Fear in Writing: May 2010

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Monday, May 31, 2010


My family has been blessed.  No one, to my knowledge, has died in a war, foreign or domestic.  Both of my grandfathers served--one in WWII, one in Korea--but they never saw battle.  My father was too young for Vietnam and my Uncle was in the Peace Corps.  My husband was an Air Force Officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but never sent (oh, thank God!).  My cousin, Sarah, was actually sent to Iraq with the Army, but never saw combat (who knows what she did see.

I am proud of their service.  All of them.

On Saturday, my husband and I took our children to a local lake for a picnic and hike.  On the way there I noticed a lone gravestone with two flags beside it.  It looked rather old and was in an odd place--close to a country road, all by itself.  Headed home, I made Russ pull over so I could check it out.  What a find!  It was a Revolutionary War gravestone.  The soldier was born in 1750, served in the U.S. War if Independence which ended in 1783, and died in 1833.  And someone had put American flags out for Memorial Day--227 years after he fought.

Always remember.  I don't think that's asking too much.  If someone else can remember for 227 years, we can surely follow suit.

*The picture above is not of the grave I found. It is merely and example.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1. For comic relief, good writing, and a few WTF moments, Les Edgerton's A Good Trophy Wife is Hard to Find Keep Talk To.

2. A book review that will make you think twice...Black Lands at Cathy's Kittling Books.

3.  Liking protagonists--or not--at Mystery Writing is Murder.

4.  Spooky truths about a truthfully awesome lady at Just Jemi.

5. Not necessarily an active site, but one chock full of useful information for bloggers.  Technical information, that is.  Check it out, and write your own code at Tips for New Bloggers.

6. Have you ever... find out the end of the question by clicking the link!  But it's a great question and you'll have fun answering it at Life of a Cinephile and Bibliophile.

7.  I discovered (sort of) The Sholes Key...a second blog by Clarissa Draper, who blogs at Listen to the Voices.  At The Sholes Key you can read her writing--and the blog layout is pretty darn cool, too!

8.  How about a Holmesian feast? In honor of the Great Detective's birthday, Debbie Cowans cooked up something special.  Click over and see what she made.

9. Coincidence in writing--can it work?

10.  The post is not the point--the pictures!  Or, should I say "piccies?"  You guessed it: head on over to Al's Publish or Perish for some glorious Woolshed Falls photos.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Post Saturday

No Post Saturday.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Write Comment

I've been blogging about books a lot lately.  I take that back--I'm always blogging about books.  Correction: I've been blogging about reading a lot lately.  Today, I change tack and blog about blogging.

I was inspired by a post on Simon's Constant Revision yesterday, called 'The Art and Science of Responding to Blog Comments.'  Now, I can't say I have a set protocol for this.  Some days I respond to each comment in turn.  Name- response.  Some days I respond in bulk.  Your comments followed by my comment.  Some days I don't get to respond until the following day--so 15 comments may pile up and I don't get back to them until the next day.  I do have the blog set up so any post older than seven days goes through moderation, whereby I am forced to respond and see the comment.

But Simon and several other bloggers are taking to the idea of responding via email.  Is this the new thing?  Do many commenters prefer it?

I was surprised the first time I received a response to a comment via email.  How did this person get my email address?  Ok, it's on my blog.  Why did they take the time to look it up?  Is it worth the extra work?  What is the benefit?

I don't go back and check responses to every comment I make.  If there is a particularly interesting conversation or debate on a blog, I will go back and look in.  Also, if I go back and comment later in the week, I will check on earlier posts I commented on.  Three sites with which I always do this are Murder is Everywhere, Mystery Writing is Murder, and The Hollywood Spy.  These bloggers are excellent about responding to comments and (with the exception of the authors at Murder is Everywhere) commenting on my blog as well.  I visit these blogs weekly, if not daily.  And I appreciate their responses to my comments.

So how am I doing?  Do my comment-backs need some work?  I know I used to be more conscientious about responding individually daily.  I'd like to get back to that.

And what do you think about the email comment-response?  Is that something you like or dislike?  Personally, I'm not a fan.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Today's Reading Plan

Today I'm going to follow my own advice and spread the love of books.  Over the weekend, we cleaned out my son's bookcase, ending up with a nice stack of books to donate to our local library.  While there, I think I'll encourage my children to look around, explore the stacks.  There's nothing like thousands of books at your fingertips to make the imagination explode!

So, today I concentrate on reading with my children.  The library is right down the street.  Their little, upturned faces are even closer.  What a day it will be!

