Month: August 2013


Somewhere along the line, how cliché of me, I left my ability to multi-task lying by the wayside. Certainly not intentionally, but apparently it is gone, disappeared, either walked away for lack of usage or just got angry at being misused and left. But it is certainly not here, or anywhere in my house.

And, now that I think about it, why is multi-tasking such a prized quality? Was it because I accomplished more, or was it because it looked impressive or because in the 70s and 80s, like the hurried child and the ‘having it all’, what you did was multi-task. Really, did I multi-task or did I just get a lot done in the day because I was so very focused? And even more than that, why was I so focused? Well, yes, I’ve got this one.  My brain had not been Googled, there was nothing for me to do but to accomplish, to get it done, to finish what I started and to do it well.

Computers were not so ubiquitous, not so accessible, and certainly not so portable. Today when I go anywhere I take, at the very least, my iPhone and my iPad.  With those two I can waste more time than I ever imagined back in college when my dorm room was the headquarters for Procrastination Inc. Even this, this blogging, this web logging, is a time suck in many ways. Yes, yes, lots of great things about it, but mostly, lol, I’m writing this to myself.

I can understand how you can become so enamored of your words and what you do. I am under no illusion, I doubt many read my musings. But it does amuse me, and forces me to think clearly about my sentence structure, phrasing, word usage, and voice. Ha! Is this mine or have I made this up?

So, no, I’m not multi-tasking, not at all, and happily, not even thinking about going there!

Middle is Mine

I don’t share well, really, I share hardly at all. Mine is mine! When I was in college I bought a Wilson aluminum racquet, which damaged my elbow something fierce. I had my name engraved on the racquet handle, even tho it almost killed me, it was mine. Look at any of my books and my name is written inside, usually with the date [being precise is a good quality]. Glory be, I even have my own bottle of Bushmills at the club! Yes, mine is definitely mine.

Call it the middle child syndrome, which was a staple of my conversations with my mom, especially through the teen years. I blame a lot on middle-childhood. Middle-childhood was a boon and a curse at the same time. A boon actually, but more on that later. It is a cliché to say that something is vastly overrated, but think of middle-childhood as more a universal truth than a passé statement. Just as a name can have a lot to do with how you see yourself, therefore how you look back out at the world, your birth order can create a not quite false view of mankind overall. As a middle you have to put up with all those overbearing eldest children and less than helpful youngest children, regardless of age.

As a middle child I was loved and cared for. I knew that. Absolutely. But. Oh, and, that is huge, I also knew I wasn’t the baby of the family and I wasn’t the oldest. My standing in between my sisters was implicit, but not quickly identifiable. Oldest is one word. Baby is one word, as is youngest. But middle child comes with baggage from all those one-word siblings going back to the beginning of humanity. I’ll just bet, in some prehistoric cave in the bowels of deepest Africa, an oldest chiseled a picture off the cave wall of a middle child just trying to get some attention.

Growing up I had to work harder than my siblings. Three girls we, but I wasn’t the first to go out into the big world, so I didn’t blaze any trails. According to Mom, I was to learn from my older sister. And, I had to be brave and honest and truthful so that my younger sister could see those qualities in action, ergo, I had to act older sister. Sigh. That’s like being given a new job with all the responsibilities and none of the perks or salary increases.

My dad was an oldest. He told me ‘stand tall, walk tall’, he closed all the letters he sent to me while I was in college with that closing line. My mom was an oldest. I didn’t know that growing up, Lucyle admitted only to being youngest, her ability to tell the truth was always compromised in favor of a better story. And, as part of those stories, she gave me a boon, ‘a thing that is helpful or beneficial’, she told me I stood right in the middle. And when you stand in the middle all you have to do is stretch out your arms and push the sides away. Then, well, you’re not in the middle anymore, you are standing alone! Maybe that’s why I don’t share.


Murder We Write

Today, just five minutes from my house, which was a first, I went to the 3rd annual SinC networking luncheon, put on by the Murder We Write, SinC, Triad Chapter.

I first joined Sisters in Crime back in 2005, I think. It was fun to buy a book like The Book of book of poisonsdummies forensicsPoisons, or Forensics for Dummies, especially when they arrived at the house in a brown box and my husband opened them.

“Do you have anything you want to tell me?” he’d ask.

“No,” I would reply. “Why?”

And, it was also cool to be on the Guppies List and find out I could go to Dr. Lyle’s website and ask a question [if you exactly follow his rules] about the way a person would die and what would they do and he’d answer. Very cool.

