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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Great Barrette Chase

I was cruising through the mall this morning, checking off errands like, er, er, well I don't know what checking off errands could be like, but I was getting them all done.  I had only one task left:  to find a couple of long barrettes. 

You see, aseveral months ago, I decided to grow out my hair, and now it's grown out.  I know that for someone like me who can't do anything with her hair, that seems counter-intuitive.  It seems like short hair would be easier and more consistant to maintain, but if you have short hair, you have to do things like blow it dry and keep it cut.  These are beyond my state of motivation.  I've been very happy letting the tresses get long, and it's currently brushing my shoulders.  For a while I worried that it was unsuitable for a woman of my, well, let's face it, of my years.  You can say what you like about not caring what other people think, but I don't think any of us wants to look stupid.  At least, I don't.  Then on our way to Disney World, I saw a woman with snow white hair who had tucked up in back with a flat, red double bow.  It looked like a barrette, and I stopped to talk to her to make sure it was.  Even I can twist up my hair and snap on a barrette.  She had her hair up neatly, and it looked perfectly appropriate.

Shortly after that, I was at the mall and stopped at the hair accessory kiosk.  I think I wrote about how the nice woman there showed me elegant things I could do with my hair.  If I didn't, I should have.  She spent a lot of time with me, and I ended up with two ways that I could ("could" being the operative word here) fix it.  I bought a beautiful Swarovsky crysal barrette from her to wear with my blue suit to David's wedding.  It is quite sparkly and gorgeous, but her barrettes aren't for everyday use.  When I was at the grocery store, I bought gel to tame the wisps, but there were no barettes big enough there.  That leaves me with one faux tortoishell barrette and one with a gray fabric bow on it. 

Do you have any idea how difficult barrettes are to find?  Claire's didn't have any.  Icing had the gray fabric one, and the drugstores have the tortoishell ones -- these are the same ones I used 40 years ago.  That's it.  How boring is that?  Somehow in my head I had the image of a silver-tone filigree one and, maybe, a gray one with a black line desing on it.  Where do these ideas come from?

From now on you can think of my, like Diogenes with his lantern, searching, searching through the stores for for intersting barrettes.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Buffy Saves Retiree

Those of you who know me know that I am a big Sci. Fi. freak. Yes, I like my reading and viewing to be as far divorced from reality as possible. Christmas night  Steve was flipping through the channels when he came across a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon.  We hit record and settled in to watch a couple of the episodes. The rest we are meeting out to last at least until the new TV season begins.
Tonight was Graduation. Buffy has put Faith in the hospital with a coma, Angel has survived poisoning by feasting on Buffy's blood, and the mayor (who is germaphobic, drinks milk and doesn't swear) gives a good bit of his speech at high school graduation before transforming into an enormous, flesh-eating monster. Best of all is Buffy and Giles blow up the mayor/monster by blowing up Sunnyvale high. Ye who are not devotees, mock not – this is High Art.
Yes, Buffy, you saved us, not from blood-sucking vampires and immortal fiends but from our boredom, our lethargy (well, we're still sitting like blobs in front of the TV, but we're enthusiastic about it), our ennui. This is equal to Greek drama at its best: the pathos, the cultural references, the sly humor.
In my mind, will I ever be older (read "more mature") than 18, empowered and strong, slaying monsters with a flick of a spike-filled hand? No, I don't suppose I will.

Friday, December 24, 2010

And the Filk Goes On

Because I always include my furry friends in my Christmas celebrations:

Deck the halls with little 'Lanie,
       Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Time to be a little zany,
       Fa la la la la, la la la la,

Don we now our lace and satin,
       Fa la la, La la la, La, La, La,
Time to let the Christmas Cat(s) in,
       Fa la la la la, La la la la.

Deck the halls with Merl and Smedly,
       Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Time to sing our Christmas medly
       Fa la la la la, la la la la

Deck the halls with Merl and Baby,         (Yes, there have been many cats.)
       Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Time to go a little crazy,
       Fa la la la la, la la la la,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Perfect Date

