"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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My side of the story

Snoopy has written in his diary today about how he got a stomach ache yesterday and just had to lay down. (See "Tummy trouble") What he glossed over was the fact that I was on him, in the saddle, when he decided to do this.

I've seen horses go down with other riders. As a matter of fact, I was riding Copper, my trainer's old show horse, when I watched my friend Christine get her leg caught under her horse Murphy when he decided he wanted to lay down and roll. (He was a young horse.)

I had watched Niki riding Snoopy before I got on him. He seemed to be quiet and responsive to her commands. He had started the day quite perky. Ate his breakfast. Pooped a bunch of times. Poop is important with horses. It means everything is cycling correctly.

But he did a funny thing while we were adjusting the stirrups for my turn to ride: he began to paw at the ground. It's not that he never paws. It's that, given the opportunity to try to bite me or Niki, he would never spend time digging in the dirt.

Once I was on him, it felt hard to get him to walk. Nevertheless, I pushed him forward by constantly fanning my legs on his sides. Niki told me to stop every once in awhile to move him around by one leg, so I stopped, preparing to pivot his back end around. That's when I heard Niki yell.

"Kick him! Kick! Him!"

Too late. I felt his front end sink down and watched his knees hit the dirt. It was all very slo-mo. I remember thinking, which way is he going to fall? His weight went right, so I kicked my leg out of the stirrup and dove right, away from him. I probably looked awkward as hell, but I felt like a super hero escaping a trap.

Next time, I'm wearing a cape.

We walked him and watched him and walked him again and worried. There's nothing like seeing your horse down, legs tucked under his belly, head lowered and mouth pinched - I confess, I wanted to weep a little. But after the second walk, he perked up. I mean, really perked up. As in, hanging his head out the door and asking for food.

We decided not to give him more than a handful of hay. He disagreed, but what can he do? Until he can unhook his door and help himself to dinner, I still have a smidgeon of control.

Today I've heard that he is up and about, eating and pooping.

Life is good and every day is a blessing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Off to Monterey!

I didn't win it in a card game, and I'm not Miami bound, but...

Can anyone think of a rhyme for Monterey?
See ya next week!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Conferences and Conventions - what's a writer to do?

I'm going to Left Coast Crime next week. Their website defines it as "an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans for mystery fans. It is held during the first quarter of the calendar year in Western North America, as defined by the Mountain Time Zone and all time zones westward to Hawaii."

Notice anything missing in the title or definition? Writers. Authors. This is not a convention for writers. And yet, it is. It is a place for authors and their readers to meet and mingle.

Writers conferences are for writers, period. They are for anyone who is even thinking they might want to write. You-The-Writer are there to learn something about writing, selling your writing, or marketing your writing. You will most likely meet people who talk and think a lot like you. They will be your tribe members and you will be able to discuss your writing with them because they get it. They get you.

At a convention, You-The-Writer are there to meet readers. There aren't a lot of writing workshops. There are few, if any, panels discussing the business aspects of being an author. It's all geared toward giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at your novels. You will meet mystery lovers who want to read more mysteries, like yours. With any luck, they will become your fans and you will be able to share your stories with them because they enjoy mysteries.

When I went to my first mystery convention (Bouchercon, Indianapolis, 2009), FREEZER BURN had just been released. As far as I knew, I had no fans, except my publisher who was hoping to turn me loose in Indianapolis and watch me reel them in. I didn't know a thing about conventions, didn't know they differed from conferences, and probably missed tons of opportunities due to my cluelessness. The best thing that happened to me was meeting LJ Sellers. She has become a great friend.

For a few years after, I didn't go to conventions. I had no minions, no large flock of adoring fans. What was the point?

In 2012, I was convinced to go to Sacramento for Left Coast Crime. Somehow, I got put on a panel to talk about private investigators. This frightened the crap out of me, because I thought everyone on the panel would have actual P.I. experience and all my answers would be, "I don't know, I make it all up." Turns out, no one had experience, the moderator had read all our books and asked great questions, and it was lots of fun. I hung out with LJ again, met Maggie Sefton, and had a running joke with Elle Lothlorien because every time she and I were in a room with Alex Sokoloff, Alex kept saying, "Gayle, have you met my friend, Elle?"

I brought paperbacks to sell, but nothing sold so I had to schlep them back to my car. Here's the thing: I sold a bunch of ebooks that weekend. While I never met anyone who clambored up to me to tell me how much they love my ebooks, I still apparently met people who wanted to buy my ebooks.

LCC was in Colorado Springs in 2013. That's a long way from California, involving plane travel, which I hate. Still, THE HOT MESS had just been released. I needed to meet readers. So I got on the plane. This time, I got to hang with a lot more authors, although not a lot more readers. I'm going to blame this on the way the hotel was laid out and how difficult it was to meet up with anyone. I did get to brainstorm with people I don't see often. I didn't bring tree-books this time. I saw a spike in my ebooks, not as much as Sacramento, but more than usual and I'll take what I can get.

