Am I Crazy or What?

I’m doing my hiking plan for creativity and fitness this afternoon and I hit an intersection. I could on and catch a bus home, well, two buses, by just going straight. Or I could walk even further, catch only one bus and get some work done at the library. The problem? I’m getting tired, which given my health, can be a real issue. So, naturally, I went even further and am now at the library.

The book that needed the landing page

The other day, one of my laptops develops this big problem. One of the programs is getting triggered and asking for a password that I never set up. Kind of hard to get anything working when you don’t have the password. I get past it by cancelling the password demand multiple times until it stops popping up. But do I leave it at that? Noooo! I decide to re-install the operating system with a better version for that particular laptop. No, it didn’t go smoothly, but I kept at it until I had the new system up and running and the critical programs installed and working.

Then yesterday, after getting the above laptop going, I go to update a page on my sight that had gotten broken in a recent update, so did I just replace the elements on the page that I’d had there before? Of course not. I redesigned the page (it needed to be more mobile-friendly), and added yet another page because, well, I needed something to link to. I could have just added the link later when I’d gotten that second page up and running. Like I was going to do that.

In fact, several times this week and, oh, last month, when the website first broke, I have skipped the easy fix and gone for a better one, never mind how much this stuff was making me cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Like with the walking thing. I pushed too far, which means I’ll pretty much be a wet noodle tomorrow. And that’s not good because I have to clean house for a thing on Sunday, which will involve getting things cleared away and not just dumped someplace else, like my husband does. That would be the easier way to do it, but then all that stuff will lay dumped and never get to the right spots, which will, in turn create more problems.

Which is why I seem to prefer going the extra distance. Too often, going with the easy fix just creates more trouble. I’d rather just get it done the right way the first time. Or as close to the right way as I can get it.

Take the webpage thing. The page that had broken was the landing page for my latest book (which was released last spring). The buy links had been dropped – not something that works real well when you’re trying to sell books. The reason I didn’t just go back to the old design was that it was using some bits of software, called plug-ins, that were messing things up for those of my readers using their phones to reach the page. I re-aligned the different elements on the page to put the buy buttons closer to the book cover… Well, you can see what I did here.

I also had to make two new buttons for the new links, convert one of the chapters to .pdf and make the page for the whole Old Los Angeles series – a page I’ve been planning posting anyway. I could have just added the link to the series page when I got around to actually building the series page, but it would have messed up the look of the book page in the meantime.

I will be refining the series page at some point in the future – it’s in the queue of website fixes I’ve got to do. But it’s looking reasonably good. I’m very pleased with how the book landing page came out, too. It was the longer fix, but it was the better fix.

What about you? Are you okay with the quick fix when needed or do you go the long way around?

Holiday Greetings

This is going to be short. I love the holidays, don’t get me wrong. I hate writing about them. If I write something sweet, it inevitably comes off as goopy and insincere. If I try to be funny and mildly sardonic, it comes off as cranky.

So, I’m going to post greetings in the form of pictures, sort of like you’d find in your friends’ annual holiday letters. These are my pets, by the way. I don’t post pictures of my adult daughter or husband in the interests of protecting their privacy. The dog and cats don’t care.

This is TobyWan, as in TobyWan is nosy. He’s part basset, part beagle.

Toby lives for cookies, which is why he’s looking so intently at my camera in this shot. He also lives for naps.

We call him the Drama Queen because of his wails as soon as we come home.

Meet Benzi. Doesn’t she look cute? She’s a terrorist at heart. Her full name is Benzedrine, but she’s also known the Benzo-matic and Purrr-bot. She’s got this weird chirping purr than makes her sound like a tribble.

This is Sadie Cat. We were going to call her Medusa, because she has the stare that can turn you to stone. But then we found out she had a name, and since she was 8 years old when we adopted her, it wasn’t fair to change it.

This is Xanax, demonstrating how she got her name. That isn’t just a lucky shot. She really does sleep like that. We’ll call her Xannikins, but she is also in the guise of the mild-mannered Puff. She is also a terrorist

Anyway, the best of holiday wishes to you and yours from all of us at The Old Homestead.

