15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:

Ghost brideLast January I challenged myself to keep a list of all the books I read in 2014. I knew the ‘empty bookshelf’ approach, emptying a shelf and filling it with each book you finish, but suspected I wouldn’t have a shelf big enough. I was right:

65 total books read
16 books that I Did Not Finish (DNF)
33 library books
9 digital books

The best books were:

Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga by Michael McDowell
Horror. Subtle with a complex cast of well developed ‘real’ characters. Set in the south with a creative monster (human crocodile hybrid? Creature from the black lagoon? I was never sure) I didn’t want this story to end, even after six full length books.

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler
YA fantasy. A diverse (most of the characters are Cherokees), well written ghost story with a smart and resourceful heroine who steals the things she needs and refuses to let a ghost stand in the way of her plans.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
YA Fantasy. This adventure takes place in the afterlife as depicted in Eastern/Chinese culture. The plot hinges on a girl being courted by a ghost. She doesn’t love him, and fights to break free of him.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Historic YA fantasy. This is a book about surviving horrors, but it’s also a ghost story. The heroine suffers through the flu pandemic, WWII paranoia, her father being jail, and the love of her life haunting her. Everything felt amazingly real and vivid, the smells, the sounds, the pressures she was under.

WildfireWildfire by Mina Khan
Paranormal Romance/Western. This one blew me away. The heroine is a dragon shifter, she’s also half-Japanese and struggling with depression. I check often in the hopes of another book with these characters.

My best list makes it seem like I read a lot of YA, but they added up to only about 31% of my list. The rest is mystery or historic fiction. I rarely read romances (seven) and am far too picky about my Westerns (five).

I’m not going to mention the worst books by name, but oddly most were highly recommended. It seems I don’t have a lot of tolerance for confusion. Several of the DNF books involved world building that left me completely lost. In one example characters went by different names and switched genders depending on who was narrating.

While I have plenty of editing, running, and quilting on the schedule for the next few weeks I’ll probably add another three or four books to my total. While my tracking project was fun for a year, I’m not sure I’ll keep it up in 2015. I feel slightly guilty admitting I read more than a book a week, but didn’t write any new manuscripts. Saying I spent the year editing is a poor excuse. The best stories are always the ones that haven’t been written yet.

01. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Experiences · Tags: , , ,

In my 20’s I wanted to be sexy. That’s probably not shocking to you, but to me it’s a revelation. Schoolyard bullies convinced me I would always be ugly. I carried that truth into college where I focused on my classes, taking as many as 28 credit hours a term, rather than risk the assured rejection of the dating scene. It was only in my 20s, after grad school, that I realized my body could be something more than a container for my mind.

I found cosplay right around that time. There’s something enormously powerful about a man stopping a long line of pedestrian just to take your picture. It’s hard to find a greater confidence boost than to have ten or fifteen camera flashes go off when you stop and pose. Immersing myself in a world of corsets, costumes, and conventions, I found my fairy wings.

fairy wings

Over four feet tall and made of shimmering purple fabric, my wings could not be ignored. Walking on a crowded convention floor required a ‘wing man’  to make sure that no eyes got poked. In my wings, I floated as a sexy, free spirit. I became fey, an attractive just out of reach, thing of beauty to be coveted.

Oddly, as I left my twenties, my wings hung on my wall more than my back. I found that I wanted to be more than sexy. My tastes in costumes began to veer more toward the Evil Queen than Tinerkbell. Sexy was fine, but I wanted to be strong and sexy. The light, flirtatious, giggles I never quite mastered began to grate on me. The goal ceased to be being desirable to someone else and became proving I was strong.

My fashion ideal: Once Up A Time's Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) (Photo : Reuters)

My fashion ideal: Once Up A Time’s Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) (Photo : Reuters)

I write about strong woman, and some of them happen to be sexy. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. Instead they strike me as phases of a woman’s life. Just like the maiden-mother-crone cycle, surely there must be a fairy-dragon-queen cosplay cycle. Or perhaps there’s something even greater, a systematic unboxing where as women grow older they broaden their definitions of what they want to be, and expand the list of things they can be at once.

