All posts by Patricia Smith Wood

About Patricia Smith Wood

Patricia Smith Wood became interested in crime solving and mysteries through her father, a former policeman, and career FBI agent. She became a fan of the Judy Bolton mystery series by Margaret Sutton, and vowed one day to try her hand at crafting her own mysteries. After a long and varied work career (including working for the FBI and owning her own computer business) she retired to work on her writing career. She's published two mysteries in the Harrie McKinsey series, and is working on the third.

Three Women and a Conference: The Initiation of a New Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday starts the week of initiation. I’m frantically preparing for a five-day stay in Colorado Springs for Left Coast Crime 2013. This conference will mark my debut in the world of authors, and for the first time, my book and I will be introduced to attendees. I’ve been waiting for this occasion so long it’s difficult to realize it’s almost here.

I’m driving up with two dear friends from my writers critique group. We’re called The Marvelous Ones, and for good reason. These women really are marvelous ones to have as friends and doing critiques of your work. I wish our entire group could go right along with us. But Margaret and Charlene will be good representatives for the team. They’ve promised to sit at my table at the New Author’s Breakfast on Friday morning and be my fans. I hope others will join them there!

After that, we will have another three days of panels to attend. Published authors will share their wisdom and experiences on such topics as: “The Lighter Side of Death & Dismemberment”; “Read My Shorts”; “You Don’t Have To Be A Lawyer To Kill Like One”; and the two I’ve been invited to be a panelist for, “Occupations To Die For” and “Breaking & Entering: Tales of the First Sale.”

It’s a great opportunity to meet new writers and mystery fans, learn new skills, and for me, begin to feel like a real writer. (I’ve already experienced a taste of that feeling when friends who’ve already bought the book give me feedback. That is a real thrill.) Then  Sunday afternoon, we pack up and make the drive home. With three of us all trying to talk at once about our wonderful weekend, it should be an entertaining seven hours!

On Easter Sunday, I’m having my first “official” book signing at Treasure House Books and Gifts in Old Town Albuquerque. I can’t thank John Hoffsis and his dad, Jim enough for being so supportive, not only to me, but to all the other local writers. I’ll be there from 1:00 to 3:00 that day, handing out candy-filled Easter eggs and signing books. That morning at 9:00 a.m. I’ll be a guest on the Terrie Q. Sayre Show on 770 AM, KKOB Radio. Terrie has been very kind to let me and my fellow ham radio operators appear on her show the past three years to promote the annual ARRL Field Day activities. Now I get to tell her and her audience about The Easter Egg Murder.

I’ve already gone through almost thirty of the books I ordered from the publisher. I’m also taking thirty to Left Coast Crime to be sold in their book store. We’ll see how many I have left after that. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not! This is so exciting and dream fulfilling. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s no longer something living in my imagination! It’s here and now, and it’s real! Wahoo!!! Bring it on!!

And so the fun begins . . .

Back in the dark ages (before I understood the nature of these things) I figured finding a publisher for my book would be the biggest hurdle and most difficult part of the writing process. Well, as you know from reading my previous post, that happened on September 6 last year. One would think I’d have all sorts of time for blogging and catching up on things.Cover

One would be wrong! Granted, finding a publisher is a huge part of the equation. I also knew (somewhere in the back of my head where life has a kind of story-book quality) that soon I’d be editing and promoting the book. What I didn’t realize was how fully it could consume a person and how I, in particular, seemed paralyzed to focus on anything else. From the moment I received the good news that I had a publisher, my brain started buzzing. What things did I need to do in preparation for the day I had the book in my hand? Who knew this would also be hard?

So it went. Each day my brain got more fevered. I needed to tell all the bookstores, “I’m on my way!” My friends at Treasure House Books in Old Town were jubilant for me and very amenable to hosting a book signing for me. Then there was my next encounter.

I was full of the enthusiasm only a newly contracted writer would understand. After years of dreams and toil, I had a book coming out. One afternoon I happened to be in the neighborhood of a store in which, over the course of thirty years, I’ve spent a lot of money. This was the first time I wanted something from them. I naively approached the first person I encountered and asked who I could speak to about buying my book. He directed me to another employee in the front of the store. I repeated my question. He informed me they took used books in each day, and that I would receive cash or store credit for turning them in.

Huh? Then I realized I was talking to the poor schlub who takes on all the outcast books from owners cleaning out their bookshelves. “No, no,” I quickly protest, “You don’t understand. I’ve written a book that is being published even as we speak, and I want you to order it from Ingram, put it on your shelves, and invite me to hold a book signing in your fair establishment.”

His raised eyebrows and weary expression (and yes, you can have both) told me I was definitely on the wrong track. “Lady, you need to talk to our manager. Maybe he can help you.”

So back I went to the bowels of the store and found the proper person. I repeated my fully rehearsed question. He heaved a huge sigh. “We only stock books by well-known authors.”

