Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Ode to Chin Hair

This poem was inspired by my chin hair. It seems to perpetually grow and sprout at the most inopportune moments. (Or, at least, I realize it's there at the most inopportune moments. LOL)

Ode to Chin Hair

Oh, chin hair, how you sprout!
No matter how often I pull you out.
Bristly and white
You arrive overnight
Rearing your head in the morning light.

And sometimes at midday, you appear
When my tweezers are no where near.

How truly evil you are.
Sometimes, you go too far!

Why must you race along my chin
As if chased by the wind?
Surely, you can find
Another chin more designed
For coarse, white hair than mine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For examples of chins much more designed for chin hair, please visit this site.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Unfashionable, Sensible, Warm Clothes

Common sense. Where did common sense in fashion go? Did it ever exist? Or am I the only one baffled by the stupidity we call fashion?

This all started up at my mother's at Thanksgiving...

Actually, I take that back. This has been going on for several years, probably predating Lily's birth, but I wasn't aware of it until I started shopping for her. Every year, I go to different stores looking for cute Christmas dresses for Lily to wear. And every year, regardless of whether I am in the Central Valley or in Los Angeles, none of these "Christmas" dresses have sleeves. O.o

Yes, adorable, but freezing.

Okay. I get it. To someone in the Midwest, California seems warm, even in winter. (Unless you are in the mountains, of course.) However, those of us who live here year around, 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit is cold. Even 50 degrees is cold. And, at the end of December, we wear long sleeve shirts, jeans, and bundle up with jackets. So, I ask you, why would anyone think we want to dress our daughters in a dress sure to give her pneumonia?

But I digress... This isn't about previous years. This is about this year's fashion stupidity. And this year has some doozies.

Back to my story:

My mother picked Lily up some Hello Kitty pajamas at Walmart. Except the pajamas were missing one small component: a top. Lily, being female, obviously doesn't need a top. I mean, women don't wear tops, surely. O.o So, Mom had to buy her a shirt separately (thin because, you know, it's winter after all, and it's warm outside.) Not that I have anything against these pajamas. I'm just baffled as to why the tops are missing.

By the way, I have noticed that Target is also selling pajama bottoms, just pajama bottoms, for women. No tops. Um, okay.

Now the tops my mother bought are so thin you might as well be wearing muslin. Wait! Muslin is thicker than these tops. So, Lily's legs and bottom are warm, but her core, which is the part of her that needs to be warm the most, is not. Of course, these PJ's are Lily's favorites. (sigh) Perhaps this is China's way of getting rid of all of us.

Now, the pajama tops aren't the only shirts that are paper thin because now all the rage is layering. Layering paper thin tops. Paper thin tops that cost $25 a piece. (Ka-ching went the manufacturers.) You must buy another top to wear underneath because you can see through the original one. The spaghetti strap top that goes underneath is only $6 and as thick as a top should be. The paper thin tops will last maybe a few washing before you have to shell out another $25 to buy a new one. That one you paid $6 for to go underneath? That one will last you 5-10 years. (g)

The other day, while at a kid's birthday party, I saw a mother wearing this fashion. We were at an ice skating rink. She was freezing. I was so surprised.

Now, I don't care what other people wear (within reason...some things should not be seen.) However, when fashion fads affect my wardrobe, I am less than pleased. And this year I happen to need new turtlenecks. (I told you I'm no fashion maven. I'm practical and like to be warm.) A few of mine are from college and are in desperate need of replacing. So, I asked Mom for some for Christmas, but due to this stupid fashion trend, the turtleneck I want might as well be available only on the moon. It's not going to keep me warm, unless I layer. Well, I do layer. If it's really cold, I'll wear long johns, a turtleneck, a sweater, and a jacket. But it's not that cold out here most of the time, and I want practical shirts, ones that will last me another (cough, cough) ten years (or more) and ones where I don't have to layer three together to be half as warm as I want to be.

