Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Working Stiffs!

Enjoy your holiday and we'll see you in January.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Boats

by Pat Gulley

The boats came on December 16, but my blog didn't get up. So I've rescheduled them for Christmas Eve so they will be viewable over the holidays. Happy Everything, Everyone.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Change of Heart

by Kristine Coblitz

I'm very excited to visit the Working Stiffs today!

Family and friends recently have been asking my thoughts on e-books. For a long time, I wasn’t sure how to answer the questions because I had sort of a love/hate relationship with the entire electronic book revolution. On one hand, I loved the portability of having all my books in one place, and I loved the idea of buying books from my bed in my pajamas in 60 seconds without having to wait 3-5 days for the UPS truck. On the other hand, however, I loved print books. Plus, a filled bookshelf makes great home décor, and like most avid readers, my books aren’t just books. They’re my collection of memories.

When the Kindle first hit the market a few years ago, my husband wanted to buy one for me for Christmas, and I politely declined the generous gift. I wasn’t ready to get my feet wet yet. Authors were being treated unfairly, and I simply couldn’t support a technology that gave hard-working writers a difficult time. Reading on a computer screen gave me headaches, and after working on a computer all day, the last thing I wanted was to read books on a lighted screen. So I bought more printed books and waited for the trend to go away.

Well, it didn’t exactly go away, did it?

Times have changed, and I’ve had a change of heart. I have not just one but two e-readers, and yes, I love them. I’ve spent more money on books since purchasing these devices, and I’m more willing to experiment with new writers and books that I normally wouldn’t have picked up when I was buying print books. Given the recent statistics about book buying habits, I’m not the only one.

While I still believe the traditional road is the best one, I’m happy that digital publishing offers authors more control and flexibility in managing their careers.

When people ask me if they should buy an e-reader, I don’t hesitate in telling them to take the plunge and buy one, because if someone is buying an e-reader, that means he or she wants to buy books. It means supporting authors. It means proving that reading is still fun and that the book industry is far from dead.

I’m delighted to see that e-readers are at the top of many Christmas lists this year, and it’s not just about the Xbox and iPod anymore. While I hope print books never go away, I’m going to embrace this new revolution because as long as people are reading, that means there will always be a demand for books, and that makes me very happy.

As a writer, I’m thankful to every person who will buy an e-reader this year. I’m thankful to every author who has the time and talent to give us the gift of a good story and entertaining escape—in whatever format that may be. But most of all, I’m thankful that people still want good stories and appreciate good, quality writing.

Happy Holidays to my fellow readers and writers! May the upcoming year be filled with good books, good friends, and lots of good writing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Cop's Twelve Days of Christmas

by Joyce

I wrote this little ditty back when I worked for a local police department. I thought it was about time I dug it up again.

A Cop's Twelve Days of Christmas (To be sung to the tune of you-know-what.)

On the first day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--two retail thefts, and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--three purse snatchings, two retail thefts, and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts, and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--six neighbor feuds, FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--seven car wrecks, six neighbor feuds, FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--eight verbal domestics, seven car wrecks, six neighbor feuds, FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--nine hookers working, eight verbal domestics, seven car wrecks, six neighbor feuds, FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--ten dealers dealing, nine hookers working, eight verbal domestics, seven car wrecks, six neighbor feuds, FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--eleven bar fights, ten dealers dealing, nine hookers working, eight verbal domestics, seven car wrecks, six neighbor feuds, FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, dispatch gave to me--twelve drunken elves, eleven bar fights, ten dealers dealing, nine hookers working, eight verbal domestics, seven car wrecks, six neighbor feuds, FIVE DUIs, four fighting kids, three purse snatchings, two retail thefts and a Peeping Tom in a pear tree.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let's Party!

I know of a lot of writers who talk about crawling into their caves to write. Oh, sure, they might have other names for it, but anyone who has been hit with a looming deadline has been there. We have to shut out all outside influences, say NO to family and friends, and retreat to our workplace of preference to FINISH THE DAMNED BOOK. Or article. Or short story. Whatever it is that’s due.

And that’s where I’ve been since…egads…JULY. Oh, I came up for air in August and September to catch up with everything I’d put off. But then I went under again in October and have been holed up quite a bit since then.

The reason being I have an agent awaiting my rewritten/revised manuscript. And I’ve sort of promised to get it to her in January.

