Sunday, February 25, 2018

Day 89: Halley – A cat with an attitude

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 89: Halley – A cat with an attitude

Many of you might remember Halley, the kitten we adopted some six weeks ago. Yesterday we took her to the vet for her 3rd and final vaccination.

Getting her in the cat carrier was no problem. In the past we had to push and shove our cats in there, but not Halley, she all but walked into the carrier herself.

Downstairs in the lobby of our condo building, she sat by the grill of the cage carefully watching everything that was going on. People were coming in, going out, and coming in and out of the elevators. When three kids made an appearance and the boy commented “Hey look, a cat!” the look on Halley’s face was priceless. Her expression resembled the statement … ‘Technically, I’m a kitten, Einstein.’

In the cab on the way to the vet, she did what so many cats do in a car … she started to sing. Halley is by no means competition for Celine Dion, but she definitely has a cute voice. At home, we rarely hear a peep out of her (except at meal time) but now in the car, she let herself be heard.

At the vet’s office, I positioned her carrier in such a way that she could see and be seen and predictably she got quite a bit of attention. It didn’t take long for one of the medical assistants to approach her and croon “Oh what a cute kitty.” Halley turned on the charm with a blink of her beautiful brown eyes and if she’d be able to speak, I’m sure she would have said ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’

Unfortunately, she also received some unwanted attention, that of a big golden retriever. This particular dog, called Sophie, wanted to make friends with Halley, but she was having none of it. When Sophie came up to her carrier, Halley raised herself to her full eight inches, flattened her ears, narrowed her eyes and let out an almighty hiss. (I am a kitty, hear me roar!)

Sophie immediately took a step back, cocked her head to one side with a look in her eyes that said ‘What’d you do that for?’

After Sophie had been dragged away by her owner (apparently Sophie loves cats) another dog of an unspecified breed was gonna try his luck. He didn’t even make it as far as Halley’s cage. Still standing proud, she puffed out her chest and gave the dog the dead stare, accompanied by a look that unmistakably conveyed ‘What’d you looking at?’

I think it’s safe to say that Halley has an attitude. She had never seen a dog before, but if you think she was afraid, think again. Even though both dogs who showed an interest in her could have swallowed her whole, she stood her ground and send the clear message … don’t mess with me.

Once with the doctor, she turned on the charm again and was as good as gold. As soon as she was out of her cage, she paraded around, head budded the doctor, and even purred (and believe me she’s got quite an engine).

When the time came to get her shots, I feared that she might claw or hiss at the vet, but she didn’t even blink. The whole thing was over within seconds without any discomfort on Halley’s part.

Back home, for being such a brave girl, she got her favorite food (mackerel & grilled skipjack) followed by some treats for dessert. Now the little mite is resting comfortably.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Day 88: Book Review – The Woman in the Window

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 88: Book Review – The Woman in the Window

I found myself with nothing to read last Friday. Among other presents Father Christmas had given me three books, I’d finished them all and so now what … Fortunately, I was downtown and within walking distance to Chapters Indigo, Canada’s largest book retailer.

Since the authors I follow had nothing new on the shelves, I browsed for something else to read and came across ‘The Woman in the Window’. I remembered seeing a poster for this book on the subway, I read the synopsis and I was intrigued.


Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

The reviews weren’t bad either …

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller!
For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

“Good choice,” the cashier of the store smiled when I went to pay. “There’s been a lot of hype over this book.”

I left the store withe the book tucked under my arm, happy in the knowledge that I had made a good choice. Or so I thought …

No sooner did I start reading the book or I thought … what is this … this is rubbish. I kept on going though, if others had such good things to say about the book, then maybe the story would pick up. It didn’t. If anything, it got worse.

On Amazon I read the reviews …

The Woman in the Window is one of those rare books that really is unputdownable. The writing is smooth and often remarkable. The way Finn plays off this totally original story against a background of film noir is both delightful and chilling.” (Stephen King)

“A dark, twisty confection with an irresistible film noir premise. Hitchcock would have snapped up the rights in a heartbeat.” (New York Times bestselling author Ruth Ware)

“Finn’s debut lives up to the hype … A riveting and mature first novel that stands out in a crowded genre.” (Library Journal)

After reading such lavish praise, I began to wonder what was wrong with me. If everybody loved this book, what did that say about my taste in literature?

Then again, I know from experience that these so-called critics can’t be trusted. What Stephen King and Ruth Ware had to say, you can’t really believe because they’re not going to criticize a  fellow writer. Good manner dictate that they must be supportive.

As for the so called professional reviewers … I never believe a word of what they say. Whether it’s a book, a movie or a play … they nearly always have nothing but good to say.

