Friday, December 31, 2010

Customer Service and the Death of the Offline Store


The Dread Daughters received bows and arrows for Christmas from my mother-in-law. (New at the Salerni House: Now More Dread per Daughter!) No worries, though. We approved the purchase, and my husband was the one to pick them out, buy them, and deliver them to his mother for wrapping.

Having never purchased such an item before, my husband went to a sporting goods store to look at what was available. (I won’t name the store chain, but it rhymes with Rick’s.) Now, I should say that my husband and I are big online shoppers, but in this case, Bob wanted to physically look over the bows and choose something appropriate for our girls. After finding bows of the correct size, each of which came with two arrows, he was happy enough to stimulate the local economy by purchasing them from this store.

The problem was, there were only two of the bow/arrow packages left, and one of them had a broken arrow. With great difficulty, Bob flagged down a store clerk and asked if they had any more. No, the clerk informed him. Everything they had was on the floor. Next to the bow and arrow combination pack, Bob spotted a display of extra arrows, priced $1.99 each. He asked the clerk to swap out one of those arrows for the broken one that came with the bow. No, the clerk told him. Couldn’t do that. He was sorry one of the arrows was broken, but that’s just the way it was.

So, Bob pulled out his Droid, scanned the bar code of the bow and arrow kit, purchased them on the spot from an online vendor, and walked out of the sporting goods store – probably never to return. Unwilling to replace a $2 arrow, the clerk lost a $60 sale – and a customer – and it made no difference to the clerk, who’d get paid for his day’s work no matter how many sales he lost.

If businesses can’t train their employees in customer service (not to mention thinking their way through that $2 /$60 dilemma), then it’s no wonder that retail sales stores are going to lose out to Amazon and other online vendors.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in Recap


Can you believe that 2010 is almost over? I can remember being a kid and thinking the year 2000 seemed so far away and magical. And now, that landmark date has come and gone – a decade ago! How can that be possible?

The year of 2010 was a fairly awesome one for me. I started blogging in January, not sure if I’d be able to think of something to say a couple times a week! Now, I have so many friends I met through blogging, I can hardly believe it’s only been a year. In January, I also stumbled across the caged graves of Catawissa, and I spent a good chunk of the year weaving them into a YA mystery novel.

In March, I attended the Sourcebooks Fire Launch Party in NYC, where I met some of the fantastic authors I’d already encountered through the TeenFire site: Laura and Lisa Roecker, Joy Preble, Adele Griffin, Lisa Brown, Helen Ellis, Cameron Stracher, Ty Drago, Bekka Black, and more. I also met my wonderful editor Kelly Barrales-Saylor in person, as well as my publicist Paul Samuelson -- and had a blast to boot!

May brought the release of We Hear the Dead, a blog tour, and several book events, including a joint event with the authors of Picture the Dead. I enjoyed a summer exploring the blogosphere and working on both a screenplay and a new manuscript (as well as revising an old one)—not to mention a fantastic vacation in Florida with the family.

This fall, my new 5th grade class and I opened a box from Scholastic that was full of copies of my book. That precipitated a lot of jumping up and down and shrieking, and not just from the kids! Then, over Thanksgiving, I dressed up in corset and neo-Victorian/steampunk attire to read from We Hear the Dead at Dorian’s Parlor, hob-nob with Elisha Kent Kane fans, and develop a fascinating new interest!

Think it couldn’t get better? Well, it did. Just a couple weeks before Christmas, I had an offer of representation from Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger Literary Inc. That’s what I call a Christmas present! Yes, I broke out the champagne! (Actually, it was Prosecco, which I like better.) Now, I can’t wait to start working with Sara in the new year, whipping my manuscript A Pinpoint of Truth into shape and … uh, probably changing its name. (To my blogging buddies who’ve read this one – any ideas for a new title are very welcome!)

As we close out this year, I’d like to extend my thanks to all the new friends I’ve made through this blog this year. Do you know, I sometimes tell you guys things before I tell my offline friends and family? (I know I emailed blog friends about my exciting agent news before I picked up the phone to call my mom …) Thanks for being there!

Here’s to 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Would YOU Fly if the Pilot Didn't Want To?


Sorcia says, “THIS is a blizzard?”

