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This is something I NEVER thought I'd see, a lifelong dream come true!  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause!  :-)
Hey, Lady!  Your Tin Snips are Showing!

on the shelf at Chapter One Bookstore!
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Aside from working daily on my web site, I've been trying to do some writing, too.  The following are a few excerpts from my second and third novels, both still too far away from completion to suit me!

Book No. 2 is tentatively called Cobwebs in the Oven, and takes up where Hey, Lady! leaves off.  Much to her chagrin, Val becomes a wicked stepmother, and much to her surprise, she finds she enjoys it!

Book No. 3 is titled ROFL (Rolling on Floor Laughing), and it deals with Val finally dragging herself kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Again, I thank you for visiting this site, and comments, criticisms, etc., are always welcome.

Have a good day!
EXCERPT FROM Cobwebs in the Oven

Finally, after critically examining all the men at the bar, giving them the titles "loser" or "major loser" like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, Val stifled a tremendous yawn and threw in the towel for the evening.

"You guys, I have GOT to go home and get some sleep," she told her friends. "Call me tomorrowlate, I might add, for you early risers--about what's going on tomorrow night, okay?"

"You could probably still find someone to go home with," Leigh Ann teased, making a gesture that encompassed the entire dance floor. "Look at all these fellas!"

"Everybody loves a comedian, LA!" Val retorted. "I wonder if they have an open mike night here?"

"Just trying to help," her friend said, pretending to be hurt.

"I'll see you two tomorrow!" After giving both of them hugs, Val attempted to politely make her way through the madding crowds. Sheesh, this was a popular spot!

Just as she'd finally managed to get to the door out of this hell hole, she thought she heard someone call her name. She turned around, saw no one looking the least bit familiar, and continued on her way. Then there it was again!

"Val!"

This time, she discovered it was Bill, a fellow who had been in her graduating high school class. He bought her a beer in spite of her protests, so Val thought she should at least drink some of it. They stood there shooting the breeze, talking about their ten-year class reunion that was coming up this summer, when another guy walked up.

"This must be Old Home Week!" Val exclaimed, recognizing this face, too.

"Yep, Bill and I are on nights at the power plant, and if we race outta there, we have time to come to this lovely oasis to slam down a couple beers!"

"How about that!" Val replied. "I've been on days there, actually, ten-hour days, and was just on my way out of 'this lovely oasis' to my camel!" Bill and the other guy, Steve Pulliam, snickered.

"So, you do construction work?" Steve asked then.

"Yes, but I'm still greener than moss growing on a stump," Val admitted.

"That's cool," Steve said, ". . .but I bet you get a lot of shit!"

"Eh, every once in awhile," she replied, telling them the story about putting up pictures of naked men at the power plant. She simply HAD to do it, since from her first day there, while eating lunch, she had to look at the inside lids of gang boxes covered with rows and rows of pictures of celluloid titties. The reactions she got were just this side of hysterical, again proving her point that getting even instead of mad worked every time.

"The guys stroll down that long hallway where everyone's gang boxes are at lunch like it's a ritual, with silly-assed grins on their faces," Val explained, laughing. "Then they get to my pictures, and these confused looks start to appear! They look around, almost in horror, and then they see me and usually start laughing like crazy and shaking their heads!" Val sipped her beer. "I'll just sit there and innocently shrug my shoulders."

"I bet that is funny!" Bill said. "Nothing like that happens on nights, does it, Steve?"

"Nope, it's pretty boring," his friend agreed.

They started talking about the reunion again, Val explaining that she'd run into their class president at the grocery store. Cindy had said to get addresses and phone numbers of anyone Val happened to run into.

"Can I get your numbers?" the purseless Val asked, making her way to the bar to see if a writing utensil and cocktail napkin were available.

"Fuck the reunion," Steve replied eloquently. "What's YOUR number?"

"Ah, Casa-fucking-nova," Val retorted, smiling in spite of herself. "You certainly have command of the English language!"

"That's Steve," Bill explained, "Mr. Soo-Ave and De-Boner!"

They all traded phone numbers, said their good-byes, and Val was outta there.

