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.