Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ta DAH!!!

What a lovely surprise! Yesterday's mail brought the current issue of Mystery News and look who's a cover girl! I'd pretty much forgotten the very nice, hour long phone conversation I had with editor Lynn Kaczmarek a while back and it was a delight to pause in my cooking and cleaning (company for dinner again) to read what she had to say.

I've done phone interviews before and am always a little wary -- people have quoted things I didn't say and sometimes haven't actually read my books -- or only just skimmed them -- hence reviewers who think that Elizabeth lives in Asheville or that Vicki runs a herb and flower farm.

But this write up was dead on -- Lynn had not only read my books, she'd studied my website and is a reader of this blog (Hi, Lynn -- loved the editorial about your kittens!). Lynn said such nice things about my writing that I'm still blushing.

You can read the beginning of the article here.

Mystery News
is a bi-monthly publication in the form of a tabloid newspaper. Billed as "the most complete, up-to-date, and entertaining guide to the latest mystery books, writers, and events," it includes interviews and articles about mystery authors, features on mystery movies and audio, news of upcoming mystery conventions, conferences, and awards, and previews of upcoming releases.

And their reviews are the best -- big, meaty, informative reviews of recent releases in the world of mystery -- reviews that will send you to the bookstore or the library till your To Be Read pile is teetering.

(In the same issue, there was also a really nice review by Diana Vickery of Dark Season. My cup runneth over!)

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

I got some funny, funny emails as a result of yesterday's post asking how a fourteen year old might refer to his manly equipment -- too good not to share -- with a little editing. Thanks to all of you who helped out!

N. said: I call it a "trouble-maker" and sometimes the "brain" but that's not what you're after, is it?!!!
I just asked my 29-year-old what he calls his and it embarrassed him - he finally said he calls it a lot of things......
I can tell you that my 3-1/2 year old grandson calls it a "pete" as well as his 9-year-old step-brother. Even if we had a 14-year-old around, I'm not sure they would tell us!


P. said: My son got quite a kick out of my question to him, and his first response was "Aaaah, like why are you asking me that???", and
when I told him he was like, "Do you think I was walking around the halls, or in the john, at *** High asking such a question!?!?!" HA ... we also don't want a State Trooper making the headlines of the paper either!!! Anyway, he said all he can come up with is some of the younger guys in his SP Basic school using the term 'junk'. I'm like, "ooook .......", and he just laughed and laughed. He never knows what to expect from mom, but think this one really caught him off guard!!! HAHAHA!!!

L. said: P****r is not a word used today by boys often - although in our day it was popular. They do refer to their b***s as "my boys".

A. said: Well, with regards to your 14-year-old boy conundrum, I took an impromptu poll in my office the consensus was that he might easily and casually refer to both his junk and his johnson (esp with those Big Johnson T shirts being so popular at one point), but p*****r might make him a little dated. D**k, it seems, will never go out of style but is a little mature for a freshman in high school (if he's even in school? He sounds shady). Hope that helps!

I sincerely wish you could have just heard the lively conversation with everyone shouting out W**g! Sc****g! Prince Evan! Wiener! Much better than the usual water cooler banter.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Questionable Content ?

Okay, this is weird but I don't know who to ask so I'll throw it out to you all. I need help with a somewhat ticklish bit of research and I know that there are some of you out there who are more familiar with this part of the world than I. You may even have a fourteen year old boy in your family.

I'm writing just now about Calven - the 14 year old boy Dorothy is taking care of -- and I need to know how he would refer (in his thoughts or around his peers) to his . . . ah . . . personal equipment. And while I'm not squeamish about language, I don't want to attract the 'wrong' sort of attention to this blog, so I'll go for the old missing letters ploy.

Would a 14 year old boy of today, of decidedly local (western North Carolina/east Tennessee) background (and, till recently, hanging around with bad company) talk about his p____r? Or his d__k? Or what?

The things a writer has to consider in search of authenticity!

Inquiring minds want to know. Or at least, this one does. Please email me rather than using the word in a reply.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Maynard-Pearson House

When I was staying with Molly Weston for my mini "tour" of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, she took me by this restored 1872 farmhouse in Apex NC. A local group has done a wonderful job of furnishing and caring for the building and I was delighted to be given a closer look.

I've always loved old houses and now I'm taking notes (and pictures), never knowing when something might be useful in a book.

