Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Plink on the windowpane

Slate sky

murky cold haze
wind chill
ekes through fibers
coat to sweats to underwear

blasts aching bones
limping feet
hobbled knees
crippled hands

feel the gray
wall of pain
The ice storm began on Tuesday around 6 pm in Bedford. The plink of freezing rain on the pane. An extra shine on the pavement and the exagerated fervor of the weathermen, with maps in white and pinks, heightened the frenzy Ray and I call the Blast of White Death. Indeed, we awoke to a Wednesday world encased in a sheet of ice. No need to shovel. We don't own one.
Instead, Ray trudged out to make the long slow drive (1-1/2 hours) to work, and I limbered up my fingers for a day of writing and editing. Ray arrived at his job safe and sound, and I was comfortable knowing I need not drive anywhere. Donning a sweatshirt over my black long sleeved shirt, I wrapped the afghan around my feet, and typed away.
Now, everything has melted and we'll be up to 60s by the weekend. However, an ice day in Texas brings back the little kid in me who loved the freedom of a snow day.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A phrase or image inspires

Where do I get my ideas? From anything and everything. A phrase here, a mentioned incident there, or a memory blast from the past. I read the paper thoroughly and the teensiest news items can trigger a flash fiction. People watching can inspire the creation of a character for a book. Or sitting in line at a Taco Bell and watching a piece of scrap paper cling to a chain link fence gave me a poem.

No Escape

Scrap paper whooshes past me
clings to chain link fence
splatted flat, it wavers



And there's the deck chair in the backyard (see picture)
Ancient deck chair

leans closer to earth
attracts bird splatter

sticky spider web slats
creak, groan
screws rattle

age spots
slurp spray paint
gasps for more

seat wiggles
another season

It's all word play. Some folks play computer games. Others niggle at words. I've re-read the first chapter of my book a zillion times and probably change a word, a comma, or delete a paragraph every single time. Depends on the mood of the day. That's the challenge and the journey.

Then there's the day when the sky is gray, the page is blank, and I've got nothing........until something triggers a fresh bout of word splash.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Strikeout Contest - 2nd place

Rejections hurt, but I am getting better at accepting them. A LOT better.

In 2008, I had 188 rejections. I'm pleased to announce that earned me 2nd Place in the Jack Fryrear/Babe Ruth Strikeout Contest for 2008 - sponsored by Barbara Fryrear, longtime member of the Trinity Writers' Workshop. The "winner", Sheryl Nelms, had 252 rejections.

The idea behind the contest is that while Babe Ruth was a Home Run King, he was also a Strikeout King. If you don't go up to bat at all, you'll never know what could happen - a swing or a miss. Thus, the more writing you submit to journals, etc, the more chances you have of being published. Indeed, I did have 23 acceptances last year, so I hit at a decent 10% success rate.

Quickest rejection - 1 hour. I consider that cold. I emailed a submission and was rejected in one lousy hour. At least let my words simmer for awhile and then fizzle out. There should be a 24 hour rule - don't slap someone down in one hour. Harsh, very harsh.

Longest time to rejection - 1 year. Yep, I received a letter of rejection, didn't remember the journal, looked back in my records, and it had been one year. Now that's a lot of fermentation. I like to think my piece was pushed out of the running by someone like Joyce Carol Oates.

Hard to understand rejections - I receive some nice notes that say the editor "enjoyed the humor and liked the piece" ( my hopes are up) but..............that's the kicker...........the but, "we aren't going to use your submission." (dashed to the ground) Sigh.

Publishing is a wacky business. I need to hit the right piece at the right time to the right person in the right frame of mind. Then it's a home run.

2009 - I've sent out eleven cherished pieces to find a home, and one has been rejected already. I'm coddling it, reworking it a bit, and shall send it on its way again soon.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Slippery Silence

Frigid water and frozen logs with a sheath of ice. Tiny tendrils of ice drip tenaciously. Little fingers of glacial liquid, a calm scene captured by keen eyes. J.B.Harlin and his wife, Susan, are artists who trek our wild west, Zion, Moab, Canyonlands, and more to photograph nature in the finest black/white images possible. Patiently they ponder a scene, exact a detailed set-up, and execute flawlessly.

