Daisy Dukes Versus Cargo Shorts

In preparation for a camping trip, I went shopping for some shorts. In both sports stores, I walked down the dividing aisle between men’s and women’s clothing. To the left, there were rugged, cargo shorts in every earth tone and print. To the right, low-rise, butt-cheek-skimming daisy dukes in garish colors. Apparently, men require comfort and practicality when camping or engaging in sports activities and women do not.

I still have the heart-shaped butt of my youth, except now it’s upside down.

I was frothing at the mouth by the time I made my way to the end of my department, with nothing suitable for camping in hand. In the end, I bought myself men’s cargo shorts. Admittedly, they make me look a bit like Man Mountain Dean. But I think anyone walking behind me will be grateful for the boxy cargo shorts when the alternative was an unrestricted view of butt cheeks that have endured the forces of gravity for forty-seven years.

Am I wrong?

I’m Alive…and 49 Pages Closer to “The End”

You lookin’ at me?
(Thanks MKD for the photo.)

Another heavenly week has come and gone. This was year 2 of my Virginia Beach writing retreat with the Doll Babies. If that’s conjuring up images of sweet, little ladies popping bon bons as they write, well, the bon bons are not far off course, but sweet…nah. If you saw us coming, you might think we were a gang. We’ve got the thriller-writing motorcycle mama, and the tattoo-covered fantasy writer. Then there’s the one that sounds like My Cousin Vinny. Ahem. Throw in a former investigative journalist, a nuclear plant engineer, and a flamenco-dancing biologist. Don’t let the two southern belles fool you. And beware of the one who induces death by chocolate every night. Scarier still, the one who cannot be bribed with chocolate cake and has some frightening ideas on revenge. You don’t want her moving those ideas from the page to the street. Trust me on this.

Were we having fun yet? Hell, yeah!

Long story short…I had hoped to complete another 18 manuscript pages, but I ended up with 49. Don’t ask me how. As everyone sat at their computers for hours, I got up for a snack, and then some relaxation on the beach, and then a run and shower, and then a nap. Oh, look at the time—dinner. You get the idea. Whatever works.

There were moments I wanted to skip over the tough scenes and write the easier ones. But I knew I’d never have this kind of uninterrupted time again, so I forged ahead. It was a good decision. It forced me into the dreaded middle of the novel and I got some momentum going.

Besides the writing, there were a few other highlights:

I went down to the beach, one morning, sheet in hand. I kicked sand into a few umbrella holes, laid out the sheet, and then lay down with my eyes closed. The sound of the surf lulled me into a meditative state. A short while later, the excited screams of two women disrupted my peace. “Oh my God. Look at all those crabs.” I lifted my head slightly, shaded my eyes with my hand, and realized the women were pointing at me. My sheet was surrounded by crabs. Those umbrella holes I covered up…not umbrella holes. The crabs were digging themselves out of their wrecked homes. They looked angry. Some of them wielded little beach sticks in their claws. Frankly, they were menacing. I grabbed my sheet and ran.

Another day, a fellow writer and I walked to a nature preserve. It was a long walk. A very long walk. It was hot. We didn’t have water. All the snack bars were closed because it wasn’t quite the season. When we arrived at the entrance booth, a friendly man gave us each a cup of water and then told us to mind the venomous snakes and the wild pi-igs. Wild pigs? Yup, those ones with the tusks. I was convinced he was having some fun with me and my New York accent. Not so. There’s something about the word pig pronounced with two syllables that scares the hell out of me.

So now it’s back to the real world. Work. Bills. Chores. Not enough time to write. No worries. I’ve got memories of ten women sharing their stories, eating good food, laughing like crazy, not a care in the world. It’ll keep me going until next year.

A strong suggestion for my readers: Do this for yourself. You don’t have to be a writer. Carve out a week with like-minded people. It’s food for your soul.

7 x 7 Link Award

My pal over at Celluloid Zombie passed along this award, which led me to revisit some old blog posts.

