Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Cruising Life, part two


For those of you who have never been on a cruise, the experience is pretty much like being aboard a floating buffet. Seriously, the ship had 24 hour pizza and ice cream. Which means that at some point, you feel obligated to eat pizza at 2:00 in the morning. And at 2:00 in the afternoon.

One of the coolest sights we saw were dolphins that swam along side the ship. They were probably hoping for discarded fish sticks.
 For some reason that isn't clear to me, Carnival decorated their dining room so that it looked like Ursula from the Little Mermaid was attacking the ship. Nothing says, "Dig in and eat!" like big purple plastic tubes. And if that's not classy enough for you, they added orange spiderweb designs to the end of the tubes. Maybe if you're really drunk, this all makes sense.

 Here's a hugely gigantic Mexican flag that stands at one port.  If you ask me, it's too large. It almost seems like they're compensating for something else.
 The stewards always left little towel animals on our bed ever night.  Oh sure, they look cute and cuddly . . .

But while you sleep, it's a different story.

 There were all sorts of these signs on the ship. I'm assuming there were no words on them because the sign makers wanted to add to the general confusion the signs communicated. Here you can see two different signs, side by side. The first is clearly warning you that ninjas may drop from the ceiling and surround your family.
 The second is telling you to run like heck--which is the normal response if you are being attacked by ninjas.

And here you can see a cruise ship taking a wrong turn somewhere on the Mississippi River. By the way, it took us nine hours to get to the sea. This is probably why Huckleberry Fin was such a long book.
And lastly, here I am with a pirate. I think it is pretty clear--judging from the position of his gun--what happened to his leg. Which is why you should never drink and be a pirate at the same time.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Things you shouldn't put on brownies

I just got home from a cruise, which means I have a mountain of laundry, a thousand unanswered emails, and no one to shape my hand towels into cute little animal figures.

I had one of those Janette Rallison moments on my cruise. Although technically speaking, it wasn't my fault.

On the first day, the cruise held a welcome barbecue out by the pool. (Loud music, people chatting and laughing.) After I ate dinner, I went back for a brownie and noticed a tub of brown liquid by the brownie plate. Okay, in retrospect the tub of brown liquid was also by the ketchup and mustard, but I was only paying attention to the brownies at that point.

I put a brownie on my plate, pointed to the tub of brown liquid and asked Martino, the guy standing behind said objects, "Is that hot fudge?"

It was, after all, the logical conclusion. Brownies + hot fudge = joy.

Martino nodded and said, "Yes."

I didn't take into account that it was noisy outside and English probably wasn't Martino's first language. I happily ladled a spoonful of brown liquid onto my brownie.

Again in retrospect, Martino's startled expression probably should have tipped me off. But no, I walked back to my chair and took a big bite of my brownie. Which was completely covered in barbecue sauce. Then I spit the bite back onto my plate and did a really elegant gagging-wiping-my-tongue-off thing as I tried to get rid of the taste of barbecue and brownie.

So it turns out you can't mix chocolate with anything and make it taste better.

Martino walked by me a few minutes later, keeping an eye on me like I was clearly crazy.

It was a totally unfair reaction, since he was the one who told me it was hot fudge in the first place. I dub it a Martino moment.

More on the cruise life next blog.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


As you may remember from your high school English class (you kept all of your notes on A Midsummer Night's Dream, didn’t you?) Shakespeare invented around 1700 words in his plays and poems.

Frankly, I think I should be allowed the same freedom, and I get all snitty when copyeditors point out details like “Apexed isn’t a verb.” (And right now Microsoft is insisting that 'snitty' isn’t a word either.)
Shakespeare never had to deal with such constraints.
Here are some words you probably didn't know he invented: eyeballs, puking, obscene, and skim milk.
Cool, huh?
Here are some words I wish he would have invented:
Another word for 'drop'. Oh sure, there’s plunge and plummet, but you can’t use them interchangeably. You can’t have a character plunge her car keys on the floor.  No one has ever said, “Hey, plummet the act. I know you’re lying.”  Nor has anyone’s mouth ever plunged open.
Another word for 'door.'  We use them all the time. Character’s are constantly coming in them, stalking out them, walking toward them, and slamming them.  It’s hard not to overuse the word. And don’t tell me I could use portal—no one actually thinks of a door as a portal unless they are in spaceship or a submarine.
And  Shakespeare should have invented multiple words for 'turn'. In your novel, things will turn colors, turn up, or turn from one thing into another. Your characters will take turns, make right turns, turn over, turn back, turn their attention to things, see how something turns out, and turn things down. They will also frequently turn to each other. You can replace a few of those turns with spin, but that only works if your characters are angry or ballerinas. If any word deserves a few synonyms, it’s turn.
On the other hand, there are also words I could happily axe from the English language to make my life easier.  Ask me how many times I mistyped the word rifle in Slayers: Friends and Traitors and spelled it riffle.  The problem is that riffle is a real word. Spell check doesn’t catch it.   It means: to form, flow over, or move in riffles.
How many times have we all written about our riffling habits?
Maybe someone should add a function to the computer so that anytime someone grabs a riffle, a little warning pops up that says, “You amuse our computer brain, silly mortal.  And by the way, you have lightening cuting through the sky while your character is waking to the car.
Then again, sometimes I could use a good lightening bolt.

 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why I don't swear in my books

I don't swear in real life. Seriously.

Well, okay, there was this one time when my 18-month-old daughter was seriously hurt, and we had to take her to the ER and I was frantic. We had to get our oldest daughter from a party and figure out where to send her and her four year old brother (You don't want that many children in the ER). I was going to go to the ER and my husband was going to arrange for the other kids, and then we couldn't find the car keys, (Little children carry them off) and then one car's battery was dead. And right when we finally had overcome all of those things and were ready to go, my husband said, "Just a minute, I need to go to the bathroom first."

I snapped. For a reason that is still not clear to me, a string of swearwords issued forth from my mouth. I didn't even know they were there. They all just came out in between the words: "They have bathrooms at the ER!!! Now get in the car!!!"

Not too long ago I said something to my now teenage son about how I never swear, and he said, "You did once. You swore that time you went to the Emergency Room."

I was surprised he remembered that all these years later.

That's probably how swear words should be. If you use them, they're so rare people will remember them decades later.

I've heard people use the F-bomb so many times in a sentence, it was a noun, adjective, and verb. I always wonder what those people do when they're really mad. I mean, what is left to say? "I double-dog F-bomb you!" or "F-bomb times infinity!"

I've seen the same problem in books. If you have a character swear all the time, it loses potency, and at least to me, comes off crass.

My problem as an author is that I sometimes have characters who would swear in given situations. I still don't include swearwords. (I have used the word h word--don't want to write it here, lest my blog be blocked by some filters--but only to describe the actual place, which I don't consider swearing. Although some younger kids don't seem to realize this difference. I was a Sunday School teacher for 8-year-olds once and had to refer to it as that-place-the-devil-lives because otherwise they gasped every time I said the word. And yes, I did try to explain the difference between swearing and naming a location, but they never seemed to grasp this finer point.)

Anyway, I can't have my characters swear for one simple reason. At my house I long ago instituted the rule that anyone who swears will have to pay five dollars.

I have over a million books in print. I am not that wealthy. I will have to continue to be swear-free.