My fairy wings will go up on the auction block soon, maybe at a local SciFi Con or maybe in a costuming group. I will miss them, especially the easy way they gave me to define myself. I won’t be the girl with 4 foot fairy wings any more but I will always be the woman who wore them.

15. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Short Stories · Tags: ,

A white cat with bright blue eyes looks out of the photograph.The  worst nightmares were memories and the worst dreams were a little bit true. She dreamed of living a life away from her family, just her and her cat. She dreamed of sun beams and Charlie, stroking his fur and never feeling afraid. The nightmare-memories came from every time her father hit her, except in them she was denied the mercy of blacking out. She was five.

Charlie went missing on Thursday, and her world nearly ended. Without him, the screaming and the tears, were so much worse. She tried hard to be good, but it was easier to avoid doing something wrong when you could come home from school and hide in your room with a white cat. Charlie’s body wasn’t really big enough to hide her, but he was big, and she imagined he could. With Charlie in front of her father wouldn’t see what she did wrong. He wouldn’t get angry, and she wouldn’t have a new nightmare-memory.

Except that Charlie wasn’t found until Sunday morning. His soft fur hadn’t changed, but his body was cold and stiff. Her mother was dressing for church, too busy to offer an explanation. Father only said “It’s dead.” with a shrug. She knew what dead meant, gone forever, but Charlie couldn’t be gone forever. She needed him too much. She thought she knew how much she could cry, how much she could hurt. Holding him in her arms without the hum of his purr, she felt a new depth of pain. It tore out of her, and something came with it, grief or maturity, or maybe something else.

She wouldn’t let Charlie go. Father slapped hard against her head but she wouldn’t let him go. Finally her mother intervened and supplied a box. They would bury Charlie in the churchyard and one day he would rise again with Jesus and live forever. But when her mother said it, her eyes looked the same way they did when she said your father isn’t angry anymore, he’s sorry he hit you.

She knew the people of the church loved her. Sometimes she dreamed that she and Charlie left to live with them. The family with three teenage boys who held her up to the basketball hoop so she could slam dunk. The old woman who always had candy in her purse. A hundred of them, maybe more, she couldn’t count so high, that all loved her and never hit her, and still they didn’t add up to one Charlie. Every time she peeked under the box lid he hadn’t moved. She cried, but after a hard look from Father she did it silently.

After church there was a potluck supper, but the thought of food made her sick. How could she eat when Charlie never would? Father insisted she get a plate. Her fingers couldn’t quite hold it though, and it splattered on the ground, splashing macaroni and cheese on top of green bean casserole. Father shouted, grabbing her arm. She broke away, peeling from his grasp for the first time, her mind fixed not on the inevitable but on Charlie. Two steps later she realized her mistake, and knowing the beating would be worse because of it, cowered on the floor.

The beating didn’t come. When she opened her eyes in tiny slits, everyone, all the people who loved her, were watching. They looked from her to Father, and his face changed from red rage to embarrassment. It would go worse for her later, but now she felt their love. She scrambled from the floor and ran to her chair. She took Charlie’s box on her lap, and while she basked in that love, she felt the box move.

Under the lid Charlie stayed stiff, but his back paw jumped. Was it the love? Was it that other thing, the thing that felt hard in the back of her throat, the thing that welled up inside her when she thought about Charlie never playing with a feather or curling up beside her. Maybe it was both, love and the other thing, and she reached into the box to pet her only friend.

Father grabbed her hand but she peeled away again, turning her wrist. The box lid fell to the floor and her fingers rested on soft fur. A second passed, and then another, Father’s eyes going wide with fear. In the box, Charlie purred.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Experiences · Tags: ,

In mid-September they stopped me in a restaurant, just as the waitress set down my dinner. In early October they braved the spray of my lawn mower to ask. By mid-October I’d heard the same question from more neighbors I’d never met, “What are you doing for Halloween?”

And my answer? A Giant Spider:

giant spider with fog

 

We weren’t going to do a new Halloween display this year, but puppy dog eyes and pleading from some of the neighborhood boys changed my mind. With only 6 weeks until the big day, we needed something quick, that didn’t rely on special orders. More importantly, we’d booked a trip out of for the days just before Halloween so it had to be something that could stay inside and be assembled relatively quickly. Shelob’s Lair was perfect.

