Monday, October 31, 2011

A happy halloween to all

Since I no longer have kids at home--haven't for almost twenty years--I've let Halloween go. It's not much fun to do by yourself--or that's my excuse. Some years when the Frisco girls were young I went there to see them in their costumes; some years I've turned out all the lights and hibernated; for a few years the Texas Book Festival was on Halloween, and I was in Austin. We had a wonderful time--Melinda, KK, and I gave out treats in Megan's  yard while she and B took the boys down the street. But the last couple of years, I have a new tradition, thanks to my good neighbors, Susan and Jay. They enjoy Halloween--Jay particularly likes greeting each child, commenting on his or her costume, joking with the parents. He sits on their front steps with an enormous bowl of candy at his feet and doles it out. Susan has made delicious stew both years, so I simply put the dogs up, turn out all my lights, and go next door.
Kids come to our neighborhood by the thousands (almost literally)--the sidewalks are crowded, the streets are full of parked cars and some cruising slowly. Even after dark, the steady parade continues. I saw the biggest van I've ever seen across the street tonight. It's not a particularly rich neighborhood but as Jay says it's "Halloween friendly": the houses are close together and not set too far back from the street, and the residents (except me) open up their hearts, buy tons of candy, and turn on their lights. All of the children and their parents who came up the walk tonight were exceedingly polite, full of "thank you" and "Happy Halloween." At least half the parents were in costume, and some came carrying babes in arms sound asleep--hmmm, wonder who would eat that candy? I hope not the baby. In all the constant two-hour stream, we saw only one neighbor.
At eight o 'clock, Jay and Susan ran out of candy and turned out the lights. Jay walked me home since my house was so dark. But I am grateful to them for sharing the evening with me--it's not much fun to hide in your house with the lights out. And I'm grateful for the stew--I'd been wondering what to have for supper and was definitely in need of comfort food. Susan sent a goodly serving of it home with me for supper tomorrow night.
Other than that, it was a busy day--an appoinmtment with the audiologist at 8:15. Note to self: do not make such early appointments again. Quick run to the grocery and to drop off some books; then the podiatrist and on to the pet store, where I bought the rapidly growing Miss Sophie a larger crate, this time one of the open ones. I had thought I'd have to call Jay and ask him to get it out of the car and assemble it--but I did it all myself. Quite proud, if I do say so. But it was the easiest assembly I've ever seen. Sophie went in it for the first time readily and seems to like it. I think she likes seeing the world, and now I can drop treats to her through the top. It actually will be easier to travel with than the other one. This one collapses neatly, and Sophie now rides in the car with a harness attached to a seat belt.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Things I've Lost

That title to this post might make you think I'm going to write about lost people, relationships, etc. Nothing so deep and dark. I'm talking about actual things. This morning I decided to wear my favorite soft gray short-sleeved shirt over jeans and under a bright pink fleece jacket. I haven't worn that shirt in a while, and do you think I could find it? I went through the closet three times, hanger by hanger, and I have no idea where it is. I tell myself it will show up, but I'd rather have it now than later. Last fall, when it was time for sweats, I looked for my standby gray flannel hooded jacked, with accents of dark stitching, that Jamie and Mel gave me--it was great to throw on over a T-shirt and flannel pants and stay warm while I worked at home. Sometimes I even ventured out of the house in it. But it has disappeared. I have a sneaky feeling that if I emptied the closet where it should be--hanging above a collection of odd blankets used when there's a full house--I might find it. Or have I done that?
When Jacob was a toddler, my hishi (New Mexico fetish images) necklace went missing. Jordan was convinced Jacob had seen it on the dresser, picked it up and threw it in the recycleable bin. After a party Christian kindly emptied that bin but without looking at the contents--who would? I was sure it was still in the house, and periodically I looked for it. One day I found it--way up under my bead. In the meantime, I'd acquired two more hishi strands, so now I had three and  they looked great together. As of the last month, I can't find them.
Then there was the time I washed four pillowcases and pulled three out of the dryer. Checked the washer, the dryer, the spaces in between--nada. Friends of mine announced that it is impossible to simply lose a pillow case, and they came to investigate--and went away baffled. To this day they occasionally ask me about that pillow case, but it's been a couple of years now, and it still hasn't turned up. I've bought new linen.
Yesterday I went out to the guest apartment to begin to prepare for kids next weekend and "real" company the following. When I bought the blasted doublebunk beds, I bought really neat sheets and comforters for them--blue checked sheets, blue and yellow plaid comforters and shams. Now there is only one comforter. Colin and his family are the most frequent occupants of the apartment, and he assures me the comforter is out there. I looked again today--closet, under beds, under the futon pad--no comforter.
So here's what I'm missing that I'm upset about: one gray shirt, my hishi necklaces, my gray flannel jacket, and one comforter. It's not that they're things that would someone would filch--besides, I don't have that kind of friends. And they're not things that would interest Jacob, even if he was guilty at two of taking the hishi, and we don't know that. They're just random, unexplained, unexplainable disappearances. Worse than losing a sock in the dryer.
Elizabeth and Weldon maybe you better come back--I'll cook. Anyone out there psychic? I'll offer a dinner to anyone who finds any or all of these things.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rangers Fever

Facebook was lots of fun this morning, in spite of the gloom of the Rangers' loss last night. Message aftr message traced the emotions of the evening, although in backward order because you read the newest first. So in reading them it went from disappointment and despair to unbelieveable tension to early elation when we we're winning. Some had really clever comments and others a baseball lingo I apparently don't understand.
I've never been much of a sports fan, though I like baseball better than football because I can follow the game and tell what's happening. For too much of football, all the players pile on each other, and I have no idea what just went on. Basketball is in the middle for me--fast and exciting, and I can usually tell what's going on. But I've never been one to change my schedule for a game or sit and watch with nothing else to do.
I grew up in the era when the World Series, not the Superbowl, was "the" sports events, and I can remember kids sneaking small portable radios into grade school during the Series. Although I lived on Chicago's South Side, I was never a White Sox fan but always for the Cubs--since they never won, maybe it has something to do with the underdog. I really think it was because the kids next door were Cubs fans--and I doubt they had any more reason than I did.
For years in Fort Worth I went to TCU football games dutifully--they always lost, though we heard much about the glory days of Slingin' Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien. These days I'm mildly happy if TCU wins, not at all interested in which conference they're in--doesn't make sense to me--but I'm always a bit resentful of all the money poured into sports programs while TCU Press had to squeak by on used furniture and out-of-date computers. My ears are deaf to arguments that football makes money--that shouldn't be the point in a university.
Anyway, rant over and back to baseball. Last Sunday night Megan and Brandon were watching the game, so I thought I'd be sociable and take my book in by the TV--I often stay with my book at the big granite slab in the middle of their kitchen but not this night. I'd read and glance at the TV, but the more I watched Derek Holland, the more often I put the book down and watched the game. I was mesmerized by the concentration, the pressure, the decisions that they had to make. When the manager finally went in to take him out, I could see Holland begging to stay in--and I wish he had, so he could have gotten closer credit. But that night, baseball and the Rangers began to mean more to me. I've watched off and on this week--one eye on the game and one eye on something else. Last night I went to sleep in the 8th, sure we'd won. What a shock the headlines were this morning.
So tonight, I'll mute it, try to write, and keep an eye on that little box in the upper lefthand corner. Trouble is--I have to get up and walk to the TV to see what it says!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My theory about getting going

