Nadia Lee | NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary Romance » Blog Archive » Guest Blog: La Vida Loca by Maria Zannini
Guest Blog: La Vida Loca by Maria Zannini

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.

20 comments to “Guest Blog: La Vida Loca by Maria Zannini”

  1. Dru
    · August 11th, 2010 at 9:05 pm · Link

    Hi Maria,

    I’m very much aware of my surroundings most of the time, you have to be, here in the city.

    Could I survive your lifestyle for a month, only if I don’t have to leave the comfort of your home and run across lions, spiders and snakes, oh my!

  2. Maria Zannini
    · August 11th, 2010 at 9:27 pm · Link

    Dru: I’ve been to New York, and I grew up in Chicago, so I know what you mean about being aware of that environment.

    Maybe that’s why I walked into country living with a little more self confidence than I should have. I thought if I could it make it in the big city, I can make it anywhere.

    Nothing makes you feel so powerless as a sting from a tiny scorpion. :oops:

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Lia
    · August 11th, 2010 at 10:49 pm · Link

    I am so jealous of you. I would so love to live in the country minus the harsh heat, bugs, snakes, and scorpions. I’m so sick of the high speed life here in Chicago. It’s like you blink and a week goes by. And everything is so expensive here that everyone needs two jobs just to pay the bills. Last year, I went to Kentucky for a week and was surprised to see that more people smile then not. Here in Chicago most people are just crabby and miserable. It’s rare to see a stranger smile and say hi. I do plan on moving south sometime in my life; just right now my husband is against it.

    “Who knew living in the country would make me a better writer?”

    Have you noticed that most bestselling authors live in the country? Maybe there’s something in the air? :-)

  4. Mike Keyton
    · August 11th, 2010 at 11:31 pm · Link

    Hi Maria,
    Very evocative. You ought to open a guest house to cater for our inner Hemingways ;)

  5. Maria Zannini
    · August 11th, 2010 at 11:31 pm · Link

    Lia: :lol: I know exactly what you’re saying.

    When I first moved to Texas (from Chicago) total strangers kept talking to me. I was weirded out for weeks until I realized they were just being friendly.

  6. Linda Leszczuk
    · August 11th, 2010 at 11:40 pm · Link

    I’d love the experience of living your lifestyle for a month but I’m afraid I’d be learning a LOT of things the hard way. Do you have those paramedics on speed dial?

  7. Maria Zannini
    · August 12th, 2010 at 12:02 am · Link


    Ref: speed dial!

    Why didn’t I think of that?

    Believe me, they’re all hard lessons. But it’s worth it when you see the end result.

    Excuse me while I go make cookies for the paramedics.

  8. Maria Zannini
    · August 12th, 2010 at 12:34 am · Link

    Mike: You write so beautifully it makes me sigh. I always thought it was because you lived in the UK.

    Your work just seeps of atmosphere and history.

    Everybody, if you want to see a true master with words, read Mike Keyton.

  9. MaryC
    · August 12th, 2010 at 1:04 am · Link

    Maria, I must have lived in the city for too long because just reading your post gave me hives. Seriously, in my younger days I probably would have found it an adventure but these days I’m freaking out just reading about the raccoons breaking into houses in my Brooklyn neighborhood.

    I do love the peacefulness of the country – just not the wildlife!

  10. Jennifer Shirk
    · August 12th, 2010 at 3:35 am · Link

    Sadly, I don’t think I’m that aware of my surroundings–at least not in the summer. :)
    But I don’t think I’d do well with you and the scorpions. LOL

  11. Maria Zannini
    · August 12th, 2010 at 4:09 am · Link

    Jennifer: LOL!

    What say we cover each other’s backs? They’re not hard to kill–just fast.

    My husband will tell you that I am clueless most of the time. I’m so absorbed in whatever I’m doing, it’s a wonder I haven’t been hit by a tractor yet.

  12. Jackie B Central Texas
    · August 12th, 2010 at 7:39 am · Link

    :mrgreen: Maria have you encountered any Brown Recluse Spiders yet? What about a mouse or rat problem?
    Those scorpions are not the worst part of living in the middle of nowhere, sheer boredom for most people who were raised in a huge town or a big bustling city would be my first worry. I do not think you have that problem because you have embraced your surroundings whole heartedly and between all the farm animals and outdoor projects you don’t have time to be bored.

    Okay now to answer the actual question, yes I am very aware of my surroundings. Not much gets past me because if my Chihuahua does not alert me one of my two indoor cats do! I have seen some of the most beautiful deer, rabbits, birds, squirrels and other flora and fauna since moving into the forested area in Central Texas where we live and will never ever go back to the South Texas pasture land and farm land that I was forced to grow up with!

    jackie ^_^

  13. Maria Zannini
    · August 12th, 2010 at 10:27 am · Link

    Mary: :lol: At least raccoons don’t carry guns.

    I don’t mind the wildlife, even when it bites, but the peacefulness is what drew me.

  14. Maria Zannini
    · August 12th, 2010 at 10:32 am · Link

    Jackie: believe it or not, I got my first brown recluse bite 13 years ago, just before I accepted that corporate job.

    That was not as painful as the scorpion, but man oh man, my hand swelled up to twice its size. I saw the little monster just before it bit me so I knew what it was. I decided not to take any chances and went straight to the doctor.

    Ref: awareness
    Just reading your blog, I know that’s true about you. Little chihuahuas help too. :D

  15. Maria Zannini
    · August 12th, 2010 at 10:34 am · Link

    Nadia: I wonder how Ben Franklin would have handled Facebook and Twitter.

    PS Thank you so much for having me over. You have a beautiful web site and your blog is on my reader so I never miss it.

    Thank you, Nadia!

  16. Nadia Lee
    · August 12th, 2010 at 10:09 am · Link

    Has the proliferation of media made us less aware or are we just too busy to notice the subtler moments of life?

    Yes to both. We’re too busy with stuff and social media, etc. only added to time suckage.

  17. Marguerite Butler
    · August 13th, 2010 at 6:42 am · Link

    I’m pretty clueless for a country girl. It’s amazing that I haven’t been devoured by the snakes, spiders and racoons.

    I blame it on books. I’m always walking around plotting in my head. Thank goodness for dogs and roosters that notice trouble before I do!

  18. Maria Zannini
    · August 14th, 2010 at 1:21 am · Link

    Marguerite: I don’t believe that for a minute!

    To hear you talk, you’re an old hand. I’m taking tips from you.

    Thanks so much for visiting me here.

    I love you guys!

  19. Renmiu
    · August 15th, 2010 at 11:01 pm · Link

    Maria your life sounds like a jungle :D haha. I don’t need to watch the wildlife channel because you are it :)

    Living in New York City and all I see are squirels, rats, pigeons and deers [depends on where I travel]

    Thanks for the tour darlin I really appreciate it :)

  20. Maria Zannini
    · August 16th, 2010 at 11:51 am · Link

    Thanks for popping in, Renmiu!

    I thought I knew wildlife until I moved out here. It’s been an adventure and I’ve got the scars to prove it. :)


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