Friday, July 30, 2010
Maybe it's just me, but publishing a book feels a little bit like getting a serious groove on when you think you're alone but people are watching. Dang. If I knew you were standing there during my unabashed booty-shake*, I'd have worked on my moves a little more.
When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea my friends and co-workers would read it one day. That is probably a good thing, because just like we should dance like nobody's watching, I also think we should write like nobody's reading . . .
. . . but only during the early drafts.
Later in the process, we have agents and editors to prevent us from embarrassing ourselves and help us shine.
Thing is, I don't like my agent or editor to see my early drafts. I don't like to publicly mess up. But in the life cycle of a book, this is required. So I have a few close writing friends who look over pages before I do the literary equivalent of busting a move on the dance floor with toilet paper stuck to my shoe.
Their job is to tell me which parts are humming and which parts I should cut and delete off my hard drive so they can never be traced back to me.
Rules of engagement go something like this.
1. Must be frank.
Recently, I got a note in one scene that just said: Huh??
Enough said. Thank you, it's fixed now.
2. Must tell me when I use the wrong word.
You were right. A voice "crackles" on a speaker, it doesn't "cackle." Thank you for preventing me from being exposed as the imposter I am.
3. Must call Bullsh!t on me when I handwave around an ill-conceived plot point.
Perhaps I'm inherently lazy or just hopeful nobody will notice, but my friends always do. A good reader will tell you it doesn't make sense and spare you from hearing it from an editor, who I promise will always notice.
4. Must wield a pen like a machete.
There's a prevailing notion that getting copy back with a lot of red ink (or tracked changes) is a negative thing, but I love it. When this happens, a reader isn't trying to re-write your stuff so much as suggest an alternate way to present it. I usually like the new way better and almost always use it, sometimes shamelessly ripping off a line and passing it off as my own. Before you judge me, my friend David says there's no such thing as plagiarism between friends*. He calls it an homage, which sounds so, so much better.
My editor likes to see the first 100 pages of a new story before I get too far along with the book. It'll be a while before that happens, because right now my fave writing buds, Bill Tate and David Hansard, are off employing rules 1-4, helping me make sure I don't go out on the dance floor looking like Elaine.
Writing is solitary sometimes. Other times, it's a tremendous team effort. This post is a virtual hug to Bill and Dave, who are reading for me now, and to Laura Weber and Nikki Bonanni, who read for me earlier and helped me get this story off the ground.
Thanks to you all, maybe next year I'll be rockin'.
*Clips are more fun in foreign languages, don't you think?
**When employing the homage approach, it's good to have reader friends who won't sue you. Good luck.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Call me crazy.
I’ve joined a new blogging community.
Go ahead, I’m serious. Loca. Nuts. Headed for the loony bin. They all fit. I’m a blogging fool.
But the thing is, I must love it or I wouldn’t do it! And blogging has made me so many fantastic friends. One, for example, ahem, Tonya Kappes, has become one of my all time best friends. Simpatico is the word that comes to mind. Another, Lee Lopez, is that friend who will always be there, she’s grounded, and she’ll tell me like it is. I trust her to be honest all the time.
Then there's Wendy Lyn Watson, fellow cozy mystery writer and crit partner and great friend--she gave our family our newest addition, a little kitty whose name is either Pablo or Nacho. We're still undecided. Together, Wendy and I work with Heather Webber. Now Heather and I met online through a variety of blogging ventures and now the three of us (Wendy, Heather, and me) blog together on Killer Characters.
When you meet a blogging friend in person, it’s so cool! I met Heather in Cincinnati recently when I presented a workshop (The Naked Hero Strips Down Hero - Archetypes!) at Lori Foster’s Readers and Writers Event with Tonya.
We already *knew* each other, so it was easy to fall into a friendship face to face.
Not all friendships are easy. Some are work. Some are toxic. Some are just not meant to be. But no matter what, you learn (or at least I do) from the friendships and relationships in your life. And blogging (or online) friendships are no different. I’ve learned to surround myself with people I enjoy being around, people who are easy to talk to, easy to get along with, who give as much as they receive (because I’m a giver, and reciprocity is always appreciated!), and who are fun. Life is too short not to have fun!
Blogging is a great way to make friends-just look at the ladies in heels right here at The Stiletto Gang! I adore every one of them and am so glad to be part of their group.
And so my blogging community has broadened. Here’s a rundown of me...on the web!
A Kid's Cooking Challenge (more on that another time, but check it out! It's with my kids!)
I hope you’ll visit me, and now, tell me where you hang your hat on the web so I can visit you!
~ Misa / Melissa
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
My name is Dru and I'm an avid book reader. My day job as a research analyst keeps me in books that I love to buy and read. When not reading, I’m creating quilts, listening to music, watching TV crime dramas or mysteries and traveling when I can.
Why I like to readI read because it is entertaining, relaxing and I can escape on different adventures. Reading mysteries combines my love of puzzles and research. You have to look at the clues and fit the pieces together and I find that entertaining.
Where else can I sit in my living room and travel to the Pacific Northwest? Small town USA? The big city? Or right here in the town where I live? A book.
Where else can I help solve a murder mystery and not have to face the killer? Taking up a hobby and learning the ins and outs is easy once I read one of the many cozy mystery books that I’ll find on a shelf.
Reading a book, in particular, a series gives me the satisfaction that within the next year, I’ll be visiting my friends again and I can’t wait to see what our next adventure will bring.
Why do I read? Because I enjoy it and who knows, one of the books and/or author may one day be a Jeopardy question.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Your favorite cozies?
To see what Dru's been reading, click here and the quilts that she's created here.
Dru Ann Love
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Our family went to the movies every Friday night. Sometimes I went to matinees with my friends.
My father worked for Paramount and loved to tell us how awful different stars we liked really were--how they acted on and off the set, how they treated anyone they thought a bit lower in status than they were, lack of morals and so on. At that time, I didn't really care--and probably thought my dad was exaggerating.
In case you misunderstand, I do believe everyone has a right to their own opinion. But what galls me is to hear a big name movie star speak out on TV like he is an expert about--you name it, politics, global warming, religion, family, the economy, how to fix whatever our problems are or he or she thinks they may be.
