Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's Friday!

I don't believe in wishing my life away, but sometimes it's just fabulous when Friday arrives, you know? And in my case that's weird because my days are pretty much all the same. I'm retired, so to speak. So Friday is mostly the same as Monday. Or Wednesday. Or any other day.

However, there's something about Friday...

Maybe it's the lifetime of knowing it's the end of the workweek. Or maybe it's knowing the weekend begins the next day (although that's not much different for me, either.)

Anyway, for those of you with plans, have a great weekend! It's Friday!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pickup lines...

Why do men need pickup lines? And how well do they work? I was introduced to the house hunk on a blind date so he didn't have to try out his repertoire, but I have to admit I've never been impressed by the lines I've seen in movies.

So how is a guy--or girl--supposed to develop that quick introduction that captures the target's attention? And why does it have to be clever? Why not just "Hello, I'm John. You're reasonably attractive and I would like to have sex with you." No?

It occurs to me such an approach would cut through all the baloney sausage but it probably doesn't meet the standards for the woman. Women want more romance. Even if it's fake. And then they complain that men are false. It seems to me they can't expect to have it both ways.

Romance is a female invention. Men just want to drag you off to their cave and mate. Romance is what they do because it's against the law to drag you off to their cave. Now they have to lure you to the cave.

So the pickup line is actually at the behest of the female. Hmmm.

What's the best pickup line you've ever heard?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Night of the Mountain Lion

This story is for my friend, Julia Barrett, just because she asked so nicely...

When I was five we lived in Pima, Arizona. At that time it was what I call a 'blinking light' town. On the highway of life, Pima had a blinking light to signify it's one cross road. Of course, in Arizona at that time, blinking light towns were quite common. They were usually a small huddle of one-and-two bedroom houses, a gas station, and possibly a tiny general store. Pima also had a post office and a couple other businesses.

We lived in three different houses in Pima. I suspect it was a matter of moving up each time we moved, but that wouldn't have been too hard because prior to that we lived in surplus military housing in Mesa.

I have flickering memories about each house. In one house, I remember helping my mother do laundry out on the patio in our wringer washer. In another, I remember going to the post office next door to get our mail. And in the third...well, the third was the house where we lived on the night the mountain lion came to visit.

I mentioned we lived in Arizona, right? This was fifty-five years ago. There was no air conditioning. It was summer, so the windows were all open and a small fan was running in the kitchen where my mother was sewing while my dad worked at the tiny all night gas station in town. It was the last gas station for many miles. Mama was pregnant with my baby brother. My two younger brothers and I were asleep.

Outside, Rover, our dog started barking frantically. Mama turned on the porch lights, trying to see what was aggravating him. All she could make out was a large shadowy animal-shaped figure. Rover was howling and whimpering and then she could tell Rover was under the house in the crawl space.

Mama went from window to window in the tiny house peering out in the darkness. As she was looking out the bedroom window, a giant paw scored the old screen. With great presence of mind, she slammed the window down and then ran through the house, closing all the windows and doors.

She called my father, demanding that he come home at once. In the way that men react to such things, he told her she must be imagining things. The calls went back and forth for a while until Dad locked up for the night and came home. Mama was packing in the stifling kitchen, terrified and angry when Dad arrived.

Rover was still under the house and refused to come out.

And the next DAY we moved to an entirely different town.

So what was trying to get into the house that night? The sheriff came out at dawn and walked around the yard with Dad. They found extraordinary big cat paw prints. Our house was at the edge of town and the paw prints led off into the wilderness.

Daddy had to crawl into the crawl space to drag Rover out from under the house. He was crouched all the way in the corner as far as he could go from where he entered.

We never knew exactly what species of cat came to our house that night. But for sure, there are things that really do go bump in the night.


Sunday, July 25, 2010


All sorts of heroes populate our world. Some are easy to spot. Others are only appreciated in hindsight. One such hero--David Warren-- died recently. Too often we fail to wonder about the heroes who make significant differences in our lives. Or we take things for granted. Take time to check out the link and learn about one man who made a huge difference to every single person who's ever boarded an airplane, wherever we live.

