MISS DEMEANORS

Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: Dear Nurses, Doctors, Lab Technicians, EMT’s, Hospital Workers

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear Nurses, Doctors, Lab Technicians, EMT’s, Hospital Workers, I’ve waited until the end of the week to write a thank you note to the medical heroes who have served us during the Pandemic, not because you are less deserving, but because I really can’t find the words to do it justice. I’ll confess that in my earlier professional life, I was a nurse for ten years. I always worked in the community, rather than on the front lines in a hospital. It takes a very special person to work with acutely ill persons. I am not made of that stuff and have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do even in the “old normal,” as opposed to the “new normal” we are looking to enter. Most of us witnessed the accounts of doctors and nurses describing the challenges of being thrown into the coronavirus crisis with little warning. How they managed to report for work day after day for shifts that are long even under normal circumstances is unimaginable to me. Leaving your own loved ones to give direct care to people […]

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Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: Dear Grocery Store, Pharmacy Workers, and all Unseen Essential Workers

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings.   Dear Grocery Store, Pharmacy Workers, and all Unseen Essential Workers, Before I thank you for your selfless service during the Pandemic, I need to offer a sincere and profound apology. I barely noticed you until recently. I’m sorry for my ignorance, which clearly reflects the privileged life I have led. Although I worked as a cashier in the quick checkout aisle in the now-defunct First National grocery chain when I was in high school, I apparently learned very little about what it is like to be invisible in a job. Forced to think back now, I can remember the occasional abuse and rudeness of customers and the disgusting feel of the liquid that would get on my hands from packages chicken I had to pack in bags. I admit I was terrified when I first went to the grocery store and my local CVS after fully comprehending how communicable the Coronavirus was. I wanted to dash into the store, grab my purchases, and checkout in minutes. I no longer sauntered up and down aisles exploring items I might incorporate into a recipe. I […]

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Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: Dear USPS, UPS, and FedEx

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings.   Dear USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Couriers everywhere, I want to thank you for your service to the people in our country during the pandemic crisis. When the realization that the Coronavirus sweeping the world had managed to penetrate the often impermeable borders of the United States, most Americans took heed. We donned masks and gloves, and against our grain, we stayed home. The implications were unimaginable. You, however, did not get to stay home and home school your children and experience the joys of baking sourdough bread. There was no binge-watching any of the series you’ve missed because you were working from dawn to dusk, reporting to warehouses to load trucks full of merchandise to deliver to people like me so I wouldn’t have to risk going to a store to buy toilet paper and be exposed to coronavirus. So thank you for the paper towels, peanut butter, puzzles, and books. But even more, thank you for allowing me the freedom to make decisions about my own personal safety that you do not get to enjoy. As a person of a certain age […]

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Thank You Notes during a Pandemic: On Memorial Day

This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired by the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear Soldier, Sailor, or Anyone Who Has Served Our Nation, Today we remember those who lost their lives serving our country and so I wanted to write you a thank you note. It’s a tiny gesture when compared to the sacrifice you made for me and the generations before me and those to come. No parade, no flag display, and no wall of inscribed names can ever acknowledge the loss of you and your loved ones. We commemorate you on a single day in May that most years gets lost in cookouts and parades. It takes a pandemic when we are at a minimum confined by social distancing, to force us to focus on what the day was intended to be. Hearing the staggering numbers of the lives lost to the Coronavirus makes us wonder how we ever became numb to legions lost to war and duty. A single day can never be enough to acknowledge the loss of so many human lives. Those fallen are denied the fullness of a life the rest of us often take for granted. Their loved ones are […]

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Fueling Wonder for 40 Years

What fueled wonder for you when you were a kid?  I just had a Twitter discussion with my friend Don Bentley (check out his debut release! LINK: Without Sanction) about C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He’d shared how he’d scoured his grandma’s house for years looking for a wardrobe. I was the same! Hoping to find a doorway to another world of color, adventure, and dreams. Another one of my wonder-decisions was from a commercial where Juicy Fruit Gum grew on trees. I of course planted a piece of Juicy Fruit Gum, hoping desperately that in the morning there would be a large Juicy Fruit tree grown taller than our house with thousands of packs of gum hanging off the branches. I bet there were millions of pieces of gum planted throughout the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. (You can see the actual commercial in link above. Note of caution: you WILL be singing the song all day). On a scary scale, when I was a child, we had painting in our dining room of a girl who looked like a young, but beaten down servant. Her […]

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My Favorite First Chapters – The Big Finish

