Monday, December 31, 2007

Farewell, O Christmas Tree, Hello, Daytona!

The Frasier fir dribbled needles, although with an amazing paucity, as it exited the house today. Lights are down, boxes of ornaments packed with a semblance of care, and the pine roping thrown into the go-to-the-dump pile. Christmas is officially over!

Which leads into the next great adventure, Daytona. We're heading down thataway for Sprint Cup testing and Fanfest, which we've never attended before. The truth is, these white legs need a beach in the world's worst way, and if I can get them into some rays and see Nascar at the same time, it's all good.

All this post-Christmas cleaning has me tackling closets with a fierce determination to weed and toss. My youngest daughter says it's manuscript-avoidance, and she's probably right. A clean closet provides instant gratification, whereas the manuscript-that-never-ends ....well, doesn't. I may have to kill off all the characters to find some closure!

Here's wishing everyone a great and peaceful New Year. I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE and feeling an environmental shake-down coming up, along with the clean-closet mania. Oh, and the new bio of Sam Ervin. Good books both. Happy reading in 2008!

Monday, December 17, 2007

December is almost over?

AARGH! How did that happen? I look up, and it's almost Christmas. Sheesh, give a girl a break!

The munchkins are home and the old Scrabble board is getting a good workout. They've become cutthroat players. Gone are the days when I let them win - now I'm fighting for my life, LOL! All the gifts are wrapped and mailed, the tree gets decorated tonight (a live Fraser, of course), and a red velvet cake is in the oven. Life is good.

Now if I could just find time to finish some proof-reading. I declare, I just don't have the patience for proofing. Even reading backwards doesn't help. Each time I look at a page I've finished, there's another typo. Heaven help me. Does Santa deliver proofreading gift certificates?

Gave myself a gift and read Barbara Kingsolver's ANIMAL DREAMS. I may have read it a long time ago, I've forgotten, but what a wonderful book. Her PRODIGAL SUMMER ranks up there as one of my favorites on the Keeper Shelf, and ANIMAL DREAMS belongs with it.

Only sixty-someodd days until Daytona and racin' starts again. Hanging on by my fingernails.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving and gratitude

I'd love to thank each and every person who has written me about enjoying the Tal Jefferson mysteries. You'll never know how much it means to a writer to hear she's entertained someone who picked up her book and couldn't put it down.

The Golden Oars mystery is moving along, despite the holiday and beautiful weather just begging for me to work in the yard. A pivotal scene worked its way onto the hard drive just today, and I'm tickled pink with it. Of course, I'm just trying to keep up with Kat Jorgensen's output. She's one chapter ahead of me, I think, so I'd better keep myself in gear and the engine running.

Have a happy and thankful Thanksgiving, and know that I, like most writers, appreciate each and every reader. What a great bunch of folks, to put it mildly.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Eighty-nine days and counting

Until Daytona. No, not the Cup race. I hate the COT, now the full-time, boring ride that makes the Cup chase an IROC race. At least IROC pitted champions from all kinds of racing against each other, which made for some excitement. Me, I'll be going truck racin'. Yep, the series where the Old Dogs like Skinner, Sprague, and Hornaday drive like demons, and the youngsters like Chad McCumbee try to figure it all out. NASCAR Cup has become the vanilla pudding of racing for me. I'll keep my season tickets for a while longer, but only because it's fun to meet the fans in the parking lot where we all tailgate and chat, swapping hamburgers and favorite race stories. I have a feeling the COT edict is driving out the nuts-and-bolts men like Robert Yates and Ray Evernham. Creativity isn't allowed, and technical edges are squelched by NASCAR faster than you can say "suspension." It's sad. Money men will run the teams and bring in drivers based on demographics and marketing (can we all say Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier, oh, and Juan Montoya...), not guts and sheer talent. Where's Danny O'Quinn, Busch series Rookie of the Year in 2006? Todd Kleuver, former protege of Mark Martin? Only Joey Lagano is getting a free pass, and that's because he's so talented, the Powers that Be can't ignore the kid. Plus, he already has a lucrative marketing deal in place.

Sounds a little like the publishing business, doesn't it? Marketing can make or break an author so fast it isn't funny. Thousands of books pour into the box stores, and how many get that fancy, eye-catching set-up as you walk in the front door? Sure, I know publishers pay for that square footage, but who gets to be the chosen one? No matter how great your book, if you don't have marketing behind you, bonne chance. It's the same in racing - your sponsor's money puts you in the best equipment, if you have a good one like Budweiser writing the checks. The #4 car has State Water Heaters on its hood. I can only imagine the disparity in dollars. It's the same with a book that hits the market. Remember that the next time you pick up the first book that catches your eyes as you enter the bookstore. Marketing money paid to put it there. Take time to head for the back racks where everything is spine-out, and check out a few of them. I think you'll be surprised at how wonderful those non-supported books are.

The munchkins are home for the holiday, buried in homework and theses, which keep them glued to their laptops writing. Wish I could say the same. I need to finish The Golden Oars with my buddy, Kat Jorgensen, before the end of the year, our self-imposed deadline.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Boring, boring, boring - Phoenix wasn't a bad race, but the coverage was. ESPN shows only the 48 and 24 cars, and let me tell you, there was a whole heck of a lot more going on deeper in the field than they covered. Want to know why ratings are down for the Chase? It's the coverage, the boring, blah announcers, and no new stories. There's one in Joe Nemechek's contract to driver for the team that dumped Kenny Wallace - there's another one in David Ragan's car control when he almost spun out - and a good one in Aric Amirola's jump into the 01 car. Do we hear them? Naw, we get more gushing about how Knaus has figured out the right setups for the COT. I doubt I'll even tune in to see Homestead. This is just sad.

