Friday, October 20, 2017

A Grace-ful Tale

Thought for the day:  Finishing a good book is like leaving good friends. [William Feather]

That Feather dude knew what he was talking about, didn't he? That's exactly how I feel after I finish reading a good book, and exactly how I felt after finishing the book I'm gonna tell you about today.

The lovely Carol Kilgore launched her latest book earlier this week. Okay, so maybe it's a little late to announce the lift-off.  By now, her book is waaaay up there in the stratosphere somewhere, but at least by waiting until today to post about her book, I can honestly say I've already read it... and I LOVE it.

There are many terrific characters in this book, but Gracie is the good friend I'm most looking forward to reconnecting with in the next book. She's klutzy, lovable, brave, super observant, and smart, smart, smart. I can't wait until Book Two launches!

Wanta hear more? Read on.




JALAPENO CUPCAKE WENCH
A Hot and Spicy Taste of Murder – and Beyond

Law enforcement consultant Gracie Hofner is assigned to a trendy San Antonio pastry shop to watch for a delivery. In addition to the intoxicating aromas of sugar and chocolate, she also has to fight her own attraction to the man working beside her, Donovan Beck. He’s a hunk and a half and perfect for a spring fling.

If she had more time, Donovan would rank higher on her to-do list. But the number one spot is occupied by her search for a missing little girl, the target of a killer. Gracie needs to find her pronto, and the odd super-instinct quirk that’s started plaguing her may help. If not, she can always see what happens if it tells her to buy a lottery ticket.

Jalapeno Cupcake Wench is the first book in The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, a story so big, it takes three books to tell it.




Brief Excerpt:

JALAPENO CUPCAKE WENCH
Chapter 1

Cold! Cold! Gracie Hofner looked down. I can’t believe I did that. While reaching for her buzzing phone, she’d poured the remains of her water bottle, intended for her impatiens, over her bare feet. She pressed the button. “Hi, Nicky.”
“Morning. I’ve got something you may want to see.” The voice on Gracie’s phone belonged to Nick Rivera, her partner.
Former partner. Their paths had been the same—patrol, homicide detectives, and then detectives in the San Antonio Regional Intelligence Center—SARIC. San Antonio Police Department all the way. Except unlike her, Nick had found his niche there.
In addition, they were friends. “Fun or work?”
“Nothing fun about murder, Gracie.”
She went inside for a pad and pencil, greeted by the aroma of the coffee that had brewed while she jogged. “Are we cleared?”
“Negative. Double homicide. Missing family.”
“If the family’s missing, who’s dead?”
“Hector and Therese Cantu. You ever heard of Cantu Electric?” 
“Don’t think so.”
“Good reputation on the West Side. They’ve been around since my dad was a kid—started by Hector Cantu’s father back in the fifties. The old commercial was like Cantu can do. Hector’s son runs the business now. Mr. Cantu’s retired. Rephrase—now he’s good and retired. He and his wife are the deceased.”
She moved to the table and put her phone on speaker so she could take notes. “Who’s missing?”
 “The Cantus have three kids, two daughters and the son, all grown. Besides the electrician business, the son owns an upscale retail lighting store. High end only. Kim and I went in there after we bought our house. I couldn’t afford a switchplate, much less a lamp or fixture. The son and his family are missing.”
“How many?”
“Three. Husband, wife, daughter.”

Visit the “Look Inside” feature here to read more:



About the Author:


In addition to Jalapeno Cupcake Wench, Carol Kilgore is the author of three romantic suspense novels: In Name Only, Solomon’s Compass, and Secrets of Honor. She’s married, guardian to two quirky dogs, and lives in San Antonio, the setting for the trilogy.

***********

                                       Doesn't it sound terrific? (That's because it IS!!!)

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

This 'n' That

Thought for the day:  Compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see. [Mark Twain]

[image courtesy of morguefile]
Yes, I agree with Mr. Twain, because compassion is communicated heart-to-heart. I'm all in favor of compassion and understanding, and I wholeheartedly applaud the laws which were (finally) enacted to level the playing field a bit for people with certain disabilities. A caring society should do no less than to provide equal access to all citizens whenever possible.

And yet... there's THIS...

I honestly don't know what to think about a newspaper article I read earlier this week, so I'm gonna throw it out to you guys, and see what you think.



Movie enthusiast Paul McGann asked a Cinemark theater in Pittsburgh to provide a tactile interpreter so he could see the movie Gone Girl. [FYI: Tactile interpretation involves placing one's hands over the hands of an interpreter, who then uses sign language to describe the movie's actions, etc.] The movie theater denied Mr. McGann's request, and the gentleman took them to court. As of now, an appeals court has ruled that according to federal disability law, theaters are required to provide specialized interpreters for blind and deaf patrons. This case will likely go through more appeals before a final decision is made, but what do YOU think?

