Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Today marks the last day of 2008. Whatever your traditional celebration includes, enjoy, but be safe. And may 2009 bring you happiness.
Have I set my goals for the new year? Not really. Organization is high on my list. I need to create a schedule and then stick to it. Since I don't have the day job anymore, it shouldn't be that hard to set aside specific days to get those chores done. The writing is easy--as a goal, anyway. That's something I love doing, so it's the boring routine stuff that slips away.
My first change is to this blog. In the tradition of the original Mickey Mouse Club, Tuesday is going to be "Guest Blog" day. Although, after some thought, I wondered if I shouldn't have made it Wednesday, which was "Anything Can Happen Day." I am turning my guests free to write about whatever interests them. Their work, their hobbies, travel, general slice of life moments. We'll start on Tuesday, January 6th with a look at a hobby that's been around for centuries--one shared by Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Tomorrow night, we'll have an early dinner at a nearby Italian place, and I'll stare at all the offerings and once again choose one of two pasta dishes - puttanesca or pommodoro. Hubby will likely be more adventuresome and try something new, one of the few times he deviates from tried and true favorites when we eat out. We'll come home, and around 10 or so, I'll set out some munchies and we'll open a bottle of champagne. Normally, we'd go outside and watch the Universal Studios fireworks, but they changed their display for the Fourth of July, and if they stick to that, the show won't be as spectacular as it's been in the past. But being on the roads on New Years Eve in a tourist town isn't wise, and we're getting to the stage where we stay up more out of some inner obligation rather than to celebrate.
New Year's Day, I'll make a modernized version of a southern traditional dish, Hoppin' John, which our son called Johns Hopkins once when he wanted the recipe, and the name stuck. More munchies, and that'll be it for food for the day. I'll have football games on, and hubby will probably fall asleep. For him, a football game is better than Unisom.
And, since Hanukkah was officially over at sundown last night, it's time to put away the menorah, box up the few decorations I set out, and find homes for all the gifts.
I love the nightshirt my daughter sent - even hubby thought it was cute (although he's definitely a Victoria's Secret kind of guy).
And every now and then, cosmic timing works out. We needed a 2009 calendar, and I figured I could get one today after my hair appointment this afternoon, as long as I'd be out and about. But yesterday, our son sent a wonderful calendar -- a year's worth of family pictures. Give a photographer a new baby, and you get a LOT of pictures, and using them to make a calendar is fantastic. Plus, there's still enough room for writing appointments, etc. Despite Outlook and Google calendars, it's the one hanging on the kitchen wall that is most convenient.
Hubby got a 'paper airplane a day' calendar and he can hardly wait until the 1st so he can make the first one. We still have to try the battery operated automatic corkscrew. Brookstone has such nifty gadgets!
Monday, December 29, 2008
With the new year just days away, how many of you have started looking forward? Are you reflecting on what you accomplished this year? Did you make a lot of resolutions? How long before you broke them?
I jokingly say I make resolutions for hubby -- no chance of ME breaking them. But resolutions are too lofty, too vague, and usually are setups for failure. "I'm going to lose 20 pounds" is not the way to go. Rather, figure out what it will take to meet that goal, and then keep track. I'm going to exercise X minutes a day, X days a week. I'm going to cook healthy meals. I'm going to eat X portions of carbs. I'm going to join Weight Watchers. Those things can be measured, and when you add up the healthy choices, you'll be able to meet a daily goal, and be that much closer to your 'dream'.
Goals are NOT dreams. Goals have to be something you can measure. Something you can control. Your goals might be steps toward a dream, but they're not the dream itself.
I might have a dream of seeing my books on the shelves at WalMart or the grocery store -- places where people can find them if they're looking, stumble across them if they're not. Not have to go on line, or walk to the customer service desk and ask someone to order the book. A goal of having something to point to and say, "I wrote that." (Or, better yet, so my mother can say, "My daughter wrote that.")
I have no control over what a publisher will buy. But I do have control over writing the best book I can. I finished two books in 2008. One, Hidden Fire, is published, but at the moment is available only in digital format. The other, as yet untitled, is in the final editing phase before I send it to my agent.
I did get an agent. That was more of a 'dream' because again, I had no control over whether or not my work will resonate with an agent. But what I have control over is getting the query letters out. I could measure it, by setting a goal of having X number of queries active at all times. But now, selling the book is a dream, because it's out of my hands. My agent has the sequel/spinoff to When Danger Calls, and we share the goal of selling it, but I have no control over that one. Instead, I moved on and wrote another book.
Right now, my task is to cut 8000 words from my WIP. That's a depressing and daunting task. But I can set a goal to read and edit 3 chapters a day. That's something I can measure, something I can say, "Yes, I did that."
But I also have to consider the fact that with the publishing market as tight as it is, I probably need to write another book, one with a totally different concept. Sounds like a dream -- it'll need breaking down into measurable steps. Like, find 4 story ideas in the newspaper/television/radio every day. You can't wait for the muse to visit--you have to get out and ambush her.
And if you got this far, here's a late holiday gift. One of my publishers, The Wild Rose Press has a free holiday cookbook made up of contributions from its authors. You can download the file here.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
What I'm reading: Without Fail, by Lee Child
Tonight's the last night of Hanukkah, which means we'll open the rest of our presents. Although I thought hubby and I had agreed not to do anything special for each other, last night he pulled two small boxes from the array. They were wrapped in gold paper, and I'd pegged them as Godiva, even though he'd already given me a box of truffles. I was wrong. As the commercial says, "He went to Jared." Now he's got lots of hubby points and I'm feeling guilty at the tokens I got for him.
