Is it soup yet? Writing and eating a winning weekend combination


While I’ve been busy banging out the third book in my series, I haven’t paid much attention to anything else. I am actually starting to name the dust bunnies, that magically appear under the bed, in the corners of my room, the kitchen…I may have even seen one in the car (that reminds, must take car to car wash).

However, no matter how single-mindedly focused I am on finishing this dang book, I still have to eat. And since the weather in sunny California has gone from brain cell destruction hot to lovely fall weather I started hankering for soup.

Soup is good. Soup is fun. Soup is a meal in a pot. Plus you can eat it with one hand, while typing with the other. So between chapters I whipped up a giant pot of my Roast Beef Veggie Soup. Technically I used the crock pot because the oven is on the fritz but it came out great.

In case you’re hungry for soup, or just hungry, below is the recipe. I like to let it sit for 24 hours so that the flavors marry nicely, but last night I didn’t wait. It’s good no matter when you eat it.

Roast Beef Veggie Soup

1 – 3-5 lb roast (any type will do, although one with marbling, like chuck roast gives it more flavor)
1 – large bell pepper, chopped
1 – large yellow onion, chopped
3 – cloves of garlic minced
½ lb of sliced fresh mushrooms
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 2 tbsp dry)
3-4 sprigs fresh oregano (or 2 tbsp dry)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1- large can of tomato sauce (29 ounces)
4- cups of water
1- small can of tomato paste (5 ounces)
1- bottle of cheap red wine (Trader Joe’s “2 Buck Chuck” works great)
1 can of beef broth (16 ounces) or 4 bullion cubes in 2 cups of hot water, dissolved
1- 2 lb bag of mixed vegetables
2 lbs of chopped seasonal vegetables of your choice (no potatoes)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Remove roast from wrapper, rinse and pat dry. Tear fresh oregano into small pieces, pull leaves of rosemary from stems and put in small bowl with garlic, olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper, mix well. Use this mixture as a rub and rub into roast thoroughly. Place roast in shallow roasting pan, top with chopped pepper, onion, mushrooms and any remaining rub mixture. Pour ½ to 3/4 of the bottle of red wine over roast and vegetables. Seal with aluminum foil and place on center rack. Roast in slow oven for 4-6 hours until fork tender. Note: do not check roast frequently, if at all as it will dry the roast out if you do. Once the aroma of the roast beef has filled the kitchen, it’s probably ready. Check with fork, if it cuts easily, it is ready, if not, reseal and cook for another 45 minutes and continue until roast reaches fork tender stage. (Note: you can also do this step using a crock pot but you won’t get the same caramelization on the roast and veggies.)

Once roast is done, remove from oven and remove aluminum foil. Let roast sit for 15-20 minutes. With a fork, shred beef and allow drippings and marinade to be absorbed by meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove beef from refrigerator, and set aside. In a large stock pot combine the remaining red wine, tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef broth and water. Bring to a simmer. Slowly add in roast, including all drippings, and savory vegetables it was prepared with. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Add frozen vegetables to broth, stir well and bring to a simmer. Add fresh vegetables to broth and bring to a simmer, stirring well. Adjust seasonings to your preferences, if broth is too thick, add water or more red wine to your consistency preference. Cook soup on very low heat for 4-5 hours. Once soup is done, I suggest you let it sit for at least 45 minutes so that the flavors marry. Ideally, you should let the soup sit for 24 hours (in the refrigerator), for the most flavorful results.
This soup is very hearty and needs only a good crusty bread or crisp green salad to make it a meal. I promise it is the best beef vegetable soup you’ve ever had.

Writer Chick

copyright 2014

The Mystery of the flat tire in Sizzler’s parking lot

mystery of the flat tire

Haven’t talked to my BFF,  Zelda, for a few weeks. We’re both cray-cray because we’re trying to get stuff done. Me the book series, she her information product package.

Anyway, she was hungry, I was hungry – it seemed a trip to Sizzler was in order. The big draw being the all you can eat salad bar. Because, you know…All. You. Can. Eat. Big appeal to those of us on a budget, right?

I told her about my project. She told me about her project. We ate. Then we ate some more. And just for good measure, we ate some more.

Sizzler apparently closes at nine o’clock now. I guess people don’t get hungry after nine in our town. The server was nice. Eyes averted he asked us if we wanted more plate (for the all you can eat salad bar) but his voice said please don’t ask for more plates because my feet hurt and I want to go home and soak them. Also, behind him, other workers were breaking down the salad bar, turning off lights and whipping out industrial sized mops. Hint-hint.