Of course, I remember my parents reading to me.  They were essential in the formation of my love of books.  But one other person stands out--my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Brown.  She read Roald Dahl to us.  (I posted about him here a while back.)  I had never heard such words!  Such worlds!  That was the first year of reading contests and Scholastic book stacks to rival any library in-box.

Do you remember anyone significant reading to you as a child?  To whom do you read now?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Books Make a Difference

Can you write books without loving them?  I would argue no.  Definitely no.

If you scroll down my blog you will find a link to The Literacy Site, where, if you click, sponsors pay for books to go to children in need.  I keep that link of up all the time, ever since I found it on Cathy's blog, Kittling Books.

Now there is another good cause to click...Rayna of Coffee Rings Everywhere posted yesterday about a unique opportunity to make a difference.  In her words, "BlogHer and BookRenter have joined forces, and from May 3-28, are working to make a difference in children's lives by generating new books for children who need them most -- via the nonprofit organization First Book.
"For every person who leaves a comment here answering the question, What book has had the greatest impact on your life?, they will donate one book to a child in need. If you blog about the contest and link to the site, an additional book would be donated." (I even stole the title from her!)
Now let's talk about that favorite first book...Or maybe it wasn't your first, but one that really made an impact.  For me it was Hawaii by James Michener. My father gave me his copy when I was a young reader. I had read many books before that--Gone With the Wind, Anne of Green Gables, Wuthering Heights. But my father giving that book to me and the adult world it opened told me it was okay to get lost in a book. It was ok to form ideas from those beautiful words and images, even as I grew up.
I still have that book and will pass it on to one of my children someday. It's not a first edition or even a big hard copy. It's just important to me.

What book means something to you?  What do you do (or will you do) to make sure others have that same opportunity?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eight Years

Eight years.  It sounds like a lot, but it sounds like nothing.

What have we done in eight years?  We have moved from Nashville to Phoenix to Raleigh.  We have worked for the US Air Force, Toshiba, three news stations, and Ameriprise Financial.  We have birthed and raised to ages 2 and 4 two children--two very different children.  We have survived childhood scares like heart surgery, pneumonia, aspiration, two hospital trips for stitches (one on our 7-year anniversary), and overnight hospital stays.  We have seen economic boom and economic scare.  We have seen moments of boredom and more-than moments of complete satisfaction.  We have seen the Grand Canyon, flown on a seaplane to Victoria, camped in the back of our Xterra after an all-night trip from Arizona to Colorado, visited Tombstone, Arizona, moved across the country at eight months pregnant, changed jobs (careers) at nine months pregnant, and cherished our family for what they are: the most important thing in the whole wide world.

Today is our eighth anniversary.  Eight years ago today we had our wedding at the most beatiful church--my childhood church--First Presbyterian in Nashville, TN.  Our reception was in the Club at the Titans Coliseum.  Here is the room, with its view of the city:

We have celebrated every anniversary in a different city in this order:
Las Vegas
Chapel Hill

It wasn't intentional...At least not at first.  After the fifth anniversary, we realized we had to keep up the streak.  Five happenstances are pretty cool--we had to keep it going!

So today I say Happy Anniversary to my husband.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday...partly because I love books and partly because I can't think of anything writerly to blog.
Into my home in the last week...
The Murder Room by PD James.  I read The Private Patient earlier this year--wasn't overly impressed, but was drawn in by the stories and her unique-but-wordy style.  I received this book via Paperback Swap.

Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George.  Many have recommended George's books, so it's about time I picked one up!  I don't know anything about her style...but I know she has staying power.  I also received this book through PBS.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  This Pulitzer Prize-winner has been on my TBR list for a while, but just became available to me through PBS (a great site for swapping and saving money).  I'm looking forward to this critically-acclaimed read.

Just finished...

A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley.  This murder mystery takes one deep into the world of Botswana--a seemingly peaceful country bordering the more tumultuous South Africa and Angola.  The MC, Kubu, is deep and jolly.  The reader loves him from the start!  The murder takes the entire book to unravel, and one doesn't mind.  It is a fascinating journey through culture, food, geography, and crime.  The next Detective Kubu is already on my TBR list.  You can find Michael Stanley (which is actually the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) blogging at Murder is Everywhere.

FORTY-EIGHT X by Barry Pollack.  This semi-SciFi/biological advancement/historical thriller takes on the idea of blending DNA to create the perfect soldier.  Sure, the idea has been done before, but Pollack adds some unique spice to his work--think Alexand the Great, the Middle East, and the setting for 'The Shining.'  I enjoyed this read and look forward to seeing what else Pollack will come up with. (Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for a blog tour the author was conducting.  I was in no way influenced by the fact that this book was free.  It had flaws, just like every other book, but it was a good read.)

