Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shafford Bone China #writerfuel

Along with obsessing talking about writing, this blog is also for showing off some of my favorite collectibles. One of the benefits of middle-age is that I get to be as eccentric as I want (you whippersnappers, I suggest you start practicing now, it is really quite delightful.)

On Facebook, I started the #writerfuel collection of teacup photos. Every Monday or so, I swap out my cup for the week. I mix and match vintage cups and saucers from different eras and collections to make my own creations. The goal is to not spend more than $3 for a set unless it is something extraordinary (like that Franciscan Starburst set I am cyber-stalking.)

Today's #writerfuel is vintage Shafford bone china from Japan. The interior is iridescent.

Sipping tea like a damn lady: #writerfuel

Felony Bad Spelling

More pics from my vacation. Evidently, in Nashville, bad spelling is a felony. As it should be . . .

Nashville - April 17, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Stop on a Blog Hop

I volunteered as tribute to take a ride on a Blog Hop and post my answer to four questions about my writing process along with assorted and sundry links. I am connecting my very brain to the interwebz . . .

Blame it on  J.D. Rhoades, author of Lawyers, Guns, and Money. Great legal thriller. I made the decision to go with first person POV in my manuscript after reading the breezy snarky style of Rhoades' main character.

I'm a noobish compared to most on the blog circuit, but here goes . . .

1.  What am I Working On?

The manuscript of my first novel, with the unimaginative working title of Jewel, is on the query-go-round as I speak. The typical number of rejections, some curt, some nice, and some otherwise have accrued, but I have fulls with several top drawer agents as I learn my way through the process.

Jewel is a thriller/romantic suspense that gels down to:

Attorney Juliana Martin has a devil's choice. She can partner with the FBI to betray a client or watch her father go down for a capital murder he didn't commit.

While I wait and refresh my email inbox, I am working on the second book in the series. Ride the Lightning is set on the Gulf Coast and opens with:

I always knew my law degree would pay off. I was promoted to manager of the strip club outside of Biloxi in less than three months.

RTL brings back FBI agent Ethan Price and gives me the chance to type the immortal line:

I told them I was banging the bartender. 

2.  How Does My Work Differ From Others of its Genre?

I didn't feel the need to have a particularly happy ending. I resolve the plot, but no ending where the main characters fall into the white-hot passion of a thousand sexy suns. Both characters are physically scarred and emotionally bereft, with only hope left in Pandora's Box.

Juliana, my female lead is certainly smart and sexy and knows her way around a shotgun, but the similarities with pleather-clad super-human Amazons ends there. For all of her brashness, she is also a mass of tics and insecurities.

Throw in tattoos, muscle cars, a Toyota camper, and a Chihuahua named Simon and I believe I've created an entertaining mix.

3. Why Do You Write What You Do?

I am a lawyer who has worked both sides of the criminal aisle, domestic violence advocacy, Legal Aid, and child support prosecution, so I filtered in plenty of anecdotes.

Also, just observation around my small town. One scene came from watching a cowboy work the room at my favorite diner while he was having breakfast with his buddy:

"He broke up with her yet?"

"I dunno. Be a shame. His women are always classy. Crazy, but classy."

"This one ain't classy."

You can't make stuff like that up.

On my recent vacation, I was delighted by the number of outlaw motorcycle clubs I came across at truck stops and diners. As a middle-aged woman (read "invisible to all men,") I got to watch, listen, and learn.

4. How Does My Writing Process Work?

I struggle with time management. Shit got weird the last few years. No excuses, just the truth. But, I continually improve and work on writing every day.

I don't outline compulsively, but I do lay out a 3-Act structure. I know on what points I want the acts to turn and write to them as checkpoints. For example, in Jewel, I knew the first act would end when she opened the door at dawn to find the FBI standing on her doorstep.

My favorite blogs for writing inspiration and technique are The Killzone, Terribleminds, and Query Shark. I can always go to these sites for a kick in the pants and solid insights.