Spider cocoons

The large web was mailed ordered. It turns out that it’s cheaper to buy the web than buy your own rope and make one. The two cocoons were made from a combination of old quilt batting, balled up papers, and packing plastic wrap. The process was pretty simple. Spread the plastic wrap out on the floor, making a section twice as wide as the cocoon will be. Place the cotton batting (or white sheet, white paper, red paper etc) on first. Cover with balled up paper, tree branches, or anything light that gives shape. Now’s the time to add any limbs or gore effects you’d like. With lots of younger neighbors, that wasn’t an option for me, but a severed foot or hand would’ve looked perfect. Finally, gently roll the plastic wrap, making a giant sausage, and encase with more plastic wrap.

The spider was more of an event to produce. The head and abdomen are chicken wire wrapped in packing plastic wrap or cloth and spray painted. The cephalothorax is a plastic storage bin with a ‘spine’ of PVC screwed in place. The legs are PVC wrapped in tattered fabric. PVC is my new favorite building material. It works like tinker toys for adults, and if you don’t glue it in place can be reused from year to year. Last year we spent far too much for it at the hardware store, this year we found it at the ReStore for 10 cents a foot. I got to support Habitat for Humanity and build cheap spider legs!

 

20141001_190853

We added the fog machines, mostly because they’re fun, a red light so the spider could be seen, a glowing web on the house, and two pumpkin spiders with vine legs. All in all a good show. We had slightly fewer tricker’er’treaters this year, 10 instead of 15, but more adults. It seems all those grown ups want an excuse to walk around on a cool October night and see some stagecraft. I’m happy to give it to them.

15. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: from my manuscripts, Writing · Tags: ,

Back cover copy is my favorite part of writing. A whole novel takes a long enough that your confidence fails. You doubt yourself. There are nights when every words has to be pried out, making me feel like a dentist with a pair of pliers and my knee in the patient’s chest. A synopsis takes all of that work – weeks and months of it – and forces you to choose just the barest of outlines while insisting you not leave anything out. Marketing copy, those little two lines blurbs, are equally impossible. I just agonized over 100,000 words, and now I have to reduce it down to two sentences? Nope.

But on a back over I just need to say enough to intrigue a reader. I only have to tantalize and tease. All the hard things – showing a character grow and change, developing tension, or making a relationship seem real – can be skipped. That’s why back cover copy usually comes first, and why sometimes it’s the only thing I write.

Thus I give you back cover copy from books I will likely never get around to writing.

Windswept (Inspirational Romance)

When Kim Newland hears that her hometown has been devastated by a hurricane she shrugs her shoulders. She lived through enough hurricanes not to worry, but when her sister, Kristi, asks her for money everything changes for the hard driving lawyer. Money and family in need are the two things that caused ruined her life. Wanting to help but scared of repeating her greatest mistake, Kim heads into the town determined to help make things right.

George Dent spent the hurricane pulling people out of crumbling houses and praying God would stop the storm. Now that it’s over he’s working even harder on clean up, trying to find the missing, comfort the hurt, and maybe, if there’s time, rebuild his church. He’s never had time for a family of his own, and now he’s busier than ever. When Kristi brings her reluctant sister along to the firehouse kitchens he doesn’t know what to say to Kim. Should he try to break through her hard exterior and help her find faith and family again, or just focus on his own work?

###

Remnant’s Revenge (Romantic Suspense)

Srgt. Steve Carter barely remembers the combat accident that stole his soul. Being dead for five minutes wasn’t bad, coming back to life as a remnant, without morals or ethics and with no way to love is horrible. Discharged from the Army for conduct he can’t control, Carter drifts, trying to get back to the man he was.

ER Dr. Jessica Kelly has just found an interesting set of anomalies on the MRI scans of a patient who died briefly on the operating room table. The changes in brain usage might explain the sudden shift in personality and behavior. And if she can explain it, she can fix it. But before she can gather more data she finds herself targeted by shadowy organization, a group willing to kill to keep the remnants exactly as they are.

 

01. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Experiences · Tags:

There’s a drama unfolding that you probably missed if you don’t write or read romance novels.  The story so far:

  • Authors who work for a smaller but very well known publisher began to have problems getting their checks.
  • The publisher went through public troubles with money, laying off staff.
  • A romance blog wrote about it, linking to the authors’ blog posts.
  • The publisher filed a defamation suit again the romance blog demanding the names of those who commented on the blog as well as those that were quoted.

