Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reality 1, Pessimists 0 !

This cracked me up when I read it:

Often, the person in the group who articulates the possible is dismissed as a dreamer or as a Pollyanna persisting in a simplistic "glass half-full" kind of optimism. The naysayers pride themselves on their supposed realism. However, it is actually the people who see the glass as "half-empty" who are the ones wedded to a fiction, for "emptiness' and "lack" are abstractions of the mind, whereas "half-full" is a measure of the physical reality under discussion. The so-called optimist, then, is the only one attending to real things, the only one describing a substance that is actually in the glass.

That's from the book The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander.

Emily Dickinson said it beautifully a long time ago:

I dwell in

A fairer House than

More numerous of

Superior-- for

Today, I feel an urge (need?) to open the windows and throw open the doors of possibility. In other words, the book I'm working on is half-full of words, instead of half empty, yes it is. So there, pessimism, take that! Pow, right on the kisser.

What's in your glass today? :)

The late blogger

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cable interruptus

Photo by Andif
A late good morning to you! I've spent mine getting our internet and phone service to work again, and now I'm going to fix our television remotes. I hope. I love Time-Warner's phone and store reps. Seriously. They're so efficient, courteous, and patient.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heigh ho!

Yesterday was such fun. I loved coming back here again and again and finding more and more clever ideas and even some complete scenes! I found it very inspiring, and so lively that it kept me revved up all afternoon while I wrote. When I did write, I had those shivery and amazing kinds of synchronicities, one after another, that seem to say, "You're on the right track."

During lunch at a restaurant, I was writing a scene on a napkin when a child behind me, out of the blue, began singing, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way." I couldn't believe it, because those words were the exact right punch line for the scene I was writing! I crossed out what I had written down not two minutes earlier, and wrote in those lyrics, instead.

Then I went to the library to work on the same scene which happens to have Santa's reindeer in it. Before I started writing, I opened an email and before my wondering eyes was a message from a friend with these lines: "Heigh ho, and off they go, pawing the ground, snorting." Those words popped out at me like an in-joke from the writing gods. I had not said a single word to her about my story. I have read and reread her email since then and I still can't figure out what those words "really" refer to. I only know that some impulse prompted her to type a phrase that fit Santa's reindeer at the very time I was writing a story--in October-- featuring Santa's reindeer. How does that happen?

Next, after writing a scene about wild dogs, I got up from the desk, glanced at the DVD's on the shelf and the first one I saw had the title, "The Wild Dogs." And that wasn't even the last of the coincidences yesterday.

Something tells me this story is going to turn out just fine. :)

Thank you all VERY much for all of your funny, smart, ingenious, generous ideas!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Well, here's a question you won't hear on just any blog today:

Can a werewolf kill a vampire?

The deal is, I agreed to write a short story for a werewolf anthology. (I'm smiling as I write this, but I swear this is true.) I've got most of the story, but at the end I need a werewolf to kill a vampire and I need him to accomplish that without resorting to the usual weapons, since few werewolves carry holy water or daggers or silver crosses on them. No pockets in fur, don't you know. Do you think a vampire will die if a werewolf just rips him to shreds? (Sorry to be so bloody! But hey, this is art, lol.) And in case you're wondering why in the world I'm doing this, it's because I was good and truly scared by the original werewolf movie when I was a child, and I'm going to exorcise that demon at last.

I will appreciate any suggestion that revs up my own imagination! But be warned that if you give me an idea I can use. . .I will use it!

Got anything you'd like us to brainstorm with you today?

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Prayer for California

From "Water Table," by Billy Collins

. . .water. . . falling on our bare shoulders,

water filling the inlets of out mouths,

water in a pot on the stove. . .

Meet you in the corner

Let's get our coffee/tea and pull these tables together and sit in the corner where we can see the water and the trees. Anybody got doughnuts?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Photo by Andif, of her refuge in the woods.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


(Statue of Kuan Yin, Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Mo.)

I blame the Dalai Lama. Apparently, his calming influence quieted Congress yesterday, and last night he got to me, too, I think. After a couple of years of not meditating, I felt absolutely propelled out of the house, into my car, and onto the freeway to go downtown to the Tibetan Buddhist Temple where I used to go for Sunday services. I wasn't thinking of the D.L. when I did it, but who knows how far and how wide his good graces extend? :) When I got there, I discovered there were only three of us for the "group" meditation, but as that other famous spiritual leader once said, "When two or more are gathered in my name there is love." It has been so long since I sat in meditation that I didn't even try to cross my legs on one of the red mats on the floor. I wimped out in a chair, instead. The leader made the "singing bowl" ring, and I folded my hands in my lap, lowered my eyes and focused on my breathing.

In, out. In, out. Frantic thoughts. Back to In. Back to Out. In. Out. Breathe.

As I sat there in the temple, it came home to me that one of the tenets of Buddhism is devotion to the "sangha," which loosely translates to "spiritual community," and that the purpose of a sangha is "refuge." It was an interesting notion on a night when I needed refuge from my own fraught thoughts. All day, yesterday, I had become increasingly irritated by someone. I was also really worried about the fact that my work is not going well, at least in the short-term sense of things.

