Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Need an excuse? I'm your gal!

Rationalizing has always come fairly easily to me. If things go wrong in my world, I can usually come up with twisted enough logic to make it all okay in my head. Some may call this a coping mechanism. I call it...oh, hell. I call it a coping mechanism, too. Whatever floats your boat, right?

I even kid with my friends about my imaginary online site, "Rationalizations-R-Us." They know they can come to me for help when they need to justify some behavior they may be feeling a teensy bit guilty about.

For instance:

Feeling lazy? Falling behind with your word count goals, but would really rather watch TV?

Here's a freebie for you: You're not being lazy. You're "recharging your creative batteries." If you don't watch TV right now, your writing will deteriorate to sub-cretinous levels. Seriously, you MUST watch [fill in your favorite show] if you ever hope to finish that draft.


Want apple pie a la mode for breakfast instead of that healthy wholegrain cereal? Well, apple pie supplies not only a serving of fruit--which everyone knows is essential to nutrition--but ice cream is rich in calcium! It's so good for you, in fact, you should probably have two pieces.

You get the idea.

Anyway, since I've kidded about Rationalizations-R-Us for so long, I thought I'd open it up for requests. So, what are you currently trying to justify? Tell me in the comments, and I'll get back to you with a personalized rationalization. Big or little, makes no difference to me.

(But no murder, please. That one you'll have to justify on your own!)

Disclaimer: Employ rationalizations at your own risk. No warranties, expressed or implied.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Virtual Ecdysiast, or Fanning the Reader's Interest

I just had a huge breakthrough in the shower!

(Does that sound kind of dirty, or is that just me?)

Anyway, what I had was a major plot breakthrough for my current WIP. I know whodunnit! Hooray!

At first I didn't see how this character could possibly have "dunnit," since they (the gender-neutral "they," not the plural "they") are already, you know, dead. (That can sometimes be an impediment to "doing it.")

BUT, it turns out they (gender, not plural) were only mostly dead, to borrow (=shamelessly steal) a phrase from The Princess Bride. Or, if you're a Monty Python fan, perhaps they're pining for the fjords.

Once I figured that out, several large pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Whew! I can almost see how the whole picture will look once I'm done. Though plenty of details are admittedly still fuzzy. Which is good. Really. Because if it were all clear at this point, I'd get bored with it and want to move on to solving the next mystery.

It's kinda like watching a stripper. Way more interesting as long as something remains covered up. Looking at complete nakedness, all laid out there, is just too clinical. Ho-hum.

Side note: I'm *cough* using my imagination with this analogy. Couldn't tell you *cough, cough* from first-hand experience, never having actually seen a stripper. (What's that you say? My nose? No, of course it's not growing. That's, um, just a trick of the light.)

To carry this TOTALLY VICARIOUS analogy further, if me watching the story unfold in my mind is like watching a stripper, then I suppose me revealing the story to the reader is like being the stripper.

Or, if you prefer a more professional term, the ecdysiast. Personally, I kinda like that. I'm thinking about having business cards made up:

Linda G., Virtual Ecdysiast

But back to the point. When you're writing a story, especially a mystery, you have to be careful not to reveal too much too soon. You have to show enough "skin" to keep your audience riveted, but not so much that they have their mental itches scratched before you want them too. We can't have them rolling over and lighting a cigarette before they reach chapter three, can we?

The trick is to always (until the end) cover something up as you reveal something else. Sally Rand, fan dancer, was an expert at this:

Like Sally, you have to give your audience something, a flash here and there, just to keep them hooked. But you also have to maintain the overall mystery until the end. Keep 'em guessing, or you lose 'em. You have to promise there'll be a payoff--tease them with it as mercilessly as you like--but make them wait for it.

And then you better follow through. Or else your reader might just throw your book against the wall.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quantum weirdness and basket-weaving...

It seems my humble little corner of reality has won an award:

Thank you, Karla Nellenbach, for including me on the list of blogs you enjoy reading! Calling me "the funniest" and "the snarkiest" proves you get what I'm all about, and you are welcome to visit my reality any time you like. :)

As a recipient of this award, I am supposed share seven things about myself.

*tries to think of seven things I haven't already shared*



Well, here goes...

1. I am fascinated by quantum physics. Not that I understand it, mind you. But I find the weird-ass concepts really compelling to read about, and I have this fantasy that when I die I'll suddenly understand everything I've ever been curious about. (Like: what's up with marsupials? And why aren't Pandas marsupials, anyway? If anyone could benefit from some quality pouch-time, it's a naked little panda cub.) My idea of heaven: knowing ALL the answers.

