Three, Two, One, Blast…Down?

The year was 2006.  The month, July.  My son, Jeremy, my sister, Michelle, and I packed up a picnic lunch and headed to Cocoa Beach to watch the space shuttle Discovery launch on its journey toward the International Space Station.  The third of July was a hot day like any other.  We clocked it being around 114° F during one point.

The funny story I was going to tell you today was about how we waited forever to see the shuttle launch and there were no public restrooms anywhere on the crowded causeway.  So we all ended up taking turns in the backseat using the container that had held our potato salad as a urinal.  But when I told my sister that I was going to share that, she vetoed me and insisted that I tell you about what happened the next day instead.

See NASA in the background?

Being professional photographers, of course we had tons of photo equipment, but at that point, it was all still film.  A couple of months prior, we were forced to stop photographing at a Bon Jovi concert because we had “professional cameras” and only “point and shoots” were allowed.  So we ventured into the digital photography world and purchased our first digital cameras which were also capable of taking video.

The July 3 launch was scrubbed, so we went back the following day.  This would be the first time ever that the United States had an Independence Day launch.  Michelle, being a history major, was especially pleased to be witnessing this bit of history making in the progress.

Immediately following blast-off

We decided that I would photograph the launch and Michelle would videotape it using our new digital cameras.  Well, of course, being a professional photographer, she knew that when taking still shots, you can rotate the camera to either take horizontal (landscape) formats or portrait (vertical) formats.  But what she forgot is that with video recording devices (back then anyway before cell phones were capable of recording digital video), you had to hold the camera horizontally, because there was no way to rotate the picture and will be forever viewed sideways.

Yikes! It’s heading toward the ground! (No, it’s just a sideways photo to give you an idea of what the video looked like.)

So, sure enough, when we got home, excited about seeing the launch, we put my photos and Michelle’s video on the computer and viewed them.  Sadly, when we realized her vide was sideways, it looked as if the astronauts had crashed right into the ground!  YIKES!  So, Australia., if you folks see what looks like a shuttle sticking up out of the ground… it probably is.

Michelle’s video looked like this… The trail of smoke started from the side and headed down toward the earth! YIKES!

Talk to me:  Have you ever witnessed a shuttle launch?  Have you ever heard the sonic boom it makes when it enters back into the atmosphere?  If cost were not a factor, would you ride on a private passenger space shuttle and go into space for a few days?

Calling Cadence: Left, Right, Left…

It might seem like I’m picking on my sister this week, but I promise, I have Michelle’s blessings to share these stories.  :)

Once, quite recently, actually, we were up watching television when for some reason, we had to go out and get something at the only store that was open that late: Walmart.  (UGH!)  From the time we left, Michelle started complaining that her feet hurt.  We couldn’t figure out why, except that she needs new work shoes, so she figured she had sore feet from wearing the old ones all day.

It was not until were in line paying for our purchase that Michelle looked down and turned about fifteen shades of red.  She started laughing so hard, she snorted.

“What is it?” I asked.

By now, she was laughing so hard she wasn’t even making sound and couldn’t form words.

I furrowed my brow.  “What?”

Finally, still laughing, she stepped back and pointed down.  Her shoes were on the wrong feet!  And the funniest part is, there was no alcohol involved!

Do I need to ask?  Have you ever put your shoes on the wrong feet after you were an adult and with no alcohol involved?  Do you think a photo of Michelle will end up on one of those “Oddities at Walmart” emails that get passed around every so often?

Shirt and Shoes Required (The Rest is Optional)

Once, my sister, Michelle and I were checking into a hotel in Pennsylvania on our way to see some of our band friends in concert.  We were supposed to meet the band for drinks when we got there.  The hotel was like little cabins and ours was in the band section.  After we checked in, we drove to our area, then started unloading the car.

But as we walked up to our cabin, a couple of the band members saw us and stopped to talk.  We talked for a while, then they told us where to meet everyone once we took our suitcases in.  But as we started to leave, Michelle, reached in her coat pocket for our key, and a pair of her underpants flew out and fell on the ground in front of everybody!

We were both mortified and our embarrassment was only amplified when the lead singer bent down and picked them up and asked, “What is this?”  Apparently, she had laundered the jacket before we left and somehow, her knickers ended up in the pocket!

Time to share:  Have you ever had an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction?  Have you ever had something weird happen when you did laundry?

But It Said to Push…

When my son was a baby, he was quite sick.  He was a preemie, and because his lungs weren’t fully developed, he got RSV when he was only a couple of months old and I nearly lost him.  After that, he had horrible bouts of asthma and croup and was hospitalized frequently.  When he was not in the hospital, I had to give him breathing treatments every two hours, and he had a daily dose of steroid to help prevent further complications.

