Saturday, January 09, 2010

Calm and changeable seas

Pepper crusted pork tenderloin and red potatoes, green beans, red peppers in a butter sauce with hot cocoa to drink. Simple, but warming meal for a cold winter evening. It's a night of peace and quiet wrapped in a warm shawl and reading Terry Pratchett and watching I, Claudius. It's freezing outside, but very warm inside, and it is to this warmth my friends keep coming, like Bob.

Bob is one of my best friends and has been for many years. We talk about everything. He's happily miserable, or miserably happy, in his marriage.

He is married to a wonderful woman, an intelligent, talented and successful woman, and often he wonders how he managed to get so lucky that she agreed to marry him. He doesn't see himself very well and is a very good man, quite wonderful in his own way. There is one big fly in the ointment--the lack of intimacy. Everything else is perfect, but sex once a year is untenable. She isn't interested and doesn't have any desire at all and Bob has far too much desire. She refuses to discuss it and he considers looking elsewhere to fulfill his needs. I proposed a different solution, one I've proposed for many people: talk it out openly and directly. "I don't like confrontation," he said to me this afternoon.

I'm always amazed that people see confrontation in a negative light. It is basically honesty and honesty does have its uses.

I suggested Bob lay out the situation to his wife, tell her sex once a year is not acceptable and either they seek counseling and she be tested and treated for a hormonal imbalance and depression. The signs and symptoms are clear even at this distance. I explained that he need not lose his marriage over this because so much of it is good and, if his wife refuses to go to counseling or get treatment for the medical and emotional issues, he propose an alternative -- an open relationship that allows him to fulfill his desires as long as he doesn't bring anything home that can't be gotten rid of. He said he'd see. I've heard the same thing from any number of friends and acquaintances. I don't understand why people insist on making things so difficult.

All life is not so complicated or so sad. I received a lovely -- and late -- Xmas card from Ted with his witty and funny crèche. This year's subject was Tiger Woods and it was quite beautiful and funny. I do agree with Ted that it's difficult to tell one blonde waitress from another.

I also received a thank you card from Laura and Jeremy, daughter-in-law and son of the fascinating and lovely Mary Ann, for a little something I sent for their first Xmas together. They were married last summer and appeared quite delirious with happiness in their pictures. I think they are a good match. Laura wrote on real stationery with a distinctly Victorian theme. I do so enjoy getting letters and cards in the mail. This may well be the beginning of a revival of the old art of letter writing, at least in a modest way.

The mail was full of the usual snail mail spam and a catalogues. Included among the debris was a box, my copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My day is complete. Videos, books, cards and thank you notes on Victorian stationery, definitely a good day.

Even with the trials and tribulations of my friends and family, a dose of ancient Roman intrigues and the fun of Terry Pratchett, each day is a surprise. Sometimes the surprise is not pleasant and sometimes the surprises exceed my modest and meager expectations. I'm easy to please. I ask nothing of the world but peace, quiet and the occasional adventure to make things interesting. I don't mind living in interesting times, even when the times take on the dark tinge of betrayal, lies and ill wishing. Life is much like the sea, moody and often dangerous, but well worth the trip.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Food and literary fantasies

Full of hot chocolate and broccoli and other good things. I don't get as elegant as Bruce Barone when I'm cooking, at least not all the time like he does, but I do put together a few decent meals. I just wasn't interested in a meal last night, so I settled for an omelet with English cheddar on the side, broccoli and a pot of hot chocolate. Since I was out of fresh milk, I went to the backup plan: canned goat milk. Just add water, cream, chocolate, a dash of sea salt and whisk on the stove. Pour into hot chocolate pot already heated and ready, froth and drink, after dropping a vanilla handmade marshmallow in the cup first. Keep refilling while watching Cinderella and The Color of Magic and jotting notes in my journal. It was a quiet evening, but a productive one.

