Monday, December 29, 2008

News flash

I just finished writing the last review for Authorlink for 2008 and decided to count up how many reviews I've written for them this year, which does not include the reviews I've done for other sites or authors. I read and reviewed 69 books this year. That is a new high for me.

The reviews include everything from nonfiction to fiction in every single genre. Not bad for someone started six years ago as a horror reviewer for Authorlink.

This has been a banner year in many respects, not the least of which is seeing stories in six anthologies hit the bookstores, selling one novel to be published in July 2009 and then selling two more novels to be published in the fall of 2009. My best male friend apologized and decided he did want me in his life and, although things have been difficult at times, it looks like this time he's going to stick around for good. I've reconnected with old friends and made a few new ones, but the best part of all of this has been getting closer to the good friends that have always been there.

John told me today that instead of looking at the end of the year and heaving a big sigh that it's over, we should look at each day as a gift and be grateful for it. Then he said he'd been spending too much time with me because he was beginning to sound like me. Imagine that. I've begun to rub off on him.

With all of its ups and downs, I'm sure everyone can find a few things to be grateful for in 2008. I know I can -- and have. The best is yet to come. Each and every morning is a blank sheet just waiting to be filled. I know how I'm going to fill mine. How about you?

I don't believe in making new year's resolutions because they never last, but it's always a good idea to find one thing you have the power to change. Mine is spending more time writing because I need to put more books out. What is yours?

On, one last thing. I made egg nog for the first time and it turned out great -- even without the bourbon and brandy. That's one more thing to add to the list of accomplishments. A small accomplishment to be sure, but one should never under estimate the power of egg nog.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

An old Chinese truth

Beanie called me yesterday afternoon to tell me she was on her way to her mother-in-law's for Xmas eve and she had a migraine and then her voice perked up and she said they had given Mom her gift and she was ecstatic.

A couple of months ago, I suggested to my siblings that we go together and get the whole Forever Knight DVD series for Mom. Every time I talk to her, that she isn't eating or making chocolate pudding to eat, she is talking about Nick Knight and her Forever Knight and how she loves to watch the show. It was easy to figure out a gift she would love and luckily my siblings went along with the idea, even my idiot brother, Jimmy, who lives almost full time in his own world and has little to do with the world the rest of us live in.

I called Mom after I talked to Beanie and she was predictably eating. Carol was asleep and Mom was fretting because she doesn't know how to work the DVD player. She wanted to watch Forever Knight. Now there was a glitch in the shipping schedule and they sent the first two seasons to me instead of to Beanie, where they were supposed to go, and the third season, the last, was back ordered. Beanie got that one first and that's the one she took to Carol's last night and gave to Mom, explaining the other two seasons would arrive on Friday. It's a long story, but suffice it to say that Snail Mail screwed up and lived up to its gastropod tendencies (moving as fast as a snail frozen in its slime trail). Mom said she didn't care. She could go back and watch them all again because they were hers. She said she'd never have guessed what it was in a million years.

Carol isn't likely to get much help once Mom figures out how to work the DVD player with so many episodes of Nick's vampiric activities in Toronto to watch. I did offer to take it back since she was so upset we bought her a gift when she couldn't afford to buy gifts for any of us, but she threatened to maim anyone who tried to take it back.

Today was the real surprise. Beanie called me this morning and was so excited because she called me before I called her. I'm always the first to call for birthdays and holidays. She told me about what her boys and Randy got her for Xmas and what she got all of them. She even managed to surprise her husband with a guitar he wanted and thought had been sold out. It was sold out; Beanie got the last one.

Before Beanie called, a dear friend called and wished me a merry Xmas. I didn't recognize her voice. All I could hear was the wind rushing by (she was driving and had the window down), but when she finally told me who it was we both squealed. She has been through so much over the past year or two and she wanted to wish me happy holidays. We talked for a few minutes and laughed and shared a little of the season's joy. We'll do it again on New Year's.

Other friends called and stopped by and it turned out to be a busy and happy day. Food, laughter and friendship were shared and I still managed a nap and some quiet time with the sun and a cool breeze coming through the windows. Although it seems like this time of year is for children, it's really for everyone. The childlike delight of holiday cards and presents and spending time with friends, on the phone and in person, is something we never lose.

As this year comes to an end, I look back and wonder at the many changes, surprises and gifts the year has brought. Many of the gifts have been the result of hard work and waiting and some, like the friends and loved ones who have come back into my life, are serendipitous delights I will always treasure. Maybe it's true that old Chinese saying that if you love something, let it go. It will return if it's meant to be. So many things and people I let go have come back to enrich my life and remind me how wealthy I truly am. That is the gift of the season -- the season that lasts every day if you, like the reformed Scrooge, keep Christmas in your heart all year long.

Happy holidays and may every day be as bright as today.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Priorities speak volumes

I've been eyeing a recipe in a new cookbook for mile high brownies. The recipe calls for icing, but I decided not to make it. It also calls for yogurt and I substituted sour cream and added two teaspoons of espresso powder. They turned out really good. One more baking item down for the holiday dinner. I'll probably make mushroom caviar and sweet potato puffs for appetizers to go with the cranberry glazed ham. Since the pumpkin flan turned out so well for Thanksgiving, I'm making it again. A few veggies and maybe some mashed potatoes and gravy and that should do it. There will be a couple bottles of wine to go with dinner, but I think I'm in good shape, except for the egg nog and gingerbread, but those will be no problem at all.

I wonder sometimes why we don't go all out for every day dinners. There's a lot of work involved, but the results are worth it, especially when there are friends to share the meal. I think I'll propose a monthly dinner to celebrate nothing in particular, except friendship and continued health.

Friends are around more during the holidays, too, although some friends are so busy they can't afford more than five minutes a day to say hello and chat for a while. No matter how busy the days, friends should be able to carve out more than five minutes a day, judging by some of my friends who inundate me with phone calls and emails all hours of the day and night without cease. A happy medium between five minutes and monopolizing the whole day would be good.

New year's resolutions are usually a bad idea since they seldom last into February, but this year I'm making a resolution. If friends cannot spare more than five minutes a day, then it's time to say goodbye until their priorities or their schedules change. Even friends I haven't seen in years spare more than that and then there are the weekly marathon phone calls and chats and emails back and forth. My time is valuable and free time will be at a premium next year with three novels and six more anthologies coming out. And I'm working on another book. I don't have time to spare for people who have no time to spare for me. It's like pruning an LJ friends list in some ways, although I write more for myself than for any specific group of people. In that instance, stay if you want to read and go if you find nothing worth reading. I skip through some of your posts simply because I don't always have the time to read every word, but you'll never know which ones I skim and which ones I read every word because I don't always comment. I wonder if that means I can't spare five minutes a day for them. Hmm.

Relationships are about communication. If there is no communication, there really is no relationship. It's that simple. Stopping by once a month and emailing once or twice a day do not a relationship make. That makes an acquaintance -- and not a very good one at that.

I know this seems a bit cut throat, but there it is. If someone has the time to spend 12+ hours a week watching television, but no more than five minutes a day communicating and connecting then there's not much of a relationship happening -- nor likely to continue. It's like I tell people who say they want to write but don't have the time. If they watch television every night, or for several hours a day, and they really want to write, they'll give up at least 30 minutes of watching TV. If not, then they have no real interest in writing. Relationships, like writing, require commitment and sacrifice. If someone isn't willing to sacrifice even 30 minutes of TV to write -- or to communicate with a friend or loved one -- then their priorities say it all. They don't really want to write, they just like the idea of being a writer. It's sort of like being enthralled with the idea of love but not wanting to love someone -- or in this case, build a real relationship. A person's priorities tell you a lot about who they are and what is important to them and speak so much louder than empty promises and emptier words.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Free expression

I've been engaged in a discussion about journals and revealing your truest and deepest self. It relates to free expression and the exercise thereof.

As anyone who has read my journal posts for any length of time can tell, I don't do PC. It's phony. You use a lot of words to skirt an issue and end up with the result that people believe they can pick up a turd by the clean end. It's not possible. To paraphrase Shakespeare, a turd by any other name would still smell -- even tens of thousands and millions of years later. Think I'm kidding? Archaeologists get all excited when they find a cave where prehistoric man lived and shat and they will tell you that if you add a bit of water the smell comes back.

Some people believe their turds don't stink. They do. I've been in the bathroom with some of those people (in public restrooms) or just after them (in more private venues) and I can attest to the fact. That's not to say it's bad or good, just a fact. Turds are the smelly ash left over after the body has extracted all the nourishment from food. It's human compost and anyone who has been near a compost heap will tell you just how much it smells on hot sunny days, especially when you're turning it so that all the compost can rot evenly. Eventually, the compost rots enough and bacteria and insects work on the pile to reduce it to earthy fertilizer that can be spread on gardens to help plants grow, so even compost and turds have uses, even if it's just a dung fire to stay warm on cold nights, keep away predators and cook food. Everything has a use, even free expression in this politically correct morass of a world when people don't say what they mean or mean what they say. Instead, they hide their truest selves behind an endless stream of watered down words or keep them bottled up. Don't you know what happens to anything volatile when it's bottled up for too long? It explodes.

asked me if I'd be afraid to let people see what's in my paper journals. Once upon a time the answer would have been yes. Now it's no. I've already faced that demon when my mother got hold of years of paper journals and read every word. She thought they were all about her and ended up finding the real me, a me she never knew -- and still doesn't. She didn't know I was so unhappy or that my interests range from quantum physics to philosophy and everything in between. She didn't know my dreams or my fears or what I had kept inside me for fear someone would find me out and decide I was a lunatic, and she understood some of what she read and urged me to have the journals published. That brought me to blogging where I decided that I wouldn't censor myself or hide it away for only certain people (or no one) to see. That is not an indictment of people who need or choose to keep their journals locked to only friends.

