Friday, January 30, 2015

Partay Time!

:blinkblink:  I'm sorry, what did you say?  It's Friday?  Well, yes, that's very nice.  Thank you for telling me... Wait, what?!  Crap. 

Howdy Killer Friends!  Welcome to FRIDAY! Partay time!  (Virtual style.)

Okay, so it's probably still too early to be quite that spunky, but hey, what better way to perk up the day than faking a spunk you really don't feel?  Fake it 'til ya make it, I always say.

So, anyway, since by the 'sticker' up there, it looks like we're drinking today, what's your pleasure?

Yeah, I'm drinking coffee, too, but if you could be drinking anything at all, what would you have?  This morning, I'd love a peach margarita.  And I'd love to be sitting by a gorgeous pool with my man while someone else brings them to me.  And while we're at it, I'm thin and 22.  Also, don't want to get drunk either.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My imperfect match, who is just perfect

As you may know, I'm currently training with my dog, Smudge, to be a Therapy Dog team.

Some people think it's a great idea. Others give me a strange look. Still others have actually come out and said, "Why on earth, would you do that?" (Okay, only one person said that, but a few have asked, "Why?")

We had our first nursing home visit last night and Smudge did GREAT. Seven or eight residents, with varying degrees of disability, pet her. The smiles on the residents' faces is exactly why I wanted to become a Therapy Dog team. It was so rewarding to bring a couple of moments of joy to strangers.

This is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I'd hoped to do it with my dog Phoebe when I lived in NJ, but circumstances changed.

When I went looking to adopt another dog, I knew I wanted one I could eventually train for therapy. I had this grand plan about how long it would take and how many dogs I'd have to meet before I met my match.  The last time I'd adopted, it had taken a long time (two animal shelters, probably a dozen one-on-one meetings and a waiting list) to find that perfect match.

I studied all the dogs on the website carefully and then went to the local SPCA with a written list of those I wanted to meet. I slowly walked through the kennels, stopping to watch and talk to the dogs who were on my list. (Okay, I stopped for them ALL, but spent extra time with those on my list.) They were some great dogs.

But my best match from the list wasn't in the two rows of kennels. I had to keep searching. Finally I found her in another room that held ten or twelve cages. I visited all of those dogs too, spending extra time with my best match.

One of the volunteers came in and asked if I'd like any of the dogs taken out of the cage.

I found myself saying, "That one, please," while pointing to a scruffy mutt who WASN'T ON MY LIST.

The volunteer brought Grace and I into a private room. I sat down on a bench, prepared to wait a little while until she was ready to greet me. Usually, freed from a cage, a dog runs around the room sniffing and exploring before it focuses on the new human. Not Grace. She immediately came up to me so that I'd pet her. A moment later she'd jumped onto the bench and rested her head on my shoulder, staring up at me with warm brown eyes.

Yeah, my heart melted on the spot. My grand plan went out the window. If a dog could be this friendly in a shelter, she'd probably make a good therapy dog.

I was pretty sure this was the dog I wanted, but I tried not to get my hopes up. She had to pass an important test. She had to get along with Teddy, the dog I already owned.  (Teddy was the big reason it had taken so long to find the last dog I'd adopted. He didn't like other dogs. He never met a dog he didn't growl at, including Phoebe, who we took home since she just ignored his growling, unlike the other dogs we'd met who all growled back (or worse, lunged at him).

The next day I brought Teddy to meet Grace. We did the meet-and-greet in an outside pen, with me telling the volunteer to hold on tightly to Grace's leash since Teddy had the habit of bringing out the worst in other dogs.

Teddy didn't growl.

I was so surprised I didn't quite know what to do.  I was sure it a mirage or something. The volunteer and I sat down and made small talk, watching the dogs interact for about twenty minutes.

Teddy never growled.

Grace came home with us and I changed her name to Smudge.

That was at the end of June and last night, she did the job she's been trained for and brought pleasure to strangers. How awesome is that?!?!

So proud of my imperfect match!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Paying Attention To The Details

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.” — Stephen King

I live for those little details as a reader. They give you a sense of time and place. They set the tone. As a writer I love layering those details into the story. It's no secret that I enjoy the editing process over writing the first draft. I could edit all day long. Writing the first draft? Two hour tops and I'm done. Once I get to the middle of the story there are some days I'd rather be sitting in the dentist office having teeth pulled. 

