Writers of the world. . . meet me in San Antonio

toenailsI got a pedicure Thursday and now look down at bright coral toenails that don’t look a bit like mine.   During that hour of pampering, I discovered my feet are a great deal more ticklish than I’d realized.   Everyone in the shop was laughing with me because–for a few minutes–I couldn’t stop.

Why did I have this, only my second pedicure?  Because I’m leaving for RWA  2014the national conference of Romance Writers of America today where I’ll join 2,000 of my best friends in San Antonio.  Probably half the writers in Texas and many from the rest of the US plus members from Canada and Europe and Australia and other places will gather there for days of networking, workshops, greeting old friends and making more.  I’ll be participating in two signings, several parties and will be “doing” breakfast and dinners with friends I’ve known through RWA for fifteen years or more.  What rwa book signingfun!

When I went to my first RWA conference in 1995, I entered the ballroom for the book signing.  Saw rows of tables, hundreds of writer with their books stacked in front of them  and hoards of readers  wandering through.  At that time, I vowed, “I’m going to be here someday.”  Six years later, I was.   After ten books, it’s still fun.

I’ve rested up for this and have nap time scheduled so I won’t wear out before I have to drive home, but I’m ready!   Just have to pack, take the kitties to the spa, and take off!

Hope you all have a wonderful week.  Hope to see some of you in San Antonio.

 

The definition of insanity . . .

noisy neighbor 2Some of you may remember my postings on Facebook nearly a year ago about the new and very noisy neighbors upstairs.  We lived in this apartment for six years with no problem with the family upstairs.    A few months after George died, that family left and the cacophonous family with enormous horse feet moved in above us.  For a few months, I joked about this on FB.  Then, working with the manager of the complex, I thought the problem was solved.  I even took them cupcakes to thank the two boys (ages seven and nine, probably) for being so cooperative.   I even signed a lease for another year because I’d thought the problem was sloved and I’ve always heard, “Don’t make a big decision like moving within a year of the death of a husband.”

The noise started again exactly two days after the lease took effects:  a kickball game with the two sons and their very large cousin.    I complained, the parents told the manager they paid rent and could do whatever they wanted in their apartment.  Other tenants told me they referred to me as “the ** * * * downstairs.”

I didn’t believe I could leave.   The cost of breaking the lease and moving was more than I could afford.   Also, my health wasn’t good enough for me to consider moving.  Moving is my least, least, least favorite thing in the world other than people who put nuts in fudge.

In May, the management moved the family to another apartment. Peace, blessed peace, reigned for three weeks.  Then another family moved in with a sweet little girl and an eleven-year-old boy who has springs on his feet, a living, constantly in motion pogo stick.   This time, I addressed the problem immediately.   On the second evening of broomcontinuous thud, bang, thump,  I pounded on the ceiling with a broom–a signal the preceding family ignored.   Within seconds, I heard a knock on the door.  It was the father, a young, tall and muscular young man.

First, he lied to me, said they were all watching a movie when I pounded on the ceiling.  Yes,  I pound on the ceiling because I’m attempting to build my upper-body strength.   Then the husband attempted to intimidate me.  He leaned over me, obviously much stronger and healthier than I.   He said he liked his kids to be rowdy and didn’t care about me.  Then he said, “If you think there’s a lot of noise now . . . ”  He stopped and glared at me.  I took that as a threat that I’d better shut up or he’d join in the running and jumping.

definition of insanity 2I was hysterical, a little crazy.  Went into my apartment and shook.  Then, I experienced enlightenment.   “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Those people upstairs were never going to be quiet.  Never.   They wouldn’t change but I could.

The next day I started looking for a place in an independent living center.  My criteria were   1)  pet friendly   2)  swimming pool    3) Cat-tree affordable.

The next week, I found one.   I’ll be going from a three-bedroom apartment (or, as our friend Ron always said, “A one-bedroom, two-study apartment”) to a one bedroom with heated pool and accepting of the cats.    The Salvation Army is going to haul of some furniture off in August and friends are coming to help sort and pack and carry to Goodwill or the dumpster.   I move in early September.  Yes, it will cost.    I’ve blogged on the fact that I’m very, very cheap and paying to break the lease is painful.  However, I decided my mental/physical  health and my ability to write come first.  It’s difficult to be creative when there’s a kid overhead wearing cement blocks on his feet and doing jumping jacks.

One of the best parts:  the apartment is only three minutes from church.

That’s what I’ve been doing for two weeks:  making changes and writing novels.   I’m happy and optimistic.

Any experiences you’d like to share about your neighbors?  I hope they are all good.

