"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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Traditions from my house to yours

I think everyone has at least one little tradition to ring in the New Year. There is a certain food to be eaten or a song to be sung or a dance to be danced. Even if you live in self-imposed exile, I'll bet you do at least one thing to differentiate between this year and last.

We spend New Year's Eve with friends, typically staying out too late with just a touch too much food and drink. Then on New Year's Day, we turn the TV on at seven so we can watch the Rose Parade (on KTLA because Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards are the best).

Then I fall back to sleep until ten or eleven or so.

Sometimes I make a big breakfast, but no one demands it, so I don't have to. The big thing is New Year's Day Night dinner. We absolutely must have the same meal every year. It's tradition.

Of course, being married to Dale, we must have black eyed peas. They are well-known as a New Year's good luck food. Typically, they are cooked with some kind of pork, onions, and hot sauce, and served with collard greens. Legend is that the peas symbolize prosperity because they swell when they are cooked. The greens stand for money, and pork is used because pigs root forward, symbolizing progress.

Or maybe it's just a Southern thing.

I let Dale fix the black eyed peas. He doesn't really have a recipe. Everything is just "to taste." I'm responsible for my half of the heritage equation.

My family always had cabbage and ham on New Year's. According to my grandmother, it was to ensure prosperity for the new year. Since my family was as poor as a flock of church mice, I have no idea why they thought this worked. I did read that cabbage and ham is a traditional New Year's dish because green cabbage leaves resemble paper money.

The bad news, perhaps, is that I hated cabbage and ham and wasn't forced to eat it. Nor was I interested in learning to make it. This meant, when I decided to honor this tradition, I had no idea how to prepare the dish.

I have memories of a huge pan full of cabbage, ham, and possibly some cheese, that cooked all day. I knew that, not only would cabbage not survive such torture, the house would reek for months. Instead, I found a recipe in the New Dieter's Cookbook for cabbage and ham hash. Here's the picture:



Basically, you saute chopped onions and cabbage in a little margarine, then add grated carrots, diced ham and cooked potatoes, black pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce. Of course, mine doesn't quite look like the picture because I add more cabbage, but it's good. And, voila - Tradition, Take Two.
 
What are your traditions for New Year's? What is it you absolutely MUST do if the new year is to go forward?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another year, another chance

A new year is upon us. I get a little excited about the new year, thinking that is some kind of clean slate. It's not. It's the day after another day, one more day in the continuum of life. But it's as good a day as any to review what we've done, re-align goals, set new priorities, and resolve to do better.

I hope 2013 treats you well. Believe that it will be your best year ever, and to paraphrase Rob Brezsny, that life is conspiring to shower you with blessings.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What did you do for the holidays?

Usually the day after Christmas I am in a coma, induced by the lack of sleep during the days leading up to the holiday, capped off with a marathon day of present opening and driving to multiple homes for food, more presents, and more food. If I've gotten a book for Christmas, I usually read it. Yes, the whole thing. Otherwise I nap, eat, then nap.

This year I had to write my column, so I was up at seven to take care of the dogs, put on the coffee and think of what to say. In the words of the Cable Guy, I got 'er done. I also walked the dogs, then walked down to Radio Shack to get hubby's new phone activated and get more exercise, all in one swell foop.

I've got just enough oomph left to fix dinner, so I'm going to let you do the talking.

What did you do for Christmas? More importantly, what did you do the day after?

Here's a jaunty little tune for you to write by, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." Marcus is on the end and not visible in much of the video but he's the one doing the beatboxing.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Holidays!

Okay, that doesn't work nearly so well as Merry Christmas. Whatever your celebration at this time of year, I hope your joys are many and your troubles are few. Here is the Carline Christmas card to wish you a wonderful holiday and fabulous New Year.



CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE
HAPPINESS AND CHEER

Once again, the Carlines have had to be flexible, adaptable, and agreeable to everything from the unpredictable weather to our changing lives. we might as well welcome the holidays with happiness and cheer. Welcoming them any othe way would only bring coal to our stockings.

Marcus is in his third year at Cal State Long Beach. To say he is thriving in the Music Conservatory is an understatement. He is now a member of the top vocal jazz group Pacific Standard Time, he wrote and produced a song for an album collection (yay, royalties!) and he's keeping his grades up so far. This year he's also learning about living in an apartment and having to deal with roommates and landlords and neighbors. It's been a real eye-opener.

Dale is still at Raytheon and still going over the figures on a daily weekly basis to see when he can retire. He did a little basketball coaching this year with the Teen Hoops, who were “3peat Champions.” The Placentia Youth League also lured him back to teach two teams, one first-thru-third graders and one fourth-thru-sixth graders, who finished their seasons 0-2 in the championship games. Tearing his Achilles slowed his own activity down this summer, but he is obeying doctor’s orders and the leg seems to be healing. He went to the Frozen Four NCAA Hockey Championships again, this time in Florida. Currently, he’s on business travel to Massachusetts for a month, but he’ll be home in time to wrap presents.