January felt quite reasonable in November. Now? Heh. Not so much. But I’ll make it. I’m close. Real close.

However, being holed up in a cave isn’t so easy this time of year. When I mentioned on Facebook that I was spending the next several days writing, someone asked, “What about Christmas?”

Lucky for me, we’re not big holiday people. My decorations consist of a couple of wreaths on the doors. That’s it. And while I usually mail Christmas cards, don’t look for anything from me this year. Unless I can find some kind of Happy New Year cards. Does Hallmark do those? If they don’t, why not? They make belated birthday cards. Why not belated Christmas cards?

I have, at least, poked my head out of my hole for a few parties. Writers, I’ve noticed, throw the best parties. This is mainly because of: 1.) Books. 2.) Great food. And 3.) Wine

The first writers’ Christmas party of the year was the one held by our Sisters in Crime chapter and hosted by our secretary Lee Ann Dawson.

The second one was a Pennwriters party held at our Eat N Park Restaurant.

Okay, so it lacked the great food and the wine, but it did have our annual book swap-and-steal.

 Each person brings a wrapped book. When you open one, you have the choice to keep it or trade it for one that’s already been opened. In other words, you shouldn’t get too attached to what you get. Someone might steal it from you. Poor Doris Dumrauf. 

Some evil person (me) stole this book from her.

Note: most writers are nice and keep what they get, regardless. But I ask you, what fun is that?

The third party was another Pennwriters one, this one hosted by the lovely and talented Meredith Mileti

That's Meredith on the left.

GREAT food. And I supplied chocolate wine. We did a book swap-and-steal at this one, too. But I promised Doris I wouldn’t steal hers again.

Barb (on the left) reminded me that I’d stolen hers the last two years and threatened to cry if I repeated my dastardly habit. Apparently I’m getting a bad reputation. So I kept what I got.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Years, everyone! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Year of Writing

By K.M. Humphreys

                It’s been an amazing year writing wise.   Despite a rough year in all other aspects of my life, the writing has really taken off. 
                I attribute this to the encouragement of new friends in Pennwriters and Sisters In Crime.  There have been a lot of times this year when I couldn't get much done, but I always came back to writing and even if I didn't write much when I first came back to it, it was something. 
                I enjoy writing, even if there are times the last thing I want to think about are the characters of my stories.  I am often writing letters to clients for work.  It’s difficult to come home and think some more about a story. 
                Lately, my plan has been to use Sunday’s as my writing day.  I have football on in the background, husband is often out of the house, and the dog lays down on the couch in the next room.  It’s a quiet time that I can concentrate on making my stories come to life.  I do get writing done other nights during the week, but I’m not as focused. 
                The writing conference was also a big contributor to my writing success this year.  There were lots of great workshops and published authors who had great advice for those still struggling to get published.   I’m hoping to make the conference next year, although it might not be feasible financially.  
                Unfortunately, it’s not possible for me to write full time right now.  It would be wonderful.  Although, if it was a full time job, it would become more of a chore and something I have to do instead of something I want to do.
                I’m now looking forward to the New Year and another great year of writing.  Over the next few weeks I will be working on goals for the New Year with regards to my writing.  I have had such success this year without setting goals and I’m hopeful that if I set goals for next year I’ll be even more successful. 
                How have you been doing with your writing this past year?  What are your goals for the New Year?  Is there anybody hoping to send submissions out next year?
                Is there anybody like me who has several projects going at one time?  Is there one project that you are further along on than others that you hope will really take off next year? 
                What have your successes been this past year?  What do you plan to do next year to be more successful?  How do you plan to meet your goals?
                Hope everyone has a very enjoyable holiday season and happy writing!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Walk, Amble or Shuffle?

by C.L. Phillips

Over the weekend I attended a college graduation and watched hundreds of shiny bright faces as they walked across the stage and collected one of life's great achievements.  Except nobody walked.

Some ambled.  Others glided. One young man, wearing a fishing ensemble glued to his cap, bobbed across the stage, as if propelled by a mysterious current.

At StoryMasters in Houston, Chris Vogler, author of The Writer's Journey, told a story about his early days at Disney.  He mentioned one of the animators that worked with Walt Disney told him that they could not make a cartoon character walk.  As I watched each person collect their diploma, I realized the animator exposed one of those fundamental truths about man.

Man does not walk.  Nor does woman.

