The library didn’t want it back

With some trepidation, I placed the book on the counter and explained how it came to be in this condition. Our kind local librarian said, “That’s OK, you keep it.” I think she just wanted it out of the library so she could wash the counter with boiling bleach.

There on page 123 was the evidence of my first bout of car sickness. I told my parents I wasn’t feeling well, but they refused to break up the family band for something as piddling as the stomach flu. One page and two blocks into the trip, I yarked on the book, my sister, and the back of the car seat. I haven’t been able to read in a car since, and the little church where we were playing got treated to one accordion, one banjo, one tambourine, and a really foul odor.

This little incident hasn’t dampened my love of books. I think us oldtimers are still sold on the kind of books that you can read in the bathtub without fear of electrocution. Problem is, you’ll need an oxygen tank and a sherpa to reach the top of my to-be-read pile.

Someday, I’d like to live in a house with a library: bookcases stacked to the ceiling, with a little slidy ladder. If you go to a used book store, you may find me in the stacks, huffing old book scent. It ranks somewhere between felt tip pens and fresh baked bread.

I was shocked to learn that my hometown newspaper, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer went out of “print” in 2009 in favor of electronic news. Damn tree huggers! Don’t you know that you’re trading convenience for trees? Those notebooks are not going to do you any good when you need to line your birdcage.

So how can a six inch screen compare to all that? For my birthday, I got a Nook. I’ve started building my electronic library, and to my surprise, I like it. My eyes no longer feel like they’ve been sandblasted, then squirted with lemon juice; I don’t have to wear the purple reading glasses (what was I thinking when I chose those frames?); and I look cool to all my techno friends who don’t realize that it’s the cheapest version they had. It still totally counts.

Best of all, I just discovered that Box of Rocks is now available for Nook at Barnes & Noble, so like a total dweeb, I immediately bought my own book to add to me eLibrary. (cheap plug)

So long as Ikea keeps producing cheap bookshelves, I don’t think we need to worry about the extinction of “real” books, but ebooks are definitely making a strong showing in the market. Too bad they don’t come with a slidy ladder.

Stud Muffin

There’s some kind of disconnect in my brain when people are talking to me. Sometimes the words are crystal clear, and sometimes it sounds like they’re speaking over a remix of Major Tom, in German. As I try to block out the relentless techno rhythm, my eyes wander down to their mouths, in a pointless exercise of attempting to read lips.

Yesterday, I was speaking with a black man (excuse my political incorrectness) with a bit of an accent.

“My kid ever talks to me like that,” control is not convinced “he get my foot” but the computer has the evidence. “right up his ass.” No need to abort. By the time the countdown starts, I am transfixed by his gum.

Why isn’t he chewing his gum? It’s just sitting there on his … Oh dear God! He has a green stud in his tongue!

This would not have bothered me so much, except that he was clearly in his forties. I have little room to talk, since I was in my forties when I got my nipple pierced. As an aside, I don’t understand how, having just had your lady parts skewered by a sharpened piece of stainless steel, you would want to get the other one pierced as well. So I walked around for two days with one breast swollen to twice its normal size.

Back to the subject, I think there should be some basic rules in place for senior body piercings.

If a woman is old enough that she would rather be hit by a bus than wear a thong, she grew up long before people started piercing their tongues. You’re not impressing her with your lingual hardware.

Ladies, if you were going braless, would people mistake your nipple ring for a navel ring? You probably want to reign the girls in or get a longer shirt.

Now for a delicate subject: Men, at a certain age, you may find your hair migrating from the top of your head to your ears and nose. Do you really want bling drawing the eye to an ingrown mustache or a bush growing out of the side of your head? As a personal observation, I don’t think combovers and earrings are a good combination.

Facial piercings are better left to punk rockers who won’t need a neck brace if they start head banging.

So at what age should you give up on body piercings? As a general rule of thumb, I believe that once your skin starts sagging, you don’t want a piece of metal bobbing up and down when you nod your head. By the way, I’ve long since removed the nipple ring. I don’t have any shirts long enough. Great, now I have Major Tom stuck in my head!

Just like a real author

Being new to the world of authordom, I decided to observe best-selling authors in their natural habitat: the Myrtle Beach Hilton. This weekend I’m attending a writers’ conference. The sun is rising over the pounding surf, and somewhere in this hotel a well-known author is just waking up and scratching his butt.

