Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cruising the High Seas...10 Feet High

Officially, there were 6 of us traveling on the little boat seen above, though with our infant companion we made 7 and she was seriously awesome...bait. The waiters spent so much time hovering at our table, goo-gooing over (I'll use her super secret name here) Amy, they must have felt they needed an excuse, so they brought extra appetizers, entrees and desserts. Oh yeah, I gained like 5 pounds in 5 days. Quite an accomplishment since we were walking enough to get blisters and shit.

I don't know if I've told you, but at each port, there's a mall. Well...kinda. It's really just a collection of shops that sell the same stuff you can get in town but for three or four times the prices. What's weirder is that the cruise line put on this seminar to tell you where the reputable shops were. It think you can guess where. Also. Who goes on a vacation to buy loose Tanzanite? Is that anyone's goal? Crazy.

So, like Key West, Cozumel was another excursionless day. We opted to save the 600 dollars it would have cost us to travel 5 hours to the mainland and down the coastal highway of the Yucatan to Chichen Itza only to have a single hour to visit. Not. Going. To. Happen. Besides, Cozumel has their own ruins and a van rental split 6 ways was $21 per person. The choice was easy. Plus our rental car guy knew the skinny on some free-ass nachos and we all know those taste better than ones you pay for. Not that we're cheap. Or not just that we're cheap. I travel a lot and the best stuff happens when you're spontaneous and get lost in a place. So that was our intent.

The highway that circles Cozumel (if you could call it that--see left), while fairly flat, was subject to erosion just like its beaches, most of them on the windward side of the island were closed in recovery from some hurricane or something swirling in the southern Caribbean (this becomes important later). The potholes were invariably oceanside and were really little cliffs, dropping a good three feet. Luckily for us, we passed two cars the entire drive around 2/3rds of the island, nearly an hour. But we found this little stand in the middle of nowhere called Allmost Free (compared to the port mall it was) and bought some crap, if for no other reason than to say things like "hola," "gracias," and "andalay!" We didn't actually say that last one, but I thought it. Here's Jo wiping the sand off her feet and pondering coral necklaces and windburn...

Our next stop was the ruins at San Gervasio, which is down another one lane road straight into the jungle. A guy met us in the parking lot to say that they were having a bit of a problem with mosquitos. The moment he said it, I looked down at my legs to find three of the fuckers sucking me dry. And they hurt. Normally you can't feel 'em slide that proboscis inside of you (did that sound dirty?), but these were like Hepatitis vaccine-sized needles and you could feel every single one. I don't know if we even finished listening to the guy, rather ran straight to the gift shop to buy DDT or something. Hell, I would have rubbed on Diazinon crystals if it would have kept the little vamps off.

Despite frequent attacks, the ruins were pretty cool. Except. There was a religious group praying for the victims of the heathens (read, Mayans) and singing God Is In His Holy Temple from the hit film Poltergeist 2 (not really). Totally inappropriate and I'm fairly certain their rudeness was the cause of this giant lizard stalking us around (I could be wrong)...

Did I mention that Cozumel was a tad on the warm side? We were in full on 100-squared (temp/humidity). Nightmarish but we hydrated like good little boys and girls.

My best friend Kevin harvested what he assured me was safe, organism free agua. No. No. This post is not going to degenerate into a diarrhea-filled cliché. Not a chance. Swear to God. So, back to the ruins. Apparently the Mayans enjoyed living in squaty windowless pyramids--who doesn't? We were just itching to find the one covered in singing vines to begin our descent into hell. Instead, we found the source of the mosquitos. The trail leading to the main pyramid (the one you pay to see) was completely flooded with several inches of standing water. Not cool. Malaria was eating away at your humble guide's mind. But surely there was another, dryer way.

Not so much. But about those ruins. Here's an example...

Oh That's where they keep Samara.

We never did find an alternate path to the main site, probably due to the excellent maps found along our route...

