21 May 2012

Departure of an alien, and other thoughts

Jan GrapeThe Alien in my house has returned to his home planet, taking the captured female humanoid with him.  She practically lived here with us for the past 2-3 months. No, they didn't get married, but the Greyhound Bus carried them both away this past Wednesday evening. I gave them both a hug and wished them luck in their new adventures.

Some Aliens and some grandmothers probably just weren't meant to live in the same house. Too much age difference.  His music didn't make sense to me and mine was all too country for him.  His constant, "Whaaazzup Nana," grated. All those squawks and beeps and raps from those things stuck in his ears were nerve-wracking. I guess if I'm totally honest, I'm just too ancient to be around aliens anymore. My sense of time and space, right and wrong, good and bad is just not geared for the teen-age male and I was probably too quick to react to warnings of "Danger, danger."

So life at my house is slowly returning to normal, whatever normal means.  A friend once said, "Normal is just a setting on the clothes dryer."  Nick and Nora are now my only and best companions.  They do talk back but "Meow," is fairly easy enough for me to understand.  Food, water, clean litter box and many nice strokes and face rubs keeps them happy.

I am excited to think about getting back to a more organized writing schedule. Something about other people in my house and my brain sometimes had trouble focusing on my work.  Some people write in any situation, but it's always been hard for me to focus when I'm constantly interrupted by  other noises and talking and trying to manage a taxi service.  I know writers who have small urchins who live in their homes and who seem to be able to turn them out and keep to their writing schedule.  I think I could do things like that when I was younger but that's been so many years ago I'm not sure I remember.

I have a feeling that after a few weeks I'll be able write a good story about dealing with aliens in my house and most likely it will be a good story.  Young aliens seem have a particular love of drama. Almost everything they want to see and be and do has to be the most important thought and deed of the day.  They also live only in the moment. I can barely get through a day without a little bit of planning and routine. 

In the meantime, the anthology that I co-edited, MURDER HERE, MURDER THERE is due out any moment.  I actually received author copies in the mail and was able to hold the book in my hand. That's always an awesome experience.  I'm very proud of the work my co-editor, R. Barri Flowers and I did on this anthology.  He and I both feel it's better than the first, although, MURDER PAST, MURDER PRESENT was excellent.  We have nineteen writers, all members of the American Crime Writers League, all award-nominated, and/or award-winning authors.  The stories are actually set from East to West Coast and points in between with some overseas locales thrown in for extra added flavor. Our publisher, Twilight Times, brings out lovely books and our editor/publisher Lida Quillen is a delight to work with. 

Today I attended the Heart of TX Sisters In Crime meeting and our program was by the Barbara Burnet Smith Mentoring Authors Foundation. Barbara was a mystery writer, mother, grandmother, mentor, wife and friend. She authored the Purple Sage mysteries, a short novel and several short stories and had started a second mystery series with a wonderful character whose hobby was beading.  Barbara and her son, WD had loved and traded and played with beads for many years. She was a member of HOT-SinC and was President of Sisters in Crime International, 1999-2000.

Before she was ever published and I only had a couple of short stories published, she, Susan Rogers Cooper, Jeff Abbott and I formed a critique group. Susan and I were the only ones published at the time. Susan had three or four novels to her credit, all in the Milt Kovak mystery series.

After Barb was published she began mentoring other mystery writers, helping to inspire new comers to the field. With this foundation, we honor her each year.  Aspiring writers send a few chapters and an short synopsis to published mentor authors.  I've been mentoring almost every year. Each year W.D. Smith, Barbara's son and the SinC chapter give out the Sage Award, named for Barbara's Purple Sage series. Chosen by a group of writing peers, the foundation honors the mentor chosen and to show appreciation for their mentoring.

Barbara was one of my best friends and I miss her, but am pleased and excited to help mentor new and up-coming mystery writers each year.


  1. Frankly, as a stay-at-home dad & writer, I find it tough to deal with kids underfoot when working, myself.

    And now, Summer is once more upon us. Their last day of school is this coming Wednesday.

    Thankfully, they're becoming later risers, so I'm thinking I might adjust my schedule to: (A) Do stuff w/ the kids in late morning & through the afternoon, (B) Have dinner ready for my wife at 5:30, then spend some "family time" together for a few hours, and (C) write late at night.

    Living in the desert, with a converted-garage office cooled by a window A/C unit & 3 fans, I think this might also help cut down on my electric bill. LOL

  2. I'm looking forward to the anthology, Jan!

  3. Good morning, Jan. There is something special about being able to set your own schedule without other influences, and I'm happy to know you've regained that freedom. Your opening was delightful, and I, too, wish Alien and his humanoid happiness and good luck.
    Can't wait for the anthology!

  4. Humorous article, Jan. I get the impression you're awfully fond of your Alien.

  5. Lovely piece, Jan. Ah yes...the drama of youth! All that passion, and usually about all the wrong things.

    Like you, I need a bit of quiet to work.

  6. Thanks guys for your comments. Yes, I do love the alien even though he can drive me to distraction...lol. Normal for grandsons, right. Fran, I've been intending to write, dear and will do so post-haste. You are in my thoughts quite often. The anthology was fun to do, reading so many great stories by so many awesome writers.

  7. Hey Dixon, I came up with a splendid idea to cut the AC bill and food bill also. Here in TX we have HEB grocery stores. I was in one in Bee Caves the other day. It's one of the newer, huge ones. I was roaming through the produce and frozen food sections and was struck by the fact that these areas of the store were exzceedingly cool. So I thought why not come spend the day here. I can sit in one of their electric carts which would make for an easy visit. They also have food demonstrators giving away free food samples so I can graze about half the day. I can turn my AC at home up high so it won't run all day which will cut my electric bill drastically. The only problem the store is 30 miles away. Got to come up with a gasoline solution. OK there's an HEB store here 5 miles away, but it's not as large, but it is cool. There's also a good size Wal-Mart so think I can work this...surely.

  8. Hey, Jan, I'm all over it! HEB groceries; haven't seen any in the Valley of the Sun, but I'll keep my eyes peeled.

    Meanwhile, maybe I can convince the Basha's market on the next block to let me write in the meat locker. That would keep me close to my favorite foods (steak, roast, ribs, etc.), plus it would feed my craving for puns, since they've got meat hooks in there, upon which I could "hang around" while writing. LOL


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