Sunday, August 31, 2008

Workingman's Ten Commandments

The Workingman’s Ten Commandments

Although publicists for late nineteenth-century corporations celebrated their “efficiency” and the “science” of management, their employees did not always join the celebration. What looked like careful and disciplined management from one perspective might be viewed as petty tyranny from below. Some workers directed their anger to the very top of the corporations. An anonymous author, writing in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen’s Monthly Magazine in 1878, claimed that these “ten commandments” were "written down in the Statute-Books of Railroad Officials and idle Monopolists, and Jay Gould Aristocrats."

First Commandment.—I am thy lord and master, who has brought thee off and out of British bondage into a land where there are free institutions and equal rights given to all—black, red and white men.

Second Commandment.—Thou shalt have no other master besides myself, and do as I bid you do; for I am rich, and give you as much wages as I please.

Third Commandment.—Thou shalt not bow down to any other master, and not belong to trades' unions, or lecture on the principles of the working party, or do anything contrary to my wish or command, for, if you do, I will call on the military.

Fourth Commandment.—Thou shalt not serve any other master, or work for any more pay than I give: for I am jealous master. I will have you discharged on the least provocation, and half starve your wife and children, and have you punished as a communist, and not treat you as an American citizen, but as a tramp and a vagabond.

Fifth Commandment.—Thou shalt not call me any other name but sir and master: for I am a rich man and have piles of money, and therefore you are my slave, for I own your body and soul. Six days you must labor and do all I bid, or I will give you another reduction. If you murmur or growl I will make you work also part of the night: for I am all-powerful, and I can use the law to suit myself.

Sixth Commandment.—Thou shalt honor my money-bags, and also my high social standing in society. Then thy days shall be long on earth and in my employment, which I give thee with my usual blessing of long hours and small pay. So says thy master.

Seventh Commandment.—Thou shall not incite riots with intent to kill. If you do, I will have you arrested and make you give bonds for three thousand dollars and promise of good behavior in the future.

Eighth Commandment.—Thou shalt not strike for any higher wages, so as to be able to make an honest living, and keep your children from begging, and make you eat bread and water three times a day—that’s good enough for a greasy and ignorant mechanic, or a dirty, black miner.

Ninth Commandment.—Thou shalt not steal or commit any other nuisance, for I will find you guilty and have you punished; for I am mighty and my name is Capital, Capital.

Tenth Commandment.—Thou shalt not covet my money, or own a house or lot, for if you do I will have it sold by the sheriff and own it myself and shall say “hands off;” and I will say to the Government, you must protect me in all my undertakings, for I am mighty, and my name is Capital—0! Capital.

Source: Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen’s Monthly Magazine II (December 1877): 15–16.

How much has changed since 1877?


Saturday, August 30, 2008


I'm lousy at demanding a refund for poor service. I'm getting better, but like most good girls, I was raised to be a lady, and goodness knows ladies don't make a scene. Right?

Well, I've learned that opening my mouth and demanding better service can be done in a lady-like manner. It doesn't have to be obnoxious or loud. Usually. Of course, there are some people, places, companies that really respond better to rude and obnoxious.

I went shopping with my friend. We were standing patiently in line for the cash register. This old lady with a walker was at the counter demanding a certain kind of candy which evidently was advertised in their flyer. That particular store did not have that kind of candy. The woman refused--absolutely refused to leave or talk to anyone else except the woman at the register. Another clerk came and checked out everybody in line behind that woman. When we left, she was still there adamantly demanding the candy from the flyer. I'm willing to bet that they gave her an equivalent box of chocolates just to get her out of the store. Mission accomplished.

In general, though, I've found that a quiet request for the manager is all that's required. Amazing how anxious they are to fix whatever is wrong. The problem with restaurant fixes is this--by the time they recook your meal, everyone else is finished eating. So then what are you supposed to do? Scarf it down while everyone waits? Bag it up and go home hungry? What's the correct thing to do? Never quite figured that out.

Have you ever stood in one of those return lines after Christmas? Endless, boring, and irritating. I especially love the stores that return defective merchandise back to the shelf. Hey! If that microwave didn't work at my house, it's not likely to work at the next poor sucker's house either! I once deliberately made a small mark on the box of an item I returned. That item vanished and reappeared on the shelf in that store for months. Some times it was there when I passed down that aisle. Sometimes not. I wonder how many times they sold it before somebody just chucked it in the trash.

Well, if you have any tips for wringing the best of service from the places you patronize, please let us know! Everyone have a wonderful, safe, dry weekend!


Friday, August 29, 2008

How many carbohydrates?

Ah, eating has become a new adventure. I've fallen down a hole in the ground and now I'm in a strange new land. I know, Amarinda, I should feel right at home. I suspect I will soon enough. Two weeks ago when I first received my glucometer, the house hunk and I went out and bought a bunch of sugar-free/low sugar food. It seemed to us that was an appropriate measure.

So much to my dismay--after eating sugar free ice cream the last two weeks--and yes, we were measuring (portion control, etc., etc., etc...) I discovered that there are actually the same number of carbohydrates in the sugar free as there is in the regular ice cream. Guess what I'm supposed to count? Yep, you guessed it.

In fact, the sugar free stuff often has a different type of glucose used as a sugar substitute that is worse for diabetics than regular plain old garden variety sugar. Ack! Low sugar yogurt? Bad. Sugar free candy? Bad. As with all things a little bit is okay, but pigging out on it because it's sugar free? Not so good. Ah, I am so sad. There are several other things that fall in the same category. I thought I was helping and couldn't figure out why my sugar numbers shot through the roof.

