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Tattoos with something to say

Every tattoo has a message of some kind. It might be a cry of rebellion, a permanent memorial, an homage, or a personal reminder to follow one's heart. Tattoos feature prominently for several of my characters, and while looking for a tattoo ideas one day, I stumbled across this website that features literary-inspired ink. What do you think?

What's the coolest tattoo you've ever seen?



Photo credit:

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The thing I hate most about auto dealerships is the full court press from the salespeople. The only thing almost as bad is the actual buying process once you’ve made a decision.

If you want to check out a new car without a commission-eager guy in a tie hounding your every step, head for the auto show. You can get your questions answered, sit in many of the cars, and even take them for a test drive, all in a low-pressure environment.

Until Sunday, I’d never been to an auto show. In fact, I always assumed they took place in Detroit and maybe a few select countries around the world. I had no idea the spectacle traveled across the country.

Having recently paid off both of our cars, I’m not in any hurry for a car payment again, but I thought a convention center full of shiny new vehicles might be a fun way to spend the day with the whole family, and get up close and personal with some cars I’d never visit a dealer to check out.

It was. (Click a photo to enlarge.)

Before we even handed over our tickets, we were intercepted by a friendly woman from Volkwagen offering us a test drive. After showing our licenses, signing a waiver, and taking a blood-alcohol breath test, we got in line.

Attending the last day of the show when there were no wrestlers, football players, or soccer studs making an appearance turned out to be a good thing as the crowds were down. We were able to drive almost right away.

We piled into a Passat, which my husband drove while the friendly not-salesperson reviewed the car’s features and gave driving directions. Next up, I took us all for a spin in the Tiguan, which has some neat features but didn’t beat my CR-V.

The real excitement was inside the show room, where we started on the American car floor. It was like a carnival, complete with churros and ice cream sold at stalls along the side. Cars spun on big platforms, were turned on their side, or cut in half. Engines lit up with brightly colored lights were on display under acrylic boxes.

The Engineer had fun explaining to the boys on how an engine works. They might even have enjoyed listening.

I had a few cars on my must-see list, and we managed to find them all. I sat in a Jeep Wrangler, which I’d been wanting to do ever since one of my characters started driving one. I should at least know what they feel like inside, right?

My boys tried out a few of their favorites, and we checked out Chevy and Ford’s electric and hybrid offerings.

Down on the foreign car floor I found my wannabe-next car, the Volvo XC-60 Plug-in Hybrid. I sat in an XC-60 and it fit me. I’m short, so that’s a big deal. Plus, I liked the dashboard layout, something I can’t say about the newest generation of CR-V, which still doesn’t offer a hybrid or electric option.

So, the Volvo is still on my list for “maybe someday”.

The other car I really liked was the Nissan Leaf. Cute, great dash and cockpit, and eco-friendly.

We ogled the Lamborghinis, strolled through the new family of Priuses (Prii?), and watched people drive Fiats on the indoor track. The only cars I really wanted to see that weren't there were the Tesla Roadster and the Fisker Karma.

At $12 a pop, the show was about the cost of a movie, and while I don’t see my self attending again anytime soon, it was something different from our usual weekend activities. I’m not much of a gearhead, but I enjoyed myself.

If you get a chance, check it out.

Next up, the boat show. After all, one of my characters was on a yacht once…

Tech Tuesday: Clipping text to Scrivener 2.x

You probably know that you can import text documents and web pages into Scrivener, but what if you just want to copy a portion of the text. Or you’re browsing the file or site and don’t want to switch over to Scrivener to import?

Try Services. Once you’ve installed Scrivener and restarted it once, Services should be available to you from all compatible applications. (NOTE: If you don’t have Scrivener options under the Services menu, see the ** below.)

First, a couple of rules for clipping to Scrivener to work:

  • You must have at least one Scrivener project open.
  • You must have text selected in the current program (the one to clip from) before the Services will be available.

Add a Clipping to the Project

In this example, I chose to add a clipping (a reference-type file) from a Word document.

