Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Morning Meanderings - Life's Challenges and Meetin' 'em, by Golly

I haven't written a "Saturday Morning Meanderings" blog in awhile - and I hesitate to do one now 'cause it's going to be a rant.

But, oh well - here goes.

Hopefully, I'll just get the rant out of the way and you'll stick around to see if this will maybe evolve into something more pleasant.  It will, I promise!

As you know, Donald and I have faced some challenges this summer.  For those of you who continue to drop me little notes asking how Donald is doing - Thank You!  He's doing wonderfully well.  He's still going to The Wellness Center for cardio-rehab three days a week and is working out like crazy.  He has to attend 36 sessions before he can graduate.  As of Friday, he had attended 21 sessions.  The therapists continue to toss out new challenges which Donald continues to meet and exceed.  He consistently gets glowing reports and he's enjoying his workouts and getting into such great shape.   As I said, he's doing wonderfully well, and I am a happy girl.

During all this, I had a little health matter of my own that popped up.  After going through some tests, that has ended up being a non-problem.  Most probably stress induced, but all gone now.  I'm finer than frog's hair, as we say in the south.  Nothing better than hearing a doctor say "everything looks good."

The challenge through all this which should most definitely NOT have been a challenge has been dealing with errors in billing, and the insurance company regarding Donald's heart attack.

For some reason some of the bills came back marked "no insurance info on file - please pay immediately."  It took awhile to get this corrected.   I "think" we've gotten this worked out.  But not without challenges.

SUGGESTION If you can - get yourself to the billing office in person, it's way more effective than attempting to correct something like this over the phone. 

SUGGESTION NUMBER TWO.  If you can't get to the office in question in person, do NOT settle for talking to the first person who answers the phone.  Not meaning to be ugly about this, but don't waste your time.  You're probably not going to be successful.   You'll hang up the phone feeling as though you were successful, only to find out when the next bill arrives marked "no insurance info on file - please pay immediately" (or something else egregiously incorrect) that you were led down the garden path and you're going to get upset, and your stress level is going to skyrocket and you're going to end up going through a mess of medical tests only to be told (at the very least) "it's a stress induced incident."  Go higher up the ladder to get results.  Go on-line, pull up annual reports or anything else you can find to get the name of the CEO or President of the company you're dealing with.  Call that number and ask for this person by name.  Of course you won't get them.  But you will get their assistant.  And that person will get your problem taken care of.  Guaranteed.  And you've saved yourself a LOT of time and a LOT of grief.  Let the folks getting paid the big bucks handle these issues.  They will - I promise.
SUGGESTION NUMBER THREE.  And maybe the most important.  Do NOT let your insurance company push you around.  And again, don't settle for talking to the first person who answers the phone.  Talk to (at the very least) a supervisor.  And if you're of a mind - tell them you're going to write an editorial to major newspapers explaining how the insurance company is trying to screw you.

Sit down my friends and let me tell you a story.

Donald was air lifted from Watauga Medical Center in Boone, NC to Mission Memorial Hospital in Asheville, NC.   A little less than 100 miles.  

Want to take a guess at what this ride costs?


Worth, of course, every penny when you think about the fact that it was part of a life saving procedure for the man who is my life's partner and my best buddy on God's green earth.

Problem is, we just really don't have an extra $9,790 dollars.


We do have insurance.

We work hard and truth be told, the insurance we have is one of the reasons a lot of us work, isn't it?

Well - trying to get them to pay this bill was a challenge.  Should it have been?  Absolutely not!!!!!!!  And I can tell you one thing.  There are a LOT of people who would have just walked away from this challenge.  They make it difficult enough, and have so much double talk scripted for them, that I can see how it could be easier for some people to just walk away and pay the bill themselves.  And, in my opinion, the insurance companies are counting on this.  Luckily, I had an angel on my side.  A woman (the head of the department) from the billing office for the helicopter medical transport service took me under her wing and assured me they were going to get this handled if I would just stand strong.  Between her going over and beyond her normal duties for weeks and weeks - calling me with updates often, coupled with me acting like the proverbial pit bull dog, we finally, as of yesterday, got this bill paid.  Not in full, of course, but the amount we now owe is significantly more manageable than $9,790.  Or at least that's what we were both told over the phone by the insurance company.  Neither of us have actually seen a check yet - but supposedly, it's been handled.  Believe me, if this turns out not to be the case, you'll hear more very soon.

I did go on-line to and have a box of chocolates sent to my friendly spunky angel woman who I now feel is a friend.

oTAY - enough of the rant.  Whew.  Feels good to vent sometimes, doesn't it?!  But the key is, I think, to move beyond it.

Count some blessings.
Have some belly laughs.

Indulge in a little pampering.

Make time to do some things you love to do.

Hug someone you care about.

Roll around on the floor with your children - including your furry ones.

My latest giggle comes from admitting I've once again had to eat my words.  WHEN am I ever going to learn?  I keep making sweeping judgments about things, and then not having enough sense to keep them to myself.  

