Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recent Lessons Learned at the Craig House




I’m a firm believer in learning our lessons. I mean, if we don’t learn from our mistakes, then what’s the use in our making them, right? And yes, some lessons are those we have to repeat over and over before the light bulb comes on and we reach the amazingly intelligent conclusion of, “Duh.”

Okay, so I admit it, we at the Craig house have experienced our share of “duh” moments. Below are a few lessons we at the Craig house have learned over the years.



Hubby: Do not microwave a toothbrush. Yes, it sounds reasonable that to stick it in a cup of water and set the time on one minute might be sure to kill the germs and therefore save you from the $1.99 of having to purchase a new one every three weeks, but it doesn’t work.

Me: When hubby says he’ll fix something, insist he doesn’t. (Remember carpet cleaning and plumbing episodes. Remember tooth brush!)

Son: Do not microwave a whole egg. Yes, I know you want to prove mama wrong when I say you can’t do that, but when the egg explodes coating the microwave with scrambled egg, you’re going to be sorry.

Me: Never attempt to move a feline that is about to release a hairball. Believe it or not, there are worse places for a hairball to land other than where you thought it might end up.

Son: To clean a cell phone you DO NOT run it through the washing machine. To dry a cell phone, DO NOT run it through the dryer. In other words, check your dad-burn jeans before doing laundry!

Me: When son says, smell this, and has funny look on his face, don’t do it. When son says, taste this and has a green appearance in skin tone, don’t do it.

Son: Puking is not a team sport. Yes, when you were small, mama always held your head and kept a damp cloth to your brow during these times of needs. At eighteen, and with a man-size stomach, you are lucky if mom tosses a wet rag at you and says I hope everything comes out all right.

Son: Just because it’s in the refrigerator doesn’t mean it’s still edible. P.S. Refer to lesson above for reference.

Hubby: Never start whining about losing your glasses until after you check the top of your head.

Me: When bad odors are suddenly emitted into the air while in the car, don’t assume the obvious and think it will eventually fade, instead ask son if he just took off his shoes.

Me: Never attempt to wax my own eyebrows. (No explanation needed.)

Me: Always pay close attention to how you spell the word “public.” To remove the “l” from the word can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Especially if said sentence is being posted online where the world can read about it.

Son: Never ask your mom to cut your hair when she’s mad at you. (No explanation needed.)

Me: Never loan cell phone to son who doesn’t check pockets before washing.

Me: Never ask your aunt, who hasn’t said the word sex, thought about sex, or had sex in twenty years, what she thought of your romance novel.

Hubby: Never ever, under any circumstances, ask your wife what happened to her eyebrows.



Okay…so there you have it. Some of the life lessons we have learned at the Craig house. What about you guys? Any lessons you could share? Come on, I shared.

Crime Scene Christie

Monday, September 29, 2008

It Just Figures

You ever have those things happen that you're absolutely sure only happen to you and could have only happened to you at that particular moment? Don't answer that, Christie, we've heard enough of your stories to be scared when you leave the house. :)

So it wasn't an elaborate thing, but I get really amused with ironies in life. I was driving to work the other day and talking to one of my friends about our never ending struggle with diet. We're both emotional eaters, so boredom, stress, happiness, excitement...pretty much anything but sleep makes us want to eat. Stress is the worst though, and since we're both very busy people with tons of responsibility, we fight the battle to indulge ourselves every day.

Now since I spend most all day every day sitting and typing - either at home or at work - it makes it particularly hard for me to avoid "picking" at food. After all, I'm just sitting there, right? Why not have something to graze on all day? And if I choose carrot sticks, we wouldn't even be talking. But no, my biggest downfall is caramel corn - specifically Poppycock that I get at Walgreens up the road from the office. So I was telling Cari that I work and work and work and kept the thoughts of Poppycock from my mind as long as possible but then eventually I just decide to get it over with go get a bag so that I stop obsessing. And then it never fails, that is the day that Walgreens is selling them buy one get one free.

Now, who in their right mind is only going to pick up one bag when the second costs nothing and their is no discount at all for just purchasing one?

So we get off the phone and I manage to steer past Walgreens and instead turn into a QT gas station. They sell this honeynut cheerios snack mix that is much lower in fat that other choices and is far better for me than the caramel corn. So I head into the store, pick up my bag of snack mix and head to the counter, pleased with myself for skipping Walgreens and going for the lower fat snack. So the guy picks up the bag, scans it, then says to me "these are buy one get one free."

AAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

So I head out to my car with two friggin' bags of snack mix and call Cari back. She'd probably still laughing.

Deadly (double for nothing) DeLeon

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mystery Author Ed Lynskey

Please join me in welcoming mystery author, Ed Lynskey. As much as I love funny books, every once in a while I’m in the mood for a real heart pounding, stay-up-all-night, edge-of-your-seat mystery. Like Ed’s awesome P.I. Frank Johnson series. So, Ed, take it away…


Judging a Book by Its Title: How Mysteries Get Named

Like all authors, I spend a lot of sweat and blood drawing up short lists of prospective titles for my crime fiction novels and then pruning the list down to pick the sure-fired winner (hopefully). I do have a few pet peeves on novel titles. They shouldn’t be too long. They should be original without being outrageous. They should be memorable. They shouldn’t be too cute. But then how do I apply all those rules to compile a short list in the first place?

Bob Randisi (founder of the Shamus Awards) has written he searches for a title that’s unique and sticks out in the reader’s mind. I like that advice. I seem to gravitate to the Walter Mosley and John D. MacDonald school by also using colors to create my first two P.I. Frank Johnson titles (The Dirt-Brown Derby, The Blue Cheer). Colors strike an emotional chord in the readers’ minds. One color that doesn’t appeal to me -- and is perhaps overused -- is black, closely followed by the color red.

Sometimes a key phrase can be lifted from the novel’s prose and pressed into service to make a nifty title such as James M. Cain’s masterful noir The Postman Always Rings Twice. I’ll always think of John Garfield starring in the first movie adaptation saying those fatal words in a wooden voice. Reading the title, my first question is why does the postman ring twice? So from the get-go, my curiosity is engaged. That’s salesmanship. Michael Collins (pseudonym for Dennis Lynds) published one of his P.I. Dan Fortune books, Blue Death, from the stark physical description of a drowned victim looking blue.

One-word titles leave me wary. Sure, a single word is easier to remember for the reader (i.e., the buyer), but many one-word titles have already been taken and used over and over. “Deadfall”, for instance, shows up twenty times on Amazon including as a Hardy Boys title before I stopped counting them. On the other hand, Bill Pronzini has released his titles in the excellent, long-running Nameless Detective series under one-word titles, including Deadfall. Go figure.

Sometimes the titles are a skillful play on words. Donna Andrews does this with clever effectiveness (No Nest for the Wicket. We’ll Always Have Parrots. Owl’s Well That Ends Well -- you get the idea). I’m not witty enough to pull this off without sounding clunky and cute, but then my books don’t use a lot of humor either. The vintage Alfred Hitchcock short story anthologies used droll titles (Down by the Old Bloodstream, Behind the Death Ball, both from Dell). But then Sir Alfred was that sort of a personality, so the apt titles worked.

Have you ever had a jingle or phrase bounce around in your head for years? That happened to me in titling my third P.I. Frank Johnson book, Pelham Fell Here. The words appeared on a highway historical marker on the way to Culpeper, Virginia. My grandfather pulled off to the side of the road one day and read the bronze plaque.

That’s why the plaque’s title imprinted on my brain. Pelham is the small town where Frank returns after finishing his military service. Major Pelham, a fallen Confederate war hero, lent his name to the small town. Frank isn’t into hero-worship and casts a jaundiced eye on what’s been going on in Pelham during his absence. Loren D. Estleman wrote me that Pelham Fell Here is a “strong title” which is gratifying to hear. A writer always strives to pick a striking title.

For my P.I. Sharon Knowles short stories reprinted in a collection I wanted something with a gentler tone. A Clear Path to Cross is what shook out of the deliberations. It’s a longer title and I like the image it conveys. A softer edge, Sharon isn’t hardboiled like Frank is. Unlike Frank, Sharon doesn’t have any novels. Yet.

Of course, the final say in the novel’s title is the publisher. It’s right there in the written contract you sign. I’ve been fortunate in none of my titles have been rejected or altered by my publisher. My favorite anecdote on the selection of a novel’s right title is F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald wrangled over a short list of titles that just didn’t ring: Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, Trimalchio, Trimalchio in West Egg, On the Road to West Egg, Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover. In the end, The Great Gatsby prevailed and the rest, as they say, is history.