Whatever a person carries in their heart fuels their movement.  The heart, the face, and movement are intertwined.  Ever see a smiling face shuffle?  Or an angry face skip? 

When you put a song in your heart, a smile on your face, how do you move?
How do you move when your heart is filled with anger, your face clouded with rage?

What about those times when you are on auto-pilot, focused on the errand and chores you have to finish before Christmas?   Does your movement change if you start singing Jingle Bells?

It's official.  None of my characters will ever walk again.  Amble or shuffle, absolutely.

Happy Holidays!

Keep Writing.


Friday, December 16, 2011

A Done Deal

by Jenna Bennett

Doesn't look like anyone else is posting today, so I'll just share that I published the fifth and last - at least so far - Cutthroat Business mystery this week. A Done Deal is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, for any eReader you might have.

Here's the blurb:

Silver bells, silver bells...
It's Christmas time in Nashville, and all Savannah wants to unwrap on Christmas morning is Rafe. Unfortunately, things don't look so good. He's back in town, but not alone: on his arm is a stunning brunette, just the kind of woman Savannah always suspected was his type.

When Alexandra Puckett asks her help in figuring out a way to stop Maybelle Driscoll from marrying Alex's father Steven, Savannah jumps on the chance. It'll give her something to think about other than Rafe and the mysterious Carmen, and anyway, she doesn't like Maybelle much herself.

Between investigating Maybelle's past, helping her clients Aislynn and Kylie buy a house, and stalking Carmen and Rafe, she soon has her hands full. And that's before someone starts gunning for her. Suddenly it's not a question of unwrapping anything on Christmas morning anymore; it's a question of whether she'll even survive to see another Christmas.

And here's a taste of Chapter 1, a few pages in:

Todd looked coy.“What would you like Santa to bring you, Savannah?”

Rafe, I though, and immediately chastised myself. He was gone, he wasn’t coming back, he didn’t want me. I smiled. “Nothing. I have everything I need.”

“Diamonds?” Todd suggested.

“God, no.” That brought to mind engagement rings, and I couldn’t imagine anything worse than having to turn down another proposal in front of my entire family on Christmas Eve.

“A puppy?”

From his expression, it was almost as if he thought a puppy would make up for the baby I’d lost. My baby had been barely bigger than a blueberry when I miscarried, but after all the agonizing I’d done over whether or not to keep it, it had become very real to me. And as much as I like puppies, it wasn’t the same.

“I live in an apartment,”I said. “With a no-pets policy.”

“I guess a kitten is out of the question too, then.”

“You could get me a goldfish. I’m allowed to have those.”

Todd’s expression lightened. “Do you want a goldfish?”

“Not really,” I said apologetically. “I was joking. I don’t really need a Christmas present.”There was nothing anyone could give me that I wanted. Especially Todd.

I wondered if I ought to ask him what he wanted for Christmas, but I was afraid of what the answer would be. And I’d bought him a sweater in any case.

I speared a mushroom with my fork and lifted it to my mouth.

“Isn’t that Collier?” Todd said, looking over my shoulder.

For a second, my heart skipped a beat and I almost choked. Then I realized two things: 1) he’d probably only said it to get a reaction from me—Todd was suspicious of my feelings for Rafe long before there were any feelings to speak of—and 2) there was no way he could be right.

I swallowed the mushroom and made sure my voice was steady. “I doubt it. If he were back in town, I’m sure someone would have told me.”

And it probably wouldn’t have been Rafe himself. If he hadn’t stuck around when I lost the baby, and he didn’t get in touch after I was shot, he wouldn’t bother to call to tell me he was back in Nashville, either.

I had, however, become friendly with Tamara Grimaldi, homicide detective with the Nashville PD, and she knew Rafe too, and kept tabs on him through her contact in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. I trusted her to let me know if anything important happened. Like, if he died. Or if he’d been shot or hospitalized.

Or if he’d come back to Nashville.

Todd nodded, reassured by my lack of interest, and forked up another piece of veal.

I continued my internal monologue while I chased mushrooms around my plate. Even if Rafe was back in town and nobody had bothered to tell me, he wouldn’t be here at Fidelio’s. He despises the place. I’ve had dinner with him here twice, and both times he treated the fancy cuisine and snobbish waiters with irreverent amusement. He wouldn’t choose to come here unless it was with me. And since we were over and done, he had no business being here. It was probably just someone with a passing resemblance to Rafe. Todd was a little bit paranoid on the subject; he was probably just seeing things.

