Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yoga - A to Z Challenge

I love yoga, but like most things, I tend to do it in my own kind of way. A typical yoga studio is quiet, meditative, and peaceful. One that I’m occupying is usually filled with laughter, whining, and groans of pain.

Let me explain. My partner in crime, Sam, and I decided we’d like to take yoga classes. We arranged for semi-private classes, which is for the best. We tended to gossip during Sun Salutation, whine while in Downward-Facing Dog, and laugh when our endlessly-patient instructor, Nancy, tried to make us do something like Plough Pose. Like that’s ever going to happen! I am, however, a master at Corpse Pose!

They sell stuff with this logo on
Also, most studios wouldn’t be entertained by my “Namaste, Bitches!” tee shirt. If you’re not already a fan of Regretsy, check out the post that inspired this. We think it’s pretty hysterical. In fact, at the end of each class, instead of just “Namaste,” Nancy would say “Namaste, Bitches!” and of course we responded in kind. Because if I can’t have fun while exercising, it’s just not going to happen. And really, what’s the point of doing anything if you don’t enjoy yourself?

Namaste, Bitches!

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xbox - A to Z Challenge

I was just chatting my fellow CMPer, Kinley Baker, about gaming. I mentioned before that The Sims 3 is a favorite pastime of mine, and she pointed out (quite rightly!) that Sims is a major time suck. So true! Hours go by unnoticed when you get into a game of the Sims.

I try to set work and writing goals for myself, and only after I reach them, am I allowed to Sim. I don’t always follow my own rules, but I try. Where I seriously fail is with the Xbox.

I’ve had some Xbox loves over the years – Fable, Rock Band, GTA 4, Bayonetta, and my newest addiction, Skyrim. Ah, Skyrim! This is a beautiful, amazing, in-depth game filled with ridiculous amount of content as well as bugs. But for all the bugs, I forgive it. The game is just that awesome. There should be a 12 step program for Skyrim, though. It is the single most addictive game I’ve ever played.

Heeeere, dragon, dragon, dragon!

Where else can you become an expert archer, take part in a revolution, ride a dragon, and save a kingdom? And all while sitting on the couch?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Witches - A to Z Challenge

It’s my second day here in Salem, and of course I’m thinking witches!

So yesterday I told you about people who come into my friend, Sam’s, witchcraft shop and ask questions about Harry Potter spells. She gets tons of questions like that, with varying degrees of seriousness. And then there’s the spiritual questions and more serious life guidance questions. See, Sam is a minister too, and she uses her counseling skills on a daily basis.

With this in mind, Sam started a program to answer people’s questions, and I helped her turn it into a blog, Ask A Witch.

We get questions from the silly to the deadly serious. Some people want to banish demons in their houses (no, I don’t believe in demons, but some do), find a spell to metamorphose into various animals/characters/creatures (again no, this is Hollywood witchcraft, not reality), find out how to tell their family about their path (not everyone is as lucky as I am to have family who understands and accepts it), and how to protect their families from various hexes and exes (I think it’s unlikely most people are hexed on purpose, and when it comes to exes, or anything else, people need to make sure they don’t just rely on magick! Do whatever you can outside of spells – call the police, get a lawyer, move out, whatever).

In any case, what started for me as some books in the junior high library turned into a religious practice, I found a community, and am now working on an active blog to (hopefully) help people. The journey has been an unexpected one, but a good one.

Blessed be.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Voodoo - A to Z Challenge

Today, I’ll be arriving in Salem, Massachusetts. When you think of Salem, you probably think of witches, in much the same way that you probably think of New Orleans and voodoo. Both are favorite cities of mine, and I’ve been in my fair share of both witchy and voodoo shops.

Louisiana and Haitian voodoo and Wicca don’t have a lot in common when it comes to religion. But both religions tend to be very misunderstood, and both use magic.

I’m not an expert when it comes to voodoo, but I like to think I’m an expert shopper! And for me, the biggest similarity in religions is that I like to SHOP in both voodoo and witchcraft stores! I tend to find similar things them: herbs, candles, oils, tarot cards, ritual kits, and jewelry. Some kind of tarot reader or psychic is usually available in both kinds of stores too.

I love finding hand-crafted items and meeting the unique people who work in the shops – and I do mean that in the nicest possible way! My friend, Sam, owns a witchcraft shop, and she and her employees are some of my closest friends.

