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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Introducing....Small Tales!

It's a BIG DAY!!!  The Small Tales Editorial Board (of which I am a part) is very excited to introduce Small Tales!  So who or what is Small Tales?  Small Tales is a new anthology of cross-genre short stories. And we're open to submissions.

Small Tales is run by writers, for writers and readers. We are Sierra GodfreyMC Howe, Vince FerraroMike Chen, and Linda Leszczuk.

Small Tales will be published electronically, and will feature short stories up to 5000 words in length in all genres (except erotica).  No poetry, please. Our idea is to present good fiction, laid out in easy to read style, in PDF or e-reader format.

Small Tales will be published in August 2011. We're really excited about putting together a collection of good stories, and would love your submission. See our Submissions  page for info on submitting.

Have any questions about Small Tales, how was it formed, or what the process will be? Leave a comment!

 I'm currently enjoying: Deadly Lies by Cynthia Eden

Groaner of the day: The Revolutionary War was over and General Washington called the troops together to address them saying: "Men, the country must be kept safe. Accordingly, I am ordering that the active duty regulars are to stand duty from Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday the National Guard and Reserves will worry about our new nations security."

And so it was, and from that day to this, the National Guard and Reserves have been known as Weekend Worriers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Flowcharting - the Techie's Plotting

Once upon a time I wrote - not mysteries, not sci fi, not romance - computer programs.  I designed and wrote the code for a number of software applications.  I'm talking old school programming here, very linear. Point A to point B to point C. 

One of the standard tools of programming was the flowchart.  A simple diagram that showed process,  decision points, alternate paths/actions,etc.  Done correctly, the flowchart would anticipate any variable that the program or process might encounter and provide a suitable response.  It could even include sub-routines that the program could branch onto to accomplish specific tasks and then return to the main program.

Now I'm writing fiction.  And I'm the first to admit, I'm a plotter, not a pantser.  But as I read and study plot and structure, I realize there's an awful lot of similarity between plotting and flowcharting.  A good flowchart gives direction, allows for variables, provides decision points, offers alternate actions, incorporates sub-routines, and keeps the programmer on track so the code is tight and effective.

Sound familiar?  At least to you plotters, it should.

Oddly enough, I hadn't thought about flowcharting my WIP until I began to have trouble with my plot.  I know everything that needs to happen, I'm just having trouble arranging the sequences.  When a friend asked me what wasn't working; I told her it just didn't flow well.  Flow?  Well, duh.  Guess what I'm going to try next.

How about you?  Ever used a flowchart?  Ever thought about using one to create a plot?  Did you know there are tons of free flowcharting tools (including templates to get you started) available on line? 

Special Note:  A very Happy Birthday to my friend, Maria Zannini.  Stop by her blog today and wish her a happy.

My current word count: 31,131

I'm currently enjoying: Deadly Heat by Cynthia Eden

Groaner of the day: Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Sillies - The Easy Way

Hey, it's Friday.  I don't want you to work too hard at the end of your long week so today's sillies are pre-captioned for you.  Just look, laugh, and enjoy.

Hope they gave you a laugh.  So...what's on your agenda for this weekend?

Groaner of the Day:  I was traveling to Seattle on business. Knowing how the weather is up there (and lacking the proper clothing), I went to a local outdoor shop for a inclement weather clothing. Not finding what I was looking for, I went to another. Then, another. Finally, a salesman suggested that I go to Rudolph's.

"Rudolph's?" I said, surprised. "Do you mean the Russian specialty store?"

To which the salesman answered, "Oh yeah. Rudolph, the Red, knows rain gear."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Addition to Previous Post - By Request

Greg doesn't blog - or follow mine - so I should be safe posting this.  You are all sworn to secrecy.  Come on now, cross those hearts.

(Wasn't he cute?)

If you haven't seen the previous post, click here.

Happy Birthday to My First Born

I had a different post in mind for today, about linear programming and plotting a story.  But I'm waxing nolstalgic right now and I'm going to beg your indulgence.