[image courtesy of morguefile]

Is it reasonable, or even possible, for every movie theater to hire interpreters? How would they even do that? Have a number of them on call and summon one to the movie when needed, or would they have to pay a flat rate to keep interpreters available, whether or not a patron ever requests their services?  Mr. McCann uses American Sign Language, but would it be sufficient for theaters to hire ASL interpreters? How about the patrons who use a different sign language...? How cost-prohibitive would this all be? Could this signal the end of movie theaters altogether?

Seriously, I'd love to know what you think about this matter.

And now... on to THAT...

[Dot and Dash]
It's no secret that Smarticus and I have two very spoiled and most-loving-in-the-whole-world cats. Lots of you guys have much-loved kitties... and dogs... too, and I know you're every bit as attached to your critters as we are.

Another newspaper article highlighted a different sort of furry companion that's expected to hit the markets next summer. An invention of Japanese company Yukai Engineering, Qoobo has fur, a twitchy tail, and even vibrates like a purring kitty, but it doesn't eat, or ralph up hairballs all over the house, or gnaw on your plants, or need a litter box... because it, um, has no head. It's essentially a round 2-pound pillow with a tail.

Some outraged pet owners say it's ridiculous to think anyone could ever love one of these things, and it's insulting to think it could ever replace sweet little Fluffy or Fido.

And YET... I believe this gizmo will find a niche. Not for those of us who are able to love and care for our pets, but how about for certain nursing home patients (or others) who may not be of sound mind or body? Wouldn't it maybe provide them some of the valuable serenity and calmness ordinarily found by holding and petting a real living, breathing purring kitty? What do YOU think?


Now that I've covered THIS and THAT, it's time for me to scat. (ahem) Dot and Dash are seeking my services...

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Writing with Sense

Thought for the day:  You can't blame a writer for what the characters say. [Truman Capote]


Mr. Capote was right. I would NEVER use some of the language (tsk!tsk!) my characters use... but some of the people I know might...

Hi-ya. It's that time again, folks. Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Okay, before I answer this month's question, let's take a minute to consider how we can incorporate sensory perceptions into our writing, shall we?

Studies indicate that the male brain, not to mention certain other sundry body parts, responds more enthusiastically to visual stimuli than the female brain. That is, the sight of bare flesh has the tendency to rev up a man's juices faster than it will a woman's. That doesn't mean men are more responsive to non-sexual visual stimuli, however. Smarticus considers traipsing around behind me in an art museum to be a scant step above having a root canal. Nor does it mean women are immune to the visual appeal of certain male physiques, either. I've heard some women say the only reason they watch football is for the sheer pleasure of ogling all those tight bottoms clad in tight breeches. (Not that I've ever noticed, mind you. I watch it purely for the game.)

An excellent athlete, I'm sure.

To varying degrees, we all react to visual images. Females respond viscerally to the sight of babies, both human and animal. Men are more apt to notice an anomaly in their surroundings. Or in a movie. This, however, may be due to the fact that while a teary-eyed woman is absorbed in the story, her man may be bored out of his gourd and is therefore itching to poke holes in the movie for his own perverse entertainment. (I mean, really, who CARES if a Roman gladiator is wearing Reeboks, right?)

Anyway.

The point is, yes, men react, women react, we all react to what we see. But why do some writers work so hard to reproduce a specific visual image in the minds of their readers while completely ignoring the value of our other senses?

Like hearing. It would be totally cool if life were accompanied by a soundtrack, wouldn't it? If music could warn us when danger's coming, or if maybe a goofy-sounding ditty could've let my son-in-law's Uncle Mike know I was just joking when I told him we'd already met our quota for Mikes at the wedding, so he'd have to leave. (Thankfully, after a brief awkward moment, he DID laugh ...)

If your entrance were marked with music, what do you think it would be?


I'd like to think mine would be some really cool, sexy down and dirty sloooow sax music with a nice bass backbeat, but unfortunately, I'm more of a bouncy Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk kinda person. (sigh)

Some writers listen to music when they write. It helps them tap into the proper mood they're attempting to recreate with their words. Kinda like adding a soundtrack to their writing. Do you think it's possible for a writer to provide some semblance of auditory stimulation for his readers, as well?

Yeah, I think it is. Can't provide a full-blown soundtrack, of course, but word choice makes all the difference. Take the statement: The dog barked. Sure, it provides us with the basic information, and we understand what the words are saying, but how about this statement: The chihuahua yapped like a pit bull on helium. It provides the same information but in a manner such that we can almost hear the little mutt.

Certain sounds leave indelible marks on our psyches, like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, a bugler playing the haunting notes of Taps, coyotes howling, and bombs exploding. When a writer successfully taps into the sounds existing in our collective psyches, he may indeed make it possible for a reader to clearly hear the action in his mind. (And let's not forget the potential power of POW-BOOM-SPLAT onomatopoeia, either.)



Incorporating taste and touch into our writings is also possible if we take advantage of common sensory experiences. Most of us are familiar with the taste of blood, salt, and vinegar, and the feel of silk, satin, and sand paper.

But I'm more interested in the sense of smell.

Smells have the uncanny ability to evoke very strong deep-rooted reactions and emotions. Don't believe me? Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of catching a whiff of baking bread, a dank musty cellar, a certain brand of perfume or aftershave, or even the scent of sulfur, and been immediately gut-punched by an unexpected memory?

