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Showing posts from 2008

New Year's Eve at the Dashofys

Wishing you all a Happy New Year's Eve. To borrow that immortal line from Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there." Please don't drink and drive.

The Dashofys will be spending New Year's Eve sleeping. I'm just not all that big on getting drunk and kissing everyone in the place at midnight. So we'll stay home, watch some movies on the new TV and be fast asleep when the ball drops.

Party animals, we are.

Before you head out to your assorted parties and festivities, check out today's Working Stiffs blog where I tell about my efforts to create my dream writers conference.

Looking back...

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2008 is winding to a close.

Last year, I was thrilled to see 2007 (and 2006, for that matter) come crashing to an end. They’d both been crappy years.

2008 has had its challenges. Highs and lows. Mom started the year doing well, then dislocated her new hip for a fourth time, followed by more surgery and time in the Health Center. By Easter, she was home again and has only improved by leaps and bounds since then.

I did not complete a manuscript this year. A definite low. But not in the same category as losing family members. And I did have a few funerals to attend again this year.

Instead of completing the manuscript, I’ve been working on the Pennwriters Conference. Online registration opens January 2nd. That’s a huge, momentous occasion for all of us involved in this task. But it is neither the beginning nor the end. It’s just a milestone among many others.

Skye is fat and sassy and rules the house with an iron paw. Nothing new there. But all good.


My biggest accomplishment this year was los…

What Day is It?

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The problem with Christmas falling on a Thursday is that now I don’t know what day it is. Wednesday was Friday. Thursday was Sunday. Yesterday? I don’t know what yesterday was. I’m not sure about today either.

Besides the confusion over the day of the week, I’m confused over time of the year. A few days back, it was three degrees in the morning and didn’t climb out of the teens. Today, it’s 66 degrees outside, flirting with 70.

Is it any wonder I’m confused?

At least the heat wave has given me an opportunity to walk off some of those cookies.

And I may not know for sure what day of the week yesterday was, but Hubby and I took advantage of it and ventured out to buy our new TV. Just in time. The last few times we turned on the old one, we had to turn it on about ten times before it STAYED on.

Here’s a picture of the new set.


(Yeah, I'm still on an Alias Smith and Jones kick.)I find myself standing in front of it, just staring at it. Reminds me of getting new eye glasses and suddenly real…

Happy Holidays!

I was in the middle of writing a long post when I realized it was mostly a rehash of my previous post, but without the Alias Smith and Jones picture. So I'll just say I'm blogging over at Working Stiffs today.

And Happy Holidays!

Mental Health Day

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I tend to get cranky when I don’t write for more than a few days. And I mean “write” as in creating a story. Not just blogging or updating my Facebook status. Working on a nonfiction article will do in a pinch, especially if it’s one that might produce income and therefore support my writing habit.

Let me just say…I’M CRANKY.

I put the novel on hold a couple of weeks ago so that I could work on the short story that’s due the end of February. Then I had to put the short story on hold to spend all my computer hours working on the 2009 Pennwriters Conference. I’m Conference Coordinator in case you’ve missed my earlier posts on the topic.

Registration opens January 2nd. That’s less than two weeks away. There is sooo much I wanted to have done by this point. None of it is. My list of agents and editors seems to be in constant flux. Someone drops out. Someone new offers to come. And I still have some voids in the editors department.

I wanted to have a fair grasp on workshops by now. I’m a bit m…

Patience

God, grant me patience. And HURRY.

I am heading out into Retail Hell this morning for one last assault. If the TV I want has come down in price, I’m bringing one home. If not, that particular Christmas gift may turn out to be an AFTER Christmas gift. I also need to pick up a one-year service Tracfone card for my mom. And perhaps a new phone, too. She tried calling me on hers yesterday and it sounded pretty bad.

And then there’s my regular shopping that I must do in the midst of the holiday shopping frenzy.

Patience. I need patience.

As if the shoppers IN the stores aren’t crazed enough, when they get into their cars in the parking lot, they become NASCAR drivers, racing to their next shopping stop. Bumper cars are fun at the amusement park. Not so much in the Giant Eagle lot.

Patience is also required here in the Office of the 2009 Pennwriters Conference Coordinator. I think I’ll have a sign made up with that on it for my door. Goodness knows there’s more conference work going on in here …

Working Stiffs Wednesday

In yesterday's post, I briefly mentioned working as a proctor for the firefighter's exam. I tell about the experience and my admiration for the profession over at Working Stiffs today.