I may very well eat my words if I wake up tomorrow (not too long after this post is published) and discover 4 feet of snow outside, but at 10pm on Sunday night, the Big 2010 Christmas Blizzard seems to be a Big Nothing. Yes, I will admit, it’s pretty windy outside, but there’s not much in the way of snow.

However, thanks to the snow, we get to have my brother-in-law an extra day or two. My sister’s family is visiting from Kansas, but her husband had to leave ahead of the rest of his family. He was supposed to fly out of Philadelphia for business this afternoon, and at the last minute his flight was canceled. His airline, USAir, was surprisingly candid about the reason.

Apparently, the flight crew boarded the plane; the pilot took a gander at the conditions and declined to fly. USAir told the waiting passengers they were working on two alternative plans:

Plan A: find another pilot who was willing to fly in the snow and wind
Plan B: wait 20 minutes and ask the current pilot if he was willing to change his mind

At this point, my brother-in-law called the car rental desk to reserve a car to drive back to our house. Good move!

So, tell me, if the original pilot thought it was too dangerous to fly, would you hang around waiting for them to dig up a more reckless/compliant/stupid one?

And – what were they doing in those 20 minutes to try and change the original pilot’s mind?? I have a picture of them taking him to the bar and buying him a stiff drink to bolster his courage.

Plan A, Plan B … would you want to know their Plan C?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve, Everyone!


It’s the Night Before Christmas and the house is a wreck.

All the creatures are up and about and running amok.

The children are NOT nestled in bed – more likely sprawled all over the floor with their cousins from Kansas, whom they haven’t seen in six months. They don’t even know what sugar plums are, and they’re probably not asleep.

I don’t have a kerchief, and Bob doesn’t wear a cap. But I’m sure we’ve got cocktails and music playing downstairs, and we’re enjoying the company of my sister Laurie and her husband Keith. If my brother Brian has driven up from Washington D.C. yet, he’s probably here too.

We’ve got yards of wrapping paper and several rolls of scotch tape, and we’re doing some last minute Christmas wrapping. Sorcia is probably beside herself with glee over the houseful of people – and there’s German Shepherd hair stuck under all the tape on the packages. (We’ll have to tell my niece tomorrow that the elves shed.)

That’s our Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends from the Salerni Family! Have a wonderful, peaceful, and joyful weekend!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Slice of Salerni Life 2010

With fond greetings to all my blogging friends, this is my Christmas card to you ... and my annual Christmas skit:



Dianne sits in her usual corner with her laptop, Sorcia at her feet. The phone rings.

Dianne: Hello?

Bob: Hi, hon. It’s me. How are things at home? Are you okay?

Dianne: Everything’s fine. Why?

Bob: I didn’t see any Facebook status update from you today, and nothing on Twitter. I was worried.

Dianne: Oh, I’m up to my eyebrows in math tests and reading journals to correct. Then, I was revising The Caged Graves when I thought of something I wanted to do with the first page of Pinpoint. In between, I was finishing a new chapter in the steampunk story.

Bob: I don’t see how you keep all those stories and characters straight.

Dianne: It just takes practice, Nate. Uh, I mean, Hodge.

Bob: My name’s Bob.

Dianne: Whatever. How are things at work?

Bob: Pretty good today. Nobody else wanted to teach Biomed how to use the new system so I got to do that---easy day, answered questions then took them all to lunch. Are the kids around?

Dianne: Let me check. (Texts Gina on her phone.) do u want 2 talk 2 daddy?

Gina: (texts back) yes.

Dianne: (texts) Where r u?

Gina: (texts) sitn nxt 2 u

Dianne: (looks up) Oh, so you are. Here’s the phone.

Gina: Hi, Dad! Guess what, Mom was my science teacher yesterday.

Bob: Yeah, I saw that on your guest post on Mommy’s blog. How was she?

Gina: She was okay. She spelled something wrong on the board.

Dianne: (sends Facebook chat to Gabbey) dad on phone. U want 2 talk 2 him?

Gabbey: (via Facebook chat) no IL txt him l8r

Bob: Where’s Gabbey?

Gina: She’s up in her room, making videos of herself playing the Zelda theme song on the viola and the ocarina and posting them on YouTube. She has a following of like 500 viewers.

Bob: That’s … disturbing. Put your mother back on the phone.

Dianne: Yes, I know. Zeldagirl367 is a bit of a sensation on YouTube. But I’m on it. Her comments are from other Zelda fans, and all they talk about are Link, Hyrule, and the Triforce. It kinda hardly matters if they’re other teens or 50 year old nerds.

