Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Disappointing Deluge

Did you miss Fiorella today? Due to Puppy chewing on her power cord, she didn't know until late afternoon that her long, cleverly-worded review of the Georgetown Palace's production of Singin' in the Rain hadn't been published.

The review was clever but negative. The Palace has had some real winners--Grease, Technicolor Dreamcoat, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels--but Singin' in the Rain wasn't one of them. Fio's theory is that the acting got lost in the shuffle-ball-change, that so much time was spent on the song and dance numbers that the actors didn't understand their roles. The sets looked amateurish, the stagehands clogged around like Irish dancers the trombone and trumpet were having trouble with pitch, the actors missed cues, and the curtains beside the stage kept flapping open to daylight.

The audience gave the cast a standing ovation, but Fio thinks the applause was really for Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds, who did a much better job of it.

And, if this, a much shortened version of the original review, doesn't publish, she'll know The Palace is gunning for her.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Real Dog

We've had beagles, a shepherd's collie, a black ragmop. a ridgeback, and a weimer, but never before have we had a dog that would bury a bone. I wondered what was happening a couple of days ago when I caught thirteen-week-old Sonya digging a shallow hole in the dirt and laying a stick in it. But Husband caught her yesterday digging a deeper hole, dropping a bone in it, and covering it with leaves. Good grief--we've got a real dog!

On the other hand, what else should we expect from a mastiff, one of the oldest of canine breeds? Her racial memory must go back centuries.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Comparing Dogs

Happiness is having a sweet puppy sleeping next to you on the couch.

Sonya is a very affectionate dog, just like Wendy, but she and her spiritual mother differ in other ways. Wendy caught on to housebreaking almost overnight, but Sonya is...uh...laggard. Wendy was a mover and shaker. The greyhound in her insisted she make a break for freedom at every opportunity, racing through the woods and hallooing her joy in a deep, resounding voice, before she returned to her beloved daddy. In contrast, Sonja follows Husband around the yard without a leash, and her only vocalizations so far have been high-pitched puppy yips.

One surprising difference is that Wendy always gobbled down her food as if it was the last kibble left on earth, while Sonya isn't the least interested in the uber-healthy dry food recommended by the vet unless Fio laces it with a tablespoonful of canned dog food. (And this dog is supposed to weigh in at over 120 lbs as an adult?)

Yes, Sonya is different from Wendy, but Fiorella wanted it that way. It would have been easy to get another Weimer, but wrong. No dog could compete with Wendy, and Fio didn't want to tear up every time she looked at the substitute. Sonya is a different breed, new and wonderful. We love her for herself.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weighing Priorities

Everyone in RWA knows that one shouldn't enter a manuscript in a writing contest till it's finished, but Fio thought it wouldn't matter if she broke the rule one little, teeny-weeny time. As you know, the improbable happen--the partial, Princess Redlander, finished third behind its prequel, Princess of Bosque Bend, in The Emily. But what you don't know is that Fiorella now has an agent interested who is reading P of BB and wants to see Princess Red.

So Fio's had to fess up and beg for a few days to get the first six chapters of Princess Red in readable form. It will take a couple more months of concentrated effort to write the rest of the story.

Guess we'll have to postpone Sonya's housebreaking.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Random Snippets

Fio's an old-fashioned type of gal. She appreciates courtesy, like saying "please," "excuse me," "I'm sorry," "thank you," and "you're welcome." She also likes the way little girls are being dressed now, more like children and less like Beyonce.
Sonya Dog can sit, stay, and lie down on command, but Fiorella suspects these are more her natural inclination than learned behavior. And, by the way, Puppy has entered a new stage: if it's viewable, it's chewable.
In a world without mirrors, a portrait artist would be king.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Howling at the Moon

Fiorella started writing romances with the idea of making money, but she's expanded her horizons. Now she wants to save the world, or at least the world of women. She wants women to read her books and tell themselves that if Fio's heroines can stay true to themselves and persevere through their adversities, they can too.

