Monday, August 27, 2012

Sleep Deprivation

Have you ever been so tired you couldn’t sleep? That’s been the norm for most of my adult life.

Last month, I took a grueling contract job. I used to regularly work nine-to-ten hour days. But I’m not used to it anymore! The last Friday was a twelve-hour day—with no lunch period. Of course, the pay will be very nice, especially since Larry had two new crowns put in his mouth!

In addition, I was doing a very challenging edit. I can usually zip these out in a few hours. This one took four passes and over forty-eight hours total to complete. And I was doing all this while hosting out-of-state company for two and a half weeks.

I managed to spend a couple of days at Disneyland, but even that didn’t affect my insomnia.

Since I retired last year, I'd thought I had learned to relax. I usually walk every day and sleep at least seven or eight hours a night. I’ve also taken a few afternoon naps. But during the contract, I was so overtired I couldn't unwind enough to sleep at all. It's a recurring pattern.

I’ve been thinking about Nan Burton in my new book, Ghost Writer. She’s stuck in a house with a noisy ghost, and he won’t let her sleep until she does what he wants her to do.

At least when she finally goes out to the beach to get away from Max (the ghost), she can get to sleep. But I wake ridiculously early, my mind running at warp speed. I think of all the writing I have to do, bills to pay, email to answer, etc. Then I lie awake trying to nod off, but it’s usually useless. After an hour, I usually just give up, get up, and turn on the computer.

Of course, back into the routine of exercise and a regular schedule, I'm starting to catch up. We're scheduled for some speaking engagements and other events in the next few months, but I should have a bit more discretionary time.

Does anyone know any good secrets for getting to sleep—and staying asleep? Melatonin doesn’t work for me, and I am very resistant to taking medications. Other than retirement without commitment (not likely), I’d appreciate any suggestions.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Best Soup You’ve Ever Eaten

We discovered Mulligatawny Soup in the late 1970s when we worked for CF Braun & Co in Alhambra, California. They had it on the menu every couple of weeks, and we always ordered it. While all the soups in the CFB cafeteria were delicious, this one was especially satisfying. Rich and hearty, it tasted different than any other I’d ever tasted, and I couldn’t figure out what ingredients made it so unusual.

I finally found a recipe and tried it. This version was close, but I had to tweak it a bit to get it closer to the flavor I remembered

Whenever I have a turkey or chicken carcass, I cook it down to make stock for this soup, and I often have some in the freezer for a quick fall meal.

In my book, Ghost Writer, Nan cooks Thanksgiving dinner, and Helen teaches her how to make this soup from the leftovers.

The ghost, Max, waxes poetic about his memories of eating it. So I hope you’ll enjoy making and eating it as much as we have over the years. The recipe can be multiplied. Here it is:
Mulligatawny Soup
In a deep kettle, sauté:
1 medium onion
¼ cup butter
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium apple, pared, cored and sliced (I like Granny Smiths best)
1 cup cut-up cooked chicken or turkey
Stir in gradually:
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. mace
2 whole cloves
1 sprig parsley, minced
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 cup cooked tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Simmer covered ½ hour. Serve hot.
Serves 6

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How We Get Our Ideas

This week I’m guest blogging at the Oak Tree Press blog on how we get our stories. Drop by and see what I have to say:

Join us on Saturday, August 18 at The Book Corral in Mission Viejo where we will be signing our books between 1:100 and 3:00 p.m.
The Book Corral
25571 Jeronimo Rd, Suite 4
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
(949) 855-8054

And on Sunday, August 19, come and see us at the OC Great Park Farmers Market between 10:00 and 4:00.
6990 Marine Way
Irvine, CA 92618

Monday, August 6, 2012


Once again, Larry, my husband and partner in crime—novels, that is, wanted to share where we have gotten some of our inspirations. Please tell us your own stories, as well. Sometimes the 'back-story' is as interesting as the finished tale.
Recently Lorna and I attended a memorial luncheon for our friend Les, and it brought back memories of how we sometimes get inspiration for our writing.
Lorna’s day job some years ago was working in IT for a bank. One day she was having lunch in the cafeteria when Les placed his tray on the table and sat next to her.

“How’s the book coming?” he asked.
At the time we were working on our first mystery, Murder… They Wrote, and Lorna explained how one of our characters was going to be a protester at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. 
“I was there,” he said.
“You were?"
“Yeah, I was in the park.”
“Really? Tell me about it.”
He related the story of being in Grant Park during the clash between police and protesters, and hearing Phil Ochs sing “I’m Gonna Say it Now.” It was a life-changing experience for Les, and it became the same for our character.
During the luncheon, his niece told us Les had been cremated and his ashes spread at sea with those of his wife who died a year before. In our books, many of our victims’ remains are given the same kind of ceremony. The ashes form a silver-gray sheen on the water, often surrounded and caressed by rose petals thrown by the mourners.  Some individuals have commented on seeing shapes of hearts or faces in the spreading ashes. A final goodbye perhaps. I can attest to the sense of closure and the feeling of oneness with nature and the creator that others have expressed.
We were inspired to use that method because it is a common practice where our mysteries are set in Hawaii, and we have personally participated in the spreading of ashes of family and friends.
* * * *
Another inspiration came in the mid-seventies when I worked with an engineer on a refinery in Texas. His call sign on the plant radio system was Blossom, referring to his former “flower child” life. During one morning break, our discussion turned to rock music of the sixties.
“I was at Woodstock,” he volunteered. “It was bitchin'. Best time ever.”
“Tell me about it.”
Among the adventures he described was waking on Sunday morning to the sound of Jimmy Hendricks playing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“I was blown away,” he told me. “I’d never been much attracted to patriotic music, but his rendition changed my life.” I tried to duplicate his excitement and enthusiasm in my story, “Wayne,” in Lakeview Park
* * * *
I  only need to close my eyes to recall the worn blue metalflake finish and missing volume control knob on the Fender Stratocaster guitar owned and played by our friend Wayne. Lorna sang while Wayne and I played guitars in a church praise band for several years.
 Wayne, the guitarist in my book Lakeview Park, contains elements of the real Wayne and shares the stories told by Blossom.
* * * *
Lorna has a sweatshirt with “Careful or you may end up in my next novel” printed on the front. It’s intended as humorous, but as any author knows, there is a lot of truth in it.
Wayne McKibbin and Les Senour are gone now, but small pieces of their lives remain, immortalized in the words we have written and in our hearts as well.