Bob: Well, I checked her grades online and emailed her teachers, and she seems up to date on everything.

Dianne: And she was practicing her lines for the play earlier this evening. Gina helped her.

Gina: I told her I would read lines with her if she contributed $10 toward the Game Cube Adaptor for the Wii console I ordered on Amazon.

Dianne: What did you order on Amazon? And how did you order it? (mutters to Bob on the phone) She probably has her own credit card.

Gina: No, I don’t have my own credit card. They didn’t accept my application. But I have a gift certificate from the time I took all your spare change to the Coin Star machine at the grocery store.

Dianne: You took the spare change?

Bob: It’s the least we owe her. She’s the only reason we have an accurate grocery list each week. Hey, Dianne, I have a surprise for you.

DING DONG. At the sound of the doorbell, Sorcia leaps to her feet and launches at the door like a Cruise missile.

Sorcia: BARK, BARK, BARK! I EAT YOU! I EAT YOU!

Dianne: (putting ice in the cocktail shaker) You finished the job and flew home early. I know. I’ve been tracking your phone by Google Latitude the whole time we’ve been talking.

Bob: (letting himself in) Wow, honey! Look at you working that technology. I’m impressed!

Sorcia: (whirling in a circle and whacking everybody with her tail) BARK! BOB’S HOME! BARK! LOVE BOB! HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!

Gabbey: (via Facebook chat) tell dad hi

Monday, December 20, 2010

Revision: Alternate Universes for Your Characters

If you’re a writer, then you know how real your characters can be. You dream about them, talk to them, maybe even argue with them. They take on a life of their own once you put them on the page, and sometimes they lead you in directions you didn’t expect. I’m not much of an outliner, but even when I do outline, I have a tendency to deviate. Or, perhaps it’s my characters who deviate.

But then comes revision, and with a sweep of the highlighting function and a jab at the delete button, you start to re-write your characters’ lives. I usually fall in love with half my characters, so I welcome revision as a way to spend more time with them. (I’m one of the few writers I know who mourns when completing a first draft, instead of celebrating.)

Sometimes I imagine my revisions are creating alternate universes where my characters experience (infinite?) variations on their lives. For example, regarding The Caged Graves manuscript, there’s the universe where Beulah Poole, the housekeeper, is a young woman no older than my heroine Verity. Then, there’s the universe where Beulah is an old woman. There’s the universe where Silas Stevens is shot as a deserter, and another where he lives to be an old man.

If I go back into my initial notes for the story, I find yet another universe, where Verity’s rival love interests, Nate and Hadley, were completely different people and she made a different choice in the end. That was an aborted universe that never really came to be, and I can even trace the way it became diverted.

I’d read a blog entry by Lisa Brown and Adele Griffin, about how they searched The Library of Congress for historic photographs to match their characters and provide a basis for the illustrations in Picture the Dead. I thought it was a fabulous idea. Even though I wasn’t going to draw my characters, I wanted to be able to picture them in my mind. I looked for photographs to match the characters in my outline – but, of course, there were no such pictures. Instead, I found these two:






Neither of these young men resembled the characters I planned. But these photographs called to me, and these images shaped my two heroes. They went down on the page with their own personalities, and from that point there was no going back to the planned story.

If I’d picked two other photographs, would I have a different story today? Probably.

What about you? Do your characters inhabit multiple universes as you revise and re-work your manuscripts?

Photographs from Library of Congress

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sixteenth Anniversary and Dear Teen Me

Happy December 17th, everyone! I know it may not be a significant date for most people, but it’s my wedding anniversary! Bob and I were married on this day in 1994, the week before Christmas. It was a jolly and festive celebration!



We went skiing in Killington, Vermont for our honeymoon.



And I came home looking like this.



Yes, there was a lot of sophomoric laughter and all kinds of jokes about how I *really* injured my leg, but the true story is I fell over a rock while skiing on a relatively flat and easy trail. One wrong twist of the knee and – rip, there goes the ACL.

While I’m taking a look back in time, I’d like to point you in the direction of a new blog that launched this month: Dear Teen Me. This is the brainchild of blogger E. Kristin Anderson and fellow Sourcebooks author Miranda Kenneally. At Dear Teen Me, various up and coming YA authors share letters they wish they could write to their teenage selves.