All of which means that Fio is doing some deep thinking about how she presents her stories to agents. In the past, she's tried to disguise herself as a sheep, when actually she's more lupine. Her stories are gritty, as realistic as she can make them. RWA chapter members Janece Hudson, April Kihlstrom, Julie Kenner, and Emily McKay have prompted her to find out what she's really writing so she can present herself honestly to prospective agents.

And Fio thinks it's working. She spent four hours yesterday filling out a long, soul-searching on-line agent submission form, and she thinks she aced it. Fiorella's new tag line: life isn't always pretty, and my storylines go the limit.

Of course, Fio's grittiness is terribly out of style now. The nostalgia wave has followed hard on the heels of the erotica wave and the YA wave, but the pendulum will swing. Grittiness will have its day.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Puppy Priorities

A new baby can be diapered, but a new puppy requires hours of watchfulness. Housebreaking also involves setting up patterns, and when those patterns are disturbed, disaster follows--Fio's paper towel consumption has doubled in the three weeks. But Sonya is doing better.

Now to persuade her not to eat the Christmas tree. Take the tree down, you say? Well, Fiorella hasn't quite gotten around to that yet. She's been too busy puppy-watching.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Supermarket Scheming

There's a plot afoot and HEB is the culprit.

Two weeks ago, Fio noticed that Post Shredded Wheat wasn't on the shelves at HEB. A temporary stock outage, she thought, and bought a box of Kellogg's, which tasted sort of yucky. One week later, there was still no Post shredded wheat available. However, a new variety, HEB shredded wheat, was on proud display.

Now, Fiorella is addicted to shredded wheat. Not only does she eat it for breakfast, but she frequently snacks on it, even taking a plastic bag of it with her when she flies off to writing conferences, so she decided to give the HEB brand a try. It was okay, better than the Kelloggs, but lacked the tight compression of the Post product. Besides, she didn't like being manipulated. Obviously, HEB wanted to get its own brand started so it first switched customers to a shredded wheat that would taste radically different, then introduced its own brand which tastes more like Post.

Fio's onto ya, Charles Butt. But never mind--she's found a new supplier for her daily fix. Walgreen's carries not just medical supplies, beauty aids, and candy, but also . . . Post Shredded Wheat.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sonya Snippets

Vinyl bones, tennis balls, squeaky dragons--they just don't cut it. Sonya's into electronics, or to be more exact, cords, or, to be even more exact, Fio's laptop power cord. Yeah, she's a Steve Jobs kinda gal.
Sonya's discovered Wendy's favorite sunbeam, the one that slants through the patio doors onto a small throw rug which is placed just right for a tired doggie to lounge on. She's also discovered the puppy in the mirror, the long mirror on the inside of the bathroom door. But no matter how much she cavorts or cajoles, it won't play with her.
Husband takes Sonya into bed with him at night while Fiorella enjoys her habitual half-hour soporific soak. They tried crating Baby before Fio's bath, but Sonya yelped so much that Husband couldn't sleep. And when Fio tried keeping Puppy with her in the bathroom while she wallowed in the tub, Sonya, who's barely Beagle size now, seemed to be frightened by Mommy's head being the only part of her she could see. But putting Little One to sleep with Daddy worked out just fine.

The transfer from bed to crate is a little dicey, though.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day by Day

Sonya's having some problems adjusting to the family routine, partially because Daddy's been home sick all week and everyone's been sleeping late, partially because Mommy's hip has given out again and she's not been too agile lately, all of which resulted in Sonya's housebreaking going down the tubes (pun intended). Husband even had to give her crate a deep clean yesterday.

But today is a new day. Sonya let us sleep till 7:30, awoke Mommy with a couple of sharp yips, and, without a leash, trotted down the stairs behind her. Mommy hobbled over as quickly as she could to open the back door, but Sonya was quicker on the carpet. "NO," Fio thundered. Sonya stopped in mid-dribble as Mommy grabbed her by the harness and directed her out to finish in the yard.

Mommy was somewhat suspicious when she let Sonya back in, and rightly so--ten minutes later, Baby started to squat again, but on the concrete floor this time, a sure sign of what was to come. Fio hustled her outside again. After a little dithering between the yard and the stepping stones, which Sonya's puppy feet identified as concrete, she deposited in the yard.