I think I’ve wandered a bit off topic… well, anyway, my final word is about being misunderstood. Voodoo (and witchcraft) is not what you see on TV and movies. You might be surprised how many people come into Sam’s shop asking about Harry Potter spells.

But just in case I’m wrong...

... don’t piss off a witch! 

(Kidding!!! So seriously kidding! Don’t burn me at the stake or anything! Lol!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Manatees? - A to Z Challenge

Confused, aren’t you? Let me explain. U is the name of a manatee.

I love manatees. They’re peaceful, gentle, and beautiful. I think I saw my first one at Epcot Center, in their Living Seas exhibit. I bored my parents to death with the amount of time I wanted to spend in that place.

Years later, I took John to Disney and Epcot, and inevitably we ended up at the Living Seas. He hid his boredom better, at least. At the end of the day, I found a stuffed manatee in the gift shop. This thing was about 3 feet in length, and I just had to have it! Yes, I realize I’m a grown woman who is professing a need for buying a stuffed animal. But if Laurell Hamilton (and Anita Blake!) can like stuffed penguins, I can have manatees.

Tee, Manny, U, and Herb
So I go home with the 3-foot manatee, who gets named Tee. It’s natural, then for the next manatee, a much smaller one, to be named U. And later, a tiny 6 inch long manatee named V. V, unfortunately, got lost in an Atlantic City hotel room, and was replaced by Manny. Don’t look at me - I didn’t name him. He came with his name already on his tag. And last but not least, my Toasty Manatee, an aromatherapy animal filled with herbs I can nuke in the microwave to make it nice and warm. Great for muscle aches! This one is named Herb. Campy, I know, but I just HAD to!

There you have it, the story of why U is for manatee. (This is perhaps the silliest blog I’ve written this month!)

I’m heading out of town today for a writer’s conference in Salem this weekend, and somewhere along the way, we’ll be checking out an aquarium. I wonder if I’ll come home with any new manatees?

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tarot - A to Z Challenge

Many people think tarot card readers are like the voodoo priestess in my book – a gnarled old woman who speaks in stilted, ominous phrases. I’ve seen psychics who dress for the job, maybe adopt a breathy voice, but I view that more as acting a part, like a role on stage. It makes business sense because it’s what people expect. (Disclaimer: To be fair, some adopt this look because it’s their style and that’s cool. I’m not saying people who dress the part do or don’t read cards well – I’m saying that it has no bearing either way.)

But in general, the truth is a bit more mundane than that. When my husband reads cards, he shows up in jeans, sometimes a Monty Python tee shirt, and sneakers. Not very mystical, is he? Yet his clients tell me how accurate he is, and he really is kinda scary. (And I’m not just talking about what his hair looks like first thing in the morning!)

There’s a truth in here somewhere about not judging a book by its cover… or a tarot card reader by his robes. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for The Sims 3 - A to Z Challenge

One of my favorite pastimes is gaming. Mostly, I’m a fan of the Xbox, but there is one game that I love to play on the computer: The Sims 3.

This game is fantastic for so many reasons. First of all, it’s graphically beautiful and detailed. I made sure my computer had the super mega video card and all the bells and whistles just so I could enjoy this game at its best. The Sims is also highly customizable. You can create buildings, design clothing, decorate houses, and even customize people and pets. Currently, I am playing a game where all three of my cats exist in Sim form. When I talk about them with my husband, I have to remember to be specific. I learned this lesson when I said, “Look, Josephine caught a mouse!” His reaction was less than happy, since he thought there was a real mouse in our home. My amended statement – “Sim-Jo caught a mouse!” – was greeted with a bit more enthusiasm.
You can even give your pets specific personality traits like
hunter, lazy, hyper, destructive, and playful.
Probably the best thing about The Sims is that you can control every move they make: when they eat and sleep, who they date, what they wear, and what job they take. You can even create scenarios that could kill your Sims, if you’re feeling evil that day.

You could say Sim gamers have a god complex. I prefer to think of it as the same creative instinct that makes me write. I create worlds in my novels too. I control every move my characters make. Or maybe I’m just a control freak…

What’s your gaming pleasure?

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Romance Trading Cards - A to Z Challenge

People collect all kinds of cards, from baseball cards, to Magic the Gathering, to Pokemon. But have you heard of Romance Trading Cards? Here’s the scoop, direct from their website:

Romance Trading Cards is a spur of the moment collaboration that started with a few conversations on Twitter (#romancetradingcards) and has grown from there. To participate, each author creates and prints their own card featuring a character from their book, hero, heroine, villain, one or more–it’s ALL up to you. Bring the cards to signings and conferences for readers to collect and trade.