Thanks to all the magazines we have now, we know that my dad was right, most of these people don't behave on or off the set, and have an alarming lack of morals. Frankly, I wonder about some of their intelligence. Just because someone has a beautiful face, body, talent that doesn't necessarily equal brains. (If you want to know the truth, I feel the same way about most of the politicians.)
For instance, what right does someone who lives in a big house (and probably owns more than one) with who knows how many big screen TVs and other appliances that use up all kinds of electricity and drive and own multiple cars, and maybe fly his or her own airplane wherever they want to go, to tell me or you that we need to conserve, start walking instead of driving, well you get the idea.
None of these folks live in the real world--the world we all live in. They have no understanding of the problems the rest of us face in our day-to-day lives.
I've gotten it off my chest and I feel much better.
Might as well let me know what really bugs you.
Monday, July 26, 2010
No, I'm not going to research the history of the modern a/c unit. I think it's enough to note that homeowners survived without it until the last 50 years or so. How? Last week, I only managed one hot night in my home after the a/c stopped.
The fan motor on my outside a/c unit died at noon on a Sunday. I stayed that night with my parents, enjoying their air conditioning. The next day I reclaimed my home and scheduled a visit from my a/c repair guy. He couldn't come immediately, so I used fans and made a panicked run to Lowes for a portable a/c unit. But these were only stopgap measures until my a/c repair guy could ride in on his white horse (okay Ford F-150 truck) to save the day.
But what if I couldn't have afforded the repair? What then? Why is a/c so vital now? Our grandparents grew up and survived without indoor air conditioning. What's changed? Is it because of global warming? Is it that much hotter now? Maybe. But I suspect it's more about the way buildings are designed, our proximity to our neighbors, the concrete surrounding us, and the lack of trees.
My house, built in the late 1940s with an addition tacked on in the 1970s, is close to other houses on either side. I have a very deep backyard, but not much yard on the sides. This means that if I open my windows, I have little chance of catching a breeze. I have windows on the front of my house, but the air that manages to trickle in from there, is superheated from all the concrete streets and driveways. And the backyard, where I have trees and grass, no windows on that side of the house. I think the builders were more concerned with keeping the north side sealed up and warm. They succeeded. A couple of years ago, when I had no electricity during a two week period after an ice storm, no pipes froze.
Last week when I had no a/c, the outside temps were hovering around 100 F with very high humidity levels. The temperature inside the house, before the fans and portable a/c began combating the heat, reached a sweltering 90 F with a 70 percent humidity level. (Note: I prefer an inside temperature of 70 F year round, so 90 F inside was miserable.)
I think differently about my home when the electricity is off, when the heating/cooling systems are off-line, when the cable (tv, phone, internet) is on the fritz. It feels like a betrayal. Almost like the building is a living, breathing entity that's failed to live up to my expectations. Very disappointing. I'm sure this relationship will work itself out, but right now ... sigh.
My a/c is again pumping out cool air, although struggling around 3 p.m. when the heat index is the worst. I hold my breath when the temps in the house start to rise, fearful that the overtaxed unit will die again. Around 8 p.m. the unit catches up and all is well, but it's hard to rebuild trust.
Fall weather can't come too soon for me.
aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David
Friday, July 23, 2010
MAGGIE: I love summer, plain and simple. I much prefer heat to cold. The humidity does wonders for my dessicated Irish skin (not sure if that adjective applies, but you get my drift) and my straw-like, over-processed hair. I love a delicious hamburger fresh from the grill...we hardly ever eat red meat in the fall/winter/spring months so we go to town in the summer. I love a cold margarita and some spicy guacamole. (Ok--how did this turn into Maggie's Ode to Food and Drink?) I love the riverside concerts in the park that's walking distance from our house. I love the beautiful pink petunias spilling over the sides of my window boxes. I hate, hate, hate the mosquitoes. I always say that I am the human equivalent of a citronella candle...you don't want to get bit, come sit by me. I alternately love not having a schedule and hate not having a schedule. I do enjoy not having to make lunches every night, though.
MARIAN (aka the Northern half of Evelyn David): I love, love, love...Snowballs. The Baltimore treat, not to be confused with Italian ices found in New York or orbs thrown at younger siblings. These sweet confections of my childhood were crushed (not shaved) ice, flavored with sweet syrups. My favorite? Chocolate snowball with marshmallow topping and vanilla ice cream (layered). When I was eating them I was too young to worry about the calorie count – and if I could find one now, I wouldn’t care if there were 2,000 calories in the cup, the sheer bliss would be worth it. Roses. I have a black thumb and can barely keep ivy alive. But I love the smell and look of roses and remember, with great delight, the rosebush garden that my mother, the original Evelyn, had in our backyard. The ocean at sunset. There’s something about seeing the sun dip beneath the horizon, the fierce reds and yellows slipping out of sight, that’s inspiring. Sure the sun sets in the winter, but in the summer, after an exhausting, sandy day at the beach, sunset is longer, brighter, later, and means that the nighttime fun can begin. I hate, hate, hate...The humidity. When my hair has its own zipcode, you know it’s summertime and the humidity is back. The wrinkles. I’m not talking about my skin, but my clothes after an hour in that humid summer sunshine. The smells. It’s nice to remember the roses of summer but, not to put too delicate a spin on it, there’s also the fragrant aroma of garbage, and frankly, other people and myself sweating when walking in the Big Apple. In a packed subway? Oy!
MARILYN loves summer because: Lots of kids come over to use the swimming hole in the river behind our house. (I don't go down there anymore, but it's great to hear all the happy sounds.) Life's frantic pace seems to slow down somewhat. My son barbecues for us. But she hates: All the spiders that decide to come out of hiding. We have some of the ugliest critters possible, big and hairy. I don't have a bit of trouble killing them. The San Joaquin Valley heat. Even though we live in the foothills and it's always a bit cooler up here, it's still way too hot. One good thing, it's usually a dry heat. No rain. Sometimes we don't get a single rainstorm all summer long. Electric bills. We have solar which helps, but not enough panels to take care of it all.