Cold, rainy day, a head cold, and muddy dogs--not a pretty picture. But I proved one of my own theories--when you get up and get going,  you feel better. People used to tease me that I made my children go to school with a 105 temperature--not quite true, but they really had to prove they were sick. Jamie was given to dizzy spells (undiagnosed to this day but almost gone), and I clearly remember one day when he was about seven. He told me he couldn't go to school--he was too dizzy. I said, "Nonsense. Of course you can go to school," and stood him up in front of me. When I let go, he collapsed like a puddle at my feet. Poor baby--I'd say I feel guilty in retrospect but he'd capitalize on that.
I didn't feel up to par Tuesday but felt fine yesterday--because I had to be up and going. An early dental appointment (that had to be rescheduled when I got there), a luncheon where three of us spoke on Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook, and dinner out with Betty at Pappadeaux, long a favorite. But today I didn't have anything on my calendar until time to pick up Jacob--and I began a real downhill slide. Jeannie called to see if I wanted to go to lunch, and I offered a pitiful, "No, thanks. I want a long nap before school gets out." Got the nap, thought I felt better, but sank again as the afternoon wore on. Supper at the Grill with Linda--meatloaf, my favorite--and I barely ate half of it and brought the rest home for tomorrow..
But then my class arrived. I got engaged in their papers and conversation and forgot to feel sorry for myself. Still, I"m going to bed early tonight.
Part of my disaster today: I went out to check the apartment, since the Hudgeonses will be here a week from tomorrow and my good friend Barbara the weekend after that. Found one set of clean sheets, tried to put them on the main bed and realized I was trying to put standard sheets on a queen bed. So then I put them on the bottom bunk--if I ever buy double bed bunk beds again, just shoot me. Took me a good 20 minutes to make that bed. Then I noticed that though the kids had dutifully left the refrigerator door open, they hadn't uplugged it--huge iceball on the freezer compartment. I've been defrosting it and running out to check all day. Think the wood floors will escape undamaged. I had a pristine, unused cat box that just fit into that apartment-size fridge. And in sorting bed clothes, I discovered I'm missing one of the matching comforters I bought for the bunk beds--how does one lose a comforter?
In spite of all I wrote 1500 words today--maybe not golden, but 1500 words. They say persistence is the most important attribute for a writer. My goal is 1500 words a day--but I really missed some with the Austin trip. Going to get after is this weekend--and one day this week I think I did 2500.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Texas Book Festival

With Melinda in the "living room" of the TCU Press booth
Estimates are that 35,000 people attended last weekend's Texas Book Festival, and I think every one of them walked by the TCU Press booth, with a goodly number stopping to browse and buy. Melinda and KK had set up a "living room" in the doorway by our booth (note the trees in the background)--folding chairs and a small coffee table. There was usually a good breeze, whereas some of the tents got crowded, hot and stifling. The living room was a perfect place for people watching, and people we didn't know sometimes sat down to rest. Melinda says she spent a long time one day watching the boots go by (make a line from a song go through your mind?). I sat there a lot because it gave me a great view of the crowd, and I spotted friends I hadn't seen for a while.
The festival offers all kinds of activities--panels, readings, talks. But I usually stay around the booth and visit with people. Seeing friends is the big draw for me. This time I met for the first an author I've corresponded with for several years--a special treat. I did sign books at the Texas A&M signing tables--our booth is part of the larger A&M tent--and I sat at the Texas Institute of Letters booth for an hour. Actually sold one copy of Skeleton to an old friend. All in all I sold seven copies this weekend and gave one to Megan and Brandon--thought I'd already done that. Brandon is offended because there are characters named after several members of the family but no Brandon! But I digress. I also signed several copies of Elmer Kelton: Memories and Essays, our tribute to the late great Texas author.
The festival began in 1998, with Laura Bush as the prime mover behind it. Now in its twelfth year, it is one of the largest and best book festivals in the country. In its first years, I thought  it should be all about Texas books and authors, because that was always my focus at TCU Press. Instead, the festival has grown steadily by featuring nationally prominent authors. Maybe the idea is more to show that Texans are readers than writers. This year, Paula Deen was a big draw. I don't mind that I didn't hear her--I watch her on TV a lot--but one of the TCU Press interns bought a copy of her new book. I leafed through it and instantly wanted a copy--will put it on my wish list. I usually don't buy books at the festival--if I allowed myself to do that, I'd end up broke.
Another digression: family friend Ralph Lauer took the smashing photographs in a new Louis Lambert/June Naylor cookbook: Big Ranch, Big City. Scrumptious recipes--I gave it to Megan for her birthday and spent some time this weekend browsing through it.
The Texas Book Festival is the one professional event I still attend in retirement, and I look forward to the 2012 festival.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oh what a beautiful weekend!

