The Magic of Ambassadoring and Other Shots of Summerness

[Note: If you’re reading this in your email, I hope you like the new format! I’ve switched to MailChimp for my email subscription needs. If you were subscribed before, you’ve been transferred over, but you can unsubscribe at any time. If you’re not getting my latest blog posts in your inbox but would like to, simply enter your email address here. And if you normally find out about my latest posts through email, you likely missed this one about the novel Bird Box, so I hope you’ll stop by and check it out!]

Now, on to the good stuff. My summer job as a “Beach Ambassador” (man, I love the hilarious grandiosity of that title; did I mention I mostly change trash and pick up litter?) is drawing to an end — about a month left — so I thought I’d share with you some of the highlights. I’d like to note that these pictures are pretty nature-heavy because that’s what I’m drawn to capturing. I mean, do you really want to see me in action telling the 500th resident in a row that their dog can’t be on the sand? No, me either. So these shots are pretty trail-heavy, because that’s my favorite location within the park I work at.

All pictures can be enlarged if you click on them. My apologies for the poor quality; they were all taken on my phone, and several of them when I was on the move.

Also a minor warning: there are a few creepy-crawlies in here, as well as one animal that (as far as I can tell) died from natural causes. Okay, let’s go!

Annie (2)

Oh, I’m excited! And chewing gum!

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Let’s ambassador that beach! And by beach, I mean sand imported near a little stretch of an unspectacular lake. Okay, those of you who live real a near beach can stop laughing now.

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I got hired as a beach ambassador about one week before the worst flooding north Texas has seen in years. Um, I think there used to be a beach under there?

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The view of my beach area from a dock at the boat ramp. Only recently reemerged from our heavy flooding this May.

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A glimpse of the lake from the trails.

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A moment of peace behind the baseball fields.

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The wild, overgrown trails most recently accessible as the floodwaters recede. My favorite area by far!

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A shot of the more populated trails right near the park when everything was still flooded. We passed the 100 year flood-plane this year!

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And some of the cool, witchy trees exposed when the water receded.

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You can see how high the water got by where the foliage all goes from brown to green. Who knows how many of these trees will make it?

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And the gross but cool gunk left behind on all of the grassy fields. Lake algae or some such that stuck to the earth and then dried in the sun.

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But not all was lost. There are still plenty of pretties that made it!

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This horse apple/crab apple is HUGE! It’s the seed pod from a bois d’arc tree.

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Don’t let that cute face fool you. Bunnies are rule breakers.

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Look closely, right in the middle. See it?

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Here it is zoomed in. A big, gorgeous bobcat!

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Tons of lovely butterflies out there, this is a neat one.

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And tons of these large birds, too. They’re hard to get pictures of because they take off as soon as we get near.

mama bird

Speaking of birds, look at mama and what she was perched on!

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And who’s that?!

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It’s not a dog. It’s not a wolf. It’s…

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A coyote!

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We made eye contact and he whispered his secrets to me. He’s full of mischief and slinking.

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This pretty little garter snake is SO GREEN that at first I though it was a plastic toy.

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Speaking of GREEN, look at this tenacious little guy who came along for a ride.

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Mr. Rat burrowing his head into the grass.

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A long-tailed bird.

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Another butterfly.

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A family of fat little toads hiding under a piece of litter. :)

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And two tiny little cuties! (The second was inside my hand.)

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A frog, I think.

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Sad, but beautiful. This owl was lying dead under a tree. I couldn’t see any injuries. I was amazed by how large it was, and how “fluffy” its feet.

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Mischievous little mouse!

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A different type of snake. He was hiding under a trash can.

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This black widow gave me a fright! She was hanging out in one of the trash bags I pulled out to change. Luckily she was down deep in the shade. I wish I could’ve caught a shot of the marking on her back, but, well, I was only willing to stick my head so far into that can.

spider web

Speaking of spiders, I’m sorry to say that that brownish grey stuff all over those trees? It’s spider web. There are entire trees absolutely covered in it. I think it might be from water spiders when the lake was up all the way to the leaves.

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To make up for the scares, here’s the tiniest, cutest little spider I’ve ever seen. :)

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And two ridiculously smug ducks.

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And just to round it out, here’s a shot of part of the farmers’ market I work on Saturdays.

rain day

And just to rub it in, here’s what I’m up to on rainy days: creating Styrofoam tombstones for the Halloween event. Best job ever!

I’m still having a blast and working hard, but I’m winding down the summer job and winding up the writing. I’d say my break was a huge success. I’m ready to be back! I’m sooooo dreaming about the upcoming fall and my next projects and all the new adventures that await. I hope you’ve all had a great summer too. What have I missed?

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Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Bird Box: The Horror Novel You Should Read Next

Bird_Box_2014_book_cover

I recently read a book so good it made me mad. Like really, fully, fit-throwing mad. Just ask my husband; I didn’t shut up about it for days. Why? Mostly because it was just that good. Also because it’s strikingly similar to one of my (unpublished) novels, and that’s a really vicious kick in the pants for a writer, but I won’t go into that. (Hello, new comp title!) Mostly – and I’m being painfully honest here – I’m mad because this is the type of horror novel I love, that I want to write, and Josh Malerman got there first. And damned if he didn’t do it well. So what’s a girl to do? Well, I stewed in awe and jealousy for a couple of weeks and then decided that was a pretty good sign I should spread the word about this phenomenal book. So here I am saying unequivocally that Bird Box is the horror novel you should read next.

