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

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Fun - No Work This Week

Friday fun and total relaxation day. No work for you this week. Here's a few pictures for you to enjoy with the captions aready provided.


Did you have a favorite?

Any plans for the weekend? 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those touched by the devastating storms that struck so many communities this week.

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett (Mugged my grandson to get my Nook back.)

Groaner of the Day: This English landlady had a couple of struggling poets for tenants.

When the poor fellows got behind in their rent, and the landlady was unable to have them evicted. Instead, she decided to murder them.

She baked a large scone and put some poison in it, then invited the poets down for tea. She served each of the chaps a cup of tea and half the scone. The poison worked as advertised, but of course crime does not pay, and the awful woman was soon arrested.

Feigning innocence, she demanded to know with what she was being charged.

The police inspector replied: "Well, it seems, madam, that you have killed two bards with one scone!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sub-genres - Now There's a Mystery

Like a lot of writers, I belong to several writing groups that maintain e-mail lists for exchanging information, questions, support, etc.  I have one that falls under the parent organization Sisters in Crime (mystery writers) and one whose mama-ship is Romance Writers of America - because sometimes it's a thin line between a "mystery with a strong romantic element" and a "romantic suspense".

The other day, a member of the mystery group posed a question about mystery sub-genres, asking for a list and some definitions.  Oddly enough, there wasn't the usual stream of responses.  In fact, there weren't any.  That struck my as odd.  In Romance, things seem clearer.  Pretty much every other chapter of RWA holds an annual writing contest and they all use the same sub categories:

Romantic Suspense
Young Adult
Single Title

So what about mysteries?  I did a little online digging and came up with these (all were on at least three of the many lists I found):
Amateur Detective
Classic Whodunit
Comic (Bumbling Detective)
Courtroom Drama
Dark Thriller
Hard-boiled (noir)
Heists and Capers
Inverted (howdunit)
Locked Room
Police Procedural
Private Detective
Psychological Suspense
Woman/Child in Jeopardy

Wow.  That's quite a list.  And I imagine a lot of mysteries have elements of more than one category, right?  So what difference does it make?  Well, the problem comes when the author is trying to describe a book to an agent or an agent to a publisher or a publisher to a bookseller or a bookseller to a buyer.  They all have to answer one question, "What is it?" 

And the answer is supposed to fit someplace on that lovely list.

Oh.  Well, it's a Paranormal Private Detective Thriller with a Romantic Woman in Jeopardy.  Sort of.  I guess.

Think about some of your favorite mysteries.  Where would they fit on the list?  Would they fit somewhere on that list?  I'll bet you have some that do and others that need a description like the one in the paragraph above.  Can you share an example of a multi-sub-genre mystery you've enjoyed?

As a writer, do you try to write to a sub-genre/category?  As a reader, do you choose books based on that sort of label?

Note:  Follow up to my Monday post - as I write this, we're in the middle of another torrential downpour.  Still on target to break the record for the wettest April ever.

I'm currently enjoying: Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett  (I could have finished this last night but my grandson started playing with my Nook, got caught up in the story, and wouldn't give it back to me.)

Groaner of the Day: A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However," he pointed out, "there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up "Yeah, right."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Soggy Monday Moaning

 It's raining here.  Pouring.  Again.  Still.  Water races down the street in front of my house, spraying high as the cars splash through.  I expect to see boats launched on the flooded side streets.

The flash flood warning symbol has become a permanent fixture in the lower right corner of our TV screen.  At least three family members have had water problems at home - basement, windows, and/or roofs.  People in the area are starting to Google plans for an arc.

My poor dog sits with her legs crossed, trying to put off her next trip outside.  She's not big on dancing (or peeing) in the rain.

In fact, Gene Kelly would be loving this weather.  The rest of us - not so much. 

But this could be a good thing.  I'm still behind in all things writing (crit group, on line class, blogs, and my WIP) - maybe the rain will keep me at my computer and I can get something done.

So, how are things in your neck of the woods?

I'm currently enjoying:  Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett

Groaner of the Day: A software engineer tests new programs by seeing if they're simple enough for his computer-challenged brother to use.

