Monthly Archives: August 2010

A tale writ large — in blood

I woke up late yesterday. Not the kind of late where you feel all rested and refreshed and ready to take charge of the day. The kind where you know you’re in last place before you even get started because you went to bed way too late and in fact you might cheerfully kill for an extra hour of sleep and your eyes are open but not quite focused and you’re damn glad no one else is awake because if you had to actually speak to someone they might spontaneously combust.

You know, a typical workday.

So I can perhaps be excused for not noticing right away — in fact, not until after I had fed the cats and put the tea kettle on to boil — that there was blood all over my kitchen floor.

Okay, fine, it wasn’t “all over” the floor. There were a couple smallish strategically placed globs of it and several big streaks. And a few scattered smudges. But it pretty much covered the span from wall to wall and cupboard to baker’s rack.

It was all over the damn place.

My first thought was, Oh hell. Am I bleeding? How could I be bleeding and not know it? I hobbled around like a demented stork, peering groggily at the bottom of first one foot and then the other. I was not bleeding. I looked twice, just to make sure. Did I mention I was not quite awake?

Then I thought, Oh crap. One of the cats is bleeding. So I watched the two of them stalk each other around the kitchen for a while, seeing as how I was too bleary-eyed to pick them up, turn them over and inspect their paws. Trust me, that kind of maneuver is risky even when you’re wide awake and fully caffeinated. But no, there was no blood creeping in on little cat feet. Phew. Not an injured cat.

So, what the hell? Why was there blood all over my kitchen? I decided one of the cats must have gotten into something during the night and cut a paw but had since stopped bleeding. Made sense to me. And I know darn well which of the two cats [ahem] is wild-ass crazy and likely to get into things. And which cat owner [ahem] should have to clean up the carnage.

So I’m pretty sure that on my way out the door to work [late! GAH!] my still-groggy self said to my half-awake daughter, “There’s blood all over the kitchen floor.” I ignored her startled exclamation. “I think she’s fine now, but check your cat’s feet for cuts. Oh, and clean up the mess she made. Gotta run!”

I got a text message an hour later:  Her feet are fine. I think maybe she killed a mouse.

A mouse? Okay, now I’m skeptical. My cat has killed a wayward mouse or five in her time, but there was never any blood involved. Do mice even have blood? Apparently my cat is too polite to inflict death by exsanguination. Plus she doesn’t have front claws.

I texted back:  Eeeww! But where are the random parts? She wouldn’t eat ALL of it would she?

No reply.

So I got home from work and asked again. “Where is the rest of this supposed mouse? Are you sure she didn’t just cut herself? I can’t believe she ate the claws and the tail and . . . and . . . the skull and–”

“Mom! Stop! That’s just gross.”

“Well, the carcass has to be here somewhere,” I said. “Help me look.”

We looked. No mouse parts.

My daughter said, “She keeps going over to her litter box. Do you think . . . maybe?” So she went over and cautiously poked around in the litter box. No mouse.

Then her cat went over and poked around in the litter box. Vigorously. And ten seconds later came charging into the room where we were sitting, proudly flipping a little dead mouse body up into the air and swatting it before it hit the ground and then flipping it up again.

My daughter was horrified and rushed to separate the triumphant cat from her battered trophy. “Mom, grab her. Or grab the mouse. Quick, before she–”

Too late. The cat swatted the mouse and flipped it across the room, narrowly missing my daughter as it flew past. “Mom! It’s not funny!”

I thought it was hysterical. I know, I’m weird. But the cat buried the mouse in her litter box, for godsakes. And waited for us both to come home so she could pull it out and show it to us. Practically preening in anticipation of high praise.

Instead she got yelled at, her prize revoked. Poor thing must have been wondering whatever happened to the concept of hail the conquering hero. To the victor go the mouse spoils, and all that.

I was laughing pretty hard by the time our uninvited guest was duly shrouded in double-bagged plastic. Until I realized I still had mouse blood all over my kitchen. No, my daughter hadn’t cleaned it up. She’d been out visiting friends most of the day. Plus she claimed it wasn’t her responsibility. Hrumph.

“It was your cat who made the mess,” I said.

“It was your mouse.”


So we both cleaned it up. I thought a wet paper towel was sufficient.

“Mom! Are you just using water?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Gross. You don’t know what that mouse had in its blood.”

