Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It seems like I've been waiting for this year to end since it started.

I've been thinking over 2009 and trying to come up with something cheerful to say, something that will spin the negative into positive (which I'm very good at), but I keep getting stuck. The two things that stand out are getting Owen over the summer, and my grandmother finally coming home in mid-December. Other than that, meh.

(Well, meeting my writing friends and my middle school friends ALSO ranks quite high...)

This year has been tough for more people than I could ever list here, in more ways than I really should list here (and believe me, I wrote a two-page post that does not need to see the light of pixels), so instead let's raise a toast to 2010.

*raises fat-free Hazelnut-creamer laden coffee above head*

Here's to you!

I stopped making resolutions years ago, but if you have any, let's hear 'em!

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Snowing!

I know everyone in the Midwest and on the east coast is probably sick to death of the snow, but it thrills me to see everything coated in a couple inches of the white stuff. Yes, I may change my mind when I'm driving to Kalamazoon later today, but for now it's so pretty!

The hockey game on Saturday was a lot of fun. Our seats were on center ice, and while we weren't exactly on the glass, we had an awesome view (well, we did when the tall guys in front of us went to buy beer).

The pie-baking and side-dish making for Christmas dinner went better than expected. I was most impressed with my ability to get everything on the table at the same time. Generally I'm very good with timing and never keep anyone waiting -- except for cooking. Inevitably the vegetable will be the first thing ready and we spend ten minutes waiting for the rice while the meat "sets" longer than it needs to.

I'm at my sister's right now and we're getting ready to run a couple errands (including Target!!!) then we'll camp on the couch watching movies until it's time for my middle-school get-together. Tomorrow morning I head back to Detroit for my final week of caring for my grandmother. Did I tell you I extended my stay until the 6th? Hopefully my house and my dog will still be standing when I get there.

I hope you had a good weekend and have a wonderful week.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'm in the Huffington Post!

My aunt has an article in the Huffington Post called What's the Oldest Item in Your Refrigerator?

I am "the niece." I also took the picture.

I wasn't planning to tell my gramma that I took pictures, but I guess the cat's out of the bag. Now I'm off to the grocery store to restock her salad dressing and bbq sauce.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So You Think You're a Writer?

I've mentioned before that I struggle to come up with story ideas. Most of my writer friends talk about having entire notebooks full of ideas and they often struggle with choosing one thing to focus on. Not me.

Don't get me wrong, my mind is always going and a day doesn't go by without me making up a story about something or someone I encounter, but these ideas are just fleeting things... nothing worthy of an entire novel. Or even short story.

The week before I flew home (so two weeks ago? I've lost track) I came up with an idea for my next novel. I wrote the first couple paragraphs, I did a rough timeline since it covers almost fifty years, then I hopped on a plane excited to start writing.

Then I got tired.

Then I arrived in Chicago, then Michigan, and then I chatted with my aunt the writer and she encouraged me to think more about YA. And think I did.

During one of my numerous drives to the hospital last week, the premise for a YA novel surfaced. I say premise because I still have no idea what the actual story will be -- I only have the premise. If you aren't familiar with the concept, the dictionary defines premise as "a proposition supporting or helping to support a conclusion." Yeah.

Since I don't want to talk about my idea just yet, an example of premise would be a young boy wizard goes to a school for wizards. The story is what happens. That's the part I still need.

Nonetheless, this new character has been in my head (not talking much just yet) and during a 5am check on my grandmother, my character spit out a prologue and an opening paragraph. I already have blank spaces because I need to define the thing that makes up the premise, and I'm excited to get online and do some research.

I was about to do just that when suddenly I remembered I'm supposed to be doing research for my other idea. Whoops. So now I know how the rest of you feel.

Monday, December 21, 2009

That's Not the Garbage

Whew! It's been a long couple days. (I should note I'm writing this Sunday evening and I'm a little loopy). After a roller-coaster of a week (ahem), my grandmother was released from the hospital on Sunday and is now back in her apartment. She's already refered to me as her cook and bottle washer several times, but she enjoyed the first meal I cooked for her so I don't think she'll ride me too hard. ;)

I saw my first snow in almost three years over the weekend and despite my baby-deer-like legs and uncooperative front-wheel-drive vehicle, I made it to all my destinations in one piece. And did I mention I now have a pre-paid cell phone? BIG WEEK.

One hurdle my grandmother and I have yet to comepletely overcome is figuring out how she'll get my attention in the middle of the night if she needs something. For the past ten weeks she's had a button within arm's reach that brings nurses and aides running (in theory anyway) and no matter how nicely she smiled, they wouldn't let her take one home (the button, not the aide, although that could be helpful).

Our solution? A little brass bell.

We're not sure if it'll be loud enough though. While I'm not a deep sleeper, I have learned to sleep through a lot of odd noises and a gentle tinkling in the next room (the bell... the bell...) may not be enough to rouse me. Plus, as you may recall (I can't track down the post, I'm sorry), there are a lot of bells in our neighborhood in the morning -- specifically, the trash collectors -- and I've trained myself to block them out. Hopefully the fancy bell will break through my defenses.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Mexico City Airport

I’ve heard horror stories about the Mexico City (DF) airport but aside from ridiculously long waits in between flights, I’ve never really had any problems.

On Friday my plane landed in DF at 11am and I had a whole plan for how I was going to amuse myself until my flight at 3:40pm. I figured my biggest problem would be not falling asleep from sheer boredom and missing my flight.

Let’s just say I didn’t get bored.

When I checked in at the Zihua airport I was told I’d need to get my boarding pass for the connection once I landed. Okay, no big deal. Well, an hour and a half later I finally had that boarding pass and arrived at my connecting gate. The longest I waited in line was maybe five minutes, so that was 85 minutes of schlepping across the DF airport, going from one counter to the next to the next, then yet one more. No one seemed to know exactly where I was supposed to go, but that didn’t stop them from giving me a destination, all of which involved going “way way down there, all the way to the end, then turn left.”

The most bizarre was when I was told I had to go to Terminal One. My instructions were something along the lines of “go way way down, all the way on the left, then go outside and at the very end there’s a white bus.”

“A bus? Not a train?”

“A bus.”

Sure enough, I walked outside (with the cabs, etc) and at the very end was a white bus surrounded by a little rope. Two women sat at a folding table and were checking IDs before you could board. Shortly after I got on the bus took off on the main road that normal cars drive on – not an airport access road. Then someone emerged from behind a bush and opened a large gate and we entered the actual runway. We even had to stop to let planes go by! (This was the point that I started looking around for hidden cameras, convinced we were either filming a movie or I was part of some prank show.) We meandered past hangars and planes and luggage carts. Apparently that was just a shortcut because we came to another gate where we were let back onto the street.

Or we tried to get back onto the street. See, there was a parade going by and no one wanted to let us in. The man who’d opened the gate stepped into the 4-lane road to stop traffic, but they kept driving around him. Finally another bus let us through. A few minutes later we pulled up to Terminal One and I only had to go to two more counters before I finally got my boarding pass.

In the midst of all this I was asking everyone I talked to where I was supposed to get my FM3 visa stamped because I somehow missed that step when I came to the States in August and they didn’t want to let me back in the country. Once again, everyone agreed with me that “yes, you would have problems if you didn’t have it stamped, but I’m not the person who does it, but if you go way down there then turn left, you should find the person that can help you.” I did eventually find the proper counter.

After all that, I still had three hours to kill, then a four-hour plane ride. I’ve never been happier to see cold weather.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What a Weekend!

Sorry for the silence – I had a whirlwind of a weekend in Chicago, then took the train to Detroit on Monday to see my grandmother and was promptly rerouted to the ER. Nine hours later she finally got a room and my aunt and I were able to get to sleep. As of right now she should be released back to her home on Wednesday so my nursemaid skills (ha) will still be put to use.

Now about this weekend. I flew in Friday night and had dinner with a friend, then breakfast with another friend, and Saturday afternoon the AW mayhem began. Fortunately I’d seen photos of everyone so I was able to spot AB from across the street, I picked Trish out in a crowded room, and fled when I saw the Monkey*. Angie was the sweetest zebra I’d ever met & Ray handled five woman quite well. I’d met Rachel before and we picked right up where we’d left off last September.**

I also squeezed in a visit with my cousin on Sunday evening before joining the AWers again at a dueling piano bar (where we completely took over the joint, naturally). I lost my voice each evening and caught a migraine somewhere between Ohio & Michigan Ave, all of which I blame on the monkey.