Does the smell of sulfur elicit any memories for you?

Psychologists say our brains are hardwired to associate smells with memories. It's only natural that whenever I smell a dank dusty smell, I am immediately transported to my maternal grandmother's scary cellar. There's a certain expensive brand of make-up ... I don't know what it IS, because I'm ... er ... thrifty ... but whenever I catch a faint whiff of it, I'm cuddled up next to my paternal grandmother again. Old Spice? Can't smell the stuff without thinking of my father.

So, the wise writer will make an effort to incorporate smells into his work. Take advantage of your capacity to stimulate associative memories with your smelly words. Because the bottom line is, evoking a reader's reaction to the smells you describe in your writing will also evoke a strong reaction to your writing itself.

Ya know? Kinda makes me wonder if when I'm long gone, my children and grandchildren will associate any particular scent with me. 

                                         Hmmmm, maybe I'd better lay off the baked beans...




Question of the Month: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose? 



Hey, I'm no Hemingway, but I think he was right. To create realistic characters, I think it's only natural for writers to draw from some of the real people they know in real life. Kinda like making a witch's brew: a little bit from this one, a little bit from that one... such that characteristics we admire in certain people we know will logically find their way into characters we want readers to like, and traits we dislike may influence the portrayal of our villains. 

One could say that certain traits of my husband may have found their way into the portrayal of my character George in Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade... but in no way was the character an accurate portrayal of my hubby as a whole. When Smarticus read the book, evidently he must have related to the character... so much so that he said, "Hey! I never said (or did) that!" 

Ditto, actual events from our lives may find their way into our books. For example, many years ago, one of my cousins really did toss her entire dinner out the door when her hubby came home from work acting like a jerk, and my memory of that led me to include a similar scene in my book. I mean, really, that's too priceless not to include. So, yeah, bottom line, I've done these things on purpose

However, I think the characters in my current book originated entirely within my imagination. (I am kinda accident-prone, though...)


Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Odds 'n' Ends

Thought for the day: If you have a junk drawer for holding various odds and ends and there's only one item left in the drawer... what do you call it?




This is gonna be an odds and ends kinda post. No deep thinking or brainstorms required, but you may possibly get a chuckle or two out of it. That's the plan, anyway. I pulled the following two items out of a folder on my computer comprised of stuff I might use on my blog someday. Might as well pick today. First, we're going to tackle that age-old question as to why the chicken crossed the road. To get to the other side, right? Or maybe the reason is much more nefarious...



                                        Why DID That Darned Chicken Cross The Road?

SARAH PALIN:  The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he's a maverick!

BARACK OBAMA: Let me be perfectly clear, if the chickens like their eggs they can keep their eggs.  No chicken will be required to cross the road to surrender her eggs.  Period.

JOHN McCAIN:  My friends, the chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON:  What difference at this point does it make why the chicken crossed the road.

GEORGE W. BUSH:  We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road.  We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not.  The chicken is either with us or against us.  There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY:  Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL:  Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON:  I did not cross the road with that chicken.

AL GORE:  I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY:  Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it!  It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions.  I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON:  Why are all the chickens white?

DR. PHIL:  The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road.  What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he is acting by not taking on his current problems before adding any new problems.

OPRAH:  Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross the road so badly.  So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a NEW CAR so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER:  We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE:  That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty!  You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN:  To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART:  No one called me to warn me which way the chicken was going.  I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level.  No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS:  Did the chicken cross the road?  Did he cross it with a toad?  Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY:  To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL:  Because the chicken was gay!  Can't you people see the plain truth?  That's why they call it the 'other side.'  Yes, my friends, that chicken was gay.  If you eat that chicken, you will become gay too.  I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the Liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side.'  That chicken should not be crossing the road.  It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA:  In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road.  Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

BARBARA WALTERS:  Isn't that interesting?  In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish it's lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE:  It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON:  Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES:  I have just released eChicken2017, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents and balance your checkbook.  Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2017.  This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN:  Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS:  Did I miss one?

******************

So how many people did I offend? Oh, wait! You in back... sorry I left you out. Let's try again with this one... about two doctor pals with great senses of humor.

[image courtesy of morguefile]

Two fellas, great friends since childhood, graduated from med school at the same time and decided to open a practice together so they could share office space and personnel. Problem was, their specialties didn't exactly go hand and glove... one was a psychiatrist; and the other, a proctologist. So they put their heads together to brainstorm an appropriate sign to advertise their new practice.

Their first sign read... Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones-- Hysterias and Posteriors

The town council considered the sign unacceptable and made them change it.

Okeydoke. So they went with...  Schizoids and Hemorrhoids.

Nope. Still not acceptable.

Then... Catatonics and High Colonics

'Fraid not.

Next they tried Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives.

Nuh-uh.

Minds and Behinds

No way.

Lost Souls and Butt Holes

Definitely not!

Nuts and Butts

Nope.

Freaks and Cheeks

No go.

