I’m Going to Canada!

And it has nothing to do with the election!

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Back last summer, my friend and fellow author Wendy Corsi Staub invited me to like a page on Facebook. Wendy doesn’t waste a lot of time on social media foolishness, so I knew if she was inviting me, then it must be something worthwhile.

(Seriously, if you want to know how to maintain an effective social media presence without losing readers, follow her. She’s just awesome!)

The page was for the Leon B. Burstein/MWA-NY Scholarship for Mystery Writing,whose purpose “is to inspire aspiring mystery writers by offering financial support to writers who want to take a specific class, attend a conference, or to do specific research as demonstrably necessary to a mystery work they are creating. It was named for Leon B. Burstein, an avid mystery fan, that more work in his favorite genre might be created.”

Filling Out the Application

After reading the FAQ’s I hastily filled out my application. Here are some of the highlights:

  • PERSONAL STATEMENT – I explained that attending Bouchercon 2015 was a life-changing event, saying, “It defined the art of mystery writing for me in ways that books or websites alone couldn’t achieve.” I shared how attending the conference affected my writing and how I rushed to register for the 2016 event a full 13 months in advance…only to learn at the last minute that I’d be unable to attend, after all.
  • TWIST AND SHOUT – I promised that, if selected, I’d share here on my webpage and my Facebook author page. I also promised to lavish words of thanks to MWA-NY and the Scholarship Committee in the acknowledgements section of anything I publish as a result of winning the award.
  • CHECK OUT THIS T-SHIRT – This was a fun addition to the list. My family owns a small business. It’s mostly woodworking, but we also apply vinyl to t-shirts using a heat press. I promised I’d make a special shirt if selected.

And I was selected! My proposal requested funds that I would apply toward attending Bouchercon 2017 and you can see me wearing this shirt at the event.

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The Writing Sample – Oh Boy!

My writing sample was a short story titled FAMILY IS A PAIN IN THE ASS. It’s about a young man who lives with the grandparents who raised him and his sister. When his grandfather dies, he must take drastic action to prevent another family member going to jail.

Although the story isn’t included in this blog post, I can tell you it includes fast food breakfast, a vintage photograph, and a lumpy hemorrhoid pillow. How mysterious, right?

As a 1,000 word tale for a Gotham Writers contest, the story didn’t move on to the next round. With the help of my writing group, The Mountain Scribes, I was able to polish it into something better.

I’d Like to Thank…

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Thank you so much again to everyone who helped make this possible.

I’m really looking forward to Bouchercon 2017 and counting the days until October 12th (It’ s 337 at the time of this writing!) and you can bet this has served as inspiration to use NaNoWriMo to make a big push to finish my cozy mystery, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS DIES TWICE.

Are you going to Bouchercon? Let me know in the comments!

 

Plotting My Life Away

Everybody has a favorite tradition.

For some people it’s holiday-related, like slicing the Thanksgiving turkey or hiding eggs at Easter. Others like traditions related to the seasons, such as making snow angels or annual trips to the shore. Still others base their traditions around sports like the opening game of their favorite baseball team or the NFL Super Bowl.

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My favorite tradition has nothing to do with any of those. It’s NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month for those of you unfamiliar with the event.

The event started yesterday and I’m off to a good start. Pre-planning was a huge help. I plotted the outline. I created a map (shown below) of the fictional town, called Stars Hollow Treasure Pines, and a character page (not shown below – Spoilers, sweetie!) with color-coded lines connecting the various people involved in the story.

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You’ll notice the circle is slightly off-center. This is because the pirates who settled the town were drunk when they buried the treasure. Later when planning the main streets, they couldn’t recall the exact location so they moved the circle over a little – just in case.

If you see less of me on social media, it’s because I’m over here plotting my life away, writing 1,667 words per day.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? It’s not too late to get started! Leave a comment telling me about your personal experiences or asking me a question. I look forward to hearing from you!

