"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

Saturday, October 31, 2009


This is just a brief post in honor of Halloween, to ask:

Who's your scariest monster?

Are you old school, and find this guy gives you the willies?

Or maybe you need someone a little more hardcore…

This guy seems to garner his share of scares (there's even a phobia named after him, I think).

As for myself, I'm not normally frightened by the monsters themselves, when they're not in context, as in, ripping an innocent victim's heart out and feeding it to the other innocent soon-to-be-victim. So many of our movie monsters have been parodied, to the point where, even if I was frightened, now I see the absurd humor. ("Freddy, seriously, ever think of plastic surgery for all that acne scarring?")

However, I was in Mo's Music in Fullerton this Thursday, where my son takes guitar lessons. Mo's loves to decorate for all the holidays. They had witches and ghosts and spooky stuff, but this made me run screaming:

That's right. It's Pumpkin-Head Matron. You see, a long time ago, there was a soccer mom who bought some miniature candy bars to give out for Halloween. Every time a group of trick-or-treaters came to the door, she'd give a few pieces of chocolate away, then she'd have one for herself. Or two. As the evening progressed, she doled out ONE bar to EACH child, then had three or four to herself.

The next morning, when she woke from her sugar-induced coma, she stumbled to the mirror and discovered - TA DA TAAAAAA -

She'd lost her waist and grown a pumpkin head!!!

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A brief pause in my whirlwind

I've been on-the-go, as they say, a lot recently. So much so that I emailed my schedule to my hubby, just in case I forgot to tell him anything. In the past two weeks, I've been to Bouchercon, two library events, a book club, have I told you about the Placentia Heritage Festival? Stories to tell, my friends, stories to tell.

And then Soupy Sales died.

There are probably TONS of people who don't have a clue who Soupy Sales was, but he was as much a part of my childhood as Captain Kangaroo. Yeah, I know - you haven't heard of him, either.

The Soupy Sales Show was a little like Pee Wee's Playhouse, without the creepy factor. There was a lot of comic banter with his two "dogs", White Fang and Black Tooth, which were just enormous paws that would wave out from the camera while they "talked." Their words were just the same kind of "whaa" syllables, like saying the word rat but replacing the r with a wh-sound. White Fang had a gruff voice and Black Tooth had a mewling voice.

Then there were the two puppets at the window, Pookie the Lion and Hippy the Hippopotamus. I don't think either of them spoke, but Pookie would lip-sync Frank Sinatra singing "Young At Heart" which always used to crack me up.

Somewhere in the episode, Soupy would get a pie in the face, and he was fond of dancing and leaping. It's possible he was a little hyperactive. I'm glad they didn't try to treat it.

But what I remember the most vividly is the door. At some point there would be a knock at the door and Soupy would answer. Sometimes it was a famous person. Sometimes they'd show some clip from an old movie, like cowboys galloping and shooting toward the camera or an elephant stampede from a Tarzan movie. Once the crew played a trick on Soupy and had a naked lady, out of scene, greet him at the door.

When I wrote Freezer Burn, I put the Soupy Sales door idea into practice a few times. I had my major scenes planned, but there were some supporting scenes that I let myself wander around in. One of the setups I used was in Peri's office; there would be a knock at the door. Who would it be?

I was thinking of Soupy's show when I wrote these. I'd get a brief flash of a ridiculous jungle scene in my head, laugh, then start writing, which might have accounted for this exerpt:

The printer had just completed its job when the door opened and a tall, muscular man entered. His suit looked expensive, but he did not. Acne scars defined his shiny face, his small dark eyes were shadowed by thick, tangled brows. If baboons wore Armani, this is what they'd look like.

"You the private dick?"

"Private investigator," she told him. "How may I help you?"

He stood close to her desk, leaning slightly forward, his feet apart, and hands clasped together in front. "I represent a client who is interested in the Forever Roses ring. My client would like to be sure the ring goes to the rightful owner."

I can honestly say, I don't think I would have taken this approach to my book if I hadn't watched that goofy man open his door every week - and yes, sometimes he got a pie in the face.

Thank you, Soupy. I'll miss you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hands-on Research by Wendy Ely

I suspect I met Wendy Ely via Facebook, although it wouldn't surprise me if she reads this and sends me an email saying, "Don't you remember? We were at that ...thing... together."

What I think happened was that either I got a FB Friend Suggestion saying that Wendy knew a bunch of my friends so we should be friends, too. Or maybe she got the suggestion. Pretty soon, we were Facebook Buddies, which was nice, since she posts funny and intelligent things, and doesn't bog me down with Ocean Critters, or Special Hugs, or quizzes written by teenagers to see what Twilight character I'm like.

