Tuesday, July 31, 2012

H2O - Just Add Kid

My daughter and I are a bit depressed, since we just reached the end of all three seasons of H2O - Just Add Water. If you have a kid and are looking for some entertainment, then you can't do better than this Aussie series about three girls who become mermaids.
This is with Bella, the new girl, not Emma - but, oh well.

It's won't win any prizes for poetic dialogue, and for that I blame the sitcom format. We streamed the shows on Netflix, and even though there were no commercials, I could tell where a plug for bread was supposed to go. That meant that the director had to insert a laugh or a "Hey I wonder what this all means" frown on a character's face.

Despite that, it was the characters that sucked us both in. Cleo, Rikki, and Emma, the three girls, were charming and realistic. Not only that, there was real character development over the course of the series.

My kid is 8, and she was fascinated. "Can we watch one more?" was the constant cry over the past few weeks. As a mom, I was really happy to see close friendship between girls. There was some boyfriend and girlfriend stuff, but it was all of the Disney channel variety, with an occasional kiss thrown in. And I'm happy to have kisses over backstabbing and violence any day.

The special effects were great. The mermaid tails were convincing, and the scenes where the girls find their powers and manipulate water were really well done.
SO want to do that.

I also loved the scenery, especially in the scenes filmed on "Mako Island," the magical place where the girls actually become mermaids.

As someone who loves paranormal elements and fantasy in general, it was great to see a series that wedded them with real life drama. Cleo in particular was convincing as she deals with her dad getting remarried and an annoying little sister.

My daughter and I were sad when we came to the end of the series. It's not often that you find a show that is imaginative and fascinating for the 7 and up crowd. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lily Tomlin and Pop Music

I read an article this morning about a computer study of pop music. Its conclusion : "Pop music has become louder and less original over the years."   (source AFP) 
The group must not have looked at the songs of Nicki Minaj, since they seem pretty original to me, but fair enough. I suppose there is a tendency to riff from older songs. Tell me Windows Down by Big Time Rush isn't the same concept as Song 2 by Blur, hmmm?
Lily Tomlin once said, "I'm afraid drugs are making us more creative than we really are." As the music industry moves from garage bands fighting windmills and personal demons to industry-controlled "discoveries" from reality shows, perhaps music is becoming more similar and less creative. I'd still argue that Taylor Swift's songs expose personal corners of her heart that are breathtaking and simple at the same time. 
But is it Nights in White Satin? Is it Tales of Ulysses by Cream? Or Chantilly Lace?
I like the stuff my kid listens to on the radio, although I have to say there seems to be a certain similarity to the songs. They are either about glitter and dirt and the night after, or love (of course.) Thank you, Katy Perry, for bringing in the paranormal element, and Lady Gaga for confronting political demons. But where are the songs that are about a Russian Visionary? Euro disco in the 70's was talking about Ra Ra Rasputin.
If you look back farther than the music industry, to the 40's or even the 20's, songs and music become even more different and strange: the lyrics of Stardust, Rhapsody in Blue, Corrine Corrina, and Valencia are like poetry. 
I'm not dissing modern music. Hey, I hum along. But do I think that someone who takes a chance, a leap outside the norm, such as Nicki or Katy, tend to stand out. When producers allow that flight of fancy, then beautiful things happen.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What Shall I do Today? I know, I’ll Create My Own World!

Today's blog comes to us via David Brown, the author of A World Apart and Fezariu's Epiphany. I begged him for a post on world building, and he really came through for me. Thanks so much, David, for being a fun person to know and for writing such a fantastic post.

