No Complaints

Here’s how ROW80 has gone since Sunday:

  • Monday: Late entrance into ROW80; post took two days to complete; goals set, not attempted.
  • Tuesday: Type type type type type type type type type type…316 words.
  • Wednesday: Type type type type type type type type type type…323 words.
  • Thursday: Type…type…44 words; one word was XXX.
  • Friday: Type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type type…551 words.
  • Saturday…Type…Play Poppit…type…Check email…type…type…Check Facebook…type…type…type…Play Poppit…Play Poppit…type…type…type…Check email…Check Facebook…Check email…Play Poppit…Check Glassboard…Play Poppit…type…, and so on…505 words.
  • Total: 1739 words / 5 days = 347.8 words per day

That’s not exactly what I set out to do–an average of 347.8 words per day isn’t the same as minimum of 300 words a day–but I’m not complaining. Having put in the promised five days and produced the promised 1500 words, I owe myself no more words until Tuesday.

Tomorrow, however, I owe Travis County an afternoon of jury duty. This is my third summons in four years. I don’t complain about that, either, though the summonses are beginning to seem redundant.

I do complain about being called down to the courthouse, where there is practically no parking, on a blazing summer day, when walking to the bus stop would turn me into an ambulatory puddle of sweat.

The first time, I took a taxi. The second time, David was on holiday and drove me. Tomorrow, he’s going to pick me up and drive me downtown on his lunch hour. He’s very kind and is also probably tired of hearing how standing outside waiting for a taxi–I don’t trust the cabbies to negotiate a certain turn–renders me a stationary puddle.

Anything more on this topic is premature. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll gather material for future posts or future fiction. But my goal is to end the day with nothing more remarkable than the weather to write about. I’ve served on juries before. Deciding the dispensation of other people’s lives and treasure, though a civic responsibility, is not something I relish.


To see what other ROW80 writers have to say, click here.

Never Put Off Until Tomorrow What You Can Put Off Till Next Week

Today I’m reblogging a free-writing Fancy Fairchild wrote last month during a meeting of the writing practice group 15 Minutes of Fame. I’m especially fond of this piece, not just because it’s humorous and well written, but because I learned from it that I’m not the only one whose couch is backed by stacks of paper impersonating an end table.

15 Minutes of Fame

by Fancy Fairchild
June 15, 2013

I’m raising procrastination to a high art. Example: I am supposed to turn in my mileage documentation by the fifth of the month—it is now June 15 and it’s still in the folder, line upon line (64 or so) and I haven’t calculated the mileage on Bing yet.

Last night when I got on the computer to do it, I started playing solitaire. I finally won on the sixth try—then looked up other free games, looked up Bradley Manning and NSA articles on World Can’t Wait, tried to watch a youtube video, and browsed political and other blogs until I was exhausted and went to bed.

I finally threw away my book about overcoming procrastination.  The program in the book required too much perseverance. Besides, it didn’t fit on the shelf crammed with books about being organized; “How to Get Things Done,” “Organizing for…

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Mama and the Ground Glass Resurface

English: This is Alpine, Texas with the six-th...
This is Alpine, Texas with the six-thousand foot plus Ranger, Twin Sisters, & Paisano Peaks in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Monday’s post, I announced my goals for Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80):

    • To write 300 words a day, five days a week; and
    • Not to haul myself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to write the 300 words.

So far, the latter goal has been easier to accomplish than the former. Nonetheless, I made my 300-word minimum and then some both Tuesday and today.

I’m working on a short story that began as a ten-minute timed writing at the Writers’ League of Texas Summer Writing Retreat at Sul Ross State University in Alpine a couple of years ago. I spent the week in Karleen Koen’s class, Writing the Novel: The Basics. That was probably the most productive week I’ve ever had. Karleen told us she couldn’t teach us to write, but she could teach us to play. And she did. She’s teaching the class at this summer’s retreat later in July. She also teaches for Rice University’s Continuing Education Department in Houston. Anyone who has the opportunity to take one of her classes should do so. Lots of writing, lots of fun.

The timed writing that I hope becomes a full-fledged story begins, The day I found Mama stirring ground glass into the eggs she was about to scramble, I took the eggs away from her and called a family conference. When I started, I had no idea where it was going. Back at home, I added to it and showed it to my critique group. They said I should work it into a novel. I still didn’t know where it was going. Or where I could make it go. But it didn’t seem like novel material, at least in my hands. Last summer, I tried to turn it into a ghost story but kept running into obstacles, the chief of which was that the plot was forced and downright silly. Now, a year later, an invitation to write a different kind of story has come along. Once again I dragged out Mama and the ground glass. And this time I think I can pull it off. It’s not over till it’s over, of course, but I’m optimistic.