Common sense. It seems as if no one has it anymore. Can someone please tell me where it went? And who are these idiots designing clothes? While they run around in their fur coats, we freeze in their designs. I want my unfashionable, sensible, warm clothes back. And if a designer can't create exciting clothes while keeping temperature in mind, perhaps they aren't that good of a designer after all!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Christmas Miracle

Last Monday, Charlie, Lily, and I decided to have dinner at a local mall. What? Were we insane? Well, honestly, I wasn't thinking nor was Charlie, or we wouldn't have gone there. But by the time we thought about what we were doing, we were already in line to enter the parking lot (yes, in line), and it was too late as Lily was nearly foaming at the mouth hungry and only wanted the promised meal. (sigh) And there was no way to turn around. We were a bit stuck.

So, we see this huge line in front of us. At the front the stop sign 20 or so cars ahead is a security person waving a glow stick directing traffic. Five or ten minutes later (although it did seem longer with the moaning, I'm-going-to-die-if-I-don't-eat-now child in the backseat), we turn into the parking lot behind a couple of others. We are routed to the right down an aisle behind several other cars. The person in front of us is anxious and zooms ahead. We do not, and, lo and behold (insert heavenly music here), there in front of us a car is pulling out. Not just one car, but two. Both parking spots are close to the entrance we want to go into.

It's a miracle! Not just any miracle, but a Christmas miracle. (g) Charlie cannot believe it happened. I, on the other hand, have no problems believing. (g) When it comes to parking lots, I am heaven blessed... most of the time, but especially that night. :)

So, the lesson here is...

1. believe in miracles
2. or avoid malls during Christmas?

I'd say both.

Have a very Merry Christmas, Blessed Yule, Happy Hanukkah (although that ends on the 27th), and so on, and I'll "see" you next week.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Laugh with Me

My apologies for dropping the ball here this week, but with it being the last week before Christmas and a looming deadline, I've been hard pressed to find an extra minute here and there.
Today I want to discuss and sort of rant a li'l bit about humor in books.
I’m all for reality—as long as it’s not reality TV because I lived that insanity in high school—but sometimes it can be taken too far. Reality
must be a part of all fiction regardless of the genre. I write several
different genres from paranormal romance to science fiction to mainstream and I always include one special aspect of reality in my work: humor.

Not long ago I found a thread where readers were discussing their
dislike of humor in romantic fiction. Their point? They couldn’t take the plot or the characters seriously if humor was involved.

Huh? Laughter is a part of real life

Isn’t life and romantic relationships difficult enough as it is? Ever meet someone who lacked a sense of humor? You spout off something that
has others around you cracking up, but there’s that one person who stares at you like he just found something gooey and stinky on the bottom of his shoe. Then you hear someone mutter, “Sheesh, dude, you’re a major stick in the mud.” (I bet it wasn’t mud he found on his shoe!)

I’m not talking about slapstick humor but legitimate, spontaneous laughter created by circumstances or someone’s unique viewpoint or retort. Comic relief eases tension in a scene. Whether it’s a movie, a TV program, a play, or a book, humor lightens the mood.

In my latest book release, Ruby, the White King and Marilyn Monroe, Ruby Nutter has a high-stress life. Her father blames her for the death of her mother, she’s cursed with unusual powers that surface whenever she’s upset, making her dangerous to those around her (just ask the neighborhood bully who landed upside down in a chimney), men dump her the moment they notice she’s different, and everyone fears her too much to befriend her.

How does Ruby handle everything? Through her rapier wit and sarcasm, and oh how she wields them like deadly weapons.

The novel runs on high octane, propelling the reader from Ruby setting her boss’ bra on fire to running from beautiful yet malevolent bikers who ride demonic motorcycles. She uses her humor and cynicism as a
protection device, too. Even when she’s battling evil incarnate, she can’t seem to control her mouth.

So, the reader is on the proverbial edge of the seat fearful the biker leader will finally catch Ruby, wondering how she’ll get out of yet
another sticky situation (no, not the stuff on the guy’s shoe! Forget that
already!) only to come across an unexpected line that generates laughter. Even ditzy Maureen, the Marilyn Monroe look-alike, can surprise her with a bit of humor.

Does this comedic tool take away from the plot and characters? Absolutely not! It only makes the characters richer and more lifelike.

