Monday, August 29, 2011

Calling Haven't Got a Clue!

Last week at the garage sales, I found what's been on my treasure-hunt list for years:  an old black phone.

Years ago, my Dad bought one secondhand. We always said it could be used as a murder weapon.  So, when I started writing the Booktown Mysteries back in 2006, I decided that Tricia should have a classic phone on the cash desk of her mystery bookstore, Haven't Got a Clue.  (Hmmm ... maybe it'll be a murder weapon some day.  )

Anyway, I've seen retro phones for sale on Amazon for about a hundred bucks, but I wanted a REAL one, and I didn't want to pay $80-$300.  (I saw a refurbished phone similar to mine online for $299 plus shipping.  It's a Kellogg 1000 series phone.  If you're really interested, you can read about it here.)

When I staggered to the car under the weight of a big box AND this phone, Mr. L's lip curled.  "What is THAT?"

"It's Tricia's phone.  I have to have it."


"It's Tricia's phone.  I'll clean it up."

Only it sat in my minivan for a week before I plucked up the courage to touch it again.  It really was disgusting.  It must have been stored in a barn or a garage for a L-O-N-G time. (Note the ex-spider home on the receiver.)

Cruddy phone back

 Here's a front view:
Dirty phone

The first thing I did was wet a paper towel to get the majority of the crud off of it.  Again.  DISGUSTING!  Then I tinkered with the dial.  I took off the part with the finger holes and figured I'd just move it.  Oh no.  There's a whole brass thingy with lots of cogs and stuff that was jammed.  So I messed with it with a screwdriver (and I'm sure my Dad, the tinkerer, was standing over my shoulder the whole time), got it unstuck, and then squirted it liberally with WD-40.  Voila!  It started moving again.  I put the thing back together and started on the receiver.

Ugh!  Even more disgusting!  I removed a outer ring and the mouthpiece cover and found it filled with yucky yellow stuff. I  don't know what it was, but it went into the trash PDQ!  Did the same to the earpiece, but that wasn't as bad.  Then I dug out the Murphy's Oilsoap and gave it a thorough going-over.  And . . . don't you think Tricia would be proud to have this phone on her cash desk?

Mr. L said, "You're not really going to use that, are you?"

Truthfully, I don't know.  I would need to go to Radio Shack and see if I can get some kind of adapter, but if I can get the old girl working, I'd like to install her in my office.

It's not the same phone as we had when I was a kid--that had a more Art Deco handle--but for now, I'm pretty happy with old Black Beauty.  And by the way, I paid $5 for it.

Black Beauty Phone

Don't you just love a bargain?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mr. Wasp Builds A Nest

Mr. Wasp And so as we left the cottage last week, Mr. Wasp flew in.  Mr. MONSTER Wasp.  Of course I screamed.  I scream whenever there's a bug bigger than my big toe and if it's flying around --I scream REALLY LOUD. (And for some reason it annoys Mr. L.)

But I opened the door and Mr. Wasp flew out to dive bomb somebody else.

Only it turned out it wanted to dive bomb us.  Him and a LOT of his friends.  They were flying in and out of a little strip of metal above the gutter right over the front door.

"We'll get some wasp spray," Mr. L said.

Okay.  He bought it and since I decided to go back there to write he handed it to me and said, "Good luck."


Mr. Wasp and friends were very busy when I arrived.  Going in and out and (presumably) building more rooms in the nest for their friends and relatives.


But before I did anything I did what I never do.  I READ THE DIRECTIONS ON THE CAN.  It said to wait until dusk when Mr. Wasp and friends were turning in for the night.

It was a L-O-N-G day, and I went in and out the back door.

At long last almost dusk arrived and I went outside, set up the ladder (this time wearing shoes with traction.  I didn't want a repeat of two weeks ago when I fell down the rain-slick steps and received a gigantic bruise the side of Puerto Rico).  Perched on the ladder, I took aim and SQUIRTED.  Wow--that can really could expel its poison for 20 feet.  But was I in a good position to actually get the nest, which is completely invisible?