“Are you sure he’s not back in Nashville?”Todd said. “Because that really looks like him. Just the kind of woman I’d expect him to be with, too.”


I twisted on my chair. “Where? I really don’t think...”

And then my breath went when I saw that yes, it was indeed Rafael Collier on the other side of the restaurant, just sitting down at a romantic table for two. A table I had once shared with him, as it happened. Behind a pygmy date palm. And the woman he was with was exactly the kind of woman I would expect him to be with, too.

A woman very much not like me, I might add.

Like Rafe, she looked like she might be of mixed race. Long, dark hair fell straight like a waterfall down her back, and she had exotic almond-shaped eyes in a stunning face with flawless caramel skin and red lacquered lips. She was shorter than me, and even in four inch heels she barely came up to his shoulder. Granted, he’s tall—six three, give or take—but she was still on the petite side. And she was poured into a short, tight, Christmas-red dress that clung to every curve she had, and his hand was right there, on the exposed skin of her back. That, more than anything else, hurt. He was touching her. In a sort of intimate way. Skin to skin. The same way he’d touched me.

I own a red dress too. I’d bought it to coax a proposal from Todd, back when I thought being engaged to Todd would make me less likely to indulge in my feelings for Rafe. Instead, it had been Rafe who peeled it off me at the end of the night.

My dress isn’t as short or as tight—hers looked like lycra; mine’s satin—but it’s also backless, and I could remember disconcertingly well the feeling of his hands on my back, warm and hard and a little rough. I could remember what happened afterwards too, and the thought that they’d be leaving Fidelio’s and going home to make love in his bed—the bed where he’d made love to me—was enough to turn the Chicken Marsala to sawdust in my mouth.

# # #
Merry Christmas, all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Line Quiz

By Paula Matter

ETA: Time for some hints! In no particular order, here are the last names initials of the authors. All 10, even though Barb knew Alan Orloff's. Scroll down for the ANSWERS.
I have a file on my computer that (which?) contains sentences that pop into my head. Some of these are opening lines for stories I’m currently working on, others are for stories that have nothing more than the one line. Some of them have been sitting in that file for a very long time. Some of them aren’t opening lines, but I know they’ll fit somewhere in a story. Someday. Somewhere. Somehow.

I love coming up with opening lines. I love reading great opening lines. I love quizzes matching opening lines with their authors. I especially love creating quizzes where I know the answers.

Just for fun, can you match up the following ten opening lines with their author and title?

There are no prizes, so go ahead and Google your heart out.

1. I hate whiners.

2. You may remember me.

3. I was lying dead in the churchyard.

4. The first thing I noticed as I was sitting in a squad car was that police cruisers don’t have seatbelts in the back.

5. “I’m scared,” Ethan said.

6. I lurked in the wings watching the man kill.

7. Falling on my ass really hurts.

8. If my life were a book, I would have masking tape holding my hinges together.

9. “They’re all dead.”

10. Justifiable homicide might be hard to prove, but my had-it-up-to-here brain was giving it a hearty stamp of approval as a reasonable defense.

So, have at it! I’ll be back later today to provide the answers. Y’all are such a smart group, I have a strong hunch I won’t have to.

Did you have to Google for any/all of these lines? I'm thinking at least one will be known immediately by this group.

What are some of your favorite opening lines? How important are they to you as a reader? As a writer?

Hints:  Answers:

1. Lois Winston; Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun
2.Steve Hamilton; The Lock Artist
3. Alan Bradley; The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
4. Nancy Martin; Sticky Fingers
5. Linwood Barclay; Never Look Away
6. Alan Orloff; Killer Routine
7. Joelle Charbonneau; Skating Around the Law
8. Kate Carlisle; If Books Could Kill
9. Sheila Connolly; Red Delicious Death
10. Heather Webber; Deeply, Desperately

Does that help?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Facebook Etiquette?

by C.L. Phillips

Dear Friends,

I have descended into that special hell reserved for teenagers, college students and shameless self promoters.  Facebook.  That's right, I now have a Facebook fan page.

Twitter I pretend to understand.  With a 140 character limit, there's only so much trouble a person can get themselves into.  Unless you are Alec Baldwin.  I like twitter because it makes me funny.  As I shave letters and even words from my messages, they become sharper and more amusing that I can ever be in person.

