BELLA CHAT: LIZA WEEBS

 Today I am giving this space over to Bella Wildeve, who asked if she can write the occasional blog on my site. Fine with me. Gives me a break.

Hello, I’m Isabella Wildeve, Bella to friends. I decided that I would like for you to get to know all about life here in Halfmoon, Cornwall. I recorded my interview with fellow villager Liza Weebs, and I’ve had it transcribed, word for word. I would like to post the transcription, if I may.

Just a little background information on Liza. If I may be not quite PC about it, Liza Weebs is old. Really old. She’s so old she makes Yoda look fresh. And speaking candidly, she’s fairly chuffed about it. She knows it’s a badge of honor to pass the century mark and still be able to make your own tea. The last time I saw her in front of the Moonstone pub, she showed me the scar she’d gotten when she was in her twenties. Her brother had accidentally slammed her foot in the door of his Bentley Blower.

This is a Bentley Blower:

That should give you an idea of her age.

Truthfully, her feet would give you that. Her toenails look like hooves.

However, moving on . . . Liza and I aren’t bosom buddies. She’s my best frenemy, and as far as she’s concerned, I am merely a conduit to Jude. Jude is my twenty-seven-year-old brother. She once told me she likes blonds, and if she were twenty years younger, she would keep him. The term ‘cougar’ just isn’t enough when you do the math.

Liza lives in a little rose-covered cottage beside her favorite pub. I guess that isn’t too far to walk barefoot. She does that. Walks barefoot nearly everywhere, even into the pub where a person is required to wear shoes. Her feet look like mauve leather anyway, so they probably aren’t aware of her dress code violation.

Ready for the interview now? Got a good mental image going? Hold on to that. . .

B: Thank you for agreeing to let me interview you.

L: You call this a bottle of gin? I said the big one, idiot.

B: Well, I can see we’re off to a rip-roaring start.

L: Want a scone?

B: No, thank you.

L: Go on. Take the big one. That black chunk is probably just a currant. Lick it and see.

B: I’d rather fork my own eyeball.

L: That can be arranged.

B: First question, Ms. Weebs . . . Have you ever been married?

L: That’s no business of yours.

B: Would you marry Jude if he asked you?

L: Is he?

B: No.

L: Then shut up.

B: Tell me what your normal day is like.

L: Me days aren’t normal.

B: What’s the first thing you do when you rise every morning?

L: Release me bladder.

B: Where?

L: In the bog, you idiot girl.

B: Thank goodness for that . . .

L: What?

B: Nothing. Let’s move on to more interesting questions. What was your first job?

L: You call that interesting? I can tell you me favorite job. I were a model.

B: Seriously?

L: I were painted by William Morris.

B: Really? That’s wonderful!

L: It were. With not a stitch on.

At this point, let me interrupt this transcription to say that I could feel my mind’s eye go blind.

L: Not a stitch. Me and William both.

B: William Morris?  William Morris did not paint in the nude.

L: How would you know? Just ask his grandson.

B: What?

L: His grandson, Alfred. They be living over the garage outside of the village.

B: We’re not talking about the same William Morris.

L: There be only one Billy Morris born in Halfmoon.

B: Ms, Weebs, have you ever been to London?

L: What’s this Mizz rubbish? Call me Madam. No, cover me with dirt. I tell a lie. Queen. Call me Queen Weebs.

Pardon me for interrupting the transcription again, but much to my relief, I was saved from replying by her grandson Len (who chose that moment to blunder through her cottage door). He’s entering the conversation at this point, so before I continue, let me give you a little background on him.

He’s Halfmoon’s Punk Rocker. He seems to have peaked a few years before I was born and has stayed fixed in that orbit ever since. He wears black, is looped about with chains, pierced by rusty studs, shod in Doc Martens, and chews whatever gum he finds stuck under benches. He used to have a Mohawk, then a cobra . . . I can’t say ‘tattooed’ on his shaved head. I’ve seen it run in the rain. First a Mohawk, then a cobra, but now it’s a swastika. Unfortunately, those little feet thingies sticking out from the spokes are drawn on backwards. Make your own conclusions.

Len: Gran, I told them what’s at the Moonstone . . .

He did a double take, noticing me perched on the edge of Liza’s ancient rocking chair. Perched rather precariously, I might add. I was afraid to lean back. When I’d first lowered myself onto the tweed, smells of sauerkraut filled the room. It was either that, or hundred-year-old flatus (pardon my Latin). I was afraid of freeing the rest of it, breaking the crust, as it were, so I froze. I’ve been hovering ever since. My left Rectus femoris was beginning to feel like a screaming sausage.

L: Stop your gawking, berk. She’s not here for you. Just keep your clanging cake hole shut so we can finish my interview. Now, ask me your last question. I’m going with my Len to the pub.

