Five things that aren’t in the media right now

Red licorice package

Temptation, thy name is Wiley Wallaby

Five things about Life with Lif that the major networks haven’t picked up on yet (that’s a joke, OK?)

1. Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do

And in my case, it means I succumbed to temptation and bought a package of Wiley Wallaby Soft & Chewy Classic Red Natural Strawberry Flavored Licorice. And then I tore it open. And, well, you know what comes after.

I tell myself that what the label claims is true and therefore this red licorice is a form of health food:  Fat Free! Vegan! Less sugar! No high fructose corn syrup! No dairy! Chewy goodness!

I know what the fine print says though. Even though I tell myself to not read that stuff on the back of the package, eventually guilt takes over and I do. Each one of those evil bits of sweetness is 30 calories and I can’t just eat one. Or two. I’m lucky to stop at ten. But who’s counting?

The first ingredient is sugar. It’s hard to imagine what “less sugar” means in this context. Particularly when the next ingredient is corn syrup. But hey, it’s not high fructose corn syrup so it’s all good. We’ve got a bit of wheat flour in there (sorry, not gluten free), and then the next ingredient is water and after that… cane syrup. But come on, it’s candy. I’m a big girl. I know that means sugar. 

But this is healthy sugar, right? I’m just going to ignore the part about “contains a trivial amount of fat”. I mean, really — fat free and less sugar are only words, after all.

I love red licorice (and how could it be called licorice when there’s no licorice in it?) and sometimes I just gotta have these nasty little bits of healthy fat-free sugar. But I will not buy another package ever again. Or at least not soon.

Badger

Mr or Ms Badger saying “go away”

2. Who knew so many people love badger photos

As of the moment I write this, nearly 500 people have Liked my photo of a young badger I posted on Facebook (the one you see here) and another fifty or more have done so on one of my Facebook photo albums. Why that photo? Is there something special about badgers? Or just that one cutie?

I took the picture when I was hiking with the dogs the other day. Bubz likes to do about five miles for every one mile we walk (that is, I walk — he sprints, gallops, trots, and bounds). I let him run but I keep a close eye on him so he doesn’t go off too far, doesn’t chase cattle, doesn’t argue with things he shouldn’t argue with. Badgers being one of them.

Bubz was about a tenth of a mile away when I saw him chasing something smaller than him, something brown and long-bodied and fast. Or maybe Bubz wasn’t trying all that hard to catch it. Whatever, it went to ground. I knew if I could see it at that distance it was no prairie dog, but given that there were prairie dog holes all around I pretty much figured it had to be something that liked to eat them. I doubted coyote just because the legs weren’t long enough, and so I figured it would be badger, especially since I’ve seen other badger before in that area.

I didn’t want Bubz to start digging to get at whatever it was, so I went over to call him away. Much to my shock, when I peeked into the hole, the badger was peeking back at me. I stood quite still, began talking to it — sorry to bother you but long as you’re there would you mind if I took your photo I promise we’ll move on and stop bothering you if I can just get a photo — as I slowly raised my cell phone and took a couple of shots.

The critter cooperated and I decided to move on as promised. No point in aggravating a badger, plus I didn’t want yet another visit to a veterinarian if Bubz — and Rosie, who’d finally caught up with us — got into it with this one.

3. Rosie is amazing

Speaking of Rosie, she truly is amazing. As I’ve blogged before, I got her August of last year. She was in terrible shape. Aside from overweight, she had no endurance, she was hampered by brachycephalic syndrome, skin allergies, and mental sluggishness. The vet estimated she was six years old but she acted twice that age. I had her spayed, had surgery done on her elongated soft palate, put her on a diet, and got her going on Golden Paste.

But as good as all those things were for her — and believe me, they made an incredible difference — nothing has been as good as Bubbaz entering Rosie’s life.

I adopted him this past June from Round Valley Animal Rescue.  At first Rosie was indifferent to him. She could take him or leave him, long as he didn’t look at her food (she lives for food). But Bubz is an incredible gentleman. One or two curled lips and he never again so much as glanced at her food dish.

But he looks at Rosie (Mom! He’s looking at me! Make him stop!). He comes up to her and sniffs whatever body part is closest, then bounds away. He’ll follow her around like a puppy (Bubz is 8 years old). When we go for walks Bubz runs back to check in with me and soon as I acknowledge him he always runs up to Rosie and bestows a couple licks on her face.

At first Rosie would turn away. But Bubz has wormed his way into her heart as he has into mine. Now when we go on walks Rosie is wildly enthusiastic. She puts some effort into keeping up, and because of that she’s getting in shape.

She loves him.

This morning Rosie was bouncing around like a puppy. I’ve never seen that in her before. I think Bubz is an angel in disguise. I know that Rose doesn’t turn her face away from his kissy-licks anymore… though she does squeeze her eyes shut.

tomato blossoms

Oh tomato, wherefore art thou?

