Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thoughts on air travel. What kind of flier are you?

My third book in the Randi Sterling Mystery Series, titled WOLF, opens with a scene in an airplane. As I was writing, I got to thinking about flying. I've always loved airports and find it fascinating to watch the planes take off and land. I could spend an entire day with my nose plastered to the window. I wonder where all the people have come from and where they are going. What adventures await them?

Unfortunately, I can't be standing at the terminal window unless I'm holding a boarding pass, photo ID and have been through security. To add insult to injury, if there's not a full-body scanner I get flagged for secondary and a full-body pat down because I have more metal on in me than my plumber's tool belt.

I miss the days pre-9/11 when you could come out of the airbridge straight into the arms of your loved one. Now, when you de-board the plane you come face-to-face with a sea of heads who can't wait for you to get off so they can get on. It's not the same having to wait to fall into the embrace of a family member or long-lost friend down at baggage claim. Feels like something's missing.

When my sister and I were little and flew from California to South Carolina to visit our grandparents, it was a HUGE deal. My mother put us in our finest dresses with patent leather shoes and we were to be on our best behavior or else

Going on an airplane was a rare and special, not to mention expensive, treat. According to Patrick Smith in his book, "Cockpit Confidential:  Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel:  Questions, Answers, and Reflections," in 1970 it cost the equivalent of $2,700 to fly from New York to Hawaii. He also says today you can buy a first class or business ticket for less than it cost FIFTY years ago. Where else are you going to find that kind of deal?

But back then flying was a luxury. Remember meals on planes complete with trays and choices? Blankets? Pillows? Slippers? Headphones?

Now we all get to smell some guy's stinky feet because he's wearing flip-flops. We're lucky if the flight attendants throw us some peanuts.

In my twenties I was a fearless flier, then when my daughter was a baby I was convinced that every time I got on a plane it was going to plummet to the ground, leaving her to grow up without her mother. Now that the kids are grown, my view has transitioned to one of cautious optimism. What's the statistic? 30,000 or so people in the air at all times? Much safer than driving to the airport, I know. Still, each time those wheels touch down I breathe a sigh of relief.

How do you feel when you walk on board the flying can? Do you have to pop a Xanax? Are you like my friend who starts his flights with vodka and Ambien? (True story.) Or do you resemble my Uncle Randy, who naturally falls asleep before take off and wakes when the plane is taxiing to the gate?

Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what kind of flier you are. Do you long for the good ol' days of air travel or do you think less is more? I'm curious and I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. My favorite airline. Peanuts AND Cheese Nips. And bags fly free :-)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Does the Dog Die?

Ever reach a point in a movie when you’re scrounging for the last three kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the tub while onscreen there’s a killer on the loose? A loveable pooch stumbles upon the crime in progress and wags his tail, panting happily. The murderer stares him down and an unwelcome thought creeps into your head—hold on a second—they’re not going to kill the dog, are they?

If a human meets an untimely cinematic demise, we hardly bat an eyelash. In fact, the audience has come to expect it. Most men will be disappointed if someone isn’t blown to smithereens in an unsightly manner (apologies for the sexist comment). In addition to possibly entertaining the males in the audience, human deaths create plot points and add crucial conflict to the story.

But killing the family pet? Why is it such an affront to animal lovers? Is it because they’re only innocent bystanders with zero culpability? Come on, people! IT’S JUST A MOVIE.

If, like me, you’re still upset over “Old Yeller,” refuse to see “Marley & Me” or were on the edge of your seat for “Zero Dark Thirty,” praying nothing happened to the fearless military dog on the mission (true story, after all), there’s an ever so helpful Web site called  

“The most important movie question…” the site’s banner reads. Find approximately six hundred movies alphabetically or by using the search box. A smiling yellow dog face means the animal lives happily ever after, a frowning brown face means the pet is injured but lives, or—horror of horrors—a sad grey face means—well, you know what it means. Don’t make me spell it out, the site does that for you while succinctly summing up the circumstances.

My second book in the Randi Sterling mystery series (working title A-Framed) features a plethora of dogs and, to put your mind at ease, none of them were harmed in the creation of my tail. Pun intended.

What's your take? If the dog dies do you want to throw your popcorn at the screen? Demand your money back? Tweet nasty things about the screenwriter? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what you think.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sink, swim or float

I can’t swim very well. Maybe that’s why I’m wary of diving into the world of blogging. What if I write something stupid or make a punctuation error? Before the world sees my books, my words are scrutinized by my writer’s group then by my agent and by my editor. These people are hawks. Nothing gets by them. When it’s just me and the keyboard, mistakes will be made.

Nobody’s perfect, so I’m jumping in the pond. Author KristenLamb’s excellent blog has inspired me to take the leap.

Here’s a post I scribbled a while back. I think it’s something everyone can relate to, author or not.

How the Internet distracts me while I’m trying to work:  I look up the spelling of the name Aguero to double check that I’ve got it right. Somehow, that leads me to a beautiful clear blue swimming hole somewhere in Spain. (Not pictured) Find where on the globe it is and get caught up looking at family vacation photos. Notice how much younger the wife is than the husband. Look at amount of children frolicking around them, wonder if she is his second wife or if she started giving birth at twelve. Are they rich or poor? Do they get along?

Being the conflicted Gemini that I am, half of me says this is beneficial, that I am constantly drumming up new ideas for plots, characters and relationships. The other half says hogwash and pulls up a recent www.Delanceyplace.comDelancey Place post entitled “You can’t do two things at once.”

The post doesn’t mention gender. I think women actually can multitask. Hold the baby, cook the meal, plan the budget, etc. Men on the other hand…

What do you think? 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rode To Death

 I got the idea for my first mystery novel, RODE TO DEATH, working as an equine journalist. At the time, I was also competing with my quarter horse mare at the National level, and I found the world of showing and breeding world-class horses not only fascinating, but overflowing with colorful characters as well.

    As I dug deeper into the lives of the subjects I interviewed for magazines, along with the ones I traveled and hung out with on a daily basis, I found myself starting down the path of “what if?” For instance, what if the archetypical kind, handsome cowboy turned out to have a fair amount of evil in him? What if, beneath the glitz and glitter of the horse show world, all is not as it seems? After that, the ball started rolling and there was no turning back.

   I was able to do some fascinating research for this book. In addition to the invaluable information on the world of Quarter Horse breeding I gleaned from Sandy Arledge of Sandy Arledge Quarter Horses in Del Mar, CA, I got to witness an artificial insemination collection at her breeding facility. THAT was something. I also was lucky enough to tour a beautiful and state-of-the-art facility in Bonsall, CA, Vessel’s Stallion Farm, and had the opportunity to interview Kevin Dickson, the man in charge of Vessel’s breeding operations.

    In addition, I had access to the wonderful owner of the Chino Hills Equine Hospital, Dr. Michael Steppe, and his kind staff. His number one vet tech, Tina Murray, put up with my relentless questions and e-mails and always responded in a timely and informative manner.

    That was the fun part. The writing was harder than I ever imagined, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my wonderful writers group co-members, Judy Bernstein and Diane Wilson. Both successful authors, awesome editors, and great friends, to boot.