Fitness Writing, Part II

I think of Means as part of the cop phrase, “The suspect had means, motive, and opportunity.” I take it and revise it just a bit so that Means includes preparation, opportunity, and follow up.

prepare picPreparation

When it comes to fitness, you have to prepare for the workout. This includes cardio work to get the heart pumping. Proper warmup starts with cardio. You need the heart going and the blood pumping, the sweat forming, the muscles warming. Then you can do some stretching. One of the worst things I’ve seen (and I’ve been guilty of this before I learned) is the instructor will get the students in a front stance and start off class with high straight leg kicks. Ugh! With no other warmup, you’re risking pulling muscles. You’ll end up with a nice hamstring bruise the size of Idaho. I’ve seen one and it ain’t pretty.

For writing, preparation includes gathering the writing materials. Pen, paper, computer, drink, special lighting, candles for mood enhancement, locked door, turned off Internet, orders to the family not to be disturbed, or whatever you do to prepare to write.

Opportunity picOpportunity

For my fitness regiment, which I’ll discuss later, I choose different times of the day for my workout. Morning, noon, afternoon, two in the morning. I’ve done it all. When I was living in the campground in southeast Iowa, I chose three in the morning to do my five mile run. I had to be concerned with only a couple of watchdogs at a farmhouse. I also vary the location. Sometimes it’s the local track, the next time it’ll be a zig-zag through town, or on the bike trail. Something to vary the routine. I’ve done running workouts up and down my stretch of Ash Street.

Many writers have set times of day to write. That’s fine. I know a guy who gets up at five in the morning and writes for two hours. Janet Evanovich takes part of the afternoon. If you have a set time and it works for you, great. What would happen if you vary the routine. Write at midnight. During the lunch hour. After work and before supper. Could you write when the opportunity (and the ideas) strike? In a restaurant (yes, I have). At a coffee shop. (Stereotypical, I know but why not?) Waiting in line at the grocery store (might be a bit difficult). I wouldn’t suggest writing at the red light, but what about during break time at work?

follow up picFollow Up

In fitness, we call it the cool down stage and at age 48 in T-minus two months and counting (give or take a day or two) I have found that cool down after working out is not just a suggestion. It’s vital if I want to keep my joints and muscles from tightening up. I made the mistake a few weeks ago of talking with a guy for twenty minutes after my laps instead of walking and keeping the muscles stretched. At the time of this writing, I’m still dealing with a knee problem I think stemmed from that neglect.

How does this relate to writing? Well, maybe you write longhand on notepaper or a legal pad. The follow up could be transcribing that written page to the word processor. Or it could be reviewing what you just wrote, making some quick edits. If you’ve scribbled down an idea, maybe follow up could be discussing it with another person, writing down or starting research for the idea. Also, as I mentioned last week, a great follow up to writing is to celebrate what you’ve done. If you’ve promised yourself an extra cookie for finishing the chapter, then munch away.

Next week: Method. 

Note: next week’s post may be interrupted by one of those pesky authors who, from time to time, step in to take the reins. lol

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Fitness Writing, Part I

snoopy-writingTen days before July meeting of my local (and only Iowa branch of) Sisters in Crime I was asked by the chapter president to assist with the presentation. In previous meetings, we’ve were visited by a law enforcement officer, a wonderful woman who self published a couple books, and other wonderful presenters. In July, though, K. didn’t have anybody scheduled so she asked me if I wanted to share the two hour meeting as she was planning on presenting a seminar on editing.

For a few days I could not think of a topic. Really, what is there to say about writing that hasn’t been said before? I didn’t want to talk about character or plotting or emotion but I was a blank. The following week, with the deadline looming, I was out running laps around the high school track across the street and it dawned on me that my fitness regimen could be transitioned into different ways to write. So, in order to distract my mind and body from the fact they were both tired, out of breath, but that I should finish my laps, I started outlining the following presentation.

I entitled it Means, Method, and Motivation. I focused mainly on the Method part, and threw the others in there just for fun because they helped round out the presentation (and because it’s cool alliteration. Lol.).

I discussed the fitness side, then transitioned that into writing. First, I talked about my taekwondo classes and how, at the beginning of each taekwondo class I announce the goal of the class. This way, the students know what to expect and have something toward which they can work. Maybe the goal is to learn a round kick or the next section in the form.

