Sunday, September 19, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Have you ever experienced a time where you thought of someone and they either called or emailed you? Or you’ve made what you feel is an impossible wish and it’s come true? Even worse, you tell yourself “If I do this, I’d be better off” and it happens, but not quite the way you expected it to.

I realized my days were taken up running too many errands. Bad planning on everyone’s part where my husband needed me to do something during the week or my Mom asked me to run out for her.

I wanted all my writing time back! I said what I’d love is Monday through Thursday for writing and I’d use the other three days for errands.

Two things happened at once. My husband’s truck was dying and the lease was almost up on my SUV. No way had we wanted two car payments, so we traded in the truck and bought my SUV. That meant one vehicle for now. Since he has furlough days, he works Mon-Thurs. I switched around appointments and now I have those four days I claimed I wanted. Good in many ways, since I can’t escape the house except to walk Barney.

And what I asked for. Sigh!

Then this past Friday I joked “I have my baby! I can go out and be wild and crazy! Do what I normally wouldn’t do.” I had errands all planned. Had a pedicure then drove to Walmart. I just parked when I got a call.

My husband was trimming tree branches and fell, slicing his hand open on the clippers. I drove home in record time and took him to Urgent Care, where we lucked out and was only there for 3 ½ hours. Good thing I had my Nook with me since they had sports on TV. He left there with 12 stitches in his hand.

I said I wanted to do something I normally wouldn’t do. That definitely is it.

So now I completely understand why they say ‘be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.’

And I’m going to think a lot more carefully the next time I wish for something!


Friday, September 17, 2010

When We Don't Look Our Best

Jokes about romance writers used to be we walked around wearing pink, sometimes feather boas (I’ve got to admit I have one but it’s purple :}) and perhaps look over the top. But honest, we’re like everyone else and sometimes get caught not looking the image of a writer.

In the early 1980s I was interviewed by the Orange County Register, pictures taken, the whole thing.

The day the article came out my cockatiel, Shadow (named after my book Dancer in the Shadows) pulled a blood feather. Since I couldn’t get the bleeding stopped, I raced him to the pet ER. I had shoulder-length hair pulled up in a sloppy ponytail, shorts and t-shirt that had seen better days and no make up.

You got it. I walked into the reception area with Shadow in a small travel cage, and right there on the receptionist’s desk was the newspaper turned to that article and a large photo of me. Sigh! The receptionist took my info, stared at my name on the paperwork, looked at the picture then looked up at me. She didn’t say a word, but easy to see what she was thinking, but she also knew why.

Yes, I could have taken the time to fix my hair better, throw on some makeup and find more suitable clothing, but it was an emergency. It seems we’re never our best during emergencies, are we?

Then a few years later, Donnie, my Amazon blue front parrot I’d rescued from an abusive home freaked out and tore my lower lip. I sat in the ER with an ice pack on my mouth, wet hair straight from the shower, yep, no make up again and I threw on shorts and a t-shirt by the time my husband got home from work to take me to the ER. At least this time there was no newspaper picture lying around showing me at my best when I’m there looking at my worst. Although, what made it bad for me was the super cute male nurse who helped treat me. I ended up with six stitches in my lower lip and the doctor used what looked like turquoise fishing line. Funny thing was my husband and I went to a parrot mart at the fairgrounds that weekend and every breeder looked at me and said “blue front?” Yes, a reputation those guys have.

I really try to look human when I go out even if it’s tinted moisturizer (my best friend), hint of bronzer, blush, and mascara. I have permanent make up for my eyebrows and lower eyeliner, so that saves some time. If nothing else, sunglasses are fantastic.

What about you? Has there ever been a time when you’ve been out and caught off guard? If so, how did you handle it?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Research is Fun!

Over the years I’ve gone traditional ways to make sure what I write is correct. When I wrote a romance based in Australia I carried a mile high stack of books out of the library. Yes, children, once upon a time there was NO Internet, just libraries where you had to stay there to read reference books and check out the others. I wrote a ton of notes and didn’t use a fraction of them, but that was fine. After the book was published I was asked by more than one reader if I spent a lot of time in Australia.

I did the same with another book with an archeologist heroine I liked to describe as “if Indiana Jones had a granddaughter’. I sat at a library table covered with books on the subject and took so many books home where I’d sit on my office floor surrounded by books about ancient countries and cultures. Again, I wouldn’t use it all, but I felt as if I had the flavor of the subject all the way through my bones. I learned a lot and increased my love for ancient history.

But it’s not just books that make research fun, but meeting people along the way. While writing romantic suspense I talked to police officers, learned what it was like for a woman working for the California Highway Patrol when female officers were still new to the force. I spent time talking to FBI agents, a former CIA agent, and even a Secret Service agent. One FBI agent told me he couldn’t believe someone who looked as sweet and innocent as me could sit there and happily talk about serial killers. What can I say? There’s many a deranged bone in my body.

I also learned that talking to people as part of my research is a great way of adding more depth to my characters. I find out how they think, how they look at situations, and get some fantastic stories in the process.

The Internet has made it easier to do research. You hit your favorite search site and type in whatever you’re looking for. My personal library of reference books keeps on growing along with a long list of bookmarked sites online.

As a kid who’s always loved to read and enjoyed reading history books, I’ve incorporated that love into my books. Especially now when I can insert pieces of historical fact into each book. I dig in to find out when Catherine Medici was alive. When the first car hop was introduced to American culture. Checking dates and locations for various wars. You name it.

So what about you? As a writer, do you enjoy doing research? Is there a favorite book or site you turn to a lot? And as a reader, do you like it when a writer sprinkles fact with their fiction?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Walking the Dog

“Ohboyohboyohboy.” Barney trotted down the sidewalk, pulling hard on his leash. He paused to lift his leg and water a small bush. ‘Comeoncomeoncomeon.” He started up again, moving so fast he jerked his dog walker off his feet. “Hey! Dog on a mission here.”

