Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Time, and The Livin' is Easy

by guest blogger Billie Williams

Summer Time, and The Livin’ Is Easy, remember that old tune? I guess the oldies will always be sung. Summer storms and bugs, gardens full of fresh vegetables and fruits….ah yes, summer. This year’s early warmth and then devastating frost killed many of the fruit blossoms. My plum tree needed a rest--it produced bushels of fruit the last two years. But, it’s still disappointing when there is no fresh fruit for jellies and jams, and canning for the winter. The flower beds are a blaze of color and delighted humming birds. Flower beds provide comfort for the eyes and mind—aroma of the gods. Birds and critters of the forest provide constant entertainment at my feeding stations. I’m drawn to the summer like a moth to the flame, and the summer is I’m reminded, after all—a lot like writing.

“How’s that?” I hear you say. As a writer you begin full of promise, writing like the wind, pen following those ideas burning a hole in your mind. Trying to catch them as if they were illusive fire flies lighting up the night sky. So briefly their light flickers you might miss them if you don’t watch closely and hurry along your way to snatch them out of the ether. Ideas as elusive as butterflies on a summer breeze, but if you stand still, watch, wait, and breathe—you may be surprised what will happen. That idea grows and perches on your pen so that you can capture it and enjoy its beauty in your prose.

Writing is a lot like summer if you think about it. Can I recommend that you take a swim in the word pond and fill you mind with all its sensations? Then, write like the wind whether it is like summer's gentle breeze or a tornado swirling furious – let the wind direct your sails. You never know what you might find on the far shore of summer.

Billie A. Williams' book Money Isn’t Everything is number five in the Accidental Zodiac Sleuths Series. Visit the free stuff page on her website for more goodies. You’ll find free chapter reads of all her books under the book tab on her website at Blog with her at or

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I “had” for summer?

By Guest Blogger Avery Aames

I know the theme on this blog has been what I did for summer, but what about what I had? What I ate? What I dreamed of doing?

I’ve recently been published. The Long Quiche Goodbye, the first in A Cheese Shop Mystery series, debuted July 6. So guess what I had/ate/dreamed of doing this summer?

That’s right. Something with cheese! Yummy, delicious, scrumptious cheese. I’m so lucky because I love my research. I shop, I taste, I cook...and then I write. Cheese has become a passion. Many of the cheese shops near me know me by name. I ask what’s new. They offer a taste. I savor. And I write some more.

Here are a few of my favorites for summer…if I could be anywhere I wanted, eating anything I wanted, doing anything I wanted.

Buffalo mozzarella, a creamy cheese, with slices of tomato, leaves of basil, and a light oil and vinegar. Served with a bubbly Proseco wine, laced with hints of lemon zest. Sitting on a patio beneath an umbrella, drinking in the scents of my blossoming garden…and writing.

Pecorino Tartufo, a sheep’s milk cheese, drizzled with honey, accompanied by sourdough crackers. Served with a spicy Zinfandel. Sitting on a lake or by the ocean, taking in a sunset, listening to the sounds of seagulls overhead…and writing.

Humboldt Fog, a goat’s cheese, stuffed into figs or dates. Served with a nutty Chardonnay. (Not too cold; warm is to my liking.) Lying on a picnic blanket in the hills or a forest, the gentle winging of butterflies all around me…and writing.

The beauty of writing fiction is that I can take myself anywhere I want, at any time of the day, and imagine. However, the beauty of writing fiction about cheese is I get to do research!

Avery Aames, author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, likes to read, cook, garden, and do amateur photography. You may visit Avery at She also blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, a blog for foodies who love mysteries, as well as at Killer Characters, a blog overtaken by cozy authors’ characters. You can purchase the first book in the series, The Long Quiche Goodbye, at Avery’s bookseller page by clicking here:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Go on Vacation Every Day

By Tamara Girardi

The theme of summer vacation is incredibly attractive to me, mostly because I’m being held prisoner by books that could hold open the heaviest of doors.
I won’t lie. The Composition and TESOL (Teaching English Speakers of Other Languages) PhD program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a great program. I’ve enjoyed all of my classes, and the professors are well-read, provoke great discussion, and support students in a big way. At least, that has been my experience.

Yet as I write this, I hear someone listening to music outside the window. That gifted person might be lying on the lawn, soaking up the sun, and dare I say it – drinking a cool, alcoholic beverage. (I can’t say margarita. My heart can't handle that pain!). I’m in front of my computer, aforementioned door-stopping books beside me, and when I finish writing this, I’m off to read Aristotle. Since I’m the kind of girl who likes to look on the bright side, though, I want to see this as sort of a vacation.

What is a vacation? It’s an experience where you vacate your life temporarily to experience something new, right? In honoring that definition, I’m on vacation! I’ve vacated my life of a stay-at-home mother of one adorable black Labrador, writer and teacher by day, house-wife by evening.

Yes. That’s the only way to look at it. I’m on vacation.

Destination: Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Activities: Reading, writing, reading, writing, reading, writing, theorizing, discussing, eating, reading, writing. Sleep? Occasionally.

Cost: Well, we won’t get into that.

So, what’s the point, long-winded-PhD-student? I challenge you all to see vacation as more than the opportunity to dig your feet into hot sand, swim in salty water, hike steep trails, and so on. I have to stop, or my theory on a PhD program as a vacation will go up in smoke.

And the belief that I’m on vacation right now is way too powerful to let that happen.