NaNoWriMo Is Coming

This will be my fourth official year participating in NaNoWriMo and I’m very excited about it. Despite my tendency towards being a verbose individual, I’m not sure I could find the exact words to express my excitement, so I’m going to demonstrate it with this visual aid.

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I have a plot (which is actually plotted out!), a map of the town, a character map showing color-coded relationships between people. I could use a bigger office with more wall space, but my house is one step up from a tiny house – a cozy house, if you will – and I’ll take what I can get, which incidentally is the corner of the living room.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Tell me all about it – or ask questions to know more – in the comments!

You Scratch My Back

Today I join the other female bloggers who are sharing their experiences of unwanted sexual attention. Instead of going through the long history, starting in early elementary school when a neighborhood boy tried to hold me down and kiss me – an incident which affected my entire childhood, I’m only going to talk about one situation.

In the summer of 1991 I’d left college and moved in with some friends I met through my job as a security agent at Washington Dulles International Airport. I was nineteen years old, five foot tall with an attractive figure from swimming for hours each day, and very naive.

Along with my roommates, the job introduced me to new situations and allowed face-to-face meetings with celebrities like Raymond Burr and Sinbad. Unfortunately, it also put me in harm’s way.

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One afternoon I clocked in and took over for the person manning the metal detector door so they could go home. Some time after a passenger came through and, as he bent to collect his keys, change, cigarette lighter, and any other loose, metal objects, I saw something hanging from his key ring. Per protocol at the time, I leaned toward him and asked if I could take a look at it.

“It’s mace, see!” Came his smartass reply, and he proceeded to spray me in the face with whatever the container held.

My posture and the position of his arm aligned in such a way that my glasses did little to protect my eyes. A severe burning sensation overtook any ability to see and I cried out to my coworkers. By the time they realized what happened, the passenger was long gone.

They called the head supervisor from his office and he insisted on driving me to the emergency room, about twenty minutes away, in his personal vehicle. Surrounded by fire departments staffed by volunteers, and originally hailing from a rural area in the same situation, his logic made sense.

Why wait for volunteers to answer the fire call, travel to the firehouse, staff the ambulance, and drive to the airport, when his car was parked just outside? Besides, if I went to the hospital by ambulance someone would have to provide transportation for me to get back to work – and my roommates were all working.

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This was the man who interviewed me for my job at the airport. He was tall and brawny with broad shoulders, a small head, and black hair cropped in the style of my eighth grade math teacher. He also led all the company’s training classes for that particular airport. He was both well-liked and well-respected by all my coworkers, both male and female. I had no reason not to trust him. I had no qualms about getting in a car with him.

The ride to the hospital was uneventful. Once there, the emergency room staff flushed my eyes, gave me some drops to take home, and warned me about signs to look for that might warrant a return trip. After I promised to follow up with my family eye doctor, my supervisor and I were in the car again, headed back to the airport.

The drive back seemed to take longer. There was no need to rush, he assured me, because the emergency had passed. We could take our time and enjoy a leisurely drive. Besides, I was still on the clock and the longer it took him to drive back, the less I’d have to work for the day.

He asked me questions about where I was from, my family, where I went to school, what I studied, and did I have a boyfriend. It seemed like friendly conversation and I rattled off answers without a second thought – Harpers Ferry, two parents and three siblings, Shepherd, graphic design, and no – my college boyfriend and I broke up a few months before I started working at the airport.

A clever opportunist, my supervisor used this opportunity to segue into a problem he was having. He asked me if I knew what the term frigid meant and, when I said no, he explained it to me. I do not recall if I responded, but he continued talking. He told me that his wife couldn’t meet his needs because she was frigid, and how would I like to go on a picnic with him sometime.

“Wait, you mean for sex?” I blurted.

It’s been 25 years but my skin still crawls at the memory of his face leering at me across the front seat of his car.

I don’t even remember his name – but I will never, ever forget that expression. I was bewildered. Why would he ask me this? She was still his wife! He was married. Married! That meant something, didn’t it? Shouldn’t it? This wasn’t normal…was it?

