On Housekeeping, Dishes, & the Power of Three…

I dusted and mopped this weekend.

I know, I know – you’re all thinking, “Seriously? That’s all you’ve got? It’s like saying the sky is blue or grass is green (or brown, or white depending on where you are)!”

And you’d be right, except for the fact that those things “you” listed are true all of the time, and I can’t even tell you the last time I mopped the hard floors or dusted. I only dusted part of the TV stand, but I tell you what – there was probably a thick enough layer to measure with a ruler.

I may have mopped the floors twice since we moved in. Ten years ago.

Now that you all know I’m a total slob and never want to visit, here’s the thing. Last weekend, I felt like crap, and hubby had the flu, and the whole house was just…not well. I had no motivation to do anything, much less housework. So nothing got done – not even the weekly vacuuming, which is basically what keeps us both breathing through our respective allergies during the week. Today (yesterday, Sunday, whatever), I actually felt good for the first time in two weeks, and I finally managed to get the housecleaning done, including mopping and a little dusting. It’s a red-letter day, people. Cause for celebration!! << See that? Two exclamation points, even…

Know what else is cause for celebration? There’s a new dishwasher on the way, and it should be in town by Tuesday. Thank God (and my husband), because I’m really sick of doing dishes by hand. It even has a dedicated silverware rack at the top! Seriously cool – I can’t wait to get it!

3BagsOn a completely different subject, I got recently is a new “laptop” bag. Finding the right bag to carry my Alphasmart (and/or a smaller laptop, when I upgrade) has been an ongoing battle since last December. I decided back then that I didn’t want to have to carry two bags to work anymore – I wanted to consolidate my drinks/breakfast/snacks into a bag big enough to carry my Alphasmart for writing on breaks or whenever going somewhere it’s common to have to wait. And I also wanted it to be large enough to carry a smaller laptop, because I’m thinking of “upgrading” my big, heavy one to something smaller and more portable later this year.

This is where the Power of Three comes in. I don’t know why…maybe it was my art professor drilling the whole “odd is good, threes are artistic” thing into my head, but I’ve noticed my subconscious is a bit obsessed with sets of threes. I tried three cases for my Note/cell before settling on one I like, the draft I’m currently editing is full of threes (3 minutes, 30 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days, 3 months), and it took me three tries to find the perfect new bag that is *just* the right size and shape to hold everything I need it to.

The Big Green Bag was first, but it’s not balanced right, it’s just a tad bit too tall, and the straps are too short. Not long after I got it, I tweaked my shoulder pretty badly with it (don’t ask) – an injury that took around 6 weeks to fully recover from. It would be nice for traveling, but that’s about it.

The Red Book Bag was next, and it’s a little smaller, and has a nice long cross-body strap, but the outsides are hard (like, um, a hardcover book), and I’m not really a cross-body strap girl, so carrying it was unwieldy and uncomfortable. Good novelty bag for certain situations, but there are no outer pockets either, which was a huge turn-off.

Finally, the Peacock Bag – which is perfect. There are three compartments and another padded compartment inside the center one meant for a laptop. It’s not too big, but just big enough to fit what I need it to, and functionally, it’s comfortable enough to carry as a large purse when I’m not using it for work. It has a nice long shoulder strap that’s very adjustable, two shorter handles and plenty of outside and inside pockets for…stuff. Found it on ebay for a total steal – still more than I wanted to pay, but it’s full hand-painted leather, and I plan to use it for many years to come.

Goldilocks and her Three Bears have nothin’ on me…

Actually, now that I think about it, the new dishwasher will be my third in this house. Here’s hoping it’s perfect and will run for many, many years. Or more than three, at least…


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On Contests, Appliances & Trudging Along…

First, the good stuff (okay, it’s advertising, but indulge me for a few minutes, K?). You already know that the digital version of Flame & Stone is on sale all month for 99 cents. Everywhere. And you know that there are contests running on both Booklikes and Library Thing to win free copies. There was a quick contest last week to win an audiobook version on Booklikes, and that contest is over, but there’s another audiobook giveaway running on Library Thing, and that one’s open until Thursday (I’d link to it directly, but I’m not sure how – if you go search this month’s Audio giveaways at the link above, it’s pretty easy to find).