“What, platelets? Geez. It’s not like it had AIDS.”

“Oh. My. God. Where’s the Lysol?”

By the time she was done, my kitchen floor was so clean you could have eaten off it. If you were a cat. Who had just caught a mouse.

So, how was your day? Clean up any crime scenes lately?

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Filed under miscellaneous bits

“I’m not dead yet!”

This is just a quick update-y sort of post to let you all know that . . .

My daughter survived the 14-hour drive from New Orleans and is safely home. Can’t even tell you how good it is to have her home for a while. Her cat is very happy too and is having fun showing off her newest trick: opening cupboard doors and exploring inside. [sigh]

My son and his girlfriend are settled into their new place and everyone is still speaking to each other after having experienced the joy and frivolity of moving day.  At least no one got hurt. And it didn’t rain.

In between daily stints of working, there has been much talking and cooking and laughing and grocery shopping and baking and several hugs and more talking. And eating. Not much writing at all, but I don’t have a deadline and that can just wait. It will be quiet again soon enough.

I’ve posted a few more of my Great Aunt Mabel’s letters, the ones she wrote while stationed at Stark General Hospital in Charleston, SC in the fall of 1943. You can find them by clicking HERE. I’ve also added a convenient link over there on the sidebar.

And that’s about it. I’m enjoying the break from the internet, even though I feel as if I’m missing all sorts of things. But I’m not missing the important stuff.

Need a day brightener? My daughter emailed me the link to this very funny cat video:

Inefficient Drinker

I laughed so hard I had to wipe away tears. Enjoy!


Filed under Aunt Mabel, just for fun, miscellaneous bits

Turning it off

I’ve written and deleted this post several times now, because it keeps emitting these irritating high-pitched noises that sound a lot like whining. Well, damnit, I’m in the mood to whine. Here, I’ve filled a glass just for you. Help yourself to the cheese and crackers.

This summer has been difficult on all fronts and has left me feeling depressed and discouraged and fatigued and, yes, whiny. The unrelenting excessive heat and humidity have made everything that much more miserable, and combined with increased stress at the day job and the looming possibility of unemployment, the decision not to attend conferences and feeling left out of meet-ups, the inability to travel to faraway gatherings of imaginary friends, trying (and mostly failing) to concentrate on writing, watching the slow implosion of traditional publishing, worrying about BEARS . . . and attempting to be outwardly cheerful and upbeat and entertaining through all that has taken a toll on my optimism and ability to concentrate.

I need a break. I need “a piece of quiet” as my daughter used to say when she was little. I need to reduce the distractions that are sapping my energy and cluttering up my brain. At least for a while. Hell, I need to pretend I live in Europe, where August is optional.

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.  ~Albert Camus

The coming month will see some big changes in my life. More specifically, in the lives of my children. After two years of job demands keeping them in different cities, my son and his girlfriend are now employed in the same city (my city, yay!) and will be moving into an apartment together next weekend. I’m delighted for them, especially since they’ve said I’m not allowed to lift any of the heavy boxes.

My daughter will be coming home that same weekend, after an exhausting but exhilarating summer spent taunting BEARS, to pack up the rest of her belongings (and The Intruder Cat) and will spend a couple weeks here before relocating to New Orleans, where her boyfriend is starting med school and where she will (we hope) find a job in her career field. I’m delighted for her too, even though I hate that she’ll be so far away. I figure if I tell her BEARS have been sighted in the wilds of the back yard, she’ll visit often.

Also during the next month or so, I suspect the economic fate of my employer will be determined, for better or worse. And during this same month, I hope to finish the final draft of my manuscript so I can send it to beta readers. Yeah, I’m not holding my breath on that one, but it’s a goal. Putting it in writing here makes it seem like it might even happen.

That’s a lot of stuff. It’s going to require, and it deserves, my attention and energy. Quite honestly, to retain what’s left of my sanity, I need to stop doing the things that are not strictly required of me. And most of those things involve the internet.

Escaping the Web*

I’ve already told people on Twitter not to expect to hear from me for a while. In fact, I’ve shut down TweetDeck and don’t plan to re-open it anytime soon. I’m also going to stop reading blogs. All of them. Yes, even the CB blog. For now, anyway. If anyone really truly desperately needs me, the form on the contact page goes straight to my email inbox. Use it wisely.

