Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home again, home again

I've missed posting for four nights because I've been visiting grandchildren. Went to Frisco, north of Dallas, Wed. night and spent Thanksgiving day with Maddie (10) and Edie (6, also known as Beastie). Had a lovely time and a wonderful dinner--Mel had "prepped" all the side dishes and only had to cook the turkey (Jamie took that over) and make potatoes and gravy. Delicious! I enjoyed visiting with the girls who get more sophisticated every time I see them. Maddie has written some incredible poetry, and Beastie is such an animal girl--she adores her new Morkie puppy, Bailey, who at 12 weeks is so tiny she surprised me. We did watch the dog show, which Mel and I enjoy but Maddie kept asking when it was over. When I suggested we re-run it, she groaned. they are good girls, and the parents wonderful people. After working on my computer, jamie secured my permission to get me a new one. This one is really pretty slow--a dinosaur, as he said.
Friday in the late morning, Jordan, Jacob and I met at Jamie's new office, had a tour, and then headed for Houston, arriving a little after 3:30. The kids there are younger--4 and 2--and Lisa's ex-sister-in-law brought her 5-year-old nephew and twin 2-year-old nieces, so the house was a zoo. Lisa's parents were also there and John kept asking if I was sure I wanted to go to Breckenridge with the whole gang. I joked that I might come see them for Christmas, but really I'm looking forward to Breckenridge. We had a lazy Saturday--about the only outing was to feed turtles at a nearby creek and other than that Colin kept the children (by then down to three--his two--Morgan and Kegan) and Jacob; I napped. Colin and LIsa also do a wonderful job with their children--both are disciplinarians, but Colin especially so. The kids mind him and behave and yet are very happy.
This morning we were on the road at 9:30 but slowed by a humongous accident south of Huntsville, a stop at McDonald's, and rain in North Texas, so it was almost but not quite a 5-hour trip. Jordan drives, and I navigate, and she did a terrific job.
So now I'm home, catching up, and tired. But I did have an idea for a new series while I was gone--I guess on a night when not being in my own bed I didn't sleep soundly. It is, I think, a new twist on food mysteries, and I'm making notes on it. But I'll stick to editing the series I've written for the time being.
Tomorrow looms full and busy--grocery, errands, some office work, a staff meeting. And it's time to think about mailing Christmas gifts and making a grocery list for my annual party. That break away was far too short!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A break is good for you

Thanks to all the nice folks from Sisters in Crime who've said good things about my blog--you've encouraged me to keep at it, and I hope some of you will guest blog for me!
I haven't done a lick of meaningful work today--I've piddled, washing a bit of laundry, wrapping Christmas packages, catching up on blogs I haven't read, and doing I don't know what. Went to see Charles and take him prune bread (his wife's recipe) but he was asleep and I don't know if the nursing home will let him eat it or not. When I talked to him later, he said he was looking forward to it, and he sounded most jovial. Tonight Sue's parents came for a glass of wine, and we had a good visit--and some terrific smoked trout. Yum, good! I'll be gone the rest of their visit, will probably miss them at Christmas, so it was nice to sit and talk. But where did the day go?
Well, I sort of know. I'm leaving town tomorrow--will spend two days with Jamie (youngest son) and his family, and then Jordan, Jacob and I will spend two days with Colin (oldest son) and his family. So I'll be out of my routine (yes, I'm taking my computer and my Kindle--how bad is that?). But I couldn't settle down today to do anything that would require following through--like tackling the edit of the draft of my second mystery.
But then during free writing this morning, it occurred to me that's good. It's good to be away, out of my routine--my subconscious will keep working on the things that are on my mind, and I can make notes on my computer if need be. But I'll be in fresh company, enjoying grandchildren, with such things as writing and the office and all that far in the distance. I'm looking forward to it.
Oh, there are the usual worries--am I taking the right clothes? I never do, and yet for five days, I'm taking enough for a week at least. Have I remembered all my medications and makeup (in Austin, Sawyer asked me why I wore makeup: "Is it supposed to make you look pretty?" I asked him if he didn't think it was working!) The animals and the house will be well taken care of, with watchful neighbors and a diligent pet-sitters. So I can leave with a free conscience, but there's always that nagging doubt. I am determined to put it behind me and enjoy my family because they're all so wonderful. The only ones I won't see are the Austin branch, and I spent a weekend with them over Halloween.
Of course, I already have notes of things to deal with on Monday morning and a staff meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon right during my nap time!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I may blog . . . and I may not!

Monday, November 23, 2009

'Tis the season

Yes, it's the season when I sort of forget I'm a writer (but never forget I'm a reader) and turn my attention to the holidays. Tonight I feel very smug--my house is decorated for Christmas. That's not as big a deal as it sounds, for I haven't had a tree in several years--I'm always at somebody else's house on Christmas morning. But I decorate the mantel, the buffet in the living room, the dining table, and the coffee table in the living room, plus scatter a few things here and there. And today, I've got it done to my satisfaction. I do still need help with lights. The only strings I could find are so long that the one on the mantel twists back and forth three times, so I gave up on the much shorter buffet. I'd like to put lights and fake greens around the door this year, since I've given up on putting out those two small artificial trees--they blow over at the slightest breeze. Yes, it's a bit early to decorate--I usually do it on Thanksgiving weekend, but I'll be gone this weekend and the dog sitter will be here--I doubt she wants to decorate. Christian and Jordan got everything down from the attic Friday night, except my Jim Shores Santa Claus--so last night, with Susan standing watch, I climbed up and got it. In an e-mail tonight, Christian asked how the Santa got down from the attic. I told him I'm not as frail a flower as I seem--I just don't think it's smart to go up there when I'm alone in the house. Of course, Jordan will put finishing touches on my decorating, but she is tonight on a "fam" cruise on the new Royal Caribbean ship, The Oasis, that superhuge cruise ship. She'll be home tomorrow night. Anyone interested in a cruise? Call Jordan!
I actually did some other work today--two hours at the office, returning some oh-so-awful dried apricots, getting dog food. And tonight I made two loaves of prune bread to take to Charles (one at a time). Now I'm going to settle down with the novel I'm reading, Dead Heat--it's the first one I've seen by Felix Francis, without his father's name, but it reads just like a Dick Francis novel--and best of all, the main character is a chef. Of course he's a chef who caters events at horse tracks and grew up around racing--I don't stray far from food mysteries.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Busy day and a pleasant evening