The rules to the 7 x 7 Link Award are simple:

  1. Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.
  2. Link to a post I think fits the following categories: Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride Worthy Piece.
  3. Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.

And we’re off.

Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows

If not one person knew some deep, dark secret of mine, I can’t imagine why I’d suddenly tell everyone. But here’s the thing…I’m a pretty open person. I’d offer up even the most cringe-inducing confession if I thought someone else would benefit by it. So there you go. Not nearly as exciting as the bodies under the floorboards over at Celluloid Zombie, I know.

1. Most Beautiful Piece

Without hesitation, my most beautiful piece—One Two Three Kick—is about the person responsible for so many happy moments in my childhood (even if I do shudder when re-reading the paragraphs detailing the excessive snacking. What did we know? It was the 70s.)

2. Most Helpful Piece

Felix the Cat and MacGyver inspired this post that I hope encouraged you to consider how the simplest things and a bit of imagination can take life from mundane to memorable. Check out Felix the Cat and MacGyver Picnic on a Purple Sarong.

3. Most Popular Piece

Reading Old Journals…Yikes! struck a chord with many readers. It is my leader in Comments and what great comments they are.

4. Most Controversial Piece

Controverisal? Moi? Well, if you’re planning on hiring me sometime in the future, please don’t read Denim, the evil fabric until we’ve finalized all the contracts.

5. Most Surprisingly Successful Piece

Who could have guessed that my family recipe for Migliaccio (Italian Farina Custard) would top my Most Viewed chart? When did farina, eggs, and sugar become so popular? It just goes to prove that the whole, bubbling concoction is greater than the sum of its parts. With Easter right around the corner, you don’t want to miss this one.

6. Most Underrated Piece

Apparently, readers don’t want to hear about one of the more embarrassing moments in my life or the possibility that Child Protective Services has a file on me for subjecting a minor to naked aliens. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you either, then don’t read Signs.

7. Most Pride Worthy Piece

My post Travel: Gaeta, Italy in October is the one I’m most proud of. It was a labor of love to condense two of the best weeks of my life into a CliffsNotes travelogue. I’m so hopeful that someone out there will make this very trip and then tell me all about their experience. I love reminiscing about this vacation and I often return to this post to immerse myself in a sea of memories.

My 7 Nominees

I know people are busy, so don’t feel obligated to participate. However, you are the ones that entertain me the most and it would be fun to read some of your posts I may have missed.

Altared Spaces

Finding the Humor

Girlboxing

Huffygirl’s Blog

Mostly Bright Ideas

The Fordeville Diaries

The Glowing Edge

On Writing: When Outlines Attack

Back in my early days of novel writing, I was addicted to reading how-to books. I raced through one after another with barely a breath between them, let alone time to apply what I’d just read. Eventually, I became disgusted with my lack of progress after eight years of working on the same novel and decided to read a book and actually do the exercises in it. That book was The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray:

“A dynamic 52-week program to help you produce a finished novel…one weekend at a time.”

I can already hear the groans of the writers in the audience who sit down to a blank sheet of paper and start writing a novel with not one bit of a plan in mind. Bear with me. 🙂

On Weekend 1, I started with character sketches and completed one for each of my characters. I progressed to the characters’ back stories, their dreams, the contents of their closets, and then it was time for storyboarding, sketching out scenes, and setting the stage. I’ll admit I was having fun in those early weeks, exploring and discovering.

Soon I had a 3-column table listing every scene that would eventually be in my novel in excruciating detail. I was ready to sit down and write. And that I did, right up to the last quarter of the book where I stopped dead and lost all interest in finishing.

The following year, I showed up for a writing workshop at my local library. We were told to bring our in-progress novels and any other materials that we had created to facilitate the writing process. As we went around the table, each person held up a chapter or two and told a similar tale about how they had sat down to a blank page, begun writing, and hadn’t gotten very far. Then, it was my turn. I pushed my hand truck up to the table and started unloading my specimens. [click on graphic to enlarge]

My turn to share at the writing workshop

The shock and horror on the faces of the other participants will never leave my memory. It was like I was the star of a circus freak show.