Pretty cool, right? I was inspired to create a set of them for my first book, Magick Charm. I’ll be bringing these with me when I attend the NECRWA conference (next week – wow!). Check them out:

Card Back

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Query Letters - A to Z Challenge

Some people have asked me how to get published. Now let’s be clear, I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, but I try to give advice based on my experience.

I give them my standard “be stubborn” message, because I really think that’s vital.

Next, write the book. From what I’ve encountered, if you’re a first time fiction writer, don’t bother looking for a publisher if you haven’t finished the book yet. Of course there are exceptions, but in general, write, edit, polish, and then start looking.

Now you face the question of agents. There are pros and cons, but it comes down to a personal decision. For the record, I don’t have one myself.

Finally you get to the dreaded query letter. You may be querying agents or publishers, but it amounts to pretty much the same thing. This is the letter (or email) you send to try to sell your book. It pretty much goes like this (minus all the snark and sarcasm, of course!):

Dear Publisher,

I’ve written this super fabulous book you simply have to publish or god will kill a kitten. *Insert amazing, irresistible plot using only a handful of words.*

Here’s the part where I tell you how much my manuscript resembles Twilight or whatever book is selling billions of copies in my genre. Let me also say that my writing voice, while incredibly unique, is also surprisingly similar to *insert best selling author here.*

Thanks for your time, but I’m sure you’ll find it’s been well spent since I’m about to become a best-seller.

I hate writing these letters. I find it difficult to sum up 70,000 words in a few sentences. I have a hard time self-promoting and telling publishers why they have to publish me. I think a lot of people have similar problems because there are many websites devoted to how to write a fantastic query letter. This isn't one of those. ;)

In any case, now begins the wait. This is the nerve-wracking part. Inevitably, there will be some rejection letters. Consider your first rejection as the first step to getting published. I think I had 30+ before I got anywhere. It’s also the exciting part. An agent or editor who likes your letter may ask for the first three chapters or so, a longer book summary, and/or the complete manuscript.

You want an easier method? Go to a writer’s conference and pitch your book to editors there. Woo hoo, no query letter!

Authors, what is your best advice to aspiring writers?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Practically Dreaming - A to Z Challenge

My next book is almost here! I’m currently working on some manuscript changes with my editor, and it’s moving along quickly.

Practically Dreaming will launch the Sabian Symbols signature line at Crescent Moon Press! Here’s a quick look at the book blurb:

In a Zodiac-based world, finding a mate is easy. Falling in love is the hard part.

Astrology influences almost everything, from career choice to where people live. Even romantic matches are based solely on astrological compatibility and determined by the infallible Council of Venus.

Animal psychic Tierra has every reason to trust the Council save one. Her match with fellow Virgo, Evander, works better on paper than in person. But she stubbornly hangs on, believing their relationship will grow and develop, all the while trying to rationalize her feelings to Lachlan.

Veterinarian and Reiki master, Lachlan, hides a secret, which has kept him single for more than two years. This Pisces dreams of a happily ever after with Tierra, but believes it’s impossible for him.

Tierra and Lachlan must confront their doubts, differences, and society’s belief in the Council. Will they defy the odds and choose each other? Does astrological certainty eclipse the chance to fall in love?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Omens and Superstitions - A to Z Challenge

Damien from the Omen is just plain creepy!

When I say omen, what is the first thing you think of? Damian… right. Okay, what’s the second thing?

For me it’s black cats. The superstition about black cats being bad luck is probably one of the most commonly known ones. But did you know there are many other omens and superstitions about cats?

As a matter of fact, black cats being unlucky if they cross your path is an American superstition. In Europe, they’re considered good luck. But if you meet any kind of cat immediately upon leaving the house in the morning, you’ll have bad luck.

Cats can predict weather too. Expect rain if a cat sneezes. If a cat is restless, expect a storm. Cats sleeping with their backs turned to the fire foretell cold weather.

Don’t know whether to accept a marriage proposal? There’s a way to use cat hair to decide. On a wedding day, a black cat crossing the path of a bride or sneezing near a bride is good luck.

Josephine, our oldest. We also have a grey cat and a
white cat. No matter what I wear, I'm covered in cat hair!
Of course, I don’t actually believe any of these superstitions. But I’ll add a couple adages here that we’d like to believe are true in this house (because they’re unavoidable anyway):

*Cat hair makes everything taste better.

