Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dead Trees and Flint

Fiorella is obsessed with dead trees and flint.

She never realized how many dead trees there are just standing around until she and Husband cut their own firewood. Now the trees stand out like sore thumbs everywhere she looks. How she longs for a pick-up truck so she and Husband can stop by the roadside late at night and saw down some of those trees, or pick up those broken branches waiting to be hauled away to a landfill. She just cannot stand the waste.

Fio also cannot stand to see flint wasted. She has a whole shelf of pieces she found on her driveway. And just last week, she pulled two really nice pieces out of the gravel fill at HEB. Today she discovered about six flints in the gravel fill at her father's nursing home.

Flint and dead wood. Together, they make fire, and fire makes the universe.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Electronics II

Fiorella considers Twitter to be a fad that will pass as quickly as the hula hoop.

But then, Fiorella had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the electronic age. In olden days, she would have been one of those refusing to give up papyrus in favor of this newfangled stuff called paper.

Besides, Fio's prognostication skills are nil. She thought laptops would be here today, gone tomorrow. Now she's joined to hers by an umbilical.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Electronics I

Years ago, Husband told Fio that for his birthday he wanted either a three-D chess set or one of those gimmicky new electronic devices called a computer.

Fio decided the chess set would be more practical and immediately hied herself over to Frisco Electronics. Apparently a lot of other people thought the same way because the store was out of chess sets and she had to settled for the computer. She opened the box when she got to the car because the little Sinclair was so light that she was afraid it wasn't there.

Husband took to the computer like glue, and has never unstuck since. A good thing too, because his computer skills put him ahead at his job.

That was thirty years ago, and Fio hasn't heard anything about three-D chess sets since.

telephone--an ancient communication device used by your grandparents and other prehistoric populations.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Diet Write

The oddest thing happened yesterday--Fio forgot to eat.

Yes, our Fiorella, who's never been known to skip a meal, was on a writing tear, skipped lunch entirely, and barely came up for air for supper. Will wonders never cease.

If this continues, she might not get just the literary career started, but actually slim down to the weight she's been claiming to be all these years.

I wonder if it would also work for age.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flyin' High

Fiorella's been all over the map the past couple of weeks, the emotional map, that is. She's been up and down and all over town--depression, sorrow, anger, elation.

Fio, of course, prefers elation. In fact, right now she's high as a kite. Yes! A short story published in New Love Stories Magazine, making the finals of the San Antonio RWA contest (with VERY kind comments by the judges), and revving up to submit her novella to Harlequin's Nocturne Bites series. Plus, she is going to be part of a poetry presentation at the San Gabriel Writers' League next month.

Yes, Fiorella is in fine fettle, whatever that is. Pray her balloon stays aloft a while.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


How did we ever exist without Kleenexes, toilet paper, and paper towels?

How did we ever exist without center turn lanes and double left-turn lanes?

How did we ever exist without small-sized supermarket carts?

How did we ever exist without cell phones?

How did I ever exist without Fiorella?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Defense of "Was"

Fiorella is tired of hearing people say the use of was makes a sentence passive.

"Fiorella WAS charming, as usual" is not in passive voice.

Passive voice occurs when the actor is expressed in a prepositional phrase beginning with "by," e.g., "This blog was written by Fiorella Plum." It is still considered passive voice if the actor is unknown and thus the prepositional phrase is omitted, e.g., "I was framed!" (In linguistic terms, be-en is inserted before the main verb, the tense of the be is determined by what precedes it, and en signals that the main verb should become a past participle.)

Passive voice has gotten a bad rap. There is nothing wrong with using it. Stylistically, active voice ("Somebody framed me!) is preferred, but that depends on the situation.

I think what people are trying to say when they complain about overuse of was is that they are looking for more action verbs. But it's hard to avoid using was-- "to be" in all of its forms (be, am, is, are, WAS, were, been) is the most prevalent verb in the English language. Because it joins nominals to other nominals or to adjectives, it is called the "copula." Too many copulas in a row can make for dull reading and should be avoided: "She was at the party. Everyone's mood was high. The moon was big and yellow. Her heart was in her throat." But it's virtually impossible to communicate effectively in English without using a form of "to be." It gives a definitive viewpoint. In other languages, the construction is called an equational sentence.

