In Praise of Deadlines (sort of) Caroline

Deadlines… Writers live and die by them. Usually we cuss them. I always tell my editor to give me a date a week to ten days before she actually needs whatever it is I am writing. Lie to me. That way if I slip a couple of days, I will still make the REAL deadline and will not screw my editor’s life up. I also realize that most of us actually would never accomplish a darned thing without the pressure of a deadline. I have always envied writers who get their term papers done a week ahead of the due date. I tell myself that I work better under pressure, but since I’m never NOT under pressure, I have no idea whether that’s true or not.

I think the worst deadline case I ever personally experienced was for a paper in a graduate seminar on Bertrand Russell’s theories of divorce. Oh, for pity’s sake! Who cares? Who remembers? I certainly wasn’t able to work up any great enthusiasm either for him or his theories. This was in the days before computers when papers had to be typed carefully and corrected with White Out and ink erasers. And somehow the correction never lined up perfectly with what was excised.

I am a very fast typist, although not necessarily a clean one. I used to buy White-Out in a six pack. I finished the paper at one-thirty in the afternoon. The seminar started across campus at two. I made it, read the paper, got an A on the thing (which I did not deserve, but hey…) and vowed to be better disciplined the next time.

How did that work for me? Guess.

At any rate, I had to get the new anthology of short stories for our Malice in Memphis writers’ group edited and returned to the authors by yesterday’s meeting, so that their final proofreading and editing could be done before next Friday. The stories will be tied in to the Memphis in May festival. The publisher needs them by the first of February, so I’m already cutting it close.

How is it that when times are tight problems previously unseen surface and snarl at you? I discovered I had the wrong version of one story. The author had sent me a later one, but it hadn’t showed up on my computer. Oh, lovely. Then I received a very late story that has some problems that must be dealt with before it is publishable. Then there were the corrections the writers had not fixed. For those of you who have ever judged contests, you know that there is nothing more frustrating than to get a manuscript to judge THIS year that has not been corrected from LAST year.

At least there is time to fix everything (one hopes) that has to be fixed and still meet the publisher’s deadline.

I truly believe that with each anthology, the stories get better. Thus the writers are getting better. Hooray! That’s why we started this in the first place.

Incidentally the Malice in Memphis Ghost Stories anthology (available on Amazon) is doing really well. The first anthology of crime stories is still selling as well.

Check out our Malice in Memphis web site to find out more.

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#fridayfreebie on Friday the 13th

Really? The year barely gets started and already we have a Friday the 13th?

The only safe course is to hunker down with a cowboy, right?

Why, yes, I do have one in mind. He’s free at the moment, too.

Debra COWBOY free2017

KINDLE: http://littl.ink/MTCOWBOYAZ 
IBOOKS: http://littl.ink/MTCOWBOYIB
GOOGLE: http://littl.ink/MTCOWBOYGP 
KOBO: http://littl.ink/MTCOWBOYKobo
BN: http://littl.ink/MTCOWBOYBN

But, seriously, folks, if you’re interested, here’s a site with all you ever wanted to know about PARASKEVIDEKATRIPHOBIA, which is fear of Friday the 13th (the day, not the movie).

http://www.fearof.net/fear-of-friday-the-13th-phobia-paraskevidekatriaphobia-or-friggatriskaidekaphobia/

Be safe out there! And happy reading!

Deb

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Celebration dates – Carolyn

Remind me again how much I like winter in the south. At this point it is 20 with a wind chill of about 14. That’s Fahrenheit, not the Celsius stuff. The hose is frozen in the barn, which means that I have to fill buckets with water and trot them the entire length of the barn so that the horses will have water to drink. Warmed water. I have a tank heater in the trough that keeps the water at least liquid. I also have three inches of snow in the pasture and on the road, which will make driving to church problematic. It is Elvis Presley’s birthday and the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans. Elvis is older than I am, but it’s also my birthday.

In my family birthdays have always been celebrated either not at all, or with jokes. The best one I can remember from my youth was the time we presented my mother (who abominated birthdays) with an elaborate multi-layer cake with a gigantic icing cigar complete with icing smoke and embers. I don’t recall that she was thrilled.