But this Facebook thing?  No limits?  You gotta be kidding me.   What do you write about?  What is worthy of a status update?  I had to face the truth today.  Nothing I do is wall-worthy.  Even the snarky comments I self-sensor in my mind cannot pass my test.

I am powerless to understand this social media mega-tool.  So I ask you, my dear friends, just exactly what in the Sam-Hill-Do-You-Post-On-Your-Flipping-Wall?  How frequently?  Can anything fall into the Too Much Information category? 

Right now, I am teetering on updating my status every time I shove a piece of chocolate in my mouth.  But that seems like a cry for help.

Okay, Help. 

Your favorite facebook noobie.

p.s.  Will you friend or like my page?  Pretty please?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nutty as a Fruitcake

By Martha Reed

Everyone should have a holiday tradition that kicks off the spirit of the season. For some, it’s choosing a Christmas tree or hanging a balsam wreath on the door or stringing twinkling lights in the trees. Maybe it’s hearing that one favorite Christmas song that always stirs up a warm memory. For me, it’s fruitcake.

Johnny Carson used to joke that there really was only one fruitcake in the world and it got passed from family to family. I’ve earned my share of teasing over them. But there’s something about those little pieces of candied fruit that is just so stickily delicious that I will put up with all the guff my family can hand out (and that’s a lot of guff) to get my share.

I think this all started back when we were kids and Mom served us Boston brown bread in the can (remember that, anyone?) with cream cheese sandwiches for a treat. The next level was discovering the rich pecan version put out by the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana when I lived in Texas. That chock full of nuts version is pure heaven. This year, my sister brought me the Bloomingdales version and I have to tip my top hat; those New Yorkers know how to do it right, too.

To keep the spirit of the season light, I’m sharing this video of the Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Someone certainly got creative – check out the trebuchet. But my vote is for the guy with the motorcycle helmet who is trying to field the flying fruitcakes with a bucket!

Monday, December 12, 2011


   by Gina Sestak

Good morning, gentle readers.  The question for the day is this:  What time do you get up?

I'm in the habit of getting out of bed around 5:00 a.m.  but this morning was a little different.  I got up at 4:00 instead.

I know some people need a bomb going off to shake them out of sleep,

 but I usually wake up at 5:00 naturally.  There's an alarm clock back-up, just in case.

Back when most of us had farms, roosters filled the alarm clock slot,

but I'm a modern city dweller, so I make do with a cat.

And there's the rub.  The cat is usually pretty good about knowing when I want to get up.  She'll wander into the room a few minutes before the alarm is set to go off and make sure I'm awake.  But not today.  Today she woke me up at 4:00.  I got up and chased her out of the room, then tried to go back to sleep for an hour.  The cat came back at 4:20, more insistent than ever.  I got up and chased her downstairs.  By then, I figured that I might as well stay up, and so I put the coffee on and started trying to learn Hindi.  [Those of you who have been following my posts know that I do a Pimsleur Hindi lesson every morning.  It feeds my Bollywood addiction.]

BTW, while we're on the subject of sleep and bedrooms, here's a film clip.  This is a dream sequence - the dark-haired guy is suspicious of his wife's relationship with the singer in the white suit.  Enjoy.

But, back to this morning.  Lest you think it's cruel to chase the cat, there is one thing you ought to know:  she wants me to chase her.  Honest.  Kala's favorite thing is play and, when the available humans aren't in a playful mood, she will do whatever is necessary to make us chase her.  She wakes me up and bites my ankles or, if all else fails, meows loudly beside where her favorite toy (a "cat dancer") is kept until either I or Theresa give in and play with her.

Here's what a cat dancer looks like:

If you'd like to know how it works, click on this link.

OK.  Question.  If I got up so early, why am I posting late?  Because the internet is slow.  It's been telling me it couldn't find the server, which means I couldn't get to Working Stiffs or access free clip art to decorate this post.   I'm on-line now, though.

You're probably wondering why I get up at 5:00.   On the days I work I rarely have to be there before 8:30 and the Hindi lesson could be done anytime, so why get up so early?  Because early morning is my favorite writing time,  when the world is relatively quiet and my mind is not too cluttered yet.

So here are my questions for you.  What time do you get up?  When do you write?