When I finished my spiel, the instructor stood up and said something so simple and obvious, it’s hard to believe I hadn’t thought of it before. But it was truly a light-bulb moment for me [click on graphic to enlarge]:

You must unlearn what you have learned.

Then she turned to the others and said, “She needs to do less plotting and outlining, but you need to do a bit more.”

I barely heard the rest of it because my brain had jumped into high gear. I realized she was right. I had already written the novel in summary form and dreaded writing it again. A few years later, I would study personality typing tools like Myers-Briggs and realize that I am an unstructured person by nature who had been forcing myself to operate in a super-structured way for an extended period of time. That mistake had sucked the creativity and fun out of the writing process.

“If I had a plot that was all set in advance, why would I want go through the agony of writing the novel? A novel is a kind of exploration and discovery, for me at any rate.”  —Chaim Potok

From that point on, I did away with the tomes of reconnaissance on my characters. When I had an idea for a new novel, I’d jot down some notes and play with the idea like it was a piece of clay, mushing it this way and that until I saw something I liked. Over the course of the writing process, I’d record a bare-bones list of scenes, maybe 1-2 sentences for each scene. Sometimes the scene had already been written. Sometimes it hadn’t and I didn’t want a good idea to slip through the sieve that is my brain.

The skeletal structure of my outline made it extremely flexible. I could delete or add ideas whenever the mood hit. It was also helpful as a Cliff Notes-type tool to remind me what I had already written, so I didn’t have to waste time rereading chapters before getting down to the task of writing. Perhaps the best part of such an outline is that it makes the dreaded synopsis, a submissions requirement of many publishers, much easier to write because it is already in “tell/don’t show mode,” which is how a synopsis should be written unlike the novel itself.

I’ve seen debates online where writers claim their approach to writing is the better method. Writing organically, or not, is a good thing only if that is how you write best. If it’s not, forcing yourself to work that way is a major chore. And let’s face it, writing is hard enough when you’re doing it in a manner that is true to your personality type.

With that said, I do think it sometimes helps to sprinkle a pinch of “opposite function” into the stew. For example, when you’re flying by the seat of your pants and you feel yourself floating off into space, maybe a bit of a plan would help. And if you’re recording every last detail in an outline before you even begin writing and find that you’re stuck, maybe it’s time to put away the outline, take a notebook outside and just start writing whatever comes into mind. These kinds of tricks often help to awaken the part of your brain that’s having a long siesta.

In 2009, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an exercise in which you write a 50,000-word novel in one month. I started on November 1st with the barest hint of an idea and had to come up with 1,667 words of pure, unthought-out originality every day. I managed to churn the words out for about half the month until my novel The Benefactor was published and book promotion took precedence. However, I did end up with about 28,000 words of a novel that I was looking forward to continuing. I planned to proceed in the same manner—without a plan—but because of the complexity of the story, I repeatedly found myself in a labyrinth of dead ends. I wasted a lot of time before I gave in and wrote out a brief outline to make sense of the various twists and turns and to gear up for an equally complex second half.

As a technical writer in a my day job, I’m happy to plan out the details in advance to be sure my documentation covers all the bases. At night, I prefer to be a bit more creative and meander the various paths that could lead to the end of a novel. But I’m most comfortable doing that with a crude map in hand, just in case I get lost along the way. That’s who I am.

I’d love to hear about your light-bulb moments in writing or self-discovery.

 

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

A difference of opinion is no reason to eat my brain.

