Monday, March 31, 2008

4 Things Meme


My friend of mine, Wynne, has challenged me to a meme about "4's".
Seems I don't have enough to do.
So here goes:

1. Hawking Pizza on a street corner. The "Had a Piece Lately?" on my tee-shirt got old fast, especially when the sailors were in town.
2. Salesgirl in a touristy-artsy-crafty store. My boss would look down from his office and yell "Circulate!"
3. A model for Elite
4. A substitute teacher for a bilingual school in Lyon - Kindergarten through third grade. They offered me a full-time job, but we moved.

1. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
2. Babe
3. The Lord of the Rings
4. Diva

1. Debbie
2. Jenny A.
3. My aunt Jane
4. Joy

1. NCIS (My favorite gung-ho I'm an American right-wing-nut fighting against terrorism show. Go Abby!)
2. Medium (Beta male and psycho, er, psychic female, and three horrible brats makes for hours of fascination.)
3. Experts of NY (Love, Love, LOVE Gary Sinese.)
4. Dr. Who (all time favorite show!!!)

1. Somewhere sunny
2. Somewhere sunny and warm
3. Somewhere sunny and warm, with a nice breeze
4. Sunny, warm, nice breeze, and a nice view, and maybe a cabana boy to bring me another piña colada please?

1. Steak
2. Pickled Herring.
3. Chocolate
4. I can't believe I didn't put chocolate first. Is coffee a food?

1. Israel
2. Argentina
3. Senegal
4. Germany

1. Summer vacation
2. The elections. GOOD BYE BUSH!!
3. I already said getting rid of Bush, right? I am SO looking forward to that.
4. Next Christmas. I intend to ask for a new computer. This one is really slow.

1. Kate
2. John
3. Gabriele.
And anyone who wants to, as long as I know about it!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A strange breakfast, No lights, Houdini is at it again.

The Ranger - America's Cup Winner
I used a fictitious copy of this boat in my book 'Ranger's Woman' over at Total-E-Bound. In reality, it was dismantled as part of the war effort in the 1930's, but I brought it to life again as a sailboat smuggled to the Caribbean.

I had a strange breakfast this morning: pickled herring.
When I was in Germany, I used to eat pickles and ham for breakfast, and I got used to it. I think I was having a craving for Germany. I was thinking about Weisbaden the other day, and how nice it was, and how much fun I had there, and Sylte - and how I loved that island, and I guess I just missed Germany. So I had some pickled herring for breakfast. (I don't miss it quite so much anymore...) (Just kidding.)

My car's right headlight doesn't work anymore. I found out last night driving my son back from the fire station. I would discover this a Saturday night, too late to go to the garage, and it's Sunday, so I have to wait for tomorrow. If the police catch me, it's a steep fine, so I think I'll stay home today.

My dog is escaping again. Mini Houdini - he squeezes out of the smallest holes under the fence!
I redid the Calderwood Books site this weekend. I still have some more covers to put up, but it's looking nice!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nothing but Red

I've had a short story accepted for an anthology entitled 'Nothing But Red'. The idea behind the book is best described by its mission statement:

"The purpose of Nothing But Red is to bring attention to the issue of violence against women worldwide, as well as the continuing need for equality, through art—both written and visual—and by raising money for a charity that strives to help women of all faiths, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, with the support of dedicated volunteers who share a desire to promote equality."

The book is being sold for charity. All of its proceeds are going to Equality Now and it will include Joss Whedon's original essay (culture of misogyny, violence against women, and the need for equality).
I was very happy my story was chosen for the anthology, and I got my edits today. The editor did a nice job cleaning up the prose and asked me to clarify a few points (she was right - they needed clarifying.) But, she said I had to change my title. My title is 'The Fatima Jihad'. The editor claims that the word Jihad was misused, because it is a religious war. But I disagree. A jihad is a struggle, often a moral struggle, and it can be religious or secular.
In this case, I used it as a struggle for women's rights.
More later.

I got news that I can keep my title - I'm glad because I liked the word Jihad better than revolt, which just sounds too organized, or revenge, which sounds like they already won.
Anyhow, I will keep you informed as to when and where the anthology will be available! Thanks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chocolate Overdose and a New Job

Easter was blustery this year - lots of hail, wind, and rain. There were also some lovely, sunny moments, and when the sun did shine its warmth promised us Spring!
The Easter bunny came (Here in France, the bells bring the eggs!) and we had lots and lots of chocolate. And being the hedonists we are, we had to eat it all up - and so it's all gone, except for the bottom half of a chocolate bunny.