I think I remember saying (more than once) that I'd never blog.  Didn't get it.  Thought it was a totally self-centered, self-indulgent activity.  Who would want to read my every thought?  Who would think I'd want to read theirs?!  Pfft.  Oh well - no sense getting into all that.  Seeing as how we're all right here - the proof is in the pudding.  I read dozens of blogs and get irritated when I get too busy to get to them all!  And some of you do drop by Meanderings and Muses often enough for me to keep writing.  Although, truth be told - it's mostly just for me.  I find this outlet to be such a huge part of my life that I can't even imagine being without it now.

I also remember thinking digital cameras weren't my thing.  Ha!  I can tell you right now.  If my digital camera breaks today  -  I'm getting a new one tonight.

And then there were all those things I said about eReaders.  Not interested.  Maybe later . . .   Well, my friends.  Later is here.  I'm hooked.  NOT that they'll replace "real" books in my life.  But.  I'm enjoying reading books in iBooks on my iPad.  And I downloaded the Kindle App when I found out:

a)  It was free.
b)  There are books available through Kindle that are not available through iBooks.

And then in just the past couple of days, we hear that the price of the Kindle has dropped to just over $100 dollars.  wow.  

Next time you hear me say "I will never . . . ," don't pay me a bit of attention.  I might be late to play the game, but probably, I'll play.  It's all about . . .   well, I'm not sure what it's all about, actually . . . .

What do you think?

Is it all about fun?

Is it all about keeping up with what's new?

Is it just joining in because I'm one of the sheep???!


oh well, whatever it is . . .  it is what it is.

and life is good.

Happy Saturday, my friends!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing by Cathy Lee Carper

Cathy Carper, who usually writes under the pen name Lee Carper, is an aspiring author who is working on her first manuscript in a planned series about a serial killer investigation team. She holds degrees in social work and pre-med/biology, with a focus on profiling and forensics.  Last year Cathy was a judge for the Thriller Award - a prestigious award given by International Thriller Writer’s organization (ITW) - and has attended numerous conferences where she continues to learn about the craft of writing.  She is an avid reader, writes reviews and critiques manuscripts for fellow writers, and has at one time or another been a member of Mystery Writers Of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters In Crime, as well as several writer/reader sites. 

Lee has three children - now young adults - and many animals, including: a pot-bellied pig, several birds, and the recent addition of a new puppy.  She resides in the beautiful state of Vermont

Brynna Carper at her Mom's workspace

Much Ado About Nothing
by Cathy Lee Carper

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself in deep contemplation on what I might choose for a topic here today. Okay, so it really wasn’t DEEP contemplation - these days deep contemplation is usually what to make for dinner - but since many situations or events could be great inspiration for us writers, I found the choice difficult. Some of my recent experiences have been profound, others just plain old day-to-day annoyances or pleasures. There were so many interesting subjects to write about, which one would I pick? Before I get to my choice, here are a few of the ones I nixed. 

I much prefer discussing fun things, so let’s get the serious stuff out of the way first. Like for instance, divorce. That could have been an interesting topic to write about, especially since many of us have gone through the joyous (not!) experience, but who in the heck wants to read about something depressing? So I nixed that idea.

Or I could have written about say, aging parents. Or chronic pain. Or the biggie of all... the loss of a loved one, which can come in all shapes and forms. Perhaps it’s not death itself, but the loss of a treasured relationship. The list goes on, but at some point, most of these sad situations touch us all. Again, too depressing. Nixed. 

Moving on... let’s take some of the more minor annoyances that could have made interesting blog material. My house for instance. Come to think of it, I could easily write a full-length novel on that topic. But I digress. Where was I again? Oh yes... my house. I bought the place a couple of years ago, and many of you might recall the movie THE MONEY PIT? I’m convinced this place was the model for that one. My house looks great on the surface, but don’t touch the walls or walk up the stairs... and for gosh sakes, whatever you do, do NOT flush a toilet while running the washing machine. Can anyone say tsunami? 

In retrospect, perhaps I should have purchased a farm. I’m a bit of a country girl at heart, but there’s a lot of city in me too (hey, that sentence makes for a great country song). But I digress again. Why would I want a farm you ask? Because I’m an avid animal lover and own several pets, some of them considered “exotic”. I suspect my neighbors aren’t too happy about my pot-bellied pig, and probably a few other things as well. This is a neighborhood where everything is neat and tidy... until you get to MY house. Mowing occurs only when I have money to pay someone - which isn’t that often - and in autumn, I happen to enjoy leaves in my yard. We live in Vermont. Aren’t we supposed to have leaves in our yard? 

In any event, as soon as I moved in, I had an aviary built for my cockatiels and parakeets, and at the same time was forced to install a chain-linked fence because Pumba the pig engaged in The Great Houdini Escape Act over and over (let me tell ya’ll, the pig was one plate shy from bacon at that point). Aside from the pig, I had an Amazon parrot who continually screamed: “LET ME OUT!”, so when I began meeting all the neighbors, I assured them I did not in fact have a child held prisoner in a closet, but owned a rather loud and massively spoiled parrot.

