Mystery...Romance...Sci Fi...Humor... The joy of writing fiction - meeting brand new people in places that don't yet exist.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals and Resolutions for 2011

I usually write my New Year's goals and resolutions in my Daytimer - and, yes, even with all the techie gadgets in the world, I still like my nice leather bound organizer.  I might share the G&R's with my spouse, who will conveniently forget them, but the only person who really knows the promises I've made to myself is...well, me.

This year I'm going to try something different this year and post a few here.  Maybe the public declaration will give me extra incentive.  For clarification, I consider anything that's an ongoing behavior modification as a resolution and 'get it done and check it off' items as goals.  I don't include goals on this list that are not solely within my own power to make happen (i.e. get published). 

Goals

Finish re-writes/editing on Hunter’s Way (this is my top priority)

Find a crit partner(s) and/or beta readers (need to move beyond the friends and family network)

Start querying Hunter's Way (as soon as it's ready)

Go back to my half finished Sci Fi and start re-working it and/or start the new mystery story I've got bouncing around my head (after Hunter's Way is in the query stage)

Finish reading the Bible.  (This is a left over from 2010 when I decided to read the Bible straight through from cover to cover  - and, no, I'm not cramming for the final exam.  I'm not quite to the end of the Old Testiment so I'll be finishing this one in 2011.)

Lose 25 lbs. (My goal for 2010 was to lose 50 lbs. which I reached back in the fall, but I fell off the wagon and gained back a few so I've got to re-lose those and then move on to my original target.)

Resolutions

Develop a good work schedule for writing, blogging, marketing, etc. and stick to it (this will be a biggie as I adjust to not having a full time job to work around)

Blog M-W-F every week (still trying to find my stride on this)

Read one non-fiction book every two months - something that will stretch my brain (no, I don't count the books of the Bible - that would make it too easy)

Give blood every 8 weeks (I give now but not as regularly as I should)

Use food to alleviate hunger or as part of appropriate social engagements – not as a response to boredom,  frustration, depression, or as a procrastination device (obviously ties to the last goal mentioned)

Use exercise as a response to the above named conditions (this would really help that last goal)


Okay, I think that will do it.  I have a slightly longer personal list but some things are just not 'postable'.

Anyone have a resolution and/or goal they're willing to share?

I'm currently enjoying: Stay Tuned for Murder by Mary Kennedy

Groaner of the Day: (This is a long one but it cracked me up.) There is a monastery where monks have taken a vow of near-silence.  Each day begins with morning worship. The service starts when the head abbot comes in and chants, "Good morning."

The monks chant in reply, "Good morning."

They say not another word until evening vespers, when the head abbot comes in and chants, "Good evening."

The monks all reply in unison, "Good evening." Not another word is spoken until the next morning.

Several years ago one of the monks decided he had to break up the boredom of this routine. The next morning when the head abbot chanted, "Good morning," all the other monks responded, "Good morning", except the one bored monk who chanted, "Good evening."

Quickly, the head abbot sang in reply: "Some-one chanted 'evening'. He must be a stranger."

(admit it - you laughed)

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year's celebration and a healthy, prosperous, and joyful 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Limbo Week Coninues

Still working my way through "limbo week" (between Christmas and New Years).  Got my new Nook set up, downloaded my first e-book - Maria Zannini's True Believers - and read it in one night.  It was great.  Now I can start the book on the top of my TBR pile, Mary Kennedy's Stay Tuned for Murder.  I really loved Mary's first two in the Talk Radio Mysteries series so I'm looking forward to this one.

In the meantime, I used yesterday to tear through all the file drawers in the house (two large desks and a file cabinet), updating files and rearranging.  This is part of my effort to turn our part time home office into my new regular workspace.  I'm making progress, I can almost see the top of the desk.  I'd forgotten there was actually a wood surface under there.

I also compiled all the vet bills from the past two years, which included Chance's back surgery in 09 and Brandi's eye surgery last summer.  Just out of curiousity, I ran a quick total.  Then I hid the file.  Not sure my husband heart could take it.

So, how are you spending your limbo week?

Groaner of the day: Two boll weevils grew up in the Deep South. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Twas the Week After Christmas

My home office - my only office now - is in the bedroom that is also our guest room. Most of the time this is not an issue, but when we have guests staying with us for the holidays, it really puts a crimp in my middle-of-the-night computer activities...such as blogging. So, as much as I enjoyed having family stay with us, I'm happy to have my computer back.

I always find the week between Christmas and New Year a bit strange. All the frantic activity is over, no more shopping or wrapping or baking to be done. The trees (we have two) look bare without the piles of wrapped gifts beneath but it's not quite time to start taking things down. I have that list of New Year's resolutions and goals but those don't begin until 2011. I know I should be doing something but I feel like I'm caught in some sort of time warp where everything stands still until after the ball drops on New Year's Eve.

It's not a matter of my being retired now. Even when I was still working, I usually had "use or lose" vacation time to burn at the end of the year, so I'd be at home. Or I'd be in an office that was mostly empty because everyone else had "use or lose" to burn. Either way...that same strange sense of being in limbo.

Does anyone else feel this way? What do you do during this lost week?

Groaner of the Day: Did you hear that the Pope had to have a new robe made out of royal purple material? It was electrically heated so as to keep him warm during his outdoor addresses to the faithful following.

It's called the purple papal heater.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Infamous Christmas Letter

I thought when I retired from that pesky day job, I'd have all the time in the world to get caught up on everyone's blogs (including my own), but first I needed to take care of a few things.  Like getting caught up on Christmas.  Which meant getting my cards mailed.  Which meant writing my Christmas letter.

I didn't always do a Christmas letter.  I used to start around Thanksgiving, hunting for that perfect picture of the family - or, not finding one, hunting for the family so I could take a picture - and taking the negative in to have twenty or thirty reprints made to encolse in my cards (only special people got a picture).  Then came writing the same news over and over in a hundred or more cards until I had to pry the pen from my frozen fingers.  When I first started receiving Christmas letters from other people, my reactions were mixed.  They seemed a bit impersonal compared to a note written by a painfully cramped hand.  Where was the holiday sacrifice?  The letters themselves were a mixed bag.  Some were funny, some were depressing, some were insufferable (oh, come on, you know the kind I mean).  I decided to stick with my handwritten notes.