Loons and Moons

Thumbs down again.

Their brainstorms in serious danger of running dry, they finally came up with a sign that passed muster with the council...  Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones --- Specializing in Odds and Ends.

*****************

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.




Friday, September 22, 2017

There Ya Gogh!

Thought for the day:   It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs, because they always take things literally. 


gullible me, second grade
I've always been gullible, but I'm in recovery stage. Used to be, I believed anything anyone cared to tell me. I mean, why would anyone lie to me, right? One fella we know turned out to be a pathological liar, and he used to tell me some reeeeeal whoppers about his so-called adventures. Smarticus knew he was full of it, and so did most of our friends, but this guy loved to corner me at parties so he could bend my ear with his outrageous tales, because I always swallowed his stories hook, line, and sinker. Periodically, he'd turn to his wife and say, "Ain't that right, babe?" to which she dutifully provided his desired, "Yes, dear" response. (If I'd paid closer attention, I might have noticed her eyes rolling...)

I eventually caught on to the improbability of the things this guy was telling me and learned to steer clear of him, but as a child, I was definitely fair game for the things various family members told me in jest, especially my mother and Aunt Myrtle.

Two jokes they got me with involved names on  mailboxes. The last name? Bean. As we drove past said Bean mailbox, which sat beside the road next to a farmer's field, my mother said, "I wonder how our old friend Lima is doing?" My aunt said, " I heard he and Pinto had a baby. Named her Navy." Me, wide-eyed in the back seat, said something like, " I didn't know you knew them..." Which, of course, spurred them to come up with more names.

The second name that inspired them to yank my chain was Road. Same thing, only this time we were walking in the Pocono Mountains area while on vacation. As I recall, they mentioned names like Tobacco and Dusty. To my credit, I caught on a little faster this time, and even added a couple names of my own.

Which may explain why they didn't pull that joke on me a third time.

Anyhow, I was reminded of those two memories by an email Smarticus sent me recently. It's a rather clever family tree list of names that I'm sure my mother and Aunt Myrt would have appreciated. I hope you do, too.


The fun family?

'Tis the hypothetical family tree of the great Vincent Van Gogh, pictured at right in his 1887 self-portrait.

By the way, you know why he was an artist?

(shhhh) I hear he needed the monet...

Talking about artists, (Weren't we?) what do you think Salvadore Dali's favorite breakfast was? A nice bowl of surreal, of course.

And what's a modern artist's favorite footwear? Sketchers!

Okay, I'll stop. Let's take a look at that whimsical family tree, shall we?



  • First, there's his annoying brother... Please Gogh.
  • His dizzy aunt... Verti Gogh.
  • His prune-eating brother... Gotta Gogh
  • His cousin who worked in a convenience store... Stop'n Gogh
  • His Yugloslavian grandfather... U Gogh
  • The distant cousin who bleached all of his clothes white... Hue Gogh
  • The other cousin from Illinois... Chica Gogh
  • His uncle, the magician... Wherediddy Gogh
  • His Mexican cousin... Amee Gogh
  • His Mexican cousin's American half-brother... Grin Gogh
  • His nephew who drove a stagecoach... Wessfar Gogh
  • His poor ol' constipated uncle... Cant Gogh (He should work something out with Gotta...)
  • His ballroom-dancing aunt... Tan Gogh
  • His bird-loving uncle... Flamin Gogh
  • His psychoanalyst uncle... E Gogh
  • The fruit-loving cousin... Man Gogh
  • His postive-thinking aunt... Wayto Gogh
  • His bouncy nephew... Po Gogh
  • His disco-dancing sister... Go Gogh
  • His niece who travels in an RV... Winnie Bay Gogh
                                       Can you think of any others to add?




                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.





Friday, September 15, 2017

Out of the Cave and Swatting at Gnats

Thought for the day:  A hibernating snail is not necessarily dead. [Messaod Mohammed]

[image courtesy of Morguefile]
[YAWN] It's time to drag my weary bones (Snap! Crackle! Pop!) out of the editing cave long enough to write a new post.

Nope, still not done with the editing, but I've already foisted enough reruns on you guys. The truth is, I really am more like that hibernating snail in the thought for the day than a bear... not all that grumpy or dangerous, but I sure am SLOW.

So, what to write about? My blogging brain isn't firing on all cylinders right now, so I'm gonna ease my way back into this. (It's always best not to test the depth of the water with both feet.) Today is September 15... so what happened on this date in history?
[image courtesy of wiki]


As it turns out... LOTS of stuff, but seeing's as how I'm trying to ease back into blogging, I won't natter on about all of them... or even most of some. Just two. (You're welcome.)

First, I'll natter about... gnats. Miserable little creatures, aren't they? Anyone who does outdoor work, especially in sweaty climes, is well aware of those little booger bugs with a propensity for buzzing around heads, flying up noses and into eyes, and getting stuck in perspiration. (Why the heck didn't Noah smoosh them when he had the chance?)

