Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Off To The Land Of The Armadillo

We leave for Texas in a few short hours (and I don't even want to think about what I have to accomplish in those hours!). I may have access to a computer there and if so, I'll check in, post your comments, maybe put up a new post or two. We'll see how it goes.

Please check the post below this and send me a comment if you are interested in the contest. I'll start the contest after I get back.

Have a great week!

Want To Join Alexa?

I'm thinking about running a contest here. The prize is naming a minor character in Alexa's first book after you. I'm thinking the contest will be submitting a name for Alexa's favorite neighborhood deli. I'll narrow the entries to my favorite three and then everyone can vote on it. The winner gets their name in the novel and a signed copy when the book releases.

Of course, this will only work if all you lurkers join in and comment. I'm always surprised at how many people tell me they check this blog every day. Please let me know if you are interested in this contest (and in seeing your name in print!) and if there's enough interest, we'll go for it!

Because Malystryx and Kelly are on vacation and I know they'd both enter, I'm counting them as two votes for "yes" even though they can't comment.

Commenting on blogger is easy. Hit the comment button at the bottom of this post, type your comment and if you don't have a google account to use for signing in, just click on "other" and type whatever name you like - you don't have to fill out the web page blank. Then submit and I'll do the rest!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Voices Are OUTSIDE My Head

As many of you know, I work at Cracker Barrel. Tonight, after my shift, I spent some time shopping in the store (thankfully remembering I needed to buy a wedding gift for this weekend). After making my purchases, I decided to use the restroom before leaving.

I'll spare you the sordid details and just say that I was alone in the bathroom when I heard THE VOICE.

THE VOICE: I can see you.

ME: WHAT????! *looks frantically around the stall for source of voice - finds nothing*

THE VOICE: Look up. I can see you.

ME: *looks up and sees nothing but ceiling tiles* This had better be someone's idea of a sick practical joke.

THE VOICE: Come on, now, look at me. I can look at you.

ME: Well you'd better not be looking at me, buster, because as soon as I figure out where you are, I'm going to break you in half. *exits stall - with attitude*

THE VOICE: Stand up and you'll see me.

ME: I am standing. *pauses to wonder if VOICE is real or is one of many that reside in my head*

THE VOICE: I've got something for you.

ME: Oh goody because I have something for you too. *spends a moment deciding between ripping out eyeballs or going with a good old-fashioned kick to the groin*

THE VOICE: Danny, I've got a toy for you.

ME: Danny? Who the frick is Danny? If you're going to terrorize a woman in the restroom, at least have the courtesy to use the right name.

THE VOICE: There you are!

ME: Where? *bursts out of the restroom ready to kill*

THE VOICE: Here's your toy.

ME: What the - ? *sees manager talking on restaurant's loudspeaker to 3 year old boy. Learns that loudspeaker resides in the restroom to alert ALL guests to the availability of their table. Takes appropriate action to inform manager of near case of heart failure and personal opinion on his actions. Cannot discuss the rest as per lawyer's instruction.*

Monday, June 25, 2007

Need Something To Read?

I hear all this buzz lately about "summer reads". I don't know what the big deal is because I read constantly year round but hey, anytime people carve out more time for reading, I'm all for it.

Here are a few books I've read recently that are well worth running down to your local bookstore and snatching up a copy:

WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr. This debut novel is a gorgeous modern-day fairytale complete with beautiful, horrible, deadly, and noble faeries seen only by a teenage girl, Aislinn, gifted/cursed with the Sight at birth. In the faery world, the Winter Queen (a deliciously bloodthirsty villain the likes of which haven't been portrayed since Lewis's White Witch) is in a centuries-old feud with her son, the Summer King (a great big YUM with a heaping side of "don't trust him as far as you can throw him"). The Winter Queen wants to keep ALL the power and freeze Earth completely, killing the Summer faery and every human. The Summer King wants to stop her and regain the balance of the seasons. The only way he can do it is to convince Aislinn to accept his hand and become his Summer Queen. The Winter Queen will stop at nothing to prevent this. As the rules that have always kept Aislinn safe from the faery crumble and two powerful monarchs threaten her existence and her chance at true love, Aislinn must fight to save the faery kingdom she fears and the man she loves without losing her soul in the process.

KILLER INSTINCT by Joseph Finder. Jason Steadman is a thirty-year-old sales executive living in Boston andsworking for an electronics giant He's a witty, charismatic guy who's well liked at the office, but he lacks the "killer instinct" necessary to move up the corporate ladder. To the chagrin of his ambitious wife, it looks as if his career has hit a ceiling. But all that will change one evening when Jason meets Kurt Semko, a former Special Forces officer just back from Iraq. Looking for a decent pitcher for the company softball team, Jason gets Kurt, who was once drafted by the majors, a job in Corporate Security. Soon, good things start to happen for Jason —and bad things start to happen to Jason's rivals. Things soon spiral out of control as co-workers who've spoken out against Jason's recent promotion are killed. Jason suspects Kurt but when he turns to the police, Kurt discovers it. With the police compromised and Jason's home, car, and office bugged, it's up to Jason to stop Kurt. Permanently.



I

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Yes, But I Have A Great Personality!

I was over at Jeaniene Frost's lj tonight and she had an entry listing 8 quirks of hers. Apparently the rules are, you list your 8 then tag 8 other people to read yours and then post their own.

