"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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two halves of a whole

Last Friday, I went to the Southern California Writer's Conference in Newport Beach. I spent three days and two nights talking about writing and publishing and juggling and jousting and goat farming, all from eight in the morning until about midnight-thirty. Exhausting. Exhiliarating. FunFunFun.

On Sunday afternoon, I came home, did laundry and left Monday for San Diego, where I spent four days and three nights at the California Special Districts Association Conference, talking about pension reform, leadership, ethics, strategic planning, and the Brown Act, from nine in the morning until four-thirty in the afternoon. Relaxing.

Is it any wonder I feel like I'm traveling in two separate timelines, leading two lives?

Actually, there was a point of convergence.

In between Judy Reeves' workshop about the craft of writing and how to use your own life and people in it to write your stories, and Sally van Haitsma's unique bravery, as an agent, to extol the possibilities of self-publication, I went to Sheri Fink's workshop. She spoke of the kinds of tools she used successfully to become a best-selling children's author.

I took notes like a crazy woman.

By the time I went to the last workshop on Sunday, Jeff Michaels was asking me what my goals are (okay, he was asking the whole room, but I was listening). I wrote, "GOALS: 1 yr... 5 yr... 10 yr." At the end of his session he asked us all to write the title of our next book, our name, the publication date, then autograph it to him.

My next book technically is the mystery, but my mind leapt to my Snoopy memoir. I do not have a title for it yet, but I wrote, "The Broke-Legged Winner by Gayle Carline." I've been thinking that August would be a good release time for it, since the AQHA World shows start then, and I might get some traction in the Quarter Horse community. So I added, "August," and was prepared to write "2013" when something stopped me.

I still have to finish the book, edit the book, send it to beta readers, send it to an editor, get the cover photo shot, and move it toward publication. Jennifer Silva Redmond told me, "For an author, a book's publication can't come soon enough and for the publisher, it's always too soon."

I wrote, "August 2014" instead. It felt empowering, as if I'd taken a step toward a plan and not just a wish.

Soon I was whisked from the creative world and plunked into the business community, trying not to feel the itch of my fingers wanting to write, and focusing on how to operate as a director in a special district.

One of the first things I heard was JR Martinez as the keynote speaker, talking about goal setting in a way that brought everyone to tears. Then I met with a consultant who does strategic planning for cities, counties and special districts. Finally there was a woman who spoke of leading a team toward a goal, instead of managing to the next deadline.

Goal setting. Strategic planning. Charting a course. Evaluating at intervals. Making corrections.

I keep thinking this book business is mostly about luck. How did all those people find Fifty Shades of Grey and not my books? Well, other than the fact they were looking for erotica and fan fiction. How do I get more visibility?

I'm pretty sure throwing money at it isn't going to work. As Sally van Haitsma said, "There are lots of people trying to sell you a pick & axe to find the gold, but you have to be on the right part of the mountain."

In one week of two wildly different conferences, I feel like I've been given the tools to find the right part of that mountain. Stay tuned. I'm pumped.

Ho-ome-ward bound.

I'm on my way home from San Diego, but you can visit me today on the Crime Fiction Collective blog. It's like I never left!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Angry Beavers

Go ahead, make your jokes, take your shots.

Norbert and Daggett are two brothers, living in the Pacific Northwest - or possibly Canada, I'm not sure. Norbert is the voice of reason and has a high-LAIR-ee-us way of pronouncing words. Daggett is, well, ADHD.

Here's an episode:

What a couple of spooty spootheads.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I *heart* cartoons

So that's what you're all gonna get this week.

When I was little and everyone thought I was going to be an artist, I wanted to be an animation artist and work for Walt Disney and make wonderful movies like Bambi, or Lady and the Tramp.

Or a veterinarian. Or a jockey.

To this day, cartoons have a soft-warm-fuzzy place in my cold little murderous heart. I love them. I love that you can do ANYTHING in animation, from growing wings and flying to walking on rainbows, and yet a good script, plus some good artists can generate as much emotional impact as the best live action movie.

I actually preferred Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies to the Disney cartoons, except for Chip 'n Dale. Maybe I was a mean little kid, but I liked a little edge to my humor.

I indoctrinated Marcus at an early age. When his friends were watching Barney, he was learning to drop an anvil on a coyote, which was a better lesson, especially in southern California. Then we discovered Nickelodeon, a cable station that was blooming with wonderful cartoons in the 90's.

This is one of our favorites, Hey Arnold!

I love that little football head. But only in the most platonic way - Helga would whup my tush otherwise!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


It's no secret, to anyone who knows me, that horses are my passion. I started my writing career when I bought my first horse. I cannot explain the way they affect me, but it's beyond love.