So what is it about gnats and this particular date in history? Well, included in a loooooong list of historic events that occurred on this date throughout the ages, I found a peculiar listing for 1946, in which the Dodgers beat the Cubs 2-0. Yeah, I know... nothing historic THERE, but that game was called after only five innings. Not because of rain... or tornado... or hurricane... or fire... or flood. Because of gnats. Swarms of them. Who'd think a little critter like that could cause such misery and mayhem that the Cubs lost their opportunity to win that game? (Um, not that they WOULD have, mind you, but I'm just saying...) It wasn't the size or annoyance factor of any individual gnat, but the accumulative effect of a mess of them. A whole gang of them crawled out from under their rocks and banded together to create an atmosphere of cursing, swatting, and running. And in essence, the gnats... won the day. And all the good people retreated.

[photograph: Carol Highsmith]
The second event from this date in history, surprisingly enough, wasn't included on the list that cited the gnat tale, which I found astounding, because this second event was something that truly changed the course of history.

In 1963, hate-filled white supremacists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and four little girls were killed. Another little girl was blinded for life, and fourteen other church members were seriously injured. It's horrifying that it took something this terrible to awaken America to the deplorable state of race relations in some parts of this country, but that wake-up call also provided impetus for the passage of new civil rights laws.

Now here we are in 2017, and it seems that white supremacists are crawling out from under their rocks not only here in the United States, but in other countries all over the world, and they're banding together to create a renewed atmosphere of cursing, violence, and fear. Like swarms of gnats, they cause misery and mayhem, and the diseases they try to spread are hatred and intolerance.

The one thing we should hate is hatred; the one we should not tolerate is intolerance.

The following photograph was taken in 1992 by small-town newspaper photographer Todd Robertson at a KKK rally in Gainesville, Georgia. (If you'd like to read more about it, check this earlier post )


The child in that picture was only three years old at time. I wonder where he is now... and whether he rose above the hatred he was taught. Is he one of the white supremacists now crawling out from under their slimy rocks? Look at the face of the now-retired trooper Allen Campbell. What sadness he must have felt in his soul to see an innocent child clad in garb of hatred.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

On this September 15 of 2017, I despair that such hatred is still in existence and that the passage of civil rights laws hasn't erased intolerance from the evil hearts of some... gnats. That is what these white supremacists and neo-Nazis are to me... an annoying swarm of creatures that will be smooshed in the end. These gnats will not win, and the fight for decency will not end early. There are far more of us with love in our hearts than there are of them. This time, the good people will not retreat.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]



                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Good Guys Don't Always Wear White Hats

Thought for the day:  What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish. [Thomas Wolfe]


Howdy! It's that time again... time for the monthly post for the awesome Insecure Writer's Support Group. I'm telling ya, the amount of support this group offers beats the heck out of the most expensive underwire bra in the world... lots more comfortable, too.

Hats off to ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh, the founder of this extraordinary group, and to all of the fine folks who work so hard to make and keep it a success. If you'd like to join or would like to follow links to some other IWSG posts, please go HERE

HEY! After you read my post! (sheesh)

Man, judging by the thought for the day, that Thomas Wolfe sure knew what he was talking about, didn't he? I kid you not, while doing my current editing job, I sometimes spent days... I'm not exaggerating... DAYS...perfecting a scene until I was finally satisfied with its tone, rhythm, wording, and whatnot. Then I ended up deleting the whole darned thing. (sigh) C'est la vie. 

Okay, before answering this month's question, I'm going to share a post that first appeared in March, 2011 as Keeping it Real. I was a newbie blogger then, and it only got one lonely comment, so I figured it was safe to dust it off and pull it off the shelf again.

***************************

Thought for the day: Howcum noses run and feet smell?

Years ago,  late-night TV carried commercials that urged viewers to grab their credit cards, pick up their phones, and order their very own genuine faux pearls NOW! NOW! NOW!

Remember those ads? Hysterical, right? But at least nobody could say the advertisers didn't tell the truth. They didn't try to pretend those pearls were anything more than they were. Pretty fakes.

Now there's another new commercial that totally cracks me up. Now you TOO can own a genuine reproduction of the ring Prince William gave his fiancee! Wow! It features a beautiful genuine fake sapphire in the middle, surrounded by beautiful genuine fake diamonds! And get this! It even comes with its very own letter of authenticity! (Ohmigod, how can we possibly pass up a deal like that?)

But, again, at least they're telling the truth about it. Nothing shady here.

                                             They didn't put together a bunch of pretty rocks
                                              And try to pass them off as priceless gems.

As writers, it's up to us to create characters that are so realistic, so genuine, that readers accept them as the true gems we intend them to be. If our characters are predictable and two-dimensional, our product becomes nothing more than those genuine faux pearls they used to hawk on TV.