Yes, the play on the song from Oklahoma! is deliberate. I have just had the most wonderful weekend. I went with Melinda, TCU Press production manager and my good friend, to Austin for the Texas Book Festival. My weekend was divided between family and the festival, so tonight's post is about family. Tomorrow I'll talk about the festival.
The last few years Melinda and I have developed a routine for our annual trip to Austin. We leave about ten, stop for lunch--for a couple of years we stopped at West and went into the authentic Czech restaurants in town, but now our destination is Heritage Homestead, a 500-acre community on the Brazos, outside the town of Elm Mott, where people have chosen to return to the earlier days of craftsmanship. They create pottery, wooden objects from furniture to cutting boards and canes, homemade soaps, weavings, all sorts of things. You can visit their gift shop or tour the actual workshops. For us, the destination is the cafe--homemade food, including wonderful bread. The members of the community all dress simply, no make-up for the women, plain hairstyles pulled away from their faces and caught in a chignon or braid. But they are most gracious and welcoming. After lunch, we browse the shop and then head for Austin, where we pick up Melinda's good friend KK (by now my friend too) and head for Z Tejas for happy hour. This year author Marcia Daudistel and her sisters met us, plus Dan, TCU Press director, and my kids, Megan and Brandon. The group split up--Melinda, KK, and Dan went to set up the display, and I went home with Megan and Brandon to greet my grandsons Sawyer (7) and Ford (turned 5 today).
They took me to Vespaio, an upscale Italian restaurant that is my absolute favorite in Austin. The last time I was there they took me to tell me they were expecting Sawyer, so it's been a long time, and I have longed to go back. I feasted on white anchovies and veal-filled ravioli. Brandon ordered the mixed grill and gave me one of his marrow bones--generous beyond belief, but I was grateful. Haven't had marrow in a long time and love it. The boys really behaved well--it was a noisy restaurant--and the evening will remain a remarkable memory.
Halloween birthday party: Sawyer is the one in the tri-cornered hat and red coat--he was a Revolutionary general though in spite of the red coat he insisted he was on the American side. Ford was a ninja turtle but he's barely visible--and don't miss the spider pinata.
I spent some of the next day at the book festival, but Ford's b'day party was in the afternoon--twelve or so kids in costume whacking away at a spider pinata and sitting spellbound for a magician, then eating pizza and the richest chocolate cake I've had in eons.
Sunday was a lazy day--I slept until 8:30! Unheard of! Megan fixed a late breakfast, and then I was off to the festival for a couple of hours. Came back about two, napped, we went to Central Market and then I fixed oven-fried potatoes topped by cod fillets--thanks to Krista Davis for the recipe. I haven't watched a baseball game in forever, but I was being sociable and reading while the grownups watched the game. I got hooked, mostly by the intense concentration of the players and the pressure they were under. Like the rest of the nation I watched Hollander pitch with awe and was sorry they pulled him for the last inning--I can see why, but I also saw him beg the manager to let him stay in. Even so, what a coup for a 25-year-old, so yes now I'm watching again tonight.
Melinda and I usually have breakfast with an old friend on Monday before heading home but Melinda was running late, we got lost, and by the time we got there, she had left. I'm hoping for a Christmas visit. Meantime we had a good breakfast--I ate maybe 2/3 of a baked potato omelet, sinful! And then we were on our way. Home by one o'clock and glad to be here.
But I have a weekend of memories.

Sophie spent the weekend with Jacob and Jordan, and I'm afraid she's spoiled rotten, but they all had a good time. Jordan said to me today, "Sweet baby is a lot of work!" Amen! I have titled the first photo "Spoiled rotten"--Sophie is soon going to be way too big to be a lap dog!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A long lazy day--not!

For the first time all week, today I didn't feel rushed. Went about my morning routine, went to the grocery and hardware and was home by 9:30. The whole day stretched before me, and I intended to get some writing done. But first there was a kitchen laundry to do--I do napkins dishrags, kitchen towels, etc. in a separate load, an inheritance from my father's strict sanitation rules. And then there were some other things to do--and it was eleven when I got back to my computer. I bought some really good egg salad at the store and anticipated a light lunch of egg salad, hummus, and sliced cucumber.
All my plans went out the window when I looked at my computer and noticed that the next thing on my calendar was a lunch a week from today--a whole week empty? Surely not, much as I would like it. A second look showed me that the luncheon was today in forty-five minutes. I made it, with barely time to spare. It was the Friends of the Library past presidents luncheon, and I am included as sort of an honorary gesture, which I much appreciate. Saw people I don't see often enough, heard interesting reports from the dean of the library (once my boss)--she is really thinking outside the box and coming up with creative ideas for marketing--and I ate enough for two people. So good. As I was leaving, the dean (June Koelker) called me back. She and a board member wanted to know more about my new book, and pretty soon I was giving a pitch to a room of 35 people! I was already glad I went to the luncheon but that doubled my pleasure.
Hurried home for a quick nap--there went the long leisurely nap I'd antcipated--and then went to get Jacob, who announced he had a party at Legoland this evening. "Who's giving the party?"
"I am."
"Did you discuss it with Mommy?"
"Yes. She said, 'No, no, no.' So see, we discussed it." He was adamant and quite crushed when she arrived and put the damper on things, plus did not approve of the way he'd done his homework. He dashes through it--"Draw a banana like the one in the picture, Jacob"--he drew a straight  line and said, "I don't know how to draw a banana." Poor kid was so downcast when he left it wore me out all over again and I took a second, unheard-of nap.Got up in time to eat meatloaf and spinach with Linda before class.
As always, memoir class was stimulating. Class members are branching out into fiction, and one gave a thorough report on the historical incident behind the novel she plans to write. Another recalled four incidents from her young  years that indicated inappropriate behavior on the part of men, though she was too naive at the time to recognize it. And a third, our queen of short fiction, created a short story about a woman who was convinced David Koresh, having survived Waco, lived in the apartment below her. This woman has a gift for creating eccentric narrators and for reading her fiction aloud, so we ended the evening with lots of laughter.
But my lazy day wasn't.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tired all day

So didn't want to do my yoga today. Every muscle, particularly in my back, felt stiff and my right hip hurt. I wondered if that was from being beaten during the night by the arms and feet of a five-year-old ton of bricks who migrates toward you in his sleep. Once when I turned him over  he nearly fell out of bed, and I had to grab him. Needless to say, my sleep was intermittent and not very satisfying. I sat at my computer about 8:45 and thought, "I could so go to sleep right now." But I had way too much to do--household chores galore and email to check and some writing I wanted to at least get started on--I bet I wrote three sentences before it was time to run to the grocery store for coffee--uncharacteristically I was completely out, not enoiugh to make one more cup) and then to pick a friend up for lunch. Got a brief nap and could feel myself ready to fall into a deep sleep when it was time to pick up Jacob. Yawned my way across the street to the school.
Jacob wants to badly to help me train Sophie, so today when we practiced walking on the leash without pulling, I let him try it and he did a darn good job. Also at one point when I was holding her and she snuck behind me, he saved me from going down. I teetered and felt that old panic that blanks out logical thought like get rid of the leash. I called out to him to hold on to me, and he was right there with both hands. So proud of him. We train in the driveway in a part made secure by the gate, so I feel safe that she won't get away if either one of us loses control.
Tonight Betty and I tried out a reincarnation of an old neighborhood Mexican restaurant--food was excellent, though the interior looks as it always had. When I mentioned to Betty I didn't much like the ambiance, she said it was because there was none. Still we shared outstanding guacamole and tilapia puffy tacos. BYOB so Betty hoofed it to the liquor store for a bottle of wine. All in all, we had fun and a good meal.
Kids, friends, and dogs fill my days in such pleasant ways, but I am not forgetting my work. I've kept up with emails today, explored a bit more trying to learn to navigate the Goodreads site, and am about to write what I'm about to make my requisite thousand words for the day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What haven't you done?

