Monday, July 28, 2014

Did somebody cancel today?

I think the world cancelled today and forgot to tell me. None of the things I expected to happen came about. I thought I was going to lunch with a friend, but he had a stomach bug, so I stayed home and ate leftovers. What really bothered me about that was I had already put on make-up.  Jordan was going to come for our occasional afternoon happy hour after her work--but they had workmen at her house and she had to be home. She might, she said, need me to pick up Jacob. I did odds and ends all morning and got lots of little things done, After lunch I napped, woke up late, and called to see if I should go get Jacob. No, he was already home so he could see all the digging in their front yard. Result: I spent the entire day in my pajamas, with only Sophie for company--but she's good company.
The day left me with time to contemplate world affairs which is not a happy thing to do these days. Bob Schieffer said it best in a recent broadcast: we are in the midst of a world gone mad. Russia's encroachment on Ukraine; the horrifying Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That one I really don't understand, but perhaps I don't understand such age-old violent hatred. It seems to me that Israel keeps building settlements on Palestinian land; Hamas incites warfare, knowing that its citizens will be slaughtered--men, women, and children. I saw a cartoon recently that showed a group of supposedly Palestinian men milling around. The caption read, "Hamas loves us so much they even gave us T-shirts." On each shirt was a bulls eye. Gold Meir said years ago, "We can forgive the Palestinians for killing our children; we cannot forgive them for making us kill their children." One hardly dares use the term "fair" in this situation.
Then there are the children at the border and that horribly botched execution in Arizona, wildfires destroying eastern Washington state, violent storms in the Midwest and South. As long as we keep destroying our environment, the eccentricities of nature are beyond us and will only increase. But we could work with the atrocities wrought by man by teaching the world one word: compassion.
Oops, I slipped into the pulpit by mistake--that's what a contemplative day at home will do for you. But our minister said it well yesterday. Paraphrasing, but all we can do is take care of our own corner of the world with compassion--our family, friends, community. And vote, folks, it makes a difference.
My goodness, solitude also makes me ramble.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Warning--a political rant


They say it’s impolite to talk about politics on Facebook. I have one friend who implies that I rant without thinking. Well, okay, here goes a rant, and at least I've given warning. I’ve really thought about this. But I don’t think Speaker Boehner is thinking—in fact, I don’t think, as we used to say, his elevator goes all the way to the top. It stops at the floor that houses both his own ego and his hatred for President Obama.

His lawsuit is ridiculous, like a little boy stamping his foot because he can’t get his way. In fact, I saw a political cartoon to that effect the other day. After trying 50 times to kill the Affordable Care Act and failing—at great expense to the American people--he’s suing  the president. For what? Failure to administer the ACA properly. Again at great expense to the American people. I wonder if he’d be so hot about all this if legal fees came out of his pocket, but he has unlimited funds—our tax dollars. And, frankly, that’s not what I pay taxes for. I wanted a better infrastructure, health care for all, education for our children, equal employment, women's rights. Those are the things I pay my taxes for.

Now we hear that the lawsuit is the first step toward impeachment—pray tell, on what grounds? Failure to administer the ACA? Being too aloof (I just read that one on Facebook)? Does he even think, for a minute, about the upheaval such proceedings would throw this country into—upheaval that would reach into all our individuals lives. Financially, socially, and in terms of national security, employment, and dealing with all those “crises” the Republicans are so worried about. The country, just now recovering from a near-depression, would come to a crashing halt.

We live in a turbulent world, and everyone is looking to President Obama to wave a magic wand and rescue Iraq, halt the godawful bloody destruction of Palestine, do something about the sudden influx (it’s not sudden at all, folks—that’s an election-year issue) of children from Central America. How can he, let alone the government, deal with these problems around the world if he’s fighting a lawsuit and possible impeachment at home.

This is a time for all Americans to pull together. I truly don’t think Speaker Boehner has thought through the results of his actions—he sees another election-year ploy. I remember when my nephew, about sixteen, learned the lesson of "actions have consequences"--he ran out of gas and had to walk miles.