Ed Lynskey
http://www.myspace.com/edlynskey

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Faye Hughes On Adventures in Flying

Okay Guys, With great pleasure, I'd like to introduce you to my good buddy, Faye Hughes. She's my writing partner, my friend, my critique partner (among others) and a partner to a lot of my crimes. As a computer guru, she talks me down from all the computer ledges that I manage to get myself on. She's also nuttier than a giant slab of peanut brittle. Which explains why we are such good friends. She is, as we say in the south, a real hoot. Together we wrote, The Everything Guide to Writing A Romance Novel, which was just released this week. She is also the author of seven romance novels, two of which were optioned for TV movies. (Yeah, the girl can also write fiction.) Take it away, Faye. ~Crime Scene Christie


They say hindsight is everything. I have a tendency to agree because, looking back on my March 2007 flight to New York City, I realize how close I came to ending up on the “No Fly” list along with suspected terrorists and other “persons of interest.”

You see, I was flying from Syracuse to La Guardia, where I was going to meet Christie Craig, my critique partner and new writing partner for non-fiction in the baggage claims area. I was totally excited, if a little sleep-deprived. You see, Christie and I had talked on the phone daily but we hadn’t met in person yet, and the PASIC conference in NYC was going to be our chance to get better acquainted.

So, I lugged my too-large-for-carryon suitcase from the long-term parking garage and checked it in with the skycap, then headed inside the terminal at Syracuse’s Hancock Airport. I made my way through the security checkpoint and arrived at my gate about an hour early. I really needed coffee, but before I could grab a cup, they announced that the flight from Syracuse to LaGuardia was boarding.

WTF? I mean, you’d think somebody would have told me that the flight was leaving an hour early. Still, I grabbed my boarding pass and got in line. It was a small plane. Getting small planes balanced can be a challenge, so people rarely end up sitting in their assigned seats. As for me, well, my seat didn’t even exist. I had an “F” and there were no “F” seats. I asked the flight attendant who looked at me as if I was the last thing she wanted to deal with that morning. Hey, I don’t’ blame her. After all, she had bigger problems, like getting the plane balanced. She told me to sit anywhere. And I did and less than an hour later, I was in LaGuardia. But still no coffee.

No problem, I decided. Christie was supposed to meet me in my baggage claims area and since her flight got there earlier than mine, we would probably be able to get out of the airport and to the hotel a lot earlier than we’d expected. We could grab some lunch and, yes! Coffee!

It was a great plan. Only, my suitcase never made its way around the luggage turnstile with the rest of everyone else’s luggage. Crap, I thought. Now what? First, they assigned me to a seat number that didn’t exist and now I had no luggage.

Now, by this point, I’m sure a lot of you know what happened but, honestly, it took me another 20 minutes before I figured out that I’d taken the wrong flight to LaGuardia. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t check the flight numbers, hey, it was all I could do to find the right gate number. I seriously needed coffee that morning.)

Anyway, I figured my suitcase would arrive on the next flight, so I started calling Christie on her cell. According to her last email, her flight should have arrived. But Christie’s cell was heading straight to voicemail. (A quick bit of info about Christie, she always carries her cell phone when she travels but she rarely ever remembers to turn it on. It wouldn’t be so bad if she could remember how to access her new messages but, hey, that’s a blog for a different time.)

So, there I was, settled in on a bench in the empty baggage claims area, waiting for Christie and my luggage.

Christie got there before my suitcase. I knew it was her when I first laid eyes on her. A small blonde woman in a hat dragging two large suitcases on wheels that were bigger than she was. She got to the turnstile, saw me sitting on the bench and smiled. “Hello,” she said.

I smiled back and said, “Hi, Christie.”

The look on her face was priceless.

You see, I’d seen pictures of her but all she’d seen of me was an old author photo on some of my out-of-print paperbacks. And the hair color was different.

Anyway, Christie nods and asks, “Faye?”

Okay, I couldn’t resist. I said, “Nope.”

She started to look worried then. She even glanced from side to side, to see if there were any security guards nearby. But no luck for Christie. It was just the two of us.

She said, “Um” or “Uh” and I could just see the wheels in her head spinning. Who was I? How did I know her name? And probably most important of all, Why the hell had I agreed to meet Faye at her baggage claims when we didn’t fly in on the same airline?

I started to giggle then, and that’s when she started seriously looking for security, but I quickly confessed that I was Faye.

Then she said, “But your plane’s not supposed to be here for another half hour.”

“Yeah, and did you know cell phones don’t work unless you turn them on?” We had a good laugh. Now, let’s flash forward a few hours. That night at the hotel, I received a call from Travelocity. He was very nice but he sounded just like the Travelocity gnome they have in the TV commercials. Anyway, he told me I’d taken the wrong flight and he wanted to make certain I took the right return flight. “Very naughty,” he said. “Naughty, naughty.” (You try not to burst out laughing at that kind of dialogue. I mean, the Travelocity gnome was chastising me.

Then he made me write down the info and I hung up. I joked to Christie that TSA should contract the Travelocity gnome to handle security. I mean, he had busted me about the wrong flight and nobody at the airline figured it out. “But that voice,” I said. “Very naughty?” I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

I guess I was a little disrespectful of the gnome because at 7:00 the next morning, a guy from “hotel security”, dressed in one of those MIB type black suits, unlocked the door to our hotel room and came in to give us our personal “wake up call.”

Only we hadn’t requested a “wake up call.” Personal or otherwise.

And when we called down to the front desk to ask about it, they told us that hotel security never unlocks and enters a guest’s room to deliver a wake up call.

I figure I learned a valuable lesson that day. Okay, maybe a couple of them. First, always drink coffee before flying, or before boarding a flight. And two, never make fun of the Travelocity gnome. He may seem inanimate and cute but if he calls your hotel room to tell you that you’ve been ‘naughty’, you’d best be respectful, or you might end up with a MIB type in a suit in your hotel room the next morning for a non-requested wake up call.

Respect the gnome. Seriously. Always respect the gnome.

Faye Hughes

www.FayeHughes.net

www.WritewithUs.net


Friday, September 26, 2008

I’m an International Superstar!



Okay, well, maybe I’m still working on the superstardom thing… but one of my books has gone international! This week I got copies of the Polish version of my first book, Spying in High Heels! It’s been released as Sledztwo na wysokich obcasach in Poland by Amber publishing. Check out the cover - cool, huh? I have no idea what it says, but I spent all day browsing through the book. The most fun part about it are the little footnotes explaining my many Americanisms – like why “Dewey, Cheatum, & Howe” is a funny name for an attorney’s office, and what Six Flags is. I love it!

Since I don’t speak Polish in the least, I spent a good chunk of time yesterday trying to find a Polish to English dictionary online that I could use to translate the title. No such luck. Still searching. The best I can find so far is it says something "to soaring heel". Interesting…

But, in the course of my searches, I did stumble upon some very interesting facts about Poland. Did you know:

Pizza in Poland does not contain tomato sauce. The waiters bring sauce to the table in a pitcher, and you pour it on top. Sometimes the sauce is just catsup.

When American movies are dubbed for Polish TV, one man reads all the parts, even those of women and children.

The biggest section of any grocery store is the candy section.

Some Polish beer is ten per-cent alcohol.

There is a Pope channel on TV. Anytime one needs to see the pope, one can tune him in.

Polish toilet paper is made of crepe.

There is an M.D. on board every ambulance.

Doctors do not make as much as English teachers do in Poland.

The teaching of the German language at any level was forbidden in Poland for forty years after the end of World War II.

Poles peel bananas from the blossom end, not from the stem end.

Poles always carry cut flowers upside down.

Amongst all the members of the European Union, the residents of Poland marry the youngest – at and average age of 23 for women.

In Poland people wear wedding ring on the right hand.

In Polish, the English word “no” means “yeah, sure”. So, if a Polish man asks you out to dinner, don’t say “no” unless he’s really hot.

And my favorite…

Poland is currently run by identical twin brothers who serve as Prime Minister and President. They were once too-cute child stars and appeared in the 1962 movie, The Two Who Stole the Moon. (Who knows, maybe the Olsen twins have a future in politics yet!)


~Trigger Happy (or as they say in Poland, Spust Zadowolony) Halliday

Thursday, September 25, 2008

'Bullet Hole the Builder' Checking In...