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Gift of Time...and a Boxed Lunch

by Ramona DeFelice Long

Writers, imagine a wonderful place where artists get to mingle with peers and do nothing but creative work all day. 

Imagine a barn built in the 1930s and newly renovated to provide private studio space—for writers with a desk and an ergonomic chair; for musician/composers with pianos; for visual artists with creative materials and good lighting. 

Imagine a view of open fields and farmlands, gardens with sculptures and benches for contemplation, and hiking trails for walks.

Imagine a private room in a nearby residence hall with buffet meals prepared--and cleaned up--by staff people.

Imagine group dinners followed by evenings devoted to impromptu readings, musical performances, or chatting with your fellow residents.

Imagine no responsibilities or cares other than to write. No cooking. No cleaning. No chores. No errands.

Sounds like a fantasy, doesn’t it? It’s not. What I described above is the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, an international artist colony for writers, visual artists and composers set in foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

In February, I will be in residence at the VCCA, for two weeks. Fourteen days. A private room in the residence. A private studio in the barn. Evenings with peers. No interruptions. No duties. No meals to prepare.

I’ve been to various types of writing retreats in the past: weekends organized by my writers’ group in a B&B with antique shops nearby; a memorable group retreat with an intrepid bunch of mystery writers/flood survivors; a self-organized weekend with a writing friend at the beach. I spent a week at Rosemont College studying short story writing in a program sponsored by Philadelphia Stories. I was accepted into the Delaware Division of the Arts 2008 Biden Center Retreat, where a fiction group spent a weekend in  a renovated World War II barracks in Cape Henlopen, Delaware.

All of these were wonderful experiences that taught me much as a writer and allowed me to make many new writing friends. But none of these were devoted solely to private writing time.

I've daydreamed about going away to a colony, but who has two weeks to spare, just for writing? It seemed almost sinfully indulgent. Then I read a novel set in a colony, where the writer/narrator disappeared every day into her studio to work. So sacred was her creative time that, at noon each day, there was a knock on the door. When she opened it, a boxed lunch sat on the doorstep, delivered by someone she never saw or spoke to. For all she knew, it could have been delivered by elves.

The boxed lunch did it for me. I've spent years working at home, scrounging for sandwiches, wishing I could go out to lunch like other working people but knowing that would mean changing out of my yoga pants and putting on make-up. The idea of my creative time being so precious that meals were prepared by elves (okay, they're probably not elves, but it's my fantasy) made me get serious. 

Get thee to a colony! That was my theme for a year.

I began applying. The process involves work samples, references, project descriptions, even a letter of testimonial that said, basically, I can behave myself and respect other artists. I sent off the applications and did what writers are advised to do about submission: forget about them and get back to work writing something.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from VCCA announcing that I’d been awarded a residency. I was thrilled. I posted it on my Facebook page. I called my mom. I sent heartfelt thanks to the writing colleagues who’d provided my references. 

I imagined myself in my studio, concentrating on writing for long quiet days.The evenings discussing my progress with like-minded people.

It was the perfect dream. In a couple of months, it will come true.

Except for one thing. I looked online at testimonials from alums, and guess what? The VCCA doesn’t do box lunches. They put out a self-service spread for the artists.

Oh well. No fantasy is perfect.For two weeks in a private studio, with no responsibility other than to be creative, and evenings with potential new writing friends, I guess I can forgo the boxed lunch...and the elves.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas Shopping n'at

by Joyce

For some reason, I'm having a hard time getting motivated to get ready for Christmas. I ordered a few things online, but I've been putting off hitting the stores. For most of the past month I worked on a revision for my agent (I sent it to her on Friday) and this week I'm getting caught up on all the cleaning that I put off. I even washed down the kitchen walls and cabinets (I like to do that twice a year. Sick, I know).

But shopping? I just don't want to do it. You'd think with only three people to buy for I could finish it in one trip. Here's what will happen, though. I'll print my list, and head out. I'll hit Target, Kohl's, Sears, and if I'm really desperate--Walmart. I'll maybe get a few things, but decide I don't like the prices of most things, go home and hope they go on sale next week. Rinse, lather, repeat. Before I know it, it's a few days before Christmas, the damn things never go on sale and I have to buy them anyway.

I think I just came up with my own solution. Okay. Maybe I'll get the shopping done today. I'll report back later. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Okay, guys, I’m going to talk about hair styles today, so the gents reading this will likely want to leave now. But I hope you don’t. Because I intend to aim part of this post at the masculine gender.

