Friday, February 28, 2014

Catching up with a friend

Old friends of nearly forty years have moved back to Fort Worth after living elsewhere for nearly twenty years. It's great to have them back, and in some ways it seems they've never been gone. She pushes me to get back into a walking program--since I've been doing yoga for years, I'm amazed at how out of breath I get when I walk. We used to walk a couple of miles together early every morning before we both went to work. We had great philosophical discussions and were wonderful at house critiquing--that roof is all wrong, those people should rethink their flower bed, and on we went. We did have our favorite housed, and today she observed, "That gate is new." I thought about it--not very new, but it was to her.
Today we went to an art exhibit, "Art and Appetite," at the Amon Carter Museum. There are often exhibits I want to see, but I really don't like to go alone. Subie is my kind of art person--she lingers but not too long. I was as interested in the text as the art-what food has reflected over the years about our changing culture, but it was too much to absorb in one trip. I may have to break down and buy the catalog so I can study the text with the pictures.
But the biggest fun has been seeing Fort Worth through new eyes. Our city has changed remarkably in twenty years, going through a sort of renaissance. Subie notices it all--new buildings, changing neighborhoods. She starts many sentences with, "What I notice is...." Restaurants that I take for granted are new to her. Today we had lunch at Ellerbee's. The waiter asked if we'd eaten there before, and while I said I had, Subie said, "I'm brand new to Fort Worth." (Not quite true but almost.) The waiter turned to me and said, "Thank you for bringing her here."
Subie has, in part, forgotten her way around the city--and of course streets have changed. Highway construction makes everything different, and today I suggested a back way to get somewhere. She was delighted, said it was so much easier than dealing with stoplights and construction on the main drive. "I remember where things are pretty much," she said, "but I don't remember street names." I'm sure it's an odd sensation, like moving to a brand new place--only not really.
I've also been catching Subie and Phil up on what happened to people we know. At our age, too many have died; others have retired; many have moved out of town. Subie and Phil are fortunate that they have a core of friends still in town.
Seeing my city through new eyes is a wonderful experience. I think I'll be a lot smarter about it.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ghosts--to believe or not

I've done it again. Out of habit I posted a blog last night and forgot my guest blogger, so once again, on Thursday morning, please welcome my Wednesday guest. This week my guest author is Nancy Lynn Jarvis, who left a real estate career to become an author and writes, naturally, about a realtor.  Nancy says she doesn't really believe in ghosts....but I'll let her tell you about it.

I don’t usually write about ghosts, but I had to for this mystery. My books, with the exception of Mags and the AARP Gang, a book about a group of octogenarian bank robbers — which you may have guessed from the title and description, is more of a comedy than anything else — feature protagonist Regan McHenry, a realtor who gets sucked into playing an amateur sleuth because of her clients, friends, and because she and her husband bought a house with a partially mummified body in it.
I’ve dealt with bodies buried in the backyard, Wiccans, séances, a sociopathic killer, a murder involving an old Woodie during a car show…even so I didn’t expect to write a mystery that may have ghosts in it. That’s because I don’t believe in them, you see, except that I’ve seen one, which really plays havoc with my nay-saying. And I’m willing to go to just one degree of separation and listen to people tell of their first-hand experiences with ghosts--oh boy.
It was from this ambivalent perspective that I wrote The Murder House, the fifth in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series. Like me — a twenty-five year veteran of the real estate business— and many realtors I know, Regan has had the experience of walking into a house and having the hair stand up on the back of her neck . She knows what it’s like to be hit by a wave of cold and experience an overwhelming sensation of evil when previewing a house.
But also like me, she clearly states that she doesn’t believe in ghosts, not when there might be a rational explanation for what seems like a spectral presence. Her certainty made it great fun to write a book in which Regan, convinced the only thing that might cause a house to be haunted is its past reputation, sometimes wonders if she is right.  
It was also fun to write the book because during the writing process, I began asking people if they believed in ghosts. What I discovered is that most people have a ghost story or two to tell even if they aren’t into the paranormal. And ghost sightings aren’t predictable based on the witness’s educational level, occupation, religion, culture, gender, or age.
I was able to share my favorite ghost story in the book’s dedication, too. If you like, go to and click on “look inside” to read it.
I used my personal ghost sighting in the book, as well. The ghost in the woods in The Murder House is what I saw at the Wayside Inn in Massachusetts before I knew many others had reported seeing such a ghost. In The Murder House,  there may be a rational explanation for what people are seeing in the woods, though, and at the Wayside Inn, there isn’t.
After writing The Murder House and living with its alleged ghosts, did I change my mind and become a believer? As Regan says at the book’s conclusion when asked if she’s seen the ghost, “I think that’s too personal a question for you to ask.” Let’s just say that one thing is clear: I have developed a love of swapping ghost stories and would love to hear yours.
Realtors are known for baking cookies for open houses and such, and Nancy has developed her own recipe for mysterious chocolate chip cookies. She generously shares it on her website:
About The Murder House:
Every community has a house that people walk by hurriedly, nervously peeking at it out of the corners of their eyes. Bonny Doon is no exception. A bloody double homicide occurred in the Murder House almost twenty years ago and the killer has eluded capture ever since. Recently the house was inherited and the new owner wants to sell.
The problem is no one wants to buy a house with a reputation and everyone reports that it’s home to ghosts. The seller thinks realtor Regan McHenry would make a perfect listing agent after all, with her penchant for playing amateur sleuth, she’s no stranger to murder.
This is the perfect mystery to read if you don’t believe in ghosts and an even better mystery to read if you do.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Facing mortality

