Monday, July 28, 2014

A Cup of Cold Water

We were having dinner the other night at a Chinese restaurant we've frequented for over thirty years.  No kidding. It's not in the best part of town, but the food is great and the place holds great sentiment for us. Our first date. Last Saturday, we were out with family, enjoying ourselves, when a thin black man came into the restaurant.

The day had been a hot one. He asked the hostess for a cup of water. I heard her, across the room, tell him they had no cups to go. He stood there, looking forlorn, as she tried to get him to leave, asking again for a cup of water.  I glanced at our large table, filled with food, and lost it.

Loudly, I shouted across the room that I'd pay for the water. Once more, she insisted they had no cups. I glanced at the bar and asked of they had bottled water. They did. Again, I said I'd pay for it. A bottle of water was produced, and the man turned to thank me. I nodded.

My Beloved pointed out they probably, given the economics of the area, have people asking for water all day long. Maybe. But when we, as a society, refuse people water, we deserve what we get. And it won't be good.

I won't be back to that old favorite restaurant, ever again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Books from our childhood

I read an interesting analysis of the Narnia books by someone who reread them as an adult, comparing her contemporary reaction with her youthful memories of the books. Though the rereading was colored by her rosy feelings from years before, she couldn't overlook the sexism and other issues she found as an adult. I felt sorry for her. Something wonderful was now tainted.

 Though I'm often nostalgic, I wouldn't relive the past for a zillion wonderful reviews. Memories, though, are mine, therefore hands off to everyone else. Yet I've been tempted to pull out old favorites and give them another look, wondering if my young eyes were wrong the first time they read the words on a page.  Miss Flora McFlimsy has never failed to charm me, no matter how old I am. Rumer Godden's Mouse House swims in the same magic.  But these are books for young children, not the books I gobbled up as I became a voracious reader.

My mother insisted on summer reading lists (before schools required them), so I was fed a delicious diet of Newbery Award winners.  I cannot praise my mother enough for insisting I read quality books.  Behind her back, with my allowance savings, I indulged in the secret delight of Nancy Drew books, purchased at the post exchange on outings with my father.  I can still see my mother rolling her eyes and sighing when I fell under the thrall of the dauntless girl detective in her powder blue convertible. (It was a convertible, wasn't it?)

I'd never reread those Nancy Drews, but I have kept my stash of Newberys. Hittie, Her First One Hundred Years. Roller Skates. Caddie Woodlawn.  Oh my, the memories. The interesting thing is, I can see how these books shaped me as a writer. The thrill of the clue in the old clock, the independent girl sleuth, and the veritable plethora of wonderful writing that comprised the award-winning books gave me a firm foundation as a mystery writer. I don't need to reread them to see if I was hoodwinked as a child reader.

I wasn't. To all those wonderful writers, I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Where has it gone?

I declare, time is speeding up the older I get. I have no idea where this summer has flown. Having anticipated the hot, muggy days of a Southern July, I woke up this morning and realized it's almost over. Not only July, but summer too. Makes me grumpy. Like the morning after Christmas, when all the anticipation has dissolved into the mist of OMG, January is next. . .

Major renovations going on at our house - a new bathroom for one - and guests have taken up some of my time. Mostly though, I have no excuse for being so remiss in keeping this blog going. As I watch a Nascar race on TV (and I don't even sit through all of them, now), I think about discussing the alarming trend among drivers to have a baby with the current girl friend, and ignore the minor detail of a wedding first. Or even after the baby arrives. Denny Hamlin, you were raised better than that. Kyle Larson, well, you're only 21, but I'm sure someone informed you that the decent thing to do is to put a ring on it. Penske's new powerhouse engines have me tickled pink (as does Joey Logano's new found zip), Dale's great year -all of it is good.

What I'm holding my breath over is Rob Kauffman's new alliance with Roush, Hendricks, Gibbs, Petty, and Childress. Ostensibly, it's to pool resources to get better deals on parts, equipment, and hotel rooms for crew during race weekends, but I have to wonder - is it really about the new TV contract Nascar just signed? Big bucks there. Now that Nascar has said it will communicate with the alliance only through its lawyers, I think I'm right.