On the way out I blamed Zelda for letting me eat too much. She told me to shut up.

So out we walk to the mostly empty parking lot. It was a gloriously cool evening and after the weeks of ball-breaking heat we’d been experiencing, I was feeling uber happy. At last, Fall had arrived.

“Oh my God,” Zelda said.

My head jerked left and right. “What?”

“I don’t f’ing believe it.”

Head bobbing up and down. “What? What? What?

Zelda bent over the left front fender. “The tire is flat.”

“Damn.” Still, I had to grin because whenever Zelda and I get together, it’s always something. We just have that kind of karma.

But not to worry, Zelda had a mini compressor in her trunk (Zelda has many magical things in her trunk – more about that later). Yes, they make those. Who knew? It’s cool, you hook it up to the car battery, it blows air in your tire and you’re off to the races.

Except, not so much. The compressor didn’t work. Zelda frowned. “Hmmmmm, it worked last month.”

Okay, Plan A definitely not working.

I called my room-mate. Voice mail. Hmmmmmm.

We flipped the switch on and off, played with the electrical lead. Begged. Pleaded. That compressor could not be sweet-talked.

Zelda decided to call Triple A. Okay Plan B. Auto Club. Sounds good.

She also had to use the rest room in the grocery store a few steps away.

Time passed.

I tried my room-mate again.

More time passed.

The homeless folks wielding shopping carts rattled by. And a guy in a weird truck drove circles in the lot.

More time passed.

I called my room-mate.

Apparently I was alone on the planet.

Then Zelda emerged from the grocery carrying buckets (don’t ask) – the phone stuck to her ear and rolling her eyes.

That was the second call to the auto club and apparently the driver was coming in 20 minutes, which technically is what they told her 20 minutes before.

We decided to get the spare out of the trunk, so the Triple A guy could change the tire faster. Not sure there was real logic there as much as it gave us something to do.

Now to get to the tire we needed to move some stuff. A lot of stuff. Water bottles, microwave mac’n cheese, ski poles, duffel bags, a tarp – like I said, Zelda has many magical things in her trunk. We emptied the contents into the backseat, which made her Lexus look more like Jed Clampett’s ride than an awesome luxury vehicle.

Just when all hope seemed lost, the drive rolled up. My pulse quickened, my eyes gleamed – I might get home by ten o’clock and catch a rerun on TV.

Driver was a nice guy – shaved head, I imagined with a wife and five kids. He looked that tired. He whips out his fancy jack, wheels it over, puts it in the right spot of the car and pumps. All good.

He fights a bit with the lug nuts but he wasn’t about to lose that battle and the lug nuts finally relented. Okay, we’re moving into the final leg of the journey.

He wiggles the wheel to get it loose. And then the car rolls back because he didn’t chock the back wheel.

Steam coming out of Zelda’s ear. Me grasping her arm so she won’t slug him.


The bad tire did manage to absorb some of the fall and the driver’s fancy jack helped some too. Except that now the jack was smooshed up. Need a new jack.

Driver shuffles to his truck to call the dispatcher.

Zelda mutters and takes pictures of her wheel base for proving damage. I smell a nasty letter in somebody’s future.

More time passes. Is it even still Friday?

Another driver shows up. He’s young, friendly, lots of energy. This could be better. Time is spent deliberating how to get the car up without bending the frame or something like that. Talk, huddling, mutters.

Somehow they (after they’d chocked the back tire) manage to raise up the car and get the spare tire on. Lugs nuts on.

Okay pulse quickening once again. Just a few more minutes and we’re on our way. Oh-oh, the spare is flat too.

The happy driver has an air compressor on board. Yay.

Tire inflates. Phew!

We wave, blow kisses, thank the drivers profusely. Just get me the hell home, I think.

The happy driver makes a sad face. “Wow,” he says, “good thing we got the air in that tire, my compressor just broke.”

I looked at Zelda, “Drive, damn it, just drive. Before something else happens.”

So I got home just before eleven. Zelda didn’t call so I assume she got home too.

Weird thing was, we couldn’t see any damage to the original tire. Just flat as a pancake. No obvious or apparent damage. Oh well, that’s a mystery for another day. True story.

So, how was your Friday night?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2014

Nine Things You Never Knew About Writers


Writers are interesting characters. Often depicted as staring off in the distance and absent-minded, unaware of their surroundings, actually writers are some of the sharpest knives in the drawer. But make no mistake we have our peculiarities. We do things that others might not readily understand. But there is a method to our madness – after all, we’re in the business of creating whole new universes, living breathing people, plotting crimes and pondering how to get away with murder. That takes a certain set of skills.