Clearly not big on upkeep. Oh well. Fun nonetheless and we picked up some maraccas! Meanwhile, back in the van, we followed the loop back to Cozumel City, which is really more of a low village with a strip of resorts lining the beach. It looks like this: poverty, poverty, poverty, luxury hotel! Like Russian Roulette with platinum visas. We stuck to the town, primarily because we had no clue where the highway continued. They're not big on signs. Or traffic lights...

...still, it was pretty easy to maneuver. Except for the surprise work zones where no one was actually working. We were unperturbed, with two things left to do (dawdle on the beach and secure some free nachos) we found our way back to the highway or road or whatever. If you make it to Cozumel, let me tell you that Albertos has some mean nachos and the fish tacos were excellent as were the guacamole, Pacificos and Mexicokes (seriously Coke tastes better in Mexico, WTF?). Plus, the restaurant was just some tables on the beach with a plywood dancefloor. Can you say 2 birds 1 stone?

On the way back to the rental car place we caught up with this interesting creature. I'm not saying it's a chupacabra for sure, I'm just sayin'.

Which brings us to--what in Texas Hold 'Em is called--the turn. The captain, heretofore known as Daredevil Sergei, let us all know that due to a tropical depression in the south, we'd be experiencing some rough waters on this coming leg of the journey. Understatement. Totally.

10 foot waves don't seem that high, but there was certainly a lot of this going on...

They even have special bags that show up on all the rails to hold the sick bags, unfortunately when they're empty they can hold something else entirely. When you're sick (which I wasn't but many were) what's the one thing you can't resist?

The one thing?

Wait for it...

Were you thinking all-you-can-eat midnight buffet served on the pool deck in gale force winds? If you did you're a winner. We opted just to watch. Also we were stuffed from the binge to end all binges at dinner. The only thing to do was drink the $5 specials all night. Can you blame us?

Later, on the way to the room, I found a wall decorated with photos and celebratory shit, among them this treasure...

I swear to God, the picture was developed quick cuz that pina colada was the drink of the day. It was apparently important enough to warrant expediting. I can't blame them, really. It's classic.

Moving on...If passengers hadn't earned their sea legs before, they did that night. The ship was rocked and slammed for about 7 hours straight. 7 hours which I didn't sleep. Our cabin was near the hull and every time we hit a big wave, it sounded like a bomb going off. Finally nodded off at about 5:30 in the morning with a wake-up call at 7:30. Good times.

Good times that even that night's towel carcass couldn't improve on...

Question: if this one is so clearly a rabbit, then what the hell was the first one (see previous post)? Freaky, right?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is It Time To Stop Doing Tina?

What do you get when you mash-up two of my favorite TV shows?

See more Kristin Chenoweth videos at Funny or Die


First of all, the League of Reluctant Adults is throwing a HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR this week with tons of authors, publishing peeps and bloggers lending their favorite halloween scare. There'll be plenty of fun, lots of contests and ghoulish fun so make sure to stop by several times per day.

Also, I'm interviewed by Jana over at Reality Bypass and because there's very little people don't already know, I'm giving away a signed copy of Happy Hour and a cover flat of Road Trip of the Living Dead.

Last thing. Shannon (sadieloree) and Starbucks.heaven both won cover flats a while back and have yet to email me. I'm starting to feel like you don't want 'em. That's making me feel bad about myself. You don't want me to start cutting again, do you?

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Friday Five

I'm too lazy to figure out what links all these things so you get the obligatory "Friday Five." Sorry.

1. Yesterday, Team Seattle descended on the super swanky Hotel 1000 to meet up with fellow zombie scribe, Carrie Ryan. Dellacorte has her on a whirlwind pre-pub tour and though we only had a brief lunchbreak with her, she's been assessed TS associate worthy. We took her to the always filthy and delicious Mae Phim (where, as Cherie will attest, it's safest to only order traditional Thai dishes, lest your stomach roll like a barrel over a falls). We chatted about zombies, chocolate, our unwholesome love of our mutual agent and partook of the infamous and endless paparazzi sessions (as shown here...)