And me? I haven’t been doing much. Showed Snoopy at three horse shows, wrote and released another mystery, attended a few conferences and conventions, wrote my column, and was elected a Placentia Library District Trustee. Speaking of eye opening, I found out early this year that I have cataracts. The left one is teeny, but the right one finally got so huge, I had it removed and a bionic lens installed. It’s wonderful it is to see again, after spending the year trying to look through a fog in that eye. I feel like I can see for miles (and miles and miles —cue rock song).

This year’s trip to the mountains of Northern California with our friends seemed brief. Most of the kids were able to go this time, but we didn’t take any side trips along the way because everyone had to get home and back to work. It was also hotter than blazes up there. I’m not sure if we had record heat this summer, but it was mostly uncomfortable for a large portion of it. Good thing I have a little pill for my internal summers, or I might have been writing this letter from behind bars.
 
You might have noticed a new addition to our family in the photo. The red dog next to Dale is a rescue, who wandered up to the ranch. I decided either I needed a hole in my head or another dog. Dale voted for the dog. Her name is Lady Spazzleton. Dale calls her Lady and I call her Spazz. I believe this is because Dale is optimistic about her and I am practical. She’s a sort of golden retriever, with perhaps a soup├žon of something else. Perhaps Muppet. At any rate, she keeps Duffy entertained by careening through the house, wrestling. I’m thinking of selling tickets.
 
So that’s our year. As usual, there are changes. Marcus is in an apartment, Dale is in Massachusetts, I’m a library trustee, even today’s weather is not a sure thing. I used to hate change (and still howl when anyone moves my things around), but then I heard Willard Scott say something that adjusted my thinking: “When you’re green you’re growing, and when you think you’re ripe, you’re rotten.”  So now I’m trying to embrace the differences that time brings. I hope you all keep growing, too.
 
With Love and Good Wishes for a Wonderful Holiday,

Dale, Gayle, and Marcus (and Snoopy, Duffy, Katy, Spazz, and Frostie)


 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I'm so glad I went.

According to Mapquest, Holy Trinity Church in San Pedro is 37.7 miles from my house and should take 44 minutes to drive there. It's a long way to go to hear a choir of mostly volunteers sing The Messiah. It's a doubly long way to go at rush hour on a Friday night.

But Marcus is one of the non-volunteer, paid singers in that choir and he was singing last night. In light of the recent national tragedy, I had to go. I would have gone even farther to see my son, my only child. To hell and back.

Add rain to the Friday night traffic and you'll understand why it took me about an hour and a half to get to the church. I drove around the strange neighborhood before finding a place to park along a curb, about a block away. Since I have apparently misplaced my umbrella, I put my raincoat's hood up and trudged to the entrance. Or, an entrance. It was a large door with a sign on it about food, beverages, and cell phones. I pulled on the handle and it opened.

So my first faux-pas was to come in through the side door. Although I've been in quite a few churches, I have not been in a lot of Catholic churches. I was just hoping to get in and out without some kind of genuflecting mishap. There were a lot of people already in the pews. I walked around to get the lay of the land, so to speak, and saw a table at the REAL entrance with programs and a cash box.

"Hi, I came in the wrong door," I announced and gave them $20. The man looked at me like I had two heads, but was welcome, anyway, and handed me a program. I chose a seat in the back, to the left, and got as comfortable as one can get with their tush on hard wood.

Soon a tiny little lady sat next to me, and by tiny, I mean elfin in size. She craned her neck and scanned the backs of everyone's heads.

"Gee, I hope I can see," she said. "There weren't any closer seats."

I pointed to the racks of hymnals in front of us. "You could always sit on those."

She then talked about the rain and the traffic, and then wanted to know all about Marcus when I told her that I had come from Placentia to hear him. After a few minutes, she said, "You know, I think I will sit on those books." She stacked them all up and sat her tushie down, pronouncing the view "much better."

I love helping people.

The program was very good. The soloists were mostly excellent, and the choir sang beautifully. It was comforting to hear this soothing, uplifting music when my heart had churned all day. A few more tears came when the priest asked for a moment of silence to honor the victims, but it was nice to be in a room full of other people bowing their heads, even if they were strangers to me.

The best part of the evening was hugging my son. Yes, I hugged him a little too tightly. We talked, we laughed, and made plans. He had to rush off to a party, so I left. I felt strengthened and warm, like a tired runner who gets that second wind. All would be well with my soul.

The drive home went quickly, even though it was still raining. I went to bed happy that my son was happy, on his way to be with friends and have a good evening.

I didn't take any pictures of the event, or any video. But this YouTube clip captures the moment.



Enjoy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Plans change.

Yesterday was hugely busy for me. I began by meeting up with my friends, Sylvia .and Tameri, for a wonderful tour of the Princess Diana Collection on the Queen Mary (in Long Beach), followed by a delicious high tea in The Tea Room. It was fun and light and lovely and especially great that Sylvia and Tameri, who had never met, got along so famously.

You'd love to think that even though your friends come from different periods of your life, they'd all mesh together if you got them in the same room.

After the perfect morning/afternoon, I took a little nap and then joined my friend Robin for the midnight showing of The Hobbit. To be honest, the way the movie has been filmed left my motion-sickness-prone stomach a little queasy, and I found myself thinking that the whole thing could have been sculpted a little finer. But any time spent with Robin is quality time.

