Month: December 2017

Offseason: Abandoned, Like a Zombie Apocalypse

Who hasn’t dreamed of having an amusement park or tourist town all to themselves? Why fight the crowds? Just go when no one else is around.

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite little mountain towns in the winter with my husband. I had imagined poking through the shops and eating funnel cakes without crowds or lines. Instead, I found this. Closed for the season.

Most of the town shuts down when the train stops bringing shoppers. One die-hard tourist shop remains open. All of the others are locked up tight. And forget funnel cakes. Pictures of the delicious desserts cover the windows, making my stomach growl, but, alas, no funnel cakes today.

Only one restaurant stays open for lunch on any given day. The clerk at the one open tourist shop showed me a schedule that is distributed to locals. It tells what restaurants are open each day, but is subject to changes at the cook’s whim.

We lunched at the open restaurant. The choice was hamburgers or hamburgers. Plain hamburgers, hamburgers with chilis, or hamburgers with other fixin’s. Tasty and filling, but not a funnel cake.

Worse yet, we found the public restrooms locked up tight. I counted on those restrooms. . . although, maybe if the town is empty, I can pretend I’m in the woods and go behind a tree. Nah. The locals wouldn’t like that.

I should have known better. I’ve made a regular grocery run to Walmart at two-o’clock in the morning. That’s the joy of having a twenty-four-hour store.

The perfect time. Right?

No “People of Walmart” to shock me with exposed muffin-tops or undergarments on the outside of their clothes. No dodging other carts. No long lines at checkout.

Instead, I have to dodge oversized plastic-wrapped pallets of merchandise waiting to be shelved. And forget sale items. Those supplies have long since been depleted.

After I fill my basket to overflowing, I head to the twenty checkout stands, anticipating a speedy exit. But, the only line open is self-check-out. First, I look at my bulging basket. Then I look at the little shelf that is supposed to hold my groceries. If I’m lucky, someone takes pity on me and opens a stand.

Unlike Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation, I’m not able to force someone to open up for me. Although, that is my dream—I hate crowds.

On the plus side, I haven’t been chased through the amusement park by zombies like what happened in the movie Zombieland. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler for you). The abandoned tourist town hasn’t been hit by a zombie apocalypse, but it sure could be used to stage a zombie movie.

I guess if I want the full experience, I’ll have to join the crowds, when the shops and restaurants are prepared to serve the masses . . . unless I want hamburgers or hamburgers instead of funnel cakes.

Special Feature: Author Interview with myself

My debut novella comes out in January.  So exciting.  I’m honored to be included in a collection with six other authors.  To introduce you to the story and the other authors, we are doing a blog tour.  I’ll be posting about my heroine, hero, setting, and etc. on their sites.

I have asked each of the authors to send me a post about the inspiration for their story. Here is the first installment, my inspiration.

As a new author, I didn’t have to reach far for inspiration.  I used ideas that were close to home. I’m not sure what my next story will be about, because I may have used all my good inspiration in this one.

The story takes place in a fictional Colorado mining town in the 1880s.  I love historic mining towns and spend time poking around them every summer.  I visit museums and historic sites and try to imagine life in the town.  Every year, I buy a biography or novel about the historic town and read it while I am there, bringing the history to life.

My daughter claims to have visited enough pioneer and mining museums to last a lifetime.  Good thing for her, she married and moved away.  I can never have visit enough museums.

When I learned the heroines would all be named after flowers, I picked Rose—my daughter’s middle name.  Why not?  I liked the name enough to saddle a child with it for life.

And, as long as I’m using my daughter’s name, why not use her interests.  She studied opera in college, so I got to see lots of operas and share videos of arias with family and friends.  I enjoy music, but don’t know anything about it.  Don’t even read music.  I’m still not sure how she ended up majoring in opera.

Watching her college performances and her journey fueled my imagination.  I could put the opera theme into a historic mining town. And voila, A Song for Rose was born.

Read about Rose’s adventure at the Rockledge opera house in A Song for Rose in a Bouquet of Brides Collection.

Kickboxing vs Piano

Learning to play the piano is a lot like kickboxing. They don’t seem like they would have anything in common. Kickboxing is a whole body, cardio workout. And, playing the piano is a quiet, refined activity . . . unless, you’re playing Eye of the Tiger. I’m not that good.

I started kickboxing fitness classes the week that I took my youngest child to college. I work out for fitness. Don’t know what I would do if someone punched back. Yikes. But, I won’t deny daydreaming that the bag is an attacker who I take by surprise.

A couple of months ago I started piano lessons. My daughter is teaching me over Skype. An interesting experience for sure.

So many things to keep track of. Sit up straight. Round my fingers. Play the right note. Keep time. Hit some notes harder and others softer. Slur some notes together. Overwhelming.

I feel like I’m playing well and then I have my lesson. My daughter gives corrections and pointers. Apparently, I often let a couple of beats go by between measures because I am not prepared for the next measure. I don’t even hear those extra beats, probably because I am trying to remember what to do. She says to look ahead and anticipate the next measure. I’m working on it.

Then I go to the kickboxing gym. First, I jab (the punch with my left hand). Extend the arm all the way, but not quite. Punch with the fist (palm side down) at face level. Keep the other hand at my face for protection. Pull back quickly.

Then I cross. This is the power punch with my right hand. Extend the arm, face level. But, now I bend my knee and twist my body for the power. Raise my foot to stand on the toe and twist like I am squishing a bug. That’s how the instructors explain it.

Kicks have even more things to keep track of. Foot placement and hand movement all at the same time. And don’t fall over.

