Tips for surviving quarantine

So, here we are. We’re all hunkered down in our houses. If you have kids, especially young ones, they’re probably already driving you nuts with “I’m bored.” Because this isn’t a snow day – no play dates. If you’re like me, with older kids whose schools are driving on with online-learning, you’re probably hearing a different set of complaints.

Whatever shall we do?

Current mood of perhaps 95% of the world

Well, here’s my top five tips.

5. Take a walk

Hey, we aren’t being forced to stay inside. Put a leash on Fido (if you have one), slip on a coat, and go outside. Chances are there are fewer cars out, so this might be a very quiet time. Look for flowers peeking their heads out. Listen to the birds. Feel free to snap a few photos.

And wave to any people you see. You don’t have to talk to them, but waving is nice.

4. Do a jigsaw puzzle

Nothing eats up hours of time like putting together a 3,000-piece puzzle. Because even if you are one of those magic people who can always lay their hands on the right piece and have the amazing ability to see exactly how pieces go to together (no that one obviously doesn’t fit), there’s the joy of finding the missing pieces. You know, the ones scattered by the kids/dog/cat as they race through the room because “I’m bored.”

There are also digital jigsaw puzzle apps for tablets/iPads. I like these because…no missing pieces.

3. Bake something

Dig out your favorite recipe book and thumb through it. Chances are there is SOMETHING in there that will tempt your taste buds – and you’ll have all the ingredients.

2. Do a craft

Maybe, once upon a time before kids and life, you were a great knitter, but you just haven’t had time lately. Congratulations! You have time. Dig out the knitting needles, the crochet hooks, the counted cross-stitch, the scrapbooking materials – whatever. Always meant to make a photo collage of your trip to the beach with all those photos you took 20 years ago? Now’s your chance.

Always wanted to learn a craft? Is your spouse saying, “If you’re not going to use that stuff, why don’t you get rid of it?” Now’s your chance to do it.

And the number one tip…

1. READ!

I’ve seen libraries offering free borrows, apps with millions of books, and no late fees. Amazon and B&N are open for e-books 24/7 (and you can order print books from them, too). And don’t we all have TBR piles stretching to the moon?

Grab a book, brew up your favorite beverage (tea/coffee/hot chocolate), take some of those yummy snacks you backed up in #3, get a quilt and get to reading, folks. Those books aren’t gonna read themselves, after all.

Readers, got any other tips? Let me know in the comments?

Guest Post: Alan Orloff

Liz here. Alan Orloff is a great writer – and he’s an incredibly funny and generous guy. I met him a t Malice Domestic a few years ago and, even though I didn’t know him, he had me laughing within minutes. Today, he’s here at Mysteristas talking about something writers get asked about often – writer’s block. Does it exist and how do you fight it? Well, I’ll let him talk about it.

Ain’t No Plumber’s Block

I’m not a big believer in “writer’s block.” (Is there “plumber’s block” or “accountant’s block”? I don’t think so.) I mean, if I always waited for my muse before writing something I’d have some very (very!) unproductive days. However, there are times when a writer might get a little stuck.

So, if you find yourself bogged down, here are some suggestions to help get the wheels churning again:

Try doubling your quota. If you write to a quota, sometimes you can simply power your way back on track, especially if you can get into that all-powerful Writing Zone (notice the capital letters). Type something, anything, just to get the fingers tip-tapping and the mind-body connection working again. Once you’ve got the engine moving, take advantage of your forward thrust and write more than usual.

Skip ahead to a different scene. Sometimes skipping ahead to a different—and possibly more exciting—scene may kickstart things. It may also give you a fresh perspective on your story which might be all you need to get you back in the groove.

Change Your Outline: Maybe your writing has slowed down because, on some level, you know you’re going in the wrong direction. Don’t be afraid to tweak it a little or change it a lot, as long as the new path serves the story better. You never want to be a slave to an outline that just isn’t working. (Pantsers: Maybe you could try changing your pants!)

Try writing in a different location or at a different time of day. Many writers head down to the local coffee shop, bookstore, or library to write. Fewer distractions and more caffeine (assuming you can ignore the stares of the baristas, or all those books on the shelves calling your name). If you’re a morning writer, try writing at night, and vice versa. You never know what’s going to do the trick.

Try a different atmosphere. If you usually write in silence, try writing with a soundtrack (or with kids screaming in the background). If you usually write in an isolated place, try finding a spot right in the middle of some hubbub (train station, shopping mall, flash mob).

