Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I hate moving!

You think moving a household (or a house, for that matter) is hard, try moving a business full of heavy equipment when you're too cheap to hire movers!

My husband owns 3-D Graphics & Printing, a large-format printing business. But just because it's HIS business, doesn't mean I'm uninvolved--and becoming more involved by the minute! Click here you'll see a photo of me holding up a very large aerial photo of Jacksonville Airport that we printed.

Anyway, I say all this to explain my blogging slackness--after trying to do better this month. I'm part of an online group that had an August Blog Challenge--to try to blog every day for a month. I didn't sign up to do it because we were out of town, had company, got found by a new cat (looks like his name will be Stewie, since his head is sort of football shaped, like the baby Stewie on Family Guy--a show I can't stand, by the way) and had this move scheduled. But I convinced myself I'd blog at least twice a week.

So, soon the move will be over. We have to be out of the old office space this week. And I'm sure Stewie will eventually get over the GOD-AWFUL diarrhea that has had the poor little demon locked in the Elvis bathroom for two days (because we spent a small fortune on cat medicine for a stray, free cat and he better get better!) and maybe life will calm down.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Crazy cat lady?

How many cats do you have to have before you become a crazy cat lady?

Six years ago, Miss Kitty appeared on our doorstep right before Christmas in the freezing cold. Our first cat (we're really dog people) she's with us still.

Last year about this time, Dusty Cat showed up in our yard. We were determined to keep him an outside cat, which was easy for me. He wasn't very nice at first. But then it got to be winter. Despite living in Georgia, we do experience winter. So, long about Christmas we got him neutered and brought him in the house. He's now about the sweetest cat I've ever seen. He seems, in fact, to think he's a dog. (It took Miss Kitty five months to come out of our bathroom. But now she likes Dusty Cat okay.)

Now, a really cute black cat, with a white spot on his chest and great, huge green eyes, has shown up. (All I can figure is word's gotten out in the kitty community that there's a crazy cat lady on the street, so drop by. She'll take you in.) He's small and friendly and now he's injured, probably from a fight. His face is swollen. He's hot--like with an infection. Chris (the otherwise fabulous husband) has been battling the adoption of this third cat. (We also have a dog, the Princess Prissy Pants, a Pomeranian.) But he admitted when he got home today that "other cat" needs to go to the vet. So, I guess he's ours now. Miss Kitty's going to hate him.

So, we have 3 cats, I guess, and 1 dog. But, I also have a husband. Do the dog and the husband balance out the 3 cats to keep me from being a crazy cat lady? The whole idea makes me nervous, but not nervous enough to not take Blackie/BullsEye/Snowflake/ whatever his name is, to the vet tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Meet Billy Poteet

Chris, another blogger/writer, posted this on her blog and challenged folks to introduce their characters--or think about the facts as they relate to their characters. So, here's a brief introduction to Billy Poteet, the 20-something-year-old sidekick in my as yet unpublished mystery Redneck Tarot.

Eight Character Facts

1. Your Character's Favorite Word:
Anything that rhymes and can be combined with "damn." Damn-spam is a favorite--and he doesn't mean the annoying e-mail kind of spam.

2. Your Character's Favorite Pastime:
Shooting televisions from the comfort of his outdoor recliners.

3. Your Character's Oddest Thought:
How many bites would you have to take of a cat before it died?

4. Your Character's Favorite Food or Snack:
Hamburgers and beer

5. Your Character's Worst Memory:
When his father died.

6. Your Character's Likes or Dislikes:
Billy likes the small, north Georgia town he lives in. He hates anybody messing with his friends or family.

7. Your Character's Favorite Dessert:
Chocolate cake that his mother made.

8. Your Character's Worst Moment:
When his twin brother Beau decided to leave home and go to college.

Feel free to share some facts about your fictional characters or maybe some of the real characters you know.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Do not try this at home

No, I never claimed to be a good cook. But, honestly, any idiot ought to be able to bake a potato in the microwave.


Get a load of the mess that appears when a potato explodes all over the oven! I swear I poked holes in it.

What the picture doesn't show is that the potato skin was completely empty. Every bit of the inside blew out, leaving a hard, crusty, empty shell.

It’s a good thing Chris can cook, or we’d be living on cold cereal and restaurant fare for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Word games bring new names

I was tagged to play this game, but maybe you're headed into the witness protection program or you've been asked to star in the next superhero movie. Sounds like fun, but you can't use your own name. The folks at your day job just wouldn't understand. This meme will help get those creative naming juices flowing.

