Thursday, December 1, 2011

And the winner is...

Hello, all!

The insanity that is National Novel Writing Month has come to a close and I am very pleased to report that I WON!! I set out to write FIFTY THOUSAND words in 30 days and I did it. Final word count at the end was 50, 478 words. I now have a complete first draft of a story that has been lurking in my head since 1997. It feels good to finally have it out. It is, by no means, a complete story. There are holes in the plot you could drive a truck through, but it's only a first draft. Edits and rewrites will make the story complete, polished and publishable. Someday. In the meantime, I'm still riding the high of setting a very ambitious goal and achieving it on the first try. This exercise (NaNoWriMo) has been the kick in the pants I needed to get back on track with my writing.
My next project will be finishing the Urban Fantasy piece I've been working on since 2009. The first draft of that story took 10 weeks to complete. And, like every first draft I've ever written, it was complete crap. The second draft is proving to be a much better story, with cleaner writing, more interesting characters and a more plausible plot. I promise, there are no smegging vampires in it. But the Ducati-riding werewolf is quite a delicious creature. I can't wait for you to meet him.
I've been asked about the final installment of The Ouija Board story. That'll be up by the weekend. It's not the time of year for that sort of story, but I hate to leave a tale untold.

Until then, Happy Reading.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NaNoWriMo- Let the Crazy begin...

I know, I promised to wrap up the Ouija Board story. And I will. Eventually. It's a spine-tingling ending. I meant to have it all done for Halloween, but illness reared its ugly head yet again. More on that next month.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) The object of the exercise is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

And guess who decided to give it a try. Yup. You guessed it.

So for the next month, I will be banging away on the keyboard, trying to get the story out of my head and into Google Docs for eventual editing and someday, publication. Hopefully by that time, Stephenie Meyer will not have ruined the Ghost Story genre.

Updates to follow, as the insanity waxes and wanes.

Happy reading, everyone.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Ouija Board, Part 2

 Marissa was on her way back to her dorm room after an evening tutoring remedial biology students. Science was Marissa's passion. She scoffed at superstition. Her roommate, Nikki, believed in everything from aliens building the Pyramids to the boogeyman. Marissa made a hobby out of proving to Nikki why such beliefs were a waste of energy.
Just off the walkway leading from the library to her dorm, was a piece of cardboard with handwritten letters and numbers on it. A shot glass was next to it. Marissa saw an opportunity to prove another of Nikki's myths to be false. She picked up the makeshift Ouija board, stuffed the shot glass in her backpack and walked home.
The room was empty. Nikki was probably at one of her ghost hunter meetings, Marissa mused. She put the board and the shot glass on the shelf in her closet.
A few days later, Nikki asked if she could borrow one of Marissa's shirts. When Nikki opened the closet door, the Board slipped off the shelf and into her hands.
“Where did this come from?” she asked.
“I found it the other night on the quad,” Marissa said.
“You want to try it out?” Nikki asked.
“Yeah, but not tonight. Let's ask Kate and Sasha to come over tomorrow night.”

The next night, Nikki, Marissa and their friends brought out the Board. The girls sat in a circle in the middle of the room, placing the board on the floor between them. Nikki and Sasha were first up to hold the shot glass/Planchette. Kate hovered by the door, uneasy. The first “spirit” to make contact was that of an 8 year old boy. He told them he died in the 1940's and was looking for his mother. Sasha had lost her grandmother the year before and couldn't wait to ask the boy what happens after death. Was there really a white light? Did he know her grandmother and could he relay messages? When the boy started answering questions, Marissa and Kate each noticed the other's eye roll. Kate motioned Marissa to step outside the room with her.

“This is crap. One of them is moving the shot glass,” Marissa said.
“No, it isn't crap, but if that's an 8 year old boy they're talking to, I'm the Queen of England,” Kate said.

The two analyzed some of the messages the boy was giving Nikki and Sasha. The vocabulary he was using was too advanced for a child. And if he died at 8 years old, it's not like he was going to continue his education at Purgatory Junior High, High School and University.

“It's weird, but somehow this all sounds familiar. I just can't place why,” Kate said.

The two girls went back in the room, and immediately noticed a change in the temperature. Nikki and Sasha were so entranced in their conversation with The Boy, they were unaware that they had been talking to The Boy for three hours. Marissa pointed it out to them when she looked at her watch and both Nikki and Sasha looked down at their hands on the shot glass.

“You're moving it!” Sasha accused.
“No I'm not! It's bouncing my fingers off it,” Nikki said.

That's when Kate remembered where she'd heard this story before. She ducked back out of the room and pulled out her cell phone.

“Zoe? Hi, it's Kate. I really need you to come over to Marissa and Nikki's room right now. I don't want to explain over the phone. Just get here.”