Don’t be misled by that title. I’d like to think my creation of the world of Elenchera began as just a spontaneous thought and all fell into place easily from there but it sadly wasn’t the case. Where shall I begin?
I’d always been a fan of fantasy. In my childhood films such as Labyrinth and The Neverending Story were amongst my personal favourites. I always did okay when it came to creative writing and when I left secondary school my English teacher told me to stick with prose and poetry as he believed I had talent. That was 1998. In 1999 I created the world of Elenchera. I’m getting ahead of myself.
In late 1998 when I was studying at college I discovered the RPG series Final Fantasy on Playstation and in playing instalments VII and VIII I not only found inspiration but also was led to Norse mythology and the Icelandic Sagas. All of those influences morphed into an insistent catalyst and I suddenly grabbed a large sheet of paper and drew the world of Elenchera. This was a poor drawing in pencil, traced over in pen and then coloured in with crayons so very basic stuff.
Having a map already answered many questions for me about how the world history would develop. Settlements should be near a source of water for instance. If the land is mostly desert you’d want to live along the coast, right? The best advice I can think of with world building is to ask yourself as many questions as you can about every land, town, mountain range, ocean, river and forest etc. With a world map I could establish which lands would potentially trade with each other or even worse go to war in search of conquest and annexation. I know that might sound annoying but readers are not fools and will spot glaring errors.
From the world map I produced a map for each individual land and repeated this process for each age of history in Elenchera, known as Shards, of which there are twenty-five. At present I have 500+ maps which is a daunting figure but I’m sorry to say that is true. I once had a lot of time on my hands and the patience to go through all those maps which I’m not sure I could face doing now.
Drawing maps is one thing but building that history is quite another. I’ve always loved history and tended to get good grades at school and my passion for the subject remains undiminished. To build Elenchera I turned to Cassell’s World History which chronicles all the important events in our history from the earliest fossils to the 21st century. It proved to be an invaluable resource for me.
As I went through the book I jotted down all the events in history that interested me and adapted them into the Elencheran timelines. I began with Elenchera as a large landmass and in the First Shard devised a way for it to be broken up. From that devastation I decided if the oceans froze it would facilitate migrations throughout the world. Eventually the ice melts and with the rising water twenty-three lands are left which develop independently of one another.
Having built that platform I spent ten years effectively developing twenty-three stories as the separate lands are fully settled and grow from small communities into thriving societies. There is cross-referencing as the lands interact with each other and in the Twelfth Shard things become very epic when lands in East Elenchera discover those in the west, giving rise to an age of discovery, imperialism and colonisation. If that sounds like Columbus discovering America in 1492 then it’s no coincidence!
Keeping track of twenty-three lands and how they interact both internally and externally is far from straightforward. World building is hard work but the reason I spent more than ten years doing it is because I wanted a solid background for the Elencheran Chronicles novels. I did try writing novels in the early stages of the history but they didn’t have enough substance to give them any real credibility as fantasy novels in my opinion. With the history in place I can ask questions of lands and towns and have the answers at my disposal. It’s been a long journey getting there but having that resource to hand when writing now has made it all worth it.   

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ouch, My Feet!

I just came from Heidi Klum's fun blog, where she features 50 Wacky Shoes today. There are heelless boots, flame stilettoes, Pikachu sandals ... (really.)

Here's the thing. I'm all for creativity, but suffering for fashion, not so much. Flip through the 50 pairs of wackiness, and just take a look at the poor toes. Some of them are already misshapen from years of mistreatment, and I can, through synthesis, just see the pain.

They are screaming OUCH, people!

Here is another portrait of foot torture in process. Now, I think Jennifer Lopez is adorable, and she is a real beauty. I'm all about J Lo, and she looked great in this crystal dress when she wore it to Some Awards Or Another.

But look at the toe on her left foot! It's as though the poor thing has tried to crawl away from the shoe and hide from the agony.

Just tell me, TELL ME, that when she got into her limo she didn't drag those heels off with a loud sigh of relief.

I won't appall you with pictures of the indignities foisted on feet in the name of fashion. Do take a look at some of these things that designers have had the gall to actually try and sell, though:

Actually, those last ones are sort of amazing. I can think of a few people who could do with a swift kick in their seat of the trousers with those guys.

If you are into high, uncomfortable shoes, I don't judge you. I'll admire your gorgeous outfit and footwear from afar, as I slouch by in my old, extremely comfortable Target flip flops.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

American Girl

My kid wants an American Girl Doll. Have you seen ho much those things cost? She has saved up the money herself, so I can't say No. 

