- to discard as useless or unsatisfactory
- to cast out or eject; vomit
- Paula Gail Benson
- Connie Berry
- Sarah E. Burr
- Warren Bull
- Annette Dashofy
- E. B. Davis
- Mary Dutta
- Debra H. Goldstein
- Lori Roberts Herbst
- Jim Jackson
- Marilyn Levinson aka Allison Brook
- Molly MacRae
- Korina Moss
- Shari Randall/Meri Allen
- Martha Reed
- Linda Rodriguez
- Rosalie Spielman
- Grace Topping
- Susan Van Kirk
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
In the 1970s, when I was young, my family lived in Scottsdale, Arizona. At that time there were small housing tracts interspersed with large, mostly empty stretches of desert filled only with cactus, quail, spiders and slithery reptiles. Some houses were located off dirt roads and many people owned horses. It wasn’t like modern day Scottsdale with its mansions, air conditioned malls, freeways and golf courses.
One evening shortly after sunset, my mother, the dog and I were sitting on the back patio. Suddenly, a large, bright white sphere appeared in the sky. I remember thinking it was unusual because it was completely noiseless. Even at that age I knew aircraft made loud sounds. It continued to hover for some time.
Then a second, smaller ball of glowing light emerged from the first object and slowly descended toward the ground. (The second ball of light morphing from the first looked similar to the movement of oil blobs in a lava lamp.) After the second object was out of sight, perhaps reaching the ground, the first object took off into the atmosphere in the blink of an eye.
At one point, there was a small plane headed toward the glowing orb but the object disappeared before it arrived. I think the whole incident took place over 20 minutes and remember hearing about it on the local news.
I’m not the only one who saw something unexplainable in the sky in the ‘70s. In 1974, then California Governor, Ronald Reagan, reported seeing an unidentified flying object while he was in an airplane. He told the Wall Street Journal, “It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens.” His account was corroborated by the pilot and other passengers.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, in 1985 President Reagan met with President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. One result was that they pledged to help protect each other’s nations if ever attacked from outer space. What did they know about UFOs at the time? Did this frank discussion between two leaders during the Cold War help break down barriers? We’ll probably never learn the answers to those questions just as I will never know what that glowing object in the sky was hovering near my house.
What I do know is that it affected both my mother and me in different ways. During this sighting, our Dachshund was busy tearing up an outdoor patio cushion. My rather strict mother, who always kept a tidy house, was so absorbed in the unusual sight that she let the dog continue to rip up the cushion. After that, I think she became more relaxed about housekeeping in general.
As for me, I learned to keep an open mind, a sense of wonder and to think outside the box. Also, that life is the biggest mystery of all and that it will throw out a strange curveball occasionally. I find that I reflect those lessons in my writing.
While this clearly had an impact, I’m torn about what really happened. The skeptic in me wants to believe those lights were nothing more than experimental military aircraft. However, my inner dreamer can’t help but be excited by the possibilities. What if there are others?
Monday, February 27, 2012
E. B. Davis
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
ON THE OTHER EYE
As you may know, I have had cataract surgery on both eyes. Multiple-focus lenses were implanted in both eyes. It may be too early to reach final conclusions, but I can share preliminary results. Colors look brighter.
I never knew how limited my peripheral vision was until I had the ability to look toward each side. My right eye was operated on first. While I wore glasses with the right lens poked out, I kept getting startled by cars coming from behind me on the left. Apparently, I had not noticed them before.
My brain seems less confused than when it had had one lens outside the eye and the second lens inside. I can read average-sized print. I can see in medium and far distance. I have to use a magnifier to read tiny print.
At least twice when I went to bed I reached up to my temples to remove glasses that were not there. My wife tells me I tilt my head to try to see better. That was sometimes useful with glasses. It doesn’t do a thing for implanted lenses.
At this point my vision waxes and wanes. It should stabilize over time. I am definitely improving at not blinking when something approaches my eyeballs.
