How It All Started…..

A discussion the other day brought back memories of what was in all probability one of those sequence of events that truly changed my life. Quite some time back, the state of Louisiana created the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. They had a couple of programs; one of which was a summer school in Quebec at the Centre Linquistique quite far north in Jonquiere. I had taken French my junior year of high school, but the price for the summer school was outside of our budget. My grandparents on my mother’s side had an arrangement about taking some of the grandchildren each summer on a special vacation. We were sort of grouped by ages and the same year this program was started was when my “group” would have gone with my grandparents, although I don’t recall now where it was supposed to be. Anyway, they gave me a choice of going with them or they would send me to the summer French program.

I will put this into perspective. I would be seventeen later that summer and while we had traveled some, certainly never to that distance, nor on an airplane. The program was set up for a month, I think, with classes every day, and trips around the area. The program culminated with trips to Montreal and Quebec City. Needless to say, this was an incredible adventure. The other thing to understand is Louisiana truly in divided culturally into North and South Louisiana. For those who like extra detail, Lecompte is the “dividing line”. North is predominantly Baptist followed by other Protestants with a smaller percent Catholic. It is piney woods and a fair number of hills, with relatively few bayous and swamps. South Louisiana is mostly Catholic and “Cajun”, less elevation, with far more bayous, swamps, etc. and what most people outside of Louisiana envision. The point here is the “preservation” of French had a stronger appeal in South Louisiana, so most of the students in that initial program were from the other parts of the state. I had quite an adjustment to make in the whole process.

In fact, it was attending that program that subsequently led to me going to France during my senior year of high school. I’ll explain that in my next post.

More on Characters….

I suppose each time I release a new book, I continue to have lingering thoughts about any new characters I created and it’s no different with Shades of Deception

I did break away from the “Shades” series to do other writing as I mentioned in the last post. Not that I wanted a break from Bev Henderson per se; it was merely because I became involved in a couple of unexpected projects. Anyway, this was one of those situations in which three different characters who were intended to be somewhat incidental “grew” in importance. In one case, the expansion of the role was a logical step to take based on Chapter One rather than introducing a new character in some later chapters.

The other two came about in an interesting way. When I was working through the proper procedures to follow when there is a fatality in diving (very low odds, but it does happen), one of the guys I was talking with asked a question about what character he was “enacting” for me. At the time, I told him he could be either the good guy or the jerk (using another term I won’t put into the blog). He opted for the good guy and that set me to thinking later about how I could modify the character to bring about a plot twist I hadn’t fully mapped out in the beginning. Since I chose to use the same method in Deception as I did in Shades of Truth of the reader knowing the killer early on, the intricacy had to come in how the truth was ultimately revealed. Changing the once “minor character” worked out quite well.

The final character “expansion” came about because I literally had a “gap” in tying up some loose ends and that’s related to an author’s choice of Point of View – POV. One of the early decisions an author has to make is what POV to use and I’m a bit old-fashioned in that way. I write mostly in third-person, although I actually enjoy first person more in some ways. (A subject for a future post.) In general, I tend to use “dual voice”  of the protagonist and an antagonist. That, however, doesn’t always sync well toward the end of the novel. I was running into that working through the final chapters for Deception and enhancing the one character’s role solved the problem.

A Range of Writing…..

Unfortunately my sister and brother-in-law had some flooding of their house in Houston last year and my nephew and his family had far worse. Happily, they’ve all recovered and as my sister and brother-in-law were re-shelving books, she logically keeps mine all together. Her husband apparently stopped and said something like, “I never realized she’s written so many.” Sis’s response was, “Yes, and in such a range.”

I’ve posted before about the difference in writing fiction and non-fiction and even within that, there’s a distinct difference in my fiction. (Okay, as I mentioned when I completed To Play on Grass Fields, that one is the exception to anything else I’ve written or am likely to write.) Anyway, I did not actually plan to do a series when I first wrote Shades of Murder. My original intent was to write different, stand-alone books. Entering more into the scuba community was what led me to make the decision to go with a series and when I created the character of Chris Green in Shades of Truth, I had not planned to spin a series off featuring her. I didn’t develop that concept until several months later and did set up Shades of Gold to account for the next step.

As I have also discussed in previous posts, the Small Town quilting series came about because I had wanted to write in the “cozy” sub-genre of fiction and until then, hadn’t come across a suitable theme – one of the basics in cozies. Notwithstanding the joy I derive from all of those novels, Irises to Ashes, is still in some ways my favorite and is a “stand-alone”. There are definitely a few autobiographical elements, but the story itself was fiction.

On the non-fiction side, those have been a combination of topics I was either simply interested in or felt my own experiences could possibly be of use to other people. The co-authoring situations fall into a slightly different category and I have no desire to ghost-write. I’m not saying “never” on that, but it would have to be a very compelling reason.