Jane Fonda has written a blog about crying. It seems she cries all the time lately--at happy things, at sad things,  pretty things, kind deeds, sad stories, stories of courage, a baby shower--you name it, she cries. She thinks her emotions are more accessible as she ages. From the comments, it's apparently a part of facing your mortality. Since, to my surprise, at 76, she is a year older than I am, that got me to thinking.
I don't think I'm either facing or denying my mortality. Sometimes a question flits through my mind: what will I be like in ten years at the age of eight-five? Will I still be able to write? Can I live alone in my own home? I certainly hope so for both of those things, because right now I don't feel any diminished vitality. Oh, yeah, there are some things I can't do as I used to...and trying new yoga poses reminds me of the stiffening of age. But I do it, and I'm undertaking a new walking program. Funny--or sad--I'm amazed at how short of breath I get. Yoga doesn't do much for cardio.
But somehow, while aware of my mortality and, as I'm fond of saying, hearing time's ever-winged chariot at my back, I am nowhere near thinking about diminished capability or even moving into a retirement community (a question asked a lot).
Unlike Jane Fonda, I don't cry much, but I do think my emotions are more accessible, and I am better at recognizing them for what they are. Sometimes deep emotions, sometimes blind emotional reactions, occasional reactions based on fact. Yes, I know I'm liberal and I'm intense about the current practice of medicine and saving dogs--those are my subjects, and I recognize my prejudice on matters dealing with them.
But what has surprised me in my seventies is how much wiser I feel. Oh, how I wish I could relive my forties and fifties and do it better--because I know I would. I understand myself and others and life's situations so much more than I did forty years ago. What they say about age bringing wisdom is true--I think it brings a certain clarity of vision.
Sometimes I wonder how I managed to raise such wonderful children with my limited sight. I don't remember spending time doing homework or listening to them read or any of the things I do with grandchildren--mostly Jacob--now. But somehow they grew up just fine to be well educated, well adjusted people who I love and who make me proud.
And, to my surprise, I suspect I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. I'm single--something I never thought I'd enjoy. But I do like my space and my freedom. Yes, I sometimes long for the intimacy and the thought that there's one person in whom I can confide my deepest thoughts--but I have children and friends who will willingly listen to me. I remember that after Jordan's wedding, when we'd had four party-packed days of family and fun, I called a friend and said it was one time I wished I was married so I could relive those days. She, happily married, said, "Why didn't  you just call me? It would be a lot easier than having a man around." So true.
I am also happy with my house, my dog, my career--a new career in my seventies. When it occurs to me to wonder how many more books I can write, I bat that thought away because right now I feel like I can keep writing forever. I'm excited about a book that I'm going to self-publish, and I need to dig in and write the sixth Kelly O'Connell manuscript.
Upshot of all this meandering? Yes, I'm aware that I'm in my golden years and who knows how much time I have left. But am I worried about it? No. I'm healthy and happy, and I'm just going to take it day by day. Without crying.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A dreary day--but not all is lost

It’s been one of those dreary February days that make you long for a fire and a good book—but I had neither today. May light a fire later in the evening, after I go to neighbors’ night for supper at the local Grill. A hot bowl of soup at lunch, at the deli, warmed both my insides and my soul. Maybe meatloaf will do the same tonight—and a glass of wine.

I let myself get in a rush today. I usually time things pretty closely, so before meeting a friend for lunch I roared off to the grocery store. The man second in front of me bought four or five jugs of liquid detergent—and one of them leaked, left a trail. So all business came to a halt, while the checker “skated” on paper towels to soak it up. The older woman in front of me (who am I, calling someone “older”?) watched this clean-up process in fascination, then watched the checker ring up her unusual purchases—three stacks of paper plates and a small piece of cake—and only when she heard the total did she begin to look in her purse for her credit card. One of the things that most frustrates me! Plan ahead, people.

By then I was late for lunch, and I hate to keep people waiting. There’s a “prompt” gene in me, which only Jordan of my children seems to have inherited. But it makes me anxious to be late, and I don’t know about you but I’m not as “together” when I’m anxious. Nothing bad happened, but I noticed my hands were less than steady when I reached to take my soup bowl. The soup soothed, and so did a visit with Fred, my former professor, longtime advisor, and good friend.

The day wasn’t a total loss to dreariness. I’m moving ahead on plans for my first self-published mystery. This is an experiment I really want to try. I’ve asked friends and fellow writers for advice, acquired quite a portfolio of marketing ideas, and today I contacted someone to format it for Kindle and print. I have done that before and could but I have other books to write. Besides, I want this to be perfect, and I suspect someone more tecchie than I will do a better job. The illustrator I am using sent me samples, and I think I like one. So watch for The Perfect Coed in late March or early April. Fred told me at lunch that it fits perfectly into the genre of the academic mystery—but it’s not academic in tone. If anything, it’s a little darker than my other mysteries. The woman who proofread/edited it for me said she liked it so much she hoped I’d make it into a series. Hadn’t thought of that, but I immediately knew who would get killed in the next book!

I’m still having fun, and life is good.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A writer's staycation

Last night I told Jacob we were going to sleep as late as we wanted. We had nothing particular to do on Saturday morning, and we could sleep. I woke with a start at 8:30 (haven't slept that late in I don't know how long!) to see him standing by my bed, asking, "Can I have waffles now?" (Praise be the day he can fix his own toaster waffles!) As you may have read on Facebook, the day got hectic after that because his mother called almost instantly and wanted him dressed, fed, and teeth brushed in 15 minutes. After the flurry of getting them off to cheer for a friend doing the 5K or 10K of the Cowtown Marathon, I had the whole day before me. And I decided on a staycation. I have not written a word today except this blog and a few emails.
Not surprisingly, I spent most of the day at my desk. I was amazed at how much time I could spend reading Facebook and emails when I put my mind to it. And then I turned to checking the food magazines on my desk--they stack up fast, and today I went through four, pulled out a few recipes, and consigned the rest to the trash. I still have one to do and a clothes catalog that came today. And then there's that novel I want to read.
I did spend a fair amount of time on household chores--just making the beds, picking up clothes--Jacob flings them everywhere--and doing a load of "kitchen" laundry--hand towels, napkins, place mats, etc. And I spent an hour or two in the kitchen: made dirty rice for dinner guests for tomorrow night, tuna salad for my lunch, pea salad for those dinner guests, and an open-faced sandwich for my dinner tonight.
Christian came in and asked who was coming for dinner tomorrow. I told him my neighbors (to whom he is close) and I said, "You were invited. You declined." Christian: "Oh. I did?" Jordan had said he wanted to watch the Oscars comfortably at home--never mind that the Oscars are next Sunday. I said too late, I only bought four quail, and they both began to sputter about how they couldn't have come anyway, they have too much to do to take an hour out of their day. I wanted to point out that when I cook a big meal for company I expect them to stay more than an hour! Oh, well!
I think my mind needed a vacation. I have felt rushed, pushed, and pulled by deadlines and an urgency to get this, that and the other done. In truth, most deadlines are of my own making--if it's on my desk, I want to get it done. But nothing couldn't wait a day, and I loved my lazy day. May do it again tomorrow.
Got to go read that novel now.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The writing life