That’s what I call a mixed blessing.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
A few weeks ago TIME had an article "The Upside of Being an Introvert (and why extroverts are overrated)" by Bryan Walsh. From the twenty question quiz in the article, I tested as an introvert, but not completely. There's a third category of ambivert for those who fall between the extremes, but I do lean more towards introvert.
Years ago my father commented that starting with me, the eldest, his six children alternated between being outgoing and more introverted. He said I was outgoing, as well as Elaine and Catherine because we enjoyed being with friends, while my other siblings, Jerry, Suzanne and Phil had fewer friends and spent more time alone than we did. But looking back, I realize we were all shy and introverted to some extent. Research is starting to show that our tendency to be introverted or extroverted is inherited. Our mother was rather shy, our father not as much, but he did prefer reading and being with family or close friends and didn't join social groups or go out with buddies.
On the quiz I answered yes to preferring one on one or small group conversations and activities. But I've had great times in group activities with a purpose, like those involving fun activities in college for teacher preparation, or mystery dinners where the participants had to solve a crime, for instance. I also enjoy going to concerts and plays, too.
But overall, I enjoy solitude, prefer to express myself in writing, dislike conflict and do my best work alone. And when I've spent the day away, even an enjoyable one, I feel more drained than if I had spent the day at home digging, planting, weeding or mowing (and not with a riding mower, either).
My favorite activities are those of an introvert: reading, writing, gardening and walks in the woods - all done alone. I'm not as shy as I once was, but I still don't like being the center of attention. And yet I go to mystery conferences on my own and enjoy meeting new people and visiting with them.
"The key" . . . as Walsh writes . . . "is balancing three equal, but very different identities. There's our mostly inborn personality, the one that wants us to be introverted or extroverted; that's the biogenic identity. There are the expectations of our culture, family and religion - the sociogenic identity. And then there are our personal desires and our sense of what matters - the ideogenic identity." I have a feeling, though, that most most writers lean towards introversion like I do.
What about you? Are you an introvert, an extrovert or an ambivert?
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
After much urging I have decided to start my seventh novel. It is set in a fictional town in Delaware in the 1750s. After some poking around in historical sources, I realized that I couldn’t write about Colonial Delaware without including slavery. In the 1700s half of the slaves in Delaware were born in Africa.
Delaware ran hot and cold on the issue of slavery. The colony was divided between the Quaker north, where slaves were house servants or worked small plot s of their master’s land, and the south, where larger plantations demanded free labor to survive. While there are no slaves in Delaware today, that division still exits.
Early on, people of color, free or enslaved, were not allowed to leave the state or return to it. This kept them from being sold south to the harsher work conditions on the large cotton plantations. If they left the state and were gone more than three days they couldn’t come back. This kept slaves from being purchased elsewhere and brought into the state, but it also meant that people were not allowed to return to their families.
Delaware was a Union state during the Civil War, but at the time there were 1800 slaves within our borders. Not a single one of them was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, since it freed only slaves from the rebel states.
Newspapers offer useful details about runaway slaves or indentured servants: clothing, patterns of speech, country of origin, education, and the amount of the reward. Books by Delaware scholars provide understanding of laws, living conditions, and social interactions. It’s harder to find a narrative that tells what it felt like to be uprooted from your home and live the rest of your life in servitude.
The more I read the more I realized that slavery was going to be central to the plot, not just something to be mentioned in passing. How is a novelist supposed to deal with this? I need my main characters to be likable but they have to be slave owners. How can I strike that balance? I’ve read plenty of good books where the writer tackled cultures not their own. How does a 21st century white, middle class woman write about 18th century slavery? I will be working through this problem the whole time I am writing, and rewriting.
My plight reflects a split that has been present since the beginning of the colony, and is evident in the paper this morning. The black community is disputing the right of the city to award a grant to the Delaware Historical Society (run by people like me) to set up a black heritage and cultural center.
The other day I ran into this quote by James Baldwin: People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they cast upon the water comes back poisoned.
Seems like a pretty good basis for a novel.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Please tell me about your work in progress: the title, blurb, cover, and where you are in the process of writing it.