Fifteen minutes later, Zoe walked into Marissa's room, and screamed. Four girls were standing huddled in the corner of the room, terrified. On the floor, the shot glass skittered across the handwritten Board spelling out messages.
“Where did you find this?” Zoe asked. “How did THIS board get in your room?”
“It was just on the ground near the library. I found it on my way home a few nights ago,” Marissa said.
“What difference does it make?” Kate asked.
“Because this is the board my friends and I made a few months ago. It spooked us, so we got rid of it. It disappeared. The next day, our friend Kara was supposed to pack up and move out of the apartment where we used it. We never saw her again, either.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

31 Days of Halloween ~ The Ouija Board, Part 1

How could a Sharpie and a shot glass turn a box into something malevolent? When you turn them into a Ouija Board, it becomes a Door to the unknown and all hell breaks loose. You don't know who or what is on the other side. And once it comes in, you'll have a devil of a time trying to get it to leave.

 Kara needed a place to live and didn't have the time or money to be particular. She didn't know her new roommates well, but they weren't home much and the rent was cheap. She was home alone (again) one evening and pleasantly surprised when three of her friends dropped by for a visit. Kara mentioned that her roommates were a little odd, and seemed to be “into weird stuff”.
“What kind of 'weird stuff'?” Emily asked.
“I don't know for sure, but I just feel creeped out even when they're home,” Kara said.
“You didn't get the creepy feeling before you agreed to move in here?” Zoe asked.
Kara ducked her head, embarrassed. She hadn't thought to have these roommates checked out. She just needed a cheap place to crash that was close to work.
“Maybe it's not the roommates,” James suggested. “Maybe the place is just haunted, and that's why you're creeped out.”
The three girls' eyes lit up. A haunted apartment! How cool would that be in a few months when it was time to host a Halloween party.
“We could use a Ouija Board and try to make contact,” Kara suggested.
James left right away at the mention of the Board. The idea of it spooked him and he refused to take part in it. The girls tried to convince him that Ouija was just a bit of fun and teased him as he walked out the door.
“Do you have a board?” Zoe asked.
“I don't, but we could make one. They're not that complicated. We'll use one of my moving boxes,” Kara replied.
She grabbed a marker from a kitchen drawer while Emily and Zoe cut the side of an empty book box. Kara grabbed a novelty shot glass from the bookshelf to use as a Planchette. They finished drawing the letters, numbers and the Yes/No on the board.
Kara turned off the lights and placed lit votive candles on the coffee table. Zoe and Emily sat on the living room floor, facing each other. The board rested on their knees and Kara placed the shot glass/Planchette on it.
“How will we know one of us isn't moving the glass to answer our own question?”Zoe asked.
“I'll ask the questions while you and Emily hold the glass.”
She only asked one question: “Is anyone here who wants to talk to us?”
Something answered. At first, the ghost said it was an 8 year old boy. The girls felt sympathy for the poor lost little boy who couldn't find his mommy. But then, he started to get angry with the girls. The glass flew around the board, spelling out words no 8 year old should know.
“It's bouncing me off the glass!” Emily cried.
“It's doing the same thing to me,” Zoe said.
In seconds, the glass was repelling the girls' hands, as if they were magnets facing the wrong way. It was moving of it's own accord and the girls felt a chill they shouldn't have on a warm June evening. A breeze blew over the girls, blowing out the candles and leaving them in complete darkness. Fear left the girls breathless and the only sound in the apartment was the scratching of the glass against the cardboard, spelling messages they couldn't see.
“We have to stop. This was a bad idea,” Emily said.
Kara flicked her lighter on to make her way to the light switch. As soon as she flipped the lights on, the bulb popped and they were in the dark again. She lit the candles again. Emily took the board and tried to tear it in half, but the cardboard wouldn't tear.
“Give me your lighter,” Zoe said, holding her hand out to Kara. Zoe held the lighter to a corner of the board, but it wouldn't ignite. It wouldn't even smolder or char.
Kara ripped the board from Zoe's hands and flung the board off the balcony.
The girls shuddered as they heard it scream on its way to the ground.
They left five minutes later, but there was no sign of the board on the ground on their way out.

The next day, Kara came back to the apartment to pack her things. As usual, her roommates weren't home. When she opened the door, she found their Ouija Board on the coffee table, the shot glass gliding around the letters on it's own, spelling messages she didn't want to see.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Inky Presents: the Bigfoot Story

I'm continuing the 31 days of Halloween theme by telling you a spooky story. And it's up to you do decide a) if you believe I'm telling you a true story or b) if I'm a complete crackpot. Here goes....

