"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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ringing in the new year

I'm not sure what it is about New Year's Eve, but people tend to celebrate as though the next 364 days will be such a hellish exercise, no one can look January 1 in the eye. In my youth, I attempted wild revelry. It didn't suit me. At one such event, I remember standing in a club, listening to a local band, drinking something minty that I hated but my friend brought so I was being polite, and all the time trying to avoid what I was thinking:

"I'm bored. Bored. B-O-R-E-D, bored. Bored beyond belief. Is it midnight yet?"

Nowadays, we usually get together with a few friends, have some food and a few drinks, and lots of conversation. No loud music, no twirling lights, no craziness. Just good times.

If you love going to the clubs and getting crazy with it all, I'm good with that. No matter what your party pattern is, if you're looking for alcohol with style, check these resources:

For wine lovers, I'll keep recommending Alicia Bien's Evolution of a Wine Drinker until you all buy a copy. Just do it, okay? Don't make me nag.



Here's the link to the Kindle version, but as you can see by the photo, it's also available as a paperback. http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Wine-Drinker-Alicia-Bien-ebook/dp/B00E8ALIMW/

If you like martinis, may I recommend the Martini Diva? She's got recipes for every kind of martini, and I mean EVERY ingredient known to man. I haven't looked, but I'll bet she's even got one using artichokes.

http://themartinidiva.blogspot.com/

Otherwise, here's a collection showing how to drink like a sophisticated detective and his lovely wife.




Honest to Pete, I don't know how they solved any cases.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And to all a good night.

Christmas music for you to enjoy, from my own Celtic heart



To my hubby's African-American roots



Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

If only in my dreams

I missed Elvis' younger days, when he was that dangerous, barely-controlled, hip-shaking singer who made girls swoon with longing and the Establishment quiver in fear and loathing. By the time I knew him, he was firmly under Colonel Parker's thumb, cranking out formulaic movies with forgettable songs (with the exception of Viva, Las Vegas).

No matter. He still pulls my heartstrings when he sings this.



Perhaps I'm thinking of all those men and women in the military who will not be home for Christmas, and I want to weep for their moms and dads and spouses who have to be strong and enjoy their holidays somehow.

It reminds me of a couple I know. The guy was a Marine during the Vietnam War. Did two tours. When he was at last home, he hadn't seen his two-year old daughter since she was an infant. That first night, his wife told their daughter to go give Daddy a kiss goodnight, and his daughter went over and kissed his picture on the table.

Ouch.

I asked Louise how she managed, with her hubby gone for so much time. "You just do it," she told me. "You don't ever ask yourself how you're going to get it done."

To the men and women serving our country, consider this a cyber-salute. Merry Christmas, and come home soon.

Monday, December 16, 2013

From our house to yours

I'm taking a short break in my regularly scheduled programming to give you...


The Carline Family Christmas Card!



Here it is, in its entirety:

"Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing."

Ten points for the person who can name the movie I quoted above. Much like that film, life at the Carlines is often about believing the unbelievable. From Santa Claus, to Christmas miracles, to pretending the house is clean and the dogs are well behaved—why accept reality when fantasy brings so much happiness? Not that reality is always bad.
 
Marcus really is in the first of his two senior years at Cal State Long Beach. Confused? Apparently when you have a double major in Vocal Jazz Studies and Composition, it takes you an extra year to get the job done. He’s sharing an apartment near the school with a friend and is so buried in classes he barely comes up to ask for more money. Dale’s fantasy is that his son will have time for a haircut. I’ve begun to call him M.C. (Mushroom Cloud) Marcus. I’m not certain what he’d say is the highlight of his year, but for me, it was that he turned 21. How could he become an adult in reality, when I’m still pretending not to grow up at all?
 
Dale’s big news is that the stars finally aligned and the figures added up, making his dream come true. In other words, he retired from Raytheon this year. What’s he going to do now? Well, according to him, he’s got a list of home repairs for both houses, he plans to continue to coach kids who want to play basketball on the Placentia Youth League, and I may or may not have some suggestions. In other news, he went to the Frozen Four NCAA Hockey Championships again, and did a little final traveling for Raytheon before saying his goodbyes.
 
I just keep writing books, riding horses, and attending to the needs of the Placentia Library as one of their trustees. My latest book is a memoir. Not mine, but my horse, Snoopy. (He tells a darned fine story.) I’ve done some special events with this book, from horse shows to large expositions, and they’ve all been fun. I can’t decide whether I fit writing around all my other activities, or fit everything around my writing, but I somehow manage to get it all done.
 
