Monday, December 31, 2018

Out with the Old

Contemplating 2019

The year of 2018 is about to end. Trying to decide what to post about, I reflected back on the past year. The politics, the political correctness, the crime and heartbreak have all taken their toll. There’ve been good and bad days. Thankfully the good outweighs the bad.

The year 2018 was a rough year for a lot of people, but there are better days ahead. I have a gut feeling. In the book I’m working on now, a character named Tillie says that she believes gut feelings are a nudge from God. Who knows? Maybe she’s right.

Over the past year I’ve discovered a number of new (to me) authors and read several entertaining books. Sometimes reading can be a great escape from the everyday woes.

I released two books in 2018. Gin Mill Grill and One Adventure Too Many (both Sandi Webster mysteries) kept me busy and out of trouble – not that I’d be in trouble for anything, but…

I added a new character to the Sandi Webster series by the name of Clementine. She’s a Chiwienie (half Chihuahua/half Dachshund) and quite an interesting dog, who just happens to have a doggie crush on big ol’ Bubba, the half wolf/half Golden Retriever sweetheart in the series.

Reality check: Clementine is based on my daughter’s dog and she has a doggie crush on Murphy, one of my two Yellow Labs. Sherlock and Watson of the Bogey Man series are based on my two Yellow Labs, Murphy and Sugar.

I wake up in a good mood every day because of the dogs. Murphy wakes me up by sticking his nose in my face or my ear, whichever is in his line of sight. Sugar whines with excitement and flops her paw on my bed. Clementine? She’s a licker. I pull the covers over my head. They make me laugh and they have an innocence that makes the day brighter.

My thoughts and hopes for 2019? I’m going to finish the book I’m working on. The dogs are going to make me laugh every morning. My daughter and I will find some fun and intriguing things to do. It’s going to be a good year for mystery writers and readers. I have a gut feeling, and you know what Tillie says about gut feelings.

I lost my aunt this year. No matter what happened, she always said, “Life is good!” She was right.

Life is good and I look forward to a new year and new experiences.

Best wishes for a Happy & Fulfilling New Year!

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Monday, December 24, 2018

A New Year's Reminder (Think Yellow Stickies)

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 
from our house to yours!

 (If you'd like to read about Christmas, check out last week's post.)

With the New Year around the corner, I thought I’d post a reminder.

Have you ever been driving down the street and suddenly thought of a line you want to use in a book? Have you ever been insulted and two hours later you realize how you should have responded? (I had to throw that one in.) Do you ever wish you had a better memory? Yes, that’s me and a lot of other people I know.

I try to write down the pearls of wisdom that come to me if paper and pen are close by. I have a small card index file and every once in a while I go through my notes to see what I might have forgotten. Some lines are perfect for specific books. Others actually inspire a story.

Memorable titles are also something I tend to forget, so I write those down, too. Generally, I try to take the title from a line in the book, but that’s not always the case. I’m working on a book right now that has to do with record breaking summer heat and some homeless people who are disappearing. The working title is “People Lookin’ Half Dead.” Extreme heat can have that effect.

One of my favorite titles is “I Never Met a Chocolate I Didn’t Like.” It’s from one of those small books you find in pharmacies or gift shops and, of course, it’s about chocolate. I wish I’d thought of it first and I’d have used it as a line in a Sandi Webster story. Oh, well, you can’t think of everything. Some of you might have noticed in other posts that I’m an admitted chocoholic.

 Loved this chocolate!

Research is another area requiring copious notes. The smallest details in a story can make a world of difference, and if you’re including fact in your fictional story, you’d better get it right. If you don’t, someone who knows the facts will pick up on it. I have a friend who writes historical romance and she learned this the hard way.

I heard someone give a talk at a conference about writing short notes on yellow stickies and attaching them to a board in chronological order. I’d have so many notes I’d confuse myself. I’m just not that organized, even with written notes. I envy those who are. I do, however, type short reminder notes at the bottom of the manuscript I’m working on and delete them as I use the ideas. Works for me.

I’ve tried to be organized but, somehow, for me it takes the fun out of writing. We each have our own system. Mine would drive most people to drink. (I don’t drink, so it’s not an issue for me.)

Lists can be a big help, too. There’s not a whole lot I can add to that comment. When you think of a new book title, add it to a list. If you think of a new blog topic, add it to a list. I have a blog list but, unfortunately, I forget to look at it and when I do I tend to forget to cross out a subject after I’ve written about it. Forgive me if I repeat my blog topic from time to time, or you might think of it as recycling. Hmm. Yes, recycling is a good excuse for repeating myself.

