"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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who is the animal here?

I just finished reading "a big little life" by Dean Koontz. It's a memoir of his golden retriever, Trixie. Let me first say that Dean Koontz is such a huge name, he does not need me to plug anything he does. Secondly, I received this book when I went to the Fullerton Library to hear him speak. He was supposed to sign books after his talk, but had to leave instead, so he pre-autographed 200 copies of this book and gave them to us.

So I love him.

Not Trixie
Now that's out of the way, the book is an unabashedly sentimental look at his first dog-love. Trixie sounds like she was indeed, one of a kind, although I'd say that each dog is unique to the person who owns and loves them. She was remarkably smart, calm, and well-behaved.

I'm not sure what I'd do with a dog like that.

Mr. Koontz takes most of a chapter to argue that we are justified to anthropomorphize our dogs. He gives examples of their memory skills, their displays of happiness, sadness, fear, and hate, and even their acts of heroism to prove his point.

Also not Trixie
As a writer, I'm happy to see animals as more than, well, animals. If you've ever seen my corgi, Duffy, lay in his crate and roll his eyes, you'd know dogs can pout. Here's the thing: I don't know how we don't anthropomorphize animals. We are humans, looking at non-human things, trying to understand them. We must ascribe human characteristics - we don't have any other language but our own.

For example, my neighborhood has been taken over by mockingbirds. There are four pairs on our street who came to build their nests, have a few babies, and then fly off to who knows where. While they are nesting, they are incredibly aggressive birds, defending their turf against all comers.

They harassed me for an entire week. Each time I stepped out of the front door, the female would hop out on our roof and chirp. This would bring the male out, to strafe me. He never actually nailed me, but I could feel the wind from his wings as he flapped toward me to try to intimidate me. He was pretty convincing.

How could I not see this in human eyes? I imagined the female bird saying, "Harold! Har-OLD! The giant is out!"

"I'm coming, Dear," he chirps back, then screams at me. "Scat! Scat, you giant! My nest! MY nest!"

Seriously not Trixie
In my world, Duffy pouts, Spazz the golden retriever has the memory of a goldfish, Snoopy (my horse) is an equine Goofy, and Katie the cat believes we are idiots to bring dogs into the house. And don't get me started on my mare, Frostie. But maybe it's because I am a writer.

Do your pets have personalities? Or are they "just animals"?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


It's a quick post today, just because I don't want to keep checking in on the blog and seeing such a somber remembrance. I don't want to forget, but I do get rather emotionally exhausted everytime I think about last weekend and the horror.

I don't know about you, but I need a little levity. Here's some.

This was back in the days when SNL was funny. Too bad you kids missed it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What is worth remembering

I know, I write murder mysteries. I watch the TV crime shows. The mind of the fictional criminal intrigues me, as well as the problem-solving skills of the fictional police/sleuths/behaviorial scientists.

Real horror, committed by a real person, makes me want to weep. Hearing the perpetrator's name over and over in the media makes me uneasy. Having details of their life thrust at me every time I open a paper or look at the Internet makes me nauseous.

Here are the people I want to remember:

Veronica Moser-Sullivan
Jessica Ghawi
Alex Sullivan
Jonathan Blunk
John Larimer
Matt McQuinn
Micayla Medek
Jesse Childress
Alexander Jonathan Boik
Alex Teves
Rebecca Ann Wingo
Gordon W. Cowden

These are the lives I want to know about. They are the only names worth remembering.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Something of value

This is a picture of me with my grandmother, Myrtle Gail Bennett Wetherholt. We are in her kitchen and she is putting the final touches on something while I watch. (Neither my shoes nor my tushie being on the counter seemed to bother her hygienic sensibilities, so let's leave that alone.)

I adored my grandmother. She was funny and creative. Told stories of both comedy and tragedy. Crafted things. Sewed. Made her own hats in the 40s and 50s, when women wore hats with netting and feathers and bling. She was a great babysitter because she played with us. We caught grasshoppers and taught them to jump through grass hoops. We dressed up dolls. We picked up pretty rocks and pretty flowers.

She was also a vain woman and could be jealous of what others had. One of her many stories was about the time a city girl mocked her for wearing a shabby dress. She was very young, perhaps only seven, and took a rock and threw it at the girl. Hit her right between the eyes, nearly killing her. The thing about the story is there was no regret in her as she told it. That girl should not have mocked her.

Grandma also carried a grudge. If you ever crossed her, it would be a cold day south of the border before she forgave you, and she never fully trusted you again. She could be vengeful, and even sometimes manipulative to get things done her way.

I knew all this and more about her, and I still adored her. Time spent with her, even as she was being cranky about getting old and looking it, was still a treasured moment.

Why am I talking about this? Because of Anne Lamott. I follow her page on Facebook, and I recently shared one of her posts. Her posts are really long, but I love the writing in them. I love their matter-of-factness, whether she's happy or sad or cranky about something. The flow appeals to me. In the last post, I particularly loved this:

"Then my tummy roll and I wrote on the iPad for a couple hours--two old consignment store memories, in two hours, just to show you how painstaking it is for every writer. We're all in the same boat. It's lurch, flail, bog, skootch forward an inch; lurch, flail, bog, skootch. But while I was writing, I felt alive, focused and elegant." (Anne Lamott)

So I shared it, along with the thought that I'd love to just sit on a porch and talk to Anne (and hope I had something to say).