As I dropped into bed at four a.m., I thought, I will spend Friday sleeping. Chilling. Recuperating.

Marcus is singing at his paying gig, Holy Trinity Church tonight. The Messiah. It's in San Pedro, which is a goodly forty-five minutes from my house. I had thought about going to hear it, then decided that trying to get to San Pedro on a Friday night might be madness. It  would be okay if I didn't go. Marcus would be okay if I missed it.

And then I woke up to the news in Connecticut. Twenty children dead, shot. Typing those words takes my breath away. Twenty young lives that will never realize their dreams. Twenty families that will never have a Christmas of pure joy again. The gifts that were bought for those kids, the plans for the next two weeks to visit Santa and sing in the church or school program, the future that will never be...

Every year, I put out the pictures of Marcus with Santa. These are two of my favorites.



I like this one because Marcus is only three and is wearing one of those ugly Christmas sweaters that isn't ugly because three-year olds can get away with that kind of fashion.



This one is my absolute favorite because it's an action shot. Marcus, at five, is going over his list with Santa. They are deep in discussion. I love that. You'll notice the very bedraggled Simba, too. He was Marcus' constant companion.

Tonight, I'm going to go see my son and try not to hug him too tightly.


Monday, December 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing (is somewhere else)

I'm a sucker for my friends, truly. When the delightful and engaging author Terry Ambrose offered me a seat on his Next Big Thing Blog Tour, my first thought was "Why of course I'll do that."

Then I thought about it. My next big thing is already here. The Hot Mess is out and about, available in ebook and paperback for your enjoyment. Not only that, but I already did a Next Big Thing blog about it back in November. You can read about it here.

So I declined.

Then, last week, Pam Ripling (aka Anne Carter) sent me an email. "Want to be tagged in my Next Big Thing Blog Tour?" Once again, I explained my predicament. I can always trust Pam to think outside the box.

"It's all optional," she said. "Just tweak the answers to do it on The Hot Mess."

So I was planning to do that, but when I read my last NBT post, I had already answered all the questions about The Hot Mess and I wouldn't change a thing, except to say that it was already released.

Snoopy dressed for Christmas.
Then I had an idea. I will point you to my horse's blog. I may not have a Next Big Thing, but he does. I'll let him answer the questions. So, go visit Snoopy's blog to learn about his Next Big Thing.

And do check out my friends' books.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What I do know.

Before I begin, I need to give you my Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gift spiel:

Visit my Amazon page to get the right book in the perfect format for you!

Back to business: this post is a companion piece to something I wrote for my alternate universe, Crime Fiction Collective, about writing what you know. Go read that first. Here's the link. Go on. I'll wait here.

Now that I've told you all about how I write about what I don't know, I'm going to talk about the perils of writing about what I do know.

I'm putting Peri on the shelf briefly, and writing a new mystery with new characters. No, I don't know if it will become a series. Yes, Peri will be coming back.

Have I answered all your questions?

The thing is, this mystery will include one of my great loves - horses. While at a horse show in Burbank, I was walking up to the barn one morning when I saw the pile of used shavings at the end of the aisle and thought, what if there was a body under there?

And that's the way most mysteries are born. I decided that this would be easy. I know a lot about horses and horse shows and I have more than a couple of experts to answer any questions.

Now that I've started plotting and developing characters, I've discovered this will not be as easy as I believed. Knowing too much about a world might be more challenging than knowing too little. I need to write about the world so that horse lovers get enough horse stuff, but mystery lovers are not bogged down in too much horsefeathers.

Not only that, but as big as the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) is, it's a small community. Everyone seems to know everyone. I can't make any of my fictional characters resemble anyone real. Harder than it sounds, people.

Even the crime and its motivation must be handled with a special touch, since I'd hate for the AQHA to think that I think there are crooks and murderers around every corner.

I am nothing if not stubborn, so this book will get written. It will just have a HUGE disclaimer.

Me and Snoopy at the Del Mar National Horse Show


What about it, writers? Is it easier to write what you know or what you don't?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Contest winners and so much more!

I have three winners in my book giveaway! (Pardon me while I use some exclamation points! I can't help myself! Editors won't let me use them, so they get all backed up in my fingers! I must let them out!!)

There. I feel better.

The three winners are: Stephen Connell, Laura Joseph, and a lovely lady named Candy with no last name but an intriguing email address that begins with "dragonfly". Candy already received her ebook, Stephen will get his paperback as soon as I have the copies in my hot little hands, and Ms. Joseph needs to tell me what kind of book she wants so I know what to send her.

This means the contest is over, but I've got more good news to report.

1. I've released the paperback version of The Hot Mess a week early. You can now get it on Amazon. It may take a week or so until you can order it from Barnes & Noble and the nice independent bookstores in your neighborhood. Here's the Amazon link.

2. Just in time for the holidays, I've also released a packaged set of all three Peri mysteries plus her short story, Clean Sweep, all for $7.99. This is about $2 off the price if you purchased them all separately. Such a deal - look for The Peri Minneopa Mystery Set.