There was also the grocery list to make out before next Tuesday's shopping trip. That always means going through the circular to see what's on sale and through my recipe collection and searching online to decide what to make. Williams-Sonoma online has quite a treasure trove of recipes and I concentrated on eggs: poached, shirred, coddled and made into omelets. The options are mind boggling and, if you're on a budget, the array of egg dishes is enough to make the mouth water. Who knew there was so much to be done with an egg?

There will be one week with no cooking and that's the week of my birthday next month. I'm taking off on vacation, a real vacation, to be pampered, coddled and catered to. I haven't done it in a long time and I'm overdue. As much as I like my cottage, there are times when I need a change of scenery. So I'm out of here on the 13th, Beanie's birthday and I won't be back until the 21st. Late. The destination is a cozy B&B overlooking a castle decorated in Victorian style and near to several haunted spots that will be perfect for the setting of the next book I'm working on after I finish the post-apocalyptic vampire novel. Time to take notes and set the story simmering on the back burner for a while or, in baseball parlance, warming up in the bullpen. Have to keep the stories coming.

That story is a dark tale of lies and intrigue and someone posing as a ghost hunter. Murder, a touch of romance (I can't handle more than a touch), a trail of secrets and all kinds of mystery and mayhem. I thought it was time for a change. I don't like to tie myself to any one type of story or characters, although there's always a piece of me and people I know in all the novels and stories I write.

For instance, in Whitechapel Hearts, one of the villains is based on a real life villain I met and got to know. Some of the most interesting and dangerous people have crossed my path and been filed away for future reference. They stick in my mind in some dark and out of the way corner waiting to fret their moment upon the literary stage. That's the hallmark of an interesting life.

Well, I'm off to the showers and into some clothes because it's cold this morning and I'm going to need all the warmth I can get working in the cold back office that steams in the summertime. I definitely need to see about putting up drapes. The blinds wouldn't keep out a gnat, let alone inclement weather. The roof doesn't keep it out either -- yet.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Karmic tally sheet

People sit and wait for karma to happen to other people, people they don't like and feel have hurt or cheated them, but karma's already at work and the proof is in front of their eyes. The problem is that they refuse to look or see what there is to see.

Let's take people. Their friends see them as good people and strangers and the rest of the world see them as not very nice people. It's all in the perspective.

The first person, let's call him Luther, called down the wrath of karma on Mark and waits for the hammer to fall.

Over a period of three years, Luther meets a girl, Petra, who is living in her family home. Her family is all gone and the house is free and clear. Luther moves in and settles down with Petra. They get married. The house and grounds are beautiful and they have lots of friends. Things aren't always perfect, but they muddle along nicely. Always the entrepreneur, Luther decides to expand his business and get Petra, and himself, a few nice things, so he takes out a loan on the house. Business is good--for a while--and then it's not. The couple struggle with finances and are soon in danger of losing their home. They work like mad to make ends meet, take on more jobs and put every cent into the house to keep from losing it, even to the point of taking in boarders. After all, what is all that space worth if you can't share it with friends -- for a price. Nothing works. They sink deeper and deeper into debt. The strain works on their marriage and, in addition to losing their house, they may well lose their marriage. Petra doesn't believe in divorce; she married for better or worse, no matter how worse the worse gets. Luther keeps thinking about taking the money (what's left of it) and running. He's been married before and he's not averse to chalking this attempt up to bad timing, different backgrounds, incompatibility. There's always another Petra down the road.