For writing, I want to give you, the readers some ideas which may spur your fitness regimen and/or writing. That was my goal at SiC and it’s my goal with this current series of blogs.

goal picIn my classes and my fitness exercises, I set a goal before I workout and before class. For class, I will prepare a class planner which consists of warm up exercises, the ‘meat’ of the class, be it form work, technique refinement, one step practice, etc. I try to vary the exercises so the students are always doing the same pushups, situps, or laps every time. I keep an eye out for new exercises to incorporate to see how they work, what they accomplish.

For writing, I take from Todd Stone, who wrote The Novelist Boot Camp. Back in 2007 (I think it was that year), I attended a seminar with him as speaker. One of the areas he discussed was setting a reasonable goal when you write. Many writers boast 5000 words a day or two hours a day or set aside an entire afternoon. Some manage only a page, maybe a paragraph. He didn’t criticize any of these goals. He said to set a goal that you know you can reach and do it. I took it a step farther and related the fitness side into this because I like to challenge my students to reach higher. So if you know you can write a page, try for two, or five. I’ll mention this later, but celebrate when you reached the goal and if you don’t, then revise the goal for the next time.

Next week, we’ll tackle the first M: Means.

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Scammed, Part II

Email-ScamGood day,

I am very grateful for the interest you have shown in my plight and I want to assure you that you will be greatly rewarded for what you have chosen to do. Although we are just knowing and communicating with each other for the first time but I believe that our heavenly father has directed me to you as I have already prayed and searched over the internet a long time for assistance before I saw your profile on a list of registered email addresses provided from some search engines where I picked you.

Be rest assured that you stand no risk as this is my money. Myself and my late husband labored for it and me being the next of kin has the sole right to do whatever I want with it. I am a born again Christian and take delight only in the things of our savior and Lord Jesus Christ, I have prayed a lot on this already and I believe so much in the manifestation of Christ that I know he will not fail me so I want you to know that you have to be strong in your faith as he {Almighty} will surely strengthen you.

My husband’s relatives are pagans and they have used my husband’s wealth and properties which he left behind in ways that do not glorify God, they have lavish nearly everything on vain things and as I lay here in my hospital bed they are all around me, they have sold virtually all I have here in Solomon Island that which my husband and I labored for and what they are waiting to hear is that I am dead so that they can finally lay their hands on my wealth here on earth, I now find it difficult to trust anyone around me here, because I do not know who they can use against me, though that does not really bother me because the things of the earth are canal and there is an eternal home for me (John 14: verse 2). I do not want them to know about this particular money that is why I am communicating with you only through email and I am also communicating with the finance firm who also understands my predicament.

All I need is your absolute trust, commitment, confidentiality and honesty because I want to see my late husbands vision fulfilled before I leave this sinful world. My spirit directed me to you as I have already prayed and searched over the internet for someone to help me since I can no longer trust my family members and friends and I do not want this particular deposit to be used for canal things, I want it to be used to the glory of God. I will want you to get back to me, and I want to be sure that you will be absolutely honest in this transaction and you will use this money to the Glory of God.

Also you have to assure me that you will keep this transaction confidential and you will be willing to contact my finance firm which is located in the United Kingdom and finalize all necessary formalities as to the release of the fund to you. I will also want to know a little more about you regarding your life, your spiritual life, what you do for a living so as for me to know that you will be able to complete this. At the moment I cannot write much because of my health and I do not know when my time will be up so I require your urgent response to know if you are trustworthy and willing to help me finalize this transactions, so that I will immediately write to my lawyer to prepare a court injunction/power of attorney to appoint you as the legal beneficiary to my fund, all other documents are with the finance firm as I already sent it to them for safe keeping so that my husband’s relative will no longer have access to it due to their canal ways.

To prepare this document I will require your full names and address, with this documents, you will contact the finance firm to arrange the transfer of the fund to you. As soon as you have received the fund then you will help me set up a charity foundation or distribute it to charity organizations and hospitals. God permitting, I pray to be alive when you receive this fund and start this project so that you can visit me here if you wish to.

God bless you.
Mrs. Heather Walker

Once again, the above is an actual email. It was the reply to my reply of her first email which read: I am Heather Walker,This is my Third Email to you,I am at the end of the road, and about to donate a huge amount through you. I promise that your assistance would be rewarded. Please reply back to me for more information. Remain Blessed

This was first email I received from her, not the third. I decided to play along and see how far it get me. I will reply to the longer email regarding the ‘plight’ of the poor rich woman who can’t seem to find a competent lawyer who is able to help. I also wish to know the types of ‘canal’ things on which she doesn’t want the money spent.