I'm privileged to call them friends, and I'm pleased to share their talents on this blog. See more at or click on the permanent link listed in the sidebar.

It's a cliche, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Revel in their artistry.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Side Career as a Movie Critic

For three years now, I've been the movie critic for The Little Paper of San Saba. I do have an "in". Ray's Aunt Pat is the Patty Hearst of publishing in San Saba, Texas and she needs filler. Hey, writing is writing and being published in print is awesome. The circulation is a tad limited (feed stores and a diner), and there is no movie theater in San Saba. Why let that stop me?

My reviews are sporadic and they certainly don't cover a lot of genres. No teen romps, minimal Seth Rogen exposure, no slashers, and no Jim Carrey. I enjoy a lot of the independent films. Because I get to pick and choose, I obviously attend films that I'm fairly predisposed to like. Thus my reviews lean towards the positive.

I also prefer to pay four dollars ($4) at the Tinseltown Cinema in Grapevine, TX. For four bucks, one can be entertained and amused by trash. Perhaps my standards aren't incredibly high after all. If I say a movie is worth full price, then take notice and head to the theater. Full price AND popcorn (smuggle in your soda) means the flick is a doozy. Believe me, there aren't many of those around.

So, below is an example of one of my film critiques. This does not take days to write. I slapdash it off to Pat in an email and she's happy because she doesn't have dig up filler jokes.

Ray and I both enjoyed our Saturday matinee. Hope you get a kick out of the review, and go see this movie. Don't wait for DVD.


One curl of the lip and one growl. That's all it takes to know Clint Eastwood is in fine form in the movie Gran Torino. He directs it with a sleek touch and, as a star, he shines bright. We first meet him at the funeral of his wife. He's annoyed by his sons, annoyed by his grandkids (the teen girl is in a midriff, for pete's sake, and the boy's wearing a football jersey), and he's annoyed by the very youthful priest.

Further annoyance occurs back at his old house. It's in a "dying" neighborhood, now filled with an ethnic community and gangs run roughshod. Walt (Eastwood) fought in Korea and is perturbed by his Asian neighbors. Foul mouthed, Walt uses every derogatory word possible as he slouches through his days, drinking beer and obviously feeling rather lost without his wife. He's awakened one evening by a sound in his garage. He finds the neighbor Asian boy, Tao, trying to steal his prized possession - a 1972 Gran Torino. The boy's lucky Walt doesn't blast him with his M-1 rifle, and he manages to escape. In the next day or so, the local gang comes back to continue to recruit Tao, who tries to resist. The commotion brings Walt out front ready to shoot them all. The gang leaves and the neighbors are grateful to Walt for saving the boy's life. They bring him gifts and slowly weasel into his life.

Tao's sister, Susie, is a bright intelligent young girl and she's determined to win Walt over and teach him her people's (the Hmong) ways. She puts up with his guff and dishes it back. The family wants Tao to pay back his life debt, so the teen does chores for a week for Walt. The kid is smart and needs a man to show him how to fix things, how to stand up for himself, and how to gain some self confidence. In the meantime, the gang keeps poking and picking, and Walt fights back on his neighbors' behalf. Unfortunately the situation escalates out of control.

The interaction between Walt, his neighbors, his family, and the priest is all intertwined with the seedy neighborhood and gang wars. Walt's history and demeanor are a torch ready to be lit. As Walt grows to appreciate Tao and Susie and to actually care about their lives, he realizes how much he hasn't opened to his family or to much of life. He's lived with a sense of duty and a nagging guilt. The buildup of tension is palpable and silence filled the theater as we all braced ourselves for the detonation.

Gran Torino is a hard R with foul language and violence. However, it is an excellent film, filled with strong characters, humor, and a very current story line. Clint Eastwood is at the top of his game, at age 78, and should be nominated for an Oscar. This movie growls just like Walt and his sublime Gran Torino.


I enjoy movies and my side career as a critic is a bonus.

Will write for popcorn!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

hilton, paris and more

I received an email from my brother, David. I think he was so excited about my blog that he forgot to use a comma. He wanted to know why he should continue to read this blog if nothing was written about Paris Hilton.

