Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Kindle

Yes, I broke down and bought a Kindle. I love it.

Frankly, I didn't buy it merely to read books. My main purpose was to have something to demonstrate while I gave talks on e-publishing. I've been doing that for a long time, and I had two such presentations lined up in a row. I was on a panel at the California Crime Writers Conference in Pasadena and doing a talk on e-publishing for the Public Safety Writers Association's Conference last weekend.

I downloaded Gary Phillips latest book on the Kindle because he was the moderator for the first panel. He'd never seen a Kindle so obviously not his book on one either. He was tickled.

I also purchased a couple of my own books on Kindle to see what they looked like: No Sanctuary and an old romance, Lingering Spirit.

The Kindle is great, easy to figure out and nice to read on.

The one drawback is it is far too easy to buy books. I have about six on there now. I'm saving them for when I go on a trip and that's all I have to take with me.

Because, I have a huge stack of regular books to read. I got three books from a publisher to read and review--and they are really big and rather literary, so they'll take awhile. Then, while I was at the PSWA conference I bought way too many books. When the author is there and talks about his or her book, I can't control myself. Oh, and that brings me around to one more drawback about the Kindle--you can't get the author to sign them.

Most of the big publishers haven't figured out yet that you shouldn't charge so much for books. E-publishers who have been around for a long time, know that the cost should be low if they expect to sell a lot of books. All of my publishers are putting their books on Kindle as well as all the other e-book sites. Yes, there are lots of ways to read an e-book--iPhones, iPods, Sony E-Reader and others, Kindle is not the only one.

Over the years I've had several e-readers, but you had to connect to your computer to buy a book. The Kindle is magic--you can order the book through Amazon's Internet site if you want, but you can just as easily go to the book store on the Kindle and order. In 20 seconds the books is there.

And that's what I have to say about my new Kindle.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Monday, June 29, 2009

On the Road

I’m on my Southern Book Tour. I've heard about the promotional travels that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway would take. In those days, authors would move from city to city, stay at the poshest hotels, eat five-course meals, drink to the wee hours, all at the publisher's expense, and then give thought-provoking readings of their newest works to rooms full of fans, rapt with wonder at the pearls being shared with them.

Today you’re at Motel Six with a free breakfast buffet of donuts and coffee, all on your own dime. Or more likely, you’re sitting at your desk in your pajamas and it’s a virtual book tour where you move from blog to blog.

There's something reassuring to know that whether you're on The New York Times best-seller list or still struggling to make a name for yourself, book tours are the great equalizer. Check out the fun web site, http://booktour.com/stories. Jack Getze, author of the Austin Carr mystery series, recalled a conversation he had with award-winning Robert Crais, creator of the Elvis Cole mysteries. Crais told how he recently arrived at a bookstore for a long-scheduled event, only to find the place empty and none of the sales staff aware of who he was. “When I found the manager, he offered me a job application.”

And yet, whether’s it a four-star hotel or the Holiday Inn, what makes these outings worth it are the mystery fans you meet along the way. That’s the big payoff. They love the genre and I often get fantastic suggestions for new writers to read. Of course, some of these meetings are the fodder for future book scenes. For example, I ask people in the audience to name their favorite authors. One woman detailed a lengthy list and then explained that that she used to read a certain famous writer, but had stopped because the newer books had “gotten too dark.” I agreed and laughed that I didn’t need to read books to get depressed. The woman nodded and added, “I’m on Prozac and I don't want to do anything to counteract that!”

And then there are the mega-buck payoffs (and that’s a figure of speech rather than any actual dollars). One woman told the Southern half of Evelyn David that she had never read a book for fun until she picked up our first mystery, Murder Off the Books. Reading our sequel, Murder Takes the Cake, would then be her second book finished. The idea that we might be part of the reason someone becomes a reader -- now that’s the stuff of book tours.

Here are the details of the rest of my travels. I’m bringing chocolate to all events!:

June 29, 7 pm
Middleburg Library
101 Reed Street
Middleburg, VA

June 30, Noon
Dorchester County Library
303 Gay Street
Cambridge, MD

July 1, Noon
Mystery Loves Company Bookstore
202 S. Morris Street
Oxford, MD

July 1, 7 pm
Delmar Public Library
101 N. Bi-State Boulevard
Delmar, DE

Hope to see you on the road!

Evelyn David

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thanks, but No Thanks

Toni Andrews is the author of the Mercy Hollings series. Her newest book, Cry Mercy, was published this month by Mira.

No offense.

I don’t want to write your story.

If you’ve seen the tale on my website, you know that I came to writing late in life. The blush has far from worn off—I’m still thrilled every time I get fan mail or someone comes up to me at a book store and says “I love your novels.” I still take my books down from the shelf and run my fingers over the smooth covers and sniff the binders.

I live in Connecticut. Those of you who are from other parts of the world may be picturing rolling lawns and stately homes full of people with PhDs sipping white Merlot. Yes, those places exist in Connecticut. But where I live, it’s a firmly blue-collar area. Local restaurants serve chicken wings and pizza and not much else. Red Sox vs. Yankees arguments are more common than literary discussions.

Don’t get me wrong—I love it here. But when I go down to the local bar and grill and someone finds out that I write books for a living, I often get one of three reactions:

Disbelief (Yes, but what do you really do?).

Shock and awe, followed by an admission of not having read a book since high school.

A sudden, feverish look in the eyes, followed by a request for my business card.

It’s the third one I have to watch out for. I’ve learned to ask, with as much subtlety as possible, why they want it. Because, often as not, it’s because they have a book idea for me.

These fall into two categories (I love lists. Can you tell?):

He, his uncle, or his next door neighbor has such an amazing personal story that if I will just write it down, the book will be a GUARANTEED NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. Sorry to shout. It’s just that they always use those exact words. Always.

He himself has an idea that’s a GUARANTEED NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER but he doesn’t have the skill or patience to write it, and he wants me to “help” him.

Occasionally there’s a third option, particularly if the venue is a bar and even more particularly if the party concerned has got what my Uncle Avery used to refer to as “a snoot-full.” This is the person who proceeds to drunkenly spew out said GUARANTEED NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER’s plot, and then becomes paranoid that I am going to run home, write it down, send it in, and become a gazillionaire.

Like most writers I know, I have folders and folders, both real and virtual, full of my own book ideas. I’ve written them on the backs of envelopes I found under the seat of my car, in the margins of magazine pages ripped from ancient copies moldering in waiting rooms and in countless notebooks.

I’ll never get the chance to write all these books, even if I live to be 150. Because I’ll always be getting more ideas.

If you have a book idea that’s a GUA (I stopped myself this time.) just dying to be written, then I think you should write it yourself. And I’m not being snotty here—I mean it.

It’s not as hard to write a book as you think. After all, I did it.

