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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One Big Drip

I’m sick. I’m a sick sickie. My husband had a bad cold last week. I thought I got away Scott clean, but I seem to have succumbed. (Who was this Scott, and why was he so clean, anyway?)

I was fine at the big party we attended Saturday night. I was fine all day Sunday in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene who blew out our power but thankfully allowed our trees to remain securely upright. My throat was scratchy Monday, but we had a birthday party to go to, and, you know, that means cake. I wasn’t going to miss cake. I gargled with salt water and hoped for the best. It was chocolate cake, so my hopes were fulfilled, but I woke up in the middle of Monday night freezing. I pulled up the comforter. Elaine woke me at 6:00, as usual, to feed her, and at least then I knew the fever had broken. I pulled off the comforter and slept three more hours.

Now I’m just drippy – tears from my eyes, droplets from my nose, more tears from allergies. Needless to say, everything looks blurry. My thoughts are blurry, too, from my stuffed up head.  I think bees are living up there. 

I've been called a drip before, but now I know it's true.  I'm just one big drip. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Midnight Hour

At midnight, it’s possible to pop out 500 words about anything.

Braids? They look cute on everybody. You can braid them in front of your ears like Princess Tiger Lily or behind them like Half Pint in Little House on the Prairie. If you have help, you can French braid them along the sides and down the back of your head like the girl in True Grit. (No way she sat up from the ground after days on the trail and fixed those braids herself.) That is still my favorite way to fix my hair, but I’m over 25 – waaay over – so that style is verboten to me. Why?  I don't know.

Tinnitus vs. crickets? Tinnitus is one thin stream whereas crickets have rhythm. Also, they will jump into your house. Last night a cricket came in our house. My husband, so fearless in many respects,asks me to please take care of bugs. I chased the cricket around until it jumped on my sock. Hah! Nabbed it and put it outside. I don’t kill crickets although they are eat stuff in and outside the house, but they don’t creep me out like stink bugs nor do they bite like mosquitoes, so out they go.

Raindrops on roses? Whiskers on kittens? Doorknobs and dewdrops? Warm woolen mittens? Oh, wait, several years ago I wrote a post about warm woolen mittens. (And, yes, I realize the words are not doorknobs and dewdrops.)

At midnight, the problem isn’t that you can’t think of a blog topic, it’s that you don’t WANT to be thinking about a blog topic. You want to be – and I can’t stress this enough – you want to be ASLEEP! If you’re obsessive like me, you pull your pad of paper and pen out of the night table drawer and jot stuff down, hoping that emptying it from your brain will allow you to drift off.  You're too weary and, at the same time, too hopeful of rest, to get up and boot up the computer and write. You don’t WANT to write about anything; you want to be dead to the world, to re-ravel the sleeve of care, as it were. You curse what drives you to write those notes. You curse your over-active brain. You certainly curse whatever pushes you to pull the thoughts out of your head and put them on paper.

Then you are distracted by a huge aftershock to yesterday’s earthquake. You could write about that.
For all of you who wonder what I find to write about – it comes, often, during some non-descript daily event: a road trip, a grandchild, a wiener dog. Just as often, it comes at the midnight hour.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sibs & Spice & A Wiener Dog

I have a sister and a brother.  My husband and I, and they and their spice (mouse --> mice, ergo spouse --> spice) try to get together two or three times a year. The first time we did this, we established a tradition of a good hike and then lunch at a small, near-by restaurant. We felt good about indulging in a milkshake or piece of cake because we’d expended calories out in the fresh air.

Then my friend gave us off-season run of his beach condo. We met there, lolled on the beach, ate at the near-by Cottage Cafe, a dinner that involved artery-clogging cheesie fries. The next day we took a nice walk before departing for points home. This year, my friend sold his condo. Where to, where to?

Friday Steve rented a van, and all six of us headed out to Washington, VA where we were met by Debbie the Driver. I’m pretty sure Debbie was incredulous at our level of our immaturity and silliness, but she soon grew accustomed and, fortunately, took charge. Debbie drove us to the Rappahanak Winery and and Gray Ghost WInery where we duly tasted. (Sherman and Teddi like sweet wines and ports;  who knew?) As we entered the third winery, Desert Rose, we were greeted by a little wiener dog.

