The Cool Thing To Do

So, I’ve been reading a book of short stories by B.J. Novak. It’s called One More Thing. I’d never heard of the guy before I picked up his book in one of the free library boxes in my neighborhood. Turns out, he wrote, directed and produced The Office, which I’ve never actually watched. I’ve been enjoying his stories, though. Well, most of them anyway. A few have had me scratching my head thinking, “Huh?” My favorites have made me laugh out loud. Julie and the Warlord, was funny. It was a different story that really got me thinking.

This one is about the mathematician who came up with a story problem about trains that was then used in every math book in every math class all over the country. Math is not my favorite subject, by any means, but the idea of the story is that most everyone is known for something in their lifetime. According to the author, it really is only one, or maybe two things in our life. For some reason this made me think of a girl I went to grade school with. Her name was Jackie Crapser. She was an ordinary looking girl with blonde hair. We weren’t close friends and if it wasn’t for the ‘one thing’ she did, I doubt I’d remember her at all. (Though such an unfortunate last name is hard for a child to forget.)

This was back in the days when the kids who were differently abled or mentally challenged, were all thrown into a class and labeled simply as, retarded. On the playground, these children either went off alone or stuck together. They had to, as they were either targeted for teasing and tormenting or else, simply ignored. One day, by the tetherball, Jackie changed everything. She started a game of tag with the kids from the special class. It was a daring move, or so I believed at the time. Wasn’t she afraid the other kids would make fun or her? Obviously, she wasn’t. It didn’t take long for others to see that Jackie was having a good time. Pretty soon, other kids joined in. Our playground, for a time, became a place where inclusion, rather than exclusion, was the ‘cool’ thing to do. All because one little girl dared to be kind.

That’s how I remember it anyway.

If you’re still out there somewhere Jackie, I want you to know that at least one person remembers you for something positive. (I sincerely hope you are alive and well, and will be remembered for many other good things.)

As for me, I’m writing about a schoolyard bully who grew up to be a sociopath and is seeking revenge on his favorite victims— the ones who once dared to fight back. Now, I’d better get back to torturing my imaginary friends… um, I meant writing.

When the Real World and the Fictional One Collide

Every once in a while I’ll see someone, usually a customer, and think, hey, he/she looks exactly like so and so. And then I’ll remember that so and so is a figment of my imagination, and worry that maybe I’m not normal. Then I remember that normal is boring and go back to daydreaming about my story and my imaginary friends.

Recently, I had another experience where my imaginary world collided with the real one. I’m working on a series of suspense/psychological thrillers that take place in the fictional town of Grandville. The town is modeled after my hometown in Oregon. We lived a few miles out of town on a country road and some of my friends owned horses. While my attempts at horseback riding usually involved me hanging on for dear life with my eyes shut I still enjoyed being around the beautiful animals.

One of the two main characters in my work in progress (Current title: A Convincing Accident) works as a Ferrier. While I knew it was the perfect occupation for him, I also knew I should do a bit more research on the subject. So, what happens? Only weeks before visiting our daughter in Colorado, she tells me about her new friend, who happens to be a Ferrier. Not only was he willing to talk about his job, and answer questions, he invited us to come along and watch him shoe a horse. (Thanks again Isaac!)

The experience helped me to know my character better. When you write about someone who is quite a bit different than yourself, you need to know as much about them as possible. I’m a firm believer that what a person does for money does not define them, but obviously, it does matter. It’s also important for plotting purposes. I now know that if he’s late for a job, no one will be shocked. (Of course, no one is shocked when I’m late for work either, but that’s a different story. Smiles sheepishly.) Waiting for the Ferrier is kind of like waiting for the cable guy or the plumber—you’d better leave the whole day open. (On the positive side, there will be no visible butt cracks for your viewing displeasure. A Ferrier is likely going to be wearing Wrangler jeans, which actually fit properly.  Admission: I may have had a crush on a cute wrangler-wearer once upon a time, but he never did ask me out. Hm. Maybe this where my cowboy character originated.) Anyway, I also learned that the job is even more physically demanding than I suspected. Muscles required. (Always good to have a reason to put muscle on a male character. Not like those romance heroes who have them for no particular and not once is it even hinted they might actually go to the gym and work out.)

