Category Archives: Writing

Memory Triggers


Memory Triggers by Nancy Eady

The best writers in any genre use setting to create moods with a few deft sentences.  Their ability to create moods through language is amazing given the many different ways memories are evoked in people.

Take the example of a blooming pear tree.  February is winding to a close here in the deep South, and Spring is making an unseasonably warm appearance with the trees, shrubs and flowers blooming in swift succession.

The first signs of spring are the daffodils and the forsythia bushes, better known as yellowbells.  Shortly after or while they are blooming, the tulip trees burst out with their pink and white blooms, and then the pear trees.

The flowers of pear trees are white and small compared to the large tulip tree blooms but they still show up because nothing else much is blooming and because they fill up the entire tree.  A pear tree in bloom throws itself into the process.  It doesn’t dally, shilly-shally, or shyly peek forward a bloom at a time.  It personifies the verb “to blossom.”

Pear trees always remind me of my dad-in-law, who passed away in 2001.  This is an odd association in some ways, because he didn’t particularly love spring flowers or pears.  Like most people, he was always glad to see signs that spring was coming, but he didn’t rejoice in the flowers the way I do, the way that makes my teenage daughter look at me sideways and say, “Mom, get a grip.”

So where does the association come from?  For the five years I was in law school (I went part time, three nights a week with two summers off), he and my Mom-in-law fed me supper every night I had class – and they were happy to do so.  They enjoyed having me there.  One day in March in the mid-90’s during supper, Mark’s Dad mentioned to me that he had seen some of the white flowered trees blooming in a field.  He said they were dogwoods, but I was pretty sure it was too early for the dogwoods to have started.  So I drove by the field that afternoon on my way to school, and realized that he was talking about the wild pear trees that had colonized the abandoned field and turned what would otherwise have been an eyesore into an attractive harbinger of spring.

I don’t know what makes that memory stand out, but ever since then, when I see the pear trees in bloom, I not only celebrate the nearness of spring, but also remember fondly a man who meant a great deal to me.

What sights and sounds do you see that trigger memories in you?

Note:  This post was first posted Monday, February 26, on the Writers Who Kill blog.  If you find it interesting and are curious, take a trip to www.writerswhokill.blogspot.com and see what my fellow bloggers and mystery writers have on their minds.  And for those of you who gave me advice on which picture to choose to demonstrate my nefariousness, you’ll see my selection on the left hand side of the page at the bottom.
Have a good day everyone!
Nancy
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Please Help Me Make A Decision!


Hello Everyone!

Over at Writers Who Kill, I need to submit a photograph of myself doing something nefarious.  As a champion procrastinator, I’ve known I’ve needed to add my own picture for months, but there is one giant obstacle – I am the least nefarious person I know.  It’s beyond just looking harmless.  People stop me in stores to ask for help when they can’t locate an employee.  When I was among the 10 to 15 people who walked around the local junior college on a daily basis for exercise, I was the one whom strangers pulled up beside to ask for directions.  Unfortunately for them, I’m not great at giving directions.  In the pre-Google-map era, I sent an attorney trying to find my office past our town to another, smaller town 18 miles to our northeast.

I digress.  The point is that I am harmless and look helpful, which on a scale from 1 to 10 places my nefariousness somewhere around -5.  Then there’s the whole inferiority complex sparked by the creativity of my fellow bloggers.  I am still star struck by the other writers who blog for Writers Who Kill and the amusingly nefarious pictures on the left hand side of that blog page (https://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2019/01/decision-by-nancy-eady.html).