Following up on the dating site profiles who emailed me regarding their financial needs (the medical and hotel bill scams), I emailed back and forth a few times with a couple of them who, apparently didn’t read my replies, or at least didn’t understand them. I flat out called them liars and they wrote back with more affectionate words. Wouldn’t a typical response be to get angry? Guess not.

Beginning in June of last year I started receiving calls from somebody (foreign sounding) from the ‘U.S. Grant Office’ telling me they had a grant for me for $7000. She told me I could use the money for school, car payments, medical bills, but nothing illegal. I’m serious, that’s what she told me. I was certainly happy to have that bit clarified because when I heard the amount I could receive, I began wondering how many pounds of marijuana $7000 would buy. (Joke here, don’t send the DEA.)

So, I played along. I asked her how I could receive the money and she started in with some questions. First thing she asked me was my zip code. Her information had me living under a New York zip. I told her I wasn’t living there and she asked me for the correct one. I told her that if she had all of my information, she should know where I lived. Again, she said her info listed me in New York. Again, I said no and she repeated her request for a correction. Once again, I told her if she had info on me she should already know. And her reply was (and forgive me for using profanity) “F— you. You hear me? F— you!” And she hung up.

The next time the automated caller computer called and when the woman answered I managed to get through a few more questions to where she asked me if I had a full or part time job. When I wondered why that was relevant, she hung up. From then on, I did the hanging up. There was a period of several weeks when I was given a break but soon after I moved to Carlisle and was trying to acclimatize to the new job, exhausted for the first week, they began again. I hung up on the first but when they called again, I told the guy that if he ever called again, I would track him down and kick his @$$.

About nine months have passed with no further calls.

The emails and messages keep coming, though I don’t mind them and sometimes I just delete them.

One had a separate email address I could contact to be assured that the money was truly real. The contact person was a man of the cloth. I played along for awhile trying for further verification but eventually they stopped replying.

I even had what I assumed was a scam on Craig’s list with someone trying to buy my book Alpha. I had it listed on that site and was contacted by someone who I thought wanted to buy it. The problem was he didn’t have the money but wanted somebody as a go-between. I didn’t understand the scam and finally told him to keep it simple. Send me the money and I send you the book. He never replied back.

A good one was a medical supply company in England. It’s a real company (I looked it up on the Internet. lol) but I wondered about their representatives (or purported reps). The scam here was, because of certain international laws, they couldn’t receive payment directly from the customer and wanted me as a go between. The customer would pay me, I’d keep a portion, and send the rest onto the company. Didn’t quite make sense, but I knew it would involve giving them my bank account.

Scams have been around since the snake chatted up Eve. I wonder, though, how the Nigerian scam worked with people actually living in Africa at the time?

What scams have you encountered and how did you handle them?

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Scammed, Part I


This message may be coming to you as a surprise but I need your help.Few days back we made an unannounced vacation trip to Kiev Ukraine.Everything was going fine until last night when we were mugged on our way back to the hotel.They Stole all our cash,credit cards and cellphone but thank God we still have our lives and passport.Another shocking is that the hotel manager has been unhelpful to us for reasons i don’t know. I’m writing you from a local library cybercafe..I’ve reported to the police and after writing down some statements that’s the last i had from them.i contacted the consulate and all i keep hearing is they will get back to me. i need your help ..I need you to help me out with a loan to settle my bills here so we can get back home, our return flight leaves soon. I’ll refund the money as soon as i get back. All i need is $1,950 ..Let me know if you can get me the money then I tell you how to get it to me.


Jean Morrison

This is the text, copied verbatim from a recent email. I left in the errors of spacing, punctuation, grammar and spelling.

I receive these types of letters about once every couple of months. Usually, they don’t arrive like this right out of the chute. Since I’m on several social media sites I first receive an invitation to be a friend and am asked to contact the individual accompanied by a typical line being something like, “I have something important to share.” Dating sites are notorious for these. After years of receiving these scam letters I’m able to spot them right away, even before the actual letter arrives. I can recognize the intro-get-ready-for-the-pitch email.

I used to just dump them, but then I started playing along. Asking questions, see how far they’d go before they realized I wasn’t going to send them money. For the one above I wondered:

1. Who she was and why did she pick me to contact.

2. Why she didn’t contact family for assistance.

3. What was the reason she went to Ukraine in the first place.

4. Did she visit the U.S. Consulate or just call?

I haven’t heard back.

For awhile, the letters came from the all too infamous Nigeria. Yes, I received the one from the banker who had money for me, but also some similar to the one above. “My boyfriend stole my passport and left me here in a Nigerian hotel and they won’t let me leave until I pay the bill.”