With Marcus’ schedule, it’s getting harder to plan family stuff, but we still made our annual trip to the mountains of Northern California with most of the gang. It’s becoming a bittersweet voyage for me. I’m so proud to see all of our kids growing up, and yet I miss the days when they were little. For other trips, Dale and I scampered off to Cambria for our anniversary, and he tagged along to a library district-related conference in Monterey. Fine meals were consumed and wine was purchased.
 
The animals are all doing well. Lady Spazz and Duffy entertain me daily with their full-contact wrestling. Now that Dale’s retired, perhaps I’ll take my laptop to Starbucks and let them entertain him instead. Katy the cat is getting very old and spends all day sleeping, after which she rests. Frostie and Snoopy are wonderful, as usual. In addition to his own blog, Snoopy now has his own Facebook page and YouTube channel. That horse loves an audience.
I’m looking back at my calendar to see if I left anything out, but the year has whipped by so quickly, I’m surprised at all we’ve done. It almost looks like we time traveled, and maybe we did. Perhaps it’s because I write fiction, but I like to believe in magic. I think we all should go out on a limb, bet on the underdog and reach for the unattainable, at least once in a while. And when it feels like the world is sucking all the joy from our hearts, we can all follow the instructions in the movie: Shake our snow globes and “Remember!”
Wishing you a Magical Holiday and a Fantastic New Year!

For those of you who don't want to read it, here is a badly narrated version for your listening enjoyment:

video


Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Christmas sing-along

Go ahead.



Jump in.

P.S. Snoopy's book is still only 99 cents. Click here to purchase: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0HDYRQ

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's snowing promotions

*B*R*E*A*K*I*N*G****N*E*W*S*

Are you a Kindle reader who likes a bargain? Do you cringe when you see famous books by famous authors being offered on Kindle for more than the price of the paperback?

STARTING AT 9:00 A.M. TODAY (PST) - FOR ONE WEEK ONLY - Snoopy's memoir, From the Horse's Mouth, is being offered for 99 cents! That's $3 off the regular price - you could buy yourself a copy and gift three friends for the same amount. Talk about a Merry Christmas!

Snoopy's story of how trust and love helped him overcome injury and doubt is earning some great reviews. If you're a horse lover, an animal lover, or a sucker for a good old comeback tale, you'll enjoy this book. Here's the link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0HDYRQ



Now... on to the snow...

Why is it that every song that mentions snow is lumped into the Christmas music genre? Doesn't it snow in February? Did it snow in Bethlehem two-thousand years ago?

Don't answer that. (http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/13/21890229-holy-land-blanketed-in-snow-after-intense-winter-storm)

Take this little ditty.



I like to listen to Michael Buble. Mostly, though, I like to say his name. Boo-blay. Boo-blay-boo-blay-boo-blay. I could say it for days. HOWEVER.

This song is not at all about Christmas. There is no tree, no holly, no infant, nothing jolly. It's about trying to convince your date to spend the night. (he he he) I mean, where's the Christmas spirit in that?

This version works for me, too.



It's not very Christmas-y, but it still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Earl Grey, anyone?

Friday, December 13, 2013

He sees you when you're sleeping

He knows when you're awake. That's right. Santa is a stalker.

I do like the admonishment to be good for goodness' sake. It's kind of the bottom line, yes? Be good because it's good to be that way.



This is a nice rendition by Bruce and the E Street Band. Everybody's joking and hamming it up, and I love that Bruce is addressing the crowd in French. Oui, merci!

When I was younger and unhappier, I loved Bruce Springsteen. His songs had a yearning quality to them that was true and wonderful and painful. Without wallowing in TMI, I was trapped within a personae of what everyone who "loved" me wanted me to be. Springsteen tapped into that longing to get away. "It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling outa here to win."

Once I had chewed my paw off and escaped, his music stopped beckoning. I still enjoy him, especially his storytelling skills. But I don't need his voice in my ear, telling me to drive all night.

I will, however, be good for goodness' sake.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm a mean one...

This is such a cool book. And cartoon. And song.



Thurl Ravenscroft sang this. He had the best voice, so deep and warm. I grew up with him as the voice of Tony the Tiger ("They're GRRRREAT!") but imagine my delight when I went to my very first Pageant of the Masters show in Laguna Beach and heard him narrating the show - in person! He did every show live, for as long as he could.




If you've never been to the Pageant of the Masters, you must go at least once. Anyone who tries to describe it to you can truly never do it justice.

Here's to hoping this holiday season your hearts are two sizes too big.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Been an angel, I swear

No one does this song like the original.



Eartha Kitt was quite a woman. She was a unique vocalist, and as you can see from the video, a hot tamale. In addition, she was a committed and unapologetic activist for peace and equality.

