Friday, October 31, 2014


There's a little song my sisters used to sing to me that probably typifies my feelings toward Halloween this year...

"Every party needs a pooper, that's why we invited you.  Party Pooper."

I'm not really in the Halloween spirit this year.  Candy?  Eh.  Great Pumpkin?  Meh.  Scary movies?  Bleh.

Okay, so that last one is a typical me thing.  I don't do scary movies unless I can make fun of them or there's some kind of nostalgia involved. Or both... "Oh look!  The Exorcist is on!  Let's wait for her head to spin around!"

Maybe I'm getting old.  Maybe it's that I don't have a kid around to make the holiday special for anymore.  Maybe it's that there are no kids around here and so buying candy means eating it all myself and I sure as hell don't need that.  (The brownies I made yesterday notwithstanding, I don't need the sugar.)

Kids always do make the holidays more special...

What do you think?  What are you doing for Halloween this year? 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cake Mix Brownies

If you loved the recipe for cake mix cookies, you'll appreciate this...

Cake Mix Brownies

1 box chocolate cake mix*
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (like with nut ice cream topping)
1/2 bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. Mix first four ingredients together until just blended.  Spread batter evenly in 9x13" pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. 

They did come out a little crumbly, but they taste perfect.  I can't wait to try them with ice cream later.

*I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix, but I assume any chocolate cake mix would work.  Use what you like best.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Update: Week 43

Hullo, All!

Welcome to Week 43! 

I know, I'm way to exclamation pointy for first thing in the morning, but hey, I wrote this last night, so forgive me.

What happened this past week?  Well, I finally finished the edit notes for Unequal.  I'll be inputting those during November while I... umm... I'm not exactly sure if I'll be doing NaNo after all.  I do have an awful lot of work to do on other manuscripts for me to take a whole month off to write a totally new story.  Hell, I never finished last year's NaNo novel (even if I did get past 50K, so I technically won).  I also have that mystery series I could be finishing, and several other books in varying states of disrepair.

Speaking of novels in disrepair, I edited the first chapter of Wrongful Termination yesterday.  It's tighter, it's cleaner, and I've given more personality to a secondary character who was coming off too much like a current famous personality.  Now Pat's a transplanted Yooper with a nice new last name to fit right in with the Yoopers I knew and loved.

Let's see, what else did I do... I went to the thrift store and found some more art.  One is a lovely print of a mama bluebird and her nest of babies inside an old mailbox.  Very quaint and happy.  Another is a painting of what looks like a stream below the Grand Tetons.  I need to frame it, but I have the frame.  All I need is the hardware.

I also got a couple golf clubs from the thrift store.  6-irons for 75 cents each.  Then Hubs and I went out on the lawn and whacked walnuts into the woods for about an hour.  Man, was I sore afterwards, but we had so much fun.  Even the neighbor across the street shouted that we were having too much fun, so you know it had to sound that way.  Laughing and shouting FORE!  Hubs used to golf, so he was actually hitting the nuts into the woods.  I was missing the nut half the time and when I connected, most of them only went a few feet.  I felt like the old couple on Caddyshack.  "That's a doozy, hon."

Other than that, not much going on here.  What's up in your world?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scatterbrained Slacker

Ugh, I'm such a slacker.  Or maybe it's just that time seems to be flying by these days.  One day it's Sunday and the next thing I know, it's Friday and I'm wondering where the days in between went.

And I'm scatterbrained.  It's like short-attention-span theater has taken over.

For instance...

I can't type right since I cut my nails.  I had long nails (I can't help it if they grow at twice the rate here as they did in CO) but I wanted to have them at a manageable length for NaNo.  So I cut them short, and now I can't type.  Seems I'd been typing for so long with the claws that it's taking time to get used to typing without them.

I'm debating whether to hit the thrift store today.  I don't need anything.  I just feel the urge to find something old and make it mine. 