You're not "supposed" to want anything to result from meditation, but I am an unenlightened soul and I wanted peace of mind and heart last night. I was furious at the annoying person and at my own work, and I wanted my anger to do no harm. By the time I left the temple I felt calmer, and I knew that I must start meditating again. I do that best in groups. Kind of like blogging. :) Both have a salutary effect on my soul. There was even a nice moment in the temple when I felt appreciation for the annoying person and my work troubles, because when they got bad enough, they forced me to go for refuge where it could do me the most good. The annoying person is only that way every now and then, and a book is just a book, but the growth of character lasts a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes.

When I was in college, my refuge was to come home, let no one besides my parents know I was here, and then go hang out at the art museum, especially in the reconstructed Buddhist temple where I could sit on a bench and soak up the peace and beauty. I hadn't even connected then and now until just this minute.

Do you have a heavy-duty refuge when things get fraught?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Our talented friends

The other day I mentioned that I was going to see Katiebird's photo exhibit. You won't be surprised to hear that it's wonderful! All six framed photos are displayed on a wall of a library that sits at the edge of a county lake. Kb's artwork looks splendid hanging there. Five of her photos in the exhibit are of New York City and San Francisco, which makes them an interesting sharp-edged urban counterpoint to the natural setting. She has a great eye for angle, drama, and light.

You can see Boran2's artwork even as it's in process. Every time he's working on a new one, he posts that week's version, and talks a little bit about how he's going from blank canvas to framed canvas. I particularly like the very newest one that he finished just last week. The colors are so rich and the depth is amazing. These are small works, mind you--about 8 x 10 inches, and yet look how it gives the impression of being a large painting . Several of us have been following his art "lessons" ever since he first started trying his hand at "painting in public." It is exciting to watch his talent develop and his skill increase. He'll be starting a new one soon, and I'm eager to see what the subject will be. (If you'd like to see his "first drafts" of the one above, to compare with this finished piece, you'll find the weekly installments on his blog.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Firest draftsw

I've left the title the way I originally typed it, because that's what my first drafts look like, when the typing is often the best thing about them.

The novelist and writing guru, Anne Lamott, says, "The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts." In her wonderful, comforting, inspiring book Bird by Bird, she says. . .

"What I've learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head. First there's the vinegar-lipped Reader Lady, who says, primly, 'Well, that's not very interesting, is it?' And there's the emaciated German male who writes these Orwellian memos detailing your thought crimes. And there are your parents, agonizing over your lack of loyalty and discretion; and there's William Burroughs, dozing off or shooting up because he finds you as bold and articulate as a houseplant; and so on. And there are also the dogs. Let's not forget the dogs, the dogs in their pen who will surely hurtle and snarl their way out if you ever stop writing, because writing is, for some of us, the latch that keeps the door of the pen closed, keeps those crazy ravenous dogs contained."

She then shares a little exercise a therapist taught her as a way to hush those voices. Basically, the exercise amounts to turning all those people into mice and dropping them into a glass jar and putting the lid on it.

"A writer friend of mine," Annie says, with her trademark wit, "suggests opening the jar and shooting them all in the head. But I think he's a little angry, and I'm sure nothing like this would ever occur to you."

Bang. :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Coffee or tea?

Feels like an espresso
and croissant kind of morning
to moi. Et vous? How'd you sleep? Any cool dreams? See any ghosts? What's on your agenda for the rest of the day? Pass me that section of the paper, will you, please?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A good time was had by me

That's me on the left, with Tonka, the Noble Beast, and his talented "mom," mystery writer Roberta Isleib. Roberta and her husband John were my hosts this weekend when I taught at a Sisters In Crime workshop in Connecticut. They fed me sooo well, put me in the world's most comfortable guest room, and gave me gorgeous views of Long Island Sound. Here's a link to Roberta's blog, if you're interested in reading more about the workshop. And here's what I've stolen off her website to tell you more about Roberta who is the new international president of Sisters in Crime:

New Jersey born clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib took up writing golf mysteries to justify time spent on the links. Her first series, featuring a neurotic professional golfer and a sports psychologist, was nominated for both Agatha and Anthony awards. Roberta's new series starring a Connecticut psychologist and advice columnist debuted in 2007 with Deadly Advice. She says the work of the detective in a mystery has quite a bit in common with long-term psychotherapy: Start with a problem, follow the threads looking for clues, and gradually fill in the big picture.

And, yep, she's as nice as she looks. Plus, she bakes one heck of a great peach pie!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Where in the world?

Thursday Tidbits:

Have you noticed the map I put up down at the bottom of this page? It's from a free site and it tracks where "hits" come from each day. I think it's purdy. And interesting--Wednesday we had a visitor from India. We've had them from Africa.

I leave again tomorrow, this time for Connecticut to lead a writing workshop, and I'll be back Sunday. I'm hoping for fall leaves in many colors, but do you think it's too early for that?

Last night I spoke at a book club where they served whipped peanut butter pie on a graham cracker crust. Every bite I ate. Nearly licked the plate I did.