The train ride from Chicago to Detroit was nothing like I imagined. There was snow, but the train rocked A LOT and I somehow ended up seated next to the exhaust thingy. Let’s just say I bought breakfast on the train and the breakfast never left the train. Not fun. I haven’t started working on my new novel yet and I think I need a few more days rest before I get to it.

Now, what’d I miss?

* I don’t really have anything to note here, but those of you who know him should understand…
** And that’s all I can say about this weekend in public. ;) Actually, there’s a thread on AW with photos, if you’re so inclined.

Friday, December 11, 2009

All Packed & Ready to Go!

By 8pm this evening I should* be eating Thai food and doing my best to keep my skin from flaking off. Small sacrifices for a couple weeks at home.

In addition to all the exciting things I mentioned earlier this week, there's a chance I'll get to see several of my friends from MIDDLE school. As in 1990.


I should have regular internet access starting Monday, but I plan to cut back my posts to 2-3 times per week. I'll know better once I'm at my grandmother's and settled in. I finished the second draft of After the Fall Wednesday night and word on the street is two of my beta readers have already started reading.

Go beta readers!

Sorry, I'm a little excited. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and as for those certain writer friends, I'll see YOU tomorrow!

*Assuming the blizzard takes a breather and allows my plane to land. Cross your fingers people!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friendly Books

In honor of my mother's birthday (Happy birthday Mom!), I have books to tell you about!


My friend Kelly Meding's debut novel, Three Days to Dead, came out last week and I've been told there's a copy waiting for me in Chicago. I cannot WAIT!

She’s young, deadly, and hunted—with only three days to solve her own murder…

When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab at the morgue – in a stranger’s body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there – her troubles are only just beginning. Before that night, she and the other two members of her Triad were star bounty hunters — mercilessly cleansing the city of the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampires to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives, but also convinced the city’s other Hunters that Evy was a traitor . . . and she can’t even remember what it was.

Now she’s a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal some serious justice – and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days, Evy will die again – but this time, there’s no second chance…


My friend Jennifer Caddell has a short story in the newly released What If?, a collection of science fiction short stories.

A collection of short science fiction stories that finally answer the classic question, What If?

I'm so proud of her. This is her first publication credit and it's a printed book! Much more impressive than a measly online pub. Go Jen!


My friend Stacey Graham has a short story in the zombie anthology, Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance.

I'm not a zombie person, but her Zombie Dating Guide (her current wip) has me itching to read about them.

Zombies are everywhere. You can't escape. So you might as well fall in love.

In the pages of HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE, the very first zombie romance anthology ever, you'll find romantic stories about loving a zombie, love stories between zombies and a tale of love and lust during the zombie Apocalypse. There are funny zombie stories, a zombie story that will make you cry, and even a few that might make you blush. We have zombie noir and zombie paranormal romance. You will be amazed at the scope of zombie lovin'. There's something for everyone in this star-studded collection, including stories by New York Times best-selling authors John Skipp (writing as Gina McQueen) and Brian Keene.

Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Peek

I may be asking for trouble here, but while reading my wip last night I came across this passage and had to share. I think it may be my favorite.

Becca and Justin are seventeen-year old next-door neighbors and she's still freaking out from the attack that I posted on Monday. She has a hard time getting close to him and the past couple times he's tried to kiss her she panicked.

"It's okay," she whispered, and he kissed her. Heat flooded through her and she tightened her grip on his hand. He didn't put his arms around her like he normally did, so she rested her other hand in the crook of his arm and traced his bicep with her fingers. Their lips parted and he pressed harder. Justin's free hand found her thigh and she moved closer, her senses spinning out of control. Something in the back corner of her mind watched over her, waiting for the fear to come. She tried to lose herself in the softness of his lips, in the sigh that came from deep in his throat and mingled with her breath, but the fear wiggled in, a pinprick of light that grew brighter and brighter until her body tensed and sweat trickled down her back. The light blinded her, squeezing her lungs until she thought she might die right there in Justin's arms. But she refused to give in. She loved Justin and couldn't bear to hurt him, to make him feel like he had to pay for his father's sins. She broke away from the kiss and smiled, pretending her chest wasn't about to explode.

Hmm, that's a little steamier than I realized. I also just realized that I'm two for two with sweat trickling down the person's back. I swear this doesn't happen that often.

Again, feel free to leave comments. Now pardon me while I get all smooshy inside.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday Stuff and Things

I've got a lot swirling in my head right now because I'm really excited to go home this weekend and nothing coherent is forming for a post so... I'll give you a peek inside my head.

I won't actually go to my HOME until after Christmas, but just being near my friends & family is enough. In addition to the trip itself, the following things keep distracting me from doing anything productive:

- When I arrive on Friday I will finally get to cuddle with my netbook. Squee! I've started taking notes for my new novel and I plan to work on the outline while traveling on Friday. During reading breaks, of course (Middlesex -- loving it).

- On Saturday I'm getting together with six of my writing friends for the very first time. If the conversations over the past couple days are any indication, I may never be the same.

- On Monday I'm taking the train from Chicago to Detroit and my plan is to start writing then. I'll have roughly five hours of uninterrupted ME time (assuming no one interesting sits near me) and the idea of writing on a train while traveling across three states in the snow sounds so magical. Yes, I realize something will likely derail (*snort*) this plan, but I can dream.

- Sometime next week my grandmother will be released home (or into the wild, as I've been joking) and I get her all to myself.

And that's just five minutes worth of swirling. Aside from the general holiday hoopla, do you have anything exciting that you're looking forward to?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shiny New First Page

Several writing friends have recently posted excerpts of their wips, and as I tweaked my first page all weekend, I thought I'd share. Please feel free to leave any criticisms -- they help me more than praise. Enjoy.

After the Fall -- Chapter 1

A thump from down the hall echoed into Greg's subconscious and forced his eyes open. He stared at the ceiling, listening to the hush that enveloped the house, and soon the familiar quiet lulled his eyes closed and he burrowed his head deeper into the pillow.

The distinct squeak of bedsprings made him lean up on one elbow. One of the girls must be awake.

A muffled cry made him sit upright.


Becca! He fumbled for his glasses and scrambled out of bed.

"What's the matter?" Janet rolled towards him, her face buried in the blankets.

"I heard something." He glanced at her arm, draped casually across his pillow, then hurried from the room and rushed down the hall. Sweat beaded on his forehead, his upper lip. It was probably just a bad dream. But she stopped having nightmares years ago.

The nightlight in the bathroom shone onto the carpeted hallway and stopped at Becca's closed door.

Was he overreacting? He reached for the doorknob and stepped into the room.

Moonlight filtered through the curtains and bounced off the bare back of a man bent over his daughter. The man had her upper body pinned beneath him and her legs flailed as she bucked on the mattress.

Oh God!

"Daddy!" she screamed.

The man turned his masked head for a moment but didn't let go.

Greg's stomach rolled but adrenaline propelled him forward and he grabbed the man by the shoulders. With one pull Greg threw him to the ground and lashed out, striking his head, shoulders, neck, until his hands found his way around the man's throat. He turned his head to shield his face from the man's fists and pressed his neck into the carpet. "Becca, are you hurt?"


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Like a Duck to Water

Or something like that.

Schnauzers aren't known for their prowess in the water, but apparently no one told my husband because on our last beach outing he decided Owen would learn how to swim.

And swim he did.

Prior to last week the only times I'd seen Owen actually IN the water was when he was itty bitty and Ibis carried him out much farther than I was comfortable with. Since then I've only seen him run along shore, chasing Ibis and barking in this high-pitched yip that sounded more like a squeaky toy than an animal.

I couldn't believe it when I looked out at the water and saw Ibis running backwards in waist-deep water, Owen paddling after him. They went back and forth, back and forth, until me, being the ever-paranoid person that I am yelled for Ibis to give Owen a rest. When they came ashore I asked if Owen seemed like he was having fun or if the look on his face was more of a OMG! OMG! GET ME OUT OF THIS WATER NOW! type thing, and he said it was kind of a combination of the two.

