Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Leigh McRae Has Body-Discovering Experience

Leigh McRae Has Body-Discovering Experience

In Talented Horsewoman, the first book of my horse mystery series, main character Leigh McRae discovers a body. She also ends up solving a murder. Along the way she helps her cousin Sammi, who is dating a burglar, and she manages to get out from under the control of her overbearing ex-husband.

Now Leigh's friend Candy, a fellow horsewoman, finds herself accused of murder. Who else would she turn to for help except Leigh? After all, everyone in small town Del Canto knows Leigh has body-discovering experience. Never mind that Leigh is busy finding out who's poisoning dogs in Sammi's neighborhood and she's trying to renovate her home without going broke. Or that her ex-husband Kenneth and former ranchhand Doug Reilly have become roommates in Leigh's guest house.

There's a murder to solve. And her friend won't take no for an answer.

Coming soon, the second in the Leigh McRae horse mystery series: The Witness Wore Palomino.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jobless Recovery Sample Sunday

Modified Cover

I've heard from some of my readers that based on the title they thought Jobless Recovery was non fiction. I've now modified the cover to clear up any confusion. Note the new blurb on the front and two new blurbs on the back. You can't read it in the posted image, but you can see how I've moved my name up and put the blurb at the bottom. The front cover blurb reads: JOBLESS RECOVERY - A THRILLING REVISIT OF THE GRAPES OF WRATH -- Barbara Silkstone, author of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland

Many thanks to author Barbara Silkstone for providing the front cover blurb. Jobless Recovery is still only $.99, but the sale ends on Dec. 31st. 

Short Excerpt from a Random Chapter

A red and white sign over the door of a two-story brick building caught his eye. Avalon Plasma Center and Lab.
A thought drifted through his head. He didn’t like the sight of his own blood--who did? But a person needed to earn money to survive--and to meet his obligations--and he’d heard that you could get as much as two hundred dollars a month for plasma.
He veered right and marched up the brick steps to the building, where a couple of pots of overgrown ferns flanked the outer door. He went inside. The black and white floor tiles gleamed under at least ten coats of wax, and the scent of orange room deodorizer almost masked the disinfectant smell that stung his nostrils.
Chairs were lined up in an L shape around two walls of the room and every chair was occupied. Dave stepped up to the desk and got the attention of the receptionist, a twentyish redhead reading a tabloid. She finally frowned up at Dave and lowered her magazine to the desk.
He leaned on the counter and beamed her a winning smile. “Excuse me. I’d like to sell plasma.” Not quite the truth. He didn’t like to sell plasma, he liked to earn money.
Her expression stayed fixed in a frown. “Sorry. We already have people totally crawling out of the woodwork. You just would not believe. I mean, there’s only so much plasma we can process.” She pointed to a stack of forms on her desk. “You can add your name to our waiting list and if we get an opening, we’ll call you.”
“You mean like in case one of your present donors gets a real job or dies?”
He rolled his eyes. Sad day when you couldn’t even get a job letting people stick needles in your arm to take out your blood. He turned down her offer to sign up for the waiting list. He was tired of waiting lists and he was sure he wasn’t the only one. Waiting lists for government services, for training, to put in job applications, and now to sell plasma. Maybe someone should contact the spin doctors in Washington, have them work on the problem. No time at all and people would learn to say, “Would you like to sign up for our opportunity success module, Mr. Griffin? It used to be known as the waiting list, but that sounds so negative.

I hope you like the short excerpt and I invite you to leave a comment. I don't like to post entire chapters. There are so many good books to sample today, that I prefer to keep my excerpts short so samplers can finish and move on to the next.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Adventures of Green Camo

I've come to realize I have a lot of influence on the Boy. For example, I recently bought him a humidifier because he has a rotten cold and can hardly breathe at night with the heater running so much. Next morning I asked him how he slept and he said, "Much better and I really like Gordon."

Me: "Gordon? Who's Gordon?"

Him: "My new humidifier."

He looked at me like I was completely clueless not to have known he named it.

I only wish my influence over this kid extended to him getting organized and remembering the basics, such as where he put his jacket and his toothbrush, and why he should listen to me when I tell him not to leave his shoes in the road. And that it's important for him to treat his lunchbox with a little respect, since that is the source of his lunch. 

His lunchbox is green with a camouflage pattern. Hmmm. Maybe that's why he can't find it. It's a hand me down from the Boy's cousin. His cousin never cared much for it, but the Boy LOVES that lunchbox, probably because the alternative is a small, flat, pinkish-red girlie looking one I keep around for backup during those times when Green Camo is AWOL.

Since the beginning of school, the Boy has left Green Camo on the bus twice on the way home, and both times the bus driver saved the Camo and gave it back to him in the morning. Another time the Boy went to his aunt's house after school and forgot it there, so he didn't have it for a few days. Last month he was walking to the house from the bus stop and flinging Green Camo high in the air and catching it--most of the time. Just as he reached the house, an errant throw landed Green Camo on the roof--and we have a two story house. The poor lunchbox slid toward the edge and hung up in the gutter. 

