Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Marketing goof

There are times when you just have to wonder, “What were they thinking?”

In the current economy, dollar stores are a wonderful resource. These stores take unsold inventory from other retailers and from manufacturers and mark it down to ridiculously low prices. Because the selection at a dollar store is determined by somewhat random factors, it is never certain exactly what will turn up. But we have found some really good deals on occasion, such as a kitchen canister set (13 containers and lids ranging in size from one that holds 20 pounds of cat chow to one just right to store Gerald’s secret blend of barbecue rub) for $2, or a wicker bathroom set (big clothes hamper, small clothes hamper, wastebasket, and more) for $3.

The quality of what one finds in the dollar stores is highly variable. Sometimes, for example, there will be canned goods near their expiration dates, or clothes that have been so shoddily sewn that they’re falling apart on their hangers. At other times, there may be merchandise that has been discontinued; one time, I found a bed-in-a-bag set identical to one I had bought six months earlier at a major department store, for about a third of the price.

And much of what ends up in dollar stores is simply stuff that for some reason didn’t sell. We once picked up several boxes of a major name brand of tissue for a super-bargain price (something like three boxes for $1). These were lovely designer boxes decorated with a wildflower motif: mustard, ragweed, sagebrush, Russian thistle, and so forth. Gee, I wonder why nobody wanted them?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the winner is ...

Murder at the Spelling Bee

Seaside Community College is hosting the regional spelling bee, and English instructor Hannah Montgomery has been asked to be one of the judges. From the beginning, everything just seems to go wrong – contestants fall ill, parents bicker, the newspaper misprints the publicity press releases, the major sponsor withdraws its support, and the weather takes an unusually stormy turn. Then, to top it all off, it is discovered that all of the gas lines underneath the college campus are leaking and need emergency repairs. What more can go wrong?

Well, if Hannah’s around, you know a dead body’s going to turn up somewhere.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

November approaches

Prepare to do without me for a while

Those of you who know me know that I participate in National Novel Writing Month every year. This is an exercise in simply cranking out the words – 50,000 of them in 30 days.

I have been participating in NaNo since 2004. Since 2005, I have written a murder mystery every year, focusing on Hannah Montgomery, a community college English instructor who has a Jessica Fletcher-like habit of stumbling upon dead bodies everywhere she goes. The series’ inspiration was an unusually stubborn malfunctioning photocopier in the faculty workroom at the community college where I teach. It gave me the idea to write a mystery using a photocopier as a murder weapon, and presto, Murder at the Community College was born! In that mystery, a particularly unlikeable faculty member was offed by a booby trap set at the point in the copier’s paper path that always jammed.

Since then, Hannah has solved murders at the yacht club (vice commodore killed by an unusual subspecies of venomous snake), a family reunion (obnoxious great-aunt stabbed with a Sikh knife at Hannah’s fiancé’s family’s lake house), the little theater (the actor playing Sir Lionel in Camelot didn’t come back to life the way he was supposed to after the joust), and the sports desk of the local newspaper (an intrusive photographer clobbered to death with a hockey stick). Along the way, Hannah has fallen in love with a police detective, suffered a traumatic brain injury, been involved in a race riot, developed a fascination with racing sailboats, performed on a low-budget recording that went viral on the Internet, been raped, and met all sorts of interesting people.

So what’s next for Hannah? As she and fiancé Harry O’Malley plan their upcoming wedding, where will the next body turn up? I’m open to suggestions.

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