Spent Saturday at a Michael Hauge workshop in Maryland. I love to hear how other people analyze stories and how to make them better, and Hauge delivered. When I finally got how he was using his buzz words, things clicked. My new hero had been bothering me because I knew he was missing a crucial element, I just didn't know what. After Saturday, I know. He's now a complete person in my head, just in the nick of time. If Hauge comes anywhere near you, and you want to look at your work from a different angle, GO hear him talk! Many thanks to the WRW chapter that put on the program and ran it beautifully. More thanks to my travel buddies and partners in crime, Kat Jorgensen, Carolyn Greene, and Day LeClaire. We're a wicked team, LOL.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pix from Martinsville

My older daughter sent me some from her digital camera, so I thought I'd post them here. This is me with my youngest daughter. The race wasn't wonderful with twenty cautions, but we had fun with everyone there. Martinsville gets fans closer to pit road than anywhere, except maybe Bristol.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Of Martinsville, Mice, and Men

It's taken me a while to get back to the blog world because we've been on a pilgrimage. Don't laugh when I admit it was to race tracks. After Martinsville, and dropping the munchkins back at their respective schools, we loaded up the truck and decided against going home. So we wandered through Southwest Virginia, stopping at Morgan-McClure's headquarters (home of my fav driver, Ward Burton) in Abingdon, and then from there, farther into Tennessee to Bristol Motor Speedway. The leaves were lovely, despite the drought, and we stopped along the way whenever we felt like it.

Bristol feels like a Roman coliseum. The high seats, the small, short track (just a hair over half a mile) and the steep banks (up to 34 degrees) echo, even without the sellout crowds of 160,000, of screaming engines. As I tried to walk up the banking on the concrete track, all I could think was that it takes steel cojones to drive on that track. I wouldn't even try to rollerskate it.

The Martinsville race was a bit of a let-down. By now, I should stop complaining about the Car of Tomorrow (now the Car of Today), but it seems to me that the racing just isn't as wild on the short tracks like Martinsville and Richmond. It's kinda like when your favorite driver switches genres, and you're holding his or her newest book, going "what happened?" I remember vividly when David Morrell did that to me - went from westerns to Brotherhood of the Rose. The great part about Martinsville is that Ward made the race, the hot dogs are still bright pink, and the weather was perfect for racin'. The bad part happened after the race.

Carl Edwards didn't like something that happened on the track with his teammate, Matt Kenseth, and he went after him while Matt was being interviewed by Speed. The look on Carl's face, even though he wore sunglasses, was ugly. Shoving Matt around, he started to walk away, then swirled and raised a closed fist and thrust it in Matt's direction, pulling back just before connecting with Matt's chin. For those of you who don't follow Nascar, Edwards is buff. Built like a prizefighter. Matt is smaller and definitely not buff.

I've liked Carl. Admired his gusty driving. But the "incident" turned me off, big time. Battered women and abused children have seen that "look" before, as well as the bullying threat with a closed fist. In Virginia, it's against the law to lay hands on someone like that. It's called assault. Carl could scream at Matt all he wanted, and that's okay with me. Beat and bang away on the track. That's Nascar. But shoving and closed fists aren't okay. Carl deserves a hefty fine and probation. What he did in front of the cameras was not only stupid and illegal, it was also cowardly. Picking on someone smaller than you is for mice, not men.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Writing and Vogue Patterns

I've been reading what other writers have to say about maintaining sanity in a world where we who live in our minds are considered a bit ...odd. Exercise works for me - my two mile walk in the morning is more of a plotting session than a physical workout. Getting out into the real world helps - I do my share of volunteer gigs, teaching Sunday School, etc., but I need other forms of creativity to keep my brain cells perking. Recently, I re-discovered how much I love to sew.

I've sewn all my life. I know - it's an old-fashioned deal, but I was raised by women who could whip out a Vogue pattern in hours. Fabrics, their colors, their weight, how they mesh, how they will drape, all attract me. I wandered through a fabric store (a dying breed, I fear) the other day, fingering bolt upon bolt of fabric before I found the right one for a new pattern I want to try. Before the project was done, I'd adjusted the pattern, substituted my own ideas, and voila, produced a blouse that wasn't boring, didn't look as if it had been churned out in a sweatshop somewhere, and fit.

Even better, I'd thought about where to take this new book I'm playing with. Working with my hands frees my thoughts, and even though I'm paying attention to what I'm doing as my trusty Husquervarna runs like a Hendrick engine through layers of cloth, I'm living with my new characters. Talking to them. Listening as they lecture me. The conversation felt as productive as if I'd spent hours spent in my yard, planting, pruning and weeding. Plus, I didn't sweat as much, LOL.

My creative well is now swathed in some very nice lightweight wool and a lovely silk, and feeling quite full, thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Fall is the real New Year

I've been hauling out the Halloween decorations and much to my horror, discovered that some of them must go. As in, to the trash can. How dare they? For years, I've perched the huge,ugly, fake black crow that bears down on trick-or-treaters with a malevolent eye, on the porch. Alas, its feathers fell off in the attic this summer. Other beloved decorations have taken the same path. Huge sigh.

This is the end of an era, I thought. No more munchkins to dress for the Big Day. No more sewing of costumes into the wee hours. That ended years ago, but still, as long as the decorations existed that we'd used when the munchkins did their scary bit, I thought of Halloween as fun. Now, I ruminated, no more buying huge amounts of candy. (Whoa, back up there...the candy stays.) After moping for a bit, I rallied and decided to go for it. Skeleton candles. More sound effects. New stuff! I've recuperated from my malaise, and am happy to say, the house is beginning to look a lot like...Halloween. To heck with Christmas.

The writing is ripping along wonderfully. The Golden Oars is half-way finished, and my writing partner, Kat Jorgensen, and I had a great brainstorming session for the next half of the book. We've always known the last chapter and how the characters get there, but this time, details fell into our laps like manna. We can't wait to finish it and get going on the next book for this group of unstoppable women who don't let anything - murder, kids, grandkids, old boyfriends, new boyfriends, or bad weather - stop them from their weekly session of rowing together on the Chesapeake Bay.

With ideas pinging, I wrote a detailed synopsis for my next solo project, an idea that's sufficiently cooked in my mind to put down on paper. Or hard drive, as the case may be. The first chapter knocked itself out, miracle of miracles. Some Kind of Wonderful is its working title. More later. . . .

