My smile for the week is this pic of my daughter and son-in-law’s doggos. You may remember Rory, their golden retriever, and joining her now is Lily, a corgi and shiba inu mix. Diane and Sam brought Lily home on Saturday, and within a few hours she and Rory were happily romping around together. (Contrast this with our finicky cats who took 6 months to merely tolerate each other.)
Lily is only 7 months old and I can’t wait to meet her in person at Thanksgiving! And of course see my daughter too, etc.
The delicate choreography Of jellyfish drifting, Entrances the eye… Ethereal shape-shifting, Suspended in time, Going nowhere. Each dance is a game Of softly dealt solitaire, Forming and reforming, Ending never the same… Together a kaleidoscope Of graceful, lacy beauty. Watching them brings An abundance of peace, Acceptance of all things, Even the ghosts of love– No longer suffering, but Dreaming endlessly.
I shiver at the water’s edge, Braced against the morning chill; Squirrels chitter to their friends; The lake is green and still. An egret poses like a queen, Haloed in the pale light; She may not have all she needs, But what is here will suffice.
Welcome to my Friday afternoon paint chip prompt. There are other paint chip prompts out there, but they’re very precise in what they ask for. Mine is open ~ write a poem, a story, a memory, whatever you like. Take your inspiration this week from Valspar’s “water’s edge” and/or “morning chill.” Tag your post Paint Chip Friday, or PCF, if you wish. Prompt will continue until December 31.
Melanie notes that this month has flown past. I agree! Here are my responses to her Share Your Word questions today…
1. Are human beings required to better themselves and will doing that make them happier?
Required by whom? If you believe in a supreme being, then you may feel required to “better” yourself, whatever that means in your particular belief system. Some of us have internal voices (aka “consciences”) instilled/installed by our parents, teachers, whomever that nag at us to do “better,” which could mean many different things, such as making more money, being kinder to others, cleaning up the planet, etc. Also, some of us have various forms of OCD which compel us to do certain things we may feel are better than not doing them, such as arranging things symmetrically. Yes, this makes me happier! LOL. Actually, messy/disorganized spaces make me unhappy, so putting them to rights simply resets me to “normal.” Gosh, I have a lot of scare quotes in this answer! Anyway, I can’t answer for others about what may or may not make them happy. I think that doing the “right things,” however you define them, goes beyond a transitory state of happiness and is more about feeling good about oneself and one’s place on the planet.
2. Is it easier to love or to be loved?
Again, I’m only speaking for myself here ~ neither. I find both to be extremely difficult. I love my children, grandkids, and parents (RIP). By extension, I love my sons-in law. After that, things get murkier. Do I love my cat Gatsby? I say I do, but when he really annoys me, I’m not sure. I still take good care of him regardless, so maybe that equals love. I don’t know. What about friends? Hmm, also foggy. It’s easy to say I love my close friends, but what would I truly sacrifice for them, if necessary. Again, I don’t know. It hasn’t come up. Don’t even get me started on romantic love because I’m not sure I ever loved any of them. I certainly wasn’t willing to sacrifice much, if anything, to make those relationships work out. As far as being loved? My children love me, and my parents did too. That’s all I know. I’m not sure I’ve ever really been loved in the romantic sense; all the men who said they did acted only in their own self-interest, which is not love in my book. It’s easy to proclaim love when everything is going well, but when it comes time to give something up or make uncomfortable changes for the other person’s well-being and/or the health of the relationship, they all failed. As did I.
3, Outside traumatic brain injury, can memories be completely erased?
I don’t know. I think they can disappear, especially trivial ones, but if you “focus” on trying to forget something, it’s more likely that memory will persist. I’ve forgotten tons of stuff, but I do remember emotionally eventful times. It’s the nature of the beast. I’d rather remember sweet, peaceful moments, but there’s nothing “sticky” about most of those; they just drift past like fluffy clouds. The storms stay with me however.
