Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dragon Boat Festival

Tuesday is 端午節, the Dragon Boat Festival. I won't see it because I'll be in Tel Aviv.

Tuesday is also Shavuot, one of the main pilgrimage festivals in Israel. I don't know the first thing about it, but it's an important holiday, and I was already scheduled to go to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, so I figured I might as well go a little early and see what all the fuss is about.

One thing I know about Shavuot is that it's supposed to be better in Jerusalem than Tel Aviv. That's easy enough to believe. Tel Aviv is a better party town, but if you're doing a religious festival, Jerusalem is the place. Getting from one city to the other is very easy, so I don't anticipate any scheduling conflicts.

The Dragon Boat Festival is pretty important in China, but I've seen that several times. Coincidentally, it's also a holiday I've missed a few times because I was out of the country. That's probably because it's always at the beginning of summer. I took a cruise a few years ago and we happened to dock in Hong Kong during the Dragon Boat Festival. That was pretty interesting for me because I was on a cruise ship in my own city, and the views of the dragon boat races from the top deck were incredible.

Not the view from the ship, but this is what the races look like.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/26/17

Current events are tricky. Mary Tyler Moore died in January. I was thinking about her, so I put in a reference that makes perfect sense right now. But by the time this book is finished, it could be a year or more after her death. People might read it several years later.

Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. At least, it doesn't have to be. Shakespeare has current events all over his plays. Most of them don't mean much of anything to us now. But it still works. The original audience for Macbeth was well aware of the Gunpowder Plot against King James I. We know it today because of Guy Fawkes, but Shakespeare's audience was more familiar with the religious superstitions and sorcery that run through the play.

I don't think about Guy Fawkes when I watch a production of Macbeth, but I also don't wonder what he's babbling on about either.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show
© 1970 MTM Enterprises

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/24/17

I just wrote an incredibly graphic rape scene. It's probably unnecessarily graphic. That just opens a whole can of worms.

The first rape scene I ever remember reading was in The World According to Garp. It's disturbing and upsetting, as it should be, and more graphic than I thought necessary at the time. Now, I'm not sure. John Irving was correct to include it in that particular story.

But it's pretty obvious while reading the scene that John Irving is not a woman. Not because of the psychological effects. A million different people could have a million different reactions. Then again, that scene is written by Garp, so maybe it's not John Irving's fault. Maybe he's even smarter than I thought for doing it the way he did.

But in this story, it's written by a woman from the point of view of a female character. So I can't blame Garp. The entire issue is a land mine that I don't think I want to walk through at this particular time. I'm tempted to cut it out, but I have to be sure I'm cutting it for the right reasons.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/23/17

I wrote about Baltimore today. At least I've been there. It's a lot easier when you can picture your surroundings.

If I'm writing about, let's say, two people having a conversation while they take a walk through Victoria Park in Hong Kong, I'll picture the exact path where they walk, even if it's never mentioned in the story and doesn't make any difference. It's better for me if I can see them near the model boat pool or wherever. If I can't picture it my head, I'll look at photographs I've taken over the years. Even if the photograph doesn't show the entire area, it will remind me of everything nearby. Photographs you take yourself are a million times better for recall than online photographs.

I don't know what science fiction writers do when they're writing about alien planets. I'd probably have to draw some rudimentary landscape so at least I know how everything might look.

I'd love to credit whoever drew this.
If anyone knows who the artist is, please let me know.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/19/17

Today's to do list:
Confederate uniforms of the 24th Virginia Infantry
Model 1840 noncommissioned officers' swords
Hoop skirts and pantalettes

It's been a strange day, indeed.

Most peculiar, mama.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/18/17

While writing about Ventura Boulevard, one of the main streets that run through the San Fernando Valley, I started thinking about the America song, “Ventura Highway”. There is no Ventura Highway, but there is a Ventura Freeway from northern Los Angeles to the city of Ventura, California. In the Valley, Ventura Boulevard and the Ventura Freeway run parallel.

None of this has anything to do with the book, but Jesse Ventura was the first governor that I ever paid any attention to. He took his name from the city of Ventura, California. “Ventura Highway” has the line, “Sorry, boy, but I've been hit by purple rain”, which inspired another native Minneapolitan to write a song. The album version of “Purple Rain” was performed live at First Avenue, a place I know well, at a benefit concert for my dance school.

It's a small world after all.

Ventura Highway

Purple Rain

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/17/17

Chapter 4 is mostly not in Los Angeles.

Before I started actually writing this story, I thought it would take place entirely in Los Angeles. Most of my initial research was on people and places in Los Angeles. It's definitely a big enough city to hold everything.

But then the story demanded that two of the characters go out of state for a little while. That disappointed me at first. I liked the idea of everything happening in Los Angeles. I could always change it, but it wouldn't make as much sense.

There's a novel called The Mezzanine, which takes place entirely on someone's lunch break. I like the idea of such a narrow limitation. How hard would it be to write an entire book about someone's one hour stuck in an elevator, for example? But then there's the story. You have to do what the story demands. Limitations are a nice challenge, but as soon as you have to choose between the story and your own self-imposed limits, you have to choose the story.

