Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Let the good times roll

What a pleasant evening I had tonight. Christian's b'day was in early August, and desperate for a gift, I promised him dinner at a new wine cafe that opened recently. Tonight was the first night we could all get our schedules together, so Jordan, Christian and I went to supper--I complained loudly that I wanted to take Jacob too, but they would have none of it We had a really good time. The wine list is extensive--and expensive--and the menu limited, but we each had a salad, they had pizza, and I had chocolate mousse--way too rich and way too delicious. We lingered over dinner and wine loosened our tonuges--well at least mine--so we had a good visit. Christian brought me home and brought in more junk--excuse me, exclusive items--for their garage sale this weekend (I am running away from home!).
Today was a good day anyway--I went to the library for a meeting with my boss. Parked in a handicapped spot about half a block from the loading dock (my easy entry to the library) and had no trouble walking there. The meeting went well, the morning at work went well, and an old and delightful friend and I had lunch at a Lebanese/Italian restaurant.
My good news is that yeesterday morning I sent a query to an agent about my first mystery and got back a request for a full manuscript so fast it made my head spin. I have changed the title from Dead Space to Skeleton in a Dead Space. Maybe that made a difference. Anyway, I'm almost afraid to be encouraged because the response was so quick, and yet this agency checks out well. So maybe I'll go with being excited about it. My mentor, Fred, said we must celebrate with lunch, but we couldn't find a mutual day until next week.
Last week, at dinner with Betty, I said I hadn't even started on Christmas, and she said with seven grandchildren, and eight children (including spouses) plus a lot of friends, I really needed to get going. I'm happy to report that I've had suggestions from two moms, and I'm deep into studying toy catalogs and have ideas probably for over half the grandchildren plus a few of the adults. Each year I warn that it's going to be slim, but it's always less slim than I mean it to be. Toys are such temptations. From now on my head is probably into Christmas.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another lazy day--and a charming evening

Tonight my neighbor Sue and I went to Bass Hall (Fort Worth's big impressive musical hall) to hear Alan Alda. We even got to go to the VIP reception beforehand, where Sue bought a book and told Alda it was for her ex-husband. He laughed aloud and said Fort Worth was a very broad-minded town. The food at the reception was good, and it was fun to feel like we were VIPs, though I knew few people there, which tells me I'm not a real VIP. These programs usually consist of the former book editor of the paper interviewing the guest for about an hour, but Alda did a stand-alone monolog for 30 minutes. He was a great storyteller, charming, funny, self-deprecating, absolutely captivating. I finally had to excuse myself because my cell phone kept going off--I thought it was off but no such luck--and when I came back the books editor was interviewing him, which got a bit more serious but still interesting. And then the audience q&a which had really funny moments. Alda had said he didn't think about his legacy or how people would remember him--"When I'm gone, I'm gone"--so when one woman asked who he wanted to deliver his eulogy, he looked at her and said, "Are you available?" It was truly a captivating evening, and we were both glad we'd gone.
Earlier in the day Mary Lu came over with bags of books, and I pulled out the bags I was ready to discard. We sorted into what belonged to who, who hadn't read what, and, thank goodness, the bigget pile was sell at Jordan's upcoming garage sale. Still I have a huge stack of unread books that beckon to me. Then I took Mary Lu for brunch at a local bistro to celebrate her birthday. It was all fun--we talked politics a lot, although we're in accord about that, and as always we talked about aches and pains and aging. I hate it that so many of my conversations with friends turn to those topics.
The rest of the day was lazy--lingering over the paper, reading a novel, napping, trying to figure out how to buy a small screen HDTV which I have decided is impossible. Now I'm going back to that novel tht doesn't absolutely enthrall me but is to good to put down.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A lazy day of fine food

Today when I was at Central Market I decided I'd eat things that I really like today, so I shopped accordingly. For lunch, I had a wee bit of marinated herring, another wee bit of smoked salmon, and a plate of braseola (the beef version of prosciutto) topped with watercress, shaved parmegiano, lemon and olve oil. I almost took a picture of the plate because it was so pretty. For supper I made my favorite new salad dressing (sour cream, mayo, lemon and blue cheese--no not fattening at all), sauteed some grape tomatoes and green beans, and then floured and sauteed filets of Dover sole, and topped them with a lemon butter sauce. My eyes were bigger than my stomach, and the green beans are in the fridge for another day.
Other than that it was a lazy day--the highlight of the day being the grocery store until Jacob came over briefly. I read, I napped, I piddled (still learning), I paid a few bills. Jacob and his mom came about four, and bless his heart--he had the biggest grin on his face as he hurtled himself across the porch and barrelled into me at knee level--I honestly thought for a minute we'd both go down, he hit so hard. Jordan brought goods for the garage sale she's planning next weekend, and of course I picked them over and found one that I just had to have for a Christmas present--it just had someone special's name written all over it. Jacob found ten things he had to have, broke three of them, and when we got into one of our usual contests--him saying, "No," and me saying, "Yes" (we do that a lot and it's a joke), he said 'Shut up." Not once but twice. I explained to him firmly that we did NOT talk like that. His mom was so horrified when I told her and kept saying, "Are you sure that's what he said?" She declared it a time-out offense next time. They trotted off to someone's house to watch a football game--oh, boredom!--and I fixed my dinner, wandered out onto the proch where Sue and a friend were using my grill. They invited me to join them but I have miles to go tonight.
Having not done anything constructive all day, I'm going to proofread, eat a bit of chocolate, and keep reading that mystery which is okay but not great. I rarely put one down unfinished.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not much

I didn't blog yesterday, so I tried hard to think of something significant to write about tonight. But it's not there, unless I want to delve into the deep subject of presidential politics. I'm sitting here watching the debate, trying to pay attention to every word, trying hard to undestand, which is particularly hard for me on the economy, but pretty clear on the subject of let's meet with enemies before we decide to attack. Negotiation should always precede hostility . . . but there I go, talking about politics. I clearly have an opinion, especially about Senator McCain's waffling about the debate and injecting himself into economic negotations in Congress. After he got there, things that were almost worked out went haywire. Oh, well, Sarah Palin knows international relations because both of the countries that border her state are foreign countries. Duh?
The shortening days are causing me a problem. For years I've prided myself on never setting an alarm because I always get up on time. Somehow this year, with the darker mornings, I'm oversleeping. This morning I was astounded that it was 20 minutes past time for me to get up when I glanced at the clock, expecting to have another 30 minutes to doze. I have an employee who oversleeps a lot, so I feel bound to set an example. No way I was going to call in and say I overslept. I rushed around and got there on time but I didn't finish reading this morning's paper until 2:30 this afternoon.
Last night I sent off the complicated proposal that I've been working on, so today I've mostly on office stuff--reading a new chapter in a book in progress that came in by email, proofing pages of a small book that came from the designer yesterday. Tomorrow I'll get back to my own work. I did pick up a novel about home repair--sort of the same thing as my realtor/renovation series, and I was interested to make a distinction in my mind. The narrator and her sidekick are too wacky. Maybe what I want to say is the book is "too" cozy. I like my heroine better because she's serious about her work, about the skeletons and bodies she finds--yeah, she's a bit klutzy, but it's not the predominant characteristic about her.
I've been cleaning bookshelves, though I have a long way to go. But I have called the Friends of the Library bookstore and they say they'll send someone to get the hardbacks I have sorted out. I've also sorted paperbacks (mysteries--I have a whole lot of them!) and my friend Mary Lu is coming Sunday to look at them, make sure none are hers and none are ones she hasn't read and wants to. The remainder will get sold at Jordan's yard sale (in my front yard--a whole different subject) next weekend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thoughts on Aging--and some busy days

