This Post Doesn’t Suck

Well, I thought I was over it, but apparently my attention-deficit dyslexia is back. When I first started misreading words almost ten years ago, I figured I’d be doomed to unintentionally discover psychological vomit, lap-dancing, kiss-ass guitars, fanfarts, and killer raisins for the rest of my life.

Maybe I got used to my reading glasses, or maybe my brain finally got its shit together; but my “Wait, WHAT?” moments gradually diminished, and it’s been quite a while since I misread anything. Until last week.

I was skimming an ad for e-books when my gaze snagged on a description that began, “In this absorbing sex bot

Wait, WHAT?!?

Some of the sci-fi books I read are a little risqué, and this wasn’t the first time I’d encountered the concept of sex bots. So I eagerly re-read *ahem*… that is to say, I ‘disapprovingly revisited’… the titillating offending text. Much to my disappointment relief, I had mentally transposed the first two letters of the words. In fact, it was a ‘box set’, not a ‘sex bot’. Damn.

(I meant ‘whew’. Honest.)

But since my mind was already in the gutter, it decided to wallow around a bit. I began to wonder: Why don’t we have sex bots?

New technology frequently copies science fiction. After all, flip phones were basically Star Trek communicators; and it wasn’t too long ago that the X-Prize was awarded for a Star Trek medical tricorder. So why not sex bots?

But communicators and tricorders were pretty clearly conceptualized on the show, so maybe the scope of the sex-bot project is too vague. Or maybe the potential consumers of that technology are justifiably skittish after reading about encounters with repurposed appliances like vacuum cleaners, which necessitated awkward explanations in the emergency room.

I don’t know the true reason; but I’ll leave you with a joke that landed in my email this week and made me laugh uproariously. (Thanks, Ethel!)

Hope you all have a week that doesn’t suck… or does; whichever you prefer. I won’t judge…

So, This Happened:

Yes, this really happened. I have no idea why my brain thought it needed to throw out those two particular words this week. I don’t know anyone named Culpepper, and I can’t even remember when I last heard or read the name. I’ve never cooked brisket, or considered cooking brisket; in fact I don’t think I’ve ever eaten brisket.

But I guess if there’s a character named Culpepper in my next book who likes brisket, you’ll know why.

Please tell me I’m not the only one with a brain that wakes me by spewing random words…

Crimes Against Art

This week I’m rejoining my weekly painting group after hiding out from COVID for over a year and half.  It feels weird (and a bit scary) to be in a group again; although we’re all fully vaccinated and we’ll wear masks and stay distanced in the studio.

But, scarier still… do I even remember how to hold a paintbrush?  More to the point, should I be allowed anywhere near an innocent canvas?  I’ve committed a few crimes against art in the past, so art has good reason to be wary of me.  But then again, I’ve never really understood what constitutes Good Art, either.

I’m embarrassed to admit I took Art History (among other things) for four long years in university.  Apparently those courses were worthless, because I can’t see any artistic value in a canvas that looks as though a house-painter cleaned a used roller on it.  But the National Gallery of Canada snaps those puppies up for a cool 1.8 million apiece, and their most convincing argument that it’s Good Art is a snooty, “Well, obviously you can’t grasp the concept.”  Very true.  I can’t. But there must be something to it, because those two $1.8 million investments are now valued at over $100 million combined.

So how do I know whether I’m creating Good Art or birthing an art-monster that shouldn’t be allowed to live?  After in-depth study (and perhaps a teeny bit of hyperbole) based on the National Gallery’s purchases, I’ve come up with a foolproof formula for determining the Value of Art:  

Value Of Art = (Bullshit + Snootiness2) × Wealth of Investor × Ego of Investor

It’s important to note that bullshit comes first in the formula, and it has to be linked very early with the all-important snootiness or the whole endeavor fails.  That’s why there are millions of brilliant artists, but only a few who make seven-figure sales to the National Gallery.

If they want to hit that million-dollar price point, artists should throw around words like ‘luminous’, ‘weighty’, and ‘atmospheric’, add arcane phrases like ‘perceptualizing the human condition’, and then lay on the all-important snootiness:  “Of course, most people won’t grasp the nuanced complexity of this work.”  And they need to keep repeating that stuff, loud and proud.  Then all it takes is some rich investor eager to prove they’re more cultured than ‘most people’, and an art sensation is born.