The problem as I see it is that we treat the people around us as foes ready to pounce on us and destroy our lives, and there are people out there like that, but they are for the most part faux foes. They are more interested in their own pain and creating drama. Those who wish to create drama will find a way with or without your help, but by putting your truest self out here you can defuse their nefarious schemes by just being who and what you are, warts and all.

For instance, Mom and I had a talk not too long ago about why she resented Dad's brother, Don, so much. I posted some of that here previously. She doesn't understand why a man who drank and raised hell and chased women (successfully) was still alive with all of his physical ailments and a good man like Dad was gone. She resented Uncle Don the way most of the family resents her. Mom has had several different types of cancer and many of her organs surgically removed, partially and completely. She has had so many surgeries that her body is a jigsaw puzzle of silvery scars and puckered skin. Her skin is like paper and she is usually covered in bruises and has to be sustained with monthly blood transfusions and B12 shots, in short, a vampire (in more ways than one). She has been a selfish, self centered, egotistical woman who believes the world revolves around her and she has made sure the world revolved around her, and yet she is still here while a good man like Dad is dead.

Mom keeps whining about being alone, although my sisters and brother dance to her tune every single day, and how she wants to die and be with Dad. She's been close to death a few times and she's still here. Neither heaven nor hell want her, and I'm sure Dad isn't too anxious to see her again so soon after getting his reprieve, so she is still here. There are times when I hope her wish will be granted SOON and she'll die, but then I think about her wish. She wants her ashes to be put in Dad's urn so her ashes will spend eternity with his ashes. Even in death Dad can't get away from her. I think I'll honor Dad's wishes, get hold of his ashes and spread them to the winds. I can replace his ashes with plain old fireplace ash and Mom won't know the difference. Yes, it's her dying wish, but she won't die, and Dad's dying wish to be scattered to the winds was not honored. Even though Dad broke his promise to me and didn't take Mom with him when he died, I understand why and I empathize.

Maybe this revelation doesn't come as a surprise to people who know me and my history with Mom and maybe it does, but it's the way I feel. It's my truest self and I'm not ashamed to put it out here. Mom is manipulative and egocentric and she really doesn't care for anyone but herself. She made so many lives miserable, even her mother's. Gram was a wonderful woman who loved Mom unconditionally and Mom often treated Gram like a mangy cur. When the prostate cancer metastasized into Dad's bones and he was in so much pain, Mom screamed and railed at him because he didn't know the meaning of pain. She had lived with pain all her life and she didn't act like a pantywaist about it. She demeaned and punished him for more than fifty years and Dad stuck by her. Dad's dead and she's still here. Is it any wonder I wish she weren't?

I love Mom, but I don't like most of what she's done -- to Dad, to Gram, to the people around her, to my children or to me. She has destroyed lives and did her best to try destroy the people who loved her the most. And she's still here.

That, gentle readers, is free expression. I am not afraid to reveal my shadow self. I'm not perfect and I never claimed to be. I have faults and flaws and can be incredibly insensitive on occasion, but one thing I am not is phony. What you read here is my truest self, warts and all, and I apologize for none of it because it needs no apology. There is more to me than these few posts and they fill many paper journals, and will fill many more, but I am no different here than in real life. This is what Mark Twain meant.

This is how you get to know a person -- by the freest and most honest expression of their deepest self. I think we'd all be better off if we got rid of anything politically correct and let the shadows out of their closets, along with the skeletons. There is nothing new in heaven or earth and never will be. What you have thought in moments of anguish or pain or fear are the same as the thoughts shared by any number of people in every civilization throughout time. The technology is different, but man and woman remain the same. Let it out and you will find many kindred spirits. Let it out and maybe we can finally put the demons to rest. Let it out and be who you really are -- warts and all.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just the facts

Well, I got a surprise today when I read the group email from the publisher. They have revamped the website and there are now two pages all about me and mine. A third page lists upcoming titles for 2009 and Past Imperfect is on the list. Since I won't get the contracts for the other two novels until January, they aren't included in the list, but my book is on the list and now has it's own page. How cool is that?

There was more Cup of Comfort news and there will be more book signings, appearances, readings and interviews, but I'm going to see if I can't combine them with the upcoming novel. Nothing like getting more bang for your literary buck. I also have to begin promoting the new novel before it hits the bookshelves, or at least that's what I'm finding out works best with marketing. So much to do and so many miles before the end of the road.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Baby drama

I heard the phone in the middle of the night, waking me from sleep, but since I was so close to the dream edge I plunged back in and ignored the phone -- until this morning. The call was from a close friend who is pregnant and decided not to abort this one. She is upset (to put it mildly) because the father of her child has a girlfriend and seems to be settling down. She's in an uproar because she feels he has no right to get involved with someone while she's pregnant with his child. She considers his actions inappropriate because he has not bonded with his child (due in March/April) and doesn't know if he will eventually want to be with her. She refuses to allow him to see his child or be at the birth if he's going to be with someone other than her. I call it emotional blackmail. She calls it only right since she's pregnant with his child.

A little history: My friend decided not to use a condom with this guy, someone she's considered a sex buddy for about four years, and she got pregnant. At first, he introduced her to his family and the family included her in baby showers and family get-togethers, none of which she attended since she didn't feel it was appropriate because she and the father-to-be weren't in a relationship. She went on MySpace and contacted all the women the father-to-be was cozying up to and told them she was carrying his child. Most of the women backed off. One or two didn't, but they told my friend they'd give her some space. She has known from the beginning that the father-to-be did not want to be with her and she didn't want to be with him -- until she got pregnant. She has a history of getting involved with emotionally unavailable men -- and having sex with them. To her, it's just empty sex. And she wonders why they all leave her when she finally gets emotionally involved. Now she wonders why the father-to-be and all the men she's been involved with treat her like a bitch. Duh!

I talked to her and tried to get her to see that she is emotionally blackmailing the father-to-be and that she has no right to decide who he dates or marries or becomes involved with. She doesn't see things that way and she has told the father-to-be (he's 21 and she's 31) that she will never allow him to see his child or spend time with her if he's with someone else and that he has no right to get involved with someone else until he has bonded with his child. The only problem is that it's not bonding with his child that she wants but bonding with her and being a family, supporting her emotionally and financially and physically, that she really wants. He isn't even someone she wanted a relationship with until she got pregnant again (she's aborted 6 or 7 babies so far) and decided that it was time for her to have a child. She keeps blaming it on karma and on being dark-skinned. I blame it on her attitude about sex and how she relates to people and on not having a job or being able to hold down a job for more than a few months, and I blame it on not having a stable life for the past 10+ years.

She's gone to college and keeps flunking out or losing interest. She has camped in friends' homes as a live-in babysitter (when she could) and a squatter when she couldn't. She moves in with her mother when she falls out with her friends. She has used men to pay her way and to have a place to live. Every time she gets emotionally involved the guys flip the script on her and end up tossing her out on her behind and she doesn't understand why. Maybe it is karma, but I think it's more about not having any respect for herself and not being willing to make a stable and productive life for herself. I could be wrong.

She was very upset when I decided to end the phone call. She is a good worker when she works and she has had some bad breaks, but she has no respect for herself and she's still looking for someone else to fulfill her life. Since she won't listen to me (and I am her friend so she doesn't want to listen to me) I suggested she get some counseling from someone she doesn't know very well. It isn't that she doesn't respect me or think I'm not being honest that keeps her from hearing me, but that she expects me to be on her side instead of being neutral. I told her she was too upset to listen and that it wasn't good for her or the baby to continue discussing the situation. I've had to tell her some hard truths before and she gets upset, but eventually she calms down and she sees that I'm just being her friend. I hope she gets some counseling. She needs it. In the meantime, I'm going to get back to work and give her time to cool down. She can't see what she doesn't want to see. She didn't see it when she was involved with someone who had gotten someone else pregnant and refused to allow him to see his daughter when she was born as long as he was with my friend. He still saw my friend and invited her to spend time with her and his daughter, but didn't tell the baby's mother about it, and that was all right. My friend did not like the baby's mother emotionally blackmailing her boyfriend, who eventually caved and kicked her out of his life so he could spend time with his daughter, and here she is doing the same thing. It's different now. She sees the other woman's point of view and thinks she was right to do what she did. I see it as a rationalization. It's always different when it's your life and someone getting in the way of what you want, but I don't see things that way.