What will happen to the folks who commented? Is it dangerous for authors to talk about their publishers? No one knows, stay tuned for details.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the publisher’s name. I had a contract offer from them once. My agent advised against it, and got me another deal. When that deal fell through I kicked myself for not taking the first offer. That publisher was the first professional contact I had in the writing world. The encounter was short, 5 minutes in the chaos of DragonCon, and took place well before I had a finished novel. Still those 5 minutes fueled me for a long time. But it isn’t out of gratitude that I don’t name them…

As an aspiring author I walk a fine line with social media. I’m encouraged by agents and editors to ‘build a social media platform’ and told that I need to ‘promote my brand’.  My brand should reflect who I am, but never be offensive. For example, I should have a GoodReads account, but not give negative reviews. Apparently, the publishing world is filled with people who will remember and seek vengeance.

Basically I have to sell myself to sell my writing. I’ve never been very comfortable with that idea. When I have to sell a sanitized version of myself, Iget very uncomfortable. I am (among other things) a feminist fan girl, who works in IT, owns a rabbit, and hates whiny female characters. All of those things are going to offend someone.

Thus I have a mix of social media. There’s a secret Tumblr account where I talk about growing up on food stamps and congratulate transwomen on their amazing hair. I link to pretty corset pictures and document every single book I read. Some of those books are amazing, but around 30% of them are ‘did not finish’. I’m honest about when I  couldn’t stand the characters, got bored, or felt the author was misogynistic.  That’s the sort of thing I could never put on my author Facebook account, which holds my nightly word count and a few innocuous comments. My Author Facebook account is populated almost exclusively with posts from my Twitter account, with several of them deleted. I try to keep it on target – something that helps build my platform. I also have a day job Facebook account – which is linked to people from my day job and includes bits about my personal life. Both things I’ve been told to avoid posting on the web, as they’ll ‘water down’ my brand.

Frankly, it’s all exhausting and takes away far too much time from writing. I’ve been considering deleting my Facebook accounts for a few months now. Unfortunately, there are people that I only interact with on Facebook. They stop me from clicking the delete button. But if I had to pick a social media site to maintain, it would be this blog (where it might not be a smart idea to say everything I feel, but at least I maintain control over everything), Twitter (I love chatting with folks over 140 character), and Tumblr (I need my fandom fix).

Meanwhile, I worry that there’s too much of me shared with the world. I like my privacy. And there are more than a few nights where the only people I want to talk to are the ones that live in my head. Those are the nights when I get my best writing done.  Strangely enough, they happen to be the nights when I’m not posting on social media.

15. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Experiences · Tags:

With 45 days left before Halloween, things are beginning to get busy. Although I’m obligated (via my marriage contract) not to put up Halloween decorations until the month of October, a new vanilla-vodka skull has taken up residence on the counter. At the same time, my vague notion that I should do something about my Halloween costume has turned into full blown panic that I have nothing done for my Halloween costume.

Add whole vanilla beans to Crystal Skull Vodka and in a month you have vanilla extract!

Add whole vanilla beans to Crystal Skull Vodka and in a month you’ll have vanilla extract!

Another source of panic? After some nastiness with neighborhood vandals Tiger and I decided we wouldn’t be doing a Halloween display this year. We’d been invited to bring last year’s display (telescope included) to another neighborhood for more kids to enjoy. With our schedule this year the decision made sense… until I bumped into a pair of neighbors, one nine, the other seven, who told me they’d been looking forward to our display all year long. While I wasn’t in the mood to put together a display with less than a month to go, their pleas softened my heart. I realized that if I didn’t make an effort this year, next year there might not be any kids to enjoy it. Our theme is giant spiders. Stay tuned for pictures of all our last minute DIY fun.

When it comes to Halloween time I have two theme park favorites. The first is Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream, which boasts five ‘terror-tories’. In the past the themed spaces worked together to tell a single frightening story. This year theming is a bit more haphazard. Marketing materials brand the effort as ‘Cursed’ spinning the story of a song that brings madness. What does the song have to do with the park areas of pirates, Jack the Ripper, or vampires? Not much but then, the song isn’t mentioned at all inside the park except for signs marked with a tag line ‘don’t listen’.