Based on the kazillions of books I've read, here's my thoughts on what it takes to make a character come alive for me. The two major points are:
  • A believable bad guy is never entirely bad. Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lector was one of the creepiest bad guys of all time, but he was also extremely intelligent and knew how to be quite charming. What magnifies the ick factor about a bad guy for me is when I can identify with him in some way, by either seeing something of myself, or someone I know, in him. Maybe he's a serial killer, but by God, he has to be home on Wednesday night to watch American Idol. He's a rapist, but he takes tender loving care of every stray cat in his neighborhood. He's a love 'em and leave 'em dude, but he visits his mother in the nursing home every Sunday afternoon.
  • By the same token, the good guy has to have some flaws to be believable. It's hard to sympathize with someone who comes across as perfect. Assuming we want the reader to care about the good guy, he needs to have idiosyncracies, or flaws, or simply has to screw up sometimes. It wouldn't hurt for that drop-dead gorgeous heroine with the perfect skin to get a zit every now and then. Or for the hunky guy with the abs of steel to break wind once in a while. Or to have a crooked nose, or heck! Let him pick his nose! One of my favorite heroines is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. She certainly isn't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but she sure is believable. And likeable.
That's just my three cents' worth. (Inflation.) How about you? Who's your favorite villain? Your favorite hero? Are they multi-dimensional? If not, what made them memorable for you?

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[image courtesy of morguefile]
Now, then... on to the

Question of the month:  Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable with??

In a word... NO.

Wait! You didn't seriously think I was gonna stop there, did ya...?

Seriously, I'm terrible at surprising myself. (I stink at keeping secrets... I can't tickle myself, either...) However, it's equally surprising to stumble across something I wrote years ago and think, "Damn! That's pretty good!" as it is to read something I once considered terrific, only to discover it's become horrifyingly cringe-worthy.  (Surely, someone must have changed it!)

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Products with an Attitude

Thought for the day:  We're only young once, but with humor, we can be immature forever. [Art Gliner]


If that thought for the day is true, Smarticus and I are right on track for staying immature forever. (Works for us!)

Holy moley, it's September already! What happened to the summer? It's about to burn itself out... which means, I'll be ending my lazy assed delightful deluge of reruns. Soon. Not today. (Sorry.) This one originally ran in June, 2011 as Crack Cream, Anyone? It tickled my funny bone, and with the addition of a few updates, I hope it drags a chuckle or two out of you, too. Once again, I'm leaving the old weird news stories in place, too. They may be old, but they're still weird and funny. Like Smarticus and me.



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Thought for the day:  Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even when you wish they were.

Is there a song that momentarily transforms you when you hear it? For me, that song is Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild. Who cared if I was actually driving around a bunch of kids in my old station wagon when that song came on the radio? All it took was the first couple of notes, and suddenly, my face and attitude changed. I was no longer mild-mannered, boring old MOM; I was a bad-assed wild woman tooling around in a '56 Chevy... or zooming on a Harley... or zipping around in a snazzy Corvette convertible. Funny thing is, I still want to belt it out and feel the wind in my hair whenever I hear that 1968 song, but there's another newer version now, and it's a bit more befitting of my age. (Damn it.)




Last week, I listed some books with rather interesting titles, but it occurred to me that you might be interested in some equally creepy children's books for that special youngster in your life. How about one of these? (Actual books!)
  • The Pocket Book of Boners   (an omnibus of school boy howlers and unconscious humor)
  • It Hurts When I Poop!   ( a story for children who are afraid to use the potty)
  • Where Willy Went   (the BIG story of a little sperm)
  • The Long Journey of Mister Poop   (The cover is hysterical. It shows Mister Poop, or Senor Caca, clad in a beret and plaid golf pants. And YES, Mister Poop IS exactly what you think it is!)

Moving on from the notion of strange book titles, let's now consider beauty products. Last week, I couldn't help but notice a tube of ointment on the shelf at the pharmacy. I mean, how could anyone miss it? It was called Crack Cream. Now, I'm sorry... this may be an absolutely fantastic product, but that name positively slayed me. Seeing that made me curious as to what other weirdo product names the market might have to offer. Found some, too. Consider whether or not you'd like to add any of these products to your shopping cart:

  • Trailer Trash eye pencil
  • Deep Throat blush
  • Fat Girl scrub
  • Udder Cream
  • Urban Decay beauty products  (how about some "roach" eyeshadow?)
  • Pedro's Lip Schit
  • Anti-Monkey Butt Powder
  • Boudreaux Butt Paste
  • Nads hair remover
  • Cat Crap  (an anti-fog for ski goggles)

and my favorite:
                                                 
                                                        
  • Chicken Poop lip balm   (Allegedly, when a gal whined about her chapped lips, her crusty old grandfather told her to smear 'em with chicken poop so she'd stop licking them. Ergo, the name. Don't know how good the product is, but um, maybe it'd sound a little better if they called it Eagle Poop? Uh, no. Never mind. A rose is a rose is a rose ... and poop ...  is poop ...  is poop.)
OK, it is once again time for the (ta-DA!)

