Friday, July 25, 2014


I was looking at some of the writers’ discussion forums on the other day and found one called, “Hilarious Mistakes (Mostly in Self-Published Books).”

The forum asked readers to contribute any comical mistakes and typos they’d come across in books.  The minute I started reading the list of mistakes, I was hooked.

The problem with self-published books is anyone can write and publish one nowadays, and sometimes the editing (or lack thereof) leaves a lot to be desired.   

In a story about the war in Vietnam, for example: “Private Thompson desperately wanted to go search for Natalie, but he couldn’t risk going a-wall.”

I’m really hoping he meant AWOL.

And, on the subject of breaking the law, one book had: “He realized what he had done could send him to a penile colony.”

All I could envision was a nudist colony – all males.

Sometimes the readers’ comments are just as funny as the writers’ errors. One author wrote about a woman who worked in her family’s restaurant in Rio de Janeiro in the year 1502. 

A reader commented: “A family restaurant in 1502? I can see it all now…the boar is cooking on a spit over a fire above a pit. The guests are led to tree stumps to sit on, and they pay for their meals with turnips. There is little trouble getting a reservation.”  And instead of Ronald McDonald, they have a court jester?

A book’s description also had me chuckling: “This book is a copulation of the author’s most popular short stories.”

I think the author had better keep a close watch on those short stories of his, or they might keep breeding behind his back.

Then, in a love story about a princess: “She waded through the collection of gold-diggers and rogues to find a suitable husband and provide her with a male hair.”

To which one reader commented, “I guess that immediately eliminates all of the bald guys!”

And in another book, a new country was created: “Dominic loved and missed his native country of Guadalajara.”

I think this one, however, should get the award for the most creative spelling: “He was very intelligent - an aspiring pupil of oceanology and a future valid-Victorian.”

And another one: “She could tell he’d had too much to drink because he walked with an unsteady gate.”

I have a couple unsteady gates in my yard he can borrow if he needs another one.

Anyway, we all were having fun with this forum until someone named Rick joined and accused us of being evil trolls who were mocking serious writers and deliberately trying to make them look foolish.

Many replied that if authors write something they intend to sell to the public, they shouldn’t make readers pay good money for books filled with mistakes.

Rick responded with, “Don’t tell me you’d actually stop reading a book just because it has a few mistakes in it!  Nobody’s perfect! Besides that, if the plot is good, you probably won’t even notice the mistakes!”

One reply was, “Maybe the authors should read this forum, then! Don’t you think they might want to know when they do make errors, so they can correct them – especially in the e-book formats, which are easy to change?”

“No!” Rick answered. “Give them credit for actually finishing a book and stop picking on them!”

So this Rick guy single-handedly put a damper on a forum that previously had been nothing more than some innocent fun. After that, every time someone tried to post another error he or she had discovered, Rick would comment, “Ha, ha!  Very funny!  Get a life!” or something equally as negative.

I began to get the distinct feeling Rick might have been one of the authors whose goofs were mentioned in the forum.

And speaking of goofs, I'm currently writing a romance novel and was reading over what I'd written the other night, when I found a mistake that made me burst out laughing. I wrote: “He pulled a pistol from the waste of his breeches.”

I’d unintentionally made the poor guy sound as if he’d had an unfortunate accident in his pants.

I’d post it in the “hilarious mistakes” forum, but I don’t think I’m brave enough to deal with Rick’s reaction.



Saturday, July 19, 2014


I am pleased to say I survived, relatively unscathed, the Michael Buble concert last Friday night.

As far as I can remember, the last big concert I attended was Three Dog Night, back in 1970 at the National Guard Armory in Manchester. And the last time I actually stood where the Verizon Arena is located, I was shopping for Star Trek figures at Ames department store.

So the evening definitely was filled with new experiences for me. First of all, I was relieved my friend Barbara, who owns a VW Beetle, was driving, because the guy running the lot where we ended up parking was squeezing cars in there so tightly, I figured his past career must have been in a sardine-canning factory. Had I driven my own car and tried to park there, I’m pretty sure the concert would have been over by the time I finally managed to squeeze into a spot without requiring the exchanging of auto-insurance information.

When I first walked into the concert area of the Verizon, I’ll admit I felt a bit overwhelmed. The last time I’d seen even close to that many people gathered in one place, the premiere of the Beatles’ movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” was playing at the State Theater.