Hooray for Sonya, who's learning. And hooray for Mommy, who, still in her nightgown, is sitting on the couch writing this blog with sweet Sonya sleeping by her side.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Adventures in Housebreaking

Housebreaking a puppy is not an easy task when your hip is giving you trouble and it's raining cats and...uh...dogs outside.

Yes, that rain the meteorologists told us wouldn't come again till spring is here. The skies are gray, the ground is soggy, and our Sonya is too persnickety to use the backyard when the vinyl mat in front of the kitchen sink does so well for number one and the dining room floor is perfect for the other. She's also pretty stealthy about it.

At least Fiorella knows where to look, the mat can be wiped up, and the concrete floor is easily cleaned.

But once Fio's hip is better, Sonya better mind her Pees and Cues.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Fiorella forgot to tell you what happened after she left Dr. Ma's office Wednesday morning. She was so elated--maybe so high on amoxicillin--that she missed her turn going home by five exits, which was important because she was driving on empty. After getting turned around, she pulled into the first service station, hurriedly switching off the car and filling the tank--did you know a Miata can swallow twelve gallons in one thirsty gulp?

Then, mindful that she was an hour later than she had told Husband to expect her, she hopped into the car. But it wouldn't start, and the steering wheel was stuck--Fio had not returned the wheel to its normal position when she parked the car to gas up and it was locked up tight. This had happened to her once before, but she couldn't remember how to fix it.

But one call to Hijo Menor later and she was on her way. And in case you ever get caught in that situation and do not have a son to call, she'll outline the appropriate procedure:

1) Hit the wheel with your fists to loosen it a little
2) Put the key in the ignition
3) Turn the key with one hand while turning the wheel with the other
4) BINGO--you're on your way


Friday, February 17, 2012

Sinking Her Teeth into It

Fiorella came out of her dentist's office yesterday as high as the proverbial kite. Not only were her teeth x-rayed, bright and shiny, but she had used her meager Mandarin on the office manager, Dr. Ma's brother, and HE UNDERSTOOD HER. He also taught her how to ask where the bathroom was.

In addition, Dr. Ma taught her how to say "dog" and "my name is--."

Fio can hardly wait for the appointment when she gets her broken tooth fixed--and, more important, can practice her Chinese.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nee Hao Mah?

Fiorella is so excited. She's going off to see her dentist bright and early this morning. This is the dentist who's taught her some Mandarin phrases, and she's planning to use them all, and, she hopes, learn more.

Oh, and get her teeth cleaned too, shyeh-shyeh.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Catch-up Blog for Today

This blog is late because Fio's day was not what she expected. The neat list she composed last night turned out to be pure speculative fiction.

The first unplanned-for item was the hour-long trip across town to the doctor's office to get Husband checked out--with Fio driving his big sedan on the toll road. Yoicks! And when she and Husband tried to go home, another drama ensued: they couldn't unlock the car doors. Now, Husband knew the driver's-side door had stopped unlocking the night before, but what was wrong with the other ones? And how were they going to get back home? Break the windows?

In desperation, Husband pushed all the buttons on the control, and the car beside them lifted its trunk lid. Yes, Fio and Husband had been trying to break into the wrong silver car. Later, in the pharmacy, Fio dropped about thirty cards of various types on the floor when she was trying to pay for Husband's medication.

Somehow Fio made it through the rest of the afternoon with no further screw-ups, even though she was sandwiching about seven different errands into one frantic trip into Georgetown. But this time she was driving her own car, all its doors worked, and it was blue, not silver.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sonya Speaks

I played a little game with Mommy this morning. Every time she tried to entice me up the stairs so she could keep an eye on me while she dressed, I did things like stop half-way, grab one of her shoes that had been left on a step, then hightail it back down, rump-bump-a-thumping all the way. When Mommy discovered my little trick and dragged me upstairs, I grabbed Daddy's pajama bottoms from the utility room floor and ran for my life. Mommy caught me again, and this time I had to stay in the bathroom with her, but that too had its opportunities. When Mommy tried to step into her underpants, I sank my teeth into one edge and pulled. I thought they were mine--after all, they were pink and I'm a girl.