In my experience, dachshunds are nervous, yippy little things. This one, however – I don’t know his name – was as calm and cute as can be. He was white with black spots, and his tale waved as I leaned over and petted him. He exited as we entered, but when we left, a few glasses of wine happier, he was awaiting us, absorbing pats and admiring words. He paraded before us with a white stuffed hen (redcomb and waddle) carefully cradled in his mouth. He was so proud and happy.

On we went on to one final winery (sorry, I forget its name -- hey, it was the fourth one!) and then back to the Gay Street Inn (a wonderful, WONDERFUL place) to rest and recuperate before being driven to a nice dinner.  You will notice that: no exercise of any kind was involved. My, how the sybaritic have fallen. 

We had a lovely weekend, and the symbol for it will ever remain in my mind, not the wineries (decent enough) nor the wines we bought nor a wine glass, but a happy, spotted wiener dog with his squshy, white hen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cat in the Box

We arrived home from Muncie a little over a week ago. Elaine, our 16-year-old calico cat, was waiting for us in her box. Eww, not her litter box. What would be the fun of writing about a cat in a litter box? No, she was waiting for us in the cardboard box at the top of the stairs. This box has become her super-de-dooper cat bed, and while it adds nothing to the general d├ęcor of the house, it shall not be removed. It has a history.
Previously Elaine’s furniture consisted of a scratching post. It stood by the sliding glass door and got sprinkled regularly with catnip. She was always very good about using it until the past couple of years when the arthritis in her rear hips and legs made it uncomfortable. We have a sort of split level house, and Elaine always slept at the side of the top of the stairs, too, behind the railing where she could look out over the entry hall and through the tall windows on either side of the door.
One day we emptied out our box from Costco. It was pretty useless as a groceries box, having all four sides cut down to the bottom one and a half inches. I put the groceries away and set the box at the top of the stairs to go down to recycling. The next thing I knew, Elaine was in the box, eyes closed with a blissful expression on her furry snout. Not only did she rest in that box every day, but she scratched the bottom too. Cheapest cat bed/scratching post combo ever. Until . . .
Until that dark day that the cleaners came. They took that box and threw it in the garbage. That evening, Steve took the garbage down to the curb. Oh, no! Too late! I have subsequently fired the cleaners (although not for tossing out the box), but I had to set about finding a new bed for Elaine. I put box after box in the same location, but she was not interested. Then it struck me: she wasn’t interested in a box with high sides, which, let’s face it, most boxes have. Aren’t cats supposed to prefer feeling safely enclosed?  I guess she wanted to be able to survey her territory. I took a pair of sturdy scissors to the box and voila! Elaine was happy again.

A couple of months and another trip to Costco, and Steve set down a flat box with 2-inch-high sides next to the kitty bed so that next trip down, we’d take it. Next thing we knew, Elaine was sitting in that box looking very pleased with herself. She never set foot in her customized box again. It’s the new box all the way.

                                                     We’ve got one happy cat in a box.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lend Me Your Names!

I know that as a teacher, when I say, “Give me name. Now!” you cringe. You think of being asked, no, ordered to snitch on your friends. But, no, no, I would never do that to you!

I am beginning a new novel. It is not a sequel to Jaguar Sees: The Lacquer Box (have you bought your e-copy yet?) It was going to be the sequel, but I got bored of that. This novel is quite different, and I need names for the characters. You see when I write a story, I have the characters in mind; I feel like I know their temperaments pretty well. The setting is quite clear  as are the beginning and end of the story. Everything else is mud. Mud needs to be shaped.

I know that, if I just let it, the plot will pretty much tell itself in my head. Yes, it means weeks (months?) of carrying around pen and paper so I can jot down random ideas at random times, but it will come.

It’s the characters’ names that make me crazy. I don’t want to name them after relatives who might, after all, wreak retribution. I don’t want to name them after people I know because those people have their own distinct personalities which are not the characters’ personalities, and it becomes confusing when you’re not sure which world your mind happens to be in. I do use a Baby Names just end up with long lists. So, please, dear reader: comment here or on the announcement of this posting on Face Book or reply on Twitter, but please, please, please, give me your favorite names.