I assume he wanted tales of my high school trip to France. Indeed, a week in Paris and London was divine. From the la Tour Eiffel to Montmartre to Versailles, I was enthralled. Drinking champagne at the Moulin Rouge (ooh-la-la) at age 17,no less, felt tres naughty. I fully intend to return some day, with Ray, to ride les bateaux past Notre Dame, and stroll the Left Bank. Drink wine at a cafe and eat fresh bread with REAL butter.

Indeed, as Rick said to Ilsa in "Casablanca", "We'll always have Paris." I certainly hope so.

Sticking closer to home, last January, Ray and I stayed at the Fort Worth Hilton and played tourist. That's a fabulous way to enjoy a weekend - see your local city through sight-seeing eyes. The Hilton was newly refurbished and quite lovely. It was the last place President John Kennedy and Jackie stayed prior to that fateful trip to Dallas.

Anyway, the concierge was helpful and loaded us with coupons and maps. We strolled Sundance Square, browsed through stores, admired western art at the Sid Richardson Museum, ate hors d'oevres at Reata, and BBQ later. Wandering the Ft.Worth Water Gardens is a treat - an oasis amidst the bustle of Cowtown.

Slept well at the Hilton and appreciated the Sunday brunch. If you can't manage to fly to Paris ( and no, I don't mean Paris TX), then head to Fort Worth for atmosphere and activities.

I hope this post satisfies David's request.

And because he appreciates poetry so much, constantly clamoring to read anything I'm able to get published, I shall finish with the piece below. It fits considering the crazy wind that has howled here for months.

No Escape

Scrap paper whooshes past me
clings to chain link fence
splatted flat, it wavers




Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tuna Riff

I had far too much fun from October 2008 ( my birthday month) until the end of the year, and yes, until Sunday January 4th. Carb load extraordinaire. That came to a screeching halt Monday morning, January 5, 2009. Like Oprah and most of America, Ray and I began our diet. We aren't gnawing on our furniture yet, but it's a challenge. The extra hard part is that I didn't finish my pint of Haagen Dazs - white chocolate raspberry truffle - prior to Monday. It is calling my name from the freezer. But I digress.

An integral part of any diet is tuna fish. Here's a short essay I wrote last year about tuna. (It is possible to conjure up words on any subject) :
A can of tuna fish appears simple. A neat little tin, compact, and seemingly ageless, it lounges on the grocery store shelf and provides lunch for millions. Tuna packed in oil. Open the can and get rid of the gooey oil spill, mop up hands that smell like fish for days. Now, and this is progress, there are cans or bags of tuna in spring water, solid chunk, albacore, solid albacore, and some kind of gold medal albacore tuna. What? Did they play classical music for our little fish in their cushy watery environment?

Preparing tuna is a very personal experience, and frankly I cannot fathom ordering tuna sandwiches in public. Any tuna I see at a deli or restaurant looks awfully mushy for my taste. The key to tuna is a well-drained can. When the tuna plops out onto the plate it should not still be swimming in water or oil. With a fork, I fluff and stir it around on the plate. Then I open the Miracle Whip and whisk out a mere forkful. Not a glob, not a scoop, not more than one forkful of this white concoction gets mixed into my tuna. I am disappointed if I have somehow over measured and the tuna ends up gushy. I will eat it, but it will not satisfy. However, if the dry tuna is delicately touched by the whipped dressing, and spread upon toast or a cracker without seepage, then my tuna meal succeeds.

My husband has no boundaries when it comes to the Miracle Whip application. He splatters his tuna in a bowl after a quick drain, plunges his fork into the dressing, and dumps a huge glop onto the tuna. He then, oh the horror, mixes the tuna whipped fork into his sweet relish jar and introduces green flecks. Tuna itself has a weird consistency, but having extra mysterious crunchy items makes my mouth pucker. My mother chopped up celery, another useless vegetable, thus adding a crunchy wet green stringy item into her tuna. Fortunately, grown up and now in my married life, Ray and I respect our tuna privacy and do not proffer a community bowl.