She didn't tag anyone and neither will I. It just sounded like fun. Now, to narrow my quirks down to 8...

1. I have to brush my teeth multiple times per day. Have to. Cannot stand anything less than a fresh mouth. How far does this compulsion go? After I gave birth to my first child (26 hours of labor, no epidural, homorraghing for over an hour before I had him, and 2 hours of "rebuilding" as they stitched me up...all with NO FOOD for nearly 30 hours), I insisted that, even though it was midnight and I'd just endured hell, I had to go into the bathroom and brush my teeth. It took two nurses to get me there and then I passed out cold. They revived me (smelling salts will snap you back to consciousness and straight into next week) and I refused to leave until I finished brushing.

2. I "peel" the chocolate off candy bars when I eat them. Since I really don't care much for chocolate in the first place, I only eat candy bars that are peelable. (Look, everyone, a new word!) Twix, Kit Kat, and Reese's are the best. Get that pesky chocolate out of the way and the rest isn't half bad.

3. I am slightly afraid of goats. It's the horizontal pupil thing. It's not natural.

4. I do not stop at stop signs unless it cannot be avoided. I pause. Sometimes I only pause for a millisecond. (take, for example, the useless stop sign at the end of my cul de sac. My road ends onto a main road in our subdivision. Unless another car is coming, I don't need to stop. If another car is coming, I possess both the common sense and the wherewithal to stop, no commanding red sign needed.)

5. I cannot watch horror movies. Ever. My imagination is waaaaaay too vivid. Those images take root, fester, and become imminently plausible. I once tried to watch The Ring - during the day, to give me courage - and had to fast forward through the scary scenes and even then, I was freaked for days. I couldn't even watch X Files unless my hubby was home with me because I became convinced that a murderer would shape-shift and enter my locked condo through my air vent.

6. I don't like chick flicks. There are very few exceptions to this. "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days" comes to mind. That's all.

7. I have to eat popcorn in a movie theater. I've tried to go without it (thank you Dr. Atkins for inspiring that piece of foolishness). It didn't work. I need my popcorn. I am a much happier woman with my popcorn.

8. I throw whip cream at unsuspecting people. (There are fewer and fewer unsuspecting people in my life, nowadays. Time to lure in some newbies.) I can't help it. I certainly don't want to eat it. And it makes such a perfect little fluffy missile.

Well, there they are. 8 (of many) quirks in my personality. Feel free to add any of YOURS, not MINE. I feel compelled to mention that since I know some of you (my hubby, Malystryx - who is currently on vacation, my Mom) might see fit to add a few more items onto my list. =)

And The Oscar Goes To

In our college days, my hubby, my friends, and I all loved to eat at a little 50's Diner-themed restaurant called Johnny Rockets. Johnny Rockets has dancing waiters, killer chocolate malts, ketchup served in a smiley-face formation, and tiny jukeboxes on every table where a nickel buys you the chance to hear Wipeout or Blue Suede Shoes.

Pretty entertaining, right? Apparently, not entertaining enough for my hubby and two of his friends. On one memorable visit, they decided to shake things up a bit. They wrote down a bunch of mental/physical conditions, tossed them in a hat, and whichever one they drew, they had to be that evening. (Yes, yes, not very political correct, I know.)

My hubby had a debilitating stutter.

Gavin had Touretts Syndrome.

Damon had a severe case of paranoia.

The ordering process sounded something like this:

WAITRESS: Hi there, welcome to Johnny Rockets!

HUBBY: Thhhhhhhhhaa - thhhhhhhhhhhaaa

DAMON: What do you mean welcome? Who's been waiting for us?

GAVIN: Not welcome! Not welcome!

WAITRESS: Um, okay, what can I get for you?

HUBBY: I, I, I, I, I, I, I wwwwwant a shhhhhhhhh- shhhhhhhhh

WAITRESS: A shake?

DAMON: Why do you want him to have a shake? Have you poisoned the shakes?

GAVIN: #$%@ Shakes! #$%@ Shakes!

WAITRESS: What?

HUBBY: Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch

WAITRESS: Chocolate shake?

DAMON: You can't tell the man what to order. He'll order what he wants, not what the leftist government conspiracy would like to feed him.

GAVIN: #@$%! #@$%!

WAITRESS: Geez. Okay, chocolate shake. Do you know what you want to eat?

HUBBY: Nu,nu,nu,nu, numb-b-b-b-b-

WAITRESS: A number 6?

DAMON: Wait! Whoa, now. Let's all just back up a second. You can't just tell the man he's having a number 6.

WAITRESS: That's the only number on the menu.

DAMON: And why is that? Why are we only offered one number?

WAITRESS: Because everything else has a name?

DAMON: Or is it because secretly they want to lead us to pick the number six, revere the number six, worship the number six which is of the Devil?!!

GAVIN: #$%@ Devil! #$%@ Devil!

WAITRESS: I am not being paid enough for this. Listen (turns to hubby), do you want cheese on that?

DAMON: The man is NOT taking any of your suggestions here. He'll have only what HE orders. No more, no less. You can just tell your BOSS that we won't play his game.

GAVIN: #$%@ Boss! #$%@ Boss!

HUBBY: Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch

WAITRESS: Cheese, I got it.

