Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Busy days

Some in my family--one in particular whom I won't name--accuse me of leading too sedentary a life, indoors too much, because I spend so much time at my desk. In my own defense, I want to say that this morning I did an hour and a half at physical therapy, took an adventurous drive down a street I wanted to explore, went to the grocery, unpacked groceries, took out three loads of garbage, and fixed lunch--my low back was screaming at me, but, hey, I was in motion.
Today I officially began a hiatus from physical therapy. The therapist agreed that I had increased both my strength and balance, and he had no qualms about turning me loose. For me part, I want to see how I do in the outside world because I know I do all right in the therapy room. Also I felt I was focusing too much on how I felt, etc. I still have appointments to schedule, and I will go back occasionally but this is an experiment...and a respite from having to get up at six-thirty.
Yesterday I mailed the first edits of my Chicago novel back to the editor and am now ready to switch gears to the chili book--and that's a real gear switch. I also corresponded with the publicity person at the company that reprints my older novels--we were choosing cover art for the reprint of Jessie (Jessie Benton Fremont) which will appear as a digital book sometime this summer. So it's been a busy couple of days but I feel like I've really accomplished things.
Last night I was up several times with the dog and bathroom trips--Sophie was snuffling so that it woke me, and I got her a Benedryl. Then she wanted to go out. I went back to bed for an hour but then got up to see if she wanted to come in. She didn't. Looked at me like, "Really?" By then it was five, and I had to get up at six-thirty, so I left her. I do hope she gets over this middle of the night potty-call soon.
I plan to sleep soundly tonight. Sweet dreams, y'all.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stuff but no nonsense

I honestly don't know where to begin tonight. I've spent a lazy day at home--catching up on housekeeping matters like laundry, writing, napping. This evening friends came by for happy hour, and I was glad for company. I'm still basking in the glow of having spent about thirty-six hours with my four kids. There's a bond between them that is so wonderful--without spouses and children (all of whom I love dearly) it was like they were in college again--they laughed and giggled, they played pranks, they drank too much (but remained well behaved). I raised them as a single parent from the time the oldest, Colin, was twelve, and once again it was the five of us together--only better, because they have the maturity of middle age and family responsibilities. I too wish all sixteen members of my immediate family could have been in Lubbock with me, but I am grateful for this time with my four. I am always grateful for time alone with any one of them--and this was even better.
But while I was all wrapped up in my world, it's been a momentous and happy week in our country. So much has been written about the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality that anything I can add would seem superfluous, except I'm overjoyed for the LGBT community and for our country. A good friend named Winston helped me raise my children--taught them to drive, to ride horseback, and to misbehave. They adored him and called him Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob was gay as a goose and had a string of lovers, one of whom gave him AIDS. He died in 1994. When Jamie heard the news of the decision, he said, "I wonder how Uncle Bob would have felt." I wondered if it would have led Uncle Bob to lead a more monogamous life...or if he'd just have made a string of bad marriages. I did read where someone predicted that in a year all the hullaballoo will have died down and gays will begin divorcing just like the rest of us.
In the wake of the momentous marriage equality decision, it seems that the affirmation of ACA got overshadowed, and yet it's so important for millions of Americans. I saw a lengthy post on Facebook today of pictures with people standing in line to sign up. The poster claimed these were images the mainstream media didn't want the public to see--I'm not sure about that, but I do think the announcement may have spurred more people to sign up. I used to carefully avoid saying Obamacare and use the correct Affordable Care Act, but you know what? I think Obamacare is a fitting name--it may become our tribute to his presidency. Maybe now after who-knows-how-many failed attempts to dismantle the law and two SCOTUS decisions, John Boehner and his cronies will move on.
It's truly been a great week for America--and for me personally.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A short wonderful trip--amd so much for my expectations

I just had one of the best 24 hours of my life. As many of you know from my children's Facebook postings, we all five went to Lubbock on a whirlwind trip for my induction into the Western Writers of America Hall of Fame. It was a trip fraught with a few airline delays but marked by much joy and laughter and a couple of pranks on the part of my kids--well, at least one son.
I had been uncertain about this trip--don't like to fly, even though it's a 55-minute flight, unsure of who I'd know since it's been at least 15 years or more since I've been to WWA, uncertain of what to say at the induction (Colin told me I had to speak 30 minutes), and absolutely unprepared for my part on the panel Saturday morning. Yet it all went well. My personal cheering section assured me I was eloquent but brief. It didn't seem to matter that I dropped the trophy as I handed it to Colin or that I forgot the few things I had in mind to say at the acceptance.
It was nostalgic for me--many of the 41 inducted were not there, having either passed on or not in good enough health to attend. I missed some good friends (Who really expected Clint Eastwood to show up?) Others seemed to me to have aged a great deal. I was quick to ask the kids if I had aged that much and they were as always reassuring. But I did get to greet several people I was genuinely glad to see...and I think I acquitted myself well in recognizing everyone. For many years, WWA was a huge part of my life, and if I've had any success as a writer I owe it to that group and the people I met at their conventions. I served a couple of terms on the board and one as president.
The induction was at the Ranching Heritage Center, a lovely setting. After the formal ceremony, everyone adjourned to the patio.
Megan and Jordan on the patio
Jordan had saved us a table in the shade. The weather grew increasingly pleasant as the evening wore on--nice temperatures and just a hint of a breeze. Dinner was a typical BBQ--brisket, roast pork, beans, cole slaw, potato salad, and cobbler. After dinner, musicians played country/western music and one recited a poem by the late S. Omar Barker (SOB), long a beloved member, with his wife Elsa, of WWA. I liked a musician who sounded like he'd taken basic Scottish folk songs and put cowboy words to them, but the kids like another one better. Never mind that Jordan and Megan got the uncontrollable giggles--and never would tell me what they were giggling about.
Jamie and Colin
Back at the hotel, more wine, stayed up too late. But sound asleep when someone began to knock on my door. After a couple of times, I called the boys; Colin said he'd be right there but I never heard anything. Seems it was room service--and had the wrong J.Alter. Jamie ordered hot wings at midnight, and they were on the same floor.

Me. reminding Barry Corbin that
we really had met before--
in my living room.
This morning we had a long, leisurely breakfast and then I was on a panel at 10:30, to talk about the land as a character in Elmer Kelton's novels. I was in high cotton because my fellow panelist were Elmer's son, Steve, novelist and good Kelton friend Patrick Dearen, and actor Barry Corbin.
I felt like I was stumbling and bumbling but my personal cheering square said I was "awesome" and complained about my always getting so nervous when once on the spot I do very well, either flying in a plane or speaking in public.
The minute the panel was over, it was rush out the door to the loaded car and head for the airport--only to find our plane was delayed almost an hour. More wine and airport sandwiches--not my idea of lunch, but it was okay. And then, a little over 24 hours later, I was back home again, with the whole experience seeming like a dream.
I would never have enjoyed this experience without my four children. They know only too well that I am a bit shaky on balance--and this weekend my feet hurt, which made walking doubly difficult. Wherever I turned, there was one of them with an arm out; they dragged my suitcase; Jordan held on to my boarding pass and drivers license and took me through that process until I thought the attendant must think I was in my early dotage. They brought me wine. They beamed and laughed at me when I was onstage. They were absolutely wonderful, and I am so grateful to them and for them. This was one of life's moments to be treasured.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What are you reading just for fun?

