Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Road to Hell or Helium, Your Choice

Image of a helium filled discharge tube shaped...
Image of a helium filled discharge tube shaped like the element’s atomic symbol.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Judging by the aphorism, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," apparently I am cruising that highway.  My road is extremely well paved, wide, and with lots of those little places along the way where you can pull over, have a picnic lunch, and take photos.  There's a word for those places, but after being so proud of my vocab skillz in being able to use the word aphorism, my brain is apparently tapped out.

Did you realize if you start but can't finish the word Hell it looks exactly like the atomic symbol for the word Helium?

Did you realize that while America was fretting about the Fiscal Cliff and the Debt Ceiling and the debate over whether it violates our freedoms [sic] to limit the access of homicidal maniacs to weapons with clips/magazines/drums enabling them to  mow down vast numbers of people in mere seconds, that somebody used up all the helium?
Who knew there was a nationwide helium shortage?
I mean really, America, where is our sense of proportion? (she asked in a squeaky voice.)

Back to He.  The Phone of Good Intentions.

I got a smartphone, intending to use it to text, email, comment on blogs, Tweet, and all the wonderful things smartphones can do, that my old, grandma-style cell phone could not.

I actually printed out and read the 190 page manual, set up the phone (Galaxy II) to link to my email and Twitter and FaceBook.  This was in May. Since then, I've sent and received about, oh, maybe 40 texts.  Taken a few pictures with it (not too bad) and a few video clips (quality is crappy), managed, after laboriously entering all my Contacts by hand from my old phone, to overwrite them with FaceBook data which erased most of the phone numbers.

The damn thing keeps running out of juice because all the FaceBook and Twitter and email updates use up the battery, so when I want to make or receive an actual phone call, half the time I'm SOL. And I can't remember how to UNlink the bloody thing from FaceBook or Twitter or Gmail, though I intend to whip out the three ring binder where I stored the manual.  Real soon.

Thank goodness I never got around to learning how to use Instagram.

The Camera of Good Intentions

Besides, I already have a nice little camera that takes good pictures and excellent video.  Even if, at 5-6 years old, it is considered practically a dinosaur, and I have to use a cable (or remove the memory chip) to download my pictures.

It works great, except... apparently rechargeable lithium batteries don't last forever. I alternate two of them, and right now I can get as many as 7-8 pictures (less if I use the flash) out of the thing before I have to switch batteries.

Maybe I should get around to ordering a couple new batteries.

The Bookpile of Good Intentions

Because I love my fellow authors, and know how important reviews are, I try hard to review all I read (unless I think a book is... let's say problematic). I did read and review 65 books via GoodReads and other sites.

But in the last part of this year, because my stupid arm was bothering me, it was easier to read than to sit down and type a review.  So the ones I read but had not yet reviewed, I stacked up on my dining room table, lest I give them away or shelve them till I reviewed them.

Then the holidays rolled around and I wanted to clean off the table and make it purty with a tablecloth and candle and such. So I moved the books to my recliner, because obviously, it looks so much more decorative and festive to have the books piled in a chair than stacked on a table.  (Whimpering at the thought of how many read books are queued for reviewing on my Kindle, too...)

You may notice the flowered skirt in the background - this chair also serves as The Mending Pile of Good Intentions.

The Bookpile of Good Intentions

The Duster of Good Intentions

I would include a photo here, but truth? I took my duster to my day job, intending to dust my many bookshelves there and my desk, prior to putting up some holiday decorations in my office. 

I know you will be shocked, shocked! to learn that I did not complete this project. I Swiffed 2-3  shelves, then said, "The hell with it!" and threw up a few bits and pieces on top of the layers of dust.

From a distance, the effect is charming. I do cling to this wistful idea of not only dusting all surfaces, work and home, in 2013, but even giving all my wood a good orange-oiling. Not gonna call it a Resolution, though.

The Holiday Tree of Good Intentions

How pitiful is it that, with a tree only about 14 inches tall, that I put the lights on it, then ran out of steam to hang decorations?

See, I own about 200 very special ornaments, and I get them all out, then carefully choose a dozen or so that will fit on this itty bitty tree, so they are different each year. This year... it simply felt like too much work, immediately after I put up all the other decorations, and I was gonna get around to it...

You will notice next to the Tree of Good Intentions some holiday cards that I usually arrange on display, as well, but...

The Holiday Tree of Good Intentions

And, speaking of cards, I had 3-4 cards that kicked back last year for bad addresses,that I intended to contact my friends via email or FaceBook to update, and despite an entire year to do it, did I? Hell, no!

I did get a few things done in 2012. 

At last year's mammo & ultrasound, I got the welcome news that my lumps and bumps have remained unchanged for long enough that I no longer have to get 'em every six months.  Go, boobs!

I wrote lots of blog posts, including February devoted to Black History, April devoted to My 26 Favorite Ways to Piss Away Time Do Valuable Research on the Interwebs, and October to Domestic Violence Awareness. I did write those 65 book reviews, and I finished Les Misérables - the unabridged version (1500+ pages, mon Dieu!).  I finished my novel Close Knit and submitted it to my agent; entered a few contests (finaled in one), wrote several short stories and three articles for the LARA Confidential, and have started a new book.