To be honest, I couldn’t remember my last question. I was unnerved by Len. Ever since his gran’s command, he stayed put. He hadn’t even closed his mouth. I could see his lack of molars from where I sat. And a gum boil that looked like Mount Etna. It took Herculean effort to break my own stare. It was like coming upon a train wreck — you don’t want to see it, but you have a hard time looking away. I had to blink several times and wrestle my mind into another zone before I could gain control. Thinking of kittens, I took a deep breath and fished a question out of thin air.

B: If you could be an animal for a day, what animal would you choose to be?

L: A rhinoceros.

And there ends my interview with Liza Weebs. She never did tell me why she wanted to be a Rhino for a day. And just for the record, I wouldn’t want to be a kitten.

I would be a dolphin.

—————————————-

Thea: Over to me.

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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A DIRGE

When I have spoken to writers in the past I invariably ask one question: Do you have a special ritual or a special place that primes the pump? One writer told me that all he requires is silence. Another has a special website that she goes to that refreshes her mentally and emotionally.

Me? Apparently, I am the hick, the Walmart … (sorry, Walmart), the GMC Pacer of authors. All I need is sugar. Preferably, sugar, chocolate, and coffee. And white noise. Lots of buzz where people are all talking, but where I can’t understand a word they’re saying. (I can’t wait to get nerve deafness.)

And I can’t be home. I have to be sitting in a public place where I am in danger of getting my laptop stolen every time I go to the bathroom.

Since I live in America, those places are fairly easy for me to find. Now, if I lived in France, I would have to become something other than a writer. An artist, perhaps. Or a street cleaner.

But I live in America, so all I have to do is drive down the town’s main drag and take my pick of places to write at. We have coffee shops, delis, restaurants… It used to be so simple.

Until I went to BHK. Or Brick House Kitchen. But for the sake of simplicity, I will type bhk.

Bhk is a little lunchtime restaurant on the town square. Or, was, I should say.

You would think that parking on a town square is an easy thing to accomplish. Think again. I had to prep. First, I had to make sure that I had at least four quarters for parking. Then I had to find an empty space near the bottom of the hill. Then I had to hike UP the hill to bhk carrying my backpack with 30lbs of computer, 10lbs of purse, and 100lbs of butt. No, the 100lbs of butt was not in my backpack, but below it…

But it was worth it. The owner, David, would take one look at the sweat dripping from my hairline to his counter, and give me a glass of iced water with a slice of cucumber floating in it.

Never mind the insanity that was ‘Farmer’s Market’. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, Farmer’s Market ringed the square with vendors selling flowers, vegetables, meat, and organic music.

I would always buy a bag of candy onions and fresh tomatoes while passing through on my way to write. Always a plus, but another 10lbs to carry.

But it was worth it. I would open the doors to my destination, a blast of air conditioning would freeze dry the clothes to my body, and I would head toward that little unoccupied table that faced the wall. I would set up my computer, then go to the counter to buy the world’s best cup of coffee. Then I would write.

The music? Was music from the 1940’s. So retro cool, I felt bad arriving in casual clothes. I should have worn a pencil skirt and dark red lipstick. And a fedora.

Sometimes my husband would go with me. Where we would do everything but act like grownups.

Sometimes he would proofread my manuscript.

Other times, when I wasn’t working, we would just drink vats of coffee together, and spend all day conversing, laughing, and peeing. Special times…

AND THEN IT CLOSED.

Bhk officially closed it’s doors last Thursday. My world shattered. Well, at least my writing suffered a setback. I find that I can no longer go back to noisy delis, where children jump on the booth’s seats like they’re trampolines. Where suburban housewives use their outside voices to talk about their marriages. Where coffee is something generic from an urn.

I have been spoiled.

Bhk… When will you reopen?

Do you have any stories of your favorite restaurant you want to share?

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

 

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NOAH’S ARK??

Yesterday Randy and I visited Gentry’s Wild Wilderness Animal Safari.

Okay, so this little piggy isn’t one that you will find in the wild wilderness unless it got past the fence. This is a photo taken in the petting part of the “zoo.” Wilbur, here, was asking for a bite of bread, which you can take into the enclosures to feed the animals with. Feed . . . Asking . . . Who am I kidding? As soon as these cuddly little animals see the bread sack in your hand they morph into piranhas scenting blood.

And if they are tall enough, like this llama, they don’t wait for the handout . . .

. . . They help themselves.

And when you tell the animals that you have run out of bread to feed them . . .

. . . They don’t believe you.

 They taunt you . . .

. . . And then eat the sack.

Or the fence . . .

Even your armpits . . .

There were two of them. Two six-month-old lion cubs. While this one was eating my husband, the other one was attacking my thighs like they were glazed hams. I do not have a picture of this. I was running for my life. Which was a mistake. Lions chase their prey.

Once we’d escaped, we went to the small animal enclosure and met Jazz. He greeted us with, “Whatcha’ doin’ Sweetie?”

And we met Jonni, the six-month-old prairie dog . . .