DAMON: Where are the cameras you use to secretly record our every move?

WAITRESS: (rolls eyes) In the jukebox. Whaddya want?

DAMON: (shrieks) The jukebox! I knew it! You're using our love of rock and roll as the tool to bring about our downfall. I'll have a Coke.

GAVIN: #$%@ Coke! #$%@ Coke!

WAITRESS: Right. Two Cokes.

And on it went. No doubt they ate quite a bit of spit in their food that evening.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Alexa Tate Update

Well, so far Alexa has disabled a criminal by breaking his legs, surivived a blind date with a defense attorney, narrowly escaped a caning by her irascible, spandex-clad 91 year old tenant, hurtled herself through a window, discovered she has TWO stalkers instead of one, caught the attention of a (very handsome and possibly off limits) policeman, been caught hiding in the men's room, eaten a delicious deli sandwich, and ruined her best DKNY skirt in the aftermath of a bomb explosion.

And I'm just warming up.

=D

Friday, June 22, 2007

Moon-gazing

The South is an interesting place to live for many reasons. We have poulty reports with our morning traffic, souped-up lawnmower races, and bbq, and a significant portion of our population lack any semblance of self-consciousness about their body.

This lack of self-consciousness is demonstrated in many ways: men wearing overalls and nothing else, women wearing overalls and nothing else, and an insistence on shopping in the junior's department by women too old and too large to get away with it. By far the most conspicuous location for viewing this lack of self-consciousness is the swimming pool.

Case in point: Yesterday afternoon my hubby and I took the kids to our neighborhood pool. We settled down onto pool chairs to watch our boys play and to grab a few precious moments of uninterrupted conversation.

Shortly after we arrived, a family of four came in - mother, father, two kids. The parents were overweight but honestly, one of my favorite things about the South is that everyone is welcome in their bathing suit, no matter their size.

Just make sure the bathing suit fits.

The mother entered the pool in front of us, splashed around for a minute, and then did a slow underwater somersault. This was an ill-fated decision as in the act of going upside-down, her bathing skirt fell away (gravity being annoyingly reliable) and those of us outside the pool were treated to the sight of a large, blindingly white posterior slowly rotating out of the water.

Thankfully, I was wearing sunglasses.

The father came to the side of the pool and sat, ostensibly to talk to his wife. This also was an ill-fated decision as his t-shirt ended firmly at his waist and his trunks slid more than halfway down his bottom and stayed there.

He didn't seem to notice.

I noticed. Hard not to. This wasn't just plumber-butt, this was "President-For-Life-Over-All-Plumbers-Everywhere" butt. I'm surprised he didn't feel the draft.

Maybe being so unself-conscious at the pool isn't a blessing after all.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fashion Faux-Paux

I've seen plenty of ads for clothing and shoes in faux leather, faux suede and faux fur. It makes sense. Leather, suede, and fur are expensive and at some point, supply cannot meet demand. But until yesterday, I had no idea the need for "faux" materials had spread. I saw a catalog entry for a skirt of "faux fleece".

Huh?

I had no idea there was even a market for faux fleece. Who buys this stuff? Are there people out there who say to themselves, "Well, I want the LOOK of fleece but without the arduous cost so I'll just buy faux fleece with none the wiser!"?

What's next? Faux terry cloth? Faux polyester? Is there some sort of fabric shortage?

Fake fleece skirts. Wonders never cease.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What's In A Name?

So, my hubby is trying to come up with a cool name for his new cake decorating biz. I'm helping, of course. I decided to trot out all our ideas here and let you vote on your fav's or add new ones of your own.

The current favorite: Let Them Eat Cake

Strong Contenders: Frost This!, Cake Or Death (based on the infamous monologue by the British comedian Eddie Izzard), and Real Men Bake Cake

Rejected Ideas: Crazee Cakes (shout out to Malystryx), The Cakinator, The Cake Master (not to be confused with the master-caker), Cake-a-licious (hi there, Kelly) and others too embarassing to name.


I thought up each of the strong contenders and the initial idea (a riff on Marie Antoinette) for the current favorite. Personally, I LOVE Frost This! and Cake or Death but hubby worries that the first might be a tad strong and the last is too obscure. I say when you make super cool cakes that everyone wants, the name automatically becomes hip.

What say you?

Let Them Eat Cake, Part Two




As requested, here are pics of the two cakes my hubby made for the wedding this weekend. Clearly, one is the traditional wedding cake and the other is the groom's cake.

Didn't he do an amazing job?

First Impressions

I helped with a friend's wedding this weekend. I was the DJ for the reception. My hubby made the cakes. The whole ceremony went very well but I was reminded of when I first met the groom, Mark.

My friend, Elizabeth, brought Mark to our house to meet us and some of our other friends who were invited for the afternoon. Shortly after they arrived, I looked out the window and saw the most incredible sight. A total old lady's early eighties Caddy, sleek and tricked out in the back, ripped up and rusting in the front.

As this car is not parked in front of my house but further down the street, it doesn't occur to me that anyone I know owns it. After all, I know all my friends' cars. This assumption, coupled with my inherent inability to keep any humorous observation to myself, contributed to a disastrous first impression with Mark.

I looked out my window, started laughing, and said, "Hey, look at the geriatric ghetto-mobile!"