My partner told me that I should give a speech at a writers’ conference. The problem with that is, a) I got a C in Public Speaking class, and b) conference organizers aren’t prostrating themselves at my size eight-and-a halfs. What’s with that?

Setting aside my well-known hatred for mascara, I once again froo-frood up and stepped into the world of writery people. There I observed that the average attendee was, well, let’s just say that there was a run on bran flakes and stewed prunes at breakfast each morning. Hot flashes were a distant memory for most of us.

I have a coffee mug that says, “I’m an author. Act unimpressed.” If you get into a conversation with a bestselling author, you’ll find that they talk about their homes, children, vasectomies, and police records, just like normal people do.

They regularly get ambushed by writers trying to pitch their young adult Christian erotica books. They pick wedges, check on sales of their books at the conference bookstore, and I suspect that they are able to jump up faster than me, neatly avoiding the splashback from the automatic toilets’ premature evacuation system. I don’t have direct evidence of the latter, but they generally seem pretty spry.

I’m spending most of the conference sitting at a sales table, which doesn’t leave me much time for schmoozing with the editors, agents, authors, and cleaning staff. Nevertheless, what I have learned, is that these people generally check their egos at the door, and truly care about the little guys trying to break into a very competitive world. I’m honored to meet them, not because they’re famous, but because they are decent people, conducting themselves with dignity in the face of criticism.

Now if you’ll excuse me, they’re starting the authors’ rascal races in the north corridor. I have five bucks on Andrew Gross.

Skeletons in the closet

I used to be a Navy wife, which meant moving every two to three years. Coincidentally, my closets only got cleaned every two to three years. Each time I unpacked boxes at a new house, it felt like Christmas. All the useless crap that got boxed up looked like cherished treasures when I reopened the box in my new home.

Since I moved to my present home, I spent last winter wearing a men’s work glove on one hand and an oven mitt on the other. You’d think that upon cleaning my closet for real, I’d be delighted to find a matching set of gloves. Not so. Without that magical cardboard cube, there was no Christmas feeling to the six-year old dental floss, and roll of breath mints I found in my winter coat pocket.

I have a walk-in closet about twice the size of my bathroom. With two shelves on top, you’d think that I could neatly store blankets, winter clothes, a red hard hat, rubber chicken bookmarks, and copies of my book, which can be purchased at the Adoro bookstore for $9.95 plus postage and handling. I’m just sayin’. “Neatly” is the operative word. You do not want to sneeze in my closet, lest the vibration bury you in an avalanche of epic proportions. Fortunately, my Doberman is trained to dig people out from under the rubble.

My point is (and I do have one) that closets should not be used as a delayed disposal system. That’s what Rubbermaid plastic storage bins are for. I still have my second Barbie doll (the first one melted on the windowsill), and a Raggedy Ann and Andy, all carefully stored in a bin, because having dolls sitting out on a shelf is kind of creepy. I swear their eyes follow you around the room.

Cleaning the closets requires a certain amount of courage. When I finally had to look at the jeans that barely fit three years ago, it caused a two-day ice cream binge of remorse. My flawless logic said that continually kicking them to the back of the closet would make me thinner.

What kind of household project could I possibly do to follow-up the closet fiasco? That was decided for me yesterday, when a Great Dane on my back porch apparently thought that screens are for pussies. Nothing was going to stand between him and a squirrel. Consequently, I bought a 25 foot roll of screening material. I think I can fit it in my closet if I move the red hard hat.

Stick it up your asset

Thirty years ago I took 1st year accounting at the Alameda Community College. I remember this because a) I was teacher’s pet, and b) I’m not currently having a senior moment. Unfortunately, what I don’t remember are the basics of double-entry accounting. This is because, ordinarily, I’m able to make it through a typical day without having to figure depreciation on the value of fixed assets.

Without evidence to the contrary, I’ve considered myself an accounting genius, lo these many years. Now I’ve come up against my first obstacle to that title: Quickbooks. Armed only with a calculator and false optimism, I set out to conquer the intuitive software alternative to counting on my fingers and toes. When I went to grade school, we learned basic math with wooden blocks and an abacus (I kid you not), so I definitely had my work cut out for me.

Step one: listen to the kindly sounding man as he walked me through the simple tutorial. Step two: take two aspirin and a nap. I haven’t gotten to step three yet. I worked eight years as a trust accountant, I’ve memorized huge portions of the Internal Revenue Code, and I can still do long division. Now I’ve met my match with a program that most children learn in the womb. They’re born with the ability to click a button and amortize long-term liabilities. Gah! Needless to say, the program did not come with wooden blocks.

