Sunday, February 26, 2006

Guilty Pleasures, part II

I feel like I'm writing one of those multi-part movie events -- Matrix 1, Matrix 2, you know the sort. Or, in my case, maybe Code of the West XVII. Boggles the mind, really.

But getting back to G.U.I.L.T -- I think that maybe googling -- and all that that entails -- has become a guilty pleasure for me.

It's not that I grew up as one of those kids who read the encyclopedia for pleasure. Indeed, my eyes glaze over when I am faced with encyclopedias. There is all that print. But google breaks things up. It allows me the thrill of The Hunt. I go in with a word or a phrase about which I may know little or nothing -- and by the time I come out, I have Knowledge! Well, maybe not vast amounts of knowledge, but a smattering. Enough to get by. For the moment, anyway.

Chota Nagpur is a case in point. Two weeks ago I didn't know Chota Nagpur existed. Then a fellow researcher in Australia told me that a brother of my great-grandmother died there. He was, I surmised, a miner. Cornish miners are likely to turn up anywhere. But this was the first one I had followed to India. So I began to look up Chota Nagpur. Within an hour I had learned its whereabouts (LOVE Google Earth!), a bit of the metallurgical history of the area (yes, it is a mining region), and that some man named Francis Bradley Bradley-Birt wrote a book about the area.

I went on a long google expedition about Francis Bradley Bradley-Birt (how could I not with a name like that?) and discovered that Mr Bradley-Birt wrote a great many books about a great many places, lived in most of them and must have had a heck of an interesting life before he went home to England and, in 1920, married one of Winston Churchill's first cousins.

From GG-uncle Tom to Winston Churchill via India in six short steps. Amazing.

Googling is sort of like the Kevin Bacon game of Six Degrees of Separation. Makes me wonder if I could have got to Kevin as quickly as I got to Winston by simply picking out a different fact to follow. Probably. Life is weird that way.

So is writing. Which is what I suppose I should be talking about here.

Because sometimes googling is really "work." It's googling that often provides the key bit of information that clicks with something in my brain and makes me go, "Uh-huh!" and then I know I've found another bit of the book. How does it happen? What triggers the 'uh-huh?" I haven't a clue really. I just know it works. And I hope it kicks in soon, because I'm going to have to finish up my revisions on Theo in the next week or so and then move on to the next guy -- who could use some "uh-huh" moments to flesh out his life.

I tagged the authors who participate in the Harlequin Presents site, inviting them all to admit to their guilty pleasures. It's had quite a response so far -- and Shelley, our webmistress, will be posting them around the 1st of March. Do drop by and visit the monthly feature there and see what all your favorite authors do when they should be working!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Guilty Pleasures, part 1

Thank you, Michelle Styles, for giving me a topic to write about! I was feeling like the kid who whines to her teacher, "But I don't know what to write!" when faced with a blank blog page. And now Michelle has acted as teacher and given me a topic.

I've been thinking about guilty pleasures (and planning to steal the topic and give it to the Harlequin Presents Authors for their next monthly topic on the Harlequin Presents page) and I've come up with a couple. I'm still working (?) on it, though, so this will probably slop over into another blog entry as I do.

Right off the bat, I guess the first would be reading for fun and not for work. Don't get me wrong, I like reading however it comes -- I read the label on the peanut butter jar if there's nothing else around. But I do like reading fiction, usually regencies or chick lit or something light and humorous just to kick back and relax. Remind me to write about my favorite authors sometime.

Second, I like working at home and being at home, where I can take off my shoes and go barefoot (except today when it's like -25 degrees!) and make a cup of tea whenever I feel like it, and let the dogs in and out and keep my own sort of schedule without anyone (except the dogs) telling me what to do.

Third, I like long phone calls with friends who catch me up on their lives and listen to me obsess about whatever I'm currently obsessing about.

Fourth, well, that would probably have to be chocolate oatmeal cookies. Is there anyone who can get through five without mentioning chocolate, I wonder.

And, I'm going to give the fifth some thought. There seem to be quite a few crowding into my mind right now, insisting on being the fifth. We'll have to see.

What about you? What are yours?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Old Dogs, New Tricks

There seems to be no end to the interesting things one can learn how to do. Blogging is certainly one of them. Creating links is another.

Reading -- and making sense of -- legal documents is a third. Why would anyone? you ask. Good question. I ask myself that every day. Well, maybe not every day, but today I did.

It's this course I'm taking, you see. Not content to simply look for dead relatives and then try to sort them out, I wanted to learn how to do it more effectively. So I'm taking a course in document analysis. Whoopee.

Now I have this series of Canadian land records to analyze (why Canadian? Don't ask.). One of them is a mortgage. Having bought a house -- having HAD a mortgage -- I ought to understand them, right? No. I just understood that I needed to pay the money every month -- or else. These records, though, I need to understand.

Banging my head against the wall would be more useful. It would probably feel better, too. Fortunately the internet has come to my rescue by, a few years ago, having provided me with one of my husband's live relatives -- who is a lawyer.

When I was writing A COWBOY'S SECRET (which might actually work as a link, but the first time I did it, I got something warning me about My SQL. Is this some new cholesterol level I should be aware of, I wonder?) she helped me make sense of the way Lydia, my heroine who was a lawyer, saw the world. It's a very different world than the fuzzy-minded world of a writer (namely, me). Anyway, today she helped me understand the legal terminology of this mortgage. Even better she helped me be able to articulate it myself (I think). Will wonders never cease?

So . . . the old dog has learned a few new terms today. And I'm a tiny bit closer to understanding what these mysterious Canadians were up to.

That's one of the joys of being a writer -- and apparently being a genealogist -- you never run out of new things to learn that a week ago you'd never imagined you'd need to know!

Last night I learned where Chota Nagpur, India is -- and why I should care. But that's another story!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Here We Go!

The book is finished. Can you tell?

Of course you can because I wouldn't be here if it weren't.

That's the thing about writers -- they write. And when the book is gone and the editor is fiddling with it (or ignoring it and not admitting it), writers still have to write.

Which is apparently why God invented blogs. Or someone did.

So here I am -- because my friend Kate Walker bullied me into it. And because my book is finished. And even though I have a 2000 word review of a piece of very nifty genealogical software to write in the next 48 hours (more or less), I want to write somethinig else. This, apparently.

Anyway, whoever happens along, welcome to my slightly screwy world. Provided I still have time to write when whatever book I'm working on now is not finished, I'll try to write here and give you a glimpse of the mess that is my office (which was a lot messier until my friend Jessica took it -- and me -- in hand and introduced us to clutter control and, omigod, filing. Also the intriguing concept of throwing things out, but that's another story) and my life (also messy at times).

And, of course, I'll plug my books and whine about my covers and mutter about whatever I feel like muttering about. And you can comment, if you want. You can also visit my website and see all the past books and get a bit more into the professional writing stuff, if you want. If I were clever (which I'm not) I would know how to link you to my website so you can just click and go there. But it seems unlikely that just putting in my website will work (wow! It does. Kate, you're a genius!). But on the off chance it doesn't, you just have to go to Google like the rest of us mortals and write in Anne McAllister -- which, of course, I hope you do.

Anyway, welcome. Stop back whenever. Comment whenever.