Friday, August 26, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Chuckled at myself this morning as I hit the “Save” button on my sequel, The Next Step. It will follow my current novel being shopped around, Best Laid Plans. How cheeky of me to assume that 1) the first novel will find a publisher, and that 2) when it does, surely they’ll want the second installation. Maybe it’s just my Virgo-osity at work—I’m compulsively early, and not easily discouraged.

You’ll be the first to know when Best Laid Plans gets published—even if I have to do it myself. Here’s the synopsis:

Set in current-day San Francisco, Shalese is a thirty-ish, earnest, blue-collar social worker bent on establishing a recovery halfway house for female ex-felons. While writing her grant proposal, she meets and interviews Jenny, just released from prison. Shalese quickly realizes she’s interested in a lot more than Jenny’s story.

Jenny is a trust-fund baby from Ohio, who got herself in a peck of trouble when she accidentally murdered a neo-Nazi with the heel of her shoe. She turns to Shalese for help getting her life back on track, and finds her life on a track she hadn’t even imagined.

Florence, a wealthy octogenarian with a nefarious past and dirty motives, befriends them, the way a spider befriends a fly caught in its web, and offers to fund the halfway house.

The three work together to make The First Step recovery house a reality.

Things begin to unravel for the women in The First Step when Mab, a three-hundred pound lesbian bartender by night, PI by day, and Shalese’s ex-lover, looks into Florence’s past.

Murder, arson, betrayal, buried treasure, and secrets spice up the plot, along with the colorful cast of residents of The First Step. A cliff-hanger ending not only leaves the reader wondering about the role of fate in life, but leaves room for a sequel, working title, The Next Step.

See how I just sort of slipped that sequel thing in there? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Visual Feast from the Techno/Dino

My last Post spoke of a culinary feast. This one speaks of a visual feast.

My stodgy old dinosaur-self, (who thinks that perhaps computers are just a fad that will surely pass soon—hopefully soon enough that I won’t have to learn all the bells and whistles on my already-outdated Dell), occasionally collides with my present-day in the real world self who is in awe at having the universe at the tip of my fingers through cyberspace.

The above photographs came to me via a friend who downloaded them from the Internet. I don’t know how to find the artist(s) to thank them and credit their work. I do know that the images moved me, and isn’t that, after all, the purpose of art? There’s something timeless about the castle reflected in the palm of the hand, the lightning in the desert, and the sheep trudging up the mountain trail. Anyone from any culture could find meaning in those images. They’re familiar and at the same time strange and intriguing, powerful and stimulating—the stuff from which dreams are made and inspiration is taken.

This is a creative universe, and these photos are proof. I would never have seen them had it not been for an e-mail, and it is my pleasure to share them with you. Even my dinosaur-self can’t argue with that.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ask Jeeves

I remember watching a TV show in childhood where a little redheaded boy and a girl with short blond pigtails lived in a mansion with their uncle and spent most of their time with their English butler. I always thought it would be cool to have an English butler, but back in Iowa, we didn’t have such things.

If you’re a regular blog follower of mine (thank you!), you’ll note that I’ve been processing a lot of “Mom material” since her death three years ago. In so many ways, she was the hub of the family wheel. She had her kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren believing she had an answer for every question. It’s true, she did. I don’t know if they were always accurate, but she had answers. I was married to a guy once who had a similar propensity for supplying answers to any question and citing the Readers Digest as his source.

Back to Jeeves. Since Mom is no longer around, to whom do I ask questions like, “does eating spicy food make you dream?” I treated myself to dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant last night after a long work week. I tried the honey wine—truly a different taste sensation, sort of like beer and rubbing alcohol infused with honey, served at room temperature. Not as bad as it sounds. I know nothing about Ethiopian food, but love Moroccan cuisine, and figured it would be similar. I’ve always been an adventurous eater. Bravely, I ordered the combination plate with three different lamb stew tastes, one beef contribution, and a mini chicken (?) leg, along with an amazing stewed cabbage something-or-other, all eaten by scooping the food onto pieces of flatbread. Like with Moroccan food, they bring a warm fragrant towel for hand cleansing before the meal. I like eating with my fingers—it puts me in touch with my more primitive side.

After dinner I commented to the very solicitous waitperson that the food, while delicious, was much spicier than Moroccan. “Really?” he said, with arched eyebrows. “This is our very toned-down version, to please the local palate.” His smile said, “Lady, you think that’s hot, you’re just a plain old sissy.” Although I’ve never been prone to dyspepsia, I had some concerns about whether or not my digestive tract would survive unimpeded throughout the night. I did, of course, expect (and receive) an increase of hot flashes.

My stomach survived just fine, but OMG the dreams . . .

The whole night was filled with dreams of confusion, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, not finding what I was looking for, coming in at the end of an event that I was supposed to host, losing my direction, forgetting my script for a performance—on and on, until I woke up feeling more exhausted than when I’d treated myself to dinner after the long week.

Back to Jeeves. Since I couldn’t call Mom and ask her if this was a direct result of having eaten spicy food at night, I turned to Jeeves—the perfect (in my imagination) English butler with all the answers, even if I don’t have cute little blond pigtails.

“Hey Jeeves,” I typed in, “does spicy food at night make you dream?” And just like my mom, and just like my ex-husband, Jeeves had an answer for me:

“When and what we eat may affect our nighttime rest, if not our tendency toward bad dreams. A small study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology had a group of healthy men eat spicy meals before bed on some evenings and compared their quality of sleep on nights where they had non-spiced meals. On the spicy nights, the subjects spent more time awake and had poorer quality sleep. The explanation is that spicy food can elevate body temperatures and thus disrupt sleep. This may also be the reason why some people report bad dreams when they eat too close to bedtime. Though few studies have looked at it, eating close to bedtime increases metabolism and brain activity and may prompt bad dreams or nightmares.”

That’s probably more than Mom would have said. Her answer might have been more along the line of, “Sure does.”

So, if you have any burning questions and no one to answer them for you, I’ll lend you my English butler. He knows stuff. Just type in Ask Jeeves.