Another was the girl’s mother had been in an auto accident and needed medical assistance. Another was some distance relation named Brayton who had money for me.

Then one came, supposedly, from Ethiopia. At least this time, the scammer decided on another country as did the writer of the one above.

One of the ways I could tell a scam letter was how the original profile was in excellent English but the email was written by a person with barely a grasp on how to write the language. Plus, they put in too many ‘dears’ and affectionate terms too soon. I remember one where the woman said she came from a place in southeast Russia. I looked up the city on a map and saw a huge lake nearby. When I questioned if she was able to visit the lake, do some sailing, camping, etc., she wrote back saying she didn’t have a lake near her city. Hmm…

More scams next week.

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Variety Is The Spice Of Writing

varietySince I’m involved in martial arts, I write a series with a character who is a taekwondo school owner as well as a private investigator. Yes, she carries a gun, but she relies on her martial arts skills more often.

Two challenges I have in writing this series are 1). to create scenes where my main character, Mallory Petersen, can use her skills and 2). for her to use a variety of those skills.

What fun would it be for the reader if all she ever did were a couple of punches and a front kick?

So, I’ve taken some of my training and put that into the scenes. Yes, punches and front kicks are used, but also: round kicks, sweeps, side kicks, and a variety of weapons such as the long staff and bahng mahng ee, or single stick.

I’ve looked back over my training and taken some of my favorite exercises and technique and have allowed Mallory to use them in a practical situation.

In an upcoming story she has to execute techniques in order to avoid being killed by an assailant wielding a knife. She doesn’t have a weapon, is in danger of freezing, is suffering withdrawal symptoms, and can’t mess around too long or else somebody else dies. The scene should be quite interesting.

When I create one of these scenes, I have to choreograph the movements. Many times I’ve mentally written the order of technique-reaction-counter techniques while doing laps around the local high school track. Running, for me, is a great way to free up the mind for thinking about writing. By concentrating on a problem within a story, I am not focusing on how my muscles are hurting or wanting to quit after only a few laps. Back home, I’ll write down the steps in order, then physically work through them, either alone or with a partner. Of course, I’m not actually going to incapacitate my partner, but I am able to get a feel for how the techniques will work. I also will have a sense of time, whether the scene runs too quickly or drags. Also, whether I need to add more material to spice it up a bit.

One of the areas I need to keep in mind is that Mallory is human and feels pain. My writers group has commented on this several times after I’ve read portions of Mallory’s action scenes. This cannot be like the movies where nobody gets hurt, the heroine fights through any injury with no consequence. Mallory has to experience pain and injury. Sure, she can grit her teeth and still fight on, but I can’t make her Superwoman.

I know I’ve done my job when I hear comments that when people read the action scenes, they can follow the movements and know that what I’ve written-and what Mallory has accomplished, actually works.

Creating new scenarios and using the variety of martial arts techniques I know is part of the fun of writing. The imagination can run free to do whatever is necessary to make the scene worth reading. There are a few authors who write series and even though I enjoy them, I could probably tell you the highlights of each book because he/she uses the same formula over and over. Not that this is necessarily bad, but after awhile, I sometimes long for something new.

Now, I’m not saying mess with success. If it works for an author, and people continue reading, fine. For me, I want to keep putting Mallory in different types of adventures. I’ve outlined a future story where I highlight more of the Des Moines metro than I have in previous Mallory stories. I want her to visit more places, be able to use her martial arts in other locales.

One last area of interest I have in writing these stories is that Mallory’s usual array of cases are somewhat humorous. These are usually covered within a chapter or two. The challenge is to create a variety of cases at which she can roll her eyes or end up in a situation that contains humor. This gives the reader a small break between the intense scenes of the main plot. Humor is a delicate aspect and I run the danger of taking it too far so that Mallory-and the reader-are removed from the reality of the moment.

Keep it real but keep it varied. These are two keys to a successful novel

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Chapters – I

C01NOTE: So, I should point out here at the beginning that I’ve decided to go with the title Chapters for this series of blog posts. I suppose nearly any of the stand alone posts could fit under this category, but I think I’ll try to keep these with where there is a humorous complaint or comment. Searching the web I’ve discovered several other sites to tap when this current crop, originally listed back on 4/25, is depleted. And when the time arrives, I can switch to something else. Enjoy!


I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”

Maybe it should also state in the brochure that the store doesn’t sell dinette sets or Corvettes either.

Come on, be reasonable.