I decided I want an escape reading book for the weekend--yes, yes, I have plenty of work on my desk, but it's time for a break. I keep a list of books to read but few struck me as right, so I turned to Amazon and searched for cozy mysteries by date of publication. First of all there were at least ten pages, maybe more, of books which I could pre-order. Some as far out as January 2016. I wish I could learn to post mine for pre-order, something I'll have to explore. The one mystery I self-published went live almost the minute I sent it in--which really wasn't what I had in mind.
Finally I got to the new books. I scrolled through perhaps another 15 pages recognizing only one or two authors. Since I really want escape reading for this weekend, I wasn't willing to order a sample chapter of an unknown--though I like to do that to support authors I don't know.
But I was surprised I knew so few--I'm an active member of Sisters in Crime and consider myself fairly knowledgeable about who's writing mysteries. What this tells me is that the field is so crowded that it's a wonder any of us sell one book--except to friends and relatives. No wonder marketing and social media are so important today.
But therein lies the rub. In such a crowded field, how do you make yourself stand out? Darned if  I know. I like social media, like blogging, spend way too much time on Facebook. But I'm a storyteller, not a marketer. I want to get to the business of writing and not spend my day on social media.
I  read several posts today from writers who were thinking of chucking it all. They run into a brick wall selling their work, they beat themselves up trying to keep up with social media--all for little or no rewards either monetary or audience reaction.
What's the answer? What if anything do you say to these discouraged authors? For readers, there are a couple of answers--write book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, spread the word. And email the author--you can find "Contact" pages on most authors Web site. Let them know you read and enjoyed their books.
As for quitting writing, I can't imagine it. I write because that's how I live. I don't think I could not write. I'd wake up in the morning and think, "Omigosh, what am I going to do with the day?" As it is I wake up thinking, "Okay, what's keeping me from writing today?" Too many distractions. I can see giving up social media--or some of it--but not writing. It's who I am.
So watch for a chili book and a new novel this fall. I'm trudging on--and trying to encourage my fellow authors.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down

I once read that there's a certain age where each of us remain in our minds. Mine is my early thirties--I had young babies and a happy marriage, or so I thought. Lately I've been coming to grips with the fact that no, I'm not thirty-three--I am about to turn seventy-seven. And at my back I do hear time's winged chariot. Not drawing too near I hope.
I think this awareness of my own mortality began with my fall in the driveway, a doctor's stern warning that I needed physical therapy lest I fall and severely injure myself. He was right and meant well, but his words planted fear in me (not hard to do) and I became even more uncertain about my walking.
His advice to get physical therapy, however, was right on the money. Ignoring his recommendation, I found a facility that specializes in teaching the elderly to avoid falls. I've lost track of how many sessions I have had, but I can certainly tell a difference--and so can the therapist who pointed out that he can tell I'm stronger because I do the exercises more slowly. When you have strength, he said, and are in control, you can do them more slowly. For weeks, he's been saying to me, "Slow down." And today I did.
Today was a good day. I woke up rested, feeling confident, and my success at the therapy session only confirmed my good feeling. Lunch with an old and valued friend, and I mentioned that I was walking better. As we left the restaurant he was behind me and said, "You are sailing right along." It was a day of errands, PT, lunch, nap, pick up Jacob, do odds and ends--and not one lick of work on the manuscript I'm checking edits on. Dinner at the Old Neighborhood Grill with neighbors was a happy occasion tonight, and even Jacob was mostly engaged and amused.
I wish all days could be like that, and maybe that's what I'm moving toward. But I do have down days when I feel shaky, uncertain, unhappy. I'm always looking for things to blame them on--falling barometric pressure, a chore or an errand I don't want to do, an extra glass of wine the night before. Maybe it's just the way the pendulum--or at least my pendulum--swings.
As I said in an earlier blog, my oldest son's statement that I may have ten good years left startled me. It could have given me a lot of down days, but I have decided to concentrate on up days--if only for ten years, so be it. Besides, I have so much work on my desk, it may take me ten years to get it all done.
So here's me--Pollyanna once again. Looking forward to the next ten years and not thinking beyond. (Oh don't worry, plans for my future are well in hand with my kids--we're not ignoring the future; I'm just not going to dwell on it.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Who said what? A discussion of gun control--or not

Last night I inadvertently stirred the pot on FB by posting that I was appalled that Alabama was going to license children to carry firearms. Seems I didn't know all the ramifications--there are stipulations, such as age and parental supervision, but the bill is not aimed at letting children under 18 run helter-skelter with guns. It's for those who engage in competitive shooting, skeet, hunting. Not sure if it even includes handguns.
Today I read that Iowa is going to license the vision impaired. Now I know blind sports are a fairly big thing--people play basketball using auditory clues for that which they can't see. So I don't know the full story on the Iowa bill either and will refrain from my usual rush to judgment.
But my point here is the controversy I caused last night was of great interest to me because of the various points of view and what I know abut some of the people who commented. One friend I value is a policeman's wife, and she is militantly defense about her right to carry and to train her children with firearms. For her it's purely a matter of self-defense whether it be against an intruder, kidnapper or terrorist. That to me is a whole 'nother dilemma and I won't go into it except to say that today I read that most of us, being moral persons, would be hesitant to pull the trigger...and would thereby end up in more danger. Apparently it's a documented syndrome with service people and law enforcement.
Then there's the gentleman who frequently brings me up short for misquoting, misinterpreting and not checking sources. He seems to always know which web link to post for the latest statistics--more automobile deaths than guns, declining death rate in spite of increased gun ownership, and that kind of thing. He does this in an almost detached tone, not taking sides but claiming he wants the true facts laid out to quell fanning the flames of panic and fear.
There's another man, an old friend, who I can almost always count on to take the opposite stand--he supports guns and the military, dislikes Obama, but he was remarkably quiet last night.
I confess that I come at this from an emotional viewpoint, horrified by kids who kill themselves or their playmates with guns carelessly left around, by the massacres of which we have too many, and by the bizarre reactions of the far right to such tragedies. Rick Perry called the Charleston shootings an "accident"--that kind of reaction makes me rant and rave. So does the suggestion that ministers should be armed. While they preach the teachings of Christ? I don't think so. A friend posted that when that day comes, hate will have won out over love.
I was joined by a couple other women who also approach gun control from an emotional point of view and by at least one man who is clearly opposed to more guns, saying we have to control them.
Pretty much all these people agree that we need stricter gun control laws to keep firearms out of the hands of convicted criminals, the mentally disturbed, etc. and perhaps we need more education so that people don't leave loaded guns near children--can you screen for stupid?
The whole gun issue is a conundrum and nobody knows the solution. To me, there are several possibilities to consider--ban handguns and let people keep their long rifles? Increase education? Shut down the fear-mongering, panic-inciting NRA (don't know that could be done legally but they used to be a helpful organization focusing on teaching responsible use of firearms--pray that they would go back to that!).
Me? I'm going to continue to be anti-gun. I generally think with my heart involved. I want love to win out.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kidnapped by my sons

