Thursday, June 1, 2017

#Quote of the Day: #MayaAngelou on #Life and #Attitude

I really need this one right now - life isn't bad, just overwhelming. The way it gets sometimes. Hope this is helpful to you, too.


If you could do with some escape from life, remember that the Cass Elliot Crime Novels are on sale for a limited time! Available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other fine ebook retailers.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tools of #Murder in THE DEVIL OF LIGHT - What the Heck is a Hay Dolly? #amreading

All three novels are on sale for 99cents over Memorial Day - 
start your beach reading off with murder!

One of the questions I'm asked fairly regularly about my first book is, "What's a hay dolly and how would you kill somebody with it?"

Lenny Scarborough is a nasty chap and one of the first to die in THE DEVIL OF LIGHT (the bodies tend to pile up in my novels). He meets his end in the barnyard while giving antibiotic shots to his herd of Black Angus cattle, when he's impaled with the business end of a hay dolly that lifts him off the ground. The hay dolly spears end up embedded in the side of the barn, and Lenny's left dangling with his work boots reaching for solid ground.

This is the hay dolly I used to kill Lenny:

Manually operated hay dolly that killed Lenny Scarborough.
It's a simple contraption. You attach the dolly to a bumper hitch on the pickup, reverse the truck to slide the spears under the hay bale, use good old elbow grease to crank the winch and raise the bale off the ground, then tow everything out to the pasture. Once you've got the hay bale where you want it, you lower it to the ground by unwinding the winch (yes, using that elbow grease again), and drive forward to pull the spears from beneath the hay bale. Easy peasy.

They're a little blunt, but these spears do the job.

Do you see how simple it would be to spear an unsuspecting victim in your crime novel with one of these things? Yes, your killer is driving in reverse because the hay dolly is attached to the truck's rear bumper, but it's totally doable. The hardest part is angling the spears so they pierce the victim in the right spot.

For years, we've attached this hay dolly to the truck in winter to put hay out for the cows (with no injury to the cows or either of us other than sore elbows and shoulders from working the winch). It's a simple contraption that you don't see much any more. In fact, this past winter we upgraded to a hay spear that fits on our tractor and slides into the bale, making the process of putting hay out much easier (significantly less elbow grease required).

New hay spear - nice sharp points!
I kind of like the new spear, but I'm not sure how much use it'll be when it comes to killing characters. Tractors aren't quite as nimble as trucks. But who knows? The only way to find out is to try it. Watch for upcoming murders involving the new hay dolly...

Now it's your turn. What are some of the more unusual ways you've seen characters killed?

Happy husband putting hay out the easy way.

Monday, January 23, 2017

How Many #Books Do You Read At One Time? #amreading

Do you read more than one book at a time? In addition to the time I spend writing, the time I spend reading is some of the most satisfying in my day. And I have a confession: I've become a polygamist when it comes to reading. I read multiple books with abandon, and for the most part, keep the characters and plots straight in my head.

I haven't always been promiscuous when it comes to books. When I was a kid in Englewood, Ohio and had the utter joy of stocking up on books at the library on Saturday, I'd read (eat) them one at a time, back to back, almost without drawing breath. If I finished my stack of library books before Saturday rolled around again, I'd start over with the first book and continue on in linear fashion. But with the advent of e-readers and the portability of audio books, I had no problem giving up monogamous reading. At the moment, there are five books in the rotation, as follows:

On the Kindle: THE BLACK WIDOW by Daniel Silva (not the most action-oriented novel he's written, but interesting and timely)

On my Overdrive audio book app: BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR by Elizabeth Gilbert (an excellent listen for anyone who lives or is considering living a creative life of any sort)

On my nightstand in paperback: CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter (I'm barely into this one, but I love Karin Slaughter and expect great things)

I'm using the Bible In One Year app, and I'll probably stretch that year into two years, maybe a little more, before I can claim having read the Bible from cover to cover (try as I might, I can't get into a regular enough routine to guarantee solid progress on this one - thankfully, the app didn't force me to start over when we rolled into the new year)