Then we went on the drive-through part of the Wild Wilderness Safari.

These animals you are NOT supposed to feed . . .

 

So they licked the car.

We had a great time . . . even when the Capuchin monkey on Randy’s head stuck its butt in my face so that it could lick the back of my hand.  My left eyelid is swollen now.

Gentry’s Wild Wilderness Animal Safari is worth the $10-a-person entry fee.  Well worth it. I recommend it to EVERYONE.

Do you have any of your own animal stories you want to share?  You could even tell us what animal on this planet is your favorite. Me? I don’t think I can choose. I love them all. Except for centipedes. Yeah, I know. . . they aren’t animals.  Thank goodness.

Remember to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

"HAVE FUN!"

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GOURMET GERDE – Little Dog’s Vomit vs. Quiche

It’s time for another Gourmet Gerde!

Let’s talk about school lunches. For many, the words “school lunches” bring up bad memories. But to be fair to those hard-working ladies in hair nets and orthopedic shoes, they had to begin their lunch preparations before dawn. That means the jello had to be chilled and cut into blocks by the time the sun was burning off the morning dew. Of course it would be chewy by lunchtime! And every child had to have their greens. The only alternative to spinach and broccoli in my day was to send the class out to graze. And who had the time to pick every little feather off the chicken wings?

I used to look at those lunches with longing . . . envious of every complaining child who ate them. Envious because my mom made me Moppel Katze to bring for lunch. This is a phonetic spelling. When I use google translate, it says that I am saying “Moppel Cat” in English. When I look for the German way to say, “Little Dog’s Vomit”, it says, “Kleinen Hund Erbrechen.” None of which is what mom called it. She said we were eating Moppel Katze and in German that means little dog’s vomit.

I think she made it up. It was a way to get rid of leftover peas and Spam chunks.

I will now give you Mom’s unofficial recipe for Moppel Katze Sandwiches:

1.  Line up two pieces of bread for every child in the family.

2. In a large plastic bowl mix together cold peas, random chunks of Spam, and enough Miracle Whip to disguise it into looking like Elmer’s glue and boogers.

3.  Plop it on the bread.

4.  Slap the two pieces together.

5.  Gift wrap the sandwich in a paper towel.

5.  Shove it in a brown paper bag.

Serving tips: If you get too hurried or distracted with other household chores, it is perfectly fine to miss plopping the vomit on a sandwich or two. Just bundle the two pieces of bread together without looking, wrap in paper towel anyway, and insert into bag. The fortunate child will not complain when they unwrap their surprise. Though they may be hard pressed to explain to people why they are eating two pieces of bread for lunch. But not as hard pressed to explain why they are eating a pea sandwich.

And yes, it does look like a little dog threw up.  (I love my mom, but only Jesus was perfect.)

And now for a real recipe, donated by Sarah Baur in Montana:

Spinach Mushroom Quiche

Ingredients:

pie crust mixed up for 2 crust pie

2 tbsps. butter for sautéing

1 lb. shrooms, thinly sliced

2  10 oz. packages frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

6 large eggs

1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream

1 cup milk

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 lb. Swiss cheese, shredded( 2 cups)

Directions:

About 2 hrs. before serving:

1. Prepare pie crust.  On lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into 17” by 15” rectangle, use to line 13” by 9” baking dish.  With fork, make a decorative edge.  Cover and refrigerate.

2. In a 12” skillet over medium heat, in 2 tblsp. butter, saute mushrooms and onion until tender, about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.  Remove skillet from heat, stir in spinach, set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 425.  In small saucepan over low heat, melt 1/4 cup butter.  In medium bowl with wire whisk, beat eggs with cream, milk, flour , salt, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and melted butter.

4. Spoon spinach mix evenly into crust, sprinkle with swiss cheese; pour egg mixture over cheese.  Bake 15 mins.  Turn oven control down to 325 and bake 40 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Makes 12 main dish servings.

Tips:  This recipe can be halved.  I also like to do the regular portion but make it into to 10” quiches, using to 10” pie pans.  I prefer the Crisco pie crust recipe.  A chef friend of mine recommended I try it years ago as a good all-purpose pie crust recipe.  He told me then that I could find the recipe inside the label of a Crisco label.  This recipe has proved to be a good one for breaking down the prejudices towards quiche, especially among the male population.

Bon Appetit!

Do you have any of your own school lunch stories you want to share?  You could even tell us about the time you accidentally threw your retainers – or someone else’s – away when you dumped your tray and turned it in.  It’s all good.