I marched for women's rights, almost got arrested handing out books on World Book Night, and worked for two non-profit organizations (go, Words on Wheels!) in my spare time.  (Yes, I do have a full time day job.) Joined Toastwriters, attended meetings for five different writers' groups, and went to my first RWA conference!  (Below some of the pictures I took.)

Such a hardship, being at RWA among the mostly female writers, agents and publishers, but somehow, I managed to avoid an estrogen overload.

Most recently, I exercised my newly acquired ToastMaster skills to put together a memorial for my beloved and much missed friend Sidney Patrick.  And lately there's this shoulder thing which has gotten in the way more than a little.

All in all, my list of stuff I got done is actually bigger than the list of stuff I intended to do. So maybe I can give myself a pass on the unfinished dusting and slacker tree decorating. I'll pick up on my Good Intentions in 2013, and add whatever treatments the shoulder specialist I'm seeing next week recommends. Crossing my fingers for a cortisone shot, which everyone says works wonders. I'm really tired of sleeping on the "wrong" side and eating more Advil than chocolate. 

I plan to see if I can't finish the new novel, review some of the bookpile (because I truly do want to use my recliner again, in this lifetime), and stop getting outsmarted by my phone.

What's on your good intentions list being carried forward to 2013?
What happened in 2012 for you that was 
as awesome or awful as a zombie apocalypse?

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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Real Nightmare Before Christmas

...and during Hanukkah, and before Solstice and Kwanzaa, or the secular winter celebration of your choice.  Losing a child or family member is horrific at any time, but especially at a time of year so focused around family.

via In Loving Memory of Sandy Hook Elementary Victims

The massacre at Sandy Hook sucks. As did Clackamas, and the Sikh Temple, and Tucson, and Aurora, and Virginia Tech, and Columbine. And, and, and...

It's only marginally better when it is only one sick man killing his estranged wife and then himself (though not any better for their children and their family).

That kind of thing rarely even makes the headlines anymore, outside the local papers; the body count isn't high enough.  Josh Powell got national attention, but only for a few minutes.

The dynamic we, as a country are going through, is not unlike the battered spouse cycle. 

We experience a horrific incident, where a mentally ill or psychopathic person takes innocent lives. We collectively shake ourselves, "That's it! Not going to put up with this any longer!"

But writing letters to legislators takes time, and talking about mental health issues makes people uncomfortable, and "Look, Dancing With The Stars is on!" We manage to push it to the back of our minds, till the next time.

Look, I get it. I would rather read and write about hot men and steamy romantic encounters.  I think mental illness and domestic violence are important issues, so I do blog and write about them frequently, but I can't handle doing it all the time.

Still, we, as a country, need to stop lying to ourselves.  These incidents don't "come out of nowhere." The Gift of Fear describes many pre-incident predictors that a loved one or a co-worker, or even a stranger, may be about to commit a violent act. IMO, the book should be required reading by every human resources department. By every adult person, really.

The summary in the video clip below by Rachel Maddow, and the description of the kind of people who commit these acts by Dave Cullen, author of Columbine , are both enlightening, and sad.

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Sad, because the vast majority of mass murders can be predicted, and might be prevented. 

We don't have to keep putting up with this. 

We can make mental health screening and treatment a priority in our country. We can educate ourselves about depression and mental illness, so we recognize the signs that a loved one may be crossing the line from "quirky" or eccentric to dangerously ill. We can change the laws so that the family of an adult person who has a malfunctioning brain does not have to persuade their sick loved one to reach out for and accept help.

[Important note: the mentally ill are much more likely to be the victims of a violent crime, than the perpetrators of one. All mentally ill people deserve help, support and treatment, just as do people with diabetes.]

We need sensible gun laws, not babble about how all kindergarten teachers should be armed and ready to shoot back. 

It's obvious that for some people, an arsenal of big, powerful guns and piles of ammunition gives them an almost sexual thrill. Other people feel that way about scrapbooking, or dog shows - and people should be free to indulge in any hobbies they like, provided they can do so without endangering others.

The Second Amendment refers to a "well-regulated" militia. It is not an abridgment of the Second Amendment if we regulate the sale and possession of firearms, especially ones that the Founding Fathers could never have dreamed of.  We don't allow Joe Citizen to stockpile nuclear warheads or rocket launchers, do we?

There are types of weapons and ammunition that no American needs for hunting, target practice, or self-protection.  I hope we can and do agree that those with criminal records or mental illness should be denied access to most lethal weapons.  (Acknowledging that you can kill someone with a pillow, or pair of scissors, I'm unaware of any record of mass murder by pillow.)

We require those who want to operate a motor vehicle to pass certain tests, to prove they can safely operate one without the likelihood of killing someone. When someone has racked up a number  of DUI's or accidents, they lose the right to drive because they are a danger to our society.  Grandpa reaches a certain age, and we take away his car keys.

Yet when it comes to guns, if a buyer doesn't have a criminal record, or is at a gun show, that buyer is presumed to be sane and to be able to safely handle the weapon, with zero proof of either capacity. For all a gun seller knows, the buyer will load the gun, leave it on the coffee table where her toddler can reach it, and drink till she passes out.

Maybe we shouldn't presume gun buyers are sane and responsible until proven otherwise.