I believe what I’m posting about today is something you already know, but it never hurts to have a reminder.

Of course, notes and lists apply to everyday life, too, not just books. I have a grocery list, a list of errands to be run, a list of birthdays (which I often forget to check), and notes about things I don’t want to forget. Sometimes we simply have too many things on our minds to remember all that we should.

Anyway, if these comments help even one person to remember something important, then I’ve done my job. Writing this post reminded me of something important, so I guess I have to pat myself on the back and say, “Job well done.”

Until next time, have a great week, a Happy New Year next week, and figure out what works best for you so you remember everything you need to do. I’ve noticed cars that have yellow stickies stuck to the steering wheel or rearview mirror. Oh! That’s my car, and it works.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Monday, December 17, 2018

Ho Ho Ho

(Since Christmas Eve is a week from today, on a Monday, I’m sharing my Christmas post with you now.)

Once a year I write about my holiday beliefs. This is your lucky day.

I thought and thought about what to write for my Christmas blog. I read about the origins of celebrating on December 25th, and then I thought some more. I know from reading the Bible, books, articles and listening in church that Christ wasn’t actually born on that date, but eventually it was chosen as a day to celebrate His birth. I still wasn’t sure what I’d write about. Logically, a Christian should probably celebrate His birth every single day of the year. Many of us do.

Then I remembered a song. It’s the only song that will make me cry no matter where I am or what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter if I’m shopping at the mall or sitting at my desk, or even watching television. If I hear this song, it makes me cry. O Holy Night is the most beautiful and powerful music I’ve ever heard.

When the verse comes up that says, “Fall on your knees, and hear the angels voices…” I just blubber. The funny thing is that I very seldom cry, and yet this song will do it every time.

CLICK HERE to hear O Holy Night, and listen to the end. I’m amazed that Charlotte Church (love her last name) can hit that oh-so-high note.

Christmas has been neatly deleted from schools, public buildings, stores and all types of places, but the joy of the Lord is still in my heart. Someone might wish me Happy Holidays, but I’ll always wish them a Merry Christmas.

Yes, Santa came to our house when I was a child, to my house when my daughter was small, and he kept coming after my grandson was born. However, first and foremost was the real reason for celebrating – the birth of Christ. We never lost sight of the real reason.

I know not everyone believes the way I do, and that’s okay. Celebrate whatever you want to in any way that pleases you. I’ll do the same.

Someone might think, “But, hey! She writes murder mysteries. How could a Christian write something like that?” Well, there really are murders and there really are mysteries. My intent isn’t to gross someone out, but to entertain. While there is drama in my books, there’s also some humor. My characters, for the most part, have heart. They’re just ordinary people who sometimes find themselves involved in extraordinary circumstances. Although one of my characters goes to church every week, the books aren’t religious. Oh, well, there were a couple of books that included some Church Ladies who wanted to help solve crimes, but they still aren’t religious stories. And the ladies were fun and funny.

No, I don’t keep my Christianity and writing exclusive from each other. I’m simply not a writer of religious stories. Might be fun though.

So back to Christmas and O Holy Night. I confess, as if you couldn’t tell already, I’m a Christian and I love the Lord with all my heart. And I celebrate each and every day. I pray for people. I try to do the right thing, but often fail miserably. Am I perfect? Absolutely not! I make more mistakes than you can shake a stick at, but I am forgiven, thanks to the birth of one small boy.

In addition to the song, I have a favorite decoration. It’s a figurine of Santa Clause, hat in hand, kneeling by a cradle and showing his love for the baby Jesus.

So when you tell your children about St. Nicolas, be sure you tell them about the real meaning of Christmas first. Tell them about the child who came to teach us, to love us, and to care for us.

Talk to them about caring for each other. In these difficult times, it’s warmed my heart to hear about people paying for other people’s layaway items without asking for recognition. They just wanted to help someone who was having a difficult time. I watch when people drop money in the bucket outside of stores, and as others pull names from a Christmas tree in the store to buy a gift for a child they don’t know. Toys for Tots? Excellent! Food delivered for Christmas dinner? Someone – many someones – helped out again.

Until next time, unpolitically correct Me wishes you a Very Merry Christmas, and please, remember the real reason for the season. He loves you, and so do I.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Need a last minute Christmas gift? Try a book.