Sunday, December 25, 2011

2012 Art Project

Every year I assign myself an art project to work on.

Mainly I do this assignment to keep myself out of trouble (idle hands are the devil's somethingorother) and to provide a break from writing while still exercising my creative muscles.

This year, in the spirit of the journal that I've always kept, I'm going to assign myself a project using a particular product.
I've heard about SMASH journals for a couple of years now. For a while they were so hot you couldn't find them anywhere because they were always sold out and the back orders were six months behind. They are touted as the "unscrapbook", where messy is beautiful and heck of a lot more representative of a person's real life. The journal comes with a variety of paper and a pen that is inky on one end and gluey on the other for quick, just-smash-it-in options. 

Now, I'm not sure exactly how this is going to be a different experience from me just using a Moleskine as my art journal, but several people I trust have sworn by them. Does it seems counterproductive to be "creative" using a bunch of pre-package products? Wouldn't it be more creative to start out with a completely blank slate and not be hampered by the use of specifically designed, SMASH-trademarked bits and bobs?

Guess I'll find out. I'm not going to invest a whole bunch of cash though. I'm going to buy the journal, and take a pass on the extras like little SMASH pockets, SMASH sticky notes, SMASH tabs and SMASH clips. Seems a bit of a racket. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review - Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

I was surprised by Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I'll admit my expectations weren't high going in. I'd burned out on YA paranormal lit a couple of months ago after blasting through the first seven Morganville Vampire books in ten days. Afterwards, whenever I picked up a YA book that had a paranormal vibe to the storyline, it felt like my eyeballs might pop outta my head and going pinging around the room. I retreated to Regency-era historical fiction along the lines of Austen to soothe my frayed neurons, and Necromancer remained mid-way through the teetering stack of TBRs.

Initially I bought it because it had a promo blurb by Sherman Alexie, author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (which the brilliant, hilarious, heart-breaking movie Smoke Signals was based on), whom I luuurve. His books should be required reading in high school. He's an amazing writer.*

And the fact that the author's name was Lish. Which kinda plays on the necromancer theme. Lish... Lich. McBride... Bride. The Lich Bride.


OK. Maybe it's just me. Anywhoo...

When I finally - and I will admit, grudgingly - picked Necromancer up, I nearly set it down again permanently when I realized main character Sam's full name was Samhain. I sneered in disgust. The author hadn't even done their research. Any good Gael can tell you Samhain is NOT pronounced "sam-hane". It's more along the lines of "sah-win". Thus, SAM cannot be a derivative of SAMHAIN.

Sorry to be such a pronunciation snob, but that shit bugs me.

Fortunately, before I could throw the book across the room, the author redeemed themselves with a plausible explanation in the next paragraph. At that point, I gave up the struggle and let myself become completely engrossed.

Sam is a lovable slacker - a skateboarding college dropout working the fast-food career track. That is, until he has a run in with the local necromancer at which point Sam's entire life goes from meh-to-worse in the space of 48 hours.

One of the other reviewers on GoodReads (Vinaya) said they pictured Sam looking like Lloyd Dobler from the 80s movie Say Anything, and now I can't get the visual out of my head.

Slap a hoodie on him, hand him a skateboard, put him in Seattle, and pit him against an evil-dead-raising SOB, and you have Sam LaCoix.

The plot was twisty and sprinkled with enough new angles on the paranormal stuff - werewolves, vampires, fairies, ghosts, zombies, etc. - to seem fresh. Which is hard to do considering how the market is flooded with the stuff. (Oo. I just came up with the title of my next book/blog post: Weary of Werewolves. Or how about, Fed-Up With Fairies? Sick of Vacuous Vampires?)

Despite all the weirdness going on, Sam came across as a very normal, likable guy. He's not the perfect hero. His apartment is a mess. He eats a lot of ramen. His friends crash on the couch. He ogles the occasional chick. He sticks his foot in it a lot. He bumbles around trying to make sense of his life and find some sort of purpose. He gets his ass handed to him a couple of times, so he's no ninja. All of those things, combined with a good heart, make him a character worth reading about.

The ending, which was very satisfactory, still left the door wide open for sequels. I'm eager to find out what happens to Sam AND all the interesting secondary characters that were introduced.  If the first book is anything to judge by, it's going to be an interesting ride.

*Shameless plug. Sherman... call me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An Awesome Book by Brian and Bronte





Today a gift arrived on my front porch from my friend Brian, a.k.a. Fells. It was a book. Which is why he's my besty. He knows me. Obviously.

I'm Fields, if you hadn't guessed.

What elevates him to super-besty is that the book is one of my favorites; Jane Eyre.
But to take it a step beyond, the book had been customized and everywhere in the text in where it had originally said Jane Eyre, it now said my name. When I opened it and began reading, my heart did a little flip-flop and I squealed like a freaking fanboy every time my name appeared.

So very, very cool.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thanksgiving in the Lab

Since we kids "got all growed up", as my grandmother used to say, Thanksgiving has become a potluck affair for our family. Sign-up begins three weeks in advance, and if you want to be the one who brings rolls, plastic silverware, and paper plates you have to act fast.

Most of the time that's reserved for the person who's currently single, unemployed, or traveling more than 10 hours.

It always works out pretty well, and there is never any shortage of food. It also gives everyone a chance to expand their culinary skills and take new items for a taste test using human guinea pigs. Fortunately, no guinea pigs, human or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this year's dinner.

My sister cooked her first turkey. Joel made a green bean, kidney, and bacon dish. My brother tried his hand at baking a ham. One of the cousins brought corn spoon-bread. An aunt brought parsnips...

What the hell is a parsnip?

These are parsnips, or as I like to call them, naked carrots.

I signed up two items I'd never made before, creamed spinach and a pumpkin pie. The creamed spinach wasn't too difficult, except I made it from fresh spinach so it took eight pounds to get a decent amount once it wilted.

The pie... I know you're thinking pumpkin pie is easy. Crust, can of pumpkin glop, 30 minutes in the oven, and you're done. But NO, there would be no canned pie glop consumed by MY family this Thanksgiving. I was determined to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. From an actual pumpkin. You know, that thing you carve jack o'lanterns out of.