But I know that the doll is what Nancy Mitford called The Thin End of the Wedge. It will open a floodgate of new things to want - clothes of course, doll furniture, accessories, pets for the doll - heck, those things even have horses, braces, and entire kitchens.

Here's where I have to stop and admit that she already has TWO American Girl Dolls. I went to Ebay, since I thought, lots of girls will want to get rid of their AGD's when they go to college, I bet. (That's how long my kid will hang onto hers, at a price like that. She doesn't know it yet, but it's true.)

However, I hadn't counted on the adult AGD collectors. There are people out there who buy these things, and for what purpose I wonder? Just to HAVE? Or do these women (and men too, maybe, who knows) wait until everyone goes to bed and then play with their doll collection? "Here comes Abigail, on her way to the party, doo da doo da doo..."

The point is, I didn't get such a big price break as I thought I would. In fact, I had to learn to game the system to win anything at all.

Kid is into those movies, too. Kitt Kittredge, A Girl of the Depression, Molly in the Second World War ... yeah, I eat that stuff up. The films are squeaky clean, have good messages, and guess what - the stories are good! And exciting! My kid was totally totally into the McKenna special that ran on TV a few weeks back. And we own Kitt's story, which is my personal favorite.

Sure, these movies present history through a misty, rosy lens, but here's the thing - They PRESENT HISTORY. Genna is now aware of the Depression, and she knows about World War II and how it affected everyone in the States. 

So, those dolls are crazy, wicked expensive, but - I get the point. At least I think I do.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Sixth Dimension

There are some writers who can make things come alive in their books. Their style has a compelling quality, a gravitational pull that keeps the reader glued to the book past her bedtime. "Just one more chapter," she thinks, turning the page and ignoring the clock.

One thing that makes that style fascinating is an awareness of the sixth dimension. The worlds those writers create aren't just filled with exciting action and adventure and romance. Those little, spinning planets have color and depth. They are alive.

My go-to book as an example of this is Jane Eyre. The settings in the book: Gateshead, Lowood, Moor House, and of course, Thornefield are real places. I can picture the Red Room, the attics, and the sick room where Helen Burns died.

But more than that, I can taste the burnt porridge, smell the smoke from the fire in the night, feel the worn flagstones under my feet, hear that eerie Ha Ha! from the madwoman in the attic.

Mervyn Peake is another writer who makes his books come alive, almost too much so. His Gormenghast is filled with color and amazement, as in the Flint Tower, the red, close set eyes of Steerpike, and the sullen, ugly-beautiful Fuschia.
Gormenghast Castle

It is vital, then, to create a world for readers that has color, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Slice the apple, hear the thump of the knife in the cutting board, smell the white flesh, taste the tart fruit. 

And there is another element. Those sights and sounds must support a central story, whether it is romance or adventure or both. The velvet under our fingers, the woodsmoke in our hair, the train whistle disappearing in the distance, all must advance the sixth sense - that what was not real before is now alive.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Punk Rock Days

July, 1977.  I was in London visiting relatives, and I was seventeen. My sister and I were following a crowd of friends as they negotiated the Tube, when I spotted a crew of - I didn't know what they were. The boys sported huge mohawks , and the girls! They were exotic, with bright blue and red hair, see-through plastic jeans, and safety pins through their earlobes.

"It's a group of punks," one of our English friends hissed. "They hang out on Kings' Road all the time." We were hurried away. Still, the image had burned itself into my mind - the bright colors and dark stares of that group.

Fast forward to September. Back at school. Another friend, this one from my hometown, introduced me to the music of Iggy Pop. It was fast and furious, with a killer drumbeat that wouldn't let go. "We could go to see him, you know," she said. "He's playing The Tower."

I had  never been to a concert before. I had no idea what clothes to wear, nor any money to go shopping. I made a star out of tin foil and glued it to my face. I put on old jeans and older  boots.