Sorry, L.A.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/16/17

I wrote a scene that takes place at Stoney Point in Chatsworth, California. I've never been to Stoney Point. Or Chatsworth, Topanga Canyon Boulevard or the Santa Susana Mountains.

Most of the people who will read this story have probably never been to any of those places either. But there's always the possibility that someone has. Have you ever read a book that mentions a place you know well, but it's obvious the author knows nothing about that place? It's annoying.

I can see why science fiction writers like to explore fictional planets in fictional solar systems. No one ever told Isaac Asimov that Terminus was actually mostly land.

On a related note, how do you say kissing bandit in Spanish? Besando bandido? El bandido de besos? La Besar Bandido?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/14/17

I've started writing about the Civil War. This is where all that research pays off. You can say whatever you want about grocery stores. If I write that there's a Ralphs on the corner of Devonshire Street and Mason Avenue, a handful of people will know that it's a Vons. Most people will neither know nor care. Maybe one person will say, “Hey, by the way...”

If I write that the Battle of Gettysburg took place in the winter of 1864 when General Grant moved his Confederate forces from Texas into New Mexico, where he fought General Stonewall Jackson's Union army, I would get reams of angry letters and death threats.

This story is pure fiction, and not at all about the Civil War, but it does get mentioned. You can't wing it with a popular war that's been so thoroughly documented.

The Patriot
Directed by Roland Emmerich
© 2000 Columbia Pictures

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/11/17

Chapter 3 is finished. For now. It's currently the longest chapter, but that means absolutely nothing at this stage.

I was talking to a guy who wrote a book about Disneyland, and he said it was funny how the longest chapters take the least amount of time to write. I don't know if that's true, but with chapter 3, I just typed and typed until it was obviously finished. I suppose that's why it's the longest.

Sometimes the shortest chapters take the longest to write. Maybe that's why they're the shortest.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/10/17

I just wrote a pool scene that I'll probably cut out. It tells you something about the three characters in it, but there's something about it I don't like.

It's essentially the characters playing truth or dare. There's some foreshadowing in there that I want to keep, but I don't like how it reads like a 1980s teen movie. I haven't decided if this story takes place in the past, but even if it does, it's not that far back. At most, some of them were born in the '80s.

Directed by Bob Clark
© 1981 20th Century Fox

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/9/17

There's a movie where a very young Phoebe Cates climbs out of a swimming pool and takes off her bikini top in slow motion. Anyone who was a teenage boy when that movie came out has that image carved into their memory.

I've never been a teenage boy, so the name of the movie escaped me. It was driving me crazy. Then I went to Google. Type “Phoebe Cates” in an image search and it's the first thing that pops up. There are even animated gifs. I have to say, purely from an artistic point of view, she had a nice rack.

The movie is Fast Times at Ridgemont High, famous for starting the careers of an entire generation. And that pool scene.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Directed by Amy Heckerling
© 1982 Universal Pictures

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 5/8/17

Now that I'm back home and back into my daily routine, I'm back to work on what may or may not become my next book.

I wrote one paragraph today. It's currently 103 words, but that could easily change. I never check the word count of specific paragraphs, but I was curious this time. 103 words is nothing for a full day's work. This blog post alone will be more than 103 words. And it will only take a few minutes to type.

You just never know how productive any given day will be. Sometimes it seems like I just can't stop typing. Sometimes I only stop because I have to do other things. On a previous book, I wrote an entire chapter in one day. Unless you count any editing that came later. That's when I think I'm going to finish in no time.

Sometimes, it goes a little slower. It's possible to get in a single sentence. That's when I think it's going to take years to finish. I'm on chapter 3, so this one could take a few months or a few years. I can't tell when it's going to be finished until I'm on the last edit, which is mostly just reading it all the way through.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


During my brief trip to Tokyo, I stayed at the Hotel Monterrey Hanzomon in Ichibancho. It's a quiet little hotel on a quiet little street. But it's also right in the middle of Tokyo, just next to the Imperial Palace. Walking down the street, it feels like Tokyo, but without all the noise and crowds.

The benefit to being in a tiny residential neighborhood is that it's quiet day and night. The downside is that there's not much nearby. The metro is right across the street, so getting around the city is easy, but I'm used to staying in Shibuya, where you have everything you need around you. You don't really need the metro.

There's a nice little bakery just down the street and a tiny grocery store across the street from that. In the other direction is a tiny produce store and a larger grocery store. The hotel is also between a 7/11 and Family Mart, of course. That might not sound like much, but 7/11 in Japan is a million times better than 7/11 in China. Chinese 7/11 is convenient, but Japanese 7/11 actually has food you can eat. In Shibuya, it wouldn't matter. There's food in every direction. But in Ichibancho, it's nice to have a 7/11 nearby.

The hotel itself was nothing exciting. It's a standard business hotel with all of the usual amenities. Since it's in Japan, it's exceptionally clean and the service was polite and efficient. I have no complaints about the hotel, but I'll probably never stay there again. I like Tokyo to be loud and bustling. But if you want a calm neighborhood in the middle of the storm, this is a good choice.

I can't really say, but my impression was that Ichibancho is more like a smaller city in Japan. That's only an assumption on my part since I've only been to Tokyo, but the neighborhood around the hotel felt like a smaller suburb. I'll need to go to Hiroshima or Nagasaki to make sure.