Hey! Just popping in to say 'howdy' as the floor covering installers are here laying my carpet! I'll snap a couple pics and post them once the floor is down and they're outta here. I'm also painting. Yes. Still.

Pictures to come!

Have a great day and rest of the week!

~Bullet Hole Bacus~

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So, Like, I Was On This, Like, AMAZING Book Tour...

Jessica Anderson, Cherry Adair, Kathryn Caskie and Moi


Colleen Coble, Jade Lee's arm, Monica McInerney, Jordan Dane, Susan Mallery, Me, Elizabeth Hoyt and Kathryn Caskie


I shouldn't have to explain this one. I mean really, there's a nametag and everything.


Two cute guys who, surprisingly, were very excited to see me

Last weekend was one of the best weekends of my whole, entire, life! My publisher sent me on a book tour with 26 other authors across the state of Michigan! And look! Cute guys wanted their picture with me! Woo hoo!

Actually (and this will take the wind out of the proverbial sails a bit) the guys saw me and got all excited. One of them said, "My mom loves you! I can't believe you're here!" Anyway, these two adorable guys were so excited to have a photo with me (and apparently my chins) on their phone to send "mom," it was almost okay when they told me they were on their way to a wrestling meet. "High school or college meet?" I idiotically asked. The tall, cute guy said, and I quote, "Oh no, all ages. There will even be some old guys who are 40 there."


Oh well. Hey! Cute guys were excited to see me! Yay!


Once I got past the icky idea I was behaving like a Kougar, life went on. And it was wonderful. The Levy people who sponsor the tour of nine Meijer stores in three days spoiled us ROTTEN. Everything was taken care of from the hotels to the food to the transportation. I had a great time meeting so many wonderful authors. My kids and husband, however, are not so amused when I call out for my luxury bus or gourmet food. They still expect me to cook Spaghettios and clean toilets. Can you believe the nerve?

Probably the best part of the whole tour was talking to these brilliant, award-winning authors about the business. I'm still fairly new and am beginning to believe there is no way I'll ever learn it all. And yet these incredibly generous women (and a few fabulous men who put up with us) patiently answered my questions and didn't make fun of my wide-eyed, mouth open curiousity. And no one even tried to put a "Kick Me" sticker on my back. Not even once.

It's good to be home (at least, the guinea pigs think so - but they may just be after food) but I'd go back out with these writers any day, any time, anywhere.

The Assassin

Ike and The Craigs



This last week I was selected to play a part in a movie of the week. At first, I refused to accept this so-called role. Surely, the Director, (AKA, Mother Nature) would come to Her senses and realize I didn’t have the personality to play such a serious part in her natural disaster movie. If she’d read just a page of one of my books, she’d know my personality and life lends itself better to comedy. “Call me when You have a different role,” I replied. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t listening. Ready or not, Ike was coming.



I wasn’t ready. So I went into this blissful state called . . . denial. Ike was not coming to Houston. It couldn’t. Because I had . . . deadlines. Deadlines encourage denial of anything that might try to pull your attention away from the task. So, on that Wednesday night when the news said we needed three days’ provisions of water and food, I looked at hubby who had no reason for his state of denial and asked, “Do we have provisions?”



He just shrugs. “We can get them later.”



“Later?” I panicked. So, at eleven o’clock on Wednesday night, we’re in a local grocery store. It’s here I become totally submersed in the surreal-Ike script.



Hordes of people, resembling zombies, push their carts along the aisles, grabbing hurricane rations. We headed straight for the water. There, on aisle four, are two women playing tug a war over the last six pack of H2-0.



I look at my husband, at the empty store shelves, at our empty basket, and ask the obvious. “Should I jump in and see if I could win?”



He sighs, “They’re bigger than you are.”



We moved past the screaming women. As we got to their carts, I saw dozens of cans of tuna filling their baskets. Feeling desperate, I snag a couple of cans and dropped them in our cart. (Hey, this is life or death.) And we run away.



We found most of the shelves empty, but we did get the last four cans of chicken, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and some crackers. As we’re about to leave, water arrives, and we, with the Zombies wait in aisle four. We snagged two cases, and got out before more fighting broke out.



Thursday morning, the air conditioner flowed, coffee perked. Life was normal. Hubby went to work, I went into my office and back into my blissful state of denial. I sent in my book. Thank gawd! When son got up, he stormed into the study screaming, “Mom, why aren’t you watching the news?”



The television was turned on and I’m thrown back into the script of Ike. The mayor was speaking to Houstonians. I can’t relate word for word, but it translates to something like this: “Put your head between your legs and kiss your arses goodbye.”



Okay, he didn’t exactly say that, but with lines of, “100 to 150 mile winds” “freeways jammed. Don’t try to escape.” “Leave work and go home to take care of your family” he might as well have said it.



I called my hubby and calmly informed him that the freaking sky was falling and he needed to come home. NOW!



Never one to enjoy panic, I turned off the TV, chased my son out of my office and returned to my blissful state of denial.



I enjoyed my bliss, until the phone calls started coming from out-of-state family. I can’t relate to you word for word what they said, but it went something like this: “I hear you need to put your head between your legs and kiss…” Seriously, my cousin asked if we had burial plots.



I practiced deep breathing, ignored my four felines who bounced off the walls acting as if the world was ending, (did they know something I didn’t?) and I waited for hubby --my hubby, the safety engineer. How lucky am I to have a safety engineer to keep me safe? (You know where this is leading, don’t you?)



Hubby arrived, armed with only a book on the Roman Empire, which by the way, didn’t they end in disaster? He plops down in his chair and begins to read.



I stared at him. “Baby, how much wind can our windows sustain?” Hey, he’s smart, this is what he does for a living.



“Probably 70.”



“Baby, how much wind do they say we’ll get?”



“Probably 100 to 110.”



“Baby, why the freaking-frack, in gawd’s name aren’t you covering our windows?”



So we covered our windows. Okay, Hubby and son covered windows. I went back to my computer and backed up some of my files. Then I grabbed my backup drive and wondered where the safest place was to keep it is. Which one of the ten pine trees in our yard would hit the house, meaning which room would be destroyed? I even tried to fit it into my bra. Didn’t work. It went into my purse.



Meanwhile, stray cats are showing up in our backyard. Hey, they know we’re suckers. Hubby and son catch them and put them in the garage.



Hubby and son also pick up any loose objects that could be snatched up the 150 to 170 mile wind gusts and used as missals on the Craig home. Loose objects like one of our eight land turtles. (Hey, I’m not gonna be the one written up in the paper about being killed by a turtle.) What do you do with 8 turtles during a hurricane, when you have stray cats in the garage? You put them in the back of your car. (Oh, did I mention that Floppy Skivies, the family rabbit, was upstairs in my son’s bedroom, sharing space with his rats.)



I started cooking our last meal. With extras in case the mayor and my family was wrong and we accidentally lived.



While cooking, I noticed our hurricane rations have been depleted. I suspected the ladies I stole the tuna from, but then son confesses. Can anyone tell me how one eighteen-year-old boy can eat an entire jar of crunchy peanut butter in less than 24 hours?



We ate our last meal and I wrapped up the leftovers. We brought down our mattresses. My dad made me promise we’d bring down an extra mattress. So when the roof was being ripped off and debris flew inside, we could cover ourselves with the third mattress. Let me tell you, hearing things like that doesn’t make you feel better. But you bet your boots I had the third mattress.



Darkness strikes the Craig house around midnight. Son asks if he can now eat the hurricane rations. Something about hurricanes makes an eighteen year old hungry.



We curled up on the mattresses, and I saw it. Not Ike. Son was eating the leftovers from the fridge. “You’re eating our lunch,” I said.



“Yeah, but we might not live, so I don’t want to waste the pasta.”



Wind, the eerie sound of trees being delimbed and decapitated, filled our ears. We woke up off and on during the seven-hour storm. Morning arrived, no power, no air conditioner, no coffee, Ike still blowed. We braved a peek outside. Our yard was a mass of tree limbs and debris, and we’d been blessed with gifts from Ike, several new trashcans. Hey, we needed some new ones.



Many houses on our block brought a whole new meaning to tree houses. Thank God, no one is hurt. And our street was a river. Could anything induce one to brave that river? Yup. The water had backed up our neighbor’s sewage. Don’t get between a woman and a toilet when she has to go.



We ate crackers for breakfast, minus peanut butter, and snarled at son. Around noon, son asked, “What’s for lunch?”