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Pin Cushion Flower
EXCERPT FROM Cobwebs in the Oven

The next Saturday morning was perfect for lugging heavy, mismatched furniture and useless junk from one dwelling to another. Steve showed up with Tara and Matt at eight o'clock on the dot. He got quite a laugh out of catching Val sucking on one end of a garden hose to start her waterbed draining.

"Didn't you get a pump for that?" he finally asked after making several lewd remarks about golf balls and chrome on trailer hitches.

"Huh?" Val said, slightly out of breath, wiping her mouth on her sleeve.

"Yes, PUMP, you know, that comes in the same package as the rest of the waterbed fittings?" He was unsuccessfully trying not to laugh heinously.

"This thing comes with a damn pump?!" Val wanted to know, pawing through the night stand to no avail. Steve looked, too, and dug up the correct PVC fitting.

"Oh, hell!" Val exclaimed "That thing is a PUMP?"

"Don't you read the damn directions, woman?" Steve countered, grinning madly. "Never mind, I can see that you don't!" He patted her heartily on the back. "I knew you were the woman for me when I saw you sucking on the hose!" he exclaimed then. "But now that I've seen that you also don't read the directions, well, that just drives the point home! . . .Come into your front room, my dear. The rug rats await!"

Val had been expecting. . .what? The heavens to open up or some huge hole in the ground? She had been feeling inadequate as hell about meeting the kids, but Matt put all that to rest when he saw her coming down the hall. Like a miniature football player, he ran toward her and took a flying leap right into her arms.

"Holy cow!" Val oomphed from the impact, managing to stay upright. "What a stout little guy you are!" He gave her a big, slobbery kiss in response.

"Kid doesn't know a stranger," Steve said apologetically, reaching for his son.

"No, that's okay," Val replied, giving Matt a kiss in return. "Now where's that sister of yours?"

"Hara!" Matt exclaimed, pointed to the front of the apartment.

"Hara--?" Val looked at Steve for an explanation.

"Yes, Hara," Steve quipped. "We are having trouble saying some of the consonants...for instance...hey, Matthew, who is this lady?" He pointed to Val.

The little boy grinned widely, reaching up to touch Val's face.

"Hal!" he said happily. Steve and Val laughed.

"I've got to admit," Val said, still hanging on to Matt as she went towards the living room, "I've been called a lot of things, but never Hal!"

Tara was the shyer of the two kids by a long shot, or maybe, as Steve had so acidly pointed out earlier, Tara was also the older one and able to digest more of whatever garbage the ex might be feeding her. For all Steve knew, Hatchet might have told the kids that Val was a "mean lady" or worse. The little girl was indeed very quiet.

"It'll take her awhile to warm up to you," Steve informed Val. "She is the one having a hard time understanding that Mommy and Daddy aren't married anymore."

"Not a problem," Val countered, disappearing into the kitchen and emerging a few minutes later with several coloring books and crayons. "Hey, c'mere, you two," she said to the kids. "I would really like it if you guys would color some pictures for me to put on the fridge in my new apartment!" Steve stared openmouthed.

"Matt doesn't color in the lines," Tara informed her seriously. "AND, he only uses the black crayon."

"Well, that's okay," Val responded, equally seriously.

"And he wets his pants, too."

"Usually only when he's sleeping," Steve piped up, Val meeting his eyes and smiling silently. "Oh, shit, and speaking of diapers, I'm gonna have to run to the store and get some since we forgot the ones at home, but that can wait until nap time."

So Tara colored intently as Matt blacked in entire pages while Steve, Val, Deb, and several others went back and forth from place to place. Around lunchtime most of the work was done, and they were waiting for waterbeds to fill up.

Val volunteered to go to the store for diapers and beer, because Steve was helping Debbie put a bookcase together. She laughed at herself the entire time she stood in the check out line, the big tough sheet metal worker, buying diapers for her boyfriend's kid.

Now THAT, she surmised, had certainly never taken place before in the history of the world!

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.Lillies, dianthus and heuchera
An excerpt from ROFL
ROFL

very rough draft

(Or: What Happens When a Forty-Something Technophobic Dinosaur Plunges Feet First into the Netherworld!)