MISA gives a thumbs-up to: Lack of a schedule: after the crazy school year, no schedule is great! Staying up late and sleeping in: It's such a treat! Being with the kids. God love 'em! Husband time. Having him around the house is like our newlywed days. Reading: summertime means permission to read more. Misa doesn't like: Lack of a schedule: it's hard to get things done with no schedule to keep me on track! Staying up late and sleeping in: If I stay up late, I'm tired in the morning, unless I sleep in, and then I feel as if I've wasted important and valuable waking hours. Being with the kids: I need space!! Husband time: see above (kids). Reading: reading more means writing less, which isn't always good!
RACHEL loves: Having my kids home from school. They are neat people and I like the down-time with them. The beach. I never tire of the sun and surf. Snowcones. Nothing says “cheerful” like brightly colored shaved ice and the smiles they put on my kids’ faces. Concerts in the park. I love live music and being outside. Sandals. They are casual and fun, just like I try to be. Rachel hates: Having my kids home from school. They make a lot of messes and bicker all the time. Plus, they’re really loud. The beach. I’m not sure which is worse, the sand that ends up in my bikini bottom or the sand that ends up all over my van. Snowcones. Nothing but overpriced empty calories here. A blessing and a curse for any frugal, health-conscious Mom. Concerts in the park. You know how after a mosquito bites you, it starts to feel like a thousand of them are biting you now? I hate that. Sandals. Stop looking at my chipped toe nail polish. I was too busy rinsing out my bikini bottom!
RHONDA (the Southern half of Evelyn David) says “the best of summer has always been”…home grown tomatoes, sliced and eaten with a pinch of salt…the sweet taste of Black Diamond watermelons…fresh peaches from local fruit stands…corn on the cob lathered with butter and salt…going barefoot in the grass…floating on an air mattress in a swimming pool or lake…vacations - full days where you can spend your time however you want…hydrangeas in full bloom bringing splashes of color that last for months. And the worst…mowing the yard and needing to do it all over again in three days…temps over 100F and humidity making the air so thick you can barely breathe…the smell of hot asphalt…ants, mosquitoes, and wasps invading my space…hot car interiors…delays and congestion from all the road construction work.
As for SUSAN: What I love most about summer is when it's over and leaves start turning colors, the air gets crisp and tinged with the smell of chimney smoke, and pumpkins everywhere brace themselves for carving! I am such a fall baby!
What about you? What do you love/hate about summer???
Thursday, July 22, 2010
It may seem crazy to some to think of Gone With the Wind, a perennial favorite for close to 75 years now, as a forgotten book. But among many women of my generation (I’m 44), it IS forgotten. That is to say, my friends KNOW about it, but they’ve never READ it. Something unknown keeps them away from it, tempted though they may be. They toss around all kinds of explanations as to why they haven’t read it:
"It’s dated, it’s too long, I don’t read historical books, I’ll watch the movie instead..."
I think they’re nuts!
I first read Gone With the Wind when I was in eleventh grade. I couldn’t put it down--even sneaking away to the back room of the little store I worked at to read when I should have been dusting shelves or stocking or any of a number of other retail tasks. But I had to see what Scarlett would do next. How Rhett would respond. What he’d do in return. I was lost in Atlanta, a city I didn’t know from Adam, but which held magical charm for me. And Scarlett’s life philosophy--After all, tomorrow is another day--are pretty good words to live by.
I’ve tried to get friends to through caution to the wind and read the book. I chose it for book club and it was a smashing success. Startling after all these years how the book holds up, how there is so much to discuss in terms of the Civil War, Scarlett’s choices, Rhett’s commitment and unique system of honor, carpetbaggers, yankees, midwifery, the South, and so much more. It was an interesting reminder, as well, to recall how different the movie is from the book. Katie Scarlett had children! Several children, not just the tragic Bonnie Blue Butler.
Scarlett was a feminist--of a sort-- before feminism existed. She used whatever means she had to--whatever was at her disposal--to get what she wanted, and she made no bones about it. Was she always right? No. In fact, usually she was wrong. But we cheer her on anyway because she’s so determined not to let life beat her down.
Gone With the Wind probably isn’t as forgotten as I'm making it out to seem--in fact, I could take the other side of my own argument and say it will never be forgotten--but to those women who’ve not made the leap yet, or who would rather watch the movie, and to my daughter’s generation (she’s a week shy of 10), it could well become forgotten unless we, who love it, pass it on.
So here’s to Margaret Mitchell for creating one unforgettable heroine and a book which should never be forgotten.
Now it's your turn. What's one unforgettable book in your reading history?
~Misa / Melissa
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I consider myself something of a whiz with a hammer and a butter knife and have repaired this piece of furniture several times throughout the years on my own. But American craftsmanship not being what it used to be, child #2 was able to break both drawers immediately following my repair and has been left with only three drawers that serve any purpose. That, coupled with the fact that I am convinced he’s going to pull the top drawer out and give himself a subdural hematoma spurred me to wake up and call my friend, Mary Ann, and ask her if she wanted to drive to a big-box furniture store that shall remain nameless. Big-box furniture store has good, cheap furniture. The only catch is that you have to put it together yourself. How hard could that be? I asked myself. Mary Ann assured me that her handy husband had no problem assembling the two dressers that she bought a few weeks earlier and that they were excellent examples of Scandinavian craftsmanship.
Bonus—Mary Ann has an SUV. We could shop to our hearts’ content and still have enough room to put all of our purchases in the back. The whole day was to be a thing of beauty. We would even schedule time to have Swedish meatballs in the big-box furniture store's cafeteria. What could better?
What could be better? Furniture that is already assembled.
Two things I didn’t count on? Technical drawings/directions, and almost one hundred degree temperatures with sixty percent humidity.
I decided that there was no time like the present. I also know, from experience, that the longer I let things like assembling furniture from big-box Scandinavian furniture stores go, the more likely it is that aforementioned furniture will be sold, for a loss, at a tag sale at some date in the future. So, armed with a butter knife and a hammer, I plopped myself in child #2’s room and set about putting together a three-drawer dresser.
