You Say Down South

I plan to include a little primer on Southern words and phrases on the blog from time to time — for the benefit and amusement of my friends from north of the Mason-Dixon.

Woman speaking into phone, "Hey, Y'all!"


Southern Speak:

• If someone says they’re expecting relations later this evening, they are probably referring to relatives (kinfolk), not sexual encounters.

• The peculiar Southern phrase “fixing to” means about to happen or making preparations for, as in “I’m fixing to go to the store” or I’m fixing to make supper.” Frequently pronounced: fixin’ to. Sometimes pronounced: fitna.

R U a Robot?

I never thought I’d be eager to perform math. It was never my best subject in school.

Am I the only one who struggles with those infuriating new “Are you a robot?” tests?

Does this look like food to you?

The old online security tests designed to determine whether or not you’re a human being had either a series of squiggly letters and numbers or a simple math problem, like 7+9=?

The newer tests present a series of nine thumbnail images with instructions such as “Mark all images of food.”

This sounds deceptively simple in theory. But there’s always one image that I have no idea what it is.

One recent “mark all food images” test had stuff like a hamburger, a piece of cake, a sunset, a monkey, and something that looked like a petri dish to me. I’m staring at the screen like an idiot, eyes squinted, trying to figure out if it’s a photo of something edible.

A “mark all beverages” test had both my husband and me trying to figure out if an image of stemmed glassware contained ice cream or a liquid, because clearly ice cream is not a beverage although it may be served in a beverage-style serving dish, as with parfait.

“It must be ice cream because it looks like it has nuts on top,” says hubby. “Is it nuts or is it fizz,” I said.

I think it’s nuts.

But no matter what I guess, it’s always wrong.

For crying out loud, why can’t they just ask me what 8+4 equals? Have robots gotten so smart that simple math can’t stump them? Or is the real purpose of these tests to weed out people who wear bifocals?!

Definitely for The Birds

My husband and I recently traveled to the San Francisco area to visit my father-in-law for his 80th birthday. While there, we made a day trip to Bodega and Bodega Bay, which were filming locations for The Birds.

I won’t argue that it’s Hitchcock’s best film, but The Birds is still a favorite of mine, one I can watch over and over. For me, it has that perfect Hitch blend — surface beauty and a creepy undercurrent, with a dash of romance and dark humor.BirdBrain

I’m a big Hitchcock fan so this was kid-in-the-candy-store territory for me. We took lots of pictures, including some of me goofing around in front of the school building like I was being attacked by birds. My husband is a patient man.

The iconic Potter School in Bodega was used for several exterior scenes in the movie. Today it’s a private residence that is occasionally opened for tours by the owner.

Outside the Bodega Country Store, we posed with a mannequin that sported an Alfred Hitchcock mask, although hubby thought it looked more like Rodney Dangerfield. (It sorta does!) The owner of the store has amassed a huge collection of Hitchcock and Birds memorabilia that we enjoyed wandering through, and some items were for sale. We brought home a black and white movie still autographed by Tippi Hedren as a souvenir.

The Bodega Bay Visitors Center on Highway One provides information, including a m20150417_223856227_iOSap marked with the various locations used in the film, and at least on the day we visited, a helpful and chatty tourist guide.

Across the street from the Visitors Center at Tides Wharf is a scenic spot where you can look out across Bodega Bay and imagine Tippi Hedren riding in a motorboat as a seagull fiercely pecks at her finely coiffed hair!

How long did it take to write my novel?

Lots of people have asked how long it took to write my first book. I suppose that’s a common question posed to authors. I say it took all my life. Or, at least, it seems that way. I knew I wanted to be a writer in the fourth grade when my little essay on “What Patriotism Means to Me” won first place in my age division in a national contest.

Blog1_320_Contrast_IMG_3057I won $25, which seemed like a huge wad of cash to me at the time. I also got to appear on a morning show in Memphis, where I read my essay from the news desk in front of television cameras. I felt like a celebrity. I reckoned if I had reached such heights by the fourth grade, my star could only ascend as a grown-up when I became a famous novelist.

That child-like confidence faded a bit during my awkward teen years. I did become a writer, earning a degree in journalism and working much of my adult life as a reporter at small newspapers.

But, the dream of writing my own stories and not just reporting other people’s stories never completely left me. And I have two really awful manuscripts stuffed in a drawer somewhere to prove it.

Third time was the charm. We moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my husband’s work. I didn’t find a job, so I started writing the murder mystery that eventually got me an agent and a publisher.

So, how long did it take to write that first book? It took a little more than four years – plus my whole life up to that point.

(NOTE: My publisher has different ideas about how long it takes to write a novel. I know exactly how long it will take to complete my second book, since I’m contractually obligated to turn it in by the end of October!)