I have a friend who has an epiphany about every seven days--you know, one of those bright flashes of insight that changes your life. Most of us are fortunate if we have three or four in our lifetime, but this friend is always reinventing her life--which actually might be kind of fun. But I had an epiphany--or a semi-one anyway--the other day. I was thinking how my bad balance problems began oh, maybe two weeks before my birthday. And it dawned on my--I didn't turn seventy quite as easily as I let on to the world. I laughed and joked about it, had a huge and wonderful b'day party--one of the highlights of my life--and joked about after I turned seventy everything was recalled, from my car to my colon. But I think I was dancing to fool the devil. I think turning seventy shook me--Jim, who is 6 months from 78, said to me today, "Of course it shakes you." But I truly do find it hard to think of myself as 70. That sounds old, and I don't feel old, walking stick or no. I think I've mentioned on this blog before my belief that we each have an age where we perpetually see ourselves and mine is about 35--I was happily married, my kids were young and wonderful (of course, they are still wonderful), but I don't know if that's it or if it's that I still see the world as I did at 35. Jim said his "lifetime" age is 18, not because it was a happy time in his life but because that's how he sees the world.
Anyway, now that I've taken off the rose-colored glasses and most of my car and medical problems have been dealt with, maybe I can really come to grips with no longer being able to use the euphemism "late middle age" and learn to understand that I truly am a senior citizen.
I don't want to push this, saying this "epiphany" improved my balance, but it is getting better. Jean noticed it when we went shopping the other day, and Melinda saw it when we went to lunch. And today I went alone to the country club for a luncheon and had to park--oh, half a block from the entrance. The walk was made difficult not by fear of open spaces but by the heavy heavy book bag and purse I had on my bad shoulder. Now that is something I can deal with in practical terms. A friend told me tonight she has a manuscript carrier on wheels, like an small overnight case only even smaller.
It has been a busy couple of days. Yesterday we had a long but productive (and fun) meeting about a book we're doing of the work of the photographer who chronicled the black community in Fort Worth during the last half or more of the 20th century. He took pictures of everyone from school children to world leaders, and the journalist who's working on the essays for it has had a wonderful time trying to identify people in the pictures, tracking down stories, etc. Yesterday we sorted photos and matched them to categories in his essays.
Today I took my car to be inspected--it was only three weeks overdue, had an advisory council meeting (only three people showed up but we zipped through my brief agenda and came up with great ideas), went to a luncheon for past presidents of Friends of the Library, and went to dinner with Betty--plus did a lot of work at home. I'm working on a proposal for the mystery--an agency that requires a long and complicated proposal with a cover sheet, a "sell sheet," a biography, a synopsis, a market analysis, an author marketing plan, a history of the manuscript (where it's been submitted), and a 30-page synopsis. I figure getting all that together will be good for me, even if the agency says "Thanks, but no thanks."

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Spot on the Moon--or something

Talk about days that get off to a bad start. When I stumbled out of bed this morning, for some stupid reason I entered the entirely wrong code in the alarm system. Result: it wouldn't disarm. Let it rest a while, went back, it still wouldn't disarm. Then, just as I called the company, it occurred to me I was entering an old code. But I had visioins of Scooby doing his "I have to pee" dance at the back door and me unable to open it. That crisis solved, I moved on and started to wash the big pot in which I fixed the pasta dish last night--result was I stopped up both kitchen sinks. The idea of using the plunger--which has been used elsewhere unsavory--didn't appeal to me, but my morning routine calls for washing my hair in the sink--a great dilemma. Finally got them to drain and moved on, but I did waste a lot of the early morning. Then at 7:30 Jordan called to say she was deathly ill--no, she didn't need anything. I think she just wanted me to worry, which I did. Later in the morning, she called to say she had strep throat and infected sinuses but the doctor, osteopathically faithful, did not give her antibiotics but wanted her to try some other things first. By the time I picked up papers from her office and took them to her house, she looked and sounded better--I passed them through the gate without physical contact--but said she still felt awful. No wonder I was glad to come home and work quietly at my desk with no one around me.
The good news of the day came from Houston. The second of Morgan's Sunday evening messages, which I couldn't understand, was to say, "We have power, Juju! We don't need the generator." I'm sure they're delighted to get their household back to normal.
Last night the subject of dreaming came up at dinner. Gayland never dreamed and always snored until his sleep apnea was diagnosed. Now he wears one of those devices at night, doesn't snore, and for the first time dreams. Katie and I both said we dream vividly, and Katie said that means we're getting sound sleep. She has something called cognitive dreaming--she can pick up a dream from the night before the next night. I don't do that, but if I get up in the night for some reason I can go right back into the dream I was having. And my dreams are always in color. Most of them stay with me for hours the next day, and I sometimes recount them to Melinda who is somewhat alarmed--especially by the one where a possum peed on her. Often I call tell where things in my dreams come from--something that happened during the day, something that's on my mind but sometimes they come out of the wild blue--like last night when I was at TCU working in a lab run by an old friend of my mom's who was a florist. I hadn't thought about her in years--was it the flowers Katie brought from her garden? I also have the recurring dreams most of us had. Katie and I both confessed to the one about it being time for finals and we haven't been to class, studied, don't know where the class meets, etc. I have another one--and had it last night--about being at TCU and not knowing where I parked my car, wandering all over the campus looking for it. And then instead of driving my car (which I found) I was riding a red trike. That, I'm sure, was because Saturday Elizabeth commented on how battered the red trike I keep for the grandkids is, and I told her to have some respect--it's as old as I am, though it wasn't mine, came from good friends. I don't put much faith in the websites that interpret dreams for you--all mine say I'm reliving my childhood insecurities which may well be true but is pretty prosaic. I'd like a little variety in interpretation, but I'm glad I dream, I'm glad I remember that, and I'm glad dreaming is a good sign.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Learning to Putz

I once wrote an article, really an essay, by that title, but the magazine that was nervous about the word "putz"--in Yiddish it has negative implications from describing a poor behavior pattern to a part of the male anatomy. So they changed it to "On Learning to Putter." Putz, putter, whatever--the point was that I don't do it gracefully. I'm much better when I'm busy with details, etc. But today I puttered--or putzed--and enjoyed it thoroughly. I lintered over coffee and the paper, watched the talk shows, rode my stationary bike while watching George Stephanopoulos, did a bit of laundry, took a lazy long shower (for me), ate an early lunch, read, napped, and then got busy fixing dinner. But it was a lovely lazy day.
I had guests for pasta on the porch tonight--the weather was just right. I haven't seen Gayland and Katie all summer, because she's been traveling and up to her eyeballs in work (which is good but stressful) so it was good to visit again. Sue joined us for drinks, and they took an immediate liking to each other--it always pleases me that my friends like my friends and I bring people together.
Of course, dinner was experimental. An antipasto platter with two cheese (Manchego and a soft provolone), two salamis, gherkins, and marinated artichoke hearts--not much of an experiment there. But the one-dish meal was whole wheat pasta with green peas and asparagus and a basil/mint/feta pesto. You cook the asparagus and fish it out; then cook the peas in the same water--fishing becomes a bit more of a challenge with tiny peas; then you cook the pasta in the same water. Meantime make a pesto of basil, mint, olive oil, salt, pepper, and feta and add to the vegetables. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and add it. Sprinkle with scallions and more feta. Hmmmm. delicious. Gayland told me about a cauliflower pasta made the same way--when he was served it he thought, "I don't like cauliflower," but he said it was delicious--and topped with bread crumbs browned in olive oil left in the skillet from preparing the dish. They gave it a nutty crunchiness. Sounds like a great idea for any pasta.
So now I start the business week witha full fridge--leftover pasta, sloppy joe, salami and cheese. Can't let cooking keep me from working, so I'll have to think of another reason. It promises to be a busy week at the office, but I guess that's good.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday stuff