Like a dog, Quickbooks can smell fear. That’s when it will send you error messages like, “You must enter a customer name when posting a liability, you simpleton.” By the time I enter 5 books and a CD into inventory, I feel like my self-esteem has gone 3 rounds with Mike Tyson. I can’t believe I asked for this kind of humiliation.

Fortunately, if all else fails, I have a fallback position: an accounting cheat sheet, a pad of paper, pencil, and an abacus. I just wish I could find the wooden blocks.

My eyes!

We’ve come to rely so heavily on our sense of sight, that we are willing to pop $500 for a pair of designer glasses that will, at some time in its designer life, see the inside of the dryer. Despite my diligence in observing eye safety (a pair of sunglasses and eye drops left over from the Nixon administration) I recently underwent several assaults on my retina.

When I went to the doctor’s office for my arthritic knee, I was told to step up on the scale. This has not been cause for rejoicing for, lo, these last two years or so. I made the mistake of looking directly at the digital readout. Fortunately, they keep smelling salts taped to the wall next to the scale for just such an emergency.

I’ve spent the last week hunched over the computer, working on an editing project. You would think that scanning hundreds of pages for errant semi-colons and misplaced modifiers would be hard on the eyes. If only that was the worst that life could throw at my corneas.

A few days ago I was toweling off after my shower. As I pulled up my pants, I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw jiggling. We’re talking Jello on a warm day jiggling. My pasty white waistline was doing the wave. I quickly averted my eyes, because as we know, if you didn’t see it, it never happened. Too late! The image was already scorched into my visual cortex like dimples on a baby’s butt.

The sound that erupted from my throat was rather like a goat being mauled by 3 year-olds at a petting zoo. Note to parents: don’t take your kids to the zoo after feeding them Sugar-Frosted Zombie Bombs.

Where was I?

Where are your failing mental faculties when you need them? I’m desperately hoping for a major senior moment or minor stroke so I will file the jiggling scene into the space provided for remembering where I put my glasses. I better go check the dryer.

Hobble a mile in my shoes

Wednesday I went to the doctor’s for excruciating pain in my knee. In the commercials, a woman grabs her knee in pain as she’s going upstairs. She pops a couple aspirin and the next frame shows her taking the stairs three at a time while doing long division. I took Vicodin and still looked like I was recovering from a stroke while climbing stairs. Mathematical operators were the last thing on my mind.

X-rays revealed that I have osteo-arthritis. Now here’s my problem. Rheumatoid arthritis gets all the commercials and all the sympathy. Osteo-arthritis is like the poor second cousin who comes to sleep on your couch and eat all your cheese balls.

When I told my husband, “I can’t be on my feet long enough to make you dinner tonight,” his reaction was, “Oh boo-hoo.” He had the nerve to be annoyed. He showed his displeasure by bringing home hot wings. He knows I hate wings—they’re just skin and gristle on a stick. His passive aggressive dietary habits did not go unnoticed.

That’s when my survival instincts kicked in. Arthritis be damned, I dove on the potato salad like a vulture on road kill. The cheese balls were soon to follow. This wouldn’t have bothered me if I hadn’t recently rung the bell on the doctor’s scale.

The doctor gave me a tube of ibuprofin gel. What will they think of next? I don’t like to turn on the bathroom light and disturb my sweetie when he’s sleeping, so this morning, as I gelled up my knee, something didn’t feel right. I turned on the light and discovered that I had spread toothpaste on my knee. The fluoride and whitening power were little comfort, but my knee is now minty fresh.

Tonight I will try for a little normalcy. I’ll shave the front of my leg (nobody looks at the back anyway), hobble to the phone, and order a pizza. It may not make a difference on the doctor’s scale, but I’m getting tired of eating cheese balls.

That doesn’t feel life-affirming

When my kids went to the church’s pre-marital counseling, they were asked to write notes to each other that were life-affirming. As a writer, I put my work out there in the hopes that people will not send me hate mail, or burn me in effigy on the Capital steps. I hate when that happens. No one has shown up at my door with torches and pitchforks, so I’ll put that in the “win” column.