Lab Notes: The first thing you should know is that you have to get a special kind of pumpkin. You can't use just any big, orange squash. You definitely CANNOT use the same kind of pumpkin that you use for fall porch decor or Halloween carving. You have to use a PIE pumpkin to make pie.


After you get the expensive ($3.99/ lbs) little sucker home, you cut it up in chunks, gut it (remove all seeds and gross, orange, slimy string stuff), and bake it in the oven until it gets soft and practically slides right out of the skin into the bowl. Add about $50 worth of spices that you have to go out and buy (because who keeps ground cloves lying around?), evaporated milk, sugar, and eggs. Hit it with a immersion blender until you have...


Lab Notes: "Huh. I wonder if it's supposed to look like that? Maybe I left something out. Like flour. Hmmmm... (consults recipe) Nope. It's all here. Maybe it will thicken up if I blend it some more."

*10 minutes of splattering copious amount of liquefied pumpkin all over the kitchen*

"Nope. Still soup. Oh well. *Shrug* Might as well go ahead and see what we get."

Funnel the pumpkin soup into the prepared pie crust, bake, and miracle of Great Pumpkin miracles you get...


Pretty darn good pie, too, if I may say so myself. It was much lighter and fluffier than you get when you use pumpkin out of a can. Even the people in my family who don't like pumpkin enjoyed it. So much so, that there wasn't any leftover to take home.

The downside is that it probably costs about $10 a slice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

And So It Ends...

Life as we know it may now resume.

NaNo is over.

Thank you sweet baby Jebus.

Don't get me wrong. NaNo is fun. At least it's fun up until the last week. That's when you do the math and you realize you're going to have to get 10,000 words a day from now until the end of the month to make it to your goal. It makes you feel like a big, smucky loser and you are sad that you will not be getting a winners badge or t-shirt again this year.

When it's finally declared over, you're just glad to see the backend of it. After a few days of mourning, you're more than happy to shove the POSM (Piece Of Shit Manuscript) of approximately 38,000 words into a desk drawer with a huge sigh of relief.

That usually happens somewhere around Dec. 3rd or 4th.

Thusly NaNo 2011 concludes.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Soul-Reviving Reading for Writers

There are several books about writing that I re-read on a regular basis: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. None of them are about the technicalities of writing, but rather about the fulfillment and connection to oneself and the world outside of oneself that writing can bring.

Writing Down the Bones was one of the first books I purchased when I decided to leave the world of writing for a living and to write for myself instead. Churning out articles day-in and day-out had burnt away my soul. If I continued to do it as an occupation, I knew I would never write my novel(s). Goldberg's Zen approach to the writing process was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Now she's endorsing NaNoWriMo.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Write or DIE

I love this guy. Dr. Wicked is the inventor of the program, Write or Die. He has taken this difficult thing - getting words out - and made it more fun. Which is essentially what NaNoWriMo is about, too. Now I want him to create a program called Butt in Chair, which will actually force you into a chair in front of your computer where you will launch Write or Die in order to hammer out your novel.

My illustration. His quote.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Calling all NaNo-ites!! Or would it be WriMo-nians?

We're not quite half-way through October and I'm already geared up for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to those in the know) in November. I've been jotting down story ideas and sketching out rough outlines for about three months. I've ordered coffee and tea in bulk, and there's a stack of snack cakes held in reserve in the pantry. I've washed all my comfy, flannel jimjams, bought a new pair of slippers, and stocked up on that powder shampoo stuff so I don't even have to take the time to wash my hair on the weekends. 

(Sexy lady, no?)

This year I'm taking no prisoners!

I will get my 50,000 words by the end of the month or die trying!

(Probably as a casualty of Twinkie and caffeine poisoning.)

That winner's t-shirt SHALL!! BE!! MINE!! RAAAAWWWRRR!!

*cough, cough, cough*

Yeah, so if you can't tell, I'm pretty determined to get my 50thou this year. I did in 2009, but 2010 was not a very good year for me. I think I was lucky to get a smidgen over 25thou, once all was said and done. The major difference between the two years was in '09 I had an outline, and in '10 I was a pantser. Also in my successful year, I met every weekend with the NaNo group in Norman for a write-in session. In 2010 I think I met with them once.


I think I've even managed to coerce a friend into joining in on the NaNoWriMo craziness this year. He even purchased a bright, shiny, new laptop for the occassion.

(Dude, don't think I don't see you lurking there. Now that it's in print on my blog, there's no backing out. It's practically a legally binding contract.)

During the month of November, postings on this blog might be even sparcer than usual. I'm trying to schedule things ahead as auto-posts, but I am finding out quickly that I am not that freaking organized. Maybe I can find a way to work it into my word count.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weekend Fun Times

What happens when it rains, you're bored, and you're broke?

'Stache happens.


 "Why me? WHY??"

That's what his eyes are saying.

This post was inspired by the mysterious mustachios at...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review - Nobody's Baby But Mine by Suzanne Elizabeth Phillips

Even though I'm not a big fan of Romance, every so often I venture into the genre. On a friend's recommendation, I picked up Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Hey, I'm open minded. I'm willing to give it a shot. You never know, right? People's tastes change.

I finished all 350+pages the book to find that... uh... nope. Still don't care for it. I still prefer a plot that has a romantic interest as a subplot. Romance as the entire focus of a book just doesn't carry a story for me.

For instance, if the plot had been about a female physicist who, while making her Noble Prize winning discovery, decides to have a baby and raise the child as a single mom - that would have been better for me. Then the ensuing romantic entanglement with the sperm donor would have been a bonus.

The sex scenes were well-written and steamy, though occasionally the words "throbbing", "heaving", and "manhood" resulted in uncontrollable eye-rolling on my part. There were abusive overtones, both verbal and physical, that made me uncomfortable, but maybe that's just me being overly sensitive. Maybe that form of verbal and physical sparring is "romantic" for some people, but it's not my cup of tea. Some no-neck brute of a professional football player grabs my arm like that in public and I'm going to flash my license to carry concealed, if you know what I mean.