Here are a couple of quotes from my Quote of the Day list:
The relationship between the fiction writer and the reader is, in some ways, tantamount to a seduction: the writer, via the plot, awakens a desire within the reader, and the longer the desire remains unsatisfied, the more intensely it burns. You aim to immediately introduce a source of tension and fan its flames until the conflict is finally resolved. You want your readers aching to know if Atticus wins the trial, if Elizabeth Bennet will marry Mr. Darcy. You want them to race through the pages, gobbling up every word... ~Bret Anthony Johnston The Writer, Dec 2008
I have mixed feelings about this one -- while I love to love the characters and worry about them, if a book hooks me, then when I get near the end, along with wanting to get to the end to see everything resolved, I want to go slowly and savor it because once I reach the last page, it'll be over. Maybe that's why I enjoy reading series author's back lists -- because I can keep going and find out what happens next.
To me, the secret to writing is knowing your own mind and the way it works. As far as advice goes: Get it down, as much and as quickly as you can, and fix it up later. Write every day. When you can't write every day, read as much as you can and take notes of the things that work in the novels of others. ~Sheridan Hay The Writer, Dec 2008
I've been negligent in my actual writing (the edit/revision phase does that). I'll confess to spending most of the last week simply reading for pleasure, But once you've started writing, you'l never be able to read the same way again. I'm looking at Lee Child and John Sandford, both of whom write protagonists with serious character flaws, and marveling at the way they can make them sympathetic, so I care about them.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
What I'm reading: Eyes of Prey, by John Sandford
Today's interesting Google Alert: The original artwork for the cover of When Danger Calls is for sale by the artist, Alan M. Clark. Would be nice to be able to afford it. Would be nicer if he decided he didn't need it hanging around his gallery and sent it to the impoverished author.
Mid-week holidays throw me off. It's Saturday, although it feels like yesterday should have been Saturday. At any rate, it's officially the weekend, and a post/mid holiday one at that. Our "neighbor", Universal Studios, is running full steam to accommodate the tourists who don't let little things like the economy spoil their plans. We hear their concerts, parades, and fireworks until late into the night, and when the weather is finally cool enough to have windows open, it's more than annoying. Then, they start doing their morning testing of the roller coasters. They're supposed to wait until seven, but they fudge on that. Of course, anyone who can respond to the problem is off for the holiday.
Friday, December 26, 2008
What I'm reading: Shadow Prey by John Sandford
After a trip through the movie listings, we found absolutely nothing that enticed us to leave the house and spend money. The James Bond flick was a single showing, at 10:30 pm, and that doesn't fit our circadian rhythm. However, we did go out for our traditional Chinese dinner. Nice to feel welcomed; they know us well enough to bring chopsticks and brown rice. And at least we're not in such a rut that we order the same thing every time (except the hot and sour soup). Plenty of leftovers for tonight.
Since we'd already watched out Netflix offering, we went through our meager DVD collection. When the kids gave us the player a few years back (trying in vain to bring Mom & Dad into the new century), they sent videos as gifts. We may even have bought some ourselves. We perused the shelf independently, and both chose the same movie. (After 40 years, we seem to spend a lot of time in each other's head). And, since the DVD had never been opened, it was 'new' for us. We watched "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes" with Basil Rathbone. Good fun. We have "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" on tap.
Other news that reminds me I should be working harder on the writing (hey, I DID get all the errata for HIdden Fire sent to the publisher Wednesday). I'm getting more Google Alerts on When Danger Calls. Don't know if people are buying, but they're looking.
One head-scratcher. I got a review by a prolific reviewer who posts her reviews everywhere. She did one for When Danger Calls before it was released, and it's posted as a 5 star review on Barnes & Noble. The exact same review showed up this morning on Amazon, but with 4 stars? No clue why. But that's the game.
Also -- I have a short story featuring Randy & Sarah in the All Romance eBooks weekly newsletter, Wildfire. It was one of those "can't let the characters go" stories I wrote after I finished Finding Sarah, and it's been sitting around in my computer. Nice that it's getting a little time out of the hard drive.
Happy Hanukkah, Boxing Day, and Kwanza.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
So, it's Christmas morning and the fourth day of Hanukkah. This clip has been around for a while, and despite its stereotypes, it's got roots in reality.
Since nothing is open today, we'll laze around. We watched Dark Passage last night, so it looks like we'll stick with tradition and go out. Minor glitch -- the movie page in the newspaper has huge voids in the listings -- as if they were saving those places for the new releases but whoever was in charge of adding them to the files left early for the holiday.
I remember the old days when you had to call the theater for movie times. And there was only one movie playing per theater. I'll admit to liking Internet technology for making that easier. I've ranted and raved (more rants than raves) about Customer Service on this blog. Yesterday, we got a letter from our cable provider apologizing for an extended outage, and offering a month free of several premium channel sets. Not bad, especially since the day of the outage, we weren't home trying to watch television anyway.
I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday, spending time enjoying whatever traditions you observe -- and perhaps starting some new ones.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
This year, the timing of Hanukkah includes Christmas. Normally, our Christmas tradition is an early movie, followed by Chinese food, because there's nothing else open.
Yesterday, I baked rugelach, breaking with 'tradition' by using apricots and almonds instead of raisins and walnuts. I also took a shortcut with the latkes, using store-bought pre-shredded potatoes from the dairy case. While I'll definitely use the apricot/almond filling again, I think I'll go back to grating potatoes. The latkes just weren't the same. It's not like I hand grate them. I have a food processor, and I don't even peel the potatoes.
