Visitors from Boston

These three beauties arrived from Boston yesterday to become the first Christmas gift at the Reeves hacienda.

To the Campbell's soup tune, altogether now: Ooo-oom good. Ooo-oom good. Boston Lobster is ooo-oom good.

Just back from shopping

Yep, I see them too. Everywhere. And they all make left turns from the far right lane.

Unforgettable Thanksgiving

Greetings from the staff here at Sling Words (meaning me). We had some really cool entertainment Thanksgiving day when my brother Vernon's favorite cow Abigail gave birth. So read along for the story in word and pictures.

This is my older brother Vernon. I made him take off his dark glasses so I could see his eyes. Good sport that he is, he did so. That's why he's squinting. Vernon lives with his wonderful wife Judy and high-schooler son Joshua on a farm in northeast Louisiana. Every few years, we make the trek from southeast Texas to northeast Louisiana to spend the holidays with my brother and his family and my mom who lives in a nearby town.

I'm ashamed to say Judy did all the work of preparing the Thanksgiving feast. I had the easy job of buying napkins and disposable plates, etc. along with some bakery-made desserts. The food was fabulous, and it's always good to be with my mom and Vernon, Judy, and their kids. This year their married son Lafayette who is a sheriff's deputy for the parish had the day off, but his wife Brandi didn't. So he joined us until he had to report for the night shift. (Brandi got to eat leftovers which I'm sure she enjoyed.)

It's always fun walking around the farm and looking at all the animals. In addition to a great dog named Tip and several cats, there are cows, chickens of several varieties, attack geese who squawk in alarm at any stranger, and a pair of peacocks.

Vernon has a cow named Abigail who is more like a pet than a barnyard animal. He pets her, and she follows him around the pasture much as a dog would.

As it turns out, Abigail was pregnant and in labor on Thanksgiving day. We all went out to see about her, and to everyone's surprise, she started to deliver her calf. Her water broke. A short while later, the head appeared. It happened so fast even my brother and his helper, son Josh, were caught by surprise.

Abigail's healthy newborn is a bull which I promptly named TG for Thanksgiving. The miracle of birth on Thanksgiving Day. Wow. Now that's special - and something we'll always remember.

Emotional truth

Affair To Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr was on this morning so my daughter and I took a few minutes out of our busy day to watch THE scene.

I haven't watched the entire film in years, but if I find it's on, I always watch THE scene. Which one is that? It's the one where Cary Grant is at the door leaving, and he's talking about how he painted Deborah Kerr wearing the lace mantilla, or shawl. He couldn't take money for the painting so he told the gallery owner to give it to this young woman who fancied it because she liked it and because she was... you know....

The play of emotions on his face as he's saying this and as he begins putting two and two together to get a possible four is incredible. You are so into the character that you can imagine his thoughts arriving at the impossible conclusion that the woman who was in a wheelchair and who fancied the painting is the same as his beloved who sits on the couch and makes no attempt to go to the door to see him out.

He comes back to the couch, places his coat and hat on it, and walks to the other door in the room. He opens it, sees the painting he'd been describing. That's when he creates another memorable cinematic moment. His face reflects how crushed he is, how his heart is in a vise as he realizes the woman he loves is indeed the woman in the wheelchair who visited the gallery. He's staggered by the certain knowledge and nearly falls against the door.

That is THE scene I can never miss just as I never watch it without tears sliding down my cheeks. It's the greatest of acting because of its truth. Cary Grant is so good in that scene that I forget he's Cary Grant. He is Nicky, the devastated, artist in search of his own truth.

And that is what writers strive to create with the characters we write into existence - a character so true that we are moved to tears by his heartbreak. Each time we put words together, we are searching for our own truth as reflected in the characters we endow with life.

Mom's always right

Things moms say: Don't get your feet wet or you'll catch cold. Get out of those wet clothes before you cach your death. It's cold outside - don't go out there with a wet head or you'll catch a cold.

Well, medical research has proved them right.

I immediately sent this link to my daughter. Feel free to let your children know that Mom (or Dad) is always right.

Self-publish? Moi? Sacre bleu!

I've been cruising blogs as if I have been granted more hours than the usual twenty-four. The good news and the bad news are the same: I've found more great blogs. One I particularly enjoyed Cabbages and Kings belongs to PJ Parrish, a sister writing act. Be sure and read their Advice to Writers - Get Real. It's something every writer should realize.

Since I enjoyed PJ Parrish's blog, I checked out some of the blogs it links to and found POD-DY MOUTH which I clicked on just because of the name. Pod-dy Mouth reviews POD books, revealing the good ones that deserve a reader's money and attention.