1. Your real name:

2. Your Gangsta name: (first 3 letters of real name plus izzle)

3. Your Detective name: (fave color and fave animal)
Red Dog (sounds like a beer, to me!)

4. Your Soap Opera name: (your middle name and street you live on)
Ann Rich (Not terribly exciting. I"ll probably be killed off or at least go into a coma in the first season!)

5. Your Star Wars name: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)
Kenka (Are you sure this isn't the porn name?)

6. Your Superhero name: (your 2ND favorite color, and favorite drink)
Pink Wine (What a weenie sounding superhero!)

7. Your Iraqi name: (2ND letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, 1st letter of your middle name, 2ND letter of your moms maiden name, 3rd letter of your dads middle name, 1st letter of a siblings first name, and last letter of your mom's middle name)
Anaoesa (One more reason to be glad I wasn't born in Iraq!)

8. Your Witness Protection name: (parents' middle names)
Emma Neely (or Neely Emma)

9. Your Goth name: (black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Prissy (A name that actually describes the dog, a black Pomeranian)

Feel free to share your own alter-egos' names! It's fun.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Top 5 reasons to find and stick with a critique group

Part II of my joining groups post:

Recently I’ve read blog posts and comments from writers who’ve had bad experiences with critique groups, including this one here. I just thought I’d share the other side of the experience. I’ve been in the same critique group more years than I like to think about, and I wouldn’t be a writer without them.

That said, here are my reasons for happily sticking with them:

No. 5
I’ve become a better writer for critiquing the work of other people. Part of my day job is editing newspaper and magazine copy, not books. By thinking about what works and what doesn’t work and why as I read other people’s fiction, I learn to recognize those same things in my own writing.

No. 4
They are all good at different things.

Carol can see the big picture. She moves sentences, paragraphs or even whole scenes around so that they make more sense or build more suspense than the way I had them.

Cindy, with her eye for detail, catches little mistakes, like if a car changes color or make from one page to the next, or if I use the same word too many times over a couple of pages or in a scene.

Jan’s background is business writing, she’s even taught it. There ain’t a grammar or punctuation rule she don’t know, and breaking one guarantees a mark from her blue pen. If it’s a rule broken on purpose, she’s OK with that. (For example, when setting a mystery in the Deep South, sometimes you have folks who say “ain’t” and “don’t.” See previous sentence but one. Bless her poor little Yankee heart, she finally got to where she could live with seeing the word “ain’t” without circling it.)

Kathy, whom I think of as the vampire in the group, likes to suck out anything extra—words, phrases, entire pages of dialog. Nothing is sacred when her red pen bleeds over the page.

No. 3
They are all professionals and behave as professionals. They recognize that the words are mine. They don’t try to change my “voice.” (A real challenge for a bunch of Yankees who were forced to read a manuscript called “Redneck Tarot,” not once, but several times. Actually, they taught me a lot about phrases and behavior that I thought was universal, but learned needed to be explained.)

No. 2
We are all happy for each other’s professional (and personal) successes, whether it’s finding an agent, getting that grant-writing job or having a poem published. Again, it’s a matter of being professional about what we do.

No. 1
We have become great friends. We have seen each other through divorce, illness, the death of one of our members, and the deaths of parents and children. But we’ve also enjoyed the good times: Christmas dinners, pictures and stories of trips to Italy, pride in each other’s accomplishments.

I recently got a real-live New York agent to represent “Redneck Tarot.” I couldn’t have done it without my patient, kind, smart, professional friends in the group known as the Thursday Night Slashers (except when we meet on Tuesdays). Thanks, y’all!

PS: If you’re interested in a critique group, try professional organizations as a starting point. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime. The other members of my critique group are all members or former members. If mysteries aren’t your thing, look around on the Internet for other professional organizations.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sisters in Crime

In the last few days I’ve read several blog posts and comments about writer critique groups and professional organizations—some have been pro groups, some have been anti groups, often so opposed that I found myself wondering who had beat that person up so badly in a group setting.

I’ve been a member of Sisters in Crime (writers and readers of mysteries, not a merry band of female criminals) and a smaller critique group for many years and would not have gotten where I am today (granted, it’s not some high, exalted place, but still, I’m happy) without them.

So, without further introduction, here are my Top 5 Reasons for Joining and Sticking with Sisters in Crime. Tune in next time (either this weekend or Monday) for my 5 reasons for sticking with a critique group, which has occasionally been known as the Thursday Night Slashers, but generally isn’t really known as anything fancy.