          But I had to find some way to look nefarious.  So I started by taking a selfie wielding a knife.  The result?  I bear an uncanny resemblance to the Swedish Chef on the Muppets.

swedish chef

The Swedish Chef

knife 1 cropped

The Steak Knife and Me



Since I found the selfie unimpressive, I decided to think through things a little more, and enlisted my husband to help me.  After rummaging through our hall closet (since it’s distantly related to Fibber McGee’s closet, that counts as hazardous duty), we came up with another idea to establish nefariousness.

gun 2

The dog in the foreground does rather spoil the effect, but she’s our “helper” dog and insists on being involved with everything.  However, with the magic of modern technology, she is easily edited out, leaving me with the following:

gun 1 cropped

          My husband said the picture would look better if I wasn’t smiling, so we tried again.  You will note that the dog still found it necessary to be in the picture.

gun 2

Cropped, the final result comes out like this:

gun 2 cropped

So, gentle readers, which picture is the best candidate for nefariousness?  I could use your advice!

Have a great day Everyone!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

A Mind Like A Steel Sieve


Good morning Everyone!

Today, over at Writers Who Kill, I blog about having a mind like a steel sieve.  If you have a minute, go visit at https://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2018/09/a-mind-like-steel-sieve-by-nancy-eady.html.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

Knitting and Writing


Good morning Everyone!

Have you ever wondered what knitting and writing have in common?  If so, check out my blog post on the Writers Who Kill Blog at the following link: Combinations

Have a great day!

Nancy

My Novel – The First Lines


Good morning Everyone!

I am working on my first mystery novel.  In fact, I’ve finished it twice already in the last twelve months and I’m just digging into my third go-round.  Naively, I thought that the major part of the work involved in writing a book came while working on the first draft.  Alas, that is not so.  I thought I’d share you with the original opening lines, and then the new revision opening lines to get your comments on the changes (if you want).  There’s also a poll so you can vote for the opening you like best.

Original:

The 2011 annual Christmas dinner for the local Webster County bar was memorable. Due to a hectic trial docket, the dinner was held December 23, much later than normal and a rare dusting of snow greeted each of us as we entered the venerable, but still elegant, Radford Grill. The party’s attendance was up that year; William Henderson, the esteemed local bar president for the last 15 years (mostly because no-one else could be bothered with it) and head of the local Democratic party for the last 20 years (mostly because nobody was better at it) had arranged for an after-dinner speaker of national prominence, an unusual treat for our normally cash-strapped local association.
Memorable achieved never-to-be-forgotten status after the national speaker (who was every bit as good as anticipated) stopped talking. As the applause died down, William stood up from the white clothed head table and went to the podium.
“I’d like to thank my good friend, Tim Tolar, for that wonderful presentation. Now, folks, it’s up to you whether you want to…”
At that  moment, Jackson Herring threw the double oak doors at the entrance to the meeting room open with a bang and strode purposefully towards William at the podium.

Revised:

Christmas, cocktails and crime are a curious combination and one that none of us – not me, not Boyd and especially not William – were ready for. When I first arrived at the Christmas Dinner for the combined Webster and Windover County bar, the most trying ordeal I anticipated enduring was coping with Boyd’s latest dating partner, Cindie with an “ie.”
I had counted myself lucky, though, when Boyd sat by me, and Cindie with an “ie” sat on his other side at the half table allocated to our firm. I would like to be able to say that I couldn’t understand what Boyd saw in Cindie with an “ie” (she had introduced herself that way to so many people that I couldn’t separate the name from the qualifier), but the reasons were self-explanatory. Boyd certainly hadn’t been looking for character or intelligence when he asked her out.  As president of the Webster County bar, William, our senior partner, and his wife Molly, along with Molly’s guide dog Sidney, were at the head table.
We had made it through dinner and finished listening to the nationally known speaker that William had persuaded to speak to our always cash-strapped local association, when it happened.
“I’d like to thank my good friend for that wonderful presentation. Now, folks, it’s up to you whether you want to…”
At that moment, Jackson Herring threw the double oak doors at the entrance to the meeting room open with a bang and strode towards William at the podium.

Thank you for your help, and have a great day!

Nancy

Occupational Hazards


Good morning Everyone!