Keeping a Character in Stitches

I make a lot of my own clothes and some of my husband’s. Why? Oh, lots of reasons. There’s the social justice thing – not supporting the sweat shop culture perpetrated by cheaply made clothes. Also, I like doing it. It’s creative and can be very interesting.

Now, don’t get too excited. I did not say I’m that good at it. I know too many people whose skills outstrip my own several times over. It’s just something I do. Okay?

It’s not that I’m disparaging myself, mind you. I’m happy to accept praise for my cooking, and my writing. It’s just kind of embarrassing when people gush about something that I’m not that good at. Trust me. I have never sewn a straight seam in my life. My topstitching is chronically crooked, and you do not want to know how many outfits I’ve had to give away because they didn’t fit, or because, like the last shirt I made for my husband, I put the sleeves on backwards.

What is interesting, in regards to the purpose of this forum, is how my interest in fabrics and needle crafts creeps into most of my writing. For example, in the 1920s, Freddie and Kathy series, when I had to figure out what industry had made Freddie Little’s family so extremely wealthy, I chose the textile industry. Aside from the fact that it is one of the oldest industries in the U.S., and Freddie is from Old Money, it’s something I like.

For the Old Los Angeles series, yes, Maddie Wilcox is a winemaker because my husband makes wine and I wanted a character that did, too. But Maddie is also a clothes horse – she will describe everyone’s outfits before she’ll describe anything else. I love historical clothing.

Then there’s the character who actually sews: Lisa Wycherly. Lisa and Sid Hackbirn have been a part of my life since 1982, when I first started writing That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine. It’s kind of a cozy spy novel, extended romance, occasional murder mystery series. I’m working on re-writing it now. The first four books are available now, and I’m getting book five, Sad Lisa, ready to appear on my personal blog for my Friday fiction serial. In fact, it will debut on December 6.

The thing is, as Lisa came to life, I wanted her to have a family and interests of her own. Sid doesn’t have any family and his hobby is sleeping around. Lisa, who is still a virgin and likely to stay that way for her own reasons, needed a life apart from being a member of a top-secret organization within the FBI. So, Lisa is religious, like me, and she sews and knits, although at the time I wrote her, I was not nearly as advanced a knitter as she is. Nor was I that advanced at sewing, either.

Which is kind of creating a problem now that I’m re-writing the series. You see, I’ve left it set in the original time that I wrote it. Why not? I’ve got all the dialogue and slang. A lot of the daily life details are all in the text, so I don’t have to hunt them down as much. Only there are some details that aren’t in the original text that I want to add. I’m trying to remember when I got my overlock machine, for example. Also known as a serger, they were around during the early to mid-80s, but mostly in industrial settings. My only problem is that if I didn’t get mine until the early 90s, having Lisa use one when it’s only 1984 would be bad.

Will I do another character who sews? I don’t know. I might. It would work well in the cozy world, in general. On the other hand, I do have one additional character in the queue who makes wine. I want to get that series started first. And, in the meantime, I am continuing to develop my sewing skills. Like remembering to put the sleeves on the shirt in the right direction. Sigh.

My Favorite Halloween Costumes

The best part of Halloween for me is, by far, the costumes. Okay, little chocolate bars are up there. But deciding what to wear and how to make it, that is possibly the most fun of all.

Fred did not like the chicken suit

I wish I had pictures of my Jawa costume from 1977 – they’re around here someplace. I built it myself and it even had real, glowing orange lights for eyes. Then there was the last minute costume I threw together when I was 14 so that I could go trick or treating at the last minute. I wrapped up a bunch of sheet strips around my ankle, got an old ski pole and a jacket and went as a skier.

Which kind of underscores my costume philosophy. Make it really complicated or make it funny. Or better yet, both. This got to be a problem as my kid grew up because between me, with my creative inclinations, and her engineer father, who loved that kind of problem-solving, my daughter could ask to be just about anything and did.

We tried the shark suit with Clyde. He didn’t like it.
TobyWan didn’t like the chicken suit, either.