I would tell you today wasn't much of a writing day, but it turns out that wasn't true. I went through three more chapters of the first in my Kelly Jones series--looking for ways to punch up her character, and once again finding I like the way it flows. I don't see much room or need for change--indeed, punching up might sort of jar the flow of the book.
But other than editing, which I did tonight, it was a pleasant day. Early (for a Saturday morning) I followed my neighbor Sue to her car repair shop, then she and I met my good friend Jean for breakfast at the deli--always a treat. Sue drove my car home--told me later it made her nervous, maybe because she knows how attached I am to that car. Jean and I went shopping for supplies and refreshments for a TCU Press reception October 3 and did very well for just over $100. We went to Costco for stuffed marinated olives, big pretzels, and smoked almonds, and three bottles of wine to supplement what I have left from another function; then at Party Warehouse we got napkins and glasses. Came home just in time for a yoga lesson--Elizabeth says I'm doing well, and I can tell a difference. Strangely enough my feet don't bother me as much since I've been doing some foot exercises. Then I grabbed a bite of lunch, picked up Sue, and we went to Central Market. Home to nap, and then take Sue to get her car. Whew--a busy Saturday.
Tonight, just for me, I made sloppy joe. That's not what it really is--I found the recipe thirty-some years ago in a wine coobook. It was called, appropriately, "Wine Casserole," but since it's hamburger (I used bison tonight), beans, canned tomatoes, various seasonings and red wine, I always told the kids it was sloppy joe. Several years ago Megan asked for the recipe. She fixed it for Brandon, who said it was really good but it wasn't sloppy joe. Megan emailed me, rather archly, that she guessed she was the only child who grew up thinking red wine was an essential ingredient of sloppy joe. I had a taste for it, so now I have a whole bunch of it, even though I went back for seconds--shame on me.
Colin bought a bigger generator today, so they have more power at their house. I told him that meant the power would come back on this evening, and he said he thought it would have come on before he got home from the store. But so far it hasn't.
I read something tonight about the majority of Americans (I forget how many) believing in guardian angels. The instances cited were sort of near-death escapes, and I do remember one time when a truck almost ran me down--I didn't see it because I held an umbrella to shield me from blowing rain, but I know the driver must have seen me and can't understand why he didn't stop sooner. But that's not so much what I think of when I think of guardian angels--I think there's one who watches over me in general and keeps my life on a fairly even keel and quite happy. The blog where I read this suggested sometimes our guardian angels might be those who have gone before us, and of course there's the possibility that my folks are watching over me, but I think I pretty much had a guardian angel even when they were still living. No, that angel stopped me from all dumb mistakes--and I made a couple of really big ones--but it generally it's kept me on the straight and narrow path to happiness, and I'm grateful.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blogging to figure things out

Someone asked me once why I blog, and I answered that it made me write something almost every day (except that I haven't posted in two days). But I think that's the truth of it, but I also think I have always figured things out in writing. It used to drive my ex-husband crazy that I didn't argue--I wrote notes. I figured he could yell louder than I could, and arguing was futile.
So today I'm trying to figure out revision of my mystery. The rejection mentioned earlier said a real estate agent had no spark, no appeal. So I rewrote my query letter and really punched it up, making Kelly, my protagonist, a character who stumbles over skeletons and bodies, serial killers and cold-blooded murderers. A TCU Press author who reads the blog sent an opening sentence from El Paso that sounds pretty good: Kelly Jones always thought real estate was pretty safe until . . . So having rewritten the query, I set about "punching up" the manuscript itself, adding more free-spiritedness to Kelly. But as I tried to do that, I found I really like Kelly the way she is. She's realistic about who she is and who she isn't and she can be clever, but she's not a rebel against society--she has those two daughters to whom she's devoted. In short, she's a real person in my mind--she has taken on life. A lot of the advice I got from Sister in Crime sisters over this had to do with what write you want and believe in, and so though I'll continue through the first manuscript and then start querying again, I doubt I'll change much. I did work in a craving on Kelly's part for chocolate bars with ground peanuts and jalopenos--my current chocolate addiction. And I think I might work in Fort Worth's "Cowtown" image in the public and its contrast to ordinary life in our neighborhoods. But I don't think I'll change much. If, praise be, an editor gets hold of it someday and wants changes, that's another matter. Meantime I'm confident about what I've written.
There was a huge private signing party for one of our authors last night. The book, Dancing Naked: Unforgettable Encounters with Memorable Texans, is a collection of columns the author, Mary Rogers, published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram over a period of years. There were well over 200 people at the reception, and our bookstore sold 176 books--terrific for one evening. My job was to ask people to write on post-its how they wanted the book personalized, and several said, 'Oh, Mary knows me." I tried to explain that in a long signing line, an author can forget her own children's names. Worked most of the time but Mary confessed she was stymied by one person, and her brain only kicked in at the last second. The hostess created a lovely affair with elegant, low-key refreshments--I was fascinated by how many people chose lemonade over wine. All in all, it was elegant and fun.
The food part of my blog tonight even involves some figuring out: I have been craving things that aren't good for you lately. No more the lean piece of meat and the green vegetable. Today I had two Hebrew National hot dogs with kraut for lunch, and though I was tempted by the idea of a baked potato topped with chili, cheese, and sour cream for dinner, I refrained in favor of pan frying some Dover sole I had in the freezer and topping it with lemon butter sauce. I've finally learned to cook it at medium and not hot, and it came out browned nicely, just a tad crunchy. When I defrosted it I thought it smelled fishy even though it was vacuum packed, but it tasted great. I baked a half tomato topped with bread crumbs and blue cheese and steamed some green beans. I steamed a whole mess of beans earlier this week but not long enough--they were really al dente, more than is pleasant. Better tonight. I have a mystery in my kitchen--I've lost the top to the steamer I've had for 30 years or more. I used it earlier in the week, put all the parts of the steamer in the drain basket but I cannot find the lid anywhere. I keep thinking it will show up in some weird place, but I've looked all the weird places I can think of and so far no luck.
The report from Houston is that Colin and Lisa are okay, managing with a smile, but they still have no power. They are supposedly on the list to have power by Monday which Colin hopes means any time between now and then. Tomorrow they'll take the kids to Lisa's parents, who have power, and go to dinner with friends in the part of town where things are more back to normal. I admire thier good spirits during all this. Was trying to think the longest I was out of power, and I think it was four days. You do kind of sink into an unpleasant routine, but it's sure magic when the lights come on. Lisa keeps repeating though that they are so blessed when so many lost so much and they are relatively unscathed--just inconvenienced. Colin said it's hard to make coffee on the grill in the dark with a flashlight and frustrating to get up in the middle of the night to put more gas in the generator.
Not much political comment except that I am astounded to hear McCain try to blame Obama for the financial crash--McCain has taken three times the money from Freddie and Fannie than Obama. And I'm further asotunded at a poll that says 59% of Americans believe Sarah Palin is qualified to be vice president. My goodness, are their heads in the sand?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rejection and chocolate