Every seat in The Tower  was a great seat. We were so close to the stage that we could see every face of the guys in the opening band, a new group called The Ramones. Joey stood in his classic  stance, one foot forward, one back, and sang about little Ramona and Gabba Gabba Hey and the Blitzkrieg Bop.

My friend and I jumped around and screamed and sang. It was awesome.

Iggy Pop was carried onto the stage in a trashcan. He had a smile that completely changed his face and made his eyes sparkle and crackle in the dark. My heart flipped over.

He sang Lust for Life, Tonight, and The Passenger. We screamed and jumped and danced some more.

Out in the cool autumn night, I realized my star was gone. Our ears rang in the sudden silence. We climbed into my friend's tiny VW and put-putted home.

I am a passenger
And I ride and I ride
I ride through the city's backside
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, they're bright in a hollow sky

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Breaking Up with Robbins

It hurts to fall out of love. Of course, it is very painful to be the one fallen out of love with, but I've found that breaking up with someone is a very difficult thing to do. You have to work up the nerve to break it to a person that you no longer want them in your life, and that is tough.

As a reader, it hurts to fall out of love with authors. I loved certain books when I was at different stages of my life. Later, when I went to reread those books, it was with a shock that I no longer Got It. 

The main example (and please don't yell at me, fans of his) is Tom Robbins. I adored Another Roadside Attraction and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues in college. Those books made perfect sense to me. Sissy Hankshaw, with her lovely face and huge thumbs, hitchhiked her way right into my heart and stayed there for years.

The images in the books, like the huge hot dog in Another Roadside Attraction, caught me. Robbins's writing was electric, colorful, psychedelic, and - naughty. It gave me ideas about religion and politics that I had never entertained before. 

And women - the way he celebrated women was exuberant. I had never encountered anything like it.

I was in love.

College ended. I stopped hanging out in rooms filled with the smell of cigarette smoke, patchouli, and oil paint. Suits replaced the bright satin harem pants in my closet. I went to work.

Still Life with Woodpecker came out a few years later, and my friends and I excitedly rushed to buy it. I can still remember the feeling as I opened that book about a redheaded princess and a pack of Camels.


It was deflating to realize that I no longer got it. "Yes, but how do they buy groceries?" was my thought. My head had shifted to an entirely different place.

Even Cowgirls seemed gimmicky. And Roadside, as beautiful and trippy as it was, had become naive in my new take on the world. Plus, I saw that it wasn't ok to create characters and ignore them for long sections of the book, and throw in a paragraph near the end saying, "Sorry I ignored this character for so long, but I'm going to keep doing it." Cough, Baby Thor, cough.

I was breaking up with Robbins.

I still like the thought of Tom Robbins and his books. You can tell the man loves words and adores creating his long, looped sentences. 

And somewhere, there is a girl in bright harem pants, chuckling over the description of the Cowgirls's stampede against feminine products. She just isn't me, any longer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Great Reading Spots

My mother was born near Dublin. Ever year, she scrimped and saved her small assistant lit professor salary so we could visit her parents. They lived in Sandycove, in an old house by the sea. It even had a name, Carrig-na-Chattan, which mean House by the Sea in Irish (go figure.)

My sister and I slept in our grandparents' room. There were two single, mismatched beds side by side, an old fireplace, and three large windows comprised of old, wavy glass held together, I believe, with lead.

One of those windows had a low seat inside. When I climbed in with a book and closed the curtains, it was the perfect reading spot. Ivy cascaded over the glass; in fact, several tendrils had forced their way right inside.

On a rainy day, it was like sitting in a Bathysphere. I would take my old, falling apart copy of The Youngest Girl in the Form or The Faraway Tree and read for hours.

I love my current house, but it just doesn't have a great reading spot. For one thing, my husband loves overhead lights, fixed right to the ceiling. They are trendy and attractive, but not cozy. We don't have a window seat or even enough book shelves.