The Down Side of Pets…..

I am currently faced with a situation I am somewhat troubled about since it conflicts with something I believe in.Plenty of studies have shown the value of a pet for older individuals, especially if the individual lives alone. At the moment, however, I am into either month four or five of going almost every day to a neighbor’s house to care for her two cats. I mentioned in a previous post the tragic loss of our neighbor even though we all thought she was improving. We knew she would not be able to continue to live alone and she was working through her options. Fortunately, she had the resources to have genuine options. I also know how much her cats meant to her and took on that task as my support to her condition. What I didn’t plan on was there not being a provision for them. Again, her passing was unexpected and so no one had thought to craft those options. The cats are well-cared for and well-behaved, but they are long hair and while they could be separated, the desire is to place them both together.

In the course of discussion, another neighbor who was widowed not quite two years ago commented he did have a new home arranged for his two if anything unexpected happened. (The age of the cats are such that it probably won’t be an issue, but one never knows.)

Since I do believe in the value of pets for older people, I suppose what I really mean is that a follow-on home for the pet/pets is yet another thing that needs to be taken into consideration along with all the other decisions to take when it comes to realistically planning for that “Room at the End”.


Of A Certain Age….

Serious musings ahead. There was a short-lived TV series, “Men of A Certain Age”, that I intended to catch because of the great cast, but for whatever reason, I never got around to it. Last week and this, I have run headlong into events that do belong to “people of a certain age”.

One my aunts passed away last week and even though she was only 80 (which no longer seems very old), she had a stroke several months ago and her recovery was not progressing as well as had been hoped. Then she had a turn for the worse which caused them to enter her into hospice. She is at peace now and was surrounded by family in the last days.

A friend has been admitted into the hospital with what is thankfully not the heart attack as first thought, but diagnosis is pending as numerous tests are being run. Another friend is starting to recover from a fall that fortunately resulted in a sprain rather than a break. That, nonetheless has meant days of being confined at home. On the other hand, the World Cup is providing a distraction. Yet another friend very nearly died in an accident while on an motorized vehicle. The prognosis is quite good, but it will take time, effort, and coping with a lot of pain during the process. Now, in all fairness, motorized vehicle accidents occur to people of all ages – how well one can heal does tend to be slower as we get older.

In a couple of cases, not having family nearby means the network of friends becomes quite important. None of us like to think of becoming temporarily disabled, yet as we age, the probability does increase. Having a plan of who one can turn to in a variety of situations is worth giving some thought to.


Sort of Reverse Tourist Season….

When people visit South Florida for the first time in the winter to escape snow and ice, it really is a wonderful change to see palm trees, profusion of exotic blossoms, and so forth. That is also our “dry season” although we can get torrential downpours that usually dissipate quickly. It is therefore understandable if one has not experienced South Florida in the summer, the fact is it may well be 83 degrees at 6:00 a.m. and will get hotter along with high humidity. This tends to come as an unpleasant surprise. Combine that with it being the “rainy season” – which generally means one or more thunderstorms or “scattered showers” per day that once again, don’t necessarily last long, but do leave everything wet. Plus, those wintry climates that have beautiful summers draw visitors to their attractions.

So, for a number of outdoor tourist-dependent businesses, they have to “manage” the months of June-August just as our northern friends have their tourist slumps in winter months. On the other hand, it is the best time for diving around Key Largo and thus, Hubby and all the dive shops are often scrambling to meet the demand. It’s not unusual for the instructors and dive masters to work 8 or more days in a row with no break. This is also why the dive shops try to line up new hires in mid-to-late spring since you want someone to be familiar with your operation before the heavy season starts. This though doesn’t offset the drop in tourism for hotels and restaurants, but it does mean you probably won’t have to wait for tables and the room rates will be a little better.

Places like Disney, Universal, etc., don’t see a big drop because so many families are still tied to summer vacation time. They simply deal with the heat in the best way possible and yes, the amazing water parks do a booming business. That also results in the mid-Sept to mid-Oct “tourist surge” specifically from people who hold off to avoid the summer family throngs. In a state where tourism is a major economic pillar, you learn all sorts of interesting tidbits.

Science and Whimsy…

Okay, I have a great deal of respect for actual science and nothing short of contempt for “junk science”, but that is not the point of the post. We watch a lot of the “Deep Space Secrets” and “How the Universe Works” on cable because my husband has always had a fascination with space and had I been better at math and science, I might have veered toward astronomy although maybe more to engineering. Anyway, notwithstanding my respect, there are moments when I do approach science with a sense of whimsy. There have been a number of episodes about probes and looks at Pluto and what fascinating things they are discovering. Oh yeah? Well you guys were the same ones who “demoted ” Pluto from being a planet and now you want to be all amazed by it. I mean, is that fair? Besides, some of us didn’t care about your pronouncement. I grew up with Pluto as a planet and by golly, I’m not going to let some revised measurement change that.

