Multitasking

Topic of the week: Who doesn’t multitask?

There are a few ways to do it.

1. How to multitask a movie.

For example, say you think you’ve earned a couple of hours for a movie. Before you sit down with a cup of coffee, you

• put in a load of clothes

• start a soup in the crock pot

• set the timer for a pan of hard boiled eggs

• make sure a pad of paper and pen are handy for notes for:

– to do list

– critique of movie for:

— blog

— writing class

• set timers for laundry, soup, eggs

• have pile of magazines handy for sorting

and during the movie

• watch for useful tips for:

– writing class or

– your next short story

• grab a dust cloth and clean up the small table next to you, including:

• pull the odds and ends container onto your lap and

– sort out the nailclippers from the vitamins, etc.

• whisk off the cloth and arrange a clean one on the table

then

relax with cold coffee during the last 10 minutes of the movie

Not an uplifting news segment

2. Watching the news.

It’s harder to multitask on your own while watching the news, because they do it for you. Here’s a typical screen from CNN.

In the one second that this frame is showing, I’m getting 15 pieces of information:

• the voice of the anchor woman

• an image of the guest

• audio from the guest

• the name and affiliation of the guest

• the time zone the guest is in

• the time zone the anchor is in

• separate image of the content of the interview, which includes:

– a video connected to the content

— ID of video provider

• a video and captions of separate news item (Irma in FL)

• a thick banner with a summary statement from the AMB

• a scroll along the bottom with information on donations

• a small box with Dow Jones info toggling with time

A few seconds later I saw

• a pop up with COMING SOON (documentary on Reagan)

• news of a royal pregnancy

3. Computer Multitasking

I have 2 monitors in front of me.

Monitor #1 has

• list of writing students and status of submissions

• record and schedule of blogs

• handy addresses/phone #s

• Word doc for science students needing attention

Monitor #2 has

• docs being worked on

• folders with open projects

• email open

• FB open (in case of emergency)

I’m exhausted just writing this. I’m going to relax and fold a pile of clothes while I stir the soup and finish a chapter for tomorrow’s book club.

New Release!

Sleuthing Women II: 10 Mystery Novellas was released on September 5.


Sleuthing Women II: 10 Mystery Novellas is a collection of ten mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten different authors. Each novella is a tie-in to an established multi-book series—a total of nearly 700 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, cozy, and female P.I. mysteries.

Here’s a list of the novellas, in order of appearance:

Frosted, A Moreno & Hart Novella by Allison Brennan & Laura Griffin—Three years ago LAPD Detective Scarlet Moreno and rookie cop Krista Hart were nearly killed during a botched sting operation. Now, they’re best friends and partners in the Orange County private investigation firm of Moreno & Hart. But their routine assignments are anything but safe.

Crewel Intentions, An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Novella by Lois Winston—Craft editor Anastasia Pollack receives a desperate call for help from former fashion editor Erica Milano, now in Witness Protection. Erica is being stalked and is afraid to notify the authorities. She once saved Anastasia’s life. Will Anastasia be able to return the favor before the stalker strikes?

No Quarter, A Cleopatra Jones Novella by Maggie Toussaint—Amnesia, the doctor says when accountant Cleopatra Jones wakes in a distant hospital. Hours later most of her memory returns. Detective Jack Martinez visits Cleo’s nearby wealthy client, only she’s dead and broke. To Cleo’s horror, she’s a murder suspect. Will she totally recover her memory before the killer returns?

What the Widow Knew, A Kali-O’Brien Novella by Jonnie Jacobs—Attorney Kali O’Brien takes on the case of a young woman accused of murdering her much older, very rich husband. As evidence mounts and other possible suspects are eliminated, Kali’s doubts about her client’s innocence grow. Meanwhile, Kali is also grappling with her feelings for longtime boyfriend Detective Bryce Keating.

The Magnesium Murder, A Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—While freelance embalmer Anastasia Brent prepares the body of a young bride-to-be, she learns the girl’s mother suspects foul play. Once again Anastasia is pressed into service as a sleuth, following a trail of clues in search of a murderer and justice.

Honeymoons Can Be Murder, A Lee Alvarez Novella by Heather Haven— When PI Lee Alvarez goes on her honeymoon with bridegroom, Gurn Hanson, they find a dead woman practically on their doorstep. Kauai breezes may be soft, but there are gale force winds of accusation against Gurn. Will Lee find the real killer before her new hubby gets sent to a Hawaiian hoosegow?

