TOUCH OF FIRE by Maria ZanniniFor those of you who don't know me, I homestead on six acres in north Texas. It's a fine life if you don't mind the scorpions, snakes and the serenade of lions at night. (I live less than a half mile from a big cat preserve.)

If you follow my blog, you know sometimes my life becomes a little too real.

Crickets and grasshoppers hit you like shrapnel as you walk through crunchy dry grass. The air is thick and hot, and when I come in from mucking out the chicken coop or double-digging the garden, my muscles remind me that I'm going to need that glass of wine as soon as the sun goes down.

I'm living La Vida Loca, brothers and sisters! I've learned more about world building and characterization in the last twelve months than I had in the last twelve years when I was climbing the corporate ladder. Who knew living in the country would make me a better writer?

Maybe downtown offices and big city living zombifies you a little. How many of us relish rush hour traffic, computer meltdowns, and crabby coworkers? Like everyone else, I went through the paces.

Moving to the country changed all that. Now, my day to day experiences are important and I better pay attention because they can also be painful. My first hard-knock lesson was delivered by a little scorpion that decided to get into bed with me.

My dog, Iko told me there was something amiss, but I shushed him and told him to go to bed. My pinky paid the ultimate price and throbbed for two days. It felt like someone had mashed it with a hammer. You bet I pay attention to that dog now. He gets a cookie for every scorpion he corners.

There have been snakes that have slithered past me, the angry buzzing of hornets, and the silent shadow of a giant black widow spider as it secured its egg sack to her web. When buzzards circle high in the sky, I'm sure to find a dead deer or a humongous wild boar.

A hen will cluck contentedly after she's laid her egg. A rooster will crow with pride after he's laid...well, you know.

A fire can roar out of control in seconds, and a dog can hear trouble long before you do. These are the things I've learned in the past year.

And these are the moments I look for when I write my stories. That's a departure for me. Plot used to be the most critical. Now I look for the telltale clues of what makes people (and nature) click. And I learned it all from twisting ankles, burning fingers, and tearing my clothes off when I discovered I had picked up a log full of ants.

Will I ever learn?

I'll bet my ancestors had a bit more snap than I do.

But it makes me wonder. Has the proliferation of media made us less aware or are we just too busy to notice the subtler moments of life?

I'm learning the hard way how to be more conscious to the things around me, but I don't know that I'll ever be as good as my forefathers. Thank goodness for paramedics!

How about you? Do you think you're aware of your surroundings? If you came to live with me for a month, how do you think you'd fare?

Thank you, dear Nadia for letting me stop by. And thank you for not having any scorpions around -- virtual or otherwise.

After years of working as an advertising artist and art director, Maria Zannini now lives in the middle of nowhere on six acres she calls heaven. Half a mile to the north is a lion refuge, to the south, there be llamas.

Maria writes sensual stories of legend and mythos.  Her first book, Touch of Fire is a post apocalyptic story set 1200 years in the future. But watch out! She's going Sci-Fi and thriller on you with True Believers, coming to Carina Press October 18.

Follow her blog as she discovers new and creative ways to maim herself on the homestead.