Not all weddings happen in June

(This blog first appeared this June in Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare blog.)

 

Ours did.  Fresh out of college, my birthday a week earlier the only thing keeping me from being a child bride, I married the man I’m still married to many years and two sons later.

G&Ss

But when I was ready to marry off Joan Spencer’s daughter in Her Brother’s Keeper, it was December in their lives.  And I’d never had a daughter, much less married one off.  So I had to wing it.

My first attempt, written years ago, was a flop.  Once I got over the shock, I had to agree with the editor who’d turned it down.  I no longer have the manuscript or even the vaguest memory of the plot.  The next two books in the series were published, but they left poor Rebecca waiting her turn while her mother married Fred Lundquist, the cop she met way back in the first book.  Now, in book seven, (fortunately, characters don’t have to age as fast as writers), Rebecca’s finally marrying Bruce Graham, the violinist to whom she announced her engagement in book four, The Vanishing Violinist.  What can possibly go wrong?

A December wedding means Joan can put up family members in the bed-and-breakfast usually filled by the Oliver College football crowd.  But Rebecca’s worried that her family will be seriously outnumbered by the groom’s.  At her urging, Joan invites the brother she’s hardly heard from for many years.

The trouble starts when he accepts.  Joan, who never expected him to come, is flummoxed.  Nothing to do but warn Ellen Putnam, who runs the b&b in her home.

“I came to throw myself on your mercy.”

Ellen waited.

Why was this so hard?  “It’s my brother,” Joan said.

“Yes?”

“He’s decided to come to the wedding.  He wants to stay with us, but he just can’t, not with Rebecca in the one spare room I have.”

“We still have space.”

“But you don’t want Dave Zimmerman!”

“What is he, an ax murderer?”  Ellen’s dimples showed.

Joan suddenly felt silly.  “Not that bad.  At least, not that I’ve ever heard.  And maybe he’s matured.  But when he was still living at home, he got into one scrape after another.  Underage drinking, pot, reckless driving, gambling, even got picked up once for shoplifting.  I’m sure I didn’t hear all of it–I was younger, probably too young to tell.  But sometimes I heard my parents talking when they thought I wasn’t listening.  I haven’t seen him for years.  I don’t know what kind of thing he’d pull now, but I wouldn’t want to cause you any trouble.”

“Don’t give it a thought, Joan.  He can’t be any worse than some of the people who stay here.  I didn’t repaint the walls because I changed my mind about the color, you know.  You should have seen the stuff the last bunch threw at them.”

So Joan lets herself relax, and Dave shows up.  He comes a week early and turns out to have been in prison, which he confesses immediately.  He’s also enough of a ladies man to charm the grouchy conductor of the Oliver Civic Symphony, not to mention the old ladies at the senior citizens center that is Joan’s day job.  Still leery about what he might do, she begins to remember the sweet big-brother things he did when she was small and he was in high school.

Even before Dave arrives, Rebecca’s mother-in-law-to-be barges in on Joan at the senior center.  Joan enjoys Fred’s mother.  Helga Lundquist’s mind may be failing badly, but her heart is in the right place.  Elizabeth Graham is focused only on herself.  She tries to run everything about the wedding–never mind what the couple themselves want–and looks down her nose at anything this small Indiana college town might provide.

“It is difficult, when we’re all so spread out,” Joan said as sympathetically as she could manage.  “And Bruce and Rebecca have such definite ideas.”  Thank goodness.

“They certainly do,” Elizabeth said.  “But they don’t know what they’re doing.  You and I have to set them straight.”

She lays out her ideas for a wedding far beyond Joan’s means, but says Bruce and Rebecca won’t even let her check on the availability of the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.

“Well.”  Joan’s admiration for Bruce rose another couple of notches.  Whatever Rebecca faced in dealing with this woman, her husband would stand up to his mother.

“They want to have the ceremony and the reception all in that church.  Can you imagine–a wedding reception in the church basement?  Nothing but wedding cake and little sandwiches, they said.  You can’t treat people like that!”

Joan smiled, remembering that she and Fred not only had treated their guests like that, but that those very guests had decorated the room and baked the wedding cake as a surprise gift.

Elizabeth wasn’t in my first try at writing the wedding book.  Bruce had some namby pamby mother I’ve managed to forget.  Now that I’ve met his real mother, I’m so grateful to her for showing up.  Joan stands up on her own hind legs, and the conflict continues till the end of the book.

