Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 30th

Hi, it’s Christina –

Just take me out back and shoot me…please…

I puttered around on the computer a little this morning because I have such a sinus headache and I knew I wouldn’t have been able to string together coherent words if I tried, so today, I’m not even going to try. (this sentence alone took several edits and I’m still not sure if I got all the booboos out.)

I’m going to take some aspirin and hope this headache goes away, because I’m really behind on the book I’m editing and I’m seriously feeling guilty over it. Talk to y’all tomorrow. 

I hope you all have a great day & happy writing!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reach 1,000

Remember how a few weeks before Christmas I was trying to get my author's page to 500 likes? Well, all you folks rallied and I was able to hit my goal. Since then, I have participated in a phenomenal marketing event and I now I'm just 10 away from hitting a thousand! If you or someone you sent to my site happen to be #1,000, please let me know...I just may have a little something for you...

January 29th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina –

Sorry I haven’t been on for a few days, my back was really hurting, so sitting at my computer was just way too painful. It might have something to do with driving almost 3K miles in 11 days. I should have gone to the chiropractor yesterday, but the thought of sitting in the car sent me waddling in the other direction. I’m still not great today, but it’s a little better, so I figured I could sit for half an hour or so and get the blog out at least.

As I’m sure y’all have heard, there’s a winter storm hitting the south. The snow and ice started yesterday and continued through the night. What we would consider a dusting up here, has crippled the south. People are running out of gas while trying to get home. One woman said her five mile commute took her three and a half hours.

Okay, I know it’s cold and snowing, but if I looked outside, saw traffic at a complete standstill, heard what the reports were saying, and I only lived five miles away, I would have walked. Sure it probably would have taken an hour or so, I would have been cold and probably a bit cranky by the time I got home, but I still think it would have been a heck of a lot better than trying to drive. It’s not like she would have been trudging through a foot of snow, there were less than 2” on the ground. I realize snow in the south is an anomaly, but it should make common sense fly out the window. The weather does have all my southern friends and family in a tizzy, so for that, I am saying prayers for them all to be safe.

I was surprised to find snow here this morning when I woke up. I didn’t think the storm was supposed to reach this far north. We only have a little over an inch, so it’s no big deal. It was surprising that they did delay schools for two hours this morning with so little snow on the ground. There isn’t even enough to plow, but I guess the trucks want to spread some salt on our mountain roads so the buses can traverse safely. In two hours, most of this will be melted off and it will be safer for all the teenage drivers too, so a delay is probably a wise choice.

It doesn’t take away any more vacation days from the kids, so it’s really not a big deal. The school board hadn’t figured a bad winter into the calendar, so they only built in one snow day this year – not the brightest decision. We’ve used several already, so we have lost Easter Monday as well as the extra days around Memorial Day weekend, and I think one other day.

Why don’t they just automatically put three days into the calendar, then if we don’t use them, add days to the Memorial Day weekend? Wouldn’t that make much more sense? And WHY would they only put ONE day in to start with? That’s just insane considering we have used several days in the past few years. Last year we used days in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, the year before it was the ice storms after tropical storm Leon (I think that’s what the name was – whatever happened three after Irene), we’ve had mechanical problems which have closed the schools, oh yeah, and actual snow.

Alright, I’m not going to bang my head against the wall. It’s obvious when anyone gets into any kind of elected office, they are required to check their common sense at the door.

Dani’s giving me the sad puppy dog eyes and asking me to make breakfast, so I need to run. I hope you all have a safe and warm day & happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Convince us something mundane or plain or not well loved is the most wonderful thing in the world. (You can pick an object, a task, a food or whatever you’d like – the possibilities are endless.)

Monday is the most glorious day of the week. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. It is the only day of the week you are well rested, so you can take on all the challenges the upcoming week has to bring. Many folks are slow and groggy on Mondays, so you can use your Monday to get organized and check things off of your to do list, because others will push off meetings and projects to later in the week. On Mondays, there has been no time for stress to have built up.

Okay, I said no one was allowed to criticize, but I’m going to break my own rule – that was terrible! I should have went with my first idea which was vanilla. LOL!

Your Next Challenge is:

You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26th

Hi, it’s Christina –

Yesterday was the big dinner for my nephew, and I spent it locked in my room, away from everyone, so I wouldn’t get them sick. I had some kind of stomach bug which started on my ride home Friday and kept me up all night. My husband and daughters cleaned the whole house and cooked the whole meal, and from the sounds I could hear through the door, everyone had a good time. I’m bummed I didn’t get to spend time with everyone yesterday, but I’ll get to see most of them again next Sunday at the Superbowl party.

