Saturday, October 31, 2009

Driving Forever

In the future, I think cell phones/tracking devices/watches will be implanted into our wrists at birth. And I think our movies will star people like Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe through holographic technology. And I think cars, hover cars, of course, will be controlled by computers and guided to their destinations by magnetic stripes accessing every highway and byway in the country.

That means Dad won’t have to spend Saturday afternoon washing and waxing the car anymore because he won’t own one unless he is very rich. Instead, the family will lease a vehicle to be computer-summoned to their home as needed. Mom will program their trip to Grandma’s beforehand, and then she and Dad and Susie and little Johnny will step out the front door and into their shining new family cab.

The old paved highways will have been jackhammered and replaced with a smooth carpet of grass. Gasoline as fuel and a pollutant will be a thing of the past. Garages and carports will be left to their real purposes—storage.

Because cars will be computer controlled rather than driver-steered, they can travel at high speeds cheek-to-jowl without mishap, switching off through streams of traffic from time to time as the computer efficiently maneuvers them toward their destinations.

Of course, because the cars are so close, windows will be minimized for the sake of privacy. Who will need them anyway, with the selection of current games and movies (extra charge for new releases) available in every car? One window protected with a solar shade should be enough for little Johnny to look out of every now and then.

It will certainly be more than enough for whoever sees our family again.

Perhaps it’s a movie-weary traveler who, for a change of pace, zips open his own solar screen. He glances around the dark, lonely countryside. A battered old family cab catches his attention, mainly because he’s surprised something that antique is still in use.

He peers closer as the car comes up behind him. It‘s running quite fast, he notes, and its interior lights are burning brightly.

There’s something in the window. Is it a young boy? The traveler smiles and leans into his own window, prepared to wave and nod as the car passes.

The old car charges forward, riding alongside the lonely traveler for a few vital seconds.

The traveler’s face freezes into horror as he realizes what he has just seen: a vehicle which had somehow long ago become lost in the circuits of a misfiring computer. And trapped inside the battered old car, Mom and Dad and Susie and little Johnny still speed on.

But it’s a million years to Grandma’s house.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Good Mourning

Fiorella didn't realize she was in mourning.

Yes, her father had died, but she didn't cry. He had been dying inch by inch for five years and wasn't even aware of himself. Besides, her parents had taught her to hang tough, to plow on through, despite everything.

But her world turned gray, literally. She couldn't bring herself to wear the vibrant reds and pinks that constitute the bulk of her wardrobe. Blues, lavenders, blacks, whites--those were her choices, day after day.

And she dropped off the RWA e-mail loop for about a month because she didn't feel like saying anything. And after fulfilling her outstanding social obligations, she didn't feel like going anywhere. And, wonder of wonders, she didn't even feel much like eating.

Looking back, Fio understands that she was mourning because she never accepted the idea that her father would die. In fact, she was still praying for the miracle cure. His death was not a blessing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Addicted to Corn

Fio and Husband bought Halloween candy on Sunday--five bags of Snickers (Husband's choice) and five of Milky Ways (Fio's). One bag of each is in the freezer as decoys, and the rest, in knotted bags, is stowed in a hidden cupboard.

Then there's the small bag of candy corn Fio tossed in the grocery cart as a treat. Fio eats each kernel slowly--first the white, then the orange, then the yellow--and she swears each color tastes different. And she can't quit eating it. Yes, no matter how sick it makes her feel afterwards, Fio keeps on eating--white, orange, yellow.

Candy corn, the new crack cocaine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Yes, Fiorella is high as a kite.

The results of the hanging-fire contest came in. Fio finished SECOND. That makes four thirds and two seconds so far this year.

Fio is dancing, Fio is singing, Fio is chortling to herself with glee. Fio is insane, but you knew that anyway.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sis, Boom, Bah!

Fiorella is ecstatic! She placed second in a romance writing contest! That means she's moved up from bridesmaid to maid of honor!

Yes, of the six contests Fio has finaled in, she's placed third in four, one is still hanging fire, AND ONE IS SECOND!

