April 01, 2009

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Telling Lies for Fun and Profit Posted by Lorraine (L.L.) Bartlett, and her sidekick Lorna Barrett Yesterday, one of my readers posed a question: were my stories burned into my mind like a brand thanks to rewrites et cetera? Um, the answer to that would be a loud NO! As I explained, I sometimes forget who my characters even are. Not the main ones, although sometimes I'll have a brain fart and think, "Is his name really Bob Kelly? Or did I dream that?" (Yes, his name is indeed Bob Kelly.) I keep a "bible" to help me remember the names of minor characters, and I try to include everybody, even those with just a walk-on. You never know when you might need them to walk on again (and perhaps be murdered). Those paying more attention than me will shout with glee, "Ah yes, she mentioned him briefly in book No. 1!" Why can't I remember such things as minor character names? The fact that I'm juggling more than one series has a lot do do with it. Just last night I was trying to come up with an appropriate ending to my current work in progress. Ah, yes, I'll just have Tricia march into the fray and ... uh, no. Can't have her do that. I'm doing that in another book/another series. Okay, can she do this? Nope, she did that in the second book. How about that? Nope, did that in the third book. (I'm working on the fourth.) Where did I finally get the idea for my spectacular finish? From the newspaper. Yes, just Saturday night we had a ... no, can't tell you that, either. Then you won't want to read the book. I find I want to start blowing things up, make my endings more spectacular -- but then I remember, "Oh wait -- this series is cozy." No car chases (or at least, fewer) and no lethal explosions. (This isn't a guy movie, after all.) Okay, there will be some mayhem at the end -- and it will be scary for my protagonist (um, and possibly very expensive). But hey, this is fiction, right? And getting back to dreams, I did actually dream a story point the other night. What a welcome happenstance. I mean, I almost NEVER dream about my work in progress or my characters. And this involved a subplot. I'm always short of subplots, so I was very happy about having this particular dream. Not the one I had the other night, when I dreamed about the bio-neural gel packs from Star Trek Voyager. They look like IV bags, but according to StarTrek.Com they are, "Advanced Federation technology which adds synthetic neural cells to a soft-sided circuitry module, designed to organize information more efficiently and speed up response time. The new feature is standard on Intrepid-class starships such as the U.S.S. Voyager. Their organic elements are, however, subject to damage from organic infection." Now, why in God's name would anyone dream about bio-neural gel packs? And it's not like they had much to do in this dream. They just sat there, while "out of shot" people discussed them. (There was a cool episode where the gel packs were infected by some funky cheese made by Nelix ... long story, eh?) Anyway, this dream went on all night long. I'd wake up, glance at the clock, fall back to sleep, dream of bio-neural gel packs. Over and over again. Man, was I glad to get up and feed the cats, just to be doing something DIFFERENT. But, as usual, I digress. Suffice to say, I don't have the worlds best memory when it comes to every aspect of my books. Okay, I lied. I could probably tell you nearly all of Richard Alpert's life from Med School on ... but don't ask me what Tricia ate for lunch yesterday. (Okay, I lied again. Tricia eats a tuna salad most days. Gotta get those Omega fish oils, right?) Lying. Yes, isn't that what authors do? When next I'm asked what I do for a living, I think I'll crib Lawrence Block and answer, "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit." (It is more fun.)
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The Digital Divide Posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken I went to a conference today to learn about getting some of the library's materials online. The keynote speaker talked about President Obama's concerns about internet access in disadvantaged city neighborhoods and small towns. I do not doubt that there are gaps in internet broadband coverage in poorer areas, but from my experience, the digital divide isn't geographic. It's generational. I have patrons who tell me that everything they know about the internet, they learned from their grandchildren. Yeah, those kids who can't imagine a world without the internet, the world wide web, twitter, FaceBook, MyTube...oy vey! I looked around the room at my fellow conference goers. Usually librarian programs are overwhelmingly populated by women. Older women. But these technologically oriented conferences draw younger women and a higher proportion of guys. Today we definitely fell into two categories. There were those of us with gray hair, often with eyeglasses on a chain around our necks. Then there are The Others. I went to an interesting presentation by a young woman with a perky haircut, lots of bracelets (some of them leather), six piercings in each ear and one in her nose. She was the cutest thing and really knew her stuff, and I got a lot out of her talk, but face it, she also (not deliberately, but still) made me feel really really old. I'm not saying I was out of my depth, but the acronyms flying fast and furious often went right over my head. I felt like I needed an interpreter. By the end of the day, I was somewhat enlightened, had gotten a feel for the future of library service (to the world, not to just one town or school), and had added to my knowledge of jargon. For one thing, Dublin Core is apparently some kind of software package for identifying objects or photographs, the better to make them searchable (that's the term, although shouldn't it be findable?) on the Internet. And here I thought Dublin core was the leftovers from an Irish apple. Through links and handouts, the presenters tried to clarify. They honestly did. Take "metadata" (please!) I have heard about metadata before, although I didn't have a clue what it is. The handouts note that "metadata is data about data." Thanks, that explains it. (Okay, the continuation said that you use metadata to find data, and I guess in some circles that would do the trick--at least, I think that's what it said, but my handouts are in the car and I'm not.) I think I have some idea about the differences between a regular brick-and-mortar archives, a digital library, and a portal. Over the course of my career, I have learned about software and hardware and how to repair printers and troubleshoot pretty much every email program extant, and if something is on the web, I can probably find it. Fast. But I'm not sure I have it in me to learn this whole new universe of technology. Probably I can, if I have to. But I also know that in the meantime, those of us here on this side of the digital divide will look like deer caught in the headlights, the beams shining off our graying hair.

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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