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

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.


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.


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!!


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 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.