For each three-minute round, the instructor gives a series of moves. I try to remember all the things. I feel pretty good until the instructor checks my progress. I’m like a kid in school again. But, I’ve got the moves down. Until the instructor says, “A little higher. You don’t want to punch their neck.”

In learning piano and kickboxing, I have to concentrate to remember all of the nuances of the art. Sometimes I focus on one aspect at the expense of the others, in hopes that after some practice, it will come naturally and I won’t have to think about it. Then I focus on another. In kickboxing, I try to anticipate the next move. Don’t want to let too many beats go by between measures.

As I kick the bag and try to remember everything, I think, “This is just like the piano.” Then I start to count beats with the punches and kicks.

The two activities are exactly the same . . . except for the whole boxing thing.

Who Superglued Joseph Upside Down?

. . . and other Christmas mysteries

 We have a European Christmas candle carousel. We bought it in the summer at a tourist shop and nothing on it works right. But, we put it out every year.

On Christmas eve and Christmas day, we light the candles and try to get it to turn the right direction without catching anything on fire. There is a right direction. On the bottom layer, the camels and wise men move in a circle. On the middle row the shepherds and sheep move in a circle. More often than not, it’s a reverse circle.

We’ve checked the fan blades to make sure they are set to move in a forward direction. We try to balance the structure by putting paper under the feet. My husband is an engineer. You’d think we could figure it out.

One year, Joseph came unglued. I don’t think it had anything to do with the wise men marching around him in reverse. Someone disassembled the whole thing and superglued him back in place. It might have been my husband, but I’m not blaming him. When we sat down to the next meal, one of the kids noticed that Joseph hung upside-down.

I’m not sure why we never took him down. Superglue is pretty strong, but I don’t think that’s the reason. With both parents working, who has time to superglue Joseph twice?

The kids thought it was fun. Their friends would come over and they would say, “Look at Joseph. He’s hanging upside down like a vampire.” I’m sure we are the only ones with a vampire Joseph on our carousel.

It has a few burn marks and wax splatters from candle mishaps. But I put it out again this year. We will spend the holiday meal adjusting the blades and balancing the feet. . . and we will remember all of the Christmases with the kids growing up. . . working as a team to fix the carousel.

I looked at the carousels at a European Christmas market one year. So beautiful. So perfect. So expensive. If I were to buy one, we would look at it and remember the one with Joseph hanging upside down and the sheep walking backward. Guess I’ll just keep the one I have.

And what of the other Christmas mysteries?

The giant angel with the nativity set. Even kneeling she is taller than the shepherd. Not sure where she came from. Another set, perhaps.

Three sizes of buildings and people in the Christmas village. I look at each one and remember where it came from. Makes me smile. One year my daughter tried to make it a 3D village by placing the larger houses up front and the smaller ones in back.

The wooden candy cane holder with fifteen-year-old candy canes. We never eat them. My sister offered one to a child and I had to snatch it out of her hand.

And the fifty-year-old blow up Santa that hasn’t held air in years, but we still put it out next to the fifty-year-old stuffed Santa whose seams are barely holding.

These are the things my kids will consider normal as they enter their adult lives. I guess I should apologize to their spouses.



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I Didn’t Plan To Binge Watch Stranger Things On Netflix

I got rid of TV six years ago.  Not the TV itself, but the satellite service that brought programming into our home.  Didn’t have time to watch and didn’t want to pay for it.  Much cheaper to buy an occasional streaming movie and a Netflix subscription.

But, lately, I miss the times snuggling next to my husband to watch a show.  Time spent together.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a series we could watch together—a couple of episodes a week?  My husband wasn’t keen on the idea, but he didn’t put up a fight.

When my daughter suggested Stranger Things, I jumped on it.  Set in the eighties, the show would bring back music, fashions, and dark paneling in the homes. I used to watch science fiction and fantasy, although now it is called speculative fiction. My husband enjoys that genre.  And my daughter and her husband recommended it.


One episode and we could get back to our tasks for the evening. Save the second episode for next week.

The show centered around geeky middle school boys in the AV (audio visual) club.  I was geeky back then. Geeky wasn’t popular like it is now. It highlighted the technology of the day, most of which could be purchased at Radio Shack.

I grew up in a Radio Shack.  Well, not in the store exactly. We had a house.  But my parents owned a Radio Shack and us kids hung around the store ever since I can remember.  As soon as I was old enough, I worked there.  Sweet memories of Realistic brand Walkie-Talkies and the Basic computer language. My dad was the go-to technology guy. Kids at school bragged about talking to him about electronics.

With my husband, I settled in to enjoy Stranger Things.  The show introduced a lot of characters up front.  How would they wrap up the first episode with all of those characters?  And there was some kind of supernatural thing. What was that about?

I watched, eyes wide and heart pounding. The kid disappeared and the credits rolled.



By the way, this isn’t a spoiler, because the series description includes the kid’s disappearance.

I texted my daughter.  “You didn’t tell me the first episode ended in a cliffhanger.  Do they all end like this?”

She replied. “Yes, but at least the season is short.”

My breathing hadn’t returned to normal before we turned on the next episode.  I’m too compulsive to stop there. I’ve spent many nights reading until morning because I couldn’t put the book down. And, my husband is no better.

We watched both seasons over four days.  Talk about Netflix binge watching. I’m leery of starting another series. Although my daughter assures me Dr. Who wraps up each episode a little better.  And it brings nostalgia because we watched the original.

I may have to write a blog abut binge watching Dr. Who.  Where will it end?

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