Friday, October 28, 2016

Debra Has Gone Fishing! -- In Her TBR Pile

Debra has Gone Fishin' in her "To Be Read" pile.  She'll be back on November 11 with a report of what she read during her break.  Tune in then!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Clicking Our Heels ---Food We Most Hate!

Clicking Our Heels – Food We Most Hate

During this holiday season, many worry about gaining weight because of the snacks, sweets, and delicious holiday only food we will be eating. Rather than have that be an issue for The Stiletto Gang, we thought we’d let you, our potential hosts and hostesses, know the “Foods We Most Hate.”
Debra H. Goldstein – Lettuce. It’s slimy, green, grassy, and dull
Dru Ann Love – Cooked fruit. Don’t like it not in its natural state. I make an exception with raisins though – not a fan of dried fruit as well.  
Paffi Flood – Can’t think of one. Growing up, it was any vegetable available for lunch in the school cafeteria. Anyone else remember shredded carrots with raisins or the salty, overboiled green beans?
Bethany Maines – Mushrooms. Taste like dirt. Feel like slime.
Jennae M. Phillippe – I have been trying hard to learn to at least tolerate food I normally hate ever
since I did a total reversal on Brussel sprouts and realized I may be missing out on some good stuff I usually write off. But I can’t do food texture, like mushrooms, certain seafood, and types of tofu.

Sparkle Abbey – Sparkle is not into liver. Ever. Yuck!

Kay Kendall – I loathe okra. My lip curls at the mere thought of it. Slimy, dastardly stuff.

Juliana Aragon Fatula – Anchovies. I love seafood, I love fish. You couldn’t pay me enough
to make me eat anchovies. If I was starving I’d eat a bowl of lard with a hair in it before I’d eat anchovies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Writers vs. Readers

by Bethany Maines

Writer’s Group: to gather with others to read and critique excerpts of written work
Reading Group: to gather with others to read and critique books, drink and snack

When done correctly, a writer’s group can operate as an auxiliary brain or a training ground to push a writer forward in her craft.  They can be fun, inspiring and incredibly helpful. They can also be a sucking hole of negativity and wasted time. 

With that in mind, it was with some trepidation that I recently tested out a new group. The hostess had a dog (bonus points) and they had established a rule of positivity and compliments before critiques (nice).  They had a time keeper and a word count on the segments we read (organized!). Each writer was doing different genres and styles, but that had the benefit of bringing diverse points of view to the table.  In general, it was great. It provided very valuable feedback and I can only hope that I was equally helpful to the other writers.

However, in specific, it was wee bit disappointing as there were no beverages or snacks.  The reasoning – that hosting the group was enough trouble and that we were here to do actual serious work, not carouse – makes total, logical, absolute sense.  But in the sense of “it’s been a long week, and Bethany wants a potato chip and a glass of something” it was less than I had hoped for.  

I think, possibly what I was really hoping for was a Reading Group.  Every Reading Group I’ve ever attended came with crackers, cheese, and wine – the three low effort food groups. Now, in defense of the writer’s group, very few Reading Group’s I’ve ever attended actually stayed entirely on topic.  There was a lot of… uh… digression, shall we say.  And time keeping was absolute disaster.  And learning was sort of ancillary by-product of reading a book I didn’t pick out, but gosh darn it, the artichoke dip was fantastic.

So next month?  I’ll be packing my own snacks to the writers group.  After all, that group comes with a dog.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Wild Waters, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Beta Readers

Have you heard of Beta Readers?

According to Wikpedia, a beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.

I’m one. I’ve done it several times for several authors, but my one and only long-term beta reading is with author Joanna Campbell Slan.

A couple of years ago, she decided she wanted to meet us and arranged a gathering in St. Louis. Why St. Louis? It where her Kiki Lowenstein series takes place. So 15 women known as the Beta Babes and some husbands and children arrived in St. Louis where we visited the places mentioned in the Kiki Lowenstein books. Also scheduled is an author signing event with local authors where they talk about their books and we make purchases. I’ve discovered several new-to-me authors. That was in 2014 and we have formed a bond where the group want to get together every year.

The next year, we traveled to Florida where Joanna’s Cara Mia Delgatto mystery series takes place. This time 12 Beta Babes arrived in Florida and we enjoyed traipsing around Florida even passing the home that was owned by Burt Reynolds. Once again, local authors were invited to talk about their book and purchases were made.