Twenty-five years ago, if somebody criticized my taste in footwear, I would have thrown out my shoes, curled up on the closet floor, and just rocked back and forth with a glazed expression. Drooling might be involved. Then a friend gave me two very important pieces of advice:

“What others think of you is none of your business.” and

“Don’t take it personally, even if it was meant that way.”

I’ve taken that to heart and worked hard to stop being a weenie when faced with negativity. I think I’ve done pretty well, but just to be on the safe side, I made sure to collect some positive reviews of my book to look at when I’m feeling down.

This book kept me on the edge of my seat. There was pathos, angst and helpful laundry tips.

-Karla’s Mother

A timeless classic, with an amazing plot twist. Excellent spelling and punctuation!

-Karla’s Best Friend


-Karla’s Husband

[Insert rave reviews from newspapers, magazines, and semi-literate chimpanzees here.]

Actually, if you click on Reviews at the top of this screen, you can see some really nice snippets of what others have said about Box of Rocks. I strongly encourage you to take a look so I won’t have cut and pasted for nothing.

I think affirmations are important, I’m just not very good at giving them. When my dog poops, I shout “Hooray!” and give him a cookie. When he walks in on me in the bathroom, I tell him, “You found me! You’re a genius!” Clearly, it doesn’t translate well when people are involved.

Fortunately, social networking has a solution for the problem—the Like button. With a click of the mouse, we can tell people we truly care about them. You can test this theory now by simply clicking on this link to my Facebook fan page and hitting the like button. We’ll wait.

If you haven’t felt appreciated today, just know that I consider myself blessed to have you in my cyber-life. Just don’t expect a cookie when you poop.

Twenty rubber chickens

Yesterday I joined a regional booksellers’ organization and attended their trade show. Conversation with the exhibitors went something like this:

Exhibitor: “What store are you with?”

Me: “Um, I’m not a bookseller. I’m a publisher.”

Exhibitor: “How long have you been in business?”

I look at my watch.

While the ink was still drying on my articles of incorporation, I found myself in a room with the likes of Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Random House. They had tables groaning with free copies of their latest or soon to be released books. I felt a little out of place, carrying a bag full of freshly printed business cards, three books, and 20 rubber chickens. Long story.

My daughter can read a novel in the time it takes me to shave one leg. I read three paragraphs and my eyes start to go numb. Naturally, I took her with me to help me pimp my books and fledgling company. She didn’t get the memo. She filled two shopping bags to the brim with free books, then turned to me, her eye’s brimming with tears. “Thank you, Mom for being a publisher,” she whispered in awe.

Well, at least somebody was impressed. I can’t believe I put on mascara for this.

You see, I’ve kind of taken up the cause of bringing more good bathroom reading to humanity. In all the thousands of books at the trade show, I only found one humor book. This left me with many questions. Is it not fine literature unless it’s riveting, poignant, or filled with the bloodsucking undead? Are people too jaded to enjoy fine humor anymore? Will my husband be offended that I picked up a free Grilling for Dummies apron for him?

The Lone Ranger had really good PR in an age without telephones and instant messaging. When someone asked, “Who was that masked man?” there was always someone in the crowd to say, “Why, that was the Lone Ranger.” Where he would leave his signature silver bullet when he rode out of town, I left people holding a rubber chicken. “Who was that weirdo?”

One day, when people are on the crapper with their pants around their ankles, they will read one of my books and say, “God bless the Mascaraed Marauder.”

Still stupid after all these years

You’d think at my age I would have seen every trick in the book. I look at people who give away their life savings to some shyster and think, that would save a lot of baby moose from rifle-toting Alaskan governors. Give early, give often.

Yesterday, I received a yellow post card in the mail that said “important notice,” so I knew that it must have some Earth-shattering significance. I immediately called the toll free number and gave my credit card information to the nice woman who claimed to be from my college alumni association. Never mind that the return address was in Virginia, and my alma mater is in Seattle.

I never received the email link from them, and when I tried to call them back, they wanted me to oprime numero dos para Español, then cheerily announced that they were closed for the day, contrary to the hours of operation printed on the card. I sooo did not want to cancel my credit card and make up some story to the bank about huffing too much glue while watching reruns of Survivor. I’m sure they get that all the time.

Actually, the man at the bank was very nice and didn’t give me a hard time for parking my brains in a red zone. Mom promised me that one day I would be older and wiser. At least she got one of them right.

Today I’m putting all the scammers out there on notice. All you’re going to get out of me is my name, rank, and social security number.