The trip to Florida turned out to be lovely. We flew in, rented a Jeep Renegade, and drove down to Clearwater from Tampa. We stayed in Sheraton Sand Key Resort, on the southern island, away from the main beach. When we were booking the hotel, we saw people complaining that there was a long walk to the beach and how the golf cart service wasn’t speedy enough. The long walk turned out to be less than a quarter mile stretch of packed sand. We laughed the first time we saw it. You walk out into the pool area and the beach is right there.
The water was crystal clear. The sand was white. The sea shells were plentiful and suitably pretty. The umbrellas and lounges were relatively cheap by resort standards. The first day we had a ball. The second day tropical storm Colin decided to make an appearance.
Now you would think that the prudent thing to do when a tropical storm comes is to sit in your room, sip cocktails, and watch weather people engage in blatant fear mongering. We went swimming. Because that’s how we roll. We swam in every storm on every vacation. Gordon is ex-Navy, I used to be a competitive swimmer (although you can’t tell now,) and Kid 2 is probably part mermaid. The ocean turned into a washing machine and so of course we swam for hours. The other tourists were going up and down the beach, watching the storm coming in before it really landed. You would see really concerned faces and then they’d notice us and the expressions would change to, “Wait a minute…”
Of course, the ocean was none too pleased, so I got some scratches, Kid 2 got rolled pretty good, and Gordon got slapped by a wave, which busted his ear drum. Ask me if he kept his ear dry for the rest of the vacation. Go ahead. Ask me. Men.
At some point the sky turned black to the west and dark Mordor clouds boiled out, forming a cloud mountain range in mid air. It moved toward us. At this point I started saying things like, “Get out of the water.” They fought me on it until the damn thing was almost on top of us and then the wind hit. Florida storms seem a lot like Georgia storms in that regard: the cloud is coming, but the strong wind hits you first. So the wind came and they finally decided to make a break for it. We get out of the water and the wind is picking up sand and flinging it at us. Feels like your being rubbed with a fine grade sandpaper. Of course, we got rained on before we made it back to the hotel room.
We nursed our wounds by driving through the rain to a really nice seafood place. It’s kind of an Asian Fusion/Steakhouse hybrid called Island Way Grill. It was a little pricey, but the food was delicious. If you get a chance to go, try the calamari appetizer.
It must be said that Clearwater isn’t super-easy to navigate. There is a particular round-about, during which GPS says fun things like “take the fourth exit.” If you give my husband a compass and a map, he will navigate out of the desert with no problems. When he was in the Army, they used to drop them off in the middle of nowhere and wait for them to walk out. (Those who are wondering why he is ex-Navy and ex-Army: he decided to go back in the military after we had kids, because we were being crushed by debt. Having spoken to some Navy wives, I told him that he would be single if he rejoined the Navy. He joined the Army instead.)
So given a compass and a map, he can navigate anywhere. Without those things, he ends up in weird places. At one point I was at a convention, and he called me from Georgia where we lived and explained that he took the kids to downtown Savannah, but now he was in South Carolina, and he wasn’t sure how to get back. (For the local people, yep, he took that giant bridge.) This is a man who after turning left hundreds of times at a certain intersection, once in a while turns right and then gets puzzled. Basically, we’re that couple from Incredibles, where I am telling him to take an exit, and he, for no apparent reason, decides to stay on the highway. I can’t tell you how many times we hit that round-about in Houston trying to get to Hotel Za Za for an event and went the wrong way.
It must be pointed out that Gordon learned to navigate Clearwater after driving once through it. Apparently the beach was a strong enough motivator for my husband. The roundabout didn’t bother him. The road construction didn’t bother him. Mysterious how that happened.
In the morning the storm slacked off and by afternoon the sky cleared. The packed stretch of sand turned into a foot-deep lake filled with birds. We swam again and I took lots of pictures.
The next day we drove out early in the morning to look at the prospective houses. There was a particular one I saw online that looked so perfect. Here is the picture. Doesn’t it look lovely?
Yeah. I knew we were in trouble when the street turned into an overgrown cracked single lane flanked by older houses in serious need of a facelift. In person, the house looked awful. The neighborhood looked worse. So I was pretty crushed. I had to go back to the beach in self-defense.