I reminded him that he ate our lunch. He reminded me that it’s my maternal duty is to feed my young. I reminded him that some mammals are known to eat their young. Ike brought out the best in me.



Hubby dragged out the grill. Big man-- with grill-- about to make fire. A grill that hadn’t been used in two years, but he’d sworn we had propane. I emptied fridge of anything that might cook. Because of grills unclean state, I wrapped everything in foil and cooked hobo style.
We all stood around the grill, as hubby lit it. Hey, with no TV, this was the best entertainment there was. We had no idea how good the show would be.



Hubby discovered we have no propane. I sent him . . . The Look. “No, problem.” Hubby assured us. He found wood in garage, doused it with kerosene and struck a match. The explosion sent part of the bottom of the grill flying. Hubby’s eyebrows were singed. But fire was burning. Fire continued to burn. Grill suddenly caught on fire. Yup, the entire grill. Hubby became slightly concerned because the propane can was still attached to burning grill. Me, I became slightly concerned that the fire was spreading to the back of my house.



Hubby, safety engineer that he is, used our water rations to put out fire. House was fine with exception of bubbled paint and smoke damage. Lucky for hubby, the food came out great. Hey, son was about to die of hunger.



24 hours later, no air, low food (due to son) low water rations (due to fire) we decided to brave the freeways and escape Houston for Alabama.



Just one small issue. No gas stations. Just one big issue. No bathrooms. Hubby and son said, “We’ll just hang our lizards out for air.”



Oh, but no way was I baring my lizardette on the side of the freeway. (Hey, you need to maintain some dignity. Besides, Ike victims had suffered enough, they didn’ t need to see my arse.) Hours later, the need for a restroom was crucial. We stopped at several places, operated without power, but they’d locked bathrooms due to the lack of water.



Finally in an east Texas town we found a generator-operated hole-in-the-wall fish restaurant. No lights, but they were serving food. More importantly, they had water, they had a BATHROOM. I moved between the tables, to the back of the restaurant, blackness invaded the dark hall. The bathroom is where they said it was, but they hadn’t informed me where the toilet was. I shut the door and moved around the pitch darkness like a blind woman, a blind woman who really needed to pee, reaching out and thinking, “gross”, who knows what I’ll touch in a public bathroom. I found the toilet. With my foot, thank gawd. I unzipped, stripped and sat down in record time. I just got a healthy stream going when I hear . . . breathing. And I’m not talking about my own.



I had company and yes, this was a one seater. “Hello,” I suddenly wondered if I’d gotten in the women’s or men’s restroom.



A female voice answers. “So you found the toilet?”



“I hope it’s the toilet.” I laughed.



We shared Ike war stories while I peed. Hey, in really desperate times, modesty is thrown out the window. Who knows in a few more miles my lizardette might have been bared on the freeway.



Bladder happy, the Craigs hit the road again, our only concern was finding gas. We got lucky about an hour later. I went in to get a drink. When I get outside, hubby was waving in a panic and I’m told to get in the car NOW.



I jumped inside. “What is it?” I asked as he frantically drove away.



“That guy was smoking a cigar and filling up a gas can. That idiot is going to start a fire and blow something up.”



“Sort of like you did, huh,” my son said. We all started laughing.



I realize then how lucky we really were, we braved the storm, had no serious damage to our home, and survived with even our senses of humor intact. I think my son even gained a little weight.



Thank you, Mother Nature.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Can You Believe the Nerve?

I told this story once a long time ago on my personal blog, but thought I'd share it here. I think I've mentioned before that nothing shocks me any more. But every once and a while, I get surprised and every once and a GREAT while, I get totally surprised. Well, it happened one Friday night last year.

I had an all-day writer's workshop on Saturday to attend, so my local cp's and I decided to get a room Friday (like we always do when individual schedules allow) and do our girl's writer's night. So it was fairly late (11:00 ish) that night when we put on bathing suits and headed down to the hot tub (one of the main reasons for the hotel excursion). We had been sitting there for about a hour when a guy walked in. The timer had just gone off so he asked if we wanted it turned back on. We said yes, so he did then he asked if he could turn off the lights.

We really didn't care. The room opened up to the courtyard which had plenty of light and quite frankly, we were already hot and the popcorn lights weren't helping matters. So he turns off the lights and then walks around to the side of the hot tub and sits at the side. My cp's are running on about one of their wips, so they aren't paying attention to this dude, but I thought he as acting weird. I mean, he seemed to be in pretty good shape but yet he was sitting on the side of the hot tub with the towel wrapped around him. So as soon as I turn my head, he slips into the water and I'm like "Oh My God! I bet he's naked!" (which in the south, is pronounced nekkid)

So my cp's have never looked over but I stop contributing to the conversation altogether. I'm too busy looking for his hands. Because by God, if his hands go below and his shoulder shakes (or anything else) I am SOOOOOOO out of there. So I'm busy on hand watch and the other two are plotting a book and finally one cp looks at ole boy and says "I bet we're boring you to death." And all I'm thinking is "Don't talk to him! He's naked!" Mind you, she STILL doesn't notice anything weird. The other one looks over as he responded and it was written all over her face - she definitely knew he was nekkid, now.

So a couple of minutes later we decide we're waterlogged and get out. We're halfway down the hall when I say "Can you believe that guy was in the hot tub nekkid!!!!" The clueless cp almost falls out in the hall and says "But he was floating on his back when we left!" Of course, it was dark, so I guess she didn't get a good look.

Now, being nekkid in a public place is bad enough but there is some big high school dance competition going on this weekend and half of the hotel was filled with high school girls. What in the world was he thinking??????? Doesn't he know that only one person filing a complaint would have him labeled a sexual preditor??????? And since this is the south, a more appropriate way of asking would be "what kind of cahonies does he have" but the problem with that question is I kinda already know and it still doesn't answer the question.

But my internal monologue would have made a great sitcom skit. :)

Deadly (dumbfounded) DeLeon

Friday, September 19, 2008

Single Guy's Tiers

First off, whoever said last week that the way to get a guy to open up was football talk… you are brilliant! I went over to Mr. Big’s house after Monday Night football and watched the game highlights with him. I have to say, it was actually kind of interesting. I could get into this game. And, it worked like a charm. He was more talkative than I’ve seen him in … ever! So, thanks, gals. :)

Okay, on to today’s blog topic… this week Suze sent me a link to the Dating Diaries blog. It’s written by this guy, Rich Santos, who writes for Marie Claire. Apparently, he made a New Years resolution to be a better dater (sound familiar?) and has been chronicling his dating exploits on his blog every since. He calls himself a, “smart, funny, attractive guy who not only admits to being clueless about women but is willing to share his dating diary.” I love it! A peak inside the inner workings of Single Guy.

One post he had up especially caught my eye. He called it the 4 tiers of a relationship according to a guy. Yeah, like I wasn’t going to click on that one. So, here are the 4 tiers according to Single Guy, with running commentary from Single Gal (yours truly) :

TIER ONE - 1 to 3 months in

Things are pretty sensitive here. It's easy to overwhelm and look too interested or too fired up. I would assume keep things simple, almost cliche. Stick to dates that girls are used to, and places they feel comfortable:

(Single Gal agrees. Comfort is key when we’re dealing with a guy we don’t yet know very well.)

Group Outings: Heading to the bar keeps things casual and gives her a base because her friends are involved. (And she can always use one of them as an excuse to leave if things are heading south. “Sorry, Suze is really drunk. I gotta take her home.”) It also helps her get a sense for who I am because she can meet some of my friends (usually not a good thing for me actually). Too much of this will make things too friendly, so I think it must be used at appropriate levels.

Dinner: Everyone likes to go out to dinner, and actual dates are rare. Eating is a sensual experience, and it's fun to try out new places around town. (Just beware of garlic breath and spinach between the teeth.)

The Movies: Another cliche date, but it's best combined with dinner. There is a lot of talking during the first three months, so you don't want to end up in silence at the movies all the time. (But it opens up a great opportunity for a little hand holding. And you can tell so much about a guy’s personality by how he handles the shared armrest situation.)

Ticketed Events: This can happen towards the end of Tier One. Shows, concerts, art exhibits are all great conversation pieces and usually a good time. My dad used a ticketed event to woo my mom. He asked her to a concert that was months away. After she said yes, he felt like it was safe to ask her out to dinner for the next weekend. Crafty!. (Toward the end – yes. At the beginning of stage one – no. I had a guy take me to see a Broadway style play once as a first date. Which was really nice of him, but I spent all evening feeling guilty that he’d spent so much and gone to so much trouble when it was clear in the first five minutes I didn’t want to see him again.)