Let's take a look at some gorgeous reading spots, just so I can drool:

Nice load of books and a lovely room, but I might need a cozier chair

Now that looks cozy.

And here is my window seat!

Monday, July 16, 2012


It happened again Saturday night, the shattering realization that I had woken up from a bad dream about an old boyfriend - don't ask - and I couldn't get back to sleep. The sheets were twisted around my legs, the air was sultry, and I could hear the rattles of my husbands snores. (Was very happy that it was him there, though, and not the boyfriend from the dream. )

At last I gave up. Articles on insomnia say that the best thing is to get out of bed and do something relaxing, like reading in a cozy chair.  So I scrambled downstairs. I managed to step on every single creaky board in the floor, too. 

Poured myself a glass of milk. Settled myself in the chair. Opened my book, Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, and tried to read.

As good as that book was, my hazy brain couldn't fathom the complex plot and rapid-fire stream of consciousness that Harkaway uses. I disobeyed all common logic and wisdom and, yes, I opened up the computer. 

Forty minutes later, I told myself, "Hey, dumbass, it's time to get some sleep." I was pretty certain that my child would be waking me up early, since it was the weekend after all. Sleeping in is saved for the weekdays, when I have to drag her out of bed, with many a grumble. Why is that?

I took a calcium pill with the last of my milk and plodded up the steps. By this time the room had cooled down, and I was able to black out. 

Until the next morning, when someone was shaking my shoulder. "Get up and make me waffles, mommy!" Didn't I tell you?

Insomnia is a dreadful thing. It's a self-perpetuating condition, one that I treat at times with natural sleep aids. The pills laced with melatonin and chamomile probably don't really work, but I'll take that placebo effect over being up for several hours when I want to write AND be a mom the next day.

The milk and the calcium help too. So does the relaxing activity I suppose, although I have yet to find one that I can do in the throes of interrupted slumber. Maybe I should take up ceramics or just sort my recipes or something.

Meditation might help, but I'm just not good at quieting down my brain. I'll say to myself, "OK, now I have to think of nothing. Nothing, there's a weird word. No thing. Nada. Rien. Hey, remember that girl who sat next to me in 9th grade French class? She was cool. Wonder what she's doing now ..."

Yeah. Imagine that going on, except to the nth degree.

For me it's just easier and faster to pop the natural sleep aid if the milk doesn't work.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Updating the Reading List

I've made it through my summer reading list, and it's only July. Luckily there are loads of good books to add.

My friend just told me Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn is really good. Apparently it has lots of twists and turns, and I always like that. So it's going on my list.

Since I have an upstairs book and a downstairs book, I'm also going to read The Last Guardian by Joan Hazel. I've been waiting for this one for quite some time, as I mentioned here, so I am excited to add it to my list.

How did I never find Nick Harkaway before? I just discovered Angelmaker and it is going right on my list. First, it features a guy called Spork. The setting is by the Thames, and it features a clockmaker. But the setting is modern and urban and gritty, LOVE it, and the writing is imaginative without being twee. 

I'm not usually a reader of books about crime investigation, but I loved Salt Bowl Death by Cypher Lx so much that I need more. So Darkest Before Dawn is on my list. The author works for law enforcement in Philadelphia, so I'm excited to see her take on the genre.
Cypher Lx. Girlfriend is cool.

This isn't in the reading category, but I really enjoyed the last interactive puzzle book I got from the Grabarchuk puzzle creators. So I want to try their most popular title, 100 Puzzle Quizzes. 

This should keep me going for a bit, and I'll be back to let you know my thoughts on the books. Until then, what are you reading? 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Yesterday I had my day all planned. I was going to take my kid to camp, come home, and write the start to Chapter 17 in The South Sea Bubble. I would have a healthy lunch, and go and collect the kid. We would both go to Costco and do a shopping trip, since I had COUPONS! (add sound of celestial choir singing.)

We would go home and I'd do a quick workout. My husband was supposed to be away for work, so once I got the kid in bed I could do some more work and complete an edit I'm doing for Ross Kitson, the author of Darkness Rising.