She has no right to try to control the baby's father's life or who he sees, now or ever, unless the person intends to hurt her child, and I'm sure the father wouldn't allow that -- one would hope. Still, no one has the right to control another person's life, as if you could. I'm sure other people feel differently.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Book promotions

I've been working on marketing schemes for my book and I think I've come up with a good one. There's a scene in the novel when two of the protagonists are sharing a decadent chocolate-cream-caramel dessert in a way that is highly sexual. (You'll have to read the book to find out when and what.) Given the fact that most readers and book buyers like to be involved in some way, especially when there's free stuff, I thought it would be a good idea to hold a contest pre-launch to create the most decadent and sexiest dessert. If I can get a company involved that would be willing to give away something substantial for the best recipe ( can feel my hips expanding already) to coincide with the book launch, or the restaurant where the scene takes place to give away dinner for two for the winning dessert recipe (and serve the dessert at dinner), I think that would definitely generate some interest and some numbers. I think the restaurant would be the best bet, although it would help to throw in one night at a local hotel and air fare since the restaurant is near Philadelphia. That's going to take some work, but it would be great publicity for the restaurant and the hotel, not to mention for the book. I could do the same thing with a couple other restaurants mentioned in the book, too. One restaurant is a BBQ joint in Columbus and a great seafood restaurant in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Hook up with an airline or two and maybe a travel agency and I think we have a winner.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mark, marketing and marks

Waking at 4:35 a.m. and finally getting back to sleep at 6:30 a.m. and then being awakened by the phone while attending to nature's call doesn't make for a good start to the morning . . . unless a good friend calls and leaves you laughing and another friend gives you a great marketing idea for your books. It's not even noon and already my day has been quite eventful. Does that mean it's downhill from here?

The forecast is for a heavy winter storm so I think I'll take out the trash today instead of waiting until later, which means I'll also have to put the mail out today as well. I do not want to have to slog through the storm into the teeth of a freezing gale tomorrow morning when I'm barely awake and probably didn't sleep well the night before, as has been the case for the past two weeks. I want to go back to sleeping for six or seven hours straight and waking refreshed and ready to tackle another day. Unfortunately, my body seems to have other ideas and forgot to inform me of its twisted and obscene plans to deprive me of sleep and making me uncomfortable and cranky. It didn't help that when the HVAC guys came to fix the furnace on Friday one of them fell and landed on the top of the brand new vanity and cracked the porcelain in two long jagged oblique almost all the way across the top places. The porcelain is chipped in several areas and my beautiful vanity is not beautiful any more -- but they managed not to break the glass (one of two remaining glasses) the knocked off onto the rug on the terra cotta tile floor. I hope the landlord, Mark, takes care of the vanity top quicker than he's taken care of the leaking roof over my office (still not done).

Mark has a strange sense of humor. When he returned my call about the furnace not working he suggested I put on a sweater and wear fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm. I told him I was wearing my fleece jacket and didn't have any fingerless gloves. He offered to loan me a pair for the winter in lieu of fixing the furnace. After all, the oven still works and it will keep at least the front half of the cottage warm and I can bundle up in all my clothes while working in the back half of the cottage. Like I said, Mark has a strange sense of humor. He really is a good guy though and he doesn't intrude -- even when I want him to intrude, like when attending to repairs like roofs and furnaces, and now the vanity top.

My friend with the marketing idea also gave me an idea for another book. Now that I'm almost finished with the editing and rewrites on the two books I've already written this years, I think it will make a love story to be remembered. I mean, how many people fall in love with their bisexual brother-in-law-to-be only to lose them to AIDS? The tentative title is Marrying Mr. Wrong. Okay, so I'm not good with titles, but something will come along. I could do a series of mainstream love stories with grammar-based titles, a sort of branding that seems to work so well in marketing. It's just the germ of an idea rapidly becoming a sprout, but it is a beginning.

I hope y'all are having a lovely and quiet Sunday with your friends and loved ones -- or happily by yourself if you prefer.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Birthdays, dramas & apologies

Ever feel so far behind you'll never catch up? I'm there.

This week has been busy, to say the least. First of all, I'd like to wish NoCompromises a belated but very happy birthday. Sorry about that, sweetie. You got caught up in my crap this week.

Second of all, in the "it just goes to show you" category, one of my best friends saw that karma does indeed ream with a thorny stick and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thirdly, I found something strange happening to my left eye. It was a pinpoint of flashing light out at the far corner of my peripheral vision. It was annoying, but also concerning, especially when I called my optometrist and she told me to come in the same day I called, within an hour of my call. Since she didn't like what she saw she made an appointment for me with a retinal specialist the next day. If you know anything about eyes and vision, you're probably beginning to get the same picture I was getting -- possible retinal detachment and blindness in my left eye. I told only a couple people because I needed to talk and I wanted to let someone know that even with the possibility of losing sight in one eye there is an up side, like still being able to see out of the right eye and getting to wear a pirate patch (one of my childhood dreams). The retinal specialist said there was an abrasion on my retina, but not an actual break and no detachment. He also told me the flashing pinpoint of light was an ocular (optical) migraine caused by stress.

About three years ago I started seeing a small jagged edged, rainbow-colored, prismatic dot in my right eye that got bigger, turning into a jagged edged, rainbow-colored, prismatic circle that grew and grew until it was out of my visual range. I told my optometrist and she explained it was an ocular (optical) migraine. I don't get it often and have experienced the phenomenon only three or four times in the past three years. I guess my right eye decided my left eye needed to share the load of stress and the left eye decided that a flashing pinpoint of white light was preferable to the kaleidoscopic light show. I'm a little disappointed because this means I don't get the cool pirate patch, but I'm okay with that.

Unfortunately, because I've been focused on my own situation I have neglected my friends and have gone to bed early several nights this week. I haven't slept much, but I've been in bed by nine each night, which makes answering emails a bit difficult since I don't get them until the next morning. Funny thing is that when people are going through their own situations and dramas they expect everyone around them to focus on them instead of realizing that others are going through their own stuff. They immediately decide that no one cares about them and they unilaterally decide that the friendship is in jeopardy. So, in the spirit of focusing on someone other than me, now that the drama in my life is ended (for now), if anyone feels I have slighted them or ignored them, please speak up now and get your own personal response free of charge.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fading hours

There is a melancholy feeling to the end of a long weekend after a holiday and I feel it most today before it's time for me to go back to work in the morning. I want the weekend to last, but like the girl in the fairy tale of the magic wishbone I know that would be a bad idea, or questionable at best.

The past few days have been full of food and friends and time with loved ones that leaves an aching void inside that begs to be filled. It's a little like the sugar rush. First, there's the rush, the sugar high, and then cruising speed sets in, followed by the abyss when the sugar rush is gone and the sluggishness follows and the only thought is getting more sugar. Suddenly, that seems funny -- sugar. When I was a little girl my grandmother used to ask me for some sugar. It was her way of asking for a kiss.

I'm still slogging through the latest review book and it's a tough slog, the book that never ends or gets exciting or interesting. I have to get through it, but all I want is to turn back time to Friday morning and bask in the glow of shared intimacy with my best friend. Those hours fly by all too quickly and when the rosy glow fades leaves me a little sad. But I need to work and so does he and life intrudes and duty calls and there's nothing left to do but focus on the tasks at hand. With that, I leave you to return to my work and slog through the endless swamp of words I need to condense into a 300-word review. Enjoy the fading hours of the last day of November and the rosy glow of dawn on the last month of this year.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Entertain my mouth

The cranberry relish that I usually buy in the store is a lot cheaper when it's homemade and really easy, too. I decided to give it a food processing whir last night and it's marinating in the fridge right now. I had some last night (have to taste test it) and it was really good. I may have a touch more before I start work, just to see how it's coming along in the marinating process. In fact, I think it would be a great addition to a pot roast on dark rye sandwich for lunch.

I have heard all the talk, and seen the recipes for, brining meat, but I came across a new technique that I'm going to try tonight. Using kosher salt and spices, I'm going to salt the turkey. It's the same idea as brining without all the water. The salt brings the juices in the turkey to the surface so that when it bakes it stays moist without all the basting. After it's done, the turkey sits for 30 minutes before carving so the juices redistribute. I'll let you know how it goes.

On tonight's baking schedule are yams (for the sweet potato pecan pie), lemon meringue pie and carrot cake. I'm still not sure if I want to make muffins out of the carrot cake batter or a two-layer cake. Either way, the carrot cake gets a traditional cream cheese frosting. I also have to make shiitake mushroom caviar (caviar is Russian for any spread with minced vegetables, and you thought it just meant fish eggs) so that it has time for the flavors to develop.

Tomorrow's pretty easy. In the morning, I'll boil the potatoes for the mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and put together the butternut squash au gratin for the main side dishes. Guests will bring salads and sides and ham and the drinks are on me, a nice light white wine and a full bodied Merlot. There will also be fresh lemonade and water to drink and a few amuse bouches to whet the appetite before the main event. Friday is reserved for an intimate meal with one really good friend who has requested rye bread and mustard for his turkey sandwich. The rye bread I get, but I was expecting a request for Miracle Whip or mayo for the turkey sandwiches. I'm open to anything, like cranberry relish on pot roast sandwiches. I like trying new things, especially when it comes to food, unlike Beanie who is a traditionalist to her core.

