Writing Update……

Between working on the two co-authored books (Mystery of the Last Olympian and the Benito Santiago memoirs) and my very different novel, To Play on Grass Fields, my scuba-themed mysteries and quilting cozy had to wait for a bit.

In spinning off the character of Chris Green featured in Deadly Doubloons, False Front, and Georgina’s Grief, I left Police Detective Bev Henderson in Verde Key for a while. That will be rectified in about a month with Shades of Deception. Things have been fairly quiet in Verde Key without me leaving a string of bodies around, but what’s a murder mystery without them? Deception has an element of Shades of Truth in that the reader knows what is going on. The question is, how is Bev going to figure out where they have made a mistake? It also has a bit of a slower start from the aspect of the first murder, but the build-up is important as you get deeper into the story. And with Deception headed off to the publisher (a new one I have to try for reasons I’ll explain in a future post), I can now turn my attention back to Helen Crowder and her quilting circle.

Small Town Quilting Treasures takes up not long after Small Town Quilting Blues ended. A new quilter will be introduced and I haven’t decided yet if one of them needs to leave to keep the group at 12 or if I can just squeeze another one in. As with the others in the series, there’s plenty of quilting and I take a little trip into the doll world as well. Those aren’t really my thing, but one of my cousins has a nice collection and if they weren’t all lost in the flood, my niece was very much into the American Girl dolls.

Anyway, I’ll provide more information as publication draws closer.

About Mega Happy Endings…..

This is as much a “musing” post as anything. For those who have read Orchids in the Snow (my first novel), the ending of the book was not the original ending. The absolute silly, but incredibly un movie Wayne’s World that pretty much launched Michael Myers into movie stardom used the expression, “Mega happy ending” in the movie as they were mapping out different endings “that could have happened”. It really is a funny part of the film. Anyway, the original ending to Orchids was in fact, the Mega Happy version and the editor made a comment like, “It’s okay if you want to do this, but I think it would be more consistent with the dual protagonists if you did xyz.” I balanced it out and decided to make the change.

One of the reasons I like romantic comedies and Disney-type movies is the Mega Happy ending is usually consistent. When you shift into drama, it becomes less plausible. I’m okay with satisfactory endings and can accept the idea of the bittersweet or the hero/good guys dying as long as it’s for a good cause. (You get a lot of that in war movies obviously.) There is a particular book and movie from a few years ago that while I appreciated the intricacies of the plot, I truly hate it when the bad guy/girl gets away. Enough of that happens in the real world and I don’t need it for entertainment. I also don’t like it when there are no heroes, although I’m okay with complicated characters who are a mix, but at least one or two have to be more good than bad.

Anyway, what brought this about was reading a book the other day with one of those, “Really, you chose this for the ending?” moments. The story had taken a couple of unexpected turns and quite honestly, both protagonists had some flaws I wasn’t fond of. Now, I realize a “mega happy” wouldn’t have worked well. The final twist though was definitely a stretch. Ah well, to each his own, as they say.

Another Extreme Frustration….

We had another multi-day network outage. More accurately, most of Wed, all of Thurs, and until mid-afternoon Friday. With my work so closely tied to network access, it wreaked havoc with my schedule and my poor husband was only marginally better off. What made it worse for him was my multi-day angry outbursts each time we were told the problem wasn’t fixed yet. I was accepting of 24 hours worth. Past that, not so much. Yes, we have smart phones, but unlike the younger generation, I have extreme difficulty in using my smart phone to work emails and I am not set up to handle attachments. I was able to clear out mail I didn’t need and send short responses to others explaining I would do more later. That of course meant yesterday and today have been a lot of catch-up with a few tasks yet to do.

Okay, enough complaining. I’ll take the time to post something cheery and upbeat tomorrow.

Small, But Important Step….

I don’t know how familiar everyone is with neural linguistic programming. It’s a sub-field of a couple of major fields and has to do with the method in which individuals process information. It’s frequently referred to in the more common terms of “learning visually” or otherwise. Most people learn visually, but others are better at audio – hearing instruction – and some by hands-on touch (kinesthetic). Some combination of all three is often the ideal method, then of course there are unorthodox means for some.

Anyway, I am not a visual learner which is a bit of a drawback when quilting. I can’t simply look at a pattern and figure everything out. I often ask Hubby to give me a hand when I first lay at the quilt kit. I use a lot of kits because I don’t have a stash of fabric built up yet. It’s not that Hubby is one of the male quilters, but quilt projects and woodworking projects are similar. I inadvertently ordered a kit with a marine theme to discover it came with fusible appliques. I set my concern aside and decided it would be a good thing for me to try and if I didn’t care for it (as many don’t), then I would know. I managed the cutting and fusing and truly thought I could do a blanket stitch around the edges to secure them. It sounded simple enough and then oops, not so much. I finally set it aside until I could get some help from the veteran quilters in my small group. It did take a bit as I worked through what I was doing wrong. However, I have now taken the step. Mine may not be the prettiest blanket stitches in the world, but that’s okay.


How I Learned About Internal Combustion Engines…..

