Dog Sitting

We’re dog sitting tonight. Our grandson and his wife brought their black lab, Evee, here with them and took her to the Chain Of Lakes for hikes and fun all day long with some friends and their dog. They came back to visit for a while, then were going back to their friend’s house to catch up and play gameboards they like. Their friends have a cat, though, and Evee is not good with small animals like cats, squirrels, and our chihuahua, so my sister’s babysitting OUR dog so that we can babysit THEIRS. She’s a tired girl, so she’s easy to care for right now. And she’s a sweetie. We really like her.

I grew up with dogs, a few cats, chickens, and pigeons. I like almost all animals. That’s why we took in the stray chihuahua and the stray gray kitten. They came to our door, and I couldn’t turn them away. It’s one reason pets end up in so many of my books. It’s hard for me to imagine not having a pet in a house. I suppose eventually the day will come when we don’t replace ours , but it’s not yet.

My friend swears I’m a masochist, but I have a tendency to like cats with horrible attitudes. Our very first cat, when HH and I were newlyweds, was a long-haired, gray tiger cat named Sesame. She and HH had a running feud and loved to irritate each other. Whenever she got too aggravated with him, she took his socks out of the laundry basket and buried them in her kitty litter. I tried to explain to her that I did the laundry, so she was punishing the wrong person, but that never computed. When she wouldn’t come in when I called for her at bedtime, I swore she’d stay out all night. But she learned that if she lifted the mail slot and let it drop over and over again, we couldn’t sleep through it and let her in. A smart cat.

In the Jazzi Zanders series, Jazzi has a sweet, orange tabby that’s always agreeable. Then she has a black cat named Inky who knocks over flower arrangements when he thinks Jazzi’s left him too many times. My black cat that did that was Pywackett, and he was happy to let me know when he was unhappy. And he was one of my favorites. Who can resist lots of personality?

In the Karnie Cleaver series, Matt has a border collie that helps him on his cattle farm. And the minute Jolly meets Karnie, he falls in love with her. So do Matt’s kids. My dad always said that a dog can tell a person’s true personality the minute he sniffs them. Karnie passed Jolly’s sniff test.

All I know is that a pet adds a lot to HH and my lives. And they add quite a bit to my novels. Kids and pets enrich stories. If you have a beast of some kind in your house, I hope it brings you much happiness, too.

Younger Sisters

HH and I invited my little sister to go out with us for supper tonight. Mary’s twelve years younger than I am, and that made it wonderful for me. I was getting tired of dolls and then my mom had a baby. Woohoo! Even better! A living, breathing something to play with.

I’m not sure why, but my mom was getting older, so when Mary cried, I couldn’t STAND it if Mom ignored her. My sister or I…okay, mostly me….went and picked her up even when our mom forbade it. “You’ll spoil her.” And we did.

When Mary got older, when she had a nightmare, she came to my room and crawled into my tiny twin bed with me. I’d wake up with my nose pressed against the wall and Mary smashed against me. Not so comfortable. And I’d take her back to her room and sit with her until she fell back to sleep. I told her Greek myths for bedtime stories every night.

And then I started college and started dating more than before. And I met John. He was smart. He brought her little presents, took her out for ice cream before our dates. And the time came that when some other guy came to our door, Mary would greet him and say, “Go away. I like John more.” And I still liked the little brat.

When John and I bought our house, he was still in the army, so Mary spent the night on sleeping bags in the living room with me, and we had tea parties. When John and I got married, she’d spend weekends with us. When I taught school, she’d come to my classroom on Friday afternoons and help me grade papers on Saturday mornings. What can I say? She’s my little sister, and I still think she’s wonderful.

Karnie doesn’t have a little sister, but she falls head over heels for Matt’s two kids–Jackson and Chelsea. And it’s mutual. Their mom left them when they were young, and they’ve been craving a mother figure in their lives. It’s a mutual admiration society. And it’s fun to write about. I’m finally a quarter of the way through this book. I’m enjoying it. I hope the rest makes me as happy as the first fourth.

Writing Time

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I won’t have time to write tomorrow. My grandson and his wife are coming Friday night and spending the weekend. Time to change sheets on the beds upstairs, clean the house, and cook ahead. BUT, I had time to write today. The first day to have a full day of writing since I got back from my trip. And I loved it.

My fingers skimmed across the keys. Words bloomed into sentences. Sentences blossomed into paragraphs. And paragraphs transformed into pages. I rewrote a previous chapter, then wrote a new one. And it felt WONDERFUL.

