Monday, June 30, 2008

Busy Moms and Empty Tanks and the World's Best Husband

If you had been on Minot AFB around 6:30 last Thursday, you'd have seen the world's greatest husband walking to the Club in his least comfortable uniform, wanting to fume, but instead telling himself how much he loves his busy, absent-minded wife.

I woke up intending to get 1500 words of Live and Let Fly written, but then remembered I promised to blog about it; then I had e-mails, business for the Catholic Writers' Guild, boys to get ready for zoo camp, which included a sleepover, and a teen to nag about studying for his driver's permit test. (I spent $200 on your class and I'm not letting it go to waste! Step away from the TV!")

I think I got a couple of hundred before it was time to get ready for me to load everyone into the truck and head into town, which is about half an hour's drive from the base. Rob had left me the truck so I could pick up a half-ton of rock to finish the anti-garden in the yard. (We hate gardening.) But first, I had to get Steven's documents for the permit test.

We have 3 firesafes with our important information. One is locked and we can't find the key to. I went into the garage...and found all three locked. With minutes before it was time to leave and kids still shouting, "Where are my shoes?" I found the keys and discovered I can now only get one open. Fortunately, it was the right one. I dug through Steven's file and found his birth certificate along with baptism papers (important to God, but the DMV?), old report cards, social security card...

"Steven, does the book say you need your social security card?"

"No," said my son, who just read the entire book for the third or fourth time. I grab the certificate and go.

We dropped the boys off at zoo camp, then headed across town to get the rock. On the way, I realized I did not know where Steven was supposed to take his test. The only address he found was Bismark, but he dutifully read it off for me to put in the GPS. I grabbed the book. It was where you need to report if you lose a limb or an eye.

"Steven, have you lost an arm?" I remembered agian that my son does not always pay attention to details. It's genetic. Remember that as you read on. Fortunately, the salesman at the quarry knew where and it was only a few blocks away. With 40 minutes until my daughter had to be across town for art lessons (only 10 minutes; this is Minot, we pulled into the little mall--

and found the line out the door. So we went to the grocery store, got donuts and the couple of other things we needed and took Amber to the art studio. When we returned, the line was much shorter. Thanks heavens, because we had one hour for him to get his test before we had to get Amber.

"I need your social security card," Brenda, the DMV clerk, told us.

I looked at my son in exasperation.

"The book doesn't say that!" he insisted. His voice squeaked.

"Yes, it does," she replied patiently. No doubt she's heard this all before. "All I need is the number. Do you have it memorized?"

Oh, yeah. think that's on my list of "To-Do." Seriously. One I wrote about 13 years ago.

"Is there someone you can call?"

While I called, we started on getting my license changed to North Dakota--another thing on my to-do list (about a year overdue, but...) I ended up interrupting Rob in a meeting with his boss. Fortunately, all the crisis and craziness of the Air Force changes have subsided and it was a pretty informal one and not on a hot topic. However, he couldn't find it. Brenda suggested our bank. While they checked if they could get all seven numbers (the computer only displays the last four), the put me on hold. I handed Steven the phone while I got my photo. by the time it popped out of the machine, the bank regretfully informed me that they could not give it to me over the phone. Oh, but I needed $10 to get my license. We had to leave, go to the cash machine, and come back.

We had about 10 minutes left before we had to get Amber.

"Does my mom have to stay here?" Steven asked. "Can't she get the card while I take the test?"

That was fine as long as we were back before four, so we dashed to the gallery, nabbed Amber just as lessons ended, drove home with the poor little Honda straining under a load that maxes its weight limits, found the key, got the card, ran back (vroom, vroom! Go Techa, go!), dropped Steven off, ("You need $5 for the test." Glad the machine only gave out 20s, or I'd have had to make another trip.) Ran back to the zoo to get the boys, ran back to the DMV to get Steven, who got an 80 percent, but needed $10 more to get the permit. (Why not ask for $15 and be done with it?) We went back tot he ATM, back to the DMV--fortunately, Kind Brenda let us skip the lines--THEN headed home with a budding new driver staring at his permit and giggling maniacally all the way home.

