Out of my mind

Stories are supposed to suspend disbelief. I’ve seen figure skaters leap into the air, twirl around multiple times while filing their tax returns, and stick the landing. (Extra points are awarded for itemizing your deductions). I find it hard to believe that this is physically possible, since I get dizzy when I stand up after a Dirty Jobs marathon. If reality is so hard to swallow, what’s left for the storyteller?

Anyone can write, but it takes a gifted storyteller to spark the reader’s imagination and convince him that a pig’s breath smells like onion and lemon drops. Of course, that particular imagery is a bit trite and overused, especially in romance novels and poetry. There are some fantasies that can’t be sold to the average reader. Nobody’s going to believe you if you write about a Republican presidential candidate who doesn’t suck.

It’s my privilege to know some amazing storytellers. If you haven’t visited Terri Sonoda’s website, you’re missing a real treat. She’s currently writing a serial story called Sara’s Sleep that is just phenomenal. In a few paragraphs, she can conjure up characters and images that will super glue themselves to your brain cells.

If you like Sci-fi, I’d recommend Mike Saxton’s 7 Scorpions. For a fascinating romantic suspense story that combines science and spirituality, look for Norma Beishir’s Chasing the Wind. For action, adventure, political intrigue, and “the very bad thing,” stay tuned for the release of William Kendall’s book, Heaven and Hell.

I have to admit that I use props when I write. I have a tool kit filled with rock collecting gear, and a geological map of South Carolina. I’ve called coroners, visited police stations and correctional institutions, crawled around on old-time sailing ships, and done a science experiment that involved dry ice and a can of tuna. Don’t ask. The point is, I don’t just want to make the story believable—I want to believe it myself.

I will never do a triple salchow (pronounced “sow cow,” because skaters like to mess with your minds), but I appreciate the beauty and athleticism. As a writer, I’m so impressed with people who can take stories rattling around in their heads and create inspiration, emotion, and escape. Now if they could only file their taxes at the same time, and stick the landing, I would give them extra points.

Brains of a turnip

I used to get really annoyed at basic math, which is to say that I had all the mathematical genius of a lint ball. I had no interest in calculating the square root of 13 or cross multiplying. Oddly, I excelled at figuring out what time a train would reach the station if it ran over two tractors and a moose in Saskatchewan. (No moose were harmed in the making of this story problem).

I always thought that I excelled at English, until today. I made the mistake of trying my hand at an intelligence test involving word pattern recognition. WARNING: Please read on before you click on the above link if you want to salvage any self-esteem.

My assumption should have been flawless. For those of you who prefer math, you can break it down into an equation: words + genius = writer, ergo (note the fancy word) since I’m a writer, I’m also a genius.

Do I not have excellent spelling, grammar, and punctuation? Am I not endowed with an extensive vocabulary, which includes words like endowed and extensive?

On this test, you only have to get one question out of thirty-three correct to be average. You need at least six to be somewhat intelligent. After several hours … well, let’s just call it a very long senior moment on my part and leave it at that.

So does it really matter if we know our IQ, or if we can remember what “IQ” stands for? Does anyone really care what time some hypothetical train reaches the station? I think not. I figure if I can remember to zip my fly after using the bathroom, I’m doing OK.

Humans only use 10% of their brains, so I figure if some brain cells spontaneously combust from this intelligence test, I still have plenty left over. Maybe some of them can figure out what 191 U N M S means.

Great balls of fire

About 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Yellowstone Park. In all our travels through the park, I was on full moose alert. I peered into every marsh we passed, but never saw one. How elusive can an animal the size of a fully loaded mini-van be?

Despite my unfortunate mooseless experience, I’ve never doubted their existence. I may be skeptical about sasquatches, UFOs, chupacabras, and the Loch Ness monster, but the anecdotal evidence of moose is pretty overwhelming.

This morning, I didn’t expect to be inducted into the crowd of one in thirty people to experience a phenomenon that even scientists cannot explain: ball lightning. The light is described as being tennis ball size. It can hover, streak, swoop, and move about erratically. In the pre-dawn darkness, that is exactly what my friend and I saw.

The creepy thing is that it seemed to be watching us. Each time the dog started barking at it, it would swoop into the air, then dive down behind the bank of our nature trail, only to rise up again a minute or two later. We watched it for ten minutes before it disappeared for good. About twenty minutes later, there was a crack of what sounded like thunder that rattled the house.

If I sound a little smug and self-satisfied at having witnessed a rare phenomenon, it’s only because I’m normally stuck squarely in the majority of people who always choose the wrong checkout line in the supermarket, get the worst parking spot at the mall, and at some point in their lives, find a cockroach in their underwear (but that’s another story).

Just so I don’t get too uppity about this rare sighting, I would love to hear about any weird phenomenon that you have witnessed or experienced. If you’ve seen a ghost, won the lottery, or been gored by a moose, please share with the class. Otherwise, I stand in imminent danger of developing the big head and bragging to my friends until they want to poke an ice pick in their ears.