2. Interested in a free online horror novel involving a giant shark and a probably doomed dysfunctional family? I know you are. How could you not be? One of my favorite horror guys, Joe Schreiber (Chasing the Dead, Eat the Dark), has put out some awesomeness in the form of STILLWATER. You won't even have to wait for the installments, it's posted in its entirety. Here's the first chapter.

3. The always gracious and thoughtful Catherine Schaff-Stump reminds me that Happy Hour of the Damned was the October Book Club read for the ever ominous sounding Mindbridge Foundation. You can read her notes of their meeting and an interview with me on her blog.

4. Next week is the League of Reluctant Adults Halloween Spectacular. Make sure to swing by every day for tons of spooky posts by your favorite authors, publishing industry folk and even some mega-bloggers!

5. It's Friday. Time for a video...

I'm not sure who Tom Chaplin's channeling but I'm digging the 80s pop feel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guess the Towel Carcass and Win!*

See that there? That's the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas. We just got back from a five day jaunt on that monstrosity and lived to tell the tale. I'll have you know it was our first cruise--I totally don't include the three days of humid hell aboard that Naval frigate that evacuated my family and me from the Phillipines a while back (that's another story entirely)--and despite some bumps and grinds and nausea, we had a great time.

For 40 year olds.

Oh yeah, it was one of those trips. Celebrating the year our social group turned a conjoined 40. Caroline, Kevin, Gina and I have known each other since high school and figured we'd do something special to commemorate the event. Initially, we wanted to do one of those villa vacations with our own pool and staff, but as other friends dropped out that option became more and more financially impossible, until finally we were left with cruising (not that kind).

We flew out to Ft. Lauderdale on Air Tran, which we all hoped was either the Vietnamese nail salon of airlines or at the very least outfitted with velvet curtain swags and trannie stewardesses. Neither of these wishes came true. Though it's not a bad airline as we came to find out. No frills, but aren't they all nowadays?

We got ass-raped by the Limo van driver at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, who got us to our hotel in ten minutes, for the low low price of 70 dollars! Does anyone smell brain cake? The Courtyard, at least, was a nice little boutique hotel overlooking a yacht club. By the way, everything in Ft. Lauderdale is overlooking some yacht. The 7-Eleven, the porta-potty, the welfare office. All have views of million dollar vanity toys. Here's our view...

That's Jo and Kevin lingering in the shadows like a couple of peeping toms. Creepy if you ask me, but that's their schtick. Anyway. We killed the rest of the evening eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, which is not nearly as much fun or as retarded as it should be--will someone tell me why the waiters aren't wearing leg braces, cuz that would be too awesome, maybe?--and walking on the beach where we intruded on some filthy couple doing dirty things to each other in the closed lifeguard stand. When will people learn that you're supposed to be ashamed of your body. It's like they grew up without parents.

Cruise ships, as it turns out take a long time to board. So ours, which was scheduled to leave port at 5:00, began boarding around noon...or was supposed to. We got all Floridian and had breakfast on the water at some outdoor nightclub that slings eggs in the A.M. Of course, by the time we were done, I was covered in a sheen of humidity that never really seemed to leave me. From there we were gouged again by another van driver, this one only charged 8 dollars per person for the 5 minute drive to the cruiseport, so our butts only bled a little bit. Though at this point, looking back, I could have killed a bitch.

What they don't tell you: there's a big ass line to get on the boat. I've yet to see this part of cruising on any travel channel show or commercial. And why is that, when the experience is so magical and not at all cattle-going-to-the-slaughter? Seriously, the line moved quickly. Into another line. And from there into another line. The Enchantment of the Seas holds 2500 guests and although I don't think the ship was sold out, the warehouse was pretty damn full of people mooing and shit.

Here's what else they don't show: everywhere you go after you check in is like a red carpet. Paparrazi snap your pictures like crazy. I'm serious. They come out of the woodwork with their cameras flashing. It's insane. I'm not gonna lie. I loved it. I miss it. The pictures show up the next day in the gallery on board and you can buy even the most hideous depictions of your drunk ass. The ones with your eyes closed. The ones where you're asleep on a deck chair, frying like bacon. Oh yeah. Us Weekly shit up in this bitch.