Mailbox Monday is conducted by Marcia at The Printed Page.  What's in your mailbox?

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1. Ever wonder what's really inside those huge command police vehicles?  Well, our own resident expert over at The Graveyard Shift has the answers!

2. A new-to-me blog and a perfectly written commentary on the cultural paradox that is women in society.  It's Culture Served Raw.

3. Shades of Racism at Thoughts from Botswana.  You must read this.

4. Gorebage: a fantastic new word and a great article by Margot Kinberg.

5. The environmental side of Avatar by The Cajun Book Lady.

6. Tabitha writes a writer's mantra: words to write by.

8.  How many Luigis? The price of art in human life, but author Timothy Hallinan.

9. This woman is on a creative streak!  I could put every one of her posts on here, but this one takes the cake this week: Elspeth Antonelli's Being a Writer.

Also--I missed it because Saturday is my No Post day (though I usually slip on and put up a picture and a blurb), but yesterday was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday.  He was in Scotland on May 22, 1859.  A belated Happy Birthday to the creator of one of the world's greatest fictional detectives.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Oops! in Writing

I made a mistake yesterday. I went in for the wrong shift at work. Yes, in news we work shifts because we have to cover the whole 24 hour clock!

I was absolutely convinced I was supposed to work from 2:30 till 11:30. So convinced in fact, that I lined up childcare accordingly and arranged a doctor's appointment to start and end leading into my shift. Everything worked out perfectly...if I had been right.

There are plenty of good reasons for my mistake--I don't work every day, the station has asked a lot of me lately, I've worked several different times, I have no set shift, we only communicate by email so there is no double check of a shift schedule for me...But I don't make excuses. It was my mistake, pure and simple.

In the end, I worked for about an hour at 2:30, doing a Special Projects job I'm also helping out with right now. Everyone was very nice about my mistake, even trying to pay me for my drive time because they didn't want to "ruin the relationship" with me. It was really nice to feel valuable. They certainly earned my loyalty with that one remark yesterday (if they hadn't already, which they had).

But it got me thinking about small, honest mistakes. Small mistakes can change entire days, entire paths. Look how I oriented my day around a small mistake. My husband even changed his schedule based on it.

Small mistakes can be crucial in plotting. They can be intentional: a small mistake by a protagonist can be a great point in a plot. Say a MC enters the wrong store to pick up his dry cleaning and inadvertently witnesses something he shouldn't. The whole plot is fast-forwarded from there! Or they can be unintentional, and an oops: say you drop a hint you shouldn't, like that your killer loves BBQ, and then have only one character eating BBQ in two other scenes. Oops! The reader has it figured out two-thirds of the way through. And such a little mistake!

Little mistakes with big consequences. Such is life, I suppose. How do you use mistakes in your writing?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Four Scenes

Four scenes and off to get the kids.  FOUR scenes!  I'm on a bit of an adrenaline rush.

Oh, did I mention they are four GOOD scenes?

Actually Writing

I'm actually writing.  I don't know where it will lead, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this post because...I'm actually writing.  So...there. :)

Best wishes for your Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Comfort of our Homes

I look at today's "Today in Literary History" (found just below the banner, and reprinted here for your ease) and wonder what it would be like to fear for one's life.
May 18, 1593: An arrest warrant was issued on this day in 1593 for playwright Christopher Marlowe, after fellow writer Thomas Kyd accused Marlowe of heresy.
In Journalism school I often dreamed about reporting overseas, in war zones, against rogue governments.  But it didn't happen.

Now, I can only Google it. Here are the results:
Intense Training Prepares Journalists for War

Video of Two Reuters Journalists Killed in Iraq in 2007

Committee to Protect Journalists--Defending Journalists Worldwide
--Killed in 2010
--Killed since 1992

We blog every day from the comfort of our homes.  When I go in to the TV station and report the local news, I do so from the relative comfort of a state-of-the-art US law-protected business.  We have freedom to speak.  We don't worry about the heresy charges that Marlowe and Kyd faced in the 16th century.  We don't worry about the government interference that those in Iran or China or Venezuela face.  We don't worry about the hunger and death squads many face in Sudan and Afghanistan.

Do you know what else I remember?  A man named Nick.  He was kidnapped in 2003 and beheaded.  I was working as a reporter for a station in Flagstaff, Arizona.  We were a bunch of young journalists, pretending to be hardened and immune to the world.  Nick's beheading was put on the Internet.  We all looked it up and watched it.  We claimed journalistic interest.  It was important that we have knowledge of those things.  That has stayed with me.  Every once and a while I think of Nick.  I don't remember his last name or even what he was doing overseas.  I don't think he was military.  But I think of his family and the horror of knowing your son died that way, of having it broadcast and knowing he was so scared before the end.  And I think of the callousness with which we watched it.