So, if you have a friend who’s a writer or a writer in the family, the following list may interest you.

1. A writer is always writing. No matter what you see a writer doing, she is writing. She could be playing computer games, appearing to goof off. Shopping for groceries. Dropping her kids off at school. Doesn’t matter, she’s writing. Often the best writing occurs away from the computer, the notepad, or laptop. And performing mindless or routine acts often help her to find solutions she needs for a story magically come to life.

2. A writer is taking notes. You could be sitting across from her in Starbucks and engaged in a great conversation about the latest gossip, gardening techniques or God forbid politics, but she’s taking notes. She’s remembering the smell of the place, the sounds of coffee cups, espresso machines, and hum of voices; she’s noticing the color of the walls and what people are wearing. She’s making a mental note that the guy in the pink running suit would be a perfect model for her over-cautious banker in the story she’s writing. She’s listening to how you speak, your word choices, even your voice inflection and noting it down.

3. It’s a big deal to her when a writer finishes something. A story, a chapter, an outline, a whole book. She comes out of her writing space and announces that she’s just finished the first draft of her novel. A pat on the head doesn’t cut it. A high five or ‘You go girl!’ is much better. Though she works in silence and often behind closed doors, she needs praise for reaching her goals. Just like you need praise when you tell the story about slam-dunking your presentation at the office.

4. Everything is a story or a potential story to a writer. You may go to the grocery store and come home and think nothing about it. A writer goes to the grocery store and sees the subtle politics between the cashiers and bag boys. She notices what other people have in their carts and imagines possible menus from what she see. She listens in on the retired couple arguing about fat content and cholesterol. A smell, a sight, a sound can all become stories from a writer’s point of view.

5. A writer talks to her characters. Not like people talk to the little voices in their heads. Well, maybe a little bit like that. But a writer creates a character with the goal of creating a living, breathing person. Sometimes she needs to consult with the characters, read their dialogue out loud – heck even argue about how it’s the wrong point in the story for them to jump off the bridge. It’s not a mental affliction, just the process. She’s okay, really. No need to knock on the office door. She may also talk to herself but it’s pretty much the same, leave her be.

6. A writer always has more than one idea. A writer has a head jam-packed full of ideas and everywhere she turns, more ideas come to her. It’s how her mind works. This is good to know if you ask a writer for an idea about something. Be prepared, she won’t give you one idea, she’ll give you thirty.

7. If a writer is doing something weird it’s for her story. A writer deals in words, she envisions her character doing something but she can’t quite figure out how to describe it. Or perhaps she hasn’t experienced this thing – so she’ll act it out. The other night I was trying to figure out if my character could manage to get to her feet from a sitting position, if her legs were wrapped in duct tape from ankles to knees. There was only one way to figure it out. Turns out she couldn’t.

8. A writer likes being alone and likes her own company. This is not an anti-social thing. Some writers are gregarious, some are shy. But all writers are comfortable in their own skin and rarely bemoan time alone. In fact, it’s often the best time to write. To think. To create. If she wants to be alone she isn’t rejecting you, she just wants to write, or plot or do research. She’ll come find you when she’s done.

9. Writers write for you. Yes, that’s correct. Writers write to please you, to entertain you, to make you laugh, make you cry, inspire you, help you, provide an adventure. She is nothing without you except a somewhat anal individual with too much love for words.

This list of course, is by no means complete but the above may give you some insight into your writer friends. As always, feel free to add to the list in the comments below.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2014

The Love and Hate of Writing a New Series – Guest Post by C. Hope Clark

Murder on Edisto

C. Hope Clark is guest-posting today and sharing some great advice about writing a book series. I certainly have an interest in the topic myself and I hope it will give you some insights into your own projects. And by the way, it’s Hope’s birthday today.  Happy birthday, Hope and take it away. WC

Starting a novel is a frustrating venture for an author. All that empty white space awaiting genius. So much room for brilliance . . . and failure. Writing down the bones of a new story, especially under the shadow of a deadline, is pressure. Creating a virgin series, however, can reap an anxiety attack.

After years of dreaming about a home for my Carolina Slade Mystery Series, and finding that home with Bell Bridge Books, I envisioned myself writing about Slade for the rest of my life. I would become the Sue Grafton of South Carolina, carrying a character through twenty years of crime solving and family feuds, with a slight smack of romance for good measure. I’d be old and gray and still leading Slade into danger, and making her scramble her way out.