So why don't we recognize September as the real New Year? January is just hunker-down-and-stay-sane, as far as I'm concerned. September is full of new beginnings, new energy, and all calendars should being with Sept. 1.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Little Things

It's TLT that make life interesting. I've been fighting with my mouse (computer variety, no hair included) for so long, it's crankiness no longer registered on my annoyance chart. Until one day, I said "Self, this is silly. The World of Mouse has progressed since you bought this creaky, cranky critter. Go shopping." I'm proud to say a cool little mouse with all sorts of tricks up its roller ball (is that what it's called?), wireless to boot, works its little guts out for me. I love it! Why did I stick by my old standby for so long?

I think, in over analyzing it, it's because I want the same work environment. Even the chaos scattered around me has a method to it. Shuffle the order of one pile, and I'm instantly clueless. Shift another stack, and my favorite pen disappears. Lord help me, if I can't find my favorite pen. Forty others, all perfectly respectable and ink-filled, stick their noses out of the Mark Martin cup to my left, but that trusty good one, the one I trust, must be readily available to my right, just in front of the printer, hooked to its notebook filled with pages of ideas and plotting notes. Searching for something, anything, jerks me out of the writing frame of mind.

I must now switch topics and eat my words about COT racing. Yesterday's bloodbath at Dover was incredible. I don't know who or what went haywire (although Kyle Petty blames Denny Hamlin, without a doubt), but cars were bouncing around and off each other like crazy. Those who survived must feel like gladiators who lived to fight another day. Even pit row guys got carted to the hospital - the 55 gas can man was lucky that the tire that hit him didn't take his head off. I'll bet there'll be a lot of overtime for the fabricators, who have to put bodies back on the wounded Car of Tomorrow. BTW, when will they be the COT, Car of Today?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Chase Begins!

The Richmond race was spectacular - only way to describe the whole evening. Montoya's engine on fire, Carl and Junior's engines blowing up with spectacular white contrails, Gordon fighting for the lead. Johnson's charge from "what happened to Jimmie?" to the fore. Loved it. The COT still isn't my favorite race, but at least it was under the lights with all its attendant magic.

The Busch race the night before was a snoozer - it's never a lot of fun when all the Cup guys raid the Busch ranks and play to win. In fact, Kyle Busch dominated the night, so much so, we called it an early evening and got out of the parking lot before the hoards descended.

Met a lot of nice people - the guys parked next to us Saturday in the lot, the couple running Ward Burton's merchandise trailer. Despite the heat and humidity, we survived.

My daughter gave me a new iPod Shuffle to wear when I walk in the mornings. I'm a convert, I must admit. Listening to Buddy Guy sing "Lay, Lady, Lay" as I chug along makes me smile. I just hope no one hears me singing harmony. Sad, really sad.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Racin' the Way it Should Be!

We're off to the Richmond race - the one that'll cinch the Chase. Junior fans abound, and it'll be interesting to see if he can pull off a win. Even if he does, Harvick has to DNF. Long odds . . .

At least it won't be raining, thank goodness. The college crowd is descending for the race (all Kasey Kahne fans, of course), and I've planned enough food to feed an army. Or college sophomores. That's half the fun of the race - the tailgating parties at Richmond. Everyone is friendly, and chatting about drivers and races helps pass the time until the night race.

I'll have lots of good pictures to upload, I hope. Taking some reading I've meant to get to - Thirteen Bags Full came highly recommended. My work on "voice" for a talk at the VRW meeting next week has made me highly conscious of how other authors achieve it. It'll be interesting to see if voice translates well from another language.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Picture from Indy

I realized I never posted anything from the Indy 400! Here's a picture from our seats by the Tower.

September is the new New Year

Perhaps it's because the neighborhood kids are trudging down the street outside my window, dragging backpacks as if they're filled with time bombs, that I've decided my new year is really September. I remember, every Tuesday after Labor Day, checking out my stacks of new textbooks, wondering how on earth I was going to learn everything, panicking, until I was old enough to realize that someone was going to actually teach me. Every September was a new beginning, a new adventure in knowledge, with books at its core.

So here I go, starting a new book. I've been playing around with several plots that I've thrown onto the screen, practicing getting into different heads, under chimerical skins. One is calling me more insistently than the others, so I'll give it a go and see if it still amuses me after the first forty pages. Although I've tried, in vain, to change my process, those first forty pages are necessary. They'll end up in the trash, but until I work through them, I won't know for sure if I like these people enough to live with them in my head for the next months.

The Big Race is the weekend after Labor Day - I need to gather all the tailgating supplies and shop for two days of food that'll work on a grill. Can't wait. While I'm not a big fan of the COT, I'll be happy to see a night race again. The spring race on Sunday afternoon was a bummer. No mystery, no glamour, no sparks flying in the darkness.

If you want to read a good western romance, check out Donna Dalton's THE CAVALRY WIFE at Wild Rose Press. It's available as a download now, paperback due in December. It's set during my favorite time in U.S. military history, when the black troops of the 9th and 10th Cavalry did yeoman's duty on the Plains.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Editing Yourself

I'm a terrible self-editor. No matter how often I've worked on a project, when it comes time to bite the bullet and read the work for accuracy, I'm hopeless. Falling into the story wipes out all attempts to be brutal with my grammar, word choices, and sentence fragments. I'm terribly fond of the whole thing by that stage. Probably, there's a part of me that worries that fooling around with the last draft will shift the stars and disrupt the magic that made it in the first place. Hence, my self-editing is really just another chance to fall into the story again.

Recently, I picked up EDIT YOURSELF by Bruce Ross-Larson, which is charmingly dedicated to "Goddard Winterbottom." Anyone with a friend of that delightful name must know what he's doing, I decided. And Ross-Larson does. He lists "overweight prepositions," ( the bailiwick of most lawyers, without a doubt), weak modifiers, and wonderful tips like "you should examine a noun ending in 'ion' to see whether it can be replaced by a concrete word." (p.9) For example, instead of "motivation," try to use the word "drive." For "origination," use "source." Ross-Larson seems dedicated to clearing up muddy writing and making sure subjects and verbs agree. I particularly like his advice to avoid the "ugly" words like "electricitywise and prioritize." I smell Christmas gifts in the offing....