I’m a huge Joseph Finder fan. Technology is featured prominently in most of his books, interwoven seamlessly. It’s not a big surprise, given his background in intelligence. When I want a refresher on describing technical topics in a reader-friendly manner, I read Joe’s books. He’s who I want to be when I grow up. One of my favorite first chapters is from Joe’s recent standalone, Judgment. The subtext is so thick you can cut it with a knife. We’re steeped in time, place, and the protagonist’s internal conflict with a subtle but growing undertone of menace despite a situation that doesn’t seem all that dangerous. I was left with a delicious sense of dread but I didn’t know why. That’s the very definition of a hook. This first chapter is what other first chapters aspire to be. I started reading Judgment on a flight from New York to San Francisco. By the time the plane landed, I had finished the book. Every chapter was a grabber that built on the chapters before it. I tried to put it down a couple of times to catch my breath and to savor the experience. Maybe watch a movie. But I kept going […]

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My Favorite First Chapters – Day 3

I’m often asked about authors or novels I think best tackle techie topics without making me cringe. There are two standout authors to me, in this respect. Each take pains to get it right but make it look easy. They both are adept at adding touches of timelessness without sacrificing accuracy. That’s why I love them. First up is my friend and hero, Lisa Gardner. The first chapter of Never Tell is a perfect example of an author who embraces the influence technology can have on a story. Like it or not, our online lives leave breadcrumbs that sometimes provide insights to the darker side of our personal truths. The opening of this book hooks us with the damage wrought by just such a collision of what a character thought she knew to be true and conflicting digital information. By the end of the chapter, we know all is not as it seems and the truth lies in the ether. The cloak of foreshadowing is draped in technology while the word “computer” is mentioned only once. After reading this first chapter, I knew I was buckled in for a great ride. Never Tell takes us on a journey through the […]

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My Favorite First Chapters – Day 2

In my second installment of first chapters I love, today I’m highlighting our very own Alexia Gordon for a very specific reason. One of the hardest feats to pull off is how to start a book that’s part of a series. A population of readers are already familiar with the principal characters, while each book in a series needs to stand on its own to attract new fans. In my completely unscientific study, researching the careers of authors I hope to emulate, I’ve noticed authors’ third books in a series tend to hit bestseller lists first. The all-important first chapter needs to hook existing fans and newcomers alike. I’m a big fan of Alexia’s Gethsemane Brown series. What’s not to love about music, an American fish-out-of-water in Ireland, and a ghostly sidekick solving crimes in a tight-knit community? In Killing in C Sharp, Alexia makes the first chapter challenge look effortless. We’re introduced to Gethsemane, her background, current location, and the ghost of the composer whose home she now occupies all while laying out this episode’s characters and theme. Alexia’s words are lyrical and whimsical, deftly setting the stage with a maestro’s ease (puns intended – read the book). By […]

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My Favorite First Chapters

The first chapter of any book is critical. It sets the stage for everything that comes after it. Tone, setting, point of view, and main characters are all established within the first few pages. Personally, I revise these pages more than any other, which is why I appreciate the first chapters written by other by others. One of my favorite first chapters comes from Lou Berney’s November Road. It’s a master class in openings. It’s so perfect that when I read it the first time, I went back and reread it two more times before moving on to Chapter 2. This isn’t a knock – I definitely got hooked and couldn’t wait to read more. It’s just that the first chapter packed such a wallop, I had to go back to study it. The third time was just for fun and when I went on to devour the rest of the book. I’ve been told quoting another author’s work here could be a potential legal quagmire so, instead, I’ll just explain why this book is my go-to reference on how to open a standalone novel. I also encourage you to read November Road, if you haven’t already. It’s obvious Lou […]

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Scammers Work From Home, Too

I’m departing from talking about reading or writing today. In the last week, I’ve had multiple friends reach out to ask me about emails they received. The messages threatened to expose personal or suggestive information about the recipient unless they paid the sender Bitcoin. The sender included one of each recipient’s correct passwords in these emails as “proof” of the sender’s access. It’s a scam. The friends who reached out to me already knew it was a scam. But…but… what about those passwords? Those were correct. Even though everything about these emails screams out “scam,” could these threats be real? You already know the answer. Say it with me – no. So how are the scammers doing this password thing? Data breaches. In 2019, there were over 7 billion records exposed. In January 2019 alone, hackers circulated more than 2 billion usernames and passwords in dark web forums. Chances are really high that bad guys know the password to at least one of your online accounts. Probably more than one. Before sending out these extortion emails, the savvier scammers will test passwords associated with your email address to verify that the one they include in their scam is valid, all […]

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