Monday, July 25, 2016

Writing Prompt #39: Some Like it Hot

It's the hottest day and night on record. Ten degrees hotter than it's ever been before.

How does this heat change your setting?

What adjustments do your characters need to make to go about their daily lives?

What if your protagonist must be outside in this heat? What if he/she is stranded? On the verge of heat stroke?

The only path out is through a fire. Is it a building, a forest, an atmosphere or perhaps it literally is raining fire?

Your protagonist makes it out of the fire and into a cool climate controlled room. He/she is late. There is Hell to pay.





Saturday, July 23, 2016

Writing Prompt #38 Active Shooter

Your character is on vacation with his/her relative (spouse, grandparent, parent, child, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew). They are in an unfamiliar crowded marketplace with shops lining a maze of enclosed open-air mall areas. Your protagonist has realized he/she wandered away from the relative and is looking for him/her.

Shoppers are pushing through, nervously blurting "Go to the back!"

Your character assumes there must be a small fire. Not really concerned, but surprised by the rush of people, your character looks around for the relative who is nowhere to be found.

Rapid-fire shots explode from the front of the store.  Does your character see the shooter? Where is the relative? How many people are shot? Is there a stampede of people running to the back of the store? Trampling of merchandise? What is in the back? A dressing room? Storage room? Exit to tunnels? Exit to another danger? (lions, aliens, 1,000' drop, hostile country, portal to Hell etc)

Your character is extremely stressed because he/she does not know where the relative is or if the relative is a victim, hostage or hero.

There is no cell phone service or landlines or internet.

Suddenly the lights go out...


Friday, July 22, 2016

Writing Prompt #37 Renovation

Your character's home is being renovated. He/She must remove all contents from the dining room and pull up and remove the carpet.

Is he/she reluctant, procrastinating or overjoyed to do the work?

What does he/she find tucked away?

Does he/she drop and break anything?

What is under the rug?

Whom/what does he/she encounter when carrying the carpet to the trashcan or dumpster?

What time of day is it? Season?

Does he/she have anyone to help?

There is a knock at the door...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Beware of Nature

I only weed our mulch beds while my husband mows the lawn. Why? Because we have snakes in our world and I'm terrified of them. Alive, dead, on TV, in the movies, YouTube or photograph. No difference in my flight response.

We live in a planned community and our yard backs to woods and a lake. Our family happens upon them several times every year. Black snakes, copper heads, corn snakes. Yikes! My toddler once emerged from under the Weeping Willow proudly showing me the baby snake in her fist. I did not want to be her mother at that instant but I was, so I knocked it from her hand, scooped her up and ran into the house making non-human noises.

One 4th of July we were lighting fireworks in the cul-de-sac and I happened to glimpse a copperhead slithering next to the porch. He was still on property the next day. My teen aged son wrangled him into a container and transported him to an undisclosed location. I told him he was the bravest man I knew.

I can't get all the weeds pulled while my husband mows, so I prioritize, starting with the front yard, because that's the facade the world sees. I then move to the side of the house in the backyard and make sure the weeds are not encroaching next to the two conditioning units.

About 10 days ago, I had the front yard weeds under control and I was quickly pulling nuthatch and crab grass from the rock lined bed around the air conditioners, very worried I'd pick up a snake. I've dug one up before planting flowers. Anyhow, I successfully got the area weeded as my husband finished mowing.

He left for work and that night the upstairs air conditioner kept cycling back on as soon as it stopped. It really wasn't cooling much. So I turned it off and had a miserable night trying to sleep in an 86 degree Fahrenheit room with the windows barely emitting a breeze. Another night of this until my husband returned from work and we left on vacation.

Upon our return, he turned it on, still the same result. I went online and researched, thinking it was our high tech Nest thermostat gone bad. I did the hard reset, no change. Our air conditioner was only 3 years old and under warranty, so we strongly assumed it was the thermostat. He bought a cheap thermostat at Lowes, hooked it up and nope, no change. He decided to go outside and have a look.

My husband said, "You are never going to believe this. A BIG snake got into the unit at precisely the time it kicked on. Mice had chewed their way in, that was how he was able to breech the housing..." I stopped him, I didn't want to hear anymore.

He removed the snake and the mouse nest (they had obviously been eaten) and crossed his fingers the air conditioner would resume cooling. It did. Thank goodness.

So, the lesson here is, if your A/C goes out, look inside the housing before you call for a repair. It may save you the cost of a service call.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Orlando


We were in Orlando this weekend. I wish this had happened to my characters, not to my husband and I:

Saturday afternoon we shopped at the Orlando Premium Outlet Mall. It’s an open air mall with lots of courtyards and corridors lined with high-end stores. We always go to the Disney outlet and find something fun to bring our daughter. It’s a large L shaped store, crowded and we always get separated. I was in the front of the store for awhile, looked around and didn’t see my husband so I figured he was around the corner in the back. I rounded the corner to look for him when there was a rush of shoppers pushing through and yelling “Go to the back!”