My son cracks me up. Recently he did something that cost me a lot more money than I expected. His email of apology began, "Dearest Mother."

Have you seen any new tv shows that you'd recommend?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Power of the Pen

"Mildred Benson, who under the name Carolyn Keene wrote 23 books in the Nancy Drew series for young girls, is dumbfounded at the impact her can-do heroine had on the lives of many readers. One woman, inspired by Drew, overcame her shyness and eventually became a murder detective. Another, after a bad marriage, withdrew to her bedroom with all her old Drew books and pulled herself back together. A third, a university professor, said Nancy Drew had given her the courage to speed away from her northern Minnesota town where the only role for women was 'to do all the cooking and cleaning."
From an article by Jon Anderson in The Chicago Tribune. (Date unknown)

Rollin' on the river

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo by Andif.

This is a perfect picture of what writing's like sometimes, especially if we could add some white water to it. You're floating through a dark canyon, the current is fast, strong, scary, exhilarating. You keep moving, even if you're not sure it's such a good idea, even if you think your book's in trouble, because the words just keep coming and moving you forward. The cliffs rise precipitously on either side of you; you're really deep into it now, and there's no visible escape. Some of the time, you're excited and loving the trip. Some of the time you think despairingly, "Why did I ever think this was a good idea?! Why did I ever think I could write? Why would anybody ever want to read this crap?" And then suddenly, you're delivered into the sunshine, and you realize: hey, this stuff I just did--or some mysterious propelling power did--maybe it's not so awful, after all. "Hallelujah! Let's shove this boat on shore and pop some beers."

Here's to a hallelujah Tuesday. :)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Where I am on Monday

That's a photo of where I am, but only in my imagination. Yesterday, one of my characters, a 10-year-old boy, climbed to the top of one of those rocks. Today it will magically be twenty years later and he will be 30. He doesn't know it yet, but he's going back up there again soon. And, by the way, thanks. It was only while looking at this photo again, and writing this post, that I realized why he climbed the particular one he did: it's the only formation that inclines gently enough ao that a boy actually can climb it barehanded.
Will you be spending your time in the real world or in an imaginary one today?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On the road again

I'm off to the Kansas Book Festival in Wichita. Tomorrow, I'll be at the opening ceremonies with 19 other writers, all of us selected as Kansas Notable Authors, based on books we published in 2006. For me, that's The Virgin of Small Plains, which is set in the Flint Hills north of Wichita. I'll get to receive my certificate (or whatever they give us) from the Lt. Gov., and all I'll want to do is talk politics with him, hee hee. He used to be head of the Kansas State Republicans, but he switched parties and our wonderful Dem. Gov., Kathleen Sebelius, talked him into being her running mate. I want to get him off in a corner and ask, "How does she do that?" because he's not the only person she has converted. A very persuasive woman, our Gov.!

There's a fancy gala tomorrow night, and then I'll be on a couple of panels on Saturday.

I'll see you Sunday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Poll the Jury

I've been called for jury duty once, and they put me on that one. I found it an encouraging experience, because my fellow jurors made such a sincere effort to get it right. We had a guy who had already pleaded guilty to possession of pot, and he was also charged with selling it. We acquitted him on that charge. I think we all suspected he probably had sold it, but we didn't think the prosecutor had proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. I was so glad we could legitimately let him off. The prosecutor was pissed afterward, but it was his own fault for bringing a weak case. All the "evidence" was circumstantial, just as the public defender I quoted yesterday said most trials are.

Take the poll! You can give multiple answers, oh boy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Here are a few tidbits, some of them possibly surprising, from a law enforcement session I attended at the mystery convention in Manhattan, Kansas, over the weekend.

* In a county with a very small population, there's not enough money for more than one big trial a year, if there's even money for that. It you want to commit a murder, do it in a poor, under-populated county where the quality of investigation is likely to be lower, and where they've already spent their budget for the year!

* "TV has made prosecutions so much harder," said a district attorney. Juries want DNA evidence, they want 3D diagrams, they want more than "beyond a reasonable doubt."

* A public defender said, "In 20 years as a criminal attorney, I've had two cases with viable fingerprints."

* "A lot of times, a suspect in the middle of a polygraph test will cough it up."

* "There's no such thing as temporary insanity," claimed the psychologist on the panel.

* "It's hard for juries to acquit if you can't give them the 'real' bad guy," said the public defender. "You can't win just by punching a hole in the state's case. You got to give them another suspect."

* It's not true that serial killers keep the same M.O. throughout their "careers." They change. "For one thing," said one of the lawmen, "they read the newspapers." For another, if they are mentally ill, they will deteriorate and become less and less stable.

* "The guy better take the stand and say under oath, 'I didn't do it.'" (Juries assume guilt otherwise, no matter what the law says about how they're "supposed" to think about it.)

* Most cases are circumstantial. If they're not, they don't go to trial. (Plea bargain, instead.)

* Interestingly, both the public defender and the district attorney were opposed to capital punishment.

See you in the comments. . .