Monday, January 23, 2012

Going Dark for a While

I starting blogging because I read having an on-line presence was a must if I want to get published.  It felt strange at first, then I started to enjoy it.  It was like having a whole new circle of friends.  Many were writers - published or unpublished - so we shared some of the same interests and everyone was very supportive.  I also found a lot of information I might never have seen otherwise.

But I seem to have worked myself into a corner.  I'm spending too much time blogging with writers and not enough time being one.  This has become especially clear since the beginning of the New Year.  I set up several goals for getting back on track and tackling my post-beta-read rewrites and so far I'm just chasing my tail.

Time for me to re-focus.  I'm going to step back from blogging for a bit until I've got my writing groove back.  I hope you won't forget me while I'm gone.  Good luck with all the great stuff everyone's got going on.

Groaner of the Day:  Dr. Watson arrives at 221-B Baker Street and is stunned to find his friend Sherlock Holmes out front in an overall, applying a pale yellow gloss to the front door.

"Good Gad, Holmes," cried the stupefied Watson, "What is that supposed to be?"

Holmes turned to his friend, one eyebrow raised.  "A lemon entry, my dear Watson."

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Lady or the Tiger - Open Endings

I think you all probably know the story of The Lady and the Tiger.  A man who has dared to get involved with the king's daughter stands in an arena with only two exits.  Behind one door is a ferocious tiger.  Behind the other is a beautiful woman, rival to the princess.  The man must choose which door he opens.  If he picks the one with the beautiful woman, he goes free and has to marry her.  It he picks the other, he dies.  The princess, his lover, sits in the stands by her father.  The man looks to her for help and she signals him which door to choose.  But will she save him or would she rather see him dead than married to her rival?  The man goes to the door and opens it.  And the story ends.

Last night my mystery readers' group met to discuss this month's book selection.  I won't mention the title because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but it had this type of ambiguous ending.  In the final scene, the reader knows when the heroine wakes up tomorrow morning the disaster in her life will be over.  Or it will be the same.  The story ends as she goes to sleep.   

Our group was divided on this one. Some liked being able to choose what they believe will happen.  Others felt the story was incomplete.  They wanted something, perhaps an epilogue, to tie up the loose ends.  For myself, I chose the happy ending, but after following this character through four hundred pages of twists and turns, I wanted to share in her relief and joy when it happened.  I felt cheated.

How about you?  What books have you read that left the ending up to the reader?  How did you decide the story ended?  Do you enjoy open-ended stories or do you prefer to have everything nicely tied up with a bow and no loose ends?  If you're a writer, do you ever leave your endings open to the reader's choice?

Groaner of the Day:  No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Hump Day

Happy Hump Day! 

And here's a little something to help get you over the hump and on the smooth downhill slide to the weekend.

Remember last week I said I had a great picture and Blogger wouldn't let me load it?  Here it is.

A Real Cowboy Knows No Fear.

I love that.

An important fact for the day:

What is a calorie?

Calories are the little bastards that get into your wardrobe at
night and sew your clothes tighter.


This just struck me as funny.

Side note:  I don't want to brag or make anyone jealous or anything,
but I can still fit into the earrings I wore in high school. 

 How about a prayer for the New Year?  (It's only a little late.)

Dear God,

My prayer for 2012 is for
A fat bank account & a thin body.

Please don't mix these up like you did last year.


And on that cheerful note, let's wrap it up with everyone's favorite, the...

Groaner of the Day:  A Russian scientist and a scientist from the Czech Republic had spent their lives studying the grizzly bear. Each year they petitioned their respective governments to allow them to go to Yellowstone to study the bears. Finally their request was granted, and they immediately flew to the park.

They reported to the ranger station but the chief ranger told them that it was the grizzly mating season and it was too dangerous to go out and study the animals. They pleaded that this was their only chance, and finally the ranger relented.

The Russian and the Czech were given portable phones and told to report in every day. For several days they called in, and then nothing. The rangers mounted a search party and found the camp completely ravaged, with no sign of the missing men. Following the trails of a male and a female bear, they finally caught up with the female.

Fearing an international incident, they decided they must kill the animal to find out if she had eaten the scientist. They killed the female and opened the stomach to find the remains of the Russian.

One ranger turned to the other and said, "You know what this means, don't you?"

The other ranger responded......

"I guess it means the Czech's in the male."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Should I Care?

This weekend I went to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  I've never read the John LeCarre novel nor did I see the popular mini-series from 1979, so the story was new to me.  A classic spy thriller with an excellent cast - I was excited.