Right now I'm busy plotting and writing that first draft. Which leads to timelines. I love these things. I have a suspense plotline, relationship plotline, and intimacy plotline.  

I'm also busy researching as I've have a characater involved in politics. I know next to nothing about the inner workings of our federal government or the what happens on Parliament Hill. But doing research is tricky. It's all fun and games until you get sucked in so far you're never finding your way out. All of a sudden people are asking when supper is. Supper? What happened to the afternoon? 

Then I start printing out tables with sunrise and sunset times. Sometimes maps. Pictures. So I have a sense of the details that need to be added.

That's what happens when I'm in the thick of things which I am right now. 

One of the books I'm reading right now is The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley. It is two stories in one. A contemporary one and an historical one. It is so rich in detail that I have no trouble at all imagining myself in Russia with young Anna and Catherine the Great. It's lovely writing that uses all the senses to take the reader on a wonderful journey.

If you're a writer, what does your process look like? As a reader do you prefer books rich in detail? Or do you prefer a more 'just the facts' type of story?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Say Ya to Da U.P. Eh?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that not many of you have heard or seen the phrase I used as the subject for today's post.  Years ago, there was a marketing campaign for the state of Michigan: Say Yes to Michigan.  In response, the Upper Peninsula (the U.P.) began their own tongue in cheek campaign - using the dialect spoken up there.  Say Ya to Da U.P., Eh?

You see, there's been an on-again, off-again push to try and make the Upper Peninsula its own state, but it doesn't have the finances to break free, and with all it's natural resources, the rest of the state don't really want to let it go.  (Northeast Colorado tried this at the last election, and it failed miserably.)  I don't really blame them for wanting to get gone from the rest of the state.  They aren't even attached - except by the Mackinaw Bridge.  They have a different way of living, a different way of speaking, and they're own brand of rugged independence. 

If you haven't guessed by now, I love the U.P.

I went to college up there and I fell in love with its beauty, and its people, and the flora and fauna.  And the lifestyle is so laid back (or at least it was).  I would've found a way to retire up there - except for one thing.

It's freakin' cold as a witch's titty in a brass bra up there in the winter time. 

Oh, and the black flies are outrageous. 

Other than that, though, I'd live there in a heartbeat. 

So yeah, I didn't start this post to be some kind of travelogue, but if you haven't experienced the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, look into it for a lovely vacation.  Late summer when it's still warm enough to get out but less humid, or early fall when the leaves are turning and before the snow flies.  (Unless you're into snow, then feel free to visit in the winter, because it's awesome then, too.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

JUSTIFIED and SHADOW by Maureen A. Miller

I'm a big fan of JUSTIFIED. It's pretty much my only Must See TV.

Last night was the season premiere (of the last season, boo hoo!) so I hurriedly walked the dog and settled in to watch my favorite anti-heroes.  (If you haven't seen it, you may not want to read further, I'm not including any major spoilers, but there are some minor ones.)

The Good:

The credits made me happy because Jere Burns (I just love Wynn Duffy) was listed.

Also, I'm thrilled that they introduced Garret Dillahunt, who wants to buy Raylan's dad's dilapidated home for a briefcase full of cash.  His bad guys tend to be very evil and very smart, so he should fit into Harlan County just fine.

They gave Tim something to do! (Poor Tim and Rachel never got their due with this show imho.)

Dewey Crowe!

The Bad:

Raylan and Boyd didn't have a scene together. While I understand that the writers face a big challenge trying to put them together in ways that aren't contrived, I tune in to see those two verbally spar.

Winona's hair -- WTF?!?! She's up in the middle of the night, watching over her baby in the crib (there obviously was no baby in the crib when she shot her part) and her hair looked like she'd just stepped out of a shampoo commercial. Was the audience supposed to infer that her life in Miami is so much more glamorous than in Harlan? We didn't need a Glamour Shot for that.

The Ugly: 

I won't say since I'm trying not to put out big spoilers, but it made me sad.