Everyone was pretty exhausted by our last evening at Disney. There were few ambitions left to fulfill. Suzie still wanted to ride Thunder Mountain; Alan had been asking for the Winnie the Pooh ride for three days. Steve and I agreed that one child was easy whereas coordinating two children on divergent developmental levels was, well, disastrous, so after clearing it with their Mom and Dad (you can guess how much arm-twisting that took since it meant they got the night to themselves), off Steve and Suzie went for an evening of stomach-turning fun. I spent half an hour waking Alan up from his nap, and then we outlined our big evening.
A still groggy little boy waited pretty patiently with me for a bus that took 15 minutes to come, and we were off to the Magic Kingdom. He walked into the park, asking to be carried but not fussing when I said no.  Once there, he climbed in the Disney stroller, and it was comfortable fun to be able to stop without losing an entire party so I could hear what he had to say or to look at Cinderella's castle, lavender lit with silver tinsel lights adorning the spires, whatever he wanted to do.
I nabbed fast passes for the Pooh ride, and we shared some ice cream – his preference, chocolate swirl. The Dumbo ride had a long wait, but all Alan really wanted to do was play with the matching three-part clowns that cornered the line. We simply let people pass us by as we made funny combinations and then climbed out over the chain and rode on the carousel. Some people (okay, one little girl next to us) are disappointed when they have to ride the small, center horse, but guess what? When you ride inside of the ring, you can see yourself in the central mirror! We watched ourselves laugh as we circled.
Next we headed over to Pooh, but the attendant said we had to wait out the five minutes until our fast pass was good. She was nice enough, however, point out that in the regular line there were several play items, and we spent our time happily making Pooh's vegetables squeak, drumming on watermelons and turning a wheel that made red balls go poppity-pop.
Unfortunately, the ride itself wasn't as much fun as the pre-ride play. We climbed into our honey pots with happy anticipation, but the focus was Pooh's nightmare about heffalumps. It involved sharp turns and jiggly bumpswhich would have been okay by themselves, but which were accompanied by large, close bright graphics that burst up in front of you and swirled and turned. On the whole, it scared Alan and assaulted my eyes.

Back into the night, the park was jammed, and lots of lights and music jabbed through the dark. I felt both of us had had about as much as we could stand. There were two important elements of our evening left, though. We stopped at the Disney Emporium to pick out a present. Nothing matches seeing a little boy's eyes light up as he tightly clasps his first light saber! From there, we hiked to the bus for which, luckily, we had to wait only five minutes.
For the final item on the agenda, we returned to the resort, stopping at the restaurant for take-out. We walked back to the room where we had a picnic (hot dog and fries in a sand bucket for him; roast beef/blue cheese chiabatta for me) ON THE BED (oooh!) while we watched Toy Story on TV.

I had a grand time.  It was exactly my idea of a wonderful evening (well, except for that damned Winnie the Pooh ride).  However, it is a bit disquieting that, on reflection, I find that my perfect date is a three-year-old.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Days

Here is my idea for a scientific experiment.  Take everyone's blood pressure as they deplane and get on the bus for Disney World.  Take it again, inside the park, after two days.  My hyposthesis is that the average (not the mean) blood pressure will have gone down by 10 points.  Sure, there'll be the grouch or two who spends the days alternately controlling and yelling at their children, but I bet that on the whole, people are just relaxed and happier than usual.  I'm telling ya, Walt was a genius.

PS  Would you cave and guy a granddaugter a two zillion piece "Polly Pockets" set of Jasmine with fifteen outfits?  If it included four pairs of teeny-tiny shoes?  I hope she decides something else is as good, but if not, well, I suppose cave I will.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Something to Crow About?

I guess crows don't migrate for the winter, or maybe there's a small flock that is particularly attached to our area. They are big, fine fellows with shiny, ebony feathers showing iridescent blue in the sunlight. They arrive every morning looking for worms (or truffles, who knows?) around the dogwood trees in our front yard. They are extremely polite and caw good morning to me.  I ask them how they are, and we have a little conversation as I go to pick up the newspaper at the curb.
Two summers ago, there was a raucous cawing outside our dining room.  It went on and on – for so long that I eventually walked over to peek out the window. There must have been 50 crows in one tree in the copse next to our house, screaming away for a good half hour. When they finally flew away, I went out to take a look. There was a dead crow under the tree. They had been mourning their comrade. Okay, I know that sounds unrealistic, but dozens of crows; little, dead crow body; loud, persistent calling? Shamanism teaches that Crow is the gateway to the supernatural, and that scene makes you wonder, doesn't it?  In any case, I am always careful to greet the crows politely. I think we can agree that this shows that not only will I be a crazy old woman with many cats, I will be a crazy old woman who talks to birds.
Not that I have multiple cats now. Elaine won't put up with that, plus, once she departs for that warm fireside in the sky, I will take a few years off from cat-owning to travel without worrying about pet care. I've owned a cat since I was three (the dear, departed Tawny). That's 60 years of cat ownership, and I believe I'm due to take a few years off until my major travel days are over. However, at 15 1/2, Elaine doesn't show any signs of slowing down. A temperamental calico, she goes in and out as she pleases, bullies my husband into feeding her too often and generally gets what her own way.  (Hmmm, that sounds suspiciously like my mother.) In order to keep Elaine content, I give her catnip, pet her and filk her songs like the following.