Karnie is blossoming in this book. She married Matt, loves his two kids, and is happy! And then her older brother, Porter, comes home. Porter is full of self-importance. He was always the golden boy in his parents’ eyes. He thinks he’s better than Matt and Karnie. When he learns that Karnie married Matt, a grass-fed cattle farmer, he’s unimpressed. And he lets her know it. Chuck, Karnie’s second brother, is offended. Matt is one of his best friends. And when he argues with Porter, the truth comes out. Porter moved back to Indiana because he got himself in trouble in Florida. It was a good time for him to leave there.

Porter always thought he was too exciting, too wonderful, to stay in a small town. HIs ego is too big for his family’s butcher shop. Two of my kids have moved away from Indiana, but not because of ego, because of weather and opportunity. I’m not making a statement about kids who move away. I’m making a statement about Porter. He’s full of himself. He’s good-looking and ambitious and …. self-important. Chuck is easy-going and a bit goofy. Karnie is too practical and straight forward. It makes for a fun mix.

I’ll lose this weekend because kids are more important than ANYTHING. But I can’t wait to get back to writing on Monday! What’s more fun than creating scenes that play out in your head? And I know Karnie better since this is my second book with her. And I feel more comfortable with her stories. So, she’s calling to me. So is the mystery. Who killed Farley? Glendale’s councilman made more enemies than anyone should. Because he wasn’t such a nice person.

Suspense

WARNING. THIS BLOG HAS SPOILERS, SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE MIDNIGHT MAN BUT INTEND TO, YOU SHOULD AVOID THIS!

I read Mae Clair’s reviews every week on her blog https://maeclair.net/. I’ve found lots of books I love from her recommendations. So I need to thank her for alerting me to The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell. https://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Man-gripping-introducing-Detective-ebook/dp/B09BVGYMD3/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1VQUU9SZHK6AB&keywords=the+midnight+man+kindle&qid=1650336968&sprefix=the+midnight+man%2Caps%2C72&sr=8-1

I read more straight mysteries than suspense, but every once in a while, I like to change things up–both in my reading and my writing. That’s why I wrote Posed In Death. The Midnight Man hooked me because of the wonderful characters in the story. Sarah is a detective who took a year’s leave of absence because her husband, another detective, died with plastic over his face while looking at child porn, not to commit suicide but some kind of sexual game. She never realized his obsession and couldn’t face her fellow officers, ashamed of what they must think about her. The author was clever! She introduced us to Sarah, who was arguing with her husband. I didn’t realize that her husband was a ghost whom she talked to until much later in the book. And I thought the trick the author played on me was wonderful! And she had a couple more up her sleeve.

There were SO many characters I fell in love with. I’ll buy the next book just because I liked Sarah so much. She’s caring and wonderful. Life has given her more hard knocks than any person deserves, but she keeps struggling to overcome them. Then there’s her friend and her son, Elliott. Elliott “sees” things no one would ever want to see, and he’s only seven, so he doesn’t always understand the images that play in his mind. They frighten him. Then there’s Elsie, who went to school with Sarah. I really felt for her and her son. Elsie is so overweight she can hardly get out of bed, and her son dedicates himself to caring for her. But Elsie has secrets, and once the reader learns them, they understand why Elsie is the way she is.

Every character is well-drawn. They sucked me into the story. And the Midnight Man with his sick Halloween game is enough to keep the reader turning pages. My only problem with the book was the reveal of the killer at the end. It worked but barely. It almost felt, to me, as though the writer intended one thing when she started the book and waffled at the end. The killer killed the first girl he “invited” to the old manor house. The second girl escaped. And he used the third girl to lure Sarah to her old childhood home. I won’t say more, or I’ll spoil too much, but the ending felt a bit contrived, and I felt a bit deceived, but I’ll still buy the next book. I just plain liked the people I met in the pages too much.

San Antonio is fun!

I’ve never done a vacation with just my daughters. My younger one, Robyn, picked San Antonio for the river walk and wine tours, and Holly and I joined her. We had a wonderful time! That city is just plain fun. Full of friendly people and tons of things to do.

Today, I tried to catch up on e-mails and twitter and things I missed. Tomorrow, it’s back to the keyboard and hopefully more scenes and chapters.

My grandson called today, and he and his wife are coming to stay this weekend. And after that, I think I’ll have a long dry spell to settle fanny in chair and write. I’m ready to get back to routine.