Try writing longhand. I know, archaic. But many writers swear that putting pen to paper (or chisel to stone) alters the way they think about writing—and the writing itself.

Talk to some other writers. Most of the writers I know are interesting, engaging people. I find that talking to them re-energizes me and gets me back in the mood to crank out some words. (Yes, I know a few writers are twisted and deranged. They’re also fun to talk with, even if they make you a little nervous.)

Now, get writing!

*****

Alan Orloff’s work has won the ITW Thriller Award and Derringer Award and been a finalist for the Agatha Award. His ninth novel, I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP, will be released in February from Down & Out Books. http://www.alanorloff.com

Wisdom from Dame Agatha

Last weekend, I attended a new member breakfast for my Sisters in Crime chapter at Mystery Lovers Bookshop. (Side note: They have a wonderful table of books for my double-launch with Annette Dashofy this weekend – no I did not get a picture).

Being at a bookstore meant, of course, that I had to buy books. Duh. And in a happy convergence of events they still had a copy of Agatha Christie’s Autobiography – and I had the money to buy it! Score!

I’m about 200 pages in and really enjoying it. Agatha has a wonderful narrative voice, not stuffy at all. She goes all the way back to her childhood, it’s not just about the years when she was writing novels. She was alive for both Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and her funeral. Who knew?

Anyway, I’m about at the part where Agatha has taken up writing semi-seriously. What she really dreamed of was a career in music, but she’d been told she’d never be a concert pianist (nerves) or an opera singer (just not good enough). She’d been writing poems and short stories. One day, she and her sister Madge had just finished a detective novel and Agatha said, “I’d like to write a detective story.” Madge said, “I bet you can’t.”

Famous last words.

I came across this:

“You start into it, inflamed by an idea, full of hope, full indeed of confidence…. If you are properly modest, you will never write at all, so there had to be one delicious moment when you have thought of something, know just how you are going to write it, rush for a pencil, and start in an exercise book buoyed up with exaltation. You then get into difficulties, don’t see your way out, and finally manage to accomplish more or less what you first meant to accomplish, though losing confidence all the time. Having finished it, you know that it is absolutely rotten. A couple of months later you wonder whether it may not be all right after all.”

Agatha Christie “got it.”

Agatha Christie may have had a touch of impostor syndrome.

I feel so much better now.

Joining the multi-book club

In case you missed it, the first book in my new Homefront Mysteries series, The Enemy We Don’t Know, released on Tuesday. Yay!

Cover for THE ENEMY WE DON'T KNOW

My favorite blurb line? “If Rosie the Riveter and Sam Spade had a love child, she’d be Betty Ahern.” Thank you, Annette Dashofy.

A bit of backstory. I wrote this book several years ago, before I had sold the Laurel Highlands Mysteries. The character genesis was a short story I placed in the 2017 Malice Domestic Anthology Murder Most Historical. Keenan (who also has a story in the anthology) swapped before submission. Part of her feedback was, “There needs to be more Betty stories.”

But I had no intention of doing that. Until the question arose: The Laurel Highlands hasn’t sold – maybe I should try something else. But what?

Lo, there was Betty.

I wrote the book, my critique group loved it, but then I sold The Laurel Highlands. Betty took a back seat (she wasn’t happy about that). Two or so years later, I had some agent interest, but she ultimately passed. Then Level Best Books, my publisher, announced they were starting an imprint for historical mysteries. Harriette Sackler told me to tell my friends. I put my hand up. “I have one, if you’re interested in reading it.”

She did, and she loved it. But the question was now: Can you write two books a year?

Many authors do this. Rhys Bowen, Catriona McPherson. Heck, I think at some point Edith Maxwall/Maddie Day was writing three or four (or at least releasing them). It wasn’t a new phenomenon in publishing.

But could I do it? I looked at my calendar. It takes me about six months to write a book and get it ready for submission. My manuscripts for Laurel Highlands are due in February with the book coming out in August. If I submitted the Homefront books in August, with a February release, I could be writing one series while editing another.

Because editing/revising and drafting take two different parts of my writer’s brain, I could do that.

I pitched it to Harriette. She asked again, “Are you sure?” I was sure. I signed the contract.

That means right now I’m:

  • promoting The Enemy We Don’t Know
  • polishing Broken Trust, Laurel Highlands #3 for submission (it’s there)
  • writing, The Stories We Tell, Homefront Mysteries #2 (my goal is to have it finished by the end of May so I have two months to polish it before the August due date – it’s on schedule)

Sounds like a lot? It is. But I have my trusty organizational tools: a calendar and a to-do list. I’ve got this.