Val Szabo did not take the decision to buy a computer lightly. She and her worse half, Steve, had discussed it endlessly for several months. Why did they need one? They heard on the news everyday about all the weirdness that was going on out there: predators, stalkers, schemes to bilk naive idiots out of their money! They only needed a calculator to balance the checkbook. They didn't need to e-mail anyone nor would they would ever send their credit card number out into cyberspace to buy anything, so why bother?

They had an old clunker that had been great for writing, which was all Val wanted it for anyway, but then the kid locked it up somehow after putting a disk of games in it. Or maybe it just died like the old fossils sometimes did. After all, it was way beyond ancient with Windows 3.1 and that pop-up DOS stuff. People looked at them scornfully when it was discovered that they were so far behind the times. How on earth could they possibly exist?

Val and Steve knew absolutely nothing about computers-- how to set one up, how to program, how to do anything except turn it on, thanks to their old neighbor. He had been the one they bought it from, and he had been the one to program it for those people who cannot even fathom the "dummy" books. That was Val and Steve. The dumbest of the dummies.

Both of them worked construction and had never seen the need for anything more. They liked to do home projects, golf, fish, garden; they were hammer and nails kinda guys, the kind who fixed things and who built stuff. The kind who liked to sit on the deck of an evening and drink a few beers, talking and looking at the stars. Nah, construction workers didn't need computers; they just needed to get up in the morning and go to work so the Infernal Revenue Service could keep taxing them to an early death!

Then Val had the "misfortune" of getting laid off for the first time in several years and was facing a winter with no writing utensils except the caveman variety. That's when the topic of buying One of Those came up again. They decided to go for it, since it was the future after all. How much longer could they live in the dark ages anyway? They would have to, at some point, do something besides just have memories of playing Pong.

So came the eventful day that Steve left the decision to his wife about what and where to buy. She was petrified of course, since she also had problems programming the VCR! She still had record albums, for crying out loud! She would actually add and subtract on paper sometimes too, if the calculator was too far away or lost in one of their infamous "piles" of junk! Could someone who only knew the first version of Word Perfect survive in this brave, new world?

A dinosaur walks the earth, she thought acidly, as she dialed the 800 number she'd seen on a commercial. When some kid who sounded like a baby answered the phone, she almost hung up. Determination kept her on the line, however, the same determination that had gotten her through twenty plus years of construction work. She would do this thing! Even though every fiber of her being was screaming to run the other way, she would finish this phone call, and if the computer geek on the phone thought she was a dumb ass, then so be it! She had been called much worse and lived to tell of it.

The kid actually turned out to be quite the gentle computer geek, patiently explaining gigabytes, memory, and Pentium IIIs. If he thought she was a dumb ass (and she could imagine him sitting there on the other end rolling his eyes heavenward and wondering how she could even have figured out how to dial an 800 number), he kept his opinions to himself.

In the end, Val and Steve somehow ended up with a pretty nice machine, printer, password and e-mail address. Val felt like a spy when the nerd asked her to come up with some question that not a whole lot of people knew the answer to, in case someone from the ISP ever had to call and ask personal questions about their computer. The ISP would ask whoever answered the phone this question, and if that person didn't know the answer, well, then all hell would break loose. She felt like being a stinker just for the hell of it and having the question be her bra size, but she barely managed to contain herself.

The computer arrived the week before Christmas, so Val used the excuse of having too much to do then to do anything but leave it sitting on the living room floor for several days. She had cleaned out the spare room, though, throwing away a bunch of junk that desperately needed to be pitched, including the old computer. It had stared at her angrily from the garbage can, and she felt guilty for throwing it away.

"People get rid of these every day," she said to herself, turning and marching into the house. At least she had found a place that would take donated monitors and keyboards!

And there were those new boxes also staring at her as she went in. Shit! What was she so afraid of, anyway? The thing wouldn't bite! Fear of change, she thought, and somewhere along the line, without the slightest recollection of it happening, I have turned into one of those infamous "old dogs." Resolutely, she carried the boxes up to the spare room, carefully uncrating and reading instructions as she went.

Ah, she thought, simple directions! She liked the ones that started out saying, "Congratulations. . . ." That was always a danger sign, warning of blurry copies of copies, like when they'd bought the kids a swing set years ago. The ones where they got almost done and found they'd used the wrong hardware way back at step two and had to back track..