Last week and this have been swallowed up in the flurry of shopping and packing it seems to take to get two girls back to their respective schools. One starts a week before the other, so at least the sweaty, time-sucking work is spread out. Wait, is that a good thing? Oh well - it's August. What more is there to say?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Writing with "Voice"

I've been thinking about what constitutes "voice," and while I know it when I read it (think J.K. Rowling, T.S. Eliot, Dick Francis), I've never considered the issue of whether you can learn to write with it, or if it's embedded in your DNA. While browsing the bookstore the other day, I picked up a book that had an intriguing title, opened the first page, read it, and immediately, the author's voice came through loud and clear. Ah ha, I thought, and bought the book. Sharyn McCrumb's voice - sassy, sad, or outright funny - comes through as uniquely hers. All the authors on my "keeper shelf" have that certain way of telling a story that makes it uniquely hers or his. I may not like the story, but I sure liked the way it was told!

So, the question is, can you learn "voice," or are you born with it? It's probably half-and-half. The more you write, the more your own voice will evolve, if you're beyond the stage of trying to write like someone else. When you find the right fit of story and voice, the book will take off so fast, it's hard to stop writing it. Those days when twenty pages or more spring to life and your wrists are about to break off, you're writing so fast, are the days all writers crave. When I read a book with voice, it's almost as if there's this disembodied entity, whispering the story in my brain, and I'm there, in the moment, along for the ride as it happens. Those are the page-turners we tell our friends to buy, and we never lend them out because we're afraid they'll get lost. (SEP's Ain't She Sweet - keep your hands off my copy!)

How do we find our own voice? Write. Write some more. Drag your voice out from wherever it's been hiding, and tell it to get a life of its own. It will, if you care passionately about the work.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Indy, &(%#, and Tony Stewart

Now I can say "been there, done that, bought the T-shirt." The ending to that phrase is "I won't do that again." The Indy race, while highly touted, is really a bit of a bore. While our seats were wonderful (on the start/finish line), it wasn't much fun for the minute and a half that we couldn't see the back side of the track during every lap. Sure, the Jumbotron was right in front of us, but still - - even the engine noise disappeared! What's the fun of a race with no rumble?

Still, we had a great time (every NASCAR race has its up side) seeing Ward Burton pull in 14th. What a triumph for Morgan-McClure Motorsports. Bless Tony Stewart for being emotional about his win. To heck with corporate correctness. So let he slip a common enough curse word - it had been a long, hot, grueling afternoon, and he didn't cross any line that offended me.

I've never been to a NASCAR race farther North than Richmond, and the difference in the crowd surprised me. Below the Mason-Dixon, everyone, and I mean everyone, sports a T-shirt emblazoned with a favorite driver or track. That wasn't the case at Indy. There wasn't the same camaraderie either - people didn't seem to want to talk to strangers. At a Southern race, there's no such thing as a stranger, and tailgaters invite anyone who strolls past a tailgating party to stop for a drink or a hot dog. Chatting about drivers, stats, and the day's prognostications is standard fare for the Southern fan. Not so at Indy. Half the people we tried to talk with didn't have the vaguest idea what a NASCAR race was about, much less who was driving what car, and why did Bobby Ginn give up and merge with DEI? Don't know why they were there, unless it was just the prestige of being at an Indy race.

On the writing side, The Golden Oars, about a women-only crew club, is rowing along. The characters, with all their quirkiness, live in my head at the moment, urging me to get them down faster. I'm trying, ladies! My good friend Kat Jorgensen and I are collaborating on the book, planning a series, and keeping ourselves immensely amused as we plot what happens next to our foursome of wild women over the age of fifty.

It'll be a huge relief when the Richmond race rolls around again, and we can rub elbows (and butts, LOL, in the too-small seats) with fellow NASCAR fanatics. Come on, September!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Off to Indy

Yes! Packing now for this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Allstate 400. We'll catch the truck and Busch races at the O'Reilly track beforehand, but I'm really looking forward to our first forway to Indy.

I'm starting a new project with a friend, centered on a group of four women who all crew together - as in, go rowing in their shells - in Virginia Beach. Aged from 50 to 85, they have messy lives, crazy relatives, and a mystery to solve when the 85 year old's boy toy, aged 75, shows up as a floater. We're having such fun with it - I write the angst and murder, and my partner, Kat Jorgensen, writes the humor. We feel we know these women so well, they'll be good for a long series of books. We hope!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dog Days and other Delights

I wonder why these hot hot days are called the Dog Days of summer? Will have to research that one!

The rewrites of LOLA are going well, and I'm discovering how much I like that book all over again. It's a fun story, filled with quirky people who all try to do the right thing. Good folk. Small town with hearts in the right place. Mouths may run too much and spew out the wrong thing, but it's never meant to be cruel. In other words, it's very Southern, LOL.

I have just discovered the joys of yellow tomatoes. My goodness, what wonderful goodies! Try some if you haven't.

Read REVEALED by Tamera Alexander, which I liked very much except for one tiny bit. I thought the hero's motive for being "on the run" was too weak, but otherwise, she writes one heck on an inspirational western romance. I see it just won the RITA (c) in its category at RWA's National conference last weekend. Well-deserved.

Counting down the hours until the last Harry Potter book drops. Mine is pre-paid and I'm picking it up at 12:01 July 21.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sorry about giving Sharyn McCrumb's latest a new title - hey, I may use it myself. Hers is titled ONCE AROUND THE TRACK and is published in hardback by Kensington. I loved it! Filled with insider NASCAR stories, like the one about Tim Richmond, um, exposing himself for a fan poster with all the other drivers. I'm not so sure an all-woman pit crew would pull a time under 13 seconds, but I'm willing to believe it in Sharyn's book. Ward Burton must be pleased with the dedication.

It's hot, hot, hot, but I'm not complaining. As long as I keep water on them, my day lilies are doing great, and the geraniums love the weather. My pikake from Hawaii is thriving, as are the hibiscus plants. Heat, humidity, and flowers - what joy!

I decided over a week ago to dump a book I've wrestled with for over a year. It had morphed into "literary," and I hated it. The writing is some of the best I've done, but it felt as if it had grown up to be a serial killer and I needed to be the one to put it down. So I did. Now that the agony is over, I'm back on LOLA, doing its rewrites, and having a lot more fun. Thank heavens. I've never pulled the trigger on a book I've put that much effort into - so I guess I shouldn't complain. And I'm not.