Or maybe I’m just boorish and cynical.  (Okay, that’s not a ‘maybe’.)

But I am one hell of a bullshitter.  So… do you know any rich art investors with fragile egos?  If so, send them my way; ’cause every Friday afternoon I’ll be creating paintings that have a whole shitload of nuanced complexity.  Positively weighty, in fact.  I dunno about ‘luminous’, but with all my bullshit flying around, it’s sure to be ‘atmospheric’. Just don’t inhale too deeply…

Writing update:  You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any progress on Book 17 yet.  Here’s why:  I’m concentrating on the screenplay for Book 1: Never Say Spy.  And it’s almost finished, woohoo! So if you know anybody in, or even loosely connected to, a movie production company, I hope you’ll put in a good word for me! (Or better yet, introduce me with an enthusiastic pitch for the screenplay. Hey, I can dream, right?)

“You Seem Like Such A Nice Person…”

The other day I was talking to an acquaintance who mentioned that he was almost finished my latest book (Spy In The Sky).  He said he was enjoying it just like he had the previous ones; but then he added, “You always seem like such a nice person, and then I’m reading your books with all that sex and violence…”  He trailed off.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

I guess it’s good to be seen as a nice person; although ‘you seem like a nice person’ is a very different statement than ‘you are a nice person’.  But that unfinished sentence sounded a lot like it might be completed by, “…and then I realized you’re actually just a scary pervert, gotta-go-goodbye-don’t-call-me!” 

Come to think of it, he didn’t stick around long after saying that, either.  Hmmm.

I generally keep a tight rein on my dirty mind and potty mouth when I’m in public because I don’t like to upset people unnecessarily.  But then new acquaintances think that’s what I’m really like; and nothing could be further from the truth. 

I mean, I like to think I am basically a nice person:  I try to be kind and patient, I offer a helping hand and a listening ear wherever needed, I donate and volunteer, and I’ve never once eaten a kitten or puppy for breakfast.  Or any other meal (or snack).

But when the wrench slips off the bolt and my knuckles hit solid steel at high velocity, nobody would ever call me ‘nice’.  ‘Shockingly vulgar and potentially violent’, maybe.

So that’s my dilemma:  Is it better to horrify and repel new acquaintances by letting it all hang out right off the bat?  (That’s ‘letting it hang out’ in the linguistic sense, not the physical – I do have some boundaries.)  Or should I lull people into a false sense of security, only to shock the shit out of them later?

I’ll let the philosophers decide…

Update: I’ve known this acquaintance for a while, and he has an offbeat sense of humour. He was teasing, and I thought the whole thing was funny. I meant this post to be funny, too; but realized afterward that it might be misconstrued. I hope nobody was upset; and if so, I’m very sorry. I should have mentioned that I was chuckling while I wrote this! 🙂

On The Hot Seat

I’ve done some adventurous things in my life, but as a general rule I play it safe(ish.)  So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that I’ve been dicing with death (or at least a painful personal injury) for the past week.

The malevolent heat bubble that pushed our temperatures up to 42C/107F has finally moved on and the weather has been lovely since; so in the evenings I’ve been sitting outside.  Our deck chairs are cheap and light, and we leave them hooked over the edge of the deck to prevent them from playing Smash-Up Derby whenever the wind picks up.  So every evening I’ve been unhooking a chair, dragging it over to my favourite spot, and enjoying a few peaceful minutes.

No danger in that, right?

Riiiight.

While I’ve been sitting there, I’ve noticed some paper wasps buzzing around the other chair.  “Hmmm,” I’ve thought each time.  “They must be starting a nest under that other chair.  Lucky I grabbed this one.  I should probably do something about that nest…”  Then I finish my drink and go inside and forget the whole thing until next time.

So yesterday I finally decided to check and see if I needed to deal with a nest.  Paper wasps are relatively docile, but they’re still wasps; so I used appropriate caution.  I got up from my chair, crept over to the other chair where they were hovering, and gingerly eased it over to look beneath.

No nest.

Whew, that was a relief.