5. The Social Stuffz:

On Twitter, I am @TerriLCoop

I spend entirely too much time on Facebook, so drop by and enable my reality avoidance

This blog doubles as my website and is my take on writing, media, books, and collecting kitsch

As Jewel is still at the manuscript stage, I don't have cover photos or buying links. Instead I will close with a pic of Foxy, my editing partner and model for Simon. Thanks for stopping by!

I think Simon needs more lines in Act II. What's my motivation?

Steve Ulfelder - Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage

If it's spring, it's time for the newest book from Steve Ulfelder to drop. The fourth installment in the Conway Sax series, Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage hits the real and virtual shelves on May 6, 2014. It is available for pre-order right now (go on, I'll wait.)

  • File Size: 635 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1250028108
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (May 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Macmillan

Now that we have the necessaries out of the way, let's take a look at why this book is so damn good . . . 

I had barely forgiven Steve for his crimes against antiques in Purgatory Chasm, when he hauls off and kills Eudora Spoon in Wolverine Bros. He doesn't just kill her, he kills her bad. She dies in the arms of Conway Sax in a way that will leave you, the helpless reader, as angry and heart-broken as our hero. 

Conway, on the ropes after losing Charlene, has been stripped raw of the veneer of civilization being part of a family had given him. This Conway is only one step above the chaos and anarchy he'd found at the bottom of a bottle so many years ago. This Conway, even though he still wears his personal code of honor like armor against the darkness inside him, is a damn dangerous dude. 

He distills his grief and loss into one thought and that thought becomes his mission: Someone has got to pay.

Part of Steve's strength is in his descriptions. Anyone who has ever misspent their time in a dive bar will recognize the clubhouse in the opening scenes and anyone who has ever had to deal with their obnoxious chronically drunk friend or frat brother will immediately recognize Kenny Spoon. If the passage where Conway carries Kenny out of the bar and throws him into the car doesn't squick you out, you aren't trying hard enough. 

The car. 

And that brings us to what separates Conway Sax mysteries from the others - the relationship between man and machine. Conway doesn't just drive. He dons each vehicle like an exo-skeleton and makes it an extension of himself. In his hands, every car is a both tool and a weapon. Let's suffice it to say that in the opening passages Los Bajamaros got a lot more than they bargained for and the world is short one virtual lowrider and SUV. 

There are a pair of scenes where the situational awareness of a racer elevates the common car chase into edge-of-the-seat thrills. When Conway is on your tail in a red mist rage, the ice-packed roads work in his favor, not yours. Steve uses his own skills and experience as a driver to put the reader behind the wheel as you bump draft on the ice, only inches from your quarry. At the last minute you'll pull your emergency brake, drift, and watch all your hard work pay off. Damn, California boy never had a chance.  

The other chase evokes shades of Jack Reacher. Conway works his way up the icy mountain, mentally calculating the curves, choosing his path, and using the conditions to his advantage. Faster and faster the gap closes. Closer. Closer. Until he goes too far and sees his own obsession reflected in the horrified expression of an innocent. Like Reacher, he understands that his strengths can terrorize and appall. He has to reach deep and pull his humanity back. 

I'm going to fall back on a classic to get this point across. After I read Wolverine Bros., a thought nagged at me. A better way to explain it by one of the best writers ever. So, I dropped in at the library and grabbed a copy of Space by James Michener (Random House - 1982.) Test pilot Randy Claggett and Conway Sax are cut from the same cloth when it comes to their relationship with machines:

"In simpler terms, the test pilot was supposed to put his plane into every conceivable kind of jeopardy, bring it out safely, and record precisely what happened before, during, and after the crisis. . . . Randy Claggett might sound illiterate at a Solomons beer bash, but when he brought a test plane back to Earth, he wrote with the precision of a writer for Scientific American . . . And Randy always wanted to know how Pope had felt when the strange things were happening: 'That's a better guide than all the telemetry the engineers invent. . . How your guts felt when the plane yawed unexpectedly. How did your ass feel when it started to slide? Did you feel your eyes drifting? Goddammit, Pope, you're the most expensive instrument they'll ever put in those planes, and the most complicated, so trust your reflexes'."

