Across the books and in person.

Welcome! Since I write two English mystery series, I thought it would be fun to chat about that. And about England. Specifically, Derbyshire, since that is the county I know the best. If you have questions about my books, about mysteries or your own writing, or want to know something about England -- perhaps you're planning a visit -- I'd love to talk with you. Let's start chatting, shall we?

Derbyshire VIllage

Derbyshire VIllage

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Double Your Pleasure...

I wrote a short story this past Saturday.  I turned it into a play this past Sunday.  It was an interesting experience.  I had to invent another character for the play to enable my main character's short story thoughts to be vocalized to the play audience.  Actually, I think it turned out better than the story.  I also had to rearrange a couple of scenes.  Since I will submit the play to First Run Theater (who produced Teething Pains this pas October), I figure if this play is accepted it will also be produced rather minimally.  So I kept that in mind while staging the scenes.  I divided my stage in half -- left side for the kitchen and right side for the dining room.  In the story I have a scene in a pantry.  I changed that to the kitchen for the play.  Not that it matters to you, if the short story or the play ever see the printed page or the footlights, but I mention it just as an interesting side comment to the process.  I suppose this can be encountered in making a screenplay from a book.

I'm getting miffed.  I order some tartan fabric on Dec 30 from a story in Edinburgh.  I got an email saying it would be shipped on January 7. The date came and went.  Then I got an email saying it would be shipped on January 14.  The date came and went.  On their website my order doesn't even show that it's been shipped yet.  I sent an email this morning, asking what's happening.  I thought all they'd have to do is cut the yardage from the bolt of cloth.  Evidently they are weaving the cloth...after they catch the sheep to shear....  Amazing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gun Jumping and Sighing Closets

Okay, I know I’m jumping the gun.  But I’m in between books right now.  Book three for McLaren is in David’s hands; book two for McLaren and book eight for Taylor & Graham are at the publisher.  I'm waiting for those manuscripts so I can't do a thing right now.  So what’s a woman to do?  Housework???  I needed a project so I wrote a short story for another mystery anthology that is coming out, perhaps 2012, with L&L Dreamspell.  Sure, I’m taking a chance because I don’t know specifics about the requirements for the story, but I know the theme of the anthology.  So how wrong can I get?  The story is titled 'Crime Among the Crumpets.'  I had a hard time coming up with that, I want you to know, so don't be too critical.  Actually, I rather like it.  It has a bit of P.G. Wodehouse about it, I think.  Not that my writing is as good as his, but the title's a bit Bertie Wooster-ish. 
Don’t scoff at my project.  I pretty much exhausted everything else I could do, except straighten up the garage, but in this weather???  Are you kidding?  Near zero wind chills, overnight low temps in the single digits, snow soldered with ice to the ground...  That’s a spring job, that is.  I rearranged furniture groupings in some rooms in my home, cleaned like a mad woman (even the top sides of the ceiling fan blades, which I can't even see), went through closets and bureau drawers and garnered enough clothing donations to fill seven large trash bags.  I’d wanted to give the clothes to victims of the St Louis-area tornadoes.  You know, coming in the winter with the cold temps and the snow on the ground….  But, if you can believe it, neither the Red Cross, Am Vets or the Salvation Army wanted clothes!  The person I spoke to at the Red Cross was even kind of snippy to me on the phone.  They wanted money.  The organizations held out their cans and kettles and hope chests for checks and credit card info and green, folding portraits of Lincoln and Grant and Jefferson, but quickly snapped shut when approached with armloads of clothing.  So I dumped the clothes into a clothing donation shed near my house.  I hope many people will be able to use my items.  I literally have women covered from head to toe.  It feels great to help people, plus it’s nice to hear my closets and dresser drawers sigh and breathe.  Maybe I should write a short story about this.  What's a good title...  'Clothing?  Snow Thank You.'

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is it me or...

I don't know.  Common sense doesn't seem to be as common anymore.  At least not as plentiful as in my younger years.  I am referring at the moment to an enlargement I ordered from one of my "Edinburgh photos."  I took the photo with my trusty digital camera.  I requested an 8x10" print.  I got it this morning.  In order to make it the requested size, "they" cropped off the top part of the digital image!  Maybe one and a half to two inches!  Just didn't print that part!  Now, maybe it's me and not the rest of the world, but if I had been the print technician, I would have asked the customer if it was crucial that the print be 8x10" and explain that due to the original photo dimensions, it does not convert exactly into 8x10"  I was a graphic designer for over two decades -- I know about enlarging graphic images!  Of course, the part of the photo I really wanted, the part that 'makes' the image, is the top part that's missing.  As I sighed it me or is it the rest of the world?  I plop the image in question here.  Obliterate the top part where the hills and reflection are and see what I'm talking about -- those hills are what give the photo character and depth of view, for pete's sake!  My lovely little enlargement runs from where the reflection stops to the bottom of the photo.  Grrr....

I took this on my Edinburgh trip, as mentioned in a previous installment.  The snow was melting at the time of this adventure.  I got some photos of the mountains with snow on them but was slightly disappointed there wasn't more snow.  Missed the Big Dump!  The St Louis area got some snow last night -- not much.  I judge about three inches, seeing what's on my picnic table on the back deck.  Still, it's pretty and makes for some nice photos.  The birds are flocking (no pun intended) to the feeders in my back yard and it's a challenge to keep them filled.  I know, to a degree, what they're going thru -- I tend to eat more in the winter than in the summer.  Ya need that fuel to keep ya warm.