4. Is there such a thing as a good death?
Sure. My Aunt Lily had a good death. As far as I know, she had a happy life, felt fine, and passed away in her sleep at 80-something with no fuss. Anything sudden and painless over age 80 counts in my mind as the best I could hope for. I’m not expecting that however, due to already feeling crappy every day plus my parents’ medical history. I guess there is another type of “good death,” which is dying for something you believe in, like a war or saving a whale. But except for immediate family, I can’t imagine sacrificing my life for any type of cause these days, since it’s hard to know what is true. Not saying other people’s sacrifices weren’t valid; I simply can’t picture that for myself.
5. What do you imagine is inside a baseball?
Oh, that’s easy. Hot dogs, apple pie, the American flag, blue jeans, summer nights, fireflies, and spongy grass.
No, not the city in New York! I reviewed a couple of Neil Plakcy’s doggie mysteries in my quickie reviews, but I want to go into a bit more depth now that I’ve finished all 12 available Rochester novels. Obviously, I enjoyed them overall or I wouldn’t have read so many, but there are some negatives I want to explore too, and I think some of us can relate, especially those who self-publish. There may be spoilers mixed in, so read at your own risk.
The premise is that Steve Levitan, a divorced, childless 40ish dude, has returned to his hometown in Buck’s County, PA, where he’s inherited a townhouse from his deceased father, and creates a fresh start, but in a location he’s familiar with. Steve has had some troubles, including a stint in a prison in California, and now he desires a calm lifestyle where he can focus on putting some sort of career back together. He is bitter over the fact that his wife divorced him while he was incarcerated, has remarried, and now has a baby (she had miscarried the babies they conceived together). He is also resentful of having to report to a parole officer who tracks his computer activity, since Steve’s crime was hacking into credit bureaus to stop his ex-wife from spending money like a maniac. But a quiet life is not in the cards for our hero ever since he discovers his neighbor has been murdered, ends up adopting her golden retriever Rochester, and helps his old buddy Rick (now a cop) solve the crime. Each book has a murder that Rochester gets involved in, and by extension Steve, except for No. 8, which is a fun collection of short stories to fill in the time between other books. It’s a cool idea to do that.
I’m really glad I read these books one after the other without breaking to read different novels in between because it enabled me to pay close attention to detail. I really admire the way Plakcy created his protagonist, who has plenty of good qualities, but is also flawed, and his character develops in the stories. I’ve compared this series to Lawrence Sander’s McNally mysteries, and there are many similarities, but Archie McNally never evolves from his playboy ways, while Steve does break out of his initial gloom. He changes during the stories and gradually loses the chip on his shoulder. He stops bitching about his ex-wife and the unfairness that he was made an example of by the court system (apparently he was handed a stiffer penalty for hacking than expected, which would have been probation). But you have to read several of the books to appreciate the way Steve slowly changes over time. A huge part of his progress involves having Rochester to love and care for because the dog ownership responsibilities force him out of his constant navel-gazing. Also, knowing that he is a good dad to Rochester, and the doggie loves and trusts him in return, makes Steve feel worthy of love and trust. After a while, he begins to date again, though very cautiously. I thought this was all portrayed excellently.
But I also have some criticisms. There were a lot of typos in these books, which is a big problem with self-pub, in my opinion. We all feel we know what we’re doing and can proofread our own work, but that’s incorrect. I have cringed to find egregious errors in my own books when I glance back at them years later. What happens is that we decide to change something, a paragraph, a sentence, or just one word, and then don’t bother reading the whole page again, or we skim it too quickly. We’re so familiar with our own text that when we “proofread” our eyes glaze over the pages. That’s how mistakes end up sticking to the published work. In the old days, publishing houses had actual proofreaders, so you didn’t find mistakes of tense or grammar in printed books. We need “fresh eyes” to go over our material. Why are typos bad? Because they distract a reader from the story and anything that pulls the reader out of the action is a bad thing.