So, are you on vacation?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Music: In Search of the Lost Corpse

By Guest Blogger Steve Liskow

For me, summer music still means rock, and I still consider summer 1966 the peak of the rock/pop era. AM singles were still the order of the day, and lots of them appeared that year from artists we would learn to love.

That summer, I worked nights in a sheet metal plant that disrupted radio signals so badly that we could only listen to a local station that played the same dozen singles over and over from midnight to dawn, broken up by reading the news and weather.

Now that I often use song titles as mystery/crime titles, I realize for the first time just how many of them came from 1966. Spring brought the Rascals, and two sure-fire best-seller titles, which I don’t think anyone has used yet: “You Better Run” and “Come On Up.” It also brought us Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Kicks,” which had the first guitar riff I learned to play when I bought a guitar later that year. They followed with “Hungry,” and that great crushing bass line should have worked for a vampire story, too, but was 30 years too soon. I don’t think anyone has written a mystery about a robbery at a food bank, either.

The Beatles released Revolver (A perfect title). The LP featured the great gloomy chamber mystery “Eleanor Rigby” and titles like “For No One” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which Lee Child should have snapped up years ago. Aftermath is the Rolling Stones’ first great collection of all original material, and the American version offered “Paint It Black,” a light-hearted funeral story. The British version gave us “Under My Thumb,” “Out of Time,” “High and Dry,” and “Take It or Leave It,” all of which scream to be plotted.

So does the first—and only—Standells record to get airplay in Michigan. “Dirty Water” mentions the Charles River in Boston, even though the band was from LA. What could make that water dirty…or bloody?

By summer’s end, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels gave us “Devil With A Blue Dress,” and Walter Mosley recognized the possibilities in that one for his Easy Rawlins series.

For obscure stuff, later to be God of All DEE-troit Bob Seger and the Last Heard offered “East Side Story,” a concise little ditty—only two minutes—about a poverty-stricken teen who is killed trying to commit a robbery. The chords sound like Van Morrison’s “Gloria” with enough fuzz on the guitar to make a shag rug. Great song that nobody else seems to remember.

Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs hit big with a great stalker song that I still have penciled into my unsold series: “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Finally, in the summer of 1966, Tommy James & The Shondells had their first massive hit, and over a dozen books (one labeled as a mystery) use the title already, which means someone else thinks the way I do.

“Hanky Panky.”

STEVE LISKOW won the 2009 Black Orchid Novella Award for “Stranglehold,” which appeared in the summer issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Who Wrote The Book of Death? is his first published novel. Currently, he is trying to sell a PI series featuring the characters in “Stranglehold.” His Web mistress daughter is Captain of the Queen City Cherry Bombs, so he is also writing a mystery that involves Roller Derby.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Good & Bad

by Wilfred Bereswill

Sorry for not having this up earlier.  I'm still recovering from the theft of my things, including my Macbook Pro on a business trip.  It's a longer process replacing eveything than I would have thought.  I've reposted last Sunday's post about what happened.  I haven't heard a peep from the police in Tempe and the way it seems, I'm not likely to.  I did see a Macbook Pro like mine on Craigslist in Phoenix that went for sale the night mine was stolen and the ad said, "EMERGENCY, must sell now."  The cops didn't feel like they would investigate it, and I got no response to my query.  I've accepted that it's all gone.

On the good side (remember the name of the post) my short story, Sinfully Delicious is on sale now at OmniLit by Echelon Press Publishing.   It's inexpensive, it's saucy and I'd love for you to give it a try.  As a matter of fact, I'll give a copy to one poster at random.  Check back at the end of the day.

Some temptations really are TO DIE FOR.

How could anything that tastes and feels so right be so wrong? I just can’t seem to help myself, but who am I really hurting? I mean…it’s just a little snack or two…
 We’re brought up to know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes, slipping to the dark side is out of our control.


On Thursday I traveled to Phoenix for business. I was picked up from the airport by the regional office in my contact's company mini-van, threw my suitcase and briefcase into the back of the van and spent the next 7 hours in the scorching Phoenix 115 degree heat. In a long sleeve white shirt and tie no less.

At 5:45 PM three people from the office took me out to a fabulous dinner at Roy's Hawiaan Fusion in an upscale neighborhood. We had great food and talk and a few drinks. At 7 PM we walked out to the parking lot and the mini-van's driver door wouldn't open. I got in the passenger side and opened the door, but my host just stood there looking at her vans door handle. I asked what was wrong and she said something looked wrong. I got out and took a look and somebody had punched out the lock. The next thing she said was, "Is your stuff in the car?"

It was all gone. My suitcase with my clothes. My briefcase with my personal MacBook Pro, digital camera, iPod Touch, and so on. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

If that weren't bad enough, all of the wedding videos I took with my new Flip video and had downloaded on my Mac were gone. They were deleted off the camera as I put them on my computer. I had finished putting all the video together with a bunch of pictures and had them nicely arranged with some cool effects. I burned one disc, and it was in the computer when it was stolen. It is gone. That's what hurts the most.

I stood there on the parking lot, sweating, unbelieving, pissed, helpless, vicitmized and stunned. It happened in broad daylight, in an upscale neighborhood, in a crowded parking lot. Talk about bold.

To make it worse, we called the Tempe police. They didn't even see fit to come to the scene. We gave the police report by phone. No wonder crime is rampant. The police took the friggen' report by phone.

My associates were kind enough to take me to a mall to get a new shirt and underwear. I went to the 4 star hotel with a red backpack with everything I had to my name. The hotel supplied me with a pathetic disposable razor, a toothbrush with 1 row of bristles and a couple of tiny packs of toothpaste and shaving gel.