Fio is so shallow. All it takes to make her happy is something nice to happen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Golden Template

Everyone is looking for the golden template of romance writing. Authors want to know how to write a romance that agents/editors will love and love and love. Agents/editors want to know how to identify a romance that readers will buy and buy and buy. Time is of the essence so all short cuts are embraced.

Current trends call for more use of contractions and personal pronouns, with the justification that people talk in contractions and pronouns. But if we really write the way people really talk, dialogue will be a mess. Listen to conversations around you--they stray all over the map.

Another trend is the elimination of passive voice, as if it is somehow "wrong." Actually, passive voice is a legitimate grammatical form and, in many cases, the most appropriate one. A concomitant trend, though, is the misidentification of passive voice as any usage of any form of "be." "Be" in all of its forms (be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been) is called the copula, the connecting verb and is used with predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives. It is also necessary to express certain verbal aspects. As such, it is the most common--and vital--verb in the English language, and eliminating it from one's writing severely limits expression.

Some templates even identify "had" and the suffix "-ing" as "passive," which borders on the ridiculous.

Another trend, a strictly limited point of view, seems to be abating somewhat, thank goodness. Many successful books use multiple points of view; literary types call it omniscient voice.

What do readers want? If they're like me, they want interesting characters and a good story told in an interesting way. As a multi-published author recently told me, "The important thing is how a book makes a reader feel." And there's no golden template for that.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Awkward Age

Despite her good intentions and best efforts, Fio has always been gauche.

Like when she was sitting at the same table as Victoria Alexander, a well-known romance writer. The others around the table were shamelessly chatting her up so Fio tried her hand, and, of course, she was honest.

Fio announced how thrilled she was when VA walked across the stage at Nationals to deliver the keynote address. "I realized you have the same body shape that I do," Fio said. "It gave me hope I could be successful too."

VA smiled weakly and may have even said thank you.

A couple of months later, it finally dawned on Fio that perhaps she had not delivered the accolade she was trying for.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More TV Snippets

Fio confesses she reneged on her vow and watched the last ten minutes of Project Runway this week. It didn't bother her to see Nicholas leave--his personality did not project well on TV--but it did bother her that Christopher is still hanging on. And again she repeats--BRING BACK SHIRIN!
The Little Couple will start again next week. Will Jen and Bill decide on in vitro? Or will we see an increasingly rotund Jen this season?
Did I tell you that Fio is watching King of the Crown religiously? It's funny, it's interesting, and Cyrus has ethics. Which is more than can be said for the mothers in Toddlers and Tiaras.
And all of this information is from a person who swears she doesn't watch reality shows.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Judging Sweet

Not only is Fiorella entering writing contests, but she is judging them. Not the categories she is entered in, of course, and only the lower tier.

Most recently, she worked her way through a stack of sweet entries. "Sweet," in romance-writing parlance, signifies that there are no explicit sex scenes in the manuscript, but several of the authors took it to mean sickly sweet--cloying. Never before in her life has Fiorella met such a collection of characters: every child was a dimpled cherub while the heroines were complete milksops, and the heroes, effeminate. In the "inspirationals" (stories aimed at Christian publishers), godliness was demonstrated by people muttering Bible verses under their breath (complete with citation), and sending up little prayers like magical incantations.

Now Fio likes to think positively about everyone she meets, has been known to toss Biblical verses into conversations, and prays constantly, but she hopes she is not cloying. As she notated on the manuscripts she was judging--even Jesus was able to work up enough testosterone to chase the moneychangers out of the temple.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sexy Snippets

Thirty years ago clothes became unisex--jeans and t-shirts. Then the jeans got tighter and were cut lower, and the t-shirts began to look like they were painted on.

Women's magazines used to run stories on how to decorate a home or cook nutritious dinners, on how to be good wives and mothers. Now the stories concentrate on dressing, acting, and being sexy.

"Naked movie stars" are a reality now. Full frontal naked, that is.

Isn't it all a little much?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Memoriam

When everyone else in Osceola Mills was poor, Dad's family was poorer. So poor, in fact, that the county tried to take him and his brother and sister away from their widowed young mother.

