Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shopping for dinner.

I don't eat mammals. A lot of people find this weird, but meat grosses me out. If I look at a hamburger I see a cow, and the smell of raw meat makes me queasy. It might not be normal, but... Normal is over-rated anyway, right? I was a complete vegetarian back home, but Mike and I needed to compromise when I moved to the US, so I now eat fish and birds, from time to time. (If they come in forms that don't resemble the animal.)

Mikey loves meat. He's a skinny man who usually only eats once a day, and it's usually pizza. I'm overjoyed when he wants to eat something that's not pizza - I'm suspicious of the nutritional value of dough and cheese... Thus, I do my best to cook meat for him. Anyone watching me would probably roll on the floor laughing; I hold a chunk of beef between two fingers, trying to touch it as little as possible so I don't get anything on my hands, while grimacing and holding my nose with the other hand so I won't smell the raw ickyness.

Grocery stores around here offer a smooth solution to the problem. There's a kit with a roast, a bag of spices, potatoes, and vegetables all in one. All I have to do is put it together in a pot, cover it with foil, and shove it in the oven. The meat comes conveniently packed in plastic so I don't even have to touch it. I cut the bag open and slide the meat into the pot.

Anyway, I walked around the store with one of these kits the other day, muttering, "You're sticky, why are you sticky? And you smell, even through the plastic. This is soooo gross."

A young woman came up to me and asked, "Is that good?"

I should have said, "Yes" like a normal person would. The answer, "I don't eat meat" still popped out.

It sounded stupid as I said it. The roast was big enough to feed a family, and the woman looked puzzled, clearly trying to ascertain if I was crazy. I hurried to say, "My husband loves it."

That cleared up some of the confusion, and she asked how I cook it. This, I could answer without confusion: put everything in a pan, stir the spice mix out with 1.5 cups of water and pour it over the meat, cover everything with foil and let it sit in 350 degrees for three hours. Now I sounded like a walking cook book. She ended up buying one. I hope she liked it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Me on Radio Ear Network

I am a member of the Florida Writer's Association. I say that with pride, but truth be told, I'm probably the most passive member they've ever had. Both the Bradenton and Sarasota chapters seem very friendly and keep inviting me to all sorts of events and critique groups. During 2012 I have attended a grand number of... zero.

I blame being busy, which is kind of true considering I have a daytime job and study full time besides being a wife, doggy-mom, and writer, but my lazy-bone has a lot to do with it too. I could rearrange my schedule to get an evening free each week, but my time at home is too precious to want to leave. There is a writer's conference in Orlando in October, and I do plan to go there; I'm a finalist in the Royal Palms Literary Awards, and if I win an award I intend to be there. LOL!

Anyway, the FWA provides monthly newsletters and I open them eagerly. In early spring I read about a writer's radio show on the Radio Ear Network and promptly signed up for an interview. I was really nervous after signing up, and nervous again when I went to record the interview. You would think an old musician would be immune to stage fright, but playing in front of a lot of people is different from sitting alone with a microphone.

When I don't restrain myself I talk very quickly and with a funny Swedish accent, and I was sure I would forget English completely when faced with a microphone, questions, and the challenge to speak slowly and not sound too horribly foreign. On the upside: I didn't forget English. On the downside: I babbled. Someone clearly pressed the talkative button in my head, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, and then, blah blah blah..." I'm hoping they edited it at least a little.

Failure or success, the interview is on tonight at http://www.radioearnetwork.com/. I share the timeslot between 11-12 PM Eastern Time with another author, I don't know if my interview will be first or second, but I hope you take a moment to listen in.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I've gotta start answering my phone.

I have horrible phone manners. If I'm expecting a call from someone I keep my phone close, but most of the time it sits in my purse. I'm on the no call list, but it's still usually someone wanting to sell insurance or something. Or, someone from the daytime job. For the longest time I got calls wanting to collect debts from someone named Jeff. They would call early in the morning, and I was patient for over a year before I snapped and hollered, "Do I sound like a man named Jeff? This time, write down that Jeff doesn't have this number anymore."

I'm a little smart about it; I have assigned ring tones for people I usually talk to. Anyway, the phone rang with the generic tone for, "not in my phone book" this fine evening, and I huffed, "Who calls at six on a Friday night?"

I considered getting up to see who it might be, I really did. Then, I heard the voicemail chime. If the caller was interested enough to leave a message, maybe I should check it...

A friendly voice said, "This is Denise Gossett from Shriekfest. I'm calling to say your script is one of the semi-finalists."