Neither George nor I could ever remember for sure the date of our marriage. We were married by the mayor in a tiny little Mairie (town hall) in Olivet, France. They presented us with a bright red Livret de Famille slightly larger than a passport with pages for the births and deaths of twelve children. I explained to the mayor that I had intention of filling it up. It lives in our lock box. Each year in the fall I would make a trek down to the bank to check the date we should celebrate.

The mayor was a small, plump gentleman who was wearing with his tweed jacket the sash of the Legion D’Honeur. From his age I would assume he earned it during his boyhood in the Second World War. Lord knows what he did, but it must have been extraordinary. I knew a number of people who ran messages to and from the Maquis (the partisans) when they were barely out of nursery school. Their ages would not have protected them nor their families had they been captured.

The entire wedding thing was a chaotic disaster from start to finish. I wrecked my VW bug on the way to Orly airport to pick George up on the Monday before the wedding. Then we had to drive to Paris—putting a quart of oil in the bug every twenty miles or so—to get a single stamp on a single piece of paper. We had to enlist the services of the diplomatic group of the US army to intercede with the Mairie so that they would marry us without a six-week waiting period. We had the paper giving us that privilege, but the French bureaucracy decided to be as obstructive as possible.

There was not a wedding band in Orleans big enough to fit me. We found one in the PX at 5:00 pm on Friday evening.

And I got the flu. My recollection of the wedding is hazy. I had a hundred and three fever.

I gets worse. But more of that at another time. Incidentally, we were happy together for 47 years, so we did something right.

 

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Happy First Friday of 2017!

TGIF takes on new meaning when it’s the first of the new year, doesn’t it? So fresh. So hopeful. So…wow, that week went fast!!! Is the whole year going to be like this?

New stuff abounds in Debland.

Rain up the wazoo–and boy, did our wazoo need it! They’re saying another storm is coming. I can’t wait! Although the down side when you get a lot of rain in one fell swoop is flooding and parts of Yosemite National Park have been closed just in case this next storm is as strong as predicted.

Yesterday, I got a new header for my Facebook and newsletter from the very talented Sharlene Martin-Moore.

debrajanfbheader

And I’ll be sharing a new cover reveal in my newsletter on Sunday. Are you signed up? I’m doing a monthly giveaway in 2017. Here’s January’s gift. I love supporting fellow artists, including my talented photographer friend, Jackie Maxwell of JaxImages. Her calendars are just gorgeous. NEWSLETTER

jan17-newsletter-prize

I’m back to work on my next book–no rest for the writer types. Have a great weekend, my friends.

Happy reading!

Deb

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Hog Jowl and Black-eyed peas – Carolyn

I have to run to Kroger to pick up some canned black-eyed peas and country ham for biscuits. I draw the line at hog jowl. I’m sure it’s fine for seasoning the pot, but something about the whole idea of those bristles just turns me off. When I was a child, my uncle Jim, the only farmer in my close kin, would drive to town to bring us a packet of hog backbone for Christmas. It can’t have been as good as I remember. Nothing could be. It was a great delicacy. He only gave it to us once a year at New Year’s. I have lady peas in my freezer, but they won’t substitute for black-eyed peas. I just found out that the number of eyes in the peas confirms the number of good days in the coming year. I, personally, could use 365.

Christmas in Memphis frequently is hot. This year went overboard. The temperature was over seventy degrees. I had to run the air conditioner for an hour or so just to get the ambient temperature down inside the house for Christmas breakfast.

We never did get the tree up and decorated. My daughter’s surgery kept her from shopping for presents. She couldn’t drive. Thank God I had enough stuff for them to open. My mother used to say that everybody needed three presents—one funny one, one good one, and one sentimental one that made you cry. I managed, but just by the skin of my teeth.

I truly have reached the age where I don’t need anything—except big things like a new computer and a couple of new barn doors. I had plenty of carrots and apples for the horses and enough gifts for my children to open to mess up the den. Good enough. They offered to decorate the tree on Christmas morning, but all I could see was having to take it down two days later all by myself. Since we decorate with miles of ribbon, I would have had to sit and wind it up spool by spool. I may actually be forced to get a fake tree, although I am dragging my feet.

