Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Outback Battles

The Glitter Globe, Mosquitoes, S.R. Karfelt, Canada
S.R. Karfelt

Did you hear the one about dryer sheets being a mosquito repellent?  You know, “Put a Bounce sheet in your hat. That will keep them away.”  I vacation in the wilds of Canada, don’t make me laugh. If you live in suburbia, and have tried this method and didn't get bitten, you might naively call it a success. Keep in mind your neighborhood is likely a mosquito’s idea of a Chinese Buffet; the critter has a blinding array of choices on Buttercup Lane. Perhaps fabric softener sheets do make the Jones’s next door more appetizing than you. Now let’s say you’re far outside insect fast food strip malls enjoyed by city-skeeters.  You're deep in the Canadian Wilderness where no other human being has walked since Noah. You are just a big naked bear to the palate of a mosquito. I don’t care if you’ve bathed in OFF, unless you light yourself on fire – you, my friend, are dinner for the masses.

Consider this, if you are the only human to walk down a post apocalyptic alley chock full of vampires, I don’t care if you have wall to wall crucifix tattoos on your body, I say you are going to get drained. And when the vampires notice your ink, they’ll just say, “Oh dear!  That was on the Do-Not-Eat list – my bad!” Maybe they'll go to confession like Friday meat-eaters during Lent, but it’s like when I miss a meal and swing by Panera for a salad, and walk past the bakery’s cookie display. They have flower shaped cookies this summer, do I care that they contain sugar?  No more than a ravenous mosquito cares that I’ve been dipped in OFF. Hopefully that stuff leaves a nasty after-taste in his mouth, or maybe it is just oil, salt and pepper as I’ve long suspected. Either way, I see no difference in Canadian-mosquito-equal-opportunity-tourist-consumption with or without bug repellent.

There are three things that I’ve found that cut down on mosquito terrorism. If you are Canadian, please quit reading this. I know you’ll just go back to the lab and develop a new strain of the creatures impervious to these methods.

1)   Battery operated hand-held bug zappers. You will need one heck of a lot of AA-Batteries, and you will still short this thing out if you are in the bush using it. It is best used indoors. It does not make much of a dent in mosquito populations, but it delivers great personal satisfaction.

2)   ThermaCELL mosquito repellent. These devices give me a headache after a bit, but they are very effective and I am allergic to life on earth, maybe they won't bother you.

3)   Good old-fashioned mosquito netting. This is where I will be working on my current WIP. It’s nice to have one of those bug zappers under the netting with you, because some of the beasts always find their way in. Yes, this really is my idea of vacation.

* Excuse any hint of advertising, just telling you what has worked for me.  All nationalities of mosquitoes encourage you to stick with the Bounce dryer sheets and Listerine.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

When Writers Get Bored

Sometimes I buy insane stiletto heel shoes, in leopard print or glitter. Of course I can’t walk in them; I have chronic vertigo for heaven’s sake. I wear them to type in; they make your feet go numb really fast. If I’m having a really good day, sometimes I will wear them and try to fetch a glass of water. If I ever break a bone doing this, I will straight-up lie to you all and tell you I broke it skydiving. You can skydive with chronic vertigo, the secret there is all you have to do is fall. It really comes rather naturally. It does for me anyway.
Now it seems necessary to define bored. What bores you?  If someone were to offer you, say, a sunny vacation on a tropical beach or a week all alone with your writing, what would you take?  My choice would be the second one. Really. So my idea of boredom really means that the writing is going slow for some reason, and I need to blow some fresh glitter into the globe. This doesn’t mean the tropical beach, this means research. Prowling through old cemeteries is inspirational. I make lists of names in cemeteries. Usually I scramble them up a bit, out of respect. Another excellent source of writing inspiration comes when traveling. The GPS took all fear out of getting lost. Plug in the “no highways” option on your next road trip. There is a great big freaky world out there just waiting for your novel.
Air travel is another excellent source of fodder. I always have to change planes at least once, because I live in the middle of nowhere. You might want to write this tip down. On all my return flights, I purposely book the last flight into my town. This usually means that I’m not getting home that day. If I’m flying Atlanta to New York and it snows in Billings, Montana, my flight will be cancelled until the next day. And cancelled flights, on your return trip mind you, are a writer’s jackpot. It goes something like this…
              “I’m sorry Mrs. Paz, paz, pazz…”
              “Pazicni,” I always take pity here. “It rhymes with zucchini.
               It’s the old silent c rule.”
“Yes, well, your flight has been cancelled. I’m so sorry; you’ll have to fly back tomorrow. There do not appear to be any more flights into Iceland tonight.”
Trying not to punch the air and whoop, I do my best to look less than thrilled. “No more flights in tonight?  You’re sure?”
“Yes. I’m sorry. You’ll have to spend the night here in Nashville/New Orleans/San Diego. We’ll get you a room and vouchers for your meals.” 
Airlines tend to overnight you in hotels that are pretty nice too. Of course you run the risk of spending the night camped out on a chair in Terminal F. Still, as much as I detest that place, Terminal F has provided me with loads of material too. That’s the chance you take when you play travel roulette. Oh and those meal vouchers?  They’re only good for $8, which in a hotel restaurant means you can only afford free water and dessert. Score. Just sayin’, like you need anything else.
Some days when I really need a break from moving commas around in my novel, I hop over here and blog a bit. If you’d like to provide some inspirational sparkle for me, please leave me a comment and tell me what you do when you get bored/stuck/need a change of pace. If you inspire me, or make me laugh out loud, I'll send you your very own candy-filled Slinky Dog for inspiration.  Hey, it works for me.