Inky Presents: The Bigfoot Myth

It was a warm November evening in 2001. My then-husband Dan and I were relaxing in the hot tub at my parents' house after dinner. When we were relaxed and pruney, we shut off the jets and climbed out of the tub. There was no other sound outside, which was odd. There should have been something. Then, piercing the silence, was the most blood-curdling wail I've ever heard. No human vocal chords could have made this sound, and yet it was not an animal's cry either.
After the wail ended, every dog in the area began barking and howling as if they were scared to be outside. We hurried into the house and told my parents what we heard, but they didn't hear anything inside the house. Dad is so hard of hearing he has the television turned up almost to its maximum. A car bomb could have gone off under the living room window and Dad wouldn't have heard it. 

In January, 2002, Dan and I packed up our meager belongings and prepared to move back to our most recent hometown of Billings, Mt. With my back injury, I was completely useless for helping to load the truck. We got very creative. Dan would pick up one end of a table and hand it to me, then go get the other end of the table and we walked it out to the truck. In the process of cartwheeling the couch out to the truck, we once again experienced the complete uncharacteristic silence of the neighborhood. No birds chirping. Not even the wind rustling through the evergreen boughs. This time, the silence was broken by footsteps. They weren't particularly heavy footsteps, but they were definitely made by a biped. No dog or deer or rabbit made this noise on the grass. It started on the north end of the grass and sounded as if it disappeared into the back yard. We hurried after the sound, but found nothing and no one.
The house in question is still there, and the neighborhood hasn't changed much. No more land has been cleared and no new houses have been built. So whatever was living in the woods, howling in the night and sneaking around by day, hasn't been pushed out by development. Begs the questions: what was it?... Is it still there? 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

31 Days of Halloween

October is almost here!! It's my favorite month of the year. Sometime this month, I'll do a brief Samhain 101 for the Halloween enthusiast who aren't sure what this holiday is all about. Hint: more than just costume parties and candy.
Speaking of Halloween, this is the time of year to indulge in our favorite spooky pastimes. Check out a haunted corn maze, watch Ghost Hunters marathons, read scary books or rent scary movies.
Since most scary flicks are written about haunted people/houses, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has ever asked: Now why the hell did that fool move into a haunted house? Didn't he know it was haunted? Well, maybe they didn't know, because they didn't have....(drum roll please)


10.  It's a huge palace, and yet your broke ass can afford it, including the extensive renovations it will need.
9.  The developer "forgot" to tell you about the cemetery he bulldozed to put in your attached garage.
8.  Your "dream house" was ever shown on the news in any story related to dead people.
7.  You get a creepy feeling in certain rooms, and sometimes feel "watched" even when you're alone.
6.  Your "dream house" used to be a mortuary or an asylum. (And hey, nobody hides that fact, so WTH is wrong with you for putting a deposit and/or down payment on a freakin' mortuary or asylum?!)
5.  You hear things that aren't really there, like heavy footsteps walking toward you and no one is there.
4.  The walls are bleeding.
3.  The dog(s) are having a growling contest with the walls... and the walls are winning.
2.  High turnover in the house. Nobody manages to live there more than a few months. Sometimes less. And make sure the previous owner didn't die in the living room.
1. You or some other complete freakin' moron used a OUIJA BOARD in your home. (If you or any other complete freakin' moron has used one and your house ISN'T haunted, trust me. You and it soon will be. Make friends with a priest(ess) now.)

OK, now that you're scared out of your mind (Mom) go watch a comedy and sleep with the lights on until our next post.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard

Unless we're talking about Abigail Williams, Betty Parris or Ann Putnam, Jr., and their cohorts. Then children should be Bitch-slapped. And not heard.

I've been studying the Salem Witch Trials. This is one of the more tragic periods in our nation's history, and should serve as a warning of what can go wrong when a nation is ruled by Theocracy.

It's difficult to pinpoint a single cause of the witch hysteria. This was a time when only members of the Puritan church were allowed to make and enforce laws. And Massachusetts Bay Colony was in crisis because their Charter was declared null with the dismissal of the former Governor. Prominent Church member and Harvard President Increase Mather was in England pleading with the King to send a new governor and reinstate their theocratic Charter. This was a time when women and children had no credibility, yet the ramblings of undisciplined children directly led to the deaths of 20 people and the imprisonment of hundreds. Why? What do these things have to do with each other?

I've made some assumptions based on what I've read. First, I assume that these little girls, the daughter and ward of Rev. Samuel Parris and his wife, were caught doing something they shouldn't have been doing. And to take the heat off, they had these “fits” and swore it was witches. Sure. The Devil made them do it.

Fits such as the ones the girls were pretending to have must have truly been shocking to the adults in the household. Not knowing what to make of it, the good reverend called for back-up by consulting with other prominent church elders. I think this is where the problems really started. The children were blaming “witchcraft” and the adults saw opportunity. Soon, more and more young girls were having “fits” and accusing their neighbors of witchcraft.