Maybe gun buyers should have to pass a gun safety course and mental wellness screening test, to get a gun license. We require licenses to go fishing, and a limit on how many fish someone is allowed to catch. Maybe we should require that in homes where people under 25 years of age or with mental illness, suspected or diagnosed, are present, all guns must be kept in combination-locked gun safes.

Some will argue we ought to work on gun control first; then address mental health issues. Some will argue it should be the other way around.

There's no reason we can't address both mental health issues and gun control issues.

We're Americans; we can multi-task. And the argument that because we can't prevent all incidents, we should throw up our hands and not even try... well, that's crazythink.

via In Loving Memory of Sandy Hook Elementary Victims
I'm sick of lighting candles, and crying for murdered kids. And murdered mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands....

Adding a P.S. here. Ann Curry, on her FaceBook page, suggested:
Imagine if we all committed 20 acts of kindness to honor the lost children of Newtown..(or 26 acts, including the heroic teachers.) I'm in. A growing number on Twitter are in. #20Acts #26Acts What do you think FB friends? If yes, share!

I'm in, in fact, I'm going to try for 30 acts, in memory of my darling friend Sidney Patrick, BUT... I want to be careful I don't get so caught up in the warm and fuzziness of doing kind acts, and being all self-satisfied, that I forget to be pissed off with this. I want to stay angry enough to press for changes in how we deal with mental illness, and with our gun laws.

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 26, 2012

There Goes My Career in the Major Leagues

Okay, besides the fact that I am a) too old, and b) female (though that didn't stop Jackie Mitchell from striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, just sayin'), I never really sat up nights dreaming of wearing a professional baseball uniform.

Maybe just the hat. And possibly, the jersey, after stripping 'em off some hot ballplayer.  Roz Lee's fantasy identical twins Jeff and Jason Holder come to mind.

Anyway, I never imagined *I* would be in any danger of a rotator cuff injury, seein's I'm not throwing a 90+ mph fastball.

I thought wrong.

What I thought was a pulled muscle in my bicep, turns out to be... rotator cuff tendinitis, created by many hours at my lovely yet less than ergonomically correct desk at the day job. I also discovered that it's not nearly as much fun having a hot young thing put his hands all over you when a) you're paying him to do so, and b) when every place he touches makes you whimper, and not in a good way.

The National Institute of Health says:
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket type joint where the top part of the arm bone (humerus) forms a joint with the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff holds the head of the humerus into the scapula and controls movement of the shoulder joint.

The tendons of the rotator cuff pass underneath a bony area on their way to attaching the top part of the arm bone. When these tendons become inflamed, they can become more frayed over this area during shoulder movements. Sometimes, a bone spur may narrow the space even more.

This problem is called rotator cuff tendinitis, or impingement syndrome, and may be due to:
  • Keeping the arm in the same position for long periods of time, such as doing computer work or hairstyling
  • Sleeping on the same arm each night
  • Playing sports requiring the arm to be moved over the head repeatedly as in tennis, baseball (particularly pitching), swimming, and lifting weights over the head
  • Working with the arm overhead for many hours or days (such as in painting and carpentry)
  • Poor control or coordination of your shoulder and shoulder blade muscles
The culprit, in my case, is a less than ideal chair.  I need one that is higher, AND, a keyboard that is lower.

Below is the ideal arrangement.


1. Are your feet flat on the floor? Otherwise use an ergonomic footrest
2. Is your backrest supporting lumbar area?  Not enough.
3. Are your knees at a somewhat 90 degree angle?
4. Are your thighs parallel to the floor?
5. Are your elbows at a somewhat 90 degree angle? It can be slightly over but it shouldn't be less.  Mine is, in fact, less - my elbows are below the keyboard, even with the chair raised as high as possible. I thought if this would give me any problems, I'd get a warning twinge or pains in my wrists, first, some achiness there. Didn't happen for me that way.
6. Are your wrists in a neutral position? That means you can put a ruler under your lower arm to your palms. Your wrist is level with your lower arm.  Nope, they've a slightly inverted V.
7. Is the top of the monitor at eye level or just slightly lower? Otherwise there will surely be neck strain.
8. Is the monitor off at an arm's length? 

Mind you, my desk at home is perfect. Do I spend as many hours at it? No. Should I have paid more attention to my day job workstation?  D'uh.  Do I work for a great company who is happy to address the matter the moment I opened my mouth and asked? Yes.

Because I do get up from my desk to do other things around the office, I foolishly did not realize, until such time as the pain - which started in the middle of my bicep, not my shoulder - kept getting worse and worse, and had no clue it could be related to the goofy chair I use in my day job.

Now I am doing exercises and icing this bad girl, and going chair shopping at the earliest opportunity - but it will be weeks, if not months, till I can pitch for the Dodgers again.

Or just sleeping through the night. This business is no joke, so please, be smarter than I was and do not wait until you are hurting, even a little bit, to take care of your body.

Have you ever let an injury go, because it was no big deal?
And then it was?
Your thoughts?

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Would You Eat Your Dead Dog? And Other Books I've been Reading

I have been reading not just until the cows comes home, but until they are mooing, sitting in my lap, and proclaiming (in Cow-ese) "If you don't TCOB, bitch, I'm going to make you VERY sorry."

So, I'm finally getting around to reviewing some of the many fabulous books I've read in the last few months.

