Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do You Believe In Christmas Miracles (True Story)

For about an hour on Monday, I thought I would lose my mind. I also thought I'd ruined our Christmas. The day starts well enough with a trip to the doctor's office for a physical. Total cholesterol - 132; HDL - 55; Triglycerides - 143; blood pressure - 140/80; Pulse - 42 (I have an amazingly low pulse). Also, I drop off the office's homemade Christmas caramels. My other medical complications are in check. His advice. "Lose weight." He needs a parrot. He's been telling me that for years. Next, on to the in-laws at the assisted living center to gather packages to mail for them - check. I drop off more homemade caramels at the dentist's office. This always makes me feel evil for some reason.

Around the corner, I hit the bank for some spending cash and lots of cash for my wife. I hope it's for my present. Onward to Michael's for a box of special plastic baggies and find the last one. I head to Party City for some party trays to be used for house plants and notice the clouds thickening. I get the last three. The drive to my dermatologist, whose kid I feel like I'm personally putting through college, is uneventful as cars slip off the highway and clear a path for me. I drop off the office's Christmas caramels to a staff member who squeals with delight, remembering them from the previous years. Every light is green as I head back towards town and the Chinese store to pick up the last of the supplies for our annual New Year's Day party - our holiday present to our friends. I'm way ahead of schedule, though a few big drops splat on the windshield. I get out of the car, check my pocket, and find no wallet. The rain begins in earnest.

I panic. No wallet in the car, under the car, near the car. I drive away. No wallet at the Dermatologist's office. It's not lying comfortably on the ground, dangling in the bushes like the last bloom, or floating toward the sewer like a downed and drowned leaf. I'm ill. Nearly $600, credit cards, bank account numbers -- mine, my homeowner's association, ours. I try to center myself. I drive to the Party City with the closed satellite Police Station next door (budget cuts). It's not a bad area; it's just not a good place. It's the downside of the mall with seasonal stores featuring Halloween items no one wants at 90% off and a cornacopia of Christmas collectables of dubious quality, offices with no apparent clientele and stick-on signs, and stores with vacant-eyed associates. The wallet is not in the parking lot. I head for the door of Party City in a drizzle and walk in. A sleepy-eyed man in his early 30's stands near the unattended cash register. He looks bored stacking a few hundred boxes of candy canes.

"Do you believe in Christmas miracles?" I say to him without any preamble.

He looks at me surprised. Perhaps he thinks he misheard. "Huh, what?"

"Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Yes or no."

"Well, yes." A hint of a smile pushes out cautiously from the corner of his mouth. Is it really there or is he just humoring the distraught looking old, fat guy wearing a soaked, off-white USA sweatshirt and green gym shorts.

"Good. I'm looking for a wallet."

"Yeah, we found one." He walks to the register. "Your name."

"Rick Bylina."

Some of me must still be in the wallet. "Here you go." He hands me the wallet.

"Do you know who turned it in?" I want to give the person a reward or take him or her out to lunch.

"Nope." He walks back to the display.

I leave as the drizzle turns to a light mist. Back in the car, I let out a breath I have been holding and open the wallet. Everything, everything is there. I sit. The sun slices through the overcast as a parade of Santa's pass by, heading into one of the seemingly empty offices labeled "Santa Training." One waves as he walks past. I automatically wave back. He winks then bellows a hardy "Ho-ho-ho. Merry Christmas" before he slips into the office.

Yes, I believe in Christmas miracles.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cyber Monday on MMWUC

This Monday Morning Wake-up Call includes a sale. ONE PROMISE TOO MANY and A MATTER OF FAITH are on sale for Cyber Morning for $.99. Why shouldn't I make you spew coffee with such a wonderful deal on your MMWUC? Do sales and gimmicks work? How the heck should I know? I'm just a marketing babe, but I do know that for one day, ONE DAY , the books are discounted at 2/3rds their retail price.

As far as writing the next book during NANOWRIMO, well, I'm going to all a bit short this year. With my wife's schedule eating away at mine, November has turned into a very bad month for me to write. However, I have about 30,000 words of a good story running with three possible endings and a very unusual bad guy. It does make me pause though and question is there any bad guy that hasn't been singled out yet for being written about? I'm thinking next time that a demented guinea pig goes about killing joggers because of the pig's repressed memories of being stuck in an exercise wheel that he couldn't get out of. No matter how fast he ran, it just went faster until one day.... I digress. Buy my book or two. :-)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Breaking Dawn - There's a story in all this.