*An outfit isn’t complete without cat hair.

What are you superstitious about?

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for New Orleans - A to Z Challenge

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities and the setting of my first book. My husband and I had a chance to visit again last year, and I took tons of pics as research and settings for the sequel. Here are a few of my favorites:

Night life in the French Quarter - Rachel's favorite haunt
One of the city's many voodoo shops - Viola would love it here
Cemetery where Rachel hunts ghosts
Private yard and hot tub in the French Quarter -
it gets even hotter when Rachel shows up without a suit!

How do you do book research?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mai Tai - A to Z Challenge

When people visit our house for the first time, they all want to see the tiki bar. We have a little bar in the corner of our second floor. We’ve decorated it with a few tiki signs and prints, a vintage spaghetti lamp, and a bunch of tiki mugs and glassware.

Believe me when I tell you, my little bar is nothing compared to some other home tiki bars!

TIKItten - Luna
perched on our big tiki
My friend, Tiki J, got me into the tiki thing. The entire bottom floor of her house is all dimmed, thatched, retro-ed, vintaged, and totally tiki-ed out! It is amazing!

Now, you might be wondering what exactly tiki is… you’ve seen those plastic idol cups at Party City, but can’t imagine what’s so special about that. Wiki sums it up much better than I can: “Tiki culture is a 20th-century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic, being an American kitsch form and not a Polynesian fine art form.” You can find the rest of the article here.

Let me introduce you to my favorite tiki cocktail, the Mai Tai. If you’ve ever ordered one of these and received something pink or red, something containing orange or pineapple juice, you haven’t had a real Mai Tai.

Mai Tais should be tan or brown!
Here’s a recipe based on Trader Vic’s original 1944 Mai Tai:

1 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz Martinique rum
0.5 oz orange curacao
0.25 oz orgeat syrup
0.25 oz simple syrup
juice of 1 fresh lime

Serve over crushed ice and garnish with the lime rind and mint.

To find tiki near you, read Tiki Road Trip by James Teitelbaum.

If you want to get in on some amazing national tiki tours and gatherings, you’ll want to check out the Fraternal Order of Moai. Hanging out with tiki enthusiasts is a blast!

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Love Story - A to Z Challenge

I’ve often noticed a divide among readers. Say “romance” to some of them and they’ll tell you all of their favorite romance novelists. Others barely manage to hide their disdain for the genre. Why? What’s so wrong with a love story?

Let’s get beyond the fallacy that genre fiction is written poorly or is somehow lesser than general fiction. I can point to dozens of amazing authors who haven't devolved into simpering idiots simply because they choose to write horror, fantasy, or romance, for example.

There’s also the antiquated notion that romance novels are nothing more than bodice rippers and the entire content revolves around sex. Anyone who thinks that hasn’t ever read a romance novel.

The worst, I think, is the idea that a story about two people falling in love is unimportant and frivolous. Yet if I asked you what was most important in your life, wouldn’t your husband or wife (bf, gf, or significant other) be at or very near the top of your list?

Maybe it’s just the way people think about the genre’s audience. Are love stories only for unrealistic, romantic women? Consider these blockbuster movies (possible spoiler alert!):

There's not enough room for both of them? Really??
Titanic – The boat sinks, and all you really want to see is Rose move over to make room on the floating debris for Jack.
Forrest Gump – Forrest is a guy who’s seen it all, and yet the only thing that really matters to him is Jenny.
Gone With the Wind – An action-packed movie nearly 4 hours long… Atlanta burns and the Civil War tears families apart, but what do people inevitably recall? The staircase scene.
The Sound of Music – Nazis and questions of faith take a back seat to the two love stories featured in this movie.
The Hunger Games – Even with matters of life and death unfolding around her, Katniss worries about the meaning of every word and action between her and Peeta.

Sure, each of these movies is about other things, but at the heart of each one is a love story. Without that emotional component, none of them would have the same impact or even make sense. 

What's your favorite love story?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kindle and eBooks - A to Z Challenge

Rocket eReader
Many years ago, I bought a Rocket eReader, and although I loved the idea of ebooks, it ended up eventually collecting dust. The Rocket was big and heavy and not terribly easy to load new books onto. Plus, at that time, few books were in ebook format.

My Kindle - several hundreds of books
in my purse all at once! Reading nirvana!