Now, I can’t promise that the name you submit will be used. After all, it might be the name of someone I know.  I can’t promise that the character you've named will be nice or awful or a crook or an angel. I do promise that if I use your suggested name, I’ll mention you in a “thanks” section at the end of the book. Here it is! Your opportunity to fame or, well, at least to be mentioned in the back of a book.  Give me names!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How She Does It (Tracy Falbe finds time to write)

Some time ago (how long? I don't remember.  Time is a human construct anyway.) I wrote about the obsession of writing.  I believe the words "I have to write or my head will explode" were used.  I'm not alone.  Tracy Falbe has the same obsession.  She is the mother of two and yet still finds -- needs to find -- the time to write.  She is author of the Rys Rising series and shares with how she does it.

Rys Rising: Book I is the first novel I wrote after becoming a mother in 2004. I finally published it on August 1, 2011. It's been a bumpy road, but I'm still a novelist even after having kids.

I wrote four novels before I started a family. I had lots of time to myself then. I would go to my job all day and then every evening devote one to two hours to writing. Oh, those were the days!

When I had my first child, I was deeply worried about how I would continue to write novels. For the first few months I did not write at all, which was very hurtful to me. Not being able to make time for what I loved to do most left me empty and resentful.

This situation could not continue. I had a whole new fantasy series in my head and I needed to start writing it. I can't just live my life without writing novels!

So I began small by spending 20 to 30 minutes in the morning before work with some writing. Then despite my exhaustion, I wrote two or three evenings a week after putting the baby to bed. Rys Rising: Book I was starting to emerge, and I was so relieved to see that I could write despite motherhood and all its attendant burdens.

But then progress starting slipping with the birth of my second child in 2006. Having two children seems to quadruple a mother's workload instead of just doubling it. Also at this point in order to make some money I took on freelance writing work. For about the next year I had to give up fiction writing to focus on clients. Adjusting those priorities was difficult, but at least I was writing.

Then I reached a point in late 2007 when I was able to focus solely on my fiction writing and my publishing business. My writing really took off then, and Rys Rising: Book I came together nicely and I was quite happy with it. I immediately dove into writing the second book and then the third. Right now I am halfway through writing the fourth novel of the series. I plan to have them all published over the course of the next twelve months.

Being a novelist always requires carving out time from your schedule no matter what the demands of your life are. Despite having the normal responsibilities that any mother has to deal with, I have remained devoted to my writing. When those kids go to bed at night, I start writing. During the day, especially when they are at school, I write. Life still always tries to get in the way of my writing, but because I insist that writing be part of my life I get the life I want and need.

About Rys Rising: Book I
An outlaw rises to become a dreaded warlord, the terror of kings. He takes the name Amar and seeks to join the Kez, the fiercest mercenary society in the tribal kingdoms of Gyhwen. His fearless ambition is inspired by Onja, a mysterious rys female whose magic has shaped Amar into a loyal friend. He zealously pursues her every command and hopes to join her in her mythic homeland of Jingten. But he knows little about the challenges confronting Onja. She and all rys are the reviled creations of the tabre of Nufal, and Onja longs to expel her hated masters. To liberate the rys, she knows that she will need more than Amar's help. Onja sees her best hope for an ally in Dacian, a prodigy among rys, but he is loyal to the ruling tabre order and dreams of winning equality for the rys nonviolently. He holds tenaciously to his ideals even as the tabre brutally subjugate him. Will he endure more dark abuses for the sake of peace or reach out to Onja? And what fate is Amar blindly embracing as he kills for her? Like a tree crashing in a storm, all civilizations will crack when hit by the force of the rys rising.

Rys Rising: Book I is available for free worldwide at my website. I invite readers to download it. http://www.falbepublishing.com/braveluck/free-fantasy-ebook-rys-rising.html
It is also available for 99 cents at:
Kindle US http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005FYSSSC Kindle UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005FYSSSC
Kindle Germany https://www.amazon.de/dp/B005FYSSSC
Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/79722
It will soon be appearing at other major ebook retailers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

On the Road to Muncie - Part II

It was time for a break, and the rest areas in Ohio are nice. The mold is a building with bathrooms divided from one with junk food and drink machines by a concrete path off of which are picnic tables and an animal run.

