Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Little Bits of Fall

It's odd to be a resident of coastal California in the fall.  Most of the native trees don't lose their leaves, so we don't get much fall color.  Plus, right around the first day of school, the fog disappears and leaves us with brilliant sunny days.  Beach weather.  It's torture when you're growing up, to start school right when the summer weather finally arrives!  

Enjoying fall, and celebrating it, becomes a more purposeful activity when there is less evidence of it around you.  This year I decided to look for fall.  It took some searching, but this is what I found.

The light changes.  Everything seems a little more crisp and clear and the sun leaves extra sparkles on the ocean.  

We get to see colorful sunsets over the ocean. (In summer the sun sets over the neighborhood.)

We visit the local pumpkin patch…

and get lost in their corn maze.

There are many varieties of delicious apples to snack on.

Strange, sparkly spiders take up residence over our front door.

I cut back my garden, and plan for next year.

As the days get shorter, I want to curl up in my cozy house and read!

If you celebrate Halloween, I hope you have a wonderful time. And if you live in a place with glorious fall color and crispy cold weather, please blow it all a wistful kiss from me.  I’ll be here on the California coast, continuing to look for little bits of fall.

I would love to know what fall is like where you live?  What are your favorite parts of the season?

Monday, October 27, 2014

At the Flick of a Switch

Jeannie Watt

I'm in the slow process of moving to Montana. The plan is that by
the time I'm done teaching, the heavy lifting will be done. I can pack my overnight bag, get into the car and go. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but we'll start moving things this spring and continue during my last year of teaching--next year! The most noteworthy change, to me, will be having real electricity. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around having power 24/7. I know I've blogged about generator life before, but I've got to do it again, because the thought of power at the flick of a switch is kind of heady stuff.

The biggest challenge of living on a generator is that the blasted things break down, just like cars
break down. And they run out of fuel. That doesn't happen often, since we have a big fuel tank, but it has happened. I've also had to jump start the generator on cold mornings when the battery was on its last legs. I learned to change out points and plugs and condenser on our first (propane) generator because my husband was going to college and thus became the master of the power source. It was an awesome responsibility. Lights start flickering--call mom! I cleverly refused to learn anything about the second diesel generator, thus making my husband the go-to guy there. I do know a bad noise when I hear it, and I know the sound of a bearing going out and the signs of a faulty regulator. You know what? I know more about generators than I want to. The only real blessing is that when I work on something electrical in the house, I know for certain the wires aren't live if the generator is off. Also, when other people in my valley lose power, I still have it...although that also works the other way around.

What I miss most about real electricity is being able to do things whenever I feel like it. If I want to sew, I have to wait for generator time (we only run it in the morning and in the evenings, due to the cost). If I want to wash clothes--generator time. The same with vacuuming, ironing, etc. I'm wondering what it'll be like to use the oven all day long, or to program a DVR to record a show. What will it be like to head to the bathroom at night without using my phone as a flashlight?

But there have been very good things about my twenty years (yep--twenty) of generator life. I appreciate true silence. I can arrange daily tasks according to power/no power. My kids grew up reading and playing in the creek. The entire family can walk around in the dark without hurting ourselves. And the view. I love the view.
My house is the microscopic white dot in the center of the photo.
But I gotta tell you, I'm really, really looking forward to putting some meat and potatoes in a slow cooker, turning it on and six hours later having a meal waiting for me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Winner of the Crochet Coffee Cup Holder

As a true procrastinator would, I put off announcing the winner of my crocheted cup holder and my special cookie recipe.

Winner: Patricia Johns!

Congrats! Contact me at to claim your prize!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Homicide detective murders romance novel plot

Hello everyone! I don't know if you remember, but in September I posted about the Citizen's Police Academy (CPA) class I was taking. You can check the post out here, but to summarize: the Durham Police Department offers an introduction on all its many pieces and parts that runs for six weeks. You learn about everything from the bicycle unit to forensics and it's awesome. If your police department offers one, you should take it.

The last day of the class was October 2nd. I missed it (because I had to work), but I got my certificate and a nice photo at the second-to-last class.

Now I'm applying all the research to my writing. The results have been messy.