I went back and sat down.  But the wasps kept hanging around.  Flying under that other chair and circling.  And at last realization dawned:  The chairs normally sit side by side.  They were looking for their nest.  It wasn’t under the other chair.  Ergo…

Slowly and with dread, I got up again and carefully tipped my chair over.

Yep, there was a wasp nest right under the seat, inches away from where my leg (and some other important parts of my anatomy) had been.  And all week I’d been dragging that chair around, sitting down, shifting, getting up and strolling around; all but waving my arms and yelling, “I’m a threat, sting me!”  I can still hardly believe they didn’t.

So now I’m torn.  After they tolerated my obnoxious presence in peace for a week, it seems rude and ungrateful to smash their home and slaughter them all.  But (in a stellar example of applying safety measures after the danger is past) I don’t want to spend another second on, or even near, the hot seat.

I can’t quite bring myself to wipe them out, though. So I guess I’ll be uneasily sharing the deck with them for the rest of the summer. At least I know they’re docile.

Right…?

Critters vs. Me

So, it finally happened:  The local critters have ganged up on me.

Last week I had rolled our garbage carts out to the curb and retreated to the house to wash my hands and grab my morning cup of tea to enjoy on our front porch.  About fifteen minutes later, I heard the distinctive sound of a garbage cart being rolled over asphalt. And we don’t have neighbours who live close enough to interfere with our garbage carts.

I craned my neck.  Sure enough, a big black bear was batting our kitchen waste cart around, about a hundred yards away.

I jumped up and yelled, “HEY BEAR!  GET LOST!”

The bear glanced up and a thought-bubble appeared above its head:  “Why is that annoying little creature disturbing my breakfast-to-be?

Since my primary goal is to not die of my own stupidity, I didn’t press the point in person.  Instead I got into my car and drove to the front gate, where I bravely honked the horn from behind our 8-foot deer fence.  The bear ambled off into the forest, and after a respectful pause I scooted out to retrieve our garbage cart (fortunately bear-proof) and replace it at the curb.  But I’m pretty sure the bear was the master of that situation.

The next marauding critters were robins.  The cheap plastic mesh we used to protect our strawberries two years ago has rotted away, so we’re constructing a new permanent enclosure with chicken wire.  But we’re behind schedule, so the ripening berries are unprotected.  I’ll say no more; and simply refer you to my post from two years ago:  https://blog.dianehenders.com/2019/06/12/flipped-off-by-the-bird/.  It’s an exact repeat.

I wasn’t surprised by the behaviour of the bear and the birds, but the crowning insult of my week was being bested by a bunny.

After discovering that some of our newly-emerged beans and sunflowers had been nipped off by bunny teeth, I deployed a rabbit fence around the garden.  I was short on time so I shoved the posts into the ground by hand and strung a two-foot-high barrier of chicken wire between them.  It was wimpy, but I figured it was strong enough to stop a not-too-determined rabbit.

And it was.  No more rabbit problems.

But the bunnies got the last laugh:  A couple of days ago I was striding across the garden with my attention elsewhere and my gaze fixed on the horizon.  Moments later I was doing a graceful slow-motion faceplant when the damn-near-invisible rabbit fence tackled me around the knees.

On the bright side, I was lucky my makeshift posts weren’t solidly rooted. I easily broke my fall with my hands in the soft earth, and the only injury was to my dignity. Plus, I made an important discovery at the same time.

Science tells us that rabbits don’t vocalize, except for a truly horrifying scream when they’re attacked.  Well, science is wrong.

’Cause I distinctly heard a rabbit laughing.

Anybody else have run-ins with rabbits? Or do things like that only happen to me?

Book News: Book 16 is available in paperback now! If you’re interested, purchasing links are available on my Books page. And Book 17 is swirling around in my brain. No formal plotting yet, but it’s slowly taking shape. Stay tuned…

Hamster-Brain

Well, it’s that time of the book cycle again:  The days after releasing a book when the busy hamster that powers my brain is still churning his little legs frantically, but there’s a big sadistic hand preventing the hamster-wheel from turning. 

My poor brain-hamster dashes up the side of the unmoving wheel only to plop unceremoniously to the bottom and start all over again, panting and wheezing. I wish the stupid little rodent would just give up and stagger over to curl up in the shavings for a snooze.