Soon the girls held celebrity-like status. But townsfolk had to be very careful not to anger one of them. Regardless of their piety, good people were sent to prison and/or the gallows because these little monsters SWORE they were being tormented by them. Think of it: prominent, well-respected and in some cases well-educated men were tossing people in jail based on evidence they could not see for themselves. “Spectral Evidence” as it was called was all that was needed to get a conviction. How could they be so easily duped?

And here's the rub: once you were in prison, accused of witchcraft, your property became forfeit. What a perfect way to settle property-line disputes more expediently than through the courts: accuse your neighbor of witchcraft. Better yet, have your child writhe around on the floor and swear that your neighbor is tormenting them. The neighbor gets hauled out in the middle of the night and you get to increase your land holding. A perfect scheme indeed.

Word of the crisis spread to other towns. The people of Andover were convinced there was a plague upon them. Thinking the girls were truly able to spot devils among them, the people of Andover sent for the girls. The girls were at a loss. They saw specters everywhere, but being from out of town, they weren't up on the local gossip and had no idea who to accuse. So they accused pretty much everyone. The arrest warrants went out in such high numbers that before long the sheriff simply refused to write out anymore. Most of his town was accused of witchcraft.

This first attempt to take their show on the road only bolstered the girls' feeling of power. They must have enjoyed it, but their popularity back home in Salem was waning. People were beginning to question the crisis. How was it possible that the devil had been in their midst all this time and nobody knew it until these young children started flopping like fish and pointing fingers. Some started to become suspicious about that finger pointing. But they dare not speak out against the girls lest they be accused themselves. Though their status as celebrities was waning, the girls still held some power.

The girls still didn't fully understand that they were mere pawns. It wasn't until they tried to take their show on the road a second time that they started to see the truth. On the road to Ipswich the girls came across an old woman and immediately fell to the ground and began their fits and swore this old woman was tormenting them. They were largely ignored. Those who didn't ignore them admonished them for being troublemakers. The girls got up, dusted off their clothes and retreated.

To make a long story even longer, the new governor called for consultations from ministers and lawmakers in Connecticut and New York and it was determined that “Spectral Evidence” could not, in good conscience, be considered sufficient proof of guilt. These men were not all members of the Puritan church. Such was the new way of things, as the new Charter brought an end to theocratic rule in the New World and brought the end of the witch hunts.

So by now, you're asking why I care about this and why you should care. I care about this because I am a practicing Witch. My religion is grossly misunderstood by fundamentalist Christians who would like to see me and my kind swing from the nearest tree even now, in the 21st

You should care about this because I see the same sort of “witch hunt” happening in our country. Politicians vowing to “investigate the LGBT agenda” or signing a “marriage pledge” that marriage should only legally exist between one man and one woman, are out to take away the rights of those who are different from them. People, wake up. When politicians are OK with taking away the rights of entire communities of AMERICAN CITIZENS there is a problem!

Thus ends my one and only political rant. The moral of the story is “Those who do not understand their history are doomed to repeat it.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

In honor of those who sacrificed so much to bring about our nation's freedom, as well as a tribute to those who continue to defend Her. I present to you, Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V. It has nothing to do with the Revolutionary War, as Shakespeare wrote this nearly two hundred years before. But it is all about the bravery of those who are willing to fight for a just cause.

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
    This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

William Shakespeare, Rock Star Feminist

I know what you're thinking: The Twitter withdrawals have her mind all wonky. How is Shakespeare a feminist? Well, he's not exactly. But then again, have you read Much Ado About Nothing? If you haven't, allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite figments of The Bard's imagination: Beatrice.

Beatrice is a bit past her prime as far as marriageable women go. So given the time, she was probably around 18. Spinsterhood by all accounts. She wasn't ugly. She just had opinions, they differed from those of the men around her, and yet she expressed them anyway. Her uncle Leonato tried to encourage her to see reason and someday get married. Her response:

“Not til God make men of some other metal than Earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be over-mastered with a piece of valiant dust! To make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl?”

What she's saying is that she's not willing to settle for a man who is beneath her intellect and emotional maturity. Until God creates a man who is her equal, all men can sod off.

The Bard's work is among the works that should be held as a literary standard in our language. If you've not read these works, you've been wasting your library card and/or Barnes & Noble Membership. I own a copy of the leather-bound, gold-trimmed pages of The Complete Works of Shakespeare. I study this not just because the plays are entertaining, but I learn things about character development and dialog that cannot be learned from the standard fare occupying the YA or even Adult Fiction sections of the bookstore. It's as if it's a dying art to create characters and interactions that require the reader to think without having EVERYTHING spelled out for them. And it impresses the hell out of people when I can quote Shakespeare from memory.