In the middle of the wedding rehearsal, Fred gets a call about his mother and has to leave.  (Elizabeth finds that unforgivable, of course.)  It turns out that Helga, in town for the wedding, is on the scene of a bloody murder. Worse yet, she’s holding the bloody murder weapon.  And we’re off and running.

Not Gonna Be a Wimp!

Losing independence is tough stuff. It can happen to the best of us at any stage of life, and we fight it. I half-remember a cartoon in which I think Linus (or was it Sally Brown?) said, “I can tie my own” (looks down) “two shoes!”

Well, right now I can’t. But hey, it’s way better than a couple of months ago when I couldn’t wash my own face.

That was after surgery on my left hand to get back some pain-free functioning in three fingers that couldn’t hold a book or knit a mitten without cramping. But you have to give some up to get some back. For more than a month, I showered with a plastic bag over the cast, and I paid helpers to bathe and dress me. I’d had plenty of time to plan ahead–I borrowed bigger shirts and sweaters from my sister to make it easier to pull clothes on over the plaster and then the fiberglass cast, and I baked bread, cooked soup and meat, and froze good things to eat.

Little by little, I got bits of my life back. After several weeks of therapy, I’m not done yet, but I can do many of the things I could before.

Like type. Last spring I blogged here about “Persevering with the Dragon,” and by this year I knew that voice-recognition software well enough to dictate all my writing for a couple of months. I even did mailing labels for the postcards I sent out to announce my new mystery, and other kinds of labels for the postcards I’m using as handouts for the library book signing and sending to mystery conferences.

BrothersKeeper cover for blogAnd I sent a longish email to people I thought might possibly give a hoot about Her Brother’s Keeper or the ebooks that are now all up on my website. Dragon NaturallySpeaking wrote that email and the many I sent every week for a volunteer job, but while still wrestling my cut-and-pasted tendons back into usefulness, I’m actually typing this blog.

I’m bragging, both ways.

I’ve kneaded my first batch of bread but still can’t tie my shoes. Or pull up the fiercely tight compression hose I’ve needed for years. I’m told now that pulling up my knee socks may be what damaged the tendons in the first place. But after training a bunch of women helpers to do that time-gobbling job, I’ve taught my husband how, and taught myself just barely enough patience to see us both through the frustrating process. Pulling up socks and tying shoes aren’t enough to justify hiring expensive help. Not easy, but I can do this if he can. Not gonna be a wimp.

* * * * *

Fast forward a few weeks. Another batch of sourdough oatmeal bread is rising in my old wooden bowl–good wrist therapy, that. My hand is getting stronger, and I now finally have a new plastic sock aid (the kind I’d tried before was useless) that works well enough to help me get the darned things on in a couple of tries. Not if you follow the written directions, mind you, but with some common sense, it’s possible. And I’m stubborn enough. The good news is that it should help prevent future damage to the just-healing tendons and my other ones, too. And my husband’s.

I hope that hand soon will be better than before the surgery. That was the whole idea. Bluntly, it’s a whole lot harder to exercise the patience than the hand. I knew that ahead of time–that’s why I hired the helpers. It’s easier not to grouch at a stranger than someone close to you. And if I slipped up, the hired helper wouldn’t have to put up with me for long. The plastic puller-upper I’m using from now on can’t even hear what I mutter if the socks go on crooked and I have to start over to keep them from pinching my feet.

Going through this kind of thing reminds you that only lucky people get to hang onto their independence their whole lives. Most of us will have to give up bigger or smaller chunks of it at some point. Not easy to do. Hard even to think about.

So I’m working on it. Toughing out pain is one thing. Losing abilities can be harder, except for the unrelenting kind of pain we all hope to be spared. Losing all choice is hardest of all. You can plan ahead and control your life only so far. After that, you have to hope the people who start making your choices will leave you enough of them that you won’t mind needing to have your face and other spots washed, and things done their way that you’d rather do your way. And that they’ll guess right what matters to you if they have to guess. Even advance-care directives can’t spell out everything.

I can practice not taking choices away from other people myself. The bossy know-it-all in me is doing better about back-seat driving, and not just in the car. Not easy. But I’m not gonna be a wimp.

And for now, at least, I can tie my own two shoes again.