 I can't remember the last time I was so disappointed in a movie.  It wasn't that I couldn't follow the story - altough one member of our group said it was too confusing.  It was that I had no reason to want to.  The very complex plot had so many twists and turns, the movie was unable to do more flash quickly from one to another leaving no opportunity for the viewer to make a connection to any of the characters.  Without that connection, without caring about the charactrers, the whole story became rather pointless.  Torture, betrayal, even murder lose their impact if you have no interest in the people involved.

Perhaps if I had read the novel or seen the mini-series, so that I had some sense of these characters going in, it would have been different.  As it was, I felt as though the whole movie was just an in depth synopsis of the book, giving me the plot but not the story.  Long before the movie was over, I had stopped wondering who the mole was; not because I had figured it out, but because I just didn't care. 

Plot versus character.  Finding the balance.  A critical part of crafting a story.  Watching this movie reminded me why.

How about you?  Have you seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy? What did you think of it?  Have you seen or read a story lately that missed the balance between plot and character? 

Groaner of the Day:  A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

(tee hee)

Friday, January 13, 2012


Imagine a place where unwanted lives are considered disposable.

Imagine an unwanted child, and a woman who will give him a loving home. But the child is gravely ill. The state will take him back, but it’s clear they hold out no hope for his recovery. They will not fight for this tiny life.

So the woman takes him home. She sends her husband and other children away so they do not become infected, and she begins to care for the child. She nurses him around the clock, setting aside her own needs, sacrificing her own health.

Days pass. At times, it appears the little one is getting better and the woman offers up thanks for this small miracle. But the miracle is short-lived. One infection follows another. Days turn into weeks.  Though exhausted and emotionally drained, the woman does not give up.

And then it's over. The tiny flame flickers, and is gone.

The woman grieves.


Would you have given as much?

Would you have done it for him?

Dedicated to Maria Zannini, in memory of Murray.

(No groaner today.  See you next week.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy Hump Day - True or False

Happy Hump Day. 

I have a little brain teaser for you today. Don't worry, nothing too hard.

Can you guess which of the following are true and which are false?

1 . Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.

2. Alfred Hitchcock didn't have a belly button.

3. A pack-a-day smoker will lose approximately 2 teeth every 10 years.

4. People do not get sick from cold weather; it's from being indoors a lot more.

5. When you sneeze, all bodily functions stop, even your heart!

6. Only 7 per cent of the population are lefties.

7. Forty people are sent to the hospital for dog bites every minute.

8. Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until they are 2-6 years old.

9. The average person over 50 will have spent 5 years waiting in lines.

10. The toothbrush was invented in 1498.

11. The average housefly lives for one month.

12. 40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year.

13. A coat hanger is 44 inches long when straightened.

14. The average computer user blinks 7 times a minute.

15. Your feet are bigger in the afternoon than any other time of day.

16. Most of us have eaten a spider in our sleep.

17. The REAL reason ostriches stick their head in the sand is to search for water.

18. The only two animals that can see behind themselves without turning their heads are the rabbit and the parrot.

19. John Travolta turned down the starring roles in 'An Officer and a Gentleman' and 'Tootsie.'

20. Michael Jackson owns the rights to the South Carolina State Anthem. 

21. In most television commercials advertising milk, a mixture of white paint and a little thinner is used in place of the milk.

 22. Prince Charles and Prince William NEVER travel on the same airplane, just in case there is a crash. 

23. The first Harley Davidson motorcycle built in 1903 used a tomato can for a carburettor. 

24. Most hospitals make money by selling the umbilical cords cut from women who give birth. They are used in vein transplant surgery. 

25. Humphrey Bogart was related to Princess Diana. They were 7th cousins.

26. If colouring weren't added to Coca-Cola, it would be green.

Okay, I have a great picture I planned to insert here but Blogger is being a pain tonight and won't let me upload.  (Stupid Blogger.)  So instead, we'll have to go right to the answers...

scroll down...

They are ALL true .....

I can't decide if I'm more freaked out at the thought of #16 or #2.  (How could Alfred not have a bellybutton?)  

Groaner of the Day:  You seemed to like the short one on Monday so here's another quickie.

The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Circumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Writers' Conferences - Decisions, Decisions

Last year, newly retired and all ready to start my new writing career, I set a goal of attending two or three writers' conferences.  I started checking and found there are a bazillion writers' conference to choose from.  It was a bit overwhelming.  I started by narrowing the list to conferences that focused on mysteries/crime drama/etc. 