Step 1: Put it together backwards.
Step 2: Nail backing of dresser to front of backwards dresser.
Step 3: Curse as if you’re an extra on “The Sopranos.”
Step 4: Take backing off of front-ing, pull out nail holes that now adorn the front, and complain to husband.
Step 5: Wonder why husband can’t read minds and bring you a glass of cold Chardonnay when you think about it.
Step 6: Put drawers together.
Step 7: Attempt to put drawers in and realize that dresser is still backwards.
Step 8: Take backing off again and kick drawer.
Step 9: Leave room, your hair dripping sweat and curse out big-box Scandinavian furniture store, swedish meatball gas building in your abdomen.
Step 10: Do not go back into room. Stare longingly at half-assembled dresser.
I let it go three days before returning to it. Cost of dresser: $149. Amount of time it took me to put together: 6 hours. Me swearing off big-box furniture stores: Priceless.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Honestly, 24 hours used to be so much longer than it is now.
When I was a kid, summer days went on and on. I had time to ride my bike everywhere. I organized clubs and even wrote by-laws for them. I put out a magazine for my friends and charged a nickle a copy. (This was in the days before copy machines. I used something called a hectograph or jelly pad. With every page, the jelly had to be melted down and allowed to dry before a new original could be put on it for printing.) I wrote plays and neighborhood kids performed in them.
I went to the library once a week and checked out 10 books at a time--and read them all. We did fun things with our families, picnics at the park, made ice cream when the relatives came over. We went to the movies every Friday night.
After I grew up and married, during the summer months the kids and I would quickly do all the chores, pack a lunch and drive to the beach where we stayed until time to come home and make dinner.
Even when my family kept increasing, I did the laundry nearly every day, kept the house clean, had a Blue Bird group that turned into a Camp Fire group and then a high school Horizon Club. Over the years I also had a lot of jobs--worked for the phone company between and during pregnancies and still managed my home and family. Hubby was in the Navy and was off in many different places including three tours of duty in Vietnam during the war.
I took kids here and there, served in many offices in PTA from newsletter editor, secretary and four years as president. And yes, I even did some writing besides the newsletter, plays for my Horizon Club girls to perform in.
Finally we had five kids, hubby was retired after 20 years of service and went to work for Sears. Youngest boy went to kindergarten and I taught at a school for developmentally disabled pre-schoolers in the mornings and went to college at night. And that's when I started writing my first book.
Children grew up. I planned weddings, cooked food for the receptions, took care of grandkids, still did all the house things and worked. And yes, I wrote every chance I got.
We moved and hubby and I took over a home for six developmentally disabled women. We cared for the women, I did lots and lots of laundry, cooked many meals, took our ladies to the doctor, to the movies, to church, bowling--and did lots of required paperwork. And I wrote. My first book was published during this time.
We also provided a home for different grandkids over the years and did all the school things required for them. My mom lived next door. We had all sorts of family celebrations including a big party for her 80th birthday and over 100 people came. I planned and fixed all the food.
Now we're retired. Have another adult grandson living with us. I don't have to do all the things I did when we had our residential facility. I still get up early. I don't have to do nearly as much laundry. I only clean hubby's and my bedroom, bathroom and my office as my son and daughter-in-law do the rest.
We try to go to the movies and out to eat once a week, but we don't do anything very exciting except promo events.
Now here's the problem, I don't have near the time to write as I did all those years I did so many other things. What happened to the time? I should have lots more than I did back then.
Anyone have a solution for me?
Monday, July 19, 2010
Here's the takeaway, as they say in the news biz:
Murder Drops the Ball, the third in the Sullivan Investigations Series, will be published next spring by our new publisher, Wolfmont Press!
The past twelve months have been a roller coaster ride, both personally and professionally. We both had health issues, which are now behind us (but let's add a poo, poo, just to be safe). We had family issues (some exceptionally wonderful like Ms. Riley, who made the Northern half of this writing duo, a Grandma!). And then there were the hard decisions of what do we want to do next professionally.
Some of the questions and answers we faced as we made our decision?
Do we both still like to write mysteries? Yep, you bet.
Do we still want to write mysteries together? Absolutely, no question – heck, in truth, if we're not writing them together, we're not writing them.
And finally, with respect and gratitude to our first publisher who first believed in us, nonetheless, was it time for a change? And the answer was a sad yes.
We are so pleased to be working with Tony Burton, owner of Wolfmont Press and Honey Locust Press. Many of you know Tony from the wonderful charity mystery anthologies he creates each year, funneling thousands of dollars to Toys for Tots, and this year, hopefully for Homes for Our Troops. Tony is also Vice President of the Southeast Mystery Writers of America – and an author himself.
Here's the plan. The Kindle editions (as well as e-book editions for the Nook and the i-Pad) are already available for Murder Off the Books and Murder Takes the Cake. The new print edition of Murder Off the Books (with a new cover) is now available at Amazon. The new print edition of Murder Takes the Cake will be out this winter.
Then next spring, Mac, Rachel, Whiskey and the gang are back in Murder Drops the Ball. It's New Year's eve and the body count is rising – while the temperatures fall. There's a story to die for, humor to make you laugh out loud, the characters you love, and Whiskey, full of sass and an insatiable appetite.
In the meantime, we've got a fun contest for you. Thanks to Tony we made one change in the story to Murder Off the Books. We're grateful for his expertise and readily agreed to the revision. The first three people who identify the change will receive a free copy of the new edition of Murder Takes the Cake.
In the midst of all this Ch-Ch-Changing, one thing remains constant: Evelyn David is here to stay!
Friday, July 16, 2010
We're about to start something new and fun here at the Stiletto Gang. Beginning on July 23, the Gang will do regular joint posts with our various opinions on a single subject. But before "Soapbox Stilettos" debuts, I decided I'd get into the spirit by writing about Five Things I Do Not Like. Yes, I know, I could've listed 100 Things I Do Not Like, but then this piece would've had to run for a week, and I'm not sure anyone would enjoy that (unless they're being punished for eating the last pint of Ben & Jerry's or for telling a spouse, "Yep, you do look fat in that"). So here goes!