So far, we’ve had a list of Do’s and Don’ts from Heidi R. Kling, boyfriend advice from Carrie Jones, and a list from Charles Benoit of 10 things he wanted to do before age 50 that he’s already done. I have a letter too, and my post is scheduled for sometime in late January!

Stop by Dear Teen Me for a bit of nostalgia – and some great dorky pix of awkward teenage future authors.

P.S. Do you have your Christmas shopping done yet? How about those cards? And how am I going to get this year’s Christmas skit written while I’m fooling around on Blogger …?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This is How Traditions Start ...


Several years ago (eight, to be precise), I decided to get creative with the note I sent out in Christmas cards and I wrote a creative little drama, which got inserted into everybody’s holiday greeting. It was well received by family and friends, and before Thanksgiving of the following year, people were hinting. “You’re going to do it again, right?”

Thus began The Slice of Salerni Life skit, which sees a reprise every year. Last Christmas, I tried to let it die a quiet little death, but the hue and cry over the empty card caused me to write it after the fact and send it out by email.

I thought the original skit was lost forever, due to a computer malfunction, but my mother-in-law recently found a paper copy. Oh, what fun it was to read the first one – and to consider how times have changed …

A Slice of Salerni Life – Christmas 2002

It’s late afternoon in the winter, and Dianne has just picked up Gina from day care. Gabbey’s had a half day of kindergarten, and Dianne’s had a full day of work …

Dianne: Okay, is everybody buckled in? Let’s go home.
Gina: I want juicy.
Dianne: I don’t have any juice.
Gabbey: Mommy, I have a question for you. Do days ever end?
Dianne: Gee, I hope not.
Gina: I want juicy.
Dianne: I don’t have any juice in the car. We’ll be home in fifteen minutes.
Gina: I want juicy … I want juicy … I want juicy … (Repeats every 5 seconds for a long, long time.)
Gabbey: Mommy, my library book says that some birds fly to South America for the winter.
Dianne: Wow!
Gabbey: How far is South America?
Dianne: Pretty far.
Gabbey: Mom, Gina stinks.
Gina: I not stinky. You stinky.
Dianne: Gina, when are you going to learn to use a potty?
Gina: I don’t want to use potty.
Gabbey: But you know you don’t like to make poop in your diaper.
Gina: I don’t have poop. My diaper’s okay.
Dianne: Gina, I can smell you from here.
Gina: MY DIAPER’S OKAY! I DON’T HAVE POOP!
Dianne: Okay, okay! (Sound of car windows opening.)
Gabbey: Mommy, have you ever been to South America?
Dianne: No, but I’ve been close. Mommy and Daddy went on an airplane to a place called St. Lucia, which is near South America
Gabbey: I’d like to ride on an airplane someday.
Dianne: I’m sure we’ll take you on an airplane someday.
Gina: I want to ride on an airplane.
Dianne: Someday.
Gina: I want to ride on an airplane.
Dianne: What, now?
Gina: I want to ride on an airplane … I want to ride on an airplane … I want to ride on an airplane … (Repeats every 5 seconds.)
RING! RING! The car phone automatically picks up. (Yes, in 2002 we had a dashboard-mounted car phone.)
Bob: Hello?
Dianne: Hi, sweetie.
Bob: Do you have the kids?
Gina: I WANT TO RIDE ON AN AIRPLANE!
Bob: Oh, I guess you have them.
Gabbey: Mom! Gina kicked me!
Gina: Gabbey hit!
Bob: Is it going to be a martini night?
Dianne: Yes, dear. It’s going to be a martini night. With extra olives.
Bob: Okay. I’ll stop by the liquor store … Again. CLICK.
Gina: I want juicy … I want juicy … I want juicy …
Gabbey: Mom, do roads ever end?
Dianne: Yes, dear. It’s just this drive that goes on forever.

Eight years … wow. What a difference. It’s time for me to get started on A Slice of Salerni Life 2010, and I’m hoping for inspiration soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Tooth Fairy Experiment


Friday’s blog post about the end of Santa in our household sparked a family discussion about various childhood legends, and Gina confessed to us that she performed an experiment a couple years ago to confirm her suspicions about the tooth fairy.

I did not know this.