aSisters in Crime has a subgroup known as Guppies (Going to be Published) with a listserv called AgentQuest. Getting an agent to represent your work is as big a deal or maybe bigger than writing the darn thing. Well, I've been writing away, making a few desultory marketing attempts--got two requests for what are called partials (30 pages) but no more response. So when one agent was favorably discussed on Agent Quest, I decided to query her last night. Through a mail mix-up and the limited system I have at home, it was this morning before I sent the query. I had a gracious, lovely rejection within less than two hours, mostly based on the fact that a realtor was not a compelling enough figure to attract an editor. Gulp! I've written a book and a half about this realtor, and I like her.
So I told the story on the listserv and got comforting replies, most of which said don't jump ship. The Guppies standard reaction to rejection is "Eat chocolate" so I mentioned that I had eaten some chocolate (with jalopenos and ground peanuts) and a couple of them said if the novel was as interesting as the chocolate I should have no problem. I know it's early in the querying game--some of these ladies have 50 or more queries out but a lot of times you get no reply. Still I was really let down. Tonight I'm resisting having more of that chocolate--after all my stash has to last the week until I can get back to Central Market.
You can't be a writer if your skin is thin. Tonight I'm also going to work on a new blurb that begins, "Kelly Jones is no ordinary realtor." That seems a bit trite, but it's a starting point. As I've said over and over, writing mysteries has a real learning curve--maybe I should say "marketing mysteries."

Monday, September 15, 2008

A beautiful but disturbing day, sad news, and the mystery of writing mysteries

The weather in North Texas remains wonderful--downright cool when I poked my head out for the paper this morning and plesant all day, with a breeze. I haven't heard my air conditioner kick on, and with the windows open, the house feels much fresher. Hard to explain the difference, but it's there. Still on a beautiful day, much of the news is bad. As more and more reports come in about the damage from Hurricane Ike, it's hard to take in the magnitude of the destruction and of the recovery that will take at least a year. Colin and his family say they're doing fine, coping from day to day and hoping for power in the next few days. I know if the family did a heave-to, rented a U-Haul, took gas, ice, and a larger generator down there, the power would come on as we drove in the driveway. So we wait . . . and I worry, though three-year-old Morgan said tonight, "We're fine, Juju." And then there's the financial news from Wall Street. Admittedly, I don't understand the country's finances--I don't understand where a country with the horrendous debt we have gets the money for such massive bail-outs. And Senator McCain has admitted that he hasn't paid much attention to the economy. Between that and Governor Palin, I wish someone could tell me why he's running so strongly. I read one article today suggesting it's Palin's designer eyeglasses--is that how dumb this country has become?
A disturbing phone message tonight from the husband of a high school friend. When we finally connected by phone tonight, I was right--he was not a bearer of good tidings. Bernice died Thursday, and Alan was uncertain who to call, kept forgetting, but said today he was looking at wedding pictures and thought of course he must call me. I knew Bernice had breast cancer for four years but we only kept in touch at Christmas, and I didn't realize it had gotten critical. Makes me sad on lots of fronts, but it also calls back good memories and funny ones--Alan and I talked about some of those memories and then I had an email from their daughter--I replied with thanks and a recounting of a teen-age escapade that got us in trouble. I guess you think people from your young years will always be there, and of course that's not true. But Bernice is one of the major memories of my high school years in Chicago and the years after when we crossed paths occasionally. She was straightforward, adventuresome, and always fun.
And then there's the mystery of writing mysteries. I've thought long and hard about this. I read several mystery-related blogs and listservs and it has struck me that I may simply not be devoted enough. I read a blog of advice to newcomers to publishing (I don't consider myself one but I can always learn and the game changes constantly) where the blogger maintains about twelve internet "billboards" as he calls them--Twitter, mySpace, Facebook, several personal blogs, etc. When does he have time to do anything but tend to those? Then the listserv about seeking an agent makes the querying process sound intense and full-time. When to these people--mostly women--write? I realize I love writing, but I have a lot of other things in my life--family, friends, cooking, my job, reading books I enjoy, reading recipe magazines, doing my yoga. I'm not willing to give up all aspects of my life for my writing--and maybe that's what it takes in today's marketig-intensive world. But then I read other mystery-related blogs that talk about bad hair days or a fondness for picnics or some other everyday topic with which I can identify and I think, "Okay, maybe I can do both." Right now I can't decide whether to keep going through the second novel or turn some intense attention to querying and placing the first novel. Hah! As if I know how to do that. But I think that's where I'll turn my efforts tonight. It's a puzzlement.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The day after a storm

Don't tell me weather and the barometer don't affect moods. I woke up this morning feeling more energetic and optimistic than I have in weeks. Perhaps it was relief that Colin and his family are okay, perhaps it was relief that the storm bypassed us (we could have used more rain), but I think it was just this it was a bright and sunny cool, breezy morning, the kind of fresh day you get after a rain. As usual I lingered over the paper and coffee but then I rushed around opening windows (no small trick at my house where security is a big concern), watering plants, stripping beds (including the guest apt.), filling the bird feedeer, cleaning up after the dog--in short doing all those chores I had avoided in my lethargy yesterday. Then I made a casserole to take to Jordan's tonight, rode my exercise bike, and--okay, it's barely noon, and I'm tried. But I feel good about all of it.
Later Had my nap and took my casserole out to Jordan and Christian and Jacob--who ate a surprise amount of it and said, "Thank you dinner, Juju." It was Doris' casserole, a family classic that a friend calls American lasagne. Everyone who tries it loves it--a meat and tomato layer (I used ground bison), a noodle, sour cream, cream cheese layer, topped with grated cheese and baked until hot and the cheese melts. It was a lovely evening to drive over there and back with the top down. I went back streets and by the park where there are lots of trees.
Lisa left a message while I was out that they had borrowed a generator and should be okay tonight. This morning Colin said they were fine and happy but it wasn't a great way to live. He hoped he could find out how long they would be without power and was investigating finding one online. I was afraid they were pretty scarce, so this is a good solution. Anxious to hear tomorrow how they did.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More on a hurricane and then--comfort food

