Friday, November 30, 2007

More from Cape Town - Day 2

Greetings: Here's another installment. Photos are added, although they won't always match the text; keep checking as I'm adding them as I find time to format them, which has to be done after work back in the hotel room. These are my "girlie camera" shots -- Dan won't be working on his manly-man camera pictures until we get home.

Cape Town, Day 2
We were instructed to be ready to leave at 8:30, which we were, although we didn’t depart until 8:42. Seems Allenby's not as strict about time as he is about where you sit on the bus.

We drove to Cape Point, through areas that reminded me of Beverly Hills, and the canyons where I grew up. A touch of Malibu and a little Northern California coast. When we got to the National Park, we found zebra resting under a bush, saw some ostrich and Bontebok and were warned not to feed the baboons. Dan and I opted to walk to the lighthouse at the top. The inclines were fairly steep in places, there were also areas of stairs to climb, but the views were spectacular (and stopping for photographs lets you catch your breath). Only downside—at the top, everyone was smoking. I think most of the rest of our tour took the rail car to the top. Round trip was about 45 minutes, but 30 minutes a day on a recumbent bike isn’t the kind of workout that conditions you for hiking. We knew we’d feel it the next day.

From there, we drove around to the actual “Cape of Good Hope” where you could see all the tourists taking pictures of each other at the sign that said where they were. On the way, we saw a baboon that someone had fed an orange, and a Cape fur seal (not together). We also learned that unless Allenby sees them, they don’t count. While I’m sure there are numerous rocks that look like seals, I know what we saw.

We drove to Simon Town, a naval base, and had lunch at a seafood restaurant. Not bad, but the fish (parrotfish, we were told) was overcooked for my taste. From there, we walked to the Boulder penguin grounds and saw the colony of African penguins who seem to tolerate humans hovering above them on a boardwalk taking their pictures.

The drive home was slow due to traffic, but we did see some Southern right whales off the coast. Still jet-lagged, and tired from the hiking, we opted to sample the local beer at the hotel bar. We sampled the Castle lager and the Birkenhead. Halfway through the second, we decided bar food was good enough for dinner. From there, it was upstairs, a test of the large bathtub (yes, the water circles the drain in the other direction), and bed.

View of Cape Town from Table Mountain (yesterday's tour)

Lighthouse at Cape Point (we hiked up)

Signs in South Africa are very "proper". This one from the beach at Cape Point.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Trip Diary - Day 1 in Cape Town

Nothing about this journal is 'literary' -- you're getting off-the-cuff notes, with no eloquent language. For now, the pictures will have to wait; I hope to find time to get some formatted to accompany the text tonight while my husband has a dinner meeting (unless I find someone myself!)

As writers, we're told that "only trouble is interesting" so if there seems to be emphasis on some of the glitches, that's just fodder for future stories. I wouldn't have missed the trip for the world.

This morning, we had our first real glimpse of the environs. Breakfast is included in the room, and the buffet was a magnificent spread catering to all nationalities. Meats, fish, breads, fruits, eggs, sausage, etc., etc., etc. The hotel overlooks the ocean and had I not known where we were, I would have accepted southern California without question. Or the Mediterranean.

The hotel was one of the Protea chains, and they have a delightful sense of humor. Coasters under glasses have clever sayings rather than blatant ads: “Diplomacy is the art of saying, “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock,” for example. And there’s an emergency candle and matches in the drawer. The matchbox says, “Pyromaniac’s Help Line” and gives a phone number. We didn’t try to call it. No clock in the room, though. Seems the norm here.

On the bus, we met our guide, Allenby. He certainly didn’t match the mental image his name conjured, which brings to mind naming characters. Just a name can evoke an image. I'll let you think about what an "Allenby" looks like and post a picture of him next time.

His South African accent and cadence of his speech seemed to conflict with his pedantic lecturing style. I can already tell I’ll be glad if I never hear, “folks” again, as he prefaces every third sentence with it. And I don’t think anyone on the bus really needed two 10 minute lectures on how he was going to rotate the seating and why. However, he certainly knows South Africa and turned out to be an expert at logistics, which in the long run, is probably more important.

We began the day with a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain while the cable cars were running. If the winds get too high they don’t run the cars. The cars were round, and the floor rotated, giving everyone a 360 degree view as we ascended to the mountain top. From there, the view was intermittent as the clouds enveloped the area. Unfortunately, we were only given about an hour total, so when you take off the time riding up and down, there was only about half an hour to walk the trails and see the views when the clouds parted or the mist lifted.

Once down from the mountain, we went through the city and listened to endless bits of history and a lot of pointing out of buildings. How much is the truth remains to be seen. When he said the Southern right whales spawn in the area, I began to wonder. However, he did show us the Maylay quarter with its colorful buildings, school children in uniform and ethnic shops. We were told that “colored” is not an ethnic slur here, and it is used to differentiate them from the ‘blacks’ who must belong to one of the African tribes. They certainly can’t be called “African Americans.”