Well, I am not about to climb twenty feet up a ladder on any day of the year, so there Green Camo stayed. Neighbors kept stopping me and pointing it out.

"Did you know there's a lunchbox on your roof?" As if the thing had dropped from a low flying plane or possibly a UFO.

A lunchbox on my roof? Really? I simply must get new eyeglasses.

Several of them suggested that maybe a high wind would dislodge the lunchbox from the gutter.

It might. Any idea how I can conjure up a hurricane? No? Well, since I don't have that kind of control over nature, I'm not going to stand out front holding a catcher's mitt waiting for a wind to come along and do its job.

Another neighbor suggested a fishing pole with a big hook. He offered to loan me one. I declined. I could envision myself hooking the gutter and pulling it down on top of my head.

The Boy excitedly volunteered to go up the ladder, and of course I said no. Any kid who could can't even throw a lunchbox straight is not coordinated enough to climb twenty feet up a ladder without mishap.

After ten days, my husband came home from a job out of state. He went up the ladder and snared Green Camo. 

I figured the Boy had finally learned his lesson. I figured wrong. 

About two weeks ago he left the Green Camo on the bus on the way to school, so of course his lunch was in it. One of the middle schools uses that same bus. In the afternoon, the Boy didn't ride the bus, since I picked him after school. Next day the bus driver, a sub, didn't have the Green Camo and hadn't seen it. The school Lost and Found was another dead end.

The Boy resigned himself to carrying the Girlie Red for the rest of the year because I told him I was not buying another lunchbox for a careless boy. A week later his aunt called and said that her son had been called into the office at his middle school because they had his lunchbox. The cousin's name was written on the outside of Green Camo from the year before. Naturally his cousin said, "It's not mine. There must be another kid in the school with the same name as me." I had to call and ask them to handle the care and well-being of Green Camo for a day or so until I could bring him home.

I went a few days later in the bitter cold with the wind whipping around and the temp well below freezing. I almost got hypothermia on the way in from the outer reaches of the parking lot. I mean it. It was like the tundra and I was not happy. 

Green Camo was empty when I looked inside. I don't know if some hungry middle schooler ate the Boy's lunch or if the Lost and Found lady threw it out. I suppose I'll have to add this question to my list of life's mysteries.

The Boy was ecstatic to see that his lunchbox had returned home. But where will poor Green Camo end up next?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Can Take a Hint

New cover for We Interrupt This Date

Based on input from readers and reviewers, I've gotten a brand new cover for We Interrupt This Date that more accurately reflects the tone and content of the book. The first time around, I told the cover designer I wanted to focus on the Southern fiction/family aspects of the plot and I was wrong. It turned out that the book is selling better as chick lit/romantic comedy. Paul Coleman  designed the new cover. I think he did a fantastic job. Now we'll see if readers feel the same.

About the book: 
Since her divorce a year ago, Susan Caraway has gone through the motions of life. Now she is finally coming out of her shell. Just when she decides on a makeover and a new career, her family members decide she's crisis central. First there’s her sister DeLorean who returns from California with a baby, a designer dog, and no prospects for child support or a job. As soon as DeLorean settles in at Susan’s home, Susan’s son Christian comes home from college trailing what Susan’s mama refers to as “an androgynous little tart.” Then there’s Mama herself, a southern lady who wrote the book on bossy. A secret from Mama’s past threatens to unravel her own peace. But not before Mama hurts her ankle and has to move into Susan’s home with her babies—two Chihuahuas with attitude. Susan would like to start her new job as a ghost tour operator. She would like to renew her relationship with Jack Maxwell, a man from her past. But Jack isn’t going to stand in line behind her needy family.

A short excerpt:

Patty finished ringing up a sale and waved from behind her register. “Thank God, Odell’s finally outta here. What’s going on?” She sashayed out from behind the counter to lounge against the doorway to my office.

“Nothing.” I put my fingers on my keyboard and glanced at her sideways.

She reached up and tugged her hair clips loose, letting her black hair fall from the loose pile on top of her head to a full cascade down her back. She’d once told me that there comes a time in every redneck woman’s life when she has hair down to her butt. Then she’d planted her hands on her hips and said, “Honey, except for my interest in the occult, I’m as redneck as they come.”

Odell makes her wear her hair on top of her head because he’d once had a cashier who caught her ponytail in the register and she threatened to sue when she had to cut a chunk of it off to free herself. But whenever Odell leaves early, Patty lets her hair down. In more ways than one. Now she turned on the radio Odell keeps on a shelf against the wall and danced and swayed in the doorway to Heartbreak Hotel.

“Need something, Patty?”

“Just curious. You’ve been in such a scatterbrained mood all afternoon. Carrying your mama to the doctor doesn’t usually have that effect on you, so I assume it was something your friend, the tight-assed businesswoman, said over lunch. Let me guess. She’s finally figured out money won’t buy her love, so she’s going to share with you in the hopes that will get her some points with the relationship gods and they’ll send her a decent man to warm her bed.”

I shook my head in mock sadness. “You’re awful.”

