Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Tis that time of year. Boxes packed with tailgating stuff (don't you love that word, 'stuff'?), driver and track flags, flag pole, food, ice, drinks, and comfy chairs, oh, and the tent and tables, are coming down from the shed's attic. To be clear, the ice is coming from Kroger, and the food and drinks from the same place, lol. I take perverse pleasure in making hummus, marinated pilaf with pine nuts, and apple tacquitos for snacks. Carrots and celery instead of Fritoes, and lemonade instead of Bud, and our makeshift camp gets plenty of stares. Not many of our fellow tailgaters want to share our goodies, but then again, we're not tempted with their repast either. There's a real hierarchy among tailgaters, and I can in no way compete with the crowd who deep fry turkeys and make margaritas with mixers powered by generators. I just don't wanna work that hard, to be honest.

I'll take the iPad and catch up on some reading, proof the latest WIP, and snooze between trips to the vendor area. We look forward to race day as down time we can't manage at home. The racing is just a bonus. After a day filled with eating, chatting with friendly race goers, and good racing, we feel like new people by the time we finally head home.

Now if David Reutimann won, the weekend would be complete.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter 2011

I have always loved Easter. Even if its timing coincides with some pagan rite, I see it as a time to reflect on God and Her relationship with mankind. How wonderful to reaffirm the lesson and promise of the resurrection! It's about living, not dying. The new flowers, the violently green leaves unfurling hourly, the fresh scent of rain and warm earth, are all symbols, for me, of the unbroken link binding us to the Infinite Good.

So much for theology. Peeps rock, as do the bags of jelly beans. May your Easter be joyous and chocolate-stuffed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crossfire - Dick Francis' Last Book?

Downloaded Crossfire last night and started reading before I went to bed. It is okay, but not yet the typical enthralling Francis read. To be clear about where I'm coming from, I have not only read every Francis novel in print, I've analyzed some of them down to the last sentence. The man wrote, as I've said before, the ultimate honorable hero. His pacing, characterizations, plotting, and details are the work of a master.

I awoke in the middle of the night, knowing what is missing. Those little details that show, and don't tell, the reader are in short supply. There's a scene in an office, and I remember how Francis has used that same device before, and the room's furnishings tell us what kind of people work here. Is the desk chair a worn, comfy leather armchair, or is a new Ikea utilitarian model? He would, with a few minor details, show us what our hero is facing in breaching this inner sanctum. Not so in Crossfire. The hero enters the office, does his snooping, and discovers instantly what he wants to know. So much for layering the story.

A Francis hero would never admit to casual sex and one night stands on a wholesale basis. Never. But Tom Forsyth, hero of Crossfire, does. This should have been a red flare for the book's editor that Dick Francis' name didn't belong on this book. Because if the venerated and venerable Mr. Francis had anything to do with this book, beyond maybe agreeing to its publication before he passed away at age 90, I'm Angelina Jolie. It's fine by me if his son Felix, whose name is on the book along with that of his father, writes mysteries. But do so without dragging your father into the mix.

I feel cheated. Betrayed. And angry with Penguin Putnam. Shame on them for using their esteemed author, Mr. Francis senior, in such a way. Felix can make it, I'm sure, because of his last name, for a while longer. But it's pretty clear he's not his father.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hot Day

Everyone seems to have the urge to get outside and do his or her thing. I planted at least fifty new day lilies, Virginia spider wort, and lamb's ear, and I'm about to tackle a raised garden. I have no idea why I've become so industrious, but I think it has to do with a long,cold, dreary winter. Our 19 year old cat was stalking, at a very dignified pace, an imaginary and very slow bird around the back yard while I was busy with my spade this morning. I realized he, like me, felt the need to stretch muscles too long restricted by heavy coats and hands swathed in mittens. His muscles have been draped over every heating vent in the house for nine months.

The dog wants to romp 24-7, despite the gumballs still littering the back yard. I dream of sleeping in the gazebo, and I HATE camping out. Even the gnats aren't driving me crazy, yet. This industriousness gives me a chance to think about my WIP, without that blamed cursor nagging me to get writing. Some of my best work grows out of new plants in the yard and the physical labor it took to put them there.

Monday, April 18, 2011


It must be spring, because I'm on an organizing kick. The garage and shed were easy - most of the stuff we've been tripping over went to the dump. The bad thing about going to the dump is that other people are tossing away perfectly good junk, and I have to be held back from diving into the pile to drag it out and save it from the landfill. Because if I do, it goes home to the shed or the garage, and we've wasted a perfectly lovely weekend.

Then there are the closets. The fav shoes the puppy, who is no longer a puppy, chewed but I still love them. Gone. The sweaters I haven't worn in two winters because they're too warm and at my stage of life, I'm never cold. I like this being warm thing during the winter. In the South in the summer, not so much, which means those summer outfits that trap sweat get a new home at Goodwill, too.

And finally, I bought new Levalors for the upstairs windows. Fresh, no dust, no sun-fading. Only problem is, the new ones are thicker than the discards, and that means new curtain rods. Once upon a time, I had some that would work with the new shades, but. . . Oh,yeah. I tossed them during some spring cleaning a while ago.

Okay, I'll let my beloved keep some of the garage junk he says he might need "someday."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Restrictor Plate Racing

For those of you who are NASCAR fans, you all understand what a restrictor plate does. It slows the cars down, quite a bit. Talladega and Daytona are the two restrictor plate races, and the powers-that-be have throttled back the cars to keep them below 200 MPH. What does this have to do with writing, you ask.

A ton of stuff works to slow down writers. Real life work, family obligations, grocery shopping, yard work, cleaning out the closets, cooking, clean kitchen floors, I could go on and on and on. Our Talladega is probably any holiday, from Thanksgiving to Christmas to cupcakes for the third grade. Women get the restrictor plate big time if they're caring for kids. So how do we keep ourselves in the race?