1. Going to the Dentist
Yes, I'm a good girl so I see my dentist twice a year, and I love her. I really do. She's about my age, and we always chat about boys, books, and boobs (she's a survivor, too). But I am not fond of dental cleanings in the least. I can't think of much I like less than someone's latex-gloved hands stuck in my mouth while they're scraping my teeth. Sometimes I wonder if they're pick-axing for gold, they're in there for so long. And while I am a chat-aholic, it's awfully hard to talk when my mouth is wide open and someone's scraping, flossing, and/or polishing my pearly whites. I've had a fear of the dentist's office since I was a kid. I remember gagging into a spit-sink once because I hated the taste of the gritty paste. I still hate it, although I somehow refrain from gagging. However, I do like my teeth and would prefer to keep them. So I'll fight my fear and show up for my every-six-month visit even though I'd rather run naked through Six Flags (and I so don't want to do that!).
When my brother was a baby, my mom had clown portraits hanging over his crib, and I always figured that's why he screamed so hard when she put him down at night. The paintings frightened me to death, that's for sure. On my first trip to Ringling Bros. Circus, I sat in the front row with my family, and a clown approached to pull an egg from my ear. Like any normal, well-adjusted child with a Bozo phobia, I began shrieking and crying my eyes out. And, no, I haven't gotten over this. So don't surprise me with a Clown-O-Gram on my birthday, okay?
3. Multitasking Drivers
I'm not even sure talking on cell phones is the most dangerous distraction for drivers. I've seen folks eating meals, icing cupcakes, styling their hair, putting on makeup, and reading newspapers all while commanding the wheel of large vehicles that weave over the lines and cut across multiple lanes of traffic because they nearly missed their exit (go figure). I understand how busy everyone is, but Multitasking Drivers are a menace to the rest of us. Since my car is small and lots of Multitasking Drivers helm oversized tanks, it's almost life or death heading out to the grocery store these days. Is it too much to ask drivers to just, um, drive???
I am a big fan of green food. Give me a plateful of broccoli any day, and I'll devour it. Green beans, lima beans, spinach, green peppers, and green onions all make me go "yum." But celery? It tastes like nothing. No, I take that back. It tastes like a stalk of crunchy, stringy nothing. I don't want it in my tuna salad, and I don't want it in my stuffing. The only way it's remotely enjoyable is filled with cheese or peanut butter. If it were up to me, I'd say, let the rabbits have it!
5. Toddler Beauty Pageants
Tiny children dressed in bikinis with fake hair and fake teeth, shimmying and posing in front of grown-up people all for the sake of winning giant tiaras too big for their little heads. What is the point here? To begin training a new generation of reality show hos, plastic Barbies, and porn stars? To keep the offices of every psychotherapist and psychiatrist in the country full for years and years to come? Whenever I've even glimpsed these sad contests, I feel as I do when I'm at the APA to pick out one cat: I want to let them all out of their cages and say, "Run! Run as fast as you can!" I wish someone would do that for these poor pageant babies. A pack of wolves in the wild could raise most of them more sanely than their stage parents.
Whew! I feel better after writing that! If anyone should want to join my rant, please do! I'd love to hear things that you really don't like, too. I'm sure you'll pick up on plenty that I missed.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
When I was a little girl and got my first diary, I filled it up before the year was over and needed a new one. At first I wrote about silly things, like the hot dogs we had for hot lunch. But soon, I wrote about more interesting things, like the adventures I was having living in a house attached to an ice-cream shop in Saugatuck, Michigan. In this thriving, summer resort town, there were lines out the door of our shop until midnight and to reach the flavors, I would stand on an upside down bucket to scoop side-by-side with my family. When I needed a break, I would sit in the sugar cone closet and write in my diary. I could hear the excitement of the customers ordering ice-cream just outside the closet. It was at this early age that I learned the significance of stepping away from the commotion of life, of being alone and of stilling one’s mind because here is where the imagination kicks in, and from where, I believe, writing originates!
Recently, my third grade son had to write an essay on what trees mean to him. I found him at my desk with his head in his hands, his pencil on the floor. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me he couldn’t think of a first sentence. I had him lay down, and then I dimmed the lights, turned Beethoven music on and told him to close his eyes and imagine waking up in the morning and going about his day with no trees.
I left the room and when I came back, I asked him what he was doing. He said, “What you told me to do, Mom,” and I said, “No, what specifically were you doing?” He then said, “I closed my eyes and tried to imagine Sanibel with no trees. There were no birds to greet me as I walked out my front door.” I told him, “Quick, write it—you’ve got your first sentence, your second, too!” And from there, from his mind, from the unique and quiet moment he had to himself listening to Beethoven in the darkened room, he produced the most amazing essay and when his nine-year-old voice read it into the microphone at the school’s Arbor Day Celebration, I had to keep from wiping my eyes.
I hope those of you who want to write are not stuck on first sentences. I have English majors as friends who tell me they can hardly write a sentence out of fear of grammatical gods chasing at their heels. I am not an English major, but I fell madly in love with writing the moment I wrote about hot dogs in my first diary. It wasn’t the hot dogs that I loved writing about but the ability to tap into my innermost self, and to have a voice, and safe place to voice my voice that had me compelled to keep a journal consistently all the way through college. And this is how I learned to write.
If you have a compelling to write, write freely and lovingly of yourself; not out of fear. And keep in mind how therapeutic writing can be. It can easily become a friend. And if you want to write something good, don’t get hung up on sentences, paragraphs, and grammar. Dip deeper into yourself, into the flavors and colors of your mind!
“The words a woman writes in her journal are lit bits and pieces of her heart, soul and mind.”—Whisper from the Ocean
For more on Christine Lemmon and her books, visit: http://www.christinelemmon.com/ or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Contest: Anyone who orders Sand in my Eyes from B&N and emails receipt is entered to win a beach bag full of 7 great new summer books (Jennifer Weiner, Elin Hilderbrand and more). For details click here
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I just got back from Thrillerfest where I presented a workshop with fellow authors/friends, Erica Spindler and J.T. Ellison. Ours was titled: Creating Tough, Smart Female Protagonists (Lipstick Optional). As thriller authors, we have a cache of personal anecdotes to share about the double standards we and our female protagonists experience. For example: are female protagonists allowed to swear? How about cry? I’m fairly certain my series character, FBI Special Agent Maggie O’Dell would never be allowed as many one-night stands as Jack Reacher.