A previous title given new life
One of my projects these days
Got my income tax "stuff" back from my accountant today. I don't wish to discuss how much I have to pay--it's too much to me, though I'm glad to pay my fair share. But what sent me over the moon was that I made a profit on my writing this year. Don't laugh--lots of writers file a Form C or whatever showing a deficit for years and years. Mine was probably less than a tenth of my total income if that much--not enough to live on, but proof to me that I'm headed in the right direction, and I'm doing a happy dance tonight. It's strange though to think I'm starting a burgeoning career in my seventies, and every once in a while I have a fleeting thought about how long I can keep this up. "At my back I always hear times winged chariot hurrying near." Well, not quite--for my age, I'm think I'm healthy and lively, though I know there are things I used to do that I can't do now.
At any rate, earning that non-living wage keeps me busy with deadlines (some self-imposed) all the time. I laugh looking back at the days, probably forty years ago, when I'd say to myself, "I'd write if I knew what to write about." No problem these days, as ideas and plots are popping in my brain all the time. What I need to do is learn to write them down before they escape.
I'm working on a novel I intend to self publish--ebook and print--and I sent it to a proofreader who said she loved it and hoped I'd turn it into a series. Do you think she says that to everyone? At any rate, I immediately knew who the victim was in the next book--but I have at least one, maybe two books to write before that one.
But I am also determined not to let this born-again career swallow me. Yes, I work at home most nights; yes, I try to keep my mornings clear so I can work. But I want to continue to schedule lunch and dinner dates, to get out in the world. A dear friend has just moved back to Fort Worth, and she has great plans for us to walk daily and to go to art exhibits. I'm going to do those things. Tonight I had a delightful supper with another old friend--and I look forward to many more dinners with friends.
I know of authors who first thing every morning check their sales. First of all, because most of my books are with publishers, I don't have instant access to that information. But even if I did, I don't think I'd look. Nor do I want to be bothered with every new promotional activity that comes down the pike. I do what I can, what makes sense for me to me, and then I let it go.
And one more thing: I want to read more than I have been. While waiting for my car at the car wash, I started a new cozy mystery today--Tracy Weber's Murder Strikes a Pose (A Downward Dog Mystery) and I want to finish it. And I'm having company Sunday night--I want to cook.
In other words, I love this new post-retirement career, but I also want to live a full life and not become a writing recluse. Hmmm....they're some friends I haven't had lunch with in a while. Think I'll send them an email.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The joys and duties of being a grandparent

Over the years I have realized, with some chagrin, that it's the grandparents' responsibility to attend any function at which any grandchild shines. I spent endless hours waiting for Maddie, my oldest grandchild, to have her brief moment on the ballet stage--gosh those programs were long. Now, she plays basketball like a pro, and I'm sure ballet is far from her mind. I'm not a sports fan, but I have been to basketball games, soccer games, baseball games, and one tai kwondo lesson. When it's your grandchild, you cheer.
When my kids graduated from elementary school, I thanked the stars that school carnivals, PTA (or PTO or whatever) and the like were behind me. A single working mom, I didn't feel as obligated as I had in elementary school to participate in those things. Yes, I went to open houses to dutifully meet with the teachers, but my kids pretty much fended for themselves--and did a darn fine job of it--in middle and elementary school.
So far I have not had to go to carnivals and open houses, but I am expected each grade's annual program as Jacob progresses through elementary school. Tonight was the second grade program, a musical called "Stone Soup," and he was one of the "stars"--three speaking lines.
I fixed supper so everyone could rush across the street to the school. As Jordan and I did dishes, she said, "You don't have to go, you know," and I replied, "His feelings would be hurt if I didn't." And she said, "That wasn't a sincere offer of a way out." But she and Christian were as excited as Jacob about the program.
And it was cute, no question about it. The kids were full of bounce and enthusiasm. I could barely make out a word they said (I know Jacob's lines by now) but just watching them was a joy.
This is a blurry picture of Jacob delivering one of his lines. At first I thought he was having trouble holding his britches up but then I realized he was doing sort of a Michael Jackson move. Mr. Cool! A friend of mine says if we'd put him on the stage the rest of us could retire. Not sure about that, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him take to theater. His daddy was a child model and in several TV programs. So maybe the spotlight is where Jacob belongs.
I'm both relieved and sad that my six other grands live too far away for me to attend their school programs and the like. Just deliver me from carnivals and cake walks, please.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wednesday's guest

Please welcome my guest of the week, Alicia Kennedy. She lives in Long Beach, NY, and is a physica therapist but says at heart she's always been a writer. But Not Missed is her debut novel, but there's more to come. Welcome, Alicia.

Cover image of Gone...But Not Missed
On Valentine’s Day, Lillian wakes up in an exact replica of her room — in the basement of a mysterious kidnapper. Can she uncover her captor’s motives? And will off duty NYPD officer Nathan be able to track her down?

I’ve been reading as long as I can remember. One of my first memories is going to the Queens Village Library with my mother. We went often, and she taught me the importance of reading and to always carry a book with you.
Despite my love of reading, the sciences were more where I excelled in school. I remember at a college interview being asked about my opinion on English classes. I answered they weren’t my favorite because I didn’t like writing. The interviewer, a physical therapy professor, scowled and told me a physical therapist has to write a lot. I should have heeded his dire warning. Physical therapy and the documentation requirements have only grown in the twenty years since that interview.

With my love of books, I’ve always been a fan of writers. I traveled hours to hear Stephen King speak and get a book autographed. (Ok, full disclosure, I’ve done it more than once). I’ve made stops in Scotland just to see where J. K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series (The Elephant House, Edinburgh) and finished writing the series (The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh). As a special birthday gift, I stayed in The Balmoral Hotel, to this day the best hotel I have ever stayed in. After learning of my birthday and my love of all things Potter, one of the staff took me into the J K Rowling Suite, just a few rooms down from my room, where she completed the series. I toured the rooms, seeing the bust she signed after she wrote the series last words, and I sat at the desk where the “magic” happened.
This was all before I started writing.

I began writing three years ago but I’ve had stories in my head as long as I can remember. I often have stories in my head. Some I’d like to develop into short stories or novels; some will go nowhere. At a speaking engagement at Book Revue (Huntington, NY), writer Joe Hill said how he has lots of ideas but only a few a year can be developed.
My reading tastes are varied. I enjoy most genres, with my favorites being mystery and science fiction. I love a book that takes you were you don’t expect to go. I hope my writing does that for my readers.

