Friday, March 28, 2008


Heading out soon for a weekend of racing at Martinsville, one of my two favorite tracks. It's a little track (about a half mile), built like a paperclip, and full of beatin' and bangin' in a normal race. I'm so looking forward to this one, even if Ward Burton isn't driving this year. I'll be flying his flag (the #4 Morgan-McClure car that's no longer sponsored and thus, not running) anyway. Some of us hang on longer than others, LOL. Busy packing up the racing gear, the Fan View (cool gizmo!), food, seats, and expecting a good time.

I've been examining the effects of class on a future society in a new story I'm playing with. Although Americans consider themselves classless, and the Brits see us that way from what I hear, that's not the truth. While the British and say, Indians (as in Eastern Indian, not Native American) have distinct caste or class systems that persevere despite changes within society, ours are more subtle, based upon economic brackets and racial stereotypes. What happens when those divisions become ingrained and unassailable a hundred or so years from now? What if there's a rebellion to overthrow them? What if the rebellion isn't warfare, but more subtle, as in forbidden intermarriages? I have no idea where this story originated (well, actually, I do) but it's so far from my norm, which is a character-driven tale, that I'm learning a lot about myself as a writer as I work on it. Plotting has been a real eye-opener. Normally, my stories are driven by internal conflicts, but this one hinges on a huge external conflict, and the effect it has on the characters. It's hugely challenging and fun at the same time.

Hopefully, I'll get some good pix from Martinsville. Talk about a classless society - race fans are the epitome. The only hierarchy hinges on if your driver is winning or tanking. Then there's either shared glee or a lot of head-shaking and heavy sighs.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Having Fun - New Blog

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to show a link to a new blog I'm doing with two writing buddies, so I thought I'd post the info here. If you want some straight-from-the heart writing information, posted by three seasoned writers, check out

We've spent years talking about writing and figured it's high time we shared. Take a peek, let us know what you think.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leveling the Playing Field

I read in today's paper that David Reutimann, he of the #99 Nationwide car, said he'd willingly forgo points and money if more money went into the pockets of the Nationwide regulars. He is not a NW regular, having a seat as well in the #44 Cup car. (Go David!) At first, I thought, "gee, why would he say that?" until I saw the broader picture.

As long as Cup regular drivers dominate and win in the lower level racing series, those cars that come from smaller garages without the resources for wind tunnel testing and fancy engineering will finish farther down the food chain. Less money equals fewer dollars to pay for good equipment which equals poorer running cars which equals. . . . You get the picture. The classic vicious cycle. If the racing is dominated by Cup cars and Cup drivers, the series will die. Who wants Cup Lite? If there's no Nationwide series racing, those Cup drivers who enjoy it, like David Reutimann, Carl Edwards, and Jeff Burton, won't have anywhere to play without the pressure of the all-important Cup points.

Establish a hierarchy now. Regular Nationwide cars coming from stables with no Cup contenders get more points and more money. Nourish the little guys. They'll get stronger when there are more bucks to pour into their cars, and the whole series will flourish. Good for David Reutimann for saying what he did.

In a way, it's like publishing. Big names, big stars get big bucks. As well they should. But the more they're paid, and the tighter dollars become in the publishing business, the fewer dollars trickle down to the midlist writers. The writers who fill the shelves and have devoted followings, just not in the millions. The writers who are the backbone of the business. Not everyone wants to read Hillary Clinton's book, paid for with a huge advance. A seriously dedicated group will always run right past the displays in the front of the store for the mystery section or any other genre buried in the back corner to see if there's a new gem from ____________. (Fill in the blank with any name.) As publishing pennies get pinched, these books will disappear. Didn't sell enough, will be the reason. The truth is, the print run was tiny to begin, and no money went into publicity. Do we want our reading dictated by money paid to "names?" Hmmm. Kinda similar to the situation in the Nationwide series, n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring, Writers, and Distractions

The forsythia has finally dotted my yard with its brilliant yellow blooms, the daffodils are hanging in there despite a high wind, and I do declare, the red buds are out. Yeah! There's hope!

This time of year is dangerous for a writer. I have a ton of work - rewrites, new stuff - to do, but outside my office window the yard is singing its siren song. (How's that for alliteration, LOL?) I want to move some plants, dig up a couple of Lelands that are thoroughly dead, and generally play with dirt. Keeping my fanny in my desk chair is taking a ton of will power. We'll see how long it lasts...

I've been thinking about writers and communities. Many of us seek out others who are like us - buried in story ideas we barely have time to sketch onto note cards before another plot pops into our heads. It's crazy, living in your mind with fictional people, for hours every day. Crawling out of our manuscripts takes time and planning, and is perhaps the hardest thing we do for ourselves. My husband knows when the writing hasn't gone well that day, and is a smart enough man to say encouraging words and commiserate with complete sincerity. His creative streak understands mine, which is why we've been married many a year now, I'm sure.