Dragons and demons go together, right? The Demon Street section of Busch Gardens  Howl-O-Scream

Dragons and demons go together, right? The Demon Street section of Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream

On the other end of the spectrum is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party at Walt Disney World. The theme is Halloween at Disney World. Yep, that’s it. Don’t look for deep scary metaphors or hidden meanings, just cool costumes, free candy, and the chance to meet the Disney Villains. I’ve been a huge Disney fan for a long time, but the addition of expensive add ons to this event make me wonder if this is my last year. In the past everyone had an equal chance to meet their favorite villain, now it’ll cost an additional $100 per person for you to say hello to the Evil Queen or smile at Cinderella’s stepsisters. A better place for that money is the flood of Haunted Mansion merchandise, from a $400 hand bag to a pair of logo-bedecked bedroom slippers. I’m hoping at least some of that materializes by the time I arrive in late October.

On a more personal note, I’m in the middle of making a Halloween quilt to donate to the local foster program. I’m keeping my fingers-crossed there’s at least one foster kid who likes spiders, black cats, smiling jack-o’-lanterns, and silly scarecrows.

The in progress quilt squares.

The in-progress quilt squares.

I’m looking forward to a local writing conference in the middle of the month, and, as always, waiting (im)patiently for replies from cover artists, publishers, editors, and agents.

So begins the start of the best time of year for me: busy, fun, crazy, delightful autumn. I hope I’m as happy at the end of it as I am going into it.

31. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Short Stories · Tags: ,

The little girl would die with her face stuffed into a pillow. Or she would grow up to be a school teacher. Or a scientist. Or there would be a car accident when she was twenty. Cassie shook her head, trying to clear the images and come back to the here and now.

It was no good. There were too many of them. The futures, the possibilities, and the things she could see. Path over path interlaced with the reality in front of her. The little girl was three, then she was eight with two missing teeth. She was dead on a pink blanket, no she was ten winning an award at school. Bits of cotton stuck out of her teeth, no, no, she won a science fair project.

Dead or some other future, they kept coming up in pairs. Dead or a good life, dead or this, dead or that. Like rolling a pair of dice and always getting a six on one of them. Cassie felt the pressure behind her eyes. There would be flashes of light next, starbursts, and then the pain. She had to do something about this future.

Her knee ran into a park bench. She focused on that while she sat down, taking deep breathes of air. People were starting to stare at her. She had to get it together, to stop the pain from coming. Stop the future and you stop the pain, her mantra spooled out in her head.

Steadying herself, she focused on the futures. They ran through her mind like someone flipping through channels on the television. Flickering images of one life, then another. With concentration she could slow the flickering, and look for details in the background. The pink coverlet was a mess, balled up in a big hand. The scene shifted, the little girl as a grown up with a microscope. Cassie waited, it went back to the murder. The little girl wore a blue dress. Cassie squinted, sunlight making her head throb. In front of her, in the real world, the little girl wore the blue dress. It would happen soon.

“Ma’am? Is there a problem?” The police officer wore a concerned expression. Cassie nodded, then looked back at the little girl. He’d broken her concentration and the images became a jumble again. A spike of pain lanced through the right side of her head. That hand reaching for the pillow, taking it out from behind the girl. It wore a heavy silver ring. Cassie fought to stay in that future, the one that came just hours from now. “You hurt your knee?”

Tears of frustration began to form in her eyes and she felt her nose start to run.. If she told him and he didn’t believe, the little girl would die tonight. She needed him to believe. This couldn’t be like the other times. All those futures no one believed in. She gritted her teeth.

“I hit my knee on the bench.” She slid back, letting her shoulders rest on the warm metal, keeping her eyes on the little girl.

“Let me take a look.” He dropped to examine her knee, and over his head she saw the flash of the ring in the sunlight. The heavy silver ring, on the hand attached to the hairy arm. The one the little girl would see just as the man smothered her. Without thinking she let a cry slip out, the future hurt. The cop misunderstood. “Yeah, you smacked the bench pretty good.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Cassie leaned forward, putting her mouth close to his ear. “The man with the cotton candy, to your left, do you see him?”