I got some rather negative, verging on vitriolic, responses. Some people don't like Anne and had to tell me so. One person didn't like an essay Anne had written that was anti-Mothers Day. Another person didn't like Anne's last book because she seemed to be a cranky self-centered MIL in it.

All valid feelings, thank you for sharing. She may be a cranky self-centered MIL. Perhaps anyone who doesn't love Mothers Day should be drawn and quartered. I shouldn't say that out loud. Although I am grateful for the card and the nice lunch/dinner from my hubby and son, I am not enamored of the holiday. Let's just say my relationship with my own mom made it an awkward occasion.

Here's the thing: I don't care. I'm pretty certain she is a combination of good and bad, of angel and demon. I might get a chance to actually meet her and see nothing but the horns. But it's really okay. I admire her writing skills. I'd like the chance to hear the words as they spill from her mind, uncensored. I'd love to talk about writing and faith and families and how the two worlds collide. Even if she was full-metal mean and we got into a huge fight, it'd be worth it.

I can't explain it. Some encounters have value.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Crafting my way to fame

Remember last month when I had extra copies of the original version of Freezer Burn? Yeah, this one. I was wondering what to do with them, and thought maybe I'd give them away or sell them at a discount.

Sheri Fink rode to my rescue and said, "No." (She might have stomped her foot a little, too.) According to her, I was supposed to pair each book up with some kind of amusing trinket, give it a Very Special Autograph, and sell it for more as a... (insert drum roll)...

Limited Edition.

It feels like it's taken me forever, but I've finally got a plan. I had a bunch of really cool martini glasses I bought for a silent auction basket that never happened. They were, like, a dozen for less than $20, so not expensive. I decided to make them candle holders.

So far, this is what they look like. I got the green candles (also cheap, $5 for ten), to represent olives, but I think I'll go back and get red candles instead, because they'll be prettier.

As far as the autograph goes, here's the way I usually sign things. Unfortunately for everyone, I sign it this way even if you're my best buddy in the whole universe and I adore you to pieces. When I sit down to sign the book, my mind goes blank and all I can think of is "Enjoy!" (I do say, "Love, Gayle Carline" instead, because I-love-you-mean-it.)

This is the Very Special Autograph. I'll sign it in red, number each book, date it, and did you see what I did with the exclamation point? It's like a little olive, right? Right?

Never mind. Maybe I could make it green.

My only problem with this plan is that the little glass beads in the martini glasses are not currently attached to anything, so if the glass tips, they roll all over the place. I've already tipped them twice, sending beads across the kitchen table and floor. The dogs ate a few of them because their philosophy is, if it falls on the floor, you gobble first and ask questions later.

Should I glue the beads into the glass? Is there a kind of glue I should use? I could use a crafter's advice right about now.

Oh, yeah, I forgot - what would you pay for a book and a candle? (oooh, maybe I should include a bell, lol) The book orginally retailed for $13.99, although I don't know whether I ever sold any copies at that price. I sold copies for $12. I've probably got $3 invested in each martini/candle.

Do I have an opening bid?

Friday, July 6, 2012

A weekend assignment for my Peeps

I'm on the backstretch, so to speak, of finishing the third Peri mystery. The threads I've unraveled and strewn about the first two-thirds of the book are now being gathered and knitted together. This morning I'm going to do a little recon in my neighborhood so I can write the final showdown as realistically as imagination will allow.

Recently, I made a comment on Jenny Hilborne's post in the Crime Fiction Collective about my books having "roots." There's always a core subject from which the plot and subplots grow. In Freezer Burn, it was about having children and being a mother. Peri's investigation leads her to women who have had children out of wedlock, and she thinks she might be pregnant. In Hit or Missus, it's all about friendships and what we're willing to do for people we love, people we are not related to. In both, I tried to lay down the root without bias. You're free to decide for yourself whether you want to have a child, kill for a friend, etc.

This new book will need a little more editing than the first two, not in terms of line-edits, but in content. As I get closer to the finish, I see more clearly what the book's roots are, and I know I will need to go in and strengthen a few of the scenes. I also know not to do this for at least 3-4 weeks. It's weird, but I know from experience that if I go back and edit too soon, the book gets all muddled, kind of like over-mixing the bread batter.

I've got plenty of other projects to distract me, but I'm missing something from the new book that I already had with the first two: a title.

The working title is Burning Mad, but I don't really like it. Your mission, should you accept it, is to suggest some alternatives. Here are the highlights (no, I don't have a blurb or a logline yet):

1. The main plot revolves around Benny Needles' house burning (almost) down. There is, of course, a body discovered. Benny hires Peri to investigate why his house burned, why someone was in his house, and why the insurance company won't pay up and people are suing him for wrongful death.

2. The root of the story is about families and how we survive them. The Debussy family is having problems with their son, Benny is refusing to talk about his dad, Peri is trying to locate her missing brother, and a lot of the main plot is caught up in the families who built the insurance company.

3. I like short, unique titles, preferably with a mischievous play on words. You know me.

I've been playing with words like smoke, fire, burning, insure, indemnity, loss, premium, coverage, family, heir, tree...

Any ideas here? Throw a girl a bone. Please.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My aching head

I've been writing as much as I can for the past week, and managed to get over 5,000 words written. Pretty good words, too. I was kind of set to add more today, once I got my housecleaning finished.

The problem is I have a fairly splitting headache, which is keeping the story from leaping out of my cranium. I absolutely hate to let the day be a waste, however, so I did a little marketing/promotional work for the bird in my hand. In other words, I made a new trailer for Hit or Missus.

What do you think?

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