Talking with other writers never fails to energize me. Creative people "get"it. The dichotomy between the non-crazies (people who live normal lives) and those of us who are a bit "touched," as we say in the South, never fails to surprise me. It's reached the point where I try NOT to tell people what I do whenever I'm asked in a social setting. Either I get a glazed look like "are you lying?" to "have you ever published anything? No, really, I mean anything good" to "why would you want to do that?" and "I read some dirty words you wrote, how could you?" (Well, it wasn't ME, it was the fictional character, and it was part of who she was, you idjit!) That's my rant for the day, and no, not anyone can write a book. How many wannabes have started chapter 1, only to crash and burn by page twenty? You can't imagine.

By way of distraction (and there are many besides my yard, my children, and my beloved), I've become hooked on a NASCAR blog dedicated to analyzing television coverage of the sport. hosts a dedicated group of racing fans who aren't afraid to speak up about what they like and don't like on Speed TV and ESPN, not to mention Fox and TNT. It's like having a heated discussion with people who pay attention to how the sport is covered. It has certainly opened my eyes to another world about which I knew nothing. Imagine programming execs paying attention to what the great unwashed masses want? Miracles do happen, it seems.

Since this is the season of miracles, Happy Easter to one and all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not Talking about It

Cheating, the encore. I started to rant and rave about the governor of New York and his poor, beaten-looking wife ("Honey, I need you to put on your sincere suit and your good pearls and back me up when I confess, because I got caught by the Feds, to paying for high-priced hookers."), but it's just too ugly. Too sad. I hope spouses everywhere learned a lesson from this. You can't hide evil. It will be exposed.

I'm working on something new, while I still fiddle with rewrites on LOLA and DARKROOM. For once, I'm working off a theme and not the characters. It's a futuristic story and in it, lawyers are hired gladiators. Reaching age 30 is unheard-of. The characters came to me fully clothed, living, and breathing, but the theme spoke even more clearly. I've always been impressed by Barbara Kingsolver's approach to her books - she starts with the theme and builds a story around it. Never was able to do that myself. But I'm writing that way now, and it's happening. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding, if I can sustain the story this way. It's fun so far.

The Golden Oars mystery, the first in a series my good friend Kat Jorgensen and I are writing, is drawing to a close. We have way too many pages, a ton of good stuff we'll have to cut, but that's the nice part about planning a series. We can use the goodies in another book. The four crime-fighting middle-aged to octogenarian members of an all-women crew team turned out to be both funny and poignant. We love them, and hope to find them a good home. (As in publishing house, not retirement, LOL.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cheating and The Clean Cut Kid

Carl Edwards, he of the super abs, aw-shucks grin, sparkly white teeth, and on-the-surface-sunny attitude towards life, has been docked 100 points, lost his crew chief for six races, and seen a hundred grand fine levied against Bob Osborne, his crew chief. Jack Roush, the Cat in the Hat, lost a hundred owner points, plus his driver, Carl, had the ten extra win-points for smashing the field in California last weekend ground down the dispose-all. NASCAR is proving it's made of stern stuff, a refrain that has been heard a lot since Daytona 2007. Was the penalty appropriate for a lid missing off an oil tank in the #99 car? Hmmm. Roush's guys say the bolt that held it down came off, as did the lid. Accident. No harm. No foul. Roush's Geoff Smith says NASCAR is cutting off hands for stealing a penny. Rusty Wallace on ESPN's Nascar Now agrees -says it wouldn't help the car's on-track performance a bit to have a missing lid.

Then why was a photo of the car, with a backflipping Carl in Victory Lane, circulated by email around the NASCAR garages? The picture clearly showed the missing lid, and the crew chiefs and car chiefs all knew what that meant. Only Toyota has given specifics, because it tested, in Germany, a car with the lid missing, and got about 170 lbs. more of downforce. And downforce means a faster car with better handling. It'll stick like glue to the track and go where the driver steers it.

Did Osborne think NASCAR wouldn't notice the missing lid? Not care? How can anyone be so clueless and be a crew chief? This sort of thing doesn't help Carl Edwards a bit. A lot of fans still remember his on-camera act when he threatened Matt Kenseth last fall in Martinsville. The good ole Missouri boy morphed into a snarling, fist-pumping jerk. Maybe he was having a bad day (well, duh, yeah!), but don't act like the Hulk in front of a camera with a Speed reporter holding a microphone in Kenseth's face. You're bound to get caught. And he did.

And so did Bob Osborne. Play it straight, guys. Cheating isn't the right way to win. NASCAR has taught that lesson over and over - when will you get it? My parents taught me that lesson at a very young age, and I've never forgotten it.