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Until My Soul Gets It Right - Karen Wojcik Berner (Women's Fiction)

Our heroine, Catherine Ebert, has always been "bigger" than the small Wisconsin farmtown in which she grew up - at least, in her own mind. She landed the part of "Ado Annie" in the local high school production of Oklahoma, but her straitlaced forbid her to take such an "immoral role."

She escapes to Portland, Maine, just because she saw it on TV, and later, to San Diego, but her life is based upon running from and rebelling from her parents; then upon a wealthy husband. How does Catherine sort out who SHE is, amongst all the rebellion?

The Bibliophiles is a series Ms. Berner is writing, based upon different characters who attend a suburban Illinois readers' group. What's here (in the series, so far) is slow, character growth,  not a tremendous amount of external conflict or decision-making. No guns are fired (at least, not yet), nothing blows up,  but there is a great deal going on under some still waters.

For myself, I enjoyed  "Soul" more than "Whisper," but they are both interesting books.

 A Whisper to a Scream  - Karen Wojcik Berner (Women's Fiction)

Annie has always wanted children, and has married into a family whose abundant fertility taunts her at every holiday gathering. Sarah has two children she loves dearly, but the lack of focus, of purpose, of anything except being a mommy is slowly driving her insane.

What I loved: the characters are beautifully drawn, the reader can totally relate to the pain and frustration of each woman, the whole "grass is always greener syndrome," as well as showing how silly the whole "Mommy wars" are.

What slowed me down: they aren't stories, per se, with a beginning, middle, and end, more a pastiche of these women's lives. And though they are connected via their shared readers' group, there isn't an "a-ha!" moment where each realizes the grass ISN'T greener on the other side.

An interesting debut book from an author I am sure will continue to offer interesting work as time goes on.

Would You Eat Your Dead Dog?

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt (non-fiction, psychology)

These kind of questions do get your attention - whether, if the family dog was struck by a car and killed, and the family decided to eat it, rather than dispose of the body in a more traditional way - and nobody knew - is that really "wrong"?

How do we measure morality, in different cultures and economic classes? What is the moral basis of the positions that liberals take, vs. conservatives, vs. libertarians?

Although sometimes it got a little wonky, all in all it was a page turner and offered some fascinating information and ideas. It will certainly help me approach discussions with people of opposite religious and/or political viewpoints from a different direction and with a better understanding of where they may be coming from.

How to Knit a Wild Bikini  - Christie Ridgway (Contemporary Romance)

So, basically I attacked these books backwards. It's a series of three; I read the last, first; then the second, then the first.

Each works fine as a stand-alone (something much easier acknowledged than carried out), but this was the genesis of the series. Nikki has been a chef, but her knee injury is making it impossible to continue in her chosen profession. So serving as private chef to magazine editor Jay Buchanan seems like the perfect opportunity to rest her knee while still saving funds in hopes of a knee operation, someday...

So what if Jay is something of a professional bachelor? The sparks between these two are hot, the backstory that holds these characters apart is plausible, and the sex scenes are delightfully steamy.  It's a very fun read, but not devoid of serious issues regarding men, women, rape, and the effect of family upbringings.

Cover for Demon Hunt by Christine AshworthDemon Hunt - Christine Ashworth (Paranoramal Romance)

Just when you thought it was safe to lust after demons... turns out they're not so wonderful, after all.  At least, the full demons being brought over into the Human Plane, are not so much fun (unless you like having your leg ripped off at the knee, the better to have your toes consumed by a scary, four-armed demon).

Now, tribred (demon, fae, and human) Gregor Caine is another breed, indeed. Yummy, caring, but afraid of "letting go" to either his daemon or fae side.  Helping to draw him to embrace his fae side is utterly embraceable warrior fae Serra Willows.  Yes, we don't think of fairies as warriors (even clad in Village People style boots) but slender, beautiful Serra kicks a-- with the best of them, something that is difficult at first for Gregor, inclined to be a smidge of a chauvinistic protector-type, to accept.

I love that Serra is a skilled warrior, and that Gregor learns to value this side of her.  The action is compelling, the sexual tension (and activity) is hot, and the ending, where both partners MUST work together, is completely satisfying. Love this book, can't wait till the next.

Desire's Edge - Eve Berlin (BDSM Romance)
I went into this expecting to LOVE it, since I adored Eve Berlin's Pleasure's Edge , and I did enjoy it, tremendously... but I didn't love it as intensely. I've been struggling, since, to figure out why.

Maybe I'm just suffering water-envy. Set in Seattle, there's a lot of waterplay in the shower. For myself, living in SoCal, which is perennial drought territory, you would no more think of endless sexplay while RUNNING WATER in the shower than you would consider eating a kitten for breakfast. So I know, I had this big cultural taboo "thing" to try to get past that was bigger than any of the other BDSM issues. Tie me up, spank me, bring out a crop, sure, but leave the water running in the shower? What kind of sick pervert ARE you?

I loved the sex scenes between Kara and Dante, but I didn't feel the barriers between them were big enough/believable enough. Which sapped some of the tension and the satisfaction level of the ending.

That said, both were interesting characters, and the sex scenes were hot, hot HOT. I'm still a major fan of Ms. Berlin and her work, and this is a book well worth reading.