And I won't use the electric frying pan again, either. It doesn't get hot enough. It's a 'double-duty' version, and the griddle is great for pancakes, but the pan that sits on top of it works for one-pot meals and the like, but it doesn't cut it for latkes.
So, will we go to a movie tomorrow? Probably. Which will bring us to the annual question. "Which movie?" We missed the new James Bond. If it's still playing, that'll be the one. But what if they bump it to make room for all the new Christmas Day releases? So, just as I did last year, I'll throw out the plea for help with choosing a movie in case 007 is gone.
Or -- we might just break with tradition and go with our Netflix movie, Dark Passage--unless we watch it tonight while the rest of the world is watching their Christmas fare.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
A dreidel is one of the Hanukkah symbols. Basically, it's a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. You spin it, and whichever side lands face up dictates what you do. In a nutshell, it's a kind of gambling. I remember using pennies, or even raisins when we played. It was also a bit of a math exercise, because one symbol meant you got half the pot, so you had to know how to divide by two.
Where did the original tradition come from? I found an article by Robin Treistman called Poker, Dreidel and Hanukkah.
Ah. This is where the deep part starts. In the time of King Antiochus (you know - the Syrian/Greek dude whose tyranny was overthrown by the Jews), one of the decrees against the Jews was the prohibition of the study of Torah. This went along with other sweet prohibitions such as the one against circumcision, ritual slaughter, performing Temple duties, and more. So how did the Jews get around it? Tradition holds that the children and adults would gather to engage in some kind of game that resembled gambling, such as cards, and at the same time, they would discuss the Torah orally among themselves. Picture this:
'Reb Yaakov - if you were watching my ox, and it fell in a pit, who is liable?'
'I pass - it is quite clear from the Torah that the present overseer of the ox is.'
'Reb Yossi - hit me with 2, OK? But what if the ox got away by itself?'
'I still think that the overseer is liable - he should have had control over the ox all along. The Torah does not differentiate. Hey, check it out guys - a straight flush!'
So a game intertwined with Torah study was the way our great- great-great-great... grandparents would get around Antiochus' decree and similar decrees ordered by later persecutors of the Jews. In memory of this practice, and in celebration of the fact that we can now study without the poker game in the background, we allow and even encourage our children to play dreidel, even though it is like gambling.
Read the full article here
The competitors hunch over the tables, cracking fingers and stretching their wrists. It's the first night of Hanukkah, and only one person can take home the crystal dreidel-shaped trophy. The Major League Dreidel championship is on.
The legends of the game arrive early at a bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. With nicknames like Debbie Does Dreidel and Jewbacca, this is no longer a sport for children.
Read the full article here
Monday, December 22, 2008
Diets. I've got a theory of why they don't work. I discovered this years ago, when either hubby or I would be trying to knock off a few pounds. We'd watch what we ate, cut back on treats, eat smaller portions. However, it seemed that when he was doing the weight loss thing, I'd find my own weight creeping up despite no change in my own eating habits. We decided that there's a logical explanation.
Remember those laws of physics? Matter can neither be created nor destroyed? Well, I discovered a corollary to that law. I called it "Conservation of Marital Mass." No matter what, the sum of the weight of the husband and wife shall remain constant. What one gains, the other loses. Lately, I think this law has expanded to cover anyone I know. Despite my efforts to hold the pounds at bay, doing all the right things, the things that had worked before, those pounds not only wouldn't go away, but they kept inviting their friends to join them.
Why, I wondered. And then I noticed that one of our casual 'see you at Panera on Sunday' friends had dropped almost a full person's worth of weight. And we visited friends in Washington who were on weight watchers, and their pounds were disappearing. Now, I know I haven't gained all their poundage, but all that matter has to go somewhere, and I'm sure there are others out there who are sharing in the redistribution of body matter. It's holiday time. Parties. Friends and relatives bearing gifts of delectable edibles. Traditional foods, all bursting at the seams with calories. Everyone says they put on weight during the holidays. Maybe this time, while they're gaining, I'll be able to take some off.
That being said, here's my daughter's recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cake.
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c Guinness
1 c flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1/3 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 c low fat buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan. (dusting with cocoa powder works best)
In a small saucepan, combine cocoa and stout and heat over low-moderate heat until smooth. Set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Beat butter with an electric mixer on low-medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until pale yellow. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Stir buttermilk into cooled cocoa/stout mixture.
With mixer on low, add liquid mixture and dry ingredients alternately, in 3 batches.
Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until cake pulls away from the edges of pan and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack. Poke lots of holes into cake with a fork.
Chocolate Guinness Sauce
1/4 c Guinness
4 T brown sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t vanilla
Mix ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Allow to cool. Pour into/over cooled cake.
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
5 fl oz heavy whipping cream
5 oz semi-sweet chocolate. Chunks or chips.
Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Turn off heat and add chocolate, stir until smooth. Pour over cake! (works best when cake is already on serving plate)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Yesterday, Amazon.com finally showed When Danger Calls as 'available now'. It's been a long time coming.
And, since one of the joys of the season is watching the delight of children, here's a writing quote for the day.
Reading good writers will help you pay attention to detail: the way gestures reveal true emotions, the dialogue of people around you, the way an event unfolds in your life, in others' lives. Pay attention to the world around you with intense interest. ...When you begin to pay attention in this way, you'll find ways of being amazed again--feeling the kind of discovery in everyday life the way a child does. You'll never be bored.