My writing is also diverse. My only currently published work is a mystery set in Long Beach, NY. But, I’ve also written short stories. These stories have been paranormal, science fiction, and horror.  In the future, I hope to write full length novels in these genres.
When people ask me what I do, I’ve recently started to answer that I am a writer. My writing by no means pays the bills. (I still work full time as a physical therapist.) But whether it ever will or not, I am a writer.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eavesdropping is fun...and sometimes profitable

I am a confessed people watcher. Hate sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms but I amuse myself by watching the people and imagining their lives, illnesses, personalities, and the like. It’s much more fun in restaurants or airports where the stories about the people are liable to be happier. But do you ever eavesdrop on conversations? Come one, tell the truth! I know I do, though with poor hearing it’s not so easy any more. Still, lots of mystery writers get ideas from conversations overheard, and I’m no exception.

But last night the tables were turned on me. I was in a restaurant with a friend, and we were discussing another well-known restaurant in town. I mentioned that it appears in my current work-in-progress—in disguise of course but it’s the one I had in mind. “It’s very black part of the novel,” I said (as if I write very black!). I must have spoken more loudly than I thought because I saw the young woman at the next table turn around and look at me. From then on, she stole glances at our table.

As we were about to leave, she turned and said, “Excuse me, but did one of you say you write mysteries?” My companion was sitting closest to the other table and launched into almost a rundown of my career. Enthusiastically, she described my books, my time at TCU Press, and all the time the woman nodded, said appropriate words of interest, including “I love mysteries” and “I read 85 books last year.” My kind of person. She said she was a stay-at-home mom and had a lot of time to read, so I asked how old her children are. You could have knocked me off my chair when she said two were grown and gone and she had a teenager at home—and she said she was 47. I’d have given her 30!

When I could get a word in to Mary’s promotional speech, I asked if our new friend wanted me to add her to my mailing list. She did and wrote out her email.

I came home, sent her my latest newsletter, and had an almost instant reply saying she would look up my books and promising to be a fan.

Dinner was good; finding a new fan may even have been better.

Want to be on my newsletter list? Email me at I promise I only do a newsletter when I have something to shout about.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Making good memories

A day in the country is good for the soul. I long ago decided that but reinforced it Sunday when Jordan, Christian, Jacob and I spent the day at my brother's ranch. We got there about noon, had a lunch of barbecue, beans, potato salad (I really wanted to bring home potato salad, picked up the wrong container, and found I'd brought beans--blast and darn!). After we lingered over lunch, we set out in the all-terrain vehicle (Kubota) to visit the cattle. Along the way Jacob got to pet the donkey--a real people animal, got temporarily locked in a hog trap (he was a bit uncertain about that experience), and got to wander among the cows and calves, while firmly holding his great-uncles hand. He saw hog bones that vultures had picked clean; he proudly gathered fresh eggs; he played catch with his dad in the side yard. Christian echoed what I was thinking--it's so wonderful for that city kid to get out on a ranch among the animals. Christian had that experience with his great-grandfather and treasures the memory. For us, Sunday was a day of making good memories.
When we got back to the house, Jacob asked if we were going home right away. Told twenty minutes, he said, "Good. I really like it here." Inside there is a parrot (do NOT put your fingers in the cage), a cat who soaks up affection, and two German Shepherds (do NOT put your face down by their faces). Lots for a city kid with two small, quiet dogs to learn in the country.
Twenty minutes stretched into a couple of hours as we sat on the porch, soaking in the lovely weather, drinking wine, and talking about family reunions, memories, and all the rest. Jordan heard at least one family story she'd never heard before, and we began making a rough plan for a get-together this spring. When all families are gathered, there are thirty-three of us. More good memories.
My brother has been a major figure in my life ever since I can remember--the older brother who was always ready to come to his sister's defense. I think I remember him taking on a bully who had picked on me when I was quite young. Over the years we've been close and not so close, but we've lived much of our adult lives in close proximity, shared friends and celebrations. I think now in our "twilight years"--really?--we're closer than ever. We have a lot of interests in common (politics not included) and we enjoy each other's company. I often look to him for advice--especially medical for me and my family--and I love to share my joys with him.
John is married to a lovely lady named Cindy who subtly takes good care of him and makes him happier than I've ever seen him--all the while not giving him an inch. He has two children and five grandchildren and feels lucky. I insist people know me as John Peckham's sister; he insists people know him as Judy Alter's brother. It's a nice relationship, and I'm grateful.
And I'm grateful for the storehouse of memories, which got a bit fuller on Sunday. Lovely day. Life is good.
The hog trap may not be Jacob's best memory :-)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Of children and dogs

Yesterday, Jacob and his mother got separated in a store where they'd gone to buy valentines. He panicked, thinking he'd lost her. Jordan assured him she would never ever leave without him, and they are going to discuss again asking a salesperson for help. My heart was filled with sympathy for the poor child...until I remembered the day I left Jamie in the grocery store. As I drove away I glanced in the rear view mirror, only to see him madly chasing my car. In retrospect it reminds me of those horrible stories about dogs being thrown out of cars and desperately chasing those cars. Jamie apparently survived unscathed, though if he sees this he'll tell me, "I'm suing."
Another time I had my four plus a neighbor child in the drugstore. As I walked out I realized I only had four children and should have five. As I turned to go retrieve the missing child, I bumped into a woman. Excusing myself, I said, "I've lost a child." She patted me on the arm and said, "Don't worry, honey. You have enough." Wish I had digital pictures of those wonderful days.
The other day I saw a beautiful picture of a dog on Facebook with a sentiment to the effect that we should never trust a person who doesn't like a dog, but always trust a dog who doesn't like a person. I'm not sure Sophie is hat discriminating--she seems to love everyone. But she grows into a better dog every day. Sure, she has her moments of high frenzy over guests, but she calms down quickly. And, yes, she can be demanding when he wants to play fetch, but she deserves those minutes of my time. At night when she knows I'm headed for bed, she lies on her bed and waits for me to come give her a tummy rub. Today, she was playing with her toys for Jordan and me while we had a Valentine happy hour in the living room. Jordan caught this picture of her looking at me and titled it, "Yes, Momma."
She follows me everywhere around the house, knows the signs when I'm dressing to go out. If she doesn't want to go outside, she runs as fast as she can in the other direction when I get out the leash. When I went out to pick up scattered toys (boy and dog) this afternoon, she peeked out the door but wouldn't venture out--she did not want to be in the back yard if I was in the house. The picture above was taken by a friend--shows how badly she needs a haircut but also shows her sweet face and is a demonstration of how effective b&w photography can be.
So nice to be without snow, ice, slipper roads and walkways. Today it was sunny and beautiful, in the low sixties. Makes everyone want to be outside, and the traffic was heavy when I did errands this morning. I guess others felt the same way. My daffodils have grown so much in a week. And here's the orchid Jordan got me.
Life is good. Hope everyone had a happy St. Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The sad life of a has-been pop rock star--or welcome Sally Carprenter

When I make a mistake, I do it up big. Turns out I did have a guest for last night’s blog, but I messed up the schedule on my computer. So please help me welcome Sally Carpenter, author of The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper and the new The Sinister Sitcom Caper. You’ve heard of plotters vs. pantsers? Sally sounds like a plotter to me, because here she gives us for background of her main character and how he became a has-been pop rock star.

