Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Notes from All Over

An amazing sight last Tuesday afternoon.  A magnificent bald eagle landed in the street that runs beside our building and pecked at the demolished body of a run-over rabbit while crows, who had been holding their own feast, objected loudly.  One crow dared to land behind the eagle while others cawed from nearby trees, but the eagle turned to give him a hard look, and he decided the better part of valor would be to join his friends in the trees. Then the eagle scooped up the last large fragment of red flesh and leaped into the air, to disappear over tree- and housetops.  It was a glimpse of, like they say, nature red in tooth and claw.  Well, beak and talon.

Technically, it is too early to plant.  Here in this part of Minnesota, the informal rule is, wait until Mother’s Day.  But the temperatures have been so mild, I couldn’t wait, and put up my plant pole and transplanted the azalea I got from church into a bigger pot.  This is the third year for the pole, and I like it more than ever.  I bought it at our State Fair and it’s an easy way to get a lot of plants in a small space, stacking the tilted pots up it.  Last year I had a geranium that was so healthy in the fall that I kept it over the winter in our apartment.  It started blooming in February and I was glad to get it outdoors last weekend.  It’s the variety that droops over the edge of the pot – which it didn’t do last year, but does this year.

And here’s a picture of Java the Bombay cat, showing off her exotic profile.

Last night we were introduced to the applications of candidates to be my church’s next rector.  They seem different from one another but very qualified and it’s going to be a hard choice.  And I’m still thinking this search would be the basis of a good mystery story.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Miniatures and Writing: Creating and Getting Ideas

Miniatures: The Other Creativity

I'm baaaaack!

Joanna Slan's recent post about her Mid Century Modern mini project inspired me to share what I've been working on.

Did you ever notice that sometimes you’re more creative in one thing than the other? In other words, writing, it seems, can get in the way of your hobby.

The worst thing I’ve noticed is that it results in several projects being started and ongoing in various stages since I get bored and put one aside to do something else. Or in writing, something isn't working how I want, so I switch between projects. But I am determined to finish them and keep at it. 

Writing-wise, I’ve been working on a supernatural-flavored mystery novella set in Lizzie Borden’s hometown. I’ve started the sequel to Lizzie Borden,Zombie Hunter and have a pretty good outline going. Good progress for me. I also have several short stories in the works. I have to say it's fun writing about "my" version of Lizzie and putting her in different scenarios. 

Now I just have to get it all done!

Miniatures is much the same: there’s the Half Scale garage I started. I’m still finishing up the yard here and there.

Pictured: part of side yard. The front part with a "gravel" drive will be host to a yard sale scene. Close-up of flower bed by garage wall.

I also started decorating a small travel trailer. Instead of it being the usual bed-table-kitchen layout, I’ve decided to try converting it into a Coffee Café. (The photo - I know, boring huh? -  is only a teaser to show the body - it took me quite a while to decide on a color scheme. The inside is now wallpapered with a pink floral and has a black-white checkered floor.) I don't want to show it until I have more done.

Oh, if that isn’t enough, I found a HUGE dollhouse at the thrift store, and well, it was a steal for $10. I actually bought it for the windows and door since I just don’t have the room for the whole house. (Never mind that I have two other built houses yet to decorate.)

Then I got an idea—yeah, dangerous. Real dangerous...I hated to do it, well, kind of...

 So, I took off the top sections and saved the bottom floor. Ready-made roombox! It's still fairly big - it fits the length of  a square folding table. It’s probably going to be turned into the hippie-1960s-‘70s record store I was thinking about. The windows already look better painted pink with hot pink on the top and bottom, plus the side trim lines. The outside will be violet and purple. Lots of color will be going on here. Found an array of fun scrapbook papers, including a colorful pineapple print I like. Basically you can't have too much color in this one!

Yes, it will require making dozens, a hundred or more (?), mini record album covers. I really don't like making them all, but the end result makes it worth it. There's something about seeing a bunch of the same things. Check out this mini record collection

You'll laugh - I even found that one of the miniature flower makers has a "certain" plant and leaf kit available for that added touch of realism! I'm a DIY'er so I'll be adding the leaf kit to my inventory soon.

And of course the ideas never end... We'll see what I pick up at the dollhouse shows that I planned on attending this past weekend. 

It's an addiction, I guess. An addiction to creating, whether it's in word or in a project. There’s just one problem with all this creativity – now I have to finish it all. Haaa!


Friday, April 21, 2017

Jury Duty

It’s been an interesting week. I was called in to jury duty on Monday. The original summons was for last fall and I postponed it. When I got the April date, it seemed like it was forever in the future. But then suddenly the future had become the present.

Normally I would have no problem doing jury duty, but I had to go to the court in downtown Los Angeles which they claim is nineteen miles away, but if you look at the summons, they show it in a straight line, as if I was a crow who could fly over the mountains and twists and turns to get there. And we had a seminar on Thursday, along with my looming deadline for the next Crochet Mystery.

I decided to look at it like an adventure and at the same time hope I didn’t end up on a trial. Downtown L.A. is a total mystery to me. The streets are all cockeyed and I have spent very little time there and most of it has been in a car driving through to somewhere else.

I was dropped off at the court house by my family as they headed to Long Beach for an appointment. The plan was I would take public transportation home.

I was called to a jury panel shortly after I got there and since I was given the number 27, was not questioned in the first group. We broke for lunch shortly after that and I decided to look around outside for someplace to get food. I walked outside right into a protest. Cops in riot gear were standing, waiting. People were yelling and for some reason were also playing loud music. On my way back, the protest had moved into the intersection and people were sitting in the street blocking traffic.