Just stop me if I’m ever crazy enough to say, “I’ve got an idea for another series.”

Readers: Do you read multiple series from the same author? What are your favorites?

What I’m writing – Vermont edition

I’m currently relaxing in a sitting area in the Killington Grand Hotel, watching the fire while my son and my husband are off skiing and snowboarding. With The Boy graduating from high school this year, we decided to give him a taste of a serious resort snowboarding.

Me, I’m treating myself to a three-day writing retreat. Me, the fire, a squashy couch and the manuscript for the second Homefront Mystery, which isn’t due until August, but to stay on schedule, I want the first draft complete by the end of June.

So for this month’s post, I present a snippet for your enjoyment (hopefully).

Pop once told me that people tell stories about themselves all the time. Who they are, where they come from, why they did a particular thing. It’s a way of coping, he said, and of making sense of their lives. I guess it works. I mean, I’ve done it. Why not other people?

’Cept sometimes the stories aren’t true.

Emilia Brewka, “Emmie” to us girls at Bell Airplane, set down her spoon, her soft brown eyes wide. “I just don’t think she died natural, Betty.”

I peered at her over my cup of coffee. Emmie was what Mom called “peasant stock.” Not that she was poor, least not any more than the rest of us. But she had a sturdy build and a rounded face usually wearing a broad smile. I always thought Emmie looked like a grown-up version of Shirley Temple with her curly hair, rosy cheeks, and big smile. Right now, that friendly face was creased, her eyes lit with worry, mouth in a definite upside-down U.

Emmie Brewka was not happy.

I set down my cup. “What do you mean?”

She sniffed. “They said she died of a heart attack. Baloney. Babcia didn’t have a bad heart. Back in Poland, she and Dziadek worked hard. Him in the fields, she as a maid up at the big house. When they came to the States, back in ’05, he got a job working the blast furnace at Bethlehem and she did laundry and cleaning for the rich folks. She raised seven kids and worked 12 hours a day. Does that sound like a woman with a weak heart?”

“No.”

“When I talked to her a week ago, she was all set to start the Christmas baking. Yesterday she has a heart attack.” Emmie shook her head, brown curls bouncing. “Not natural.”

“Got it.” I took another drink, mostly to give myself time to think. This stuff was better than the chicory I had at home, but I had a flash of memory, the wonderful roasted taste of the coffee at the German American club. Heaven. “Why’re you telling me?”

Her cup clattered against the saucer as she set it down. “‘Cause you’re the one who figures things out, ain’t ya? I mean, that’s the word at Bell.”

She had a point. Since October, I’d solved two murders, busted open some black-market activity, and uncovered sabotage at Bell. After than, girls had been bringing me all sorts of problems. For a small fee, I found missing jewelry, followed a couple sneaky boyfriends before they shipped out, even located a lost cat. This, however, smelled like a different thing. How was I supposed to prove a poor old lady hadn’t died a peaceful, God-fearing death? I didn’t know any doctors.

But I did know Detective Sam MacKinnon of the Buffalo Police. “Did anyone call the cops after your grandma died?”

“No.” Emmie finished her coffee. “I wanted to, but Mama said not to be silly, I’d just be wasting their time.”

Darn it. No cops prob’ly meant no autopsy. “Well, let’s say you’re right. Who would want to kill her, your grandma? She have any enemies?”

“Not that I can think of.” Emmie leaned forward. “But ain’t that what you’re s’posed to find out? As a detective, I mean.”

I drained my cup. Too bad I couldn’t take some home. “Well, yeah. But it would help if I had a clue or two to start with. Heck, that’s the first thing Sam Spade, or even the police, ask when someone’s murdered.”

“I’ll try and think, but far as I know Babcia got along with everybody. Well enough they didn’t want to kill her. I mean, I’m sure she argued with lots of people throughout her life. She was over seventy after all.” Emmie bit her lip. “But she gave cookies to all the kids in the neighborhood, ’specially at Christmas. She took care of babies and gave gifts to new mothers. Far as I know, everybody in our neighborhood liked her.”

“Emmie, this doesn’t sound like murder to me.”

“Betty, please. I’m telling you, it don’t feel right. She didn’t just die. Something happened.”

I blew out a breath. “Okay, I’ll ask some questions. Then we’ll see where we go from there.”