We seemed to be evacuating, so my first thought was there must be a small fire. I didn’t see my husband. People were steadily pushing through to the back of the store when I heard rapid fire gunshots. It sounded like the shooter was at the entrance to the store. I didn’t see my husband so I ran to the back of the store with the hysterical crowd disappearing around a corner. I wondered how everyone could fit in a dressing room. We pushed through a door into a labyrinth of tunnels and ran like Hell until we reached exterior doors. A few people started out the doors until someone yelled for them to come back. We didn’t know where we were or where the shooter was. The tunnel was filled with hundreds of people.

I was terrified because I didn’t see my husband anywhere.  I texted him, which was very difficult because my fingers were trembling. Three texts, no response. I knew he had turned the sound up on his phone so I was scared to call him in case he was hiding or a hostage. But I tried to call him anyway, it wouldn’t go through. I prayed for him.

I felt like we were sitting ducks for the gunman. He could have taken us all out so easily. I didn't know when he would burst through the exit doors I was near or rush down from the other end of the tunnel in a blaze of horror. Maybe there was more than one shooter and they could execute us from both directions.

One lady with some sort of mall uniform on was with us and of no use. A young man was taking charge, trying to get us to be quiet and keep us from exiting. I had no idea who he was, and really didn’t trust him as a leader, because of his youth and obviously he didn’t work there.

I texted our daughter in Virginia. She couldn’t find anything online about a shooter and asked if the sounds could have been a car backfiring. No, there was no way a car could have been that far into the pedestrian courtyard.

I kept waiting for the police or mall security to give us instructions, rescue us, but nobody came. The crowd started moving again, some went outside some the other way through the tunnels. I found my husband in another tunnel, thank God! He was trying to call me but it wouldn’t go through. He thought he had texted me but he never sent it. So he knew I was out of the store, but I didn’t know he was. He had stayed in the store looking for me. An old lady cashier had made everyone evacuate. They were trampling a pile of clothing so he started to pick it up and she smacked his arm and yelled “Leave it!”

More people were leaving so we did too. It was a long way through the open air mall, people were running. I wanted to run but he insisted all was fine. I was really shocked that I was just hearing the first sirens; it was such a slow response. Maybe nobody could call 911. My husband had tried calling and texting but they didn’t go through, 911 doesn’t have text capability.

We made it to the parking garage and into a big traffic jam exodus. The cops were locking down the entrances but seemed unimpressed.

Our daughter finally found a news report online saying there was a fight in front of the food court (next to the Disney store) and people already on edge from the nightclub massacre panicked. There were no weapons.

But I heard gunshots. So did several people on Twitter who were in my vicinity. They are convinced there were gunshots. Someone posted it was an electrical problem. My husband said when electrical breakers blow they make a rapid fire popping sound.

No one saw a shooter or victims so I’m accepting it was an unfortunate series of events. But wow, was that terrifying! And I feel bad because I ran out without him while he was trying to save me.

My takeaway from it is don’t think you’ll never be in a place with an active shooter. Realize it is a probability and be prepared. I won’t be wandering off on my own anymore; I’ll stay with my companions. And I’m bringing pepper spray with me everywhere, not just in case of a dog fight when I walk Frank.

The only situation I know of where a civilian disarmed an active shooter was at a college and a student rushed the gunman as he was reloading, sprayed him in the eyes with pepper spray, took the rifle and ran and threw it in another room then came back and wrestled the shooter to the ground until the police arrived.

So when you enter a public building, look around for exits. Most places have a back door for deliveries. If there is an active shooter: First RUN. If you can’t run, HIDE. If you can’t hide, FIGHT back.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wheat-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wheat-Free Toll House Cookies

2 1/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp water
2 eggs
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 375°

Stir together almond flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Combine 1 cup butter with both sugars, vanilla and water. Beat until creamy. Beat in the eggs. Add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate morsels and walnuts. 

Bake 8 to 11 minutes depending on if you want chewy, soft or crispy cookies. I bake pans of all three to please my family.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Writing Prompt #36 Haircut

There is a special bond between client and hairdresser/barber. Your character has arrived at the barber shop/salon/hairdresser's home for a routine haircut/color/shave/mani-pedi/wax.

What if...
The premises are empty...
Your character's enemy is in the chair...
Your character realizes he/she forgot his/her wallet...
Your character becomes violently ill...
Your character overhears...?
There is an explosion or fire or earthquake...