Do you remember all the news reports from a year or so ago that the National Security Agency was “mining” everything Americans write or post online in their quest to prevent terrorism?  Whether it’s true or false, I have always maintained that the banality of my e-mails, cell phones and online messages (with the exception of this blog, of course!) was more than enough to punish any governmental official who is attempting to comb them for information.

When you watch one of the many shows on TV these days that show real life murder investigations, don’t you want to scream at the perpetrator for being stupid when one of the ways he or she gets caught is because he or she googled “how to murder my _______ without getting caught” in formulating their plans on their home computer?  I mean, really!  That’s almost as clueless as was the Wicca-adherent-gone-mad out West who listed the phone number of the man she killed under the label “sacrifice” on her cell phone!  (Yes, that is a true story, by the way.)

I am working on my second mystery novel.  The first, currently called Sleight of Hand  is finished but needs more editing.  Because my plot requires a victim to be murdered by arsenic, I needed to find out where you could get arsenic, how it is used, how it is detected and what it does to its victims and how soon.  I also needed to learn whether there are any medications which are powders taken before meals.  and what kinds of crops are grown in North Dakota.  (Curiouser and curiouser, yes?)  So what do I turn to?  Google!  (Which, of course, led me swiftly to the information I need.)

With queries in my cache now like “how to murder using arsenic” and “where to get arsenic” I now am praying that no one in my household gets even a stomach virus for the next twenty years and am considering hiring a taster for more insurance!  I can just see the conversation now – “Well you see, officer, it’s like this….”  I at least hope that my searches provided a rare flash of interest to the poor NSA employee in charge of mining my data.

Maybe all those people on Investigation Discovery were innocent after all!

Have a great day!

Nancy

A Letter from my Fourth Grade Self


Good morning Everyone!

Mark is steadily working on getting the garage unpacked so that we can get both cars in – winter is coming, and neither of us are fond of scraping ice or wiping cold wet dew off of our car windows.  While we were working on unpacking, we came across a box of keepsakes I got from my grandparents after they both passed away.  In it was the following letter to them from me in fourth grade.  I thought I would share it with you.  While I cannot, alas, replicate the handwriting on the computer, I will faithfully follow both the capitalization, color and spelling in the original.

Page 1 of Letter

Page 1 of Letter

Dear Grandma and Grampa, 

How are you?  I’m fine and am feeling happy.  It’s the “Fourth of July here and the time is 18 min. before 9:A.M.

Cheryl is going in to 2nd Grade.  I drew a picture of a Cat and it is good.  Guess what?  We have a dog for a little while.  Stacy is go to kinderegarden.   I have a bulliten board.  How is Clyde?  Cheryl and Stacy are fine.  I am going into fourth grade and know a little division.

Page 2 of Letter

Page 2 of Letter

Is Debbie Joe there?  Tell her that I’m taking sketching lessons and bowling lessons.  I wish you could call us and say hi and a few other things but most of all I wish you could come over and see us.  Debbie might like to here about Chinese Operas so I will tell abuot them.  They are rather noisy and the singing tone mostly in a high voice.  Shopping at the Exchange is fine, though I have not done it much.  Stacy is bugging me for a peice of paper

Page 3 of Letter

and just now got on from Dad.  Our Amah is vacuming the rug.  At night I like to listen to the Crickets and sing myself to sleep.  It’s pretty noisy just now.  I’ll write a story for you.

Yours truly,

Nancy Merilynn Linn

The Magic Book

Once when Language had not been invented but was just invented there Lived a Lovly maiden named Napoli  Now, once she had been free to do what she wanted

Page 4 of Letter

but a witch locked her up.  There was only one way to get her out of the cell and that was to find the book the Wisard of Os.”  Now a handsome prince came galloping along one day and every night came forth and Said “Come forth, Come forth please thee, Sweet Napoli.”

“And she would answer”

How Can I,

When Can I,

The cell cannot be unlocked by Poetry.

Countined in next Letter.