“I’d go home and burn some candles, but I’ve already forgiven myself for my bitchiness. Now tell me what’s got you smiling.”

“I told you, I’m simply in a great mood.”

I hadn’t realized I was smiling. But I didn’t dare tell Patty about Veronica’s plan to take me away from all this. It had come to nothing, but Patty couldn’t keep a secret if her lips were stuck shut with Super Glue.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Little Book That Couldn't

Jobless Recovery is, so far, the little book that couldn't be perceived as fiction by potential readers.

Sometimes an author misses the mark with a book or the marketing. I recently learned that when some people looked at the cover and description for Jobless Recovery, they thought it was non-fiction. Or even worse--self-help. You can see the cover image right here and maybe you'll have the same reaction.

Uh-oh. My bad. My very bad.

People: Jobless Recovery is not self-help. Do not do the things my characters do. Or did in the book. Do not tell people the events are true. Because if you do, I could be in big trouble with the feds and you wouldn't want that, would you? Well, maybe some people would, but I prefer to think I have no enemies. So please--don't try this at home--or anywhere else.

Meanwhile, I'm working to change the book's image. It's a novel. It's fiction. I need for it to look that way.

Here's the book description: Dave Griffin is a poster boy for the American consumer. He drives a blood-colored Behemoth model SUV, has a new home in the suburbs, a beautiful girlfriend, a computer programming job, and all the benefits that come with middle class life in America. Then Dave's employer replaces American computer programmers with cheaper imported labor in order to increase company profits. Soon Dave is out on the street. But he still believes in the system. All he has to do is bring the problem to the attention of the media and the people in Washington to get results, right? Wrong. Very wrong.

Meanwhile, Dave's friend Joe Tremaine, a former FBI agent who lost his job after suffering a head injury, is struggling to stay sane. Cynical Joe knows better than to trust anyone in Washington or in corporate America. He embroils Dave in his fraudulent money-making schemes, and when Joe decides to educate the powerful senator who has been the driving factor in eliminating American jobs, his plan goes awry. Can an unemployed computer jockey manage to keep Joe--and himself--out of jail? Or will the oddly-shaped bundle in the back of Joe's truck lead the cops to haul them both to the slammer?

Hmm. The description doesn't say it's a novel, but I think that on the whole I haven't done a bad job getting the idea across. I'll still consider reworking the copy.

Here's a very short excerpt, an exchange between two of the main characters, Joe and Dave:

"I’ll bet you can do a pretty good job of designing brochures and flyers and printing them off.” The bingo hall wouldn’t earn squat if they didn’t advertise.
“Of course.” Dave furrowed his brow, and Joe could almost see little wheels wobbling in his head as he tried to get his thoughts up and running. “But what about your home repair business?”
“That’s not working out.” Joe leaned in close and lowered his voice. “Don’t tell Lark, because she’d just worry herself sick, but I barely make enough to cover my expenses. I’ll have to kill you if you say anything.”
“I know. Leave no marks, hide the body from the rats.” Dave rolled his eyes. “You know something, Joe? I’d like you a whole lot better if you didn’t keep threatening to kill me.”
“I’m not trying to win a popularity contest, boy. You want the job? Set up the books, do the advertising, be my right hand man?”
“What type of business?”
Joe used a spoon to wrap a wad of spaghetti around a fork. “Here, taste this.” He pushed the fork at Dave.
Dave jumped back. “Ow. I burned my tongue.”
“You ought to know better than to let somebody shove a hot fork in your mouth. What do you say?”
“The spaghetti’s done. What kind of business is it?”
“I’m telling you, if you’ll just shut up and listen. That’s a big fault with you, Dave--you keep interrupting while I’m trying to explain things. This business I’m trying to tell you about is church. It’s all about me being a preacher and you being my assistant.”

No problem here. This excerpt screams fiction, right? I hope so, anyway.

Okay, my work is clear. I'm planning to add a cover blurb and possibly rework the description. Meanwhile, if you're considering buying Jobless Recovery, it's on sale for only $.99 on Kindle until January 1st.

The book has nine terrific reviews on Amazon so far, including three posted in the last week. Jobless Recovery is classified as satire and social commentary. It has a bit of mystery thrown in. Oh--and it's fiction.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sample Sunday Featuring Jobless Recovery

Sample Sunday gives authors an opportunity to showcase their writing by posting readings from their published books or works in progress. I've sampled some great books this morning. This is fun. Thank you for reading my sample from Chapter Two of Jobless Recovery.

