"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Okay, don't be mad...

I'd love to tell you all more about the launch party, as I promised last time, but I'm afraid this is going to be a quick post to tell you I'm not going to be telling you much at all, at least not for a week.

I'm off with my family to our annual relaxation: a week at the Gray Eagle Lodge, which is nestled in the Sierra Mountains, about two hours northwest of Truckee, California. We do this with about five other families every year, most of us driving up from Orange County to meet the family who lives in the Sacramento area. Coming from southern California, this is a lengthy trip for us, so we usually take two days up and two days back, unless someone has to blast there/home due to (damned, cursed) work.

We were introduced to this area by our friends, the Russells, who've been going there for, like, ever. I think we started going in 2003, but I could be mistaken. The earliest pictures I can find are from 2004, when we started bringing Mikey the dog. Although he's a couch potato and an inside dog, he's learned to like it up there. Truth be told, I am the center of his universe, so he likes to be with me, where ever that is. Yes, it's good to be the Queen.

I've watched, in pictures, my son go from this (he's the one on the right):

To this (he's still the one on the right):

It has been one of the pleasures of this trip to watch these kids grow, and see their interests, as well as their relationships, change.

The other pleasure of this trip is that I met this guy:

His name is Mark Tieslau, and if you've read Freezer Burn and paid a lick of attention to the acknowledgements, Mark is the bartender extraordinaire who introduced me to the Grey Goose dirty martini. It became Peri's signature drink, the one she saves her money to have. It was also the perfect drink for a housecleaner.

So I'm off for a week with no WiFi, no TV, no cell phone reception. Incommunicado is the word, I believe. Trust me, I'll have plenty to say when I return.

In the meantime, please check out Mr. Dino Martin Peters' blog, whether you're a Dean Martin fan or no. I am truly falling in love with his Dino-speak, and when he posts anything I've done or said about Dean Martin, he refers to me as "Miss Gayle Carline", a moniker I find so endearing, I'd probably loan this man my car keys if he asked. Which would sound a lot better if I didn't drive a 12-year old minivan with 185,000 miles on it (but don't tell DMP).

By the way, I do love my life-sized cardboard Dean Martin. When I get home, I'm putting him in my guest room, just so I can say hello to him every morning. Until then...

Wagons, ho!

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's a long way to the top - if you wanna launch a book.

List of things to do:
1. Clean house. Check.
2. Order caterer (Bedazzled is great). Check.
3. Decide what to do at Backs Community Building. Ch-ch-check.
4. Buy the stuff for the Backs Building. Check.
5. Have book launch party. Check, check, and check.

Okay, got that off my list. Now what?

Just joking. Planning and holding a book launch party is so much more than making a list. In all, there were a dozen lists made. Lists of what to buy, lists of what to do, lists of who to call, and lists of what order the buying/doing/calling needed to be done.

Yes, lists like this.

Of course, Life had to stick its nose into the middle of all my beautiful plans. First was the trip to Decatur. It's a requirement, according to my hubby, that we visit my family every other year. We managed to squeeze in five days the week before my book launch party. While we were eating Krekel's burgers and admiring the Chicken Car, I made a few phone calls, faxed some forms, and made more lists.

When we returned home, our dog, Mikey, was under the weather. Six hundred dollars and two days' of tests later, the vet determined he's "borderline" with Cushing's disease. "Borderline" means they don’t want to give him meds; just bring him back in six months for more blood tests. Great.

Then there was the email from my newspaper publisher. "Hello, sorry to do this to you, I know we just did this earlier this year, but I don't know if it got lost or what, but the accountants that be are saying we need a new contract with you. Here is the one I had you sign earlier, will you resign it and mail it in really quick. They said I can't run you column again until I get it."

Translation: print the contract, sign it and run it down to the Anaheim office so I can continue getting paid.

As I put out fires and checked off lists, The Big Day kept getting closer. I had the room layout complete, contests and raffle organized, and displays ready, but I still had no idea what I was doing that day, apart from (hopefully) selling books. On Thursday, I read Brett Battles blog and commented to him that I was stressed and clueless. His response was perfect: "…please don't judge my launch party with what is the norm to do. I have no idea either, and just wing it, too. Ultimately it doesn't matter. As long as you're happy...it's your party after all!"