There was another, even stranger, almost spooky coincidence during my trip to Colorado. We spent one night at the ranch where my daughter did a work-trade the summer before. It was a fun experience (we slept in a yurt, my daughter in a teepee.) We were invited to dinner by our hosts. Not only was the food delicious, the conversation was interesting, even when they discussed religion. I kept my opinions to myself, not surprisingly. When there are more than three people in a room I tend to go into listening mode. (In the eighth grade my homeroom teacher named me “The Silent Observer.” It’s still appropriate in certain situations.) Anyway, one of the women who works on the ranch told a story about her son. When he was fourteen he got into a fight with another boy. Unlike the movies where pounding the bully to a pulp will earn you praise from everyone—including the adults— in the real world, (at least in modern times) it gets you assault charges and possibly a conviction that can hang on and haunt you for years.

Well, it just so happens that this is exactly what happens in my book, to my Ferrier guy. In fact, the whole story is hinged on this event. A fight, at fourteen, has a profound effect on the rest of his life. Turns out, the bully who received the (arguably) well-deserved beating is not the forgetting or forgiving type. He’s seeking revenge, many years later, in the form of inflicting “emotional destruction,” on the boy who hurt him, and the girl he was defending. So, there you have it, the premise for A Convincing Accident. Does it sound intriguing?

Why did you let me go on for so long anyway? I should be writing the book!

Oh, and by the way. (Imagine me smiling modestly.) My Tammy J. Palmer books received a glowing mention from Sarah Raplee, on a popular romance blog. Her Amazon page and books are here: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Raplee/e/B014XDP5NG

Thanks again Sarah!

You can read it here: https://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com/

Have a great weekend!

Insults, Airlines, and our need to Conform. In other words: A rambling post about nothing in particular.

So, I’m waiting on a ‘gentleman’ and one of his coupons vanishes into thin air. He tells me it was for the eggs so I grab an ad to find the coupon. I don’t see it right away because I’m looking at the strip on the edge of the ad where the coupons usually are, but this one was in the middle.

The crusty old geezer, er, I mean gentleman, spots it first and says to me, “you should read more.”

Now, I’m pretty sure this was meant to be an insult. It’s not the worst I’ve heard, as far as customer insults go. Not by a long shot. I pretended not to hear him and kept on scanning because I am a professional. I do not respond to rude comments with other rude comments. I only think about it. I think real loud sometimes, willing them to hear my thoughts, but I don’t say it.

This is what I wish I’d said, “Sir, you are absolutely right, I’m going home right now to read the suspense novel I’m in the middle of.”

I would then tear off my apron, and throw it at him on my way out.

I am reading a good book. It’s by Sophie Hannah, a  new author for me. I had to buy a new book yesterday because the only thing worse than being stuck in an airport for half a day longer than expected is being stuck in an airport with nothing to read. Or in this case, nothing fun to read. The book I brought along turned out to be too depressing. After a very fun weekend with my daughter, meeting her friends and seeing the sites in beautiful Colorado, I did not want a sad story bringing me down. I also didn’t want to be in the Denver airport for an extra five hours. It would have been closer to eight hours if we hadn’t been on stand-by and gotten lucky. And all because a certain airline, whose name I will not mention (United) can’t seem to keep to their schedule, which makes the whole connecting flight thing a bit difficult. The only flights they got right were the two that I ran, full speed, huffing and puffing, through the airport to catch, only to find a closed gate. I am proud to say I did not scream obscenities at the gatekeeper. I only muttered them, and politely complained to customer service. Actually, I might not have been real polite the second time it happened, but seriously? Twice in one trip?

I know the United employees are just doing what they are told to do because they need a paycheck and health insurance, like everyone else. I know what it’s like to be the one dealing with angry or annoyed customers over one thing or another, things that ultimately are the fault of higher ups. (Maybe not my inability to spot a coupon, but, um, other things). It’s the big guys who should be on the receiving end of our wrath, but they hide in their offices behind big desks and leave their employees to deal with the crap. It is the way of big business everywhere.

It’s enough to make me dream of escaping the rat-race altogether. It isn’t just Alaskan Bush people who choose to live off grid, and do things their own way. I don’t know about all of Colorado but in the county where my daughter lives there are few restrictions on the kind of house you can build.  Tiny houses, teepees, tents, or even one of these:

My daughter’s friend built this. It’s a Hogan, modeled after the kind the Navaho lived in. I think it’s pretty cool. While I may not be ready to live without electricity, or indoor plumbing, I get why some people choose to escape the daily grind and live by their own rules. I think, as a society, we accept too much, and think too little. We believe we have to live a certain way, simply because it’s what everyone else is doing. Most people never get beyond middle school mentality. Must fit in at all costs! There are other ways of doing things.

We don’t have to conform.

 

Life in the Express Lane: Potty Talk

So, I was ringing up an order yesterday and the woman said to me, “I hate buying toilet paper, it’s like, so embarrassing.”

Pretty sure I gave her this look:

What I wish I had said:

“Oh, my God that is so true. I mean what could be more embarrassing than having a complete stranger know that I—gasp— wipe!”

It has since occurred to me that her comment derives from a far more serious issue. Our economy relies heavily on selling people products that they don’t actually need. (No, I’m not including toilet paper on this list, so bear with me.) To get us to buy personal care items they must first convince us that there is something horribly wrong with our bodies in their natural state. For example, we should never, ever emit any odor that has not been created in a laboratory, packaged in plastic, and put on a store shelf for purchase. Well, not unless we naturally smell like this:

Before the beauty industry existed people were far more accepting of their natural odors. I recently read that in Elizabethan times women would place a peeled apple under their arm- pit, and after it had fully absorbed their odor, share it with their suitor. Yum. (Please understand, I’m not suggesting we return to this practice.)

And then there’s the subject of hair. If you are a woman it is no longer acceptable to have hair anywhere other than the top of your head.

Unless of course, it’s here:

Arm -pit hair bad. Eyelashes good.

“What? You still have hair down there? Oh, my God that is so disgusting! I know a nice woman who will gladly apply a wax strip and tear that shit right off! Here’s her card, don’t forget to mention my name, I get a discount for every hairy crotch I send her.”

Done? Great. Now we are one step closer to everyone looking like this:

Of course, we have heads. And if you’re female you’d better being using a whole lot of this:

And if you are male you should look like this:

Oh wait, that’s Johnny. How did he get in here? Sorry, guys.

So, um, moving on, my point is that we are constantly being bombarded with the message that we must do this:

So that we will never return to the days of this:

And a result, some people have become so detached from their own bodies, and all the ‘gross’ stuff that goes on in it every day, that they can’t even admit to doing this:

It’s not that I think we should freely discuss our bathroom habits at the dinner table, or in the checkout line (God no, please don’t do that) but I do think people should be more aware of the messages we receive hundreds of times a day, and where they come from. The beauty industry, the porn industry, etc. We should stop letting marketers shame us into despising our own bodies.

We all pee, people. (Some of us far too often, but that’s another story.) And poop. Yes, even you dear customer buying the jumbo pack of TP. And we all know you do it. (Insert evil laugh here.)

So, it’s Wednesday again, and you all know what means.

Happy Hump Day Everyone!

(Unless you work in one of those industries where days of the week mean nothing, and this is actually your Monday or your Friday, and there is no hump to be getting over, in which case I’m wishing you a happy whatever day.)

For those who feel the urge to comment, I’ve made it real easy. Just click on Leave a reply and type your insightful message into the box. You’re not required to put in an email address, but please tell me who you are so I can make fun of you—I mean thank you— later.

 

Maps, Outlines, and Driving in the Dark

 

I’m not good at finding places, especially not at night. Jim is the one who made sure the kids got to all of their sporting events on time. He usually coached, and I worked a lot of evenings so this arrangement worked for us. But there was this one time when Jim had a work thing, and I was responsible for getting my son to the first basketball game of the first tournament with a new team. I want to call it the ‘elite’ league because I don’t remember what it was actually called. I do remember this game being a big deal. And we were late. And I could not find the building. (No I-phones or GPS back then.) My stress level kept rising. It did not help that my preschool- aged nephew, who I happened to be babysitting that day, was in the back seat saying, “You need a map Aunt Tammy,” over and over again.

I woke up from a nightmare this morning, about a dark and stormy night—no wait, that’s a different story, it just very dark–and I was by myself driving on an unfamiliar highway. There was a sign, but I didn’t recognize the name of the road ahead. It went up the side of a mountain. There were no lights and no guardrails and no houses on either side, just a road. I had no idea where it would take me and I was terrified. At the last second, a turnaround miraculously appeared. I took it. My fear instantly ceased. I was heading back to the familiar.

I’ve been struggling to finish my book, a thriller of sorts (Or is it a suspense? Psychological suspense? Genre still confounds me.) Every time I get to a certain point, around 100 pages, I get stuck. Each time, I end up turning around and going back to the beginning. I start over. And over and…well, you get the idea. I’ve always resisted the idea of an outline. “Writing the story won’t be any fun if I know everything that happens!” It’s also not much fun to be the hamster, stuck in a cage, running on a wheel. Sure, it’s good exercise, but when you stop, you’re still in the same place. You’re also still trapped. (I know, I’ll start a petition to free all rodents everywhere!) I also have a little procrastination problem, but that’s another subject.

So, I woke up from my nightmare this morning with the words, “You need a map Aunt Tammy,” going through my head. Wise kid. I need to figure out exactly where this story is going, or I will never reach the end. And I need to get over my fear of the dark.

In case you’re wondering, I did eventually get my son to his basketball game. When we arrived, there was a volunteer sitting at a desk blocking our way into the gym. Turns out, there is a small fee for these tournaments. Cash only, of course. And no, I did not have any on me.

“What the hell do you mean, I have to pay to watch my own kid throw a ball through a hoop!”

Did I mention I was a little stressed? I think I ended up borrowing money from the coach’s wife. The rest of that night is fuzzy.

Well, I guess it’s time to start on my outline. After I eat breakfast and read the paper, of course.

Happy Hump Day!

 

Fantasy vs. Reality: author photos

Once upon on a time, when I lived in a fantasy world, and still held out hope of being a rich and famous author, I thought it was important that I have a professional, and glamorous photo taken for my future book jacket cover. At the time, I thought all authors were supposed to look like Jackie Collins or Catherine Coulter. So, I had this done:

To be clear, the only reason I’m making this photo public is that I believe it’s important not to take oneself too seriously. Laughing at yourself is almost as much fun as laughing at other people, but no one gets mad at you for it!

So, the other day, around noon, I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and was greeted by this:

Still in my pajamas, hair sticking up, wearing the back- up eye -glasses that Jim rightly calls, ‘hideous’. I know enough writers to say with confidence that the second photo is a more accurate portrayal of the author lifestyle. And the glasses aren’t that bad are they?

In other news, my free promotion was a success. More than 500 copies of Playing House and Cousin Q. have been downloaded in the last five days! Won’t you all join me now in my fantasy world where we will pretend that this is every bit as exciting as if people had actually paid for them? (Actually, it kind of is for me. I care more about entertaining people than making money. Not that there is anything wrong with combining the two.)

Now, get out your old glamor shots everyone, and share them on Facebook so we can laugh—uh, I mean admire them with you!

Hump Day is upon us…but not on us, that would be weird.

So, I thought I was getting wordpress figured out, but I’m still struggling a bit. It took me two days to find the comments people made (thank you Tina, Patty, and Heidi) and I still don’t know why they won’t show up on the page. I’ve searched my site. I’ve tried changing settings. I’ve googled it several times. I’m still lost and confused…nothing new for me, unfortunately.

Patty—I’m glad you like the site. Thanks for stopping by.

Tina—I changed the settings on comments to make it as easy as possible to leave a comment. You shouldn’t have to put in your name or email. Crossing my fingers that it worked.

Heidi—you’re right, I did leave out the part about me having awesome kids on my about page. Since you brought up, I’m going to share my favorite stories about you and your brother. Nothing embarrassing, I promise.

Andy was quite young the day he threw me a football, and it hit me in the face and broke my glasses. My head was turned and I didn’t see it coming, though with my lack of athletic ability I probably wouldn’t have caught it even if I had. While I was mourning my glasses, Jim was rejoicing, because not only was it a good strong throw, it was done with his left hand. Andy would be a left-handed pitcher! I’ve since learned that this is a good thing. Andy did pitch all the way through high school. He became as big a baseball fan as his father. He even writes articles about fantasy baseball for a site called Roto-baller. Check it out. He’s good.(I’m only a little jealous that he writes much faster than I do.)

One of my favorite memories of Heidi is the day I came outside to find her riding a bike. I asked Andy, “When did she learn how to do that?” He shrugged, “She just did it.” When he got home from work, Jim asked the same question, and got the same answer. I hate to sound like an advertisement for Nike, but there is something to be said for “Just doing it.” Heidi recently spent six weeks learning how to survive in the wilderness. I panic at the idea of an hour without electricity. She can make fire. It takes courage to live life your own way, by your own ideals. She doesn’t just talk about it. She does it.

So, in celebration of the first week of my new site, I’m giving away my books. They’re free until Saturday. The e-version anyway.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TKNTJTG

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01998CPPQ

Happy Hump Day!