Monday, April 30, 2012

Day #566 Bee Report !

I just heard from Rob Alexander, the man who is caring for my bees. He said he plans to start drawing honey around the first of June. So -- you and I have something to look forward to:
  • I get to figure out how to handle fresh honey, and
  • You get to read about it!
Hope that surgery schedule doesn’t interfere with my honey collection ...
I guess my bees are doing pretty well, which is good to know. I was looking out at the back deck yesterday -- actually, I look out there every day -- and stood there wondering how my bees are getting through this wonderful nectar season.
Then, just as I was getting misty-eyed, a sweet little honeybee flew past the window, right at my eye level, and I felt darn good.
I know all the bees that were here in my hives and then were moved elsewhere have lived through their life-cycle, but I’d like to hope that a little bit of Harbour House lives on in their descendants -- the ones who are making the honey that will end up back here at Harbour House.
BEEattitude for Day #566:
       Blessed are those who truly care for us honeybees, for we shall surprise them occasionally with a flyby when it's least expected.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day #565 Sandee Somebody

How frustrating! I know that many people put in spam filters that allow messages only from specific eddresses, but I don’t give out my personal eddress to the whole world. Instead I use an eddress that is related to my website -- my first name at my website name dot com.
Yesterday a fan I’ve never met before, Sandee no-last-name, sent me an ecstatic email about how much she enjoyed my Biscuit McKee series, particularly the cat Marmalade. I wrote her an extensive reply, sent it from my personal email, since that’s the only way my computer will send anything, only to have it bounce back. I’m sure she probably put fran at you-know-what into her safe list. There was, unfortunately, no form where I could say -- hey! please recognize me, I’m your new author friend.
So, I’m going to share her email to me and my reply to her (obviously, I’ll block out her eddress and my own). If you think you know her, please send her a link to this blogpost, would you?
Here’s her email to me:
On Apr 27, 2012, at 8:22 PM, _____ wrote:
Subject: Marmy's Series!
  I know, I know it's not Marmalade's series but I like her better! My question is, when are you coming out with more books in the series? 

 I need for you to write faster if you don't mind!  I dearly love this series and have managed,since discovering it  just a few short weeks ago,  to devour it at a rate of speed I haven't reached since my teens. So now I am suffering from Marmy withdrawals.

Seriously...when are the next books coming out?

I thank you for writing a series that is very enduring and entertaining with enough mystery to keep your interest without sex,graphic violence and vulgarity. Thank you!


