Sunday, January 31, 2010

January '10 Book Review

Shiver- Maggie Stiefvater- A story about a girl who is in love with a werewolf. I thought it started off really, really well. Then I thought it got a little boring. Then things started to pick up again and then it just kind of…ended. I was left going “Uh? What? You’re ending here? Really?” The continuing trend of uninvolved parenting in young adult novels also shows up here and really is starting to concern me. But all that aside, there is some truly beautiful writing in these pages. There’s a sequel coming out this summer so maybe there will be some answers found there.

Dead Witch Walking- Kim Harrison- The first in her Rachel Morgan series. This was billed (somewhere…again, I can’t recall where I read this) as a witch bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum with a spellbook, and I really, really understand that reference. When I started this book, I wasn’t that into it. I thought it was a little boring but it loosened up and became pretty amusing and enjoyable. I look forward to reading the others in this series.

Hamlet- John Marsden- This was an interested book. It’s a young adult prose version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet has long been my absolute favorite Shakespeare work so it caught my attention at the library. Some parts were quite excellent. Some parts were, I guess, less so. During the reading, I found myself pondering whether I would teach this book in a school setting, as a way to make this play more accessible to kids. But as someone who successfully taught the full, unabridged play to several groups of adolescent delinquents, I can’t say that I would. I might use parts of it to supplement the reading of the play though. Mardsen uses Horatio and Ophelia in interesting ways that you don’t get by reading just the play. So, overall, interesting, but only so much.

The Queen's Man- Sharon Kay Penman- This is one of those books I like to read at least once a year. I love the main character, Justin de Quincy. He’s a good guy.

Cruel As The Grave- Sharon Kay Penman- You can't possibly be surprised.

Dragon's Lair- Sharon Kay Penman- The third Justin de Quincy novel. I think this may be my favorite of the three, probably because Justin goes to Wales and has adventures with Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, another historical figure I find to be rather awesome.

The Prince of Darkness- Sharon Kay Penman- The fourth and final Justin de Quincy novel. I really do hope Penman gets to write more Justin novels because I really do love to read them.

Heat Wave- Richard Castle (or whatever Ghostwriter did the actual work)- This is a promotional tie in for the show “Castle” which I watch because I Adore Nathan Fillion. The problem was, for me, that it reads like an episode of Castle. Plus, there were a lot of plug for Disney related things and the ME’s name changed from Lauren to Laura on one page part way through and then back again. There were some other errors too. So it wasn’t, by any means, a great book, but at least I don’t feel stupider for having read it. Or maybe I am but I’m too dumb to know better.

Echo In The Bone- Diana Gabaldon- The latest in the Outlander series. This book has left me pissed off. She gets all these people and all these storylines and then she ends it the way she does, with little to no resolution and we’re supposed to just what, exactly? Sit around and wait for the next installment? It sucks! Sucks, sucks, sucks. I said in a review of one of her previous books that everyone should go around singing the “It’s A Small World” song because out of all these countries and time periods and whatever and all these people and everything, she keeps running into the same damn ones. I suspend a lot of disbelief when I read her books but generally there’s some kind of resolution by the end and this time, there was none. None, zip, zero, zilch, and it’s not cool, Diana Gabaldon, not cool at all. People who are reading this book have read the other six books and will read the books to follow. You didn’t have to Not End It the way you did. You could have thrown us a bone and we would have stuck around for the next book. We just would have been less pissy about it. Probably.

The Judas Goat- Robert B. Parker- As you’ve probably already heard, Parker passed away recently. This has spurred me to go back and reread some of my favorite Spenser novels, starting with this one, where Spenser becomes a bounty hunter in Merry Old England. Hawk shows up and the two jetset around Europe, ending up in Montreal. Filled with a lot of classic scenes and one liners.

Looking For Rachel Wallace- Robert B. Parker- This has long been one of my favorites. I absolutely love the scene where Spenser meets Rachel for the first time.

11 Books Down....89 To Go!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Odds and Ends

J.D. Salinger passed away this week. I would feel remiss as a former English teacher if I didn't at least mention it, especially since I devoted an entire blog to the late Robert B. Parker earlier this month. I only read one of Mr. Salinger's books, Catcher In The Rye, and not in high school when most kids seem to read it. No, I didn't read it until years later, when I was well out of college and not even teaching anymore. I didn't love it, but I appreciated it. Still, the man was an American institution and I am sorry that he is gone.

As far as my own writing goes, I have hit a wall. Not a literal wall, although I have not ruled that particular activity out, but a figurative wall. Otherwise known as Writer's Block. It happens. The good news is I am still ahead on my daily word goal, ahead by a significant amount even, but I still hate the stalled feeling.

Part of it, I think, I can attribute to a weird turn the story took. It's not a particularly happy book to start with, but this rewrite seems to be slightly moodier and darker (at least to me) than the first draft. Back in 2008, I stumbled across Diana Gabaldon's novel Outlander and while I liked the novel enough to read every other book in the series, I took issue with a scene where the hero takes it upon himself to punish the heroine (a modern day woman stuck in the 1700s, in case you haven't read the books) and tans her backside with his belt. She tries to fight him but he overpowers her. And the days following the incident, she's mad at him. But then she stops being mad at him and starts feeling bad for being mad at him and then comes to understand why he had to beat her with a belt. I took issue with that too. I mean, I was mad for days about that and I wrote in my book diary "I don't care what time period I am magically transported to, I don't think I'd let anyone claiming to love me tan my backside with a leather strap."

Now flash forward to my Second Nature revision. No, my heroine has not had her backside tanned with a leather strap by someone claiming to love her. But a situation has come up in Second Nature that has made me think of Outlander and my irritation with the heroine and has left me maybe understanding Gabaldon's heroine better than before.

Which may not make any sense to anyone not in my head but, without going into details on Second Nature, I guess it's going to have to stay at that. At any rate, the revelation has been interesting and strange and unexpected and I have spent a lot of time pondering where my characters are going and where they might end up.

All this pondering is killing my daily word count.