Walk into a big bookstore and take a look around. Some human being wrote every one of those books. They weren’t all (trust me on this one) geniuses. And you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you can stroll over to the writing section of that store and find books that will tell you how to structure a plot, create believable characters, write sparkling dialogue, and even how to get it published afterward.

Hey, I know. I credit my published status to the first book I picked up when I made the decision to write my story down: Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger, a book I highly recommend.

So, sorry, I don’t want to write your book—not because it wouldn’t be amazing. It’s just that I’m busy working on my own. As for your book:

Write it.

I mean it.

Start today.

Toni Andrews

Toni's web site: http://toniandrews.com/
Where to send your Self Addressed Stamped Envelope to get a signed book plate for your copy: http://toniandrews.com/CryMercyTour.htm
Toni's Blog: http://tinyurl.com/ToniBlog
Toni's TV show: http://toniandrews.com/SoManyBooks.htm
Cry Mercy Trailer: http://tinyurl.com/75vl4s
Book Rx, Toni's "Book Doctor" service: http://toniandrews.com/BookRx.htm

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another Chapter in the Susan Story

By Julie Kramer

My debut, STALKING SUSAN, came out this week in paperback and now seems a good time to tell folks about the latest developments in the cases of the real Susans that inspired my thriller.

As a journalist, I covered two cold cases in St. Paul, MN more than a decade ago that involved the murders of Susan Ginger Petersen (strangled May 17, 1983) and Susan Jean Rheineck (strangled May 17, 1985.)

As a novelist, I created the tale of a serial killer targeting women named Susan and killing one on the same day each year. Twenty-five years later, those homicides remain unsolved, but St. Paul Police recently announced they are one step closer.

Last summer publicity about STALKING SUSAN - every time I did an interview I mentioned the victim's names - got the attention of the St. Paul Cold Case Unit. Like one of the plot lines in my novel, they were able to use new forensics on the old evidence to extract DNA. Their conclusion: The women had separate killers.

So while there were parallels in their homicides, including that the women disappeared from the same poor neighborhood and their bodies were dumped in the same affluent neighborhood, the murders are unconnected. A serial killer is not behind their deaths. But two killers have gotten away with murder for more than a quarter of a century. And that's just as disturbing.

So far, authorities have been unable to match the DNA to any convict in the felon data base, but just having DNA makes it more likely that suspects will be identified and arrests will be made.

When I wrote my novel, I changed the city, the time of year, the women's last names...but I wanted to keep something of them in it. So I kept the name Susan. Because name origination becomes part of my plot, had I named them Mary, it would have been an entirely different story.

Sometimes people ask what the families of the real victims think about me bringing all this up after so many years. They imply that perhaps I've shattered their peace. But I've spoken to the families and they have no peace. They don't mind if some author wants to keep reminding people to call the police tip line. They still want answers about what happened to their Susans on the night May 17 so long ago. And I'm starting to think, they just might get them.

What do you think of mysteries and thrillers ripped from the headlines? Do you have a favorite?


STALKING SUSAN won Best First Mystery at the RT Reviewers Choice Awards, as well as the Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction. It was also a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and is a nominee for Best First Novel for both the Anthony and Barry Awards, to be announced at Bouchercon in Indianapolis. Her sequel, MISSING MARK, will be released July 14 by Doubleday.

For more about the author, check juliekramerbooks.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don't You Die on Me, High-Speed Internet Access!

I often make fun of my kids who have complete meltdowns when one of their gadgets go dead like the iPod, the Wii, the X-box, the Sims game on the computer. I usually start with, “when I was your age, we didn’t even know what computers were!” or something equally unimpressive to their young, technologically-savvy ears. So, it was with great interest that I have been judging my reaction to an email I received two weeks ago yesterday, in which a man—I’ll identify him as Greg (not his real name)—wrote to a group of local dsl users with his company—I’ll call it ZT&T (not its real name)—that ZT&T was dropping all of them as customers. No explanation as to why, but uninterrupted service was promised, despite the fact that service would be suspended within forty-eight hours. Not long enough to get another service, but just short enough to send the names on Greg’s email list (which were revealed, not hidden), enough time to panic. I recognized two of my friends on the list.

I’ve identified the five stages of grieving for your internet service. Here they are:

1. Fear: Who was Greg? Did he really work for ZT&T? Why did he reveal the entire email list to all of the other affected customers? Was he phishing? To counteract the fear, I called ZT&T and reached India. The man in India assured me that Greg was real, he did work for ZT&T, and yes, he was dropping me as a dsl customer in less than forty-eight hours. He bid me adieu and wishes for a nice day. I told the man in India that not only was I beyond annoyed, I was dropping ZT&T as my local and long distance carrier. He was unimpressed.

2. Frustration: I called Greg; he had left a phone number which I assumed went back to India where I would get the desk of the guy sitting next to the first guy I spoke to. When Greg picked up his phone, I was amazed. He let me rant and then told me that service would be uninterrupted; they were selling us, en masse, to another local carrier we’ll call Berizon. Yes, yes, yes, Greg intoned, there would be no interruption of my dsl service. I reiterated that I ran a business from my home that was dependent on high-speed internet access; in his monotone, he GUARANTEED that I would have service on Thursday when I awoke. I did—it just went out after lunch. Technically, he did not lie.

3. Anger: My emails to Greg, which in the beginning ended with “have a nice day” or “thank you for your help” descended into “you’d better resolve this before I bring Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General of New York State, and all the wrath he wrought down on your pathetic tuchis.” Before long. Greg, too, was unimpressed. (Sense the theme here?) He assured me that I was first on the list for reconnection and would have email by Monday, the 15th at the latest. Later that day, I received a packet in the mail from Berizon with my installation disk saying that I would have service a week from Saturday, June 26th. I called Greg back, but he didn’t pick up his phone this time; an away message on his email indicated that he had gone on vacation (I’m not making this up). He instructed us to call someone else. But I’m so dang tired of this whole thing that the thought of explaining who I am, why I’m angry, and how desperately I need high-speed internet service made me think twice about calling this new person. Something tells me Greg didn’t fill the new guy in on the hordes of angry customers in our Village.

4. Denial: “This isn’t really happening,” I would intone as I waited for my dial-up service to connect. Hours later, while still waiting, I would still be in my fugue state, rocking back and forth in my chair, saying the same thing. Every try to download a pdf on dial-up service? It takes four days. Eventually, I did download the complaint form from the Attorney General’s office, but since it took so long, the bottom was cut off and I have to start again.

5. Acceptance: I will have dial-up forever. I will never work again. It’s okay. Lots of people live with dial-up. Lots of people have productive lives. High-speed internet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Just as I got to this point, the doorbell rang. When I opened it and took in the smiling face of the Berizon technician, his shiny truck at my curb, I nearly jumped into his arms. “Berizon man! I am so happy to see you!” I screamed, clapping my hands together; I held back from hugging him. He took a step back from the doorway and slowly made his way down the front steps, fear etched on his kind face.