Well, that's it for this time.  Gotta go outside to shovel the walk.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twelfth Night Musings

Here it is, another Twelfth Night.  If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I'd like to get this Twelfth Night/Epiphany confusion sorted out.  Twelfth Night is the last day of the twelve days of Christmas, the same thing you count down in the song of the same name.  The ditty begins "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..."  Well, the first day of Christmas is Christmas Day.  December 25.  Counting the 25th as Day One, proceed to counting off eleven more days.  December 25 = 1, December 26 = 2, December 27 = 3....  That takes you to January 5.  The twelfth night of the twelve days of Christmas.  What is so difficult about this?  Epiphany is January 6.  A completely different event.  Not the same things at all.  I used Twelfth Night and the customs associated with it in my book "On the Twelfth Night of Christmas."  Quite a nice story, if I may say so.  I doubt if I mentioned Epiphany at all in the novel.  If in doubt, read the book -- you might even like it!

Not even one week into the new year and I've finished "Torch Song," the third McLaren novel.  Well, let me qualify that statement: 'finished' as of right now.  I will be mailing it to David in England, then righting the wrongs that his red pen has found when I get it back from him.  But that will be at least a month.  Until then I have free time.

Well, not really.  I have to plot the fourth book of the series.  My brain child, brought on by my recent trip.  I have two scenes figured out.  That just leaves the major storyline to create.  Gee, I'm nearly finished!

But I did add a few scenes to "Torch Song" yesterday.  I'd forgot that McLaren finds an object and didn't follow up on pursuing it as a possible clue.  So I inserted scenes.  I like the story immensely.  My favorite first reader said it was the most complicated plot I'd written yet.  I asked if it was too confusing and was told no.  So that is good.  I didn't begin writing "Torch Song" as a complicated plot, but the more I wrote the more I thought of little additions.  And on adding the additions it grew into a twisted tale.  Which is fine.  But I can't take credit for sitting down and thinking of the storyline all at once like some authors probably would do.  I guess I'm not devious enough to think of this at the start!  Well, that's good for any police officers who might be reading this....

I wonder how Scotland is faring now.  I could go online to read the Edinburgh newspaper and find out, I guess.  I hope the highlands aren't buried in snow.  I would have liked to have seen a bit more snow on the mountains when I was there, but it was very nice how it was.  My first time there in the winter, so I appreciated the white sprinkling for my photography.

Guess I've mused long enough for this round.  Now to recapture the other Muse and get back to writing...something!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

For a book???

Interesting things I've learned already this new year -- things that might end up in my writing some time.
1.  A wooden toilet seat burns up completely in about an hour.
2.  A wooden toilet lid burns up completely in about three and a half hours.
3.  If a cat sits on a Hershey kiss, it will melt inside the foil.
4.  Raccoons will eat the dry cat food first, then eat the stale chocolate cookies, and then eat the popcorn.
5.  If you go through the pockets of some slacks that you haven't worn in years, you could find a $5 bill crumpled up inside.
6.  Just because a previous wall calendar stayed up all year on a metal peg doesn't mean the 2011 calendar will stay up...not even for two seconds.
7.  A jello salad will not stay eatable indefinitely.  Longer than a week and you will have soup in that container.
8.  A mouse running around in the skylight is quite interesting to a cat.
9.  When you finally figure out what you want to do with the old window seat cushion, it's too expensive to do.
10. All light bulbs are not created equal -- some don't give out much light.

If you ever come across any of these in a book of mine, you can tell yourself how clever you are to remember you read them here first.  Happy new year to all of us...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Year's End

So I'm a day late (and not necessarily a dollar short).  I was going to blog yesterday, wrapping up 2010 in a carefree, humorous mood.  But the major news story of the St Louis area whipped all that from my mind.  Don't know if you've seen the national television news, but St Louis was hit by a major storm yesterday, including several tornadoes.  The worst hit area was Sunset Hills, a St Louis suburb, and the destruction is approximately a half mile from my house.  The two major roads, Lindbergh Blvd and Watson Road, are closed in sections.  The video on the newscasts are fascinating and heart breaking.  Blocks of homes destroyed, nothing left standing.  Sections of St Louis city were also hit, but the tornado seems to have jumped around, doing sporadic damage.  The area temp in the morning was in the upper 60s, I believe -- a terrible sign that people who have lived here for years would recognize.  The storm came in, followed by a massive cold front, and the temp this morning is in the 20s.  The tornado warning sirens went off twice yesterday afternoon, but the thing that alarmed me most were the many police car sirens racing up the road.  I assumed something had happened but of course didn't know what or how close it was to my house until I turned on the noon television news.

Which brings up the point: as devastating as all this is -- losing your house and belongings -- how traumatic for a writer to have his (perhaps) book copies wiped out (some of the books may not be in print anymore) and, maybe worse, his computer destroyed and along with it the novel he was working on.  You're always told on the television weather forecasts to seek shelter, etc, and I'm wondering if having a few clothes in a suitcase might not be a bad idea -- take it with you to the basement.  But a writer can't daily put his in-progress novel on a CD and stash it in the basement.  I guess that's where trusting to luck comes in.  I don't mean to make this sound flippant, for it's a deadly serious situation.  But losing months of work on a novel is also terrible.  I know I could never recreate the book as I had left it.  It's a bad situation.

I hope that this new year will be much better for these storm victims.  I can't imagine what they must be going thru....