Monthly Archives: September 2018

Confessions of a Mystery Writer

Did you read mysteries as a child? Saturdays often found me at the library, lost in Nancy Drew’s dangerous world.

I shared one bathroom with six others, but Nancy introduced me to the exotic world of an only child.

Nancy’s father rewarded her for solving mysteries with lots of money. Five dollars, even. My dad made me hoe the garden and gave me a daily quarter for school lunch.

Cool stuff happened to beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed Nancy. Nothing cool happened to geeky, brown-eyed, brown-haired Rachael.

Besides, Nancy wasn’t afraid of anything.

Conversely, my parents nicknamed me “Chicken Little.” The sky fell daily and hit me on the head. Which explains a lot of things. …

When a newspaper reported a huge monster loose in Detroit one summer, I locked all our windows, broiling my family like Fourth-of-July hamburgers.

My parents tried to monitor my reading material and television, including “The Twilight Zone” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” My teenage secret: Oz’s Wicked Witch still sent shivers up my spine.

Now, when creepy movie music slithers into the family room, I barricade myself with sofa pillows. I’ve spent far more time under theater seats than in them.

I read and write mysteries during broad daylight or when Hubby’s home. Otherwise, I lie awake, counting nighttime noises traceable to chain saw and ax murderers, respectively.

How can I read — let alone, write — mysteries?

Detectives intrigue me, especially Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, who matches sharp old wits against naïve criminals who underestimate her. Other favorites: Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and TV’s Adrian Monk. I celebrate Sherlock Holmes’ strange genius.

I love piecing together mysteries like jigsaw puzzles, to be solved by strong, funny women who eat pie without gaining an ounce.

However, I prefer that muggers attack imaginary people in dark alleys and that murderers enter elevators elsewhere, not in my hotel.

Research alone rattles me. Once I hiked through a for-real, p-p-pirate cave alone. Gulp.

After investigating weapons online, I receive pop-ups with way too much (shudder) information. My Internet history probably has put me on a CIA list.

Fine. They can find me hoeing my garden.

Mystery writers’ spouses also face unique challenges. Once, at a local restaurant, I asked my physician husband about intentional drug overdoses.

“Keep your voice down,” he hissed. “I don’t do that!”

Hey, living with him isn’t easy, either.

However, as I consider how to kill my latest victim, I wish Hubby wasn’t gone. That it wasn’t nighttime, with sinister shadows lurking outside.

I’m not Nancy Drew.

And they never did track down that monster in Detroit. …

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who’s your favorite mystery writer?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: He’s 65, Too

O my God, You know this guy gave me a hard time when I reached 20 before he did. Then 30. Then 40. Then 50. Then … etc. You know he rubbed it in when my being carded took on a whole new meaning. OMG, thank You that he, too, has now joined the Medicare Club!

 

Waking Up

If you’re reading this, you woke up today.

If you’re reading this, but didn’t wake up, please contact me immediately. I’d like to ghostwrite your best seller.

Waking up has changed since our childhood years. Do you remember when you and Teddy jumped on your parents’ bed to help them celebrate morning?

Later, Mom wreaked vengeance by dragging us out of bed for school, scrubbing our ears and necks before we escaped her clutches.

People have been awakening us ever since.

At college, I assumed I would decree my wake-up time. My dorm, however, housed 500 girls, all armed with high-voltage stereos and supersonic hairdryers. Exercise classes met outside my room — at 1 a.m.

Those years prepared me for apartment life.

“Someday, I’ll own my own house,” I said. “No more party animals. No more percussion teachers upstairs.”

My husband and I did buy a house — and filled it with babies, aka, screaming meanies allergic to sleep. Especially ours.

Not content with that, Hubby delivered babies — and took care of sick people. I frequently awoke to discussions of blood sugar readings and stool reports. And advice on how to kick insomnia.

Occasionally, I slept through his wee-hour departures. His returns? Not so much. Most sleepers might awaken if a shadowy guy joined them in bed at 2 a.m. — particularly if his body temperature equaled an arctic seal’s. If he was tall, thin, and bearded, though, I turned over and dozed off. If short, fat, and/or clean-shaven — Houston, we had a problem.

While Hubby cannot claim my levels of martyrdom, he occasionally lets me awaken him for less compelling reasons, e.g., suspicious sounds in the laundry room at 4:30 a.m. I demanded he defend our dirty socks with his life.

One night, in a hotel room, I awoke, convinced Communists were monitoring us through the sprinkling system.

He also insists my snoring awakens him, but he’s upping my stats so his don’t look bad.

My brother has long been the family mischief maker.

However, neither of us will ever achieve my brother’s dastardly wake-up call. During a solo visit, he had buttered me up with a wonderful meal, fascinating tales of his Middle Eastern service, and (!) chocolates. Such behavior should have roused deepest suspicions. Instead, I thought he finally had grown up.

That night, I savored dreamless sleep — until the enormous clock in my room lit up like a carnival ride. An Arab voice belted out a call to prayer that probably awakened Atlanta.

I thought Judgment Day had arrived.

Eventually, I realized it had not yet come for me. But Judgment Day came for him.

Little Brother, if you’re reading this, my offer to ghostwrite your best seller still stands.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What is your least favorite way to wake up?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Yaaay, Mrs. Noah!

OMG, I’m done with torrential downpours and drizzly days! But You helped Mrs. Noah survive 40 days and nights of rain — plus cleaning up after a gazillion animals! Like her, I should believe Your rainbow promises. Though later, when their anniversary rolled around, I bet she and Noah didn’t take a cruise.

Summer Campus Cycling Queen Abdicates

Recently, I made the mistake of riding my bike on a nearby college campus, as I had all summer. I ruled the empty sidewalks during July and August, zooming between buildings, rocketing out of parking lots.

Once I surprised a faculty member who fled for his life, open briefcase snowing hundreds of papers on the ground. There also was that time I barged into a band camp, when my bike took out an entire row of tubas.

For the most part, though, no one challenged my reign as Queen of the Bike Routes. Even football camp guys, forever headed for the dining hall, knew better than to dispute my supremacy.

However, as of the beginning of the school year, I have decided to abdicate. Biking to a writers’ meeting on campus, I encountered swarms of young pedestrians who, just because they paid tuition, thought they deserved to use the sidewalks. Some clumped into bunchy obstacles. Others joined in two-way snaky lines that condemned me to following them at three miles per hour — or shaking my liver loose by riding alongside them on the grass. Couples — chained together by a love so strong, even a bulldozer couldn’t separate them — meandered directly in front of me.

As I rode, I ran nonstop evaluations as to whether approaching walkers were in their right minds. Were they tethered to iPods, glued to cell phones or tapping texts to aliens several solar systems away? Such mindsets (or the lack thereof, due to the absence of brain waves) threaten the safety of cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Frisbee golfers comprise a different threat. Deep inside, I cannot condemn these young whippersnappers who, snapping their arms, whip Frisbees so close they trim my nose hairs. My son, studying at a different college, was a member of that club. But when fleets of Frisbees, like the fighters in Star Wars movies, chase an old lady biking to her writing meeting, I say, “Enough is enough.”

Having resigned my position as Queen of the Campus Bike Routes, I have resorted to walking. Now moving at the speed of life instead of lightning, I hear words I didn’t while glorying in my cycling omnipotence: “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” and plenty of smile-filled “Hi!”s. They remind me that the college pedestrians in our area rank among the most courteous in the world.

It’s the wild, crazy cyclists who worry me.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary:  Have you lived on/near a college campus? What changes did September bring?