When she was 3, she wanted to be Cinderella. I did a creditable dress for her. And when she was 5, she wanted to be My Little Pony. That one was not one of my better efforts, but in all fairness, the sewing machine died the night of October 30 and all I had was my serger to work with.

Then, when she was 6, she wanted to be a birthday cake. We pulled that one off. She wanted to be a box of Nerds candy one year and was a treasure chest another year – both of those were her father’s work since they were all cardboard.

My husband now does not like to dress up and we haven’t been to a Halloween party in years, anyway. Life has gotten busy and I’ve had a couple health issues that force me to spend my energy on longer-lasting projects, like books. That, and we’ve already got the costume pic with TobyWan, the current dog.

Moses as Charlton Heston

The earlier dogs weren’t thrilled with the costume thing, but I at least got the costume on long enough to get pictures. That being said, it took almost 12 years to get around to dressing our dog Moses up as Charlton Heston, back in 2013. It may have been just as well. Mosie was pretty hyper as a younger dog and probably would not have sat still for the photo.

So, there’s not going to be any dressing up this year. Unless we get a last-minute invite to a party. That sheep costume should be around here someplace.

What Everyone Likes

I’m trying to find a way to write this so that it doesn’t sound whiny or excessively paranoid. However, that is the way I’m feeling at the moment. I just sent two stories off for consideration for a national anthology, and while one was nicely polished and hit all the marks for voice and accuracy, the other was less so.

I am not looking for sympathy comments, by the way. It’s just that people keep saying they want to know what goes on in a writer’s head. I can’t imagine why. It’s a messy, scary place, at times.

This is me, normally, when I’m sewing.

It started yesterday, when I was laying out a couple pairs of shorts. I’ve been sewing my entire adult life, so it’s not entirely crazy that I would be teaching myself to make jeans. Since I’m trying to figure out how best to fit my body, I was laying out the adjusted versions of two different patterns to see which fits the best. As I was laying out the second pattern (which had fit in the front really well, but the back didn’t come up near far enough on mine), I noticed that I really hated the back pockets.

Now, this was a pattern that had gotten rave reviews on a certain sewing forum I’m on. I mean, huge. Everybody loved this freaking pattern, in particular, the back pockets, which were slightly curved and supposedly more flattering. to one’s bum. Now, I have ogled many a bum in my day, and even with the pictures that were posted, couldn’t see what the benefit of the curve was. I do know what a PITA it was to sew that curved pocket. So, I used the pocket from the other jeans.

I was once again reminded that if people are raving about something, the odds are not good that I’m going to like it. I’m not trying to be obtuse, mind you, and I do like some things that are incredibly popular. It’s just that I’ve been to restaurants that have lines of people waiting to get in and usually find that the food doesn’t justify the wait. Movies? Super hits? Even serious films that everyone thought were wonderful. I’ve sat through so many of them, bored to tears that if someone even utters the word “hit,” I won’t go.

Sadly, the reverse is true. If I like it, chances nobody is going to. I love those small town cozies that everyone else loves looking down on. I love the 1812 Overture, never mind how immature that taste is. Someone actually said that to me, which is why I’m not naming names here. I don’t want anybody feeling bad if I write that their favorite composer drives me nuts with his over-wrought earworms.

This is no big deal under normal circumstances. Indeed, I often revel in being the only person to hate a given show because it’s the same three overwrought songs sung over and over. However, I just sent off two stories to be judged by other people. I liked those stories. I really liked them.

It’s not that there isn’t a market for my writing. Lots of people have read my books and liked them. I was even at a book festival recently where a total stranger told me he’d bought my book, Death of the Zanjero, the year before and liked it so much that he’d come back to buy the sequel, Death of the City Marshal. Someone else met me in a hallway and told me how much she liked my book. And thank God for the Internet. People like me may be few and far between, but the Internet can connect us.

This me worrying about my writing.

It’s the paranoia and terror of rejection that envelops me every time I submit something. I’ve been rejected a lot, mostly because they can’t figure out how to sell my work. At least, that’s the comment I get more than any other. Worse yet, I know that second story could have been better because I wrote it at the last second. I’d had a brilliant idea and couldn’t resist. Only it doesn’t feel so brilliant now.