And speaking of this, Plakcy has a bizarre, annoying habit of giving side characters “funny” names. It’s absolutely a stopping point, since now that I know his names sometimes sound like actual phrases (“Ike Arumba”) I must pause and say each one aloud to see if it’s anything. WHY does he do this??? I guess it’s one of those “darlings” that an editor would have killed the first time it happened, but we no longer have editors. Honestly, it’s self-indulgent silliness and extremely irritating. That’s my biggest criticism of these books, and it is not a minor thing since it pushes the reader out of the story.
For a while, it annoyed me that Plakcy repeats so much from book to book, such as the way he describes Rochester and the humans too. But then I decided I liked it as it gave a sense of continuity. I think there are other repetitions that Plakcy does not intend, such as describing so many things as “bright green” or “bright blue” ~ again, an editor would have probably fixed this. In one of my quickie reviews, I complained about the “fade to black” regarding Steve’s sex life, but I decided that was OK too. I don’t necessarily want to read graphic descriptions of sex in a doggie detective story, but at first the fade seemed abrupt and puzzling, given the amount of detail used for everything else, including physical descriptions, scenery, and even eating a pizza. I knew Plakcy was capable of writing the romantic scenes, so I did some investigative work myself. Plakcy is gay and has written gay erotica, which imo explains everything. Just as I would have trouble writing gay sex scenes (I have done it, but they aren’t very good), Plakcy was probably all ewwww gross hetero sex. That’s my conclusion anyway, and after I figured this out, I accepted the fade.
I did enjoy the slow romance between Steve and Lili; I thought it was super well-done, considering what we know about both characters. It would have been unrealistic for this “older” couple to plunge right into commitment and declarations of forever, given their past disappointments. I find it interesting that the problems between them are not dismissed as nothingburgers, but instead explored and sometimes just left hanging. It would not surprise me if they break up somewhere down the line, even though they love each other. Often, that simply is not enough. I can imagine that Lili will have an overwhelming desire to travel again, as a single woman, and become bored with a homey, doggie lifestyle. Steve is young enough to become a father with a 30-something woman, as men do ALL THE FREAKING TIME, so it’s weird for him to keep announcing that he’s “too old.” Anyway, I can imagine that he’ll have a moment of enlightenment in the next book or so and go whoa I am not actually too old, duh. It’s clear throughout that he would really love to be a dad (or stepdad) of actual human children. There is one really bad error in the last book (or maybe it was book 11, I forget), where Plakcy screws up their ages. The series begins when Steve is 42, and Lili is a few years older. This remains consistent throughout, as it should, except in one instance where Steve mentions that she turned 40 during their relationship. WHAT?!?! Terrible mistake.
OK, so it’s pretty clear that I am way into these Rochester books, kinda like I was with the Game of Thrones TV show. I will definitely keep reading them until everyone gets burnt up to bits by a dragon, or whatever.
Photo is of my granddog Rory because she’s also a gorgeous golden like Rochester. I bet they’d get along great!
This takes the cake… I mean, the burrito. These crazy people want me to model for their new cat cafe/bookshop and I’ve had just about enough. They interrupted my nap, and naps are precious. I only take 4 a day now, down from 6 when I was a kitten. OK, granted, each one is 5 hours long, but hey I am a cat, which brings me back to my– ooh, a spider! Too bad I can’t pounce on it and kill it to bits because I am literally a purrito. That’s their word, which they think is hilarious, and they can’t stop laughing about it. Ridiculous and undignified! I am a cat. I am a top predator. I should not be wrapped in a fake tortilla, for heaven’s sake. I am not a silly supermodel, and they aren’t paying me enough to pretend to be one either. In fact, are they actually paying me anything? Sure, I get a cozy place to live, lots of bookshelves to hide in, and gourmet food twice a day, but I have to think about my retirement. I won’t always be this young and spry… I need to put something away for the future. Perhaps I will spend my golden years in Acatpulco. Get it? I’m not going to share my pun with the cretins. It’s all mine, as is everything really. I’m wiggling a bit in my paperito to loosen it up and giving the edge a sharp bite or two in the process. Ah, freedom! What to do first. A smidge of lunch, naturally, and then a nap. GET THAT FLASH AWAY FROM ME! Geez, these folks don’t know when to stop with their cameras, do they? I need my meow-time…
She sits at a gilt-edged vanity In a silky red robe, hairbrush Placed just so, her skin aglow, But she does not get too close To the glass. She knows That faint network of cracks Spiderwebbing out from the side Of the otherwise pristine mirror. When she glides downstairs, She avoids glancing in dark corners Where harsh harbingers of new Contretemps lie in wait, Growing fat on innuendo And words better left unsaid. She imagines their nasty little fangs And obscenely furry legs, Eager to latch onto tender flesh. At the breakfast table, she smiles At her husband and reaches For a perfectly ripe strawberry From the cut crystal bowl, Never sparing a glance For the tiny brown recluse That sinks its teeth into her hand.