This very early treadle machine -- could this be what Little Sylvie wanted so badly that she married Mr. Tomlin to get it? And that parasol -- what widowed belle might wield this ruffled black silk beauty?

Did Miss Birdie get a refrigerator like this when electricity came to Ridley Branch? Or did Odessa and Inez have one in their home in Dewell Hill?

This little object brought back happy memories for me. My grandmother had one and when I was 'helping' her, it was my job to operate it. I'll bet some of you know what it is.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is It Just Me Or Is It Old In Here?

Four wonderful inches of rain! But that's not what I'm talking about today. It's about my reading -- which, though I'm still hard at it with Miss Birdie, I do a bit of every day -- at breakfast and lunch, while I take a tub bath, and before I fall asleep.

I've noticed something odd. First I read A Place Called Canterbury. The author grew up down the block from our family -- I knew him slightly; he's a few years younger than I. But he's writing about a 'geriatric apartment building' in Tampa -- a place where those who can afford it go to spend their so-called Golden Years. I actually know some of the folks he's talking about so the book was of particular interest to me. And the lesson I took away was this -- even with money, there's nothing "golden" about getting old and helpless and, worst of all, senile.

But it's a good, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, read which I recommend.

So what do I read next? Four little books written by Effie Wilder, an eighty-something year old lady who's living in a retirement home. They were given to me to pass on to an eighty-something year old friend of mine who's (you guessed it) in a nursing home. I read the first one, wanting to make sure it wasn't too fluffy or silly (my friend is fragile but no fool). Well, I found it quite engaging; enough so that I read the other three.

Then I pick up something to re-read: Fannie Flagg's sublime Fried Green Tomatoes -- forgetting that much of the action takes place in (all together now) a nursing home! As I read, I realize that I, too, have written about nursing homes -- in Art's Blood and again in In A Dark Season.

I shake my head -- time for a change.

So I pick up Water For Elephants, which comes highly recommended and has been sitting on my TBR (to be read) pile for months. It's terrific -- a beautifully told story about life in a small traveling circus during the Depression. Oh, and the narrator's a ninety-something year old man, living in a . . . nursing home.

My next read is going to be Winnie the Pooh.

And on a different and cheerier note -- here's a link to an video of twin baby mooslings playing in the sprinkler.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fast Forward: Two Pictures of My Grandparents

1914 ~ Troy, Alabama

Riding in a rented buggy along a country road,
She smiles out at her unknown future,
Crisp in a dress of pale blue linen,
A dark-haired girl with flowers at her waist.

Stiff and correct in Sunday suit,
Her sweetheart wears a somber face
His new straw hat
Tilts at a jaunty courting angle.

Governor, the cynical livery hack,
Has seen it all; he poses for posterity;
As an unseen chaperon
Records the fleeting moment.kip to main | skip to sidebar

1973 ~ Tampa, Florida

Still side by side they sit-- their life buttressed by
One daughter, two grandchildren,
Three great-grandchildren --
A stealthy progression of years and generations
Has somehow come to pass.

Stone-deaf in the now,
The old lady hears the voice
Somewhere deep inside,
The dark-haired girl is whispering:
Still here.

'She had the prettiest little ankles,'
The old man says.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


"Lovely! See the cloud, the cloud appear!
Lovely! See the rain draw near!"

(from a Zuni Indian Corn-grinding song)

I can imagine what a blessing rain must be, out in the dry Southwest where the Zunis grind their corn. But in this corner of the mountains where the creeks and branches have turned to mud and the pastures are burnt brown, we, too, have been longing for the healing clouds to come and the gentle rains to fall, soaking the dusty soil.

And at last it has rained, is raining, will probably continue raining.

The damp cool air, the clean fresh smell, the dusty foliage, flowers, and fruits all refreshed --
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nature Notes

A small chance of rain -- no more -- is forecast.

People sometimes ask where writers get their ideas. Many of mine are from my garden and surroundings -- homegrown, by crackey! (What's crackey anyway?)

By summer's end some butterflies' wings are so tattered it's a wonder they can fly at all. I stalked these two for a while, hoping to catch them together in the air to illustrate the following quote from Art's Blood. But they were intent on nectar from the plumbagos and pretty much ignored each other. Ah well. I'm quoting it anyway. (Company for dinner tonight has me in a hurry.)

"... two swallow-tailed butterflies one black, one yellow, were spiraling around each other. Their once beautiful wings were ragged and dull -- the price of survival through summer's perils and pleasures. The pair seemed unaware of their fragile state. Up and up they fluttered -- mating? fighting? playing? It was difficult to say.