Thirty nine years ago this morning I gave birth to a son. He was my first born and he was healthy and beautiful. He had wispy blond hair and big blue eyes. He’d been a breech birth so his head was not misshapen nor his face bruised. He was perfect.

As he got older, that whole perfect thing faded a bit.  I don't think it was a coincidence that my hair starting turning gray when he was a teenager. He never got in real trouble, but he certainly danced around the edges.  He pulled it together in college and was lucky enough to find a terrific young woman who was willing to put up with him.  (Okay, we sent her checks and begged her to take him.)
Together they produced two of my exceptional grandchildren.  

They live about an hour away, so I don't see him every day but he phones me often, just checking in or sharing something about the kids or maybe with a joke he's heard.  He always knows how to make me laugh.  (Come to think of it, that may be how he survived his teen years.)

I got to see him this weekend. Twice, in fact. At my granddaughter's play on Saturday and my grandson's lacrosse games on Sunday.  My son is the coach for the lacrosse team. He roamed the side lines, yelling instructions, no megaphone needed (it's a standing joke -my boy has great lungs).  And I watched him and thought about the man he has become.  A good man - successful in his career, devoted to his family, caring of his friends. Can I take credit?  Probably not.  But I remember that day, thirty nine years ago, and all the years that passed since then, and I look at him now.  And I'm really damn proud.

Happy Birthday, Greg.

My current word count: 31,131

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished Treachery in Death by JD Robb

Groaner of the day: When the driver of a huge trailer lost control of his rig, he plowed into an empty tollbooth and smashed it to pieces. He climbed down from the wreckage and within a matter of minutes, a truck pulled up and discharged a crew of workers. The men picked up each broken piece of the former tollbooth and spread some kind of creamy substance on it. Then they began fitting the pieces together. In less than a half hour, they had the entire tollbooth reconstructed and looking good as new.

Astonishing!" the truck driver said to the crew chief. "What was the white stuff you used to get all the pieces together?"

The crew chief said, "Oh, that was tollgate booth paste."

Monday, March 21, 2011

And the Winner Is...

My thanks to everyone who visited and left comments on last Friday's post.  You come up with some of the greatest captions!!  I couldn't possibly choose the best one so I selected the winner by simple drawing.  Congratulations to Becky Barton.  Becky chose as her prize a copy of 16 LIGHTHOUSE ROAD by Debbie Macomber.

Since, in my infinite wisdom, I neglected to ask my captioners to leave their e-mail addresses, I tracked Becky down on Facebook.  That's what I get for trying to do a spontaneous contest.

And I'm cheating a bit today, since it's already after 10:00 (PM), and letting this be my post for the day.

Nah, I've got to include this - Got to see all four grandkids this weekend.  Saturday morning, older grandson, final basketball game of the season, they won in double overtime.  Saturday afternoon, younger granddaughter, last basketball game of the season, single overtime, called as a tie.  Saturday evening, older granddaughter, fantastic performance in her school musical.  Sunday afternoon, younger grandson, back to back lacrosse games, won them both, both shut outs, and he scored in both games.  Almost more excitement than my heart could stand.

So, what fun things did you do over the weekend?

My current word count: 31,131

I'm currently enjoying: Treachery in Death by JD Robb

Groaner of the day: The jockey saw the horse groom sprinkling something behind his horse's neck. "What's that?" asked the jockey.

"It's yeast", answered the groom. "This will discourage birds from mistakenly building nests in your horse's beautiful mane."

"Will that really work?" asked the jockey.

"Of course!" replied the groom, "for yeast is yeast and nest is nest, and never the mane shall tweet."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Caption Time

My favorite Friday fun post - caption time.  I've got some great pictures for you, so let's see everyone's best captions.  Tell you what - you come up with some good captions and I'll come up with a prize.  Or better still, a choice of prizes.







Okay, let's see what you've got.

Hope everyone has a terrific weekend.

My current word count: 31,131

I'm currently enjoying: The Treasures of Carmelidrium by N. R. Williams

Groaner of the day: A mechanic who worked out of his home had a dog named Mace. Mace had a bad habit of eating all the grass on the mechanic's lawn, so the mechanic had to keep Mace inside.