Why is Shakespeare so intimidating for modern audiences? Partially because he wrote using Iambic Pentameter. The rhythm of his work is carefully constructed into a masterpiece of the written word. He didn't just find words he liked and string them together free-form and hope for the best.

Another problem for the Shakespeare-illiterate is word usage. Over time, slang changes and unless you're well versed in the history of your language, the subtle nuances will escape you. Take this exchange, again from Much Ado About Nothing:

Beatrice: The Count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well. But civil, count; civil as an orange and something of that jealous complexion.

Here, Beatrice is trying to convey that Count Claudio is in a foul mood because he thinks his pal Don Pedro poached his girlfriend, Hero. Beatrice explains that Claudio is jealous of Pedro. We miss that because of the orange thing. Nowadays, people are “green with envy”. Not so then, apparently.

Before anyone gets it in their heads that all of Shakespeare's women were these fiercely independent, sharp-tongued she-devils, meet Hero.

This chick does not live up to her name. She falls hopelessly in love with Claudio, and he with her, yet they hardly speak two words to each other. Claudio even has to have his wing man, Pedro, do the proposing for him. And then, in a case of mistaken identity, Claudio calls Hero a slut and leaves her at the altar. I don't know about any of you, but if some little piss ant called ME a whore ON MY WEDDING DAY, you better believe I'm knocking his lights out. But not Hero. She just cries and passes out. Not so Beatrice. She gets angry! She swears that were she a man, she would “eat his heart in the marketplace!” My kind of chick. Sadly, back then, women weren't allowed to duel. So she suckers Benedick into challenging Claudio for Hero's honor.

For those who have read this or (shudder, gasp) seen the movie, yes, I am completely discounting the fact that Shakespeare treats both Beatrice and Benedick as gullible fools who fall in love with each other based on he-said/she-said conspiracies cooked up by their family and friends to while away the time before Claudio and Hero's ill-fated wedding. That's not the point of this blog! The point is, Beatrice was a strong-willed, outspoken woman in a time when such was not tolerated, appreciated or encouraged. Go Shakespeare!

You would think he would have set a trend. If the literary genius that was William Shakespeare could create the kind of women with whom I would go have drinks, why would authors then take a step backward in the feminist movement? I can cite two FEMALE authors who make me ashamed of my gender with the way they've chosen to portray us.

Jane Austen. Love her or hate her, she's an important part of literary history. She wrote in the early 19th century when women were still treated as property. But look at Sense and Sensibility. The Dashwood sisters drive me absolutely crazy! Their only concern in life was finding a man. It reminds me of high school, when the only thoughts that consumed a girl's mind was what to wear and who to date. Granted, in Austen's time, who you married determined your fate. But Marianne and Eleanor were just so.. simpering. Weak. Defeated. Shallow. They fell in love after exchanging two or three words with a handsome fellow. And then were shocked when things didn't work out like the fairy tales.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and you'd expect to see the construct of the DashwoodMargrit Knight, Joanne Walker (C.E. Murphy) and even Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich), why would anyone want to go back to reading about weak, pointless women? Then the unthinkable happened. Emerging from the Young Adult section, we have that clumsy teenage girl who moved to Washington and fell in love with the sparkly, emo Pansy-Vampire and suddenly all she needed to make her life complete was a husband and a baby. Never mind an education, a job, a home of her own, or some sense of accomplishment in this life. No, just the husband and baby for her. The author is a genre-ruining hack, but I'm not allowed to say her name or the series I'm complaining about because it's bad form for an unpublished author to find fault with a published author. Screw it. Her little dream sequence set to paper shouldn't have been published the way it was. And she had ample opportunity, as the offers from the publisher came in, to straighten up her main character and give her something to do besides fall down a lot, get hurt and get in the way. She had a responsibility to her young female audience and she blew it. The role model she created is, in my unpublished author opinion, a prime example of what not to do as an author and who not to be as a woman.

The feminist movement outside of literature has come so far since the days when women were sold or traded as slaves or brood mares to the highest bidder. We're enjoying more equality in the workplace, even though there is still some room for improvement. I'm all about equal pay for equal work, but I still want to be seen as a lady. There is nothing wrong with Chivalry. Hold a door open for me. Buy my dinner. Treat me with respect as the fairer sex, not the weaker sex. It is possible to be seen as feminine and still be respected.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Brought You Into This World, I Can Take You Out

For Mom, in honor of Mother's Day....