But probably my worst--number one worst--sugar shooter is corn. Corn of course is classified as a bread, but for me it's worse than rice or pizza or plain old sugar. Not sure what happened, but yeah, corn is a big no-no. Good thing I don't particularly like corn, right?

Anyway, I've spent a lot of time the last couple days thinking about food. I thought I would never say this, but I don't even want to look at the stuff. The house hunk comes in the door at night and asks what's for dinner? My answer--I don't know and I don't care. There is nothing that will put you off something faster than being stuck having to deal with it all the time.

I've finally fallen to that lowest ebb. Not even chocolate sounds appealing. I know, I know. But I feel just like my friend, the hamster, up there. "It has how many carbohydrates?"


Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's that big letter at the bottom?

Recently I received my papers in the mail to renew my driver's license. In this state, if you have a vision impairment on your license, you must have your eye doctor fill in a form and sign it so you can send it in with your license form. It's more efficient I suppose than what other states do. Most of them have an eye chart they ask you to read. The thing is, you're in line so long that you can actually memorize the chart by the time it's your turn with the clerk.

Not that I ever saw the need to do that. I've been vision impaired since I was eleven years old. One day I could see fine. The next... boom! "You need glasses." Back when I was eleven years old, glasses were not cool. I mean they really weren't cool.

You remember those cat glasses? Yeah? Well, that's what I wore. White, blue, I think I even had a pair in pink. Then in high school they were brown--almost like hornrimmed framed. Ugh.

Still, they were an improvement over the white frames. Now I wear wire frames--what we used to call "granny" frames. Appropriate, right? Back when I was finishing high school, people like the Beatles wore granny frames. So I guess you might say that now I'm retro.

Ah, well. Kelly tagged me. Nope, I'm not gonna tag anyone. Most of the people I know have already been tagged. So here's where you find Kelly.

Six things nobody knows about me. Hmmm.

First off, if I tell you, then everybody will know them. Doesn't seem quite right, does it?

1) I used to have a photographic memory. I never had to take notes or any of that other junk.

2) I had a stroke and shazzam, it was gone. Strokes are not fun. Take your blood pressure meds!

3) When I had my stroke, I forgot how to tie my shoes. My granddaughter taught me. She was a lot more patient than I was.

4) I also forgot how to make chili. One afternoon I was standing in the kitchen befuddled about the next step. I had allllll the ingredients out and had chopped all the vegetables. But I had no idea what to do next. My second son came along and asked what the problem was. "I don't know what to cook first..." I was nearly in tears. Very sensibly he asked, "Why not put it all in the pot and cook it at one time?" So I did. It was the best my chili's ever tasted. And that's pretty much what I've done ever since. Simplicity. I love it.

5) I used to read with a flashlight under the covers. I've always loved books and reading. I love them more than sleeping and eating--which is saying something. My kids were used to finding me in the kitchen holding a book in one hand while I stirred dinner with the other. Sometimes--oh all right, most of the time--dinner was a little scorched.

6) I love to paint. I don't paint well, but I enjoy doing it, so I do. I think we should all be free to do things we love whether we do them well or not. I think more people should sing just for the joy of it. More people should pick out Chopsticks on the piano because they can. People should hop or skip or ride horses just because they want to. So... I paint.

How'd I do?


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Your Doing It Wrong!

Heh. I spent the entire evening (five o'clock to nine o'clock) discovering that whatever I knew about diabetes was wrong. As usual, they changed the rules on me. So at ten thirty last night the house hunk and I were in a grocery store shopping for the right stuff. I do not do well in grocery stores in the best of times. Shopping late at night after sitting in a class room for four hours is not my kind of fun.

I love classes like this. I came home with a book, charts, booklets, and my personal meal plan. And this is only the first week. My personal meal plan calls for me to eat about twice as much as I normally eat. Almost all of the extra food is vegetables and fruit. But there's also three extra pieces of bread and seven glasses of water added. I foresee many trips to the bathroom in my future.

For the next two weeks, I will be counting carbohydrates and keeping a food diary. I have a neat little booklet that tells me whether or not an item is a carbohydrate and exactly how much of it I'm allowed to eat. They cautioned us about low blood sugar and gave us instructions on what to do if that occurred. So far, I would be thrilled if mine dropped to the mid range instead of hanging out there on the high end.

The funniest part of the meeting came when I asked about the hot flashes I have every morning. Everyone else--even the men--confessed to the same symptoms. So the nurse promised to check it out. One of the guys swore he was going crazy. But we all agreed that his symptoms probably weren't due to menopause. The nurse told us we were the first class to ever mention that particular symptom. Heh. I always was a little odd.

So I've embarked on a new life path. Good news? Lost five pounds in the last five weeks. Better news? I wasn't trying to lose weight. Wonder what will happen if I actually work at it?


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fay... day 87

I've come to the conclusion that Fay is the storm that won't go away. It's still noodling around in upper Georgia. No telling when it will just get a clue and go away. Meteorologists try to put a good face on it, but even they are bored to death with Fay. Fay, Fay, go away!

It always cracks me up when a new tropical storm appears on the horizon. The weather guys get all excited. Their voices are hyped up and you would think that a major catastrophic event was imminent. Folks on the east coast and folks on the west coast need to keep an eye on this storm! It could go anywhere!