I'm going to admit, I chose my first conference based on location as much as anything else.  The Public Safety Writers Association Conference in Las Vegas.  The conference looked interesting and my hubby and I had been wanting to take a little trip to Vegas, so I signed up.

I couldn't have made a better choice.  The PWSA conference is a small one, held in a single meeting room so everyone gets to attend every session (no having to pick and chose), and the attendees have a better chance to get to know each other.   The programs were excellent, lots of useful technical information - the "get it right" stuff - as well as sessions on writing and getting published.  In fact, this is where I made this friend...

It was a perfect place to get my feet wet.

The following month I attended Killer Nashville.  This is a larger conference, lots of things going on at the same time.  It's more about the writing/getting publishing side of things, although there were some technical programs, and there were more pitching opportunities (more agents/editors in attendance).  Again, I was very pleased with my choice.

This last one probably doesn't qualify as a writers "conference" - the Writers' Police Academy.  The WPA is a scaled down version of the training received by the local police.  It's a great place to find out how things are really done, before you put it in your book.   I loved it.

So I was three for three on finding good conferences.  And this brings me to the decision part.  I enjoyed each of these enough that I'd love to go back.  I know what to expect and I'd have a chance to re-connect with other regulars.  This appeals to me.  But I'd also like to explore some new territory, see what else is out there.

What do you think?  Do you attend writers' conferences?  Do you prefer going back to the same ones, ones you know and like, or do you like trying new ones?  Are there any you'd like to recommend?

Groaner of the Day: (last Friday's was a long one so I'll make this short)

Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'

Friday, January 6, 2012

Because You Never Know...

I started taking down our Christmas tree last night.  Yes, I know, I'm late.  I just wasn't in the mood on New Year's Day and it hasn't felt like an urgent need.  But I'm getting around to it now.

Un-decorating a tree is sort of like that accounting term, LIFO (last in, first out).  The last decorations to go on the tree have to come off first.  For us, that's always been the tinsel.

As far back as I can remember, tinsel was considered a disposable decoration.  Before Christmas, you bought a box or two of the very inexpensive thin silvery strips; had the usual argument over tossing handfuls at the tree versus carefully placing it one strip at a time; then, when the holiday was over, pulled off the tinsel and dropped the tangled mess in the trash before carefully removing the "real" decorations and packing them away for next year.

Until a couple years ago... when I went out to buy tinsel and couldn't find any.  No one was stocking it.  No one seems to know why.  Had it fallen out of favor with the younger crowd?  Been declared a health risk?  Could only be imported from some country we'd stopped speaking to?  No answer.  So we decorated the tree without tinsel that year, and it never seemed quite finished to me.

Some of you may remember, we lost my dear mum-in-law, Eleanora, in the fall of 2010.  Mama was a woman who had known real hardship and she never took having anything for granted. She was the lady who washed and re-used aluminum foil, saved the wrapping paper off gifts she received, and usually tucked away the gift for "someday". 

As her only family, everything that was hers came to us.  This included her Christmas decorations, most of which she'd not put up in years.  Last Christmas, we divided the fragile glass ornaments between our home and her grandchildrens', so everyone could have memories of her on their tree.  Then we found a long, thin, soft, wrapping of tissue paper.  Inside, carefully laid out so it wouldn't tangle, was a lovely pile of tinsel.  Mama hadn't bought a new box every year like the rest of us.  As always, she saved what she had and used it again. 

So that's what we did.  Last year, Mama's tinsel graced our tree, and was carefully packed away again when Christmas was over.  And it was Mama's tinsel I was carefully removing last night.

Eleanora Leszczuk knew that you took care of what you had, instead of blinding assuming there would always be more. 

She was a very smart lady, don't you think?

Groaner of the Day:  A man rushes into a vet's office, carrying the limp and lifeless body of his beloved pet gopher.

The vet takes the animal and puts it on an examination table.  After examining the limp form, the doctor tells the man that his pet, regrettably is dead.

The man, clearly upset and not willing to accept the obvious, demands a second opinion. So the vet goes into the back room and comes out with a Black Labrador.

The dog sniffs the body, walks from head to tail, and finally looks at the vet and barks. The vet looks at the man and says, "I'm sorry, but the Lab thinks he's is dead too."

The man is still unwilling to accept that his beloved pet is dead. So the vet brings in a Siamese cat and puts the cat down next to the gopher's body.

The Siamese sniffs the body, walks from head to tail, poking and sniffing the gopher's body and finally looks at the vet and meows. The vet looks at the man and says, "I'm sorry, but the Siamese thinks he's dead, too."