“Nobody is ever that happy to see me,” he said, regarding me warily. “They usually want to wring my neck.”

I checked his name tag. His name was Dave. Not Greg. And he worked for Berizon, not ZT&T. In my book, this guy was okay. He helped me call up my web page and helped me get a wireless connection. Never will I make fun of my kids again. Now that we have the technology, let’s all use it!

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

PSWA Conference

We just arrived home from the Public Safety Writers Association conference held in Las Vegas. I don't have my notes out yet, or even unpacked. Since it's my day to post, I'll give some of my general impressions.

I was the program chair so I was pretty nervous as things began. I helped out with registration and managed to arrive before anyone else. Most of those registered came to the get-acquainted social on Thursday evening. It was delightful to see so many new faces and the our faithful attendees too.

Of course I was the first to show up at the meeting room, added a front table and chairs for the panel and got hubby situated at the book selling table.

Only going to give the highlights this time. The first panel was police officers and a prosecuting attorney telling us what drives them crazy in books, TV shows and movies. Most enlightening and a bit funny too.

Award winning author Betty Webb did an excellent job telling what needs to be in a manuscript--and what shouldn't be--if you want to be published. She also did a bang-up job as one of the luncheon speakers telling about switching from hard-boiled to a lighter series.

We had two forensic experts, Steve Scarborough who told us what CSI people can't do and the equipment they don't have despite what we see on TV--and Sheila Lowe, forensic handwriting expert, who fascinated us with handwriting from real cases.

There was so much more, so many people shared, we learned about character development, planning your time for writing, the importance of setting--too much and too little, and so much more. We had a wonderful time learning about writing comedy. Sunny Frazier told us about turning fact into fiction, we had a panel on promo and Joyce Spizer-Foy fascinated us with her knowledge about writing screen plays.

My contribution was talking about e-publishing and showing off my new Kindle.

The hotel was wonderful (except for the people on the 5th, 6th and 7th floor who had their sleep interrupted by an alarm and had to walk all the way downstairs until the problem was solved), food delicious, everyone so friendly, and I finally began to relax when I saw everyone was having a good time and the program was moving along as it should.

Yes, there were a couple of blips, but nothing that couldn't be handled.

I'm exhausted, but extremely pleased.

Anyone writing about mystery with any ties to public safety is welcome--actually we had other authors there who just wanted to come--think about it for next year. Don't have any dates yet, but you know I'll let you know.

Marilyn a.k.a. F.M. Meredith

Monday, June 22, 2009

Can I Have Some Cheese with that Whine?

The collective Evelyn David agreed to write a short story for Tony Burton’s holiday anthology (http://www.wolfmont.com), A Gift for Murder. All profits benefit Toys for Tots. Doing a mitzvah (good deed) AND seeing another story in print – a win-win for all.

But writing is hard, and writing short stories is even harder (commence high pitch whine).

Tony has set a limit of 4,000 words per story. So far we’ve written 2,000 and barely killed anybody, let alone introduced any suspects. We have no room for herrings, let alone red ones.

Writing short is supposed to teach you discipline. You learn to find the single exact word to describe someone, rather than an orgy of adjectives. You spark the reader’s imagination so she fills in the blanks of the bare bones scenes you are creating.

Do you remember those summer reading lists in high school? Was it just me who immediately glommed on to The Pearl by John Steinbeck? I am embarrassed to report that I have no memory of the story other than it was 96 pages. But I now realize the incredible genius of Steinbeck that he could tell such a poignant story in so few words.

So we will soldier on, determined to build a whodunnit that will confound and delight readers in under 4000 words...and I will probably whine my way through the process. Do you think Steinbeck also was a whiner?

In the meantime, I’m also getting ready for my Southern Tour. Saturday at Deadly Ink in New Jersey; Sunday at Barnes and Noble in Manassas, Virginia; Monday at Middleburg Library, Virginia; Tuesday at Cambridge Library, Maryland; Wednesday at Mystery Loves Company Bookstore in Oxford, Maryland; and Wednesday night at Delmar Library, Delaware. See Evelyn David’s website for details, http://www.evelyndavid.com/.

Evelyn David

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Apology

I've been thinking about all the public apologies that celebrities, politicians, sports stars, comedians, and religious leaders feel the need to make. My sense of it is that they all apologize for the wrong thing. They should be apologizing for wasting my time with their carefully worded, audience tested, attempts to save or rehabilitate their reputations.

They are not really sorry.

They may be sorry they got caught.

Or they may be sorry that a careless or stupid statement on their part was spun by the press or the supposed injured party into something it wasn't.

Innocent or guilty a public apology is demanded – by the media.

Take illegal drugs, lie about it, get caught - apologize to the public.

Cheat on your spouse, lie about it, get caught - apologize to the public.

Bilk millions from your supporters in the name of God, lie about what you used the money for, get caught - apologize to the public. (Religious leaders must add tears to the performance. That's a deal breaker. No tears, forget the whole thing.)

Sometime in the last 30 years or so, the public apology came into vogue with no signs of going the way of poodle skirts. Am I the only one who thinks apologies should be private? Am I the only one who thinks that when the media repeats an idiotic remark to millions, when the original statement was only heard by a handful of people, the media shouldn't be the ones to ask for an apology for all the millions that were offended by the remark?

It seems now that even if you say exactly what you mean, and what you say is the truth, the media falls all over themselves trying to find a reason that you should apologize to those people who were offended by what they thought you might have "meant" to say instead of what you said. Are you still with me? Crazy isn't it. Leon Panetta, hold firm. Don't do it. Don't apologize for something you didn't say. You might have been thinking the thing they want you to apologize for, but you didn’t say it.

As I'm writing this blog another politician appears on CNN to apologize for having an extramarital affair. No lie. Just happened. People, listen to me! I don't care. He should apologize to his wife, not the nation. And no, I don't want to see his poor wife standing by his side during the apology.

Right after the politician story? A racist email story. The email was bad. It was in poor taste. (No, I won't describe it.) It was originally seen by a limited number of people in one state. Now it's been seen by millions. The talking heads want the author of the email fired (she works for a state legislator). The state legislator had to defend following employment rules and just giving the woman a written reprimand. I expect any minute to see the email's author in front of a camera giving a public apology.

The next story concerned Iran. You know – the election. The crazy guy who wants nuclear weapons? Hey, he stole an election and he isn't apologizing for anything.

Let's see –

The news in order of importance –

Apology for something that wasn't said.

Apology for a bad joke.

Apology for an affair.

Apology for having someone on staff who sent a racist, private email not using public computers, or on public time.

A political crisis in Iran that might mean the overthrow of the government.

I'm sorry, but this is crazy.

Actually I'm not sorry.