Well, yeah. That's the truth. Witness Fay who couldn't make up her mind. Think I'll go over here... Whoops, that wasn't where I wanted to go... Think I'll just sit here a while and rain on Melbourne... Ah, shoot, wrong Melbourne... Which way is Australia?

Now we have Tropical Storm Gustav out there fiddling around in the Carribean. At the moment, Gustav is pretty much following the track of Fay. How thrilling. I think if I lived in Florida I might consider heading to California. Somewhere on the way to the land of the earthquakes, I bet I could find a place to settle down.

Someplace where it doesn't rain cats and dogs...


Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthday HouseHunk!

What can I say? The househunk is sixty two today! A senior citizen, eligible for Social Security! Oh, noes! I'm married to an older guy!

Heh. Happy Birthday, you babe you! May you have many, many more!


PS: I'm also blogging today at the Grip...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day of Rest

This kitty looks like I feel. Taking the day off to rest. Check out any of the blogs from my list on the right!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Head for the Hills

I love the mountains. When I saw this picture, it grabbed me because I, too, have stood out on the edge of a rocky parapet and looked out over the land. About fifteen years ago, I climbed a mountain similar to this every weekend and stood up there all alone just breathing. That was my get-away-from-the-chaos hike. I carried a backpack loaded with lunch, first aid kit, duct tape, and a book. Had a handy hiking staff about five feet long. And away I went. The hike was seven miles long--up one end of the mountain, halfway across, and then back down.

My current work in progress is set in exactly this type of terrain. It's about a plane crash in the mountains. Though I keep pictures around, I really don't have to use them because this is home. I believe that everyone has a place that speaks to the heart. For some it might be a city. For others it's a beach or lake. For me, it's the mountains in the northeastern United States. I've been to other mountains. Big ones, little ones. But the first time we drove through the mountains in upstate New York it was like taking an arrow to the heart. I can't explain the way I felt. I just know that I couldn't seem to see enough, fast enough to satisfy my soul.

We lived there for nearly twenty years. Repeatedly over those years, I encountered flashes of deja vu as I lived, played, worked and traveled in the area. Some places brought a terrible sense of grief. In others there was a giddy sense of exhilaration. But always, I was home.

We haven't lived there for nearly six years now. I miss the mountains. No, I don't miss the towns or traffic or taxes. But I do miss the highs and lows. I miss the hills.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Walk in my shoes...

There is this to be said for walking: It's the one mode of human locomotion by which a man proceeds on his own two feet, upright, erect, as a man should be, not squatting on his rear haunches like a frog. ~Edward Abbey

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes, that way when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

Before I judge my neighbor, let me walk a mile in his moccasins.~~Native American proverb

To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus explains to Scout that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it"~~Lee Harper

Yesterday something happened that made a friend of mine sad. The rest of us talked to her, trying to cheer her up. But it wasn't until each of us shared our very similar experiences that she really felt like we knew what she was feeling.

It's not enough to say that you know. I think those are the times that you must demonstrate that kinship by sharing your experience. If you don't have that experience, then don't use that expression because the brutal truth is--you don't know. It would be better to say, "I feel bad for you."

I learned this lesson when my children were teens and I was forced to admit that I needed some help with parenting. The kind of help where the kid has twenty-four hour supervision outside of my home. I have to tell you--no one else knows how that feels unless they've been there. No one. When things were better, when I was on a more even keel, I chose to share my experience with other grieving parents in the same circumstances. Because the truth shines through when you truly can say "I know how you feel."

Something happens when you share kinship experiences. I haven't quite figured out what it is. But there is an old expression, "It takes one to know one." I believe this is true--especially in catastrophic, traumatic experiences. There is just something there that creates a bond, something that allows both people to reveal a secret, hurting part of themselves.

Not everyone can accept that gift, of course. Some are too angry. Some are too deeply damaged. But for those who can, the shared kinship can help them heal, help them move to the next step, whether the original experience is a dark traumatic event or simply something that has hurt their feelings.

So, if you've walked a mile in someone else's shoes, consider sharing your experience with them. Both of you may find something positive in the sharing.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


Back when I was a kid, all four of us sat in the back seat. That was waaaaay before seat belts, car seats and all that other stuff. My stepmother had a sure fire way to keep us from fighting. Everyone had to sit with their hands on their knees.

A few years down the road, I had four kids of my own. Once they were too big for car seats... well, they spent a lot of time with their hands on their knees. It worked. Of course, they were more inventive and tried using their elbows, but in general, it worked.

Recently, my granddaughters traveled in my car. Bicker, pick, bicker, pick... and I turned around and said, "Put your hands on your knees!" Thought my daughter was gonna laugh herself sick. Some things never change.

Isn't it good to know that you can count on something?


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Peace and Quiet

In general, I'm not picky about my work environment. As long as someone is not talking directly to me, I can tune out crying babies, jackhammers, sirens, and all manner of other noises and distractions. Until yesterday.

I am not called the Zen Queen because of my quick temper. If I do say so myself, I'm known for my even temper and willingness to get along with all sorts of people under varying conditions. Until yesterday.

For the most part, I'm known as the nice quiet neighbor who gets along with everyone, even the young single guys who used to live overhead with their pot plants on the balcony and the music so loud that my windows vibrated. I'm willing to help others, take in the mail for vacationing neighbors, keep an eye out for strangers in the building, and make note of who's parking in the handicap spot without a permit. I've always been friendly and patient. Until yesterday.