It's been a long day of hurricane waiting--waiting to hear from Colin in Kingwood, north of Houston, and waiting for the predicted tropical storms here. I talked to Colin not long ago, and they have been very fortunate with no flooding, no major damage, although there's lots of stuff down around them. They have no power, but he made coffee on the gas grill this morning so the day was okay and tonight he cooked hamburgers. But he said the house is dark and getting hot but they can't open the windows because it's so muggy. They hadn't been able to get through to Lisa's parents in Sugar Land, so I tried, got right through, and got a good report from them too, although no power and minor damage. I'm relieved for all of them, but if it really takes two weeks for power to return, as we're hearing, I've urged Colin to bring his famliy up here for a few days. He wants to see what happens in the next couple of days.
In Fort Worth, the hurricane was pretty much a no show. We'd been warned to expected tropical storms with winds of 35 mph and 2-3 inches of rain. It did get a bit windy, but nothing like predicted, and we got a long, slow gentle drizzle all day--probably not more than 1/2 inch. Tonight, at 8 o'clock, it has all moved on, way east of us. This morning though I rushed to Central Market early to get back before the rain--I could have lingered over the paper more.
A long day of waiting like this calls for indulgent food. Tonight I wrapped four sea scallops in smoked salmon strips and speared with with rosemay branches, then soaked them in olive oil flavored with lemon zest for a while, and then grilled them. Delicious, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I have one scallop left. They're so big and so rich.
I worked on royalties today--depleting my supply of staples and paper clips--and hope to fiish up the last little bit tonight. Tomorrow I'll get back to the real world. Somehow this week has distracted me from the mystery, and I feel a bit burned out. Don't know why it comes in spurts of enthusiasm nor if that's a good thing or bad. I suspect he who plows on gets the book written, so I'm chastising myself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike and a good shoulder report

These are pictures of Colin, Morgan and Kegan boarding up their house in Kingwood, north of Houston. Apparently when Rita missed Houston, Kingwood had lots of flying limbs, etc., so they decided to board up the expanse of windows at the back of the house (a south exposure, I think, though I'm not good at those things!) I love the painting on it, and Lisa says it's the first time they saw Morgan write her own name (lower right hand corner). Jamie suggested they should leave the boards up at least for Halloween, sort of like people who leave their Christmas lights up until March. Colin retorted that he was mad he had to take down the Christmas lights to put up the boards. The closet is one they've emptied for an emergency shelter and stocked with necessary (?) supplies. I'm sure Lisa won't leve the Blue Bell Ice Cream there all night and she says she has no idea why the piggy bank is there. I am of course worried about them and will be sorry when they lose power, cell phones, etc. I asked them to keep in touch as they could. Colin says they're fine except that he's worried about the tall old pines around their house. I asked if they didn't want to come up here, but Colin countered that I should come down there because they'd promised Morgan a hurricane!
Aside from worrying about them I'm feeling the residual caution that creeps up here--I found myself impulse buying in the store--extra tuna, though I have more than I'll eat, more bottled water (again I'm well suppllied). I got out flashlights, tested them, and stashed the extra batteries I bought today. Also got out candles and matches, but I really hope we won't lose power. I don't like being alone in a dark house. But my biggest worry is Scooby--if we have the peripheral tropical storm rains, he will refuse to go out and yet I know he'll need to relieve himself. If my neighbor Jay is home, I may have to call him for help. I hope to get to Central Market in the morning before the heavy rains hit--some things are essential, and I'm almost out of chocolate. Then it's a weekend of hunkering down.
I have plenty of work to do. I spent the better part of two hours today separating three-fold greenbar sheets into three piles--the unspearated stack was probably 10 inches high. Now I have to go through each of the three stacks and sort them for various purposes. I maybe need to do some of the sorting myself, but an adminstrative assistant sure could have done the sorting. I wonder how TCU is going to find the next director who will do such, but then again I can't let the royalties get shoved back into oblivion as happens to too many things in my office.
But there is good news today. The orthopedic surgeon (who specializes in shoulders) said surgery is not the right option for my shoulder. I have torn two of the four muscles in the rotator cuff, one of them the major top one, so one result is there is no cushion between two bones, which is why I feel a crunching. He gave me a steroid shot that had a bit of anaesthetic in it, so for an hour or two I could fight bear with that shoulder. Its now back to its normal state of twinging if I do various ambitious things but in general not bothering me. The steroid should kick in a couple of days from now. Meantime I am mightily relieved. Maybe euphoric is the word.
Writing a mystery? What writing? I'm not getting to it today. I tell myself I will over the long weekend, but there are those darn greenbar sheets to deal with, a novel I'm reading, and a lot of being lazy to do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My nice life . . . and politics

Last night Austin novelist Sarah Bird stayed in my guest house. She spoke about her latest novel, How Perfect is That? at an HR lunch at TCU and had people laughing so hard their mascara ran--actually more men came to this than usually attend these luncheons. But she and I were pretty much ships that passed in the night until we had lunch today. She had mentioned wishing she'd have grandchildren, but her only child is 19 so she has a way to go. I of course dragged out pictures of my kids and grandkids amd probably talked way too much about my wonderful famly--I'm prone to do that, as readers of this blog might have noticed. But as we got in the car after lunch--my VW bug convertible with butterflies on the hood--she said, "Okay, I want your car, your house, your family, your life." She is of course happily married, lives in what is perhaps Texas' most exciting city, has a career much better than mine--how could she say that? And yet, it touched me, made me think how very fortunate I am, what a good life I have.
Tonight Betty and I ate tapas--the most wonderful Parmesan crisps--and sinful desserts, which was all my fault because I wanted chocolate mousse. But when I came home and took a half glass of wine to the porch, I felt an itch, didn't know what it was, didn't know what I wanted, but something. Maybe it was because I had Jacob the last two evenings and wasn't used to the lazy quiet. I don't know, but I told myself to think about Sarah's comment.
I am horribly conflicted about politics these days. I get a lot of emails, granted all liberal, but many of them are so persuasive that I want to share. What I end up doing, of course, is preaching to the choir, sending them to people who already agree with me. I did branch out a bit and send Gloria Steinem's comments on Sarah Palin to a couple of people that I wasn't sure about--and got equivocal answers. My high school best friend said, "You are my friend forever, and you can't offend me"--and sent something that supported her view. I don't want to offend people, but how do I work for Obama if I can't tell people who need convincing how I feel. (I am block captain for Obama, but that seems a drop in the bucket, and I have obviously declined recent urgings to go to Colorado to support the Democratic congressional contestants there.)
When I said I wanted to be able to discuss politics with those on the other side, I opened a dialog with an old friend who is an arch conservative, thinks George Bush is one of the best presidents we've had, and invading Iraq was a necessity that has turned out well. Clearly he and I never will convince each other, though the exchange was kind of fun.
But what do I do with the email I got today that was a letter from a fellow POW of McCain's and said other POWs were prisoners longer and suffered more torture. McCain, he says, is a man of iron courage who endured much but he is not "The" war hero as he and his campaign protray him. And this man, who went through military school with him, said McCain is a hothead and certainly not someone whose finger he wants on the red button. Do I send it to that man I'll never convince? Do I keep it to myself? What do I, as a deeply concerned citizen and troubled about the current state of everything in our country, do with things like that? I'm saving them up, sending them to the choir, and worrying with my conscience.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Authors--and Jacob