It's not my fault and I'm not going to apologize for this crazy, mixed up world.

Evelyn David

P.S. Evelyn David will be signing Murder Takes the Cake and Murder Off the Books, this Saturday, June 20, from 10-2, at Petco, 4915 E. 41st Street, Tulsa. Hope you can join me!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Today’s one of those days where I’m all over the map, so I thought I would do a round-up (see #1 and #2) on some topics that I’ve written about previously and let you know about some promotional gigs that Evelyn David and I will be doing and how they’re going. I hope you’ll indulge me this meandering post.

1. Youth Lacrosse: On Saturday, our kids got beaten up so badly—and I don’t mean that euphemistically—that Coach called the game midway through the third quarter. He decided that our kids didn’t need to be taking sticks to the face, ribs, and legs all in the name of winning a game in the third and fourth grade league. Just wasn’t worth it. Thanks, Coach. And thanks for your email on Sunday, apologizing for calling the game; as you saw from every response you got, we’re all behind you. We just don’t care that much about winning. We care more that our kids can get to middle school with all of their teeth and bones intact.

Fortunately, Sunday was a new day and the team played their last game. I am proud to report that it was played clean, with everyone surviving the nine to three loss with their teeth, bones, and pride intact. Child #2 was thrilled with the fact that he scored the last goal of the season, which by all accounts, was a beaut, complete with NOT ONE, BUT TWO spin moves. Kid is thrilled with himself.

2. Chick Lit: I’ve been thinking about this classification for a while now, wondering whether or not I like the sound of it, especially as it relates to the Murder 101 series. I am big fan of chick lit, and will read anything by the biggies in the niche—Jennifer Weiner comes to mind immediately but I am sure I can think of more. And regardless of whether or not it falls into this category, I’m ordering fellow Stiletto ganger Susan McBride’s Cougar Club as soon as I can because it looks like a complete hoot and I am hoping that I’ll be done with book #5 at that point and can relax. (Yeah, sure.)

A friend was kind enough to drop off an article from the NY Times this past week in which a character in a book being reviewed remarks that if Updike was a woman writing today, they would have slapped a pink cover on the Rabbit series because after all, they’re about relationships, right? Good point. The writer goes on to say that you can tell a chick lit book by its cover. How? Well, if it’s got shoes, a martini glass, even an Adirondack chair, you’ll know that it’s a book for you, if you’re a fan. I don’t know what the writer would say about books that include blood-splattered writing pads (see Final Exam, the fourth installment in the Murder 101 series); I’m hoping that is the mark of an excellent mystery.

Oh! And I almost forgot! My friend, Sheila Curran’s, publishes her second book today and I’ve read it. It’s fabulous. It’s called Everybody She Loved and you will not be disappointed.

3. Book Signings: The Northern half of Evelyn David and I had a book signing this weekend at a great bookstore in her town called Anderson’s. We’re currently on the “Cupcakes and Corpses” tour. Evelyn, as is her way, baked all of her own goodies and brought them, beautifully displayed on a tray. I bought three dozen red velvet cupcakes from a friend with a baking business because as I said repeatedly (I love when a joke works), “If I had made the cupcakes, we would actually have some corpses around here.” So thank you to Anderson’s, Evelyn for setting up the gig, Susan for baking my cupcakes and making me look so good, and everyone who came to support us (most of all!). We sold a good number of books, had a great time, and met wonderful people. And any day that I get to spend time with Evelyn David is a good day in my book, so it was a success all around. The next stop on the tour is the Village Bookstore in Pleasantville on Saturday, June 20, from 1-3. Once again, I will be bringing Susan’s cupcakes and you don’t want to miss that!

I think that’s it for today. I hope all of our readers are enjoying spring; we here on the East Coast are wetter than we’ve ever been. Seriously. Enough, Mother Nature. We hear you.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For Goodness Sakes, It's My Turn

I didn't really forget this was my day to blog. I have it on my calendar, but for some reason I thought I'd already done it and posted it to appear today. Obviously that's not what happened.

So, here I am, late and apologetic.

Because I haven't planned, I have no idea what to write about. I've been really busy lately, planning for the Public Safety Writers Association conference which I'm leaving for tomorrow. I'm the program chairman so I'm excited and a tad nervous.

PSWA's conferences have been small, partly due to the fact that it had to be reorganized for reasons I don't need to go into. Last year we had 15 people in attendance. I can assure everyone that the small number made absolutely no difference, we had great speakers and a tremendous amount of fun. We've doubled the number plus three this year. Our speakers are fantastic, everyone who wanted to is on a panel. People are coming from as far away as New York and Florida. The good thing about Las Vegas where the conference is held, it's easy for everyone to get there and airfares are reasonable.

A plus for me is my sis lives in Vegas as does her entire family--four kids, a bunch of grandkids and greats. We'll spend our first evening and night and morning with her, then onto the conference. Oh did I tell you, I also do the registration, so I have to arrive at the hotel fairly early.

Before I leave, I hope to add some to my w-i-p, which is another Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel. I'm at the most exciting part, so it's fun writing except I have to make myself slow down. It's in my head and I can't wait to put it into the computer.

Anyway, that's what distracted me from doing my blog as I was supposed to.

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Power of the Word

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

I thought it was one of the Founding Fathers who made that declaration, but it was actually Voltaire. Maybe you knew that.

I’ve been thinking about Free Speech a lot lately. As a writer, of course I have always supported the First Amendment, with the caveat that as Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled: The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.

I grew up chanting sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. And yet, in the last few weeks, we’ve seen deadly action spring from vicious, hateful language. In my zeal to protect free speech, I am left with the horrific results when the debate ends and the gunfire erupts. James W. von Brunn, who murdered a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, had a web site that spewed hatred. He was, in some ways, an equal-opportunity bigot – willing to kill anyone who didn’t fit his vision of a “pure” American, e.g., white.

Eugene Robinson, columnist for The Washington Post, certainly a free speech supporter, raised a valid question. When does “blast-furnace rhetoric,” which though ugly is legal, cross the line because it incites others to violence? You can make the argument that neither the far right nor the far left is responsible for the nutjob who moves from advocating to shooting bullets. But Robinson suggests that many talking heads on all-news cable shows are riling up some dangerous people when they call President Obama a "socialist," label Sonia Sotomayor a "racist Latina," and claim that Democrats want to "take away your guns.”

As with all of our guaranteed freedoms, they depend on people never abusing them. Each of us has the right to her own opinion. We can and should make cogent arguments to defend our positions, and work within the political system to effect change. BUT we also need to avoid demonizing the opposition – and we must vote with the remote and turn off the television when a talking head tries to spike his ratings with rants designed to appeal to the fears and prejudices of the audience.

These are serious times that demand serious discussion. There’s no room at the table – or on television or radio – for those who aren’t willing to talk about issues without resorting to scare tactics or hyperbole.

