Sunday, March 31, 2013

San Saba Texas - Wine and Cows

 Spent Easter Weekend in San Saba, TX at Aunt Pat's ranch. Typical of small towns, the courthouse is in the center. I contribute movie reviews to her Little Paper of San Saba
 Trying to unload our stuff. The cows freaked me out as they edged closer and closer to the truck. I know they were hoping for food, but I'm just not keen on up close and personal greetings. There is a whole San Saba chapter in my humorous memoir - My Zoo World.
 It's not Napa Valley yet, but the Texas Hill Country is sprouting wineries almost as fast as cactus. We visited the Wedding Oak winery. The gate wasn't closed so I only got a photo of the "Ing" side. Pretty gate background, I'm sure, for weddings. We sat in the courtyard and enjoyed the blush wine.
Inside - casks of wine. On the wall was a plaque for the 300 member club. No names yet. If Ray does get on Pat's deer lease, maybe he'll join as the first member. But somehow wine and deer hunt sounds like an odd combo.

It was a fun Easter weekend and then as an added bonus, we had rain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Trust me, that is blessed news.   Now onward to April.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mishmash of Movie Reviews

In theaters now, but not on this critic's list of high priorities. I'm stealing opinions from the Dallas Morning News, and making rash statements with nothing to back them up.

Admission starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. They gave it a C- and the previews looked about that rating. Tina can be so funny, and Paul Rudd is likeably sweet, but as a romantic pair? Um, that doesn't strike me. She's a Princeton admissions officer. He teaches at an unusual school that has a worthy student. She comes out to review the case file, hilarity is supposed to ensue and they fall for each other. Apparently this movie bogs down and slogs through 110 minutes.

The Croods - family movie. animated flick about the Stone Age. Solid B given by DMN. They said it's not the Flinstones and not Ice Age, but funny as the Crood family learn about the world and take some risks in life.
Olympus Has Fallen - C-. It's Die Hard in the White House, starring Gerard Butler (he's cute, but not a good actor) as the secret service agent left inside the White House to save the President from hostages. Apparently it lacks suspense. Not good for a thriller.

Spring Breakers - Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens leave Disney World (literally) and are grown up girls gone bad. Violence, nudity, robbery, James Franco with corn rows, and crazy party scenes. Apparently this movie actually has the suspense lacking in the Olympus movie. This R confection of girls in bikinis is given a B-.

Oz The Great and Powerful (a D) stars James Franco as the wizard before the fabulous classic The Wizard of Oz. One word. Why?

Onward to What's in Your Queue?  I have watched these films on Netflix.

Man on a Ledge stars Sam Worthington. Nick is a fugitive ex-cop out on a window ledge in Manhattan. Is he really going to jump or is there more to the story. Bad guy, mega mogul Ed Harris is across the street along with his safe containing a huge diamond. Could Nick's brother and crew be boring under that building to steal it? And why? This is a fun rental and had some twists and turns.

Step Up Revolution - another in the Step-Up dance movies. The kids are interchangeable as are the plots, but the dancing is fabulous. Everyone has abs of steel and look great in stretchy outfits. One bonus - Peter Gallagher plays the mean father of our heroine. He's so good. Those eyebrows deserve their own applause.

Chronicle - Teens stumble on a weird substance in the Pacific Northwest woods. Soon they exhibit super powers, but trying to harness this power proves challenging. It's the old using power for good or evil plot, but there are twists and turns. The special effects are clever and I liked this movie. It was recommended by younger guys at my work, and for once they were right.

The Flat - this documentary is haunting. Arnon Goldfinger's grandmother dies in Tel Aviv. She was 98. As they clean her apartment they find papers and photos that stun them. This Holocaust survivor and her husband were friends after the war with a former SS officer and his wife. How could that be? The history Arnon uncovers along with emotions makes for a stunning documentary and quite a family tale. Big thumbs up on this one. (Of course, I'm fascinated by that whole time period and the survivors,etc. - strong people with quite a history).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reality Strikes

Thank you  Annalisa Crawford  for this award. Now I have to answer a few questions.

If you could change one thing, what would it be?  I would try to be more positive about my books and writing. Still filled with a lot of self doubt. I lack confidence in promoting my work.

If you could repeat an age, what would it be?   28 - I was at a spot earning decent money, looking to buy a townhome, finished with my masters degree, confident, fit, and ready to conquer the world.

What one thing really scares you?  Animals - you know they could attack at any time. See My Zoo World - my humorous memoir explains it all.   If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?   This is a bizarre answer but I'm going with my first thought - Dame Maggie Smith on the set of Downton Abbey. I'd like to have her cane in hand and get to crack someone in the ankles with it.  