When people ask me about my process and my research, I tell them that I research as I write and that's true. Usually that serves me fine. Usually I have enough understanding to sketch the basics of a plot and scene to fill in later with details as I do more and more research.

Yeah. That's not working with this book.

I knew television cop dramas weren't accurate. I knew I only had the foggiest idea what an actual police department did and how a homicide was investigated. I knew all this and I had a detailed sketch of my novel anyway. Because how off could I be? This method had worked for me for five other books.

Then I talked with a homicide detective about the specifics of the book I was working on and he murdered the plot. Shot the poor thing dead. 

So now, instead of writing, I've been revising the plot to fit the actuality of police detective work. And it's a messy process.

The left notebook is my notes from both the detective and the CPA class. There's a laptop in the upper right with what I had of the book open so I can go through it scene by scene.The bottom notebook has a new detailed outline of each scene (with some scenes deleted and others added) to make what I'm writing fit the real world. And there are post-its to remind me not to forget to account for something later in the book.

I have an office and a desk, but for some reason all this is taking place at my dining room table.

Here's a little excerpt from the book. I tried to find an excerpt that wasn't going be modified with my research and wasn't successful. The feeling of the book will stay the same and this should give you a good sense of the feeling the book starts out with.
Every Wednesday at eleven o'clock in the morning, two things happened in Detective Howie Berry's cubicle. First, the weather radio beeped and a scratchy female voice sounded out a test. The all-clear was always immediately followed by phone call. The bustle of the room would halt—as if by the magic they claimed not to believe in—and then Howie would strain to hear the words of another scratchy, hard-to-understand female voice through the phone.

I'm curious about what you guys and gals think of police departments in books and on television. Do you read a lot of romance novels with cops in them? Does the representation of the police in romance novels fit with your expectation and does your expectation come from personal experience or (like me) from cop shows on television?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I really gotta paint these spots...
next weekend...
I love getting things done on weekends. Not just the usual laundry and grocery shopping, but all those projects I have on the go, whether it’s writing (my bread and butter) or something more creative, like a crochet project. Having something tangible to show for your time and effort is always a good feeling.

This weekend, my husband replaced the screen in our kitchen window, which had been ripped since we moved in to the house. For years, I’d wanted to try to do it myself, but I’ve never been strong enough to get the windows out of the frame, so I put it off. And I didn’t ask my husband to do it, either—he just took the initiative.

It’s always the chores that I really ought to do that I put off the most—little household repairs that keep piling up on my to-do list. While I’m fairly handy, I simply lack the resolve, and find other ways to occupy my time.

A brief list of things I’ve put off:

  1. Repainting a few newly plastered spots on the wall throughout the house 
  2. Giving the hallway a much-needed second coat of paint
  3. Removing all the old rags my house’s previous owner stuffed between the joists in my basement as insulation (pretty sure this is dangerous and not to code)
  4. Reorganizing my books and DVDs
  5. Fixing various other holes in the walls
  6. Writing
  7. Blogging

Instead of these really important (in my mind) chores, I end up:

  1. Crocheting
  2. Watching TV
  3. Painting
  4. Cleaning
  5. Cooking
  6. Writing
  7. Tweeting and Facebooking

Comment to win this
crocheted cup sleeve!
Yes, I know number 6 is the same on both lists. But it’s what I end up writing that matters—like a piece of Doctor Who fan fiction instead of a book that’s ondeadline. That’s the funny thing about any project: you can always find one more thing to distract you from completing one task. For example, I’ve been crocheting a granny square blanket since last August and I still haven’t finished it because now I’m bent on making crocheted cup holders.

My only strategy for getting things done seems to be drinking at least two cups of coffee early in the day. Then I’ll spend the rest of the day zooming around the house, looking for things to do to work off the caffeine. It’s probably not the healthiest thing to do, and it never results in good writing—or any writing, since I get too fidgeting to sit still. But at least I might have something to show for it at the end.

Do you have any strategies to get certain chores done? Reply below and I’ll pick one commenter to receive a reusable crocheted coffee cup sleeve and my special recipe for chocolate chip cookies!

EDIT: Winner will be chosen Friday, October 24, 2014, 11:59 p.m. EST.
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