I've lost three friends lately, although only one of them was close--a woman a bit older than me who has befriended me for years. I liked and admired her and looked forward to our visits--she was always upbeat and fun to be with. We cared about each other's families and compared notes, shared memories of the good old days. Then there was the husband of my high school best friend--I knew him of course. We'd had good visits, most recently when they were here two or three years ago for a weekend. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, active in his community and his church, devout. We differed politically but that's minor, and I was fond of him--above all because my friend loved him and he made her happy. Then there's a man who I may not have seen even in passing in ten years but when our children were little, his then-family and my then-family were close--makes me think how people and family situations change. This man was exactly my age. So each of these losses hit me in a different way but each had its impact. I said sort of idly last night that it's hard when your contemporaries die, and my neighbor looked at me and asked,
"If you didn't wake up tomorrow, what would you have not done that you want to do?" He went on to point out that I've raised beautiful children, I have wonderful grandchildren, I've had a good career, I've finally written the mystery that I wanted to--I could have added and I've been to Scotland. That was a biggie for me.
Those of you who read this blog frequently know that I often end a post with "Life is sweet." I told Jay last night that's why I want to wake up in the morning. Religious theory about the afterlife aside, I'm probably happier with my life now than I ever have been. I want to eat right, exercise, do all those things so I can keep enjoying this good life.
No, there's not much in my life that I really wanted to do and haven't yet done--but that doesn't feel like an ending. It feels like a beginning, because I always find new things I want to do, accomplish, new plans to make, family visits to anticipate, a new book to write. No regrets but I'm sure not ready to get off the merryground.
How about you? Is there something  you'd regret not having done?
Thunder is rolling outside, and Jacob claims he can't sleep because there's a tornado outside his window. He's in my bed now, but still bright-eyed. I have given up the idea of constructive writing for the night. Even so, life is sweet--just extra busy this week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Computers, puppies, manuscripts and food--a mixed-up day

There's not much worse in a writer's day than to turn on your computer in the morning and it doesn't start. This morning mine had a blue-and-white screen that said something about security open. It had options, but when I hit the tab key, it simply went from the date to something incomprehensible and back again. I tried ctrl/alt/delete, I turned it off, I unplugged it--nothing worked. I was stuck, so I did what all great thinkers do: I went to the bathroom. And there of course it hit me that I should stop trying to fix it with my remote keyboard and use the keyboard on the laptop. Worked like a charm, and pretty soon I had exited whatever that was (probably crucial to the life of my computer but I surely hope not) and had the screen with the picture of my happy family and all my icons. I was back in business and most grateful. Not only do I start my day with email and Facebook, but this was the day I'd targeted to start reading the work in progress, writing out that one plot thread, and evaluating others. What looked to be a day with alternative plans was now back on track.
In the late morning, Sophie and I went to our training class. A big part of training Sophie is to train me. Last night, after she'd just been out, she kept jumping on me, and I repeated "Off!" so many times I got tired of it. Suddenly, she was quiet, and I figured out why--she'd left a puddle. It was like she said to me, "Mom, I tried to tell you!" She did--but it was late, I'd just gotten home, I wanted to clear up the day, and she'd just been out. Tonight I'm paying better attention to her signals.
Today's lesson was about walking on a loose lead. Sophie and I flunked, at least in my mind. She wants to pull and go off in a thousand directions. I realize I haven't taken her out in the world enough, so she is eager for every new person, every new experience. But I'm afraid she'll pull me down. I vow we'll practice hard this week.
Jay and Susan are painting the back side of Jay's office (really their guest house) which means they're in my yard all day. Jay went to the deli and brought sandwiches--lox and cream cheese for me. I should have learned never to order it to go--they didn't toast the rye bread (I don't like bagels) and the lox for some unknown reason was cut up into tiny pieces. Go figure. Still tasted good, and I was grateful. We sat on the porch--perfect porch day.
My main project today is indeed re-reading my first draft, with Fred's suggesitons in mind. I've pretty much kept at it and am working on it tonight. Once into Kelly's neigborhood, the world of the Kelly O'Connnell mysteries, I get sort of wrapped up in it and going through the pages is fun. Trouble is that I know so well what I've written, I'm sure I miss things I want to correct. But I feel no sense of needing to hurry, so it's a nice leisurely day.
Cooking hint for the day: not many people like creamed tuna, but they might like mine. Since I rarely have milk on hand, I make a white sauce with white wine and add a dollop of low-fat mayonnaise for creaminess. A little salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme and a healthy addition of green peas--it's delicious.
Life is good.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Two very different books

Two books on my mind tonight. Late last night (too late) I finished Liz Lipperman's Liver Let Die. I'd call this first in a new series a "non-culinary" mystery. Jordan McAllister is stuck writing personals for a small-town newspaper and dreaming of a career as a big-time sports reporter when she is suddenly asked to take over the food column. Jordan knows how to fry bologna and that's about it--her cast iron skillet is literally unused, though she puts it to good use here. In one of the funniest scenes I've read in a long time, she is sent to review an upsccale steak restaurant. She confesses to the waiter that she doesn't much like red meat, so he suggests foie gras, convincing her that it's chicken. Confronted with the look and texture of foie gras, she desperateley stuffs it in a borrowed purse and escapes the restaurant. Her review includes more than  you want to know about force-feeding geese.
Jordan, like a babe in the wilderness, writes her column with the help of her assorted friends and neighbors, one of whom is an outstanding cook. Potato chip casserole becomes Budin de Papitas Frites con Pollo, and pork chop casserole is Cote de Porc a'la cocotte.
But murder is deadly serious, and the waiter who served her the foie gras turns up dead at the steps to Jordan's apartment. She's suspect #1, and her amateur attempts to find out who really killed J.T. and prove her innocence drag her deeper and deeper into something menacing that she doesn't understand at all. There's suspense aplenty before it all gets straightened out, and you'll have as hard a time as Jordan does figuring out who are the good guys and who aren't.
The other book is Lone Star Leaders: Power and Personality in the Texas Congressional Delegation, by James Riddlesperger and Anthony Champagne. The Bookish Frogs, a lay support group for TCU Press, had a potluck supper tonight. For a while, I thought we were going to have a dessert buffet but it turned out there were plenty of delicious appetizers and side dishes--from pulled pork sliders to spanikopita and mac and cheese. The desserts were plentiful and delicious, and the wine flowed. The best thing about those evenings is the interesting people who attend--had fun, for instance, chatting with a Facebook "friend" that I don't think I'd ever talked to before..
Lone Star Leaders was written by two political science profs, but it's not the dull scholarly book you might expect. Instead it's a coffee-table book full of anecdotes and enlivened by photographs and cartoons. Tony Champagne spoke tonight and was both funny and interesting, full of facts about the Texas Congressional Delegation that most of us didn't know, from stories about well-known legislators like LBJ, Sam Rayburn and John Nance Garner to some about lesser known legislators who have had a great impact on our daily lives. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop when he spoke--everyone was completely engaged. I"m looking forward to digging into the book.
Two good books--take your pick.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beta readers