I’ll see you in August

Time once again for my annual lament at the passing of a great American pastime. I’m sad to see the football season winding down to an end for another year. As the Broncos were eliminated last night, I regretted that there would be no more Tebow Time until the preseason games next August. This is going to put a major crimp in my sex life.

Every Sunday, my husband and I celebrate naked football day. We like to have the game going while we scrump like bunnies, because at our age, it helps to hear the crowd cheering us on. It’s nice to know that the defensive players are also exhausted by the third drive and sucking wind. Of course, we never make it to a third drive.

Two years ago after the Super Bowl, we were desperate to have some kind of background noise from the TV, so we randomly chose a channel. Up came Norm Abrams on The New Yankee Workshop. Norm got his television start as a carpenter on This Old House, an old favorite of mine.

On this occasion, Norm was building a chest, and explaining how to put together the drawers. I heard snatches as we struggled for inspiration. “Notice the dovetailing …” I blushed.

He was relentless. “Now we’re going to take the router … tongue in groove …” Okay, that’s it. I was officially weirded-out. We lost our place, and were too embarrassed to even snuggle. I did the walk of shame into the bathroom to get dressed.

In February, we start naked NASCAR. I get a little thrill when I hear, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” On top of the cheering, we get to hear the thunder of unlimited horse-power. My only stipulation is: no drafting.

Living small with a drawl

How do you measure success? Does the one with the most toys win? I use the toilet bowl method. The fewer I have to clean, the more successful I am. Since my kids left home, I have been downsizing to the point where I have one bed, a couch, and a few mouse droppings. The mouse is living more lavishly than I am.

When they laid the concrete pad for my house, I could walk across it in a few steps. Now that I have to negotiate walls, baby gates, and dog chew toys, it takes a couple extra steps to get from point A (my bed) to point B (my refrigerator).

My bed and refrigerator are both located in the south. I moved to South Carolina five years ago for a) the lower cost of living; b) warmer weather; and c) cheaper cigarettes—don’t hate me because I smoke. I discovered a land of rare beauty, and people who aren’t (contrary to popular opinion) idiots—until they get behind the wheel.

I’ve been here long enough that I drink sweet tea, call strangers “hon,” and have a growing contempt for the condescending attitude of northerners. We put our camouflage hunting pants on one leg at a time just like you do.

The south is a wonderful place to simplify your life. There’s no work—simple. It’s too hot to leave the house in the summer—simple. I enjoy the simple pleasure of napping during a football game, although the people in the sports bar look at me pretty funny. Maybe it’s because I wake up with my head on the table and barbecue sauce in my hair.

I would highly recommend South Carolina to all you Yankeelanders who want to escape the rat race that is Bismark, North Dakota. You’ll find a warm welcome, a glass of sweet tea, and a mouse in your garage.

Vote early, vote often

I received a nice surprise this weekend when I discovered that Box of Rocks is listed in the top ten best mysteries of 2011 in the Preditors and Editors competition (yes, that’s how it’s spelled). I feel honored that I was nominated. There’s no cash or ticker tape parade for winning, just a nice pat on the back and attaboy!

Here comes that request that you were on the edge of your seats waiting for. I would be grateful if you could take a moment and go to the Critters Workshop website, scroll way down the page, and cast your vote for Box of Rocks. You won’t be put on any mailing lists, or have to join a secret society (although the handshake is pretty cool). Warning: there is a captcha, which involves deciphering squiggly letters to prove that you’re not a machine. It took me two tries and a couple bad words to get it right.

Voting ends tomorrow (no pressure). Thanks in advance to everyone who votes. If you haven’t read the book yet, it’s pretty awesome and has received almost all 5 star reviews from people that don’t even know me, so don’t let that stop you.

There’s no cure for asshole

“Crows,” my husband said.

I was soooo not in the mood for his cryptic nonsense. “Is that code for Curried Rice On Wiener Schnitzel; Cars Run Over Wet Slugs? Give me a hint.”

“Crows carried them from the landfill and left them in our yard.”

The landfill is conveniently located three miles from our house (as the crow flies). I was not convinced, and went into CSI mode. “There was still meat on this bone, and crows would have picked it clean.”

My husband shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Clearly, he didn’t want to deal with my histrionics. That’s only because he did not possess the intuitive clarity to see the cause and effect. My dogs bark, ergo someone threw chicken bones in my yard.

First off, I have a fenced-in yard, I supervise my dogs, and I bring them in as soon as they start barking. Secondly, what kind of sicko would purposely try to hurt an innocent animal? My mind flew to motion sensors, infra-red cameras, and grenade launchers. If it was crows, I was going to catch them in the act and blow their little feathered butts to kingdom come.

Problem is, I can’t afford high tech chicken bone deterrents. I have my suspicions as to the perpetrator of the fowl deed, but I can’t prove anything. I just find it hard to believe that anyone could be so low as to sneak around in the night throwing chicken bones where my dogs can find them. I guess some people are just born mean.

To paraphrase a quote from Winston Churchill:

“You are drunk, sir.”

“Madam, you are an asshole. In the morning I shall be sober.”