I stared at the phone. If I hadn't been so lazy, I could have talked to a real Hollywood moviestar. Then, I ran for the door to go find Mikey. He speaks 'Maria' really well, but it still took him a while to make sense out of my incoherent babble about scripts and Los Angeles and semi-finals.

My script is a semi-finalist in an international screenwriting competition. That's a sentence one has to say several times before it sinks in. Tomorrow or in a week or so I might understand that I have a chance to be a finalist, maybe even a chance to win, but for tonight, all my thoughts are drowned by a happy, "Squeeeee!!!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How many lives do we live?

From time to time, people ask what my favorite author/book might be. Christy Elkins and her novel Parallel are definitely high on the list. I had the honour of reading an early version of the book, and even though I don't usually stay up reading at night, Parallel kept me on the edge of my seat until three in the morning.

The book was released by Silver Knight Publishing yesterday, and I'm expecting to get my copy in the mail today. I can't wait to see what the final version is like.

What is it about? The blurb kind of tells it, but doesn't show the whole truth. The story is beautiful and thought-provoking, and handles the questions of life after death and the very fabric of our existence in an appealing way. I wouldn't call it religious - most books with a strong theme of any religion become too evangelical for my taste and bore me to tears - but it is spiritual. Parallel is also inspirational in the sense that it's positive and optimistic even though it handles some big questions.

Blurb:

Luha Quibodeaux never had much support from her mother. When a tragic event occurs, Luha's mom makes a stand, reaching out in an attempt to protect her daughter. For the first time, Luha feels the love of her mother. Moments later, as Luha's life slips away, she comes face-to-face with a woman who appears all too familiar. She soon realizes that this woman is -- herself.

Everything in Luha's world suddenly changes as she discovers that nothing is what she thought. In order to truly understand, Luha must let go of all prejudice, and come to terms with the deepest secrets in her own heart.

What does the future really hold? Is there life after death? Luha asked herself these very same questions; but the answers she found exceeded any comprehendible reality.


Parallel for Kindle is only $2.99. Take a chance on it - odds are you will love it, and if you don't, you lost less money than a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Parallel in paperback is currently $9.95. In my opinion, this book is a keeper, and I look forward to placing it in the bookshelf.

If you want to read more about Christy Elkins, I interviewed her not long ago. Check it out!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

iFreeze

Remember I talked about my new neighbours the other day? Well, he managed to surprise me back pretty good the other day. I moseyed out to the back yards with the doggies in the morning and roamed around there with them for a bit. We have a six feet privacy fence, and the yard feels pretty much like a room in the house.

All of a sudden, a voice calls out, "Good morning, neighbour!"

If surprise was an Apple product, I'm sure they'd call it iFreeze. The voice was clearly talking to me, but from where?

Raising my eyes, the neighbour stood on the roof, waving, looking very happy. I waved back and managed, "Good morning!"

He seemed a bit too amused. I wonder if I did something funny while he was watching - if so, I hope it was something innocent, like scratching a butt-cheek. LOL!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The corridor of horror

As much as I would love to say I live off my writing, it wouldn't be truthful. Maybe one day, but not yet. I usually whine when I have to go to my daytime job, not because I don't like it, but because I have to interrupt whatever I'm doing. The grand adventures playing out in my mind seem much more important than mundane tasks that make actual money.

I like many parts of my job. There are administrative pieces I hate with a passion, but I also spend a considerable amount of time doing creative work, and those hours are quite pleasant. I design catalogs and marketing material, work with social media, and write for websites. If I could trim off all the administrative mumbo-jumbo, the job would be perfect for me.

Anyway, it's a small company located in an old building. Downstairs we have production, and upstairs are offices. The offices aren't great, but I've seen worse. Getting to them is, however, the gruesome part of my day. There's a long corridor filled with bugs, and I am afraid of bugs. I don't want to kill them or anything, I just don't want them to be near me. Everyone's afraid of something - many people fear dogs, sharks, tigers, heights, flying... If you want to see me jump, show me a spider. In my imagination, the smallest arachnid is the size of man's fist. (Lots of Black and Brown Widows in Florida too. They're super-scary.)



To be fair, I haven't seen any Widows at work, but the visible creeps are plenty scary.

I've only been with the company for a couple of years. Everyone else are so used to the Corridor of Horror they don't even see the spiders crawl along the ceiling anymore. I walk through it with my eyes darting around, trying to move around all the cobwebs and anything that moves. My boss doesn't believe in bug spray, he says we're ocean-something-or-other-certified, and there will be no spraying of the premises. Sometimes, if I whine enough, someone will go down with a broom and sweep the ceiling. That helps for about two hours, then the spiders are back.

