books I have yet to write

Back in September of 2004 I made a list of writing projects that were in various stages of gestation in my mind. I went to find that post because I was just over at Beth’s, commenting on various things, including her posts about her relationship with her mother.

In that old post of mine I mentioned that every once in a while I think about writing something semi autobiographical, a memoir of sorts, about my childhood and my mother. I don’t think about this for long, because while I recognize that it would be a good thing for me to do for my own peace of mind, I’m not really nuts about the idea. If I needed a root canal, I’d go, but would I look forward to it? Nope. So someday I may write about my mother, who was not so good at the mothering thing. And not so good as a person, either. But that’s not a book I’m going to write anytime soon.

There are other books I am going to write. Here’s a list of things cooking in my head:

1. Pajama Jones (okay, I’m writing this one now. I put it here to give myself some motivation.)
2. Nurse John (working title: this is a contemporary retelling — maybe forward telling is a better word — of how Mary Bennett makes a life for herself after all her sisters go off and leave her to take care of a widowed and cranky father.)
3. Good Genes (working title: about a woman who reinvents herself in a big way (and at significant cost to others) at age 40. Revolves around a small commuter airline, where she ends up working as a flight attendant.)
4. The story of my paternal grandfather’s generation (Italy–America). this one needs no amping up, there’s a huge amount of drama in it without any help from me.
5. Nuns with Guns (the screenplay): we’re going to turn it into a novel.
6. a secret project I can’t talk about yet, which may turn into something big, and may fizzle. And it has nothing to do with the Wilderness series, okay?
7. You remember the Bronson/library/last will and testament thing? I’m going to use that as the structural framework for another novel.

So that takes me through the next (approximately) 12-14 years.

Italians behaving really, really badly. Again.

First, Sarah Weinman has a good summary of this whole sorry story, which you might want to read first so you don’t get confused. I’ll wait while you go do that.

So there you go. It’s not enough that women are getting napolied by an Italian American Republican in South Dakota. Or that Antonin Scalia napolied the whole country after the 2000 election. In case there’s any doubt about how bad we Italians can be, the Perugian officials involved in the (long and unsuccessful) hunt for the serial killer Il mostro di Firenze just couldn’t resist the temptation. They had to arrest and interrogate Douglas Preston. An American journalist. Somebody with lots of friends in the media. So you know, not only were they behaving badly, they were being really stupid. They thought they could intimidate him. They thought they could act big and mean and shake their fingers in his face and that he’d come back to the States cowed, and keep the whole thing to himself.

Dumb. Very dumb.

At least Preston got away; Mario Spezi is still there, and in real peril.

When Italians behave really badly, nobody is safe, not even (or especially not) other Italians. Preston could come home; Spezi is already home, and he’s stuck.

Alarm clocks

Or at least some advice.

The girlchild takes after the Mathematician in a variety of ways, good and not so good. She’s got a facility for numbers and abstract concepts (good); she’s tall and lean (good, in my short and round opinion); she’s a night owl. Which is really not very good because high schools don’t understand about circadian rhythms. Her natural rhythms would have her sleeping from about 2 am to 10 am; her first class starts at 7:45. This is one of those never-the-twain-shall-meet situations.

And I’m caught in the middle. Who has to get her out of bed when she’s moaning pitifully that she couldn’t fall asleep until two? Guess. And boy, can she get cranky when she’s tired. You know that dawn-of-the-dead ferocious yellow eyed stare? That’s her, in bed, looking up at me.

Of course she has to take some responsibility at age almost seventeen, but we have tried to help by providing incentives, both positive and (more recently) negative. The new one is this: if she’s not pulling out of the garage at 7:20, there’s no internet or television for twenty-four hours. My role in this: I wake her up, once. After that she’s on her own, and if she can’t make herself move in time, that’s it. No wiggle room.

This is very, very unpopular.

Today I decided to look for an alarm clock that would make it easier for her to get out of bed, and provide some relief for all parties. Especially me. Do you have any idea how many alarm clocks are out there, and how badly designed most of them are?

Here’s what I want, and can’t find:

1. An atomic clock, one that checks with the Colorado clock by radio and sets itself to the right time. My alarm has this feature, and I never have to worry about whether it’s right or not. This feature will preclude the “my clock is different than your clock my clock says I have five more minutes” debate.

2. A very, very loud alarm. This will cut off the “I slept right through it” discussion.

3. Buttons large enough to see. You think I’m joking, but some of the alarm clocks out there I swear have been miniaturized. Someplace design engineers are laughing hysterically at the idea of middle aged women trying to set an alarm by manipulating a button the size of a pin head. No “I set it wrong” excuses.

4. A clock that has BOTH batteries and an plug. Batteries for when the power fails, power for the rest of the time. The “I guess the power went out” last ditch excuse will no longer fly.

I have looked at a hundred, two hundred, a thousand alarm clocks today, thanks to the internet, and none of them combine these features. If they do, they’ve got some other feature than renders them completely useless. A clock that can be immediately silenced by touching it anywhere is not a clock that is going to get the kid out of bed on time. A clock that has a setting for a kinder, gentler sounding alarm? Really, not a good idea. Nor do we need a clock that tells us the temperature in New Delhi, the time in Miami, the humidity in our own garden. The clock doesn’t need to talk to us, or sing us songs or make breakfast.

Loud ring, reliable time, power backup.

Apparently, this is too much to ask.

I'm back, earlier than expected, and peevish

…don’t ask.

I will probably need a few days to recover before I’m posting regularly, but I wanted to check in quickly to answer a question that arrived while I was gone, and to respond to a comment. The question: have any of the Wilderness books been optioned for film? The answer: Yes. Bigger answer: Nothing came of it, and I don’t think anything ever will come of it. Big books don’t make good movies.

Here’s a comment somebody named Bert posted in response to one of my reviews of Deadwood:


Bert is shouting at me because somehow he has this idea that *I* am HBO.

It would be nice, I suppose, if I were. Think of the great things I could do. I could wave my wand and have a new season of Farscape, fully funded, complete artistic license for the writers and directors and actors. I could call the cast of The Sopranos in and make them eat lunch with me. I could contact Meryl Streep and say, hey, you need to be working more, got any projects in mind? I could cast the screenplay I wrote with my friend Suz and have a good shot at actually getting the director and actors we want, and the budget necessary to film in Italy.

In many ways it would be great fun to actually be HBO, but I’m not, so Bert’s anger, as colorful as it is, is wasted.

Finally, you’ll have noted that Bert forbids me to email him about his feelings. Which is just fine, really, because I hadn’t actually scheduled the time necessary to give Bert’s feelings the attention they deserve, nor do I think he’d much like what I’d have to say. Of course it seems to me that it would be a good thing for Bert to talk to somebody about his feelings — he’s an angry guy, is Bert — but I’m happy to leave that to somebody — to just about anybody — else. Is Ernie in the house, by any chance?

Peevish? Me? Well, maybe a little. I just drove eight hours in driving rain, two of those hours in stop and go traffic. Let’s just say that Bert’s timing stinks, as do his spelling and his powers of deduction.