In 1998 I purchased my first scanner...and I wrote my first Christmas letter, complete with pictures.  This was also the year my first grandchild was born but I'm sure that's merely a coincidence.  I was ready to take the easy road.  No more hunting for that one perfect picture, no more schlepping to the store to get reprints made, no more wearing my fingers to the bone writing all those notes.  Just jot down a cheerful greeting, sign, and slip in a letter.  How simple can you get? 

Let me tell you about putting together a family Christmas letter.  First you have to remember all the news from the past year.  Flipping through the wall calendar is usually enough to jog the memory.  Then you have to spin it.  If it's been a bad year, you need to find the positive spin..."and if all goes well, Uncle Joe will make parole in time to celebrate Christmas at home next year."   If it's been a great year, you may need to tone things down a little..."Seriously, by the time they took out the taxes on our lotto win, there was barely enough left to cover that little private island." If your kids happen to be over-achievers...(see insufferable, above).  If they lean in the other direction, you might have to stretch to find an accomplishment worth mentioning..."and we were so proud when Little Johny passed his eye test with flying colors."

Now let me tell you about putting together my Christmas letter.  First I have to find suitable pictures for each member of the family.  Including the camera shy and the one who can't see a camera without mugging.  Then I have to make sure I have the same number of pictures for each of my son's families and that the pictures are the same size.  Believe me, I'll hear about it if I don't.  I think they've stopped counting how many words I use for each of them but they still measure column inches.  Tommy Smothers has nothing on these two.  Do they do it just to make me crazy?  Of course.  Do they succeed?  Yup - every time.

And so, I spent the first week of my retirement, not working on my book, not reading and commenting on all those excellent blogs; I spent it giving birth to an upbeat but not too cheerful, serious but not depressing, proud but not boastful, and perfectly balanced family Christmas letter.

Sure am glad I took the easy way out.

How about you?  Do you write one?  Do you receive them?  Like 'em?  Hate 'em?  Be honest.



I'm currently enjoying: The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters (Haven't got any reading done the past week either.)

Groaner of the Day: Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? He wanted to transcend dental medication.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Last Day

I had a little send off party at work yesterday.  It was a day before my last day but everyone was at the main office for a quarterly all-staff meeting so we just tied the two together.  I didn't want a party but it wasn't so bad.  There were a couple surprise guests that I was tickled to see and I received some lovely gifts, including a very generous gift card from the same bookstore we did the readings at last week.  Plus a couple gift sets of assorted teas - I drink a lot of tea while I write.  And there was some reminiscing, some old memories to enjoy.

Then it was back to work.  Still some things to be wrapped up before I'm done.  We'll probably be working right up to close of business on Friday.

A co-worker came by to return a book I'd lent him.  Deep South by Nevada Barr.  He really enjoyed it and I was about to offer to bring in another when I remembered I wouldn't be there to get it back.  I'll miss that - lending books back and forth at work and discussing the ones we've shared.

It struck me just before I left that I've managed to get my office all cleaned up for the next guy but my house is a mess.  I should have left the office mess for him and cleaned my own space.

I'm going to wear a Red Sox t-shirt for my last day.  Our CEO is a Sox fan, too, so he'll appreciate it.  In fact, I'm leaving him the big Red Sox decal that graces the glass in my office door.

This is going to feel very strange today.  Finishing up the last few bits of work.  Taking down the last of my pictures.  Turning in my keys.  Saying goodbye.

But next week, if someone should ask what I do, the answer will be simple...I'm a writer.

Wish me luck.

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: Last Day

I'm currently enjoying: The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters

Groaner of the Day: Two boll weevils grew up in the Deep South. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Best Laid Plans...

Well, I wasn't planning on my last week at the job monopolizing my blog this week but it's turning out that way.  In fact, not much this week is turning out as I planned.

I figured by now I'd have all my loose ends wrapped up and turned over to my replacement, and I'd be just coasting to Friday.  Spending my days dismantling my office, maybe reminiscing a little here and there. 

No such luck.  Every time I start to show him another "routine" task, something very "unroutine" pops up that I have to take care of. After all, I can't just dump everything on the guy.  So I've gone from "just three more days" to "OMG, I've only got three days!"

And people are starting to drop by to say good-bye.  Mostly volunteers who aren't in every day, so they won't be there on Friday.  They want to know what I'm going to do after this week.  In detail.  Day by day itinerary.  I guess it doesn't occur to anyone that I still have work to finish during my last three days.  Well, why would it?  It didn't occur to me.

I would just work late, get things finished in the evening.  But every night this week is filled with a Christmas play or band concert or choir concert.  (What made me think that two weeks before Christmas was the ideal time to retire?)

The only saving note at this point is...it will be over in three days.  Finished or unfinished, ready or not.  Here it comes.

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 3 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters (Got to get this finished this week.  It belongs to someone at work.)

Groaner of the Day: A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named Ahmal. The other goes to a family in Spain, where he is named Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins, sweetheart! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Last Monday

I seem to be waxing poetic this morning...

It’s my last Monday,
One week to go.
I’ve been here twenty years,
The last fifteen in the same position,
The same office,
The same desk.

This was my choice,
I decided to retire.
Wanted to write full time.
But…fifteen years.

I have to take down all my pictures,
Plaques and certificates.
And on the bulletin board,
Notes and jokes and bits of memories.
Gathering my books
And the things on my desk.
My Red Sox baseballs,
Desk toys, clock,
Nameplate.
Fifteen years.

Packing it all to take home
Though there’s really no place for it there.

This will be a busy week.
Still lots to do
Getting things ready
For the person who will have
This position,
This office,
This desk,
Next Monday.

Ever left a job you'd been in for a long time?  What was it like?


Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 5 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters

Groaner of the Day: (This one was told to me yesterday by my nine year old granddaughter....)  Why did the pony go to the doctor?  Because he was a little hoarse. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Okay, It Was Fun

Okay, I'll admit it.  It was fun.

In case you missed my Monday post, my writing group did a public reading at a local bookstore Wednesday night.  Nine of us read and there was a nice mix of prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction.  The audience was also a nice mix - familiar faces and new ones.  I was scheduled second, for which I was grateful since I had quite a case of butterflies, and I managed not to fall off the stool, drop my papers, or in some other way embarrass myself beyond redemption.  Actually, once I got started, I enjoyed myself.  The audience helped a lot by laughing in the right places. And with my own piece out of the way, I was able to relax and enjoy the others.

