Friday, July 29, 2011

Fun Friday

My first Fun Friday post, published on January 29, 2010.

It's Friday! Rejoice! In honour of this special day, I'm starting a new tradition here at "It's a Mystery", Fun Friday. Jokes and funny stories about writing will be the order of the day. I hope you enjoy this first installment. The travel mug at the top of today's post makes me snigger. It reads "I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done."



#1: "...Yeah, I make $75,000 a year after taxes."

#2: "What do you do for a living?"

#1: "I'm a stockbroker. How much do you make?

#2: "I should clear $60,000 this year."

#1: "What do you do?"

#2: "I'm an architect."

The third guy has been sitting there quietly, staring into his beer, when the others turn to him.

#2: "Hey, how much do you make per year?"

#3: "Gee... hmmm... I guess about $13,000."

#1: "Oh yeah? What kind of stories do you write?"


Q. How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.


Q: How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Ten
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.


This joke is especially for two of my follower friends (and I consider them real friends too!) who work in linguistics. With love.

A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thirties Thursday

I'm very proud of this Thirties Thursday post. It first ran on January 13, 2011.

Your earliest memories are of you and your mother being treated as the 'poor relations'.

Although you ache to be traditionally pretty, you realize in high school you never will be.

You marry at an early age to a tall, handsome pilot and move across the country to his base. You're thrilled to have your own home and start living your own life.

Your romantic dreams of happily ever after are crushed when you discover you have married an abusive alcoholic. You feel trapped as you know your family will never condone a divorce.

Believing your husband's messages of remorse, you follow him to the Far East, where you quickly discover he hasn't changed.

You head back for home, determined to get a divorce and start your life anew.

You fall in love again, this time with a foreign ambassador.

Your heart is broken when he informs you that his family will never accept him marrying a divorced woman.

You spend several years alone, drifting aimlessly.

You decide to marry again; but this time you choose a quiet, steady man who loves you far more than you love him. You both want to 'get on' in life and climb society's ladder.

You have several happy years with your new husband. You spend your weekends with him traveling in the countryside and antiquing. Slowly but surely, you make new friends and start getting invited to grand houses and attending sparkling dinner parties.

Although you spend most of your time worrying about money (it's a rough economic time and your husband's income has decreased), one of your girlfriend's admirers is one of the world's most glamorous men. Meeting him is the thrill of a lifetime.

This man includes you and your husband in his inner circle of friends; you get to travel in luxury and spend your weekends at his country house. You tell your friends you feel as if you're in Wonderland.

You realize this man is becoming attracted to you and you are immensely flattered. You're not as young as you used to be and his attention and gifts make you feel as if you're finally a success. You know this is only a flirtation as one day he must marry.

You discover this man is more than attracted to you; he's in love with you. In love to a degree which you have never experienced before. He phones you constantly. He wants to be with you at all times. You come before everything; his family, his job, his obligations.

You saw this relationship as nothing more than a flirtation; you're happy being married to your dependable husband, but this man is insistent that you make your life with him. He won't take no for an answer. You know if you leave, wherever you go, he will follow you. Your husband has had enough. He is tired of being the butt of society's jokes. Together, you both accept divorce is inevitable.

Once your other relationship becomes public, you start to receive threatening letters which terrify you. You move into your devotee's country home, where you feel safer.

Soon the public backlash is too large and you flee the country; begging your man to see sense and set his priorities correctly. But to him, you are his only priority.

You realize the situation is out of your control and that your name will become notorious.

Your name is Wallis Simpson.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Truth is on the Mug

This is one of my favourite picto-blogs of this year. It first ran on January 19, 2011.

If you are (or want to be) this...

You know all about this...

and the sad truth of this...

You know this...

and this...

and torture yourself thinking this...

and smile secretly as you think this...

But the most important thing is

you've learned the ultimate truth of this...

and this.

Okay. Break's over.

All these mugs are available through

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

10 Signs of a Typical Writing Day

And the summer reruns continue...

This was one of my most popular posts - first published on February 22, 2011.

10. The mug of coffee by your side seems to have cooled incredibly fast. You know you couldn't have spent that much time reading emails and checking in on Facebook.