My stomach has seemed to have calmed down. I just ate a little something, so we’ll see. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because if not, it is going to be a really LONG trip back to Vermont today.

Oh, I’m not bringing my computer up to VT this time because I plan on heading out as soon as I wake up, so you won’t hear from me again until Tuesday morning. It’s getting late and I still have to hop in the shower. I hope you all have a great day & happy writing! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina –

Greetings from the Arctic Circle – at least that’s where I feel like I am. Let’s just say I would never survive living in Vermont year round. -9 not counting the wind chill. YUCK! What I am surprised about is we have more snow at home than they do here. What’s up with that? Driving through New York, the ground had from a dusting to 3” maybe, and up here there’s only 4”-5”. Does anyone else find that strange?

Even though it took me 2½ hours to get out of New Jersey (it usually takes an hour), I made really good time. I pulled up to the ferry dock just as the ferry was docking, but as great as that sounds, it actually put me way ahead of schedule. Lys wasn’t getting out of her last class until 5:00, and at the rate I was going I would arrive at her dorm at 3:30. So, rather than sit in the car for an hour and a half freezing, I detoured into McDonalds. I had originally planned on just grabbing a $1 coffee, which is surprisingly tasty, but then I say they had 2 cherry pies for $1 on their menu. They only have apple pie, which I really don’t care for, on the menu at home, so I splurged. I sat in McDonalds drinking my coffee, munching on my cherry pies and playing around on my Kindle for a little over an hour, then continued my journey.

I got to the college a little before five. Lys said she was back and to come on in. I said hi, dropped my stuff, she said bye and headed off to dinner with her friends. No big deal, I was full from my coffee and cherry pies – yes I ate both of them, they’re small – and I’d get to chat with Lys the whole drive home.

I am happy to report, my back is not too terrible today. Believe it or not, sleeping on a beanbag couch is really quite comfortable. You can adjust it just right so everything is supported and you don’t have any real pressure points. If I had room in my house, I would seriously consider getting one for home.

Lys’ class ends at 10:45, so we should be on the road headed home by 11:00. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to time the ferry just as well on the ride home? Yeah right, like I’d be that lucky. So between having to get gas, potty breaks, and traffic – unfortunately we’ll be driving during Friday rush hour – we should make it home around seven. I know I’ll be shot by then and will probably just go to bed, but then I’ll get up early, clean the house and start baking the desserts for tomorrow night’s dinner.

Fair warning, I have a lot to do tomorrow, so there probably won’t be a writing challenge. Now on to yesterday’s challenge. Could Dani have picked more random words? That’s what I get for asking a teenager. LOL. I hope you all have a wonderful day & happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Write a story containing the following: Pineapple, Chipmunk & Burrito (you can blame Dani for this one)

I was sitting on the back deck of the resort, sipping a frozen pineapple drink, munching on a burrito, and watching a beautiful Mexican sunset over the water. It was a perfect evening; warm, a gentle tropical breeze blowing, the complete antithesis from what I had left behind.

I finished eating and sat back to enjoy my frozen delight. Why is it tropical drinks always taste better when consumed on a tropical beach? Perhaps the frilly umbrella has something to do with it. I was completely relaxed. My belly was full and I was being lulled by the wave lapping against the shore. Then I hear a strange noise coming from the bushes along the patio.

Considering my last dinner guests were two four inch salamanders and some type of an annoying buzzard hell bent on making the salamanders her dinner, I was just a little concerned over the racket coming from the bush. Just to be safe, I folded my legs up under me on the chair. Whatever was in the bush was noisy, but I doubted it was very large, so I wouldn’t be needing my legs for a hasty escape.

Then in a flurry of squeaks, squeals, and brownish red fur, two chipmunks come tumbling out onto the patio, and landed in a soft thump where my feet had rested just seconds before. They paused for a moment, looking slightly confused, spotted me, then promptly ran off. I laughed at their antics, then thought to myself, since when do they have chipmunks in Mexico?

Your Next Challenge is:

Convince us something mundane or plain or not well loved is the most wonderful thing in the world. (You can pick an object, a task, a food or whatever you’d like – the possibilities are endless.)