This is known as the "Brother-can-use paradigm".

(Bet you have to say this one out loud a couple times to get it.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hairball - A True Story

Something different for a Friday funny.  A true story...

My buddy Donna and I have always been each other’s pet sitters. I have dogs, she has cats. Usually, I get the better of the deal—cats are pretty easy. But last summer Donna informed me she was planning on boarding her cats.


“Well, you know Hazel is diabetic now,” Donna reminded me. “She has to have insulin shots twice a day. I can’t let you do that.”

Hmmm. Part of me wholeheartedly agreed. I wasn’t interested in wrestling with an angry cat twice a day for two weeks, fighting to stick her with a needle. But still, our own vacation was coming up the following month. I’d feel pretty scummy asking Donna to watch my dogs—who were a lot more trouble—if I hadn’t done the same for her cats.

“How hard is it? Does she fight getting the shots?” Stupid question. I fight getting shots.

“No. Not really. If I put out her food first, I can usually slip her the shot while she’s eating and she doesn’t seem to notice.”

Ah. A sneak attack. I’m pretty good at those.

So we agreed to give it a couple dry runs and, if they went well, the cats would stay home and I’d just add giving insulin shots to the twice a day feeding routine.

Actually, it was a piece of cake. For the first four days, I got the pre-loaded syringe out of the fridge, set out the little plate of canned cat food, and while Hazel was busy chowing down, I pulled up the scruff of her neck, eased in the needle, and pushed the plunger home. As promised, she never even noticed.

It was the morning of day five, usual routine. Food was down. Cats were eating. I had a bit of Hazel’s scruff between my finger and thumb, pushing the plunger home, when I realized something. The needle had passed through Hazel and was embedded in my thumb, where I was happily injecting myself with feline insulin. I pulled the needle out of both Hazel and myself and stood there.

Now what?

What do I do about Hazel? Did she get any of that insulin before the needle moved on from her to me? If I give her a second dose will it be too much? If I don’t, will she go into some kind of diabetic shock? Am I going to suddenly start meowing? And why does Donna always vacation up at that stupid lake where there are no phones and no cell coverage?

I made a couple emergency phone calls and—after some totally unnecessary laughter—was advised to skip the rest of Hazel’s morning shot and give her the usual dose in the evening. I also received two comments about my drinking so early in the morning and the information that I can’t get high off feline insulin so I’d have to try some other way.

So, all in all, no harm done. Hazel survived and I was able to dump my dog-watching duties on Donna the following month with a clear conscience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel a hairball coming on.

Have a wonderful Easter.

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Groaner of the day: (After that story of mine, I'll make this a short one.)  I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. It's impossible to put down.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stormy Weather

There have been lots of posts/comments the last few days about wild weather and my little corner of the world was no exception.  We've had high winds, heavy rain, some hail, several tornado warnings (one touched down on the other side of town) and lots of flooding.  Plus there was a lightning strike that hit close enough to give me tinglies I could still feel a half hour later.

Then there was another kind of storm.  Out of town family.  My sister-in-law, my niece, and my three grand-nieces, age 9, 5, and 2.  The girls are all adorable, of course, and it was wonderful to see everyone - but talking about whirlwinds...   Did I mention they are 9, 5, and 2?

My grandkids are older.  I'd forgotten.

So I'm trying to catch up on e-mail and blog reading/commenting. 

Did I miss anything?

I'm currently enjoying: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Groaner of the day: A lion tamer is walking a lion around downtown New York when he gets a call on his cell phone from the big cat's owner. The owner is on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, and wants the tamer to bring the lion up so it can see the city.

On the ride up in the elevator, the animal becomes frightened, and attacks the tamer, mauling him severely.  When they get off, the owner says to the tamer: "Boy, you look awful!"

The tamer replies: "I'll tell you one thing, chief, I'm not taking this lion down!"

Monday, April 18, 2011


Congratulations to Dru - winner of Friday's Caption Contest.  I've contacted Dru about her choice of prizes.  Thanks to all who commented and/or left captions.