Early morning thoughts

I’m sitting in a patient waiting room and the early morning news is on. Some thoughts:

  1. Don’t drink and drive. Last year over 40% of accidents involved alcohol. Duh.
  2. Smoking is down – yay! But they aren’t sure how many have switched to vaping – boo.
  3. People who live in areas of high air pollution are prone to depression. (Well, considering air pollution often blocks sunlight, I find this particularly shocking.)
  4. Since we’re going to a neighbor’s house for Christmas, all I have to do for Christmas dinner is buy two bottles of blush wine. Talk about a low-stress holiday dinner.
  5. And we’re going to a friend’s house for dinner on Christmas Eve, so ditto.
  6. It’s colder now then in November (duh).
  7. I’m waiting on the delivery of a gift for The Girl, but other than that and needing to buy a gift card for my sister (she needs diapers and wipes, but I’m not gonna buy, wrap, and ship those) my shopping is done.
  8. Writing my post on my phone is awfully convenient.
  9. I need breakfast.
  10. Getting up at five a.m. leads to some really random thoughts.

I think I need caffeine.

Hey y’all – a B’con 19 recap

At the end of October, I went to the big “D” – Dallas, Texas – for Bouchercon. I traveled with my good friend Annette Dashofy. Mostly I went because Hank Phillippi Ryan was Guest of Honor and Deb Crombie was Local Guest of Honor. That and I figured I’d never have another reason to visit Texas.

If you aren’t familiar with Bouchercon, well, it’s…a madhouse, really. Most mystery conferences are. It’s one of the few times a year when all we authors get together, talk books, catch up, and get to meet readers. There were over 1,700 attendees at this year’s con, the 50th anniversary. Needless to say, I had a lot of fun, wished I could spend more time with some people, and am looking forward to the next get-together (which for me will be Malice Domestic in the spring).

Annette and I have traveled together enough that we’ve got our routine down by now. The plan was I would go to her house, leave my car in her garage, and we’d go to the airport. We did not anticipate much of an issue, even though I was traveling through Pittsburgh at rush hour.

Man plans, God laughs.

What should have been a forty-minute trip took over two hours thanks to a disabled tractor-trailer. Thankfully, there is no traffic on Annette’s side of the city, and we’d left plenty of time to get to the airport. Off to Houston.

Except…Houston, we have a problem.

Upon landing, our 45 minute layover turned to a hour and forty-five minutes, turned into two hours, turned into three, turned into… You get the picture. The text tones went off so frequently our phones sounded like pinball machines. Fortunately, there were chocolate-covered potato chips.

When your flight delays just won’t stop…

Upon arriving in Dallas, our phones chimed with alerts about a freeze warning. Hello, didn’t we go to Dallas? Why yes, yes we did.

Hello Dallas, you’re looking…wet

By the time we arrived at our hotel, we were spent.

Current status…burnt

Nowhere to go but up, right? Wednesday, I hooked up with Dru Ann Love for a bus tour and yummy lunch.

Dru Ann and I, post lunch

From there, the whirlwind started. There was the always-entertaining Jungle Reds panel, this year a game show titled “Who Wants to be a Mystery-aire?” I answered questions I didn’t know I knew and flubbed ones that should have been easy. About par for the course.

All seven of the Reds made it to Dallas

I saw my favorite cowboy.

Reavis Wortham and I

And celebrated the end of the conference with some fabulous chocolate cake.

Decadent and yummy

I fully expected my panel on Sunday to be empty, but I was rather pleased at the crowd. We had a lot of laughs.

Half of the room

And from there it was off to the airport, another flight delay, and eventually home.

Next year, Bouchercon is in Sacramento. Maybe I’ll be recovered enough by then to think about going.

Special Guest: Catriona McPherson

Liz here. We love Catriona McPherson here at Mysteristas. No matter what she’s writing – historical, funny contemporary or creepy thriller. She’s one of the nicest people ever. Seriously, I’ve seen her injured, in slings, and boots, and there is never not a smile on her face. And that accent! I can listen to her talk for…hours, literally. So when she asked to visit the blog again, well, it wasn’t a hard decision.

T:The Fun in Dysfuntion

I wasn’t aware of doing it, and I certainly didn’t plan it, but last year, for some reason, I wrote a functional family! I know. The Doyles, in Strangers at the Gate, are a good man and a good woman, happily married, weathering their challenges, supportive parents to a decent, resourceful, empathic child.

Of course there are other people in the book too. There are the Dudgeons. And no matter how low we set the bar, how hard we work at acknowledging human frailty, and how unjudgmental we try to be, the Dudgeons . . . how can I put it? . . . suck.