I've got to admit the anonymous author, published traditionally by Penguin Putnam, gave me food for thought about the Print On Demand controversy. When I read: I mentioned this to my editor, part as a jab and part as a query. She responded with “Look, I read tons of good stuff, but reject most of it because it just doesn’t move me. If this writer happens to miss the mark with other editors the same way, then her book dies, with no imprints left to submit to. She’s got two choices: self-publish or throw it in the garbage.”

Wow! Like most authors, I've got a few manuscripts like that. They're not in the garbage can, but they do take up sizeable real estate in my file cabinet. Friends needle me every now and then about submitting them again. Though I adore everything about these stories and believe they are good, I just let them gather dust because they are apparently square pegs in a round-hole publishing industry. I've never thought of self-publishing them, other than maybe as a freebie for those who visit my web site, but I just might change my mind.

Any thoughts?

Women: hide now!

Oh, no. I just saw in the newspaper this bit of distressing news. Ruffles are back.

Please, God, say it isn't so.

I look again just to make sure. Yep, there it is in the Dillard's ad, right above the picture of what is probably a fifteen-year-old girl who wears a size 0. Yes, guys, there really are size zeros. The model in the ad weighs maybe 95 pounds and 5 of that is foundation, eye shadow, and mascara. She may look as if she's twenty, but I'm not fooled. I have a daughter who modeled so I know the way that fantasy business works.

Discover the trend, ladies romantic ruffle blouses.

I hate ruffles. I don't think shirts, excuse me, blouses, with a gazillion tiny buttons up to your chin and yards of ruffles hanging from chin to navel, are romantic in any way.

If God had wanted women to wear ruffles, He'd never have let the tee-shirt be invented.

Holly Lisle offers opportunity

If you haven't met or read Holly Lisle who writes the Pocket Full of Words blog then come out from lurk immediately. Holly has more than twenty critically-acclaimed novels to her credit and is one of my must reads since I discovered her via Lynn Viehl.

If you ever wished you could get one on one tutoring from an accomplished author like Holly Lisle, now is your chance because she's auctioning three one-on-one tutoring sessions on EBay.

One Day Auction

Three Day Auction

Seven Day Auction

In the next day or two, she'll add an auction for a manuscript critique.

Hurry to EBay!

Holiday entertainment = college football?

I freely admit I'm not the biggest college football fan in the world. Probably because bowl game days are holidays, and I'm always in the kitchen slicing, dicing, roasting, and baking. Even so, I do have an opinion about college bowl games, and I think it's time to share it with the world. This is something that really bugs me. I think it's abhorrent, and should be felonious, for bowl games to have a corporate sponsor name attached to them.

I grew up with the Orange, Sugar, Cotton, and Rose Bowls. With the exception of the Rose Bowl, the rest don't exist. Why? Because evil corporate empires have slapped their names on them.

It's no longer the Orange Bowl. It's the Fedex Orange Bowl. Same with the Sugar Bowl now the Nokia Sugar Bowl. What was the Hula Bowl is now the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Gator Bowl? Why that's the Toyota Gator Bowl. The good old Cotton Bowl is the SBC Cotton Bowl. My goodness, couldn't the Peach Bowl at least have petitioned Del Monte Canned Peaches to take them on? Instead it's the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. I don't know about you, but chicken and peaches don't mix in my kitchen.

And when did there become 28 bowl games? Yes, that's right. Twenty (ridiculously named) eight bowl games. Who's going to remember who won the EV1.Net Houston Bowl? or the Meineke Car Care Bowl? That one would be far more interesting if mechanics on two teams competed to replace the muffler system on a seventy-three Plymouth Fury. When did car financing create the GMAC Bowl? Do colleges get bragging rights for earning a trip to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl? Is that more prestigious than the Gaylords Hotels Music City Bowl?

I guess I'll stick with the plain old, un-corporatized Rose Bowl until some corporate giant offers them enough money to rename the venerable contest the Viagra Erectile Dysfunction Bowl whose winning bid, by a fraction, beats out the Preparation H Hemorrhoid Bowl.

8 million stories in the Nekkid City

Fodder for the story idea file.

Living in the Houston metropolitan area is like living near any huge metro area. It's just another Naked City. (There's 8 million stories in the Naked City.... Except I grew up saying Nekkid City.)

Hmmm. Let's see what's happening today around Texas.

Baptists elect first black president. Congratulations, Reverend Mister Michael Bell of Fort Worth. Kudos to Texas Baptists.

