Monday, October 20, 2014

Digging Out From Under

My husband and I moved into our current house not too long ago in one of those "sprint to get in and then collapse" moments. After that sprint, we didn't do much unpacking or arranging. The problem?

"Not too long" was actually six years ago. In our defense, we've been a little busy--me with a day job, book writing, and book promoting, and my husband with two jobs and a hobby of his own.

But since we're not actually hoarders, we have finally hit saturation (and frustration) with clutter and unnecessary stuff. This last weekend, we started digging out. We took a trip to the donation store, filled the recycling bin and (nearly) the trash bin, and set aside electronics for disposal. By Sunday evening, a room and a half looked cleared out and reconfigured--ready to be used again or better that before.

Of course, the rest of the house is still a disaster.

Some of the debris is waiting for its turn in the trash/recycling/donation bins. Some is still waiting to be sorted out. Some stuff still needs to be agonized over.

Some of the junk was easy to clear out: empty boxes from purchases (I always mean to throw them away a month later, but I forget), clothes I haven't worn in a year or more, and giveaways (bags, mugs, etc.) I've never used.

But there's a whole lot that's hard to deal with. Gifts carry a psychological weight that make them hard to do anything with (my current theory is that gifts need to age a year in my house before I can pass them along, if I'm not using them). Another category of goods I have a hard time with are the "things I might need some day," because I can still hear the echoes of my grandmother (who grew up in the depression) who used every single item thoroughly before disposing of it, and who never threw anything away that could have some utility.

I'm trying to get over that.

And while I feel guilty for throwing away things someone, somewhere could use ... somehow. I've decided that the greater value for me lies in NOT being burdened by the stuff. "I need it out of my life," I repeat, giving myself permission for the disposal.

In the end, we've made a start on disposal of the unnecessary and reconfiguration of the remaining goods and space to be more useful. And I feel psychologically lighter and freer.

So how do the rest of you do it? Do you declutter and degift as items come in? Or do you clear you home out every few months. I need tips....

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Community of Writers

During a conversation this weekend with one of my editors at Poisoned Pen Press (the fabulous Annette Rogers), I felt myself starting to do my standard mea culpa: "I know, I shouldn't be wasting time on this thing/event/favor because I should spend the time writing my book."

See, I'm slow in comparison to many other authors who get a book out every 12 (or sometimes even every nine) months. I'm managing a year and a couple months between books so far—some of that is the fault of the racing schedule, most is my own for not being more focused and diligent. I recognize my problem and I pay lip service to it ... and I still go at my own pace.

First of all, I should get over it and shut up about it.

Second, I realized something in the middle of our conversation, as my knee-jerk reaction (as if Annette was going to police my personal time and demand to know how I was spending hours that could otherwise be spent writing?!) was to anticipatorily apologize for offering to read/edit a friend's unpublished manuscript—which, just like a read-through and edit of my own manuscript, takes a few hours. As I explained that I was finding some of the mistakes in my friend's manuscript that I'd found in my own first (and second ... OK, and third) manuscripts, I realized that every time I edit, I get better at editing and writing.

Further, I realized that every conversation I have with someone (like Annette, like my writing pal Rochelle) about plot, writing, editing, and interesting books makes me better. Every time I practice plotting, writing, or editing, I get better.

Obviously, reading another writer's manuscript isn't solely a selfish endeavor on my part. I see it as paying into the community of writers I belong to. A friend will read for me when I need it, and I'll read for that friend or others when they do. We help each other.

Just as obviously, if I review others' manuscripts, write copy for literary organizations or events, or attend meetings so much that I never get time to write my own book, that's not helping me. So I need to maintain a balance. But I don't need to feel like I shouldn't ever do some of the above.

With apologies to Stephen King, I see paying into the writing community as similar to reading, in that they're all tools that make us better writers. Are you with me?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Poisoned Pen Press Cover: Where the Bones are Buried

Coming in January, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Where the Bones are Buried: A Dinah Pelerin Mystery
Dinah Pelerin has finally put her life in order. Living in Berlin with her boyfriend Thor, she has landed a job teaching Native American cultures at the university.  She's never felt happier. And then her Seminole mother Swan shows up with a crazy scheme to blackmail a German tax dodger and dredges up a secret Dinah has kept hidden from the IRS and from straight-arrow Norwegian Thor, a former cop now with hush-hush international duties.