Oh, yes, and look at this! There were hordes of people at the ISP just frothing at the mouth, happy that she was a new customer and waiting to be of assistance! She wondered absently how long she'd have to sit on hold when she did need to know something.

"No!" she exclaimed to no one in particular. She would do this if it was the last thing she did. She would not go quietly! She would drag herself screaming and crying into the 21st century. All she had to do was plug the damn thing in!

***


The house did not catch fire nor fireworks explode when she plugged in to the Mother Ship. The sky was still blue, winter sun still shining meekly. She picked up the new owner's manual that stated plainly "Start Here!" and started there. Turn machine on, wait for first screen. (It will take a minute or so to go through all the prompts, so just sit there and shut up, and leave your cotton pickin' fingers off the keyboard!)

Hmmm, the first screen will look like the one in the book!

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

What happens when the first screen does NOT look like the one in the instruction manual? Great! Whoa! And what's this shit? Something else just popped in here, something about virus protection being several months old. Help me, o computer gods, for I am stupid and utterly lost!

Val watched in amazement as the machine barfed a registration form up on the screen and asked her if she'd like to register now or later. She clicked on the now part, and other things started happening pretty fast.

What is the make, model and serial number of this computer? Damn! This info was buried in the pile of rubble she had created when first setting things up. Where and why did you buy this computer? Through an 800 number on television and because I am an idiot, she thought morosely as she riffled through all the paperwork she had so haphazardly thrown on the floor. She figured the computer gods would probably not like her housekeeping skills or the filing system they had in place here: Throw it all in a pile and look through it only when it threatens to knock walls out of plumb! Perhaps she should get a file folder out for all of this mumbo jumbo?

To register now, you dumb ass, please click on "connect." Then we may proceed with updating your virus protection. Ah. . .Val reluctantly clicked, and the machine started doing what it said it would do. About halfway through, however, things came to a screeching halt.

Connection disrupted. Please try again. Over the next few days, the aforementioned computer dummy would find out that most of these start up procedures would have to be tried at least twice and sometimes more before they actually took. Sheesh, and she hadn't even begun to start on the printer. It had its own set of "Congratulations!" instructions!

Next it was on to e-mail. Of course, and not surprisingly, the screen in the book didn't match the one actually on the monitor again. Val clicked around a bit and got hopelessly lost. Now it was time to call all those people at the help line who were allegedly frothing at the mouth to be of assistance.

Twas a good thing she was an early riser. After all the "press one for this" and "press two hundred for that," she was informed that the wait for the next tech service rep would be about thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes!? What was she going to have to do, get a speaker phone in here, too? What if she had to go to the bathroom or shave or something in the meantime? Murphy's Law stated simply that if she should suddenly have the urge to pee or shave, that would be the time when the tech service rep would magically appear on the phone, and she'd end up dropping the receiver in the pisser.

At last someone named Hassad Something or Other got on the line and managed to get Val back to the screen she wanted. A smile played at the corners of her mouth as she envisioned yet another eighteen-year-old pocket protected genius trying to guide the old folks to the Internet Nursing Home for the Decrepit and Technologically Challenged.

"Okay," Hassad Something or Other said enthusiastically, living up to the reputation mentioned in her new owner's manual. "Now you must try to send a message to yourself! Then if this does not work, you read me the message that comes back."

"Sir, uh, I am going to have to hang up from you in order to go on line," Val said timidly.

"Oh, you do not have two lines?" Hassad Something or Other asked incredulously. Val could almost see him blinking his eyes in utter disbelief.

Hey, the bear probably does take a dump in the woods, but we don't have two phone lines, she thought acidly. "Well, I do have a cell phone," she replied instead, biting back any additional comments. "Is it possible for you to call me back on it?"

"Oh, yes, yes!" the help line guru gushed. She gave him her cell number, wondering if Steve would strangle her when he got home. They had gotten cell phones strictly for on the road emergencies.

Well, technically, this could be defined as one of those, she thought as she waited for Hassad Something or Other to call her back. He did almost immediately, and then, try as they might, they could not get an e-mail message to leave Val's computer and go where it was supposed to.