I did shop my first story around for critiquing and the comments were excellent, but the suggestions were to make my story into something I hate reading. Argh. I mean, what’s a woman to do? Try to do what everybody else likes and I hate (which probably won’t work because I hate it)? Or shoot myself in the foot by sticking to my guns?

The good news is that I will be past all this moaning and groaning soon. I am nothing if not resilient, and will soon be back to snarking on overwrought ear worms and reveling in my own unique tastes. If I am rejected, I will bounce back.

In the meantime, I will be whiny and paranoid, because that’s where I’m at right now. It’s scary and messy to be inside a writer’s head, whether any of us likes it or not.

Inspired by Solitaire

There are two immutables that drivSolitaireShote my writing life. One is that I am the ADHD poster child. This means that focus is not my strong suit and that I am fidgety as all get-out. The other is that I am an audial writer. I have to hear it in my head before I can write it. So, sitting still while mulling over my next line can be a bit of a problem.

Thank God for solitaire. Okay, I also like Bubble Witch (although that’s getting a little too tough for mindless clicking) and I have a slot machine game (completely mindless clicking), plus the mahjong matching game and blackjack training. But when it’s time to write, inevitably, I’ve got the solitaire app open.

It’s one of those that has dozens of games, most of which I don’t play. But I have my ten or so favorites, and of those, there’s the game I play most often – Thirty Thieves. It’s not an easy game to win, but not as impossible as its cousin Forty Thieves. I win about half the time I play – and I know that from my stats. It’s not completely mindless, in that I do have to decide where and how to play my cards. But it’s pretty close. (Drat, just lost another hand). In short, it keeps my mind and my hands just busy enough that I can focus on what to write next.

The idea behind Thirty Thieves is that you try to move cards in number and suit order Solitaire2up to the foundation from where they’ve been dealt. The catch is that you can only move one card at a time (okay, need to undo that last move) and you can only go through the stack once. But you can put cards in any empty spot, once you’ve emptied it. (Let’s see, if I put that seven here, I can put the eight and the nine there and there, then put the eight on the nine and the seven on the eight, and that’s a new empty spot.)

I try not to think how many games I go through while working on something. I think I’ve played at least 12 since I started this piece (won that last one – yay). And sometimes, I have to get away from desktop so that I’m not playing endless rounds of solitaire. But there is something about that mindless clicking that joggles the thoughts loose like nothing else. (Okay, 14 games).

So, what helps you joggle the thoughts loose?

 

Anne Louise Bannon Would Like to Introduce Herself, But…

Photo of Anne Louise Bannon's desktop to illustrate why she's writing such a quick introduction.Is it the Third Thursday already? Shavings! (Note to self, check to see why reminders didn’t pop up). (Note to self, stop ignoring your reminders).

Hi, I’m Anne Louise Bannon. I’m supposed to be introducing myself, and my intent was to offer you a breezy little look at who I am, introduce you to the household critters, that sort of thing.

Only I’d really rather be working on my novel right now. It’s at that place where things are falling together, even though I’m really annoyed about having to off an otherwise inoffensive, nice guy of a character because it’s better for the plot.

And it’s not like I don’t have other distractions. We all do. I have a house that I need to help keep liveable, and while the dust generally waits around here, my feet sticking to the floor must be dealt with. And my husband needs clean shirts – only fair since he does the dishes. Plus the dog wants out again. The cats, as usual, can’t make up their minds, and the more I want them to, the longer they take to do it. Plus there’s the money gig which needs attention – I’ve gotten rather fond of eating, you know.

So, this is going to be quick. I’m Anne. I write the Freddie and Kathy series, set in the 1920s, the Old Los Angeles series, set in 1870 (the novel I want to get back to is the third in this one). I have a lovely husband, one adult daughter, and the critters, who I name because they don’t have the same privacy issues the kid and the spouse do. TobyWan is our basset/beagle mix. There’s the older cat Sadie, who should be Medusa, and the two young cats, Xanax and Benzedrine. There is a story behind the names, but that will have to wait until next month or some other time.

I need to get back to Death of the Chinese Field Hands. Maddie is in full interrogation mode and I need to write that.