You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23rd Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina –

I got very little sleep last night because of my back which doesn’t bode well for a seven hour drive to Vermont. For the first time, I’m really dreading this trip. That and the fact that it’s -13 in Burlington right now, but there is no snow (other than flurries) in the forecast for today, tomorrow, Sunday or Monday, so I don’t have to worry about that at least.

It is a little strange not leaving at the crack of dark though. Since I’m planning on hitting the last ferry of the day, which is at four, I don’t have to leave home until nine. This will give me time to get everyone out of the house and on their way before I have to leave – translation, no repeated phone calls from the road asking, “Are you up? Did you have everything you need?”, etc.

I will be bringing my computer with me because Lys’ last class doesn’t let out until 10:15 tomorrow, so I will have several hours to kill in the morning. However, I’m not really sure what kind of shape I’ll be in after today’s drive, so you may or may not have a writing challenge tomorrow. I will try my best.

Unfortunately, not being able to sit at my computer for more than short spurts has put me behind on the novel I’m editing. I feel bad, because I have been sending the author chunks of chapters so he can work on revisions as I go, and with the SC trip last week, my back all this week, and then two trips to VT this weekend, I won’t be sending him anything for several more days.

Needless to say, I haven’t even touched my own writing. I know that if I try right now, and get into one of my writing whirl winds, I’ll look up and it will be four or five hours later and I physically won’t be able to get out of my chair. That wouldn’t be a good thing, so I’m not even going to temp myself by opening one of my stories right now.

Hopefully by the end of next week, my back will be back to a tolerable level, and I will be able to resume both editing and my own writing. I would REALLY like to finish Faerie Tale Queen and get several more chapters of Simply By Chance finished before April’s NaNoWriMo, but I don’t think that is a realistic goal. Oh well, I can only get done what I can get done, and that will have to be good enough. Right?

Okay, I have to go make lunches. I hope you all have a fabulous day & happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Tell us about a toy you still have from your childhood

I don’t remember exactly when I got them, but for as long as I can remember, I have had handmade Raggedy Ann & Raggedy Andy dolls. I used to take one or the other with me everywhere, always making sure I alternated who I took, so the other wouldn’t feel left out. They have been in my bedroom for decades, either on my head board or on the bed itself. That is until a few years ago, when I decided to purge some of the clutter, and I moved Raggedy Ann & Andy to the basement along with several other stuffed animals.

It was a decision I would soon regret. A few years ago, when hurricane Irene unleashed her wrath, our basement flooded, and the container Raggedy Ann & Andy were in toppled over and fell into the flood water. They got soaked and quickly began growing mold. I was crushed, but then the local dry cleaner told me to bring them and he would try to get them clean.

I had dropped them as well as thousands of other flood damaged items off to him, so it was several months before the items were done. When the first batch of things were delivered (yes, because there was so much stuff, the cleaner brought everything to my house), I anxiously opened the stuffed animal container, and there was Andy, looking better than he had in a quarter of a century. After hugging him, I rummaged through the bin in search of Anne, but I couldn’t find her. I asked the dry cleaner and he said not to worry, all of my things didn’t fit into one van and he would schedule a time for another drop off.

I ran out of time, but to bring a long story to a close, here’s the rest, the cleaner never managed to schedule the next drop off. After several phone calls, I went to the shop and demanded he return my stuff considering it had all been paid for, and I find out the shop is under new ownership. The new owner is very nice and he said there are tons of things sitting in their warehouse which need to be delivered, and they were sorting through them. He called me a few days later and asked if he could drop the stuff off. He brings the items he found, but no Ann. I show him Andy and said Ann was somewhere in his warehouse. He tells me he will look again. Weeks go by with no word. I go back to the shop and ask. The owner tells me he has been searching this whole time, and as of that day, all the items which were stored have been delivered to their owners, so the warehouse was now empty…and there was no sign of Ann. (My Ann had a green gingham dress.)
Your Next Challenge is:

Write a story containing the following: Pineapple, Chipmunk & Burrito (you can blame Dani for this one)

You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22nd Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina –

I’m the biggest idiot ever! The last big snow we got was over Christmas break, and when my husband came home from work, he was annoyed that he had to go and shovel snow after working all day when the girls and I were home all day. I didn’t want a repeat of that whole scene, so I started to shovel yesterday afternoon. We only had about five inches at the time and it was a very dry, light, fluffy snow, so it wasn’t very hard to move. I made one path (so I wasn’t standing in snow) by pushing the shovel across the driveway and then I tossed small shoves of snow from the edge of the path out of the way. The first two path/toss sections went very well, but when I was pushing my third path, I hit a crack in the driveway, my shovel got caught, it jostled my back and sent it into spasms all over again. I spent the rest of the day in bed, on a heating pad, in agony. WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN??