It takes time to get some things right.


To see what other members of ROW80 are writing, click here.

1st Line: The Private Patient

English: 149 Harley Street
149 Harley Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Philip Halling [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“On November the twenty-first, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went to Harley Street to keep a first appointment with her plastic surgeon, and there in a consulting room designed, so it appeared, to inspire confidence and allay apprehension, made the decision which would lead inexorably to her death.” ~ P. D. James, The Private Patient

Mystery Novelist Janice Hamrick & Death Rides Again

The day Eddy Cranny got himself murdered started bad and went downhill from there . . . especially for Eddy. ~ Janice Hamrick, Death Rides Again

Janice Hamrick
Janice Hamrick

When I reached the second floor of BookPeople for the June 19th launch of Death Rides Again, Janice Hamrick’s latest mystery novel, my day turned around and started uphill at a gallop.

Janice, who lives in Austin, made news in the writing–and reading–communities when the manuscript of her first book, Death on Tour, won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Published in 2011, the novel was nominated for the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award.

Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival
Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival

In 2012, Janice followed Death on Tour with Death Makes the Cut. Now she presents the third in the Jocelyn Shore series, Death Rides Again.

Critics have been complimentary. So have readers. From her tour of Egypt, to the high school where she teaches, to a family reunion at her Uncle Kel’s ranch, main character Jocelyn Shore has a talent for solving murders and gathering fans as she goes.

DeathRidesAgainCoverWebAt the book launch, Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator of MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, interviewed Janice before an audience of mystery lovers. This was the second time I’ve seen the two together: at last fall’s Texas Book Festival, Janice appeared on a panel Scott moderated. The subject was using humor in mysteries, something Janice does well. (See quotation from book, above.)

I took copious notes, as I always do on such occasions. The conversation ranged far and wide, however, and my notes comprise two pages of scrawl, on the diagonal, a series of jottings devoid of connective tissue. Turning them into paragraphs would take several hours and considerable energy (for reason, see “Why I Am Not a Journalist”), so I’ll share a few bullets:

  • Janice got the idea for Death on Tour from a trip she made to Egypt (during which no one was murdered). The idea for Death Rides Again came from a setting–her family’s ranch near Brady.
  • Some reviewers class the Jocelyn Shore novels as cozy mysteries; others don’t. Janice is glad the books aren’t easily categorized. She describes them as funny but hopes they have more depth than the typical cozy.
  • Asked what she learned while writing the series, she said that between Death on Tour and Death Makes the Cut, she learned, “I can do it.”
  • She’s working on another book–not a Jocelyn Shore–but she doesn’t talk about that one yet.
  • Janice rises about 5:00 a.m. and writes before going to work. She sets out to write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week. On a bad day, she says, she can produce 300 words and feel okay. On a good day, she can “blast right through” her goal.

DeathMakesTheCut_cover_webNow this is where things get personal. I began this post by saying my day went uphill because I attended the book launch.

Goals have never been my friends. Most people find them energizing. To me, setting goals is stimulus for digging in my heels, heading off at a 45-degree angle from the rest of the group. When my CP, who likes goals and thinks I should like them too, makes me set some for the coming week, I growl, scribble in my notebook–almost, but not quite, singing Nyah nyah nyah to myself–and then ignore them.

But Janice’s description of her 300-word goal–low enough to attain and feel good about, low enough to sometimes blast right through–spoke to me. Her system is so logical, so sensible, so humane. Sitting there in that folding chair, I heard the little light bulb above my head click on, and I said to myself, Well, d’oh.

So, on that basis, I’ve decided to jump into Round 3 of  A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, with the following goal:

  • I will write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week;

and this stipulation:

  • I will not rise at 5:00 a.m. to get the job done.

Now back to the book launch:


The question on the mind of nearly everyone in the audience was, What happens next?

When you’ve spent quality time with a character like Jocelyn, gotten to know her and her family, watched her fall in–and maybe out–of love, deal with matters of life and death, turn shaky post-divorce self-esteem to strong self-confidence–you don’t want the relationship to end. Three books, the number Janice contracted to write, aren’t enough.

So what might influence Janice’s publisher to ask for a fourth Jocelyn Shore novel?

Here’s Janice’s answer: Buy the book! 


You can follow Janice’s blog at

The Jocelyn Store mysteries are available from booksellers listed on Janice’s website.

On Saturday, July 20, Janice and Hopeton Haye, host of KAZI Book Review, will appear at the Pflugerville Library for an interactive discussion about the Jocelyn Shore series, mysteries, and writing. On Saturday, August 31, she will sign copies of her books at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble.


For more information about A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) click here.

To read what other ROW80 participants are writing, click here.