I had a bit of a downer a couple days ago.  Received a rejection on a short story I'd submitted to a national magazine.  It wasn't the rejection that stung so much as the timing.  The submission guidelines gave a three month turn-around time on responses.  Mine took less than two weeks.  Evidently, the first person to read it gave it a thumbs down and immediately hit the 'send rejection' button (one of the drawbacks of electronic submissions).

Of course, I knew the odds of getting accepted were small. I really did. But I still hoped.  Anything's possible, after all.  That's when I realized it wasn't just the rejection that brought me down, it was the loss of possibilities.  When writers drop a submission in the mail or hit the send button, we enter that beautiful world of possibilities.  We could get form rejection.  Or it could be something else.  A request to see more.  A suggestion to change this or that and re-submit.  Even a "We can't use this but we like your writing.  Send more."  Or - joy of joys - "We love this."  Alleluia!  All these possibilities floating around the back of our minds, to dream about, to hope for.  A beautiful place to be.

Until that form rejection letter arrives.

I was looking forward to having three months of possibilites.   Two weeks wasn't  nearly enough time.

* sigh *

How about you?  Do you love living in the world of possibilities or would you rather know about things right away, good news or bad?

Best wishes to my Jewish friends on the beginning of Passover.  May your celebration be a joyous one.

I'm currently enjoying: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Groaner of the day: There was this guy who supported his local Little League team by making the bats for them in his woodshop. On game days, he would place the bats under a hedge near the street, and someone from the team would pick them up on the way to the ballpark.

One day, some Japanese children came to the guy's door, and asked if they might play in his yard they even offered him a Japanese dollar if he would come out and play with them. The guy agreed and joined them. He was having so much fun romping and cavorting with the children, that he completely forgot there was a game that day, didn't get the bats out, and the team had to forfeit.

The moral of the story is that if you ever get a yen to gambol, be sure to hedge your bats.

(Oh my Lord, that's awful.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday - Caption Contest Day!!

TGIF!  I hope everyone is looking forward to a great weekend.  Mother Nature is teasing us with spring weather here.  Still nippy outside but the tulips, the forsythia and all the flowering trees are in full bloom - beautiful color everywhere.

And it's time for my bi-weekly Caption Contest.  I've got some great pictures for you to caption this week.  Do one or all.  Don't forget to include your e-mail address in your comment to be included in this week's drawing for a free book (winner's choice from assorted titles).  Here are the pictures.  Have fun.






Okay, what did you come up with?

Got any plans for the weekend?

Don't forget that Small Tales - the cross-genre short story anthology - is accepting submissions until May 31.  We've love to receive one from you.

I'm currently enjoying: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Groaner of the day: The teacher asked if anyone could tell the class a story with a moral. Little Johnny volunteered the following:

"Out west, in the town of Diablo, there was a guy named Dan, who was president of the Creative Credit Loan Company. Dan was proud of being able to arrange loans for almost anyone. One day as he was locking up for the night, some tough guys accosted him and started to push him around because he was just a little guy.  They didn't know he held a Third Degree Black Belt in Karate. Dan counterattacked, and gave the tough guys a thrashing they wouldn't forget."

Said the teacher, "Good, Johnny, now tell us what is the moral of your story."

Johnny replied, "Well, the moral is, if you're ever out west, don't mess around with the loan arranger."

(Hi-O-Silver. Away!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Today I'm just rambling, thinking about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good 

A good book...  I blew off my entire day's do-list yesterday and read ONE WAS A SOLDIER by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  Wasn't planning to do that - the story was just too good to put down.  Thank you, Julia.

My local writers' group meeting last night...  I got some really useful feedback on a scene from my WIP and got to read some good stuff from the other writers. 

The Bad

My do-list...  How have I gotten so far behind?  I owe critques to my crit group, need to read submissions for the Small Tales project, my e-mail inbox runneth over, my folder of blogs I want to go back and read is bursting at the seams, I have homework to do in two online classes, and my WIP is filing charges for abandonment. (Not to mention I'm writing my Wednesday morning blog post at 3:00 on Wednesday afternoon.)