I’m a realist. I know there are crazy people out there. But the media must stop providing these nutjobs with the “ammunition” that they then use to justify their violent actions.

Evelyn David

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fuse Beads, a Metaphor for Writing

My kids are gung-ho these days for an arts-and-craft activity called fuse beads. This involves a tub of 10,000 multi-colored plastic beads that the kids meticulously place on forms to create rainbow colored dogs, fish, or other designs of their choice.

I have mixed feelings about this craft. When the kids are using them, the beads inevitably roll en masse onto my kitchen floor and scatter, creating a spectacular mess that apparently disturbs only me. Worse, no fuse bead creation is complete until it has been covered with wax paper and ironed. The heat melts the beads together so that each lovely creation can be preserved forever. That’s nice and everything, but kids can’t iron so we all know who gets this job.

I tolerate these inconveniences because as a mother and a writer, I believe it’s important to foster creativity in kids. It takes my three-year-old son about a half hour to complete a design. His intense concentration during this time is incredible and when I watch him dig for the right color, or move a bead from one peg to another because the first choice wasn’t satisfactory, I know I’ve chosen a good use for his time. It’s great for his coordination and imagination and beats the heck out of watching TV.

The other day we sat at opposite ends of our kitchen table. My son worked on a multi-colored bead fish while I caught up on bills and letters. A 10,000 Maniacs CD played on the stereo and each of us worked without talking, both concentrating. Then he looked up and said, “Mom, want to see my fish?” It was barely started, but I told him how nice it looked and we returned to our work.

A few minutes later, he broke his silence again, wanting only my approval and encouragement before carrying on. It occurred to me then that, except for the mess involved, my little boy and his beads are much like me and my writing. We both have an idea how we want our project to turn out. We’re willing to spend the time it takes. Rearranging pieces to get the right effect is not only necessary, but fun. And we both want an outside opinion partway through, just to be sure.

Usually, I feel what I call “Mom Guilt” where my writing is concerned. My kids are still young (ages 3, 7, and 8) and even if I’m not at my laptop writing, I’m frequently away somewhere in my thoughts, plotting. Since my mental energy is often divided between my children and my work-in-progress, I sometimes feel I’m letting the kids down. This exchange at the table was the first time I recognized that being a writer had the potential to improve my ability to parent.

In the half hour we sat together, he must have asked my thoughts on his fish at least a half a dozen times. Having the same conversation with a three-year-old every few minutes is tedious. There are only so many ways I can express that a fish is pretty or colorful or awesome or cool. What previously would have been a repetitive exchange became meaningful when I finally made the connection between his pursuit and mine. Empathizing with his need for input, I became more patient, encouraging, and sincere. It felt really good to have an old conversation in a new way with my little boy.

The revelation helped with the Mom Guilt issue, but didn’t address the gazillion fuse bead creations overrunning my house. It was here I found the second parallel between fuse beads and writing. With three kids, all craft zealots, artwork piles up around my house all the time. I save my favorites but have to remind myself as I’m clearing out paintings, sketches, or bead creations, that there’s simply not enough room to keep it all. “It was the experience that mattered,” I tell myself, anytime I’m gathering up craft shrapnel for covert disposal. The value is not always in the art itself but in the time spent making it—the exercise in creativity, constructive use of their time, and the satisfaction of bringing a mental image to physical form.

I’m beginning to view my scenes like my kids’ copious artwork—as creative exercises, constructive uses of my time, and a physical manifestation of something imagined. Whether I use those scenes or cut them, the time spent exploring ideas is golden. I learned a lot from those obnoxious little beads.

Rachel Brady

Rachel Brady’s debut suspense novel, Final Approach, will be released in October or can be pre-ordered from Amazon. A graduate of Wright State University and The Ohio State University, Rachel works as a biomedical engineer when she’s not writing mystery and suspense fiction. Her interests include health and fitness, acoustic guitar, and books of all kinds. She lives outside of Houston, Texas, with her husband and their three children. Visit her on-line at http://www.rachelbrady.net/ or read about her experiences as a new author at her blog, Write It Anyway. Fellow internet junkies can follow her on Twitter or add her as a friend on Goodreads.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is it Thursday? Already?

Time for me to blog again.

And again, my thoughts are scattered. Just got home from Oklahoma City. I was there for the day to meet with my federal counterparts. The topic was hydrology structures on coal mining sites and the need to correct a conflict in the text of our state regulations. Sometimes figuring out the mystery of environmental regulations that were drafted and passed 30 years ago is impossible, even for a mystery writer.

My new office (remember the move I mentioned a few weeks ago?) is still not finished. All our desks, files, computers, etc. are in storage. My staff and I are working from our homes, vehicles, and another field office located about 50 miles away. Although working at home sounds like fun – for me it's not. I already have an unorganized mess in my living room involving the next Evelyn David book and the promotion materials for the one published last month. Adding in mining reports, mining mail, and copies of regulations and forms, has pushed me right over the edge. My living room is officially a national disaster area.

Tomorrow morning I will drive 15 miles to the new office space, stand outside the half-finished building, tap my foot and glare at the contractor. Then I'll head to the post office, pick up the agency mail, date stamp it and log it into a notebook while sitting in the parking lot, then drive home. After some lunch (or a late breakfast), I'll return phone calls (all our office calls are being forwarded to our Oklahoma City office) and deal with e-mailed mining inspection reports that I have to approve.

Since it might be two more weeks (sigh) before we can move into the new space, I've set up a weekly Tuesday meeting with my staff at the Pizza Hut. The meeting conditions are primitive (no buffet except on Fridays – the buffet being another causality of the poor economy) but we're a hardy bunch. We'll manage.

It was raining off and on all day. My two hour drive home was grey and long. Since my work routine has been totally destroyed, I'm having trouble keeping track of what day it is. I think the painting is supposed to start tomorrow on the new office. And since tomorrow is my blog day, it must be Thursday, which is also trash day – meaning I need to go outside tonight – in the rain - and drag the trash bin to the curb.

On a positive note, both Evelyn David books are selling well. So well they keep going out of stock at Amazon and Ingrams. This means when I promote the book, 50% of the time the buyer has to wait, which makes both halves of Evelyn David very nervous. Our publisher told us today that we had two choices: sell less books or mentally learn to deal with the "out of stock" issue. I may have to take up some kind of meditation or maybe medication! (Note: Barnes & Noble still copies of both Murder Off the Books and Murder Takes the Cake available to ship now.)

I got my latest Amazon order in the mail today. No, I'm not the one buying up all the copies of Murder Takes the Cake! In a mad splurge, I ordered season one of True Blood on dvd and a book recommended by the DorothyL listserve – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The book looks good! It's a hardback, yet didn't come with a dust jacket. Is that a new practice? Or did Amazon just forget to send it to me?