As I sat here, coughing and wheezing, I realized my life would be so much worse without the little inhaler I have sitting on my desk. It took a while but I tracked down info on one Charles Thiel, co-inventor of the MDI (metered dose inhaler) for asthma. Click on his name, scroll down the page, and check him out! Millions of asthmatics use his invention every day.

Do you know a hero? Tell us about them or provide a link in the comments! Let's celebrate the heroes who make our lives safer!


You know it's HOT when...

You know it's HOT when...

The shade for your windshield melts to the window.

The dog refuses to go outside.

It's 80 degrees inside and that feels cold.

You wait until evening to go to the pool so you won't overheat.

Your ice cream cone melts before you can pay for it.

It's 95 degrees in the shade.

Your bathing suit is dry by the time you walk from the pool to your lounge chair.

What about y'all? How hot is it???


Friday, July 23, 2010

Casual Friday

I understand the basic rules for Casual Friday. I just don't understand the reasoning. At most companies with a casual Friday policy, it's still business as usual. So what's the difference if a woman wears sneakers instead of high heels? And if there's no difference, then why not allow the sneakers the rest of the time? Wouldn't she be more efficient if her feet weren't hurting her?

My daughter's employer goes one better with the occasional barbecue Friday or other incentive. So I can certainly understand casual clothing if you're going to be eating barbecue in the parking lot. But for most companies that institute a casual Friday, it's no more than permission to wear jeans and sneakers. Now, here's my question...

Why not permit jeans and sneakers all the time? Ninety percent of the individuals in her company never meet anyone outside the company. There's no public interaction. All work is done via computers and telephone. So why the office attire?

See, I wonder if there's some study that proves that more work is accomplished if the workers are dressed up. OR would they discover that people work better when they're comfortable?

I watched a newsclip about the employees of Facebook. They work in whatever. The CEO's philosophy is the more comfortable the workers, the more creative and productive they will be.

I work at home. I wear whatever comes to hand first thing in the morning. I can guarantee it will be something comfortable and casual. And what I wear doesn't have any influence on how much I write or whether the writing is good or bad. For me a casual Friday would probably be working naked. Hmmmm. Wonder if that would work better?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Boy, is that hot!

Not the weather...though it's definitely hot. I'm talking about that scene...

Part of an author's commitments is posting excerpts from their books. Once a month I have a chat where I invite other authors to post excerpts. And one of the reactions from other posters is the phrase, "that's hot!"

I'm curious. What does that mean? Because I confess that I frequently don't quite discern the "hotness". Is it me? Am I jaded? What defines the hotness for one person vs. another?

The hottest scene I've ever read was written for a Harlequin Presents by Anne Mather. That was about thirty years ago and for me, it's never been topped. I'm not sure the hero and heroine even kissed in the scene. Certainly, they weren't touching. So what made it so hot? I think it was the anticipation.

What about you? What's the hottest scene you've ever read? Why was it hot for you?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Romance? What's that?

You get dressed up. You know--makeup, stockings, etc. And the hunk meanders out of the bedroom dressed in jeans and tee-shirt. I didn't need some guy to write a book about how women and men are from different planets. By the time you live with a man for two days you already have that down.

I've been working hard on a new book, Phantom's Rest. It's always a fine line an female author walks when they portray a male character. The truth is our (mostly) female readers don't want to read about how the guys leave their dirty shorts on the floor or their whiskers in the sink. They don't want to know about how he left the toilet seat up so the heroine fell in the toilet in the middle of the night.

So I think we fall back on certain stereotypes when we write. The guys usually drink beer. They rarely do laundry or cook--unless the author is using one of those to engineer a meeting.

But for some reason they know how to be romantic. They know about flowers and candles and those things that are close to a woman's heart. And if they have to choose between watching the Superbowl game or taking their lady out to watch a chick flick, they always choose the chick flick.

I do not know a single guy, regardless of age, who would do that. Oh, they might do it because they're aware that's the way to get lucky when they bring the little wife home...but willingly choosing to skip the game? No.