I'm just happy he can swim.

There was also a lot of running, jumping, barking, leaping, and general chaos. And digging. Lots of digging. How the sand only stuck to his nose, I don't know.

I swear he wasn't as miserable as he looks here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Shiny New Idea

I haz one.

It's too soon to share details, but I've been hoping something would come to me in time for my trip home, and it has.

Right now I'm getting to know my main character and figuring out the plot. Thinking about the story for several weeks before actually writing worked well for me with NaNo last year, and I'm hoping the same will be true this time around. This is another women's fiction and I'm beginning to think that's my niche.

This makes the third novel idea that's really grabbed me, and as this will be my third novel, I've got my fingers crossed that I can see it all the way through.

Have you had an idea really grab you lately? About anything?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Contents Under Pressure May Grow Abnormaly Large & Scare the Bejeezus Out of You

Remember the ticks? Do I have a story for you.

First let me explain that we have large sheets of two-inch thick styrofoam on several walls and most of the ceiling. You know how those cheap coolers keep things amazingly cold? Well, we were hoping that sealing ourselves in would have a similar effect and keep the heat OUT. We're on the end of the building so the sun hits us from sun-up to sun-down and the first couple months here were HOT.

The styrofoam does a reasonable job and we've painted it the same color as the walls so most people don't even notice our homemade insulation. (Just ask Mary.) We have to be careful not to bump it because as you may be aware, styrofoam crumbles pretty easily. Even elbows and fingernails can take big chunks out.

Now back to the ticks. About a month ago we had quite a few of the creatures crawling all over our bedroom. Most nights I'd be just getting into bed when I'd see one scurry across the floor, so I'd get up, get a tissue, and toss it in the toilet. I'd get back into bed and STUPIDLY look at the wall and see another one, even though I SWEAR I just checked when I still had a tissue in my hand.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Well one night I saw one of the black ones that look like a water bug on the wall with the styrofoam and I just couldn't bring myself to get up again so I did what any normal person would do: I shoved it deeper into the styrofoam and blocked it's escape.

This would be the time when you should glance at the title of this post.


Oh... about a week or so later I was making the bed when I noticed a black thing roughly the size of a dime but in DIAMETER emerging from the depths of the styrofoam. I screamed for Ibis and together we stood there, jaws hanging on the floor.

I mean, seriously? What the heck was it eating in there?

He eventually popped it out with a pencil and the mongo-tick joined his brothers in Mexico's water system. We found another one about the same size the following day, and I hope to GOD that's the last we see of those.


Did you know ticks could get that big?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Subtle Touch

My time away from my blog last week was well used -- I got through my entire wip (officially Draft Number Two) and I'm almost ready to send it to my next round of beta readers (be warned beta readers).

I've mentioned before that I seem to write cleaner first drafts than I realized, and so often when I'm editing I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I don't cut large chunks of prose, I don't hack away at my characters... things stay pretty close to the way I originally wrote them. But because I hear about my writing friends and their editing processes (procesi?) I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something important.

Well, I finally did some honest to goodness EDITING. I rewrote entire pages. Even -- gasp! -- cut a couple paragraphs! In once instance I actually rewrote a scene from a different point of view. (That was tricky yet surprisingly fun.)

I'm currently beta reading for a friend and once I finish I plan to do another pass on my own wip. I need to tighten the father's POV in the earlier chapters and I'm considering changing up the opening scene. Right now I have him "bolting upright in bed", something I keep hearing is beyond cliche, and I have it so the father hears a commotion down the hall, but the mother, who's sleeping in bed next to him, does not. I think if I have him already awake that will resolve that issue. I'm thinking about having him going to the bathroom but don't really want to open my book with a flushing toilet.

One exciting (to me) thing that happened during my editing is I worked the title of my wip, After the Fall, into the story. I love when I'm reading and I come across the title that way. I always wonder if the author incorporated it after she came up with the title, or if she inserted it like I did. Either way, it always makes me smile, like I'm included in an inside joke.

For my writing friends, do you slip your title into your manuscripts? And you non-writers, do you notice when the title appears in the book you're reading?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Free at Last

On the heels of yesterday's post (aren't they all?), I have more exciting news: I'm getting one of these:

It's an HP Mini netbook and it should be arriving at my parents' doorstep this afternoon. SQUEE!!

It's roughly 6" x 10" and has a 6.5 hour battery, perfect for long flights and even longer afternoons at the beach. I'm sure many of you already understand the beauty of a laptop so you can sympathize with the fact that for all of my computing life I've been shackled to a desktop computer. A pretty amazing desktop computer, sure, but some days the last thing I want to do is sit at my desk for hours on end.

As you may be aware, I'm a Mac baby, and HP is a PC. I do know how to use Windows (sort of) and since my primary purpose for the netbook will be writing, I'm not too concerned that it's a different operating system than my Mac. I did an informal poll on Facebook and Twitter and almost everyone recommended this netbook PLUS I hear it not only comes with Solitaire, but it also has BEJEWELED!! Double squee!

(In case you live under a rock, I waste hours a day playing Bejeweled.)

My dad is letting me borrow his Verizon card so I'll have internet while I'm staying with my grandmother and since the netbook has a webcam, I'll be able to talk to my honey anytime I want. I mean, I'll be able to write all day. Yeah, that's what I meant.

Ooh, pretty.

Monday, November 30, 2009

White Christmas


Whew! That was a relaxing break. Did you have a nice holiday? Anything new and exciting to share? A lot has happened in the past week but rather than tell you everything in one post, I'm going to string you along.

The most exciting news is I'm heading home for the holidays!

If you recall, my grandmother had spinal surgery in October, and she's been in and out of the hospital and rehab facility/nursing home ever since. She is healing but will need assistance her first couple weeks back in her apartment, and that's where I come in. My wonderful mother offered to fly me home to play nursemaid/grocery shopper/Christmas-tree decorator/game aficionado for her first couple weeks at home.

My mom and aunt have shouldered the bulk of the responsibility, so my being there will relieve them for a bit and allow them to catch up on two month's worth of work/cleaning/family obligations. I'll fly into Chicago December 11th and because of a trip my parents' already had planned, I won't actually see them until midway through my visit, but I will get to see my aunt and lots of cousins.

Even more exciting, several of my friends from Absolute Write have a get-together planned the same weekend I arrive in Chicago, so I'll get to meet several of my friends! One is staying with me so we'll really get to know each other. ;)

I won't return to Zihua until December 29th and I'm a little concerned about leaving my boys for so long, especially now that Ibis is working again. Owen is used to me being here 24/7 and while Ibis understands that I'm just going for a visit, Owen doesn't seem to understand what I'm telling him. I am leaving the house more often so he sort of gets used to being without me, but there's only so much preparing we can do. Our neighbor has offered to look in on him midway through Ibis' workday, so hopefully that will help.

Now please excuse me while I dig out my sweaters and mittens. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

See You on the 30th

I've decided to take next week off from blogging. I figure with Thanksgiving and traveling (you, not me), and who knows what else you all have going on, there won't be many people hanging around. I'll still be here reading your blogs, so for those of you sticking around, I look forward to spending a couple extra minutes with you each day.

Happy Thanksgiving, and if you're traveling, be safe!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


As promised, I've started cooking again and yesterday I remembered to bring the camera along. We've been craving Thai food since the first week of January, 2007 (we moved here Jan 1st, 2007) and FINALLY have the ingredients to make a proper meal. But it took several friends to make it happen.

Friend of the blog Mary was here last month and our first night hanging out we mentioned how much we missed Thai food, especially curry. Another couple was joining them here two days later, so she emailed them and voila, curry paste.

The coconut milk arrived at my doorstep Wednesday morning via a recent friend we've met around town. She told me last week that she hasn't been able to find it anywhere but she found a stray can in her kitchen and donated it to the cause. How sweet is that? She's heading to Morelia this weekend so we're hoping she brings back a few more cans.

Now, onto the cooking. Via.

This meal was pretty basic: chicken, coconut milk, peanut butter, sugar, curry paste, salt, onion, and rice.

This looks so gross I just had to take a picture. Here I'm simmering the milk, peanut butter, sugar and curry while the rice boils.