And Mark said, "Hi, I'm Mark. And that's my car."

No matter how often I pray for it, time never does reverse itself and no holes ever open up to swallow me.

Fortunately, Mark thought it was funny too.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Score: CJ - 2, Phone Solicitors - 0

In the continuing saga of me vs. phone solicitors, I just recieved a call from someone trying to sell me a travel discount package (for four low payments of $22.95 a year!!!!) because, of course, a mother of three has plenty of time and money to jet-set all over the world.

Me: Hello?

IDIOT: Mrs. Redwine?

Me: Oh, not again -

IDIOT: Mrs. Redwine, I'm calling because a recent purchase on your Visa qualified you for a free gift.

Me: There aren't any recent purchases on my Visa.

IDIOT: Yes, and it qualified you -

Me: Are you arguing with me about my own Visa card?

IDIOT: Your recent purchase qualified you to recieve a package of gifts totalling over $500 in value.

Me: Why don't you tell the truth? Your company bought my information and now you want me to agree to something that I'll never use and will cost me thousands before all is said and done.

IDIOT: It's not like that. I just send out (lists all gifts in a barely understandable accent) and you can call that day and cancel it. It's your decision.

Me: My decision is no, I'm not interested.

IDIOT: But Mrs. Redwine, these are nice gifts and you could just call and cancel.

Me: I'd forget to call. No.

IDIOT: How could you forget? It doesn't come in an envelope. It's a box.

Me: How does a box help my memory? No.

IDIOT: I'll just send this out for a small processing fee and you can keep the gifts -

Me: No.

IDIOT: You aren't listening.

Me: Says the pot to the kettle. Listen, I'll do you a favor. I've got my Webster's Dictionary right here. I'll look up the word "no" and give you the definition since you clearly don't understand it.

IDIOT: You are the one who doesn't understand. These gifts are valuable, it's only a small one-time processing fee and you can cancel at any time -

Me: an adverb meaning not ever, not in any degree, not at all -

IDIOT: You can just call and cancel -

Me: the opposite of yes, used to deny, refuse, disagree, and utterance of absolute refusal -

IDIOT: Mrs. Redwine, it's a valuable gift and you don't have to pay anything beyond the processing fee and I'm just going to send this out and then you can decide. The choice is yours.

Me: I've made my choice. No.

IDIOT: But you can't say no -

Me: *hangs up on IDIOT mid-sentence*


I love to start my day chewing up and spitting out a salesman for breakfast.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake!

My hubby is trying to kill me.

It's an ingenious plan, really. Under the guise of baking and decorating our friend's wedding cake (due this Friday!), he is surrounding me with mountains and mountains of cake discards.

This is completely unfair.

I cannot walk through my kitchen without encountering piles of delicious, moist pudding cake on every counter. My freezer is full of bags of cake to be defrosted and made into chocolate-dipped cake balls at the earliest possible, err, I mean at Christmas - yes, that's it - Christmas. (Of course I might have to do a few quality checks before then. Wouldn't want to serve inferior cake balls.)

You see, to make the perfectly flat surface of the four-tiered wedding cake our friend ordered, my hubby has to make multiple layers for each level and then slice 1 inch off the top of every layer. 46 cake mixes makes an awful lot of sliced off cake.

He has no use for this sliced off cake. The Swedish half of me cringes at the thought of throwing away perfectly good cake. Not because it's cake but because we just don't throw out anything that might be useful.

This cake is not useful to anyone except the Devil who is using it as a tool to expand my hips at an epidemic rate.

I need help. Serious reinforcements. I've shoved platters of cake at anyone who stops by my house. Friends. The mail man. A seriously annoying door-to-door salesman. I still have cake on my counters. Cake filling up my freezer. Cake straining the seams of my jeans.

I finally succumbed to the invasion today and threw away an entire Kroger sack full of delicious cake. (I'm sorry, Mom. I've failed to live up to my Swedish ancestors who could have probably made a casserole, a pillow, and some mulch from everything I threw away) I had to. Where else could I possibly put it? I feel like those neighbors you know who grow way too many tomatoes and zucchini and stalk you with bags full of veggies every time you come home.

This is waaaaaay better than veggies.

Want some cake? Call me. I've got a bag full with your name on it.

It's All In The Verb

Recently someone said to me, "So, I hear you can write." It sparked a brief conversation that inevitably included this person telling me that he could write as well and was just waiting for the time when inspiration would strike and he would have time carved out of his life for his masterpiece.

Maybe he will.

I can't say.

But it made me think about greatness and achieving my own potential and I've decided that the verb "can" isn't accurate.

I can do a lot of things. I can cook. I can swim. I can tie my shoes. Good for me. That doesn't mean much, really. It's just one more thing in a list of things I can do.

I am a writer. I am a writer because every spare second I have, voices and plots and scenes appear inside my head and I become lost inside them and can't wait to put it all on paper. I am a writer because I read voraciously to learn technique, pacing, and voice. I am a writer because I get up at 5 in the freaking morning to labor over scenes and sentences before my kids wake up and the noise begins. I am a writer because I welcome critiques as a way to push myself to be better. I am a writer because writing burns inside me and I am developing the discipline and perseverance to turn a spark of talent into a polished craft.

That's much more than saying I can. I can do a lot of things. I am great at one of them because I'm paying the price it takes to earn it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is This Thing On?