It wasn't the lazy day I imagined. I did linger over the paper--disturbed by the news that the UNT Board (is that Bored?) of Regents voted unanimously to approve an MD school at the UNT Health Sciences Center--oh, wait, that was yesterday. Still disturbed. Then I made myself barely presentable and jumped into the car to buy more apricots to replace those I scorched yesterday. Came home, prepared to soak them in boiling water, and discovered they were dark brown, a yucky scary color. So back to the store tomorrow. I think my prune bread plan is jinxed. But I made some really great pesto, did a lot on decorating the house for Christmas (why am I so obsessed this year? maybe because I'll be gone on Thanksgiving weekend, which is when I usually decorate), planted pansies in my planter boxes (and dug up an amazingly large potato from my sweet potato vines), and pulled out the basil roots. Wow! I felt I'd done a great day's work.
After lunch and reading some, I had a nap. Then I began making finger sandwiches to take to Sue's six-o'clock-happy hour. Only she called about 5:05 and apparently it was at 5, not six. So I rushed, left the kitchen in a mess, the animals unfed, but arrived with my finger sandwiches and bottle of wine. And had a most pleasant evening--her parents, of whom I'm very fond, are here from Canada for the winter--they'll go to Rockport but be here occsionally. Visited with them and neighbors, and it was most enjoyable.
My finger sandwiches used most of the leftover bread in my freezer--a real bonus. Since I've been on Weight Watchers I haven't been eating bread. I made an ersatz pimiento cheese spread--it had smoky Gouda, smoky cheddar, sun-dried tomatoes (the kind in oil, drained and chopped) and paprika. I added a bit of cayenne which was just right.
A nice day.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Great news, a lazy day--and cooking

Last night I hinted at good news to come, but I was out of steam and my blog post was already long. Since then I've had several emails telling me I best blog tonight and share the news, so here it is: my mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space, will be represented by the Publish or Perish Literary Agency (coming from academia, I love the name!). The owner, Roger Williams, and I have had extensive email correspondence the last couple of days, and I will send a signed contract on Monday. I already feel that he's a good friend--he was a sales director at Bantam when my historical novel, Libbie, was published and remembers it well, says he sold thousands of copies. We know some publishing people in common, which helps. Thursday night I filled out the extensive online questionnaire which he asks for instead of a query; Friday morning my email brought an offer of representation. I was taken back by the speed (many of us spend years trying to get an agent and wait months for a reply to a query) but he said he recognized a professional he could work with (be still my heart!) and he loved the 60 pages I attached to the questionnaire. Now is that not a wonderful man? We've even gotten so far as to exchange pictures of our grandchildren. I have a good feeling about this and, as they say on Agent Quest (a subgroup of Sisters in Crime), I'm dancing, eating chocolate and drinking wine.
My horoscope today said I've been through a stressful period (not sure I realized that) and I should unwind this weekend. So I sort of did, but got up fairly early, aware that I wanted to go to the grocery store and cook. Also went to buy pansies for my planter boxes on the front porch but it was too wet and miserable to be out planting them today. Cooking went well up to a certain point--I made a cheese spread of cream cheese, smoky Gouda, smoky cheddar, paprika, drained chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, and mayo (and I added a bit of cayenne)--I'll make finger sandwiches of it to take to a neighbor's happy hour tomorrow. Then I made mini-muffins for my Christmas party--a sister from Agent Quest sent me a recipe that calls for one box Devils Food cake mix, 1 can pure pumpkin, and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips--okay, I added more than that. For muffins, you bake at 350 for 18 minutes; I baked the mini ones for 10 minutes, and the one I ate was delicious! Dense and chocolatey, and you postively cannot tell the pumpkin is in there. It's a Weight Watchers recipe.
But I always get in trouble when I try to do too much at once. While I was baking the muffins, I tried to boil prunes and apricots for prune bread to take to Charles. It was his late wife's special recipe, and he loves it. But I scorched the prunes! The kitchen still smells of them (I have to empty the garbage!). So tomorrow I have to go buy more apricots and prunes (they're not cheap) and start over again with more care. I decided I needed a long nap--and had one!
After last night's caloric splurge on chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, all smothered in cream gravy, I simply couldn't eat the half I brought home tonight. So I made tuna cakes and roasted some asparagus. Delicious and not too caloric.
Last night Christian and Jordan helped take down the Christmas decorations from the attic, so tonight I unpacked them all, made a list of what didn't get down, and began to think about it. Unpacking them about did me in, so I'll work on that tomorrow too.
Maybe it wasn't such a lazy day, but I feel a certain pressure is off because of Roger Williams and his agency! I know there's lots of work to come, but it's like someone else is driving the bus now, and I'm relieved.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trivial dumbness, a rant, and

My day started with trivial stupidity on my part and didn't get better until evening. For some unknown reason, I poured coffee grounds into the part of the one-cup coffee maker that holds the water. So I had to pour all that out, clean and rinse it, and start over again. Then putting away groceries, I started to put dog bones in the fridge and tuna in the cupboard where the treats are kept. Went by the office, only to get home and discover I'd left the two files I wanted to bring home, plus I'd forgotten to check my mail. So I asked Melinda if she'd run them out if I called when I got there and she willingly agreed. My phone was out of charge, so there I went into the office in clothes that are patched. Jacob would have said, "You have your jammies on?" It's two in the afternoon now and I hope things will improve.
My big rant for the day: I just learned that some conservative web sites are selling T-shirts that say "Pray for Obama" and then cite Psalms 109.8 which goes on to say "Let his days be few, and let another follow him into office." Are they talking about the days of his term or the days of his life? Seems like the latter, for the Biblical verse says, "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow." There's been a lot of sniping at Obama lately--for bowing to the Emperor of Japan, for lingering at the Great Wall of China, for visiting Dover--but such "prayers" are beyond crudity and should not be tolerated in a civilized country. I'm can't be sure what God those people are praying to--surely not the one I pray to--but I'm sure that God is saddened and discouraged. I think it's purely outrageous. And it worries me that some nut-job will decide it's his holy mission to take Obama out. That has worried friends of mine ever since he was elected. I wrote the other day about the decline in civility, but this is surely a new low. I can fathom really really disliking someone (I try to avoid the word hate), but I cannot ever imagine wishing for their death. What is this country coming to?
Lovely evening tonight--Jordan, Christian, Jacob, Susan and Jay and I went to the Star Cafe, where I used to run the cash register on Saturday nights and where my good friends Don and Betty Boles are the owners. We were treated like royalty, and Ireally blew my daily points, eating half a chicken fried steak serving and half of the mashed potatoes, with cream gravy of course. But it was oh so good. We laughed, played with Jacob--who had said he would not be shy and wasn't--and had a terrific time. When we came home, Christian and Jordan helped bring Christmas decorations down from the attic, and then Jay and Susan came back and we all sat around and watched Jacob. OK, what else do you do when a charming three-year-old has center stage? I'm a happy camper tonight--and I have good news to share tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Civility, editing,and where does time go?