A tuna discussion can be rewarding. Everyone has an opinion. Folks argue for mayonnaise over Miracle Whip. Others add apples or other fruits, along with walnuts or pecans to make a tuna salad. People serve tuna on crackers, bread, rolls, or on a bed of lettuce. They might top it with tomato or hard-boiled egg slices. For such an enduring staple of life, tuna preparation is an art form. I prefer to think of myself as a purist, dedicated to enjoying the flavor of tuna without extraneous factors mixed in, other than my single dollop of Whip!

Feel free to comment on your tuna creations. Also, what ice cream flavor is calling your name?


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Words Rain Poetry

Here's a wacky assortment of poems for any January mood:

Note - somehow there were more snowfalls back in the day and nothing was better than a snow day!

Jenkins Lane Snow

nose against frosty windowpane
eyes squint at snow reflections
yesterday’s gray bitter blur
erased by blue skies
radio babbles school closings

yank on thermals, match gloves,
tuck slick blue pants into boots
bound outside
crisp air energizes
tang of chimney smoke
tink and thunk of shovels echo
snowplows hum a chorus

pack a snowball firm
crunchy Frankenstein footsteps
one ear pops from ski cap
re-adjust, grab rope, pull sled
toward muffled yells
kids in line
trudge to the hill

steep, daunting
swerve left or right
avoid creek
sled runners trace snow
packed tight underfoot

exhilaration, tears, exhaustion
only the hill wins.

Note - This one came after I proved to be very un-Wii fit. Had fun, but my scores were pitiful.

Wonder Which

teeter on Wii board
respond, react, rebound
results indicate




Note - Always sad to hear of an unnecessary death:


Crooked ties and too tight shirts
pants pulled up and belted
no sag, no underwear shown
cowlicks slicked down
somber eyes blink back tears
no flash of braces, no goofy grins
hands stuffed in pockets
another's arms crossed
controlled movement

shoulders slumped
boys, young men
shuffled too large feet
past a casket
glimpsed life’s fleeting


January is a rather schizoid month. Especially here in Texas - go from 80 degrees to ice and 30s. We'll see what the rest of the month brings - weather and words.


Monday, January 5, 2009

humorous memoir

As an animal fearing woman, I write about my acclimation to an animal loving world and manage to stare down swans in Sweden and a guinea pig in my washroom. I do avert my eyes for the wombat in Australia.

“If All Dogs Go to Heaven, Then I’m in Trouble” is a humorous memoir of animal encounters with a twist. Among published animal tales, very few are skewed with a touch of fear and laughter on every page. Unlike books written by pet-loving authors, my twenty eight chapters introduce the reader to a variety of animals: a snapping Shetland pony, a bowling ball playing pit bull, and a terrified turtle that tolerates my distress.

Here's a chapter list:
If All Dogs Go to Heaven, Then I’m in Trouble

Mere Kibble Prologue
Goats, and Llamas, and Puppies, Oh My!
Mercy, Mercy Me
Farm Fresh Follies
Squawk Box
Pixie and Poodles
Pixie Weighs In
Stuffed in a Closet
Old Buttercup
Thunder Daze or I Miss Old Buttercup
Future Guard Dog for Hell: Roseanne
San Saba Snakes or Far From a Mall
Who Was That Masked Turtle?
Is That Chirping I Hear?
The Guinea Pig Surrenders
There’s a Pit Bull in My House
The Swedish Swan Incident
Don’t Stare Down the Wombat
The Workplace is Going to the Dogs
A Bunny Explosion
Animal Shenanigans Entertainment
Benji Loves Aunt Joanne
Dogged Pursuit
Hey Stupid, the Baby’s Crying
Animal Humanitarian Efforts (You Never Have to Clean Up Poop)
I Can’t Count Sheep, They Could Attack
My Torturous Final Days on Earth

Do you want to read this book? I'm throwing it out to the publishing world. Surely, the world at large needs a laugh or two.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Ripples on a pool, waves on the ocean, or a burbling, gurgling creek. Like water, words ebb and flow. Sometimes, they gush. Sometimes, they sputter. I hope, with this blog, to splash words on a page and see what happens.