This past weekend, the Beta Babes headed to Washington DC where we enjoyed a tour of the Kennedy Center, a stop by the Capitol, an uber ride to the Washington Monument and a trek to the Lincoln Memorial (my favorite monument in D.C.). As always, local authors were invited to talk about their books and yes, purchases were made.
Photo courtesy of M. Husovsky

A good time was had that included an outburst of songs, especially singing in a parking lot, visits to wineries and a visit to DinosaurLand. This is always my last author-related event of the year and I treasure all these gatherings.

Have you ever Beta Read for an author?

Dru Ann

Friday, October 21, 2016

Something Different in a New Book

by Linda Rodriguez

I don't do many promotional posts, so I hope you'll bear with this one. I have a new book coming November 30th, something different from my poetry or novels. For many years, I've taught writing workshops and classes in person and online. A number of people across the nation have asked that I write books on the topics of my classes because they don't live close enough to take one and are not in the national organization for which I teach my online classes (to members only). Next month, my first writing book, Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, will be published by Scapegoat Press, and it's available for pre-orders now (though I notice only the trade paperback is up right now—it will be available in ebook, as well).

I'm excited by this new type of book baby. We are planning a whole series of these writing books—next year one on revising the novel. It's been a very different process from writing either poetry or fiction. Here's the lovely write-up the publisher has done for the book.

In Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, Linda Rodriguez turns her sought-after writing course on using depth of character as a springboard to a strong plot into a book designed to help the aspiring writer who wants to tell a story made compelling by the truth and complexity of its characters. She provides examples of actual documents she has used in creating her own award-winning books to demonstrate the methods she teaches.

Great plot springs from character and the motivations each character has for taking or not taking action.
How do you use character as the springboard to a strong plot that draws its complexity from the motivations of its characters?

What are the hidden fears and desires of each major character, what happens when these are frustrated, and how do they intersect and confl ict with one another?

What are the secrets this character is hiding even from him/herself? What will this character tell you about her/himself if given the chance?

Through asking these kinds of questions of your characters, you will learn to create an exciting and
complex plot, building from the integrity of the characters you create.

Praise for Linda Rodriguez’s novels

“Cherokee heritage and the often very painful legacy of secrets have long been hallmarks of this excellent series. They are present in great detail here in this complex and multilayered novel.” —Kevin R. Tipple

“This suspenseful and sensitive tale of small town secrets is captivating from page one. An absolute page-turner!” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author

“Engrossing” —Library Journal “Her latest not only fulfi lls its predecessor’s promise but also furthers Skeet’s story in ways that will have readers eager for her next case.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Rodriguez’s energetic storytelling and attention to character prove she is an author who should have a bright future.” —Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Fans of Nevada Barr and Sara Paretsky will relish Linda Rodriguez’s stellar debut. Her sleuth, Skeet Bannion, is a keeper.” —Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of One Was a Soldier

Praise for Linda’s “Plotting the Character-Driven Novel” Workshop

“Thank you for a wonderful class that was perfect. The lessons were invaluable.” –Nancy R.

“I learned so much and have some great new tools for plotting.” –Holly T.

“I now have an arsenal of tools to tackle that MS.” –Susan B.

“The exercises you gave us provided me with lots of tools to help with plot and character.” –Nancy E.

“Your exercises really helped! I had thought I knew my main character pretty well before, but now I know her so much better. It’s no longer so daunting a task to work on the book!” –Betty P.

“You have given me so much to help me write this first book.” – Mary B.

“Your workshop was very inspirational and helpful. Now, if you could just show up at my house every morning and make me sit down to write, that would be great!” –Cheryl J.

LINDA RODRIGUEZ’s first novel, Every Last Secret, won the St. Martin’s/ Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Her novel, Every Broken Trust, was a Las Comadres National Latino Book Club selection, took 2nd place in the International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlán Literary Award. Her third novel, Every Hidden Fear, was a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and received a 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her fourth Skeet Bannion novel, Every Family Doubt, will be published in June 2017. Visit her Web site at

Thursday, October 20, 2016

“Use Your Imagination”

Like many authors, I have a day job that keeps me far too busy. Right now, I’m scrambling to handle everything that was deferred due to a giant deadline. (Said deadline meant 12+ hour days for weeks and weeks – ack!)