Former Ambassador to Sweden and longtime Waco state representive Lyndon Olson spoke to a high-power audience of politicians recently, according to Texas columnist Dave McNeely, and to my mind the most telling thing he said was, "We live life in an era of rudeness." Olson recalled kindergarten report cards where you were graded on comportment as well as math and science and reading. There were places to check for "shows kindness toward others, respects rights of other, shows self-control" and, the most important of all, "Play well with others." We have today, according to Olson, forgotten those lessons. We live in an era that rewards incivility, crudeness and cynicism, and we have lost civil non-hostile discourse. I wish I could have a word-for-word transcript of the speech, for it really hits home. And it's a bipartisan problem, with both sides being guilty, though (okay I'm a confessed liberal) I think when Rush Limbaugh says he judges America's success by Obama's failure, he carries it to extreme. I enjoy rational, calm political discussion with those who disagree with me--but it doesn't happen very often. Sometimes the vehement disagrements are good-natured, but sometimes they're really hostile. And when I read in the media about accusations exchanged at the highest level of our government, I am appalled. I agree with Ambassador Olson: what happened to civility? To me, it suggests more anger in this country than is comfortable--but anger at what? Nobody seems to know; people are just angry. Olson blames the media, but I'm not sure that's the whole answer. Often when I read about today's politics I think of my father--a dedicated liberal but a man of fine British manners--who would be appalled at politics today. I'm glad he can't see it.
I've been re-reading my mystery,Skeleton in a Dead Space, which was rejected but for which I got a helpful critique. To me, the manuscript holds up well, and I found a few typos, a few minor places to change some things, and one major place to change a character's motivation. Tonight I made all those changes, and I'm ready to start querying again. But I'm also ready to update my web page, which hasn't been done in ages.
I wonder where time goes when you're retired. I ran into my former boss today at lunch, and he agreed that he had so much to do every day he didn't know where to begin. Jordan suggested last night, more in terms of budget than time, that I look at all my lunches and dinners out with friends, but isn't that what retirement is about? I do have a lot to do every day, and on a free day, what I call a floating day, when I don't have to hurry to be someplace in the morning, it's ten o'clock before I even think about washing my hair putting on make-up and getting dressed. Tomorrow I am going to the TCU retirees luncheon with Jean, so I'll have to move sharp to get my free writing and yoga done, plus read the paper, shower and get ready for the day. Retirement sure is tough.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Make My Day

It was a work day--morning staff meeting that lasted a little over 2-1/2 hours,then follow-up work at home this afternoon and just a bit of editing on my mystery. Jordan came to pick me up a little after five, and we went to get Jacob. I was taking the rest of the gorilla casserole to their house for supper, plus blue cheese for salad, and some wine for all of us. Jacob was obviously delighted to see me in the car and said, "Juju, you are my best friend!" Be still my heart!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Writing--and rewriting

It's wonderful to re-read something you've written and realize it doesn't sound like an idiot wrote it. I got a critique a couple of days ago on "The" mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space, the one that was rejected, and it had most helpful suggestions. As I go into another round of querying I think I can really make it a stronger novel. (Okay, I already got a rejection on a query I sent last week, but I am determined not to be discouraged.) So tonight, having cleared my desk of everything else, I started to read the manuscript again. I'd forgotten that I'd re-written the first line, which now delights me. Here it is, and I would love to know if you'd read a novel that began this way:
"I am passionate about a few things--my daughters, old houses, the neighborhood I live and work in, white wine and chocolate. But certainly not skeletons." Would you read on?
In going through the manuscript, I've found just a couple of typos in 40 pages and haven't yet come to the parts that need strengthening. But I'm having fun reading it, which I think is a good sign.
I rescued my Kindle today from Autobahn Volkswagen, where they were all very puzzled about what a Kindle is. The service advisor who handed it to me asked if it was one of those things where you keep your calendar, and I thought it's large for that when you can do that on your phone. I tried to show him, but it was out of battery--and I'm going to keep it that way because I do more work when it's not beckoning to me.
Nice day--ran errands this morning, then Jean and I went to see Charles in Trinity Terrace where he is temporarily living and getting his strength back before movig to assisted living in East Texas. We had a great visit, and both Jean and I found him cheerful, funny, and looking good. I had leftover gorilla casserole for supper and sent some home with Jean. Still a whole bunch to go, but it's pretty good.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Neighbors and other good things, like grandchildren

My neighbor, Susan, said to me tonight, "You're a good social engineer." I took it as a compliment and felt good about it, because my house was filled with happy people and lively discussion. We had a pot-luck supper--I supplied the entree (gorilla casserole--more about that in a minute) and others brought appetizer, salad, garlic bread, and dessert. Susan and Jay were here from the west side of my house, and Sue and her kids Hunter and Alex from the east side, Jamie and Greg from down the block (Greg keeps my lawn and yard in shape when it doesn't rain so much he can't work), Cathy from next to Sue brought an extravagant Italian cream cake (do NOT talk to me about Weight Watchers points today), and Weldon and Elizabeth were my surrogate children since Jordan and Christian elected not to join us. There was a really happy atmosphere (in spite of some political discussions) and everyone had a great time. I sat there and thought how wonderful it was to have my house filled with happy, interesting people.
But I have an entire 9x13 pan of gorilla casserole left--it has pasta, ground beef, tomato sauce, Italian seasonings, celery, onion, carrot (the last three get sort of lost in the mix), spinach, and Parmesan. Really good, but the recipe is right--you could feed twelve gorillas with it. I sent some home with Susan, and I'll hope JOrdan and Christian will come for dinner one night to help eat it. Then I can freeze single portion servings.
I did get some work done on my friend's manuscript today and am close to the end, finding much more than I expected after a first edit. But the other good thing about the day was Jacob--he slept until 8:15 this morning, but was in a sunny mood. We read and look at Bones for Barnum Brown, a dinosaur book that fascinates him. He sang and danced his way through the morning--with me trying to make my casserole--and kept calling me a "Mingo-head." His mom explained that he'd seen a flamingo at the zoo and there's a plastic one in the neighborhood. They left about 10:30, and I was sorry to see them go but I had lots of other things to do.
I'm really into a mood to get serious about my mysteries, so I'm in working mode.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