I explain that my books will be sold through the book distributor, Ingram.

He shakes his head.

“But,” says me, “I’m a local author. The book is set in Albuquerque and surrounding area. This is a book you should want on your shelves.”

“Lady,” (I’m now getting close to not fitting the description of a lady . . . at least by old school standards which require I not spew forth invectives) “we only stock books by local authors like Tony Hillerman or someone equally famous.”

I’m thinking, (thank God to myself) how the Hell do you think Tony Hillerman got to be famous if somebody didn’t stock his books so people could buy them, and he could GET famous? But instead, I smile . . . my most dazzling smile. Then he relents a tiny bit.

“Well, we allow all self-published authors and anyone who has a book to sell to come in one Saturday a month and  bring their books.”

Not to be denied, I try another ploy. “How about I bring in a supply of my books that I purchase from the publisher. Then you could put them on your shelf and sell them, couldn’t you?”

I get the raised eyebrow again. These guys clearly need lessons in other facial expressions. “Sure thing, Lady. You bring them in if you want to. We don’t guarantee they won’t be stolen, though, and we aren’t liable for your losses.”

Gee, such a deal. I smile, eyes narrowed (I hope he noticed the eye thing) and thanked him. I’m out of that store and not likely to return.

I see everywhere that brick and mortar stores are having a rough time. People are buying at discount chains and on Amazon. I’m sure I won’t make a difference to that store’s bottom line. But if they can’t even stock books by local authors, then they don’t need my business.

So I’m off to talk to other, more friendly bookstores. We have several locally owned stores who seem to appreciate our local talent. I’m sure to have better luck with them. There’s also the libraries all around the area. I need to find out who to sweet talk into stocking their shelves with my book.

I hope I talk to you before next year!

Sometimes Dreams Come True

Since I was very small, I’ve had a big imagination. Until I was a teenager I was an only child, so the imagination was a great playmate. I created stories in my head and acted them out. Sometimes I acted out plays with my dolls, or my miniature people in the doll house I had. The dolls and tiny figurines had great adventures, ate many imaginary meals, and slept quite a bit.

I also read voraciously. I remember the summer I was thirteen; I read almost every novel my mother owned. She had quite a collection of historical novels of the day, and I read them in between reading the books I acquired on my own. There were the Judy Bolton mysteries by Margaret Sutton, and I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club, which supplied a new volume each month.

As time went on, I tried my hand at writing, putting that imagination to work for me. Nothing much came of it for a long time. Then I became inspired to write a mystery based on a real murder. It would be highly fictional, and in my version, the bad guys would be brought to justice. I now had a dream, and it would drive me for several years. I decided this would be my goal: to create a decent mystery story, tighten and perfect it as much as I could, and get it published.

I had many surges of hope as I talked to agents and editors. I submitted one version or another to many different people. I entered the first twenty pages in a contest two different times. I got one great critique and one not so great. The dream was battered often, but it held steady and refused to die. I became a member of a wonderful writers’ critique group, and those women did more than anything else to help keep the dream alive.

This past Thursday afternoon the magic happened. I found an email waiting in my inbox from a publisher I had queried in July. We had exchanged emails a couple of times and eventually they asked for the entire manuscript. That had happened before, and it went nowhere. You try to keep that hope going, but you don’t want to pin the entire dream on it. If it crashes, it might crush the dream.

This time there was no crash . . . only the thrill and rush that comes with being offered a publishing contract. It’s never happened to me before, so I can’t say how normal my reaction was. I’ve been walking on air ever since, and I have what appears to be a permanent, sappy grin on my face all the time. All I know is the dream is on its way.

I can tell you one thing that, for me, is absolutely true: It’s the best feeling in the world having your dream come true!

The Lovely Experience of Tea

Tea. It’s a mysterious drink. As a little kid, tea meant “iced tea” (or as we called it in Texas, Ice Tea.) People drank coffee or ice tea. I wasn’t aware of the concept of hot tea until childhood was behind me.

When I think of what I missed! Even when I reached the teen years my introduction to a cup of hot tea consisted of a tea kettle of water heated on the stove, and poured into a cup containing a Lipton tea bag. No wonder I never took to it! Later on I discovered herbal teas and some flavored teas, but it was still always dispensed in a tea bag.

At some point I must have experienced tea brewed with just the leaves, but it never seemed impressive enough to do it that way myself…until recently.

Last year I found my way to the St. James Tearoom. I’d heard of these places but never experienced one. The occasion never presented itself, and with my lukewarm appetite for tea, it didn’t seem likely I would ever make the effort. But things have a way of coming together, in just the perfect way and the ideal time, to launch us into new adventures. The day I walked in to the tearoom last October, the ambiance of the place and the lovely people I met propelled me to arrange an outing for the next week.