More Parties

I had planned to post more pictures of more parties. But I left my camera at my friend Joyce’s house after the Sisters in Crime Christmas lunch she so graciously hosted. And I was not drinking. I don’t need to drink to suffer brain farts. Maybe drinking would help.

Probably not.

I even had a major brain fart with regards to which party was when this weekend. After spending all day Saturday working as a proctor for another civil service exam in Pittsburgh (see tomorrow’s Working Stiffs) and then doing some Christmas shopping at Mystery Lovers Bookshop, I returned home with dreams of a hot bath and a quiet evening at home.

“Aren’t you going to the party?” Hubby asked.

“That’s tomorrow,” I replied.

“No. It’s tonight.”

I double checked the online newsletter. “Crap,” I said.

So I did a quick make-up touch-up and changed into dressier duds and off we went to the Washington County Buckskinners Christmas Party. What I thought was party number three of the weekend, turned out to be party number one. …

Party Animal

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I don’t run with a partying crowd. Usually, the only parties I attend are birthday parties for the grandnephews and grandnieces. But it’s THAT time of year again. Christmas Party Time!

Already, I’ve attended two. Both involved Pennwriters. Both involved book exchanges.

(Buy books for Christmas gifts this year! Better yet, buy them here.)

I was “in charge” of the first one. We hold it every year at Tambellini’s. The food is good and reasonably priced. And they don’t throw us out when we do our book exchange and swap. After you open your gift-wrapped book, you have the option to swap it for anything that’s already been opened. It’s all in good fun, but it has the potential to get rowdy.


I ended up with Dick Francis’ SILKS.

My friend Meredith Cohen organized the second one.


Bravo’s wisely stuck us back in a corner. We did the swap thing with the books at this one, too. I came away with Tana French’s Edgar Award Winner IN THE WOODS.


Let’s just say I’m very pleased with both new additions to my t…

Working Stiffs on Drugs Again

It's Wednesday, so it must be my day to blog over at Working Stiffs. This week, it's part two of my experience with Citizens' Police Academy's Narcotic Squad class. Come on over and check it out.

First Draft Doubts

The short story now consists of more than one sentence. It’s up to a whopping 375 words. And just about all of them suck.

Is there a writer out there who truly believes their first drafts contain even a glimmer of brilliance? Most of us…at least those I know…despise the words we put on the page during the draft stage. The only thing we despise more is a blank page. So I wrote a little over 300 lousy words yesterday. The page is no longer blank.

The short story came up at the end of the to-do list. After working on the conference. After blogging. After recording several months of gas receipts. Perhaps I should have worked on the short story first.

I usually like to do my creative writing first thing after breakfast, when the caffeine has kicked in. That seems to be when the creative energies are at high tide. But when I have an excessively long list of things I HAVE to do or NEED to do or SHOULD do, the writing always seems to get put off.

Maybe that’s why what I wrote yesterday is so awfu…

Housebound: Day Three

My car has not moved since Friday. I think it’s been about four years since the last time I haven’t had somewhere to go for three days in a row. I like it!

My house is reasonably clean. My office is reasonably tidy.

My short story consists of one sentence.

Oh, well, we can’t have everything.

Besides, the day isn’t over yet. I have already written my post for Wednesday’s Working Stiffs blog. I have some conference stuff to do. (I always have conference stuff to do. It’s like breathing. It’s just there.) I may be able to focus full attention on the short story for an hour at some point.

Weekend Chores

My appointment book is blank for the next three days. How did THAT happen? Oh, I have plenty to do. But nowhere to go.

YAY!

I have high hopes of accomplishing things around here.

Remind me of that when Tuesday rolls around and all I’ve achieved is catching up on sleep and updating my status on Facebook.

As I write this, hubby has a major canning project going on in the kitchen. It involves meat, so this vegetarian is staying out of his way. But this afternoon I’ll have to clean up his mess. In the meantime, I can clean and de-clutter the rest of the house.

Actually, it will only LOOK like I’m cleaning and de-cluttering (and doing laundry). That is only a cover. What I REALLY will be doing is planning a new short story.

Months ago I signed up to submit to a new anthology being compiled by the Guppies (Great Un Published) of Sisters in Crime. I knew I’d be frazzled with the upcoming 2009 Pennwriters Conference (registration opens January 2nd!!!), but I also knew it was a wonderful opportunity…

Working Stiffs and the Narcotics Squad

I finally made up the one Citizens' Police Academy class I missed last time. The session on Pittsburgh's Narcotics Squad was fascinating and educational for this farm girl. I blog about it this week and next over at Working Stiffs.