9. That idea that kept you up last night (and you were so sure you'd remember that you didn't take notes) has vanished without a trace.

8. At the same moment that your fingers touch the keyboard, your previously peacefully snoozing pets leap up and begin a vigorous reenactment of the D Day landings at Normandy.

7. The dialogue which sounded so bright, witty and (let's just say it) literary in your head has revealed itself to be trite, cliche-filled and (let's just say it) stupid on paper.

6. You've spent the last 15 minutes imagining how you'll feel when you finish this manuscript. You're presently on page 10.

5. You love your plot. You love your characters. It's your actual writing of which you're not so enamoured.

4. Your coffee has cooled again. You know you couldn't have spent that much time reading and commenting on your favourite blogs.

3. You decide to get up and get active. Whilst moving around you can't help but notice your feet are sticking to the floor and you wonder idly how long it's been since you washed it. You immediately decide this line of thought could be dangerous to your writing, but grudgingly admit this sticky a floor might be dangerous to your health.

2. Moving to a bookshelf, you pick out one of your favourite novels for inspiration. After only a few sentences you know in your heart that you will never write as well as this author. Practice self-restraint and reach for the cold coffee instead of the wine.

1. You sit back down and face your blank screen. Summoning the inner strength of St. Joan of Arc, you pound out a sentence. It isn't completely awful. Resist the urge to belt out "Tomorrow" from "Annie". Your pets will judge you. Harshly.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Do You Need a Dragon?

This post first ran on May 20, 2010. 

There was a blog post a short while ago warning writers "Don't Fill Your Plot Holes with Dragons". (if someone finds the link, let me know and I'll add it). The writer made excellent points about realistic and unrealistic ways to deal with plot holes.

Just for fun, though, think of the advantages of using dragons.

Your character needs to be in a different location. Don't worry about climbing into a car or taking a train. Call a dragon.

Your main character is in danger with no way out. After cursing at yourself for writing yourself into a corner, remember your friendly dragon. Let him appear and scare the skin off of whatever is imperiling your character.

It's a cold night and your character is freezing. Hello, dragon! A bit of fire, if you please. Problem solved.

Your character has a deep secret, which you alluded to many times, but never actually figured out what it is. Solution? He has a pet dragon.

The dialogue drags. Talk about the dragon.

You discover your main character is, in fact, rather hum-drum. No one with a dragon is hum-drum.

Your main character needs a sidekick. How cool would a dragon sidekick be?

Your plot needs more conflict. The dragon can turn nasty.

Best of all?

Your main character is stuck in a deep hole. Oh, dragon??

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fun Friday

Short, but sweet. And wise. But, being Irish meself, couldn't you guess I'd be saying something like that? Then again, I'm not the author of the wisdom, it being sent to me by way of an email.

Have yourselves a grand weekend.

Five Pearls of Irish Wisdom
  1. Money cannot buy happiness but somehow, it's more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes Benz than it is on a bicycle.
  2. Forgive your enemy but remember the bastard's name.
  3. Help a man when he is in trouble and he will remember you when he is in trouble again.
  4. Many people are alive only because it's illegal to shoot them.
  5. Alcohol does not solve any problem, but then neither does milk.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thirties Thursday

Take a few minutes and experience riding the Orient Express. If you've got more than a few minutes, watch the whole video - it's less than 10 minutes long.

How I'd love to be a passenger! I'd go from Paris to Venice. Where would you go?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Moment of Reality

No one's life is constantly filled with this...

or battling these...

No one sees this every day.

It's not always a this.

Or a this.

So why should that be our characters' lives?

Consider letting your main character spend a few minutes somewhere like this...

Before he rushes off to do this...

Or maybe she gets a chance to enjoy this...

Before slapping on these...

I like to write plots where everything changes when one of my character finds something as insignificant as this.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

10 Signs of a Bad Writing Day

10. You've been transcribing your handwritten draft and a glance at the computer screen tells you you've just typed 5 pages of gobbledegook since your hands were one key over the entire time.