I had some of the most wonderful food I’ve had in a while in San Antonio. If any of you have a wonderful Salsa Verde recipe, I’d love to try it. Darn, it was good! I love chilaquiles. I’m going to have to eat healthy for a while to recuperate from the meals we had there. I need to think of something to make for my grandson and his wife when they come, too, but my mind can’t even wrap itself around menus right now. Food Overload. And it was wonderful:)

But it’s back to the real world tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Do “improvements” make you nuts, too?

I love wordpress for my blog, but every time I get a note that they’re making it “better,” I groan. Yes, they’re adding all kinds of new bells and whistles to it. No, I probably won’t use them. All I want to do is write my blog and post it. And every time they change something, it costs me time I don’t want to spend learning how to use it.

The last change–the “paragraph” whatever–made me nuts for a while. And to this day, when I hit “tags” to add key words, it NEVER gives me enough time to list everything I want. It cuts me off, and I can’t even find the stupid “tag” thingie again. And then I fuss.

My grandson would laugh at me. He works in business data and is constantly amazed by people like me who just want to do what they do and not learn anything else. But I picked wordpress because it was simple and easy. The more they add, the less simple it is, at least, for me. I liked it as it was. But EVERYTHING on computers keeps updating. There are people out there who want bigger, faster, more options. I’m not one of them. I don’t care if they add all kinds of things for those people, but I wish they’d leave what I do and use alone. If they had to add options, I wish they’d add buttons to convert Amazon format to Nook format and print format and every other kind of format with one push of one button. But they haven’t done that yet. Why not?

I love my computer. I love WordPress. And I’m one of those people who actually enjoy writing my blogs. Not sure if I really am, but it feels like I’m connecting with people I like who like me. And it’s odd, but I’ve grown really fond of a lot of people I’ve never met and probably never will. But I feel like I ‘know’ them.

Anyway, I guess my final gripe is that when computer geniuses change something for the “better,” I wish they’d remember there are people like me who just want to keep it simple. I don’t want to relearn what I’m already happy with. And I don’t want to be a computer whiz. I just want to write and blog and connect.

That’s why I quit bothering with Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, and Amazon Ads. I don’t WANT to learn a new challenge. Make it simple, or you lose me. I’d rather spend my time writing.

Her Last Night

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Our daughter’s been a traveling nurse for a few years now. Her last assignment was in our hometown, which meant that when she drove up here to work three nights in a row, she could stay at our house. Twelve hour shifts from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. would do me in, but she loves them. Legally, she had to pay us “rent,” and she did, because she wanted to do everything RIGHT, but the best part, for us, was getting to see her more than usual.

We bought a second coffee pot so she could wake up to hot coffee. And I cooked a meal for her every time before she had to go to work, because if she got busy, she never knew when she’d have to time to grab something to eat. I sent her a “lunch box” every night she worked, too. HH teases me that I show my love for people through food, and he must be right. Because I tend to cook for the people I care about.

I have to admit, I’ve had a lot less time to write since she’s been staying with us. But let’s face it. Once this assignment’s done, I won’t get to see her that much again. And this is her last night at the hospital The hospital liked her enough to reassign her as a traveling nurse over and over again, but hopefully, Covid’s calming down, and nurses won’t be swamped anymore. As a matter of fact, for the moment, there are enough empty beds that even regular nurses are getting down-staffed there.

In one way, we’re all relieved this assignment’s over. She’s made the two-hour drive back and forth for over a year. She won’t miss it. She’s even talking about looking for a job as a regular nurse in Indy and calling traveling quits. It takes a toll after a while. I’ll miss her, but I really could use a regular routine and write more again. But all in all, I’m so glad she was part of our household for a while. I’ll miss having her pop in for a few days at a time. For all of us, it was wonderful while it lasted. And now it’s time to return to regular routines once more.

Gone Again

I’ve scheduled two posts for when I’m gone, so I won’t be here to see your comments until after Easter, but I’m leaving poor HH to his own devices and heading to Texas to hang out with my two daughters. This is the first time EVER I’ll miss Easter with my family, but everyone’s ready to enjoy themselves anyway. Wishing you and yours a happy Easter, too–if you celebrate the holiday. And happy days and happy writing either way. I’ll be back again after Easter.

Do They Come Out the Same?

When I first started writing, I concentrated on plot. I’m still a mostly plot-driven writer. WHAT happens in a story pops into my head before WHO is in the story. But over the years, the characters matter to me more and more, almost to the point that the people in the story are as important as the story itself.

