Thursday, December 31, 2009

In an electronic literary quandary

I'm increasingly leaning toward getting an e-book reader and have checked out several types and platforms. The eBookwise 1150 is still the top contender, but I'm being drawn to the dark side and considering the Kindle. I said it was the dark side.

While investigating the Kindle a little more I noticed something nefarious interesting. The newer, bigger and more expensive Kindle has limited wireless, only in the U.S., while the older 6-inch model, which is also cheaper, has global wireless. I think it should be the other way around, but I'm strange that way.

I have Internet access with my computers and don't really need the wireless since USB or dial-up access are just fine, but I worry about not being able to download and read all the books I'd like to have, and then there's the size of the potential library: 1500 versus 100 books, hence the quandary. The reviews on the 1150 have been overwhelmingly good and they are mixed with Kindle. Both have had their bugs and fixes and it all boils down to what works best in terms of battery life (15 hours for the 1150 and a week for the Kindle). I cannot imagine not being near an electrical outlet that charges while I read or being able to enjoy a week-long literary orgy, but then again.... So, now I turn to you, my audience, to ask for your experiences and opinions. I am waiting and listening.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Melting the meltdown

In between running around on errands, sending books out to family and friends (signed of course) and working, I finally sat down last night and watched Julie & Julia. It was very good.

I loved watching Julia Child cook on TV with Jacques and others, but she was the draw. It wasn't her high nasal whine of a voice, but her love of the art of making art with food, food that was wonderful, flavorful and just plain good. The movie showed that, but it also showed the main character, Julie, taking her cue from Julia's cooking. Making 524 recipes in 365 days was indeed a feat and it was well done, but what surprised me the most was when Julie had a meltdown when things didn't go right. The cream and liver stuffing fell out of her poulet (chicken to you and me) and she ended up in a crying, messy heap on the floor. The aspic failed to jell and she blamed her husband. Another meltdown. Julie seemed like a fairly histrionic female and a bit always on the edge of a meltdown, never a good thing whether the person is a cook or a writer, and one I've never dealt with. When all else -- or everything -- fails, start over. That's how I deal with disaster, like last weekend's first foray into homemade cinnamon rolls.

The recipe was one I hadn't used before (got it online), but I wanted to make cinnamon rolls and couldn't remember where I found the recipe the last time. Oh, yes, it was in a kit I purchased from King Arthur Flour online. Not enough time to buy it and get it here for the weekend and cinnamon rolls were on my mind and lingering like a ghost at the edge of my taste buds. To the Internet for research and I came up with what I thought was a good recipe -- until I tried it out.

Four cups of flour into the recipe and the dough didn't feel right. Kneading it was like punching Mike Tyson with pillows -- before he got into ear biting. My arms were getting sore and I had to go to the bathroom. When I came back from the bathroom, hands suitably washed, I punched and kneaded the dough some more, but it wasn't getting soft and smooth and elastic and my arms were sore and tired. I turned it into an oiled bowl, put a cloth over it and sat down to rest my weary arms. More than an hour later and the dough sat there like a lump of . . . dough. It hadn't risen, at least not as far as I could see. I had wasted the eggs, milk (and there wasn't much of that left) and the yeast, not to mention the time, but these things happen. I covered the bowel and set it aside as I sprinkled more yeast over warm water and assembled the ingredients once again. I was going to take another stab at it, and I did. The recipe was wrong and I stopped at three cups of flour when the once sticky dough became soft and pliant and kneaded like a dream. Once it was smooth and warm and elastic, I put the dough into an oiled bowl, covered it and set it on the stove, which is the warmest part of this house in the winter. The front room is so drafty and cold most of the time, except in summer when it's hot and sticky and uncomfortable.

At any rate, 1-1/2 hours later the dough had risen to 3x its original size and was ready to be rolled out and covered with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar and then rolled up. Lacking string or kitchen shears, I used a sharp knife to cut the dough and place it into the greased stoneware 9x9 pan to rise one more time before I placed it in the oven. When I finally pulled away the cover, the result was beautiful puffed coils of brown sugar and cinnamon rolls ready to be baked. Soon they filled the house with the scent of butter, cinnamon and melting, oozing sugar and I could hardly wait to spread on the thick, creamy vanilla-laden icing.

As I sat down with my warm, fragrant cinnamon roll to call my mother, I cast a thought toward the recalcitrant lump from the first trial. I could either use it as starter for sourdough bread or put it down the garbage disposal. Either choice was good and it didn't really matter. I had a gooey delicious cinnamon roll to savor, and savor them I did for four days. I went a little overboard on Sunday and had three, not at the same time, but spaced out over the whole day.

That first trial was a disaster and the recipe needed adjusting. Less flour and more time to bake. Things don't always turn out the way I think they should the first time, so I give it another go and rely more on my senses than sticking to the recipe. Cooking, like life, is fluid and changeable, so is writing.

A draft can start out horrible and end up magic if the writer is willing to adjust, retrace and rewrite. It's not a disaster and there's no need for meltdowns. Nothing is a disaster unless you make it one. For instance, next time, instead of using melted butter, I'll use soft room temperature butter, mix in the cinnamon and brown sugar and spread it over the dough. I'll get a better result. The recipe is a starting point. The Ultimate Cinnamon Roll recipe wasn't tested and retested by Julia Child who, in the movie and likely in real life, made several bowls of mayonnaise, changing the ingredients and the mixing until she had the right combination. I found the right amount of ingredients and the perfect method for me and for the environment where I live (high altitude and organic ingredients) and will make the cinnamon rolls again. Nothing is without hope or without the need for a little tweaking. If I had given up after the first mistake, I wouldn't have been able to taunt my mother with homemade cinnamon rolls, and I'd have nothing to write about now. Even in the midst -- or on the far edge -- of failure, there's something to be learned.

In writing, as in cooking and life, sometimes the best results come from failure, providing you don't give in to meltdowns and negativity. Every road leads somewhere and detours often provide more than a scenic route; they provide insight and sometimes a better way of getting where you're going. Without failure, there would be no progress. Don't be afraid to fail. Try it some time. The results may surprise you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

To e-book or not to e-book

Taunting my mother has its perks, like being able to taunt her at all. She has so much already that it's hard to find something that gets to her. Yes, it's a silly game, but it's a game all the same. Taunting her about gifts is easy, and I do that with everyone when I have their gift far ahead of time. Makes the waiting easier. I found, however, a new way to taunt Mom, a short term perk: baked goods. Not just any baked goods, but homemade, ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls with rich vanilla-laden icing, also homemade.

When Mom called Saturday afternoon, I was waiting for the dough to rise. She asked me what I was doing and I told her, "Making cinnamon rolls." She wouldn't do anything like that unless it came in a tube from the dairy section at the grocery store, or better yet from the bakery already to eat. She doesn't understand why I like to bake bread and rolls and cook at all. "Nobody here but me eats," she complains, and then tells me her chihuahua Dink is getting fat from eating the same things that Mom eats. Mom has so many preservatives and GMO foods in her that she'd probably die if she didn't eat all that junk, but the dog doesn't have nearly 80 years of junk food in her. Dink's not even three years old yet, and that's barely 21 in dog years.

When the cinnamon rolls were finished and sending their sweet spicy aroma throughout the house, I called Mom just as I sat down with one still hot from the pan. "Guess what I'm eating?" She guessed, called me a few names best not repeated. "You'll eat the whole thing," she complained.

"Uh, no, I won't. I'm having one and the rest are for the coming days."

"How can you eat just one?"

"Easily. By stopping when I'm finished and leaving the rest for tomorrow and the other days." Mom has no control, as evidenced by her recent binge on circus peanuts when she ate three bags a day for weeks.

Here it is Monday morning and there are still cinnamon rolls in the pan. I already had one when I got up this morning. Mom always said I had no will power. I guess I still don't.

But it's Monday and the three day weekend is over and I must go back to work for four more days before I get another break. As much as I love the holidays, I have to say that the planning is off. There should be at least one three day weekend in every month, paid for of course by my employer. At least there will be an extra week of vacation this year as I celebrate my fifth year of employment with my employer in February. Three whole weeks of vacation and four extra days (two personal days and two floating holidays). I think I can do something with that.

One thing I'll be doing this week is deciding if I want to break down and get an e-reader. I really don't see the need since I don't go out that much and have plenty of books here, but the idea of having a lot of books and not having to wait for them or pay shipping and handling does have it's up side. Beanie got a Sony Pocket eReader for Xmas and we spent a good part of the weekend trying to figure it out. I found the customer service number and had her call them to get her started and then we spent yesterday looking at books and figuring out why an e-book costs so much money when there's no paper and no cover. It's a subject that has consumed several writers and readers over the past year or so.

It makes no sense to price an e-book at the same or slightly discounted price as a hardback book. It doesn't even make sense to price it the same as a paperback. There is no huge cost of production or formatting since that is all part of the package when the book is initially published and the book should be priced accordingly. Yes, a small price would net smaller profits, at least on the surface, but in the long run it's a question of selling a book for a thousand dollars or a thousand books for one dollar. The outcome is the same, but the numbers reached are significantly more. Keep pricing books in that range and there will be a path beaten to the e-bookstore to buy even more books. In a strapped economy with technology like makes books portable and fairly easy to read, it makes more sense to price the books lower and therefore sell more books. It would also make more sense to get the old back list out and bundle them to revitalize sales and keep readers coming back. If the price makes it possible to buy one hundred books as opposed to buy three or four, what would the bottom line look like then? Common sense and good fiscal sense. One day publishers will figure that out.

