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16 posts from June 2010

06/29/2010

The Day We Burned Oklahoma Down

It Was an Accident, I Swear

My dad bought a new truck in 1994. Big red and gray ford with a long bed and dual fuel tanks. Did I mention in August of '95 it was two months old? Two months. About the same time my dad purchased his new pickup truck, my grandmother had a stroke. She was in rehab for quite some time and when she went home, she was told someone needed to come stay with her and help her rearrange things because she was going to remain weak on her left side and wouldn't be able to live alone unless changes were made. 

My mom ran booths in a couple of antique malls at the time and could be away for an extended time without much trouble so I drove her Oklahoma City to stay with my granny for a month or so, then I came back home. They rearranged cabinets, purchased new storage, put handholds in bathrooms and close to doorways and basically set the house up so Granny could continue to live alone. She was there about a month. At the end of that time, I drove to Oklahoma City to pick her up in my dad's almost brand new truck.

Over the course of the month that Mama had been in the city, they'd had several clean-up days where people could put anything they wanted out at the curb and the city would pick it up. Mom and Granny spent many many days driving around and picking through other people's trash to unearth treasures for her antique booths. When we loaded all of her treasures into the truck the entire bad was packed with antique tools, old wood furniture, and my mom's favorite piece, a pair of antique hand made sawhorses. 

As we finished loading our suitcases amongst the crap, the random thought crossed my mind that all those old wooden things sure were dry and would burn really well. I didn't voice this thought out loud and didn't give it another thought. We went to the gas station and filled both fuel tanks on the truck. We could go five hundred miles without stopping. Consequently, that's exactly how far it is from Granny's house to ours. We were set to make a flying trip home.

We wended our way through the road construction, (there's always road construction in Oklahoma City) and finally headed out of the city. We were on the turnpike maybe twenty miles from the city when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw black things flying up out of the truck bed. I slowed down and looked closer and realized the black stuff I was seeing was ash and everything in the back of the truck was on fire.

I swerved onto the shoulder, jumped out of the truck, climbed into the truck bed and started tossing burning crap out of the truck bed onto the shoulder. I had one goal, get the stuff out of the truck before two full gas tanks erupted. My mom hopped out on the other side and started stomping out flames as the grass beside the road caught fire. Soon, flying embers had also ignited the median between the two sides of I-44 and grass fires were racing in all directions. People were slowing to stare, Mom was wringing her hands and stomping on flames, the dog was in the cab of the truck barking at this great new game we had devised and no one stopped to help.

Finally a good samaritan that was also a firefighter wheeled in behind us. He grabbed a bottle of pepsi twisted off the cap, covered the mouth of the bottle with his hands and shook it until it turned to foam, then he sprayed the remaining fire in the back of the truck. I jumped in and moved the truck forward away from the fire and jumped back out to help mom and the firefighter stomp out the flames. The the fire department arrived.

There had been some rhyme and reason to the way I tossed things out of the truck bed. Flaming things hit the shoulder, not flaming things went in the grass. I was trying to salvage a few of Mom's treasures. The firemen scrambled from their trucks and started spraying water and stomping on flames and mom and I stepped back to get out of their way. 

As we watched the firefighters work, we noticed that one of the things I had saved by tossing it down the hill away from the fire were the two antique sawhorses. As we congratulated ourselves on saving at least one treasure, a firetruck bounced down the hill and ran over them. At that point we started to laugh.

Then I walked up to the truck to get out water bottles for mom and I, and found that Max, Mom's Jack Russell Terrier, had been excitedly running from window to window keeping track of all the firefighters. As he stood on the armrest on the door, he'd stepped on the the door lock button and locked us out.

We were five hundred miles from home, Daddy's brand new pickup truck was covered with charred and bubbled paint. Three fire departments frantically worked to stop the natural cover fire that we'd inadvertently started. We were locked out of our vehicle and Max was locked inside. And worst of all, at some point in the very near future, Mama was going to have to call Daddy and tell him we'd trashed his brand new truck.

06/28/2010

Recipe for a Successful Writer's Retreat

Take six to eight smart and talented lady writers

Add in One beautiful location

Mix in a lot of great food and a little bit of wine a dash of chlorinated water and a pinch of great conversations. Stir and simmer for two days.

That's it. I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend. Thanks Teresa for hosting us.