For many of us who read novels or watch movies in genres outside the realm of “this could happen in real life,” there is a willing suspension of disbelief before we enter the theater or open the cover of a book (or press whichever Kindle button). We’re excited. We’re ready to be entertained. And we participate in the experience by opening ourselves to what realists would call the impossible…

Tonight I am guest blogging over at Celluloid Zombie about the willing suspension of disbelief. Though Richard Lamb and I disagree on this topic (just one of many), he’s busy at work and will permit even someone he disagrees with to guest blog at his site. Lucky for me.

So jump on over with me to Celluloid Zombie and chime in and tell us your opinion.

Silicone, silicone everywhere and not a drop to drink

…said the snake. You’ve heard the story, right? In the news a couple of weeks ago? A model handling a snake during a photo shoot had her fake boob bit by the snake…who promptly died. Her silicone implant supposedly ruptured and the snake ingested some. They gave her a tetanus shot for the snake bite. But what about that silicone that’s doing a slow drip inside of her. You know, the silicone that KILLED THE SNAKE. Well, apparently, the story is not true. The snake did not die of silicone poisoning. That was just a rumor that major newspapers picked up without verifying. Must be nice to get paid for making stuff up. “Um, never mind,” said the fiction writer.

What about this story? A mother of a four-year-old is suing a private pre-school because it did not adequately prepare the child to take the entrance exams required to get into the most elite elementary schools in New York. She’s also claiming they didn’t prepare her daughter for the Ivy League. Lady, you’ve been smoking too much ivy. You make Tiger Mom look like a pussycat rolling in catnip. Get a grip. She’s four. And go see the film Race to Nowhere. The popcorn’s on me.  

Talk about people who are out of their quacking mind…Gilbert Gottfried. When you’re the spokesduck for a major insurance company, maybe you shouldn’t make jokes about tsunami victims. Only “Aflac”ing idiot would do that. Or a comedian.

 …Or a governor’s press secretary. Governor Haley Barbour’s press secretary, Dan Turner, resigned after making a Japan earthquake joke in an email. When public figures want to moonlight as comedians, they should take a tip from the Unknown Comic. Insert head into paper bag, do a little dance, tell joke, return to day job, no one the wiser.

And thanks to ABC for sending the wonderful message that you can destroy their offices and break their windows, sending glass raining down on the pedestrian-filled, Times Square streets of New York, and be invited back for another interview. And the award for prolific creator of real-life stories he doesn’t want to talk about in interviews goes to…Chris Brown. Idiot!

“That’s all the news that’s fit to print,” said the journalists.

WordPress, Search Engine Terms, and a Constipated Baby

As a technical writer, I enjoy reading documentation. The WordPress people do a good job explaining options and functionality. However, I’m having a difficult time finding an answer to a question about search engine terms.

“Search Engine Terms” is one of the features on the Stats page. According to the WordPress documentation, it lists terms that people entered in search engines to locate your blog.    

So, can someone explain how the search terms “my baby is constipated what can I do” brought someone to my blog? We talk about a lot of odd things here, I know, but I don’t think I’ve covered poop or lack thereof. Yet. 😉

Constipated baby utters his first words.

 

Desperate Mother, I wish I could help you, but having breastfed my baby, I never had to deal with constipation issues. The poops of breastfed babies are soft and orange…kind of like, wait for it, pumpkin puree. (Sorry, Charles).

However, let me point you to Amazon.com where you can buy the print or Kindle version of my novel The Benefactor. You will undoubtedly be up many a long night with your wailing child. What better way to pass the time than with a romantic suspense novel? You remember what romance is, right? Hmmm, probably not. Most likely the only suspense in your life right now is wondering when romance will return to your life…and when that damn kid is gonna poop.

Desperate Mother, rest assured it gets easier. I promise.

Those Pesky Spammers

Do you ever wonder if spammers make money on the products they hawk? Does the huge volume of annoying emails and links they put out into the world result in hits and sales? I can’t imagine how.

I’m no expert at selling (and maybe I’ll tell you that story of woe in a future post), but it seems to me that when you barge into someone’s world uninvited, scream “I’m here,” and then start unpacking your bag of goods, you’re not going to make friends or influence people.