I’ve been the Triad Chapter secretary for years, managing the website for Murder We Write. We sabotageare fortunate to have Chris Roerden in our chapter. In her second book Don’t Sabotage Your Submission, I’m on page 56 in Clue #3 [chapter] Bloody Backstory. Even though my mystery is not published, AND, even though that actual scene is out of the book, well, the one with Mom in a tree is gone. The dead body, arm and leg alongside the playhouse is still there.  I’ve learned a lot. About writing a mystery. About self-publishing. About critiques. About murder and mayhem.

I’ve learned about cosy mysteries, romantic thrillers, police procedurals, true crime. And I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with writers who are sure of their need to write, sure of their enjoyment of a good mystery and willing to spend time, monthly,  in discussions about all that makes writing interesting. Yes, for the most part, say 99%, it is about adults, but still. Writing is writing. Technique may differ, the audience may be harder, more challenging and more difficulty to engage [yes, yes, I am talking about children versus adult, and the children are more exacting––besides most adult mysteries are at an middle school reading level anyway]. It is another place to be a writer.

And, for me, that’s what really really counts. A place to call myself a writer.


Dear Mr. Peck

Even though I now know about the local idiom in southern Illinois, “going to Anna’ meaning committed to a mental hospital, and we have chatted over drinks at a party, calling you Richard, here, now, in this, will just not do. I’m about to go all fan girl on you so you can’t be anything but Mr. Peck, actually I should probably say, “Mr. Peck, Sir.”

I sat next to you in the common core presentation at SCBWI LA just to get the title of this book. The one you talked about at a post SCBWI LA wrap-up party a while back, the voice you lived with for a while, who kept pestering you, the one who walked onto the stage and demanded to be heard. The voice that became Three Quarters Dead. 

It’s been a while since I sat down with one of your books. My only and very lame excuse, that I just couldn’t get there from here. I was busy, with stuff, good reads, yes, some even wonderful, and with life, of course, that takes a good bit. There are those voices inside my own brain, teasing, taunting, chiding, begging. All those rationalizations thin, weak, useless, I really should have done this sooner.

So, a five hour plane ride, and yes, it started with an early rise, four A.M., so natch, I was awake at two-thirty, because getting to the airport on time and getting properly home was more important than sleep. And the trip to LAX and waiting and finally boarding. Meanwhile,Three Quarters Dead hung on my shoulder, lighter than you might think, because I was anticipating, not too different from Christmas Eve when it’s only a bit until, but there is still the hope and the thrill of something unopened, something new, not yet imagined on Christmas morning.

The most wonderful thing about a book and a plane, well, these days, anyhoo, is no one, not a soul, can tell me to put it away. So I began with the before, Last Fall. The set-up, the lead-up to Kerry’s story, or, at that point in time her non-life––illusive, ephemeral, lacking-in-substance sophomore life. And I read. Airplane travel can be a wonderful gift, it is sound, a white noise room stripping everything from your surroundings, letting you be whenever, wherever, whomever you choose. I chose this trip to be in Pondfield High School, a half a bench away from Tanya.

When I first started reading I thought Kerry rather brave. I don’t think I would have ever sat that close to someone who seemed to glow the golden aura that was Tanya. But Kerry said she wasn’t brave and I decided to believe her, to walk the halls of Pondfield High, sit near but not with Tanya, Natalie and MacKensie, to be close to, but not in the shimmering circle which was the ‘cool girls.’

And, as Kerry moved from outside the circle to inside the circle, but, not to the inner circle, I watched. It was worth it. So attached did I become to the story that I had to put down the book to breathe, to remind myself that Kerry would survive, well, to hope that she would, that good would come from this journey familiar to so many kids, that on the other side of Tanya, Natalie and MacKensie, Kerry would be, well, Kerry, smarter, stronger and more Kerry.

I stopped too, because I saw. Of course, I saw. And I was afraid. Not just for Kerry, but for every single solitary human being that feels that reflected light was [is] the only kind by which they would be seen. Kerry reminded me why these books are written, are important, and why they are read. And, I reminded me of why I didn’t read them as a kid and for the most part, don’t today. Somehow, inside my kid brain, deep inside, I knew that I could create my own shimmer, my own reflection, that my light could refract and be interesting, it might be small, weak even, but it would always be mine. And, so, unfortunately [at times], would be the consequences, hard, unyielding. But yes. They were mine! That was essential, I could live with that. Not always well, not always happily, but live, yes I could. And I watched Kerry learn that, and know that she will shimmer, and create something to reflect. And that kids will read this and know what is possible, what is real and that the golden auras of the ‘cool girls’ are really only gild––flimsy, gossamer.

Thank you, Mr. Peck. Sir.