Not only did I lose all the wedding videos, but all my website design. I have a new short story coming out this week and I now have to figure out how to redesign my entire website.

I still have no idea about how I'm going to reclaim my possessions, but in the meantime I'm down to using my little netbook.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Upcoming Guest Bloggers

Workings Stiffs welcomes THREE guest bloggers this week!

Steve Liskow--Tuesday, July 27th.
Avery Aames--Thursday, July 29th.
Billie Williams--Friday, July 30th.

Be sure to stop by!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Books, Books, Books

by Laurissa
During the month of July our theme here at the Working Stiffs is “summer” and all things related to summer. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that my favorite summer pastime is reading. That being said, I participate in a couple book discussion groups that have enhanced my reading experiences. What I love about these groups is that the books chosen are often ones that I wouldn’t have selected on my own, but that I end up loving. Last year one of my discussion groups read, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. At the time, I hadn’t yet heard of it; although now after being on the bestseller lists for many weeks, I wouldn’t be able to say that. The Help has ended up being one of my favorites.

A memorable book discussion occurred last summer when the selected book was, The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up, by Rich Blake. I was new to this group and had read the book prior to attending the discussion. This book is a true story based on the life of Donny Herbert and his family including his wife, Linda. While the story is true, after reading it, I felt as though the people portrayed were characters in a book and not actual people. So you can imagine my surprise when I went to my first discussion and found out that the character, “Linda,” was going to talk with us via telephone conference call. There were problems with setting up the conference call and it ended up that the phone was passed around and we each spoke with Linda personally. Talk about enhancing my reading experience. I spoke with a “character” in the book! I was absolutely thrilled.

How about you, do you belong to a book club? What are some of your memorable books or discussions?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Childhood Summer Memories

by Joyce

I've always loved summer. When I was a kid, I'd be outside all day, only going in the house to eat. I'm pretty sure my mother enjoyed the peace and quiet. I grew up in the city, and our only instruction was to come home "when the street lights came on," something suburban kids miss out on.

Most of the time, all the neighborhood kids ended up in our yard. We'd play games like Mother May I, Red Rover, and Red Light--Green Light--Stop. Sometimes we'd take our Barbie dolls outside. We also had paper dolls, which we called Cut Outs. I'll really show my age here: I had Lennon Sisters and Jane Fonda paper dolls. And does anyone remember Betsy McCall paper dolls that used to be in the back of McCall's magazine? I had those, too. If it rained, we either played inside or read books.

I never had a bike, because Mom thought they were too dangerous. I had a scooter instead. It was a good thing Mom never saw me flying down the alley without using the brake. I had roller skates, too--Chicago metal ones that clamped onto the bottom of my shoes. (I still have my skate key.) We used to play roller derby while racing down the same alley. I'm surprised I have any skin left on my knees or elbows.

On sweltering evenings the whole family gathered on the front porch, unless there was something good on TV. One year, when the show Medical Center was popular, there was a neighborhood power failure every Wednesday night at nine o'clock just when we were gearing up to watch it. I have no idea why--maybe everyone turned their sets on at the same time!

I was 16 before I went on my first vacation. We went all the way up to Northeast, PA, on Lake Erie. We rented a musty old cottage where the water in the shower was barely a trickle. I hated it. (My oldest sister and her family still go to the same cottages every year. I think they've been remodeled since then. At least I hope they've been.)

I realize now that we were poor (my mother was a widow on Social Security), but I never knew it growing up. We always had plenty to eat, clothes on our backs, and everything we needed. We just didn't get everything we wanted. But I think that's a good thing. It taught us to we had to work for the extras. If I wanted the latest 45 single, I had to save my ten-cent per week allowance to get it. Nowadays, it's too easy to just whip out one of several plastic cards. (The only card my mother had was a Gimbels "charge-o-plate" and she only shopped in Gimbels' bargain basement.)

Well, that's enough rambling from me for one day. What do you remember about your childhood summers? What kind of neighborhood did you live in? Did you take vacations? Tell us one of your favorite memories!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Field Trip Photo Album

by Annette Dashofy

On Monday and Tuesday, Gina and Martha wrote about their experience at the Firearms 101 Workshop we put on. I figured I’d stick with the theme and share the photographic evidence of our trip to the firing range.

But first, a disclaimer. You may already know that my dear Hubby hates when I blog about him. He generally refuses to let me post photos of him. So don’t anyone tell him that he made it onto Working Stiffs.

The day began with Max and Ray (AKA Hubby) of the McDonald Sportsmen’s Association sharing their expertise with us. From the very basics of showing and explaining the difference between pistols and revolvers, rifles and shotgun, to the more advanced discussions of ballistics, they patiently answered our beginners-level questions and let us examine and study a wide variety of their weapons collections. Myths were busted. We even got a history lesson or two.

Here we have Max answering some of Martha’s questions.

But the real fun came after lunch when we headed outdoors to the firing range.

Here’s Nancy Howarth shooting a .22 rifle for the first time. No, it didn’t kick.

And here’s Sherry firing a .22 target piston under the instruction of that guy who shall remain nameless.

Martha looks like an expert with that target pistol.

Not to brag…and there aren’t any photos of me to prove or disprove it…but I impressed the heck out of my hubby with that pistol. Heh.

Then there was the .38 revolver.

Innocent-looking little thing. My favorite part of the day was the look on Martha’s face when she shot it. Appearances are deceiving. This little bugger packs a wallop.