I composed a detailed backstory about my protagonist, including the events that lead up to when my series begins. Sandy Fairfax was born Stanford Ernest Farmington Jr. on Dec. 25, 1955. Since his father went by Stanford, the son was called Ernest. Ernest was destined for a career in music, thanks to his melodious family. Stanford founded an orchestra and served as the conductor. Mother Opal sang with big bands until she married.

Brother Warren was a professional organist. Sister Celeste came close to fame as a folk singer for reasons that will be given in the third book of the series. Ernest sang in a church boys’ choir and school choir. He took lessons in piano and violin and dutifully enrolled in college with the expectation that he would eventually take over his father’s orchestra.

Then Ernest discovered rock ‘n’ roll.

In college, away from his parents, Ernest immersed himself in rock music. He started a rock band with fellow students. After finishing his freshmen year of study, he dropped out of college to perform with his band. His father was furious.

One night in a seedy dive in Hollywood, a talent scout named Jarvis Lycowitz saw the band play. The music was bad but he liked the looks and charisma of the singer. He told young Ernest that he could make him into a pop star—if he ditched the band. At age eighteen Ernest left his friends and signed a contract with SuperTonic Records. Jarvis said nobody would buy records from someone named Ernest Farmington, and he rechristened the singer as Sandy Fairfax.

Jarvis soon signed Sandy onto the pilot of a new TV show geared for teens, “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth.” The show was a smash hit for four years. Worldwide concert tours, two Buddy Brave movies, a Buddy Brave cartoon show and ten gold records soon followed. Sandy got married and had two beautiful kids. Life seemed good.

Then came the crash.

Sandy’s fans grew up and turned to hard rock. New pop stars shoved him off the charts. Nobody wanted to hire the former pop star. Sandy turned to alcohol for comfort. His drunken antics embarrassed his family, and his wife divorced him and took the kids. For a short time he played guitar for a rock band but was fired when he fell off the stage, drunk, during a show. He was arrested for a DUI and for a bar brawl. He dated a string of neurotic girlfriends.

When a person hits rock bottom, he can only go up. And here the series begins.

 In 1993 Sandy’s ex ordered him to quit drinking and get a job or he wouldn’t see his kids again. In desperation, Sandy sobered up and began taking any and all job offers, no matter how dismal. At these gigs Sandy faced a new challenge—murder.

In The Baffled Beatlemanic Caper, a guest appearance at a Beatles fan convention turns deadly when a member of the tribute band is shot. Sandy’s diehard fans helped him find the killer.    In The Sinister Sitcom Caper, Sandy’s a guest star on the dreadful TV show, “Off-Kelter.” When one of the actors drops dead at Sandy’s feet, he snoops around with the aid of a dwarf and an animal actor.
My current WIP is “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper” in which our hero and his estranged sister perform aboard a cruise ship and Sandy’s stumped to explain how a dead body turned up in his dressing room. More adventures are on the way as Sandy stays dry, reconnects with his family, regains his confidence, sings for his fans, and amuses his readers.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, California. She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University, where her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do.

She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

Her first book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series, The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, was a 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel.

Her short story, “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in,” appears in the 2013 anthology “Last Exit to Murder.” “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” was published in the “Plan B: Vol. 2” e-book anthology, and her short story, “The Pie-eyed Spy,” appeared in the Nov. 23, 2013, issue of Kings River Life ezine.
Sally blogs at She's a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. Contact her at Facebook or


Wednesday guest on Thursday, sort of

Wednesday is usually my evening to post a guest blog in an effort to introduce blog readers to some authors they might otherwise not find. The author I had on my schedule for Wed., February 12, never sent anything, so I decided on some BSP (blatant self promotion) to highlight one of my books you may not have found yet. But then I went out for dinner with a friend last night, had a lovely, relaxed evening and an extra glass of wine, and lost my ambition for writing a blog post. So here I am on Thursday morning with Wednesdays blog. Maybe there should be a drum roll--please welcome, uh, Judy Alter!
Short stories are hard for me to write. Mostly I've written them when someone said they were putting together an anthology and would I please write a short story with such-and-such theme. Then I went into panic mode, unless inspiration hit me. Once a friend said she was putting together stories about either women or love in WWII (can't remember which) and I demurred, couldn't do it. Then one afternoon I hard this woman's voice:
"War is unforgiving, they tell you.  Old women who had lived through the first big war shook their heads and told me it'd take my boys and I could only pray to God they'd come back.  But war took my daughter too, and that's a bitter pill to swallow, even now all these years later." That voice opens "An Old Woman's Lament about War."
On the contrary, when I was asked to write a piece for an anthology about guns, I was stymied. Fortunately a friend is an expert on handguns and introduced me to derringers, those "ladylike" guns. The result was "Pegeen's Revenge."
Two of my favorites came to  me spontaneously. I wrote "Sue Ellen Learns to Dance" after I saw Dorothea Lange's 1936 photo of a woman and her children on the dust-blown plains. "Fool Girl" was inspired by a memoir in which a young boy was sent out on the Texas prairie to look for the work horse that had escaped. Terrified of Indians, he rode farther than a work horse could have gone. I made the boy a girl--remember, I wrote about Women of the West--and made the incident life-changing for her.
My short stories are collected in Sue Ellen Learns to Dance and Other Stories, available for Kindle and other e-platforms for only 99 cents. I think it's a bargain, but then I'm prejudiced.
The collection was first published by Panther Creek Press, and I'm eternally grateful but a friend who has a retail business said the cover was too scholarly to attract her customers. It features the photo behind the Sue Ellen story. When I put the collection on the web, I had a new cover designed, but I can't tell it's made much difference in sales. What do you think?


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The hip bone is connected to the knee bone…and so on

I’ve been musing on matters medical lately. For years I took a diuretic as part of a program to control my hypertension. In the last, oh, six months, it seemed the diuretic was messing up my electrolytes, so I went off it and began to take electrolyte supplements. Everything was fine until I took magnesium, which gave me embarrassing and difficult digestive problems in the extreme. It seems to me that my health problems are caused by medicines given me and not by my own physical state of well-being. My mind jumped back to the early osteopathic teachings of Andrew Taylor Still, with his insistence on looking at the whole man (holistic medicine as a concept was around long before Still pounced on it) and his firm belief that the natural state of man is health, not disease.