One of those deferred items is making sure all the slides for my teaching assignments (next week's adventure) were appropriately timed, logged, approved, and all the jazz that goes with having your class qualify for Continuing Professional Education.

And because clearly I don’t have enough to do, I was assigned a presentation about another service line (to present, fortunately, to just our group rather than all partners and managers). I say ‘fortunately’ because the partner who assigned this task made the mistake of saying, “Be creative! Think outside the box! Use your imagination!”

Those clichés should give you a clue – tossing out phrases like that is throwing down the gauntlet for an author.

So instead of developing a wonderful blog post for you, I spent the afternoon on The Extremely Unlikely [Service Line Redacted] Case – a Murder Mystery. 

There’s a dead accountant.

And cops.

Lots of cops. 


Several suspects. 

And the boring stuff about the Service Line.

Tune in next month to see if I still have a job. 

Have you ever done anything completely silly or off-the-wall for your day job? Please share!!

Cathy Perkins started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams. Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories. When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 
Currently she's employed in a financial day job. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Amateur sleuth Austin talks to her creator Kay Kendall
Freaking out. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Freaking out.
RAINY DAY WOMEN-An Austin Starr Mystery
               Remember how desperate I was when my husband was jailed for a murder he didn’t commit? If it hadn’t been for all the moral support Larissa gave me, I’d never have been able to track down the real killer. I owe her so much.
               Now it’s Larissa herself who’s in big trouble. She just called long distance with the terrible news. She’s a prime suspect in a murder. Good grief, it’s only been a year since David was an accused killer. This is too much. I’ll have to wear a trench coat and fedora—pretend I am a private eye—if I keep getting pulled into these cases on a routine basis.
               Larissa wants me to fly across the continent—all the way to the Pacific coast—to back her up while the police grill her. I'm desperate to help her out, but I don’t see how I can. Believe me, I’d leave tomorrow if I could.
               But what would I do with baby Wyatt? He’s only three months old. Last time I chased a killer—back before I was a mom—I almost died. That kind of scene is no place for an infant.
               But I can’t go by myself and leave Wy at home. David’s facing a big deadline in grad school, and he’ d have a hissy fit if I asked him to babysit. Of course I juggle Wyatt’s child care with my own studies, but that’s expected. After all, I’m the mom. Dads don’t do things like that—not much anyway.
               Here’s another thing—kind of selfish of me, I know. I planned to drive down to Woodstock, New York, this weekend. The big outdoor rock ‘n’ roll concert is happening pretty close by. I figured I'd put Wy in his little carrying sling, and he could enjoy the music with me.
               Still, I cannot leave Larissa in the lurch. She’s the only real friend I’ve made since I pulled up stakes and left my home and family in Texas to join my new husband up here in Ontario, in the Great White North.
Since Larissa left for her summer job, I’ve really missed her. Long distance is too expensive to talk much. When I heard her voice on the phone, I knew something was wrong. We tell each other everything. See, she’s the only one who knows I was trained as a spy by the CIA. That was back before I married David. I could never tell him that. He would not approve, that’s for sure. But Larissa knows and keeps all my secrets.
               Oh gosh, the more I consider this situation, the more I realize I must fly out and back her up during her time of trouble. She’ll call me back in an hour to ask if I’m coming. Guess I’ll have to put a plan in place. I must think of something.  
Author Kay Kendall
Want to read the first 20 pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery, RANY DAY WOMEN? Go to her website That book won two awards at the Killer Nashville conference in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book. Her first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing, DESOLATION ROW, was a finalist for best mystery at Killer Nashville in 2014. Visit Kay on Facebook


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall is the Time for Book Giveaways!

by J.M. Phillippe

October is one of my favorite months and Halloween one of my favorite holidays. It's no secret to anyone who has read my book Perfect Likeness that I am a fan of the supernatural, and having an entire month dedicated to exploring the edges of humanity and playing in the great "what if" just makes me happy. I break out the glitter pumpkins, the purple and orange string lights, and the creepy LED candles (which are much more cat-friendly than actual fire), and then enjoy an entire month of baking, soup making, and pumpkin spice having.