2. When doing research for one of my books, I found out I'm a pretty good shot. My first time on the range with a .38 revolver I hit the silhouette's heart dead center. One-handed. And then I nailed the head. The little head, if you get my drift. (That one made TG wince.) I wanted to hang the target on our front door, but TG thought that might make the neighbors nervous.

3. When push comes to shove, I am good with a sewing machine. I've produced a hundred yards of china silk drapes for the theater in one afternoon. Also, back in leaner years, when we couldn't afford a new sofa, I made a slipcover for the one we had. The cheapest sturdy-enough fabric available was a semi-cute, quilty-looking...oh, hell. It was plaid. A complex plaid that had to be matched six ways from Sunday. Which I did. While entertaining our two-year-old. I never, ever want to do this again.

4. I once took a basket weaving class to save my sanity, when my DD was a toddler & I had to do something--anything--to get out of the house for a few hours. (Come to think of it, this was shortly after the slipcover.) Here are the remnants of my time with my fellow sanity-seeking moms (not bad, especially when you consider how much wine we consumed while weaving):

5. I have extremely fast reflexes, which is good because I have extremely poor night vision. On our first cross-country trip together, TG woke to find me heading toward the guardrail. (What? It looked like the exit ramp to me.) Coincidentally, TG has never let me drive at night on a long trip since then.

6. Some kinds of hot peppers make me choke. As in, almost die. I've told TG if I ever start to lose it mentally when I get old, just to feed me a jalapeno and say adios. (Unless I look like I've gone to a "happy place" in my head. Then he can leave me alone and just deal with it.)

7. After the basket-weaving class ended, I kept myself occupied with counted cross-stitch for a while:

If you can't make out the words, it says: "Of all the things I've lost I miss my mind the most." I had a young child and I was pregnant when I made this. It seemed fitting at the time.

I've since figured out that writing suits me a lot better than basket weaving or cross-stitch. I still read about quantum weirdness in my spare time, though. Someday I'm gonna figure that shit out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

To sleep, perchance to zzzzz....

Know what the best tool in my Writer's Toolbox is?


I admit it. I LOVE to sleep.

I love that drowsy little moment when you're just on the brink...and then when you tumble over it into temporary oblivion.

I love the long stillness, the quieting of reality.

I love coming out of it s-l-o-w-l-y, stretching and yawning in my bed until my brain is ready to re-enter the world.

And the dreams! Boy howdy, I do love those dreams. And not only the *nudge-nudge, wink-wink* special ones. I love all kinds. They're just so gosh darned entertaining. My subconscious is a helluva (warped) storyteller. (Don't pretend you're surprised.)

But the real reason I love sleep is that I can't function without it. Seriously, when I don't get enough, I am Zombie-Linda. Foot-draggin', mouth-hangin'-open, blank-behind-the-eyes Linda.

Trust me, it ain't pretty.

A good eight hours is ideal. I can face anything after eight blissful hours in the recharge zone. Petty annoyances of the daily grind variety? Eh. They roll right off. Unexpected calamities? Handled with aplomb. Out and out emergencies? I'm your level-headed gal.

But deprive me of time spent with the other god in my life--Hypnos, the Greek God of Sleep--and I get downright dysfunctional. Not to mention testy.

[Oh, and not to worry--TG is totally cool about the time I spend with Hypnos. In fact, whenever possible, we make it a threesome. ;) ]

The worst thing about not getting enough sleep (for me) is that I can't think straight. My mind slows to the point where I swear it's moving backwards. For a writer, this is Not Cool. My books are supposed to be fast-paced. Funny. Full of wit. Without sleep, the wit won't come. I am full of The Dumb.

Some of my writer buddies can hold down a day job, spend quality time with their families, and still manage to steal enough time to finish whole novels. They credit coffee and/or diet cola. This totally baffles me. Does caffeine really glue their synapses together that well? Because I've tried, and all it does is make me wired and dumb.

The ones I really envy (to the point where my complexion turns a sickly shade of pale green) are those who blithely say, "Sleep? Why, four or five hours a night is more than enough for me."

Aargh. I don't give a flying fig if you have more money than I do. If your house is bigger, if your children are smarter. I couldn't care less if you're younger, prettier, and more athletic than I am.

But don't you dare show up looking well-rested after staying up all night being productive. Or I may have to hurt you.

Now, pardon me while I take a nap. I'm sure TG won't mind if I sneak in a quickie with Hypnos. I'll make it up to him later, when I'm well-rested enough to think of more exciting things to do in bed than sleep. ;)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cougars and Ketchup

It's the theater god's birthday.

Or, as I like to call it, Ketchup Day. Because today is the day TG catches up with me, age-wise.