Then my publisher asked for a different series.

In a knee-jerk balk, I argued the request. She calmly explained that I needed diversity. She saw more talent in me that wouldn’t come to pass unless I had to stretch my writing muscle in a different direction. The flattery in the message gave me pause. Then after much tossing and turning, I caved. Besides, when a publisher says write this way, you don’t turn diva and refuse. So, I asked with guarded concession, what are you looking for?

Southern in a locale of your choosing, she said. Make the protagonist real law enforcement, not an amateur sleuth. And of course throw in a heaping dose of family drama.

I won’t lie: the assignment scared me crazy. What would my Slade fans think? Would I lose readers, not that I had a Sue Grafton-level fan club? As hard as I’d worked for the past decade developing Slade, I felt I was abandoning her. Seriously, it hurt. I think I even cried.

Opening my notebook, I started with location, since I believe setting is as important as the protagonist. In my tales, anyway. To me, sense of place is like a fingerprint for a story, especially a mystery. And since this place had to carry an entire series, it had to be seductive.

Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Obscure, haunting, remote, with a sense of escape. I knew Edisto, having visited it since I was a teen. No motels or franchises. Laid back without the neon. For me, that decision served as the catalyst for the rest of the series structure.

So now I have two series under my belt, and a box full of lessons learned about series.

1) Plant your flag. My ideas center around setting. Yours might be a particular type of crime, a unique profession, or an especially eclectic character, but find that aspect that allows you to plant your flag, because from this choice will arise all else. The very nature of my setting told me to weave it into the other characters, choices they made, clues, crimes, reactions, obstacles, and of course, the climax and solution. It’s a unifying thread that brands the series, to establish a consistency through all the books.

2) Let your titles identify. My newest release is Murder on Edisto. The series is The Edisto Island Mysteries. If your anchor is character, then your series title might be named after your protagonist, like the Walt Longmire series written by Craig Johnson of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. With Star Wars, you know you’re getting an environment, a specially built world around which all the players, arcs, and stories revolve, much like Game of Thrones. The Dark Tower series from Stephen King. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The item, place or character is the key.

3) Avoid backstory. One of the biggest temptations is to regurgitate scenes and history from previous books. In a series, each book usually needs to stand alone as well as hold the thread. Sure, the earlier books impact the current one in a reader’s hands, but backstory must be handled with a deft hand, sprinkled with a light touch. The reader does not need to know all those details, just hints, because the attention is on the now, not the before, in case a reader starts with book two or three.

4) Keep facts straight. There’s a reason you see guidebooks and “bibles” for famous series. Facts pile up and become hard to manage. Ages, car makes, streets, eye color, names, rank, employment and familial status all become fuzzy over time because the author edits and rewrites so many times. Most of these facts change between the first draft and the final edit. Spreadsheets help. I also keep a dry erase board on the wall.

5) Write several synopses for several books. You do not know if you have a series until you write a synopsis for several of the books. I once thought of a marvelous idea for a mystery and came home eager to flesh it out. The initial story held great potential with some curious players and a unique crime, but I could not find the common thread for a second or third book. Disappointing, but I would not have known without thinking ahead. I outlined three Edisto Island mysteries before writing the first chapter of Murder on Edisto.

There are many intricate rules of thumb for writing a series. Readers adore series, that’s for sure, and they stay hungry for those recurring characters and themed stories they can become intimate with as time goes on. It’s lovely to have such a structure in place each time you start writing a new story, but it’s also a challenge to remain consistent while still creating a fresh story that doesn’t fall into an easily recognized template. Love and hate. But the rewards are immensely satisfying, for both the author and the reader.

C. Hope ClarkMurder on Edisto is C. Hope Clark’s latest release, and represents the first in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Also known for her award-winning Carolina Slade series, Hope finds additional time to edit FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. Her newsletters reach over 40 thousand readers.

10 Things That Will Never Go Out of Style


A smile. Whether you’ve got perfect white teeth or a mouthful of metal, when you smile at someone they will smile back. And you’ve given them just a little something they didn’t have before.

A helping hand. Helping someone just because they need it and there is nothing in it for you

Blue jeans. No explanation needed

Good manners. We were all taught to say please and thank you as kids and just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’ve outgrown the lesson. Good manners are the lubricant of a civilized society.

Kindness. It doesn’t hurt, costs nothing and can make a difference to the person who receives it.

Stories. As long as humans roam the Earth there will always be stories to tell and tell again. It’s the way we share history, beliefs, traditions and our feelings.