The Writer, Dec 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
These were the invitations sent by the White House to their Hanukkah Party. Now, it's nice that they recognized there's a difference between Christmas and Hanukkah -- or did they?
I know there are a lot of people who insist Christmas is a holiday for everyone, but I don't agree. And Hanukkah is not a Jewish version of Christmas. The White House's explanation that this invitation 'slipped through the cracks' doesn't cut it.
OK -- that's it. Politics, Religion. One post. Done. If you celebrate any holidays at this time of the year, may they be happy ones.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali
Lots of waiting lately. But as of yesterday, the Barnes & Noble website listed When Danger Calls as available, and it already has a five-star review. It's still listed as 'pre-order' at Amazon, but I have faith it'll be 'in stock' soon.
And waiting rooms. How aptly named. Yesterday, hubby and I arrived about 10 minutes before he'd been told to report to the hospital for check in. The receptionist confirmed his name was on her list and told us to take a seat. They're remodeling the hospital, and it looks more like a luxury hotel (although the smell of paint was bothersome). I have a scene in Starting Over set in a fictionalized version of this hospital, written several years ago, and I'm already thinking about a major revision for the next edition.
So, we wait about 40 minutes until he's called for the paperwork. After sacrificing a small redwood, he gets his ID bracelet and we're escorted to the area where they do these procedures, where we're told to have a seat and he's given another form to fill out. This waiting room is in the old section. No paint smells, but not a big room, and not particularly comfortable. People are reading, sleeping, watching one of the two televisions (more on that later), or staring into space. Note: this is not the 'real' surgical waiting room, so there's no real undercurrent of worry--most of the people are the designated drivers, not the patients.
After another wait, the nurse comes for him and he's off for his procedure. I wait. I've brought a printout of Starting Over as well as my eBookwise, which has the book I'm reading as well as Hidden Fire, which will be out in print, so I have to do one more run-through to catch any errors. On impulse, I'd tossed my iPod shuffle into my bag as well. For the next hour and a half, I'm very glad I did. The waiting room had two television sets, both on, each tuned to a different channel. Who decides what people want to watch, and who controls the volume? I know it's a silly thing to ask, but I wished they provided the headsets that let people listen to the audio without it being broadcast through the entire room. But, I plugged in my music and was able to block out the distraction. (I did notice that Jennifer Aniston showed up on both shows. Must have a new movie out.)
After an hour and a half, the nurse calls my name and escorts me to ... yep, another area where she tells me to wait for the doctor who will let me know how everything went. Another ten or fifteen minutes pass. When he shows up, he spends perhaps 15 seconds telling me everything was fine and disappears. I find the nurse's station and say, "What now?" They point me to recovery, where hubby is semi-coherent. I'm directed to get the car while he gets dressed and they wheel him downstairs.
Portal to portal -- almost 4 hours, which includes parking, walking to admissions, getting the car afterward and driving to the pickup point. (Which was NOT where the guy I asked said it was, so subtract about 10 minutes of unnecessary waiting until I asked again and he said, "Well, maybe you should go to the old entrance.") Time inside the hospital -- a little over three hours. Procedure -- maybe 15 minutes including hooking up the IVs. I'd told hubby to check the clock, because last time he had this done, he insisted they hadn't started yet, and I had to argue at length with him that yes, it was over. So, I'd told him to look at the clock. He said they'd put him under at about 10. They came for me at about 10:25.
I know the doctor's time is valuable, and he doesn't want to wait for patients, so everyone is prepped and ready as he goes down the line doing these procedures. But what about the patient's time? Do they need to bring everyone in as early as they do so they can sit around and wait?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Meanwhile, here are a few writing quotes that come through my Writing Quote of the Day subscription:
Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
You need to follow your own inner voice, and that's not easy. There's a lot of noise about writing, but writing is just work. It's fraught with doubt. You generate the project and wonder if it's a good idea. And then you have to write it, and you wonder if you're writing it well. But you have to put those thoughts aside, because a lot of forces want us to stop writing. Life calls us away, and to finish our projects we have to insist.
You must keep at it to improve. Get in the habit of writing every day. If that's not possible try to write several times a week. You owe it to yourself and to your writing. Before you know it page will follow page, and soon your pages will turn into chapters.
~ Susan Walerstein
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Yesterday morning, I called my contact person at the publisher to find out why they hadn't arrived already, since he'd said he was going to expedite my order over a week ago. He said he'd send a 'scathing email' to find out what happened. A few hours later, the mail carrier (not my regular guy, or he'd have rung the bell and carried them inside for me) dropped 3 cartons and 2 smaller packages of books on my front porch.
That must have been some email! Of course, now I have to deal with the 10 books I didn't order showing up with an invoice. Someday, somehow, we'll get it straight, I'm sure. But I have books! Beautiful books!
And, in due course, they'll hit the computer systems at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
For some reason, B&N's system doesn't have the 'order it and we'll send it when it's available' feature the way Amazon does. But my contact told me the books have been shipped, so it's just a matter of waiting out the endless red tape of updating databases.
Now, I'm juggling three editing projects. A new book is on the back burner until I can get through those.
I hope you checked the recipes I added to my website yesterday. My daughter reminded me of another really quick and easy recipe I used to make all the time –
5 minute fudge.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
UPS delivered my 10 emergency reserve copies of When Danger Calls yesterday. These arrived -- but barely. The tape on the bottom of the box was broken, just like the other box, but at least there was enough on the edges to keep the box from opening. It took barely a tug to open the box. The top, however, bless the packer's heart, was sealed with layers of tape. Guess the message that it wasn't the top, but the bottom that had opened on the first batch didn't get through.
