Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bad Luck and Trouble (Not the Lee Child novel)

Did you hear about the woman who got struck by lightning and blown into the path of a semi while diving to get out from under a meteorite that had been chasing her for three blocks? In the rain?


Well, if you do, it'll probably be me.

My car broke down.


This time it went belly-up in the middle of Mile Long Bridge. Just before midday. In a construction zone. I finally got it started again but it died twice more. The last time I couldn't get it going so I pushed it into a ditch and walked the rest of the way to work, getting there only ten minutes late.

I'd started an hour early so I could eat breakfast.

That was Tuesday. It's still sitting where it finally ended up (on the Walmart lot, fortunately, after I got a call from the Sheriff's Department!) waiting for my nephews to be free to either fix it or help me haul it to a shop (the water pump has apparently come out of the closet and realized its lifelong ambition to be a fountain instead). They were going to help me this morning, but last night their step-father had a stroke.

The curse affects everyone around me!

My brother-in-law is going to be okay, fortunately, and tomorrow the boys are going to help me fix my car, barring unforseen complications (which, frankly, I foresee). Actually, fixing the car is my second choice. My first plan, which I'm still rooting for, is for one of the jets flying training missions out of Whiteman to accidentally drop something big and heavy on it and then for the government to buy me a new car.

Of course, with my luck if they DID drop something, they'd probably miss the car and hit *me*.


Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm Drunk

"I taste a liquor never brewed" as Emily Dickensen had it. After a long dry spell, I'm writing again. Yesterday I finished the second chapter of the book I'm working on and today I think it's quite likely that I'll write the third. I can see at least the first third of the book with a clarity that had been eluding me. Words flow again. I'm getting scenes and passages that don't feel forced and emotions that ring true.

I've also started a short story featuring one of my characters and several of my older short stories are demanding a good edit and airing. I have two other books in my head with complete plots and breathing characters and I'm getting a glimmer of a plot for the third book in the series I'm actually working on.

Oh, to have four more hands and two more keyboards! And time!

Writing is a glorious thing!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The "F" Word

Last week Janet Reid had a post about a writer whose publisher dropped him because they got tired of him sending them "F-you" emails. Naturally, all her good little clients got on the comment board to reassure her that we would never do something like that, and for the most part I suspect we were all telling the truth.

It occurs to me, on reflection, though, that there was one time in my life when I did actually swear at someone. It happened like this:

Many, many yahrens* ago when I was a junior in college, an administrative error left a couple hundred of us without housing. After a couple of months in a temporary dorm where nothing got fixed, it wasn't a good idea to unpack because you didn't know how long you'd be there, and my roommate kept locking me out so she could have sex with her boyfriend, I wound up sharing a tiny apartment with three women I barely knew. Sherri and Monee I got along with fine (though they couldn't stand one another), but Lillian and I hit it off like bleach and ammonia.

Lillian was deeply-repressed fundamentalist Christian and a rabid conservative. The first thing we clashed over was homosexuality. She told me one day, very sanctimoniously, that she didn't believe gays were actually evil, they were just sick and needed to be cured. I have a half-brother and some very good friends who are gay and so I took exception on their behalf. She thought that I was probably a lesbian myself but wouldn't admit it to her. I thought she was probably a lesbian but wouldn't admit it to herself. She thought I was a dangerous, bleeding-heart liberal. I thought she was insane.

So, anyway . . . . After we'd been living together awhile a problem came up regarding the food we each brought in the house. Sherri and Lillian were both relatively well-off, going to school and living on money from home. Monee and I were poor as the proverbial church mouse, relying on scholarships, Pell grants and student loans to pay our tuition and scraping by on what we could make by working when we weren't in class. In Sherri and Lillian's eyes, anything in the kitchen was fair game, so that Monee and I, who could least afford it, kept coming home to suppers that were no longer there.

Finally we sat down and discussed it with them. At first they were both indignant. After all, they bought food too and they weren't telling us we couldn't eat it. Since we lived together we should be like a family? And, considering there were four of us and each of us despised one of the other three, they may have had something there. Still, that wasn't a solution either Monee or I was comfortable with. I'm not entirely sure why, but I think it may have been, at least in part, the fierce pride of the very poor. We were struggling mightily, but we were supporting ourselves. I don't need your food, thank you. I am able to buy my own. And for me, there was another complication. I'm a vegetarian, so if someone ate what I'd bought for dinner, there wasn't necessarily going to be anything among their groceries to replace it.

After a long discussion they agreed that we would each treat our groceries as our own and not take anything that didn't belong to us without at least asking. Sherri conceded gracefully, Lillian, less so. How much less so I was to discover a couple of nights later.

At the time she and I were the only ones home. I had been in class all morning, then worked all day, and I was trying to catch up with my homework so I could get up the next morning and do it all over. Lillian, puttering around in the tiny kitchen, decided to make popcorn.

"I think I'll make some popcorn, Loretta. Is this your popcorn, Loretta? Do you mind if I make some popcorn?"

I sighed. "No, it's not my popcorn. Do whatever you want."

"Of course, I'll want some butter for the popcorn. Is this your butter, Loretta? Can I use some of this butter, Loretta?"

"Yes, that's fine." I had transferred in from a junior college with an associate's degree that counted as the core work for my major, but my 8 AM art history lecture assumed that I had taken prerequisites that I had, in fact, not.

"Oh, and salt! Is this your salt, Loretta? Do you mind if I use a little salt, Loretta?"

"I don't know whose salt it is. Go ahead."

"I'm going to need a pan to melt the butter. Is this your pan, Loretta? Can I use this pan?"

"That's fine."

