Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Reasons to be a United Methodist…

10. You don’t know what a steering committee is, but you’ve always felt called to be part of one.

9. You can go from potluck to potluck and never actually prepare your own meals.

8. You’re thinking about opening your own UM franchise.

7. If you don’t like the preacher, just give it a few weeks.

6. When you die, your name will be memorialized on a clock, pew, or cooking utensil.

5. You got a C minus in “Tongues I & II.”

4. If somebody annoys you, you can just go to the United Methodist church across the street.

3. If you pretend you’re not sure about joining, someone will bribe you with cake.

2. You have a choice between the “Low Guilt” and “No Guilt” services.

And the number 1 reason to be a United Methodist...

1. Even though outrageous ideas are taken seriously, by the time they get through committee they’ll be forgotten.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Writer's Life

My editor leapt up onto my desk this morning as I was tapping away at chapter 25 of my wip, Murder on the Side. She's rather smug, you know, in a cute, annoying sort of way. She stuck her nose into the screen and said, "You misspelled 'intoxication'."

"I know," I replied, though I always try to use "said." "I can see the red squiggly underline. I'll get it later."

She twitched a whisker and turned back to the monitor. "What does 'XXXX' mean?"

I stifled my desire to sweep her off the desk. Mostly because that normally results in a long trail of claw marks in the pine. "That means I forgot that character's name and I'll fill it in later."

She read through the paragraph again. "Isn't he your protagonist?"

Well shoot me for having a poor memory. "Listen, can I just get through this chapter? I don't need editing until it's done."

Another whisker twitch. She read another paragraph, stood, stretched, and yawned. "I'd suggest a lot more usage of the 'delete' key."

Editors have a way of doing that. Not the editors sitting inside publishing houses, bless their kind souls. I mean the "as we write" editors. I used to do some computer aided design (CAD) work. I had a boss who knew nothing about it. She'd often walk up while I was working and ask what this line was for and that circle was for. The machine didn't look anything like that.

I'd point out that most of the lines on the screen were construction lines. They're put there to help me create my final box, circle, arc, whatever, to the exact specifications.

Writing is a lot like that. When I sit for my morning session, most of what hits the screen are "construction words." I may write something like "Fred ran slowly toward the river." Now I know that "ran slowly" will have to become something more writerly later on, like "trotted," but I have to get the story on the page. Like Stephen King says, it's all about the story. Fix the other stuff later.

I still need my editor, despite her self-righteous attitude and the fact that she sheds all over my suits hanging in the closet. But it's often necessary to sweep her away. A few claw marks won't kill me.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A week in the life

Okay, it's over. The 2006 ACFW conference is history. It's been tough for me to sit this one out, but it's been nice not to feel pressured to have something ready to present to editors and agents. I think, as writers, we have to slow ourselves down sometime. This is a sloooow moving industry. They'll wait for me.

Critter Robin scored 2nd place in the suspense category of the Genesis contest. Colleen Coble, friend by association, mopped up the joint with 2nd and 1st place for book of the year in the suspense category. She was awarded Mentor of the Year last year, too. She is, without a doubt, one of the hardest working ladies in the industry, and always willing to help out a newbie. So buy her books. She rocks.

I should complete Murder on the Side, the first of my River Bend Mysteries Series, within the next week or two. I feel another twist burning in my little brain, so it may be a couple weeks. I have got to figure out how to handle the juggling act of editing previous works while writing the new. If I've got something that's several years old, do I scrap it and concentrate on the newer works? I'm thinking yes. I can always come back to the old one later. You know how those first attempts are--good ideas and...well...good ideas. Not much in the way of good writing. Editing those is harder work than starting over.

Sydney had her first b'ball game last week. It was a blowout--we lost. I kind of wonder when the 7th grade girls on the opposing team are taller than I am. My parent's house selling fell through, so they're back on the market, the journey westward on hold. I'll be heading north this weekend for a quick "Doe Camp" with dad. There won't even be any deer hunting, just ducks and maybe grouse. It's really about time away, cold nights and campfires, and the celebration of autumn, something that Michiganders have made into an art form.

So now I'm waiting to hear the reports from my buds who did go to the ACFW conference. They're surely crashing as I write this. Now back to work.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

City for Ransom by Robert Walker

Robert Walker has written over 40 novels now, and he says this is the novel that all those others were leading him up to. I believe it.

