(At Left Coast Crime, Parnell Hall, who was moderating one of the panels I was on, gave his panelists a homework assignment: write something in a genre other than the one in which we normally wrote. I decided to rewrite the opening of The Penguin Who Knew Too Much in a slightly less cozy vein. Unfortunately, I didn't put my draft in my carryon, and United Airlines didn't finally deliver my suitcase until the after the panel was over. So since I didn't get to present it at the convention, here it is--the opening of Penguin Noir.)
"Hey, kid! Guess what I found in your basement?"
I looked up from the Walter PK380 semi-automatic I was cleaning to see Tiny's huge frame filling the basement doorway.
"A stiff?" I meant that as a joke. Couple years ago a business rival actually tried to frame me by dumping a stiff in my basement, but after what Tiny and I did to the guy, I didn't think anyone would try it again.
"You already knew? Well, how soon will the garbage collectors get here? I need to move the penguins--we don't want them any more upset than they already are by all the blood."
He disappeared down the basement stairs without waiting for an answer. I set my gun carefully on the desk and went to the doorway to call down after him.
"Tiny? I was joking. Did you really find a stiff in the basement? And why are there penguins there? Tiny!"
No answer. Should I go down to see what was happening, or call the garbage collectors, as Tiny called them--some guys who owed me a favor and ran a junkyard so huge and run down that it could absorb any amount of inconvenient evidence.
I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Normally counting to ten calmed me, but today it just gave me time to think about how quickly today was going south.
Of course, my day would have to get pretty bad before it hit the kind of rock bottom day the stiff in my basement was having.
Then again, the stiff probably hadn't had to deal with penguins. Nasty birds, penguins, always reeking of fish and dung. About the only smell I hated worse than penguin was the smell of blood.
And now, according to Tiny, I had both in my basement.
I tucked the Walther back in my holster before heading down to check things out.
Last January I posted about sales pitches that miss the target. I was poking a little mild fun at Shutterfly's auto sales email, which encouraged me to preserve my precious photo memories by putting them into a book--but since the photos in question were of a flock of buzzards dining on some carrion . . .well, it was funny.
I was a little anxious when, some time later, I received an email from Shutterfly about the post. Okay, the idea of a buzzard memory book was funny, but don't get me wrong--I love Shutterfly. For quite a few years, I've been using them to make an annual calendar with a baker's dozen of my best photos from the year. And this Christmas I did my second annual "brag book" with them--a book of my best photos of the family, as a special present for my mom. I don't want Shutterfly mad at me!
And to my relief, they weren't. The Shutterfly rep said "Thanks for mentioning Shutterfly on your blog, even in a satiric nature. All press is good press, right?" He asked if I could possibly link to their page about making photo books.
And life got crazy, and I never got around to it. But since I was mailing out a couple of this year's calendars, I remembered that email. And I figured better late than never.
So, if you want to know who does my calendars and my photo books--Shutterfly. Who might not love having me make fun of them, but can still say "Thanks again for the funny post."
Earlier this year, I celebrated turning in SOME LIKE IT HAWK by going on a plant- and bulb-buying spree. But other deadlines loomed up, and I never found the time to plant them all. Especially the bulbs, since I knew better than to plant them TOO early. I added them up and realized I had over 400 bulbs to plant before the ground froze.
Therefore I declared today "Finish Planting the Bulbs, Dammit" Day. I got them all done except for the tulips. I'm going to plant the tulips in large planters on the deck, with hardware cloth on top, to see if that discourages the squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents from eating them before spring. And I can't figure out where I put the hardware cloth.
So tomorrow is "Tidy the House and Garage Until the Hardware Cloth Turns Up" Day.
Today added camassias, hardy glads, galanthus, muscari, puschkinia, crocuses, and daffodils to my yard. If all goes as planned, tomorrow will bring a little year-end order to my life.
And maybe a couple dozen tulips if the hardware cloth turns up. Followed by copious napping and the consumption of Advil, if tomorrow's marathon is anything like today's.
One of the great mysteries of cyberspace--at least my small corner of it: why do so many people trying to sell shoes seem determined to spam my blog? I have the blog set so I see all the comments that are posted, and while Typepad does a decent job of filtering out most of the spam, a few make it though. And they're nearly all about shoes.