Blessings from one of your oldest (in years) fans,
And here was my reply to her:
Date: April 28, 2012 7:55:07 AM EDT
To: _______
Sandee, you just brightened my day. Thank you so much for having taken the time to contact me. It's such a delight to hear from people who love Marmy as much as I do. And--I must agree--she's the glue that holds the series together.
As to when Brown as Fudge will be available? I don't have a clue. It will most likely be next year. And there's a good reason for this. The crime in BROWN involves arson. I don't know enough about fire to be able to write knowledgeably about it, so I joined the Gwinnett County Citizens Fire Academy, a twelve-week course that teaches citizens about fire, firefighters, the firefighting process, swift-water rescue, ladder and hose work, and arson investigation.
Unfortunately, after only five classes, I had to drop out (last week) because I'm dealing with a rectal prolapse (which may be more information than you want to have -- sorry!). Because of some commitments over the next month and a half, both mine and my daughter's (she's agreed to care for me the first week after the operation), it will be after the 19th of June before I can get this repaired. In the meantime, there's no way I can climb those fire ladders next week or crawl through the "burning" building (fake smoke, naturally) the week after that.
Once I'm done healing, I'm be able to take the NEXT class, which begins in August.
So, BROWN is on hold for the moment. I'm writing the non-fire scenes, but the story hasn't taken much shape yet.
You might be interested to know that I was contacted by a New York agent last month and asked if I'd be interested in writing a three-book series "with a Scottish flavor." I've put a proposal together, and the agent will be presenting it to a publisher this coming week. The series won't have a cat in it, but I hope you'll consider reading it when it finally does get published. Of course, the publishing industry has its own routine, so the first Peggy Winn ScotShop mystery may not show up for another year or so (and it may not even be called that by the time their editor gets finished with me).
If you're interested in reading about my experiences at the Fire Academy, I blogged about the Thursday evening classes each Friday for the past five weeks. Here are the links to those blog posts:
As a special thank you to you - here's the very first scene of BROWN AS FUDGE. It could change completely before publication, but I'd like to give you the flavor of it:
Scene 1 Biscuit
I saw the smoke even before I stepped outside. A dark gray wash, almost black, swirled across the yard, pushed by a stronger-than-usual early morning breeze. It wasn’t leaf-burning season yet. I headed back inside for the phone.
“Thank you for calling,” the 911 Operator told me, “but we’ve already received several reports, and the Martinsville fire department is on the scene.”
She wouldn’t tell me where the scene was, though. “Stay where you are, ma’am. They don’t need unnecessary bystanders getting in the way.”
Unnecessary bystanders? What made her think I was unnecessary? I picked the receiver back up. Bob was at the station. He’d know what was going on.
Softfoot is near the fire. I can feel him inside my head.
Marmalade purred her loud rumble and rubbed against my ankle. She’s so soft.
Thank you.
Reebok answered on the first ring. “Martinsville Police. Deputy Garner speaking.”
“What’s going on Reebok? I called 911, but they wouldn’t tell me anything.”
“There was a fire.”
“On Willow Street.” 
“It wasn’t Margaret’s house, was it?”
“No.” Bob’s normally garrulous deputy was singularly taciturn this morning. I waited for him to go on, but there was an ominous silence.
“Monica’s?” I asked.
I was in no mood to keep guessing all the people who lived on Willow. “Whose house?”
“Nobody’s house.”
“Reebok,” I said, my voice lower than usual, “would you please give me some details?”
“The shed behind Connie’s house caught fire.”
“Is Connie okay?”
“Reebok? Answer me.”
“Don’t worry ma’am, I’m sure it will be all right.”
“Reebok? What on earth is wrong?”
“They can’t find her.”
Have a lovely day,
I really don’t want her to think I’m too stuck up to respond to a fan letter. Any idea (other than the miracle of someone who reads this blog knowing her) how I can reach her?
BEEattitude for Day #565:
       Blessed are those who use no pesticides, for they shall create a haven for us bees.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day #564 A Spanish Course in Miniature

The first Stella d’Oro hemerocallis (day lily) bloomed a couple of days ago. These teeny little daylilies are the brightest gold. Only two blooms so far, but soon that corner of the yard will be filled with golden stars (which is what the name means in Spanish).
Speaking of Spanish, I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned this yet, but I’m taking the Pimsleur Spanish Language Course. It’s all on CDs, and I practice each morning for half an hour (1 track per day). This afternoon I ended up sitting in a medical office off and on for an hour and a half, having a repeat mammogram and then waiting for the results. One of the other women in the waiting room spoke Spanish, and I asked her a tentative question, figuring the worst she could do was ignore me. Instead, after a moment’s surprise as she tried to figure out what I was saying, she smiled and answered my question very clearly, as if talking to a three-year-old.
I thanked her and said, in Spanish, “I don’t speak Spanish very well.” No hablo Espanol muy bien.
“But you understand,” she said. Pero intiende. 
No mucho,” I replied, “no intiendo mucho. Pero …” and there I stopped. I didn’t know the word for I try, so I said it in English with a questioning lift to my voice.
Trato,” she said.
Si! Trato. Yo trato.” Yes, I try. I try.
Now, keep in mind, I’m not learning how to SPELL Spanish -- the Pimsleur course is strictly conversational, so if I offend your superior Spanish language knowledge, feel free to teach me (gently, please) as to the correct spelling.
The important thing is that I reached out despite my reluctance to sound ignorant, and learned a new word out of it. I also received a lovely smile of delight from the woman with whom I tried to connect and whose language I tried to honor.
That felt good.
And the mammogram? It was absolutely negative. All is well on that end of things.
BEEattitude for Day #564:
       Blessed are those who help others to learn, for they shall bask in the glow of knowledge shared.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day #563 Polly and the Honeybee