The other part of my wall I am attributing to the fact that I seem to have misplaced a major character, which is never a good thing. The last I saw him, I'd sent him on a walkabout of sorts, intending to put him on the Road to Redemption, only now I don't know where he's gone. As strange as it sounds, he's gone AWOL and despite my best pondering efforts, I have yet to find him. So if anyone sees a good looking fallen hero type meandering around anywhere, send him my way, would you? I'd be ever so grateful.

So until my characters get their acts together, I've been perfecting my Wii crossbow skills (I mean, not exclusively or anything. I've also done a lot of reading this month...not to mention putting up with half naked British tourists.) Have you played this game? It's called Link's Crossbow Training and it's awesome. So much better than that stupid Twilight Princess game. Of course, it could just be my inability to get out of the stupid Twilight Princess village (AKA level subzero) that's making me think the game to be dumb. I do always try to keep an open and honest mind...

But Link's Crossbow Training is different. It's fun. Even if Joe is annoyingly good at it. I think he has all but two of the high scores on the practice levels. Heather has the other two. I think the only way I'll get any high scores is to delete their profiles but fortunately for my compatriots, I am too nice a person to actually go through with it.

Instead I shall search for score boosting cheats on the internet.

There is one level of Link's Crossbow Training that I do NOT enjoy. Not in the least. This would be the level with the big freaking spiders.

I do not like spiders.

Turns out that I do not like computer generated spiders coming up behind me and attacking my avatar either. Or dropping out of nowhere onto my little computer generated avatar head.

Turns out I scream when that happens. I scream a lot. And loudly too.

And yes, maybe once I did get freaked out by some graphic I thought was a giant spider but turned out to be something not a spider instead.

Turns out I scream then too. Heather can attest to this although she's a good enough friend that I'm sure she'd lie about the experience if I asked her to.

Anyway, I think that about does it for me today. I have to make some treats for obedience class tomorrow. Hope everyone out there enjoys their weekend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Case of the Mondays

Weird to be writing this entry today, on a Tuesday, instead of yesterday which actually was Monday, but the fact of the matter was I was just too damn tired to write yesterday. I was just too damn tired to do much of anything other than stand in one spot, leaning when possible, and staring off into space. I don't even think I was thinking about anything. Just totally zoning out instead.

I had to work yesterday. It was another crappy four hour shift because this is, as I've said before, our slow time. I think the only reason I got this shift was because Ruthie had requested a day off so she could go to Massachusetts for the weekend. So, thanks, Ruthie, for that.

I was forced to work on the sales floor. Well, actually, I wasn't forced. I asked Tammy if she wanted me to process shipment out on the sales floor because there wasn't another sales associate in until noon and she said no, it was slow enough that she could handle it. And she was right. It was slow enough. We opened at nine and the first person didn't come through the doors until ten thirty. I don't think we actually used the register (and by 'we', I mean Tammy as I haven't the ability to run a register.) until after 11am.

But anyway.

Head Honcho Julie came in after 11am and saw me standing in the stockroom processing shipment. She asked me to process out on the sales floor instead. I just nodded and apparently, when I go silent, they start getting scared (residual fear from the day I Lost It, I guess.) because Head Honcho Julie then asked me, very tentatively if I would mind working out on the sales floor.

Which I did because I hate working out on the sales floor.

But I told her no, I wouldn't mind. Because I too had some residual fear from the day I Lost It, or, more accurately, the following week when I was Punished by being taken off the schedule completely.

Four hours sure as hell ain't a lot, but still, it's better than no hours.

At least I thought so.

So, yeah, I went out to the sales floor.

The Europeans were in town. They seem to come in waves. There are a lot of British tour groups that come during foliage season to look at leaves and shop in the tax free outlets. In the winter, we get skiing groups sometimes. But since Monday was windy and rainy, no one was skiing.

They were shopping instead. They started showing up about 11:30am. My shift was supposed to end at 1pm. It actually ended later than that.

I had the fun (note: sarcasm) job of working the fitting room. If I had had the ability to run the register, this whole thing may have been avoided but since the ability to run the register would mean that I would actually have to run the register, it's better off avoided.

Anyway, I'm digressing. It's a new experience for you, my faithful readers, I'm sure.

The thing about the Europeans in the fitting room is they seem to lack some of the...uh...body issues, maybe, that plague us here in the United States. And this is a huge generalization. Not all Europeans I've encountered in my long and illustrious retail career have done it. But, in my experience, when this happens, the perpetrators are not Americans.

In the fitting room, it is my job to offer to get additional sizes for the men and women who perhaps require them. Most people who take my up on this offer just throw the garment over the top of their door or open the door wearing said garment to show me what they want.

Not the ladies in the store yesterday.

Nope. They would call, "Miss, are you out there?" and when I answered yes, they would open the door in their underwear and hand me the shirt for which they required the larger size.

I saw so many mostly naked women yesterday you'd think I'd been watching soft core porn on Skinemax or something.

I wasn't.

Needless to say, after a while, whenever I heard "Miss, are you out there?", I cringed and curbed my impulse to say "No."

One summer, quite a few years ago, I spent the majority of an afternoon trying to herd a group of Italians back into their fitting rooms because they not only came out of the fitting rooms mostly naked but insisted on wandering around the store in their undressed state looking for other clothing to try on.

At least Monday's group wasn't that bad.

Cheers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

There's Always Something...

I received a package in the mail today. It's a thank you gift from my brother and sister-in-law for taking the dogs this week. It's a bribe (a very nice one with some very clever notes attached...even if Joe's French program comes with an interactive DVD game that he insists we play. But still, thank you.) so I wouldn't write a blog describing how their Saint Bernard dragged me around the neighborhood on my face. And I'm not going to write that blog. It didn't happen. I didn't walk the dog around the neighborhood (I did walk her around Settler's Green and while she did pull a lot, she didn't drag me around on my face.). There are some families in our neighborhood who think it's all right to let their dogs outside unsupervised and let them wander wherever they may. Then little Fluffy charges whatever people and/or dogs happen to be innocently walking by. So the day little Fluffy charged me while walking Big and I experienced the joy of being dragged around on my face around the neighborhood was pretty much the last time I walked the dogs around the neighborhood. If I do it now, I do it in the middle of the day during the week when these families are most likely at work.