The grass eventually became overgrown. One day the mechanic was working on a car in the backyard and dropped his wrench, losing it in the tall grass. He couldn't find it for the life of him, so he decided to call it a day.

That night, Mace escaped from the house and ate all the grass in the backyard. The next morning the mechanic went outside and saw his wrench glinting in the sunlight.

Realizing what had happened he looked toward the heavens and proclaimed, "A grazing Mace, how sweet the hound, that saved a wrench for me!"

(oh, that's so bad)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't You Dare Not Be Proud

This is supposed to be my mostly about writing blog but I received this yesterday and I just feel the need to pass it along.

Written by Chaplain Jim Higgins. LSA Anaconda is at the Ballad Airport in Iraq, north of Baghdad:

I recently attended a showing of 'Superman 3' here at LSA Anaconda. We have a large auditorium we use for movies, as well as memorial services and other large gatherings. As is the custom at all military bases, we stood to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going well until three-quarters of the way through The National Anthem, the music stopped.

Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments, and everyone would sit down and yell for the movie to begin. Of course, that is, if they had stood for the National Anthem in the first place.

Here in Iraq, 1,000 Soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward. The music started again and the Soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. But again, at the same point, the music stopped. What would you expect 1000 Soldiers standing at attention to do? Frankly, I expected some laughter, and everyone would eventually sit down and wait for the movie to start.

But no. You could have heard a pin drop, while every Soldier continued to stand at attention. Suddenly, there was a lone voice from the front of the auditorium, then a dozen voices, and soon the room was filled with the voices of a thousand soldiers, finishing where the recording left off:

"And the rockets' red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave,
o'er the land of the free,
and the home of the brave."

It was the most inspiring moment I have had in Iraq and I wanted you to know what kind of Soldiers are serving you. Remember them as they fight for us!

I can't think of a thing to add except - God bless them all.

My current word count: 30,877 (Doing lots of plot revisions. Unfortunately, that doesn't add to the word count.)

I'm currently enjoying: The Treasures of Carmelidrium by N. R. Williams

Groaner of the day: A husband stood in front of the bathroom mirror, carefully flossing his teeth. "Ooh!" he would sigh every once in a while, or "Aaah!" as the little thread did its work.

Suddenly and seemingly without provocation, his wife stomped into the bathroom and gave him a swift kick.

Bewildered, the husband demanded, "What was that for ?"

I'm sorry, "his wife replied stiffly, ... "but I just don't believe in sighing flossers."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Keeping Track of When, What, and Where

After writing in a vacuum most of my life, I'm really trying to move out into the big wide world.  I've joined a few writer's organizations which means I'm plugged into quite a few e-mail lists, and I'm receiving a lot of great information.  In fact, I'm receiving so much great information, it's almost impossible to keep track of it all.

One of the real challenges is steady stream of notices on conferences, contests, workshops, etc.  Since my overall gameplan includes participating in some of these, I want to keep this information, but hanging on to all the e-mails gets a little unruly.  Even sorting them into folders doesn't quite work because they tend to get buried.

So this weekend I created a spreadsheet.  I have a section for conferences, one for contests, one for workshops, even one for calls for submissions.  For conferences, for example,  I have the name, place, dates, fees, genre, a couple Y/N fields for my own interests, and the website link.   I can arrange them by date and use that overview to plan what I want to attend this year.  Hopefully, as new e-mails come in, I can quickly add a line to the spreadsheet and keep my inbox from 'runnething' over. 

How about you?  How do you keep track of these things?

Just a note, I updated my website this weekend as well.  It still needs a lot of work - I have no graphics (as in none) to speak of - but I updated the content with some current excerpts and added a couple short pieces.  If you have a chance check it out and let me know what you think.  And I'll let you know when I've added the bells and whistles.  The link is on the upper right of this page.

My current word count: 30,877 (Doing lots of plot revisions.  Unfortunately, that doesn't add to the word count.)

I'm currently enjoying: The Treasures of Carmelidrium by N. R. Williams

Groaner of the day: One day, a man from the Czech Republic came to visit his friend in New York. When asked what he wanted to see, the visitor replied, "I would like to see one of the zoos in America."