But the real star of the day was Tamara. She covered all the territory, not to mention time periods. It wasn’t part of the plan, but a fellow using the range at the same time we were offered to let Tamara shoot his 50 caliber sniper rifle. And she took him up on it. After all, how many opportunities do Working Stiffs get to do that kind of thing?

This beast has been known to hit a target at a mile and a half. Impressive to say the very least.

The guy’s friend also let her shoot his AR-15.

And just so all the bases were covered, she even tried out the atlatl, a prehistoric spear throwing weapon
(FYI, the proper name for the “arrows” is “darts”).

I’m glad everyone enjoyed their venture out to the countryside. I do think we provided the guys with a considerable amount of entertainment value, too.

And thus concludes our Working Stiffs field trip to the wonderful world of weapons.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

by Martha Reed

Every summer I try to take at least one field trip to some locale I’ve never been before and I go there for no particularly good reason – taking the trip is enough by itself. I love driving into an unfamiliar part of the country just to see what’s out there. Generally, I find that I like the people just as much or even more so than most folks in town and I have to admit the countryside is very pretty this time of year with all the wildflowers, especially the cornflowers mixed in with Queen Anne’s lace nodding gently in the breeze.

Last year I took the kids to Meadowcroft, a 16,000-year-old rock shelter and we had a blast. I highly recommend a visit for anyone looking for a kid-friendly day trip. This year, however, I ventured on my own to attend a Weapons 101 class with some fellow ‘siblings’ from the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC). Class was held at the McDonald Sportsman’s Club in Midway, PA.

I will admit that I was uncomfortable when I first walked into the facility because there were a lot of guns around but I wanted to take the class for a very good reason: research. I knew my protagonist, Police Lieutenant John Jarad, would have to be proficient with weaponry and that meant I got to learn all about guns. And “guns” was about the extent of my knowledge. Everything I learned I got from TV which is about as far from truth and reality as you can get. I was woefully ignorant about the difference between a revolver and a pistol and thought that perhaps a semi-automatic was maybe some kind of cafeteria?

After six hours of extremely safety-conscious coaching later, I now feel reasonably knowledgeable on the subject of guns and most of all, I loved hanging out in the countryside on a beautiful day with some very interesting and writerly friends. I love it when a research project morphs into a great new summer memory. It got me out of my rut and I recommend that you try doing something unexpected and off the chart for yourself!

As usual, Dr. Seuss said it best:

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
By Dr. Seuss
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Out there things can happen and frequently do
to people as brainy and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Monday, July 19, 2010


by Gina Sestak

Fiction writing is fun.  You sit down at the computer and let your imagination run wild.  Anything is possible.  But sometimes, sometimes, you have to get up off your you-know-what and venture forth to do some research, and I don't mean the kind of research you can do on Wikipedia.  Some days, you have to go out into the real world and do real things.  You have to do field research.  Sunday I got to do such research in a real field.

We - a group of local Sisters in Crime members - met at the McDonald Sportsmen's Club where two very knowledgeable gentlemen, Max and Ray, instructed us in weaponry.

Max focused on his collection of modern rifles and handguns.  Do you know the difference between a rifle and a shotgun?  A pistol and a revolver?  I didn't.  I still don't really, but my understanding, based upon Max's presentation, is that a rifle shoots a single slug down a long barrel that has been incised with spiral markings to make the bullet spin.  It is designed for accuracy. A shotgun, on the other hand, shoots shot, a collection of smaller projectiles, that spread out when they leave the barrel and so hit a wider area.   A pistol has a slide mechanism and bullets enter the firing area from a magazine.  A revolver's bullets are in a cylinder that rotates to move each bullet into firing position.  We handled various types and sizes of bullets, including hollow point bullets, designed to expand (and do greater damage), which are now called "controlled expansion" bullets.

Although Ray also provided a lot of insight into modern guns, he focussed his part of the presentation on older weapons, including muzzle loaders.  These are the Davy Crockett-style guns, the ones you see in movies where an actor gets powder from a powder horn and pours it into the barrel, followed by a bullet wrapped in cloth, then tamps it down with a long rod before firing.  We got to see Ray do that in person, a process that took him less than 30 seconds from one shot to the next.

Then Ray took us outside to shoot, wearing earplugs and safety glasses.  We shot at metal targets set up on a fence on the firing range.  If you hit a target, it would fall over, although a few times hits only resulted in turning the target sideways, making it much more difficult to hit.  The targets were silhouettes of farm animals -- chickens, turkeys, sheep, etc.  I'm not sure why.  Seems like the local farmers might protest that kind of practice lest some hotshot get ideas.  I didn't have a camera with me, so these are the best approximations I could find in free clip art of the guns we shot:

I chickened out of trying to fire the muzzle loader, mainly because the charge that propelled the bullet was ignited by a small fiery explosion on the side of the gun, too near the face (and hair!) for comfort.

As if this weren't fun enough, Ray then brought out some of his other weapons.  We were able to fire a modern cross-bow, which looked like a rifle with a bow and arrow laying on top of it.

It was surprisingly powerful and accurate.

My favorite, though, was the atlatl, a stone age spear throwing device.

You hook the spear onto the back of it, then fling the spear, with the atlatl acting as an extension of your arm.  Way cool!  Stone age people may have used these to hunt large game.
I managed to fling the spear several yards and stick it in the ground.  What can I say?  I'm vegetarian.  During the ice age I would probably have starved to death!

The program was incredibly informative, and both Max and Ray deserve a lot of thanks, as does Annette, who set it up.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


by Wilfred Bereswill

I know this isn't my regular day to post and not even a regular day for the Stiffs, but I have to vent.