City for Ransom is set in 1893 Chicago in the midst of the World's Fair. Our hero, Alastair Ransom, Chicago Police Detective, is a man caught between the old and the new. The big man, who Walker actually referred to as the "Chicago Bear" (I loved that), has quite a history with what we'd call police brutality today, but in 1893 was quite the norm. Ransom struggles with this throughout the book, at the same time embracing the new technologies, like phones and forensics. It's a great peak into a time when law enforcement was going through growing pains between brute force and science.
Ransom is a character you either love or hate, which makes him all that much more enjoyable to read. You realize, as you journey through Chicago's cobblestone streets, that he hasn't yet decided whether he loves or hates himself. To my shock and horror, Walker provides Ransom with a love interest in the story. That is a subplot that is almost as interesting as the main plot. I won't say anymore less I ruin it for you.

The plot is that of a serial killer stalking the immediate vicinity of the fair, which, not surprisingly, increases public interest in the fair. The killer's method is brutal and dramatic, but Walker keeps the gore to a minimum. I especially liked the tie in to another imfamous event in Chicago's history--the Haymarket Riot.

I love history, and it's always fun to read a fictional novel set in a period and place I'm unfamiliar with. Chicago makes a great setting because so much has changed yet so much was the same. Even in 1893, it was a city famed for corruption and political scandal (You all know the joke amongst Chicagoans, right? Vote early and vote often). This was the city that would eventually give birth to men like Al Capone.

I read the reviews on Amazon before writing this. It's always dangerous to write historicals because this nation is awash with armchair historians who live for two things: reading about history and pointing out the mistakes fiction writers make when writing about history. I couldn't care less if a .44 Sharps was a rifle and not a handgun (I haven't checked on that). Mystery fans love a great plot and enticing characters, and that's what Walker delivers.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 things to do while everyone else is at the ACFW Conference…

10. Use the conference fee money to buy Coldstone Creamery ice cream for the neighborhood.

9. E-mail them and say you’re an acquisitions editor and need to see their complete manuscript before Sunday.

8. Have anchovy and onion pizzas delivered to their hotel rooms.

7. Call their spouses and ask why they never arrived at the conference.

6. Call the Dallas PD and tell them someone’s plotting a murder at the Marriott (the half-truths are the best ones).

5. Write like heck and fill up their e-mailboxes with chapters for critiquing.

4. Call the Dallas chapter of Girl Scouts and tell them they’ve got some easy sales at the Marriott.

3. Call Al Gore and request he speak, at great length, at the conference on the issue of global warming and how he was robbed of the presidency in 2000.

2. Arrange for a local aspiring acid rock band to provide the evening entertainment.

And the number one thing to do while everyone else is at the ACFW Conference...

1. Send a dozen black roses to all the editor’s rooms and sign the cards “Publish me or else—Love, Robin.”

Anyone have the number to a cheap florist in Dallas?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Special ACFW Conference Top 10...

Top 10 Worst things that can happen at the AFCW conference…

10. You discover your roommate can’t travel anywhere without her pet python.

9. Your roommate steals your best manuscript.

8. She still gets rejected by every editor in the joint.

7. Your room is beneath a junior high girl’s volleyball team (I speak from experience).

6. You complain to the editor at your table about the person in room 221 who snores like “a grizzly after a full salmon dinner” and guess what…

5. You discover you’ve misspelled the title of your book on all your one-pagers (sorry, pal).

4. The editor you’re interviewing with turns out to be the geeky guy you dumped in high school.

3. After a dinner of baked beans, steak, and potatoes you hop on an excessively slow elevator with a dozen editors and agents.

2. You, the keynote speaker, take a restroom break only to discover you’ve left your microphone turned on.

And the number 1 worst thing that can happen at the AFCW conference…

1. You gush all over Colleen Coble and tell her how much you just loved “Eyes of Elisha.”

There ya go, Dineen. You’ll get two Top 10 lists out of me this week. No extra charge.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A week in the life

Fall arrives today. In Michigan, it's easy to see coming. One day it's 80 and sunny, the next it's 60 and raining leaves upon your brow. That would be today. I enjoy this time in Michigan. In my younger years it was because bowhunting season was right around the corner. While I still partake in this silly custom from time to time, it is not the driving force in which my entire year revolves.

These days I find myself staring at a crimson maple, in awe of God's creation. I will still stop and watch a flock of geese fly overhead. Mind you, Canadian Geese in Michigan are like flies in the south. Same with deer, which I still enjoy watching as they graze in a field at sunset (even without the bow in my hand).

Fall, I think, brings out my best writing. It's sort of a romantic longing for the simple things--a cup of coffee on a cold morning, a book and a blanket, soft music and scented candles. And then there's the food. Oh glory to God! The food. Have you ever had a donut right out of the hot grease with real fresh apple cider (not the early September cider, which is usually condensed from last year)? Apples and caramel dip. Candy corn. Did I mention coffee?