Now it’s Wednesday. The house is still a disaster. My back is still killing me. I have a house full of people coming on Saturday, and I’m debating about driving to Vermont tomorrow and spending the night because I don’t know if my back would be able to handle a round trip on Friday. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, I’m going to pick up Lys for the weekend so she can see Kyle. If I don’t, they may miss seeing each other in August because he doesn’t know when his leave is going to be and she may be back at school already. Since they were born, I don’t think they have spent more than ten days apart, and this separation has been tough on both of them. So off to Vermont I go so Lys can see him at the dinner I’m having for him on Saturday. Then we leave early Sunday morning to bring her back because she has class on Monday. (Fair warning, there may not be any writing prompts this weekend.)

At around six last night the township emergency alert called to say there would be a delayed opening for the schools today. They said they would be monitoring the roads in the morning to determine if school will be cancelled. I woke Dani up at 7:00 so she could start getting ready for school. She was in the shower by 7:10, and at 7:15 the call came saying school was cancelled. Boy was she happy when she got out of the shower and I told her to go back to bed. I got the “well, I’m up now” glare. Whether she actually goes back to sleep or not is still to be determined, but she is in her room being quiet, so I can continue to write.

Although it’s hard to tell because the wind has been blowing a bit, I’m pretty sure we got at least a foot of snow yesterday. Remember back in October I told you about the old wives’ tale my grandmother had told me about when we see the first snow and it’s correlation to how many times we’ll see snow during the season? I’m sure most of you thought I was crazy predicting such a high number, but here it is January 22nd, only one month into winter, and we’ve already seen snow twenty-one times. Baba’s tale isn’t sounding so far-fetched any more is it?

Okay, my back is cramping up so I need to get up and move around for a little while. I hope you all have a wonderful day & happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

I’ve never seen a (insert animal here) do that!

I was laughing so hard, I had tears rolling down my cheeks. If I hadn’t known better I would have thought I was either dreaming or had stepped into a cartoon, because I have never seen a squirrel do that except in a cartoon.

It was a beautiful spring day and the kids had the day off from school, so I suggested we have a picnic lunch in the park. We gathered our food, a huge blanket, a Frisbee and a ball and headed off for a carefree afternoon. We spread our blanket on a sunny patch of grass near the edge of the woods. After we finished eating, the kids grabbed the Frisbee and headed up the hill to play and I elected to stay on the blanket and enjoy a little peace and quiet.

I had just finished packing up the remains of our lunch, and was sitting on the blanket watching the squirrels’ antics. It was apparent they were enjoying the beautiful day as well. They were chasing each other around the grounds, up the tree, then around the grounds again.

Then I noticed one squirrel not playing with the others. He was off to the side, near the base of a tree, and he looked like he was trying to get something unstuck. He pulled, released, backed up and looked at the object, then went back and started scratching the ground around the object and tried pulling again. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t budge, and the squirrel repeated the whole process.

No big deal, right? You’ve probably seen animals do this hundreds of times, but here’s where it gets funny. After four or five attempts to dislodge the object, the squirrel backs away again, stands up on his hind legs, scratches his head, and then puts his hands on his hips. It honestly looked like he was puzzling out his dilemma. I laughed myself silly.

Your Next Challenge is:

Tell us about a toy you still have from your childhood

You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January 21st Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina –

Yesterday I was still in too much pain to be able to string coherent words together, so sorry there was no post at all, let alone a writing challenge. I can’t believe it’s been a week since I have given you a writing challenge. You would think, in seven days, one of you would have had time to submit a response. Whatever, I still believe you are doing the challenges, just not posting them. How about, if you’re still not comfortable with posting your responses (even after seeing some of the terrible responses I’ve posted), how about you just leave a comment – “did it”, “hated this one”, “this made me laugh” – WHATEVER, just something so I know there are living breathing folks out there who are still reading these.