3. If you're already a Peri reader and just need the latest one in the series, still remember that $2.99 for The Hot Mess is less than you'd pay for a fancy Starbucks coffee, and will last longer!

4. I knew you could give an ebook as a gift to someone, but I recently discovered that you can actually schedule it. So consider giving an ebook to arrive in someone's cyber-stocking on Christmas morning, along with that new Kindle HD. Or schedule one book a night for Hanukkah. Or a December birthday... the possibilities are endless. Visit my Amazon page for some ideas.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Hot Mess is here! Want a freebie?

The third book in the Peri Minneopa Mystery Series is available now, as an ebook. You can buy it on Amazon for a mere $2.99 - that's less than your pumpkin spice half-caff skinny latte and it will last longer, too. Here's the link to purchase it - http://www.amazon.com/Mess-Peri-Minneopa-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00AD94TDW/

But here's your chance to win a copy, either an ebook or a paperback. My blogger friends have agreed to help me out. I've posted excerpts from the book on five other blogs. The blogs are:

Andrew Kaufman, http://www.andrewekaufman.blogspot.com/2012/11/gayle-carline-hot-mess.html

Jenny Hilborne, http://jfhilborne.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/the-hot-mess/

 
Michele Scott, http://adventuresnwriting.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-hot-mess.html

 
Teresa Trent, http://teresatrent.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/the-hot-mess-read-gayle-carlines-latest-mystery/

 
I Love Dino Martin, http://ilovedinomartin.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-hot-mess-contest.html

Go read them. I'll wait here. (Cue theme from Jeopardy.)

Now then, here are five questions. Their answers are found within the five blogs. Get them right and win a free copy of THE HOT MESS.


1. Who does Peri see at the scene of the fire, who might let her past the barricade?

2. What does Skip take from the house for Peri to give to Benny?

3. What did Dylan call the mixture of drugs and alcohol?

4. What did Benny bring Peri as a gift?

5. Who is with Benny at his home after the fire?
 
I was going to have you answer in the comments, but if you email me the answers, then more than one of you might win. I'm loving this book so much, I might award multiple winners.
So send those answers to gaylecarline@sbcglobal.net - you could get something free!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Get ready. Get set... It's coming.

On Monday, two things will happen:

1. The Hot Mess will be available as an e-book.

2. Five other bloggers will be joining me in a contest for one lucky person to win a free copy, and by copy I mean an e-book or paperback.

The contest will be kind of a scavenger hunt. You visit five blogs and read excerpt from the book in each one. Then come back here. I will have five questions for you. Each answer is contained in one of the five other blogs. Answer the questions correctly in the comments and you win!

The five blogs are:

The mostly adorable Andrew Kaufman, http://www.andrewekaufman.blogspot.com/
 
The lovely and talented Jenny Hilborne, http://jfhilborne.wordpress.com/
 
The fierce but friendly Michele Scott, http://adventuresnwriting.blogspot.com/
 
A sweet cozy writer Teresa Trent, http://teresatrent.wordpress.com/
 
Mr. All-Things-Dean-Martin, http://ilovedinomartin.blogspot.com/
 
If this goes as planned it should be fun. Hopefully, we'll drive some traffic around to the other sites, as well as whetting everyone's appetite for The Hot Mess. If it goes badly, you'll be able to hear me weeping, weeping bitter tears.

In the meantime, here's the trailer for The Hot Mess.




See you on Monday!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Go to CFC today

Actually, go visit the Crime Fiction Collective (CFC) blog every day (Monday thru Friday) for interesting discussions on fascinating topics. But today is my every-other-Thursday post, so I'm not here. I'm over there, talking about the new book that will be out Monday and which you can win for freebies. Visit me on Monday, and I'll tell you how.

In the meantime, have a great Thanksgiving, and I'll see you on Monday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Meet Teresa Trent

One of the fun things about being an author and being on the World-Wide-Web is that I meet people. Fun, interesting, intelligent, engaging people. (Okay, I'm not counting the trolls.) People who I may never meet in person but feel like I know.

I met Teresa Trent through Goodreads. She sent me a note, asking if I'd like to trade reviews with her, so we could both have a few more on the shelf.

I'm always a little wary of authors wanting to exchange reviews if I don't know them. Some authors simply assume that you'll each do a little back-slapping boffo review of each other's work,  sometimes without even reading it, and I'm not comfortable doing that. Like anyone curious about an author, I looked Teresa up on Amazon. Her first book, A Dash of Murder, had some good reviews, so I read the comments. One reviewer said it was a good story if you could look past all the typos and grammatical errors. Teresa commented back:

I took your advice and sent the book to an proofreader for revisions. A new and corrected version has been uploaded to Amazon.

That sealed the deal for me. Here was an author who was willing to take criticism, measure it, and change when she agreed with it.

I read both A Dash of Murder and her second book, Overdue for Murder. They are both sweet, gentle cozies set in Texas, featuring a single mom, Betsy Livingston, who is working hard to keep her life together. Teresa's work is only getting better.