We parked near the machines and took a little walk to the restrooms. On the path were a couple of truckers stretching their legs. They were wearing tee shirts and cargo shorts, and I tried not to stare, but one of the guys had the whitest-pinky legs I’ve ever seen. They looked like scraped pig skin. I haven’t seen a lot of scraped pig skin in my time, but this guy’s legs looked Wilbur’s scalp.
Anyway, we did all the things we needed to do and climbed back in the car. I was reading my Kindle, and Steve was checking our route and chortling over the coupons he’d gotten for motels at the exit where we planned to stop overnight.
A thin, sort of grungy man approached the car. He asked us if we could give him two dollars for gas which would get him and his wife to Columbus.
Steve asked, “Well, how are you going to get to a gas station?”
The man explained that he had a little gas in his car but not enough to get all the way to the city. I didn’t care. I mean, if a man is willing to humiliate himself enough to approach strangers for a couple of bucks at a rest stop, I’m willing to give it to him. My problem was, I only had a single one dollar bill and twenties in my wallet. I’m pretty nice, but I wasn’t giving him a twenty. I asked Steve if he had another single.
Meanwhile, the man said, “I’m legit. Really,” and opened his wallet to show it empty. Could he have pocketed his money before coming up to us? Sure. Again, I don’t care. If he wanted to go spend to dollars on a beer, that was okay by me. Candy bars? Okay. Cigarettes, well, oh, okay,I guess.  I’d prefer he didn’t buy drugs with it. He didn’t look like a druggie, though; he looked like a man down on his luck.

While I talked about the bad economy and dearth of jobs, Steve pulled out his wallet and gave the man a five and, oh, so much more. This poor guy didn’t know what hit him.

Steve: “Just rememberr, the next time you go to vote, don’t vote for these RRepublicans.” (Yeah, like this guy looked like he voted.)  "That's why we're in this mess, with their unwillingness to compromise . . ."  I won’t reproduce the entire diatribe here, but it ended with, “When you pull that lever, remember this right now!”
By then the poor man was edging away from our car as discreetly as he could. Steve’s tirade against the Tea Party continued.
The fellow finally told us (from a safe distance), “I believe in Jesus, and I don’t pay too much attention to anyone else.”
Oh, poor fellow. Steve called out the window, “Yeah, well, sometimes you’ve gotta be careful of him, too!”

The two truckers from the walkway ambled over to their semis.  One fellow drove off in his blue van, and pink-legs followed in his red one.

Friday, August 5, 2011

On the Road to Muncie - Part I

Before I begin today's blog, I want to say hi to my new Followers.  Welcome to the vagaries of my mind, and I hope you get a smile out of what you read. 

On Tuesday, we headed out to visit the Perfect Grandchildren. As we approached Cumberland, MD, there were signs warning that the right lane would merge ahead. I have this romantic idea of Cumberland in my head. Maybe it comes from a song where I think Cumberland Gap is mentioned although neither my husband nor I can think of the song. In my mind, it evokes images of mountains rising from beautiful meadows with the gap slicing between. It evokes pioneers and nights with the Milky Way spilling down the sky. It evokes simpler – albeit I doubt pioneer days were happier – times. I have always loved our drive through Cumberland because of that slicing gorge (if you go one way) or the beautiful drive (if you go through the town.)  
Now, though, I’ve experienced “Right Lane merges, and I am SO over it.

"Right lane merges in 1500 feet."  Everyone slows down and, politely, I must say, gets in line. Sure, a few people zip as far as they can in the right lane and then force their way in, but an astonishing majority wait patiently. Access to only one lane slows the drive through Cumberland considerably.

On the far side of Cumberland, a third lane appears on the right. Both the right lanes are blocked by red cones. We’re still driving. Slowly. Five slow miles further, we drive by a state trooper who is sitting in his squad car in the rightmost lane – bored out of him mind, I imagine – to ensure that no one dodges the cones and tries to speed ahead. You could, though. It would be perfectly safe. Nothing is going on there.
Steve asks, “Where are the workers? Why are the lanes closed off?”
I respond, “This project is shovel-ready.” We both bust a gut laughing. Then I realize, “You know, they didn’t say they were working on the highway. They just said the lanes were closed. And they are.”