Church seems to take on new life in the fall--literally. Yesterday I met two new families at our small Methodist Church. Somehow, greeting them became my job. I didn't mind. I do have an innate ability to chat it up with just about anyone I meet. I could have been a good detective. Though I'd probably lose my suspect whenever I stopped to watch a flock of geese fly over.

I'm to the thrilling conclusion of Murder on the Side. Of course, it will take about ten chapters to get through said thrilling conclusion, but I'm on a roll. After much soul searching recently, I've decided to stick with the Christian market. After reading mysteries all summer by various authors, I see there's a need for what I call comfortable reading. Call it a cozy or soft boiled, whatever you want, I want to write things that I wouldn't be embarrassed for my twelve year-old daughter to read.

Maybe I'm limiting myself. That's fine. Paul tells us to be assured of what we see as acceptable or unacceptable. We each know our own spiritual limits. I often try to fool myself and lower the bar, but I know I' m the only one being fooled.

Y'all have a good time at the AFCW conference. I'll be praying for you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Illusive Bestseller

If you haven't checked out Terry Whalin's blog, today, do so. It's good inspiration for those of us who never seem to give up.

Top 10 Reasons to Own an RV...

Top 10 reasons to own an RV…

10. You’ll support poor oil producing countries.

9. A strong desire to live within ten feet of people with no social graces.

8. Your idea of “roughing it” is when the cable goes out just before the season finale of American Idol.

7. It’s easier to haul back the souvenirs from Disney World.

6. Hooking up brings couples closer and enhances ones vocabulary.

5. You’ll meet lots of new friends whenever you try to park.

4. You think paying $50 a night for a concrete slab is a bargain.

3. A place to live if you’re house is repossessed.

2. You’ll discover that one woman can empty your 50 gallon fresh water tank in thirty-seven minutes.

And the number 1 reason to own an RV...

1. The sheer joy of holding a thin plastic tube while raw sewage drains through it.

Be sure to check in next week for the Top 10 Things to do while everyone else is at the ACFW Conference!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This year my father announced that he’s taking the GM buyout, selling the house and everything in it (not including my mother, though I had a moment of concern), buying a larger trailer, and hitting the open road.

Full timing it.

The words are enough to simultaneously strike terror and adventurous wonder into the hearts of anyone approaching retirement age. I envision myself wandering across North America, fishing for rainbows in Henry’s Fork in June and King Salmon in Alaska come September. But I also envision my bookshelf and my cozy chair in front of a fireplace on a cold November evening. Sure, some do both, but then there’s the house to take care of while you’re gone. And the &%! cats are not going with us.

Still, there’s something romantic and oh so pioneering about hitching up the team and heading west. Even if the team is a Cummings Diesel and the wagon is Mountaineer 5th-wheeler. We simply weren’t created to sit in one place during our brief stay on this planet. We’re nomadic by nature. We will forever wonder what’s over the next ridge or around the next bend in the road. I think Steinbeck was right—the pioneers cursed the Pacific because it meant that the journey was over, the destination not the fulfillment of a dream, but an ending.

I salute my parents and all those who pull up thirty years worth of roots and point their “team” towards a spot on the horizon, just to see what the dawn will illuminate. The passing of time need not mark lost opportunity of youth, as some seem to perceive. It should, instead, present us with new trails to discover and a rekindling of the spirit.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A week in the life

I made my choir debut yesterday in our little church. The problem with a small church is that it has a small choir, which means there are few people to drown me out. Somehow, I think I managed to get the anthem right. I'm musically challenged. I understand the basics of reading music--the highs and the lows. It's all those other little dots and lines that throw me. Since I've been a regular church attendee for the last eight years, I've simply followed along with the people around me. I was shocked to learn that, in a choir, you don't always sing the same parts. The altos can go high while the tenors go low and sometimes the words aren't even the same! I actually have to read and follow along on the song sheet. Following the tenor standing next to me doesn't help because he's farsighted and gets the words wrong sometimes himself.

Everyone said we sounded fine, which proves that there are angelic filters between a choir and a congregation.

Sydney, my darling daughter who complaineth that I don't write about her enough on my blog, has been gimping around the house for the last week, the result of being introduced to the reality of middle school sports. Basketball, to be precise. They actually keep score, you know. Today she finds out if she made the team. Hopefully, the suffering will not have been in vain.

I'm not one of "those" parents when it comes to sports. Those of you who are one of "those" parents, and you know who you are, probably wouldn't understand my casual interest in Sydney's athletic career. I want her to succeed and have fun, but I harbor no fantasies of her being the first female player on the Pistons. A scholarship would be nice, mostly for me, but I figure they have enough pressure just growing out of their clothes.