Elizabeth watched in open-mouthed absorption -- her busy thoughts almost silenced. Almost, but not quite. I have a real feeling that's a metaphor for something or other but I'm not going to go there. They're just two butterflies. I will not bring my English major's sensibilities into this.

Time for lunch. She stood stretched and tried not to think of Phillip Hawkins and herself as she climbed the hill back to her house."

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Late Summer Haiku

Summer time slips by . . .

Sedums blush while ripening fruit

Sets plum trees aglow.
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

What, More Chickens?!?

Susan asked, a while back, if the fancy-schmancy chicken tractor might be too confining for the chickens. Well, yes and no. Here's the saga -- to date.

We had started by putting the new little guys in but they seemed to be having trouble figuring out going to roost upstairs and were sleeping in a pile on the grass.

So we moved them to the big chicken house and selected three full-grown hens (the three who were most aggressively picking on our young chickens) as the new occupants of the chicken tractor. They moped a bit but seemed to be settling in. Still we felt kinda bad -- they'd spent years in the chicken yard with the rooster and the other two hens -- and now they were in a smaller space wondering what happened. Hmmm.

Eureka! We decided to try some bantam chickens -- a rooster and six diminutive hens. They'll get bigger but they'll still be half the size of regular chickens. They will lay small eggs (I can't wait to make deviled eggs with them!) and a bonus is that bantams will go broody (sit on a nest for the 21 days it takes to hatch out eggs,) a trait that has been bred out of many full-size hens. We can put big chicken eggs under them and raise our own replacements! If nothing don't happen that is -- don't want to start counting my chickens before they hatch -- or before the bantys get old enough to go broody.

The bantys are really cute -- and they seem happy as can be in their new home. Meanwhile, the three hens are back with their friends after the enforced time-out -- and not near so intent on pecking the young chickens.

I think that the key to having the chickens happy in the chicken tractor is to put them in before they're full grown and used to more freedom. John is building another chicken tractor for Justin and Claui's garden and we'll put three of the young Ameruacanas in. At least that's the plan.

Stay tuned for future chicken updates!
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Summer in a Jar

Making herb vinegar is a terrific way of dealing with an over-supply of fresh herbs. We use homemade vinaigrette on our daily salads and this treatment turns cheap cider vinegar into something much mellower and tastier. It also makes nice gifts.

I start with a basketful of herbs, clipped in the garden early in the morning before the sun has wilted them. Italian parsley, basil, garlic chives, thyme, and oregano are the main ingredients for this batch. I have dill and tarragon in the garden too and they make nice vinegars, but I think they do better as the single ingredient -- to my taste, anyway. I also have rosemary and sage but find them too overpowering, so I save them for drying.

Rinse the herbs under the faucet; shake off excess water, and cram into a glass jar. (I use gallon dill pickle jars I begged from a deli years ago.) Fill with cider vinegar and put a lid on tight to prevent evaporation. Let sit (in the sun is nice but not absolutely necessary) about a month. (Longer is fine.)

When you're ready to fill your bottles (I have a nice collection of Scotch bottles, courtesy of my husband who's a single malt fan and likes to do his part,) strain the vinegar and discard the used herbs. In each clean bottle put a few fresh sprigs of herbs (I use flowering sprigs because they're pretty) and a peeled garlic clove.

Pour in the strained vinegar; shove in a cork (the vinegar should touch the bottom of the cork), and you're done. Let age a month so the garlic can work its magic.

My friend Ruth, who got me started making herb vinegar, sealed her bottles by melting paraffin wax (in a double boiler for safety), tinting it by adding in a red crayon, then repeatedly dipping the neck of the bottle into the wax till the cork was completely covered over. Tres elegant!
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Other Blog

Some of you may know about my monthly blog over on Amazon. I just posted an excerpt from the Birdie book -- if you're interested, slide over here.
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Dry As a Bone

When the sun rises like a red rubber ball (thanks to the Beatles for that sparkling simile,) you can be pretty sure the day is going to be hot and dry.

We've had too many of those recently; the river is reduced to almost its lowest recorded level and brown is replacing green in the fields and pastures and woods.
I begin to think of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland -- a monster of a poem that I've always loved.

". . . If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water.
And water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water . . ."

{This is just one stanza from the whole 432 lines (plus several pages of footnotes) of the poem.}

Dry as a bone.
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