Monday, January 30, 2006

Best Laid Plans . . . and all that

God has a sense of humor. I love Calvin and Hobbes so he gave me a son just like Calvin. Yesterday was a perfect example.

Being a Monday (following a Sunday where I had a serious discussion with my husband about schedules, etc.) I had mapped out my day, determined to stick to my schedule and get back on track after last week pretty much being a wash.

My son is not a morning person. Thus, I write in the morning. Usually, about a half hour before I’m ready to call it quits, he begins to rouse from his catatonic state. Now, at this point, he’s been awake and out of bed for about 3 hours. But he hasn’t really been functioning. Which is to my advantage.

So yesterday morning, I’ve almost hit my word count, need about 300 more words, when he comes in. “Mom. I’m hungry.”

“Finish your breakfast on the table.”

He comes back two minutes later, jam smeared on the cutest little cheeks. “I want a snack.”

“Give me fifteen minutes. I’m almost done.” I’m in the middle of a scene. I know where I’m going. It’s flowing. I don’t want to be interrupted.

He goes off and does something. I don’t know what. I’ve got 40 words left. With my mom ears I hear him climb on the kitchen counter. “Get down.”

“I’m making a sandwich.”

Great. “Get down. I’ll be there in a minute.”

I hear the sound of the toaster lever plunging, followed shortly after by the scent of smoke. I’m out of my chair and around the corner. Smoke is billowing out of the kitchen. I mutter a few non-CBA approved words. My son is climbing off the counter, rubbing his eyes. “I was making a sandwich.”

Smoke’s pouring out of the toaster but no flames. I unplug it and carry it out back, tossing it on the patio. Now the house is filled with the acrid scent of burnt toast. I hate burnt toast. I can see smoke swirling around the rooms, heading toward the ceiling. All I need is the smoke detectors to go off.

I start opening windows and turn on the ceiling fan. I go to open the patio door when I notice the toast is no longer in the toaster. The dumb dog has eaten all four pieces of charcoaled bread, probably burning his doggie lips in the process. I’m surprised he didn’t eat the toaster.

I finished my word count, then we went to Sonic for lunch. At this point, my schedule’s only off by about half an hour.

That was okay until about 1:30 when my e-mail went down. Again. I wait a couple hours, trying all my various trouble shooting techniques on the different computers in our house. Nothing. Finally I call Cox. They can’t figure it out either. Great. I love being a conundrum. After about an hour they finally figure it out and I get back my e-mail and my lifeline to the world outside my house.

Of course by this time I’ve forgotten to start dinner and the whole afternoon and evening schedule is shot.

Ah well. There’s always tomorrow.

Um, that’d be today.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

102 and Counting

Don’t know if any of you actually care (well, Jenny might), but Arizona has hit a rather dubious record. 102 days without rain. It’s the longest dry spell since someone began keeping records. Between the construction, farmers plowing, and the fact that the desert is just generally dusty, the air has a continual brown tint to it, and the air quality has been less than ideal. To the point that I no longer run in the mornings, only walk. Since it’s supposed to hit near 80 by next week I don’t think we’ll be seeing any improvement anytime soon.

So, anyone want to come swim in our subdivision’s heated pool? Expect to see a post or two from poolside next week. I know, gotta get the perks in now before I start complaining about the heat come July. Or, more likely, May.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Points for Originality

I love Calvin and Hobbes. Peter got me the complete collection for Christmas. There’s a touching story behind that gift that I won’t share here. Needless to say, I’m married to one awesome guy.

Here’s the gist of one strip. Too bad you can’t do comic strips justice in print alone.

Calvin asks Hobbes for help with his homework. “What’s a pronoun?”
Hobbes answers: “A noun that’s lost its amateur status.”
Calvin: “Maybe I can get points for originality.”

I was going for points for originality the other day when one of those door-to-door sales people came by. We’re really close to breaking a record for the longest dry spell here in Arizona, nearly 100 days without rain. We haven’t had rain since October. Everything is covered with a layer of fine red dust that infiltrates everywhere.

Which is the point the sales girl was trying to make when she came by my house the other morning. She had some cleaner guaranteed to get off the toughest dirt in my house.

I sense a challenge. She hasn't seen the dirt in our house. I can never resist a challenge, no matter how stupid. Explains a few things in my life. Anyhow, my son has a fascination for black Sharpie and apparently his muse, in a modern art period, can’t be confined to paper. Thus the walls of our entryway and stairs are decorated in black. He blamed the dog. And I almost believed him.