When Beanie and I talked this morning and I mentioned my schedule, she said I was weird with all the gourmet food. I don't consider shiitake mushroom caviar or mashed potatoes with sour cream and roasted garlic gourmet, but someone for whom stuffed celery is gourmet, I'm sure it seems that way. She doesn't like Swiss cheese because it tastes nasty and she prefers ranch dressing while I finally found a recipe for authentic green goddess salad dressing that includes anchovies. I'm sure she wouldn't like to know what else is in it. At least, she approved the carrot cake. It's something she recognizes.

I've always been different than my siblings and I love trying new things, especially food, which is why I live in Colorado and they all live within 50 miles of Columbus, Ohio where they grew up. After all, life is too short and the world filled with new and different sensations and experiences and I still have a long way to go in trying them all. I may have to come back several more lifetimes to get them all in and revisit the ones I really liked. I consider cooking as stress reducing therapy while many other people consider it stressful. It takes all kinds of people to make a world.

In the meantime, enjoy this time with good friends, dear family and lots of foods, but pace yourself. There's a long weekend ahead and you don't have to eat everything during dinner tomorrow. Save a little something for a midnight snack, breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you do it right, you could have a feast every day for at least a week.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The house smells like roasting garlic. It's for the hummus and baba ghanouj I'm making for hors d'ouevres. I'll bake pita bread tomorrow evening and then bake it again when I cut it up into triangles. I love cooking. I also realized I have some chocolate chips, 60% cacao bittersweet chips, and I think they would go very well in Tollhouse cookies, but I'll save those and bake them on Thursday. Nothing says holiday like something from the oven. I love this time of year.

Most of my local friends will get food baskets filled with homemade goodies for the holiday season. My mother is getting her favorite series, Forever Knight. I don't know why, but she has a thing for certain vampires and one werewolf (David Selby as Quentin Collins). For someone so straight laced, it just doesn't track, but there it is. She even had me learn to play Quentin's Theme on the piano when I was a kid. Talk about obsessions. My brother and sisters and I went in together to get all the DVDs for the series for Mom for Xmas and it doesn't matter that I mention it here since she doesn't have access to a computer. It was my idea because all she talks about is Forever Knight, she doesn't want to miss Nick Knight when it's on. Now she won't have to miss him. She can hole up in her room and watch him all the time.

If you detect a wee bit of the holiday spirit here, it isn't because of alcohol laden egg nog. I drink the occasional glass of wine, but the spirit is all me, generated by the colder temps and the endorphins pumping through my system from cooking and baking and basking in the aroma of home. I don't seem the like the domestic type, and in many ways I'm not, but when it comes to cooking and baking, just the idea of leafing through cookbooks and Gourmet or Food & Wine magazines makes me giddy with anticipation. It's the one little sliver of the shopping gene I do possess, grocery shopping. It's not unusual for me to get the urge to bake or put together a casserole or pot roast in the middle of the night and the aromas help me sleep when I eventually get to bed so that I dream of dancing sugar plums and feasting -- or noshing -- with friends and family.

The urge is building to go out and wander rows of live pine trees, inhale the scent and figure out how to get one home so I can bring out my boxes of ornament treasures, untangle the lights and invite some friends for a tree trimming party. This is the season of sharing food and fun, carols and conversations. Now that I have a place big enough and no guard waiting to pounce in the downstairs hall (no downstairs and no close neighbors watching through the blinds), I think a tree is definitely in order. After all, Mom and Dad brought all my ornaments and treasures with them the last time they visited together and it's time to let them out of their enameled boxes to hang from a live tree again. I feel a tree trimming party coming on.

Oh, and one more thing. I just signed a contract today for another book. I am not writing this one, but the authors requested the rights to use one of my pictures and posts in a book about feelings that will be out next year. I'll make sure you get a link to the book when it's published. From what I understand, the book will come out in several countries around the world at the same time. Not too shabby.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday planning

It's quiet tonight. The guy next door finally turned out the garage lights and went into his house. There are few cars whizzing by and the TV is silent.

It's the weekend before Thanksgiving and all through the house
not a creature is stirring, not even the mouse (he's dead).
The cupboards were filled with loving care
in hopes that friends will stop by and share.

I could go on, but I won't. Suffice it to say that I have one more trip to the grocery store for some last minute things and the rest of the week before the big day will be spent baking and cooking for the big day, buffet style of course. The RSVPs are in and there will be food, wine and guests. I've looked through cookbooks and searched with Google to find some different things to try like pumpkin creme brulee and sweet potato pudding. It isn't that I don't love the usual holiday favorites (baked beans, candied yams, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, etc.); I want to try something different, to shake up the old ant farm. There will, however, be mashed potatoes, but not the usual kind. Everything will be updated or take a trip down an old-fashioned lane (chestnut stuffing). There will, however, be sweet potato pecan pie with brandied cream for those interested in such things and in the Colorado Springs area. No food will be messengered or sent overnight to those who would like to but cannot be here. Sorry about that. It's a house rule.

There will be hors d'ouevres to snack on prior to the big dinner, so come early and plan to stay late. Food digests better over a long period of time. There will also be conversation, music and movies and there might be dancing for those so inclined. For those whose Thanksgiving schedules are full, there will be turkey sandwiches and leftovers served on Friday since I'm off work that day. Stop by any time, but call before you come to find out if there is any food left -- that is if you're only coming for the food.

In the meantime, enjoy the holiday. Eat slowly. Savor the company. Drive safely.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Make a difference

If you haven't heard about the book crisis yet, take a look.

What it boils down to is that book sellers can return unsold books and get their money back, and they did in September and October, causing a book crisis. What can you do to help? Buy books. Doesn't matter what you buy, just buy books. I say this as an author and as a reader. The holidays are coming up like a runaway semi truck down a steep grade without brakes. Instead of candy or flowers or whatever gift conundrum you're wrestling, buy books. Even if the person on your gift list doesn't read, like the fella said, "...tell them to get over it." They have the skills. It's time to exercise them, even if it's a picture book that won't take long to get through or a fancy coffee table book that makes them look intelligent and worldly and classy. Give them books.

Readers need books and authors need readers. It's a symbiotic relationship. So, unless you want to be left with only the cereal box to read (newspapers are going online and ending their print runs in droves), buy books. Support the industry that teaches, informs, entertains, excites, arouses, titillates and interests and buy books. Use it or lose it.

Instead of waiting for weeks, and even months, for a book at the library, buy your own. Instead of Chateaubriand, eat a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of soup and crackers and buy a book. If they're small, buy three. Brave the cold, shop until you drop, but buy books. Write in the margins. Use a highlighter. Share it with friends, but make sure to get it back so they will buy their own, but buy books. Got it? Good.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Check your toxic levels

Did you know that an emotionally toxic environment can make you ill and run down your immune system? It can. Not just when you're frail and old or battling a lingering and fatal disease but when you're seemingly healthy.

Do you get frequent colds, flu, etc? Are you always worn down and tired, can't sleep, feel edgy and don't know why? It could be your home environment, the place where you spend most of your time. Tension, unresolved emotional issues and discord in the home affect your immune system as though it is fighting a constant battle against a barrage of bacteria and viruses -- because it is. It also helps to have the furnace vents blown out and cleaned annually to get rid of the accumulated dust, bacteria and gunk that cycles through the air every time the furnace kicks on. It wouldn't hurt to blow out and clear the air by opening the windows, burning sage and sweet grass, cleaning with Chinese wash or some other natural herbal/resin cleaner and getting rid of the negativity in your household by ousting emotional parasites and vampires. Think I'm kidding? I'm not.

I live alone but have a lot of contact with the outside world. Even when my three boys were in school and bringing home the usual childhood diseases and bacteria, I was seldom ill, which meant I didn't get to use paid sick days for myself, just for the boys. Kids pick up everything, especially germs, bacteria, viruses and disease (the little typhoids Marys and Moes), but if you're ill all the time and blaming the kids you need to start looking in another direction. That smiling face across the breakfast table or sitting on the couch across the room could be the reason for your chronic cycle of illness.

Yes, the spouse holding the pillow you think is to put behind your back and raise you up so you can breathe better is really wondering whether or not an autopsy would show you were smothered instead of suffocating from congestion or a build-up of fluid in your lungs. Planning on surgery? Your spouse is trying to figure out how to make sure you die on the operating table and how long it will take before your insurance will be paid out. It might even be your lover or house mate or companion, if they're in your will or beneficiaries on your insurance policy. Or maybe that is the only way the can think of getting rid of you. All those negative thoughts and emotions may be hidden from view, but the effect isn't gone. It's circulating through the air and in the environment where you live, causing you to be ill and run down your immune system, taking its toll on your emotional and physical reserves until you run out of reserves and give up the ghost.

Check your toxic levels. There is more to health than antiseptic wipes and cleaners. What's wrong with you could be sleeping next to you or in the next room, sharing your food and your space, and sucking your energy dry.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Comfort food

I'm in a domestic mood. Not the cleaning kind of domestic mood, but a cooking and baking and making holiday gifts kind of domestic mood. I get this way around the holidays. I get this way other times of the year -- most times of the year. There is something so soothing and Zen about cooking and baking, about creating something for someone to enjoy, or just for myself. With T-day right around the corner, I'm thinking about turkey and chestnut stuffing and pumpkin souffles or pumpkin creme brulee instead of pie. I'm thinking of sweet potato pecan pie with brandied cream. I'm making a list and checking it twice.