(Note to everyone else: I don't mean to offend anyone here. But I just don't have time to join every cause and throw pillows and play Mafia Wars. I got sucked into Farmville, and now I feel guilty when my virtual cows go unmilked. Sorry.)

What really enamored me to Wendy was that, when I solicited other bloggers to exchange blogs, she leaped forward with such enthusiasm, it was like having a virtual labrador knock me down. It's a lovely feeling, to be that cyber-wanted.

So get yourself another cup o' joe, sit back and enjoy Wendy's musings on the old saw, to "write what you know."


The first bit of advice I received when I’d first started was to write what I knew. I thought about it for awhile. Kids, being a single parent, scrapbooking… and well, I wanted to write about something else. I wanted something new! Something exciting!

A plot idea became stuck in my head. It was going to feature the mafia, have lots of guns, and a hitman. The plot built itself while the characters came to life. How would I be able to write a book about the mafia when I hadn’t even seen a single mafia show, movie, and lack of knowledge of firearms? I thought I was sunk before the first line went down on paper but I had to write the book… it just wouldn’t leave me alone!

The internet is the easiest way to get the information but I’m sure most of you know that. When researching my mafia book, I looked up blogs for personal experiences, information websites, and medical sites on bullet wounds. Real estate websites work great in creating the setting if you can’t take a trip there in person.

The next step was getting the mafia feel of life. Without any knowledge of organized crime, I decided to watch anything I could get my eyes on about the mob. I read books, watched movies, and T.V series. I also knew I needed to touch a gun for the first time to really get the feel of it and learn how one works. I hopped on over to a local gun shop for a full demonstration from a clerk. I also took a workshop on firearms given by a homicide detective. It was awesome!

Once I learned that research doesn’t only come from the internet but can be hands-on fun, I enjoy it a lot more. Don’t be scared. Close your laptop and go learn something new today. Maybe the new skill will show up in your novel soon.


Wendy's bio: Wendy Ely has been drawn to the romance genre for as long as she can remember. It's no wonder reading and the ability to tell stories fused together. Her first contemporary romance, Jesse's Brother, was released in September. Confessions will be released in November. For more information about Wendy Ely or to read an excerpt, visit www.lyricalpress.com/wendy_ely

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oobla-di, Ooobla-dah, life goes on

Naturally, I'd love to keep the previous post alive forever, frozen in a perfect moment of time, Ray Bradbury style. But life moves on, and people have shorter and shorter attention spans these days. Everyone applauds for a few moments, but then they always say, "What's next?"

There's just no pleasing you people, is there?

So I must bid last weekend adieu and prepare for this Saturday, where I will have a booth at the Placentia Heritage Festival. This is the 45th year of the festival, which celebrates all things Placentia. It begins with a pancake breakfast, followed by a parade that segues into a day of merriment in Tri-City Park. There will be food, games, a car show, and… me!

The price for reserving a booth was reasonable, and I have my own table and canopy, so I figured why not? Freezer Burn is set in Placentia. There are a lot of Placentia landmarks in it. The neighbors who've read it love seeing their local streets and stores in print. It'd be a crime not to have a presence at the festival.

Besides, Karen (my publisher) would kill me if I missed this opportunity.

I'm sorry to say, I don't think my full-sized Dean Martin will be attending. I discovered at the library event, that he doesn't tolerate wind well, or perhaps he secretly wants to parasail. In addition, I'm pretty certain that my booth will be on the grass, which will not be good on his toes. But I'll bring a picture.

If you're in the north Orange County area this Saturday, between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m, please stop by and say hello.

In other news, I finally got my book into the Barnes & Noble, AND the Borders ordering system. It was a little difficult until I figured out what to do. I went to the Borders in Brea first, then the Barnes & Noble in Fullerton, and they couldn't have been nicer. I scheduled a signing in both stores for early November (1st and 6th, respectively).

One interesting thing - neither of the stores have CRMs anymore. A CRM is a Community Relations Manager, and at least used to be the person you scheduled your signings through. Apparently, they also scheduled appearances by characters, like Clifford or Winnie the Pooh. I found this out when John, the B&N manager, was trying to schedule me while he spoke on the phone with a woman who (I think) wanted to schedule her fuzzy-suited character in the store. I meant to ask if the whole CRM position was fading away, but we both got distracted looking over the schedule.

But before I hit the hometown bookstores, I'm traveling to the Midwest next week. I'll start at Bouchercon in Indianapolis, then cruise over to my birthplace, Decatur, Illinois. It's only about three hours from Indy. I'm scheduled for one library event in neighboring Mt. Zion on Monday (10/19), and a second library event in Decatur on Tuesday (10/20). My topics are completely different, so people can visit me twice and not hear the same thing.