But they're here -- for the moment. Five are already packed and ready to get shipped off to the RITA contest. The other five are also earmarked for a contest, but I can hold on to them for a few more days and enjoy the sight of MY NEW BOOK.
It's hard cover -- note the dust jacket in the picture -- with my photo in it. And blurbs from other authors. The cover is sturdy, the binding secure. Pages are crisp and white, with pretty black ink. And, on a spot check, they've caught the glitches we reported after reading the ARC.
To celebrate, I've got a present for you. I've uploaded a selection of family favorite holiday recipes to my website. Go to my site, and click 'recipes' in the "LINKS" column.
If you'd like to give ME a present (and it won't cost you anything), you can request that your local library system order When Danger Calls. The publisher targets the library market, so any library should be able to order the book.
Give them the following information:
Title: When Danger Calls
Author: Terry Odell
Publisher: Five Star, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning
Monday, December 15, 2008
What I'm working on: Edits.
At the risk of someone coming after me and confiscating my 'female' card, I will admit I'm not a shopping person. I enjoy it, within limits, when my daughters come to town (although I'm sure they no longer put "hit the mall with Mom" at the top of their to-do lists since I no longer hand over my credit card for their purchases). Shopping is enough of a trial, but the holiday season sends me straight to the computer. We may be in the midst of an economic crisis, the the malls are still crowded.
The other factor is the holiday sales help. Now, I'm glad that there are still jobs in retail, and that the stores feel confident enough to hire extra help. I'm sure the workers are also grateful for employment during these rougher times. So, I try to maintain my patience as I wait for clerks to figure out how to use the register, or how to handle discount coupons. I'm also enough of a Scrooge not to accept, "we don't do that" from one of these obvious newbies without speaking to someone who's worked there more than a week.
I had a coupon for a free iTunes card with any toner/ink purchase. She immediately said, "inks aren't included in special offers," and I had to show her the coupon that said, "good with any HP ink/toner purchase." Then she said, it was only for purchases over $75. I pointed out the cartridge went well over that figure. Guess she's not familiar with the stock yet.
And, I was buying a new backup battery supply system for my computer. I asked my IT guy hubby which one to get. He went on line, printed the page and handed it to me. I took it to the store, found the item. So far, so good. BUT, the price was higher in the store than on my printout. I showed the clerk, and she said, "We don't honor on-line prices." Since the catalog page clearly said, "available in store" and nothing about "Prices may vary," I asked to speak to the manager. When he finally appeared, he glanced at the ad and told the clerk, "we honor catalog prices." So, I saved my $6, the clerk learned something new, and all was well. Except for the extra 10 minutes I had to wait for the manager, and the extreme slowness of the clerk ringing up the sales. On the bright side, I already learned my lesson about how to use the iTunes card from the last one I had. Unlike the rest of the on-line shopping world, the iTunes store requries you load the card BEFORE you make your purchase.
This year, I had an actual specific request for a gift from my daughter-in-law. I checked on line, and I could have sent her a gift card to the store, but I took a moment to see if there actually was one in her town. Nope. Closest would be over an hour away. Didn't seem fair to make her drive, or pay shipping if she used the card on line, so I went to our nearest mall, which handily housed one of those stores.
I got to the mall shortly before it opened, and found a convenient parking spot. So far, so good. Inside, I passed a humongous Christmas tree, and lines already snaking around the center display for pictures with Santa. The music, as always in that mall, drowned out all but the underlying cacophony of voices raised to be heard over the music.
I found the store, asked a sales clerk where the item I needed was. He took me there, and I ALMOST said 'thanks, that'll be all.' Almost. Especially since this store sells audio gizmos and they were also on to demonstrate their capabilities. But were they playing the same things? No, of course not.
I browsed for a bit, wondering if I could find something for my son who has everything as long as I was going to have to ship a box. Or for hubby, although we're not really exchanging gifts this year since South Africa last year was a multi-year, multi-occasion gift.
I broke down and bought one gadget for the 'household' although I'm sure I'll be the one to use it. Resisted the 'today only, reduced price on this, that, or whatever with purchase' sales pitches.
Had a $10 off coupon for Victoria's Secret, so I wandered down that way. More noise. Why would someone want to spend more than $100 a cashmere nightgown? Or nearly #300 for the matching robe? Trouble with Vicky's place is that I can't leave 'would hubby like this' out of the mix. So, I think I'll give HIM the $10 gift card and if he sees anything, he can buy it. After all, even though I wear it, it'll be a gift for him.
In the 45 minutes I was inside, the parking lot filled considerably. I'm glad my car is orange.
Round trip, portal to portal, under an hour. Out past the humongous Christmas tree again. The looks of awe and excitment in the kids' faces as they walked by, almost tipping over backward as they tried to see the top, did melt a bit of the Grinch in my heart.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Jenyfer is an American living in Cairo, Egypt, and her blog gives great glimpses of what it's like to raise a family in another culture. An added bonus -- some great travel pictures as she explores areas around her home.