I squirted again.  Mr. Wasp and pals were getting a little upset.  Suddenly there were about 20 of them hovering madly outside their home.  I jumped off the ladder and backed away, sure I was about to be swarmed.  But the wasp family was more interested in defending their turf than turning on me.  Still, I squirted a couple more times from the ground and waited.  Nothing seemed to happen, but I did hear some odd buzzing.  I looked down and a couple of wasps were wiggling around in agony.

Wasp & ruler I felt like a murderer.  I stomped on them to put them out of their misery and hurried back inside.

Okay, I worked in a chemical factory for over 25 years.  I know what poison does and wasp spray is poison.  These wasps could have lived long and happy lives if they'd built a nest in the tree or in someones barn far away from me.

I have a feeling they're not finished.  They're big.  Like Terminator wasps.  They'll be back.

Next time I'm going to let Mr. L deal with them while I hide at a safe distance.

Have you ever dealt with wasps or other really big bugs?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where'd I see that picture?

Coastal_living_pix So there I was with NOTHING to read.  Oh, there's an old issue of Coastal Living, from April 2006, sitting on that pile of magazines in the corner.  (I got it at a yard sale for FREE!)  I think I'll read that.  So, I'm paging through it and come to an article about an enclave of cottages to rent on the Maine coast.  (Very pretty.)

Then I got to page 147.  Hold everything!  I turned to Mr. L and said, "I've seen this picture in the last couple of weeks."

He didn't bother to look up from the crossword puzzle.

"In fact, it was in an issue of Romantic Homes Magazine."

Still no reaction from Mr. L.

So I turned to the pile of magazines on the little table between us and sure enough--there it is, the new issue of Romantic Homes and darned if that picture from a 5-year-old-issue of Coastal Living isn't the cover of the current Romantic Homes.

Romantic_Homes_Cover Mr. L says to me, "You do this all the time.  Find a picture in one place, and then go show me where you've seen it before."

He's right.  I remember beautiful pictures on home interiors--and for some reason, I remember where I've seen them--even if I haven't seen it for a while.

Why couldn't I remember more important stuff like where I left my keys or my hat or my glasses?  No, I have to remember pictures in decorating books and magazines.

Has that ever happened to you?

Monday, August 22, 2011

I auto sign my E autograph

One of the complaints I've heard about e books is that authors can't sign them for readers.

Well, forget that one, because someone has figured out a way to do it.  (It was only a matter of time.)

Kindle graph Like a bunch of my author pals (Deb Baker, Doranna Durgin, Tonya Thomas, Becky Barker, Michele Hauf, and more), I've registered at Kindlegraph and with all three of my names:  Lorraine Bartlett, Lorna Barrett and L.L. Bartlett.

What's Kindlegraph?  A website where readers can request an electronic (pseudo) autograph from their favorite authors. (Well, the one's who've registered, anyway.)  It's quick, it's easy, and it's free!
Can an author REALLY autograph an ebook?

Well, not exactly.  Instead, the author can personalize a message to a reader.  What you get is a PDF file with a copy of the book's cover and a message from the author.  (Remember to include your name in your request if you want the autograph"personalized".)  You can then attach the file to the e copy of the book.  And although the name of the site has Kindle in it, these PDF files can be attached to the files for e books on just about every other e platform. (Think Nook, Sony E Reader, Kobo, etc.)

So, what do you think of this latest e innovation?
Lorraine signature

Friday, August 19, 2011

Packing up a life . . .

Wardrobe box A couple of weeks ago, my mother asked me to assemble some boxes for her.  My brother got them off Craigslist for free.  Someone had moved and the moving company gave them far too many boxes.  So they offered them up to anyone who wanted them.  Since we were moving my mother-in-law from her apartment to assisted living, my brother thought we could probably use them.  He was right.

Packing up the mother-in-law's clothes wasn't so bad.  Her clothes are in her new closet and dresser and her pictures are on the walls and scattered around her room.  We even hung some cute things in the bathroom so that where she now lives would look more like home for her.

But then there're those boxes for my Mom.

It's been almost two years since my Dad passed.  My Mom wasn't ready to part with his things until now.  So for the past week or so she's been going through his clothes, washing them, and packing them up for Goodwill.

Yesterday I stood there and looked at his things and it made me cry. He isn't here anymore.  He has no use for any of them.  But . . . it just makes me so sad to see them go.