06/24/2010

Contemplating Change

I had a dream the other night that I was pregnant with twins and I was quietly pleased about that turn of events. I'm forty-six years old. My children are grown. I love them to death, but I'm ready to be a grandma. I have no desire to be a mother again. I also no longer have the equipment necessary to make that fantasy a reality. Anyone that knows me is giggling right now, because quietly pleased is diametrically opposed to how I would really be feeling. Psychotically hysterical would probably be closer to the mark. So, I did a little research on dream interpretation. Really, a writer doesn't need much of an excuse to get on the internet and do research. But, I digress. Here's what I found.

A dream of pregnancy, if in the dream you are happy about it, generally means you are contemplating or considering changes in your life. Or that you've decided to move forward with something spiritual or artistic in your life. Okay then, let's take a look at that.

I am a carpenter by trade. I work as a scaffold builder in nuclear power plants. It's a job I love. I travel six or nine months a year and the rest of the time I'm home, writing or messing about in my garden. The work is physically demanding, but not stressful. The money's pretty good, and the people I meet and work with are a lot of fun. It's the best job I have ever had. But. Yes, there's always a but.

One of the things I love most about my job is the travel. I love living in other places for weeks or months at a time. It's fun to stay somewhere long enough to find the gems that only the locals know about. But the travel is the problem.

My father is no longer in great health, and for him to be alone for weeks or months at a time is troublesome at best and downright dangerous at worst. It's time I made a decision. I've been chewing over this for a while. Trying to figure out how to keep my career and still take care of family. See, there's no one else, I'm an only child. It's my responsibility. The only conclusion I've come to is that my days of spending weeks and months on the road have come to an end, but I still need money. So I guess my writing is going to have to support me. EEEK. Do you have any idea of the number of writers that actually make their living off their writing? It's appallingly small. Most writers have jobs if they like to eat. 

Scary, but I've figured out that if I can sell just a hundred and fifty books a week, I can bring in close to what I make as a carpenter. Half that many and I could still live comfortably. Can I do it? Well, not sitting behind my computer in my jammies all day, but yeah, I think I could. Actually, I don't think I have a choice. Family has to come first. And that situation isn't going to change in the next year or two. 

So, I think that's what my pregnancy dream was all about. My spiritual journey inside myself to see if this change is possible. An investment in my craft to make it workable. Now, I need to get out of my PJs and go sell some books.

If you'd like to jump start this mission, click here to purchase a signed copy of one of my mysteries.

If you'd like to just show your support, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. To tell the truth, it's kind of a scary prospect and honestly, I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge.

06/23/2010

The Week My Appliances Went On Strike

Underwires and casings 01  For those of you that don't recognize the small picture to the left, it's an underwire from a bra. Those of you that have done laundry and like me are too lazy or disorganized to use those neat little lingerie bags for your pretty underthings, you know that underwires after a few washes will come out of your bra. But that's the end of my story, not the beginning. Let's start at the beginning, which is also an end of sorts.

Last spring, shortly after my mother passed away, I mean like minutes after, the lock on her oven door locked and wouldn't release. I know this because I had a house full of people and I was trying to make them biscuits and gravy for breakfast. It was my mom's oven. She picked it out and purchased it and I guess it was in mourning with the rest of us. We had our gravy on toast. At that point and after the week we had all been through, we could have eaten it on cornflakes and it would have been fine. 

The oven was still under warranty. The Sears guy was lovely and after only having to reorder the part twice we got it fixed. While we were still waiting for the oven to be fixed, I opened the dishwasher and heard a loud pop. When I let go of the door, it slammed to the floor smacking my shin on the way down. I shifted my eyes skyward for a moment and sent a questioning message to my mom. She didn't answer, but I might have heard the echo of celestial laughter. The repairman was duly called and the next day after two minutes of work, the dishwasher door was fixed. We were still waiting on the oven parts, but one broken appliance was working again, so all was well. 

The next day, I jumped in my dad's pickup truck and ran to town with my youngest son. When I stepped on the brakes, the pedal went all the way to the floor and the truck didn't slow noticeably. As soon as I had a free second after bringing the truck to a stop at the tire shop, I glanced up and heard the distinct sound of laughter. Mama never did like that truck. Two hours and four hundred dollars later, the truck had new brakes, the dishwasher was fixed and we were still waiting for oven parts.