In an earlier post entitled "Beware the Rake", I mentioned my long-time friend, Kitty. Kitty, you'll recall, lived in the country, the very outskirts of what was essentially a farming community at the time. (Now it's a trendy spot for Bay area commuters to find affordable housing. Never saw that one coming.)

I said (and some of you secretly scoffed, I know) that people on Kitty's street kept all manner of livestock in their front yards, especially cows. (Cows, unlike the diabolical Dolly, are basically placid creatures who barely notice anything but the three inches of grass in front of them. You won't catch a cow trying to eat your clothes off.) I was telling the truth.

Kitty's next door neighbor kept cows in his front yard, surrounded by a low grade electric fence about 4 1/2 feet high. Kitty assured me that the fence was never on. Why anyone needed an electric fence to keep in cows who didn't want to leave in the first place always mystified me. Especially if you didn't even bother to turn it on.

Turns out the fence wasn't for the cows.

We were more scared of Kitty's neighbor than of her parents and that was saying something. I can't even remember his name (Mr. Henry? Mr. Holmes? Mr. Hi, I Hail From Satan? Something like that.) but I remember his face. Long, narrow, and pale with deep wrinkles dug into a perpetual scowl. He hated kids. Hated noise. Hated just about everything. We knew for certain that if we ever messed with any of Mr. H's stuff, we'd be lucky to escape with a backside full of buckshot.

One afternoon when we were in sixth grade, Kitty and I decided to set up a poor-boy's waterslide in her side yard. We stretched a long black tarp, anchored by rocks, from one large oak tree to the next. (I know, I know - ending your slide at a tree trunk isn't the brightest idea in the box...) We dragged out Kitty's hose, positioned it at the top of our tarp, and started sliding.

On one side of our slide, Kitty's scrubby green lawn welcomed us. On the other side (the side we DID NOT WALK ON) was a nasty strip of thorny weeds and Mr. H's fence. A few cows stared at us as if to say, "Look at the little two-leggers who keep trying to kill themselves" but we ignored them. To speak to a cow was to invite a visit from Mr. H and a loud discourse on the ills of society in general and nasty, interferring children in particular.

Everything went well at first. Then, the inevitable happened. If fairies really do give out gifts at birth, mine was the ability to injure my head if even the remotest possibility existed. Naturally, sliding headfirst toward a tree trunk presented more than ample opportunity.

I crashed into the tree. It sort of hurt.

Kitty, who was paying less attention to me than to the excitement of her turn, failed to wait for me to exit the tarp and slid into me. That sort of hurt too.

We disentangled ourselves and Kitty launched herself off the tarp on the grass side.

Afflicted by temporary forgetfulness, I launched myself onto the thorny weeds. That hurt, no "sort of" about it.

I hopped off one foot and managed to impale the other. Not good. Both feet were full of tiny thorns and I was losing my balance.

I grabbed Mr. H's fence, the one that is always turned off, for support.

It was on.

That freakin' HURT.

My hand seized around the thin metal wire on the fence, my teeth clamped together, and however many volts of electricity Mr. Spawn of Satan had going in his fence raced through my body in a painful buzz.

Kitty doubled over laughing.

I stood there, helplessly latched on the fence, hopping up and down on thorn-impaled feet, unable to tell Kitty exactly what I thought of the whole situation because my tongue was suddenly too big for my mouth.

In a moment, I managed to unhook myself from the fence and fall back onto the tarp. I swear I saw a shadow move in Mr. H's house. I wonder if he was doubled over laughing too.

We moved the slip-n-slide to the other side of Kitty's yard. (Thus entering Dolly's domain but that's a story for another day.)

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Power of Beginnings

I was thinking today about the impact of that first sentence. Call me Ishmael. It was a dark and stormy night. Once upon a time...

The first sentence has such an impact on how I as a reader settle into a novel. I love short, dramatic, attention-grabbing sentences that instantly set the tone and snag my interest. I also love intricate, beautifully flowing sentences that slowly submerge me into the world of the novel.

I hate picking up a book and reading a boring old info dump as the first paragraph. You have mere seconds to make me laugh, make me think, or give me a chill. Otherwise, there are hundreds of other books in the stores.

I decided to grab my stack of "still to be read" books and check out the first sentence.


"Okay, so I'm an idiot." - KILLER INSTINCT by Joseph Finder. If you haven't read anything by this author yet, you're missing out. Usually, I would steer clear of corporate espionage type novels but he is really, really good. And so is this first sentence.


"The tall elegant figure paused thoughtfully at the corner of the Fauborg St. Honore and cast a quick glance down the narrow paved alley on his left." -LOVE'S CHARADE by Jane Feather. In this author's defense, it's an old book (c. 1986) and as I've read later books by her, I know she improves. As a first sentence, this just doesn't grab me.

"Ruth remembered drowning." - DROWNING RUTH by Christina Schwarz. Well, it's succinct, which is often a strength, and it does grab my attention enough to keep reading. It's not the best but the following paragraph is strong enough to keep me reading.

"After the apple had been cut in half, the halves had been sewn together with coarse black thread." - THE FACE by Dean Koontz. Well, it has Koontz's usual weirdness but overall, this doesn't work for me. I just don't care about the apple. However, because I know Koontz doesn't disappoint, the first sentence doesn't really matter to me.