If you get that passage, then you will get Conway Sax. (Since I once had an entire diagnostic conversation with a mechanic based on whether I felt the vibration in my hands, my feet, or my backside, I find it difficult to relate to anyone who doesn't get it.)

Throw in a torrid love triangle, a lady gangster, a gutting betrayal, escape from captivity, and a pair of greyhounds named Dandy (for Dandy Dick Landy) and Cha Cha (for one of my childhood heroes Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowney) and you have Ulfelder at his best. Everyone has an agenda, everyone has a secret, and nothing is what it seems. The clues are right there in front of you . . . go on . . . solve it . . . I dare you. 

Like most series, you get all the little nuances if you have read the three previous books. However, Wolverine Bros. is a complete stand-alone, so don't hesitate if you haven't done all your homework. 

I will close with the obligatory disclaimer. Steve Ulfelder is a friend of mine. Not a "our kids played t-ball together" or "I knew his wife in school" friend, but a friend based on my fondness for his writing and just general coolness. I won a pair of his books in a contest a couple of years ago and found out there is a hell of a nice person behind his tough guy main character. This review is based on an ARC, but, pfft, I had ordered my copy back in November of 2013.

While you are waiting for your pre-order to arrive, here is some fun to pass the time:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vacation 2014

For the last ten days I've been infesting the sofas and spare bedrooms of friends scattered across the country as I stalked, um, followed, Bruce Springsteen for two of his concerts on the spontaneous "North America 2014" tour.

I am enjoying it so much I decided to stay a few more days. I'll be back home by Monday! See ya then!

Nashville: April 17, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Melmac Monday: Kenro Speckle Ware - A Patented Favorite

Tidying up today, I found this beauty in my sock drawer (don't judge, the move was stressful.) I am simply mad for Melmac divided serving bowls and other hostess pieces. They are a souvenir of a time when dinner was served at the damn table and cans, jars, and pans were not allowed. Sit up straight and mind your manners.

With the freedom granted by molded plastic, serving pieces became works of art:

One does not merely put peas on the table.

This is a yellow speckled bowl from the Holiday collection by Kenro of Fredonia, Wisconsin. Kenro (named for its owners Kenneth Welch and Roger Sacia,) filed a patent on the plastic speckling process in 1956, so this piece is from mid-to-late 1950s.

Backstamp showing speckle pattern.
Melmac ruled the aisles for reasonably priced tough-as-nails dinnerware well into the 1970s. The introduction of Corelle and a return to the look and feel of pottery was the kiss of death for this beautiful and stylish dinnerware. The upside is it lasts forever and surfaces at garage sales and flea markets for stupid cheap prices (I paid 25 cents for this bowl.) If you can beat me to it, you can mix and match the serving pieces with your china and add a new dimension of retro style to your table.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Serial Novel: Burning Kansas - Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of the serial novel "Burning Kansas" that is currently running in my community newspaper "The Deadline." Miss a chapter? Don't worry, just click the Burning Kansas or Serial Novel label and you'll be taken to a list of all chapters.

* * *

Burning Kansas: Chapter 4

"So, tell me about Jacob. What kind of young man is he?"

For most of lunch, they'd kept to small talk, with Creighton complimenting Caroline on her cooking and the tidy, feminine cabin. It was nice, but he knew it was time to get back to the subject at hand. He'd been waiting for a question like this one. Creighton wiped his mouth and met her eyes, looking for anger or sarcasm. Seeing nothing but interest and concern, he spoke.

"He's a good boy. Always has been. The type you'd have been proud to have court Emma. I will say that he's not much of a farmer, but give him some tools and he can fix anything from a worn harness to a busted wagon wheel. When he was fourteen, he made his mother a rocking chair."
           "What does his mother say about this? She must be worried." Caroline split the last of the lemonade between the two glasses.

            "Fever, two years ago. Lucinda was one of those peach-and-linen Boston types. She never took to life in Missouri. Her health was always frail. I was gone on some fool mission when it happened. Luckily, my folks were there to take care of things and they took in Jacob."

            The silence hung in the air between them. Creighton couldn't help but compare his lunch partner to his dead wife. Framed by her fiery hair, Caroline's fair skin glowed with health and strength. In her green skirt, her walk reminded him of wind through the prairie grass. It was the difference between a hothouse orchid and prairie sunflowers.