1. Make sure the Scrivener project you wish to add the clipping to is the active project in Scrivener.

2. Open the appropriate document in Word (or whatever program you desire).

3. Select the desired text to clip.

4. From the application menu (e.g. Word, Safari, TextEdit), choose Services, select Scrivener: Make New Clipping.

5. In the small pop-up window, type the name of the clipping as you want it to appear in the Binder. Click OK.

The clipping now appears at the bottom of your Binder in a new folder called Clippings.

At this point, you can leave the new file there, or move it to the desired folder. I use a Research or References folder.

Add a Clipping to the Active Text Document

Another handy option is to append selected text right into the file currently active in the Scrivener editor. In this example, I appended a piece from a website. The process is similar to making a clipping above with a few minor changes.

1. Make sure the Scrivener project and file to which you wish to append the clipping are active in Scrivener.

2. Open the appropriate file or web page to copy from (in this case, my blog in Safari).

3. Select the desired text to clip.

4. From the application menu (e.g. Word, Safari, TextEdit), choose Services. Select Scrivener: Append to Current Text.

5. In the small pop-up window, type the title of the clipping as you want it to appear in the file. (You can delete the header later.) Click OK.

The clipped text appears at the bottom of the active document, regardless of where the cursor was within the Editor pane.

Append to Current Notes

This is another option in Services. It works the same as above, but instead it adds the clipped text to the Document Notes for the active document in Scrivener.

Clipping Unformatted Text

If you want the clipped text to be unformatted, choose the unformatted options instead (see below to add them to your list).


Can’t find any or some of the Scrivener options in the Services menu? Try this…

1. Click the Apple button on the menu bar. Choose System Preferences…

2. Choose Keyboard (obvious, right?). 😉 Click the button for Keyboard Shortcuts.

3. In the left-hand column, choose Services.

4. In the right-hand column, scroll down until you see the Text header. Expand if necessary and scroll down until you see the Scrivener options in the list.

5. Check the box next to each service you want to have available.

6. Close System Preferences.

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.

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Hanging with the Coasties

USCGC Bainbridge Island

My fabulous trip to NYC for the RWA National Conference started off with a visit to US Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook in New Jersey as part of pre-conference events sponsored by the Kiss of Death chapter. Here's a little of what I learned.

The US Coast Guard started in 1790 and currently has about 39,000 personnel. Their primary tasks are to guard the nation’s borders against attack, illegal immigrants, drug runners, and terrorists, and to provide search and rescue.

The USCG falls under the Department of Homeland Security, but is considered one of the five services, and can be tasked by the Department of Defense. In fact, USCG members are serving in the Middle East, helping to guard the waters of the Gulf since they specialize in small boat patrol.

The rank follows the Navy rank, complete with specialized ranks, for example a Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) might be called a Gunner's Mate Third Class (GM3), or a Boatswain's Mate Third Class (BM3), or any of a number of titles based on his or her rating (career field).

Sig Sauer P229

Upon arrival at Sandy Hook, our group was split into three. Mine started at the armory and practice range where we were introduced to the Sig Sauer P229-RDAK personal defense weapon (handgun), and the Colt M16-A2 rifle. The P229 is generally carried by all members of a boarding party. We didn’t get to fire or hold the weapons, but we were introduced to proper handling procedures.

After a quick lunch in the galley, we took a ride on a Motor Life Boat (MLB), a 47-foot, heavy-duty rescue boat that can withstand hurricane force winds and heavy seas. It generally goes out for hours at a time, but not for extended duty.

Motor Life Boat

The crew gave us a demonstration of rescuing a man overboard. Generally they use a hook on a pole for the victim to grab, or to hook onto the victim’s clothing if he/she can’t hold on. Rescue swimmers are only used in areas where the MLB can’t navigate due to rocks, a tight fit, or other hazards.

Along the way, I asked several of the guys why they joined the Coast Guard. Most of them wanted to serve their country and specifically chose the Coast Guard because they loved the water and/or had grown up around it and boats.

Big surprise, right? 😉

After the boat ride, we had a briefing from the Maritime Safety & Security (MSS) team. These guys are like SWAT for the Coast Guard. For example, if a freighter were taken hostage, they could use a vertical insertion—dropping from a line on a helo—to board the boat and take down the bad guys/recover the hostages.

We got a preview of the specialized equipment they use for breaching a boat, as well as their personal ballistic gear. They generally wear 60-70 pounds of gear when fully outfitted with body armor, radio, tools, weapons, and equipment specific to their role on the team (e.g. the team paramedic carries the medical supplies).