HIghs and Lows

This morning Sue drove me to Weatherford to do a half-hour radio program live on KXQY--if you knew in advance you could follow it on an internet connection, but I doubt few did that. But it was a high--I felt I did well, was casual, informative, talkative but not too much so. And I got in a plug for my blog. Sue, who sat and listened, said she thought it was fine. One of the things we talked about was improvising, cooking off the top of your head.
Well that was not exactly a low but not great either. Tonight I had a nice piece of wild-caught salmon, and I planned to follow a Rachel Ray thing I saw on TV--sauteed the salmon, though I didn't use the seafood seasoning she reccommended--just salt and pepper. She had covered her salmon with a green sauce but I didn't get the ingredients, so I made a sauce of cottage cheese, yogurt, one anchovy filet, basil, scallion, and just enough white wine to turn it liquid--good but not great. Then I topped it with a salad of cucumber, tomato, red onion, and shallot--no dressing. It was good. Just not one of my best. I accompanied it with tiny asparagus spears, just barely roasted. I offered one to Jacob but he said, "It's yucky." He's stuck on chicken nuggets.
Another high--I got a critique comment on my mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space, and it really made sense. I'll get a print-out of the mss. on Monday and dig in. I'm excited about it.
Of course Jacob is a high--he walked in the door saying, "Juju, I love you!" How can you beat that? We had a lovely evening, though he requires increasingly more attention, wants your every minute. I barely got dinner cooked, cleaned up, and some basiic table setting done for tomorrow night. I read two books to him, cuddled (his idea of cuddling is for you to lie there while he bounces around the bed playing with toys and occasionally bangs into you with an elbow, his head, or his foot--I am battered by a three-year-old!)
A big low: I left my Kindle in the loaner car I turned in to Volkswagen yesterday. After many calls, they found it, but by that time it was too late to go get it (I have no car seat for Jacob). I'll get it Monday, which is already shaping up to be a busy day.
Meantime, I'm going to try to finish going once more through my friend's manuscript and cook a casserole that will feed 12 gorillas.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cooking with what you have

Ever since I read Jam Today, about cooking with what you have, I've kept that thought in mind. So tonight, I pulled a delicious dinner out of my fridge. I've been enamored of the Pisces tuna Sue and I ordered, but it comes in 7-1/2 oz. cans, which makes too much for any one meal for me. One night I sauteed it in oil, added capers and anchovies and poured it over pasta; another night I added it to a tossed salad. But still almost half a can. So tonight I made tuna cakes, modeled pretty much on the way I've always made salmon croquettes but adding a bit of dill pickle relish (I'm not sure I even tasted it). But my leftover tuna made two good-sized cakes, so I enjoyed one thoroughly and saved the other for lunch tomorrow. I had a butternut squash that really should have been cooked before this,though it was fine. So I baked the halves with butter and sugar, scooped out the meat, mashed it all up with a bit more butter, and ate only a small portion. It's really low in Weight Watchers points and really high in fiber--so good for you. (Yes, I did count the butter and brown sugar). Then I had some good thin asparagus, so I roasted a few stalks of that. Voila! A meal fit for royalty. Tomorrow I must steam the rest of the asparagus every so slightly to keep it from spoiling.
Butternut squash reminds me to ask if everyone knows the trick for dealing with these hard-shelled critters. Slice around the middle--you won't get a deep cut at all, but at least break the skin. Then microwave for about three minutes. It will cut in half like a dream, and you can scoop the seeds out and get ready to bake. Also be sure to trim a bit off each base to give it something to sit evenly on in the pan.
As if that weren't enough, I made a cheese ball for my annual Christmas party and put it in the freezer. I am beginning to feel almost guilty referring people to Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books (well, not too guilty),but the recipe is in there in the first chapter. It's a mix of Velveeta (those who scorn it are missing a great cooking cheese), cream cheese and blue cheese, with pecans, parsley, onions, Worcestershire and horseradish (I put a bit more of the latter in than the recipe called for, but it tasted great). Truth is, I have tasted a bit of this and a bit of that all day long, so I probably should add 2 unspecified points to my daily count--but I used them on chocolate. Even tried some salami at the deli counter at Central Market this morning.
Now I have a sink of dishes waiting for me, but I decided it was time to sit down and rest my back. Lots of reading to do tonight. Don't think I'll make my goal of two more queries and doubt I will either Saturday or Sunday. Both promise to be full days (by the time I get my nap in!) But full days in a good way.
A friend emailed from Nebraska wanting reading suggetions, so I began with the Deborah Crombie novels, also suggested Julia Spencer-Fleming, and I have a whole long list of books by members of Sisters in Crime to send her.
The good news of the day is that I have my car back! They guarantee me it will work. I picked it up around 5:30, when it was dusk and a little chilly for top down. I'll try it Monday--probably won't drive anway until then. Sue is driving us to Weatherford in the morning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More on creativity

Elizabeth read my blog about creativity and send me a video clip by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. Speaking to a good-sized audience, Gilbert said the "freakish success" of her most recent book had caused others to regard her as doomed, because they doubted she could ever match the success of that book. At 30, with at least 40 productive years ahead of her as a writer, that's a pretty daunting thought. But it is, she seemed to say, part of the tension or anxiety of being creative. And then she discussed various theories of creativity through the ages--Greek and Roman eras when creativity did not reside in the soul but came as a message from an outside source. Hence the artist, writer, whatever, was not responsible--that outside source was. Today, if I was hearing Gilbert correctly, she believes that artists are indeed inspired by a muse or whatever you care to call it. We, as writers for instance, have to show up to do our daily work, but the muse has to contribute too. She cited the instance of a well-known song writer who had an inspiraton for a song as he was driving on a freeway--he looked up at the heavens and said, "Can you not see that I'm driving and can't do anything with this? Could you come back at a more convenient time?" And she had an imaginary conversation with a muse of her own, saying in effect, "I'm here, doing my part. I'm working, slaving away at the manuscript. I've shown up. Could you at least do the same?" An artistic creation, as I heard her words, is a collaboration between the artist and the muse.
It's a fascinating theory but not one new to me. Elmer Kelton talked about characters who took hold of stories, like a horse with a bit in its mouth, and took them places he never dreamed. And Dorothy Johnson (author of "A Man Called Horse," "The Hanging Tree," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,") once wrote me that she'd had a terrible shock: the man she thought was going to be the hero of her WWII novel about New York, "The Unbombed," (never published) was going to be killed in the war. I've even known that kind of insight myself, when suddenly I knew the main male character was going to ride off and leave the protagonist behind. It's almost a cliche for writers that your characters tell you where the story is going, but I did hear one rather successful novelist once say that's balderdash--they were his characters, he created them, and he was going to by damn tell them what to do. I felt sorry he didn't have a muse.
On a much more mundane note, Jeannie and I went to the church bazaar today. When I was a kid, I loved those Christmas bazaars, with pomander balls and all sorts of homemade items. Today was a disappointment--the bazaar has gotten increasingly sophisticated, and some of the vendors whose work we liked best weren't there, like the woman who had creative, instructional, hand-made toys for children. Or the scrapbook expert, though I'll never be into the current craze of scrapbooking. Jeannie, who's much more of a shopper than I am, breezed through quickly, and we left for lunch. She and my good friends Betty and Jean went shopping in Waxahachie earlier in the week, and I excused myself due to work obligations--Jeannie and Betty both told me they all talked about how I would have hated it, not being a shopper by nature.
Betty and I had dinner at Chadra tonight--I had a kids' portion of spaghetti marinara, which was still a lot, and a small salad. Came enough in under points I could eat a bit of choolate!
A pleasant day but like all those of this week, so crowded with things. I am busy all the time but Lord knows with what!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The contradictory dilemma of creativity