The saying of, “You don’t always get what you want, but you might get what you need”, is probably true for most people. As has been happening of late, certain conversations trigger memories of my Army days. In the short version, I joined the Army in order to afford law school. The fact that didn’t happen is a very different post that I’ll do at some point in the future.

Anyway, I actually came into the Army through a special program because contrary to popular belief, women could not enter as officers through either ROTC or the military academies until 1976. I was commissioned into the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in the waning years before they officially disbanded that. Part of the disbanding was to no longer have all women assigned to WAC units, but rather have them go into the various branches of the Army, most of which were open to women. Through a series of misunderstanding on my part (also another future post), I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know which branch to ask for and the Ordnance Corps decided they wanted to increase the number of women being brought in. They sent a couple of majors to Fort McClellan to explain to all of us why we ought to request being in Ordnance. Now, there are essentially two major areas within Ordnance. The original, as the name implies, is Ordnance as in ammunition. The other is maintenance which gained far greater prominence once there were things like vehicles. To say I was not mechanically minded is an understatement and so when I was assured by the two majors that Ordnance really was the branch we ladies ought to join I agreed and thought, “Okay, how hard can it be to learn about munitions?”

A not particularly important event occurred and I was later strongly advised to swap from my idea to instead go into the maintenance side. I very carefully explained my genuine concern about my ability to learn about maintenance. I was again assured the fact I didn’t know anything didn’t mean I couldn’t learn what I needed to. As an officer, I would not be actually working on vehicles (to include things such as tanks). The mechanical training we would receive was to enable us to understand the basics so we could understand what it was the fully qualified mechanics (enlisted and warrant officers) were doing. In other words, we had to know just enough to be able to say, “Bull___” if someone wasn’t doing their job. I reluctantly agreed and in the initial stages of my training, my concerns seemed justified. Several of us struggled and failed tests because we really weren’t grasping what pistons, wiring harnesses, hydraulic systems, etc., did. Our instructors were equally struggling because they couldn’t figure out how to get the ideas across any differently.

Our male counterparts stepped in to help. This was when most guys worked on vehicles to some degree or the other. They essentially took those of us who were having difficulty and said, “You’re making this too hard.” Of the two that took me under wing, one was a mechanical engineer and the other highly mechanically inclined as what was referred to as a “shade tree mechanic”. Admittedly, this was back before vehicles became much more complex with electronics and computers. As it turned out, the guys were right. We just needed someone who could take their time with us and phrase things in a way we could grasp. One of the practical exercises we had to complete toward the end of the three-month course was to disassemble and reassemble a jeep engine. Despite the extra tutelage, I certainly wouldn’t have tried to tackle this alone, but we were in teams and I was in fact fully capable of helping and understanding what my guys were doing. Aside from the direct application to my Army career, the same knowledge has been quite useful when dealing with auto repair shops.

Where the Days Go…..

I fully intended to post yesterday and managed to get caught up in a series of unplanned tasks. Since the day was pretty well already filled, that did cause a bit more slide to the schedule. One of the things is, as I believe I have mentioned in the past, we do have the seasonal population increase here which runs mostly Jan-Mar, but we see some increase as early as Nov and late as May. The reality is several annual events are built around the intent to draw in seasonal residents (I can’t recall if we’re supposed to no longer use the term snowbirds) and there are only so many days during the “core time”. Therefore, we have major things going on either literally back-to-back or sometimes overlapping. In my case, I’m involved with different organizations that either run or support those events and therefore everything I routinely do gets another layer added on top. The actual irony here is when people talk about how other months are the “slow time”, that doesn’t apply in our case. Aside from the fact I rarely have such a thing, it is especially true for Hubby because late spring through Labor Day is peak dive time. Unless storms disrupt, it is not unusual for him to have to go 7-14 days without a break. That also means he isn’t available to do routine things like grocery shopping, etc.

Anyway, back to our winter/early spring months that are genuinely jammed. There really is “something for everyone” from the Southernmost Rodeo in the country to multiple major fishing tournaments and with the Seminole Theatre hitting its stride, plenty of performances to choose from. Ah well, life certainly isn’t dull. At the moment, I am searching the calendar to try and find a day to go diving. I have indeed been out of the water too long.

You Never Know With Kids……

I mentioned our granddaughter loves that we have a pool.  This year during the holidays was a repeat of last year in that the temperature was such she could be in the pool the first two days and then unfortunately not the last two. She still had some difficulty in grasping the concept and by next year she should be okay which will no doubt mean the weather will be perfect and not an issue. Anyway, you never really do know what kids are thinking and the automatic vacuum for the pool is a perfect example. It attaches to an outlet in the pool with a flexible hose and runs a repeated pattern along the bottom for however many hours we have it set for. It’s great with picking up most of the leaves and is about the size of a medium pizza. There is a rubber “skirt” around it that resembles a small stingray and we do indeed refer to it as “Ray”.

Our granddaughter, however, didn’t like it and when we were in the pool, I kept having to push it away to make her comfortable. She wasn’t reassured by me explaining how helpful Ray was. One of the mornings it was too cold to get in, I glanced out and saw that once again, a tiny frog had found refuge on top of the hose and I was able to get the net, scoop it out and place it well away from the water. Our daughter-in-law was out with us watching the process and explaining to our granddaughter what I was doing. That piece of information apparently did not soften her view of Ray.  It will be interesting to see how she feels about it next year.