Procrastinator at Work

It’s Monday. Hubby is off at the family’s hunting camp. Skye and I are enjoying a little solitude. And Skye is taking full advantage of extra bed space. How can one small cat fill up so much of a queen-sized bed? I’m not complaining. She’s warm. Having her lie across my legs is better than an electric blanket.

I have a long to-do list sitting in front of me. I’m as bad as the kid who waits to do her homework on the bus in the morning. Everything on my list must be done TODAY. Two items should have been done YESTERDAY. At some point, procrastination must come to an end.

Holidays always do this to me. Taking one day off to spend with family is acceptable. But it leaves a lingering sense of laziness. You need another day to recover from the food hangover. Saturday, I was a busy little bee, but what I was busy at was housecleaning. Hubby had left the building, so I quickly dusted and vacuumed with the thought it might stay this way for a few days.

Yesterday? I have no excuses. I SHOULD have …

Black Friday, My Version

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Mine was terrific. A year ago, we had to carry Mom and her wheelchair into my nephew’s house. This year, she climbed the steps on her own power. Everyone there was happy and healthy. What could be better?

Today is Black Friday, the high holy day of shopping. I am staying home. Friday is normally my regular grocery shopping day. Not today. No way. Uh-uh. Today, I’m writing.

I don’t plan to add new pages to my work in progress. I do plan to go through some critiques I’ve received and do a little revising. I glanced through one of these critiques late Wednesday and some major issues jumped out at me and sang a little song. There are times when I don’t agree with critiquers’ comments. But there are other times when they hit the proverbial nail on the head. Something was bothering me, but I didn’t know what. And there it is, all explained to me. YES! That’s where I messed up. That’s what I need to work on.

So that’s a big part of my plan for the day.…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I'm blogging about my failing gadgets and gizmos over at Working Stiffs today.

Rainy Mondays

Some days I just want to sleep all day. This is one of them. And there is no particular reason to crawl in bed and hide. It’s simply dreary and rainy and cold. In other words, it’s winter in Pennsylvania.

But not really. Technically, it’s still autumn with winter solstice almost a month away.

Whatever the reason, I’m sluggish. Somehow, I managed to force out a couple of pages of the crappy first draft. The entire last chapter and a half have been set in a funeral home with the entire nutty cast of characters passing through. A chapter and a half is too long for a writer to spend in a funeral home, especially when the writing has taken as long as this has. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling as gloomy as the soggy gray sky outside my window.

The good news is I finished Chapter Ten this morning. And as it ended, my protagonist has left the building. She’s heading back to the farm where a surprise awaits her. Aha! Something to brighten my mood. Nothing perks up a day like having your protagonist f…

A Bird's Tale

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The other day, I wandered out of my office, my mind still entrenched in the scene I was writing when I heard a THUD at the kitchen window. This happens a couple times a year. A bird from the birdfeeder outside that window takes a wrong course and crashes into the glass. The results vary. If it was just a glancing blow, the bird flies off, sometimes leaving a feather as a calling card stuck to the window until the rain washes it away. (Me? I don’t do windows. The rain always gets to it before I do). Sometimes the bird isn’t so lucky and I find his body on the ground outside.

On this particular day, I was headed outside anyway, so I grabbed my coat and went to investigate.

I found the poor feathered beast—a titmouse—beak-first in the snow, his wings and tail feathers spread motionless. My heart broke. I have so few titmice this year and they are so cute, I hated to see this one lifeless on the ground. I knelt and gently scooped it into my gloved hands. And it moved! Not much, but enough f…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I made a return visit to the Citizens' Police Academy for a session that wasn't offered last time. I write about it over at Working Stiffs today. Okay, I had some help writing it. Detective Jill Rustin of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police filled in some gaps on this very important issue of lost and stolen firearms.

Gadget Meltdown

Is Mars in retrograde? I know Mercury WAS last month. When all my Internet woes began. So I have recently developed a belief in these things. Mercury in retrograde means poor communications.

Of course, it went OUT of retrograde weeks ago and I still struggle to access my email. Note to self: call Tech Support AGAIN this morning.

But which planet controls household appliances and electronic devices?

One by one, my appliances are going belly-up. First, the external hard drive I bought quit after three days. I returned it to the store, got my money back and decided I didn’t really need something else to create stress in my life. The TV is virtually on its last leg. It shuts itself off several times before finally staying on. One day very soon (possible today) it isn’t going to come back on.

Saturday, my vacuum cleaner started emitting a burnt-rubbery odor and then stopped. Hubby may have fixed it, but I have my doubts that the repair will last through the holidays.