Then I think of the real journalists and the journalist I later became.  I know what it means to be neutral now, to report the news and to be aware of what's out there.  It doesn't mean becoming a voyeur.  It means keeping an intelligent interest, but maintaining perspective.

Do I wish I was a missing journalist in the Middle East?  No, of course not.  Do I feel guilt for the comfortable couch beneath my ass?  Yes.  But I have a different purpose now.  I just have to figure it out.  

And we have to remember those who have sacrificed so that we can write from our plush seats in our free countries.

*The man picture top right is UK journalist James Brandon, kidnapped in Basra in 2004.  He was later released.
**The picture on the left is Baghdad after a bomb.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Balance Due

Many people around the world are getting this call right now: balance due, payment time, credit revoked.  It's that kind of an economy.  Even though we're on a slight upswing (unless you're in Greece, sorry Alliterative Allomorph), it takes a while for the ups to catch up to the downs--especially on the personal level.  Plenty of people are stretched to the max--credit cards, second mortgages, car loans, etc., etc.

At some point, all of that lending and borrowing comes back to bite.  At some point, the balance is due.

The same can be said for writing.  Every character puts a certain amount of energy and effort into solving a problem, a certain amount of their life into the force behind building to the climax.  And at some point in your book, they are owed, they want payment.  They have to get something back to keep them going.  That something might be your finale, or it might just be a dangling carrot.

Have you reached a point where your characters must get something more to keep going?  Are they so involved in the plot that it doesn't seem believable?  How do you balance their "normal" lives with where you want them to be?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Foreigh Post Roundup

A short week of blog hopping for me, but here are th links that stood out.  Enjoy, and happy Sunday!

1. A book review not for the faint of heart, at The Dangerous Pages Review.

2.  Cathy of Kittling Books has a review for you that you won't want to miss--includes a trip to Scotland via the pages of a great book!  Check it out, and vote in Cathy's current poll.  She always has a good one going.

3.  20 laughs and then you...don't write.  Check out writing, Elspeth style.

4. Friday Challenge to make you think.  Where are you with your goals? From Crazy Jane.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Author Do's and Don't's

1. Do comment politely. When your name is mentioned on a blog, whether the topic is positive or negative, comment politely and with encouragement.  On Wednesday, I posted about the potential benefits of online personal libraries to authors.  I mentioned my disappointment in a recent read by Christopher Fowler as well as my enjoyment of a book by Timothy Hallinan.  Both authors took the time to comment politely on my blog.  Timothy's just furthered my opinion of him as an author and fellow blogger.  Christopher's made me realize I have to read another one of his books.  How could I not after he so politely commented and encouraged me to do so?  (You can read my post and their comments here.)  Negative comments can have the opposite affect.

2.  Do include a succinct, flattering bio. I like to know who wrote the book I'm reading.  Maybe it stems from my training as a journalist, but I think it informs the reader and enriches the experience of the read.  However, a bio that is too long or includes too many accolades turns me off.  I don't want to read an author who praises his or herself too much, includes their pet goldfish's name (unless that is their only "child"), and lists every city in which they've lived over the past three decades.  Too much information is a turnoff.  Keep it tight.  Keep it interesting.  Keep it informative.

3.  Don't respond to negative reviews in kind. Putting your art out there means putting a piece of yourself out there.  One must be prepared for both positive and negative response.  I have not done this yet in full-length novel form, so I can't say how it truly feels, but I can imagine it really hurts to read a bad review.  In a reader's opinion, the worst thing an author can do is respond to a negative review with a negative comment.  You immediately paint yourself with the controversial brush and lose readership.  If I hear of an author doing this, I will put them on my avoid list.  Suck it up, and see #1.

4.  Don't treat your audience like kindergarteners.  If you are writing children's books, obviously this one is not for you!  Otherwise, defining every word and phrase in a book and spelling out every scenario is not necessary.  Leave some things for your reader to guess or even imagine for themself.  This follows the long-encouraged "show don't tell" logic of writing, but takes it even further.  If you refer to a city by a nickname, let the reader either figure it out or look it up.  So they have to do a little work...it's good for a them!  (Caviat: don't take this too far.  I used a literary dictionary to read Umberto Eco--that's probably a bit too much, but I was an English major, so I enjoyed it.)

Anyone else have Do's or Don't's to add?  I'm sure I'll think of more after I hit post!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

And now for a TV news break...