Which reminds me... I was watching Rehab Addict last night and she always stages the rooms she renovates with old stuff.  Last night, she used an old typewriter as an accent piece in the refurbished library of a stately old home.  My first thought - my old typewriter is better.  My second thought - she really should've done something to make it look nicer (because several of the keys were stuck down and it looked shoddy compared to the rest of her nice design work.)  I'm not usually that critical of her, but hey, it was a typewriter.

Living in the country has its advantages.  This week, a book I'd ordered never arrived but Amazon was telling me it had been delivered.  So I called the local USPS where our mail comes out of (not my town's post office because they don't actually deliver mail from there) and they hunted down the substitute mailman who was on our route, then talked to the regular guy who was back from vacay.  Logn story short, the sub guy found my book, got it from where he misdelivered it and then hand carried it to my doorstep.  Try to get that kind of service in the big city. 

I really need to tidy up my piles of paper and get that stack filed.  (Of course, I said that a while back and it still hasn't been done.)

What's on your short-attention-span theater line up today?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Update - Week 42

10 weeks left in 2014.  OMG, I have so much to do.  In addition, just 2 weeks left until NaNo. 

:panics a little:

This past week, I didn't do much of anything - which is mostly the reason for the mini-panic. 

My edit notes for WT are still sitting right beside me (under the ashtray right now) untouched.  I need to jump on those today if I want to have them done by Halloween night.

I only made a little progress in researching stuff for my NaNo novel.  OMG, I don't remember leMorte d'Arthur being this damn dull.

I did make progress on my next set of edit notes for a dystopian I wrote years ago.  But I could be farther along.

The only place I really made progress was my reading goals.  I read 4 books in the past week.  And they were all awesome.  Always a good thing. 

In other news, I took a walk around the yard yesterday snapping pictures of things I thought were pretty.  Like this:

And this:
And this:

I can't wait for the fall colors to really pop here so I can take more shots.  Nothing like a walk with the camera for relaxation.  Even if sometimes, the shot doesn't turn out the way I want and you can hear me swearing under my breath.  ;o)

So, did you do anything this week?  How's your panic meter for the last 10 weeks of 2014?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

To Memories Past

Yesterday, I was screwing around on FB and saw a link to some page or other having to do with my old alma mater, which led me to a page that was designed to pay tributes to schoolmates that had passed on.  So, I skipped over there and scrolled down through the posts, wondering if I'd see anyone I knew.

And I saw too many names I knew.

I already knew about the twin who committed suicide in his brother's garage, and the girl who got hit crossing a busy highway when she stopped on the yellow line.

Seeing old teachers' and staff names seemed natural enough.  After all, it's been 26 years and most of them weren't spring chickens even then.

The art teacher who called me by my sister's name and got irritated when I didn't answer her.  We finally managed a truce my fourth year in her class. 

The chem teacher I had for advanced biology.  The English teacher.  The lunch lady.  The bus driver.  The middle school principle.

Others were a shock.

There was our class president who became a surgeon.  I kissed him a couple times, but it was for the class play where we played a married couple, so it doesn't count.  He died at 39, leaving behind his model-pretty wife and their three kids.

There was the guy who was one of the trio me and my friends chased around the playground in 3rd grade playing 'catch 'em and kiss 'em.'  I always remember him as being extremely nice.

There was the gal I saw at our 10 year class reunion - the one who had a baby our junior year.  She was a nurse.

And the gal I knew from working on the Arabian horse farm.  Her family raised and trained pintos.

The smartass.

The one guy whose parents owned the local pig farm is gone.  Nice guy.  Very shy.  And because he never seemed to be able to get the smell of the farm out of his clothes, very lonely.

The guy I went to kindergarten with who missed a grade, so he graduated the following year.  I remember more about him from elementary than the other years.  He'll always be young and skinny and kind of a pain.

None of them were close friends, but still...  I dread the day when I hear one of my close friends has gone - even though we lost touch a really long time ago. 

I guess it's not as many as I thought last night.  It was just a blow, because I don't think of any of us as being old enough to die.  And yet, they almost could've added my name to that list.  Accidents happen. 