"Cemeteries at midnight top my "places-I-don't-want-to-be" list - right above hospitals and my mother's house." - A.K.A. MOCKINGBIRD by C.J. Redwine. Okay, okay, I had to throw in one of my own. Naturally, I love it. =)

"You never meant to kill him." - THE INNOCENT by Harlan Coben. Oooh, I like this. I am instantly intrigued (although a small, contrary part of me wants to argue, "I did too!") This grabs my attention, gets me asking questions about the plot, and gives me that little thrill that says "this is going to be a fun ride".

"It wouldn't stop, ever." THE MAZE by Catherine Coulter. This is too vague and sweepingly dramatic to work for me. I find myself nearly rolling my eyes. What wouldn't stop? A demented killer's quest for revenge? The rolling hills of Napa Valley? Walmart's systematic crushing of small town Main Street USA? I find I don't really care enough to investigate.

Okay, that's it. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on first sentences (and a favorite of your own).

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Heart Failure: Imminent

As some of you know, my first novel is at Hachette Publishing Group (I just reread the email and it turns out Hachette is now called Grand Central Publishing, formerly Warner Books. Hard to keep up.) on final committee review (or something like that). I just received an email from the editor who initially requested the novel. She said the last person is reading it now and she should have an answer for me soon.

I have a few reactions to this:

1. I consistently fear heart failure every time I see her name in my inbox. My brain races with thoughts like, "Is this it? Will they buy it or say no? Can I survive either answer without a healthy dose of Moose Tracks ice cream?"

2. I want to sell this story. It's a great story. It's suspensful, romantic, and sometimes funny.

3. I'm scared because I don't have an agent and I don't want to screw up the contract and sell my literary soul to anyone for the next decade or so. Do I sign the contract, call an agent who has expressed interest in my writing (just not in this particular novel) and say "Hey, want to go for it?" or do I go solo?

4. I'm expanding my genre to include paranormal - if I sell this book will this publisher be willing to follow me or will I need to produce a few more romantic suspense books before I can market Alexa?

I have no idea what Hachette will decide, of course, so this may all just be useless worrying (but I'm really good at that!). I'll let you know as it unfolds.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Interesting Ways to Get A Concussion

All of the following methods have been tested personally by yours truly.

1. Vacuum underneath the dining room table, misjudge your exit, and slam the edge against your head as hard as possible.

Pro: you will miss up to three weeks of work while your brains unscramble themselves.

Con: the E.R. nurses won't believe your story and your mush-for-brains doctor will refuse a perfectly reasonable request to write a prescription for maid service.

2. Refuse to acknowledge the possibility of ice on a set of concrete stairs in the middle of WINTER camp, lose your footing, and smack each step with the back of your head as you slide toward the bottom.

Pro: there are some awfully cute medical techs on staff at high school winter camp.

Con: your ungraceful landing, coupled with your ungodly screech of panic as your feet flew skyward will significantly decrease any chance those cute medical techs will see you as date material.

3. Fall backwards off a bunk bed ladder and hit your head (along with your posterior) HARD on a concrete floor.

Pro: You've proved your "I-really-don't-think-I-should-have-the-top-bunk" point in spectacular fashion.

Con: Dealing with a headache and a seriously bruised tailbone puts a crimp in even the most intrepid girl's social life.

4. Get kicked in the head by a horse.

Pro: The "I-Got-Kicked-In-The-Head-By-A-Horse" line is a great conversation starter at boring parties and can double as an excuse for rude and/or childish behavior if needed.

Con: It freakin' hurts.

Got any to add?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Bleach, Scrub, Rinse, Repeat

Tonight I went to the movies with my mother and Malystryx. It was a smaller theater and we were surrounded on both sides by strangers and their even stranger offspring.

Lucky me, I sat in the middle thus ensuring that I did not share foot space or an arm rest with a total stranger.

Malystryx was not so lucky.

He was sitting next to a family of four who chose to place their youngest next to him.

Good times.

First, it was the ice cheweing, a particular pet peeve of Malystryx's. (And who can blame him? The sound approaches the level of fingernails-on-a-chalk-board annoying, especially when it interrupts the fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow.)

Then, it was the straw-chewing.

Straw-chewing by itself is not so great a crime. The occasional wet gnawing sound can be distracting, sure, but overall, it's no big deal.

It's the spit-flinging as the straw leaves the mouth that causes the problem.

The child sitting next to Malystryx had a particularly wide radius of spit-fling. First it hit Malystryx's arm. He leaned over and asked me for my anti-bacterial hand sanitizer (never leave home without it) and scrubbed his arm.

The next spit-fling landed square in his face.

No amount of water-free anti-bacterial hand sanitizer can cope with that. A face full of someone else's saliva requires nothing less than bleach, steel wool, and scalding hot water.

I'm sure, even as I type this, Malystryx is busy scrubbing.

Malystryx should be grateful. It could have been much, much worse.

When my hubby and I were in college, we worked several jobs to pay our way. My hubby's main job was managing the local Ben and Jerry's ice cream parlor (you have to love a man who smells like a waffle cone). He had several regular customers and one regular non-customer.

Anthony.

