the nature of keys – carolyn

Yesterday I locked myself out of the house. Actually, I dropped my door key in the carport in a bunch of wet, nasty leaves. And I could not find it, although I knew I was looking directly at it. I have had any number of experiences when working in the barn of dropping a bolt or (worse) a nut at my feet and having the entire thing disappear before my very eyes. Which are better since I had my cataract surgery.

I could hear the security system blaring inside after I spent my allotted minute messing with the door. A moment later they called. They are very, very good at that. I have no idea where they are located, but they check up on me quickly whenever anything goes wrong. They were not, however, helpful. They commiserated, but they didn’t offer to drive out and break the door down for me. Or even pick the lock. I’m not certain I would have wanted them to, actually, but it would have been nice if they’d offered.

We have a key rack inside the mud room with several key rings loaded with keys. I have no idea what most of them go to or ever went to. I am willing to bet that most of you have some unknown keys of your very own. Keys to apartments you lived in during college. Keys to your first house. Or you first storage shelter. Or your second house. In my case, add the keys to the doors in the barn and the four keys to the lock for the horse trailer I haven’t owned in ten years. And my mother’s house. She died twelve years ago. And my daughter’s house. Heaven forbid I had to get in to her house.

I believe that memories reside in things. I look at the possessions I inherited, at the late relatives and early attic of the furniture in my house, at the horse puppet my father played with when he was a boy and which hangs from the mirror in my front hall, and I remember.

What I do not remember is keys. I do not remember the addresses of the houses and apartments I have lived in either. When I was in the form-filling stage of my life, I used to have a terrible time listing my previous addresses on employment applications, let alone on security forms when I worked with the army. Do I remember my address in Italy? Heck, no. I remember freezing to death in the winter (Italy gets cold) in our villa with one small radiator to heat a parlor that was approximately twenty by forty feet, twelve feet high and with marble floors. And no furniture.

I remember the flash heater in the bathroom of my fourth floor walkup apartment in France that used to get so hot that if you weren’t careful, it would drip hot solder down your back. I remember my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, up the hill from another apartment where the tenant (male) walked around buck naked.

But for me keys symbolize nothing. I finally managed to root around in the wet leaves long enough to find my door key in the carport. I’m having at least three made this afternoon for hiding in various places. I think I’ll actually put tags on them. If I can’t remember, at least I can read what they go to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I locked myself out of the house. Actually, I dropped my door key in the carport in a bunch of wet, nasty leaves. And I could not find it, although I knew I was looking directly at it. I have had any number of experiences when working in the barn of dropping a bolt or (worse) a nut at my feet and having the entire thing disappear before my very eyes. Which are better since I had my cataract surgery.

I could hear the security system blaring inside after I spent my allotted minute messing with the door. A moment later they called. They are very, very good at that. I have no idea where they are located, but they check up on me quickly whenever anything goes wrong. They were not, however, helpful. They commiserated, but they didn’t offer to drive out and break the door down for me. Or even pick the lock. I’m not certain I would have wanted them to, actually, but it would have been nice if they’d offered.

We have a key rack inside the mud room with several key rings loaded with keys. I have no idea what most of them go to or ever went to. I am willing to bet that most of you have some unknown keys of your very own. Keys to apartments you lived in during college. Keys to your first house. Or you first storage shelter. Or your second house. In my case, add the keys to the doors in the barn and the four keys to the lock for the horse trailer I haven’t owned in ten years. And my mother’s house. She died twelve years ago. And my daughter’s house. Heaven forbid I had to get in to her house.

I believe that memories reside in things. I look at the possessions I inherited, at the late relatives and early attic of the furniture in my house, at the horse puppet my father played with when he was a boy and which hangs from the mirror in my front hall, and I remember.

What I do not remember is keys. I do not remember the addresses of the houses and apartments I have lived in either. When I was in the form-filling stage of my life, I used to have a terrible time listing my previous addresses on employment applications, let alone on security forms when I worked with the army. Do I remember my address in Italy? Heck, no. I remember freezing to death in the winter (Italy gets cold) in our villa with one small radiator to heat a parlor that was approximately twenty by forty feet, twelve feet high and with marble floors. And no furniture.