I loved her quirky voice. She ties with Julie Newmar as my favorite Catwoman, and I adored her as Yzma in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove.

She died on Christmas day of 2008, which I suppose is fitting, since this song was one of her most popular.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oui, c'est Noel!

This is the snooty-patootie version of a song I learned to sing in French class.



That Renee Fleming - she sure knows how to milk a song.

Most of the songs I learned in French class were ones that I knew the English versions, although most of them did not translate equally across the languages. Jingle Bells, for example, is Tinte Cloches, a song about Father Christmas (Pere Noel) arriving on a train to give young children what they dream about. A train? Where'd the reindeer go? Baggage?

But Un Flambeau, Jeanette Isabella escaped me. I had never sung this song. But it's a sweet little ditty and flows off the tongue, something you can't say about a lot of French.

I looked up the translation and, hmm, well, maybe I'll stick with the French and not ask questions. Supposedly, the song is a call to a young girl to bring a torch to the stable and gather all the children together to see the Baby Jesus, but then to tell them to shut up because the baby's sleeping.

First of all, bring a torch to a stable? Around all that hay? Does that sound like a good idea to anyone?

Second, why are we gathering a crowd just to tell them to keep the noise down? Crowds are notoriously not quiet, especially crowds of children. They can whisper louder than the brass section of a jazz band.

Forget the translation. Just enjoy the lovely melody and lilting words.

ah-aH-AH que la mere est belle, ah-aH-AH que l'enfant est beau.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wonder lands, such as they are

Here in sunny southern California, we don't have winter wonderlands. For Christmas, this is our wonderland:

Don't knock it until you've stood under the fake snow and watched fireworks.


Still, I love the song and like to imagine myself in a cute little cabin, fire in the fireplace, looking out on softly falling flakes and drinking something warm.



Well, maybe without Chris. Although, he has a certain magnetism.

Honestly, I looked for a video of someone current singing the song. Found Jason Mraz, Michael Buble, etc. They're all good. But this woman's voice is so beautiful.




If I get to heaven and the angels don't sound like Ella, I'm leaving.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hark. Hark-hark-hark.

Kind of sounds like a dog with a speech impediment, doesn't it?

When I was a wee child sitting in Sunday School class and the teacher asked what hymn we should sing, I always asked for "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." If it wasn't December, my suggestion was ignored.

Stupid teachers anyway.

I found this version on YouTube and was reminded of my son and his a capella singing.



This carol was originally written by Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church. It began as a rather solemn little ditty until Felix Mendelssohn got hold of it and perked it up.

It's been called the most theologically complete of the Christmas carols and is one of the four Great Anglican Hymns, which just means that, among a survey of church hymnals in 1885, it was one of four hymns common to every church.

Don't I just sound too erudite for words now?


Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas meanings

I'm not sure when any song that mentioned "snow" got dumped into the "Christmas music" genre, but here's one that spells out the Christ in Christmas.



I love Nat King Cole. I do wish these videos were more interesting, but what can you do with music from the past? I particularly love this song, for two reasons:

1. Back when I was a flying angel in the Crystal Cathedral's Glory of Christmas, my first entrance was for the song, "Angels We Have Heard on High." I would sit in the balcony, sweats over my tights and wait for the song, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as my cue to undress and get into my flying harness and costume.

One mid-December, after doing two-to-three shows a night for three weeks, I was in a department store, shopping for gifts. The usual background music was playing. Suddenly, "O Little Town..." began. My body went into autopilot and I looked down to see myself unzipping my jacket.

I scampered out of that store while I still had my clothes on.

2. After I became a mom, this song took on a slightly different feeling for me. I want to be clear here: in NO WAY am I comparing my family to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. NO. WAY.

There is a line in the song: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Yes, the song is referring to the world and Jesus, however, it strikes me that it applies to any child born. As you hold that baby, you hold promise in your hands. Your hopes and fears. They could grow up to be anything, do anything. We all have hopes and fears for our future, but somehow a baby gives them a face.

Do songs change their meanings as your life goes through changes?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Let's get this over with

I was going to save this one until later in the month, but you know me. I'm Instant Gratification Girl.



I can listen to this song all year. The video is possibly the weirdest thing I've ever seen. I mean, what is that polar bear doing in there? But it has those lovely photos of both Dean Martin and Martina McBride. Dean is soooo seductive in this song. I know I couldn't say no. And Martina, well, she's drop-dead gorgee-ous. (Yes I KNOW he didn't really sing this with her and they remixed her voice with his. He's still magical and she's still enchanting.)