They did a good job of setting up the season's arc. Will Raylan finally be able to take down Boyd? It's definitely suspenseful, what with Ava stuck in the middle. (Not that I really care what happens to Ava…she lost me when she beat up the prostitute a few seasons ago.)

Speaking of thrilling, check out the release from my pal, Maureen A. Miller!!

The Shadow was watching her again. Sophie Diem could not see him. She could not prove he was there.

Sometimes he would approach. On those occasions she tried to run. Running was pointless, though. He would always return. And he would always ask the same question−over and over and over…

Where is Nathan Bethard?

Sophie's boss has skipped town, abandoning their counseling firm. Now a stranger is stalking her. Granted, the man is drop-dead gorgeous, but nonetheless, he is still a stalker. In an attempt to flee him, she seeks a new London.

Surely crossing the Atlantic will be enough to deter her shadow.

Find out more about Maureen's books here.

Last week's contest was a bit of a bust, but congrats to B.E. Sanderson who won a copy of DEADLY FORCE by Misty Evans.

Tell me Killer Friends: Are you a Justified fan? Are you a Maureen A. Miller fan? (I am!)
What's thrilling you this week? (I'm working on edits for The Hitwoman's Downward Dog…maybe not "thrilling" but exciting.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Award Mania

It's award show season for films and television. I have to admit I don't watch much award show coverage besides the opening monologue. Periodically I check back in during commercial breaks while watching other programs but that's about it. Usually I've not seen any of the films that are nominated. Also, usually, I have no desire to see the films nominated. At least in the last couple of years. Although, I do admit to the desire to see the Imitiation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly (two of my favorite actors).

But I've also been thinking about other contests and awards. The Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense is now open for submissions. I'm waffling back and forth about entering. I can never make up my mind about whether to or not and eventually the passage of time decides for me. Other contests/awards including two the better known ones are the Golden Heart and RITA awards and are sponsered by the RWA (Romance Writers of America). There are many others.

And this got me thinking about choosing books. Each of us have our own way of eliminating all the possibilities until we decide on a selection (or six). Do award winners rank higher on your list? Do little gold circles with the words Winner of the So-And-So Award influence your decision?

Stick with me while I insert an aside story. This weekend marks the date of buying the Worst Book Ever Written. Now I've purchased many books that didn't make it on my best book ever list. And some books I've enjoyed even though they might not have been the best crafted book. Voice, story, concept and great characters can make up for A LOT. But this book? Seriously...I can't even find the words.

Back to award winners. I admit it. If I'm looking on an author website because I'm intrigrued by something I've heard, I pay attention if it says 2014 RITA Winner, or the Agatha Award, or Giller Prize Winner, or the Stephen Leacock Award for Humor, or...whatever.

Course, it's only one way I pick a book. There are other factors at play. But it never hurts to know a book's a winner before you even start. Whether you still consider it a winner when you're done is another thing altogether.

Do you watch award shows? Do notice if a book's been nominated or won an award? Do you enter writing contests?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sticky Notes and Other Stuff

Right now, my desk is a disaster area.  Seems like just last week, it was really tidy, but we all know it was more than a week ago. 

I have piles of genealogy print outs on top of my computer. On the monitor base, I have a stack of business cards I may or may not ever need.  I have stacks of sticky notes underneath and beside that - reminding me to do things that may or may not have ever gotten done, keeping track of story ideas for various things I'm working on, and a couple with hints for other stuff.

On my actual pad of sticky notes, I have a reminder to walk my mom through some Excel stuff on Monday.  Next to that, there's a freshly de-padded note to put something in the checkbook.  Next to that is the checkbook.  (Hey, the checkbook has only been there since last night when I remembered I have bills to pay this morning.)

I have a dayplanner on my desk, too.  I keep buying dayplanners and never using them.  This year's is green.  And right now, it has the same things written in it that are on my wall calendar.

And smack in the middle is a lovely card a very good friend sent me.  It's a puppydog romping through deep snow, and above the dog, it says "We conquer by continuing. - George Matheson."  So if I ever get discouraged about the self-publishing process, I'll remember to not give up.

It's a wise thing to remember. 

What's on your sticky notes?  Do you even use them?  Please tell me some of you are more organized than I am.  (Not that I'm totally unorganized - I just go for controlled chaos as an organization method.  LOL)