Spam filters are pretty good these days. I give a quick glance at my Junk Mail folder and delete most of the contents unread. But with blogging, a bit more care is required. You don’t want to delete a legitimate comment.

The other morning it was easy. My post “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth” got a cheery “Hi, all!” followed by a link to some site, which went unchecked by me. Delete.

I’ll admit it left me scratching my head. Knowing that many people subscribe to comments, why would someone who wanted to lure potential customers to their wares pick a post with 5 comments rather than one with, say, 41 (Typical Day in the Life of a Writer)?

Sometimes, it’s more difficult to determine whether the spam software overreacted.

Your ideas profound and enjoy me much.

There wasn’t a link in the body of that comment. Could my spam filter be discriminating on the basis of English proficiency? I copied the link that identified the commenter and pasted it into Google. Judging by the long list of hits, other people’s profound ideas enjoy my commenter much, too. Isn’t that special? Delete.

By far, the oddest spam I’ve received is this recent email:

Hi Margaret,

I think I have a great feature for your website that is free and will enhance your site with an interactive element. It takes a minute to implement and it is 100% free. You just put a link on your site like, “Live Wrestling Chat” and we host the chats. You will also earn money while your visitors are talking. There is really no downside. Also, if you think you do not have enough visitors to keep a chat busy we are working with other wrestling sites so users from each site can talk to each other.

Say what? Wrestling? Have you seen my website? I guess I didn’t make it clear that The Benefactor is the name of my novel and not my wrestling nickname.

The crowd goes wild as Margaret “The Benefactor” Dempsey takes the ring.

In an attempt to write as general a message as possible to appeal to the largest audience, you pick wrestling as the type of website most people are likely to have? What was this guy thinking?

I have no more words. Just a great big sigh.

Did you hear? I’m stylish.

This morning, Charles Gulotta of Mostly Bright Ideas nominated me for the coveted Stylish Blogger Award. No one has ever called me stylish. [Stop snickering, Mom!] It’s understandable. I live in pajamas most days when I’m at home writing. If I have to leave the house, it’s jeans, boots, and a sweater. Not too exciting, I know. So, imagine my surprise when I got the news. I feel whole now. [sniff] Special. [wipes tear from eye] Stylish for the first time. [sob] In fact, I must change into pajamas that are more appropriate for this occasion.

[snip, snip, snip] There, I’ve cut the back out of my favorite sheep pjs. Backless outfits are always more appropriate for awards ceremonies, don’t you think?

 As Charles mentioned in his post, the award comes with four basic tasks to be completed:

  1. Present seven things about yourself
  2. Name about a half dozen bloggers you think deserve the award
  3. Contact those people
  4. Create a link back to the person who gave you the honor

Here’s seven things you might not know about me:

    1. I think PEZ taste better when eaten from the dispenser rather than from the wrapper.
      .
    2. I have an overly developed sense of smell—a blessing when the flame blows out on a stove but the gas is still pumping, a curse when I get stuck in a cramped train under the armpit of a tall, unwashed man with a passion for Ralph Lauren’s Polo. You all say ugh to that, right? But when your nose is like a bloodhound’s, you find yourself praying for a quick death.
      .
      The first inkling my parents had of my super-sensory condition was in the pig house at the Flushing Meadow Zoo when I started to cry, grabbed my nose, and ran for the door when I hadn’t even learned how to walk yet. I should mention that there had already been some trauma that day when they looked away for a second and I leaned over to pet a cute little goosey. The weight of my giant, toddler bobblehead toppled me head first into the pond. Afraid of water to this day and hating nasty smells. All true.