Not too many heroes sweat. They work all day at some kind of manly job out in the sun but when they come home and wrap those damp arms around the little woman? She burrows her nose in his chest and hums with contentment because he smells so good. Seriously. Check it out.

And every guy character in the book knows exactly how to fix a car. Any kind of car. They know how to fix the plumbing. And how to install a garbage disposal.

I want a guy who can tell me how to fix artichoke dip. I want one who knows how to run a vacuum, the dishwasher, and how to make me chocolate chip cookies when I need a chocolate fix.

Yeah, I want a fantasy...


Monday, July 19, 2010

Hunks in wet shirts...sigh.

Yes, they are pretty, aren't they? This is actually a picture of guys in the Air Force doing rescue training. And yeah, I have to say it--they may rescue me anytime, any place. Go Air Force!

Hmmm. Other news in the Anny Cook universe? I have a release date for Alpheli Solution from Resplendence Publishing! October 20, 2010--Just three more months! Yay! This is my first vampire novel and I'm excited about Julian, Danamara, and Pierre's story!

Also, for those of you who love the Mystic Valley books, EC has just offered me a contract for the next one, tentatively titled Blue Paradise. This book has a sassy heroine named Poussé and two hunky blue dudes to keep her in line. When I have more info, I'll post it!

Now I'm off to write! I have 20K more on Phantom's Rest, a story set in a longterm RV park, replete with ghosts, assassins, spies and some of the liveliest retirees you've ever met.

Have an excellent day!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Throwdown at the Pool

Last week my granddaughters and I went to the pool. Normally, there aren't very many people there but on this particular day, it was unusually busy. After a quick dip I found a spot in the shade and read one of the stories on my Sony reader while the girls had fun playing with their friends.

When we'd been there about an hour, a fight erupted between two young teenaged girls in the pool. I'm not talking about a little sissy fight with them splashing water on each other. This was a champion throwdown with hair pulling and shoving. They were holding each other down under the water.

I must say I've never seen the head lifeguard move that fast--not because he can't, but because he doesn't usually need to. Anyway, he took life and limb in hand and separated the girls. Then he escorted them to the end of the pool where the steps were. As they reached the steps, one girl decided she wasn't finished with the fight.

She went around the lifeguard, after the other girl. Again, he separated them. Nope, she still wasn't finished. So he bodily lifted her out of the water, carried her across the width of the pool, set her on the side and told her to stay there.

In the meantime, her target climbed out of the pool, dried off and called her mother. Then until her mom arrived, she sat quietly waiting.

Now you might ask what in the world precipitated this fight. And the answer was words. One girl admitted she didn't like the other girl very much because she considered her rude. So the other girl attacked her physically because we all know that's the best way to win friends and influence people. Right? Right?

And if at first you don't succeed by beating someone over the head, well try, try again until they're cowering in submission. We can speculate all we want to about the influence of television, music, and movies on the way our kids behave. But the truth is our children usually model their behavior on what is acceptable in our home. If violence is the first solution in every instance, then that's what our kids will use.

At fourteen, this young lady has already settled into a pattern that will govern the way she relates to people around her for the rest of her life. I find this rush to violence very disturbing.

This fight wasn't precipitated in self-defense. It wasn't even started in the defense of someone else. It was initiated by a young woman who didn't like the words she heard.

What happens the next time she doesn't like something someone says? Will someone die because she refuses to stop?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Midnight Ride on Superstition Mountain

I read a news story about a huge search for three men lost in the Superstition Mountains. I'm concerned for those men as I'm familiar with being stranded in those same mountains.

The first ten years of my life, I mostly lived in Arizona. The last year we lived there, we lived in Globe, Arizona. Our grandparents lived down in the 'valley' in Chandler. Once when we had been there for a visit, Mom and Dad decided to take the scenic route back home. They planned to stop for a picnic and then travel on home.

