Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Topic Needed

Happy July, everyone! 

Yesterday, when I started plotting what I'd write here today, Tuesday felt like a weekend day.  Why?  I'm not sure--especially since, as a writer, I don't really get weekends or holidays off.  Even so, I let my mind swirl around possible blog topics for today--and really didn't zero in on one. 

I could have focused on my continuing project of baking some samples of the dog treats whose recipes I hope to include in my next Barkery & Biscuits Mystery.  But other things have kept me from working on that regularly.   

My class on Kiss Me or Kill Me: Writing Cozy Mysteries 101 for Romance Writers has been going well.  It has passed the halfway point, and I check for responses to homework assignments a couple of times a day.  Not everyone participates, but it's fun corresponding with those who do. 

I'm currently drafting my third Superstition Mystery, so plotting and writing remain in my schedule.  Then there've been some family and car related things going on that take up brain power and energy, so my writing progress is currently slower than I prefer. 

Plus, my long-time webmistress is retiring so I'm looking around for a replacement.  I have several leads but need to spend more time following up on this, too.  If you have any suggestions, please pass them along! 

We're making plans to hopefully be with friends for fireworks on the Fourth of July, but that may depend largely on traffic and parking that evening. 

And did you enjoy our leap second?   It occurred at 8 PM last night eastern time, so it was 5 PM here in LA.  It didn't change my schedule, though. 

So... I've done a lot of writing here about not having something to write about.

Anything you'd like to hear me blog about next time?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Man From Nantucket

I can't believe I forgot to post this this morning.

Not all the Nantucket limericks are naughty:
    There once was a man from Nantucket
    Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
        But his daughter, named Nan,
        Ran away with a man
    And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

    But he followed the pair to Pawtucket,
    The man and the girl with the bucket;
        And he said to the man,
        He was welcome to Nan,
    But as for the bucket, Pawtucket.

    Then the pair followed Pa to Manhasset,
    Where he still held the cash as an asset,
        But Nan and the man
        Stole the money and ran,
    And as for the bucket, Manhasset.

The Antiques Roadshow was fun, even though it turns out nothing we took is really valuable.  The antique doll is worth $180 – 200, and – very disappointing – the chair, while Hepplewhite in style, was made in the 1930s and is worth perhaps $100.  The water cooler, found in Mississippi, is actually a Red Wing product (from Minnesota) and is worth over $300, and created a stir of interest.  But because it isn’t ours, but was brought for a friend, it didn’t get picked to be televised.

Worst of all, on our way home I somehow mislaid my wallet.  I called around, but no one had it, and I was depressed to think of all the places I’d have to call to cancel cards and my driver’s license.  But Hurrah!  Our car insurance agent called.  Someone saw the wallet beside the entrance ramp to I-80/I-35 and picked it up.  She called the 800 number of the insurance company, and the agent called me, and I called her.  She is putting it in the mail to me.  So life is good, think nice thoughts about a woman named Terry.

I also got a phone call from Once Upon A Crime, a Minneapolis Mystery Bookstore (and one of the best).  A lodge up on the north shore of Lake Superior called Naniboujou has ordered twenty-five more copies of Unraveled Sleeve, the mystery I set at the lodge, and could I drop by and sign them?  Certainly, it was a very happy break from writing! 

I’m still writing Knit Your Own Murder, but it’s a complicated plot, and I’m afraid the novel I submit mid-July is going to be sketchy in spots.  It’s a good story, but there’s an awful lot of detail and a couple of sub-plots to fold into it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Last Chance Before Summer

I basically work everyday between writing and the family business, so my son and I took off on Tuesday for Disneyland and California Adventure. We have annual passes and it was the last few days before the summer blackout until August.

I remember him sitting on my shoulders to watch the Electric Parade and now he drives and towers over my shoulders. It seems that neither his wife or my husband have quite the same love we do of going to the amusement parks over and over again and they let their passes expire long ago.

Since we go to Disneyland and California Adventure a lot, we have gotten into the habit of doing the same things, eating at the same places and waiting until they announce even Main Street is closed before finally staggering out to the parking lot tram.

So, we decided to throw away all our usual plans and do something different. It’s amazing, but true. I have been going to Disneyland since 1969 and yet there was an attraction I had never been on. The canoes. It certainly isn’t a ride as you have paddle to keep moving and it’s hard. When you are on the water surrounded by trees and greenery, it feels pretty authentic, but then as you come around the river boat dock and see all the people and the shops and rides, there’s no denying where you are.

We rushed and got the last raft to what used to be Tom Sawyer’s Island and now ha some kind of pirate name. We had basically ten minutes to go through the whole place which made for a lot of speed walking.