A friend in a poetry workshop shared a challenge: write a poem containing a dichotomy.
OK, so in my continuing mission to read various sub-genres of romance novels, and blab about them to y’all, I recently finished an adult shape-shifter story. If you recall (and why wouldn’t you?), I previously reviewed a young adult dragon shifter story and to my surprise enjoyed it quite a bit.
Not so the case with Her Purrfect Match by Milly Taiden. Gawd, what a pile of dreckage. Where to begin?
1. Loads of errors. I realize that we can’t all afford an editing service, but it’s terribly distracting to have screw-ups throughout.
2. No attempt to explain how the tiger-peeps came to exist or how they shape-shift, what it feels like to the shifter, etc. In the dragon story, I felt the wings stretching under the skin and the emotional conflict associated with shifting. Here? Nothing. Just bam, he’s a tiger now.
3. There is nothing “tigery” or even weird about the guy when human. He is simply an Alpha male who likes a lot of hot sex in the usual ways. Why bother with tigerness at all?
4. Author uses tigerness as a lame excuse for the usual noncommittal sex men like to engage in, with the only twist being that Tigerman needs to reproduce because enemies. Again, there is no reason for him to be part tiger. He is just an ordinary jerk, until of course he is REFORMED BY LURVE.
5. The heroine is annoyingly insecure about her “curves” and also super-dumb in much of the book. Forex, she doesn’t catch on that she has actually stumbled onto the man she was shifter-matched up with even after he keeps giving tiger cues. I wanted to smack her. Duh! It’s him! The guy! TIGER MAN. Ugh.
So while I am a bit curious about the heroine’s friend who gets matched with two wolf-shifters, I think I’ll pass.
As soon as she stepped into the room, she realized that something was different. She glanced around at the familiar furniture, the knickknacks, the paintings. It wasn’t any of that. She simply couldn’t put her finger on it, but she had a definite feeling that something was out of place.
“Hey, Amanda.” Her husband Josh waved the TV remote at her. “You’re home early.”
“I have cramps,” she told him. “And I couldn’t deal with that glut of paperwork on my desk. But what’s going on here?”
Josh frowned. “Nothing, why? Oh, the cable went out for a few minutes, but it’s all good now. I only missed a little bit of Bankruptcy for Dummies.”
“Would you like some wine, Amanda?” Josh’s mistress Melody called from the kitchen where she was cracking eggs into a bowl for a cake. “I’ll open a bottle, but I can’t have any because I’m pregnant again. I just took the test.”
“That would be wonderful,” Amanda said, putting her coat and purse in the closet.
The twins came downstairs. “Mom, we both failed math again,” one of them said. Maybe it was Zoe, or was that Zelda? Amanda couldn’t tell them apart. “But don’t worry, the weed shop hired both of us full-time, so we dropped out of school.”
“That’s great, honey.” Amanda walked over to the armchair where a baby elephant was napping. “What’s Mikey doing in the house? I told you guys he had to stay outside!”