Today, that’s not the case. In fact, a recent survey says that 19% of Americans own an e-reader, 28% if you include tablet owners. Even some public libraries are lending ebooks.
Ebooks have been in the news a lot lately. The Justice Department sued HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Macmillan, and Apple for price-fixing ebooks. Right not, it looks like the lawsuit may be settled with at least a few of the publishers. There's a lot of discussion about what this will ultimately mean to consumer prices as well as writer royalties, but opinions vary quite a bit.

The Big Six (HarperCollins, Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Macmillan) were in the news just this week over declining to renew their ebook contracts with Amazon. It seems they’re arguing about the terms of the contract, especially fees. Independent Publishing Group recently refused Amazon’s terms as well, and over 4,000 of their ebooks were immediately pulled from Amazon’s site.

Clearly, ebooks are here to stay, but the industry is changing all the time. We’ll have to watch and see what prices we’ll end up paying for ebooks and through which distributors. Is it just me, or do you think ebooks should cost less than a paper book?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jaws - A to Z Challenge

If you’ve read many of my blog posts, you’ve probably noticed that I love sharks! In fact, Jaws is my favorite movie. But what is so great about it? (Aside from a big shark eating people of course…)

What makes any story a good one?

The protagonist:
Ellen Brody: "Martin hates boats.
Martin hates water."

The guy you love to hate:
Quint: "$10,000 for me by myself.
For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

The antagonist:
Spielberg and Bruce, the infamous malfunctioning
mechanical shark. Much of the film had to be shot from the
perspective of the shark rather than film the shark itself.

Mayor Vaughn: "Amity is a summer town.
We need summer dollars."

Unforgettable dialogue:
Brody: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

Scares, blood, and that holy shit moment: I won’t give these away with pics. If you haven’t seen the movie, just go rent it!

What other elements do you think make a great story?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for iThings - A to Z Challenge

Today, a repairman walked into my living room, looked at the MacBook sitting next to my iPhone on my coffee table, and asked “Mac person, huh?”

Is it that obvious?

I admit it. I’m a Mac-o-holic. Between John and I, we have iPhones, iPods, an iPad 2, Mac computers, and even an Airport Extreme router. Junkies, both of us.

My iLove began back in college. I owned (and regularly cursed at) a PC, but got to use Macs in the lab - the square ones with the built-in screen. Back then, a lot of scientific software was only available for Macs, but little else.

Years later, I bought my own Mac, a graphite iBook. I loved this thing! It lasted more than 10 years (impressive, right?) before I finally bought a new one only because it was too old to support the newest software.

In fact, it was my husband who bought my MacBook for me after I sold my first book. I did all my editing on it using Microsoft Word. Yes, plenty of software is now available for Macs, including the biggies like Word, Excel, Photoshop, and my favorite, the Sims 3.

I did an earlier post on the cool apps writers can use their iPhones, so what about Mac computers? Like I mentioned, I do all of my editing in Word. But I like to use StoryMill to keep track of my characters and story lines. It’s a great tool that allows you to store research, character info, and a timeline. You can tag each chapter with the characters involved. Even the scenes can be written as unique pieces that can be rearranged within a chapter or the entire book. Cool. But StoryMill is only available for Mac users.

Another popular program for writers is Scrivener. My friend, Amy, really enjoys working with Scrivener. Honestly, I heard about StoryMill first, which is why I have it instead. But I think Scrivener might be the better program. It seems to have the same type of features StoryMill does, but is maybe a little sleeker, easier to use, or just plain prettier. It is available for both PC and Mac.

What other programs do you like to use for writing, and are they PC, Mac, or both?

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for He Said/She Said - A to Z Challenge

            “What the heck is a dialogue tag?” she inquired.
            “It’s the way a writer tells you who’s speaking,” he instructed.
            “You mean something like ‘he thundered, or ‘she asserted,’ or ‘he bellowed?’” she offered.
            “Exactly,” he praised. “You can also use ‘he said’ and ‘she said.’”
            “But that’s boring,” she muttered.

A lot of writers feel this way. “He said” and “she said” are boring. Wouldn’t it be better to jazz up your dialogue tags by making them more dynamic and descriptive? Not necessarily.

Don’t get me wrong – descriptive tags have their place, but can easily be overused. Take the example above. Didn’t all of that instructing and offering and muttering distract you from the conversation?

Remember, the point of a dialogue tag is to identify the speaker. For the most part, “he said” and “she said” is perfect for that. They fade into the background instead of jarring the reader with thundering, asserting, or bellowing.