But, no.  During the day I rocket from one task to the next, trying to catch up on all the things I left undone during the final publishing push.  I’m tired and ready to sleep by the end of the day; but unfortunately, hamsters are nocturnal. 

As soon as my body gets horizontal, the hamster-wheel in my head accelerates to warp-speed, spitting out to-do lists and urgent reminders of upcoming deadlines both real and imagined.  (I’m pretty sure that’s what’s been causing the squeaking noise I hear in my head at night.  Or possibly I have bats in my belfry.)

But Book 16 should be released in paperback sometime in the next week or so, and I’ll start to recover from “hamster-brain”. And my usual spring gardening frenzy should ease off in a couple of weeks, too. Then I’ll take some time to rest and let my starved brain gorge on some new reading before I start plotting Book 17.

Which means… I NEED BOOKS! 

Any suggestions? My ideal binge-read would be a thriller series with humour in it, but I’ll read just about any fiction if the characters are likeable and it gives me a chuckle.  (And no killing off the good guys!) Thrillers, mysteries, cozies, sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, mashups of any of the above; you name it, I’ll read it.  I’m not big on horror, mostly because “funny” and “horror” rarely overlap. Romance, women’s fiction, and chick lit aren’t really my thing, either; but I do occasionally read in those genres.

So if there’s a book (or better still, a series) you love, please mention it in the comments below. I’d appreciate any recommendations you can offer!  (Book recommendations and/or advice on how to wean my brain-hamster off its addiction to exercise.)  😉

Only In Canada…

Okay, I’m officially old. When I titled this post, I was thinking back to this Red Rose Tea advertisement:

I wasn’t particularly surprised to find it on YouTube because after all, you can find pretty much everything on YouTube. But then I looked at the date: 1977.

Holy shit, that was 44 years ago. And I still remember it. Now that’s effective marketing.

But maybe it only worked so well because I was so young and impressionable when I first saw it. (Not that claiming to be ‘young’ in 1977 makes me look anywhere near youthful now. But considering that I was actually a teenager in 1977, at this stage I’d be happy to be considered ‘middle-aged’.)

Anyhow, the “Only in Canada” slogan may not have the commercial snap it once did, but it’s still the first phrase that came to mind when I read this news headline: Band of beavers chew through B.C. town’s fibre cables.

I’ve always known beavers were resourceful critters, but now that they’ve discovered the superior dam-reinforcing characteristics of fibre-optic cable, we might be in trouble. If I suddenly go silent on the internet, you’ll know the beavers are mounting a coup to take control of the country. Send ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’… and lots of fibre-optic cable! (And I just realized that song came out in 1978. Okay, fine. So I’m old.)

Fortunately we don’t have any marauding beavers around here (yet), so here are a few garden photos to brighten up this post:

This little rhododendron, ‘Shrimp Girl’, is so covered with blooms you can barely see the leaves.
‘Golden Comet’ – a beautifully scented deciduous azalea
The orange bells of Rhododendron ‘Medusa’ are a favourite of our hummingbirds.
The blooms of Rhododendron ‘Taurus’ are gigantic – each of the florets in these clusters are a couple of inches across.

Happy Spring, everyone!

All e-book versions of Book 16: SPY IN THE SKY are now released, woohoo! Click here for purchasing links. The paperback edition should be available in a couple of weeks.

The Big Drop

Guess what I did last week?

If you guessed ‘skydiving’, you’re right… and oh-so-wrong.

Yes, I got trussed into a tandem skydiving harness by Gord from Skydive Vancouver Island. But that’s as far as it went; although I did have a moment of panic when he finished tightening the harness and said, “So, we’ll be taking you up now?”

He took one look at my expression and burst out laughing as I yelped, “No!”

Why did I get into the harness if I wasn’t going to jump, you ask? (Okay, maybe you didn’t ask; but I’m going to tell you anyway.) Because… *drumroll* …I was doing the cover art for Book 16, which will be available for pre-order in only a few short days, hooray! The only ‘drop’ was the impending drop of the book.

Digression: I’m not sure why everybody uses ‘drop’ when referring to the release of movies or music or books these days, but here we are. I was tempted to title this post ‘The Long Drop’, but since ‘long drop’ is Aussie slang for a hole-in-the-ground toilet, I refrained. (Barely.)