As a result of all the steroid he took, Jeremy was a huge baby!  He wasn’t fat at all, but he was incredibly tall and a solid wall of muscle.  By the time he was two, he wore a tight size 4 and people often confused him for a much older child.  (In this funny photo where he fell asleep in my grandma’s chair, he’s barely one year old.  Can you see how tall his is, even though he’s folded up quite nicely?)

Anyway, once again, Uncle Charlie took me and my children to an expensive restaurant. At one point, Charlie had to go outside and talk to someone he knew.  However, while he was gone, something disagreed with Stefani and she started to get sick.  So I had to take both kids and run to the ladies’ room.

As you can imagine, Jeremy, who was about two and a half at the time, looked like he was 6 or 7.  As we approached the ladies’ room, a woman came out and started yelling at me for taking my son into a room meant for ladies.  Meanwhile, poor Stefani couldn’t contain herself any longer and she started to vomit right there in the corridor.  I tried to push by the nosy woman and get Stefani in the bathroom, but when I did, I lost sight of Jeremy.  I guess the nosy woman left to go complain about me, but the next thing I knew, there was a loud siren going off.

Yes, Jeremy had managed to push open the emergency exit door and run outside!  I had to leave Stefani to run after him and when I got back, the manager and the nosy lady were there scowling at the lot of us.  Talk about embarrassing!

So tell me: Would you ever stop a young mother from taking her male child into the ladies’ room?  Have you ever pushed an emergency exit when there was not an actual emergency?

Author Interview – R.S.A. Garcia

I recently posted a Call to Writers, asking those of you who write to allow me to interview you for a guest spot in my blog.  I was astounded by the response (and if any of you still want to participate, please contact me for details). I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted.  My friend and fellow-blogger, R.S.A. Garcia, had some very clever responses which I’m sure you will find as humorous as I did.  When you’re done reading the interview, please go on over to her blog and make sure you follow her for more charming stories.  And now, I present for your pleasure, R.S.A. Garcia…

*.*.*

ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

I’m R.S.A. Garcia and I have journeyed across an ocean of stars to reach you. For some time, your world has sheltered one of my citizens…oh, wait a moment…*shuffles papers*.

Sorry, got my speeches mixed up. Where were we? Oh! I’m a speculative fiction writer who obviously spends far too much time watching movies. I’ve been writing since I was a child and I just published my first book, a space opera mystery called Lex Talionis. In between, I’ve held the usual complement of unusual jobs writers end up at so they can both make a living and have time to write. I am owned by several dogs, only one of which belongs to me.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

My blog is at rsagarcia.com. You can find links there to all my social media. My Twitter handle is @rsagarcia and I look forward to running into you there. Try not to be creepy, okay?

3 .How many books have you written?

I’ve written eight other books which will NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY. I’m currently working on two others which might be let loose in the future. I recommend you cover your eyes when that happens.

RSA Garcia4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

My novel is available on Amazon, Kobo and Barnes and Noble, as well as at my publisher’s website Dragonwell Publishing. You can read my story ‘Douen Mother’ over at Abyss and Apex for free. I also have a couple of free stories up on my blog. Because that’s how much I love you, peeps.

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

I published with a small press, Dragonwell Publishing. In the Caribbean, if you have a ton of money and an idea for a textbook, you can get published. Otherwise, you have to do it through the UK or the US. I didn’t have the money for self-publishing, so I went a more traditional route, but with a smaller publisher who showed real care in making my book the best it could be, and who had better terms than a traditional publisher.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I was ten when I finished my first book of stories. One of the stories was about a goat afraid to cross the road. Scintillating stuff. When I was 14, a friend asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without thinking, I said a writer. I was surprised when I said it because even then I knew I would write speculative fiction, and at the time nobody from the Caribbean had published outside of contemporary fiction. But I guess my heart knew the truth, if not my mind. Of course, my mind is so rarely aware of anything I shouldn’t be surprised.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

The voices, the voices in my head…they won’t…shut…UP! *Preternatural wailing forms a wall of sound around you*

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

Seriously? That list would exhaust you and I’d get cramps typing it! I can say I have read and admired Phillip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Octavia E. Butler, William Goldman, Ed McBain, John Steinbeck, Katherine Kerr, Margaret Weis, Anne McCaffrey, Jack Vance, Carl Sagan, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, L. Ron Hubbard, Michael Crichton, Roald Dahl, Nalo Hopkinson and many, many more.