Oh, and there's no title for this posting because Blogspot wouldn't let me. I was going to call it "Book is DOA but Jamie McMurray Isn't" or something like that. Or maybe, Jamie McMurray, you're the MAN for your smooth move Saturday at Daytona.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Fourth and Happy Reading

I'm so looking forward to tomorrow. My husband and I have made a pact - no household stuff, just relax. Of course, my idea of heaven is a good book, a tall glass, and an umbrella shielding me from the hot sun. I've been saving books for my mini-vacation, but some of them called to me a tad loudly, and I succumbed to their siren song. Read John Lamb's THE FALSE- HEARTED TEDDY last night - I had to laugh out loud at John's thorough and very precise definition of how to violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments with an illegal search. The lawyer in me cheered at this mini-legal lesson. It's a good read, and you'll have fun with it.

My youngest recommended BREAKFAST WITH THE ONES YOU LOVE, and I have to admit, the voice is original and intriguing. I'm still trying to figure out what's really going on, which keeps me reading. I'm going to get into Sharyn McCrumb's newest from Kensington, EVERY TWIST IN THE ROAD, tomorrow, and an old Southern novel called PENHALLY. Later, we're going to watch fireworks from a friend's house and eat ice cream. The perfect day, in my estimation.

In the meanwhile, I'm wondering what the Founding Fathers would think of Scooter Libby's commuted sentence. Gee, if you work for George Bush, you're above the law, huh? I don't think Tom Jefferson or Jame Madison would approve.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Been a While!

I've been busy, which is no excuse, but I'm baacckk. Looking forward to a Sharyn McCrumb signing tomorrow. Bought her new NASCAR novel, ONCE AROUND THE TRACK, and can't wait to get into it. Thank goodness writers like Sharyn don't back away from NASCAR because the PTB (Powers that Be) in NYC say NASCAR doesn't sell.

Can't believe it's officially summer. Looks as if the heat and humidity are coming with a vengeance, and it's about darned time. I'm READY for all-out, full-bore summer. The more of it there is, the better. My daylilies are almost bloomed out, but the hibiscus plants are going great guns. And the calla lilies - oh my. All that garden work has paid off this year, yeah!

Still working away on the umpteenth draft of DARKROOM. We've pinned each other to the mat a couple of times, but I think I'm ahead at this moment. We'll see who wins, it or me.

Friday, June 08, 2007

June 8

Heading out to a Mary Buckham workshop tomorrow. A full day of playing with The Hero's Journey - one of the best tools for writers, bar none. Even though I had a semester of Campbell's Myths in college, I never equated the lessons with plotting my own work until I heard The Writer's Journey explained at a workshop in Houston. Some of us take longer than others to connect the dots... Now, I wonder how I wrote all those years without it.

Hot here and getting hotter. The day lilies are looking lovely (I'm a sucker for alliteration), and after a morning spent planting new ones and some calla lilies, I'm feeling like a full day of writing. Nothing like hours in the garden to get the cobwebs out of the brain.

Oh, we have tickets to the race in Indianapolis at the end of July! Yeah! We've never been to that track, so it's going to be a fun time.

Am re-reading Larry McReynold's autobiography. It's been a while, so it reads "new." The stories told by Davey Allison's, Ernie Irvan's, and Dale Earnhardt's former crew chief reads like a novel. Love it. If you like racin', this one should be on your "must read" list.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Water and the Washer

Oh my - my dear husband has said that, no matter how much he loves me, he's never renting a power washer again. All I wanted was a clean patio and redwood swing. It's no big deal, I said. Unfortunately, he believed me. The power washer, like anything with an engine and adjustable power, lead from one thing to another, and he went to town with his magic wand. Chimney, brick, siding, gutters - it's all been subjected to a Man with a Power Washer in his hands. After two days of pulsing water, we're both exhausted and tired of being soaking wet. So much for a long holiday weekend...

Heading for my college reunion next weekend - I'm too young for this number! It's always fun to see everyone, but I still expect everyone to look eighteen. Someday, I'll realize we aren't. But until then - I'll stick with my story, LOL, that I'm not getting older, I'm getting better.

Oh, and wasn't Casey Mears's win wonderful? He was truly deserving - he drove the better race, and if the "names" all pitted for gas and he didn't, well, they were racing for points and not to win. To heck with that. Go for it, Casey! We spent the Friday leading up o the Charlotte race at Evernham Motorsports Fan Day so our youngest could get a Kasey Kahne autograph on the life-sized poster of him she keeps in her room, and ended up having a ball. Lots of nice people. Charity auction with cool stuff.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Paper and the Writer

I've finally done it - pulled every single bloomin' piece of paper off my desk, out the filing cabinets, and off the floor, and am now doing the impossible - weeding them out. Why, when computers were supposed to cut down the paper flow, do I seem to have more paper than ever? Don't get me wrong - I love paper. Books come on paper. Love notes on paper are wonderful. Valentines, oh yeah. But somehow, the paper that surrounds me has been breeding in the dark like overly fertile bunnies. It has to go!

When I get going deep into the throes of a book, I block out the mess around me and focus on the screen, on the words. But eventually, there comes a moment, as stuff starts sliding to the floor, when the chaos must be terminated. Yes, this is too much for recycling. Only the shredder will do, since once it's gone, I can never pick it out of the recycling pile. How awful to have this love-hate thing going with paper. Bond stock. Linen count. Color. Weight. It's so

And so distracting. I need space in the cabinets, space on my desk for print-outs of my daily chapters. The chaos must go! Yes, she cried, seizing another file and wondering why its contents are twelve years old and no longer relevant, and it's STILL in the drawer.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Writing Contests

I've been reading tons of posts on a professional writers' loop about changes to judging guidelines for a major writing award. The suggested (new) guidelines go beyond publication date and word count, and into how much of this element or that one, belong in each category. In trying to be specific and narrow the guidelines, the promulgators of this mess are making it seem as if these books are written by "the rules." You know the ones I mean - the "rules" that say you must have so much of this element, less than 30% of that element, etc., to be published in that genre.

Phooey. A good romance, a good mystery, a good thriller, a super paranormal, have one thing in common. They're good reads. When a contest for that respective genre starts to narrow its rules, it eliminates books that may blur the lines, but still fit in their respective genres.