Walks and Drives: These are so nice. City, country, anywhere-getting out and seeing people and places is charming and sparks a lot of conversation. Usually good for end of Tier One. (Again – bad first dates. I’d actually save these for Tier Two. While they sound nice, I’m really not sure I know enough about a guy after a month or two to go off alone with him for a walk in the country. Or a long drive. While it may not occur to a guy, safety is a big issue for most dating girls.)

TIER TWO - 4 to 8 Months In

Getting more comfortable and ready to try new things.

Weekend Trips: Now you're really getting into each other. You can take little trips to the shore, or go camping. This is usually a big test-the long drives and general travel put a little strain on a relationship so going away together tests your mutual mettle. (I’m sorry, but I gotta know a guy REALLY well before I want him to see me camping. Camping=short showers, no hair dryers, very little make-up, no heels, and lots of mosquitoes. This is not how Gemma looks her best. Now, if we’re going for a weekend in Vegas… I’m there.)

Weddings: Once you've earned that spot, you get taken to weddings. You know it's getting serious when your boyfriend/girlfriend gets a wedding invite with plus 1, and you're even more in if your name is on the invitation too. (OMG – Mr. Big asked me if I wanted to go to a wedding with him next month. Does that mean we’ve hit tier two? Happy grin.)

Parental Meeting Casual: This usually means meeting parents of your significant other for dinner, or in public. Once you've earned the right to meet parents things are definitely serious, but usually the first meeting is a casual one. (Totally agree with the casual first meeting thing. Good call.)

TIER THREE - 8 Months to a Year In

Totally comfortable.

Parental Meeting Serious: These are the ones where you are at the family cookout, and you're meeting extended family. You are driving in other family members' cars, and helping out around the house. People are starting to size up how you'd fit in their family.
(Personally, I want to meet the family sooner than this. I mean, if he comes from loonies, I need to know that up front. Uh… and no one else is driving my car. I don’t care if we’ve been married for ten years. That’s my baby. I’m not loaning it to your brother.)

TIER FOUR - Over a Year In

Anything's possible...

International Trips: This is all about investment: time, money, receiving shots in some cases (ouch!). Once you're traveling to big time places, you know you're serious.
(He forgot one thing about tier four – rings. A big, gold, shiny ring with a diamond solitaire.)

So, what do you ladies think? Do you agree with the tiers? Think he’s moving too slowly, too quickly? Have any of your own to add? I noticed one thing he forgot to mention is when certain words are acceptable. Words like "boyfriend" "girlfriend" and "love". What tier do you think those come in?


~Trigger Happy halliday

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bob the Builder--Marry Me!


First off, I want to mention how relieved I was to learn that Killer Fiction's Crime Scene Christie and her family, although temporarily displaced by Hurricane Ike, are all safe and sound. That was very good news. I have an idea she'll be blogging about her experiences next week so be sure and drop by.

As for me? This 'never ever ever marry again' confirmed single woman is ready to commit--or maybe that should read 'be committed'.

I need help. I know I do. How could I not? My offspring assure me of this on an daily basis.

Last week I blogged about the 'bug' I'd caught related to home improvement and remodeling projects as I caulked, painted, stained and varnished to turn my formal dining room into a TV room. Well, the bug has, er, spread and it's having some rather unpleasant side effects.

Once I finished the walls of the TV room, my brother and his wife came over and helped me put up the chair rail. Just my luck. It looked fabulous.

Why is that a bad thing, you ask?
It looked so awesome it got me itching to do the same to the bedrooms and the dining area off the living room. And guess what that meant: new two-tone paint jobs for those rooms, as well.
So, this week I dropped by the paint store and the home improvement center on my way home from work. It took me an hour to pick out the paint despite my sis-in-law giving me a home decorating magazine that had the paint combo I wanted to use. But the big problems awaited me when I went to pick out the lumber for the chair rail. I needed ten boards of varying lengths from 12 feet to 8 feet. The moulding came only in 16 feet lengths.

And the customer was supposed to cut their own boards.

Now, this may not seem like a daunting task, but did you catch the part about the boards being SIXTEEN FEET LONG! You should have seen me try to maneuver those boards out of the upright bin they were in and get them down to floor level without hitting something or maiming an unsuspecting fellow customer in the process.

Once you get the board down so you can eyeball it for flaws, the fun really begins. A number of the boards had boo boos which meant putting that board aside and retrieving a new one. I was beginning to attract some attention by the time I had 15 boards stacked on the floor. Unfortunately, none of that attention came from a nice, helpful 'Bob the Builder' type employee.
I managed to get all but 3 of the boards selected & cut when a clerk happened by. I was on him quicker than I've been on caramel apples lately. His eyes got big as apples when he saw the stack of boards (and remnants of my board cutting) littering the aisle.

I inquired as to whether he could assist me in cutting the final boards. Clearly he had better things to do, but he grudingly agreed and took the final three boards, measured them and lopped them off with a hand saw, rather than the one provided with the miter box. I stared as they dropped to the floor. Nice. Hadn't he ever heard of a square edge or a ninety degree angle?
I went in search of a wheeled cart to transport my moulding, nabbed one with a bad wheel, brought it back, loaded it up and headed to the checkout.

I gave the clerk a list of the number and lengths of my boards.

"I still have to measure all of them," he said and I winced. I wasn't real confident I'd measured all that well.

He went through them and got to the final three the grumpy clerk had cut.

"You sure you want these?" he asked. "The ends are banged up."

By this time I was ready to saw something--and it wasn't chair rail.

I stomped back to the moulding aisle, found two more boards, and a miracle! A helpful, nice clerk who offered to cut the boards for me!

By the time I checked out, it was 8 P.M. I loaded the Jimmy with my moulding. I'd known the longer boards would hang out the back a bit so I figured I'd wrap them with a blanket and raise the back glass of the Jimmy and they'd be fine.

Only I'd forgotten rope to tie the back hatch down.

I tied it with an Ethernet cord left in my Jimmy from my daughter's move to college.
It was dark by the time I pulled out of the parking lot on my 45 minute drive home. With the back hatch up, I had to drive all the way home with the friggin' dome light on. I'm sure folks driving alongside me could see my lips moving as they passed me.

Hello. I was singing.

What? You don't believe I was singing? You think I was saying naughty words?

Actually, I was asking God if Bob the Builder was taken. 'cause I'm thinking of proposing.

Sigh.

BTW, pics of all my home improvement projects (aka 'Mom's Obsession' to my kids) are coming soon!

Have a super rest of the week and a wonderful weekend!

~Bullet Hole~

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Thing About Spiders


We all have them. And don’t go pretending you don’t. I’m talking about phobias. The kind of fear that makes us do irrational things at times. Even embarrassing things. Now I’ve blogged about another phobia of mine. Remember the elephant and zoo story? If not, here’s the link: (I promise you, you’ll get a laugh.) Elephant blog.

I may have even mentioned my other phobia. Okay, so I have more than one.

Doesn’t everybody?

In my defense, I have to tell you that I came by this phobia naturally. I inherited it. That’s right, believe it or not, we can pass on these quirky unreasonable fears to our precious offspring.

The fear that plagued my mother—spiders, or some may refer to it as, arachnophobia—found its way into my own phobia bank. And darn it, in spite of my best attempt to save my daughter from this dark mark on her rational behavior capabilities, I failed.

Three women, three generations, who go into full-blown panic mode, at the sight of anything that has eight legs. Never mind that the eight-legged subject weighs in at less than a tenth of an ounce, that we could all take out said creature with our pinky toes. Ahh, but the mere thought of getting any part of our bodies, pinky toe included near even one of those eight legs causes serious damage to our psyches. (And, no, it doesn’t matter if we are wearing steel-toed boots over said pinky toe, the serious damage is the same.) Did you get the serious part? Because I’m not joking.

Have you ever seen those old flicks where bad actors, wearing war paint, and imitating Indians do war dances? You know, where the feet start coming off the ground, the knees rise up to chin level. Well, when in a full-blown arachnophobia attack, we, do this dance. It’s not quite like the bad actors war dance, but add a few Polka dance moves in there and you’re close. We’ve even named it the Polka Eight-legged dance. It’s a good name, too, because our feet move up and down so fast that to a witness, it may appear as if we have eight legs.