My son, Andrew, couldn't care less about sports. I even offered to watch the Lions with him yesterday. Yes, I know, it's not like a real football game. He lasted through ten time-outs in thirty seconds and decided to read a book instead. That's my boy. Sports are different with boys. Don't believe me? Join a bowling league of all men (or watch if you don't qualify), then join a mixed league. You'd swear the men were playing for the million dollar roll-off. Somehow, this Tuesday night tradition is their last ditch effort to pull themselves from middle-class suburbia and make it to the bowler's hall of fame. I think it's right next to the Anheiser Busch headquarters in St. Louis.

I typed "Chapter 20" at the top of a new page this morning. I didn't type anything after that, but it was nice to do. At this point, I'm past the middle of the book without suffocating from boredom. Always a good sign I think. The last part of the book unfolds quickly, as is customary with a mystery, and I've got it pegged in my mind how it's going to go. I've always had an idea, but I like to toss in a surprise or two for myself at the end.

I'm thinking of changing the Wednesday blog. I don't think anyone likes it much. It's supposed to be a fictional editorial from my fictional town of Trout, Michigan. Perhaps I'll dig into my collection of "Tales of the Old Doe Hunters," which I've never been able to publish. Outdoor magazines shy from humor now, which is a shame, I think. Let's face it, there really aren't that many ways to fillet a Walleye. Gene Hill, where are you?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Friday Top 10

Top 10 Worst Error Messages to see on your Computer Screen….

10. Your system has detected peanut butter in your DVD drive.

9. Abort, Retry, Hurl Monitor from the 89th floor of the Sears Tower.

8. Press Ctrl +Alt +Del for your next Error Message.

7. I don’t believe you really, truly want to exit this program. Perhaps you just need time to re-think our relationship.

6. Press enter to go from the Blue Screen of Death to the Screen of Eternal Darkness and Torment, where the flame doth not consume and the worm doth not die.

5. Insufficient memory to remember anniversaries, birthdays, and your favorite color.

4. This program is not responding. Please show more sensitivity toward its needs.

3. If you are unable to make your internet connection, please go to our online help desk.

2. Please continue to wait while tiny little computer gnomes laugh themselves to tears over your gullibility.

And the number one worst error message of all time…

1. I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that for you right now.

Thanks to Janny for the topic. Take the Top 10 Challenge! Send me your idea for a Top 10 topic and see if I can make it happen.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Trout Tribune, Wednesday, September 5th, 2006 -- Final Edition

As the evening sun flowered the still waters of Little Gill Lake on the unofficial last day of summer, I fell into my annual recounting of warm weather accomplishments. It’s a mental checklist I go through each year. Summer is short in Michigan, even shorter if you’re a mind to float dry fly in the steady currents of the Grayling River. I think upon all that I’ve done since June, and all that I had planned to do. The lists are sadly out of balance.

I had intended, at the onset of the hotter weather, to canoe from Trout all the way to the first dam at Sable, camping out along the way, the stars for my roof, the earth for my floor. Alas, my canoe made it no farther than the River Bend Diner. And who could blame me? Strawberry topped flapjacks were on the specials menu.

I had planned to take bird book, binoculars, and logbook afield to identify as many fowl as I could, even photographing them as the opportunities presented themselves. After running over a pair of Mallards with my Jeep late in the spring, though, my guilt would not allow me to claim camaraderie with our feathered friends.

I also had it in mind to walk the Mighty Mac during the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. It seems, though, that the onset of ragweed has been especially splendid this year, rendering your editor helpless to do no more than walk to the medicine cabinet for my prescription of Allegra.

This morning I watched the faces of our tortured youth as they lined up at bus stops, reminiscent of the black and white photos of the Bataan Death March. Ah, misspent youth! Each one of them, no doubt, groaned throughout the summer about all that there was not to do. Pity them! Pity them! If only they could understand that the time they leave behind is not deposited in some great hourglass account, to be withdrawn at their leisure when they are rich in both finances and personal transportation.

Lost. All is lost to the ages. Use it or lose it, as it were.

But we have the fall! And is there no better occasion here in our pleasant peninsula? Oh, all that I plan to do before snow drapes the landscape! Let’s see…I’ll hike along the river while the leaves are at their full brilliance. I’ll sip warm cider in front of a fireplace every evening while re-reading my Gene Hill collections. I’ll breathe the air so deeply the smell of autumn will remain with me until summer returns next year. Yes yes! I’ll make a list. I’ll do it all.

Join me, fellow Troutonians. Now is here, but only for a moment!

Buck Rubb, Editor in Chief

First Day of School

Sydney off to 7th grade
Andrew off to 5th grade.
And all the parents rejoiced!