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If you like Audiobooks, you may or may not be aware of a new email service called Audiobook Blast. It will send you announcements of free and sale-priced audiobooks once weekly, in whatever genres you choose, so go sign up! Flame & Stone will be listed there…tomorrow, so you could get a free audio copy there…

But wait! There’s more!

The print version is *finally* done and available now, and you can sign up to win one of 5 signed copies on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Flame & Stone by Jamie DeBree

Flame & Stone

by Jamie DeBree

Giveaway ends March 29, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Or, if you want to win a set of all three versions (print, digital and audio) plus some cool gargoyle-themed swag, simply sign up for my newsletter anytime between now and Sunday, March 29th. Current newsletter subscribers are already signed up, and if you join them, you too will have a change to win one of two F&S prize packages! Winners will be announced in the newsletter that will be sent out on March 30th, with a mention on the blog as well.

So there you go. A ton of different ways to get yourself a free or sale-priced copy, in a myriad of formats, but only for this month, so get it now!

In other news, my dishwasher is broken again, and our attempt to fix it this weekend was a failure (probably because what we tried to fix, and what is broken are two different things, but it was worth the try, I suppose). This is the third or fourth time we’ve pulled it out to work on it, so needless to say, I need a new dishwasher.

The plan was to go pick one up and install it this weekend (you know, since we’re so good at pulling it/reinstalling it now), but just before we were going to leave on Saturday, hubby got attacked (rather violently) with the flu. And he was down all weekend with that, poor guy.

Just to add insult to injury, my head cold got worse again on Sunday, and between the two of us, we had no motivation for anything, really. And my new eyeglass prescription got screwed up Friday (or rather, one of the new lenses is scratched badly), and the scratched lens is bothering my eye quite a bit (new lenses are ordered and should be here soon), which makes computer work…uncomfortable. So it’s been a long few days, and I’m honestly just as happy that the weekend is behind us. Aside from having to do dishes by hand all week. I’m sure I’ve mentioned just how much I love doing that (not).

So we’re trudging along over here, trying desperately to get well and stay well so we can take care of things like broken dishwashers, roofing estimates, basic household chores, and writing, which I am so far behind on it’s shameful.

But! There is always something positive to focus on, so let’s end on a positive note or several, shall we?

– Once we get a new dishwasher, I shouldn’t have issues with it for a good 2-3 years, at least.
– New lenses only take a couple of days, so I should be seeing better by Weds.
– I’m 9 days into this cold, and the average cold takes around 14 days to “beat”, so I’m over half-done with it.
– I’m making good progress on my first knitted sock
– We had pie for Pi Day this weekend. Pie is good.

Onward and (hopefully) upward!


 

On Cold Care, DST, &…Um…

My husband’s cold finally caught me this weekend. I mean, I knew it was gaining on me last week, and then I got super-stressed due to some things at work not going the way they should have, and that seems to have been the final straw in my immune system, so to speak.

Stress kills, people. Not that I’m going to die from a cold, but you know what I mean. Om…

In any case, while we all know there’s not much you can do to get rid of a cold aside from letting the immune system do it’s thing, I’ve pretty much thrown as much “military aid” at my white-cell troops as I possibly can this weekend, including but not limited to: coconut oil, salt, citrus extract, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, fresh ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, honey, pineapple, chia seed, various teas/tisanes, blueberries and of course, wine/alcohol. Got some extra sleep too, despite the whole DST debacle (which is going to hurt a lot more when I have to get up for work in 6 hours or so).

Yes, I think it’s helping – I do feel better. No, I have no idea *what* is helping. That’s the thing about a scattershot approach – there’s really no way to tell. But honestly, I don’t care, as long as my soldiers have what they need to do their job and defeat the enemy as quickly as possible.  I have things to do, people to hide from, books to write! And a stupid time change to recover from…

I hate Daylight Saving Time. It even sounds/looks stupid, which is why everyone adds an “s” to “Saving” without even thinking about it. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Believe it or not, I had a whole blog post planned out for this week that did not center around “things which may or may not help you recover from a cold”. It might have even been somewhat witty. And I’m pretty sure I was going to explain why my blogging for the rest of the week has been so lax lately.