Yeah, none of that happened. Here's how the day went: 

Over coffee, hubby announced that he was going to cancel his business trip. 

Workers showed up early and began making loud noises with their machinery. I was expecting them at noon, so I had to run around and hide toys and folded laundry, to pretend I'm a real adult and have a clean house.

When I got back from camp, ready to write, the power went out. It came back on only when I was about to leave to pick up the child.

I never got that lunch, since I was busy with the workers and the laundry. I had a hot dog at Costco instead - you know, that 1.50 lunch that actually is my very favorite lunch. (I'm a cheap date.)

We shopped at Costco and it turned out, in the checkout line, that the coupons didn't start until the next day. Did I ever check the dates? NOPE

By the time I got home and stored all the stuff that I had bought anyway, since I certainly wasn't going to waste a trip to Costco, I had such a killer headache that I could only collapse limply on the sofa and watch Soul Surfer with my kid.

She did pretend to be surfing off the couch on a cushion while the film was going on, so there's that. It must have been fun, because she did it about a gafrillion times. 

That couch surfing saved what would have been a *#$* day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Love You, Grown Up Writers Who Act Like Grown Ups!

I have some strong feelings about bad reviews, which I shared with you here. Those reviews are a fact of every author's life, and a well-written bad review can actually give a writer a great deal of insight into her work. It's a new perspective from someone who just doesn't get your stuff, and it is very valuable.

Most writers deal with bad reviews very gracefully. They act like grown ups, in other words. They read the review and leave it as is, which is a great way to go, or they thank the reviewer for the added perspective.

These grown up writers do the right thing, and I Love Them. Or You, if you are one.

What these grown up writers who act like grown ups do NOT do is complain about the review, cry, whine, threaten the reviewer with a correspondingly bad review, and rant about it in public forums. 

Writers who do that are not acting like grown ups, and I do not love them.

Luckily, it doesn't happen very often. Writers are polite and pleasant for the most part. So when it does happen, when someone decides to act like a child in front of the entire universe, it blows up and everyone comes running to see the train wreck. 

I'm not going to mention the names involved, since the author of the review has decided to act like an Extra Mature Grown Up and not publicize this (even if doing so would further her career, since all observers sympathize with her.)

But I must offer this as a cautionary tale. And it is a chance to say it again - those of you who act like pleasant grown ups - I love and respect you.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Losing Beauty by Johanna Garth

I've wanted to read this book for over a year now. Losing Beauty was on my Summer Reading List along with some other books, and I finally found time to get to it. And it was certainly worth the wait.

Persey is a girl who inspires confidences. When people look into her eyes they find themselves telling her everything - EVERYTHING - about themselves. This attracts several boys, primarily Aaron, who wants to put aside his high-school jock image and protect her.

Persey and Aaron get married and move to the city. There she meets Daniel Hartnett, who has a talent of his own. He knows the truth about people before they say a word to him, to the point that he can make any woman fall in love with him.

Of course, when Daniel meets Persey he finds that she is a complete surprise. He, like the others, falls in love with her.

This plot in the hands of a lesser writer could fall apart. What makes the book stand is the characters. Persey is beautiful, but she is also real. I liked her. She is honest and lacks confidence, and this makes her story all the more compelling.
Johanna Garth

And it is the same with the men she meets. Aaron is not a cardboard cutout high school athlete; Garth breathes life into him as well so he becomes a living, breathing person that I cared about.

As handsome and attractive as Daniel is, he is also human. The relationship between him and the married Persey is handled very delicately.

But the biggest tour de force is Haden, who is actually the lord of the underworld. He is ruthless, and he inhabits several different human bodies - and yet I even cared about what happened to him. Again, this tie-in with mythology could be hokey or forced with a lesser writer, but Garth handles it really well.

The thing is, Garth has discovered the secret of compelling writing. As I read Losing Beauty, I wanted to find out what what would happen next. I kept at the book one night until two AM, and I like my sleep.