His mother worked hard as a cleaning woman for the family's daily bread, and the children did too--paper routes, cow herding, chicken killing, whatever was needed. His older brother dropped out of school to work on the railroad with his uncle before he was sixteen.

Thanks to him, Dad and his sister were able to graduate high school. The next step was immediate employment, and Dad's best chances would be in a big city two hundred miles away.

His mother walked him to the bus station. He almost turned back, back to his mother and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and everything that he knew. But when the time came, he got on the bus.

And always looked back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whistle While You Work

The Roloffs are back. What a contrast to Jon and Kate.

Jon and Kate are tall while Matt and Amy are short. Jon and Kate have eight children while Matt and Amy have half that many. Jon's a slacker while Matt can't sit still. Kate's a meticulous housekeeper while Amy--well--isn't.

I don't know about you, but Fio will take the dwarves any day. Matt may be grandiose and egomaniacal, but he's faithful to his wife and kids. Amy may not be the best housekeeper in the world, but her kids seem to have thrived in a more relaxed family atmosphere.

Roloffs win, hands down.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Holiday Preview

Fio didn't know whether to be amazed or aghast.

While Husband searched out a new weed trimmer at Lowe's, she sashayed over to the Christmas decorations to check out this year's offerings. Yes, Fio knows it isn't even Halloween yet, but she does Christmas up big and likes to keep a weather eye open for stuff she might want to add to her own holiday decor.

Again, Fio didn't know whether to be amazed or aghast. Whatever happened to the glass ornaments in the shapes of fruits and vegetables that she used to collect to hang from her dining room evergreen swag, the extra-sized Christmas characters and house-shaped ornaments? Instead, all she saw were footballs and skunks and typewriters, mostly plastic.

The worst of all was an outside decoration--three illuminated penguins bearing gifts, which to her verged on the sacrilegious. How about having Donald Duck lying in the manger?

Maybe it's time to get back to stringing cranberries, whatever the heck they are.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

TV and Radio Snippets

John and Kate Plus Hate
Kate spends her time gilding the lily in tanning salons while Jon seems determined to kill the TV program that lays the golden egg.

Rush to Judgment
More and more, Rush Limbaugh is the articulate voice of the mean, ignorant, arrogant, and spiteful.

Leave it to Eddie
What a disappointment that Eddie Haskell grew up to be an LA cop. If life were true to TV, he'd be in jail now for a Ponzi scheme even worse than Bernie's.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Out of Steam

To be frank,
Fio's mind is blank.
All she can say
Is "Have a good day."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bring Back Shirin!

How in the world can they toss Shirin off? She's done some very nice work, even in horrible circumstances--the two-yard wedding dress, for instance. And now she's gone because of one mess-up.

And stupid Christopher stays, mainly because he's developed weeping to a fine art. Or maybe Pretty Boy has formed some--uh--connections.

Fio's not watching Project Runway anymore.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rush to Judgment

Fio is amazed at all the vitriol regarding Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. If it was awarded to our president, it was awarded to us, and the least we can do is be gracious. It's not as though Obama solicited the honor or we had a vote in it.

Perhaps the complainers wanted the Prize to go to Limbaugh?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Fio's heart sank when she came home to notice the red light beeping on her phone--something else she had to attend to in addition to the laundry, the dog's wound, the collapsing attic insulation, the busted mailbox, the out-of-order vacuum cleaner, the message from Brother regarding the inheritance taxes Pennsylvania is demanding of Father, the contest entries she agreed to judge, and the final rewrite of her latest romance.

Fio has often speculated that all the electronic beeps are triangulating so they can zot her with the death beam.

And right now it would be a relief.

P.S. The phone just went out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Timely Contemplation

Ideally, the clergyman officiating at a funeral can speak knowledgeably of the deceased from personal acquaintance, like Pastor Olsen at Fiorella's mother's funeral several years ago. But he was twenty years younger than Fio's parents.

Things are different when when people outlive their clerical relationships.

At Mrs. Paule's burial service, the young whippersnapper of a rabbi, obviously at something of a loss, said he didn't know Mrs. Paule well but had heard she liked to play cards. Thus a woman Fio regarded as a second mother, a woman who was warm and loving and accomplished a lot in life, was reduced to a card shark in death.

