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.