In 1959, the summer we traveled along the back side of Superstition Mountain, the road wasn't paved. Actually, there were few paved back roads at that time in Arizona, with most of them being graded dirt. Our route was graded gravel, which was considered a step up in the hierarchy of roads.

We had an old pick-up with a mattress in the back. My older two brothers, Jack and Tommie, sat back there with me. Amazing isn't it? No seat belts, no cover, just the three of us crouched up against the back of the truck cab to buffer us against the wind. Jack was seven and Tommie was five. Our baby brother, Danny was three so he sat in the cab with Mommy and Daddy.

We started for home in late afternoon. The first part of the trip, of course, was paved until we reached Apache Junction where we stopped for gas. It was the last gas station for a long way. Back then, the gas stations handed out premiums when you bought gas. The Apache Junction station handed out glassware with different kinds of cactus on them. Mommy collected the glassware, putting together different sets… ice tea glasses, juice glasses, etc. I still have one set that she saved for my hope chest.

After Daddy filled up our gas tank, we left the main road and started down the route around the back of Superstition Mountain. In fairly rapid succession, it went from narrow blacktop to gravel.

Perhaps a couple of hours later, Daddy spotted a nice little clearing at the side of the road and pulled off. There was a sparkling little brook there, several cottonwood trees and a bit of grass. Mommy spread out a quilt and set out the food. I don't have any idea what we ate. It doesn't even seem important, but I vividly remember Jack and Tommie racing up and down the side of the brook with me as we floated leaves and tossed small stones in the water, enjoying the splashing.

After we ate, Mommy let us take off our shoes and wade in the water. Danny meandered down to the brook and sat down in the water and that was the end of the playtime! Mommy dried him off and changed his clothes. Daddy packed up the quilt and food and we all piled back into the truck.

Just as darkness fell, there was a loud popping sound and Daddy stopped the truck. He got out and raised the hood while we leaned over the side of the truck, trying to 'see'. Mommy told us to sit down, but you know kids--we bounced around back there, sort of impatient to get moving. At last, Daddy slammed the hood down and climbed back in the truck. The fan belt was gone, we were in the middle of nowhere, and it was a long way home.

To conserve the power in the battery, Daddy alternately turned on the truck to drive up the hills and turned it off so we could coast down the hills. This was not only wearing, but time consuming. And when we coasted down with no headlights, it was dark.

It got later and the moon came up, lighting the mountain with a soft golden glow. When I was just a kid, there were already ghost stories abounding about Superstition Mountain. There were stories about Indians and lost gold mines and disappearing prospectors. As a child, all of the stories sort of jumble together and reality isn't any part of them.

With the sun down, it got colder and Mommy gave us the quilt to cover up with. Huddled under the quilt, we just prayed for the truck to go faster. First Tommie and then Jack fell asleep, leaving me alone in my wary wakefulness.

Then the coyotes began to howl. Long mournful yodeling ululations floated down the dark mountain. I shivered and burrowed further down between my brothers. The truck went around a curve and a long finger of the mountain loomed above us.

Beginning high on the peak, rank upon rank of saguaro men marched down the mountainside, pursuing our truck. More eerie yips and barks poured over us. Ocotillo tepees spiked up through the moonlight. Ghostly aspen and cottonwood leaves whispered in the shadows.

I tightly closed my eyes and then slowly nudged the quilt until it was over our heads, covering us completely. Somewhere, in my fervent prayers for safety, I slipped into sleep.

I remember briefly waking when we reached a dam with a small general store. And I remember listening to my father talk of this trip much later when I was older. Apparently, the owners of the store lived above it. Daddy woke them up and they came up with a suitable fan belt. We finally arrived home in the wee hours of the morning.

As an adult, of course, we simply view the terrible inconveniences of such an ordeal. But even now, more than fifty years later, I haven't forgotten the delicious terror of that ride along Superstition Mountain.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let's Pretend!

Back in the day, my children went through a stint of pretending they were all sorts of superheroes. One jumped off the six foot wall in front of our house because he was the Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin. Fortunately, we got away with some cracked bones in his foot. Another jumped in front of a car--in her bathing suit--because she was Wonder Woman. And we were blessed because the woman driving had quick reflexes and good brakes.