I saw this show several years ago. I highly recommend it, and would see it again.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Writers: Dean Koontz

I heard him speak at the Fullerton Library last year. He's fascinating, funny, and humble. He is also miles away from any of the writers I know who are working today. His work ethic, as well as the massive wealth he has accumulated in an industry that seems to expect its workers to starve, amazes me.

Is it wrong of me to covet his library?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Writers: Anne Lamott

Since I am off to a writer's conference for the next three days, I thought I would provide you with three days of videos of writers talking about their books, their craft, their dogs, whatever.

I'm beginning with Anne Lamott because her book, Bird by Bird, is the first rather elegant book on writing I read and devoured and used.

Enjoy her. Take from her what you can.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hello I must be going.

Okay, you know I can't post that title without giving you this (apologies for all the ads):

On Friday, I head down to Newport Beach to the 10th Annual Southern California Writers Conference, Los Angeles. Wish I could actually get this blog to SAY that in radio announcer's voice. If you haven't been to a working conference, you need to find one and go. If you want to know why, go the the conference website and watch some of the videos on SCWC-TV.

A good conference inspires you, educates you, helps you find your tribe as well as your voice. You come home with itchy fingertips and a brain chock full o' stories. If you live in the southern California area and you're not attending this, I'd say, "neener neener more for me" except I don't believe that. There's plenty of good stuff to go around at these things.

I do wish you'd come. We'd have such a fab time together.

I get home on Sunday, repack my bag, and run down to San Diego for a convention about Special Districts. I need to go learn more about Special Districts because I am a library trustee (at least until the elections in November and then who knows), and our library is a Special District.

Conventions are not like conferences in the least. Conferences are more for a common grouping of people who want to know how to do something better. Conventions can have a wide assortment of types, all looking for information on different things. For example, Bouchercon is a convention for mystery writers AND readers. The readers want to meet their favorite author, find new authors, and talk about books. The writers want to meet their readers and talk about writing books. And maybe have drinks in the bar with Lee Child.

Both are essential.

In between these two, I really SHOULD go to the Sisters in Crime OC meeting on Sunday, especially since I'm the secretary. Tune in later to see how that day worked itself out.

If I've got time today, I'll schedule a few examples of extreme silliness to keep you company while I'm gone. I'm not promising anything, since I also just realized I need to write and schedule a post for next Thursday over at the Crime Fiction Collective.

In the meantime, in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, here are five reasons I could never be a pirate:

1. I can't rrroll my Rrrs.
2. My crrrew would get tirrred of my orrrderrring them to "Squab the deck," then laughing maniacally.
3. I have motion sickness and would thrrrow up on the open seas.
4. I rrreally rrrequirrre rrregularrr bathing.
5. I sunburrrn easily.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Squee! I got something cool!

I worked a fundraiser last Saturday, as most of you know. As with most fundraisers, this one had baskets of goodies to be purchased in a silent auction. I won this basket:

"Won" as in "was top bidder and paid money to take home."

It's a cool Dashiell Hammett basket and I was the only bidder because no one recognized who Dashiell Hammett is and what the basket contained. Ha Ha, more for me. Yes, it's nice to have my own copy of The Thin Man. I've actually already got the DVD collection of Thin Man movies. What I really wanted was this:

Look closely at the upper left corner.

These are two previously unpublished novellas, written by Hammett specifically for the films that became After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man. They've been edited by his granddaughter, Julie M. Rivett, who signed this copy. This advanced reader copy.

Oh, yeah. I'm in heaven.

Never saw a Thin Man movie? Watch this clip of moments from several of the films. You'll want to watch them all.

I love Nick and Nora.

Still galavanting

I'm not here today, either. I'm over at the Crime Fiction Collective, where I try to say something witty and/or worthwhile every other Thursday. If I keep flitting about like this, I don't know when the dishes will ever get washed, or the dogs walked, or the manuscript edited.

Come visit me at CFC. I'll be back here on Friday.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A stranger in a strange land

I'm not here today. I'm over at a new blog I discovered, called Writers Who Kill. They contacted me, after reading my posts at Crime Fiction Collective, and asked me to be their guest. I was, of course, happy to oblige.

They sent me a list of questions, which were interesting and fun. They also made certain my guest post was on a day I'd be available for interacting with readers who left comments. Good idea. If you visit their blogsite, you'll see they're an uber-organized group.

A delightful time was had by all. Come see for yourself.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

A taste of the third story

Hola, Peeps!

I'm off to volunteer at a fundraiser today, to raise money for Aplastic Anemia and MDS (think Robin Roberts), but I wanted to post something because I never want you to think I've wandered off and forgotten about you. So here's a scene from the new mystery. Still wishing I had a title.

(Note: This is a scene with our plucky heroine, Peri, and her sidekick, Benny. They are in Benny's home, which has been partially decimated by fire.)

* * * * *

They returned down the stairs, taking care to step lightly until they reached the bottom. Peri turned the light toward the front door, then stopped.