So I point to the marks on the walls. “Let’s see if you can get those off.”

She starts scrubbing.

The black starts coming off the wall. Ooh, I’m impressed. An idea forms in my mind. “Okay, well, what about this ink over here on this door? I haven’t been able to get that off.”

She scrubs the door.

“And the grime on the banister?”

It comes off. By the time I start asking her about bloodstains on the carpet (okay, I’m a suspense writer, but it’s not what you think), she straightens and looks at me. “Yeah, it works on that.” No demonstration. She’s caught on to my scheme to get her to clean my house. Too bad we hadn’t gotten to the kitchen floor yet. But I figure she if she’s going to sell me something, she should earn it.

So there’s my housecleaning tip for the day. Get the sales people to do it.

And hide the Sharpie.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I'm a Real Writer Now

Warning. I have a concussion. So I can’t be held responsible for what I post and that's why I haven’t posted in several days. I’d like to say I got this concussion from an incident that involved a tire iron and possibly a clairvoyant basset hound, but alas, that was another post. And no, I didn’t get it from banging my head against the keyboard, though given how I’m feeling about Promise, the sequel to Witness, that’s a good guess. No, I got it from one of my children’s toys, as much as it pains me to admit that. One of these days we can discuss how much damage children and their toys inflict on their parents. Ever stepped on a plastic block or a Matchbox car?

Anyhow, with that warning out of the way …

Woo hoo! I’m officially a “writer.” You may wonder how I got this official status bestowed on me. Well, I’ll tell you. I visited my daughter’s second grade class. They are learning about writing, and her teacher asked me, a “real” writer, to come in and talk to them about it. So there you have it. By virtue of being asked to speak on a topic as a professional, I have now been recognized as said professional. Forget publication, awards, reviews. Just need the recognition of twenty second graders. And my daughter’s beaming face. “That’s my mom!”

Pretty cool, huh?

Of course, the teacher got sick just before I was going to speak, no reflection on me I’m sure. So the principal stepped in to take over the class. Now, I don’t know about you, but I still have a strange reaction to principals. I sat up straight, made sure I wasn’t chewing gum or talking. Oh wait, I was supposed to be talking. Anyhow, after I remembered I was an adult, I did just fine.

We talked about stories for about twenty minutes. Played a few “What if” games. They asked really good questions, including what I liked to read. They loved the fact that I use the Internet to stay in touch with other writers all over the country. And of course they were hugely impressed that I made enough money last year at writing to go out to dinner. Once.

And the respect of a classroom full of second graders might be enough to motivate me to get back to my keyboard and try and make something of Promise. Of course, by the time my name actually appears on the front of a book, they won’t be in second grade anymore. Sigh.

Friday, January 13, 2006

If You Like Short Stories ...

If you remember, I posted here a while back about the short story contest Infuze Magazine was running. Well, the top ten made it into their anthology which is now available. It even looks cool. Here's how the announcement read in Infuze's weekly newsletter, which I'm quoting because it names Mike Snyder's story as a reader favorite. Which, of course, we already knew.

Forty nominees were chosen. Twenty finalists (ten short stories, ten poems) were voted on by you, Infuze Magazine's readers. And now, our first-ever printed anthology is finally here.

Inside, you'll find reader favorites like Michael Snyder's ingenius short story "My Name Is Russell Fink" and Marcia Lee Laycock's clever "Simile at Starbucks." Plus, we threw in a special bonus: "Super," the 9-page comic book by yours truly and artist Tim Bates.

If that weren't enough, Bethany House Publishers has been kind enough to let us include an excerpt from Relentless, my upcoming first novel. The entire first chapter is included, and this is your first look at it anywhere (and if you read Prodigy, here's your chance to get a taste of what it's become).

And all proceeds go into building the future of Infuze.

You can order it here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The End of This Thread as We Know It

All right. It's done. This is the final installment in the group story formerly known as "untitled." I'm torn between "The Secret Life of Russell Fink" or "The Promise of Russell Fink." The second one only makes sense to a few people. Kind of like me. Or most writers I know.

And on the off-chance you can't get enough of these round robin stories, our buddies over at Story Board--Dineen, Robin, Ronie and Ron--are starting their own. Check it out here.

Without further ado, and with apologies to Dallas ...

Part Ten

“Alyssa?” Russell ran out from behind the cop cars and headed straight for them.

The arm loosened around Sarah’s neck, and she gulped air.

“What are you doing here, Russell? Following me? We broke up.”

“Actually, I broke up with you.”