The point I'm trying to make here is that, with each attendance at each convention, I am gathering more readers and becoming more of a fixture in the mystery community. This year, in Monterey, I'm on two panels, and I'm volunteering to help on a couple more. I am bringing books this year, plenty of bookmarks/business cards, and I'll probably offer a special on one of my ebooks. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

If you are a writer, trying to find your tribe, I recommend writers conferences.

If you are an author, trying to find your readers, I recommend conventions.

And yes, I plan to attend Bouchercon this year. It's in Long Beach!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Nature or nurture? Or something else?

I try not to judge other parents. My son was such an easy keeper, it was almost like not parenting at all. I mean, how hard can it be to raise a sensible child? I have friends whose children were skilled at everything from eternal tantrums to willful disobedience. Honestly, I don't know how I would have handled them if they were mine.

I have a feeling it wouldn't have ended well for either of us.

In all cases, I can't imagine that either the parents or the children thought, gee, let's make life unbearable for everyone around me. I try to think that there are personalities that don't mesh, that Nature gives everyone a raw wound and Nurture rubs salt in it.

The reason I'm thinking about all this is that I was raised to be one kind of person and I turned out to be someone quite different. My mother wanted a little clone of herself. I was supposed to like the things she liked and do the things she did and believe in the things she believed in. This included liking to wear girlie clothes and be a Baptist and bypass college in order to get married and be a wife and mom. She was also, in my mind, the worst kind of racist because she didn't think she was racist. According to her, "black people can't help the way they are." (Insert any stereotype you'd like about the way they are.)

The thing is, I was no rebel. I wanted to please her. She and her mom had a close relationship and I wanted that, too. And yet, I couldn't. My brain, my body, my soul rejected it all.

I like to wear jeans and t-shirts. Yes, I have a tiara and I love it, but the love for bling does not necessarily translate to dresses and skirts. My own personal religious beliefs are, well, my own and strictly personal, but they are not the Baptist rules and regulations I grew up with. I worked and slaved and paid for my own college so I could have a career - in a field, by the way, that gives women an equal break for equal pay. Marriage and motherhood were not a goal I chased, but something that came along after I was already okay with not having them. And when it did come along, I married a black man because that's who I fell in love with.

So... why? I wanted to follow in my mom's footsteps. Why, when given the opportunity, did I refuse to listen to the constant Mom-voice in my ear and take my own path?

What did Nature plant in me that Nurture couldn't override?

I ask these questions because I find humans endlessly fascinating, and I probably could have gone into psychotherapy except that my engineering logic would be constantly looking for an in/out data port.

How about you? Did you end up following in your family's beliefs and values, or did you go your own way?

Monday, March 3, 2014


I was watching the Oscars last night and wishing I could hang out with some of the cool kids on the show, like Bette Midler and Bill Murray, and it reminded me of this book I've had forever called "If... (Questions for the Game of Life)". It's a book of questions, designed to make people alone think about stuff and people in groups talk about stuff.

Samples: "What insect would you like to eradicate from the planet?"
                "What one sentence would you have said to Hitler before he died?"

Most writers don't need what if questions in order to write, but we need this kind of crap if we want to have conversations with people (not counting the ones in our heads).

So I started to think about that age-old question, "If you could have a dinner party with any 10 people, living or dead, who would you choose?"

First of all, I don't want to have dinner with dead people. It's creepy.

Second, I can only invite seven people because there are three people in my family and if I didn't invite them it wouldn't be as much fun. And I only have place settings for ten, so I can't invite ten people unless I sit in the middle of the table.

Actually, that sounds like fun... sitting in the middle of the table on a Lazy Susan so I can turn around and get involved in all the conversations.

So who would I invite?

Marcus and Dale, of course. Dale would soak it all up like a sponge. Marcus would jump into any conversation.

My best gal pal, Tameri Etherton, because she's up for any party, and might be able to keep me from freaking out. (P.S. I already figured out this would be catered, so I wouldn't have to worry about cooking.)

As far as the famous folks? I figure I'd like a nice balance, which would be three women, three men.

Bette Midler is the top of the list. I admire her to death and just know she could talk about subjects that are serious and funny and important and mundane and she'd have something to say no matter what.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is next. He's so freakin' smart, yet such an accessible guy. I'd love to get lost listening to him and Marcus discuss some scientific notion.

Lady GaGa. Surprised? I am, too, but I was super-impressed with her when I saw her on So You Think You Can Dance. She's incredibly savvy about her craft AND marketing it. I'd love to just hear her story, and how she takes an idea and runs with it.

Ben Folds. I watch him on The Sing Off and I love the way he talks about music. He sounds like he could discuss other stuff, too.

Connie Schultz. Yeah, she's not a superstar, but she's so danged smart. I'd pretty much love to sit down over dinner, coffee, hell, a glass of water, and just talk.

Bill Murray - I'd like to have him at the party, but I confess this is the wild card, only because I want everyone to have fun at dinner and he might not be comfortable. If he declines, my next pick would be Michael Jordan. Because, well, who wouldn't want MJ at their dinner party? BTW my house would look VERY SMALL with him in it.

Did I make anyone think, hmm, who would I invite to my imaginary dinner party? Feel free to share!

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