But anyway, I won't be writing a blog about Bru dragging me around on my face, or any other body part. But I am going to write this blog about Max's Very Bad Morning.

Max has had a...well, let's just say colorful history of visits in our home. The color being yellow. But this trip, he's done very well. If he's peed anywhere, I haven't found it yet. He's also been reasonably quiet, unlike his sister who has pretty much barked (for no known reason other than she can) for the past two days now.

So maybe he was due...I don't know, but Max had a Very Bad Morning.

It all started when he came downstairs from his crate to find Fat Cat in the kitchen. Suffering from a severe case of Little Man Syndrome the way he does, Max thought barking, charging and trying to make Fat Cat his bitch would be a Good Idea.

It wasn't.

Here's what it looked like...You know, if Fat Cat was Indiana Jones and Max was the guy with the sword.




So after Max was finished squealing and running away, we went outside. This next part is gross and, if you are me, rather traumatic. Consider yourselves warned.

Max had some diarrhea. Well, "some" probably isn't the right word. It was a little more than "some". And if you think that's the gross part, you're wrong. The gross part is that it got stuck. Yeah. Stuck. Which then required me to help him get it unstuck. That would be the traumatic part. But it gets better because I then had to bring him and his exploding ass inside so I could scrub him clean.

Neither of us were very pleased by this.

Then, after scrubbing my hands with antibacterial soap for twenty minutes, I had to change my clothes because I had to go to work today. If there had been time, I would have showered again too because I was convinced I smelled like Schnauzer shit.

If I did, no one mentioned it.

Anyway, while I was changing, Bru attempted another sneak attack on her poor ailing brother. He happened to be sitting on the couch at the time. You can probably guess what happened then.

That's right. I gave Bru a stern lecture about how it was not okay to jump on the couch. I don't think she even realized I was irritated. Max, however, he knew because he had had his share of my stern lectures. Especially that day he peed all over my daybed. Last time he ever did that.

After the stern lecture came to a close, I then fixed the couch. Again. With luck, it'll last through the weekend. I have since barricaded it from further sneak attacks. It'll make it harder to sit on but it would appear that sitting on the couch may be hazardous to our health.

Joe want a sectional with a recliner anyway. Now we have a real reason to look for one.

Always a silver lining, right?

I went to Joe's office after work today and told him how awesome the morning had been. Joe's response: "When are they leaving? Sunday? Great. I'll be home then."

Sounds like someone needs a hug. Or a beer.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the Gator Girl is mounting a sneak attack on the cookie cupboard.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Bear Breaks The Boat

So Brewster broke the couch today.

She and Max were enjoying some play time. Bru and Max ran around the living room and the dining room and then Max jumped onto the couch.

Max is twenty pounds so the couch did not mind this. Bru, being a Saint Bernard, weighs slightly more. Exponentially more.

Bru took another lap around the room and then charged Max. She leapt onto the couch, on top of poor Max (at least it wasn't a small child...or me...or Mischa. That would have been loud. Really, really loud.), and the next thing I knew, the couch was broken.

It was also pushed back a few feet. I suspect it may have only stopped because of the sliding glass door.

"Well," I said. "How about that."

So I set about trying to fix the couch. I propped up one end on my knee and felt around for the wooden foot thing that had once held up my couch. Bru very helpfully came over and licked my face as I did so. I managed to get the foot reattached, or as reattached as it was going to get, and then tried to put the couch back in place. That's when I noticed the other back foot was broken.

So then I fixed that too.

Wonder what fun we'll have tomorrow. Hope the couch holds up.

Sad.

So, Robert B. Parker passed away on Monday, sitting at his desk in his Cambridge home. He was 77 years old.

This makes me sad, very, very sad, as Parker is one of my all time favorite authors and, just recently, I wrote on this blog about how Parker's creation Spenser is one of my all time favorite characters.

I started reading Spenser novels in college. My sister stumbled on to them originally and we both were interested because they were mentioned in Ellen Emerson White's President's Daughter series. Every time we drove on Route One in the Boston area, every time we saw the restaurant shaped like a boat, we would utter the eternal line, "Maybe Squanto had made a mistake." And then laugh.

But Squanto didn't make a mistake because without Squanto, we never would have gotten to read anything by Robert B. Parker. There would be no Spenser, no Hawk, no Belson or Quirk. There would be no Pearl the Wonder Dog or Vinnie Morris or...oh, all right, there would also be so Susan Silverman who hasn't been one of my favorites for a while now but she was Spenser's love and for his sake, I shall put a moratorium on my dislike of the woman.

There also wouldn't be Jesse Stone, the police chief in Paradise, with his faithful sidekicks Suit and Molly. It took me a few novels to get into the Jesse Stone series but I got there eventually.

I even read the Sunny Randall novels. I am not a Sunny Randall fan. I think I like Susan more than I like Sunny. She never gelled with me but I still read all her novels because Parker was the one who wrote them.

He also wrote Westerns, starting with Appaloosa about the famed yet flawed hero Virgil Cole and his faithful cohort, Everett Hitch. I wrote a blog last year about Virgil and his imperfections which, in my view, really made him perfect.

Parker wrote other novels too. He wrote some young adult books, including Edenville Owls and Chasing The Bear (a "young Spenser" novel). He wrote All Our Yesterdays and Double Play and Perchance to Dream, a sequel to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. He was versatile and witty and accessible and I will miss him.

Back when I was teaching, I had a student who wasn't a big reader. His parents even said he just didn't want to read but they would love for me to change that. I managed to draw him in with Stephen King's Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption because he'd liked the movie but when that kid came into my classroom and tossed my copy of Rita Hayworth on the table, and said in an obvious challenge, "What else have you got?", I went to Robert B. Parker. I turned to Spenser.