I relaxed, and decided to give a brief talk, which I practiced while I was cleaning my house… and cleaning… and cleaning.

When the actual day arrived, my friend (and partner in crime) Robin Reichelt came over to help me. With my son, Marcus, and her son, Ryan, we decorated the Backs Community Building Main Room, and waited for 2:30. Suddenly -


Lots of people showed up, from friends and family to people who read my column. Among the highlights:

The column folk were great fun, wanting me to introduce them to Marcus and asking me if he gets hassled about being in my column so much.

My friend, Ken Niediger (and his lovely wife, Colleen) took tons of pictures, which I'll post as soon as I get them.

Dean Martin showed up for a photo op.

I never grow tired of autographing my book!

I'll be posting more about the event in a couple of days, after I've had time to sleep and process it all more. But let me just say - this whole book thing just gets better and better!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The best blurb in the world

Hola, Peeps!

I'm less than one day back from my quick trip to Decatur, Illinois - I'm exhausted and have almost a bazillion things to do today, but I wanted to write a quick post to share some good things that happened while I was in the Soybean Capital of the World.

First, even though I didn't think my book, set in Placentia, would be of interest in my hometown, I contacted two of the area libraries, Decatur and Mt. Zion, to see how to get Freezer Burn on their shelves. Both head librarians, Amy in Decatur and Maria in Mt. Zion, were very pleasant to talk to, and both took all the information to order Freezer Burn. In addition, they both want me to do an author's event for them, so I'll probably be returning to Illinois in October to give a talk and sell some books. Woo hoo!

My second good thing happened when my sister-in-law, Mindy, bought a copy of my book to share with her mom, Marilyn. Mindy's folks are on a fixed income, so Marilyn took the book home with her to read first. Mindy told me several times that she and her mom like historical fiction and that mysteries aren't really in their genre, so I was expecting them to be polite and eventually tell me my book was "real nice." And I didn't expect Marilyn to read it while I was there.

The night after Marilyn took the book home, Mindy called her to ask about something else. She came into the family room and said, "I just called my mom to ask her about breakfast tomorrow and she told me, 'I can't talk right now. I'm in the middle of Gayle's book and I can't put it down.'"

She was up until 2 a.m. reading it.

I sat with her the next day at the East End Grill, where we had breakfast. It was fun to hear her tell me how much she enjoyed the book, even though she never reads anything like this. She really liked the humor that ran through it. But this is the best thing she said to me:

"I went to bed about two after reading it, but it kept running through my head, so I had to get up and find something boring to read, just so I could go to sleep."

Okay, how cool is that?

Well, I now have to run around gathering "stuff" for the launch party, most of which I'll display here and describe. Later, Peeps.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Clapton is OMG!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I will be on a vacation, if you can call visiting relatives "vacationing" all next week, so if I'm not Johnny-on-the-spot with comments and emails and general e-communicating, it's because I can't find any WiFi in Decatur, Illinois.

And now, on to our topic of the day.


I have a list of men who make me giggle like a school girl. I suspect I'm not the only woman with such a list. Men have their lists, too - although they probably don't feel the urge to giggle.

At the top of my list is Eric Clapton. He's been there since 1972, when I went to the movies with a date and saw Concert for Bangladesh. My date was bored (and boring), but I was enrapt. The camera did a slow pan from the stage to this:

It's not a very clear picture, but it's from the album, History of Eric Clapton, which I immediately went out and bought after seeing him. He was so beautiful, standing there, playing with a quiet command of the guitar. I was in love, and his music, I soon learned, was brilliant - a twofer!

Little did I know that Clapton, at the time of the concert, was so deeply in the grip of drug abuse, his friends doubted he would live much longer. Thankfully, he overcame his addiction and went on to write and play more great music.

Last year, I went to see him in concert for the first time. I tried to get my guitarist son, Marcus, to join me, but he resisted, so I took a girlfriend. Eric was just as quiet and unassuming as ever, but his music spoke volumes. I came home from the concert babbling about how great it was, for about two weeks, until Marcus finally sighed and told me, "Man, now I wish I'd have gone."