Mommy, being bigger and stronger and having absolutely no sympathy for a bare-bottomed puppy, prevailed, finished dressing, then accompanied me downstairs, but not before I'd noticed her nightgown and heavy winter robe hanging from a high hook. In a nanosecond, they were on the floor. All it took was a little tug.

Don't blame me. These puppy teeth crave action.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Fio would guess that almost every culture, past and present. has had physical games with appreciative audiences applauding their teams on to victory. The observers, of course, feel like they're out there on the playing field along with their heroes.

Sports are competition, a non-violent representation of war, and the fans are vicarious turf warriors. Maybe the Arab countries would have less political upheavals if they had more competitive sports to channel their citizens' energies.

Fio herself has a mild interest in tennis matches and football games, but she wouldn't spend an afternoon--or any money--to watch them in person. Her competitive spirit is entirely personal. She just wants to write well, to have a nice house, and to look good.

Face-lift, here we come.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Bad

Fiorella is home from Houston with a second and a third. She's elated, of course, but a little confused. Princess of Bosque Bend was ranked second and its sequel, Princess Redlander, was ranked third, but the latter was the one that received the request from an agent. She really hopes there was a mistake made, that the agent actually asked for Princess of Bosque Bend, because...uh...Princess Redlander isn't finished yet.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Houston, Here I Come!

Today's the day. Local Son is chauffeuring your Fiorella to Houston this morning for the West Houston Romance Writers of America awards luncheon. Two of her manuscripts, Princess of Bosque Bend and Princess Redlander, are in the finals of the WHRWA contest, The Emily, apparently tied with each other.

The Emily is a top contest, and Fiorella, who has entered it for three years running, is thrilled that she's at last made the cut, maybe because this year she switched categories. Up to now, Fio has always entered Single Title, a category in which she's done well in other chapter's contests, but this year she entered Mainstream with Romantic Elements, a category which she'd started suspecting is more appropriate to her rather gritty, spare-no-punches style.

Apparently she was right.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bigger and Better

Fiorella came in the door just in time to see little Sonya walking carefully up the stairs. Yes, our baby dog has learned how to navigate steps. Apparently while Fio was gone for the morning, Bosco Dog showed her the basics, and then Local Son encouraged her the rest of the way. Sonya's also getting the idea of doing her business in the yard instead of in the house, but in the meantime, Fio is glad our first story floor is concrete.

Sonya is all puppy. First comes the whirl of excitement and activity--playing with Bosco, attacking the bottom of Fio's bathrobe, trying to chew or swallow everything she can get her teeth on. Then, suddenly, she's tired. Her shoulders sag and she either drops in place or comes over to the couch, where Fiorella lifts her up--Sonya still hasn't figured out how to leap higher than she herself is--and nestles her down beside her for a nice nap.

Oh, and did Fio mention that Sonya let her sleep till 5:00 a.m. this morning?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Puppy Love

Maybe it's the new puppy, but life is rosy at La Casa Fiorella right now. Local Son has a new desktop computer, put together by Cousin Aaron and Friend Anthony after his laptop crashed. Daughter is recovered from her cold/flu, Minnesota Son is heading toward long-awaited knee surgery on March 5 (his late grandfather's birthday), and Husband has had an extended period of good health--the experimental lupus drug seems to be working.

Add to all that the fact that Friend Sharon is holding steady on her own experimental drug, Cousin Julie's daughter seems to have beaten breast cancer, Friend Suzy's husband has a new job, Friend Paula's daughter and husband have bought a new house, Friend Marion is expecting another grandchild, and Fiorella herself has had a nibble from another literary agent.

Fio has also developed a new skill--typing with her left hand because sweet, silky-furred Sonya Wendysdotttir is sleeping on her other arm.

The occasional puddles on the floor are worth it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Puppy Tails

When it comes to doting mothers, Fiorella takes the cake. No one else's babies were as beautiful as hers, as smart, as cuddly. And she's the same with her puppy. Sonya is the most darling doggie every created, a deserving successor to Wendy the Wonder Dog. In fact, Fio considers Wendy to be Sonya's spiritual mother. Thus, in the Icelandic tradition, Puppy's full name is Sonya Wendysdottir.

