Archive for October, 2011


Dark Climbing

on October 31, 2011 in Misc 2 Comments »

You know you’re desperate for any action hero silliness when a shoe on the roof of your condo building’s garage strikes you as an opportunity.

As you know, I live in a lovely old 1939 building with a long garage in the rear, and you know that I’ve climbed up onto the garage roof in the dark.

(Doing it in the day doesn’t work because 1) sensible people, such as the building manager, might ask what the hell you’re doing up there; 2) climbing up in the daylight is no challenge; and 3) Layla climbs trees and buildings in the dark so that’s what I have to do.)  Anyway, in the last week or two someone tossed an old shoe up there.  It’s on the east side of the garage roof and near the tree — my favorite means of ascent.  (At the other end are power lines way too close to the roof for my comfort.)

Yesterday I figured that old shoe would look better on the roof or an eave of the least popular neighbors in my neighborhood:  the ones who live in the party house.  In fact, super gluing that shoe to their house would be rather appropriate since on Saturday they had yet another party that woke me up at 3:00 a.m.

So last night near midnight I went out a couple times and climbed the tree beside the garage.  I had to do it a couple times because the first time I got up there I didn’t have a flashlight and couldn’t see the shoe.  So I got my tiny, very bright LED flashlight, went back out and again climbed up to the roof’s edge, only to realize that the shoe was farther out on the roof than I’d thought, and yes I could get to it but not without making a hell of a lot of noise.

You see, the leaves and vines and branches on that side of the garage are still so freaking CRUNCHY!

I thought the snow we’d had, which has already melted, would soften all the vegetation, but nope, it’s SUPER CRISPY and VERY NOISY yet again.  This is why climbing up there in other seasons is easier.  You may also recall that in my neighborhood PEOPLE NEVER SEEM TO SLEEP!  There’s always someone out walking a dog or jogging or whatever, and porch lights are burning brightly, hence practicing secret climbing can be a challenge.

And that’s when I remembered, as I stood straddle-legged on two branches of the tree, that Monday was Halloween.  People would be going up and down the sidewalk only a few yards away, and making noise, and crunching through the leaves, and if someone is climbing up a tree to a roof, they won’t pay much mind ’cause folks are out having weird fun.  I’ve never done a Layla stunt under such bustling social circumstances, have I?

So guess what I’ll be doing tonight for Halloween.  Then again, it should only take a few minutes, which will leave me plenty of time to go out and see all the decorations and pumpkins and trick or treaters.  And those little kids will be a great cover for me as I wander over to the partying neighbor’s house.

Have a spooky one.

I’m happy to announce that today (Thursday) I’m a guest over on writer Hart Johnson’s sassy blog, CONFESSIONS OF A WATERY TART.  Please check me out at this link, and while you’re at it say hello to the gloriously irreverent Hart.

http://waterytart23.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile, Amazon has STILL not posted the first chapter of The Compass Master on its page, and they have STILL not responded to my queries about it (“We will reply to your email within 12 hours.”  Liars).  So or your entertainment I’m posting here the first part of the first chapter.

Have a wonderful day.

Chapter 1

The guards appeared like dark threats in the empty landscape. There were five of them, and all were slouching in boredom and fiddling with their Kalashnikovs, and none wore distinguishing uniforms but instead the kind of black leather jackets favored by Serbian tough guys. They were blocking a road that split off from the two-lane highway and led around a hill to an unseen Serbian town—an enemy’s legally separate enclave in predominantly Muslim-Croat Bosnia. It didn’t matter that the war had been over for years. Because bad memories never die, the men stood armed and ready in the mid­dle of nowhere.

Layla Daltry knew they might give her trouble. Might force her to stop by stringing themselves across the road. Might swagger over to her slowing car and shove the barrels of their guns up against its windows, and shout at her in a language she didn’t understand. She was driving on the Bosnian side of the border, but hers was the only car on the highway. No one else was around to prevent the guards from doing whatever they wanted.

There was only one thing she could do to escape them. She slammed her foot on the gas pedal, which made the little rented Yugo give a heave and a jerk. Lord, how she hated Yugos! Worst gears in the world. But in seconds the car was ripping down the asphalt like a screaming demon. The guards turned in her direction and one held up his hand and another his gun. That was when she performed her oldie but goodie, dazzle ‘em with fun and sex. She tossed her head so that her hair fell playfully across one eye, teasingly unbuttoned her shirt halfway down, and flashed a crooked, naughty smile. The guards gawked in surprise. Before they could move her car zipped past them. In the rearview mirror she saw them laughing and waving at her while one hooted a catcall.

“Talk about being dangerously bored,” Layla whispered. At least those men were the last trap she had to negotiate—she hoped.

Long minutes dragged by before traffic appeared on the road ahead. Like an animal seeking shelter in a herd, she steered into the thick of it until her nondescript car became invisible amid the sleek Mercedes, old junk heaps, and smoking trucks. A few miles later she murmured, “It’s just around the corner.” She took the last long curve of asphalt with reckless speed and didn’t slow down even when she saw it: her sanctuary, Sarajevo…

Today I’m singing my gratitude to, among others, the proudly naked Hart Johnson, the literary force to be reckoned with behind the very successful blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart. (She’s the tart.)