On Thursday I traveled to Phoenix for business.  I was picked up from the airport by the regional office in my contact's company mini-van, threw my suitcase and briefcase into the back of the van and spent the next 7 hours in the scorching Phoenix 115 degree heat.  In a long sleeve white shirt and tie no less.

At 5:45 PM three people from the office took me out to a fabulous dinner at Roy's Hawiaan Fusion in an upscale neighborhood.  We had great food and talk and a few drinks.  At 7 PM we walked out to the parking lot and the mini-van's driver door wouldn't open.  I got in the passenger side and opened the door, but my host just stood there looking at her vans door handle.  I asked what was wrong and she said something looked wrong.  I got out and took a look and somebody had punched out the lock.  The next thing she said was, "Is your stuff in the car?"

It was all gone. My suitcase with my clothes. My briefcase with my personal MacBook Pro, digital camera, iPod Touch, and so on.  It felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

If that weren't bad enough, all of the wedding videos I took with my new Flip video and had downloaded on my Mac were gone.  They were deleted off the camera as I put them on my computer.  I had finished putting all the video together with a bunch of pictures and had them nicely arranged with some cool effects.  I burned one disc, and it was in the computer when it was stolen.  It is gone.  That's what hurts the most.

I stood there on the parking lot, sweating, unbelieving, pissed, helpless, vicitmized and stunned.  It happened in broad daylight, in an upscale neighborhood, in a crowded parking lot.  Talk about bold.

To make it worse, we called the Tempe police.  They didn't even see fit to come to the scene.  We gave the police report by phone.  No wonder crime is rampant.  The police took the friggen' report by phone.

My associates were kind enough to take me to a mall to get a new shirt and underwear.  I went to the 4 star hotel with a red backpack with everything I had to my name.  The hotel supplied me with a pathetic disposable razor, a toothbrush with 1 row of bristles and a couple of tiny packs of toothpaste and shaving gel.

Not only did I lose all the wedding videos, but all my website design.  I have a new short story coming out this week and I now have to figure out  how to redesign my entire website.

I still have no idea about how I'm going to reclaim my possessions, but in the meantime I'm down to using my little netbook.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The New Summer Shows-So Far

by Pat Gulley

The Gates

The Glades

Memphis Beat

The PBS version of Murder on the Orient Express

Rookies Blues

Rizzoli and Isles

Mystery’s Jane Marple

Well, the ‘summer’ season has started, and as it is nothing like the seasons of the distant past, it is a nice feature cable TV has brought to us. It has forced most networks to come up with summer shows, and though they do not outnumber the reruns, it is a relief. Not the reality stuff and these new ‘game’ show things. No, I’m just interested in the ‘stories’. My mother used to call the daytime dramas (soap operas) her ‘stories’ and I tend to think of anything that goes on and on as ‘stories’ now. And aren’t they all trying to do that? What with the success of X-Files and Lost, not only going on and on, but never ending or finishing in some cases—or (that dastardly, whine for a lack of creativity, ‘let the reader/viewer draw their own conclusions’. Humph!

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but let’s start with The Gates. Boy, this better go beyond the yawn it is so far—Desperate Housewives meets Twilight. I’m not caring for any of the characters—whiney vampire, brooding werewolf, bitch witch with a good witch to nag, and what looks like a succubus, but could turn out to be your-everyday-demon. Who knows, we’re already in reruns. I certainly couldn’t care less about the Jaws wanna-be family of the sheriff. His motives are beyond belief. Oh well, will keep watching and hoping, things on shows like this have been known to improve. My whine: but this is the one I wanted to be good and succeed!

Scoundrels—only watch half of the first one. I need to go back and watch some more—so many people are telling me how funny this one is, but two teenage, angst-ridden teenagers! Pelleeeeeessssse!

The Glades—Great, just what we need another smart-assed detective tossed out of one city’s police force for being accused of something he didn’t do, only to show up on another force knowing way more than anyone else, and hating the new locale. Right? Has anyone ever heard of being grateful just to have a job in this economy?

Memphis Beat—okay, same stuff as above, but somehow this one is pretty good with odd bits to each story that makes it interesting. The main character and his sidekick are rather likeable and Memphis is proving to be an interesting locale.

Rookie Blues---nothing new with more women. Okay, nothing else is on, so maybe it will prove good, but so far all the same old clich├ęs about new cops.

Rizzoli and Isles---Well, I’ve never read the books so the characters were new for me and the story line was pretty good. Based, I’m told, on two of the books. I did like Isles, geeky as a pathologist should be, but with great taste, likes great clothes and 3 inch heals and wears them, has a great apartment, and turtle raising skills. Rizzoli turned out to be the usual hard-driving-know-it-all that everyone wants to love and care for and she won’t let them, and a mother she’s always hiding from. First story was quite interesting about a serial killer (a surgeon in prison) and his apprentice. The escape wasn’t very believable, but what do you expect in an hour show. Since I adore the Closer, and this is scheduled to follow her, I’ll probably give it more time. Of course, I said the same thing about Saving Grace and Hawthorne, and it didn’t work. Yuck on both of them. Okay, not fair to Hawthorne, I hate all medical shows.

The PBS version of Murder On The Orient Express—well, I love Agatha and all her books, and David Suchet’s Poirot is superb, but I didn’t care too much for this version. It seemed too rushed, as though it assumed you already knew all the characters and the story, so they added a conscience driven motive for his final decision. One, I found out of character for Poirot.