A few months ago, the young men who lived overhead moved out, taking their giant speakers and their pot plants with them. All was peace and quiet for the last few months and then one night around two a.m. I heard people walking around in the apartment overhead. The toilets flushed. The shower ran. Since I'm a good citizen and a responsible neighbor, I called the apartment managers and inquired about new neighbors. After all, as I pointed out, it was the middle of the month. Perhaps someone had broken in or perhaps there were squatters in the apartment. I was more or less told not to worry about it so I didn't. Until yesterday.

Over the next couple weeks, there were more and more signs that I had new neighbors. But things were relatively quiet so I didn't worry too much. And then the banging began. Quite frankly, it sounded like they were practicing karate moves. You know--bam, bam, bam, BAM! On the last BAM! the pictures on the wall would shake. I mentioned my concerns to the apartment management. They bestowed a vaguely regretful look on me and I tried to put it all behind me. Until yesterday.

Seeking to block out the incessant banging overhead, I invested in a good set of ear phones. Plugged them in and put on a jumping rockabilly cd. Loud. That should take care of it, right? Wrong. The pounding was so loud and violent that my computer screen was shaking and I could hear it over the loud music streaming from my closed ear headphones. So. Enough was enough.

I marched upstair, huffing and puffing to the third floor and banged on the door. A tiny oriental man answered the door and immediately said, "I know. I told him not to jump."

"When was that?" I demanded. "Three hours ago when he started? Or ten minutes ago?"

Apparently, the three year old realllllly likes to stand on the couch arm and jump off! While I was standing in the doorway, the kid went and did it again! I frowned at him and said "NO JUMPING!" I must be very scary looking because I haven't heard a peep out of them since. Either that or they killed the kid off.

Ahhhhh. Peace.


If you want to have fun, join us tonight for our pajama party from ten p.m. until one a.m. EST at the Night Owl Yahoo chat loop. This one's especially for our west coast readers and writers, but everyone is welcome to join us.

And last but not least! The winner is Sudie! Please e-mail me at

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Friendly Reviews

I love my friends. Honest. Truly. But... well, sometimes a book that they love and rave about is just... meh. Have you ever had that happen to you? Recently, with the whole vampire hunters genre there are two or three authors who apparently have a huge following for their series and their fans are running rabid in the streets. Now I appreciate the concept of series and fans, but every single person out there does NOT have to be a fan. See, there are enough fans to go around. And fortunately, there are enough series to go around, too.

So when a wild-eyed fan (yes, even over the internet you can sense the wild glowing red eyes) grabs you by the throat and insists that such and such is the best book ever--well, let's just say that it's time to back away from the computer and go do laundry or count the mosquitoes on the screen door.

I'm pretty loyal to the authors that I read. I'm perfectly happy to recommend my favorite stories. There are two or three of my favorite authors that one of my friends can't stand. I was dismayed when I discovered this in a casual conversation. Why? It didn't lessen my personal enjoyment of those authors' books. I think though, that I felt sad because I wanted to share the joy I'd received from reading them. Alas. My friend will miss out on that. Just as I have no idea what she sees in a couple of her favorite authors. That's how these things work.

No matter how I struggle to restrain my initial gasp of astonishment, I'm always appalled for all those regency writers who confess that they've never read a Georgette Heyer. Or the mystery writers who never read a Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries). And yet we are blessed with a world full of books on every subject imaginable so I suppose everyone has to pick and choose as judiciously as possible.

The one thing I don't understand (no doubt because I would rather read than eat or sleep) is the person who brags that they haven't read a book since high school or college. With all the books at our disposal, why on earth would a person pass them by in favor of television reruns and video games. How is that possible?

The other thing I find incomprehensible are the people who never reread a book. So... if they don't intend to reread it, why is it called a "keeper"? How does that work? I have about four thousand books crammed in my overflowing bookcases. And another eight hundred e-books on my computer and digital reader. A lot of them are fiction, but I also have a collection of fascinating books on everything from calligraphy to the founding of the OSS. The thing about rereading is that you're never without something to read. Ever. No matter what your mood, you can reach out and find something to fit just right.

So I open the floor up for recommendations. I'm not promising to read them, but your favorite might be just what another reader is looking for so speak up! Tell us what your favorite is and why! If there are more than twenty comments, I'll do a random drawing and award a surprise gift.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Say Cheese!

Not long ago, while cleaning up in my work room I found a stash of pictures. Old pictures. The expressions on the faces were so phony. Little kids standing in hot uncomfortable sunlight while mom (that would be me) was exhorting them to smile. Say cheeseburger!

What is it about parents and grandparents? We walk around behind our kids, snapping pictures randomly at various important events in their lives--and then safely stow them away, forgetting about them almost before the day is over.

I have a picture of my grandmother that was taken about 1925. Photos were rare then. That picture is treasured. I think that with the advent of technology that makes photos readily, instantly available, we've ceased to think much about the subject or reason behind the photo. After all, storage is unlimited.

That may be why we don't do anything with the end result. How would our photo collection change is we could only afford to take one picture a month? Would we make our choice with more care, more thought? Would we still have reams of vacation pictures with no people in them? Or would every picture count?

I freely admit that I put them back in the box and stashed them on a shelf. Someday, someone will look through them and wonder, "Mom, what were you thinking?"


It's my day at the Grip--discussing second chances at love.