  1. I despise overly restrictive rules, regulations, practices, and laws that are just plain ridiculous or that don’t take into account individual circumstances. So there!
    .
  2. I love food. I love to eat it, think about it, talk about it, write about it, you name it. I never mind if someone asks me what I’m eating in a restaurant. Great relationships have been struck up with strangers over the back of a diner booth, stopping just short of the exchange of a fluffy, silver-dollar pancake for a bite of a skillet omelet.
    .
    Growing up half Italian, I quickly internalized the message “Food is love.” I have such great memories of meals with my extended Italian family. And past events are easily remembered in the context of what we were eating at the time.
    .
    “Don’t you remember when Zia Anamaria announced that her brother-in-law’s sister’s son’s wife left him to pursue her dream of working at the buffalo mozzarella factory in Gaeta, Italy?”
    .
    “Oh yeah, that was the day Uncle Tutti choked on the string from the braciole.”
    .
    Okay, some of that’s not true.
    .
    .
    .
  3. Nature at once soothes and energizes me and feeds my creativity. My Muse lives outdoors, sipping nectar from trumpet-shaped flowers. If I’m lucky, I catch her with a butterfly net and bring her indoors for a few hours while I work. I thank my grandmother for fostering my fascination with nature. And I am grateful to my parents for taking us on month-long camping trips across North America every summer. There’s no hotel that compares to a sleeping bag in a tent under the stars, in my opinion.
    .
  4.  I am an ENTP on Myers-Briggs, an 8 with a 7 wing on the Enneagram, and a Gemini. Take a look at those descriptions and you’ll know more about me than you ever wanted to.
    .
  5. I am a champion of the underdog. And come to think of it, Underdog was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid.

 I’d like to thank the Academy, um I mean Charles for nominating me. His blog is one of my new favorites. I read his moving post Zabaglione and felt like I’d known him forever. Parts of it were so familiar to me. Give it a read.

Before I list my six nominations, I want to say the list would have been longer but Charles already nominated Jessica Sieghart of Surely, You Jess! Similarly, Val of Absurd Old Bird was nominated earlier in the week. And Richard Lamb of Celluloid Zombie would have eaten my brains if I nominated him, busy as he is with a new job.

Drum roll please. My nominees for the Stylish Blogger Award are:

The Fordeville Diaries – Her tagline reads “On a mission to turn the ordinary into the memorable.” She succeeds with each post. Whether she’s fretting about the ugly wall sconces in her hallway or lamenting the loss of her fingerprints (I kid you not), she always gets a good chuckle out of me.

Girlboxing – This 50-something female boxer manages to inspire me exactly when I’m in need. If you want some motivation to get up offa that thing and get that body moving, but you’re not interested in a drill sergeant-like trainer screaming in your face, make a stop at Girlboxing’s place for some quiet but powerful inspiration.

Julie Compton – This blog reflects the multi-faceted qualities of its owner. Julie is a two-time published author, a devoted mom, a female biker, a Dave Matthews fanatic, and a former practicing lawyer. If her blog is a bit quiet these days, it’s because she’s at work on her third novel. (Shhhhh, writer at work.) I can’t wait for her to finish. Her first novel Tell No Lies is a legal thriller that has been compared to Turow’s Presumed Innocent. In her second novel Rescuing Olivia, also a thriller, “a Florida biker sets out on a search against time to find and save the woman he loves when she mysteriously disappears after a suspicious motorcycle accident.” What I love about Julie’s thrillers is that her characters are deeply developed and her themes really make you think.

Earthquakes and Rattlesnakes – Zahara blogs about life, food, and travel and posts some gorgeous photos of the scenery and wildlife in Northern California. The photo in her recent post “After the Rain” took my breath away.

Huffygirl’s Blog – Huffygirl’s light-hearted musings about wellness and life keep me coming back for more. Her recent posts and photos about winter birds and how to set up a bird buffet in your backyard were of special interest. I love birdies.

Working Tech Mom – Techy has managed to balance a demanding career in the technology industry and family life. Recently downsized, she is blogging about the experience in an honest and upbeat way. That’s what I admire about her so much. I have a feeling her future posts on the topic will become a popular reference guide for job-seekers. You can’t go wrong with Techy leading the way.