Anthony was a homeless man who liked to come into the store and talk to my hubby. Because my hubby is kind and tolerant, he listened. Listening to Anthony required kindness and tolerance because a)for obvious reasons, Anthony lacked any semblance of personal hygiene and b)Anthony had absolutely no concept of respecting someone's personal space.

One night, two friends and I stopped in at Ben and Jerry's to check in on my hubby and score some free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Anthony was there. My hubby served our ice cream and decided to take a break and join us at our booth while we ate.

I slid in next to one window, facing my two friends, and my hubby sat next to me. Anthony followed us to our table, talking all the while. Just as we settled into the booth and grabbed our first bite of ice cream, it happened.

Anthony opened his mouth to speak, made some sort of strangled half-cough, half-sneeze sound, and let fly with the largest amount of spit and mucus I've ever seen.

All of it, the whole nasty mouthful, splattered against the side of my hubby's face.

Anthony kept talking like nothing had happened.

My hubby sat there like a stone, snotty spit slowly sliding down his face, refusing to react and thus shame Anthony.

I have either less concern for others or less control over my reactions. I bent over double, laughing until I cried.

Anthony asked what was wrong with me.

My hubby slid his eyes toward me (in a look that promised certain retribution if I didn't get myself under control) and said two words through tightly clenched teeth.

"Napkins, please."

I gave him napkins. A whole wad of napkins. And kept right on laughing like a lunatic.

Later that evening, my hubby discovered that while it does kill germs, scrubbing one's face with Lysol and a Brillo pad has other consequences.

He decided it was worth it.

Mushroom Cloud Anyone?

Math and science have never been my thing. There are several examples of this throughout my school experience (note the time I drove my Algebra teacher to yank at his own hair when I demanded to know exactly what "x" and "y" stood for and refused to be mollified by the vague "two points in space" answer. Where in space? Who chose to call them "x" and "y" instead of "r" and "k"? Why do I care about two anonymous points in space anyway?).

The most notable example of my incompatibility with math and science is my brief stint in Chemistry as a junior.

Chemistry requires a fundamental understanding of the scientific elements and an appropriate respect for the methods used to combine those elements. Both of these were problematic for me. I anticipated long hours struggling to memorize the table of elements. I was sure I would toil over the mathematical equations used in the lab experiments and probably get it all wrong.

I never dreamed I would destroy my chances at success over the mechanics of a simple Bunsen burner.

We were two weeks into the school year and I was already in way over my head. I viewed our first lab day with something akin to relief. Finally, a chance to DO something rather than just sit there feeling stupid while I tried to understand why I shouldn't combine chlorine and ammonia (apparently the smell alone is enough to rip your lungs out through your nostrils) and why I should care. I mean honestly, when am I going to come up against a situation where combining chlorine and ammonia is really an option?

Our lab assignment was simple. We were to light a Bunsen burner and put a beaker of some liquid or other over the top of it until that liquid boiled.

No problem.

I liked to cook. Cooking often involves boiling water. This was a slam dunk. I entertained visions of my lab grade offsetting my classroom grade with favorable results.

I took my time setting up my area. All around me, my friends turned the knob on their Bunsen burners, releasing a sharp hiss of gas, and then flicked a lighter to ingite a steady blue flame.

How easy could it get?

I turned the knob on my Bunsen burner and waited to hear the hiss of gas.

Nothing.

I turned the knob farther.

Still nothing.

Trust me to get the one defective Bunsen burner in the mix. I turned the knob farther. No hiss. I glared at the burner. The burner didn't care.

At this point, the knob had been opened for over a minute. Everyone else was already well on their way to boiling their clear liquid. My dreams of redeeming my Chemistry grade were slipping away. Because I didn't know what else to try, I grabbed my lighter, pointed it at my burner, and flicked.

WHOOOSH!!!!

A ball of flames bloomed around my burner and hit the ceiling in a mushroom cloud formation. The ceiling, it turns out, was not as flame-resistant as perhaps would have been wise in a chemistry lab. The ceiling caught fire.

People screamed and dove under the table. The teacher snatched a fire extinguisher and coated the entire lab - floor to ceiling and every person in between.

Turns out Bunsen burners can release gas even without the tell-tale hiss.

I thought this was a definite design flaw. My principal thought I was a hazaard to the school population in general and my Chemistry class in particular.

I was relocated to geology.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Think You Know Everything?

A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.

A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.

A dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours.

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A snail can sleep for three years.

Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.

All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial on
the back of the $5 bill.

Almonds are a member of the peach family.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until the child
reaches 2 to 6 years of age.

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds. Dogs only have about 10.

"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a
full moon.

In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.

If the population of China walked past you, in single file, the
line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

If you are an average American, in your whole life, you will spend
an average of 6 months waiting at red lights.

It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.

Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver,
or purple.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and
ears never stop growing.

Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand
and "lollipop" with your right.

The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar
tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.

The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses
every letter of the alphabet.

The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely
solid.

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

There are more chickens than people in the world.

There are only four words in the English language which end in
"dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous

There are two words in the English language that have all five
vowels in order: "abstemious" and "facetious."

There's no Betty Rubble in the Flintstones Chewables Vitamins.

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters
only on one row of the keyboard.

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks;
otherwise it will digest itself.




Now you know everything

For Malystryx

Friends depart, and memory takes them
To her caverns, pure and deep.