Oh, and the noise. It’s horrific. Screams from the very center of our solar plexus spew out of our lips. I seriously believe this is some kind of instinctual prehistoric language meant to warn any arachnophobic person within a hundred miles, that a spider is on the prowl.

The only thing worse, or more embarrassing, than performing said dance in public, it is performing it when you are certain that the eight-legged creature has found its way inside your clothes. (You know where I’m going, don’t you?)

Yep, we’re talking a Naked Polka Eight-legged dance. The clothes have got to come off. And it doesn’t matter where you’re at, or who may be present.

My mother, God love her, performed the Naked Polka Eight-legged Dance for the entire neighborhood when a black eight-legged creature fell into her blouse while getting the laundry off the clothes line. Her performance was so . . . eye-catching, that there are men still talking about it, fifty years after the fact.

Now up until recently, I have been spared having to perform said ‘naked” version of the dance with an audience. Oh, I came close once a few years ago. My daughter and I were walking to the car, when she stopped and said, “Oh, you have something in your hair. She reached out and then squealed, “OH, GAWD!”

She never said spider, she didn’t have to, the scream and the dance had begun.

Me, I’m stood there frozen, yelling, “Get it! Get it! Get it! Get it!”

She continued to dance and then screamed, “Not me! Not me! Not me! Not me!”

Thankfully, after performing the dance myself, the spider is slung off my head by uncontrollable and violent head jerks, and the postman staring at us from the mail truck is spared from seeing the strip tease portion of the dance.

Of course, yesterday is another story.

I was returning home from doing a photo shoot. I had my camera bag, my purse, and some tomatoes I’d picked up at vegetable stand in my hands. I’m hurrying from my car inside when I felt it. No it’s not a spider, it’s even worse.

It was a spider web.

I had walked right into one and it was everywhere—on my face, on chest, on my arms. And I was certain inside my clothes!

I started to scream but then I looked up and my neighbor and a couple of his friends were standing in his driveway.

Gawd have mercy on them. Gawd have mercy on me. The scream locked itself in my throat. All I could think about was doing the dance and getting rid of my clothes. But I could still hear those dirty old men recounting the story of my poor mom . . . so I fought it. I fought it with it with everything inside of me.

Breath held, I bolted for my front door. Hands shaking I barely managed to turn the door knob. I made it inside, slammed the door shut. My $1000 camera, my purse, and the tomatoes were thrown to the floor.

The prehistoric scream emerged from my lips, and the dance commenced. The knees started rising, the clothes started coming off, and the tomatoes, underfoot were paste.

Oh, but even in my sheer state panic I was so damn proud of myself. Proud that I had not performed said dance in front of my neighbors.

And then I hear it. (You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?) I hear laughter.

I look up and my eighteen-year-old son and his friend are standing in the living room, eyes wide with shock as they stare at me. Me, only wearing a pair of jeans and a bra, knees still moving, and a pile of smashed tomatoes underfoot.

My son, still laughing, says, “Hey, don’t pay any attention to her, she just has this thing about spiders.”

So there you have it—another embarrassing moment in the Craig house. What about you guys? Please . . . don’t make me be the only one sharing embarrassing stories today.

Crime Scene Christie -- Who has probably damaged her son’s friend for life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Things You Could Die Without Seeing

Before I went to work at my current job, I was CFO for a real estate development corporation that specialized in senior housing. One of our facilities was a really nice independent living facility in a suburb of Dallas and I tried to visit the properties at least once a month. Well at this one property was a particular resident who just wasn't very nice. She complained constantly...about everything. There was simply no making her happy - not by the staff, the other residents, or her family. So to say she was unpleasant to be around was a bit of an understatement.

Now this woman had only partial use of her legs so to make things easier she had one of those motorized wheelchairs, and if you haven't seen one of those things, let me tell you they pack a little bit of horsepower. So I was visiting one day and the chef came out to tell me the story about this lady's mishap the week before, since I had been personally subjected to one of her bitching sessions in a previous visit. The facility director, Mary Lou, and admin joined in the convo and told me this priceless story.

Every morning the woman took a "stroll" around the front of the building. This involved driving her wheelchair around the circular drive and admiring the landscaping (which was quite fabulous). So this particular morning she was wearing one of those long t-shirt dresses and apparently the end of the dress got caught in one of the wheels on her wheelchair. Now, I have no idea how to explain the physics of this situation, but apparently rather than grinding to a halt, the chair just ripped the dress clean off her body in one slick movement. For those of you who might not be aware, older ladies tend to go bra-less. Thank God they always wear underwear!

So she starts hauling ass back for the entry-way with her wheelchair wearing far more clothing than she is, but there's a truck blocking the drive. So she cuts across the flower bed, hits a sprinkler head, and gets stuck. The sprinkler head breaks and sends off a gusher of water.

Now in the meantime, the leasing agent is doing a tour with a family trying to find a place for their mother and picks that time to walk out the front entrance to show them the landscaping...complete with an old naked woman stuck in a wheelchair under Old Faithful. By this time, some of the staff has noticed the situation and rushes outside to push the woman inside while another comes running with a blanket to cover her.

The woman starts yelling about the truck parked in the driveway (it belonged to a gentleman helping his father move) and saying that she's going to sue. About that time the truck guy comes into the lobby and seeing a bunch of people hovering around a woman in a wheelchair asks if there's something wrong and if there's anything he can do. Mary Lou hustles him out the door before the lady can figure out he owns the truck.

So they finish the story and I am literally laid across the table laughing so hard I'm crying and I look over at the chef (who she's criticized at every single meal since she moved in and was one of the people in the lobby at the time) and I say "how in the world did you handle it? I would have been on the floor dying." And he replies, "Mary Lou had to send me home for the rest of the day."

Priceless. Oh, and by the way - the leasing agent STILL managed to close that deal...naked lady landscaping and all.

Deadly DeLeon

Guest Blogger Tracy Madison

I'd like to introduce you guys to a very neat lady that I met a the national Romance Writers of America Conference. She was quirky enough for me to like her, quirky enough for me to want to read her book.


Take it away Tracy . . .

When Christie asked me to guest blog here at Killer Fiction, I was pleased—and so very honored—to say yes. I mean, who wouldn’t want to blog in this amazing forum, with some of the coolest, funniest, nicest (and way talented) authors around? But then, after I said yes, I began to think about what I would write about.

These women have outstanding posts, and I didn’t want to bring a yawn fest to the table, so I thought and I thought and I thought. And then I decided I’d write about how I often bring real life situations into my books. Not just ANY situations, but quirky, funny, and even embarrassing situations. Because in my opinion, these are some of the elements that can truly bring a character to life for a reader.

Of course, THEN I had to decide WHICH moment to talk about, because those who know me KNOW I’m rife with quirk. So, I decided, even though I’ve blogged about it once before, I’d share with you a quirky, funny, and yep—embarrassing—story that happened to me not that long ago. This story made it into my debut book, A Taste of Magic, in the revision stage.

One morning when most normal people are still sleeping, I woke up in a panic. No, the house wasn’t on fire. No one was sick. The phone wasn’t ringing. I was panicked because I needed to ramp up the humor in one particular scene in my book, and I had no clue how to do it. Nothing I’d tried in this particular scene felt right. But because I can’t think coherently in the morning without coffee, I went upstairs to get it started.


As I said, it was early. So early, in fact, my entire household still slept, except for my dog (and this on its own was remarkable as she sleeps 23.5 hours a day-I swear!). So, I started the coffee, and then came back to my desk, fired up the computer, hopped in the shower—you know, all that morning stuff.


When I went to get my precious cup of coffee, a mess greeted me. Instead of functioning as it should, my coffee pot had decided (I am absolutely positive it did it on purpose, just to mock me) to spit the coffee all over my counter. Not just that, but it dripped off the counter, pooling into a huge puddle on my floor. I’m a little (okay, a lot) addicted to coffee, and this was a travesty of the highest proportions.


My brain screamed for caffeine, but I restrained myself from snorting the coffee off the counter—because that’s kind of gross, addicted or not. So I cleaned the mess up, and started another pot. Then, because I was sort of a mess from cleaning up, I washed my hands. And this is where the real trouble began. This is when I should have walked away.


See, what happened is, I discovered that a small plastic cup had somehow (kids!) gotten pushed down into the garbage disposal and was stuck. I fiddled with it, trying to get the cup to come out. Seeing as it was almost a perfect fit, it didn't budge. By the way, if I'd already had coffee, I am positive (positive!) I wouldn't have made the decision I then made. But my caffeine deprived brain couldn't handle any type of rational thought process.