I got a new job - filling in a database for cosmetic formulas. I'm not sure if it will work out. I'm dyslexic, and so I have to be VERRRRRY careful about what letters I'm typing. Lysate is not Lytase, even if it looks the same to me. But I'm actually having fun with the formulas, the Latin words, the chemicals, the long, long words - and my husband knows most of the words, having worked in the cosmetic business for ten years, so he can double check my work.
The only dark spot is that my computer takes the powerpoint files for a virus, and after I've happily filled in seven, it suddenly comes on with a loud warning siren and blocks my file so I can't work on it anymore - worse, it completely erased the file I had just finished (each file takes over half an hour...) So you can imagine my Chagrin. (Love that word. It just fits here.)
I don't know if anyone else has that problem - or if I should disable my virus catcher while working on the program - because there is no virus in it - I scanned it and scanned it again - but when I am working on it, the virus catcher goes beserk after a while and closes down Microsoft powerpoint.
If anyone has had that problem or any suggestions, they will be most welcome!

Friday, March 21, 2008

101 uses for a dead dishwashing machine

My dishwashing machine broke. It's old, (well, ten years old isn't really old, but I have a feeling nothing is built to last anymore...)
I have the smallest kitchen sink and hardly any counter space, so I'm washing the dishes by hand and stacking them in the...dishwasher to dry. So it's being useful. In a dead way.
So there ARE uses for a dead dishwashing machine.
I bet I can put shelves in it and stock cans of food and maybe pots and pans.
It can hold the houshold cleaning products.
The dog food bag will fit in it. (Clear the closet out a bit)
Not the vacuum cleaner, but thanks anyway.
I can put potatoes and onions in there. For a while. If I leave the door open a crack.
I can hide the Christmas presents and Easter eggs there. (One place the kids will never look...)
A stack of towels will fit.
I can use the racks to hold lots of dishes.
It's heavy. I can put my flower press underneath it for a while.
I can leave the door open and trip up burglers with it.
I can decorate it for holidays.
Tape kid's drawings and pictures on it and disguise it as a refrigerator.

Any other ideas?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Horse Crazy

My daughter is horse crazy.
It must be hereditary. Her dad is a polo player. I love to ride, and as a child I was mad about horses and ponies.
This weekend she was in the finals of the Winter Challenge, which is a jumping competition limited to the Yvelines department, and involves about fifteen clubs and over two hundred young riders.
My daughter had a clear round, but didn't go fast enough to get into the top ten.
(Here she is thanking her horse after the show.)
She might have done better, but the horse pecked after landing, and my daughter lost her stirrups and reins. The horse swerved a bit, and they lost time as my daughter gathered her reins and found her stirrups. I held my breath, but she managed to get the horse straightened up for the next fence and then they were clear. The horse, a ten yr. old thoroughbred, is very sweet. Her name is 'Quit or Double' (Double or Nothing) and she belongs to an Irish woman at the club, Dee Dee. Dee Dee is an avid rider, but is always busy, so whenever we meet, it's for two seconds at the most, while Dee Dee rushes one way, and I amble over to the ring to watch the lessons. But here I can take my time and say thank you to Dee Dee for letting my daughter ride her horse. Quit ou Double is a lovely mare, and I know my daughter just adores her.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nettle Soup

My computer is acting slow this morning.
I hope it's not breaking down.

I'm reading a Carol O'Connell book. She is an amazing writer, and her characters and plots are all wonderful. I think I've read all her books, (read and re-read). My favorites are The Judas Child, though I still get the chills when I think of it, 'Winter House', and 'Dead Famous'. The only gripe I have with her books is ever though she writes so well, her plots and characters are all so fabulous - I'm still always disappointed in her villains. It's as if her villains are not cut from the same literary cloth as her heros - and even some of the secondary characters. In fact, many of her secondary characters would make better villains than the one finally exposed. And that has always puzzled me about the Mallory Books. Strangely enough, even in the Judas Child, the final terror wasn't so the villain, but one of the victims herself.

At any rate, if I could write even half as well as Ms. O Connell, I'd be thrilled.

I was going to ramble about something else today before I got distracted: Nettle soup.

I was working in the garden and saw new patches of nettles springing up. I thought, "What the heck - might as well grow to love them - I'm not going to get rid of them." So I picked (with gloves on) a huge batch of nettles and made soup. Everyone loved it - my husband, son, daughter, and son's friend. The taste is quite unique - fresh and almost sweet. My daughter thought it tasted like I'd put curry in the soup. My son's friend thought it tasted like fresh pea soup, my husband guessed asparagus and spinach.

