Best Laid Plans

I started out the year as I often to, determined to pay more attention to my health, become more organized so that my partner and I would have more time to play. Sometimes the Universe has other plans.

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I was moving along feeling good about my progress and new habits.  And then came the flu.  A case of flu that had me missing a week of work and dragging myself to work the next week, still not feeling well. I slept most of the time I was home.  

Then came the icing on the cake.  I stepped “funny”.  And not comical funny but I can’t take another step and I don’t know why funny. Since then I have not been able to drive or even sit without ice packs.  I see my chiropractor 3 times a week and am making progress, but it’s slow.

I’m sharing all of this is to explain why I’ve not been around. The blogs and newsletters didn’t make it through my haze of pain. I’m so sorry for not being present.  While full recovery is a ways off, , I still hope for improvement day by day. 

At any rate, I am most certainly back to my blog and newsletter.  And it is definitely time to get to those edits of my stories slated for release this year.

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 4/5 stars

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 

4/5 Stars

I recently finished Spawn of Lilith by Dana Fredsti. I liked this book and would recommend it to others. It seems to follow none of the “rules” we have come to expect in books. There is no inciting incident (or ordinary world, I couldn’t tell which was missing), no rising action. Most of the book is simply Lee, the main character, doing things. Lee buys beer. Lee take a job on a bad movie.  Lee takes another job with another bad movie. Although she’s a stunt woman, I’m not sure any of those scenes are necessary for the story. In fact, I wasn’t sure what the story was until the end of the book.

According to Lee, the movie industry is full of supernatural creatures. But they are not on the page, at least not in a way that impacts the plot or characters’ development.

So why do I like the book enough to recommend it? I like the characters. They were well developed and engaging. I like Lee. I like Lee’s friends— Eden, an actress, and Randy, a stuntman and a shapeshifter who never shifts. In a roundabout way, they help her grow and become more independent. I might have found Sean and Seth (her father and pseudo-foster brother) more interesting if they had been around more.  

I’d put the book back on the shelf several times because one of the blurbs described Lee as snarky. I hate snarky characters, but eventually I decided to give it a try. I did NOT find Lee snarky. Snarky is just bitter and angry, which Lee isn’t. She had humorous moments that were well done.

All in all, I couldn’t put this book down.  I’m looking forward to reading Lee’s next adventure.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Review: Wolfblood 4.5/5 STARS

Click on the picture for a link to amazon and the series DVD.

Click on the picture for a link to amazon and the series DVD.

Okay, I admit it. Occasionally I binge watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Sometimes, the results are terrible, and I’m left wondering how I am going to get back the hours I’ve wasted. Sometimes, I enjoy myself thoroughly and wish my binge didn’t have to come to an end. This is the case (so far) with Wolfblood, written by Debbie Moon..

In this world, you are born Wolfblood. You can’t get “turned” into one like in many Were stories. It’s the tale of Maddie and Rhydian, two young Wolfbloods. Maddie lives with her parents, and Rhydian, who is a newcomer to their small town, lives with a foster family who do know know what he is.

Over the course of the first three seasons, much happens. As I don’t like to give spoilers, suffice to say the stories are a blend of typical teenaged angst (belonging, independence, parental issues, love).

There are many wonderful aspects of this series. First, it’s refreshing to have teenagers actually played by teenagers. In addition, every episode has a rich story arc in which a character changes or grows or learns something new after overcoming an obstacle or solving a problem. There hasn’t been one episode that wasn’t moving in some way.

The “bad guys” are usually three dimensional and occasionally likeable. You understand their motivations, and that makes them sympathetic. I also value that Maddie is the pack Alpha. Not her parents, not Rhydian. Maddie. The girl is fierce, in both human and Wolfblood terms.

The challenge in this series, however, is that at the end of Season 2 there is a significant cast change. I understand that this is also true after Season 3. For people like me who get connected to well-written characters, shifts in casting and therefore story premise are hard.

Overall, however, I enthusiastically recommend this series. You’ll cheer for the characters and wonder what they are thinking, smile at the humor and find yourself moved when their lives get hard. What more can you ask for?

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Grateful for Everyday

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Last Christmas, festivities ended for us when we came home from a family dinner and discovered Chloe, our 15-year-old puppy had thrown up and was acting lethargic.   She is a tough as nails terrier mix so this was totally out of character.