Smoked Meat, A Carol Sabala Novella by Vinnie Hansen—Baker and wannabe sleuth Carol Sabala visits her mother for a family Christmas get-together. It’s murder, in more ways than one.

A Deadly Fundraiser, A Talk Radio Novella by Mary Kennedy—When radio talk show host Dr. Maggie Walsh and her pals start digging up clues in a scavenger hunt at a glitzy fundraiser, the game suddenly turns deadly. Will Maggie and her team be able to crack the case and solve the crime?

The Color of Fear, A Kelly O’Connell Novella by Judy Alter—Kelly receives a written kidnap threat targeting her infant daughter, Gracie. Kelly’s assistant Keisha narrates as Kelly and her family plot their precautions, but as time passes and the threat still looms, fear takes a toll on the family…and on Keisha.

Papa’s Ghost, A Gladdy Gold Mystery Novella by Rita Lakin—Gladdy and her girls accept an assignment iat a famous resort in Key West, thinking it will combine business with pleasure. Once they arrive, Gladdy suspects something is strange. Not only is their client an unexpected shock, but so is the case of murder they are expected to solve. Can they succeed when a whole city is against them?

LABOR DAY

SPECIAL LINK FOR FLOOD RELIEF

Hoping for the best for all affected by the storms in Houston and other towns.


LABOR DAY WEEKEND COMING UP — put away your whites!


Digging a ditch, 1937. Joe Minichino could have been there.

Labor Day always reminds me of a talk I gave at a local business meeting. The group of about fifteen work at various jobs: banking, real estate, small business, and consulting are the ones I know of. It was a breakfast meeting at 7 in the morning, before most work days began.

I’d talked to them before and they were receptive as usual to my topics: the writing process, the state of publishing as I experience it. One woman in particular always asked when my classes were since “some day” she wants to write a book.

On this one particular day, people stayed around after my talk and then, one by one they left, uttering some variation of “I wish I were a writer, but I have to go to work now.”

Can you hear my groan?

To my parents, who had six or seven years of school between them, anyone who dressed up before they left the house in the morning was not really working. I understood that—and I’ve always been able to see the difference between my father’s kind of work—heavy construction labor—and my kind of work.

But I don’t expect to hear remarks like that from professionals. How can an educated person think it’s not some measure of work to write two books a year, for example, or even a half a book a year?

The last woman out the door of that meeting said, “Once I don’t have to work, I’m going to write a book, too.”

“Good luck with that,” I said.

Too wise**s?

Wardrobe Function

Madame X ready for the office

Guilty: I started this discussion on Facebook.

I used to think of myself as a feminist. Not the raving kind, but just doing my bit in small ways, especially in the classroom.

For example:

I read a study showing that science teachers, both male and female, treated girls and boys differently in subtle ways. When students entered the classroom, boys were more likely to be addressed with a challenge—

• Were you able to finish the analysis of yesterday’s lab?

• Did you figure out the answer to that last, tough problem?

Girls, on the other hand, would be greeted with—

• Is that a new sweater? Nice color.

• Are you feeling better after that bad cold?

I immediately examined my own tendencies and made changes.

In the office, as a supervisor in several contexts, similar observations led me to be sure I gave equal time at meetings to soft-voiced women, and treated their ideas with equal respect.

No one was going to accuse me of being sexist!

Until now.

I posted on FB a photo of a network anchor woman who was wearing her cleavage, front and center! It was clear that taping was involved and a wardrobe malfunction was one wrong, twisty movement away. She sat on a high stool in front of a glass desk, her thighs also featured.

She looked ready for a party, and I would have applauded the choice. But at her job, she was asking us to take her seriously, to accept her reporting.  The combination of “take me seriously” and “here’s my cleavage” doesn’t work for me.

Should women be able to wear anything they want, within the legal limit, anywhere? Of course. But shouldn’t they also be mindful of the message they send when they show up in something that distracts us into wondering: what’s keeping that shirt from popping one more button, or that breast adhesive from melting under the lights?

Need I point out that the male anchors and guests are covered top to bottom, only rarely exposing a bit of neck if they’re reporting from Hawaii.

Commenters on FB have suggested that the networks dictate the wardrobe, but I’ve never seen an article on that. Anyone have one to share? Or experience along those lines?

Other commenters have called me sexist, old-fashioned, and a few other unflattering names.

So, my private poll: cleavage/thighs while delivering serious news, Y or N?

