Monday, March 2, 2015

Fiction Friday on Monday: Doing My Happy Dance

Over the weekend I learned that I finaled in the Diamonds in the Desert contest sponsored by the Desert Rose Chapter of the RWA.

What this means is that my novel, Demon's Wager, will be critiqued by Brenda Chin of BelleBooks.

Doing my happy dance.

(BTW--if you don't know Alex Boye, check him out.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

50 Shades of Gimme a Break: Movie Edition

If you want to see a really excellent, well-reasoned review of this movie, check out Billy Merritt's Living the Romantic Comedy blog.

Since you're here instead, I'm just going to share my favorite moment from the movie and let you judge for yourself.

The Setting: The Red Room of Pain--Christian Grey's "playroom."

The Setup: Christian has just buckled a mostly naked Ana into leather cuffs and notched the attached carabiner into a hook set into a metal frame. No, she's not, like, hanging by her wrists or anything. Her feet are solidly on the ground.

The Scene: He slides off her last remaining article of clothing, her panties, holds them to his face and breathes deeply.

I think it was supposed to be erotic, but instead it just came across really pervy, like he handcuffed her so he could steal her underpants and sniff them. I mean, I know a woman who divorced her second husband when she caught him doing that with her teenaged daughter's undies.

There's been a lot of furor around Social Media World about how Christian and Ana have an Abusive Relationship and how this Sets a Bad Example for Young Girls and Completely Misses the Point About What a Loving Relationship Really Is.

And I'll give you all that, although I think if we're going to stop young women from watching movies that romanticize dysfunctional relationships we should also ban young men from watching movies that glorify war.

Anyway, my two cents is, if you're looking for a movie with a laugh-until-you-pee-your-pants funny scene, you could do a lot worse than 50 Shades.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Dysfunctional Relationships, Automotive Version

As a couple of people suggested on FB yesterday, the one of the springs on the garage door is broken. The Overhead Door guy won't be out till Monday. In the meantime, my Subaru is being held captive.

This is clearly not my fault, but all Old Dog says is, "You broke the garage." He holds up two fingers in what is NOT a peace sign. "Twice."

I have an alternate theory of the crime.

I think the garage is getting even.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Non-Fiction Friday: The Garage Saga Continues

This morning when I went to leave for work, the overhead garage door refused to open. It rose maybe six inches, then gave up and dropped back to the floor.

I called Old Dog, who said to pull on the orange rope to disengage the garage door opener and lift it manually. I did but it didn't.

He came home from work and looked at it, but he couldn't figure out the problem either.

So now my Subaru is trapped in the garage.

I hope it doesn't try to bust its way out again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Garage Update: Silver Linings Department

Buckeye Home Services, the same company that put the metal roof on our house, came out on Sunday (that's right--Sunday) to fix the garage.

I can't even tell you how nice it is to have a garage that doesn't have a cancerous-looking bulge on the back. That open spot along the bottom is gone, too.

It's been pretty cold here over the past month and, as Old Dog put it, that hole made the garage "a might airish."

When they finished up, Jason (who did the roof, too, and is absolutely terrific) came to the back door to let us know they were done.

"You were really lucky the people who built your garage did such shoddy work," he told me earnestly. "If they'd done it right, it wouldn't have given way so easy and you would have had a lot more damage to your car."

(The car is back from the body shop and looks as good as new, as in, as good as it did in September, when I bought it.)

While he was fixing the bulge, Jason also put in some extra-long screws and reinforced the frame the way he felt it should have been done in the first place.

"So don't do that again," he warned me, "because your car won't come out so well next time."

Thanks for the heads up, Jason. I'll keep that in mind.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wistful Wednesday: My Mom's Kitchen

                                                           Mildred Oates, Easter, 1974

The other night as I emptied out the dishwasher, I was putting away, not just dishes, but a bunch of kitchen gadgets I own,  That got me to thinking about my mother's kitchen.

My mom cooked supper, from scratch, for nine people plus anyone else who happened to be hanging around at dinnertime, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, with far fewer utensils than I have to nuke dinner for two.