Our seats were in the balcony, to the right, so we didn’t have a head-on view of the stage. It was more like a profile view. I’d read that the Verizon can hold nearly 12,000 people, and it looked at if all 12,000 had shown up for the concert.

The opening act, Naturally 7, featured seven men who sounded as if they were backed by a full band, but actually used no instruments at all. All of the sounds came from their mouths. I was fascinated by the drummer, who sounded as if he were playing cymbals, a bass drum, snare drum and even the bongos at one time or another.

I don’t know if they used mass hypnosis or what, but after only 15 minutes, they had the entire audience standing and dancing such classic dances as the jerk, the twist and the mashed potato – dances I hadn’t done since I was a teen...back when my bones didn’t creak when I moved. On the way into the arena, I’d seen two men wheeling a defibrillator around. The longer I danced, the more I began to understand why they kept it handy.

Michael Buble made his grand entrance in a burst of towering flames, the heat of which I felt all the way to my seat. Either that, or I was experiencing a hot flash after dancing.

He not only was a fantastic entertainer, his sense of humor kept the audience laughing all night. For example, when he said he was going to sing a romantic love song, he told all of the couples to cuddle. He then added, “Oh, and for all of you cynical singles out there, I suppose you can always join them as a threesome!”

I think the couple sitting in front of me took him seriously. Not once during the entire concert did they take their hands off each other. I was beginning to think they thought they were in a motel. Even worse, they stood up during 95-percent of the concert – so they could hug each other full-length – which forced me to look between their hips to see the stage. I suppose I could have asked them to sit down, but then I’d have been labeled a grouchy old lady who was jealous of young love (hey, the truth hurts).

My view of the concert! 
The bright light on the right (through her hair) is the stage.

Michael also said that at a previous concert, he was swinging his microphone around and accidentally hit himself in the mouth with it, knocking out his front tooth. He got the tooth repaired, but just before he arrived in Manchester, he said the one next to it broke off. He figured he must have weakened it during the initial injury. Fortunately, he managed to find a local dentist to fix it for him. Michael’s smile on the Jumbo-tron screen looked perfect.

The dentist, as a reward, I assume, was seated right down front at the concert and was deemed a hero by Michael. I’d like to know where to find this dentist, because every time I’ve lost or broken a tooth, I’ve had to have impressions taken, which then were sent off to some lab probably in Siberia, and the new tooth or crown would be back in a week...with luck. In the meantime, I had to walk around looking like a Halloween leftover.

During one song, Michael was accompanied by an all-female string section. Afterwards, he complimented the women and announced they were local, from New Hampshire. The crowd cheered and gave them a standing ovation.

Michael then introduced the women, only to learn that the first two hailed from other countries. “How many of you actually are from New Hampshire?” he finally asked.

Not one woman raised her hand.

He laughed, shook his head, pointed to the audience and said, “And they just gave you a standing ovation?”

When he introduced his own band members, for each one he named, he would say, “This is my very best friend,” or, “Now this guy is really my best friend.”

Finally, when he introduced the last man, he said, “This actually is my best friend.  To be honest, I can’t stand the other guys.”

The night flew by too fast, and soon, Barbara and I were among the throngs of people all leaving the arena at once. It was kind of like being in the midst of a cattle stampede.

But the worst part was trying to drive on any street within a two-mile radius of the arena. I had seen demolition derbies that were less frightening. Once again, I was relieved Barbara was driving. If I had been, I’d have sat in the parking lot until every other car was long gone, and only then would I have dared to move. Not Barbara, however. She plowed right on through with the rest of them.

So all in all it was a fun evening – as well as educational. I saw and experienced a lot of new things.

And I even had the added free show of “Passion in the Balcony” in the seats directly in front of me.

I’d say I definitely got my money’s worth.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Believe me when I say I’ve suffered through a lot of embarrassing moments in my life. Two that immediately come to mind are when I went to work at a new job and was in such a rush to arrive on time, I showed up with a hair curler (a pink foam one) still in the back of my hair. And then there was the time I slipped on the stairs in Woolworth’s and slid down them on my back, landing at the bottom with my skirt up over my face – as a group of people stood and stared at my underwear.

Well, the other night I was able to add another embarrassing moment to my forever-growing list.

