"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, November 8, 2015

All the feels

I'm supposed to be editing, but it's Sunday evening and I just got home from a really fun wine tasting with my horse buddies, and everyone knows you write drunk and edit sober. I'm not technically drunk, or even buzzing, but I'm using that saying to take a brief break.

This post was supposed to be about my son and his last recital and how it all went down. This was his composition recital. According to him, the concert was for "people who really love him." I wasn't certain what to expect, but I confess I was disappointed when he told me he wouldn't be performing any of the music. 

"The professors don't want us writing music for ourselves," he told me. "Which is weird, since most successful artists are the ones that write their own music."


Anyway, what we were treated to was a portfolio of what he can do. There were pieces for different instruments, songs for soloists and choirs, scores for film, all culminating in a 20-minute "student project."

All in all, everything was musical and entertaining, and not as weird and atonal and "out there" as I thought it might be. Being his mom, I get all sparkly-eyed when I hear anything he does, so I'm no judge as to whether the music was good, but the audience liked it. 

"It Was Beginning Winter"

And then, he stepped on stage and conducted his student project, and I was sent into a deep, meaningful thought process for days. I'd like to tell you about the music, but honestly, I don't remember the music. I only remember the feelings.

The name of the piece was "It's All Too Much," and it began with a statement that we are overwhelmed with information via the internet and the media, followed by examples proving that statement. The examples built up, from benign information, to the daily bad news we are bombarded with, until the entire orchestra, singers, and even Marcus were screaming at each other about all the horrors in the news, what should be done about them, and an insistence that ignoring a tragedy makes one an emotional Nazi. 

As the screams reached a crescendo, Marcus stormed off the stage, then there was a sudden silence, followed by music and a song/recitation of a web comic called CatFoxWolf on tumblr, titled "Disquiet." (it's in three parts, the Part one beginning here - http://catfoxwolf.tumblr.com/post/56075944959/disquiet-part-i-of-ii-part-ii-is-here-i). Basically, the idea in the comic is that we are an amazing species, built by incredible circumstances, with such a unique and complex range of emotions, it would be insane to think we should confine ourselves to just "happy."

As much as we sometimes fight against some of our more raw, frightening feelings, they are necessary in order to be our full selves. And the last line of the comic, the last line of Marcus' piece, was so Marcus, I wanted to weep:

"Everything's gonna be okay."

I was all set to discuss this generation and the grand possibility that they were embracing their feelings and we would someday see the end of Strength = Not Feeling, Real Men (or Big Girls) Don't Cry, and know that we were moving toward enlightenment. 

Then I saw two things on Facebook, of different weights, but the same feeling. One of my friends posted today was the anniversary of her son's death. Another friend posted that her dog had (much wanted) puppies, and they had all died. I know there is no comparison between a human and a puppy, but the awfulness is still there, that here is New Life, wrapped in Joy and Expectations, and Life is Not. Supposed. To. Do. This. 

And I feel all the bad feelings of grief and anger and poignancy, and I don't want to. I'd rather not be such a normal, unique being and have these emotions. But they make the other feelings, of happiness and sweet joy, so much bigger. 

So this post is a reminder to cherish all the feels, whether you like them or not. Hug your children, too.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

BOO! From me to you.

October has been a busy month for me. When I'm not actually going somewhere and doing something, I'm in front of my computer, editing the 4th Peri book. I was going to call it "Married to Death" but I think that's going to be the title of the 5th book, which means I'm also constantly thinking of titles for this one and rolling them around in my brain.

Tonight is Halloween, and I'm normally both frazzled from hanging the decorations at the last minute and excited to see all the little superheroes and princesses who show up at my door. Plus, there's candy. Unfortunately for the little goblins and goblinettes, tonight I will be in Long Beach, watching this guy give his final recital.

Marcus, aka Jimi Hendrix, for Halloween

Last night, however, I got to dress up and go to a Masquerade Ball, hosted by the Placentia Library. It's their yearly Staff Appreciation Dinner, and they always do it up big. Last year was a costume party. This year, we put on our fancy clothes and bought cheap-yet-pretty masks to wear. 

I'm still wondering about the masquerade balls they threw in the olden days - how is it that you could remain mysterious and anonymous with one little mask? Especially one on a stick?

Here I am, looking all put together.

The mask was surprisingly comfy.

What you don't see behind the scenes is that it took me over an hour to get that way. For the first time EVER IN MY LIFE, I wore false eyelashes. Did really big, drama eyes, which called for big drama lashes. I got them on, more or less (I still need to work on getting the corners to conform to my lids), and wondered whether they'd stay on all evening or suddenly pop up unannounced, the way I've seen some women's falsies do.

They stayed.

I'm also wearing an outfit that has some kind of glitter on the cloth. Glitter that comes off, everywhere. It was like glitter dandruff. When I wore the outfit first, years and years ago, Dale was kvetching about having glitter on his suit and in the car, and I felt bad. Last night, I'm watching the trail of sparkle in my wake and thinking, "How wonderful, that at my age, I can still make the world a more sparkly place."

Here's my handsome date, Dale. I tried to find a Phantom of the Opera mask, but this was the best I could do.

