Thursday, February 21, 2013

The world primeval

      So still.
       The mangroves block the breeze. It is so quiet that even dipping my paddle in the water seems too noisy. So we sit still in some forgotten place. Some place where time stands still.
      The water is a looking glass into the fantasy world below. Grasses so straight they look like newspapers run through a paper shredder. Lacey ferns the color of manila envelopes. Sponges like giant vases, or huge Indian pottery or grey monster brains. And coral. Black and spindly. Or round like an underwater orange.
      A little jelly fish dances by doing its flirtatious Can-can.  Lime green fish, smaller than a pencil, flit through the water. And on the bottom, going nowhere, is a horseshoe crab barely distinguishable from the sand.
      We drift around a corner and my companion screams in surprise as a  great blue heron spreads its wings and lifts out of the woody legs of the mangrove. Ahead are three ibis, no four.
      Our paddles disturb the water surface enough that the stationary objects below seem to be moving. Even the shadow of the paddle takes on a watery personality. What's that black floating through the water? A sting ray? No, just a plastic bag which my companion fishes out with her paddle and carries home. We'll leave the mangroves the way they should be.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love hurts

 In honor of Valentine's Day,  I'm participating in a Blog Hop. Author A.F. Stewart has asked us to do a send-up of all the sappy sweetness of the day with something more startling, the rotten side of romance. You'll find a list of the other participating blogs at the end of my post.

I don't write horror, but you can't get more frightening than the truth.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1 billion -- That's the number of women on the planet today who will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, according to

2.4 million -- That's the number of folks in bondage around the world, according to the United Nations' figures on Human Trafficking. The vast majority (80 percent) are being exploited for sex, ie slaves to love.
$90 -- For less than the cost of  Telefloral's Beautiful Bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed roses, you could buy the average sex slave on the Human Trafficking market.

 1.3 million-- That's how many women are physically assaulted by their lover every year  in the United States.  Almost as many men -- 835,000 -- are assaulted by their intimate partners.  Instead of chocolates for Valentine's Day, they get a black eye.

 For our final Valentine's Day countdown:
5 -- The percentage of rapes that result in pregnancy (Sorry Mr. Akin). A 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that “among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.”

4 -- The average number of divorces every minute in the U.S. That means 6,646 divorces per day, and 46,523 divorce per week. The good news is the divorce rate is dropping. The Census Bureau says the divorce rate in 2005 (per 1,000 people) was 3.6 -- the lowest rate since 1970.. Of course, the marriage rate is also dropping.

 3 -- the number of women who will be murdered today in the United States by a husband or boyfriend.

2 -- As in minutes. Before Elvis can finish singing "Love Me Tender," another woman will be raped in America, according to The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Number 1 -- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, rape and muggings combined. Statistically, the most dangerous man in the world is the one you are sleeping with.

Try to have a Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I made the cut!

      After a lifetime as a journalist, I've grown accustomed to seeing my name in print. You might say the thrill is gone. But I was never so excited to see my name as today when I opened up Amazon's list of books/authors being considered for this year's Breakthrough Novel Award. It's a long list. Amazon opened the contest to 10,000 . In the first round, the field was cut to 2,000 -- five categories with 400 in each. I thought the list would be posted when I woke up this morning and was disappointed to learn that the posting time would be about 9 a.m. Pacific -- or not until noon here on the East Coast. So I joined some friends for a day of sun and paddling kayaks around Bahai Honda State Park. I returned about 3:30 p.m. and found the list was indeed posted. I clicked on the mystery/thriller category and scrolled down page after page. It was alphabetical by first names and Sue is waaaaay down the alphabet. But to my delight, my name was there. So many books are being published these days that it's really hard to stand out in the pack. 2,000 contestants is still a pretty hefty pack, but I'm feeling just a little taller today.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sharing the Shade

I got to the beach early today. Before 10 a.m. I claimed a prime parking spot right next to the entrance and set up my chair in the shade of the lone palm tree.
"Mind if I share your shade?" I asked a man who had placed his chair close enough to hug the tree.
"No, Ma'am," he said with a southern accent that seemed to explain his use of a courtesy title.
Before long his wife returned from walking their reddish Pomeranian. She chattered to her husband non-stop but I was busy eating my breakfast of two clementines. I'd been up for hours. Dropped Steve off at a fishing buddy's place at 8 a.m. so I could have the van, drove to Marathon and biked out to Pigeon Key. It's a pleasant ride on an abandoned highway, two miles out, two miles back, with the sun and sea all around. But by 10 a.m. I was famished.
       While I ate I watched a family set up camp in a sunny spot. A skinny Dad in his 20s headed to the water with a diapered toddler no more than 18 months waddling behind. Mom spread a bright turquoise sheet in the sand while a  woman in her 40s, probably Grandma, arrived with a pail-carrying boy of about 3. Mom was very pregnant. She pulled off her dark T-shirt to reveal a lime green striped bikini framing her huge baby bump. Dad was knee deep in the water tossing the little girl over his head so high that I feared for her safety. But she just giggled enthusiastically.
          By the time I finished breakfast and decided to spread a towel on the sand, the shade had shifted.  I was in the sun now and a group of three Spanish-speaking girls had moved into the circle of shade cast by the palm. They jabbered excitedly as I slathered on sun screen and laid back with a big hat covering my face. As I laid in the sun, I made a game of trying to eavesdrop on their conversation using the few words of Spanish I know.
           After a while I walked down the beach. One young man was traversing the bay standing on a paddle board. Another couple was trying to share a paddle board but kept tumbling off over and over and laughing like it didn't matter.A little boy was digging a hole in the sand like a dog burying a bone, pawing the ground furiously with his hands and throwing the sand into a pile between his legs. 
           By the time I returned, the Spanish-speaking trio had left so I moved my towel into the shade. Another couple had arrived and spread their towels in  the lacy fingers of shade but mostly in the sun. In the sun beyond, two couples were lined up on towels, chattering about restaurants. After a while the women decided to pose in the surf but the husband who was supposed to be shooting their photo kept having trouble with the camera. "A little to the left. You're too far out. Oh, I zoomed in too much. The women got tired of holding their playful pose. "Take the picture will ya!"
          A little after noon a family invaded determined to capture every available inch of shade. Grandma swept up some seaweed to clear off a spot for her towel only inches from mine. A white-bearded grandpa followed right behind, as well as a father in an Indiana Jones hat, a pair of kids clutching pink and blue inflated inner tubes and a mother clicking her camera. It was clear we couldn't all fit in the small circle of shade the palm provided.
          I got up and folded my towel. "If you want the shade, go ahead," I said. "I've had it all morning."
           It was time to pack up and go to lunch anyway.