Lunch with a Side of Drama

This week I've been in traffic with demented drivers, I've been jostled and crowded while shopping, and I've had lunch with a side of drama.

At this time of year I prefer to do online shopping. It's so much easier to let the delivery guys do the leg work, but against my better judgement, I slung my purse over my shoulder and braved the holiday masses.

Tired and hungry, by lunch time I made my way to a favorite sandwich deli. Lunching at the table next me were two young women. I couldn't help but overhear their conversation. What they had to say must have been open to the public because they made no effort to lower their voices.

One of the ladies worked in gift wrapping at a large mall department store. Her companion was also an employee of the same store. Gift wrapper girl gave sales clerk girl a play by play account of the trouble of the day. First of all, the gift wrap department ran out of paper. Imagine. What a problem to be solved.

Someone with authority saved the day by going to the local big box store and buying a supply of wrapping paper. One would think the issue would be settled, but, no, it wasn't that simple. Seems the new paper was not the same as the old paper, so it did not meet the standards of the picky customers. There were complaints about color and quality. The situation was quite unbearable behind the gift wrapping counter.

If that wasn't enough to curl your ribbon, the boss "knew" something. Whatever this something was, it couldn't be spoken aloud at the lunch table. Gift wrap girl knew he knew, and she thinks boss guy knows that she knows. From the raised eyebrows, I think someone must have done something illegal or immoral, or perhaps both. I'll tune in to the six o'clock news tonight and see if I recognize anyone.

I dawdled over my lunch to be sure I didn't miss anything. The canned music was interfering with my ability to make out every word, but gift wrap girl seemed to be speaking with as much volume as she could muster. As they finished up and walked out, I could see through the window that the wrapper's lips were still moving. I don't read lips, so your guess is as good as mine as to what she was saying.

Arriving at home, I brought my packages into the house. I had bought gifts, and they needed to be wrapped. I felt thankful that I had brought them home for wrapping instead of trying to have them wrapped at the store.

I might be able to outwit demented drivers and manage not to be knocked down by stampeding shoppers, but I'm no match for the drama of the gift wrapping department.



The Whole Truth

A recent conversation with an acquaintance about my writing led to the question of when I find time to write. My quick answer to her was that I do most of my writing in the solitude of the late evening when the house is quiet. Later, I thought about my words and realized they weren't entirely true.

It is true that I put most of my words on paper in the night-time hours, but I think about my compositions around the clock. Most of the creating happens while I'm engaged in another activity. I might be baking, or cleaning, or waiting in the after school pick-up car line. Sometimes the overheard words of a stranger beg to be written about. Their comments may take my imagination on a ride that lasts for days before the thoughts become text. A character might take up residence in a tiny corner of my head and stay a while before his story finds its way to the written page.

Instead of telling the partial truth by saying that I write in the evenings, I should have stated fact and said that I write every day, all the time, nonstop. What I do in the evenings is to sit down and organize the thoughts of the day onto the page. 

The whole truth is, if I'm breathing, I'm writing.



Pick a Color

Coloring books for adults are an item I've been seeing more frequently on shelves when I browse the book isles. They're a fun, creative way to relieve the stress of being a grown-up. A coloring book takes us back to a quieter time in our lives when we knew nothing of mortgages, contracts, orthodontist bills, or being a parent. These coloring books have evolved beyond the cartoon characters we once decorated with wax crayons. These are sophisticated and are filled with detailed mosaics or art.

I have one of these grown-up coloring books, and it was created by one of my own. Tiffany Stafford, my DIL, is a talented artist and illustrator. She has created The Bad Habit coloring book inspired by the Agent Pendergast series authored by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

If you are a Lincoln and Child fan, you will delight in seeing the Pendergast characters and scenes through Tiffany's eyes. This is a collection of unique art, coloring is optional. You can find her book here, and you can learn more about Tiffany's latest projects by following her at Deranged Divine Custom Art.


Gravy Stories

I finished a final round of edits last week on a new children's book manuscript. A couple of trusted fellow writers have read and approved the story, so I am hopeful it will be well received.

After concentrating on the book for some time now, I decided to take a break and write some short stories. Over the the past few days I have written several humor articles. I know you aren't supposed to laugh at your own jokes, but writing those articles makes me laugh. I think I find it enjoyable because most of it is based on personal experiences.

I also enjoy cooking. I need to post some new recipes to my blog Sugar Spice and Spilled Milk, but it seems like the only thing I've made lately has been gravy. White gravy, brown gravy, gravy over mashed potatoes, gravy over eggs, gravy over biscuits. Gravy at every meal. No one wants to read a post on fifty ways to use gravy. I'll have to cook something else.

I wonder if there is any way to tie humor and cooking together. Maybe a cookbook that has a funny short story to go with every recipe would encourage people to enjoy cooking more. I don't know any gravy stories, though. I'd better stick to writing children's books.



Give Me a Series

You probably know the sadness of reading the last line of a page-turning book. It's a let down for me to know the story has ended. Sometimes I stay up, engrossed, reading late into the night to finish a book, only to be mad at myself the next day because I finished it so quickly. A good book should be savored and digested, but I often devour one in a single gulp.

I don't want to discard the characters from my mind. The characters might have become my friends, or even my enemies, but I don't want to part with their existence. Oftentimes, a great deal of emotion has been invested in those friend/enemy characters in a book, and turning that last page can make me feel deflated.

That's why I love a good series writer. One book may be finished, but somewhere down the road there will be more. I may still feel a tinge of regret when I come to the end of a book, but at least I know the story will go on in the next volume.

Maybe a series could also satisfy the need for having a collection. I've never had any interest in baseball cards, and collecting something like cars is out of my price range, so books are probably a good alternative. A book series looks beautiful to me all lined up in order on a bookshelf, especially signed copies, but I suppose getting signed copies is an entirely different fascination.

There are many wonderful series for both kids and adults. I enjoy Lemony Snicket and Greg Iles, just to name a couple. I'd love to hear some of your favorites. I hope the series writers keep turning out the books, and I'll be sure to stop by to get my copies signed.




Most of us have a number of "firsts" tucked away somewhere within our remembrances. Among those might be first day of school, first date, first kiss, first roller coaster ride, and other firsts, both good and bad.

One first that stands out among all the others for me is the first book I loved. The House That Jack Built was my first. I'm not sure of my age, but it was sometime before I was old enough to stand by the gravel road and catch the school bus to that faraway land called school.

I loved the repetition, I loved the rhyming, and I loved the illustrations. I grew up on a dairy farm, but I remember being baffled and concerned about the "cow with the crumpled horn." Our gentle cows had no horns, much less a horn that was all crumpled. I couldn't read at that point, but I learned to recite the book, and I believe if asked, I might be able to do it even today.

I no longer have the old book I loved so much. I don't know what became of it. Two younger siblings came along after me, so it probably simply gave out and went to book heaven.

I wish every child could be fortunate enough to love a book so much he would remember it years down the road. I hope you'll read a book to a youngster today. It might turn out to be his "first."