Here are my favorite two photos of Dino:



In his tux, he lives up to being the King of Cool. Suave. In control. No ruffling his feathers.



Here is what looks like the real deal. Working at his craft. Confident. Self-assured.

Oh, all right. Here's Martina.



Yes, most of us would give an arm and a pancreas to look like this, but I'd like to think any of us could be divas with the right amount of time and money.

Got any versions of this song you like? Share them with me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are you listening?

I'm giving you Annie Lennox today, singing Winter Wonderland.



It's been years since I spent a Christmas in the snow, but I still remember the overwhelming beauty of watching the white flakes falling late at night. I would sit on my bed and look out my window. Lights from neighbors' homes cast soft shadows across the lawns and sometimes the flakes were so large and fluffy they would drift in swirls. Other times, they would drive down sideways, with the wind. It was all so gorgeous I wanted to cry and laugh and wiggle my body from top to bottom and run in circles until I collapsed.

In particular, I remember one Christmas when I was in middle school and had gotten these really cool knee-high suede-ish boots. Think beige Uggs, except they were more sculpted and not fleecy. My grandmother was visiting from Indiana, and the electric fireplace in the playroom overheated, causing a fire. The fire department scampered right over to take care of it, but my mom and grandma were worried that the Christmas wrappings and boxes still in the living room would look like a fire hazard, so they moved all of it to the back room.

Turns out, the firemen needed access to the crawlspace above the ceiling. The entrance was, yes, in the back room. Instead of Christmas revelers, we looked like hoarders.

The thing is, the fire wasn't really worth a call to the fire department. I mean, I was a hormonally-challenged teenager and I wasn't worried. I wandered around outside, making snow angels and weird tracks in my yard.

Yeah... that was a good Christmas.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas caroling

I've decided to regale my tribe with Christmas carols this month. Don't worry - I'm not singing. I'll let the experts do it.



Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby... aaahh.

Someone posted this link on Facebook, about how to be happier in your own home. Who doesn't want to be happier? I love all of these, and can see how they would tie into this time of year. Counting my blessings is one way that I'm going to celebrate this holiday season. What blessings are you counting today?

Friday, November 29, 2013

At least I didn't punt

You remember my post about making Alicia Bien's recipe for chicken and rice? I tried to follow the directions, except that I didn't have quite all the ingredients. When it comes to cooking, if in doubt, I punt. For Alicia's recipe, I punted and it still turned out well.

Of course, I was emboldened by the fact that only Dale and I would have to try to eat the results of my off-the-cuff cooking.

Which leads us to Thanksgiving. Our family shares the holiday with our friends, the Derbys. We take turns hosting, and on the years they host, I supply two items: pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole.

The pumpkin pie is easy. I get a can of Libby's pumpkin, a box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts, and follow the directions on the can. It's always a sure hit.



Sweet potatoes are another thing altogether. I'm never happy with the casserole. I've tried various recipes over the years and I just don't like them. At one point, Dale said he liked the sweet potatoes whole, not mashed, so I spent a lot of time with recipes that kept them in chunks, but the melted butter-orange juice-cinnamon seasonings made the whole thing too soupy, in my opinion. There weren't enough marshmallows to cover that sin.

This year, I decided to try a recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I mean, Ree Drummond's recipes look pretty easy and are usually a matter of "take a pound of butter, then add a glop of sugar, then whole milk, then more butter, and perhaps some bacon fat..." In other words, not always good for you, which is the trademark of a good Thanksgiving side dish.

I was also determined to follow the recipe exactly. None of this substituting one spice for another. I was serving this to friends. Yes, they would forgive me for a misstep, but you like to put your best dish forward for other people. Ree would not steer me wrong.

The first wrong turn occurred in the grocery store. The recipe called for sweet potatoes. Going to the big bin o'root veggies, there were regular potatoes of several varieties, including sweet potatoes, and yams. Yams are oddly shaped and a burnt orange color. Sweet potatoes are a tad less oddly-shaped and more of a golden color.

Ree said sweet potatoes, so that's what I bought.

On Thursday morning, I happily popped them in the oven for baking (none of this micro-nuking for me - I'm Mini-Pioneer Woman). While they baked, I chopped pecans for the topping. Here's my nut chopper:



It used to be my grandmother's, and I feel very rustic and somehow connected to her when I use it.

The potatoes did not all cook through at the same time, so I reached in with the oven mitt to take out one of the baked ones and the skin peeled off, revealing a rather beige meat. Not as white as a regular potato, more of an ecru, but definitely not the traditional orange of a traditional sweet potato.

I should have gotten yams.