Vanity, thy name is Jane

strawberry blondI was a strawberry blonde for twenty years and loved it.  People called me the redhead and I loved that as well.   However, a few years after I passed forty, I decided it was time to go back to my real color, whatever that was.  I’d had boring light brown hair before I became a redhead.  My thought was I needed to know what my real color was now and how much gray I had and I should do this while I still looked pretty good.  I figured the older I got, the more I might fight old lady with red hairlooking old, the more I might want to cling to my red hair and rapidly vanishing youth.  Didn’t want to become one of those elderly women with pink hair and heavily rouged cheeks who wore white go-go boots.

I figured my hair had darkened over the years so I bought a box of dark brown hair dye and, over the weekend, went back to brown.

The reaction was funny.  If you know thirteen-year-olds, you’ll understand this.  When I walked into my eighth-grade Spanish class, the students didn’t look at my face.  Their mouths dropped open and their eyes were riveted to my hair for the entire fifty minutes.  Usually noisy and chatty, they were silent–aghast or horrified.

My friends said, “You had such beautiful hair.  Why did you dye it brown?”   I was amazed they believed my hair was natural.  For goodness sakes, I have brown eyes!  And there were times that I didn’t get around to coloring it and had half-an-inch of roots showing.  I’d thought everyone knew I wasn’t a natural redhead.

When I became a brunette, I had a little gray which relieved the dark brown my hair had become.   LIttle by little, of course, I got more gray and less brown.   Recently, I’ve felt very washed out because my skin is so pale–perfect for a redhead–and my hair is so white.  I tried bronzer and rouge and darker makeup but none of that helped.

Some people look good with gray hair.  I don’t.George Clooney

I decided to change my hair color, only a little and just around my face .  Truly didn’t want to become a brunette.  People might notice.   I found a temporary hair color that came in what looked like a large mascara wand.  Perfect.  Yesterday I opened the package and brushed the dark brown on the gray around my face, not too much. Merely enough so I didn’t look washed out.  Looked pretty good.

A few hours later, I reached up to touch my hair.   It was hard and had dried in clumps.   When I removed my hand, my fingers were brown.   I rubbed my hair with a Kleenex.  It turned brown.  I ran into the bathroom to look at my hair which had turned a garish russet color.  I no longer looked washed out.  I looked as slutty (hope this word doesn’t offend you but I couldn’t think of another way to say it)  as a woman my age can.   I immediately took a shower and watched the water turn brown.

Fortunately, it all came out.  I do not believe I will try this again.

Have you made any mistakes due to vanity?  I’d love to know.

 

 

Odd things people believe

red houseI watch HGTV shows a lot, especially programs about people looking for a new house.   Several things people have said amaze me because I never realized people thought this way.

1)  THE BATHROOM  In a few shows, people looking through oddly flipped homes find a bathroom next to the kitchen and say with great disgust, “A bathroom next to the kitchen.  That’s horrible.”   Now, I’m not the greatest housekeeper in the world but there is nothing in my bathroom–other than the litter box which I keep very clean–that has disgusting stuff in it.  According to these people, disease emanates from a bathroom and will infect anything prepared in the kitchen, leaving venom and disease on every dish of food.   If that is so, why would having it down the hall from the kitchen make any bathroomdifference?  That miasma of infection would just drift down the hall and–bammo–right into the kitchen and the food.  Might even attack whoever is in the living room and whatever is on the dining room table first.

In another show, a woman said, “I don’t like the toilet next to the shower.” Does she not know which is which?   Did no one teach her how to use a toilet properly or how to get into the shower?

Perhaps there should be no toilets in houses because they’re obviously the source of every illness known to a family.

In addition, I’m very proud of myself.    As mentioned earlier, I’ve never considered myself to be a great housekeeper but my bathrooms are so clean I have no worries about a plague.

2.    A woman looked around the master bedroom of a house she was touring and said, “There’s no place to get dressed.  I don’t like to dress get dressedin the same place I sleep.”   What?   I’ve never lived any place where I didn’t dress where we slept unless it was in of those houses where I kept my clothes in a closet in the guest room.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog:  we aren’t all alike.  We have different outlooks and backgrounds and educations and lifestyles and . . . pretty much everythings.    Yes, there are many beliefs and feelings that united us but we’ve approached those through different paths.  Can’t we accept that people and cultures are different and start from there?  I’d never force anyone to live in a house that has a bathroom off the kitchen although I’ve known friends who’ve survived that okay.   But shouldn’t we be able to start with a fact–people like indoor plumbing–and go from there?    We can discuss topics like why people like having bathrooms and where they should be and what’s the problem with a bathroom near the kitchen without calling each other unclean or doo-doo heads.   We learn from each other.  We hear different ideas and can bounce them around in our brains and toss the conversation back and forth without infuriating each other.

