when you already know what’s coming is a nifty trick. And a couple of the fight scenes were engaging enough to have held even the attention of my former nemesis, Mr. Octopus Hands.

Here is what I didn’t like: hokey, crappy scenes, like the whole making the Frankenstein monster/Darth Vader thing. I almost walked out when he screamed that fake “No!” I felt force-marched through the “emotional development” of Vader. I wanted to slap that silly Padua or Pad Thai or Knick Knack Paddy Whack, whatever her name is, every time she showed up. Are we really expected to believe that a society that has perfected hyperdrives, space travel, and pod racers still hasn’t come up with reliable birth control?? Oh wait – I know why. Because females exist only for breeding in LucasWorld. I’m also disappointed that the plot wasn’t richer. In fact, all that jumping around to different locales is in part a cover-up for the thin story line. I wish Lucas has shown more and not told so much. (Sound familiar fellow writers?)

Summary: it was good enough, but not as great as I had hoped.

However, as soon as they offer the entire series on DVD, I will watch them back to back to back in order during a blizzard. That might change my mind.

No more ranting today. I really promise.

Radar Love

I’m driving back up to NY today. Sunday is a very special day for Beloved Husband and I. We’ve been commuting 300 miles to see each other for 3 years. That will come to an end in 56 days. This is our theme song.

My writer’s group seemed to like the chapters I brought yesterday which was just the boost I needed. I am dying to show it to my editor, but I know I should actually finish writing it before I do. Writers are a lot like puppies: eager to please, in need of constant praise, and capable of making messes on the living room carpet. We need to nap a lot, too, and are cute when we’re sleeping.

Today is Mer’s last day of high school classes. (She has one final on Monday.) On her first day of kindergarten, she was awake before the sun and ready to go. She didn’t get up quite as quickly today, but I hope the day is as much fun as that last one was. Congratulations to Mer and all her friends at H-H!!!!! Go Hatters!!!

Shout-outs and jealous pouting in the direction of New York City for all the lucky ducks who are at BEA. Have fun, youse guys. Come home and blog about everything.

Oh, and I did see Star Wars last week. I’ll post about it tomorrow.

Nervous & Happy

Writer’s Group today. I am taking the opening chapters of my Work in Progress and am nervous about how it will be received. I’ve lost momentum with the story this past week because of traveling, etc. I need to shut the world out and dive back in if I have any hopes of making my deadline. I have to leave again tomorrow for the weekend. Nose will be reapplied to the grindstone on Monday.

Happy PROM news! PROM has been nominated for the 2006 Kentucky Bluegrass Award! It is also a Booksense Top Ten Pick, and has popped up on the New York Times Bestseller list for five weeks. A wave of the tiara and many, many thanks to all the readers and booksellers who are making these wonderful things happen!

Jessica from Sheepshead Bay writes: my english 2 teacher {she teaches the honors class} is making us read speak again i read it for that same teacher in english 1 anyway having to reread some parts of it it made me miss melinda i hope that doesn’t sound crazy to you but being a major bookworm i tend to get attached to some of the characters anyway i was wondering if you ever miss Melinda? i mean she was so funny and i’m so glad she finally found the courage to speak but have you ever thought to bring Melinda back? besides her short appearence in catalyst which by the way i loved and cried over when mikey died. i realize i’ve written you a whole story i’m really sorry Honestly! bye! thanks for the shout out.

Great question! Yes, I do miss her. I think about several of my characters: Melinda, Kate, Teri, Mattie, Nathanial, Eliza, and Ashley – a lot. They feel like friends to me. I really don’t think I’ll be writing a sequel to Speak, though. (I know, I know – never say never.) The Most Incredible Plot Idea In The World would have to hit me upside the head before I’d even consider it.

Will from Rancho Cucamonga writes: I am a high school English teacher. I have been teaching speak to my freshman students, and I noticed something I would like to ask the author about regarding the book…. My question is, on the cover of the Puffin Books 1999 edition of speak, there is a quote from The Horn Book reviewer, stating “An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from its first word to its last.” I checked, and the very first word of the novel is “it,” as well as the very last word. Since the Andy Evans character is referred to as “IT” in the story, were those words intentionally the same?

See, this is what cracks me up about English teachers. They ask questions like this. You got to love ’em. I wish I could say “Oh, yeah, I totally planned that. I’m so smart.” But I can’t. It just happened. (It. Ha.) However, I am a firm believer in allowing readers to take away whatever meaning they can validate in a text . If that theory works for you, Will, then I say run with it. (It again. Ha.)

Many thanks to Alexia from Waverly – Shellrock Jr. High, and to Swati, for a very touching note. Good luck, Swati, on your trilogy!