Friday, March 29, 2019

Careful What You Wish For

Thought for the day:  Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out? [Oliver James]

Have you ever felt like you didn't quite belong? Like you were on the outside looking in?

Meet Cowboy. He belongs to a neighbor, but I think he wishes he were our cat. Most mornings, when I open our front door, he's right there, waiting for me. He immediately sits up and peers in at me. (Or at least, he looks in my general direction... as cross-eyed as he is, it's kinda hard to tell.) He looks pitiful, and dare I say ... hopeful?

Matter of fact, he spends a good bit of time lying or sitting on our front porch. Looking in. Looking pitiful. Or in our back yard, following us around or gazing into the house from out there. He could be running around the neighborhood, doing whatever it is outside cats are supposed do all day, but instead, he bides his time ... wastes his time ... looking in our windows. Wishing he were inside. Hoping his luck will change.

If wishes were horses, all beggars would ride; it wishes were fishes, we'd all have some fried.

He isn't our cat, but I guess you could say he's our collateral pet, just like the other critters who come to our place for a handout and a scratch behind the ear. We don't mind him hanging around, but there's something heart-breaking about the sight of him looking in our window so often.

His expression looks so ...  familiar ...

I'm pretty sure I know how he feels. I've been excluded a time or two.

And I've seen people with that same wistful expression, people who bide their time ... waste their time ... pining to be someone or somewhere they aren't. Essentially, they're wasting their lives on wishes for fishes instead of eating what they have right in front of them, or reaching for the doggone fishing rod. Rather than enjoying what IS, they waste their time wishing for what isn't.

Sometimes Cowboy and Dot look at each other through the window.

Sometimes he and Dash watch each other.

Cowboy wants to come inside so badly. He wishes it were so. We can see it in his face when he stares in the front door. We can see it in his face when he stares in our back sliding glass doors. We can see it when he tries to slip inside when we open the door, and when he rolls on the ground in front of us, doing his tricks and trying so very hard to please.

He wants to be part of the... in crowd.


                                                  when we're on the OUTSIDE, we want IN.


                                             And when we're on the INSIDE, we want OUT.

Is happiness always just on the other side of a proverbial closed door? When we're different from everybody else, we wanta be the same, and when we're too much like everybody else, we yearn to be different. Ya know what? Inside yourself or outside, you never have to change what you see, only the way you see it.  [Thaddeus Golas]  We yam what we yam. And we yam pretty damned good.

Okay, so maybe you never felt like part of the in crowd. Big deal!

So what? Be a standout.

Outside may very well be the new in place. There's lots of us out  here.

 I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.  [Anna Freud]

So by all means, chase your dreams. Never give up on the possibilities. May we never be so blind that all we see is our own small world, nor so self-satisfied that all we are is all we ever hope to be. Keep striving. But... don't waste too much time making fruitless wishes.

Cowboy may wish to come in, but I have a feeling he wouldn't like the reality of this mean old lady trimming his nails every couple weeks. And no matter how much he begged, we'd never provide him with live birds or mice to supplement his diet, either.

                                   And you guys? Always, always be careful what you wish for...

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for this old gal to take her annual leave of absence. I'll be vacating the blogosphere and focusing on some other things for the next month... like working on my current book, doing some dreaded spring cleaning, and editing a very talented writer's most recent book.  I'll seeya in May. I wish... you all the best. 

But, first... I couldn't resist.

 Even though I won't be here for next Wednesday's IWSG post, the May question kinda goes along with this wishful thinking post:

If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/ chapter of your book, which one would it be?  

 See what I mean? That question was like made to accompany this post. My answer? If I'm gonna wish, I might as well wish big. (Insert deep breath here.) The ultimate wish fulfillment would be to write a scene... any scene... that would so capture the imagination and respect of readers, they'd tell all of their friends, You've gotta read this book!"

Yeah, that'd be cool, but in the meantime, I'm not holding my breath. If you haven't read either of my novels yet, here's a heads up: next week, Amazon will have both e-books on sale for the paltry sum of ninety-nine cents in both the U.S. and the U.K. Don't have a Kindle? No biggie. I hear Amazon has a FREE app that'll allow you to read e-books. (A left click on the book covers in the sidebar will deliver you directly to Amazon U.S.)

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Kinda Sport!