What else can I say? I can't believe I've spent half an hour writing about was. Oh well, as what's-his-name said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . ."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Generational Divide

Every mother hopes her daughter will do her one better, and these are some of the things in which my mother outdid her mother:

1) She attended and graduated from college
2) She held down paying jobs at various times.
3) She personally revived our church's youth group with cookies, Kool-Aid, organization, and direction.
4) She and my father owned their own home.
5) She stayed on good terms with her relatives her whole life.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lights Out!

Husband leaves on the oven lights, the light over the sink, the light over the stove, and the light over the island. He leaves on the lights under the kitchen cabinets and the workroom cabinets. He doesn't turn off the garage light. In his study, he keeps a desk lamp and a standing lamp burning in perpetuity. I can always tell if he has been up at night because when I go downstairs the next morning, every light in the house is turned on.

And he gets after me for wasting money by setting the AC a degree or two lower!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lil Red

I've often thought that the story of Little Red Ridinghood is an analogy to the human condition. Like her "grandmother," we are all wild creatures beneath our clothes.

Our clothes are the cultural roles we take on, "mother" being one of them. We all know what a mother's roles is: kind, loving, supportive, etc. But I don't think any of us can escape the fact that beneath the stereotype, which most of us try our darndest to fulfill, we are ourselves, our naked, feral, savage selves. Yes, darling children, I carry anger, spite, even malice, within me.

I must tell you that when I proposed this theory to a psychologist I was seeing at the time, she gave me a look of absolute horror and set up several more sessions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I think we should all try to leave the world a little better for our having been here, because so many people seem to be leaving it a lot worse.
Speaking of people with one foot in the grave, Hugh Hefner's habit of wearing comfy clothes appeals to Fio, although she suspects his trademark pajamas are accommodating a colostomy bag. And that those three vacant-eyed bimbos are closet RNs.
I look in the glass at a face of a thousand wrinkles. Note to self: contribute magnifying mirror to Goodwill.
I wouldn't mind getting older if it would also entail getting stronger, more agile, and better looking.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I was born into a warm nest of first cousins, second cousins, aunts, uncles, great aunts and great uncles. Now, only my father remains of the generation above me. And today, the first of my generation has fallen.

John Donne said it best: "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." You were part of my life, Sheila, and I grieve for both of us.

I dedicate this eternal space
To Sheila Louise Button Pace,
Died March 18, 2009--
Rest in peace, Cousin Mine.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I don't think I've posted this poem before, but if I have, it bears repeating. FP

I stumble, I falter, I fall
Before the race is done;
My heart, my joy, my life is in
The glory of the run.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Blow the horns and pound the drum!
Fio's time at last has come!

Yes, a story that she wrote a year a ago has been published in the March/April edition of New Love Stories Magazine. It's called "For the Love of Layla" and is about a young college teacher reconnecting with a guy who had a crush on her in high school. (The author is listed as "Eileen Nicholas," but you know who that really is.)

With memories of the sleazy romance magazines of years ago, Fio was a little nervous about what she had signed up for, but NLS seems perfectly respectable. Looks more like an RWA (Romance Writers of America) publication than anything else. Whew!

And Fio was happy with the accompanying $300 check too. May this be the first of many publications to come--novels next time, of course, with bigger paychecks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hide Your Face!

Fiorella was born to be a hack writer. Just give her an assignment and wordage requirements and she'll fill the bill.

Her vocation first became clear when she was writing a newspaper column, then when she wrote magazine stories. And now when she is writing romance novels. (But at least the first two got published!)

Now she is undertaking a new project, novellas. Yes, the first attempt is finished, duly paranormal and sensual and even possessing a coherent plot. And the second one is seething around in Fio's tortured, tortuous brain.

That woman has no shame!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Go Away!

I wish you on your merry way--
Fio hasn't a thing to say.
Her head is clogged,
Her wit is fogged,
Her brain is cotton wool today--
So take yourself outside to play.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Minus One

What is this I hear about Jon and Kate Plus Eight? That Jon is running around on Kate? Tell me it ain't so!

On the other hand, living with the perfectionistic Kate must have had its difficult moments. I'll never forget the program in which she was interviewing maids and couldn't find one who could meet her high standards--I mean, she wanted someone willing to scrub the floors on her knees.