Roberta Isleib's guest post on this blog is a hard act to follow--I think I got more comments than I've ever had in one day. I guess today was my day for brushes with well-known authors. Austin novelist Sarah Bird was at TCU to discuss her new novel, How Perfect is That?, a satire about Texas high society and politics. Only in her speech she didn't talk about the book at all--she talked about being a columnist (she writes a monthly column for Texas Monthly) and how being a columnist could change all of our lives. Funny thing--I write a monthly column for the Dallas Morning News on Texas writers and all I notice is that the monthly deadline makes me crazy to know what I'll write about. Sarah has more freedom and can talk about whatever topics hit her brain--and some are pretty zany, She accompanied her talk with lots of body language, and everyone in the room was laughing out loud. One woman told her she should be on "Saturday Night Live." Probably one of the best--and best attended--programs we've had in the "What's on Your Book Shelf?" series.
Tonight she's gone off to do a reading at a bookstore in Plano ( a really long way from Fort Worth) but she's headed back tonight to stay in my guest house. I'll probably be long asleep by the time she gets here, but we'll have lunch tomorrow and catch up on visiting.
Last night and tonight I had Jacob for company. He's not exactly sparkling company after a long day at day-care, although today I noticed on his daily report that he had a two-hour nap. Still he's kind of solemn, whiny for Mama, and not as loving as he is when he's rested and happy. Still we got along fine. I heated some meatloaf for him and doused it in ketchup (his favorite food) but he wanted none of it--he wanted the really rare chopped sirloin I had fixed for myself, kept saying, "More, more!" His mom came from a business meeting a little after seven, wolfed down her food, and took him home. I'm going to demand more mid-day visits.
Texas is preparing for a hurricane which apparently will cut a wide swath. Colin called tonight to say, "We may be blown away this weekend." Such a comforting thought. They are north of Houston, about 80 miles inland, but I suspect they'll get heavy rains and high wind. He says they're pretty much ready. We're predicted to get rain, possibly wind, possibly thunderstorms by late Saturday or early Sunday, and the storm will continue up into Oklahoma and even Kansas. What I worry most about is what to do with Scooby and his pathological fear of storms, but I guess I don't have to worry about it for a few days.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Guest blogger Roberta Isleib

As promised yesterday, Roberta Isleib is guest blogging today while on a tour for her third advice column mystery, ASKING FOR MURDER (Berkley.) Roberta is a clinical psychologist, the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity nominated author of eight mysteries, and the president of Sisters in Crime. Read more at http://www.robertaisleib.com.

My first mystery protagonist, professional golfer Cassie Burdette, was one hell of an athlete. She was also plenty neurotic, with a closet full of skeletons: her father’s desertion, a melancholy, alcoholic mother, a fog of self-doubt. She had lousy taste in men and tended to defer soul-searching in favor of the anesthetic effects of Budweiser. I finally talked her into starting psychotherapy (with the help of a couple of other characters) to address her low self-esteem and self-destructive tendencies. She began to play better golf, choose kinder men, drink less, and reconnect with her dad.
But despite my gentle urging, Cassie never did learn to eat well. Or to cook. Everywhere I went, readers commented on the junk food, the fried food, the hamburgers, the beer. The only recipe she was ever quoted as cooking had canned beans and sliced hot dogs as its main ingredients. And this was in a real, published cookbook, no less. How completely embarrassing.
Rebecca Butterman, the psychologist protagonist in my advice column mysteries, is a gourmet cook—but not the fussy kind of cooking you’d find in a Julia Child cookbook. Rebecca cooks things like roast chicken, peach pie, cheddar cheese scones, split pea soup, cheese puffs, stir-fried veggies with marinated flank steak, homemade cookies. I’m making myself hungry.
Anything I have a hankering for, she ends up cooking. I’m a decent cook, but not a big fan of long, complicated recipes unless there’s a special occasion. Rebecca’s more patient than I am, even with most tedious tasks of cooking. Here’s an example: Right now we have an excess of tomatillos in our garden so naturally I want to make tomatillo/cilantro sauce for chicken enchiladas. But oh the misery of sorting and washing all those leaves and husking the slippery produce. Rebecca would find that relaxing!
When I was single, you might have caught me opening a can of tamales for dinner. Rebecca wouldn’t do that! She feels she deserves a good meal whether alone or in company. And she hardly ever eats standing over the sink. And she has a maxim against eating food from a pan—even if it’s just her at the table.
Where do I find Rebecca’s recipes? In my own recipe box, on Epicurious.com, and by closely watching my friends who are talented cooks. For example, my writing buddy, Hallie Ephron, visited last year for a plot brainstorming session. She brought the ingredients for our dinner—a lovely marinated antipasto platter and spaghetti carbonara. When the time came to write about a dinner party in ASKING FOR MURDER, the menu was set! All I had to do was add the dessert—a red velvet cake that one of my fellow Sisters in Crime had baked for a meeting.
Here’s the recipe for the marinated flank steak Rebecca uses in a stir-fry dish in Asking for Murder, from my friend Linda Mills. (This is good for pork, beef, and chicken.)

Korean Marinade
4 TBS sugar
2 TBS sesame oil
6 TBS soy sauce

Marinate the meat from 2 to 24 hours before grilling. Discard marinade and make a new batch to serve with entrée, if desired. You may also add coarse black pepper, sliced scallions, chopped fresh garlic, toasted sesame seeds.

Enjoy your dinner and Asking for Murder. Thanks for inviting me to stop in today Judy!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fall and Walkers, plus a guest blogger

In the mornings now, you can sense fall might be nearing. It's still pretty hot mid-day and a bit muggy in the evening, but mornings are really pleasant. I'm tempted to put the top down to drive to work, but it's only five minutes and seems like too much effort. Then again, maybe I should do it. I live across the street from an elementary school, so I see lots of parents walking their children to school. Part of me says it's a pity they have to do that these days--I remember sending second grader Megan off on a bike with a fifth grader as her protector, and Jordan always walked when we lived about four blocks from the school I now live right by. But it's a different world.
What tickles me is that the kids go to school on scooters or whatever, and then the parents are left to cart these things home. Today I saw two parents riding the scooters. One was a man I know from church, so I slowed down to compliment him on his form, and he laughed and thanked me.
It's also a neighborhood of walkers--a very busy place at 8 a.m. But that's what makes it nice.
I recently read Asking for Murder, by Roberta Isleib, president of Sisters in Crime, author of eight mysteries in seven years, some of which were nominated for Agatha, Anthony and McCavity awards. Asking for Murder is newly out, and Roberta is doing a blog tour to promote it. When I invited her to be my guest one day, I suggested she write about cooking. When I read her novel, I was impressed by the dinners the protagonist, counselor and advice columnist Rebecca Butterman, seemed to throw together casually, especially the spaghetti carbonera. I thought this author is a good cook. Besides, cooking is a big part of my blog, and it seemed appropriate to ask. Roberta obliged gladly. I've been following her tour, and I notice she writes a different post for each blog--a lot of work, and my hat's off to her for not rubber stamping.
The cooking habits of fictional characters are of particular interest to me. Somehow Kelly, the central figure in the series I'm currently working on, isn't much of a cook. She takes her kids out, she fixes a lot of peanut butter and jelly, or she asks boyfriend Mike to grill to accompany store-bought potato salad. I keep trying to nudge her into more cooking, because I'm dumbfounded that I, who like to cook so much, created this woman who really doesn't like the kitchen much. Kelly hasn't taken the hint. Maybe she'll learn from Roberta. Anyway, I'll post Roberta's blog tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Kitchen Day