I Never Thought It Would Happen, Either

File:Ebcosette.jpgI did it!!  I finished Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (classic lit'rature), in under 3 hours like Paul Ryan on his marathon. (Just kidding!)

Okay, realistically, it took me FOREVER.  (And the time seemed much, much longer. Just like a marathon.)

I do recommend reading at least a few smidgens of this book, which will make anyone and everyone appreciate the value of EDITORS.  Holy underground plumbing, Batman, you place two of your main characters into the sewers of Paris with the soldiers in hot pursuit, and then digress into the care and feeding of sewers in ancient Rome? And the way the sewers were at the time the novel was actually written, and then, eventually, dozens of pages later, wander back into the way sewers existed  at the time our peeps were hiding out in them.

This after there is basically a bullet by bullet description of Napoleon's last stand (one of them, anyway) in some obscure little town, of which the salient facts are this one guy kind of sort of saved this other guy's life, not on purpose, but because Guy A was looting Guy B's person.  Pages and pages of philosophy, anecdotes which have nothing to do with the price of cheese or bread... Apparently  Hugo poured brain vomit onto page after page until he ran out of paper.

Mon Dieu! A pen, a pen, my kingdom for a red pen!

All in all, Les Mis is a worthwhile read because it shed immense light on the way true drama and character are timeless, and also, on the way writing and editing have changed over the course of time. But be warned; it's a slog.  Unabridged, it's something like 1500 pages.

A Week to be WickedA Week to Be Wicked (Spindle Cove)  - Tessa Dare (Regency Romance)

Tessa Dare won the 2012 RITA® for her novel A Night To Surrender. I have to admit, I am a newfound Tessa Dare fan, and I really liked A Night To Surrender, and also, A Lady by Midnight. Will review on Amazon & GoodReads sometime soon.

But I LOVED A Week To Be Wicked. Seriously, a geeky girl with glasses, hooks up with THE hot guy in town?

"I demand you ruin me. As a point of honor."

Hilarious, all the way through... Our bespectacled heroine, Minerva is a serious geologist, for pity's sake; our hero, Colin, seems to be a heartless rake but has unexpected depths.  The tension between these two is HOT; the sex even steamier, but there is so much humor mixed in that there isn't a single page of filler. Together their goal is to get the plaster cast of Minerva's astounding discovery of a fossil footprint (nicknamed Francine) to the meeting of the Royal Geological Society of Scotland, so there's a ticking clock. 

If you enjoy laughing and steamy, sexy romance, buy this book.

North Africa is Calling

The Belly Dancer mmp book coverThe Belly Dancer  - DeAnna Cameron (Historical Romance)

Society bride Dora Chambers is participating as a "Lady Manager" of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. I loved the idea of entering this world; there are many Regency or earlier historical novels, but very few in either this time period or this locale.

I eventually liked Dora as a character, but felt she developed... choppily. She was hard to hook into, at first, a bit of a helpless victim, and it seemed that, once she did begin learning to dance, it transformed her almost too quickly. Her extramarital love affair also felt rushed, and her partner a little too... liberal? undemanding? The husband was too unsympathetic... when she made her final decision, it wasn't as if she was breaking with anything good or lasting.

The details of the dance were excellent, and I loved that Egyptian dancer Amina took Dora in and mentored her. I will be returning to this world.

The Sheikh's Redemption (Harlequin Desire Series #2165)The Sheikh's Redemption - Olivia Gates (Series Romance)

We start with an abused child, brutally trained by his mother not to trust anyone, ever. So while it may be somewhat hard to relate to alpha male Haidar, at first, we can remember the hurt child.

Despite his conditioning, he'd fallen in love with Roxanne, and she with him. Thanks to Mommy Dearest, their romance ended, years back,but when she returned to the small desert kingdom of Azmahar, the sparks fly again. She's there to help Haidar's estranged twin brother, her best friend Jalal, press his claim to the throne of Azmahar.

Exotic location, alpha male, strong female, sizzling romance - what's not to love?

This was a sexy, tasty, fast read. 

The Bird Sisters  - Rebecca Rasmussen (Lit'rary Fiction)

The writing itself is lovely. We start with two elderly sisters, who nurse wounded birds back to health. There's much symbolism in the idea that once a bird lost its ability to fly, there wasn't much to be done with him.

There was a sense of slow unfolding, as the story of the summer of 1947 is told in flashback; the sisters' parents troubled marriage, their slightly older cousin Bett staying with them for the summer, Milly's blooming romance with Asa. The scenery is gorgeous; I could almost smell the pond they swam in.

I liked it, and yet, something felt unfinished. Milly and Twiss as elderly women didn't seem to either have made full peace with their lives, or be holding onto resentment about the way events turned out so differently, and that seems... unlikely.

Burn Me Up, Buttercup

Danger Zone coverDanger Zone (Adrenaline Highs)  - Dee J. Adams (Romantic Suspense)

This is the second book in the series, but while we get to brush up against the characters we loved in Dangerous Race, this book works beautifully as a stand alone.

Ellie Morgan is a professional stuntwoman at the top of her game - except for one teensy handicap, that her best friend Ashley has helped her cover up since high school. She. Can't. Read. She's dyslexic, but nobody figured it out, just passed her along, while managing to trash her self-esteem by taunts and scoldings about how stupid she was.