I spent all day Sunday sleeping and then all I managed to get accomplished yesterday was a trip to the chiropractor for some muscle work. I was supposed to go back again today, but, unless it’s an emergency or a quick run around the corner to the store, I don’t drive in the snow. I figure one less vehicle on the road, in nasty weather, isn’t a bad thing.

So the 6:00 am phone call came in telling us there is an early dismissal, which means school gets out at noon. The snow started here a little before eight – two hours ahead of schedule, and we are supposed to get 5” – 8” during the day and then 3” – 5” more tonight. Why can’t they just say we’ll be getting 8” – 13” and be done with it? And what’s the deal with naming winter storms now? The last one was Hercules, even though he really didn’t pack that much punch. This one is Janus. If you don’t know, Janus is a Roman god. You’ve probably seen sculptures of him; he’s the dude with two faces, and represents the flip sides of things – war & peace, beginning & ending, past & future. Our month of January is named after him, because January marks the beginning of a new year. (And there ends your lesson in ancient Roman mythology for the day.)

I don’t know how long my back will hold out today, so I am only planning on spending an hour editing and then my “big chore” of the day will be straightening up the kitchen. It’s amazing how much of a mess two people can make while mom’s away for a few days. With being away for four days, then in no shape to do anything for the past two days, my New Year’s resolution of cleaning the kitchen before I went to bed has completely fallen by the wayside, and I’m not doing too hot on the others I made either. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?

Okay, I already feel the back starting to cramp up, so I had better get to the challenge. I wish you all a safe day & happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

On the whisper of the wind you could hear…

On the whisper of the wind I could hear the gentle snow fall while the remainder of the dark field was silent. No animals rustled, no birds sang, and there was not another human for miles to disrupt the peace. I breathed in the crisp night air, then exhaled and watched the plume dance on the slight breeze. I closed my eyes and turned my face to the sky. One by one, tiny flakes landed on my nose and eyelashes. Their icy kisses brushed my cheeks. Unable to curb the impulse, I stuck out my tongue and caught several flakes mid-flight. Clean and crisp, they reminded me of long ago frolics in the snow. I look around to make sure no one watched, and I lie down in the snow, move my arms and legs, then carefully rise so I do not disturb my creation. A laugh escapes me. The cold begins to penetrate, and I sigh. It is time to head back in, but I smile and say a hushed thank you for the brief moment to be allowed to be a kid again.

Your Next Challenge is:

I’ve never seen a (insert animal here) do that!

You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19th

Hi, it’s Christina –

Good morning! Just writing to say, I didn’t die. I have had no internet service since I left on Wednesday at 5:00 until I plugged my computer in at home just now. Who in this day and age does not provide internet at a rental home? Anyway, I survived without it with only minimal twitching.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of our trip. Wednesday morning, the fog is so thick I couldn’t see my car in the driveway. I get to the car, arms loaded with the remaining items I needed to bring, and I can’t open the doors because they are frozen shut. Finally get a door opened and get the car heated up enough to drive it. I’m just getting started and I’m already twenty minutes behind schedule. My car fishtails while attempting to make a left turn from a dead stop. Wonderful, not only am I dealing with fog, I’m dealing with black ice. Oops, I said Reader’s Digest version - sorry.

I pick up Sharon, we CRAWL to 95 (it took as twice as long as it should have). The fog doesn’t let up until we hit Virginia and that was the first time I was actually able to go the speed limit. From there we had a smooth trip down until the last quarter mile when we couldn’t figure out where the turn off was to get to the condo. We finally find it and our fifteen hour trek has come to an end. We unpack, blew up our beds, and crashed and burned for the night.

Thursday was supposed to start with the inspirational run, but Sharon and I opted out of leaving for the base at 06:00, standing outside in the cold, for the chance to see Kyle run by with his platoon. We headed over for 08:30 and a ceremony they held in the All Weather facility. Each of the six platoons from Mike Company marched in, ten of the recruits were sworn in as US citizens, and then all the recruits were released to their families for liberty until 15:00. Kyle showed us around the base, his barracks, and explained what life as a Marine recruit was like, and then we all had lunch on base. (The chicken was delicious, but the sweet tea was undrinkable because it was made with the tap water. I swear the water down there comes straight from the swamp! It is so vile. I can’t even put it near my nose. I have no idea how they drink it.)

