Since it appeared, the Writers have been difficult to live with. We’ll get over it, but only after a decent interval of frolicking.
The cover copy reads–
“The eleven stories in MURDER ON WHEELS put the pedal to the floor and never let up! Whether by bus, car, tractor, or bike, you’ll be carried along at a breakneck pace by the talented Austin Mystery Writers. These eight authors transport you from an eighteenth-century sailing ship to the open roads of modern Texas, from Alice’s Wonderland to a schoolbus yard in the suburbs of Dallas.”
For a sample of what’s between the covers, see below.
INTRODUCTION, by Kaye George
A NICE SET OF WHEELS, by Kathy Waller
FAMILY BUSINESS, by Reavis Wortham
ROTA FORTUNA, by Valerie Chandler
MOME RATH, MY SWEET, by Gale Albright
THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO ROUND AND ROUND, by Kaye George
BUON VIAGGIO, by Laura Oles
APORKALYPSE NOW, by Gale Albright
HAVE A NICE TRIP, by Kaye George
DEAD MAN ON A SCHOOL BUS, by Earl Staggs
HELL ON WHEELS, by Kathy Waller
RED’S WHITE F-150 BLUES, by Scott Montgomery
Reavis Wortham and Earl Staggs aren’t Austin Mystery Writers–they’re Texas authors who kindly contributed stories to the anthology. We’re pleased they joined us.
Kaye George, a former member, now lives in Tennessee, but she hasn’t managed to escape the AMW. Before she left, we named her Grand Pooh-Bah Emerita. Now we email every day. (See Kaye’s certificate, here.)
When Austin Mystery Writers was formed twelve years, members had no intention of publishing anything together. They (and we) simply wanted to improve their writing.
The idea for MURDER ON WHEELS came from banter via email late one night.
In the midst of our silliness, we began naming as many vehicles as we could think of. Then we switched to using them in titles for mystery novels:
Crime in a Convertible; Victim on a Velocipede; Garrotted in a Gas Guzzler; Whopped in a Wheelbarrow, Bumped Off in a Barouche-Landau…
Then Kaye said, “Let’s put together an anthology.”
In the previous post, I announced my intention to get up, go to BookPeople, write for an hour on a project of not-email and not-post (because Ramona DeFelice Long told me to), and get off the laptop by 7:00 p.m.
Here’s how the day went.
At 8:00 a.m., I discovered Ernest experiencing grave digestive problems reminiscent of previous problems caused by eating string. No matter how careful we are, he’s always able to find string.
After practicing every sneaky tactic I know to wrestle him into the carrier, I hauled him to the vet, wrote a check, hauled him home, and spent the next twenty-four hours stalking him up hill and down dale, from litterbox to litterbox, to get an accurate picture of his post-doc activity.
If there wasn’t any, I would have to take him back to the vet today for reconsideration of the diagnosis of UTI to ingestion of string.
In addition to the X-ray, the veterinarian gave him a long-lasting injection of antibiotic so we wouldn’t have to catch him and fight over pills or liquid for a week. I could have chosen to start treatment without the X-ray and see what happened but wasn’t sure I could get him back into the carrier if the antibiotic didn’t work. Some things are not worth the effort.
Because we have two cats and two litterboxes, and because I knew isolation wouldn’t be possible, at least if I valued our doors, I sat up all night watching him. He slept. All night. Didn’t go near a litterbox. I played Bookworm.
David rose at 7:00 a.m. We changed shifts. I went upstairs for four hours of sleep. David stalked.
I woke at 11:00 to the news that Ernest had performed admirably. David had kept samples. I said I didn’t need to see them.
Ernest is in fine fettle. At present he’s lying on my arm, making biscuits where I wish he were not. I will tolerate this until the first claw penetrates my clothing and punctures my flesh. He means well.
In fact, he forgave and forgot as soon as we returned from the veterinary clinic. He swished around as if I had never betrayed him, sat in my lap, pinned down my left arm while I typed, lay on the footstool, gazed at me lovingly.
I’m grateful he doesn’t hold a grudge. In the fight for proper medical attention I nearly dislocated his shoulder. I’m trying to forgive and forget that my back and my right arm will once again have to be put right by the massage therapist. The carrier alone is heavy, and with Ernest inside it gains seventeen pounds.
Concerning the writing life: I did not go to BookPeople; I did not write for an hour; I did not eat breakfast or lunch until nearly 3:00 p.m. I did not do anything except be nurse and mama to a big, hulking guy tabby cat.
But hey–I got another blog post out of it.
The craziest thing is that it’s almost the same post I wrote two or three years ago, about the day I was
determined to write write write but instead spent the day lying on the floor in William’s bedroom, trying to coax an ailing Ernest out from under the bed and to the doctor.
Now the question: Do these things happen because I’m crazy, or am I crazy because these things happen?
What is the moral? (Must be a moral.)
Change in the Davis-Waller house doesn’t seem likely, at least while Ernest and I live here. Might as well accept that and go on.
I should never never never publicize my intention of writing writing writing.
Writing writing writing equals change. See first moral, above.
And failing to follow through is embarrassing. Especially reporting the failure, as is only fair. Readers deserve to know.
When this post is safely online, I shall throw things into a bag and head south to retreat with Austin Mystery Writers. I will have a cabin and a river and some pecan trees. I will not have Internet connection or decent TV reception. Phones will work only outside.
And for the next two days, I promise to sit in a porch swing and Write. Write. Write.
If paragraphs in this post are incorrectly spaced, please pretend they’re not. Today’s format is like Ernest–not under my control. It’s just one more miracle of modern technology.