Jacob at nine--golf camp!
My sons kidnapped me yesterday afternoon. They came to pick me up for Jacob's "family" birthday supper much earlier than I expected them--I was napping, so they let me sleep for another twenty minutes. I was soon up and dressed--and Jamie was asleep. "I'm not going," he said, but I knew better.
Jamie drove and when he turned off the new turnpike, I kept saying, "Jordan's house is in the other direction."
Jamie: "I know there's a Fuzzy's around here."
Me: "We're not going to Fuzzy's. We're going to your sisters for fajitas."
We went to Fuzzy's.
Jamie: "Don't you want to have a drink with your sons?"
Of course, I did, and that's how I started drinking in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. We had a good time, though a bit too much talk revolved around how much time I have left in this earthly coil and what would happen when I can no longer take care of myself. I assured them I intend to stay for another twenty years and could we please change the subject.
We got to Jordan's a half hour after the stipulated time, and she demanded, "What have you been doing? Bar-hopping?'
Me: "Yes."
The mid-day swim/lunch birthday party was apparently a huge success, though even Jacob said it was a bit much. His parents were clearly tired last night, and Jacob seemed on the edge of falling asleep before he even opened his presents. But they all soldiered on. Fourteen of us (or so) ate fajitas, drank wine, and talked too loudly. Lots of fun and as always people I'm so glad to see--but I was exhausted when we got home, and Colin went right to bed, having left his children at Jordan's. I had done almost nothing all day and had no excuse for exhaustion except that afternoon glass of wine.
This morning we had play dogfights between Sophie and Grace, but Sophie growls with a realistic fierceness when she plays, and Grace, while tolerant, is so much bigger. It was too much for my nerves. I put Sophie outside, and she stared at us through the glass door, the perfect picture of pitiful. I put out sort of a buffet of breakfast choices--forgot waffles, pork roll, biscuits and gravy, so maybe that will be next week. Jordan did most of the cooking, and we fixed eggs, bacon, sausage and fruit plus lox and cream cheese on good deli rye toast. A feast.
And then they were all gone. A certain quiet settles over the house when grown kids and grandkids depart. A very still kind of quiet. Sophie's sound asleep in "her" chair, and I am at my desk, getting sleepy and ready to head off for a nap shortly. The party's over.

Friday, June 19, 2015

KIds, dogs, and good times

My house is alive with laughter and shouts and pandemonium tonight. At various times there have been seven adults, five grandchildren, and four dogs. The kids have played ball in front to the point of exhaustion, the dogs have hesitantly gotten acquainted with each other--each of us protective of our own dog(s), and the adults have occasionally risen above the clamor to have a civilized conversation over wine. Dinner was the most haphazard that's ever been served in my house--Colin arrived at three, went down the street to get pizza because he hadn't fed his children lunch; Jordan arrived at 4:30 and put out cheese, crackers, and hummus because Subie and Phil came by to see the kids--I think I scared Phil out of bringing his guide dog. Jamie arrived about 5:30, bringing food from Ernesto's. I didn't want any of that, so Colin went to Railhead and got me a chopped beef sandwich, and ribs for Jamie and himself. I knew in advance there was no sense trying to cook a family meal and seat us all at the table--Jamie and Colin ate their BBQ standing at the kitchen counter. So many many days I miss my parents but today I was glad they weren't here to see their grandchildren's idea of a meal.
The occasion is Jacob's ninth birthday tomorrow. There will be a swimming party at eleven and supper at five--I am bowing out of the swimming party and will pretty much have a quiet day at home. We are missing the Austin branch of the family and their absence--with two more boy cousins--leaves a whole, but they are enjoying Brandon's 25th reunion at Dartmouth.
Colin has now gone to take all five children to Jordan's house to spend the night. We were surprised the older girls (Maddie 16 and Eden 12) wanted to go but they did. I will admit that a nice peacefulness settled over the house when they left. But I will welcome them back tomorrow night.
There's something indescribably wonderful watching these children play together, considering they range in age from sixteen to eight. Maddie, who has often said she wants to work with children, has always been wonderful with each new cousin that came along, and each thinks he's her favorite. She's in that twixt and tween stage-part adult, having driven her own bright red jeep over here from Frisco, and yet playing as hard as any of them. I am not in touch with any cousins, so I marvel at the tight bond between all these children--and pray it holds as they grow.
Someone asked Jacob the other night if he was an only child, and he said, "I have cousins."
It's one of those times when I feel my cup runneth over and all the things that worry me about our world are temporarily banished from my mind.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two Questions for Governor Abbott--and a bit of history

This is not a political post. I’m not attacking Governor Abbott or anyone else, but I am sincerely puzzled by two things I’ve been seeing on Facebook a lot.

The first is the new law limiting suits by communities and dollar amount against big corporations for pollution. With climate change and the environment one of the major concerns in this country and the world, I cannot see any advantage to this except protection of big corporations—and endangerment to the everyday Texans our state government is supposed to protect. I wish Governor Abbott would tell us his thinking when he signed this law—you know, transparency in government and all that.  I genuinely want to know, because it sounds like a disaster in the making to me. Once again, I am disturbed by what we do to Mother Earth in the name of greed.

The second questions has to do with all this gold bullion being stashed away to back Texas currency. What Texas currency? As far as I know we don’t have our own money. Does this hark back to Reconstruction when some Texans wanted to secede? I’ve heard that it’s a first step toward secession. Then I’ve also heard that the gold is safely stored in a New York bank, Why New York? If we’re stashing it, why not in Texas? If it’s an asset, why don’t we use it to help the poor with housing, medical costs, food, etc. Or schools?

The whole idea of secession has been around since we first became a state back in 1845, but today it make me shudder. Does anyone know the story of Van Zandt County’s secession? After the Civil War, that county decided to withdraw from the Union and from Texas. General Phil Sheridan was in charge of Texas during Reconstruction, and he stormed troops north to Van Zandt County to tell those misled farmers they couldn’t do that. But the farmers used a Revolutionary War tactic—they hid in trees and took potshots at the troops in formation as they marched up the road—and then turned around and retreated.

The citizens of Van Zandt County retired to Canton where they built a big bonfire and got out the little brown jug. Late that night, Sheridan’s troops surrounded the town, put all the men in a stockade where they kept them one long cold, wet winter. When spring came and the ground was muddy, the prisoners could push the poles of the stockade apart. One by one they disappeared into the night. Some never returned to Van Zandt County. I think it’s a cautionary tale.