The next day Gordon and I drove out again and found some nice places in Safety Harbor and then found a subdivision central in Palm Harbor. We drove through and I was like, “This is a good house and that is a good house…” There was one particular neighborhood where all lots were .5 acre and up and you could tell that the residents were like, “This is my half acre and I will put whatever I damn want on it.” There was a very modern house, a Spanish Castle, a suburban sample, and one of the houses had a wooden gazebo on two story tall stilts sitting in a pond and a narrow walkway to it.
If we had the money… But that’s another story. It’s hard to qualify for loan when you are self-employed, so we’ll have to do some serious financial planning.
The last day on the beach we rented jet skis. To nobody’s surprise, Gordon and his clone are speed demons. Kid 2 refused to come out of the water. She didn’t want to leave Florida. She didn’t want to go back to Texas. We were evil and mean for making her come back. Logical arguments like, “You have another year of high school left” and “Don’t you want to see your dog?” made no dent. She was surly the entire way home. And then she was surly at home for about a week.
Things I’ve read while on vacation.
My American Duchess by Eloisa James.
This was adorable. Am American heiress is brought to London, because she backed out of three engagements. She is kind of out of options back at home, so her aunt and uncle are hoping to find her a husband among London elite. And she quickly lands a proposal from a young, handsome, urbane gentleman. And just after she accepts it, she runs across a disagreeable man who clearly has no business being among the ton, which is exactly why she likes him.
It’s an Eloisa James book, so you know a Duke is involved and hilarious hijinks are present. I about died during the pineapple scene.
The heroine was endearing; the hero had morals and integrity, and I enjoyed this very much.
Mr. Foner has no site that I could find, so I am reduced to the amazon link.
I was in the mood for a SF with a romantic bend and this was free on Kindle Unlimited. This is a solid B for me. The premise is really interesting: a race of hyperintelligent robots discovers humanity and takes us under their wing to help us maintain a presence in a very big and very populated galaxy. Almost everyone is ahead of humanity and given that we are newcomers, we need all the help we can get. The hyperintelligent robots have a history of helping emerging species, and humanity is given an opportunity to maintain population and diplomatic presence on a massive space station among other species.
Kelly Frank is the Earth’s top diplomat on the station and she is trying her hardest to do her job. Unfortunately, the ways of the robots are mysterious. For starters, her pay is barely enough to keep her alive. Problems keep cascading on her head as humans try to interact with various alien species. And, to top it all off, she was given a gift subscription to the dating service ran by the same robots, and her dates are getting more bizarre by the minute.
This was cute and funny, but a little disorganized. I may have growled, “Get to freaking monkey” a couple of times, but overall I read it in one night and I finished it, which is rare for me, because I am the bitch who hates everything. I will read the second one.
The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.
Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.
This was really good. So good, I almost got sunburned. It’s a police procedural, set in the steam and magic universe, but instead of Parasol Protectorate or Victorian era historical, this has shades of Terry Pratchett. It has everything: young idealistic emperors, deadly assassins, heartbreakingly handsome and so very much aware of it scions of warrior caste, and most importantly, it has a competent heroine who is trying her best to do right in an impossible situation.
I loved it up until the last 10% when some revelation came about the man I thought would be the romantic interest. I wish she had taken it in a different direction. He doesn’t do anything terrible or anything like that; it’s just that I had a certain image of him in my head and it kind of made an unexpected turn. He can still be the romantic interest, but I may need to readjust a little.
But! Good book. And it is free on Nook and on Amazon. She is nuts. Why is she giving this away free… Oh wait. Pot kettle.
Anyway, I’m definitely reading the second one and that almost never happens.
Things I meant to read and didn’t get to.
I try to be a good friend and make promises like, “I will do my best to read this in time for publication.” And then I fail miserably. So below is the list of my failures. I hope that they might be interesting.
Death and Relaxation by Devon Monk
Wait, wait, I have an excuse for this one. Did you know Devon Monk went indie? Yeah, I didn’t know that either. I didn’t know the book existed. It popped up on my Facebook feed. So this is technically only a fail because i completely failed to keep up with what was happening with my friend and hadn’t spoken to her for a year… Yeah, I suck. Synopsis below.
Monsters, gods, and mayhem…
Police Chief Delaney Reed can handle the valkyries, werewolves, gill-men and other paranormal creatures who call the small beach town of Ordinary, Oregon their home. It’s the vacationing gods who keep her up at night.