No. 5
I’m not a joiner. I’m perfectly happy sitting at home in my pajamas (like right now, they’re bright green with flamingoes, how could I not be happy?) and writing about Redneck Tarot, Fiona and Eyeball Tate, and murder in the fictional town of Grand Junction, Georgia. But honestly, if you don’t ever go out and see other people, find out what they think and like and dislike and how they react to words and deeds, you can’t write well-rounded characters—or at least I can’t.

No. 4
The opportunity to meet smart, nice, supportive, interesting people. Sisters in Crime started in 1986 by women mystery writers who realized that women writers were paid less, reviewed less, and generally received less respect than male writers. And they got together to do something about it. Twenty+ years later Sisters in Crime is an international organization with thousands of members, both male and female, readers and writers, which offers support and encouragement to people from beginning writers to professionals who’ve written many books.

No. 3
The chance to hear fascinating speakers at our Atlanta Chapter meetings, from Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents who have walked us through fascinating cases to editors like Chris Roerden, who’s book “Don’t Murder Your Mystery” and talk to our group helped make my mystery “Redneck Tarot” something that a real-live New York agent agreed to represent.

No. 2
Introductions to writers and books I never would have found. Through Books in Print, the Sisters in Crime publication that lists members’ mysteries and mystery-related titles, the Sisters in Crime list-serv, at local chapter meetings and in talking with others who love to read mysteries, I have found writers and books that I never would have discovered if I’d stayed in my happy pj’s and never left the house.

No. 1
Mentors. Patricia Sprinkle a past international Sisters in Crime president who now lives in the Atlanta area and writes books that I enjoy and have bought for my mother and grandmother, and Kathryn Wall, Atlanta chapter member who writes the wonderful Bay Tanner mystery series, both read the first three chapters of my manuscript and offered invaluable suggestions for making it better.

No. 0 (I know, it’s really 6 reasons, but I write fiction, I don’t do numbers)
My critique group. I met them all through Sisters in Crime. More on them next time.

So, get out of your pjs and out of your house and find a group that can help to make your work better and your life much more interesting!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Beach car for the Burbs!

I'd never heard of Amphicars, cars that go on land and in the water, until I read my most recent Coastal Living magazine last night while waiting in the MommyVan (No, we don't have children, and I don't even drive the van. Chris, the male spouse in this marriage, drives the fairly beat up 1998 Windstar and dubbed it the MommyVan.) for Chris to pick up his 1976 pickup truck (we don't do new cars) that had to have transmission work. It wouldn't go in reverse; a real drawback in a longbed pickup!

Anyway, I've got to have an Amphicar. It's the perfect beach house in the burbs car--part convertible/part boat. My birthday's coming up in September. For those of you planning to get your shopping done early, this is what I want! I prefer the Fjord Green, but am willing to go with the blue or white in a pinch.

Get one for me and I promise to take you for a ride!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Human and Animal Waste Contamination!

These are not words you want to read in the same sentence with “beach,” especially when it’s the beach you are spending a week at, and the words are followed by the advisory, “don’t swim.” But it’s what we ran into on , an island off of Apalachicola, in the northern Gulf of Mexico. According to the nice man at the St. George Island State Park, this happens every year—YIKES!

We managed to have a good time anyway. Here’s a picture of my dad, on the eve of his 71st birthday, wearing his beach booties (he’s the only man I know who can call size 13 shoes “booties” with a straight face!) while walking his dog, Leroy. This was the day before the advisory went out. We didn’t get Dad or his booties back on the beach after this.

Dad & Leroy

When the beach outside our door became unavailable, we headed to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, about 45 minutes from St. George. It was a beautiful park. (Chris says all beaches look the same, water + sand, but I disagree. Some are cleaner--even without the “waste” advisory--others have dunes, some have clear, blue water.) St. Joe has a nice flat beach, high dunes covered with waving beach grass, and high winds. Chris reacted to the wind, which kept yanking his hat off (his head is shaved, so a hat is important) by pulling a MacGyver. He tied his hat strings to his bathing suit strings. Not a pretty look, but it kept his hat from flying off.

Chris plays McGyver

In other weird beach happenings, our 9-year-old nephew saw “the wrong end of a naked man” coming out of the water along Hwy. 98, between Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach, where the highway runs right beside the water. His only comment, said with eyes big as dinner plates, “Thank God it wasn’t a woman!” Despite our driving back and forth along that stretch of highway several times over the next few days, we never saw the naked man—wrong end or right!