On my first draft, though, the plot’s what I hammer out. This happens, then that happens, and that causes something else to happen. I pay more attention to setting and senses on the first write than I used to, and I add a few feelings in but not many. How did X react to that news? Etc. But it’s not until the second day that I go back and flesh the scenes and chapters out. Without that second polish, my work would be too lean, too simple. On the second day, I ask myself about what else might be going on in the scene. Who’s there? How do they feel? What do they think about what’s happening? Does it change any of the dynamics between people?

So the first draft is mostly about what’s happening. The second draft’s about characters.

Most of my friends start writing, driven by their characters. The characters’ reactions lead them to what happens next in the story. They have to work to keep their plots moving in the right direction. My question is, if you get the balance right, can you tell a difference between plot driven and character driven stories? Can you find a balance that has the perfect amount of each?

I think some of it depends on the genre you write. Mysteries need a certain amount of plotting. Thrillers do, too. But the best plots are enhanced by characters who grab us like Louis Kincaid. His personal story is almost as important to me as solving the mystery he faces in each book. Literary novels are character-driven where the internal struggles of the character are more important than what happens in the story. But if nothing much happens, the story grows stale, so the character still has to face some conflict and work to resolve it. I consider Elizabeth George’s novels literary mysteries because the characters’ growth is almost as important as the mystery that needs to be solved.

I found a great blog about plot vs. character that might interest you: https://nybookeditors.com/2017/02/character-driven-vs-plot-driven-best/#:~:text=A%20character-driven%20story%20is%20focused%20on%20studying%20the,inner%20transformation%20or%20the%20relationships%20between%20the%20characters. How do you write? Does the story come first or the characters? Do you have to go back to reinforce plot or add depth to characters? Or both?

And the truth? There is no right or wrong, but it helps to know what kind of writer you are, so that you can work to balance your finished product.

Responsibility

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I taught school for six years, meant to teach more, but life happened. When I taught fourth grade, one of my students was named John, and he was such a nervous kid, so intense, I worried about him. Kids move on at the end of each year, though, and I lost track of him. His mom, however, walked past our house a few times a week, going to the grocery store down the street. She was much older than most moms,, and I never heard why that was. All I know is that when John hit late high school, all of a sudden, he became paranoid.

I talked to his mom one day, and she told me that John had gone to a party, and she THINKS he drank something spiked with drugs and was never the same. I’m not sure if that’s true. Another young person we knew started hearing voices when she was in her late teens. A common occurrence with schizophrenia. That’s the age when it commonly hits. All I know is that when John’s mom left the house, he hid under her bed until she got back so that “they” couldn’t find him. If an airplane flew over the neighborhood, he hid in the closet. I don’t know what happened to John, but I know his mother spent every minute of her life worrying about him. “What will happen to him when I die?” she asked me.

I understood her dilemma. My cousin was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, cutting off oxygen to her brain. She had cerebral palsy but got lucky. She’s a wonderful, funny person but the right side of her body is distorted, and she suffered lots of seizures when she was young. She still has a seizure occasionally, but with physical therapy, she can walk with a walker and do a lot of things no one thought she could. The doctors said she wouldn’t live to be sixteen, but she’s happy at sixty-eight. Still, my aunt and grandma–who raised her–worried about what would happen to her when they died.

In the new Karnie mystery I’m working on, the barber in Glendale–where Karnie lives–has a son who’s mentally challenged. He can function and lives separately from his father. He’s dependable and works hard, but his father worries about what will happen to him when he’s not there to care for him. It’s a real worry some parents have to face. Eddie, the barber, is hoping he’ll live long enough and save enough money to get his son in a good, supervised home of some sort when he’s not there to support him anymore.

My cousin’s now in a wonderful nursing home that offers lots of activities. She joins into all of them, is enjoying herself and her new friends. I go to visit her once a week, and she gave me a sheet of all the things she likes to do and told me the only time she has free for me is from 3:30 in the afternoons to 5:00 when she has supper. That’s their time to relax and visit with each other. She won’t miss Bingo in the dining room two evenings a week for anything. I love seeing her so happy. She tells me what snacks she misses, and I try to make them for her a couple of times a month, but she’s gained weight since she’s been there. She loves eating in the dining room with all of her friends, and the food there is wonderful. She wouldn’t need any snacks at all except that she can’t have milk and cheese, so can’t always eat the desserts they make.

We got lucky. My cousin has some of the best care you can find. Eddie, the barber in my story, hopes he gets lucky with his son, too. And since I’m writing his story, I can make that happen:) In fact, I hope it happens for every parent in that situation. But I also understand it’s a real concern. And those parents have my sympathy, so I wanted to include one in my story. I’m not sure I’d have ever thought about them if I hadn’t met a few.