My local writers' group meeting last night...  We had a couple newer members who didn't quite grasp the concept of constructive criticism and one new writer whose work was so riddled with errors  (although the premise was intriguing) it was almost painful to read, and who explained she never worries about grammar and such, she'll let her editor take care of all that. 

The Ugly

Watching someone you love getting old...  I took my dear Brandi to the park across the street this morning.  It used to be a challenge to keep her home. She was a talented escape artist who loved to get free and run for miles.  Now I don't even need her leash.  She totters a short way, sniffing here and peeing there, then tires and turns for home. 

The start of the baseball season...  My beloved Red Sox stumbled coming out of the gate this year and look like that old lady from the TV commercial, "Help. I've fallen and I can't get up."

Anything good, bad, or ugly going on in your world ?

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished One Was a Soldier by Julie Spencer-Fleming

Groaner of the day: Don't join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Who is This Strange Person? Getting to Know Your Characters

My stories almost always begin in my mind with a tiny flash of a scene. Sometimes it will be an actual scene – I was walking through an almost deserted parking lot one very foggy evening, noticing how the street lamps played in the fog, and all of a sudden there was a man, crouching between the cars, trying to find one that was unlocked, because he was shot…yeah, that’s it…and the shooter was still after him, because he had witnessed a murder, and… Well, you know what I mean.

So I have a snippet of a scene and at least one character. Next step? Well, for me, it’s always figuring out who that character is. Before I can think about plot (and I am a plotter) I have to know my starting character; who may not even end up being my main character.

But how do I get to know this character?

I’m a pack rat. I tend to save things, anything I think will come in handy. This includes tossing interesting blogs into a Favorites folder to re-visit later. I took a look in that folder yesterday and found over a dozen blogs written about knowing your character.

Distilling them down, here are the most common methods:

Interview your character – sit down over an imaginary cup of coffee and ask them everything you want to know

Develop a detailed character history (even if little, if any, will be included in your story) - include parents, siblings, home town, childhood, education, early loves, traumatic events, dreams and plans, etc.

Write a detailed character sketch (again, go beyond what will be included in your story) – physical description, personality traits, friends, habits (including little quirks), attitudes, passions, fears, etc. I added music and sports to my list.

What I found interesting was no one suggested using faith, politics, or current social issues. I wouldn’t recommend including your character’s stand on a really divisive current social issue (unless it’s germane to your story and/or you want to alienate some potential readers) but wouldn’t it help you understand the character to know where he/she would stand and why? The same would be true of faith/religious beliefs and political leanings.  Would your character have the same stands/beliefs as you?  Why or why not?   Answering some of these questions could really help you get inside a character.

How about you? How do you get to know your characters?

I'm currently enjoying: One Was a Soldier by Julie Spencer-Fleming

Groaner of the day: No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Burning Questions of the Day

It's Friday. The end of the week. TGIF!  I know you just LOVE my Friday caption contest but it's been a long week and I'm really tired.

I thought you might be, too.

So rather than tax your brain with a lot of photos to caption, I'm going to wrap up this week by posing some very serious questions for you to ponder.

1. Is it good if a vacuum really sucks?

2. If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

3. Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack?

4. Why does "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing?

5. Why do we sing "Take me out to theball game" when we are already there?

6. Why is it called "after dark" when it really is "after light"?

7. Doesn't "expecting the unexpected" make the unexpected expected?

8. If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

Fear not. The Friday Caption Contest will return next week. are you spending your weekend?

I'm currently enjoying: Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston

Groaner of the day: For a while, Houdini used a lot of trap doors in his act, but he was just going through a stage.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Lovely Award

I actually had a post already to go for today on different methods of building characters then I received this lovely award, which has a few rules attached so I'm going to save that other post for later and enjoy this award.

The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass the award on.

Well, that first one is easy.  A big thank you to my WOWA buddie, Stacy McKitrick at Stacy's Rantings and Whatnot .

Hmmm.  7 things about myself...

1 - I'm an ice cream addict.  Which may explain why I'm always trying to lose weight.

2 - My favorite breed of dog is the American Mixed (spelled M-U-T-T).  All my dogs have come from shelters or unwanted litters, except for the one who just showed up and moved in.