First of all, I’m getting my hair cut today, which explains the topic. For the better part of a year, I’ve been trying to grow my hair out. My mom seems to think that any woman over the age of 35 or 40 should wear her hair short. And I did for a lot of years, simply because it was easier. The busier I became, the shorter my hair. Not that I’m not busy now, but I just wanted to break the mold, rebel against my mom (how often do I still get to do that???), and give long hair one last shot before I become a full fledged crone.

It’s still not “long.” I’d call it medium. And I’m not ready to surrender to the shears just yet. My big debate has been: bangs or no bangs.

Yeah, deep subject matter. Not.

My hair dresser has convinced me to let my bangs grow out. I’d worn bangs, whether my hair was long or short, since high school. The sight of my forehead in the mirror makes me cringe. But I’ve noticed that NO one wears bangs anymore. Everyone, it appears, is doing the same thing I am. Growing the suckers out and trying unsuccessfully to tuck them behind an ear, only to have them constantly falling in our eyes.

The only way I can see to write is to wear a headband.

The other night, I decided to put it to a vote here. I planned to post a photo of me with my currently exposed forehead and let the Working Stiffs readers share their opinions about whether or not I should keep this look or go back to hiding behind my bangs.

I set up my tripod, set my Nikon for the remote release, and shot over 60 pictures of myself in the hopes of finding ONE that my ego would allow me to share here.

Please note, there are no photos posted.

And this, my friends, pushed me over the edge. There will be no vote. By 3:30, I will once again have bangs.

I don’t know that they’ll help, but egads, those photos were hideous.

My husband (who hates to be written about) is having similar issues. (See, I promised something for the guys!) His issues aren’t with his forehead, however. His forehead has extended to the back of his head for more than a decade. There are no bangs in his future. However, he recently shaved his beard.

He and I have been together for over 30 years and this was the first time I’d seen his face. And I like it! He has dimples! Who knew???

Well, he says he knew. But I didn’t.

It took me some time to get used to seeing him bare-faced. He says he still isn’t used to it. But he only sees himself when he looks in the mirror. I see him all the time. It makes it easier for me to get used to it. He looks a lot younger. A LOT younger. Some folks are calling him “baby face.” Please. He doesn’t look THAT young.

Anyhow, he still isn’t convinced that he’s staying with the naked face thing.

I think it must be like me and my bangs-or-no-bangs decision. We both want to cover up part of our face.

He says about half the people who have seen him like the new look. The other half wants him to grow the beard back. I told him that their votes don’t count. Mine does. The only person’s vote that counts more than mine is his. When I told him this, he replied with a resounding “YES.”

Which means, if he decides to grow the beard back, I’m out of luck. Frankly, if he told me he liked me without bangs, I’d keep on wearing this stupid headband.

But he’s a wise husband who keeps his mouth shut about such decisions.

So tell me, does anyone else out there hide behind their hair? Literally or figuratively?  

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Holiday Specials

By K.M. Humphreys

                ‘Tis the season for holiday specials on tv.  I look forward to watching these specials every year.  Everything starts off with “It’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” for Halloween followed by Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving special.  The Christmas season is filled with shows like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Frosty Returns”, “Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  I loved watching these classics as I was growing up and I make my husband sit and watch them with me now if he doesn’t have homework to do. 
                As for the holiday movies, my favorite is “Miracle on 34th Street”.  I like both the original and the re-make that was done in the 1990’s. Other re-makes were done, but they weren’t as good.  “A Christmas Carol” is another great movie. Other movie classics are “White Christmas”,  “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story”.  I personally never understood the fascination with “A Christmas Story”, but the other movies are great movies.  I’m not so fond of some of the newer Christmas movies like “Elf” and “The Santa Clause”. 
                Obviously I’m a fan of the classic movies and shows for the holidays.  My husband feels the same way.  Although, I find some of the newer shows, like “Prep and Landing” are kind of cute.
                The Holiday Season allows us to enjoy these shows and movies, old and new, with friends and family  We enjoy the happy memories these shows bring to us year after year as we remember past holidays, good and bad.
                What are your favorite holiday shows and movies?  Why?

Write, Write, Write!