This week I heard from my mentor--since he doesn't think of himself as a mentor, I think I should now call him my Beta reader. I was never sure about that term but I see it all over the writing lists, so I looked it up: a reader who readers with a "critical eye" with the aim of improving a work for a general audience. Well, my Beta reader, Fred, had several suggestions which kind of all boiled down to I have too many balls in the air in the current work in progress and should eliminate some. I know he's right about at least one plot thread and will eliminate it. Another one I must review. One I'm pretty sure I want to keep, and another solution he suggested I've already solved in a different way--though when I told him, Fred seemed to think that was a good idea. But the one I really should write out will wipe out everything I did yesterday morning, so it kind of set me back on my heels. I'm once again moving ahead  at a good clip, accumulating words toward that goal of a 70,000-word manuscript, so I was dismayed at the thought of writing out a good chunk of it. I tell myself, or try to, that it's quality not quantity that matters. The truth is my March 15 deadline is for a finished manuscript and this is a first draft, so if I stop moving ahead in word count and go back to rewrite and reconsider, it becomes part of the revision process which I will now do sooner rather than later.
But at the same time I found a promotional contest for a new culinary novel--well, really it's sort of a non-culinary mystery because the protagonist is a food critic who knows zilch about cooking or food. There are several steps to this contest: post on Twitter, post on Facebook, buy a copy and submit proof, and finally, write a review. The prize, though, is worth all those steps--fancy digital cooking equipment. So what the heck--I temporarily abandoned my own novel to read Liz Lipperman's Liver Let Die and I'm having fun with it. And I tell myself thoughts about my own novel are simmering on the back burner of my brain. I truly do believe that theory.
Tonight was memoir class, and we had a stimulating evening of some profoundly honest and moving pieces and then one hilarious one plus some really interesting discussions about why you write memoir--one class member says she writes with such honesty she can't share it with anyone outside the class. A new member who says she doesn't know what she wants to write doesn't want to do memoir because parts of her childhood were difficult, she's dealt with them, and doesn't want to relive them. So there was a chorus of suggestions of what she can write about. Another member advocated that everyone has a story to tell and those stories must be captured and preserved. Each person has to decide how to approach memoir, but it sure was an interesting discussion.
Enough complex thinking--I have to get back to reading that mystery.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A normal day?

I managed to write 3,000 words today--2,000 in the morning and another 1,000 in the evening. I have no idea how many words other authors accumulate in a day's time, but I was pretty darn proud of this. Whereas a week or so ago I was in the broken middle, I seem to have found a plot line to carry the story forward. I am actually full of ideas for tomorrow's writing, but  I think I'll quit for tonight. Running out of gas for one thing, and I want to start a cozy that I'm going to review in hopes of winning a contest--grand prize is some sort of digital fancy kitchen equipment that I probably don't undertand but it sounds wonderful. The book is Liz Lipperman's Liver Let Die about a non-cook who ends up being food critic for a small paper.She also ends up in the middle of a murder--my kind of book.
Not that I've cooked in the past two days. Yesterday I had lunch and dinner out but managed to eat modestly. Okay, I ate chopped liver for lunch--but only a small scoop and I didn't have it in a sandwich. Last night I had a salad. Today I ate all three meals out and once again really tried to be modest--one scrambled egg and a half piece of toast for breakfast, one brat, potato salad and kraut for lunch (doesn't sound like diet food, does it?) and half a serving of meatloaf, black-eyed peas and green beans for supper (the other half of the meatloaf is in the fridge calling my name for lunch soon). If my social life doesn't slow down, I will be a) late with my manuscript, and b) fat as a pig.
Tomorrow, I speak at a monthly book luncheon at TCU for staff and then will fix a chopped steak dish for the Burtons. But Thursday, aah, I get to eat the meatloaf for lunch and Linda will come for supper before the memoir class. I think she'll get creamed tuna, but shhh! don't tell her.
Right now the weather in North Texas is beautiful. Great top down days, and I love the freedom of driving with the wind blowing my hair in my eyes so I can't see--a visor cap helps with that. By 12:30, the sun was almost too hot to have the top down but I soldiered on. By the time I got Jacob, it was too hot for the shirt I'd started the day in. He managed to create a mud puddle in the back yard--the puppy, thinking she's a pig, wallowed in it. I have laid down the law about turning on the water. Hope it works.
Life is good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

speaking to book clubs

There's been a thread on the Guppies (Great Unpublished) list lately about the value of speaking to local book clubs. I'm all in favor of it. Granted the audience is small, but if they like you and your book, they'll spread the word. Tonight I spoke to the "Berkeley Babes," a neighborhood group with a name that some acknowledge as incongruous. One said to me, maybe it was appropriate years ago when the club was formed and the members were indeed "babes."
Tonight they met at a  local restaurant on the patio--a lovely evening and perfect setting. The friend who invited me said they made it a rule that visiting authors could not sell books, which was a bit of a disappointment, so I took bookmarks. Turns out I needn't have worried: all but one of the fourteen women present had read (and presumably purchased) my book, which made disicussion all the much easier. We drank wine, ate salads, and they munched on pizza, which I declined. Then I spoke about the book, finding that once I've done it, extemporaneous was easy for me. I had some notes that the dog chewed and I was going to take them as a joke, but forgot--and the gimmick wasn't needed. I talked about how I got the idea for the book, the publication process, agents, etc.--talked maybe for 15 minutes--and then opened it for questions. They had lots of them, and there was lively discussion for at least thirty, maybe forty-five minutes. At the end, I had one prospective sale (she'd been traveling and hadn't read the book) and ten new friends (four of those present are in my writing class, and I may have picked up some intrest in that). But those ten new friends will, I hope, tell their friends about the mystery they read and the author who spoke to them.
I have three more book clubs and a university employees book group coming up shortly, with the probability of at least one more book club. . Small audiences, but worth the time. And good practice in speaking to promote my book. Word may spread from those and garner me more invitations. Lots better than sitting at a table in a bookstore watching people walk by and avoid looking at me--though I may do some of that too.
I always remember Jane Roberts Wood's Train to Estelline. Jane made it a hit by talking to every small group she could find. I think she's a good role model. If you really want to promote your book, no group is too small, no effort not worth making--with a smile.
A note of confusion: last night's post about Spam was meant to go on Potluck with Judy. I get mixed up easily between the two, and it ended on Judy's Stew. So I hope you enjoyed it. Yay, Spam!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Spam stix--no kidding

The Texas State Fair is here, along with its weird deep-fried foods. Every year contestants try to outdo previous years—like this year fried bubble gum is edging out fried butter. One of the lesser known contests is for Spam recipes, but my friend Weldon Adams submitted his fried Spam stix—and didn’t win. Still, his wife, Beth, insists that they are “embarrassingly good.” We had them for dinner tonight. I found them like crunchy fish sticks, delicious dipped in ketchup. I was only cautious because the fat content in traditional Spam is pretty high. Christian, my fussy son-in-law, ate two helpings plus what was on his son’s plate, and ignored the back-up hamburger I’d gotten him. We thought Jacob would like them but he didn’t (ate a ton of purple-hulled peas with ketchup).

