Thursday, June 30, 2011

Good Dog, Lucy

Lucy and Sam's leg. Lucy almost never stopped moving, even up to the end, so we have almost no decent pictures of her.  If there is a black blur in a photo, it's probably Lucy. 

I had to have Lucy put to sleep last Friday.  She was 14 1/2, and she was a good dog.  A pain in the neck, but a good dog. 

When she was almost a year old, and I was pregnant with the Drama Queen, she got into some rat poison and almost died of internal bleeding.  We joked at the time that I should have stayed at work an hour longer. Then she wouldn't have made it, and saved us a lot of time, money and trouble, but we didn't mean it. 

The Drama Queen almost didn't learn to walk, because every time the baby stood up and tried to take a step, Lucy was there "helping" her.  The kids would complain, "Mom!  Lucy WAGGED me again!", because she had the world's most extraordinarily powerful tail, and she was a very happy dog.

Lucy was, I am sure, greeted at Heaven's Gate by all the other creatures she sent before her.  There were a few turtles, some baby bunnies, a hamster, a parakeet (that last one is a story best left untold). 

Our other dog, Stella, seems to be doing okay.  She's been laying in Lucy's spot on my bedroom floor, and may be losing weight because she no longer gets to steal half of Lucy's food.  She spent a day sitting in the hallway, unwilling to budge, but I think that was probably more because she's waiting for Sam to come home from Boy Scout camp than Lucy. 

I was doing okay until yesterday, when I checked the mail and found a sympathy card from the vet's office, signed by the entire staff. 

Good Dog, Lucy! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kentucky History: Who knew?

I live in Kentucky.  I've lived there for 12 years now.  Before that, I lived across the river from Kentucky, in Ohio. I went to school in Ohio, and didn't take Kentucky state history, so I have an excuse for my ignorance, but...

Did you know that Kentucky was NOT a confederate state during the civil war? 

I didn't, not until Friday.  I have this  idea for a historical story set in Kentucky, during the reconstruction period, just after the end of the "War of Northern Aggression".  And there is a doctor in it, so I thought I'd see what I could find out about the history of medical schools in the region, and one thing led to another, and all of a sudden, I'm reading that Kentucky was not a confederate state, it was a Union state. 

I suspect there are an awful lot of other people out there with the same misconception.  Why is that? Well, for one thing, although KY didn't leave the Union, it was still a slave state, and so it was still a big deal for slaves to make it across the Ohio River on their way to freedom.  That's why the National Underground Railroad Freedom MuseumNation is in Cincinnati.

Apparently, Kentucky wanted to stay neutral, because they thought they'd be better off financially.  Even though a lot of people owned slaves in Kentucky, the economy wasn't as dependent on slavery as the deeper South.  It's all very complicated.

So aside from the whole slave thing, why would I think Kentucky had been a confederate state? I am exaggerating here, but it seems like half of everyone in the state with a pick up truck has a confederate flag hanging in their rear window (FYI, the other half have "Dale Earnhardt #3 stickers). 

I actually found a book someone wrote about how Kentuckians kind of created a confederate history for themselves after the Civil War, so it's not just me who is confused.  And a third of the soldiers from Kentucky fought for the Confederacy, so there was some definite rebel sentiment...but 2/3 is more than 1/3, so you'd think that the majority would have ruled after war, especially since the UNION WON THE WAR (there are those who, apparently, haven't yet been informed that it's over). 

Anyway, now that I have THAT straightened out, I am on a quest to learn more about Kentucky.  I wonder what else I am misinformed about?  Secretariat was really a girl with a strap-on?

Bo and Luke Duke weren't related to Daisy?  Wouldn't that have made the series more interesting? 

My brain is shutting down. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Help= More Work

I've been back from vacation for a whole week and have had like -10 minutes to read ya'll's blog posts, much less write one of my own.  The reason?  We have been flooded with summer students in the lab.

Not sure what the deal is, but in addition to our graduate student, our part-time paid student helper has gone full-time over the summer, and we have three volunteer student workers here to work in exchange for experience.  "Here to gain experience", loosely translated, means, "Never been in a lab before."