So, brilliant as I was at that moment, I plunged my hand into the cup, thinking somehow I'd be able to pull it out of the disposal that way. No. Sadly, that didn't happen. Some sort of suction thing took place and my hand became wedged in the cup that was stuck in the sink, leaving me in a so-not-fun position.


To make matters worse, it was that moment my coffee maker began spitting coffee out all over the place again. And I couldn't do a thing about it, because I couldn't reach it (you know, being stuck to the sink and all). I pulled as hard as I could. And then I pulled again. And again. But my hand didn’t budge. Frustrated, not happy at all with my situation, I had another brilliant idea.


I grabbed a butter knife out of the drawer with my other hand (which I could reach) and tried to pry at the edges of the cup, hoping to pull it loose. This? Didn’t work, not at all. Coffee is burbling away, dripping onto my floor, my hand is kind of gross feeling at this point, and NO ONE is awake in my house to help me. So I screamed. Loudly.


Really loudly.


Of course, no one heard me. Well, that’s not quite true, my dog heard me. She came in to see what all the fuss was about, and she's no Lassie, so it wasn't like I could send her for help. This continued for about 20 minutes more, with me sporadically yanking my arm as hard as I could, yelling for help, and saying things better left unsaid here.


Finally, and I have NO IDEA what I did, but the suction bubbled a bit, and as I twisted my hand, it completely released and I was free. FREE!


You'd think at that point, I'd have left the little cup alone, but no. I was on a mission and ten minutes later, I managed to get that out too. I cleaned up the coffee mess again, and then stared at the horrible coffee maker that ruined my morning. I still wanted my coffee, so I debated if I should give it another go. Deciding that was just playing with fate, I left the thing alone and drove to the nearest drive thru and bought my coffee.


As annoying as going through this was, once I finally settled back down at my desk, I realized I had nearly the perfect answer to the scene in question. So yep, my heroine gets stuck in a sick—only her hero rescues her, while mine slept soundly through the entire ordeal. And laughed at me when he woke up.


Oh, and to this day—I haven’t attempted to brew coffee in that pot again. I leave that up to my husband!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricanes, Deadlines, and Flat Tires, oh my!

Hi,


I want to introduce you guys to a buddy I met through some of the Dorchester loops and then we got to meet face to face at the Dorchester's party. She's witty, and a heck of a good writer. Here's Farrah...



When the fabulous Christie Craig invited me to guest blog here at Killer Fiction, I toiled over what I should blog about. Let's be real, people, I'm in the virtual living room of a group of fabulously funny writers and the pressure to entertain is high. However, the indecision over what to share with you faithful Killer Fiction readers became a moot point last week. After everything I went through, there was nothing else I could write about.

When you think of the type of life situations that make you the perfect candidate for a shopping spree at your local Godiva Boutique, dealing with a flat tire, meeting an amazingly short deadline, or dodging a hurricane should make the list.

Well, what about when you deal with all of those in the same week? Yeah. Not sure the naked lady on a horse will cut it. I’m not sure a weekend in Jamaica will cut it.

It all started with a call from my editor. There was a calendar mix-up and my book was due to production ASAP. My task? To revise a 417-page manuscript in seven short days. Sure, I could cry that it was impossible and push back the book’s release, but since I’d just had 10,000 bookmarks with a February 2009 release date printed, that option sucked like a Hoover on crack.

So, I armed myself with my trusty highlighters and sticky notes, and set out to slice my 417 pages of magnificence into something that will fit into the 336 pages already listed on Amazon.com (don’t ask me how Amazon knew how many pages the book would be before I did). One thing I didn’t count on was a little snag named Hurricane Gustav and 1.2 million people getting the hell out of dodge.

*An aside to Leslie’s heroic hubby: He has my eternal thanks, awe, and top spot on my cool-o-meter for driving into the storm we were running away from.*

Okay, so by this time, I’m figuring I deserve at least three Godiva truffles and one of those humongous chocolate-covered strawberries. Instead, I get a corner in my brother’s small townhouse in Dallas which was occupied by fifteen other family members fleeing the storm. However, I did not let that stop me. After all, there’s always a coffee house with an electrical outlet, a.k.a., my preferred office.

Fast forward several days of working tirelessly on the manuscript while also being addicted to the news. I have three days left and finally feel as if I’ve found my groove.

Enter the flat tire, a confused AAA dispatcher, and my ignorance of all things car-related. I impatiently watched precious hours get sucked away while I purchased a new tire. Of course, by now, time is flying faster than Michael Phelps in the 100 Butterfly, and the looming deadline is keeping me up at night.

It’s a good thing I’m an every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining kinda gal, because after hightailing it from a hurricane and losing a half-day to the flat tire fiasco, I still managed to get my manuscript emailed kinda, sorta within the seven days.

Now, I know it may seem as if this story has a happy ending. After all, I beat the odds and accomplished my impossible goal. But, no, there is still a dark pall over the entire situation. It has been a week since I sent that 3:30 a.m. email to my editor containing my manuscript, and I haven’t had a single piece of Godiva yet. Seriously, after going through all of that, the least this girl deserves is some good chocolate.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Strong Silent Type

Any of you that have met me in person know that I’m a pretty social girl. I love my friends, enjoy big noisy groups, and, as Miss Mia can attest to, am not entirely shy and retiring in a karaoke club. Granted, I do like to think I know when it’s a good time to just shut up and enjoy the quiet, but, considering I’m a writer for a living, you gotta figure I’m a pretty communicative gal.

Mr. Big is not.

Mr. Big is one of the best looking guys I’ve ever been out with. Hot with a capital HAWT. Gorgeous brown eyes with these really long lashes, chiseled features, a sexy little goatee thing going on, and a body to die for. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged at least three times on his abs alone. Yeah, he’s that yum. When I’m with him, I almost feel the need to pinch myself to make sure he’s real. When we first started going out I thought I could happily just sit and stare at him forever.

However, I’m beginning to wonder if I didn’t jinx myself with that thought.

Last night we went out to dinner and then to see a play that a friend of mine (The Bicycle Thief) is performing in. The dinner was great, Big found this awesome Asian fusion restaurant downtown where the decor was really interesting – lots of bamboo and wind chimes - and the food was delicious. But, the conversation was almost non-existent. I’m not sure if he had something else on his mind, was tired from a long day, or just plain bored with me, but he was so quiet. Just sort of staring out the window, silently eating. Which, of course, prompted me to scramble for anything to say to fill the awkward silence. I talked about the weather, the d├ęcor, the architecture outside, probably asked him how his day was three times before I finally gave up. I’m sure he thought I was a total bimbo coming up with all these inane questions to ask him, but I was starting to envy the couples around us who seemed to have an effortless stream of conversation going. At our table I could almost hear the crickets chirping.

By the time we left I was exhausted from trying to come up with lame conversation starters. And, I was pretty sure he thought I was either a) incredibly nosey (“So, where did you grow up?” “Uh huh, and you have a sister?” “And her husband works where?”) or b) the ditziest girl alive (“Ever wonder where seedless watermelon comes from? I mean, there’s no seed.” “How are those Cowboys doing? They play football, right?” “Look, a pigeon!”)

Luckily we made it to the theater and slipped into the back just in time to see The Bicycle Thief make his grand entrance onto the stage, and my need to fill the ever thickening silence was put on hold. Halfway through, I got a phone call, so at intermission I was thankfully saved from sounding like Inane Chatter Girl by slipping out to return the call. But, by the time the play ended and we were waiting outside to meet up with my actor buddy, the silence had descended again. I countered by commenting on the weather. Again.

I could have kissed The Bicycle Thief when he came out of the theater to meet us (in fact, I think I did) and jumped right into normal person conversation that didn’t require fifty false starts on my part. He brought along another one of the players from the show, and we all went out for drinks. And I swear it was the first time I felt I could relax all night.

Which leads me to a very disturbing realization: Mr. Big and I have nothing to talk about. I’m not sure if we’ve run out of things to say to each other, or just don’t have enough in common, or he’s just settled into his role as strong silent type and doesn’t think we need to say anything more. But, I’m pretty sure if we have another silent dinner like last night, I’m going to end up talking about organizing my sock drawer or the clockwise rotation of toilet bowl water. Or, heaven forbid, more weather. So, I need help coming up with something activity-focused that we can do next time. Something that lends itself to doing more than talking, so the silence doesn't fill the air like a big awkward blanket. Any ideas, ladies?


