Monday, April 30, 2012

A Fair Weather Kitty

My human mom calls me a fair weather kitty. I don't know what that means, but if it means I like going outside when it's warm and sunny, then I guess she's right. This time.

Take yesterday. It was wonderful. I spent most of the day outdoors. I went calling on my neighbor, Blackie, but he was in a time out and couldn't come outside. I chased some squirrels and then got serious about finding skinks. I love playing with them. They come apart.

Look closely at the top picture. That's not a twig but a skink that came apart. I brought it home to my humans and dropped it on the doormat. I played with it for a long time, well long in kitty time, until we both got bored. I took a break, lay down and watched the skink. It didn't move for the longest time. Then, I looked up and it was gone.

Where did it go? Did it sneak away between the boards? Did it run along the wall and disappear down the steps? I wanted to play with it again, but I couldn't find it. Maybe it will come back later this week. Maybe its tail will grow back.

What about today? I don't like today. It's cold and drippy. I don't like drippy because my fur gets wet and I have to shake the water off like a dog. I don't want to behave like a dog, but...

Prudence won out today, so I decided to lay up in my little hooch. It's so cozy and so comfortable. On gray days it's purrfect. I was catnapping so nicely earlier today, when my human mom thought I looked cute. Out came that nasty thing that makes bright light. You can see, I gave her the hairy eyeball for waking me up. If she doesn't let me sleep on her lap tonight, I'll get even. I'll run around the house at four in the morning and wake her up. Meh.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Predator or Prey

Earlier this week I went to my friend's book launch. As in any relatively small community, I know most of the readers who turn out to support local writers. When I walked into the meeting room, one friend pointed to my sweatshirt and laughed. I wore my favorite book shirt: Careful, or you'll end up in my novel. My friend asked if she could be in my novel. I told her I was writing a tongue-in-cheek novel about a female serial killer. I then asked if she wanted to be predator or prey. She said, "Let me think about it."

After the book talk, Q&A and book signing, my friend walked up and said, "Both. I want to be both predator and prey."

Now that was a new answer. Both, huh? I told her I'd think about it. And think about it I have. I can make my friend a killer who the main character eventually realizes has to die. Maybe the main character has a god complex. Maybe she's a vigilante. Maybe she's just evil. Time will tell.

I can tell you it was a challenge to find a plot twist where my friend can kill someone and then be killed herself. I woke up at four yesterday morning and realized just how to do it. Now, I have to write that chapter. I won't give anything away but it involves one little old lady, one bigger less-old lady and the main character. Maybe my friend will recognize her idea. Maybe not. I'll have fun writing the scene no matter what.

And Kay, you don't have to worry about me being dangerous. I'm not, but my main character is very, very dangerous. Thank you for a wonderful suggestion.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: The Taste by Alan Orloff

Okay, so cannibalism isn't for every reader. I get that. I wasn't sure I wanted to read Alan Orloff's The Taste, but once I got past the fourth page, I was hooked.

Jake Wheeler recently lost his mother. In order to connect with her family in West Virginia, he travels to the small town of Dark Springs. It doesn't take long for Jake to be told the family's secret: they eat dead people. At first, Jake is repulsed by the news until he learns his mother secretly fed him human flesh his entire life. Between inner-clan battles the likes of which most haven't seen since the Hatfields and the McCoys, Jake's pacifist family runs afoul of a renegade group which doesn't want to wait until people die to "harvest" the flesh. The group wants to hunt its supper.

Jake finds himself at the top of the mad leader's hit list. As he struggles for survival, he struggles against himself. He doesn't want to believe he's a cannibal, but he is.

Some reviewers liken The Taste to horror books by Peter Straub,Dean Koontz or Stephen King. I think it's much closer to Thomas Tryon's Harvest Home.

The Taste is available from Amazon in Kindle format only.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Incorrigible Thieves

Writers are incorrigible thieves. We steal every chance we get.

Let me explain what I don't mean. I don't mean that we plagiarize. Some do, but reputable writers don't do that. It's a writer's deadly sin. And it's illegal. And it's lazy.

One way writers become incorrigible thieves is that we gather what we call "material" wherever we are. What's material? It's something that sparks a creative thought we capture to use sometime in the future. It can be the way a man walks through a crowd. It can be a child puzzling over that keeps air in a balloon. It can be  half a sentence overheard in line at Starbucks or at the grocery. Material for a writer is everywhere. Sometimes we are receptive. Sometimes we are incredibly dense, but when we are in our receptive mode, watch out. Anything we see or hear is fair game.

Last week I nipped out to a local shop that sells decent coffee. I needed to get away from my desk for an hour. I needed to turn off my brain and let it rest. I needed to leave my keyboard behind.

Luckily for me, I had a small notebook in my purse, along with a pen. Conversations bubbling around the cafe were too interesting to ignore. So I shamelessly eavesdropped. I heard great phrases I will use with a minor character in Max 2 to give him more flesh. I saw a colorful combination on a tyke who had obviously dressed herself that day. I gave the mother credit for letting the little girl create her own look and wear it proudly in public.

I overheard half an argument. From the half I heard, the person on the other end of the cell phone wasn't in a kind mood. Many bad words used in creative ways. Hmm, I can use these. Into the notebook they went.

If you see me sitting quietly, real book in hand, notebook and pen at the ready, beware. I could easily be stealing your words, your look or just the way you smell. You'll never recognize yourself in a final work, but I will be forever grateful for your inspiration. Thank you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Sociopath Next Door: Book Review

Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door explains in common language why you think that creepy guy who lives next door may be a sociopath.

We use the terms sociopath and psychopath interchangeably, although Dr. Stout does point out an ongoing medical community discussion about one being the product of upbringing (sociopath) and the other being the product of heredity (nature). She doesn't dwell on the differences but asks the reader to use sociopath as the term for both. She is quick to point out that not all sociopaths are serial killers. In fact, her statistics of one in twenty-five Americans is a sociopath leads to that conclusion, since one in twenty-five Americans is not a serial killer.

She points out that many, if not most, sociopaths are "ice people," those who have no emotion. That is not to say these people do not display emotions, but they are not true. They are faked to make people feel sorry for them, trust them and want to help them. She cites behavior from a highly successful businessman who had no qualms about stealing from his friends and family, all in the guise of helping them. Think Bernard Madoff. Madoff wasn't upset that he'd run a Ponzi scheme that bilked his friends out of their life savings. He was upset about getting caught and losing everything.

Dr. Stout writes that sociopaths lack a conscience. No matter how they look like they care, they care about themselves and no one else. They will lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and, occasionally, murder those who get in their way. Some have extremely high IQs; others have normal intelligence. Some manipulate others to get something they want; others do so to control their subjects. By identifying characteristics of those who lack a conscience, Dr. Stout guides the reader in how to protect herself from these predators.

We probably all have met sociopaths in our lives. They don't "sit right" with us. They don't treat us as we want to be treated, but they can be so charming that we have difficulty breaking their hold on us. They aren't all sexual predators or child molesters, or other type of abhorrent criminal. We work for them. We live next door to them. If we learn who they are and why they behave as they do, we can keep them at length. Rhett Butler aside, the last thing any of us wants to do is get involved with someone who doesn't give a damn.

Worth a careful read if you want to know more about people whose behavior "creeps you out."