A couple of  miles later, we do see a couple of guys talking, one sitting on some machine. Another mile and we see a man driving a machine with a wide brush roller in front cleaning the road’s shoulder. Another mile and a street cleaning machine is dumping a load of dirt into a truck. (I know, I know, I’ve never seen those street-cleaners do that either, but that’s what it was doing.)
It added 30 minutes to an 11-hour drive to our PERFECT GRANDCHILDREN, but I can attest that Rt. 68 through Cumberland is clean.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Wren and Me

Every summer I buy the first red hanging geranium I see.  I hang it from the front porch of my house. The red flowers match the door.  They're the only flowers I've found that will survive there other than impatiens which get awfully leggy. Besides that, the impatiens want daily watering whereas the geraniums are much hardier even in the full blast of Virginia's afternoon sun.  That's important.

It’s not that I forget to water: I don’t. It’s not that we travel so much, although we do, but I could get a neighbor kid to pour some water in there when he comes over to feed the cat. It’s the wren.

The geranium attracts a house wren. I have no idea how long-lived they are, but it can’t have been the same wren for 19 years. I could, of course, do some wren research. I would probably discover that the planter is simply in a location wrens like, but I prefer to think it was the first wren's daughter and then her granddaughter and her granddaughter coming home to roost. She’s always a dainty, brown thing with a delicate beak and a fierce stubbornness. This is the spot she chooses for her nest, and this is where it will be.

One year Elaine, a much younger, feistier Elaine, spent summer afternoons hopefully under the nest.  The fledglings grew and flew on schedule  One year I watered when the birds were almost ready to fly and scared them all into the sky.  I searched the yard but waas happy never find one had fallen.  One year I mistakenly brushed away what looked like a clump of debris, realizing only too late that I’d destroyed an almost-completed nest, but within the week, my little lady was back, weaving and building. The nest was ready when the time came.  It's been a learning process, and I'm glad Lady Wren has been patient with me.
I water the geranium ever other day until one day I tip the watering can and my wren flutters out. She’s no larger than a large moth, but I know now from experience that she's begun nesting.  I stop watering:  I don’t want her to be frightened or anxious. All expecting mothers should be tranquil.
I still water the other two geraniums, the ones in the large terra cotta pots on the wide front step. They seem to turn brown and cease flowering if they’re not watered.  The hanging geranium flowers on. Of course, it gets some rain water, especially if the wind is in the right direction, and it gets shade from the eaves; still, know how it manages to survive.

If I’m patient while looking out the tall window beside the door, I can watch the wren bring twigs and grasses and built her nest. At first it looks like a bunch of crumpled, dead leaves. Slowly it takes structure and becomes a tubular oval, almost a welcoming door. I check it almost every day.  Sometimes, if I stand on tip toe, I can sight the eggs, but often their too deep in the nest for me to see. They’re not here yet, but the nest is finished, and I expect them soon.

The eggs will, naturally, hatch into hungry baby wrens which grow quickly to nearly the size of their mother. Often I can't see them, but if I brush a geranium leaf, they open their beaks -- maws, really -- hoping their Mom has come with a treat. She tries to satisfy their insatiable hunger. She's so small and works so hard. One day I’ll look, and the fledgelings will be gone

[This baby's mouth looks like a flower peeping out of the nest.]

I never seem to see any of the fledglings after that, but I won't take the basket down, just in case. Maybe they come at night. Maybe she rests there when I’m not around.  Maybe there's a runt down at the bottom of the nest I haven't seen.  Yes, yes, I told you I could research it, but the magic comes in letting it be.
In October, when the geranium is well and truly dead, I’ll take down the basket and harvest the nest. Wren’s nests are tricky because they are woven like lace, but if you’re careful, you can scoop it out of the pot without damage. I've only been doing this part for a few years, and a couple of the nests disintegrated , but when I can dislodge a nest, I take it to the old buffet that sits on the back porch and set it there with the rest of my bird's nest collection. I’ve got a couple of sturdy ones that came out of branches that were blown down and a couple of wren's nests.  I set this year's nest there and wait for next summer, for her to come home again.