Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't Murder Your Mystery

I'm a member of Sisters in Crime. No, it's not a pack of gun-totin' women out to rob, maim and kill. It's a professional organization that promotes women mystery writers. We had our local (Atlanta) chapter meeting this week with Chris Roerden as our speaker. But, more than that, I got to host Chris overnight in my home! What a treat!

Chris has been a book editor for years, and has edited some award winners. She's also written an Agatha-Award-winning book herself, the editing guide "Don't Murder Your Mystery." She's now written "Don't Sabotage Your Submission," which expands on the editing principles in "Don't Murder Your Mystery," and applies them to other genres.

"Don't Murder Your Mystery" is a great book (I haven't read "Sabotage" yet.), and I give it lots of credit for helping get my manuscript in good enough shape to land an agent.

But the real treat for me was having Chris and her friend Pat Meller stay with us overnight. Not only did I get a signed copy of "Don't Sabotage Your Submission," which I'm looking forward to spending time with when I begin editing my next manuscript Redneck Hex, but I got to know two very interesting women and easy, delightful house guests.

It's one of the best reasons for a writer to get involved with professional writers' organizations: to meet other people in the field. Writing can be lonely work. I worry sometimes that my social skills have flown right out the window and buried themselves in the red Georgia clay below. But once a month I get dig them up, scrub off the red stains and talk writing with other people, exercise my sometimes under-used verbal communication skills. And on special occasions I get to host someone whose work I admire, and who turns out, along with her friend, to be someone I like, as well.

So, get out of the house and join a group. You can improve your writing and your social skills in one easy step!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Heard 'round the dinner table

"A dead cat! She brought me her dead cat," Susan, my forensic anthropology professor sister, said.

"Wow! Your students must really love you," I said, after a bite of chicken vegetable soup.

"Yeah, they do. Next week she's bringing me her dead ferret. Will you pass the cornbread, please?"

Monday, February 09, 2009

Christmas in February

Tacky or charmingly retro?

Christmas ornament

I've got to go with charmingly retro--though, in fact, it isn't retro at all, but the real old McCoy.

My grandmother and the aunts sat around a card table decorating Christmas balls for years, it seems. One year, when my sister Susan and I were maybe eight and nine, we got to help.

Grandma had tons of costume jewelry on the table. Lots of garish gold ribbon. Those weird satin-wrapped Christmas balls in every color imaginable (and some, like this odd salmony color, that really aren't imaginable). By the time she and the aunts finished the project, Grandma had an entire tree's worth of Christmas balls dripping in pearls, jewels and ribbon. She hung no other ornaments on her tree after that. Grandma latched onto a tradition and kept with it forever.

Grandma died in the summer of 2001. We didn't have Christmas on our minds at the time. But off and on since then I've wondered what happened to her Christmas tree ornaments.

This year I thought of them again as I was decorating our Christmas tree. When my aunt, my dad's only sister, suddenly passed away the week after Christmas, we found ourselves with her five children in the same town where my grandmother had lived at the end of her life. I asked my cousins about Grandma's ornaments. One of them, who had helped Grandma decorate her apartment and had stored some things for her, had the ornaments in his attic. He brought down a big Rubbermaid tub filled with the individually wrapped balls from what Susan calls Grandma's bordello tree.

We unwrapped them and found them in surprisingly good shape. The jewels still shone; the glue had held; the satin ribbon on some was frayed, but most of it was intact. We told stories about Grandma and my aunt. And we divvied up the ornaments.

The one in the picture isn't for a tree. It's too big, probably 6" around. Grandma hung it from her foyer light fixture, sort of a bejeweled mistletoe ball. I also got one of the sickly salmon-colored ones--seemed perfect for the pink Christmas tree--and a gold one with lots of pearls.

Tacky? Hell, I've got a Confederate States of America cuckoo clock in my living room. What do I know from good taste?

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's been so cold in Georgia ...

... even the Pomeranians have broken out their winter sweaters!

Fashionista the Princess Prissy Pants


"Does this sweater make me look fat?"