Texas #1! If Football Doesn’t Get You, the Turkey Will

 

Remember when Murphy Brown and her colleagues cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter, and Miles brought in a bunch of live turkeys in his BMW (nobody had specified they were to be ready for the oven, and on arrival the inside of the BMW was not in good shape), and the turkeys ran all around the kitchen, and no one wanted to kill them anyway, and the turkeys refused to stick their heads in the oven so Murphy could turn on the gas (her suggestion)?

I don’t know what happened next. I was laughing at the turkeys and couldn’t pay attention. All I remember is the whole thing slid downhill fast.

Well. It could have been a whole lot worse. To see how, read “When Turkeys Strike Back,” by K. B. Owen, historical mystery writer.

And, Texans, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

 

 

My Gratitude List: 12 Items, Girdles Not Included

Make no mistake:

I am grateful. For my husband, my family, parents who gave me a good start and kept on giving, my home, teachers, education, friends, time to use as I wish, the rights guaranteed to me by the Constitution, the freedom to pursue happiness, good health, and a host of other blessings.

But when I write about blessings, the resulting essay is maudlin, insipid, schmaltzy, and trite.* I just can’t do sincere.*******

So this post is about things not usually seen on Grateful-For lists.To wit:

Coffee shops with enough electrical outlets, appropriately placed, to serve nearly all the people who want to plug in. (There’s no way they could serve all of them.) And that say your car will be towed if it’s parked in their lot for more than three hours but don’t really mean it. (BookPeople. They probably do mean it, but I’ve never been towed. I think it depends on how full the parking lot is.)

 

 President Jimmy Carter signing at BookPeople.

 

Everywhere that provides free Wi-Fi.

   amw logo - roundCoffee shops that allow a critique group to sit around a table and discuss manuscripts, and moan about how hard writing is, and what their kids and their cats are up to, and what their dysfunctional families are up to, and that don’t mind when one member reads aloud a scene involving torture and murder** because both staff and other customers are entranced, listening and wondering whether they’re hearing part of a memoir. And that don’t tow their cars.*****

 

 Blogs. Mine allows me to write to write to an audience, real or imagined. I need that audience. So do most other writers, including students of all ages.

 Books. I like them. I like to read them. I like to buy them. Unfortunately, I like buying more than reading, which is why I have so much to-be-read nonfiction on my bookshelves and elsewhere.***

 Bookstore going-out-of business sales. Closing a bookstore is a terrible thing, but if they’re going to close anyway, I don’t mind helping reduce inventory. That’s how I acquired most of that unread nonfiction.

 

English: Borders in West Quay Retail Park, Sou...

English: Borders in West Quay Retail Park, Southampton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

No-borders

No-borders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Printers that work.****** Most of them work now, but years ago most didn’t. That’s why my students at the university turned in so many papers with text starting at the middle of the page and running diagonally to the bottom right corner. I told them they really couldn’t do that, and that they needed to do the work earlier and start printing days rather than minutes before leaving for class. But I knew if I used a printer, my papers would look like theirs. I was still using a typewriter. When I put the paper in straight, my pages looked okay.

 

 

Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, William Dean Howells, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Clyde Edgerton, Kathie Pelletier, T. R. Pearson, Olive Ann Burns, Fannie Flagg, Elizabeth Berg, Josephine Tey, Ruth Rendell, P. D. James, and the list runs on. If there are any questions about why I’m grateful, pick up some of their books. For Elizabeth Berg, begin with Durable Goods (her first novel, and yes, I despise her). For Clyde Edgerton get Raney, Walking Across Egypt, Killer Diller (WAE’s sequel), or Lunch at the Picadilly; the man is a genius. For Olive Ann Burns, read Cold Sassy Tree, her first and only complete novel; I feel about her like I feel about Elizabeth Berg, see above. I’d like to feel that way about Clyde Edgerton, but I can’t, because I want to be Clyde Edgerton.

