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). 


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.)


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 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,
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.