The most recent addition to my household is a puppy. I’m convinced the neighbors think I secretly own an animal-rescue organization or maybe they suspect I’m a hoarder. This was a quiet neighborhood until I moved in - MUCH too quiet. I like to joke we live in The Twilight Zone. Or perhaps The Stepford Neighborhood. Lawns always mowed, leaves scooped up as soon as they hit the grass, dogs that don’t bark, kids that don’t exist - or if they do, they’re hidden - and I’m convinced even the wildlife around here understands they’re expected to remain silent. I’m sure when I moved in, it was a shock for everyone. They’ve put up with a gigantic pig roaming around the backyard, a screaming parrot, and now the puppy. Wait ‘til this weekend when I host a family reunion and there are *gasp* CARS driving down the street and *another dramatic gasp* PEOPLE to be seen. 

Okay, enough babbling - as if you didn’t notice, I’m great at that. Before ya’ll are yawning (too late for that, I’m sure) I’ll get to the point. There was a point? Oh yeah. The topic for this article. Here it is! Wait for it... wait for it...

Oh dear. I forgot.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's Still Exciting, Every Single Time! by Lonnie Cruse

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Lonnie Cruse now resides in Metropolis,Illinois, home of Superman. She writes the Kitty Bloodworth, ’57 Chevy mystery series and the Metropolis mystery series. Lonnie is a member of MWA and the Antique Automobile Club of America, and its Southern Illinois Ohio Valley Chapter. Lonnie teaches writing workshops and speaks to writers/readers groups.
Her website is:

By Lonnie Cruse

This month my sixth mystery and the second in the Kitty Bloodworth/’57 Chevy series comes out from Five Star. I gotta tell ya, folks, this never gets old. Having a new book out with my name on the cover. Holding the published story in my eager hands. Getting a good review from a tough reviewer. Whew!

Each of my books is special to me for different reasons, just like each child in a family is special to his/her parents for different reasons. This mystery is special to me because I set it in Pigeon Forge, TN, the heart of the Smokey Mountains and one of my favorite places to visit. We’ve been fortunate to visit there several times and I love the atmosphere. I wasn’t writing mysteries (or much of anything else) the first few times we were there, but by the time of our last visit, I was in full swing as an author. I based this book on memories of the beautiful scenery and the people we met while there. Doing that made the area come alive for me again.

This book features Kitty Bloodworth, her hubby, Jack, and their trophy winning ’57 Chevy, Sadie. It also features many of the character from the first in the series, FIFTY-SEVEN HEAVEN, but because I sent Kitty and Jack to a car show/sale in a different state, I had a dilemma. I couldn’t let the murder take place on the first page or even in the first chapter, like I usually do. Instead, I had to let the characters meet and intermingle with the locals, get to know their way around, before anything remotely resembling a murder could take place. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything exciting going on. The Bloodworth’s and their best friends, the Evans, get into trouble within just a few pages. In fact, Jack Bloodworth is already in trouble with Kitty on page one, for running into and fawning over his favorite country music singer. Ah, men.

This time in the publishing of a book is the best of times in a writer’s career. No new ideas to frantically try to get on paper before they disappear into the nether worlds. No researching detail after detail to make sure there aren’t any howlers just waiting to be discovered by readers. No outlining, no note taking, no scrabbling around to find those notes. No stressing over how to fill that saggy, baggy middle of the book. No figuring out alibis for everyone, then breaking them. No red herrings un-explained, no plot holes to fill. No biting of nails while the ending is written (hopefully with a bang.) No waiting to hear from a publisher. No waiting for the edits, praying that nothing important must be changed or deleted. No waiting for the book to come out. And not much in the way of promotion to be done until the book actually IS out. Again, whew!

Readers are often excited to meet a “real author” meaning anyone with a book in print and the “real author’s” name on the front. Well, let me just say that we authors are often excited to meet a “real reader.” Someone we don’t know who’s read our book, our words, our baby, and LOVES IT! Music to our ears.

FIFTY-SEVEN TRAVELING is coming to a library or an online store or maybe even a local bookstore near you. I hope you grab a copy and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And if you ever have a chance to visit the Smokey Mountains, don’t miss it.

Thanks, Kaye, for having me on your wonderful blog! You are very special!

Friday, July 23, 2010

My New iPad - Final Decision

Was there ever any doubt?

While I've been fiddling around and playing with my new toy I've been wondering about this fascination so many of us have with small electronic gadgets. We stay "connected"  to so much without ever having to leave our chairs.  And we've become somewhat addicted; worried that something might happen that we might miss.  Like little kids who refuse to take a nap for that very same reason.  I can sit down to simply check email, end up at Facebook, play a few words at Wordscaper and Lexulous and the next thing I know, hours have flown by.  I'm not saying this is a good thing, nor am I saying it's a bad thing.  It is, however, oddly different than how I used to spend my free time not too many years ago.  Very different, and at times a little disconcerting, and a bit befuddling.  And . . .  let's not forget   -   it's fun.

And that's the thing about the iPad.  It's fun.