Love. There is not a creature on Earth that doesn’t respond to love and acceptance.

America. No matter how many groups, people or politicians criticize this country – we are still unique and value personal liberties and freedom more than any other nation on Earth. And really if all the naysaying were true – would millions of people risk life and limb just to try to get here?

Beauty. Not just physical human beauty. The perfect the sunset, a painting that inspires emotion, a perfectly executed dance, a meal cooked to perfection, babies laughing, flowers sprouting in the snow. We are surrounded by beauty – we only have to open our eyes.

Grace. Webster’s defines grace as: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency. Although there are other definitions it is this kind of grace that I reference. To be kind, to show courtesy and understanding when you don’t have to. To forgive when others have wronged you. To carry on despite impossible circumstances. That is the kind of grace I hope to embody someday.

What are your top ten things that will never go out of style?

Writer Chick

Life Hacks for Staying Cool in the Heat

life hacks for staying cool

While the media is talking about first snow storms in the east, we on the west coast are quietly melting. Triple digits and low humidity are hard on you, can cause dehydration, make it difficult to sleep, and difficult to write. Unless you have central air, which I don’t.

As I type this it’s a raging 103 degrees outside and it feels like my fingertips are fusing to the keyboard. However, I’ve developed some little tricks to stay cool during this hell on earth period:

Cucumber water: You need to stay hydrated and plain water is kind of boring if you ask me, so try this: Cut a cucumber into very thin slices and add them to a ½ gallon pitcher of water, (if you want a little extra zest you can also had thinly slice limes or lemons). Add ice. Stir well with a large spoon. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Then drink as much as you want. Very refreshing.

Fruity iced tea: If you’re an iced tea fan but concerned about too much caffeine, do a half and half with fruit juice. I prefer apple or cranberry. Add lots of ice and lemon slices. It’s refreshing, you don’t need to add extra sugar and you reduce your caffeine intake.

Snacks: Eating during extremely hot weather can also be a challenge because even though you should eat, you may not feel hungry. Cold hard-boiled eggs, cheese and apples, gazpacho, peanut butter and celery sticks, and fruit smoothie protein shakes are all light foods that can provide protein, carbs and fats without weighing you down.

Cell salts/Salt tabs: During hot weather you sweat like the dickens (or if you’re a lady you perspire like the dickens) and lose a lot of trace minerals and salt. Salt & potassium tablets and/or cell salts can help you replenish these. You can purchase either in most drug stores or health food stores.

Darkened rooms are cooler: I don’t have air conditioning at my house, we have what’s called a swamp cooler – which is a system that uses water to cool. Helpful but not nearly as effective as air conditioning. However to get the most out of my cooling system I:

  1. Draw the curtains first thing in the morning
  2. Close off any rooms that aren’t being used at that time
  3. Stand fans in doorways of rooms facing out (this creates a draught of pulling out warm air and pulling cooler air).

Outside fixes: One word – shade cloth. Okay that’s two words but it’s amazing how effective this inexpensive item can in helping to keep your house cooler. It comes in big rolls and can be found in most plant nurseries or stores that provide gardening supplies. You can create ‘sails’ suspend them with bungee cords and hooks. Or if you’re not that handy (like me) You can simply cut a square and tack it up to create a barrier between the sun and your house. For example, at my house the exterior wall of my bedroom is exposed to late afternoon sun. We cut sails from the shade cloth and attached one end to house and the other to the wall, creating a kind of veranda. Doesn’t look good, but works pretty well. I also tacked up a spare piece on the porch rafter, which gets heavy morning sun exposure. Hopefully you get the idea.

Tarp your vehicle. Mine sits in the drive in front of the house and the sun beats down on it all day. The tarp won’t make the car cool but it will protect the paint job, and reduce the amount of heat it absorbs and then radiates.

Keeping the body cool: I waited tables for many years and when you’re runnig around feeding people you can get pretty over –heated – especially if you’re in and out of patios or hot kitchens. As easy way to get quick relief from being overheated is the rub an ice-cube on your pulse points (wrists, side of neck, back of knees). I’m not really sure why it works but it does.

If you sit at a desk while you work, as I do, you can also make an icy foot bath that will help keep you cool. Just fill container large enough to comfortably place your feet, with water, add ice cubes and if you have it some mint.