But it’s midnight, and if I’m not asleep by 12:30am, there’s no way I’ll make it to work tomorrow, what with this cold and all. And with my eyes as they are, even if I wasn’t sick, shorting myself on sleep now seems to make the surface of my eyes feel like shards of glass when I blink. Not fun.

So, to bed, and I may or may not get any other blogging done this week, depending. Hopefully by next week I’ll feel better and can come up with something far, far more interesting to post about (shouldn’t be hard, eh?).

Be well, dear readers…


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On Contests, Sight, & Almond Milk…

Before I forget (because I have a tendency to do so), I have a few sale & contest announcements for this month (it won’t take long, I promise):

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– The digital version of Flame & Stone is just .99 for the month of March (woohoo!)
– There’s a contest to win free copies running now on LibraryThing
- There’s another contest to win free copies running now on BookLikes
- The print version should be done by the end of the week, and then there will be a contest for signed print copies on Goodreads, as well as LibraryThing & BookLikes.
– Giveaways for the audio version should be up on LibraryThing & BookLikes before the end of the month.

So…lots of chances to win free copies, or you can buy a copy cheap for this month only.

Fun Fact: As of this blog post, the audiobook has outsold the ebook by a wide margin. Odd, but hey, I’m all about variety here, and I’m just as happy with people listening as reading. Thank you! And I’m sure our excellent narrator, Kevin Clay, would extend his thanks as well.

 

Now, on to other things…

I finally went to the eye doc last week, and found out why my eyes have been watering pretty much non-stop all winter, making it difficult both to write and work, as I stare at a screen all day & most nights. Apparently I have a “genetic corneal degeneration” – an inherited disease of the cornea that causes not only the excessive watering, but also the extreme sensitivity to light that I have off and on and other uncomfortable symptoms. Unfortunately, my doc didn’t say which kind I have, and a quick internet search reveals that there are quite a few (though many are very rare, or only appear in children, so I can pretty much rule those out, I think).  In any case, while it will probably cycle through good/bad times, unless it’s one specific type, it’s pretty much assured to just keep getting worse as I age. There’s a good chance I’ll need corneal transplants when I’m older. Joke’s on me for being so blase (I have no idea how to put the accent over the “e” there) about turning 40, eh?

I have another appt. next week to see if the steroid/antibiotic eyedrops the doc prescribed are working (feels like they are – no more watering, and no more soreness/pressure – yay!), and probably to get a new lens prescription because eyes that aren’t inflamed see differently, of course.

You know how life tends to force you to confront your worst fears at some point in time, whether you want to or not? Well, aside from general anesthesia, the thing that scares me most in life is losing my eyesight. I love to read. I enjoy my coding/web job. I love watching squirrels chase each other around our roof, and flowers in the garden, and big trees and beautiful houses. I love art – paintings and sculptures. I love a sunny spring day, fall leaves, and blankets of snow. Love those first roses of summer…

Technology these days is such that a blind or very low-vision person can get along far better than they used to, and I’m quite sure I could adapt, if necessary. But I don’t want to. Hopefully, I won’t have to, but of course my mind always jumps to the worse possible outcome. Luckily, rather than getting too mopey or depressed, I start planning for what might happen, in hopes that it won’t. Thwarting the universe, so to speak. Unfortunately, that’s distracted me a lot for the past week, but it’ll calm down, especially when I have more information on what the exact disease I have is, and can gather more information about what happens next.

And just like that, another book idea is born…

Last but not least…almond milk. Clearly I’ve been watching far too many vegan cooking shows on our local PBS Create channel, because while doing my grocery shopping for the week, I picked up a half-gallon of Almond Milk to try. Unsweetened.

It sucks.

Sugar, anyone?


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On Personalities, Postcards & Kongos…

A few weeks back, some Facebook friends were discussing…well, something to do with personalities, and one of them posted a link that describes the INTJ Meyers-Briggs personality type (which is my personality) rather perfectly. It’s rather long and runs several pages (menu on the right side), which I expect exactly no one to read all of (heck, I was getting bored going through them myself toward the end), but even if you only read the first overview page, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of how I think and see the world.