Apparently, Gina had been dubious about the tooth fairy phenomenon for some time. I admit, it was partly my fault, because the tooth fairy was rather lackadaisical about her visits. She sometimes “forgot” to show up. “She’s got a busy schedule,” I used to tell my oldest child, Gabbey. “She’ll get around to it eventually!” (And then I would put a sticky note on my own pillow, reminding me to drop off the money before I went to sleep.)

Gina was not so easily fooled.

Apparently, at some point, she lost a tooth and decided to put it under her pillow without telling me or Bob. Days went by, and the tooth remained where she left it, unredeemed.

Gabbey claims she tried to help us out. “I told Gina the tooth fairy was behind schedule!”

I asked Gabbey why she didn’t just let us know the tooth was there, and she shrugged. “It was an experiment.”

After about a week, Gina finally presented the tooth to me and Bob, telling us it had just fallen out. That very night, the tooth vanished and was replaced by some shiny quarters. Gina’s hypothesis was proved correct.

I guess I’m just lucky Gina didn’t take photos as evidence and present this as her school Science Fair Project.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ho Ho Ho No More?


(LENNY: COVER YOUR EYES!)

A few years ago, I lost my enthusiasm for Christmas.

I used to love shopping (okay, not in crowds, and mostly online), and if I didn’t have most of my gifts purchased by December 1st, I felt behind. I mailed my Christmas cards so early, people probably grumbled when they saw them. I baked; I decorated; I sang Christmas carols.

And then … my kids stopped believing in Santa.

It was a blow. My husband and I looked at each other in horror and disappointment when we realized, and I knew we were thinking the same thing. No more Santa-Tracking on the internet. No reason to buy secret Santa wrapping paper and hide it in the closet. No need to bring the presents downstairs secretly on Christmas Eve. No more half-eaten cookies and reindeer-chomped celery left on the hearth. It was the end of an era.

I’m sorry to say the joy kind of trickled out of Christmas … I don’t think I even bothered to put up decorations that year. Cards went out late. Presents were wrapped early and under the tree in advance, and the kids knew exactly what they were because they told us what to buy.

On Christmas morning, instead of bringing us Barbie Dolls to liberate from their packaging (savvy adults know to come armed with wire cutters and a seam ripper), the girls took their iTunes gift cards and jumped on the computer to upload their own songs. They put their headphones on and fell into their DS Nintendo games. Nobody needed me to unpackage anything, and there wasn’t a single item under the tree made by Fisher Price.

It’s been about 3 years since the axe fell on Santa, and I’m still trying to recover from it. Yes, yes, I know Santa is not the POINT of Christmas. But his passing left a gaping hole in our family traditions, and with our girls too big for “TOYS,” Christmas morning just isn’t as much fun (for me).

Maybe it’s time to develop some new Salerni Christmas traditions. My husband votes we start a tradition whereby “Gabbey and Gina visit the Grandparents” and “Dianne and Bob visit the Caribbean.”

But I was thinking more along the lines of something that included the teen and the tween. Any suggestions?

P.S. Since writing this, I was happy to learn my sister’s family is coming from Kansas to stay with us over Christmas – AND my 7-year old niece Olivia is still a believer. You know what that means? SANTA’S BACK AND THERE WILL BE BARBIES! (Gotta find my seam ripper.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award


I have to thank Marcy over at mainewords for this lovely, purple award! Marcy's my crit partner, and I've been enjoying being an alpha reader for her first draft of Grimoire, a witchy YA Regency Romance. I was sorry to see it end, and you should have heard me boo-hooing when I found out the sequel she's been talking about actually takes place 200 years later and doesn't include the same characters! (Oh no-o-o!)

As part of this award, I'm supposed to share seven things you might not know about me and pass the award on to seven other bloggers.

Things you might not know about me, (ahem):
1. In person, I am very shy. It takes all my strength and willpower not to be a wallflower at social events.
2. My cocktail of choice is a vodka martini, straight up, with olives. (And yes, one of those does help me overcome the shy-thing.)
3. I went skiing on my honeymoon, tore my ACL, and came home in a hip to ankle leg brace.
4. This is my 22nd year teaching.
5. I met my husband at a murder mystery party.
6. I grew up on Star Trek re-runs, Star Wars, and played Dungeons and Dragons in high school. (Can you say nerd?)
7. And on the nerd theme, in 1983 a friend and I went 12 hours in advance to stand in line for tickets on the opening day of Return of the Jedi. Only, there was no line.