Writing Ideas Straight from the Headlines

I’m pleased to host MAGGIE KING today. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or both, you’ll enjoy this post . . .  and maybe never read the news the same way again!

Maggie is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Writing Ideas Straight from the Headlines

I’m often asked where I get my ideas. They come from everywhere, especially the headlines. I don’t even need to know the whole story—headlines by themselves are great writing prompts.

My “idea file” is stuffed with newspaper clippings with intriguing headlines. Here’s a peek at a few of my favorites:

FBI: Cruise Ship Passenger Killed Wife Because “She Would Not Stop Laughing at Me”

In July, a Utah man was charged with killing his 39-year old wife aboard an Alaskan cruise ship. When asked by a witness why he had attacked his wife, he responded: “She wouldn’t stop laughing at me.”

I’m bursting with questions after reading this article. What kind of life did this couple lead at home in Utah? Did the wife often laugh at her husband?

Their stunned neighbors described them as the “perfect” couple, celebrating an anniversary at sea. They gave no hints of the horror to come. Really?

The answers to my questions don’t really matter, because I can spin my own story around this tragedy.

People don’t like to be ridiculed and traveling can be fraught with tension. Laughter has been the motive for many a murder. In the story I’m currently writing, the victim was given to freely laughing and may, just may, have laughed at the wrong person.

Consider this headline from the Ask Amy advice column (advice columns are a goldmine of ideas):

Neighbors’ Partying Creates a Disturbance

A couple moves to a beautiful new house in the winter months. Come summer, the neighbors are having raucous parties until the wee hours. What should the couple do? They don’t want to alienate their new neighbors.

In real life, this couple probably would balk at actual murdering the offending neighbors. But in murder mystery land it’s as good a motive as any. Enough sleepless nights will put anyone in a murdering mood.

Also from Ask Amy:

Boyfriend’s Social Scrutiny is Troubling

A woman’s insecure boyfriend was sure she was having an “emotional” affair with a male friend, who happened to be gay. The boyfriend created secret social-media accounts to monitor the woman’s daily activity. He also monitored the friend’s activity. In addition, he even felt threatened by his girlfriend’s female friends.

The woman concludes with “He’s wonderful in so many ways.” Hmm.

Oh my, does this give me ideas. Who will be the victim(s) here?

Clancy Sigal, Novelist Whose Life Was a Tale in Itself, Dies at 90

Novelist Clancy Sigal died last month. He went to jail at age 5. His mother, a Socialist union organizer, had been arrested in Chattanooga, Tennessee for violating social and legal norms when she met with black and white female textile workers. Hauled away to the jailhouse, she took Clancy with her.

As an American Army sergeant in Germany, Clancy plotted to assassinate Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Later, he landed on Hollywood’s blacklist. During a 30-year self-imposed exile in Britain as an antiwar radical, Mr. Sigal was the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing’s lover and often flirted with suicide.

This man’s life could fill several books.

A few more headlines:

Illinois Man Killed by Cyanide Poisoning after Striking It Rich in Lottery

A Woman Ponders Grounds for Divorce

Using Work to Avoid Life after an Act of Infidelity

Virginia Man Pleads Guilty in Conspiracy Case

***

As writers, we can come up with our own headlines, creating a stockpile of ideas. Writing coach Ann Kroeker challenges writers to compose 50 headlines in one week. For more information, see her post at http://annkroeker.com/2016/05/15/50-stop-waiting-last-minute-writing-inspiration.

***

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieKingAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: maggie8208

Buy link for Murder at the Moonshine Inn: http://amzn.to/2dtozWa

Reading Habits

A frequent question at panel discussions and bookstore events is What one book would you take to a deserted island?

I heard Margaret Atwood answer the question during an interview a few years ago: “Only one book? I’d take the biggest book I could find,” she said.

Same here!

But apart from that unrealistic “what if,” I’m what you might call a heavy reader—3 book clubs, hardbacks and paperbacks everywhere, and always a full e-reader. But for some reason, none of my four main protagonists are readers.

I’m not sure why no one in my gallery of characters is even a light reader. They confine themselves to literature that’s pertinent to their jobs or interests, almost never including fiction or reading for relaxation. Nor do they ever discuss books, a favorite pastime of mine.

Here’s the lineup and their reading habits:

• Dr. Gloria Lamerino, retired physicist, reads Physics Today, Scientific American, assorted technical papers, and The New Yorker cartoons. That’s it.