For those that might not know Spam is a canned lunch meat made of ham, pork, sugar, salt, water, starch, and sodium nitrite. Since it was introduced in 1937 over six billion cans have been sold worldwide. It was introduced primarily for the armed forces because, with all that sodium, it keeps well. They used so much of it at Pearl Harbor that Hawaii became sort of Spam Central, and the international recipe competition is held there to this day.

When I was a kid, Spam sandwiches were made much like ham sandwiches with lettuce and mayo or mustard. My frugal mother, who’d lived through the Depression and was living through the second World War in her lifetime, treated a whole can of Spam like a ham—she crisscrossed knife slashes across the top, sprinkled it with brown sugar, studded it with cloves, and baked it. Mom sliced the leftovers and fried them for breakfast meat. Weldon says his family ate chicken-fried Spam.

Spam has become sort of an inside joke these days. Lots of people who’ve never tasted it say, “Yuck! I could never eat that.” (Count at least one of my daughters among them.) But it spite of the product’s generally poor reputation, Hormel has a huge Spam Web site that you can explore for hours ( Much of it seems tongue-in-cheek. The Spam Museum, for instance, is a virtual museum. Listing visits per year, the site says, “As many as you’d like.” There’s a page devoted to Spammobile, a gift shop that sells T-shirts, coffee cups and mugs, drop earrings with SPAM cans, lapel pins, bumper stickers that say “I love Spam,” a Spam fan club (“your membership lasts a lifetime”), and an endless list of things. The Book of SPAM is available online from Today Spam comes in a dithering array of flavors—original, hickory smoked, with bacon, with garlic, with cheese, lite, turkey. The Web site has recipes—Spam stroganoff, Spam meatloaf, Spam quiche, a speedy dip, croquettes, and a minestrone soup made with Spam. There are also suggestions for adapting the ubiquitous meat to various cuisines. Prefer French food? You can have your Spam in ratatouille or something called Ragin’ Cajun Spam party salad. Asian? How about Speedy Cheesy Stir-fry? Spam a la orange? Sweet and sour Spam Cantonese? If Mexican is your preference, you can have Spam in chili relleƱos, ranchero eggs, chimichangas, or breakfast burritos. And finally, of course, there’s Italian—pizza is inevitable, but you can also make turkey Spam lasagna, eggplant Italiano, spaghetti sauce, or fettucine primavera. The possibilities are endless.

It’s no coincidence that spam has become the term for unwanted junk email. There’s an explanation on the Web, but it went over my head.

Here’s Weldon’s description and recipe for his Spam stix:

French Fried Spam Stix are intended as a replacement for both sausage links and hash browns to help break the monotony on a breakfast plate. They are a tasty match with my special “Dippin’ Sauce,” especially when paired with scrambled eggs. And kids love them for breakfast…or lunch…or dinner.
In addition, this dish is completely gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, & corn-free.  (It can easily be made egg-free as well by substituting Almond Milk for the beaten egg.) Food allergies are such an issue today that Hormel Foods should highlight the fact that Spam is gluten-free. 


1 12-oz. Can of Spam (Several flavors will work, but I use the classic)

½ Cup Almond Meal (a.k.a. Almond Flour)

½ Cup Brown Rice Flour

½ Teaspoon Salt (or to taste)

1 Egg (beaten)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to fry in)

Note: if gluten allergies don’t trouble you, substitute regular white flour and corn meal for the rice flour and almond meal.)

Kickin’ Chicken Dippin’ Sauce (So named for the chicken on the label of the Sriracha bottle)
1 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce (or to taste)

French Fried Spam® Stix directions:

Set out two bowls in a line next to a deep pot you will use to fry in.
In the bowl next to the pot, mix the Almond Meal, Brown Rice Flour & the salt.
In the bowl further away from the pot, thoroughly beat one egg.
Open and carefully remove the Spam from the can.  Rinse and gently shake off any excess water.
Your block of Spam will have score marks (indentation lines) on the sides and ends from the shape of the can.  Stand it upright.  There is a single score mark down the middle of each of the skinny ends.
Use a sharp knife to cut the block in half using those lines as guide lines.  Then divide each half the same way on your own, making 4 slabs of Spam.
Keep them stacked up and lay your Spam on its side.  There are 4 score marks on the sides.  Use them as guides to slice the SPAM® that way as well.  Then divide each of the thicker end pieces in half the same way.  You now have 28 almost uniform ‘French fry’ shaped pieces of Spam. Add enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil to your fry pot to cover at least half the thickness of these sticks and bring it to heat.

Once the oil is hot enough to fry, use the “wet-hand/dry-hand” method to move the sticks to the fry pot. Take some sticks in your “wet hand” (the one further away from the pot) and roll the sticks in the beaten egg.  Then drop them on top of the mixed dry ingredients.
Using your ‘dry hand’, cover the sticks and roll them over to ensure equal coating on all sides and ends. Then using the same hand, lay them on a broad spatula and lower them into the hot oil to fry.

As you fill the pot evenly across the bottom, check to make sure the first ones are not overdone. They should have a nice golden brown on the sides and bottom.  If so, flip them with the spatula. Once all are done, remove them to a cooling/draining rack.
Repeat the process until you have fried all 28 sticks.  Once all are on the cooling rack, you can mix up the Kickin’ Chicken Dippin’ Sauce.

Kickin’ Chicken Dippin’ Sauce directions:
In a bowl, mix 1 cup of ketchup with 1 tablespoon of Sriracha Sauce.

 Paired with eggs, this serves four.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Strenuous days, a five-year-old boy, and a rough dinner