If you do dig a bit further into the profile, you’ll also see why I sometimes seem very cold, insensitive, and/or brutally direct, especially to those gentler, more feeling souls out there. I tend to drive those with more “feeling” personality types nutty in short order. I do try to soften that side of myself when I can, but…I can’t always. I’m really not the person people want to come to for sympathy most days – I’m that really annoying person who will tell you to buck up and deal with whatever it is you’re dealing with. I’m also the person who will find you a million solutions to your problem rather than just listening patiently while you spill your heart out. I try to moderate that too…but it’s much harder, as I just naturally have a very low tolerance for wallowing in any sort of sub-par situation without at least trying to figure out how to fix it (preferably with backup plans for when Plan A doesn’t work). I just…can’t, really.

But, if you need a problem solved, or a process analyzed and streamlined, I’m totally your girl. My mind *loves* that sort of thing with a passion (I might grumble a bit, but it’s for show most of the time – I love problem-solving).

We all have our strengths & weaknesses, of course. And true to my curious and analytical nature, I’m always interested to know what other people’s personality types are, because unlike a lot of INTJ’s, I’ve always been interested in other people and what makes them tick – just like another “problem” or puzzle to be solved, really. This is also why, if you have an interesting enough story to tell, I might just shut up about those million ways to fix your problems and just listen. Sort of like a sociology project.

So if you’re so inclined, feel free to leave your personality type in the comments, and link to the profile (you can take the test on that site if you don’t know what yours is). I really am interested to know what makes you tick…

France1a

On a completely different subject, you may or may not remember that I’ve started a postcard swap. The first one arrived late last week from France, sporting a lovely turtle stamp, and beautiful images from where the sender lives. I’m sending out the return card this week! Fun stuff…and plenty of time to participate in the next one, if you want (hint, hint).

France1b

Finally, an earworm for your Monday morning. I’ve recently “discovered” The Kongos (well, actually, I’ve been enjoying their music for awhile now, I just finally looked up their name and bought an album). My late night listening for your enjoyment:

Have a great day!


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Excerpt Day: The Time Stone

A quick note for you audiobook listeners – the audio version of Flame & Stone is available now! Narrated by the truly excellent Kevin Clay, I think you’re really gonna love it!

I’ve mentioned the kid’s book I’ve been working on a few times lately, and thought you might a little taste. Keep in mind, of course, that this is just the unedited first draft, and subject to all sorts of changes…


Excerpt: The Time Stone
(The Stone Scavengers, Book 1)

Sydney Pointer wrinkled her nose at the nasty smell that hit her just as Ripley Edwards, boy detective found another important clue. Looking up from her book, she was surprised to see an old man in rumpled layers of dirty clothing with the kind of mountain-man facial hair she’d only seen on TV slide into the booth across from her.

She glanced around the nearly empty diner, but her mother was nowhere to be seen. Her heart pounded in her chest so loud she was sure the man could see it, but she tried to stay calm as she closed her book and reached for her bag. Surely he couldn’t move as fast as an eleven-year-old, she thought. She began to scoot out of the booth when he spoke.

“I have something for you, Sydney.”

She froze at her name, fear turning to panic as she wondered what else he knew about her. She tried to remember everything her mom had taught her in case a strange man ever tried to take her. She opened her mouth to scream, but stopped when the man slid a tattered piece of paper across the table.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. “But I need to give you this. It’s something your father was working on until recently. I’m sure he’d want you to have it.”

Sydney forgot her fear for a moment at the mention of her dad. He’d left when Sydney was a toddler – off on another one of the treasure hunts he was so fond of. An amateur archaeologist who could never be happy rooted in one place, her mother had always said with a wistful smile. He’d tried, her mother told her, but after a year of missed holidays and sporadic hour-long visits, they’d divorced and Sydney hadn’t seen him since, even though he still kept a house in town for the rare occasion when he wasn’t off treasure-hunting.

