Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolutions I Can Keep!

 I will cuddle every puppy I meet. 

 I will not become anorexic.

I will spend quality time with my loved ones. 

 I will remember the little things.

I will celebrate each day as the gift it is.

There. Easy as pie. 2012, I'm ready.
Bring it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Me and My Eggplant

Breakfast conversation this morning at my house:

Hubby (unsuspecting): "We're probably going to have to start looking for a new car for you pretty soon."

Me (defensively): "I don't want a new car. I like MY car."

Hubby (patiently): It won't last forever. You need something you can trust. Something a little newer."

Me (anxiously): But I need my car.'s my...friend."

Hubby (placating): "Ok, ok, I was just saying--maybe we should keep it in mind. But the new radiator should keep you going for a while."(author's note: hubby installed new radiator himself, lying on the frigid winter driveway over the weekend, once again proving his devotion to his ever-grateful wife)

Me (sigh of relief, panic decreasing): "Thanks, honey. I really do love my car, you know."

Hubby (sips coffee and smiles tentatively): "Yeah. So anyway, I was wondering if you wanted a new laptop for Christmas?"

Me: "What? I love my laptop! All my NaNoWrimo stickers are on it. I'll never get another pink one just like this, my headphones match it, I can still use it if I keep it plugged in all the's!"

Hubby pretends to hear his phone ringing, goes to his 'den' to answer it. (sound of muffled laughter can be heard)

* * * * * * * *

Well. I do love my car. I realized after the conversation that a car is like a dog. Always up for a good road trip, sharing the sights along the way, having adventures, getting into trouble and out again.Also, they both tend to leave puddles in awkward places.
When you travel alone, your car becomes your companion. You sit together, quietly absorbing the awesome scenes that unfold before you.
We've had grand adventures...and faced nail-biting challenges. We've travelled through miserable, hot deserts and icy blizzard roads.  Crossed the Continental Divide, seen Old Faithful and had buffalo rub up against us (heart-stopping, let me tell you!).

The car has smelled like spilled lattes, wet dog, pots of blooming flowers, elephant seals, sagebrush, pizza and one unfortunate skunk. We've visited glorious natural wonders--from the Pacific coast to the Grand Canyon, and down to the Mexican border.

 We've gone off-road, carried a small pickup's worth of red paving blocks, stopped at every photo-op along the way and ferried visiting family to and from airports.
My granny, 99 this week, calls it "the eggplant".
My car and I have had  some scary times together. Like the heart-stopping moment when the engine stopped dead at 80 MPH in the fast lane. Somehow, in a miracle not of my own making, we made it through the other hurtling cars to the side of the road. Or when the semi ahead of us swerved to the side and suddenly, too late, I saw why--a washing machine, sitting in the middle of the lane. Yet somehow, we also dodged the death trap. Together. Me and my PT. 
We're partners. I know my car's little quirks (it hates being washed) and it knows to stop at every Starbucks along our route.

So, yes--it is hard to think of relegating my friend to a used-car lot in trade for something shinier, something empty of memory and unfamiliar.

And as for the laptop....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NaNo and No-Nos

Ten days into the breakneck pace of  NaNoWriMo and I have jumped the healthy diet rails. I realized this today as I stuffed a porcupine fist of salty pretzels (a no-no) into my mouth as I pounded away on the laptop, furiously immersed in writing my nano novel.
Well, actually I might have had an idea what was happening when I didn't think twice about putting the bag of pretzels into my shopping cart yesterday, along with the Fritos, peanut M&Ms,  and economy-sized cheddar-flavor Goldfish bag. 
All no-nos.
I can only hope the mental energy I'm generating trying to reach that 1,669 word count goal every day is burning calories. Lots of 'em.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And So It Begins....

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who are serenely unaware that such a thing existed...I hate you. Nah, I'm kidding. As always, I appreciate your support...and more so now, as I isolate myself from all things fun for a month in favor of punishing my fingertips on the keyboard and pounding my head against the wall.
Yes, I am submitting myself to the torture once again this year. NaNoWriMo is all about commiting to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. That's 1667 per day. The idea being you will have a novel-length manuscript in 30 days! The secret plan, of course, is to push writers to the brink of insanity just for kicks...but we don't talk about that.
Ahem. So, this is my second NaNo, last year I "won" by actually writing a novel. My first. I was so proud, not realizing that the first draft is only the doorway to revision hell.That epic-young adult-horror-romance-supernatural-thriller is actually still sitting in a folder on my hard drive, oozing techno-mold...but hey, I did it and someday I will edit it. Really. Someday.
This year, I am absolutely clueless as to my novel-in-waiting. More so than last year. Over the past 12 months, I have developed a love of the short story. Short short. Flash fiction. 1500 words OR LESS. So thinking about 50,000 words is giving me a rash. But I made the commitment, and I'm going to dive into the literary river. I know there will be rocks and strong undertows and all manner of reasons to get out, but hopefully I can be brave. Here I go. Oh, crap. Is that an alligat---

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hey, It's Me--Secret Author Girl

This is the cover for my new Kindle eBook. It went live yesterday, and already I'm out-selling Steven King.  Not really. A girl can dream, though.
Speaking of horror stories,  "Not Like Other Girls" contains a few bits of scary stuff that might rev you up for All Hallow's Eve. The product description reads: "A trio of short stories described by one critic as delightfully wicked". 'Caregiver', 'Secondhand Hair' and 'Not Like Other Girls' are about relationships and making them work. Or not. Annie Howland stirs up a disturbing little mix of horror and revenge in her latest batch of dark tales."