But there’s another side to the story. I’m not sure health is a natural state for people in our current culture, not even all those who work out religiously. We have to consider factors such as the stress of our fast-paced world, genetics, pollution, the foods we eat—even if we try to avoid them, we’re consuming preservatives, additives, too much sugar and salt.  All that may well have contributed to my hypertension which, left untreated, would most likely have killed me by now. Perhaps as modern culture has evolved (not always for the best), so has modern medicine. Makes me want to retreat to the woods with Thoreau for a life lived deliberately…and simply. Though my brother the doctor points out that in A. T. Still’s day the average life span was much shorter.

Still, recognizing all that, I cling to the idea of holistic medicine and the belief that health is the natural state of man. A friend recently went to a hip and knee clinic, fell, and broke his ankle. He was sent to the ER, had surgery by a physician who apparently knew about ankles, but when he went back to the hip and knee clinic to have his cast removed, the staff threw up their hands and said they knew nothing of ankles. How can you treat hips and knees if you know nothing of ankles? Doctors should be treating patients, whole people, not pieces or symptoms or diseases. Reminds me of jokes about physicians referring to “the gall bladder in Room 305” or “the heart attack in Room 221.” Sad but true—such conversations happen.

I recently wore an orthopedic shoe for six weeks because of a spontaneous fracture in my foot. Even before I was allowed to discard the shoe, my ankle was complaining, especially when I went down stairs. It had stiffened up and adjusted to a whole different way that I walked in that shoe. The doctor who treated me, an osteopathic physician, acknowledged that and said give it time. It’s been a week and a half and my daughter told me last night I still walk with a limp, especially when I first get started. The broken bone didn’t happen in isolation.

One of my sons-in-law thinks my medical theories are screwy (along with many of my other beliefs) and he said he wouldn’t want anyone working on his ankle who didn’t know about ankles. He missed the point that if you’re working on hips and knees you should know about ankles—seems essential to me. That same son-in-law has had a stiff neck since Christmas (when circumstances and his seven-year-old forced him to sleep on the floor). He went to our doctor and came away with an order for an x-ray and talking about a pinched nerve, which is I’m sure a term he has heard but doesn’t understand (nor do I). I think he needs an old-fashioned osteopathic or chiropractic treatment, a hands-on bit of medicine that can detect muscle spasm and the like. A. T. Still also believed the body had to be aligned correctly for health to dominate.

Good thing I’m not a doctor. I’m dangerous enough having been on the fringes of osteopathic medicine most of my life.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Olympic-size extravaganza

Unless you have your head in the sand (or snow) and don't do social media, you are now overwhelmed with the Olympics. We seem to spend every moment in Sochi, from watching athletic events to listening to the Russian Men's Police Chorus. How far we've come from the intent of the games, which was to showcase athletic talents. That goal was formulated in ancient Greek days and reinstituted in the late nineteenth century. Today, the Olympics are an extravaganza, with every country trying to outdo the other in spirit, costume, and entertainment.
Wait a minute! Hasn't this gotten out of hand? I heard the other day a PBS clip about the previous Olympic sites--Montreal, New York City, London and others--that are slowly rusting and deteriorating. What does a country do with such grand facilities after the games are over? It's like the great expositions of the past. The 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago featured white pavilions made of a temporary plaster-like substance which wasn't meant to last--those grand buildings gradually decayed and disappeared. Even the giant Ferris wheel finally rusted and was dismantled. All that remains today of that extravagant glory is the city's famed Museum of Science and Industry. The White City is a thing of history books. So, I imagine, it will be with Sochi.
It seems particularly sad to me that in Sochi many single-family homes were demolished to make way for the Olympic compound. Not only were families relocated to apartments, they lost their pets because the apartments didn't allow them. As a result, countless stray dogs and cats roam Sochi and are being systematically put to death. As most people know, I'm an animal lover and that upsets me a lot. But beyond that, think of the families who were displaced from homes they no doubt treasured and lost loved pets. It's extravaganza at human and animal expense.
Is that really how we want to recognize and applaud extreme athletic achievement? With 24-hour TV and glorious fairgrounds that will disintegrate from neglect? Is that the best we can do in our synthetic world? I think not. I think the Olympics, like the SuperBowl and the NBA championship, are areas where we should rethink our national and international values. Athletic accomplishment is a thing to be greatly admired--but with glitz and bling? Surely we can do better.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Snow--or lack thereof--dictates

I woke this morning with a schedule in my head. I'd work a bit in the morning, go to the Planned Parenthood Luncheon downtown, have a nap, and do a late grocery run. Once again, snow--and the weather forecast--changed my whole plan. Between a half inch and an inch was forecast from ten in the morning on. I made a speed run to the grocery, wimped out on the luncheon because it would be just when the snow hit, and settled down for a long day of work. You guessed it--I saw not one snowflake. Streets are dry except for patchy ice, and all is well with the world. I should have gone to the luncheon. I missed a good menu and, worse yet, good friends.
I do not want this to repeat again tomorrow, because I have to go to the store for fresh fish for company tomorrow night. The weather forecasters assure us the snow is over, but at this point I'm not sure about them.
Staying home for a long day of work was not bad. Once again I did a lot of little things that needed doing, including some outside chores I'd neglected the day before. And I did my yoga, which went a lot better today--my muscles seemed to be remembering the pattern or rhythm.
But the big thing for me, was that I am getting back to work as a writer. I'd had the intent ever since Christmas but kept getting distracted--which tells me my heart wasn't really in it. Several things have combined to renew my enthusiasm, and I can feel work--and enthusiasm--rising in me like a great tide (oops, I think that's hyperbole). Several people have told me how anxious they are for the next Kelly O'Connell Mystery--now even if my reputation and "fame" are purely local, that's a good feeling. Then the other day I received first edits on Kelly #5--Deception in Strange Places--and set about working on them today. A tip of my hat to my editor, Suzanne Barrett, who "gets" my writing and makes it oh so much better, while making me adhere to some rules of grammar I casually cast aside--alright is not a word. It's all right.
Yesterday, at Suzanne's request, I spent much of the day revising the synopsis for Kelly #6--don't know the title but it will have something to do with revenge. So now, ideas for that one are crowding my brain, and I'm anxious to get back to it. In a flurry of inspiration (?), I actually wrote 10,000 words in January and then many other things, including kids visit and taxes, took me away. But I think I'm about to settle down to a good routine of writing and daily yoga, and I'm happy about that. So snow days...and even non-snow days...aren't all bad.
I have the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on, muted, and frankly, except for one wonderful display (maybe China?) I find it boring. It's going to be a long two or three weeks.
Stay safe and warm everyone--it's still going down into the twenties here tonight. But a brief warm-up is headed our way.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The joy of a snow day

I was unprepared for snow today. I’d heard vague references to a light dusting on the weather report, but I didn’t take it seriously. In fact, I went to bed still debating whether to go to the grocery today or tomorrow. The white world that greeted me was sort of an executive decision from above. I would stay home all day. That "light dusting" came down much of the morning, sometimes heavily, sometimes little tiny flakes you could barely see. The streets, at least major, weren’t too bad but getting across the front porch and down the driveway are the challenges.