Fall is the perfect season to cuddle up on the couch and read, which is why I am super excited to announce a book giveaway from my publishing company Blue Zephyr Press. By clicking the link below you can enter for a chance to win a $75 Amazon Gift Card, one of three print novels (Exile by Karen Harris Tully, An Unseen Current by Bethany Maines, and Perfect Likeness by me), or a package of five ebooks: Exile and Inheritance, books one and two in the Faarian Chronicles series by Karen Harris Tully; the San Juan Islands murder mystery An Unseen Current, and supernatural romance Wild Waters by Bethany Maines; and of course, my own romantic comedy with a supernatural twist, Perfect Likeness. The contest runs through October 30th, 2016, and if you tweet about the giveaway, you can win extra entries!

Click on the image and/or follow the link for a chance to win!


*    *    *
J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the newly released short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She worked as a freelance journalist before earning a masters’ in social work. She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Weekend in Atlanta Talking Short Stories

by Paula Gail Benson
Robert Mangeot, Fran Stewart, and PGB (Photo by Charlie Burton)

My membership in Sisters in Crime has afforded me many benefits, including information, encouragement, and camaraderie. I’m particularly grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in a recent short story workshop sponsored by the Atlanta Chapter and organized by its President Lisa Malice and Debra Goldstein. The event took place at the Decatur Public Library, a marvelous facility with well-equipped auditorium and a patio where those attending could have lunch and talk with the presenters. It was a true privilege for me to be on the program with three short story writers I greatly admire, Debra, Kaye George, and Robert Mangeot.

We set an ambitious goal to provide a comprehensive overview of the short story craft and submission process. While we concentrated on mysteries, we were delighted to have writers of literary fiction and other genres participating.

Debra Goldstein (Photo by Robert Mangeot)
Debra got us started with a description of the short story and an extremely effective analysis of how to develop conflict through phrasing and action. Robert brilliantly covered setting, character, and dialogue in a single segment that incorporated the use of Gone with the Wind to illustrate his points. Kaye and I took on the challenge of jointly teaching plotting strategies and discovered that our approaches and preferred structural models offered some interesting alternatives for putting together a story.

After lunch, Kaye explained how revision and editing were essential in developing a marketable manuscript. I followed up with some exercises to get the creative juices flowing. I’m pleased to report that the group left with almost everyone having written a six-word story a la Ernest Hemingway’s “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Robert finished up the day with a wonderful method for pursuing publication and left us all with the inspirational question: “What is your dream?” By telling us about his own writing journey and encouraging us to consider what we truly wished to achieve, he sent us forth excited about the possibilities.
PGB and Kaye George (Photo by Robert Mangeot)

Our participants were so enthusiastic, it became infectious. We exchanged a lot of very helpful information.

I am particularly grateful to Lisa Malice and her husband Lou for their generous hospitality. Kaye and I were fortunate enough to stay with them for the weekend. Not only did we get to enjoy Lisa and Lou’s lovely home, fabulous food, and great conversations, but also we had a terrific time practicing our presentation and catching up.

Thank you to the Atlanta Chapter for taking the time to focus on the short story. I appreciate my fellow presenters so very much. I always learn from each of you and I value our friendships. Finally, many thanks to all those who attended. May you find the success in writing that you are seeking!

Friday, October 14, 2016

What Happened to the Dining Room?

What Happened to the Dining Room? by Debra H. Goldstein

When I was a kid, our dining room table always looked pristine.  It had a beautifully ironed tablecloth on it and a lovely centerpiece that sat exactly below the chandelier. The chairs were meticulously pushed in, but never touched the table.  Of course, we never used the dining room except for special family events or company who weren’t considered extended family.

True family meal gatherings were in the kitchen dinette area.  The surface of that table was scuffed from the book bags dropped on it; its finish marred by original crayon drawings that hadn’t stayed on the page and later homework assignments that had gone awry. Before I reached a certain height, its legs were nicked when riding toys weren’t stopped fast enough. Later, the table sides bore the wounds where chairs were pulled or pushed against it.

When I married and raised children, I followed the same practices with my dining room and dinette, but then I became a writer.  Suddenly, my books and swag needed more space. Space that could be conveniently reached, while being somewhat out of the way.  My solution? Cover the wooden dining room table with the pads originally made to protect it and go for it. 