Monday, April 4, 2016

Eat Fat, Get Thin


On a lazy day home alone, I was laying on the sofa, flipping through channels and stopped on PBS. Mark Hyman, M.D., a doctor from the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, was talking about carbohydrate and fat addiction and listing the symptoms of FLC syndrome. (Feel Like Crap syndrome). Fatigue, being cold all the time, depression, low sex drive, irritability, brain fog, pain and no ambition. My husband was experiencing all of it. I sat up and listened up.

Dr. Mark Hyman is a Functional Medicine M.D. Functional Medicine is kinda like Holistic or Integral medicine. Instead of treating patients symptoms, he treats the cause of the malady. Most obesitiy, Type II Diabesity, High Cholesterol and Heart Disease is caused by diet. Not just the "bad" refined carbs and sugar that we eat. The toxins in the food chain like chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, artificial sweetners and "new" lab made oils our bodies don't know how to process.

I hit the record button, of course it was too late to get the whole show, but I later watched it with my daughter then husband. They were both skeptical, calling him a quack.

It's not a crazy diet eliminating whole food groups. You eat mostly vegetables plus grass fed, free range or wild meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, berries and natural fats. A cross between the Paleo and Vegan diets he calls Pegan.

My husband was put on a low fat diet two years ago after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I've been so concerned about his nutrition because he basically was only eating salads, dry cereal, popcorn, pretzels, baked chips, pancakes, peanutbutter powder & jelly sandwiches and egg beaters. He always wanted to eat out and ordered things with sugary sauces. He has become very miserable and had gotten really sick with a lingering cold. He coughed so hard his eye bled. Several times!

I had my babies in my 20's, lost the baby fat and my weight was normal until my late 30's when it started an upward overweight climb. At one point a few years ago, I was one pound away from obesity. I did the Atkins diet and got back down--temporarily. I couldn't sustain it and was addicted to highly processed delicious carbs like pasta and cookies and ice cream.

Since my husband began his low fat diet, I've been snacking on his highly processed chips, eating cereal with skim milk for breakfast and sometimes dinner and have become a voracious cookie monster. Store bought. We gave up artificial sweetners and the pounds were packing on me from sweet tea and soda pop.

Last Monday, my athletic husband and I started the Eat Fat Get Thin diet. It took me a few days to read the book, shop for the foods and I'm still waiting on some of the supplements. I'm not taking them all, but there are some I want to try. I am overweight. I enjoy yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and I run. I've been told by my doctor I'm deficient in Vitamin D. That's no surprise because I avoid the sun and use sunscreen. I've been battling Melanoma since 2005. I'm taking Vitamin D3, a multi vitamin, Krill oil because I don't eat fish, plus a few other supplements Dr. Hyman recommends.

Today is weigh in day. I lost 6 pounds the first week. My husband lost 10. He's already at a normal weight, but he can go lower and still be at a healthy BMI. I'm now only 10 pounds away from the top range of a healthy BMI. I want to go a lot lower of course.

We're in the detoxification stage of this diet for 21 days and no it hasn't been pleasant. But detox from any substance is bad. Today is the first morning I've had noticeable ambition and energy. Heck, I'm even blogging, something I haven't really bothered much with in a long time.

My insatiable appetite is slowly being reigned in. I actually like the food on this diet, perhaps because there is such a variety. There is no calorie counting or portion measuring. I get to eat nuts and berries from day one, something I've never been allowed on other diets. I love nuts and berries.

Yes, I'm still missing bread, pasta, ice cream, cookies, cupcakes and tortilla chips. But so far, I haven't cheated. The steady weight loss is keeping my eye on the prize.

Week 1: I lost 6 pounds.

Week 2:  It was hard. I didn't lose any weight until one pound on weigh in day. I stuck with it and am now down 7 pounds in 2 weeks.

JULY UPDATE: This served to be yet again another diet that was too restrictive. I end up eating very little which slows my metabolism and I get stuck on a plateau. I have since read three similar books and taking from all four, I lost more weight. Then I read the Bone Broth fasting lady and the IF (intermittent fasting) guy and my body promptly protested by gaining weight both times I fasted. Anyhow, check back I'll talk about it all soon.

Namaste,
Sherry




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writing Prompt #35: Witness

Your character is almost home from a very long day. Blocking the entrance to the street he/she lives on is what appears to be a traffic stop. A police car and another vehicle. The officer is leaning into the vehicle when it suddenly lurches away, dragging the office with it.

What does your character do?

Snap a picture and post it on social media?
Finish eating?
Curse that the cop car is still blocking the road?
Pursue the incident on foot or driving his/her vehicle?
Call 911?
Call home to say he/she will be late?
Park the car and walk home?
Flee the scene because...?