What good are contests? Validation, I suppose, that you're writing a book someone else really, really likes. Do they help with sales? With the Newbery for children, I'll bet they do. Newbery Award winners never go out of print. (Hope I'm spelling Newbery correctly!) Libraries will buy more copies of award winners, I'd hazard to guess. But do they make a difference to the public browsing the rows in Barnes and Noble. I don't think so. Readers want to like the cover, get caught up in the first page, and be intrigued by the back cover copy. I know I, and others with whom I've discussed this, avoid Oprah Book Club books like the plague. They're all depressing and "good for you," which equates to the same thing - I won't buy one.

That said, I bought every Newbery for my children when they were young, because I was raised by a mother who made sure I read them. Many of them are books I can read now and still fall into, just as I would any good book. So hurrah for the Newbery! The rest of the awards - - - I'm not so sure. Just write a great book and hope the reading world will buy it. If they do, then that's the best reward, the top prize, in my eyes.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rain, rain, and more rain

Let me paint a picture for you: rain, drizzle, downpours, and a bit of lightning for flavor. Before the race, angel thoughts led me to Home Depot and a fire pit, complete with bags of hickory chunks, as its warmth kept us from running, screaming, from the RIR parking lot. A blanket, a pop-up tent, and a continual fire in the pit were all that stood between the four of us and the worst day possible. By the time they called the race off, we had had enough of a very unpleasant experience at RIR. Too bad. The Busch race on Friday night was great.

Sunday afternoon wasn't racin' under the lights, a Richmond tradition, but at least the rain was a memory. Unfortunately, the COT produced a boring race. I've seen Richmond racin' lead to nails bitten to the bone, but not last weekend. The only excitement involved the question of which Hendrick car was going to win. Anyone want a pair of tickets for the September race? I'm already bored to tears by the COT.

Reading Randy Wayne White's TAMPA BURN. Killer opener. Tomlinson steals the scenes he's in.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


It's almost time to endure the traffic, the crowds, and the heat (well, maybe not heat) for the two day NASCAR event in Richmond. Can't wait! I should be working on my pre-mades for two days of menus, but a break from the kitchen won't hurt the potato salad. How I'd love to see Ward Burton win. I'll keep my fingers crossed for him and the No. 4 car.

Have I mentioned how exquisite the azaleas and dogwoods have been this spring? The long cool spells, interspersed with heat, created a spring so lovely I can't remember the like.

Just finished Mary Balogh's SIMPLY LOVE. The woman writes such a deep third person POV, I forget it's not in first POV. Her emotional depths are stunning. Loved the book. After MORE THAN A MISTRESS, I wasn't sure I liked the direction she was going, but with SIMPLY LOVE, she's baaccckkk...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Week Later...

I don't want to re-live last week, not for anything. However, VaTech is pulling together, my daughter's back on campus and going to class, and the healing evidence of all the love shown that great school is abundantly clear. So it's time to try to return to "normal," which is surely altered from what it was on April 15.

A friend and I are plotting a funny, sexy, irreverent, honest look at women over fifty (and over eighty!) who form a friendship while crewing together on the Chesapeake Bay. They'll solve mysteries, help understand grandchildren, support each other in crises, and best of all, "tell it like it is." These women are not only active physically, their minds twirl a mile a minute. We're having fun discovering their foibles and strengths, and right now, how they'll ferret out who killed the 84-year-old's boytoy. Oh yeah, old broads rock!

On a Nascar note, the Richmond race is weekend after next. Can't wait. Already getting the tailgating gear down, cleaning the grill, and plotting a menu to feed three menfolk. Ward Burton's "VT" on the hood of his car in Phoenix meant a lot to me and other Tech fans.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

I've just been through a nightmare, but nothing compared to the one my youngest survived today on the campus of Virginia Tech. She's fine - and with her sister at her university now, far from the lovely campus that has seen so much senseless bloodshed today. I'm grateful, very grateful, that my daughter, when her 8 o'clock class didn't have a professor show up, decided to go for coffee off campus. It's a parent's worse nightmare - being far away when your child is in the middle of a crisis, and you're helpless to rush to her aid. At least her sister was close enough to be there for her.

I was thinking today how everything, like a bad writing day, falls into its proper place of importance, which is slim and none, when you're trying to ascertain if your child is alive after a tragedy strikes. My prayers today were heartfelt and universal - for the students and their families, for everyone involved with the university, and the law enforcement officers who had so much to handle. Thank you to everyone who called and emailed, asking if (s)he could help in any way. It means a lot to me and my husband.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Rule of Law

I've just spent an illuminating four hours at the Rule of Law Conference, where barristers, lawyers, justices, judges, and Lords High gathered to discuss and debate how and what the Rule of Law is, and how it applies to Religion, China, Native Americans, and get the picture. We heard from the Chinese Nelson Mandela, Xu Wenli, the president of the Navajo Nation, Joe Shirley, Dean Kenneth Starr, Professor Kevin Gover, The Honorable James Spencer, Ambassador Seiple, and the Right Honorable Lord Justice Rix, to drop a few names. The list of legal luminaries is incredible, and I just wish that everyone could have been there. The Rule of Law is truly what separates us from the dreck, and discussing how it can, and does, go astray, and how to fix its flaws, gives me almost too much to contemplate. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.

A charming gentleman, His Honour Eric Stockdale, signed a copy of his book MIDDLE TEMPLE LAWYERS AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, for me, and discussed his writing process. We writers love to talk shop - how much we write in a day, how we research, etc. I can't wait to dig into the tome.

I'm off tomorrow to see my eldest perform in INTO THE WOODS at her college. I can't wait - she's been rehearsing her socks off. That Sondheim is a tough composer!