“You know my dad?” Sydney let her bag fall to the bench and looked closer at the man. He looked…tired. His hair was long and knotted, his beard in serious need of a comb and shampoo, his teeth crooked and brown, and the lines on his face etched in deep, sunburned furrows. There was something in his gaze though that seemed honest.

Something non-threatening in his hunched posture and shaking bent fingers.

“I know him very well, child.” He pointed to the list, but made no move to reach across the table. “Your dad was looking for these stone talismans – keys, he called them – when he disappeared six months ago. Insisted that together they would open some sort of ancient treasure trove. One that supposedly holds the secret to life-long happiness for whoever opens it.”

Sydney looked at the list, which consisted of six crude pencil drawings with a title scrawled in rough handwriting under each one. At the top the drawing was of a circle with a triangle standing on top. It was labeled Time Stone. There was also a flower blossom, an arrowhead, a heart with a crack down the middle, and what looked like a scroll of some sort.

“He was trying to find these? But how did he know where to look? And if they’re made of stone, aren’t they very heavy?”

The old man chuckled. “A talisman is a small object believed to bring good luck to whoever holds it. Your father found the first one – The Time Stone, he called it. I’ve seen it. It’s a sundial no bigger than a half-dollar coin.” He curled his gnarled thumb and forefinger into a circle to demonstrate. “Legend has it that each talisman has a clue on the bottom that leads to the next. Whoever follows the clues and finds the stones will eventually find the treasure as well.”

Sydney frowned. “He disappeared? What happened to him? Is someone looking for him?” She looked for her mother again. They had to do something. “Did you call the police?”

“I don’t know what happened to him, kiddo. And I suspect the police won’t be able to help.” The man hesitated, and then looked her in the eye. “He had some…trouble getting the first stone. As if there were something protecting it. The last thing he told me before he left was that I should pass this list on to you when you turn eighteen.” He coughed, a wet, phlegmy sound. “I’m afraid I’m not going to live that long, kiddo, so you’ll have to take it now.”

“Sydney Ann Pointer, what did I tell you about talking to strangers?”

Relieved that she’d finally showed up, Sydney looked up at her mother, who only glanced at her before turning on the old man.

“Who are you, sir, and why are you talking to my daughter?”

The old man raised his head, and Sydney’s mother gasped, putting a hand to her heart.

“Hello Daphne. It’s been a long time.”


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On Leather, SNL, & Innocent Attraction…

Happy Monday/President’s Day! Happy because due to the fact it’s a federal holiday, I’m off work and at home. A very good thing, considering how far behind I am on my writing schedule. I’m hoping to get a lot of words written today…

This past Saturday (Valentine’s Day, though I’m not big on celebrating Hallmark holidays), hubby and I took advantage of a special dinner deal one of our local wine shops was having. A four course dinner with four wines/drinks to match by a local chef. Hubby and I both agreed that the salad and main courses were the best (and neither of us cared much for the cold potato soup – though it was a rather pretty purple color), and interestingly enough, the first and third drinks were also the best (though I think I liked the third wine better than he did). The first was a Spicy Beet Cider to go with a beet and walnut salad. That cider was absolutely stunning, and reminded me of the stock art photo I found for a book my horror alter-ego will be writing later this year. I think I might actually incorporate the flavors and textures into that book, somehow. It really was stellar.

The wine that was served with the main course (beef & mushroom pasta) was Cascina Ca’Rossa Langhe Nebbiolo 2010, and I was utterly fascinated and intrigued by it. It tasted and smelled of leather and smoke, which sounds weird, I know, but from the very first sip it reminded me of an old study or library, with a fire roaring in a big stone fireplace, the walls lined with built-in bookshelves filled with old leather-bound tomes, and big wing-back chairs where one might sit and read and smoke a cigar, if that’s your thing (not mine, but that’s the general environment). The color was even reminiscent of leather, clear dark burgundy-brown that flashed lighter as it swirled in the glass.