I haven't been exercising lately because I had this puppy to care for, a full-time job that gave me plenty of exercise. But more and more she's getting self-sufficient. And I'm gaining weight and feeling the need (guilt?) to exercise. So today I did my yoga routine for the first time in two months. Not as bad as I expected--my muscles seemed to remember what they were supposed to do. Granted, I'm a little less flexible--not that I was ever very flexible--and my muscles quiver more in some exercises. But on the whole, I didn't do badly. I went from that to Sophie's first training session, which proved to be less hard on my body than on my nerves. I worried a great deal about being pulled down between the car and PetSmart, but I managed to control her efforts to run to every person she saw and we made it inside. Lesson was very valuable, from how to use treats to vocabulary. Sophie is, I think, part way through what she should have learned in this first lesson--for instance, she knows "sit" and "down" and I learned a super new technique for dealing with her jumping on me.
Jacob arrived shortly after I finished a hasty lunch--he was not in sympathy with my almost desperate need for a late afternoon nap. Woke me up to "love" on me and for several other reasons.  Finally he kissed me and said have a good nap. When I woke up it was almost six and suspiciously quiet from Jacob's playroom--he was sound asleep. I fed the dogs, started dinner, and then wakened him gently by scratching his back. He never wakes up from naps in a good mood but his bad, whiny mood took a while. Then he began to whine because I'd promised a picnic and it looked like rain; I suggested the porch; he cried and wanted his daddy. Finally he decided on the porch, and we carried our dinners out there, only to have him declare it was too windy. Back inside, where he spilled his dinner on the living room rug. Then he wanted to go back outside--carried our food back outside. Then he was sure there was a tornado coming, and we had to go inside. Long story not very short: I had a cold ground beef patty, salad was okay, he had 1-1/2 chicken nuggets, declared he couldn't eat the corn, and finished his meal with chocolate-covered raisins--half good half bad is my grandmotherly rationale.
Rain is in the air, praise be, and Jacob is obssessed with tornadoes, telling me about the ones he's experienced--yeah, sure--and predicting them outside. We have the weather channel on but it's hard for him to distinguish between videos of past tornados and anything happening here and now. He keeps wanting to go to the bathroom to hide but I have refused.
Writing the great American novel? What's that? I may get to read the John Grisham novel that I'm having a hard time with. My colleague Fred tells me it has a section about an inapropriate develpment project, relevant to my work-in-progress, but I haven't come to it yet and am finding, as I have before, that Grisham just doesn't captivate me. This one is The Last Juror.
In sum, a grandmotherly Saturday. Were my kids like this?
Most of the rest of my family is in Austin for a race of some sort--I can't sort out if it's an ironman or a muddy whatever, but I'm a bit sad not to be with them.

Friday, October 07, 2011

My day started with marching drums about 7:30 in the morning. Sophie got so excited we had to go out on the porch early and listen to the drums--which can get rather repetitive, especially before you've had coffee. But there's something really neat about an elementary school that puts on a neighborhood walkathon instead of selling candy to raise funds--there was so much school spirit. The majority of parents marched with their children, and the Paschal HIgh School Band led the way, behind police cars with flashsing lights. Parents and children alike wore their red Lily B. Clayton T-shirts, and you could feel the excitement in the air. Jacob is lucky to go to this very special school. It was a long day for him, because tonight was family fun night, complete with hot dogs, face painting, bounce house, super-high slides, and all that kind of thing. His mom is out of town on business and pouting about missing all the fun.
I on the other hand had a relatively easy day--after I could get my car out of the driveway, when the parade festivities were over, I ran a couple of errands, did odds and ends, ate an early lunch and had a good nap. Jacob spent the afternoon at the neighbors' playing with three-year-old Abby. They created sidewalk art, of  which he was very proud. I got to stay home and clear stray junk off my desk. By the time his dad arrived to take him to family night, I was able to settle down and get some good solid writing time. Just wish I knew where this novel is going.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The kind of day that makes me grateful

A boy and his dog after school--wait! I thought she was my dog! Guess not.
Tonight Jacob and I went to meet Aunt Betty at The Tavern. He was delighted when I told him Aunt Betty and said, "At the Star?" The Star is the restaurant that Betty and Don own, but I said no, we were going to another restaurant. He gave me a thumbs down. But it was a beautiful evening, and we put the top down and loved the drive through a tree-filled neighborhood. Jacob decided he wanted mac and cheese and mashed potatoes for his dinner (glad his mother is out of town and so unable to say, "he needs a green vegetable" which has often been my mantra). I tried to talk him into choosing one or the other, but he was adamant (I think, as a grandmother, I should have been more firm but I get so tired of telling him no all the time). He barely touched either--they had "grass" (parsley or chives) on them. When his father joined us, he ate a good portion of both, and I ate a bit of the potatoes--so buttery and good.
As Christian and I talked, after Betty had to leave, I said one thing I'd learned from daily baby-sitting or day-care or whatever  you want to call it is that "famliarity breeds contempt." Jacob is a lot more likely to balk, ignore, etc., because he's here every day. I do get very tired of being the disciplinarian and yet if I don't, I"m letting him get away with bad habits and, worse, I'm letting him "be the boss" of me." (He's big on who is the boss and insists his mommy is but I explain, over and over, that when he's at my house, I am the boss.)"
In spite of all that, it was a lovely dinner. Christian and I had the kind of good visit we don't get very often. I loved the deviled eggs appetizer and seared scallop and salad entree that Betty and I split--our usual fare at The Tavern. And I drove home with the top down, reveling in the cool and fresh air and thinking how good my life is.
This was a kind of rush/rush day although it shouldn't have been. My compulsive nature kicks in when it shouldn't, but I wanted to get a TCU reimbursement form filled out and comp copies of my novel mailed to the three authors who had so kindly blurbed it. I went to the office, thinking I had to use one of their computers to fill out the form--absolutely boggled my mind and Melinda's too. She really tried to help me. Finally I made a series of "help" phone calls that landed me with a tech person in financial services. His best advice? Go home and do it on my pc. I did, and it took me less than five minutes. I had wasted over an hour at the office, trying to make the darn thing work. The Mac/pc war raged fast and furious in the office when I was there--I've never used anything but a pc but both my employees were die-hard Mac users. We had arguments about it, but I finally just left well enough alone. Turned out today it was a Mac problem. In the end I got my books packaged, ran to the post office, got a copy of my work-in-progress to take to my mentor, Fred, at lunch, and essentially got eveything done that I meant to. But I sure felt harried all the time. This is NOT the way retirement should feel.
Home from lunch, I had an extra hour because Jacob was taking Spanish and I didn't have to get him until four. Did I nap as I planned? No, I had all these nit-picky things to do, although I finally did get in an hour nap. And then I felt rushed again--getting Jacob to do his homework, feeding the dogs and getting them ready to be left, fixing my face, checking email.
My final verdict on the day? Where and what would I be if I didn't have all these things to do, all these demands on my time? I am so grateful to be so involved in life and so blessed with granchildren, friends and family, and animals, and work I really want to get to. No wonder I don't have blocks of time for great writing, but still: I am one lucky woman.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Amanda Knox Redux