Thought for the day: You are no Vader. You are just a child in a mask. [Snoke- The Last Jedi, 2017]

If you're nerdy enough to think this cartoon is funny, you're gonna love this post. Or maybe not. Maybe all it takes is some degree of love for Star Wars. 

[image courtesy of unsplash]
I mean, how over-the-top exciting was it to see Star Wars for the first time? (Okay, so I'll admit it. It was almost as exciting the second, third, and fourth times, too...) Those high speed chases in space! The cool-looking aliens!

Oooh... the light saber fights! The way they looked, the way they sounded. Fantastic!

[image courtesy of unsplash]

And now... NOW... the French Fencing Federation has recognized light saber dueling as a competitive sport! How cool is that? Now, in addition to foils, epees, and sabers, French competitors can slash, feint and stab with cooler-than-cool LED-lit polycarbonate light saber replicas that look like they came right out of the movie. For a bit more money, would-be Jedis can even purchase light sabers with a built-in chip to emit the movie-like sound effects. Be still, my heart... (May I use a red one, please...?)

Why has this rather unusual weapon been added to the sport of fencing? To fight a real modern-day Dark Side. The lack of exercise. Wielding one of these swords requires a good bit of physical exertion, and you know... it's gotta be fun! What kid (or adult) wouldn't rather wield one of these puppies, in lieu of sitting in front of the boob tube?

I wonder if we'll ever see light saber duels at the Olympics...? (I'd watch!)

[cartoon by Jon Carter]

But let's get real. I realize that, at my age, I'm not about to swish a light saber around, no matter how cool it'd be. I'm afraid I'm more likely to use a light saber like this cartoon's aging Darth Vader... (sigh)

Oh well. Sharing the news about the light saber's new status in France gives me an excuse to share some groan-worthy puns about Star Wars. (HA! As if I needed an excuse...)

  • How do Jedi open PDF files? With Adobe Wan Kenobi, of course.
  • How did Darth Vader know what Luke got him for Christmas? Darth felt his presents.
[cartoon by Derrick Wood]

  • How does Wicket get around on Endor? Ewoks.
  • What do you call a pirate droid? Arrrrgh-2-D-2
  • Which Star Wars character worked in a restaurant? Darth Waiter.
  • What do you call an invisible droid? C-through-PO
  • Which of the movies is a baseball player's least favorite? The Umpire Strikes Back
  • What do you call 5 Siths speared with a light saber? A Sith-kabob
  • Why doesn't Yoda ever pick up the tab? He's always a little short.

  • What do you call a Sith who won't fight? A Sithy.
  • Why, oh, why, did movies 4, 5, and 6 come out before 1,2, and 3? Because in charge of directing Yoda was.

The idea of fake-fighting with a realistic light saber still sounds way too cool for me to forget about it. Let's see... I'd pretend to be Princess Leia, of course. (Fine! So if not the lovely princess, how about a frumpy but little-known dowager Queen Mia. Are you satisfied, you fantasy-killers?!) Then again, my hair isn't quite right for making those bun things, anyway... ah HA! No problem. I'll just attach a couple of bagels to the sides of my head.

 Care to join me? After our fake-fight is over... lunch will be... on me. (You bring the cream cheese.)

                         Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

We're only young once, but with humor, we can be immature forever. [Art Gliner]

Friday, March 15, 2019

In Praise of Kick-Ass Women

Thought for the day:  For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.  [Virginia Woolf]

[image courtesy of Wikipedia]

Know what last Friday was...? Give up?

It was International Women's Day. (Yeah... really!) And doggone it, I'm still waiting for my darned cake...

The first International Women's Day was in 1910, but because its roots were based in socialism, for many years, only places like Russia and Eastern Europe paid any attention to it. That is, until 1977, when the U.N. finally climbed aboard and officially proclaimed March 8 to thereafter be known as International Women's Day.

Anyhow, the whole month has now been designated to the recognition of women, whose contributions to society have largely gone unnoticed, and I thought I should write something about at least one of those rather amazing unsung women from history before the month comes to an end. This post is actually an updated version of one from six years ago, so some of you may remember parts of it, but I believe this lady's story merits a re-telling, because for whatever reason, her story still remains largely untold.