9. Your coffee is cold.

8. You've given two characters the same name.

7. A character is in two places at once. And no, he/she does not have magical powers.

6. Thinking cold coffee is better than no coffee, you pick up your mug to discover a bug doing the backstroke. Hopefully, you make this discovery before you've swallowed.

5. If you write mysteries, you realize you've given three characters the same motive.

4. You decide to purge and replace your usual suspects of over-used words. Your first search comes up with over 1,000 hits.

3. You just spent ten minutes watching the dust motes float in the air. No, you weren't thinking about your story - you were watching dust motes.

2. You emit an ear-splitting primal scream, causing your cat to attempt to attach itself to the ceiling. He returns to the floor with cold revenge flickering in his eyes. Be afraid.

1. You empty the bug swimming pool of coffee and get yourself a fresh cup. You spill it. And now, you're out of coffee.

Monday, July 18, 2011

That Which We Call a Rose...

Names. Who is that character? You know...the tall one with the big nose and says things that make you laugh out loud. What's his name? is that the right name? Names. They'll get you every time.

I name my characters first, then I flesh them out. I discovered years ago that if the name is wrong, nothing else falls into place no matter how hard I try. If the name is right, I can hear the character's voice. The wrong name is like putting a rubber nose on the Mona Lisa. Amusing, yes; but ultimately not so good an idea.

I have changed characters' names as I've slogged through the editing process - usually because I've discovered that I've named characters with remarkably similar names or have six characters with names starting with the same letter. The advantage of naming at that point is that I know the character intimately as opposed to naming him/her at the beginning of the process when I have nothing more than a passing acquaintance.

There is also the situation of beginning your first draft with sweet Polly who makes tea and reads Jane Austen under her blanket every night who by the end of the draft has revealed her true Machiavellian nature and her propensity for high-stakes card games.

Do you change her name to give a hint of her true nature? Some writers will, some won't. Personally, I won't.

I admit I am somewhat sensitive about names - having spent a lifetime (and I'm really not exaggerating) explaining to people how to pronounce my own. There was an email that has made several rounds demonstrating that most people only read the beginning and end of a word and that the middle could be gobbledegook. This explains why I have answered to "Elizabeth" all my life. Nothing wrong with the name, it's just not mine. Mine is the Scottish version (which is interesting because I'm not Scottish).

Sorry, I seem to have digressed...

When do you name your characters?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fun Friday

This email was sent to me the other day. I laughed. I hope you do too. Happy weekending!

Sure, the 'kids' have their codes of LOL and BFF and's some for the older set.

ATD - At the Doctor's

BFF - Best Friends Funeral

BTW - Bring the Wheelchair

BYOT - Bring Your Own Teeth

FWIW - Forgot Where I Was

FYI - Found Your Insulin

GHA - Got Heartburn Again

IMHO - Is My Hearing-Aid On?

LMDO - Laughing My Dentures Out

LWO - Lawrence Welk's On

OMSG - Oh My! Sorry, Gas

ROFL...CGU - Rolling on the Floor Laughing...Can't get Up!

WAITT - Who Am I Talking To?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thirties Thursday

Let's go for a 1930s picnic! Here are a variety of baskets I've found scattered about the internet. All but one have links to where you can buy them, if you so fancy.

Who's bringing the food?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writing as Shoes

Sometimes my writing feels as if it's wearing these...

But many days, it feels more like it's mucking about in these...

There are those comfy days when it's wearing these...

or even these...

And the wonderful days when it wears these...

or these...

Then there are the days when I slog along wearing these...

and even some when it's wearing this...

But I dream of the days when it will wear these...

Or, more precisely, when I can wear them!

This post was inspired by the blog post written by the wonderful Talli Roland. Thanks, Talli!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

10 Ways to Reach Your Word Count Goals

10. Write the scene that's in your head - don't worry if it's out of sequence.

9. Write to your strengths - if it's dialogue, write dialogue. If it's description, write description. You can fill in all the blanks later.

8. Don't stop if you need to know the name of something - just type *** or something similar and keep on writing. Trust me on this one. I once stopped writing to look up the name of a mountain range. One hour later, I had traveled to a site about Russian royalty. It made sense at the time.