Dad would've been practical.  "Get rid of them!"  In fact, he did say that while he was in the nursing home.

Estate sale 2 sign I used to like to go to estate sales, but I find it hard to do these days.  Somebody died.  We're all picking over what the deceased might have loved and valued.  It all seems kind of ghoulish. And yet ... if no one has use for these things, maybe someone else might love and value them, too.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No soup for me!

Soup nazi Lately I've been thinking a lot about the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld.  Not that I particularly liked any of the the episodes but that nasty line of dialogue, "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" keeps repeating in my ear.


Because I love soup.  I've been making a lot of soup these past two years, and soup and hot weather just don't go together.

Don't tell me to make a chilled soup.  Ick!  (And some of them are just plain weird.  Chilled watermelon soup?  Why not just say watermelon slushy?)

I've got a hankering to make black bean soup.  And 16 bean soup.  And I've been afraid to make my own dahl (lentils) just . . . because.  (Have you ever seen the yards-long ingredient list?)

But in the last couple of days the weather has gotten . . . nice.  We're talking not horribly humid, and not devastatingly hot.  And what am I thinking about?

Bean-vegetable-soup Soup!

I love leek and potato soup and included the recipe in one of my books (Bookmarked for Death?).  I haven't made that one in a while.  Seems to me there's usually snow on the ground when I make it, although the last time I made it was in October 2009.  I made it for my Dad who'd just been transferred back from the hospital to the nursing home.  It was the last real meal that he ate.  (And I fed it to him, spoonful by spoonful.)  Maybe that's why I haven't made it.  It's too painful remembering.  But I made it with love in my heart and he was grateful to eat it.

But back to that 16 bean soup . . . I only recently found out I can BUY frozen ham hocks at Wegmans.  (Who knew?)

I'm not in a hurry to see summer end (especially now that the weather has calmed down a little), but ... I'm ready for a nice bowl of hearty soup.  (And no, not made with any kind of animal hearts.  Ick.)

What's your favorite soup?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I have no sympathy for rodents

Bunnycage Last week I posted on Facebook that we caught a bunny in our Havahart trap.  Presumably the bunny that has destroyed 75-85 percent of my bean crop.  Never mind the woodchuck that has destroyed ALL of my gladioli, potatoes, coneflowers, and shasta daisies on the other end of the yard.

I was surprised so many people were sympathetic to Mr. Bunny and not to my plants.

Hey, plants deserve to live, too!

Pity the farmer behind our house.  I estimate that the animals that have been having dessert in my yard have been dining three meals a day on his soil and have destroyed a very big portion of his crops.  THEIR LIVELIHOOD.

Yes, Mr. Bunny and Mr. Chipmunk (I found one munching one of my tomatoes last evening) are "cute" but they aren't Chip and Dale or Peter Rabbit.  Give them skinny tails and they are what they are--RODENTS.

Rat-fleas RODENTS = RATS.  Do you think rats are cute?  Are tiny mice, so cute in fiction, sweet and nice when they are running around in your silverware drawer crapping on the forks and knives?  Because I sure didn't think so last winter or in June when it happened again.

RODENTS = DISEASE.  The plague.  The Black Death.

Excuse me, but I don't find rodents in any form to be cute, nice, or Disney-esque.

The bunny we caught in the trap was let go in a rural area.  We did NOT kill it (unlike my rural neighbor down at the cottage who would catch critters in his Havahart trap and drown them in the bay--guaranteeing they would never eat his flowers and veggies again.)  I'm perfectly fine with relocating them.  But I'm not perfectly fine with them destroying crops, be they my own or my farmer neighbor's.

I realize this attitude will not win me friends with those who read Beatrix Potter -- but I'm sure the lady farmer wasn't happy when these pests ate her kitchen garden, either.  She just wrote about the "cute" side of rodents who wore waistcoats and spoke in full sentences--not squeaks that only a cat can hear.  And that was her livelihood.  Pity the poor farmer, already dealing with this year's intense weather conditions, who won't have money to feed his/her family this winter because not-so-cute rodents ate a big portion of his/her crops.