"Phenomenal cosmic power?" I asked him.

"No, the look on Amber's face when she sees it!" Amber's greatest fear is her brother behind the wheel.

We got home with just enough time to switch cars, leaving Rob with the truck so he could drive it to a formal function while I took the little boys back to zoo camp for their overnight and the older ones out to celebrate Steven's victory. We threw him kisses and left as he was getting into his Mess Dress (the tuxedo of the Air Force) and headed back into town in the van.

Leaving him with a truck that had passed Empty somewhere on I-83 and made it home on fumes. It didn't even turn over for Rob.

Oh, it gets worse. We got home and found the truck there, I was proud of him, thinking he'd chosen to walk. We dropped off Amber, and found a parking lot where Steven got his first lesson. When we got back, Rob met us at the garage in t-shirt and shorts.

"First lesson of driving--read the d*(& gas gage!" he snarled.

I never saw the empty light, never heard a warning, never noticed the needle resting exhausted on the little peg by the E. Yep, genetic.

Fortunately, my man knows what he married and this was my first Empty offense. He forgave me fast and we went into town to get gas, then emptied out a few wheelbarrow loads to relieve the poor truck. Steven, Amber and I finished the truck the next day and I gassed it to full. (Can't tell you how much it cost; I didn't want to look.)

Later that day, we had a picnic, one of our friends who was at the awards banquet Thursday night mentioned how philosophical Rob had been about the whole thing. "I would have been furious, and all he said was, "She didn't mean to."

Yeah, I married an amazing man.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Organizing the plot

Today, we begin with organizing the plot.

Normally, I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer. I have a good idea of t he beginning and the end and some ideas for getting from one to the other; but otherwise, I let my characters lead me. I have a lot of fun and a lot of surprised this way. However, it doesn't work as well for a novel-length thriller/mystery. Despite the jokes and fantasy setting, that's what I'm trying to do, and I didn't want someone to come back disappointed that I'd dropped a clue or left something hanging.

I have a terrific program, Anthemion Storylines. It simulates index cards on a cork board--great for organizing, making notes, storing ideas until I can use them... I've written entire stories off of it, and use it to keep track of my Magic, Mensa and Mayhem serial. Great program--but it failed me this time. For some reason, my head needed a new method to identify holes, figure out links, etc.

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, who writes amazing stuff, told us during a workshop chat at the Catholic Writers Conference Online that when she is stuck, she uses Post-It Notes on a white board. So, I spent a couple of hours writing out blue stickies, re-arranging, consulting my husband, and thinking. And it worked! Something about the tactile process loosened my brain--or maybe it was because I felt very silly--the eccentric writer. I can get into that.

(Note--this is a recreation. I can't find the actual photo, but when I do, I'll replace it.)

Word Count: 11,500. About 2000 behind my goal, but we meetings and yard work took priority.

Fave Scene:

Setup: Vern, Grace and some agents are discussing how demigods get their power. (The old cliché that they feed off worship, human sacrifice, etc...) I found a reference that the cult of Adonis consisted of planting fast-growing plants, then mourning when they wilt. (Yep! How do I resist that?) I'd also just finished scrubbing out my son's dead Chia pet. Here's what that gave me:

(Vern said) "...Different demigods have different preferences, however. Sekhmet, death; Coyote, practical jokes and general mischief--"
"Adonis?" Rak asked with a cocked eyebrow.
Grace cocked her brow in return. "Crying over dead plants, actually. He has a special fondness for women with black thumbs, but he's not powerful enough for a portal. He's really a very sweet soul. Plus, other than finding Chia pets™ amusing, he's not especially interested in the Mundane world."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Declaring Orphan Sock Blog Week! July 14-21

My friend Susan Kirkland and I were IMing discussing orphan socks—you know the ones who have lost their mates? We thought it would be really funny to get our friends to post pictures of the lost-buddy socks on our blogs, and see if we could find matches.