I should mention the necklace I'm wearing. Ever meet someone and click with them right away and almost feel like you have shared a lifetime, even though you lived on opposite shores, had different families, and nothing about your external life is alike? I have a friend like that. We had never met, and when we did, we couldn't stop talking, and when we had to part, it was difficult. She gave me a necklace that her Welsh grandmother had given to her. I wore it last night for the first time, and not only did it look fabulous, it was like having the arms of ancestors wrapping around me, keeping me warm.

And now I must run off to the ranch and get my work done so I can come home, clean up, and run off to the recital. I'll leave you with a piece Marcus did last year. 


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Survival of the fittest. Or the most hydrated.

I was prepared for the Placentia Heritage Festival. I had my booth layout calculated and rehearsed. I had a cute and cool outfit to wear for the anticipated 96-degree heat. I had my cowboy hat with the tiara on it to keep the sun off my face during the parade.

What I wasn't prepared for was that the weatherman was slightly wrong. It wasn't a 96-degree day. It was 107 degrees. 

That kind of heat is all kinds of trouble. It started with the parade. We had a record number of marching bands, 30 of them, filing past the reviewing stand to be judged. It's important to these schools, so they want to look and sound their best. 

Guess what happens when you dress teenagers in polyester and wool and hand them tubas to play in 107-degree heat? By the time the fourth ambulance went screaming by, they cancelled the parade and shuffled us down to the park.

My booth was ready and waiting, staffed by my trusty assistant, Marcus. I'm usually over there by 11 a.m., but with all the bodies fainting in the parade, I didn't arrive until noon. At least the booth looked good, and several people had come by to reserve their books. They returned, so I could sign their purchases.

Even Dino showed up.

I'd like to say that the heat wasn't an issue, but it was brutal and relentless. My cute and cool outfit was drenched, which didn't matter since there were very few people even wandering by the booth. I did have a few people come out to see me, which I appreciated beyond words. Thank you, Rick and Linda Ochocki, Kathy Abell, Michelle, Pat, Stephen Connell, Dan and Cathy Lekawa, and probably a few more that I can't remember due to my own personal heatstroke.

My Sister-in-Crime Right-Hand Gal Pal, Pat Broeske endured the heat!

Michelle Knowlden, local OC author extraordinaire, stopped by!

At the end of the day (which came early, because the organizers realized we were in a dress rehearsal for hell), I did sell a number of books. However, I didn't give away nearly enough of the prizes. Of my 6 baskets, I only gave three away. One of them will remain in my heart forever.

Just as the staff was announcing that we'd be closing an hour early, I spotted a familiar face at my booth. An older lady, named Penny, whom I'd met years ago at our Concerts in the Park, came by. She was shocked and thrilled that I remembered her name.

As we talked, I learned the years had been unkind to my friend. Now 76, she had a stroke last year, and was semi-dependent upon wearing an oxygen mask. I was actually worried that she would overheat. She told me that she still read my column every week.

I smiled and grabbed one of my baskets. "You know what you need?" I told her. "A prize for being my favorite reader."

She was over-the-moon happy. Did she buy anything? No. Do I care? No. I care that she enjoys her life, and if I can help, I'm happy to do it.

I packed up and headed home, where I slept for two days, due to heat exhaustion, I believe. Next year, we're all wearing t-shirts with this on them:

People are now asking when my new books will be available as ebooks. You can expect them on or before Halloween. Stay tuned, but in the meantime, you can pick up a paperback from Amazon, B&N, or any independent bookstore.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Start the countdown

My house is a disaster. I know, I've said that before, but it's seriously filled with boxes and bags and paperwork. Most of it will be packed up and taken to the festival on Saturday, but part of it is lying around waiting for me to put it away.

I'll get it done, sooner or later.

In the meantime, I'm almost ready for the big launch on Saturday (Hint: Tri-City Park in Placentia http://ocparks.com/parks/tri_city_park/). Today, I spent a lot of time putting up the canopy and trying out the changes that I wanted to make after touring the LA Times Festival of Books and getting ideas.

I decided to put my banner on the very front of the canopy, so people can see it. Last year, I had to buy a new EZ-Up, since mine broke, and got a yellow one, so people can see it easily. I also wanted to position my tables to allow people to pass through the booth. For one thing, I was told that people don't want to come into a booth if it feels like they'll get trapped inside it, but they'll come in if they see an exit.

For another thing, small children always run through my booth anyway, so I might as well clear a path for them.

Another thing I did was to get some curtains to hang on the sides. Yes, I know you can get flappy-things to go on the sides, but I wanted something that didn't say, "I brought the snacks for the soccer game today."

It took several hours to check it out and get it right, but I think I got all the problems worked out. This is what it looks like:

My gnomes, Booker and Hatch, will go on little table with a sign encouraging people to come inside. I do think I'll get a different color of felt for the table. Green doesn't go with anything else.

Having two tables means I'll have my books on one table and swag on the other. What kind of swag? Well...

I'll have bookmarks and pens with my website on them. These little beauties:

A little fan to deal with the 96-degree day - what a great idea!

There will also be a cauldron full of candy, and my giveaway baskets.