Sarah didn’t care who broke up with whom. She just wanted this gun out of her back. And if Russell could do it, she just might kiss him for real this time.

The gun slipped lower and in a flurry of bodies, Sarah was slammed to her side by someone who must have been a defensive lineman before becoming a cop. Dang, she was going to have bruises. Better than being dead, though.

The lineman offered her a hand up while other cops hauled off Alyssa who was screaming something about a publicity stunt.

Russell stood there looking stunned while Kyle hustled over carrying a box.

Russell nodded to the box. “What’s in there? The drugs?”

“You could say that.” Kyle lifted off the lid slightly. Two of the ugliest toads Sarah had ever seen blinked back at her.

Sarah stepped back. “What are those?”

“Poisoned toads. People smoke the venom.”

She shuddered. Yuck. She just wanted to go home. Maybe get a massage, take a nap. She was so tired, she felt her eyes drifting shut …


Sarah was hearing voices. Where was she? The rollers running up and down her back reminded her. Oh yeah, the salon. Wow, that was a good story idea. She’d have to hit the computer as soon as she got back home.

“She thinks she’s such a great writer but I read one of her books and didn’t get it.”

Lynne murmured something but Sarah didn’t hear it. She kept her eyes closed. This could be interesting.

“I mean, they didn’t even have sex. What’s up with that? Good grief, all that chemistry and then… nothing.” A pause. “She’s asleep, isn’t she? I mean, she can’t hear me, right?”

That’s right, honey. I can’t hear a thing. Good grief.

The machine stopped and Sarah opened her eyes, blinked, and pretended to wake up, stretching out her arms in front of her.

Lynne hurried over. “Color looks good on you. Chick Flick Cherry. Very nice. You rest?”

“Yep. Had a nice little nap.”

“Good. See you in two weeks.”

Sarah slid her feet into her flip flops, paid and left the salon.

A man turned as she came out the door, holding the leash of a basset hound. He smiled at her. He had the cutest smile.

Maybe …

Nah, she pushed the thought out of her mind. The vestiges of her muse’s dancing in her brain still swirled around her, affecting her view of things. Still, if he ever read her book …

She strolled toward him, giving him a smile. Stopping within a foot of him, she reached her hand out. “Thanks for walking Sonny for me.” She took the leash out of his hand.

“No problem. When do you need me again?”

“I’m not sure, I’ll call you. Come on, Sonny, let’s go home.”

Sonny didn’t come at first, turning to look at the man before waddling after her.

She could have sworn he winked.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Round Robin Story Part 8

I'm sure you all were just dying to read this latest installment over the weekend. Sure you were. Well, here it is. As a reminder, you can find Part One and Four here, Part Two and Six at Malia's blog, Part Three at Sabrina's blog, Part Five at Mike's blog, and Part Seven at Jenny's blog.

By the way, we still need a title. Any ideas?

Part 8

Kyle hung up the phone and pushed out of his office chair. Russell Fink and Ryan Taylor both were waiting for him up front. He’d asked them to come in today to go over their statements, but he hadn’t expected them at the same time. Russell was obviously taken with Sarah, which Kyle could tell really torqued off Ryan. Of course Ryan thought at least half the women he met harbored romantic fantasies about him. And probably a few of the men.

When Kyle walked out, Russell and Ryan were sizing each other up across the room. “Hey guys, thanks for coming in. I didn’t expect both of you at the same time.”

Ryan lifted his chin. “I was here first. Plus, I’ve got rehearsal in an hour.”

Nice. Ryan was already getting territorial. The guy had a great singing voice but a lousy personality.

“Okay, Ryan—” Kyle’s phone rang. He unclipped it and looked at the display then answered it. This should be interesting. “Hi Sarah—”

“Kyle! Help me. This woman just killed Lynne and I don’t know if she’s chasing me or not—”

“Where are you?” Kyle waved to get the attention of the officer at the desk. “Call dispatch.”

She rattled off the name of a salon and the street she was running up. Kyle gave it to the officer who relayed it to dispatch. “Sarah, officers are on their way, and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“I’m going.” Ryan headed toward the door.

Russell was right behind him. “Me too.”

Kyle stepped in front of Ryan, blocking his path. "You're both idiots, you know that? This is police business and I don't have time to argue. Stay here." He yanked the door open and strode out—almost tripping over that basset hound that went everywhere with Russell—knowing that was the last thing they would do.


Ryan was torqued. Kyle knew how he felt about Sarah. How could Kyle think he could just stay here and wait for news? Well, he wasn’t going to.