Australian air conditioning: Okay, I don’t know if this is for real but an Aussie friend of mine told me that down under when the weather is brutally hot, they soak their tee shirts in water, wring them out, put them on and point a fan at themselves. Sound weird? You betcha. But it really works. If you’re not up for wearing a wet tee-shirt you can try a modified version by soaking a hand towel in water, wringing it out and draping it around your neck, then point the fan and turn it on.

What are your tips for staying cool when the weather is brutally hot? Let me know. I’d love some new tips.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2014

I Remember Ted Moy – a 911 Tribute

ted moy lg pic

Eight years ago I became involved in a project called 2996 . Which is a group of bloggers who’ve volunteered to write a tribute to a single victim of September 11th 2001. This project has had such impact that it carries on now to the 13th anniversary of that day. I have promised myself that I will never forget and as long as I have this blog that I will continue with these tributes. Each year. One person at time. I do this, not as a political statement but as an act of respect and love for those people who had the misfortune of going to work, getting on the wrong plane, acting like that day would be the same as any other. Wrong place, wrong time. Life cut too short. I honor those people and through a tribute in some very small way I am able to give them just a little bit of the life back that was taken from them. This year, I honor Ted Moy.

Ted Moy, 48 of Silver Spring, Maryland was U.S. Army civilian employee and worked at the Pentagon as a program manager. Ted was born and grew up in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Where his parents ran Veteran’s Food Market at Fifth and H streets. Growing up he helped in the store while growing up.

While on a student trip to Taiwan in 1975, Ted met his future wife, Madeline and was smitten. They shared much in common – both had traditional Chinese parents, and grew up in a neighborhood steeped in their Asian heritage. Even their families came from the same village in China, Toi Shan in Canton province.
They married in San Francisco, on July 12, 1980 – a lucky day on the Chinese calendar.

After several moves, the Moy’s settled in Ted’s boyhood home of Washington, D.C. After 14 years at the U.S. government’s Department of Defense, Ted joined the Information Management Systems Department at the Pentagon in November 1999, where he worked until his death.

According to his wife, Madeline, Ted loved eagles and on their last Christmas together he framed a poster of an eagle with the word ‘freedom’ below the picture. Ted felt a kinship to eagles and believed them to be symbols of wisdom and courage. He was a kind and caring man and loved his country – his favorite song being ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ – which his daughter’s string quartet played at his funeral. He collected flags and pictures of eagles and his wife has a picture of him decked out in a red, white and blue sweat suit, complete with a floppy stars-and-stripes hat that he wore on the Fourth of July.

The day before the attack, Ted and Madeline celebrated her birthday with a dinner out at Outback Steakhouse with their son, Daniel. The next morning, he went off to work at the Pentagon as usual. Later that morning, Madeline received a package – a birthday gift from Ted. She put it aside, planning to open it once Ted came home, then went to work herself.

Madeline got a call from her daughter Jessica, who told her that the Pentagon was on fire. “It was devastating, not knowing where he was.” She had just spoken to him at 8 o’clock that morning – Ted had called to remind her of their son’s orthodontist appointment. As the day wore on and details were revealed, Madeline said she accepted the worst – that her husband of twenty-one years had died at the Pentagon.

By all accounts, Ted was a kind, gentle and caring man, who loved his family, his country and to help others. His friends and colleagues can tell you more about him than I can:

I continue to mourn the loss of Ted, whom I worked with for many years at the Washington Navy Yard in the 1980s. He was always a gentle and likeable chap who was bound to his adoring family and serving his country through civilian DoD service. Ted was indeed proud of his Chinese-American roots and Washington DC ties, and continued to share his culture and ideals with those that surrounded him. May God continue to bless and hold close my dear friend and former colleague, Ted Moy.

I echo the comments of Mike Nepi. Ted was proud of his Chinese-American heritage and was dedicated to the service he provided as a civilian employee of the DoD.

Ted and I were DCYOP parents. Our daughters toured Austria and Germany with orchestra in 1999. Ted and I were chaperons. On this day and every Sept. 11th I think of Ted fondly. He was voted favorite chaperon by the orchestra members that year. I want his family to know that Erika (cellist) and I think of Ted and his daughter Jessica with fond memories. God Bless and embrace the Moy family not only today but everyday. Ted you are remembered and missed.

All the best to the Moy family, my prayers are with you always

Ted was a very loving, kind and sincere person and he will always be remembered.

Ted was an “extremely motivated person” who loved to help others. The father of two (Jessica, 19, and Daniel Ted, 15), he is remembered as a very loving dad. The night before his death, he spoke about the good relationship he shared with his children and the plans he had for their future. Ted, a deacon at the Spencerville church in Maryland, is also remembered as a devoted husband whose weekday routine was to call his wife three times during the day.