At Miss Osborn's funeral, the youngster officiating had the effrontery to refer to Waco High's iconic Latin teacher as "Sister Elor" and mispronounce her name in the bargain. Fio fully expected Miss O to rise from coffin, rebuke him with one of her trademark stares, and state, "It's Miss Osborn to you, young man!"

The clergyman officiating at Fio's father's recent funeral had never met him. Pastor Olsen had moved on and the replacement knew Dad, whom Fio and Brother had moved to a nursing home near them, only from church records.

But what about Fio, when her time comes? She's always pictured Pastor Gronberg, who knows her, conducting the rites. But he's not much younger than she is and may shuffle off this mortal coil long before she requires his services.

No smart-mouthed wind-up to this one. Guess she'll just have to take luck of the draw.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Super Fiorella

Fiorella had her first full night of sleep in three days Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning at nine, full of vim, vigor, and vitality. She bounced around for a couple of hours doing all sorts of useful things, then headed off with Husband for a late lunch at Fish Daddy's. An hour after she was back home with a list in hand of other useful things to do, lights started flashing in front of her eyes--yes, the dreaded migraine aura.

The aura usually lasts about twenty boring minutes, then disappears, but not yesterday. All evening the headache played ping pong with the halved hydrocodones Fio doses herself with.

Fio woke up today feeling good again--despite dreaming last night that she had had a stroke and couldn't remember her name. She still has that list and is determined to cross off every item on it.

Whether she remembers her name or not, Fio is invincible.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


In the olden days, Fiorella's thrifty mother did a lot of mail-order shopping from Sears, Roebuck. Just before Christmas, several big, bulky packages would arrive which Brother and Fio were not allowed to see unwrapped.

Then Sears built a store in town and there were no more mail orders. In fact, catalog sales were dying out all over the country.

Only to rise again. But the catalogs are different now because ours is an age of excess. Clothes and shoes and books don't do for gifts these days because we are all well-stocked. Which means we must now peruse specialty catalogs for the new, the different, the unusual--the useless.

Uhm--Brother, whatever happened to that giant inflated version of Munch's "The Scream" that Fio gave you a couple of years ago?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Return Visit

Her left ear aches
Her throat is sore
Exactly like
It did before--
Again, Fio is sick,
And wants to get well quick.

Friday, October 9, 2009


My wings are bent, my heart is sore
And I shall sing my song no more
For I have been this way before
The sea is wide, and far the shore.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Protective Headgear

We call it a bonnet,
A dog hat, a hood,
A halo she's earned
For being good.
Whatever the name,
It's all the same--
Till the wound has healed
And the fur's regrown,
Our Wendy's head
Is in a cone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Judicial Snippets

Fiorella is judging entry level contestants in a romance writing contest, which has turned out to be quite encouraging. She has always thought her own synopses were bottom of the barrel, but compared to the ones she's reading now, Fio is Shakespeare.
Fio has received critiques back recently from a couple of contests that she DIDN'T final in, but she tends to ignore them. One judge will say she didn't give enough detail and another will say she gave too much.
What really irritates her is when some idiot judge doesn't give her full points on punctuation and grammar. If there's anything Fio knows, it's punctuation and grammar.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Son in Retrospect

In high school, Older Son had a boom car, the kind with a bass that vibrates your fillings from three blocks away. We always knew when he was on his way home—so did all the rest of the world.

We pointed out the danger to his hearing, but he persisted in increasing his volume by adding even more speakers. Apparently he didn’t hear us.

A more immediate danger was burglars. His car was broken into several times, twice during the day in the school parking lot, once at night in the same lot, and a couple of times in our own driveway. On the last occasion, a passing patrol car decided there was something suspicious about two guys working on a car at 3 a.m. under an on-and-off security spotlight.

The cop nailed the thieves in the act, then rang our doorbell. The whole family got off to an early start that day.

Older Son finally got a car alarm, but the insurance company dropped him for excessive claims. I was threatening to do the same.

