Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grandson swims - I get soaked...

We've been spending a lot of time in the pool lately, much like we do every summer in this valley. When my kids were little, they went swimming so often, it's a wonder they didn't grow gills, sport scales and smell like fish.

Naturally, when my kids grew up they immediately put their own kids in the pool. The boys -- ages 4 and 7 -- spend most of their time doing cannonballs, while the girls -- ages 2 and 3 -- tell the boys to stop splashing them.

Nothing has changed.

Except that my kids never did any kind of organized swimming. They preferred yelling "Marco Polo" to taking timed trials. However my 7-year-old grandson, Bradley, has joined a swim team. And he's mastered everything from freestyle to butterfly, from breast stroke to backstroke. He practices every day and goes to swim meets once or twice a week.

I've been wanting to go to a swim meet, but apparently they last all day and Bradley is only in the pool a few minutes. So the other day when my daughter-in-law invited me to come watch him swim at a fundraiser for his team, I jumped on it.

It sounded perfect. "Put me down for a dollar a lap," I said to my daughter-in-law. I mean, how many laps can a 7-year-old kid do? Besides, this pool looked extra long. I figured he'd be out of there in four to six laps or five minutes, whichever came first.

I set up a lawn chair at the other end of the pool to show him my support -- until I was approached by the coach and told I had to leave the pool area. Apparently no parents or grandparents are allowed on deck. Instead I could "watch" the event from behind the fence. What? How was I supposed to scream "Go Bradley!" when I could barely see him?

Well, rules are rules, and I didn't want to be one of those obnoxious grandparents who argues with the coach every few minutes ("Whaddaya mean he didn't touch the side of the pool? Are ya blind?"). But when five minutes came and went and Bradley was still swimming, I started to become concerned.

"A lap is up and back, right?" I asked my daughter-in-law.

"No, that's two laps. A lap is just one direction."

OMG. By my calculations, Bradley had already done 10 "laps," which actually meant he'd done 20. "Are you tired, Brad?" I yelled. "You can quit any time, you know!" "Don't be a martyr." "I'll give you a sucker if you come out now."

Nothing worked. The kid just kept swimming and swimming and swimming. The coach finally had to call time on the kids -- not one of them quit before nearly an hour had gone by. Bradley's final lap total: 44. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have done 10 without a life jacket.

"Great job, Bradley!" I said when he finally got out of the pool.

"Thanks," he said, as if he swam 44 laps every day and it was no big deal.

It was time to settle up. I pulled open my wallet and handed over the $44. Yeah, he swam -- and I got soaked. But it was worth every penny.

Who knows? We may have another Michael Phelps on our hands. And it all started in our pool.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What NOT to do at a writers conference

BoucherconAttending a writers conference soon? You can find all kinds of "top ten things you need to know/do at a writers conference," but it’s hard to find things you’re not supposed to do. I thought I’d write that list for a change.
1.    Don’t walk in cold.
Do your homework: read up on the agents and editors attending so you’ll know which ones to stalk…er…sit by and chat with.

Angry typewriter
2.    Don’t forget your basic writer tools.
You’ll need a couple of pens,  a notepad, perhaps your lightweight laptop or iPad, and a big cool bag to carry everything in.

3.     Don’t wear your Halloween costume.
This is a business meeting. Don’t dress up in an attempt to impress an agent or editor with your “creativity.” Do that on paper.

4.    Don’t ignore the lonely attendee in the corner.
You’re there to schmooze with everyone, so take a minute to say “Hello, what are you writing?” when you find yourself next to someone. You never know what you’ll learn.

Heavy book
5.    Don’t bring your ten-pound tome.
If you must, bring your query letter to hand out to agents and editors who seem interested. But they don’t want to cart around your book. Send it by e-mail after you get home.

6.    Don’t be shy when pitching your book.
I know it’s terrifying. But practice and practice until you don’t sound rehearsed any more, and be ready to give your spiel to anyone who will listen.