It's a good thing I hit 7 just then, because I just experienced a whole floodgate of nerdy memories from high school and who knows what I would have spilled next!

Picking 7 other bloggers (and not repeating Marcy's) is a lot harder. I love so many blogs, although I can't visit them as often as I like during the school year. But let me give it a try:

1. I have to pick Lenny's World first, because not only do Lenny's posts make me smile, his comments usually have me falling out of my chair with laughter.
2. Next, I'm going to choose Buffy's write zone, because she so frequently posts the exact words of wisdom I need to keep going. (Oops -- just realized this one repeats one of Marcy's, but I'm not removing it!)
3. Then, there's Visiting Reality, because Linda makes me scream out loud with laughter, but also sometimes posts a truly inspiring piece.
4. The Misadventures in Candyland, for in-your-face-humor, poignancy, and also really BIG HEART.
5. I cannot forget Tina Laurel Lee's brainchild, The Practice Room, where I hang out every Thursday night (and more often over the summer) for dedicated writing time and chatrolling with other writers.

There are so many others I could name, now that I got started, but I have to reserve the last two spots for two bloggers I met (for real) at PAYA, because it is SO awesome to actually meet a blogging pal in person:

6. Christine's Journey
7. Aine's Realm

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Mountain Retreat


My family has spent a week in the Poconos Mountains every winter for skiing ever since we’ve been a family. Our favorite place is Blakeslee, PA, where we ski at Jack Frost and Big Boulder. A few years ago, we pulled the trigger on a long-standing dream and purchased a little condo on Jack Frost Mountain. We go up whenever there’s a confluence of our schedule and the rental schedule, and this year we reserved it for our own use over Thanksgiving. We love to relax in our little getaway (and I keep fantasizing about a writing retreat there, although I haven’t tried it yet), but the realities of owning the place require us to play landlord, as well.

We rent through a website. (Are you considering a little vacay in the Poconos? Here’s a link to our rental page on Homeaway.com.) We sometimes rent to friends, relatives, and repeat tenants, but most of the people who stay in our home are strangers. We’ve had mostly good luck. People seem to like our home and appreciate the little amenities we provide. We sometimes discover bonus items left behind such as wine, vodka, beer, ice cream, puzzles, books, and games. One of our favorite repeat tenants never stays without leaving a gift behind, such as candles, oven mitts, or a spice rack.

But we’ve also discovered blackened pots and pans and dented bowls, and we can never understand why some tenants disconnect all the wires on the TV and remove the batteries from the remote control. That’s the downside of owning a rental unit: playing the game of What the Heck Did They Do Here?

Some of the not so nice things we’ve found at the house:
· Potatoes sprouting in the back of the closet
· Thong underwear hanging in the window
· Marital aids left in the dresser drawers
· Bags full of garbage thrown into the basement crawl space
· The aftermath of a fire being lit in the electric grill
· Marijuana nubs in the bottom of the trash can
· An exploded casserole dish left in the oven, along with its moldering contents
· Kitchen chair smashed to bits (think Goldilocks and Baby Bear)
· Hole kicked in bathroom door after a Super Bowl Party (guess their team lost)

Overall, we love our house and enjoy sharing it with people so they can have a relaxing vacation – and help us meet the mortgage.

But being a landlady has also reduced me to hanging signs in my house that say things like:

THIS IS AN ELECTRIC GRILL.
DO NOT SET ON FIRE.
FIRE IS BAD.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Hound of the Salernis


We were planning to send Sorcia to doggie day camp while we were away for the holidays, but my sister-in-law Deb said that she and her husband Larry would be happy to watch her instead. This little gem was waiting for me in my In-Box upon my return ...

THE HOUND OF THE SALERNIS by Larry O'Donnell
(with apologies to Arthur Conan Doyle)

So it came to pass that, in these Retro-Victorian times, the legend of the Hound was born. No mere legend, but a real Hound of monstrous proportions and appetites. To those non-believers, I give you warning- do not be caught by the Hound during those hours when the Powers of Evil are exalted.

My wife was the harbinger of this adventure, as she was when we met. I shall relate the tale of our meeting when the world is prepared to hear it. She mentioned, in her casual way, that her brother would be stopping by. I always enjoyed Robert’s visits and was thus cheered by the prospect that my retirement would be raised from its mundane moments. The bell rang and one of the denizens of my household showed him in.