It wasn’t just another wine, it was a sensory experience, and I really must find a bottle of that to have for my very own. Or two, perhaps – one to drink, and one to just admire and remember…

Interestingly, my husband bought new leather shoes earlier that day as well. When I came home from grocery shopping on Sunday morning, I smelled the new leather, and immediately thought of that wine. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Sunday night, I watched the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special. That show is as old as I am, and I’ve seen a lot of it. When I really was old enough to start watching it in the late 80’s/early 90’s, I remember so many people complaining about how bad it had gotten. And I watched old episodes, and I watched new episodes, and some I liked, and some I didn’t, and there were years when I didn’t watch at all and then I’d pick it back up again…but it’s always been there, part of the soundtrack of my life, as it were. Isn’t it odd how one TV show can be so ever-present, and watching the clips last night made me realize just how big of an impact it’s had on society as well as my own perspective on things. So many catch-phrases and things that have become all pervasive, and some I didn’t even realize had come from SNL in the beginning…

You’d think watching something like that would make me feel old, especially seeing some of the older actors now, but it really didn’t. It was just a really pleasant trip down memory lane, both personally, and in a cultural sense too.

Which brings us to today, and the draft I’m working on at the moment. I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on a kid’s novel for a brand new small press, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned my misgivings about it too. It really gave me some serious cognitive dissonance at the start, because it’s so far out of the realm I normally like to work in that I felt very…constrained in what I could and couldn’t do with it. But I kept forging ahead, largely because I’d committed to finishing it, and as I’ve pressed on, a few things have really started to make this a much more enjoyable endeavor.

The first was the happy coincidence that one of the TV stations decided to play the Harry Potter movies over the last few weeks. I’ve watched a couple now (re-watched, I guess), and while my plot and characters aren’t even remotely similar to the Potter series, I’ve really gained a lot of insight into character development as it pertains to children through those stories. I don’t have kids, and haven’t worked around them in nearly 20 years, so that helped a lot just to see how someone else did it, and to realize where I was going wrong in terms of “kid culture” (because even as a child, I never really was one, if that makes sense – I’ve never identified with my own age group, and also never been part of the “crowd”, so to speak). Once I figured that out, my storyline started working a lot better.

And the second happy coincidence was the Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day Special on TV. We only watched a little bit of it, but it reminded me that there’s a very innocent side of romance that kids experience even when they’re young (not *that* young…my heroine is 11), and while I’d thought about that, I was afraid to really “go there” with my young cast of characters. But Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Haired Girl and Peppermint Patty and Lucy and Linus and the whole gang reminded me of that sweeter, innocent side of attraction, and just how completely adorable it is, and I went ahead and took my young characters there. Not only does it work, it’s going to really set up the next few stories in the series, as my characters grow together. And since romance is a predominant part of what I write in my other genres (it even has a place in my horror…attraction is all pervasive in human society, and I find it fascinating no matter what light you put it in), I suddenly felt more comfortable with my “kid lit”, and the story just started to take off after that.

This is part of why I write…to explore new perspectives on life, to see how others view the world, and to explore the various decisions that might be made, and how they affect us as we see them through.

With that said, I’m going to post this, grab another cup of tea and a snack, and see where my characters will take me today…


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Talkin’ Books: February 11, 2015

Books Finished:
None

Kindle Books In Progress:
The Indie Author Power Pack 

Print Books in Progress:
White Fire by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Comic Books:
None

Not much to report…again. *sigh* I have been working on White Fire quite a bit – it’s just one of those books that you pick up and think, “I’ll read one chapter before bed.” And then you look up again after the sixth chapter that night, realize you do actually have to get up in the morning, and reluctantly dog-ear the page before forcing yourself to put it down and turn out the light.

So…good book, in other words. And getting better by the page…

I’m also still working on Write, Publish, Repeat from the The Indie Author Power Pack, and gaining a few nuggets of wisdom here and there.

What I’d most wanted to get to this week, and ended up having to forgo due to extra writing time needed and an impromptu aquarium swap, was my Harley Quinn comics. There are special Valentine’s Day Harley’s out this week, and I’m headed to the local comic shop on Saturday because they’re having a super-awesome sale, so I was hoping to get all caught up by then. Alas, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. But Valentine’s Day is a great day for reading anti-heroes, right? (Just nod & smile, nod & smile…)

Maybe if I get caught up with the writing, I can spend part of President’s Day (next Monday, and a federal holiday, so I’m off work) hunkered down with my comic book stack.