How many times have you been in church or some sort of formal ceremony when it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop then someone’s kid
rips off a massive fart that rattles the windows? Mmm, hmm. Don’t tell me you have no idea what I’m talking about because I’ve raised enough children to know how it plays out. You try not to laugh when all you want to do is fall into the aisle clutching your midsection. Others start chuckling, and then you hear a few whispered “Gah! I told you not to eat those burritos last night!” Everyone is ready to explode into hysterical laughter.

How about harmless pranks you see on TV or YouTube? People
crack up at the reactions of those being scared or fooled. How many times have you laughed at someone who trips on thin air? Maybe you’ve been in class and the professor was so tired he said something backward, causing everyone to crack up. That’s life. It’s real, it happens, and regardless if it’s paranormal romance, mainstream fiction or horror, true-to-life humor is in my books.

Join Ruby on her journey, laugh with her, and then maybe share her gift of laughter with a friend, too.

Reincarnated over the centuries. Stuck with a ditzy Marilyn Monroe lookalike. Falling for a rich albino guy. It’s just Ruby’s luck for Hell’s “real” angels to ride into this life and screw it all up.

Amazon link for print and Kindle:

Here's an excerpt for your enjoyment.

“Is he gone?” I asked.

Solomon peeped through the curtains. “I don’t see anyone. After all that noise, it probably won’t be long before the motel manager tells us to leave too.” He let the curtain fall and looked over at me. “You know more about this strange stuff than you’ve been letting on.”

“I didn’t want to scare anyone unnecessarily, and I didn’t want you to think...” I gritted my teeth and ordered the tears not to fall.

“To think you’re a freak?” he supplied. “To treat you like shit because you’re different, or that you’re not what people consider normal?”

“No,” I lied, “it’s just that—” The sob ripped free of me before I could squelch it.

Solomon crossed the room and folded me in his arms, holding me so close I heard his heartbeat. Now was the time he was supposed to go crazy with fear, yell obscenities, call me names, and then leave so fast his shoes caught on fire.

“Why?” he said.

Sobs still spilled from my mouth, but I managed to squeak, “Why what?”

He leaned back and peered deeply into my eyes. “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”


I pushed against his chest, but he held me still.

“Why do you clam up or run away whenever someone asks you something personal?”

I sniffed and tried to avoid his penetrating gaze. “Maybe because it’s none of your business?”

“Look, I’m not asking you to tell me all the deep dark secrets you might have.” He let me go and crossed his arms over his chest. “The fact that something unnatural is going on aside, I’d like to know a little more about the women I’m traveling with, that’s all.”

He had me there. Hadn’t I gone through the same thing with Maureen last night?

“For starters,” he said, “I’d like to know more about the incredible things you do.”

“I honestly don’t know how I do them.” I risked looking at him and wished I hadn’t. The expression on that man’s face said he was determined to find out more. “Can we discuss this another time?” I turned away, needing some space. Most of all I needed time to process the fact he wasn’t already packing his bags. “I promise I’ll answer a couple of your questions if we can do it some other time.”

“Fair enough.” He sighed. “So you really think that guy is tied to the hunters who murdered Gabriella?”


“Come to think of it, the men who attacked my sister and me were really big too. I can’t remember many details about them now other than their yellow eyes and the smell of booze.”

“Solomon, you’re in danger if you travel with me. You should go home.”

“No. I refuse to leave you, Ruby. You might be able to ignore the chemistry and feelings between us, but I can’t.”

That was the last thing I’d expected out of him. For a moment I said nothing. I couldn’t let Solomon know how much I cared for him, how much I wanted him. If I did, there was no doubt it would all come crashing down. At least for now he was still with me.

Friday, 16 December 2011

No Parking for YOU!

No, I don’t mean the kind at the mall.  I personally avoid those like the plague unless I’m going there to have hairs on my body dealt with. You know, I go to the same place to get pampered by my favorite hair fairy and to chat with a nice lady while she rips “other” hairs from my nether regions using hot wax. Otherwise, you can keep your mall shopping. 

I’m talking about jerks of a different ilk. The sort who should be good neighbors, but aren’t. 