And, just because I've got them, a few pictures of the obstacle course at SWAT Roundup.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Prior to the start of the event, each competitor will have in front of his shooting position, at the 15-yard line, his required equipment. His shooting position will correspond with his competitor number. There will be three small bulls-eye type targets posted at each shooting position. At start time, all competitors will be behind the start/finish line. Each competitor will start the course traversing a myriad of obstacles and conditions likely to be found in a wooded environment. The course will consist of paved portions, as well as loose, uneven terrain, and may be required to negotiate a water canal. Portions of the course necessitate a low crawl. At the end of the first lap, each competitor will successfully identify his/her shooting position, don hearing and eye protection, index any of the three weapons he/she chooses, and shoot at one of the three targets posted at his shooting lane. The shooter will ensure the weapon is in a safe condition before continuing with the remaining laps (slide is to the rear, magazine removed, and safety on). The competitor is not required to run the remaining laps wearing eye and hearing protection. Securing this equipment next to the assigned firearms is permitted. The competitor will then complete the second lap, encountering same/similar obstacles, until he/she returns to his/her shooting position. The competitor must don required hearing and eye protection, index the second weapon of choice, and shoot at one of the two remaining targets that have not yet been shot. The shooter will ensure the weapon is in a safe condition before continuing with the remaining lap (slide is to the rear, magazine removed, and safety on). The competitor is not required to run the remaining lap wearing eye and hearing protection. Securing this equipment next to the assigned firearms is permitted. The competitor will then complete the third and final lap, encountering same/similar obstacles, until he/she returns to his/her shooting position. The competitor must don required hearing and eye protection, index the third and final weapon of choice, and shoot the last remaining target that has not yet been shot. The shooter will ensure the weapon is in a safe condition before continuing with the course. The competitor will resume the course to the finish line. Upon approaching the finish line, competitors are required to announce his/her competitor number to the timer/scorekeeper to assist them in securing the most accurate time/score possible.
And, I promised more pictures -- even better, here's a link to what the events were, and there's a video of the competition. Hardbodies in action. A team from our Orange County Sheriff's Office took first place overall. Congrats to you, and everyone who participated. I have utmost respect for those who run toward danger. You can browse and see more of the descriptions of the various events.
Some of the 'toys'. The Vendor Pavilion had it all.
Some of the vehicles:
And even the big tough SWAT guys need a little first aid:
We fed everyone, including our Sheriff, Kevin Beary
And, just a reminder. Order When Danger Calls from Amazon or Barnes & Noble to have it in time for the holiday! Links on my website.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Due to the snafu mentioned in an earlier post, I don't even have my author copies to hold in my hand. But, the book is available for order, and any bookstore should be able to get it for you if you aren't into the on-line shopping thing. Best deal for everyone in this economy? Go to your library and ask them to order it for you. Everyone can win.
Now for the rest of my news ... my computer is back, and the hard drive survived the excitement of the power supply shorting out. It took a little longer because they had to order the new part, and there was that pesky holiday weekend in there, but I picked it up yesterday afternoon, and hubby, my wonderful IT guy, had it up and running. First thing, I backed up the files I'd regretting not having when I was chained to my laptop.
And I'm back in familiar territory with my website program, so I've been busy making all the changes and updates.
OK -- I promised some milling around pictures from the SWAT Roundup, too. But those files are still on my laptop -- so hang in there!
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I promised some pictures of the SWAT Roundup. All I had was my point and shoot (but it's better than my phone), and access was restricted, so I couldn't get too close. Here's another batch. I'll keep posting over the next few days.
Lots of guys milling around, waiting -- check the back. See the guy with the stroller?
More waiting - big guns and gas masks
Weapons have to be checked and approved before the competition.
Waiting for the signal to storm the gate
They rescue the hostage and carry it to safety.
Monday, December 08, 2008
If you follow this blog, you know prices on Cerridwen's trade paperbacks are scheduled for a major hike in the very near future, and since the books are printed with the price on the cover, they have to get rid of the old ones. If you're looking for a book, or want to give books as gifts, you might hurry on over and check out the sale. Where else can you get a trade paperback for $3.50.
As for WHEN DANGER CALLS, -- two more days until it's officially released. If you haven't met Ryan, the hero, or Frankie, the heroine, scroll down. Their job interviews are posted.
Tonight, in conjunction with the Lake County Library System, I'll be at PJ's Coffee and Wine Bar in Eustis. Yeah, coffee and wine and me. Could be fun. I'll be talking about how I got started writing by mistake, as well as all my books.
I've got a bunch of pictures from the SWAT Roundup. I'll be working on uploading those. Here's one to get you started.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Yesterday, I introduced Ryan Harper, the hero of When Danger Calls. The nature of a romance novel, regardless of sub-genre, is that the hero and hero share the page. Today, I'd like to share Frankie Castor's job interview. In addition, you'll see how, through sheer luck, I cast Molly in her supporting role.
"Yes?" I say when my secretary calls. I have a break between appointments, and I'm trying to refine some of my yet-to-be-discovered heroine's goals, motivations and conflicts.
"We might have a problem with the next applicant," she says.
I consult my list. Frances Marie Castor. Four o'clock. So far, all I've seen are women who look like they're applying for a job at a strip club, not an action-adventure romance heroine. True, there are a few scenes where the heroine will have to play a cocktail waitress, but that's not what I'm looking for. "What kind of problem?"
"Her sitter can't make it, and she can't find anyone to take care of her daughter."
"How old is the daughter?" I ask.
After a moment, my secretary returns to the line. "She's almost five."
I wonder. Would it asking too much that I might be able to cast both roles at once? "Tell her to bring her daughter along."
Promptly at four, my secretary informs me Ms. Castor and her daughter have arrived. "Show them in," I say. Giving a silent prayer that this will be my final interview, I flip to a clean sheet of my notepad and turn my attention to the door.