'Lanie you're a big girl, funny girl, furry girl,
You're gonna be a nice cat one day.
You got milk on your face!
A big disgrace!
No one ever put you back into your place.
We will, we will, rock you, *ow!* rock you *ow!*          <-- gasp resulting from being scratche
We will, we will, rock you!                                                    while trying to rock the cat

You may think that I feel breast-swelling pride at such poetic splendor, but I assure you,  *hangs head modestly*  it's nothing to crow about.

Friday, December 10, 2010

(A Small Percentage of) My Kingdom For a Dress

My son is getting married.  Great happiness and joy!  Yes, there's a young woman out there willing to take on my son.  This means I need something to wear to the wedding.  I've got three months to go, so this seemed like a good time to begin the torment, um, to begin looking. It's going to be a morning wedding at the end of March in North Carolina. This defines the choices nicely: not a long gown, something with a jacket to because the weather will be absolutely unpredictable. Dana's colors are light blue and, well, light blue. (She talked about having daffodils on the tables, too, but have you SEEN me in yellow? No, you haven't, and with good reason.) So I'm looking for something in blue or, if needs be, purple because I know that if I'm looking for something in blue, there will be nothing in blue.
I went to the spiffy stores first because this is an important occasion, and I am not going to be afraid to spend some money on it. Neiman Markus was a bust: there were long gowns for fancy soirees and short (very, very short – although, hmmm, not as short as I wore in the early 70s)) gowns for the young. There was one sleeveless dress that the saleswoman tried to pretend would coordinate with a bulky, dark blue, spangly jacket-- yuck -- and some severe suits -- bleh.
On to Sax Fifth Avenue. Most of their gowns were strapless or one shouldered so even shortened, they wouldn't work. There were two nice Kay Unger jacket dresses, the right length and, well, with jackets, but the colors were all wrong. It's still before Christmas, and the saleswoman told me to try again in January when the spring line came in with lighter hues. One possibility.
On my way out, I walked through the designer section. Glowing at me from a hanger was a Lila Rose V-neck silk in watercolor blues with an inverted pleat in the front. Lovely. Perfect. $1,295. Are you kidding me? $1,295? I know it's not everyone, but personally I would far rather (if this were the choice, which it's not) give Dana and David $1,100 or contribute $1,100 to the wedding and have a nice $200 dress. Hey, folks, a $200 dress is not chicken feed; it's not chopped liver, you know what I'm sayin'? It's a DRESS! Not only that, it's a dress I'M going to wear which means the possibility – no, the likelihood -- of tearing and staining. I'm not afraid to spend a little money on this dress, but there's no way I'm going to spend $1,295, not while I'm in my right mind.
I was going to try Nordstroms, but that would mean navigating Tyson's during the business lunch hour. I have to be far more desperate than I am here in December to face that. Instead I drove through Vienna and stopped at White Swan Bridal. I have a soft spot in my heart for the White Swan because when theat crummy and here-to-remain-nameless bridal store took the money for my daughter's wedding gown and then forgot about us, the White Swan did the alterations quickly and beautifully, working around the beading and even having the idea of putting two of the beautiful appliqués on her shoes. They had a wide selection of mother-of-the-bride (which I assume were also of-the-groom) dresses. All of them were floor length but could be shortened, and several had jackets. One was a dark blue sheath with a jacket that sported a low, ruffled neckline. It looked great on me, even smoothed out my tummy, but I'd be obligated to pay for it before ordering it, have it shortened and then hope it lived up to expectations. I wouldn't mind spending $500 on a dress (although alterations on top of that would hurt), but I'm leery of ordering one somewhat blind. Then, dresses from a bridal shop take from four to six months to com ein, although the girl assured me this one would come faster. Think about that: there are people who decide on and order their dress SIX MONTHS in advance? Who are these people? And what universe do they live in?
In one final splurge of energy, I drove over to Fair Oaks Mall and went to Lord and Taylor. Good old Lord and Taylor, where, ten years ago, in the last moments of panic I found an ensemble (I want to say "outfit," but, really, "ensemble" sound far chic-er, don't you think?) for Stephanie's wedding. I tried on a deep, pale blue (if that makes sense) faux-silk suit. It has a slight sheen to it, an A-line, knee length skirt. The jacket had a scooped neckline with panels rather like ruffles that aren't ruffles around the neck. Half price sale! Three months out, and dress anxiety is gone. I am free!