I may be preaching to the choir. I know many disagree with me, and they are entitled to their opinion. If expressed in civil terms, without hatred, I will respect it. But I find the president to be a compassionate, capable man, intelligent and thoughtful, more given to negotiation than fight. I can’t say the same for Speaker Boehner. I have no respect for him.

Please make your voices heard.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The quiet of solitude

Sophie and I are a little lost tonight. We've had Jacob with us for four nights, Granted, he tended to spend the evening in the back of the house in "his room" as he calls the family room, while I was in my office in the front. But I knew he was there, and sometimes I checked on him, took him a drink, and sometimes he came to ask me something or for a treat. Always I knew there was another person in the house. And then there was the business of getting teeth brushed and other nightly rituals and coercing him into bed--"Just five more minutes, Juju!" The hardest part about having Jacob is figuring out what to feed him that he'll eat--I fear he had way too much peanut butter and honey these last few days!
Tonight our "staycation" is over, and he's gone back home. Sophie takes his absence with equanimity--his attention to her is sometimes intense but often sporadic, and now she sleeps peacefully in her chair.
I am enjoying lazy solitude--reading a book that I will probably finish tonight, looking forward to a new copy of Southern Living, and ignoring that "to do" pile on my desk that has to at least be sorted. Like Scarlett, I'll think about that tomorrow.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The good old days

Remember when summer was a time for kids to be kids, free to do whatever they wanted (within reason)? I remember at least one summer when I rode my bike to the public library every morning got four or five books, went home and spent the day on the screened-in front porch reading. Next morning I went back to return those and get more. The neighborhood kids thought I was squirrelly at best.
These days kids don't have that freedom. I wouldn't let Jacob ride his bike alone around the block, let alone to a public library a mile from home. Because his parents both work all day, his summer days are as structured as during the school year. He's either in some special camp or he's at the Clayton YES (Youth Enrichment Services) program at his school.
This week, I'm giving him a vacation. He stayed over Sunday night, stayed up way too late without my knowledge, and slept until ten. That morning he said he'd just like a week when he could sleep in, so I thought why not? He sleeps in (except Tuesday when we went to the country where he had a wonderful time) and spends much of the day on his iPad though I arrange outings--one day we went to lunch with friends he enjoys, then we went to the bank to sign some papers and meet his mom, and he went for his regular reading lesson. Today friends he adores took him at lunch because I had a previous commitment and then he had a swimming play date. Tomorrow another swimming play date. I do not want him to be a kid who does nothing but iPad but I figure for one week, it's okay--it makes him use his brain cells. And, oh yes, we do read for 30 minutes every morning. He's eating lots of peanut butter and honey, but that's okay too. At night he's in his room on the iPad and I'm at my desk--like two ships passing in the night. But maybe someday he'll remember his grandmother who let him do whatever he wanted.
Meantime I'm enjoying his company--what I have of it. And I will confiscate the iPad at bedtime.

Meet the author of the St. Louis Sisters Series


Please welcome my Wednesday guest, Holly Gilliatt. A self-confessed music, movie, and accessories junkie, Holly's passion has always been writing. Give her an algebra quiz and she'll curl up in the fetal position. But throw a test requiring all essay answers her way and she's in heaven. Between running a household and wrangling a husband, three kids, two dogs and a cat—it’s not easy to find time to write. So she sacrifices the laundry pile to spin her tales of laughter, friendship and love. She's proud to call the St. Louis area her home.


****

Thank you, Judy, for letting me babble on your blog today! For those that don’t know, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Judy as the editor of my first three books. She has a good eye, is responsive, and always makes me look at my work from a different viewpoint—something I value greatly.

While she’s known most recently for writing cozy mysteries, I write women’s fiction. A vastly different genre, but as she and I have discussed before, it’s really all about the characters. Whether you’re writing a mystery plot with twists and turns or a contemporary look at love and relationships…it all boils down to characters that readers connect with and root for.