Ok, done with the self-promotion. Whew. Wait. I forgot. Here's the link: Not Like Other Girls

And, while I'm at it, did I mention I put my short story, Becker on Amazon as well? How remise of me. Here's the cover:

By the way, you may have guessed by now that I'm using a pen name. No reason, I just like saying nom de plume. It's a kid thing.

Thanks for your suport of my literary dreams!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Fortune of Family

Family faces are magic mirrors.  Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.  ~Gail Lumet Buckley

"Granny Bee" will be 99 in December. Yesterday, she visited with both sons (one in person, one on Skype), three grandchildren (two in person, one on Skype) and four great-grandchildren (one in person, three on Skype). Is this awesome? TOTALLY! Not only the amazing technology that allows her to travel to the homes of sons, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren...but how wonderful it is that all of us have been able to have a relationship with the matriarch of our family over the years. I don't know many of my contemporaries who have living grandparents. Some never even knew theirs.
She is our treasure. And as I watched her marvel at the wonder of seeing our family on her TV, I thought how lucky I am to be with her each Sunday, to gather up as many memories as I can of my Granny, so that when she is gone I will have them to keep as MY fortune. To have heard from her own lips the stories of her girlhood is precious to me. To know she loves me, is proud of me, has known me as a woman as well as a child--these thoughts enrich my life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Excuse me? Have you seen August? I seem to have missed it.

Seriously? The whole month went by and I don't remember it? I blame the triple digit heat, which resulted in Critical Thermal Maximum. You know, "that temperature for a given species above which most individuals respond with unorganized locomotion, subjecting the animal to likely death." Well, I didn't die, but my locomotion was definitely unorganized. August was a bust.
So now it is September, I've got my groove back, and recently headed to the Safari Park for some face time with the critters.
If I just keep it open, something is bound to jump in.

Ta-Da!! Ouch. Ouch. Cactus. Brilliant.

Does this butt make my rhino look fat?

"Look, honey, that cow is horny."
Yeah. Like I've never heard that one before.

Does she still have her mouth open? Women....

Look all you want, but I'm tellin' ya, birds don't have belly buttons.

Mom? Are you sure there aren't boogers on my food when I eat it with my nose like this?

She loves me. she loves me not., who cares.

Dude! You can see into the zebra's showers through here!

Trust me. I'm really good at getting splinters out.

Any minute...any minute now...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Thunder Woke Me

I woke this morning at 4:30, miserably tangled in sweat-dampened sheets, dreaming of booming cannons and Tom Cruise -- charging across a bloody battlefield, sword upraised. The Cruise moment was probably inspired by Last of the Samurai, which I watched before bed. But the cannon was...thunder?

Yes. One of my favorite sounds. And rain. Is there anything more wonderful than lying in bed, listening to rain roar like a waterfall onto the tin roof, the slick concrete, the needy grass?

Rain brings unbidden memories: childhood summers with afternoon showers arriving regular as clockwork, scenting the dust with the promise of more, but leaving behind only a shimmer of electrical storm in the high country clouds.

A monsoon in Costa Rica that began with hot South Pacific winds; moving languidly through my window-less bungalow and over my bed like a tropical lover; the rain coming down so hard it became four walls around me, pouring off the porch roof and flooding the river, so that the next day we had to watch for drowned cows as we made our way upstream in our small blue boat.

The day I couldn't leave the library (what a tragedy) because the tall stone gutters were filled to overflowing with rushing murky water and I was afraid to try a leap over them; so I sat on the steps, waiting out the rain and immersing myself in a new adventure about a boy named Harry Potter.

High mountain showers, pattering on a tiny canvas shelter,  the air filled with aromatic cedar and wood smoke; eating cold chicken wrapped in brown squaw bread with my best friend, my safe haven, my future; the afternoon spent snuggled on a thick buffalo robe, feeling safe and loved.

My wet dog, tracking mud into the kitchen, wriggling in the towel as I try to dry him off. I'd clean up a thousand muddy floors to have him back, and I smile thru a few tears as I remember him standing in the rain outside the door with his silly doggy grin... waiting to get inside and play the dash-through-the-house-with-the-towel-in-his-teeth game.

And now, watching the rain stutter to an end outside my kitchen window, I think how amazing it is that the sound of rain can open those windows in my house of memory and take me back to the past and all its varied emotions.

Ah, here is my best friend, my safe haven, my future; bringing me coffee and settling in to watch the sunrise with me, on this perfect morning that I'll add to my memories... of rain.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sorry, I've Been a Little Preoccupied Lately...

It's summer, and the black widows are taking over our kingdom. Lots of  things have been happening while I was defending the realm, including:

Being named Photographer of the Month
by the awesome folks at Photographer's Edge!