A woman is like a teabag: you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.  [Eleanor Roosevelt]

Oh well, still no cake to go with my tea. (For now.) Nonetheless, it's my pleasure to forge ahead and tell you a little something about a little-known kick-ass American woman who deserves a spot in our history books.

Okay, quick: Who was the first woman in American history to run for national office?

[image courtesy of Wikipedia]

If you said 1984 V.P. candidate Geraldine Ferraro...

you would be...

 ( Ding-Ding-Ding!) wrong.

She was the first to be nominated by a major party, but would you believe the first woman, who actually ran for President, did so fifty years before women were even granted the right to vote?

I kid you not. That lady had some serious kinda chutzpah.

[image courtesy of Wikipedia]
Yep, her name was Victoria Woodhull, and in 1872, the Equal Rights Party nominated her as its presidential candidate. Equal rights is exactly what she believed in, too... for women, for blacks, and for the working class.A year earlier, she became the first woman in history to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, where she delivered an impassioned and articulate argument for women's suffrage. And she had other radical outside-the-box ideas, too, such as an eight-hour workday, graduated income tax, social welfare programs, and profit-sharing. Not exactly mainstream thinking for her day.

In 1870, before she ran for office, she was the first woman to open a Wall Street brokerage firm. Made a boatload of money, too, some of which she used to become the first woman to found a weekly newspaper. The purpose of the paper was to support her run for office, and its primary interest was feminism. During its six years of publication, the paper covered such taboo topics as sex education, free love, women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution.

I used to be Snow White, and then I drifted. [Mae West]

[image courtesy of Wikipedia]
Uh, yeah, I did say free love. Not an orgy-filled, spouse-swapping kind of free love, mind you, although by the way she was treated by many people of her time, you would've thought that's exactly what she was espousing. What she believed in was a woman's right to marry, divorce and bear children as she saw fit... without governmental interference.

At right is a Thomas Nast caricature of Woodhull, depicting her as Mrs. Satan. She's holding a sign that says, Be saved by FREE LOVE, and behind her is a woman, laden with children and a drunken husband. In the caption, the woman tells Mrs. Satan, I'd rather travel the hardest path of matrimony than follow your footsteps. 

See? Not even the women of Woodhull's day supported her ideas. Not that it mattered... they couldn't vote.

Some people think having large breasts makes a woman stupid. Actually, it's quite the opposite: a woman having large breasts makes men stupid.  [Rita Ruder]

[image courtesy of Wikipedia]
Oh, there's a lot more to the story of Victoria Woodhull... like her dabbling in magnetic healing and spiritualism; her friendship with Cornelius Vanderbilt; and why she was thrown into jail two days before the 1872 election... on obscenity charges.

But I said I was only gonna tell you little something about Ms. Woodhull, so I won't elaborate. Suffice it to say, she didn't receive a single electoral vote. Following the election, she said, The truth is that I am too many years ahead of this age and the exalted views and objects of humanitarianism can scarcely be grasped as yet by the unenlightened mind of the average man. 

Okay, so I never said she was humble. But she was right. Many of the reforms she campaigned for, considered extreme and controversial in her time, later came to pass. By the way, know who her running mate was? Frederick Douglass... the first black man nominated for national office.

How do you know if it's time to wash the dishes and clean your house? Look inside your pants. If you see a penis in there, it's not time.  [Jo Brand]

Well, it's not time for me to wash the dishes and clean house, either. Not yet. It's time to bake myself a damned cake. I am woman; hear me roar!

A woman should always know her place. Yep, by golly, a woman's place is in the House... and the Senate... and maybe someday...  the White House.

So in celebration, let us raise a glass (or cuppa) to all those wonderful women worldwide, both known and unknown, who spent (and continue to spend) their lives striving to make this world a better place, and who exemplify these words by Maya Angelou: ... you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.

[image courtesy of Wikipedia]

I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.  [Lily Tomlin]

With deepest apologies to all of you good poets out there, here is my humble Haiku salute to the way-ahead-of-her-time Victoria Woodhull:

                                         Brazen seeds of thought,
                                         Sown now, bereft of sunshine,
                                         Shall bloom in due time.

                             Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Good Guy vs. Bad Guy POV

Thought for the day:    What is written without effort is, in general, read without pleasure. [Samuel Johnson]

As you can probably tell by that nifty badge on the left, it's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and
 thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Why do so many people think it's easy-peasy to write a book? Anybody can do it, they say. Heck, they may even do it some weekend, too... just for a lark...