Mark struggles, living from paycheck to paycheck. He's careful with his finances and doesn't indulge in many luxuries. He's frugal and diligent and spends his twice yearly vacations working on other things that bring in money. He can't afford to take a real vacation. It costs too much and his meager finances won't stretch that far. He doesn't live in a house or have cable TV or the latest electronic gadgets (cell phone, camcorder, spiffy and expensive computers) nor does he go out to eat much. He only orders pizza once every few months as a treat when he has a little extra money. Mark lives alone and doesn't have a partner to help get things over the rough spots or smooth out the lumps. It's not important because Mark is building a future, working toward owning a business of his own, one that will free him from wage slavery and give him the wherewithal to take a nice vacation once in a while or go out to dinner, the theater or take a long weekend somewhere nice. The day finally comes when the answer comes. Mark's plan has worked and his business nets almost $10,000. He pays off all his bills and his debts to people who helped him when he needed it and he buys a few necessities and a couple things he's always wanted. The rest of the money goes into savings and he keeps working. For the first time in years, things are going in his favor. He is cautiously optimistic. One of the things Mark learned is never to count on the cards to come; he plays the cards he has and makes the most of them. It has been a long, hard climb and there are other peaks to scale, but life is good and Mark can breathe again.

Luther expected Mark to crash and burn in an ugly and horrendous way while Mark put down his head and kept working. He missed Luther for a while, but then decided that the constant drama and lies and manipulations weren't worth what Mark thought he lost at first. Luther keeps tabs on Mark, but Mark's too busy to care about keeping tabs on Luther. Besides, Luther makes sure Mark gets word of his successes while he hides his failures and his crumbling life and marriage. Mark keeps on working; he has a life and a future to nurture and enjoy.

You tally up the karmic scores.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The day has arrived

Great Love Letters Valentine Contest

Unafraid to appear silly or be seen as vulnerable, Elizabeth Barrett wrote to Robert Browning, "I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach."

From Winston Churchill missing his wife Clementine or Napoleon Bonaparte longing for Josephine, separated by distance, war and circumstances, lovers put their longings, feelings and thoughts on paper. In Past Imperfect, my heroine took five years and a lot of pain and heartache before she made her feelings known to Adrian Cahill in person. John Logan, who was my heroine's friend and companion, kept his love to himself until he is about to lose it and her. Their story would have been much shorter if they had written their love in a letter.

In honor of Valentine's Day, imagine a time without telephones, cell phones, and email and write a letter to your great love and capture a prize. Use your great love's name or keep your great love a secret like Beethoven's Immortal Beloved. Write what you cannot or have not been able to say and follow the rules to the letter.

From January 5, 2010 to February 5, 2010 is your chance to join the great lovers of history. In 100 words or less, pour out your heart and soul in a letter to the great love of your life and send it to me at by midnight Mountain Standard Time on Feb. 5, 2010. On February 14th, Valentine’s Day, the winners will be notified by email and the winning entries published on my blog, Cabin Dreams.

Prizes & Rules

All entrants must include a signed release to publish their love letter if chosen as the winning entry. The following prizes will be awarded:

First prize: A $75 Visa gift certificate one copy of Love Letters Of Great Men And Women: From The Eighteenth Century To The Present Day by C. H. Charles, 22-pc. Godiva Dark Chocolate Truffle Gems and an Autographed copy of Past Imperfect by J. M. Cornwell.

Second prize: A $50 Visa gift certificate, 22-pc Godiva Dark Chocolate Truffle Gems and an autographed copy of Past Imperfect by J. M. Cornwell.

Third prize: A $25 Visa gift certificate, 22-pc Godiva Dark Chocolate Truffle Gems and an autographed copy of Past Imperfect by J. M. Cornwell.