Now I think I’ll get this scheduled, and then head to bed for more White Fire goodness…


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On Fishkeeping, Movies & Community…

New26gal

This post brought to you by the letter “W”, which for some reason, I keep typing right after the word “movies”. I don’t know why. It doesn’t fit there. There’s nothing with a “w” that I need to type at the end. And yet, it persists. Annoyingly, I might add.

Anyways…to the topics at hand! If you read last week’s post, you know that I decided, against better standard fishkeeping practices, to get a second fancy goldfish to keep mine company. Because goldies are social creatures, and mine has been a bit depressed/lethargic lately, despite my best efforts to perk the little thing up.

My conscience still prickled though for not providing at least a minimum standard environment for them. Goldfish are big and messy, and thus require a more generous environment than a lot of other fish just to stay healthy and happy. My tank was 20 gallons, the recommended minimum for one goldfish. Each goldie after that should have another 10 gallons – so 30 gallons for two goldfish.

Yes, I know that people keep goldfish in small tanks all the time. That doesn’t make it right.

In any case, long-story slightly shorter, I did my research, found out that a 30 gal. high tank has the same width/depth as my 20 gal., went to Petsmart and couldn’t find a 30 high, but bought a 26 gal. bowfront aquarium instead. It’s still not ideal, but it’s got quite a lot more swimming space especially with the bowed-out front, and it came with a filter too, which gave me a second filter to run on the same tank and provide a bigger bio-system to deal with the extra waste.

So I spent a good couple hours on Sunday taking all the stuff out of the 20 gal. tank (including the goldies) and setting up the new 26 gallon tank, which is shown above. I’m happy to say that the goldies seem to like it (and each other), and I think they have plenty of room now to cohabitat successfully, even though it’s still a bit shy of the standard. I even saw them napping on the bottom together tonight, side-by-side like they’d always been friends. Which makes me feel good about my decision to get the second one.

Unfortunately, I was also reminded that the universe is kind of a stickler about balance when my betta died this past Sunday (I believe it was a blocked intestine). I didn’t notice quickly enough that he was ill, and he was dead pretty soon after. My bad in two ways – one, not noticing in time to do something about it, and two, not feeding him the varied diet he (and all animals, really) needed to lower the odds of it happening at all.

This made me take a good hard look at my feeding practices, of course, and after a few hours spent scouring the internet, I’ve about come up with new feeding schedules and menus for all of my fish, plus the new betta I’ll bring home next weekend. Perhaps the next time I have a little extra time, I’ll put a page on my site about them…

In other news, Saturday night I was trying to get caught up on some writing (was horribly behind last week), and Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone was on TV. I watched, writing on commercials. Sunday I was just beat from swapping the aquariums out, and The Hunger Games was on – all about needing others just to survive. Somewhere along the way it hit me – in the children’s draft I’m working on, there’s not enough community. By which I mean, my heroine is doing too much on her own, and she needs to learn that she can rely on her friends to help. That’s part of coming-of-age for most kids…I just forget, because I sort of skipped that part of being a kid.

So…good insight into my story, and my weekend has really had an all-pervasive theme of “community”, when you think about it. My goldie got a new BFF, and he seems happier about it. Harry Potter & Catniss Everdeen (?) both gave me insight into my own stories. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Now, for sleep. It’s been one of those weekends where I got everything done except for the stuff I need to do, which kind of sucks, but when it’s all you can manage, nothing to be done about it.

In any case…have a great week! Anyone got any fun Valentine’s plans you’d like to share?


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Excerpt Day: Shelter

I wrote this for one of the Rattles flash fiction anthologies I put together back in February of 2012.  Enjoy!


The_Old_Sofa_P3_web

Shelter

Her fingers shaking, the girl worked at the back door lock until it finally gave. Pushing the door open, she carefully peered around the corner, listening for any signs of life. Hearing nothing save the occasional whistle as the wind howled through tiny fissures, she crossed the threshold and closed the door, relieved to be out of the elements.