To his delight, the New Yorker took him to the Bronx Zoo. They were touring the zoo, and standing in front of the gorilla cage, when one of the gorillas busted out of the cage and swallowed the Czech whole. Shocked, his friend from New York quickly called the zoo keeper. He explained the situation and the zoo keeper immediately took steps to save the man's friend. The zoo keeper got an axe and asked the man, "OK, which gorilla did it? Was it the male or the female?" The New Yorker pointed out the female as the culprit. Quickly, the zoo keeper split the female gorilla open and found nothing of the Czech.

He looked at the man from New York, who shrugged and said, "Guess the Czech is in the male."

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Marvelous UP

Time for Friday fun.  How about another humorous look at at our wonderful English language.

But first, an important update.  Our friend Stephanie (that's her on her bike) made such great strides this week, she's been transferred from the hospital to a rehab facility.  She also spoke her first words and ate her first soft foods (bye bye, feeding tube).  It's really nothing short of a miracle.  My thanks to you all for your prayers and good wishes.

Now, on with the show.  Our star today is that marvelous word - UP.

This two-letter word more meanings than any other two-letter word in the English dictionary. It is listed as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? We speak UP, officers are UP for election and it's UP to the secretary to write UP a report.

We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and fix UP the old car.

At other times this little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP . When it rains, it soaks UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on & on, but I'll wrap it UP for now time is UP!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

My current word count: 30,877 (Yes, this is the same as on Monday.  Sometimes life intrudes.)

I'm currently enjoying: The Treasures of Carmelidrium by N. R. Williams

Groaner of the day: There was a tradesman, a painter called Jock, who was very interested in making a penny where he could, so he often would thin down paint to make it go a wee bit further. As it happened, he got away with this for some time.  When the Baptist Church decided to re-paint one their biggest churches,Jock put in a bid, and because his price was so low, he got the job. So he set to erecting the trestles and setting up the planks, buying the paint and, yes, I am sorry to say, thinning it down with the turpentine.

Well, Jock was up on the scaffolding, painting away, the job nearly completed when suddenly there was a horrendous clap of thunder and the sky opened.  The rain poured down, washing the thinned paint from all over the church and knocking Jock clear off the scaffold to land on the lawn, surrounded by telltale puddles of the thinned and useless paint. Jock was no fool. He knew this was a judgment from the Almighty, so he got on his knees and cried: “Oh, God! Forgive me! What should I do?”

And from the thunder, a mighty voice spoke, “Repaint! Repaint! and thin no more!!”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


To my friends and faithful followers, my apologies.  At the start of 2011, I promised to faithfully post to this blog every M-W-F.  Today you get, not a true post, but a quick explanation.

My son had a bit of a disaster on Sunday, his sump pump failed (in the middle of widespread flooding) and his beatiful finished basement was underwater.  I spend most of Sunday bailing like mad, trying to stay ahead of the water while father and son tried to get a new pump installed.  The pump is in and the water is out but now we're in recovery/salvage mode.  So I'm spending all my time at his place and all my writing is on hold.

Hopefully, things will be better and I'll be back on Friday.  Think dry thoughts for us.

Monday, March 7, 2011

As Clear as Mud - The New World of Publishing

There is a line in the long running play Chorus Line, spoken by a young dancer, which goes something like, "Don't tell me Broadway is dead.  I just got here."

Sometimes I feel a little like that.  I finally have the chance to throw myself full time into my life long dream - that of seeing my book on the shelf of my local bookstore - and all I hear is bookstores are dying and good old fashioned books aren't far behind.  The reality of the future is the e-book. 

I'm trying to adjust.  I have a Nook.  It's not my favorite way to read but I do use it.  And I know several authors who have books out that were published in e-format only.  It's a legitimate form of publication.  But hope springs eternal and I'm still hoping to someday see my words in print.  Old fashioned print...on paper.