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I told him I’d have to think about it because my eyes were sore and it had been a pretty eventful day.

I never had any intention of taking him up on his offer, but he had the home field advantage. Remember – I was nineteen years old. It was my first time living away from home. This man was highly regarded by my coworkers and everyone liked him, but I was a passenger in his car and my only goal was to get back to work.

To my disgust, he seemed satisfied by my response. The rest of the drive was tame in comparison to his previous questions. Conversation turned to work, my goals, and opportunities for me to be promoted within the company – perhaps a position where I could work more closely with him. A promotion to something with a little higher pay.

As he talked, I never drew a relationship between his sex life and my career path. The very idea was unfathomable. Besides, why would he seriously be interested in a kid like me? I was only nineteen.

That night I told my roommate, who was concerned. She suggested I ask our immediate manager, who had more time and experience on the job with that company, for advice.

The next time the three of us worked together, we went to the otherwise empty employee cafeteria. I relayed what happened. The manager asked if I wanted to be promoted into a higher-paying position where I’d have to work close to him every day. When I said no, she shrugged it off.

“Then just turn down the job. It’s not a big deal.”

So that’s what I did. I turned down the job. Deep down, I knew that my airport security gig was in no way a career path. Part of my reason for leaving college was because I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life and I felt guilty for wasting my parents’ money on tuition for classes that didn’t really interest me.

He found some other girl who did take him up on his offer. I have no idea if his frigid wife ever knew about his extramarital dallying. When the chance came to work in a different industry, I took it and walked out on my airport job without the required two weeks’ notice. I never looked back.

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That wasn’t my first time experiencing something like this and it was in no way the last. It is the one that comes to mind the most when I hear celebrities like Trump say they can do what they want to women and then, after being called out on it, chalk up what they’ve said as “locker room talk”.

It wasn’t okay then. It’s not okay now. It won’t be okay in the future.

If you have a story to share, please feel free to use the comments section. If you’d rather share anonymously, email me at beckythemom@hotmail.com and I’ll be happy to host it on a future blog post.

#WeAreWomen #WeMatter #HearUsRoar

The End of an Era

While that title might suggest this post is about politics or some other aspect of human nature, it refers to an event so life-altering that yesterday found me in tears on more than one occasion.

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My Keurig died.

It was more than a coffee maker. It has sentimental value from a time in my life that I will never, ever get back. It was there for me during some of the most poignant times of the past five years…

…through deaths of family members (including Gingerbelle, my beloved Golden Retriever)
…when my sons graduated high school, started driving, and working jobs with crazy hours
…during the series finales of television shows like Downton Abbey, Parenthood, and Mike & Molly

You get the idea.

I know, like Celine Dion promises, that my heart will go on. Cinnamon the Golden Retriever keeps me company while I write. Sons who drive can bring home $1 iced coffee from McDonalds. Television shows like Victoria, This Is Us, and (very soon but not soon enough) Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life will sustain my entertainment addiction…for now.

Although there will be other coffee makers (hopefully another Keurig because nothing else fits my lifestyle like this machine), I will always think fondly on my Keurig B60 Special Brewing System.

Until I publish a bestselling novel or hit the lottery, the plan is to save spare change until I can afford the Keurig 119435 KFF Coffee Maker in rhubarb red to match the rest of the small appliances in my kitchen.

Wish me luck.

Anthony Does Not Watch Movies

Well, he does watch them, but it’s conditional. Here’s what happened.

When my writing group meets, sometimes we do more discussing than writing. A couple of weeks ago the topic was plot twists. Several movie titles were mentioned, and it seemed that each time my friend and fellow writer Anthony Marchese admitted, “No, I don’t believe I’ve seen that one.”

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“Do you watch any movies?” I asked, incredulous. As a huge movie buff, I couldn’t imagine anyone not seeing some of the films mentioned in our discussion.

He said, “Yes.” Then he explained that movies are something he usually watches with someone else. He doesn’t watch movies alone. (In his defense, he’s also an actor and has seen more theater in his lifetime than I probably ever will in mine.)