You see, I own a bar.  Well, I own a brewery, with a “beer bar” (Tap Room) attached.  I have plenty of free parking  because I chose the location away from the crazed downtown madness of very-much-not-free parking.  My business is located in a former appliance warehouse, behind a store that sells and repairs bicycles.  Herein lies my problem.

The bike shop has about 25 parking spots and is open most nights until 8 p.m.  I have about 60 spots and open at 4 or noon depending on the day.  My business has been, in a word, successful.  We have many times more than 60-cars’ worth of folks inside drinking my brewer’s amazing concoctions, playing foosball, throwing darts, watching sports or whatever. 

Like that night last week when I had one of those “Oh, dear Lord please do not let the fire marshal show up tonight” sort of night. I was hosting a public radio forum on K-12 education in Michigan.  Ann Arbor is lousy with teachers so they packed the place. It was moderated by a well-known political correspondent.  I am a huge fan grrl and was loving it AND the fact that I could look around and see something like 75% new faces in my establishment. 

And my “neighbors” call and complain that my patrons are in their parking lot and the tow truck has been called.  They did the same thing when I threw a hugely well attended 1st anniversary party.  A**holes.  So I had the moderator make an announcement, about 10 folks came out, and I stood in the snow, apologized, got them situated in the empty bank lot next to the bike shop. The bank that has welcomed my after hours parking, no problem.  This bike shop at most has 2 cars in its gigantic lot at any given time.  Seriously.

This being “Ann Arbor” (read: over educated, underemployed and vocal—oh and HUGE bike riders) 90% of the nice people who came out of the bar, missed a solid 20 minutes of discussion to move their cars from a nearly empty lot took the time to stick their heads in the door of said bike shop to remind those folks that they would be taking their over-priced bike buying dollars elsewhere.  I love the power of the consumer.

Bike shop owner called to apologize.  Too late.  Damage done.  I blog as The A2 Beer Wench and have a huge reach and issued a teensy little PSA on my blog the next day reminding folks that they really should never, ever park in the bike shop lot. For any reason.  The implication of course being: Even to buy a bike. 

Don’t know whom they were messing with, did they?

And so you can see why I’m even ON this fine blog today, I’ll make the connection for you.  I have a series of stories and one novel based in the craft beer industry.  The Brewing Passion Series with Breathless Press includes:
The Tap Room (a Choose Your Romance Ending novel) 

They chronicle the lives and loves of the 3 owners of the fictional Winter Street Brewing Company with a lot of heat, heart and humor—oh, and hops. 

Check ‘em out.  You won’t be disappointed.

If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, come by the Wolverine State Brewing Co. and ask for the Wench.  But do NOT park in that damn bike shop lot, ok?

Microbrewery owner, beer blogger and journalist, mom of three teenagers, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great middle west, in a Major College Town.  Years of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as an ex-pat-trailing spouse, plus making her way in a world of men (i.e. the beer industry) has prepped her for life as erotic romance author.  When she isn't sweating beer inventory, sales figures or promotional efforts for her latest publication, doing pounds of laundry for her sweaty athletic children, watching La Liga on the Fox Soccer Channel, or trying to figure out what to order in for dinner, she can be found walking her standard poodles or doing Bikram Yoga.  Liz loves her Foo Fighters Pandora station, and watching reruns of Deadwood, when there isn't any decent European football on the telly.  If you want a beer education follow her:  For writing related stuff, including her backlist, go to:

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas is Coming…

I know…duh. But, it’s coming, ready or not, this lovely, festive occasion meant to celebrate with family, friends, neighbors and even the occasional stranger. I love this time of year!

Not that you’d ever guess it though. I’m an utter Scrooge. I hate to decorate more than anything else in the world. My tree is a very sad Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that I bought on Amazon. It came in a box, my son assembled it, and it plays the Charlie Brown Christmas theme. Easy peasy for Ms. Scrooge. Plus, it makes a statement. Don’t ask me to decorate. It just ain’t gonna happen.

I don’t send out cards except to a few friends (usually with a gift card tucked inside, which was the excuse to send the card in the first place). My mother and husband’s parents do get special cards because I’d be a chump if I didn’t send them one. But you know, I think I’ve started a trend, because we don’t get many cards anymore, either. Or maybe it’s because we pissed everyone off and they struck us from their lists? Whatever.