I shall pass this award on to Sherry Ellis  and to  Ann Summerville  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Romancing the Book Event Pics

 Bedford Library held its first all day author event. Authors, like me, had display tables and could sell books.
 Here are Carole Nelson Douglas  and Sharon Owen
 Carole is crazy prolific - the library had a separate display for many of her books. What is interesting is she's moving some work from traditional to her own e-publishing. She "wants control of her work." The  publishing world is changing a lot.
 Workshops were held and also author readings. Sharon Owen reads from her mystery - Thicker Than Water. We eagerly await the sequel.
Here, Carole is checking out Ann Summerville's cozy mysteries. Quite a selection to choose from.

I don't have a picture here, but Bonnie Pemberton read from The Catmaster and her sequel The Lizard Returns.

It was an enjoyable day. Next year we need to lure even more of the general public into our web of words.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sneak Preview: Love Tatters

Saturday is an all day FREE author event at my local library in Bedford, TX. Hope there is a good turnout (I think the weather is actually supposed to turn "cold" - that should help keep folks indoors). I plan to read some stories from my new collection - Wordsplash Flash.

Here's your sneak preview of one - Love Tatters

Makyla surveyed the school bus seat choices and resigned herself. Age seven, she pouted, “You didn’t save me a seat, Layla, like you promised.”

“Sorry. Today, Tami had sweets. We’ll sit together after school.” Layla’s brown eyes tilted up and she gave an emphatic nod, before her dark head bowed over a game.

“I saved you this seat, Mac,” said Ethan as he leaned and patted the cushion. She looked to make sure he hadn’t placed anything squishy, like a jelly donut, in her place.

“My name’s Makyla, not Mac.” She flounced into her seat as the bus lurched toward the school. She sighed. I hate being the last pick-up. “Hey, not my hat again, Ethan. Give it back.” She reached up to smooth down her flyaway curls. “You look dumb, you know that, don’t you?”

Ethan had her red hat pulled down so that it covered his ears. He grinned and his face flushed as he shook his head. Then he dangled the hat in front of her before flinging it backwards. There was a clamor as boys tussled. The bus driver shouted half-heartedly to sit down and behave. Makyla glared at Ethan, then faced forward, ignoring the frenzy behind her.

At school, she and Layla walked to class. “Wait up. Here’s your stupid hat.” Ethan tapped her on the shoulder, stuffed it in her hand, and ran down the hallway.

Morning recess. Dodgeball. “Ethan Merritt, chunk the ball at someone else,” Makyla hissed in his ear as they changed sides of the gym.

Mrs. Monroe had everyone form a circle for reading time. There was a scramble for spots. Dismayed, Makyla found herself between Ethan and Nick. She squirmed as Ethan surreptitiously pinched her leg. “Young lady, do you need time out?” the teacher asked. “No, ma’am.” “Well, then, sit still.” Makyla scrunched her face at Ethan, looking so engrossed in the story.

Lunchtime arrived and Makyla, seated with Layla and her friends, blocked the straw cover that Ethan blew her way.

After lunch, she ran to the swings and flew high until Ethan pushed her off. Makyla limped to the nurse for clean up. She heard the nurse call her mother, “She’ll be fine. Ethan is a charming freckle-faced hellion seeking attention.”

Makyla returned to find the class creating Valentine’s. “Here’s a black crayon for you,” cackled Ethan. She found a red and drew a heart for her mother.

Class ended, the bus ride home mercifully quiet. First stop, Makyla exited, then turned as she heard her name. “Hey Mac…for you.” A huge red heart sailed out the window and then shredded under the bus tires.

First published in Doorknobs & Bodypaint, February 2009, Issue 53

Monday, March 18, 2013

Movie Review: Side Effects

Side Effects stars Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Rooney Mara, and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a pharmaceutical thriller. Don't expect big things from this movie, but there are more twists and turns than a doctor's scribbled handwriting on a prescription. Channing is newly released from prison for insider trading. His wife, Rooney, suffers from depression. She is assigned Jude Law as her psychiatrist after she tried to drive her BMW into a wall. Is she suicidal? Can Jude help her and what did her previous doctor, Zeta-Jones, do for her.

Rooney Mara, in her teeny body with her large expressive eyes, seems to be a nutcase and grows more so as she's prescribed new meds. She can't focus at work, she can't sleep, or sleeps too hard and is up sleepwalking, sleep cooking, and yes..........sleep killing!!!! Who's responsible? Rooney, Dr.Jude Law, or the drug makers themselves? Suddenly, Jude Law finds himself having to defend his practice.

This is not just a movie about the evil drug companies. A large proportion of society takes anxiety medicine and there are huge dollar sums involved. Side Effects gets rather convoluted as it guides us along the trail of murder and money. For this time of year (often a dumping ground for stinkers), the movie is entertaining and has a great cast. I was suprised at various times, and wondered if I needed meds to figure things out. In the end, probably better to stick with popcorn.