* The boots at the top are Skydive Platform Thigh High Boots.  Just google it if you need a new pair.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pirate Attack

The battle with the Evil Contractor, Lord and Master of Pigs and Roosters, escalated. When it was bad, it was horrible, but more often than you might expect, the residents of Spooky Hill made a giant batch of lemonade from whatever offal E.C. left in his wicked wake. The following is one such tale.
Once Upon a Time on Spooky Hill my in-laws came to babysit. Dear Hubby and I were attending a conference in Vegas, Baby. It was autumn and they took the kids apple picking. Returning from the orchard, FIL, while maneuvering his vehicle up the steep and secret entrance to our house, came to a sudden stop and stared at the lot across from the house. “Kids?” he inquired, “Was that boat there when we left?”  On the acreage across the street from my house, now rested a tugboat. (I am talking ocean tugboat folks, I am talking ancient, rusted, proportions of a good-sized house, tugboat.)  The kids assured Grandpa that it indeed had not been there earlier in the day.  
Many of my rocking neighbors were aware of the fact that it had taken Evil Contractor an entire day, heavy equipment and a crew of E.C. minions to haul that old tugboat from the field it had been rusting in for decades, to its new residence. They assumed rightly that it was a sign that the powers-that-be had ruled in our favor in the battle against E.C.  This was his Modus Operandi and not new or unusual. It was a punishment, and my most excellent neighbors hatched a plan to turn the mammoth eyesore into lemonade.
The flight in from Vegas was late, and it was almost midnight when D.H. and I hit the secret entrance to Spooky Hill. My carry-on was stuffed with awesome loot from my week at Treasure Island. I knew the kids would be thrilled with the pirate paraphernalia, the usual, eye-patches, head scarves, plastic hooks and such. “What’s that?” The first thing I noticed was an enormous sign Evil Contractor had erected. I’d tell you what it said, but I try to keep this blog PG. The writer in me noted right off though, the dude couldn’t spell.
Reaching the top of the hill that night, what really caught our attention was the floodlights. I live in the country, there aren’t floodlights. They were moving, very Vegas Strip style, over an enormous old tugboat. My neighbors were out, at midnight on a weeknight, giant floodlights in hand, giving us our own personal welcome-home party, Treasure Island style.
We celebrated with another costume party, this time, of course, it was pirate themed. Arrrr. That rusted old tugboat was there for years. The best part was, when I had to give someone directions to my house. Living in the country, it went something like this:  “…and just keep heading north, you’ll think there is nothing out this far and that you went the wrong way – you didn’t. You’ll see a sign that says “Lost Goat” make a left. Go 1/16th of a mile and turn right. You’ll think this can’t be it because it looks like the woods, just turn anyway - have faith. The hill is steep, you will need to floor it and the car will go about 2 mph. You’ll see a handmade billboard with a lot of misspellings, ignore what it says and just keep driving. Then you’ll spot a huge old tugboat on your right, no really, yes, a tugboat. No there is no water, it’s beached; my house is directly across the street from it.”  I got far more company than you might expect. Do you think there was ever really any choice that I’d have to become a writer?  I mean life just gives you this material, what else are you gonna do with it?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

When Pigs Back-Fire

Once Upon a Time an evil contractor was trying to force me to do something I was not prepared to do. (This whole tale is quite dark and involves the awfulness that is lawyers, police, court, etc. We won’t go into all that now, because THAT will be a book someday. Oh yes, the novelist has the last laugh, or cry.)  As I was saying:  Once Upon a Time the Evil Contractor, E.C., was determined to obtain my cooperation through whatever means necessary. One fine day, E.C. slogged his way up Spooky Hill through the forest and built a pig pen at the corner of my property. Then he filled it with an assortment of pigs and roosters. I think that this was Brilliant Plan #74, if memory serves.
My children and the children in the neighborhood were beside themselves with joy, a petting zoo right in our own backyard. They were writhing with the thrill of it, the adults, not so much, at least not at first.
There were no roads crossing over Spooky Hill at that time, so to feed and water those pigs took serious time and effort on the part of E.C. Believe you me the kids made sure that those animals were well taken care of. They spent half the summer standing at the property line, shivering with happiness. “They’re so cuuuuute!  Mom!  Look!  They’re soooo cuuuuute!” One of the roosters flew the coop and started living on a neighbor’s back porch. The kids would prop him on their forearms and carry him around. E.C. tried to coax him back to the pen. Rooster had better sense and refused cooperation. That entire summer those kids ran up and down Spooky Hill with that bird.
Unfortunately the pigs had a less pleasant fate. Eventually E.C. either tired of hauling food to them or wearied of providing hours of entertainment to my kids, but they vanished. I heard from someone in the village that E.C. had gifted people working at The Town large amounts of pork. The kids never knew, well, unless they’re reading my blog now. If they are, let me just point out that there is no proof that is what became of the pigs. It might have been coincidence or rumor.

In keeping with the happy memory of the disappearing pigs, there was a large costume party themed, “Come as Your Favorite Pig.”  I was Miss Piggy and Dear Hubby was forced into a rather large Kermit costume. Hey, I needed a date. After that the entire neighborhood started an annual pig roast every summer. The World Famous Superhero, known as Super-Pig, made an appearance every year and the children were delighted to have their pictures taken with him. The rooster mysteriously ended up at a farm on the far side of the village. Things might have gone back to normal then, but then someone on Spooky Hill gave someone a little toy pig. Then someone gave someone else pig tea towels. Then someone went on vacation and foolishly trusted someone else with their house key, and as a group we did a little “remodel surprise” for them. After that, common sense was at a premium, and for years pig paraphernalia was the décor of choice on The Hill. It still pops up from time to time, though we made a pact to stop it a couple years back. Now and then someone falls off the wagon. I mean, really, check this out…could you really pass up a pig lighter with flames shooting out his nostrils? I'm only human.