"Stay here. I want to look in your mom's room one more time."
She walked back into the small bedroom. This used to be the guest room, but as Mrs. Needles got older, climbing the stairs became more difficult for her. Peri remembered the day she helped move Benny's mom downstairs. The older woman supervised where to put everything, clearly uncomfortable that she could not do any of the heavy lifting. Her son arranged and coordinated it all, so that the clothes were hung in order of item and color. Even the glass bottles on the dresser were lined up by size. Peri was just the muscle.
The room now smelled of perfume and smoke and death. This time she detected a whiff of whiskey as well. It must have been a leftover of Alex's.
Creeping around the bed, she leaned over and lifted the bedspread, shining the light underneath. She wanted to see further, but didn't want to get her slacks filthy. Toward the headboard, something glowed white, so she reached for it. Just another mortgage statement.
But it was relatively clean, so she placed it on the ground and put her knees on it. She could now see completely under the bed. There was nothing else there, apart from waterlogged dust bunnies.
Standing, she picked up the paper and moved back around toward the door. She was almost out when she heard a thump in the closet. Her flashlight swung around toward the noise. It stopped.
Peri knew someone or something was in there. She could feel a presence, however, she wasn't certain how to proceed. It would be easy enough to swing the door open and expose whoever was there. The problem would be if it was someone armed with a weapon. Peri had her pocket flashlight and a pink snakeskin tote. They weren't the best means of self defense for a private investigator.
I really need to get a gun.
She looked around the room, trying to find a stick or pipe or anything she could swing at the intruder. Suddenly, she felt two hands on her back, pushing her forward. She fell to her knees, hard, breaking her fall with her hands. The glass embedded in the carpet dug into her palms as her left wrist twisted, and her forehead hit the bed's footboard.
"Ow-ow-ow." Peri tried not to scream, but it all hurt. She turned to see who had pushed her, but they were gone. Maybe Benny saw them run out. She yelled out to him. "Benny — someone's in the house."
There was no answer, which worried her. She felt around the floor until her fingers located the flashlight, then pushed to her feet and ran back into the living room. Benny wasn't there. She raced through the house, calling for Benny and shining the flashlight into every corner. He was gone.
Peri's stomach lurched. She looked at her hands and saw how bloody they were from the glass. Her left wrist was already getting larger than the right.
Oh my god, they took him. We weren't supposed to be here, and now he's gone.
She ran out of the house, slamming the door, and then reached for her cell phone. That's when she saw Benny, sitting behind the wheel of his Caddy. He was rocking out to Dino singing "Mambo Italiano." She nearly cried in relief, and hobbled to the passenger side.
"Miss Peri, you're so messy. What happened?"
"I fell down." She glanced at her stained and blacked slacks. The knees had little glass shards poking out of them, which she brushed off. Might as well toss them in the trash now.
She started to ask Benny if he'd seen the intruder, but stopped. If he had, he would still be screaming about it. If he hadn't, it would be better if he didn't know. She reached for the passenger door, but he interrupted her.
"You can't ride in my car."
"Miss Peri, you're dirty. You can't ride in my car."
"Well, how do you expect me to get home, or get to my car?" Her wrist was beginning to ache.
"You can't ride in my car."
"Benny, my hands hurt, I've twisted my wrist, I need to clean my wounds and see if I need an x-ray. Now open this damned door or you can forget about me working for you."
Scowling, he got out and went to the trunk. He retrieved a plastic bag and placed it on the passenger seat.
"Sit on this and don't touch anything."
She got in and reached for the seatbelt.
"No seatbelt." No negotiation, either. "You can ride in the seat, but you can't touch anything."
"Fine, just take me back to Esmy's and I'll get my car."
It took them ten excruciating minutes to drive the two miles to his aunt's house. Every time Peri tried to put her hands anywhere but her lap, she got a lecture. At last, he pulled into the drive and Peri reached for the door handle.
"Don't touch that." Benny's voice was stern. "I'll open the door."
Peri waited as she was told and managed to climb out of Benny's car without touching the car or Benny, who was as reluctant to offer his hand as he was to offer a ride. She wondered, if she wrapped her hands around his neck, would he be more upset about the dirt or the strangling?
"Let's keep working on the insurance, Benny. I'll call you when I've got anything."
"Okay, Miss Peri." She watched him walk to the front door, then turn and give her a stilted wave.
Peri limped to her car and got in. Only two days on this case and she was hurting. Sometimes she thought Benny Needles would be the death of her.
* * * * *
Hope you enjoyed that, and weren't too confused because you haven't read what came before. Actually, I'm hoping you are intrigued by what came before and want to know more. I'm completing the edits, then manuscript is off to my beta readers. As usual, you'll be the first ones to know when it's ready for publication.

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