The photo was when we had a big ugly frog one day, but we haven’t had those around for a while.

Big, ugly frog in the pool

Our Dependence on Repairs…..

In my former life of military logistics, with a concentration in maintenance (I’ll explain that in a post someday), I became keenly aware of the vulnerability of mechanical/electrical things. Matched to that was the variance in the ability of individuals trained to repair such items. Pretty well equal was the fact that impatience does not assist in the repair process. However, if the individual/individuals responsible for hiring/retaining repair individuals is not aware of shortcomings, that is something that can be rectified. That statement also comes with a caveat – there must be places that can adequately train individuals and one must also allow for experience as a factor. So, without getting into politics, which I do try to avoid in this blog, we really should do more in this country to recognize and promote repair trades at all levels. I’m not about to say a computer repair technician is exactly the same as a plumber, but when you have that toilet overflowing/stop working, it definitely affects your well-being.

Reliability of items is the other component and those who are old enough have seen the movement toward a “disposable” marketplace. That, too, is really another post and for the sake of this discussion, we’ll stick with the issue of training repair individuals rather than engineers, etc., that design and manufacture things. Anyone who has worked with students knows there are different ways of learning and there is a wonderful quotation from Albert Einstein about labeling genius. It goes something like, “…If you measure the intelligence of a fish by the way it climbs a tree, it will always be seen as stupid.” I don’t dispute the value of a college education, but in watching the absurd, quite frankly inexcusable escalation of college costs, the need for technical training in many areas for those who have the aptitude should get greater focus than it often does. There is a growing awareness in this country and if you have influence on young students in whatever capacity, do be attuned to the possibility that rather than a college path, technical training may be the right option, at least for that first career.

In closing, my posting has been delayed because we experienced network outages for almost six days. Is it a design issue, equipment, or maintenance? I don’t know. What I do know is we, like so many people today, greatly depend on network connectivity and are severely impacted when we don’t have it.

About That Age Thing……

My maternal grandmother was one of those women who never wanted to admit her age. I never quite understood it and I think it may be less of an issue these days, although I’m not certain of that. The group of women friends I have my standing Happy Hour and other events with in general don’t mind telling their age and most of us accept the process philosophically. I think it probably has to do with us have worked in interesting jobs, traveled a fair amount, and enjoyed our youth in the day. We also understand that the 20/30-somethings who see us no doubt can’t imagine they will be like that someday. I haven’t had a “traumatic” birthday yet, but I am sometimes a bit startled in thinking of being 64. I’m obviously close to another “big” number and who knows, the moment could hit when I say, “Goodness, I’m not ready for this.” I think the whole being active for much longer is part of why we don’t view aging in the same way. Granted, I walk and don’t jog any longer, but that has far more to do with the fact I never liked jogging and only did it as a requirement of my Army life. I swapped back to my preferred walking as soon as I was able to.

I’ve also never wanted to bother with coloring my hair and that hasn’t changed. I’m fine with whomever wishes to deal with it, but what a lot of effort it takes! I may have mentioned in a previous post all the women on my mother’s side of the family have fine, straight hair and we “gray” early. I had my first silver hairs around 20. In my case, they were/are silver as opposed to white. My mother, unfortunately, had clusters of white instead of evenly streaked, so her decision to color made a bit more sense. As for wrinkles, again, it just seems too much of a bother to have some multi-part daily regimen to deal with. On the other hand, I have always been careful about moisturizer, especially with 30ish SPF sunscreen living here in South Florida.

Fiction and Non-fiction…..

I’ve posted before about the differences in writing fiction and non-fiction and with my latest book, To Play on Grass Fields, I’ve had several questions since I have a note in the book about how it was inspired by my experiences in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy (1995).

The reason it took me 20 years to actually write this book is because 1) the main theme is very complex, 2) I wanted to be cautious of the technological, economic, and social elements I included and that required a lot of research, and 3) I wasn’t certain of what approach I wanted to take. Ironically, one of the original angles I wanted to use for the climax of the book I decided to change because I didn’t think it would be credible, and yet, something similar is currently occurring with the resistance in Iran. Setting that aside for the moment, some of the more brutal aspects depicted are sadly based on events that have taken place in other continents. Third-word countries, and especially those considered virtually hopeless for any chance of development, face a very different reality than do those of emerging nations. Have I personally experienced it? No. Have I worked with/known people who have traveled in some of those places? Yes. If you watch movies such as, “Hotel Rawanda” or “The Last King of Scotland”, they are based on true stories.

The lengthy discussion in the one chapter about transforming the military of the fictional Malathos is quite valid. This is one of the areas that was discussed by the Task Force in Haiti and is being implemented in a few (too few) countries to try to lessen the possibility of future change of government by coup.

I debated for quite some time about including the final segment “Excerpt of Lecture by Dr. Byrne”. There were, however, points I wanted to make I could not and keep the dialog/pace moving as I wished and that’s why I created the final segment as I did.