My comments and observations about it will be old hat to those of you who are already using Mac products, particularly the iPad, but to those of us who aren't familiar with the Mac - it's a strange new world.  Some of you who are unfamiliar with Mac have written and asked some specific questions.  Well, novice to novice - I have to admit that I still don't know the answers to a lot of them, but maybe some of what I've learned so far will be helpful. 

I jumped into the iPad with no recent Mac experience.  No iPhone, no iTouch, not even an iPod of my own.  Donald has an iPod and I've contributed my share of music, but I don't have one of my own (or didn't, until now) and have never been real sure how it works.  And that's been O.K. with me - we're both fans of the same music so what we listen to while on car trips, etc. is never a problem.  I have not downloaded any music onto my iPad yet - but I expect that'll be happening pretty soon.

I never wanted an iPhone 'cause I am not a telephone person.  We have a cell phone, but never seem to know where it is until we have to find it when we're going out of town.

I did try an iTouch, but it just didn't speak to me.  I don't know why, and maybe I just didn't give it enough time.  Or maybe it was just smaller than what I wanted.

I was quite happy with my laptop, thank you very much.  

Then I saw the iPad and felt a little stirring.

The size of the iPad is just right.

And the design is sleek and classy.

I like it. 

As I said, I'm still learning and I still have a long way to go, but - there are a couple of friends around who are Mac lovers and they're helping me a lot.  And, of course, as things go - the more you fiddle and play with something, the more you learn.   AND - a huge plus is Apple Technical Support.  Apple has that nailed.  Those folks are what Customer Service is supposed to be all about.  And what it was - once upon a time. 

One thing I think is really pretty terrific is the battery life.  You can work on an iPad for about 10 hours.  The last time I tried working on my laptop using the battery only, the life was only about 2 hours.  I had to be very sparing with my internet usage while we were without power for several days this past winter.

The iPad will not, however, replace my laptop in my day-in, day-out computer use.  I'm in love with my Dell and it's what I'll continue to use for most things.  It has served me well.  For one thing, it's pretty hard to even  imagine trying to post my blogs on my iPad.  I just don't think those are the kinds of things Steve Jobs had in mind when he hatched this latest brainchild of his.

But traveling?  It'll be my iPad all the way.

And, I think it'll even replace my Palm Pilot.

That's a biggie for me.

I know I'm one of the few left with a Palm, and one of the even fewer who loves it.  As I told you in an earlier post, it's been my "back-up brain" for a number of years.  If the iPad does as good a job keeping my calendar and my contacts in good shape, I don't see any reason to maintain it and the Palm.  But before I send my Palm sailing, let's give it some time to see how well I adapt.

Here's some of the things I can do with my new little buddy - - -

I can browse the web, of course.  I can also save web pages to an app called "Offline Pages."  This means if I'm reading a lengthy article and know I'm going to want to continue reading it in an area where I won't be picking up WiFi, I can "save" it to "Offline Pages" and easily continue reading it.  VERY cool.

I can visit with my Facebook friends.  I love that I can change the font size for any reading apps, including Facebook; that's a big plus in my opinion.

I can play games

I can put books in my library (including a copy of The iPad User Guide - Yay!!).  Don't worry, those shelves may look a little bare right now, but I'm sure that'll be changing.  Again, there's the plus of being able to change the font size in books.  AND the font itself.  There were some questions in my mind about how I'd like the reader on the iPad due to the lack of eInk that other eReaders are using.  Honestly?  It hasn't been a problem.  The lighting and the brightness can be adjusted in a wide range.  I'm finding reading to be quite comfortable.   I've been waffling about wanting an eReader, but frankly - with all the other cool things included in the iPad - this one was the one for me.  I've become a lover of these electronic gadgets, but why have several when you can find one that combines so many?  I'm very curious as to what we'll be playing with and using in 10 years - what will replace the iPad?

I love Maps.  It can map directions between locations, of course, and it will show me landmarks along the way.  It will pinpoint a location and show it to me in classic map format, hybrid or terrain format, or a satellite picture (some spots even from a ground location).  I can use it and visit cool places like The Smithsonian. 

All my contacts are here, as are all my calendar events.  I like the crisp look of both of these apps.

And, of course, I can listen to my music, watch movies and videos.  Read newspapers and magazines.  Check the weather.  Receive, read and send email.  Save my pictures here (which look so gorgeous they will just blow you away).  And there are about a million beezillion apps that I haven't even begun to explore.

So, even though I'm still not sure exactly what I'm doing . . . .

I'm having fun learning,


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Too Good to Throw Away by Pat Browning

I was born and raised in Oklahoma, graduated from Oklahoma A&M College-Stillwater (Class of ’49), and taught English and Journalism in Oklahoma high schools before moving to California.

A longtime resident of California's San Joaquin Valley before moving back to Oklahoma in 2005, my professional writing credits go back to the 1960s, when I was a stringer for The Fresno Bee while working full time in a Hanford law office.

I’m a veteran traveler. My globetrotting in the 1970s led me into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1990s, I signed on fulltime as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel.