Back on the mainland, we went to some eatery that was on the water and if you sat in the right place, it looked like you were in the wilderness. We ate fried green tomato sandwiches, which we’d never had before. With all that water, there were lots of ducks and they were parading through the restaurant patio looking for handouts despite the don’t feed the animals sign.

It’s baby duck season and we found a mother and several babies wandering among the crowd after we left the restaurant.

As evening began to settle in, we went over to California Adventure. We skipped all the rides, but when to visit the cats. It turns out that Disneyland and California Adventure have a whole population of semi feral cats. I say semi because they are all neutered, given their shots and fed, but they live on their own. The first time we saw Fernando, a long hair calico, we didn’t know about all the cats and were surprised to see him hanging on a planted area near a water ride. The last time we went to the two parks, we found him in the same general area near Soarin Over California. He was smart enough to stay in the fenced off area where humans aren’t allowed. However, he did come to the fence and let me pet him. This time when we looked for him, he had a friend who looked like he or she might have been a relative. They both had the same long multi colored fur.

Our funnies cat sighting was when a black and white cat decided to relieve itself on the giant image of Mickey created out of flowers just below the train at the entrance to Disneyland.

We walked all over both parks and finished off the evening with corn chowder at an outdoor restaurant in New Orleans Square. We had skipped our usual popcorn and ice cream stops, but shared a garlic cheese bagel twist we’d never tasted before.

Yes, we did go to Buzz Lightyear and I shot up enough targets to make it to the third level. Then while the park was still open, we left. We skipped the tram and walked all the way back to the parking lot and then all the way through the parking lot to our car. There is no way to describe how huge the parking lot is. It just goes on forever.

And we made it home by 1 a.m. And then it was back to work the next day.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Dangerous Can A Political Hobby Be?

Hi all!  Please help me welcome Paula Benson to Killer Hobbies today.  Politics as a hobby?  Tell us more, Paula!

Man is by nature a political animal. -- Aristotle

Although not usually thought of as a hobby, politics does capture people’s attention and fuel their imaginations. Political figures and their families become media sensations and fashion icons. Comedians’ routines and political cartoons parody politicians’ actions. Political polls are like sports statistics. Doris Kerns Goodwin, noted presidential historian, is universally praised for her work. Her website showcases a Christian Science Monitor quote indicating her popularity: “At 70, let's hope (Ms. Goodwin) has at least a couple more biographies in mind.”

Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

What is it about politics that seems to fascinate people? Growing up, I thought of politics as something adults watched on TV. It had too much rhetoric and too little action to keep my youthful attention. Politicians and political commentators expressed their opinions, which often resulted in arguments without resolution.

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed. -- Mao Tse-Tung
Then, in my first full time job, I shared an office with a co-worker who had a passion for state and national politics. He kept up with the issues and personalities, was an astute observer, listened carefully to what everyone had to say, and believed very strongly in a phase associated with the 55th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., (D. Mass.) that “all politics is local.”

In other words, constituents focus on the matters that affect them personally and their representatives need to be tuned in to what voters care about in order to serve them most effectively and remain in office. My co-worker taught me that politics are not just about debate or conflict, but evolve from matters that affect quality of life and deeply felt emotions.

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. -- Ronald Reagan

Davis Baldacci, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Brad Meltzer, and Brad Thor have made careers writing fictional views of the political process. Any time power is at stake, people in charge may be tempted. How they react to that temptation and how others investigate possible corruption can lead to dramatic consequences and page-turning suspense.

Crime does not pay . . . as well as politics. -- Alfred E. Newman

My short story in FISH OR CUT BAIT: A GUPPY ANTHOLOGY published by Wildside Press in April 2015 features Carolyn Louise Mitchell, called Caro, a newly elected independent State Senator. As Caro witnesses a filibuster about whether or not to get rid of a public employee by legislatively eliminating his job, she begins to wonder if it’s only a man’s career at stake, or if something criminal may be happening behind the scenes. The story’s title, “The Train’s on the Tracks,” comes from a saying that if legislation is moving forward that legislators need to decide whether to get a ticket to ride or stay off the track (and avoid getting run over).

I’ve discovered that my first impression of politic discussions was wrong. They offer plenty of ideas that allow writers to explore human conflict and possible mayhem.

Do you follow politics, as a profession or avocation? Do you enjoy political biographies or novels?

A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson’s short stories have appeared in Kings River Life, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media 2014), A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman (Mozark Press 2014), and Fish or Cut Bait: a Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press 2015). She regularly blogs with others about writing mysteries at the Stiletto Gang and Writers Who Kill. Her personal blog is Little Sources of Joy and her website is