The computer is a Kathy magnet. It wasn’t so bad until 2008, when I replaced a forty-hour work week with a laptop and my husband installed wi-fi. The Internet brings so many fine blogs and other attractions into my living room, where I sit with my feet up and examine them all; email can take up an entire day, if I leave it open while working.
Doubters would say that what I do isn’t working. I disagree. Negotiating the web is fatiguing. Commenting draws a lot of energy. I don’t want to write something that will be misunderstood; I don’t want to leave typos or incorrect punctuation; I don’t want to sound stupid.
Example: The previous sentence initially read, I want to sound stupid. It’s easy to mess up online.
Political posts on Facebook leave me just wo-ahn out. There’s the writing, of course, which is draining, but there’s also the emotion. Righteous indignation requires energy. Restraint requires more. After exercising restraint for several months, I stopped logging on. But there are friends and acquaintances–no, they’re not all friends–I want, and need, to keep up with. I like knowing how my great-niece’s first year of school is going. I like knowing that in the doctor’s waiting room when she was four, she suddenly came out with, “DOOOOOOOOOMED. We’re all DOOOOOOOOOMED.” Her fourteen-year-old brother wasn’t impressed, but I was. Her pronouncements remind me we’re not all doooooooomed.
Anyway, I logged onto FB today, discovered a post about a remark a sexist pig made on a pseudo news program, and was moved to share the post and a rousing Jeremiad of my own.
I didn’t address my remark to the sexist pig, nor did I call him one. I saved the phrase for this post. I merely suggested that his comments reinforce the ignorance and the bigotry of listeners who agree with him. Plus a couple of other salient thoughts.
Then I copied my remarks and pasted them into a Word document for future publication somewhere, perhaps here. They were scathing, simply scathing, but reasoned and polite, and they deserve a wider audience.
Another example: I’m getting all het up here just recalling the incident. Molecules of emotion surge through my body. I am giving the sexist pig power over me. That isn’t good.
Yesterday I heard a segment of a call-in program on NPR about the downside of computer technology on the culture. I’ve seen one of the effects on medicine already. When my former doctor’s practice installed computers in examining rooms, he stopped looking at me and started looking at the screen. So, to a lesser degree, did a specialist I consulted. They were excellent clinicians, and the latter possibly saved my life by doing surgery that only she and I thought I needed.*
But there’s information to be drawn from faces as well as from words, on both sides of a conversation. Eyes transmit confidence and sympathy and a number of other messages. With the Party of the First Part looking at the side of the Party of the Second Part’s Head (or, as once happened, the back of his white coat), and the Party of the Second Part looking at a screen and typing away, I wonder whether the two Parties make sufficient connection.
The internist I see now has no computer in the examining room. He taps here and there on a Palm Pilot (or something; it has a light on it for closer examination of funny-shaped moles, plus, it appears, an entire pharmacopoeia; I hope it’s not an iPhone). But he sits near me and looks me in the eye, and I reciprocate, and we get along very well.
He also asks at every visit how the writing is going, thus allowing me to infer he remembers something about me that isn’t in the file. It probably is in the file, maybe scrawled inside the cover of the folder, but as long as I haven’t seen it, it isn’t.
One day I’ll walk in and find myself looking at a 17-inch flat screen. It’s inevitable, and, all things considered, it’s a good thing. But when the time comes, I shall tell the doctor how to conduct himself while interviewing patients, just in case he doesn’t know. I’m old enough to be his mother and I taught high school English, so I’m not only entitled, I’m an expert.
But enough of doctors.
I’ve been thinking for months–years?–about the power I give technology over my life: I don’t move as much as I used to, or get out of the house as I should. I don’t read as much as I did–I read much less, in fact, and this is the first time I’ve been able to make that claim.
I don’t write with a pen and paper as often as I used to. I’ve always enjoyed putting words onto paper with a good pen, not an expensive one, but a pen that fits my hand.
And although he hasn’t said anything, my POSSLQ** might be as tired of seeing me staring at a screen as I am of seeing the doctor do the same.
So. I’ve decided to pull the plug nightly by 7:00 p.m., and to work backward towards 5:00 p.m.
To do so, I’ll have to write everything I want to write during the day. For a nocturnal animal whose brain
starts functioning about 9:00 p.m., the change won’t be easy. But it’s the right thing to do.
In my new spare time, I will read books and write in my journal with the pen of my choice. POSSLQ will follow his tradition of reading every word in the newspaper and in several magazines. We might converse.
I will go to bed at a decent hour and wake at a decent hour, in time to get a table and an electrical outlet at the BookPeople coffee shop, and there I will write–write meaning to write stories and novels for at least one hour every day. I will do it because I promised author and editor Ramona DeFelice Long that I will.
Giving away your power isn’t a bad thing as long as you know the person who receives it has good motives.
Note that I write I will, a construction implying determination, resolution, perseverance.
If I absolutely can’t help myself, I’ll toss off a blog post now and then. But only outside that sacred hour.
It hasn’t escaped me that the BookPeople part involves using a laptop and wi-fi. I can’t write what I need to write without the laptop.
But as I would not be a Luddite, so neither would I be a Zombie. And I’ve had it on good authority that computer addiction leads right down the primrose path to Zombie-ism.
*The subsequent biopsy agreed with us. Thank you, Dr. Carla Ortique, who now practices in Houston. I wish you were here.
**1) Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. 2) An affectation. We’re married. 3) See in its entirety “My POSSLQ” by Charles Osgood. A darned good poem. Here’s the first paragraph:
“Come live with me and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands and crystal brooks
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
If you would be my POSSLQ.” . . .