The contrast between the Doyles and Dudgeons got me thinking about my favourite dysfunctional families in mysteries. There are plenty to choose from. In fact, it’s a bit of a stretch to find a happy family in crime fiction. Or any fiction. I came up with: the Chopras in Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh series – a good man and his good wife and their happy marriage; the eponymous family in Ngaio Marsh’s A Surfeit of Lampreys – a bit bonkers and annoying but loyal and loving to the core; and the Carters in Angie Thomas’s barnstorming debut The Hate U Give – kind, brave, funny, affectionate people, sticking together come what may.

But I’ve got to admit, if Inspector Chopra didn’t have his awful colleagues, the Lampreys didn’t have their mad aunt, and Starr Carter didn’t go to school with such snotty monsters, the books would be much less compelling. Messed-up folk have always beguiled us: from Medea through the Macbeths, all the way to the Lannisters. Dysfunction rules!

So. Here is my personal top five of dysfunctional families in crime fiction.

5. The Turnmills in The Arrangement by Robyn Harding.

I just read this book last week (preparing to moderate a panel on domestic noir at Bouchercon (I love my “job”)) and it’s a brilliant slow-mo car crash. We can only watch and wince as Gabe, Celeste and Violet Turnmill make an exponentially appalling, but satisfyingly plausible, series of decisions. And they’re not even the screwed-up ones! I don’t suppose anyone reading this is swithering about how good an idea it is for a mum and daughter to stay in the Hamptons full-time while the dad gets himself a pad in Manhattan, but if you are – take a squint at The Arrangement before you go signing any leases, eh?

4. The Symmingtons in The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie.

I only started rolling my eyes about the Turnmills last week; I’ve been hating the Symmingtons for forty years. Mrs S. regrets her first marriage and wishes she could put it behind her now that she’s got a respectable new husband and two perfect little boys. The trouble is, she’s also got Megan, her daughter from husband number one, and – try as you might – young women of twenty don’t disappear in a puff of smoke just because you want them to. The cruelty required to act as if someone in your house doesn’t exist isn’t any less cruel because you do it subtly. And another thing: that second husband might be wealthy and suitable-looking, but Mrs Symmington’s ability to pick a winner has not, in fact, improved. Not at all.

3. The Jacksons in The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood.

But the Symmingtons look like the Ingalls compared with this lot. They are a cold narcissist of a patriarch (if he’d “gone to Mankato” and stayed there it would have been better all round), his feckless first wife, his ineffectual second wife, some avid contenders for the post of third wife, and a troop of kids who are just so much trouble to take care of, don’t you know? The heartless solution dreamed up by this bunch of over-privileged wazzocks will drop your jaw and you’ll keep reading into the night to watch it go wrong for them and see them try to escape their come-uppance. I should say, there are people to love here too, in Marwood’s excellent third novel, but you’ll have to keep reading a bit before you find them.

2. The Hillyards in A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine.

 This is the first domestic noir I ever read, back in 1986, and it blew me away. Not just me, either, since it won the Edgar for best novel that year.  Vera and Eden, the sisters at the heart of the book, don’t really get how to do family. Vera is obsessed with her sister and neglects her first child. She goes too far the other way with her second child, mistaking devotion for affection. And Eden, once she decides she wants a child, truly believes she can just pick one. They’ve got the self-awareness of a pair of lamps, but when it comes to cunning, they make Lady Macbeth look schlubby. After thirty years of other writers – me included – dredging the depths of human hopelessness, like Baroness Rendell taught us to, this one still shines.

1.The Corleones in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

Come on! Who else could it be? It sometimes seems that the dysfunctional families we love to loathe are stuffed with rotten women and useless men, but Puzo’s masterpiece is an exception. Here there are rotten men – murderous, faithless, blinkered, grasping, selfish, rotten men – and the useless women who pander to them, cover for them, pray for their (alleged) souls, and generally enable them. Actually on reflection the women are pretty rotten too. But the book is anything but. The fact of every character being held in a death-grip by family loyalty makes for a genuinely pulse-pounding psychological thriller; the fact that the raison d’être of the Corleones is so venal, so grubby, so small – makes the whole thing a tragedy. I don’t often cry when I’m reading, but The Godfather gets me every time.

So what do you think of my top five? And what did I miss? I’m getting ready to spend the rest of the day going “d’oh” like the patriarch of the most functional fictional family ever.