Oof, now I need a pair of heels.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

3D: Don't Don the Device

Steve and I took Suzannah and Alan to see Megamind over Thanksgiving. only showing available between nap and dinner was in 3D. The result is that Steve and Stephanie wore cool black glasses and saw it in 3D. Alan and I saw it blurry.
I hate 3D. It's okay when the figures are in perspective on the surface of the screen and recede into the background, but when they are hanging in the air in front of my face, it makes me nauseous. I know many people love 3D, but many others feel as I do. It doesn't seem to have to do with age (thank goodness. One less thing to chalk up to that.). My guess is that it has something to do with depth perception.
A young friend of mine said that it was like the establishment of color in TV and movies. That people will grow to love it. Balderdash, I say. Bah! I remember when color was new in both the movies and on TV, and everyone was delighted and enthralled. This is less about seeing things realistically and more about having them occur hanging mid-air with no floor and no gravity. There is nothing realistic about having a huge space ship (say from Avatar) poking you in the face.
Alan, also, does not like 3D. He believes it is too scary for him. I ask, "Is it too scary for little Alan?"
"No! I a big boy! It is too scary for big Alan," he declares. Yet those black glasses belonged to him, and he wasn't giving them over.
""Do you want to try putting them on?"
No, his head shakes emphatically.
"Do you want me to take care of them?"
"No! They mine." They stayed gripped in his sticky little hands for an hour and a half.

Of course, I resent paying $4 more for a device I don't want to see an effect I don't like.  But to have Alan sing along with the songs ("It's Beiber!"), and to see he and Suzie run to the front of the theater to dance wildly through the closing music, that's priceless

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Austin and -- Well, Just Austin

My friend Austin Comacho was of invaluable help to me in writing my own book, showing me how to manage my time which, as you know, is an entirely slippery thing. Austin is the successful author of the Hannibal Jones mystery series and the Morgan Stark action series. Some of his books are commercially published, and some are self published. I wondered why he continues self publishing, why he finds it so gratifying. His response was as interesting and upbeat as Austin himself, so I thought I'd share it with you on today's Blog. You can find all his book on his web site:   http://www.ascamacho.com/ Thank you, Austin!

The Joy (?) of Self Publishing

I am fortunate to have broader publishing experience than most authors. I’ve had novels published by Print On Demand companies, and published my own work. I am also published by a mainstream small press. People often ask me why, if I’ve managed to snag a main-stream publisher, I continue to self publish. What, they ask, could the benefits be?

Well for me the advantages are financial and emotional. When you self publish you don’t share the profits with a publisher so you can make a real profit on even a small number of books sold. Also, you own all the rights to your books and can sell them to anyone who wants to publish you in print, electronically, overseas or in audio.

Just as important to me is the total control I have. I choose the cover, the back cover copy, the interior design, the font… everything about the physical product. I like the feel of really owning my books.

Of course I face all the obstacles every author faces: getting my book noticed in the crowded field of genre fiction, getting booksellers to stock them, getting reviewed and building my name.

But I face some barriers that mainstream authors don’t. It is very hard for self-published and POD authors to get distribution, one thing that’s a given for mainstream authors. It is also much harder for us to get reviews in major papers and magazines. And we’re shut out of many of the most prestigious awards. For example, I’m not eligible for the Edgar awards, regardless of the quality of my writing, because the Mystery Writers of America don’t recognize me as a published author. Only books published by a short list of publishers qualify. My small press publisher, Echelon Press, has more than 100 authors, pays an advance and works with several distributors, but it’s not on the MWA’s list.

And no one else is trying to get my books into readers’ hands. I spend a good deal of my free time marketing my fiction. Most weekends I’m someplace signing books. That’s because I’ve learned that people want to take away a piece of the author with them when they leave and, for me, personal appearances are fun and profitable.

. I view my writing as my hobby and I don’t think I spend more time on it than a lot of other fellows spend on fishing, bowling, golf or role-playing games.

But authors often say to me, “I want to spend my time telling stories, not selling books.” Hey, me too. But I’ve spoken to a number of commercially published writers and what I learned from them has changed my view of this business. Most mystery authors are expected to “drop” a novel a year. This all makes good marketing sense. Nothing drives the sales of a first book as much as the publication of a second or third novel. Publishers give these authors a set schedule that only leaves four months for writing and another four months for the editing process.

What I find most interesting is that these writers are expected to spend the same amount of time, four months out of the year, on a circuit of book signings, conference appearances, and television/radio interviews. In other words, they are expected to spend as much time marketing their books as writing them. I looked at that model and decided that if it’s so popular among the big publishers, there must be something to it. I now spend roughly as much time on marketing as I do on writing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding. And I’ve found a lot of it to be great fun.

Most of what I’ve learned is compiles in my book “Successfully Marketing Your Fiction in the 21st Century” - http://www.amazon.com/Successfully-Marketing-Your-Novel-Century/dp/0976218186/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1290786461&sr=8-14