USCGC Bainbridge Island

Our final activity was a tour of the 110-foot USCG Cutter Bainbridge Island. This boat goes out for up to two weeks at a time on drug interdiction missions and to intercept illegal immigrants. It has a tight set of racks for sleeping (stacked three high) and a small galley and dining area belowdecks.

Up top is a 50mm gun, a Zodiac boat attached to a crane so that it can be lowered over the side, and lots of navigation equipment and radios on the bridge.

We wrapped up our informative tour with a brief Q&A session before heading back to Manhattan. Our Kiss of Death tour committee rocks, but I'd be remiss if I didn't also thank the wonderful men and women of Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook for a great tour and for their service to our country!


While researching Virginia’s recent restaurant smoking ban—hey, tobacco was the State’s #1 export until a couple of years ago, so give them a break for being behind the curve—I learned something new: There are no stand-alone bars in Virginia.


What it means is that in order to get a license to serve alcohol, an establishment must serve food and show a certain percentage of receipts from the sale of food. Establishments that serve food must provide a non-smoking environment, and can only offer a smoking area if it’s separately ventilated. Tricky, huh?

Yes, it’s safe to say I haven’t been bar-hopping lately, or I would have realized this. Not really since college to be specific, but that’s beside the point.

The point is…oh yeah, the point is that it’s the little things that can trip you up sometimes. I live in Virginia, but I couldn’t remember the specifics of the smoking ban with regard to the bar section of a restaurant. The fact that there are no stand-alone bars here was a throwaway line in the description of the smoking legislation, but I had to go back and fix part of my WIP because of it.

What are some surprising things you’ve found in the course of your own research?


Big Boy Rules

I’m reading BIG BOY RULES by Steve Fainaru, and it’s changing everything. In a good way. First of all, it’s a compelling read about private security contractors in Iraq, and the fact that unlike the military, the only rules they’re subject to are big boy rules (i.e. you’re a big boy now, you know right from wrong). It’s pretty scary, actually. And incredibly fascinating.

I’ve read several books about PSCs, and so far this is the most engaging. It sucked me right in because the author is embedded with these guys and the story itself is very personal. I’m having a hard time putting it down to work on my own book.

But there’s another reason it’s affecting my WIP. My hero—along with many of the secondary characters—is a mercenary just like those in Fainaru’s book, and the author is giving me such great insight into what makes them tick. Until now I was struggling to understand my hero, but I’m starting to see how he can be both Charmer and Warrior.

The only bad part is that I have some serious reworking to do in part one of my book, which I just finished this week. Part one, that is, not the book. In fact, since I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time (last year I was in edit mode), I might try rewriting part one instead of revising it. Now that I’m getting a better handle on the character, I think I’ll have better results that way. It’ll keep me from trying to hold on to pretty words that should really get the axe.

That's my own big boy rule.


Fruits of research

I was watching Fugitive Chronicles the other day, and just like on fictional cop shows, it’s the one random comment that can make the case. In this particular instance, the fugitive had vitiligo—a skin condition characterized by mottled lack of pigment—on his man parts. The investigator learned of his vitiligo through a conversation with someone who knew him. Intimately, obviously. The “friend” just threw that information out there.

When the fugitive was finally captured in Italy, his unique condition was the means the police used to definitively identify him as the man they were looking for.

Research can be time consuming and frustrating, and not just when trying to solve a case. But when I put in the time, I often find what I need in unexpected places. That's the fun part.

For example, I was recently looking at tattoo ideas for one of my book characters. She had lost some important people in her life and I wanted her to have a memorial tatt. While looking for ideas, I found a blog by a guy who had a 9/11 memorial on his arm. Not what I was looking for, but during the blog post he mentioned cherry blossoms on someone else’s arm that–in Japanese culture–represent the beauty and fleeting nature of life.


I did a little more research to verify the association, looked at images of cherry blossom tattoos to find one I liked, and now my heroine has a tasteful symbol to remind her of those she’s lost permanently inked onto her belly near her hip bone.

And, of course, this will drive my hero to distraction when he catches a glimpse.

Double win.