Bald Eagle

As the eagle was killed by the arrow winged with his own feather, so the hand of the world is wounded by its own skill.

Helen Keller

I hope this tribute has done him justice. My thoughts and prayers are with Ted’s family and friends. God bless.

Writer Chick

Love me, love me (for God’s sake will you just love me already?)

love me, love meLet’s be honest, to be a writer, an actor, singer or any type of ‘creative’ you have to have a pretty big ego. It’s not wrong, it just is. Perhaps it’s God’s way of helping us deal with all the rejection, finger-pointing and the fact that we were looked upon as the weird geek all through high school.

Most people aren’t going to understand us. They aren’t going to understand why certain sounds might send us into a state of impassioned annoyance. Or why we’re so interested in talking to strangers and fascinated by the conversation at the next table. Or why we have that “I’m taking notes” look on our faces half the time. But that’s okay. We’re not here to be understood. We’re here to create. We’re here to enrich other people’s lives (hopefully) with the things we create. Whether it’s a song, a performance, a painting or a story – ours is a mission of finding beauty and meaning in life and reporting back. Maybe we’re also the note takers for the current culture – the predictors of what the future may hold. Some think so…

But what we aren’t is the world’s darling. We aren’t here to be loved. To gain approval. Or to be the homecoming queen. The world isn’t interested in our neediness. And yes, we’ve got it – in spades. And if the world (or any part thereof) decides to love you, it will be on its own terms, not yours.

The very fact that we create something doesn’t mean that it’s great or even good. And when it’s not we should be humble enough to accept that when someone points it out. We should be grateful that there are people in our lives who will be honest with us, tell us the truth and insist we give only our best work. Because in our best work we give what we are meant to give – an undeniable truth, a pure note, a perfect color – whatever it is, you know it when you’ve got it. When you’ve reached it. When you’ve created it.

The world does need our work. It is important. We can only give that when we put on our big girl and big boy pants and dedicate ourselves to it. And keep the griping and hurt feelings to a minimum.

Though there is the occasional anomaly – trust me you won’t:

  • Pen the great American novel on a first draft
  • Paint like Picasso after one art class
  • Win an Academy Award for your first performance
  • Sing like Caruso (or Beyoncé) after completing Music 101

If you don’t put in the work, you’ll never develop your craft enough to get there. But if you do dedicate yourself to it – earnestly and without insisting on constant love and adoration for doing your job – the world may love you after all. Or at least your work.

Writer Chick

copyright 2014

Good News! The official marshmallow roasting rules are here!

roasting marshmallows

So the Forest Department has put out a detailed list of rules and instructions on roasting marshmallows. Thank God, because since we’ve only been roasting marshmallows over camp fires since there were marshmallows and camp fires, I’m sure we need a bit of a brush up.

So for your Labor Day weekend enjoyment, I’m going to channel my inner gubbermint worker and read between the lines for you and tell you what they really mean:

1. First of all, you’re too fat and marshmallows are empty calories, so don’t roast the dang marshmallows in the first place. Instead roast fruit, soy nuts, or tofurky (refer to First Lady’s acceptable campfire eating list on our website.).

2. If you must roast marshmallows because of some dagnabbit  Christian-Judeo tradition that you claim is in the Bible, at least use the sugar-free, soy version that tastes like toilet paper and comes in a US approved recyclable package.

3. Be sure to remove the marshmallows from the package before roasting. Campfires are not like microwaves and you cannot put a packaged product into the fire without potentially causing harm.

4. Be sure to use a government approved stick. Many of our trees are endangered and we must not sacrifice them so you can have a roasting stick to make a completely unhealthy snack that we advise against in the first place. Check the endangered stick list on our website or download our convenient acceptable stick app that will glow green when you find the right kind of stick. Better yet, bring your own roasting implement so you don’t unnecessarily use up our limited natural resources you selfish marshmallow roasting bigot.

5. Do not put the marshmallow on the end of your finger and stick it in the fire. Direct contact with fire will hurt like the dickens and Obamacare does not cover self inflicted burn wounds.

6. Be sure to bring enough marshmallows that will feed more than your camping party. After all, not everybody has the luxury of marshmallows and since you do, you must offer your fair share of free marshmallows to the homeless and the poor should they happen upon your campsite. Because that’s the right thing to do you selfish, over-consuming snack gobbler.