Yesterday morning, the Hot …

Craving Cabin Fever

I seem to have heard rumor that writers live solitary lives, alone with their computer (or typewriter or pen and paper). They never get to socialize. They become hermits.

Notice the use of “they” rather than “we” even though I am one.

I long for solitude. I dream of staying home all day long and holing up in my self-proclaimed cave (my tiny office). No human contact. Just me and Skye kitty and my writing.

Instead, here is a sampling of the last two weeks:

Monday, Nov. 3: AM appointment for yearly mammogram, PM Sisters in Crime meeting

Tuesday, Nov. 4: AM meeting with insurance agent, PM appointment for dental cleaning

Wednesday, Nov. 5: Teach yoga

Thursday, Nov. 6: Take Mom to eye doctor then teach yoga

Friday, Nov. 7: Take mom grocery shopping

Saturday, Nov. 8: Work as proctor at the police recruits’ written exam. See post at Working Stiffs

Sunday, Nov. 9: Attend memorial service for Linda Gilson

Monday, Nov. 10: Attend Citizens’ Police Academy

Tuesday, Nov. 11: AM teach yoga, PM attend Pennwrit…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

On Saturday, I served as a proctor for the written exam for the Pittsburgh Police recruits. Today, I'm blogging about the experience over at Working Stiffs. Come on over.

In Memory of a Friend

Linda Gilson was a remarkable woman. She was tough and strong. And feisty. So feisty, in fact, that I never truly believed that cancer could conquer her. And it may not have defeated her spirit, but it claimed her life on Tuesday, October 28. She was 75.

I met Linda about 30 years ago. She co-founded the Northwest Ambulance Service of which I was one of the first EMTs. We worked together and took calls together. And we laughed together. Besides being one tough cookie, Linda was also a lot of fun.

After I left the ambulance service, I would occasionally run into Linda around town. It was always like we’d only seen each other five minutes ago instead of a couple years.

I learned of her cancer not all that long ago. Sadly, we’d been out of touch. I did run into her a couple months ago at the local pharmacy. She looked thin and tired, showing the effects of the cancer and her battle against it. But she had a quick smile and that spark of determination in her eyes. I had no doubt that she wo…

More on Internet Gremlins

Eating Crow

My problems with the Internet have continued. While it seemed for a time, the problem was fixed, another spike in my usage led me to search for other sources and solutions to the problem. Basically, I went over the head of the Techy Guy who had been helping me to speak with Techy Girl.

Techy Girl discounted almost everything that Techy Guy had told me. It would appear the problem was NOT with the neighbor’s kid tapping into my wireless router to download movies. (Techy Guy told me the problem was with downloads…NOT anything I’d been putting online.) Techy GIRL informs me just the opposite is the problem. I’m fine with my downloading numbers. It’s UPLOADS that are killing me.

Uploads. As in photographs. As in new digital camera with large, sharp, lovely photographs. Photographs that I posted here of Bouchercon. Granted, most of those were posted from the hotel in Baltimore, but not all. Plus I’d posted those same photos at my Facebook page.

Then there were the pictures I’d take…

History in the Making

I have avoided politics like the proverbial plague in recent months and weeks. The ads and the phone calls only served to raise my stress levels. I didn’t want to talk about it. I was firm in my beliefs, so speaking with someone who agreed was merely singing to the choir. And if the person to whom I was speaking DISAGREED with me, they inevitably attempted to sway me to their side.

Eight years ago, I lost faith in the American people. Or the Electoral College. I’m still not sure which. But when the masses elected a president based more on how likeable he was instead of his intelligence, I’m sorry. It left me feeling scared. And that fear has clung to me through the last eight years. Especially when it happened again four years ago.

But my faith in America has been restored. Yes, Sara Palin is cute and I might like to hang out with her on a trip to Alaska. I don’t think she’s ready to be president. The fact that I disagree with her politics is secondary.

John McCain is a good, honorable m…

Too Darned Busy

I’m having one of those weeks when I have to make an appointment to take a good breath. How many times have I promised myself that I will NOT overbook my life? And yet, once again, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

And just when I need to be able to accomplish things in a speedy fashion, I once more have Internet issues to deal with.

If you hear screaming coming from Washington County, Pennsylvania, it’s only me.

So this little blog post is simply intended to explain why I have no real blog post today. I did, however, work on my manuscript. A little. Enough to have written myself into a corner. Oh, well. I have a long drive this evening into the city for a Sisters in Crime meeting. Being stuck in traffic is prime plotting time.

As for tomorrow…GET OUT TO VOTE. I’m sick to death of all the political crap, so I won’t try to tell you WHO to vote for (even though I have very strong opinions on the matter), but do vote.