If you get a chance, try to define the Rule of Law for yourself. Then pay attention to how it affects your life, personally. Study its power in the world around you. It's astounding. Trust me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

New York and Writers

I'm yawning as I write this - I don't think I slept more than twelve hours from Friday through Saturday in NYC. A wonderful group of writers gathered to talk, share, plot, and learn from each other, and I must type up my notes before I lose them in the black hole known as my desk. The industry pros spilled the beans, we talked promotion and its efficacy (and lack thereof), print runs, and publisher support from 7:15 in the morning (on Saturday, no less!) until into the wee hours. Aside from the work aspect, I managed to squeeze in two plays (Journey's End and Inherit the Wind - WOW), and one musical (The Pirate Queen). I'm just not into big, lavish productions, I fear. TPQ was too cold (blowing straight down my neck), too loud (and this is a woman who loves the roar of 800 HP engines), and boring for me, so I left early. I know, I'm an anomaly. Everyone else adored it. I realize my taste in drama reflects my taste in literature, SHOGUN being the exception. I like more intimate tales, character-driven, with a smaller cast. The big stage bores me, no matter how flashy and expensively it's dressed. Reel it in, focus on the inner workings of a man, and you've hooked me.

Now that the fun is over, it's back to work....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Of Good and Evil...

Yesterday didn't produce the writing results I wanted. Reading yesterday's chapter was a humiliating experience - I don't think I've produced such a totally off-the-wall scramble of the alphabet in a while. Cogitating on my literary mess, I came to the conclusion there was only one sane thing to do. Hit the copy and delete buttons. Gone.

So I started thinking about how it all went awry, and the answer was staring me in the face. I didn't know this bad guy, and this was his chapter. He has a role in the story that's rather important, and I've been blithely using him to further the character arc for everyone else. Now, however, it's critical mass time, and he's going to explode on me if I don't come up with his character arc and add some humanity to his denouement. I've been dancing around his evil because, in a way, I don't want him to be lost. But by toning him down, I've lost what made him delicious in the first place. So it's time to get some . . . .and do what I know has to be done.

Played hooky and spent an hour at the track yesterday afternoon as the Busch drivers tested for the May race. Busch drivers is quite a misnomer - I think they were all Cup drivers out there yesterday. The COT tests next week, so you know where I'll be - checking that ugly puppy out. Hey, even ugly puppies grow on you. So do wicked bad guys, sigh. I so want to like my evil character. Can't let it happen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The stands were cold!

The night of the truck race, it wasn't warm!

My honey and I snuggle up to share the heat. Great race! Travis Kvapil shoulda won...

Daytona Pix!

Here're a few - just for fun. Hard to believe how cold it was one night (the truck races were in the 30's), and how warm it was during the Busch race in the afternoon. Anyway, more pictures will follow when I get a second. This is the crowd rolling into turn 1 after the start.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


A couple of weekends ago, I spoke to the Chesapeake Sisters in Crime chapter about "Clues" - how to use them, etc., when writing mysteries. Using a Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston short story from an anthology titled THRILLER, I learned as much as the SinC group. The story's name is "Gone Fishing," and if you want to be surprised, read it. I counted five possible suspects, all logical, all creepy. The real culprit was there, but so cleverly hidden, albeit front and center in an unexpected way, that I couldn't guess "who done it." Give it a read, and see if you agree with me.

The group gave me a glass ornament filled with alphabet beads. I was confused until I read the tag tied to it: "Contains one Edgar (c) Award Winning Novel: Some Assembly Required." I laughed until I cried. So true. There're only so many letters in the alphabet, and we all use them. It's HOW we use them.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Holding on for dear life...

Where is spring? My poor daffodils droop like kindergartners told there'll be no recess. At least it means I'm in my office, working my fanny off. (Well, there's always hope, LOL, that the rear end will reduce because I'm writing, but I'm not holding my breath.) Working on a fun project is a good feeling - I love it when the words pour out onto the screen, and when I look up, it's dark outside and the family is looking for food from the kitchen, which isn't there. Food, not the kitchen.

LIES on LONGCREEK is turning into an intriguing project, with so many elements working their strands I'm braiding words like a macrame artist. LOLA sits while I let the first draft work its issues to the fore so I can read it with clearer vision. All in all, a great writing week.

Can't wait to see what happens at Bristol when they run the Car of Tomorrow (or Car of Today, more accurately.) The inimitable Mark Martin HAS to drive, if he's still riding No. 1 in the points.

Oh, just bought the new Bob Segar CD - and it's all new songs with all the p**s and vinegar of vintage rock. The real deal. LOVE it! The sad news is, I can't think of a radio format that'll play him except XM or Sirius.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Aftermath of Daytona

Taking back what I said about David Ragan, he redeemed himself in the 500 with a fifth place finish. And that David Gilliland! Did anyone notice the move he made from the grass to right in front of Biffle, I think it was? Sheesh, my heart races at the memory! Of course, the real story is the old dog racing the young gun for the finish line. Love Mark Martin, would have cried if he'd won, but Harvick...the man doesn't know how to get off the gas. What a stunning race. Folks will be talking about this one as a race for the ages.

Home now, wishing the Florida sunshine had followed me here. Getting back into the work groove is harder than I thought it would be. Ten days of playing spoiled me, and I'm gluing my tush to the desk chair so I won't be tempted to hop up and clean, fold, put away, and all the stuff that goes with coming home.

However, I do have a treat coming up in a month and a few days - a long weekend in NYC! Going to the PASIC conference for the first time to meet with publishing people and fellow authors. I love the creative energy that's a natural byproduct of gatherings like this.

Before I forget, has anyone out there read any of the NASCAR HQ romances? I was wondering what the general opinion of them is. HQ had samples for three new novels stuffed in the packet with the Daytona program, and they arranged for a speed dating session and other offshoots for race fans interested in their new line. Since I'm an old married lady, I didn't attend any of the speed dating gigs, etc., but I'd love to know if any of you all did. If so, how'd it go?

I'll get pictures up as soon as I can download them.

Friday, February 16, 2007

More Daytona....

The Gatorade Duels yesterday had more drama than War and Peace. Ward Burton (my hero!) got taken out by a rookie, and Juan Pablo Montoya proved he's a fast dude when he has the right stuff under his foot. Poor Brian Vickers - a blown tire creamed his Camry. David Gilliland displayed a true flair for racing with the Big Dogs - once more he's a rookie with an inbred feel for restrictor plate racing, while David Regan had me wondering if Jack Roush has lost his everlovin' mind.