We were surprised to find that almost all of the attendees agreed, that in the thriller genre, the bar is set slightly higher for female protagonists than males. There seem to be unwritten expectations. In fact, the reactions and comments we received made us realize we had only scraped the surface of this hot topic.
The trick is to overcome the double standards and shatter that glass ceiling, but to do it without reducing your female character to yet another clichéd, stereotype. Make her tough and smart but don’t make her give up her femininity – lipstick optional.
I like to share the story about my second book tour when a bookseller (who I respect tremendously) took me aside and told me that I really needed to get Maggie’s drinking problem under control. At the time, I thought she was joking. Sure Maggie threw back a few Scotches in SPLIT SECOND but it was nothing compared to what my male counterparts were having their male protagonists consume. Because Maggie’s mother is a suicidal alcoholic I thought it made sense that alcoholism might be something Maggie struggled with. Another tightrope for her to be walking. But according to this bookseller – and for the record, she was right – readers aren’t comfortable seeing a female protagonist deal with her problems by throwing back hard liquor. So now Maggie still struggles with “the urge” while she sips Diet Pepsi.
DAMAGED (released today) is my eighth in the Maggie O’Dell series and my tenth novel. This time, I actually have two strong females: my series protagonist, Maggie O’Dell and Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Liz Bailey.
Both women are brave and compassionate in different ways and through their necessary partnership I’m able to show their true characters. For Maggie, who is slow to trust and stubbornly independent, she learns to drop her guard with the younger Liz Bailey, who wins Maggie’s trust and respect early on.
With Liz Bailey I’m able to show a generation of women who don’t complain about the double standards in their male-dominated fields. Instead, they simply fight the stereotypes by proving themselves. At 28, Liz has more Katrina rescues over New Orleans than her air crew pilot and co-pilot have together, yet she’s the newbie on their crew. And although Liz yearns for the day they’ll finally call her “their rescue swimmer” instead of “the rescue swimmer,” she doesn’t begrudge the slight. She simply proves her talents and skills and bravery. It’s exactly what Maggie O’Dell has been doing in the FBI.
At the same time, neither woman is a superhero. Both have flaws and vulnerabilities. That’s also an important part of making them real and believable. Maggie may not be throwing back Scotches any more but she has a very real fear of flying, something many people (myself included) can certainly relate to. One of my favorite chapters is when she realizes that in order to view the crime scene she’ll need to get inside a Coast Guard helicopter. And because Maggie is a tough, smart female protagonist, she gets inside the helicopter.
Again, thanks to The Stiletto Gang for this opportunity. I invite all of you to discover more about DAMAGED and me at my website or on facebook.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Hubby reluctantly went with me to see Eclipse, the third in the Twilight movies. We'd seen the first and second together, and he wasn't keen on seeing another.
First, let me say he didn't go to sleep once, so it wasn't boring. (He often falls asleep in a movie if it's too slow, and even snores. A jab to the upper arm usually wakes him.)
I can't say I loved it, but I did enjoy it. I can certainly see why so many women are crazy about the story. What a triangle: a hunky young Indian who has lots of muscles, Jacob. Who cares if he turns into a huge wolf at times? Bella, an ordinary looking young woman who wears little make-up with a wardrobe that mainly consists of hoodies, T-shirts and jeans, who is love with Jacob, but loves Edward even more. Now, Edward, he's really something. He's got a wonderful head of hair and a great profile--but his pallor resembles someone who has a terrible blood disease. Oh, I guess he does--he's a vampire. However, he's a good vampire who gets his blood by killing animals, not humans. (For those of you who like the old-fashioned kind of vampire, there are plenty of those--the villains.)
Oh, and did I mention, the young people in this triangle are all seniors in high school?
Sexual tension abounds as you would expect from this age group--but except for a lot of kissing and heavy breathing, nothing much happens in the sex department, except everyone watching the movie knows what the main characters are wishing for.
Hubby watched a little more intently when the fighting began--and there was a lot, bad vampires against good vampires who teamed up with the huge wolves. Plenty exciting.
Did I enjoy it? Sure, it's a great fantasy with plenty of mystical atmosphere in the form of rain and mist rising from the sea. I'll go to see the next installment, I want to find out if Bella is going to finally wed Edward as she promised and turn into a vampire or choose Jacob, who has a good argument as to why she should pick him.
Monday, July 12, 2010
When I was in the seventh grade neighbors told us about cable tv and something called "Home Box Office." I was fascinated with the idea of being able to see a movie anytime you wanted. The miracle of video tape recorders happened while I was in college. Not that I could afford one. Who knows what kind of degree I would have had, if I hadn't been required to schedule classes around my daily viewing of Ryan's Hope.
Today I own three televisions, all with remote controls (the ones you put batteries in), two dvd players, one leased dvr, and a couple of outdated vhs recorders. I also have digital cable with more channels than I can watch. One would think I should be happy with my tv viewing experience.
One would be wrong.
It's all about expectations.
When I was a child I was happy to run outside in the freezing rain and turn a metal pole so I could watch a grainy black and white episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on a 20-inch screen. I didn't expect more.
Today I pay big money to watch too-many-to-count digital cable programs on a 42-inch, high definition, color, flat screen television. And in exchange for my investment in expensive equipment and hefty cable bills, I expect perfection. Or at least the ability to view an entire episode of America's Got Talent without pixilation (the image scrambling) and the sound dropping out every ten seconds.
Yes, I'm coming off a week of dealing with the dreaded, despised, cable tv company. I know some of you feel my pain.
My first sign of trouble was a couple of months ago when the "cable company provided" (and required for HD channels) dvr started randomly turning itself off and then rebooting. This happened without warning when I'd use the remote to access the menu/guide, change channels, or - hey, sometimes I'd just look at the remote funny and it would take offense and shut off.