Kicking and screaming and rereading my babies

For some time, one of my good writer friends has been threatening to drag me kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  It’s a joke between us, but it really did take some dragging to persuade me to turn my published mysteries, at least the five to which I have all the rights, into electronic books for Kindles, Nooks, and all those other gizmos.  My friend is right, of course.  With Her Brother’s Keeper coming out in April, it makes sense to help readers find the earlier books in the series, and it certainly makes sense to sell them to a new audience.  But the process of getting from here to there flummoxed me.                      

 Little by little, I learned enough to face it.  These books have already had the benefit of editors and copy editors and proofreaders in their original editions.  My agent, who’s been nothing but honorable for years and will take the agency’s usual reasonable percentage of whatever I earn, arranged for the books to be scanned and will upload them to all the various platforms.  (I almost know what I’m talking about.)  And I persuaded the friend who got me into this business to design covers for them (dragging kicking and screaming works both ways).

It turns out there’s an art to that.  Unlike regular book covers, the ones for ebooks have to be effective when they’re seen thumbnail size—only about an inch tall–by people who might consider buying them.  You’d be amazed how hard it is to get the title and the author’s name legible in such a small space and still have any design.

 The first one, Murder in C Major, was relatively easy.  Poisoned Pen Press, which still has it in print, kindly allowed me to use their cover art, and we messed around with the lettering to make my long name legible.  I hunted up the actual music for the solo the oboe player is beginning to play when he keels over–why not?  It will be fun for musicians who know Schubert’s Great C Major symphony, and it will just look like music to anyone else.

But we didn’t have cover art for Buried in Quilts, or any of the others.  After persuading a friend to let us photograph her “buried” under some of my quilts, we first decided to use a rumpled one with nobody actually under it.

 Here’s an early version that doesn’t work at all,.

 And here’s an almost-final version of what I thought we were going to use.  The quilt is mine–the sad iron an image we bought from an online source, where we’ll probably buy a violin for The Vanishing Violinist.  I don’t have the skills to do this kind of work, but that doesn’t keep me from kibitzing.

My real job is to proof the scanned texts. I know how to do that, but it has hit me in a way I didn’t expect.  This series takes place over a very few years in the lives of the characters, but the first one came out in 1986, and I hadn’t gone back and read any of them straight through for years.  Oh, sure, I remembered what they were about enough to talk about them occasionally, but not all the details that make them come alive, much less the words my characters speak or think.

 It’s a very different experience from writing, or rewriting, or even proofing something I’ve written recently.  Even writing this informal blog, I think about word choices and whatever else matters to me as a writer.  But rereading these books is more like reading mysteries by someone else.  By now I’m so far removed from them I don’t remember which sentences came easily and which were a struggle.  I find I’m reading for the story, even while watching for possible scanning errors.  I smile at the funny bits.  Over and over I catch myself thinking, “I wrote that?  Really?”  Or “I did that much research?” Or every once in a while, “That’s pretty good.”  And so help me, the other night I read Witness in Bishop Hill much too late–because I couldn’t remember whodunit!

Before I started, I wondered whether I’d be tempted to change the words.  I’ve caught a few typos and a speck on the page that turned into a period, but that’s all.  These books are what they are.  I’m not even messing with a date that makes it obvious that the children in Murder & Sullivan could be middle-aged parents in Her Brother’s Keeper, when in fact they’ve aged only about four years in all this time.  I can only hope that today’s readers will tolerate the disconnect.   My aging babies have to stand on their own two e-feet.

 And it turns out my friend may yet show up buried in quilts after all.

You’ll never notice it on a galloping mule

Get It Write–not exactly the same as Get It Perfect, is it? I do the very best I can when I know something’s going to see publication and will revise till the cows come home, if I think I’m making it better. Recently, though, I’ve been coming to a whole new understanding of imperfection.

About a year ago, I pieced a new quilt top, the first in years. What turned me on was seeing some great fabrics in the sewing machine repair shop when I took my old Singer for a tune-up. I had no idea what I’d do with them, but they called to me, and I gave in without a struggle. Not incidentally, the quilt I’ve been sleeping under since I finished it 45 years ago was showing signs of needing to retire before I wore it out completely.

 I’d made a fair number of quilts and comforters since that one and admired hundreds more in museums and quilt shows and shops. Collected a shelf of quilt books that rivals our local library’s. The first, the Mountain Mist Blue Book (put out by a company that makes quilt batting, the inside layer), taught me what I needed to know to risk starting a craft my two grandmothers enjoyed. One liked piecing tops; the other preferred quilting the layers together. I inherited quilts pieced by Grandma Saulmon and quilted by Grandma Hoskinson. But they’d both died by the time I was learning to talk. So I taught myself by living under their quilts and reading books.