Maybe so, but like Samuel Johnson said, it takes effort to write something that's worth reading, and it takes lots of hard work to create something that's seamlessly easy to read.

But is it worth it? Is it worth all that effort... all the time, blood sweat and tears?

In a nutshell, yes. It may not be everyone's cuppa tea, but if you have a passion for writing, it's definitely worth the effort. When stories lurk inside of you like aliens poised to erupt from your chest, it feels sooooo good to let 'em out. To get those words, those thoughts, those stories, down on paper, onto the computer, and eventually into print is very fulfilling.

Writing may not be the road to fame and fortune, (Um, in my humble opinion, writers should NEVER calculate their hourly wages, especially if they write as slowly as I do.) but it takes us on an enjoyable journey down a road populated by lots of like-minded folks. Like the members of IWSG. (You guys rock!)

WRITING PROGRESS: I'm pleased to say I've finished rewriting the first part of Clinging to Hope. Now that my depiction of life in a girl's reform school is better aligned with the info provided by a gal who lived in Montrose School for Girls during the time period covered in my book, (How cool is that???) I'm finally ready to move forward.  Slowly, but... surely. (Way too soon to start throwing confetti, but I can at least celebrate with an ice cream sundae...)

Now, for this month's question:

Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?


In Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, I chose more of an omniscient narrator POV, although Pearl is more or less the star of the show.

In Explosive Beginnings, Archie provides the major POV, but it's open to discussion as to whether he's the hero or the villain. Some readers hate him from the get-go, and others have a soft spot for him by the end of the book.

In books two and three of the Blast Rites trilogy, Samantha has the floor. She's the protagonist... or is she?

So for me? Bottom line, the most interesting character in any given story is likely to have the most interesting perspective, so that's the POV I want to use, regardless of that character's good guy/ bad guy role.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Secret Lives of Cats

Thought for the day:   In ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this. [Terry Patchett]

Our cats as kittens: Dash on the left, and Dot on the right
It's been a while since I did a post about things I've learned from my pets, and I have a sneaky feeling our cats are trying to tell me they want me... expect me... to write about them today. Dot's lying on top of the printer beside me, looking at me accusingly through half-closed eyes, while Dash is alternating between parking her derriere on the keyboard and standing in front of the monitor, swishing her tail in my face like a preening peacock.

A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It's a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys. [Barbara Holland]

            They're both staring at me now. Yep, they definitely want me to write about them.

Cats are the ultimate narcissists. You can tell this because of all the time they spend on personal grooming. A dog's idea of personal grooming is to roll on a dead fish.  [James Gorman]

So, our girls are a lot bigger than they were when they first wormed their way into our hearts at the animal shelter almost ten years ago. And they've taught us quite a few things over the years. (Or as they'd probably put it... they've trained us well.)

                         Like... did you know cats aren't equipped with snooze buttons?

An early morning selfie of our daughter and her oh-so-helpful "time to get up" cat Mrs. Flynn. 

And no matter how big they are, they can wriggle into the smallest places imaginable...  A cat determined not to be found can fold itself up like a pocket handkerchief if it wants to.  [Louis J. Camuti]

[image courtesy of seniorark]

Dash, especially. She can curl up into the teeniest ball and scrunch into the smallest boxes and containers. Dot, on the other hand, prefers to sprawl and let it all hang out...

[image courtesy of seniorark]

Dogs come when they're called; cats take a message and get back to you.  [Mary Bly]

A cat isn't fussy... just so long as you remember he likes his milk in the shallow rose-patterned saucer and his fish on the blue plate. From which he will take it, and eat off the floor.  [Arthur Bridges]

Now, don't get me wrong. Sure, cats can occasionally be a tad stand-offish. And, yeah, it's entirely possible that they consider us their staff. Or their furniture, or personal scratching posts or jungle gyms. But they're cuddle bunnies, too. When they want to be. When it's convenient for them. Like when I'm trying to read the newspaper, or work at the computer, or sleep... I mean, who doesn't like to wake up with a cat licking her face?