First African American principal honored. Billy J. Baines, now 77, has been honored by the Fort Bend Independent School District by having a new middle school named for him. How nice! Congratulations, Mr. Baines.

Robert Dale Howell put to death. He's the 18th inmate to die at Huntsville. He was 50; no public campaign was ever waged on his behalf to save him. Apparently all the abolish death penalty groups aren't impartial in their support. They seem to go for the high-profile cases, and this guy had no PR at all attached to him at trial or afterwards. He had killed before and got away with it. Apparently, the only reason his defense could come up with for why he should escape the needle for having killed his crack dealers in a crack house was that "yes, he killed them, but he didn't rob them afterward."

Mother of a Justice of the Peace charged with illegally trying to renew handicapped parking placard. I personally think a handicapped parking placard should be authorized by a doctor's written report and prescription form and should have to be renewed each year. I also think anyone who is not handicapped should NOT have a placard, and anyone who parks in a handicapped slot who is not disabled and has no placard should have each of their tires punctured on the first offense. After that, maybe seize their vehicle and sell it at public auction. Since I have a mom and a brother who are handicapped, I feel very strongly about these scumbags who take handicapped spaces, making disabled people have to park out in the back forty. I'd be willing to volunteer a few hours each week to administer justice. Or simply write tickets if that's the worst the law can throw at them.

Eight people accused of smuggling girls for prostitution. Okay, this has got to stop. I vote for death by bongo on this one.

Work crew finds skull near terminal site. Anthropologist called in. Interesting. This was in an area that is now Port of Houston property on a dead end road. There was a serial killer working the area just to the west and south of there. Several bodies were found in League City from the 1980s on. No one was ever arrested. I remember reading about all those unidentified bodies they found in the field near League City and wondering why no reference was ever made to a serial killer. Finally, about twenty years later, there was a big splash in the Houston Chronicle about serial killers working the Texas area, and it was mentioned.

List of things I'll never understand

I have a new entry for my list of Things I'll Never Understand. I don't care how long I live. I'll never understand how any man or woman can strap on pounds of explosives with the idea of detonating them in a place filled with people and think that by doing so they are committing a righteous, justified act, an act that will eventually bring peace.

Question: How is murdering innocent people, including children, ever justified?

Answer: It is NOT.

When does my flight leave?

I took a Net quiz this morning. I get a ton of these. Some I ignore; some pique my interest. I confess sometimes I play around with the answers to the questions to see what changes the result. Kind of like reading a choose your adventure story and changing the path each time, but I didn't do that today. This quiz was to determine in which city I belong. My answer is below along with a link for you to determine where you should be.

You Belong in Paris

Stylish and a little sassy, you were meant for Paris.
The art, the fashion, the wine, the men!
Whether you're enjoying the cafe life or a beautiful park...
You'll love living in the most chic place on earth.

Now, I have only one quibble with the constant reference to Paris as the most chic place on earth. When I was in Paris, I was disappointed in that I expected to see women and men dressed oh, so stylishly, and that was not the case. They presented a rather mundane appearance. Now I'm talking about the people I saw on the street regardless of the particular district I visited. Since I didn't hang out in the various houses of design, maybe that's where the fashionable people were hiding.

One thing I found very interesting was the condition of the shoes worn by most people. Leather shoes were scuffed, run-down, and generally looked as if they should have been consigned to the trash, but I guess if I walked everywhere as many of them do with some of it on cobblestone, my shoes would age pretty quickly too.

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Hackberry

Do hackberry trees grow other places than Texas and the South? If so, do you homeowners with hackberry trees find yourselves drowning in leaves in the fall?

Actually, I don't believe there is a month of the year that the hackberry isn't shedding something.

In the spring, these squiggly yellow pre-leaves come out. They fall. Then the seeds fall. The trees leaf out, but it takes little, like a quick rise in temp or a drop in rain, and the leaves rain down. Berries are produced. They fall when they're soft and make a mess on the soles of your shoes. Fall comes and the leaves yellow and start dropping again. Any remaining berries have turned into rock-hard nuggets. These get stuck in the treads of sneakers and engender a sharp pain in unwary bare feet. I guess winter is about the only time massive amounts of stuff aren't falling from the trees - if you don't count the twigs and small branches that winter storms send down.

In a previous home, some unintelligent person planted a hackberry tree next to a pool. By the time we bought the house, not knowing what the tree had in store for us, the tree was taller than the two-story French provincial. The tree shed into the pool every month of the year, clogging the automatic pool cleaner, the strainer basket, etc. I was thrilled to sell that house for that reason alone.