So not only do I have to teach them all about our projects and make sure they have something to do at all times, I have to teach them things like, "You CAN'T wear flip-flops in here because we spill nasty chemicals." "You CAN'T chew gum in here because the radiation safety Nazi's come around and give us demerits, even though noone in this lab has used nukes in 6 years."

It's all good in the long run, we have some very bright and willing people here (even though three of them are named "John".  We have John, New John and New-New John.  The latter is actually the oldest of the bunch, he just showed up last.  We have Johns.  Hey!  Get your mind out of the gutter!  We're not that kind of a lab. Granted, we would be if we could be.

Anyway, my blogging might be a bit sporadic this summer, because I can't seem to get that middle of the experiment time which I normally use to bug my writer friends.  I have to actually work.  WTF? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

A vacation from my vacation

I would love to shower you with great pictures from my vacation, but I didn't actually take any.
Naturally, my big plan to get up in the morning and drink coffee on the deck while writing lines and lines of brilliant prose didn't actually happen.  I did get up in the morning and drink coffee, but there were too many people floating around for me to concentrate on writing. 
 It was nice, though, honest.  There is no place like Lake Cumber
land.  It's absolutely gorgeous, the water is incredible, the people are nice, there are sunsets, wildlife, interesting rock formations, and best of all:

WADE'S DISCOUNT GUNS, FURNITURE, and FAMILY FITNESS.  I kid you not.  There IS a picture of this place, but it's on the camera of the Bearded Wonder's girlfriend, so I have to wait for her to send it to me.  I think there is a martial arts center in there somewhere, but really, what more do you need? Unfortunately Wade's wasn't open when we drove past, so we didn't stop in to shop. 

Maybe next year.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Caught Between The Sad Dog and The Sad Vet

Okay, so first of all, this is NOT a picture of Lucy, my old dog.  Lucy has black eyes, and hasn't sat still for a picture in 14.5 years.  Every shot I have of her is a blur of black.  But she kind of looks like this, with a little more German Shepherd to her.  Her momma was a German Shepherd, but her daddy, obviously, was not.  Oh, the scandal that must have caused in the neighborhood! 

Anyway.  Lucy is 14 and a half years old.  that's like, 700 in dog years.  When she was 1, and I was 8 months pregnant with the Drama Queen, she ate rat poison.  I came home from work and found her collapsed from internal bleeding caused by the coumadin in the poison. The Big Guy said at the time, "If you'd just stayed at work an extra hour we could have saved $500 in vet bills."  Sensitive soul, my BG.  but she recovered and became the barking scourge of two neighborhoods...cops in two counties have come to talk to us about this dog (who, I have to say, has never been left outside for longer than 15 minutes at a time--and still barked enough to annoy every neighbor in town).

Lucy has a "vigorous" tail, and repeatedly knocked down the kids as she enthusiastically encouraged them to play.  "MOOOOMMMM!  Lucy WAGGED me again!"  Poor DQ almost didn't learn to walk, she was wagged so much. 

About 10 years ago, she sprained a knee and started getting touchy about being petted or brushed near her back end, and bit Grampa once when he was petting her.  Oops!   She'd never gotten along with other critters, and attacked any animal that came within 5 feet of any of us.  This was great as far as feeling my kids were safe in the yard with her, but not so much for baby bunnies who wandered into the yard.  Or turtles.  Or other dogs. 

Then, six years ago, The Sam Stanley Experience had a severe head trauma, requiring brain surgery and a long, boring summer in which he was not allowed to run, jump or otherwise act like an 11 year old boy.  While camping one weekend, he came to the camper all excited because he'd been found by a lost, starving, flea and tick riddled little chocolate lab.  I panicked when he opened the camper door and let Lucy out, sure there was about to be carnage.  The little lab rolled on her back, exposing all her soft bits.  Lucy walked over, sniffed her and went off to pee on a bush, and Stella was invited to join the family.  Stella kept Sam company during his convalescence, and Lucy didn't mind. 