For the year after my first book, Maze in Blue, came out, I told my husband we couldn’t have company. I refused to clean off the table.  Slowly, my stock was sold, my swag given out, the bookmarks exhausted, and the table reappeared (of course, I did stick the banners and posters in a corner of the dining room in case I needed them again).  We reclaimed the table.  We entertained. When visitors went into the dining room, their eyes wandered from the breakfront to the fireplace and over the top of my clean table. 

That all changed in May 2016.  Should Have Played Poker was published as a hardback and six months of touring and speaking began. A printer, extra papers, swag galore, and boxes of books covered the table. When some space opened, a new shipment of books or swag arrived. Only this time, it wasn’t only the new book on the table, but copies of the old book, too, as it saw a resurgence in its sales. 

Five and one-half months have passed.  There actually is room for me to pack a small suitcase on the end of the table (I leave it there because I need it so often that it became tiresome going in and out of the garage to get it). The original swag is gone, the re-ordered swag is dwindling. There still are books, but by my calculation, because most of the bookstores order their own stock, there only are enough to see me through the last big consignment.  By the end of the month, only one box of books and swag be relegated to the writing corner and I’ll take back the dining room table.

I’m excited, but I hope the sight of a clean dining room table doesn’t last long. For a writer, what can be better than having it covered with clutter because people want to read your books and stories?  Secretly, I hope there comes a time that I never find my dining room table.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Creepies, Crawlies & Other Scary Things Like Politics

by Bethany Maines

Welcome to the Halloween / Election Season where we're all hiding under our covers and hoping that come sunrise it will all be over and the tangerine menace will have gone back under his rock.  I don't know about you, but I long for the days when October child safety meant checking the candy for tampering, not checking the news for use of the word "pussy".  When the boomers talk about bringing back the "good old-days" I nod along, but I'm pretty sure we're talking about different old days.  My definition of good old days was when I didn't have to listen to a year-long build up to an election.  So, basically, 1984. Can Back to the Future happen now?  

Sadly, Doc Brown has not turned up to rescue me. So I'm forced to devise my own escape plan.  It's called books. I'm going to bury my nose in a book or computer and read and write my way through October. In case you wish to enact your own escape plan, I'm offering this giveaway opportunity from my publishing company Blue Zephyr Press.  Enter for a chance to win a $75 Amazon Gift Card, one of three print novels (Exile by Karen Harris Tully, An Unseen Current by Bethany Maines, and Perfect Likeness by J.M. Phillippe), and one lucky winner will win five e-books (Exile and Inheritance by Karen Harris Tully, An Unseen Current and Wild Waters by Bethany Maines, and Perfect Likeness by J.M. Phillippe).  Contest runs through 10/30/16.  Tweet for extra entries!

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Wild Waters, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Hearing Voices

By AB Plum

I hear voices in my head.

Most of the time.

Not every minute of the day or night. But . . . in countless places, at lots of moments—some inappropriate, such as:

·         While conferring with my tax-guru husband about my business expenses
·         While reviewing my latest marketing plan
·         While creating a FB ad
·         While struggling to grasp using video in FB ads
·         While listening for half a second to political callers (usually at dinnertime)
·         While zoning out in front of TV
·         While falling asleep

And . . . mostly, while writing at my computer. 

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

When the voices stop—especially when I’m at my computer—I’m in trouble. Major trouble.

Which means I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in my story. (My characters absolutely refuse to be forced into a situation or action or thought that contradicts who they are). Ignoring me is the quickest way to get my attention.

Two years ago, though, I got hit by the flu. Not the coughing, sniffling, aching kind of flu. The kind that hospitalized me for ten days. I spent seven days in ICU, totally unaware of my surroundings or my brush with death, I heard neither the voices of the medical staff, my husband, nor my characters.

On Day 8, my doctor sent me to quarantine in the Continuing Care Unit. Coughing occupied most of my day and night, and I had the energy of wilted lettuce. I wondered if I’d ever feel ‘myself’ again. Excellent nursing, support from my husband, and my insistence on getting out of bed several times daily helped.

On Day 9, one of my characters popped into my head in the middle of a wobbly circuit around my room. A couple of more showed up before the doctor came by. They hung around after he left. Did I plan to loll around for another nine days? When did I plan to resume telling their stories? Didn’t they deserve a little empathy for their patience?

By the time the doctor returned that afternoon, I made the argument to go home.

And I did. The next day. Late on Day 10. With a cast of characters filling my head with their music.