It's breaking dawn, no, not the movie, the time of day. I was sleeping nicely after a frenetic Thanksgiving Day when my presence was requested at the local Home Depot by my wife to come and get "my" ten poinsettias for $1 per plant. Dutifully, I slip out of my heated waterbed and trundle outside to the frost-covered car and drive to the store to help out.

Upon arriving home, I scan the disaster that is my home. After eight hours of cooking two turkeys, 20 pounds of potatoes, making home-made stuffing (3 batches), and enough gravy to float a small boat, I washed and dried dishes for four hours. Sadly, there's still four hours of dish washing to go. I guess that's what happens when you have 26 relatives for the meal and everything is homemade and no automatic dishwasher. The turkey carcasses are being boiled down into broth for the next turkey day in April. We did bag 2,000 caramels in bags last night much to the chagrin of my visiting Wisconsinite nieces. And the Sheepshead card game was lively. It was nice to watch the 85-year-old Alzheimers-afflicted patriarch beat the pants off of his daughter, son, two grand-daughters, and a great-granddaughter (more interested in chewing and drooling on the cards than playing the game). Alzheimer's, such a weird disease. He can't remember what he ate two hours earlier (turkey dinner on Thanksgiving), but knew what each player had in their hand instantly and counted trump without fail.

The sun's up, and now I won't be able to sleep until the circadian rhythms overtake me around 2 p.m. It's a perfect fall day and there are plenty of leftovers for sandwiches, but not for at least a day, I'm full, and I have words to write before I sleep; words to write before I sleep.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Follow the Super Committee Example: Define Goals Then Fail

Super Committee
Does not exist in D. C.
Grade school fantasy


When I write, I try to follow the methodology I learned where the POV character of each chapter has a goal that is not attainable by the end of the chapter, thus putting themselves further from completing their quest and achieving their story arc goal. I don't always know what it is myself at times during the first draft, but when I edit what I've written, I find or insert it, and make sure it's there. The trick is not to necessarily let your reader know what the goal is on first reading, but to recognize it when the POV character fails to achieve the goal at the end of the chapter. It's kind of like subliminal goal setting. This doesn't mean hiding it in something like the last "5" in a Sudoku puzzle. The POV character may even state it explicitly (and I salivate when I put it out in plain sight).

Monday, November 21, 2011

MMWUC - The Message Is Simple

I've been spray painted with a lot of platitudes about writing lately, and I've been guilty of shooting off a few myself as I twitter my brains away on the social media platforms. But it's important to remember...

If you're a writer, the bottom line is:  Writer's write.

I need to remind myself of that basic simple rule every now and then.  That's the Monday Morning Wake-Up Call. If you're a writer, don't lose your sight of the lighthouse beacon guiding you through the rocky shoals of distraction to the port of creative development.

If you're not a writer, support your local writer, and find your own bottom line.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Australian Invader - Guest Blogger

Rick's vacationing over at Ron D. Voigts blog this morning, writing about the lessons learned from self-publishing, part 7 - What is Success? Join him there. Meanwhile, Sydney, Rick's 19-year-old cockatiel is guest blogging here.

"Got mashed potatoes? No. What kind of cheap outfit is this? Stop flashing that light in my face? I bite you know. Why am I here? I hatched. No mystery. No, I'm not from Australia, but mom was. I've never been out of North Carolina. I write, well, type. Gotta do something around here. Oh, wait! A good one. You're safe for another twenty minutes. Anyway. Here's a story I wrote. Took a year.

Dr. Frankenberry stared at the jellyfish and wondered if they were staring back.

"They're beautiful," he said to Inga.

"Oh, let me go, you’re mad." Inga, clad in a leopard skin bikini, which the doctor bought from Macy's using a seasonal coupon, jingled her silvery chains. "Pretty," she said, before remembering her situation.

"Just think," the doctor said, filling a needle with fluid from a jellyfish that writhed in obvious pain, "if this works, you'll be young and beautiful forever."