Needless to say, my son had a small fortune tied up in that car. It ate up all his Christmas and birthday money, whatever he could earn, plus whatever he was able to wheedle out of his father, a closet car stereo nut himself.

Then there was the fellow student who promised stereo heaven, but disappeared after Older Son forked over an eighty-dollar down payment. Checking the stereo shop where the friend supposedly worked, Son found out the guy had been fired. And his roommate had kicked him out for not paying rent—which made Son realize his friend did not, as he had said, live with a wealthy father and a garageful of show cars.

The whole experience seemed an unnecessary pain to me. Not until I visited high school one morning did I really understand about the booming bass stereo.

My pride and joy had parked out in front and was sitting behind the wheel with both doors open and the speakers blaring. A couple of guys and six giggling teen-age girls were gathered around.

“He uses it to lure women,” Younger Son explained. “He’s like a fisherman. The car is the hook and the bass is the bait and all he has to do is sit there and reel them in.”

No wonder he didn’t care about his hearing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Follow the Light

Rays of light shine through the gloom. Husband wrote a sweet comment note last week after one of Fio's particularly depressing blogs. And, out of the blue, friend Joy raved about Fio's entry which made the finals in a local writing contest. And when Fio entered a Houston contest, the coordinator turned out to be the same nice person, Pat, whom she had dealt with last year--and Pat told her she was following Fiorella on line! What a surprise--Fio had talked herself into believing nobody read her blog, that she was writing only to herself.

And today is Oldest Son's birthday and thirty-eight candles will be lit. Thirty-eight rays of light.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stiff Upper Lip

Fio's parents were from a tough generation. They didn't indulge themselves in useless emotional displays, such as mourning.

Fiorella is trying to follow their role modeling. No weeping, no brooding, no coddling of herself.

But she can't help but feel a little down--something her parents might have felt too, in similar circumstances. However, she can't help writing about it--something her parents would never have done, in any circumstances.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cassandra Spoke, but Did Anyone Listen?

Ah, the financial geniuses have finally figured out that the reason people aren't upping the economy by buying stuff is that they don't have the money to buy stuff because they don't have the jobs to provide the money to buy stuff. Well, duh!

Fio has an idea. She reads a lot of British novels and she's noticed that everyone with an extra dollar (translation: about half a pound sterling) hires someone to tend the lawn, someone else to clean the house, someone else to cook the food, whatever, which spreads the meager wealth around as far as it will go. Not that the hirer is that wealthy either--but then clothes closets are smaller in Britain.

Anyway, Fio proposes that we stop enlarging our wardrobes and start enlarging our hearts by hiring people to do whatever they can do around our homes and business.

I have to say that Fio predicted all this years ago when she realized how the labor opportunities available were being diminished by labor-saving devices. At home, why send clothes out to be washed when you have a great washer-dryer in the utility room? On the job, why hire twenty people when five--plus computers--can handle the same workload? Maybe Ned Ludd had something when he led a revolt again that new-fangled mechanized loom way back when.

Down with machines! Up with people! (Says she who's using a computer to writing this blog and everything else she produces.)

Friday, October 2, 2009


When I was young and hinkty, I told my students that if they heard I had requested no extreme measures should be taken to keep me alive, they should shout murder because I wanted to cling on, no matter what. Where there was life, there was hope.

But now, I feel differently. Maybe it has something to do with the living death my father was involved in. Or maybe the example of my friend's father, who couldn't remember his wife's name, but wanted his gun because he was convinced someone was trying to kill him.

As far as I can tell, eighty-five is the cut-off time.

All in all, getting older is a whole lot less interesting than I thought it would be.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Deja Vu

Okay, Fio has just looked over her line-up and discovered she ran the same blog twice, the one about what Bob Wilson taught her. Sorry, but her brain has been a little overloaded lately. She owes you one, but you're not getting it today.

In addition, she notes the red message at the bottom of her screen saying could not be contacted and the posting may fail.

But such is life. We try, we fail, and we dissolve into nothingness.


Ten minutes later:
But Fio can't help but keep on trying. She's replaced the original of "Bob Wilson" with a poem called "Nursing Home Visit." Check out Sept. 21.