Germans harbor a century-long fascination with the American Wild West and American Indians. Some enthusiasts dress up as Indians and adopt Indian names.  Like Der Indianer Club which has invited Swan to a powwow where she plans to meet her blackmail victim. Dinah tries to head her off, but arrives at the scene too late. A man has been killed and scalped and Swan quickly becomes the prime suspect. Torn between love for her mother and dismay at her incessant lies, Dinah sets out to find the killer—hoping the killer doesn't turn out to share her DNA.  

But Swan isn't the only liar. Everyone is lying about something. Margaret, Swan’s dead ex-husband’s former wife, come to the city with Swan. Dinah’s teen-age “ward.” Thor. Especially Dinah. Ghosts of Germany's terrible history haunt Berlin while she faces exorcising a hateful ghost of her own. 

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mystery series including Bones of Contention, Bet Your Bones, Bonereapers, and Her Boyfriend’s Bones.  Like her anthropologist sleuth, Matthews travels around the world learning about other cultures and mythologies, which she incorporates into her novels.

Learn more about Where the Bones are Buried and Jeanne on her website.
(Photo: Hudson's Portraits)

Monday, October 6, 2014

So Many Races

And so little time.

At this time of year, racing seasons are winding down or just done. IndyCar's been done for a month, and the United SportsCar Championship wrapped up over the weekend at Petit Le Mans. NASCAR is into its playoff Chase, and Formula 1 ... they still have a few races, but the silly season is in full effect.

(Silly season = when drivers and teams start to swap for the next year/season, even if the current one isn't over yet.)

This is also the time when series start publishing the next year's racing schedule. It's also when a fan's thoughts turn to "what races will I see in person next year?" So yeah, that's what I'm doing.

It's a lot more difficult now that I'm following and planning to write about both sportscar racing and IndyCar racing. It used to be that I could look at the ALMS (then) schedule and select what races I'd attend from the 12 options.

But now there's IndyCar to think about. And now that I've written a couple books, there are more races to possibly attend due to promotional tie-ins. Or to attend just because I love the tracks and the events.

Petit Le Mans is one of those. I skipped it this year, for the first time in three years, and I missed being there. I probably needed a year's break from the cross-country haul, but I tell you, if that race ever ends up on the WEC schedule (so that all of the Le Mans competitor teams race), I'll be there again.

And then there are the races to attend because I should check out the track—either they're new classics, said to be fantastic, and/or they're places I might want to write about someday. Like Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Like Bristol, in Tennessee. And Le Mans.

Of course, the funds and the free time to attend races aren't unlimited, so I have to make choices. I have to tell myself there will be racing for many years to come, so I need to pace myself! And turn the frustration or sadness over not being at a race into energy to make plans for next year. And motivation to write!

So tell me, do you know where you'll be next year? Where will I see you at the races?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A SpaceX Tour

Two weeks ago a college friend of my husband's (and by rights, a friend of mine now also—hey Eric!), offered us a tour of the SpaceX facility here in Hawthorne, CA. Since we've both worked in big aerospace in the past (and even gotten to see some space cargo before it launched), we were pretty curious.

The SpaceX facility didn't disappoint. The coolest thing, really, is that right here in the middle of greater Los Angeles, rockets and spacecraft are being made! Real manufacturing. We didn't think that happened in LA at all anymore.

Raw materials come in one door, and rockets go out the other. We got to see people laying carbon fiber and peer at copper chunks that turn into engine parts. We saw our reflection in engines that will get halfway to space, and congratulated our friend on the giant piece of structure he had a part in.

Now, I'm not telling you about any secrets (I couldn't even if I tried), and I'm not going to show you any photos I took (because I couldn't take any). No, the photo here is publicly available on the company's website.

But what I can tell you about is being surprised at the buzzing hive of activity going on—well after eight at night! There were multiple restaurants offering free food and beverages ... and the workers were still there taking advantage of them. There were at least two if not three football-field sized wings of endless cubicles where the engineering magic happens. And yes, we saw Elon Musk's cubicle off in the corner (much larger than your average).

What was really interesting was monitoring my own reaction to the hard work and high energy facility. At first I thought, "This is amazing! How great to be part of making something that's having such an impact on the world!" I still think that.