With the famous Rhubarb Festival right around the corner, small-town tensions, tempers, and godly tantrums are at an all-time high. The last thing Delaney needs is her ex-boyfriend reappearing just when she’s finally caught the attention of Ryder Bailey, the one man she should never love.
No, scratch that. The actual last thing she needs is a dead body washing ashore, especially since the dead body is a god.
Catching a murderer, wrestling a god power, and re-scheduling the apocalypse? Just another day on the job in Ordinary. Falling in love with her childhood friend while trying to keep the secrets of her town secret? That’s gonna take some work.
A Quarrel Called by Shannon Wendtland
Shannon (pseudonym) was my friend before I was published. I don’t have many of those left. She took me to my first ever SF/F convention. Actually she more or less forced my hand, because I wasn’t up to going. Well, we went and met Louis McMaster Bujold and she was so lovely. I stood in line for her, watching people dragging their entire backlist to her while she graciously signed, and thought, “Wow. This will never happen to me.”
Shannon is a YA writer. We both were working on things at the time – she had this really cute angel YA and I was working on the first Kate book with Gordon. But life interfered, and I ended up getting published – I still think, by accident – while she had to set her writing aside to work very hard for her children. I am still not one hundred percent on what she does, but it is something to do with computers, databases, and being on call 24/7. Seriously, she is like a high level military official. When her phone beeps and the server is down, she has to drop everything and rush over to her work.
She asked me to read her new YA, which sounded really good. I tried my best, but I failed miserably. First, I was out of time for deadlines, so I kept putting it off; then, as I tried to read it on vacation, the file got corrupted and my Kindle refused to load it. I’m sorry. 🙁 I missed the publication. But here is a synopsis and a link to the book.
The Sage, The Guardian, The Lantern, The Light – together we four are Stewards of the Plane, a Quarrel.
G. is the Guardian; he’s developed a strong protective instinct and a kickass sword of light that can chase away the baddies like nobody’s business.
Sam is the Lantern; his dreams shed light on possible futures – he’s always had dreams, but now he sees where we’re going and how far, and it scares the crap out of him.
Tara is the Sage; as our resident mystic, she can commune with the Akashic records: the big data warehouse in the sky. She can get information on anywhere, anywhen, if only she can learn to ask the right questions.
And me, I’m Melody, I’m the Light. I can channel the earth’s energy and according to Gramps, I can stabilize a vortex. It’s a good thing, too, or else we would be in a lot of trouble.
Before the summer started, we were a bunch of normal teenagers getting ready for our senior year in high school. By the time summer was over, we’d fought and won battles, lost friends and saved the world (except for that time when we made it worse).
This is our story. We wrote it all down; that way when it happens to you, when you’re called to be a Steward of the Plane – a member of a Quarrel, you’ll know what to do.
The Incubus Job by Diana Pharaoh Francis
This one is pretty much inexcusable. It’s a romantic urban fantasy from a friend’s I’d known forever. She sent it well in advance, I said I would read it, and I didn’t. I can’t tell you why.
Well, I can. I put it in the “pile” of files to read. Things “piled” on top of it and I never got to the bottom of it. Because I suck.
In my defense, I typically do not read UF in any form while I am working. I have almost a mental block against it. I will read mysteries, space opera, PC Gamer, but not UF. And I was working so hard for the last few months that it nearly broke my brain. It is by all accounts a good book – 4 starts from RT and solid reviews, so it’s my loss.
Anyway, here it is.
It’s tough to have a conscience when you kill for a living.
That’s why six years ago, Mallory Jade gave up killing. Now she’s a fixer. Got a problem with a demon? She can help. Infestation of pixies? She’s got you covered. Kidnapped by an undead lich? She’s on her way. Anything you need, so long as she doesn’t have to kill. It’s her one unbreakable rule.
Aside from a few near-death experiences, her new life is good, until her job dumps her in the lap of the man she walked out on six years before. Law Stanger, her former partner and lover, wants her back in his life. He’s not above playing dirty. But Mallory knows it can never work. She has secrets Law can never understand or forgive.
All Mallory wants now is to finish her job–track down an incubus and the precious box he stole–and get the hell out of town before Law shatters her heart again. But it wasn’t fate that drew her and Law together after all these years, it was cunning calculation. Now they must face an enemy more powerful than they can imagine, one that has no intention of leaving anybody alive.
There you have it: Florida trip and book recommendations. Pheew.