At the moment, I’m halfway through Stephen King’s Under the Dome, I’ve read the first third of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and I’ve started Frank Herbert’s Hellstrom’s Hive.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

Paperback from the library. A whole lot of choice for the best possible price. When I was growing up, I couldn’t afford to buy books at the rate I read. My mother would have been in the poorhouse in a month! As it is, the few books I pay for via Amazon threaten to land me there all the time.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I’ve tried them all, at least once. I’m adventurous like that. My first published story was a mix of first and third person, present tense. I do tend to write most often in third person, past tense, sometimes close, and sometimes omni. I believe an author should practice as many tools of their craft as possible, especially when it comes to difficult techniques like POV. You never know what story will come to you, and what tools you’ll need to have to do it justice. You may not be great at all, but you won’t know until you try.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I don’t consciously take breaks. But when I’m writing, I won’t read in the same genre. I don’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s work. I tend to read a lot of historical romances when the muse has taken over. They call that living vicariously, if you must know.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

Once upon a time I would have had a number that would make you green with envy. Now, I’m an old, surly author who gets really nit-picky about what she reads. I seldom read more than one book at a time, but I’m making exceptions these days as I tend to travel a lot for my job. I didn’t have a tablet until recently, so I had to pack light and that meant the heavier books sometimes got dropped mid-read. I seldom read more than three at a time though.

*.*.*

ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

I have two WIPs at the moment. One is the sequel to my currently published book and it’s called ‘Iacta Alea Est’ (The Die is Cast). The other is a high fantasy set in a matriarchal world where there are female warrior magicians because women control ‘real’ magic and are more powerful than men who control ‘illusion’. It’s called ‘The Nightward’ and is built on myths and legends from several different cultures, including my own Caribbean ancestry and African and East Indian influences.

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

Lex Talionis is a science fiction mystery, but its sub-genre would be space opera. Most space operas focus on guys on ships bouncing around the galaxy dealing with alien civilizations and occasionally getting the girl, which is awesome fun. I decided to mix it up a bit, so I wrote a space opera that focused on a young girl’s quest to find her past after she dies in a terrible attack and is brought back to life by an alien. She’s lost her memory, so we journey with her through strange worlds as we try to solve the mystery of who she is and why she was murdered.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

My last short story, ‘The Bois’, was inspired by a myth from Trinidad and Tobago. Papa Bois is a folklore figure who protects the forest from hunters and those who would hurt forest dwellers. He’s a guy who looks a lot like the god Pan. I wrote a story about a female cyborg sheriff (which I called a Tantie instead of a sheriff – a name for a woman of age and experience in my society), encountering an alien version near her colony on another planet.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

Lex Talionis is about a teenager, but it is most definitely an adult story. There is some graphic violence, for example, and sexual assault. It’s meant for all backgrounds and genders, but it can get quite dark.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

Just did, I think! You want more? Well here you go, kind ladies and sirs!

A battered young woman wakes from a coma in a space port hospital with no memories of her past. The only thing she remembers are two words: Lex Talionis—the Law of Revenge. To discover her identity, she must re-live the nightmares of her past, and face the only survivor of a terrible massacre that connects her with her abductors.

Hope that lit your britches on fire! Or maybe not, ’cause that would be painful.

*.*.*

ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

18. How often do you write?

I try to write at least five days a week. I’m a huge procrastinator. I like to put it off until everything is quiet and then write for hours. Problem is, I don’t live in a mansion with maids or housekeeping staff and I work a full-time job. Those hours never seem to show up. So I have to try and squeeze in a few words a day, five days a week, to keep moving forward, or I’ll hardly get anything done. But I figure even my job gives me the weekend, so I take a break then unless the story is flowing.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

I actually don’t do words or pages. I do lines. I usually get really guilty about taking time to write when I have so much to do and a family I want to hang out with so I tell myself, three solid sentences and you’re free to go. By the time I get those out, I can usually do more and I keep going of my own accord. Ends up being anything from 100 words to 1000 most days.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

My publisher had an editor who kicked my ass into shape, thank God. I can’t imagine sending a book into the world without an editor’s assistance.

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I write till I’m done or a satellite falls on me, whichever comes first. I don’t usually do chapters out of sequence, though I will write a scene out of order if I’m really feeling inspired. I do re-read as I go and make changes, usually when I’m feeling blocked. Editing can sometimes get the juices flowing again. When I’m done, I put it aside for a few months and then I go back over and over again editing and refining. Some stories are easier than others and just need a few drafts. Lex Talionis on the other hand…well let’s just say there are whole books of stuff I tossed into the trunk and locked away forever.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

The only muse I have is the sweet, sweet jingle of money.

Kidding. Kind of. Okay, short answer? Nope, no muse. Life in general inspires me. Getting outside and observing people, nature, society. And I love to read the news, science and tech news, current affairs, anything like that. Other people’s art inspires me too, whether it’s movies, books, dancing, paintings etc.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

Heh. Never thought to clock myself. I once wrote a manuscript in 30 days. Lex Talionis has existed as a dozen or more manuscripts over the course of ten years. So…between a month and ten years, I guess.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

Sometimes, on both questions. Most of the time, I’m good if I get three sentences or more. Limits freak me out if I don’t make them, and flagellating yourself like a medieval monk while writing tends to get in the way of finishing the manuscript. And it makes it really bloody and gross.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

I make them up. Or I run into a name in real life and I co-opt it. Either way, you won’t know which is which because I’M NOT TELLING!