I don’t know whether I’ll continue to write posts over here in August. Most of my blogging “breaks” have been unintentional — every time I say I’m going to take a break, I find fifteen things I just have to write about. We’ll see how that goes. Probably I’ll post more of Aunt Mabel’s letters. Meant to do that earlier this summer and . . . got distracted.

So that’s the plan. I don’t expect it to be easy. The thought of closing my browser and not opening it except to check email and the weather is, well, scary. Plus, I’ll miss everyone. But right now the internet is not my friend. I’m sure I’ll resume the addiction relationship once life calms down. Believe me, you all will know it when I come back.

In the meantime, behave. Badly or well, I’ll leave up to you.

*Isn’t this cute? (well, for a spider) For more fun badges (and to see which ones you might have “earned”), visit the Merit Badger blog.

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Filed under blogging, creativity, goals, health and well-being

Who supplies your habit?

Ack! I’ve been neglecting my blog again. Been kind of busy here. Trying to turn this rough draft into something that sort of resembles that product called a book, even though I suspect the only use people are going to find for it is to line their birdcage.

But I’m trying to think positive thoughts. Uplifting confidence-inspiring thoughts. Mostly they consist of things like, “The whole entire world is not going to read your book and think it sucks and that you can’t write, because only ten people are ever going to read it.”

And along those lines, I’ve been wondering about “promotion” [shudder] and how to let more than ten people know I’ve written a book and it’s going to be published. [<—You see? That right there was a deluded positive thought.] More specifically, I’ve been wondering where people get recommendations about what to read. I started thinking about this after I read a post last week on the Lifehacker blog in which they listed what they call the “Five Best Book Recommendation Services,” and they are:

Do you all use those sites? I’ve heard of most of them, but the only one I’ve ever visited is Amazon. Unfortunately, not all of what I’ve heard is positive. Several people on twitter have complained that at least one of those sites is full of irritating self-promo and spam generated by authors rather than limited to recommendations from readers. Anyone have experience there? Maybe those are sites authors should just avoid?

I know all of you have favourite writers whose books you read (and re-read) with admirable loyalty. I have my list of auto-buy writers too. But I assume you also read books from new-to-you writers. How did you hear about them — either the books or the writers? Whose recommendations do you trust? Friends, co-workers, librarians, the guy sitting next to you on the subway? Bestseller lists? Do you read blogs or online reader forums to get suggestions? When trying a new writer, do you buy the book or get it from the library? Is your decision to try someone new influenced by format and price — that is, whether the book is hardcover, paperback or an ebook?

I can’t really go by my own experience because I’m a bit of a book slut. I’ll try any writer at least once. But I’m not always (or even often) reading for pleasure. In fact, I can learn more from a badly written book than from one that’s so good it sucks me right into the story. So I read all sorts of stuff.

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity. -Christopher Morley

I’ve probably tried 20 different writers so far this year. And my TBR pile is full of books by writers I’ve never read. Some of them I’m hesitant to read because I’ve gotten to “know” the writers online and I really like and admire them and I’m afraid to discover I might not like their books. I know, I’m a wimp and a chicken and shouldn’t be allowed to socialize at all, ever. But that’s off topic.

Let’s see, half of the last six new-to-me writers I read were the result of blog interviews, one was suggested via twitter, and the other two came from an Amazon recommendation — you know, that thing where they say, “if you like that, you might like this.” Sometimes they’re way off base. But sometimes they’re right.

I appreciate Amazon’s “try it free” feature for Kindle books that allows you to read the beginning of the book before you buy it. The vast majority of the time, that’s how I decide whether to read a book. I read the cover copy and skim the first few pages. I can tell a lot in those first few pages. Not unlike an agent or editor, I guess. Oddly, I never read the reviews at Amazon. I don’t really care to hear what some stranger thought about a book. Although that might change once it’s my book. Sigh.

What about you? I’d love to hear what influences your book reading decisions. Pro and con. For or against choosing one. Just pleasepleaseplease don’t tell me you never read anything from someone new. Because if that’s true, I’m screwed. Then again, at least that would mean I’m only going to have to worry about the opinion of those ten people referenced above. All of whom read this blog and are too nice to tell me I suck. I think.

I am SO going to notice if you all rush out and buy birdcages.

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Filed under marketing, reader opinion