Anyway, at lunch, we found out that even though Kyle was graduating with honors – scored top five in the battalion, number three in his platoon, and missed top marksman by one point – he wouldn’t be wearing his dress blues for graduation. Only the top person from each platoon gets to attend graduation in their blues, so even though Kyle scored higher than three hundred and fifty of the three hundred and fifty-five members of his battalion, he was not one of the six in blues at the graduation. Fine, I understand the way it works, but not for nothing, at graduation, they should have said something about how 3001 was the stand out platoon, earning a majority of the top slots.

Friday, graduation day, started with a colors ceremony at 07:45, led by the Marine Corp Band. They were amazing, and seeing the massive flag unfurl while our national anthem was being played was very moving. Graduation began precisely at 09:00 on the parade deck and commenced at exactly 10:00. It was an impressive ceremony, one I will never forget. By the time pictures were all taken, final good-byes were said, remaining gear was gathered, and last purchases from the MCX were made, it was 12:00 before we left the base.

That was when I noticed the biggest change in Kyle. The poor kid was like a lost puppy for a little while. For the first time in thirteen weeks, he was not being told exactly what to do every second. It was kinda funny. But then, we happened to have an interaction with one of the residents of the condo community, and all I could do was smile. While he spoke with this woman, he stood tall, was articulate and oh so respectful; I was so proud of the man he has become.

We didn’t do much on Friday afternoon, but then we went out to dinner at Joe’s BBQ – a hole in the wall behind a gas station. To say I approached the place with a little trepidation would be an understatement, but that’s where Kyle wanted to go, so that’s where we went. I was pleasantly surprised; the food was quite tasty and very reasonably priced. After dinner, the gang headed to a drive-in double feature – yes, apparently there still are drive-ins left in the world – and I headed back to the condo. I knew there was no way I could stay up until midnight and be able to drive home the next day; plus my back was really hurting, so I knew I should turn in early.

We left South Carolina at 7:30 yesterday morning and I walked in my door at 10:00 last night, gave my hubby a kiss, popped two Aleve, and went to bed. My back is still really sore and I’m still pretty wiped out, so I’m going back to bed for, oh I don’t know, another ten hours or so. I just wanted to let you know I’m still alive. We’ll worry about the writing challenge tomorrow. I wish you all a great day & happy writing!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 14th

Hi, it’s Christina –

Good morning! Yesterday I got several things done for my trip. I unearthed the air beds, made sure they were still in working order (Sharon’s using one), then got them and the pump ready to go. I made banana nut, banana chocolate chip and apple pie muffins to take with us, and I got some laundry done. (I also did a whole bunch of non-SC related things, so that wasn’t the sum of everything I accomplished yesterday.)

I was all prepared to pack some lighter things, but then I saw the weather report, and it’s going to be sunny but cold on Thursday and then it’s going to be cold and rainy on Friday. Dang! You would think driving a dozen plus hours to the south, I would be getting nicer weather than at home. I’m kinda bummed about it, but whatchya gunna do?

I am bringing my computer with me, but honestly I have no idea if I’ll even be able to get on it (I don’t know the graduation schedule or if we even have internet at the house), so you may not get a writing again challenge or another post until Sunday when I’m home again. That’s why I’m giving you extra time on yesterday’s challenge. I thought it was a pretty good one because you can take it so many ways – it could be a poem, a romantic story, a horror story, a … , you get what I mean. I’m looking forward to seeing what y’all come up with!

Today I need to stop at the grocery store, get gas, clean out the car, pack, load the car, straighten up the house, plus I’m sure a dozen other things which are escaping my brain at the moment. So since I still have lots to do, I shall say farewell.

I wish you all a wonderful day & happy writing!

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina –

The realization of I’m leaving in less than forty-eight hours and I have NOTHING done yet just hit me. It’s all little things that need to be done, but each of the things will take time, a commodity which I have precious little left. I did manage to get several days’ worth of meals prepared yesterday so my husband and daughter don’t need to worry about dinners while I’m gone; and, even though I intend to be on the road by five on Wednesday morning, they will have dinner all ready for them when they get home on Wednesday night. One of the things I prepared was stew, so all I have to do Wednesday morning is dump three frozen ZipLock bags into the crock pot and set it to low. All my hubby will need to provide is a nice loaf of bread to go with the stew.