I met a Palmetto bug the size of my shoe the other day. I stamped in the floor and hoped he would go away. He probably sensed my fear; he charged towards me, and I ended up jumping high in the air and running for my life. Scores: Palmetto bug 1 - Maria 0. Good thing no one saw me; they would have been rolling on the floor laughing, happily unaware of the multi-legged dangers that lurk there.



The Corridor of Horror also leads to the restrooms. One day, there was a spider in the ceiling, and I didn't see it until I left. Imagine if it had fallen down on my head. That would have caused a scream they would have heard all the way upstairs. I went to my colleagues and whined, and someone went down to remove it. She said, "Oh Maria, that spider was tiny." (It was about half an inch with all the legs - to me, that's huge.)

There's an upside though. I'm currently writing on a little something where the heroine needed to go through sometihng really scary and overcome her fears to find the hero and ultimately save him. I modeled the scary passage from The Corridor of Horror. I exaggerated the amounts of creepy crawlies, and it was perfect.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Backyard games

I started on a blog about editing, and lost focus about half way through it. I want to talk about backyard toys. We can pretend it's a follow-up to my Nerf post the other day. Right?

Last night, Mikey and I went shooting airguns in the back yard. I wanted to play with my pellet rifle. I have a Walther lever action CO2 rifle. If those words sound like blah-blah-blah, let it suffice to say it's a step up from a toy, but less powerful than a hunting rifle. It shoots metal pellets, propelled by a CO2 cylinder in the stock. I like it because it's made from "real" materials like wood and metal, and it both looks and feels solid. I think the wood is pretty.


We usually shoot paper zombies, but yesterday all the zombies were shred to pieces. Mikey brought out some small soda cans and a little wooden dude, about an inch and a half tall. I thought it was a shame to shoot a wood project in progress and said, "What are we gonna do with him?"

Mike said, "Shoot him."

He's usually spot on, but this evening his CO2 capsule was running out, and wooden dude was safe. My turn. I shot the cans on each side of the little dude, and aimed for him. At 30 feet, he almost disappeared behind the sight. I pulled the trigger and saw him fly through the air until he hit the backstop. "Yay, I got him!"

Not the coolest thing to say - I should pretend I knew I would be able to hit him - but it was sort of exciting.

I snatched the little guy up from the ground, and ran back to Mikey. "I really did get him, look, look!"



I think he's safe from the shooting range from now on. He's cool and buys me bragging rights.

A real enthusiast would be able to tell you all the details about the pellet he's shot with. It's... a pellet. Flat head target pellet. I know the size, but that's just so I'll be able to buy more, haha. When not squished into a target, they look like this:


Saturday, August 11, 2012

No, my book cover is not a target, LOL!

Both Mike and I tend to go overboard when we do something. He enters collector-mode, and gets a couple hundred different versions of something. I buy fewer of whatever it might be, but more expensive. The end tab is probably about the same. 

Lately, the fad has been toy guns, and Mike is really into NERF. You know, the toy guns that shoot soft foam darts or disks...? There are many different models and versions and colours, and by now he has at least 150, with a few thousand darts. The gun below is the latest version and not in our stores yet. He wants it so bad.

I have to admit there are a few that are mine in that Nerf count too, but I kind of got bored with them. It's still fun to sneak up on each other and have Nerf wars, but I don't covet any more Nerf guns.

Anyway, when he gets doubles, he paints them and makes holsters for them. It's cool, the photo doesn't do them justice. I would never have the patience to take them apart, sand them down, spray paint them, figure out how to put them together again, and decorate them.



This summer, my fad has been airguns. They come in many versions and sizes, and shoot everything from paintball markers or colourful plastic beads to metal pellets. I like the CO2 powered airguns, because I'm too lazy to want to pump a rifle or struggle with a spring. (Always play responsibly, and be aware many airguns are quite able to hurt and even kill people.)

Now, I'm sure some readers are jumping to the conclusion that I'm an insane wannabe hunter. I would never shoot an animal, I don't even eat mammals. I will, however, shoot paper targets and enjoy it! We have a padded target area in the back yard, and put up paper zombies that are shred to pieces with various toys. It's a lot of fun! As long as the zombie apocalypse consists of people made of paper, we'll be fine, LOL.



