by Jan Grape
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,
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
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,
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
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.
21 May 2012
10 October 2011
by Jan Grape
Okay, I'll admit that sounds more like a sci-fy story than a mystery but I can explain. This alien landed on our planet in 1993 and quickly wormed his way into our heart. It took him a long time to learn to speak English but he did finally master it. Now every morning I'm greeted by "Whatsssup?"
In fact, he says it sometimes three or four times a day. "Whatsssup, Nana?"
My explanation. I have two black cats, Nick and Nora who have lived with me for fourteen years, we're comfortable with each other. The alien?? Is one of my grandsons, an eighteen year old grandson, Cason by name, has just moved into my new house with me. He's like many young people nowadays, just not exactly sure what he wants to do with his life. Tried really hard to mess up his life by dropping out of school when he only has half a semester left until graduation. He already admits that was one of the biggest mistakes he could have made and is getting prepared to take his GED so that if he decides to go to college he'll be ready. At the moment, he's working at a car wash in town for minimum wages and he does know he doesn't want to do that the rest of his life.
Of course the alien part to me is that I haven't lived with a teenager in many years. My oldest are in the youth of middle age and everything is quite different than it was when they were teens and of course totally unbelievable (to them) when I was in my teens. No believes I walked to school and back uphill both ways in twelve inches of snow. Okay, that was a bit of fiction, but I actually walked in sandstorms so heavy that I had to go to restroom to wash the dirt off my face and had to grit it in my mouth half the day. But I digress...
It has been fun being around Cason. He's good-looking, funny, smart, charming and full of life and himself. He's part man and still part child although he's around 6 feet 3 inches tall. I'll admit it's so much easier dealing with a grandson than a son or daughter. Having that generation gap makes most of what he does seem like, "I've been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt," and doesn't upset me. Much.
I'm learning again what teenagers like and don't like, and a little about how they think which certainly will help me next time I want to create a teenage character. In my most recent book, What Doesn't Kill You, Cory was sixteen except she lived so far out in the boonies they didn't have cell phones or computers. Today's teens have no concept of life without iPhones or iPods. They are totally fluent in cyber technology and how computers work. That's what they've grown up with and it is second nature to them to "Google" for information. I want to reach for a dictionary or an encyclopedia and while I'm looking something up, Cason has already found it on Google.
Music is so different now than when my daughter and sons were teens. They were into The Beatles, Heart, The Eagles and the music of the 70s and 80s. Cason is into rap and rap and more rap and there's something he calls "the beat." None of it sounds like music to me, but I'll admit my music is boring to him. He has an iPod and those earplugs in his ears all day and all night. He'll pull one side out to listen to me and to talk to me, then put it back in and is quickly back to moving his body to the beat.
He doesn't watch TV, can't sit still long enough for most TV shows. Things have to move fast, be action packed. Attention spans are not very long for teenage boy-men. He loves junk food: chips, dips, taquitoes, corn dogs. pizza rolls and pizza. He will eat a Caesar salad if pressed to eat some vegetables. He loves to be with his friends constantly and fortunately is able to make friends easily. He loves to "chill" as he calls relaxing. One of the new words cropping up lately from adults is "chillaxing." I'm sure a teen thought of it first.
Cason has lived in the Nashville, TN area most of his life and that's too far away from Central TX for overnight visits so we've not been together often or for very long at any given time. So I'm getting to know this alien in my house and am enjoying every minute of this bonding experience. I definitely can see that my alien may still be a mystery to me, but I'm learning more every day.
Now if I can get him to sit still long enough so I can't pick up more of his lingo. I definitely want my teenage characters to sound like teenagers.