I was 18 years old and had no idea I was stoned when we hit up the McDonalds drive-through, somewhere in Dallas the night of the U2 concert. All I knew was I was starving! It wasn't until the next day, when Mom had to explain to me what a “contact high” was all about. The look on her face said it all. It said, “I cannot believe I raised such an idiot. I can't let you out of the house without a helmet. How are you my child? But you are, and if you weren't mine, I'd kill you.” 

I have said for many years now that my mother gave birth to the three most ungrateful children in the world. It's a running joke in the family, because we aren't ungrateful at all. In fact, this world we live in just wouldn't work if Mom wasn't here to guide us, laugh with us, cry with us, defend us, protect us, and straighten us out.

You'll have to excuse the excessive amount of sappy sentimentality in this post. Although Mother's Day has of late filled me with a sense of bitterness, rage and disappointment, I would be remiss if I did not honor the amazing woman that raised me. Good points and bad, I am who I am, and Mom has always made sure to tell me that who I am is exactly who she's proud to call “Daughter”.

Most of what I know about life, I learned from Mom. She guides, she scolds, and above all, she loves. She is the Lioness and we are still her cubs. Mess with her cubs, and she will claw your a$$ up. (to quote from the movie Role Models). Mom always had words of wisdom for us. Everything from, “time heals all wounds, even this one,” to “If I have to come up those stairs, I'm gonna break your damn neck”. These are the things I will always carry with me. I will always hear her voice in my head, guiding me, reprimanding me, praising me, asking me just what the hell am I thinking. I'm a little bit sad that I will never have children to pass Mom's wisdom on to.

How awesome is my mom? Let's review. When I was three or four years old, I had this profound discussion with Mom during a storm:

Me: Mommy, what's thunder?
Mom: It's your Grandma Ella, bowling with the angels. The really loud booms are when she bowls a strike.

Not the most scientific explanation, but I wasn't looking for one. I was 3 years old, I was afraid, and she gave me something to combat fear: courage and humor. Works every time. It also gave me a way to connect with a beloved grandmother I never had the honor of knowing. I hear thunder, and I think of Grandma. I remember sitting by the sliding glass door in our home on Long Island, listening to the rain hit the metal roof over the patio, waiting to hear her bowl a strike. And cheering when she did. Sure, other kids looked at me funny. It's because they didn't know what I knew. Their mothers gave them science. Mine gave me a sense of wonder and encouraged my imagination.

Mom sees her role in our lives as the most important job she'll ever have. Not that there weren't times when she wanted to kill us, mind you. Like that time my bonehead oldest brother brought the car into the garage... on fire... because it was closer to the garden hose to put out said fire. Or when she went downstairs to wake my other brother up after the prom to find that his date hadn't left yet. And then there was me at the aforementioned U2 concert. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that for many years, Mom's mantra was “It's illegal to kill them; they're mine. It's illegal to kill them; they're mine.” Mom so needs a raise.

Not all the kids in the house were hers. Mom loved to take in “strays”. Each of us, at one point or another, had befriended someone from a broken or abusive home. When they had nowhere to go, Mom opened her doors. If they were hungry, she fed them and if they had wounded souls, she did what she could to heal them, and made sure they knew that they didn't have to go through it alone. My mother cannot stand to see a child suffer, and doesn't know the meaning of “back down” when it comes to defending one.

There were things I learned from mom through lectures, discussions and outright screaming matches. Other things, she taught me by example. I learned from Mom's wisdom because I respect her judgment. I learned from her mistakes because she was brave enough to admit to her children that she made them.
Sometimes Mom cracks me up. Sometimes she frustrates me, like that time I sent her flowers for Mothers' Day, signed the card “Love, Your Favorite Child” and she actually had the NERVE to call the florist and ask which one of us sent them. As if!

Mom actually got a promotion 23 years ago when she became a Grandmother. My niece was born, and Mom got some payback on Brother #1.  Three years later, she got more payback when my nephew was born.  And they still adore my Mom. When other kids were out partying and doing things they knew they should be doing, my niece and nephew and their friends would go over to Mom's house for movie night. Because 'Grandmere' is just cool that way.

Grandmere is getting another promotion this year: her first great-grandchild is due to make his grand entrance in a few weeks. Can't wait for Ben to know who cool his great-Grandmere is. 

I may detest Mother's Day for circumstances outside my control, but I do love my mom, and I hope she knows that this blog post was to honor her. And I hope she doesn't break my damn neck when she picks me up from the airport on Wednesday. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rodent's Revenge

At 4:28 a.m, I heard the snap. It woke me from a sound sleep, and I knew.

Somewhere in my kitchen, the mouse was dead.

I didn't feel relieved. Somehow, I knew that there would be more than one. Much to my dismay, I was right. Earlier this afternoon, I heard another snap. This time, under the kitchen sink. Just now, more rodenty scuffling. I think the invasion is in full swing.

