Tag Archives: writing

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

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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

A Highly Biased History of Writing, Part I


Good morning Everyone!

We take writing for granted – this marvelous ability we humans have developed as a way to share information with each other, even across thousands of years and millions of miles.  Today, in the year 2014, I can read the thoughts of people who lived thousands of years before me.  Have you ever wondered how it began?   I did, and thought I’d share with you my discoveries from the Ugg Clan Chronicles.

Cave man hunting

Ugg Hunting

Ugg was hunting one day.  While he was gone, Suzugg,  the third youngest Ugg child, with some indeterminate assistance from the twins, Uggo and Uggu involving a rock and a fall, hurt her leg.  Seeing that the injury was more serious than the normal bump or bruise which every Ugg child was expected to take in stride, Uggette a/k/a Mrs. Ugg, decided that a trip to the local medicine man (two valleys over, fifth cave to the right) was in order.

Medicine Man

Local Medicine Man

A trip to the local medicine man was not easy.  The local medicine man was only considered the local medicine man because the next closest one was in New Jersey, which would not be discovered for another 8000 years.

New Jersey State Bird

Mrs. Ugg was faced with the task of hauling fourteen children, one of whom would have to be carried (Mrs. Ugg nominated Uggo and Uggu as the carriers, in light of her suspicions as to their role in Suzugg’s injuries) across two ridges and two valleys.  This meant an overnight trip, which meant that Ugg was going to be back sometime before they could return.

Cave Man Family Funny

Ugg, Uggette and a few of their blessings

Uggette had to figure out a way to leave Ugg a message he could understand or else he would worry – there were an infinite number of reasons your whole family could be missing when you got home from a hard’s day hunting and only one or two of them were benign.  And an unnecessarily worried Ugg was a very angry, grumpy Ugg once he recovered from his relief that everyone was okay.

Multi-tasking as most mothers do – comforting Suzugg, keeping Uggodu and Uggodo from burning down the forest in their quest to see what was and was not flammable (we’ll discuss the history of alchemy and chemistry some other time), explaining to Uggita and Uggito that no, you could NOT eat every plant you found in the forest indiscriminately and keeping a sharp eye on Guidugg, who never missed a moment of mischief if he could help it – the harassed Uggette was hard put to find a message that would make sense.

Mischievous Cave Boy

Guidugg

Uggette finally drew a stick figure in the ground of the cave with an X over one leg and drew an arrow in the direction of the medicine man’s cave with fifteen dots underneath it, thereby inventing pictographs, numbers and art at the same time.

Uggette was right; the trip did end up being an overnight one.  They reached the medicine man about an hour before sunset.  While he took care of Suzugg, the medicine man’s sympathetic wife took care of Uggette – putting Uggette’s fourteen children with her own ten and placing the four oldest from either family in charge of the rest – and sitting Uggette down on the nearest rock for a relaxing cup of tea.

Old ethnic fabric texture

The Medicine Man’s State of the Art Woven Rug

When Ugg arrived around midnight, worried, tired and irritated, the medicine man’s wife took care of him too.   A peak at his sleeping family assured him all was well, and a quick word with the medicine man assured him that Suzugg’s ankle was only sprained, not broken (or her leg missing, as he had half feared was what was meant by the pictogram – pictograms can be somewhat lacking in terms of precision).  He gratefully sank down by Mrs. Uggette on the medicine man’s state of the art woven rug, and gave her a quick hug as he did so, pulling the cured bearskin over him.

And that was the beginning.  We’ll move further into the development of writing as recorded in the Chronicles of the Ugg Clan in later posts.

Have a great day!

Nancy

Fn.  All images come from http://www.clickartonline.com and are fully protected by copyright.

 

 

My New Office


Good morning Everyone!