Anyhow, in SPY IN THE SKY, Aydan unwillingly goes skydiving. I had a lot of fun writing those scenes, but I have to admit that my chief enjoyment came from the fact that I didn’t actually have to experience it. I’ve done most of the stunts Aydan tries in my books, but I draw the line at skydiving.

Gord told me the attachment points on the harness will hold a combined weight of 1500 pounds, and statistics say skydiving is actually safer than the drive to the airport. If I could completely, 100%, trust that the parachute would open and I’d stay attached to my instructor, I’d probably give it a try. But I have serious trust issues, so I don’t think I’ll ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane at any altitude greater than two feet.

I’m pretty sure my depiction of the experience is close, though, because Gord was kind enough to give me a crash course (sorry, couldn’t resist) in what it’s like to skydive. Many thanks to Gord and Allison for the generous donation of their time and expertise!

Would you ever skydive? Have you? Inquiring minds want to know!

To be released May 7, 2021:

When secret agent Aydan Kelly investigates a disgraced CIA agent, he insists he was only following orders.  Four days later he mysteriously dies while in custody.

Aydan suspects that a CIA director committed murder to hide his profitable connection with an international arms dealer.  As she digs deeper, Aydan knows she’s on the right track when assassins start trying to kill her.  But when the arms dealer deposits twenty million dollars in her bank account, suspicion veers toward Aydan.

With only three days left before she’s jailed for treason, Aydan fights to stay alive, capture the elusive arms dealer, and clear her name.

Want to get an email with purchasing links when pre-orders are available and when the book is officially released? Click here to sign up for my New Book Notification list.

Silver Tea and Senior Moments

My grandmother (Dad’s mother) was a poised and gracious woman. I never heard her raise her voice; never saw her make any movement that was rushed or awkward. She was unfailingly kind and polite, with a gentle sense of humour. When she finally had to enter a care home after a devastating stroke, the staff affectionately nicknamed her “Queen Bea”. It suited her perfectly.

One of her little quirks has stayed with me all my life: Her preference for ‘silver tea’.

You won’t find silver tea in any internet search, because there’s no such thing. Maybe Grandma developed her taste for it during the war(s) or the Depression years when everything was either rationed or beyond their budget, or maybe it was just her preference; but its recipe was simple: A cup of hot water.

When offered coffee or tea, she’d smile and respond with her usual humorous twinkle: “I’ll just have silver tea, thank you.” And she’d pour herself a cup of hot water from the kettle. It became one of our family quips, and to this day I often drink silver tea when I don’t feel like brewing actual tea.

But the other day I inadvertently made ‘real’ silver tea. I didn’t think that was possible, since it doesn’t actually exist; but I managed it. I always have several tea infusers on the go, and I usually get two steepings from each. I’d brewed a cup of pumpkin pie rooibos in the morning, and decided to go for Round Two in the afternoon. I grabbed the infuser, dropped it into my mug, and poured boiling water over it. A few minutes later I checked on it, only to find no pleasant spicy aroma at all.

Yep, I’d accidentally grabbed an empty infuser. I wonder if I can market that as “Steeped Silver Tea”?

Normally I’d worry that I was showing early signs of ‘senior moments’ (and yes, I’m flattering myself by pretending I’m much too young for that). But since I was in the final throes of finishing Book 16, I wasn’t too concerned. After a decade of writing novels, I’ve come to accept that I simply don’t have enough brainpower to immerse myself in writing the final chapters of a book and stay on top of all the details of daily life.

Which leads me to my big announcement for this week: The draft of Book 16 is DONE, woohoo! It’s already been passed by my first speedy beta reader, and we have a title: Spy In The Sky. I’m hard at work on a blurb and cover art, and hopefully pre-orders will be available in a couple of weeks.

And soon (with any luck) my wrung-out brain will return to normal and I’ll drink silver tea by choice instead of by accident.

What’s your favourite cup of tea?

Book 16 update: The draft is done, and beta reading and final edits are speeding along. Then it’ll be into proofreading and production. Stay tuned for a cover reveal and release date!

(Want to get an email when Spy In The Sky is available? Click here to join my New Book Notification list.)