My son caught my read on video.  I've watched it a couple times. The first time, of course, I was all hung up on how old I looked and how much I need to lose weight.  Luckily I use a voice recorder a lot when I'm writing so I'm already used to the sound of my voice.   But after that, I focused on the reading - the material and the delivery.  I stumbled a couple more times than I'd realized but not too many.  Of course, I see a lot of room for improvement.

I'd be grateful for feedback - on material and/or delivery - if you're so inclined.  You can watch the video here.  It's not a professional taping, of course, but the audio's pretty clear.  It runs just under seven and a half minutes.

Have you ever recorded yourself reading your work to get a truer sense of how it sounds?  Do you think it's a worthwhile tool?

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 6 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters

Groaner of the Day: Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail; and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...

A super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Well, How Do You Do It?

I grabbed my big mug of hot tea and headed upstairs, calling to my husband, "I'm gonna go try to give birth to a blog post."

"Any ideas?"  He already knew the answer.

"Nope."

I checked my e-mail, and Facebook, and other blogs I follow - even though I had done all that just before I went down to make the tea. 

I played a game of spider solitair. Well, two.  But I didn't clear the board on the first one so it doesn't count.

I re-read the Christmas wish lists received from various family members.  Although I already know them by heart.

I rumaged around for a nail file and repaired a chipped nail.

I found the cool e-mail I received today of "Idle Thoughts", such as: 

I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it. 

and thought of putting one in this post then decided against it.

I blinked and rolled my eyes for several minutes, trying to decide if the numbing drops the opthalmologist had put in this afternoon had completely worn off.  They still felt kind of weird so probably not. 

I studied the New Post window on my monitor.  It was still blank.

Well, how do you procrastinate?


Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 8 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters

Groaner of the Day: A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

Monday, November 29, 2010

What? In Public?!?

I belong to a local writers group. Our monthly meetings include discussion, some sort of writing exercize, and a critique sssion for those who brought something to share.  Usually the critquing is done by silent read (we each bring enough copies to hand out)  followed by group discussion; but on those occasions when we read aloud, there is still the comfort of reading to a closed group of fellow writers.

This Wednesday we are doing what the group calls our Beatnik Cafe.  We are moving our meeting to the coffee shop of a large local bookstore where we'll take turns perching on a tall stool and reading our work to whoever happens to be there.  Shoppers.  Visitors. Strangers!!!

Like most of us, I enjoy a little instant gratification.  I've be known to surreptitiously watch someone read my work, waiting to see if they'll chuckle over that funny line in paragraph two or mist up a little over that heart-wrenching ending.  But this is a different.  This is combining instant feedback - good and bad - with that most terrifying of experiences...public speaking. 

I've written my piece.  Holiday themed as our group leader requested, reading time approximately seven minutes.  I tried it out on various family members over the holiday and they all gave it a thumbs up.  But, of course, they're all...well, family.   What will it be like in a public forum?  Busy shoppers who may stop to listen but who will have no problem walking away if I can't hold their interest for seven minutes.  What if they laugh when I'm not trying to be funny or don't laugh when I am?

This is seriously scary stuff.

Does anyone have a suggestion or word of encouragement for me?  Writers - how do you handle reading your work in public?  Readers - what are your likes and dislikes when listerning to an author read?  Oh, and please don't offer the suggestion about picturing the audience in their underware.  I tried that once and got so carried away visulizing that hot hunk in the first row that I...well, that's another story.

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 10 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: Endangered Species by Nevada Barr

Groaner of the Day: What do you call a short clairvoyant person on the run from the law?
A small medium at large.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Challenge

Okay, it's almost Thanksgiving so there are going to be lots of posts today asking what everyone is thankful for. Who am I to buck tradition? But I want to offer a little bit of a challenge.

First - my favorite Thanksgiving cartoon...


Hee hee hee.

Okay, the challenge. I want you to tell me three things you're thankful for, but they have to be specific. None of the usual "home, health, and family". Has to be more like: I'm thankful that we got the stupid leak fixed in the bathroom, that I didn't break my leg when I fell off the porch, and that Uncle Harry got out of County Lockup in time for the holiday. 

And if you come up with your three specific "thankfuls", you can indulge in one "not so thankful for".

I'll go first.

Right after my second favorite Thanksgiving cartoon...


(Cracks me up!)

My turn - I'm thankful that Brandi's eye is healing nicely and she doesn't have to go back to the vet for two months,  that the place we're going for Thanksgiving is within driving range so I don't have to deal with a touchy feely pat down at the airport (now if they'd hire really hot guys to do these maybe it would be different), and that our hostess for Thanksgiving - a health food guru - isn't serving tofu turkey (I checked).

My "not so much"?  I'm not so thankful that they didn't believe me at work when I said I didn't want a retirement pary.  The boss announced yesterday they're having it the day before I leave.  Argh!

Okay.  Your turn.  Come on, join in.

And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 11 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished LAST TO DIE by Kate Brady.

Groaner of the Day: What sound does a space turkey make?  Hubble, hubble, hubble.

(I know...really lame.  But you try to find a good turkey pun.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You

The other day I received an e-mail titled THINGS YOUR BURGLAR WON'T TELL YOU, which included a couple lists of safety hints.  I glanced at the lists, did the usual "yeah, yeah" and was about to hit delete when the thought struck me - a list like this could be handy the next time I'm writing about a break in.  Might be a snippet of an idea here.

Or it might just be good to know.

LIST #1

1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I mght leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm ompany install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door - understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

11. Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

12. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system.  If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television.

LIST # 2

1. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

2. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

3. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again.. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

4. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

5. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to
pick my targets.

6. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address.

7. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

8. If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Another safety tip that could also find its way into a story...

"Wasp spray can shoot up to twenty feet away and is a lot more accurate than pepper spray.  With pepper spray you have to let you attacker get too close to you.  Wasp spray temporarily blinds an attacker until he can get to the hospital for an antidote."

Most of these, I think we already know.   Of course, the gap between what we know and what we put into practice can be pretty wide sometimes.  Were any of these new to you, or maybe just a timely reminder?


Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 13 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: LAST TO DIE by Kate Brady. (No time for reading at all this weekend  So frustrating.)

Groaner of the Day: This woman ordered an exotic snake through a mail order operation. When the package arrived, there were only feathery necklaces in the box.

Apparently, the boa cons tricked her.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Friendly Friday

Happy Friendly Friday.  I'm dedicating this post to my friend Maria Zannini. 