On an unrelated note – buyers beware. I purchased a blackberry curve from T-Mobile. After three months I'm still waiting for my $100 rebate. Several weeks ago, they wrote and asked for another number off the cell phone box. I think this is the point where most people give up, having tossed the box after filling out the rebate form. Not me. I kept everything. It was still in a pile near my desk. I put the additional information in the next day's mail to T-Mobile. I also kept copies of all the correspondence. I'm going to get that promised rebate! The rest of my life may be out of control – but if necessary I will make getting that rebate my mission in life! Hear that T-Mobile? You've been warned!

Next week I'll blog about something important. Maybe North Korea and those two American journalists that are being held hostage there. Or maybe the economy. Did I mention the state agency I work for just got a 7% budget cut for next year? It seems clear that in Oklahoma the economy is going to get worse, before it gets better.

Nothing seems to come easy anymore. Maybe it never did and I just didn't notice.

I'm sure tomorrow will be a better day.

Right! At least it will be a different day.

Evelyn David

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reunion Weekend

I had the pleasure of spending Saturday evening into Sunday at my alma mater’s annual Reunion celebration. Although it is only my 24th year out of college, my three best college friends—with whom I roomed during my sophomore and their junior years—were attending their 25th jubilee. I was also honored to be a guest presenter there and had the pleasure of speaking to a dozen or so women from the class of ’59, one of whom is the mother of a friend here in the Village. I spoke about the Murder 101 series and these wonderful women restored my belief in my own public speaking skills.

Here’s the thing—I bomb with some groups. There have been several presentations I’ve given where I’ve laughed at my own jokes in front of a room of people who looked like they had come to attend the annual Mortuary Science convention. They do not find my jokes funny, my stories amusing, nor me laughing at my own jokes and/or stories at all humorous. I’ve given a few of these lackluster presentations in a row and was starting to lose faith in myself.

But the class of ’59 was a game crowd. This was a group of extremely interested, mystery-loving women. They ate up everything there was to be heard about Alison Bergeron and the books in the series. And they laughed where you were supposed to laugh and even some places where you weren’t. But that’s ok. Rather have laughing than the alternative.

It was a gorgeous weekend here on the East Coast and my alma mater sits on the Hudson River. The Half Moon was sailing past the college just about the time that I was presenting so many reunion goers went out to see it so as not to miss what turned out to be quite a spectacle. (See here for details and some nice pictures of the replica of Henry Hudson’s ship) Being a huge fan of the Hudson—I’ve lived near it my entire life and enjoyed its beauty—I didn’t mind that I had been ditched in favor of the historic flotilla that sailed past the college and toward my home town, where it sailed past Sunday morning. Missed that one, too.

The girls and I spent Saturday afternoon walking around campus, marveling at how little had changed but also at the improvements that had been made. We had some champagne to celebrate our annual weekend together and then a cosmopolitan right before the dinner dance we were to attend that evening. Before heading over to the dining hall, we ventured into the beautiful chapel—where many key scenes from the movie “Doubt” were filmed—and drank in the smell of bees’ wax, floor polish, and incense. It was there that I got a little overwhelmed, thinking about the four of us, the time that had passed, and the struggles we had gone through. When I told my friends what I was thinking, one of the four, my gal Trixie, turned to me and said, “You’re cut off.” (My reputation as a weepy imbiber is legendary among this crew.)

It’s amazing how after a quarter decade it can feel as if no time has passed. At the same time, it can feel like almost twice that time has passed. It’s a weird conundrum. We had a great time at the dinner dance, dancing among graduates going as far back as the class of ’39—ok, maybe they weren’t dancing, but they were there—and meeting new people with whom we shared the bond of being “Mounties” (our college nickname). The camaraderie that existed among women much older than we are impressed me and again, made me weepy. Seeing women who had cultivated the bonds of friendship over the course of thirty, forty, and even fifty years was impressive indeed. We all have different histories and backgrounds but our love of our friends, and the school that brought us together, will keep us together forever.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Family, Great-Grandma's Writing Adventures

This is a photo of my granddaughter, Jessi, who lives next door, and my great-granddaughter, Kay'Lee. Jessi is Kay'Lee's aunt. They were together to celebrate Kay'Lee's 6th birthday. I mainly put the photo in to brighten today's post--and I like it.

Because Jessi lives so close, we've been in on a lot of her life. She even stayed with us during her grammar school days. Now she's in college, engaged and just landed her first real job.

Now on to my adventures. I can honestly tell you that as a child and even a mom raising five kids, I had no idea what I'd be doing in my so-called golden years. I really didn't like to drive outside of the town we lived in. I'd only flown once in my life and that was to take my two babies back to the east coast to be with my husband. The plane had trouble on the way, we had to make an emergency landing and I vowed never to fly again.

I've always been a writer, had several articles and other things published, but my first book not until I was in my late forties.

That book had been submitted to nearly 30 publishers before it was finally accepted. (I'm the poster grandma for perseverance.) While that one was being rejected I was busy writing another, and another.

Finally, as a published writer, I began going to conferences. My first mystery conferences were held in a mountain retreat with such big name writers as Sue Grafton and Mary Higgins Clark! I don't think there were more than 30 or 40 people in attendance at either one. What a great opportunity.

I was a founding member of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime. Through Sisters I met more wonderful people and learned about Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon. Of course the Internet introduced me to other mystery cons of one sort or another.

I've been to Alaska twice to LCC and then Bouchercon--and of course I flew. The first time, after the con, I traveled in a big Suburban on a frozen river to visit and talk to students at a school in a small village. Exciting. I met two Native women at the con--and kept in touch with them via email. When I went to Alaska the second time, after Bouchercon, I went to one of the Native women's home in Wasilla, stayed with her for three days and visited a middle school where I talked about how to write a mystery.

With a friend I met through the Internet, I flew to New York to attend the Edgars. Wow, what an experience. From there we took the train to DC and went to Malice Domestic, and flew home afterwards.

With hubby, I've flown to all sorts of places in the U.S. we would never have even thought to visit if it hadn't been a mystery conference or other conference being held there.

I've been a part of and am now on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association--a group of people who write non-fiction or fiction about any type of public safety. Through this group I've met so many people in law-enforcement, forensic experts, people who are great for picking their brains but who've also become good friends.

I've gone on ride-alongs with police officers, including a son-in-law.

I've had the privilege of talking about writing and my books at several libraries in California, done book signings, put on fun book launches here in Springville where I live and also in Crescent City where I shared the signing duties with the Tolowa woman I wrote about in my book, Kindred Spirits.

Best of all, I've met so many interesting people, readers and other authors--including a couple of the authors on this blog.