Yesterday, we were out doing some Friday shopping, and when we returned to the house, two cardboard boxes waited outside the front door. Mikey's contained a new Nerf gun, and I couldn't remember what might be in mine. I couldn't remember ordering anything. The box was big, but too light to be books. In it were postcards for my new book Undercover - TBR September 11 - and a couple of posters with my book covers.

Mikey peeked at the postcards and the posters and joked, "Sweet, new targets!"

I rolled my eyes, "No, these aren't targets, that's my book."

He grinned, "It's a target. Clearly a target. You just bought them like this to get something cheap to shoot at."

I had to admit, "Well, it is a target, kind of. But we're not shooting my book."

Maybe just one postcard, with a suction cup Nerf dart. I'm sure destroying one on purpose would mean bad luck, but I am tempted to see if I can hit the bullseye, just because he said it... A suction cup Nerf dart wouldn't leave a trace, no one would have to know. ;-)


Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy Tails

A few weeks ago, we got a new foster dog for Ewenity Farms. The rescue coordinator named her Erella, she says it's the Hebrew word for angel. I call her Ellie for short - it's easier to say.

Anyway, Ellie comes from Texas and is about a year old. She was pulled from a shelter only a couple of hours before her intended death. From what I understand, the shelter was in the middle of nowhere, and it was hard enough to find someone to go pick her up and take her to boarding - a couple of hours drive. All the way to Florida was out of the question.

Ellie was safe, but still far away from a permanent solution. She ended up staying in boarding for two months before someone could drive her to Florida. The lady who finally did it was a trooper - she reached my house around 1 AM, and had been up driving dogs for almost 24 hours. She had a van filled with dog crates and still had a few places to go before she was done. Just imagine stopping along the way and walking all these dogs! Kudos! The driver said Ellie was a bit shy, but when we opened the crate door, she leaped out of the car into my arms and wanted to go to the house.

Mike had bought a toy for her, and the way she reacted, one could think it was the first of her life. That little squeaky was the Best Thing Ever, and she didn't let it out of her sight for weeks. Now she's gotten used to the environment and knows there are toys everywhere, but she's still attached to that first one. If any of the other dogs goes to take it, she hurries over to take it away.

I don't know her history before the shelter. If she ever had a loving home where they bothered to teach her things, all of it was forgotten before she reached us. She remembered one's supposed to do one's business outside and not in the house, but that was about it. Luckily, she's a smart cookie and really wants to be a good girl. It only took a couple of days to learn the basics, like what furniture is okay to sit on. In my house, we sit in the sofa and not on the tables, and we don't climb up on the kitchen counter. She also had to learn some basic manners around the other dogs. They've been super patient with her. (Most shelter dogs I've encountered already know the basics, but it depends on their background. If no one ever cared for them, how could they know how to behave?)

By now, she has learned how to sit and to go into her crate for cookies. She has learned that a human going towards the door saying, "Stay" means "Get into the house, this time, you're not going through the door," and she knows, "Move over" when she's sitting in someone's spot in the sofa. She has a good herding drive and goes to get the other dogs when they don't want to come inside - it's hilarious to see a dog herding dogs.

We're working on lie down and shake, but we're not quite there yet. It's not Ellies fault - we get preoccupied and forget we should train her...

We've been practicing walking on the leash in the yard, and she's gotten quite good at it. A couple of days ago, Mikey decided to take her for a walk along the road. The other dogs and I watched from a window. She did great walking along our yard. When they reached the neighbour's house, she started to tug to go back, and one more house down the street, absolute panic. Mike turned around, and Ellie made him run all the way back. (My dogs looked about to fall on the floor laughing.) I opened the front door and she leaped inside, into my arms, looking like, "Mommy, mommy, I couldn't see the house, and that was so scary!")

We'll need to go for many super-short walks, just a house away to start with, so she discovers it's fun and not scary, and realizes going for a walk doesn't mean anything bad.

Ellies future? Well, she's here now and being spoiled rotten. She's still discovering the world, and small things like getting food every day still makes her happy-happy-happy-happy. If a home shows up where she'll get it even better they can adopt her, of course, but I think all of us are sort of hoping it won't happen. I know we're not supposed to keep all dogs (we've been good, we've adopted out many of the foster dogs that came our way), but some of them are really special. I love seeing her discover the world.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Exciting morning

I was going to blog about my foster dog today, but something else happened that's much more interesting. When I took the dogs out this morning I was too tired to notice anything out of the ordinary. On the way back inside, my eyes had opened up to normal size, and saw a blue flashing light on the other side of the street. Two houses up from mine is a corner lot, and their entire yard was crammed with big black cars. All of them with blue lights flashing. I moseyed inside, gave the doggies breakfast, and said, "Hey sweetie, the neighbour's yard is filled with civilian police cars."

