Monday, January 31, 2011

Spring-like Stirrings

Though I know full well that winter's a long way from over, Saturday and Sunday were a lovely respite.  I spent a little time pruning, scratching around in the dirt, removing some early weeds and admiring the pansies which are trying to stand up after being buried in the snow.
Eddie helped.
Beneath the dead leaves of the Siberian Iris, daffodils are pushing toward the light.
 I trimmed the dead foliage so it wouldn't form a mat, but scattered it back over those impatient shoots, hoping to slow them so they don't get nipped by the next snow.
 Both cats enjoyed the sun . . .

And when the sun dropped behind the ridge and I returned to the house, it felt as if my veins were full of champagne rather than blood.

How glorious to get a foretaste of Spring!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Frozen Waterfall By Any Other Name . . .

More pictures from my trip Thursday to Chimney Rock and the scenic Hickory Nut Gorge.
There are any number of cabins lined up along the gorge, all advertising good views of the "chimney" (snigger) and the waterfalls.

Indeed, the waterfalls are gorgeous, even in their frozen state, and I took lots of pictures.

And then I read Kath's post on  . . . oh, dear. . .
Her post on "Rocksnot" . . .  and I'll never get that image out of my mind.  This time it's not my inner English major that's awakened but my inner kindergartner.

Oh, my . . .  will somebody fetch a tissue?
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Chimney Rock

I've heard of Chimney Rock ever since we moved to North Carolina -- but somehow had never visited this popular tourist attraction.  So when I traveled yesterday to speak at a luncheon that was just up the road from Chimney Rock Village, I took the time to have a look at this beloved landmark.
Probably because I have an English major's dirty mind, it didn't exactly look like a chimney to me. Nope, I know a phallic symbol when I see one.
I only admired from afar. There was no time to climb the stairs to the top.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Mountain Talk

Last month I did a post about Mountain Born -- a book I'd gotten for Christmas with a lot of old timey mountain sayings.  Stephanie in Flat Rock read the post and very kindly sent me a compilation of phrases that the doctor she worked for had made over the years. 

Some were familiar-- others not.  Thank you, Stephanie -- these are too good not to share!
Draws -- spasm or cramp, as in "My leg sure draws."

Arthur -- arthritis  (Arthuritis) ' Ol' Arthur has done got hold of me."

Fireballs of the Eucharist -- fibroids of the uterus "She was just full of fireballs of the Eucharist."

In movable health -- doing okay, as in "I was in movable health till this here stroke got me."
Scowers (or scours) -- diarrhea  "He's took the scours right bad."

Vomick -- vomit  " Law, riding in the back seat on that twisty road makes me want to vomick."

Toucheous -- painful to touch "Pa's gout has made his big toe right toucheous."

And my personal favorite --

Traveling fart -- lots of migrating belly gas pain.  "She had her a traveling fart but that Mylanta holp (helped) right much."
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Light on a Grey Day

Rainy January days like yesterday are why I bring forsythia inside so it will bloom early. 
And in spite of the brilliance of the cardinals outside, the leftover Christmas lights add a welcome sparkle.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

FAQ - How Do You Do All That You Do?

Q:  How do you find the time to do all you do -- write, blog, garden, cook, read, teach, publicity for your books, et cetera, et cetera... ?

A: I'm always embarrassed when I get this question from people who read my blog because the simple answer is that I don't do as much as my blog may lead you to think.  There are weeds and dust bunnies and unmet deadlines and unfinished projects of every ilk all around me.

What I want to know is how people with day jobs manage to write novels.

But, people invariably ask when I do a talk, what kind of schedule do you have for writing?

And I always have to say that I write when I can.

There are many writers who keep office hours(and stay off the Internet during those hours) -- and I know I should try to do the same -- but I don't.

I've written six books now (seven if we count the first and unpublished one,) mostly at night between eight and midnight (or later.) This seems to be when my brain gets into the writing mode.  There are times (especially as deadlines near or zoom past) when I attempt to write most of the day but for whatever reason, those late night hours are the most fertile.

Not very helpful, if you're a beginning writer, seeking advice on how to structure a writing day. But I suspect that everyone has to find his/her own best time and place to write.  I know that rising at some ungodly hour of dark-thirty probably isn't going to work for me -- though many writers swear by putting in several hours before dawn.