Every other person on the web will be writing about Amanda Knox, but I feel compelled to add my two cents. I  became emotionally involved with this girl way back during her first trial. She seemed at once strong and vulnerable. During the appeals trial, at first it was obvious that she had matured during her prison ordeal and she seemed confident, participating in her defense. (I heard today that the prisoners and jailers where she has been kept were all very fond of her because she was, to put it simply, such a nice and good person.) As we watched the proceedings daily, we saw her crumble bit by bit, beaten down by prosecurtion threats and outrageous accusationss. Yesterday she had to be helpd into court and when the verdict came, as we all saw, she was near collapse and nearly carried from the court. Her lawyer said when he talked to her last night, she was joyful land grateful.
Her former boyfriend seemed lost in all the media focus on Amanda I didn't realize until this week that it was a joint appeals trial and his future too was at stake. Godspeed and a good life to him.
Amanda Knox tonight is presumably back in Seattle, safely hidden from the media, as she should be. She needs time, oh so much time, to process her experience, to realize it's over, to try to become herself again. Rosy endings aren't always rosy, and I can see hard times ahead for her and her family. In a way it may almost be like the caretaker whose patient dies--and then what do they do?
But a couple of thoughts occur to me--one day, I hope in the not too distant future--Amanda needs to ackowledge her debt to the media. If the media, mostly American but those from other countries too, hadn't focused on her, hadn't shown the spotlight on Italy and its legal system, she might well still be in prison--for a long time. Clearly she is innocent but if the case had remained anonymous, with no publicity, Italy and its legal system would not have been in the spotlight. As it is, they saved face by covicting her of slander but declaring the sentence fulfilled by time served. We're used to damning the media in this country for everything from politics to hero worship, but in this case we all owe a debt of gratitude--and Amanda Knox particularly.
My other thought is that she has been born again--not in the religious sense, but she surely has been given a second chance at life, and the world will be watching to see what she does with it. My sense is that she's become made of stern stuff, despite her courtroom breakdown, and I hope she will accomlish something big, again perhaps as a gesture of gratitude, of knowing she has been saved. Should she waste her life, it would be like all our angst was for naught.
I'm pulling for her. I think she'll make something of her second life. And those book deals that are bound to come along? I hope she stalls them for a long time. Yes, someday, there's a book there, and authors will be clamoring to write it. But haste...well, haste leads to bad decision.
Pray for Amanda Knox.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Tongue-tied before an audience

Jungle Red Writers, one of my favorite blogs, had a segment today on the various members experiences on TV and radio--most had funny stories to tell of disasters. I've had my share of those too. In a small town in Missouri in the early '60s I used to host a program called, I think, "The People's Health." I'd interview doctors about various health problems: "Tell me, doctor, if I have a pain inmy side is it apprendicitis?" Generally it went fairly well, and I was comfortable. But that was radio.
I've been interviewed on local TV and done a few interview programs myself--30 minutes talking with an author. When someone interviewed me, I was fairly comfortable with it. But when I was doing the interviewing and they'd flash that "15 minutes" card, I'd think, "Omigosh, I"m only halfway through." Somehow I always muddled along the rest of the way, and it went fine, but I don't leap at TV opportunities.
My children, on the other hand, were seasoned TV personalities at an early age. They appeared, twice I think, on a program called "Hobab," which somehow means helper. Once they all sat in a row, and the hostess asked them what they did to help their mother. The older three jumped in--they made their beds, the cleaned their rooms, they helped with dishes. I mean, they were really angels. Jordan, who couldn't have been more than four, looked at them all as if she'd never seen them before. When it was her turn, she said, "The maid does all that." Later, the hostess asked if they knew policemen were their friends. Again, the older ones gave the pat answers, but Jordan said, "And if you don't have a Cadillac or a Mercedes,they will help you get one." Honest! The days of maids, Cadillacs and Mercedes disappeared quite soon after when I became a single parent, but I've always loved remembering that show.
In truth, my son-in-law Christian is the pro in the famiily, having been a child model and appeared in various TV series--Christian, so sorry I can't remember the names of them but you were charming. Besides, I knowo he doesn't like talking about it a lot now.
Lord knows I've done a ton of public speaking in my time but to this day it makes me nervous. I am quite comfortable with a book club or other small group, and I love doing q&a but I get bored listening to myself talk for 20-30 minutes. I get part way through and think, "How far is it to the end/" A good friend of mine always protests, "You do such a good job, I don't know why you're so reluctant." For a while, I just turned down speaking engagements, but now, with Skeleton in a Dead Space, to promote, I'm getting out at it again. Tomorrow night I will speak to an expected audience of 75 women at University Baptist Church, but it will be an interview format, and the interviewer is a good friend who does a great job at that. She has interviewed me for programs before, and we always have a good time. So I'm dipping my toe in the water.
But today I spoke in an entirely different setting. A good friend died on Thursday and her daughter asked me to speak at the service. At first I waffled, but my youngest daughter and my brother both said, "Of course you will." Jordan pointed out that Connie was so precious to me I had to speak in her memory. And I knew it was an honor to be asked. So with nerves on edge, I spoke--briefly--which I think is appropriate in that situation. I only stumbled once--by somehow starting to substitute the name of the protagonist in my current novel for Connie's name--but Jordan said I recovered quickly and nicely. I was glad to be able to honor Connie with my memories of times with her--good times, mostly lunches that we both enjoyed. But the relationship goes way back and involves another story--not for here.
I have two additons to this post: one is that I am relieved beyond measure by the verdict in the Amanda Knox case. I wish her godspeed back to her old life which, of course, she'll never be able to recover. But I hope she can move on to a new and fulfilling life. Someone said they see a book deal in the future--I sincerely hope publishers don't start hounding her right away and that her family continues to be her advocate and protection.
And finaly, this picture. Kindergarten homework sure wears a guy out--and his grandmother.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Oh, wat a beautiful morning!

Actually it was a beautiful morning, so cool I couldn't put the top down on my car. But what I really meant, with all due respect to Oklahoma, is "Oh, what a beautiful weekend." Last night I went to a reading and book signing--it pleases me that TCU Press is still publishing books I acquired (it may not please the current director as much, but he hasn't squawked). This was C.W.Smith's novel, Steplings, which I really think is good. We published four of Charlie's novels. Although I knew the passages he read, it was fun to hear it in his voice. Afterward went to dinner with Charlie, his wife and daughter and the guy who filmed his video trailer, plus his publicist who is a friend. We go way back and have lots of ties in common, so it was especially good to visit with Lisa Taylor.
Today I worked--ran some errands but was home by 9:30 and applied myself to the computer--sent out invitations to the next Bookish Frog event, roughed out a speech to book clubs, finished rereading what I've written on mystery #3 and even wrote about a thousand new words. Hooray for me.
Tonight I had dinner with Kathie and Rick, two dear friends, and an added bonus was that we went to Lucille's where they're having Lobsterama--all kinds of lobster dishes at reasonable prices. I had a whole Maine lobster with drawn butter and a salad with blue cheese dressing--but not the house blue cheese vinaigrette that I thought I was ordering. Kathie refused to fight with taking a lobster out of the shell and had a lobster roll, but Rick and I both had the whole thing. Somewhere along the way I learned to deal with lobster fairly easily, and I do love it. I would always order the whole thing just to get the claw meat--so succulent and sweet.
Tomorrow I'll meet Jordan at church and then we'll come home for chicken salad for lunch. Then I get to nap and work on the novel again. And I plan to experiment and fix myself a spinach souffle for supper. The real reason that I went out this morning was that I forgot to bu spinach.
My kind of weekend.