So I dug in and did a lot of things around the house I’d been putting off—including the first yoga I’ve done in seven weeks, since I broke that bone in my foot. I suppose that was part laziness because I could have done some poses with the orthopedic shoes. I regretted my folly this morning because my regular routine wore me out, some places didn’t bend like they should, some poses were downright difficult. It was fun to do in my sunroom with windows all around so I could watch the snow. But it’s also difficult to do yoga in full sweats—and too cold in that window room to take off the heavy clothes.

A flurry of excitement around noon—false rumor that Jacob would get out of school at noon. True time was 2:25 but his grandparents, who were to come get him, decided against it—for good reason (they live 30-45 minutes away). Jordan decreed I was not to leave the house, a decree I willingly obeyed, so she commandeered someone from her office with four-wheel drive to bring her to the school. Tomorrow is still up in the air—no school, so I imagine I’ll get him early in the morning. I have tentatively cancelled my plans for tomorrow but will try to go to the grocery in the late afternoon. High today of 22 isn’t going to melt anything—but 37 tomorrow and 61 Saturday.

I thought often today of my childhood in Chicago with deep snow, sledding, ice skating, and not letting a bit of ice and snow stop our world. I don’t remember school ever being cancelled but I suppose it probably was.  And then I spent several years in northern Missouri where the roads iced into ruts into which my VW didn’t fit. I remember looking out the window and thinking if I could just wake up one morning and not see dirty gray snow. We lived in a small town where people still used coal, and the snow got really nasty. But I was younger then and less fearful of falling.

In Fort Worth, the world is cancelled for an inch of snow. My church closed, as did several others. National TV programming was pre-empted all morning by “storm” coverage, and the highways were blocked by long lines and wrecked cars. The national news even mentioned the mess in Texas over not that much snow. No thaw tonight, but the streets look pretty good.

I spent much of the morning thinking of the errands and outdoor chores I’d have done yesterday if I’d taken seriously the mention of a possible dusting of light snow. This is more than a dusting, but at least it won’t melt and refreeze overnight. And I won’t whine and complain when I watch news clips from the northeast. Now if I can just get down the driveway tomorrow!

One Judy welcomes another Judy

Even though it's Thursday morning, please welcome my Wednesday guest author, blogger, traveler, and woman of many talents and interests--Judy Copek. Born in Montana, she lived in New England for many years and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, among other organizations. Welcome, Judy, and thanks for being my guest.

“You always have to learn everything the hard way.” My mother’s cautionary words to me, usually said in exasperation from early childhood until I was out of high school.
 Mom, you were so right.
I don’t break laws. Never cheated in school. Swiped a green eyes shadow at a fire sale when I was in high school and still feel the guilt. I drive respectfully. Vote in every election. Try to be a solid citizen. OK, I jaywalk
But except for the Golden Rule, I don’t like rules, and I’m not a willing follower. For thirty plus years I’ve always broken the rule of “don’t try a new recipe for company.” I recall only one time when disaster ensued. Just once. Damn, those dumplings sure did fall apart.       

            My heart is always with the rebel, the non-conformist, and the oddball. I smoked and drank at an early age; I stopped heating baby bottles early in my motherhood career. I’ve never been much for sunscreen. I ate butter when the rest of the world was eating margarine. I told my lunch mates, “That stuff will kill you.” They just rolled their eyes. Crazy Judy.

            A rule I always found hard to ignore was not to mention that the emperor wore no clothes. Couldn’t any fool see that? Apparently not.

When it comes to writing, I’m not a willing follower of rules and this has not been to my advantage. Somerset Maugham once remarked, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” Advice as to what those rules are is everywhere. And believe me, most people think there are many more rules than three.
Some rules I ignored to my detriment. Don’t send out a manuscript before it is ready. How do you know when it’s ready? I could never figure this out until I’d been writing for a very long time. Follow the rules of the genre. Too boring. Too stupid. Hmmm. Wonder why that cozy mystery with all the sex and profanity never sold. To this day, I’m always amazed that so many writers read all the writing books and outline their novels in detail and create characters arcs and character biographies and plot like crazy and create five to seven “hooks” in their first paragraph. Following rules. Too boring. Too conformist.
I had a novel that wasn’t selling. I mean no one would touch it. I changed the last paragraph and had the heroine go off with the hero instead of saying goodbye. It sold to the next publisher I pitched. And it sold as “romantic suspense.” Huh? Was I writing that? Maybe. I didn’t know, because I didn’t know the rules. How do you find out the rules? That’s the catch. You must read REALLY A LOT of books in that genre. Gradually the rules will become clear. But maybe you just have an idea for a story. You want to write that story, not read twenty novels in the genre. Reading those books would have actually saved time and aggravation, but I have to learn everything the hard way.
My most recent novel, Festival Madness, was one of the genre-breaking books. Most readers don’t care; it’s the agents and publishers who are such sticklers for rules. If you write a good story, the reader will get it. Rules of storytelling and rules of genre are not always compatible. I self-published the novel and no one has complained about my bad-girl heroine. After all, she saved her friend and she helped solve the crime. She stepped up to the plate many times, but she did have one very large flaw. She chafed at the rules, just as her creator sometimes does. I haven’t figured out if she had to learn everything the hard way. And me? I’m still learning.
Festival Madness was inspired by my trips to the Burning Man Festival and working in high-tech Cambridge. How far would you go for a friend? Put a wrecking ball to your marriage? Endanger your job? Risk your very life? Boston-based computer security consultant Emma Lee Devens leaves her top-secret project in disarray and jeopardizes her troubled marriage when she rushes to find her missing friend and colleague. Emma’s search takes her to the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada and the Burning Man where a unique experience of survival, ceremonial fire, danger and transcendence awaits. Anything can happen at Burning Man. Even murder.
Festival Madness is a Kindle book on Amazon (ASIN: B00E2YO538) and a trade paperback (978-1491052938).  