Yes, I am *gasp* older than my husband. By a good four months. (Does this make me as a cougar? I like to think so. Sounds sexy, yes?)

Every year, TG complains about getting a year older. And I always hit him. Because if he thinks he's getting old, what does that make me? Huh? And, buster, I am not getting old. I am getting...

(Drum roll, please.)

More Qualified for Life!

Especially my life as a writer. I'm not saying you can't write characters older than you are, and write them darned well, but there's something about living the years first that really helps you to feel them in your bones. (And not just the achy way, like before a thunderstorm. Though it is kind of cool to be able to predict the weather now.)

I suppose you could go as far as to say I'm not aging so much as researching. ;)

Now, you may be thinking, what in the heck is she doing futzing around on her blog when she should be celebrating with TG? Well, I'll tell you. It's because TG is where he's spent every one of his birthdays for the last twenty or so years: at the theater. This is why he's such a good theater god--he works at it.

Tonight is opening night for the first opera of the summer season, and he is Needed, with a capital N. But that's okay--we celebrated some yesterday, and will celebrate more tomorrow. He will be adequately partied and caked.

Best of all, the rest of the partying and the caking will take place at his parents' house, and my mother-in-law makes the world's best hot milk cake with caramel icing, TG's favorite. There will also be hot milk cake with chocolate fudge icing, for TG's sister, whose birthday was a few days ago, and who is a co-celebrant. We have a large extended family in the area, and double up on birthdays a lot.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to the guy who rocks my little world. I love you, honey! :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Leave it to Bieber, or How I Lost My Twidentity

A horrible thing happened yesterday. I found out there is another Linda Grimes on Twitter.

Wait. It gets worse.

THAT Linda Grimes is apparently a...

*lowers voice to an appalled whisper*

... Justin Bieber fan.

(You'll notice the announcement at the top of the Wiki page that it's protected from editing due to vandalism? I had nothing to do with that. I *cough* swear.)

Not that there's anything wrong with being a Justin Bieber fan. If you happen to be a ten-year-old girl. Which I haven't been in, oh, say, the last gazillion years. Judging by his picture, he's cute as a button. No way his hair does that forward-swept thing naturally, but hey, I'm not one to judge.

(Okay, that's a lie. I am one to judge. But only when I'm sitting on the Couch of Judgment. Which, coincidentally, I am doing right now, so I have special dispensation to get as snarky about the Bieber as I want.)

Can this kid even sing? I admit I don't know. I've never heard him try. If he can, I suspect his voice is a little high-pitched for my taste. How old is he, anyway? What's going to happen when he hits puberty and his voice changes? Or (horrors!) he gets his first pimple? Will his legions of adoring fans still love him then? Is there any substance under that superabundance of cute-itude?

[Aside to any rabid Bieber fans reading this: honestly, the kid is adorable. I totally understand your dedication to him. Please don't vandalize my blog.]

So, when I found out yesterday about The Imposter, the Fake Linda Grimes, the Pretender to my sacred name, I was understandably upset. A little part of me was no longer me. It was like the Twitter version of identity theft.

Yes, my twidentity had been violated. It was tweft, pure and simple.

The sad thing is, there is nothing I can do about it. The other Linda Grimes has every right to tweet under what I presume is also her name. I can (pretend to) be big about it. I'm (kinda-sorta) an adult. These things happen. That's life. C'est la vie. I roll with the punches. I'm resilient.

I wanna cry.

Anybody got a good idea for a pen name?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Great Whip 'n Chill Debacle

I've blogged before about my very slightly competitive nature. As long as I've gone that far, I may as well reveal another character flaw--um, I mean charming personality quirk.

I can, at times, become a tad...retaliatory.

Okay, maybe more than a tad. If you mess with me or mine, you best be prepared to be messed with right back. And, most likely, worse.

(Honest to goodness people. I really am NICE. It's just that when I turn the other cheek, it tends to morph into the windup for a roundhouse punch to the side of the head. I blame it on instinct.)

Maybe it has something to do with being raised with brothers. Brothers tend to promote a survival-of-the-fittest atmosphere, especially the ones who are close to you in age and a bit competitive themselves.

As was my middle brother, two years my senior. Let's call him...Dicky. Not because it's his name, but because it will really annoy him if he ever reads this. (Apologies to any real Dickys out there. But, honestly? You might want to reconsider what you answer to.)

Once upon a time, when I was in the fifth* grade, the parents made an ill-thought-out decision to leave me and my middle bro at home without a babysitter while they shared an evening of adult conversation with friends. (My oldest brother, who was usually in charge in these situations, had an astronomy club meeting, or some such. Baby bro was left with someone the 'rents actually trusted.)