In my present home, I have two large hackberry trees in the yard. They're far enough from the house that I don't have to contend with their molting. The only one that is a mild nuisance is the one to the side of the driveway because there's always, well, crap from it on the drive, and in the winter bushels of leaves get blown under the porte cochere and pile up around the door. Since the tree also has lace aphids, a common nuisance for hackberry, one dares not park beneath the tree because sap from the tree, filtered through the aphids digestive system and excreted, makes a sticky mess on anything below it.

Arborists considere hackberry trees as attractive, tough, and almost disease-free. I've read that the wood of the hackberry tree is tough, with excellent resistance to breakage (I question that!). Supposedly hackberry wood of good quality is used for furniture, millwork and athletic equipment with lower grade material used for crating. They're supposed to be one of the most eco-friendly trees in North America because the fruit from them (those darn squishy berries which turn into hard nuggets) are relished by wildlife. The way the tree branches is such that nesting birds like them. When decayed, they even hold up well enough for owls and squirrels to move into them. (Gak! Don't get me started on the squirrel problem around here!)

Hackberries come in male and female variety. I think the one in front of my study window is a male because I don't see as much "droppage" from it, or maybe the large curving bed of Asian jasmine that surrounds it conceals its offerings. The one at the side of the driveway must be female - and a drama queen. It weeps all over the place every month of the year.

Here it is November, and I'm drowning in millions of small, thin hackberry leaves. They never seem to stop falling. I can look up at bare branches one day and think the driveway will now be clean. No more leaves tracked into the house. Hurrah! Then the next morning there will be mounds of mystery leaves. I think Mrs. Hackberry goes into secret leaf production each night in order to maintain her constant output.

Even so, I won't remove these trees because they have a saving grace. They do provide the most splendid filtered shade in the warm months - which here in Texas is just about every month.

Author's name obscured

Here at Sling Words, we're bothered by something and wonder if it's common practice at all WalMarts or if it's just the Wally Worlds near the Reeves hacienda. What's got us slinging angst this fine TGIF? The bar code/price sticker on books at WalMart.

The adhesive label which measures .75" by 2.25" is about the size of a return address label, like the Avery 5160 which I use. This label is slapped right across the top of the cover. Unless the author's name is in a point size equivalent to that used for The mega-sellers like King, Koontz or Roberts, the label does a great job of obscuring the author's name if the name is above the title. If the name is below the title, then the label on many books covers part of the title.

So if you're looking for a particular author's name or a specific title, you have to pull the book from the rack and look at the spine. After unracking about a dozen, this becomes more than a bit annoying. I worry that book buyers who are non-writers and are just looking for a good read they heard about may get exasperated and walk away empty-handed.

The book cover's title and author name should be easily seen. A reader shouldn't have to search for it. Good marketing strategy is always make it easy for buyers to find books, not harder.

I wonder if the other big retailers do this. I'll have to start checking Targets, etc. I also wonder if editors and cover artists are aware of this practice. If so, I think publishers should be asking jobbers to slap their in-house label over the barcode on the back of the book.

Sling Words out.

Bought a western novel today

After meeting western writer Jory Sherman, not in person that is, but by reading his blog, I've looked for his books each time I've gone shopping.

I can see virtual eyebrows everywhere shoot skyward in surprise at this statement because I'm not known as a huge fan of westerns. For this I apologize because the western is our country's only original genre. Mr. Sherman made this point in an entry when he began his blog and also in his most current entry.

So I thought I owed it to western writers, who, like western historical romance authors, are perceived as writing for a dying genre, to buy a western now and again as my small effort to help keep the genre alive.

The book I saw on the racks at Wally World today was The Vigilante with a great quote by Loren Estleman on the cover: "Jory Sherman is a national treasure." The cover of The Vigilante is the kind my husband will love. You see, he is a western fan (Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, Elmer Kelton, et al) though in recent years he hasn't had much time to read for entertainment. He'll be delighted when I finish the book and pass it on to him.

The back cover blurb is a story that could have been ripped from the headlines as they like to say on Law and Order.

"Taken by surprise by two thieves, the husband and wife who owned Del's Roadside Store were tortured until they revealed where they'd hidden the strongbox. Not satisfied with their ill-gotten gains, the robbers turned to murder...

Wiley Pope and Fritz Canby have a history of violent behavior, but they're the sons of two of the most respected - and wealthiest - families in the territory, and the law turns a blind eye to their misdeeds...