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

Oh, you think I plan this? *Laughs hysterically*.

Pantser, I am. Plan, I do not!

You see I’m usually writing before I do my research and I just research as I go. I prefer to file away stuff in my head and use it when it becomes necessary. Makes the writing more organic and less ‘telling’ for me.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

I must have my desktop. I hate laptops, the keyboards aren’t large enough. Anything else I consider a crutch, so I avoid creating crutches. After all, I don’t want to have the perfect scene in my head and be unable to write it because I’m out of coffee.

Especially since I hate coffee. *Ducks the flying tomatoes*

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

I will write at some point when I get home from work. I will only stop myself if I’m not forcing the damn lines out in the first place. The forcing part happens more than I like to admit. Sort of like what happens if you don’t get enough bananas in your diet.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

Hell no. My writing gets neglected because of my real life. I wish I had more backbone. I’d stand up to real life and sock it in the jaw.

30.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

Sadly, I have less quirk in me than a straight-haired terrier. All I can think of is I used to write with pencil in notebooks before I graduated to computers. And I once stood on my head while singing Adele and typing a love scene with one hand.

*.*.*

Thank you  for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel

The Night the Full Moon Crashed into My House or Something Like That

Once, my sister, Michelle, (and my children) and I lived in Orlando, Florida.  My best friend Lora, who lives in Toronto, Canada, called and said she was going to a concert just outside of Boston, Massachusetts a couple of  days later, and she wanted us to join her.

Well, it was too late to get plane tickets at a decent price, so Michelle and I decided to drive.  We left my kids at my Grandma’s house (which added two hours to our journey), then kept going from there.   All told, we drove the twenty-one hours to Boston straight through, and got there the morning of the concert.  (We drank LOTS of caffeinated soda on the way, but with our singing and storytelling and game-playing in the car, we usually don’t actually mind such long road trips!)

After the show, we partied with the band, didn’t get much sleep, and left the next day to drive back home.  Now, with my Asperger’s Syndrome, it is impossible for me to sleep in a car, so on long trips, I usually do most of the driving.  Such was this trip.  Michelle also stayed awake to help make sure I stayed focused, so she, too, got little to no sleep during our adventure.  (Again, we drank lots of caffeine, sang, laughed and played games a lot to pass the time.)

We hit some bad weather, and our trip home took a little longer than we expected, so when we hit Orlando, we decided to just go home and pick up my children the next day. It was too late to call my Grandma, so I planned on calling her about getting the kids when I woke up.  We got to our house at roughly 2:30 AM on Saturday morning, we each went to our respective bedrooms, and we proceeded to pass out.  Neither of us set an alarm, as we figured we’d be up in the early afternoon.

When I woke up, the house was dark.  It was 6:30 in the evening!  I couldn’t believe I had slept sixteen hours!  Furthermore, I couldn’t believe that Michelle was still asleep!  I went to the kitchen and played the answering machine before I took a shower.  There was a message from my brother, Chris.  He told me that his grandfather died.

So I decided to call Chris and give him my condolences before the shower.  He answered the phone on the third ring.  “Hello?”  He sounded as if he’d been crying.  It was understandable.  I tried to talk to him, but he hurried me off the phone and said he’d have to call me later.  I thought it was a little rude, but then I dismissed it and took my shower.

When I got out of the bathroom, Michelle was still asleep.  So, I turned on the television and my computer and started to catch up on my email.  However, as I worked, a creepy feeling came over me.  Instead of the light outside getting darker with the sunset, it started getting brighter!  I suddenly had the unnatural fear that the full moon was coming closer to earth and would soon be crashing into my house!

The windows in my room were blacked out (because I like to sleep in a cave without even the light from my alarm clock to illuminate things), so admittedly, even in the middle of day, I could only see a thin line of sun pouring in through the edges of the window.  But I started feeling chills as if it were the end of the world and everybody forgot to tell me.

So I ran to Michelle’s room and woke her.  It was nearly 8:00 by then.  And after I told her all that had happened, she panicked, too, until we finally thought to look at the date and time on the computer.  Yes, you probably already guessed it…  It was not 6:30 PM on Saturday night when I woke up.  It was 6:30 AM on Sunday morning!  I had slept twenty-eight hours in a row!  (And my sister slept an hour and a half longer than that!)  No wonder Chris was so rude to me when I called!  Even the times I’ve had mono, I’ve never slept that long!

So tell me: Have you ever feared you slept through the Apocalypse?  Have you ever felt the planets came unaligned?  Have you ever called someone at an inappropriate hour and then had them give you a rude greeting?  Would you have driven from Florida to Massachusetts without stopping for the night?  What’s the longest you’ve ever slept?