Joe Tremaine didn’t feel right the morning he went crazy. To begin with, his coffee tasted like sewer run-off and his head ached and throbbed so he could barely see to dump the swamp-colored sludge down the sink. When he picked up the paper and tried to read about Senator Buford Drake’s latest assault on American workers, the rattling of the pages buzzed against his eardrums like a swarm of bees and made him queasy.
He threw the paper down and jammed his hands tight over his ears. It was hot in the living room, so hot that the heat coming off the couch turned his skin red, and hotter yet in the kitchen where the pilot light on the stove waved its blue tongue as if to taunt him. He staggered outside and down the steps to the road. An early autumn frost still lingered on the grass like a veil of white lace. He scraped up a double handful to rub on his burning skin. Then he stood at the curb, his arms held straight out to his sides at shoulder level, and tilted his head back to catch the ghost of a breeze tantalizing his face.
He stood until the fire left him and then he started moving again, separating himself from the house and the source of the heat. The sidewalk started melting as he walked, slipping into liquid under his feet. He ripped his gaze upward and away from the concrete sloshing around his ankles. When had the trees become so shiny? Someone, maybe one of the drug dealers on the corner, had polished the trunks so they shone like mirrors and the glare was coming in through his eyes and setting off fireworks to explode hot and noisy in his brain.
A woman burst out of a house and shimmered in front of him for a few seconds like one of the Star Trek crew beaming down to an alien world. Joe shook his head to clear the sparkles out of his vision and plunged forward, barely able to keep his balance as the earth tilted and spun, trying to shake him loose to send him flying into space. He ended up a block away at Oak Street Park where the air around him shattered without warning into a million pieces of colored glass. The breaking glass tinkled like wind chimes, and then the shrieks of children playing mixed with the chimes and went to maximum volume in his head.
Children. The glass would cut their little bodies.
He flung himself from the pathway onto the grass and hooked one arm around the nearest child, a girl whose eyes had started to ooze down her face like melted ice cream, twin scoops of gooey chocolate.
“Get away. Run, little girl.” The sounds came out in a pig’s grunt and the girl he’d tried to save slipped out of his grasp and ran squealing toward the road.
Three women moved in front of him, positioning themselves to form a curved arc between him and the children. One of the women brandished a piece of wood, waving it like a battle flag. She swung at him, just missing his head. “Get out of here, you sicko.” Dragon’s breath flared out of her mouth.
Joe sank to the ground and curled his body, wrapping his arms around his head. His bad leg went into an agonizing spasm as each blade of grass turned into a tiny spear and the spears probed his flesh, concentrating on the leg. He screamed and rolled onto his back.
Another of the women stepped forward and peered down at him, the skin of her face quivering like Jell-O, so he couldn’t focus. “It’s okay, Sondra. Looks to me like he’s on some kind of drug trip.”
She pulled something out of her purse, something small and silver-gray, a device with a metal stick poking out of the top. Joe couldn’t remember what it was called. She jabbed the front of the thing with her fingers and put it to her ear, where it burst into flames that danced across her hair. Joe scrunched his eyes shut so he wouldn’t have to see her burn up.
He felt something soft covering his body, lying over him like the lightest cloud. He let the fingers of his left hand glide across the softness. A blanket. His right hand was held tight and warm in someone’s grasp, small fingers pressing into his palm, and he opened his eyes, blinking at the brightness of the light overhead. He made out a dim silhouette to his right and then a familiar face came into focus.
“Lark.” His voice was a dry croak. Thank God, his speech had returned.
“Dad? You’re in the hospital. I’ll get your doctor.” She pulled her hand loose from his and slipped out of the room before he could tell her he just wanted to go home.
He didn’t need a doctor. The whole episode was just caused by stress. And who wouldn’t be stressed if they had to live his nightmare? There was the move from Washington back to North Carolina and his job loss, finding out he wasn’t worth two cents to the government or to anyone else. Lots of things, mitigating circumstances, coming on top of the fractured skull and the banged up leg that had cost him his job to begin with. He’d talk to the doctor, and then Lark could take him home.
Lark returned with an amiable-looking man wearing a lab coat over his street clothes. Mid thirties, maybe. Glasses, balding, about five-ten. Phony kind of smile--too many teeth and not nearly enough eye involvement--but that’s what you got these days when government owned doctors were paid to run as many patients as possible through assembly lines.
“Hello. I’m Dr. Jefferson.” The doctor kept his hands parked in the pockets of his lab coat. “Well, Joe, you had quite an experience.”
Typical response. As if Joe had simply gone for a roller coaster ride to ease the boredom of sitting alone in the house day after day wondering if he’d ever find another job.
“What happened?” Joe sat up. He wanted to raise the head of the bed, but he couldn’t find the controls
“It seems you had a seizure.”
“You mean like epilepsy? I’ve never--”
“A fractured skull can be tricky.” Dr. Jefferson did something to the IV machine, changing the setting so the soft clicks slowed almost to a stop, and giving it his full attention instead of looking Joe in the eye. “A section of your brain must have gotten damaged back when you fractured your skull. If you don’t like calling your experience a seizure, you might say it’s a form of mental illness brought on by the injury.”
Like mental illness was any better than brain seizures. Joe pondered, trying to get used to the idea of having something wrong with his head.
“Will it happen again?” he asked finally.
“Hard to say. I’m putting you on medication to prevent your neurons sparking out of control. The exact dosage may take some adjustment before we get it right, but it’s a good drug, been around a long time. Does the job.”
“How long do I have to be on this stuff?”
“It’s safe to stay on it indefinitely.” Grinning like Joe should be happy with the situation. It wasn’t Dr. Jefferson who had to find a way to pay for a lifetime supply of pills and deal with the inevitable side effects.
  Joe had one more seizure before he stabilized. The second was milder than the first, but worse, in a way, because Lark was a witness, and he hated that, would have avoided it at any cost if he’d had a way to know what was coming. He’d gone to the grocery store and he was in the bakery aisle trying to decide if he could afford a cake on sale for three dollars off. It would make a nice treat, and Lark sure deserved something. She’d slipped in ice on the front steps a couple of weeks ago. Cracked her wrist and was all down on herself because she couldn’t work till it healed.
As soon as he tried to figure out how the cost of the cake affected the grocery budget, a voice in his head grabbed the numbers and started reciting a formula, making cash register sounds, sounds that went faster and faster, the figures astronomical. Immediately, he saw the implications.
Adrenaline shot through his system, and it felt like something wet and cold squirted out the top of his head, so he put his hand up to see if his hair was still dry. He had to hurry before someone stole his idea. His heart pounding in overdrive, he abandoned the cart full of groceries, leaving it sideways in front of the freezer section, and went to the front of the store for an empty cart. This he filled with boxes of salt and jars of instant coffee, paying with a check that would overdraw his account, but that didn’t matter because the formula would make him rich. He kept the cart, speeding it home across the bumpy sidewalk and almost ramming a couple of kids on skateboards.
When Lark came home from a doctor appointment, Joe had already dumped all the salt into the kitchen sink and was poised with an open jar of Tasters Choice. His face felt like someone was holding a heating pad against his cheeks and, at the same time, ice water had soaked his clothes, running down his back and his chest, and he didn’t know where it came from.
Lark stood in the doorway, her expression frozen so she looked like a mannequin. “Dad? Why is there a grocery cart on the front lawn?”
He waved her closer. “Sweetheart, you’re just in time. We’re gonna be rich after I get a patent on this invention. We’re moving to a mansion. I’m getting you a new car and a closet full of clothes, anything you want, and I’ll be famous, probably be on TV, all those talk shows, Montel and Jay Leno. Oprah. Just watch, just watch.” He remembered his words had tumbled from his mouth like someone was yanking them out on a string, dragging them up through his throat and past his teeth, so fast he couldn’t stop them.
“What are you doing?” She slung her purse across the room and stared at him like he was someone else, not her dad, and then she grabbed his arm. “Sit down. Please, just sit down while I call Dr. Jefferson.”
“I invented a formula. It’s so simple, I can’t believe I’m the first one smart enough to think of making electricity this way. All those people who didn’t want Joe Tremaine are going to be sorry. Soon’s I add the coffee, the caffeine will react with the salt and the whole mess will start to glow like a Christmas tree, so all I need to do is hook up a wire and run it to the power lines outside the house.”
“Dad, no.” She lunged for the coffee jar.
He lifted it out of her reach and dodged past her, running outside where he pounded down the sidewalk, yelling to everyone he saw about his invention. He crossed the road, hearing brakes squeal, and glimpsed angry eyes staring at him through a bug-spattered windshield. If he could only tell enough people, they’d understand, and Lark would have to let him hook up the power. She’d have to, and then she’d see for herself and she’d be so proud of her dad.
Before the ambulance arrived, half the people in the neighborhood had taken in the freak show. Of course, Lark forgave him, but after that most people on Oak Street called him Crazy Joe.
Maybe six months wasn’t long enough for them to forget he’d ever been anything except what he was now, a useless specimen of humanity, drugged into what passed for sanity on Oak Street, and jobless because employers didn’t even want healthy people, so what chance did he have?  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kindle Author: Kindle Author Interview: L.C. Evans