Best of intentions, but I couldn't get a post on today.  I will work on it for tomorrow!  If you read my Facebook tag, you'll know that we had a train accident, a fatal tractor-trailer crash that closed a highway, and a propane leak that also closed a highway--all hit at the same time this morning at our news station.  That's a lot for producers to handle in a morning!  But we juggled it.  One of these days I'll let you all in on a little more about the running of TV news.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shelfari and Selling Books

Have you considered the importance of Goodreads and Shelfari?

It didn't really occur to me until today, when I signed on to find THREE questions from a fellow reader.  She wanted to know what I thought about FOUR different authors!  And my bookcase showcases 423 different books--most of which I have read, some of which I intend to read.

Here is the exchange between my Shelfari friend and I...

Shelfari Friend-Question1: What are Timothy Hallinan novels like??? Is he very suspenseful???

SF-Q2: I just noted that u responded about if I should read the Christopher FOwler book???? Have u read all his books??

SF-Q3: Hello, what did u think of Bangkok 8 by John Burdett and Private Patient by PD James???

ME: Ok, one at a time :)
Timothy Hallinan. I've only read one, but I was REALLY impressed with the writing style. He gets into his characters and yes, they are suspenseful, but not the same way an American novel is. Definitely Thai. I like them BETTER than John Burdett!

Christopher Fowler. I have only read Ten Second Staircase and probably won't rush to read more. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and the facts about England and British crime in the book, but wasn't wrapped up in the characters.

I loved Bangkok 8, but wasn't as impressed with Bangkok Haunts (the second in the series) by John Burdett.

I intend to read more by PD James. Overall, I liked Private Patient, but I thought it was a little longwinded. However, I attribute some of that to the fact she's been writing for more than 20 years and her publishers give her lots of leeway. I'd like to read some of her earlier books.

Right now I'm reading Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and LOVING it! Fantastic plot and great research went into this book. The translation must have been top notch because it reads very smoothly.
Any more questions? ;)
So they're not just sites for showing off your reading prowess.
When you are promoting your book, do you think of online libraries?  There are many out there now, maybe many more to come...Shelfari, Library Thing, Goodreads...It's not just a place for readers.  It can also be a place to sell books.

(Sorry all--this was scheduled to post this morning, but didn't!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup (On Monday)

1. A brave step by Julie Dao, who shares criticism and praise from a major contest here.

2. A post about data mining--important to know, but also important to read my follow-up comment.

3. You've heard of singing in the shower...now there's writing in the shower!  Check it out at ...and this time concentrate!

4.  Hey, North Carolinians!  An Outer Banks mystery via Lesa's Book Critiques.  Talk about a great beach read...

5.  A contest, a contest--who doesn't love a contest?  The Alliterative Allomorph is offering 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes, and you'll want them all.

6.  And if writing doesn't work out...check out Kimberly Franklin's plan.  No, really, check it out.

7. Because you still need more links to check out...Twitterfic by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

8 & 9. Two L. Diane Wolfe links right here!  I know, right?  One is for a gorgeous picture that I loved so much I requested a copy.  Check it out here.  Hint: it's not the cow.  The second is for great tips on what to do when you actually meet an author...and you probably will someday.

10. Complete list of Elizabeth George Inspector Linley books at Thrill of it All.  I'm getting the hint I need to read these books...

11. I don't know if I've listed this semi-new-to-me blog before, but Jen loves mysteries and the authors who write them.  She also loves to keep track of what said authors are reading...So click over for another edition of Caught!  (While you're there, type 'caught' into the search engine and see what all her the writers are reading.)

12.  Sometimes writers barely have to make things up.  The mystery is right there in life.  And there is plenty of life at The American Literary Blog, one of my favorites.

13. It's not the post itself, but the exchange that came from it.  Alex J. Cavanaugh seeks input on his next SciFi novel here!

14.  THE coolest post I've read in a while.  Chock full of great links--and the comments are what will get you!  It's called "Where are you?" and that's exactly what it answers!  I plan to snark Mason's idea and copy here on this one soon, but check out her post and get an idea of her upcoming guests and plans.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Mothers

Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful, hard-working moms out there.  I know your toil.  I hope today is a day of peace and harmony.  But whatever you may face today--tears or joy--know that no one but a mother can feel what we feel.  The presence of a human that is so our's.  God bless every one of you.

To the special mothers in my life...

My Mom!
No matter what is going on in my life--this woman is there for me.  At the darkest hour, she is there.  At the brightest moment, she is my cheerleader.  She is the one who encouraged me to turn my love of and talent for writing into a career.  She brought me into this world and works every day to make sure my path is still clear and my life is still golden.  I love her.