Happy Halloween and Merry NaNoWriMo

Can someone tell me how it got to be the end of October already? Halloween has snuck up on me like one of its goblins in the night. I still have my summer bird houses sitting on the front porch.

October is always a hectic month. It’s the month to get everything done before snow flies. I remember building our barn in October many years ago. We had all summer, but being procrastinators, it didn’t get done until the leaves had fallen and winter threatened to freeze the ground solid.

No barns this year. Just dentist appointments, eye doctor appointments, skin doctor appointments (my freckles are all just freckles this year…YAY). Make sure the body is functioning sufficiently well to make it through another winter. A few appointments didn’t fit in October, so early November has turned into an overflow. But I hope to have a fairly clear appointment book for the bulk of next month.

I don’t much like cold weather. I shall miss my outdoor walks. I’m saving my pennies to buy a treadmill so I don’t…

Working Stiffs and Pennwriters

It's Wednesday, so it's my day to post at Working Stiffs. Today, I'm offering a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of a writers conference, specifically, the 2009 Pennwriters Conference. Y'all come now, ya hear?

Writer at Work

My plan for the day calls for crawling into my cave/office and writing. The week ahead includes a multitude of distractions and obligations, so this is my biggest, best opportunity to add to the page count of my shitty first draft. My other plan was to leave you some pictures of my weekend on the bike trail, but due to technical difficulties, that doesn't appear to be in the cards.

One final plan is for this evening and involves dropping in on the newest Citizens' Police Academy class to see what's new.

But for right now, I'm hanging out the DO NOT DISTURB sign. Writer at Work!

Spies and Gremlins and Viruses, oh MY

Ah, the joys of modern technology. It’s all wonderful when it works. When it crashes and burns? Not so much.

All week, I have complained that I have a gremlin in my computer. It’s getting close to Halloween after all. But after three days of sluggish Internet, pages that won’t load or don’t load correctly, then finally having my browser shut down on me completely, I finally decided it was no longer a joking matter.

Of course, I had trouble tracking down my techy guy, too. Mercury is in retrograde, I’ve been told. But this morning, I finally pinned him down on the phone. His first comment was that I have a virus.

No kidding. My nose has been running and I’ve been sneezing since Monday. But, no, that wasn’t what he meant. He meant COMPUTER virus.

Oh.

Further investigation has led him to believe that probably isn’t the case. Probably.

He asked me a slew of questions. Had I recently downloaded any file sharing programs?

Uh. I don’t know. I don’t THINK so. What are they?

Apparently, I hadn’t.

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

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Late last week, Hubby came down with some sort of bug. We’re not sure if it was one of the flu strains going around or “just” a cold. Whatever the brand, the result was one sick and miserable human being. I knew right away I didn’t want it, whatever IT was. We made some ground rules. Lots of hand washing. He used the phone in the living room, while I used the one in my office. The bedroom experienced frequent shots of Lysol spray. And if you want to jump into the stock market, buy stock in Clorox wipes. I’ve been keeping the germ-fighting economy afloat all weekend.

Saturday, I dosed him with NyQuil, sent him to bed, and I went to a horse show. I hoped the cool, fresh air would cleanse me of any germs clinging to my skin. Or the inside of my nose. It was a peewee show. Little kids on ponies. The cuteness factor is off the chart at these things. And my friend, Jessi’s little boy won two blue ribbons. It was a fun day.

Yesterday, we had a family get together. Hubby stayed home. Again, I h…

Opening Lines

As the Bouchercon afterglow fades, I’m taking a new look at my current work in progress. I’m taking an even deeper look at my work habits. Or lack thereof.

One of the things I came away with was how many successful writers write EVERY DAY. I knew this. But other things kept getting in my way. Doctors’ appointments, critique groups, blogs, email…Facebook. And the big one: the 2009 Pennwriters Conference of which I am coordinator. Lately, it seems, I start the week gung ho and write some pages on Monday. Then I feel guilty for not spending more time working on the conference, so I spent all day Tuesday on it. Wednesday and Thursday, my focus shifts to teaching my yoga classes. Friday, I have to take my mom shopping, which means grocery lists and coupon clipping prevail. By then, the week is over. I have obligations on the weekend to friends or family. Or the house needs cleaned. So those pages I wrote on Monday are the only thing I’ve done on my manuscript all blessed week.

It’s too early…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I'm gradually recovering from my Bouchercon hangover and getting back to my normal life. That means if it's Wednesday, I'm blogging at Working Stiffs. This week, I report on what went on in my usually quiet township while I was in Baltimore.