Who ever knew I'd be having so much fun as a great-grandma? When will I slow down? Only when I have to.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Monday, June 8, 2009

Two is Definitely More than One

I’m the mother of four children, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Moms know that when you have a second child, the amount of work grows exponentially. So I should have realized that two dogs is definitely more than twice the amount of wear and tear. And don’t get me started on how they’ll entertain each other…unless tearing around the house like it was the dragway at Daytona Beach is your definition of entertainment.

Our oldest and his wife are on vacation, and we, the grandparents to adorable Nook, are babysitting for two weeks. Nook is a Portugese Water Dog, all black curly hair except for her right front paw, which is white. She is four years old, so just past adolescence. She loves adult companionship, which translates to mean, let me sit on your feet so you can't go anywhere without me.

Clio, the resident Irish terrier, is nine years old, so let’s call a spade a spade – she’s eligible for Social Security. She entered this household when there were four kids still living at home – and she learned quite early to pick her battles in terms of what she needed. She wanted her dinner promptly at 5 pm (and seriously you can set the clock by it). She wanted her sheepskin blankie from her days in the litter to sleep on. And she wanted Honey Nut Cheerios on top of her kibble in the morning. Otherwise, she was happy to watch television with whomever had gotten the remote, and had no preference whether it was a Mets game or Masterpiece Theater. The likelihood of some popcorn hitting the ground under either scenario was excellent, and she is always ready to serve as a canine vacuum cleaner.

Clio has taken seriously her role as big sister. She’s taught Nook that when you come in from the backyard, you have to walk down the steps to the basement and then right back up again (to get rid of any lingering dirt). She’s also clearly informed little sister that going outside to do your “business,” entitles you to a doggie treat. Clio was incredulous, and her face showed it, when Nook wandered off the other morning without the biscuit. Of course, Clio immediately rose to the occasion and was happy to oblige by polishing off a second treat in under five seconds. Making sure everyone knows that she is the alpha dog of the pack is accomplished by immediately doing her business wherever Nook has done hers. What this means is that any walk with the two of them takes double the amount of time because Clio has to mark the previously marked spots. Oy!

Still, as with the two-legged children I've known, these furry companions have their moments. Growling one minute, snuggling up the next. But do I have any interest in permanently growing the canine population in this house? Nope. Like grandparents everywhere, I love to indulge this little one - and then send her home!

Evelyn David

Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ah, the Joys of Home Work

by Susan McBride

My husband thinks I'm so lucky. As a full-time writer, I work at home, which means I don't have to fight rush-hour traffic in the morning or change out of my pajamas until noon. He's jealous, too, that the cats can hang out in my office, their furry lengths draped across my lap or my desk. Only there are drawbacks to being a work-at-homer, kind of along the lines of "anything too good to be true usually is."

Like when you realize your home is your office so there's no leaving work at work. I'm envious that Ed gets to put being a software engineering team manager out of his head once he drives out of the company lot. Once he's kicking back on the sofa in front of the widescreen, he's ready to chill (unless it's the weekend, and the list of chores on the fridge is making him cross-eyed).

When I'm on deadline for a first draft, revisions, copy-edits, whatever, my work is constantly calling to me, 24/7. I don't get to turn it off, shift "job" to another part of my brain, and relax. I know that everytime I walk upstairs past my office, there's more to be done. So I frequently find myself saying, "I just need to write for a bit," and I'll disappear for hours. It's no wonder I sometimes forget what day of the week it is since I'm often at the keyboard pounding away even on weekends.

Oh, yeah, and there's that lovely side effect of home-as-office which awards the lucky work-at-homer the opportunity to wait on and (for lack of a better word) supervise every repairman and delivery. So, let's say, when it's time for an AC check and the dude "will arrive sometime between eight and noon" or the new dishwasher is coming "anytime next Thursday," yep, yours truly gets to meet-and-greet. It's hard to write when someone's installing an appliance, which entails a good amount of banging noises and switching off of electrical circuits. I can't seem to get deeply into a scene when a stranger in my house keeps calling, "Ma'am?" from downstairs. Even on no-repairman days, there are always loads of laundry, vacuuming, mopping, trips to the grocery store and bank, and other miscellaneous chores that fall to me. I do try to squeeze in the treadmill occassionally, too, even if it's the middle of the afternoon. More often than not, the doorbell rings right after I've stepped out of the shower, and it's the UPS guy. I've actually signed for packages with a towel wrapped around my middle and one hastily wound around my dripping head. (Well, like that old Wells Fargo Wagon song from "Music Man," it might be somethin' special just for me! Most recently, it was hot-off-the-press copies of LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS...Oooo!!!)

As for our cats sweetly purring in my lap as I type...ha! That's only in my husband's wild imagination. Usually, they're chasing each other around the house, howling and spitting as they fling themselves atop my desk and swat at each other, knocking papers to the floor and often stepping on various keys on my keyboard. Once Munch plopped down on the "Enter" key and suddenly a 10-page chapter turned into hundreds of blank pages. This weekend, Max hopped up and clicked the mouse with his paw, sending an email I was writing in reply to a blogger doing a contest for one of my books...before I'd half-finished it. Thanks, Maxwell.

It's a wonder anything ever gets done. Speaking of which, excuse me a minute while I dump another load in the washing machine, throw some clothes in the dryer, and let the plumber in. I have a feeling Munch and Max will attempt some very interesting revisions for me while I'm gone.

EXCITING NEWS: My second Debs novel, LOVE, LIES, AND TEXAS DIPS, will be released on June 9. I'm giving away five copies on my web site so drop by and enter!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Have Your Cake & Eat It Too!

As Murder Takes the Cake is making its way onto library shelves across the U.S. we'd like to celebrate with a SPECIAL DRAWING JUST FOR LIBRARIANS.

Sign up for our newsletter at our website. The sign up block is on the right column, just scroll down a few inches. Indicate on the sign up form that you are a librarian or work/volunteer in a library. You'll be automatically entered into the June, July, and August 2009 drawing for an autographed copy of Murder Takes the Cake and a Smith Island Cake.

If you are already an Evelyn David Newsletter subscriber and need to update your subscription to indicate that you are a librarian, just follow the same procedure.

3 months - 3 drawings. Sign up today and have 3 chances to win!

Good luck!

And for all the rest of us who are not lucky enough to work in a library? Check back, we've got another great contest coming this summer!

Evelyn David

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Men--and Women--Behaving Badly

I have now experienced the phenomenon common in suburban sports known as “parents behaving badly.” To this point, because I am married to the most mellow man on the planet, and he has coached baseball with two other mellow guys in town, we have been immune to the things I read about, hear about, and don’t believe can actually happen in a town of 7,500 people. After all, I always thought, in a town this small, where you run into almost every inhabitant at least once a month—if not week—why would people behave badly? We don’t take our sports that seriously, do we?

Apparently, we do.