A few explanatory notes:

1) We were living in Taiwan at the time, the early ’70’s.  It was hard and expensive to make overseas calls from the United States.  There was no such thing as the internet, home pc’s or e-mail.

2) Stacy and Cheryl are my sisters.  Debbie Jo is my cousin.

3) Clyde was a dog that used to be ours but whom Mom and Dad had given to Grandma and Grandpa when we moved somewhere with base housing that didn’t allow pets.  Grandpa and Clyde, in particular, were great buddies.

4) An “Amah” is a live-in housekeeper.

5) Alas, a follow up letter with a story continuation either a) did not survive, or b) was not written, so Napoli remains locked up to this day!

Have a great day!

Nancy

Actually At Risk


Good morning Everyone!

Somewhere over the course of the last ten years or so, two phrases have steadily infiltrated American English to the point that they are becoming seriously irritating to me. especially when I hear them used by people on TV.  Those two phrases?  “Actually” and “at risk.”

“At risk” is a phrase promoted by the 24 hour news media crowd – after all, “Your child is at risk for measles” sounds exponentially more urgent than “one out of 1000 children catch measles each year.”  (None of the children in the United States should catch measles; they should be vaccinated against them instead.)  If I am told I am at risk for heart disease, flu or just catching a cold, I am instantly more concerned than if I am told that there is merely a chance that I could develop or catch the same thing.   What the people using that phrase don’t mention is that I am also at risk for winning the lottery, flying to the moon and winning the Nobel Peace Prize – but I’m not holding my breath for any of those things to happen soon, either!

“Actually” has become an overused meaningless filler word.  Most of the time, I hear “actually” in sentences such as “I actually went to the store and bought groceries.”  Well, yes, I assumed you did “actually” go to the store; I didn’t think you sent your evil twin instead.  I suppose there is the argument that “actually” is meant to indicate personal presence as opposed to “virtual” which would indicate that a person viewed or did something by computer, but most of the people who use the word interminably are not trying to be that precise.  I think people use “actually” now much in the way we used to say “ummm…” when we didn’t know what to say.  I think it’s time we stopped “actually” doing things, and simply started  doing them, but then that’s just me.

I, of course, catch myself using both phrases far too often

Because I am actually at risk for having to go to work today, I better close for now.

If you have any pet vocabulary or grammar peeves, I’d love to hear about them!

Here’s hoping that all of you are actually at risk for having a great day today!

Nancy

Bibliophilic Friday: Robots and Foundation


Good morning Everyone!

Robot from Print Shop Professional 2.0

I have been (sort of) participating in a WordPress Challenge called “Blogging 201,” which is designed to help bloggers improve their blog.  One of its suggestions is to have at least one weekly feature, so here’s mine:  Bibliophilic Friday.  All the feature really does is give me a chance to talk about some of the many, many books that I love.  I’m not entirely sure that you can be a writer if you don’t also love to read; at least I couldn’t.

We’re going to start with  Isaac Asimov’s Robot series and Foundation series, mostly because that is what I have been reading for the past few weeks.  Many of you are probably familiar with the movie “I, Robot”, which was (very) loosely based on Isaac Asimov’s work.  The movie, however, is nothing at all like the book.  While I did enjoy the movie, as in most cases, the book is much better.  The Isaac Asimov book, I, Robot, is basically a group of short stories tied together by the theme of an interview with robotics expert Susan Calvin that traces  the history of the positronic robots in Asimov’s imaginary future world from their beginnings towards the point where they are an integral part of the world.