The man, finally resigned to the diagnosis, thanks the vet and asks how much he owes. The vet answers,


"$650.00 just to tell me that he's dead?!" exclaims the man.

"Well," the vet replies, "I would only have charged you $50.00 for my initial diagnosis. The additional $600.00 was for the Cat Scan and the Lab Tests."


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy Hump Day and Who Wants to Save Money?

Happy Hump Day.  First of the New Year! 

But before we get to today's collection of sillies I need to mention this...

Maria Zannini is launching a new book series, 


with the release of


I've read Smart Budgets and it's full of great tips and ideas for saving money, bringing your spending under control, and reaching your financial goals.  And you can start saving right away because SMART BUDGETS FOR BUSY PEOPLE  is available on Smashwords and Amazon for only 99 cents. (Such a deal!)

Maria has also set up a Facebook page for The Frugal Way which is full of money saving tips and deals. 

 Please pop over and LIKE The Frugal Way.  Brand new Facebook pages need to feel the love.

Okay - on to today's Hump Day sillies.

Don't you love taking a nice long bath?  Soaking in the warm water. Just relaxing.

Hmmm, doesn't seem quite the same if you're a cat.


E.T. Phone home.

Stay away from me.

I will get even for this


I'm running a bit long and I think the cats provide enough laughs to get you over the hump, so no groaner today. 

Don't forget to Like Maria's new Facebook page, The Frugal Way.

See you Friday.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Personal Reflections on a Less Than Successful Year

From a writing standpoint, 2011 was not exactly my most productive year.  Which wouldn't be all that bad except it was supposed to be.  When I retired last December, I had great hopes and plans for 2011.  I was going to write - get the edits and re-writes done on Hunter's Way and start querying my little heart out.  I was going to get seriously into, if not finish, one of the other book projects I've got on hold.  I was going to expand my web site and my blog, take some on-line classes, go to a couple conferences, find some crit partners, and really launch my new full time career as writer.

It should have been easy.

After all, during the previous twenty years, I had built and maintained a computer network that included a half dozen servers; over a hundred workstations; dozens of assorted printers, copiers, scanners, and FAX machines; and multiple routers and switches connecting six buildings spread over three counties.  I also trained and supported all the people who used this network.  I know how to work, how to multitask, how to meet deadlines.  And now I have all the time in the world.

So what happened?

Basically, I failed to manage the change from external demands to internal ones.  At the old job, other people were counting on me.  If I didn't get something done and we developed computer problems, those people couldn't do their jobs.  Deadlines were reinforced by a group of impatient (desperate) faces waiting for that installation, upgrade, training, etc. External demands.  Customer driven.

And then there was just me.

Without those external demands and dealines, I spun my wheels, wasted time, wallowed in indecision, failed to balance tasks, and accomplished a fraction of what I had intended to do.  I've measured my goals and objectives for 2011 against what I actually got done and realize...

I pretty much wasted a year.

So here I am, looking at 2012 and trying to figure out how not to do the same thing all over again.  I've got goals and objectives for the new year - a planning device that worked for me in my old job - but not much faith in their effectiveness anymore.  

Any suggestions?  How do you keep yourself on task when there's no one counting on you but you?

Oh, I did manage to let other people down on one thing.  I apologize to anyone who planned on doing the January writing challenge I said I would have in place by the first of the year.  I'm afraid I let December get away from me completely.  I'm still going to try this, slightly delayed, and I'll let you know as soon as I have it ready.  Don't give up on me.  Maybe we can pick a new start date together.

And here's a real groaner to start the new year...

Groaner of the Day:  A frog goes into a bank, and hops up to the loan officer.

The loan officer says, "My name is John Paddywack. Can I help you?"

The frog says, "Yeah, I'd like to borrow some money."

The loan officer finds this a little odd, but gets out a form. He says, "Okay, what's your name?"

The frog says, "Kermit Jagger."

The loan officer says, "Really? Any relation to Mick Jagger?"

The frog says, "Yeah, he's my dad."

The loan officer says, "Okay. you have any collateral?"

The frog hands the loan officer a pink ceramic elephant and says, "Will this do?"

The loan officer says, "Hmmm...I'm not sure. Let me go check with the bank manager."

The frog says, "Oh, tell him I said hi. He knows me."

The loan officer goes back to the manager and says, "Excuse me, but there's this frog out there named Kermit Jagger who wants to borrow some money. All he has for collateral is this pink elephant thing, I'm not ever sure what it is."

The manager says, "It's a knick-knack, Paddywack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."