Today is the start of 2017. My birthday (never you mind which one) is a week from today. When I look at all I have not accomplished this year, I wonder if I will ever catch up. Like the Red Queen in Alice (or was it the white queen? The ditzy one, at any rate), I have to run as hard as I can just to stay in one place.

This year I have decided to create a white board with all the items around here that need to be repaired and replaced. I will then hang it up somewhere I can’t miss it and try to click off an item a week. I suspect like most resolutions, that one will go by the board quickly, no pun intended.

But at this time the horses have fresh round bails of hay and plenty of food. So do the cats. Me, too, if I could figure out something I actually want to eat—except for black-eyed peas and country ham, that is.

Boy, do I hope we can all get our act together this year! If we can’t manage to agree, let’s at least manage to be polite to one another. What I wish for everyone in the new year is love and peace and health and enough money to hold it all together. Happy New Year, y’all.

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My 2017 resolution, what’s yours?

I have one simple resolution for 2017: more nature, less drama (unless it’s in my books).

the-earth-has-its-music-for-those-who-will-listen-george-santayana

I took this photo on the hilltop behind my daughter’s house. The wind seemed to be talking to me, but we’ve been out of touch too long. I couldn’t make out all the words. It broke my heart a bit.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are you successful in making them stick?

A friend of mine suggested I try this site for inspiration, but I have to admit I’ve been too busy to do more than glance at it:

KaiZen https://medium.com/the-mission/get-1-better-every-day-the-kaizen-approach-to-self-improvement-b79c9e045678#.fp833xyyy

One of the quotes that made sense to me was: “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily”—Mike Murdock

That’s where nature comes in. My goal is to walk–and breathe deeply–every day. I am determined to give myself time to connect to the world outside my busy, frantic brain and truly focus on the world around me.

Will I be successful? Time will tell. All we can do is try, right?

Have a very happy New Year’s Eve, my friends. I’ll see you in 2017.

Deb

PS: If your resolution includes reading more, I do have a fun story that opens at a masked ball on New Year’s Eve.  You can start reading for FREE here: MONTANA REBEL.

rebel-mask-1

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Merry Christmas! – Carolyn

Christmas in Memphis is either feast or—depending on your point of view—famine. The kids who get bicycles are delighted because they can ride between the raindrops in 75 temperature. The kids who got sleds—not so much.

Last week the weather was bitter. Cold, sleety and snowy. And will probably be so next week. Actually, I am looking forward to being trapped in the house. I have spent so much time driving that I’ve used up two full tanks of gasoline, and I have to continue my treks today as well. My daughter can still not drive her car. The doctors say two full weeks. So, guess who is in charge of transportation to and from my house for Christmas breakfast—which I am about to start cooking.

I know I should be grateful to have the chance. So many people do not. But I still hate it. It’s largely because breakfast is one of those meals that cannot be cooked ahead of time. You cannot scramble eggs the night before, or they are yckky. I couldn’t find any country ham for the Sister Schubert rolls. I wrapped a couple of extra packages that I had forgotten I had this morning. The others I wrapped at midnight. On top of everything else, I have had that stomach crud that lays everyone flat this time of year. I think it is because those of us who no longer have children in the house have lost our natural immunity. Most of the year I do not shop. But three house in Wal-Mart and Target is almost guaranteed to land me with something grim—well, grimmish.

So, I am not going to church. I have no intention of spreading whatever I have. And this will be extremely short because I don’t have enough energy or good sense at this point to come up with something not Grinchlike.

You wouldn’t know it from this, but I really do love Christmas. This year the tree didn’t get decorated and there isn’t a wreath on the door, but there is very definitely love in my heart and joy in my soul.

Now, excuse me while I go cook the sausage. Merry Christmas. cmc

 

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Ho, Ho, Ho. Or not? Carolyn

Saturday afternoon it was 76 degrees on my back porch. This morning it is 20. Spookey! Yesterday it was still and hot. Last night we had perilous thunderstorms with embedded tornadoes and 65 mile an hour winds. Call it climate change or something else, but it is definitely weird.