Kindle Author: Kindle Author Interview: L.C. Evans: "L.C. Evans, author of Jobless Recovery, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle. DAVID WISEHART: What ca..."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Name Inanimate Objects

Chihuahua Edie sitting on recliner Old Mama with blankets Candy Cane and LaRue

Well, doesn't everyone? I mean, if you have more than one of something, such as blankets, doesn't it make sense to name them rather than having to waste a lot of time with descriptions?

Example: Me (shivering on the couch) to one of my offspring, "While you're upstairs would you please get me a blanket? I want the soft, white one I keep on the end of my bed."

Ten minutes later offspring says, "Here you go, Mom."

Me (after a brief pause to curl my lip in disgust), "No, not the little white one with the fringe. That's only for decoration. Get me the big one. It's soft and plush feeling like a teddy bear."

Offspring, looking blank, "I have no idea which blanket you mean."

Me, "Your sister gave it to me for Christmas last year."

Offspring, acting all too casual for someone whose mother is in the throes of hypothermia, "Which sister?"

Me, lips turning blue and now unable to curl successfully, "Does it matter? Fetch me the stinking blanket before I freeze, okay? It's on the end of my bed and it's big and white and plush."

Offspring, rolling eyes so far heavenward they nearly become dislocated, "OMG, will you chill?"

Me, teeth chattering, "I AM chilled and I want my blanket now, you little sadist."

Personally, I find that kind of exchange annoying and a waste of effort. How much simpler it is to simply give names to your possessions.