We were at our vet first thing the next morning. Our vet ran blood work and found some of her scores were well above normal and her liver enzymes were so high their instruments could not measure them.  Arrangements were made to have her seen by a specialist the following day. He did an ultrasound and found masses on her liver and pancreas. He took samples and we went home to wait for results. The passing days were excruciating. In reality, we thought we were bringing her home to die.

At the end of the week, we were told that no cancer cells or massive infection were detected.  Next stage would be surgery to take bigger samples. There were no guarantees that anything we found would be treatable or even that she would survive the samples being taken considering her blood work.

Since then we have been afraid to leave her for more than a couple of hours.  She has gotten all the attention she wanted, special food.  She cried and whimpered at night and since she sleeps in our room, that was problematic for those who had to get up early and go to work.

So, Chloe and I became night owls.  She slept peacefully in front of the fireplace until I made an attempt to go to bed.  Then she was would waken and cry.  As the weeks went on, she felt better, not crying as much.  But still wanted our nightly routine. She would sleep but periodically raise up to make sure I was on the sofa and then go back to sleep. That progressed to me being able to go to bed at some point as long as the light was left on for her.

For the record, I can’t seem to catch up on sleep.  I fall asleep if I close my eyes and sometimes even while I am talking.  Concentration is nonexistent. But that’s okay. She’s worth it.

Last week we went back for lab work. Her tests we much improved, some were actually normal.  She did have a UTI and was given antibiotic. She immediately perked up. She started playing with her toys. She steals things again, daring us to chase her and play tag.  She sleeps through the night and no longer needs a light.

Often, we have medical decisions to make and don’t get to find out if we made the right choice.   She still has one test that is too high and is not out of the woods. But for now, we have our puppy back.  And we are grateful for every day.

Spring Break Staycation

The view from our balcony. Snow, Christmas lights, overcast sky.

The view from our balcony. Snow, Christmas lights, overcast sky.

Yesterday was the beginning of Spring Break. Normally we try to take at least a short vacation. This year we are staying close to home because I am afraid of leaving Chloe alone. She’s our brindle terrier mix, and she runs the house. She’s 15 years old and doesn’t feel well much of the time. She also seems to be getting separation anxiety, as we have to be in her sight at all times or she whines in distress. Our poor baby girl.

It’s fun to look back at some of our trips. Others, not so much. A few years ago, we had reservations at Trappe Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. We looked forward to sitting in the nice warm lodge and watching the snow. We would nap, drink tea and hot chocolate, eat from their wonderful menu. We would relax. At home, meteorologists predicted a dusting. 

 They were wrong.

The second evening of our vacation, our sitter called to ask if any of our neighbors might be able to feed and walk our dogs. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get out to make her visits with him. Turns out the prediction of snow had changed drastically, and the governor would be closing the roads over heavy snow. I panicked. All of our neighbors are elderly and none of them able to care for our dogs. Our only option was to immediately return home. We hurriedly packed and talked with hotel staff. We were booked for the week. Fortunately, the manager was kind and didn’t ask us to pay for the remainder of the week, despite the fact that she was entitled to do so.

As we drove through the night, not a single snowflake fell. We finally found an all-night grocery store where we bought a large supply of junk food and soda to sustain us on the trip. Since we had been on the go since early morning, we struggled to stay awake and alert.

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We made it to Hartford as the sun rose. Snow started falling as we pulled into the driveway. We unpacked and quickly checked food supplies since we had not shopped before leaving.

Finally satisfied that we didn’t need any supplies, our dogs were in good shape, and we were okay, too, we went to sleep. It was still snowing when we woke, and the accumulation was deep. I was able to dig a short path from our back door to allow the dogs out. They really were not happy—the snow was taller then each of them!

It snowed for 2 more days. The neighborhood was so quiet and peaceful. We kept some of the path clear for the dogs by using a long shovel we kept inside for that purpose, but we weren’t able to open the doors wide enough for us to leave.  Didn’t matter; the city didn’t plow our road for three days. 

The takeaway is simple. No more long trips over spring break. Fine by me; it’s snowing again today.

Binge-Watched: A Review of Umbrella Academy

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

Umbrella Academy is a new series on Netflix. I’d say it’s urban fantasy, my favorite genre to read and watch.

Despite some irritations, I loved this show.  I had no knowledge of the comic so had no expectations, which may have allowed me to enjoy the show instead of looking for where it diverged.