To those fallen classmates from another life, I'd just like to say: "Bye, guys.  Thanks for the memories - the good ones, the happy ones, the not-so-nice ones.  Those memories all contributed at some point to who I ended up being."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Cat's Garage

Lest you find yourself horrified at the thought that precious Max lives in the garage, and that I am a terrible human being for thrusting his special needs-ness into the filthy wasteland, let me tell you about Max's home.

First off, it's a two car, attached garage.  And we don't put the car in it, except for cases of extreme weather. So no worries about mud, oil, gunk, or what have you touching his furry paws.

The garage floor has that special sealant paint which makes it extremely easy to clean.

In the garage, Max has a special chair with a pillow and a blanket.  He also has a pillow on the work bench.  And he still has the house I made for him when he was an outdoor cat in Colorado.  It's just inside now, in the farthest corner from the windows and the doors, so if it gets cold, he has his own igloo.  On top of the house, he has a comforter he likes to sleep on sometimes, too.

We've equipped the garage with an air conditioner and a space heater - so he'll never get too hot or too cold.  Hubs also went to the trouble of adding insulation to the ceiling and the walls - which helps Max AND saves us a ton on electric bills.  (You do not want to know what it costs to use a space heater to keep an uninsulated garage warm in the icy cold winter.) 

He has his own litter box that Hubs diligently cleans every day.  He has rugs laying all over for him to lay on, scratch, etc.  Also, there's an area rug under his food and water dishes, so he doesn't have to stand on the cold floor while he eats. 

We go out there several times a day to feed him, play with him, pet him, and brush him.  So, even though he's not in the house proper, he gets plenty of attention.  Plus, he gets walked once a day when the weather isn't totally crappy. 

Additionally, he has a kitty condo he likes to scratch and sit on, plenty of toys, and every once in a while, live prey.  (He killed a mouse this morning.)

So, Max - who spent however many years on the street, starving and being abused - is living the high life.  And now that he's not drooling as much, he gets to spend more time in the house itself.  (Much to Queen Kira's dismay.)

What outrageous things do you do for your pets?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Update - Week 41

Man, this week flew by and looking back, I don't feel like I have a whole lot to show for it.  Then I looked to my right and saw the notebook with my edit notes for Wrongful Termination sitting there all shiny and bleeding red. 

So, yeah, I finished the edit notes for WT and they're ready to input. 

I also finished the proofing stage of WIOH, and have begun working on the submission materials for that.  (Yes, I went through and got rid of a lot of the ellipsis... ellipses? Okay, so I'm a closet ellipsis junkie. So shoot me.)

I took Friday off as a reading day to begin catching up.  According to Goodreads, I was 9 books behind.  Now after reading 3 books, I'm only 7 behind.  (Go figger.)  Then I got sick of reading other people's books and started re-reading a dystopian I never finished editing - and making edit notes on that sucker.  Later in the day yesterday, I saw something on FB about Mickey Spillane's military career, which led to talking about Spillane with hubs, which led to me grabbing a Mickey Spillane I hadn't read yet off my bookshelves.  I'm halfway through that as of last night.

Yesterday I had planned to finish getting those submission materials ready so I can submit tomorrow, but I procrastinated.  What is it about submission materials that makes me want to drag my feet and find something else to do??  Ugh.  I mean, they're already done.  I just have to tweak them to make them fit a particular set of guidelines.  But it's like eating Brussels sprouts.  I know they're good for but damned if I can make myself sit down to eat them.  Well, if I want my manuscripts to grow up to be pushed novels, I damn well better sit my ass down and eat my veggies on this.  So, that's what I'll be doing today.  Damn it. 

In the garden, all my mums are finally blooming.  Huge bushes of hundreds of purple, maroon, and white blooms.  And one light purple that used to be white.  (Sometimes mums do that, I guess.)  I'll get pictures once it stops raining.

In pet news, Max is nearly back to his old self again - minus the angry red gums.  Unfortunately, he's also minus eating a whole lot in one sitting so I'm feeding him like every couple hours, and of course, he doesn't want to eat food that was opened a couple hours before (even if I refrigerate and reheat it), so we're going through a lot of cans and throwing out a lot of leftovers.  I told him cats in China are starving, but he doesn't care anymore than I cared about starving kids in Asia when I didn't want to eat liver.  His reaction resembles a cat pantomime of 'they're starving, send them this crap'.