When I started writing mysteries, it was only natural to set one of them in a quilt show. Buried in Quilts has my community orchestra playing an all-American concert in the historic building that houses the show, very much like the one that used to house a real quilt show in Centerville, Indiana. Maybe it still does. I had a lot of fun writing that one. Once was enough for me, though some crafty writers feature quilts in many books. No, I almost forgot Dear Mary Ellen, one of the little books I wrote for adults learning to read. A quilting bee is at the heart of that slightly spooky story about a new bride in her sixties.

Way back when, my mother-in-law gave me what I’m sure is a homemade quilting frame. Or frames–you hear people say both. It’s two long poles and two sawhorse-shaped supports, much lighter than real sawhorses. The poles fit into holes in each support, and wooden ratchets keep them from spinning, so that you can tighten the quilt in the frame once its layers are tacked onto the poles.

Clear as mud if you haven’t seen it, I know. And hard to explain. After all those years of quilting on it, I needed to try explaining how it worked, because the teeth on the ratchet wheels were worn, one almost to nubbins. So I went looking for someone to make me new ones. Took the less worn one as a sample to a woodworker in nearby Brown County. But he was more interested in sculpting a horse out of a log with a chain saw.

On the way home, I thought of the high school shop teacher. He said sure, and the next day his student produced just the wheels I needed out of some lovely dry walnut he just happened to have lying around. Here they are in action–if you look closely, you can see them. You might even see the flipper things that fit into the teeth, which face in opposite directions to keep the quilt taut, though I’m afraid they’re almost invisible unless you can zoom in. That’s way more than you want to know about them, and as much as I can explain, except to say that they work.

 The pattern of the pieced top is called Flying Geese, but it’s my variation on that traditional pattern. I played around with it, and I’m quilting it freehand, not by drawing lines on the fabric. Is it perfect? Not even close. Oh, I keep my stitches as tiny as I can, rocking the needle in my right hand until it touches the brave left forefinger below that signals time to rock up again. It’s a peaceful process, letting my mind wander free to anything I please.

It’s the peace and freedom that surprised me this time around. I don’t remember feeling so free when I made the one on my bed, maybe because I had little children underfoot back then. Sure, if I notice an ugly stitch in time, I’ll slip it out and do it over. But mostly I relax into the rocking and watch lines of quilting grow, turning the flat surface you see in the first picture, taken when I was just starting to quilt it, into something with texture. It’s hard to stop when I have jobs to do, but this summer I have the freedom to keep on going much of the time. And enjoy it.

Then one day I heard the voices of both my parents in my head, and I knew why I felt so peaceful. They admired good work, both of them, but they knew how to live with imperfection. My dad played piano, mostly by ear. He used to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. If you can’t play like Horowitz, play like Hoskinson.”

Mom, a demon knitter, among her other talents, would say about a wrong stitch it was too late to fix, “You’ll never notice it on a galloping mule.”

They were both right. So I relax and keep on rocking and stitching. And the lines, imperfect though they be, keep growing.

Persevering with the Dragon

Many years ago I heard Madeleine L’Engle say to a group of writers that the fingers are the only part of the body besides the brain with gray matter. That may not make sense to some people, but to me, a touch typist since my early teens, it made very good sense. When I’m writing I don’t think “I will spell ‘dog,’” but I just think “dog,” and my fingers know to type dog. The words come out of my fingers automatically. That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes — typos are part of every writer’s life.

Why, you’re asking yourself, am I even telling you this? It’s because I’m trying something new. For the first time in my life, I’m trying dictation. My fingers are having trouble. I figure before they quit working altogether, I’m going to need to know another way to write. And I dearly hope to be able to do it as automatically as I now write with my fingers.

So I’m learning Dragon NaturallySpeaking. In fact, I’m using it to write this blog. Dragon is a program that recognizes my voice and types into my computer what I say. It types exactly what I say. That’s not to say that it always gets what I mean. Dragon makes typos to. As you can see, it couldn’t tell the difference between to and too. For this blog, I didn’t correct that mistake. I wanted to show it to you instead. But most of the time I’ve had to learn commands that will let me fix things that are wrong, whether the mistakes are mine or Dragon’s.