It was hard, turning in all my Citizen Fire Academy turn-out gear last night. I gave everyone in the class a copy of one of my mass-market paperbacks -- I had some promotional copies left over from the ones sent to me by World Wide Mystery. I’m not allowed to sell them, so I figured giving them to the class and the instructors would be a good idea.
A few days ago, Miss Polly settled in my lap and put her head under my hand. For sixteen years, e's know how to get a good scratch from a good scratcher when she sees one! My phone was sitting beside me so, one-handed, I managed this picture.

She spotted a honeybee on the outside of the picture window yesterday and spent several minutes watching it crawl around. The belly-side view is fascinating. I watched it with her. Wish I’d taken a picture, but this one from a previous blogpost will have to suffice.

I'm gonna miss her when she's gone. 
BEEattitude for Day #563:
       Blessed are those who take the time to SEE what they’re looking at, for they shall have wonders unfold before them.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day #562 Two Announcements


Just in case you’re interested, here’s a blurb about a writers workshop I’ll be teaching next week at the Harris Arts Center in Calhoun, GA

Mystery Writer's Workshop & Book Signing With Fran Stewart, May 5

Fran will be signing her new book from the Biscuit McKee series entitled Violet As An Amethyst and then will have a Q & A session from 10 am until 12 noon.

Mystery Writing Workshop 2:00 - 5:30 / $40
Join Fran Stewart as she teaches you how to polish your prose using colanders, stinky feet (not real ones), and avalanches as learning tools. This light-hearted interactive workshop is, in essence, a masters class for writers. 

Fran will focus on one of the biggest problems that haunt most writers—how to make characters come alive. Using her writer’s workbook, From the Tip of My Pen—a compilation of six years of monthly essays she wrote for the Atlanta Writers Club—Fran will lead you through easy-to-follow steps for writing effective dialogue and building dynamic characters.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

And then there’s the not-so-happy news. I’ve decided I need to drop out of the Citizens Fire Academy for now. I hope, after I have the surgery this summer, I’ll gain a lot more energy and be able to pick up the last seven classes the next time around.
For now, though, I feel like I’m carrying around an anchor. As much as I’ve enjoyed the classes, my body simply isn’t cooperating.

Happy Birthday, Savannah!

BEEattitude for Day #562:
       Blessed are those who fly as well as they can for as long as they can, for they shall find wonderful nectar.
       Blessed are they, also, who know their limits, for they shall  find their nectar close to home. 
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day #561 Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

My friend Kathi Moon, who happens to be an interfaith minister in the Raleigh NC area, told me about a documentary movie called Fat Sick and Nearly Dead.
It’s the story of Joe Cross, an Australian who was all three of those things. He came across the idea of drinking fruit and vegetable juices (and nothing else) for 60 days. This film is the story not only of what happened to him, but of how he inspired another man, a truck driver named Phil, to take responsibility for the shape his life was in.
Phil is the real star and his journey from the brink of death to a radiant life is truly inspiring. If you have an hour and a half (even if it’s spread across three days), here’s where you can watch it:
BEEattitude for Day #561:
       Blessed are those who know where the pollen comes from -- and who fly out to get it.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day #560 Daisy's Footprint