Example: Me, wearing a pleasant smile, "While you're upstairs will you please get Ned off the end of my bed and bring him to me."

Offspring, looking at me with fondness, "Ah, soft, fluffy Ned. He's one of your favorites, isn't he? Consider it done, Mother."

Now isn't that better?  

So if you happen to be in my neighborhood drop by for a cup of coffee brewed in Mrs. Nell. Join me at one of my computers--Lester, Delta, or Riker, your choice. Sit in my recliner, Old Mama, under one of my blankets. I have many, but may I suggest Candy Cane, Bucky, Scottie, or LaRue? If you want to enjoy some music I have a selection of iPods for your listening pleasure. Just let me know whether you prefer Thor, Sheldon, Leonard, or Archer. 

Of course I've named our cars. They are Darken Ess Red and Greenie.

My life is now simplified. Why don't you try naming stuff and see for yourself? Your family wouldn't go for it, you insist? I say, drop the defeatist attitude. 

Hey, if I could train my crew, then consider yourself the family whisperer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Would Be Counterfeiter: Age 10

We're in a jobless recovery, so I tried to do my bit and create some jobs. I told the Boy I needed help moving furniture out of the way so I could clean my family room and kitchen floors. I offered the promise of a few dollars and ice cream. The Boy, who is saving up for some new bit of plastic weaponry for his arsenal, accepted with joy.

Next day when I was ready to start the project, he had a meltdown. I haven't seen so much melodrama since I last watched a fifty-year-old B movie about zombies. After five minutes, I was ready to call the Academy and nominate him for best actor.

"OMG, don't you know I'm only ten and should not have to work for money?" At this point, tears the size of grapes began to squirt out of his eyes and splat at my feet like mini water balloons. "Furniture is heavy and I don't have all my muscles yet. You should be able to move stuff yourself without bothering a kid."

"Maybe so, kid, but my wand is in the shop."

"Not fair! I want the money, but I don't want to work. Why can't people make their own money the way the government does?"

"Hey, if making your own money would work, I'd be the first one handing you a stack of paper and some green crayons so you could whip me up some Evans bucks." I used a beach towel to mop up the tears that by now were flowing across the floor and threatening to wash one of the Chihuahuas out of the room. "Please, let me enlighten you about money and economics."

I'm not an economist, but I know the basics. I explained supply and demand, trade in goods and services, and how if someone could make their own money out of green paper, it wouldn't be worth anything. After about five minutes, the Boy caught on, heaved a gigantic sigh of resignation, and said he was ready to start work.

Pretty good for a ten-year-old, right? What I want to know is, why can't anyone in Washington catch on?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why I Am Following My Own Blog

Caption for photo: Me trying to figure out how to open a CD.

I've never been the fastest dog on the track when it comes to dealing with technical things. Program a TV remote? Oh, please. I'm lucky if I can change the batteries. Set up my Brita pitcher? Yeah, I did that and it was a year before I figured out, courtesy of the Boy who is ten, that the reason the water kept spilling when I poured was that I had the top on backwards. And all the while I complained bitterly about the poor design.

Setting up computers, DVD players, iPods, or anything that even remotely requires tech savvy are all done by others in my household--my husband, the Boy, one of the Chihuahuas. I don't care as long as it isn't me struggling to decipher cryptic instructions written on a thin sheet of paper the size of a business card. Really, have you noticed how a piece of electronic equipment that can do everything except bounce a laser beam off the moon always comes with four lines of instructions? And one of these lines is wasted on a warning to avoid dunking the product in water, putting it in your mouth, or setting it on fire.

Writing? I can do that. I can even do it on a computer. Go me. Internet? I know my way around. I can email with the best of them and I'm a whiz at using search engines. But get this--now I'm told I need to master social media. Social what? I need online friends in order to promote my work? Okay, I'll give it a try. Facebook--I'm there, but not sure what I'm doing and where all these friends came from or why they're writing on my wall. Twitter. Right. Now I have followers and people I follow. It all sounds kind of cultish, but I admit I kind of like tweeting and retweeting. Hey, everyone, I just tweeted. I might be important because I have almost 103 followers.

Website? Now I know you're kidding. I did actually make a website of sorts, but it was so ugly, even I didn't look at it more than twice in a year. My son kindly stepped in last month and made me a real website. It's beautiful and useful. So I'm covered there. Book trailer? My son again. Very nice. Blog? I'm told that's a must have. So I have. But I look at other blogs and I'm perplexed. Mine is so generic and I really would like to have followers and a blog roll and links to my books and to other social media. I don't have any of those things, but it certainly isn't from laziness on my part. I tried. I wanted to follow my followers, all five of them (now six). Sadly, the old tech-clueless bug bit again and that's how I ended up following my own blog. At least I'll know right away when I make a new post.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Green Am I

Go green. Recycle. Save the earth. If you ask me—which people in charge usually don’t--it’s all about the happy medium. We don’t want to go back to the Stone Age. Everyone wants stuff, preferably in the latest models and styles. We don’t want to give up our modern conveniences. We don’t even want to go back to grandma’s day when string and jars and paper bags were saved for re-use, when people burned their own trash, and when items were replaced only when they wore out.