I remember the flash heater in the bathroom of my fourth floor walkup apartment in France that used to get so hot that if you weren’t careful, it would drip hot solder down your back. I remember my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, up the hill from another apartment where the tenant (male) walked around buck naked.

But for me keys symbolize nothing. I finally managed to root around in the wet leaves long enough to find my door key in the carport. I’m having at least three made this afternoon for hiding in various places. I think I’ll actually put tags on them. If I can’t remember, at least I can read what they go to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I locked myself out of the house. Actually, I dropped my door key in the carport in a bunch of wet, nasty leaves. And I could not find it, although I knew I was looking directly at it. I have had any number of experiences when working in the barn of dropping a bolt or (worse) a nut at my feet and having the entire thing disappear before my very eyes. Which are better since I had my cataract surgery.

I could hear the security system blaring inside after I spent my allotted minute messing with the door. A moment later they called. They are very, very good at that. I have no idea where they are located, but they check up on me quickly whenever anything goes wrong. They were not, however, helpful. They commiserated, but they didn’t offer to drive out and break the door down for me. Or even pick the lock. I’m not certain I would have wanted them to, actually, but it would have been nice if they’d offered.

We have a key rack inside the mud room with several key rings loaded with keys. I have no idea what most of them go to or ever went to. I am willing to bet that most of you have some unknown keys of your very own. Keys to apartments you lived in during college. Keys to your first house. Or you first storage shelter. Or your second house. In my case, add the keys to the doors in the barn and the four keys to the lock for the horse trailer I haven’t owned in ten years. And my mother’s house. She died twelve years ago. And my daughter’s house. Heaven forbid I had to get in to her house.

I believe that memories reside in things. I look at the possessions I inherited, at the late relatives and early attic of the furniture in my house, at the horse puppet my father played with when he was a boy and which hangs from the mirror in my front hall, and I remember.

What I do not remember is keys. I do not remember the addresses of the houses and apartments I have lived in either. When I was in the form-filling stage of my life, I used to have a terrible time listing my previous addresses on employment applications, let alone on security forms when I worked with the army. Do I remember my address in Italy? Heck, no. I remember freezing to death in the winter (Italy gets cold) in our villa with one small radiator to heat a parlor that was approximately twenty by forty feet, twelve feet high and with marble floors. And no furniture.

I remember the flash heater in the bathroom of my fourth floor walkup apartment in France that used to get so hot that if you weren’t careful, it would drip hot solder down your back. I remember my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, up the hill from another apartment where the tenant (male) walked around buck naked.

But for me keys symbolize nothing. I finally managed to root around in the wet leaves long enough to find my door key in the carport. I’m having at least three made this afternoon for hiding in various places. I think I’ll actually put tags on them. If I can’t remember, at least I can read what they go to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to Texas (Pat)

Sorry to be so late today, but I’ve been getting ready for a road trip to San Antonio, and road trips always consume a lot more preparation than I expect..

First the suitcase.   What to take?   I’m going to Romance Writers of America Conference in San Antonio, and I hear it’s going to be hot.   Very hot.

I’m driving from Memphis to San Antonio..   And that means I have room to take more than I usually take.   No watching suitcase weight.  Therefore I’m taking everything but the kitchen sink.

I belong to a rather large group of romance writers who, many, many years ago, started an on-line community.   That was in the first days of the internet, and the core of the group still remains.   They have two parties at every conference: a beginning one and an ending one.   Since I’m driving, I offered to help with wine and food.   There goes the trunk.

And I’m traveling slow.   Half the way one day, half the next.   That means sloppy comfortable clothes.    But then there are some quite dressy days at the conference, days when I meet and party with my editor and agent, and that means more formal clothes of which I have few.   And I’m undecided between comfort in heat and some dignity.   Therefore I have two suitcases full of maybes.   When you have a whole car, why make decisions now?

There is also my pile of books.    Not, mind you, that I will have any reading time.   I’m meeting with fellow bloggers Tara and Lynn Tuesday and Wednesday before being plunged into non-ending events.  I probably won’t have time to read even one, but I’m bringing four.    Well, maybe five, plus my Kindle.