3 - I'm a Red Cross disaster volunteer.  I've worked ice storms, floods, tornados, hurricanes, and the World Trade Center site after 9/11.

4 - I'm very unconfortable in strange situations or in large groups where I don't know anyone...which makes item #3 a bit more difficult.

5 - My first car, shared with my older brother, was a convertible.  My current car is a convertible.  I call it my mid-life-crisis-mobile.  I love to ride with the top down.

6 - I am a passionate Boston Red Sox fan.  And I don't want to talk about our slow start this season.

7 - I have four grandkids who are all incredibly beautiful, intelligent, talented, and generally extraordinary.  I am grateful for this because it means I don't have to make up good stuff about them.

Now - to pass this award along.  I'd like to give this award to these lovely ladies:

Maria Zannini
Liz Fichera
Mary Vaughn at Giggles and Guns
Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress
and last but certainly not least, Dru Ann Love at Notes From Me

I'm currently enjoying: Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston

Groaner of the day: Yesterday I accidentally swallowed some food coloring. The doctor says I'm OK, but I feel like I've dyed a little inside.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Ties That Bind

Congratulations to Melanie (kissablesweet1)!! She's the winner in our Caption Contest drawing. Melanie has selected as her prize, DEADLY HEAT by Cynthia Eden. Thanks to everyone who participated. You came up with some great captions.

Now on to today's topic -

We had a sad event in the family this weekend.  My dad had to have his aged cocker spaniel, Freckles, put to sleep.  I felt bad for my dad, of course, but there was something more.  Something personal.  I realized it was because Freckles had been my mom's dog, too, before Mom passed away five years ago.  Freckles had been a tie to the past for me and losing her was like losing another little piece of my mom. 

We all have them, our ties to the past.  Old friends, places we go back to, things we keep "because of the memories".  They're part of who we are.  But what about our characters?  When you're creating a character, especially a main character, do you remember to give him/her those ties that bind?  A mention of a keepsake, the story behind a favorite resturant, a reference to an old friend - even if these things don't figure prominently in your story - will give your character a sense of personal history.  So that you and your readers will remember this character's life did not begin with chapter one.

Do you add personal ties to the past for your characters?  What kind do you use?

I'm currently enjoying: Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston

Groaner of the day: The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram, and Max, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner. On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees. The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford’s office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter.

Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car. They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner, and cooled the car off immediately.

The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent. The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, “The Goldberg Air Conditioner” on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed.

Now Henry wasn't about to have anyone's name on his cars but his own.  They haggled back and forth for about two hours and finally agreed on $4 million, and that just their first names would be shown.

And so to this day, all Ford air conditioners show “Lo”, “Norm”, “Hi”, and “Max” on the controls.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Another Friday Caption Contest

Okay, it's Friday and I've got some great pictures for you.  In fact, some of these are so darn cute, the only caption I could come up with was "Awwww."  So put on your thinking caps, give me your best caption for one or all (or anything in between), and your name will go into the hat for this week's drawing.  (Please leave your e-mail address in your comment.)

But first...please notice on the upper left the logo and link to Small Tales.  If you didn't see my Wednesday post, Small Tales is a new cross-genre short story anthology created by writers and readers for writers and readers.  For readers, a collection of good stories in an assortment of genres that may include some types you haven't read before.  A chance to try something new.  For writers, a chance to show your stuff, pick up some fans, and maybe get noticed by an agent or editor. 
If you have a good story collecting dust somewhere, get it out, dust it off, and send it in.  Got an idea bouncing around the back of your mind you haven't written yet?  You've got two months to get it written, polished, and sent in.  Even if you're not interested in submitting, stop by the Small Tales blog and say hi.  It's kind of lonely being the new kid on the block.

Okay, on to this week's pictures.






Okay, let's see those captions!  And have a great weekend!

It's opening day for my Red Sox!  GO SOX!!! 

I'm currently enjoying: Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston

Groaner of the day: Ten Thousand years ago the first humans came to North America by crossing over from Russia to Alaska. They hadn't actually intended to do this. They got lost and couldn't get their Berings Strait.