We had a spate of broken noses from the kids riding their big wheels off the picnic table when they were in their Evel Knieval stage. That wasn't nearly as bad as the time they decided to try to be the man on the flying trapeze only in their version they used a string attached to the overhead light.

Of course my favorite of all time was their stint as Davy Crockett after watching a movie. It was early Saturday morning. They were careful to protect the carpet by covering it with a heavy layer of newspapers. Then they built their campfire...

Around eight-thirty they woke us up because they needed help putting out the fire on the mattress. Now the hunk normally sleeps nude. And dousing the fire was his priority. So I still have a vivid mental picture of him racing through the house in his all-together with a flaming mattress which he tossed out the back door onto the patio.

Life was never dull.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Where do you get your ideas?

Brainstorming. You think of a crazy idea. Pitch it to your critique partners. Let them shoot holes in it. Then you slap patches on the holes. And THEN you write it down.

There ya go!

Actually, I do something similar to that. Ideas--especially offbeat ones like mine--need a steady hand on the critique pen to make sure they don't get too far out in left field. So when I think I have a wonderful unique idea, I run it by my partners. And sometimes they shoot it down. But that's probably a good thing.

There is a certain limit to the craziness for each genre. Of course if no one ever pushed the envelope we wouldn't have most of the sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal stories that are the current craze. Obviously, there are a lot of authors with crazy ideas.

What's your favorite crazy idea book or series?

For a sample of my newest crazy idea, check out my new WIP excerpt (Link for my Weekly WIP Excerpt page is on the upper right!)


Don't forget to drop by this evening at my chat! All the info plus the link is in the upper right corner!

Monday, July 12, 2010

This 'n' That

It's Monday! And I'm home. We had a great time over the weekend at the booksigning. The other authors were lovely, funny women. Met one author who turned out to be an old acquaintance, though neither of us knew each other under our pen names. That was funny. We both worked for the same place.

There were the usual crazy drivers on the road. Can I just say? If you're in the "fast" lane, what is the point of zipping in and out of the "slow" lane? Especially when there's only six or seven car lengths between the cars? Are you trying to kill someone?

We're in the middle of a cold wave. Temps are down to the nineties. I don't know how we'll cope. It sure would be nice if we had some rain here as the grass is that nasty brown color and feels like straw. Sigh. I guess we're never happy with what we have.

Today is my brother's birthday. Happy birthday, Jack! May you have many, many more! I love you.

Until tomorrow! Be happy and blessed.


Don't forget my chat at LRC on Tuesday evening. For details, check the upper right corner of the blog!

Friday, July 9, 2010

On the road again...

Well, the house hunk and I are off to New York upstate today so I will be there tomorrow for the booksigning in Middletown, New York. For details, check the upper right corner! If you're in the area, please stop in and say hello!


Thursday, July 8, 2010


With all the recent rigmarole about spies in the news, it occurred to me these masks would be just the thing for them to implement. You couldn't miss them that way.

Our attitude toward spies depends on who they're spying for, doesn't it? If they're our spies, then they're patriots. If they're the other fellow's spies then they're no good, evil bad guys.

Spying is one of the world's oldest professions, other notions not-withstanding. I can see a neanderthal chickie babe sauntering into camp to scope out the neighboring group's hunting grounds. Later on, no doubt some hunter/gatherer type followed the hunters, hoping to score food and skins for his tribe.

I believe it's the word spy that we find so offensive. Really, all they're gathering is information. Maybe we should call them information engineers. Hmmm. Russian information engineers. There now. See that doesn't sound nearly as bad.

Information Engineer could be a respectable career goal. Colleges could add it to their curricula. I wonder how many credits it would require. What sorts of classes would there be? Hiding in plain sight? How to manage a secret camera? Seducing your target? Sleeping in the enemy's backyard?

Spying must be a difficult career choice. What do you tell your grandchildren when they ask what kind of job you had? Information Engineer just sounds better.