 

Fannie Flagg

 

Karleen Koen,**** writer and instructor, who said, “I can’t teach you to write, but I can teach you to play.” And she can. And she did. And I had the time of my life writing and writing and writing. Anyone who wants to write and has the opportunity to take one of her classes should sign up asap. See her blog, Karleen Koen – Writing Life, and her webpage, Karleen Koen. Find information about the courses she teaches at Karleen Koen – Courses. Karleen has published four impeccably researched historical novels, set in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the latest, Before Versailles, takes place in the court of Louis XIV, in the early years of his reign.

Karleen Koen

Karleen Koen

 

Three of Karleen Koen's novels on classroom floor at WLT retreat, Alpine, TX, 2014

Three of Karleen Koen’s novels displayed on classroom floor at WLT retreat, Alpine, TX, 2014. The little orange things in the lower right corner might be peanut butter cups.

 Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com, which I keep running in the background when I work. Dictionary.com gives me exact definitions of words. Thesaurus.com answers the question, What’s that word that means something like XXXXXXXXXX but not exactly, and it’s standing at the beginning of my hypoglossal nerve but refuses to sprint on down to my tongue, and I cannot finish this sentence without it? These sites are a godsend for people who hyperventilate at the thought of leaving a blank space and moving on.

 Bookworm. Yes, that one. The vile, disgusting, devilish online game that is a thousand times worse than solitaire, because if the Bookworm player is good enough, the game never ends. The player can sit mindlessly clicking on letters to make words, and if the letters he clicks don’t make a word, he just tries again, and he can play while he’s watching-listening to television, or petting the cat, or carrying on a conversation, or trying to think what his Main Character should do next because he’s painted her into a corner . . . Obviously, I know whereof I write.

 I’m grateful for Bookworm, however, because sometimes I need the comfort of a mindless, repetitive task. Playing Bookworm can be a method of avoidance, but it can also be a way of putting the mind on autopilot, giving it the freedom to figure out how to get the Main Character out of the corner she’s stuck in.

 Caveat: Playing Bookworm for too long at one sitting, day after day, month after month, can result in repetitive stress injuries. For example, the mouse hand and all that’s attached to it, right on up to the shoulder, can be rendered painful and practically useless until the light dawns and the victim realizes why she can’t raise her right arm.

 Readers. I’m grateful for everyone who reads my posts, especially the posts that are two or three times as long as blog posts should be. This one is four times as long. Contrary to my expectations, everything on the list relates to writing. I had intended to include Relaxed Fit Slacks and The Demise of the Girdle. But tomorrow is another day.

 (The Demise of the Girdle. Wouldn’t that make a marvelous title for a novel? Should it be mystery, romance, or science fiction?)

 

William Davis & Bookworm

William Davis & Bookworm

* See Thesaurus.com. That’s where I found all these synonyms for bathetic.

** Do I have your attention now? The book is Dance on His Grave; the author is Sylvia Dickey Smith. Sylvia no longer lives here, so Austin Mystery Writers meetings don’t draw as much attention from surrounding tables.

*** Don’t ask where elsewhere is. It’s not relevant.

**** This is not an advertisement, paid or otherwise. Karleen is an excellent teacher–few instructors can keep twenty tired adults happy for a whole week by assigning more homework. (See Morning Pages)

***** See Coffee Shops, above.

****** And printers that don’t drink ink.

******* Last summer, when I wept bitter tears because I couldn’t write what I was trying to write (not my usual practice, but I was having a bad summer), Karleen told me what to do instead, and before anyone says Hahahahahah, I’ll add she was quite nice about it, and said I should aspire to write like David Sedaris. Have you ever known of David Sedaris to do sincere?

 

 

Writing, Thinking, Pantsing, and Miracles

Kathy Waller:

In the latest post at Austin Mystery Writers, I discuss pantsing. It isn’t as bad as it sounds. Neither is the post. :-)

Originally posted on Austin Mystery Writers:

English: Tenniel illustration of Tweedledum (c...