Maria's paranormal historical romance, MISTRESS OF THE STONE has made it to the second round in the Kensington Brava Contest.  I'm asking my small but loyal band of followers to give Maria a boost and vote for MISTRESS OF THE STONE.  When you get to the voting page scroll all the way to the bottom.  Maria's the last name on the list.  (That's what happens when your name is Zannini.)

While I'm at it, I'd like to toss out a couple thank you's to to my friends Dru at notes from me and Mason at Thoughts in Progress.  When your blog is new and your following small, it's great to have blog friends you can count on to leave a comment on just about every post.

And a big thank you to Mary Kennedy, author of the Talk Radio Mysteries, for her support and lots of great information on the publishing world.  If you haven't read the Talk Radio Mysteries, you should.  I really enjoyed them.

Totally personal note here:  my eldest grandson is being Confirmed at church this Sunday.  I'm very proud of him.

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 14 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: LAST TO DIE by Kate Brady.  (This is not a slow read, I just haven't had any reading time.)

Groaner of the Day: A thief broke into the local police station and stole all the toilets and urinals, leaving no clues. A spokesperson was quoted as saying, "We have absolutely nothing to go on."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pulling Out Roots

A few years ago, whenever I returned from a vacation, I immediately checked in with the office.  It wasn't that I thought they couldn't get along without me for a week (although I certainly didn't want them to know that); but this was my other home, my other family, and I needed to know what was going on.  When the word "retirment" began creeping into conversations, I couldn't imagine it.  This was what I did, a large part of who I was.  How could I just stop doing it?

Fast forward to last spring.  Budget cuts. Decision time. And I decided it was in everyone's best interest to step up and take early retirement. After all, I was trying to get seriously back into my writing so maybe this was the opportunity I'd been waiting for.  We agreed I'd stay into December and that was that.  But what would it be like?  Leaving the job, the department I'd headed for fifteen years (been part of for twenty), all my friends and coworkers...would it be like ripping out a tree by its roots?  Was it going to hurt?

Homestretch time now.  Under a month to go.  I realized last night that I'm doing what I used to do whenever we had to move (another thing I don't do well).  I'm slowly breaking off the roots, a couple here, a couple there, so when the time comes the tree will be already loosened and easy to pull out.  I'm working through my lunch hour instead of joining others, opting out of conference calls on upcoming changes, deferring decisions to my successor, and taking home personal items from my office, one or two a day.  I declined the usual retirement party. 

Instead I'm spending more time on this - blogging, networking with writers and others, learning, and writing.  Focusing on what's ahead, not what I'm leaving behind.  For the most part it's working.  I've started thinking about my job as interfering with my writing and I'm looking forward to being able to write full time. 

But what will it be like on that last day?  When my office is stripped bare of my things and I've turned in my keys?  When all the good-byes have been said?  When I walk out the back door on that last Friday?  How much will it hurt?

How about you?  How do you prepare for big changes in your life?  Does it work?


Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 16 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: LAST TO DIE by Kate Brady.

Groaner of the Day: There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant. The first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that... the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

(Aw, come on - you know you missed them.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When Is a Sport Not a Sport?

Okay, it's late Sunday night and the burning question on my mind is...No Limit Texas Hold 'Em Poker!

Let's look at the signs.  Is it on ESPN?  Check.  Really annoying play-by-play commentators?  Definitely. Wild, obnoxious, screaming fans? Yup, got those, too.  Lots of filler between the action, complete with in depth analysis of the players?  Oh yeah.  Big money championship complete with jewelry?  Heck, they even call it the World Series.



Okay, so this is definitely a sport. Right? 

IT'S A BUNCH OF GUYS SITTING AROUND PLAYING CARDS!!!  How did a poker game turn into a sport?  And everybody's watching it.  They must be.  It's on all the time.  On multiple channels.  Not just guys either.  My dear sweet mum-in-law was addicted to watching it. 




So's my hubby.  He likes Daniel and Phil...Ivey, not Hellmuth, but no one like Hellmuth, he a poker brat and ...  OMG!!!!  I know their names!  I know their faces!  It's got me, too!

Somebody help me!!

Please...

Before it's too...



Friday, November 12, 2010

What? It's time? Already?

Tomorrow is the official beginning to my Christmas shopping season.  This is not driven by the calendar but by a special event.  Each year all the museums in the area get together and host a museum shop sale. All the best goodies from all those different kinds of museum shops, together in one convenient location.  I always find some very special items to get my Christmas shopping off to a great start.

And then I relax because I have some shopping done early and suddenly it's three weeks later and those are still the only gifts I've bought.  Panic sets in and doesn't subside until Christmas Eve.  At least once, I will have my annual Christmas nightmare where it's Christmas Eve and the stores are closed and I don't have any presents to give.  It's my own holiday tradition.

I was on the phone with my son last week and my very efficient daughter-in-law was coming in with bags of Christmas gifts.  She will probably be done by Thanksgiving.  I never have liked her. 

How about you?  How do you approach holiday shopping?  Get it done early.  Wait until the last minute.  Start buying now and keep buying until the last minute (oh, wait - that's me).  Do you have any special shopping traditions?

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 18 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: LAST TO DIE by Kate Brady.

Definition of the Day: Calories - Those little S.O.Bs that get into your wardrobe at night and sew your clothes tighter. (My closet is infested with them!!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Someone Else's Treasures

A few years ago, a young woman I have known since she and my son were in school together lost her father.  Her mother had died years before and, as an only child, it fell to my young friend to clean out her dad's home.  It was a large house and they'd lived there a long time. Plus, the man was a pack rat of the highest order.  Since my friend now lives and works in another state, this cleaning had to happen on weekends.  Even with the help of other friends, it took us months.

As a result of this experience, I found myself taking a hard look at our home and my years of accumulated stuff.  Why was I keeping that statue?  Because Great Aunt Matilda gave it to us.  But Great Aunt Matilda's been gone for decades, and I wasn't that crazy about the statue to begin with.  And with that, I started cleaning house.  It was liberating.  I got rid of things I'd hung on to for years but couldn't tell you why.  Since my beloved spouse is not a pack rat or even vaugely sentimental about things, everything I was getting rid of was mine - and that made it easy.

Four years ago, I lost my mom.  And in due course, my dad started giving away her things.  Or more correctly, he started passing her things to me to give away.  He told me to find out who in the family wanted what and to do whatever I felt was best with the rest.  So I gave away all the useful items and made sure everyone had what they wanted to remember her by, and I looked at what was left.  A collection of small treasures.  Her treasures.  Things she kept all her life because they meant something to her.