When I was younger, cooking was a place where I could go to tune out the noise and strife and feel safe and comfortable. Everything makes sense in the kitchen. Ingredients measure out and delicious aromas spread throughout the house, leaving behind smiles and contentment, at least for me and once upon a time for my children when they were young. Not so much for my ex-husband; he preferred the greasy, hot smell of fish and chips or shrimp and fries to cream puffs and ham with nectarine-brown sugar glaze. He didn't stick around long for the deer meat stew or cranberry-apple crepes with whipped cream and a dusting of confectioner's sugar. He wasn't into the smells and tastes of home cooking, coming as he did from a home where spices and even salt and pepper were outlawed as foreign substances The idea of taking a chicken or turkey carcass, some vegetables and herbs and putting them in a big pot to make a base for soup or gravy was tantamount to witchcraft and he wasn't fond of witches.

I taught my boys at a very young age about kitchen safety and cooking, allowing them to help measure and mix and pipe homemade cream into the cream puffs or dust them with powdered sugar. They could cook pancakes and make oatmeal when they were very young, before they were old enough to go to school, and they knew how to hull strawberries and pit cherries. I taught them the same way my grandmother taught me. One of the boys even considered becoming a chef before he found out he could make more money selling modular homes. I'm still sad about that, but it's his life.

Growing up around my grandparents, I learned that the best and most lasting way to say, "I love you," was by cooking and baking. My grandfather made the best vegetable beef soup I have ever had, bar none. Grandma made everything else without a recipe, knowing automatically how much of each ingredient she needed to make every meal special. I learned to make milk gravy and fry chicken standing beside her on a kitchen chair with one of her aprons tied twice around my waist. Pies, cakes, red flannel hash, fried rabbit, stuffed turkey, combination salad, ambrosia, and every good thing she taught me and I enjoyed every minute of it.

When I was married, barely out of high school with a child on the way, I wandered off the tried and true culinary path and found comfort in cookbooks and exotic ingredients when I lived far away from home. It was too expensive to call home more than once or twice a year, so I stayed close to home in my heart with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I learned from my grandmother, promising myself that each new dish or dessert I learned I'd share with her when I saw her again -- and I did, introducing her to French cuisine and Asian cooking, Greek pastries and Spanish paella. She enjoyed it all as much as I enjoyed sharing what I'd learned with her and we had a standing weekly date for lunch when I cooked something different every time.

I've traveled a lot since I left home and I've found the quickest way to make friends through food, learning ethnic dishes and sharing my favorites. Pot luck meant a creative melange of foods and aromas that would at first thought clash but complemented perfectly through the spice of friendship. I still would rather have friends to dinner or give baskets and gifts of food for the holidays. It's my favorite celebration for a party, impromptu guests or a picnic lunch out under the broad canvas of the Colorado blue sky -- or any sky. There's something special about sunshine and homemade food that smooths out the rough edges and awkward moments and breeds contentment and friendship. Winter, summer, spring or fall make no difference. There are recipes and comfort enough for all.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday morning coming down

I woke in the middle of the night because it was too warm with the thermostat set at 68 degrees. Between the hot flashes, my naturally high body temperature at night and the vent above my bed, I was roasting even though it was below freezing outside, so I got up, turned down the thermostat, drank some water and slipped back between the sheets. I drifted off in the gathering coolness and awoke again with the horizon outside my window spread with salmon pink and a golden haze over everything feeling refreshed and comfortable and not really ready to relinquish my bed. The golden haze dimmed and the clear Colorado blue sky became more distinct, the soft blue of the moonlit landscape giving way to pink and gold and then to the bright, distinct and multi-colored hues of daytime.

There isn't much to do today, other than finishing a review book and laundry. I love lazy Sundays when reading is the main occupation. I'll take the trash out later or maybe wait until early tomorrow morning before the garbage men come so I don't have to get dressed. Then again, I might make the coconut cream pie I've been eyeing for a while. I have all the ingredients and something about eating silky smooth coconut cream fragrant with fresh coconut while reading a good book is enticing. I might settle for a bowl of coconut cream pudding instead while wishing for fresh warm strawberries still tasting of sunshine and spring.

On Sundays I indulge my senses, take it slow and savor the peace and silence before the onslaught of Monday morning rush and bustle. Yesterday was full of chores and activity. I even mended my favorite t-shirt where time and wear and washing have taken a toll on the beautiful hand painted flower centered on the black fabric. I probably should have relegated the shirt to the rag bag but I'd miss the soft feel of the well worn fabric slipping along my skin. Just when something begins to feel really comfortable it shows its age, first with tiny holes and then when rips and tears. I have another such shirt on this morning, a big baggy purple t-shirt with tiny holes sprouting in odd places, forming communities and getting ready to become tears. I don't know if I'll mend this one or toss it in the rag bag or simply let it disintegrate slowly. It's not as revealing as the other t-shirt with its splits across my chest, revealing glimpses of skin and the tantalizing hint of colored lace, but the die is cast and it will one day be just as riddled with rips and tears.

Until then, there will be many Sunday mornings and Saturdays doing chores where I'll wear one or the other as I move through the weekend between work and rest, reading and cleaning, baking and enjoying a few morsels of indulgence like today.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A pox on lips

Someone told me once that I could write two books a month and I told him he was out of his mind. A book in two weeks is doable, but writing a book every two weeks is a lot of pressure, which doesn't mean I haven't done it. I have. The book I just sold I wrote in two weeks and the book I wrote in August I wrote in about two weeks. I've also moved past 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo and I'm not finished with the book, but it has been almost two weeks since I started and that's with working full time, reading, reviewing and doing a little editing. You'd be wrong to think I have no life. I have a life and it's full of work and writing and the occasional movie while I'm checking email and writing replies. It's call multi-tasking and I am a practitioner.

So here I sit with a bowl of oatmeal warming my insides while I try to keep the outside warm under the faux mink blanket my mother gave me last year writing a little something for LJ while I try to figure out how I'm going to get out of typing reports today and hoping that when I sit down at the other computer I will get no work to type. Plays havoc with my pay and I end up working weekends and nights to catch up, but sometimes a girl needs a day off -- in succession with several other days off.

I do find, however, that when I sit down and get past the first word or two in a story or book the rest takes care of itself by taking me out of myself and into the world of the book. Even if I only write a chapter or two a day, it's enough to carry me through the whole story. I don't, as Meg Cabot said in her NaNo email this week, cheat with other stories. I do have the odd idea on occasion and jot down quick notes on something that sparks an interest from what I see, hear and read, but when I'm working on a book I am totally committed. It's a little like being married or in a relationship with someone and happening to notice a guy or gal (depending on your preference) that passes by. S/he is cute or interesting or interestingly cute but they can't compare with the person sitting next to or across from you. Looking isn't cheating and neither is jotting down a note to remind me later that another story could be warming up in the wings when I'm through with the current story. Everyone needs a momentary distraction; I certainly do or I get stale, but a book every two weeks is something else again. I need a little downtime between books.

This weekend (tomorrow) I will have some much needed downtime with a certain handsome and roguish fella who is coming by in the afternoon. Maybe this weekend he won't show up a half hour early and catch me in my comfy cleaning clothes with the ripped t-shirt that bares strategic parts of my breasts and bra. Arrive early or unannounced and there's no telling what I might be wearing -- or almost wearing. I'm not complaining and he didn't either. He said he likes my shirt as much as I do, but I think it's time to go to the hobby store and buy some embroidery thread to patch up this shirt. A satin stitched outline of the flower would help reinforce the fabric and save what's left of the flower painted on the front while making it prettier. The holes would be closed, but I might consider leaving a few of them open, just enough to be provocative without being Madonna. Tasteful and sexy, not bold and wanton. Wouldn't want to make it too easy or too obvious. A glimpse of stocking, so to speak, not a full frontal assault.

I was worried earlier this week that a cold sore would seriously dampen the festivities tomorrow, but my cache of essential oils saved me yet again. Before the cold sore turned my lip into Martha's Vineyard during a winter storm I opened the little blisters and applied tea tree oil. The next day the swelling was a little bigger, but subsided during the day until there was a little more blister and a minor bump on the right side of my upper lip where I usually get my every five-year outbreak. This morning the swelling is all gone and the cold sore dried up. I'll keep applying tea tree oil until tomorrow so that it will be completely gone. It's the fastest outbreak and cure I've ever had.

While talking with a friend about the pox on my lip, she said neither she nor her husband ever got cold sores. They haven't had chicken pox either. Hmmm, I thought. Must be a connection there somewhere. So, now it's time for the questions.

Have you ever had chicken pox? Do you get cold sores?

FYI: There is a difference between cold sores and chancre sores. Cold sores occur on the skin and chancre (canker) sores occur inside the mouth in the soft tissues.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Sometimes panic is good, helping to motivate and mobilize fear into action. That's what happened the other day.

