Sunday, September 29, 2013

Scariest Thought Ever - Writing My Next Novel By Hand

I just finished reading M.J. Rose’s novel, Seduction, and I’m still in shock. Not about the novel, mind you, the novel was wonderful. I’m in shock because she wrote it by hand. That’s right – handwritten! And I can’t even manage a grocery list! 

According to the author, she hand wrote the book in order to get a better “feel” and “understanding” of its central character, 19th century author Victor Hugo. Yikkees! If I had to do that, I’d be forced to use a stylus for The Last Tag, my novel about Ancient Rome and a quill for the one I’m writing about 13th century Scotland. 

I give M.J. Rose credit. She must have an astonishing amount of patience and a flawless command of script. Nothing I write by hand is flawless. I consider myself fortunate if someone can actually decipher it. 

I’ve given up on grocery lists. I can’t even read my own writing; so when my husband comes back from the store with items that we’ve never used or foods that I wouldn’t even feed the cats, I can hardly blame him.

“It says right here – spam!”

“Since when do we eat spam? Give me that list! Look – it says spaghetti; I just crammed all the letters together!”

I once saw an advertisement for a pre-written yellow post-it pad with the grocery list already on it. All I needed to do was put a check mark next to the item. Unfortunately, I forgot to put it on my list!

When I’m writing, I don’t really feel the need to experience anyone else’s pain. I’ve got enough of my own. So I’m thankful that I have a decent computer and Office 2010. I was tortured enough in the 70’s when I had to use a typewriter and enough “white-out” to make Tom Sawyer happy. 

M.J. Rose, you are indeed a heroine. I just hope you don’t start writing about the Stone Age or it will take you a very long time!

P.S.  Readers – Check out her novels!  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oh no! I've Just Been Un-Liked on Facebook!

Not since the second grade when Patty Brownell told me she no longer wanted to be friends with me have I been this crushed. Of course at the time I had no idea that Patty un-friended most of our second grade class. I moped around and felt miserable. Why would anyone tell me that they didn’t want to be my friend anymore? It wasn’t as if I had done anything to her. Besides, we were only in second grade, far too young for the catty backhanded stuff that went on in junior high. 

So it came as no surprise to me that when I saw the Facebook “LIKE” numbers for “Time Travel Mysteries” and realized that someone “Un-Liked” the page, I was devastated. What had I done?  None of my posts came even close to being controversial or distasteful. Stunned, I contacted my web designer, fellow authors, and anyone remotely familiar with Facebook. None of them appeared too concerned. 

“It’s not personal. Don’t worry about it.”  Isn’t that what the Corleone family said when they made a mob hit? 

“Why are you perseverating over it? Somebody probably pushed a wrong button.”  Then why didn’t they push it back and fix it? 

“Maybe they realized that that site wasn’t what they thought it was.”  Then why did they like it to begin with? 

The trouble is, there’s no way of knowing who “Un-Liked” the site or why. It just appears as a lost number. Oh, I suppose I could run a list of all the “LIKES” and then monitor it if someone suddenly disappears. But that would take an enormous amount of effort and then what? Was I going to contact them and demand to know why?  I didn’t even do that with Patty Brownell. 

There really should be a reason code just like the ones when you return catalog purchases. But instead of boxes that read: size too big, too small, etc., the boxes could read:

·         Not what I expected
·         My interests have changed. Too bad for your site.
·         Too many promotions
·         Not enough promotions
·         Not interesting enough
·         Too wordy
·         Not as intellectual as I originally thought
·         Not as funny as I originally thought
·         I just felt like “UN-LIKING” something today and you were it. 

But in the meantime, I’ll just have to live with the fact that “Time Travel Mysteries” has one less “LIKE.” But I hope that doesn’t become a trend or I’ll really start moping. So…if you haven’t already LIKED “Time Travel Mysteries,” please make my day and push the “LIKE” button. Unless of course, one of the above boxes pertains to you…

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Doggone Mystery at Last!

For some odd reason, I always seem to be approached by people who ask me to write a story about dogs. OK, maybe it’s because they see me running after my dog in the doggie park screaming, “Don’t eat that! Drop the dead thing! Now! I mean it, Now!”  But honestly, writing about dogs is the last thing I want to do. 

I still cry when I think of the ending to Old Yeller, and what about poor Buck in Jack London’s Call of the Wild?  No, I’m afraid some other author will have to muster the strength to do that. However, I can share the following dog related mystery that happened just a few days ago. And maybe you’ll be able to solve it, because my husband and I can’t and our dog is just not interested. 

When I’m not writing or swimming, I work part time for a pet sitting agency. Yep, we go into the homes of our clients, feed their dogs, let them out in the yard or walk them, clean up and head out.  Same with cats, except for the yard and walking part. I keep telling myself I’m doing this until my book sales start to generate income.