The recipe is very simple:

A large bowl full of young nettle tops, rinced and chopped. (Wear gloves, use tongs to rince them in a colander, and chop them with the help of scissors)
Here is a picture of the nettles in the sink, the potato, and the onion.

In butter, gently cook one diced onion, one peeled and chopped potato, & one garlic clove.
When the onion is almost colored, add the nettles and sweat them in the heat. (Here is a photo taken before I added the water ) There is another pan of onions and potatos, but that was for the Spanish omelette.

Add enough water to cover the nettles, one or two bouillon cubes to taste (I used one chicken and one veal stock cube) and cook until the potatoes are very tender.

Run the soup through a mixer in batches. If you want, stir in a tablespoon of fresh cream, or créme fraiche.

My husband thinks it would also be very good as a summer soup, chilled, like gaspatcho. I think he's right. It has a lot of flavor, and it's delicious.

Chilled with a paper thin slice of lemon would be very good, I think. Or steaming hot with a dollop of cream.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Faith in Human nature restored

I was reading the NY Times and the Guardian today.
They found the little girl in England who has been missing for 24 days. She's alive and well.
I can just imagine her family's joy and relief.

Also - Quoted from an article about Paterson by Bob Herburt in the NY Times - Spitzer called Paterson. "...He said, ‘I’m going to resign.’ And then, at that turbulent moment in his life, he gave me (Paterson) such a kind compliment. He said, ‘David, I told you that in the event I didn’t serve my full term that I wanted a person there who understood how Albany worked and could work well with colleagues. Right now, as bad as I feel about myself, I am so happy about convincing you to come with me.’ ”

There are such decent people out there.
If only more were in charge.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Herewith resigning from the Human race

I, Sam Winston, of sane mind and sound body, do herewith resign from the human race.
I am starting my own species, and it's open to anyone who would like to join.
My race has:
No color
No race
No religion
No offical language or nationality
There are only a few criteria - although I don't want a list of rules.
But to be in this new race, you have to accept that violence is unacceptable and that problems have to be solved by diplomacy. You also have to accept that everyone is born equal, even the so called 'handicapped'. There are no handicapped in my new race.
I haven't decided what to call my new species yet, because I just resigned from the human race, and I haven't really gotten around to defining what I have become.
Suffice to say, it's not human. Humans have made the floozy who slept with the ex. gov. of NY the top search on Yahoo. When I saw that, I decided that humans and I have very different priorities.
I think it's really a question of getting priorities straight.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

the rulz of war

the rulz of war.

I was watching a documentary the other night about a city that was taken by force in the 12th century somewhere in Europe. Can't be arsed, as my British pals would say, to look it up, but I will, I promise.
Anyhow - there were rules.
The army first surrounded the city and began a siege. Then it attacked, and when it entered the town, the army slaughtered 20,000 of its 35,000 inhabitants.
The rules were:
You (the soldier) could kill anyone you wanted. You could pillage the town. You could take prisoners for ransom. The ransom and booty was your pay if you were a mercenary soldier. Any soldier could steal and keep any sort of treasure they found. Women and children were not spared.
But - this pillage could only last three days. After that, anyone who had taken refuge in the church or hid away could come out again and be safe. The mercenaries and army had to leave the (sacked and destroyed) town so that the inhabitants could build it up again. Chances were, the invading army would draw up a trade agreement with the town, and soldiers and mercenaries would then become merchants and traders, working with the town.

My thouoghts as I watched this documentary: Could we still do this today? What about attacking Monaco? Three days to pillage the city? And, it's probably a good thing I wasn't queen of France.

My son's remark: They don't have anything worth stealing. What are you going to do, pile casino chips in a fake Ferrari and drive off?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

vacation is Over

And everyone goes back to school tomorrow. I spent the last two weeks with at least three kids at home at all time - sometimes four or five. Loved it. Kids all together entertain each other, and I was free to clean, cook, and...Wait a minute, did I go insane?

Several apple crumbles, one chili, one chicken in the pot, rice, rice, rice, and BLT's were on the menu during vacation. We're way overdrawn so I can't use my credit card. that meant - no unnecessary driving (I pay 40 Euros to fill my tank guys - that's like 50 bucks). No frills eating. I made apple crumbles for tea time, (no French child can be without his or her tea time snack) and apple crumbles are way cheaper than cookies. Anyway it's Lent, right? Eat it and shut up. Plain rice is good for you.

My daughter is terrific. She is my fan, and I'm hers. We cheer each other on. Right now she's bugging me to write a book in French, and it's exhausting. I did five pages today.

My daughter is funny, and has the most amazing laugh. I love when she laughs, and she laughs about everything.