Of course, many of the changes I make are not to correct mistakes. When I’m writing, I’m constantly revising. As far as I’m concerned, revision is at the heart of good writing. Many years ago, if I wasn’t typing, I used to write on a yellow lined tablet. I quickly learned to write on every third line, if you can believe that, to make space for all the changes that I knew would come. Computers make revising much easier. But this is a whole new way to use a computer.

People told me that there was a steep learning curve to using this kind of software, and I believed it. But already, after a few weeks, I’m doing better, and so is Dragon. More and more often, it recognizes the words I’m actually saying. The hard part so far is learning how to make corrections and other changes. I almost have to sit on my fingers to keep from fixing things with them instead of practicing with Dragon.

None of that is what I worried about at first. What worried me was whether I could stand to hear my voice when I’m writing. Writing for me has always been a private activity. Oh, I can write some kinds of things in a crowded room with people kibitzing. Right now, though, I feel hesitant even to write this blog with my husband listening from the next room. Or maybe not listening, but he could if he wanted to. I’m not sure I can write fiction that way. If I’m typing a story, I don’t like someone to stand behind me. Dictating feels like that, only more so.

I’m basically shy when I’m writing. I do a huge amount of editing before I submit anything. What I usually type in the first place is very drafty. When I’m feeling drafty, I cover up. So I hide all by myself and write in private, not letting even myself hear what I’m saying.

It isn’t the same listening to me talk as it is to listen to my characters talk. I still haven’t quite figured out why, aside from the obvious fact that I can’t begin to sound like Fred Lundquist or any other man. When I read a book, whether it’s a book I wrote or a book someone else wrote, I hear the people talking inside my head, and they don’t sound like me. This is the part about dictating fiction that terrifies me. So far, just struggling with the mechanics, I can’t answer that big question.

I’m still fussing with some things. For instance, if my characters speak colloquially, I want to spell the words the way they say them. I don’t want to write “You going out?” if my character would say “You goin’ out?” I fought with the program for several days before I found out how to put an apostrophe at the end of a word. And you know, I don’t remember how I did it. But now if I pronounce going without the G, the program still spells it going, but I have the option in the correction place to spell it goin’. I think I had to put that into the program myself, and I’ll probably have to do the same thing with other such words. At least it’s possible.

One of the inconveniences to using Dragon is that you need to be in a fairly quiet room. For me that means that I can’t listen to classical music or jazz while I’m writing. If I turn the volume way down I can sometimes get away with it. But if someone else is speaking, those words may end up in what I’m writing. It’s not that I mind being alone when I’m writing – I rather like that. Any minute now, though, I’m going to be interrupted by someone who likes to talk while she works in my room. Either I’ll have to quit writing or tell her to quit talking. That can be awkward.

Still, voice recognition software can be kind of fun. The other day two young friends were visiting, and one of them knew I was trying it. “Do you have that new program set up yet?” she asked.

girls try out DragonI told her I did, and she was eager to try it out. So we all traipsed into my room, and the children took turns wearing the headset and talking into the microphone. There was considerable hilarity when they read what Dragon thought they were saying. Of course, by that time I had trained the program to recognize my speech pretty well. You first do that by reading selected texts into the microphone, so that Dragon can hear you pronounce what it already knows. But the program had no idea how these girls pronounced things. The resulting gobbledygook cracked them up. They were talking into my computer, but when I read today what the computer had stored, I couldn’t remember what they’d said in the first place.

What I do remember is that when I laughed, Dragon typed it it it it it.

Another time I accompanied my sister to the foot doctor. Just making conversation while he trimmed her toenails, we got to talking about writing. And so I mentioned that I was using voice recognition software. To my surprise, the foot doctor said he was, too. In fact, he was using Dragon to dictate case notes. He told me he thought he and his partner had taught Dragon all kinds of new words. I figured he meant technical words, medical words about feet, but no, he said, he meant the words they used when Dragon got their dictation wrong.

Oh. Somehow I think Dragon already knows those words.

I’m not ready!

I’m not ready!

Things pile up, and I keep digging myself out. Sometimes literally, as when I was moving my sister’s household into a tiny assisted living apartment last summer and then finding good homes for what didn’t fit and recycling everything else possible. One son, helping, said if she’d disposed of all the many years’ worth of paper in a timely fashion, none of it would have been recycled. A happy thought.