4. The tomato saga

Every year I try to grow tomatoes. It’s become a Major Challenge that I can’t resist even though it’s hardly worth it. It’s just that homegrown tomatoes are so awesome. Store-bought don’t hold a candle to a ripe tomato fresh from the vine. Not that I would know. Every year I try to grow tomatoes and every year I pretty much fail.

It really gets to me, too, since when we used to live in CA I had volunteer tomatoes growing all over the place. I had enough tomatoes to eat, to can, to just let go to compost. Tomatoes were like zucchini — anybody could grow them and so nobody wanted or needed to take a neighbor’s surplus.

Now I live in New Mexico and tomato growing has become a Big Deal. I’m not alone in this, mind you. There’s a lot of whining about growing tomatoes around here, and those who succeed are far and few enough between that there aren’t a lot of free tomatoes being handed out.

The growing season’s short and even after the last frosts of spring night temperatures are low. When, towards the end of May, it’s warm enough, it’s generally also super windy and dry. Tomatoes will grow but even with ample watering the air is so arid that the plants don’t really thrive and the days are so scorching hot that fruit won’t set. Plus every critter that can reach them wants to eat the lush green growth for the moisture it provides.

Finally the rains come. And the hail. The plants have to be protected or they’ll be beaten to death. But you can’t leave them covered or they’ll roast.

And then, when the heaviest part of the rainy season is finally past (note: this is for a normal year, not like this drought year of hardly any rain at all), when the daytime temperature is more conducive to fruit setting, and when the air’s not so dry — then nights start getting cold again and if plants aren’t covered every night the first killing frost, generally in mid-September, will kill them just as dead as anything else.

I figure if you add up my time spent on my plants — even at minimum migrant worker wage — each individual tomato I harvest is going to cost anywhere from $50 on up. Per tomato. Some years I might manage to harvest one (1) fruit. I’ve been as lucky as getting around twenty a few years back, but that’s because I brought in the vines and hung them from the beams till the green fruit ripened enough to eat. 

You don’t want to know the heartbreak of discovering a frost-killed almost-ripe tomato on the vine the one morning after the night you thought for sure it wouldn’t matter if you covered the plants or not… 

And still she persists.

Evolution Device final cover

5. What’s that I hear?

This year Evolution Device, my novel of music and magic, was published in the middle of COVID when nobody was going to bookstores or author events. Of course it was. But okay, still better than not being published at all. However, COVID means being more on-the-ball with digital promotion of all kinds, not only marketing at every opportunity, but exploring other ways to get my book in front of people.  New formats. New presentations.

I don’t listen to audio books much so it had never occurred to me to do one. Until the day I walked into the feed store and the owner asked me where he could buy an audio copy. Hmmm.

I went home and looked into it and, to make a long story short, I decided hell yeah.  I checked and made sure I had the audio rights (my publisher said I did) and after further research I signed on with Audible from Amazon. Yeah, yeah, I know the objections to Amazon but have pity on me. I’ve self-published print books using Amazon’s service so I at least know they provide newbies with decent instructions on how to do it.

I started by recording myself reading from the book and quickly decided that hiring a pro was in order. Trust me — it was the right thing to do. It’s not as easy as it might seem to read the words naturally, with emotion, and without all the usual ums, ahs, coughs, starts and stops, etc. I’ll stick with writing, thank you very much.

So I picked a section of the text and provided it as a sample script, and then put out audition call. An audiobook call isn’t that much different from any casting call — a director is looking to select a certain type of person for a particular role in whatever’s being produced. The call will be for people that meet a list of criteria – sex, age, looks, speaking accent, and ability to read the script and become the person the director envisions.

So my audition call was for a female, adult, American English neutral accent (except that there would be a tinge of English accent to the voice if possible). My script included dialogue, not just narration, because some of the characters have London accents, one has Scottish, one with a tinge of Native American, plus some are male, some female.

Also, the book takes place in the 1970s. You wouldn’t think that would matter but it does. People — especially younger people — speak differently nowadays than they did fifty years ago. For one thing, back then people didn’t end sentences with rising inflection (a.k.a uptalk) as so many do today.  

The very first audition I listened to, the voice of the person carried no emotion at all and every sentence ended in a rising inflection. I suggested she submit another reading but she didn’t.

Another I got was a man. Who didn’t even read the script, just talked about how wonderful he was.

Then there was the one with household sounds in the background. Another with badly handled accents. One high-pitched little girl voice. One voice where the narrator sounded bored and slurred her words. And so on.

Until I got to A Person Who Will Remain Nameless Until The Time Is Right. She’s a pro, born in England and raised in the US. She’s got wonderful timbre (tone quality), enunciates her words — and the emotion! She knew what the words were saying! She giggled at some point — and the giggle was implied but not stated! I fell in love right then. But it was when I heard her with the other characters’ voices that I was sold. She’s… no, I’m not going to keep raving about her. You’ll hear for herself when we publish the Audible of Evolution Device.

I’m grinning as I write this — I can’t wait!

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About Lif Strand

I write, therefore I am. Unless I'm taking photos. Or sewing. Or not.
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