She agreed to a little Q&A session with me, so let me introduce you.

1. How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since my twenties. I wrote about frugal living for many years until I decided I liked shopping way too much. I started writing mysteries in just the last few years. I also write curricula for preschoolers and have tried writing young adult fiction.

2. Was A Dash of Murder your first book, or do you have others hanging around on your computer and waiting for their chance at fame?
A Dash of Murder was my first book. I would like to write six books about my little town in Texas. I have published book one and two (Overdue For Murder) and I am now working on editing book three. Book four is in the first draft stage.
3.Your main character is a single mom who writes for the local newspaper. Was she always a character you wanted to write, or did you create her when you decided to write a mystery?
To be an amateur sleuth Betsy needed to have an eye for detail, so why not be the lady who tells you about the six million ways to use baking soda in a helpful hints column? Also, having many friends who became single moms over the years, I always admired their tenacity. These are some strong women who wouldn't let a little bit of gunfire scare them if their kid had a book report due the next day.

4.One of your recurring characters is Danny, who has Down Syndrome. Tell us a little bit about why you included him in Betsy's family. I have an adult son with Down Syndrome and autism and couldn't imagine any of my worlds, real or fictional without someone like him in it. Betsy's family consists of five people who pull together through all kinds of ups and downs. Danny's character is just a part of that, with strengths and weaknesses that help me tell the story. Danny is a composite of the many young people with Down Syndrome I've had the pleasure to get to know.
5.As a self-published author, what kind of tools and services do you use to ensure a high quality book? My favorite writing software is Scrivener. I tried demos of almost all of the novel writing software programs out there, but Scrivener helped to facilitate my visual style of writing. I'm a child of television, so I need to storyboard everything. I also run my chapters through two online services, Autocrit and Spellcheck Plus. Once the manuscript is complete, the best thing a writer can do is to send it a professional editor. They will fix all that grammar you've forgotten or didn't catch with the online services. Next get some beta readers. I have a friend who will honestly look at my books and tell me where she lost her way in the plot or if a scene seems flat. She is not a writer, but an avid reader and that's the perspective I need. There are so many books on the craft of writing out there and my advice is read, read, read. Writers need to think of themselves as perpetual students and read both novels (in and out of their genre) and also read nonfiction about how to write, plot, pace, and dialogue on a daily basis.
6. What's the best thing that's happened to you since you released your books? Reviews and getting to know all the other people who write and self-publish. We are no longer all alone in our houses watching our mailboxes.
7. What's the worst thing?
Reviews
8. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
It would be stretching time. More time for family, writing and even laundry.
9. If you could host a dinner party for ANY six people, living or dead, who would you invite? What a great question. Let's see, Agatha Christie the subplot queen, Ben Franklin just for the jokes, James Patterson so I can see if he even writes through dinner, Erma Bombeck because she was the first woman writer who inspired me as a teenager, Temple Grandin who helped me understand more about my son than twelve years of public schoolteachers and therapists, and my mother.
10. Flip-flops or cowboy boots?
Flip flops for sure.
So, Teresa had me at Erma Bombeck, although we'll have to agree to disagree about the flip flops. In the meantime, do check out her books if you're in the mood for a fun little romp. Here's the link to her Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Teresa-Trent/e/B005O7FIE2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 or visit her blog: http://teresatrent.wordpress.com.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Art meets history

I saw "Lincoln" this weekend. It was monumental, to say the least. The actors all hit their marks. The pacing was dead-on. If there's no Oscar nod for Daniel Day-Lewis, then I have no hope for the film industry.

From a writer's point of view, this may be a film I purchase so I can study the structure, specifically the passage of the 13th Amendment. I know a little of history, and possibly a little more about Lincoln than most because I was raised in Illinois, the "Land of Lincoln." I've been to his tomb in Springfield, taken tours of his home, been to New Salem, and even visited the newest addition, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. So, trust me - I know that the amendment passed.

The Lincoln family at the Presidential Museum (with Marcus)


In Spielberg's hands (and screenwriter Tony Kushner's), the passage of this amendment was thrilling. It was tense. Would they get the votes? Just when you thought they might get enough, a rumor would break out (usually true) that jeopardized everything. Could they overcome it?

If a viewer can be riveted to a historic event knowing how it ends, that's entertainment worth studying, especially for a writer.

On a personal note, this film hit me in the heart. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know my husband is African American. His father's family are from Louisiana. They were slaves, and still own part of the forty acres they were given when they were freed. His story has become part of my story, even though I am white, because we are a couple and share a son.

Watching this movie brought so much home to me. Lincoln (in the film) explains why the Emancipation Proclamation is not enough, that it will not of itself end slavery and might not even be legal. He also discussed the effect of taking away the states' rights to determine whether they could have their own slavery laws. If the federal government stepped in here, where else would they meddle?

Would slavery have ended sooner or later? I'd like to believe yes, but I'm not so certain sometimes. Much of the South's economy depended upon essentially free labor. The South did not want to give up their slaves - it was initially a term of their surrender. It took humiliating, crushing, bloody defeat to make them give up at last. If the amendment had not been passed, what would have happened after the war? What would encourage plantation owners to give slavery up?