Blazeatcrackerbox I am an animal lover.  (You wouldn't believe how much money I send to animal charities.  And not just those for cats and dogs--but a farm animal rescue, too.) But I draw the line at crop-eating, disease-ridden rodents.

This is just one subject where some of us just won't see eye to eye.  I'm afraid we're going to have to beg to differ.

I'm sure those in the rodent court have never planted gardens.  Maybe they should try.  I see a garden as eco-friendly and trying to limit my carbon footprint.

I can't do that if rodents trump humans in this food chain.

Monday, August 15, 2011

99 Years Ago Today

Today would have been Julia Child's 99th Birthday.

Julia-child-with fish


I confess, until I saw the movie Julie & Julia, I really didn't know that much about Ms. Child.  Now I've read a couple of books and obtained her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which I have not).  And it wasn't the cooking in the film that made it a hit with me, it was that Julie and Julia were both WRITERS.

What a cool lady.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The bumpy road to typing "THE END"

Monkey at keyboard rt I'm often asked:  "How long does it take you to write a book?"

I glibly answer: "Six months," and that's the truth--most of the time.

I am notoriously s-l-o-w with the first 40,000 words.  That's how long it takes me to get into the story and to where the work starts to be fun instead of drudgery.

I've had a LOT (upsetting) non-writing stuff going on this summer, so even after I hit my 40,000 words, the work was still drudgery.  No matter what I did, I could not seem to get this puppy to run on four wheels on a straight road.

HOLD EVERYTHING!  Yesterday I sat down for most of the day and read the thing.

Right-wrong signposts I wasn't as far off the main road as I feared, but I did have to dump a subplot that just wasn't working.  I worried that Katie wasn't doing enough sleuthing, but it turned out I'd forgotten half the stuff she was up to (mostly because I've written the book out of sequence).  Luckily, it does make sense and I'm hoping it falls together (that is, I'll be writing a LOT) in the next couple of weeks.

I've fallen in love with my characters and setting once again.  Katie has new friends, and new thorns in her side, and I think the book is going to be pretty good.  Of course, I just read The Walled Flower earlier this week (it's my favorite so far in the series, but by the time I finish this one, it may snatch that honor--that's what usually happens), so I'm well steeped in Victoria Square lore.

Now, if I could just straighten out the crap that going on in the rest of my life ... because I have LOTS of other stories I want to tell and no time right now to write them.

Is there anything that looked bleak in your life that suddenly found some sunshine?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I fall down go boom!

Busy  Sometimes when I'm falling behind on a project, I'll pack up a cat and go to the cottage to work.  It seems like I can get a lot more done there when I'm on my own and free from distractions than when I'm at home.  And boy have I got a lot to get done.  I'm behind on my manuscript (had to ask for an extension), had a copy edit to complete, and a blurb to write (all with looming deadlines).

So, yesterday I packed up my cat Fred and off we went.

Doesn't that sound ideal?  The problem is . . . it was raining.  REALLY HARD.  It was 8:45 and I'd already been to the grocery store, Home Depot, and filled up the van with gas.  We hit the road and the rain hit us.  What usually takes just under an hour took us 90 minutes.  (But we were listening to Bookmarked for Death on CD and that helped, although it was raining so hard at some points that I couldn't understand what the reader was saying.  No matter.   I know the story.  Heck, I wrote it!)

When we arrived, it was still raining hard, but I had a schedule.  First things first, get the frightened cat out of the car.  That went okay, despite the fact I was juggling a grocery bag, my purse, and the cat carrier, and an umbrella.  But soon Fred was inside and I grabbed my umbrella and went out for a second load.

Fall dow.jpg Did I mention I was wearing my old (with NO tread), paint-stained Crocs?  I'd already mentioned to Mr. L that I had nearly slipped in the Home Depot parking lot, but I'd left my good shoes at the cottage the last time we were there and wanted to remember to bring my ratty old ones back.  I had not reckoned with the wet and slippery staircase.
I fall down go BOOM!

That had to be the most frightening split second of my life.  The stairs have four steps and I missed three of them and landed on my butt on the concrete pavers at the bottom.  I slammed both wrists onto the bottom step and was instantly soaked to the skin.