I've got news for you.  Getting rid of your own stuff is easy.  Getting rid of someone else's stuff is hard.  Getting rid of the accumulated treasures of someone you love is impossible.

Last month we lost my mum-in-law.  Since my husband is an only child, all her things came to us.  We've done Goodwill and the Salvation Army and the church, and both our sons have taken want they want, and here I am looking at what's left.  All of her accumulated treasures.  What do I do now?

Have you been here?  What did you do?

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 19 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE by Heather Gudenkauf.

Groaner of the Day: Back in the 1800's the Tate's Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted to produce other products, and since they already made the cases for watches, they used them to produce compasses. The new compasses were so bad that people often ended up in Canada or Mexico rather than California. This, of course, is the origin of the expression -- "He who has a Tate's is lost!" 

(It's okay, Dru.  Maria said I could.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blog Hopping on a Monday Morning

Well, I didn't manage a Monday morning post.  I meant to.  I'm trying to get back on a set M-W-F schedule.  But I made the mistake of doing my blog reading first and there were so many good ones this morning, I just ran out of time (had to go to work).  So instead, I'm just going to share some highlights with you. 

I learned a new phrase on Mystery Writing is Murder - Shiny New Idea Syndrome (SNIS).   You know, when that great new story idea or character pops into your head while you're trying to work on something else.  Happens to me all the time so it's nice to have a name for it.  Also fun to read how other writers deal with it.

On Thoughts in Progress, I read an interview with author Monica Brinkman, who ran into some of the same "don't do this" advice that brought my WIP to a standstill last summer.  Unlike me, Monica decided to push ahead and do things her way.  Her novel is getting great reviews and sales are going well. Oh, and she had at least one comment from an author who loved multiple POV novels.  Argh!
 
If Sci Fi is your thing, you'd enjoy following Stephen Tremp from his own Breakthrough Blogs over to Alex J Cavanaugh's blog for some great info on Writing Near-Future Science Fiction

On Jane's Ride, there was a great discussion on NaNoWriMo.  But Jane's response to my comment was addressed to "Lizzie".  That's the second time in a week I've been turned into a "Liz".  I guess the z's in Leszczuk really throw people.  However, Jane popped over and left a comment on my Friday post so she can call me anything she wants. {grin}
 
There's a to-die-for contest on Chatterbox Chitchat where Lynnette Labelle is offering four free on line query critiques.  But I shouldn't be telling people about this one - it will cut my chances of winning.
 
And over on  A Novice Novelist, Maria Zaninni's guest interview was shanghied by her husband Greg. Poor Maria, that sort of thing keeps happening to her. Just last week, while a guest on  Marianne Atkins  blog, Maria's interview was taken over by her dogs, Tank and Iko.

Speaking of Maria, I'm pleased to report that Mistress of the Stone has moved into the second round in the Kensington Brava contest.  Let's give Maria our support by voting for Mistress of the Stone in this second round.

So that's why I didn't post this morning.  But I hope this makes up for it.  If these blogs aren't on your regular list, you might want to check them out.

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 21 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: INDULGENCE IN DEATH by JD Robb (Says a lot about my busy weekend that I haven't finished this one.)

Groaner of the Day: A marine biologist developed a race of genetically engineered dolphins that could live forever if they were fed a steady diet of seagulls. One day, his supply of the birds ran out so he had to go out and trap some more. On the way back, he spied two lions asleep on the road. Afraid to wake them, he gingerly stepped over them. Immediately, he was arrested and charged with... transporting gulls across sedate lions for immortal porpoises.  (I'm sorry, I can't help myself!)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ouch...Is That Me?

Back in July, when I learned I would be retiring this December (courtesy of budget cuts) and finally able to try writing full time, I decided to jump in with both feet and start a web page and a blog.  The web page, as it turned out, required quite a bit of time to set up but has remained pretty static.  The blog was easier to get started (I used the templates) but takes a lots more work.  In hindsight, I may have been a bit premature.  It might have been better to wait until I had actually retired to start this so I wouldn't have the time crunch problem; but then again, I wouldn't have met all the great people I've met through their blogs.

Anyway, just after I got my blog started, I received an e-mail from Mutual of Ohama, of all places, saying they had seen my blog and I seemed a likely candidate to film an Aha Moment video.  They just happened to be coming through our town the following week.  I had no idea what an Aha Moment was and figured it was some sort of a scam, but I checked it out and it was legit so...what the heck.

They made the video, posted it on the Mutual of Omaha Aha Moment website and sent me the link.  Not having anything else to do with it, I stuck it on my blog (upper left hand side) and that was pretty much that.  I felt a little self-conscious about the whole thing so I didn't try to call it to anyone's attention and, to be honest, no one has ever mentioned viewing it - so either they haven't or it's so bad, they're keeping kindly quiet.  But since I'm coming down the homestretch now and the retirement I talk about in the video is almost at hand, I guess it's time.  I invite you to, please, check out my Aha Moment video and let me know what you think.

And - without benefit of cameras rolling - do you have an aha moment, about anything at all, that you can share?  Was it a big life changer or just something small?

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 22 work days to go.

I'm currently enjoying: INDULGENCE IN DEATH by JD Robb  (Broke my own rule and put THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE aside in mid-read to "indulge" in the latest Dallas.)

Groaner of the Day: An Indian chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the medicine man. After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk rawhide and gave it to the chief, telling him to bite off, chew, and swallow one inch of the leather every day. After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged and said, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."  (Feel free to start a comment petition to ban these.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Slipping Out of My Groove - In A Good Way

As a reader, I tend to get into - not a rut exactly - more of a groove.  I'll settle on an author or at least a genre and read book after book.  This is especially true when I discover an author/series that's already well established and I can read them back to back...like a chain smoker. 

So it surprised me a little when I looked back over the last few books I've read and realized my groove had become rather eclectic.  Going backward, I just finished LAST DAYS OF SUMMER by Steve Kluger - a wonderful story set just before WW II about the relationship between a remarkable Jewish youth and the baseball star who befriends him. This story is told entirely in the form of letters, newspaper clippings and other printed material and took me from laughter to tears. 

Before that, I read ROOM by Emma Donoghue - a truly gripping story seen through the eyes of a five year old boy who has lived his entire life in a single room, the room where his mother has been held prisonor for seven years.  Then there was TOUCH OF FIRE by Maria Zannini  - a futuristic (as in, 1200 years in the future), paranornal, steamy romance I devoured in one day.  Before Maria, there was Heather Webber's  WEEDING OUT TROUBLE - the last of the Nina Quinn series, a delightful light-hearted mystery.  And finally, one of my usual reads, a good cop mystery - THE SURGEON by Tess Gerritsen.