I’m like LInus in Peanuts.   His blanket is his security.   Books are mine.  ‘

Now I can’t forget solt drinks and niblets for the road trip plus several maps, AAA books and numerous books on the delights of Texas.   Not that I’m going to have any time, but still . . .

Finally, there was writing my note (more like a manuscript) for the couple who is babysitting my dogs.

And speaking of dogs, I thought I would leave this week with a photo my darlin’ great niece Beth took of the dogs and me.

Katy and Allie and me

I will be absent next Saturday, that being the most important and packed day of the conference but I’ll be reporting back to you the week after next.   If, that is, my packed car makes it back.

 

 

Sleep, wherefore art thou? (Suzanne Forster)

At times I’ve feared I was an incurable insomniac.  At other times I’ve slept so much I began to suspect a touch of sleeping sickness, which is actually caused by an African insect, I believe.  However, I think it’s physically impossible to have both at the same time, which suggests I don’t have either, so that’s somewhat reassuring.

I’m sure there are probably good long periods of time where I’m somewhere in the middle of the Sleep Scale, or certainly more balanced than either insomnia or excessive sleep, but those two extremes never fail to get my attention when they’re happening and as is the case with most afflictions, while you’re dealing with them, it always seems as if they’ll never go away.

A Sleep Log might be good.  That way I could keep track of what’s actually going on.

Right now I’m in Owl mode.  As I write this, it’s well after midnight and I’m not even close to calling it a night.  If only sleep deprivation made me as wise as an owl.  A couple more days of this and I’ll be more than ready to slide into Sloth mode, which is probably nothing more than a reaction to my late nights.  At any rate, it’s the insomnia I need to work on.

One thing that works to cut down the wakefulness is to simply surrender to it.  When I can’t sleep, I do something restful that fills the time, such as reading or watching late night TV, which can induce sleep almost as quickly as a sleeping pill.  Late night TV is generally pretty bad fare.

I also write blog posts.  Now you understand the incoherence.  Late night snacks work too, but then I have weird dreams and eventually I grow out of my clothes.

I’m told the problem is an overactive brain.  I have a dear friend who tells me when she can’t sleep, she visualizes taking her brain out of her head and laying it on the pillow next to her.  That way her brain can stay busy for as long as it wants and she can go to sleep.  My brain refuses to stay on the other pillow.

Clearly I need some tricks to subdue my overactive gray matter.  It would also be nice to have active brain during the day for a change.  So, does anyone out there have any surefire methods for getting to sleep?

Suzanne

in praise of draft horses – carolyn

Last night I watched an interesting show about a man who creates and builds swimming pools that include waterfalls and rock pools. I wish I could afford one, although my friends who have pools say that it’s like having an extra child.

This designer always scouts the area for wonderful rocks that he can add to his design. Last night he found some, all right, but they were in a preserve that does not allow machinery. He usually works with a huge front loader that can pick up, load, or drag his big boulders, load them on trucks, and move them to their new location. That was not possible because of the restrictions.  He was feeling pretty bummed out, having found his boulders and then being denied the method of moving them.

Not to worry. A neighboring farmer arrived with a pair of stone boats—big sledges.  Pulling them was an eight-up team (eight horses) of big, beautiful, black Shire horses. My Zoe (my driving horse) is half Shire. She’s not as tall as those horses, but I’ll bet she’s just as broad. She weighs nearly eighteen hundred pounds. Anyway, it was  like the cavalry arriving. Not only were they beautiful with the long white feathers (long hair) around their ankles, but they were intelligent and professional. They knew their job, and didn’t need much help from any human being to complete it. The driver attached a pair to the largest boulder with chains, and then told them to move it. There is nothing quite so fine in my book as watching a huge pair of draft horses set their shoulders into their collars, hunker down, and pull.  The boulder rocked a couple of times, then it simply slid off behind them and followed them as calmly as a puppy at heel.

The television show did not stick around to watch all the rocks being loaded onto the stone boats. I wish they had. I never tire of watching the guys in our area who log with a pair of humongous Percheron mares. I have used them—the Percherons, that is—in several of my books, and plan to use them again. I have found draft horses in general to be the kindest, wisest, lovingest of all the horses I’ve known. I guess there’s something about being Godzilla-sized that gives them the freedom to let their gentle nature come through.