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Feeling out of step

I have decided I am definitely out of step with the times. Sunday night a friend posed a question on Facebook: she wanted to know if she was the only one not watching the Superbowl. I assured her I was keeping her company. I would have liked to see the commercials but not badly enough to sit through a noisy, distracting football team. And since I don't know one team from another, it hardly mattered to me who won (Jacob was rooting for the Broncos and was crushed by their catastrophic defeat). I am of the school that the whole thing is a bunch of folly, too many players are overpaid and have over-inflated egos. I applaud those who are investigating long-term effects of head injuries, and I hope high school and college football is a thing of the past by the time my grandsons--or, heaven forbid, granddaughters!--get there.
Now comes the Winter Olympics which are, to me, interminable, taking up way too much TV time. I don't watch that much TV but I do enjoy the news and the TODAY show--except now they are half or more about the Olympics. Like many people I am fearful about this set of games. I think the terrorists mean real business. Someone said to me tonight that the athletes will be safe but travelers in airports and railroad stations will be in danger. Sometimes I have a sort of blind faith that authorities know what they're doing, and all will be well. That faith has deserted me this time, and I am truly fearful of what will happen at the games. And of the tension athletes, their families, and their countries must be feeling.
Then last week comes news of the tragic overdose of Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps another testimony to the skewed values in parts of our culture where a man of such talent can fall victim to addiction. But guess what? I didn't know that when I first heard the news. I had no idea who he was--though I have since learned almost too much about his great talent. But I am not a moviegoer.
I was a bit cheered when a friend posted about the camera focusing on celebrities at the Superbowl. Her teenage daughter shouted, "Paul McCartney," and my friend said, "I must have done something right."
A part of me would like to go back to the days of Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Judy Collins and others. Another part feels guilty because if I want to slow down aging, I should do better at keeping up with the world around me. But the biggest part of me is content, and I think I'll just go on with my oblivion--at least about current forms of entertainment. June Christie and Stan Kenton, anyone?

Monday, February 03, 2014

Another book signing--and a weary lady

my support crew at the Saturday signing
Some authors go on two-week book signings or even longer. I have no idea how they do it--I've done two signings in three days, and I'm exhausted. Of course, in between I had a houseful of family, went to the stock show and Joe T. Garcia's for dinner, and cooked breakfast for eleven people. Then came dishes and laundry. And I've sent off a guest blog, drafted another one, sent off a book review, gone to have blood drawn at the doctor's and gone shopping at Central Market. I don't think I need to feel too guilty that I haven't gotten back to my exercise program--there's no time in the day.
Tonight Jordan and I repeated Saturday's signing, and I have to say Peter Schroeder's wisdom about the best time to sign was borne out--we sold about four times more books Sat. morning than we did tonight. But there were compensations--good friends came and stayed for dinner. We visited with Lon Burnam and Carol Roark, sort of watching hungrily while they ate. And then in-laws Patty and Ralph came in, and we ended up having dinner together and a wonderful, long visit--probably longer than we've ever sat and talked to them at one stretch. I sold a respectable number of books, got some new names for my mailing list, and generally spread the good will, which is what I think book
 signings are in large part about.
Jordan as usual was organized to the nth degree--books in stacks, each with a price tag (from which she sold), books on display holders (we call them zogs for what reason I don't know) on the signing tale, mailing list sign-up sheets and a plethora of pens. She took cash and checks, made change when necessary, and chatted with everyone. Such a good pr person. Poor Christian had lots of chores tonight--he went clear out to their house to play with their dogs for a bit, then came by my house to get the hearing aids I'd forgotten and to let in Sophie, who had also been forgotten outside. She doesn't seem to hold a grudge about it however.
I finished the rather long book I was reading for review and sent off the review, so tomorrow, when I take a friend for a colonoscopy, I'm going to sink into the pleasure of a good, light-hearted mystery. But after that my list of errands is long. I discovered this weekend when sons come to visit, they can find a list of problems--a filthy car, a broken vacuum (perhaps beyond repair, he tells me) and evidence of possible foundation problems in my house. It will take me till his next visit to get done the things he pointed out.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

What a wonderful day!

Tonight I'm wrapped in the cozy comfort of a wonderful family and a great day. This morning I signed books at the Old Neighborhood Grill from 7-9 a.m. While sales were not brisk, they were steady, and I was particularly pleased by the people who bought several books. One woman said, "I love your books. I'll buy the new one after we eat." Within minutes, she was back to buy it while they waited for their food. Another pair, recently moved to the neighborhood where the books are set, had read the first in the Kelly O'Connell series and bought the next three--plus a Blue Plate Mystery that my daughter handed me and I signed before we realized it was not the book they wanted. They were charmingly cavalier about it.
Jordan, Colin, and I opened shop at 7 a.m.--good golly, I got up at 5:45! But the rest of the family gradually wandered in, and the young children were remarkably well behaved. Thanks to Uncle Colin who kept them amused. My children contributed to greatly to this signing--Jordan had it organized down to the last detail--sign-up sheet, poster, price list, etc. and she was the cashier; Colin lifted and hauled and did whatever was necessary; Lisa, Colin's wife, arrived with checks for $165 for books she'd sold in advance in Houston--I signed them all this afternoon. All the children--Colin and Lisa, Megan and Brandon, Jamie and Melanie (who were absent due to a bout with the flu), and Jordan and Christian bought a beautiful bouquet for the signing table, and I surely felt like a queen.
If you missed it, Jordan, Christian, and I will repeat the event Monday night from 5-7 p.m. Good time to come by for a glass of wine.
We came home, hurriedly bundled up in warmer clothes since the temperature was dropping, and left for the stock show. I made it through two barns and decided it was time to come home. Sweet Colin, who is my rock in so many ways, walked me back to my car--a very long walk--and I was home by noon. Lunch, email, Facebook, and a long nap--my kind of afternoon while the rest of the family ate at the stock show and did the midway. By five I wondered what happened to them, but they arrived shortly thereafter
Dinner at Joe T.'s--another family tradition--where it's so noisy I can't hear anybody. We came home to Black Forest Cake (yum!) to celebrate Lisa who was named Teacher of the Year for her school. A wonderful family evening, with kids running wild and adults talking about this, that and the other--some memories and people from past times.
I am so blessed to be surrounded by so much love and support, and by children who let me be myself with acceptance and love. Lord, I don't know what I did to deserve this, but I am grateful.