Not that I'm not getting my catnip's worth out of Vitto, but I was really hoping he could have this taken care of quickly. Just had a meeting with him and... well...

Me:  Vitto, I thought you were going to take care of my little problem.
Vitto:  You think you got problems?  Last week my old lady dropped a litter... looked like the freakin' Tabby down the street, but I'M the one that's gotta take a little trip to vet.
Me: Um. Sorry to hear that but back to the mouse infestation?
Vitto: Yeah, about that. See, I can finish the job for you, but it's gonna cost you, see.
Me: I already paid you.
Vitto: You paid me for one mouse. I took care of that mouse. Now you tell me there are more mouses. More mouses means more payment.
Me: It's "mice" actually,
(Vitto sharpens his claws and looks at me.)
Me: (gulps) How much are we talking? More catnip?
Vitto: Catnip Shmatnip. Sounds like you got a nest. Could be rats even. We're talking some more catnip, some kitty treats, and if there's a rat, I want fish. I like a good salmon, you know what I mean?

Yeah, Vitto I know what you mean. But I want my house back, so I guess I'm going down to the Market to get Vitto the freshest Salmon I can find. But only after he shows me the death certificates. Maybe I'll fax 'em to Donald Trump for authentication.

The saga continues....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The War of the Rodents

(Mom, skip this post. Just trust me on this.)

One mouse does not an infestation make. However, THIS house is not big enough for me AND The Mouse.

The Mouse has to go.

I know, he's only a little field mouse. If he were in a FIELD instead of my HOUSE, I wouldn't have a problem with him.

The Dog used to be good at keeping critters out of the house. Once he caught a rat before it could nest in my laundry room. The down side was that he had the dead rat on his doggy bed. Daddy removed the rat, and Mommy burned the doggy bed. I can't have dead rat cooties near my dogs. What kind of conscientious pet parent would I be?

But back to the mouse... at first, I just wanted him gone. Relocated safely back to the field, government check in paw. I also thought The Dog would take care of this little problem quickly. Then, I didn't just hear the mouse, I SAW the mouse. And of course, screamed like a little girl. I'm not afraid of the mouse, I'm just completely grossed out by his presence in my home. He's tracking in dirt and disease after all.
After screaming the walls down, I would have thought that The Dog would have cut short his mid-morning nap to see what the hell his human was up to. I was wrong. So I stopped screaming, ran to the living room to get The Dog, brought him to where the mouse had been spotted, and proceeded to start screaming again. Because it made me feel better, that's why. It's what housewives in America do, it's what Mom would have done, and that's worked pretty well so far.

The Dog was unable to spot the mouse. Apparently, it's a sneaky mouse.

Fast forward a few days, and I'm in the living room working when I see something out of the corner of my eye. It's just a bit too small to be Bella, the mini-Dachshund. I looked down and saw The Mouse, checking out the titles on my lowest bookshelf. He's an intelligent mouse. A well-read mouse. A cheeky mouse.
Again, The Dog proves worthless as rodent deterrent. As I'm watching the mouse scurrying along the floor, The Dog has his nose firmly planted in a book instead of chasing the mouse. I'm struck with a sudden memory of a book I read as a child called The Mouse and the Motorcycle. This mouse is no Ralph, but maybe I should get him a little toy motorcycle. If he can ride it, he can stay and I'LL relocate. To the field, government check in hand.

This mouse caper has raged for a week now. This morning I pulled out of the driveway to get coffee and saw the neighbor's cat sitting next to our truck. I rolled down the window and asked, “Hey, are you a Mouser? Can I borrow you for a few hours?” I'm starting to feel my Italian roots showing, as I realize this cat conversation could be construed as contracting a hit. Fortunately, the cat declined. Apparently her occupation is keeping windowsills warm. She doesn't diversify.

The Hubs suggested getting a snake. Anybody know a snake named Guido who works cheap, fast and brings his own ice pick? The snake was vetoed. I explained to The Hubs that yes, a snake could get rid of a mouse but it would also definitely get rid of The Wife. Also, contracting a hit on a mouse would probably bring the wrath of PETA down upon us. Or worse, the Field Mouse Relocation Rights Association. I'm not looking for more trouble, I just want my house back.

As of this posting, the mouse is still in the house, The Dog is so fired and I'm negotiating with a nice cat from a good Italian family, named Vitto. He sounds like Dom de Louise in Robin Hood, Men In Tights.