When I bought this house almost eight years ago, it was in an as-is state, which meant a great deal of it was fairly shoddy. Over the years I’ve replaced all the major appliances, the furnace, the toilets, most of the faucets, and the water heater (my wonderful plumbers, at Keep Smiling Plumbing, love me). 
I had to rip out ALL the carpeting because what was here was so filthy. Because I had a bunch of cats, though, I chose not to put in any new carpeting except in the one completely cat-free room in the entire house.
I probably should have replaced the linoleum that goes through the dining room and kitchen, but I decided that, with some elbow grease, I could put up with it for a few years. The other floors, the ones without linoleum, were just the bare sub-flooring, so I cleaned them all, bleached them, sealed them, and painted them various colors. I now have green floors upstairs, blue on the middle level, and a red floor downstairs. 
Four years ago I decided to repaint the blue floor -- it was getting worn in a number of places, and the white sealant was showing through.
So, I strung up chicken wire to keep the cats off the floor while it was drying.
That cruddy linoleum ended up with Daisy-footprints all across the width of the dining room.
I was almost finished cleaning them up, when it occurred to me that the one little footprint remaining might be kind of cute if I left it there.
So I did.

It's getting a bit worn, unfortunately, so I try to keep from stepping on it.

It covers about one square inch, and I laugh whenever I see it, so I thought I’d share it with you. See what I mean about the cruddy linoleum? Those scratches and the ground-in dirt have been there for eight years. They’ll last a few more. After all, If I replace the flooring, I’ll have to get rid of the footprint.
That would never do.
BEEattitude for Day #560:
       Blessed are those who don’t bother to plan ahead, for they shall find surprises along the way.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day #559 Starting a Raised Garden

Home Depot had a raised-bed garden kit on sale a few days ago.
Do you know how little room there is for a 4-foot square garden in my yard? Oh, there’s plenty of room, but before I can use it, I have to rip out the EXTREMELY effective ground cover that I started eight years ago, when I thought I wouldn't want to mow much grass.
This morning I tackled an area right beside the front walk, in front of the birdbath and just downhill from the safflower-seed feeder. After an hour, this is what I had. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it? Those are four-foot-long boards, by the way.
The other side of the path, the side with the Vinca major, looks great, 

particularly the end that has the honeysuckle blooming in it.
But it may be a while before I can get the wild strawberry and vinca minor pulled out. Wonder if it’ll be too late to plant anything by the time I do???
BEEattitude for Day #559:
       Blessed are those who plan ahead, for they shall find the road easier. maybe.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day #558 Mrs. Miniver

I wonder if bees buzz around in the evening after dark, recounting tales of what they did during the day, of how they found a new nectar source or drove a mouse from the hive, how they battled raindrops and survived by hiding under a Hosta leaf, or how they capped the latest batch of honey.
Chances are slim that they’d spend time telling war stories. That seems to be reserved for humans.
As I write this blog post, at 10:30 on Saturday evening, I just finished watching Mrs. Miniver, a 1942 movie starring Greer Garson and Walter Pigeon.
It’s a story of the power of common people to rise above the horrors of war. It was written while a war still raged throughout Europe and the Pacific. I could remember my mother talking about it and what an inspiring movie it was. That alone (my mother’s recommendation, that is) was enough to keep me from watching it for many years.
But then I got curious and ordered it from Netflix. I’m glad I did. For once, I can say my mama was right. I’m not sure how calm I’d be in a bomb shelter. I’m not sure how I’d face up to the loss of a family member. I’m not sure how I’d respond if my boat were required for another rescue at Dunkirk. 
The value of a good movie is that it gives us a chance to ask those questions. And to pray that the need never arises to answer them.
BEEattitude for Day #558:
       Blessed are those who protect the hive, for they shall help a new generation of bees grow and flourish.
Earth Day - Help Our Mother

The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day #557 Bees Are Taxed Fairly