That probably explains why I prefer books like Monster Hunters International over ones with pink covers. Not very girly of me, I know, but there you have it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Am the Anti-Fashionista

Lately I've been working on a few simple drawings in a series of my favorite things.

I would never be classifed as a shoe maven. To me, shoes are practical items meant to protect your feet from pointy rocks, stickers, and spiders that need smooshing. It's the one thing that I am practical about.

Though when I find a pair of shoes I like, it's true love. The forever kind of love. Love through thick and thin, weathering every storm.

Recently a friend had to stage an intervention to get me to throw away a pair of shoes that I had worn so long that they had been reduced to flip flops. (They started out as patent leather mary-jane flats.)

I wore them almost every day.

I wore them until water seeped through the holes.

I wore them until the soles tore away from the uppers.

Then I wore them some more.

I wore them until my friend said, "Holybabyjebus, I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE!! You look like a hobo! Give me those stupid, stinky, pathetic shoes. I can't stand to hear you shwip-shwopping around this place anymore. They've had their time and now they've gotta go."

When I turned to try and run/shuffle away as quickly as possible with my shoes shwip-shwopping, they tackled me around the knees, forcibly removed the shoes, and threw them in the garbage.

I'm not ashamed to say there were a few tears shed.

Now I've found a new pair of shoes to love.

Unfortunately, they are so expensive that I will only ever own the one pair. That's alright though. When it's true love, who needs others?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Young Homie You A Genius, Yo

I am usually able to resist reality contest TV, no prob.

American Idol? Meh.

Dancing with the Stars? Whatev.

Survivor? Puh-leeze.

Bachelor/ette? The Voice? Big Brother? America's Got Talent? The Apprentice? Pffft.

Last night, pulled down by exhaustion into the inexorable gravity of the couch, I found my self succumbing to the last hour of the XFactor. I was just about to turn it off and go to bed when the last contestant, a 28 year old by the name of Chris Rene was called up. Watching him meander onto the stage wearing a oversized, white t-shirt, baggy pants, floppy, unlaced shoes, and a hat worn at an annoyingly jaunty angle, my reaction was an eye roll and a label of "punk". Then, when asked what song he planned to perform, he told the judges he was going to sing "Young Homie", an original number that he'd written himself. I smirked and sat back to watch the insanity commence.

Anyone who has ever watched this type of show knows that when a contestant says "I'm going to sing a piece I wrote myself" that they are officially crazycakes. Given the way the judges reacted to his announcement, they knew it too. I think Simon was already motioning for security.


By the time he finished, I was covered in goosebumps and had tears rolling down my face. I felt like I got a look at his soul as he performed on stage. Seriously, even if this kid doesn't go all the way, I see a big... no make that HUGE record deal in his future. I'm rooting for him. Young homie, you a genius, yo.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Wanna Be in the Olympics When I Grow Up

This one was inspired by a wonderful post by my bloggerfriend, Heidi.

As kids, my siblings and I were completely fearless. We had no sense of our own limitations or potential mortality. I'm pretty sure it was a result of a mixture of heredity and environment.

Exhibit A:

My dad used to play this game called "Olympic Gymnast" with us kids when we were little. We'd lay on the ground and stick our feet straight up in the air. He'd grab us by our heels and flip us a** over teakettle across the room to land on our feet. When we stuck a landing we'd fling our hands in the air like... well, an Olympic Gymnast.

While waiting their turn, the other siblings acted as judges. You scored an automatic 10 if your feet brushed the ceiling and scraped off any of the texturing.

Surprisingly, all of us are still alive. Thinking back on it now, I don't know why he didn't just give us a pair of tweezers and point us in the direction of the nearest electrical socket.

It was the best game EVER.

Exhibit B:

I have a scar on my knee (one of many) that was the result of an attempt to slide down the tin roof of a barn onto the back of an innocent, unsuspecting equine. You know... Zorro style. I was ten years old, which would have made the two siblings who accompanied me on this particular wild west adventure 8 and 4 years old.

The only thing that prevented a second - and I'm sure spectacularly successful - attempt was the sudden fear that my parents were probably going to see the wound and ask what I'd been doing when I was supposed to be watching my siblings. Somehow the idea of announcing that I was watching my siblings because they were both up on the roof with me wouldn't be viewed as a satisfactory answer. That, and the fact that it wasn't our barn and it wasn't our horse probably wasn't going to help my case any.

Exhibit C:

The professional grade slingshots my dad gave us.

Exhibit D:

The blowdart gun (complete with actual darts) the siblings all chipped in to purchase at a neighborhood garage sale. The transaction took place in complete secret and we practiced our blowdart skills religiously on tin cans and stacked milk cartons filled with water. Eventually the novelty wore off and the blowdart gun fell by the wayside. Good thing, too, because it was only a matter of time before we turned those skills on our neighbors and arch-nemesis, the Freeburn kids. I'm pretty sure the blowdart gun is still hidden away in the hidey-hole in my parents attic.

Exhibit E:

The Family Trip From Hell: Hiking the Grand Canyon in August. I guess my parents were trying to weed out the weak members of the pack, because it was a Lord of the Flies experience. I've blocked out most of it, though a few of the choicer moments well up to the surface of my consciousness occasionally in fever dreams.

Ahhh... Good times, good times.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Paving Paradise... BOO! Organic Buying Club... YAY!

Not that you would be able to tell by my ever-increasing blobular form, but I'm a bit of a health nut. My latest obsession has resulted in a series of  freak outs about the pollutants, pesticides, growth-hormones, GMOs, etc. in our food and water supply. In these parts, it's difficult to find a local grocery store that carries a variety of organic food-stuffs and doesn't require an appendage and your first-born child as payment. I suppose I could drive to the city to the nearest reasonably priced health food store, but wouldn't traveling in the Jeep for an hour spewing unnecessary pollutants out the tailpipe and into the atmosphere sort of defeat the purpose?

Two steps forward, two steps back. Might as well just eat the steak from the two-headed calf at that point.

Enter the local Whole Life Buying Club.

For $50 every two weeks, our fearless leader (let's call her Jen) travels to the city and picks up our giant bags of organic produce from the local Urban Organics group. She brings the orders back to town and we converge on a central spot to retrieve our reusable grocery bags full of goodness. The list of available fruits and veggies changes with the season and you can, for an additional fee, add in an extra veggie or fruit "share".