Keep calm
7.    Don’t drive yourself crazy.
Take breaks, sip some tea, stay calm and have a cupcake—whatever works to help you de-stress from all the information you’ll be bombarded with. You need time to process everything. And again, you might pick up even more valuable information listening to others discuss what they’ve learned.
Business card-tomato
8.    Don’t hand out silly business cards.
Keep the cards simple, with all your contact info, but leave off the cutesy stuff, the word “author/writer”—or a “copyright” symbol…

9.    Don’t forget to send thank you notes to people you met, via email or snail mail, and keep in touch occasionally, with a question or link to an interesting site (no funny cats or laughing babies). But don’t be a pest.

Party couple
10.    Don’t have fun….
I’m KIDDING! Try to enjoy yourself while attending the conference. Remember, you’re there to learn, make new friends, be inspired, and party! You’re not trying to land a plane in the middle of the a river where lives are at risk. That kind of tension should be saved for your story. Writing should be fun!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Find your inner princess

"If you keep believing, the dream that you wish will come true." -- Cinderella

When the guys went off to Father and Sons Camp last weekend, we girls decided to have an adventure of our own. But instead of camping in some wilderness full of mountain lions and picking bugs out of our teeth, we decided to pack up the granddaughters and head for "Princess Camp" -- in Disneyland.

My two granddaughters -- Lyla, 2, and Stephanie, 3 -- already think they're princesses. I don't know where they got the idea. I outgrew my princess costume years ago. But they love to dress up in sparkly tiaras, fluffy gowns and mini heels.

I wish I could go back to my princess days when life was magical, costumes abundant and all I had to worry about was finding a prince. Or at least a castle with my name on it.

I think most girls play "princess" at some point while growing up. No wonder, since we were raised on stories about Cinderella and Snow White. Some of us never lost the belief that deep down inside, we should be wearing tiaras full-time.

I'd loved to have had a fairy godmother who could wave her magic wand and find me that perfect career, financial independence or a charming prince so I could live happily ever after.

Well, I might not have a godmother or a wand, but I've discovered there are plenty of princess accessories for my fantasy life, and I don't even have to scrub floors for a selfish stepfamily or clean up after a bunch 
of men who leave their crap all over my nice clean cottage. 
I can watch movies like "Tangled," bedazzle my jeans with rhinestones and cover my cell phone case with sequins. I can choose my individual princess "style" and be a fairy tale princess like Cinderella or Snow White, a pop princess like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or even a mob princess like Victoria Gotti or Snookie.

Of course, there are some strings attached to that silk apron. I'd have to learn how to deal with "crown hair." I'd have to see which tiaras best match my pink jeans and T-shirts. And I have to figure out how to use rose petals when bathing, setting the table or making the bed.

I suppose I'd need a BLIWF -- Best Lady-in-Waiting Forever. And I'd have to learn how to deal with peasants as well as palace staff, not to mention the king and queen. I'll need the perfect pet as my faithful companion -- maybe a dragon (what do you feed them?), a mouse (preferably one that talks) or some woodland creatures (except bears -- they scare me). I'll have to memorize the members of my court, because right now I don't know a page from a footman.

And then there's all the rigmarole associated with being a princess -- practicing the curtsy and regal wave, conversing with boring heads of state, and preparing meals fit for a king.

As for waving a magic wand, it may look easy, but apparently it takes skill, otherwise I could end up turning my husband into pond scum instead of a prince.

I don't know. Maybe being a princess is more trouble than it's worth.

But as Cinderella once said, "They can't order me to stop dreaming."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Weekend trip: A fish tail...

Here's a tip: When it's 102 degrees outside your home, don't vacation where it's even hotter. In an RV. With the family. 

But when we bought this rig two years ago, we promised ourselves we'd use it. So come hell (which it did) or high water (where we went), we decided to take a trip to the Sacramento Delta and go fishing with the grandkids.

While you readers were enjoying the cool 99-degree heat, we were being deep-fried in 105-degree weather. But we weren't worried, since the RV has AC, a TV, and all the comforts of home (unless you forget everything.)

When we arrived, it took my husband 15 minutes to fit our 36-foot rectangle into a square hole. Our RV neighbors sat in folding chairs and watched the "entertainment" until my husband finally backed into a tree and called the rig "parked."

Since it was too hot to barbecue, we opted for the bar and grill nearby. Hungry from all that vigorous parking, my husband ordered a steak, medium-rare. It came well done. While he's not usually the type to send things back, this steak was like beef jerky, so he signaled the waitress and asked for another -- medium-rare. The second steak arrived 10 minutes later -- well done.