Reflections on Bouchercon '08

First, I must shout out to the world how genuinely NICE the people of Baltimore are. The city as a whole and the staff of the Radisson and Sheraton Hotels in particular were friendly and bend-over-backwards accommodating. With all the stress and terror in our world today, Baltimore and Bouchercon were an oasis of smiles and pleasant conversation. And laughs.

My heavens, I have not laughed so much or so hard in ages. While some panels were serious and informative, others were pure entertainment. The worst thing about the panels was that there were too many choices and I couldn’t attend them ALL.

Poor Alafair Burke (who, in spite of her claims to the contrary, really is quite funny), got stuck sitting next to the hysterical Chris Grabenstein in the Murder What Fun panel.

I’ve developed a bit of a crush on toastmaster, Mark Billingham, whose British wit stole the show during opening ceremonies. And his conversation with John Connolly was one of my highlights. I didn’t stay for the Anthony …

Good-bye, Baltimore

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The final day of any writing conference is a bit sad. There is lots of hugging and well-wishes as we say our good-byes. This morning was no different.

Bleary-eyed, Joyce and I ran into the lovely Hank Phillippi Ryan in Starbucks and we had this picture taken. Sunday morning after five days at Bouchercon and she still looks GREAT.

I'm home again and looking forward to a good eight hours of sleep in my own bed with no city sounds. Tomorrow, I will put my experience into words to go with the pictures I've been sharing. Unil then...GOOD NIGHT!

Saturday at Bouchercon

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I realize I've been posting pictures more than writing about Bouchercon and today is no different. The problem is my brain is so overwhelmed it's ready to explode. So enjoy the photos and I promise to write about the event after I get home and caught up on my sleep. It's been an overwhelming week and weekend.

Here are some panel pictures. The first one included my dear friend, Rebecca Drake on the far right:



Here are some of my dining companions this evening: Heather Graham, Bill Cameron, Shane Gericke, Kelli Stanley, and Joyce Tremel:

Here's Lee Lofland and Alexandra Sokoloff:

And here I am with Lee:

And here are some of the gang hanging around in Shula 2's, where Bouchercon attendees meet to dine and drink:



Tomorrow, things wrap up and we head home. I hate to see it end, but I admit it--I miss my cat!

Friday at Bouchercon

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Here are some photos from Friday at Bouchercon. Joyce and I started the day at Lee Lofland's panel:

Here's a shot of Joyce, Paula Matter, and Rebecca Drake:

I attended the Sisters in Crime Guppies lunch and took these pictures:





Joyce and I took advantage of the lovely weather this afternoon and set out on foot to the Inner Harbor. Baltimore may have some very gritty and dangerous areas, but there are also some spots that are absolutely lovely. The Inner Harbor is one of those places:

This street artist was a real hoot:



Joyce and I were supposed to take the ghost tour of Fells Point this evening. But there wasn't a parking space to found for blocks around. We drove around and around and when it became clear that we'd missed the tour, we returned to the hotel and set up camp in the bar. While there we spent some time visiting with Nancy Martin and Felicia Donovan. Here's a shot of Felicia and Joyce:

Bouchercon Opening Ceremonies

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Michelle Gagnon, Lee Lofland, and Joyce Tremel:


Bill Cameron:

Thursday at Bouchercon

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I am in Baltimore at Bouchercon! Finally. And I'm exhausted. After only one day! Here are a few photos of Thursday at Bouchercon:

Here's Hallie Ephron and Rosemary Harris:


Sandra Ruttan and her daughter:

I love Sandra. She's editor of Spinetingler Magazine who published one of my first short stories.

Here is the amazing book sellers' room:


Here I am with another writer of horseracing thrillers, Kit Ehrman:


Here are three of the Working Stiffs...Joyce Tremel (my roommate), Wilfred Bereswill, and me:


And Will's panel:


The Sisters in Crime lunch was great fun. The food was fabulous and this room was astonishing:



And opening ceremonies haven't even taken place yet.

Countdown to Bouchercon-2 days!

I have a Sisters in Crime meeting tonight and a dentist appointment tomorrow afternoon, so I have very limited time to get stuff done before leaving on Wednesday.

Over on Working Stiffs, Wilfred is blogging today about his busy week ahead. I think a lot of us who are headed to Baltimore are feeling the strain. Here’s a sampling of my to-do list:

Make sure all the bills are paid so I don’t come home to find a debt collector on my front porch.

Work on the 2009 Pennwriters Conference. I have a couple of editors I want to send email invitations to and I need to write a report on the planning committee meeting we held yesterday to turn into the board and the absentee committee members.