On the other hand, failing to do something, anything, to slow our consumption or lighten our human footprint on Planet Earth will lead to certain disaster. I won’t say it’s my main focus, but I admit I often find my thoughts turning to the future. I don’t mean my own future so much, but more of the future of mankind as a whole. Talk about depressing.

There are several scenarios that sneak like nasty little intruders into my brain, none of them terribly pleasant. There’s the one where we’ve wiped out all the animals on earth and then used too many herbicides, so the plants die. Of course, we all fight each other for what’s left—probably the odd microwave meal or two--and then we starve. Then there’s the one where we choke on our own air pollution. Or bury ourselves in our own garbage. All of my future-of-the-planet daydreams end with me looking down sadly from heaven, or what I hope is heaven, at an earth that looks as dry and desolate as Mars, only it’s a sickly shade of desert brown instead of a cheerful Mars-like orange. Not surprisingly, I always shut down these dark thoughts and cheer myself up with counter productive trips to the mall.

So. Being that I am not Einstein or even the smartest person in my town, when I have these thoughts, I am at a loss. Okay, I get the concept. Get environmentally friendly one town at a time across the globe. End result--Planet Earth in healthy condition.
Sounds great. Sounds like the only way to avert the nightmarish future intruding into my thoughts. But I had no clue where to start. I was used to leaving the deep thoughts up to those who were paid to think deep—environmentalists, scientists, people like that. In short, the “they” who are always telling us what to think and do.

You know the ones I mean. My mother's friend quotes them all the time:
“They say you shouldn’t go swimming right after lunch or you’ll surely cramp up. They say you’re a lot more likely to die in an auto accident within five miles of your home, so I don’t use my seat belt once I’m past the limit.”

Well, it seems that “they” don’t live in my community, Obliviousville, USA. I know this for a fact because I see an awful lot of waste going on and trash on the sides of the road. I figured we were certainly going to look bad in front of the people in More Aware, a town smack dab in the middle of The Next County.

One day my conscience jabbed me--finally. I was out of mall money, so being a writer, I picked up pen and paper and tried brainstorming ways to turn green. An hour later the paper was blank except for doodles that involved far distant stars and a desolate Earth seen from space, which meant that I’d have to throw away the paper, and that depressed me even more because I’d just contributed to the paper waste problem and I'd wasted precious writing time.

Maybe, I thought, I should concentrate on local businesses and point out what they were doing to harm our planet. Blaming someone else could be a useful strategy, and certainly a popular one. I thought about my local grocery store. They must use half a million grocery bags a week. Plastic--bad. But at the same time, they had recycle bins in front of the store for bottles, plastic bags, and glass. Recycling—good. Then there was the local flooring store. They sold wood flooring. Cutting down trees—bad. But they’d just started stocking eco-friendly bamboo. Renewable resource—good.

Aargh! Hopeless. Saving Planet Earth was too complicated and impossible. My brain spun like a bicycle wheel. Rubber bike tire—bad. Transportation without fossil…no, no, no. I stopped the spinning and clamped down on the eco thoughts. Took a deep, deep breath and started over writing on a fresh piece of paper:

Look, people, it isn’t hopeless. Just because you can’t live without a new wardrobe every two months or a thirty minute shower every day, doesn’t mean you can’t bring your own shopping bags to the store or recycle your plastic and glass. The same applies to businesses. They may be fantastic recyclers, yet use too much fuel. But as long as each of us works on developing an eco conscience so we can move in the right direction, we’ll eventually get what we want--a healthy planet to sustain mankind into the future.

I dug my old purse out of my closet, put on last year’s blouse and blue jeans, and picked up my re-usable shopping bag. Then I headed out to buy locally grown vegetables at the closest farmers’ market.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two Men In A Suit Walked Into The Room

There’s nothing like a good proofreader to help improve an author’s writing. I mean a friendly human proofreader--preferably one with good eyes and mad grammar skills. Spellcheckers and grammar suggestions courtesy of word processing programs have their limitations. Seriously, how much trust can I place in a machine that once suggested I have my character tromp around the barn in “ranchhand” boots instead of cowboy boots in order to avoid being too gender specific?

A willing friend is an invaluable resource to catch those awkward sentences that slip by so easily in our writing, no matter how many times we’ve gone over our manuscripts. I was reminded of this last week when a member of my critique group wrote the following (used with permission): Almost too late I saw a man running out of the corner of my eye.

Please, somebody catch the tiny guy before he hits the floor.

Of course, I’m not innocent of the occasional sin. There was the time I asked my daughter Jenny to look over a short story I planned to submit to a magazine. I had the manuscript printed and ready to slip into an envelope. She caught this big, fat, glaring blunder: Two men wearing a suit walked into the room.

What, times were tough and they had to share? Joined at the hip, maybe?

And then there was the gem I wrote in another story. A man and his wife have been fighting and are on the verge of divorcing. In the first paragraph the husband leaves the house, slams the front door, and yells back to his wife: I’m going out for a little piece.

