Thursday, April 30, 2009

Can We Be Correct When We Open Our Mouths?

Occassionally I will be grabbing egregious errors in print or over the air -- even overheard, but there usually are too many overheard -- and ranting a bit about them here. Today's entry comes courtesy of the flu pandemic. Actually, there are two entries. The first is trying to change the media from saying "swine flu" rather than "H1N1." So not going to happen. Lots of poor pigs will suffer. . . .

Next comes to us from none other than Janet Napolitano herself. She was asked why the US doesn't use thermal imaging devices at our borders or airports to identify people who are sick. She spoke correctly about people being contageous before symptoms appear, thereby rendering the thermal imaging devices less than perfect. She then went on to say that these devices don't always register "people who have temperatures."

Um, if we have a pulse, we have a temperature. Or, do we have a previously unreported problem of dead people crossing our borders? What she meant to say was
fever, I think.


Monday, April 13, 2009

On the Ball

I'm on the ball today. Literally.

I spent the entire, really the entire, day at my desk working on my own materials. Most of my friends don't believe me when I tell them I work on a balance ball. Ij've set up my office with my desk, two computers, two printers and a work space at right angles on the left. There is a bookcase out of view on the right loaded with reference material. So, today I was productive.

First, I worked on a personal essay that I plan to submit to a couple of contests. It needs a bit more tweaking, but overall I'm satisfied I'm on the right track.

Next, I finally couldn't put off writing the one-page synopsis for my first Mad Max novel. When someone tells you it's harder to write the synopsis than the entire novel, do not RPTFLOL! Believe them. Yes, there is a format to follow, but when every word counts, it's difficult to find le mot juste.

I wrapped up a short story for another contest, after sending it to my cousin for her approval. After all, her older brother was my model, although I took many liberties with the plot.

Lastly, I reviewed my query letter and all but trashed it. I now have four versions left on my laptop. I can't count how many I've already trashed. Then, I read entries for the query letter contest Nathan Barnsford is running. Some were better than mine, some were worse. Oops, I should have entered the contest, although my fellow writers were brutal in their rejections. Sigh. Where has the civility gone? One would-be-agent-for-a-day, the title of the contest had a terrific quote: "Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have been revising the first chapter of Mad Max 2 and just pulled it up to work on it, when I was interrupted. Nikki, my CWA, who is NOT allowed to climb on the ball -- remember, she is armed and dangerous -- decided I needed to quit working and feed her.

Guess that's my cue to stop for the night, think about the changes I made to the four projects above, and begin again just after dawn tomorrow.

See ya!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Plots and Schemes

I love it when people ask writers where they get their ideas. Here's how I came up with my latest.

Over the past week, I developed the idea for the fourth Mad Max mystery. It all started with a story in the Roanoke Times about a woman who died alone and no one found her body for 18 months. And that's where my plot began.

What if Max lives near a recluse who dies and no one notices? I began fleshing out the plot in my head, wondering where it would lead. It led to thoughts of murder. Two murders. With Max, Alex, Emily and Manny trying to solve them.

All of this was against two wonderful golf courses in Pinehurst, where my husband Terry and I play two rounds on the weekend. Perfect weather. Warm, sunny, green air. Green air??? Yup, pines were in full pollen release. It isn't called Pinehurst for nothing. Great, irritating green clouds of pollen blowing across fairways, coating cars, making noses sneeze. And in my brain stem, I kept thinking about killing people.

Next, Terry and I drove down to Augusta to watch a practice round of the Masters. Don't we look like we are having fun?? We had checked the weather map before we left. It was supposed to be 60 degrees, so we rigged for 60. We did not rig for 40! It was so bloody cold that most of the top players stayed indoors and didn't practice. We'll see how they do.

We sat at Amen Corner, a place which has probably heard as many prayers as the Sistine Chapel. It's also the Kodak hole at Augusta National. I looked out at the perfect azaeleas, dogwood, greens, white sand traps. And plots and schemes continuing to build in my head about murder. We fell into a conversation with two couples behind us. They turned out to be from Kentucky and as luck would have it, they arrived with a camera and a dead battery. (No, that's not the death I had in mind.)

I agreed to take a couple of snaps of them and send the photos along. I wonder what they would have thought if they knew I was planning to murder a recluse by suffocation and a second man in a faked accident. You really can't believe what some people are thinking.

At any rate, from the single article to a complete blueprint for a novel -- all in one week. And that's where I got the idea for Echoes of Silence. At least, that's the working title.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Drama Queen

We all know that cats are drama queens. My calico takes the cake. This morning, she was plinking her way down the stairs, which are covered with berber carpet, when hark! she caught a claw on the fourth stair from the bottom. And because she was trotting down for breakfast, said caught claw caused an end-over-end tumble. She landed on the bottom step on her bottom. Immediately, she did the most cat thing possible -- she sat and licked a paw. She meant to trip and fall. No harm to the cat other than to her pride.

To that end, a friend sent along a joke. Normally, I wouldn't publish jokes here, but this one fits perfectly. This represents just how far we've come in the economic downturn. This would be my cat if she lived life on the street. And yes, stretched out, she looks just like this one.