If you work for the IRS, I’d like to see you out that job and into something that is less bureaucratic and more productive.
I went online some time ago to find a downloadable 1099 form -- and this is a small part of what I was faced with:
Available Products
In addition to these general instructions, which contain general information concerning Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, 5498, and W-2G, we provide specific form instructions as separate products. Get the instructions you need for completing a specific form from the following list of separate instructions.
Instructions for Forms W-2G and 5754
Instructions for Form 1097-BTC
Instructions for Form 1098
Instructions for Form 1098-C
Instructions for Forms 1098-E and 1098-T
Instructions for Forms 1099-A and 1099-C
Instructions for Form 1099-B
Instructions for Form 1099-CAP
Instructions for Form 1099-DIV
Instructions for Form 1099-G
Instructions for Form 1099-H
Instructions for Forms 1099-INT and 1099-OID
Instructions for Form 1099-K
Instructions for Form 1099-LTC
Instructions for Form 1099-MISC
Instructions for Form 1099-PATR
Instructions for Form 1099-Q
Instructions for Forms 1099-R and 5498
Instructions for Form 1099-S
Instructions for Forms 1099-SA and 5498-SA
Instructions for Forms 3921 and 3922
Instructions for Form 5498-ESA
See How To Get Forms, Publications, and Other Assistance on page 14.
The explanations for each of those types of forms filled dozens of pages. Does it seem to you that this is just a wee bit complicated? Unnecessarily complicated?

We could learn something from the bees. They all work, they all produce something of value to the community, and they are “taxed” for their consumption (the honey and pollen they consume).
I kept seeing in the e-signature of a friend of mine and began to wonder what it was all about. So I went to the website, clicked on How Fair Tax Works, and listened to the video presentation. Next I clicked on FAQs and saw that there were all sorts of questions I could click on to see the answers. It took me a minute or two to figure out how the video works, but I found little white tabs on each side of the video box. When I clicked on them, I could move backward or forward through different topics, which seemed to correspond with the questions listed on the left, although the speaker’s answers added to the written answers. I listened to a LOT of them, and liked what I heard (and read).
Seemed to me that the folks who put this idea together have taken a lesson or two from the bees.
BEEattitude for Day #557:
       Blessed are those who pay attention to us bees, for they shall gain insights they might have missed otherwise.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day #556 Fire Academy Class #5 - HOSE work

I lied. Last week I told you we’d be going up the ladders this week. Come to think of it, it wasn’t really a lie. It was misinformation. We'll do ladders in class #7. This week we worked the fire hoses. Before class I had visions of myself in a cartoon-like event, flying around at the end of a runaway fire hose. It didn’t happen like that, but there was a time (or two) when I felt like it might.

We were each issued a rolled-up 50-foot 2½ inch attack hose that we had to carry with us to each of the three "stations," and then the class split into three groups. My group started out learning how to unroll the hoses. and then how to roll them up two different ways depending on whether we’d be going into a house fire or a multi-story building fire.

By the time I’d rolled that sucker four or five times, I was pooped -- and that station was the easy one. 
For the second station, we had to wear our full turn-out gear -- pants, jacket, helmet, gloves. We learned how to get a “positive flow” of water from the fire hydrant to the fire truck so it would be available to the firefighters on the attack hoses (the ones that actually shoot the water onto the fire). Getting that positive flow meant lifting a 50-pound “water thief” -- that’s what they call it--don’t ask me why--and setting it as close to the fire as possible. It's the red thing in the picture below. I didn't lift it. The firefighter took pity on me and lifted it himself.

Then, we had to open the hydrant to be sure we had a flow of clear water (no heavy sediments that might plug up the pumper truck). After that we attached a 5” yellow line from the hydrant to the fire thief and another one from the fire thief to the fire truck.

Turn it on slowly (to keep from bouncing the fire thief five feet up into the air) until the hose fills, then open it all the way. In the picture above, the hose from the hydrant to the Fire thief has filled, and the other one is about half-way full.

I wont even begin to try to explain all the pressure gauges and such that had to be watched, but the idea is to get the water from the hydrant into the pumper truck, which can then increase the pressure so the water will actually spray out of the end. Hydrants alone do not have enough pressure to drive much water through those hoses.

Suffice it to say that I managed to connect the couplings, open the hydrant, connect the hoses, and turn on the water. I needed help on opening the hydrant -- there’s a lot of friction in those connections. Twenty years ago I probably could have done it alone, but not this time.