So we get to our cabin, which looks like this on the RC website...

Roomy, spacious even. And looks like this in real life...

Nearly as small as my New York hotel room (you may remember). The first night was a pretty great precursor. Casual dinner (which doesn't mean cut-off shorts and midriffs) was sorta swanky and the food was amazing and plentiful. Nearly bountiful. We left wishing for a bucket. There was a comedian who told poo jokes which, wonder of wonders, I laughed at. And hooch. Daily special hooch. We'll get back to that.

The next morning we woke up in Key West. Well just off the coast and around 5:30 A.M.. That's when the bow engine blasted to life like a battle scene from Platoon. What the? It's hard enough to sleep with some of the rocking but dayam, the noise. I took the opportunity of an early wake up call to cram my fat ass into the cabin's shower. Seriously like shoving spam back into the can. I'm not kidding.

Key West was pretty fun (I know you have a hard time believing it Stace!) and not the land of drunks, date rapes and dick bongs (see right)...or not just the land of drunks, date rapes and dick bongs, they also have drag queens! And conch. Whatever the hell that is. It seems to be best fried in some sort of fritter, though we didn't try one, rather opting for the less scary Key Limeade. We walked down steamy Duvall street and passed a shitload of cool architecture, smarmy bars and tee shirt shops geared toward infant pirates, on our way to the Ernest Hemingway House to see those damn 6 toed cats.

Here's a couple of buildings, just cuz I liked 'em...

The Hemingway House is actually a compound of several buildings and despite not actually believing that the cats would be lying around everywhere, they were. Lots of them. The guy told us they had like 50 and they all have celebrity names. One lady on the tour got bitchy about spay and neutering and the tour guide went crazy on her ass--which was no stretch for this guy who was seriously insane. Needless to say, I was in heaven. Here's Spencer Tracy gettin' pissy with a ho...

I'll leave you with two more shots. The first is the actual toilet that Hemingway shat his bowels into between writing sessions...

I had to reach my arm through some bars to get that one...

...and second, the obligatory towel animal that found its way into our cabin every night. We never could quite tell what each was, so they became known as towel carcasses...

Any guesses?

Next Port O' Call: Cozumel, Mexico, where we drank Mexicokes. Tune in for that shit.

*No actual prize will be awarded beyond the glow of your sinful pride.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wednesday Blogging

Hey y'all. Announced the winner of the Jeanne Stein contest over at the League, blogged about the high cost of promo and started up a Road Trip of the Living Dead cover flat contest so go. Now.

If you're bored, or even if you're not, you'll be entertained by Lauren Dane's back-up dancing skills over at DaneHart. I'm not joking.

Lauren, her friend April, Caroline and I went to see Santogold last Saturday and now we totally have to have back-up dancers. Could you be the one? Speaking of Santogold, she was awesome. But what's up with three opening bands? Santi didn't hit the stage until 11:00 and by then I was feeling horribly old and cranky. Though Lauren seemed to be taking it all in stride live-twittering weird shit about me all night. She's precious that way.

Anyways. I leave you with horrible concert photography. If I had a camera that could take a decent picture, that'd be awesome. Then I could have captured all the 80s-ness of the event.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Weekend! Now with more Team Seattle, Gaiman and Dead Perverts

So it's morning and I did what I do every morning, made some coffee, fed the dogs, watched a little TV (and I do mean little, because I couldn't make it through the piece of crap that was Sanctuary on Scifi--Christ on a cracker what a pile). And instead of settling in to my manuscript, I'm busy hunting for distractions.

Blogging is as good as any and I've got lots of stuff to draw on. Take last week, or as it has been renamed...the week of many packages (not that kind). Take this one here, which was addressed to one Amanda Feral. I was concerned that it might be a human limb, so I did open it in public, just in case someone might alert the media (the police, sure, but that's really secondary to publicity, don't you think?). Inside was a N'Awlins themed care package from one of the awesome Glamazombies, Rebecca.