Even after slavery ended, it took one hundred years to force everyone to let black people vote (rights were dribbled to them beginning in 1870) as well as to allow blacks to go to school with whites. The Civil War was a horror of bloodshed and personal loss. Its aftermath, in the South, was a nightmare of economic loss. I wish we could have done it all without what so many endured.

But my husband was born in 1957. Who knows what opportunities he would have had, or would have been denied, if that amendment had been delayed. When I think of how blessed I am to be able to know him, to be married to him, to have our son - well, can you blame me for tearing up a little during the movie?

Go see it. Study it, both the art, and the history.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

A short detour about eye surgery

This is not the kind of material I usually post about, but several people have been all a-twitter about my cataract surgery, mostly because the procedure looms large in their future. On Facebook, I keep telling everyone that it went fine, all's well, healing nicely, yadda-yadda. I thought I'd spend one little post giving you the details.

First of all, I want to thank the doctor for making my surgery appointment at 10:30 in the morning. I didn't have to show up until the civilized hour of 9:30 instead of having to get to the center at some ungodly time when I would be cranky from loss of sleep. The only bad thing was, I was not supposed to eat or drink anything (yes, that means water, too) after midnight, so I was fairly peckish by the time they took me back to the pre-op/recovery room.

I was given the bed at the very end of the room and I expected to put on a gown. Imagine my surprise when they let me keep all my clothes on. I could have even kept my shoes on, but I opted to take those off, so they slipped some booties on my feet to keep them warm. I laid down and was covered with a blanket. Then the nurse went to work on me.

She began with the blood pressure. She left the cuff on my arm, as well as the clamp on my finger that registered my pulse. Then she went to the other arm to put in the IV.

I'm always a little nervous about IVs. I have one vein in my left arm that takes a needle well, but it is deep. I was relieved when I felt her testing my hand instead. My veins there are fabulous. I felt the sting of the needle and relaxed a little -- until she started wiggling it around. She was the kind of woman who talked to herself as she worked, so I kept feeling pinching and stinging and wiggling (I was NOT going to watch this) while she mumbled about backing this out and hoping it held and needing to play with this a little.

I informed her there was to be no playing in my blood vessels, but she said she just had to, then stopped. Then she said something disconcerting.

"Oh, I've made quite a mess here. Are you on an aspirin regimen? You're quite a bleeder."

Now I really didn't want to look. I could feel her mopping my hand up before she taped everything off, between my fingers and wiping my palm. She even put a cloth under my hand, so she must have soaked the sheet, too.

I've now described the worst part of the procedure.

My friend had cataract surgery and said she slept through the whole thing, but when the anesthesiologist came to talk to me, she said they wanted me awake so I could respond to the doctor's orders, although I would be very relaxed from the meds she was going to give me. I admit, the thought of being awake while someone came at my eye made me nervous, but I decided it was too late now. Besides, I was tired of seeing through a fog.

Now I just waited to be wheeled in to the OR. And waited. And waited. Everyone kept stopping by to tell me it would be just a few minutes more. I was mostly comfortable, except that my nose was itching and I couldn't raise either hand to scratch it, one having a blood pressure cuff that made it impossible to bend, and the other having a needle that I didn't want to see. I was also getting hungrier by the minute.

When they finally came at noon to take me, I informed them that I could eat a saddle at this point. The nurse laughed, then tied my hands to the bed. Apparently, the doctor didn't need my assistance and wanted to make certain I didn't try to hand him anything. Then the nurse informed me that they were late getting to me because there was an emergency with the last patient.

Shades of Robin Cook's Coma -- you know my little mystery-driven mind went crazy with that piece of news!

I don't remember the journey to the OR, but I remember seeing a bunch of bright lights. I was either going to have an operation or be interrogated. The anesthesiologist was there again. Her name was Marmalayo (not sure of the spelling), so I kept singing "Lady Marmalade" in my head. At least, I hope it was in my head and not aloud. She said she was going to sedate me, then I felt a little, slow, sting as the medicine went through my vein.

The rest of it feels like an Alfred Hitchcock-directed Salvador Dali hallucination sequence. I could feel the clamp that pulled my lids away from my eye (pretty sure I complained about this), then I remember a light that had three geometric shapes in the middle that moved and changed colors and went from flat to 3D to flat. At one point, the doctor asked me to look at a light, so I did. He said, "Good." The clamps were removed and I took a short nap.

I woke up as they pushed my bed back to its corner. They sat me up and gave me water, then gave me about 15 minutes to make certain I was going to be fine. Then they walked me out to Dale, who walked me to the car and I slept all the way home -- after first directing Dale to drive to the nearest Corner Bakery and get me some of their mac 'n' cheese with bacon and tomato.

Once we were home, I ate and slept. Then I slept some more. Then I went to bed.

The first day my vision was okay but not great. The second day it was better. Now I can see perfectly, both near and far. I paid extra for the Restor lens so I won't need glasses. It was wildly expensive, but I figure the left eye won't be due for surgery for at least a year, so I can pay off one eye before operating on the other.