The cop turned to the left slowly, as if he guessed her strange behavior was somehow important. He nodded in a gesture no one else would see.

“He’s going to kill her.” She could see it, the whole scene now, staggering forward with each pound of her head. “He’s going to murder that little girl tonight.” She steadied herself with a hand on the cop’s shoulder. They must have looked so intimate. But really, all she saw was the room, with the pony dolls by the bed, and the little girl’s fingers in the shaft as sunlight as she reached for air. “Before sunset. He’ll smother her in her bed. You have to stop him.”

Cassie pulled back, memorizing everything about the soon-to-be murderer, the thick black hair, the expressionless eyes. Wetness hit her lip, tears or from her nose. She scrubbed at it with a hand, not caring because it was stopping. The cop got up from his kneeling position, walked over to the man, hand on his gun. Cassie watched at the way his head tilted to the left, talking into the box on his shoulder, calling for more men.

“Excuse me, sir?”

The murderer dropped the cotton candy.

“Uncle Mike?” The little girl’s asked.

And just like that her headache evaporated. Cassie indulged herself in the scene for a few more seconds, watching not the people in front of her but the images in her head. The girl and science, the girl getting married, the girl teaching children, the girl winning awards, the girl struggling to pass classes. So many futures, she let herself smile for a minute, there would be death eventually, but not today.

Cassandra hurried away before anyone had a chance to ask any questions.

15. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Experiences · Tags:

I never believed in love at first sight. All the things a girl is supposed to fall in love with, like pretty shoes or fancy purses, never caught my eye. I even let my dad pick out my wedding dress. That all changed when I met my house. I fell in love as soon as I walked in the front door.

It didn’t bother me when the home inspection told me it needed a new roof, drainage work, a new water heater, and oh yeah, bathroom work. Specifically, both bathrooms would need to be redone ‘in the next year, maybe two, sooner rather than later, but it’s no rush.’ I figured that all I had to do was find a good contractor and write a check. The home inspector thought the job would take four to six weeks.

We were both very wrong.

134 days after it started my bathroom renovation is finally done. In that time we:

  • Removed 8 walls
  • Put up 5 walls
  • Painted 6 rooms
  • Ordered 5 sets of tile
  • Installed 2 sets of tile

The process was less than smooth. There are a number of funny stories, like the time the contractor got called to jury duty or that time I nearly broke my hand running into a door that had just been put up. But let’s skip all that and head right to the pretty:

My favorite drug - Blessed caffeine adorns the walls of my guest bathroom.

My favorite drug – Blessed caffeine adorns the walls of my guest bathroom.

Half way through the process it turned out we didn’t have enough space. Thus, we stole several square feet from the dining room, bedroom, and the hall bath to make the master bathroom fit. As a result my hall bath designs went from ‘super cool chemistry lab’ with beakers for hand soap and an Erlenmeyer flask for mouth wash, to ‘very simple’. At one point we had shower curtain bedecked with the chemical equations for our favorite things – sugar, cream, vanilla, chocolate, and honey. Unfortunately, the molecules dissolved after the first shower. Thankfully the caffeine survived.

My favorite part of the whole remodel is the dragon etched shower door:

Based on the  Visit Wales icon

Based on the Visit Wales icon

Glass etching is surprisingly affordable and I really, really like the dragon. He provided a great way to personalize the bathroom without adding clutter.

The contractor called this my ‘man tub’ because it could easily fit a man… Or two

The contractor called this my ‘man tub’ because it could easily fit a man… Or two

Sinking the tub into the ground was my contractor’s idea. It’s a great way to hide water damaged wood or anything else that’s caused giant holes in your floor. Luckily we had enough of a crawl space that we could create a concrete ‘box’ around the tub to keep the water warm.

Another favorite is the art glass vessel sink. It’s not very practical but the pretty blue color wakes me up in the morning with a smile.