My latest release entitled Dreams, Interrupted just came out this week, and it’s the second in the St. Louis Sisters series. The first book in the series, ‘Til St. Patrick’s Day, was originally conceived and written as a single book. But it was Judy’s idea (thanks!) to make it a series, with a total of three books—as they are about three best friends, and each of these women really need time in the spotlight. This series highlights my hometown of St. Louis and also sprinkles in a great deal of humor along the way. I like to think of them as romantic comedies.

I adore all three of the women featured in this series—Jayne, Karen and Claudia. They are all so different, and likeable in their own ways. I think maybe you will see some of yourself or your friends in these women that I’ve grown to love. If you give them a chance, I hope you’ll love them, too.

The first book focused on the uber-optimistic Jayne as she and her twenty-something besties struggled to find their significant others, and ultimately themselves. ‘Til St. Patrick’s Day is about love, but the love between friends is explored as much as romantic love.

Dreams, Interrupted finds the three women in their mid-thirties, facing a whole different set of circumstances. The main character in this book is Karen…and there is never a dull moment when she’s involved. Karen says what she thinks, whenever and wherever she thinks it. I’ve never had more fun writing a character. She often says the sarcastic things I think in my mind but wouldn’t dare say out loud.

If you haven’t read book #1, I don’t want to ruin it for you by giving you a blurb of book #2. So here’s the blurb for ‘Til St. Patrick’s Day:

BOOK #1 IN THE ST. LOUIS SISTERS SERIES

For three best friends, one winter changes everything.

Chronically optimistic Jayne is surprised she's still single at twenty-eight. But as always for Jayne, there's hope. This time his name is Gray—a successful, gorgeous marketing VP that she can't believe is going out with her. She's never given up on the belief that the right man for her is out there. Maybe Gray could be the one...if she just works hard enough to make it happen.

Her cynical friend Karen is suspicious of Jayne's new guy with his model looks and over-inflated ego. She's concerned for Jayne, but has her own relationship to worry about. Not that anything's wrong with her boyfriend. He's actually perfect for her, which is why she's terrified. Not sure she can ever fully trust a man again, she considers bailing on yet another relationship.

Claudia is always there for her friends, mothering them like the children she craves to have. Happily married, Claudia anxiously awaits the day her husband finally agrees it's time to start a family.

'Til St. Patrick's Day explores the depths of friendship and what happens when love doesn't go according to plan.

You can watch the book trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5dAMqeAJMc

I’m thrilled that ‘Til St. Patrick’s Day was just voted #3 in the Turquoise Morning Press Reader’s Choice Awards for 2013! And now it’s available for only $.99 for a limited time, as part of a women’s fiction boxed set, Love Finds a Way. Plus you’ll get three more great stories in the boxed set. You can buy it here: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | IBOOKS | SMASHWORDS | ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS | PUBLISHER


So for less than a buck, you can start the St. Louis Sisters series and then when you’re done with ‘Til St. Patrick’s Day…don’t forget to buy Dreams, Interrupted to see what these three fun, loving, passionate women are up to. Buy Dreams, Interrupted here:
 

 

After two books writing about Jayne, Karen and Claudia—I feel like they’re my old friends. I’m working on book three now, so I get to hang out with them again. If you do me the honor of reading the St. Louis Sister series, please get in touch and let me know what you think of these ladies!