After I spent about thirty seconds in a panic, I considered my options. I could go to the store and get yams. I could continue down this road with the non-orange sweet potatoes. I had a can of sweet potatoes in the pantry I could use instead. I briefly considered using food coloring, to dye the baked sweet potatoes an appropriate color.

In the end, I went ahead with Ree's recipe and also prepared the canned sweet potatoes. Call it hedging my bet.

The more I forged ahead, the weirder things got. The directions called for two eggs and a cup of milk - when added, it made beige sweet potato soup. Then I added the vanilla, which gave it kind of an ice cream smell. I turned to making the topping, which called for flour, brown sugar, chopped pecans, and butter, 3/4 of a stick. At first I read it as 3/4 cup, then re-read it two or three times. No, three-fourths of a stick.

It's not a bad mistake to make, not as bad as, say, reading it to say the butter should be at room temperature.

I'm not sure how I added the word "softened" to the directions, but I did. When I began to combine the mixture with the pastry cutter, I realized my mistake. Not one to be discouraged by reality, I went on, boldly chopping through the dry ingredients with my gloppy butter, stopping to clean the mush from the blades every once in a while. Sooner or later I ended up with a topping that, while not crumbly, was serviceable.

I assembled everything, popped it in the oven, and hoped for the best. Kind of sounds like my life, but we won't go there. In the meantime, I mashed up the canned sweet potatoes with spice and butter and orange juice and topped them with marshmallows. Just in case.

Marcus and Dale looked at the results and advised me to take both to the feast. What were the results?

The non-orange, previously soupy casserole had firmed into a sweet treat with a crunchy topping, and was the clear winner.



Thank you, Pioneer Woman! I shouldn't have doubted you. (But next year, I'm buying the yams.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thank you

Happy Thanksgiving. On this day, we remember all that we have and we are thankful. If we want more, this is not the day to make that wish. It's the day to recognize that others may have less. My only regret during this holiday season is that we do not help people more the rest of the year.

What am I thankful for? My life. I always think that other people live their lives on a line graph, going mostly up, or mostly down. Mine's been more of a scatter chart, with points at odd and random locations on the X,Y graph.

Had I stayed on the planned path, I would have a lot fewer regrets.

Had I stayed on the planned path, I would have also had a lot more regrets. Because of my first divorce, I had to get a job. Because I stumbled upon a computer job, I was able to move to California. Each random event forced me to a decision that brought me to the Here and Now. I have a family I adore, I am doing things I love to do, and I am living my life in an environment of love and support.

In addition, I am thankful for the readers who like what I do and are always asking for more. God knows I'm addicted to writing, but you keep me focused on telling novel-length tales. Thanks for buying my books. Thanks for the notes and emails telling me you liked what you read. Thanks especially for writing reviews. You are all angels.

I was going to post a few fun videos revolving around giving thanks, but the one I like most is this one.



They may be having a Christmas feast, but I'll join in their toast: God bless us, every one. (In whatever form you believe God exists.)

Happy Hanukkah

I am not Jewish, so I always have to look the word up, mostly because I am intrigued by the other spelling, Chanukah, and between the two I can't figure out how many Ns, Ks, or Hs there are. I suppose I should just wish all my Jewish friends a Happy Festival of Lights.

With Thanksgiving so late and Hanukkah so early, the whole holiday season seems to be askew, but I've promised myself to not stress about it, so this is me not stressing.



This is where I'd post a video. I know you're all expecting me to post Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song, but I was feeling a little more informational today. For my non-Jewish friends (and to remind myself), here is a short and rather delightful explanation of the holiday.



I suppose I should apologize to my Jewish friends if I try to make a huge deal out of it. I realize it's not one of the major holidays, like Christmas is for us. I'm just always excited about any celebration that involves presents, lights, and blessings.

Enjoy, and shalom.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving back: Deadly Little Secrets

I met Marla Miller years ago at my first Southern California Writers Conference. She has helped me and who-knows-how-many other writers hone our craft with her workshops. As a result of her teaching, I've build a better blurb, tightened my pitches, and learned what to leave in and what to rip out of a query letter.

Blurbs, queries, pitches - did she help me with my novels? You bet. Every piece of editing wisdom applied to one of those three items helped me tighten my writing all around. Through Marla, I learned what is essential, and sometimes I learned what I was even writing about.

Today Marla has released a novel of her own. I was lucky enough to read an early copy and it grabbed me from the start. It's set in the early days of AIDS, as one small-town nurse tries to educate the public and they try to resist.

Here's where to buy it - http://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Little-Secrets-Marla-Miller-ebook/dp/B00GW6SXI2



I'm thrilled for Marla and hope her book climbs the charts.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giving it all away: WIN THE SPAMMY!