It's easy and a bit glib to say " Ignore it all. Let the floors get sticky." As women, we just can't punch through all the restrictor plates that would keep us from getting to the work in progress. The only way I know to do it, is just do it. Tell everyone you are at your computer and you won't answer the phone or any calls for "Mom!" unless there's arterial blood. Give yourself at least four hours a week all by yourself to write. You should be able to knock out at least ten pages in four hours, and if you can't, don't sweat it. The point is, those hours are sacred and inviolate, and you use them however you can to get the book running flat out.

The crazy closets will be there, the cupcakes can be bought at the store, and someone else can cook dinner one night a week. Take off that restrictor plate on a weekly basis for just a few hours, and you'll find your book will, finally, get finished.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Movie Night

My beloved and I have promised each other we'll go to the movies at least one night a week. By happy circumstance, we discovered that Thursday nights we can get an almost private showing of any film, and we're really enjoying it. Since we're usually alone in the theater, we can talk to each other through the screening. Yes, we're those kind of annoying people. But only when there's no one to be bothered.

The movies we're seeing may not win awards or even get good reviews, but we're the type of people who can come up with a good point about anything. Even if we're discussing how the plot veered from the Hero's Journey (ah, Joseph Campbell, how you changed the landscape for writers!)or how the hand-held camera made us dizzy, we have fun. As a writer, I'm always amazed how much visual storytelling can take shortcuts that writers can't. And when my husband complains that a movie chops out too much from a favorite book, I remind him that a 120 page script can't include everything in a 400 page novel. He always brings up a good point, that in a movie you don't have to explain everything, while a novel, especially a mystery, must.

Writer friends of mine build thick notebooks, complete with pictures of movie stars who resemble their characters, to visualize their plots. I'm not like that. I can't see anyone but the character in my head, and that character never looks like anyone but that person. Even their names come with them. That's why I'm amazed at films that cast actors to personify a fictional character. What a talent that is, to pick the right person to bring a role to life. I'm in awe. Mine come to me full blown, which is by far the easier task.

It's a good thing I work with the written word.

Friday, April 08, 2011

VMFA talk on artists marketing themselves

Spent an interesting hour listening to a talk on how artists can get themselves and their work "out there." Many of the tips apply to both visual and print artists. The most important is to believe in yourself. The second is to seek the money. The artist who provides quality, beautiful,and moving work certainly deserves to be paid. Unfortunately, in publishing as in art, the author is the least compensated in most cases. Refuse to accept less than your work is worth. Picasso certainly knew how to go where the money was. And why not?

As with writers, it was recommended that that you have an artist statement. For a writer, this is your theme. What one sentence describes this work? What do you want the person seeing/reading your piece to take away from it? To learn from it? To feel from it? To sense and see in it? Have a friend who won't accept a glib answer pose these questions and write down your answers after your friend does a follow up. Make this as in depth as you can.

Ask yourself how this work differs from your other work, if it does. Why is it better? Give yourself props for growing as an artist and let those who hold the purse strings know you are even better today than you were yesterday. Analyze your art objectively and present it with artist words that cut to the heart of the work.

Don't forget to praise yourself. Art is hard work. Be proud of your accomplishments.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Gettysburg Address

Sometimes shorter is better. I'm watching Ken Burn's magnificent Civil War program, and was reminded that Lincoln thought the speech was a flop. Although newspapers of the time ridiculed Lincoln's two minutes on the stage, the speaker who preceded him, Edward Everett, who went on for two hours, recognized what Lincoln had done. Praising Lincoln, Everett said Lincoln had, in two minutes, captured what he, Everett, had failed to do in two hours. Lincoln knew the power of words better than most. Why he doubted the effect of his Gettysburg Address is astounding.

Lincoln reminds me that each and every syllable matters. Longer isn't always the way to go. The best ideas can and should be boiled down to their essence, to the finest attenuation we can give them. Let them shine, sparkle, and glitter, and not lose themselves in fluff and feathers.

Think of me fighting the fluff and feathers. It's an ongoing battle.

Monday, April 04, 2011


I love figures of speech. Think of the visual possibilities of that phrase. Idioms. Colloquialisms. Regionalisms. Slang. All of those bits and pieces of everyday conversation that we accept as a matter of course define our background, our region of the country, our age. Cool. Boffo. Super. Sick. Rockin'. Neat. If I list many more, I'll be showing my age. As a matter of fact, these phrases show the age of books in which they're used as well.

I was reading a super funny book with a little boy I'm helping with his reading, and some of the "cool" kid dialogue was totally foreign to this very hip kid because its publication date was long before he was born. I had to explain what the terms meant. Not sure I did a very good job, because explaining idioms is like giving words to something you just KNOW. It made me think, however, that using the lingo that's in style and the hottest at the time you write your book isn't exactly a great idea. Language goes in and out of style as swiftly as shoulder pads and glittery lapels for women's suits.

Anyone remember The Little Colonel books for children? I rest my case . . .

Friday, April 01, 2011


My beloved and I celebrated our wedding anniversary today by heading to the VMFA Picasso exhibit. The crowd on a Thursday morning was incredible, and if you plan on going, go early. While not a big Picasso fan, I was fascinated by the creative process as displayed by the curators. A well-designed exhibit, cohesive and illuminating, it teaches as it entertains. I don't think Picasso liked women very much, which makes me wonder why women were attracted to him.

Famous men seem, on the average, to be h$&l on women and their families. Genius is no excuse for cruelty and neglect. Thank the good Lord for men who love without conflict or selfishness. My gem of a husband is both a good man and a wonderful father. We were blessed to find each other. I wouldn't trade him for ten Picassos.