Remember to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photo-blog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

Not too long ago a friend of mine opened a beauty spa, Salon Euphoria. (http://www.facebook.com/saloneuphoria.net)  Now let me reassure you that this is not an ad – though you might want to check out the site – but merely an opening for a story.  The owner, Kim Perme, and the staff decided to host a contest.  The person writing in with the funniest hair tragedy would win a hair product from Oribe.  So I gave them one of mine. Yes, I have many hair tragedies, but this is the one I decided to tell:

Hair care has come a long way since I was a kid. Before I was born, getting a perm meant this:

However, by the time I came forth from my mother’s womb, you could do it yourself at home with this:

BUT the result was usually this:

And we did it anyway.  The only alternative, since Mousse, gel, thickeners, texturizers, and cremes hadn’t been invented yet, was this:

Then, we sprayed it with this – in case America came under a nuclear attack (which Americans were obsessed with at the time). It created an impenetrable helmet.

When I was in grade school our class was going to sing for the PTA.  I’m not sure what grade I was in. Fifth? Sixth? I don’t know. I have probably repressed most of the story. Anyway, I was old enough to be conscious of my appearance, but, according to my mom, not old enough to make my own grooming decisions. So, on the night before we were to sing, she decided I needed a perm.

Full of grooming zeal, she bought a box of Toni at Colliers Drug Store and pulled out her shoebox of curlers. These curlers were small. How small? Think pencil. Then she proceeded to roll my hair into knots so tight I looked like Jackie Chan.

Two bottles of toxic solution and five burn hickeys on my neck later, the perm was finished. It was 30 minutes past my bedtime, so I was ordered straight to bed with a wet head . . . because, yes, blow-dryers weren’t even invented yet. And somehow, during the night, Bozo entered my bedroom and traded heads with me.

To say that I was disturbed when I got up and looked in the mirror is an understatement. But being the good (i.e. anal) child that I was, I held still while my mother styled it . . . My mother who decided that giving me pigtails would be a good idea. Pigtails? Who am I kidding. They were basketballs attached by rubber bands.

It was quite the fashion statement.

It said, “Please kill me.”

Then she sprayed it until it became hard and shiny. Like wet Christmas candy.

Satisfied with her handiwork, she declared me ready to sing onstage.

Unfortunately, there was going to be a six hour gap between the time I left the house, and the time we were due to perform. So she threatened me with fates worse than death if I disarranged the spectacle of my head in any way. I was to keep well away from any low lying branches, kindergartners on the bus, and coat hooks behind the blackboard. I could understand that, since she spent 4 hours and 75 cents on my hair. So I did as I was told.

All I remember from that afternoon of being onstage is that one of our choral members behind me got too hot on the back row, passed out, and fell off the bleachers. At least that was the story that he told. Personally, I think he fainted from the Aqua-Net fumes.

The irony of this whole story? I was 28 when I found out that I already had naturally curly hair. . .  and HAD had curly hair all my life. It took a hairdresser with a diffuser attachment to show me the obvious.  And my mom? She still doesn’t believe that I have curly hair, even when I’m standing in front of her.

Do you have any of your own hair stories you want to share? It doesn’t have to be from childhood. Just leave out the name of the hairdresser so we don’t get sued. . .

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photo-blog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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WHY THE ELEPHANT?

Last Tuesday I received an email. Okay, that is nothing new. I receive emails all the time, 99% of them about St. Louis. I do not know why since I have never lived there. However, this email was not junk mail.  It was to notify me that my first book, CHARADES WITH A LUNATIC, had been reviewed by Christine Speakman, Senior Acquisition Editor and Executive Administrator of MuseItUp Publishing.

Wow. Now THAT is a job title. Way, waaaaay above Walmart executive and just a smidgen below Superhero.

She is also the Chris behind ChrisChat Reviews – http://www.freewebs.com/chrischatreviews/

When you hover over the tab, Who is Chris Chat Reviews?, you get a little blurb that says, Why the Elephant? . . . no doubt refering to the tiny photo of an elephant in the corner.  Then, when you click on the tab, you get the word BIO.  And nothing else. Her site is still in the middle stages of being revamped. Either that, or she really is a superhero with a secret identity. Anyway, back to the point of this blog . . .

She had gotten a copy of my first book and had written the following review:

“I guess it’s not enough to just write: I really enjoyed this book. I laughed and was totally wrapped up in the story and couldn’t figure out how the author would finish it.

Truthfully, this has been one of the hardest reviews to write because there’s just so much fun going on within these pages. Yes, it’s jam-packed. Yes, it’s bizarre and at times you’re running around with the female lead wondering what the heck?

And isn’t that what you want in a read.

I don’t want to be left outside the pages and watch the story; I’ll turn on the television for that. I want to dive into the world either between the pages or in the eReader. I want to feel the emotions of the characters. I don’t want to know what’s coming next or know the ending beforehand. No, give me a read that loses my hours; messes with my sense of reality vs. fictional; makes me bark at anyone who dares interrupts my reading time.

Does my editor brain want to rework and tweak bits? Sure, that’s what my editor brain does (and does fairly well) But, I want to do that with most books I read.

Ask me if I want to revisit Ms. Phipps’ world? Ask me if I want more. Ask me did I get frustrated and angry when CHARADES WITH A LUNATIC ended… the good frustration and angry. The ones where you’re peeved cause the story ended.