Also active on the Kindle: A YEAR TO CLEAR: A DAILY GUIDE TO CREATING SPACIOUSNESS IN YOUR HOME AND HEART by Stephanie Bennett Vogt (this also will take more than a year to finish, but I think whatever time I give this book will be worthwhile)

Although I love all forms of reading, they don't all get equal attention. Given that we live on a farm and spend a good deal of time outside, my Overdrive app gets lots of use. The second most used is probably the paperback on the nightstand because I can work in a few minutes of reading before turning out the light. Last is the Kindle, but one of the things I love most about it is that it's with me as long as my phone is with me, which is most of the time.

I'm curious to know if others are of the same promiscuous bent and honestly, I'd like to know if there are other ways I can work an additional book into my reading time.

So back to the original question: how many books do you read at one time? Is there one form of reading you prefer over others?

photo credit: Lester Public Library My Problem With Books via photopin (license)
photo credit: Sweet Carolina Photography 7/365 via photopin (license)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

#Grief and Writer's Block #amwriting #Alzheimers

I'm writing this post in the hopes that it will offer comfort to others dealing with writer's block as a result of grief. If you Google "writer's block" and "grief", you'll find loads of posts telling you to write your way through it. Many people do so, and I admire them.

Really, I envy them. Because I haven't been able to do that. I've barely been able to breathe.

It's been a tough decade. My dad has a slowly advancing case of Alzheimer's, and one of the reasons my husband and I moved to East Texas from London was to help my mom cope. And cope she did. Far longer than she should have. She made a promise to my dad that he would die at home, and she did her best to honor that promise. But eventually Alzheimer's won. It usually does.

She made the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home in May 2015. By September 2015, she had dropped dead of a heart attack that was completely unexpected. I know without doubt that she died more from grief and guilt than from any cardiac complications. In addition to overwhelming sorrow at her loss, her death left me with the challenge of closing out her estate, becoming my dad's power of attorney, and taking responsibility for watching over him. I'm lucky: my husband and two brothers are incredibly supportive, and I'm not sure how I would manage without them.

The year since my mom's death has taken a toll on my creativity, and I was naive to imagine otherwise. She had a huge personality and was an important part of our lives, and I miss her very much. I'm also dealing with the challenges of having a loved one in a nursing home. One of us is there every day to feed Daddy dinner and help get him ready for bed. But there are problems. From cuts and scrapes that refuse to heal, to continuing weight loss, to problems finding the right diapers for my dad - every new wrinkle is cause for fresh grief.

Throughout this year, I've wanted to lose myself in the next Cass Elliot novel. The story is there, waiting and wanting to be written, and I love where it's going. I've tried to write it. But every word I've put down - 40,000+ of them - has been its own tragedy. First drafts are supposed to be rough, but not this rough.

This is doubly frustrating because I'm an Achiever. Yes, with an annoying capital "A". I set a goal and work my happy little ass off until I achieve it. But not this past year. Don't get me wrong, I have achieved things. They're just not related to writing. (I have the best organized sock drawer in East Texas and we're currently running a champion / challenger diaper contest on my dad. That gives you an idea of my creative capabilities in the midst of grief.)

We're now past the one year anniversary of my mother's death, and I am hopeful that the haze shrouding my creativity is lifting. Characters are banging around in my head again, offering snippets of conversation and plot for this new book, and the words are slowly coming. How long will it be before I'm hitting my word count on a daily basis? I have no idea, but at last I am moving in the right direction.

I want to tell you that it's okay if you're blocked. Nobody knows your life, your circumstances, and no one is entitled to judge you. If the words don't flow in the midst of your grief, give yourself a break and time to heal. The words will come back and perhaps be richer for what you've experienced.

Most importantly, hang in there and remember that you are not alone.

photo credit: plucciola Angel of Grief - drama via photopin (license)
photo credit: Dean Hochman typing paper via photopin (license)
photo credit: puacless My letter via photopin (license)