I tried giving away some promotional items earlier, with a contest to see who could tell the most interesting story about what they had done for a friend. A few people told some wonderful stories, but they were so poignant I thought I might weep. I confess, I was really looking for stories of bailing each other out of a Mexican jail or lying to all the parents in order to hitch a ride to Woodstock.

So now I'm going to get more specific - this is a contest about spam.



No, not that Spam.

I don't know about you, but I get spam mail ALL the time. As in, sometimes over 200 messages a day. On the same day, I will get offers to increase my boob size and my masculine virility, along with great rates on new cars and discount prescriptions. Sometimes I get spam-mails from gaylecarline with what appears to be a string of Chinese characters in the subject line.

Don't you hate it when you start sleep-emailing in a foreign language?

My favorite spam-mail arrived last week. The subject line said, "gaylecarline, Be the Man You Used to Be."

Perhaps it was the time I was accidentally enrolled in Boys' P.E. in high school. Or maybe it has to do with visiting my great-grandfather in the nursing home once. "Dad", my grandmother said, "You remember Gayle, don't you?" Great-Grandpa looked up through his very hardened arteries and said, "Yep, he's gonna grow up to be a fine man some day."

It's hard to take offense to a little spam-err.

So I'm introducing the SPAMMY Awards, for the best, funniest, most creative spam emails you've ever received.**

RULES:

1. Only one entry per person.
2. You may submit entries in any way that reaches me: the comments below, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email, or semaphore (BTW, I'm not good at semaphore so your message may be misinterpreted).
3. The spam mail submitted should be a legitimate one, but how am I to check for this? Basically I can't, so if you can come up with something that blows my socks off, well... oh, well.

PRIZES:

I will award multiple prizes, from free books (paperback or Kindle), to promotional items, to gift cards. In addition, I have twenty-four (24) free copies of my Audio book of Freezer Burn to give away. Perhaps I could even give away some Spam.

Go ahead and advertise this. Tell your friends and neighbors. Everyone who enters should win something. The best ones will just win more stuff.

So go ahead - what's your favorite spam email?

**Please do not assume I want you to OPEN the spam-mails. DON'T OPEN THEM! I'm just looking for funny subject lines.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I did my best

I love my pal Alicia Bien. She's funny and smart, and even if she wasn't, she has a big, kind heart and I'm just a sucker for that. Although she mostly writes scripts, she recently wrote a book, The Evolution of a Wine Drinker, that I bought and read and adore. It's a great collection of essays about her journey toward being an oenophile. They're all really informative and fun and funny, because she's the nice, adventurous kind of wine connoisseur, not the snobby I-Don't-Drink-California-Wines kind.

Recently, she's put a couple of recipes on her blog (New House Girl), recipes that look so delish and so simple, even I might be able to cook them. And I'm the woman who knows how to ruin a recipe in a thousand different and unique ways.

I was at the store tonight with the following grocery list: dog food, kitty litter, Excedrin, and dinner. I looked up and down several aisles but could not find a box, bag, or can marked "dinner" so I had to punt. What could I toss together in a short time?

Wait - what was that chicken and rice recipe that Alicia made? I remembered the ingredients (or thought I did) and made a quick run through the store, gathering what I didn't have at home. When I did get home, well... here's how it went down.

Alicia says:

INGREDIENTS: feeds 5
Rice; 2 dry cups (plain, not Jasmine or any other flavored rice)
Water; 4 wet/fluid cups for the rice (American measurements are so confusing) 
Chicken legs; 10 (they cook faster than chicken breasts and aren't too large so guests can eat one or two without feeling piggy. Or maybe I'm talking about me feeling piggy?) 
Soup stock; 2 cubes (Use to flavor the rice. I use the low salt or sea salt stock varieties)
Bread crumbs; 1/2 cup (In advance, I grate hardened rice flour bread or rye flour bread and store the crumbs for just this type of impromptu dinner. Plus I like knowing all the spices used in the bread crumbs--in this case zero)
Onions; 2 diced 
Celery; 6 stalks diced
Carrots; 5 peeled and diced
Ground coriander; 2 teaspoons
Cumin; 2 teaspoons
Saffron; 1/2 teaspoon. (This will color the rice yellow and is purely used for cosmetic purposes and therefore not necessary since Saffron is expen$ive)
Salt; a couple shakes.
Parsley; chopped (I like the curly variety)
Red wine; 3/4 cup for the pot. The rest for you and your guests. 
 
Gayle did:
I remembered the chicken, onions, celery and carrots. At home, I knew I had rice, bread crumbs, salt, and red wine. The rest ran through my brain like water through a sieve.
 