This happened once or twice a month - not enough to make that "pain in the you know what" service call. But last week, the problem escalated to three or four meltdown events a day. I couldn't ignore it any longer. Plus the pixilation and sound problems began interfering with watching any HD channel. I was paying for an expensive "something" that I wasn't getting - and you can imagine how I felt about that.
The cable company claimed to be there to help and would send a technician out between 10 and 2 the next day. Since this wasn't my first rodeo, when they asked for a contact phone number, I gave them my cell number. Cell phones are wonderful tools in dealing with the cable company. Remember when you used to wait at home all day for the cable guy to show up? And since they never wanted to waste a service call on someone who wasn't home, you'd have to sit next to the phone, ready to take that all important verification call? Remember when after eight hours of waiting and they didn't show up, you complained? And remember when the cable company's response was that the cable guy called before coming out and you didn't answer, so they cancelled the appointment? And remember the rage and helplessness you felt at their lie? Evil, I tell you. Pure evil. Today, cell phones with call logs have changed the cable customer's world.
So at 2:30 pm that day, the cable guy rang the doorbell. (Note: he was only 30 minutes outside my appointment time). He looked at the reception on the television - a little pixilation was all that was occurring. He started the "nothing wrong here" and "you've got to expect a little flickering" speech. I showed him what I had recorded from the night before - the episode of Rookie Blue where the sound for every other word was dropped and whole scenes were unwatchable. He told me he couldn't do anything since the problem wasn't happening currently. I could sense him inching his way backwards, towards the door. I protested. He started the "I could schedule another appointment" if the problem returned, when a miracle happened. The dvr box shut off and rebooted. Right in front of him. He stared at the tv. I sent up a prayer of silent thanks. There may have been some hand pumping. The cable guy sighed, defeated. His apology for implying I was crazy consisted of, "It's not supposed to do that."
So, happy ending right? Not exactly. Although I had complained about the dvr when I scheduled the service call and requested a new one, the cable guy hadn't brought one with him. But since he now had to do something, he went outside, climbed a ladder, checked a connection and reported it loose, but now fixed. I inquired about the dvr. He told me to call the cable company and tell them the technician said I needed a new dvr.
He left. I made the call. Two days and another vacation day wasted later, I had a new dvr. That evening the pixilation and sound problems were the worst it had ever been. Murder did cross my mind but reason prevailed. Third time was always a charm, right?
I called and scheduled a third service call for Saturday morning, all the while wondering what kind of television reception I might get with an outside antenna on a pole. They still make those, right?
Conclusion: On Friday night my cable reception mysteriously improved 100 percent. Picture was better than it had ever been. Sound was perfect. Something had happened - maybe divine intervention again. More likely a service call in the neighborhood fixed the problem. Tempting fate, I cancelled my service call. I hope the reception is good for tonight. New episodes of The Closer and the debut of Rizzoli and Isles airs on TNT.
aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David
Friday, July 9, 2010
I've heard about twins who are so close that they create their own language, and can feel each other's pain from miles away - but I wondered what would happen to twins who were completely different. What if two sisters had nothing in common, but were constantly being compared? How would that shape their relationship?
I also think it’s very common in families for children to get certain labels, either spoken or unspoken – like the “pretty sister,” the “smart one,” the “drama queen,” or the “peacemaker.” I’ve always been curious about how those labels are formed – are they really a true reflection of who we are inside? It’s interesting to me that we can go out into the world and re-invent ourselves as adults, yet when we go home to visit our families, they still see us through the lens our childhood roles. And sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get dragged kicking and screaming back into those roles!
So I took both of those notions and spun them around in my mind for a while before they turned into the premise of my novel. The intersection of those themes – sisterhood and identity - is the heart of my novel. The funny thing is, in writing the book; I created a new identity of my own. When I first sat down before my computer to type the opening lines to THE OPPOSITE OF ME, I was a stay-at-home mom, raising two boys and pregnant with a third. And while I loved being able to be home with my kids, I really wanted to find a creative outlet for myself - something that wasn't just about nurturing the kids. Writing a book was a dream I'd had as a child. In fact, I used to scribble books on three-ring binder paper and send them off to publishers, confidently awaiting the day when I'd see my masterpieces in stores. It was a lot scarier to try to write a book as an adult. I kept hearing how difficult it was to get a publishing contract - how you had to know someone in the business to even get a foot in the door. But that rumor isn't true - I got my agent the old fashioned way, through the "slush pile" of letters she gets every day from aspiring writers. Now I feel incredibly lucky that I get to blend my work and home life together (I actually take my laptop to movies with the kids and even write in the carpool line if I get there a few minutes early).
I just want to thank The Stiletto Gang again for having me today. I'd love it if you'd visit my website or friend me on Facebook!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
As I said, this is one of the most common questions that is posed to me, and my go-to answer in the past has always been that I have a great babysitter, and I’m not shy about asking for help when I need it. But recently, maybe with this answer in the back of my mind, I’ve started to pay more attention to how I actually do things, and I’ve noticed a pattern. A good pattern, or at least I hope it is!
And that is that I don’t hesitate to say “no.” I say it often, liberally and without any guilt. I say it when I’m already overcommitted, I say it when I’m to tired to do something that’s asked of me, I say it when – let’s be honest – I just don’t feel like dealing with something and I’d rather spend time in my sweatpants at home with my kids. And as I say that tiny little – but very empowering word – it occurs to me why we, as women, don’t say no more often, and why, when we do, we feel so dang guilty over it. Why are we the ones who are asked to take on everything? Why SHOULD we be the ones who are asked to take on everything? And when we finally decide not to take on everything, why do we feel badly about it?
Well, I’m not a therapist, and I won’t even try to be, but I will say that there is some sort of idealized superwoman in my generation of women: we’re in our thirties, we’ve had great careers, we’ve had great children, and well, we like to be sure that it all keeps staying GREAT. And also, we’re self-reliant and independent and very, very good at what we do. So when we’re asked to do one more thing – whether it’s for our child’s school or a project for work – well, one more thing doesn’t feel like too much. But then it’s like that stereotypical house of cards: when you add one more card, it all comes toppling down.