Once we’d each had a chance to try all this, we went to the final station, where we got to advance a fire hose. The pressure on those suckers is enough to push someone over backwards, so, on my hands and knees, lugging the hose along with me, I crawled to the edge of the “burning building” (a grassy field beside the Fire Academy), and opened the nozzle very slowly. The person behind me was pushing against my back so I wouldn’t be thrown backwards as I maneuvered the hose up and down, right and left (a sweep), and in a T (straight up, back and forth, then straight down the middle). Then we changed positions, so we could each experience both jobs.
We thought that was hard, but then we had a chance to hold the BIG hose used on huge fires. It had so much power, we had to coil it around in a loop and sit on the place where it crossed over. That fella pushes out 1,500 gallons per minute. I couldn’t manage the hose by myself, so two firefighters positioned themselves on either side of me and helped me hold the hose (so I wouldn’t kill anyone--I’m sure that was what their reasoning was).
I wish I had lots of pictures to share with you, but I took only a few. We were so busy, I didn’t remember to click the button.
Suffice it to say that, with every class, my respect for the men and women who fight fires grows as fast as a fire does. Did you know a fire doubles in size every thirty seconds?

BEEattitude for Day #556:
       Blessed are those who teach others, for they shall leave the world a better place.
p.s. Helmets are color-coded--I think I got this right, but I may have missed a color:
Blue = Citizen’s Fire Academy students and cadets
Black = Fire Academy personnel
Green = CERT members
Yellow = firefighters and drivers
Red = staff officers

White = the Fire Chief
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day #555 A One-Year Retrospective

A year ago I was in the middle of my first week with my bees. I still remember the excitement as I walked outside with a cup of tea each morning and sat beside the hives listening to the buzzing.
It was a precious time for me, maybe even more so in retrospect, as I now know that I can’t have the bees there, that close to me. I’ve been re-reading my journal entries from last April, and I feel a lot like Emily Webb in Our Town. “Don’t they even notice?” she wailed (or something like that -- I’m remembering, not quoting exactly).
And no, I guess I didn’t notice as much as I would have if I’d known I’d have those bees only a few short months. I loved them -- but I would have loved them better if I’d known how soon they’d be gone.
I’m going to take a good look at my life. What are the things (or the people) I don’t appreciate enough? What if they were gone tomorrow?
BEEattitude for Day #555:
       Blessed are those who pay attention, for they shall not miss out on the sweetness.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day #554 My Office is a Dump

I’m almost ashamed to put this in writing -- my office is a dump.
A number of months ago I had some people coming to my house for one of those jewelry shows. It was a fund raiser for the Gwinnett Choral Guild, which is the only reason I agreed to do it. In the course of cleaning up so I could make twelve women feel welcome, I collected a ghastly assorted of notebooks, pieces of paper, mail that wasn’t immediately important, books, to-do lists…
I set them down on the floor of my office (since the tables were all -- blush, blush -- full). Then I closed the door and had a great party.
I booked another one. It was still benefitting the Choral Guild, after all.
This time--I don’t know where it all came from--there were more of all the above categories, plus a few new ones. Boxes of the mass market paperbacks of my books that came from World Wide Mystery (my m.m.p. publisher), more mail, some CDs, chargers for various electronic devices, plant lists, old beekeeper magazines.
Upstairs to my office. Put them on the floor next to the last stack.
After a while it was easier just to treat that room like a storage shed.
It’s a dump. Once the jewelry shows were finished, I moved my computer down to the dining room. After all, this is where the bay window is, so I can work looking out at the woods behind the house.
I know there are probably some very important pieces of paper under those stacks. I’m sure of it. Can I find them, though? Nope. Might as well just pack everything in a few sturdy boxes and put them in the recycling bin.
Actually, my office is not a dump. The upstairs storage shed is a dump. My office, here with the birds flitting through the trees outside the bay window, is sheer heaven.
BEEattitude for Day #554:
       Blessed are those who make the most of the situation they’re in, for they shall find nectar there somewhere.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.