"You'll like the main character," I said. "He reminds me of you."

"Really?" the kid asked. "How?"

"He's a smart ass," I said.

Two pages in to Hush Money, the kid was hooked and never looked back.

So, here's to you, Robert B. Parker. You'll be much missed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Everybody's Fine.

I need to pee and I need chocolate. Not necessarily in that order. But three out of four dogs- no wait, make that two out of four dogs- no wait, make that one out of four dogs are lying down, not moving- no wait. We're back to two dogs lying down- but if I move from this spot, they will assuredly all get up and I do not want that. So here I will remain.

I should have thought of a pee jar. I should have not had that liter of water at work today. That's what I should have done. Or not done, I guess.

Holy shit. All four dogs are lying down. Well, that does it. I am certainly not moving now. Let's see how long my bladder can hold out because I am sure as hell not moving from this spot at this moment.

Oh- nope. Make that three out of four dogs lying down. The fourth, Max (not the Gator Girl, surprisingly enough) is currently stalking and staring from underneath the dining room table. He won't stay there long though. When I go to check on him in another minute or so, he will have moved, silently slipping through the room to stalk and stare at me from somewhere else.

I am flying solo today. Joe is at work and, after work, he is going to his French II class. The dogs and I are doing all right. Our morning routine is gelling nicely and I even got everyone exercised and before I went to work today.

I was scheduled for a crappy four hour mid day shift today but was sent home an hour early because I finished the shipment early. Actually, I could've finished the shipment even earlier but I dragged my feet to take time off the clock because I didn't know what I would do for the rest of my shift. It's our slow season.

So I came home just after two and started to work on the dogs.

Do you remember that brain teaser you did in high school? It was the one where you had a guy with a rowboat, a goat, a wolf and a sack of oats. The guy wanted to transport all three over to the other side of the river bank but he could only put one thing at a time in his little boat and so you had to figure out how he could do that because he couldn't leave the goat with the oats or the wolf with the goat lest things get eaten?

Well, that's me.

It's not the first time I've made that comparison-

(Oh. The neighbors had the audacity to back their car out of the driveway, causing a riot of barking from my ever vigilant big brave German Shepherd. Now no one is lying down. I am going to take advantage of this and go pee. And get some chocolate. Probably in that order.)

What was I saying?

Oh yeah. It's not the first time I've made that comparison. Things are a little more interesting now because in addition to the goat and wolf and oats, I'm also trying to get a small bear across the river.

I took Brewster and the Gator Girl out first because they can run together (and have a good time doing so) as long as the Gator Girl is carrying something in her mouth. But the Gator Girl, being mouthy and full of herself the way she is (particularly this week), was mouthy on the way down the stairs and so Brewster does not want to play with her.

(Oh, for crying out loud. If you wanted to pee, Big, you should have done so when I brought you outside to pee. Now you're going to have to suck it up and wait.)

I put the Gator Girl back in her crate and take out Max. I take Max and Brewster outside to play. Max really doesn't seem to play well with other dogs but either Brewster doesn't know that or doesn't care because she doesn't seem to mind having a Miniature Schnauzer hanging off her jowls.

(Everyone's lying down again. Even Creepy Stalker Schnauzer. It's a miracle! A miracle, I tell you!)

So I bring Max and Brewster back in the house and rearrange the baby gates so they are trapped in the combination living/dining room. Max, given his less than stellar track record (although he's not peed in the house yet this trip...knock on wood!), has restricted access to the house and besides, I need to bar the two from the front door so neither gets tagged by the Gator Girl when she comes back into the room.

My dogs were next. I got them out of their crates and take them outside. Brewster decided she didn't want to stay behind a baby gate where it was safe. She decided she would much rather jump over the gate and throw herself against the front door. That meant I had to

(Brewster, sweetheart, I would appreciate it if you were to stop chewing on my slippers. Especially with my feet inside of them.)

put my dogs into the car so I could get Brewster back behind the gate so I could bring all the dogs inside. I gave her a very stern lecture as I did so. I like to think it made an impact because she remained where she was supposed to be so I could

(Damn you, UPS. Why did you have to drive by my house?? Now no one is sleeping!)

get the other two dogs back inside. When everyone was calmed and settled (well, as calm and settled as the Gator Girl ever gets, that is), I merged the quartet. Big went to lie down on the stairs so he could keep his eye on those shifty neighbors. The Gator Girl and Max had a spat in the kitchen. Brewster knocked over a bowl of water trying to hide behind me.

(What is that sound? Brewster, are you peeing on my floor again? Please tell me you're not peeing on my floor again. Nope. No peeing. You're eating the rug instead. Soooo much better.)

After I broke up the fight and mopped up the water, Fat Cat had the misfortune of making an appearance. Brewster has never met a cat before she came to the house and I have two. Two cats who are probably at this moment, plotting some horrible form of vengeance against me. Needless to say, chaos ensued. I don't think I'll be seeing Fat Cat any time soon. But I think she did give me the finger as she made her escape into the laundry room. Joke's on her because the only way out of the laundry room is through the dog filled kitchen. Who's sorry now, Fat Cat?

So last night, after it took

(Gator Girl, get your face OUT of the cookie cupboard, now. I can see you in there.)

an entire hour to watch a thirty minute sitcom because of various dog related interruptions, Joe asked me if I still wanted to add more dogs to our family unit. He asks

(Brewster, you too need to get your face out of the cookie cupboard. I wouldn't let your cousin do it either, you know.)

this every time we dog sit. And every time, I smile and say Yes.

Then Joe calls me a liar.

Ah, to be young and in love.

Crap. Now all four are up again and are attempting to play. I feel a fight coming on. It's just sort of inevitable. Until next time, my faithful few.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quotes From A Weekend

I love dogs. I do. If you're a regular reader of the blog, you'll know that I have two of them. Big, the big brave German Shepherd and the Gator Girl, otherwise known as Superfreak Malinois because that's what she is. And then I have this strange never wavering desire to add to my pack. Yeah, I know. Joe doesn't understand it either.