She’s not a hoarder, but she’d call herself a packrat. The older I get, the less I want to be one.

But it’s just plain work to dig out. Not only the physical effort, and these days I need help with some of that. But the decisions! I’m stuck with making those myself. Sorting clothes and books and plain (or fancy) things doesn’t give me much trouble, not that I’m all that neat. But sorting through ideas for stories I’m not ready to write . . . how will I know when it’s time to toss them? Is there anything I’d hate for someone else to see when I’m past doing the sorting myself? For that matter, am I even interested in notes I wrote years ago? I ought to dump the lot of them. Make more room for what I think I need to keep.

And yet . . .

I remember sitting in an airport with my mother once, killing time before one of us (I forget which one) had to get on a plane. So I started asking about things I knew she knew from way back, and she told me. Will I ever use those notes on how to start a Model T Ford? Or how to caponize a chicken (with drawings)? Not things that come up in casual conversation, but I suppose they might be useful sometime, and they were from Mom, after all. As a girl, she learned to start that car to drive her veterinarian father from farm to farm. And before training to be a nurse, she held the twist on the horse’s nose for many a farmer who was too soft-hearted to do it while her father did whatever she was distracting the horse from. So the notes I made that day are tucked into a folder in a filing cabinet down in the basement with other personal memories, not taking up much space, not hurting anybody.

What’s my hurry?

The little niggling voice in the back of my head says to me, you never know. You’re getting old. What if it happens all of a sudden, not gradually? What if today you’re fine and tomorrow you’re not, and someone needs to do everything for you? Are you ready for that?

No, I’m not. So I make another attempt at neatening my life. Put a list of my accounts and such into the computer, with automatic payments and all that, for whoever might have to follow up after me. But I remember how one man’s family couldn’t get past his password to find his life insurance, much less any other financial records. Better remind the younger members of the family where to look.

We’re told our advance directives belong in a clear plastic envelope in the freezer, because it’s the most fireproof spot in the house, and because emergency personnel are trained to look there, at least in our town. So, even though we did the legal stuff years ago, we have several of those plastic envelopes with forms to fill out, waiting for us all (young people too) to get around to doing it. They say Thanksgiving is a good time to talk through those decisions together, when all the family are gathered around the table. I suppose so, but it wasn’t my idea of how to spend that meal.

All those murder victims in mysteries–how many of them are ready? And who looks in the freezer?

The Urge to Kill

The Urge to Kill

Back when my first mystery came out, my father sent letters to several hundred of his nearest and dearest friends, urging them to buy it. Proud? Almost as proud as when I produced his first grandson.

But then, so help me, he asked me when I was going to write a real book.

And I already knew I probably never would, not the kind he meant. I don’t write mysteries because I think the world needs me to or they’ll sell better than other kinds of books. Or for any of a dozen other reasons. I write them because I love to read them.

So why is that? Aside from the writing and storytelling I enjoy in a good mystery (and the first one I read as an adult was Dorothy L. Sayers’s The Nine Tailors), I’m afraid it’s the urge to kill, the reason my pacifist father liked boxing matches on television. He once told me, “I just think of the two guys giving me the most trouble at the moment and then watch them beat each other to a bloody pulp.”

By the time I wrote the first book, I was playing in our community orchestra, in the lowly viola section. An oboist did something I’ve long since forgotten that annoyed me so much I thought to myself, if I ever write a mystery, I’m going to kill an oboe player. So I did.

Oh, not that oboe player. I had to make one up. Not just to avoid a lawsuit, but to set me free to think up ways and reasons and suspects and red herrings and all the other people, things, and twists to involve in the story. That’s when the urge to kill turns into real work. But I can’t be the only one to put into my victim’s mouth words that made me mad at someone I didn’t have the satisfaction of bumping off.

Or the only one to have characters stand up on their hind legs and say things I didn’t plan at all. The difference between that and real life is that I then get to decide whether to let them keep doing it. My characters don’t, though. In the book that will finally see the light of day in 2013, a prospective mother-in-law that I’d thought might be a mere fusspot has turned into someone you wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with. Kill her? I wouldn’t dream of it. I might want her again.

Totally off the topic, I hope you’ll all join me in wishing Janet Dawson a very happy Halloween–birthday, that is. She won’t tell us which one, but I suppose you could ask her.

Of course, if you do, she might have to kill you.

Better hand out chocolates instead.

Sara Hoskinson Frommer

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