It's now been four days and I can see far away and read closeup. People who've had this surgery talk about how much brighter the colors are. I don't see that so much, but I am thrilled to see crisp, clear images again.

So that's how it went, for those of you who were interested. Now I'm done. Let's talk about something else. Anything else.

What's your favorite fashion era, and why?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I'll be seeing you

Tomorrow I may be going under the knife - well, the laser - but this day almost couldn't have gone better. I didn't get to ride Snoopy, because yesterday he got his vaccinations and we don't like to stress them or raise their heart rates for twenty-four hours. But other than that:

1. I received my proof copy of THE HOT MESS, so I'll have something to read while I convalesce.

2. Last week I turned Snoopy's memoir over to the very capable and trustworthy hands of an editor. I decided I was too close to the story to be able to tell whether I had told a story worth reading. Today I got an email saying she enjoyed reading it and that it was really good. Like any giddy little goofball, I've re-read that email ten times. I wasn't dreaming - it is a good tale.

3. I submitted my column for next Thursday's Placentia News-Times, after being on hiatus due to the election. It feels great to be back.

4. I got the laundry done, the house cleaned, the dogs bathed, and a pot of chicken stew in the fridge, so I'm ready to come home from the surgery and not worry about a thing.

Do be on the lookout for the release of THE HOT MESS. I'm going to be running a contest for a free copy, and lots of my friends are going to be helping me out. Details will follow.

In the meantime, I'm thinking of a trailer for the new book. I'm obsessed with using this song, although I need to find out if it's useable, Public Domain and all that. While looking around for it, I stumbled across this cartoon, that I think is just wicked fun. I love the way the animators play with reality - there is none! I mean, what were these guys on?



See you after my procedure. And removing my cataract means I'll actually SEE you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nineteen days and two hurdles to jump

The third mystery is done.

In some respects, it was hard to write, and in others, it was easy. I had made Hit or Missus such a tangled web, I wanted this book to be more straightforward. Crime, clues, criminal, caught.

Yeah, nice dream.

What I ended up with was simpler than Hit or Missus but still not a straight line from A to B. I was able to outline the plot and stay within the boundaries of the story I wanted to tell.

The hard part was staying focused on this book while my mind leapt ahead to two other books I wanted to write. One of them is a brand-new mystery, perhaps a series, set in the world of AQHA horse shows. Ah, the bodies that could pile up. The other book is my horse's memoir, a book so unlike anything I've ever written that I barely knew where to start, yet couldn't wait to get going.

But I finally pushed and shoved and got this third Peri mystery written. And you know what? I like it. I really like it a lot.

It will be released in ebook form on November 26, and in paperback on December 10. All I have to do is the advanced publicity, which is a lot of blogging and guest blogging and Facebooking and Twitter and setting up of a launch party or two.

But I have a couple of hurdles. First, there's my surgery to consider. Next Wednesday, I'm having a cataract removed and a fancy-schmancy lens put in so I can see. On the one hand, it's considered very low-risk, simple surgery with a very small recovery time. On the other hand, I can't lift anything or bend over or rub my eye or get dust in it or wear makeup for at least a week. No horseback riding for at least two.

Most of this is okay, except for hurdle two - the part where I can't bend over or lift anything or get dust in my eye and we are supposed to be hosting Thanksgiving this year. So... how do I clean the house or cook the meal? Dale offered to help, darling generous man that he is. I think, however, I am going to throw myself on the mercy of our guests (it's just one other family) and ask them to host this year and promise to give them a huge shindig in 2013.

If I keep my eyes on the release date, I'm hoping these two hurdles, of surgery and Thanksgiving, seem more like anthills than moguls, and The Hot Mess gets the fanfare it deserves.

Give it a chance. If you like mysteries, you'll enjoy this one.

 
"It’s a hot time in P-Town.
No one in the small town of Placentia, California is surprised when Benny Needles’s house catches fire. The outside hasn’t seen a paint brush in years. The inside is stuffed with Dean Martin memorabilia. It would be a simple case of homeowner negligence, except for the body found inside.
Under suspicion of both murder and arson, Benny turns to the one person who has always helped him, private investigator Peri Minneopa. Fire investigation isn’t on her menu of services, but Peri’s weak spot for Benny overrules her reluctance, and she agrees to look into things. Her investigation takes a dangerous turn as she uncovers family secrets, going back several decades.
There are skeletons in everyone’s closet, and even Benny’s bones are rattling."

Friday, November 2, 2012

The next big thing

My buddy Sheri Fink asked if I'd like to particpate in something called The Next Big Thing blog. You know me, I'm just a girl who can't say no. She gave me a few questions and said, "It's easy."

Which it is, mostly, except for one question in particular. You'll see.

What is the working title of your book? The working title was "Burning Mad" but I hated it. One night, in a bar in San Diego, a better title came to me, in between glasses of wine: The Hot Mess. (It now dawns upon me that I could have been talking about me at the time, but we'll let that go.)

Where did the idea come from for the book? After I introduced Benny Needles in the first book, Freezer Burn, and found out how much Dean Martin memorabilia he had stuffed in his house, I knew I'd have to burn his house down.