So by the power invested in us by the chaotic authority of the Internet, we declare July 14-21 Orphan Sock Blog Week. To participate, dedicate at least one post that week to a picture or pictures of socks that have tragically lost their partners to the dryer, frisky pets or absent-minded kids (or spouses).

If you want to participate in sockblog sharing, send me your blog's website addy and I'll post it on the 14th. Then we can visit each other's blogs and search for our socks!

More possible fun for Orphan Sock Blog Week:

--Top 10 reasons why socks get lost
--Creative uses for lost socks
--Lost Sock story
--Sock jokes (I was about to say sock-sock jokes, but that's counter to the theme)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Novel Journey: Writing Live and Let Fly


Step 1: Idea Generation

I've finally gotten the completed, revised and fully appendixed version of Magic, Mensa and Mayhem to my publisher at Swimming Kangaroo. This is the first novel in the DragonEye, PI series. Now, I've started work on #2, Live and Let Fly. Vern the dragon detective; his partner, nun and mage Sister Grace; the Herald Charlie Wilmot and his fiancée, the teen star Rhoda Dakota team up with CIA agent Stan Rakness in a spy spoof that that targets cliché's like a 007 opening credits roll. My due date is November, and my intention is to have it done this summer.

I thought this time I'd take you along with me as I travel the convoluted path of interdimensional intrigue, Faerie magic and Mundane technology, fantasy clichés and evil overlord errors. Will you learn something about the novel writing process? Maybe, but mostly, I hope you'll be having fun.

I'll post every Thursday, and Monday if I have extra news.

Let's begin with research.

This line of DragonEye, PI novels are big on comedy. (Someday, I want to write their more serious cases, which I've been doing mostly in short story thus far.) For me, the fun for both lines comes from twisting clichés and mixing up fairy tales, legends and other stories.

Somehow, the song "Live and Let Die" got stuck in my head as I was musing over the next DragonEye novel, and Live and Let Fly is the result. So my first step was to watch some 007 flicks and take notes. I grabbed a random selection based on what was available at the Minot ND blockbuster and we had family movie night.

Watching as a parent of four, including one teenage daughter, is a very different experience from watching Bond as a young adult. My daughter found the early James Bond "creepy," and I had to agree. The other movies had a lot of flash and stunts and fun, but not as much as I thought I could translate into a book.

So next, I went to the books, which are free for download on-line ( and discovered a very different Bond. Here was a spy who relied on brains and bravado instead of technogadgetry. But oh, the clichés and anachronisms. Did you know Bond had a fear of flying--and wouldn't you know a storm hits him in at least one flight per book? Forget about his attitude toward women--have you read the portrayal of Blacks? I'm sure Fleming thought he was being very progressive, but Yowza! What a difference a handful of decades makes! Still, it was an unexpected surprise, as I can adapt that attitude toward the Faerie.

Then I moved on to other spy movies. Austin Powers is already a parody in itself--no way to shag that one, baby!--and ditto for Get Smart, so I looked at the Avengers. What a disappointing movie. What a fertile ground for ideas!

In the end, I had several pages of research, for which I now need to search, as the kids used my notebook for something else and it's in the house....somewhere. The best ideas have stayed with me, no worries. I intend to have an appendix showing where each cliché came from--or maybe I'll do that as a contest on my website. I need to consult my publisher on that.

So I had the clichés and a basic idea of what I wanted to do. Next week, I'll talk about organizing.

Word Count Update: I started writing on Monday with the goal of 1000-1500 words a day. I am at 4300 words and just starting Chapter 3. Vern has had an argument with his least-favorite person, reporter Kitty McGrue, Charlie has been mugged, and the crime scene is frustratingly empty of evidence. Today, they meet the Duke, then Rakness, Stan Rakness.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Firestorm of Dragons Book Trailer!