So what do you think? Have we heard the last of the latest information engineer scandal? Or are there more of them waiting to be discovered?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Paranormal Cougars

In the paranormal world, it's difficult to settle on a definition for cougar--as refers to older woman/younger man. For one thing, it's very hard to define age by appearance.

Vampires can be any age. And what they appear to be has nothing to do with actual age. So that hunky nighttime pool boy could be a couple hundred years old...making the fiftyish cougar a mere babe. Or if you reverse it, that young babe in the casino could be a lot more of a cougar that she appears to be. Hmmmm.

Depending on the world rules, shifters seem to have a life span up to around three hundred years, but age so slowly it's hard to define age. Then there are all the new kids--the zombies, the demons, the angels...who can decide what's unusual anymore?

What I find interesting about the paranormal cougarish deal (male or female) is this: no one addresses the issues--the same ones you would have even if you weren't paranormal. Things like one of you has more experience because you're older. Or that because of the age differences there aren't so many common interests. So how does that work between a two-hundred-year-old vampire and a thirty-something human?

I don't recall reading even one book that deals with those issues as a conflict. And I confess I didn't address them in my own book. But now that I think about it, wouldn't there be some sort of conflict or adjustment? Or is the older protagonist just supposed to deal with their memories and move on?

How do you think that would work in "real" life?


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Working benefits

There are a lot of people out there looking for jobs. In the current economy people are settling for "less" in the benefits packages. I suspect that will be the wave of the future.

At one time--way back when I was a young woman--benefits meant you were hired to work a standard forty hours a week and therefore you could count on a specific amount of money in your paycheck. When I started working, I was paid once a month and received the princessly sum of two hundred dollars (take home). That was considered a decent wage for a beginning accounts payable clerk.

That was the sum total of my benefits. Insurance? No. Overtime? No. Vacation Pay? No. Sick Pay? No. If you didn't show up for work, you didn't get paid.

I'm not sure exactly when medical insurance appeared on the scene as a standard benefit. I know the hunk didn't have it as part of his wages when we had our first two children. I was leafing through their baby books recently. The hospital bills for the two of them were under four hundred dollars each--for five days. Back then, you actually stayed in the hospital when you had the baby. As opposed to now when they throw you out after twenty-four hours.

Natural be damned. With the first baby you don't know what the heck you're doing. With all the subsequent ones, you need the rest before going home to deal with the family.

I believe he finally had paid vacation sometime between the first two children and the third. Back then you had to work three or four years before you "earned" a week of vacation. We rented a cabin at Lake of the Ozarks and mostly hung out in the cabin because that was what we could afford. I recall a quick stop in Springfield, Illinois to visit Abraham Lincoln's home. That was it.

He didn't have sick days until he was there about five years. The company had an interesting policy. You could be out sick for fifteen or twenty days a year with no problem as long as it was one occurrence. They didn't count actual days. They counted occurrences. So if you were female and missed one day a month because of your period, that counted as twelve occurrences per year...not a good thing as you were only allowed three occurrences per year. It didn't matter that it was only twelve days. On the other hand, if you broke your leg and were out for three months, that was fine as long as it was one occurrence.

I was working full-time when I got pregnant with my first child. The first day I walked into work in a maternity top, my supervisor met with me and informed me I needed to give my two week notice as I couldn't work there once I was showing. He mumbled something about it being dangerous for the baby. What was I doing? Um, I was writing numbers in ledgers. This was well before the Age of Computers. Actually, I didn't even have a typewriter. Pencils and paper are very dangerous to developing fetuses.

I have a feeling that much will go back to the way it used to be in my young adulthood. Even wage levels are dropping. So maybe Ann up there in the photo has the right idea. Doggie bags could be the new benefit of the future.


Monday, July 5, 2010


Sigh. The swimming season is upon us. And there are numerous style shows on TV and sites on the Internet with a parade of swimsuits that are supposedly slimming.