~Trigger Happy (and way too chatty) Halliday

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An apple a day...

It hit this week. No. I'm not talking about Hurricane Gustov or Ike. I'm talking about my craving for apples...specifically caramel apples. The craving came earlier than usual this year. Normally it hits when the weather turns 'fallish' and there is a nip in the air in the mornings. It's really the only time of the year I eat apples. You see. I'm only a fan of them when they're covered in a thick, sticky, gooey substance that has enough bad ingredients in it to cancel out all the good ones the apple provides.

This fall finds Bullet Hole particularly under the gun. Between work, college courses, writing, family, and home improvement projects run amok, finding the time to unwrap all those plastic covered caramels, stand watch over the pan while they melt to keep them from scorching and burning, washing the apples and spearing them, then dipping them in the melted caramel & placing them on the waxed paper seemed way too much of a time investment. Ready-made seemed infinitely more attractive. The only problem? Since said craving hit early, there were no caramel apples to be found.

I know. I know. You're all thinking, why doesn't she just buy one of those containers of caramel apple dip. Right? Did I mention I'm somewhat picky about the caramel that goes on my apples? The dipping type is...wetter. Drippier. Shinier. It's just not the same as the caramel you find on the apple. A close second to the caramels you melt is the 'wrapple'--premade flat circles of caramel you buy in packages of six and basically wrap around the apple, stab a popsicle stick through the center, and put in the microwave for 35 seconds. Those are pretty darned good.

So the other day I go in search of apples and 'wrapples'. Since I'm also picky about the apple that goes under the caramel--tart, but not too tart & juicy, but not too juicy--I stopped at the grocery store to pick out the apples. The checker at the store smiled at me as she checked out my lone purchase.

"Going healthy, I see," she said.

I smiled back at her.

"An apple a day...!" I replied.

Apples in hand, I headed to the local Walmart. The last time I'd been to the store I'd noticed the caramel apple wraps. The fresh fruit is the first thing you see when you come in the door and the fruit dips are all right there. I'd even noticed the price of the caramel wraps my previous visit: one dollar and twenty-seven cents. A real bargain.

I walk in the store door and my gaze moves to the end cap where the 'wrapples' were previously and my spirits sank. The shelf was empty. Not one wrapple to be found. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

I wanted to weep.

Or swear.

Half a dozen apples and no wrapples.

So, my steps took me--yes--to the dipping kind of caramel.

And the only kind they had was low fat.

I should have known somebody would find a way to make me eat healthy.

Are there any 'treats' you especially look forward to in the fall? If so, do share. (And feel free to provide recipes!)

~Bullet Hole Bacus who thinks pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are beginning to sound yummy~

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hitman Meet Gustav. Gustav...Hitman.



My husband drove through Hurricane Gustav and all I got was this lousy photo.

Okay, it's really a cool photo. But you understand, in keeping with the t-shirt quote, I had to keep similar phrasing.

Yes, that's my book. My husband read it sitting in a Suburban SUV outside the hotel he was protecting during Gustav. He called to tell me how much he liked it and to let me know he thought my use of "dialogue has improved." And yes, he really said that.

Tom got the call to head to New Orleans a few days before Gustav hit. He drove there from Illinois in a rented SUV filled with all kinds of stuff - from a generator to duct tape. His mission was to protect a hotel, its clients and staff from the possibility of looters. Sounds like fun, eh? Well, it sounds like fun to Tom.

Being that I'm afraid of stuff like hurricanes, I wasn't happy about this. Especially when he arrived in time to drive across the 22 mile causeway over Lake Ponchitrain in the full brunt of Gustav. He actually said, "It was kind of tense."

Now, my husband is not an excitable man. Those words coming from him would be the equivalent of me saying, "OHMYGOD! #!@! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!"

While he was there, he realized he hadn't yet read my latest, STAND BY YOUR HITMAN. So, being a guy who likes to watch storms, he sat out in the vehicle during the storm and read my book.

WHO IN THE HELL DOES THAT?

Of course, this is Mr. Assassin. When he made his first parachute jump in the 82nd Airborne, instead of screaming like a little girl as he plummeted to the ground (as I would have done), this man took pictures of the ground rushing up between his feet. He then sold the photo to other guys in the 82nd so they could all send it home and say that they took the picture. He made a fair amount of money off that too.

And last night, he tells me that he can't believe that Bob and Al (my dying plants) got last week's blog when he read my book in a car during a hurricane.

So Tom, here it is, your moment of zen.

The Assassin

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Hero I Met Along Life's Path



Gemma’s post about heroes got me thinking about a few that have crossed my path. Now, I have to warn you upfront. This is not my normal kind of blog. I’m not going to have you sobbing, nor will you be splitting a gut with laugher. But I think it‘s a heartwarming tale, so I decided to share something that happened to me years ago.



“Will you marry me?”

I sat there in that Omelet Shop looking over my plate of smothered hash browns at the man who’d just proposed.

I think I would have been less shocked if he’d pulled a violin out of his ear and started serenading me in Italian. I was . . . speechless. I was also having a hard time swallowing the bite of crispy potatoes covered with melted cheese--a scrumptious meal that the proposer himself had made especially for me and refused to let me pay for.

I met his eyes, certain I’d see laughter hidden in their green depths. No laughter. This man was serious. But he couldn’t be. Could he?

My shock at his proposal stemmed from good reasons—really good reasons. First, I was already married. Second, I was six months pregnant. Third--and I think this was where most of my shock stemmed from--why would he want me? Yeah, my self-esteem was about as large as an undetectable freckle on a lady bug’s nose. But of course, then I realized Robert really didn’t know me.

We had met a few weeks earlier. He was several inches over six feet, broad-chested, probably topped the scales at over 200 pounds, mid-twenties, kind eyes, and a thick head of strawberry blond hair. Not what you’d call a typical hunk, but he had loads of charm and a devilish smile that I’d seen women respond to. He worked at the omelet shop with my mother.

My mother, whom I had been staying with for the last three weeks since my husband of almost two years decided he deserved better than me. Yeah, the husband was a big part of my self-esteem issues. I was young and dumb—a few weeks shy of my eighteenth birthday. Yup, that means I was married at sixteen. But hey, by my family’s standards that was practically an old maid. My mom was married at thirteen.

“I’m serious,” Robert said. “I work two jobs. I don’t make a lot of money, but I pay the bills. I’d be good to you.”

I literally had to pick up my chin off the table. “You can’t be serious.” I dropped a hand on my swollen belly, thinking maybe the man was half blind and hadn’t noticed I had a watermelon-size lump under my shirt and a wedding ring on that hand. “You don’t even know me.”

“I know enough.” He shot a quick glance at my mom working behind the counter.

Just like that, I knew my mom had told Robert about my situation. I felt my face flush. Mortified. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to know how I’d failed. I was going to kill her. Seriously kill her.

“She shouldn’t have said anything.” I picked up my fork and started to play with my food.

“She didn’t tell me much,” he said. “She didn’t have to. The first time I saw you, I felt as if I was looking at an angel with a broken wing. I knew someone was hurting you. And damn it, you are so beautiful and you don’t know it. You’re funny. You’re sweet. And some guy out there is treating you like shit. You don’t deserve that.”

Okay, right then I knew the guy was half blind and functioning on half a brain, too. I wasn’t any of those things. I knew because my husband had told me.

I thanked Robert for his offer, but turned him down. It would take several years before I realized what a gift Robert offered me that day, but even then, I knew he’d made a difference. Yes, I went back to my husband—back into an abusive marriage. I didn’t find the courage or the self-esteem to walk away from him for good for four more years. But the day I jumped on an airplane with a four-year-old daughter, determined that we deserved better, I thought about Robert.

I knew that the courage it took to walk away from an abusive marriage had grown from a seed of confidence planted by a fry cook in the Omelet Shop four years earlier. Robert called me an angel that day, but looking back I think he was the angel, one of those heroic people who speed walk through our lives and yet make a big difference.

Have you had one those angels cross your path? I hope that if there’s anyone out there in the place I was over twenty years ago, I hope you find your own Robert, I hope you’ll realize that you deserve better. And let me tell you, almost a year after I boarded that plane, I met another hero who proposed. The only difference is, I married that one. He’s not perfect, but he’s close, and he’s perfect for me. So for you women out there wondering, there are a few good men amongst us.


Crime Scene Christie—who promises to be funnier next week.