I gasped when he entered my sitting room and laboratory. There with him stood a huge Hound. No ordinary canine this, but a giant, thrashing, and energetic beast, whose demeanor hearkened back to some primordial forbears. He managed to control the snorting creature, whose breaths were of the same proportion as our most powerful locomotives. “Good day, Lawrence, I see you are looking fit and ready to spend time with my companion.” In an instant I knew that Deborah had enlisted me to help confine this Hound while her brother was off to climb mountains and pursue his explorations of the Poconos or some other distant place.

“Good to see you, Robert, I see you have brought a friend.” Our dialogue went no further for the Hound leapt up and proceeded to slather my face, as though tasting a meal just before consuming it. As I could only see the gaping maw and huge teeth, I do not know what transpired for several moments. Only when the Hound lavished the same greeting to my beloved wife was I able to take in the scene.

“Lawrence, I have brought you all that you need to feed the Beast. She must be fed only what I give you. To do otherwise could result in dire consequences.” I knew better than to ask what those consequences could be.

“Cheerio, Lawrence, I’m off” and without so much as a dialogue tag, he was gone. Deborah was, in the meantime, feeding the creature something. I immediately perceived that she had not taken any of the victuals her brother left. “Deborah! You have fed the Beast something your brother has proscribed.”

“What harm can it do?” she asked, guilelessly. We would find the answer later with our noses.

I will not burden the reader with the minutia. For four days the Hound held us captive and captivated. I was intrigued that such a demonic canine was of the gentle gender. What if this monster had been the male of the species? I shuddered at the concept. Nonetheless, as the days passed we developed a genuine affection for her. For the time she was in our home, peddlers eschewed our door and our meager estate. Lesser dogs ceased to bark when she retorted with a sound akin to thunder.

When Robert returned to collect his Hound, we sadly turned her over to him. While we did not tame the Beast, we learned her ways and even laughed at her antics. Thus we knew the savage Beast could show loyalty and stoutness of heart. I could see by the look in Deborah’s eyes that we would soon be searching for our own legendary Hound.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anachronauts


Shortly after arriving at Dorian’s Parlor on Saturday night, we had the chance to chat with one of the founders, Gil Cnaan, who described the event as catering to “anachronauts – people who travel between times that never existed.” That pretty well sums up what we saw there, as we chatted with people dressed in everything from medieval capes and jerkins, to tails and waistcoats, corsets and fishnet stocking, wings, silver contact lenses, and sometimes fangs.



Everybody was fascinating. This was a highly intelligent crowd, with interests in history, science, music, art, literature, and clothing. Vendors displayed artwork, jewelry, steampunk accessories, hats, corsets, and even some replica 19th century surgical equipment: “For when it absolutely, positively HAS to come off in the next 30 seconds!”

The organizers kindly allowed my daughters to sit at my booth, outside the main ballroom. I worried that some of the attendees might be unhappy with their presence, but everybody took it in stride. “I approve of your minions!” said one gentleman, eyeing them up through his steampunk eyegear. And one of the vendors offered Gabbey a discount on a hairpiece she liked, just because she was wearing a Zelda hat.



One of the highlights of the evening for me was when I met Kyle Cassidy and Trillian Stars, who brought their copy of High Spirits, the original version of We Hear the Dead. Turns out Kyle is an aficionado of Elisha Kent Kane, and we had a grand time dishing about Elisha and Maggie, bashing Elisha’s mother, and speculating on whether he would have ultimately manned-up and done the right thing if you-know-what hadn’t happened.

I was so busy talking to people, I didn’t get to see much of the show, but there was a fan dancer, an opera singer, Katie Kat, a showing of the animated short The Tesla Experiment, and performances by Ego Likeness. Oh yeah, I was part of the entertainment, too. They showed my book trailer, and I did a brief reading.



A gentleman came up to me towards the end of the evening to get a book from me. He said he was sorry he’d missed my reading, since he got in late at the airport. But he’d caught it on the webcast. I just blinked at him. “What webcast?” Turns out, the whole event was broadcast live on the Dorian’s website. I’m really glad I didn’t know that at the time!



Overall, this was a blast, and I really want to go again! I was eyeing up the costumes, getting some ideas, and I know my husband was, too. I think I might be an anachronaut at heart, too!