Alicia says:
 
DIRECTIONS:
1) Bring a pot of the water to boil on the stove top with the soup stock cubes and saffron. Once water boils, add rice. Bring rice to a boil then turn to simmer. 
2) Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat. 
3) Open a bottle of red wine and pour yourself a glass.
4) Pour bread crumbs into mixing bowl and coat drumsticks. Put drumsticks into Dutch oven. Chicken needs time to cook, but once both sides of drumsticks are browned, add salt, onions, carrots, celery, coriander and cumin. Cover.
5) Add wine. Cover. The moisture will help imbue the chicken with these flavors and help cook it. 
6) When the meat is falling off the bone, dish into shallow bowls, garnish with fresh parsley, stir rice and dish up.
7) Serve. Voila!
 
Gayle did:
 
1. We have a rice cooker and I wanted brown rice and I forgot the stock cubes and the saffron was optional anyway, so sue me.
 
2. Check. Olive oil heated.
 
3. I actually did this step first. Check.
 
4. I opened the package of drumsticks and saw there was only five, not six. Did I need to reduce everything by 16%? Punting, I coated them with bread crumbs and browned them in the Dutch oven, then added the onions, celery, and carrots.
 
Um... here's the thing... I dismantled my spice cabinet and could not find cumin. I did find coriander seeds, but they were from a spice rack I got for my first marriage in the 70s. Is there an expiration date on spice?
 
Again, Gayle the Punter to the rescue, I thought about the glass of wine I poured in step 0. It was a Barbera, and a damn fine one. Hmm, I says to myself, if I use the Barbera* to cook the chicken, and Barbera is an Italian grape, why don't I substitute Italian seasoning?
 
*I know what you're thinking: that chick is wasting perfectly good wine to cook? Because I subscribe to the philosophy that once the alcohol has been burned away, what's left should be deliciousness, not cheap-bitter-fakery.
 
5. Wine added, to the pot and my glass. Check.
 
6. It took about 40 minutes for the meat to fall of the bone. I didn't have parsley, but here's how mine turned out -
 

 
7. Voila indeed.
 
So maybe I took a few liberties with Alicia's recipe, but it was easy and completely delicious, even with the substitutions.
 
Thank you, Alicia! If you write a cookbook, I'm in!

P.S. BeeTeeDubs, Alicia is having a book signing next Tuesday, November 19, at the V Wine Room, 903 Westbourne Drive, West Hollywood, from 7:30 to 9:30. I have to work in Chino Hills until 5:00, but I plan to schlep my horsey self to WeHo just to pick up SEVERAL autographed copies of her book!
 
 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy Tuesday!

I'm a little too rushed to give you much of a post today, as I must dash in a million directions until late into the eve. I don't even have time to scamper. But I didn't want to leave up the last post and lead you all astray, thinking you had one more day to get a discounted copy of THE HOT MESS. Sorry, folks, the offer's done, and I'll tell you all about it later in the week.

Instead, I thought I'd give you the inspiration for the name of my publishing company, Dancing Corgi Press.



Duffy (my Corgi) does do a little dance at breakfast, although it's mostly a bunch of circles, interrupted by a few impatient taps of the front feet. I'd record it, but seriously, who is THAT awake at 7 a.m.?



BeeTeeDubs, yes, Dancing Corgi Press has only one author. She's a real witch and I am simply too exhausted to take on any others.

Monday, November 11, 2013

One more day

THE HOT MESS is available at the reduced price of $1.99 for only one more day. Two dollars off. Yes, that's over 50% discount.

Here's the link where you can buy it: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AD94TDW

Here's a musical interlude to entertain you while you hop over to Amazon:



Have a great Monday!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let the countdown begin!

Amazon is always looking for ways to entice authors to entice readers to buy their books. I wholeheartedly agree with this, as it's a win-win situation. Their latest effort is the Kindle Countdown Deal, where an author can discount their books for a limited time and still retain the lion's share of the profit.

Of course, I thought I'd try it out with The Hot Mess, so it will be on sale for 99 cents for three days, then $1.99 for three days, before going back up to $3.99.

So you can get it now for a GREATLY reduced price. If you dawdle, you may miss out on GREATLY, but you can still get it for a VERY reduced price. If you are a true procrastinator, it's okay. It's still a good deal at $3.99 - I mean, you can't even get a good pumpkin spice latte for that.

Already got it? Get it for a loved one's Kindle - it's never too early to do a little Christmas shopping!

Here's the link - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AD94TDW

Enjoy!



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

A friend of mine posted this to Facebook and I just thought it was so appropriate.



Creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, altogether ooky... but they know how to get their dance party groove on.