The fact that we don’t all think the same is a joy of diversity. I learn from you.   I hope you learn from me and we accept and change or understand why our opinion is the right one for me but not for you.  Sadly, we don’t.  The fact that we refuse to listen to the other person is a loss to all.  The fact that instead of discussing, we call each other names must make George and Ben and John and those who faced great danger to start this nation to sob.

Congratulations, grads!

felicitaciones2Yes, I know I’m late with this but I’m going to a party for a 2014 graduate this afternoon and began to reflect on graduation.

I don’t have good memories of my graduations.   I was one of 428 in high school and sat between two guys I’d never seen before.   I graduated from college in January and didn’t return for the June ceremony.  My friends tell me the speaker was a famous physicist and they didn’t understand a word he said after, “Congratulations.”    Nor did I attend the HUGE ceremony when I received my master’s from the  University of Louisville.  However, I promised I’d attend after I earned my M.Div. in a class of thirty.    Unfortunately, because I’d taken my classes mostly in the summer to complete the degree, no one recognized me in the pictures of the class and identified me as Hilda someone.

However, I’ve attended many more.  As a high school teacher, I always into the futurefelt graduation was a celebration of attainment, meeting the goal.    Many time, I was one of many in the audience.  In Fort Bend County, TX, I always volunteered to escort the class forward.   In other schools, attendance by faculty was required but, again, I never minded that–well, except for the times it was held on the football field and we processed in over wet soil and were attacked by flying insects as well as various pollens that had us scratching and sneezing.

But with every one of those, I felt such pride, both in the completion of all those years of study and in the awareness that young people I’d taught were going out into the world, speaking fluent Spanish, I hoped, or perhaps that they’d find a use for the language.

So to all those who graduated, from Rogene and Becky to Sam and Luke and today to Jon, congratulation and Godspeed.

 

 

My obsession with words

POWer of words aI love words.   I roll them around in my mouth and taste each.    When I hear a new word, it tickles my ears and delights me.   Words carry history with them and emotion.   They are not formed only of letters but of  feelings and experience and much more.

My obsession began when I was in eighth grade.  In English class, the dictionary 2teacher would leave a dictionary on the desk in front of each row so we could look up a word and check spelling while we wrote a theme.   I usually finished my theme early and would spend those extra minutes in that front desk, reading the dictionary, learning new words, savoring them.

No wonder I majored in English and Spanish in college:  new words in two languages.    I loved the study of language, the history of words.  I could go on forever talking about root word, about how, in Spanish, words that began in F centuries ago changed to the letter H.  Consider yourselves lucky that I’m not going to discuss the verb satisfacer and how it’s conjugated.

My favorite word is from Spanish:  carcajada which means a deep belly laugh.    It sounds like what it means and has such beautiful rhythm.

words I loveI understand not all people love words as I do.  When I got excited about a word in Spanish and attempted to explain its origen or uses or something equally fascinating to my classes,  students looked at me as if I were absolutely nuts.   And, yes, I may be.

Do you have a word you like?  Perhaps because of meaning or sound?  Please share that.  I’d love to know and I won’t feel so alone.

 

 

 

 

Blog closed due to the writer’s allergies

child with runny nose 2Last week, I asked on Facebook if people  could stand reading a blog about my lifetime with allergy problems.   There was a fairly strong sentiment against that–a running nose is just too yucky a topic, I imagine.running nose

But before I even came up with an idea for my Tuesday blog, allergies knocked me down.   No one gives people with allergies any sympathy because everyone has them and they are not, for the most runny nose does it ever endpart, terminal conditions.

So I missed blogging this week.  I’ll be back next week.

The Evolution of a Cover

Matchmakers cover 2Readers always ask me if I design my own covers.  A resounding NO on that!

One of the reasons I like traditional  publishing–where a publishing company buys the book and puts it out–is that I prefer writing to all the techie stuff.    With both Steeple Hill and FaithWords, I sent in a cover art sheet on which I made suggestions about scenes for a cover and described the setting and characters.  Then the editors took over, sent the pages to an artist, and she–the editor–worked with the artist.   And, voila, the cover was created.  I was happy with every one of them–except one.

I’ll use my first  published book The Mad Herringtons as an example.   I first contracted with a small, niche publisher in 1999.  The editor had an artistic friend come up with a cover.  The novel took place in England in 1812, during the dazzling Regency period, a time of waltzing, flirting, and house parties on huge estate.  That first cover started with a great idea:  a ball with the couples swirling around the dance floor.   Sadly, however, she had drawn a large chandalier on the ceiling of the ballroom that looked a great deal like an enormous pink spider.  The scene seemed like a horror movie with a mutant creature poised to fall on and consume the dancers.   Wish  I had a picture of this to show you.