Weirdest News Stories of the Week

* Proving that my post about the importance of a name may not be complete drivel after all, a gentleman in Britain may have tempted the fates when he recently purchased a second-hand, 16-foot cabin cruiser. She may have been a beauty, but she also sank when he took her out for her maiden voyage. The cruiser's name? Titanic II. 
* In compliance with his country's Freedom of Information laws, an Australian newspaper reporter petitioned the Department of Defense to provide him with copies of their X-files. After a fruitless two-month scramble to find them,  Defense finally had to admit that their reports of UFO sightings and other paranormal occurrences had (shhhhh) disappeared. (Abducted, perhaps?)
* The bride wore ... green? Oh, no, my mistake. Indeed, she wore a lovely white gown, but her FACE was green. Painted green, that is, and covered in 192 piercings. In 2000, when this Scottish lass was officially deemed by Guinness World Records to be the "most pierced", Elaine Davidson had but a mere 462 piercings, but she now boasts 6925 ...  including 1500 internal ones, which weigh in at nearly seven pounds. (Think her favorite kind of music is Heavy Metal?)
* To encourage the Chinese people to go vegetarian, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has been dressing an actress in ... salad. And holding the actual dressing, I presume. So rather than merely going green, this young lady has been going greens. Oh, and by the way, my husband and I are also members of PETA, only for us, it stands for People Eating Tasty Animals. Like Sarah Palin said, If God had not wanted us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?

                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.



                                                                              


Friday, August 25, 2017

Call Me Ishmael

Thought for the day:  I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. [Lily Tomlin]

[image from Morguefile]

No, of course, my name isn't Ishmael, but talk about a name that's known by most readers all over the world, right? Susan, on the other hand, is pretty darned generic. In fact, the last time I checked, a Google search turned up thirteen people named Susan Swiderski. Sheesh, talk about making a gal feel unique, eh?

It's been kinda fun picking and re-vamping some of my old blog posts. Hopefully, I didn't give you guys too many boogers. Just a few more, and then the summer re-runs will come to an end.

Today's oldie but not-a-booger originally appeared in June 2011 as The Name Game. I hope you enjoy it.








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Thought for the day:  It was a matter of destiny: the streaker's name was Seymour Cheeks.


Gildersleeve, Gildersleeve, wherefore art thou, Gildersleeve?

The fair Juliet declared, What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Easy for her to say. Do you think she would've been half as cavalier about the irrelevance of a name if she'd been saddled with an onerous moniker like Bertha or Broomhilda? And I ask you, could even the great Shakespeare himself have waxed poetic about a damsel in distress if her name were Boobs Galore? (Sincere apologies to any readers named Bertha, Broomhilda, or Boobs.)

Gertrude Stein said, A rose is a rose is a rose, and even good ol' Popeye said, I yam what I yam. If things ARE what they ARE, does it really matter a rat's derriere what you choose to CALL them?

Well, yeah. I think so.

Would a bouquet of roses bestow the same romantic connotation if they were called ... fartflowers? Or suppose that lovely bunch of mums your beloved gave you were called ...  ugly mamas?

Ahhhh ... Smell the Fartflowers!
True, the name or description of an object can't actually alter its essential substance, but it can ... and does ... alter our perception of it. Intellectually, we may adhere to the adage, Never judge a book by its cover, but in reality, we tend to do just that.

Consider this:

You're exhausted, and judging by the crowd in the doctor's anteroom, a long wait stretches in front of you. Standing on your aching feet is not an attractive option, and there are only two empty seats in the room. One is beside a shabbily-dressed old gentleman with shaggy hair and scruffy beard, who is slumped in his chair, muttering to himself. The other is next to a clean-cut, GQ-looking young man, who looks right at you and smiles. (Or for you men, a shapely young woman with a sexy smile.) Where would you sit? Not gonna pull any made-up statistics out of my (ahem) ear, but where do you think most people would sit?

It's human nature. And understanding that tidbit of human nature puts potential power into our hot little pen-holding hands. When a writer (or speaker) understands the basic concept of perception, he can use it to his advantage and manipulate the crap out of it. 

Take the example of the waiting room. Before a writer brings that poor unsuspecting foot-sore patient into that room, suppose he fleshes out the people sitting beside those empty chairs. Suppose the shabby-looking fellow is a sweet, gentle, lonely soul who's grieving deeply for his wife, and Mr. G.Q. (or Ms. Luscious) is an evil Jeffrey Daumer wannabe. How's that going to change the reader's response when the innocent newcomer considers sitting beside the Daumer copycat?

Titles, names, and appearances DO matter. All of them evoke involuntary psychological  responses, and when we have an active awareness and anticipation of those responses, we wield some control over them through the power of our words. A great book title has the potential to attract a casual browser. Ditto a great-looking cover. Character names carry a certain weight. Names can be perceived as weak, strong, silly, or whatever. Descriptions can be used to reinforce a stereotype, or to mask something shocking and unexpected. Subtle nuances of word choice evoke a huge difference in both perception and reaction.  

Or not. On one hand, I think word choice and title choice can make a big difference. But on the other, if the following book titles have been published (and they have!) maybe titles don't matter at all. Consider:

Beats exploding, I suppose.
Okeydoke, then.


About a master debater?

The only game our cats play is hide and go sleep.

the perfect gift for the grandkids?


guess you have to be Catholic first, right?