When it opens, my secretary leads the candidate in. She gives me a look that says, "Am I supposed to entertain the kid?"
I give her a quick headshake. "Please come in, Ms. Castor." Outwardly, she's got promise. Honey-blonde, with clear, blue eyes. Minimal makeup, and a few strands of hair escape her ponytail. She's wearing khakis and a beige-and blue striped polo. Definitely not the stripper type. Girl next door all the way. My hopes lift a little higher. My gaze lowers to the child who's hanging back, clutching a backpack to her chest like a shield. Strawberry blonde, slight. Not exactly the image I had. For tension and conflict, I was looking for someone who resembled the Hispanic youngster Ryan Harper had failed to rescue before the book started.
Frances hesitates. "I'm sorry for the … inconvenience, and I really appreciate you seeing me today. This is Molly." I detect a quick nudge to the child, who lifts her head and gives me a polite smile, still keeping her eyes downcast. "Hello."
"Molly knows this is grownup time. She'll sit and read, or color. And will be very quiet." Another nudge.
I get up, circle my desk, and crouch to Molly's level. "Hi, Molly. Do you like to read?"
"Well, I love to read, and I love to write stories, too. What's your favorite book?"
She meets my gaze with a smile, and her cobalt-blue eyes are irresistible. I'm already revising Molly's character description from a brown-eyed, dark-haired child to a blue-eyed strawberry blonde. Writing is all about the rewrites, after all.
"Green Eggs and Ham," she says. "I have it in my pack. I can read it to Mr. Snuggles all by myself."
"Very good," I say. I settle her on the loveseat against the wall. "You can read here while I talk to your mommy."
Molly unzips her pack and takes out a well-worn copy of the Seuss. Next comes a well-worn, once-white stuffed dog, which she places on her lap. Mr. Snuggles, I presume. I make another mental note. As soon as she opens the book, she's reciting the familiar rhymes in soft tones.
I haven't mentioned the role of a child, and I don't say anything yet. Casting children is a headache. I prefer to see them in their natural state, not performing, but it's almost impossible. Today is a rare exception.
"Please sit down, Ms. Castor." I direct her to one of my client chairs. "Or should I call you Frances."
"Call me Frankie," she says. "Only my mom calls me Frances, and then it's usually Frances Marie Castor, which means I'm in trouble." She sits. "Excuse my appearance. I had to come straight from work—I teach elementary school art—and I didn't have time to change. We've been working on collages."
As she sits, I get a brief whiff of Elmer's glue. Much nicer than the cloying scents I've been exposed to all day. "Tell me why you applied for this job."
She takes a breath. "Bottom line? The money."
Honest, straightforward. I jot a note. "You mentioned you have a job. Teaching."
"I'm only a sub while the regular teacher's on maternity leave. I had to move from Boston because my mother fell and broke her wrist, and my sister's husband got a great job, but it was in London, and they moved, and there was nobody to stay with Mom, so Molly and I moved out here and things are tight." She glanced at Molly, then gave me a quick grin. "Sorry. I … um … tend to babble when I'm nervous."
"There's no need to be nervous. Tell me about yourself. Your backstory, as we say in the business."
She jumps right in. "I was born in Broken Bow, Montana. I wanted to experience the city life, couldn't wait to get out. I wanted to be a photojournalist. Went to school in New York. Things got … complicated." She looked at Molly again, her gaze lingering this time. She turned back to me. "I ended up working for an interior design firm in Boston, until I got the call about Mom. And I'm worried about her. She forgets things, and the budget—well, it's in trouble, and the furnace needs to be fixed—replaced would be better—and there's Bob, her new boyfriend, and—" She gives me another wide grin. "I'm babbling again, aren't I?"
I smile and add some notes to my page. "Not a problem." After making sure Molly is still engrossed in her book, I lean across my desk and lower my voice. "You do know that you'll have to have a consummated relationship for the job. Will that be a problem?"
She, too, checks on Molly. "Do I have to be … you know … real experienced? Because I'm not looking for a man now. Not unless he's going to put Molly first, and I've pretty much given up on those. I haven't … you know … done it. Not since—" Another glance at Molly.
"I've found that one experienced partner is usually enough," I say. "But it does happen on the page."
She blushes a delightful shade of pink. "The guy isn't going to be a brute or anything, is he? Or too ... kinky?"
"No, definitely not a brute. And I don't write erotica, so there's a very low kink quotient."
After a brief moment of lip-chewing thought, she says, "I think I'll be fine with it. No, I know I'll be fine with it. There's always a bright side to anything, and a little romance, even pretend, seems like a definite bright side to me right about now."
I run through the last few questions quickly, making sure she's willing to deal with a German Shepherd, and isn't afraid of horses or heights, before I drop the final question. "How would you feel about Molly being in the book with you?"
Her eyes pop open. "I don't know. She's so young. It's an adult book, after all."
"If she can differentiate between real and pretend, she can probably handle the job. And I'll run any of her scenes by you first, for approval."
"That sounds fair. But those … romance scenes?"
"Trust me, she won't be on the page during any … romance." With a smile, I add, "And she'll get paid for her time. Same rate as you."
Frankie chews her lip again. She gets up and sits beside Molly. She whispers in her ear. Molly's eyes widen. She looks at me. "Can Mr. Snuggles be in the story too?"
"Of course," I say. He'll be very important."
Molly grins. She stuffs her book in her pack and dangles Mr. Snuggles in front of her face. "We can be in a storybook. Just like Sam I Am."