At the awards banquets for our local hunter-jumper association, the announcer always used to say to the parents out front watching their children win awards, “You people have no idea what these kids go through to get those little ponies to behave.”

Ponies, by the way, are not baby horses. Baby horses are called foals. Ponies are horses that stand at 14.2 hands and below. By contrast, my half Clydesdale dressage horse stands 17.2 at the withers. A hand is four inches. Basically it’s the measurement of four fingers held crossways. To give you an idea, I am five feet nine. I cannot see over my dressage horse’s withers. If it cools off this afternoon, I plan to drive my Zoe, the half Shire. Let’s hope she proves me right and behaves herself better than a pony.

 

This and That (Pat)

My aplogies for being missing without leave last Saturday.

I was in a marathon writing frenzy trying to finish my book on deadline, or at least within a week of the deadline.   I made it, but not without a bunch of 18 hour-days.

I’m popping up now for a breath of air, and then I’ll probably be in another frenzy with revisions since Harlequin moved up my book from April to February.

It’s the sequel to “A Soldier’s Promise,” and the hero is about as opposite from Josh as two men can be.   Clint Morgan is outgoing with a quirky sense of humor that hides a painful childhood and his present reality.   He can  no longer fly helicopters, the one and only love of his life.   Until, that is, he meets Stephanie, Covenant Falls’ animal doctor.

The chemistry between these two is really fun.

After my marathon finished on Wednesday, I went into zombie mode for two days, and I’m just now surfacing as a functional human being.

My first act in that state was to make tomato gravy.   Both Lynn and Tara will tell you that while tomato gravy doesn’t sound very good, it’s really quite exceptional.   I think both friends come to Memphis just to savor this delicacy.

The secret is big, fat vine ripened tomatoes.    You melt butter in a frying pan.   Slice tomatoes, then coat them with flour on both sides.   Then you add about one-eighth or one quarter cup of whole milk.   (Has to be whole milk) .   Then I add spices: savory, salt,  a fantastic Cajun spice, Worchester sauce, lots of garlic and what ever else I see within reach.    It’s ready in about ten minutes, and I pour it over whilte toast.

It is absolutely delectable.    It is a southern dish, I think.   My mother used to make it every morning during the summer.   My dad grew the best tomatoes ever.

Try it sometime.   But, remember, really good juicy tomatoes only.

Now I have to write some promotional material for the new book and get ready for the Romance Writers of American Conference in San Antonio.  I’m leaving a week from Sunday and driving from Memphis to San Antonio.  a trip of about 750 miiles.   (I stop halfway).

I hope you are having a storm free summer.

Oh, and there was a feature on me in Southern Writers Magazine.   You can access it at southernwritersmagazine.com

I Thought I Was Going To Die and Free Offers (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I saw my life in the balance this week.  I was in a truck.  On the side of a mountain.  The drop off was a couple of thousand feet.  There were inches between our vehicle and the drop-off.  No guard rail.  No wall.  Just…inches.  The road was washboard dirt – and loose sand.  And one lane.  With occasional vehicles in both directions.  It was steep up followed by a hairpin turn and steep down followed by a hair pin turn.  Every time you put on your breaks, you slid.  Steep down, followed by hair pin turn and if you put on your breaks you slide.  Just wanted to make sure I painted that picture clearly.

It took us almost three hours to go twenty-two miles.  Three hours of sheer terror.  Of hanging on to the door, staring at the mountain wall on one side of us rather than the drop off on the other.  Three hours of facing that fact that I might die that day.

We were driving on pavement one minute, exploring, and suddenly the pavement ended and there we were.  Trapped.  There was no way to turn around.  A chance we took, a choice we made put us on the road to hell.  We had to ride it or die.

At one point I announced that I had to get out and walk.  We were about halfway into the twenty-two miles.  At that point I was fairly certain that my chances of walking 12 miles in 106 degree heat with two small bottles of water were better than being in that vehicle another second.  Tim told me not to be ridiculous and didn’t stop.