I've been thinking a lot about creativity, especially when I do my morning three pages of free writing (I do this as many mornings as I can, though I don't come anywhere near the seven days a week recommended in The Artist's Way. This writing is supposed to enhance your creativity, but how do you measure that? And if you measure it, aren't you applying the rules and forms that are the opposite of creativity? Similarly, retirement is supposed to be freeing my creativity to write the great American novel--or at least the great American mystery. But if I do as everyone says you should in retirement, move at my own pace, it takes me most of the morning to do my free writing, exercise, shower, answer emails, read the paper--I get precious little writing down. I admit that didn't worry me much as long as I was waiting for an answer, but now that I've had a rejection, I feel I need to move ahead (I did send out two queries today). Writing requires self-discipline (argh, so does dieting!). But aren't self-discipline and creativity polar opposites. I don't want to be one of those artists who creates larger-than-life canvases at three in the morning, but I would like to strike a happy balance.
I know that now, more than ever, I'm good at putting things between me and writing--manuscripts to read for TCU Press or other sources, social events, etc. This morning, while free writing, I had an epiphany of sorts (I used to have a friend who had an epiphany every day and the rest of us giggled about it). The things I put between me and writing bring me tangible results--sometimes money, often the company of good friends. So today I also finished a novel I'm reading for TCU and arranged a potluck get-together for ten or 12 neighbors for Sunday night.
I'll cook the entree, which is a funny story in itself. I'm doing a radio interview Saturday on a local station in a small town not far from here, and when the host got the review copy of Cooking My Way Through Life, she emailed that she was going to make gorilla casserole that night. I think it's really called meat and pasta casserole or something, but the last line of the recipe was "You could feed ten gorillas with it," so the kids and I always called it gorilla casserole. Next day, the radio host reported that it was yummy but even when she halved it, she had a lot left over. So that's what I'll make Sunday night--haven't made it in years.
And here I am back to food again. Last night I opened one of my special cans of Pisces tuna, fresh caught on the Oregon seacoast (no dolphins endangered), canned immediately, and only cooked once. I sauteed it in some olive oil with onions, a couple of anchovy filets, and some capers, and added it to a small amount of pasta. Really good, but I used less than half the can, so tonight I made a tossed salad with tuna (still have about 1/3 can left), leftover green beans that Jacob didn't want, some green peas from the bag I keep in the freezer, grape tomatoes halved, and a bit of lettuce--actually would have been better without the lettuce. Got to get over thinking lettuce is essential to a salad! I dressed this with a vinaigrette that had--you guessed it--some of that open can of anchovies in it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Weightwatchers, a map exhibit, and work

I don't know whether I'm frustrated with Weightwatchers or with myself--on my best days, I've lost 14 lbs. but lately my weight has crept up two or three lbs. I'm tired of being just slightly hungry a lot of the time and looking at things I like and thinking I can't have them, like cheese. This morning I had my first scrambled egg made with Eggbeaters--and guess what? I could really tell the difference! I'm content at home with cottage cheese but there are breakfast meetings, and I don't want to go and not eat--on the other hand, one egg over easy, one piece of wheat toast, and 1/2 tsp. butter add up those points. Most days I come in one or two points over my allotted 19 points, but I find if you use many of your bonus 35 points, you don't lose weight. My goal is about 3.5 lbs. below where I am now. Tonight I mixed a tiny bit of pasta with a tiny bit of water-packed tuna, a couple of anchovy filets, a few capers (no points) and some olive oil--and then I was hungry, so I ate some of Jacob's green beans (no points) and, still hungry, had a piece of raisin toast with butter for dessert. Still under points, but I forgot to count the olive oil.
Friday an exhibition called "Going to Texas: Five Centuries of Texas Maps," opens at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. The accompanying book, with the same title and published by TCU Press, has 63 color illustrations of the maps, along with several interpretive essays. The maps are fascinating. The early European conception of the American land is so distorted that you can hardly believe it, and some of the more modern maps, like one designed to sell land in the American West, will leave you laughing. Don't miss it--and buy the book for your libray.
A work day, as though I were still working. Went to that breakfast meeting, then to the office for staff meeting and spent the rest of the morning doing acquisitions work at the office. I joked that I'd spent more time there than I did when I was working. Came home and spent most of the afternoon reading a manuscript. Jacob was here tonight, and when he doesn't want me bothering him and wants to watch TV, he dismisses me with "Go read your papers!" But he likes me in the same room, reading my papers. Tonight, though, he tickled me. When his mom suggested he walk her to the door and tell her goodbye, he pushed at me and said, "Go walk Mama to the door." Bossy little creature!
Tomorrow, no matter what else doesn't get done, I'm going to send out some new queries about Skeleton in a Dead Space.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Book people