  The author's name should be Lucy Bowels.

ewwwww

there's a reason it's a lost art

um, why bother?

stool softener helps

no comment

not cuddly anymore, huh?

And here's some more actual book titles to consider:
  • The Pop-Up Book of Phobias
  • Scouts in Bondage
  • Be Bold With Bananas
  • 101 Uses for Tampon Applicators
  • Suture Self   (Now, I LIKE this one!)
  • How to Make Love While Conscious
  • Up Sh*t Creek: a collection of horrifying true wilderness toilet misadventures
  • The History of Sh*t
  • First You Take a Leek
  • The Romance of Proctology
  • Heave Ho: My Little Green Book of Seasickness
  • More Balls Than Hands  (ahem ... about juggling)
  • Postmortem Collectibles
  • Knitting With Dog Hair
  • Last Chance at Love: Terminal Romances
  • The Book of Lesbian Horse Stories
  • Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank and Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom
And finally, my own personal favorite:
  • Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Good-Bye

How about you? Do you think titles matter? Come across any doozies lately?

                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
















Friday, August 18, 2017

What's Your Hurry?

Thought for the day:  Calvin: Today for show and tell, I've brought a tiny miracle of nature: a single snowflake! I think we might all learn a lesson from how this utterly unique and exquisite crystal turns into an ordinary, boring molecule of water just like every other one when you bring it into the classroom. And now, while the analogy sinks in, I will be leaving you drips and going outside. [Bill Watterman]

I think maybe one of the reasons so many people loved the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes so much is the unique and hilarious way Calvin's mind worked. His antics made us laugh, but there was always a grain of truth in his little-boy philosophies.

Like when he compared himself to a snowflake. Works for me. We are all unique in some way, but one other thing we all share with snowflakes is in the end, we all eventually melt. Our finite lifespan isn't cause for despair, though. On the contrary. I see it as all the more reason to squeeze as much meaning out of each day as we can.

The following post originally appeared in April, 2011 as Dashing Through Life. Here it is again, with some gentle editing. I hope y'all enjoy it. (Yes, I'm still editing and rewriting... and may be for a looooong long time. I wish editing a book took as much time as editing a blog post...)

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Thought for the day:  I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.  Maya Angelou


It'd be a lot easier if life were laid out like a marked highway, wouldn't it? All we'd have to do is keep our eye on that center line and follow the road straight to our final destination. No guesswork involved. No tough decisions. Why, there'd even be signs to warn us of the bumpy patches ahead, and of the dips we're likely to encounter.





And just think! If we doze off and start to wander off-track, by golly, there'd be signs to tell us:

Just think how many divorces could have been avoided!


But, in truth, life would be rather boring if it were all laid out for us. Where's the spirit of adventure in that? Even though I'm directionally challenged, I love exploring those little dirt roads in life.

Years ago, my husband and I spent several unforgettable getaway weekends at a mountain cabin with some very dear friends. Like me, Smarticus also likes to venture off the beaten path. Thankfully, he has an uncanny sense of direction to go with it, so as long as I stick with him, I'll always find my way home again. Our friends, on the other hand, preferred the safety of the paved road and the well-worn path. One day, while the four of us were tromping along a trail through the woods, I heard the distant sound of water. Natch, I got all excited and took off through the woods. And natch, so did my husband. Our friends stayed glued to the marked trail at first, but quickly decided it was scarier to stay behind than it'd be to follow us. We encountered a multitude of large trees, downed and tangled, so we climbed over them. Ran into brambles galore, but we kept going. But as we climbed through and over the obstacles, the sound of water got louder and louder, until we finally emerged into a sun-lit clearing. It was worth every single scratch and bug bite we'd endured and every bead of sweat we'd perspired. For there we were, beside a small, secluded waterfall.

And we would've missed that beautiful moment if we hadn't been willing to take the scenic path. The detour. It's wonderful to have a clear destination in mind, but the trip is so much more enjoyable if we learn to enjoy the scenery along the way. Children insist on becoming adults, and you'll only have one shot at enjoying their childhoods. Our parents grow old and die, and then there's no time left to chat with them on the phone or to stop in for a visit. Our friends pass away, or move away, or simply leave our lives. Shouldn't we enjoy them while we can? I originally planned on calling my blog Never2Late. That very much reflects my optimistic viewpoint of life, but the unpleasant truth is ... sometimes, it IS too late.


Sorry! I've gotta dash!
Hurry, hurry, hurry. No time to stop and chat. No time to listen to the response after you ask someone how they're doing. Gotta dash, gotta dash.

I want to leave you with another thought about our mad dash through life.

The Dash is an inspirational poem that was written in 1996 by Linda Ellis, and her words have inspired millions of people all over the world. She writes about that little line, that simple dash on a tombstone that represents the real story of a lifetme, that defines who we are beyond a simple beginning and end date, and touches, simply and succinctly, on what's truly important in life. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.



How about you? Are you strictly goal-oriented, or do you enjoy life's surprising detours? Whichever category you fall into, I hope you'll always try to carpe  the hell out of each diem. Let's enjoy our dash, shall we?

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.