There was a cute movie several years ago, “The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain”, with a similar theme. There was a small village in Wales quite proud of their mountain. I don’t recall exactly why, but an English cartographer came to the village for some reason and patiently explained it wasn’t really a mountain because it was a certain number of feet too short. After quite a bit of back and forth and naturally the potential for romance and a collection of quirky characters, the village came up with the plan to move enough earth to achieve the required extra footage. The ensuing activities and ending were as delightful as predictable.

So, the universe will not come to harm if I choose to continue to refer to Pluto as a planet and since I’m not a scientist, I can’t even have my credentials threatened. And for the record, I’m okay with still wanting Nessie to be real.

Good To Get Underwater…..

Atlantic Spadefish on the Key Largo Reefs

In my on-going desire to go diving once a month, I have managed to hit June. I got all the critical emails sent prior to 6:00 a.m. the other day and went out for what was a nice day with a good group of people. Hubby was finishing up three brand new divers and the other people on the boat were pleasant to talk to. The water temperature is great now through late September and maybe later, it was pretty flat, very little current and visibility was around 60 feet; maybe a little more.

Although we didn’t see anything “spectacular”, the sites we went to had plenty of marine life and several of my regular favorites. Hubby did find a large green moray eel and a cute little lemon ray. We started seeing Atlantic Spadefish a few years ago and they have been added to my list. I haven’t talked with the fish experts to know why they’ve become more common here. There were a lot of big snappers of various types and again, once they get beyond yellowtail, I tend to mix them up. I can’t recall which ones are mangrove versus lane, etc. There were also some nice size groupers even though the juvenile Goliath was not in the area he’s been hanging around in. We hope he hasn’t gone off to a new place because he really is impressive to see.

The only drawback to the day was not being able to stay around for a leisurely dock-side lunch, but it just wasn’t doable with our schedules. Maybe next time and I will keep my fingers crossed for a dive day in July.

Another Memory Popping Up…..

Anyone looking at my overweight self would understandably be at least a bit surprised at the idea of me having done a half-marathon once upon a time. While I do have a regular work-out routine – just not hard enough to offset my  calorie intake – I have not in fact jogged hardly a single step since that half-marathon. The relationship was this.

Running is a requirement in the Army and the simple fact is, I’m not built well for running, even in my slimmer days. I have always been “curvy” and with being just under five feet tall, my short legs mean I have to take one-and-a-half steps to what a normal person does when running. Like many military members, I developed knee issues which of course one just deals with. Fortunately I wasn’t prone to shin splits, but I did also develop heel spurs which eventually cleared up. Anyway, as I was approaching retirement, one of my intentions was to swap from running to walking or other forms of exercise. However, I had somehow allowed myself to be talked into participating in the annual Kole-Kole Pass half-marathon. For those who remember WW II history, as the bombing attack at Pearl Harbor was underway, so was an attack on aircraft on the other parts of the island. Kole-Kole Pass is part of Schofield Barracks and the Japanese planes came through there. So, not only is it the 13 miles of a half-marathon, it is up and down the mountain. I was quite clear to the group that lured me into this – including my husband – I would jog, but walk up the mountain and they were going to have to hang around the finish line until I managed to make my way. As often is the case, there were festivities at the finish line and my companions said, “No problem.”

At least it was a beautiful day as we set off and I was very quickly passed by lots of people. I admit I wasn’t the last person to cross the line and sure enough, my little group was waving and cheering me on when I did finally arrive. The true muscle aches didn’t fully set in until the next day and I hobbled around for another few days.It was quite the experience and I admire anyone who chooses to do the long races.

Lost A Couple of Days…..

It’s been another of those weeks where my time at the computer was “parsed” between being at meetings/events and handling other obligations.

We did spend Sunday though at the annual Rum Renaissance Festival put on by the Burrs, who moved the festival this year up to Fort Lauderdale to the Broward Convention Center. It’s a nice location being only a couple of miles from the airport and having three hotels within a 10-minute walk. The Hilton is at the marina which gives an extra treat if you enjoy seeing boats coming and going.

Since it was the first year in the new location, there will no doubt be some changes based on experience and feedback. There are only one or two suggestions we will make. Anyway, the festival had 70 vendors, some interesting seminars, music to relax to, and plenty of fun people to talk to. Hubby is more the run drinker than I am, but the way we actually became involved is because when I spun the character of Chris Green off to create the series featuring her – Deadly Doubloons, False Front, and Georgina’s Grief – I decided to make her a lover of sipping rums. In searching around to include different rums in the stories, I found and didn’t realize at the time a friendship would develop from that initial inquiry. It can indeed be a small world.