I was still sitting in the audience in the court room when the day ended and we all had to come back for a second day. And now it was time for me to find my way to the train station. I followed the path my phone showed me. It might have been the shortest route, but hardly the most pleasant. When I looked up from the phone I was in the middle of a homeless encampment with tents and sketchy people wandering around, along with unseen dogs barking a warning as I past.

I had to cross through a small park with more sketchy people, but at least by now I could see Union Station. It’s a grand looking Spanish style building with a tower in the front and hard to miss. The last time I was there we were seeing my son off on a high school trip and the place was deserted. The rows of ticket booths were not in use anymore. There were seats for waiting, but few people in them. There might have been a magazine stand, but no other businesses. And the board listing the trains coming and going appeared pretty bare.

But things have changed since then. The subway, light rail and a train system called Metrolink all have hubs at Union Station. The ticket booths are still not in use and actually roped off. Most of the seats are gone and the ones left are roped off, too, as if they are a museum exhibit of how things used to be. But there is a café and some other business like snack bars and shoe shine stand. The biggest surprise was how many people were heading to trains.

There were plenty of people to ask for directions and I bought my ticket from a real person instead of having to fuss with a machine. I found my track and the train was waiting. Inside it was spacious with even a large clean rest room. There were plugs to charge electronics at each seat as well. The only short coming was the view during the ride. Most of it can only be described as ucky. Lots and lots of graffiti and beat up looking buildings. It was only after we passed Van Nuys that there were houses and tree lined streets. When I got off in Northridge, it felt weird, like I was entering a familiar place from another door so that everything seemed different.

I got a ride the next morning again and expected I’d be excused or on the jury for sure that day. The plan was I would take the train to Pasadena and walk to our office there. The Pasadena train is part of the light rail system and passes through more a more scenic area than the Metrolink. I had found a better path to the train station without the going through the homeless encampment and I was actually looking forward to the trip.

But the thing about adventures is that you never know what will happen. I was finally questioned for the jury. We had only been given vague details of what the case was about. It had to do with road rage and the defendant making threats and also having a concealed gun in his vehicle. From what I heard, I think the person he was threatening might have been an off duty cop. I think my fate was sealed by a few things that I said. The judge asked me if I had any technical advisors for my writing and I mentioned going to Writers Police Academy and being able to ask an ATF officer how to make a homemade silencer. Then there was the story about my daughter in law having someone stick a gun in her car window and attempt to car jack her at a stop light on way to her teaching job (this happened a long time ago). The whole court room gasped when I said the part about the gun.

The judge didn’t ask me, but I finished the story by explaining that she stepped on the gas and drove over the guys foot and kept going.

Anyway, I was excused from the jury barely an hour after I got there. It was so early, I ended up getting picked up and went with my family to our Pasadena office.

It was an interesting experience. I liked watching all the people in the court room. I even liked finding my way around downtown. And it was my chance to figure out why downtown Los Angeles is visually so unappealing. The buildings don’t have stores and eating places facing the street, which makes it seem very desolate. I actually had to stop a woman on the street to ask her where there was a place to get lunch. She showed me a food court that was below the street. It is like everything is facing inward and is inside, which seems odd since the whole feeling about L.A. is all about being able to be outside year round.

And now it’s time to resume my normal life..

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Editing: From Suspect to Snitch

I'm still editing away and am able to breath a little easier now. Last week, I was in the middle of my developmental edit and was stuck in a particular place. I wrote words. Deleted words. Outline a change. Added it. Then took it out. Nothing was working but I knew this part of the story had to be changed. The problem was every choice either complicated the plot or gave away the ending. What was I to do? Nothing was working and I didn't want to edit myself into a place where I needed to rewrite the whole beginning. I was at a loss. I was frustrated. So, I made a decision that might not have been wise, due to deadline approaching, an event looming on the horizon, and the restarting of my part-time job at the golf course, but I took the morning off anyway. 

There were some items I wanted to get before my next crop event, and the nearest craft store was thirty-five minutes away so I knew it would be a huge time commitment. But as I was at the point of wanting to scream "I quit" or bang my head on the keyboard, a few hours away would be a good thing for me. So, I grabbed my Joann's coupons and keys and went on my trip.

As I drove away from my house, my computer, and the book, my mind started to clear and the task I left behind didn't seem so daunting. The farther away I got, the more my mind clearer and ideas started to come into my head, including two answers to my dilemma: change of ownership and make him a snitch. When I reached my destination, I sat in the car and emailed myself the hopefully brilliant solutions to the issues I was facing.

When I returned home, I went downstairs and took a look at my developmental report and the outline of changes I had intended to write. What do you know...the few issues I was still having would be solved or smoothed out with these two changes. One of the changes would mean reworking a few scenes and removing another but as it required a new one, no worries on the word count ending up too low. 

The biggest problem I was having was with one suspect. I had tried to find a way to make him more solid without giving away the ending or over complicated the plot with so many twists (or even worse coincidences) that it was not believable. I read back over his scene and discovered the idea I had on my drive was the right answer. The man wasn't a necessary suspect as I had others, stronger ones, and what was needed was a catalyst to narrow down the who could've done it--a snitch. He was no longer a character who didn't have a strong enough motive, and seemed like an add on. He was now necessary and helped move the plot forward rather than bog it down.