I want to have an Irish Wolfhound named Seamus. I want to have a pair of Great Danes named Hamlet and Ophelia (because I'm cool like that). I want to have a Mastiff named Jezebel. I'd like to have another German Shepherd named Aodhan and another Malinois (yep, that's right. Another Malinois) named Kaylee. I'd also like to have a Papillion named Sirius because Papillions are so freaking cute.

But since Joe is being stubborn (or, perhaps, smart), we only have the two.

Until now...

This week, we have four dogs in house. My brother and sister-in-law ran off to sunny and potentially warm Florida for a week and their two dogs, a Miniature Schnauzer named Max and a seven month old Saint Bernard puppy named Brewster have come to stay with us.

Again, if you're a regular reader (and thank you if you are!), you'll be very familiar with Max. Joe usually gives him a new nickname each and every stay. For a while, Joe called him Maxi Pad. Then, given Max's penchant for peeing on everything in the house, Joe called him The Little Pisser. This trip, Joe has christened Max "The Creepy Stalker Schnauzer" for Max's tendency to lurk under tables and chairs, just watching, staring and what unfolds around him.

But Brewster is new. This is her first experience into what Max lovingly calls "Hell On Earth." They arrived last Friday evening and I know some of you who were aware of the dogs' arrival probably came out here waiting to read some of the sure to be misadventures that would unfold. And yeah, we had some. But I also didn't have a chance to write about them until now when three of the four dogs are cooling their heels in their crates (which is not to suggest that crate time should be compared to prison).

Things are going reasonably well thus far. We were concerned about Big accepting the puppy because she is rather large and excitable and neither of those things are things Big likes in dogs. But he's been an absolute dream thus far. Our theory is that we have brought this dog into our home and shown her affection and so it must mean he's stuck with her.

The Gator Girl, on the other hand, has found her inner Superfreak Crazy Bitch, now superfreakier and crazier and bitchier than ever! She's taken on the role of Enforcer and is playing it with gusto. It's nice because her corrections have convinced Brewster that maybe she doesn't want to jump on the counters after all or maybe sticking her face into our dinner plates isn't an acceptable choice. It's less nice when the Enforcer gets a little too into her work as she was on Saturday. She was overtired and overstimulated and, well, a Malinois and those three things combined to form a perfect storm of absolute insanity. I think the other three dogs that evening formed the "I Hate The Gator Girl" society. And for a while there on Saturday, I thought about joining.

But it's all right now.

So, here they are, for your reading pleasure, Quotes From A Weekend:

Friday

Me: Bru, no. Stay out of my dinner.
Joe: Bru, no. Stay out of that.
Mischa: GRRRRRRR
Bru: Okay. No people food for me!

Me: Bru, off the counter.
Joe: Bru, off the counter.
Mischa: GRRRRRR
Bru: No counter. Check.

Me: What's going on?
Joe: Bru puked in her crate. She puked in her crate, all over herself and all over her bed and she won't sit still long enough for me to clean it up. It's gross and she won't let me clean it up and I need your help.


Saturday

Me: Mischa, stop it. Mischa, stop it. Mischa, stop it. Mischa, stop it. Mischa, stop it. Mischa, I am going to drop kick you into the partially frozen Saco River if you don't stop it.


Sunday

Me: Did someone turn on a faucet? Oh nope. That's just Bru. Peeing in the dining room.

(Time Lapse: One hour)

Me: Bru pee in the hallway?
Joe: Yeah.

Joe: Max's escaping.
Me: (standing at door, Malinois in hand): What?
Joe: (pointing to outside): Max has escaped.
Me: Shit. Where'd he go?
(Note to concerned brother and sister in law: he didn't get far and came (almost) right back when I called him.)

Woman in Parking Lot (Re: The Gator Girl): What kind of dog is that?
Me: She's a PITA dog.
Woman: PITA?
Me: Pain In The Ass.
Woman: Oh.

Me: Max, stop humping your sister.

Me: Max, stop humping your sister.

Me: Max, could I get you a step ladder?

Me: Seriously, Max? Stop humping your sister!


Monday

So far this morning, apart from the Gator Girl puking in her bed, things are going well. We had some snow last night in which Max (well, all the dogs really) had a good timing rolling around. We have since renamed him the Abominable Snow Schnauzer because that's what he looked like when he emerged from the snowbank into which he'd disappeared. Now, everyone is sleeping (including Joe, I think). Let's hope it lasts a little while.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Characters I Love

I read Sharon Kay Penman's novel The Queen's Man last week. It's the start of a medieval mystery series she writes that features a main character by the name of Justin de Quincy. This is one of those series that I like to read at least once a year and it's solely because I love the main character.

So this started me thinking about my favorite literary characters. I decided to first write a list and then I decided it would make a great blog post. Or at least a blog post. Greatness, to be determined. Elizabeth Bennett, by the way, will not be making an appearance on this list. I like her on the big screen, but less so on the page. Sorry, Lizzy. I'm sure you're crushed. Anyway, here's who did make the cut:

1. Meghan Powers from the President's Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know just how much I adore these books and this character. This is not to say I don't equally adore the rest of the characters in Meg's life. Because I do. Preston, Beth, Josh and Steven get special shout outs though. And let me say it again (because I just can't seem to say it enough), I do not like Jack. Meg, you can do better.

2. Justin de Quincy from The Queen's Man series by Sharon Kay Penman. He's just such a good guy. I especially love his interactions with Claudine once he discovers her betrayal and then, in later books, his interaction with his infant daughter, Aline. Plus, he has a dog he saved from drowning. Awwww. The sad thing is, I heard from Ms. Penman herself that there are no more Justin books on the horizon just yet as her publisher would rather her focus be on other books. She assures me, however, that Justin is not dead. He's on life support. If you're on Facebook, do me a favor, please, and join the "Fans of Justin de Quincy" page.

3. Spenser from Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. His wit, his charm, his moral code, his ability to quote the literary classics...Spenser is perhaps the perfect man. I also adore Hawk and the rest of the gang. I am not, however, enamored with Susan Silverman. I realize this could potentially make me unpopular with Spenser fans but I can't help it. I just don't like the woman. Sorry.