Anyway, this had me thinking about bookstores and how many people enjoy visiting the large spacious stores with two floors, a coffee shop, bakery, auto mechanic, and shelves upon shelves of novelty items that have nothing to do with books. In the store of which I’m thinking that shall remained unnamed unless you can figure out this complicated code: arnes-Bay & oble-Nay, I actually saw a box containing a screen the size of an average laptop with a small paintbrush. Apparently the goal is for to paint with the brush anything you want. A few seconds later, the picture magically disappears and you can begin again. This is supposed to help you relax after your stressful day…for only $39.95.

First, I wouldn’t be relaxed after shelling out that kind of dough for a modern version of an Etch-a-Sketch. Second, I wouldn’t be relaxed after concentrating on the perfect picture only to have it go away. I’d be prone to throwing the palette out the nearest open window.

My point is that in these types of bookstores you can find a lot of things. However, many times I feel overwhelmed because, well, I love bookstores. In fact many times, the manager is on the verge of calling the police at closing time because I won’t leave even though I’ve spent the past nine hours roaming the aisles I haven’t looked at every single book and I may want to refresh my memory on one particular shelf. I may not buy anything, although I’ll see several carts full of potential books I WANT to buy but have enough sense not to make my Mastercard scream in pain any more than it already does.

Here in Des Moines, is a store called ½ Price Books where the books cost-now follow me here-half the regular price. Or more in some cases, even more, namely on the clearance shelves. What I really enjoy about this store is some of the collectibles I can’t find anywhere but on eBay or regular book sales at the fairgrounds or the mall. I find many of the novels I’m missing in a series. Plus, they buy books. They only give you maybe .000001 cent per book when you know could sell it on the aforementioned eBay for $4.50 plus $6.50 shipping and get more from the gullible buyer than you originally paid for the book, but at least the store offers some pittance for you to trade in read books. (As opposed to wrapping them in plastic and putting them in boxes which then clutter up your parents’ basement. Not saying I do that…okay, I do, but you don’t have to is my point.)

Then there are the independent bookstores found in many towns large and small. Here you find some of the popular novels but you may find some books written by local authors. At one store I have visited several times, they have an entire wall dedicated to Iowa authors. In these stores, the selection isn’t that large but like the bigger places, they will order books for you. And you may find some novelty books such as the cookbook I saw recently called “Pumpkins” which was in the shape of, you guessed it, a watermelon. No, seriously, it was orange and round and textured, roughly like a pumpkin.

The ‘indie’ stores are more willing to work with ‘indie’ authors on selling the ‘indie’ published books. Usually, the stores take a commission and send the author whenever a book is sold.

I’ve heard from many publishers that people should patronize these indie bookstores and I agree. First off, if you have one in your town, that makes it local and you don’t have to drive to the big bad city to buy a book. Plus, if you’re Internet savvy (and you’d have to be somewhat intelligent to have navigated to this blog) then most of these stores have websites where you can order a book and then pick it up at the store.

As the Ebook explosion is coursing through the world, some, if not most of the indie store are going E.

I did experience frustration with one particular store as the E-wave started crashing, in that they were unsure of the E-market so they didn’t want to risk having me do an author appearance (my first two books are exclusively eBooks) because they didn’t know how successful the event would be. Okay fine, but then not six months later they had a guest speaker in to have a discussion on…eBooks and how wonderful they are. If I had not had another commitment that day, I would have hung around outside handing out bookmarks. “Hey, now that you’ve heard the talk, here are a couple of books to try out.”

And maybe it’s just me, but I’ve also had problems scheduling events with indie bookstores. “Oh, we’re planning on an authors’ fair later this year. Let’s get you in on that” I’ve heard that twice and both failed to materialize.

I think the problem is that a lot of times, the indies don’t have enough time to properly promote the author. They love for them to come in, don’t misunderstand me, but attendance is usually low (or zero in my one time event) and space will be limited. For a book signing during the Christmas rush I was placed in a chair blocking the entrance to a section of books with a plastic table to display my books measuring one foot square and shorter than the average lawn gnome’s kneecaps. People were looking at me liked I’d pooped on the carpet or bending over so they could peer at my book, then looking at me like I’d pooped on the carpet. Most of them just ignored me because they didn’t know why I was there. My one benefit was, I managed to get two solid hours of writing accomplished.

Please don’t think I’m trashing indie bookstores. I love them. I love bookstores and I think that if you see an author is appearing at one, please attend and listen. You don’t have to buy his/her book, but at least show the bookstore that somebody cares enough to attend. That way they’ll be more inclined to have more authors visit and that’s a win for all of us.