So how did this happen?  Well, I'll admit a couple were lent to me with orders, "You have got to read this."  But I also have to credit my venture into blogging.  Reading the blogs of both authors and readers has led me to look around a bit more when selecting my next book.  In fact, my TBR pile is probably larger and more varied right now than it's been in decades.

How about you?  Has blogging and/or following others' blogs changed your reading habits?  What are you reading now you might not have read before?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 109,874 (If I don't manage to get some writing done before my next post, I'm going to quietly leave this part off.)

I'm currently enjoying: THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE by Heather Gudenkauf.

Groaner of the Day: (I didn't get much response on my last one but I'll try one more.)  Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. Unfortunately, all the Swiss league records were destroyed in a fire, and so we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

Countdown to retirement and writing full time: 25 work days to go.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gee, That's Terrific...I Think

November 1.  A new month - and I'm glad to bid this October goodbye. But almost lost in an overall unhappy month were a few bright moments and I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge them before I get on to the question of the day.

First - Although Brandi's eye surgery didn't go as hoped (the graft failed), some significant healing took place while her eye was closed - so much so that our vet now believes there is a good chance it may finish healing on its own.  Her next "weekly" visit isn't until the week of Thanksgiving.  A very good sign.

Next - I was awarded the One Lovely Blog Award by Mason Canyon.  I was especially pleased to receive this from Mason because her blog is one I particularly enjoy.   Now I'd like to pass this award along to a couple of others:

Maria at Maria Zannini  - Maria does a great writer's blog with some wonderful personal notes mixed in.  It's informative and fun.

Dru at notes from me - Dru is an avid reader who offers reviews, news, great bits of trivia, and more.

I hope you'll stop by and check out both of these blogs if you're not already a follower.

Moving on - I've got to mention I ran my first 5K race since I started running again this year. I didn't quite make my target pace but I did manage to come in 12th of 57 in the little old ladies division.

Okay, now for the topic of the day.  At work I receive a lot of e-mail, letters, etc. congratulating me on being selected for the latest who's who of whatever and offering to send me a beautiful leather bound copy of the registry for the low price of...  These offers, of course, go directly into the trash.  Then I received an e-mail a couple weeks ago telling me my short story "has been awarded 88th place in Genre Short Story category of the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition" and "the Grand Prize manuscript, the First Place manuscript in each category, and the names of the top 100 winners in each category will be printed in a special competition collection" which I may wish to order.

I honestly don't know how to react.  I mean, based on the total entries in last year's contest, I'm estimating well over 1,000 entries per category so making the top 100 puts me in the top ten percent, which isn't bad.  And this was my first attempt at a mystery short story.  But it's still 88th place and I don't want to get all excited over something that's just a ploy to get me to order a "special edition".   I'm actually feeling a bit stupid here.  So I'm looking to my more experienced writer blog buddies to help me out.  Is this cause for a small woo woo or should I quietly delete this post and hope no one noticed it?  I'd really like your opinion.

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 109,874 (No progress at all for the last couple weeks.  Pitiful.)

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished ROOM by Emma Donoghue. (I pulled an all-nighter finishing this one.)

Groaner of the Day: King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan.

Croesus said, "I'll give you 100,000 dinars for it."

"But I paid a million dinars for it," the King protested. "Don't you know who I am? I am the king!"

Croesus replied, "When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are."


(Okay, I'm sorry.)



Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm Too Old for Football.

I'll love to be posting today about writing or reading or at least about all the great blogs I've been visiting and commenting on all week but since my world is still consumed by a backlog of work at the office and cleaning out Eleonora's home, I've done none of the first and very little of the other two.  So instead I'll share my latest bit of insanity.

We took a break this afternoon to drive down to Cincinnati where my granddaughter had a soccer game followed by my grandson's football game.  We actually were helping out their parents by providing chauffer duties for the soccer game so we had to arrive early.  I thought I'd sit and read a bit until game time.  My grandson had other ideas.  He'd brought his football.

I was up for just tossing it around a bit but he wanted to play a little one on one.  In deference to my old age, he suggested one-hand touch.  No way - that meant I'd have to outrun him.  I held out for tackle. My first drive down the field, I managed to score by dragging my tackler along with me.  Then he scored - by the simple act of running around me (fast little sucker).  Then I flubbed the kickoff.  Loose ball. We both went for it. He went down.  I went down.

I'm too old for football.

Oh - my granddaughter's team won their game. It was the last game of the post season and the win gave them first place!  The football game - the official one - ended in a tie but my grandson had his first interception of the year.  A good day for cheering.  I should have stayed in the stands.

Anyone else do something really stupid lately?  Aw, come on.  Fess up.  I told you mine.

Friday, October 22, 2010

History in a tattered, yellowed envelope.

Just want to let my followers – the few and the faithful – know I’m still here even though I’m behind in my blogging (and commenting).  My world for the moment has been reduced to bouncing between work and cleaning out dear Eleonora’s home. With the occasional youth football game thrown in.

It’s been an experience.

There have been aw’s – “Aw, look at these cards the boys made her when they were little.”

And aw’s – “Aw, Mama, you were supposed to use this stuff.” (unused Christmas gifts tucked safely away in the closet)

And oh hell’s – “Oh hell, how can I go through her recipes and find the family favorites? They’re all written in Polish!”

Then came the “Oh, wow, look at this!”

Going through her personal documents, my husband found the travel papers, boat tickets, permits, etc. from their emigration to the United States in 1951. There were also papers from the refugee camps they’d been living in since the end of the war and from the forced labor farm where Eleonora and her husband Tony had been prisoners during the years before that.

History in a tattered, yellowed envelope.


Got to get back to it.  We have to be done by the end of the month.  If you can, send some positive energy to keep me going. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Twelve Year Weekend

My grandkids love for me to tell them bedtime stories.  I realize this has less to do with my wonderful story-telling abilities and more to do with them not wanting to go to sleep, but I indulge them anyway.  They especially like stories about their father, which I tell and he denies.