Disorderly conduct

Working from home means never having to say rush hour, which I tend to translate as “there’s no rush.” If I put as much thought into promotions as I do procrastination, I’d probably be a best-selling author right now.

This can easily be applied to every aspect of my life. I’ve vowed to get more exercise, as soon as I find the time to root around for my deflated exercise ball buried somewhere in the garage. I haven’t used it since I discovered that balls roll. As I lay on my back in the yogic inverted sourdough pretzel position (don’t forget to breathe) I pondered whether cherry is softer than oak.

But I digress.

For the first time in my writing career, I’ve run up against the bane of 9 to 5 employment: deadlines. Working with the funny and talented contributors for our Valentine’s Day humor anthology was a joy, and the book was released ahead of schedule to rave reviews. The problem is that it’s not going to sell on St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or Armistice Day (which, as we all know, is the first Monday after Purim, except during an election year).

My answer to promotion was obvious: talk about strategy for three weeks, then spend three hours in the office supply store. One notebook, a box of business cards, a pre-inked return address stamp, a sales order booklet, a map, a large print calendar, a clipboard, and a book of angry birds stickers later, I was finally ready for the serious business of talking about strategy.

Damn! I forgot the rubber bands. How can I promote a book without rubber bands?

Today is our first road trip to talk to vendors, so uppermost on my mind is, “If gerbils don’t drink water, do they pee?” Don’t tell me you’ve never wondered. I’m actually thinking, “If I could just get organized, I could __________________” (e.g. take a vacation, afford the 97% lean ground beef, become a lifetime member of the 700 club, stop snoring … and selling some books would be nice too).

So I’m off to polish my boots and find the right pen to take with me (blue ink, medium point) so I can have all my ducks in a row before hitting the road. I’m a mature, responsible adult, so I can handle rejection and crushing disappointment. Now I just need to figure out where to put my angry birds stickers.

…and we have a winner!

We’re rockin’ the new year with a give-away for all the wonderful folks who visited our book signing at Swift Books last week. Congratulations to Alicia Scott, who won a coffee time gift basket, which includes a hard back copy of Box of Rocks, and a copy of the newly released My Funny Valentine. May all your New Year’s wishes come true, Alicia!

Fame or fortune

Two years ago I quit my job before they could fire me. My bosses seemed to have a problem with an employee who couldn’t open a CD wrapper in less than two hours. (In my defense, they use industrial strength plastic and tape that could support a fully-grown walrus.)

Since then, I stubbornly give myself little tests to see if I’ve still got it. Yesterday, after watching a football mascot doing push-ups in the end zone, I decided to try for one push-up. I assumed the position, arms outstretched, back straight, but somehow the brakes on my elbows failed. I don’t remember gravity being so heavy.

Desperate for a source of income that didn’t involve deadlines, push-ups, or CD wrappers, I embarked on my writing career. Unlike my abilities in high finance, I’m an excellent writer. Unfortunately, in my daughter’s words, “Your promotion team sucks!” First off, I taught her not to smass her elders. Secondly, she makes a valid (if somewhat cruel) point.

Just once, I thought, I’d like to see my name in lights. That just goes to show that Christmas wishes can come true. Christmas Eve Day I went to a book signing at Swift Books in Orangeburg for Box of Rocks. The owners and staff were amazing, but the holiday shoppers were preoccupied with stupid stuff like rushing to get home to their families, so they averted their eyes and sprinted past me like a herd of gazelle. One woman, fully laden with gift bags hurtled the mall bench to cross to the opposite side. I bet she could do more than one push-up.

With holiday sales of Kindles, Nooks, and iThis-and-Thats through the roof this year, (and in the interest of getting my daughter off my back) I thought I’d share with you some nice things that people have recently said (without any coercion or money changing hands) about Box of Rocks, which is available for every electronic reader known to man.

Move over Janet Evanovich, Karla Telega’s new book surprises like an ACME anvil! … Box of Rocks is a fast-paced, smartly detailed, and gut-bustingly funny mystery, and I really hope there’s a sequel!

Allizabeth Collins of The Paperback Pursuer

If you love a mystery with a southern drawl, with characters that jump off the page, and dialogue that will keep you laughing then you’re going to love “Box Of Rocks.”

Brenda of The WV Stitcher

Author Karla Telega does an amazing job with the characters—not just with the personalities she creates but also in how she adeptly intertwines their lives. I was pleasantly surprised by Cher and Maggie. Although they are older women, they come across as very hip and modern. Most readers will think it would be fun to hang out with them.

Leslie Granier for Reader Views

And one of my favorite reviewers:

The book hinges on the quality of its characters, and particularly on the friendship and chemistry between Maggie and Cher, who are its greatest strength … Murder and danger drive the plot along, but she uses a healthy dose of humor along the way.

William Kendall of Speak of the Devil

Thanks to all those who took the time to read and review Box of Rocks. I can think of no better testimonial than the opinions of people who love to read. Thanks also to all of you readers. Your visits here make all the lying blogging worthwhile. I would like to wish you all health and happiness in the New Year.