 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A post of gratefulness

I don't quite know how to say this without getting sloppy but my heart is overflowing with happiness tonight. I truly have had a birthday to beat all birthdays. I wish I could write individuals messages to everyone on Facebook who sent good wishes, ranging from "So now you're finally old enough to drink" to "Have a mystery cake." And to the friend who called me creative and compassionate, what can I say--two traits I strive for. I've heard from family, near and distant, from many many fellow mystery writers, from several countries, from people I know well and those I'd like to know better. I am truly overwhelmed and so grateful.
My birthday of course started with  the weekend with my kids but today, the actual day, was a pure delight. Jacob arrived, grumpy and sleepy, about eight. So this is how we started the day--him asleep on the couch. But I roused him and we left about 9:30 for a day at my brother's ranch. I went by the deli to pick up lunch and then to friend Betty's house where we switched cars and drivers...then we were off to Tolar. My brother is par excellence the best manipulative osteopathic physician ever (and that includes our late father) and he worked on the low back/hip problems that have been giving me grief for a while now. Jacob meantime roamed inside and outside--he loves being at the ranch. Then we had a leisurely lunch, with a tad of wine, and a good chat. Betty, John and Cindy got to know each other, and all seemed to enjoy it.
No trip to the ranch is complete without a tour in the Kubota (all terrain vehicle--like a golf cart on steroids and much noisier). We checked some cows, a coyote snare (or is it for feral hogs?), checked on a cow that limps (I use the term "we" figuratively). Jacob wanted to look for signs of Bigfoot by one of the stock tanks, and we searched for the bee trees (I am not good at spotting things in nature, to my dismay, and never did see the hives). My brother is wonderful with Jacob, encouraging his interest in nature, pointing things out to him--today he let him pick up and bring home three turtle shells. When Cindy and I insisted Jacob wash his hands, John rolled his eyes and said, "Ladies, let it be." But we held firm--he washed his hands, Cindy put on a disposable glove to put them in a big baggie for the trip home, and they are now residing on the bookcase in my dining room. By the time we got back to the house it was time to head to Fort Worth.
The fun wasn't over yet. Friends came by for happy hour as I was still unloading the car and unpacking flowers that had been delivered. The friends brought an orchid, and then Jordan arrived with roses so I have a house full of flowers.
The fun wasn't over yet. Christian had a meeting and couldn't join us for dinner--we missed him but decided we'd cook things he doesn't like. So we had scallops and an artichoke and a bit of marinated tuna on the side--plus one big piece of chocolate cake split four ways (Christian was glad to eat that!)
Tonight I'm oh so tired, but I will tell you that if I'd know how much fun it is to turn 76, I might have done it a few years earlier.
To all who helped me it such a great birthday, my heartfelt thanks.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hi ho, hi ho, it's home we go. I've been in Frisco for the weekend with most of my family celebrating my birthday and I feel quite spoiled.. We sorely missed the Houston Alters. We've had unbelievably wonderful weather in Texas the last few days--some rain Thursday but never enough. But cool temperatures--a new record high (or low depending on how you look at it). Only 79 Thursday, in the eighties Friday and Saturday with cloud cover and a strong breeze.
Spent much of the day sitting outdoors. The rest of us didn't do much except say, "Can you believe this weather?" as we sat around. Jamie and Mel fixed a huge lunch--grilled sausage, sliders, chicken, peppers, and hot dogs, corn on the cob, great salad and fresh fruit--plus a few margaritas and, for me, a bit of wine. For dinner, barbecue, potato salad and all the trimmings. I'm sure I've gained five lbs. I fear I'm getting to the age where I'm not quite so fearless about divulging the truth--but here goes one more time. I'll be 76 on Tuesday. Amazing to think of because I don't feel that old--at least not most days. We were talking about what age we each feel last night--the kids mostly either feel like they're still n college or wish they felt that way.
Now in their forties (except one) and with children and careers and responsibilities, they are definitely not still in college. But as I look at each family and think how far they're come I am proud beyond words. They all have nice homes, good careers--they are conscientious and contributing citizens.
Me? I'm stuck in my thirties.
But the best part is they haven't lost their sense of fun, their love for their past. The most frequently heard words have been, "Remember the time when....." We've even started telling baby stories about the grandchildren.
We ended the day with concerts--a ten-year-old on electric and a fifteen-year-old on acoustic guitar. Hope the neighbors enjoyed the concert as much as we did.
 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An old-fashioned look at writing