My Grandma Sue!
She has battled breast cancer, heart problems, and the loss of her husband/love of her life to lung cancer.  She lives the life she wants in the house she built with her spouse, in the town she moved to in the late 1950s.  She is independent.  She has made the trip from Texas to Tennessee and beyond (Arizona, North Carolina...) for every important event in my life.  Still.  At the age of 73.  She exemplifies the bond of family.  She is my grandma.

My Mother-in-Law!
She is grandmother to my children, but, more importantly, she is mother to my husband.  She raised the most loving, supportive man--a man who encourages me and pushes me to be a better person.  She raised a responsible man, but a man not engulfed by his responsibilities.  She gave me my other half, and she brings peace whenever she visits my home. 

And to the ones who make me a mother...
You are my heart.

Happy Mother's Day, all.
Because of the holiday, the Sunday Foreign Post Roundup will post on Monday. Come back then!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Craftier than Me

No post Saturday.  But...

I'm spending the day at a child's birthdy party and an art fair downtown--where my friend Rachel Ellington will be selling her beautiful sewing crafts!  You have heard me mention her blog before: Olivethebeach.  Go there for snippets of her work...Here is a sample, a a link to the craft fair here in Raleigh.  It's an ongoing event, so stop by sometime if you're in town.  It's called Designers Downtown Market.
Happy weekend, everybody!

Friday, May 7, 2010

One thing and another

I'm going to be incredibly honest with you all.  I haven't been doing well this week.  I've had a few fun posts--She-Ra and my guest blogger, Graham Parke--but those have mostly been luck.

The pain is one thing.  It was much, much better this week.  Nearly nonexistent in my hands.  Mostly contained to my left knee and brief neck flare-ups.  That's nothing.  But the memory lingered from last week, and the question of what's next hung around.

The lack of a writing plan is another thing.  When do I write?  What do I write?  I blog, that's for sure.  And I love to blog.  There is nothing wrong with that and I'm cool with it for now.  It's a learning experience everyday and it's a stretch of the mind in many of the articles I put together.  But is it really a cohesive path to an end product?  Not really.  So what am I doing?

My children are the last thing.  They are amazing.  They really are.  But they are also at that age.  That first she'slookingoutmywindowhe'stouchingmyseatshe'splayingwithmytoyeventhoughourtoyslookexactlyalikeandIcan'ttellthemapart-age.  It's fun.  My husband is two years in to his financial planning career--a career he began right before the bottom feel out of the market.  Not the best planning on our part (not that we're clairvoyants).  Point: he works looooooooooong hours, and I'm tired and rundown.

There are single moms with much more on their dockets that get ten times as much done as I do.  But somehow, I find it in my heart to bitch to you all every once and a while.  But, hey, it's my blog, right?

That's all.  Just a little whine session.  Thanks for letting me vent.  This, too, shall pass.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Humor & Suspense, Author Graham Parke

Today, Southern City Mysteries welcomes author Graham Parke.  His humor/suspense novel, No Hope For Gomez! is available now.  Even though it's a late post, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The Strange Truth Behind the Best Seller Lists, by Graham Parke

We all know there’s more to creating a best seller than mere fine writing. There’s marketing, timing, luck, and much more. A few years back, I decided to find out exactly what it takes to create a best seller. My discoveries are sure to amaze you. I’m going to transcribe a revealing conversation I had with a prominent figure. I’ll be giving you this verbatim, because if I summarized, you probably wouldn’t believe me. So relax, grab yourself a glass of cucumber juice, and prepare to be stunned!

Tuesday, Feb 15th, 2007; inner office.

John: “So, if I understand you correctly, Mr. Parke, you’re here today to apply for a position of best selling author?”

Graham: “Internationally best selling author, yes. I’d like very much to be considered. I’ve brought writing samples.”

John: “Writing samples, yes, so you’ve mentioned. Mr. Parke, I have to ask, do you know what it is we do here?”

Graham: “Of course.”

John: “You’ve seen the signs throughout the building, then?”

Graham: “Yes. They state that you sell meat packing equipment.”

John: “Precisely. Meat packing equipment. So, to be brutally honest, I’m not entirely sure what it is you think we can do for you.”

Graham: “Come on… you know…”

John: “No, Mr. Parke, I really don’t. Now, if you’d be interested in a warehouse position, or something in accounting, I could hook you up today. Barring that…”

Graham: “Come on, don’t play dumb with me. I’ve brought writing samples, can’t you just take a look? I promise they’re good.”

John: “That’s entirely beside the point. Look, even if we weren’t in the business of selling meat packing equipment, I’m quite sure that you don’t actually apply for a position as a best selling author. It’s all down to sales numbers. They’re tallied per region. It all happens automatically I believe.”

Graham: “Come on. Everyone knows best sellers are chosen by a secret committee.”