What? Giveaway baskets?

Yes. You may not be able to see what's in them, but basically they contain either a coffee mug or martini glasses, a signed copy of one of my books, a bookmark, a pen, a fan, and a gift card to something good.

Gayle, how can I get one of these wonderful baskets?

I'm glad you asked. You can win one in a couple of ways. 

1. If you walk up to my booth at any time and say, "I shot a man in Reno," I'll give you a basket. 

2. Otherwise, every hour, I will give a basket to the 10th person who comes into my booth. 

Please come see me. Even if  you're not a winner, I'd love to see you there!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The recap so far.

I've been plugging my whirlwind life recently. I'd feel bad about this, in that "what kind of narcissist are you?" way, except that I've been plugging the events that I think other people would enjoy attending. 

It's not exactly my fault that I'm going to them, too.

So how did everything go, you may ask. Seriously. You have my permission to ask that.


As usual, this was a fun weekend of talking about writing, learning about writing, and laughing about everything. I seemed to have picked up a bad habit - the day of the conference, I came down with a cold. In San Diego, I did the same thing. Each time, I sounded worse than I felt, but sounding worse meant that I practically lost my voice.

Helpful hint: Losing your voice when you have to teach a workshop or two is not a good way to spend a weekend.

My most vivid memory of San Diego is having to teach public speaking at the very last workshop of the very last day. Dearest woman Laura Taylor bustled into the workshop with a tray of herbal tea with lots of lemon and honey. It was like pulling the thorn from my paw. I will adore her forever.

At Irvine, my survival instinct took over, which meant I did not get to close down the bar with my tribe every night. But I did get to spend a little time, here and there, with some of my pals. My workshops went very well. At least, the participants told me they liked it. I hope they're not privately emailing (SCWC director) Michael Steven Gregory and saying, "Please stop her."

I sat in a couple of workshops that taught me a lot. Both were about leaving the worry about plotting behind and Just. Writing. Suzanne Redfearn taught "Pantsers: Keep the Creativity Flowing" and I loved her exhortation to not worry so much about where you think the story HAS to go, and let your characters take you where they NEED to go. We did some writing exercises in her class that were fun and freeing.

Then I was pleasantly surprised in Jeff Michael's class, "Write from the Heart." He discussed The Muse and Her role in our writing. I've always struggled with the middle of my books, and as he spoke, I realized that my Muse tends to feed me inspiration for the first part of my book, and the last part. I see the scenes setting up the story, as well as the end. But in the middle, She seems to abandon me to go shoe shopping.

"Oooh, pretty, shiny," said Whimsie, Gayle's Muse

I have to say, I admire her style.

So I asked Jeff to discuss it, and he had a lot of helpful things to say in class. Afterward, we sat down to lunch and discussed it further. We were joined by his wife, Jill, of course, and our good friend and ultra-entrepreneur, Garrett Miller. Jeff had some excellent suggestions for making certain that my second act is true and necessary and worth the read. 

As always, I told him how thankful I was for his kindness, as well as to Jill and Garrett for their indulgence. Take note, folks. Always show gratitude. It costs nothing and its value is priceless. 

And in case you want to get in on the fun, the San Diego conference is in February. Go here to learn more - http://writersconference.com/sd/

On to...


The good news is that it was a rousing success. We had a room full of people who met new authors and heard about Sisters in Crime. Our panels were smokin' - these women were funny, insightful, intelligent writers. And our guest speakers could not have been more engaging. 

Catriona McPherson had everyone laughing with her story of how she came to writing. I love her easy, down-to-earth personality. She's won numerous awards, and she deserves them all, and more. Honestly, her Scottish (working class, she says) accent is so entrancing, I would listen to her read the phone book. 

Carol Higgins Clark was equally charming, discussing how her mother's novels led her to her author's life. It turns out, in her teens, she typed up one of her mother's manuscripts for her. The experience was a deep memory for her, and started her on her path. She was also funny, describing how we all think she's super-famous, and yet people can't even get her name right. We may think she's super-famous, but we know she's super-fabulous.

The not-the-best news is that the event was tremendous work for all involved. I'm writing this after two glasses of wine and about five naps. Ask me more about it after another week of sleep and more wine.


What's next is an interview with Garrett Miller on his popular and fun Rated G Radio show (click here to find it - http://www.blogtalkradio.com/garrettmiller). I've been interviewed on his show before and I'm always excited and a little nervous, only because I want to be a good guest. Garrett is The Perfect Interviewer and should have his own talk show. He actually listens to your answers and asks questions from there, very much like my interview-idol, Dick Cavett. 

So tune in at 7 pm, PST, and listen to me talk about humor and books and...

My launch party at Tri-City Park on October 10th! It's the Placentia Heritage Festival, and I'll be selling my three new collections of humor columns, to honor my 10 years as a humor columnist for the Placentia News-Times. 

Come on out to the park and find my booth - I don't know where I'll be, but my canopy is bright yellow. The park festivities open around 10 a.m., but I won't be there until I've ridden in the parade. I think we get to the park around 11 or so. 

Once I get there, we will have prizes and treats and a generally fun time!

Hope to see you this Saturday!

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.