But what about this Russell guy? He wasn’t sure what was going on with him and Sarah, but he was just visiting. Ryan lived here. He just had to bide his time. He could afford to be generous. “I know where Sarah’s at.”

Russell stared at him for a beat. “I thought you had rehearsal in an hour.”

“Want a ride or not?”

“Let’s go.”


Kyle had put Sarah in the front seat of his unmarked unit. She’d already given her statement to the officers who had first arrived on scene. Right now, Kyle just wanted to make sure she was okay. Her hands still shook, the only indication that she was still suffering from her ordeal. She finally clasped them tightly in her lap.

He stared at her hands a moment before it finally dawned on him. He’d have to make sure, but it looked like Sarah might be just what they needed to break this case open. From what they’d been able to piece together, the nail salon was some sort of communication center for the drug ring Chas Akana’s sister had gotten involved with. The proper combination of color and nail décor acted as a password.

And from what he could tell, Sarah was wearing that password on her fingers.

Sarah let out a sigh. The color had returned to her face.

“You doing okay?” Kyle had to ask. If she wasn’t then there was no point in going to the next step.

She nodded. “I think so. A little shaken, but okay.”

“Good. How’d you like to be a decoy?”

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pardon This Interruption

Interrupting our round robin story here to let you know that Mike Snyder's story, All Healed Up, is posted over at Dave Long's Faith*in*Fiction blog. This was part of the short story contest that Dave sponsored. On a personal note, this is my favorite of all of Mike's short stories. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Round Robin Part Four

In my previous post I explained that several of us were going to try our hand at writing a round robin short story and I posted Part One. You can find Part Two on Malia's blog and Part Three on Sabrina's blog. Player number four was suppost to post this part, but since I can't resist a dead body, I jumped in. Um, yeah, don't draw too many conclusions from that last statement. Anyhow, feel free to join us.

What I've discovered so far: it's more fun to play with someone else's characters. And, I can still write even if I don't know where the story is going, something that's often hard for me to do. Okay, so on to Part Four.

Part Four

Russell looked up at her, then back at the tire iron in his hand. “Oh, it’s not what you think. I came over here to give you and Ryan some privacy when this guy came running up with this crazed look in his eye and blood streaming down his face.”

Sarah focused her eyes on Russell. One look at the body was all she needed. She put her hand behind her to feel for the boat rental building and sagged against it. They were on the backside of the building. Unless someone purposely came out here for a reason, no one would see them.

Sonny had stopped his growling and leaned heavily against her legs before plopping down on her feet.

“He had the tire iron in his hand. I thought he was going to hit me with it. But instead he handed it to me. Along with this.” A bottle of nail polish dangled from his fingers. OPI’s Chick Flick Cherry, if she wasn’t mistaken. A favorite. “Weird, huh? Then he just collapsed. I checked for a pulse, but he’s dead.”

As she stared at the nail polish bottle, she realized she could see the dead man’s boots out of the corner of her eye. They looked familiar. Where had she seen them before? She worked with a lot of contractors so why would this pair have stood out in her memory? There was nothing to do but look at his face. She closed her eyes. She really didn’t want to do this, but if it could help solve what happened …

She squatted down and scratched Sonny’s neck, his soft fur giving her comfort. He snuffled a few times then settled into a rhythmic breathing pattern. The dog was asleep on her feet, probably the only one relaxed around here. Well, except for the dead guy.

Continuing to stroke Sonny’s ears, she let her gaze travel up from the man’s boots, up his jean-clad legs and button-down shirt with blood spatters, to his face. She held her breath. It didn’t look as bad as she had expected. She recognized him. But from where?

She glanced up at Russell. He was looking at her, but not saying anything. She closed her eyes. This guy had something to do with a jobsite, she was sure. She let her mind wander. She’d driven up to the site of the building she was designing yesterday, but had gotten lost. Nothing unusual there; she had a horrible sense of direction. She’d stopped and asked two guys—

That was it. He was one of the guys she had asked for directions. And as she had driven away, in her rearview mirror she had seen him arguing with the other man.

She abruptly stood, disturbing Sonny who yawned and resettled himself on her feet. “We’ve got to call the police. I know this guy.” She unclipped her phone from her waist and speed-dialed Kyle, her best friend’s boyfriend, a detective.