Also, whatever stomach bug Hubs got is over, too.  We're back to almost totally normal here again.  (Well, as normal as we ever were.) 

So, how are things in your world? 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Clawing My Way Outside the Box

Once upon a time, there was a wicked witch who liked to use the phrase 'think outside the box' like a barbed whip on anyone who didn't think the way she thought.  The way she used it was an attempt to make you feel ashamed of being so gauche in her eyes that you would capitulate. It usually worked for her, too, until she turned it on my husband and he blew her off.  I wish I'd been there to see it.  I fully imagine her disintegrating, screaming "What a world, what a world..."

As such, the phrase has become more a joke in our house than a useful reminder.  After all, I think we're both old hands at thinking outside the boxes society has tried to pack us into. 

Not that there haven't been times when I snuggled down within the comforting confines of a box.  Most of the time, I was unaware I even had a cube of corrugated paper around me.

Take my road to publication.  I walked into it with the idea that I would... I don't know... take the world by storm?  :shrug:  I read everything I could to make sure I did it right - and everything I read told me I'd better make sure I did it right, or else.  OR ELSE.  So, I sat myself right down and began constructing the box around me.

They made it seem like I would never succeed without the box.  Well, I don't know if my box is flawed or I didn't build it right or they wanted it pink instead of cardboard brown... But the box hasn't worked for me.  This box that I never really wanted but that now I'm afraid to claw my way out of.

But fear or not, I'm trying to shred the box.  The way Hubs tore up every box we had after we moved here because we are never moving again. Rip 'em up, throw 'em out. 

An unfortunate side effect of this effort to shred the box is it makes me a little irritated with the box keepers and the box builders.  Some days I just want to poke them in the eyes.  Them with their little rules about this and their cautions about that, and their 'the box-building rules don't apply to me because my box is different from your box'.  Bleh.

Don't get me wrong.  I know there are certain rules in place for a reason.  Grammar rules, for instance.  (Although, those are made to be broken sometimes as well.)  Social rules - like where it's generally frowned upon to piss in someone else's metaphorical swimming pool.  Laws.  Those things are in place to keep us from infringing on other people.  I get that.  I'm a happy law-follower there.  (Okay, I occasionally go five over the speed limit, but that's the extent of my lawlessness.)

The point is, I can follow those without being trapped in a box. Also, submission guidelines are rules you have to follow if you want to have a part in the game.  Well, I've followed those for years and it's gotten me nowhere, but I'll still follow them. 

And fuck, there I am, rebuilding my box...

Years of living inside a box makes it so much easier to rebuild than to tear apart.  Pretty pretty cardboard and shiny shiny tape. 

Sorry for the rambling... Still, all of this brings to mind a story my Hubs likes to tell.  Something about a rat in a rice paper maze.  Running and running looking for a way out, never realizing that all he has to do to be free is to break down the flimsy walls around him. 

All this is - all this ever was - is a rice paper box.  Time to break free.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Update - Week 40

Good Morning!  It's Week 40 of 2014, which means there are only 12 weeks left before a whole new year. Since I didn't do much last week, let me start out by saying what I hope to do in the next 12.

First off, I'm planning on doing NaNoWriMo.  (50K words in 31 days.)  I have a new story idea that's been percolating in my head for a couple months now, and I'm anxious to get started.  It's an urban fantasy with an Arthurian angle.  To that end, I've been trying to give myself a refresher course on all the major players in the old story, so I can stay true to certain aspects.  But hey, it's urban fantasy, so obviously, I'm not even going to be close to most of the aspects.  We'll see how it works out.

Second, I've been busting my bootie to get manuscripts whipped into shape for publication.  Dying Embers is back out into the world.  Djinnocide is this close to being ready to go.  And I'm in the early stages of getting Wrongful Termination into shape.  To that end, I also plan on picking one of my dystopian stories to get ready by the end of the year.