This week my husband and I were taking care of two small dogs. They were gated into the kitchen because the owner had just re-carpeted their living room with beautiful wall to wall white Berber. (So beautiful that we took our shoes off when we walked across it and wondered how long it would stay so pristine. If it were our house, I'd give it twenty minutes!) 

 The owners were out of town on their honeymoon. When we entered on the first day, the kitchen counter just had the dog food and a note for us. We fed the dogs, took them out, played with them, cleaned up and went home. We left one light on in the kitchen. The next morning when we returned, the gate was still up, the dogs were fine but the light was off in the kitchen and a different light was on in the living room. At first I thought it was a timer, but the light we left on in the kitchen was the one from the microwave and that does not have a timer. 

And then I looked at the counter. An un-wrapped wedding gift (a guest registry) was sitting on it. 

“See,” my husband said, “One of their friends or neighbors had the key and just dropped off a wedding gift. And maybe they switched the lights.”

I wasn’t so sure. “Who leaves an un-wrapped wedding gift and no card?”

My husband shrugged. “Who cares?”

Then, when I threw the empty can of dog food into the trash basket, I noticed something – it was the wrapping paper from the wedding gift. Someone un-wrapped it!  I was flabbergasted. 

“None of this makes sense. The owners wouldn’t fly all the way home and then leave again. And who would bring a wedding gift and un-wrap it?”

Again, my husband’s response. “Who cares? The dogs are fine.”

Well, maybe the dogs are OK, but I’m not. I’m the kind of person who needs closure. A simple note from whoever went into the house would suffice.  But their dogs are tight lipped and won’t give us a clue.

So, that leaves all of you! Please solve this mystery and post your responses. It’s driving me crazy!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's Not Writers' Block, It's Sunblock!

Well, it finally happened. The Arizona heat got to me. OK, maybe not the heat, but the humidity that seems to be hanging over us like a sponge, just waiting to wring itself out. Trouble is, it never does. And as a result, my head feels too heavy for my shoulders and trying to write a coherent thought becomes a major process.

Even the dog gave up tormenting me while I write. He sprawled out on the tile floor and became a permanent fixture for most of the day. The cats didn’t even bother to scratch on the door to get into my office. They gave up, too. One of them tried to cough up a hairball, but even that was too much effort.

And this is in a house with air-conditioning and overhead fans! 

I’m now in the editing process for a new novel that should make its debut sometime in 2014, but at the rate I’m going, 2015 is beginning to look good. I know I’m suffering from heat related inertia because the only progress I’ve made so far is to argue with the contents of Chapter IV, “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused,” from the fourth edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.  Once I even swore I would get even and find my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, but that would involve bodily movement and I just don’t have the energy to get out of my chair. 

But this is different than just being tired. I honestly think the combination of heat and humidity has caused some of my brain cells to stagnate. I spent fifteen minutes trying to decide if the word I wanted was “tact” or “tack.”  And another ten minutes deciding if I was going to use either of those words! 

The calendar may say September, but here in the foothills of the White Tank Mountains, it’s still summer and still monsoon season. It’s not the sky that’s cloudy, it’s our brains! Everyone is messing up and it’s not their fault. From serving the wrong coffee at Starbucks to medical billing nightmares, everything is off kilter. I can only count the days until the dry air returns and the fog from my head lifts. 

Meanwhile, I’ll make the most of it. I’ll pride myself on being able to open a word document and remember how I filed it. With luck, I’ll finish my new novel before the next millennium.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Can't I Pose With Anyone Famous?


As if the heat, humidity, dust storms and torrential downpours that we’ve had here in Arizona this past week weren’t enough to send me screaming down the street, I just had to see a photo of “Tin House” editor Meg Storey posing with Nathan Fillion. That’s right, the Nathan Fillion. She was holding a copy of her book and was absolutely beaming. Who wouldn’t be?  And then it occurred to me, I need to pose with someone famous, too. And maybe, just maybe, my books would soar to the top of every bestseller list this side of White Tank Mountains. 

But as most authors have learned, sitting around wishing for the impossible doesn’t work. Action does. So I started making phone calls to family members and friends. These are the responses I got:

“You can always pose with your cousin Stanley. He just made a presentation at a podiatrist conference last month in Florida. Do you want me to call Aunt Bernice and see if he’s available?”

“Oh dear. My friend Edith’s daughter once shared an elevator with Alan Alda but I don’t suppose that’s going to happen again.”

“Remember Cody, the kid from next door?  The one who kept kicking the recycling bins over on the street? Well, he’s playing with a grunge band in Seattle. Maybe when he comes back to visit he’ll pose with you.”

“Your great uncle wrote a math textbook.  I remember the family talking about it when they put it into the curriculum for Texas in 1964. If his nursing home wasn’t so far away, I would suggest that.”

Believe it or not, those were the best options. So…from now on, I fully intend to sit around and wish for the impossible. Either that or I’m going to see if Honey Boo Boo and her family are available…