The Bookish Frogs, a community support group for TCU Press, gathered for a pot-luck happy hour tonight, celebrating the Texas Small Book series. It's truly a joy to spend time with people who love books and love talking about them. We had amazing appetizers, mingled, signed a few books--some authors signed several--and had a good time. My longtime friend, Margie West, and her husband, Jack, hosted the event at their house, which was appropriate since Margie designs all the small books--and they are works of art. They sell for $9.95, a pick-up price, and are 4-1/2 x 6-1/2, 96 pages, on all kinds of Texas subjects. Newest in the series is Melinda's book, Texas Wineries, and she signed quite a few. I have contributed two to the series: Great Texas Chefs and Extraordinary Texas Women. My favorite appetizer? Either the spanakopita or the hard boiled tea eggs--they were so gorgeous!
Spent some of the day working on where to submit my mystery. I've decided to go ahead and try to market the first book in the proposed series. At lunch today, Fred convinced me (I was already leaning that way) that it was too good to put aside, so I've been researching agents to submit it to. Fred suggested I set my sights a little higher, and I think he's right. I tend to think publication with a major house is beyond my reach, but I have to remind myself I'm a good writer with several awards to my credit. I can outdo some of the published books I read--so my sights now are not on small publishers but on an agent. I have to rewrite my query, but having been to the party, had a bit more wine than usual, and eaten sporadically, I think I'll just go back to reading the manuscript that has been submitted to TCU Press.
I did take my car in today, and I think the service department is embarrassed that in ten months and countless trips they haven't been able to fix my convertible top. Today I had five men taking care of my needs, and the service manager offered me a loaner, something that's never happened with my years of VW service. The service assistant assigned to me has called three times, the last time to say they had to order a part. Maybe it will get fixed this time. Meanwhile I'm driving a Jetta--the frame is much different than my bug convertible, and getting into the car at the dealership I banged my back hard--and most painfully--on the door frame. Getting out, I banged my head on the frame. I will be much more cautious now. The bug barely fits into my 1922 garage, so I haven't tried the Jetta--besides I left the automatic gate opener in my own car.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A good dinner and more about rejection

Katie Sherrod and Gayland Pool came for supper tonight--open-faced chickenburger sandwiches with basil mayonnaise and tomato slices, plus a green salad. Really good if I do say so, and nice presentation--I should have taken a picture. You make a basil mayonnaise with green onions, basil, and chopped cornichons, put some of it in the ground chicken and shape burgers. Grill the burgers, toast some good bread--I used sourdough--and slather it with the mayo, then top with tomato slice, two basil leaves for decoration, and the burger. Decorate with a dollop of mayo and some chopped basil. Good conversation--these are people I really enjoy, so it was a pleasant evening.
My thoughts naturally have been on rejection all day, but I've decided that it was the kick-in-the-pants I needed to get me to be serious about my writing. I've been putting too many things between me and writing--office work, manuscripts to edit, novels to read. Some of it I'll still do, because it's income. But I need to get a schedule of writing daily. Retirement is touch--free writing and exercise take up much of my mornings when I don't have to be somewhere. But I'll do it.
I have also reviewed the options on my writing--submit the first mystery elsewhere, work on the second mystery, shelve both of them and start something new. But I re-read the comments from a "blurb" class I took online and some were so enthusiastic and helpful about my blurb for the first novel that I've decided to submit the manuscript elsewhere. I did write the publisher who rejected it, but no reply so far. I think after ten months (to the day!) and a request to keep it longer (twice), I should get more than "I've decided to pass." So I'm hoping for a helpful critique.
Meantime, I have to decide where to send it next--at least five places. But tomorrow I have to take my car in, again!, to see if they can figure out why the top doesn't go all the way down. Lunch with Fred will be helpful, because we'll talk mysteries, and then tomorrow night is a Bookish Frogs happy hour featuring our Texas Small Books. I wrote two, but this event will mostly feature Melinda's new winery book. See why retirement is busy, and I can never put the world aside enough to write? It's a good thing/bad thing situation.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Rejection and the joy of cooking

Tonight, about five on a Saturday, Five Star Press, who has had the mystery that is the first in my projected series, decided to pass on it. Odd time of day and odd day for such a communication. They've had it, as an exclusive, for ten months, once asked for more time, and after a second query assured me that it was at the second tier (what does that mean?) and they'd get back to me in two weeks--that was about ten weeks ago. The rejection came without constructive comment, just "I've decided to pass," which is doubly frustrating. Tonight I don't know if I'm angry or just numb. Will have to decide what to do next but I sure don't have to decide that tonight. Still, I know it's unfair to have kept it that long as an exclusive, and I'll never again give an agent or a publishing house an unlimited exclusive (I'm learning from Sisters in Crime). I think a part of me always thought that getting a yes from them was a pipe dream, but a part of me still thinks the mystery will be published. Got to do some serious research now on publishers.
On the other hand, it was a good day because I spent much of it cooking. Jacob had spent the night, and his mom told me to have him ready at 8:15 because they were going to do a charity walk. Easier said than done, and when she rushed in here, late and impatient, both Jacob and I were taken aback--he fussed, wouldn't wear the pants she wanted, wouldn't wear the race T-shirt because it was too big for him. I kept quiet--no sense talking to that mood. But after they left I ran to the grocery and came home and cooked.
By noon I had made a huge batch of chocolate chip squares (like cookies only you do them in two 9x13 pans) for tree trimming, basil mayonnaise for tomorrow night's dinner, a squash casserole that I had a bit of tonight, and fromage fort--Jacques Pepin's recipe for using up leftover bits of cheese by making a spread, adding garlic, black pepper, and white wine. This evening, Sue came for a quick glass of wine, and then I began packaging the squares for freezing--almost as much trouble as making them. Had squash casserole, sauteed ground sirloin, and asparagus spears for dinner--who could ask for a better dinner? Though my back was tired, I felt sort of self-satisfied. When I cook these days, I find after an hour, I need five minutes in a chair, then I'm back in the kitchen.
My annual tree trimming party which this year is going to be a "Recession/Retirement/Belt Trimming" party--no Brie, no caviar, lots of Mexican dips, etc. Tomorrow I'll make sausage balls and bake them. My freezer is rapidly getting overcrowded.
Tonight I'll read a novel and cogitate on rejection. But I'm not as distressed as I thought I'd be.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fall colors, social networking, experiments gone wrong, and a three-year-old