Sonya is beginning to adjust to her new circumstances. Fiorella tried to teach her how to descend and climb the stairs for a 2:00 a.m. pottie call--didn't quite make it--and Husband stayed home to take her to the vet in the morning. When they came back, Fio's job was getting a couple of pills down her puppy throat (accomplished with coatings of butter) and acting as a bolster for her long afternoon nap.

Even Bosco is helping. Sonya had been turning her nose up at the prescribed puppy food until her pal showed an interest in it. Then she gobbled it down. Nothing like a little competition.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sonya Comes Home

Congratulate us--Fiorella and Husband have a new baby in the house. They drove to Luling yesterday and picked up a ten-week-old Mastiff.

The ride was long and arduous, and, as soon as Sonya was in the car, she raked Fio's arms with her cat-like claws, causing her new mother to bleed like a sieve. But all was forgiven when Baby Dog slept the rest of the way home--well, except for that pause midway when she threw up.

Anyway, Bosco welcomed the newbie, and the two of them played nicely together, Bosco being the more dominant because he's been in the house longer. Besides, Son's year-old pug is heavier--a situation which won't last very long. Adult mastiffs weigh in at 100+ pounds.

Then we'll see who's boss.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Great Puppy Hunt

Fio and Husband are on the dog hunt again. They've decided on a mastiff because it's a large dog, has a good temperament, and its appearance will not remind them of any previous dogs, especially Wendy the Weimer. They would prefer a one-year-old female--old enough to be thoroughly housebroken, but young enough that Fio and Husband could enjoy a fair number of years with this notoriously short-lived breed. Unfortunately for Fio et al, rescue mastiffs are not only few and far between, but have been so terribly abused as to need lengthy medical treatments before they can be released for adoption.

So now begins the great puppy hunt. Yes, Fiorella and Husband are gearing up for the crate by the bed, the midnight forays into the backyard to maintain the housebreaking, and the gnawing on anything that is remotely gnawable.

But it's worth it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Six-thirty a.m.

As Fiorella is sitting on the couch and keying in this blog, she is also mentally massaging every muscle in her body because she woke up feeling like she'd been beaten up during the night. And, in a way, she was--in her dreams. For some reason, her subconscious decided to review her teaching career, pull out every dumb thing she'd ever done, remind her of it, then depict her as totally unorganized to boot.

Now, Fio was sometimes dumb, but she was never unorganized so she's gotta figure out what this dream really means.

In the meantime, she's taking half a hydrocodone. Mental massage isn't cutting it.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Across the restaurant table, daughter and I,
Like chessboard queens, red and black, we sit,
Each guarding her own square, eye to eye,
Alike, the same, completely opposite.
So sat I with my mother, seas apart,
Skimming waves, but never diving deep,
Both navigating by a measured chart,
With each shore military, harbors steep.
I love you, dearest heart, daughter mine,
Love you as my mother, yes, loved me--
As you will love your daughter child in time
And sit across a table, just as we,
And never breach the chessboard or the sea
Or know the other’s singularity.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Fiorella is anxiously gearing up for the drive to Houston in a week and a half . She double-finaled in The Emily, West Houston RWA's prestigious romance contest, and February 11 is the day she finds out where she placed. She wants to win, of course, but the odds are against it so she's practicing her serene smiley face, the one that says "I'm so happy for you trouncing me and I'm being such a good sport about it," when what she'll really want to do is scream, "Gimme that certificate, bitch!" and make a lunge for the podium.

On the other hand, maybe the winner will hail from Canada or some other strange, exotic clime and won't show.

Hey, Pat, don't you have to be present to win?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Fiorella is brimming over with happiness: after a year of rejection, Friend Suzy's husband has gotten a job, a promising position which he well deserves.

It makes Fio feel good when good things happen to good people. It gives her hope that Hijo Menor's talent will be soon be recognized and that he also will join the ranks of the employed, the up-and-comers. It gives her hope that Hijo Mayor will find his own niche of success, and that her own inspiring romances will be recognized as powerful and publishable, and that all the world will be joyful.

Yes, Fiorella wants heaven on earth--for everyone.