While at the Enterprise, my lifestyle coverage placed first two years in a row in the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. I was also a finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. At the Sentinel, my feature story on the Japanese- American "Yankee Samurais" of World War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.

I published FULL CIRCLE, a mystery novel in 2001. Revised and reissued as ABSINTHE 0F MALICE by Krill Press Dec. 1, 2008.
I have a work-in-progress, METAPHOR FOR MURDER.
My memoir WHITE PETUNIAS, about growing up in Oklahoma, appeared in 2009 in the RED DIRT BOOK FESTIVAL ANTHOLOGY, OKLAHOMA CHARACTER. An earlier version won second place in its category in Frontiers in Writing 2007, sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers, Amarillo, TX.

My articles on writing have appeared in The SouthWest Sage, the monthly journal of SouthWest Writers:
“White Noise” appeared in SW Sage June 2007; “Charming An Audience” in SW Sage August 2007; “A Little Erotica Music, Please” in SW Sage March 2008; “What’s That Smell?” in SW Sage September 2008.

The first three chapters of ABSINTHE OF MALICE can be read at Google Books --

I started METAPHOR FOR MURDER, my work-in-progress, eight years ago and am now on page 118. What can I tell you? I’m a slow writer. I hope to have it finished in time for Christmas. That’s a rush but not impossible. As Lawrence Sanders’ long-running character Archy McNally likes to say, One never knows, do one?

By Pat Browning

The country preachers of my growing-up days had a way with words. My sister and I still laugh about the preacher who claimed a man opened his oven door and saw God sitting on a biscuit.

I used that years later in my first mystery, FULL CIRCLE (now revised and republished as ABSINTHE OF MALICE).

In the Oklahoma boonies in those days a Sunday night church service was the main form of socializing and entertainment. The preachers worked up a real sweat describing the Hell that awaited non-believers.

By the 1960s I had moved to California. I wrote a sketch of one of those old Sunday night services, pounding it out on my portable Smith Corona. I meant to use it in a book I would call SWEETER DAY, a title inspired by my memory of country preachers who promised a sweet life in Heaven, and a neighbor who talked constantly about going to California, where every yard had a tree decorated with big juicy oranges.

The memory was triggered by a big clay pot of white petunias. In the dusk of a summer evening in California, the petunias reminded me of boys in white shirts who congregated under the hickory trees across from the long-ago country church in Oklahoma. I never wrote the book but managed somehow to hang onto the sketch.  It was just too good to throw away. I spent the next 40 years looking for a place to use it. Every few years I dragged it out of my filing cabinet and rewrote it.

In 1999 I tried to slip it into my working manuscript of FULL CIRCLE. I thought it was so clever, turning that old memoir into a chapter where a character dredges up her memories for an adult writing class. The chapter stuck out like a sore thumb, so I took it out of the manuscript and filed it away again.

About 2002, I got it out and rewrote it with a different angle. Didn't like it, but it was too good to throw away. I put it back in the file folder.

In 2007 I was scrolling through My Documents and there was the almost-forgotten "White Petunias." I rewrote it and entered it in the Nostalgia category of a contest sponsored Panhandle Professional Writers in Amarillo, Texas. It won second place and $50.

Sometimes a piece of writing is like an old house -- all it needs is a fresh coat of paint.  I completely rewrote “White Petunias” and submitted it to the Red Dirt Book Festival Committee. In the winter of 2009 my memoir appeared in the RED DIRT BOOK FESTIVAL ANTHOLOGY, OKLAHOMA CHARACTER. 

I’m satisfied with the final version and happy to see it finally in print. It’s nothing earth-shattering. It’s simply about a summer night in 1939, on the eve of World War II, but the ending summarizes so many things for me. It reads:

“Like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town,” I sometimes wish to go back again, just for a day, any ordinary summer day with the sun shining and the wind blowing and puffs of white cloud drifting across a blazing blue sky. I might nab a piece of cold fried chicken and spend the afternoon sitting under a pear tree, reading A Tale of Two Cities.

“It wouldn’t work, even if it were possible. Like Emily, I would be heartbroken by the carelessness of love, the transience of youth. There’s an invisible line between past and present. Memory is the only bridge where we can cross in safety.

“The world seems to pause before a cataclysmic event, as if gathering itself for what is to come. So it was that summer, in that small rural community, before the boys in their Sunday clothes scattered to fight a global war in places they had never heard of.

“The Sunday nights are gone, and everything with them, the church, the friends and neighbors, even the hickory trees. All gone, except for that pause in time and the boys in the shadows, where white shirts gleam and laughter lingers, brought back to me now in the twilight of a summer day, by a pot of white petunias.”

The entire piece is on my personal web site, Morning’s At Noon:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Let's meander down the drive . . .

 The daylilies that line one side of our driveway are part of a peace I enjoy as I head out for my walk.

When I was growing up I remember daylilies being referred to as ditch flowers, and I don't remember paying too much attention to them.

Things change.

Let's take a short little stroll and I hope you enjoy these amazing little beauties as much as I do.