Jon always seemed to be a lot less uptight, but I never guessed he was so loose. In fact, I was totally impressed that he, as well as being a father to eight, had some sort of job at which he made enough money that the family could move from their original house to a larger one to a mansion with acreage. Now I've read that Jon is currently jobless, that the family is supported by their reality show.

Well, that gig is just about over. Who wants to see a TV show about a guy who's left his wife and kids, (no matter how perfectionistic she is), gone to live with his mother, and is carousing with coeds from the local college?

Maybe that hair transplant went to his head.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Loves

One by one, I fall in love with them, the romances I write. Tally the vampire finding true love with Stephen, the HIV-positive ex-cop. Lauren and Jase reviving their forbidden love of a decade ago. Ann and Neil overcoming their pasts to walk into their futures together.

Each time I proudly present the offspring of my fevered brain to the world, sure everyone else will adore my stories as much as I do. And they don't.

Rejection is hard for a mother to take.

So now I am trying to write paranormal novellas, only 40-60 pages. The idea is that if my child is rejected again, I won't feel as much anguish because I haven't put as much time into the pregnancy. But already I love Amalie and Gabriel's unlikely attraction, Caitlin and Finn's tumultuous relationship. And I fear for their rejection.

One loves dwarf children too.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Hi-didle-diddle and fiddle-de-fay,
Firorella has no brain today--
Her eyes keep closing
And she keeps dozing,
Her energy level is low.
Maybe the reason
Is just the season,
Maybe we'll never know.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sprung Spring

Mountain laurels are perfuming the air, redbuds are abloom, and Fiorella is wearing shorts again. Definitely, spring is here.
Fio and Husband are waiting anxiously for certain of their oaks to leaf out. Fall and winter were dry and some of the trees may not have made it. Oh well, if so, it just means more firewood for next winter.
We've turned on the air conditioning again too, in the home in and the car. Ooops, too soon. Today it went down to 51 again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Health Plan

Being of a certain age, Fiorella regularly has symptoms, symptoms which her doctors, television shows, and every magazine on the market warn her about. But nausea, headaches, body pains, and "feeling funny" can also be completely benign. No way to tell the difference so Fio also regularly adds to the coffers of the local emergency room by getting herself checked in to be checked out at the drop of a hat.

So far all has been well--Fio's dodged the cancer bullet twice, diabetes twice, and heart attacks more times than can be counted. However, she currently is under the medical injunction to change her eating habits, exercise, and lose weight.

Being pro-active, she decided to do something about it.

She bought more life insurance.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From the Flames

Apparently Fiorella the firestarter has a fair amount of babushka in her, those shawled old women who gathered firewood in Eastern European forests. Yes, Fio can't take a walk up to the mailbox without spotting promising branches which she breaks up and lugs back to the family woodpiles.

Fiorella doesn't like to see anything go to waste, you see, particularly in this economy, and those branches are just lying there all over the ground, especially after a windy day.

But today she came back with something even better, a feather that she found lying in the driveway. Husband said it was from a buzzard, but Fio knows better. It was from a phoenix.

Our country will rise again, and so will Fiorella.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Murder Will Out

Fiorella is constantly amazed by the number of people who Google things like "How to kill your wife and get away with it," or "Poisons that can't be traced," then are surprised when the cops nail them for murder.

Do they think the Internet is anonymous? Don't they realize there's a helpful little list that tells them--and everyone else--what sites have been visited lately?

And what about the people who splash blood all over the place, then try to clean it off? (That should clue in the cops right there--a husband scrubbing the floor.) Haven't they ever turned on the TV when Luminal was being sprayed around a crime scene?

Or the ones who diagram their lethal plans on a Big Chief pad, leaving an obvious imprint on the page beneath?

How embarrassing--not only to be killed by one's spouse, but for him to be proved dumber'n dirt. Fio has already informed Husband that if he ever decides to do her in, she hopes he's gracious enough to be clever about it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chimp Story

Travis was a favored child, a star of stage, screen and television--but Travis was also a wild animal, a two-hundred pound chimpanzee who savagely attacked a family friend.

The police came after him. "Shoot him!" his "mother" screamed.

But they couldn't get a bead on Travis. He was on a tear. Finally his energy ran down, and, with nowhere else to go, the big guy tamely returned to his room, where he was killed.

It's a sad story. The woman Travis attacked remains in critical condition. She lost both her hands, her face was torn off, and neurological damage is probable. It's also a poignant story. Travis, the favored son, was shot dead in his final sanctuary.