YES! YES! YES!

And now with this review finally written, I need to move on to the next review; the next book. But, I’ll never let go of CHARADES WITH A LUNATIC.”

http://chrischatreviewsmystery.blogspot.ca/2012/11/charades-with-a-lunatic.html

Woo-hoo!!  That review had me dancing in the street. Or, it would have if we didn’t live next to a house with a red porch light. . .  and I could dance.

Do you have any of your own writing stories you want to share?  Or even an unforgettable compliment? Yes, you say, but wouldn’t that be ‘tooting my own horn?’  No, that would be when you give yourself the compliment.

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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GOURMET GERDE – Oatmeal

Meet my mother.

She is a good cook. NO ONE can make better pork chops. But for years I didn’t know that.

My mother is German, and like all good Germans, she is industrious. No one is more industrious than a German. It’s less of a good trait and more of a behavioral disorder. And being industrious, she was a very busy woman while I was growing up. I still remember the time she reroofed our house by herself. My two brothers and I (all under the age of eight) sat on the stoop with nothing but assorted pebbles and a tin of Fritos to keep us occupied.

However, she HATED cooking. I think, as far as she was concerned, cooking a meal ranked somewhere between de-tic-ing the dog and bleaching rust stains out of the toilet. So she usually turned the stove’s burners up to high. Flame-thrower high. It was her way of getting that whole daily cooking thing over with so she could get back to more important things. Things like spreading asphalt on the driveway with an old rake while wearing a dress and gumboots.

She was the only person I knew who could make scrambled eggs the consistency of a hard-shell taco. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. And like a blob of cold snot, there was always that surprise pocket of raw egg hidden under all that crunchy goodness. Apparently, I am impervious to Salmonella.

I will now share with you her unofficial recipe for oatmeal.

1. Buy the oatmeal.

2. Boil it in a pot.

Serving tip: Cooked oatmeal lasts for days. And days. And days. If your children pretend to eat it, but dump it back in the pot when you aren’t looking, you can still make sure no food is wasted. Once the chunk of oatmeal becomes as hard as a brick, sharpen your knife on a steel rasp, slice the brick into patties, and fry it up until it is no longer gray.

Bon Appetit!

Do you have any of your own cooking stories you want to share?  It could even be a favorite recipe. Which reminds me, I will add a legitimate recipe to the blog the next time I do another GOURMET GERDE. (Gerde, by the way, is one of my mother’s middle names.)

Remember to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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THE FOB

My husband, Randy, is self-employed. There are pros and cons to that. The pros? He can set his own hours,which means that we are at the lake when others are still at the office. Another pro? We eat lunch together. But there are many cons. One being that some employers feel he should do his work for free. There is no BIG MAN to answer to.  Just Randy, my husband. And he is a nice guy. . . too nice. If we didn’t need to eat, he probably WOULD do the work for free.  As a favor . . . ‘Sure, I’ll hand-chisel the poop spatter from the wall.  Hey, you need to see a doctor about that, and leave purging to the professionals.’

As you’ve no doubt guessed, he has his own Maintenance and Cleaning Company, and no, it isn’t Abuela with a broom. It’s involves equipment and solutions mere mortals have never heard of. And it all costs. (So please quit stealing the toilet paper. . .)

Which brings us to the another downside of being self-employed.  TAX TIME. Self-employed people end up selling their soul to the taxman. Unless you have enough legit tax deductions, like dependents. And since I won’t be giving birth anytime soon . . . like never . . . (I am 51) . . . we have to choose our deductions wisely. Otherwise we would be harvesting our organs for the Federal Government.

Two months ago Randy’s work car gasped its last. Well, not quite its last. It is still going. He gave it to my mother for a second vehicle. It is just too old to carry the tons of equipment he carries back and forth to work. It was time for new transportation.

This time around, instead of settling for a used hatchback or stationwagon, we bought a Transit Connect. One of those short, yet tall, vans. They are built by Germans in Turkey for Ford. Or the other way around. Whatever. They look like ambulating turbans. You see them all over the roads now, only shrinkwrapped with the logo of the driver’s choice.

Randy had heard only good things about them, so he checked them out. They are the perfect vehicle for the working person. Comfortable, yet without frills like television, toddler seats – well . . . seats, period. They have a driver’s seat and a passenger seat, but the back is fitted up to carry equipment.

At least they have cupholders and door handles.

So we went looking for a Transit Connect, thinking that if we could get credit, then we could pick up its payments once our other car’s payments left off, which was going to be in a few months. And all in time to count it on our taxes. Yay! I get to keep my kidneys!

As a trade-in we decided to bring in my mother’s car. She had two, but one of them was burning oil and making $$$$ noises under the hood. She took Randy’s old work car – which is still in great shape for town driving – and gave us the nasty one to trade in for the Transit.