In honor of the parent-less stretch ahead of me, I decided to make dessert for myself. (This was before I was aware kitchens and I do not have an amiable relationship.) Heavily influenced by a TV commercial, I opted to make Whip 'n Chill, and to top it off with whipped cream. I got out the mixer, painstakingly followed all the directions, and layered it into parfait glasses.

Just like on TV.

I even put a strawberry on top. And since there was some Whip 'n Chill left in the bowl, I selflessly prepared a second parfait for Dicky. Sure, his glass wasn't quite as full as mine, nor was his strawberry as large, but hey, them's the breaks. I figured since I did all the work, I deserved the bigger dessert. It was only fair.


Dicky, of course, begged to differ. He was the big brother and had a bigger appetite, so he thought he should have the bigger portion.

"No way, buster," I said (sweetly). "You get the little one, take it or leave it."

"Fine," he snarled. "I didn't want the big one anyway." And then he pushed my strawberry all the way down to the bottom of my parfait glass.

I know! He ruined the whole aesthetic!

So I took the strawberry off his and fed it to the dog.

Whereupon he scooped a fingerful of whipped cream off mine and dabbed it onto my nose.

After which I, full of righteous fury, grabbed a handful of his imitation chocolate mousse-like dessert, and aimed for his face. Only by then he'd taken off running. I gave chase. Not easy, when you consider I was dragging a lead-heavy walking cast, but I managed a direct hit right between his shoulder blades.

He made it back to the fridge, snatched my parfait, and came after me, loaded for bear. From there on it was all out Whip -n Chill war. Before we were done, we were both laughing like idiots and covered head to foot with brown and white goo.

And, um, so were the walls. And the kitchen appliances. And the floor.

It hit us at the same time: we were in so much trouble!

Struck with a new-found sense of teamwork, we stopped fighting and started cleaning. Went through two rolls of paper towels and bottle of Windex, and did what we thought was a pretty thorough job.

Dicky jumped in the shower with our clothes, and washed them with shampoo. (The washer was full of a load Mom had started before she left, and we knew she'd be highly suspicious if it wasn't there when she got back, we not being the sort to pitch in with the laundry if not specifically nagged about it.) I had to make do with washing myself at the sink, since a shower, for me, was a big production, what with the cast and all. We hung out in our robes while our clothes dried, cleaning up stray spatters while we got our stories straight.

Mom and Dad never suspected what really happened. When Mom found flecks of dried Whip 'n Chill on the toaster (oops, missed a spot), Dicky helpfully volunteered that I wasn't very good with the blender and had probably made a mess while making dessert. I shot him a dirty look, but couldn't very well argue.

What I could, and did, do was make him dessert again a few days later. Chocolate pudding. Laced with Ex-Lax**.

*I know it was the fifth grade, because I had a cast on my foot, which I had broken playing a combination of two-square and dodgeball with my friend across the street. There *cough* may have been a touch of competitiveness going on.

** A chocolate-flavored laxative. It blends very nicely with brownies, too. Don't ask me how I know this.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Some people have Personal Assistants; I have a towel.

When I am in the throes (I just love that word; don't you? it's so...passionate *sighs*) of writing, I can be a titch absent-minded. Somewhat forgetful. Less than fully attentive to my surroundings.

Oh, all right. When grappling with a sticky plot point, I'd forget to brush my own teeth if TG didn't wrinkle his nose when he came in for a kiss.

Having come to accept this as yet another of my, um, charming quirks, I've developed a coping mechanism: a towel.

(Hey, it was good enough for Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide books.)

My towel is a handy-dandy kitchen towel, always within easy reach. While I'm not sure it would do much good on a trip around the galaxy, it does serve nicely as a memory aid, much like a string around the finger.

(Which, frankly, I never understood. How does one tie a string around one's own finger? Seems unnecessarily difficult.)

Anyway, here's how it works: whenever I know I'll need to remember something, I simply place the towel in the appropriate place to joggle my memory. Since it disturbs my innate sense of order to see towels off their designated rack (yes, I am selectively anal-retentive), seeing one lying around where it shouldn't be will grab my attention, thus bringing to the fore whatever it is I need to remember. Brilliant, huh?

For instance, putting the towel on the door to the basement thusly....

... reminds me to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, the W/D being in the basement. No more mildewed clothing for me!

When I see it on the fridge, I know instantly to get the white wine out of the freezer (there because I earlier forgot to chill it) before the bottle becomes one huge wine-sicle. (Though grape is a lovely flavor for frozen treats.)

Draped over my handbag, it reminds me not to leave the house without retrieving my recharged cell phone from the kitchen counter.