He also has a chunk of pork marinating in beer and apple cider vinegar, which will go in the crock pot Thursday morning to make pulled pork sandwiches Thursday night. As always, Friday night will be pizza; and then he has a spicy chicken dish he’ll need to sauté then serve over boil-in-bag rice for Saturday. Nothing should take more than fifteen minutes worth of work, which is good because the last thing he wants to do after working all day is more work when he gets home. I also feel a whole lot less guilty for leaving them, knowing I provided them meals for while I was gone. (Sorry, I guess I’m still a little old-school there.)

Okay, as I said, I have quite a bit to do, so I should get a move on. I wish you all a glorious day & happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

End a story with “So that’s why you should never mix (insert items of your choosing here).”

(I’m going to preface this by saying this is COMPLETE fiction.)

For weeks I had been planning a large barbecue at my house for a group of writers, agents and publishers from the area. It was going to be a chance for them all to meet, network and share their various projects. I was so excited. The response was fantastic, and in a few short hours, I was going to be entertaining over fifty people.

The weather was picture perfect. The tent, tables and chairs had all been set up the night before, so the yard was done. All the food was prepped and ready to go. Things were right on schedule.

Then I notice I have several grey hairs poking out of my head in various places. Oh, this would not do. A majority of the people coming, I had never met in person; and although I am not normally a vain person, I really didn’t want them to see me for the first time looking dramatically different than my professional photo.

I glance at the clock. Two hours before the first guests arrive. I can slap some color in my hair, and while it’s processing, I can continue to get the last few things finished. I get out my trusty box of Miss Clairol and start the transformation process. I glance at the clock again; and hour and a half to go.

I can still do this. All that really needs to happen now is the chicken needs to go on the grill so it can slow cook. Since the grill needs a good fifteen minutes to heat up to the proper temperature, I go outside and light it. Then POOF. A large flash. I’m left blinking, trying to figure out what just happened. I horrible smell invades my nostrils. Oh dear God, I know that smell. It’s the smell of burnt hair! I race into the house and look into the bathroom mirror. Thankfully, the hair on my head is still in place, but I am seriously lacking eyebrows, and my eyelashes have been reduced to brittle charred stubs. I wanted to cry.

So that's why you should never, and I mean NEVER, mix Miss Clairol and a barbecue grill.

Your Next Challenge is:

On the whisper of the wind you could hear…

You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12th

Hi, it’s Christina –

Good Morning! Yesterday, Dani and two of her friends wanted to go to the mall; so, because I needed to exchange a few gifts, I agreed to take them, even though I usually avoid the mall at all costs. Yes, I will admit, I am not your average female. I hate going to the mall. There are way too many people, and a majority of those people, for reasons I cannot fathom, are in a bad mood. Unfortunately, like yesterday, at times, the mall is unavoidable.

I said goodbye to the girls and went off in my own direction. I get to the first store, am waited on by a very sweet woman, accomplish what I set out to do with no muss or fuss, and leave the store with my new purchases feeling positive. One task accomplished, one to go.

Next I'm off to one of the cornerstone stores to exchange the vest my husband’s customer gave him for one in a larger size. I head to the men’s department, and it is an absolute zoo. My positive feeling begins to fade. Since the line at the register is at least ten deep, I circulate through the department to try and locate another vest in the hope of being able to simply do an even exchange and save some time. Not only can I not find a vest in his size, I cannot locate the section which houses the brand of vest at all.

On a sigh, I trudge back to the line at the register and wait my turn. After fifteen minutes, it was my turn. I hand the lady the vest, tell her it was a gift and I need it in a bigger size. She punches it into her computer and tells me there is one left in the store. Yeah! Where is it? She has no clue. What? How can you not know where the IZOD section of YOUR department is? I’m sorry, but when I worked retail I knew where every – yes, I am not kidding – every piece of merchandise was in MY department, plus the general area where things were kept in most of the other departments.

So now the lady has the vest, and I have to leave the line and go hunting…again. My luck wasn’t any better the second time around, so I go back to the register. The lady click, click, clicks again, then says when the computer shows one, it usually means there really isn’t any left. Seriously? You couldn’t have told me that fifteen minutes ago? But, she could check and see if there are any in the distribution center. OK, good, that’s fine, ship it to my house. There are none available in the color I have. OK, no big deal, we can pick another color.

“Sorry, no.”
“None of those available either.”
“How about you tell me what colors ARE available in my husband’s size?”
“Sorry, the computer doesn’t work like that, but I can try.”