I went to the Nashoba Carriage Association Christmas party last night, and despite everyone’s telling me that the weather wouldn’t come in until midnight, I left early. Twenty minutes after I drove in my driveway the hurricane hit. I hate driving at night anyway, but driving in high winds, tornadoes and thunderstorms is downright terrifying in the dark. I hope everyone who stayed for the Dirty Santa (and had a few drinks, which I did not) got home safely.

I always say you can’t hurt Christmas, but this year my karma—or whatever—is giving it a shot. I’ve been telling everyone that I am being nibbled to death by ducks. Now I have progressed straight through being nibbled by geese and swans and on to casawaries. That’s the giant Australian bird with the big horn on its beak and the temperament borrowed from a Tasmanian devil. Steve Irwin, who had some in his zoo, said they tried to kill him every time he got near them. Me too.

Sunday night my daughter went in to the emergency room, was admitted and scheduled for laparoscopic surgery. Or more than laparascopy if necessary. The people at the hospital were absolutely fabulous. Megan said her surgeon looked barely twelve, but was not only a genius but super nice. He managed with the laparascope and did not have to cut her from her guggle to her zatch (that’s from James Thurber’s The Thirteen Clocks. She is home and doing fine.

However, my Christmas tree still sits tied up in my carport. I may have an undecorated and un-put-up tree this year. The presents are still unwrapped, there is not even a wreath on the front door. The horses are mad at me because I was late feeding them this morning, and it is my fault it’s cold. Obviously.

But I have wonderful friends who stepped in to help me drive Megan’s car home from the hospital. A truly caring staff at the hospital, friends who offered to help with the tree if my son-in-law can’t. Horses that nuzzle and mug me for treats when they are not mugging me for being late, writer friends and driving and riding and just plain friends, and no major damage either to me or the house from the storms. And no more than a dusting of sleet and snow.

Tonight we sing carols at my church.

The Grinch figured out that you can’t hurt Christmas. Who am I to ignore the Grinch? So, down with Bah, Humbug! Up with Christmas. Have a merry one. cmc

 

 

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It’s Christmas Baking Time!!!!

Christmas is baking time for me.

Years ago, I bought some salted  baked pecans at a store while traveling.  I was instantly in love.   I couldn’t find them anywhere else, at least none that came close to those in a wayside diner/store.

I started experimenting and finally baked something that came close to the pecans that became an obsession.  I started taking them to family events, then moved into baking tins full for individual members  – mostly guys — at Christmas.

The list grew.  Everyone wanted pecans: my extended family, my neighbors, my critique group members, other friends.   I now bake more than forty pounds ever Christmas, two pounds per recipient.   Thank the heavens for Costco  and their endless supply of pecans.

I have it down to a science.   I start three weeks in advance (they keep well).  I try to bake two portions every day.   Each one takes six to seven hours.

I thought I would share the recipe with you today.   It’s simple.   Ingredients are pecans, butter and salt.   The problem is time.   And patience.

I use an  oblong baking pan.   I spread out the pecans about four or five deep and distribute a stick of butter strategically among them.   I bake them at 200 degrees for about twenty minutes, then remove the pan and  distribute the pecans around until they are all coated.   Then I add a  fourth of a stick of butter,  sprinkle the pecans with salt, then put them back into the oven.   I  repeat the process thirty minutes later., I move the pecans around to make sure they are all covered with butter and salt, then reduce the heat to warm for four or five hours..   I  check them every twenty to  thirty minutes to sprinkle a little more salt and  allow the butter and salt to slowly bake into the pecans.   Sometimes I add more butter, sometimes not.  It all depends on the test test.

Did I warn you about the taste test?   The recipe requires frequent tastings to make sure all the pecans are coated and the butter baked into them    Be sure to take note that larger clothes may be required after Christmas.

I’ve now completed — and mailed — ten tins of Christmas pecans.   Only twelve more to go for local folks.

Excuse me, I’m due for another taste test.

Have a great week before Christmas!

 

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Happy Holidays! (Tara Taylor Quinn)

harlequin-santaHappy Holidays From My Publisher and me!

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