A while back I was tagged in a blog tour or whatever and asked to post about my writing process. I don't remember what I wrote except that I am a pantser. I write a one-page idea of notes about where the story is going, and then I try to come up with a zinger of a first sentence--sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Then I take off and see where my characters lead me. Often as I write I go back and add to that page of notes.
"Listen to your characters" is advice I've heard all my writing life, especially from some of the writers I respect most. I remember the late Elmer Kelton saying that he started out to write a book about a buffalo soldier, but a Comanche chief kept taking hold of he story and running with it. Ultimately, The Wolf and the Buffalo, became a story about two characters--the Buffalo Soldier, a freed slave whose life is on the rise, and the Wolf, a Comanche whose world and way of life is disappearing. They are enemies who respect each other. Another of Elmer's books, The Good Old Boys, was inspired by cowboy stories he heard from his father and other old-timers, and the characters, he said, took hold of the story like a cold-jawed horse with the bit in its mouth.
Writing to me is an art that requires sensitivity and the freedom to follow where your imagination leads you. Good and bad writing should both be the result of inspiration.
Now along comes a computer program called Scrivener, which has been the subject of much discussion on one of the listservs I follow. I not knocking those who use it--God bless them if it helps them write a better novel. Scrivener allows you to save note cards, scenes, chapters, and move them around at will in the book. I think you can also keep notes (perhaps on the note carsd) of what color a characters eyes are and other details that sometimes dance around so frustratingly in mid-story. I've avoided Scrivener and other similar programs, in spite of hearing them praised up one side and down the other, because I simply don't have time for what is apparently a steep learning curve.
But more than that, I'm afraid I'd get so lost in coordinating note cards, scenes, chapters, that the novel would never flow. As I write new scenes, new complications, even new characters come to me--and I prefer to listen to my characters. Somehow such writing-aid programs, to me, turn writing into something mechanical instead of an art.
Now I'll admit two things--plotting is hard for me (probably why I write short) and I am forever going back to search for a detail or a scene or even a character's name so I'll stay consistent. I do keep a lot of characters, and I've considered keeping a log of chapters after they're written. But that's it. Call me old-fashioned--I probably am.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Bride Who Faked It for Money



Please welcome my Wednesday guests, Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins. Shaun Kaufman has spent 30 years in the criminal justice system, both as a trial attorney and legal investigator. Colleen Collins is a multi-published author in the romance, mystery and nonfiction genres. Shaun and Colleen also co-owned a private detective agency for ten years. Links to their websites: Colleen Collins Books: http://colleencollinsbooks.com; Gams and Gumshoes: http://writingpis.wordpress.com; Shaun Kaufman Law: http://www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com The following is an excerpt from their book, A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, an article they wrote back when they worked full time as private investigations. Readers will like reading about the investigative strategy employed to disprove a woman’s claim that she and her ex-boyfriend had been secretly married.

****

Our agency was hired by a family lawyer to disprove a common-law marriage between his client, Clay, and Clay’s last live-in girlfriend, Patty, a paralegal for an attorney in the area. Clay and Patty are not their real names.

Patty had just filed for divorce claiming that she and Clay were married under common law. She asserted this based on multiple instances of their representations to people and government agencies that they were married. In the language of common-law marriage this is called “holding oneself out as married.” A court can find this status of marriage in a divorce proceeding based on such evidence as the couple telling others that they are married and that they conduct transactions as a married couple.

In her divorce filing, Patty made substantial claims against Clay’s retirement account and home equity in addition to demanding alimony. In short, this was a full-on divorce and if the court agreed with Patty, she would be entitled to a large settlement. Therefore, our goal was to show that although the couple had lived together, their conduct did not match the legal formula for being married. In short, we had to show that Patty was faking it for the money.

Our investigative strategy was to attack the validity of Patty’s claims, one by one:

- First, she claimed that she and Clay had registered as a married couple at a posh downtown Denver hotel the previous summer where they had a small, informal wedding ceremony in a hotel reception room. By contrast, our client claimed that they had stayed there for a weekend and had attended a Colorado Rockies baseball game with both Clay and Patty’s children (from previous marriages). Clay had paid for the room, and Patty had registered them as using the same last name.

- Second, Patty claimed that they had sent Christmas cards as “Mr. and Mrs. Clay.”

- Third, Patty had two friends from the mixed softball league that she and Clay had played in who were ready to testify that Clay and Patty had openly told others that they were married.

