Thursday, September 27, 2012

Goodreads, star rankings

I'm on the fabulously helpful Writer's Guide to E-Publishing today talking about review rankings and how a 3-star on one site doesn't necessarily mean the same as a 3-star ranking on another site! Join me at:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Writers Police Academy 2012

Last weekend, I enjoyed attending my second Writers Police Academy at Guilford Technical Community College in NC. It was all fun until someone lost a finger (see photo below). 

Actually, it was fun after that someone lost a finger, since that someone was a fake cadaver buried in a shallow grave in the woods.

Finger off cadaver in Shallow Grave workshop.

The academy was so full of workshops, I couldn't attend them all. But at every class and with every presentation, I learned new information and terminology, like when the ATF agent said the bullet fairy visited him. (His gun wasn't loaded.)

I got to lift my own fingerprints off a variety of mediums in the fingerprinting workshop. Fun and crafty!

Special speakers included Lee Child and Marcia Clark. (See photo below.) While I enjoyed their presentations, my favorite was given by a forensic scientist.

Does this photo really need a caption? Lee Child and Marcia Clark by the fake cadaver in the shallow grave.
My favorite workshop was the Underwater Evidence Recovery where divers explained how they search for and recover evidence and bodies from underwater. I even got to hold the rope as a diver in a pool searched for a fake gun.

A diver searches for "evidence" (a.k.a. a fake gun, which I circled in red), and the rope (red arrow) is held and extended to control where he searches.
I got to experience all kinds of great demos. See the photos below - and they're not the half of it!


Chase scenario: Give up, bad guys!
The bad guys pull over, and the driver steps out in this mock arrest scenario. The police have him back up. They cuff him and load him in a car. But there's still a passenger in the vehicle.
K-9 Unit, ready if needed.
The "bad guy" gets out of the silver vehicle and shoots at the police. Nice pants, wrong attitude!

In the scenario, the "bad guy" is shot.

Police approach with care after the "bad guy" is shot in the scenario.
The workshops were fun, the GTCC staff and visiting officers were amazing, and the academy was outstanding in so many different ways.

Monday, September 17, 2012

He said he wanted a flounder cake

...and that's what I made. My oldest son's birthday was this weekend, and we held a small party at our house, complete with a flounder cake.

Most of my son's friends seem to have parties that fall on the extravagant side. It's been years since we've been invited to a party at another friend's house; the parties typically are at a destination. And, while fun, the price of the destination parities to me is extraordinary. I'm a frugal kind of gal, and, frugally speaking, I've got certain guidelines for holidays and celebrations in my family. 

Birthday cakes are homemade. And I'm no fancy-shmancy cook, as evidenced by the cake photo, which looked odd and maybe more like a piranha than a flounder but tasted just fine. I enjoy making the cakes myself... and they're a lot easier on the wallet.

Birthday parties are at home... unless you don't want any presents. I offered my son a choice. He could have us pay for the $100+ birthday party at the destination (he likes those gymnasium places with the inflatable bounce houses and slides). We'd pay for the party and have that be his birthday presents and part of his Christmas presents... or we could hold a small party at our house and purchase some other presents for him. (He chose the birthday party at home with presents and the homemade cake.)

And now I'm recovering from the post-cake sugar and extra frosting rollercoaster ride. Small price to pay, considering what sheet cake sells for these days!

What's your idea of a rockin' birthday party?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Johnny Appleseed in an orange peel

You know someone is affecting you when random sights or experiences in your life remind you of them. These sights or experiences include everything from a butterfly reminding my mom of a relative to people seeing Jesus or Mary in mashed potatoes or clouds.

My son recently saw Johnny Appleseed in an orange peel. Seriously.

He comes dashing into the room: "Mom! Mom! Come quick! My orange peel looks like Johnny Appleseed! Come see it!"

But I actually did see it - and took a photograph of the American legend in orange-peel form. Do you see Johnny Appelseed in the orange peel? My son believes in the version that wears a pot on his head for a hat.

What's amazing to me is, while other people are seeing Jesus and Mary, my son is seeing a character from a book he read a year ago. Maybe that's how you know when you've run across a compelling character - when you begin seeing his face in your orange peels!

While most anyone can look at the clouds and say what they see - a dragon, a dog, Uncle Scott with his crazy hair - have you ever seen a person or character in an object when you weren't looking for it?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Welcome to the jungle

Sometimes life gets away from you. Or certain aspects of your life. At least, this has been my experience.

I can focus so much on one aspect of my life while completely turning my back on another aspect of my life. And then I open my eyes one morning and realize the part of my life I've neglected has been overcome with weeds.

In this particular case, literally.

Exhibit 1: The Jungle

Before weeding!

While working on recent books and promoting the books, spending time with the family, at church, writing for the paper, keeping up with dishes/laundry/grocery shopping, and (let's face it) spending too much time on Facebook, I completely neglected the "natural areas" of my yard. In our family, my husband's job is maintaining the lawn while my realm encompasses the natural areas. I didn't bother to worry about my yard responsibilities for an entire season. But I knew the time for my avoidance had ended when my 3YO son began referring to the backyard as the jungle. Instead of saying he was going outside to play, he began saying he was going to go play in the jungle. Cute as that reference was, the object of his reference was a bit overwhelming. (That's my son, disappearing into the jungle.)

Exhibit 2: The Jungle, clear cut

After weeding! Now, who wants to help me spread mulch?
So I finally got off my fanny and away from the internet, and after a few mornings spent in the dirt, I cleaned up the jungle... most of it, anyway. And for now, at least, because you know the weeds will be returning. What a difference a good weeding makes!