Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recommended Reading

The Art Forger kept me reading into the wee hours -- I HAD to find out what happened.  A wonderful story about art, human nature, Degas, forgery, betrayal, Isabella Stewart Gardiner and her museum in Boston.  Excellent descriptions of how a painting is created as well as how a painter's career is built -- or destroyed.

My agent sent me this book -- Shapiro is a client of hers -- knowing that I'd enjoy it and I did, I did!

Several years after almost everyone I know recommended The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to me, I have finally read it and have to say, everyone was right. It's a charming, quirky story, told through letters and in many different voices.  There are wonderful characters and a fascinating exploration of a previously little known facet of WWII -- the German Occupation of small bit of Britain -- the channel island of Guernsey.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life is So Various . . .

Last Tuesday, as soon as my esteemed lunch guests made their departure, I darted out to buy a walker, get my Living Will witnessed and notarized, and to pick up sparkling wine for Thanksgiving.

Yesterday I got up in the dark to drive to Chapel Hill to tape an interview with DG Martin for NC Bookwatch (to be aired some time next year -- I'll let you know.Then back home, arriving just after dark, to pack my odds and ends and my walker to be ready to go in the morning. 
And now the time is here -- I'm checking into the hospital early this morning for a total (left) knee replacement. I expect to be there two or three days, doing lots of physical therapy. 

There's something so cold-blooded about 'elective surgery,' especially when they want you to execute a living will before hand . . . but I've had surgeries before -- two C-sections and one ruptured disk--and am optimistic. All the folks I've heard  from who've had joint replacements have been happy with the outcome -- "I should have done it sooner," is what everyone says. They warn me that physical therapy is painful and necessary . . . and that I will be foggy from the pain meds for a couple of weeks . . .

So off I go -- in cold blood and with high hopes for good drugs (and pre-warmed blankets -- such a comfort!). I've scheduled posts for several days ahead but don't expect to be on the computer myself till I'm back home.  Until then, I know I have your good wishes . . . as you all have mine.
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Perfect Post-Thanksgiving Breakfast

Toasted leftover pumpkin-thyme rolls with hot pork sausage and whole berry cranberry sauce . .  . oh, my!

Slow-rising Pumpkin-Thyme Rolls
(From the LA Times)

2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
1 stick butter (1/4 pound) at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-4 cups all purpose flour
olive oil for greasing bowl
melted butter for greasing pans

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl and stir to dissolve.  Beat in eggs, pumpkin, softened butter, sugar, thyme, salt, and cayenne.  

Add three cups flour and beat till smooth, gradually adding more flour as needed to make a soft, sticky, but still manageable dough.

Oil a larger bowl and turn dough into it. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place till doubled (About 1- 1 1/2 hours) Punch dough down, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Next day, grease two 8-inch cake pans with melted butter. Punch dough down again and shape into 18 round dinner rolls, arranging them in the pan with 1/2 inch between each. (Dough will be sticky so lightly butter your hand to facilitate handling.) Cover rolls with kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place till doubled in bulk (30 minutes or more.)

Preheat oven to 350. Bake rolls till browned, 20 - 25 minutes.  

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Answers for Lynne -- FAQ

In  the comments on yesterday's post, Lynne in Georgia said " ... I miss Elizabeth and Miss Birdie. I understand times are very tough in the publishing business, but is there any possibility of a new book coming along? From earlier blog entries and the fact you haven't referenced any works in progress for some time, I'm guessing I know the answer. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who is hoping that we haven't seen the last of your characters. We'll also understand if you just don't want to address this any further. Just know that we miss having a new book.

Oh, how I hate disappointing a reader. But at the moment, Lynne, I'm finding my way into a novel with no Elizabeth. It's  set in my county (Elizabeth's familiar surroundings) but in the Civil War era.  Whether there will ever be another Elizabeth is a question I can't answer. I'm proud of the Elizabeth books and know there's more to her story and that of her family, but maybe for the moment she deserves a rest from all the drama. 

I did a post for another blog on this subject HERE .  But for Lynne, and others who might be interested, my current project is a novel based on a very real incident -- the  Shelton Laurel massacre.  
Originally I thought of telling the story from the point of view of a young woman  in Sheldon Laurel -- but as I read more about the Massacre, I realized that I was going to need more voices -- Col. Allen's wife, whose children's deaths were one of the inciting causes of the Massacre, and a young man, a conscripted soldier who participates in the Massacre, are two and there will probably be more -- so many reasons for what happened and so many stories to tell . . .

 I've been enjoying a break from the rigors of a deadline but am eager to get serious about this story. Just recently a Facebook friend whose family has lived in our county since the 1700s contacted me and offered to share some family history -- including letters written from a man held in a Union prisoner of war camp.
And a handwritten memoir . . .

Reading through this helps so much to get the feeling and the language of the era in my mind. And there are many other resources . . .

I see this as a serious, 'literary' novel; whether I'm up to it remains to be seen. But I want to try.

So that's where I am, Lynne.  Struggling with the eternal problem of Good and Evil and all the shades in between,  trying to explain of Man's  inhumanity to Man, trying to see all the sides in the story, and writing this novel -- with no idea of when it will be finished or if it will be published.  Sometime I feel like the Fool on the tarot card.  But that's okay.
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Guess Who's Coming to Lunch?

Our lunch guests yesterday were these two good-looking guys . . .  
some of you might find the faces familiar.

D.G. Martin is, among other things, the host of NC Bookwatch -- a program that talks about North Carolina books and authors. He's invited me to be on the show (I'll be going to Chapel Hill next Monday to tape it -- it won't air till next year and you can be sure I'll let you know.)

Anyway, on Monday I got an email from DG saying that he was planning on visiting the area --Marshall and Hot Springs -- and could he stop by for a quick visit? Oh, and by the way, he added, Charles Frazier was probably coming with him.

Charles Frazier!?! The author of COLD MOUNTAIN?  OMG! OMG!

I insisted that they come for lunch and tempted them with barbeque sandwiches (our own barbecue from the freezer) and cole slaw. And there was  Ba's Pound Cake  hot from the oven . . .
Really, I tried SO hard to not to act like a complete idiot fan girl --- but I did take these three pictures (the one below of my husband John and Charles is blurry, drat it, but I was trying not to make a big deal of taking pictures) . . . and I did get our copy of COLD MOUNTAIN autographed. 

Both of the gentlemen were charming guests -- as the old folks around here would say --
"just as common. . ."  -- which, let me hasten to add, doesn't mean trashy but down home and not putting on airs.   

Aye, law! An exciting day!
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