This means I better go work on the outline of each talk, if I want to avoid any tangential rambling.

Oh, and before I forget - I will be having some guests come and post for the next month or so. I don't have a set schedule yet, except to say that Wendy Ely will be joining me next Wednesday to discuss how she stubbornly avoided writing what she knew, in order to write what she wanted to know.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A lucky day, wearing a lucky shirt

As promised, I spent today at the Duarte Author's Festival, held in the beautiful Westminster Gardens Retirement Oasis. That's what they call it. It's actually a very lovely park with lots of trees and a set of very smooth, paved pathways, which come in handy if you are in a wheelchair or using a walker, etc.

Pam Ripling (aka Anne Carter) and I shared a table; her niece, Alyssa Montgomery (also an author) came with her for the day. Jeff Sherratt had a table further into the park, making Echelon Press well represented. Our table was next to the main stage - this will become important later.

The weather was beautiful, and we had a medium-ish crowd, but not a lot of buyers. I sold five books and I think Pam sold at least that many. Jeff, of course, sold two or three cases (LOL).

The featured author for the festival was Ray Bradbury. I heard him speak about two years ago. He was quite frail at the time, but insisted on keeping his appointment with the writer's association luncheon. We could barely hear him because the PA system wasn't working, but I could still sense his energy for life and his love of writing.

I watched him arrive, a young black man pushing his wheelchair while a plumpish-looking fellow led the way. Mr. Bradbury looked much heartier than the last time I saw him. He might have had a stroke at some point - there is a slur to his speech, but he was still in fine form, telling tales of becoming a writer, meeting famous people and doing what he loved. Everyone ate it up.

Pam and I sat at our table during the talk, straining to hear his speech. The black man stood in front of us, waiting, along with a white guy in a suit. There was an extraneous conversation with the black man and another group, which Pam chimed in on, then the white man joined, then I got involved, until it was just the four of us talking.

(May I just say at this point that I wished I'd asked the gentlemen's names. If either of you two stumble upon this blog, could you introduce yourselves?)

The white guy (I found out later he's the driver) looked over at my book and said, "Freezer Burn? What is it?"

"It's a murder mystery," I replied.

"A mystery? Ray loves mysteries. This looks like a book he'd enjoy."

The words spurted before my brain kicked into gear: "Really? I'll give him one."
He seemed ecstatic. "You'd give him one? He'd love that!"
I took a book and autographed it, thinking the driver would take it to Mr. Bradbury later, perhaps tomorrow or next week or something. Just then, the black guy pointed to my chest. "Hey, look at her shirt," he said to the other guy.

In my youth, I'd have been embarrassed to have so much attention paid to my chest, but at my advancing age, I knew they were only looking at the words.

The driver brightened even more. "Oh, man, Ray would love that shirt! He drinks merlot all the time!" (P.S. Mr. Bradbury, I hope that doesn't mean for breakfast, too.)

"You gotta present your book to him so he can see your shirt," the driver told me. "He'll love it. We'll be passing by your table on the way out. Are you going to be here until we leave?"

Are you kidding? "Absolutely!" I said.

Mr. Bradbury spoke and the audience listened, enrapt. Afterward, they lined up for an autograph. I stood by my table and waited patiently. No one else did.

"Are you sure he's with Bradbury? Are you sure he meant it?" Pam's questions were indicative of a mystery writer, suspicious to the core.

Jeff had a different worry. "He's not going to take this path to his car. He's going to take the one over there."

I tried to keep my zen approach, then saw the crowd clear from the signing booth and opted for Plan B. Picking up the book and my camera, I headed to Mr. Bradbury. Pausing at the driver, I asked, "Is this still okay?"

He leaped out of his chair. "Absolutely! Mr. B, Mr. B, I want you to meet somebody." He took me over to the table. "Mr. B, this is Gayle, and she has a book she'd like to give you."

Bless his heart, all that signing had Mr. B on a roll - he took my book and opened it to autograph it. I stopped him.

"No, Mr. Bradbury, you don't have to sign this one," I said, and he laughed.

"Look at her shirt, Mr. B," the driver said.

Once again, I held out my chest for a man to read. (Note to self: try to regain dignity. Soon.) He read it, smiled, and held out his hand.

"I want to drink you!" he announced.

We laughed, took pictures, and I thanked my two champions for introducing me to this great writer (again, I wish I knew their names). I made it as far as my table before I broke out into my Happy Dance, then made it as far as the car before I texted my family about what had just happened.

Will he read my book? I don't know. But he owns it, which still boggles my brain.

My question to you is, was my inscription cheeky? Or should I have addressed it to Mr. Bradbury?
BTW - that shirt is officially my Lucky Shirt after today.

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