Mmm, chicken.

Oh, hi!

The finished product. It wasn't nearly as spicy as we hoped for, but the flavor was awesome and I will definitely make this again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I'd like to take a moment to show my appreciation for words. Yes, words. All of them. Long ones, short ones, crazy ones that have all the vowels or happen to end in -ly. (Yes, even those.)

It seems the majority of my waking life revolves around words, whether I'm talking, writing, reading, or playing Scrabble. What would I do without them? I like sports and watching the sunrise, but my mind is always swirling with words, words, words.

One of my favorites is discombobulate: to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate. If you knew me in person you might realize that seriously is a word I'd like to say more often, but my loving husband has finally worked out of my system. My most frequent words are probably and uhh -- always used together in the place of silence when trying to keep my train of thought. (Something I lose A LOT.)

What about you? What's your favorite, and which do you say the most? Bonus if it irritates the bejeezus out of someone close to you.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And Poof, It's Gone

Where did my motivation go? Remember a while back -- you know, on FRIDAY -- when I was all excited about the possibilities at our fingertips? Yeah, now I'm discouraged again. I have a feeling this is going to be a regular thing until we actually find jobs.

Are you Canadian and interested in sponsoring a needy family? Just let me know...

In all seriousness, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir with most of this. A lot of people are out of work and struggling to not only make ends meet, but keep their sanity, especially as the holidays approach. The only good news is Ibis starts a new job next week so we'll have steady income for the first time since May. Just don't ask how much. Ree-diculous.

When he goes back to work, not only will I have hours and hours to myself, I'll have to resume my cooking duties. As many of you know, my husband is a wonderful cook and when he lost his job, that responsibility fell to him. It's been rather nice having a live-in chef, but I think a paycheck is more important. You can look forward to more cooking photos and/or posts in the near future.

*smiles at the one person who cheered half-heartedly*

My hope is I can get on even more of a schedule than I'm on now so I can finish this draft of my wip, find a job AND cook killer meals. Right.

Do you have any favorite recipes that don't require an oven?

Monday, November 16, 2009

'Tis the Season

It's that time of year again. The last of the rainclouds have floated away and with the permanent sunshine comes the tourists. In previous winters we've had an average of 1-2 cruise ships per week, but they stopped coming at the end of February, I'm assuming because of the triple whammy that struck Mexico last year: drug violence, swine flu, and the tanking economy.

None of those factors have gone away, but like anything, the more we hear about a problem in the news, etc, the more apathetic we become. People want to get on with their lives and if a cruise along the Pacific coast of Mexico is what they want, they won't let a little danger/sickness/lack of funds stop them!

In all seriousness, we have noticed an increase in the number of non-Mexicans strolling around downtown, even on days when there isn't a floating hotel in the bay.

Do you have any travel plans this winter, or is the economy keeping you home?

This picture was taken from the roof of our building. Not a bad view, eh?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From Puppy to Dog

When exactly do you start calling a puppy a dog? A year? That seems to make the most sense to me. While I know we're still months away from that transition, we are seeing progress with Owen that makes all our training efforts worthwhile.

He's starting to sit when people come to visit (which is helping with the excitable peeing that keeps happening), he only jumps up once or twice when we have food on the couch, and he doesn't try to eat my ponytail while I'm doing sit-ups. He does still lick my face, but I'll take that.

He still cries like someone just cut his heart out whenever we leave, but I can't expect him to act like a big boy overnight, right? He also makes other animal noise -- cat, bird, turkey, you name it -- but we're hoping those stick around.


Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Making the Most of It

Since getting the news at the end of September that Ibis would not be allowed into the US, I've experienced pretty much every emotion imaginable. Anger, grief, despair, sadness, frustration -- but also hope.

If you read some of the same blogs I do you may have heard me say that a common theme in my novels in hope, and I think that comes directly from my life. I've always been an optimistic person, someone who tries to see the best in every person and every situation, and the recent events in our lives is no different. Don't get me wrong, I've had many many moments where I question what I'm doing, but I'm figuring out how to move past that and look at the bigger picture.

At a minimum, Ibis won't be allowed into the US for another seven years (realistically it'll be eight or nine) so we need to make fairly long-term plans. I'd like wherever we live next to be our home, not just another place where we serve our time. Yes, it's very hard right now -- searching for jobs in another country is even more deflating than looking in your own city, or even state -- but I try to look at it that in a year, we'll be in a new place with new jobs, finally living our lives.

As I mentioned before, we'd like to move to Canada -- preferably Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, or Edmonton -- but we're keeping our options open. When the US said no, that opened the door to the entire world. Have you ever dreamed about moving to another country halfway around the world? Well we have that option. Who says we can't move to Europe or Australia? We'll have to go through an immigration process no matter where we go, so why not aim high?

Having this freedom has done a lot for my mental health and I've noticed a huge change in my behavior over the past month and a half. The weight of waiting is off my chest and I'm breathing easier and finally feeling more optimistic about the future.

Where would you move if the whole world was open to you?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flash Fiction Thursday

Here's the prompt at Lurker Monkey's blog this month. Spooky, eh?

My story was posted yesterday, but I want to share here since this is my very first scary (or creepy) story. Enjoy.


The sludge oozed around my feet, a syrupy slime that congealed around my ankles, chilling me from the inside out. It was getting higher. Just moments before the tips of my toes were still dry, but I could no longer see them through the muddy goop that seeped beneath the door.

The door.

I rested my hand against the splintered wood, then traced my fingers along the rusted metal band that held the planks in place. How long would it hold? The others whispered that nothing could keep it out, that there was no use hoping for escape.

I stepped closer to the door and peered through a small hole near the top, fighting the sludge that clung to my feet and pulled me back down like it didn't want me to see what was coming. An ocean drowned the streets and anything unfortunate enough to be out there when the manhole covers first erupted like a rolling boil, spewing the thick black—what exactly was this? It looked like molasses—sludge into the air. Except it was ice cold.

"Is it bad?"

I turned my head at his raspy voice but ignored his question. He didn't want to know what was out there. Didn't believe it anyway.

A scream made me turn away from the door. The two women huddled against the far wall were scrambling over each other, reaching for the pipe that ran along the length of the ceiling. The younger woman grabbed her friend's shoulder and, with a quick yank to free her feet from the muck, leapt for the ceiling and grasped the pipe.

A deep groan echoed through the dank room.

He turned to face them. "It won't hold you."

The young woman's eyes darted his way, then back to the other woman. "Yes it will. Jump, Matusa."

Matusa swatted at her legs and a tremor ran through her corpulent frame. She looked up at the younger woman and slowly shook her head. Tears slid down her cheeks.

"You can."

It didn't make a difference to me. Dangling from a pipe would only delay the inevitable; fighting for five extra minutes wasn't how I planned to die.

Matusa tried to jump but the sludge had her by the knees.

It was rising faster.

Panic rocked through me and I was sure my heart would stop—it wasn't meant to beat this fast. I glared at him, still smug against the wall, and fought to control my breathing when my skin began to crawl.

I looked down at my own legs, but it wasn't my skin that was crawling.

Tiny white creatures swarmed over my pants, undulating upwards in an eerie dance that mesmerized me. Now I understood the women's screams. They wormed through the hole in the door and I snapped into action, beating my legs, my torso, my arms, desperate to get them off me.

I eyed the pipe. Maybe five extra minutes was worth it.

But it was too late. The powerful sludge pulled at my hips, trapping me next to the door. I cast a desperate glance at him, but it was too late for that, too.

The terrible moaning grew louder and the pipe shattered, sending slivers of metal raining into my flesh, into the sludge.

Unable to move—even my arms were trapped now—I watched the blood trickle down my chest as if it was someone else standing here, some other fool who didn't run when she had the chance. If only he had believed. The metallic odor reached the creatures and they moved faster, devouring the warm liquid that was so different from the muck that carried them here.

The screams began again but I couldn't tear my eyes away from what was happening to me. Was this how they died? I had assumed they drowned, smothered by the sludge—no one said anything about creatures feasting on their flesh. But how could they? There would be no way for that part of the story to pass on to the others.

An unnatural brightness filled the room, and the dark walls became white as the creatures searched for food.