Chocolate Gelt, Bobbleheads, and Hormonal Women: A Recipe for Disaster

Men, stick around. This is a public service announcement for you...and sports are mentioned.

If you are even slightly hormonal, I warn you: Stay away from the chocolate gelt. This holiday tradition is capable of turning women of a certain age…well, that’s just say peri-homicidal.

I know there are some countries that have the tradition of chocolate coins for Christmas, but living in New York, I know it as a Hanukkah tradition. I’m not Jewish, but chocolate eating is a nondenominational kind of thing for me. So I welcomed that cute mesh bag filled with shiny, foil-covered chocolate coins from Trader Joe’s.

With the craziness of the holidays, I never got to eat them. But there came a day in January when I eyed them on the kitchen counter and thought, tonight’s the night. The moon was rising, the hormones were surging. Chocolate for medicinal purposes it would be.

 

I settle on the couch with a New York Islanders throw. (This and things like bobbleheads I permit in my home provided they stay in the basement or family room. I can think of nothing more disturbing than sitting on my living room sofa, sipping tea from an antique, bone china cup while staring at a miniature Mike Bossy with a neck tic. But I digress.) The channel is set to Criminal Minds, because when you’re hormonal, watching serial killers is the next best thing to being one.

I pick up the mesh bag and begin to salivate just a bit from the anticipation of a chocolate coin melting in my mouth. I try to open it from the top, but the seal is impenetrable. No problem, I’ll just rip through the mesh bag, right?

You’re thinking, go get a pair of scissors. And normally, I would, but Hotch has just been served divorce papers. Apparently, the serial killers see him more than his wife does. Now he’s really never going to smile again. Bossy shakes his bobblehead slowly, knowing all that traveling he did with the team could have led to the same end for him.

I can almost taste that freaking chocolate and the bag still isn’t open, but I have wounds resembling paper cuts all over my fingers. My mind flashes an image of dolphins caught in mesh fishing nets. Whew! Where did that come from? Down estrogen, down girl.

I feel a mini-rage building, kind of like Dom Deluise in Fatso when he tries to rip the cabinets off the wall to get to the food. Finally, the bag tears. I’m so happy I could cry. My shaky fingers reach in and pull out the largest of the coins. But now I have to peel the foil off, and the nails on my nifty opposable thumbs aren’t up to the job. Have you ever tried to do things without the help of your thumbs? Every once in a while I tuck my thumbs into my palms and go about my regular chores. Hmmm, maybe that’s why my novel isn’t getting written.

I dig into that first coin using the nails on my other fingers like a handicapped raccoon trying to lift the cover off a garbage pail. I place the chocolate disk on my tongue. Mmmm. I want to let it melt slowly, but I end up chewing it like some big cat eating a baby zebra on the National Geographic Channel. It’s gone and now I have to open another.

Just then, a childhood memory surfaces—my Uncle Sal at Beefsteak Charlie’s. Remember that restaurant from the 1970’s with the unlimited salad bar and peel-and-eat shrimp? Uncle Sal would take a plate full of shrimp and sit and peel it all. Then, he’d transfer it to a clean plate, add some cocktail sauce and sit and enjoy them all at once. Really civilized. I envied him his patience. I just don’t have it when it comes to food. Still, I’m willing to try the peel-and-eat method with the chocolate gelt.

I sit and peel one after the other as my body trembles, a cacao addict in need. I make it to the end, but it’s no use. With all those naked coins sitting there in front of me, they’ll be no savoring the melting of each on my tongue. No way. I chow down, eating every last coin in 3.5 seconds. Hotch and his team have solved the mystery. They’re on the plane returning to Quantico. And Mike Bossy is sneering at me and nodding his head in a contemptuous way. That little bobblebastard.

Suddenly, furry ears pop up behind the TV. It’s Sweety and she’s eyeing Mike Bossy. Get him, Sweety! Get him! And she does. No, the National Geographic Channel’s got nothing on us.

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