I must've sat there for a full 10 seconds before I could catch my breath to move.  Was I smart and did I go back inside?  No, I went for another load from the car.  I was careful and since the gutter over the door leaks like a sieve, got even wetter.  I dumped my load and CHANGED MY SHOES.

Once I had everything in, I called Mr. L.  I had promised I'd call as soon as I got in.  His reaction.  "Gee, it's good you're not hurt.  With no neighbors around, nobody would have found you."

That scared me.  (Thanks, Mr. L.)  Suddenly that commercial about the old woman who'd fallen and couldn't get up didn't seem so idiotic.

Lucky for me, I had used an icepack in the cooler so I alternated sitting 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for most of the day.  I finished the copy edit (and handed it in a week early--Man, I like The Walled Flower!) and I even got a lot of reading in for the book that needs a blurb.  (Once I figured out how I could sit on my recliner without searing pain.)

And now all I have to show for yesterdays adventures are a LOT of bruises and sore muscles.

No crocsjpeg
And the Crocs?  They still aren't in the garbage where they should be.  I still have some painting to complete.  THEN they're going in the garbage.

Have you ever fallen and couldn't get up?

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Exploding Spam Folder

Time bomb During the last couple of weeks, I have received an inordinate amount of emails telling me that I've won contests; that a long-lost relative with millions of dollars (in Africa--if that isn't an oxymoron, what is?) has died and left it to me!  That I have won the British Lottery!  That a dear friend was held-up at knife point in London and now has no money for a ticket to get home.  That I can get all the drugs I want for pennies (most especially those that grow the male member).

Hold everything!

If I didn't go into my spam folder at least five times a day, my computer would explode and there'd be emails stuck to the walls, the ceiling and the floor.

Cyber pirate Apparently there are no end to the scammers out there.  (And the pirates stealing my books.  I'm sure my editor gets bombarded with emails from all his authors just about every day telling him of the newest rip offs.  We learn about these illegal copies via Google alerts.)

There have always been nasty, evil people out there, but the Internet lets them steal and scam with relative anonymity. And how many people fall for this crap?
I guess I have no point other than: STOP IT, PEOPLE.

And worst of all, real emails that I WANT to read get trapped in the Spam Folder.  My Williards from Susan Branch.  Emails telling me I have comments from this very blog.  Fan mail. Emails from my bank. And on and on and on. (Now you know why I check my Spam Folder so often.)  When people sign up for my newsletter, the confirmation note to them ends up in THEIR Spam Filters and without opening it, they won't get my newsletters.  (Next one slated for September.)

How tired are you of the spammers?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The weeds and me

When I bought my first house (a converted chicken coop), one of the first things my Dad and I did was plant a garden.  It was a magnificent garden with tomatoes, peppers, broccoli.  It was the only garden I ever had that was cleared of grass and then we laid down a big sheet of black plastic.  I never had to weed it and I had fresh veggies for quite a while.

Weeding2 Fast forward.  I'm on my third house now, and I still have a veggie garden, but now I have weeds.  A LOT of weeds.  But weeding can be very therapeutic.  Lately when things get overwhelming, I go out there and yank 100 weeds.  (I told you there were a LOT of them.)  When I'm done, I'll have a nice clear little patch (which I know will be filled in again by next week).

When I get stuck writing, when I can't come up with one more thing to write, I'll go out and pull a few weeds.  Sometimes I talk over my writing problems with my tomatoes and beans.  They've not very helpful when it comes to story ideas, but they listen quietly and don't judge.

What do you think about when you're weeding?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Escape (not the Pina Colada song)

Is this summer EVER going to end?

I never thought I'd say that about summer.  I love summer.  But this relentless heat . . . the mother-in-law crisis which seems to get better only to escalate again.  The book deadline that gets nearer and nearer . . .

Canadian train poster Ya know what?  I wanna run away from home.

I wanna pack a suitcase, jump on a train and go somewhere.  Maybe the Canadian Rockies.  (I don't think I can go there directly from my city, but this is fantasy anyway, right?)

I want to eat gourmet meals in a fancy dining car while the tracks below me go clickity-clack. I want to see inspiring vistas and pink and purple sunsets.

And I want to laze back in a seat and READ for PLEASURE for hours and hours on end.

Anybody want to join me?