This is my second pickup and I am once again extremely pleased with my haul.

The odd plum-shaped fruits between the pears and the red onions are called pluots.
And for some reason I got one beet. What does one do with a single beet??
This time Jen also added a bread order from a local bakery that specializes in organic, non-GMO products, and extra bunches of basil from a local grower ($1 a bunch!! What a bargain! Pesto for everyone!! YAY!). So in the picture, there are two loaves of bread and an extra handful of basil that wouldn't normally be in the regular $50 share but it's still a fantastic deal.

I busted into the bread this morning. It was a little slice of honey whole-wheat heaven. I also ate my first organic pluot. Yeah, that was my question, too; What the hell's a pluot? Whatever it was, it was delicious.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Water Tattoo

I've been considering another tattoo. This summer everyone around me got their first or an addition, and though I have been keeping an eye out, I haven't found anything that's really spoken to me.

Considerable consideration needs to go into art that is to be permanently pointilled into one's dermis.

Then I saw the water tattoos by the artist Amanda Wachob. According to her website, the tattoos, known as "bloodlines", are done with distilled water instead of ink, thus rendering them impermanent. How cool is that?

 It would be a great idea for stars in the entertainment business to have their wedding rings inscribed on their fingers in this fashion. By the time the markings fade, the marriage is over anyway. No harm, no foul, no costly, painful, laser surgery removal.

As much as I admire the one done on the palm, I don't think I have a high enough pain threshold to get a tatt on that particular area.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Autumn is Coming! Autumn is Coming!

This was the first morning I felt the cool touch of autumn in the air.

Thank you, sweet baby Jebus.

For the last two months the average temperature during the day has been 103degrees. We haven't come close to getting the minimal rainfall due for this time of year. Crops have withered, ponds, lakes, and rivers have dried up. Today the cashier at the grocery store handed me my receipt and said, "Have a blessed day and pray for rain."

It has been too hot for me to even drink my coffee in the morning, resulting in severe caffeine withdrawals.

Shut up in the house for two months where I've done nothing but sit on the couch and sweat and scowl, I've become a terror to be around. This morning was the first day I've been happy to be alive since summer began. I look forward to the day I can return to drinking coffee.

So does everyone else.

Now you have a blessed day and don't forget to pray for rain.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review - Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

I enjoyed Dissolution, though it was darker than some of the historical mysteries I've read. By the end, I was profoundly grateful to be living in the Year of Our Lord 2011. I appreciate luxuries like regular bathing, warm clothing in the winter, fresh food, and beer free of chicken poop.

So often you find it's the little things (poop-free beer) that matter.

Fans of Brother Cadfael and Sister Fidelma could probably appreciate this well-researched and well-written book, though Dissolution takes place later in the historical timeline of the U.K. than either of the others. 

Toward the end I guessed who-dun-it. Or I thought I had. The author hid some devious twists and turns in the last few pages that I didn't anticipate. He was very tricksy. I like that quality in my mystery authors.

I will be picking up the next book in the Shardlake series, because I want to know how the character progresses after his disillusionment. In the end he was left at a crossroads of conscious, and I'm a little nervous for him. When you're close to the thunder rolling 'round the throne, it's safer if you don't have a conscious at all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Week in the Lab - Pork and Pears

Yeah, sounds disgusting.

Pork and pears.


Anyone who grew up watching episodes of the Brady Bunch has heard of "pork chops and appleschawsh", but I don't typically go for meat and fruit combos.

I'm not a fan of cooked fruit.

Unless it's in a pie.

Which is a totally different situation.

I'd never heard of combining pork and pears before I picked up a copy of The Best Simple Recipes from America's Test Kitchen, but they are AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN, right? If anyone knows what they're doing in the kitchen (which in my house, is referred to as "The Laboratory"), it would be these people.

And it wasn't going to require a special trip to the grocery to pick anything up, because I already had all the ingredients.


For an ATK recipe, it was surprisingly simplistic.

The title of the book isn't false advertising.

Thick-cut pork chops...

a pear...

little bit o' sugar
little bit o' oil
chicken broth
balsamic vinegar
sprinkle of bleu cheese

It was...


I would rate this recipe TEN toques!

10 =

Now I'm feeling ambitious. Does anyone out there have a recipe they love that I could experiment with next week in the lab?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Guy is Giving Hillbillies a Bad Name

I've decided to invent a new word.

Now that I have a blog, I can do that. It's in the rules.

Dis-hillbillity (dis-hil-bil-i-tee)

Scenario: A 25 year old man dressed in a black tank top and torn jeans sits on the porch of his mobile home drinking beer with his skinny-as-a-rat-tail, backward-hat-wearing friend while his pregnant wife pushes a lawnmower through waist-high grass in 100+ degree heat while trying to kick away a mongrel dog nipping at her ankles.*

Useage: "I cain't mow the lawn because three years ago I hurt mah back. Ima on the dis-hillbillity," he said as he took another swig from his bottle.

*Actually witnessed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Evils of Dodgeball

My friend and I have a game where once a month we exchange an "artistic" prompt and we have to produce a piece in any medium using that prompt. My prompt for this month was "Innocence Destroyed".

Immediately I thought of the elementary school child's first experience with the game of dodgeball.

Yeah. Totally jacked up.

Yes, that is a picture of me. Yes, that is a pair of overalls. Yes, my mother is responsible for the Prince Valiant bowl haircut which I think she cut with a pair of nail scissors. Is it any wonder I'm not a serial killer?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review - Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

*Surprises and spoilers contained within...*

It's a story about a ghost.


The ghost of Harry Dresden.


You thought he would survive the assassin's bullet, didn't you?


You thought because he'd beaten the loup-garou and the skinwalker, battled the legions of heaven and hell, walked the paths of the Nevernever, annihilated the entire Red Court with a single spell, backtalked/sassed/gave lip and generally pissed off gods, goddesses, wizards, creepy little girls with vast amounts of knowledge, FBI agents, necromancers, the entire Chicago police department, hellhounds, mob bosses, queens, knights, priests, fairy godmothers, werewolves, medical examiners, wardens, valkyries, tv show hosts, enforcers, ectomancers, pub owners, and homicidal ex-girlfriends that he was somehow invincible?