Michael Waltrip and his gadzillion lost points before the racing even began was the real drama. Good for Michael, making the race on sheer driving ability! He took a disaster and turned it into a good story. It's like the manuscript that is such a mish-mash you think there's no way it'll ever come around and fly right, but with hard work, determination, and talent, it finally takes off and becomes a book. Waltrip gets my GUTS award. Good, Unstoppable, Tries to Succeed.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


The Bud Pole Shootout last night was a wild and wicked race, but nothing compared to the ARCA race just prior. The beatin' and bangin' in the ARCA race was nothing short of brutal. It's also clear as glass that women drivers aren't accepted or even tolerated in NASCAR. Erin Crocker got spun just because someone could spin her, I swear. Too bad. Drag racing has a ton of women driving, and they're just another competitor. The nice news from the Pole Shootout is how David Gilliland drove his way up to second, with help from veteran Ricky Rudd. It's interesting how the vets want to help the new guys. It's like the writers I know, who love helping newbies improve their craft.

Lovely to be warm for a change!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Flipping It

No, I'm not talking about Carl Edwards and his backflip off the car when he wins. (Which he didn't do once last year in the Cup races, sigh.) I'm thinking of taking what we would expect in a story line and giving it the flip-it treatment. Stand it on its ear, end-to-end, you name it, just give your plot line a twirl and see where it lands. Cinderella is the prince, not the girl. The bad guy isn't really your bad guy, he's the hero. Miss Wouldn't-Hurt-a-Fly killed her husband. See what happens when you use the tried-and-true and shake it up. Bet it adds just that twist your story needed. As an exercise, take a fairy tale you know well, and rewrite it with a "flip." Get outrageous. I'll bet your creativity has as much fun as Carl when he wins a race.

We're off to Daytona for Speed Weeks. Can't wait, but I'm also torn about leaving my work. I'll take the laptop and work when I can, but it's not the same as hiding in my office and getting the words out. I need to be productive when the weather is as wicked as it's been recently, because spring is a-comin', and I'll want to work in the garden. My crocus are up, and I'm worried about the tulips and daffodils that were fooled by the January warmth. Here's hoping Daytona is warm and sunny. I'll pack sunscreen as a gesture of optimism.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fun Picture

Just for fun, and because I thought the NASCAR fans among you would be amused, here's a shot of Matt Kenseth at Martinsville last October. That's pit row on the other side of the low white wall. Too bad there's no sound or scent capability on a blog!


If you've tried to email me through my website for the past week or so, I owe you an apology. I didn't realize, when I shifted my site from Xuni to Lunarpages, that the webmail feature didn't go with it. Been trying to get it up and running, and I think I have a patch in place, but if you really, really need me, add a comment here. Hopefully, I'll get back to you.

Between watching Preseason Thunder on Speed (more, more, she cried!) and trying to stay warm, (what happened to our lovely weather?), I've been thinking, plotting, and generally brainstorming a new idea for a western mystery series set just after the Civil War. (Or, as we Southerners call it, The War of Northern Aggression.) It's fun to think about, fun start building characters, but I have to remind myself, LOLA needs to get through this first rough polish and rewrite. Not my favorite part, even though I know what the story needs, and it's just a matter of doing the job. That first rush of a new story keeps me up at night, sometimes, dreaming of ways it could go, people who live in it, and how they're going to find their way out of the predicaments I'll throw at them. It's rather like getting a new kitten - all you want to do is play with it. Then it grows up, and you realize it's work having a pet who has a mind of its own. (Biff, are you reading this from my lap? Naw, he's snoring, head on my arm as I try to type.)

Last weekend, we took off for a short break to Chincoteague, home of the Misty book I remember vividly from my childhood. I highly recommend the area, which is charming and, at this time of the year, uncrowded.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Warm weather, early daffodils, and fresh ideas

The South has been blessed recently with spectacular warmth, for which I'm very grateful. I remember one January when it hit 90 degrees F, which, thank goodness, hasn't happened this year. That was just too odd. We're heading into the 40s and seasonable cold next week, but I've enjoyed this respite, even if my daffodils are confused and won't be happy come March when they should be perky. Ideas are p0king through the surface for new stories, and I plan to nurture them through the coming months so they too can bloom when they should. I love this percolating stage, when I think about what's going to happen to these people and how they'll react. Meanwhile, I'm working on Lola, shaping it, cutting it, a book ever finished? Mine aren't. I want to rewrite them even after they're published.

Now that they're testing at Daytona, I feel as if the dark days of No-Nascar are over. Three more weeks, and Daytona, here I come! It's not the Florida sunshine I crave, but the scream of 800 horses on turn 4! Oh yeah, time to dust off the tailgating equipment, dig out the race flags to fly on the truck, find the sunscreen. What is it with the Dodges in the testing? The Toyotas are outrunning them! Go Dale Jarrett! I hope the Camrys give everyone a run for their money. It'll keep the season from getting stale, that's for sure. In our house, I drive a Toyota Sienna, and my husband's in a Dodge Ram full-sized, four door, honkin' big truck. You know it gets interesting when we discuss brand names and Nascar, LOL.

Branding - another interesting topic for writers. Do you feel cheated if a writer switches genres and goes in another direction? What if an inspirational Christian author begins to write sexy, hot erotica? Is that fair to the readers? Is it fair to keep a writer pigeon-holed? Hmm. I need to think about this.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

January and Possibilities

Well, there I was. All ready to write for hours. House quiet. Cat curled up on the sofa. Dog asleep. The Muse kicking at the door. Boot up computer. Watch computer freeze. Watch computer fall into the abyss, taking printer with it. My one new resolution for this year is to forget yesterday. Ten hours of trying everything on earth I've ever learned about computers, and today I'm on my husband's.

So I started thinking about how Scarlett was right, there's always tomorrow. Just keep on keeping on. Get someone else to excise the computer's gremlins. Becoming a Luddite isn't possible, as much as I might want to. So instead of seeing yesterday as wasted effort, I'm thinking of it as a test - how much do I need to write? If the computer's buggy efforts can't derail me, nothing can. There's always a pencil and a legal pad, and to be honest, it felt wonderful to scribble away by hand for a while. Awkward, but wonderful. The words don't fail just because the hardware goes MIA.

Thank goodness.