After only a couple more days, the oven parts arrived for the second time, the oven was fixed and all was right in my world, well mostly. At least all the appliance were working. Later that evening after dinner, I went downstairs to change the laundry around from the washer to the dryer. The load in the dryer was still damp, so I cleaned the lint trap, set the timer and turned on the dryer. A horrible clanging sound started coming from the machine. This time I didn't roll my eyes heavenward, I looked up and threw my hands up and muttered 'Seriously?". Oh yes, there was laughter. But it was about to get louder.

I called my nice appliance repairman and he agreed to come out and take a look at the dryer the next afternoon. That was great, I've known my appliance repair guy for years. Once a long time ago in another lifetime, he was my boss. He's a great guy. I know him well. I think it would have been better if he'd been a stranger.

 The next afternoon he arrived and headed for the basement with his little box of dryer repair tools. The first thing he did was pull out the lint trap. Caught in the lint trap was the underwire from a bra. He plucked it out with a grin and handed it to me. My repairman laughed, my mother was collapsed on a cloud crying with hysterical laughter. I could hear her. I swear. Trusty repairman stabbed the lint trap back in place and turned on the dryer. The only unusual noises were coming from my repairman as he tried to hold back his laughter. He didn't charge me for the visit.

This little episode and other's like it is where I get the material for my Randi Black series. If you want to find out what disasters Randi get's to deal with, take a peek at Murder at Timber Bridge. Signed copies are available here.

06/22/2010

The Call to Action

I mentioned to my son last night that my blog had gotten a lot of hits over the last couple of days. Then as sort of afterthought, I said. "but not selling any more books". Son, being a man, immediately piped up with a solution. "You know, Mom. "Every post should have something at the end inviting people to buy your book. You're not giving the call to action. Without that you can't make the sale."

Okay, fair enough. I don't and I haven't. But, here it is from my prospective. I have a website and a blog and a facebook and a twitter account. I maintain a good web presence. If I take the time to google my name or my books, the first page or page and a half of results all have to do with my books or my web page. I'm pretty tickled with that. I was under the impression that's what I was working toward. Now, I'm finding out that I need to close the sale, get the yes, make the call to action. And well, that makes me feel all creepy inside.

Over the course of my life, I've sold a lot of things: Avon, Tupperware, Christmas Around the World, Pampered Chef, water filtration systems, Amway, car parts, and automotive service. I suck at it. Pampered chef wasn't too bad, I actually made some money at that because I'm a good cook. I didn't have to sell, I just cooked with the product and made people's tummy happy. The product did the selling. Books, not so much. You have to sell them; to bookstores, to reviewers, to strangers on the street. Um, yeah, that creepy feeling, it's almost a physical illness.

I hate selling. At least, I hate selling myself. Much easier to sell other people's stuff. Selling me, well, ick. So my answer to my son about his call to action comment was, "well between my blog and my website there are about fifteen different ways to click yourself into position to buy the book. Throwing a call to action into every blog post seems like overkill."

"Yeah, but you're not selling that many books. It's not working."

*Sigh*

So I'm really hoping to get some dialogue going here with authors or salespeople of things other than books. How to make a call to action without looking like a car salesman, or one of those window people that just keep showing up at your house and pestering you over and over even after you say no. I want to know what the general consensus is on the use of blogs and websites for book sales. Should it be passive, or active?

Oh, and click here if you'd like to own a signed copy of a KD Easley mystery.

06/21/2010

Pay it Forward

I got an email yesterday from HotelsCombined about a program called Spread the Word for Charity. It explained how I could get five, ten or twenty dollars donated to the charity of my choice just by mentioning the program on my blog. First I was excited that someone I didn't know had found my blog and was compelled to email me because of it. Chalk one up to internet marketing. Then, I did some research to make sure it wasn't some sort of fraud like that poetry book I almost got published in, but I digress and that is a blog post for another day. Anyway, I found that Spread the Word for Charity is real. HotelsCombined has donated over ten thousand dollars already this year. Awesome.

Spread the Word for Charity is a very simple program. You mention the program on Twitter, Facebook or your Blog, mention in the same post what charity you would like the money donated too, and they in turn donate, five, ten or twenty dollars to the charity in your name. Easy and painless.