I don't need a lot of bells and whistles or Internet capabilities. I have a laptop and a desktop PC for that. I do need a reader that is efficient, easy to read and use and doesn't cost a lot. I can't afford to spend two hundred dollars or more for what is basically a small library. I'd rather spend the money on books, which is why I looked at the 1150 offered by Barnes & Noble. The reviews are good and, even though the 1150 is the Cybook remastered and retooled, the price is right at $89.95. I might be able to swing that and a few books. The only hangup I see is in the book pricing.

Beanie and I looked at some James Patterson books, specifically his science fiction trilogy. The Lake House was priced at the hardback price and it's seven years old. Come on B&N, even though you offer an instant discount that takes the book down into the five dollar range, it's still over priced, and your scheme of leaving the rebate on the books to buy other books, is too much like accounting and bait & switch for my taste. Read the above and consider a different sales tactic, like pricing the book at two or three dollars and bundling it with the rest of the series for under ten dollars. That would make more sense and you'd find more readers with e-book technology coming back for more until Amazon would be worried about their sales and follow suit. Someone has to lead the pack, so why not Barnes & Noble for a change?

Oh, well, technology is a big part of my life these days and on that note I will sign off, shower, change and begin another day while I decide whether this whole e-book technology is for me or not. I have plenty of paperback and hardback books to keep me company after the holiday haul, so I'm not hurting for reading material.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Xmas That Almost Wasn't

Every year Mom says she doesn't want a gift and every year my siblings and I go together to get her a gift. Last year it was the entire Forever Knight collection and this year it was Tour of Duty. Mom called yesterday to wish me a merry Christmas and say thank you for the gift. I reminded her that she didn't want the gift and would have to give it to either Jimmy or Carol since Beanie already has the entire collection. "You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands." So much for not wanting a gift.

The gift I got Beanie is too big and she specified medium and doesn't have any pockets. Luckily, she can exchange it. For her birthday, I'll give her a gift certificate for books. She got a Sony Pocket Reader from her husband. She's also having trouble setting it up. I tried to help but Stacy, her evil alter ego, was out today instead of Tracy, and was not very cooperative. It's all Stacy's fault that I gave her the wrong directions. She did say Randy got her a Kindle and those were the instructions I was walking her through. It wasn't until later she said it was a Sony and then didn't know which version it was. "It's silver," she said. That's helpful, Stacy, they all come in silver. It's one of those days.

I am, however, reminded of a Christmas long ago when I almost didn't get anything. It wasn't that my parents couldn't afford to buy gifts; the others got lots of presents. It all goes back to an incident that started with an offhand comment.

I love puzzles, challenges and riddles. Always have. The weeks before Christmas always provided riddles, puzzles and challenges in the form of finding the gifts and figuring out what they are. There were always a few token gifts under the tree, but they were mostly camouflage and usually contained uninteresting things like socks, underwear and clothes. The trick was finding where the good presents were hidden and I was exceptionally good at the game, which is why Mom always hid them at Grandma and Grandpa's house when we lived near them, until the year we moved into the big house on Terrace. That house had a basement with rooms and doors that locked the original owners stored canned goods and root vegetables. The bins and shelves were still intact when we moved into the house, although they didn't last long once Mom decided she wanted a family room in the basement. That's another story for another time.

Mom knew Thanksgiving day I had already begun searching for hidden gifts. "Are they at Gram's?"

"They're here." My eyes glittered with mischief and excitement. The hunt was on. "You'll never find them," she said.

"If they're in this house, I'll find them."

"You're welcome to look." Mom considered the subject closed and my curiosity squashed. Anyone who knows anything about curiosity knows that all she did was heighten my desire to prove her wrong and ensure that I would keep looking. A hidden cache of gifts was like waving catnip in front of a cat. I'd find them and unwrapped would be nice.

As the oldest of the four children, I was often tasked with babysitting when Mom and Dad worked or went out. During the week, I was the one who got everyone off to school since my parents had to be at work early. Friday evenings, I was usually the babysitter from the time I was eleven (my grandparents lived a phone call and eventually a few blocks away). Twice a month on the weekends, my parents drove up to Lockbourne (renamed Rickenbacker) AFB to the commissary for groceries and it was during those extended absences I searched for the gifts, especially since the other kids usually went with my parents and I was alone in the house.

One Saturday morning not five minutes after they piled into the car and headed off to the commissary, I began my search in earnest, starting with the basement. I seriously doubted there were any gifts hidden on the second floor since all three bedrooms were occupied by children. I started in my parents' room on the first floor and it didn't take long. They didn't have a closet; there were no closets in the downstairs. Before I headed to the basement, I briefly considered the back port utility room where my father had his beauty shop and the room on the back of the garage, but dismissed them quickly: not enough room. The gifts had to be in the basement and so to the basement I went.

The basement was a warren of rooms with a toilet stall on a raised platform behind a swinging door, a place where kissing games were played during parties, a clear space for the twin tubs and washer and dryer beneath the laundry chute that opened next to the built-in cupboard in the dining room above, and three rooms with locked doors, one of which used to hold the coal when there was a coal burning furnace in the basement. Patiently, I worried at the old fashioned locks on the doors until they opened. A few brittle looking, cobweb-shrouded jars of corn, beans and amorphous contents swimming in murky fluid were scattered about the shelves, but the room was essentially empty. The coal room was equally empty, except for a meager supply of coal for Christmas stockings. Only one room remained.

The lock was easy to open, but the block or time gnawed wood that pivoted on a nail was not quite so easy to open. There seemed to be some kind of trick to getting the simple antique low tech lock to work and yet I couldn't figure it out. It just would not budge. I didn't dare scar the wood by using a screwdriver or other tool to pry loose its wooden grip and give away the game and so I opted for brute force.

My heart thundered in my chest. I was certain the gifts were behind the door, and so I continued my assault. Little by little I managed to loosen the block of wood, inching it upward with patience wearing thin as the sun moved relentlessly across the cement floor. Suddenly it shifted, a mere sliver of wood lying between me and success, and stopped moving. Nothing would budge it from its position. I couldn't move it back into place or out of the way. In frustration, I took off my loafer and banged it with the heel of my shoe and . . . it spun around drunkenly as the door fell open.

I had imagined Fibber McGee and Molly's closet from my mother's description, but what I saw boggled the mind. An explosion of colors in all sizes and shapes lined the shelves and spilled out onto the floor in an avalanche of toys and dolls and . . .. My heart stopped. Gravel crunched in the driveway. They were home. I had exactly two minutes to get the door closed and locked and up the stairs before I was discovered.

I slammed the door and spun the wood into place and it fell away, swinging loosely in gravity's grip. It was broken. No! I held the wood in place and banged on the nail with the heel of the loafer I still held in my hand, my heart pounding, drumming, thundering so loud my ears were full of the sound. A rock clinked to the cement floor and I picked it up, wedged it in the crack of the door behind the wood bar, forcing the wood against the loosened nail until it held, locked the door and raced for the stairs, dropping to my knees and crawling across the first landing so my parents wouldn't see me in the window, crawled up the first few steps and lurched to my feet to burst through the door, running at full tilt through the dining room, kitchen, Dad's little shop and banged out the back door to leap to the ground next to the grape arbor. Without stopping, I ran beneath the grape arbor and out the other side and then shinnied up the cherry tree into my favorite spot not daring to breathe until I was safely ensconced. I panted, gasping for air, streaming with sweat, my hand against my chest over my laboring heart, ears pricked for every sound. None came. False alarm.

My skin prickled in the frigid autumn wind as the sweat cooled and my body shivered, teeth chattering. No coat. I climbed out of the tree and went back into the house, rubbing my naked arms where the hairs stood on end above the goose flesh that covered every exposed inch of skin, avoiding the basement door as though it led to plague ridden darkness full of unknown horrors waiting to pounce, because there were if I was caught.

My parents got home an hour later. Groceries were unloaded and put away and grocery sacks were folded and placed under the kitchen sink between the dish soap, cleanser and the wall. Mom watched me carefully when I got up to do the dishes after dinner without a squawk even though it was Carol's turn. She knew something was up and was no less tenacious than I when it came to ferreting out secrets and satisfying her curiosity, although her curiosity only extended to what her children were hiding. Her nose twitched, smelling something off or just slightly wrong, and she had an excellent sense of smell. She could even smell vodka under Listerine and Colgate toothpaste hours old (Dad not me -- he never did take to being a teetotaler in spite of Mom's conversion). She smelled the distinct aroma of hidden knowledge and the beginnings of fear of being caught on me, and it didn't take long to discover the source of my fear.

The tiny pebble in the hand Mom held out to me was familiar. My pulse raced as I looked straight into her eyes and said, "It's a pebble." Heat rose in waves from my blushing cheeks and my hair swung down to cover the burning tips of my ears. "Guess where I found it?"

"In your shoe?"

"Don't get smart with me, young lady. You know exactly where I found it."

I opted for smart aleck mode. "On the ground no doubt." I never saw it coming until her hand cracked against my cheek, rocking my head sideways and imprinting the red outline of her hand and fingers on my hot cheeks. I didn't expect what came next either.