Lew Zane doesn't care about the law or the amount of money that tips the scales of justice. All he cares about is that his parents are dead, and their killers roam free. And if the law won't see justice done, then he will...."

And oh! The opening sentence is ... well, fantastic! (I started to say melodic and evotive, but I'm afraid that might scare any male readers away.)

So, we here at Sling Words urge you to rush out and buy this book. You won't regret it because not only will you be supporting an American genre as well as a Pulitzer-nominated author but also you'll get one heck of a good book.

Pass the word.

Neil Diamond lives

Wow! Does he ever. Rush out and get his new album. 12 Songs is available online or in stores today. I heard On To You this morning. It was the kind of song that pulled an emotional response from me. I paused in making my morning coffee and walked over to the television. Instead of the morning news, Neil was singing as guest artist on Today. I was amazed. Everyone had been predicting his new album would be something special, but I figured that was the usual media hype.

Guess what? It's not hype. Based on that one song, I knew I had to have the album. If you shop online, listen to bits of the other songs. You'll want it too.

Way to go, Neil. Well done.

Email scammers are scum of the earth

I'm filled with righteous anger. Normally, all the scam and spam emails do little more than irritate me because the delete button is very easy to use. This time though I received one supposedly from a soldier serving in Iraq who wants to offer me 60% of the 25 million he and another GI liberated.

Now, if you've used email longer than a nano second, you know these scams circle the globe in less time than it takes for a PC to become obsolete. We've all gotten the Nairobi letter etc., but what makes this particularly obnoxious to me is the sender posing as a US soldier.

I'm not naive enough to believe that all GIs are altruistic angels, but I've been around the military enough in my lifetime to believe that most are decent human beings. There are more of them serving in Iraq who believe they are sacrificing for a greater good. It doesn't matter if you believe that or not. They do, and I respect them for their sacrifices.

So, you scum of the earth, don't pick a soldier in an attempt to fleece incredibly naive people of their bucks. In doing so, you malign decent hard-working men and women who are serving their country.

This is real life, not some con man's version of Three Kings. For God's sake, why don't you people grow a conscience?

If you're afraid of snakes, don't look!

They grow 'em big in Texas!

Here's a pretty picture to start your day. If I knew the photographer, I'd certainly give credit for this pic. Couldn't you just see this on a postcard from Texas? Now all you PETA people etc., don't get on my back. I didn't kill this snake. I just received the picture via email from a photographer friend in OKC. This rattler was found recently at the old Turkey Creek gas plant located south of the Alibates Turnoff on Highway 136 south of Fritch, Texas, which is just north of Amarillo.

Yes, there really are rattlesnakes this big in Texas, and there are thousands of them if the annual Rattlesnake Roundup held at Sweetwater is any indication.

We give snakes their due respect and leave them alone, but sometimes snakes and humans interact. The result is never pretty whichever way the battle goes. This particular snake was 9 feet 1 inch long and weighed 97 pounds.

The picture was accompanied by a recipe for Fried Rattlesnake. You know how they say everything exotic tastes like chicken? Well, fried rattlesnake really does - greasy, stringy chicken. Yuk.

Sling Words out.

Judging books by their covers

Still catching up on my blog reading. Paul Guyot who writes Ink Slinger had an interesting blog entry on October 18 entitled Cover Me.

He gives the results from an informal survey he conducted each time he went to book stores. There was no rhyme or reason to which bookstore he visited nor what time or day of the week. Go to his blog to read the details.

The thing I found most interesting was the importance of the cover art in buying decisions. Even when customers looked for specific authors' books, if they didn't like the cover, they wouldn't purchase the book.

This is pretty disheartening when I think of the many good books I've read that have covers that make the author cringe with embarrassment. I'm thinking of a recent book by an author I know that had everything going for it--good story, catchy title, etc. Well, that is, everything except a good cover. The book died a quick, painful death, but the numbers will haunt the author forever.

What's an author to do? Very little unless you have cover approval which most don't. I guess that leaves prayer. Pray the artist and/or art director and/or editor in charge of such all have good taste and have actually read the book and gets it, including a vision of what will sell it.

I probably shouldn't do it, but here's one of my less appealing covers that was on a hardcover reprint of one of my romance novels. The story is a comedy of errors courtship with a very sexy twist, and the main characters are two extremely attractive doctors. My apologies to the artist who probably thought this cover art was splendid, but it doesn't portray anything remotely resembling the screwball comedy story or the physically appealing characters. When I saw the cover, my heart sank about as low as the numbers shown on the subsequent royalty statements.

Sling Words out.