Lightning never strikes in one place twice, right?

Today, I had planned to write a review of yet another book I read, but live proved to be more interesting (and scarier) than fiction. So my house got struck by lightning Friday evening. Never thought I would be able to say something like that… Well, to be precise, it wasn’t a direct hit – the lightning struck the pool in my backyard. That didn’t prevent it from wreaking havoc around the house though.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we? That afternoon, my father-in-law was cleaning the pool and left the pool net (the one on a big metallic pole) propped next to the pool deck. It started raining, so he switched the pool off and went inside. Unfortunately, he didn’t unplug the pump or put the net on the big metallic pole back in the shed.

Two hours later our peaceful evening was interrupted by an ear-shattering crack and the loudest bang I have ever heard. It really sounded like an explosion right in our backyard. My thirty pound dog jumped up my lap so fast, it looked like she teleported. My 85-pound German shepherd tried to dig her way under the sofa, but only succeeded in pushing it all the way towards the wall almost knocking herself out in the process. And my two cats relocated under the bed upstairs, and it took me several hours and a can of tuna to persuade them the sky wasn’t falling on us and we weren’t going to die. That is after I finished having my own heart attack.

When we finally managed to sort all the animals and humans in the house out and crawled outside to see what the heck had happened, we saw scorch marks on the deck right where the pole used to be. The wooden plank on the railing was split in half. We found splinters of it by the fence about ten feet away. The metal pole itself was laying on the ground with what looked like a bullet hole on the top and the netting at the bottom shredded to pieces. Not to self: yup, that’s why they say not to leave metal poles standing around during storms…

Nope, that's not a bullet hole, that's lightning damage.
Nope, that’s not a bullet hole, that’s lightning damage.

The lightning stroke the pole, scorched part of the deck, dug a trench in the yard from the end of the deck towards the power outlet by the pool pump, and fried the whole pool system. I mean the outlet was so scorched we barely managed to pull the plugs out. And the impact was so intense that that dirt from the trench ended up floating in the pool. It’s an above ground pool with 4 feet tall sides.

But the damage didn’t stop there. Through that outlet, the lightning then traveled into the house, melted the circuit breaker that was supposed to shut that circuit off, and did wonders on electric devises.


Yup, it's toast.
Yup, it’s toast.

The Direct TV box got so messed up that it literally hang itself and would not reboot. The poor technician spent 5 hours on Saturday trying to make the thing work again. In the end, he had to replace both the receiver and the dish itself. Our TV decided that it had suffered enough abuse and decided to shut down permanently. The sound system still works, but the subwoofer is toast. Several electric outlets around the house quit working. Oh, and the cherry on top – my beautiful, less than a year old desktop might as well be a door stopper now.

Good news is that nobody got hurt and that our homeowners insurance will cover the damage. So we certainly got the fright of our lives, but the consequences could have been more dire.

I also learned a few things from this unfortunate encounter with lightning. First of all, never ever leave a metallic pole outside when it’s raining. That’s just inviting disaster. Secondly, always back up your work. I mean all my writing was on that desktop. So thank God for Google Drive!

So that was my weekend. How was yours?

Sometimes it’s not quite done when you think it’s done.



I had an interesting experience the other day that I thought I’d share with my fellow writers (and readers). I had finished my second short story and sent it off to my beta extraordinaire. The feedback I got caught me by surprise.

“Loved the story,” she said. “That’s a very good first chapter. Where is the rest?”

“There is nothing more. The story is finished,” I answered.

“But it’s not! I want to know what happens next. This episode is over, yes, but the story itself isn’t finished.”

I didn’t try to argue with my beta because experience taught me that most of the time she was right anyway. Instead I went back to my story and thought long and hard about it. At first, I couldn’t see how I could continue it – in my mind, the story was finished. But something kept nagging at me for the next two days. I was neck deep in the revision of my novel, but my mind kept coming back to that short story, over and over again.

And Friday I finally had that ah-ha moment. You know, that moment when the scene you had been struggling with all of a sudden comes out seamlessly, or when you manage to fill in a particularly baffling plot hole? Yup, that moment. To me it was the realization that my beta had been right – there was more to my story than I thought at first. And I knew exactly where that story still had to go, and where it would end, for good this time. Now I just have to find the time to sit down and write it. So what I thought would be a short story turned out to be a novella instead.

It’s the first time this happened to me, but it’s true that I am just an apprentice, as far as writing goes. So I am wondering, did something similar ever happen to you? And if yes, how often?

I want to hear your stories. How often did you think that your story was done when in reality it wasn’t?

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

City of dolls

Stars: 4 out of 5.

This book is the absolute proof that we do judge a book by its cover. At least, it entices us to pick it up and start reading. I think I would have breezed right past the City of a Thousand Dolls on Amazon if not for the absolutely gorgeous cover art. It made me stop, open the link and read the brief synopsis. And after that, I immediately bought it, not even bothering to look through the reviews. Later, I was surprised at the amount of negative reviews this book received, especially on Goodreads, because I loved it.