Oh, not overtly about shoes. They'll post some vague, seemingly innocuous comment. "Very, very well done" or “THIS IS A REALLY QUALITY POST. I FIND THIS INFORMATION THROUGH GOOGLE. GREAT JOB!!!” or, more poetically, “The road chosen in yesterday, please not return your head again and again. Regardless it ever gave …” (These are actual quotes of spam comments posted on--and now removed from--my blog.) And I will frown, and look down at the poster's name. And it will be something like "Discount [Brandname] Shoes" or "[Brandname] Chaussures." Or maybe the poster's name will be normal or at least innocuous, but there's the link to the website--www.[brandname]shoes.com. Arrant spam.
Is it just me? Are the spam trolls under the misapprehension that I am someone whose blog draws an audience of fine footwear aficionadas? Because anyone who's been paying attention would know that thanks to a badly healed broken toe, I've been living in Crocs the past couple of years, only recently acquired a pair of athletic shoes that I can wear without agony, and wouldn't know a designer shoe if it kicked me in the tailbone. Any shoe freak who finds her way to my blog would quickly give up in disgust and go elsewhere.
And I delete all the shoe spam as soon as I find it. In fact, I don't just delete it, I report it as spam. They're wasting their time, and mine. And their time is their own, but I'm really tired of spending mine deleting them.
So is it just me? Or is the entire blogosphere inundated with shoe spam???
The power went out while my nephews were here enjoying a spot of Wii gaming. They weren't altogether thrilled at having their screen time curtailed, but once they realized there wasn't anything I could do about it, we settled down for a cutthroat game of Parcheesi.
What really cracked me up were the things they didn't realize I couldn't do for them. "Can we have some macaroni and cheese?" I keep Annie's organic microwavable mac and cheese on hand, so normally that's a no-brainer of a snack, but I explained that if the power was out, the microwave wouldn't work. Could I bake this cookie mix into cookies? No power. After I vetoed a couple more impossible suggestions, and plyed them with what reasonably healthy cold snacks I had on hand, inspiration struck. "Would you like a pizza? I could order a pizza!"
Yes, they would love a pizza. But instead of being able to walk over to my computer and order online, as I usually do, I had to find the phone book and look up the number. I was over by the window, running my fingers down the fine print when power returned.
And there was much rejoicing. And I fixed macaroni and cheese.
I've solved a small mystery. I discovered embarrassingly late that I had NOT registered for Bouchercon 2011. And with a convention I regularly attend, I always try before the end of the event to register for the next one--how had I missed registering for St. Louis while in SF in 2010?
Fortunately I figured this in out time to register for St. Louis and be included in the programming. And because I am a con addict, while I was in the dealer's room in St. Louis, I made sure to register for the Bouchercons in Cleveland (2012), Albany (2013), and Long Beach (2014). I'd have registered for Raleigh (2015) if I'd found them.
Then, shortly after I returned home, Margery Mogg, the Cleveland registrar, told me that I'd already registered with them. So I didn't forget to register for the next Bouchercon while I was in SF, I just got confused about which one came next.
It seems to be raining again. It rained last night. It's supposed to rain again tomorrow. After that, Weather.com predicts a whole week of partly cloudy or mostly sunny, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Meanwhile, my yard is a sodden morass of red clay and mud. Evidently actual grass doesn't like this much rain, although the weeds revel in it. Making a mental note to discuss core aeration with my lawn guy. Also reseeding, organic weed control, and hell, maybe even resodding.
I can tell that either I didn't remove the little black rubber plugs from the drainage holes in some of the planters on my deck or those planters need additional holes drilled, because there's standing water in them. I should be emptying water and drilling. In fact, I should be going around emptying all the little nooks and crannies that have filled up with rain, because I don't think we've had a frost yet, and they're not predicting one any time soon, and mosquitos could still be breeding in all those little pools and puddles.
Instead, I'm making a list. One of those useless but amusing lists that always seem more interesting than whatever we're supposed to be doing.
Creatures I will not be taking on my ark (if it comes to that)
Emerald Ash Borers
And (sorry, Bambi-lovers) the Virginia White-Tail Deer
Happily accepting suggestions for other flora and fauna we'd like to see less of.