You'll no doubt recognize Vern of DragonEye, PI. His first story is in the anthology.

Learn more at

Purchase at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chicago Printer's Row Book Fair Report

Despite disappointing sales, the Chicago Tribune Printer's Row Book Fair was a lot of fun. In all, I sold five books: two of Passport, two of Seven Archangels: Annihilation, and one of Firestorm of Dragons. (I could have sold two more of these, but it was kids interested in it and I had to warn them that one story is really PG-13 or more.) I passed out a lot of information, and on the last day, went to each booth and gave information to each new bookstore owner who had a booth. I hope it makes an impact.

It's very interesting having a Christian/Catholic table at a book fair. I had one person very interested in Emily's Hope until the woman found out NFP stood for Natural Family Planning. Another person looked at "Seven Archangels: Annihilation" and even though it's a fantasy story about angles battling Satan, declared. "The Exorcist was too scary for me--I could never read this!" (Catholic fiction=The Exorcist. Wow.) Another person called me "Sister." I was wearing a skirt, but are there any religious orders that wear fedoras instead of wimples?

I did meet a sister, a member of the Daughters of St Paul and learned a little about her order's publishing company. I also met the pastor of St. Vianney Parish and gave him a bunch of books for his parish's library. They want to hold a series of lectures on Catholic writing. Makes me wish I lived closer.

When things were slow, I did some readings of different books. One person loved Tannia Ortiz-Lopez's poem "Who Am I?" and took a flier. Hope he'll get the book. I had a lot of folks take fliers, so perhaps some later sales will come from it.

Of course, I was there with The Writers' Café Press/Lost Genre Guild, who applied for the table I was manning. Cyn and Scott are terrific people. We spent a lot of time hawking each other's books, keeping on the lookout for interesting people, swapping bunny ears for photos, and talking about faith in science fiction. Frank and I discussed free will as the true test for artificial intelligence and swapped stories on our latest projects while sitting in a drizzle waiting for Cynthia to come back from Menard's with a tarp. And Frank got me stuffed crust pizza from the restaurant that invented it. Oooooo--nibbled that all the way home!

Chicago weather had a lot of fun with us. We went early to my friend's farm in S. Beloit, and were treated to days of showers and severe thunderstorms and threats of tornadoes. Saturday of the fair, tornadoes hit the suburbs. Fortunately, on Saturday, we didn't get much wind and only a drizzle right around closing time. With tarps on the tables, we were fine for the night. Sunday started out with gusty winds and some drizzling. We didn't get a lot of traffic, so Frank and I decided to leave Cynthia to man the booths while we wandered the booths and peddle our wares to the booksellers themselves. While in the actual bookstore on Printer's Row, the sky opened up and we had a deluge with high winds--so bad, tents were sliding down the street despite being weighed down with barrels of water. When we got back to the booth, Cynthia had managed to get tarps on both tables--despite the wind blowing both tarps and her shirt up--and finally just sat on the tables to weigh them down. We piled stuff on the tables while she ran for the car. It slowed some as we packed, and by the time we'd finished, it had stopped. By then, of course, we were not just dripping but weighed down by the water in our clothes. We drove to the parking garage where my van was and changed clothes ducked behind the car doors. My felt fedora is still drying out and it's Thursday!

I went home and dried out the books--about 20 got water damage, though only 3 were in really bad shape.

Overall, the book fair was fun to do, but I don't think I'll ever try to sell books that way again. Everyone who sent me their books to sell has been very understanding--and frankly, I don't think any of the new-books tables sold much--but I feel awful that I couldn't do more for them. If there's ever a next time, I'll only have a few books to put on the table and hand out more stuff.

And maybe I'll sell ice water and umbrellas instead.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

On Vacation

On vacation until June 14. If you're in Chicago, drop gy the LGG booth at the Chicago Tribune Ptinter's Row Book Fair June 7,8.