He said, "No way," and peeked out. The cars were still there, not just a figment of my  imagination, and I was sort of proud to be the bringer of exciting news.

My neighbourhood is very calm, and to be honest, if anyone disturbs the peace it's usually me. There are a few cop families living along the street, so we're used to the city's police cars, but they're usually just checking up on traffic or going to and from work.

I moseyed around, took a shower, had some breakfast, and when I went to work, all the cars were still there. A few minutes ago Mikey texted me, "The FBI just showed up."

By now I'm pretty darned curious. I'll probably spend  most of this day making up scenarios of what might have happened. I mean, with an imagination as vivid as mine it could be murder, kidnapping, drugs, zombies, aliens, or a combination... Okay, getting a little carried away here, but anything's possible! If I ever find out, I'll let you know.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Parallel

It's a matter of days before Parallel by Christy Elkins will be released by Silver Knight Publishing. I had the pleasure of reading an early version of this book, and it's the last story I read that kept me up all night. I just had to finish it.

The book will be available August 21, and I am looking forward to it!


Blurb:
Luha Quibodeaux never had much support from her mother. When a tragic event occurs, Luha’s mom makes a stand, reaching out in an attempt to protect her daughter. For the first time, Luha feels the love of her mother. Moments later, as Luha’s life slips away, she comes face-to-face with a woman who appears all too familiar. She soon realizes that this woman—is herself.

Everything in Luha’s world suddenly changes as she discovers that nothing is what she thought. In order to truly understand, Luha must let go of all prejudice, and come to terms with the deepest secrets in her own heart.

What does the future really hold? Is there life after death? Luha asked herself these very same questions; but the answers she found exceeded any comprehendible reality.


Just one of those days, uh, I mean weeks.

You know how some days seem like you should have stayed in bed? I'm having one of those weeks. I must have done something cosmically wrong that messed with my Karma, time to do good deeds! Check this out:

I always bring my phone everywhere, and I use it to check my e-mail, write on, and read books on. It's instant entertainment. The other day I went to renew my driver's license and forgot my phone. There was one person in line in front of me, and it still took over two hours. Plenty of time to wish for something to play with. (Well, it took about five minutes once it became my turn. By then, the little DMV office was crammed with people behind me.) Seeing things from the bright side, I only had to wait. It was worse for the people whose errand turned out to take two hours.

On the way home from the DMV, my car overheated in the McDonald's drive-through as the gentleman gave me something completely different than I ordered. I had to get out of the drive-through since my car was misbehaving, so I couldn't wait for new food. I went to the nearby gas station, about a block away, threw away the food (I don't eat mammals) and tried to find some water. Of course, if something goes wrong with a car, it is when you don't have your phone, right.

The girl at the gas station said they didn't have water for cars, and I would have to buy some. I said, "That's fine, do you have gallon jugs?" and she shook her head. I ended up with a number of tiny water bottles, and considered myself lucky I had a towel in the car and could open the water reservoir without hurting myself on the steam.

Once the car cooled down and I could get enough water in to make it home, I ran the heat to keep it from overheating. That's awesome when it's 100 F and sunshine. (It's hard to fill up a car with tiny drinking bottles of water...)  Along the way, the little "Check gagues" lamp came on. I was out of engine oil. Yay. Some little troll or engine goblin must have stolen all the fluids from my car, and it was clearly a bad day to be out on the road. Was I happy when I reached the safety of my own yard!

When I came home, I took the dogs out. While walking one of them, she tugged a little on the leash just as I stepped into the tiniest of holes in the ground. Instant, close and painful contact with Mother Earth.

Now equipped with a swollen knee, a hurting shoulder, and a really owwie wrist, I started to get the hint. I turned the washer and dryer on with extreme caution, expecting them to flood the house or explode or something. Knock on wood, I managed to do laundry without causing a disaster, but I've forgotten bags at Wal-Mart, had wrong goods delivered to work, and mail disappearing. To make things better, I have accidentally destroyed a window and almost cut off a finger on a can of dog food.

Luckily, tomorrow is Friday. I will approach the day with extreme caution and a will to do good deeds. Hopefully that will be enough.

I've heard many people have weird weeks right now. Some of my friends say, "Worst day ever," and the lady at the local gas station also fell -  but she broke her arm. I'm probably lucky, things could be much worse, but it's still a little freaky with so much happening at once. Maybe it's something cosmic, or maybe I really need to do more good deeds.