John: “I don’t know much about publishing, Mr. Parke, but even to me that sounds like a load of fanciful nonsense.”

Graham: “Please, just look at the samples...”

John: “Are you sure you don’t want to take a job at our warehouse while you’re waiting for this writing gig to pan out? I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find good warehouse jockeys. You’d be doing us, as well as yourself, a favor.”

Graham: “I’m sorry John may-I-call-you-John it is sort of common knowledge that you, in fact, are the very people who decide the bestsellers.”

John: “I see. And who told you this strange tale?”

Graham: “It was Google, actually…”

John: “Ah. Yes. Well, the thing is, Mr. Parke, this blasted Information Age makes our task somewhat difficult. The ranks have to be kept small, you have to understand. We have to keep more people out then we let in. So I’m afraid we cannot simply make anyone who comes through these doors a best selling author.”

Graham: “Don’t worry, I really don’t expect you to.”

John: “Good.”

Graham: “Just make me one. That’s all I’m asking.”

John: ::sigh:: “So, what kind of best selling author were you hoping to become?”

Graham: “A mystery-slash-comedy author. I’ve brought writing samples.”

John: “That’s amazing!”

Graham: “It is?”

John: “Yes, that is simply amazing… that you actually believed your writing abilities would be under consideration. How wonderfully naïve.”

Graham: “Eh…”

John: “Have you ever taken a look at a bestseller list? I mean, a good look? What on earth makes you think that narrative voice or level of originality have anything to do with matters?”

Graham: “Well, I’d just assumed that if my writing was good enough…”

John: “How morbidly stupid of you… No, Mr. Parke, when I asked you what kind of best selling author you were hoping to become, I was of course referring to the number of first year sales, growth rate, staying power, that kind of thing. We need to keep the categories from over running.”

Graham: “Oh, I see.”

John: “Here, why don’t you fill out this form. It will tell us everything we need to know about you. I’m not making any promises here, but if you want to be considered, this is the only way in.”

Graham: “Really? Thank you so much. This is very cool of you. Let’s see, this doesn’t look too complicated, name, address, social security number. But, why does it say ‘Warehouse Job Application’ at the top of the form?”

John: “Don’t worry about that. It’s just a cover like the signs plastered all over the building. We have to at least appear to try and keep this operation hush-hush. I’m sure you understand.”

Graham: “Of course. My lips are sealed. So, what happens next? You’ll be in touch?”

John: “Just show up at the warehouse at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. They’ll tell you what to do. They might have you perform some little rituals for a while. Just go with it. All will become clear pretty soon.”

And so, dear reader, this is how I finally got my writing career on track. Of course, I cannot tell you the name of the company you need to apply to, I promised them I wouldn’t. But, just Google around a bit, you’ll figure it out.

I’d like to sign off by telling you about a little give-away I’m organizing from my forum. It’s a limited edition novelette set in the ‘No Hope for Gomez!’ universe. It won’t be availbe for purchase.

Reviews for No Hope for Gomez!
"Extremely witty and clever writing that contains keen insights into human nature." -- California Chronicle

"The antics in this book will leave the reader laughing. Graham Parke is a genius." -- Readers Favorite

“A veritable page turner of nonstop laughs. Buy a copy and find out for yourself!" -- Reader Views

A big thank you to Graham Parke for visiting Southern City Mysteries!  You're welcome back any time!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

She-Ra: Princess of Power!

I shared a very special twenty minutes with my son yesterday: She-Ra, Princess of Power on YouTube.  Yes, YouTube has become mother-son time.  Pathetic?  Maybe.

She-Ra was my absolute favorite show as a child.  I had the action figures, the castle, the coloring books, the story books...I even subscribed to the magazine!  Did you know there was a magazine?  There was a magazine.

She-Ra was fantastic.  She was a Rebel--the alter ego of Princess Adora and the twin sister of He-Man of Eternia.  As a baby, she was stolen by Hordak, leader of the Hordes.  He raised her and as one of his Hordes until Adam brings her the Sword of Protection, which parallels He-Man's Sword of Power, and gives her the power to transform into She-Ra.

I mean, Wow!  They don't make them like this anymore.  The closest kids' cartoons I've seen to She-Ra are movies--The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl and Meet the RobinsonsSharkboy deals with the real and fantastical in relation to dreams.  It's really well done, and my son loves it.  Robinsons takes on time travel and how you treat others.  A bit confusing at times, but, overall, witty and smart.

I'm not even going to try to tie all of this back in to writing.  I just wanted to share my exciting trip down memory lane.  I've even embedded an episode of She-Ra for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy!

