A Blank Slate

If it’s a blank page on the screen, do people still refer to it as a blank slate? With ideas swirling around my head, I very rarely suffer from writer’s block. Except, of course, when I’m staring at this blank page today. What to say today?

Work has been crazy but no one cares about that. The second draft of the next Antique Hunters Mystery is going well. We are on page 100 of revising it, and once again, I find myself enjoying the characters. Creating them has been a great deal of fun. I hope others find them as entertaining as I do.

I am also bouncing around an idea of a second cozy mystery series following the daily life of a medical journal editor. Is that art imitating life? It could serve as a way for me to erase my frustrations especially after particularly demanding days.

And, it might prove the needed relief I need from shopping. This weekend, I traveled to Geneva with the real Anne and CC, the inspiration behind the Antique Hunters Mystery series. We visited Antiques on State, recalling one of my very first adventures with them years ago. It was here that I bought one of my favorite pieces of vintage jewelry, a Hematite pendant set in silver with a scrolling leaf encircling it. I have worn that piece countless times and went back to buy the matching earrings.

We had fun browsing through the aisles of antiques and collectibles. We chatted with the dealers, and they allowed me to leave some bookmarks behind. It was fun to linger and admire a Tiffany ink well along with various paintings. I am out of room in my house for new antiques so I limit my interaction to looking. But it is fun to look!

Interesting, that I started this blog with a comment about writer’s block yet I still found things to write about.

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It’s a dog’s life

My dog is not a cat dog. I don’t mean that he’s the lead in the Nickelodeon cartoon series, I mean that he doesn’t appreciate or like cats. Much to his disgust, we brought home two kittens in March. He alternates between ignoring them and chasing them into corners.

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Bandit ignores Pixel.

As a herding dog, his natural instinct is to keep them in place. Unfortunately, the kittens don’t agree. They also try to tempt fate by walking past him or sneaking up on him while he is sleeping. This tendency results in a great deal of running around the house.

I was not planning on getting two kittens to torture  him with. But we found when talking to the shelters, many of them would not adopt out just one single kitten. Their argument was its better for the kitten’s socialization to have a sibling. We ended up with two: Terra, a gray female tabby, and Pixel, an orange tabby.

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In hindsight, I am glad we adopted two. They entertain each other. At night, we can hear them run up and down the stairs. They wrestle and they sleep together curled up on the bed we bought when they were four months old. They are each other’s best friend. When Terra was locked in a room earlier this month, Pixel came and got me. When she was let out, he gave her a big hug with his two front paws. It was very sweet. If only, Bandit felt that way.

I keep hoping as time goes by that Bandit will adjust to the newcomers. Maybe even become friends, but it doesn’t seem as if it will happen. When he is not ignoring them, he chases them across the room. They have adjusted. They look around for him before entering a room and tiptoe by him in a very catlike way.

I, however, have enjoyed watching them. And Pixel shares my love of boots.

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The Bloom has Worn Off

It’s been almost three weeks since we returned from our vacation/research trip for the second Antique Hunters Mystery. And, reality has definitely set in. Work has returned with a vengeance. My day job requires me to be very focused and detail oriented. It also keeps me extremely busy.

I am managing editor of a peer-reviewed medical journal. Our executive editors meeting was yesterday, and I had several presentations to prepare as well as monitor the room. All went seemingly well. Everyone seemed pleased but at the end it only turned into more work for me. On this morning’s call with my Editor in Chief, my one page action list turned into four pages.

At the same time, work has been increasing, we have completed the first rough draft of the second Antique Hunters book. On Sunday night, we sat down and polished the first chapter from its raw state. It is interesting to watch the progression between versions. The story starts one way and then drastically changes as we work backwards from the end.

My weekend was spent on my presentations, working on work and then, of course, because I can never say no a freelance proofreading project. I did, however, take a little time Sunday afternoon for fun. We stumbled upon an estate/garage sale full of Russian collectibles. I was intrigued. I thought about buying several Russian lacquer boxes but where do you store/display them. I have limited space for display and two playful kittens.

While there, I spotted a piece I couldn’t resist. For the past few years, I have seen Chinese jewelry boxes. These intricate boxes have three to four lined drawers for jewelry. This particular one is hand painted with birds and cherry blossoms. I also bought several pairs of earrings, including Russian amber dangles. IMG_0791

This provided a welcome break from my busy work weekend. Now that my work meeting is over, hopefully we can focus on the book and complete a second draft that actually makes sense and doesn’t contain a typo in every  other word.

Are you your characters?

At what point, do you realize that you are your characters or that your characters are becoming you? After my lunchtime shopping expedition shopping expedition today, I discovered that I have much more in common with Anne from my new cozy mystery, Murder by the Spoonful, than I originally thought.

Like Anne I cannot resist a sale. Luckily for the economy, my inbox is overflowing with emails from retailers advertising bargains, specials and deals. I am loth to delete any of them because you never know when you might need them. At last glance, there were over 200 of these unopened epistles.

My interests can range from a pair of Corral bluebird cowboy boots (thanks, Country Outfitter) to a Royal Worcester Lakme salad plate (courtesy of eBay). And, don’t forget the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, the Last Call flash sale, Amazon Prime Day and so many more. You might not what you need until you see in that pesky little email.