The email I received mentioned that they had found my blog and noticed that I was a supporter of The American Cancer Society. I am, and I am happy to use this small space to announce it and send twenty dollars to the American Cancer Society to help further their research. I lost my mother to cancer last year. Her memorial service was a year ago yesterday. I still miss her everyday and my hope is that the research that the American Cancer Society is doing today may mean that in the future another daughter might not lose her mother so many many years too early. 

If you have a blog, facebook or Twitter account, click the HotelsCombined leak above, check out the program and send a small gift to the charity of your choice. In that small way, we can all pay a little bit forward.

I recommend HotelsCombined.com and sent $20 to The American Cancer Society!

You can shout and help too.

 

06/20/2010

Hit the Bricks, Literally

The Fulton Street Fair started as a great success. The booth set up was great and drew a lot of attention. I talked to a lot a great people, listened to some great music and got my yearly dose of fried Oreo cookies.

Here's a couple of pictures of the booth.

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Photo 2

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Friday night at midnight, I raced back downtown after the fair was closed and deserted, to batten down the hatches and prepare for the giant storm that was heading our way. As I walked into the fair on Saturday morning, past the twisted wreckage of fair booth's whose owners hadn't been as weather savvy as me, I quietly gloated. Not over their damage, cause those folks do fairs and festivals for a living and I don't wish misfortune on anyone, more self satisfaction that I'd foreseen a problem and averted it. Then the storm blew in Saturday afternoon.

Photo 4
 And this is all that was left of my EZ up tent after the first gust. Yes, the tent was down. Yes we were prepared for the storm. No, it didn't do a bit of good. Underneath the sound of falling rain and blowing wind and crashing displays, I heard mother nature laughing. See that sandwich in the lower left hand corner of the picture? Yeah, that was my lunch. I didn't get to eat that either. Mother nature is somewhat vindictive.

06/17/2010

Hit the Bricks!

ComeToFair  This year's Fulton Street Fair is called Hit the Bricks. There will be music, and beer, and dancing, a mule sale, a carnival and probably someone selling ShamWows.  0079399319800_215X215  Oh, and I'll be there, sweating and hawking books.

MaTBcov                          Dreams cover             29d7b58d55480872ef1b2a99ccd126a5f13001b5  

 I'll have some cool goodies to raffle off, and all raffle money plus one dollar from every book sold will be donated to the American Cancer Society in honor of my mother, Butch Thomas. Drop in, pick up some good books, take a chance on a couple of awesome crime scene gifts, and support a good cause all while munching fried Oreo's or enjoying an ice cold beverage. It's a win win situation. Oh, and I have crime scene tape tatoos. Come on, you know you want one.

So drop in at the fair, and say hello. My booth will be the one wrapped in crime scene tape. 163229  

Mini-CIMG0047  And really where else can you go for a couple of hours and pick up a great book, some fried Oreos, a BBQ pork steak, and a cold beer. And, then sit in the shade and listen to some great music.



 Stop by the scene of the crime and introduce yourself even if you're not buying books. I'll be sure and direct you to the fried Oreos.

06/16/2010

Genre Go Round Review

Lovely review by Harriet Klausner at Genre Go Round Review for Murder at Timber Bridge. Click on the link to see what she said.

How exciting!

Thanks Harriet

06/15/2010

What I Like to Read: Robert B. Parker


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 If you're a regular reader at KdBlog you've seen me mention Robert B Parker before. He was always one of my favorites. Even the books that didn't live up to his reputation were still enjoyable. I found Walking Shadow at a used book store and didn't remember the story when I read the back cover copy, so I purchased it. Walking Shadow was Parker at his best. Even with the annoying Susan fully involved, this was a superbly crafted mystery. Walking Shadow was an excellent story. If you haven't read it, it's worth the cover price.  It's sad to think there won't be any more new Spenser novels.

 

06/14/2010

In Honor of Flag Day

To celebrate flag day, here are a few of my favorite flag pictures.

Enjoy

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God Bless America!   

 

06/12/2010

Writer's Serenity Prayer

I've been reading Joe Konrath's blog almost since he started it. I admire the way he's created his web presence, and the tenacity he's used to create a readership. Today, I admire this...the Writer's Serenity Prayer.

Thanks, Joe for helping me keep things in perspective.

