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June 1st, 2008

So, it’s been a while.

In my defense, I’ve been working. Traveling, actually. First to the WisRWA, Wisconsin Romance writer’s conference, in Green Bay, and then to Wiscon, a feminist Science Fiction conference in Madison.

As far as Green Bay went? It was at a Casino. And I was winning on the nickel slots. I think this mostly had to do with following my friend Maureen around, and playing near her. Maureen is one of those people who always wins. Me? Not so much. But I did what she did, and I came out slightly ahead for the weekend.

The next weekend was more low key. SF cons always are. I was on one panel, with writer friends Lori Devoti, and Diane Greenlee, and new friend Victoria Janssen. It was added bonus that Vickie turned out to be Oracne, friend of my friend Betsy, and an occasional visitor to this blog.

Small world.

Also on the panel was Betsy Urbik, who had a table in the dealer’s room that I couldn’t seem to stay away from. I came home with a sandalwood fan that is my latest, nervous energy desk toy, and a pair of sterling silver Jolly Roger earrings, and almost matching necklace.

I resisted the ‘flaming heterosexual’ earrings, which were little statues of naked people in an embrace.

Apparently, they were detachable, so you could see their little, sterling silver privates. Useful, in case you wanted to do a penis check to be sure that you hadn’t mixed them up with the little silver, embracing lesbian earrings.

Generally, I try not to get that personal with my jewelry. What the earrings are doing, while in the privacy of the jewelry box, is their own business. But I am not sure if a pair of earrings, with two people per ear, might not constitute an orgy. And God only knows what happened when Betsy and her husband threw a whole rack of them in a bag for the ride home. The mind boggles.

Beyond that, I got ‘what was going around’ at Wiscon. Which was an unidentified virus that sickened 50 people, and made the headlines on Fark.com. I had two manuscripts to edit, that needed to be done last week, and intestinal distress definitely added a convincing quality to my whining about having to come face to face with my work at the ‘almost finished’ stage.

Harlequin Mills & Boon calls this stage the “Author Alterations” stage. This is their subtle hint that the changes should be minor, as opposed to a major rewrite. But I usually come to the conclusion that I have written 300 pages in one long sentence, using a total vocabulary of 20 words. And then spliced it all together with commas, that the copy editor promptly removed to make the whole thing look less like it was punctuated with a shotgun.

So I run through the story, adding periods and removing the word “and”; pulling out strange, dependent clauses that add nothing to the meaning of sentences; and cutting overused phrases like ‘In truth…’ which tend to sneak back in as quickly as I rip them out.

It’s kind of like giving up smoking. I can’t manage to quit cold turkey. I want an occasional puff, just to tide me over, or maybe the equivalent of the nicotine patches for punctuation, the dash and the ellipsis.

But I cut as much crap as I can stand. And then worry that the whole thing is probably 10 pages shorter. Or that the editors with do what we used to call in costuming “French alterations”. Which is when the designer wants to take an eighth of an inch off a sleeve, and you write it down and give them a can-do smile.

Then wait until their back is turned, give the garment a shake, put it back on the hanger and cross the note off as done.

In any case, the edits are done, I am back on solid food, and have a novel and a short story to finish before I am allowed to leave the house again.

And my Jolly Roger earrings are asexual, but fabulous.