I'm usually the nighttime jungle gym of choice for our girls, and the one who's swatted and reminded oh-so-sweetly that they're starving to death in the early morning. Ever since she was big enough to get onto our king-sized bed, that's where Dash has spent almost every night. Usually somewhere on top of me. On my stomach, on my chest, on my neck, on my face. Doesn't matter, because she doesn't usually stay in one place for very long. See, she likes to... hop around. Explore. Crawl under the covers, lie still for five minutes, and then ta-DA! pop back out. Lots of head-butting, purring and nose-kisses, too. My favorite is when she climbs up on the headboard and jumps down on my face...

And I... let her. Which is why she still does it. Dot, on the other hand, is usually much more polite about it. She's happy to lie beside me, glued to my body, and she generally stays put most of the night. If she wants to navigate past us, she politely walks around or jumps over. Not Dash. She's a damn-the-torpedos-full-speed-ahead kinda gal. She plows straight ahead and blithely stomps right across us to get wherever she's going. She may also pause in place, as if she's waiting for a bus. Nothing like having those four little paws digging into your posterior while she pauses to take a breather. Then, she launches, which is a whole 'nother adventure altogether.

But as anyone who has a cat well knows, what a cat always does or always likes is always changing. Their favorite place to nap is never constant, and the food they gobble one day is the same food they turn their noses up at the next. They follow a strict routine for a while, only to change it for a whole new routine. I suspect they're trying to keep us on our toes.

Our girls used to pretty much leave Smarticus alone during the night, but lately, Dash has been sharing some of her love with him, too. (He calls her the Stomper.) I'm used to her waking me up before the butt crack of dawn every day, but one morning a couple years ago, after she woke me up, she pranced over to Smarticus to say hello to him, too. She only went over to him a couple times before concentrating her efforts on me, but nonetheless, what popped into my sleepy head as she bounced back and forth between the two of us was, Hello, muddah! Hello, faddah! (Which is totally ridiculous, because our cats have always called us Mama and Papa...with the accents on the second syllables.)

Nonetheless, that darn Allan Sherman song niggled at me most of the day, so I did what any cat-crazy weirdo writer would do. I wrote a parody of that song. I shared it on my blog back then, but here is is again, in case you missed it the first time around:

Hello Muddah, hello Faddah.
Here I am now, right beside ya.
Time to open up your eyes now;
Get your butt out of that bed and fix me chow now.

 I tried bouncing on your belly;
You're so fat, it feels like jelly.
You were so still, thought you were dead;
So I did CPR by jumping on your head. 

Come on, Muddah, time is ticking,
And your face I now am licking.
I must meow loudly in your ear,
Because if you don't get up soon, I'll starve, I fear.

With my claws, your cheek I'm gripping,
And my nose on you is dripping.
Come on, let's play and have some fun;
In only three more hours, we'll see the rising sun. 

Please get up, oh muddah, faddah, please get up, don't be a bother.
Starting your day's such an endeavor; sometimes it takes me forever.
Please get up, I promise I will be your friend and love you 'til the bitter end,
So why this cruel wait to get food upon my plate? 

Hurry, hurry, dearest muddah,
One foot down, and then the other.
I will lead you to the kitchen;
It is almost five o'clock, so quit yer bitchin'.

Wait a sec! What's that you're pouring?
Same as yesterday? How boring!
Pardon my French; it smells like crap...
It's time for me to join dear Faddah for a nap.

(I wish I were clever enough to know how to record that song and post it on Youtube with some funny cat pictures...)

Anyhow, here's the thing. Dot and Dash are usually right there with us, day or night. (Whether we want them there or not.) But sometimes... sometimes, they... disappear. Occasionally, they retreat to the sunroom we fixed up. For US. (They DO let us use it from time to time...)

But there have also been times when they simply... disappear without a trace. I always thought they were in some secret hiding place around the house. You know, that special place they go to when they hear you spell v-e-t? When they wanted to hide, there was no way we were gonna find them, no matter how hard we looked. No matter how much we called them, or how hard we shook a bag of treats. If they wanted to hide, they weren't coming out until they were good and ready.

At least, that's what I thought.

 Now I've learned.

 Now I know the truth.

Our cats have been leading  (gasp!) secret lives! It's true! Dot drives the getaway car...

                                            And just LOOK what Dash has been up to...

[courtesy of seniorark]

                                                             Those little stinkers.


                  So what do you suppose YOUR cats are doing when you can't find THEM...?

                          Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.