I the whole concept of a city created for the sole purpose of caring for abandoned girls that their families don’t want anymore. This sort of orphanage, soft of boarding school, sort of specialized school where the girls learn how to become courtesans, artisans, artists, guards or even assassins. I also loved the world Miriam Forster has created. It’s interesting to see how a society that is completely cut off from the outside world would function.

I read a lot of complaints about Nisha, but I think that she is a fleshed out character, as far as young female protagonists go. Yes, at the beginning all her worries might sound shallow and rather petty, but this is exactly how it should be. She is fifteen; she has lived a very sheltered life behind the walls of the City. Of course, she would be worried only about her dress during the Ceremony, or flirting about the young courier. I actually enjoyed watching Nisha’s character evolve and grow up as the story progressed, and seeing how her priorities shifted the more she got involved in the whole investigation into the murders. It took courage and backbone to do what she did in the end, and for that she has my respect.

I am not a fan of love triangles in general, but the implied triangle in this book didn’t bother me that much. Maybe because Mrs. Forster didn’t take the usual route and made one of the men in Nisha’s life “bad”. Everyone has their reasons for acting like they do, and those reasons make sense.

If I have one gripe with this book, it’s that Miriam Forster never explains what happened to Nisha’s parents. We know that they were afraid of something, because they decided to leave Nisha in the City instead of entrusting their nomad family with her care. We know that they were both killed. It would have been nice to know why. Why was it so important to keep Nisha safe behind the city’s walls? Who sent the dead bird to her parents? Was it a warning? Is that why they ran? Nisha had been wondering about her parents and their reasons for years, it would have been cathartic for both her and the reader to get answers to those questions. Hopefully, the author will come back to this subject in later books.

As it stands now, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series – Empire of Shadows. And just look at that new gorgeous cover!

Empire of shadows

Do you need to be married to your job to be good at it?

This post was born out of a brief exchange I had with a friend on Twitter. She had mentioned that in all the popular TV shows, the cops always hang around the office after hours (and sometimes late into the night), even after the case is done. Why don’t they go home? Don’t they have a life outside their work?

That conversation made me think. I also took a hard look at the shows I like on TV to see if I could confirm or deny that statement. Well, the verdict isn’t pretty – it seems like the TV wants us to think that you cannot be a good specialist (be it a detective, a CSI, an agent, etc.) unless you are literally married to your job.

 NCIS crew courtesy CBS NCIS crew courtesy CBS.

In NCIS, for example, Gibbs has been divorced three times and the relationships he had during the show never lead anywhere. He lives in a house that looks more like a cheap and ran down motel and spends most of his time in the basement working on a boat. Ducky was sharing his home with his mother until she passed away and now lives alone. As far as we know, he has never been married and is not in a relationship. Tony’s romantic life had been a train wreck after train wreck. All of them practically live at work.

CSI, another popular series, also shows us a group of workaholics with almost non-existent social lives or failing relationships. Nick, Greg, Julie and Morgan are all single. Sara’s relationship with Grissom ended a few seasons ago and Brass still has problems with his ex-wife and step-daughter. Heck, even the family man D.B Russell is starting to feel the strain in his personal life.

CSI courtesy CBS.
CSI courtesy CBS.

And there are plenty more shows like that. Heck, the latest example of this was shown in Rizzoli and Isles, when Jane chose her career over marriage to the man she loved, because it meant following him around.

My problem with that portrayal is that it slowly convinces the viewers that if you want to be good at your job, you need to prioritize it above everything else, personal life included. You need to be married to it, even obsessed with it.

Well, I have a beef to pick with that. First of all, obsession is never healthy. Also if you structure all your life around one single thing, once this thing taken from you, your life crumbles. Have you noticed that when those series show us a retired cop, he is usually either a heavy drinker, struggles with depression or bitter at the world? And how many characters took their own lives when they were declared unfit for duty for one reason or another?

I don’t agree that you have to sacrifice everything to be good at your job. I think that in order to be good at something, you need to be a healthy and balanced person. That means having more than one “obsession”, a hobby that you would enjoy doing during your free time, plenty of friends (and not only colleagues), and a good family life / personal relationship. That way, if disaster strikes and you fail at one aspect of your life, you still have all the others to fall back to and help you through. And your work won’t suffer too much, if you leave on time to enjoy a good dinner with your family. On the contrary, you might come to work happier the next day and ready to tackle oncoming challenges.

So that’s the characters whose stories I want to read and watch. I want well-rounded people. I want people who are not defined only by their job, who can balance profession and personal life, and be happy doing both. Those people are not boring. They have their own challenges to overcome. And there is so much more that can be done with characters like that as an author.

So what do you think? Do you think that being married to your job is unhealthy? Do you think that we, as authors need to create more in-depth characters who actually have a life to come home to? I would love to hear from you all.