English: Tenniel illustration of Tweedledum (centre) and Tweedledee (right) and Alice (left). Español: Ilustración de Tenniel de Patachunta y Patachún. Ilustración de John Tenniel para el capítulo 4º de Alicia a través del espejo (Lewis Carroll), originalmente publicado en 1871. Escaneado de la edición impresa (Modern Library). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pantsing, when successful, lets you create a story closely resembling the spark that ignited it. ~Janalyn Voigt, Live, Write, Breathe

The first step in starting a blog is finding the perfect name. I wanted to call mine Contrariwise, as an homage to Lewis Carroll and to my ability to locate an argument in nearly any issue I come across.

Contrariwise was already in use, however, several times over, and I couldn’t find another literary allusion that satisfied, so I named it Whiskertips. It was my own invention, an homage to the two whiskered beasts with whom I share living quarters.

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Gate A-4

Kathy Waller:

“. . . This is the world I want to live in.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye

Originally posted on Live & Learn:

naomi_shihab_nye

Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be…

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17 Must-Read Books*

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, with American flag...

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, with American flag as backdrop (1935 January 4) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  said,

  ” To write is to write is to write is to write

is to write is to write is to write.”

 She spoke the truth.

 Email. Blog posts. Blog comments. Email. Manuscripts. Introductions. Blog posts.
Email. Email. Email.

 What happened to reading books?

 I shall find out.

  ***

 Pennebaker. The Secret Life of Pronouns.

  Connolly, ed. Books to Die For.

 

English: American editor William Dean Howells ...

English: American editor William Dean Howells in 1887, “at the time of writing ‘Annie Kilburn’.” From Human Documents: Portraits and Biographies of Eminent Men. New York: S. S. McClure, Limited, 1895: p. 105 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Howells. Annie Kilburn. (Again)

 

Henry James, by John Singer Sargent (died 1925...

Henry James, by John Singer Sargent (died 1925). See source website for additional information. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  James. Portrait of a Lady. (Again)

 English: Three-quarters length black-and-white...

English: Three-quarters length black-and-white photograph of American author Edith Wharton. No known restrictions on publication. Courtesy of the Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672764/?sid=da1ca6c2a98aaf723aa0545ebd703779 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wharton. The Custom of the Country. (Again)

   _____. The House of Mirth. (Again)

   Zelvin. Shifting Is for the Goyim.

   Kaufman. The Writer’s Guide to Psychology.

   Duhigg. The Power of Habit.

   Ratey. Spark. (Again)

 

Anna Castle, Author of Murder by Misrule

Anna Castle, Author of Murder by Misrule

Castle. Murder by Misrule.

    Tartt. The Goldfinch.

   Saylor. A Twist at the End.

   Cain. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

   Edgerton. Lunch at the Picadilly. (Again)

   De Becker. The Gift of Fear.

   Hallinan. The Fear Artist.

  ***

   Where to begin?* Probably not with the Agains. They sing their siren songs, but I mustn’t answer.
Wouldn’t be prudent.

  Quiet. That’s the one. In the past three weeks, I’ve had a lot of contact with humans and
too much bustling.

  I’m just wo-ahn out.

  It’s crawl-under-a-rock time. With a book.***

   ‘Night.

   ***

  *Experts (says an article on the web) say readers are attracted to lists with numbers in the titles. We’ll see.

  **I have other possibilities. These are the ones I can see without getting up and crossing the room.

  ***I started this post last night but fiddled so long with it that I didn’t have time to read.
I’m still fiddling with it.

  But tonight . . .

***

I love WordPress, but sometimes we disagree about formatting, mostly about position of photographs and about spacing. What I see here on the edit page isn’t always what both of us see on the published page. I have done my darndest to make it do what I tell it to do. At this point, I don’t care. If the post looks funny, please just read it and ignore the WordPress deficiencies. My deficiencies you are welcome to notice and even to point out.

Poetry: Huck Finn Praises Emmeline Grangerford’s Tribute to Stephen Dowling Bots

English: Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001...

English: Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn Deutsch: Briefmarke der Deutschen Post AG aus dem Jahre 2001, Tom Sawyer und Huckleberry Finn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Mark Twain is given official credit for this poem, but it was really composed by Emmeline Grangerford, whose family Huckleberry Finn met on his Adventures down the Mississippi River.