Listen a hundred times; ponder a thousand times; speak once.” Turkish Proverb

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Half Full

There are days when life just isn't tip-top. Everyone has days like that. The old body doesn't work right. The sun isn't shining. The gas tank is nearly empty. The mail arrives late. Those are the days when it's tempting to think that someone is out to get you.

On those days, there are some individuals who always have the wrong half of the glass. What makes things so hard is their unshakable belief that somebody did that to them on purpose. Somebody made it rain. Somebody used their gas. Somebody took their mail. Somebody did something and that's the reason things are going wrong.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few people out there that feel that way. When I was a kid and I asked why this or that thing went wrong, it was "Just because." Well, that's still true. Why is it raining on the day that I have a doctor's appointment? Just because. Why did I run out of detergent on the last load of laundry? Just because. Sometimes we have to accept that there is no great meaning to the events in our life.

I know there are a few people who sincerely believe that the FBI or CIA is after them, but for the most part, they're wrong. Most of us will lead pedestrian lives punctuated by flurries of panic and nausea and euphoria. I'm perfectly content with the way things are. I like my half glass world.

For those people who live in that other world, I feel bad. It seems to be that it must be very exhausting to continually have to think of reasons for the puzzle of life. For my part, life is the way it is, just because.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Timing is Everything

Almost every time I do an interview, the first question is "how long have you wanted to be a writer" or "when did you decide you wanted to write"? The answer is always the same. I was born with the talent to write. I chose to learn more about the craft of writing. I practiced that craft. I hone my skills daily.

But that's not really what the interviewers want to know. They want to know how long I've been working at the submission game and that's something very different. Most of the writers that I've met and become friends with over the last two years have been submitting work for a long time. Many of them have a stack of rejection letters to prove just how difficult it is to get published.

I don't. The very first book I submitted was accepted and a contract offered within two months. There are some people who give me a wide-eyed stare and think that means I must be a fabulous writer. I wish that was true, but it just isn't so. The truth is that I submitted that book at the right time. It was a little offbeat. A little strange. And that was what that publisher was willing to take a chance on right them.

Five years ago it would have been too sexy. Five years from now it might be too vanilla. But right then, at that moment, it was acceptable. That's timing.

On another blog, I read a long discussion about whether we should try to write what was in our heart or what would sell. Hmmm. I hope the two statements are one and the same. Again, timing enters in that equation. Quite a few years ago, Regency romances were all the rage. Georgette Heyer wrote a bunch of them--around seventy books, I think. Now young readers give you a blank stare because Ms. Heyer didn't write vampires, werewolves, demons, or any of the other things that are popular fiction now. All things are cyclic. Again, it's a matter of timing.

What will I write when the current fashion fades away? Who knows? My head seems to always be full of strange and wondrous stories. As long as they're just a little to the edge of center, they'll probably be different enough to survive in the raging river we know as publishing. Hopefully, I'll keep on having a good sense of timing.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Putting on the editor's hat...

Editing--the hardest thing to do for a writer. It seems that no matter how many times you read your book, backwards, forwards, silently or aloud, you always miss a typo or spelling error. I try to read mine aloud because it's a little easier to catch the missed words that way. You know--that to or it that you thought, but didn't type?

I usually set my book aside for at least a week, possibly even two weeks before starting edits. I find it easier to notice the problem areas with a fresh look. It's easy to get so close to your story that you can't see the trouble spots.

When I'm working on the story, I stop each Monday and take the time to read it from the beginning. That's when I look for continuity problems and time line breaks. That Monday reading has prevented a lot of rewriting because I don't get too far without catching the problem.

All of us have our little tricks when it comes to editing. Some lucky writers have beta readers who read their work. Some have eagle-eyed critique partners who point out problems. Some of us just put our nose to the grindstone and keep typing. Ultimately, we all do whatever we have to do to finish the story.

That's why we're writers.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

At last I'm free!

So I've been struggling for the last few weeks with my current work in progress. Actually, I've been wrestling with a bunch of them. My mind pretty much feels like a bunch of rattlesnakes having an orgy in a gunny sack. There's a lot of action, but not much is getting accomplished.

Anyway, this morning I arose, went through my usual morning routine of pills, poke the finger, eat, pills, read the e-mail... and finally settled down to more snake sex when much to my alarm, somebody started banging on the door. Since I'm the cautious type, I peeked out through the peep hole and saw--nothing. Bam, bam, bam--nope, nobody out there. Then I thought it might be the little kids from the next building that love to run up and down the stairs knocking on doors. So I whipped the door open and came face to crotch with some guy down on his knees in the hallway (actually right in my doorway). Both of us were a little startled. Seems that the powers that be decided that the carpeting in our hallways and stairwells needed to be replaced.

Gave that fellow a friendly nod and shut the door. Installing carpeting is a noisy job with much banging and hammering. So I didn't accomplish anything excerpt load the dishwasher until the house hunk came home. At the time, I was just reading a work in progress that I had set aside as it had stalled. But an idea came to me and I started messing around with that and by eight o'clock I had added some two thousand words so evidently, that is now my new work in progress.

What is the point of this meandering? Sometimes you have to let go. I was determined that I was going to write that other story. It was next on my arbitrary schedule. Until I was willing to move on to something else, my heart and head kept saying NO. Now I'm not sure that this story which I've temporarily named Plane Crash will be the next one that I actually finish and submit. But for the moment, it's the one I'm working on. Then we'll see how it goes.