I highly recommend this book for a great beach read.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Power Outage

Saturday evening we were out by the pool. It was an ungodly hot day, and the air still steamed even though it was nighttime. My kid and I played Otter in the water and my husband watched lazily from the side, beer in hand.
NOT our pool.

I began to notice that my kid was getting harder to see. I looked up, and the sky had turned a weird, greenish-black color. We realized that one doozey of a storm was about to erupt.

We rushed inside, leaving a trail of drips behind us. The sky got blacker and - twistier - and all of a sudden - it struck.

Wind slammed the house along with a deafening clap of thunder. Rain blasted the windows. The dark sky lit up with forks of lightning, and when they passed, the house stayed in darkness.

The power was out.

When you lose electricity, the house moans a defeated "Ahhhhhh" as it settles into silence. The storm had been so violent and fast-moving that the sun came back out.

Our reaction was one of disbelief when we looked out the windows. Everything had been blown down - chairs, umbrellas, tree limbs, our cool little fig tree... It was amazing how much damage had racked up in less than ten minutes.

Time to hunt for candles! I pulled out jars, old birthday candles, anything I could find. My husband and I told each other, for the fiftieth time, that it really was time to get a decent flashlight. 

We settled in the family room and played Uno by candlelight. Our kid won both games. Up to bed, since she was yawning by this time, and she insisted on sleeping with us in the deep darkness (can't blame her.)

Hub and I went out again to survey the wreckage. It was still hot, and I jumped back in the pool to cool off. He joined me and we swam in darkness lit only by the little reading lamp I usually keep by the bed.

The woods are "dark, and deep" and they have a lot of noises going on when there's a power outage, let me tell you. All kinds of things rustle around in there. Without AC units going or the hum of TV's, nature gets really loud, really fast. 

I was refreshed but creeped out. We dried off again and headed to bed.

And that's when it got HOT, and not in a good way. Keep in mind that 

a) I'm a menopausal woman and don't deal with heat well anyway
b) We had a kid in our bed who seems to heat up to lava temp whilst sleeping
and c)No AC, no fan

and you can perhaps imagine the misery. My husband fell asleep right away; I was not so lucky.

I got up and went down to the basement. It was cool down there, but I could hardly sleep among the boxes. Plus, weren't there spiders and bugs down there? Yeah, not happening.

Ended up on the couch with open windows, gasping for a breeze. Eventually I did drift off.

For those who live without power in the heat, I salute you. My mom was pregnant in the summer - TWICE - in Arizona. In the sixties. Which means that there wasn't any AC happening in that house. And she had just moved from Ireland. How the hell did she manage that I'd like to know?

Because I couldn't even make it one night.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Art of the Martini

I'm a sucker for a martini. Pour anything into one of those inconveniently shaped glasses, and all of a sudden we've got a party. Vodka is my liquor of choice, but there are many drinks you can make in a shaker and strain into a martini glass. 

Let's start with a vodka martini - I go for Grey Goose myself. Put some ice in a shaker and add a few drops of dry vermouth. Swirl those around and discard. Add more ice and a few shots of vodka.

Now, I like mine very dirty, so I pour some olive brine into that mix. Strain into a glass and add a few blue-cheese stuffed olives. Serve with some tasty nibbles, like dates wrapped in bacon. 

Make certain that really smooth lounge music is on the stereo, and don't forget to change into a muumuu! Or, lounge pajamas. 

For the Fourth of July, I made something called a Citrus Paradise. It was invented by an 8 year old, but we adults stole her recipe and heartlessly added vodka. 

Pour fresh lemonade (the kind you buy in the store that is NOT made from concentrate) into a blender. Add some freshly squeezed lime, lemon, orange, and a few shots of fresh orange juice (the kind that is like the lemonade.) Add 10 - 12 cubes of ice. Blend. 
Do NOT forget those Martini Fashions!

At this point the kids will want a glass of the concoction. Pour them some glasses (they get Red Solo Cups though) and bogart the rest for yourself. 