Now that was some 80s fun, wasn't it?

Not only did She-Ra hold up well, it was nice to see it hasn't (and doesn't need to be) redone.  Great combination of action, SciFi, monsters, and talking animals.  Not to mention sexy women for the guys and plenty of muscles for the girls.

I also watched 'Jem and the Holograms'--didn't hold up so well. :(

And if that's not enough, how about a quiz?  Which She-Ra character are you?

I am: Glimmer!
You are the princess of Brightmoon. You used to be in power until She-ra came along. Even though you are a princess, no one has ever seen you wear a dress. You're sweet and a good friend.
She-ra 73%
Glimmer 73%
Mermista 70%
Frosta 67%
Entrapta 50%
Castaspella 50%
Shadow Weaver 40%
Scorpia 34%
Catra 30%

I suppose I would have been She-Ra, but my tie-breaker question was, "Do you like sword play or do you want to be a fairytale princess?"  I said princess.  Strange.  I normally would have said sword play.  But today the pink side of my body won out.

So, which She-Ra character are you?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Death in Nashville

An event of near-unprecedented proportions hit Nashville over the weekend.  Floods.

The Cumberland River, one of the major influences in the founding of the city, overflowed its banks.  Storms dumped 13 inches of rain on the city--that's nearly double the record set in 1979, according to MSNBC.  And that record was set during a hurricane!

Storms, including tornados, killed at least 16 people in Tennessee, and 10 others in Kentucky and Mississippi.  MSNBC also reports homeowners were rescued from rooftops and a pregnant woman was airlifted from a flooded interstate.  Hundreds of homes were lost and many historic buildings were awash--including the Ryman and the downtown historic district.

At last check, The Tennesseean had the Cumberland River cresting at 52.5 feet--that's 12.5 feet above flood stage.

There are many videos on YouTube, but I thought this was the most telling.

There is no one to be angry with.  There is no office to storm or figurehead to crucify.  Just a simple act of nature that is awesome in its power. 

We should feel humbled.  And grateful that we are not one of those 26.

For more photos of the damage and rescues, click here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

What books came into my home last week?  Only a couple, but I'm excited to dive into them!

One is a true crime book by Douglas Preston, The Monster of Florence.  I am not normally one for true crime.  Once, my husband bought an Ann Rule book for me, and it left me feeling icky.  There is something to be said for the distance fiction gives you.  But after reading The Beautiful Cigar Girl (see my post here), I am open to fiction writers taking on historical murders.  The separation of time seems to give me the cushion I need. 

You might know Preston from his co-authored Agent Pendergast Series (The Wheel of Darkness).  I have read most of that series.  In fact...

The second book that arrived in my mailbox last week is the latest in that series: Cemetary Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs.  I haven't opened it yet because I am still reading Christopher Fowler's Ten Second Staircase.  Even though the MCs are antiquarian, the plot and writing are anything but.  As long as Fowler's writing about the mystery at hand and not the drama of the police unit, I'm interested. 

Then I'm tackling my May challenge book, Yrsa Sigurdardottir's Last Rituals.

Then I will get to one of these new finds.

What are you reading?  Anything new arrive in your mailbox last week?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1. Alex and his book cover--it's like a man and his car, except we can all appreciate the relationship.

2.  There must be something in the air, b/c Jill Edmondson announces her second book cover here.  And I have to say, it's even better than her first.

3.  Riots, government, and a history lesson on Thailand from author Timothy Hallinan at Murder is Everywhere.
4.  Patriotism, Australian style: ANZAC Day on Publish or Perish.

5.  Debbie Cowans takes on CSI, Victorian-style.

6. And read Debbie's fantastic Victorian detective story right here!

7. X for Unknown...and bring your thinking hats.
8. This post may be one from the past, but is a fascinating glimpse into the murder rate (or lack thereof) in Iceland.  A Sunday Foreign Post Roundup wouldn't be complete without a few links from the writers at Murder is Everywhere!

9. Stephen King fans delight...My favorite producer/director combo is taking on one of the horror master's series!  To find out which one, click over to The Hollywood Spy.  He has all the latest!

10. Irish writers take on myths...Check it out at Detectives Beyond Borders.

11. Beautiful picture, gorgeous poem, and a look at the world today and tomorrow at quoteflections.

12.  Last Sunday I "discovered" Miss Lemon's Mysteries; this week I bring you one of her recommendations: Who is Simon Warwick?  Read here to find out what it's all about!

12.  Oh, you MUST read this: My own Picture of Dorian Gray.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

No-Post Saturday

No-Post Saturday!
It's kind of cheating to take today off, since I inadvertently took Friday off as well, but so be it.  This is my family day.