7. Don't worry about quality. That comes later. Remember, in order to be able to polish, you first have to have something to polish.

6. Writing 'this is crap' many times can really ratchet up that word count.

5. If you can, ignore typos. This is impossible for me, but maybe you can.

4. Let your fingers do the writing. Sometimes just letting the words flow will take you to strange and unexpected places.

3. Remember you don't have to reach the goal in one session. You might work better in small bursts than one long stretch. Not every one can run a marathon.

2. Don't compare your word counts to anyone else's. I tell myself that those writers who can consistently spew out 5,000 words a day have severe emotional issues.

1. Celebrate when you reach your goal. The nature of the celebration is up to you, but I have been known to dance about the house like a deranged camel. It's not pretty.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I have realized writing can be like trying to perform a juggling act while balancing on a wire high up in the big top. There is so much for a writer to try and keep track of: Is the plot moving forward quickly enough? Are the characters compelling? What about the setting? Add to this worries about grammar and vocabulary and I admit (for me) the urge to let loose with a primal scream becomes almost overwhelming.

The Plot Ball

Is it a good plot is the first question I ask myself; and then continue to ask over and over. Is it logical? Are there huge holes in the action? Is my solution reasonable or will it have people hurling my book (if it ever actually exists) across the room in well-earned frustration?

The Character Ball

Are all these characters real people? Do I understand why they do and say what they do? Are there too many of them; or (good grief) are there too few? Who gets the leading roles? Who's important but secondary? Who has bit parts? Then there's the issue of the names; not too similiar to each other but not too out-of -this world either. As a reader, I get bounced out of the story line when I have to spend 10 minutes wondering 'how on earth do you pronounce that?' There's also the character-arcs to remember; what are their individual journeys? How do they evolve as the plot progresses?

The Setting Ball

First off, does it matter where this story takes place? If it does, how much time do I need to spend describing it? This is often where I find my over-flowery sentences (which earn an eye-roll and the delete key).

The Grammar and Vocabulary Ball

This (for me) is the most frustrating part of the task. I am still learning American grammatical rules, which are quite different from the rules I learned here in Canada. I have a fairly extensive vocabulary but I don't want my manuscript to read like I've swallowed a dictionary.

Perhaps I was behind the door when the juggling gene was being handed out. There are days when I think I'm doing okay, but then there are days when I'm sure every one of those balls just went tumbling onto the ground. Welcome to being a writer!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fun Friday

Here are 10 movie titles that got somewhat lost in translation. However, I do enjoy that some of these translations give a great description of the movie in question!

"Airplane" - "The Unbelievable Trip in a Wacky Airplane" - Germany

"Home Alone" - "Mom, I Missed the Plane" - France

"Jaws" - "The Teeth from the Sea" - France

"The Horse Whisperer" - "Held by Wind in Montana" - Japan

"The Matrix" - "The Young People Who Transverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses" - France

"Free Willy" - "A Very Powerful Whale Runs to Heaven" - China

"Annie Hall" - "The Urban Neurotic" - Germany

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - "If You Leave Me, I Delete You" - Italy

"Get Smart" - "Is the Spy Capable or Not" - Taiwan

And the icing on the cake...

"Lost in Translation" - "Meetings and Failures in Meetings" - Portugal

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thirties Thursday

'Tis July - the month of the Buckingham Palace garden parties. This is the one summer (1936) that Edward VIII hosted as King. This is also the first time debutantes were presented at a garden party - usually it was a separate ceremony in the evening. Edward was not a fan of formal ceremonies and this was his solution to get two things over at once.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Small Can be Big (take 2)

This post first ran in January - I'm running it again today as a reminder to all of us that less is more. As I'm editing right now, it's especially appropriate for me!

You don't have to write a book like this...

or have a cast of characters as big as this...

to get your readers to do this.

You don't have to write about this...

to elicit this...

Nor do you need to include this...

When you're writing about this...

To make your readers do this...

or even this...

All you might need to do is write about this...

or this....

Always remember....

There is boundless beauty in something as small as this.