I usually have a momentary meltdown and then begin focusing on solving whatever problem is in the way. I had help from a good friend who stood by and patted me on the back while I panicked. Then he offered me something to make it all better -- someone we both know, although he knows the gentleman much better than I do since they've been friends for about ten years. The gentleman is also a fellow ham and a retired graphic artist with tons of experience. Book trailers are new to him, but anyone who can put together corporative videos and art work has a big edge, and one he's willing to share with me to help me out and gain a little more knowledge and a few clips for his portfolio. None of it would have been possible without my favorite Luddite who continues to amaze me. The stage is set for the book trailer.

The most amazing part about the Luddite is that he's gone out of his way to be there for me when he started a brand new job Monday last and is still getting up to speed with a metric ton of documentation and paperwork to get through. I miss chatting during the day, but at least I get to see him in person more often that originally planned. During the time we have been apart he has re-evaluated his ideas and plans and fit me back into his schedule and his life. I would have gotten through all this without him -- I always land on my feet -- but my recovery time is less and it's wonderful to have the support and his friendship. Can't ask for more.

I was told this was my year and it has been. I won't say I can't ask for more because there's always more: more books, more stories, more money for writing and more friends to share the trials, trailers and tribulations, but also the joy and excitement and experiences. I can't help wondering if sometimes the Universe waits until we can appreciate them most to shower us with the good things in life. Whatever the rhyme or reason, I feel blessed. I am blessed by friends and family who support me, argue with me, fight with me and love me in spite of it all, but mostly with friends who aren't afraid to share their lives with me. Beanie's right, I'm getting sappy in my old age.

Isn't it marvelous?

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Very thin shoe horn

The world just got more real and insistent. From author with contract for novel to author expected to writing comprehensive marketing plan and sketching out ideas for book trailer in less than a week. Yikes! It's real. I'm officially on the publishing treadmill, and I thought the signings and readings and personal interviews and appearances were tough for the anthologies. Now I have to build a web site, provide content and work on marketing before the book has been copy edited or typeset, and I signed on for this gig. I'm not sure the ink is dry on the contract yet.

This is now the world of the mid list writer: marketing, PR, strategizing and selling. I need someone to be me for that part of things so I can stay home and keep writing, otherwise I'll be lucky if I can find a shoe horn thin enough to fit a little life into my life. John said that outsourcing my public persona is identity theft and there are some aspects of my identity he'd like to keep to himself. I told him to give me a list and I wouldn't outsource them. I sure hope this gets easier as I break readership statistics down from characters and venues in the book and begin making plans to make the rounds at writers conferences. I keep reminding myself this is what I signed on for, except that it's really not. I signed on to write books and sign the occasional autograph while someone else sells the books and does the PR.

Okay, time to buck up and stop whining since I'm out of cheese. The publishing world has changed and it's up to me to sell the books I write just like Mark Twain, except that Twain actually hired salesmen to take his books out across the country and sell them door to door. Great! I've just become the Fuller Brush Company.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Two in one day

Will wonders ever cease?

I just got off the phone -- again. This time I was talking to my aunt who is also my biological mother. She had just heard about one of the stories I'd written for a Cup of Comfort anthology. After calling Mom and getting a list of all the other anthologies, she got copies of them and read them from the beginning. The first one she read was Love is Enough from Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul

As I reread the story after John read it yesterday, it hit me that I had included her in that story and I was a little nervous about her reading it. The story still makes me cry and I wrote it. She mentioned it when we talked on this phone this evening and she said it made her cry and that she was very proud of me. She had called her sister, my Aunt Wilma, who also got a postcard from me about the latest book, A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer's. Aunt Wilma wanted to know if there were other books and she wrote down the list and went out to buy all the books and read them. I have no idea what Aunt Wilma thinks about my writing, but Ann told me I have a way with words and she thought my stories were the best ones in the books. Isn't family prejudice wonderful? Makes me wish for thousands more just like them.

I have spent most of the day on the phone with friends and family and answering emails from friends and family who all got the word that Past Imperfect has been bought. They're all anxious to read the book, which won't be out until next year. I'm still going through the contract, which is basic boiler plate, and noting things that still need to be negotiated. I have two more books almost ready to put out there and I have no doubt at all they will also be picked up. One book was written in August and the other started a few years ago and put aside while I wrote book reviews, articles, stories and columns. I think it's time to finish it and put it out there.

About the only thing missing right now is being able to share this with Dad. In many ways, he's the person who got me fired up and putting more of my writing out into the world. I know he'd be proud of me because he was proud of everything I've accomplished so far. To him, I was already a best selling author.

It's a little daunting to know that soon there will be a book with only my name under the title and more than a little overwhelming that so many of my family and friends, most of who have supported and encouraged me all these years, aren't shy about sharing their congratulations and pride even though things are not as good for them right now as they are for me. It was hard for me sometimes, as proud and happy as I am for my friends and family's success, not to wonder why, after all the hard work and time I've put in, I didn't have more of what they had. I didn't and don't begrudge them their happiness, but I wanted a small piece of it for myself. This year, I have been amply rewarded for my sometimes reluctant patience and tenacity, and I know even though everyone is happy for me a small part of them wonders when it will be their turn again.

I don't have a lot of money and each month I still struggle to pay the bills and keep some food on the table (and books on the shelves), but over the past few months I feel richer than Midas and blessed, not only because my stories and books are being published, but because I have the most wonderful and faithful and amazing group of friends and family. The words are mine (and sometimes my editors') but my success and happiness I willingly share with all of you, as long as you understand I don't plan to share the checks (that goes for my sister Carol who keeps asking me when she's getting her share). I still have land to buy and a cabin higher up in the mountains to build and furnish.

Thank you all for your friendship. I couldn't have made it this far without giving up without you.

It may be too late

Since reconnecting with my best male friend, I've thought about living with him full time. I imagine him here cooking together in the kitchen, doing dishes, sharing the bathroom and sharing everything else and it feels strange. It isn't that I don't care for him or that I don't want to be with him, but I wonder if I have lost the knack of living with someone else full time. I've been single and have lived alone longer than I was married either time or living with someone else. With the kids, it was a matter of time before they were out on their own, but living with a partner, a mate, is not something with an expiration date, or at least one hopes that's the case.

I've become used to quiet mornings and not rushing around fixing breakfast or showering or getting ready to go to work. I get up, go to the bathroom, climb back into bed to get warm and then get up and get ready for work. Since I work at home, there's not much to do, outside of getting breakfast, checking email and putting on warm clothes before sitting down to work. On warm days, I wear little or nothing. Sometimes I take a shower first thing in the morning and most of the time I take one whenever I feel like it. I have no fixed engagements, shop for groceries on Tuesdays or Thursdays, clean house on Saturdays, do laundry on Sundays and the rest of the time let my work and writing obligations and habits determine the shape of my days. If I don't have enough dirty clothes (I don't wear that many clothes working at home) for a load or two on Sundays, I postpone the laundry until I do have enough. I don't cook or eat on a schedule and the only fixed point on my schedule is my day job. Living with someone means changing the shape and contours of my days and I think I've lived alone for too long to be easy or comfortable with sharing space full time with anyone, even someone I love, but I am an adaptable creature.

A part of me resists the change to a comfortable and workable lifestyle and the rest of me welcomes the one person I'd ever consider sharing my space with. Then again, maybe I've lived alone too long. It may be too late for me to change.

In years past when people have asked me about my plans to get married, I had a list ready for them. I'd get married again if the person was older, traveled a lot, financially stable and I don't have to support him and would agree to separate homes and conjugal visits. The added plus of having one foot in a grave and the other on a banana peel was something I saved for really obnoxious people who wouldn't drop the subject. The thought that I was a gold digging mercenary made them think twice about asking any more questions. Don't want to poke the bitch in the cage.

There is some hint of a shadow of a glint of hope that some day I will again share space with a partner, but I have a feeling I'll have to pay them for taking care of me and s/he will be called an aide/caregiver. Who knows? I have been wrong before. The right man and the right circumstances could help change my mind.


Nonsequitor: Since writing the above, some news has landed in my email box. Attached was a contract for my novel and a W-9. In the contract was the breakdown of royalties and information about my advance. I sold the novel. I now have a contract and a check for the advance will follow as soon as they receive my signed W-9 and two copies of the contract. I sold the novel. I SOLD THE NOVEL!.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The spy who conned me

I have a good friend in Israel who is a retired journalist. Yesterday he sent me a request to call the White House and ask for Jonathan Pollard's release from prison on a charge of espionage. Pollard has a strange history, but the gist of it is that he spied for Israel and sold secrets to West African and Pakistani governments when he was employed by the Navy. He was paid $1500 a month to spy for Israel and also received a $10,000 sapphire and diamond ring and $10,000 in cash for his first transaction. By his own report, Pollard sold Israel 800 documents and more than 1000 cables and was caught walking out of his office with 60 documents in his briefcase.

Pollard wanted to be a spy. He applied first at the CIA and was turned down when he failed a polygraph test. Pollard then went to Navy Intelligence and was hired; they don't require a polygraph test for secret security clearance. This is a man with a checkered background who used his position to sell secrets with which he was entrusted. He claims now that he was acting in Israel's best interest because the U.S. was withholding information Pollard felt Israel should have. I've read information pro and con about Pollard and I have to say my initial reaction is that whether or not he felt he was doing the right thing he went about it in the wrong way. He had no right to compromise his position as an American to sell or give information with which he had been entrusted to any other government.