You might learn something from the authors. They might be interesting. The ones with whom I associate are. Plus, while you’re in the indie store, you might find some surprises. The hand-woven bookmark. A special clip-on book light that doubles as a clock. Or you may find a title you never expected to see like, “47 Uses For Pantyhose.”

(I assume you already know about putting a pair over your head when you rob a bank.)

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“Take down this number…”

write-it-down-inspirelsOne of my recent Facebook posts mentioned a trend in several radio commercials currently airing on the stations to which I listen. The ads concern debt repayment, loan repayment/default, tax problems, and I think even one on cleaning up negative material about you on the Internet. I think these companies offering assistance must use the same advertising agency or else the script is handed to one writer. During each of these commercials, the announcer is very dramatic and urgency laces his voice. Most of the time you can tell he’s reading from a script because the rhythm is not natural. During the spiel he reads a piece of text that runs along the lines of “Grab a pen and take down this number or store it in your cell phone, but call…”

This line is in every one of these types of commercials. And the ads play during nearly every break in the regularly scheduled program. And after about the third time with the same line, I want to throttle whoever came up with it and insists on it being in every commercial.

Normally, I tune out commercials unless they’re interesting or humorous. Jingles are nice and stick with you, which is the point. Many companies use jingles. Oscar Meyer, Coca-Cola, etc. Either with words or just a tune that you’ll recognize. Or be bothered by in some cases. There was a phone company, Vonage, I think who used a song that was really annoying because it was the same series of notes over and over…and over and over. I wouldn’t call the company just BECAUSE the tune was so irritating.

Radio commercials are the same. I catch myself singing along to some. “Midwest Basement System’s got the fix, call 289-1606.” That’s for a local company who specializes in all things…basement-y. (Yes, that’s what they say, too.)

Another one is “The Woodsmith Store.” That’s the entire line for the West Des Moines store and it a bit distracting because when the person sings this I expect more words to come but none do.

“There’s a helpful smile in every aisle.” Hy-Vee grocery stores.

“Duea treat you right? We do.” A car dealer pronounce do-wee. Get it?

So I get it with these companies. A jingle helps. The same action-oriented line, however, in every commercial for some financial assistance or the like, just grates on the nerves. And they never change. I can tell, just by the tone of voice, that the line is coming. I’m not going to take action because first, I’m not in need of their services, and two, I’m driving so I’m not going to be doing anything like storing a number in my cell phone.

I’m this way about books. I’ve read some that lack strong writing because the author uses words or phrases in a way that does not fall under the term ‘creative license.’ I remember one book that was a spy thriller with government agencies listening to the enemy’s phone calls, tapping into emails, and other such things a’la the NSA. However, when the people discussed what was happening, it was all ‘chatter.’

“Yes, the chatter today was about…”

“I agree because yesterday’s chatter…”

“We’ll analyze the chatter from the tapes…”

Way too much ‘chatter’. Yes, I know that’s what they call it, but find a different word, okay?

Many characters use catch phrases. In many books, Eve Dallas says, “Bite me!” Robb, the author, however, doesn’t overuse it so it’s cool.

Anyway, I just wanted to get in a minor vent this week because I’ve been tuning to another station whenever these ads begin. The line is just awful because of the repetitiveness.

What lines, phrases, words do you hear often enough to warrant a groan?

If you can’t think of one off hand, grab a pen, write down this website or store it in your Favorites, but comment.

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Food For Thought: Iowa Beef Steakhouse

iowa beef steakhouse

Iowa Beef Steak House

1201 East Euclid Avenue

Des Moines, IA



On this Friday morning, investigator Harry Reznik enters the homicide department.



“Mornin’ Harry,” greeted Captain Glynis ‘GG’ Gravatte. “Why the long face? Still thinking about the Nielsen case?”

“Huh? Oh, hi Cap,” Harry said. “No, I’m not worried about that. I’ll probably have an arrest this afternoon.”

“The sister in-law?”

“Yeah, jealousy can be a heckuva motivator.”

“So why the frown?”

“Just wondering where I might go to dinner tomorrow night.”

Gary Wang, another investigator, stopped inputting information into his computer.

“How’d you like the steakhouse last week?”

Harry shrugged. “It was okay.”

“Not too impressed?” Glynis asked.

“Well, I enjoyed the decor,” Harry said. “Some woody tones and colors, like if you’d come in off the ranch.”

“Sounds all right.”