Add a shot of vodka to each of the martini glasses you will be serving up. Fill with blender mix and stir.  It's a nice touch to plop a lemon or lime slice on the rim.

Oh the refreshment of that drink on a hot summer's day!

I'm also a big fan of expresso martinis. Those suckers are a bit tricky. You need to start with cold, brewed expresso. 

Chill the martini glasses with ice while you mix the drinks. Just plop some cubes in those babies and get ready to shake.

Pour a shot of vodka, a shot of Kahlua, and a shot of cold expresso for each drink into the mixer with ice. 

If you like your martini sweeter, you can add a shot of simple syrup (sugar water) and / or creme de cacao.

Shake for at least ten seconds. That will give you a nice bit of froth on the top of the drink. 

Pour into the chilled glasses, and you can float some expresso beans on the top of the froth. If they are chocolate covered expresso beans, then you will have my whole attention. 

One warning with that drink: serve enough of them, and the crowd turns into a bunch of wide awake, "lively" people. Not that it's a bad thing, but you might want to change the music to tropical lounge or Bond Themes to keep up.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Quiet Girl

She doesn't attract a lot of attention. Her friends are funny and get loads of laughs. People don't notice the one in the corner, at the end of the table.

She goes to college. Others win awards for brilliance and attract huge crowds of friends. She goes out, is social, but somehow she fades into the background.

Through junior and senior year, into real life where she gets a job, she wishes that she was more vibrant, more alive. That she could tell a story or a joke and make the whole room listen. That when she walked into a party, everyone would stop and look and be happy that she arrived. But when she speaks, somehow people don't hear her soft voice.

People like her, but they say that she is "very quiet." And so she is. She discovers that it is best if she holds back, is the audience, allows others to have center stage.

And as life continues, the quiet girl keeps observing. It's second nature to her to watch a conversation on a train between a pair of lovers. To see a family have a squabble after church. She sees how two people have a long chat at a party, but she also sees how the talk is filled with undertones and hidden meanings. 

She sees how one gesture can convey an entire range of emotions. How one sentence can destroy a mood. And how very often people say too much when they don't intend to.

The quiet girl writes stories. The conversations and interactions she watched her entire life now flow onto the page. She is able to create characters that live and breathe because she has been an observer for so long. 

She begins to suspect that her silence, her ability to blend into the background, is something else. She has an extra layer of protective coloring that allows her to watch what happens. And since she is so nondescript, no one realizes that she is there.

Perhaps, after all, this silence is a gift.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cool Science Stuff

Truth really is stranger than fiction. Teleportation, the "God Particle," and quantum computers are the stuff of scifi, but if you read the news they are more real than you think.

Now, I am not very bright when it comes to science. In fact, I failed Chemistry (the only class I couldn't crack) and didn't even attempt physics. Still, I love science in principal, even if I can't understand it, and I like to celebrate cool stuff that scientists do.

Number one today has to be the discovery of the "God Particle" or boson, aka a new subatomic particle. How cool is this? It's the glue, the stuff that makes atoms clump together into stars and planets. Without it, the universe would be a soup of particles whizzing around at the speed of light. 

Here's a cool science fact: The tidal forces of the Moon don't just affect the ocean. They also affect dry land, which can rise and fall as much as 21 inches.

They're getting closer to that quantum computer, too - a group of Harvard scientists were able to create quantum bits and store information on them for two seconds. Now, two seconds doesn't sound like a lot to a clueless geek like me. But that is six orders of magnitude greater than the previous time stored, which makes this a huge breakthrough. 

Which means that my Crown Phoenix typewriter could be a reality soon.

We can't beam anyone up yet, but it is possible to teleport information using quantum entanglement. I don't know what that means, but it's pretty darn cool. The real world applications are huge - transporting medical info through skin, for example. And this year scientists at A*STAR worked on an actual tractor beam, using something called a Bessel beam that actually pushes particles towards a light source.

So, I may not be able to understand it, but I am a big scifi fan. And all of this stuff is pretty darn cool.