Pollard said he was sorry and regrets his actions, but isn't that what everyone says when they get caught and have spent a few years in prison, 23 years in Pollard's case. Although Pollard never went to trial because he preferred plea bargain to facing a jury of his peers, and because neither the U.S. or Israeli governments wanted to air their dirty laundry in a public trial, Pollard received a life sentence. Pollard and the Israeli government feel Pollard has served more than enough time for his crimes and that because he is ill he should be pardoned. Violating the terms of his plea bargain, Pollard contacted the media and laid bare the specifics of his actions. The judge, after receiving documents from Caspar Weinberger, then head of the CIA, and taking into account Pollard reneging on the terms of his plea bargain, handed down a sentence of life in prison. Pollard has never filed for parole and instead holds out for clemency and a full pardon. Israel has made Pollard's release part of the terms for some of their treaty agreements and been refused by several presidents, including Clinton who reneged on his agreement with the Israeli government to release Pollard when the head of the CIA at that time threatened to resign if Pollard was released.

Obviously there is more to this picture than anyone is saying. Pollard sees things one way and the U.S. government sees things another. Weinberger stated that Pollard had endangered American lives by selling information to Israel, and other governments, that detailed sources of information, routes and names of operatives.

For me, what it boils down to is this: Pollard sold information to foreign governments. It doesn't matter that he is sorry for what he did and that he's ill. Had he faced a jury he would have received more than one life sentence. He is no longer an American citizen since Israel granted him citizenship in 1995 after refusing for many years to acknowledge Pollard worked for them. Pollard sought employment in the intelligence community with the express intent of becoming a spy and selling classified documents. He doesn't deserve to be pardoned.

There is much more to this case than anyone has admitted and I've no doubt that what is hidden is damning to both the U.S. and Israeli governments, but the bottom line is that an American sold out his homeland for money and continues to sell out the American people. I cannot in good conscience ask for his release and I won't. I respect my friend and I know he believes that Pollard has been imprisoned unfairly, but I don't. Anyone who sells out their country for money or publicity and recognition deserves to stay in prison. If Pollard believed that America was withholding information from Israel they should have had, there were channels Pollard could have used to bring that failure to light, but it wasn't by selling secrets and endangering lives. The fact that he has publicized his actions and seeks the limelight so fervently tells me he feels no remorse. He wants fame. He got it. Had he been so righteously indignant about the U.S. government's actions in keeping information from an ally, Pollard would have given the information free of charge to Israel and he wouldn't have contacted other foreign governments to sell secrets. Pollard is a proven liar and a glory hound who wants to be seen as a martyr. The only factor that keeps Pollard from being branded a traitor is that by law he didn't sell secrets during a time of war.

Pollard is no James Bond spying for his country to thwart megalomaniacal villains from holding the world hostage intent on its destruction. He's a traitor to the land of his birth.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And now a word from the apologists

I've received several emails from Obama supporters congratulating themselves and Obama on the win last night. Every one of them contain the same final line. "Remember that Obama is only one man and cannot do everything. He is only human."

When I read that I think of the past eight years, and most especially the past four, and it strikes me no one said, "Remember that President Bush is only one man and cannot do everything." Instead, President Bush became the nation and the world's scapegoat for everything that was wrong. It didn't matter where the trouble originated, President Bush got the blame. No one paid attention to all the lands President Bush preserved and set aside as untouchable by developers and ecological rapists. No one remembers the good things President Bush did. He was only one man but he carried the onus of the world on his shoulders and no one reminded us that he is only human.

Considering the legacy that Democratic presidents have left us and Republican presidents to fix, I sincerely hope that Obama doesn't let you all down and prove to be the man the rest of us believe he is. I pray he does not leave us another Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mess as Clinton did. I pray he does not lead us deeper into a Welfare abyss like Johnson and Carter. I pray he does not lead us from Iraq to mire us indefinitely in Afghanistan the way Kennedy and Johnson led us into a never ending civil war in Vietnam. I pray he does not cut off Israel and leave them for the jackals and hyenas of Iran when we need a strong ally in the Middle East the most. I pray he does not destroy the economy by his plans to spread the wealth around by stealing from the rich to give to the poor. I pray he does not marginalize any American in his desire to connect with his roots. I pray that he does not bring about a civilian military force and supports the standing military forces that have kept this country and all Americans safe and strong. I pray Obama is not the one who will bring tears and fear to the hearts of those who saw in him a voice for change and that the change you believe he brings does not bring you to your knees.

As for me, I learned how to duck and cover when I was a child growing up in the 1950s and again in the 1960s when Kennedy brought us to the bring of nuclear disaster with Cuba one October, and I pray I never have to use it to kiss my backside goodbye.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Fly, words, fly

It's not always a good idea to go to bed early, especially not on a full mind, because I wake four or five hours later and can't get back to sleep. If I decide to check my email, I know I'll never get back to sleep until morning and I have a lot to do this weekend. Such is the case tonight.

I look forward to reading Funds for Writers (FFW) every Saturday morning and technically, since it's after midnight, it is Saturday morning, although I prefer to think of it as still Friday night, so when I woke just before one I checked my email and began to read FFW. Hope's editorial about her friend, Tom, from her writing group in the hospital for gallbladder surgery hit me right between the eyes. It isn't as though I've not written many times about each day being precious and not postponing life for some nebulous day in the shadowy future, but reading about Tom and how he held out for a traditional publisher while he put on one more coat of polish and ran his novel through one more edit made me realize I've been holding back, too, not in the same way, but I've been holding myself back.

There are several novels residing in the bits and bytes on hard drives and floppies and CDs and DVD-ROMs that need a little more polish and one more edit. While I've been writing stories for anthologies (and getting published) and reviews and articles and blog posts in the cracks and spaces between life and my day job the novels have languished because I thought I had more time. After all, I plan to live to the ripe old age of 150 (140 now that my cousin, Ellen, scared ten years out of me the other day with her cyber-joke) and I have time, except that maybe I don't have time. There may be more days and years behind me than before me and I'm wasting them.

Okay, I gave up cable television and I use my television only for watching DVDs, rationing myself to one a day, and I download what few shows I watch to cut out commercials, but I'm still wasting time by not putting more of my novels out there. It looks like I finally have one novel on its way and will fill in some blanks this weekend so the publisher and I can go to second base, but there are other novels that need just as much attention, not to polishing and editing just one more time, but to kicking them out of the nest. Having spent ten years not writing until my life and sanity depended on it and using my experience and expertise to put other people's books and stories in publishers' hands, it's time I do the same for myself.

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for those of you who have already signed on to write a 50,000-word book this month, and I have something planned, but I may put it aside to push those novels, cozy on the hard drive and protected on data disks, out of the nest and into publishers' hands. To that end, I am going to send out one novel a week until they are all making the rounds. I have no more time. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I no longer have a gallbladder to put me in the hospital and cut off the remainder of my life and the hope of publishing my novels, but something else could go wrong. I could still die today or tomorrow or next week. There are no guarantees. The waiting for just one more anything is at an end.

What do you have sitting on hard drives and disks and gathering dust and cobwebs in drawers, boxes and closets that you don't think is quite good enough to send out? Get them out, dust them off, take a quick look and send them out the door. You may collect a few rejections, but along the way some publisher may tell you what you need to hear, that you are a very talented writer and all you need to do is answer a few questions, fill in a few blanks and you've got a contract. You'll never know unless you push your hatchlings out of the nest. Not next year or next week or even after the next critique session with your writing group, but now. Don't agonize one more minute and don't discount what you already know. You may be too close to see that you have something worth saying that one publisher (you only need one) is going to claim for their schedule. Get your work out now.

And that goes for anyone who is wasting time not making their dreams a reality and putting off their needs and desires until some day.

First thing on my agenda after I finish writing this is filling in the blanks that the publisher asked about and getting it to her this weekend. Thank the electronic gods I don't have to wait for snail mail. I have no more time to waste. It's time to let the words fly. Thanks to Hope for reminding me that I've been sand bagging, too.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy All Hallows Eve

The warm fragrance of cinnamon and sugar and freshly baked goods hangs in the cool morning air, the oven cooling in the autumn chill. Crumbs of cinnamon streusel dust my lips briefly before melting on my tongue with a tingle of warm spice.

There is nothing like getting up and baking first thing in the morning, leaving the air redolent with warmth and comfort to ease the pressures of work and schedules. This morning I baked crumb cakes. I haven't had them in what seems like centuries, but is only decades. The soft moist cake topped by cinnamon, sugar, flour, butter and water were better than I remembered that leave me longing for popovers cradling fresh butter and pomegranate-raspberry preserves. I'll probably settle for a mushroom, onion and Swiss cheese omelet sprinkled liberally with dill and fresh cracked pepper. It will be a nice follow-up to the butternut squash soup that I'll make tonight. All I need is crusty fresh baked bread and a bowl of toasted pumpkin seeds sparkling with sea salt so that when I open the door to ghosts and goblins and witches tonight (with the inevitable larding of princesses and super heroes) the mingled scents of herbs and exotic spices will welcome and warm them briefly before they continue on their begging rounds.