4. Jon Snow from George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series. He's a great character in a series filled with some real stand outs. A special shout out to Tyrion Lannister for being just freaking awesome.

5. Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games series. The newest addition to the list and a most worthy one at that. Have you read these books? Well, do so and then you'll know instantly why I had to have her on this list. Peeta and Haymitch and Cinna get shout outs too.

6. Dicey Tillerman from Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman Saga. She's quiet and determined and tough and everything a young heroine should be. Shout outs for the rest of the Tillermans as well as Mina and Jeff.

7. Fred and George Weasley from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. This was a tough call because I like Harry, Ron and Hermione just fine so they'd get shout outs but Fred and George are awesome. I particularly applaud their efforts to make Umbridge's life a living hell in the fifth book. And I'm not going to mention what happens in the seventh book...it's still too painful.

8. Phineas from John Knowles's classic novel A Separate Peace. I like Gene too, naturally, and maybe it's a cop out, picking Finny, but I can't help but like the guy. Which, of course, is the point.

9. Jack from William Golding's classic novel Lord of the Flies. I don't know if I can properly explain this one but there's something about Jack, a quality he has, and something about his experiences on the island that really got to me.

10. Grandma Mazur from the Stephenie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. This woman is a real pip. She's always good for a laugh and really, you just want to hug the stuffing out of her.


Honorable Mentions:

1. Llewelyn ap Iorwerth from Sharon Kay Penman's novel Here Be Dragons

2. Nick Carroway from The Great Gatsy by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. Kimberly Quimby (and family) from the Quimby family cycle by Lisa Gardner

4. Tasslehoff Burrfoot from the Dragon Lance novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

5. Derfel from Bernard Cornwell's King Arthur series.


Anyway, that does it for me so now I leave it to you. Who are some of your favorite literary characters?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Wee Wii Injury

As you know, I recently joined the Wii community. My brother and sister-in-law brought up some of their games for me to borrow while they're on vacation. One of these included a game called "Medieval Games". It's pretty awesome. Well, parts of it are pretty awesome. There's this storybook board game type thing that is less awesome (especially when you had to play against the computer as we did) but there are some fun things to be had.

One of them is jousting. The other the swordfighting. There's also the possibility of archery, fending off Vikings, throwing axes and wielding a battering ram.

This game is so up my alley.

Anyway, Heather came over this week to engage in a jousting tournament. It was a lot of fun. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but that just made it all the more entertaining. After jousting, we engaged in a sword fight. Then we had a sword fight on a log over a river. Hilarity ensued and the Gator Girl didn't attack anyone. Much anyway.

Then, once we were (sadly) winded, we switched to Wii Sports and boxed each other. This did not help with our winded-ness. We played tennis after that and then moved on to Wii Bowling.

Joe joined in the fun. And, because of that, I blame my first ever Wii injury on him.

He just kept hitting strike after strike and I wanted to beat him. Badly. I wanted to beat him badly.

And, in my quest to kick his virtual bowling ass, I hurt my own.

Yes. I said it. I hurt my ass playing Wii Bowling.

I think I pulled a muscle in my, uh, upper thigh which hurt so badly by the end of the game that I really couldn't stand up anymore. I couldn't bend down, I couldn't straight up, I couldn't easily climb stairs so I sat on the couch. With a pillow underneath my ass because it hurt less. Note the less.

So yeah. I hurt myself playing Wii Bowling. I jousted and fought with swords but I was taken down by Wii Bowling.

Let this be a lesson to you, kids.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Game On.

I like video games. I'm not a hard core gamer or anything but I've always liked to play them. We had an Atari 2600 growing up. Some of our favorite games were Pitfall, Stampede, Outlaw and Combat. We also had a completely awesome game called "Plaque Attack" where you were a tube of toothpaste and you had to destroy the junk food that was out to rot your teeth. Think "Space Invaders" but with donuts and candy canes. We also had a Strawberry Shortcake game where the main point seemed to be dressing the characters in their appropriate costumes before the sun set. There was probably more to that one but I honestly don't remember. Our neighbors had a highly coveted Smurf game. Don't much remember the point of that one either except avoiding Gargamel and Azrael, but I do remember being absolutely green with envy that we didn't have that game for ourselves.

And then there was Adventure. Adventure was the best damn game in the world. You were a square. A little yellow square. Your sword was an arrow and you used your arrow to protect your little square self as you navigated your way through various rooms and other castles looking for the golden chalice (always hidden in the black castle). Once you found the golden chalice and used the magnet to retrieve it from the wall, you had to then safely bring the chalice back to the golden castle. You had to watch out for the dragons though and, in the more difficult levels, the bat. The bat would swoop into the scene at random times and steal whatever item you were looking for, such as a key or a bridge (Yes, I said a bridge) and then put it somewhere else. Sometimes he would take the bodies of dragons you'd slain and leave them in inconvenient spots. Bastard.

Funny story about Adventure...my mother came across one of those "nostalgic" game things you plugged into your television. It looked like an original Atari joystick and contained a plethora of their most classic games, Adventure included.

One evening, my sister, B, and I were playing Adventure. We were playing one of the harder levels which meant the bat was flying around stealing everything in sight. At one point, I desperately needed the bridge so I could get through the maze so I could get to the black castle and that damn bat swooped in at the last second and stole it.

"That goddamn bat stole my goddamn bridge!" I yelled.

"Hmmm," my mother said. "The language seems to have changed since you girls last played that game."

Another fun story about Adventure. We were introducing a new generation of kids to the wonder that was the Atari 2600, kids who had grown up on the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis and whatever had followed them.

"Okay," my sister and I said at the very first screen. "Now there's your sword over there, so go and get it."

"Where am I?" the kid holding the joystick asked.

"You're right there," we said. "The yellow square."

"I'm a square?" she asked then.

Needless to say, she was not impressed.