"I want to be free," she said emphatically.

The doctor added a yellow fluid into the needle then injected her. He waited. He waited for hours. Nothing happened. Inga finally went to sleep and snored like the town drunk on Sunday morning.

"Drat!" He turned to his desk then sat. He immersed himself in his notes, looking for what could have gone wrong. Hours passed.

He pushed his glasses up his nose. A squishy sound erupted from behind him.

He turned.

"My God!"

Inga slipped out of her silvery bracelets and approached the doctor, stinging him repeatedly before consuming him. She turned to the wounded jellyfish in the tank, slipped inside the aquarium, and made sweet love to her wounded hero.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

If William Shakespeare Can, I Can

I'm going to read in public, specifically at Davenport & Winkleperry’s, 18 E. Salisbury St., Pittsboro, NC. on December 13, 2011 sometime between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.. Since it is open mic, I need to get there early. Maybe I'll be late. Maybe it'll snow. This will be different from when I read at my Book Launch Party. Then, the 100+ persons in attendance were my guest, most on good behavior, none drunk. This time, I'm hoping it doesn't end up like a medieval egg and tomato throwing contest. I don't read in public, but now I must. But what to read? A snippet from a currently published novel? A few lines from a new novel? A short story? A poem? Haiku?

Grounded and forlorn
Bare oak down from nameless storm
Treeless vultures morn

I only have eight minutes. I could run a mile in eight minutes. That should be far enough to get away from any eggs and tomatoes thrown.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I'm having this incredible tussle with the evil internal editor (EIE). I write, and the EIE twists my words and makes the all sound like fingernails across the blackboard in school. "They vill be edited. And they vill be edited, now," is the commanding voice. I fight. Honest, I do. But yesterday, the muse, so patient, so kind, so full of ideas, and sometimes baloney, finally spoke up. "SHUT UP!" She offered a compromise. For the next twelve months the EIE will leave me alone, then, during NANOWRIMO 2012, the EIE is in charge.

So, as long as the EIE can play nice as of Monday, next NANOWRIMO is the anti-nanowrimo. I'm to offer up 112,327 (don't ask how we came up with that number) words, and the EIE has as a goal, the opportunity to cut 50,000 words out of that novel of 112K+ words in one month. We're all happy for now.

So, what kind of crazy deals do you make with your internal and external demons to get a story completed?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Big Bra

Every now and then, a story pops up that catches my eye for no good reason. This model is wearing a bra advertised as costing $2.5 million. Have I even made $2.5M in my lifetime? I mean I could have read about Paterno (sad in so many ways) or Lindsey Lohan (just sad) or even the big Alaskan winter storm (bad, real bad). Yes, the model is cute, but I bet after this gig she eats a whole turkey like a Viking returning from the sea so that her body doesn't shut down from malnourishment. But a $2.5M bra! Who buys these things? Some how, some way, there's a story waiting to be written about this bra. And, at what point did wings become part of a bra? I must have missed that when Mr. Hayes taught Sex Education and Leon A. kept asking questions to which he already had the answers. But I don't think he asked about bras.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Self-Published Marketing

Well, it's challenging - Twittering, blogging, co-blogging, swap-blogging, Linked-in, Facebooked, reviewing, face-to-face showing, book clubbing, independent book store cajoling, little sleeping, some writing, sanity questioning, interviewing, articling, Book Launch Partying (well, that was fun), writer meeting, calling, writing, emailing, texting, selling (sold two in an assisted living center - relax, it was staff), visiting (sold 7 on vacation in the Wisconsin woods - woowoo - who knew bears read mysteries), praying, singing (praises), next comes You-Tubing. If you're gonna be a self-published author, be prepared to wear a lot of hats, and always, always, carry a copy of your book along to sell.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NANOWRIMO and Losing My Religion

Not sure why the title of this post came to mind. Perhaps I heard R.E.M. last night before going to sleep. Or, maybe it's because I'm starting to wander into that no man's land of novel writing. That area somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words where the original inspiration for the story starts to flag and the "really neat" stuff you planned for later in the book can't happen yet. It's the point where the reader starts to lose interest in your underdone book and lays it down. "How was it Myrtle?" Myrtle shrugs her shoulders and starts yammering about the latest image of Jesus she found in the crabgrass. The writer's goose is cooked. Forget about word-of-mouth marketing by Myrtle.