I have one talk/reading scheduled for Abraham Lincoln for the Defense on Valentine’s Day. It was published in 2003, and I am down to the last few author copies of the paperback first edition. I am considering self-publishing a second edition because I still sell a few copies from time to time. It is available on Smashwords, Amazon and Kindle.
I am also working on an untitled novel trying to do more planning than “pantsing.”The hero is a psychologist working in a small town, which I know something about but which has never interested me enough to devote the years it can take me to write a novel. I may have a new take. I’m trying to use Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Hart as guides.
How many hours per week do you work at writing?
At present, I had a cataract removed from one eye so I cannot read for more than a few minutes without getting a headache. I can barely type; I close one eye or the other and make lots of mistakes. So I am not able to write much at the moment.(You should have seen the first few drafts of this blog.)
What are your aspirations for your work?
I want to continue to publish work I’m proud to have written. I want to entertain and to express my opinions and values through my work. I may never have a “major” publisher. I haven’t been required to write a novel per year and I honestly don’t know if I could.
Where do you want to be a year from now in terms of your writing?
My immediate goal is to get surgery on my other eye so I can work. My general goal is to continue to write and publish and gradually build up a “presence” in the writing and reading community. I don’t have a particular writing goal for the calendar year.
When I was in New Zealand for four months, where the phone did not ring, and I had few social responsibilities, I was able to sit at the computer and make mistakes, try again, make different mistakes, try again, make new mistakes and repeat the process getting closer and closer to what I wanted to achieve. I need to develop a different rhythm now that I’m home, and I would like to accomplish that as soon as possible.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Cedar Roe Library is a quiet but busy library in a working-class neighborhood in Kansas City. Faced with severe budget cuts, the Johnson County Library gave a range of options that all weighed heavily on Cedar Roe and two other small library branches. The best of outcomes would see each of the three libraries losing 27 hours per week. The most extreme would see each of them closed.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Every season offers something of interest to an amature naturalist like me, and winter is no different. In winter my deduction skills are honed as I try to solve real life mysteries. Fortunately, nothing involving murder or an actual crime. While Maggie uses her long nose for clues on what has passed through the woods in the night, I use my eyesight and knowledge of animal tracks. I observe deer tracks and know if it's a doe or a buck that's briefly followed my paths. A doe leaves neat clean tracks, while a buck tends to not pick his hooves up as high, thus leaving a dragging mark behind. Was it a dog, fox or coyote that went through last night? Dogs like Maggie travel erratically following scents while a coyote or fox is heading somewhere, and their tracks show this by little or no deviation from their route. The size of the tracks will determine whether it's a fox or coyote. Squirrels, raccoons, possums and rabbits are easy tracks to identify.
Several winters ago, I had a real mystery to solve. Human tracks appeared following my trail. They came from the directions of homes bordering the north side of my woods, followed the length of the back of my property and then veered west. In Holmsian deduction, I surmised it was a man - larger footprints than mine. Also, in the more than twenty years I've walked here, I've rarely come across anyone, and the several times I did, they were male hunters. So this was a logical deduction to make. Another reason I surmised it was a man, and not a woman, is because few older women like me go for solitary walks in the woods. I noticed the man had a dog on a lead. The dog tracks were close to the man's and did not veer off roaming like any loose dog would. My next deduction was that he was an older man and probably retired. His tracks appeared later in the day and on week days when most people are working and teenagers are in school. The tracks appeared on a daily basis, and I started following them beyond my my property so my morning walks became much longer into areas I'd never covered before. I saw the signs he used as markers - a broken branch here, the empty case of a shotgun shell on a twig where the trail turned, etc. - so I knew he must have been walking my woods and beyond for some time before the snow fell exposing his tracks.
Finally, one day when I'd been delayed and went for my walk later in the day, I met him. Yes, it was a man, a neighbor I'd never met. He was retired and had a beagle on a lead. We talked a while and then went our separate ways. I never got his name.