Can’t resists getting in a plug: you can read all about it in Luke and the Van Zandt County War, winner of the best juvenile award for the year from the Texas Institute of Letters. Available from TCU Press, Texas A&M Press, or Amazon. Yeah, I wrote it. Maybe I should send the governor a copy—ya’ think?

If the guv answers my questions, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rain and stuff

Rain and more rain--it fills our lakes and aquifers, but it brings floods, dangerous roads, fender benders, shredded gardens, and cancelled appointments. I've rarely seen as much rain from the tail end of a Gulf hurricane as we got today from Bill. It dumped on us all morning, and for the second day in a row I cancelled the world--rescheduled a doctor's appt. and a lunch. It had its upside though--I didn't get out of my nightshirt (my new fav--which led Jacob to say "Why are you wearing that shirt?") until four o'clock, and I got tons done. Felt very good about the day.
Jordan used to say our house could run as long as we had chardonnay, cottage cheese, and Newman's Own vinaigrette. Told her I had cottage cheese with Newman's on it for lunch today, and she laughed. We haven't done that in a long time.
Dinner at the Grill because Jacob "desperately" wanted his grilled cheese. I told him I desperately wanted deviled eggs at the Tavern, and when Betty headed for the Grill, I told him he was spoiled. He just grinned.

Lisa, on the left, in what I guess is
a bumpy take-off picture.
My daughter-in-law, Lisa, left from Houston Intercontinental this morning for a week-long mission trip to Haiti. I worried about her flight, having heard  that flights out were cancelled down there because of wind. Lisa texted that takeoff was a "bit bumpy." Glad it wasn't me. I am so looking forward to having the rest of her family here this weekend. We'll miss Lisa but I'm proud of what she's doing.
The Frisco Alters will also be here--we're celebrating Jacob's ninth birthday. And both families are bringing dogs, so there will be four dogs. I'm trying to adopt Colin's attitude--"We'll work it out." Colin's kids will stay at Jordan's but I imagine the older Frisco girls will stay here. I'm just not going to worry about it. I carefully put clean linen on the beds in the guest room--and then Jacob and Christian slept there. I can't win!
I have a sort of new neighbor on one side, a young doctor who moved in maybe in January. We've only spoken three or four times in the driveway--Jay, my handsome neighbor, says it's because Jim, the doctor, is afraid I'm a cougar (he's maybe 30, looks 17). But today when he saw me dragging a wet garbage cart up the driveway Jim rushed out to help me, emptied out the remaining water, and we chatted. He assured me that I now have three doctors next door should I need anything. I said I appreciated him because his parties were quiet and ended early, and he invited me to come over anytime. We may convince him yet to join our close circle of neighbors and former neighbors.
Tomorrow, more rain. But I am going to physical therapy and then to the grocery and out for dinner. Getting things done at my desk is good but I've got to get out of the house.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pinkeye, allergies, and essential oils

Calm, non-scratching Sophie
What a day. I woke feeling draggy and wanting nothing more than to go back to bed. My left eye was funny--puffy eyelid, puffy below the eye, and it kept tearing. I kept running to the mirror to check it's progress and color compared to the other eye. Self diagnosis: pink eye. I cancelled physical therapy and lunch plans and alerted my daughter, who said she wasn't coming near me and to be sure to call the doctor. Though she did begin the conversation with, "How does a 76-year-old woman get pinkeye?" Darned if I know!
As the morning progressed, both me and the eye began to feel better. More running to the mirror. By lunchtime I thought it looked pretty good, but friend Subie came by, shared lunch with me, and said both eyes were a bit swollen. I wanted to tell her she should have seen them at six-thirty in the morning. Over the phone, my doctor's nurse and I decided it was allergies.
After a nap, both eyes looked normal. Jordan and Jacob came for happy hour, though he declined to spend the night as was planned. Golf camp wore him out.
Meanwhile, Sophie was having itch problems. She had them a week or so ago and I thought they got better, but tonight she was rubbing her back on the underside of the coffee table. Again, it had been a phone diagnosis: allergies. I read that the very wet weather we've been having caused a lot of dogs to itch, and I sparingly gave her Benadryl.
Jordan wanted to try lavender oil on her (she's convinced Young Life Essential Oils are miracle cures for everything). She emailed to find out what to do. I had envisioned her trying to get the oil through Sophie's thick coat on the spot that apparently itched. Not so. She was to put two drops on a hind paw.
That took a bit of doing. When she got her oil kit out, Sophie began to look leery (as she does when we put flea and heartworm medicine on her back). Jordan finally hauled her into her lap, where Sophie looked very ungainly and awkward, but Jord loved on her and quieted her. Then Jacob put two drops of oil in Jordan's
palm and she rubbed it on the bottom of Sophie's back paw. Sophie stayed in her lap and enjoyed good loving for a long time.
And you know what? It worked. She didn't scratch again at all, and she was much calmer than usual. I think I'll put lavender oil on the bottom of my foot tonight.
Four to six inches of rain due tomorrow--the tail end of Hurricane Bill. Flood watches and all that accompanies these heavy rains. Meantime, tonight, I'm watching a bird on a dead branch at the very top of my tall elm tree--rain doesn't bother him. He's preening and surveying his world. So far away I can't tell what kind of bird, but I like him.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Back to work--hooray!

My writing has sort of been in limbo--oh, I read proof on a reprint of my historical novel about Jessie Benton Frémont (a really interesting story in my mind) and I wrote several guest blogs, but I was treading water. Saturday night I got the first edits back on my novel about the Gilded Age in Chicago--titled now "The Gilded Cage." I plunged in last night and worked at it today. Can't tell you what fun it is to get back into a novel, shaping it, thinking changes through, etc. The editor's comments make so much sense and make the novel so much better--I'm moving ahead with enthusiasm and looking forward to continuing to work on it, though I do have to snatch time for other things.
But I have a busy summer coming up--watch soon for an announcement that Jessie is available on e-book, and I will have the chili book--Texas is Chili Country--in November. When Texas Tech
wrote me about a book booth at the Annual Frank Tolbert/Wick Fowler Original Chili Cookoff in Terlingua this fall, I got wildly excited. I've always been intrigued by Terlingua. I emailed my neighbor who goes every year, and it took him days to reply which made me nervous--he didn't want my company (his wife had already said it's a guy thing and after one or two times she didn't go).
Finally several days later Jay sat me down with a glass of wine and said, "I don't think it's appropriate." Well, of course, that got my dander up! I'm not prudish spinster lady--I can take a little rough and rowdy (truth be told, I probably can't--I don't like it). But his explanation was that it's rough terrain with uncertain footing. Amenities almost don't exist--a mediocre motel some distance away (how would I get my afternoon nap?) and port-a-potties on site, which it would be difficult for me to get to since my footing is uncertain on perfectly flat bare concrete. He dampened my enthusiasm but gently, and TTU Press was completely understanding (I doubt they know much about Terlingua).
The other day at physical therapy, I heard the physical therapist say to another client something about "it's all about chili and beer, which doesn't sound like much fun, and it's way out someplace in West Texas."
"Terlingua?" I asked. He said yes, he thought that was it, and bless his heart he got a long lecture on Terlingua and chili and more than he ever wanted to know.
But I can see some minor cook-offs in my future as the book is published.
Back to my busy summer--there will be a new novel this fall--I'm just not at this point sure which one or when. But I love having all these projects on my desk. So blessed in retirement.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Losing friends--a part of aging