She is Great to have around.

My daughter is a Civil War fanatic. She wants to go back to Gettysburg this summer. She has watched Gettysburg at least five times. She just watched Cold Mountain, and liked it up until the hero starts walking home and there was no more war story. She just turned it off and went to put the dogs out. Now I ask you - who can be hooked on a film for the first half, and not give a damn about the ending????

I read the book so I know what happens, but she didn't even ask me.


I'm looking toward future puppies. Auguste is going to be a Daddy! He's such a nice dachshund that my neighbors mentioned him to a man who wants to breed his dachshund, and he came over to see Auguste. Auguste always makes a good impression.
He doesn't bark when someone knocks at the door.
He doesn't jump up on your legs.
He's friendly and sweet with children.
my daughter has taught him lots of tricks such as sitting up and begging. I didn't know he could do that!
(He's mostly obediant except when he's got an idea in his head. His little brain only holds one idea at a time. So if he's running after a cat, he can't hear when you shout his name...)
He's a good size and was confirmed by a judge so he's got good papers and he's an excellent hunter. (Dachshunds are blood dogs, following trails, and are also diggers and used to hunt foxes and badgers).
All this must have impressed the bitch's owner, because he's decided to use Auguste as the sire.
My daughter is thrilled.
We get pick of the litter.
Then we have to sell the puppy. Two dogs is enough.
But I already know someone who wants one of Auguste's puppies, so we're already looking forward to the puppy adventure!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Very lovely

If you can get past the accent - thick as applebutter - the music and voice is lovely.

And this link (same group) is hysterical. My daughter and I watch it and howl.
A Hamster!
A Dentist!
Hard Porn!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Just another day...

The weather is mild and my forsythia is blooming, along with the daffodils and primroses. We’re having a drought, and the farmers are looking at the sky and clucking worriedly.

My daughter and her friend went outside to walk the dogs, and her friend fell and sprained her ankle. It's always worse when it's someone else's child. Mine don't seem to get into scrapes, but I've had to drive several of their pals to the emergency room for stitches or plasters. One girl fell and snapped half her front tooth off, which was probably the worst thing that happened. Another time we took the kids and their friends to a miniature golf course - and of course it's the friend who gets whacked on the head with a golf club (not by anyone we knew - the kid went to another hole to see what was going on.) And each time I was frantic with worry and wishing it had been my kid instead! If it was my kid, I wouldn't feel so awful or like I was supposed to watch them every second, because my kids know that I'm a very 'hands off' mom, who always lets them go on hikes, ride bikes, climb trees - alone. I usually wave as they set off, (with the dogs in tow) and wait for them to come home. So I tend to do the same for their friends. "Sure, go out and walk the dogs - see you in a while." And then here they come five minutes later, the friend with scraped hands and a swollen ankle. (Off to check - I made her sit and put ice on it - yes, still swollen but not turning blue or anything.)

I'm such a bad mother that I forget to have my son's stitches out. He asked me when he should have them out and I'd Completely Forgotten he'd had 3 stitches! (he had a mole removed) No big deal - so I forgot. If there's no huge cast, you can be sure I'll forget. So I took him to see my friend Catherine (a nurse) and she snipped them out and laughed at me for worrying. But I can't help it - as a bad mother I must always worry that my neglect is going to make my kids
A) Hate me
B)Become Independent.

In the best of worlds it would be B, but I'm always worried about A.
I'm a bad mother because I am sitting here blogging instead of hovering over the poor girl's ankle, but as she's laughing with my daughter, I can be forgiven for thinking she's all right. She keeps breaking off to cry out dramatically "Ow, My Ankle!" but I think that is just theatrics, and since she's been enrolled for three years in a row in drama class, I tend not to take her very seriously. (Just an aside here - why do most people take actors so seriously? They are Actors! They dramatize, they excel in theatrics, they are HAMS.) I don't take my children very seriously when they scream "Mom, he killed me!"

My daughter has another friend coming over to stay for a couple days, and I’ve decided to be more careful. We’re going to the public pool tomorrow morning, and there are five life guards on duty there during vacation, so I should be all right.

PS we just got back from the pool and all the kids are accounted for and fine.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Say what?

Two quotes in the same article that caught my attention today:

"Despite remaining the largest supplier of cocaine to the United States, Colombia has emerged as a top ally of the Bush administration, with hundreds of American military advisers welcomed there to assist Colombian security forces in counterinsurgency and antinarcotics operations."