"Now that you've seen what you're getting for Christmas ..." I didn't dare contradict her or explain that I hadn't actually seen the individual items, just the overwhelming presence of mass and color. "You won't need to unwrap any gifts. There won't be any for you. That's what your snooping cost you."

No Christmas. No gifts. And I knew her well enough to know she'd make me sit down and watch my brother and sisters open every single one of their gifts.

"Your gifts will go to someone else, someone whose children don't snoop."

I lived in a hell of anxiety and fear that she would make good on her threat for the next three weeks, each day an eternity marching down an endless hall into the arms of death. No Christmas. No gifts. For the first time in my life, I dreaded Christmas morning.

The night before Christmas, a night I have never been able to sleep through, the seconds crawled by on broken legs. The moon stood still above the trees and refused to move as my sisters squirmed and shifted in their sleep, mumbling incoherently. The clock on the mantelpiece in the living room echoed through the house. The room was still dark when first Tracy and then Carol woke and whispered, "Is it Christmas yet?" I pretended to sleep. They tiptoed past me and met Jimmy coming down the hall, whispered briefly and tiptoed like a herd of wildebeests down the stairs to the first landing. The click of the light in the foyer echoed like doom. "Wait until your father turns on the lights. Carol, go get Jackie." I would not be spared, not today. Carol skidded to a stop as I opened the door. Taking my time, I shuffled to the bathroom and closed the door. "Hurry up. It's Christmas." For you, but not for me, I thought.

"Go downstairs. I'll be there in a minute." I splashed cold water on my tear-stained cheeks and hoped no one would notice my red-rimmed, puffy eyes. I plodded down the stairs where once I would have raced, taking two and three stairs at a time and even sliding down the banister in bolder and less mature years. I had aged centuries over the last three weeks.

Boxes in bright primary colors festooned with ribbons and bows and glittering in the light of blinking and stolid Christmas tree lights spilled out from under the tree. Carol, Jimmy and Tracy begged me to hurry as they waited, dancing from foot to foot and jumping up and down in the foyer outside the living room. Dad stood guard with his movie camera, flood lights beaming across the room and dimmed by the glory of Santa's emptied pack while Mom sat in her chair, a queen surveying the hungry rabble. The time of punishment had come. "Jackie, you hand out the presents," she said, twisting the knife in my still beating heart. I picked up packages in either hand, swarmed by my avid siblings, working my way in toward the tree.

Gifts were grabbed from my hands before I finished the first syllable of the name. I walked down the cleared path, picking boxes and bags from both sides, holding them briefly before they were snatched from my hands. In a daze, I moved toward the tree. Mom smiled and exclaimed over each toy, book and doll held up and tossed aside while the next gift was unwrapped, admired and replaced with more and more gifts. "Get the small one," Mom ordered. I reached for a small red foil wrapped box. "Not that one, the blue one." I picked it up. Jackie. It was my name. I looked over at Mom and she nodded her head with a small self-satisfied smile.

Ignoring the whining and begging behind me, I carefully opened the package, slipping trembling fingers beneath the tape and sliding off the paper undamaged. Inside the white box in a square nest of cotton was a pair of earrings, real earrings with real amethysts. Carol crawled past me, almost knocking me over. "This one's for you. And this one." Tears swamped me as I sat down on the floor while Jimmy, Carol and Tracy piled gift after gift around me. Numb with shock, I stared dumbfounded at the growing mound of gifts until Tracy put one in my hands. My name sprawled unevenly across every blank space on the gift card in green crayon, folds and wads of tape sticking up all over the box. "It's from me," she said, crawling onto my lap. "Open it."

There were many Christmases when the presents spilled out from the tree and we had to work our way outside the room in and Christmases when there were fewer presents under the tree, but the Christmas that almost wasn't is still as clear now as it was that Christmas morning in 1967. The only gifts I remember are the easel, canvas, pastels, brushes and paints and the earrings. Nearly being excluded remains indelibly etched in memory. Did it change my yearly hunt for gifts?

No, I'm very good at hiding my tracks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Impromptu verse and impatient organs

'Twas the night before the night before Xmas and all through the house
not a creature was stirring, just the mouse.
The stocking was hung on the doorway with care
in hopes that the neighborhood kids wouldn't dare
fill it with sticks or coal or contempt
offering me a present of silence instead of trying to tempt
me to get my shotgun or sell them for rent.
A very happy holiday full of joy and warmth.

Just a little impromptu something I wrote for a good friend, but it's a good segue into the important stuff, like why I am plagued with erotic dreams when I am tired and worn out from too many hours at the keyboard. Must be because my resistance is down and I'm diving into the deep waters I stay so carefully away from lest they swamp me.

Last night's dream, or maybe it was this morning's before my bladder rescued me with an inordinate amount of "I can't wait any longer" pressure, was about a presence, a ghost of sorts who could corporealize, coming after me. He had ravaged several willing young ladies; I was not one of them.

He had information to impart and I had successfully avoided his firmer offerings, until someone attempted to lock me in the basement with him so he could have his wicked way. I turned the tables on her and locked her in the basement anteroom, made it up the stairs and locked the door on the entity before he could catch me. Someone let him out and he appeared in the bedroom to accost me, offering different shapes and races for my erotic delectation. When he appeared as a well endowed, light, bright and nearly white black man, I burst out laughing. "I've had better looking and darker men." He backed away as I accosted him, protecting himself from my laughter as I controlled the situation, and then he disappeared just as my fella came to save me. The best defense against such demons it to confront the spirit and laugh him away. Then, just as my fella was heating my erogenous zones and synapses before engaging the field of play, my bladder threatened to spill its guts.

So here I am feeling groggy and not a little irritated at being interrupted, typing away like an idiot when I should be back in bed pursuing my dream lover, or at least embracing the sandman an hour or two more before I must get up and pound the work keyboard to make my bread . . . milk, eggs, cheese and meat. Oh, well, I'm never very mentally together when I haven't had much sleep. Maybe if I hurry up and finish . . ..

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A holiday card for everyone

Since I don't have everyone's email or snail mail addresses, here's a card for everyone to enjoy.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Merry Yule and Season's Greetings.

That is all. Disperse. Go see the card.

Of computer mice and mien

Since everyone seems to know about the Tiger Woods' babes, except for me, I thought I'd share a little of the Tiger love.

There. Don't you feel better now? I don't, but that's only because I have to work.

I was up until past 11 p.m. last night finishing a review book that needed to be reviewed and sent in this morning. I fell asleep reading, which is not that uncommon, except I don't remember when I turned out the light. No, it's not burnt out; it was actually turned out. I just don't remember doing it. After a day of typing an extra 60 reports, amounting to 150 pages, I am entitled to a little fugue state now and again. However, the book, Leaving Gee's Bend, which is probably a YA novel, is actually quite good and it will go to my granddaughter Savannah to add to her growing collection of books. The other book, a fantasy novel, the first in a new series, Flesh and Fire was surprising and innovative. The author, Laura Anne Gilman, used the story of Jesus Christ, turned it on its head a little and created a world where the magic is in the grapes and the magicians, Vinearts, wine makers who imbue their spell wines with specific properties, like healing wounds, staunching blood, creating winds, mending bones and even setting fires that burn on what they are told to burn. There's a good deal of the wine making art and the oenophile's sensuous savor of the taste and flavors/aromas of wine, but that doesn't detract too much from the main story. I recommend both books.

I've a few minutes left before I have to shuffle back to my office and dig in for another day of typing op reports and getting stiffed on the page counts, so I'll keeping wandering aimlessly through my thoughts in hopes of finding something worthwhile to write.

Or not.

At least I'll be able to stop this insanity early on Thursday, although probably not. I just won't get paid for it until next year because the office closes the books early on Thursday to make sure we get paid next week. I'd keep thinking of the money if only I wasn't so tired and achy and feel like I could drop off to sleep sitting at my desk in the midst of an involved and technical cardiothoracic surgery or penoplasty (that last one is cosmetic surgery of a kind on penises -- there have been a lot of those lately. Don't they grow normal penises any more?). Nothing like resurfacing the shaft of penises, glans wings and aortic valve replacements to make life interesting.

Or not.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In death there is freedom

There are times when people can (and do) surprise me and this morning was one of those times. I reached out to someone and they reached back.

I had some news this weekend that has hit me sideways. I didn't really know what or how to think, although my first emotion was disbelief, followed closely by relief. Through it all, I keep remembering something I've heard many times. When a free man dies he loses the pleasure of life, but when a slave dies he loses his pain. Does that hold true when a slave's abuser and tormentor dies and he is finally free?

There was a story about Adolph Hitler that comes to mind. When Hitler's father died, a man who had ignored and abused him emotionally all his life, Hitler grieved and cried openly as he had not done for his beloved mother. It's said that he grieved so hard and so long because the man he hated most in the world was gone and he had no one left to hate -- except for the Jews and the rest of the non-Aryan world.

I don't hate my abuser and tormentor; however, I do feel sorry for her. Despite the many privileges and wealth she has known, she is a small, petty and mean person and has led a narrow and constricted life, a life she narrowed and constricted. Instead of love, she gave spite. Instead of hope, she made dreams dirty and insignificant in order to make herself feel better and more important and worth more than the person she abused and tormented. She is jealous and mean-spirited and hateful because she doesn't have everything she wants, in this case a soul. Living with the outward appearance of goodness wears thin when people get too close and look too far beneath the surface, which is why she has never let people get too close -- even though it seems she does. She has no friends and no trusted acquaintances because she cannot trust anyone who would be able to see behind the facade to the emptiness and darkness within.