Worse yet, this was geared to a religious magazine. Even worse, Jenny was away at school, so I actually mailed the thing. It was rejected without comment, and I was able to laugh at myself—eventually.

But I returned Jenny’s favor when I proofread one of her college short stories about a girl who gave historic tours at an antebellum mansion and hoped to persuade her boss to give up the notion of having the guides wear period costumes. My daughter wrote this: It's hard to go to the bathroom in a hoop skirt.

I've sometimes thought of asking my writer friends to submit their bloopers to me so I can compile them into a book. These writers would remain anonymous, of course. I may do that some day. After all, I've already decided on a cover photo of me hiding my head in shame.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Misuse of a Lucid Dream

Lucid dream: a dream in which the dreamer is aware he is dreaming.

I have long been a fan of lucid dreams. Though my own have been rare, occurring maybe once or twice a year and lasting for a matter of seconds, I love them. And why not? During lucid dreams I can be or do whatever I want. Cool, right? Usually I fly.

Because I am a fan, I also enjoy reading about lucid dreams. Now the authors of some books claim you can easily learn to lucid dream. Upon reaching this happy state, the universe is yours. You can saunter into the hall of Akashic records--accompanied by angels or guides--and read all about yourself and all your past lives. Presumably this would help you to shape up in your current life. Perhaps you would like to control the dream so you could be a famous actor or meet famous people. It’s all there for the asking as soon as you master the techniques in your current lucid dreaming book.

Sadly, none of the techniques in any of the books have ever worked for me. Maybe I haven’t been persistent enough. In any case, I’ve had to content myself with the regular type of dream in which random things happen to me and I’m not the least bit aware these happenings are dreams until I wake up and say to myself, “Thank God that wasn’t real. Me confronting a gun wielding criminal with only an umbrella for a weapon while my car rolls backward over a cliff? I don’t think so.”

But rare as they are, I still think about lucid dreams and try to prepare myself for the nights when they actually happen. Okay, now what do I actually want? A visit with a great master? Maybe a meeting with Einstein when he, having finally worked out the theory of everything, passes the knowledge on to me so I can enlighten the world. Yeah, that sounds like something I could handle. Or maybe a reading with Edgar Cayce in which he recommends a simple treatment that will rejuvenate me back to the body I enjoyed as a twenty-year-old. That would be good.

Okay, so after all this contemplation you’d think I’d be prepared for a life changing event next time I was so fortunate as to become aware while sleeping.

Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Last night I had just finished a dream in which I was helping the FBI catch a bunch of criminals. Don’t laugh. At least that’s better than one of those “naked on stage” dreams. The feds thanked me and said I could leave now that the case was solved. As soon as I turned to go, I discovered that not only was my car missing, but the road back home was blocked. I reversed course, intending to take another direction and ran up on a huge pile of steel pillars that hadn’t been there a moment ago.

Perplexed, I said, “Okay, I am not going to be stopped by all these barricades.” Bam. I was lucid. I was instantly filled with excitement and at the same time warning myself to get calm and to think what I wanted to do. I conjured up some random people and asked them where the door was. They led me into a huge banquet hall in what looked like a luxury hotel or a castle.

Sweet. So far so good. My helpers asked me who I wanted to see. Here was my cue to ask for Einstein, Cayce, maybe George Washington to appear and share their wisdom.

I opened my mouth and said, “I want to reach a new level with my writing. Could I have a writing guide.”

“Sure. Who do you want?”

My mind spun with possibilities. I could have any famous author I wanted to come look over my shoulder and guide me to greater heights? Be still my beating heart.

“Umm,” I said. “I couldn’t choose. Could you just bring me someone who would be best for me?” Oh, so humble.

“Wait right here.”

“Not a problem.”

While I waited, I looked around and spotted small cakes piled on tables all around me. Lovely, though in real life I don’t eat sugar because I get too hooked on sweets.

But hey, this was a dream, I was lucid, and I could do whatever I wanted. I proceeded to stuff myself with vanilla cream cakes and then I discovered the cheesecake on the next table. Let me tell you they were delicious, every bit as delicious as if I had been eating them in real life.

Still stuffing myself, cake frosting and cream cheese smeared all over my face, I glanced up to see my helpers returning with my writing guide.

She looked like no writer I recognized. I would describe her as a plumpish, gray-haired woman in her mid-sixties wearing a frumpy, pigeon colored dress.

“Whoops. Sorry about pigging out on the cake. I don’t get to eat sweets in real life.” Darn. Why was I greeting this person with cake all over myself?

“That’s perfectly all right.” Her voice was kind and melodious. “I’m here to help you.”

“You’re my guide?”

“I am.”

The lucid part of the dream suddenly ended. The next thing I knew, I was awake and wondering what time it was. And wondering why I’d wasted my golden opportunity.

My grandson wanted to know the same thing when I told him about the dream. “You ate cake?” He shook his head sadly. “I would have asked for the lotto numbers.”

Doh! And I'm positive I gained three pounds during the night.