I went to a memorial service today for an old friend who died in February back east--his family arranged a service here in Fort Worth because he had lived here so many years, raised his children here, and made lots of friends. He left in 1986, and I probably haven't seen him since, although his ex-wife and I have remained close friends. And today I got a nice hug from his oldest son.
George was one of the happiest, most open people I've ever known. I was pleased to celebrate his life today because I have such good memories. I remember one night looking out my kitchen window when the kids, all teenagers by then, were shooting baskets and there was George out in the middle of them. Yet I also remember him walking around the block endlessly when his youngest son was a fussy infant--about the same time my youngest son was an infant but fortunately less fussy.
George was a great storyteller, and my dad used to love his company. Once George told Dad about the little boy who was five and had never said a word until one morning he said, "My toast is burned." His family all rejoiced, hovered over him, and asked why he hadn't talked. "Everything's been okay up to now." That was a George kind of story.
George was also politically active, a great liberal, and I remember going to ACLU parties at their house. I still have some friends from those parties.
The service today was in a beautiful but small Episcopalian church, and the difference in our denominations came home. For one thing they had the wrong words to some hymns--Jean made me realize they had the original words and we Disciples had changed them to make them more inclusive. But what bothered me most--and has in other Episcopalian services--was the impersonality. George's name was mentioned once--I watched. The homily was about God's grace, the gift of life everlasting bestowed upon as at baptism. I believe that, and I liked to recite the Apostle's Creed, which we seldom do in my church. But I wanted George stories. I wanted something that captured his wonderful, warm personality. I wanted to say "God be with you, George."
The service also reminded me that I am now at an age when we lose friends. I've lost two other good friends in the past year, and I remember my mom moaning that all her friends had died--she was quite a bit older than I am at the time, but I see it on the horizon. And it's depressing. Actually I'm pretty lucky--most of my friends are, like me, in good health. Knock on wood.
And, George, smile down at us from above.

Friday, June 12, 2015

News of the day...such as it is

I am so tired of seeing the McKinney pool party or the Duggars on the news--fortunately both seem to be fading though I'm sure the long tail will surface. Now there's that Congressman who declares disabled people are a drain on society. Help? Do I have to throw away my handicapped tag?
On a more personal note, for the oldsters among my readers (you don't have to confess publicly), Amazon is running a joint promotion with AARP for discounts on tons of books. Began last march and continues through October--up to 50% on some books. The good news as far as I'm concerned is that my novel, Ballad for Sallie, is among the titles discounted this month. Ballad for Sallie is set in Fort Worth toward the end of the 19th century and includes good guys/bad guys Luke Short and Longhair Jim Courtwright plus a schoolteacher just come from the East to the Wild West, all narrated by Sallie, a child of the streets. Written years ago but I still have a soft spot in my heart for this book.
To find out about this and other titles, here are some links:
As far as I'm concerned, the other news of the day is pretty mundane. It was a grocery and a catch up on email day. Did have lunch with a good friend at LaMadelleine (I love their tuna sandwiches) and we went to Sprouts, a grocery I've never explored. I had forgotten to get canned pie filling (that's a whole 'nother story) but all they had was pumpkin--wouldn't make a good fruit salad. We zoomed by Albertson's on the way home and I got a large jar of peach pie filling. We'll see.
Tonight I made myself tuna pasties--essentially biscuit dough from a tube (am I the one who eschews prepared foods?) filled with a tuna/grated cheese/chopped celery/parsley/sour cream filling. The recipe is so old I couldn't even find what magazine it came from or a date. So I feel free to share it:
Heat oven to 400. Mix 1 can albacore tuna in water, drained, with 1 c. shredded cheddar (I like sharp), 1/4 c. diced celery, 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley, and 1/3 c. sour cream. Separate biscuits and spread half into ovals as big as you can--top with 1 good Tbsp. of filling and then top with another  elongated biscuit (recipe says roll them out but I just press with my fingers). Seal the edges and brush the tops with melted butter. Bake at 400 on ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes--unless you use an insulated cookie sheet put another pan under it to prevent burning the bottoms.
Strange thing: we hear these days that packaging is cheating us--there's less food in many containers than before. This recipe says serves six, which would mean 12 biscuits. But there were only ten biscuits in the tube, so I came out with five pasties. Good enough for me, but it struck me as part of the changing times.
Maybe that goes along with my comments posted today on Vicki Batman's blog about the weird foods I eat: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8535414384309157179&postID=6709800340457246816&page=1&token=1434162340453 The comments are more interesting than my post.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I don't understand....

I really don't understand climate deniers, fracking advocates, those people who are destroying God's green earth. For years, before environment was a big concern, I worried that we were covering the earth's surface with concrete so that it could not breathe. I still think it's true.
Now I worry that we drilling deep into earth's core. Recently two wells exploded near Karnes City TX, an area of heavy fracking. The explosions spewed oil and chemicals into the area, destroying a wide swath of fertile land.  Families had to be evacuated--some may never be able to return home if decontamination is not possible. In North Texas I believe they've called a halt to drilling in areas experiencing frequent earthquakes--we never had them before.
The majority of scientists agree that fracking is bad for the earth, bad for people, and should be stopped, so I'm at a complete loss to understand legislators who pass laws like the one Texas Governor Greg Abbott just signed forbidding communities to have any control over whether or not there is fracking in their area. The city of Denton had voted on such a ban, and it passed by a large vote of the populace. Now their vote is null and void.
It seems that legislators who pass these laws are not thinking beyond the immediate moment. They aren't thinking at all about the earth we leave to our children and grandchildren. They aren't thinking of the wildlife populations and natural flora and fauna that are destroyed. It's the same problem we've witnessed for years with clear-cutting Amazon forests.
One thing I fear I do understand is that those behind this environmental damage are thinking with their pocketbooks--sure, there's money for Texas in fracking and, quite possibly, under the table money for some legislators. Plus some property owners are getting rich allowing fracking on their land. I think fracking and climate change denial and laws that tie the hands of the EPA are a product of greed--and greed may yet do us all in.
On my soapbox next, possibly, what greed is doing to nutrition. Oh, so many causes, so little time. That's what polluters don't understand--so little time. It's not a future problem. It's here and now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Of kitchens and pigeons--and hearing loss