We were dropped off at the Waterfront District and told our options in getting back to the hotel. Following Allenby’s oft-repeated advice, we got some more Rand. From there, we walked to the Two Seas Aquarium which was very well done. Sharks, penguins, assorted reef fish, huge crabs & lobsters, a huge tank with kelp swaying to music. Also, lots of conservation messages. From there, we checked out the possibility of a sailboat cruise for Saturday, although we couldn’t decide between that or a wine country tour. Next, Mitchell’s, a waterfront Scottish Ale House for some South African dark beer. Excellent.

The Dutch heritage of the city is apparent in the names and architecture. Afrikaans, the language here, sounds very Dutch-German. The English is definitely British. Signage is in both languages.

We found the bus stop along with several other tour companions, got on the right bus, got off at the right stop (not too hard—end of the line), and found our way up the hill to the hotel where we had time to change for our group “welcome” dinner, which wasn’t much more than a specified seating area in the dining room. The traditional South African (or was it Cape Town?) chocolate dessert was to die for, though.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Here I am

Taken at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Fantastic experience--our room overlooked a water hole and we could watch the game come down to drink.

My wimpy camera doesn't do the vistas justice, but I'll get some shots from my husbands fancy Nikon with its telephoto lens eventually.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Greetings from South Africa

A VERY quick hello -- believe it or not, this is the FIRST reliable Internet connection since we arrived, and they charge by the minute. I have an extensive journal of my trip and will be posting things as I find bits and snatches of time, preferably when I'm at the convention center using their Internet on breaks from work.

The trip has been Fabulous! Wish I had time to go into details now, but keep checking, please.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We're OFF!

I won't relax until I figure out what I've forgotten, and that can't happen until we're on the road. I did remember that after looking at all the 70's/50's temperatures, I added warmer stuff, but then my husband said it's been 100 degrees in Victoria Falls, so I went back and added another pair of shorts and some lighter weight tops. My checked bag slid in under the weight requirement according to our bathroom scale. Haven't weighed the big one that we're leaving in Cape Town.

I got a contract offer for Hidden Fire yesterday, but too late to sign and mail the paperwork until I get back. That'll be with Cerridwen Press.

Finished going over the major changes to When Danger Calls and turned that back to the editor. No time for a line-edit read, but I can do that later. Also, I think that's what the copy editors do.

So -- posts will be sporadic at best, but keep checking.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Down to the Wire

Today is it. If it's not done, it's not likely to happen. Far too many clothes are spread out over the house. By tonight, they'll have to be gleaned and culled. I'm now dealing with all the last minute things that you can't do ahead of time, and hoping there aren't TOO many I've forgotten about. Paper and mail canceled. (Can you imagine what it's going to be like to get a month's worth of holiday catalogs when we get back?) Neighbor's kids checking front porch and driveway for notices and those pesky throwaway papers, etc. Inevitable arguments about what's appropriate attire with my husband. We WILL be in public a great deal of the time, after all.

Got my second round manuscript from Five Star. Have to do a side-by-side to see what she changed, since she sent a clean copy. Don't think it will happen today, but I'll try as long as I have to be home until the DHL guy shows up. Too bad they didn't come yesterday; I actually had some time. But that's the way it is, it seems. When you have time for stuff, the stuff isn't there, and when you don't have time, you get the stuff.

Posts will be sporadic from here on, but check back.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa T minus 1

Had a FANTASTIC time at the book signing, even if there were a couple of glitches. In this case, things worked in my favor. The bookstore didn't have my books in stock, so I got my stash from my car and sold from those. Since these were leftovers from a previous signing at another store, I have already received royalties for the sales, since that bookstore bought them from the publisher. I purchased the excess at a substantial discount. I'll get paid by yesterday's bookstore for the cover price minus a percentage. I come out ahead on the bottom line, always a good thing. The people were great, got to chat with a bunch of authors, and even met some 'on line' folks who have seen me on various writing loops. And there was chocolate.

My own ditz moment: I splurged on a herbal neck wrap thingie you heat in themicrowave. The vendor was near our signing site, and offered a discount and extra eye mask to authors. I figured it was a nice treat and would help alleviate some of the neck strain from stress and hours at the keyboard. Of course, when I got home it was nowhere to be found. The receipt was in the bag, so I didn't have any way to contact the vendor to see if someone returned it to him. I posted a message to my fellow authors, and was VERY pleasantly surprised to find that the Barnes & Noble rep found the bag when she was clearing things out, and Roxanne St. Claire found my name on the receipt, and gave it to Catherine Kean to return to me. Thanks, fellow authors for being supportive in EVERY possible way. I won't be using it for the plane trip--far too heavy to deal with, but I'll have it waiting when I get home.

And...the good news! I found two reviews in my Google Alerts this morning.

Have to turn in my galleys for Hurricane Breeze today. And laundry. And errands, since I'll have to be home tomorrow because my replacement keyboard is due to arrive and I have to sign for it. Was supposed to have happened two weeks ago, but ...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa T minus 2

Book signing today. It's a fund-raiser for the Adult Literacy League, and there will be over 20 local authors signing at the Altamonte Mall.