After the Atari, we had a Nintendo and fell in love with Tetris and Super Mario Brothers. I am a freaking Tetris genius. On my game boy, I have defeated the first thirty something levels. As for Super Mario Brothers, I am proud to say I beat the first game multiple times, the sequel game once and never, to my recollection, finished the third Mario Brothers. The Nintendo also introduced me to my one true, still going strong today video game obsession, The Legend of Zelda.

Oh, how I tried to win that game. I tried desperately hard to win that game. I never did. Then I tried desperately hard to win The Adventures of Link. I never did. I must have had a curse put upon me because every time I came thisclose to winning the game, my character and game log would get deleted and I would have to start all over again.

I even once downloaded a step by step how-to-win-this-game guide for other Zelda and Link and tried to win each in one sitting. Still never managed it though. It was a long sitting.

I had a Sega Genesis in my later high school years which meant I played a lot of Paperboy and Sonic the Hedgehog. Man, those games were awesome. I also had a game like Adventure and the Zelda games. Well, it was more like the generic brand of those games. It was called Fatal Labyrinth and it more than lived up to its name because all I managed to do in that game was die.

The next gaming system that managed to suck me in was the original XBOX because it had a Buffy The Vampire Slayer game and I had (have) a Buffy The Vampire Slayer obsession. Spent a lot of time trying to kill video vampires. I am an excellent video vampire slayer. Even if I never could manage to get out of the Bronze level. Too many buttons, you know? I was an old school video game girl. A joystick and one button. Maybe a directional pad and two buttons. But the XBOX with its directional pad and steering stick (I don't know what they actually called it) and A, B and C buttons combined with your X, Y and Z buttons? Not to mention the trigger things on the front...A little too much.

I also had The Lord of the Rings games for the XBOX. I am very, very sad to report that I never made it out of the Shire in those games. I did, however, manage to walk around the Shire, hitting random objects with my walking stick. FYI: Don't hit the beehives with your walking stick. The bees come out and sting you to death.

Oops.

So I've been out of the gaming arena for a while now. My XBOX and Sega are covered in dust and hardly used. I've given up trying to get out of the Shire and just stick with watching the movies because it's easier. But then, it happened.

I thought I was out but they pulled me back in.

I went out today and bought a Nintendo Wii.

My brother and sister-in-law have one. We played Mortal Kombat at their house one weekend and it was hysterical. We were just jumping around the living room, flailing around and pushing random buttons to see what happened because we had no idea how to play it. My sister-in-law, by the way, rocks at Mortal Kombat.

When my sister, B, got her Wii, we played the winter sports game which included a Bobsledding game. We're strangely obsessed with bobsledding. I blame Disney's movie Cool Runnings. But yeah. We love bobsledding and so we had a bobsledding competition on the Wii one afternoon. We also competed on the skeleton and in figure skating. I don't remember who won said competition but it probably wasn't me.

I am what you would call Wii Challenged.

But, regardless of that, I liked the concept of the Wii and I kept coming back to it. I saw they had a Zelda game for it and I kept coming back to that. I liked the idea that you would use the remote controller thingy as a sword. I liked that there was a crossbow accessory.

And, oh yeah, there's also a Wii Fit so I could pretend to work out at the same time.

So, I broke down and bought one today. I'm calling it a late Christmas present from Joe. He was, of course, thrilled. I didn't get everything as they didn't have additional nunchuks in stock nor the Wii Fit in stock but I can pick those up at a later time. They did, however, have the Zelda Twilight Princess game and that, I bought.

I came home from the store and started setting it up. I put in the Wii Sports game and prepared to do some bowling. It was then that I made an important discovery:

The Gator Girl really doesn't like it when you jump around, swinging your arms and hooping and hollering over the virtual strike you just got.

She also doesn't like it when you try to hit virtual home runs, return a serve or hit virtual punching bags. I am going to have bruises tomorrow from fending her off.

The following video demonstrates what it's like playing Wii with a Malinois in the room. I would be the guy in the suit holding the stick. Joe would be the other guy, standing around and saying, "Uh...what's wrong with your dog?"




You get the idea.

So, after dinner, with Joe home to help me train the Gator Girl on accepting the new worrisome toy, I started to play Zelda. I played for about an hour. I think I'm off to a good start.

First I lost my horse. Then I ran into some walls. One of the townspeople kept yelling at me that he needed my help to herd his damn goats but I couldn't help him until I had found my damn horse. I climbed a ladder, fell off the ladder and ran into a scarecrow. I picked up some rocks and ran into some trees. I finally found the damn horse. It was stolen by this girl who then gave me a lecture on the proper hygiene needed for my horse. I then rode the horse into some trees and some walls on my way to herd the damn goats. I figured out (eventually) how to get the horse to jump over a damn fence and then got to go back to my house. Then I found the store only to be told the shopkeeper couldn't help me because her cat ran away. I found the cat but the cat ran away from me too. I know I need to catch a fish to lure the cat to give to the shopkeeper so I can get my slingshot or whatever but I can't get the fishing pole because the little punk village kid who was making it for me is off stealing my damn horse while I run around the village making an ass of myself. The shopkeeper's husband kept trying to knock down a beehive (I think they must have known about my LOTR gaming success) because when he knocked it down, he was swarmed and stung. A lot. The pregnant woman needs her cradle. I found that too but it's being held hostage by some screeching monkey thing perched on top of a boulder I can't figure out how to climb. I smashed some pumpkins because I knew how to pick stuff up and throw it, only to be yelled at by a townsperson for wasting food. Oh, and then I was run over by a runaway goat.

The Gator Girl fell asleep at my feet. Joe fell asleep on the couch. That's how interesting I was.

Maybe tomorrow I can get to a level where you actually kill orcs or whatever the evil creatures are called in this game.

Good bye, writing goals...it was nice while it lasted.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Trouble With Rewrites

In Stephen King's book, On Writing, he suggests that once you have completed a WIP (Work In Progress), that you are best served by sticking it in a drawer and forgetting about it for a good six months. This way, once you go back and revisit your brilliance, you are better prepared for editing and rewriting because it'll become painfully obvious what needs to go.