-Thomas Haynes Bayly


My good friend Malystryx (aka Dragon Master, aka Cinna-man) lost a close friend and confidant last night. Leo, a gorgeous long-haired tabby cat who was both frighteningly smart and incredibly loyal, died in a sad accident.

I know what it's like to lose an animal who is an intricate part of the fabric of your life. You look for them in all the old familiar places and fresh grief hits when they aren't there.

I wish I could do something tangible to make Malystryx's pain heal for him but only God and time are in charge of that. So instead, I offer him this post as a way to commemorate Leo (that beautiful, loving, devious, cheese-burger stealing cat).

Love you!

Friday, June 1, 2007

For What It's Worth

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me



1. I was once zapped by an electric fence.

2. I've nearly drowned twice.

3. I'm deathly afraid of semi-trucks.

4. I love roller coasters - the riskier, the better.

5. I love classics - books, films, music, you name it.

6. I cannot take most country music seriously. I really, really can't.

7. I do not eat apples.

8. I've survived two major earthquakes.

9. I once herded a bull out of an orchard and into a corral on my own and lived to tell about it.

10. I don't like chocolate.

Beware the Rake

When I was growing up, I had a close friend we'll call Kitty for purposes of protecting the, umm, oh yes, innocent, that's the word I'm looking for. Innocent.

Kitty and I were friends from sixth grade on, our bond withstanding the upheavals of junior high, the interruptions of various boyfriends, and the time she slapped my face in front of everyone for daring to eat lunch with someone else. (Who says 6th grade isn't a cutthroat world?)

I loved Kitty.

I was afraid of her parents. Kitty was afraid of her parents. Everyone was afraid of her parents. They were old (in their sixties while other parents were in their forties), cranky, and apt to throw things at you if you stepped out of line.

At least that was the rumor.

One night when I was in high school, another friend (we'll call him Homer - not the poet, the Simpson) and I decided to visit Kitty after dark. This took considerable courage on our part (or showed an astonishing lack of common sense - take your pick). It wasn't very late - mabye 8:30 - but Kitty's parents were already asleep and we did NOT want to wake them up.

Kitty lived several miles from town on a street where cows grazed in people's front yards, orchards hugged the houses, and there was not a streetlight to be found. Approaching Kitty's house without detection by her parents required finesse that would do a Navy Seal proud. Her parents' bedroom was at the front of the house, facing the street. Kitty's room was at the back. In between were several daunting obstacles:

1. A long gravel driveway - very noisy when approaching by car.
2. A pond of monstrously large goldfish lurking somewhere between the driveway and the side yard.
3. Dolly the sheep chained up somewhere beyond the pond but close enough to the house to give you a scare and try to chew off a piece of your clothing.

Homer and I parked on the street and crept across the gravel driveway. We knew better than to speak. Kitty's parents had a sixth sense about EVERYTHING and we really didn't want her dad to run us over in his Peugot for trespassing. We were nearly past their window when a light came on.

We ran.

Quietly.

I hit the bushes around the side of the house and melted into the shadows. (Okay, it was more like crashing into a very stiff and unyielding shrub and then hanging on for dear life but, as I've pointed out before, this is MY blog. I can sound like a super-agent if I want.)

Homer was less fortunate.

Homer hit the pond.

There is nothing quiet about landing in a pond full of toddler-sized goldfish.

Homer splashed his way out of the pond and joined me at the bushes just as Kitty's dad hit the front porch. We froze - me with my back pressed against a very prickly bush. Homer with his back pressed against me, dripping on us both.

Kitty's dad returned to the house, evidently deciding that when one was foolish enough to raise man-eating goldfish, one could expect to hear large splashes at night.

We resumed our clandestine journey around the side of the house. Walking on tip-toe through knee-high grass while dodging bushes and trees in complete darkness is quite a trick. We passed the middle of the house and could see a faint light shining from Kitty's window at the back of the house.

A false sense of security seized us and made us temporarily stupid.

We stopped creeping, stopped feeling our way carefully to the next step, and just walked freely. Then we heard it - an ominous rustling in the grass to Homer's left.

Dolly.

A "Baaaaaaaaah" ripped through the silence of the night and Homer said, "Not the shoes!"

Neither Dolly or Homer was quiet about it either.

A tug of war ensued between Dolly, who was apparently tired of eating nothing but grass and wanted a nicely used pair of Converse instead, and Homer who really wanted to keep his shoes.

Homer lost.

We continued on with Homer now shoeless and dripping. We'd passed the gravel driveway, encountered the pond, escaped the wrath of Kitty's father, and paid our toll to Dolly.

We were in the clear.

We hurried toward the welcoming light from Kitty's window, sure of victory, never dreaming that a fourth obstacle, a booby-trap of ingenious design, awaited.

We turned the corner of the house and Homer took the lead. Five more steps and we would be at Kitty's window. Homer moved forward, stepped squarely onto the metal prongs of a discarded rake (in his bare feet) and the handle of the rake whipped up to snap him smartly in the middle of his forehead.

He went down.

I did what any good undercover agent does. I finished the mission.

What Comes Next?

A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.
- John Steinbeck


This is a comforting thought on the days when my characters are stuck in awkward moments, paused on the cusp of brilliant dialogue that refuses to emerge, chained to the middle of a chapter while their creator desperately asks herself "What comes next?"

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