What genre does your book fall under? Mystery, although don't ask me to narrow the subgenre. I think I fall into the traditional category, with a woman sleuth, even if she does have a P.I. license.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? DING-DING-DING! THIS WAS FREAKIN' HARD TO DO!
 
My main characters are:
 
1. Peri Minneopa, a 50-year old woman, tall, blonde, Scandinavian in looks, originally from northern California. I usually think of women who are too young to play 50, because Peri is a very active, very physically fit woman. If she'd agree to age a couple of years, maybe Mary McCormack could do it. 
 
 
 
2. Skip Carlton, 50-ish, tall, dark hair, gray at the temples. This might be a surprise for some of my readers. My vision of Skip vacillates between these two men:
 
Mark Harmon
Denzel Washington
 
 
Both of whom are tasty. P.S. I double-dog dare you to find any reference to Skip's race in any of my books.
 
3. Blanche Debussy, 50-year old, short, dark hair, distinctive gravelly voice. Blanche was always modeled after Suzanne Pleshette. Find me another little brunette with that voice.
 
 
 
4. Benny Needles, 35-years old, short, round, dark hair, light eyes. Sydney Lassick from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest would have been perfect for this role, if he wasn't too old (and now too dead) to play 35. I think possibly Johnny Galecki could pull it off.
 
Sydney Lassick (RIP)
Johnny Galecki
 

When will the book be available? The e-book is scheduled to hit the cyber-stores on November 26, 2012. The paperback will be a coupla weeks later, on December 10. Which means I better get to work!

 
 
Be sure to check out Sheri's answers! They're on her site today.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Here, kitty, kitty

I do like to drag out ye olde tyme frights near All Hallow's Eve. Yes, this is how ancient I feel, resorting to the original Frankenstein, Alfred Hitchcock, even Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy to get my scares.

I've shown you the trailer for The Cat People (1942) before, but here's one of the creepier scenes.



I used to watch this and get chills. Now I'm thinking about the story. A young woman morphs into a black panther whenever her libido is aroused. She is both confused and terrified of what she is, and seeks help. Unfortunately, let's just call her therapist a bad choice.

It seems like a wonder that this film was made at all. A man named DeWitt Bodeen wrote the script for a title and subject that were imposed upon him by the RKO Studio chief Charles Koerner. Val Lewton was the producer, who had been hired by RKO to produce movies as quickly and cheaply possible. The film came in ahead of schedule and for less than its $150,000 budget.

The movie was panned by critics, but it was a box-office hit. It was also in the theaters for such a long time, its original critics had a chance to revisit and publish more favorable reviews.

I like this, because it shows the tenacity of a writer to work within a demanding system, and make lemonade from lemons.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The answer was there all along

I'm really over at Crime Fiction Collective today, but I've had a recent convergence of thoughts that culminated in one big idea, and you know me, I'm a sharer.

When last we met, I was at a loss, wondering what it takes to own your position as an author (without activating everyone else's gag muscle). As I moped around, trying to think of a topic for the CFC, I decided to talk about my muse.

Me and my Frostie at a show in Santa Barbara


Frostie is fifteen now. I've had her since she was three. She has taught me much, but she has revealed more. One trait that I consider my best AND worst (and have given to Peri) is my stubbornness. I never knew how stubborn I was until I bought Frostie and she revealed my flaw/superpower. 

Riding did not come naturally to me, so I had to fight hard to develop my balance. This involved many lessons with my trainer holding the long line while Frostie loped around, with me in the saddle, no stirrups and no reins. I had to learn to relax at the small of my back and let my hips follow my horse, instead of fighting her.

While I learned, I found myself sliding right and left, and flopping forward and back - and frightened to tears the entire time. I kept telling myself that I was a grown woman who was PAYING for the lesson and had the absolute right to stop and get off my horse. But I didn't.

I was too stubborn to quit.

Frostie also taught me confidence. She is a skittish horse, given to spooking at plastic bags, trash cans that have been moved, and ghosts. Apart from the obvious problem when I was in the saddle (see stubbornness, above), it was hard to lead her anywhere without having her startle and jump, usually on me. Learning to keep her attention and calm her down gave me a new level of self-assurance.

It also saved my feet.

The day after I wrote the CFC post about her, I was sitting at the ranch, waiting for a student. I had already gone to Snoopy's stall and petted him, and kissed his nose, and told him about his book. Then I visited Frostie and talked to her about her modeling gig and how pretty the pictures turned out. There was also scratching and smooching. Now I sat and looked out at the arena, to Frostie who was in her stall, looking back at me.

And it dawned on me what a lucky, lucky person I am to have these horses. Me, who loved horses from before the womb, who was denied them until she had decided that dream might not survive, and who was able to dream again thanks to a caring husband. I started crying a little, then, because I felt such intense happiness and blessings.

So now I'm at a loss AND I'm a mess.

But I thought about what Frostie had taught me. Confidence and a stubborn streak. Why am I stressing about being recognized as what I am? I'm an author. If you don't believe me, I won't give up until I change your mind.

And when all else fails, I try to channel this woman:



After all, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death."

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