I can say that this is very true. I am in the early days of making a serious run at rewriting/reworking my WIP, Second Nature, and when I look at my first draft, I cringe at some of the stuff I put on paper, stuff, at the time, I remember thinking was both awesome and brilliant.

Over. It.

I had a similar experience with Effigy when I was rewriting that. Scenes that, long ago, resonated well, suddenly seeming...uh...lame, I guess. And I remember having a problem that while I was more than willing to divorce myself from these scenes, I was less willing to split up with certain lines of dialogue that appeared in certain scenes. This led to days of sulking and staring out the window and restless pacing around the house as I tried to decide what I wanted to do. More often that not, I sacrificed the dialogue for the good of the story, and stored the small exchange away for possible use somewhere else if the opportunity so arose. Which, by the way, it almost never did.

I got over it. Kind of.

And now I am experiencing some Déjá Vu because here I am again, a new WIP, with rapidly changing scenes and progress that has come to a screeching halt because I am forced to decide, once again, how badly I want to keep my dialogue.

I am also trying to decide how I can get the story from the new Point A to the old Point C because I really like where the story ends up. I had this problem with Effigy too and it took a while to convince myself to trust myself and my instincts and to just go with the flow and go where the story took me, no matter the direction. Ultimately, I got there and found a sort of compromise that just took my original plan and (I think anyway) made it better.

With luck, it won't take so long to get there this time because I've got a deadline. And I intend to keep it.

I'm doing well so far. I am sitting pretty on 34,638 words. Out of a goal of 200,000, sure, but I'm only supposed to be sitting pretty on 5,264 words so I am way ahead. For now. Things happen. Life happens. Yes, I'm sure it'll surprise some of you to find that I have a life. Or at least a semblance of a life...

And on that note, I am going to get back to it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy List

So I'm sick (again) and my head hurts so badly, I fully expect it to split into two any minute now. Both the dogs and Marie are helping with this as Marie's building something else now (a giant walkway in between her garage and her house) and the dogs are barking at the guys doing the work. The guys they can see clearly because some idiot let them cut down all our trees. Seemed like such a good idea at the time...No, wait. No, it didn't.

But in spite of those things, and perhaps even because of them, this entry is devoted to the Happy List. It's something floating around on the internet right now, I guess. You write a list of ten things which make you happy and then try to do at least one of them today. You then tag ten bloggers who brighten your day. I read it on my sister's blog which ended with "if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged" and so I decided to go ahead and write a list of ten things that make me happy.

1. Writing. This is really a no-brainer. I am truly at my happiest when my creative juices are flowing. Sounds messy, I know, and it sometimes is, but it's a happy mess.

2. Playing with the puppies. Have you seen how adorable my babies are when they're romping and frolicking in the snow? Because it's cute.

3. Brownies. Especially double chocolate cake like brownies served with a tall ice cold glass of milk.

4. Chocolate cake. Especially double chocolate cake served with a tall ice cold glass of milk.

5. Bar Harbor. I am so obsessed with this place. Some days, all I can think about is getting there and when I get there, all I can think about is staying there. And when I leave, all I can think about is going back there.

6. A good raucous game of dirty word scrabble with the usual suspects. You know who you are...

7. Movies with Omar. We go see some good movies, we go see some bad movies, but we always manage to have a super fun time. Not to insult the other people with whom I see movies, but there's something special about these outings that always leaves me grinning. Wouldn't be a Trekkie without you, Omar...

8. Drinking with Heather. Choco-mocha-tini? Yes, please!

9. The Red Sox winning, especially when they win the world series, beat the Yankeees, or show Jacoby Ellsbury running, stretching, diving, smiling, breathing...

10. The Patriots winning, especially when they win the superbowl, beat the Colts, or show Wes Welker running, stretching, diving, smiling, breathing (Get Well Soon, Wes.)...


So, that's that. A list of ten things that make me happy. I am not going to officially tag anyone so I think I am going to end this with the following: post ten things that make you happy...or else...Just kidding. Do it because you'll feel better afterward. Happier, even.

Until next time...

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Resolutions

Here is a list of the things I will attempt to accomplish this year:

1. Finish Second Nature.

Specifically, my goal is to finish the book by the end of October. I've decided to work NaNoWriMo style, which means I've set myself a specific number of words to hit by the end of October. This goal is 200,000 words, based on the fact that Effigy is approximately 195,000 words and the first draft of Second Nature was longer than that story was (this goal can fluctuate as needed, of course). This gives me 304 days in which to work. The word count goal is 658 words a day. Of course, if there is any movement on Effigy, all bets are off.

2. Read 100 books.

Other people have done it and now I want to do it too. I finished up with about sixty five books last year. I would have done better but I had that whole Jane Austen thing going on in April and May. I will not have that Jane Austen millstone around my neck this year so I am optimistic. But, once again, should there be any movement on Effigy, all bets are off.

3. Participate in NaNoWriMo 2010.

My first experience with this project was a success and, ultimately, a lot of fun so I fully intend to sign up for a second go. This is a big reason why I intend to finish Second Nature by the end of October.

4. Try Yoga.

It seems like it'll be a good thing to try out. I was hoping to have a Nintendo Wii and a Wii Fit to help me with this goal but as that has not happened yet, I suspect I'll be going out to get myself a nice video because I do not want to go to an actual yoga class.

5. De-Clutter.

I don't really know what to write here. There's clutter in the house and I want to change that. I'll go through the closets and get rid of the clothing we haven't worn in years. I'll clean out the basement of the boxes we put in there almost ten years ago when we moved into this house. I'll track down the dining room table. I know I had one once. It was nice.


So I think that's about it. Five goals for the year seems like a decent amount. I know last year I had six but that sarcasm goal never stood a chance. Oh...and as soon as I find my Lingo drinking game, I'll make sure I post it here. I know you can't wait. Anyway, if you've set resolutions/goals of your own, I wish you all the best with them.

Happy New Year, everyone.