The premise seems to be this: On October 1, 1989, 43 women who had not been pregnant that morning gave birth. A rich entrepreneur adopts 7 of them.  He trains them as superheroes to combat crime. Each child has a unique superpower. For some reason, unexplained but perhaps hinted at, the children go their separate ways. This story takes place when they reunite at their father’s death.

Many of the characters are a bit stereotypical. But can we expect more from comic book villains and heroes?  We saw their flaws and strengths in concrete terms. However, I found most of them to be sympathetic. I tend to be attracted to stories of broken heroes and this one gives me three--Luther, Diego, and Klaus.  

There were a few others worth mentioning. I adored Hazel and the donut lady. I liked Bobo and felt so much emotion from “mom” even though she was supposed to be an automaton. I cared and worried about these people. On the other hand, one major irritant was the show’s inconsistencies. Luther’s size was all over the board.  And the speed of the relationship between Leonard and Vanya was hard to believe. Speaking of Vanya, I also couldn’t believe her total personality metamorphosis took only 3 or 4 days. As this was a major part of the season’s arc, I had some difficulty staying connected to the storyline.

 Even with the irritants, what the series does well had me hooked--Giving viewers a reason to care about the characters.  I watched the entire season in two days. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again.

Bad Habits Require New Habits

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Those of you following my newsletter know that I’ve embarking on a journey this year to achieve a few goals. Not resolutions, but concrete, measurable goals. Many of you’ve joined me. So far, we’ve set goals and crafted them for maximum effectiveness using the SMART goal strategy. 

Sometimes, resolutions or SMART goals involve creating new habits. You’ve probably heard the adage it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Unfortunately, it is rarely that simple. New habits can take much, much longer to develop. A quick Google search will guide you to interesting and more accurate information. (Suffice to say establishing a new habit requires dedication, persistence (including a promise to yourself to never give up), and an overarching desire to win. Did I mention persistence? 

Other goals involve eliminating longstanding habits. Here is something to think about: It is far easier to get rid of a bad or maladaptive habit when you find something to replace it. For instance, one of my 2019 goals is to eat less and better-for-me food. I can replace bad-for-me food with foods that are better—easy. Sort of. But if I want to eat less, what can I do with the desire to eat more? I replace the habit of snacking with behaviors that are incompatible with snacking. For example, crocheting. I can’t eat and crochet at the same time. I also can’t brush my teeth and snack.

(You know what I mean. Doesn’t everyone like the feeling of freshly brushed teeth?)

At times, it is also important to think about WHY you engage in the not-good-for-you behavior. For example, let’s say you want desperately to stop picking your fingernails. It’s more than a habit; you understand you do this when you’re anxious. With this knowledge, you can find other things to do when you’re nervous, things designed to soothe you. Drinking a cup of tea? Deep breathing exercises? Calling your BFF? One of these options would always be available to you. When you finally make the commitment to stop picking your fingernails, you’ll have these other tools at your disposal.

The point is, when you are trying to stop doing something, you have to replace it with something else. In fact, start doing the new, positive thing BEFORE you tackle stopping the old thing.

Make sense? What habits do you want to change?

But She's Chloe

By this time in January, my partner and I have usually taken 1 or 2 mini vacations, seen lots of movies, and in general had big fun. Not this year.

Christmas evening, we returned home to find our Chloe laying in bed, still. She barely looked up at us. We were petrified. Despite being 14 years old, our Chloe (or Chlorine Baconskin, as we call her when trying to retrieve something she’s stolen) was an energetic, marauding thief who bosses her younger brother and sister (and us) around. The next day was no better. She also began to vomit. Off to the vet.

Bloodwork showed her liver enzymes were off the chart, immeasurably high. Her pancreatic enzymes were off as well. An ultrasound showed two masses—one on her liver and one by her pancreas. The doctors announced two possibilities: a serious infection or cancer.

No, that’s not possible. It’s Chloe, marauder extraordinaire.

We waited over a week for the results of the biopsy. Meanwhile, Chloe began to get better. More active. More bossy and complaining if supper was two minutes past the usual time. Finally, we got word that no sign of cancer or infection were found. Our primary vet, who has treated her for most of her life, warned us that the next step would likely entail more invasive procedures that would tax her already distressed liver.