Mystery’s second season of another Jane Marple. This Marple is growing on me. She suits the stories Agatha wrote in the 1950s while keeping her of an age Marple was in the 40s stories. In the books she was become quite feeble of body, never of mind, with a lot more rocking and knitting. They will be doing Third Girl this weekend, and it is one of my favorites. It’s about working women who share flats because of high rents and low salaries. (Unless they change it.) And since that was an experience I enjoyed in my days living in New York City while working with an airline, I’ve always like the story.

What did I miss? Any dissents? Agreements?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Angel Clouds and Rainbows

by Paula Matter

The following was originally posted one year ago.

There are times I remember precisely where I was when a legendary event happened. The following are most prevalent and come to my mind readily:

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Robert Kennedy's assassination

Dwight D. Eisenhower's death

Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon

John Lennon's assassination

Challenger explosion

September 11, 2001

Huge emotional events that effected America, the nation, the world.

I never experienced a profound tragedy firsthand.

Until July 17, 1996.

If you live in my small, quiet borough, you'll know that date. It's forever etched in our minds, our hearts. Thirteen years ago tomorrow, we lost 16 high school students and five adult chaperones in the TWA Flight 800 crash.

For days, weeks, months after this tragedy, our tiny town mourned. As a community we stuck together as we attended funeral after funeral after funeral.

And we endured.

The angel visited us in the evening of July 21, 1996. She appeared as a cloud over the high school, and lingered long enough for many to see her.

Twenty-one smaller white clouds appeared at the angel's feet, at first in a circle, then formed two straight rows.

The first of many rainbows also appeared that evening. Two beautiful rainbows arched over us until the sun set.

It wasn't unusual to hear reports of more rainbows suddenly appearing. They were spotted at soccer games, track meets, swim meets.

One month after the crash, on August 17, 1996, we held a community memorial. Thousands of people gathered in the high school football field. Minutes before the service started, a gorgeous rainbow appeared. Those of us who live here weren't surprised, and we were happy to share it with so many others. The rainbow disappeared five minutes or so after the service ended.

Closure and comfort came in other ways too. Finally, after six very long weeks, the last body from our town was recovered and brought home. I remember that day well. A customer told me, "They found her." And we cried together.

On July 17, 1999, the Memorial Park opened on the grounds of the high school. I went there a few days ago to take new photos to share with you.

The names of our town's twenty-one victims.

This ceramic angel sits on the base.

Our angel.

Engraving on one side.

Surrounded by twenty-one maple trees,
our angel stands.
Forever in our hearts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mr. Monk and me

Continuing the celebrity theme -- and what I did on my summer vacation -- let me first say that I am such a fan of the television show/crime-solving character "Monk" that I even have a "Monk" bobblehead doll at my workplace.

Adrian Monk, if you're not familiar with the series that ran for eight seasons on the USA Network and whose finale in December was the most-watched basic cable original drama series telecast of all time, was a brilliant -- but obsessive-compulsive -- and damaged ex-detective often called in by the San Francisco Police Department to help solve criminal cases.

As a mystery writer, I loved the many quirks of the character and admired his investigative skills. The dialogue and plots were always smart and witty, and the actor who portrayed Monk -- Tony Shalhoub -- could say more with a raised eyebrow or a single look than most people can communicate in an hour of talking.

"Monk" will probably live on forever in reruns on the USA cable network and also on the written page as he's the subject of at least 10 "Mr. Monk" spinoff novels by screenwriter, producer and author Lee Goldberg. But for me, "Monk" will always be synonymous with Shalhoub, who won four straight Emmys for the role. (He also may be familiar to some as Italian cabdriver Antonio Scarpacci in the long-running sitcom "Wings.")

It's no secret that one of my hobbies is "meeting" celebrities ("meeting" sounds less dangerous than "stalking" ) but I never thought I'd get the opportunity to meet Tony Shalhoub, although in a six-degrees-of-separation kind of thing, he's been friends with one of my co-workers since their Wisconsin school days. However, he has yet to visit her at our New Hampshire place of employment and she can visit his bobbing head doll in my office any time.

So I was thrilled to learn he was starring on Broadway in "Lend Me a Tenor" at the same time our children in exile in D.C. recently agreed to meet their lonely parents halfway -- in New York City. We laughed our way through Tony's performance and those of the rest of fabulous cast, including Anthony LaPaglia (TV show "Without a Trace"), Justin Bartha ("The Hangover" and "National Treasure" 1 & 2) and Tony's real-life wife, Brooke Adams ("Days of Heaven").

At the end of the play, I positioned myself outside the stage door and handed the camera to No. 2 son. Tony was the last of the actors to exit the theater and graciously sign autographs. When I told him about my Monk bobblehead, he said, "I'm embarrassed," which I thought was a sweet reaction for someone who probably thought he'd encountered a crazed fan. He graciously posed for the photo above after I mentioned my co-worker, but jokingly said he would only do so if I could get her to go see the show, too.

But what I really wanted to do is to beg him to return to the small screen and continue the "Monk" series. Reruns won't be enough to satisfy me. Sometimes you just love a character so much that you don't want to see him or her come to an end. Are there mystery character(s) that you would like to see continue forever?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From the pages to the (small) screen....

By Pat Remick

Well, since the theme is "summer" I'm going to talk about a new summer television series that premiered last night: "Rizzoli & Isles," based on the two primary characters in the gripping series I adore that's authored by thriller writer Tess Gerritsen.