I could hear him choking, gasping. Trying to speak. His voice came out a hiss. "S-s-s-s…sorry."

But it was too late.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slurp This

Last night I was scrolling through Twitter for a blog topic when my friend Benjamin mentioned earning a Slurpee if he reached his word count.

Mmm, Slurpees. Wonderful sugar and ice and artificial flavors blended together in the perfect combination to deliver a one-two punch to my throat. (I don't get brain freeze -- I get it in my throat, which really makes a lot more sense if you think about it.)

We may not have Slurpees here, but we have something equally delicious and just as thirst-quenching on a hot sunny day: flavored waters. I know, I know, that doesn't sound very exciting, but they really do call them aguas. I've seen every flavor under the sun -- naranja (orange), piña (pineapple), fresa (strawberry), melón (melon), horchata (rice milk), limón (lime), and the one that always makes me giggle and we probably drink it the most, jamaica (NOT ground-up Jamaicans).

Jamaica (pronounced huh-mai-ka) is made from a dried flower that they boil, similar to the way you make tea, then they add sugar and ice. It's bright reddish purple and very sweet and I can pretty much guarantee if a restaurant serves flavored waters, they have jamaica. You can also buy them from street vendors, but because of the water issues here, I generally only buy them from actual establishments. There's a chain of stores called La Michoacana that sells waters and paletas (popcicles that are the same flavors as the water) and there's one nearly on every corner.

One thing that took me awhile to get used to is while you can get your flavored water in a cup, for the most part they come in a plastic bag. The vendor pours in the liquid, sticks in a straw, then ties a knot about a third of the way down. You then carry it by the knot. The only down side is it's nearly impossible to set them down without spilling, but otherwise it's kind of fun drinking out of a clear plastic bag. I'm especially impressed by how quickly little kids figure it out. You can't walk down the street without seeing someone carrying a bag full of colorful water.

Have you ever drank out of a plastic bag?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

*gasps for breath*

I don't usually read James Patterson's books, but Sunday I finished reading his latest, Sail, "co-written" by Howard Roughan. It's about a family that goes on a two-month sailing trip and encounters disaster after disaster. The quote on the back says "Written with blistering pace and shocking twists… SAIL takes Lost and Survivor to a new level of terror."

Now, I wouldn't necessarily call Sail terrifying, but it was an exciting read and an interesting story. But I noticed something about the way I was reading that never used to happen to me -- anytime I got caught up in the story and whipped through four or five pages in a blur, I'd stop and marvel at the fact that printed words had me gasping for breath along with the characters.

How'd they (he) do that?

I'd flip back a couple pages and skim over what I'd just read to figure out (or deconstruct as some might call it) exactly how the author elicited a physical response from me, then see if there's a way to do that with my own writing. My current novel is certainly no thriller, but I have some tense scenes that leave my characters struggling for breath and I'd love to cause that reaction in the reader as well.

I have several writing friends who regularly analyze novels to get to the root of what the author is doing and see how they can learn from that process. It's always seemed like a lot of work to me, but for the first time I understand how it can be useful to me as a writer.

Thanks Mr. Patterson!

Do you analyze books that you read for pleasure, or do you keep your writing and reading minds separate?


My niece turns sixteen today, so if you live in Michigan, keep a close eye on your rearview mirror! Happy birthday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Do As I Say...

Last week I talked about having common sense when posting things on the internet and reminded everyone that nothing is private -- that it can be seen by anyone and everyone. On Sunday that point was brought home for me.

On Friday I wrote about a US airman who was killed in Ciudad Juarez, and Sunday afternoon a friend of that person commented on that post. Despite my efforts to choose my words carefully, I still managed to upset this person.

*waits while you read the comment, if you so choose*

Now, I could get defensive and huff and puff that this person doesn't know me and clearly hasn't read my other posts, but what happened proves my point exactly. Even though I take care to present myself in a way that would never require an apology on my part, that very thing happened. If you google the incident, that blog post shows up. People who normally would never stumble across my blog -- like the airman's friends and family -- are introduced to me via that post. It's not their responsibility to skim through old posts to get a better understanding of where I'm coming from, it's my responsibility to make sure I'm clear the first time around.

I apologized in my comments and I meant it. Of course I'm not glad anyone died. Perhaps I've grown too cynical since moving here, but that doesn't mean I feel anything other than sadness when innocent victims are killed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Working Like a Dog

My recent lack of activity aside, Ibis and I are both very athletic and try to get some form of exercise every day, or at the very least several times a week. We enjoy a variety of sports/activities -- volleyball, tennis, rollerblading -- and actually like going to the gym on a regular basis. So it's only fitting that we'd expect the same from our dog, right?

Owen is over four months old now, so we figured there's no time like the present!

First I went over his workout regimen.

Then I got him started on neck and back exercises.

Next up: loosening those teeth! (He lost three more Thursday & Friday)

Survey says: he likes it!

Sure, it only weighs a couple ounces and squeaks, but you have to start someplace.

Friday, November 6, 2009

US Airman Killed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

I saw this headline Thursday morning and my first thought was Good. Not good that anyone was killed, but if an American is going to get caught in the drug violence, better it be a member of the US armed service because it'll be harder for it to be swept under the rug.

From the AP:
A gang of gunmen killed an off-duty U.S. airman and five other people early Wednesday at a bar in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, authorities said.

There was no immediate information on a motive for the attack that killed the U.S. airman at the Amadeus bar in Ciudad Juarez, which also left a seventh person wounded, said Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for prosecutors in northern Chihuahua state. But the methods bore the hallmarks of attacks by drug cartels.

Staff Sgt. David Booher, assigned to the medical unit of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force outside Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Ciudad Juarez, was among those killed in the bar, the U.S. Air Force said.

Earlier this year, the 12th Air Force barred airmen from traveling in Mexico's Chihuahua state. Soldiers from Fort Bliss, just outside El Paso, Texas, across the border from Juarez, also are barred from going to Chihuahua.

I'm very curious to see how both the US and Mexican presidents respond to this attack. Aside from a couple articles online, it seems to be quiet. I'll be very disappointed if nothing is done, even if it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Got the Hummus

It sometimes surprises me what foods I miss from the US. The everyday comforts from home we can get here, so it's the little things -- Triscuits, Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, dill pickles -- that I find myself longing for.

The latest: hummus.

When I was in Chicago someone told me an easy recipe and the search was on for the ingredients, or substitute ingredients since some of you may recall, Mexico doesn't have lemons. (At least not where I can find them.)

My ingredient list:

2 cans garbanzo beans*
5 cloves of garlic**
1/2 cup lime juice
1 heaping teaspoon of peanut butter***
1/4 cup oil
salt to taste

* These were HARD to find. They are not in the special bean aisle (there's an entire aisle for beans) but next to the olives. Or what I call "the aisle for food only tourists eat."

** This was too much. I'll go for 3-4 next time.

*** Because we don't have tahini.

It turned out MUCH better than I expected, especially for my first attempt, and I'm excited to make it again (once we finish the garlic-fest going on in the refrigerator).

All this talk of hummus always makes me think of a famous Spanish song:

Which then makes me think of one of my favorite Marc Anthony songs, one that EVERYONE is the club always wanted to dance to (his hair is PRETTY in this):

So what do you like to eat with hummus?

(Once again -- major props to anyone who can name the Friends episode that I stole the title of this post from.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


My plans for editing alongside the NaNo participants is not going very well. I went through the entire document on Monday, but Sunday and Tuesday were both a bust (busts?). Fortunately I have good reasons for not cracking the wip yesterday.

First, I found a job site that has a TON of listings that I wasn't finding on a combination of other sites. The woman in charge of hiring at a place in Vancouver told me about it and I applied to five jobs yesterday. The most I've found in one day up until this point is two or three, so that made me very happy. Of course now I have to actually hear back from these people, but just finding jobs that interest me is a good feeling.

Second, I not only had breakfast plans with a new friend, our American neighbor is back in town and we ended up going to lunch with her. Meals in Mexico usually take a couple hours, and combined with several hours applying for jobs (plus the regular nonsense that eats up my time) I was too tired by the end of the day to edit.

A wise friend pointed out that any edits done while exhausted will most likely require even more editing, so I allowed myself the night off. I feel guilty, but the job search needs to come first.