Yesterday, the publisher and cover artist and Wild Rose Press bent the house rules a bit and created a new cover for Hurricane Breeze. So much better, don't you think? The dog is more obvious, and the heroine isn't a belly-dancer. Thanks, RJ and Nicola!

I bought another mid-size suitcase to handle conference supplies. However, when I look at the "packing room(s)" I can't imagine how everything will fit. One way or another, it'll have to, I guess. We'll have to be more organized, and pack for the various phases of the trip. We have our 17 day tour, then 5 nights on our own in Port Elizabeth, and then the conference in Cape Town. I've officially signed over my membership duties until I get to the conference. Since I won't have my Five Star edits until tomorrow, I've actually got about a day and a half with "free" time to deal with the trip. Maybe it's time for those lists.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa T minus 3

Worked on the galleys for Hurricane Breeze yesterday. Found some typos, some clunkers. Nothing terribly major. I tried to "like" my cover a little more, but it's not going to happen. I mentioned it to my editor, but they don't normally revise covers. What do you think? Can you find the dog? Rottweiler was definitely NOT in the description I gave the cover artist. And I said the heroine was a 'free spirit' not a belly dancer. At any rate, most of the bigger houses don't give author input; I'm spoiled because Cerridwen Press does.

Let's see -- yesterday's other glitches. Not too bad. I had to get the frames of my glasses fixed/adjusted. On the way back, I was waiting at a stop-sign controlled intersection for the car that had arrived shortly before I did to make up his mind and get going when there was a rather loud bump and a jolt. The driver of the car 2 cars behind me had lost control (it was raining) and hit the car behind me, pushing it into mine. With mixed thoughts, I decided to let the two of them decide what they wanted to do, because it was raining and I didn't have any significant damage to my rear bumper, and it wasn't worth filing a claim for a little dent. Not to mention I didn't have the hours it would take to get someone 'official' on the scene.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Counting Down To South Africa - T Minus 4

Still with the medical issues -- but this time I get the ditz award. After dealing with the interminable phone system of the insurance company (all voice activated; can't even punch in numbers), I discovered -- not to my surprise -- the malaria medication prescribed wasn't covered by insurance, and relatively costly $10/pill. However, it didn't seem to leave us much choice, so I called the doctor's office and left a message with the nurse to approve the prescription.

When I went in for my appointment (annual physical and to get my tetanus and hepatitis shots for the trip) , we spent a lot of time discussing all the 'just in case' medications, all the other malaria options, and how marvelously healthy I am overall. We decided that another medication, although it has to be taken daily, would be a viable option and was much cheaper out of pocket if the insurance company didn't approve.

So, armed with my handful of prescriptions, I left and made a stop at the PO Box for work. Of course, today there were a respectable number of envelopes, so that added to my work 'to do' list. I stopped at the pharmacy and dropped of the prescriptions and came home to tackle what needed to be done. My cleaning service hadn't shown up; a call verified that although we'd confirmed it twice that yesterday was to be the last cleaning, they had it as the first session they were to skip. So much for that -- only irritation was that if I'd known, I wouldn't have put off a lot of things, like piling clothes and stuff all over the place to start the pre-packing chores.

I went about my routine, still with little to do until I heard from editors as far as writing goes, although I was busy enough with trying to get all the marketing things in order. I really hoped someone else would write the back cover and flap copies, but no, it's up to me. I got my cover for Hurricane Breeze -- was not all that excited about it. They put the heroine on the cover dressed in a belly-dancer outfit, and the dog is peeking out from under the billowing white fabric looking almost -- well, I won't go there. I didn't even realize it was a dog until someone else pointed it out. But they don't have an approval process like Cerridwen Press does, so that's that. It's a short story, so it's not like the cover will be on a bookshelf anywhere. I'll try to post it tomorrow (I am on my laptop now -- another long story causing more delays).

Then, about 9:30 PM, I got the galleys. Will have to deal with those ASAP, and my When Danger Calls editor said she LOVES my book, and will try to have the next edits on Sunday. I'm leaving Tuesday. Monday will be packing and running around picking up all the things we realize we don't have. Guess it goes on my husband's laptop, and I'll work while he's sleeping.

OK -- back to the ditz award. (Can you tell my brain isn't working efficiently). At about 4:45 PM yesterday, I'm in the middle of sending someone an email and mentioning that I hope there are no bad side effects to the malaria meds. At this point, it dawns on me that I FORGOT TO MAKE SURE I GOT THE TETANUS AND HEPATITIS SHOTS I went to the doctor for in the first place. I'd even made sure to tell them to put it on my appointment notes so they'd have the stuff available. Of course, they forgot, too -- but it was my fault. Luckily, they were open until 6:30 so I buzzed back, got the shots, stopped and picked up the meds, came home and had a stiff drink before dealing with all the candy monsters who came by. More than we've had in years, but I have some chocolate left, thank goodness.