I suspect I reacted like a lot of Gerritsen's avid readers when I first heard that gorgeous Angie Harmon would portray plain Jane Rizzoli, the no-nonsense, driven Boston homicide detective. My response: Are you kidding me? And forensic pathologist Dr. Maura Isles as a blonde? Say it ain't so. These ARE NOT the people I've imagined in my head for the past seven books.

I did have an opportunity to view last night's episode a couple of weeks ago as part of my relentless quest to enjoy free and interesting entertainment, Husband No. 1 and I traveled an hour away for a premiere event that also featured the author signing "Ice Cold" -- the newest (and No. 8) book in the series.

I should note that the experience wasn't exactly "free." There was the $6 in tolls, $15 to park the car, $13 for drinks while waiting for the doors to open and of course, the book to buy ($18 at a discount). Not counting the food we ate later because we were so hungry after the rest of the crowd mobbed the servers carrying the complimentary hors d'oeuvres, our "free" outing cost $52. But I did get another author photo for my collection, a free t-shirt advertising the show, and assurances from the Tess Gerritsen that she's more than OK with how her characters look and act on the small screen.

I'm not sure I am -- not that anyone's asking.

Gerritsen, by the way, doesn't write the scripts. But as she works on future books in her series, I have to wonder whether Jane will become Angie Harmon and if Dr. Isles will begin to look like Sasha Alexander and start acting as girly as she does in the TV show. Since "Rizzoli & Isles" doesn't exactly mirror the books, will the books begin to resemble the TNT series? At least one past book cover has been redone to show the TV show actresses and Gerritsen's newest novel proclaims on the cover that it's a Rizzoli & Isles mystery.

I also wonder whether any of the episodes could ever be as good -- or as heart-pumping exciting -- as the books, although I will confess to a gasp or two while watching the premiere episode. Haven't you been dismayed at one time or another by how a movie didn't measure up to the book on which it was based? When I get behind in my popular fiction reading and learn a movie will be made from a book, I don't even bother to read it because I don't want to be disappointed. Or I'll read the book but never watch the movie.

However, I did have a different experience after watching the Swedish film version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." I'd given up the struggle of trying to read the book (too much "information dumping," too many Swedish names, etc.) and I wanted to see the movie because I was curious about all the buzz. The film was so good, and the characters so compelling, that I forgot I was reading subtitles. It left me so intrigued that I picked up the second book in Stieg Larrson's series and intend to read the third. (Warning: the movie does contain very brutal scenes).

Nonetheless, I think even TNT may be a little concerned by how fans of Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles will react to its interpretation of these characters because it put together the following video featuring Gerritsen discussing how she views the changes. I look forward to hearing what others think about the transition from the pages to the screen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Wedding

by Wilfred Bereswill

Well, the wedding is over, the presents are open and the happy couple is jetting to Mexico for the honeymoon.  And I'm friggin' exhausted.  Everything went fantastic.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a short blog about trying to prepare the wedding speech and the difficulty in finding the right words.  Well, for your pleasure, here is the speech compliments of my new Flip Video Camera.

WARNING!  it's almost 8 minutes long.

The Bride (My Daughter)

The Father giving away the Bride

Friday, July 09, 2010

A Perfect Summer Day

by Laurissa

As a young girl summer vacation was full of endless possibilities. I didn’t keep track of the days, and I tried my hardest to never have to see the school during the summer months (out of sight, out of mind).  I was one of six children, and my parents didn’t have the time to transport us or the money to enroll us in summer activities, so instead we amused ourselves.

My favorite summer pastime was sitting on the front porch glider reading. Through my books, I went on many vacations each summer, even though I can only recall taking two actual vacations during my childhood: Washington, D.C., and Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI.

During the evening hours we’d run around catching lightning bugs and playing games of tag, including something we called “statue.” I remember it involved swinging another child around in circles by their arms and letting go; in whatever position they were in when they stopped, they’d have to “freeze” until they were tagged and allowed to move. At least, I think that’s how we played it. It was a few years ago!

A foodie at heart, my favorite summer meal was an open-faced tomato, mayo and American cheese sandwich, which was melted under the broiler, accompanied by corn-on-the-cob, slathered with butter and sprinkled with salt, watermelon for dessert and maybe a popsicle or ice cream cone as a nighttime snack.

To this day if I could have a “perfect” summer day, it would be just like the ones I experienced as a child.

What's your idea of a perfect summer day?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I Like it Here

by Joyce

Since our theme for July is anything to do with summer and vacation n'at, I decided to post some photos of where hubby and I spend a lot of time. Some of the time, we even get to relax.

This is the Red Garden, right outside the sunroom in the back of our house.

And to cool you off a bit, here's what it looked like only a few months ago:

This is another garden in the back yard:

 Here's a view looking down the path to the terrace area:

And this is the Blue Garden in the front yard:

Notice I skipped photos of the vegetable plants (although you might be able to see the kohlrabis in the Red Garden photo). They're much too embarrassing to show after seeing Annette's.

So, that's kind of a mini-tour of my yard. Hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Annette's World

by Annette Dashofy

After reading about Jennie’s, Gina’s, and Martha’s travels and escapades, I feel like I got nothin’.

Any thoughts of travel evaporated with the loss of Hubby’s job this spring. Thank heavens we have the campsite in Confluence or I’d be stir crazy by now.

I was going to write about our Fourth of July weekend at the camp, but thanks to a monster head cold, I spend most of my time there curled up with a book. Not a bad way to spend a weekend, but not very interesting blog material.

So I’ve decided to offer you a taste of summer here in rural Pennsylvania.

Welcome to my world.

This is Skye, who doesn't think much of the heat we're having.

Leaving Skye to her nap, we'll head outside.