I was terrified.  He was…pissed.  Really pissed.  Seriously pissed.  I’ve come to realize getting angry is the guy version of fear.

The second we hit pavement I burst into tears.  Tim pulled off and I got out.  Immediately.  I looked around me and saw the most incredibly beautiful sight.  I was on top of the world.  I could see for miles.  Beautiful mountains that went on forever.  And below me, a crystal clear lake that also went on as far as I could see.

And then I realized that I’d just been given another gift.  Another chance to know and understand.    Sometimes we have to do all we can do and then…trust.  Sometimes life is out of our hands and that’s when we hang on and ride.  Sometimes we make bad choices, but we can still come out on top.  Sometimes it seems as though the road to hell is never ending but it’s really the road to heaven.

I promised offers and I have a few of them:

1.  For the next few days, enter to win more than fifty prizes, including a Kindle fire, offered by more than fifty Harlequin authors.  http://www.perrytalebooks.com/perry-tells-blog/

2.  Review The Friendship Pact, by ttq, on Amazon and receive a free e-copy of Wife By Design.  Email staff@tarataylorquinn.com for your free copy.

3.  Like or follow ttq on Facebook and Twitter by July 20th and be entered to win a year of ttq books.  All likes and follows between June 20th and July 20th are automatically entered.

4.  Join the open #Friendship board on Pinterest, http://www.pinterest.com/tarataylorquinn/friendship/ post your own friendship pictures, and receive a moment of feel good.  Take a chance on gaining a reason to smile.

Happy Fourth – Carolyn

 

Wonder of wonders, it’s been actually liveably cool this week, which means I got to play horse not once but twice. And that means happiness. In my case, it’s not a warm puppy but a warm horse. Not only that, but a marvelous man with a gigantic (and working, unlike mine) tractor and bushhog cut my pastures. Good thing, since driving Zoe to my carriage was a lot like traversing the Oregon trail without the danger of being scalped. I truly wish I enjoyed gardening or jogging out of doors, but I don’t. I read Southern Living with envy, but my idea of al fresco living is curling up in the front porch swing in the late afternoon with my IPad. But not for long, since every wasp, mosquito or horse fly in the county finds me and says, “Ah! Dinner!”

Our Fourth of July tradition is fried chicken, cucumber sandwiches, my late husband George’s recipe for baked beans, and watermelon on the patio afterwards. If possible, I watch 1776 and Yankee Doodle Dandy. I am positive in 1776 that we will never get that pesky Declaration of Independence signed, and I invariably cry when we do.

This year I had to attempt to recreate George’s recipe for baked beans from memory. It takes all day, brown sugar, molasses, onions, catsup, and a hint of Poupon mustard. My children say that I largely succeeded. My mother said that it is inappropriate to eat watermelon until the Fourth, no matter how ripe they may be in the stores earlier. Since I don’t like watermelon that much, I’m delighted not to have to eat it but once a year for tradition’s sake and letting somebody else take home the leavin’s.

The Fourth is kind of a watershed holiday for us. My mother died on the Fourth, and this is our first year without George. My friend Pat produced Brunswick stew for seventeen to twenty members of her family and spent three days doing it. I don’t have anyone left but my son and daughter-in-law. I say it’s just as easy to cook for seventeen as it is for three. She says I’m crazy, and she’s generally right about things like that.

So this week it’s back to heat indexes over a hundred, which means I probably will hunker down inside and wish I could take Zoe for a drive. She will stand in the barn under the fan or wallow in the pond and roll in the mud. And leave me to wash the mud off her.

The Week In Review (Tara Taylor Quinn)

It’s been a busy week on the Friendship front! We’re running a special until July 20th.  Post a review of The Friendship Pact on Amazon and receive a free e-copy of Wife By Design completely free.  Wife By Design is Book One in the Where Secrets Are Safe Series, featuring The Lemonade Stand – a very unique women’s shelter off the coast of California.  Once A Family, Book Two, is on sale now.  Book Three is coming in September. Reviews are popping up on other sites as well.  I wanted to share some of them with you. This one was just posted last night on Amazon:  “This was an intense and emotional story. It delves deep into women’s friendships but also looks at the complications when men, women and children enter the picture. The author took risks with this book but in my opinion the risks paid off.”