When it dangles from the chandelier in the dining room, it's a gentle admonition to dust the light fixture before the in-laws come over for dinner, so I won't be embarrassed (again) by cobwebs exposed in candlelight.

The all-purpose stair placement means simply, don't effing forget (again!) whatever it was you intended to take up with you the last time you went upstairs.

On the door out to the garage: Stop! Go to the fridge and get the side dish you promised to bring to dinner at your friends' place.

Oh, one of my favorites: open a bottle and let it breathe before the guests get here.

My "personal assistant" even doubles as a secretary, leaving me a textile memo to remind me I better get a blog post written before I start that game of Free Cell.

And, finally, a grooming aid: this color won't go with what you're wearing later--repaint!

How about y'all? How do you keep your scattered thoughts corralled enough to function when your mind is occupied elsewhere?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Passion and Potato Chips

It seems it's Embarrassing Moment Day in the blogosphere. Topics have ranged from hurking in underwear to unintentionally sucking down ink, with pit stops for flipping out hats and slurping up frog guts.

How can I top any of that?

Well, I can't. Not really. Though there was this one time I found excruciatingly embarrassing, so I guess I can share that.

Now, I was tall and gawky as a kid, and spent a good deal of time wilting under the teasing barbs of my older brothers and their friends.




"Flatso." (Yup, a perennial favorite.)

Nothing too mean-spirited (and believe me, I could dish it out as well as I could take it), but still. It stung.

Then something magical happened. *cue the sound of trumpets* Puberty.

Seemingly overnight I was hit with a "curves" ball. Oh, not in the Marilyn Monroe league, but suddenly it was apparent I was a girl. Also, I got contact lenses. And boy, did my brothers' friends notice. Which ticked off my brothers no end, but, hey, they deserved it.

One day, *tries to think of a suitable pseudonym* um, Hotney... (Taken from the other part of "hot-rod," which contains his name...are you following this? Pay attention.)

ANYway, Hotney showed up one day when my middle brother (two years my senior, as was Hotney) wasn't home. Which was just fine with Hotney, who said he'd be happy to wait, and did I want to keep him company while he waited?

And he didn't even call me Twiggy.

Well. Be still my heart. My brother's friend, whom half of the high school had a crush on, wanted to be in the same room with me. On purpose!

I got us some Cokes and chips while he settled in front of the TV. As we chatted I couldn't help but notice he was inching closer to me. Ack! My inexperienced little heart was beating out a rhythm like a beatnik on bongos. Was he going to kiss me?

He was!

And I had never been kissed before.

(Unless you count the time my best childhood friend, John--yes, my best friend was a boy--and I bumped lips for a fraction of a second when we were nine years old. But there were no tongues involved then, and, being a well-read young lady, I was fairly sure tongues were involved when teenagers kissed.)

What to do? I mean, technically, I wasn't even allowed to date until I was sixteen. Of course, my logical brain brain argued, this wasn't really a date, was it? (At least, I'm pretty sure it was my brain arguing...but never mind. That's not really the pertinent part of the story.)

As Hotney leaned in closer, I panicked. Stall, stall, stall! I needed time to work out in my head exactly what I should do with my lips when he connected. I felt...ill-prepared. So I did what any girl would when the hottest guy in school was zooming in on her mouth--I stuffed it full of potato chips at the last second.

To no avail. Too late to stop his landing, Hotney completed his mission.

It didn't last long. Hotney did not deepen the kiss to anything like the ones my friends and I had read--and giggled--about. (Can't say as I blame him.)

As for me--well, I was so mortified I jumped up and ran out of the den, making some excuse about hearing my mother calling me. Hotney was gone when I got up the nerve to return.

We never spoke of it afterward, and he never asked me out. My brother never teased me about the episode, so I guess Hotney never mentioned it to him. Probably was afraid of getting beat up. *shrug*

So, how do I remember my first "real" kiss?

Well, it was...salty.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

DAY ONE is out!

Happy Book Release Day to Bill Cameron!

In honor of this joyous occasion, I've written a poem about the thing Bill loves best in all the world.

*clears throat*

BACON: A POEM (with apologies to Joyce Kilmer)

I think that I shall never eat
A food as yummy as this meat.

Bacon fried, so crisp and salty,
(Try it with a choc'late malty!)

Porky goodness upon my plate,
Awaiting there, my yen to sate.

And, lo, my eager mouth is prest
Against the thing that I love best.

If only I could make it last!
Alas, it's disappearing fast.

Breakfast splendor inhaled by me,
Bacon is better than a tree!

Now, if that doesn't inspire you to go buy a copy of DAY ONE, I don't know what will. ;)