Needless to say, it was time for a midweek cocktail party for two. I think you'd concur, that was the best course of action. I didn't recall Hurricanes being quite so strong or so sweet. Damn. I was nearly knocked over, of course.

The next day, the cover flats for Road Trip of the Living Dead arrived (now with Amazon pre-order link for your purchasing/tagging needs). There were like 25 of them so I figured I'd end up giving them away sparingly. But then a couple of days ago, I got a fat package from Kensington. It must be crapping cover flats in NYC, because there are at least 200. I'll have to think of a contest. Maybe you could help in the comments. While you're at it ask Amanda some questions for her FAQ on my new website (COMING SOON!).

Last night, a truncated Team Seattle spread our urban fantasy all over the University District--and yes exactly like butter. We met up with TS Associates, Synde and Ellen (who is not a sock puppet, but Cherie's for real friend) for coffee, chatter and some Pagliacci...'s another one of Synde, giving us her critique of the guards at Folsum Prison. Then it was off to get Methodist at the Neil Gaiman Extravaganza. It was definitely a wet one and standing in the rain is not my favourite activity (did you see what I did there, Kit?), but we managed by making fun of Neil unmercifully, as is every fabulously wealthy celebrity author's curse. We saw Ciara, who's becoming a fixture at these author outings and is bound to be caught up in the swirling maelstrom of Team Seattle any day now and tried to find Lisa Mantchev, who was clearly hiding from us or squat-walking (if you know Lisa, you know she's statuesque). We were denied.

Though we did get 4th row seating. Which was awesome. Here's a totally blurry Neil now, reading Chapter 4 of The Graveyard Book.

The entire chapter. Granted, he reads awfully well and the British accent was, well...fitting. But the pews had no padding (do Methodists?) and my ass was begging for a cushion within 15 minutes. Begging turned to bribery and then threats. Chapter 4 took well over an hour to read. But we did get to see the Dead Perverts and that's always fun, including the newly minted Audrey pervert (nice to meet you!). Though I noticed, San made a comment about my newly dyed tresses over on his livejournal. Which forces me to show you what havoc I've reeked...

If this is the extent of my midlife crisis then Caroline's in luck. I think it's a little dark, but after doing the count I'd definitely lost the battle with the grays and was hovering at 40% of my natural color. Call me rash. Vain. Whatevs. They had to go. we did get to see clips from the upcoming Coraline movie and learned that Gaiman was working on an Anansi Boys script, but by the end of the event we were dragging. So Caitlin and I headed back south. About fifteen minutes later, I realized I left my camera in the bible holder at our pew. After multiple exclamations of Fuck! Ranging from the simplest, and previously stated, "Fuck," to "Fuck Me" (which has no erotic connotations, in this context), to the always appropriate "Fucking idiot."

Caitlin calmed me down and we raced back to the Methodist Temple and pounded on the front door. Luckily Art and Duane and the crew were still inside tidying up and the religuousness of the venue halted any thievery.

That kind of brings you up to date. Remember those questions I asked you?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Guest Blogging

...Today over at Bitten By Books. Halloween ghoulishness and traditions. That kind of thing.

There's a Halloween Cornucopia at stake, and an Amazon giftcard if that does anything for you.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hey Y'all Want Some Amazon?

My infrequent, unscheduled and only moderately sane urban fantasy interview series continues this week with author Jeanne Stein (Legacy) and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!!! You might want to check that out, seeing how that's three free books and all (4 if you get in on the 3 for 4 paperback deal). You'd best go there now.

Also, turning this into a bit o' links post. Michele Bardsley asked a few of her friends (me included) a very important question (read all) over on her blog.

And while we're at it, you know who's got a book out this week? Richelle. That's right you can pick up Succubus Dreams from many a fine retailer and swoon over the writer guy who kinda looks like John Cusack and laugh at Georgina's smart-ass mouth.

Back to work...