Last weekend, I told my grandson how our dog Chance came to be a member of our family.  It was the Friday before Mother's Day, twelve years ago. My son called early that morning to tell me he had the perfect Mother's Day gift for me.  He knew I was thinking about getting a companion for our dog Brandi and he had just the dog - an apparent stray who had followed my daughter-in-law home on her morning jog.   I reminded him I was looking for a female puppy.  He countered that this adult male was "really cute" and he knew I would love him.  I held my ground.  He agreed he would find another home for the little guy but he was going out of town for the weekend and could I help out by taking the dog until he got back?  I don't remember agreeing to this but somehow there he was.  Our weekend guest, who arrived on Friday and never left.

When I finished the story, my grandson said, "So Chance just stayed with you for a twelve year weekend."

I guess that's what it was.

This story is in memory of Chance, whose long weekend with us ended last Wednesday (we miss you, buddy).  But it's also about things that are supposed to be temporary and somehow go on and on.  What about you?  Have there been things (houseguests, jobs, responsibilities, etc.) in your world that were supposed to be short term but didn't quite turn out that way?  Will you share one?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 109,874.

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished really enjoying Touch of Fire by Maria Zannini

Quote of the day: “Nobody can be as agreeable as an uninvited guest” - Kin Hubbard

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A One-two Punch

I really don't want to turn my blog into a litany of poor me's, but some days life just hands you a one-two punch that leaves you staggering.  I had one of those days today.


Chance
 I've decided nothing good happens at 5:30 AM.  Last Friday, I received a phone call at 5:30 telling me my dear mum-in-law had just passed away.  When I woke at 5:30 this morning, I thought I was just restless because her services were today.  Then I realized what woke me was the sound of labored breathing.  Chance, our 12 year old beagle/basset who has congestive heart failure, was struggling.  He's been short of breath off and on for the past couple months but I could tell this was different.  My first thought was to take him right to the vet.  My second was, I can't, we have to go to the funeral home.  So I just sat with him and petted him until it was time to get ready.  Then something bizarre happened - he disappeared.  We couldn't find him in the house or the yard.  I didn't think he was well enough to be romping the neighborhood (a bad habit from his wild and reckless youth) but I was afraid he might have wandered a little way from the house and collapsed.  We searched as well as we could, then had to leave.

The funeral service went well, or as well as these things can go.  There was the early visitation followed by the church service followed by the graveside service.  There were lots of tears but we got through it.  And in the back of my mind the whole time was the question, where was Chance?

Well, lo and behold, when we got home he was in the yard, just where he was supposed to be.  Still no idea why we couldn't find him that morning.  But he was in bad shape. His breathing was worse, he was drooling, and he turned down a piece of roast beef.  He never passes on roast beef.  I juggled the next couple hours between talking with the family and friends who had come back to the house and checking on Chance.  Then everyone left and we headed for the vet.  I had an awful feeling this was going to be his last trip, and it was.  The vet confirmed that Chance's heart had enlarged to the point that it was constricting his airway.  No way to reverse it.  So we did what had to be done.  We kissed him and petted him and talked to him, while the doctor slipped a needle into his vein.  And he was gone. 

But I told him before he died that, if he hurried, he could probably catch up with Mama, and they could make the journey together.


Okay, give me a day to get past this and I'll get back to a regular blog.  Thanks for sticking with me.

 

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Time

I would like to thank my on-line friends who have sent kind words via e-mail, Facebook, and this blog on the passing of my dear mum-in-law.  I hope to get caught up on reading and commenting on your blogs in the next couple days.

At some point in the coming weeks, I'm going to tell you about her, a little snippet of her life story.  She was a very special lady. In the meantime, I just want to share this...


I thought we had more time.
The doctors said it would be weeks,
Not days. Not hours.
Not now.

There were things I planned to do.
Take a notebook with me,
Ask her questions about the old days,
And write down the answers this time.

She asked me to bring her a card
For her great-grandson's birthday next month,
So she could sign it
Just in case.

I asked her about stuffed pancakes
From Bob Evans.
I would bring her some on Sunday.
She said that would be nice.

I thought there would be warning signs
That would tell us to stay there,
Close beside her,
Holding her hands.

Not a phone call in the night,
Not a stranger's voice
Telling me
She was already gone.

I thought we had more time.


Ja chi kochem, Babcia.


Quote of the day: Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a headstone in Ireland

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sitting on the Floor

I'm not a poet.  I don't write poetry, rarely read it, never studied it, and the only rules of poetry I know is the 5, 7, 5 count in Haiku.  But as I was sitting in the vet's office this morning, this came to me almost intact.  And since I have no bright ideas for a Wednesday blog (and no time to come up with any), I'm offering this.

I sit on the floor
Of the examining room
With her.
There's a chair,
A hard wooden one.
But there's no room
For her to sit beside me.
And she's too big
To perch in my lap.
So I sit on the floor.

She's afraid.
We’ve been coming here
Every week for many weeks.
But last week
I went away
And left her alone
With these kind strangers.
They put her to sleep
And when she awoke,
Her world was different.

She's afraid.
When she walks,
Things hit her.
Things she cannot see.
She doesn’t understand
That her eye is sewn shut
To protect the inner stitches.
The doctor’s careful work,
Trying to save her eye
So it doesn’t have to be sewn shut
Forever.

She's afraid.
I see it in her trembling,
In the way she pants.
I tell her it’s okay.
Just a re-check today.
He’s just going to look,
I’m not going to leave her.
But my words mean nothing.
She presses against me
Seeking comfort.

She's afraid.
So I sit on the floor
With her.

 
Okay, as I said, I'm not a poet.  I just felt like writing this.  Do you ever get the urge to write something that's not at all your thing?  Different form, different genre?  How does it turn out?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 110,937. (Did you notice?  I actually squeezed in a little re-write time this weekend.  Finally got under 111,000.)

I'm currently enjoying: Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Quote of the day:  A poem begins with a lump in the throat. - Robert Frost

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pieces and Parts

Aw, phooey.  My weekend ended up being consumed by visits to Hospice, grandkids, post-op pooch care, and trying to keep the house one step ahead of the health department.   No writing time and only managed a couple comments to my blog friends (my apologies to the ones I missed). 

But I am determined to at least get in a blog post for Monday morning, so here goes.

A question for writers: How do you keep track of all the pieces and parts in your stories?  I'm talking about different storylines, characters, etc.; making sure each one gets enough time and re-appears at reasonable intervals.  I use a rainbow.