Unfortunately for my husband and my wallet, my new work office is conveniently located by the Saks Outlet, Bloomingdale’s Outlet, Nordstrom Rack and of course, Woodfield Mall. So much temptation within a five minute drive. I like to get out of the office at lunch and visit these locales.

Today as I spent my lunch hour calculating how much would be left in my checkbook after splurging at the Saks Outlet Buy One, Get One clearance, I realized that Anne might be based on me. I cannot resist a sale. I can only calculate equations when there is a dollar sign in front of it and it involves a purchase.

I am not going to disclose here if I bought anything but will say this addiction will play a part in the next Antique Hunters Mystery.

Adding My Two Cents

I did not intend to write a post about “Go Set a Watchman.” I was not even sure whether I planned to read Harper Lee’s long-lost work. I have been curious about it since its publication was announced. Intrigued at the thought of continuing the story that was told so brilliantly in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  And, what could I say that hadn’t already been said about this new discovery?

Excuse my rambling here, I feel I had to write this post. To start, I was  incredibly skeptical at this sudden discovery as well as the timing of it. Lee does not/did not seem the type of individual to forget a manuscript. Rather I wondered as did others if it was hidden for a reason. Perhaps the author did not want to share her early works with the world. I know I sometimes feel that way.

Throughout grade school, high school and even my 20s, I wrote various versions of stories, half completed, bits and pieces, scattered around my room. The stories were always in my head. Reading them back now, I cringe. The writing is juvenile and I would not want others to read those early writings.

The first time I read Mockingbird, I remember relating to Scout. I also appreciated its depiction of Atticus and the courtroom drama of the unjustly accused. Upon second and third reading, its characters and themes still resonate.

The story remained with me in the same way that “Gone With the Wind” and “Pride and Prejudice” remain with me. Perhaps it is the time in life when I first read all three — approximately sixth grade. Perhaps it is because they all share similar themes although in different context of dealing with various prejudices.

Adding another work with the same character creates fear that it will not live up to our expectation — the way that we want and expect the characters to behave or evolve. I know I felt that when I read Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett, the “authorized” sequel to Gone With the Wind. I also felt for Margaret Mitchell, who throughout the years had very clearly stated that there would be no sequel.

In respect to Ms. Lee, who I admire, I hope this is not the case, and that she has truly authorized this publication.

Touching Family History

I spent the past weekend with my mother. She came in for my cousin’s daughter’s wedding. When I was young, we spent a great deal of time with my cousins. Over the years through various moves and job changes, I lost touch with many of them. That has changed recently though. Facebook and family events have brought us together in unexpected ways, and I have enjoyed getting to know them again.

As I get older and spend more times researching the past, I become more and more curious about my own family history. What were my ancestors like? What brought them to America? My father’s side has been easy. My dad’s brother has done considerable research, tracing his parents roots even journeying to the town in Hungary where my grandfather was from.

I do not know as much about my mother’s side. She has always been reluctant to share stories about her parents, and she has hardly any pictures. Both of her parents died when I was three years old. I felt fortunate today when my aunt, my mom’s older sister, invited us over. She and my cousin brought out photo albums that they had pieced together of my mother’s side.

This album included pictures taken in Germany of my great-grandmother and later of my grandmother as a young girl. This picture struck me of a young girl dressed up for a wedding. Her hair is bobbed, her dress flapperish. She appears pensive, thoughtful.

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I am immediately drawn to this picture and this girl. I know she will appear in a story someday. Who is she? What are her hopes and dreams? This is how character is developed. They are drawn out from those images that we hold. I am happy that I had the chance to touch this piece of my family history and become a little closer to my past.

The Takeaways

It has been almost a week since we arrived back in Chicago. I was hoping for a gradual easing into my regular life. Unfortunately that was not the reality. I could no longer head off those emails that started with, “I know you’re on vacation but. . .” Or, ignore the fact that our editorial board meeting for the journal I work with is less than 2 weeks ago. I have many reports to prepare. . .

But first my blog post. One of the terms that always come up at our meetings at work is “what are the takeaways from this meeting?” I’m going to share the takeaways from my almost 10-day vacation. This was the first real vacation my husband and I took in almost six years. I also have to say some of these are not really new or unique but I appreciate them in a different light following my/our trip.

1. It’s ok to unplug. Ignore the emails. Work will be there when you get back. This was most important for me. I usually have my phone at my side and am connected constantly. Ok, maybe I did sneak in a peek or two with my iPad.

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2. Go with the flow. My day is usually full of appointments, errands and commitments. Between my full-time job and writing my cozy mystery and working out, I never have time to do nothing. I am always moving forward to the next item on my list. On this vacation I decided to relax and just go with whatever happened. If I hadn’t Brian would never have played this awesome guitar and I would never have got these rocking boots.IMG_0708FullSizeRender

3. Stop and enjoy the music. I like some country music but not the real twangy country music so I never expected to enjoy the show at the Grand Ole Opry as much as I did. The show was great. I have now become a fan of Holly Williams and Thompson Square.

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4. Start planning the next one. When we were less than 40 minutes from home, my husband and I felt that dread and started pondering where we should go next? I am going to spend the next six months planning our next trip.