That publishing house went bankrupt and I got the right back just as Mad HerringtonsAvalon opened their historical line.   Avalon sold our books to libraries so they were somewhat conservative and very lovely.  The plot took place at a country estate.   Here’s that cover.

A few years ago, I received my rights back from the-mad-herringtons-2Avalon which means I was free to publish this book myself.  It took me a while but I recently got in touch with By the Page.  The nice people there came up with this beautiful cover which will be sold to readers on Kindle, Nook, and most electronic readers.

Did that answer any questions?

My Mom, the Rustler by Diane Perrine Coon

Guest blogging today is George’s favorite sister, Diane, a fabulous historian.  She’s writing about her mother, one of the finest people I’ve ever know.  Thanks for the memories, Diane.

Ollie

My mother was  the most law abiding person I ever met.  This trait went beyond any ethical positions in her beloved nursing career, it went beyond taking the AARP safe driving course every year between 55 and 90 when we took the keys to the car away because her peripheral vision was gone. And it reached beyond using both hand signals and flickers when making turns.

However, Mom was also the biggest rustler I ever met and I think I was the cause of all her lawlessness. One year after I’d moved to Petersons guidePennsylvania, I gave Mom Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Songbirds, and she had my brother build three bird feeders and squirrel guards plus the metal cages to hold suet for the winter birds. She enjoyed the Field Guide so much, I gave her Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Wildflowers the very next holiday. And therein lies trouble, trouble, trouble.

You see, Mom’s property sloped downward in the back toward the creek that flowed through the subdivision. She and Dad had purchased a double lot, about an acre and a half.  She fenced the entire lot so the dogs could run freely and safely. She enjoyed planting flowers and never met a tiny tree she didn’t love, right where it planted itself. So the property was abloom all spring, summer and fall. Although she had a tendency to plant the tall flowers in front of the small flowers so from the road, it was a little strange. But she looked at her birds at the feeders and her flowers from her windows in the house, so it made sense to her.

ollies yard

Back to Peterson and his wildflower guide. Mom’s property had a steep fall away from her garden area down to the creek and it was very shady with old trees – walnuts, oaks, maples, elms. Her decades of theft began on a trip to Cumberland Gap in Kentucky. On the way home, she made Daddy stop five times so she could take a trowel and dig up wildflowers along the trowelroad. She was very well prepared with plastic bags and wet paper towels. It wasn’t until five years later that I came to Kentucky in the Spring; prior years I’d always come at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Proudly Mom showed me the delicate trillium, the snowbells, the jack in the pulpit, the dog-toothed violets, Virginia bluebells, tiny flowering grasses, coral bells, lilies of the lily of the valleyvalley, wild strawberries, and dozens of other gentle splashes of color as the sunlight cascaded through the budding trees.

Oh my God, my Mom had become a wildflower thief. “Mom, this is against the law,” I said quite self-righteously (having just received my 10th point on my New Jersey drivers license for speeding across Princeton.) “No it’s not,” she insisted. “I’m reforesting.” “What?” I said with emphasis. “I’m taking the hillside back to its original Kentucky shade lands.” And then she put her hands on her hips and tilted her head like a sparrow…subject closed.

There in the midst of a subdivision where most of the people poisoned the creek with lawn care pesticides so their lawn could gleam like a golf course, where all the house plantings were carbon copies of each other, where they hung planters of cascading annuals to brighten the flowerbox2greenery, my Mom had recreated God’s natural woodland. So I decided, since I was the one who gave her Peterson’s Field Guide, I’d simply testify to her innate goodness if she was ever arrested for wildflower rustling.

The reason this all came to mind was this week when my daughter said she was starting to look for perennials for the shady part of her property. I almost sent her Peterson’s Guide to Eastern Wildflowers….No, No, No.

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* * *  I need to add to this.  When Ollie (my mother-in-law and Diane and George’s mother) visited us in Missouri in 1968, she did the same thing.  Wherever we took her and Grandpa, she had her trowel and box in the trunk.   She’d make George stop while she leaped out to dig up a plant she’d not seen before.  She wasn’t only reforesting the hillside to its original Kentucky shade lands,  she was also reforesting is back to Missouri shade lands.

Also, by the time she’d lived in that house for forty years, the double lot was covered with live Christmas trees she’d planted every spring.  They’d reached enormous heights .  Other trees filled in.  This meant the interior of the house was very dark and mowing the lawn was like going down a slalom slope, but she was happy and that, really, is what counts.

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