What about you? Had your flu shot yet? Do you hear that little voice shouting, “Do it!”

Me? I’m scheduled for October 20 because the voices in my head believe in prevention.

AB Plum was born reading—according to her mother.  She started writing shortly thereafter. After publishing two romantic comedies and two romantic suspense novels, she has turned to psychological suspense. Look for release in late October of The Early Years, Book 1 in The MisFit Series.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Clowning Around

There are writers who love to blog.

I envy them. Deeply. Theirs must be a bottomless well of creativity.

Me? I struggle to come up with something even mildly entertaining once a month. This month I have failed. Badly.

I got nothing.

Still reading? Bless you, because all I can think about is clowns.

I wrote a book. It begins with murderous clowns--ergo Send in the Clowns. It releases in two weeks. Whenever I finished the manuscript--April? May?--the thought of ACTUAL creepy clowns was far from my mind.

Fast forward to autumn and there are creepy clowns luring children into the woods. There are clowns with baseball bats closing down college campuses (shouldn't that be campi?) There are clowns everywhere.

What makes them so scary?

I remember when clown Ronald McDonald had much scarier friends. Hamburglar, anyone? I remember Bozo. I remember going to the circus and watching an impossible number of clowns squeezing into a tiny car. Clowns were funny. Clowns were benign.

Not anymore.

Psychologists suggest we are disturbed by a smile that hides true emotion.


I have a different theory.

When the world is so scary, it's nice to be scared by something that isn't quite so terrifying. Global warming, Isis, crippling national debt, or clowns. What would you rather worry about?

You know, when I go back and look, Bozo might actually be a bit scary...

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.  Her latest book, Send in the Clowns, releases on October 25.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Getting It Together

by Linda Rodriguez

This is not really my house (thank heavens).
My husband, the world's original disorganized, absent-minded professor, is fond of saying, “I'm going to get it together,” as if he's putting the final touches on a perfectly organized life. Now, regular readers of this blog may remember that my youngest son, who adores him, calls him “the chaos demon.” Sometimes people who work with my husband at the university take someone new into his office just for the shock effect. Over the years—after many efforts to set up systems he can’t destroy and after giving him books designed to help him understand the simplest organizational principles (like ”throw the trash in the trashcan—don’t just walk past it and deposit it on the kitchen counter”) I’ve stopped trying. I try to keep a couple of areas clear and comfortable for me, and I don’t look when I pass the rest. I haven’t had guests to my house in years, although I had many before he fully embedded himself in my home. (It takes a year or two to completely undo good systems, I’ve found, even for a chaos demon.) He's a wonderful man, and it’s his only real fault, so I long ago decided to live with it.

Lately, I've been chafing at these circumstances, however. Probably because, unlike my husband, I work at home and thus spend most of twenty-four hours a day in these chaotic surroundings. I've grown tired of living with boxes of books and postal bins of manuscripts stacked in the living room—he runs a micro press from our home in his spare time when he's not running a university press and teaching. This morning finally sealed the deal for me, however. My weak and shaky hands (from lupus) managed to knock off the table between our chairs the big Columbia University cup in which I keep things I use regularly—fountain pens, mechanical pencils, scissors, a nail file, and knitting needles. This meant I had to scrabble around on the floor around and under his chair for the spilled contents of my cup.

He keeps a quilt made by my sister in his chair to cover up with if he's cold or just sit on if it's hot. This quilt often puddles on the floor around his chair, and I've given up chiding him about it. So this morning, I was looking for my fallen necessities, only to find that his quilt was hiding three times as many items as I had spilled. Apparently, I'm not the only one with shaky hands in this house.

My cup is back and filled with the pens, pencils, and knitting needles that I consider necessary to daily life, but my hard-won peace with the house mess is gone. I'm googling home organization websites and making lists of decluttering tasks to do over the next weeks. I'm laying in supplies of trash bags and cardboard boxes. The chaos demon's days are numbered.

He tells me he is going to get it all together. I tell him that's a meaningless phrase, that no one ever gets it all together. He reassures me that. He. Will. Get. It. All. Together. I tell him that, like too many men, he sees the house situation as a war where he can win a battle and go home forever. I tell him that life's not like that. “It's a case of constant maintenance, baby,” I say. The chaos demon is stubborn, however, and insists that he will get it together. Tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. After all, things are crazy right now. But he will get it together. Later.