When Quinn Reynolds comes onto her latest set, he makes an ass of himself. Later, there's incredible heat between the two of them, but... he's returning to England in two weeks, and Ellie doesn't do casual sex.

But when it seems someone is trying to kill him - or is it her? They find themselves thrown together in those adrenaline high situations that lead inevitably to bed. And love, even if that wasn't on the agenda, either.

This book moves, it includes some exciting stunts and very steamy sex between two people who find a way to make it work in the end.

Book CoverChasing Fire - Nora Roberts (Romantic Suspense)

This book brought back home to me why I generally don't like murder mysteries. Either they play by the rules and introduce us to the murderer in the first few chapters, then try to convince us that s/he was too nice/helpful/religious/clean-and-neat to be the murderer, OR it's a total stranger or aliens from the planet of WTF. I knew in this book who the murderer was pretty much from the get-go. And as people are getting picked off one at a time, pretty soon you've only got a couple people it could be, anyway.

That said, it was an interesting look at the whole Smoke Jumping profession, if bogged down a bit with too much minutiae.  I appreciate that the research was so extensive, but every single fire-fighting factoid did not need to make it onto the page.

Rowan was a bit of an ass - there was no good reason for her either to resist getting involved with Gull, or to suddenly change her mind and start banging him at every possible moment. (And did both of them have to have goofy names?) I did like the romance between her father and the schoolteacher, that felt very real.

Roberts is a great writer, in terms of everything flows, characters are well drawn, scenes are laid out nicely, but... sometimes less is more.

Paranormal Creatures Need Therapy, Too

Coveted - Shawntelle Madison (Urban Fantasy)

Natalya is a Jersey Girl, a werewolf, and a hoarder of holiday ornaments. Yes, a hoarder, as in boxes up to the ceiling of the unlivable living room, hoarder.

Cast out from her pack as the weak link, she has uncertain allies in her family, in her former boyfriend Thorn, and her goblin boss, Bill. Plus her old/new best friend, Aggie. Against her - against her pack, though she's an outcast - is the Long Island pack, ready to move in on the South Toms River territory.

There were many, many things I loved about this book. Natalya's sprawling Russian family. Her parananormal therapy group, including a hoarding wizard, a mermaid who's afraid of the water, a Muse, and other supernatural beings - loved, loved, loved.  The beginning scene with her and Thorn was steamy goodness.

But... too many things unexplained. The Long Island pack is not well fleshed out, they're just the baddies that want to take over.  Thorn is still hanging around and being protective of Natalya, even though he's been ordered not to - why? What is he risking? Why does he simply lurk and not kiss her?

Natalya's illness is described as OCD, but having lived with a hoarder who was OCPD, plus having many friends in those communities; her symptoms (ordering, perfectionism, cleanliness obsession) seem to match up more closely with OCPD (+ hoarding), than OCD. It's one of my/our pet peeves, when OCPD is described as OCD, because although they can be co-morbid, they're very different mental illnesses, and OCPD is vastly underdiscussed and undertreated.

Still a very interesting read, and I will certainly look for more by this author.

Left on my TBR list from December:
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo  Bitch, you are done!

Daisy Miller - Henry James
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

Added to my TBR list, already on my Kindle or bookshelf:

A Heart to Mend - Myne Whitman
The Doctor's Lady - Jody Hedlund
Dev Dreams - Ruth Madison
My Cheeky Angel - Mimi Barbour
Katie's Hellion - Lizzy Ford
Romance Novel - PJ Jones
Living in Gratitude - Angeles Arrien
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Train Your Mind, Change Your Life - Sharon Begley
Water - Terra Harmony
The Cowboy's Pride - Charlene Sands
The Bird Sisters - Rebecca Rasmussen
Mercury Rising - Daisy Harris
The Brenda Diaries - Margo Candela
Hollywood Ending - Lucie Simone
Are You There, Vodka?  It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler
Melt - Natalie Anderson
Beauty and the Werewolf (A Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms)  - Mercedes Lackey
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Awakening - Kate Chopin
His Strength - Kiru Taye
Just The Way You Are - Barbara Freethy
Bloodchild and Other Stories - Octavia E. Butler
Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
Twelve Times Blessed - Jacqueline Mitchard
Danger Zone - Dee J. Adams
The Possibility of You - Pamela Redmond
Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende
Alpha Wolf - Linda O. Johnston
Asphodel (The Underworld Trilogy) - Lauren Hammond
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
Witches of East End - Melissa de la Cruz
The Comic Toolbox - John Vorhaus
A Week to  Be Wicked - Tessa Dare
The Belly Dancer - DeAnna Cameron
Caught in the Act - Jill Sorenson
Elizabeth I - Margaret George
How to Knit A Wild Bikini - Christie Ridgway
Somewhere in Time - Richard Matheson
Flirt - Laurell K. Hamilton
Fired Up - Jayne Ann Krentz
Fragrance of Violets - Paula Martin
Can't Buy Me Love - Maggie Marr
Colters' Wife - Maya Banks
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
Common Sense - Thomas Paine
Lady Susan - Jane Austen
The Heir - Grace Burrowes
Seeing Spots - Ericka Scott
Dating My Vibrator - Suzanne Tyrpak
The Backworlds - M. Pax
Leistra's Rhapsody - RYJC

Are there any books you're moved off your TBR pile so far this year?  
Have you read any of the books I read?  
What did you think?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Desk of a Thousand Scraps

I admit it - I'm Old School. I don't record ideas on an iPad or into a recorder; I don't text bits of brilliant dialogue to myself. I scribble them on my ever-present steno pad, or, if needs must, onto Post-It notes or napkins.