I'm hearing more alarming trends have arrived in the standard book contract offered by traditional publishers. For one thing, a second book (always an option in days gone by) must be submitted as a completed manuscript before it will be considered for a contract. Oh, and they (the pubs), won't look at it until sales figures are in for the first book. Scary, scary. And if they turn it down and the author takes the book to another house, the first publisher gets to make an offer with priority standing if the second house says it wants the book. All very convoluted, but if you're a published author,  you know what I mean. Bad, bad times in traditional publishing for writers. Then again, we've always been at the bottom of the profit barrel, but I never expected contracts to become so heinous. I wonder how long it will take for an uprising? Antitrust laws seem to be a good place to start. 

I'll try to be more attentive to this blog, I promise.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Slacker

No, it's not the beach, though I can be tempted. Or the pool.  Or weeks and weeks of travel.The eternal issue for me as a writer is the siren song of the garden.  During the winter, I'm tempted to tackle the big house issues, like closets and attic, but the temptation isn't overwhelming. Summer, however, pulls me into the yard like a piece of  death-by-chocolate cake. My very own triple layer cake, with one fork.  I see where the beds need work, plants that long to be moved to other spots, bushes crying out for a trim. If I don't get in a bit of outdoors with my snips or a shovel, I'm one unhappy writer.

Nature doesn't play a big role in my writing. I don't use plants or fauna unless they're clues. Place can be a character and often is.  I love to use atmosphere based on location. Think of a moss-draped tree hiding a house, barely covered with remnants of white paint. The possibilities are infinite and often can be based on clichés. But don't clichés carry kernels of truth that everyone recognizes?

I'm going to make my fanny stick to my desk chair this coming week, even though there's a rose bush that needs spraying. It'll have to fight the buggies by itself for a few days, at least.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Hmmmm...Nails and Pearls

 I have this small sterling whatever sitting on my dressers, and today it fell over. I realized I've been collecting small  nails (I have no idea why) and pearls in it. The pearls belong to a bracelet I'd worn for years.  Unfortunately, they've seen better days. Why I dropped the bracelet in there and added nails seems like a detail for a novel. Somewhere, I'll be able to use it.

Red Shoes and the Inexplicable

I don't know where I got this fetish for red shoes. Heaven knows, I grew up wearing sensible oxfords black patent leather Mary Janes for church.  Once, I begged for a pair of penny loafers, but my sensible mother shot that one down. Anyone as active as I was, needed shoes that would stay on her feet, and loafers wouldn't cut it. I would come home from first grade, stopping at a grassy slope to slide down several times, with grass stains all over the back of my skirt. (In those days, girls had to wear skirts to school.) My mother finally had it, and informed me in no uncertain terms that I'd get spanked the next time I pulled that stunt and ruined another dress.

Anyway, I looked in my closet and stared at my rather embarrassingly vast shoe collection, and once again, I chose a pair of red ones.  I have no idea how red shoes became embedded in my consciousness as the basic shoe color, but I've given up fighting it. Besides, they make me feel happy. So red shoes it is.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When life changes, what do you do?

I've been planning to write my thoughts about Marty Smith's ESPN article on Casey Atwood, the Nascar driver who washed out pretty quickly after being hailed as a wunderkind. Though Atwood doesn't have to work, has a lovely wife and two darling daughters, Casey just wants another shot at driving Sprint cup. That's it. His only ambition, at least according to the article, in life is that. All I can think is: how sad. Then I decided to reserve my heavy stones for the truly heinous. (And why are those girls in Nigeria still in the hands of the Boko Hareem? And why isn't there a huge outcry in Pakistan for the pregnant woman murdered by her family for marrying for love?)

Nascar will roll on with or without the multitudes who think they deserve a shot. Or two. Or three. The true measure of a man or woman, is what does (s)he do if (s)he can't have what (s)he think s(s) he wants? In publishing, people go the Indie route, write for themselves, or quit writing totally. I find it less stressful and more fun in the Indie world, myself, after having been traditionally published. No waiting two years for a book to be produced. No ending up with a title you don't like, a cover you hate. Controlling one's own destiny has always been my goal. While I know there're times to shift gears and take another road (been there, done that), I can only hope I've done so with grace and good manners. Change isn't easy. I know. I grew up in the army. Ask me how many friends I have from my youth. Yeah, doesn't happen when you move all the time.

I will always write. I have done so since childhood. The stories in my head won't leave me alone, so I have to get them into a tangible form. Maybe it's a side effect from having a peripatetic childhood, but the characters are always be alive to me once I get rolling with a story. So no matter what happens in the publishing world, I'm here for the duration.