I finally found a use for the fig tree in my back yard. A few summers ago it bore lots of figs, and when I could get to them before the birds did, I gave them to friends. But in the last few years, it has only sprouted hard little green things that have never ripened. But today I made lamb meatballs wrapped in fig leaves. We had a neighbors dinner, and Jay--the handsome neighbor--got to grill them, which he declared was beyond his expertise. I had picked the leaves (24) and washed and blanched them but I expected help rolling them around the meat mixtture. Susan helped, Sue declared there was no room for her (but she did dishes, bless her), and Jay declined to help because, as he said, "I'm a man." No wonder he likes Sarah Palin. But he did a good job, and they were delicious. When they were grilling, you could smell the fig leaves. You didn't eat the leaves, of course, but unwrapped the meatballs. Above is a picture of the finished product. And a picture of Jay with Sue, my neighbor on the other side. I tried to take a picture of Jay and his lovely wife, Susan, but it was way too dark. Anyway the meal, which I worked on much of the day, was a success--lamb meatballs, tabulleh, a cucumber sauce, and hot dogs for Sue's kids, although Hunter ate a meatball and liked it. Jay brought a wonderful appetizer of toast, mozarella, anchovy and tomato, and we had one of our neighbors dinners that I enjoy so much. We sat around the table and talked for a long time--each time we learn more about each other and become closer friends, and I feel truly blessed to have such neighbors.
This morning in a rash moment I offered to make chicken salad for Jordan for lunch, so she and Jacob arrived about eleven. I have discovered chicken salad we both love--chunks of chicken (not shredded), chopped scallions and celery, equal parts of sour cream and mayonnaise (no, none of it low fat) and a good helping of blue cheese. Jordan ate two helpings. Jacob and I ate a lot of blueberries--I asked him to stick out his tongue, and it was very blue. He was in a really happy mood, fun to play with, and it dawned on me that I usually see him at doinner time when he's tired. Today he was a lot more playful and giggly, pretending to be asleep whenever I said I was coming to get a kiss. He had laughing eyes, which he often doesn't have in the evening.
The change of seasons was very evident at Central Market yesterday. The vegetables of summer were all gone--I wanted snow peas and sugar snap peas, but there were none. Tomatoes were few, as were the berries of summer. Fall is upon us, even if the temperature hasn't caught up with the times.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A writing lesson

Last night I tried to outline what was still to come in my novel in progress. I finished going through the first eight chapters--not for the last time, I know--and I revised the eighth one a good bit. I had written myself a big note that said "Chapter Eight needs work." And I did that. And then I started on Chapter Nine--I knew what was going to happen, and I wrote quickly. Tonight I picked up where I'd left off and again wrote quickly. Again, I knew what was going to happen, and I wanted to get it on paper. Which, of course, made me think of Fred's constant refrain--slow down. I decided that I write fast the first time through, getting it all down, and then I can go back and embellish with details, slow down the pace. So now I'm operating under that theory and it seems to work well. (I'm only six pages into chapter nine, so that may be a premature announcement). It startled me to realize that I'm halfway through the second book. That also makes me realize I need to go back and start doing some real marketing work on the first book. No agent, no publisher for it, and the second book is worthless. So I have my work cut out for me. I did today turn down a young-adult biography assignment, though the idea of pay was negligible, and I didn't, as I think I said before, want to lose focus.
I had a yoga lesson today--a real workout, but Elizabeth seemed to think I am doing well and taught me a few new exercises to augment the half hour I do almost every day. Supposedly I alternate between riding the bike and yoga, but I find that I do the yoga more because I want to improve my strength and balance. I am really proud that I can hold a balance pose--kneeling with one leg extrended and the opposite arm extended--for a slow count of ten. I was telling Elizabeth that my ideal day is when I get home from work by noon or one, eat lunch, clean up office details, email, etc., have a nap, get up and work out and then after dinner work on my novel. She agreed that sounded like a great day. I think a lot of working women envy my schedule, and the only thing I can plead is tht I really really worked hard to get where I am.
Tonight was Gallery Night in Fort Worth--something I've enjoyed in the past but wasn't up to tonight. Melinda from the office came and picked me up and we went to the Firehouse Gallery on the east side where our author Phil Vinson was exhibiting a very few of his photographs and selling his new book (our new book), Fort Worth: A Personal View. There was a bigger crowd than I expected at the small gallery, and Phil had already sold several books. He has been such a pleasant author to work with--he and his wife, Rita, are a team, and she's really the business manager. But his book, unlike many others, went along without a hitch, appeared a month early, and looks great. I don't know that I've ever known an author as pleased with the result as Phil is, and it really makes us feel good. He's grateful, we' grateful, and it's great all the way around.
Melinda and her friend Barbara asked if I wanted to go to other galleries but I had a smorgasbord in mind for my supper--meat loaf, asparagus, smoked salmon, and marinated herring, followed by chocolate of course, and, I had that chapter in my head.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Amazing Times

Well, the hoopla of conventions is over--now comes the campaign. It's hard to know what to believe and what not to, as we are beseiged on all sides with contradictory stories. McCain says Obama will raise taxes; Obama says McCain's tax program will only help the rich, and he Obama, will lower taxes for everyday citizens. McCain says how proud he is to have chosen the first woman to be nominated for vice-president by the Republican Party (hey, the Democrats did it quite a while back, even if she lost!) and we are told we must not raise gender issues--but then Governor Palin talks about being a soccer mom. McCain tells us he knows people are worried about jobs, gas prices, everyday living, and Joe Biden tells us McCain did not mention one concrete way of helping the ordinary citizen.
A friend of mine is setting off on a month-long trip driving through the American West. She says they'll stay in cabins and national park lodges, where there is no TV. They'll not take a computer. And she's delighted that when they come back, it will be almost over and she won't have to hear another word about it. But then at breakfast yesterday another friend said, "It's so exciting. No matter who wins, these are incredible times to be living. I'm loving it." I asked if she wanted it to be over, and she said, "No way. I'm fascinated."
I went to the grocery today--not ordinarily a big deal, but it had become a really big deal for me. Could I get in without crossing an open parking lot? Would I panic? Today I parked in a handicapped spot, breezed right it, and didn't cling to the cart on the way out (that always worries the sack boys a bit). I am feeling much better.
And I'm working away on my novel, realizing I need to get more serious about marketing the first one since I'm now halfway through the second one and feeling much much better about it.
The world seems in its place--as much as it can be in troubling times--and the only family complication I can think of at the moment is that Jacob has pink eye. Life can't be too bad if that's the worst of it. And I'd hate to say with assurance we've seen the last of summer, but the days are bearable and the early mornings downright pleasant. It makes everyone happier.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Politics and the Dentist