I hate to shop. As in, there’s-not-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell-you’ll-find-me-near-a-mall-in-December, hate it. I got a free month of Amazon Prime a month ago when I activated my new Kindlefire. I get free two-day shipping? I’m so there. The UPS guy and I are on a first-name basis now. I may even send him one of my rare Christmas cards, we’re that close. Option to renew for an annual Prime membership is tomorrow…I renewed it last week, just to be on the safe side that there’d be no interruption in service.
On the flip side…
I do adore Christmas music, doesn’t matter what kind, I’ve got it playing all day long. And Christmas-themed movies? Don’t get me started…the Hallmark and Lifetime channels are my best friends in December. It makes the men in my house want to barf. But I don’t care how cute or cliché these cinematic jewels are, I watch them. The 12 Men of Christmas is one of my favorites. Think Calendar Girls, but with men. Yay!

Cooking and baking are big deals for me. Lots of Christmas goodies in my house this month! It can be dangerous, but I did join a gym last week so that I can eat what I make, without so much guilt. I haven’t gone to said gym yet, but I’m hoping the damned monthly membership fee will tip the weight scale in my favor. I’m a big believer in miracles, even when undeserved.

No matter how you celebrate (or don’t celebrate) it. Try to have a happy holiday season. We call it Christmas in our house, but whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope it’s a joyous and safe time with all you hold dear!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Stressed Out!

You know what? I usually try not to rant. I really do. But today? Y'all just have to deal with it, because here's the list:

laundry to fold (5 loads) and four more to wash. Has no one ever heard of nudist colonies?

Replace the bathroom tap so the water comes out at more than a trickle. If I can find the plumbing wrench. And if I can actually figure out how to do it.

Paint the girl's bedroom, which she had been promised would happen last Christmas...

Christmas tree to put up. Should be an enjoyable family activity. For crazy people, or the happy get along gang, maybe. Not for any normal family I've ever met.

House to decorate. Same as above.

Replace the front on the kitchen drawer someone slammed so hard (likely in a fit of rage. Possibly me) that it came off.

35K story to edit. I'm so seriously sick of this story I used to love it makes me want to cry.

And speaking of crying, a website to figure out why it's gone haywire, because the suckage that is a pathetic 0-4 hits a day my stats tell me I'm getting sure aren't sucking up much bandwidth! But my web host doesn't seem to care and I even offered to pay someone to help me with this and she gave me a pointer or two and pretty much told me to do it myself. Seriously. You people have no idea how much technology reaches down my throat and tries to strangle me with my own entrails. It hates me that much. I'm not exaggerating.

And instead of doing any of that fun stuff, I get to spend the weekend in the company of the most aggressively controlling and selfish person in my life. And help put up her Christmas tree. Huzzah.

Who wants to be me for a day or two? I'll trade ya! Do you clean fish guts for a living? Or hotel toilets where the rooms are to let by the hour? I'll do that. Muck raking? I could use the exercise, and probably the stress relief. Anything, just please someone make this all go away, just for a day.

Oh, and to top it off, I started reading First Watch by Peter...somebody. Sir, I'm so sorry I forget your last name. Let me just say, in the mood I'm in, I had to put the book down because of the potential for Dire Things seemingly about to happen to the protag, and I just couldn't stand it. I'll get back to it when I'm feeling a little more bullet proof and a little less like the proverbial ticking time bomb of hormonal insanity. Sorry. (Incidentally, that's good writing, if I actually care what's happening to the fictional guy so much I can't read the bad stuff unless I psyche myself up for it. Just sayin').

So yeah. Merry Christmas, everyone. I'll wander on back when I remember the whole love and joy part, promise. Look for me in mid February or so...

What do all of you do to get past this shit? There must be a trick I'm missing, because I'm a little....ranty.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Dear Reader:

Stop telling me how to write my characters!

More specifically, how to describe them. Because I usually don't. In fact, in some stories, my characters don't even get names. This is not my fault. If they don't tell me what their names are, how can I tell you?