During hot, humid weather, I don’t take the dogs for their usual walks because they’re big animals and don’t cope well with the heat. So during the recent hot spell, they were really restless – pacing, whining, standing near where I hang their leashes and looking longingly at them.

It was nearly 8:00 one night when their restlessness finally drove me so crazy, I decided to take them for a ride. They are like kids. If I ride them around in the car for a while, they usually doze off.  I grabbed my driver’s license and my car keys, then put the dogs into the car and drove next door to Bear Brook State Park. I figured we’d take a quick ride up Podunk Road, which goes uphill through the woods, and then come back.

I hadn’t driven up Podunk Road in quite a while. When I came to the little booth near the beginning of it, I saw a man walking along the side of the road – a late hiker, I thought.  I continued driving up the road and noticed some changes. Some areas had been cleared of trees, and in one of the newly cleared areas, a marker had been erected saying there was the body of an unknown Civil War soldier buried there.

I had walked over that spot many times – never knowing there was an old body lying under there somewhere. In the daylight, I might have found this new information interesting, but it was starting to get dark, so I thought it was, well… kind of creepy.

The dogs started to calm down and were looking relaxed, so after only about 10 minutes, I turned around and headed back home.  That’s when I came to a locked gate all the way across the road. I stopped the car and sat there for a few minutes as the situation sank in. I was trapped on a road in the middle of the woods. I also was thinking, “Well, Sally, now what are you going to do?”

Visions of having to spend the night in a car with two dogs or walking home in the dark, brought to mind every horror movie I’d ever seen.  Suddenly, every bush became a potential hiding place for everything from werewolves to gigantic alien spiders.

I didn’t have my cell phone, so I figured I’d better get out and start walking toward the houses at the beginning of Podunk Road. I left the dogs in the car and headed off.

I didn’t have to go very far. The guy I had seen walking along the side of the road when I drove up came walking toward me. Let’s just say his expression pretty much told me he didn’t exactly think I was a Rhodes scholar. He turned out to be the park manager.

“Didn’t you see me locking the gate when you drove in?” he asked.

I was pretty sure that if I had, I wouldn’t have continued to drive up the road. I said, “No…I’m really sorry.”

“I thought you were part of the group staying up at Spruce Pond,” he said.

“They must all have keys?” I asked. Either that, or they had really early curfews.

He sighed and frowned. “Now I have to walk all the way back and get the key and unlock the gate.”

I was surprised he didn’t have the key with him. I hung my head and again said I was sorry. I suddenly remembered what it felt like to be a little kid being scolded for doing something really dumb.

“I’ve been walking up here for over 40 years,” I said to him, “and the only time this road has been gated was during the winter (because it’s not plowed). When did they start locking the gate every night?”

“About a year-and-a-half ago,” he said.

That pretty much explained why I didn’t know about it.

He stared at me for a few seconds, then said, “Remember me? I used to live in the little red house over by the nature center. I live over here now.”

Back when I lived on the other side of Bear Brook, I used to walk my dogs at night over by the nature center – only because it was the only area with street lights, so I could walk there after dark. The road was posted with “no unauthorized admittance,” but I figured no one even would notice me there.

Well, not only did the police notice me one night and come to investigate, so did Greg, the park manager, who came out of the little red house to ask me what I was doing there.

Both the police and Greg turned out be really nice guys when they found out I wasn’t about to rob the supply depot or dump my trash there. And not only was I allowed to still take my nightly walks (as long as the dogs and I behaved, and I picked up after them), if Greg was outside in his yard at the time, we always chatted. I hadn’t, however, seen him in years.

“Oh, so they’ve moved you into the ‘big house’ now?” I asked.

He laughed.

As it turned out, Greg and I had a nice conversation and briefly caught up on what was new since we’d last talked. Then he got the key and unlocked the gate for me.

Once again, I apologized. “But,” I added, “it was good to see you again. If you hadn’t locked me in here, I wouldn’t have had the chance to talk to you.”

He smiled and nodded, but somehow I got the feeling he’d much rather have been sitting in his living room and watching TV than unlocking a gate for some clueless woman who couldn’t read the “gate closes at 8 p.m.” sign posted right along the side of the road.

Oh well, at least by the time I got back home, my dogs were sound asleep.


Friday, July 4, 2014


As I mentioned several columns ago, I have been trying to grow a rhododendron shrub in my front yard for years now, with disastrous results. Well, and I say this with extreme caution, I’ve finally managed to plant one that currently is thriving (I am crossing my fingers, toes and eyes as I write this). I feel like a proud new mother. I even lovingly named the shrub “Rhoda.”