7. Be sure to register as a marshmallow roaster with the Forestry Department and have your registration ready if a forest ranger should happen by and demand to see it. If you are found roasting marshmallows without the proper registration you may be fined up to $200,000 and be required to do a minimum of 200 hours of community service.

8. Remember marshmallow roasting may cause forest fires, spew smoke into our already clogged air so you should reconsider roasting your dang marshmallows and roast what we think is better for you and have on our approved list of snacks you selfish junk food bigot.

9. In fact, instead of going camping, we prefer you reduce your carbon footprint by staying home, preparing a meal of tasty raw fruits and vegetables and watching the PBS special on reducing your carbon footprint. You’ll save gas, calories and possible fines and jail time too.

10. From all of us at the National Forestry Department, we wish you a safe, low calorie, non-carcinogenic, politically correct Labor Day Weekend.

Okay, just in case somebody out there doesn’t realize this is satire, I’m going to say, this is satire. However, no gubbermint workers were harmed in the writing and posting of this article.

Happy Labor Day Weekend folks. And save a s’more for me.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2014

Do you like being tricked by authors? I don’t…

do you like being tricked by an author?

I love a good mystery. Especially a story with a twisty-turny plot that keeps me up at night and confounds me – but in a good way. But I don’t love mysteries that just confuse me though.

I read a book recently that had potential. It was a pretty decent read with interesting characters and a good premise. If it weren’t for one big mistake I probably would’ve recommended it to friends to read. But here’s the thing that happened. The writer tricked me.

Give the reader a fighting chance

There are certain tricks that writers can pull off:

  • Heaping on misdirection
  • Planting red herrings
  • Creating a mystery within a mystery
  • If she’s really good a writer can even make the hero the villain

But the clues have to be there. The reader has to have a fighting chance at connecting the dots and solving the puzzle. Or at the very least, have an aha moment when the killer is revealed.

But what a writer can’t do (no matter how good she is) is pull the villain out of her literary ass at the last second. A writer can’t take a minor character that appears in two or three brief scenes of no consequence and then spring it on the reader that this is the killer at the very end.

And yet that’s exactly what the writer did

Specifically, the writer created a character who was suspect to the reader who even announced he was a killer when first introduced into the story. Of course it was a play on words and not meant literally. And as the story continued, you couldn’t be sure if this character was a good guy or a bad guy. That’s fair. I didn’t know if he was a red herring or the real deal.

However, in the final ten pages our hero is faced with this questionable character. Believing him to be the killer, our hero is panicked and in fear for her life. Just as she is about to be killed by this character (who we are all now certain is the killer), he’s shot and the hero believes she’s been saved.

Phew, that was a close one. Except that it turns that the ‘real killer’ is the one who shot the ‘perceived killer.’

The real killer is a very minor character whose name I didn’t even remember. His motivation was an obsession with the hero. Apparently he went to incredible lengths (murder and mayhem) to get her attention. He didn’t get her attention, but he didn’t get the reader’s attention either. There was no foreshadowing, no clues, no inference that this character was anything but a background player carrying out the basic functions of a minor character. The revelation of this character being the killer was tantamount to a writer revealing that the clerk at the mini mart who sold the hero a diet coke in chapter seven is the villain. What the hell?????

No aha moment for the reader. No scanning back and realizing that yes, the clues were there and I should’ve seen it. No chance that I ever would’ve figured that out. Not because the writer was stealth, clever and fucking awesome at hiding the killer in plain sight. But because the writer flat-out tricked me. All for the sake of shock and plot twist.

Except it didn’t shock me. It pissed me off. It made me put the book in the reject pile. It insulted my intelligence. It made me think the writer didn’t care about me, her reader. Too bad for me and the writer.

Publish no books before their time

In our high-tech modern world, writers have more choices in publishing than ever before. That is potentially great for readers and writers. Indie authors are really making a splash and succeeding at gaining recognition and readership.

However, just because it’s easy to get a book published online via platforms like Amazon and Smashwords, doesn’t mean that an author should rush to publish a book. Whether your book is published through traditional or indie channels a writer still must go through the process of turning out a good book. If you self publish, then you must ensure the book is beta read, edited, proofread, tweaked, and polished til it shines. You must turn out the best book you possibly can. You have to put your readers first and your ambitions second. It’s great to be a published author but if what you publish is an ill-conceived story that turns readers off, what have you really accomplished?

Do yourself and your readers a favor – write a damn good book, make it the best you possibly can and then publish it.

How about you? Has a writer tricked you at the end? Did you love it or hate it? Is all fair in love and genre fiction or not?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2014


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