            She picked up a pen and paper to take a few notes. “Do you always need to use a dialogue tag?”
            “No,” he said. “Sometimes a character has a distinctive voice and it’s obvious who is speaking.”
            “That makes sense,” she said.
            “Other times, two characters might be chatting back and forth. The reader can assume they take turns speaking, so you can sometimes omit the tag there too.”
            “But won’t the reader lose track of who’s speaking if you don’t use dialogue tags as a reminder of who’s speaking?”
            He nodded. “That’s why you can’t have an entire conversation between two people without them.”

The characters above discuss how you can sometimes omit a dialogue tag. You may have also noticed I substituted a tag in the first and last lines with a description of a character’s action instead.

Two final things to avoid: Stating the obvious and adverbial tags.

            “Go to hell!” she shouted.

Isn’t obvious that she’s shouting? The content of the dialogue and exclamation point make that clear. This is a good place to use a description of her expression or actions instead.

            “Don’t wake the baby,” she said quietly.

Wouldn’t it be better to use “whispered?” If you’re not going with the simple “she said,” try a more specific verb instead of a using “said” plus an adverb.

Here's what I try to remember when it comes to dialogue tags: When in doubt, keep it simple with “he said” and “she said.” Mix up simple tags with descriptions, an occasional dropped/inferred tag, and the rare dynamic tag.

What dialogue tag hints and rules do you use?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Ghosts - A to Z Challenge

I left my readers at the end of my first book with the news that character Rachel is going to be a paranormal investigator. In preparation for the sequel, I’ve spent a bit of time researching ghost hunters and their techniques.

Oh, who am I kidding? I didn’t have to research all that much. I’m a huge fan of Ghost Hunters on SciFy, have seen every single episode, and subscribed to their magazine. I like that they try to be as scientific about their investigations as possible while still keeping an open mind.

"Where are you from... originally?"
Ghosts and ghost hunters provide great material for fiction. I get to decide what kind of paranormal investigators my characters will be: scientific like the Ghost Hunters, or more open to using psychics, mediums, and divinatory tools like Ouija boards? And what kind of ghosts will populate my story? They might only be felt as chill in the air, or they could be seen as apparitions. They could be benign or vengeful. Or maybe they don’t exist at all and are simply figments of the characters’ imaginations.

I love that there are so many options! This is one of the fun parts of writing paranormal romance. As a writer, what are your favorite parts of the job? Readers — what are your favorite elements in books?

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Florida - A to Z Challenge

Several members of my family, including my parents, moved from Berks County, Pennsylvania to central Florida about 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve visited them at least a couple of times a year. Here are a few observations I’ve made about my parents’ new home:

1. It’s not called a neighborhood for old people. It’s a “retirement community for active seniors.” And don’t get it wrong! Here’s another thing you better not get wrong: When Bingo is held there Tuesday evenings, don’t ever shout “Bingo” by mistake. Don’t even joke around about it. And be quiet while they’re calling those numbers. Bingo is a blood sport down there!

2. In those retirement communities, everyone owns a golf cart, whether they golf or not. It’s how they get from their houses to the Bingo game, the on-campus restaurant, or the pool. During the holidays, everyone decorates their carts and they even have a golf cart parade to celebrate the season. I need to get a pic of this later this year because you really do have to see it to fully appreciate how much fun it is!

3. They have some very cool animals down there. It’s not uncommon to find a gator or a sandhill crane in my parents’ backyard. They’ve also seen bald eagles, turtles, snakes, wild boar, and some kind of small wolf within the walls of their community. It’s what an episode of Wild Kingdom would have looked like if Marlin Perkins liked playing Bingo.

A couple of sandhill cranes (we named them Ken and Barbie) checking me out!

4. It’s hot in Florida virtually year-round. This may seem pretty obvious, but you wouldn’t know it from the residents. I wondered why the department stores carried as many coats and sweaters as the stores up north. This was answered for me the first Christmas I spent there. It was an amazing low- to mid-70s afternoon. I was headed for the pool (which is always heated to luke-warm bath temp) in my swimsuit, shorts, and sandals. The neighbor was walking her dog in a winter jacket, knit hat, scarf, and gloves. Both of us were fairly appalled by the other’s attire.

It's only been 3 months, and I feel the need to sunburn myself by the pool, drive around in the golf cart, eat dinner at 5pm, visit the flea market on the weekend, play Yahtzee in the afternoon, and play Bingo in the evening. I can't wait to go for another visit!

F can also be for Friday! So happy Friday everyone, and have a good weekend!