All I do know is that at last I'm free!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Today my parents have been married 47 years. My mother died in a car accident when I was ten. A little more than a year later my father presented us with a new mother. Needless to say we were not impressed. I have to give her tremendous credit--she hung in there through thick and thin.

We were a tough sell. Four rowdy kids from four through eleven. Poor motherless children. With very little discipline in the intervening year, we were quite a handful, but Mom stuck with us no matter what we dished out. I like to think that she's proud of us.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Really hope you sneak in a few more!


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Second Time Around

There are a host of different beliefs about the afterlife. While I don't believe in reincarnation, I do find the idea fascinating. Some belief systems posit a return as a human. Others suggest a return as an animal. So, what would one learn in that case? And if we return as a human, how much of our current life decisions will we have to atone for?

There are other considerations. How much to we remember? Is there really such a thing as past life regression? Are we always the same sex? Or do we alternate from one to the other? Are we reborn in the same country? Or do we reappear on some other part of the planet? For that matter, how do we know that we're necessarily reborn on this planet and not in some other part of the universe? Or possibly another dimension entirely?

After all, if one believes in a supreme being, the Creator of all life in the universe, then what would prevent the Creator from placing us in some new environment or in the body of creatures that are wondrously strange? I admit that there is something attractive in a second chance at life... a second chance to make new decisions. But I find myself skeptical that we would really be afforded that opportunity--and even given the opportunity, I'm not sure that we would make any better choices the second time around.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Let the Games Begin!

Well, it's early Saturday here. I just finished watching the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. It was quite a show. Quite a show. No doubt there will be the usual political flaps and athletic scandals at this Olympics. We can't seem to hold one without them. But as a start for a week long orgy of sport, this was pretty spectacular.

It wasn't possible to watch the opening without observing the enormous pride and excitement the Chinese people were feeling. The ceremonies were a demonstration of determination and teamwork. There was one particular segment that consisted of moving boxes that were manipulated in an incredibly complicated pattern over a period of fifteen or twenty minutes. While I was watching it, I was thinking, this isn't so tough--that's all computerized. And then when it was finished, the tops of the boxes were flipped back to reveal the people who were moving them. Maybe a thousand people. In 85 degree heat with 85 percent humidity.

The costumes were gorgeous and elaborate and wonderful. The ceremony represented both past and present with symbolism and style. It's late now. I rarely watch television. But I'm glad I took the time to watch the pageantry unfold.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Where no man (or woman) has gone before

When I was eight years old, Sputnik was launched by the Russians and life as we know it changed... well life as I knew it. I remember the bomb drills where we had to get under the desks (like that was going to help!) When I was in high school, Star Trek--the original series--was on television. So was Get Smart and a whole host of shows that explored the unknown--Time Tunnel, Outer Limits, Lost in Space... It's hard for the younger generation, even those that are ten years younger than me, to realize what a huge difference there is between today's world and the world I grew up in. The year that my first child was born was the first moon walk.

Now we take space shots so much for granted that we don't even bother to watch them on television. Half the time people aren't even aware that another space shuttle is launching. Back then, it was bigger news than almost anything else, except for presidential assassinations.

When I was growing up, no one would have had even a faint notion what an airlock was. Now any kid that watches television and movies knows that. There are concepts that everyone is familiar with exposure of television, movies, and novels. Those concepts might be theoretical or even completely made up, but we're all familiar with them. We're so familiar with them that authors no longer need to explain them when they use them in stories. Yeah... life has changed.

The world according to computer is another world change that is mind-boggling. My first computer was so primitive that if I wanted a simple program, I had to buy it printed out in a magazine and type it in, line by line, usually about ten to fifteen pages worth, triple column, single spaced. And then hope that there were no typos in the code. We saved our work on the same type of tapes that are used for audio recording. Truthfully, a computer at that point really wasn't good for much. Now they run the world.

And much like sci-fi, the world of computers has a specialized vocabulary with words that most people are familiar with, even if they don't use a computer. People understand the basic concepts behind the reality.

I wonder what new wonders will be around for my grandchildren. What will they look back on and say, "I remember when the world changed." I don't know. It's easy to get so caught up in the everyday rhythms of life that we forget to stop and look back. We forget to remember about the places that no man has gone before.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

The other side of the tracks...

Stereotypes are funny things sometimes. They often prevent us from seeing the truth. Growing up, I was a host of stereotypes all by myself. You might say that I was the golden retriever of the human race--never met a person I didn't like--and they were always the wrong people. I didn't know that there were wrong people and right people until my mother died and we moved from Arizona to Gary, Indiana. Then I learned that there were a lot of wrong people. My friend Bobbie Jo, didn't just live on the other side of the tracks. Her family lived between the tracks. We lived in a small town outside of Gary where twenty railroad tracks crossed at one spot. I thought that Bobbie Jo was a fine friend. Her mama had a baby and when she came home from the hospital, I was allowed to hold the baby. I had never held a baby other than my brothers (and they don't count!) I was devastated when I was informed that I couldn't be friends with Bobbie Jo anymore because... she was the wrong color.

No doubt some of my readers will be appalled. But this was before desegregation. And feelings in the small church where my father was a minister ran high. The deacons collared him after Sunday services and informed him point blank that the pastor's daughter couldn't be running around with any of them. Their kind wasn't welcome at our lily white church.

I remember lying in my bed in the dark, weeping because I wasn't allowed to spend time at Bobbie Jo's house anymore. Then, abruptly, we were moved out to the country, several miles away and Bobbie Jo's house was too far for me to walk.