Such a pretty place to brush your teeth

Such a pretty place to brush your teeth

 

Despite the long time frame, things went well. I knew my contractor’s employees by name. I baked for them each Sunday. When I got sick, they apologized for the hammering every time they came by me on the couch. Still there were a few things I wish I had known in advance:

  • Tile may not match the sample tile. It may not be available at all (even after you have been charged for the order). Slight differences in the tile name like ‘black glossy tile’ and ‘glossy tile – black’ are significant. Work with a tile company that allows returns.
  • All details should be in the contract or on paper. If a change is made it needs to be documented. Some things can be changed later, some can’t. If it isn’t in writing, it won’t be changed.
  • Dust gets everywhere. Incremental cleaning helps to some extent. Plastic barriers over the entryways to the construction area help more.
  • It’s perfectly normal to vent natural gas into a house when working on gas pipes.
  • Keep a jug of water in the fridge to drink on the days when the water is shut off. Keep another jug under the sink for washing on those same days.
  • Grout must be sealed. It has to cure first. Don’t try to shower the first night the shower looks ‘done’.

I’m  not complaining. I know I’m blessed to have a beautiful functional bathroom. Still, if you ever decide to undertake a bathroom remodel, drop me a note. My horror stories might help. Until then, be careful with love at first sight.

01. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Experiences · Tags: , ,

The wind blows down the city street and strangers huddle together against the dark. In front of them a storyteller spins a tale that’s almost unbelievable. As they walk through the parks and residences, alleyways and historic markers, the stories keep coming. The group leans in eager to hear. Scared or bored, their feet hurting or their hearts pounded, they have in common: ghosts.

I go on a ghost tour whenever I get the chance. On a regular tour, I’m the girl who asks if there have been any ghost stories. I tell myself I’m not obsessed, that ghost stories are some of the best stories around. They feature strong emotions, and deep dark moments. Most ghost tours share a few tropes if not entire stories. There’s almost always a bride, killed on her wedding day, and haunting in her wedding dress. In Philadelphia and Alexandria, VA she burned to death. In Savannah she died of greed, poisoned by embalming fluid in the dress stolen from her sister’s corpse. Typically a child ghost makes an appearance, sometimes bringing friends, usually playing or laughing in a way that should be cute but comes out as creepy.

Ghost tours used to be hard to find. My first Savannah ghost tour was conducted by a private guide. At $60 for the afternoon, she worked out to be cheaper than most, and more friendly. The last time I went back the city offered haunted carriage rides, pirate tours, haunted walking tours, and a ghost tour every night. With so much competition picking the right ghost tour becomes a tough choice. I’d suggest a tour lead by someone with a background in history or literature. Despite their very sensational website, Grim Philly tours were all written by a history professor and are given by history students. They were also the only tour I’ve been on that took us to specialists along the way.

A guide from the Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia, who only tells stories about those graves, took over our tour for half an hour.

A guide from the Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia, who only tells stories about those graves, took over our tour for half an hour.

Guides can be serious or eager, occasionally dressed in costume. Lord Chaz leads tours in the French Quarter of New Orleans wearing a vintage mortician’s suit and top hat. His tour didn’t offer any stories I hadn’t heard before, but it was the only one I’ve been on where my tour guide got arrested. Guides take their work very seriously, and may have even published a book of ghost stories (available for purchase at the end of the tour). It’s considered poor form to correct them, even when you know they left out a part of the story. Similarly, if your guide holds up a poorly rendered photograph that ‘proves’ ghosts, don’t heckle.

Glowing ghost orbs, or proof that I’m not a professional photographer

Glowing ghost orbs, or proof that I’m not a professional photographer

Ghost tours tend to focus on ghosts, but a few stories may slip in that are only ‘spooky’. In Charleston it was a failed love affair by Edgar Allen Poe. We sat on library steps in the moonlight, hearing about the inspiration for his Annabelle Lee poem – a very real woman he wasn’t allowed to court. Other options include historic buildings, markers of historic events, or criminal proceedings.

This building is the ‘twin’ the ‘Zuul’ building from Ghostbusters. Spooky! Or not.

This building is the ‘twin’ the ‘Zuul’ building from Ghostbusters. Spooky! Or not.

Adults don’t get to ask someone ‘tell me a story’. We read books, but that’s only close to the experience of a hearing someone spin a tale. If you’re lucky your family sits around a table telling stories. If you’re not, try a ghost tour. They might not be 100% true, or faithfully accurate, but they’re always a memorable time.