Me: Can you catch this mouse and relocate him?
Vitto: Relocate, sure, we can call it that.
Me: Seriously, I don't want to kill the mouse, I just want him out of the house.
Vitto: Details, details. Forget about it. You ask Vitto for help, Vitto helps.
Me: Vitto, are you gonna whack the mouse?
Vitto: You don't need to know. All you need to know is you come to Vitto with a problem, Vitto takes care of it, and you don't got a problem no more, Capisci?
Me: (plunks down dime bag of cat nip and walks away)

And now we wait, while my Sicilian great-grandmother spins in her grave, somewhere in New York at the cultural blasphemy I just committed.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Things I learned from The Shining

Things I've learned from The Shining

The other day I was in such a bad mood that the violence of a horror movie seemed like the perfect balm to soothe my angry soul. I popped in Stanley Kubrick's vision of Stephen King's The Shining.
I learned a few things from this movie, and thought it prudent to share with you all. They are as follows, in no particular order. SPOILER ALERT If you haven't seen this movie, there be spoilers here.

      1. Never drive a VW Bug in Colorado in the dead of winter.
      2. Kids are creepy.
      3. EVERYTHING is built on an Indian burial ground.
      4. Never take the creepy kid on a tour of the kitchen, then leave him alone to eat ice cream with the creepier cook.
      5. The 1970's were just as bad a decade for interior design as it was for clothing.
      6. If your creepy kid has imaginary friends in his mouth, it's time for medication. For everybody.
      7. Riding a tricycle on a hardwood floor would get your ass killed in my house.
      8. There's ALWAYS something bad in Room 237.
      9. Daddy drinks because Mama's a bat short of a full cave.
      10. Its not a horror movie without bleeding walls and naked chicks in a tub.
      11. If said naked chick climbs out of the aforementioned tub to make out with you, yes, it IS too good to be true.
      12. Ghostly residue smells like burned toast. Possibly tastes like chicken.
      13. Is Jack Nicholson really acting? Or is he bat-shit crazy in real life, too?
      14. Only the really lucky alcoholics get to stay in abandoned hotels with ghost bartenders who don't charge for cocktails.
      15. “I didn't mean it; I was drunk” is a complete BS line, in movies and in real life.
      16. Never take marital/parenting advice from a dead British butler.
      17. All work and no play makes Jack a freakin' psychopath
      18. We'll have to explain to the next generation what a freakin' typewriter is.
      19. Frozen, Jack Nicholson looks a lot like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein.
      20. You just can't find good help these days. Er..those days.

So, now that I've completely ruined this classic for you, feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you've learned from movies.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It was Col. Mustard in the Library with the Beef Log

As an unpublished author with only one manuscript out of 11 to have actually made it to "Complete First Draft" status, I try not to read too much about how to get published. I feel it's a bit of putting the cart before the horse to immerse myself in the politics of publishing, getting an agent, etc. I don't have anything to show them. So my first priority has been and will remain, finishing projects. Getting them to that coveted "Complete First Draft" stage so I can get to editing, polishing, and preparing a draft to be reviewed by an editor. I'll worry about query letters etc then. Other aspiring or published authors may disagree with my process. Please feel free to tell me why you think I should do things your way. I may or may not take your advice, but I promise I'll be nice about it.

Speaking of being nice, that's one of the things I read about "What to do to become an author". It was more of a what NOT to do, and that is: Do not ever bash another author. Basically, this article said not to give scathing reviews of another author's work. Really? Why not? If I genuinely did not like the book, I can't say WHY I didn't like it? I'm not saying I think it's OK to say horrific things about an author because that's just mean-spirited and juvenile. I wouldn't want someone to do that to me. But to be told I can't express my opinion about their work? What the hell is literary CRITICISM for if not to point out what we don't like about a story and WHY we don't like it? Why are there even guidelines by which to judge a manuscript's quality?

As a book-buying member of our society, I think it's perfectly within my rights to complain when a book I purchase with my husband's hard-earned money disappoints me thoroughly. Movie critics do it all the time. In fact, Roger Ebert just labeled I Am Number Four as "shameless and unnecessary." Obviously, Mr. Ebert isn't afraid of hurting Michael Bay's feelings. And I noticed Mr. Bay doesn't file lawsuits against everyone who dislikes his work. But we have to walk on eggshells about other authors or else we won't get our own work published? Hmmm. Where's my Dislike button?

Here's a blog post my Twitter Turncoat pal Jodi sent me today. Here's an example of criticizing a dangerous piece of YA literature, without personally attacking the author. And I could not agree more with Maria Goodson's assessment. So read the critique and let me know your thoughts on this Don't Insult Anyone's Work Or Else conspiracy. And for the record, if I ever wrote a vampire story and Stephen King read it and called me a hack who should have her fingers broken before being allowed to write again, I would still be excited. I'd be thinking, "Stephen King read my work! Sure he hated it and determined it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, but still. THE Stephen King read it!"

As to the title of this post... well... Let's just say I find humor in the oddest places, including the top of Jodi's refrigerator. I'll explain later.
Happy Reading