Here’s a list of movies with plot twists we discussed that are now on his list of things to watch:

  1. The Shining
  2. Six Sense
  3. Fight Club
  4. Primal Fear
  5. The Village
  6. The Exorcist
  7. Rear Window
  8. Fright Night
  9. Cujo
  10. Psycho
  11. Silence of the Lambs
  12. The Leprechaun
  13. Pan’s Labyrinth
  14. Identity
  15. Shutter

I’ve seen all of these movies – some of them multiple times.

Are there any in the list you haven’t seen? Let me know in the comments.

And if there are any movies you wonder if Anthony has yet to watch, ask that in the comments too so he can reply.

 

Here Be Dragons

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During the summer of 2014, our son’s best friend moved two states away. Speedy, his beloved box turtle of the past three years, was unable to go with him. When he asked if we could foster Speedy until he returned home “or whenever” of course we said yes. It was a turtle. How difficult could it be?

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This is Speedy. Yes, we saw a vet about his overbite.

Keeping a box turtle turned out to be incredibly easy. I joined a Facebook group for reptile owners and learned a lot about our new four-legged, tough-shelled friend. He ate his turtle food. We spritzed him with water. He climbed on the turtle-friendly playground we created in his newer, bigger habitat. Everything was going really well.

And Then There Were Two… And Then Three…

Everything was going so well that when the Facebook group presented the opportunity to add a gecko to our menagerie, I jumped at the chance. The next month, we added a second gecko to our growing menagerie.

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Geronimo is a female Giant Day Gecko. She’s bigger than this now and kind of looks like the GEICO gecko. His previous owner was going overseas and had to give him up.
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This is Captain Jack. He is a Crested Gecko. Most reptiles like to shed in private but Jack seems to be the exception. He really loves showing off for me. His previous owner went to college and unfortunately the dorm has a no-reptile policy.

This put our number of pets at seven – four dogs and three reptiles. All the humans in the house agreed – we were done. Our home is one step up from a tiny house, and it was full. No matter what animal became available or its circumstances, the answer would be, “Sorry! We’re unable to take in anything at this time.”

Famous Last Words…

So we agreed to take this pair of bearded dragons temporarily. They were in bad shape – as in, I was afraid they wouldn’t make it through the night. Their prior owner left them in the hands of someone who, it turns out, disliked reptiles. In my head I was already calling them Lenny and Squiggy.

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Lenny and Squiggy are 2-year-old bearded dragons. Their previous owner was unable to take care of them due to extenuating circumstances.

Their habitat (which came with them) was filled with lettuce and what looked like old cat food. The person had kittens who urinated on the screen – and the poor dragons – and the habitat was flea infested.

We added a heat lamp and did some quick research on the best foods to supplement their diet of gut loaded crickets. (Gut loading is a process of enriching the food eaten by live food, like crickets, worms, or mice, so the nutrients get passed on to the bigger animal.)

My husband began making the dragons a medley of diced squash, apples, greens, and other reptile-friendly foods. Within a couple of days they showed signs of improvement.

Because the primary living space in our home has an open floor plan, Where we put their habitat is visible from practically any seat in the living and dining areas. While under our near-constant supervision, we grew rather fond of these new creatures.

Then my husband began referring to them as his dragons. His boys. His buddies. He and our sons gave them nicknames like Cheech and Chong, Beavis and Butthead, Spongebob and Patrick.

Life as Foster Failures

When I mentioned finding them a new home, my husband scoffed. They were already settled in here. A routine had developed. We wouldn’t want to stress them out by moving them again, would we?

And that’s how we ended up with nine pets. We are foster failures – people who agree to provide temporary care for an animal but then end up adopting the animal ourselves.

Now I have to figure out how to work Lenny and Squiggy into my book. Fortunately it’s a cozy mystery, so they’ll fit right in with Harvey Wallbanger the Golden Retriever and Calico the cat.

Do you have pets? Do you work them into your writing projects? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!