“One of the features is that customers can cook their own meat. They have a large charcoal grill. Several good selections. A 14 ounce filet, 20 ounce New York Strip, even chicken breasts.”

“Chicken at a steakhouse?” Wang pondered. “Doesn’t seem right.”

“Hush,” Glynis said. “Go on, Harry.”

“They’re a bit pricey. Your chicken, Gary, was the least expensive item at around $15. The rest were $24 on up. I had the 20 ounce ribeye. I chose to let the kitchen cook it.”

“How was it?”

“Pretty good. I enjoyed the taste of the steak. The potato was about average.”

“I hear a ‘but’ coming,” Glynis said with an arched eyebrow.

He shrugged again. “I figure if you’re going to charge me twenty-eight dollars for a steak, everything should be above average, including the salad bar. I like a good salad with my meal but the choices of toppings were limited-no mushrooms and I like mushrooms-and the lettuce wasn’t fresh. It wasn’t brown and wilted, just not fresh.”


“They’re open every day at five, so no lunch menu. They do have nightly specials and accept reservations. The seating area can accommodate larger parties.”

“So where are you thinking about for tomorrow night?”

“I don’t know,” Harry said and sat behind his desk. “I’m thinking maybe pizza.”

“Okay then,” Glynis said. “Well, keep me up to date on Nielsen.”

“No problem. I should have the evidence later today to get an arrest warrant.”

“The sister in-law,” Gary said. “Heard she was a feisty one. Are you sure you won’t need some backup?”

“If I do, I know who to call.”
“Why thank you Harry.”

“Yeah, I just passed Ol’ Morton out in the hall.”

“The janitor? He’s like 89 years old.”

“You ever arm wrestle him?”


“He’d kick your behind without breaking a sweat. Yep, I think Ol’ Morton would do just fine.”

“You’re cruel, Harry,” Wang said and turned back to his computer. “Real cruel.”

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I tend to think of the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz when I see this word. It is all he wanted. He thought he could rule the jungle but lacked the nerve. He thought he didn’t have that inner strength to face the fears around him.

Fear. I have seen this word as an acronym. F.E.A.R. False Evidence Against Reality.

Basically, what scenario you think might happen, probably won’t. Let me give you a personal example. I’ve joked in other blogs about my fear of talking to pretty girls. I can’t do it because my attraction to them turns my brain to mush. And getting up the nerve to ask them out on a date? Fuhgedaboutit!

So what my mind does is try to man up, psych up, gather the courage to take the chance. But the pessimistic side throws all these scenarios into the mix. She’ll laugh. She’ll say no and laugh. Her friends who are around will whisper and laugh. What will I say and do if she says no?

Usually, when the moment comes, there is a completely different reality. Sometimes, she’s not there to ask in the first place and I’ve forever lost my chance. Sometimes I discovered a previously unknown boyfriend. And sometimes-okay, most times-I just can’t do it and chicken out.

The point is, the reality is different (not necessarily better, just different) than my fears.

This is my main area where fear reigns and courage takes a hike. Most other situations such job interviews or eating a strange new food or venturing off onto a possibly precarious road, I have no problem. Yes, I’ve come out of the interview knowing I wouldn’t get hired and I’ve become sick from the exotic food and I’ve called for a tow truck when my car gets stuck on that road. But I wasn’t scared off.

You’ve heard that courage is doing what’s necessary or right even when you’re scared. Heroes aren’t fearless. The fearless are the reckless because they don’t take time to acknowledge potential or real danger to themselves or others.

In my taekwondo class, I relate courage and fear to the rank advancement testings. The students are nervous about failing. I tell them that they’re nervous because they care; because what they’re doing is important to them. If it didn’t mean anything, then they wouldn’t care if they failed. I urge them to use that nervous energy to their advantage, to turn the nervousness into power and excitement and attitude. Will they make mistakes? Possibly. That’s okay because as an instructor, I’ve seen what they’ve done throughout the previous weeks. I know what they can do. So unless they completely mess up, I forgive some of the minor issues and work to improve them the next time around.

The Cowardly Lion was terrified to go into the castle after the witch’s broom but he did so anyway, not realizing he was exhibiting courage. He faced his fears. He used that nervous energy to drive him forward to accomplish his task.

Too bad I can’t use that nervous energy as a positive when facing that beautiful woman I’d like to date. Sigh!

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Let’s Get (Meta) Physical

What do belly dancers, ghost hunters, tarot cards, and crystal from Brazil all have in common? They and much more were seen at the 25th Annual Metaphysical Fair (commonly known as the Psychic Fair) held last weekend at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

This annual events brought over 80 vendors and speakers. If you’re a true believer, an open-minded skeptic like me, or just curious, this was the place to be.