I've never been to New England at all, let alone in the fall, which I understand is the time to go. But this year, fall in Texas is beautiful. The oak in my front yard is a lovely deep golden brown (already also all over my lawn) and it seems that overnight the crape myrtles on the driveway turned the most gorgeous brilliant orange/yellow. Of course, they too are shedding all over everywhere, and my driveway is a mine field of acorns from the oak that shades it. I take a stick with me to walk back to the garage just because I don't want to slip and slide on one. Greg, who takes such good care of my lawn and flower beds, assured me I'm heavier than an acorn, but that's not what matters--the little critters roll under your feet! Jeannie took a brutal fall on one recently, and I don't want to follow her.
I've spent much of the day again figuring out Twitter and as I do each day made a little progress. I do think this social networking is important to writers, and I intend to keep at it. But I can't figure out how to link my blog to Facebook to Twitter. I know others who have done it, so I'll keep asking and trying. The codes on Twitter puzzle me, but tonight I blocked a lot of people I never heard of who turned up on my page.
Spent most of the morning with TCU Press--breakfast with our dean, June, and Jack August, an author from Phoenix who has published with us and maintains a strong interest in the press. Then we all went to a meeting about a book which Jack brought to us and which he has co-authored. Susan and Melinda are both former Harcourt employees and the free lance editor on this project is also a Harcourt veteran--they have procedures and processes which puzzle me. I've always just kind of sat at my computer and put books together. I still insist that I could do it that way again, but Susan just looks at me with sort of pity. Anyway, I'm very glad I'm not responsible for this one--it has a really tight deadline that I'm not sure we can meet.
Tonight, Bob Ray Sanders, author of our new book Calvin Littlejohn: Portrait of a Community in Black and White, was on TV and I carefully watched the clock so I wouldn't miss the 15-minut segment. Jacob had been happily watching a Spiderman movie, and I'd peacefully watched "Washington Week," but just as Bob Ray came on, Jacob decided he had to potty and I had to be in the bathroom with him. So I kept running between kitchen and bathroom but got most of Bob Ray's segment, and he was, as always, exceptionally good. That book is one that I have wanted to publish for 20 years, so it's a fitting swansong for my publishing career. Now Jacob, at 10:20 has decided something in his room scares him--not at all like him. I went back for a second cuddle, and every time I tried to get up he batted my head back on the pillow. I finally left promising to come back in ten minutes--I may cheat a bit.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Big Bend National Park

I spent much of my day--probably only 2.5 hours if you really count--in Big Bend National Park, courtesy of a manuscript I'm reading. It's written by a teacher of young children at the San Vicente School District, and she really transports you to the land and makes you feel the friendship and closeness of the people who live in that isolated setting. Melinda loves Big Bend, so I emailed her she'd be jealous, and she asked if I was hiking. I said a bit, plus some bird watching, and she advised having a glass of wine on the porch of the hotel in Terlingua after hiking. Sounds good to me.
In real life, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook are taking an incredible amount of time, and I find it a dilemma. On the Agent Quest list I read that you must use these tools to promote your writing career. But, to me, they are left-brain, the opposite of creative, and they don't further creativity. In fact, they are among the things I put between me and writing or re-writing, which is what I should be doing now. The Big Bend manuscript falls into that category too, but at least I get paid for doing it. Plus I like it.
Had a nice lunch with Jeannie today and then we went shoe shopping--she came away with four (yes, four) pairs of black shoes, while I bought a pair of snow boots for our Christmas trip to Colorado--they're gray plaid and will match my long gray coat. I'm having doubts about my stability on snowy, icy streets in Breckenridge, but I guess I can hold on to my kids. Still seems a long time away to me, but it really isn't. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and this weekend I start cooking for my annual tree trim (no tree) party. Jordan says she's not coming if I don't do desserts.
Incredibly beautiful weather today, so I put the top down. After many many trips to VW service and a lot of money (which they eventually repaid), the top on my car still doesn't go all the way down. We went into lunch, and when we came back and I turned the motor on, I could put the top down--it has to sit like that. A royal pain! I'm taking it in again Monday.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

E-lists, mysteries, and foood, of course

I spent much of today improving my e-communication position. I've been reading on Sisters in Crime and the Guppie list how important Twitter is. I'd signed up some time ago but never did anything with it, because I simply didn't know what to do. The buzz on the Guppie list today was all about Twitter, so I signed up to follow some Guppies, and then, through the listserv, a bunch of them signed up to follow me. But when I checked my site, I found lots of postings from people I didn't know--only recognized one or two names. So it's a lot of stuff to wade through, time-consuming, and I don't know what for. But I did find some lists I want to follow, like agents and food and Guppies. I feel like I've just dipped my toe in the water, and I'm in awe of those who are proficient at it. Also I'm sort of hesitant to fill in that box that asks "What are you doing right now?" What am I doing that I want to share with the world? On a more practical note, I retrieved my user name and password for the Sisters in Crime Web page, which is full of helpful information. Browsed on it, so I'll know where to go for specific things. Finally, my brother sent me a link to a petition I want to sign--long story, but there is a move afoot to add an M.D. degree program to the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and like many loyal to the DO profession, I don't want to see that happen. John called with phone directions, but still all I got when I clicked on the link was the sales site for Go Daddy. So I finally emailed the state osteopathic organization and asked them to fax me the form. Whew! I'm about through with technology for the day.
I've been chewing on that bit of advice, found on Agent Quest, that your blog must reflect your focus on writing mysteries. No trivia about my hamster died, or my grandchild said this, because agents will decide you're not serious. Well, I do report on my grandchildren and my cooking, and if I had a hamster and it died, I'd blog about that. I don't know that I want an agent who expects my life to be so narrowly focused, and I'm not sure but what having such a rich and varied life doesn't help my mysteries. But I read the posts on Agent Quest and realize that most of those ladies--and a few gentlemen--spend a lot more time on their mysteries than I do. Yet I do feel I am a serious professional. So what's the answer? First of all, I don't think I could come up with serious, weighty comments about writing every day; second, I'm not about to give up grandchildren and food.
So here goes: I fixed Norwegian hamburgers tonight. Jordan was home sick all day but since she was fever-free she brought Jacob and Christian came straight from his office. Norwegian hamburgers are a recipe from Torhild Griesbach, Colin's mother-in-law who was raised in Norway. We all adore Torhild and her "meat patties" (I think that's what she calls them--Colin gave them the Norwegian hamburger name). The recipe is in Cooking My Way through Life, but basically it's lean hamburger, eggs, corn starch, pepper and enough milk to bind. You saute onions, then brown the patties in the same pan (having removed the onions). Here's the part that amazes me: you make 4-5 packets of instant beef gravy and then add the patties to simmer, along with the onions and 2 boullion cubes. You cannot tell me that 40-50 years ago in Norway they had instant gravy mix packets! Still it is delicious, and I could eat a whole pan by myself. As I was washing dishes and licking extra gravy off the spoon, it occurred to me those gravy packets probably have a whole lot of salt in them--and tomorrow is weigh day.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A food day