Sometimes, I have no real idea what they look like. Sometimes, I know perfectly what they look like, and I don't really want to know if my character is not what you envisioned when you read the story. (Well, a certain someone told me the main character in my latest WIP reminded her of Jude Law, until I finally got to his description, and then she was tossed out of the story on her ass, so, well, no. He's not Jude Law. Not even a little bit, and I will fix that my  friend, ASAP!)

But if you think my character has long flowing locks of curly black hair and I describe him as having a a shaved head, well, no, annoying person, I am not wrong about my character. A person, especially a guy, who grows hair to his waist is a fundamentally different person than one who shaves his head. Think about that. Long hair, for a guy, is a trophy, a rebellion, a statement that no one owns you or your choices to step out of that gender box. Shaved hair is a symbol of all things military, and conforming. Not really the same type of person, my friend. (Just for fun, think about that same dynamics in a girl, and what the hair to the waist and the shaved head mean, and maybe it will make more sense.)

Dear, dear reader, I am not an idiot. Neither are you, of course, but maybe, read the book again, and imagine what might have to change about a guy who shaves his head to get him to grow it out to his waist. There might even be a really good story in that change, but do think about it, okay?

Also, another reason I don't describe my characters is this:
 I watched this video, and OMG, I want to make a character that is this adorable, this sweet, and this happy. Well, until I break him , and then put him back together, that is, because, well, that's what I do. I mean, just watch the video. This kid just exudes joy all over the place. But if I commit to this particular configuration of physical characteristics in my head, what if I get it wrong in description? That's the time when I'll feel like I didn't succeed. (Like the Jude Law incident. lol!)

So what do other writers do? I know some have very specific ideas of what their characters look like. Right down to having an actor/model/musician whatever representation to draw from in their descriptions. That just feels so...restricting to me. Are there any other writers like me out there who just, well, wing it? And what if, as a reader, that writer description isn't anything like what you imagine the characters to be? Do you just ignore the writer? (I do! lol!)

 Wow. I read this over and the use of the word 'well' is shameful. This, readers, is what editors do for me. But. I decided to leave them, and do a little contest. Spur of the moment. I'll give away a few copies of and old story, "Muses's Vacation" (because the sub in this story is one of my more adorable characters, I think) to three people who play editor and tell me how many times I over-used the word 'well' in this post :D

Blurb: Patrick is pretty new to the idea of having a Dom. When Leo gets trapped in that endless cycle of word-lock, and the inspiration just doesn't come for his writer Dom, Patrick decides discretion is better than taking his needs and frustration to Leo and asking for what he wants. Leo is not pleased to find his sub trying to satisfy his own desires, but even giving Pat what he needs doesn't break through the block, and Patrick knows drastic measures are in order. He has to drag Leo half way around the world before the writer realizes it's time to put his muse, and his sub, in their places.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Apartment Living

Please help us give L.J. LaBarthe a warm welcome.

When I first put fingers to keyboard for this post, I was going to rant about medical specialist waiting rooms. I feel I'm quite an aficionado of the waiting room, and so my rant was going to be about the bland decor, the muzak, the somnolent effect of the too-warm air-conditioning. And then I went outside of my apartment to put out my garbage and something happened to me that made me rethink my position on the waiting room rant.

I speak, dear friends, of the joys that are apartment block living.

I live in a small block of apartments. It's a great block, six apartments in total and our landlady is honestly the best landlady I have ever had. I've lived here ten years now, and I've had some wonderful times and some terrible, traumatic times here. I've also had some truly hilarious times, times that can only be summed up – and often are – by the phrase, "L.J., this would only happen to you!"

So, to return to the incident that decided me on changing the subject of my rant. As I said, I was outdoors, putting out my garbage. It was a Friday night, just after 10pm. I was, as most people who live in apartment blocks and go into communal areas, fully clothed. Okay, so maybe not in my silk evening gown and diamonds, but still. I was dressed. And this is important.

Anyway, as I had paused by my front door, one of my upstairs neighbours came bouncing down the stairs, also to put his garbage out. I made a face much like that of a stunned goldfish when he appeared, for lo, his state of dress was remarkably less than mine.

Never have I looked up at the sky so fast.