One day when I was young, and walking with a friend, a field dry
as straw bloomed with flowers. "Oh, glory!" we breathed, my good
friend and I, for the flowers blazed like suns and fire and rainbows.
They sprang from folds between hillsides, peeked from pockets of
shade. Spiraling - dancing - they followed us home...
- Maggie Streincrohn Davis, Glory! To the Flowers

note:  some of these daylilies came from Weston Farms - if you can't get to Garner, NC, they do a terrific mail order business

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Peer Groups, and Not Fitting In by Patty Andersen

Patty Andersen is Library Director at the Devereaux Library which is located on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota

Peer Groups, and Not Fitting In
by Patty Andersen

Many thanks to Kaye for inviting me, I’m still not sure why but thanks anyway! I thought for a long time about a topic for this blog. Not being an author I had to wonder if I would have anything interesting to say but Kaye insists that I will do fine. You can be the judge.

So, my topic is – not fitting into the peer group. My peer group is other librarians, specifically other Library Directors although I can count all librarians as well. You see, I never feel like I fit in with these folks. No, it isn’t that I don’t have the correct education (M.L.I.S. from Louisiana State University) or the job (library director since 1996) the problem is –I don’t like the same thing that so many of the other librarians like; I don’t listen to classical music (I’m rock ‘n roll or country), I avoid NPR, I seldom watch PBS (History Detectives being a notable exception) and I can’t tell you the last time I read the latest “important book”. So, I tend to be really quiet in social situations around my peers. Oh, there are a few out there who read mysteries (often with the disclaimer that “I read the classics”. There are even some who read romance (ack, did I just admit that I also read romance, oh well, it is true, I used to read only romance, many of them being the series romance of Harlequin) but most often they talk about things heard on NPR, watched on PBS or books that I’ve seen talked about on TV but would never dream of reading. Can I admit that as far as I know I have never read an Oprah book club book? That the only classical music I know comes from TV or movies (Amadeus anyone)? That I would rather watch reruns of M*A*S*H* than some series on world peace that takes weeks to finish? Even in some of the places where I am comfortable, like DorothyL, threads will pop up that make me feel like an outsider. The one that started me thinking about this topic is one that shows up from time to time, the issue of “literature” vs. “popular fiction”. I’ve read a lot of literature; I love Shakespeare, hated Dante and got through lots of others on my way to a minor in English literature. My problem is, I don’t like critiquing what I read – I love to read but if I have to analyze it to death it takes away the joy of the story for me. I can do it but I don’t like it. To me when someone says LITERATURE they are looking down on me and what I read, they are dissing the things I love because it doesn’t fit some artificial standard that “they” (who ever “they” are) say is the only thing to read.

Thankfully I have found places where I’m comfortable. DorothyL for mysteries (most of the time), SoundsLikeAMystery for audiobooks, specifically mystery audiobooks, Facebook for general chatter about the fun things in life as well as the more serious and home for friends and family.

So, are there others of you out there who don’t feel like you fit in with your peer group? If so, let me know, I might feel less alone.

Friday, July 16, 2010

But I don't write short stories by Bill Cameron

Critically-acclaimed mystery novelist Bill Cameron is the author of the dark, gritty mysteries Chasing Smoke and Lost Dog, both featuring irascible Portland homicide cop Skin Kadash. Skin makes his third appearance in Day One (Tyrus Books), available June 2010. New York Times Bestselling Portland author Chelsea Cain describes Day One as "an utterly engrossing page-turner."

Chasing Smoke received a starred review from Library Journal, and Booklist declared, "it engages the reader on an emotional as well as literary level." It was a finalist for the 2009 Spotted Owl Award for best Northwest mystery.  Lost Dog was nominated for the 2008 Rocky Award and was a finalist for the 2008 Spotted Owl Award. His short fiction has appeared in Spinetingler Magazine, the Killer Year anthology, and Portland Noir, as well as on Lit 103.3: Fiction for the Ears. His latest story can be found in First Thrills (Forge Books).

Bill lives with his wife and poodle in Portland, Oregon, where he also serves as staff to a charming, yet imperious cat. He is an eager traveler and avid bird-watcher, and likes to write near a window so he can meditate on whatever happens to fly by during intractable passages.

Bill blogs every other Thursday at Criminal Minds, tweets at  or you can learn more at

 But I don't write short stories.
This thought used to come to me any time someone suggested I write a short story, and I'm talking all the way back to high school. In the eleventh grade, I had an assignment to write a story of an epic journey—three to five pages. I turned in 27, and felt that wasn't nearly enough. The teacher wrote at the bottom of page five: "I quit reading here." Sure, I got an A, but obviously the story was a failure because I hadn't managed to make her want to keep reading. Of course, I was a couple of decades away from understanding that teachers may have better things to do than read my yapping.

In college creative writing classes, I usually turned in chapters for my assigned short stories.

"This doesn't have an ending."

Because it's a chapter, I'd say.

"You're supposed to write a short story."

But I don't write short stories.

"You need to turn in a short story."

I'd respond with panic.