The phone call came in when we weren’t expecting it. In fact, we were aiming for trying to get credit in December, but Landers – McLarty Ford pushed it through for us. We hadn’t asked them to, they just did it — getting a good deal for us — and informed us via a phone call.

“Thea!” Randy yelled while I was shampooing my hair. “Rinse off! We got credit! Slap on your clothes and let’s go!”

I do not look good with slapped on clothes and towel-dried hair. I look like Hee-Haw on LSD. But I got ready and we went since the paperwork was ready.

First, we had to pick up my mother’s car. Then drive, drive, drive like the wind to Bentonville, 30 miles away. In the heat. One hundred, ten degrees heat. With no airconditioner. Okay, that wouldn’t have been so bad, except we didn’t take the time to remove the underbrush from my mother’s car before we commandeered it.

. . . And they were REALLY impressed when we got out.

The dog hair on the upholstery was a nice touch. Especially when it rode into the Ford showroom on our clothes.  All I needed was a trash  bag  of dirty laundry and a scabby toddler in wet training pants.  And, oh yeah . . . a skull-and-rose tattoo on a slab of bosom wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The salespeople on the showroom floor didn’t know what to make of us. To give them credit, however, they didn’t shove us back out on the street. They asked — in a rather dubious tone of voice — if we were there to apply for credit. Imagine their shock when we said we already had it and were there to sign the papers.  Bobby Flippo, our salesman who had shown us the Transit the first time, was summoned. I made a beeline for the complimentary cookies while he and Randy did business.

Yes . . . Randy’s pants ARE sagging. It seems — and I didn’t find this out until we got home — that  he was wearing his pajama bottoms under his jeans.  Really?  REALLY? Why?? Was this some form of spousal solidarity since we had to leave before I had time to groom?  Honestly, I can’t take that man anywhere . . . (says the woman who unknowingly wore a chunk of macadamia nut on her front teeth the whole time we were there.)

But, in spite of the impression we made, it was done! Randy had a dependable work vehicle that wouldn’t bottom out every time he ran over a pebble.

They gave us a glossy brochure telling us all about the extras. . . what came with the car . . . what had to be special ordered.  Apparently the car came with two fobs.

Fob.  In the Urban Dictionary a fob refers to an immigrant (Fresh Off the Boat).  We did not get two of those, alas (I would have liked someone to exchange recipes with), but we DID get two ignition keys with the car alarm buttons installed in the key’s bow. For those of us like me, who had to look it up, the bow is the part of the key that you turn once the ‘blade’ is inserted into the lock.

We pondered what to do with two fobs.

But before we could decide, we were handed the fobs and told to take our new Transit home.  Yee-haw! Randy finally had a new car / van / turban for work.

Do you have any of your own car stories you want to share?  It doesn’t have to be about buying one. Just tell us about your first car. Or your favorite car. Or a car you wish you had.

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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I WAS A QUERY VIRGIN

I was a query virgin. And for those of you who read ‘I was a queer virgin,’ SLOW DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION.

Query, as in query letter, which is the first thing a writer does once he or she is ready to sell his or her manuscript. A writer may write the book, but he or she is on the absolute bottom of the literary food chain. Or second to the bottom. Usually the writer’s spouse is right under them, cheerfully eating re-heated pizza scraps for dinner while said writer is hung up at the coffee shop trying to figure out how to get Bella off the flatulent donkey and to safety. (plot spoiler … or lunch spoiler, depending on whether or not you have a vivid imagination re: the flatulent donkey.)

Once a writer’s manuscript is finished and buffed to a glossy sheen via spell-check and other Microsoft tools, it is ready to be submitted. But not to a publisher. You have to enter through their filters like everyone else. You submit your work to an agent. But even then you don’t start with your work. You start with an introduction. You have one paragraph. One snappy, shiny, lovely, intriguing paragraph in which you introduce your book.  They liken it to making a successful sales pitch on an elevator. You should hook them in the ten seconds before the bell dings.

I am here to tell you that to spend 5 months writing 100,000 words in plot formation does NOT equip you to shrink the whole thing back into one catchy sentence. Personally, I think it would be easier to eat a vat of scrabble tiles and then excrete to a perfectly aligned Rubik’s Cube.

Then, in the query letter, you have one paragraph with which to introduce yourself. ‘Hi, I’m Thea,’ does not cut it. In this case it is like a beauty pageant. You have to appear desirable, chaste, professional, personable, and intriguing while touting world peace and saving everyone’s breasts. For me this is impossible. I can only do one at a time (no pun intended) and certainly not do it all in one, pithy paragraph. At least not gracefully. I sound like I’m speed-dating after a hit of meth.