"Meanwhile, President Bush fiercely defended Colombia, which receives $600 million a year in American aid to fight the leftist rebels and drug trafficking. "

Columbia is the fifth largest recipiant for US aid dollars, I believe. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is a fact.)
But, it is still "the largest supplier of cocaine to the United States". Now, I wonder how that can be? So you think that maybe the president of Columbia is not using that money wisely (or honestly)? Hmmmm.

Now let me tell you a true story. My husband plays polo. One of the players we always used to run into was a crazy Colombian who used to make us laugh hysterically. He had a sister who would sit on the sidelines and encourage her brother with cries of "Go on BABY!" at the top of her lungs. They were inseperable, and very nice people. Their father was a member of the PU - the Patriotic Union. (After a ceasefire in 1984, the Farc was encouraged to establish a legal political party, the Patriotic Union, and to put forward candidates in the elections in 1985.) He was elected and duly joined the local council. This was in 1986 - I remember because it was the year my tiwns were born. We met up with Carlos and his sister in Bordeaux that fall, and both were terribly worried about their father. They didn't trust the government. And they were right. Less than three months later, at Christmas, we heard that their father was assassinated.
Both Carlos and his sister disappeared not long afterward. Carlos surfaced once or twice, but his sister has vanished. (Both were members of the Patriotic Union).
What people have to realize is that the Colombian government is not a democracy, and it is far more dangerous and bloodthirsty than the FARCS. They don't kidnap people, they simply kill them outright. More than 4000 left wing activists were assassinated when the FARC decided to accept the government's offer to establish a legal political party.
What is happening now in Colombia is largely due to the US's interference with foreign politics, and the almost fanatical fear the US has of socialism or any other economic program.
It's all economics. But it's terrible when people suffer - and especially people you know. Ingrid Betancourt may have been kidnapped, but at least her family knows she's still alive. Carlos and his sister saw their father assassinated. What would you prefer?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Women voters

I wasn't going to write about the elections, I was going to write about my landlord popping by unannounced and falling down my stairs.

I've been following all that's happening with interest, of course, but in a typical 'Sam' fashion, since I'd already decided who I would vote for even Before he announced he was officially running for president, I haven't been reading all the nonsense about Hilary VS Obama. Until I noticed an article in the Washington Post , and then read the rebuttal over at the Guardian US.
In a nutshell, the Washington Post article claims women are not as bright as men in general, and the Gardian makes mention of the fact that any (Democrat) woman who voted for Obama instead of Hilary was not a feminist.
According to some people, if I'm a woman, I'm expected to vote for a woman to show my 'support' for women.
Well, sorry. I'm a woman and I will show my support to the candidate I believe can do the better job. I will vote for whomever I want to vote for. That is called being a liberated woman. And I don't buy the Washington Post's article about women being less intelligent than men. I find about the same amount of smart and stupid people in both sexes. I think that the woman who wrote the article was just being provacative, but she has placed herself firmly in my 'stupid' list.

And my landlord is fine. But her butt is sore. And I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone who drops by without calling. I did give her some tea and arnica, and listened to her for two hours while she moaned about everything. I think I'll need a vacation after this vacation.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Inside a writer's head

I thought you might enjoy a peek into the way I write. As you see by the last few posts, the story isn't all plotted out - after the second post, I really had no idea what the shrink's secret would be. Details are not planned out - they appear as the characters develop. These excerpts were from the sequel to a thriller I wrote called 'The Raptor', which introduces Rachel as the psychic detective. The sequel, which has the working title 'Jesus Wept' is not all plotted and outlined. Instead, I'm working from a synopsis, which is what I usually do.

Here is the synopsis:

They are the homeless, the dead-beats, the ones nobody wants or cares for - except Jesus. Jesus is a pimp. He's got twelve girls under his wing. He makes sure they have decent clothes, good food, and a nice room. He's attached to his motley group of drug addicts, runaways, and teenage prostitutes. But someone is not as fond of Jesus' whores, and they're being executed, one after another. At his wit's end, Jesus turns to the only person he thinks can help him. Special agent Chris Winter. Because Chris found Severina when she went missing. Maybe Chris can find out who killed her. Chris, running into a dead end at every turn, asks Rachel to help him. Rachel, who's dreams can often show her what happened, agrees. But nothing has prepared her for the kind of hell she's about to witness.

Out of this synopsis, comes the story.
Do I know exactly what will happen? No, I don't. I know 'who dunnit', the 'bad guy' is already a character, and his reasons and actions are already understood. Having a son who is studying pathological psychology is a big plus sometimes - he's my sounding board, telling me what works and what won't work.
I know the characters, but I don't know what will happen to them as they try to find out who is killing these young girls. I can only imagine...
I guess that's what I'm best at doing.