Last fall, when Anne Frasier asked me to contribute to an anthology she was spearheading, my first response was to be flattered. My second was to freak out. Wait. No, my third response was to freak out. My second was to say yes, which led to response number three.

The internal conversation went something like this:

Insecure Bill: Oh my god, what have I done?

Snarky Bill: You stuck your foot in your mouth.

Writer Bill: Great, I'm mocking myself via cliché.

Insecure Bill: Seriously, what am I going to do now?

Writer Bill: Write a story for Anne, I suppose.

Snarky Bill: There's a daredevil idea if I ever heard one.

Insecure Bill: But I don't write short stories.

Snarky Bill: So you'll fail. You're doomed, sucker!

Insecure Bill: It's true, it's true.

Writer Bill: Calm down. Let's think this out.

Insecure Bill: Let's? Let's?! There's only me!

I never have this problem with novels. Faced with a blank page and a hundred thousand words to write, all those various voices rattling around in my head say, "Meh," and we start writing. It's three-thousand-words-and-out which always scared me.

All this has come to mind because on June 22nd Forge Books released First Thrills, an anthology of thriller short stories by all kinds of cool folk. I had the good fortune of being included, which also meant I had the screaming horror of writing a short story. Turns out, after much pain and anguish, I came up with a contribution of which I'm proud: "The Princess of Felony Flats." It's a hardboiled retelling of a classic fairy tale in which a mysterious dwarf makes a risky play for the statuesque consort of a drug kingpin. (Lots of drug kingpins in classic fairy tales, don'tcha know.)

Despite the freak out, I wrote that story for Anne as well, and yes, I'm proud of the result. The anthology, Bats in the Belfry, won't be released until fall 2011, but it's worth keeping your eyes peeled. Once again, a great line-up of writers have contributed. I'm honored to be a part of it.

There was a time in my life when I'd written more novels than short stories, counting the hidden shoebox novels along with the ones which have made it on to bookstore shelves. With the release of First Thrills, I realized for the first time since high school, the balance has shifted. In the last two years, I've written three short stories and only two novels. Crazy, I know.

Even crazier, to me, is I have another short story in the works, and for the first time in two decades, it's a story I've started on my own initiative. (Even mentioning it means I've probably jinxed it, but too late now, I guess.) After nearly half a dozen stories written despite my terror, I've started to develop a taste for the short form. Not that I'm gonna be rash and start knocking out tales at an Ed Hochian pace. But, you know, once you force yourself to ignore the night sweats and weeping, writing a short story turns out to be fun. Still takes me about five times as long to produce a three-thousand word short story as three thousand words from a novel, but I've developed an appreciation for the need for brevity.

I also think the process has improved my longer efforts. During the final draft of Lost Dog, I discovered a fact which has held for all my work since: whatever I write is improved through the process of making it shorter. Working on these short stories has help me learn the need to write no more than necessary. To the extent Chasing Smoke and Day One both show my growth as a writer, I think those short stories contributed.

Maybe my mom was right. Sometimes things we don't want to do ARE good for us.

*About Day One*

A young woman flees abuse; a teen runaway hides a dark secret; an ex-cop chases his own past. All three converge at the harrowing end of a trail of violence stretching from the high desert to the streets of Portland. Learn more at:

*About First Thrills*

Introduced and edited by Lee Child with an afterword by Steve Berry, First Thrills features original, never-before-published short stories by New York Times bestselling authors Lee Child, Stephen Coonts, Jeffrey Deaver, Heather Graham, Gregg Hurwitz, John Lescroart, John Lutz (with Lise E. Baker), Alex Kava (with Deb Carlin), Michael Palmer (with Daniel James Palmer), Karin Slaughter, and Wendi Corsi Staub. The collection also serves as an introduction to those ITW has christened its rising stars, including Sean Michael Bailey, Ken Bruen, Ryan Brown, Bill Cameron, Rebecca Cantrell, Karen Dionne, JT Ellison, Theo Gangi, Rip Gerber, CJ Lyons, Grant McKenzie, Marc Paoletti, Cynthia Robinson, and Kelli Stanley. Learn more at:

My New iPad - Part 3

Yay oh Yay oh Yay!

Spending five minutes on the phone with The Right Mr. Apple Guy proved to be very successful.

All my contacts and all my calendar events now reside on my iPad.

Yay Hooray

We're now working on notes/memos . . .

more later.

Life is good.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My New iPad - Part 2

Donald let me know yesterday was "National Geek Day," insinuating that that might actually be of some importance to me.  ME!  pfft.    (The man is SUCH a smart aleck)

I have to tell you; if anyone had  told me a few years ago that I might in any way, shape or form be in danger of becoming a computer geek (or nerd!  EEK!), I would have just hooted.  But, fact is - I love computers and fritzing around with them.   I hate the phone, so email is my preferred method of contact with the world.  Facebook?  Love it!  It's a terrific source of social interaction for an introvert like me who is easily tired by some social situations.  (note:  No I am NOT shy.  Not in the least, but yes - I am very much an introvert.  As the Myers-Briggs facilitator stated - an introvert can do exceptionally well socially IF it's a social setting of their choosing, with people of their choosing, WHEN they choose it.  Spot on.).  Anyhooo - I digress . . .  for more on how I feel about being an introvert,  you can read an old post here if you're interested.