Now, I applaud him being comfortable in his own skin. All power to him. However, wandering around the communal areas of the apartment block, wearing naught but tighty whities and a t-shirt, with everything God gave you outlined by cotton fabric is, I think, taking it just a little bit too far. Especially as this isn't a nudist apartment block and the communal areas open out onto a fairly busy road.

This isn't the first out of the ordinary thing that I've experienced here. It is, perhaps, the only one involving exposed flesh, but in the aggregate, not even remotely peculiar. I love this apartment block – it gives me so many ideas for things to put in my books – as much as I get irritated at being kept awake so often! Which brings me to the next thing that is the bane of the apartment block resident. Noise late at night.

This same exposure friendly neighbour is also given to practising his guitar. Not a problem. Except that he decides it's going to happen at midnight or later and I tend to like my sleep. I feel like the crazy cat lady who bangs on the ceiling with a broom, squawking "SHUT UP!"

If it's not him, then it's his neighbours, who are a young couple and very lovely people. I was reading in bed one night a few months ago, something that's pretty regular for me, and I heard a strange sound above my head.

"What are they doing?" I asked my cat. The cat, alas, had no answer. So I strained to listen harder, and was utterly confused – it sounded as if my upstairs neighbours were sawing planks of wood. Who saws planks of wood at 11pm? Or, in fact, in their inner suburban apartment at all?

It wasn't until I heard the screams of passion, that I realised there was an entirely different kind of wood involved and suddenly decided that listening to my iPod would be a much better choice of soundtrack to my book.

My bedroom wall is a shared wall with next door's living room, and my ceiling is the floor of Confidently Exposing Himself To All And Sundry neighbour. I'd always thought these walls were pretty thick, but they aren't as thick as I thought they were. So, the Lumberjack Couple, every time that tell-tale sawing planks noise starts up, make me reach for my iPod. I sometimes wonder who else in the block can hear them, but it's not the sort of thing you bring up in the polite small talk with the rest of the neighbours. I don't have the courage, really, to say, "So, just wondering, can you hear our upstairs neighbours bonking at all hours? No? Just me then, righto." I'm blunt, but not that blunt!

Strangely enough, my living room wall is shared by a stair well and the communal laundry, wherein our landlady kindly provides us with a washing machine and dryer. This side of the apartment is much less noisy than my bedroom side. I sometimes wonder how that works, given that a washing machine isn't a very quiet appliance, and it's an industrial one designed for big loads and frequent use. Plus, the stairs are made of steel, so sometimes people going up and down them, depending on their shoes, sounds like a herd of galloping elephants. Still quieter than my bedroom!

I've had some scary experiences here, too. Several years ago, there was a gang war in the communal drive way, by the carport. I never got the full story, and I think I'm quite glad of that, but the upshot was that the police were called, our local version of CSI were here and it was, essentially, my own live action police drama in the front of the apartments.

Because I need to share these things, and it wasn't too late in the evening, I picked up my phone and called my friend Min and sat, whispering to her a running commentary of everything that was going on, while sitting in the dark. I peered through a crack in the door, because I didn't want to be seen, and Min laughed and laughed in between my statements of, "Oh my god, someone's running away from the cops!" and "Oh my god, CSI are here!"

Apartment living is never dull! But oh, sometimes I wish it was. If only because I really, really like my sleep.

Oh, and Dude Who Parks His Tractor In The Front Yard, I have one question for you. Just one.

That question is this. WHY?!


L. J. LaBarthe is a South Australian woman living in the city of Adelaide with her cat, Castiel, in an apartment block that provides endless entertainment. She writes to get the bunnies out of her head, and can be found at her website or her blog or her twitter @brbsiberia. Her latest release is the Christmas themed novella set in Darwin, Australia, called Long Road Back, and is available here at Dreamspinner Press. Her full length novel, No Quarter, about Archangels in love, will be available in the first quarter of 2012, also with Dreamspinner Press.


Yoo Lee Shin had great hopes for his new life studying engineering in Australia, but nothing could have prepared him for the wonder of falling in love. His roommate’s brother, Craig, is beautiful, kind, and brave—and, very shortly after they meet, he’s deployed. As Christmas nears, can Shin keep hope for a happy ending bright enough to guide Craig to him on the long road back?