On our weekly dinner outing tonight, my friend Betty and I enjoyed tomato basil soup and one crab cake each at Winslow's Wine Café. It was good, but the café was so loud that I could hear little of what she said. Even adjusted to restaurant setting, my hearing aids only do so much. We asked the waitress about moving outside, in spite of heat, but she warned that the flies were really bad. So we enjoyed a lopsided conversation. We agreed next week would be someplace quiet.
As I got out of the car, Betty suggested a restaurant but it was a name I wasn't familiar with. She kept repeating it--somebody's Kitchen. I wondered why I'd never heard of it, since I'm the one who scouts out new places. Finally she said "On White Settlement Road," and I suddenly got it--the Clay Pigeon, one of my all-time favorites. I simply misheard "Pigeon" for "Kitchen."
Mishearings are a common part of hearing loss. It's not that you don't hear, your brain simply doesn't process the word correctly, substituting something else entirely, usually a word that fits the sentence structure but makes no sense.
In the July 5 issue of the New York Times Oliver Sachs wrote an essay about mishearings,, citing the time he thought his assistant said she was going to choir practice. He was puzzled because in all the years they'd worked together, he'd never heard her mention church, let alone choir. Turned out she was going to the chiropractor. Other mishearings he cited: poetry bag, for grocery bag; oral numbness, for all-or-noneness; and the corker, "Kiss my feet!" for Christmas Eve.
This business of mishearing is one of the most frustrating about hearing loss. Sachs cited all kinds of theories, including the Freudian analysis of word substitution (which he discarded). I think the brain is scrambling so hard to make sense of what the ears don't really hear that it substitutes a word.
Particularly on the phone, it is sometimes hard--impossible?--for me to make sense of one word. I get everything else that's being said but that one word. This frustrates particularly my brother and my youngest daughter--and then I am left feeling guilty. As Oliver Sachs says, the best course is to see the humor in it but that too is hard.
But I'm looking forward to dinner at the Clay Pigeon.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Walk this way....

I seem to have hit some sort of blogger writer's block. Maybe it's summer doldrums, which set in quickly, but when I think about my days all I can think is I'd end up blogging "And then I did this, and then I did that." On the national scene, there are political thoughts I could comment on like the Republican who wants to destroy the ACA but thinks it's a shame so many people will lose their benefits--bit of logic lacking there, but one can only carp on politics so much. I'm saving my ammunition for bigger battles. Locally, there's the trouble at the McKinney swimming pool. I doubt we'll ever hear the full story--all we hear now are biased reports from both sides and media hype. It's been done to death and no matter how appalled I am at it, I'm tired of reading about it. Or talking about it.
So about the most interesting thing I did today was go to physical therapy. I've been going for several weeks now, at the behest of a doctor who was worried about my falling, which I do from time to time. Knock on wood, no serious damage so far but one fall in the driveway left me badly bruised and with a reluctance to walk down the driveway again. I'm in a program designed to keep the elderly from falling. I really resent being called elderly, but a much younger friend said to me last night, "Let's face it. We are elderly!"
What intrigues me about the PT program is the way they make use of ordinary objects. Today I sat on a rolling stool and propelled myself around a huge square workout table (accommodates probably four people) first forward, then backward--two times each. You'd be surprised at the muscles it works. Another exercise has me stepping over cone-shaped paper cups--the kind you find in an ordinary water dispenser. Not easy--I kept swinging my foot behind them when the point is to go over them. Sometimes I do an exercise that looks like the one they ask suspected drunks to do--walk a straight line, one foot in front of the other. I used to have to hold on; today I only occasionally touched the table and chairs that were on either side of me for security.
Today I got lots of praise, which pleased me. The therapist and the aide both said I was walking so much better. I'm grateful for the praise, but it amuses me--I've been walking all my life. Have I been doing it wrong? Apparently so. They've taught me to bend my knees and lift my feet off the ground--I shuffled before. And the therapist tells me he can feel a difference in my low back--less stiff, more flexible.
Some days I think I'd just rather keep going there than have to find an exercise program after I leave. Maybe I'll go back to yoga. But physical therapy is an interesting experience...and not as unpleasant as I feared. Really nice people make a difference.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Thoughts on the Triiple Crown

I'm not a horse-racing fan. Okay, let's put it bluntly--I'm not particularly fond of horses. When I was about twelve, my parents gave my horseback lessons where we rode in a large group around an arena. I'm not sure that I particularly enjoyed it, but when I was kept from two lessons for some sort of behavioral indiscretion, I never wanted to go back. In my early twenties my step-niece tried to help me ride her Hackamore (?) pony (a medium size pony with a better disposition than most Shetlands). She kept saying, "Don't worry, Aunt Judy. I won't let you fall." I worried. Felt like I was slipping from one side to another.
In my forties, I had a good friend who took me to a horse trainer's stable one day. We walked out into the field amidst all the horses, and Bob said to Alan, the trainer, "She wouldn't do that for anyone else but you." Yep, I'm not comfortable around horses.
I'm also not at all sure about horse racing as a sport. A horse at the Belmont Stakes "fell apart" (whatever that means) during the race and had to be put down on the track. The number of deaths of racing horses each year is appalling. And yet I know for owners, trainers, and jockeys each horse is a great investment so I would think they take as good care as possible. We are told that the days of doping, etc., are over because of good policing. And yet I've read enough Dick Francis' novels to believe that some evil people lurk around racing stables.
Years and years ago I went to a race in Kentucky with my then new husband and was appalled at how much he wanted to bet (we were starving students). Ever after he claimed if I'd let him bet as he wanted we'd have come away much richer. I'm too Scottish for that. But my one impression was that it was all over too quickly you could hardly tell which horse did what. Obviously I write all this as an outsider looking in at the racing culture.
All that said, I watch the Belmont Stakes yesterday with my heart in my mouth. The idea of a triple crown winner after all those years was real excitement. And American Pharoah was such a beautiful, powerful horse--his long stride grace in motion--that you couldn't help cheering. It made me think of the pioneering photographic studies by Eadweard Muybridge of horses in motion. There was that one brief moment when it look like another horse (Frosted?) might surge to the fore, but then it was over and American Pharoah had won! Wow! Relief, excitement, joy--even from an outsider.
I probably won't watch another horse race for a long time, but that one was a high point in my day, even just sitting in front of the TV. I can't imagine the excitement of being in the crowd. And hats off to the jockey who will contribute his winnings to charity. Maybe horse racing is a part of American culture that I need to understand better.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Summer arrives so suddenly