The technician then directed Val into the guts of her programming to look at some things there. She felt like she should have left a trail of bread crumbs to find her way back out. But wait! Look here, Hassad Something or Other! I see here that the "send" address and the "receive" address are one and the same. Common sense dictates to me that they need to be different, otherwise they will do battle somewhere in the phone lines and cancel each other out! Hence, no message sent or received, right?

Try as she might, she could not get Hassad Something or Other to see what she was talking about. It made perfect sense to her, though, for pete's sake! She finally thanked him and hung up, wanting to call back immediately, hoping to get someone who would understand that SHE understood but didn't know how to fix the problem! How hard could that possibly be?

The third frothing tech rep finally understood. By now, Val couldn't even remember his name, so she just called him"sir" until she finally saw her message to herself appear in the In Box. She had been correct, the addresses had to be different. She felt so happy with herself that she decided to see what surfing on the internet would bring.

BLOOP!

Omigod! What was that? The sound had come from the computer, and now on the screen was another window with a question or something in it:

"WaNtStOgAb: hey, wanna talk? a/s/l?"

Holy crap! Val looked behind herself suspiciously. No one was there. She looked back at the screen. Whatever it was was still there, her own cursor throbbing in anticipation right below it. How come this shit wasn't in the book? What was it?

Typing tentatively, she asked in her own special way, "Huh?"

A smiley face appeared right away. Then: "I am a robot! a/s/l?"

Ah, I get it, she thought, typing, "I am new. What is a/s/l?"

WaNtStOgAb: age sex location

petlady: i/r/n

WaNtStOgAb: and what is that, pray tell?

petlady: :-) ID RATHER NOT

WaNtStOgAb: that is not funny

petlady: i thought it was. where is your sense of humor?

WaNtStOgAb: i am a robot, have no humor

petlady: yes, that is obvious. i do not intend to be rude. no a/s/l. doesn't matter.

WaNtStOgAb: u make me mad.

Having already discovered that the "X" in here meant the same thing as "X" anywhere else in the real world, Val clicked on it while simultaneously trying to catch her breath. Jeez, she was way out of her league here! The ball was over the fence and gone! She would definitely have to click around in here and find out exactly what the hell that was! But first, the internet!

There were two ways to get there from the thingie called the Desktop, and it really didn't matter which. Val clicked on the first one, and away she went. She visited the San Diego Zoo, NASA, listened to sounds of the rain forest, and looked up Samoyed dogs.

Hmmm, links! Let's see where this goes! Suddenly there were a thousand more places to look at: Dog breeders, dog shows from the Jurassic period forward, animal shelters, articles on abuse prevention, pet memorials. Thinking of her recently deceased pet Snooks, she clicked on memorials.

This brought up another million sites to choose from. Pages and pages. Val perused a few and then clicked again. Ah, there were a bunch of other suckers in this thing just like herself, people who cooked soup bones for Fido and made a special scratching post for Tasha. She smiled to herself when she saw there were even other nimrods who gave their pets human characteristics!

Val stayed way too long and had to get up to retrieve a box of tissues. Should she put this site in the "Favorites" file so she could torture herself daily? Sure, why not!

Perhaps it was time to leave here, anyway, she thought, sobbing into the snot rag. What a powerful tool this was! It had made her cry right off the bat! No wonder it was the subject of so much abuse! Humanity would never be able to handle this befuddling contraption!

Exiting swiftly, she glanced at the clock and decided she had time to tackle the printer. Get out the CD, retrieve the directions from the heap on the floor. Ah, yes, start here! She loved it when these people assumed she didn't know squat! She also got a kick out of the high tech directions that said if the CD doomaflaggy refused to eject from the CD port, that one was to then straighten out a paper clip and stick it in the little hole right underneath!

Okay! A tool! Sort of like a chimp attempting to get termites out of a rotting log with a stick! Now this she understood!

FOR MORE, YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO BUY THE BOOKS!  :-)
Thank you for visiting my web pages.  I hope you've enjoyed your stay!  Please feel free to share these pages with friends.  Also the pictures - most of them came from me with the exception of the World Trade Centter pictures on the main page.  All I ask is that you credit Beth Szillagyi, aka Blue Collar Gal.

Have a good day!
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Beth and her sweetie girl, Cassie Jane
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