If you're a writer, how is your writing coming along? And a complete tangent -- can you believe it's been a YEAR since Obama was elected? Crazy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Too Much of Anything...

I've officially started the second draft of After the Fall, which means that so far I've transferred my beta's comments into the "Second Draft" file and made all the easy changes. Today I'll begin the actual rewriting/editing. This may sound odd to some people, but I like to have everything prepared before I dig in -- the same way I like to have all the ingredients spread out on the counter when I'm cooking.

In my first novel, The Other Side, a kind beta reader pointed out (very gently) that everyone was "looking" waaaaay too often. Sure, there was an occasional glance or gaze, but the majority of their gestures focused on (*snort*) their eyes.

This time around, my characters' main problem seems to be their hair. (Sorry with the puns -- I amuse easily, remember?) The stroke it, twirl it, and the most common offense, they run their fingers through it. Over and over and over. Perhaps this is because I tend to play with my hair a lot, plus one of my characters is a teenager girl and I know they can't keep their hands off their tresses.

Whatever the reason, I need some new gestures. I did a Find and made the comment "HAIR!" at every instance. There were a lot. I also discovered that I use the word "chair" a lot, but since they only rake their fingers through a chair once, I don't think it'll be a problem.

(I also discovered that including a space before and after the word you're searching will prevent this from happening.)

I'm sure I've asked about gestures that you overuse, so do you have any that struck you as really funny, or completely impossible?

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Little Common Sense Please

You see a lot of chatter online about how easy the internet makes it for people to spout off without consequence, and how many people hide behind an anonymous username to bash, trash, or thrash whatever happens to piss them off that day.

What bothers me are the people who seem to forget they're posting things ON THE INTERNET. This applies mostly to facebook, as people who have blogs do realize that anyone can find their posts, but I see it all over the place. People complaining about day-to-day things, like a crowded bus or slow person in line ahead of them, that make me want to smack the person upside the head and tell them to be grateful for what they have. I want to pull these people aside and tell them "you have access to public transportation, you have money to stand in line to buy something, you're healthy enough to be doing these things in the first place."

I get that a side effect of living in a first-world country is people take things for granted, but I wish these people would realize how ungrateful they appear. I have several hundred friends on facebook and the majority have a balance between positive and negative -- it's only a handful who don't seem to realize how they sound to the rest of the world. I know that with facebook only your "friends" can see what you post, but I'm guessing they present themselves in a similar manner everywhere else.

I don't mean for this to come off as a rant about facebook, and I'm not trying to single anyone out. My point in all this is to remind everyone that the next time a stranger upsets you -- whether they moved too slowly, reacted in a way you didn't appreciate, or committed some other unforgivable social offense -- take a moment and put yourself in their shoes. Maybe the slow person has a migraine and is moving as quickly as she can, or the cranky-pants the next car over is worried about his mother in the hospital. Whatever.

I'm guilty of this too -- I get worked up far too easily over stupid things -- but I don't turn around and blast that person all over the internet. I complain to my husband or a friend and then I MOVE ON. Yes, I occasionally post complaints, but it's usually a general thing and never hurtful. I try very hard to live my life in a way that I won't regret anything and I hopefully won't have to apologize for something I did or said. I know that's a lot to ask of people, but I'm hoping this serves as a reminder to think a moment or two before telling the internet about the latest idiot in line next to you.

(As a side note, I'm not talking about people who complain that they're stuck in traffic, it's the ones who wonder "WHY DOES EVERYONE HAVE TO DRIVE HOME AT THE SAME TIME AS ME???" every day.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Exercising With a Puppy

I stopped going to the gym when I went home at the end of August (long story) so now all my exercise is done at home. I still do Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred series, and while I often yell at her during the routine, I now have someone else to yell at too.


Seems jumping around is puppy code for LET'S PLAY! LET'S PLAY! BITE ME! LET'S PLAY! It only took one well-timed jumping jack with him between my feet to stop him from getting too close during cardio, but it seems nothing will keep him away when I'm doing sit-ups.

He starts innocently enough. First he meanders over (or pounces, depending on how sleepy he is) then plops onto my belly. This is the preferred position. I can still do sit-ups with him lying on me, and he doesn't weigh much so it doesn't slow me down.

But the belly sitting doesn't last long. After maybe five seconds he scoots forward until we're nose to nose and he snuffles my face. Doesn't matter which part -- whatever's closest works. I, in turn, laugh (read: giggle) which is puppy code for STRANGE NOISE! COMING FROM MAMA! LICK! BITE! SNUFFLE!

At this point I push him off me -- still trying to do my sit-ups (I'm following along with a video here) and he burrows his nose in -- you guessed it -- my armpit. Aside from the gross-factor, it also tickles, which causes more giggles and usually an unintentional elbow to his head. I push him away again and he moves around to...

*cue harps and angels singing*


Game over. Have you ever tried doing a sit-up with an animal clinging to your head? It's really not as effective as you might think. Fortunately at this point the video has moved on to the next round of cardio, at which point Owen backs off and regroups until it's time for sit-ups again.

The last time I worked out I finally put him on his leash and tied him to a chair just out of reach, so instead of him attacking me, he talked to me the entire time. At least he was encouraging during the sit-ups. :P

Who me?

Here he is acting all innocent while visiting friends earlier this week.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I tried to write a post for today, I really did, but I have too many other things on my mind. Instead, can I just ask that you'll please think positive thoughts for one of my family members? It's been a stressful week for several of them (including three separate car accidents), but one in particular has me worried.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

That Writing Thing

I know I haven't talked about writing much here in the past week or so, and that's because I'm giving myself a little distance from my wip, After the Fall, until I finish a tutorial for Flash. I have two chapters left in that book, so I plan to start the second draft this weekend.

Ironic that it coincides with NaNo, no? A lot of my friends are doing NaNo this year and of course a teeny part of me wishes I were too. Just a teeny part though. Instead, I've decided to try to get through the second draft in one month. There are roughly 30 chapters so it should break down okay (aside from the fact that in addition to working by chapters, I also do several passes for particular problems) and I'd love to have a shiny new draft come December 1st.

Giving me a nice kick in the pants, as usual, Erica Orloff's blog post yesterday talked about perfecting your pitch and she critiqued our 45-word pitches in the comments. Even if you aren't at that point yet, it's helpful to see what works and what doesn't, and at 45 words each (or less), it's not too cumbersome.

After the Fall has three point-of-views, and I can't decide which I prefer:

When Greg Vandenberg kills a masked intruder who's attacking his daughter, the community calls him a hero. But the intruder is revealed as his best friend and neighbor and the two families find themselves on opposite sides of the tragedy, both struggling to understand what drove the man to attack.


Becca Vandenberg wakes up to find a masked man trying to rape her, and is saved when her father kills the man. But the intruder is revealed as her neighbor and father of the boy no one knows she's dating, and she fears their secret may have driven the man to attack.


When Carol Stevens hears that her husband had "an accident" at the neighbor's house, she assumes he died of natural causes. But he was killed while trying to rape their friend's daughter, and now she's the only one left to protect her children from a community hellbent on crucifying their father's memory.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


It's been a busy couple days -- for me anyway -- and you'd think I'd have plenty to talk about, but I'm drawing a complete blank. I've played even more games, Owen's lost more teeth, we've had a couple crazy thunderstorms, and my computer almost died, yet nothing is inspiring me for a post.

Seems to be contagious among my blogging friends.

Maybe it's because we had daylight savings on Sunday while the US doesn't switch until this coming weekend. It's been dark when I get up and perhaps that's screwed up my head. Who knows...

So, do you have plans for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Have you ever played cribbage?

My sister taught me while I was visiting over Labor Day weekend, and to say we played non-stop would be a bit of an understatement. We get a tad obsessive about our games -- years ago it was gin rummy, and for the past several years it's been Scrabble. But now... ahh, cribbage.

I bought a version to bring back with me and forced Ibis to play, but we never made it past that first attempt. I was sure he'd like it because you use cards and a board (you don't get bored with one or the other) and it's all strategy, which he loves, but he couldn't get into it. A lot of it was my fault because I was still learning and it's tough to play when neither of you are very comfortable with the rules, but either way, we haven't played since.