On the home front, the weather is getting cooler - which means the ticks and the snakes are going dormant for the year, which means I can go back into the woods again.  I already know I have clean-up work to do on the trails.  And a huge branch feel onto a smaller tree right off the yard, so that has to be taken care of so it doesn't stunt the new growth of the little tree.  (It's not broken - just bent.)  I also have to separate my irises and find a new bed for the ones I need to move.  Then, of course, the leaves are starting to fall, so there'll be loads of raking to do.

Now, onto the stuff I accomplished this week.

Like I said, Dying Embers has been sent out.  I got the auto-reply that it's been received, so that's all I can do about that for another 12 weeks or so (unless I hear back sooner).

I'm about 50% of the way through Wrongful Termination's note-taking.  Pages and pages of notes, but hey, this was kinda first drafty, so that's to be expected.  I still love this book and I'll love it even more once I make it pretty.

This past week also saw a lot of time being devoted to Maxie kitty.  He was feeling poorly due to an infection in his mouth.  And then he came home from the vet's and while he felt better, he also felt like being picky about his vittles.  It's been a trial trying to figure out what he'll eat and then fixing meals for him rather than just opening a can.  Last night, he had chicken, tilapia, rice and kitty formula mixed in a bowl.  Not his favorite meal, but he ate some and got those important nutrients.  This morning, he ate almost like a normal Max.  We'll see how that goes.

So, I've been kinda wrapped up in taking care of kitty, which leaves me too tired or too dragged out (between the worrying and the constant 'I want food' from Max) to really accomplish too much.  Except for last night when I was so frustrated, I sat down here and wrote a few pages in a totally different new story.  The beginning is edgy and gritty, so it fit my mood.  I'll revisit that much much later - like spring or summer of 2015.  It just felt good to write new words.  I can't wait for NaNo.

How have things been in your world this past week?  What plans have you got for the next 12? 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Exponential Horror

Ever read Stephen King's The Stand?  (Or watched the mini-series?  The book is way better.) 

It's about the world being wiped out by a superflu that escaped from a government research facility and the subsequent consequences therein (including a god versus satan thing for control of who's left - but that's the last third, and not pertinent for this post). 

Anyway, the beginning of the book (the uncut version, not the original first edition) details how one security guard at a military base transmits this escaped virus to the entire world.  When I first read this book back in the early nineties, I thought the idea was brilliant.

One security guard and his family squeak through the rapidly closing guard fence in their little car.  They make a break for it, headed east from... New Mexico, I think...  and wind up dying in a little town in east Texas where they infect a small group of friends who then infect the entire town.  But it goes further than that. As the original three escape what the guard knows will be a quarantine, they have to stop for gas.  And meals.  And rest. 

You see a little of this in the movie Outbreak.  One infected monkey bites the dock worker who smuggles him out of quarantine and the dock worker gives it to his girlfriend.  They both die horribly, and the virus stops there, but it doesn't because then the monkey gives a different strain of the virus to the pet store owner the dock worker tries to sell her to.  The pet store owner gets sick and goes to the hospital where a lab tech gets it from the guy's blood.  The lab tech goes to the movies and coughs all over everyone there - because by now it's airborne.  Those movie goers pass it along to their friends and families, and soon a whole town has it.

In The Stand, the guard, his wife and child give it to a few people everywhere they stop and those few people give it to more people who give it to more people.  One of them gets on an international flight out of the country and... Well, if I remember correctly this thing had like a 98% mortality rate, so you do the math.

Remember that commercial for shampoo back in the 80s?  One gal loves her shampoo so much, she tells a friend (and the screen splits showing two gals) and they both tell someone (screen splits to 4) and so on and so on until the screen is covered with small splits of people.  It's like that, only on an exponential scale. 

I saw a news report last night where a gentleman said every night a 747 full of people lands in JFK airport from Liberia.  A 747 carries just under 500 people.  Simple scenario (allowing for simple math calculations), 100 people carrying a virus infect 10 people each during their contagious stage.  Those 1000 people infect 10 people each. And so on and so on.  In those two more so ons, 1 million people are infected.  In a relatively short time.