Unfortunately, everything I'm reading these days says the sad state of the brick and mortar bookstore is impacting the publishing world as well.  With less store shelves to fill, publishers will be publishing fewer books, especially from new and mid-list authors, and many may be published in e-format only.  Also, publishers are expecting authors do to more self-promoting and marketing these days.  This is leading a lot of authors to consider the option of self-publishing online.  Cut out the middle man (the publisher) altogether.  Increase the author's profits. 

I see the logic in it.  But to me the whole idea of "being published" has always meant someone, a professional in the publishing business, thought something I wrote was worth publishing.  That was a biggie.  Even if it wasn't a best seller (hey, we're talking dreams here) I would still be able to say, "Yes, I had a book published."  Putting it out there myself would feel a bit like selling my work at a garage sale because it wasn't good enough for a store.

I have concerns from a reader's perspective as well.  When I go into a book store or a library looking for something to read, I know I'm choosing among books that some professional editors/publishers thought were good enough to print.  Will I always agree?  Of course not.  But I will have a baseline level of expectation.  If I'm shopping online in a sea of self-published books, how much time will I have to waste separating the carefully crafted novel from sloppy first draft someone threw together and figured was good enough to put out there?  If this becomes an issue, will e-book sellers offer readers the option of shopping for "published"  e-books only and, if so, what would that do to the self-published market?

Lots of questions.  Very few answers.  What are your thoughts?

My current word count: 30,877 (took a writing break and editing those first 100 pages)

I'm currently enjoying: Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters (poor Peabody, I've left her in the desert with no reading time to bring her home)

Groaner of the day: A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him.

Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest, and writers cramp.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Classic Insults

Okay, it's Friday and that means something silly on my blog.  Instead of adorable pictures or a funny video, today I offer something playfully nasty - a dozen classic insults.

An exchange between Winston Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison."
He said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend ... if you have one." -George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second ... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." -Groucho Marx

I'm also happy to share some good news.  Our friend Stephanie who was critically injured in a bike/auto accident two weeks ago is not only still with us but opened her eyes yesterday, nodded to her parents that she recognized them and squeezed their hands.  My thanks again to all who offered prayers for Steph.  She's got a long road ahead of her but things are looking very hopeful.  Thank the Lord.

Have a great weekend.

My current word count: 30,858

I'm currently enjoying: Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters (poor Peabody, I've left her in the desert with no reading time to bring her home)

Groaner of the day: (After all these classics, I'll make this a short one.)  My cousin had an exorcism but couldn't afford to pay for it, so she was re-possessed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Red Headed Nephew

In my quest to take advantage of the information and support available to fledgling authors online, I've join several writer's organizations and support groups.  Not surprisingly, many of these are genre specific, Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, etc., and within these are smaller groups dedicated to specific sub-genres.

My current WIP is a sci fi with a strong romantic element.  It would probably qualify as a sci fi romance.  Except...of all the sub-genres identified under the romance genre - and there are plenty - there doesn't seem to be one for sci fi.  The closest is "Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal."   It's pretty much the same for the mystery sub-genres.  Paranormal, time-travel, futuristic, but no sci fi.

Well, doesn't the F, F & P umbrella cover sci fi?  Not exactly.  Or at least not completely.  Fantasy would be mystical creatures and/or other worlds.  Futuristic would have to be, well, in the future.  Paranormal includes vampires and werewolves and even ghosts.  But not aliens.

My aliens are here.  In this world.  In this time.  Not quite fantasy, not futuristic at all, and, by all the definititions I've come up with, not considered paranormal.  It seems as though non-futuristic sci fi is like the redheaded nephew at the family reunion.  Sure, he's part of the family, but no one wants to claim him.

What is your take on this?  Where do you think the little redhead fits in?  Is there a place in our world for sparkly vampires but not extra-terrestrials?

By the way, I squeaked in just under the wire on my 30,000 Words in February challenge.  30,056 words with 15 minutes to spare.

My current word count: 30,773

I'm currently enjoying: Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters (poor Peabody, I've left her in the desert with no reading time to bring her home)

Groaner of the day: Scientists have announced that we have made contact with an alien race whose planet is entirely covered by one gigantic shopping center.

The sceptical scientists didn't believe it at first, but they've now's a mall world after all.