This robin's nest with babies is right outside my office window. I'd been hearing the fluttering for days before I investigated the source.

Here is my veggie garden. It looks good, thanks to Hubby. I get absolutely no credit for it.

These are our cucumbers, green onions, and some basil, along with some carrots hiding in the weeds.

There's a yellow squash almost ready to pick!
A zucchini, too!

We keep electric fence around the garden to keep the critters out. Otherwise, they'd get a better harvest than we would.

Quiz time. Can anyone name this plant? Hint: You cannot kill it and it will make you cry. There's no prize for coming up with the name. I just wondered who the farmers are among us. Heh heh.

My ten acre backyard.

And here comes Moochie. He's technically not my cat, but no one seems to have told him. He's decided whether or not he's MY cat, I'm definitely HIS person.
Not sure if this guy is related to the family on the side of our house, but he struck a pose, so here he is.
And finally our tour of my world ends back at my front porch and our bumper crop of catnip. For some reason, Moochie doesn't care for it. But Skye is addicted.
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your summer!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Celebrate Good Times

By Martha Reed

I know most folks think summer starts on Memorial Day but that has always seemed to early in the year for me plus that holiday weekend is usually rainy and cold and that’s not what I want when I think of summer.

For me summer is watermelon and frozen Snickers bars and banana popcicles. It’s that slight sunburn you get on the top of your shoulders and on the tip of your nose. It’s lazy afternoon naps because you stayed up way too late during the night once things cooled off and you suddenly found yourself restless and full of energy at eleven p.m. when sensible people were inside sleeping in the air conditioning. Best of all, summer means the Fourth of July three-day weekend plus fireworks and it usually involves travel, too, which makes a hat trick in my book.

This year was no exception because my niece needed a ride to Washington DC for a conference and so my sisters and I decided to spend the weekend in DC to celebrate the national holiday in our nation’s capital. We had to overcome two hurdles: 100 degree heat and about a million other people lining Constitution Avenue to watch the parade and afterwards clog the Mall to watch the fireworks display but once again luck came into play when one of my cousins invited us to watch the fireworks from his office building on 15th street between F & G. Okay, I thought that was a nice gesture and since his office was on the 10th floor at least we would be above the crowd and since I’m from Pittsburgh and not a Washington insider, his address meant nothing to me, uhm, until I got there.

So here I am, enjoying a cold beer on the terrace overlooking the Treasury Building. Oh, and not to mention, The White House, too. I have to admit I love it when life gets swell!

Happy Independence Day, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed a safe and happy holiday.

Monday, July 05, 2010


by Gina Sestak

I spent last week at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, North Carolina,

attending the 27th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

This is the most eclectic bunch of people I've ever been among.  Attendees included psychologists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, educators, clergy, artists, and, of course, writers.  Then there were those, like me, who came for the fun.  [Learning is fun, right?]

I attended seminars on Shamanic Journeying (in this case, evoking mystical experience via body postures), Shadow Work (Jungian-based approach to the dark side presented by an Episcopal priest), After Death Communication (via dreams, not mediums), Welsh Mythology (viewing myth as the dream of a culture), Through the Dream Looking Glass (mapping a dream through drawing images), How Extraordinary Dreams Extend to Others and Fulfill Higher Purposes, and Dreams at the End of Life: A Tool for the Great Crossing Over (presented by a hospice nurse).  I skipped most of the hard science this year (those with titles like "Association of Neurohormones Oxytocin and Cortisol with Sleep Stage and Dream Content" and "Dream Content and Movements during REM Sleep in Parkinson Patients with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder").  There were also films, an art show, a dance performance, keynote speeches ("Cherokee Dreaming and the Politics of Repression," "The Timeless Wisdom of Our Dreams," and "Dream Content, Waking States and Well-Being: Why Dreaming is Psychologically Meaningful"), story telling, and a "Dream Ball," in which people dressed up as characters from their dreams, not to mention lots of just hanging around, eating and drinking.

The most fun of all, though, was a dream group I participated in every morning.  Titled "The Theatre of Dreams," this workshop allowed participants to stage their dreams.  A participant would tell a dream s/he had had, then direct the acting out of that dream, choosing other participants to play dream characters and costuming them accordingly.   The dream characters got a chance to give feed-back on how they felt about being in the dream.  Acting out other peoples' dreams, I played a dream group participant (type casting), a dark feminine energy figure, and half of a door.  Then we did my own dream:

A young man who made deliveries (maybe something like pizza) became a giant, then got small again.  Police were after him, waiting in a two story building with a porch.  There was supposed to be a blackout, but I saw from outside that one of the second floor apartments had lights on.  Inside, I worried that the man who had been a giant would come to the door and be caught.  Someone rang the doorbell and  I answered.  It was a young woman with dark hair wearing a ball cap and dark clothing who worked for the same company as the wanted man.  I knew she was scouting to see if it was safe for him to come to the building.  I whispered to her that the police were there.

Staging this one gave me a lot of insight, but I'm not writing this morning to analyze my dreams.   I'd like to focus on the acting out of a scene, which I sometimes also do with my writing.  It's all well and good to imagine, watching the story unfold in your mind's eye, but is that action really possible?  One way to find out is to get people to perform it.  I suspect we've all sought assistance from a significant other in blocking sex scenes (one of the perks of being a writer), and I once tied up a man in a critique group meeting to make sure my character's method was feasible.   I've asked people to move in certain ways, and crawled around the inside an old van.  What about you?  Do you ever act out scenes from your writing to figure out whether or not they would work?