Yesterday (Sunday) Hart devoted her blog posting to yours truly and the release of  The Compass Master.  I was touched, I was thrilled, and I was embarrassed to realize that I’d spaced out the part in her email to me where she said she would write about TCM in her Sunday and Thursday postings.  I kinda misunderstood and thought she was giving me a choice so I chose Thursday.  But in fact she was giving me both days.  Anyway late yesterday afternoon I thought I’d stop by her blog, and lo and behold there was my name and book in large print!

Here’ the proof:  (Scroll down to Sunday after reading today’s moving post)

http://waterytart23.blogspot.com/

She also made me sound like someone impressive (lol) who’s been working like crazy on my Layla plan.  But the reality is, between finishing, publishing, and now trying to promote TCM, plus my full-time job and life in general, I’ve barely had time for the last month or two to devote myself to it as much as I should.  And as much as I want to.  I mean, I really NEED to start having some fun again.  But I can do without the sometimes physical pain.

Speaking of that plan, I am overdue in giving Robert Read a big hug and thanks for writing the first review for TCM on Amazon.  Like Hart, I met Robert in cyberspace, in his case when he started leaving comments on this blog.  And I mean they are always intelligent, well-written comments because he’s the kind of man who clearly knows what he’s talking about, whether it’s weight-lifting or poker or you name it, and he doesn’t let me get away with hot air, which I can be full of when I get lazy.  He also kindly volunteered to read a draft of TCM, and his critiques were so sharp and insightful I of course followed them closely as I rewrote the weak passages and elements he pointed out.  He definitely made my book better.  Thank you, Robert.   (And here’s an illustration of my image of you.)

Another person I’m singling out today is Ciara Knight, who’s an all-around generous and supportive person and a newly published writer.  You can find her at her blog of the same name, http://www.ciaraknight.com/, which as the cool subtitle of “Writing to the Edge of Darkness.”  I downloaded her ebook, Love’s Long Shadow from Amazon, and as soon as I find some FREAKING TIME this week I’m gonna relax and enjoy and read it.

Also, here’s a shout out and thanks to my cyber pal Ben Schmitt, a fellow writer, a very smart guy, a devotee of the martial arts, a crazy busy student and worker, and future great novelist and filmmaker.

To you all and more, I love ya.

Today I’m just catching y’all up on some Layla training and writing stuff, to whit…

MYOPATTERNING:  Also called floor barre pilates.  I had my third class on Saturday and I can already see the difference in my body.  I mean… dang!  This stuff really works in terms of shaping the body by exercising little muscles along with the big ones while simultaneously stretching them.  My various parts do seem a little leaner and curvier, and, all practical aspects of getting in better shape aside, looking good is important for us action heroes.  So far I’ve had the classes from two of the female instructors, who are both very slim yet freakishly strong.  Another thing – the class is 90 minutes long but both instructors like to run over the time period, which means an hour and forty-five minutes of working out on a straps-and-springs machine that could pass for a torture rack.  Whoopee.

LOCKPICKING:  I am so not happy to find out that my skills have slid backwards.   I figured that once I got the basics down they’d stay with me, but apparently not. It’s been only two or three months since I did some serious picking, and I’ve definitely lost some of the feel and speed.  Thus I gotta make it a habit to pick more often.  I’ve also got to send in for a couple more finer and stronger torques and look into learning about lock bumping.

POST-PUBLISHING EMOTIONAL STATE:   Oh lordy, I am so all over the place.   One minute I’m elated at the slightest hint of a compliment from anyone for The Compass Master, and the next I’m spiraling down into a pitch-black brooding depression.  One minute I’m glad and relieved and proud of myself for my self-publishing effort, the next I’m plagued with doubts and swear I should have slogged along the traditional route, never mind that at one point I had an agent and TCM came heart-breakingly close to being picked up by a publisher.

Which is why I enjoyed a recent piece in the New York Times by an author who gloomily summarized her literary efforts:

“The life of a printed book goes something like this: bookstores, Amazon bargains, used bookstores, free bookshelves, landfills. And then, someday, we all die.”

Ain’t that cheerful?  And she was published by one of the big houses.  So let this be a lesson to all us writers:  publishing is not for wusses.  Doesn’t matter if you go self-pub or traditional pub.  You must have heart and soul and tough-as-nails literary gonads to put your stuff out there.  And you might as well try to enjoy the process and dance and celebrate because in the end… in the end…

Oh, hell!  Now I’m depressed again.

At long last, after countless months and years and what seemed an eternity to me, THE COMPASS MASTER IS FINALLY IN PRINT!

Pause for me to breathe a weary sigh and lift a glass of champagne in celebration.

And for your entertainment and enlightenment, here’s the blurb as it appears on the back.

In this masterpiece of suspenseful storytelling…

Museums and wealthy private collectors of antiquities turn to Layla Daltry when their more respectable sources fail. As a scholar of ancient manuscripts, she knows what to look for. But as a romantic idealist and thrill-seeker, she takes too many risks and balances on the edge of the law.