But then I realized everyone there spends a minimum of 10 or 11 hours at work every day. Then I remembered: I don't want to work that hard anymore! Not unless it's on exploring a different frontier (Kate's world).

In the end, our visit to SpaceX was like a fantastic adventure to a foreign country: a whole different world, really amazing, and nowhere I actually want to live.

But it was pretty damn cool to see the creation of stuff that will go out into space.

(Photo: SpaceX)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

One Surprise After Another

AKA, Phoenix, Part 2!

The entire weekend in Phoenix was one surprise after another ... and nearly all of them were Kate-themed, which  meant I was both in and out of my element! To explain:

Surprise #1. The presence of Bill Zahren, aka, Pressdog, who came in from Iowa to enjoy the weekend. He gets the "traveled farthest award" and my sincerest thanks for being there. Let me know when I can return the favor, Bill!

Surprise #2. A go-kart party! The Kate Reilly Avoidable Contact 28. There were 10 of us in total, and we had a great time in three sessions of electric kart racing. Sure I looked impressive:

But I'm really not very good (that's how I was out of my element). But we had so much fun, it didn't matter—so much fun that there was even a "turtle" award for the slowest (no, I didn't win).

Surprise #3. There was a pro in the field! (And a couple near-pros, but they're the next item.) Cassie Gannis races in the NASCAR All-American Series and in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West ... when she can get the funds together to do so. As Bill tweeted after hanging out with Cassie—someone get this girl a sponsor! She's got real potential.

So not only did Cassie show up, she brought her parents, and they all brought her racecar, which they showed us around and let us crawl all over. So cool!

Surprise #4. More friends showed up to race and celebrate. Thanks so much to (top row) Barb, Kathy, Jenson, Cassie, and Bill, along with (bottom row) Randy and Lorrie, Allison, and Mary. 

Surprise #5. Kate gets a helmet! Thanks to Barb, Mary, and Steve of Paint by Steve. Be sure to check it out at my next booksigning! Or at Kate's next race....

Surprise #6. We all got Kate-helmet prizes. Yes, those are mini helmets, and we all got one as a prize for our finish in the overall standings. Last place also got the coveted "turtle" award, and I'll not embarrass anyone, but I'll say it wasn't me. Barely! 

After the official awards presentation, I signed everyone else's mini-helmet and, in turn, got everyone else to sign mine, so I had a memory of that fabulous day.

No surprise? One excited author, who's really grateful for all my wonderful friends who made it such a fantastic book event and birthday.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Phoenix, Part 1

The weekend I had 10 days ago was so fun, full, and ... epic, that it's taken me this long to put it into words. And I'm going to have to break it into a couple blog posts,and include lots of photos!

First of all, it was hotter than the sun in Phoenix, since I'd timed my trip well between rainstorms. The natives kept laughing at my shock. But I braved the heat in order to see a bunch of friends, spend the weekend with mom, and make my trip to "the mothership," as I call The Poisoned Pen bookstore.

Saturday we had a quiet morning (inside, in the air conditioning!), and then it was off to the bookstore for the mega–Poisoned Pen event. Six of us were there, all with books published by Poisoned Pen Press in the last two months. We drew a pretty good crowd, including a lot of the PPP staff. Here's our editor, Barbara Peters, talking with Janie Chodosh, the debut author for PPP's new YA line, the Poisoned Pencil.

After the more formal part of the program, there was a lot of standing around chatting (OK, there was some before the program also). More photos were taken, including of me with a college friend Adele, and with long-time family friends, Ed and Shirley Moore (below).

And of course we had to get a photo of the whole Team Kate crew—and thanks to everyone for wearing their shirts and showing their support! (That's me, Bill, mom, Mary, and Barb.)

But this was the more fun moment, as we all pointed out Bill, aka Pressdog, on our shirts:

Finally, it was time for the annual photo with my editor, Barbara. Another year, another book!

After all the fun at the bookstore, including pizza and a rousing pep/thanks-talk from Barbara and Rob (the publisher), it was time for dinner, gifts, and an incredible birthday cake. Yes, it was my birthday, as well as Lorrie's birthday, and between us, we can't eat gluten or dairy. That said, it was just about the best chocolate cake I've ever had. Even better? It was shaped like a wheel/tire. How cool is that?!

I got a really special gift for Kate that evening, but since the next day was the big birthday event, I'm going to save the news and photos. for the next post ... stay tuned!