The single piece of advice that I have for most writers, as far as finding time to write is: Don't watch television.  For many people, that's several hours a day you could be writing.

Or stay off the Internet. . . ouch.

If you really want to write, you'll find a way . . . and the time.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Silver Threads

This seemed an appropriate re-post from two years ago.
One of my favorite emails about my books was from a woman who said, "Elizabeth makes me want to quit dyeing my hair and be who I am."

Back in high school I had dyed hair-- my mother's attempt to make me more glamorous -- just to 'brighten up' my rather ordinary dark brown hair. Then I got into it -- in college I was various shades of strawberry blonde; when I got married, I could be fairly, if somewhat romantically, described as 'raven-tressed.' 

Then I got over it. What had been fun became tedious. Keeping up with roots showing was a real drag. So I got back in touch with my inner brown-haired girl just in time to watch her begin to go gray. (We gray earlier in my family -- except for my mother who became ash blonde.)

The encroaching white hairs never bothered me -- and for quite a while they were limited to a streak or two at my temples. By the time I first heard someone describe my hair as salt-and-pepper, I was thirty years old, the mother of a toddler, and teaching full time with not a spare minute to be looking in mirrors. 

And then I was moving to a farm and milking a cow twice a day and having another baby and raising a garden and still not looking in mirrors. 

Somehow, by the time I'd taught both sons to drive on our narrow, winding, guardrailless mountain roads, my hair'd become mostly white. Imagine that!

Years ago a visiting friend told me that she'd like to quit dyeing her hair but in her job, she needed to look young. This puzzled me -- but I'd been out of the work force so long that I didn't argue. 

Then I saw this article in the NYT about a best-seller How Not to Look Old -- aimed at women over 40 worried about "professional obsolescence and economic vulnerability."

Oy! Why should looking young matter to a professional (unless you're in show biz or a hooker, maybe). Shouldn't it be about how well you do the job; not whether you still look like you're capable of bearing children? And why is it more acceptable for men to age? And no one expects them to wear lipstick.

There's nothing wrong with dyeing your hair and wearing makeup if you enjoy it -- but there shouldn't be anything wrong with not doing so ....

Here's the link to the NYT article -- and the comments are worth reading too, especially number ten, from the man at Attica State Correctional Facility.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Miscellany

The forsythia branches in the pitcher on the dining table have popped into cheery, vibrant bloom.
On Friday, at a stop light in Asheville, the shape of the tree against the sky caught my attention and I just had time to dig out my camera and get one quick shot before the light turned green.
Also on Friday, heading to Hot Springs at sundown to do a talk and signing for the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, the sky demanded that I stop and take its picture.

And in the morning sun, the amaryllis extended its green tongue a bit farther.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pick a Pic

As I mentioned, back on Monday I was interviewed for an upcoming article in The Great Smokies Review, an on-line journal.  They also wanted a picture of me to accompany the article.

Now, given my choice, I'd probably as soon go to the dentist as to have my picture taken. Even when I was young and reasonably attractive, I still dreaded the photographer. 

But I'm always having to produce a photo of myself when I go to a conference or a book festival or for various publicity related reasons -- there was even a picture of me inside the back cover of my last book -- a picture I paid a professional photographer what seemed like an awful lot of money for -- and didn't actually like very much. 
Plus that picture is five or six years old. Time has marched on.

So when Elizabeth Lutyens who edits the journal said that her partner would be there to take some pictures of me -- and that he is a professional photographer who used to work for LIFE,  well, I knew this was an offer I couldn't refuse.
Michael Mauney spent well over an hour trying to get a decent picture of me. He was so nice and so patient that the whole thing was actually kinda fun.

At one point Michael asked me how I'd like to look in the pictures.

"Like Sophia Loren -- forty years ago," I told him.

"So would she," he snorted.

Michael's a terrific photographer but not a magician. The pictures look like Vicki, all 67 years of me.  I'm pleased with them. 

One of these four I like best just as a composition; another I think makes me look the best.

And I'd be interested in your opinions.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Circuit of the Sun

The moonlight made the dogs restless and they paced and whined and generally disturbed our rest. So when the room began to brighten yesterday morning, I just pulled the covers over my head in hopes of a bit more sleep. 