I need to design and print flyers promoting said Pennwriters Conference to take with me and place in strategic spots at Bouchercon. Also need to print membership brochures and business cards to promote the organization as well as the conference. (Pulling double duty as conference coordinator AND area rep? What w…

Countdown to Bouchercon-4 days

I think I’ve posted about this before, but I get homesick before I actually leave for a trip. Once I’m on the road, especially once I’m out of my normal stomping grounds, I shift into vacation mode. But during the last week or so before heading out, anxiety strikes. Big time.

So that’s where I am right now. It puts a damper on my pre-Bouchercon excitement.

Plus there’s a little matter of clearing my desk before we go. Literally. I want to declutter my office so when I return, I can jump into my work, recharged and reenergized. Right now, my workspace looks like one huge paper dump. I’d take a picture and show you, but it would be too embarrassing. Maybe I’ll do before and after pictures and post those. Maybe. Don’t count on it.

I’ve started packing, if you count putting clothes that I think I might take in a plastic storage box so I don’t wear them between now and then as packing. What’s the weather like in Baltimore in mid October? Should I take sweaters? I plan on taking that ghost tou…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I'm over at Working Stiffs today venting. Are you always running late? Or are you a chronic early bird like me? Come join in the debate.

Coffee and Crime

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Mystery Lovers Bookshop on occasion hold Coffee and Crime Breakfasts with visiting authors. I love to attend these even though I have to get up early to make the hour (or hour and a half if there’s traffic) drive to Oakmont. Usually my Saturday mornings are pretty tied up, so I was thrilled to learn that Alafair Burke was coming on a weekend that I was free.


I had “met” Alafair online before, but not in person. I’m ashamed to say that I have not read any of her books, although they’ve been on my to-be-bought list for a very long time.


Now I own two of them, her first, JUDGMENT CALLS and her current release, ANGEL’S TIP.

And I can say I’ve met her in person. We both arrived early, so I had a chance to chat with her before the crowds moved in. We’re both going to Bouchercon (9 days and counting!), so perhaps we’ll bump into each other again there.

After breakfast, Alafair gave a wonderful talk about growing up in a community with a serial killer on the loose (the BTK strangler) and how it m…

Distractions

Somehow in the course of my hectic days, I’ve managed to write 106 pages of my shitty first draft.

It should be finished by now. Finished, polished, and shipped to my agent.

However, I am working on the conference. I am attending Pennwriters meetings. I am teaching yoga classes. I am taking Mom to doctors’ and dentists’ appointments or to shop for groceries.

Other small items on my to-do list: Organize the drawer full of receipts that has gotten way out of hand. Clean the house. Weed the flower bed. Pay bills.

Instead, what do I find myself doing? Playing on Facebook.

Just what I need. Yet another distraction. I already maintain a website (not really. I have a wonderful webmaster for that), a blog, a page at CrimeSpace. I contribute to the Working Stiffs blog and attempt to follow a few others. Keyword there: ATTEMPT.

So when I was invited to join Facebook, I should have deleted the email and never looked back. Instead, I’m hooked. I do turn down most offers to accept new applications (more…

Along for the Ride: Part 2

I'm over at Working Stiffs today with the second installment of my experience riding along with the Pittsburgh Police...including a link to video of what I ALMOST got to be a part of.

Countdown to Bouchercon-16 days

Sixteen days until I leave for Baltimore, Maryland and Bouchercon.

Not that I’m counting or anything.

I spent one night away from home this weekend as my friend Lisa Curry and I drove to Rustic (with a capital “R”) Brookville, PA for a Pennwriters Board of Directors Meeting. We make this trip once a year. This will likely be Lisa’s last since she is stepping down from her role as treasurer soon. The motel in Brookville is even more Rustic than the town. But Pennwriters foots the bill, so I don’t complain. Much.

I suspect the room I’ve reserved at the Lord Baltimore Radisson will be a little less Rustic and a little more luxurious. Actually, I’m counting on it.

This time, my traveling buddy will be Joyce Tremel. We’re both starving artist types so we’re sharing expenses.

I’m beginning to get excited about the event. I’ve signed up for the Sisters in Crime luncheon as well as a Ghost Tour of Fells Point. There is a huge temptation to try to do EVERYTHING. To get as much bang for my buck as I…

Stop and Smell the Coffee

Our electricity finally came back on yesterday afternoon.

Sometimes we get so busy that the universe slaps us along the head to make us slow down and smell the coffee. I’m grateful this time the slap was a power outage. In the past, it’s been an injury or illness.

