Monthly Archives: October 2016

Cleaning House & Updating CVs

If I have a deer in the headlights expression it’s because I’ve been reminded of something important.

You know how it helps to pick up after yourself as you go along, so cleaning day doesn’t become so overwhelming. I thought maintaining my resume as a technical writer was a necessary evil. But I haven’t updated my teaching curriculum vitae in awhile. What a pain!

Some of you may know that I taught at Lone Star College on two campuses for over fifteen years. I let my adjunct classes go when my mother was diagnosed with bone cancer. It was just one too many things to concentrate on and I felt I wasn’t giving my students my full attention. I’ve talked to Ron Jones replacement at CyFair campus (who seems very nice) about starting to teach a class again. Unfortunately, after two years my records in their system have ‘gone away’. So I have to do the whole application process again.

I love teaching, but I’d forgotten what an arduous process this can be. Still it’s a good idea to periodically go in and update my records of past jobs and theater work in one comprehensive place. So I’ll try to think of this as a periodic ‘cleaning house’, and resolve to regularly maintain the darn thing.

I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said you should “do one thing that scares you every day.”

Onward and upward!

Reading Louise Penney’s ‘A Great Reckoning’

As you know, when not writing you need to be reading. I try to read the spectrum of mystery fiction. But I have my favorites. This weekend I got to read the much anticipated twelfth book in Louise Penney’s series about former Chief Inspector Gamache.  It did not disappoint.

On back-order for several months, it arrived as I left for Bouchercon, where I picked up three bags of books to read.  But this one stayed at the top of my pile.

Fans will know that Armand Gamache is the former Chief Inspector of the Homicide division for the Sûreté du Québec.  Having almost died cleaning up the corruption in the famed police force, he has retired to the sleepy village of Three Pines, which figures greatly in most of the books. Seemingly recovered but bearing the scars, both mental and physical, he passes up grandiose positions to become the new Commander of the Sûreté Academy. It is the last bastion of the evil and decay that almost overwhelmed the division. In what seems an act of insanity, he brings two of his fiercest enemies onto the faculty. The struggle for hearts and minds inevitably leads to a murder and the investigation that targets him as a suspect gradually peels away layers of scandal that shock even Gamache.

Penney skillfully intertwines the central story with a historical thread, following a mysterious map through twists and turns worthy of Dan Brown. But, as always, it is the finely, almost poetically-drawn characters and the rich heritage of Québec that holds us riveted, not the tightly structured plot.

If you are a novice to this fabulous Canadian author, sprint to your nearest used bookstore to find the first book of the series, Still Life.  It is not always available at your local box store.  Begin at the beginning and follow the twists and turns of the progressive relationships between the varied and wonderful cast of her books. No one stands still;  they all grow and evolve, and make terribly human mistakes. My only small disappointment in this book was that Clara, the resident artist of Three Pines played so small a role.

Fans of Louise Penney will know that the release of the last two books were somewhat delayed by the onset and increasingly devastating dementia of her husband, Michael.  That she can still write such beautiful prose while coping with this is extraordinary. It is especially poignant since many of Gamache’s most endearing qualities are those she based on her beloved husband.

 

 

 

Conferences


Just recently returned from five days in New Orleans for the 2016 Bouchercon Mystery Conference. It was fabulous; great panels, lots of wonderful new writers and books being introduced, and old friends meeting up. The city has gone through a resurgence since Katrina and was more than welcoming to mystery writers and fan enthusiasts alike.

I’m really looking forward to the Houston chapter of SCBWI’s conference later this month. I always learn a lot about the children’s book industry, about writing, and about marketing yourself.  I’m signed up for THREE critiques on my new Middle Grade novel, Between Dime Box and Blue.  I may be a glutton for punishment, but I’m confident this is ready to find a home.

If you are not familiar with this fabulous international writers organization, the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is an international writers organization with chapters around the world. They conduct a major conference in Los Angeles in the summer and in New York in the winter.  Local chapters, such as the one in Houston have their own smaller, but equally impressive list of agents, writers, illustrators, and editors who come to speak, critique, and workshop experienced and novice writers.  This is hands down the most supportive and gracious group of writing colleagues you will ever know.  Monthly meetings are free even to non-members, but there are perks for joining.

The Houston chapter meets on the first Monday evening (7:00) of the month at the Tracy Gee Community Center 3599 Westcenter, Houston, TX 77042.  For more information about the Houston conference go to:

http://houston.scbwi.org/2016-houston-scbwi-conference/


Cue the Murder

The door slapped shut in my face. The bus lumbered forward, belching its obnoxious toxic diesel fumes.  Picking up the pace, I banged on the door, but the driver flogged the bus through the first three gears.  I caught a glimpse of his slight smile in the rear view mirror as it picked up speed.  My vintage Samsonite case chose that moment to break at the hinge.

Public transportation really sucked! I worked five jobs and had a schedule like a stack of Mah Jong tiles—pull one out and the whole pile crashes.  Being dependent on Metro left no margin for error in my life. Especially, when I’d just learned I was being laid off of job number three.

I teetered on the edge of tears, but I was too furious and too out of breath. Bent over double, a projection of the Milky Way danced across the back of my eyelids. I thought I might throw up.

A compact sedan turned off Kirby and pulled up to the curb beside me. The electric window glided down with a mechanical whisper.  I looked into grey-blue eyes and the concerned face of a blondish man in his late thirties or early forties.  “Are you OK?  Do you need a lift?”

I’m not the naïve kid that moved to Houston from the sticks. I know better than to get into a strange car.  But his was a nice face.  Not beautiful, not rugged, but really nice.

And I was really pissed. Continue reading