So when Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood brought their tour to the Hollywood Bowl, I asked Marcus if he wanted to go. This time, he said yes. The trip was mostly uneventful, if you don't count the fact that the shuttle parking lot was full and I had to find street parking (did I mention parallel parking is not in my DNA?), and the trip home took almost two hours because the freakin' freeway was closed for construction.

But the concert itself was heaven. Steve Winwood has the same musical authority over keyboards that Clapton has over the guitar - phenomenal. And whoever is in charge of translating the stage action into what's shown on the Jumbotron screens should be given a medal, and a whole lotta money. The camera work focused on Clapton's (and Winwood's) hands, to showcase their skills.

Here's what they looked like:

Marcus loved it so much he requested a souvenir t-shirt, something I usually have to ask if he wants. We fought our way into the booth, then fought our way out of the booth and joined the herd of people looking for the shuttle back to the parking lot. My minivan, parked on the street, awaited us, unharmed. It was a good evening.

The only blemish on the event was when a man (probably my age but looking older) asked Marcus if the seat next to him was taken. It was, technically, since I had bought an extra ticket. I'm pretty anal about this at events: did you pay for this seat? Then no, it's not available, off you go, etc. But Marcus said no, so the man sat down… and proceeded to light up a joint. I'm proud to report my inner
Peri rose to the occasion.

"Excuse me," I reached across my son to get the moron's attention. "Could ya NOT do that in front of my SIXTEEN-year old?"

It was said in a combination of sarcasm and "I'm a mom and I know how to use it," and startled the guy so much, he stubbed out the joint and said, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Five seconds later he left to find a friendlier corner to light up.

One of the bright points of the evening, besides sharing music I love with my teenager, was to discuss the technique of each musician, and the differences between playing jazz, rock and blues. We noted that, while Winwood is a very capable guitarist, his hands look more at ease at the keyboard. Clapton's fingers are completely relaxed when he plays, even when the music is blisteringly fast.

They were both prime examples of the best of any talent, whether it's in the arts, or sports or even the mundane everyday jobs - the best make it look easy. Clapton's fingers slide up and down the frets like he's merely breathing in and out. Winwood's hands ripple across the keys like someone running along a path. It took them years to get to this point, but their combination of hard work and talent produced results.

For the writers here, do you think this translates to what we do? At what point have you written enough words that you can call yourself a vocabulary virtuoso?
Stephen King says, in On Writing, there are four categories of writers: bad, competent, good and brilliant, and that you can't turn a bad writer into a good writer or a good writer into a brilliant writer, but you can turn a competent writer into a good one.

What do you think separates the good from the brilliant, in any endeavor?

I will leave you with a clip of one of my favorite Clapton/Winwood numbers, Presence of the Lord. Marcus had never listened to the whole song, and was amazed by the shift into blazing hot guitar territory from the unassuming blues intro. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's Cookin?

Call me an idiot. Go ahead, I can take it. I had my first guest blog today, and I forgot to put a pointer to it from my own blog, which makes it look like it's not as big a deal as it feels to me. It's a huge deal and I'm very grateful that Amy made the offer.

I had shared a carrot cake recipe with Amy Alessio, whose blog, "Vintage Cookbooks", contains recipes that sound delicious. She asked if I would like to guest blog and, of course, I leaped forward without looking and said, "Yes!"

The thing is, Peri doesn't cook. As a matter of fact, when asked about it in one scene, she replies, "I used to think 'peel back cover and cook for three minutes' was an old family recipe." (I may have stolen that joke from Paula Poundstone... or Rosie O'Donnell... or...?) So how could I spin a guest spot on a cooking blog when my protagonist doesn't even know her cup sizes?

As usual, it came to me while I showered: write what would happen if Peri tried to make my carrot cake recipe. It turned out to be a fun exercise. You can read it here: http://vintagecookbooks.blogspot.com/2009/07/author-gayle-carlines-carrot-cake.html

It's yummy and it's funny - enjoy!

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