Today was not a writing day. I hit the floor running, for a 9 a.m. staff meeting--got to the office at 8:30 to clean up some odds and ends. Staff meeting lasted until 10:30 so I rushed home to greet an old friend who was to be here at 11 for lunch. We went to Ellerbe's, where I had a chopped salad with grilled chicken. Home to the computer to continue to catch up on things that got by me while I was in Austin and a few details from staff meeting. Then supper of tapas with Betty--fried smelt, bacon wrapped dates, tempura vegetables (too many pepper sticks!), and roasted steak fries. If my most serious goal is writing mysteries, food writing is not far behind. I did send off my January column to Parker County Today--on the soup pot. I swear my mom told me it's a French tradition, but I found nothing about that in researching the topic online. But it's simple--throw all your leftovers together and once a week make them into soup. Well, the column does go into a bit more detail, but that's the basic idea.
Tonight I hope to start rereading the manuscript of my second mystery, but I find it hard. Still waiting for an answer from the publisher who has the first manuscript in the proposed series, so it's hard to think about the second. And I do have some food matters to think about--a couple of magazines to get off my desk and at least one company meal to plan. Plus tomorrow night I am cooking Norwegian hamburgers for Jordan, Christian and Jacob--the recipe is in Cooking My Way through Life though I refuse to believe that Torhild, Colin's Norwegian mother-in-law, was raised to use packets of beef gravy mix in her cooking. Still, they are comfort food, and we all love them. I am absolutely a poor candidate for Weight Watchers--I like to cook and read about food too much!
Food days are, to me, good days--comforting, like some of the food I cook.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Weekend memories

This is five-year-old Sawyer riding his bike without training wheels. His parents took him to the track a couple of weeks ago, and Brandon held on to the seat until he got started, then let go--and Sawyer was off! Now he can start himself, and he rides around the quarter-mile track at a fast clip. We spent almost three hours at the middle school track near their home, and there were lots of parents trying to teach their children to ride--Sawyer was by far the youngest and the best (okay, I'm a grandmother, and I'm prejudiced--but he really was!). He fell once that I saw, but got up, righted his bike, aligned the pedals to where it was easiest for him to start and took off again. Brandon was running laps, and Sawyer was trying hard to lap him. Three-year-old Ford has training wheels and does very well but doesn't stay with it like Sawyer does. Our stay at the track was punctuated by Brandon's lengthy trip to the bike shop to get Sawyer's chain repaired and then a trip to the funkiest smoothie place I've ever been with the absolutely best smoothie I've ever hard--it had some kind of berries that were supposed to be anti-aging, but when Megan tasted it she said, "It has lots of raspberries. That's why you like it." And it was. Though I discovered smoothies aren't point-free for Weight Watchers--all that fruit turns to sugar. Upshot of our trip to the track was that I came away with a nice sunburn on my face, neck, and front and back left exposed by my v-neck shirt.
Sunday was a delightfully lazy day--breakfast at 10:30 (bacon and eggs--boy, did I blow the diet), then the track, then home to read and nap. Megan worked hard at fixing Tuscany chicken they'd had when they were in Italy recently--it was good but not quite what she wanted, and we discussed ways to improve on it. Lots of herbs--sage, oregano, rosemary and garlic, great bunches of them. I was sorry this morning that the boys had to go to school, the parents had to go to work, and I had to go home. I see these grandsons less than almost all of the other grandchildren, so it was a delight to spent time with them and get to know them. Ford, when urged to give me hugs, said, "One hug!" but he did give it. Sawyer is much more free with his hugs and the wettest kisses of any grandchild! I promised them we would all be together in Colorado at Christmas.
On the way down to Austin Friday, Melinda and I discovered Heritage Homestead, a community of what I suspect are Mennonites. They have a restaurant, gift shop, pottery shop, grist mill, and who knows what else. From the fresh flowers on the tables, I suspect someplace there's a wonderful garden. The landscape is tree-covered, with brushy-sided creeks, thick vegetation, and log fences. The building are rough-hewn logs, inside and out. And the food--the dining facilities are impeccably clean, and the food is delicious. We stopped there on the way to Austin and liked it so well, we stopped on the way back. It's a bit west of the Elm Mott exit on I-35. What we commented on today was how serene the people looked--the women in the restaurant were modestly dressed (but not the funky dresses of the El Dorado people), with hair pulled back into buns. But they were all so quietly happy and genuinely welcoming. It was just a great place.
I've been reading on the Sisters in Crime blog that if you're submitting to agents it's important to have a blog, but it's also important to make it serious, about writing, no talk about your grandchildren, cooking--all the things that make up my blog. Yes thank you, I am serious about writing, but I am also serious about a lot of other aspects of my life--and grandchildren and cooking rank high on that list. If an editor or agent is going to reject my work on the basis of the content of my blog, so be it.
Still rehashing memories of the Texas Book Festival--people seen, comments heard on the future of publishing, interest shown in various books. It's a great learning experience about books, and with 35,000 people attending, it's a sure sign that the future of the book is secure. Phooey on all those who predict the book as we know it will be obsolete and print-to-order is the future of publishing. I don't believe it. Somehow the festival restores my faith in the career I devoted much of my life too.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Texas Book Festival

Spent all day yesterday at the book festival. Wanted a picture in me of my toque because I was hawking Cooking My Way Through Life, but I didn't sell a one, although some sold when I left the A&M tent to go to programs. But sales of books are the least of the festival. I saw old friends--had a wonderful catch-up visit with Jean Flynn, chatted with James Magnuson and Charles Rodenberger, met Sylvia Dickey-Smith with whom I'd been corresponding about a manuscript. TCU Press sold lots of Elmer Kelton novels--his unexpected death in August accelerated interest, I think, though I'd sure rather have him back in person. We had two featured authors, and Melinda, her friend KK, and I went to both sessions, chauffered between the sites in a golf cart! Made us feel like celebrities. Bob Ray Sanders talked about the Calvin Littlejohn book at the Austin Museum of Art and Marcia Daudistel talked about Literary El Paso at the Capitol extension. Their sessions overlapped, so we left one early and came late to the other, but heard the work of TCU Press generously praised at both. Our authors did us proud too. But it's always a long day, and, even though I sat at a signing table most of the morning, my feet were tired last night.
I am staying with Megan and her family, and 5-year-old Sawyer has been talking to me about "book people." He asked if I had to "go to work" today since Halloween is over.I guess Halloween and book festival are forever linkede in his mind.
Apparently an executive from Random House spoke yesterday (I heard this third-hand) predicting that in the future pubishing will be all print-to-order, so that you go into a store, ask for a book, and it's printed for you or, worse, you order it at home and print or download it. What happened to browsing? And the beauty of a well made book with good paper and great design? TCU Press has many older titles in a PTO program and we plan to do the first run of two reprints that way in the spring, but I am uncertain about initial runs of new books. I'm just not sure from a marketing standpoint. I think and hope the speaker from Random House was mistaken, especially since Calvin Littlejohn: Portrait of a Community in Black and White is one of the most beautiful photography books we've ever done--and one of the most interesting. It would never be the same PTO. Today I am not going to be one of the "book people"--I'm going to watch my grandsons ride their bikes and, as Sawyer asked, "do fun things" with them.