So, I had a look on Amazon what real readers had to say …

"I love a good domestic/psychological mystery. Lately I have been disappointed. This book seemed so promising, published with high praise from writers I trust like Gillian Flynn and Louise Penny. There were 5 star reviews by readers. What could go wrong.? As I read it an old song by the Who kept going through my head, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

"So boring. Kept waiting for the story to start.
I am 130 pages in and not sure if I will continue."

"The characters are not very likable or interesting and now I am losing interest. Not sure if I will continue or not, so many good reviews though so maybe it gets better."

There was another very detailed negative review, but that has since been removed so couldn’t copy that one.

In addition, there are indeed some very good 5-star reviews, which left me wondering … did those people read the same book I did? They called the story ‘riveting’, ‘thrilling’ and ‘twisted’. I found it childish and annoying.

The main character, Anna, is not exactly a sympathetic one. She suffers from agoraphobia and is an alcoholic. All she does all day is guzzle wine, whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late night ‘snack’.

This alone bothered the hell out of me. Why did every wine she drinks have to be named and described? Did he get a fee from a liquor store to advertise alcohol? When someone smokes critics and people alike are quick to jump down the smokers’ throat, because oeh smoking causes lung cancer. But nobody seems the least bit bothered  by the constant drinking of characters in books and movies. Shouldn’t it be pointed out that alcohol causes high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, not to mention liver cancer?

In addition to her alcoholism, Anna watches black and white movies. A. J. Finn obviously has a love for these old movies because the book is peppered with their titles and plots. Every single chapter has movie titles in it, or a reference to a well known person.

So, eventually I thought … to hell with it. Life's too short to waste it on this rubbish. I took ‘The Woman in the Window’ back to the bookstore and moved on to something else. Safe to say, I’ll never pick up another book from A. J. Finn again.
I find it absolutely baffling that so many manuscripts get rejected, yet this one got published. Does A. J. Finn have connections in the publishing industry?

As for the critics who praised this story … they should be prosecuted for misleading information and lying through their teeth.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Day 87: Suffering from back pain? Go bowling

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 87: Suffering from back pain? Go bowling

As some of you may remember, on November 4th I hurt my back. It started with a tiny pinprick in my lower back, the pain progressed throughout the day and by 10:00 p.m. I was in agony. Everything I did, whether it was sitting down, getting up or moving around, I did slowly and with utter care as the slightest wrong move caused me excruciating pain.

Today, three and a half months later, the pain is much better, but my back has not completely healed. Standing for an extended period of time or walking a distance still causes me discomfort. Not just in my lower back but between and under my shoulder blades.

According to my doctor, I had to go see a physiotherapist. At this point I would do anything to get rid of this pain so off I went.
A short conversation with the clinic’s receptionist told me that a session with the therapist would cost me $90 for 40 minutes and every session afterward would be $65 for 20 minutes. Since I don’t have insurance, this would come out of my own pocket. Fine, if that’s what it took I would pay.

I looked forward to my appointment the next day, but it was all rather disappointing. The therapist asked me a lot of questions, followed by some stretching, pushing and poking. Aware of my discomfort she offered a 3-minute massage and a 10-minute heat treatment.

I must admit, my back felt better after the massage and the heat treatment but later that day everything went south. OMG, I was in so much pain I actually felt worse than before, much worse.

According to the therapist, this was normal. This was why she would have to see me 3 times a week for the next 10 weeks. I did a quick calculation … $65 x 3 x 10 would come to $1,950. That was quite a shock to my finances.

On Saturday morning I went bowling. I was more than a little hesitant given the state of my back, but I felt I had to try. If I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it, but I would at least have given it a shot. Rather than bowling full-out as I usually do, I threw my ball with care, ever conscious of my spine and surrounding muscles. After three games I called it quits though. The games had gone fine, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

Today, some 36 hours later my back pain has all but disappeared. No more pain in my lower back, no more pain between or under my shoulder blades. Price of the games … $6.

Conclusion … before you see a physiotherapist and spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars, GO BOWLING!!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Day 86: How to survive Valentine’s Day

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 86: How to survive Valentine’s Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s day and whether you just broke up with someone, or you haven’t met that special someone yet, Valentine’s Day can have the same effect on you as a red flag has on a bull.  February 14th is like a flashing beacon on your calendar, mocking you, reminding you that you will spend the most romantic day of the year alone.

In case you’re feeling a little gloomy, it is time for action.  Sitting alone in your apartment, playing ‘Crying’ by Roy Orbison or ‘I Will Remember You’ by Sarah McLachlan, is not going to cheer you up, you need to go out and spoil yourself a bit.

First stop, the florist. Buy yourself the prettiest bunch of flowers you can find, to be arranged later in a nice vase. If cut flowers do not appeal to you, how about a posy? Something with yellow daisies is just the thing to cheer you up.
Next stop, the bookstore. Whether you like romance novels or a good murder mystery, take your time browsing the shelves and get that book you are looking forward to reading.