Anyway, Lucy's delicate hiney has gotten more and more sore.  She frequently falls down steps and drags both of her back legs.  She's peed on my floors so much that I can't have company until I get new carpet.

 I took her for a check up yesterday, and the vet said she probably has some nerve damage back there.  I'm sitting there thinking, "Duh, she's 14. I need her to move to the next level so I can de-stink-ify my house and have company again.  I'm tired of having to remind the kids to let her out every hour on the hour."  Of course, as I was thinking this, I started to cry. 

 So the vet said, "We can give her some anti-inflammatory drugs and see if she perks up a little, but I'm not promising anything."

And I'm sitting there, thinking, "Uh, Dude, I really need you to tell me that it's time to put her to sleep."

Instead, I took the drugs, spent another $200 on vaccines and bloodwork and took my dog home.  Do you think maybe she'll have a heart attack in her sleep in the next few weeks so I don't have to make a decision? 

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Which I Over-Think the Pen Name Thing

I've finally decided to take the plunge and join RWA. I haven't done it so far because I just wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money to join a club that I'm not sure I'm worthy of joining.  But I've connected via twitter and blog with a few local writers and have been encouraged to come to the local chapter (OVRWA) meeting, and I figure I might as well do it.  Get my feet wet.  Dive in. Can you tell it's 99 degrees outside here and I am jonesing to get in the pool?

Okay, so I've downloaded the RWA application.  I'm getting ready to fill it out and fax it in with my credit card information (or maybe I'll write a check, and send it in.  I need to agonize over that decision for a couple of hours). 

Now after I deal with the check vs. credit card issue, I have to decide who I am.  I have been blogging and tweeting as Teri Anne Stanley since last fall.  That's not my real name.  My real name is Tracy.  Get it, Tracy/ Teri, both kind of derivatives of Teresa?  And my mom's name is Ann, and Stanley is just...well,he's my favorite Brockmann hero.  It's better than Leon, which was the name of my diary when I was in middle school.  Okay, this is not complicated, I can see the space on the application for my given name and the space for my pen name, such as it is.  I can deal with that part!

But when I show up for the meeting, do I just introduce myself as my original self, or my pen name self? Is it totally nerdy to use a pen name when I haven't actually published anything?  It's not that I am trying to keep my daylight self secret from you writer peeps, it's more that I'm trying to keep a bit of a screen between my girl scout troop, sunday school friends and science geek co-workers and my super-secret fantasy world of romance, smut and intrigue. 

Why do I have a pen name?
 First of all, because I have another blog under my Day Name (that's what I'm calling it now), which my girl scouts, and kids' friends' parents visit on occassion.  I don't want them googling me and coming up with a discussion of why size may or may not matter...or, God forbid, finding me on Twitter in the middle of a discussion about almost anything...Anthony Weiner has nothing on wildly Tweeting romance writers! 

Secondly, my boss thinks romances are only read by pathetic people.  I have taken up the sword and defended our genre, suggested she might read something written later than 1978, and she now believes me to be pathetic.  I am okay with this, I think she kind of thought I was pathetic before she knew what I like to read; but it's a fact that a lot of people in academia have prejudices about what is intellectually worthwhile.  So I don't really want to open myself to derision from the "intelligentsia" of the Cancer and Cell Biology department.  And I don't want my boss to see how much work time I spend online.

Finally, I am afraid that if it gets out among my casual friends that I want to be a writer, then they'll start asking me about it.  Asking to read stuff, asking when my books will be available at Kroger (as if!).  And then, if I decide to pack it in and go back to knitting and watching sit-coms at night, they will think I'm a loser for giving up. 

Maybe that last reason is totally wimpy, but it's there. 

Anyway, what do you think?  How do I introduce myself in real-life?  Do you have a pen name?  What do you do? 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What is it about MEN?

I have come to the realization that men are different from women.  Writers, that is.  I know, duh, there are anatomical issues, and male writers write different stuff than women.    And granted, I am primarily a romance reader, so I kind of expect a specific outcome for my protagonists, the Happily Ever After.  The heroine falls for the hero, he falls for her, they fight, they work it out. 