The kitchen looked strangely like any normal kitchen, a table and chairs that should have been stolen long ago still standing sentry, waiting for the family to return. She took a chair and braced it under the door knob then checked the cupboards, relieved to find some expired canned goods. Better those than some of the leftovers she’d eaten from dumpsters – probably safer too. Finding a can opener in a drawer, she made a meal of cold soup concentrate and put the spam in her bag for later.

There was still plenty of time before dark so she gave herself a tour. As if the family had just disappeared into thin air, the furnishings were still largely intact and she fought a growing sense of unease as she moved through the rooms. The house had been vacant a long time, according to the barely readable foreclosure note on the front window – why hadn’t it been looted like all the others?

The staircase leading to the upper level continued higher, and after she’d inspected all of the rooms she followed it up, the door at the top opening with a loud creak. In stark contrast to the rest of the house, the attic was empty save an old rotting sofa against the far wall. Clearly from a different era entirely, it spoke to her. Called to her, really, and as she moved closer, images of elegant ball gowns and long, silky gloves flashed through her mind. Two women sitting with drinks in hand and ice around their necks, gossiping with heads bent close together. A couple, her hand held reverently in his as he asked her a very important question. Two neatly pressed children sitting on either side of their nanny as she reads them a story.

Running a hand over the antique fabric, she wondered what it would have been like. Would she have made the same decisions? Angered the same type of man? Given up her life for the freedom to continue breathing?

Dropping her bag on the floor, she sunk onto the now-lumpy seat and watched out the lone window as the sun went down, taking the light with it. Yawning, she pulled her coats tighter around her shoulders and lay down, her back curving perfectly into the sofa’s embrace as she drifted off to sleep.

***

She woke to warmth on her face and birds chattering merrily outside the window. Unwilling to open her eyes just yet, she rubbed her cheek on the soft, slippery fabric and marveled at how lovely it still felt even in poor condition. Then she heard voices approaching – human voices – and her eyes flew open. Someone was in the house. And she was not supposed to be. Sitting up and reaching for her bag, she was across the room before the realization hit her.

This wasn’t the same house. Either that, or she’d been delirious the night before.

Glancing back over her shoulder, she took in the old sofa, no longer old, but beautifully restored as if someone had only just acquired it. Dark walnut bookshelves lined the walls, filled with what appeared to be expensive hardbound volumes. Looking forward, she was faced with an imposing desk made of thick wood that matched the shelves.

The door opened and she held her breath, inwardly cringing at the thought of going to jail – or worse. The man who peered around the door frame was tall and although not exactly classically handsome, attractive enough to catch her attention. She waited for the yelling to begin, but he only studied her with concern.

“We’ve been looking for you, darling. Is everything okay?”

Confused, she hesitated. Darling? She looked closer at his face, worried that there was no spark of recognition firing.

“I…I fell asleep,” she said, lowering her eyes.

That’s when she noticed her shoes. Not the warm, thick and decidedly unattractive boots she’d stolen from an ex-military hobo, but delicate flats that hugged her feet gently without adding any weight. Holding her arms out, she felt faint as she took in the full skirt and light cotton shirt that had somehow replaced her torn jeans and the layers above it.

“You look pale, my dear. Perhaps you should go lie down for awhile. I can see our guests out.”
Lifting her head, she stared at him, wondering if he’d done this to her while she slept. He’d given her a way to escape, but she felt an overwhelming urge to stay by his side. He would take care of her. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she did. Shaking her head, she forced a smile.

“No, that’s all right. I can come with you.”

He smiled, nodded, took her hand. She followed him into another room, where beautiful women and sharp men danced and laughed and danced some more, just like she’d envisioned earlier. The attic seemed far away, and every second she spent twirling in his arms was bliss. Never had she been so happy.

That night, she lay beside him, tucked against his body after he’d given her more pleasure than she’d known in a long time. As she drifted off, she thought about that poor homeless girl who fell asleep on her couch. It must have all been a horrible dream.

***

Voices were murmuring above her head, and she shivered, the cold burrowing deep into her bones.

“Will she make it?”

“There’s nothing we can do.”

The voices faded away, and she smiled, snuggling into the warm darkness as he pulled her closer.


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