Yeah. Me too.


"Here Lies Harry Dresden. He Died Doing the Right Thing."

But a wizard's work is never done, not even after death. Harry couldn't get that lucky. After death, things really start to get interesting. That's part of Harry's curse; he lives (and dies, apparently) in interesting times.

I thought it would be impossible to top Changes, the previous novel in the Dresden Files series; it was just that good. So Jim Butcher didn't try. Instead of throwing punches and fists full of fire (Fuego!) to beat his last book, Butcher bobbed, he weaved, he faded out to the incorporeal. Topping Changes became a non-issue. A moot point. A ghost.

"He dodged it," as my friend and fellow Dresden fan, Clint, so aptly put it.

He went in a totally different direction.


In order to get the most out of Ghost Story, I highly recommend reading Side Jobs, the collection of Dresden short stories published between Changes and Ghost Story. The last chapter, Aftermath, helps explain the developments since Harry's death and the appearance of the Formor. It's not a must, but it definitely clarifies a few things and sets up Ghost Story nicely. Plus the short stories are good, clean (except for "Love Hurts", but it's a good kind of naughty) fun.

In Ghost Story, readers learn more about characters introduced in earlier novels, meet a few new characters, and explore the wounded depths of Harry's friends and frenemies after his death. Harry realizes the enormous impact his life, death, and afterlife has had on everyone around him, as well as the city that he calls home.

Harry may be dead, but don't write him off yet. It ain't over 'til the valkyrie sings.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feelin' the Luuurve for Moleskine Journals

Moleskine Journals - The Legendary Notebooks

Something about them...

Smooth, creamy paper.

Plain black cover.

The elastic band that secures it closed with a snap.



Obviously I am a fan. (See a few of my Moleskine Doodles, here, here, and here.)

But for some artists, the cover of a Moleskine journal cries out for embellishment. The selections for today's Random Sh*t I Think is Cool post are from three such individuals. They've never meet a blank Moleskine cover they didn't luuurve.

The first three can be found at Nowvember's shop.

Embroidered Typewriter appeals to the writer in me.

Kitteh haz layzur beamz and iz not fraid to use dem.

Put the product of your tasty brain in this Moleskine.

 These three are found at Sabletoothtiger.

Whenever I read a particularly good book, I always wish I had thought of it first.

Says "Sad Poems About Unicorns and other stuff I never got for xmas".
I find unicorns and red-eyed demon bunnies frightening, and yet strangely appealing.

Great place to store your own personal Nostradamus. Or would it be Nostradami?
(Did you see that bunny move?? I swear I saw it twitch. Creepy.)

This one is from Blackbird & Peacock.

My taste in music = Not Cool
My taste in Moleskines = Cool

Friday, July 29, 2011

Obi's Illness

A couple of weeks ago, my boss received a panicked, teary call from me around 7:15am.

Obi was sick.

(If you don't know Obi, you can catch up on the Stray Dog Saga starting here. Or see photo here.)

I'd been up with him since 2AM. He'd had bad poo - we're talking BAAAAD poo - in the night. There were several more bad poos in the wee hours, but thankfully we were outside for the onset of those. Around 4AM he started limping, holding one of his front legs off the ground. I checked his leg and paw for obvious wounds, trying not to cause him any additional distress. Everything looked fine. But everything was obviously not fine, because he whined whenever I touched his leg or whenever he tried to stand up.

When he started holding one of his hind legs off the ground, I began to freak out.

When he couldn't sit or lie down without a continuous tortured whimper, I started to lose my shit.

I called my boss and told her I was taking Obi to the vet, which didn't open until 8AM. As gently as I could, I loaded him into the Jeep where he lay curled up in a tight, whimpering ball of pain. We drove to the vet and waited in the parking lot until they opened. I carried Obi's trembling body into the office and placed him on the exam table where he tried to stand on two legs for as long as possible, eventually failing and sinking painfully down to lie on his stomach, head between his splayed front paws.

I pictured a perforated gut from a bone I'd given him to chew. I visualized cancer eating away at his insides. If there was any horribly painful doggy disease he could have contracted, I played it out in my head. Every scenario ended with him being put to sleep.

"Tick fever," the vet said.

"Oh, thank god," I said, finally remembering to exhale in a whoosh. "Wait. Sooo... what does that mean? Tick fever?"

"It means antibiotics."

"It's not a punctured colon?"


"And it's not cancer?"

"No. I'm 99.9 percent sure it's tick fever. He could've gotten the bite 2-6 months ago and is just now manifesting symptoms."

I stroked Obi's head. He gave me the sad eyes which silently communicated, please, please make it better. I had to look away or burst into tears. "Is he going to be alright? When will he start to feel better?"

"We should see definite improvement in 24 to 36 hrs. If not, we'll run his blood and check for other possible tick-related diseases."

Wanting to make sure Obi received the best possible care, I left him at the vet's while I raced to work. "We'll make sure he takes his pills and stays hydrated," the vet said as I left. "We'll also give him something to help calm his tummy."

After five days in dog hospital, I was able to bring him home. After a series of tests, we discovered Obi had TWO tick-borne diseases, Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever and something called Canine Ehrliciosis, which is why they had to keep him so long. I am happy to report he is almost back to his former self, though he's got 30 days of antibiotics (3xa day), a steroid, and a pain killer. Then at the end of the antibiotics he goes back in for a booster shot, just to make sure we "kick this stuff in the ass".*

I had no idea being a dog owner was this complicated. My cat, Mr. Beckett, has never been sick a day in his life. Once he had a rash on his chin. I took him to the vet and got some cream and liquid antibiotics for a mere $165. After four days of getting mauled as I tried to hold him down and squirt the liquid into his mouth with a syringe, I gave up. Neither the cream nor the antibiotic was having a noticeable effect on the rash anyway. Instead I bought a $3.99 tube of Neosporin. Rash was gone in 48 hours.