*****

Catriona McPherson is the national best-selling and multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series of preposterous detective stories, set in her native Scotland in the 1930s. She also writes darker contemporary suspense novels, of which Strangers at the Gate is the latest. Also, eight years after immigrating to the US and settling in California, Catriona began the Last Ditch series, written about a completely fictional Scottish woman who moves to a completely fictional west-coast college town.

Catriona is a member of MWA, CWA and SoA, and a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime, committed to advancing equity and inclusion for women, writers of colour, LGBTQ+ writers and writers with disability in the mystery community.

Pumpkin spice…everything

Liz here, thoroughly enjoying the teasing onset of fall in southwestern PA.

When asked, “What is your favorite season?” the answer is easy: autumn. I love almost everything about it. The nip in the early morning air. Sweaters. Boots. Turtlenecks. The riot of color on a forested mountainside as Mother Nature dons her finery. The dry smell of leaves that are about to fall. The sharp tang of smoke from a wood fire. The tantalizing scent of hot spiced cider. (The only thing I don’t like about fall is what comes after, but we’ll let that go.)

In recent years, fall brings something else, something that will divide a room faster than asking for opinions on use of the Oxford comma: pumpkin spice.

It’s everywhere: coffee, cereal, lattes, bagels, cookies, donuts, syrups, non-dairy creamer, candles…you name it. One of these days an enterprising person will market pumpkin-spice perfume.

Now don’t get me wrong. In the Great Pumpkin Spice debate I am in the “yea” camp. I love a good pumpkin-spice chai latte. A delicious bagel thickly covered in cream cheese. My local bakery makes delicious pumpkin-spice mini-cheesecakes.

If only it didn’t come so soon.

“But Liz,” you say, “September is half over. October will be here before you know it. Is it really soon?”

Ah, dear readers, if only that were the case. See, all of the pictures in this post were snapped in…wait for it…August.

Yes, August. We had not yet had our first full week of school, and pumpkin-spice mania had descended.

I remember when September meant apples. A trip for fresh-pressed cider and an apple donut. Hot mulled cider to warm you up on a cool fall night. An apple-cinnamon coffee cake. Younger me did not care if it was homemade or out of a box (to be honest, older me doesn’t care either).

No more. Move over, apples. Here comes pumpkin (See the lonely box of maple Cheerios in the below picture? Another forgotten flavor of fall.)

Now in the rush that is the retail word, we careen madly from season to another, barely stopping to appreciate the bounty of where we are.

Bathing suits make their appearance in catalogs about February. Heaven forbid you go on vacation in August and need a new suit. Good luck.

Those sweaters and boots? Retailers start advertising those in July. Sorry Land’s End. When it’s 100 degrees out with 95% humidity, it’s hard to get jazzed about a new sweater, even if it is made of the finest cashmere in the world.

But that’s not the worst. No, no it isn’t. This also greeted my eyes on that sultry August afternoon.

What’s next, Christmas decorations in September (don’t answer that)?

Just where did my grocery think I was going to put that chocolate? Even with air-conditioning, it’d melt in my cabinet. Freeze it? Oh, and did they think my will-power was enough to make it last two whole months?

Hardly.

Needless to say, the reason retailers pull these stunts is because people buy the goods. If retailers weren’t making money off pumping-spice pudding, it wouldn’t be on the shelves.

So let’s change it. Boycott. No pumpkin-spice before October 1. Not in coffee, cereal, pudding…nothing. No Boo-berry or Count Chocula. No Halloween-wrapped Hershey’s minis.

None of it. Let September have her due. Bring on the apples and cinnamon. Plenty of time for the pumpkin-spice parade in October.

Who’s with me?

Why does everything happen at once?

Liz, here, who is starting to think she’s lost her mind.

So, I’m sitting at my computer this morning and I don’t see a Mysteristas post in my mailbox. “Hmm,” I think. “I wonder if something is messed up.”

Something’s messed up all right. Me.

Last week, things were a bit insane with the release and launch of Heaven Has No Rage. Don’t get me wrong – it was great. But trying to remember what blog I was visiting that day, checking frequently to respond to comments (and being petrified I’d miss something), then making sure the promo materials were in and everything was ready for my big party on Saturday, well, it got hectic.

But didn’t the display look nice?

Then just as I thought I had it all under control, it was time to move The Girl into her first apartment for the start of her sophomore year of college. It was a pretty smooth process, but it did take all of yesterday.

So I had a blog post all planned and…it just didn’t happen. You get this instead.

I need a new planning system.

Readers, how do you keep track of the chaos in your life? Or do you just suck it up and do your best?