The reason for my previous failures is the soil in my front yard, which resembles something you’d spread out your blanket on at Hampton Beach. It is about as rich and moist as the Sahara. So I’ve had to be diligent about watering Rhoda. If I skip even one day, her leaves begin to droop.

To water her, I bought one of those new-fangled hoses that expands when you turn on the water, and shrinks to fit in the palm of your hand when the water’s off. But there’s a problem with that hose. It’s 50 feet long. Rhoda is 75 feet away.

That’s not the only problem with the hose. I wanted to use my lawn sprinkler with it. Well, when the water is off, the hose shrinks down to only a few feet. So I can’t really place the sprinkler where I want it until the hose is turned on and expands to its full length. But if I do that, I get wet – very wet.

So I tried to buy a regular 75-foot hose. I say tried, because just lifting it caused my back to make noises that sounded like popcorn popping. Defeated, I bought an old-fashioned watering can instead. I can’t use it to water my lawn – not unless I want to spend five or six hours refilling the can – but fortunately Rhoda seems to be thriving on being watered by hand.

The other morning I got up and looked out the window to admire Rhoda, as I do every morning (and afternoon and evening), and my mouth fell open.

“No!” I shouted, scaring the dogs. “No!”

I ran outside in my pajamas (thank goodness I have no neighbors close enough to see my yard) and stood staring at my lawn. It looked as if giant snakes made of dirt were lying all over it. They were gopher mounds and above-ground tunnels. And where were they heading? Straight for Rhoda. For some strange reason, they also completely encircled my well.

“Find the main hole, stick a hose down it and flush out the gopher,” one of my friends told me.

“I can’t! My hose is only 50-feet long, and the main hole is at least 65 feet away. And somehow, I don’t think my watering can will do the trick. Besides that, what am I supposed to do with a wet, ticked-off gopher?”

I knew Rhoda’s days were numbered. Visions of the gopher yanking her down through the ground and making her disappear right before my eyes, like some bad magic trick, made me head to the hardware store.

“Do you have something to repel gophers?” I asked the clerk, who looked about 18.

“You sure it’s a gopher and not a mole?” he asked.

“If a mole makes mounds and tunnels a foot wide,” I said, “I don’t want to meet up with him. He’d have to be Super Mole. The tunnels are heading right toward my rhododendron.”

“Well,” he said, “Moles eat grub worms, not roots. Gophers love roots. So it must be a gopher.”

He led me to a shelf and grabbed a plastic container. “This should get rid of him,” he said.

“Is it safe to use around pets…and my well?”

He read the back of the container. “It says it will kill fish and birds, not to get it on your skin, and be careful not to use it near ground water.”

I was beginning to think it would be safer to drop a bomb on my lawn. “What kind of repellent kills fish and birds?” I asked. “It sounds pretty extreme.”

“Oh!” he said. “This is a gopher and mole killer, not a repellent.”

“I just want the gopher to leave, not drop dead!”

He scanned the other containers, then picked up one. “Here you go! Castor-oil pellets. Good for your lawn, safe for pets, and it repels moles and gophers.”

“Castor Oil?” That was a new one to me. Although, castor oil definitely used to repel me, so I could understand why it also would repel animals. I remembered my mother giving me castor oil, “the miracle health tonic,” when I was kid. The stuff was so foul, I had to hold my nose whenever she put the spoon up to my mouth. I also remembered the kids at school, whenever we discussed castor oil, saying it was disgusting enough to “gag a maggot.”  I found myself wondering if it also might gag the aforementioned grub worms.

“Just sprinkle these pellets around your yard,” the clerk said, “and the gophers and moles will keep their distance.”

I was thinking that just to be safe, I’d sprinkle the entire container around Rhoda’s base.

Well, the repellent worked, and I haven’t seen any more signs of the gopher. I also, with fiendish glee, stomped down all of its above-ground tunnels and mounds.

But yesterday I spotted some tiny bugs munching on Rhoda’s leaves. And this morning, there was a deer eating some other shrub only a few feet away.

I can’t take any more of this stress. I am beginning to think there is no way to keep Rhoda entirely safe. Maybe I should erect a big plastic dome over her…and then surround it with a punji pit and an electrified fence.