YAY!!!! (Doing the Snoopy Dance)

Also while I was busy slaying the creepy beasts, I got "tagged" by my friend and fellow blogger, Lynn at  
I was tasked with answering a few bizarre questions and tagging someone else, so here goes:

Q: Do you think you're hot?
Hmmm. Let me see. (Presses back of hand to forehead) No. Just a bit tepid.
Q: Upload a picture of the wallpaper you are using:

Q: When was the last time you ate chicken?

Ten minutes ago...Thai Chicken Salad.  At least, I think it was chicken. Well, it tasted like chicken. Kinda.

Q: What were you thinking while doing this?
If I was lost in the Amazon I wouldn't eat my dog, no matter what.

Q: What song/songs have you listened to recently?
Fields of Gold - Eva Cassidy
Iowa - Dar Williams
Diamonds and Rust - Joan Baez
The Promise - Tracy Chapman

Q: Do you have any nicknames? What are they?

My hubby calls me "Sini". I've been Hobo Annie since I starting travelin' the world, and

I always give my name as Calliope when ordering a latte at Starbucks.

Well. There you have it. AS for "tagging it forward", honestly, I don't know who to pick!

How about.... my friend and talented author, Maria!
And...another very talented scribe,
 Hmmm. Here's a thought - all my other author pals, get going on those blogs! So I can tag you when these things come along! Meanwhile, let's get random. I'll spin the virtual bottle and go with: Anthony cracks me up!! Every time! You have GOT to see this surreal miniature people photo gallery!

And...ok, seriously, I need more blogger friends.
Come on in, the jungle's nice and cool and I promise not to eat your dog.
Though I've heard they taste like chicken....

Monday, June 13, 2011

Half A Century?

Yeah, he really said it. "Wow, hon, you're a half a century old today." After I got him an ice pack for his nose, I messed around on Google  and discovered that Valium and Lava Lamps were introduced in '61 too. Wow. A stellar year.

I love birthdays. They feel like new beginnings. And this one - this "half century mark" feels particularly special. I am not what I thought I'd be, but am more than I'd dreamed. That small town girl feels a million miles away, yet she has finally arrived.

I'm on the path to new adventure and anxious to get started.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A post about (gotta do the laundry) about (answer the phone) about DISTRACTION.

"Any occurrence requiring undivided attention will be accompanied by a compelling distraction." Robert Bloch

The plan for this morning was simple: get up early, work on the novel. Or a short story. Or at least write a couple articles for the upcoming website launch. Easy-peasy, as my colleague Pat puts it.

Apparently the act of getting out of bed, pouring coffee and scuffling over to the laptop created a cosmic wave that set certain distractions into motion:
  • Chloe, my spoiled parrot *sigh* with the huge vocabulary (most of it food related), began informing me that she "Want peanut butter. Want cracker. Want peanut butter cracker. Want apple. Want cheese. Hello? Want toast. With butter." Distracting much?
  • My cell phone rang and I wondered, as it vibrated off the table and jiggled around on the floor, why I ever thought that a ring tone created by Shania Twain was really 'Me'?
  • The wild goldfinches outside the window held up a note which read: FEED US NOW OR THE CAR GETS IT. (Ok, there wasn't an actual note, but I could read it on their faces.)
  • I had an overwhelming urge to read SPAM from Nigeria, just so I could laugh at their pathetic attempts to scam me. (This might be classified as Procrastination, rather than Distraction.)
  • Dear hubby went to the market (always dangerous) and brought back four dozen white chocolate/macadamia cookies...because they were on sale. As I gazed at them, I realized that EAT ME NOW is spelled out in nuts on each one.
  • I am addicted to coffee. Therefore, I am required to refill my mug often while writing. While trying to write. While thinking about writing.
  • Yes, you guessed it. All that coffee means...
  • After returning from the bathroom, I am usually waylaid by the house elf, reminding me that he is on strike until I start paying him higher wages. I remind him that I can't pay till I earn, and I can't earn till I write, and I can't write till I finish cleaning. (Actually, the house elf is just wishful thinking.)
So, if you don't see frequent updates to this blog, you can understand the situation. Maybe you can even send some pity my way. Or loan me your house elf. Or convince my husband that you don't have to buy cookies just because they're $1.25 a dozen. Ok, it was a good deal. And they are yummy. Maybe just one more and then I'll be ready to write. After I fill my mug. And get Chloe a cracker. With butter.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I've Got News!!

My PHOTO EXHIBIT is all set up and ready for viewing at Heska's Sugar Shack and Coffee Co. in Mentone! Heska graciously allowed me the use of a whole wall to place some large framed prints, and barring sales (a very good thing!) they'll be there till May. It's really exciting, and yes, a little intimidating. After all, sitting in the 'gallery room' with a bowl of homemade soup, looking at MY pictures on the wall instead of someone else's? Wow. I'm grinning like an idiot, with clam chowder on my chin. I chose a variety to display for this first showing: some of my favorite Grand Canyon views, bee photos (of course) and a couple wonderfully soothing beach scenes from my trip to Costa Rica. And a zebra.
For those of you who can't make it out this way, here are some samples.