She is failing. Time and the abuse of her own body are catching up and she may soon be gone. What I feel is complex because the situation is complex. One thing I learned a long time ago is that the opposite of love is apathy and not hate. You cannot hate someone or something you have not loved. And so I will miss her in a way, but mostly I will feel relieved, unshackled and free. My servitude to a mean and hurtful taskmaster will be over. All the pressure will be gone and I can breathe without fear of being caught enjoying myself. There will be no one to run me down or inject a hint of poison into my joy in order to debase the golden coin of success and happiness. I cannot, like Hitler, grieve because I no longer have anyone to hate because I hate no one. So, the question remains, how will it feel to be free of torment and abuse? I keep returning to the lines above. In death, a slave loses his pain.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Twas the weekend before Christmas

If you haven't seen the BBC's Merlin yet, you should. The show was a little silly and played around with the mythology of Merlin, Arthur and Camelot at the beginning, but it has definitely grown. It is no longer what one of my F-list friends called "The Once and Future Prat." Oh, Arthur is still a bit of a prat, but the show has depth and heart and Arthur is growing out of the prat stage. Consider watching it. Start at the beginning, but stay the course all the way through the second season; the finale is moving. I can hardly wait for the third season.

Yesterday wasn't a great day in many respects, but it did bring some surprises. The grocery delivery didn't happen and I wasn't happy, but I got dressed and went out to buy my own groceries and found a great tree that didn't cost a bundle. Putting it up has turned out to be a bit challenging since tree lots no longer nail bases to the trees, but I found an ingenious way to stand it up without a tree stand. Then on to the decorating while my computer burned DVDs. A package arrived, the result of a gift card spending spree and I dove into Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith only to be hauled up short by responsibility. I finally got the box of review books sent two weeks ago and put away Wintersmith in favor of Flesh and Fire, magic in wine. Once I got through the mythology part of the book (a huge takeoff on power, wine, sacrifice and blood), I had little hopes for the book getting any better, but I was wrong. I'm halfway through already and Gilman has put together a fascinating mythos and world with just enough mystery to fuel plot and imbue characters with interest. If nothing goes wrong and the writing doesn't go downhill, this has the makings of a really good trilogy.

The rest of the evening was punctuated with chores, reading, changing disks to be burned, labeling and putting burned disks into cases and watching the movies waiting to be watched . . . and, oh, avoiding temptation. That was the other good surprise yesterday -- a drive-by gifting. Someone I've not seen in ten months drove by to drop off a gift bag full of holiday joy: books. More Terry Pratchett books to be exact. Three of them. If I wasn't so interested in Flesh and Fire, I doubt I would have been able to put the books away after reading the first few pages.

Hint to drive-by gifter: some kind of camouflage is essential to keep the gifted from looking in the bag and being so excited they couldn't wait for the big day. Good thing my big day is tomorrow at the solstice or I'd be in agonies of guilt (not).

Tomorrow is also my nephew Cody's 19th birthday and I can hardly wait to call and wish him a good one right before I chide him for not getting busy and getting his driver's license.

On the solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year, at dusk, I will finish opening the rest of my gifts while the rest of you wait for the jolly white-bearded man in the red and white suit Friday (or Thursday night if you're the anxious type). On that occasion, I shall listen to carols and follow Dickens' Scrooge (Alistair Sim) through his annual peregrination to discover the meaning of Xmas while drinking a cup of egg nog, nibbling gingerbread and cookies and listen for sleigh bells in the snow. Nearly fifty years ago, I stood on a stage in a borrowed, pinned together navy skirt and a brand new white blouse reciting A visit from St. Nicholas with several other children in the first and second grades, a poem that is forever engraved in the folds and whorls of my brain, not only because it was one of my first memories, but because my mother had me recite it every time we visited family, no matter what I wore. It didn't seem so surprising to me that I could remember the entire poem by heart because I worked to memorize it for the first Xmas play I was in. She didn't have me sing the Hallelujah Chorus or recite the words from all the plays I have been in, which is a mercy because that's a lot of plays and concerts. I remember bits of dialogue and it doesn't take long for me to get up to speed on the words in all those plays, as long as you don't expect me to remember all the articles, stories, books and poems I've written as well. And I didn't have to perform all the dances I learned either, another blessing.

At any rate, I still remember the poem and I still feel the excitement I felt as a child on Christmas Eve when I couldn't sleep and the night stretched to an infinite distance when the sun would never rise, hence forcing me and my sisters and brother to wake my parents long before dawn. We didn't understand the sun wasn't going to be up until eight. We only understood that we couldn't wait any longer sitting at the top landing peering through the banister rails in the shadowed darkness trying to figure out if Santa had visited and left the space under the tree full of presents or if our bulging stockings, which we couldn't see, were full of sticks and lumps of coal as our parents had cautioned. I was always the instigator on these forays, although I didn't have to work hard to wake my siblings, not even Jimmy who slept like a hibernating bear full of Valium and vodka, and I led them to the stairs, keeping them as quiet as possible while I with my sharp eyes inured to the darkness counted shadowy lumps bulging from beneath the tree and holding them back as long as possible before going down to wake our parents and ask if it was Xmas yet. Aah, the memories that populate the silent nights as the big day draws near. How clear they are.

May all your days be bright and all your Christmases be white. Happy Holidays and season's greetings.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's all about light

Throughout the season since Thanksgiving, there have been angry and loud claims of those who are intent on keeping the Christ in Christmas. They object to "Season's greetings" and "Happy holidays" because for them, it's all about the birth of Christ. In their single-minded drive to force their views on everyone else, I'd like to calmly and quietly remind them that this is a season of many holidays, most of which do not include Christ. This has nothing to do with being PC or bending over backward for someone else's faith or beliefs, but a simple statement of facts.

From Thanksgiving to New Year's, people of all faiths and persuasions celebrate the following: Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule and Mid Winter Solstice. Surprisingly enough, there is no Christ in these holidays and yet they are traditional at this time of year. So, while all the Christians celebrate their particular holiday, I hope they will not be so adamant about the Christ in Christmas that they forget the generosity and joy of the season and give a nod to the people of the rest of the world who do not share their faith and beliefs. I will spend my holidays celebrating Yule and the Solstice and will put up my tree, a tree decorated with presents, light and ornaments that came long before the change to Christmas. I celebrate much older traditions and, though I do not celebrate Kwanzaa or Chanukkah or Christmas, I offer my seasons greetings and happy holidays to those who do.

In the end, it's not about who or why you celebrate, but that you take the time to celebrate the end of the reign of darkness and the swing back toward the sun and the coming of the light. Whatever you choose to celebrate, in the end that's what it's all about.

Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings. May all your days be merry and bright.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is honesty the best policy?

Honesty is important in all relationships, but there is a difference between honesty and emotional dumping.

It's self serving and dishonest to suddenly dump on your partner that you've been unfaithful. If your conscience is bothering you, don't ruin the other person's day or life by confessing. You're only unburdening yourself to make you feel better not make your relationship better. If you got away with it and you feel guilty, do the right thing and make amends, not in such a way that the other person will suspect and corner you about it because that's the same as emotional dumping; you've just put the other person in the position of "forcing" you to confess. It's still emotional dumping.

In other words, pay attention to your partner. Stop being a jerk and let them know you realize how awful you've been and find a way to work and talk things out. Don't confess. Make it better gradually and slowly until you're back where you were in the beginning. Change takes time, so take the time to change. Be honest with yourself and if you need to confess your perfidy, go to a priest or a therapist or shrink and unburden yourself. No one but you will be served by confessing to your partner.

Be honest. Find out what you are and be that. That's honest.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A season of wonder

This is my favorite time of year, next to Halloween, Beltane, Valentine's and all the other holidays. There's something so special about the feeling in the air of hope and excitement and good will toward men -- and women and children and old people and everyone.

For me, it's not about the gifts I get but the gifts I get to give. I get all squirmy with excitement and mischief when planning birthday and anniversary surprises, but this one is the big one. It's not a day for one special person but a lot of special people. My gifts are all sent off and I can hardly wait for the recipients to get them and be surprised. I don't have to know what they thought of the gift, which is why I send some gifts anonymously. The high is in the giving and not in the thanks or appreciation coming back.

This weekend I get my tree and I'm going to pull out all the decorations and lights and do it up right with hot chocolate, mulled wine and cookies still warm from the oven filling the air with spice and mingling with the scent of fresh pine needles and warmth. This is the season of wonder and happiness.

Yesterday Beanie said she was sad that I'd be alone during the holidays. I reminded her that I've been alone for a lot of years, to which she replied that it didn't seem that way when I lived in Ohio because she could come to see me whenever she wanted and now she can't. I spent most of my birthdays alone or with friends, but seldom with my own family. Mom always said she didn't remember when my birthday was. Thanksgivings were spent with friends and once in a while with family, but the visit was usually a couple of hours because I had to work. Hospitals never close and I worked almost every holiday. I spent a couple hours with family at Xmas Eve, always in someone else's home because I didn't have a family and everyone else did. Xmas day was always alone; I didn't want to intrude on others' family time. None of that mattered then and it doesn't matter now. I still have my season of fun and wonder and it doesn't always need to be populated by others.