• Geraldine Porter, retired English teacher and miniaturist, often quotes Shakespeare, but not once in nine books has she picked up a volume and had a quiet read. She does occasionally leaf through a miniatures or crafts magazine.

• Professor Sophie Knowles, college math teacher, reads and contributes to mathematics journals and puzzle magazines. No fiction.

Finally, with my 4th series, I might have a reader.

• Cassie Miller (ADDRESSED TO KILL, July 2017), postmaster in a small Massachusetts town, reads crime fiction. Though I don’t give specific titles, I do have Cassie commenting on certain plot devices, and actually trying to read crime novels before bedtime. Granted she’s quickly distracted and turns to focusing on “the case” at hand.

One reason my amateur sleuths don’t read: they’re very busy people! In general, they solve a murder case in a week or so, sometimes sooner. That’s pretty quick, considering real cops sometimes take months, often years. I think this is typical of amateur sleuths—they crowd more into one day than the clichéd one-armed paper hanger, maintaining jobs, snooping around crime scenes and suspects’ desks, and sometimes juggling children on their hips.

Also, reading is very passive, as opposed to, say, a car chase, a shoot-out, or even a quiet stalking scene. It’s hard to make a reading scene exciting.

She stretched out on the couch, put on her reading glasses, picked up a book, found the bookmark, opened the book,  . . .

See what I mean?

Star of a TV movie!

Here’s a twist on this topic. A few years ago, a book by Bay Area screenwriter and true crime writer, James Dalessandro, was made into a movie for TV. In one scene, Jane’s Aunt Gertrude is pictured sitting comfortably, reading. Her book of choice: my first release, a hardback copy of The Hydrogen Murder. She holds it up, the turquoise cover visible, plain as day.

Suddenly an intruder breaks in and murders her!

The book falls out of her hands and onto the floor, cover side up, immortalized as part of the crime scene. Later in the show, crime scene photos show the book as it lay on the floor near Aunt Gertrude’s feet.

So, although my characters aren’t reading, someone is reading my characters!

A Day in the Life

Thanks to Dru Ann Love for inspiring this blog. Dru is known for her blogging and extreme fandom, so much so that she won the Raven Award this year:

Here’s my latest post on Dru’s blog last week.

Third P0stmistress Mystery

A Day in the Life of Cassie Miller, Postmistress

By Jean Flowers

I’m beginning to think I’ve brought a curse on my hometown.

Before I returned to North Ashcot, Massachusetts as its postmistress, the town was relatively crime free. A few B&Es and a carjacking or two per year, some shoplifting and teen vandalism, all quickly solved. While I’d been building my post office career in Boston, my hometown rolled along peacefully, the loudest noises coming from the soccer field. No screams in the night, no gun shots.

Since I came back, however, the crime rate has soared. I heard someone in line at the post office joke that in our zip code, COD is beginning to mean Cause of Death. Really! I’d deny it, but just a few minutes ago, I heard about a third murder among my friends. Dennis Somerville, physics professor at the local community college and guitarist for The Ashcots, our neighborhood band, has been shot in his home. The artificially pretty lady on the TV news has called it a robbery-gone-bad, but I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that there’s more to it.

For one thing, Dennis stormed up to my counter yesterday, demanding that I investigate threatening letters he’d received. How I wish I’d paid attention. Instead, I’d invoked the postal service’s official investigative body. As if that were a paragon of speedy justice. For another thing, lately, when I was involved in any way, a crime was never as simple as surprising a thief.

Right after the news, my phone rang and it was my BFF Sunni on the line, Police Chief Sunni Smargon, to most citizens. Another feeling washed over me—that she was about to give me orders to stay out of the Somerville murder case. I was not a sworn police officer, did not have a badge, blah, blah, blah.

I was lucky that the retired postmaster, Ben Gentry, was pining for his old job and only too happy to fill in for me. Which left me free to walk around Dennis’s campus and also casually interview his fellow musicians. I was also lucky that my boyfriend, Quinn Martindale, was a great cook and loved to take over my kitchen, thus freeing me to snoop around and trail suspects, should I be so inclined.

Which I was. And which got me into a bit of trouble, and—maybe—danger. The result was—well, never mind. It’s all written down if you care to read it.

The good news is that I’m fine and back at my job, so I don’t see what all the fuss was about my health and safety in the first place. Will I follow orders the next time? We’ll just have to see.