            "I'm very sorry to hear that. These have been sorrowful years. I have to ask another question about Jacob."

            Her soft voice brought him back, and he answered, "Go on ahead. I'll answer as best I can."

            Caroline didn't speak immediately. Instead she went to a small pie safe cunningly set into the wall and brought out a metal plate. She dished out two slices and put one in front of Creighton.

            "Ma'am, I don't know what to say. I'm not sure how long it's been since I've had a piece of real pie."

            "Blackberries grow wild on a hill just a bit from here. I hope you enjoy it."

            He answered her by cutting out a bite nearly too big for his fork.
            She smiled and spoke, "Creighton, how does Jacob feel about the troubles? Where does he stand on the issue of slavery?"
            Creighton swallowed his pie, although her question made it feel like a berry was sticking in his throat.

             "We don't talk much about it, but, he doesn't have much respect for what I've been doing. He also blames me for his mother. No one in our family owns slaves, nor any of our neighbors. But, I could see Jacob having abolitionist sympathies. May I ask where you're going with this?"

            Caroline didn't say anything as she scraped their plates into an old pan and put it on the floor for King.

            "Emma is a little firebrand. She worshipped her father. When we fought, which has been more and more lately, she said she wanted to join the movement. I think this may be my fault. I told her we weren't spending another winter here. I was making plans for us to move in with my mother in Philadelphia. I already have a buyer for the farm."

            Her voice broke at the last line, but she kept her composure.

            "No more fault than mine. I couldn't even tell you what's in my son's heart, that's how little I know him. Caroline, we're on your side of the border. Where do you think they've gone?"

            "We need to go into town before I can confirm it, but I think they've gone to Lawrence."

            Lawrence? No.

            Creighton fought to keep his face calm. He stood up and pushed in his chair.  

            "I thank you for your hospitality, but I have to get on the road. No offense to your daughter, but I can ride a lot faster than Jacob even when he doesn't have a girl with him."

            "Offense taken." She sounded more like the woman he'd met on the porch earlier. King's low growl was a warning in his ears. Caroline walked over to Creighton and stood closer than most would consider polite. Even though he was a good two inches past six feet, she only had to tilt her head slightly to meet his eyes.

            "Mr. Blaylock, I think you'll find this woman is your equal on horseback. If you go alone, I will follow you. Plus, you'd never find them. The folks in Lawrence don't cotton to the likes of you." With that, she grabbed the tip of his long beard and yanked it hard enough to make his chin bob.

            He glared into her blue-green eyes and saw nothing but steely resolve.

            "Mrs. Cassett, I've killed men for less than that."

            "Go ahead. King will never let you through that door and the kids will be free. Maybe that's for the best."

            Creighton knew he was beat and stepped back. The heat he was feeling wasn't just his anger.

            Damn you.

            "So, what do we do now," he said.

            "If you'll go saddle the horses, I'll get ready to go into town. If I confirm my suspicions, I'll tell you everything. Yes, they have a big lead, but they'll stay on the road. We'll catch up to them."

            Creighton raised a brow in question.

            "I wasn't married to Michael Cassett all these years and not learn a thing or two. I know a shortcut. That's all I'll say right now."

            To his surprise, she pulled out a plain muslin tablecloth, flipped it open, and covered their dirty dishes in a graceful swoop.

            "My mother would be appalled, but it's the maid's day off. Mr. Blaylock, will you saddle my horse?"

             His anger melted under the warmth of her smile.

            Bowing like a courtier, he said, "M'lady, it would be a pleasure."

           To be continued . . . 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Melmac Monday (The Tuesday Edition) Mod Spaulding Ware

Vintage Spaulding Ware Melmac Platter
Melmac Monday is being presented on Tuesday because of a tech failure with my camera.

I'm setting up my portable mission control for a big trip I have coming up and my cameras didn't feel like cooperating.

Today, we have a superb vintage platter from Spaulding with an ultra mod design.

I've not been able to identify the pattern, but I WANT IT ALL!