I arrived about 11:45 and the closest parking lot was already full. I brought along my new camera (which died on the first picture) and a notebook for descriptions. A writer friend joined me later in the afternoon so I used her camera for the pictures this week.

My first experience was an odorous one as the first large table offered any type of incense you can imagine. I decided to walk each aisle starting on the far right. Directly up front was a man selling skins and furs and figurines and, as you can see, looking the part.


Other vendors offered candles, crystals, jewelry, stones, statues, artwork (ranging from schlocky to halfway decent).

There was a bathroom fitters exhibit, the connection of which I didn’t make. Bathtubs and psychics?

Other tables offered a variety of honey, free spinal exams and acupuncture sessions, and one table with scores of books and at least fifty shades of gray…I mean types of tarot cards.


The presenters in three different areas ranged from an Indian (okay, Native American for the politically correct) telling stories and singing songs, to the Iowa ghost hunters, to at least three troupes of belly dancers (sorry for the slightly out of focus picture).


In the middle of the building, there was what I could only describe as a serenity garden. This was laid out very nicely.


And of course, no fair of this type is without your ‘psychics’. Psychics, clairvoyants, clair-sensitives, clair-audience, and Clairols as far as I know. The picture below shows one of those who used tarot cards for his readings.


There was a pet psychic (in case you wanted to know what Fluffy thinks of you when you rub his belly or that Spot has passed over to a better place and is happily chasing cars). There was a ‘holistic warrior’ who could help you with those who are sabotaging your energy. There was a bouncy, caffeine infused woman who would create abstract paintings of your energy. (I sat and watched her for awhile just because she was good looking.)

So did I participate? Well, I had a half hour session with the acupuncturist. Yes, I’ve done this before and thoroughly enjoyed it. No, it doesn’t hurt. Yes, it does have its benefits. Their office is West Des Moines and I will seriously think about visiting.

What? You mean did I have my palm read or my aura photographed or my future told? Well, as somebody who thinks most of these people are smoking their own sage bunches I still wanted the experience. So I looked through the offerings and chose one, for the most part, by the name alone. I mean who could resist somebody with the nickname Moonspinner. Anyway, despite the fact she sounded like the offspring of Frank Zappa, I paid my money and received both a…ahem, ‘spiritual’ reading and a reiki reading.


For the first part, we sat on opposite sides of the little table laden with a variety of stone and she stared off over my right shoulder. Every now and then she’d say something along the lines of, “Well, they’re telling me that you’ve handled the change in jobs very well and that you’ll be overseeing others soon.” or “They’re saying something about a young man. Possibly a son?”

Okay, first off, who are the ‘they’ to which she keeps referring? Second, I thought the part about the young boy was a little weird. No son, no nephews (unless my sister has been keeping a BIG secret about her three daughters). That area of discussion fell apart very quickly. Then she looked over my left shoulder to where, apparently, my paternal grandmother was. The psychic said that Grandma watched over me a lot even if she didn’t make her presence known. (Which is bad that she watches because I wonder if she watches while I shower and brush my teeth every day. It’s also good that she doesn’t make her presence know because if she did, I’d probably crap my pants.) Grandma was concerned about my being alone (how about directing a girl my way then? Hmm? Maybe the abstract painter?) and was glad I hadn’t picked up one of Dad’s bad habits (Whatever that was. Apparently Grandma didn’t share with Moonspinner).

Then she did a reiki reading. If you don’t know what reiki is, basically it’s energy transference. She stood behind me (the psychic, not grandma) and placed her hands on my shoulders, then the top of my head, then the sides of my neck for about five minutes and allowed her energy to flow from her to me.

What did I feel? Nothing but a woman standing behind me with her hands on me, NOT massaging my shoulders. She wanted energy transference, well, then start digging in.

Yeah, the entire experience was a waste of money. I could tell she was struggling with the minimal information I gave her. I could have done better with a package deal at another booth where they offered-for the same amount of money-a 15 minute massage, a 15 minute foot detox or cleansing, and a 15 minute ‘candle flame reading’ (whatever that was). At least my muscles would have felt good.

All in all, though, the fair was a fun experience. I saw a lot of interesting items and people. I may go next year and try someone different. Maybe the palm reader. Or the angel reader. Or have someone let me know what my other grandma has to say.

I mean, what’s to lose except a few bucks?

Any of you had an experience with psychics?

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