During the outage, instead of eating in front of my computer, I started eating outside on the front porch swing. Instead of staring mindlessly at the TV, I read an entire book in just a couple of days. (MAD MOUSE by Chris Grabenstein…excellent!)

However, now that power is back on, I’ve reverted to my hectic life and then some. I’ve caught up on most of my email. I’ve submitted my reports to the Pennwriters Board of Directors for this weekend’s board meeting. I’ve printed copies of my Chapter Seven to take to my critique group meeting.

I signed up for an online mystery writing course. It started this week. So I’m behind on my homework before I even begin.

I may have an appreciation for the lesson of slowing down, but I’m afraid it…

Powerless

I'm currently without electrical power at home. Our phone line is down, too. Or was. They were working on it when I left home this morning. I have little hope for getting power restored before tomorrow afternoon, if then. I'm in "marathon" mode. We are running our generator for water and to keep the freezer and refrigerator cold. We have the camper and its propane for hot water and the stove and oven. I feel like my life is held together by duct tape.

This is all because of the winds of Hurricane Ike that hit Pennsylvania Sunday night. Plus, we sent all our electric repairmen to Texas to help down there. I'm not begrudging those poor folks a bit. But could we have a few repair guys back?

I'm sitting in a dentist office waiting room, catching a stray wi-fi signal. So until we get our power (and Internet) back up and running OR until my next trip to town, you won't be hearig from me.

Hey, at least our houses and windows survived. We're in better shape tha…

Job Requirements for the Writer

The first thing you must have if you are planning on becoming a writer is at least one alternate source of income. And health insurance. The second thing you must have is a thick skin with regards to rejection.

The reason for both of these requirements is the same. You get published very little compared to your submissions. And when you do get published, it doesn’t necessarily pay much or anything.

The third job requirement is a love of writing. If you don’t love it, you won’t be in this business very long.

I’ve had a depressingly long dry spell. Not writing-wise. Publishing-wise. I hit the 100 word mark this week in my first draft of the new novel. I did a little dance of joy and celebration. The words are coming easier now that I know who the characters are, what motivates them, as well as where the story is going.

However, it has been two years (give or take) since my last publication. Longer since I received the acceptance letter for those stories. I did have one acceptance during …

Doing Double Duty

I'm pulling double duty today. Double blog duty, that is. It's Wednesday, so I'm over at Working Stiffs. Today I blog about my ride-along with the Pittsburgh Police last Friday.

Also, my friend and critique buddy, Donnell Ann Bell invited me to guest blog on the Five Scribes. Over there, I write about Yoga, Mediation, and Murder and how my two careers converge.

Please pop over to both blogs and join the fun.

Partying and Walking

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Friday night was a bit of a family reunion. My Sisters in Crime family, that is. The publication of Rebecca Drake’s third thriller, A Dead Place, was celebrated at Mystery Lovers Bookshop with a gathering of “Siblings” including a number of long-lost “Sisters.”

Nancy Martin was there, back on two feet again. New mom Kristine Coblitz took advantage of a Get Out of Jail Free card to come mingle. Meryl Neiman brought her kids. A lot of our regular gang was there, too: President Martha Reed, Lila Shaara, Tory Butterworth, Sandy Stephen, Mike Crawmer, Gina Sestak, my Pennwriters roomie, Brenda Roger, as well as my future Bouchercon roomie, Joyce Tremel.

Here’s a picture of Mary Alice Gorman introducing Rebecca:

And here’s a shot of some of the Sisters chatting:

Saturday morning, I had to be up and out before dawn for a 5K walk benefiting the Montour Trail. I figured A.) it would be a good thing to support the trail since we use it so much and B.) it would be a good practice in preparation fo…

Vacation Pictures

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We didn’t spend our entire vacation in the camper with Skye. During her extended catnaps, we hit the trails of Presque Isle. Most of the really great pictures remain only in my mind because I wasn’t quick enough. I missed the small flock of young turkeys that crossed our path. I missed the tiny pine squirrel carrying a walnut that was half again as big as he was. I just hope that wasn’t some sign of how severe our winter is going to be.

We took the free pontoon boat ride, as we do every year. Even with my camera in hand, I missed the swimming squirrel. It cruised along the base of one of the steel piers. I spotted it, but didn’t realize what I was looking at until it climbed the pier and, soggy bushy tail and all, bolted into the weeds.

However, I did get some photos. The turtles sunning on a log hung around long enough for me to fire off several shots of them.


This is the Perry Monument from Misery Bay.

Later, we took a side trip on the bikes to look at the houseboat village.


But the high…