Without going into detail, suffice it to say that at child #2’s baseball game on Saturday, there was a dispute involving a call. The call went in our favor, and two runs on the opposing team were considered invalid. The coaches on the other team—to put it mildly—heartily disagreed. And disagreed. And disagreed. Until all three of them were practically blue in the face and taking issue in a vociferous manner with the umpire, who clearly knew his stuff and had a relatively cool head. It got so bad that words were exchanged during the clean-up of the field after the game. Fortunately, our head coach had the good sense to pick up home plate and walk away, thereby avoiding any additional conflict about a play that had happened oh, somewhere around the third inning. Me, husband, and kid #2 were so focused on eating lunch (the game had gone on for more than two hours in the hot sun) that we beat a hasty getaway lest anyone get in front of us at the deli; that was our only concern.

But I have to admit, I was pretty riled up myself as I plowed into my fried eggplant and mozzarella sandwich. My son, however, upon diving into his ham on a roll, asked me if I had seen him steal home. Fortunately, I had. This was the one time I wasn’t exchanging recipes with Melissa on the bleachers or talking about which hair dye lasted the longest. The joy on his face, and the lift that he got from doing something he considered to be the absolute most exciting thing one can do on a baseball field, made me forget that anything had happened in the game between the adults. The kids, in general, had clearly had a great time. The adults? Not so much. So, we spent the rest of the day talking about the home plate steal, and the artistry that accompanied it. Kid #2 was so overjoyed that he told his sister the minute we entered the house, his enthusiasm was contagious. She, too, was equally excited by his feat and asked him about every single detail of this amazing act of athleticism.

That’s what it should be about.

But it’s not and we all know it. The next day, I drove with a friend to our sons’ lacrosse game. We made the mistake—not knowing any better—of sitting with the opposing team’s parents who proceeded to critique, berate, and heckle our kids who range in age from eight to ten. When one of our kids inadvertently knocked someone down (hey, it’s lacrosse—little boys, sticks, and running. What do you think is going to happen?), they would scream for a technical penalty or even for the kid to be thrown out of the game. When one of their little wonders did the same? It was aggressive play. It was how you played the game. It was “go, get ‘em, Tiger.” My friend and I tried to tune the whole thing out and exchanged recipes and tips for hair dying, and tried desperately to find something to do on Thursday other than train with Trainer Shari, who was sitting in front of us and threatening us with severe training. (She’s taking us to the Gorge—where no one can hear us scream.) The game ended with one of our third graders taking the business end of someone’s lacrosse stick to the face. When he collapsed on the ground, in tears, waiting for his mom to come out and comfort him, the opposing team’s parents had the good sense to fall silent. Thankfully, the game ended shortly thereafter. My friend and I got back to my house and tried to forget we had ever been to the game with a lovely bottle of Chardonnay.

Kid #2 is young. He’ll be playing a lot more organized baseball and lacrosse. And despite my being the most competitive person on the planet (remind me to tell you how I turned square dancing into a competitive event), I just want him to have fun. Seeing him smile while running around the bases—bugs flying into this teeth—gives me more joy than anything. And seeing him shrug his shoulders when he’s tagged out makes me proud of him. He moves on very quickly, as he should. There’s been a lot written on this subject and probably no more to say but I will leave you with this: Parents, please take it down a notch.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reflection Back to Younger Years

After a posted a comment to the Jon and Kate Reality TV show I got to thinking back about what life was like when I was a fairly young mom and my kids were all at home. Would I have done a reality TV show?

Since my kids are in their late forties and fifties I'm talking about a long, long time ago. There was no such thing as reality TV.

I don't remember how it happened, but somehow I became friends with the society page editor of the local newspaper. One time she came to the house to write an article and take pictures of all of us getting ready in the morning.

We lived in a three bedroom, two bath tract home. The bathroom with the shower was called the boys' bathroom, for hubby and the two boys; the other one with the tub was the girls' bathroom. And yes, we all got ready in the morning together.

Hubby had to be in uniform at the Seabee base and the boys ready for school. The action in the girls' bathroom was a bit more exciting, since girls always do more with make-up and hair--and they all went to school too. I have no idea what my pursuits were at the time of the story, but probably I was busy with PTA since I was president 4 years in a row at two different schools.

I also had a Camp Fire Girls group and I know I managed to get lots of publicity for the group too as we were always earning money for some camping trip or another. Our group was unique as we had girls from all different ethnic backgrounds as members. Our final trip when the girls were seniors was by our own Greyhound Bus to the Grand Canyon--and we earned every dime for that trip. None of the girls came from families who could afford to subsidize them.

For ten years I worked part time in a pre-school for developmentally disabled kids--and I have an old newspaper clipping of me doing physical therapy with my class.

So, looking back, there's a pretty good chance I might have agreed to a reality TV show if there'd been such a thing at the time. No doubt people would have been critical of me too because I was every bit as bossy as Kate--still am. Like Jon, hubby didn't pay a heck of a lot of attention to what I had to say.

And believe me we were far from perfect. The kids did things that scared us, made us worry, shook us to our core and I talked about everything to my best girlfriends. Hubby and I definitely had our faults too--lucky for us we managed to work through them since we're still together after the tumultuous times of raising our kids.

Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about and I suppose I should be thankful there was no reality TV back then, because if there had been and people watched us and made all the comments that are being made about Kate and Jon--we probably wouldn't have made it either.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Me Too Charlaine

I was drinking my early morning tea, reading the New York Times, when I laughed out loud in recognition. It was a wonderful article on the delightful Charlaine Harris, and just like I often do, although not quite so eloquently, she felt the need to justify herself as an author. “Like many a commercial writer, Ms. Harris wishes the literary establishment would pay more attention. ‘I think there is a place for what I do. And I think it’s honorable’.”

I loved when she confessed that her two earlier series, despite being well-written, had never taken off. That sometimes it’s not the writer, it’s the timing, the market, the publishing house – nothing seems to align right with the stars and the books just don’t sell. And then, out of nowhere, it’s the Age of Aquarius and everything is shiny and new – and yes, you can savor it, my yes, you can savor the moment. Frankly, Charlaine’s explanation is so much better: “It was just a huge relief that I finally hit on the right character and the right publisher. I had this real neener-neener-neener moment.”

First, isn’t it amazing that even Charlaine Harris has these moments of doubt and still feels compelled to point out that what she writes is art and has value too. Forgive me, but there are times when I look at some national book award nominees and I’m convinced that they are sponsored by the manufacturers of Prozac. I mean if the reader isn’t thoroughly depressed by the last page of the book, then it’s just not art and not worthy of attention by “serious” readers.

The truth is I love books that let me escape the reality of laundry, bills, and dust bunnies the size of, well, bunnies, that litter my house. I don’t need books to get depressed. I can do that on my own, thank you very much.

A toast to Charlaine Harris and all the other writers who provide me a puzzle to solve, more than a few laughs, maybe a vampire sex scene or two (oy!), and characters I love.

Evelyn David