We have a dear friend who visits us a couple of times a year from Maryland. On his trip last October he was in search of fine teas for his daughter. He did some research and found two tea shops in the area that he wanted to visit. The first one we saw didn’t impress me that much. They sold loose tea, tea pots and accessories, and served lunch. But it was more like a small cafe that also sold tea. Nothing special, and certainly no atmosphere.

The next stop took us to the St. James Tearoom, and I fell in love. When they discovered we were unfamiliar with their operation, I was offered a tour. To walk through the door is to step back in time and place. You are in Victorian England, and the furnishings and decorations quickly make you at home in that era.

The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, and tea is served during two-hour sessions. Reservations are required. You and your friends are seated in your own private room, where the table is set for you with elegant tea cups and saucers, matching china plate, and dainty utensils. A pot of tea, complete with a tea cozy, is brought to you for starters. The menu for the day is explained, and when they bring in the three-tiered tray and set it down you know you are in heaven. They explain you will be served three different teas, one for each of the courses on the tray, and that you have the room for a luxurious two hours.

Everything is so delicious I’ve had to learn to pace myself. In this day and age we are all used to hurrying through a meal so we can move on to the next thing on our  list. At the St. James you learn to slow down and experience a more genteel time. From the first I’ve been accompanied by two dear friends. Although we see each other and talk together often, it’s different at tea. We’ve found we engage in conversations that are more meaningful, and learn more about each other than we ever had.  After about our third visit, we decided the place must be magic, because each visit is more enchanting than the previous one.

We try to go once a month. At first it seemed like an expensive indulgence, but now it’s an investment in mental health. Actually, you can purchase one of their “Passports” which gets stamped each time you visit. After your eighth visit, you earn a free tea time. This week we cashed in for our free one, and we’re looking forward to going seven more times to earn another free experience.

A happy overflow of this tearoom experience has been buying some of the loose teas to take home. My wonderful husband and I started our own evening tea time. It’s a chance to stop and unwind, and it’s a soothing break in the evening. I’ve learned how to properly brew it and serve it in some charming cups I picked up at the tearoom.

I’m glad I found out what I’ve been missing all these years!

If You Can’t Breathe, What Are Your Options?

Not many, really. When your oxygen supply is cut off panic sets in. Then, depending on what’s preventing you from taking a breath of air, you consider what you can do to change things.

When little kids want to punish their parents, they sometimes hold their breath. Fortunately most parents know that the little buggers will eventually let go and breathe on their own.  Most children don’t try that tactic after they figure out that, 1) it’s uncomfortable, and 2) they really can’t keep it up long enough to make it an effective tool of persuasion.

But what if you develop a condition that causes you to occasionally be unable to get the air you need. What if this condition Continue reading If You Can’t Breathe, What Are Your Options?

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

Well, in this case, they are free!

Every family needs a good dog, don’t they? That’s what I’ve heard anyway. I’ve had a few dogs in my day and loved every one of them madly. Had better luck with some than with others. These days, we aren’t set up in our location to house a dog, much to my dismay.

My son-in-law’s brother has a beautiful female Border Collie cross who, it seems keeps getting herself in the family way. Last year, two of the babies came home with Paula and Danny. Those precious babies are now a year old, and weigh 65 and 55 pounds respectively. I had the opportunity to help Paula walk them last weekend. I learned something very important: Even the 55 pound female can drag me wherever Continue reading How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

Yucky Weather

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I don’t enjoy bad weather. That’s not unusual, I suppose, although I do know people who get all charged up about thunder and lightning. (Yes, Paula, I mean you!)

But I don’t think anyone in Albuquerque today could be said to have enjoyed the rotten wind, blowing sand, and distribution of pollen we’ve endured. There are multiple power outages all over the area, and things are blowing off roofs, trees are being stripped of their new blossoms, and high-profile vehicles are having the devil of a time on the freeways.

We had a beautiful day yesterday. It was sunny, shirtsleeve weather, and the azure blue skies of New Mexico were on display for all to see. We have lots of folks in town this week for this big deal Continue reading Yucky Weather

Don’t Waste An Opportunity

Have you ever considered writing your life story? I don’t necessarily mean for sale and publication, although there are many people doing just that these days. I’m thinking more of what the process might mean to family after you’re gone.

A dear friend of mine volunteers for a hospice group, and one of her duties is recording life stories for hospice patients. These people have reached the point in their lives when they know their time on earth is limited. Often they may have only a matter of days or even hours Continue reading Don’t Waste An Opportunity

Whatever Happened To Self Preservation?

When I was little, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles impressed upon me at every opportunity that I must “be careful.” This included (but was not limited to) looking both ways before I crossed the street. They assured me that in a head-on battle with an automobile, I was guaranteed to lose, with the only question being, “How bad?”

Skip ahead to current times and take a walk through any parking lot. Better yet, drive through one, and you’ll notice no one looks both ways before stepping into the path of an automobile these days. In fact, most people make a deliberate effort to completely ignore traffic. It’s as though they believe Continue reading Whatever Happened To Self Preservation?