We’ve successfully reached the  3rd day of 2012, and life comes back to normal in our household today, with Mark and I back at work and Kayla back at school.  I know things are back to normal for the following reasons:  1) after repeated assurances that she knew where her book bag was and everything was in order in it, Kayla still had to scramble to find it and get out the door in time, 2) we had a discussion as to how a gym suit jacket is not sufficient to keep you warm in 25 degree weather and 3) after Mark and Kayla left, I heard odd chewing noises in the bedroom and called out, “Darwin, you better not be chewing anything important!” and he happily trotted around the corner out of my bedroom.  (You will be relieved to know that it was nothing more important than a plastic toothbrush holder.) 

Corner Office

I spent a couple of days last week working on setting up my new “office.”  (“Working on” translates to “shopping for.”)   This corner of our bedroom is now the headquarters for all of  my writing, both blogging and the freelance , with the potential to do some art work at it as well, especially with graphite and watercolor pencils. 

Open Desk

Leaving the chair against the wall until I’m ready to write takes up a little less room on a regular basis.  Once I am ready to write, I can just pull the chair over to the open desk, since it’s not very heavy. 

I found both the chair and the desk (I’m really, really proud of the desk!) at a flea market/antique store in Montgomery (my Montgomery friends will know immediately where it is when I tell them I went to EastBrook). 

closeup of desk

 The desk was called a “ladies writing desk” but it is what I have always thought of as a small secretary desk. The ribbon tied to the right hand drawer knob was what the price tag was tied too.  Sooner or later I will cut it off. 

It hasn’t escaped my attention that a new year, 2012, has started, but I have no words of wisdom to offer.  I have had only one New Year’s resolution for about the last five years and that is not to make any New Year’s resolutions!  It’s harder to do than you might think, but I am holding steady so far.

 Have a great day!

Nancy

A Trip to the Corner Drugstore, Pens and Copyright


Good morning Everyone!

Here are some odds and ends from the weekend.

    • A Trip to the Corner Drugstore

Yesterday I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription.  I had to wait just a few minutes, so I walked over to a revolving rack that sold little paperback books.  I started laughing out loud when I read the title of one of them – How to Live Successfully with Screwed Up People.  I thought about buying the book just to see how the author carried through with such a unique title, but the thought of someone close to me wondering why I would need such a book decided me against it. 

 However, once my prescription was ready, I told the lady behind the counter about the book.  To my surprise, she smiled and nodded and answered “Yes, my mother bought it.”  She added, “She has marked sections in it and put the names beside it of each of her children she thinks the section applies to.”  That’s a real confidence builder, isn’t it?

  • Pens

Some time ago, I told you about the mysterious disappearance of pens from my junk drawer.  (See, Of Waves and Pens).  Recently, I found where some of them were hiding – I have a little pouch I carry in my purse for writing utensils, and about 10 of them had fled there, I can only assume for protection from the evil pencil conspiracy.

    • Copyright

I learned something about copyright in the United States this weekend while reading the 2011 Writer’s Market by Writer’s Digest.  Did you know that everything you write is immediately protected by copyright as soon as it is written?  You do not have to have a registered copyright in order to be able to use the copyright symbol!  (There are advantages to having a registered copyright, but we won’t go into that.)  I thought that was way cool, and have immediately availed myself of this new piece of knowledge to proudly display my own copyright symbol at the bottom of my blog, just because I can!

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

Opinions?


Hi Everyone!

In honor of receiving over 16,000 views since February (I crossed that milestone this week and isn’t this a sneaky way to brag about it?), I have refreshed (changed) around some posts and colors and pictures.  Most of you will notice that I have changed the background color and header text color; I also changed the header picture so that it randomly rotates between three different pictures.  I deleted, changed and added some of the links on the right – changing my Top Posts links to reflect the most recent numbers and adding a Top Travel Posts section to the links as well as a link section called “Some of My Favorites.”

I would really love to know what you think about the changes to the site and the links  – the good, the bad and the ugly!  Do you like the posts that are linked?  Do you have a favorite you wish was there?  Do you like the background color?  Is it easier or harder to read than the original?  Do you wish I’d remember that you have more important things to worry about than my blog?

Please let me hear from you!

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy