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New Netflix addict discovers Orange is the New Black

Image result for google images orange is the new black

I had one of those vivid, way too real dreams last night. I was in Fred Meyer, where I very rarely shop, and I put a tube of toothpaste in my back pocket, intending to buy it, but Jim and the kids were already outside, waiting for me, as we were on our way to a softball game. In my haste, I forgot about the toothpaste and walked out the door.

There was a security guard standing in the entryway, watching. He took me by the arm and led me back inside. I calmly explained that I was having a spacy moment and forgot it was in my pocket. Haha. Sorry about that. He wasn’t buying it.

I was taken to a small room and told to sit down at a table while he filled out the paperwork. I wanted to call Jim and explain where I was, but I couldn’t find my phone. Or my purse. He had to be looking for me. We were going to miss the game. Or else, he’d go without me, while I was being carted off to prison.

I woke up before I had put on the orange jumpsuit. It was kind of disappointing actually. I wanted to meet the crew of Orange is the new Black. We finished Season One last night and I was looking up the actresses to see what they are like in real life.

This, from someone who never turns the TV on when she’s home by herself. I blame Netflix for slowing down progress on my series. On the other hand, the way these shows are written does give me good ideas for my own work.

Yeah, I know, rationalizing is a sign of addiction…


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The Baddest, Most Evil Antagonist I Could Conjure from my Overactive Imagination


Have you ever wondered what eggs taste like with ground ginger sprinkled on top? No? Me neither. Unfortunately, I found out when I mistook the ground ginger for ground garlic. In my defense, they are, almost, the same color. And I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Garlic, in case you didn’t know, is good on eggs. Ginger, not so much.

Today is to be my first full writing day of the year. My plan to get up early, get focused, and be more productive is off to a slow start. I woke up at nine am. A reminder that if I don’t set an alarm, the early thing won’t happen. After the egg fiasco, I read the Oregonian. Starting the day with news is never a good idea. Reality tends to put a distressing spin on the day.  The irony of being depressed by the real world, while writing about a man who is plotting to murder half his family, is not lost on me. (He’s the bad guy so he has to be, well, BAD.)

So, I thought it would be fun to share the first scene with my antagonist (Evil bad guy.) And ask what you all think. I’d also like to propose that we west coasters adopt the phrase you’all, because it’s useful, and sounds cool. I’m not sure how to spell it though.

Chapter One of Convincing Accidents

The flip-phone no longer functioned, but it still flipped. The boy flipped it open and closed, Open and closed. Hour after hour. The clicking sound was enough to drive a sane person to madness—and Stuart Harden considered himself to be about as sane as it gets.

The boy’s constant keening was even worse than the clicking. He was agitated. Of course, he was. Strange place, too many people around. He shouldn’t here.

It was Stuart’s wife’s idea to spend the weekend in Seattle. They’d visited her grandparents at the assisted living facility the day before, and now they were at Ballard Locks, doing the tourist thing, but no one was listening to the tour guide talk about migrating fish and their mating habits—not even Raquel. She was too busy yapping.

Stuart found the sound of his wife’s voice almost as grating as their son’s keening. Everywhere they went, Raquel found a new best friend. This time it was a mother with too many children. There were five of them, the youngest balanced on her hip, gnawing on a cheese stick. The oldest, a young teenage girl, wore tight white shorts and kept peeking over her shoulder at Stuart’s older son, who was pretending to look at his phone while staring intently at the girl’s cute little butt. He had to give Jesse credit for trying to be discreet, even if he was failing at it. At least one of his sons was normal.

The woman’s other three kids were running about, unsupervised, bumping into people. No concept of boundaries. The one who looked about five, held a cheese stick in one hand and a toy airplane in the other, making engine noises as he weaved in and out of the crowd in a pattern, once nearly knocking Stu’s coffee out of his hand, and getting far too close to the edge of the platform. There was only a single bar, waist height to an adult, to prevent a child from falling into the water. Straight down, no embankment, nothing to grab onto. Stuart imagined the boy falling; the panic that would ensue, the ignorant mother’s screams. Rescue would be a challenge. He could do it. He’d jumped from higher places for the fun of it. For a moment, he imagined saving the stupid woman’s kid, how thankful she’d be. He doubted she’d learn anything from it. Her kids would still be running loose, causing mayhem.

When the little boy came around again, Stuart moved backward so that he was between the boy and the edge, preventing him from getting too close, falling. The little boy came to a stop. He stared, but not at Stuart. He stood there, staring at the freak, watching him flip the phone.

“What’s wrong with him?”

Stuart knelt down to the little boy’s level. “He ate too many cheese sticks and it turned him crazy.”

The little boy stared at the cheese stick clutched in his fist, eyes widening. In his hurry to get away he bumped into the older boy’s knees. Stuart’s younger son hated being touched. Agitated, he backed up, but there was nowhere to go. He sat down on the ledge, holding the phone to his ear, using both hands to flip it open and closed, oblivious to the danger right behind him. Raquel was equally oblivious, still talking to the other woman— in a loud whisper as if that made it any less rude. As usual, she’d left it to him, to watch the boy. She had no idea how easily her precious freak could fall into the water. A little bump was all it would take. It would serve her right.

Stuart’s phone vibrated with an incoming text. He took it out of his pants pocket, read the message. A convincing accident, maybe?

He smiled. It was from his girlfriend, intended as a joke. Their elaborate fantasy about running away together had morphed into a plot to do away with anyone who stood between them.

His wife let out one of her loud, honking, head-turning laughs. God, how he hated that sound. It embarrassed him every time. If he never heard it again, he’d be happy.

A convincing accident.

Out of context, it didn’t read like a joke. Innocent people didn’t kid around about killing their families. Of course, neither of them were truly innocent. He was fairly certain that only one of them was joking.

He put the phone in his pants pocket. Everything of importance, contacts and such, were backed up to his I-pad. The phone wouldn’t be a big loss. He’d been looking for an excuse to upgrade anyway. If his newly formed plan should fail, he didn’t want Raquel finding their text messages. It would look bad.

The little boy was back to weaving around the adults, following the same pattern each time. Stuart positioned himself in front of his younger son, right in the little boy’s path, and held his coffee cup at waist level, waiting, already imagining the outcome.

It would be a valiant rescue attempt. He’d come out of it looking like a hero, despite his failure. The freak would die. Overcome with grief, Raquel would kill herself. An overdose would be easy enough to fake. This way, there would be no messy, expensive, divorce to worry about—no giving Raquel half of everything. She didn’t deserve a share in their recent windfall; didn’t even know about it yet. Stuart would use some of the money for Jesse’s college—the boy had earned it—and use the rest to buy a bigger house, one with enough room for Corinne’s kids, and a barn for her horse. It would be added incentive to convince her to leave her husband.

The poor bastard had no idea what was coming his way. It would be such sweet revenge.



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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.

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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:

Thanks again Sarah!

You can read it here:

Have a great weekend!

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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!