Today, Chloe is her usual marauding self. Just this afternoon we discovered she’d hidden a box of tissues to rip into shreds as the mood arises. That’s why we’re staying home. To see that the girl is comfortable and happy. To keep tabs on her thievery. To get her dinner on time. And to make sure she knows she’s loved—Just because she’s Chloe.

My Chloe. Don't you just love her?

A Wish for You

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A major theme in my writing is that we are happiest when we can be who we are. I think it resonates with me because I spent so much of my life trying to be the person others expected me to be. Maybe you've had similar experiences. 

I'm starting a quest for the new year. Part envisioning, part goal setting. Why not join me? 

Once a month I'll send out a short email offering ideas and action steps to put us on the journey to living the life we imagine. Don't worry; I'll still talk about books and things. To start us off, I'm offering a brief tool to keep track of where you're going. Just click the button to join my email list. You’ll then be directed to the booklet. It will open in your browser for you to download in the usual way. You can print it double-sided, and then fold it into a booklet. I find it helpful to have something I can write on.

2019 is going to be awesome.

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National Novel Writing Month

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A few years ago I learned about a form of torture that takes place all over the world every November. I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWrIMo as it has come to be known. This requires an author to write a 50,000 novel in 3o days.  I was struggling with my first book at the time and this seemed like an interesting distraction.

            I am sure I have complained about this before but it bears repeating.  No woman in her right mind would choose November for this endeavor.  

            I don’t remember how many words I wrote before realizing I was going to have company for two weeks at Thanksgiving. There were automatically 2 weeks that I would not be able to write with any kind of regularity.

            This went on for several years.  I always consoled myself with “At least you have some words you can use later.

            This year I vowed that I would win Nano whatever it took.  The first thing to go were descriptions. They are in a house damn it, what more do you want? Dialog became stilted and nothing was added beyond said, asked, or replied. And some of my characters had never used a contraction in their lives. Sometimes scenes just faded to black, and not just sex scenes.  I thought, If Criminal Minds could get away with  “as you know” conversations successfully for 14 seasons who was I to doubt its usefulness.

            Most importantly we celebrated Thanksgiving at someone else’s house.  And all decided not to exchange Christmas gifts. So I only lost 6 full days of writing.

            I counted every word religiously, keeping watch that Scrivener didn’t lie to me. My fingers developed a mind of their own and sometimes I swear I did not write those words. And my fingers were obviously delirious because those words made no sense. Maybe a letter or two that I needed but that was all. Sometimes I could figure out what I meant to say, sometimes I just had to start that part over.

            Then on November 28 Scrivener said I had reached 50,000. I didn’t trust it. I continued to write just to be sure.

            And just like that, I had won NANOWRIMO.  It had only taken me 10 years to accomplish.  It’s a terrible rough draft but who cares.  I did it.

 I DID IT!

Rhode Island ComicCon

Whew. Finally all recovered from a weekend like RICC, Rhode Island Comic Con. My partner and I go every year, and usually buy way too much superhero/rockstar/wrestling paraphernalia. While I won’t say we didn’t buy anything, I can say we didn’t do the usual amount of damage.

There were three highlights for us. The main highlight, the once in a lifetime one, was attending an intimate discussion with Tim Curry. Yes, you heard me. Tim Curry, of IT, Clue, Legend and a hundred other movies, my favorite of them being Rocky Horror Picture Show. Tere’s only one word to describe Mr.Curry in that movie: Yummy.

But I digress.

As you might know, he’s not been well for some time. I understand he’s had one, maybe two strokes that have left him unable to walk. But he is still the same beautiful man with the same sharp wit. He spoke of his various roles, and shared many stories about his life “on set”. When asked about the most recent version of Rocky Horror, he stated that while Laverne Cox was beautiful and terrific in the role she played, overall he found the make unnecessary. By casting a transgendered woman in the role of Frank N Furter, he believed they missed the point that Frank N Furter was a transvestite, not a transgendered person, and that he, “would fuck anything”.

Gotta love him.

Another highlight of the weekend also related to Rocky Horror: A Panel discussion with Meatloaf and Barry Bostwick. Clearly these two have been on panels together before, because they had a comfortable (if not biting) banter between them.

Finally, after chasing his misbehaving butt down all weekend, I finally caught up with Lil Monkey. He’d run off to join the cosplaying pirates. I tell you, he was lucky I found him. I was about to leave his ungrateful ass.

Not. Who loves ya, Monkey? Can’t wait until next year.

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