Final stop, the chocolatier. Forget your diet for a day and pick up some pralines. Select whatever you fancy, chocolates are great to chase to blues away.

Back home take a relaxing bath or shower and put on something comfortable and order take-outs. Whether it is pizza, Chinese or Greek, it is bound to be delicious.

After dinner make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, curl up on the sofa with your new book and keep those chocolates within reach.

In case being alone does not appeal to you, call a friend or two and have a night in.  Nothing is more fun than time with your friends.

If you do not want to stay at home, you can go to your favorite restaurant (alone or with a friend) and afterward go to the cinema, the theatre or even a sporting event.

How to survive Valentine’s Day alone is all up to you.  Don’t sit around waiting for some guy or gal to make you happy with a gift, give yourself a little something.  Today you are celebrating your independence.

Do you need more convincing … just listen to your married friends. They complain about their partner, their children and how they miss their freedom. They envy you. You can do anything, anytime, anywhere. So what are you waiting for? Go for it!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Day 85: The Tevo tarantula

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 85: The Tevo tarantula

Dieter brought a tarantula into the house. Not a tarantula spider (I wouldn’t allow him to set foot in the house with that big hairy monster), no a Tevo tarantula.

Are you familiar with the Tevo tarantula? For the uninitiated, the Tevo tarantula is a 3D printer. If the name didn’t immediately ring a bell, don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

Dieter ordered it online, received it at work, and when he boarded the subway with the box quite a few people looked at it with more than a little suspicion. Some even moved a safe distance away.

When he came home with the box, bearing a giant spider on the lid, I looked at it with suspicion too. 
“Don’t worry, it’s not what you’re thinking,” Dieter said. Was I thinking that he had brought home a tarantula? Of course not, he’s just as horrified by spiders as I am. The question was though … what had he brought home?

“It’s a printer,” he said. “A 3D printer.”
“I’m gonna build it.”

What I really thought was ‘oh-oh’. Dieter building an electronic device … I feared the worst. When things go wrong, Dieter tends to resort to … shall we say colorful language.

When he got started, I saw things coming out of that box that I thought ‘what on earth is that?’ While I didn’t have a clue, Dieter seemed to know what to do though and with the help of a manual, the printer slowly but surely took shape.

When it was finished we faced the moment of truth … would it work? The machine was fed a length of PLA (polylactic acid) filament, the power was switched on and … it worked, the machine actually worked. The nozzle kept going back and forth and from side to side, and we were both intently staring at it like parents would gaze at their newborn baby.

No sooner was the machine built or Dieter started talking about upgrades. This could be better and that should be replaced and rather than buying parts, every modification was printed on the Tevo.

Today, about a week later, the soft hum of the Tevo tarantula has become a familiar sound. So far it produced various sizes of testing calibration cubes, a reel support, and brackets.

Once all the modifications are complete, Dieter will start printing other stuff, who knows what. Personally, I don’t care what he prints as long as it isn’t a tarantula.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Day 84: Dealing with fragile egos

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 84: Dealing with fragile egos

Just about everyone knows that when asked “What do you think of my hair?” or “Am I fat?” one has to proceed with extreme caution.

Lately, I became aware of another ‘loaded gun’ … “What do you think of my book?” Invariably, the authors aren’t looking for honest feedback on the cover design or story, they’re looking for validation. They’re not looking for an honest opinion, they want their feathers stroked.

Being an honest individual who says it like it is, I’ve ruffled a few feathers this morning. A writer boasted about her sales and curious as I am, I went to Amazon to take a look. When I found the book in question I clicked on the ‘Look Inside’ feature and I was horrified by what I found.

Something that immediately put my back up was the following …

“Hi , how r u ?” Sarah assked.

While I understand that ‘how r u?’ in phone texting is acceptable, it is most certainly not appropriate for a story. The misplaced comma bothered me too, but what really irked me the most was the spelling mistake. If this had been on page 199, this might have been an oversight, but this misspelled word was on page one.

The author claimed that not only did she proofread her document, she had ‘several eyes’ go over it. This begs the question, didn’t she or any of the others notice that 'asked' is spelled with one ‘s’ not two?

When I pointed out these mistakes I was told that I was being a spiteful bitch. Well excuse me but, if someone can’t handle constructive criticism, why ask for feedback in the first place? Perhaps, when asking for feedback, certain writers should post the following warning:

Please comment on my book, but don’t criticize it. Tell me how beautiful my cover is, how interesting my story is and how well written it is. If you dare to say anything negative, I will lash out at you. I want to be told that I’m wonderful, that there’s no other book out there like mine, and that my work will no doubt reach the top. In short, I have the mentality of a 6-year-old and if you don’t stroke my fragile ego I will throw a tantrum.