Mom never owned:
  • kitchen shears (because paring knives worked fine)

  • a wire whisk (she just used a fork--really fast)

  • a spaghetti strainer (that's what the lid of the pot was for)

  • a meat mallet (she used the edge of a dinner plate)
  • a rubber spatula (wooden spoons left just the right amount of batter for kids to lick)

Not only do I have all those items, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't put together a meal without them. The speed and grace with which Mom wielded her little collection of honed knives, metal forks and wooden spoons are far beyond my capabilities. And if I tried to open a package with a paring knife, it's anyone's guess which would release first: the package or one of my veins.

That said, Mom was, to put it kindly, an unpredictable cook. I remember one time she tried putting coffee in her drippings-and-flour gravy to see if that would make brown gravy. (It did, but only if you're judging stricly on color palette.)

And every sibling I have remembers the Great Chicken Paprikash Endeavor. Mom and Dad first tasted the Hungarian dish at a friend's house and Mom decided she was going to reproduce it. My oldest sister, who was married by then, came into town once a week to spend the day, so Mom scheduled her experiments for that day. Week after week. She never did get it exactly right, but she was eventually forced to abandon clinical trials when my brother-in-law threatened to go on a hunger strike if he had to eat weirdly orange chicken one more Monday in a row.

Just think what she could have accomplished with the Pampered Chef collection.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fiction Friday: On (Not) Getting Published

Photo by arztsamui courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
This post is for everyone out there who’s been writing for a while, but hasn’t gotten published.

It’s about dealing with the gnawing feeling that you’re this sad, pathetic person who has no talent but can’t let go of the dream. It’s about feeling like one day people will be hanging around your coffin (a velvet-lined box containing a sleeping version of yourself that looks like one of those old black and white photographs someone has brightened up with colored pencils), talking about how you never gave up on writing even though it never got you anywhere. And because people don’t like to speak ill of the dead, at least not directly in front of your open coffin, they’ll say that in pseudo-admiring tones, but inside they’ll be thinking, a la Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon.”

I’ve been writing seriously--writing (almost) every day, taking classes, reading books and blogs, going to conferences--for thirteen years now. On the inside, I can tell that I’m a much better writer. I have a lot better control of my sentences, I’m less likely to fall back on clich├ęs to describe things, my plotting skills (especially since studying with the inimitable Jenny Crusie at McDaniel) have improved dramatically. What I’m writing today is far more readable than the crap my writing group suffered through thirteen years ago.

And I’m still not published.

Moreover, with the current state of traditional publishing, there’s a very good chance I’ll never be published. I can self-publish but, given the lottery-like environment of that world and the very small amount of effort I’m willing to commit to marketing, that’s unlikely to yield any more readers than I currently have--a dozen or so generous souls who serve as beta readers in exchange for my doing the same for them.

One way to deal with this, of course, is to give up. There are plenty of other things I could use to fill my time. There are other hobbies. There are friends and family. We’re in a golden age of television. I could spend years of free time just making my way through the canon of Breaking Bad, The Big Bang Theory and Dr. Who.

But what if that’s not an option? What if you write, like I do, because you have no other choice? What if, against all common sense and sanity, you find your butt parked in a chair, your fingers pecking away at a keyboard, day after day, month after month, year after year? What if you are, in fact, the very definition of a maroon?

I saw a comment in The New Yorker the other day from Deane Yang, Professor of Mathematics at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering: At  the beginning of a difficult mathematical problem, the mathematician is trying to maneuver his way into a maze. When he triesto prove a theorem, he can be almost totally lost to knowing exactly where he wants to go. But often, when he finds his way, it happens in a moment. Then he lives to do it again.

Novel writing is the same way. You can work on a story for months, sometimes years, getting nowhere. Then one day the characters come to life, shouting to get your attention, demanding you tell their story, as alive in your mind as any actual person you've ever met. A life force flows through you, out your fingertips and onto the page. The exhilaration is like nothing else I've ever experienced. 

And, like Dr. Yang's mathematicians, whether those stories are ever published or not, I live to do it again.

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