Then, depending on the agency, you either leave it there, or give them a sample chapter of your manuscript and/or a plot synopsis. I have the sample chapter down – it’s finished, and has been for months – but writing a plot synopsis is a foray into hades. Most agencies tell you to give all of the main conflicts, the secondary conflicts, and introduce your characters, all while telling your story. But at least THAT doesn’t have to fit into a paragraph. You get a page. And if the literary agency is really, really pressed for time, and/or really, really lazy they ask you to do that in an email short enough to preclude scrolling down. And you can’t write it in tiny, tiny letters. You have to use Times New Roman, 12 point font, which is one bifocal less than sky-writing. This is because the agents’ eyes are glued to typed messages all day and they’d prefer not to go blind before retirement.

Then you have anywhere from two weeks to three months before you hear back from them. And this is because these hard working agents are inundated with query letters, synopsis (synopsi? :) ), and manuscripts. And if they like what they see, they ask you for your full manuscript so they can read your work in its entirety. THEN they decide if they will represent you.

And it hasn’t even made it to a publishing company yet. Or more accurately an Acquisitions Editor at a publishing company. I do not know if one capitalizes Acquisitions Editor, but I figured it won’t hurt since they appear to be minor gods on the literary food chain. They decide whether or not they pitch the book to their board of directors. Yes . . . one more salesperson to try to sell it to.

But forget the publishing companies for a moment. Or until I hear from one. IF I hear from one.

I wrote my first query letter to Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (DGLM) in New York just four days ago.

I chose them to be my first for one reason: They have the most writer-friendly website I’ve seen so far. Most literary agency websites are so refined, so snooty, they make me feel like a Clampett at Oxford. (Weeell Doggie! That sure is a mighty fine agency you got yourself there. Herman Melville, you say! Well if that don’t beat all! Granny, Granny, come look!)

I won’t hear back from DGLM until December, but they don’t insist that you apply to them exclusively. Some do. DGLM doesn’t. They suggest you cast more lines out to other agencies so you can cut your waiting-to-be-published time by months. Which should make Kay in Panera happy. Reader of my first two books, she regularly sits down in my booth and opens the conversation with, “When is your #$%! book going to be out?!”

And for anyone interested, here are the opening paragraphs of WILD CARD (working title). (It will probably be called something like, ‘Romeo, Juliet, and the Stinking Donkey’ once it passes through an editor’s hands . . .)

Chapter One

The whole fiasco began with Liza Weebs’ evil scone of pain.

We would have never gotten involved if we hadn’t consumed it. Tamsin and I should have suspected something was amiss. Big enough to double as a wheel chock, the soda-covered chunk was studded with chewy pellets that looked like currants, yet tasted like bacon. There was no rational explanation for that, yet we kept eating.

At 100 years of age, Liza is the oldest resident in our tiny fishing village of Halfmoon, Cornwall. With rigatoni toenails that tap the floor when she’s sober enough to walk, she has a passion for only three things — the Moonstone pub, baking football-sized scones, and my brother Jude, who is only 27. Even though her silhouette looks like a can of lager propped on two twigs, even though she is so short I can crown her head with my armpit, I am utterly intimidated by her.

She had given me the scone to give to Jude, who in turn gave it back to me in lieu of lunch while Tamsin and I were running last minute errands. We’d finished off half of the dense wedge before tossing the remains to the seagulls. And as easily as that, we poisoned ourselves, inadvertently changing the course of our lives in the process. No telling what we did to the seagulls.

We were going on holiday, Tamsin and I. Two idyllic weeks in the Greek sun, courtesy of Albert and Violet Pengarth, elderly friends of ours. Even though they were in their seventies, they had more energy than a bag of hummingbirds. When they had invited us to accompany them on their trip, visions of savory food — among other things — danced in our heads. Thinking of wild herbs, warm slabs of baklava, and muscular Greek men, Tamsin and I had accepted their invitation with alacrity. Not that I would know what to do with a muscle-bound Greek if I found one.

There were two reasons for my lack of sophistication even though I am 21 years old. The first was that I have yet to go on a proper date. Playing with love is not a sport to me, like arm wrestling or canal jumping. If someone wins my heart, I want them to keep it. The second reason is that I’m the only girl in a herd of six overly protective brothers, five of them older. I have yet to meet the man courageous enough to forge past them and past my father to get to me. Not that they block egress, they just look like they do.

My full name is Isabella Tatiana Wildeve, but I am merely ‘Bella’ to my family and friends. I still lived at home, unlike Tamsin who rented an attic flat in the Bunt sisters’ boardinghouse. So when the invitation was extended I naively pictured myself watching scads of uni-browed fishermen sorting sponges while I reclined in the shade of a fig tree twirling my glass of ouzo.

Nothing could have been further from reality.

What was to be a simple holiday began with a tainted scone and ended with a clot of angry priests, more than one mysterious disappearance, and a couple of inept smugglers running for their lives on an isolated Greek beach. I was one of those inept smugglers. My friend Tamsin Hugo was the other.