Last night, I heard a great loud noise, like a crash as if something had fallen. My immediate reaction was to call out, in a reprimanding tone of voice, "Sophie!" What, I wondered, was she doing now? She's been trying I think to develop a hot spot on her back--itching it on the underside of the coffee table or the front panel of my desk, scratching a lot. Benedryl has helped some but not a lot, so naturally I thought she'd found a new way to scratch her itch. Poor dog was sleeping peacefully until I yelled at her.
A few more great crashes of sound, and I realized it was fireworks from Concerts in the Garden, a beloved Fort Worth tradition. I always enjoy hearing the fireworks and wish the trees weren't so thick so that I could see them. Sophie isn't bothered, although I have had dogs who were terrified.
The debut of Concerts in the Garden marks the beginning of summer. This year it coincided with the last day of school. Jacob and I have both been ready for the day for three weeks or more. The atmosphere at the school was one of anticipation, letdown, less homework. We all slacked off.
Yesterday Jacob went home with a friend to spend the night, so I celebrated with a late nap. But I woke up feeling a little dismayed. The weekend and the whole long summer stretched endlessly before me. Now that's not exactly true. Last night I got involved in what I was doing and stayed up until midnight--late for me. This morning, after sleeping to a tardy 7:45, I have done computer work, filled out an information sheet on a forthcoming reprint (no small chore), and made a ham loaf. Tonight Jacob will be here, but I know he won't eat ham loaf, so I'll have to figure out what to feed him beside an ear of corn. He'll be tired, and he'll chill with his iPad.
The summer will be no less busy. I plan to focus on letting the world (and you) know about "The Gilded Cage," the historical novel set in Chicago's Golden Age that I plan to release this fall. And I have a draft of a third Blue Plate Novel to edit. Plus publicity to do for Texas is Chili Country, which will release in November. No doubt I'll be busy...and I can sleep late and take luxurious naps. No, summer will go by too quickly.
A few days ago I blogged about eating high on the hog. It came home to bite me yesterday when I really didn't feel myself--not sick, just lethargic. Taught me a lesson about that high hog.
Happy summer everyone!

Friday, June 05, 2015

"West Wing" and memories

Someone posted a clip from "West Wing" on Facebook today--there they all were, all those familiar faces who formed such a coherent, unified group of advisors. And it was Martin Sheen (or President Bartlett) at his very best, expounding on the follies of extremist interpretations of religion and the Bible, using a talk show hostess as his target. His final line was a zinger, as the lady sat and tried to answer him, finally lapsing into silence. "On more thing," he thundered. "In this house, when the president is standing, no one sits." After a long minute, she stood. I frequently wish we had such leadership, especially in the governments of some of the states. Or that we could see hope for it in the great host of presidential candidates.
The show took me back fifteen years or so, when a colleague and I thought Wednesdays were the best day of the week. We didn't really work together but shared adjacent offices, and we became close friends, a friendship that endures after we've both long since retired. I still laugh at the time she had been away for three weeks and came in my office door calling, "Hi, honey. I'm home." We had good times in that office in those days. And we loved Wednesdays.
The Wednesday morning newspaper had the food section, abounding with recipes many of which enticed me. I still have yellowed clippings from those days in my recipes files. Yes, plural--I have files for main dishes tried, main dishes not tried, vegetables (thickest folder), appetizers, and dessert (less used). Today, the Wednesday edition still has a few recipes but they are trendy and I seldom find anything that calls to me to clip it--folks, I just don't like kale. Sorry. I dutifully read the Wed. paper but it has shrunk so I can go through it in minutes.
Then Wednesday was meatloaf day at the Star Café (as it still is). So we went for meatloaf, mashed potatoes and salad--sometimes following it with banana pudding, also a Wednesday special. I guess my weight didn't worry me as much in those days. Friends Don and Betty Boles own the Star, and the meatloaf and banana pudding are Betty's personal recipes. Somehow I was so enthusiastic about that meal I could overlook the bits of green pepper in the meatloaf.
And then Wednesday night brought "West Wing," perhaps my all-time favorite TV show. I'm not much of a television watcher--in the mornings I often keep the TODAY show on sort of as background noise, hoping to catch news and weather. I get fidgety if I just sit and watch TV with nothing else to do. Not so when "West Wing" was on--I sat in rapt attention from start to finish.
Struck me today that Wednesdays are no longer the same--and neither is our world. How did we change so fast in 15-20 years?

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Eating high on the hog

Seems that food has been much on my agenda the last few days--I must quickly qualify that it's due to the opportunity to visit with good friends while eating out. But I want to give a shout-out to a few Fort Worth restaurants where I've enjoyed really good meals.
Years ago, when I moved to Fort Worth, there were two stars in the restaurant world--the Swiss House and The Carriage House. If you wanted a fancy dinner, those were where you went. Oh, there were satellites--Mac's House, for one. But the restaurant world was limited, and both those stars are now gone and sadly missed. Used to be when I walked into the Carriage House, they looked at me and said "Dover sole and spinach." I liked that sense of familiarity which is sadly missing in most restaurants now.
Today Fort Worth is bursting with great opportunities for dining--from well-known places to out of the way smaller ones you'd never find if someone didn't tell you. Just a general impression--those in So7, the residential/commercial area grown up along 7th Street, tend to be more chains. But the most interesting are to be found along eclectic Magnolia Street.
My friend Jean and I had lunch yesterday at Fixtures, on West Magnolia but far to the east. The menu is absolutely enticing and puzzling at the same time--want peanut butter and jelly? Just when I said we should have brought Jacob with us, she pointed out that it was jalapeno jelly. Or fried bologna sandwiches? (I gave up bologna years ago!). But I had a heaven-sent single scallop on a bed of pureed sweet potatoes with a beet/barbecue topping. Wonderful. And we split an order of beet fries--I think I've described them before but they are really roasted nuggets of beet, dipped in light cornstarch and flash fried. Served with aioli and pepitas. So good! Jean had a kale salad. In spite of its popularity, I just don't warm to kale. No matter, there are other things on the men, like tomato skins with house-smoked salmon and goat cheese. And several friends have loved the spaetzle.
Last night my restaurant adventurer friend Betty and I went to the Bite City Grill--tucked away in the back of the complex that used to be Montgomery Ward's. I ordered chopped lobster salad. Now most chopped salads are just that--really chopped. This had large chunks of lobster and avocado, good greens, and delightful creamy dressing. Betty had shrimp tacos but she always delights in ordering shrimp in front of me because I'm allergic. She says that's not the reason--she truly loves shrimp, but I still think she gloats a bit.
Tonight I had dinner with friend Mary V. at Pacific Table, our really sophisticated seafood place. She had the scallop salad, and I have to say they get scallops just right--crisp and brown on the outside and soft inside. I had crab cakes, intending only to eat one and take the other home--but I ate them both. They were all crab, no filler, and served with a great caper/aioli sauce.
I've gained weight lately though I tend to eat lightly, but I comfort myself that none of the meals above were excessive or fattening. My physical therapist tells me I'm building muscle, and that might account for the weight gain. I'll go with that, because at my age I really want to enjoy food.
Stay tuned for weekend cooking activities.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Should You Kindle Scout?

Please welcome my Wednesday guest, James M. Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree novels. Ant Farm (Spring 2015), a prequel to Bad Policy (2013) and Cabin Fever (2014), recently won a Kindle Scout nomination. Ebook published by Kindle Press; print from Wolf’s Echo Press. Bad Policy won the Evan Marshall Fiction Makeover Contest for freshness and commercial potential of the story and quality of the writing. Jim has published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, One Trick at a Time: How to Start Winning at Bridge (Master Point Press 2012), as well as numerous short stories and essays. Find more information about Jim and his writing at http://jamesmjackson.com.
There are so many possible paths to publication nowadays, and Kindle Scout is just one possibility. [If you haven’t heard of Kindle Scout, it is an Amazon platform to allow readers to “nominate” books for Kindle Press to publish as ebooks. Think “American Idol” meets corporate behemoth Amazon.]