Frankie crosses back to my desk, her hand outstretched. "We'll do it."
I shake her hand and escort the pair to the door. "My secretary has the paperwork. We'll start Monday, if that's all right."
"It'll be fine," Frankie says. They leave, and I tell my secretary to cancel tomorrow's appointments and to hold all my calls. I have some writing to do.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
As soon as he opens the door to my office, I'm sure there's been a mistake.
"I'm Ryan Harper, ma'am," he says.
I check the list my secretary gave me first thing this morning. No mistake. Number five just left, and number six is definitely Ryan Harper. I give him my, Thanks for coming smile. The one that I normally flash as they leave, not when they enter. But to be fair, I should hear him out.
I motion him inside. "Come in. Have a seat."
He's certainly tall enough, over six feet, but as he crosses to the visitor chair at my desk, he's favoring one leg. Still, there's nothing hesitant about the way he walks. Strides, actually, limp and all. Interesting. He's got a scruffy full beard, and his hair hangs in unruly brown tendrils over the collar of a neatly-pressed blue oxford cloth shirt. His jeans, also neatly-pressed, bunch at the waist under his belt, which clearly has been tightened a notch. He grasps the arms of the chair and eases himself into it. I see his jaw clench.
I try to keep my expression neutral, my voice pleasant, but I know he's aware I've noticed the pain he's tried to hide. "Mr. Harper, you're aware this position is for an action-adventure romance hero, right?"
"Yes, ma'am." He stretches his legs in front of him. There's a faint pallor under his tan. His gaze meets mine, and my heart does a quick flip. The weight of the world sits behind those whiskey-colored eyes. Thoughts of finishing ahead of schedule and an early lunch vanish. I fumble for a pen.
"What made you apply for the job, Mr. Harper?"
"Please, call me Ryan."
"Ryan." I'm tempted to return the first-name invitation, but I normally reserve that for my characters after I hire them. "I have to be honest. You're not exactly what readers expect when they meet the hero in one of my books."
His eyes never leave mine. He runs his hand across his beard. "I'm just back from an assignment. Things didn't go so well, and frankly, my boss insisted I take time off. Lying around the beach didn't appeal, and there were some … issues. I resigned. I saw your ad. I've had a lot of experience in the action-adventure realm." He rubbed his knee. "That's how I got injured."
"What kind of an injury?"
"Nothing permanent. Just my knee. It's healing fine. I guarantee it won't interfere with the job."
I'll be the judge of that. But his erect posture, the set of his jaw say he's right.
"All right, we'll assume the knee is a minor inconvenience. Tell me about yourself. Where you grew up, education, work history, your whole backstory."
The first glimmer of a smile appears at the corners of his mouth. "I grew up on a ranch in Montana. Horse ranch. Older brother, younger sister. I started college, dropped out to join the Navy. Did a couple of years as a SEAL, then went to work for … for a high-end San Francisco security company."
Quite a bit of hopping around. I don't need quitters in my books. "What made you drop out of school?"
Sadness flashes across his face, quickly controlled. "My mother died. I needed to get away for a while."
"And this company?" I ask. "What were your duties?"
"Just about anything." He lifts his gaze to the ceiling as if searching for the right response. Shrugs. Leans forward. Lowers his voice. "But, you see, there's a covert side. I can't talk about it much, but we do a lot of hostage rescue, go places where our government doesn't want to get involved, either for political reasons, or because to them, what the client wants is just small potatoes."
My pen seems to be writing notes of its own accord. Plot points appear on my pad. He waits. I go down my checklist. "Married?"
"No, ma'am. My job takes me away at a moment's notice." He sucks in a breath. "Took me away, I guess, since I'm not working there anymore. But it never seemed fair to ask someone to accept that kind of a life."
"I'm assuming your job entailed dangerous assignments."
"I'm also assuming you're well-versed in firearms, combat techniques, survival."
"Yes, ma'am. Our teams are the best."
"That's right. We're all trained across the board, but we each have specialties."
"And yours was…?"
A pause. "Sharpshooter. Sniper."
A longer pause. He swallows. "Yes, I have."
"I take it you don't enjoy it."
"No, ma'am I don't. Frankly, it sickens me, but there are times when it's the only way. The world has an ugly side."
"Can you work alone? Without a … team … backing you up?"
"All right, then let's get to the other side. This is an action-adventure romance novel, and everything happens on the page. Everything. Do you have any problems with that?"
He gives me a sheepish grin. Suddenly, I wonder what he'll look like when he shaves. "None at all."
I scribble another note. "Dogs?"
"We had an Irish setter when I was a kid. Rusty. I'm fine with dogs."
"I was thinking German Shepherd."
He looks at me, a puzzled expression on his face. "Children?"
"You'd be working with a single mother. She has a five-year-old daughter. Can you handle it."
For the first time, I see something akin to fear cross his face. He closes his eyes for a moment, then gives me an even stare. "Not a problem."
Definitely a problem. But that's going to be his problem, not mine. I glance at my list of potential conflicts for his character and put two asterisks by that one.
I stand and offer my hand. "Thank you, Ryan. When can you start?"
He gets to his feet. Slowly. Smiles and shakes my hand. A warm, firm grip. A working man's hand. "Any time, ma'am."
"Call me Terry."
His smile is a genuine grin now. "Terry. Thank you."
"If you'll stop by my secretary's desk, she'll have the necessary paperwork."
He heads for the door. I watch him leave. The limp is barely visible. Or am I distracted by the view? I wonder if Frankie Castor will enjoy it as much as I do.