One of my favorite stories in the book tells the trials and tribulations suffered by a two-man field team of robotics experts whose job is to test all of the new robots that are developed by the company.  In this particular story, they have been assigned to assemble and teach a new group of robots to handle an energy beam for earth; the energy beam has to be directed “just so”, or it will lose focus and end up frying major cities such as London or L.A..  The most important jobs the robots have is to keep the beam focused during radiation storms in space.  Well, our intrepid duo puts together a robot, who, with its positronic brain, deduces that it would be impossible for the men to have created it, given how much flimsier and less intelligent the men are then it.  Instead, the robot decides that its creator is the computer running the energy beam and that the job of all is to serve it.  It also deduces that the computer creator has given the men the delusion that they created the robots out of kindness and concern for their weakened condition.  The robot also converts all of the other more primitive robots in the energy station.  When one of the men gets frustrated and says something negative (ie., expletive deleted) about the energy beam computer, the men are locked out of the control room for blasphemy. The story goes forward from there.  It is really very funny!  The other stories in the book are equally entertaining, with just the right mix of humor, emotion, intellectual challenge and sometimes even pathos.

After re-reading #25 or so of  I, Robot, I decided to read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.  It is considered one of the cornerstones of modern science fiction but I just never had gotten around to it.  I am delighted that I finally did!

The original three novels are the kind of books that you have to stay up until midnight reading just because you can’t wait to see what happens next.  There are two prequels (actually written after the first three novels) that are just as exciting.  In the Foundation books, a mathematician named Hari Seldon has developed a system of mathematics called psychohistory that is capable of predicting the future based upon the acts of billions of individuals.  At the time of the book, mankind is spread out over millions of worlds and part of a galactic empire that has existed for tens of thousands of years, but which is about to fall.  Seldon uses his branch of mathematics, psychohistory, to develop a plan that will reduce the period of  “the dark ages” that would result from the collapse of the Empire from 10,000 to 1000 years, and the first three books are about the plan during is first 400 or so years of existence.  The prequels are, of course, about Hari Seldon and how his psychohistory and the Foundation that supported it was developed.  (There are at least two other, later Foundation novels, but I haven’t read them yet so can’t recommend them.)

One fascinating development since Asimov wrote the Foundation novels is that something approaching psychohistory seems to be developing today.  There are people working on developing models that will use all of the data, chatter, discussions and decisions out on the Internet in order to predict future geopolitical events.  Google  and Bing already do some predicting on an individual basis – if you’ve ever noticed, while you’re writing a search query, they busily try to give you choices on what you are trying to ask based on what they predict your questions to be.

So, for you science fiction fans out there, what is your favorite Isaac Asimov science fiction book?  If you are a fan of some of his non-fiction work popularizing different sciences, let me know which one of those are your favorites!  I can’t wait to hear from you!

Have a great day!

Nancy

Consideration


Good morning Everyone!

It’s good to be back!  For any of those kind enough to notice that I haven’t posted for about five days, we are back from a family trip to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Since I worked the whole time (ain’t modern communications grand?) I can’t really call it a family vacation, but we still had fun and Kayla and Mark got some well deserved “Daddy-daughter” time.  I even learned something about myself – I may be overly concerned with being considerate to others.

Raking

Raking Words
Photo Credit: http://www.clickartonline.com

I have a program on my work computer called WordRake.  It highlights words and phrases it thinks can be deleted from whatever draft I turn it loose on.  It is a great tool for my work in legal writing and entertaining, too.

I am particularly amused when the parts of my work briefs that WordRake lights up like New York on a dark winter’s night are quotes from appellate cases.  (Hey, we all get our kicks somewhere!)  I also enjoy arguing with it about its editing selections.

Using a GPS

Using a GPS
Photo Credit: http://www.clickartonline.com

Our relationship reminds of the first trip I ever used a GPS – it was in a rental car on a trip to Boston.  My mom (who grew up there) was visiting as well.  She loved to ride with me and to program the GPS so she could tell me that it was wrong and direct me to go a different way, thereby giving the GPS a heart attack.  At one trip, it got so frustrated it stopped giving directions and simply churned through “recalculating” for about five minutes!

Last night, I was using WordRake on a work draft, and I caught myself agreeing to some edits that I wouldn’t have done on my own because I didn’t want to hurt its feelings by ignoring it too much.

That’s probably taking consideration a little too seriously, don’t you think?

Have a great day!

Nancy