The theory is, I will shortly transfer said scraps of paper from their gathering place on my desk into actual WordPerfect documents. (Told you I was Old School - I don't even like to write in Word - doesn't everyone knows that WP is a much, much better program?)  So I take notes with pen on paper. It's only temporary, I tell myself.

Reality? I end up with all kinds of crap piled on my desk that I plan to do something with, eventually. A poster I want to hang, a book I want to write a review of, notes from my last crit session I need to integrate into my WIP. Subway napkins. E-book gift cards. My grandfather's obituary from 1963 - the actual newspaper clipping, which I have already scanned & uploaded to

I don't know WTF to do with the original, yellowing scrap of newspaper. I don't want to throw it away, that seems cold, but it's not like I have anything useful to do with it. So, it's been living on my desk for about a year now.

 Rick Wakeman's Dance of a Thousand Lights, from The Return to the Centre of the Earth
Much more appealing than the desk of a thousand scraps.

Having reached the point where my poor desk can't hold any more scraps or crap, it's time to clear it, and maybe my head at the same time.

Now I'm looking at some of my scribbles and having either no idea why I thought it was brilliant, or, difficulty reading my own damn handwriting.

Here's a list of possible characters for a WIP. Ventriloquist. Magician. Pot brownie lady. Tweaker.

Why did I want a Bandage Queen in this story? I don't even know what a bandage queen would be - maybe like Mila Jojo-whatshername in Fifth Element?

Oh.... I wrote Bondage Queen.

That fits.

Here's some song titles, that I was going to center blog posts around. Pete Townsend's Stop Trying to Make Me Real. America's You Can Do Magic.  How/why, I have forgotten. Mystery phone numbers - adios!

Oh, look, here's that April Romance Writers Report magazine I never quite finished.

Awesomesauce, I found my "inspire" key from SoCal Lady Bloggers, via Whitney Howard Designs. It's part of the "swag bag" my beautiful friend Sid put together for our meeting last spring, and I was really bummed when I couldn't find it.

Voilá, here's the "how-to" booklet for my new(ish) smartphone. I guess I put that on my desk so it would be handy. *snort*

But, now that I have unearthed the directions, I can plug all these business card bits of info into my Contacts, then file. Hopefully I will not overwrite with FaceBook info again and lose half my phone numbers.

Water jug tab thingies that the cat likes to chase across the floor. Obviously those need to be on the desk. (not.)

Complimentary hotel hand lotion - about one use - leftover from RWA conference this summer. We certainly don't want to waste that.

An old menstrual calendar, year unknown. Bye-bye! My 401-k quarterly report - sadly, it's clear I won't be retiring in luxury anytime this century.

Here's more notes on that WIP - I wanted to have an author neighbor who lives in a house that looks like 1313 Mockingbird Lane and writes light inspirational pieces, Chicken Soup-y kinds of things.

Woo-hoo, there's that extra coaster I was looking for!

And when all is filed and shredded and input, you can actually see the wood of the desk. (I could orange oil it, it's quite thirsty, but have run out of energy and ambition. Over TG weekend, perhaps.)

I am not sure whether I was having a hard time writing because my desk was such a mess, or I let it get that way to serve as my excuse for not writing.  But now I have cleared the decks, so it's clear sailing for a few more weeks, anyway.

Do you keep a clean desk, 
or a messy one?
What crap is on your desk right now that really doesn't belong there?
Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Clawing My Way to Rightside Up

Mud Puddle Stompers
Mud Puddle Stompers (Photo credit: clappstar)
You ever step in a puddle, or a hole, and discover, much too late, that sucker was a LOT deeper than you thought it was?

This would be me, in October.

And then there was a monster at the bottom of the hole that grabbed my ankle.

You see, I had this brilliant idea. I decided to go into the dark on my newest novel, go for a psychological thriller. Lead a woman into a relationship that turns emotionally and physically violent, then lead her out again (and touch on emotional violence towards men, as well).

After all, I've lived it myself, and am now at a safe distance from it (or so I thought). And October is Domestic Violence awareness month in the US.  So I figured I could solicit guest posts on the subject, which would serve the dual purpose of bringing awareness on the subject, AND help me research other points of view. Easy-peasy, right?

I did not expect to become emotionally overwhelmed by the stories I was reading.  So much so that it was difficult to format and post them, let alone look at the comments. I totally fell down on the job of visiting other blogs and so forth, because I barely had the energy to drag myself off to my day job.

Then the monster grabbed my ankle.

My Mother In Law Is Still Sitting Between Us...
I had a friend, entangled  in a relationship similar to mine. I had been trying to gently encourage Sidney  (not hover or push, because that tends to have the opposite effect) to save herself for the last year or so, but I knew she had to do it in her own time and space.  Like my own ex, her boyfriend was/is not deliberately evil; there are mental health issues in play.  I knew all too well the emotional trap of, "He doesn't mean to say and do the things he does; he just can't help himself. And he is always really sorry."