So, after 14,007 words, I did something drastic to my character that I'd not thought about doing before that moment of inspiration when the Muse whispered in my ear at 11:27 p.m. last night as the caffeine fix waned and the call of the pillow trumpeted brain-dead salvation. Muse, thou has not forsaken me yet. And the religion of writing is not lost. Write on! Write on!! Brothers and sisters, amen. Write on!

Monday, November 7, 2011


If you're a writer, you probably know that NANOWRIMO is upon us. I struggled on Sunday, but I managed, in between cutting 672 caramels, meeting with neighbors about neighborhood security, fighting off the shrill sounds of four hours of seven recorder players finalizing thirteen holiday tunes, making (and cleaning up afterwards) enough gung pao chicken four a family of eight, to raise my total number of words to 12,081. For NANO, that's about a quarter way to the finish line. For the length of novels I write, that's about 1/7th of the way. I need to write shorter novels. Herein, without fanfare is the first scene of the first chapter of my mystery novel that has not title yet. It is the fourth novel in the Detective Stark mystery series (or maybe the fifth), and I had no idea what the story was about when I started, but I do now. Writing, even for an anal-retentive, Capricorn, German/Polish, former project manager like me is sometimes organic in nature.
Chapter 1

I leaned my head out the window of the idling Ford Explorer to see a man in shorts and a parka running toward my car yelling, "Rabbits. They're everywhere. Huge rabbits." He dashed past my rented vehicle and kept on going for fifty yards before he fell down attempting to turn down a dirt road. He rolled over twice before he bounced up and sprinted from sight into the Newfoundland maritime forest.

Facing forward again, I shook my head. My stomach growled in response. I was hungry and ready for some good seafood, but fifteen or so cars clogged the road ahead of us. About ten of them had been in front of us since we had gotten off the last ferry run of the year at Argentia. The lead car held us captive on the squiggly highway 10A across the Avalon Peninsula for forty miles. I could not see the problem around the slight bend in the road, but, I hoped that whatever had blocked the slow parade of traffic would be gone soon.

I looked at my wife in the passenger seat. "Mary, are the rabbits really that big up here?"

"Yep," my wife answered, holding her forehead with her fingertips. Eyes closed. Lips curled up in a sardonic smile.

"Bunnies," Robert yelled from the back seat.

Mary turned to face our two-year-old son. "That's right. Bunnies." She laughed and poked Robert playfully in the belly before adjusting the car seat.

I stared straight ahead again. "Bunnies." I put the car into park and unbuckled my seat belt.

Mary reached for my arm, but I opened the door and slipped out of the driver's seat before she could grab me. "And just where are you going?" She positioned one arm akimbo, wrinkled her brow, and pouted.

I flashed a winning smile. She didn't formalize the question by including my name into her query. Good. Her fake anger at my inquisitive nature, when we were so close to our destination, was a good sign. The long flight from central Pennsylvania to Bangor, Maine and the fifteen hour ferry ride form Nova Scotia to Argentia hadn't taxed her stoic good nature to its limit. "There might be an accident. Besides," I said in a serious tone while shrugging into a warm jacket, "there might be bunnies."

"Bunnies," Robert yelled again then laughed.
Y'all have a great day, and hope you made it to work on time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I should be blogging about NANOWRIMO (I'm doing it), revising (I'm doing it), marketing my novels (I'm doing it), cleaning out the garden now that veggie season is over (I'm doing it), doing household chores (I'm doing it), fixing the cars--new battery for one; tires for both (I'm doing it), critiquing some chapters (I'm doing it), writing Sydney's biography (I'm doing it), spraying anti-deer stinky stuff (I'm doing it, although the last time I sprayed myself and even the mosquitoes didn't come near me), and cleaning house (I'm doing it).

However, what has taken top priority is getting my passwords and accounts in order. The computerized world has just gotten a bit out of control. I now have over 100 places that want me to have a user name/ID and password. And they all want me to change it on a regular basis. Yeah, I'm doing it, but it's taking a long time. Perhaps there's a story in it, but who has time to write it.