“Can we keep this to a leisurely walk?” Horace grumbled, grabbing the leather lead and gathering the mini-Schnauzer in. He glared at his two fuzzy companions. “I don’t see why I had to come too.”

“You’ve got hands,” Fluff said, then amended, “well, claws.” He hopped up on Barney’s back. The dog’s head swiveled around. His low growl alerted the bunny slipper it wasn’t a good idea. “Not like I weigh a million pounds,” he mumbled, returning to his fellow slipper’s side as they followed dog and gargoyle.

“Oh gross!” Puff gagged. “What in Hades did you eat?” he demanded, covering his nose with his ears. “And Jazz says we’re bad, but you’re way beyond disgusting. Look at that! Flowers around us are dying. The grass is turning black.”

“I should have brought a gas mask.” Horace pinched his nose shut with his free claw. “Gah! I swear I can taste it.”

“Wusses,” Barney jeered, twisting around to sniff his butt. “Oh yeah, that’s a good one.” He then paused to investigate a lamp post. He ran his nose went over the base with the thoroughness of a shop vac. “Wow, Fritz was here not long ago. Maybe he’s down at the park.”

“Yeah, volunteer to take the mutt to the park,” Horace muttered.

“You would too if Linda promised to make you a mega batch of her Texas brownies,” Fluff told him. He glared at a cat that hopped up on a fence and hissed at him. “Yeah, try this, Garfield.” He pointed one of his ears at the cat, zinging magick his way. The feline shot up in the air a few feet then nimbly landed on his feet before streaking off. “Yeah, cat, I could have made you fly!” The slipper yelled after the flash of fur.

“Those brownies better be worth it,” the gargoyle said, ambling toward the large grassy park in the middle of the next housing tract. “Although, I’d rather have a case of Jack Daniels.”

“Oh yeah, I can see Linda doing that.” Puff smirked. “You drunk is worse than Jazz drunk and she’s really bad.”

“Parkparkpark!” Barney almost pulled Horace off his clawed feet as he ran down the sidewalk toward the grassy area. Several dogs on leashes ran around while the playground was filled with small children playing on the equipment.
“Hey, stone face!” One twenty-something shouted at Horace. “Clean up after your dog!”

“He’s not my dog!” The gargoyle snarled even as he turned to see Barney doing his thing. “Oh man!” He stalked over to the post holding plastic bags and tossed a couple to Fluff and Puff. “Make yourselves useful.”

The bunny slippers caught the bags with their ears, threw them over Barney’s poo and zapped the mess to the trash can.

“Throwmetheball. Throwmetheball.” Barney bounced up and down so hard he practically levitated off all four feet. He rushed Horace, hopping up to push him with his front paws.

“Fine.” Horace pulled a tennis ball out of a hidden pocket and tossed it within leash length. Barney raced toward it, grabbed the ball and brought it back, springing up and down until the gargoyle threw it again … and again … and again. “Enough!” Horace plopped down on the grass and lay back. Fluff and Puff were already settled back in colorful beach chairs – Horace had no clue where the slippers hid those! – with sunglasses on and their fuzzy faces shiny with sunblock. “Those brownies better be worth it,” he muttered.

“Againagainagain!” Barney pushed Horace with his nose with urgency vibrating through his body.

“Find someone else to throw the damn ball.” He pushed back then closed his eyes.

“I’ll tell Linda and she won’t make brownies,” the mini-Schnauzer threatened. “She’ll take me to Petco for my puppy biscotti instead.”

“Ha! She can’t speak dog.” Horace pointed a claw at him. “So do whatever and let me take a nap.”

“What a cute dog!”

Horace opened his eyes to see two cute young women in tank tops and shorts oohing and ahhing over Barney who took the praise in typical canine stride. As in, he was well behaved and looking all too cute. No way was Horace going to allow the dog to get all the attention, so he made sure to show off his roguish charm while Fluff and Puff even got into the act. Pretty soon the girls were giggling and Barney was left to his own devices.

Never a good thing when a mini-Schnauzer knows just what to do to exact revenge.

“Where are they?” Linda fumed as she glanced at the kitchen clock. “They should have been back an hour ago. No way are they getting Texas brownies now.” She refilled her coffee cup and looked out the front window. She turned away then spun around when she heard unearthly shrieks from the sidewalk.

Linda flung open the front door and stared at a sight that had her alternately ready to scream and laughing.

“He pissed on me!” Horace shouted, waving the leash loop back and forth.

“Dog spit! Dog spit!” Fluff and Puff wailed from the wet confines of Barney’s mouth as the muddy dog trotted up to his mistress and dropped his fuzzy bundle to the ground.

The slippers made gagging noises as they crawled into the house.

“We need hot baths. Lots and lots of boiling water. Antibacterial soap,” Fluff moaned. “Tetanus shots.”

“You’re magick. You don’t get sick,” Linda informed them.

“Once he pissed on me like I was some damn lamppost, every dog in the park did the same,” Horace complained, starting to slide past Linda, but she stopped him.

“No way are you coming inside smelling like that. Hose off in the front yard.” She looked down at Barney. “And you, mister, are going to the groomers for a bath. How did he get so dirty? All you were supposed to do was take him to the park, play for awhile, and come back.” She pointed at the hose reel before picking up Barney and holding him at arm’s length while she went back into the house.

Horace picked up the hose and turned on the water. His screech as the cold water hit him shattered a few windows and toppled a couple trees.

“No brownies are worth all this.”

What do you think? What would you do for really rich chocolaty brownies?