Q/A Week

Now and then, I allow some time to de-clutter my files. I found this interview, the questions from a high school boy doing an assignment. I thought I’d share today

• What is the first book you remember reading?

There were no readers in my family, and no “children’s sections” in bookstores (actually, no bookstores in my hometown!). So the first book I read that wasn’t for homework was when I was in college. I wandered into the science library and found a biography of Marie Curie – the scientist who won 2 Nobel prizes for her work with radioactivity. I remember thinking, maybe all these other books are just as fascinating. And I began my reading life.

• What or who inspired you to begin writing?

My high school teachers inspired me to keep learning. My Italian teacher told us that she took classes every summer in something she knew nothing about, so she’d understand what her freshmen were going through. So, once I learned all the math and science I could, I took writing classes, and when I was 60, I thought it was time to start a new career.

• If you could have lunch with 3 authors (past and present) who would they be and what do you think you would all talk about during lunch?

First, Dante Alighieri, who wrote La Commedia, later called The Divine Comedy, which I read in Italian in high school and in English later; Second, Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Third, Stephen King, contemporary author of many stories. They all write about themes that I love: good and evil; mathematics and logic; and the mysterious ways that people behave. We’d have a great lunch!

• How do you avoid or defeat writers block?

UH-OH (Photo credit: Author Jo Mele)

By not believing in it! I tell myself that if I were a cab driver, I’d have to go to work every day even if I didn’t feel like it, even if yesterday was disastrous. I’m a writer – I write even when I don’t feel like it, or even if yesterday’s output was a car wreck.

• How do you define success as an author?

I’m the kind of author who requires readers! When even one person tells me she enjoyed one of my books, or learned something from it, I consider myself successful.

Any questions from The Real Me readers?

Not Again!

But it has been at least 6 weeks since I’ve posted NYC photos!

This time it’s legit — a trip report, you might say. I’ve just returned from ThrillerFest, an annual conference in Manhattan.

In between panels, I managed a trip or two to museums. Here are just two of the old favorites I visited at MOMA on 53rd between 5th and 6th.

1. A Monet that got me through grad school at Fordham. I could always find a seat in front of this mural, captured here only in part.

2. Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. This one moves around the museum. Last week I found it right outside the Terrace Cafe. In case you’re curious, here are 11 things you might not know about the painting.

View from an asylum

Finally, something completely different. The restroom signs. I hope you can read the newest footnote: SELF-IDENTIFIED. New York never disappoints.

On the wall, outside the restroom; similar sign outside Men's

Addicted to DIY

Make a soda fountain chair from a champagne cage. Instructions obvious?

This blog is about three months late — I should have written it for April 1. Because the follow up to “Managing a DIY Addiction” is: You can’t! April fool!

I can blame my DIY addiction on many things, starting with the lack of toys available when I was a kid. The proliferation of toys now is exponential; they’re found in just about every retail outlet from bookstores to produce stores and even at the dry cleaners. (We wouldn’t want the sweet little tots to be bored while the nanny picks up Mom’s business suits.)

Not that our family could have afforded toys anyway, but I consider myself lucky in both regards – few toys available and little money to buy what there was. I, and my friends, were left to our own imaginations.

My father built me a crude dollhouse and that’s all I needed. I’ve written elsewhere (ad nauseum, you might be thinking) about furnishing that house and probably hundreds more scenes, roomboxes, and houses in the intervening years. Thank goodness for the countless charity auctions that are willing to take the finished products off my hands, or I’d have to have a separate dwelling for my crafts.

DIYing my dollhouse carried over to other areas. Not, I’m sad to say, into major work like painting a life-size house or fixing the plumbing, but to many other crafts. From my earliest days, I would look at something in a store—a greeting card, say, or a skirt, a bookmark, a scarf, a calendar, a paperweight, an ornament—and think, I can make that.

Of course, sometimes the attempts were colossal failures, but enough projects succeeded that I kept on going. From friends and relatives, I learned sewing, knitting, crocheting, drawing . . . whatever it took to make that thing that was in the stores.

One time I took a cartooning class so I could make a comic strip for our Christmas card. The instructor was about 17, and worked on Toy Story! Fun, but that was my last try at that.

Dick (note the pocket protector): How do you like our tree this year? Camille (remember this was 20 years ago): It's our best ever! (And you see the "tree" is really a tv image.)

Crafting as therapy. There's nothing like it. It's impossible to stay stressed and unfocused while trying to glue tiny pieces together.

More miniature scenes are on display in the gallery on my website.