I'm a plotter.  I've got most of my story worked out from the beginning, although I revise and re-write a lot as I go.  On my monitor I have two Word windows open...one for the story and one with a running timeline which includes a quick mention of every scene.  On the timeline I use the Word highlighting tool to mark each scene according to whether it's part of the main plot or a subplot (and which one).  I also color code things like "cop work", romance, backstory, clues, and certain characters who are important but remain in the background most of the time.  The colors let me see where I am on balance and spacing so I can make adjustments as I go.  Sometimes a storyline needs more attention, sometimes it needs to be trimmed, sometimes it needs to be cut completely.  Or my rainbow may show me where I need to rearrange scenes, i.e I've got too many blues together, I need to slip the red scene in between. 

So, what about you?  How do you keep track of all your pieces and parts?  Any other rainbow users out there?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 111,618. (If I don't manage to get some serious editing done soon, I'm going to be too embarrassed to keep this line in my blog.)

I'm currently enjoying: Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Quote of the day: “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true” - Lyman Frank Baum

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Eye of the Dog

No, this isn't like the hair of the dog.  Although I've needed that more than a couple times.

My regular followers know we been trying for a couple weeks to save the eye of my poor Brandi, who developed an ulcerated cornea.  On Monday, our vet performed a surgery that I found so remarkable, I want to share it.  Note to the squeamish: I'm going to try not to get too graphic here but if hearing about surgeries and such turns you off, you might want to skip the next couple paragraphs. (Thanks, Maria.)

The ulcer has created a hole in the front surface of the eyeball which was being plugged from within by a very thin inner membrane. If that final membrane gave out, the fluid inside the eyeball would leak out and the eye would have to be removed.  Do keep that from happening, the vet created a flap graph from the membrane in the corner of her eye.  He pulled the flap over the center of the eye and stitched to the surface of the eyeball, covering the hole made by the ulcer.  The needle used for this suturing is the thickness of a human hair.  Then he closed her inner eyelid (the canine "third lid") and stiched it shut to protect the graph.

The graph will continue to receive a blood supply through the flap connection until it attaches itself to the surface of the eye.  If all goes well, it will become part of the surface of the eye and serve as a permanent patch over the hole. Once the orignal blood supply is no longer needed, the vet will snip away the flap part and the corner of the eye will heal on its own.  The sutures holding the eyelid shut come out in the couple weeks. The ones on the graph a couple weeks after that.

When everything has healed, we will see a small gray spot on Brandi's eye and she'll see a small shadow but other than that, she'll have her eye and her vision.  As I said, remarkable.

In the meantime, she's a one eye dog and it's got her pretty confused. She bangs her head into things on that side because she can't tell where they are.  I expect her to be adjusting right about the time the first stitches come out.

Now, as long as no one tells my husband what I paid for this little miracle, everything will be fine.

How about you?  Ever gone way above and beyond for an animal you loved?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 111,618. (I'm at a dead stop here.  Muse is working fine, life keeps intruding.)

I'm currently enjoying: Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Quote of the day: “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” - Roger Caras

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Banned Book Week

Several of the blogs I follow have posted on this but I think it's worth another mention.  Please check out these excellent blogs on the subject: Terry's Place and Sierra Godfrey.

To me, the reasons against banning books are self-evident.  Freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas must not be controlled or denied.   If you disapprove of a book - don't read it.  That's your right.  If you find it objectionable and don't want you child to read it, don't let him/her.  As a parent, that is also your right.  But denying others access to that book because of your opinion?  Not right. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Are We Missing a Segment of Readers?

I was in my local Barnes and Noble today and I made an interesting discovery.  There is a distinct lack of books for sixth grade boys.  The "young readers" department stops at the grade five reading level and jumps directly to the "teen" or YA books.

My eldest grandson is eleven and in sixth grade.  He's in the advanced program at school and has no trouble with the YA reading level - he's read all the Twilight series and Patterson's Maximum Ride's - but the content or subject matter in the majority of the books I looked at today on the teen shelf were not geared to and/or not appropriate for his age.  Except for fantasy (Dragons or Vampires), there was a very small selection.

There seemed to be a larger selection for age eleven, sixth grade girls (I've got one of those, too).

Help me out here.  Is it just me?  Is my local B&N poorly stocked?  Or are we overlooking a segment of the reading public?  Does anyone have any good book recommendations for a jr. high level boy?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 111,618. (Haven't had a chance to write yet the weekend.  Very frustratng.)

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished Weeding Out Trouble by Heather Webber  - Wish I had discovered the Nina Quinn series back in the day.  And I still haven't gotten it back to the library.  (Oh, the fines, the fines.)

Quote of the day: Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore? - Henry Ward Beecher

Friday, September 24, 2010

O Hell, Is It Friday Already?

Oh, hell!  It's time for a Friday blog.  Friday always sneaks up on me because my grandson spends the night on Thursdays (how great is that?) so my evening is focused on him.

He had a tough homework assignment tomight. A sudoku puzzle using nine vocabulary words instead of numbers.  He asked for my help but I got stumped, too.  Then I came up with the bright idea of numbering the words, taking a fresh piece of paper and starting over using just the numbers.  Solved it that way.  Why is it easier to work a suduko with numbers instead of words?

I got this picture in an e-mail yesterday.  Cracked me up.



 
Got some good news at the vet this morning.  Based on Chance's chest x-ray, the vet revised his "how long does he have?" estimate from six months to a year.  And Brandi will be having surgery on Monday - but not to remove her eye.  Since it's lasted this long, they're going to try a surgical repair to save it.  Keep your fingers crossed for her.
 
My youngest granddaughter will turn nine tomorrow.  Hot item on her wish list...silly bands.  Can someone explain the attraction here?  These are rubber bands that the kids wear on their wrist that happen to go back into some shape when they take them off.  They're got sports shapes and animal shapes and stars and whatever.  And the kids are crazy about them.  Seriously.  I don't get it.
 
Really hoping I can work in some writing time this weekend.  I've got a re-write idea percolating and I need a chunk of time to play with it.

Friday....  I sure was planning to get a lot more stuff done this week.  Oh well.
 
I want to stick a serious note in here to my small band of followers.  I'm going to do my best to keep up with my blog and to read and comment on yours, but if I fall off a bit, please stay with me.  We moved my dear mum-in-law to a hospice facility this week and I'm dividing most of my time between work and being with her. 

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 111,618. (Sadly, unchanged from Wednesday but it should be better on Monday.)

I'm currently enjoying: Weeding Out Trouble by Heather Webber (Thought I'd get to finish it tonight but that dang suduko got in the way.  And, yup, it's still overdue at the library.) 

Quote of the day: Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise.  -  H. G. Wells