Will the wonders of Neosporin never cease? I'm just sayin'...

*Vet quote. It merely strengthens my luuuuurve for him.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Title "Ghost Story" Sorta Gives It Away, But Never Judge a Book By Its Title

* Potential spoiler for those of you who haven't read the previous novel in the Harry Dresden series, Changes by Jim Butcher. *


Today is the day!

One of my "Eagerly Anticipated Books of 2011" is here!

The last we saw of Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire, he'd been shot and had fallen off his boat to slip beneath the lake's cold, dark waters. It looked like curtains for our intrepid hero.

And right before his hot date with unrequited love interest, Karrin Murphy, too. We've only been waiting TWELVE BOOKS for that to finally happen.

Damn you, Jim Butcher. I wanted to punch you in the head. This better be good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creative Tuesday - What I'm Doing on Summer Vacay (eh-hem, properly re-titled "Summer Break")*

I haven't participated in Mr. Toast's Creative Tuesday's in a while. I've been lazy. It's the heat.

I'm blaming everything on the heat.

As a result, I've been doing a lot of indoor under the A/C activities like reading the Tarot cards. The piece I'm posting today was inspired by a new acquaintance's question when she heard that I read cards.

"Are you psychic?"

Fortune's Hand

The answer to that is, "Uh, no." I don't consider myself psychic. Well... no more than anyone else. And not in the way most people think when they ask that sort of question. (I don't see dead people.) I believe everyone has a certain amount of intuitive ability, some are just more in tune with  it than others. There are those with innate ability, sure, but anyone can learn to read the cards. If they're open to it.

It's like learning to play the piano. There are the rare musical savants, there are people who tickle the ivories with their toes, and there are those of us who never move beyond Chopsticks - everyone's approach and initial skill level is a little different. With time, effort, and lots of practice, it can be learned.

Check out all the Summer Break themed submissions at Hot Toast and Jam.

*7/20/11 - I wouldn't want to be too inspired to think outside the box with the prompts. I'll try not to get too wrapped up in the flow next time and stick to the proper interpretation of the subject matter. Please forgive my artistic faux pas.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Obi's Got Mail!

My friend and fellow blogger, Courtney, heard my pleas for help as a first time dog owner and sent a care package in the mail.

It came addressed to Obi. He was very excited. He'd never gotten mail before.

"For ME?? What is it?! What is it?! Open it open it open it! Curse you, thumbless paws!!"

Obi's Loot

There was a rope chew, a package of denta-bones, and a squeaky lobster. Maybe now my flip flops will be spared.

She even included a catnip mouse and a bag of treats for Mr. Beckett. He was very pleased.

Courtney's unexpected generosity brought a wee tear to my eye. She has now been accorded "Auntie C" status where Obi and Mr. Beckett are concerned.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer Diet

Obi is a chewer.

Items he has chewed beyond recognition:
2 empty egg cartons
1 trainer laces (though he spared the actual $130 shoe itself)
Pair of flipflops
2 wooden paint brush handles
edge of the doormat
the meat section from the local grocery store sale flyer
1 Netflix envelope
1 empty ziplock bag
1 empty liquid soap bottle
1 ant bait (vet said he'd be fine)
1 extra large tube of wood glue (Fortunately I caught him before he glued his lips together.)

(Do dogs have lips?)

Items he hasn't chewed:
chew toy that looks like a blue and orange duck
gray squirrel chew toy that resembles road kill (I have named him Mr. Carcass)
squeaky frisbee
red rubber bone filled with cheese
rawhide bone
nylon bone
real bone

I have Netflixed all the episodes of The Dog Whisperer. In a single afternoon I  bought and read Cesar Millan's new book on dog training. Mr. Millan would suggest more exercise, but I'm doing as much dog walking/ people dragging activity as I can squeeze in. I'm doing 30 minutes in the morning before I get ready for work, and at least an hour, more most of the time, in the evening after it cools down.

So far I've lost 20 hrs of sleep (cumulative over the past few days) and three pounds. I'm calling it the Dog Days of Summer Diet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fireworks - The Devil's Noisemakers

"You stupid kids and your stupid firecrackers!! Don't you know some of us have to work in the morning?!"

That's what I yelled from my front porch at 10:30PM last night.

I have officially reached crotchety old lady status.

Hope everyone had a wonderful, sparkler-filled 4th of July.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stray Dog Saga Part V - The Naming

I've decided to name the dog Obi.

The veterinarian thought it was a shout-out to Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi. It's actually short for Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream. At the time of Obi's rescue, I was reading a book (Hounded by Kevin Hearne) where the main character owned an Irish wolfhound named Oberon. It seemed like destiny, even though Obi is not Irish, not a wolfhound, and definitely not King of the Fairies.

Because of his Star Wars reference, I now have a huge geeky crush on the vet.

I asked Mr. Future Ex-Husband the Veterinarian what breed he thought Obi was. His best guess was that Obi was at least half this...
American Bull Terrier - Also Commonly Know as The Spuds Mckenzie Dog

with a smidgen of this...
American Bulldog

and a possibly a dash of this...
It's anyone's best guess, really. Obi is a dog of varied heritage, which is fine by me. Everyone, this is Obi. Obi, this is everyone.

Hold still a second while I take your picture.

No, it's not food. It's a camera. Now hold still a sec while I...


There. See? That wasn't so hard, was it?

The vet pronounced Obi to be healthy, except for the obvious wounds and being underweight. He is only about two years old, which was a surprise. I thought he was older, but the vet assured me after getting a close look at his big, ol' sparkly teeth (did I mention Mr. Future Ex-Husband the Vet is very brave?) that he was quite young. Just a puppy.

He got his jabs for rabies, parvo, heartworms, etc. Drops were put in his ears. Subjected to all of that and the traumatic car ride to and from, Obi hardly even whimpered. After a couple of more baths to get rid of the lingering Eau de Dead Possum, we should be good to go.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Stray Dog Saga Part IV

I'm officially a dog owner.


It wasn't part of the plan, but I've never been good at following the stupid blueprints anyway.