To help you decide if Kindle Scout might make sense for you, I’ve designed a little decision tree. If you answer “no” to any question, Kindle Scout is not what you want. If you get through all the questions and are still yessing, then I have some links to help you make a final determination.

Is your manuscript fiction? [No? The Kindle Scout program is only open to fiction. It started with Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller and Science Fiction/Fantasy, and later added Literature & Fiction, which includes Action and Adventure. Nonfiction won’t go, nor will children’s literature, foreign languages, etc.]

Do you have a U.S. bank account and tax number? [No? So far the program is only open to people who Kindle Press can pay in the U.S., even though your books are sold throughout the world wherever Amazon does business.]

Will you only be satisfied with a traditional publishing contract? [No? You need a traditional publishing contract, which Kindle Scout is not.]

Are you willing to have different publishers for the print and electronic versions of your book? [No? The Kindle Press contract only covers ebooks and digital audio books. If you want a print edition of your book, you must either obtain a print-only publisher or self-publish.]

Are you willing to have your ebook and audio book only available on Amazon? [No? The Kindle Press contract locks your electronic books to the Amazon platform.]

Are you willing to have your electronic books part of the Kindle Unlimited subscription service? [No? Kindle Press is not for you.]

Is it okay if no digital audio book is made in the first two years? [No? Kindle Press is not required to produce an Audible book; your rights revert back to you if they don’t produce one within two years. In their first six months of operation they have not yet produced any.]

Is your manuscript finalized so it can be published without any further copyedits? [No? The Kindle Press contract does not require them to make any changes to the text you submit. Of course, if that answer is no, you aren’t really ready to self-publish either. Note: Kindle Press has copyedited all books it has published to date.]

Do you have a professional-looking book cover? [No? Kindle Press requires you to have a book cover. During the thirty-day nomination process that is the first thing prospective readers (called “Scouts”) will see. Again, you should have this for a self-published manuscript as well.]

Are you willing to give up pricing and promotional decisions to a ginormous corporation? [No? Then you really need to be an Indie publisher.]

Are you willing to wait two and a half or three months for publication? [No? Because you must have a complete manuscript and book cover to enter the Kindle Scout nomination process, you could be Indie publishing as soon as you format the manuscript and upload it. The Kindle Scout nomination process takes around forty days from submission to approval. Because Kindle Press has been copyediting, add another six weeks or so plus a week for formatting and, best case, you are ten weeks out. With glitches (and I had several) it will be a longer delay.]

Congratulations, you’ve said “yes,” or at least not “no,” to all of the questions. Kindle Scout may make sense for you.

What advantages might Kindle Scout have compared to Indie publishing?

$1,500 advance on royalties paid within thirty days of being selected

Amazon promotion – there are no guarantees, and Kindle Press is only one of a number of Amazon imprints. However, early Kindle Press publications have received various pushes from Amazon.

International sales: Your electronic book will be available in North America, the U.K., Australia and Germany through Amazon subsidiaries.

One final copyedit—again, not promised, but currently they are contracting with Kirkus editors for copyedits. Every author I have talked to has been very pleased with their edits.

Free publicity during the thirty-day Kindle Scout nomination period. If you are selected by Kindle Press, those who nominate your book will receive a free Kindle version (and are asked to leave reviews). If you are not selected, those who nominate your book have recently been given the option to receive an email when your book does become available (from your Indie publishing or from another publisher.)

Decent royalties (given there is an advance): 50% on ebooks; 20% on digital audio

Rights reversions are clear: After two years if book does not hit minimum royalty levels ($500 in any trailing twelve-month period) you may reclaim your rights. After five years if you haven’t received at least $25,000 in royalties you may revert your rights. If Kindle Press does not publish within six months (ebook) or two years (digital audio) you may reclaim rights.

What are the disadvantages of Kindle Scout relative to Indie publishing?

As an Indie publisher you can choose whether to distribute through all channels or receive higher royalty rates going exclusively with Kindle. Thus, if you are going to stay within the Amazon umbrella anyway, you are giving up royalties per book.

As an Indie you retain control over pricing, whether or not to have an audio book, promotions, etc. With Kindle Press you are relying on Amazon’s marketing power and self-interest to benefit you.

That, I think is the crux of your decision if you compare Indie to the Kindle Scout route. Will the Amazon marketing power make a difference in sales? So far, most of the Kindle Press published authors have been happy with their results. As the program continues to roll out, I think it will be worthwhile to pay attention to the opinion of Kindle Press’s authors. Recognize that it is in their interest to promote the Kindle Scout program, so if you hear issues or complaints or concerns, dig deeper.

As promised, here are some links with additional details.


Official Information About Kindle Scout: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/about

Official Kindle Scout guidelines for submission: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/submit

Kindle Scout Selected Books: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/selected






Monday, June 01, 2015

Welcome sunshine!

The world is looking better to me this evening. We've had no rain for two days, and today was a day of beautiful sunshine. First day in I don't know how long that I didn't have to traipse through all the school's hallways to the far end to get Jacob. When I crossed the street, he was waiting on the curb.
My kitchen faucet is functional if fragile--turned out to be a defective faucet, and the company is sending parts in seven to ten days. Meanwhile, Keith, my favorite plumber, has put it together so it works--I just have to be careful. He was panicked when he came to look at it--thought he'd done something wrong; I was panicked because I thought I'd done something wrong. Turned out we were both innocent.
The doorknob on the office door is fixed. Lewis's motto seems to be if you can find what you want, make it yourself, and he fashioned the missing piece, had to take it to make a slight adjustment, and then brought it back and fixed the door. I'm being gentle with that too--just in case.
The TV that has sat in the family room for months is now built into what was a bookcase and looks great. The electricians worked most of the morning--no internet or TV but I survived. Lewis told me all it needed was to be programmed and first suggested I call U-Verse. Then he said, "Your daughter may know how to do this." Cancel that--I know for a certainty that she doesn't know anymore about it than either Lewis, who said it was beyond him, or me. Neighbor Jay came to the rescue, figured out they had attached it to the wrong cable, went to the hardware for more cable and connectors, and Voila! We have TV in the sunroom. Of course he threatened to set it so it defaults to Fox News. No, thank you!
It's the little things that make life comfortable, folks. And the blessings of having good people who care about me.
I seem to be on a food kick. Two TCU friends came for lunch--supposedly a business lunch but my business questions went by in about two minutes. I fixed one of my favorite meals remembered from childhood--cold canned salmon (I buy really good salmon straight from a cannery in Oregon), sliced cucumbers, deviled eggs, cherry tomatoes, all on a bed of lettuce, served with mayo and lemon quarters. I also had leftover lemon potato salad. So good. Ate the leftovers for my supper tonight.
Super tired after the weekend--going to bed early tonight.