Yet even Daltry isn’t prepared for the deadly endgame that’s set in motion when her mentor dies. She learns too late that the professor had been secretly following an ancient trail of codes and ciphers that lead to hidden letters capable of changing history.

Now an unseen enemy determined to destroy the letters has stolen the professor’s final clues and is shadowing Layla. With her life in the balance, she must race across Europe and find the hiding place. The only expert who can help her is former lover Zach Sandoval – a man who betrayed her once before. Together they discover that the professor and the enemy had, years earlier, chosen them to be both players and rivals in a lightning-paced hunt that is now spiraling out of control into a contest of intrigue, treachery, and lethal mystery.

OMG, my fat manuscript is FINALLY now a fat book.   523 pages!  What was I thinking?  But hey, there are 100 chapters, most of them short, along with  a short epilogue so there’s a fair amount of blank space.  There’s also lots of action ’cause this is a thriller and the story moves quickly, as I’ve been told by my readers/friends who poured over my story looking for literary problems and hiccups and burps.   I rewrote and polished this baby until it now shines like the sun on a hot summer day.

I am so proud of it.

And it’s available on Amazon.com and I’m so sorry it costs $16 and Amazon isn’t giving my book a discount price just yet.   BUT the Kindle/ebook version should be available within the next couple weeks at the much lower sum of $3.99.   Such a bargain for a fat, brilliant book.

Here’s the link, if you wanna just take a look…

http://www.amazon.com/Compass-Master-Helena-Soister/dp/061546162X/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318347579&sr=1-4

Now I’ve got to arrange for Amazon to have the first couple chapters available to read for free and get some links on the page to advertise it and I’ve got to start promoting it…

But for right now I want to thank my reader/fellow writer Robert Read for giving The Compass Master its first glowing review.  I’ve been promised lots more glowing reviews by friends and a couple family members who are still reading the thing and are unfortunately so honest they don’t want to review it until they’ve finished, even though they really, really like the book so far and would it hurt them to, like, post a good review NOW?

Do I sound  anxious and insecure?  Oh please — show me a writer who’s all confidence and calm at a book’s release and I’ll show you an alien yeti.

I also want to thank you and hug and kiss you, my lovely blog readers, for hanging in there with me and giving me encouragement on days when, maybe unbeknownst to you, I really was down in the dumps and needed a friendly cyber pat on the back.

Love you all.

First of all, I failed to show you the rest of the photos for my “When It’s Okay to Use the *F* Word” posting. One is above, and the rest are below.

Second of all, and far more important, Ciara Knight’s book Love’s Long Shadow – Battle for Souls was published yesterday!  (Pause to shout Huzzah!  Hurray!)  It’s in e-book format and available at Turquoise Morning Press, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Bookstrand, and All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit.  For more on Ciara’s fabulousness, check out her Writing to the Edge of Darkness blog at http://www.ciaraknight.com/

I hope that Ciara doesn’t mind that in the interest of promotion I lifted the cover and blurb from her website:

Sammy Lorre was cast from Heaven for conduct unbecoming an angel. Living in a demon-infested small town with no memory of her previous life, she faces never-ending purgatory until Boon saunters into her life with a promise of angelic love. But is he an angel from Heaven or a minion from the underworld preying on her human emotions? To discover his true identity, she must risk eternal damnation and her heart.

Personally, there’s no way I can resist reading this story.

Now, as for me and on a much less celestial level…

This was me late Saturday morning… OMG MY CALVES AND BUTT ARE BURNING!!!

Strictly speaking, it was the back upper top of my hips and just at the bottom of my spine that was on fire.  Right along the lowest part of my back that had been hurting me but which the sports therapist fixed last week, along with my left leg (see my last posting).  Anyway, the therapist had recommended a friend’s workout class in myopatterning because, she said, it would stretch and loosen the little obscure muscles and tendons in me that had tightened up after years of bad walking habits.  The place’s website says that myopatterning is “a Pilates-based system designed to increase strength and flexibility while reducing risk of injury.”  What I found was that it calls for working out on a flat machine and using pulleys and straps and do-dads to pull and push my muscles and limbs in directions that nature never intended.

So on Saturday morning there were about ten of us pulling and pushing away (including two women who kept yapping through class and wouldn’t SHUT UP!), and I definitely felt a few muscles I never knew I had.  I’m also happy to say that afterward the instructor told me I was very limber and strong. My Layla workouts have been paying off!

Happily too, the first class for me was free. And at $46 a month for one class a week, I should be able to keep going.  What surprised me was how the exercises not only stretched me out but really worked my different muscle groups.  Only when I was walking away did I realize that parts of me were hot and Jello-y.  I mean, I didn’t even work up a bead of sweat during class.  Then on Sunday it was my quads’ turn to ache.  And, of course, where the sports therapist rubbed me down still feels bruised, but I don’t mind because… THE BACK PAIN AND THE PAINFUL TWINGE IN MY THIGH TENDON ARE GONE AND I’M STRETCHING MORE EASILY ALREADY!

And this means I’m beginning to feel more like Layla again and less like a beat-up old lady.