Or, if you'd like something a little more traditional, there's this.



Enjoy the day, any way you want to.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Giving it away: Friendship edition

Funny thing happened at the Placentia Heritage Day Festival on Saturday. I made up a nice sign to direct people to drop their business cards in a bowl for a chance at winning one of my fabulous prizes. I have several of those plastic holders to set on a table and hold signs, so I packed one for the sign with the prices on it and one with the "Don't Just Stand There, Win Something" sign.

When I unpacked at the park... one of the plastic holders was broken. Annihilated. Unfixable.

So I didn't put out the Win Something sign and I didn't give anything away.

Damn.

But their loss is possibly your gain. I'm giving away Hit or Missus items today. I have one tote bag and two mugs, all of which have the cover art and the slogan, "A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body."



All you have to do is share with me. You can do it in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus. Give me one story of how far you've gone to help a friend.



I'll choose three winners, based on either the sweetness or outlandishness of the deed.

Ready, set, go!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The universe is a great place to be

I recently introduced a friend of mine to a name that many people already know. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist extraordinaire. Not only is he a smart guy, I'm super-stoked that he is being tapped to be the host of a reboot of Cosmos. Remember this?



Yeah, Carl Sagan was the bomb.

I am in complete awe of well-spoken experts, who can take their subject, about which they could speak in the most complex terms possible, and instead take it down a notch and make it accessible.

Here's Neil, discussing something not exactly scientific, and yet important.



I can't wait.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hope full

I can't write the blues.

When I was young, I read and enjoyed literary fiction. When I began writing, I dreamed of creating the Next Great American Novel. I pictured a tome about people and their lives and what it all means. The problem is, most of these stories come to either a bad or at best, a neutral end.

I need all's well to end well.

I've written one tale that did not contain my humor. Even now when I read it, I'm not even certain I recognize my own voice. Yet I know I wrote it. I won an online contest with it. It's called Quarter Life.

* * * * *

Whoever said deserts were hot had never been to Vegas in February. Reuben shrank into his borrowed jacket, away from the morning chill. As he did, something shiny caught his attention.

He reached down to the curb, his cold, stiff fingers trying to grasp the object. Stuck to the pavement, it seemed to be glued by the flotsam and jetsam of Las Vegas, layers of dirt and grease and human bondage. His fingernails dug at the hard edge until he pried the silvery coin loose from the concrete.

A quarter, one of the new ones. Reuben flipped it over and saw horses, running from the sunrise. Nevada, the Silver State, it said.

Staccato music from the casino beckoned him frantically, urgently, atonally. He had just left Buffalo Bill's, having kissed his last dollar good-bye. From experience he knew he couldn't wander, penniless, through the slot machines. The employees knew him too well; they had asked him to leave.

He had spotted Carl, the night manager, walking through the poker slots. Reuben knew Carl, knew the way he'd start a friendly conversation that would end with, "Want me to call the shelter, Buddy?" As he headed toward the door, Reuben saw a windbreaker draped on a chair.

"This place owes me," he had mumbled to himself, and casually picked up the jacket as he exited.

A car horn blasted his eardrums as tires kicked up gutter water onto his stained chinos. The taxi woke Reuben from his trance, a dark-skinned driver herding him away from the well-dressed, well-drunk customers with a yell. Reuben waved his hand angrily and yelled something in return, unintelligible even to him.

He stared back down at the quarter. Three years ago, he'd come here with ten thousand dollars and a plan to turn it into more. With Vegas' help, he was going to buy back his house, buy back his family, buy back his life. Vegas was supposed to save him.

It only took a week to break him.

"How you doing tonight?" Carl asked, laying his hand on Reuben's shoulder. "You need a ride to the shelter, buddy?"

Reuben turned and stared through him. He used to be able to talk to people, but he just couldn't see anyone's face anymore.

"How about I give you a voucher for breakfast?" Carl reached into his pocket. "You look like you could use a hot meal."

Reuben continued to stare. "I got a quarter." His words drifted at the manager.

"That's great, buddy. You put that in your pocket, and I'll get you some breakfast."

"I got a quarter." The sentence became a prayer.

Carl sighed. "Okay, buddy. Let's go pick a machine for you."

"I got a quarter," Reuben repeated, following the manager back into the casino. A Nevada quarter, he thought. It was karma. It was fate.
 
This time it would be different.


* * * * *

Sad, yes? And yet I find some weird hope in it, in that Reuben believes this might be the magic coin sent to save him.

If I wrote fantasy, I might make this coin truly magic and take Reuben on a journey to redeem himself.

This is why I'll never write that great novel.

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