06/08/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Dorothy Francis

EdenPalmsMurderfront  Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Dorothy Francis. Dorothy is a teacher and a musician from Iowa by way of Kansas and California. She's the author of 74 children and adult books and has no plans to stop writing any time soon. Visit Dorothy on her website dorothyfrancis.com and join Kdblog as Dorothy's shares with us her first steps into the world of publishing. Thanks Dorothy for being a Tuesday Friend.


MY FIRST STEPS IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD

One September many years ago school was starting WITHOUT ME.  I was no longer a student.  Or a teacher.  I was about to become a stay-at-home mom.  Only such women weren’t called that in those days.  Housewife was the word.  My husband had recently been discharged from the army and we were lucky that he had a teaching job. So far he had no paycheck.  This fateful day I’m writing about, he was at school and I went to the only place I could afford—the public library.

 I picked up a magazine from a reading table. “The Writer.” I’d never seen this magazine before and I glanced at the articles telling would-be writers how to write.  I’d never considered writing until I read an article concerning Richard Armor.  I recognized that name because my parents for years had subscribed to “The Saturday Evening Post,” “The Wall Street Journal,” The American Magazine.”  I’d grown up reading humorous quatrains by Richard Armor.

 And today in the public library, I learned that people GOT PAID for writing this kind of light verse.  Hmm, I thought.  I can do that.  I won’t say I memorized that article, but I read it very carefully and I copied down the market listings that the article mentioned. That night after supper I started writing.

  “What are you doing?”  My husband asked.

  “Writing a poem,” I replied.

  He sighed. “As soon as I get a paycheck, we’ll buy a TV.”

  “Really?” 

 TVs were in their early stages of availability, and although I was impressed with his promise, I continued writing my quatrain.

 We did own a typewriter, so I typed my quatrain double spaced.  That was one of the rules I gleaned from “The Writer.”  Write on only one side of the page didn’t apply to my situation.

 So I mailed the quatrain in to “The American Legion Magazine.”  In a short time (really, that’s true—a short time), I received an acceptance letter and a check for $10.  I thought that was the way the writing world worked.  You sent something in and soon you received a check.  No getting half of the $10 upon signing a contract.  No waiting until publication to get the other half of the $10.

 I hurried to the bank and cashed that check before someone changed their mind. My husband’s comment was “hmmmm.  Better write them another one.”

 And so I did.  But although I never received another $10 for just 4 lines, I did receive $5 for 4 lines from “The Wall Street Journal.”  When I told my dad, he said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he believed me until I clipped one of my WSJ quatrains out and showed it to him.  He said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he’d ever bothered to read the “Pepper and Salt” column.

 Lack of family interest didn’t dissuade me. I continued writing, gave up quatrains as I took tenuous steps into children’s short stories for Sunday school papers, and then took a major step into book publishing.  But that’s another story.

 Please let me add that the writing world had changed since I began back in the 1950s.  So far, I’ve never received total payment for anything upon signing the contract.  And now my author’s handbook tells me to promote my own books.  The author of that handbook had never met my mother who said, “Dorothy, you never need to brag.  It’s unbecoming.  It’s an embarrassment.  If you’ve done something wonderful, people will notice without your telling them.”  I hope Mother never learns that I PAID for a website to call attention to the wonders of my writing.

But that, too, is another story.

06/07/2010

The Fruit of My Organic Labor

I have a garden. It's beautiful. I had a wonderful time building it, deciding what to plant in it and watching it grow while dreaming of eating succulent vegetables that I grew myself.

Here are pictures of my hard work.

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 I don't know why this one is so small. Sorry

 Now the results of all that hard work and a shot of my gardening partner, Luna.

IMG_0097  IMG_0098

An now BEHOLD the fruit of my organic labor...The Mighty Bean 

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Yes, one green bean. Anyone have a recipe that calls for one fresh green bean?


 

06/04/2010

Visit me at The Stiletto Gang

Susan McBride is interviewing me today at The Stiletto Gang. Come on over and see if I spill any secrets.

06/01/2010

It's Aliiiiiive!!!

MaTBcov 

 At  long last, Murder at Timber Bridge is here. If you've got a minute, check out the first chapter on my website, or download a sample from Smashwords or Amazon. If you like what you read, and decide to purchase a copy, drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you. If you're are holding out for the print version, hang tight, it will be available in a couple of weeks. You can purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or if you'd like a signed copy, drop by my store. I'll be happy to sign one and mail it to you.