Now granted, sometimes the hero might fall for the other hero AND the heroine and trice-versa, or some variation of the theme.  Sometimes the heroine might shop around a little bit before winding up with the hero, but we always know who is supposed to get with whom. 

Last week I read two different books by male writers, and in both books, the heros wanted to get with a woman.  But I got the distinct impression that it didn't need to be a specific woman.  In both books there were a couple to choose from, and the most convenient woman "won".  WTF?  Now, granted, neither was a romance.  Both were thriller/suspense/mysteries, but in both, we know, early on, that the hero has a love interest.  And it changes somewhere along the line, and it's like, "Oh well, that one's not working out, but this one's here, so I'll do her instead."

I was kind of swishing this thought around in my mind, and then I read a story by Chloe Cole, "Conned" in the recently released anthology, Undercover Lovers, (which I highly recommend when you are in the mood to be "in the mood").  In "Conned", human sexuality professor Cricket and biology professor Tuck decide to do an experiment with aphrodisiacs.  There is a discussion of what works for women, and what works for men.  Cricket says that "A man can literally F%3k a watermelon..." 

And yet somehow, still, Cricket and Jack find their HEA!  Of course, maybe it just wasn't watermelon season.

Exhibit A:  Long Lost, by Harlan Coben
Long Lost

Let me just say that I LUUUUURRRVE Harlan Coben novels.  He is the Supreme King of the Universe of bizzare plot twists. I especially adore the Myron Bolitar series.  Myron is a former almost-professional basketball player turned sports agent and crime fighter.  I also love Myron's main trusty sidekick, wealthy ne'er do well and slut puppy, Win, who also sidelines as not only a trusty sidekick but closet ninja warrior in his own right.  Myron is an all-round good guy with a hero complex.  He's NOT a slut puppy, except...

As Long Lost begins, Myron is in a relationship with a nice woman with children.  He gets a phone call from a long-lost lover (hence the title, I'm guessing), who invites him to Paris for a good time.  He is conflicted.  Conveniently, his soccer mom girlfriend gives him the heave-ho.  Myron shrugs his shoulders and heads to Paris.  Really?  Come ON, Myron!  Now granted, he needs to get with the long lost lover in order to run into international terrorist and rescue damsels in distress and give Win a chance to do his thing.  But I need Myron to feel a little more angst over switching bedmates so easily.  Not that I won't give him a second chance.  Or even a third. 

Exhibit B:  Dinosaur Hunter, by Homer Hickam
The Dinosaur Hunter

This was a fun book.  I downloaded it as an audiobook from the library and it got me through hours of manipulating photos of cell culture scratch wound assays (you don't want to know what that means. It's not very exciting).  The basic premise is that this retired cop-turned-cowboy is living on a ranch, in love with the woman who own the ranch, and some dinosaur hunters show up and want to do a dig on the property.  There are Russian mobsters:
(I alway picture my boyfriend Viggo Mortensen when I think of Russian mobsters), small town politics, survivalist/right-wing separatists, teen love, all kinds of stuff.  But here's the thing:  At the beginning of the book, Mike tells us he's in love with his lady rancher, but it's love from afar, he's afraid to act on his feelings, maybe she's still in love with her dead husband, yada yada.  Mike's had an affair with the married mayor of the nearest town, but that's over.  Then the dinosaur hunter guy shows up with two women assistants.  Both seem willing and interested in doing Mike.  Almost arbitrarily, it seems, he winds up with the Russian one.  And okay, she's the more damaged of the two women, needs a hero, etc., but early on, it appears that Mike really doesn't mind WHO he gets with, as long as he gets with someone.  He falls in love with the one who crawls into his tent. 

Is this true of all guy-thrillers?  I'm thinking that I had the same issue with the John Sandford novels, though it's been a while since I read him. 

I've been thinking of diving into the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child, but I need to maybe wait until summer is over and there aren't so many watermelons laying around. But by then the pumpkins will be ripe.  Sigh.