I’ve felt this way recently – that I’ve added one too many cards – between my book promotion and my kids’ needs and my husband’s new job and my travel demands and all of the little things that add up to life. And so, I’ve started saying no. I have more time to myself, more nights to watch crappy TV if I so choose, more hours to feel rested and slowly, the circles under my eyes are fading (though let’s be honest, they’ll never fade completely). I highly recommend this. Say no. Say it once, then try it again, and pretty soon, it gets easy. No no no no no no no. See? Now, it flies out of me without even a second thought. :)
Allison Winn Scotch
New York Times bestselling author
The One That I Want (Random House)
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I keep looking for the silver lining and have had to look no further than my backyard to find some good in the world. People constantly talk about today’s disaffected youth, and I have even railed about how today’s teens and young adults need to find worthwhile pursuits. But having read some graduation speeches and met some recent high-school and college grads in the past few weeks, I’ve become heartened by what I’ve discovered: Today’s graduates are more on the ball than I ever was or will ever be.
In the past week, I’ve had the pleasure of attending several graduation parties for the children of friends. At these parties, I’ve met other graduates and their families. I have been struck by the fact that all of the young men and women I have come to fete or met for the first time are articulate, polite, poised, confident, and studious. They are all on their way to some fine institutions of higher learning—the University of Delaware, Columbia University, the University of North Carolina, and even West Point, to name a few. They are people who I am sure will accomplish great things in their lives. They are people I enjoy talking to, getting to know better, and learning more about what they think about the big issues that confront our country and our world.
With my friend, Tina Jordan, I taught a college-essay application writing course at the local high school to a group of fourteen students. Based on what I had heard from their parents, the kids attending had no blessed idea about what to write, nor did they have any experiences that would help them achieve the goal of preparing a well-written, interesting essay. I found the opposite to be true. Even if they came without any ideas, by the time we began the writing portion of the program, everyone was busily writing about things that make them happy and unique: chicken fungus, rapping, super stacking, and the love of Jane Austen. To see a disparate group of kids writing about their passions was truly a joy for both of us.
So if things are getting you down, I’m here to tell you that the future is not as bleak as it seems. If the youth of my little village are any indication, we are in very good hands.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Going way back, what I remember most about celebrating the Fourth of July was playing with sparklers in our front yard.
Another year, I remember organizing all the kids in the neighborhood, helping them decorate their bikes, trikes and wagons with red, white and blue crepe paper and having our own neighborhood parade. (This was during WW II.)
Someone was impressed enough that we got a write up in the newspaper--pretty good since we lived in Los Angeles.
Jumping ahead to when I had my own houseful of children, on the evening of the fourth, we'd all climb on the roof of the patio to watch the fireworks from the harbor. This worked well, except one year when it was too foggy to see much of anything.
Of course there have been many barbecues and big parades to watch on the Fourth of July since then.
For two years in a row, I had a booth at a Fourth Celebration in the park of a nearby town--but it was far too hot, so this year I headed to the Channel Islands Harbor for another Fourth of July Celebration and joined lots of other folks who had booths set up with their wares, crafts, jewelry and food--and as seems to be the case, me with my books.
This year I didn't have to worry about being too hot because the day started out with a light fog which burned off for a few hours during midday--but it never too warm.
People watching is probably the most fun at something like this. Maybe I should say, people and dog watching, because there were lots of varieties of both.
Of course I enjoyed talking to people about my books--many are surprised that a "real" author would bring her own books and sell them at a place like this event. Some were thrilled to meet me and buy a book.
Most exciting was a 90 year-old-fan who had heard I would be there, who had her son bring her down so she could see me and buy my latest book, Lingering Spirit.
I also met a lady who lives in a city close to me but also has a home at Channel Islands Harbor she escapes to when the valley heat gets too much. She belongs to a book club and asked if I'd come and visit with them sometime--and I'm sure you know the answer to that--I'd love to.
We stayed with our youngest daughter and her husband while we were in the area and had a great time visiting with them too. (And they helped us set up our booth and take it down.)Another plus was having some great conversations with my seventeen year old granddaughter.
And that's how I spent my Fourth of July this year. (And no, I didn't see any fireworks though everyone else did--I was too tired and went to bed.)
Monday, July 5, 2010
Early in the 20th century, my grandfather Mendel left Russia knowing he would never see his parents again. He came to America, to New York, and like many recent immigrants, became a peddler. My great-grandfather invited him home for lunch after Sabbath services and introduced him to his daughter, Rachel Esther. In a nice ironic twist for this blog, my grandmother was born on the 4th of July, a genuine American beauty.
As the story unfolds, Mendel and Rachel were married and moved to Lancaster, South Carolina, then a small quiet town (now an outlying suburb for Charlotte, North Carolina). They opened the town’s mercantile (general store) and began raising their eight sons and daughters, one of which was my mother, the original Evelyn. They were the only Jewish family in the town, but my mother never recounted a single tale of anti-semitism. Her best friend, Lib Ferguson, would take my mother to Tent Revival Meetings – and she loved all the drama and energy she’d find on those evenings. It was an idyllic childhood, with high-spirited siblings and bountiful family dinners. One by one, my grandfather’s brothers immigrated to America, and each would open a mercantile in yet another small Southern town.
I’m in awe of my grandfather’s courage. He embarked on an adventure without a clear roadmap of where he was going or how he would live. Granted, life in Russia was bleak. He would have been conscripted into the Russian army and his hometown was the target of anti-semitic pogroms. So he chose the unknown over the known because America was the land of freedom and opportunity, neither of which he would find in his native land. We need to remind ourselves about that truth on not only this holiday weekend, but also on those days when there are no fireworks and no red, white, and blue bunting draped on the porches of homes across this great land.
Our country is far from perfect, but the foundation of this nation is as close to perfection as humans can get. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That’s what my grandfather sought when he crossed the Atlantic in search of a new homeland. It’s what we still must strive to attain.
Happy Birthday America.
Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David
Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David