It was during this time that I made certain unwelcome and unexpected discoveries. Who knew that furious Greek Orthodox priests could run like steroid-eating Olympians, their long flapping robes notwithstanding? Another discovery, though not so unwelcome as the first, was that I could run faster, especially when spurred on by nearly nude Serbian acrobats screaming like cheerleaders. Apparently, “Pokreni kao srna! Prestupna! Prestupna!” means, “Run like a gazelle! Leap! Leap!” in Serbian. But all that came later. Unfortunately, the relaxing moments that I had anticipated proved to be as rare as rocking horse poo.

End of excerpt . . .

Do you have any of your own waiting-for-news stories you want to share?  Yes, you say, but what if it has nothing to do with writing? Fine. At least YOU have a life. Tell me about it.

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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IN – LAWS

When a person gets married to the love of his or her life, they assume they are separating from former ties and creating a whole new unit.  Just them, Spouse 1 and Spouse 2, facing the world.  They might add to their unit, making a baby here and there, getting a pet . . .  But they now are a new, completely separate pod of creatures.

I am here to tell you that THIS IS NOT TRUE.  It is a lie, like zero-calorie cookies and faeries in the garden.

You marry the whole ding-dang family, warts and all.  You have as much success separating into a new, self-contained pod as finding Elvis in Argentina.

And the yoking of the two pods, the originals and yours (the offshoot), often leads to shock.  Your shock, their shock, your friends’ shock, their friends’ shock.  The list is endless, and in some families the shock never quite subsides.

Such is the case when Randy and I married nearly 30 years ago.

I came from a small university town with a population of well over 75,000.  Randy came from a ranch.  The nearest town had about 1000 humans.  A  mix of Cherokee Indians, rednecks, and little, old people in overalls – half of them his relatives.  Everyone in the whole region knew his great-grandfather personally.  I have yet to meet all my relatives, or, indeed, hear of their existence.  I just found out that I have 3 full-grown second cousins.  I hadn’t even known they’d been born until yesterday when my brother reconnected with one cousin via the internet and had forwarded an email to me.  (Birgit, if you’re reading this, Greetings from Arkansas!)

In the old days, when my father-in-law was alive and mobile, every one of my husband’s family reunions ended in a knife fight.  No one was ever stabbed, thanks to interference from my father-in-law, but, to put it succinctly, the Wild West was alive and well in the Stilwill, Oklahoma, City Park every 4th of July.  My family never had reunions since we were scattered all over the globe.  If any of us ever got together, we’d say things like, “Das Sauerkraut schmeckt wie Katzenurin,” or, “Dad, tell us about your childhood.”  Which he never did.

Even food can cause shock between the two families.  Randy introduced me to huge country breakfasts, which consisted of everything pork and biscuits slathered in fruit jelly.  Afterwards, I had ringing in my ears from all the lard and was constipated for 2 weeks.  I, in return, introduced Randy to homemade burritos.  Refried beans, crushed garlic, cumin, chili powder, and cheddar cheese rolled in a tortilla.  It never gave him a near death experience, but I can  still remember the comment of Randy’s younger brother: “Eww!”  This was from the kid who ate mounds of grape jelly on his scrambled eggs.  “They taste like mashed beans in a wet napkin!”

And the food differences live on after 30 years of sharing meals.   Just two weeks ago we had a mini-reuinion at my mother-in-law’s house.  I brought a pasta salad.  When I was making it, I didn’t just toss it all together in a bowl, without regard for whom it was intended for.   I agonized over the ingredients.  Do I put in black olives, or will they think they’re cockroaches?  Should I use bottled Italian dressing, or mix my own without the garlic?  Do I use the tri-colored rotini, or will it scare the kids?

I made all the right decisions, save one.  I used the marinated artichoke hearts.  Big mistake.  My original reasoning had been, “What if Margaret (my mother-in-law) likes them?  Or what if she would like to try one?”  So I added them.  After about 30 minutes of eating, my eighteen-year-old niece asked me what those green things were.  “Thea, did you put cabbage in the noodles?” she asked accusingly.

Me:  “No.  They’re artichokes.”

She gave me a thumbs -up.

Randy:  “Do you know what artichokes are?”

Niece: “No.”

Randy:  “Well, do you like them?”

Niece:  “Ummmm, the noodles are good…”

Me:  “I thought Margaret would like them.”

Randy:  “Mom, did you try one?”

Margaret:  “No.”

That ended the artichoke discussion, or, indeed, any future appearance of them at any more reunions.

I would now like to add a link.  Here is a short video of that mini-reunion.  My husband is the dark-haired man talking to his mother.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B02dlVTitsc

The burp was NOT his, but the work of one of his brothers, who tried to pawn it off on my sister-in-law, Judy, his wife.  And they complain when I say “butt” out loud . . .?

In-laws. . . Gotta’ love ‘em.  And I do!

Do you have any of your own in-law stories you want to share?  Yes, you say, but what if they read this blog?  They won’t.  Just how big of a readership do you think I have?

Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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