While waiting for him to pick up, she noticed sunlight glinting off the top of the nail polish bottle Russell still held. That was odd. She took a step closer and saw a small rhinestone—like what would be used for a nail decoration—stuck to the top of the bottle. Why was that there?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Blog Round Robin

It’s a new year and some of us (me, Jenny and Sabrina) are starting on new wips. Through various IM and e-mail conversations the topic has come up about whether or not blogging helps or hurts our writing and creativity. Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be helpful as long as it doesn’t cut into writing time on my wip. It can help stoke the creative fires—and things can get pretty creative around here.

I don’t know if I can blame him for starting this chain of thought, but Mike Snyder (who always seems to be the source of, um, “creative writing” on this blog) left a comment last week about brainstorming a story. Then Malia mentioned the idea of a round robin story on her blog. So she and I brainstormed and came up with the idea of doing a round robin short story through our various blogs. The more the merrier so feel free to kick start your creative juices in the new year and jump on in.

Here’s what we came up with:

Anyone who wants to join in will write a 300-500 word segment of a short story. Hopefully we’ll end up with about ten segments but that’s not set in cement.

Each segment should include at least one of the following:
A tire iron
Nail polish
A map
A dead body (for us suspense writers)
A kiss (for the romance writers)
The ocean
The desert (because it’s my blog)
A visit to a salon
A writer who gets her book trashed to her face (knowingly or unknowingly)
A rainbow
A clairvoyant basset hound

Use your imagination. These things don’t have to be used in the way you would normally think of them. Feel free to steal each other’s characters or use your own.

What I’m thinking is that as you write your section, post here in the comments what part you’ve written (part two, part three, etc), then we can go read it on your blog. Then when it’s all done, (if ever) I’ll post the whole thing all put together either here or on my website.

Okay, I’m going first.

Part One

Sarah sat in the warm sand, digging her toes deeper to find the coolness underneath. The last rays of the day played across the water, turning the film of water left by a receding wave the color of champagne. It was beautiful, relaxing, perfect… yet she felt none of those things. Why did Ryan have to disturb her world? Why couldn’t he have given her some warning instead of making such a huge display, forcing all eyes on her while they awaited her answer. She couldn’t have said no.

She needed to go home and work on her dream house plans. That would make her feel better since the beach wasn’t doing it today. Today she’d run across a molding design that would be perfect for the built-in bookcases in the library, and—

Something warm and wet slithered across her hand. With a small yelp, she jerked away, then looked.

Soft brown basset hound eyes stared back.

“Well, hi there.” What a sweet dog. She lifted her hand slowly and the dog obligingly sniffed the back of her hand.

Realizing he must have an owner, she followed the leash up to the man holding it. Strangely enough, her first impression was that the dog and his owner shared the same soft brown eyes.

“Sorry about that. Sonny must really like you. He’s not usually that friendly.”

Sonny nuzzled Sarah’s hand, and she rubbed his head and scratched his ears. “He’s sweet. Sonny’s his name?”

“Yeah.” He moved a step closer and the leash sagged with slack. “I’m Russell.”

“Russell and Sonny, huh? I’m Sarah.” Still scratching Sonny’s head, she studied Russell out of the corner of her eye. Nice, boy-next-door good looks. “Visiting?”

A surprised looked flashed across Russell’s face. “Yeah. Why?”

She nodded toward the sign fifty feet away. “Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach this time of year.”

He looked at the sign. “Oh. Didn’t see it.”

“Not a big deal since there’s no one around to complain.” If it were the weekend with the lifeguard towers fully manned, that’d be a different story. She gave Sonny a final pet then stood up, brushing the sand off the back of her shorts. Friendly or not—nice dog or not—this guy was a stranger.

Sonny sniffed her legs, rubbing up against her. Wedging his nose between her ankles he pushed his nose forward.

Sarah took a step away and tripped over Sonny’s leash, falling backwards.

Russell grabbed for her arm, but momentum already had a hold of her, and she landed in the sand, pulling Russell with her.

Warm sand enveloped her back. Russell’s weight pinned her from the front, and Sonny continued to sniff around her feet, tickling. She kicked her feet away.

Russell rolled off of her and sat up. “Sorry. Are you okay? I tried to help but I guess I just made things worse.”

Sarah sat up and shook the sand from her hair. “I’m fine. It’s sand. I had a soft landing.” He still looked concerned. “Really. It’s okay.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into Sonny.”

Sonny had left Sarah’s feet for something more interesting. He made soft snuffling noises as he strained against the leash, following some scent in the sand.


Her head snapped up at the familiar voice. Uncertainty rolled through her stomach. Ryan. Striding down the bike path, headed her way. How’d he find her? She came here to get away from him.