Below, Huck quotes Emmeline’s tribute to Stephen Dowling Bots, who came to a watery end. He also records what happened to Emmeline, whose compulsive rhyming finally led to her sadful demise.
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This young girl kept a scrap-book when she was alive, and used to paste obituaries and accidents and cases of patient suffering in it out of the Presbyterian Observer, and write poetry after them out of her own head. It was very good poetry. This is what she wrote about a boy by the name of Stephen Dowling Bots that fell down a well and was drownded:

 
Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d.
 
And did young Stephen sicken,
      And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
      And did the mourners cry?
*
No; such was not the fate of
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
      ‘Twas not from sickness’ shots.
*
No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
      Nor measles drear, with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
      Of Stephen Dowling Bots.
*
Despised love struck not with woe
      That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots.
*
O no. Then list with tearful eye,
      Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
      By falling down a well.
*
They got him out and emptied him;
      Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
      In the realms of the good and great.

 
If Emmeline Grangerford could make poetry like that before she was fourteen, there ain’t no telling what she could a done by-and-by. Buck said she could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn’t ever have to stop to think. He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn’t find anything to rhyme with it she would just scratch it out and slap down another one, and go ahead. She warn’t particular, she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about, just so it was sadful. Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her “tribute” before he was cold. She called them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker- the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme the dead person’s name, which was Whistler. She warn’t ever the same, after that; she never complained, but she kind of pined away and did not live long.

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Note: The stamp is German. Here’s a link to a Russian stamp honoring Mark Twain, if a buyer hasn’t already snapped it up.

Hear Jonathan, Jesse & Faye Kellerman @ the Jewish Book Fair November 6

Kathy Waller:

Here’s an opportunity to hear a panel of top-notch mystery writers discuss their books.

Originally posted on Sisters in Crime ~ Heart of Texas Chapter:

Bestselling authors Jonathan, Jesse and Faye Kellerman come to Austin for a thrilling evening, Thursday, November 6, at 7 PM, as part of the Austin Jewish Book Fair.

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman’s book, THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD, follows an L.A. detective on an important investigation that leads him to Prague, where he runs headlong into the legend of the Golem, a mud-creature supposedly conjured up by a sixteenth-century rabbi to protect the Jews said to be asleep. The legend has endured through the ages, but the Golem is dormant no longer.

Faye Kellerman’s MURDER 101 pokes into the hallowed halls of academia to find a killer. Decker and his newest partner, a young Harvard educated buck named Tyler McAdams are suddenly drawn deep into a web of dark secrets, cold case crimes, international intrigue, and ruthless people who kill for sport.

The…

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“Use the right word . . . “: Mark Twain’s Mother

Mark Twain cared about words: Pa’s boot with a couple of his toes leaking out of the front end; the sow lying in the middle of the street looking as happy as if she was on salary; and Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word,” he wrote, “is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

And, “Use the right word, not its second cousin.”

In his autobiography, he tells the story of a time his mother used the right words to teach him a lesson that lasted a lifetime.

There was, however, one small incident of my boyhood days which touched this matter, and it must have meant a good deal to me or it would not have stayed in my memory, clear and sharp, vivid and shadowless, all these slow-drifting years. We had a little slave boy whom we had hired from some one, there in Hannibal. He was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and had been brought away from his family and his friends, half way across the American continent, and sold. He was a cheery spirit, innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing – it was maddening, devastating, unendurable. At last, one day, I lost all my temper, and went raging to my mother, and said Sandy had been singing for an hour without a single break, and I couldn’t stand it, and wouldn’t she please shut him up. The tears came into her eyes, and her lip trembled, and she said something like this—

“Poor thing, when he sings, it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still, I am afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older, you would understand me; then that friendless child’s noise would make you glad.”

It was a simple speech, and made up of small words, but it went home, and Sandy’s noise was not a trouble to me any more. She never used large words, but she had a natural gift for making small ones do effective work. She lived to reach the neighborhood of ninety years, and was capable with her tongue to the last – especially when a meanness or an injustice roused her spirit.

From “Mark Twain on Slavery, How Religion Is Used to Justify Injustice, and What His Mother Taught Him About Compassion”