There are times when I think about a quiet Xmas Eve spent with a like-minded someone. Decorating the tree, baking and enjoying a candlelight dinner for two, both of us dressed to the nines, an intimate evening for two. We'll open one gift each and spend the rest of the evening listening to Xmas music and watching a crackling fire while we talk, dance, reminisce and snuggle. Xmas morning, we'll have breakfast and hot chocolate, turn on the tree and unwrap the rest of our gifts to the sound of carols and bells, then spend the rest of the day enjoying each other. There don't have to be a lot of gifts or a sumptuous feast of food and drink, just the company of two people willing to open their hearts to each other and to the midwinter season of hope and happiness.

Yes, it sounds sappy, but this season of all seasons makes me feel sappy. Every time I watch Charlie Brown or Ralphie and listen to Xmas carols and holiday music I am once again struck by wonder and awe that in the midst of the darkest time of the year there are always candles and Xmas tree colors to light the way. I always feel like a kid again, unable to sleep on Xmas Eve because of the spectacle and the feast of the senses that awaits me in the morning. I still can't sleep on Xmas Eve and I expect I never will. I'm too busy listening for Santa's sleigh and the jingle of the harness on the reindeer even when he doesn't stop at my house. Besides, I don't have a chimney.

Happy holidays to everyone. May the spirits of the season infuse you with the excitement and happiness of Scrooge on Xmas morning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Come to a full and complete stop

There are times when the writing goes so good that it's hard to stop, but then life intervenes, or more precisely--work. I can either keep writing and hope I find a stopping place when it's time to sign on for my shift or quit while the words and the thoughts are still hot and hope they're still there when I'm finished working. This is the part of the double life I lead that I dislike the most--having to do the writing-work balancing act. It's a simple equation. Work = money = affording the materials and resources necessary to write. Writing = money, but only after a long hard climb to the top. In the meantime, the only steady source of income is work, thus the difficulty of the situation.

I got up about 3:30 a.m. and decided I didn't want to try to go back to sleep, so I started editing and making some changes, clarifying some dangling threads and loose issues so I wouldn't lose time when the writing was good. That took about 30 minutes, which meant I still had lots of time before I had to get ready for work, so I started reading, deleted about four pages that weren't going well and started writing. And it flew. I was in the zone. I was hot. I was sizzling. I was 5000 words to the good. I wanted to keep writing, but it's nearly time to start getting ready for work.

One thing I've learned about writing is that it's never a good idea to put on the brakes and slam to a stop. Much like driving a car in bumper to bumper traffic or running a marathon and then stopping dead without a cool down period, disaster is quick to follow: accident in the first scenario and possible heart failure in the second, neither of which is conducive to a continued career in writing since death may be the result. Can't write when you're dead and I have to finish this book.

So it's time for the cool down: checking email, reading blogs, futzing around on Facebook for a couple of minutes and checking out a hot Russian pilot who promises food, caviar, wine, vodka and a ride in a MIG 29 for an email. You know I can't resist the chance to fly in a MIG with a hot Russian pilot -- or any pilot as long as I get to fly in a MIG. I don't care if he's married; I'm not going to date or sleep with him. I just want to fly in the MIG. I wonder if I have to go to Russia for that or if he will fly by here and pick me up. Hmmm.

Needless to say, I'm on a roll and might even finish this book by the end of the week. That's good. When I'm done, I'll do a read-through and begin the next project, the one that has been following me into dreams and gumming up the works when I'm supposed to be typing up technical and difficult heart surgeries and breast reconstructions. Aah, the life of the workaday world. You can have it as long as I get to write.

Okay, I'm cooled down now and can safely move to the next phase of my morning: shower, shampoo and shifting through clothes for something to wear. I have a date with a grocery cart this afternoon and I have to look my best. Produce can be so crude and rude sometimes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

DC the PC

No, I don't mean the personal computer, but the political correctness.

I've said this before and will continue to say it until I no longer have breath or hands or life. Political correctness is gutting our language and our lives. We are so afraid of offending someone that we have created an atmosphere when the most inoffensive language is suspect and becomes offensive. Mention a monkey in a conversation and someone will think you mean them. Use any innocuous phrase and someone will use it as an excuse to claim you are denouncing their religion, race or personal preferences. This has to stop.

Did you know that if a person doesn't get touched enough that the skin becomes highly sensitized to the point that the lightest touch becomes painful? It's the same with fear of offending someone. The more you fear to offend someone the more you are guaranteed to offend them.

My uncle is a bigot and a lot of the things he says are offensive to blacks (and, no, I will not call them African Americans because they did not come from Africa, they were born right here). I don't agree with what he says and I often tell him so, but I appreciate his candor. I'd rather know someone is a bigot or racist or sexist right up front instead of having to learn about it later. Stab me in the heart and not in the back.

As our president continues his international apology tour, we should not be surprised. After all, the root of all evil is right here in America and we are the ninth circle of hell, that place reserved for traitors, like Judas Iscariot, at least in Dante's vision of hell. I don't believe in hell, but if I did I would place lawyers, politicians and purveyors of political correctness there.

With that in mind, I would like to share the following.

What he said. We will perish of this orgy of political correctness and it's time to stop the madness. Call a spade a spade. You'll feel better for it. No wonder depression and schizophrenia are on the rise in this country. How could it be any different when we stuff our feelings and thoughts into a box instead of letting them out. Like flatulence, better out than in.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday morning coming round

As much as I like the keyboard on this new laptop, I have to say I'm not having a good time with the touch pad. It's hinky and doesn't want to work the way it should, or at least the way my old one did. The configuration and placement is off and it's not as sensitive as the old embedded touch pad on the fragged computer. I imagine I'll get used to it eventually, but right now I am not a happy geek.

At least one thing went right this morning. Popovers. If you don't cook and don't bake, you can still make popovers and you don't really have to have a popover pan. I used to do them in a muffin tin and it still works good that way. It's the easiest recipe in the world and the only thing that is the least bit fussy is the prep. Interested? Oh, you probably don't know what a popover is.

Ever hear of Yorkshire pudding as in Beef Wellington and Yorkshire pudding? It's not the same thing, and yet there is a similarity. Popovers are airy puffs of egg, flour and milk that rise up like a soufflé, but have a crunchy outside and air-filled, slightly eggy inside. They are kissing cousin to the cream puff without the cream and are much simpler to make. Are you game?

1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
2 eggs (room temperature is best)

Mix all ingredients until just combined (no lumps and don't over mix). Pour into greased muffin tin (or popover pan or individual soufflé dishes) and bake at 400 for 40 minutes. It's that simple. But the trick is in the prep. Remember? Turn oven to 400 and place greased muffin tin inside until same temp as oven. Take out and pour batter into 8 receptacles, about halfway full, and pop into oven. Bake for 40 minutes and then take them out.

These airy, eggy, outside crunchy puffs are ready for butter, jam, peanut butter or whatever you want to put in them. I like them with jam and butter, but I found out that salmon cream cheese is quite tasty, too. It depends on your craving and your tastes. If you prefer a savory popover, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning and fill with savory seasoning, like salmon cream cheese. Popovers are very forgiving, take about two minutes to put together (minus the prep) and are just lovely and just enough filling that you can still go out jogging afterward, unless you weigh them down with lots and lots of fillings. I'm addicted and a little surprised that it took me that long to take the plunge once again. Since I didn't have any milk, I used powdered milk (1/3 cup to 1 cup water), but condensed milk (not the sweetened kind) would work just as well. Like I said, very forgiving.

That's the food tip for today. When you try them, and you know you will, let me know whether or not you're addicted. They're better than pancakes and maple syrup and butter are just lovely with popovers.

I guess I should say at least one good thing about the laptop. The screen is wide and the colors beautiful and watching a movie on it is wonderful. I'll get over the minor glitches eventually, just like I did with the old laptop, but it's like any new relationship -- takes time to get comfortable with each other, even though I love the smooth action of the keyboard, which probably won't last long because I tend to be a power user and keyboards don't stand up well to my incessant pounding and fast speed. I am a writer after all.

There was one other surprise this morning, and it wasn't the cream cheese or the funky touch pad. Someone left a gift on my doorstep and I suspect only one person will understand this. The person, named Julian if the inscription inside the book is to be believed, left me a book. At first I thought it was an author who was determined to have me review their book, but it wasn't an author. The book is about American slave labor with privatized prisons as the sweat shop where several corporations have their goods made. It was a gift from someone I'm working with on an expose'. I'm quite surprised and excited. This is for a new project I'm working on with some interesting ripples already heading out on the stream of consciousness. So, on that note, I shall quit typing, send this up and do the laundry and dishes.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Into the breach

I finally got the new computer and I'm still figuring it out. It's not just Windows that's screwing me up, but the whole setup. The keyboard is offset to the left and there's a keypad on the right just like on a desktop keyboard. It's going to take some getting used to and I'm not sure how long it's going to take. I didn't have this many problems getting used to an ergonomic keyboard or any other keyboard, but this one, while very fast, has a very weird feel to it, and I don't like the touchpad. It feels like a textured scratch-off on an instant lottery ticket. And let's not talk about how weird the whole system is since the pointer hangs up. I do so hope the installations will calm things down and everything will be over and done with. I'm almost ready to go back to my old computer and keep using it in safe mode. At least I got the important files off the old computer on my flash drive. I still have to move some important files, but I saved my writing and that's what is most important.