My children suffered somewhat the same type of thing growing up because we lived in a trailer park. Interesting... because our mortgage/lot rent was more money than most of their friends' parents paid for a regular house, but that didn't matter. My children were still trailer trash because we didn't live in a standard house. They had friends that weren't allowed to visit us because we lived in a mobile home--and never mind dressing it up with fancy names--it was still a trailer.

When I was growing up out in Arizona, it was not a safe thing to admit that you were part Indian. There were signs in the windows of stores and restaurants, No Indians Allowed. Being Indian wasn't always a cool thing to be.

What is it about those that are different from us? What do we fear? I think it's kind of funny that I've come full circle. My daughter was married to a Puerto Rican. They had a daughter. Now she's with a man who is half-Italian, half-Black. They have a daughter. My other daughter's significant other is so dark that when you take a picture all you see is eyes and teeth. They have a son. My son is with a wonderful woman from Arkansas that could be the model for that song, Redneck Woman. When we get together, it's rainbow city.

Yet, I am not so blind that I don't see the prejudice that still oozes out of the dark corners. My children have faced intolerance and bigotry because of their choices in mates. We still have a long way to go before we are truly an equal society where stereotypes no longer rule.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dress Code

Do you remember when you dressed to go out to a restaurant? No, I don't mean dressed up--as in wearing your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. I mean get dressed--as in put on some clothing. The other night the house hunk treated me at the local Italian food place. When we arrived, there was a sign with a long list of requirements to be met before you would be served.

Shoes. Shirt (with no offensive slogans printed on it.) No bathing suits. No underwear visible. No baggy pants.

Now it seems to me that most of that should be common sense, but then, what do I know? Clearly, the managers of this restaurant felt that it was necessary to post the sign. It was posted quite visibly in every entrance to the restaurant. And the font was large enough for me to read without my glasses. So what do you suppose this really means?

Perhaps, just perhaps, we've allowed the word casual to go to the extreme. It used to be that you didn't wear raggedy clothes unless you were doing a very dirty job or painting. Now they're considered dressed up enough to wear to awards shows. What is wrong with nice clothes?

I'm the first person to advocate comfort. The house hunk and I went out to an extremely flash restaurant for his sixtieth birthday. He wore a suit. I wore my dressiest outfit. Both of us were uncomfortable. We enjoyed the food, but not the experience and agreed that we would rather go to Outback Steakhouse if we could both wear a nice pair of jeans and a casual shirt.

However, there are lines to be drawn in what is appropriate when you walk out the door. I know an older woman who is very well endowed, though her endowment is sinking fast. She thinks nothing of going our in public without a bra. Uh, sweetheart? Put some clothes on. Begin with your underwear.

Wear shoes. If you're gonna wear sandals, clean your feet. Please.

Underwear is exactly that. Underwear. I can't tell you how disturbing I find it when men walk around with their underwear showing. No, it isn't sexy. Not on a sixteen-year-old. Not on a sixty-year-old. If you want to show a woman your underwear, rent a room.

Ladies... words nearly fail me when I see some of the clothing out there. One word. Mirror. Use it every time you go out the door. Check the back view as well as the front view. Remember that old saying? If it ain't for sale, don't advertise it. There's still some truth in it.

Am I the fashion police? Nope. I just figure that we need to be setting an example for the youngsters. They truly do mimic what they see their elders do--especially once they pass their teens. If they seem that Mom and Dad can be class acts even at their most casual, they'll imitate that too, when they're mature enough.

Then maybe restaurants won't have to post dress codes for adults.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pain of Getting Older

So I spent the better part of Monday evening at a diabetes clinic learning stuff. I have four more classes to go to over the next couple of months. Among other things, I learned how to use a neato little gadget to check my blood sugar. Of course, puncturing my precious skin with a fancy pushpin three times a day isn't so nifty, but I'll survive.

What is it with aging? You hit forty and suddenly your body has spasms and starts rebelling. What did I ever do to it to make that happen? I fed it ice cream and hamburgers and steak... so why the temper tantrums? I hit forty and the first thing out of the box was a nasty kidney stone with a spike on one side. It got jammed in the upper end of the tube running to the bladder, blew up my kidney like one of those small nerf footballs, and created a lot of anguish that was ultimately only relieved when I underwent a brand new procedure called lithotripsy. Let me tell you... well it's better than surgery. Maybe.

While waiting for that to be scheduled, I went into the OR so they could put in a stent and shove that sucky stone out of the way. Then I waited. Three weeks. It wasn't like it was an emergency, right?

We had to go about sixty miles away, because like I said... the darned machine was new. So. When I arrived, the nurse instructed me to undress--completely--and put on those ratty little gowns that hang open in the back. Then she took me into a room that had a strange recliner looking table. Only where the butt would be was a wide open space. After I crawled up there with the tushy hanging out, she had me scootch down until my butt was hanging in the wind.

Then I heard an ominous buzzing and suddenly this ice cold slimy covered piece that resembled a mini-water bed slapped up against the area from just above my waist to my lower backside. Yeow! It was cold!

Another fellow came in, introduced himself as the anesthesiologist and he proceeded to string me up with an IV. Next they offered me a head set and a choice of music. You know it's gonna be bad when they offer you music and headphones. And then the torture began. Four times a minute there was a bamm! and I felt pressure in the kidney area. The first ten times it was okaaaaaay, but after that it was just uncomfortable. I admit that breaking up the kidney stone with sound waves was definitely better than going the surgery route, but don't let anyone tell you it is painless. It took about thirty minutes, so four times a minute for thirty minutes is.... a lot.