1. All entries must be original and less than 100 words included in the body of an email with Great Love Letters Valentine Contest in the subject line with first name only at the end of the love letter, and include a digitally signed and dated release form. Entries found to be copies or plagiarized will be immediately disqualified.
2. The release form must include full name, home address, date of birth, phone number and email must be clearly printed or type on the release form only, and attached to the entry email. Entries without this information will be immediately disqualified.
3. Entrants must be 18 years or older on 01/05/10 and live in the United States, U.S. protectorates, Mexico or Canada. This also includes U.S. soldiers with APO and FPO addresses.
4. All love letters must be written to a person. All entries written to an inanimate object, animal (other than human), food or place will be immediately disqualified.
5. All entries must be dated by midnight February 5, 2010 U.S. Mountain Standard Time. All entries received after that time will be disqualified.
6. All prizes are awarded as is without substitution.
7. Family members of J. M. Cornwell and employees of Creative Ink, LLC are prohibited from entering the contest.
8. The winning entries will be published on Cabin Dreams on February 14, 2010 and winners will be notified by email.
9. All prizes awarded will be mailed by March 1, 2010.
10. All questions or comments may be addressed to Great Love Letters Valentine Contest at
11. No profanity or explicit sex. Keep it clean and PG-rated.
12. Void where prohibited by law.


Release Form and Copyright Transfer

The entrant hereby grant and assign to J. M. Cornwell and Creative Ink, LLC the royalty-free rights to publish the love letter created for the Great Love Letters Valentine Contest if the undersigned is the winner of the contest. This assignment of copyright grants J. M. Cornwell and Creative Ink, LLC the exclusive right to publish the winning entry to the contest on the blog, Cabin Dreams. All rights subsequent to initial publication remain with the author.

The entrant acknowledges that this work is original to them and has not been submitted elsewhere. The entrant further acknowledges that the work is not libelous and does not infringe on any copyright or other proprietary right. The entrant are responsible for obtaining permission to use any material that is not their own.

The winning entry will receive compensation as outlined in the contest rules. This is the only compensation that the entrant will receive for contributing their work to the Great Love Letters Valentine Contest.

All entrants must sign and submit this release form with their manuscript to:
Great Love Letters Valentine Contest 2010 at by midnight February 5, 2010 in order to be eligible. Entries without this release form will be disqualified.

Date of birth:___________

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Change is inevitable, life happens

Change is inevitable and even I cannot stand against the inevitable if I wished to do so, and I don't. Last year was full of change and surprises, not all of them good, but definitely interesting and the changes continue.

First of the changes in the new year concern by novel, Past Imperfect. I have had several requests for autographed copies, so I've made it easier by adding a PayPal button to the left side of my LJ page. Orders will be processed within one business day.

The other major change coming within the next few days is a contest with prizes that include Visa gift cards, Godiva truffles and books. You know there have to be books. Details will be posted on Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

Another smaller change is the number of the year and my seeming inability to remember to put '10 instead of '09 on my paper journal and all correspondence. Give me a break. It's only the third day of the year. I'll get it eventually, probably by June or even August. You just never know.

The semi-annual bonus and report of statistics came yesterday and I wasn't too unhappy with the results. The bonus was my usual bonus, but my error rate had dropped and I missed being first in the company by 3/1000 of a point. The winning employee had a 0.046% error rate and my error rate was 0.049% over a six-month period, covering more than 10,000 pages of operative reports. I wonder of the winning employee does anything more complicated than admission and discharge summaries. I think the statistics should at least take the difficulty and technicality of the work done, but then I always do.

More changes are on the horizon, not the least of which is publication of more anthologies and novels with my name on the cover, but it's best to wait until the times come so that I don't bore you with repeating details.

Unlike many people, I will not post an overview of the past decade until New Year's Eve 2010 since that will be the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Who knew it would fly by so quickly? Two and a half years closer to the end of the Mayan calendar, but it is not the end of the world or the end of humanity, unless someone does something really stupid, and that's always possible as long as there are stupid people in the world in positions of power like presidents, premieres, ayatollahs, etc.

As always, I am a work in progress with several works in progress and that will not change until my hands are stilled, my eyes blind and breath no longer fills my lungs or brain functions. Life is change and I'm not ready for the ultimate change yet. I have things to do, people to meet and love and places to see.

If you want an autographed copy of Past Imperfect, click away.


That is all. Disperse.

Countdown to contest time

Just 2 days to the big announcement. Keep your pens, pencils and keyboards close for your chance to win.

That is all. Disperse.