Yesterday we hung out with our friends at their hotel (on the HUGE patio) and it wasn't long before someone busted out the cribbage board. Be still my beating heart. We played until it was too dark to see and dinner was ready, and I'm proud to say I held my own with guys who have been playing for years.

Today I'm bringing my new board for a rematch.

Do you have any games you're addicted to, or that you always play when you get together with friends and family?

Monday, October 26, 2009


As my writing friends are aware, November is National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo, and it's an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The biggest complaint I've heard (from publishing industry people) is that far too many of those writers then begin querying their novels on December 1st.

Those who know better (ahem *straightens lapels*) write another 20,000 words, minimum, then write several more drafts before declaring the novel complete. I participated for the first time last year and by November 30th I had 63,000 words. I didn't pick it back up until mid-summer, and I finished the first draft last month. Yes, I'm talking about After the Fall.

I've heard a lot of complaints about NaNo -- aside from the querying gripe -- and the most common is that "forcing yourself to write that many words daily" is just teaching bad habits. NaNo's manta is to let yourself write crap (or at least that's how I remember it) and these naysayers seem to think that no one is capable out a high daily output that's not crap.

Well I think that's crap.

Buzz on the street (ie the internet) is that professional writers, those who have a new book or two published every year, regularly write that much per day. 2000 words is roughly 6 pages, and if you're writing a 300-page book (*busts out calculator*) it would take 50 days to write 100,000 words. Now obviously most people won't keep up that pace, but even if you add a month or two extra, the quantity doesn't seem that far-fetched.

What I took away from NaNo is the knowledge that I can write 2000 words per day. Sure, I need to break my writing sessions into two or three sittings, and actually getting up from my desk is important, but I can do it.

That said, this year... I'm not doing it. I'm looking forward to the edits on "nanonovel08", as I lovingly called it while writing last November, and I'm not ready to start a new idea. To all of you who are -- GOOD LUCK!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Friday morning I woke up and discovered Owen is missing THREE teeth. Three! I knew they start losing them around four months, and as he turned four months on Thursday that makes sense, but I didn't expect him to be so prompt.

He was half asleep here and didn't want me to open his mouth, but there's a red spot where his top tooth fell out (to the left of the tooth you CAN see). The two bottom front ones are also gone.

Last night our friend Mary, her husband, and another couple came over for dinner and after a couple hours of running from person to person to person, then Oh! back to another person, Owen crashed.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I thought I'd give you an update on my second novel, After the Fall. I finished the first draft several weeks ago, then sent it to my beta reader, who sent back some wonderful advice. She'd also read The Other Side so I felt comfortable sending a relatively unpolished early draft, along with several questions about voice, plot, etc.

Then I decided to put it away for a couple more weeks.

I'm currently working through Peachpit Press's Hands-On-Training: Flash CS3 Professional and I've decided that my writing energy (or really, my creative energy) will go to that. Once I've finished the tutorial, I'll start the second draft of After the Fall.

That decision is working well for me, as I'm two-thirds of the way through it, but I've noticed something interesting: my characters are talking to me again. Or if not talking (since as I told Jenna, they don't really do that) but they're living their lives and rearranging scenes that need reworking. It's very considerate of them.

I'd gotten into the habit of thinking about the upcoming scene before getting out of bed, that way as soon as I sat down I could write without getting stuck, and apparently it's the habit that's stuck. This morning I kept replaying the final scene -- one that needs tweaking and I know exactly how, but I haven't touched the file -- and at this point it's so locked in my head I don't even need to take notes. Some of the bigger issues, like making the male POV sound more fatherly, still need more thought, and I'm hoping I can focus these morning ponderings on his perspective.

It's nice actually looking forward to edits, and it's giving me extra motivation to finish the Flash book.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The War of Art Giveaway

My cousin Jenna is giving away copies of Steven Pressfield's The War of Art TODAY!

Pressfield's weekly writing post, Writing Wednesdays, discusses how writers can, among other things, get over resistance -- the thing that keeps us from living the life we want to live (or something along those lines).

Jenna interviewed him and asked him about "mastering fear, getting past those "draw novels", and themes." Run on over and check it out, then leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free copy of The War of Art.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm Healed!

Well, sort of.

I saw the doctor Tuesday evening and after a couple minutes of poking, he declared me fine. I have to keep putting ointment on it for another three weeks, which means STILL no swimming or beachy things, and I still have to wear a band-aid, but I don't have to go back to his office.


We didn't discuss why he wasn't there on Friday, and frankly, I didn't have the energy to ask. I'm just glad this is almost over.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday Stuff and Things

I haven't done one of these in awhile, and since I'm having trouble forming a thought long enough to make up an entire blog post, you get odds and ends.


As of Saturday, we finally have a wash basin/tub that's large enough to hold water AND ME! We bought it so we have something large enough to hold Owen (we've been washing him in a bucket up until now) but if I sit with my legs crossed I can finally cool off in a "pool."

Only problem -- we haven't figured out an effective way to empty it.


I was supposed to go to the doctor last Friday to get a check-up on my toe, but when I arrived I was told he'd already left for the day. They didn't call because "they don't have my number," which isn't true, and told me to come back on Monday.

We called several times on Monday to confirm, but no one answered and so I didn't go. We plan to try again today.

It seems to be healing nicely and I've made the executive decision to switch from the large bandage that requires lots of tape to a regular old band-aid. Now I can shower multiple times a day. Or go in a "pool".


We have friends in town! Regular reader and commenter Mary is here with her husband and we've already gotten together twice. We met them during their stay last year (they stayed where Ibis was working) and now they're back!

Mary is the first blog reader to have the honor of meeting Owen, and so far everyone seemed to like each other. :)


My grandmother is recovering well from spinal surgery and last week moved from the hospital to an assisted living/rehab place where she will have physical therapy, etc. We're all very relieved that things seem to be going so well.


Finally, we still have bugs, although not as bad, and I'm itchy.


What's new with you?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hurricane Rick?

Saturday afternoon I was minding my own business, playing my 114th game of Bejeweled, when a dark cloud swallowed the sky, the wind blew away every piece of paper on my desk, and it started raining inside. Or something to that effect. I closed the doors and windows, turned on the lights, and continued with my game.

About an hour later Ibis returned from the beach, much drier than I'd expected. He and his friends had taken cover beneath a palapa -- well actually, he put his things beneath a palapa while HE swam in the NINE-FOOT WAVES. We both agreed there must have been quite a storm over the ocean. For fun, I checked out and look what I found:

Well look at that. It's a CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE and we knew nothing about it. But Rick? Really? As I read the reports a comment from He-Robin from Saturday suddenly made sense. I thought he mistook my dog's name for Rick and couldn't understand why he thought our puppy looked mean, when actually he was warning me of impending doom. Ohhhhh. Gotcha.

Then my sister-in-law-in-law (if that makes sense) pointed me to a cool website called stormpulse that tracks storms over the different oceans. That site showed me this:

I screen-captured these on Sunday afternoon, a full day after Rick passed by, but trust me when I say I couldn't have been more surprised to see the EYE OF THE STORM directly off the coast of Zihuatanejo. Yikes!

By Sunday the sky was once again clear, most of the rain had evaporated, and it was business as usual.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leaps & Bounds

So much love. I just can't get over it. :)

We had a big milestone this week -- Owen learned how to jump onto the couch! He's been pulling himself up for quite awhile, much like a toddler, and a couple nights ago launched himself and almost made it on top. He just couldn't figure out how to pull himself up.

Later that day we got him all riled up where he runs in circles around the condo, hurdling chairs and diving under the coffee table, and he LEAPED into Ibis's lap. On the couch. I think Owen was more surprised than we were!

He can't do it every time but I'm sure in another week he won't think twice about it. Other big things: he can stay, he wakes us up to go outside, and he's figured out that there's no sense following me into the kitchen because he gets NOTHING. Ibis on the other hand...

Friday, October 16, 2009

This is Really Starting to Tick Me Off

Can you guess what these are?

If you've been following along on Twitter or are my friend on Facebook then you might guess that these are ticks. I pulled these off Owen in the space of about half an hour, and removed the same amount the day before (then again later after this picture was taken). I put water in the bowl because it's easier to drop them in there, and this way I don't have to squish them and they can't run away. I just have to keep Owen from drinking the water.