And by next, I mean right this very minute.

If you want the nice, pretty back cover copy you can view it here on Goodreads. The short version is this: some unexplained phenomenon has swept the world, but no one knows what it is, because looking at it causes people to go violently crazy, killing those around them and then themselves. So basically, the crux of the book – which in my opinion is also its supreme strength – is that we never know what the bad, scary thing is, because seeing it equals death. The survivors are inherently ignorant of what they’re up against, which means so is the reader.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman is the best specimen I’ve ever found to support my theory that the unseen/unknown is far scarier than any monster we could create. Imagination, my friends, is terrifying. Malerman utilizes that to brilliant perfection.

Our protagonist is Malorie, a young woman with two children who’s managed to survive the apocalypse so far by never looking outside. The story opens when Malorie decides to travel down the nearby river with the young kids – blindfolded. Since not looking is the only way to survive, they must traverse the new, unknown landscape with its many unnamed hazards and terrors blind. The book then alternates between present and past, explaining the beginnings of the phenomenon, how Malorie survived, and how she managed to raise two children alone, as well as recounting their perilous journey downriver to reach their destination.

Malerman deftly weaves the storylines together into one seamless, ever-building braid of tension. I happened to listen to this novel on audiobook (beautifully performed by Cassandra Campbell – I highly recommend this version if you like audio). Usually I only listen to audiobooks in the car or at work, but I found myself sitting outside in my oven of a car for half an hour to keep the story going. I turned it on for five minutes at a time whenever I had a spare moment because I couldn’t stop thinking about the story. I chose it over physical books and TV. That’s how sucked into Malerman’s world I was.

The novel isn’t perfect – no novel is – but for me it’s awfully close. It’s chock full of things I love. For one thing, it’s genuinely scary. One scene in particular had my heart absolutely racing, which is so hard to find. It’s wonderfully written with smooth, smart prose that never gets in the way but also isn’t boring. It’s subtle, understated horror that really crawls under your skin. It never relies on shock value, but it doesn’t pull its punches either. It’s gripping. It’s exquisitely original. It’s atmospheric and brave, and it absolutely makes my “favorites” list.

Mr. Malerman, if you haven’t already read this blog (because I mean, really, who doesn’t have a Google search for their name set up these days?), you can be expecting a fan letter from me any day now. And if I ever have the pleasure of meeting you in person I would like to hug you, kick your shin, shake your hand, and run away.

So, dear readers, have I convinced you? Bird Box should be high on your list. Unless you’re a scaredy cat, in which case you probably shouldn’t even pick it up. That shit’s got to have some fear osmosis embedded in it or something. Whew. :)

Have you read Bird Box yet? What’s the scariest novel you’ve read lately? I want to hear about it (but no spoilers, please!). [And if you dig this post, be sure to check out my other “Not Quite Book Reviews” in this category tag.]

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Posted in Books & Movies | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Summerness

Helllooooo out there!

Wow, did you hear those echoes? I know, I know. I haven’t posted in quite some time. That’s because I’m taking an unofficial semi-hiatus. Without getting into too many unnecessary details, I’ll give you the short version: I need a break.

(Okay, that was maybe too short.) I was getting burned out and tired and stir-crazy. I was tired of sitting inside all day. I hit a creative wall of “I don’t wanna.” I was putting too much pressure on myself about things I couldn’t change. I wanted something different, so I decided to get a summer job totally unrelated to writing.

Lucky me, I found a great one that’s pretty much exactly what I wanted. I’m working at a park and famers’ market about half an hour from home, which gives me a lovely chance to listen to more audio books. I’m out in the sun aaaaallll day (so much sunscreen!) and absolutely loving it. I haven’t written anything new in who knows how long, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Sometimes we just have to give ourselves a change of pace, you know?

Before you ask, no, I am not quitting writing. Promise. ♥

So that’s where I’ve been. Working hard and sweating a lot and generally living life in a really lovely way. (Never mind my farmer’s tan and chigger bites; they’re the price I pay for relief from my sore wrists and back aches.)

I hope to keep blogging occasionally this summer, but I won’t make any promises, and it won’t be on a regular schedule. My blog’s not going anywhere, that’s for sure, so I’ll pop in whenever the time feels right and I have something to say. Otherwise, I’ll be out freckling and laughing and generally being spectacularly unworried about things. I hope y’all are okay with that. I know I am. :)

Have a wonderful summer!

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Posted in Personal | 18 Comments

Seeking Rainbows at Liquid Imagination

I’m so pleased to announce that my poem “Seeking Rainbows” is out now at Liquid Imagination! You can read it for free online. In fact, you can listen to it for free too, read by yours truly. [Note: If you’re viewing it on a phone, turn it horizontal so the lines don’t get cut off.]

I have to admit it was a little scary for me to record audio of this. I’ve had my work performed before (visit here to listen to “Jack and the Bad Man” read by Rikki LaCoste at Pseudopod!) and I’ve read other people’s work before (click here to hear my reading of “Inland” by Edna St. Vincent Millay), and I’ve even read my work at public readings, etc., but I’ve never before done an audio recording of me reading my own work. Eep!

Honestly, “Seeking Rainbows” comes from one of the darkest periods of my life, and it feels strange and sad and so good that it’s found a beautiful new home at Liquid Imagination. This poem holds my heart and soul in it, and I sincerely hope you like it. ♥

Have a wonderful week.

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Posted in My Works | 23 Comments