Other than that, this has been a quiet weekend, if I don't count breaking down boxes and taking out a lot of trash. I still have to catch up the laundry, stalled since the water was out, and the dishes, both of which I put off to finish the rest of the week. I'm getting closer and closer to getting the furniture moved around and the books put away, but I still have to sort out all the magazines, divide them into recycling, those I'm sending to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and those I'm keeping. I still have to buy the organizers to keep them in and that's on my to-do list. That will clear up a lot of space. Some of the books will go to friends and family that I think will appreciate them, but most of the books with go to either the library or in boxes to save because they're ARCs. I'll get organized before the first of the year one way or another.

Next week, I'll finish sending out my gifts, pay the bills, go grocery shopping and buy a tree to put up in the cleared out area in the living room. There will be cookies to bake, gingerbread, fruitcake and egg nog to make, the tree to decorate and another week of work to get through before the holiday, just like any other week, except with ornaments and lights.

There really isn't much to say. I anxiously awaited the new computer, but I realize now it will take time to figure it all out. The 17" screen is unbelievably big and wide and the keyboard will take getting used to, but otherwise, the keys all work with the lightest touch and I've almost downloaded all my favorite programs, like Firefox and Thunderbird and I'm ready to watch some good shows for a change. I might even put in some writing time. Anything is possible. About the only thing I miss right now is having a fireplace and a big steaming cup of hot chocolate to drink while the tree lights blink, bubble and shine like multi-colored stars while carols are playing. I need a piano.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Silly rejections

I just read the form submission I got on my story, Theft of the Seventh Chakra, and the editor took the time to print a note: "Don't skip extra lines between paragraphs." I'm pleased he took the time from his busy schedule to jot down that note -- and sign it -- but he's wrong. There are times when you skip an extra line between paragraphs, but he obviously missed it.

When you are changing points of view, narrators, chapters in a long short story, and denote a time or scene change, you use an extra line between paragraphs. Since the only extra line in my story is between the body of the story and the ending when the main character is dead and the point of view is no longer first person singular, that tells me he at least read the whole story. To pick out that one "mistake" and make a note of it makes me wonder if he was looking for an excuse to reject the story. That's the thing about rejections, as I've told many beginning writers anguishing over rejections, they are completely subjective and sometimes silly.

Editors are just people and they are subject to the same stresses, prejudices and moods as the rest of humanity, although there are some people who would argue that editors are people or even human. Some editors look for a reason to reject a story, like one editor who boasted she had read over 500 stories during the year and found only two worth publishing. She threw out stories when a word was misspelled or a sentence incorrectly published and rejected several stories because the grammar was incorrect. Her rejections had nothing to do with the stories and everything to do with feeling the need to reject everything that came across her desk. It happens. Editors can be very petty and mean. Not all editors are petty and mean every day; sometimes they're just having a bad day. As one friend said this morning when we discussed rejections, an editor can wake up in the morning and decide the minute they put their feet on the floor that they're going to reject everything that comes from a female writer. I'll just add that sometimes an editor will reject everything by writers whose names begin with a specific letter of the alphabet.

"Today I'll reject every writer whose name begins with C." The editor smiles and goes about his work.

Being an editor is hard work, especially when wading through a mountainous slush pile with stories that are unbelievably bad. It's like standing in a perfume shop assaulted by a thousand different smells and having to pick one scent out of the sensory avalanche of smells. Sometimes an editor misses the good ones because there have been so many bad ones that the eyes are swimming and slightly unfocused and the feeling of hope is a far distant dream.

The whole point of this informational rant is that rejection isn't personal 99.9% of the time and it is subjective 99.9% of the time. The only remedy for rejection is to send the story to another magazine or publisher or editor and keep sending it out until you sell it. Keep the work in play, especially if the comments are generic or are silly, like not skipping an extra line between a change of time, point of view, scene, character or chapter.

Maybe if I had used three asterisks between the story and the ending, the editor would have figured out the point of view change and understood the extra line -- or not. My story is going out in the mail this afternoon. I don't take silly comments seriously. Neither should you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Water, water nowhere -- until now

You have no idea how wonderful the sound of running water is after it's been off for two days or how marvelous water tastes after two days of melted snow and no water. I also found out that I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking wine. A half glass of wine last night had my tipsy and high so I made popovers (melted snow and powdered milk for the liquid) to ease the effects.

But that water was a sound from heaven and ambrosia to drink. Four glasses so far, 12 ounces each. I did have to apologize to Beanie because I was talking to her on the phone when I squealed at the return of the water. I had all the faucets turned on.

All the things I missed the past two days: water, going #2 (very little water in the toilet and yes my eyes are now brown), taking a shower, washing my hair, the dishes and my clothes, drinking water, sipping water, guzzling water and water on my face, in my mouth, over my tongue and all over my body. Water. Melted snow is not nearly as good.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Interview with Toni Quest

In case you didn't get a chance to hear my interview last night, 12/07/09, here's a second chance.

Go to and down on the right side at the top of the list on Toni's audio links, click on J.M. Cornwell. That would be me.

That is all disperse.

A paler shade of blue

Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world now I'm without you
Gray, gray, my life is gray
Cold is my heart since you went away

Red, red, my eyes are red
Crying for you alone in my bed
Green, green, my jealous heart
I doubted you and now we're apart

When we met how the bright sun shone
Then love died, now the rainbow is gone

Black, black, the nights I've known
Longing for you so lost and alone

No, I'm not suicidal and I'm not feeling lonely or alone.

When I looked out the window this morning at that hour when the sun and earth are flirting with each other and the moon stares down nearly round-eyed, everything was blue. All the snow is part of the reason. At that hour and those moments with the sun and earth doing their daily winter dance, the light is blue and everything is blue. Even the sky in light, weak as an old man's labored breath, is powdery and blue and snow on rooftops, fence posts and ground brilliant and ethereal, ghostly and pale against the halftone colors of the rest of the world. It's a blue world and only here in this room where the white hot light of a coiled bulb emits no heat are the colors brighter and more real, solid and tangible. But it is that outside world in the snowy hush that draws me and wakes the lyrics of old songs from my younger self echo in my mind.

"Blue, blue, my love is blue," were the words that ached with love and loss and meaning. I don't feel that way now. I have put first loves and crushes behind me for a brighter day, a blue-white day that fills me with waking dreams and possibilities.

Last night, as I waited for the host of the radio show to sign on for our interview, I spoke with the station manager, Lillian Caldwell (great name, btw), and she offered me my own radio show. And I'm thinking about it. I need to figure out a theme and a format, but the show would kill two birds with one stone. I'd have an author site and a marketing platform that could make a difference in my professional life, but also the lives of other midlist or not yet midlist writers that would boost sales and maybe raise the consciousness of reading people everywhere (the show streams all over the world) about writers from all genres and walks of life. Imagine listening to a writer from Sri Lanka or the Ukraine read their work live.

There's still a lot to ponder, research and do, but I'm leaning in that direction.

Now all I need to do is figure out a format, a title for the show and start lining up guests.

I'm feeling a paler shade of blue.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Slow as molasses in winter

On the rusted T-bars of the old clothesline in the back yard outside my bedroom window, snow piles up and up: four inches now and soon five and six and even more from the looks of the snow coming down like a heavenly shaker with an endless supply of salt raining down, caught in the gravitational pull of winter. The sky is a dirty white and a mist of dirtier white streams from the chimney of the yellow brick building farther down the alley. A fuzzy tracery of winter bared trees appears and disappears through the fog of lowering clouds and chimney smoke. The more familiar solid shapes of telephone and utility poles are losing substance and depth. And the snow keeps falling.

My laptop is running like pudding through a fine-meshed sieve because I picked up a virus yesterday when I downloaded a program from Gamevance yesterday. Gamevance is a computer gaming site with malware and adware and spybots that latch onto the back door to deposit leeches sucking the RAM and energy from my usually fast running computer. I spent most of a snowy yesterday from mid morning to 7 p.m. clearing off the splattered cybergoop and my computer still isn't back to normal. I need to find my flash drive so I can save important files, like articles and books in progress, and do a complete install, but I hope I won't have to go that far and I can get the rest of the goop to vacate the premises whether they want to or not. This is my computer and I won't tolerate intruders.

All my carefulness about what I do and don't download and now I have been done in by a need for the mental stimulation of games. One more thing to zap off my list of things to do. Or I could buy a new computer, transfer all my data, and then clean this one off. If only I could afford that. And it's Monday.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

And so it begins

I've been busy lately adjusting to a new work schedule and having some difficulty with it, but tonight's events put things into perspective.

I had my first radio interview at Blog Talk Radio with Gayle Johnson and Miriam Mimi Jacobs. The ladies were wonderful and had actually read Past Imperfect so that was good. The best part is that they both loved the book. I'll see if I can get a copy of the podcast and post it. Beanie and Ants surprised me by calling in to the show and saying hello. I heard Ants in the background say, "I love you." Beanie said how proud of me she and the boys are. That was definitely worth hearing in such a public way.

The other event this evening was a pre-interview with Toni Quest of Screaming Woman over the phone. We had a lovely conversation and found a lot in common, including our ages. TQ told me she doesn't usually read the books of authors she's interviewing, but after talking to me she had to read the book before Monday. I sent her a PDF review copy and I look forward to the interview on Monday night at 8:30 p.m. EST. I may even get used to all these interviews and chats my publicist, Linda Barnett-Johnson has set up for me between now and April 2010. At least I get to talk about my favorite subject -- writing. You thought I was going to say me. Ha! Fooled you!