Library Journal said:  “Not a typical Quinn novel and unlike its romance kin (In Plain Sight; Hidden), The Friendship Pact focuses on the ties between women and how important those relationships are throughout life. Marriage is only the subplot here as readers follow Kora and Bailey through heartache and heartbreak, yet the women are always able to find their way back to each other. Be warned romance readers: this celebratory tale reveals an ending with some unexpected twists. Get ready!”

Debbie Haupt at The Reading Frenzy said this: “Tara Taylor Quinn’s latest release is a mix of women’s fiction, romance and suspense, a haunting, heartbreaking page-turner and a one sitting non-stop angst filled read. Starring two incredibly strong, caring and genuine women with a fine cast of co-stars that will fill in blanks and add depth and meaning. Her narrative flows with edge of your seat intensity, honesty that’s often brutal, and loyalty that’s pure. Its a prime example of literature imitating life because its based on and dedicated to the author’s own special BFF. Her story within a story is complex and rife with life-changing obstacles, tragedies and triumphs. And as I neared the end all I wanted was more. Tara you have taken me on some incredible journeys before but none can compare to the passion of this one. I can’t wait to see where you take me next.”

Romantic Times Magazine just posted as well: ”Readers who enjoy dramatic stories of the heart that center around strong friendships will not be able to put this book down.”

From the HarlequinJunkie blog:  “The Friendship Pact is a moving, complicated, but ultimately heartwarming journey that I will definitely be reading again. Highly recommended.”

I’m hosting a Friendship Celebration over the next several months with new free offers posted randomly.  Follow me on Facebook or Twitter, post friend pictures of your own and tag me, or join my open Friendship board on Pinterest to join in!  I’d love to see your friend pictures and quotes!

Other minor disasters – carolyn

I tried to attach a picture of my carriage with its fancy umbrella. So far I have never been able to get that particular job done, but hope springs eternal. Hey, it’s better than despair. We keep attempting to get Zoe put to (that’s what you call getting a harness on a horse and fastening her to the carriage), but we keep running into pop up showers about the time we’re ready to move off. The umbrella is actually supposed to be for sun, but surely it will work for rain as well.

The newest disasters? First, having to install a new air conditioning motor. It was only running in the lower 90s, so it really wasn’t that bad. If the temperature had gotten into the upper 90s or 100s, which it is perfectly capable of doing at this time of year, I would have moved to the Hampton Inn until it was fixed.

I really hate not being able to do everything myself. Second problem: My big tractor needs a new battery. Drat! The old one is stuck deep in the bowels of Godzilla (smaller than the movie one and yellow) and weighs about eighty pounds. I can’t begin to get it out. Nor can I put a new one in. Then I need to find someone to bushhog my pastures, which are a disgrace at the moment and so full of lush poke salat that I could poison half of Collierville. I have seen the occasional ad for “rent-a-husband,” but I need a “rent-a-hulk.”

I can no longer pick up more than fifty pound feed sacks. And I refuse to do the bushhogging myself. The problem with a bushhog attached to the back of a tractor is that it really doesn’t give a hoot what it cuts up into little pieces. Grass? Weeds? Stobs and sticks? No problemo. The driver who has fallen off and is lying in its path? Also, no problemo.

The good news? I have started a new book. I hope it will be the first in a mystery series. I’m finding my way to the characters at the moment. If attempting a series, it’s important to know the characters well before you start, because if it’s successful, you are stuck with them. Agatha Christie’s alter ego, Ariadne Oliver, had a Finnish detective. She grew to loathe him. She admitted she knew little or nothing about Finland. Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs. Bradley starts out old in 1930. By the time Gladys wrote her last Mrs. Bradley in something like 1975, the woman would have had to be preserved in Shang-ri-la. Or pickled. And then there’s the Cabot Cove syndrome. Any stranger would be a lunatic to move to Cabot Cove. It would cut his life expectancy to zero.

Please wish me luck. I have the world’s best critique group to help and kick me repeatedly in the rear end and beat me about the head and shoulders when I slow down, but I need a cheering section. Help.