Now that I'm a dog owner, I'm taking my responsibility seriously. Dog now has a very stylish and functional collar and leash combo in basic black. He has his own food and water bowl. There is a stash of kibble and treats under the sink. Some landscapers are coming to finish leveling my yard so I can have a fence installed. I have an appointment scheduled with a veterinarian to get Dog a checkup and receive any necessary jabs.

In order to make a good impression and not stink up the vet's office like sun-baked road-kill (which Dog has obviously rolled in at some point), I gave him a bath. It was the easiest thing ever! He was very stoic as I scrubbed him down with a bucket of warm, soapy water. Didn't even twitch. Didn't even shake himself off until I started drying him with a towel.

Why does everyone gripe about bathing their dog? Ever tried to bath a cat? I did. Once. That's why I wear an eyepatch.

Come to find out under all that dirt and god-only-knows-what, Dog is mostly white. He has a black nose, amber eyes, and faint spots on his ear, coat, and tail that look like someone spilled a latte on him.

Now all Dog needs is a name...

(Stay tuned for pictures in tomorrow's post, "Stray Dog Saga Part V - The Naming".)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stray Dog Saga Part III


I'm still in the park with the Dog.

He's eaten all of the lemon-pepper chicken (except the bones which I picked out because I read somewhere chicken bones are bad for dogs), and shown no signs of willingly clambering into the Jeep anytime this decade.

Who's the suckah now, huh?

Good news is he seems to be developing a much more trusting attitude towards me. No tail-wagging yet and he's still pretty twitchy. He demonstrates this when I go to chuck the ice cream cup/ water dish in the garbage. As I threw it basketball-style into the trash can, he crouched down, ears flat, and scampered off with his tail tucked. It took me ten minutes to coax him back over.

Where is the freaking Dog Whisperer when you need him?

I will say this for Dog, he is excruciatingly polite. Even though he's obviously starving (noted previously), he waits patiently for me to debone the chicken, gently taking each morsel from my fingers without accidentally biting off any of my digits with his giant fangs.

By now it's been a couple of hours. The sun is lowering in the west and the temperature has dropped to a cool 102degrees. I have resorted to prayer. If there is no divine intervention, both of us are going to die from dehydration. That's if we don't succumb to heat stroke first.

If there is a god/goddess/patron saint of dogs out there, give us a hand would you?

A truck with a mom and three boisterous young children pulls up.


Thanks for nothing, Patron Saint of Sucks Ass. This is exactly the opposite of what I need right now.

Not wanting to risk someone shooting first and asking questions later, I approach the young mother and explain the situation. She is so sympathetic I want to cry. While the kids wait in the air-conditioned truck, she grabs a length of rope from the back. I loop it loosely around the dog's neck, and with me tugging the rope from my position in the the driver's seat and her giving him a gentle boost from the rear, we get him into the vehicle.

Where he promptly devourers all the chicken bones I'd picked out AND the napkin they were wrapped in. Oh well. Chicken bones are the least of our problems.

I'm going to need to offer serious reparation to some divinities later for that sucks ass comment.

Pretty sure there's a lesson in there someplace.

I thank our rescuer profusely (and thank the Patron Saint of Canines silently), and then slowly and carefully drive away. The last thing I need is a big, freaked-out dog in my lap as I'm driving down the highway. The ride to Holly House is interesting, but suffice it to say we both arrive whole and profoundly relieved to get out of the car once we reach our destination.

Now Dog is stuck like glue. Where I go, he goes. I am not to be let out of his sight for any reason.

Such is the bond created by lemon-pepper chicken.

I feed him some kibble topped with a little of the meat and gravy product. That finally gets a meager tail wag. He drinks and drinks and drinks from a bowl of cold water while I envision puddles of pee-pee all over the place in the morning. I don't even know if dog is housebroken, but I can't leave him outside because #1.) I don't have a fenced yard (it is on my July to do list ), and #2.) my next door neighbor is not an animal lover and has been seen weeding his garden with a .45 strapped to his hip.

Just in case he encounters a rogue turnip.

I make Dog a bed in the laundry room using the door mat and a couple of old towels. Meanwhile the Cat, shut in the house on the other side of the laundry room door, is making his "Hello? Hello? Is someone in there?" meow. Dog shows an unwholesome interest in the cat sounds. I wonder about some of the scratches around his nose... perhaps made by a cat that wasn't willing snackage? I make a note to keep them separated for now.

He catches on to the whole dogbed concept quickly. Even though he still won't lay down, with a little encouragement he does finally sit. His legs are trembling. It's either a result of exhaustion or he's coming down off the adrenaline rush caused from the ride in the Jeep. Probably a little bit of both. I know I'm experiencing both.

I turn off the laundry room lights and back out the door closing it firmly. Watching me retreat, Dog make nary a peep. I sit on the couch and watch a few minutes of the 10 o'clock news and wake up a few hours later. Tip-toeing to the laundry room door, I crack it open. Dog is stretched out on his makeshift bed fast asleep.

Amazing recuperative powers, dogs.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stray Dog Saga Part II


I'm in a deserted park with a large, fangy, starving, jacked-up stray dog of questionable character trying to decide my next move. I can't leave him. That's not an option. I've tried to coax him into jumping into the Jeep, and he's having none of that. I have no food to give him, though I did have a 27oz. Klean Kanteen full of clean water, which he's already slurped up out of an empty ice-cream cup.

He's panting at a rate where I begin to wonder if dogs can hyperventilate, but then again so am I. It's a blistering 105 degrees. The weather is fit for neither man nor beast.

And here the two of us are.


He won't sit or lie down, but paces back and forth continuously. He does pause occasionally to let me rub my hand over his scab-covered scalp. Dog is obviously stressed. Even a cat-person such as myself can see that much.

"Listen. You're going to have to get in the car so I can take you to the shelter," I say to him. "There will be food and water and toys and all sorts of wonderful dogs to play with. It's a doggy dream come true." As long as you don't take into account the whole euthanasia thing. 

If he'd have had eyebrows one of them would have been raised skeptically.

"OK, OK. You're not into that. I get it. But if you want to come to my house you have to get in the vehicle. It's too far to walk. In this weather we'll be reduced to skeletal remains picked over by buzzards in a matter of an hour."