Adjusting to a new earlier work schedule and working out the kinks has had me on the ropes, but the holiday has saved me. I love this time of year from Halloween right through to New Year's and Valentine's Day. It's not for the candy or the romance or the gifts, although I do enjoy that part, but because of the way it always makes me feel: happy, joyful and as excited as a kid trying to sleep Xmas Eve. The scents and sounds of the holiday get under my skin and make me feel like singing, but the best part is baking candy and cakes and cookies to give out and hearing how my gifts are received. One person, who shall remain nameless for now, opened her gift ahead of time, but I forgive her. It didn't arrive with the gift I got for her son and new daughter-in-law, so it's not really her fault. I also sent out holiday e-cards to everyone on my list and those were well received. Even if the gift is nothing more than an e-card, I always live in the expectation of shining a momentary brightness into the receiver's world so they hopefully feel what I feel -- happy to be alive and thankful for another year of friends, family and dreams coming true. That's something else I got from tonight's interview, that feeling of possibility and the knowledge that I am living my dream by writing and seeing my books published. Even though I can't live completely off the proceeds, it's coming and coming soon.

If you take away nothing else from this rambling post, take this: The holidays are a time of joy and happiness, a celebration of another year lived and a the brightness of love and possibility at a time when the earth is at its farthest from the sun. As we swing away from that bright glowing ball of gases and light and solar winds, it's temporary. After the 21st of December, midwinter day with the shortest day and the longest night, we swing back toward the sun and warmth and another year of possibilities and dreams waiting to be realized and lived. Out of the darkness, we come into the light. That is the promise of this time of year. Inside those dead looking trees, is life asleep and waiting to be awakened, and so it begins again.

If you do nothing else, be grateful for every season and enjoy it to the fullest. Don't waste it because although the season will come around again, it won't be the same one as last year or next year. Each one is unique and wonderful on its own. Celebrate your dreams and your families and friends, but most of all celebrate yourselves. This day will never come again. Make it a special memory.

For me, I'll be baking cookies and cakes and candies and finding people who need a little sweetness in their lives to enjoy them. After all, everything goes down a little easier with a sprinkle of sugar -- the natural kind of course.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Morning of possibilities and promise

Gold washes everything it touches and the blue is that heartbreaking color that echoes deep inside. A wash of white clouds like ghosts drift by barely moving, a moment frozen in time, except for the busy squirrels running races across the pointed tops of the palisade fence next door. The bare coiled bulb of the energy efficient light is the only thing that mars the serene perfection outside the window, making the dream less real. The moments tick by.

It's one of those Sundays when I'd rather hole up with a book and not face the laundry or the trash or work, but those are the chores that define my life most days and I wonder when I can give up the rat race and plunge into a life of research and writing that has nothing to do with the wage slavery that has kept my head enough above water so I don't drown. I can never give up, but I can have plans, and I do.

I read a post about Nora Roberts and her non-literary ventures and that is what I think all successful writers should do -- branch out. Nora owns a gallery, B&B and bookstore in the little town near where she lives. She's not sitting on her laurels or thinking about all the money she's earned that she'll never live long enough to spend. Instead, she's putting a lot back into the community and giving other writers and artists places for their voices to be heard. That's the kind of legacy to leave, not just collected literary works, but a living legacy that keeps living long after the writer is gone. I've known a few writers like that.

Andre Norton had her genre library and her door was open to everyone, fans and writers alike. Marion Zimmer Bradley put out a monthly magazine and helped discover some of the leading writers in fantasy and science fiction. Andre did the same thing, what the industry called her charity cases, but those charity cases include Susan Shwartz, Mercedes Lackey, and C. J. Cherryh, among many others. It was important to give something back, and for those writers and a handful of others, they gave back a lot, nurtured budding careers and helped writers find their niche and voices.

As we move into the season of giving, I am reminded that I need to give more, but not to the point that there is nothing left for me. It does no one any good if I am dissatisfied with my own output because I have given so much to others. Balance must be maintained and balance is hard sometimes, like this morning when all I want to do is wallow in words and images and books.

The faint wash of ghost clouds has almost moved out of sight and the sky is once again deep Colorado blue, a color promises bright sunshine and fresh air and possibilities. I want to be out there, and I will be, but the chores must come first. I'll hold the image in check, a bonus for getting the work done first, a reward for tasks accomplished and balance achieved. It is one of those mornings.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Self-serving promotion

A little while ago I received another review of Past Imperfect from Night Owl Romance and it's a good one.

Here's the money shot:

One thing about Diana is that she is one determined lady and no matter what the problem is she prevails. These are three people with so many obstacles yet one chance for one of them to find their true love. I just loved it.

That's 4.5 out of 5 stars. I can live with that.

That is all. Disperse.

Watching for cars

It's one of those golden mornings when the sun comes up and lights up a clear Colorado blue sky and I wish I was higher up in the mountains where the air is clear and I'm not snotting and sneezing all the time. I don't have nearly as many problems with allergens when I'm higher up and away from all the pollution and citified air. In order to get back there, I have to spend more time working down here, but I'll get there.

I had an interesting chat with someone I've known most of my life and had a crush on when I was younger: Scott Haney. His mother and mine were best friends and we both grew up thinking we were cousins, so the combination of shyness and familial taboo kept us both from saying that we liked each other. Finding out he had a crush on me was a surprise, but a pleasant one. Of the three Haney boys, he was my favorite. Paul, Jr, the oldest, was too focused on himself and Johnny, the youngest, was too goofy. Scott in the middle was not only the tallest but the best in my eyes.

Scott asked me if I remembered a time when he went out and laid down in the street to prove to me he was strong and brave by letting a car drive over him. I do remember and I remember being amazed and scared. I also thought he was incredibly stupid, if brave. He didn't live on a busy street so he didn't get his wish, but the gesture was enough--for me.

Scott and his wife Annie have been married for thirty years and they seem very well suited to each other and happy, which makes me happy. He got off to a rocky start and he's having a lot of physical problems now, due to his rock start, but he deserves to be happy and I'm glad that he is.

That's one thing I've noticed. Even when I've been interested in someone or had a crush, when I find out that they found the right partner and are happy and content with their life, it gives me hope for the future and that I'll find the right partner and happiness of my own. Until then, I am content to be closer than ever to my dreams coming true and being able to write makes everything so much better. I can see the change and evolution of my own writing as I let more and more of myself out into the open. There are still a few things I keep close to the vest, but fewer than before. It's a difficult process and one that is filled with challenges for me because I learned a long time ago to guard my heart to minimize the damage caused by others. I've found I'm not unique in this and several other people in my family do the same thing.

It's hard to put myself out there and trust people--or specifically one person--when I keep end up getting hurt and my emotions and heart trampled. People who only care enough to share their news and their troubles but never ask about mine remind me how much I still need to keep aloof and not allow myself to be someone else's emotional battery, boosting them when they are feeling ignored and dismissed in their own families.

Just because no one listens to you at home is no reason to run to me for an emotional boost because I care, especially if it means the only time you do show up is when you want something and never think to ask how I'm doing or how I'm feeling. It's selfish and uncaring and completely egocentric. That makes you the same as the people who marginalize, ignore and dismiss you. It's like a virus you keep passing around. It's sad and it makes me want to disconnect from all communication because I can only give so much without getting a little something back.

That's the thing about relationships. They work best when there are two people involved, like Scott and Annie. Scott had several surgeries on his back and is completely disabled, so Annie went back to school to get a nursing degree so she could pick up the slack. Scott designs and builds long bows and recurves, but he mostly stays at home and handles things there because he cannot work. He told me he and Annie get up together in the morning and when she leaves for work he goes back to bed for a while before getting up and taking care of things around the house and with his own projects. They are a team. When he was sidelined, she took point. That's the kind of relationship everyone should have instead of a relationship where one person carries all the weight and the other coasts and whines when they don't get everything they think they should have, and end up berating and blaming the other person for not working harder or doing more or giving up more so they aren't put out.

Relationships should be a two-way street, like the relationships I have with critique partners and friends. I give. They give. We all benefit and the relationships grow stronger. It's like a plant. Without water, sun and nourishment, the plant dies. Too much of any one element, or too little, and the plant cannot survive. Sometimes the plant needs more sun, a shuffling of nutrients and less water, but you adjust and give the plant what it needs to flourish. It's all about paying attention and being aware of what's needed -- like being ready to pull someone you care about out of the street when a car is coming.

Strangely enough, Scott was ready to get up and out of the way if a car did come, but it was the gesture that counted, and I was impressed eve though I did think he was a little bit stupid.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Artists Plead for Charles Manson's Freedom

The music and arts communities were stunned by the arrest of Charles Manson in Switzerland upon his arrival to pick up a lifetime achievement award. Manson's close personal friend and assistant stated, "If we had known Charlie would be arrested, he never would have gone."

Charles Manson was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Sharon Tate, who was 8-1/2 months pregnant at the time, Polanski's friend Wojciech Frykowski, friend and former lover, Jay Sebring, noted hairstylist, and Frykowski's friend and lover, Abigail Folger,the Folger coffee heiress. On the following night, Manson's friends, dubbed the "Manson Family," brutally murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home.