"Oh, and a fork to stir the butter too. Is this your fork, Loretta? Can I use your fork."


"And this is your popcorn popper too, isn't it, Loretta? Can I use that? Is that all right? Do you mind if I use your popcorn popper?"

At this point I put down my pen and said, "Lillian, I do not give a damn if you use the fucking popcorn popper."

She went to bed.

Turned everything off, went into her darkened room without a word and climbed under the covers with her clothes still on.

Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

MAJOR guilt.

I was always taught to be kind to others. Don't hurt people's feelings. If you can't say something nice about someone . . . . And PROFANITY! Ladies don't swear! They certainly don't say the "F-word"! Strong language is the refuge of those who aren't intelligent enough to think of a better way to express themselves.

Finally I got up, went into her room and said, "I'm sorry I lost my temper with you."

In the glow coming in the window from the streetlights I could see her give me a smug, self-satisfied little smile. "I forgive you," she said very sweetly.

And at that point I very nearly cussed her out again, but I decided it wasn't worth the aggravation so I just turned around and went back to my books.

*For those of you who recognize the term "yahrens" I'd just like to be clear that this is a reference to the original BG and not to the popular but hopelessly bastardized modern version, which I refuse to even look at on the grounds that Starbuck's not a woman, dammit! He's a GUY! A really cute GUY! And when I was twelve I had a crush on him and a dog named after him and everything! So he's NOT a chick! Sheesh!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mea Culpa

Sorry about the rotten weather, everybody. It's my fault. I took vacation days.

What was I thinking?

See, I was supposed to go to Scene of the Crime Conference in Kansas so I asked for time off. But the main reason I was going was to meet my agent in person, so when she changed her plans I decided not to spend the money. Since I already had the time off work, I figured I'd just relax and enjoy it.

After all, it's April in Missouri. It's spring! It's time for singing birds and blooming flowers and balmy breezes before the summer sauna sets in.

It snowed yesterday.

Don't mind me, lurking here by the fire pouting and being gloomy. I complain, but actually, I'm just glad that none of the tornadoes hit me personally.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Reasons why I am . . .

SOOO not as psycho as Christopher McMannana.

Okay, so a while back I was telling my friend and co-worker, Christopher, about the time I drowned my sister. It happened like this: I had gotten into a fight with my sister Dorothy because she was trying to force me to get a haircut that I neither wanted nor could afford. I was working as a substitute teacher at the time (I realized I was not cut out for teaching when I found myself standing over a bleeding five-year-old with my hands on my hips saying, "what made that seem like a good idea?"). The next day I was supposed to sub in her granddaughter's class and Dorothy was afraid I was going to embarrass the little darling because I didn't look "cool" enough. When I tried to politely decline a trip to the beauty parlor she got hateful and insulting and told me that I dressed like an old woman. She said that long hair was completely out. I pointed out that she herself had long hair and she said, "yes, but when I go out I put it up!"

"I put mine up!" I objected. "It's up right now!"

She glared at me. "Yes, but you put it up wrong."

Anyway, by the time I got home I was steaming mad. Now, I don't know if you've ever played Roller Coaster Tycoon, but if not, it's a computer game where you build amusement parks and have to attract guests and make a profit. You get an operating budget and you can build rides and attractions and hire little guys who all look alike to be handymen, maintenance workers, security guards, or panda-suited entertainers. The main goal is to attract guests, which are also a bunch of little guys who all look alike (but wear different colored clothes). If you let the program name the guests it will give some of them women's names, but they all look like little guys. Now, I had discovered early on that it's possible to kill these little guys. I accidentally dropped Handyman 14 in the lake. He floundered around for a few seconds, then sank out of sight and a little alarm sounded and a message flashed across the screen that said "Handyman 14 just drowned!"

I was very sad for him.

In this instance, though, a good drowning was just what the doctor ordered. I went home, opened the game, found a really cranky little guy and named him Dorothy. It was a desert-themed game so I had to build a moat, then I dropped him in. He floundered around for a few seconds and sank out of sight. A little alarm sounded and a message flashed across the screen that said, "Dorothy just drowned!" and I pumped my fist in the air and said, "YES!"

(And then I put a swinging ship ride in the moat and named it the Dead Dorothy.)

Anyway, I was telling Christopher this story and he shook his head and said, "sheesh! And you call ME psycho!" Clearly this suggests that he thinks I am more psycho than he is, but I am not and so I'd like to take this opportunity to defend my non-psychoness.

Reasons I am NOT as psycho as Christopher McMannana:

1. I do not have a plan for turning everyone in Warsaw, Missouri, into a zombie "with just one drop of zombie serum . . ."

2. Nor a contingency plan in case someone else manages to turn them into zombies first.

3. I do not know how to film an exploding head.

4. I have never sighed and said, "you know, sometimes I really wish my [spouse] was a zombie!" (Granted I don't *have* a spouse, but even if I did that statement would still be true.)

5. I have never asked my teenaged son to let me shave off all his hair and eyebrows and paint his head white. (Christopher makes homemade horror movies, if you hadn't guessed.)

6. I have never plotted to kill Frozen Jason the Jason formerly known as Frozen. (Okay, so maybe I have -- who hasn't? -- but I was never serious!

7. I have never cut my kneecap in half with a chainsaw without noticing!.

8. I have never impaled myself on a tractor.

9. I have never cut the crotch out of the pants I was wearing with a chainsaw!!! (And keep in mind that Christopher is a guy. That adds extra exclamation marks to that statement.)

10. And finally and most conclusively, I have NEVER eaten a stale popcorn and Miracle Whip sandwich!

And on that note I rest my case!