He's had bugs since we first got him, so we check him daily for little critters. (He's surprisingly well-behaved while we do it, too. Yesterday he even fell asleep while I was attacking his face.) After one particularly disgusting excavation about a month ago, we thought we had them all and didn't see any for several weeks. Well, it looks like the new litter is here. And now they're attacking us.

We've tried everything short of bug bombing the house, and that's only because I haven't figured out if they actually sell bug bombs here. We've bleached the floor countless times, torn apart the bedroom, washed the curtains... you get the idea. And they still keep coming back.

Since I'm picking them off him with my fingernails -- don't worry, they're just on the surface of his skin -- inevitably one or two ends up crawling on me, and now I have the constant sensation that creepy crawlies are on me. It doesn't help that I have lots of moles and freckles.

Right arm:

Left arm:

Do you have any suggestions for non-toxic remedies, both for Owen and the house? So far people have suggested feeding him garlic, washing him in dish soap and/or flea & tick shampoo (which we do have), and giving him an oral pill (which we're looking into). My preferred option is MOVING, but we need something a little more short-term.


ETA: LurkerMonkey just informed me that my short story is up at his blog today.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Room Temperature

I try to keep a balance of writing posts and Mexico posts, and I feel like lately I've been a bit heavy on the writing side. While wracking my brain for a Mexico topic -- considering I only leave the house once or twice a week -- my gaze fell upon a tray of eggs sitting on the dining table.

You see, they'd been there since the day before, and it didn't bother me that they weren't in the fridge. Sure, it crossed my mind a hundred different times that I should put them away, but that was more out of a need to be organized than wanting the eggs to be cold. We buy them at both the market and the grocery story and neither place refrigerates them, and since we haven't gotten sick yet, I don't worry about it.

Next up is milk. I think I've mentioned here before that the majority of the milk sold in Mexico is sold at room temperature, and if you've ever traveled to Mexico you've probably seen this for yourself. When we first moved here we bought the refrigerated milk that comes in plastic containers like in the US, but quickly discovered it went bad within a day or two. I forget how we switched, but now we buy the one liter cartons and generally have two or three in the fridge at one time.

Despite the fact that it's stored on a shelf, it doesn't taste any different. In fact, I think it lasts longer than "regular" milk back home. Perhaps the smaller size means you finish it faster & it doesn't have a chance to spoil.

The strangest experience I've had here is still my first week in Mexico, before I'd actually moved here. We were staying with Ibis' aunt in Morelia and even though she had a refrigerator, she stored all her leftovers on the dining room table, still in their pans. If you wanted to eat something, you just set it on the stove, warmed it up, then returned it to the table. I was a little concerned about getting sick, but again, I was fine, so maybe they're on to something here.

I will say I had a hard time drinking her milk. She kept it in a tall metal container ON THE TABLE and when you wanted some, say for cereal or coffee, you poured it through a strainer TO CATCH THE CHUNKY FILM that solidified over the top since the last person set it there.

I do draw the line there.

Do you have any strange refrigeration stories you'd like to share?

(fyi -- The power came back at 6pm Wednesday night, nearly TWO DAYS after it went out.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Minor Rant

I planned to write today's post about the curiosities of Mexican refrigeration compared to US standards -- what things go in the fridge, which do not -- but then we lost power. Monday afternoon I had just finished doing whatever it was I was doing and got up to make lunch when that dreadful pinging sound came from the fuse box. Kind of like a shock from static electricity.

Yes, the power was out. Again.

We waited the ten minutes it normally takes to come back, and when we heard music coming from our neighbor's house I asked Ibis if we'd paid the bill. Now, some of you have heard me complain about this before and are probably wondering why we never pay our electric bill on time. Thing is, they used to put the bills on the meter, then they started putting them on our door/mailbox, and apparently now they're back on the meters. The meters are around the side of the building and half-covered with plants, so they aren't very easy to see, plus the billing cycle is every two months, so it's easy to lose track.

The last time this happened was right when I got back from my trip home, which was roughly a month ago, which also means something is off. We shouldn't have gotten disconnected until NEXT month.

Anyway, Ibis went down to the electric company and paid the bill, but instead of it coming back on within half an hour, we STILL don't have power over 24 hours later. Around 6pm Monday evening he ran an extension cord rigged from our downstairs neighbor's house that runs through our window and keeps the fridge running. And a fan, a light, and as of Tuesday, our computers. I'm writing this on Tuesday evening, and the latest from the electric company is we'll get it back Wednesday.

Since we have the extension cord we're really not THAT inconvenienced, but it would be nice to be able to turn on a light and do laundry. Or use the blender or coffee pot. Or watch TV.


Yes, I've made a note when to pay the bill next, and we'll start checking for the bills in a couple weeks.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Workspace

Adam at Editing Hat and Stacey at Flibbity Gibbit have both posted pictures of their workspace and inspired me to do the same.

First of all, this is pretty much what it always looks like, give or take a plate or book. Now for some explanation:

> The white books on the left are my web design tutorials. I'm studying Flash now and I'm using the Dreamweaver book to prop it up while I read.

> The two plastic bottles are filled with sand and serve as hand weights. I sometimes lift them while reading stuff online. The wristbands are because I have weak wrists & they sometimes hurt if I've been mousing a lot.

> The speakers are so I can hear the Bejeweled guy say "Excellent!" really, really loudly.

> Notepads, pen, and highlighter are all self-explanatory.

> The purple cup is ALWAYS full of water.

> And finally, Owen. He's normally on the floor directly beneath my chair, but I put him there so I could get a closer shot of the desk.

Care to play along? If you post a picture, leave a comment so I know to check it out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The End: Part Three

Last Thursday I typed The End at the end of my first draft of After the Fall, then Friday I added a scene that helped wrap up the climax -- totaling another 1300 words -- then I spent all day Saturday doing a "quick" read-through so it would be coherent for my beta reader. Thirteen hours and another 800 words later, I sent it off.

At 88,500 words, this time I really mean The End.

During my marathon reading/editing session I kept having that strange sensation that while I knew I wrote what I was reading, it didn't feel like I wrote it. But in a good way. There were a few loose ends I needed to fix (hence the additional 800 words) but for the most part everything seemed to mesh. And I didn't even hate the final page. (I usually hate my endings.)

My plan is to give myself a break from After the Fall and concentrate on getting better with a couple web design programs and continuing my job search. And doing another round of edits in The Other Side. Have I mentioned that? A trusted friend and published author suggested that the voice wasn't quite there, that it sounded a little too much like me and not enough like a nineteen-year old Mexican man, so I'm going to go through it one more time. Then go back to querying.

So how was your weekend?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What a Crybaby, Part 2

Our first video of Owen! You might want to shove a cotton ball or two in your ears before listening -- he's hitting an octave that sopranos can only dream of.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The End

Yesterday I wrote over 3,000 words and then I wrote the best two of my story -- The End. Yay! It's only the first draft and I have a list of things I need to go through and tweak before I send it to my first beta reader, but the bulk of the story is there.

I wrote the first page of the final chapter on Tuesday, and yesterday I was determined to get through a little more, even if I didn't finish. I knew that in addition to the final scene (which I envisioned when I first came up with the idea), I needed to find a way to explain WHY everything happened. I was thinking about that while I worked on that final scene when it suddenly hit me. I backtracked a couple pages and 2,000 more words flew out of me. Flew. It was one of the few times I can recall writing fiction and not being able to type fast enough. I think it was partly because that section was all dialogue, which comes much easier to me. I get how people talk.

(And I also get how people ramble. Man, focus much?)

Another thing I want to share is something strange that happened on Tuesday. I was writing a scene that takes place in the local hospital of my hometown (my book takes place there) and later that day my mom emailed me that she'd been in the hospital for an appointment earlier that day. Meaning she was IN THE HOSPITAL AT THE EXACT TIME I WAS WRITING A SCENE IN THE HOSPITAL. My characters may have walked right by her!

As Jim Carrey would say: Spooky!

Actually, that scene takes place a month from now, so they wouldn't have actually seen each other, but still. :P

ETA: I received an email this morning that my grandmother's surgery went well. It started later than we expected so it wasn't finished until early this morning. Thanks for the well wishes everyone!