Thousands of artists, writers and those in the music industry have rallied to Manson's defense, calling his extradition to the United States a miscarriage of justice. "He has suffered over the past 38 years. His genius has illuminated the world and it is a travesty that he must be treated in this fashion," said Virgin Records founder Richard Branson. The outpouring of support includes the creative artists from every country, including the United States. Whoopi Goldberg said, "It wasn't murder-murder."

During an interview, Gore Vidal was quoted as saying, "Those were different times. The drugs, the alcohol, and Sharon Tate parading nude in movies were all part of a deadly emotional Molotov cocktail. Charlie wasn't even there that night."

In 1971 while awaiting sentence, Charles Manson fled the United States. Since that time, he has written songs for some of the most celebrated groups and singers in the world, living an exemplary life and donating millions to charities to end world hunger and repeal the death penalty.

Polanski, Sharon Tate's husband, said he doesn't want to rake up the past. "The past is the past. I have moved on with my life and would prefer not to have to relive those days again."

In 1995, Manson paid Polanski one million dollars and offered Polanski an apology for the murders done in his name.

Manson awaits extradition in neutral Switzerland and his appeals to be set free on bond have been denied as he is considered a flight risk. His lawyer's appeals on the strength of Manson's record of public service and the body of his work, acknowledged by most as genius, have also been denied.

Although Manson was to have received the Swiss award for lifetime achievement, the Swiss government refuses to set him free. In response, the artistic community have gathered to demand Manson's freedom and many have pleaded with the U.S. government to vacate the extradition order, to no avail, and in spite of Polanski's plea that Manson be set free.

Manson's plight continues to be an emotional issue for those for and against his return to the United States to face sentencing and the outpouring of support from the artistic community continues.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bouquets of yellow cactus flowers

First, I'd like to say 'thank you' to all the military veterans who have kept our country and most of the world safe, often giving their lives. My father was a veteran as were many of my relatives. One cousin even survived the Bataan Death March during World War II. On this day of all days, I honor and thank you.

Today is my oldest son's birthday. He's 36 today. Happy birthday, David Scott. Tom 's son, whose 11th birthday is today, happy birthday to you, too.

Today is also my best friend Chili Bob's birthday. He got his card, but I'd like to add a Happy Birthday and thank you for being you wish for his 62nd anniversary on this planet. Chili Bob is an amazing man and it turns out we are related distantly by Princess Nopee who was an Algonquin and lived during the days of Puritans coming to this country. Chili Bob is also related to the Bourbons, the family that ruled France right up to the end when King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were beheaded. Their children survived, as did many of the rest of the family, and Chili Bob is a direct descendant. Since he and I are distantly related that makes me related to the kings of France. Pretty cool when you get right down to it.

One more item up on the calendar today is my interview with Lisa Haselton. It has gone live and is waiting to be read.

This is a morning of contrasts. I'm sitting here eating fresh organic strawberries that taste better than any I've had in a long time, simply delicious, and I'm looking at a gift for my aunt. She loves to garden and has a beautiful back yard garden in which she says she cannot place a single flower or plant, so I'm looking at flowering plants to send her for the holidays and I find Christmas cacti and it takes me back to a Christmas cactus my father loved.

That Christmas cactus had beautiful yellow flowers and he was very proud of it. My middle son Eddie was about two years old and he was entranced by the flowers, drawn to them, and he stared at them for minutes at a time, which is amazing when you consider his age. One afternoon all the beautiful yellow flowers disappeared from the cactus and reappeared in a dirty little hand held out to me to make me smile. Dad wasn't amused and he never let me forget that my son destroyed his cactus. Eddie was devastated and cried his broken little heart out. He wanted to give the pretty flowers to his mom. To him, they were flowers like the daisies and clover he often picked for me.  He didn't know they might not grow back.  They were the only flowers he could find. Snow covered the ground outside and no green poked up through the icy and dirty frozen crust. He wanted flowers to brighten my morning so it made sense to pick the flowers from the cactus. It made sense to him. Dad's house was a jungle of plants and he knew better than to pluck the African violets, but no one told him the Christmas cactus flowers were off limits too. It made sense to him. It didn't make sense to Dad.

The cactus bloomed again the following Christmas. Dad tended the cactus like a sick child, never forgetting -- or letting me forget -- the year Eddie plucked its flowers--nor have I. Of all the bouquets and flowers I've received, those golden cactus blooms are my favorites. Not because they were pretty (they were) or because they were given with my son's smiles and pride at having found flowers for me in the midst of winter. Because the price he paid was in the tears of a child's broken heart for a sin he never realized he had committed.

Now I'm contemplating giving a Christmas cactus to my aunt and I wonder if I should give her the gardenias or something else and give the cactus to Beanie who is so much like Dad. She has most of his plants and she doubtless remembers the story of Eddie's bouquet. It will mean more to her than to my aunt even though my aunt is Dad's sister.

As I eat my warming strawberries and look at flowering gifts to send to a cherished aunt, I can't help wishing for another bouquet of yellow cactus flowers from my son.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The morning of surprising adventurers

Surprises first thing in the morning are the best and I had a great surprise this morning. However, I'm not going to tell you what it is, except to say that I haven't smiled this big this early in the morning since I couldn't tell you when. About the only morning surprise that would be better . . . well, best not to go there in order to keep this work safe and me from going completely berserk.

For some unknown reason I have the best dreams in the morning after I've been up for a while and gone back to sleep, like this morning, and also the strangest. I cannot understand how I can get into REM so quickly and so completely.

This morning was visiting day in jail, although it was an unusual jail since men were allowed to visit for short periods of time and actually come into the area with the rest of the inmates. I had three visitors, all men, one of whom was so worried when he heard what happened to me that he came without putting on a shirt and wore only a wife beater. His arms were full of books, my favorite gift, and the other two visitors were a little jealous when I hugged him and fussed over him because it was the dead of winter and 20 degrees outside and he'd gone to the store to buy the books for me without getting dressed. I don't know how, but I saw him shaving and then rushing out half dressed when he heard I was in jail. I smoothed the others' ruffled feathers by hugging them, too, but I was still worried over the first one.

One of the deputies, dressed in a nurse's uniform, brought over a tray with something that turned out to be a pitcher full of red juice and a stack of dirty cups. It was the "good stuff". I went to ask about clean cups and noticed that the door to our section of jail was open and the nurse was the only one about. She said there were no clean cups and that I'd have to wash them and one of my visitors insisted that he wouldn't drink out of anything that had just been washed and the staff would just have to provide clean china or crystal for us to use.

Then the matron came back in and she said she was surprised I had not joined the rest of the group outside in the sunshine where, she intimated, fraternization was allowed as long as we were discreet when we went into the woods to fetch the animals we had shot. Guns were involved. I felt quite left out because no one let me know and because I had the whole area to myself and could have indulged in a few kisses and caresses without any problems, except choosing which one.

I was quite drawn to my half-dressed visitor who looked remarkably like Josh Hartnett, but my heart belonged to the one who looked like Indiana Jones and I was quite fond of Indy's very proper dad, Henry Jones, Sr., aka Sean Connery.

I don't know what woke me, but I do know that I'm not very happy about it since this dream is now lost to me and the REM window is closed. Chalk it up to a weekend of watching The Black Dahlia and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Sexy, strong, adventuring men do it for me every time.

And, no, that wasn't the surprise this morning. The surprise was better than a dream.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The week in review and reviews

This morning's email contained a notice that my interview with Lisa Haselton will go live on Wednesday, November 11th, otherwise known as Veteran's Day and my best friend Chili Bob's birthday. Lisa called my answers fantastic. That remains to be seen. I was, as always, just being myself, but I'd be interested in what you all think, especially you, , because your name came up.

Wow. The sky outside my window looks like a layered blue and white parfait with a mile of whipped cream on the top. Probably means snow, although I haven't checked the forecast in a few days. I've been buried in work and Alzheimer's disease of the early onset variety.

Did you know that there are specific tests available to detect Alzheimer's in utero and by a simple blood test? There are. It's only for the early onset Alzheimer's disease (EOAD) because that is as a result of faulty genes that are passed on. Offspring have a 50% chance of getting EOAD. They say drowning is pleasant when you quit struggling and from what I read in Lisa Genova's Still Alice Alzheimer's is very much like drowning. Sad, haunting, devastating and touching, although I don't care for Alice's husband who loves his work more than he loves his wife. I suppose life must go on even when one's partner is there and not there.

Finally got a box of books out to Aunt Anne and right this moment she is giving Jaye her autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family. Jaye will be "over the moon" according to Aunt Anne because a contributing author sent her a signed copy. At least she is easy to please. Timmy will give my fan his copy of the book this weekend, but I sure hope he reads On Esther Time because in the future it may well be him.

Aunt Anne told me as soon as she opened the box and took out the book she had to read it and she loved the story, and the signed copy of Past Imperfect I sent, which she will not loan out to Jaye. That one stays in Aunt Anne's possession.

I just finished Ted Dekker's new book, and the final book of a four-book cycle, Green. It's really good and I have to get the other three books, Black, Red, and White. This is strange fare but it's also fascinating. The characters and world created are amazing and although there is a strong good and evil element to the book, it's not overwhelming. The story takes precedence over the religious themes. If the other three books are as good as this one, I may have to check out more of Dekker's writing. I haven't been that engrossed in a very long time.

Well, breakfast is almost over and I need to get back to the work of editing and laundry, so arrivaderci, au revoir, bye-bye.

That is all. Disperse.