He continues to pace.

Pace, pace, pause. Pace, pace, pause.

"There's a chicken in it for you. What do you say?"

A young couple dressed in shorts and running shoes come strolling up the path toward the park. The dog visibly tenses. Uh-oh.

I get up from the picnic table and walk towards them. The Dog stays behind, controlling his flight or fight instinct. "Do you guys live around here? I found a stray dog and thought it might belong to someone nearby."

They've walked over from an apartment complex down the street and neither recognize the Dog. Not that I expect them to. He's been dumped. I'm sure of it. After they get a look at him, they're sure of it, too.

We come to a consensus that people suck.

The girl leans down to pet him, which he allows with minimal flinching. Her male companion, noting the Dog's starved and scarred state, says, "Wow. He's seen better days, hasn't he?"

We chat for a while about what I should do. Girlfriend, a soft-hearted sort, tries to convince Boyfriend to take the Dog. I dare to hope for a moment, but he thinks it a bad idea. He lives in an apartment. He's also more of a cat person.

I call the shelter. They're closed.

We debate the wisdom of trying to man-handle the Dog into my vehicle. We get him to the open door, but when Boyfriend begins to act like he's going to lift him, the mood turns ominous. There is no growling, nothing overtly threatening, but a few dark clouds roll in front of the sun, so to speak. Boyfriend decides not to follow through with Plan A.

I don't blame him. I would want to keep my face intact, too.

Plan B: Somehow I convince the kind souls to stay with the Dog while I go to the grocery to find some a treat tempting enough to coerce an unwilling dog into a waiting vehicle. Might as well get something to eat myself since I'm going to be spending the night in the park, at this rate.

"I swear that I'll be back," I tell them. "I promise I won't drive off yelling SUCKAHS!!"

They laugh. However, I can sense their doubt. Why is everyone so mistrusting of me all of a sudden?

At the store I race down the pet aisle grabbing a small bag of kibble, a can of gravy-smothered meat product, and a bag of wavy bakey treats. Just to make sure I have all my bases covered, I pick up a half of a lemon-pepper rotisserie chicken.

I don't know how dogs feel about lemon-pepper, but it was either that or chipolte.

The couple is relieved to see me. At least Boyfriend is. It seems in the short time I was gone, Girlfriend has both leveled both barrels of her feminine wiles on Boyfriend and nearly has him convinced that he's taking the Dog home. He shoots me the desperate look of a drowning man.

Dog is impassive. Until he smells lemon-pepper chicken. Then he becomes a little more excited about my reappearance on the scene.

I take pity on Boyfriend. I tell the couple to go ahead and finish their walk. It's not a big deal. Really. I'm sure to get the Dog in the vehicle with the promise of food. No dog on earth can resist rotisserie chicken. Everything will be fine. I assure them repeatedly that I won't leave the Dog. I swear to it on several holy books. I thank them both.

Boyfriend drags reluctant Girlfriend away.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stray Dog Saga Part I

Yesterday, as I was driving into town using the shortcut that takes me past the park where I occassionally catch a rare glimpse of Swinging Girl, I noticed a dog.

Normally I don't notice dogs.

I'm more of a cat person.

The first reason I notice this dog is because he was all alone. There were no people in the park and there were no cars in the lot.

The second reason was that it is 105degrees (not exaggerating) and he is sitting out in the sun next to a water spigot that had collected enough runoff to manage a decent-sized puddle. It is probably the only standing water in a tri-state area, given the temperature around here recently.

Fill in your favorite curse word here! I think to myself. Someone has tied their dog up in a public park while they go for a run. God, people SUCK.

I make up my mind that if the dog is still there after I run my errand, I'm dognapping him and taking him to the local shelter. Sorry people, but you can't leave you pets like that and not expect me to take action.

I fervently hope that he isn't going to be there when I come back by.

He is.

I pull over and open my door to get a better look. He stands up slowly, half-covered in dried mud, and gives me a suspicious once-over. He's not tied up like I initially thought. He doesn't have a collar either. He's a good-sized dog, with a big wedge head and a thick chest narrowing to thin hips and a whip tail. There's none of the standard waggy-waggy happy doggy behavior from this bloke.

We eyeball each other from a distance.

Not hostile, but not exactly friendly either.

I decide not to get out of the vehicle.

"Hi there nice doggy-dog. Are you all alone in the park today?" I say in a sing-song tone.

That sounds creepy even to me, like weirdo flasher guy with candy for the kiddies. But the dog doesn't seem to find it strange. He takes a couple of steps in my direction and stops. I drop the sing-song voice. No need to be insulting.

"Where's your owner? Do your people live around here somewhere?"

A few more steps toward me. Stops.

"So, uh, what have you been up to today? Looks like you've had a roll in the mud. Good times, yeah?"

Couple more steps. Oo. *Nervous chuckle* He's actually bigger than I thought.

"Man, I hope you aren't mean. You look like you could take an arm off. You don't have rabies or anything do you? "

Now he's actually a few feet away from the open door of my vehicle, and I'm replaying Cujo in my head.

"I sincerely hope we can be friends and reach a mutual understanding that there is no need to tear anyone's throat out. What do you think? You down with that?"

He stretches his giant, fang-filled head towards me and cautiously sniffs the tip of my tennis shoe. I must have passed his test or something because when I sloooooooowly reach down to pet him he doesn't eat me. A few minutes later, we're sitting in the shade at one of the picnic tables. He's drinking clean water out of an empty ice-cream cup as I give him an inspection.

Face and head show signs of being bitten and deeply scratched. A  few of the wounds have started to scab over and others are still open. It was probably a fight where you should see the other guy, because only the winners manage to keep all of their ears. His ears are still intact, though mite-infested. Check.

Ribs standing out and visible through his short coat? Check.

Hip bones sharp and protruding? Check.

All his boy bits still in place? Check

Ticks? Check.

Fleas? Check.

Ear mites? Check.

Worms? Probably.

Eyes? Clear, intelligent, but wary. Check.

Teeth? Uuuuuhhh... Yup. Very big, very sharp, very gleaming white. Probably the healthiest thing about him. Checkity-check-check.


Well, now what?