And all he did, in his innocence, was act like what he was--a wild animal.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hair Today

Fiorella comes from a long line of clean-shaven men and mustachioed women. Yes, hirsutity runs in her female line.

Thus she's tried almost every hair-removal method in the book--or advertised on TV.

Electrolysis works well, but takes time and money. It's really not feasible for anything but small areas unless you're really dedicated. There's also a certain amount of pain involved. Fio's tried various depilatories too, but apparently her yeti leg pelt is stronger than their formulae. She's never tried professional waxing, but an at-home kit left a rather haphazard pattern on her legs. The sugar stuff out of Australia was nasty.

Yesterday she bought some pads that one is supposed to rub three times clockwise, three times counter. Today she tried them. They worked--but it took ten minutes to do about twenty square inches. Fio doesn't have that kind of time to spend on being satin smooth.

Okay, Fio admits it--she hasn't tried lasering, although she has been studying spa ads recently. The problem with is, of course, is the money, plus the fact that you have to keep it up.

So it's back to the ol' razor again. At least Fio has the comfort she'll never go bald--anywhere.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Romantic Sex

Years ago, an unbelievably prolific romance writer, Janet Dailey, lifted a sex scene from a book by equally prolific writer Nora Roberts. Yes, she plagiarized word for word. My theory was that she had just run out of descriptors.

As Fiorella has said before, sex scenes are a real bitch to write. Not because of censorship or public standards--those things went out the (bedroom) window years ago. No, it's because sex, after all, is fairly basic, and somewhere along the line, one uses up all the words.

Fio, of course, has her own solution to problem-- an inspirational list of sexually-expressive words and phrases culled from several of her favorite novels. Just reading through them can be an, uh, exhilarating experience.

But, she wonders--what about the story?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Happy Birthday

My father is ninety-five today, March 5. It is not a birthday I celebrate. He is wheelchair-bound, incontinent, half-blind, and three-quarters deaf. He doesn't talk any more and doesn't know me from Eve. His life has narrowed to eating and excreting.

And every time I walk into the nursing home, I think "This is my future."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh. He's like Hitler, slick and quick, a great orator who's got a real way with words. And he's a good actor too--remember how cleverly he mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson symptoms? He also delegates well--rather than endangering himself, he sent his Hispanic maid out to score drugs for him. And he's handicapped to boot--his hearing was damaged by overdosing.

And now he's THE voice of the Republican Party. Whoever thought the GOP would be dragged so low?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Nothing is working right.

I knocked a big chip out of my car's passenger-side side-view mirror. And Husband nearly asphyxiated me with paint removers and gasoline when he was cleaning up after some work in the garage. And the 45-page paranormal novella I am working on has disappeared from sight in my documents file. And Mutual of Omaha sent a contract for life insurance instead of the requested accidental death insurance. And the Geek Squad "calibrated" our new giant TV so the color went bad, the picture got fuzzy, and the channels take as long as five seconds to change.

In other words, it's life as usual. No matter--I'll keep my lipstick red and my smile bright.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Double Bed

I don't know if it's empathy, sympathy, or annoyance, but when Husband can't sleep, I can't sleep. On the other hand, when Husband takes a weekend nap in his recliner, I tend to fall asleep on the nearby couch. Maybe we've just been married too long.
We've got one of those super-soft mattress toppers on the bed, which means every now and then I begin my morning by sliding off onto the floor.
Our bed faces a spread of big windows, which gives us a wonderful view of trees, trees, and more trees. It's thrilling for me to wake up late at night and gaze at their fantastically gnarled limbs or summer foliage against a full moon. Another benefit of living in the Hill Country.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Handicapped Grammar

Fiorella will now hold forth about handicapped parking, the linguistic aspect, that is.

That's right, Fio said HANDICAPPED parking, not HANDICAP parking. "Handicapped" is a passive participle, as in "Some people are handicapped by having difficulties walking." These people, then, are often referred to as "handicapped." Their special permits allow them to park in places especially designated for the handicapped. Thus "HANDICAPPED parking."

"HANDICAP parking" would imply that one could park one's problems in a designated space, a pleasant prospect, I am sure, but one, unfortunately, as yet unavailable. So we'll just have to make do with HANDICAPPED parking.

"Nuff said?