But then I couldn't resist coming up for air to see what the morning looked like. All I had to do was lift my head and open my eyes. 

And what a reward! A sky full of pink cloud sheep -- moutons, as Miss Yves tells me the French call the clouds when they flock together like that. 

I don't know how many sunrise pictures I've taken over the years. A lot.

Here's a slide show of sunrises from January to January. I love watching the sun's movement from south to north and back again.

Remember, click on the slide show to biggify the pictures.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Best Water in the World -- repost

When I was doing this post yesterday, we were in the midst of drizzle and fog, melting snow and mud.  Not a good day for pictures -- but I consoled myself with the thought of all the lovely moisture replenishing our water table so that our springs and branches will continue to flow and give life to the land.  Here's a re-post from February of  '08. Waste not, want not.

We're proud of our water, here in the mountains. "The best water in the world" we call it. A man may live in a tumble-down shack but if he has a spring above his house, he can dig down to the place where the water runs over bare rock, dam up a small pool, and pipe the water from the pool to a reservoir (which could be anything from a wooden barrel to a cast concrete box) and thence to his house. Gravity water, cold and clear and free.

Clifford, who with his wife Louise owned the farm we live on, told us how during the Depression he went to Detroit in search of a job. "And I woulda made good money too but I couldn't drink the water. Just got on the bus and come back the next day."

I grew up drinking the city water in Tampa and always assumed that was how water should taste. But after I'd lived in the mountains half a year, drinking the water from our own spring -- I was spoiled. Totally and completely. When I returned to Tampa for a visit, the water tasted so much like chlorine that I found myself using bottled water even to brush my teeth.

Our little spring puts out a tiny stream, the size of a pencil, but (so far, knock-on-wood) it's never slackened. It was adequate for our needs till our older boy went to college and began coming home for spring or fall break with five or six friends. The little spring just couldn't keep up with all the showering and laundry and flushing. So we had a well dug.

We planned to use the well water for the laundry and bathrooms and to have another pipe to supply the kitchen from the spring. My husband, the resident DIY plumber, was resigned to a long, unpleasant session in the cramped crawl space under the house, tackling this complicated reworking of our plumbing. Then we tasted the well water - and lo and behold, it tasted just the same as the spring!

The best water in the world!
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Edgar Nominations

About a year ago I told you all that I'd been asked to be on a committee to select the best mystery published (in English) in 2010 -- not the best First Mystery by an American Author, nor the best Paperback Original Mystery, but the Best Mystery.

The books poured in all year and I immersed myself in reading mysteries of every ilk -- spies and P.I.s and amateur sleuths, and tough cops; historical and procedurals and thrillers and ghost stories and suspense . . .

The setting were cities, villages, remote wildernesses, you name it -- here, there, and all over the globe.
It was a rewarding experience. I have a much better idea now of the breadth of this genre called mystery and a heightened respect for all the mystery writers out there.

The downside, alas, is that I read a lot of good books -- none of which I'm allowed to discuss. As judge I had to agree not to to. I can say that we are very proud of our selections -- and there were so many great books that it was hard to choose.

And at last the day is here! It's the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe and The Mystery Writers of America have announced the Edgar Nominees. Congratulations to all!

(The winners will be announced in April.)

Best Novel
Caught by Harlan Coben (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
Faithful Place by Tana French (Penguin Group USA - Viking)
The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books)
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins - William Morrow)

Best First Novel
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Tom Doherty Associates - Forge Books)
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
The Serialist: A Novel by David Gordon (Simon & Schuster)
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Snow Angels by James Thompson (Penguin Group USA - G.P. Putnam's Sons)

Best Paperback Original
Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard (Random House - Bantam)
The News Where You Are by Catherine O'Flynn (Henry Holt)
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski (Minotaur Books)
Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis (Random House Trade Paperbacks)
Ten Little Herrings by L.C. Tyler (Felony & Mayhem Press)

And for the complete list with the other categories--  non-fiction, short stories, young adult, etc. -- go HERE.

Lots of good reading out there! 

Now to my task of boxing up books to donate to our county library. As you can see, these books have just about taken over.
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