Back to the computer geeky thing . . .

I am an idiot once I try to move outside my immediate comfort zone of knowledge with computers.  And that is frustrating.

Once I "get" it, everything seems to click into place, but I don't have an aptitude or much  in the way of intuitiveness about it all. 

And to illustrate what I'm saying, here's a little progress report on me and my iPad.

I was able to pretty much set it up all by myself.  Synced it on my work computer with iTunes just as the instructions said and it all went quite well.   Luckily though, I was able to capture my favorite IT guy, and he did help me get my email account set up. 

I immediately went to the App Store and downloaded a few free Apps.  iBooks being the first one (of course).  I did somehow end up with a book downloaded.  I'm not at all sure how that happened, but it's Winnie the Pooh, so who's gonna argue about that?!  But, I need to figure out how that happened so I don't end up with a lot of books I don't want.

And I ordered a carrying case.  Red (oh boy).  It's pretty and I'm excited about getting it, but . . . this calls for a little gripe, I think.  WHY on earth doesn't the new iPad come with a carrying case?  Some sort of case or cover so that the screen doesn't get scratched?!  I'm sorry, but for the cost of these little devils, a case of some kind should, in my opinion, be a given.   Meanwhile, it needs to be stored and carried in the box it came in, and for an extra precaution, also in the plastic wrap it came in.

The next thing I did was copy photographs over from my computer.  I knew there would be duplicates of some because as I save pictures to use here in the blog, or to email to friends and family, I save them with a different name so that when I finish with a particular photo and delete it, I won't be deleting my only copy.  Well,  it took FOREVER for the pictures to copy over and no wonder.  There were duplicates of every single picture and 5 copies of many.  What I "think" happened is that it copied my "My Pictures" folder AND my camera software pictures folder.

All those pictures were going to be eating into space and memory, so I contacted Apple and they quickly helped me out.  They recommended deleting all the pictures and starting over which is exactly what I wanted to do.  I'm going to take some time and carefully choose the photos I want to copy next time.

Regarding contacting Apple.  This deserves high praise.  Apple wins a prize for being the easiest company in the computer industry to get in touch with.  If you go on-line to support and fill out a short little request and request that they call you back, they do.  Within ONE MINUTE!!  Amazing.  There are many companies that you cannot get in touch with no matter what.  I finally got in touch with one huge computer entity's accounting office just because it was the only phone number I could come up with.  I was then told there was NO technical support in place  -  sorry.   No customer service either.  I was told to check out their on-line FAQ and that should answer all my questions.  (It didn't)

Which brings me to another point.  If you're like me, and not very technically savvy, it's actually pretty difficult to even know the proper questions to ask.  Or is that just me?  For example.

I talked with Apple this morning about how to get all the information from my Palm Zire 72 transferred to my iPad.  All my contacts, calendar events, and miscellaneous notes.

I was told to call Palm support and have them help me.  That they would help me transfer all that into an Outlook file.  Then to get back in touch with Apple and they would help me import it onto my iPad.

I got ahold of Palm, and they understood immediately what I needed.  They took control of my computer (a little scary) and downloaded all the info into a file.  It took a LONG time.

I then called Apple back, gave them the case number from my earlier call and asked if they could help me.  I was, apparently, using all the wrong words and unfortunately, I was talking to someone who was giving me credit for being a whole lot smarter about all this then I am. (or so dumb it wasn't going to work no matter what).

Their answer to all this was that everything needed to be in an Outlook file.  Right.  I agreed.  And it was.  Actuallty, it must have been even before I called Palm because my entries in my Palm Pilot do show up on my computer (after syncing) in Outlook.  I have an Outlook Calendar and my contacts are also there. 

Anyway.  Mr. Apple Guy walked me through to the iTunes sync screen necessary to do what I wanted to do, but it didn't work.  I'm sure we probably could have worked it out, but I was frustrated.  And tired.  Tired and frustrated.  NOT a good time to try to do something when you don't have a clue as to what you're doing.  I started this whole process at about 11:30 a.m., and it was now 3:30 p.m.  I thanked Mr. Apple Guy for his time, said we'd get back to it tomorrow, thank you very much, and hung up.  Truthfully, I'm tempted to just start the long arduous task of entering all that info manually.  But.  I'll just be patient and try again tomorrow.  We'll see how it goes.  I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I have used the iPad for email, and I've used it for Facebook, and I've just kinda wandered around in it a little trying to learn my way around and I'm sure I'm going to love it.  I watched the video guide at and it's very good, although I do think they could have included a little more.  Or do a second, more in depth version, perhaps.  For example - surely I'm not the only person interested in knowing how to delete photos.  

So.  That's where we are.

I'll continue posting on my progress, so if you're interested, please continue checking back every few days.  AND, please - any of you who have an iPad, please feel free to jump in with hints and suggestions.  Obviously, I'm in need.

Part 3 coming soon . . .