Regardless of the "why" behind it, being at the receiving end of constant verbal and emotional abuse is degrading to the heart and soul. I could see in my friend the same drip, drip, drip of her spirit being eroded one nasty word at a time, that I once experienced.

I was becoming increasingly concerned for Sid's well-being, especially after she spent nearly a week in the hospital in late August. Note: her boyfriend did not physically put her there.  But she had been coping with the stress/anguish as many women (and men) do, by turning to an outside "thing": drink, food, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling. In her case, alcohol, and it was destroying her liver.  She finally confided, after she left the hospital this summer, that she knew if she didn't leave him, it would kill her. So she was making plans to leave.

So I thought, too, that the upcoming domestic violence subject would help solidify Sid's decision and prevent second thoughts, since she frequently read my blogs and I read hers.  Maybe I could help at least one person.

On September 20, she left him. The following weekend, her mother helped her get all her boxes unpacked. On the 22nd I got a chirpy e-mail from her: "I'm in my own place now!"

We met to chat and have a (non-alcoholic) drink a few days later.  Sid shyly invited me up to her new apartment. She was so proud, and happy.  Free of the toxic environment, looking forward to doing all kinds of things that had been restricted to her before. Like having company over!

She was also terribly thin and weak looking - though she did look better than she had in August right after she left the hospital.

I fussed over her a bit. Sid assured me she was following doctor's orders, on all kinds of supplements for her wonky potassium level. She reminded me that she was a grown woman, after all.

Over the next few weeks, we texted and FB'd each other back and forth almost every day. I called her a couple of times. It's such a fine line, wanting to be supportive, but not obsessively helicoptering, because, after all, she was a grown woman. And you can't help someone get over being in a controlling relationship by being controlling yourself.  Sid seemed to need her privacy, and I understood this, because in the first few months after leaving my ex, I too wanted to be left alone to lick my wounds without having to constantly explain how I felt to friends and family. Let me sort it out, and get back to you in my own time, okay? was how I felt.

Cue the monster. 

On Saturday, October 20, Sid went MIA. On the 21st, having been discovered passed out on the floor of her new apartment, she was in the hospital in critical condition.

There was no alcohol in her system. She'd apparently had a heart attack, sometime Friday night/Saturday morning, then a second one in the hospital on Sunday. Her small, thin, overstressed body did not have enough physical resources left to get her through.

On Monday, the 22nd, I was there with her parents and her ex when they took her off the respirator. She was beautiful and funny and vibrant and 43 years old.

I feel non-productively guilty, because I did think about calling her or texting her Friday night. But... I was hanging out with another girlfriend who I'd hadn't seen in forever, and I didn't want to be rude to the friend I was physically with, so I decided it wouldn't hurt to wait till the next day. If I had excused myself for five minutes and tried to contact Sid anyway, would it have made any difference?

Maybe, and maybe not. I do know that here is yet another time when I've overruled my gut instinct and later regretted it.  I do it - the overruling, instead than obeying my "gut" - a lot less frequently than I used to, yet I still do it. (Why, why?!) I know Sid would forgive me.  I know that it might have made no difference at all, and yet...

What I could and did do was help Sid's family have a nice memorial/celebration of life for her. Which was a big job in many ways, and yet feels like so little, so inadequate. I wanted to celebrate Sid's life with her, not after she died!

There are benefits to being broke, because that forces me to get up, wash my face, and get dressed every day, since I need the paycheck. But other than that, I've just wanted to watch TV, escape into books, eat, and sleep.  And cry.

It's painful being on the blogosphere without Sid, without being able to talk about each others' posts, to send each other links half a dozen times a day, "You've got to read THIS one!"  She was an expert Tweeter, and had promised to show me all the ins and outs of the beast I still can't manage well.  I am about to calendar our crit group's first meeting since, well, since, and remove her from the address book. That thought burns, probably why I've been putting it off.

I've dreamed about her; you know, that classic denial dream where the whole death thing was all a mistake. Just a big silly misunderstanding.

And then I wake up.

I know as time goes on, I will feel less overwhelmed. I totally appreciate that people understand so much more about grief, these days. Not getting too much of the "It's all for the best," or "Jesus wanted the prettiest flowers for his garden," well-meaning but non-helpful condolences we all used to get in the past.

For now, I don't much want to blog, or visit other blogs. Could be, shortly, I become the Mad Blogger all over again, with thoughts and emotions itching to be expressed in cyberspace, and that's okay, too. I am trying to give myself the time and space and support I would give to another friend going through the same loss.  To let myself feel sad, angry, bereft, guilty, helpless, betrayed, alone, confused, determined... to feel whatever I need to feel, in the moment, rather than trying to talk myself into feeling some other, "more acceptable" feeling.

So, if you've been visiting here over the past month, and thinking, WTH, why is that rude woman not following blog etiquette and visiting back?!  It's me, not you. I'm sorry; I know I've been very rude. I've actually visited some blogs back, and sat there, staring, unable to type a word. Right now I am emotionally clawing my way out of a dark, deep hole. But I will be back, and I appreciate your patience and understanding.

I do want to put out a plea - if YOU are in an emotionally abusive relationship (whether you're male or female), please don't wait until you are at the end of your rope to reach for help, or to leave. View any of the October posts here for links and phone numbers that can help you.
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