Well, I'm just going to say this flat out. If you're over a size sixteen, there ain't no such thing as a slimming swim suit. It may be more supportive. It might have a belly tightening section around the middle so you don't jiggle and wiggle when you walk. But it's not slimming. Since I'm squarely in this category, I can tell you it takes more than a swimsuit to accomplish that.

Now that I've given you the bad news...I'll lay on the good news. All those skinny people with no fat? They sink.

Yep. If you're gonna be stranded out in the deep, tossed overboard from a ship, or pushed in the deep end of the pool, the optimal situation would be if your on the chubby side. 'Cause that fat (awful word isn't it?) floats.

I love going to the pool. It's the one time in my life when I can do all sorts of exercises with minimal stress on my joints. I can laze around, floating from one end of the pool to the other. Dog paddling? No problem. Yoga positions? No problem!

So if I have to choose between bikini wear or the slimming suit, well, I'll choose the slimmer. Besides, I burn in the sun like a candle. Who's gonna see the bikini body when I'm covered from head to toe?

I say, let's get out there and enjoy!


Friday, July 2, 2010

Don't be a Funky Chicken!

It's Friday, the beginning of a long weekend. Many people will be traveling to celebrate the American Independence Day. In Canada, they're celebrating Canada Day. That's a lot of people celebrating and traveling.

Every year, people die or are injured during the celebrations, mostly because of someone's stupidity. Too much alcohol. Traveling on too little sleep. Unsupervised fireworks. Too much sun. People running around like a bunch of funky chickens.

So here's what my wish is for this Independence Day--fewer injuries and deaths. Maybe if people stop long enough to ask if their actions are going to make them look like that funky chicken up there...maybe more people will survive, maybe more people will have a safe weekend.

Don't be a funky chicken.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hmmmm. Planning you say?

There is a very undervalued stage in writing--the planning stage. I sometimes think writer's block, that point when you stare at the screen in blank horror, could be blamed on underplanning.

I'm not talking about outlines or the storyline here. I'm talking about the general setting for the book and the required research. In my case, when I come up with an idea for a book, the first thing I do is delve into various backgrounds and scenarios before I settle on one for the book.

Now, there are a lot of authors who think I'm wrong. They don't see the value in the pre-planning and think it's a waste of time. Perhaps for them, this is true. After all, everyone has their own working style. I do know I have a very difficult time writing (or completing) a book when I don't feel comfortable with my pre-planning.

In that pre-planning, I may even run across an unusual or unique idea I can incorporate in the book. Perhaps there's something that will add a neat twist to the story. They say there are no new story ideas--only unique ways of telling the stories.

I submit the well of ideas must be replenished on a regular basis. My pre-planning stage is when I add to my store of odd facts and ideas for the well. I find the best way to do so is surf the Internet, reading those articles and websites that catch my attention. Frankly, if I'm not interested in the subject myself, how can I expect someone else to be interested?

Where would we be without the Internet? No matter what subject, we can find something about it. I add a caution here--just because it's on the Internet doesn't necessarily mean it's true. If something captures your attention, don't settle on the first sighting. Run that idea down until you're sure of the facts. Then if you decide to give it your own unique twist, you'll have a basis for that.

Oh, yeah. We sometimes forget there are print books out there with a host of ideas that may not be available on the Internet. My print book library is about four thousand strong. It includes over fifty cookbooks--some of them vintage cookbooks. Need an authentic meal for a historical setting? It's probably in there. There are books about how to hunt, field dress and butcher an animal. How to weave a basket. How to make a pottery bowl.

And there are human resources. I had a fascinating discussion with a young man at a Bass Pro shop. He was recently retired from the military. We chatted about detonators, det cord, and blasting caps. When I hauled out my notepad to make notes, he even drew pictures. First-hand experience and knowledge is far more valuable than something acquired from a secondary source. He gave me invaluable suggestions for follow-up research.

What part did this have in my book? About three paragraphs. But I have the satisfaction of knowing the dialogue and descriptions are correct. And in our conversation, I also discovered another idea I had was untenable. So that information saved me from making a mistake.

What about you? Do you plan ahead? Look up stuff as needed? What's your style?