I endured three hours--and lots of drilling--in the dentist's chair today, and apparently it's only the first of many sessions to come. I tried to do it with grace, though there was one period when I felt like I couldn't breathe, and I know I squirmed. I asked if he was almost through, and he said, "No. We're not getting very far. You're moving." So I did as the tech suggested--closed my eyes, breathed through my nose. It went better but none of it was pleasant. Almost as painful as watching politics on the TV.
I watched the Republican convention last night, because I had vowed to hear both sides of the story Whether I watched with an open mind or not is questionable, but I tried. My main impression was that the whole evening had such a military air to it--the former POWs, the constant reminders of McCain's sufferings as a stubborn POW who refused to give up information and paid the price, the president reminding us as he has for the last eight years that we "live in a dangerous world." I am so tired of trying to be frightened into accepting war tha the whole thing dismayed me. Fred Thompson, who I used to like on Law and Order but don't much care for as a politician, did say, "Being a POW doesn't show you can be president, but it does show character" or something to that effect. I am constantly getting the impression that we should vote for McCain because he's a war hero--and God give him every bit of credit that he deserves for his bravery. But he would also be a war president, and our worst presidents have been generals. In all fairness, I hear tonight is to be dedicated to the economy, which was not mentioned last night.
Thompson also called Governor Palin a "breath of fresh air." Who can help but be drawn into that fascinating scenario? One hardly knows what to believe about the daily increasing "revelations" about her and her family, and today I heard that her social security number has even been posted on the internet. I can't see what purpose that would serve even the mudslingers--does it prove something awful about her character? Do they think someone will steal her identity, even as prominently in the public eye as she is? I think the "revelations" about her and her family are unfair, nasty, uncalled for. But I do know she scares me--her extreme right-wing positions on abortion, guns, states' rights. I am curious to know more about her supposed pork barrel funds in her small town and her alleged abuse of power, but we may never get the truth about those things. What scares me most is her absolute, deadening inexperience with national and international politics--how can we put someone like that the proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency, separated only by a man in his seventies who has had several bouts with melanoma and whose long-term health surely suffered from his horrendous experiences as a POW? Palin's appointment scares me about McCain too--it seems he did it on a whim, without thorough vetting, and wouldn't be talked out of it. Can you picture Palin, with her shriill voice and aggressive manner, sitting opposite the cold, calm and calculating Putin? Negotiating with North Korea?
The world, it seems to me, has gone screwy. I'm going back to the fantasy world of mysteries.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Kids, cooking, and dcotors

This is my Austin family. I don't get pictures from them often--their lives are too busy--so I thought I'd show them off. They've just been to Alaska (on the left) and southern Mexico (on the right), somplace I can't pronounce, spell, or remember, but it was south of Cancun. I got a bit mixed up and when I first looked I wondered why in the world Brandon took a suit and tie to a Mexican resort. Then, of course, I looked at the beautiful background and realized it was their trip to Alaska for a wedding. Pictures of the ocean and view from their casa in Mexico were equally beautiful. Megan says she's ready to go back to either place right away.
Can't talk much about writing, because I haven't gotten back to my mystery since I last posted a blog. I'm going out for an early supper tonight and then will put myself at the computer and stay there, hoping to revise a chapter tonight. Meantime I decided this blog should have more about cooking, so I thought I'd describe my casserole-for-one last night. I made a basic flour and butter roux, added millk for a stiff white sauce, then thinned it with white wine, put in peas and cut up cooked chicken breast, topped it with cheese and broiled. Good last night and good today for lunch. I tried to tell Jordan how to do that once, but she boggled at the white sauce directions.
An update on my poor balance: the doctor confirmed today that it is anxiety which, he says, cycles for no known reason. He said it's a chemicl/hormonal imbalance in my brain and may be likened to a flare-up of diabetes or thyroid problems. After assuring me he was confident it would pass as it has before, he also assured me I should not feel guilty or weak about it--sometimes I think if I would just gut up I could walk across that open space. Not so, according to the doctor. He's given me a prescription and told me to take it daily instead of trying to tough it out, as I had been, and he's given me a signed application for a handicap parking sticker which will probably banish my fear of trips to the grocery. His last words were to be sure to take Xanax before I go to the dentist at 8 a.m. tomorrow.
Work was fine today and I got things done, but it was one of those days when I wished I could stay home with my mystery. I am to talk to a gentleman Thursday about a young-adult book which, I presume, would be a paying project. I could use the money but I think I'll decline in order to stay focused. I'm learning so much about the mystery genre and, some days, feeling so good about what I'm writing. Of course, other days I despair, but . . . .
Hmmm. Tonight I'd like spaghetti. Definitely not on my diet, but . . . .

Monday, September 01, 2008

Visiting and working

I spent probably 20 hours in Frisco this weekend, visiting Jamie and Mel, Maddie and Edie, and had a lovely time--good visits with the girls, though they are very self-contained and entertain themselves for hours, so sometimes adults don't see much of them. Sunday morning, Jamie went to work out, Mel and I both slept late, and it was eleven o'clock before the girls came downstairs. They'd been playing doctor, with Edie as the patient with a broken arm--Maddie is going to wear out that ace bandage, which she sometimes wraps around her own arm for effect. I had great adult visits though--talking politics separately with each of them (we all agree, but we can get vehement about our agreement). One highlight was that Jamie and I went to buy me a new Spring Instinct phone which does everything--phone, email, GPS, weather, voice reognition, camera, lots more than I ever thought I'd want. Then we spent much of the weekend setting it up (Jamie had lots of good laughs out of that and I won't embarrass msyelf with my technical lack of expertise) and teaching me to use it. We also went to a new grocery, Market Store, that is sort of a combination of an upscale grocery and a Central Market high end store. The produce and meat and seafood--lots of it organic and all very fresh--line the perimeter of the store, while the ordinary daily goods canned and dry goods are in the center. An hour and a half in the store passed quickly.
It was a wonderful weekend but as always I was glad to get home, though I detoured through Coppell. Jamie drove me there where Jordan and Christian were having dinner with his family. I came home with Jordan and Jacob, who'd eaten too much cake and chattered animatedly (and meaninglessly) most of the way.
From Saturday morning to late Sunday evening is not long and yet it seemed like I'd been away a long time. Unpacking, catching up with the animals--Sue had kindly taken care of them--catching up with email and the Sunday paper. Thanks goodness today was a holiday--I slept till 8:30 this morning, went to Central Market, and have been home working all day.
I'm rewriting again and sometimes wondering if I'll ever move forward or just keep rewriting. But I see where I'd gone amuck--one was to follow an editor's suggestion (without any promise of interest) to make the second novel the first. I tried hard to weave the back story into it, but I wasn't happy with the result, and Fred said the rewrite lacked the unity or coherence of my usual work. His other comment was that I was letting a subplot take over too much of the story. The problem was a famliar one to writers--I got so intrigued by one event that I let it take over. A designer friend of mine said she knew why a cover she was working on wasn't right--she was so determined to use one element, that it got away with the job. Once she discarded it, the cover worked. I'm hoping the same is true of me.
A friend, divorced after a long marriage, told me someone advised her to shoot her husband in his sorry ass. I laughed a lot--and saw it as the opening of a novel. It worked great, but then what did I do with that story in a novel about a serial killer? That's why I'm starting over. And each time I go through I see places where I can flesh the story out with more details, more description. Fred always tells me to stop hurrying through things, pointing out his wife likes the descriptions as well as the plot. He's write I do hurry--and if I'm not careful, I could write a whole novel in dialog. I did three chapters today, but I think I can only do two even on a good day. I begin to lose my edge.
Back to work tomorrow. A note of thanks to those who advised me to see a doctor about my balance and others who might have worried. I have done so, though I know very well it's part of my lifetime anxiety disorder--sometimes I can keep it under control and sometimes I can't. This time it has come out in the classic fear of open spacees--let me walk next to a walll, a line of parked cars, a person, and I'm fine--but don't ask me to cross an open parking lot alone. I have developed some coping skills (ways to avoid being confronted) but I know I have to face the problem and have taken steps to do that too. I appreciate your concern.