Then the doctors unhooked me from all their gear and took away my music and the nurse returned. She helped me up from my waterbed of pain and wiped all the goop off my backside. That made me feel real grown up. I got dressed and the house hunk drove me home. I'm sure he was trying to be careful. Really. But I'm pretty sure that he hit every single pothole, crack, bump, and rough spot on the road on the way home.

Since then, it's been one thing after another. GERD (glorified heartburn), thyroid, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fallen arches, falling boobs, whiskers !, unibrows, gray hair (heck, let's be honest--it's mostly white), vitamin D deficiency, calcium deficiency, and bad teeth. Where's a vampire when you need him? I know why vampires are such a popular fantasy. If you catch him early enough you don't do all this aging crap. I wonder if it's too late to make my plane reservations to Transylvania?


Monday, August 4, 2008


Women have power. Men are bigger and more muscular. But match them up with a woman suffering from PMS... and they're generally toast. There are a lot of jokes about it, but the truth is often scarier than fiction. Many women are just a tad irrational at that “time” of the month. A wise man walks warily.

Women also have a tough inner core. They have to because they are the child bearers. It usually takes a fellow (on some level) to initiate a pregnancy. But the woman is the one who carries the load for nine months and then delivers the child. They don’t call it labor because it’s such a piece of cake.

That’s only the beginning of a long life spent protecting our offspring. Men will protect their mates and children first. If they’ve been brought up correctly, they’ll protect other women and children. But it’s been observed that even the mildest of women will protect all children—even children that are not their own—with an unparalleled ferocity. I recently had a discussion with a fellow writer who had a difficult time relating to one of my heroines who killed a man who was attacking her. Clearly the heroine’s life was in imminent danger. When I asked the writer what would happen if someone was attacking her children, the answer was immediate. He’d be dead. So while a woman might be ambivalent about her own life, the life of her child would be a different case entirely. Regardless of the inequality in size, the woman would wade into the fight without another thought.

In the face of unspeakable tragedy, women have and will continue to endure. We see the future clearly. That future is the next minute, the next hour, the next day. We know from experience that we have endured and survived in the past. Based on that experience, we expect to survive in the future. We are woman.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hsssst! It's the Coppers!

When we arrived home from shopping the other day there were several police cars in our parking lot. People were standing around. Bubble lights were flashing. What is the fascination we have with police cars?

All it takes is one cop car with flashing lights and people come out of the wood work to have a look. Fire trucks and ambulances are a close second. I have a feeling that is true for most people until the time that one of those emergency vehicles is there because of them. Then its a different story.

I remember my first personal encounter with a police car. We lived in Arizona. I was oh... maybe eight or nine years old. My mom was driving from a small town, Hayden, to a larger town, Globe and back then a lot of the roads were graded gravel. Anyway, she was driving along when the car started sliding toward the edge of the road. At that point, one edge of the road went straight down. The other side of the road was a sheer cliff that went straight up. So her choices were--go over the edge?--or try to steer the car into the cliff? She went for the cliff.

The car rolled, ending up on it's side. That was waaaaay before the era of seatbelts so we tumbled around in the car. In the trunk, the food for the pot-luck supper also tumbled all over. Since it was also before the era of Tupperware...well it was a mess. Baked beans, fried chicken and potato salad was strewn across the trunk.

Mom stood on the side window (which was on the gravel) and pushed the topside door open. Then she hoisted each of us kids up and out, finally crawling out herself. We were in the middle of nowhere in the desert. I had on a red sweater that day. She sent me down around the curve in the road to flag down the next car that came along. It just so happened that it was an unmarked police car.

I remember being absolutely fascinated by their telephone in the car. I don't profess to understand exactly what electronics they were using at that time (probably actually a two way radio), but I still remember the thrill of talking to my dad on the car "telephone". And I still remember how safe I felt because the police were there and they were going to take care of everything.

So maybe, that's the ultimate fascination. Visible representatives of safety.


Friday, August 1, 2008

The New Frontier

I was having a discussion with a couple of fellow authors about the characteristics of werewolves and other things. Within the world building for a story, certain laws must be decided upon and once decided, those laws must be consistent. So one of the writers was tendering the question as to the werewolf laws already in use by other authors. We explained that the current laws were not so important as what she decided for her book and how consistent she was with those decisions.

This is true especially for any paranormal critter. Make your decision and stick to it. You say sunlight doesn't bother your vampire? Fine. Then in chapter fourteen don't have your vampire stuck in a closet because sunlight will kill him. Be consistent.

Weres in particular seem to have an ever changing mythology. Some have problems with the moon, some don't, and some have variable effects from the moon depending on their age, whether they're in heat, or whether they're mated. Etc. and so on...

Then another question came up about whether or not a werewolf could be a cowboy. Seems to me that werewolves all have to make a living just like the rest of us. I proposed that another friend should write a story about a dragon/cowboy in Wyoming... Truly, why limit ourselves to the same-old, same-old? Isn't that why we write? Because we want new stories? There are all sorts of combinations and interesting story lines.

I look forward in the future to reading some wild, creative stories about shapeshifters in the West. Cowboys, Indians, Ranchers, Archaeologists, Rangers, and the whole spectrum. I hope we keep on boldly going forward into new realms. There are new adventures just waiting for us to discover them.