Monday, December 05, 2011

to : Me from: Me

by C.L. Phillips

We have this silly tradition in our home.  "To me from me" Christmas presents.  Takes the pressure out of trying to find that perfect gift for someone.  Just buy it yourself.  No questions asked.  No explanation required.  No gloating. We buy them the first week in December.  Don't ask why.  We don't tell.

This year my to me from me present is The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  What a great antidote to a crazy finish of Nanowrimo.  I'm loving the process of writing morning pages.  I'm lost in the nirvana of the first week, the excitement of a new journey. 

I know I'm not supposed to reread the morning pages, but I'm tempted.  Each day the words flow faster, as if they've been arranging themselves while I sleep, waiting for daylight.  While writing, I read the words slowly, etching them into my consciousness before they are lost.  I hope some of the images find their way into my fiction.

I'm not an introspective person.  My idea of therapy is watching Mrs. Doubtfire three times in a row.  Cures anything that ails a soul, I swear.  But this book, the Artist's Way gives me an opportunity to look at my writing in a new way.  It's giving me a jump start on my end of year planning.

So this post is a shameless, independent, uncompensated plug for The Artist's Way.  Whatever your way, your path, may you find it sprinkled with fairy dust and chocolate chip cookie crumbs, like my book.  May your December be filled with moments of ease, grace, fantastic parking karma at the mall, and give yourself a little to me from me present.  You deserve it.

So what's on your "to me from me" shopping list?

Keep writing!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Say it with music

by Jenna/Jennie

Every Christmas, I hear this song, and every time I hear it, I tear up all over again.

I don't want to start a religious discussion, since those are not allowed here on the Working Stiffs, but the lyrics are extremely powerful. I suppose if you're not a Christian, it's just another song, but for anyone who believes that Jesus was the son of God, and especially anyone who's ever given birth to a child and held that child and kissed it... the question of what Mary must have felt when holding her baby boy is irresistibly compelling.

Songwriting is a discipline I've never been able to master. I can write. Sometimes, my sentences even approach brilliance. Or maybe I won't go quite that far, but once in a while, I manage to string words together into something that makes me happy, maybe even a little delirious. Most of the time I just write plain sentences, though. They say what I want them to say, in the best way I can say it, and they're perfectly serviceable. But every so often, on a rare blue moon, the stars align and the words come together in a way that comes off the page.

That's how I feel about a really good songwriter. The words are perfect; the kind that give me chills when I hear them.

There are authors out there who can do the same thing, of course. A friend of mine is a great admirer of Tim Hallinan. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim at Bouchercon back in September, and can attest to the fact that he's a lovely, lovely man. He told me I don't have an accent, I have a "lyrical intonation." How can you not love that?

Anyway, my friend Beth says this about Tim's writing: "I know all those words. Why can't I put them together like that?"

That's kind of how I feel about songwriters. I know the words; why can't I put them together the same way? Why can't I write something that makes people cry? That makes them smile and laugh and feel?

So what about you? Do you like music? Or lyrics? Do you have a favorite song that brings you to tears? Or a favorite songwriter? Or for that matter a favorite author whose words make you weep with joy?

Have a Merry Christmas season, ya'll. Or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year.

Oh, and if you happen to be getting a Kindle or Nook for Christmas, allow me to steer you in the direction of the Book Lovers Buffet. Almost 100 authors, almost 200 books, all different genres, all just $.99 each. A Cutthroat Business is on the mystery page.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


By Paula Matter

ob·sessed, ob·sess·ing, ob·sess·es
To preoccupy the mind of excessively.
To have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic: "She's dead. And you're still obsessing" (Scott Turow).

Any guesses where I’m going by showing the definition and the photo? Any clue what they may have in common?

I have become obsessed with following the tragic case of Michelle Parker’s disappearance. Are you familiar with the situation? Two weeks today ago this 33 year-old mom of three disappeared. On that day, the People's Court episode in which she appreared with her ex-fiancé aired just hours before she was declared missing.

It’s been like watching a train wreck.

I can’t stop looking at the following Web sites:

I tell myself in the morning that I’ll just go check to see if there are recent developments, then hours (HOURS) later, I’m still poring over the sites.

I feel like an armchair detective, an amateur sleuth. (That was my way of bringing this post round to mysteries. Clever, huh?)

Are there any cases, criminal or otherwise, where you’ve become obsessed? Do you crane your neck as you drive by accident scenes? Any tips on what I can do to curb this current obsession of mine?

I know, I know. Disconnect from the Internet.