I had considered making caramel apples to give to visitors tonight, but parents are so cautious these days (as well they should be) about treats that have not come from a store hermetically sealed in plastic and I don't have any address labels made up in case there are any problems, so I will curl up with a few of the books I received yesterday from my supervisor and drink hot homemade cocoa and eat a freshly baked crumb cake propped up in bed with a few pillows and watch the stars prick the night sky above the flame-colored trees weaving up and down the face of Pikes Peak. As the veil between the living and the dead thins toward midnight, I'll keep a few cakes and a pot of cocoa nearby to share with family and friends who wish to visit for a spell.

Blessed Samhain and Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Change I can believe in

I have decided to change my mind and vote for Obama. I saw Ron Howard's cogent and intelligent appeal to my intellect about why I should vote for Obama. Unlike the biased and highly slanted commentary by any of the conservative or Republican media, Ron Howard didn't play on my emotions but gave me sound and clear reasons for why Obama is the voice of change.

Of course, my cousin Laura writing to tell me about how petite Cynthia Nixon (Miranda of Sex and the City fame) was at the Obama rally she attended and how Obama shook hands with so many people was just one more reason for changing my mind. No appeal to my emotions but solid facts and figures.

And reading Michelle Obama's Master's thesis from Princeton on Politico was just one more articulate reason for backing the messianic icon that Obama has become.

I don't need to read anything else about his 25% cut in the military budget or the life saving equipment the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan (when the troops from Iraq are deployed in Afghanistan) will not get. I'm sold. After all, all those movie stars' homes and salaries, the money from Obama's book profits and Michelle Obama's $300K+ salary will be mine when Obama spreads around the wealth. After all, Obama said it and it must be true because he wouldn't lie about anything. I've always dreamed of a little vacation spot in Malibu.

He came clean with his birth certificate, not the one he has cherished all these years but the one the Dept. of Health in Oahu, Hawaii sent him in 2007 (you can see the date bleeding through the paper), and he has answered all the questions about his ties to terrorists, black Muslims, Rev. Jesse Jackson and his plan to bail out on the Zionists in Israel who have controlled American politics since 1953 and that rascally scamp Rev. Wright and his damn whitey and America sermons and beliefs. He has proven that Ayers was just a guy in the neighborhood and the money earned from the directors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was payment for his hard work on their behalf. He has proven that when it comes to politics he won't play on my emotions by visiting his grandmother in Hawaii before it's too late while castigating and crucifying his opponent for taking a couple of days off to deal with the Wall Street bailout. He has cautioned his followers to persuade his opponents with sweet reason while remaining calm and respectful of the oppositions' views and beliefs, using facts and figures from his well thought out economic and international plans for the future.

Obama is the voice of change and the biggest change is the redistribution of wealth from the haves to the have nots, from the upper class to the slowly disappearing middle and lower classes. The lower classes are assured that they will never have to face the harsh and demanding workaday world while there remains so much wealth and welfare to spread round. Obama is Robin Hood reincarnated, taking from the rich and privileged who have supported and funded him and giving all their money to people like me who have been struggling to make ends meet.

After all, it's not Obama's fault that the Democrats have been forcing gas prices up in order to make the Republicans look bad. It's not his fault that McCain is not his ow man and nothing more than a puppet for Bush & Co. It's not his fault that all Republicans are money grubbing elitists who prefer to exploit the work ethic and are so successful. Obama has carried on a fair and honest political campaign without resorting to name calling and falsification of voter registration records. He has stuck to the issues and carefully detailed his plans for changing our future and our position in the international arena. After all, 40 million Muslims and the leader of Iran wouldn't back someone they didn't trust to watch out for their best interests.

Now that's a record of change I can believe in.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blue skies

In spite of all the noise and gnashing of teeth about women being brutalized and mutilated for supporting McCain (a "B" cut in a woman's cheek with a knife that turned out to be a hoax) and the minor furor over military absentee votes in Virginia not being counted because the law was not followed, regardless of their voting preference, I'm looking forward to the next few weeks. All the political hoopla will be over and I will get to spend an afternoon with my favorite and best male friend. He's so excited and happy right now it's infectious.

He is leaving a rotten job full of hassles and idiotic corporate practices for a dream job full of challenge and opportunity. What's not to like. I'm really excited to be even on the fringe of things because he has been miserable for a long time and this is a giant step in the right direction. I hate seeing friends beaten down by life and work and unable to appreciate the smallest joys, like a brilliant autumn sun on a clear bright day or spending time talking and catching up.

It has been a long road for both of us, but some things -- and most especially some people -- are worth the wait. We're taking things one step at a time and getting comfortable with each other again, but it's not a difficult or hard process because we are now and have always been friends. We've both changed over the past few years, but the changes have made us better able to see the value in a deep and lasting friendship, and that's always worth the hardships. We didn't see where the path was taking us, but it's good to find that our separate paths led us back to share the same path again.

Life is about decisions, sometimes decisions that will break your heart and leave you battered and bloody and wondering why you should keep going, but those decisions will make the difference between finding out what's more important and what's not even worth considering. It's like choosing food from a buffet table. You don't have to eat everything and sometimes a little of what you want most is enough to fill you up. Besides, a little of the best is better than eating everything.

My grandmother used to say that sometimes my eyes were bigger than my stomach. She was right in more ways than one. I know what I want and while it isn't what most people would choose, it's just right for me.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hip shots

I am all for political debate and commentary, but I'm really tired of the crap that is spewing out of both camps. Get real people. If you read the history books or the Constitution or even knew the laws that you're citing you might have a chance of winning the hearts and minds of the voters, but this campaign has gone beyond ridiculous.

1. It does not matter where McCain or Obama were physically born. They are still Americans because one or both of their parents were American citizens and thus being born on American soil is not necessary.

McCain was born in the Canal Zone which was the same as being born on American soil because it was sovereign American territory. He was born to two American parents serving overseas on a base in the Canal Zone, and probably at Coco Solo naval base because it has the biggest and most well equipped hospital, and therefore his citizenship is not in question.

Obama was born to a mother who was an American citizen. Whether or not he was born in Hawaii is not an issue because he was born to an American citizen.

The only time it matters whether or not someone is born on American soil is when both parents are citizens of a foreign country. Got that? Good. Move on to something really important like issues that will affect the American people for the next four years.

2. Religion is not a good issue either because, unless you're brain dead and completely unaware, Americans claim several religions, including Wicca, Pagan, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, all the Protestant branches, Judaism, B'hai, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Atheism, Agnosticism and many more. Whether Obama was a Muslim and became a Christian should not matter. All Muslims are not evil and all Christians are not saints or even good. The Constitution guarantees the right to choose your religion and worship as you choose, even if that religion is abhorrent to other religious beliefs. This is a non-issue and should not be a part of the debate or even a reason for dislike and dissent. Keep to the political topics that the President will have to handle and leave religion out of it. Unless you're going to ignore or rewrite the Constitution, find something else to complain about. Got it? Good. Move on.

3. Work has been very busy for me of late and I haven't had a lot of time to post, so this will have to do for now. With a delivery of books to be read and reviewed, articles to write, book contracts to look over and negotiate, stories to edit and write and a social life that includes time with my best male friend, LJ has been low on my priority list. There are only so many hours in a day and sleep is a must if I intend to do any of the above. I have taken the time to send some of you postcards about the latest Cup of Comfort book on the shelves right now and I hope they got to everyone all right. Let me know if you would like a postcard and/or a personal note.

The two latest books on the shelves, bringing the year's total to six so far, with more to come, are: Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer's (Bedside Stories) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters (Silence). Both stories have my byline: J. M. Cornwell. Go out and get your copy or borrow one from the library. All comments are welcome.

4. My mother, Beanie and Carol were in New Orleans last week and I got to play tour guide by cell phone, sparking an idea for a story that may well appear in the Last Word in Smithsonian Magazine early next year. We're still negotiating editing and terms, but things look good.

5. The Evil One (my best male friend) has led me down the primrose path once again and turned me on to True Blood and it has turned out to be a fascinating show. I've added it to my short list of Dexter, Desperate Housewives (no groans, please) and Californication. I'm being talked into trying Heroes again, but the show left me cold at the end of last season. Heroes second season was nowhere near as good as the first, although there were moments that were intriguing and seemed to fizzle. I'm not sure I have time for another show since I picked up True Blood and I'd choose vampires over enhanced individuals any day, unless they were X-Men or Spiderman or Superman, which I don't think is going to happen any time too soon.

The Evil One has also spent a great deal of time making me laugh and that too is more important than posting on LJ when my time is at a premium. Laughter is, after all, the best medicine.

6. One other thing has taken my attention and that's the alleged 12,000-year-old pyramid hiding under the dirt and rocks in Bosnia at Visoko.

And then there are the review books, three of which need to be read, reviewed and turned in by Tuesday next week, two profiles, and a book contract for one of my novels. As you can see, time is limited, but I'll keep checking in from time to time and see what you all are up to and post when I can.

7. It snowed today in Colorado Springs, a big, heavy, wet snow that drew me outdoors to enjoy the crisp autumn air and the golden sunlight glinting off the melting white expanse. How can I write when there are such wonders to enjoy?

That is all. Disperse.