“Neon Orange?”
“No, I don’t think my husband would appreciate looking like an Oompa Loompa.”
“Yeah, a giant tomato isn’t much better.”
“YES! Charcoal would be fine.”
“Very good. Just to confirm we are ordering a 2X vest in red and…”
“NO NOT RED, Charcoal.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry, let me start over…”

At this point, I am trying very hard not to scream, but I just smile and give the lady all of the shipping information.

Then she says, “that will be $19.95.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? "It’s not my fault your store doesn’t have the item in stock, why should I be charged to have it shipped?"

“There’s a shipping fee for all items under $50.”

“The original price of the item is well over $50.”

“I’m sorry, the item is now on sale and is less than $50.”

The heck with it, I’m done. "Just give me a credit and my husband can come back himself and pick something."

“The credit will be $23.95.”

“On a $98 vest? Forget it. Just give me the vest back. It will be easier to get him to lose ten pounds so the dang thing fits better.”

Now I’m twitching. I shove the vest back into the bag and start to leave, but then I think to myself – no this isn’t right, and this surly was not the policy when I was a manager in this store – so I head to where customer service used to be. Well, it’s not there anymore, but I did find a manager – Jen – and explained to her what happened. She said, “No big deal, I’ll override the shipping and return the item for you.” She had to get another associate to actually ring the transaction so she could do the override, but she got everything done. So my husband’s new vest is being delivered to the house, and somehow I ended up with a $7 credit on a gift card to boot.

So, can you see why I avoid the mall? For the most part, this is par for the course whenever I go there.

I had such a headache by the time I got home, I popped two aspirin and went to lay down for a little while before I had to make dinner. Guess what? I didn’t wake up until one in the morning! I went to the bathroom, got a drink and then went back to bed. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I guess the body gets to the point when it has had enough and then simply shuts down. I have been running full steam for the past several weeks, and have not been sleeping a whole heck of a lot. Well, after thirteen hours of sleep, I cannot say I’m not well rested!

This was another really long blog, so we’ll do the writing challenge tomorrow. I wish you all a wonderful day & happy writing!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January 11th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina –

Good morning. I couldn’t get into writing mode this morning, so I spent the past few hours poking around the internet for writing contests. Came across some interesting ones – one of which the prize is a seminar which takes place in Bulgaria in May. This could be interesting. Who knows, the Bradford’s hunt for the bad guys (sorry, until Simply by Chance is published, I can’t give you more than “bad guys”) would lead them to Bulgaria…

The prize includes the seminar, room and board, food, travel within the country and 50% of your international travel expenses. I looked up the airfare and it would cost around a grand to fly to Bulgaria (via Moscow). Perhaps the contest sponsored by the University of Southern Illinois would be a better choice. LOL.

Honestly, the one I would like to enter is the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest, but there is no information out yet, and rumors are spreading there won’t be a 2014 contest at all. I’ll keep watching, because this one is a biggie, and the window to enter is very small and they cut off after 10K entries.

If they do have the contest this year, AND I do manage to be one of the first 10K entries, AND if by some miracle I make it to the final round, I will need your help. In the final round, the five finalists (in each of the five categories) works are featured on Amazon, and the public has to vote for the winner. If I make it that far, please be prepared to be barraged with incessant begging. J

I wish you all a fun day & happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Write a story using nothing but dialog (nope, not even a “he/she said”) with at least three different characters.

“Janie, come here a sec.”
“What is it Jack?”
“Take a look at what Tyler’s doing in the back yard.”
“What the heck is that boy up to now?”
“It looks like he’s fixin' to build a tree house.”
“A tree house? Oh dear Lord, Jack. He’s only seven. He can’t possibly build a tree house by himself. Please get out there and help your son before he hurts himself. The last thing we need is to spend the day in the emergency room!”
“I was planning on doing just that as soon as I finished my coffee. Looks like we have a weekend project.”
“Ahh, is that your saw? Forget the coffee. Get out there now!”
“Relax Janie. I’m going, I’m going.”

“Hey champ. Whatchya doin’?”
“I wanted to build a house just like you do Daddy. I got the wood, and the hammer, and the nails, and the saw, and look, I even made a picture of how it’s supposed to look when I’m done.”
“That’s a mighty fine drawing there son. It going to be a fine tree house.”
“Can you help me Daddy or do you have to go to work?”
“No Ty, I’m all yours. Where should we start?”

Your Next Challenge is:

End a story with “So that’s why you should never mix (insert items of your choosing here).”

You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.