This year I didn't see his tracks. Of course, snow was late in coming, and we haven't had much this winter. I wondered about him. From his back yard, most mornings his beagle barks at us, and Maggie answers, but I've seen no signs he's been walking. Was he okay? Had something happened to him so he wasn't able to walk? Was he even still alive? And then last week, I saw him walking down the road in front of his house with his beagle. Another mystery solved. Well sort of. Why was he walking on the road instead of in the woods? Had he had a heart attack and had to take shorter walks? Was he deterred from walking in the woods because with the record breaking rain we've had this past year, parts of the trail are quagmires of mud, especially in the woods beyond me. Even with my rubber barn boots it's been rather unpleasant walking in spots, and I'll admit, most of the time I've skipped the paths beyond my own, too this winter.
Have you ever had a mystery to solve? Were you able to solve it?
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I'm itching to travel.
I can't imagine a time when I didn't want to go out and explore this great, big world of ours. Different cultures. Different people. Different languages. All of them were fascinating to me.
England, Wales, and Scotland were where I went on my first overseas trip. While there, I discovered my love for interesting architecture. I discovered my love of photographing those buildings at interesting angles on the same trip.
My first few photos (well, to be honest, first couple hundred) were straight-on pics. Then one day I cocked my head and looked at a building in a different way. That photo wound up being my favorite and most interesting one of the entire trip.
Since then, that's about all I do when I go on trips. I will take one or two shots head-on, just so people can easily recognize what they're looking at (myself included), but most of my camera's disk space is chock full of angled pictures.
So, what does this have to do with me being itchy to travel?
When I go on trips, however, my camera goes with me everywhere. It's wonderful to have it along, so that I can capture a particular glint of sunlight on a building, or shoot a secretive alleyway that most people would simply pass by. Sometimes it's even as simple as the mood I happen to be in at that moment.
Take the two photos above, for example. The next time I'm in London or Paris, I might not even look at Parliament or La Tour Eiffel (respectively) in the same way. Next time, the photos I take will show a different side of the structure, as well as where my mind is that day.
So I'm itching to get out of my daily routine. Ready to explore sights and sounds that I've yet to discover; even if they're in places I've been many times before. Craig and I will be going to Greece this year for our honeymoon, so that will work.
It just means that I’ve got to wait until then to scratch my itch.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Everyone wants love, especially on Valentine’s Day. For criminals it’s an opportunity to take advantage of vulnerable people. Romance crimes using online dating sites are big business, cheating people out of $15 billion per year. (That’s a whole lot of love.) Here’s how it happens. A con artist sends an attractive photo--usually stolen from a modeling site--to the victim, pledges undying love and even sends gifts. The scammer then suffers bad luck, needs money and the unwitting victim obliges.
Flower scams are in the air everywhere you go. Take care when using the internet or calling 800 numbers to order flowers. Your order may be filtered through several florists; each one taking a cut. This leaves little money for the actual flower arrangement. Another scam is rather ingenious. A courier unexpectedly delivers a floral and wine basket on Valentine’s Day to the surprise and delight of the recipient. He then charges a few dollars as proof that alcohol was delivered to an adult. Of course, he will only accept a credit card...stealing your credit card information and with it, your joy.
One noteworthy thief, dubbed “the bouquet bandit,” robbed New York banks using a colorful bouquet to hide his threatening stick-up note.
Death by chocolate has a long and sordid history. Due to its strong flavor, chocolate is a good vehicle for delivering poison. (I thought this was fascinating although rather disturbing since I just ordered my husband a box of his favorite chocolates.) Among the many deaths attributed to this method, was Pope Clement XIV. More recently, a woman killed her husband after he prevented her leaving and taking his chocolate cake. I guess some people love chocolate more than their spouses.
Of course, there is the infamous 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre thought to be perpetrated by Al Capone (even though he had an alibi). It was one of the first major crimes where the science of ballistics was used. Ultimately, nobody was charged and the case officially remains unsolved.
So, anyone who has ever had, or is having, a bad Valentine’s Day, take heart! You are not alone and your experience might have been worse. However, for the mystery writer, this day can offer a variety of unique ideas. As Forrest Gump famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Monday, February 13, 2012
1. What is the title or tentative title of your WIP?
4. How many hours per week are you able to devote to your writing?
6. In relation to your WIP, where do you hope to be by the end of this year?