To disprove Patty’s assertions we:

- Researched public records filed by the couple to determine if they had ever filed public, official documents indicating that they were either married or single. We confirmed at the DMV that Clay had purchased a BMW convertible two years before the break-up. Clay told us that Patty drove the car exclusively. Patty asserted in the divorce papers that the car was hers. We learned from registration records that the car was not registered jointly, and that only Clay’s name was on the title and registration. We also learned from bankruptcy records that Patty had filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy 18 months before the break-up, and she had listed herself on those papers as single with no spouse. Coincidentally, she left out any mention of “her” BMW in those bankruptcy papers. Therefore, Patty had to either admit to lying to the bankruptcy court or she would have to agree that just months before she had told a federal bankruptcy judge, in a sworn statement, that she was single.

- Contacted recipients of the Christmas cards, and none had received cards signed by both Clay and Patty.

- Interviewed the softball coach who looked up Patty’s softball registration, which did not show Clay’s name in the space for “emergency contact/spouse.”

There were some unforeseen glitches. We were stymied by hotel management when we tried to get information about the room that Clay and Patty had rented the previous summer. Management would not release information about the room, even though Clay had paid for it, because Patty had signed the room registration, which made it “her” room.

Ultimately, our attorney-client issued a subpoena for those records. The hotel billing records showed that there was never a reception room rented for the ceremony as Patty had claimed.

Tip for Writers: Keep in mind that if you have a PI in your story, he/she will not always have an easy time getting a look at hotel registrations, unlike sensationalized accounts in some private-eye stories.

The end result was that Patty and her lawyer agreed to a tiny settlement, and that there was no marriage, hence no divorce with Clay.





















book Blurb


A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms by Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins (June 2014).  Grab a front row seat inside the big top of justice, where a lawyer presents the world of litigation and lawbreakers. Topics include a history of trials; players in the courtroom; types of lawyers; jury experts; private investigators; trial preparation; the steps of criminal and civil trials; articles on such topics as forensics, crimes and dog searches; and much more.


Note free giveaway one copy

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Dancing for Joy Continues

Last night I had reason to celebrate--a smashing cover for my forthcoming mystery, Deception in Strange Places. Tonight the dancing continues--got word that my Kelly O'Connell Mysteries have been named the Best Selling Mystery Series for 2013 by Turquoise Morning Press. Granted, it's not quite the same as being named best-selling of, say, Berkeley Prime Crime mysteries, but it is a small accomplishment for this writer who spent years thinking she could never write mysteries. And it makes a nice talking point.
I am flattered by the people who tell me how much they like Kelly and her family, how comfortable they are with them. Local folks, of course, like reading about familiar streets and neighborhoods and restaurants in the books.
There are now four in the series--Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women,  and Trouble in a Big Box. The fifth, Deception in Strange Places, launches July 31 as an ebook, with print to follow. But that's repeating last night's news.
There is a sixth Kelly novel, out to Beta readers right now, tentatively titled "Jigsaw Puzzle Revenge" or something like that. Any reactions to that title would be appreciated.
There are other reasons to dance today--do you have certain chores that you just hate to do? I do, and I did one of them today--got my car inspected after my son-in-law Christian pointed out that my sticker was two months out of date. It's not really a difficult or time-consuming thing to do (30 minutes tops) but I always dread it. So now it's done--like going to the dentist. Behind me.
Had a lovely lunch on the patio of a new tapas restaurant, 24 Plates. They told us the patio was not ready because of last night's rain, but we took a chance  and they dried off a table and chairs for us. Texas was at its best today, unusual for mid-July--not humid, warm but not near 100, nice breeze, and the patio is lovely. Really enjoyed it, and it was good to visit with Jeannie Chaffee who I don't see often enough these days.
Tonight was neighbors' night at The Old Neighborhood Grill (one of Kelly O'Connell's favorite hangouts--so it all comes full circle). We had a full table and a live group tonight, good food, lots of laughter. Life is sweet.