In another news report, a gentleman from the CDC said closing the borders would not stop the danger to US citizens from the spread of Ebola.  Really?  Well, it might not, but it sure would go a long way toward retarding the progress.  One lone sick man walking across the border in the middle of nowhere versus 500 people dropping into NYC every night.  I'll take my chances with the one versus the 500. 

Except it's not me taking my chances.  It's a group of people more concerned with looking politically correct than with the health and welfare of the people they're supposed to protect.  They're taking their chances with my life.  And yours.  And our kids'.

I really hope Purell can kill Ebola virus on the shopping cart at Walmart.  But what about that can of corn you put in your basket that the gal whose boyfriend just got back from Liberia grabbed and then put back because she didn't want corn that day?  Or the bag of candy bars the kid sneezed on whose classmate's uncle slept with a woman who'd just gotten home from an infected nation? 

Kinda makes me glad I don't live in a populated area, but then again, who knows where anyone has been before they stopped at my favorite thrift store out on the highway?

As an aside, I'm guessing I'm not the only person out there who's concerned.  When I went to Google for research on this post, I typed in 'seating cap' and the first suggested autofill was 'seating capacity for a 747'.  Guess I wasn't the only one who saw that report last night.

Anyway, stay safe out there, my friends, and keep the Purell handy - just in case.

Addendum: I am not a germaphobe, I'm not hiding in my bunker with a thousand cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, and I'm really not going around covering everything in Purell. I'm still at the point where I'll take my chances on the shopping carts and other things in public.  But to say I'm not concerned with the recent events and the seeming clusterfuck that is our government's attempt to protect our health and welfare would be lying.  Personally, I don't want to die because someone else fucked up. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I am not, by nature, a patient person.  I hate waiting - for anything.

This is the reason I don't like making hair appointments or doctor appointments or any other appointments really, ahead of time.  I call the doctor's office the day I need to go in.  If they don't have anything available for that day, I get 'first available'.  I generally do walk-in hair cuts and if I walk-in and they wait is more than 10 minutes, I go elsewhere.  Hate waiting.

Over the years, though, I have managed to secure a small measure of patience - or at least the ability to hide my impatience.  LOL

Yesterday was a test of my ability.  You see, Max has been sick.  Not that he's an altogether 100% healthy cat anyway - what with his recurring mouth infections - but over the weekend, he was bad.  He didn't want to eat or drink.  All he wanted was to be left alone.  (Another thing I hate doing.)  By Monday, I had to admit that I'd done all I could and I called a veterinarian.  They said bring him in but because they were already booked solid, he'd have to stay all day and they'd get to him when they could.

So, we dropped him off first thing and we came home to wait... and wait... and wait...  I finally decided to lay down for a nap because we hadn't slept the night before and I was freakin' tired.  Just as I was about to doze off, the phone rang.

Luckily, it was just a flare-up of his mouth infections and not his liver or kidneys going bad.  He'll be able to come home today, most likely.  I have to call over there in a while to see if we're still a go for that.  So I woke up this morning to more waiting.  And I really hate waiting.

Now, lest you think I'm all impatience personified, I have learned.  I send out queries and I wait, because that's what one does.  I don't bother people.  Hey, I didn't call the vet every hour for an update, even though I was worried and even though we had to discuss the possibility of letting Max go to the big litterbox in the sky.  I waited.  I just hated it while I was doing it.  Just like I hated the 6 month lead time period for that submission to that publisher.  And the Oct 2012 to Jan 2014 wait for an answer from that other place (even after they said they'd get us all an answer earlier... and then again... and then...).  But I did it. 

Of course, waiting is easier to manage if you have something to keep your mind off it.  Like this post.  When I started typing, I had 20 minutes left to wait, and now I can go make the call and see if Max can be picked up.


How do you feel about waiting?  Are you good at it?

Update:  I have to wait until after 11am now.  Arrghh!!