The following day, the temperature rose a few more notches, so we cranked up the AC. Apparently when a hundred RVs all turn their air conditioners on high all day and night, the park can't handle the overload, so we spent the day virtually without air. As for the TV, we only got one channel -- an infomercial about spray-on makeup available at only $29.99, plus four easy payments of $49.99 or else a bill collector will come to your door.
When our kids arrived, they realized it was too hot to do anything but swim in the "refreshing" (unheated) pool, so we spent the rest of the afternoon watching grandkids perform cannonballs and scream, "Marco Polo."

When it "cooled off" to around 90, the dads took the kids fishing off the dock. Meanwhile the moms headed up to the restaurant deck. From there we could watch the menfolk while sipping strawberry margaritas and munching on onion rings. Unfortunately, we got the same waitress as the night before, and she brought us calamari by mistake.

When the kids began catching fish, we girls cheered them on. After they took "it was this big" photos, they threw the fish back in the water to "be with their families." The kids were hungry from all that fishing, so they joined us for snacks on the deck. We fed them calamari and told them it was onion rings.

Finally it was bedtime. After opening up all the tiny windows, we slept coverless, listening to the sound of other people's air conditioners go on and off all night.

The next morning we packed up early in an attempt to beat the next heat wave and headed home. My son and his family stopped off and bought a couple of goldfish to keep as pets in memory of the fishing trip. The kids named them Squishy and Mr. Orange.

Unfortunately, by the time they got home, Squishy was dead, and Mr. Orange looked a little green around the gills. It was probably the heat.

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How much like your favorite character are you?

    They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. And since I've been working on designing a new cover for my e-version of my Connor Westphal series, this topic has been on my mind. Which brought me to another question: Can you judge a person by the book she reads?

   Presley Parker, the sleuth in my party planner mystery series, can “read” people by looking at their shoes. Her credentials for this skill? She used to work in a shoe store, of course. So when she sees someone wearing Jimmy Choos or Birkenstocks, she can tell whether that person is high maintenance or hippie.

    According to the Huffington post, you can tell a lot about people from the books they read—from Salinger (you’re see things from a darker perspective) to Shakespeare (you have a flair for the dramatic). (

   That got me thinking about what a favorite mystery character says about a person? Here’s my sleuth psychoanalysis:
Janet evanovichIf you like Stephanie Plum – You have spunk, you’re not afraid of anyone, you have a good sense of humor, you love romance—the more men involved, the better—you fell into your career by accident but you’re good at it, you don’t get along well with cars, and you can’t handle more responsibility than a hamster.
Lee childIf you like Jack Reacher – You’re a loner, a drifter, you love traveling the country, you don’t care about what you wear, you prefer part-time jobs to a career, you rarely lose your temper or swear, you can hold your own in a fight even though you don’t exercise, and you like to love ‘em and leave ‘em.
Sue graftonIf you like Kinsey Millhone – You’re also a loner, you like to work for yourself rather than have a boss, you don’t like cops much, you prefer simple outfits like jeans, sweaters, and black dresses, you cut your own hair because it’s more efficient, you’re a physical fitness fanatic who loves jogging, but you also love junk food, and you don’t trust men.
Perry masonIf you like Perry Mason – You’re an over-achiever, you’re confident and in control to the point of being cocky at times, but then you never lose a case, you’re a natty dresser, you live well and love to eat, you believe in the judicial system and prefer challenging cases, you don’t like to share anything about your personal life, and you’re unable to commit to marriage even though you’ve been in a long-term relationship.
Jessica fletcherIf you like Jessica Fletcher – You have a lot of relatives who get into trouble and you like to help them out, you love living in a small but crime-ridden town, you like to travel, you love drama in your life, you believe in the innocence of most people, you like to help the police solve cases, and you’re great at getting people to admit their guilt.
MonkIf you like Monk – You’re brilliant, but a little obsessive-compulsive, have lots of phobias (milk, ladders, ladybugs, glaciers, rodeos, harmonicas, etc.), you have a great memory and a way of paying attention to detail, you’re somewhat reclusive, you like cleanliness, neatness and order, and you have a knack for solving problems that stymie other people, although you can be irritating.

So which sleuth if your favorite--and how much like him/her are you?

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