Netflix Queue:

Ruby Sparks - a writer needs to conquer writers' block. But when he jots down the attributes of his dream girl, she comes alive.Things get weird as he tries to duplicate his early successes as a writer. This movie is quirky and amusing. It stars Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Elliott Gould, and Annette Bening

Undefeated - this Academy Award winning documentary is quite impressive. A white coach volunteers to lead a West Memphis high school football team that has never gone to a playoff game. We meet him as he starts to work with a group of eighth graders and manages to keep them in school on into high school. These are very poor young black men without fathers who are on a path to failure. However, football is their lifeline and this exemplary coach loves them, guides them, yells at them, and uses terms like character and team. It is quite a tale and you'll root for the Manasas Tigers to win.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tulips and More - 2013

 Annual Spring Fling at the Dallas Arboretum and 2013 is in fine form. I know I post tulip pictures yearly, but truly - they are spectacular. So, I shall shut up and let you enjoy the view.

Nature .......... makes nothing in vain - Aristotle

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: T is For Trespass

The alphabet series by Sue Grafton is classic in the mystery genre. As you can tell by this wrinkled cover, I picked up this book for fifty cents. I've read from A to T, but could probably start over as I don't remember one plot from another. The key is our heroine, Kinsey Millhone. She's a private investigator with a lack of dating skills. The series is set in the 1980s so there is a lack of instant technology. Kinsey must use library resources and her own crackerjack intuition. No instant Google answers or texting. Her friends include Rosie and Henry - seniors who care for her as much as she helps them.

The plots are seamless, the dialogue witty, and you are entertained from start to finish. If you've never read Ms.Grafton, you are in for a treat. Start with A is for Alibi and look forward to T is for Trespass and beyond.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Technology Killed This Television

You know you are a redneck when.............

We took this photo as a joke. Yes, the new 39 inch LCD television on top of the over twenty year old RCA console was quite a sight. The new TV is now on a stand.  The poor old RCA was relegated to the curb and ignored. Yep, it was too too old even for free. Of course, unless you have a digital converter box, you couldn't use it. And yes, it cut sports scores off at the top corner. And yes, the picture was old and faded.

But darn it worked. Why did it last so long in our house? Because it was the heaviest sucker in the world. It took Ray and son Chris to haul it out. Then when no one took it, it was an hour of Ray's time to break it apart. Product made more than twenty years ago was solid wood and heavy electronic components with tubes. We couldn't remember the price but it was golden back in its prime. Today's newbie was $329 at Best Buy.

Gotta love the crisp picture, the thin sleek lines, and the remote that works.

Forget loyalty.

More cutting edge stuff - Ray's in Austin (for basketball) not at the cool music scene - SXSW. Gosh I want a t-shirt. And I downloaded a new tune I heard on Songza (fun program like Pandora only no commercials). The song is "I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo" by Capital City. Fun tune and catchy idea - indeed, music is my world more than television (Well, except for Downton).

This has been a wacky post, but technology moves quickly and we have to laugh at it sometimes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: Canada by Richard Ford

Canada by Richard Ford opens with these lines: First I'll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.

You are hooked and must learn more about the narrator, Dell - age fifteen, his twin sister, Berner, and the parents - the good looking Alabama charmer who married a Polish well-educated immigrant. This book is about choices, family, and the coming of age of a young man.

Normal life is altered when the parents rob a North Dakota bank. The story up to then is one of money and job troubles, of people who love each other, but maybe should never have gotten together. It's the story of Dell who for once hopes to stay anchored in a town, attend high school, join the chess club, and be normal - whatever that word means.

Instead, he finds himself spirited across the Canadian border toward safety and a better life, as planned by his mother. The twin sister flees to California, leaving Dell at a loss. The Saskatchewan prairie proves as harsh and forbidding as Dell's life. He has to learn new skills, figure out his caretaker's story - Arthur Remlinger, self-made man with a past, possibly involving murder. Through it all, Dell's voice guides us. His narration demonstrates his innocence and we root for him to learn to trust himself, his instincts, and to mature without becoming jaded, despite the odds against him.

Ford writes elegant prose, with a quiet humor and a sense of place. I really liked this story and the people bumbling along in life.

p. 358 The next day, Friday, the fourteenth of October, will never seem like anything but the most extraordinary day of my life - for the reason of how it ended.

p. 360 The prelude to very bad things can be ridiculous, but can also be casual and unremarkable.

p.386 When I think of those is all of a piece, like a musical score with movements, or a puzzle, wherein I am seeking to restore and maintain my life in a whole and acceptable state, regardless of the frontiers I've crossed.

Join Dell in his journey from the U.S. to Canada, from being a kid to becoming a man. Canada by Richard Ford will stick with you long after you finish the book.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Photo Exhibition: J.B. and Susan Harlin

 JB and Susan Harlin are talented photographers specializing in black and white large format work. Ray and I visited the Goodrich Gallery  in Dallas for the opening reception Sunday, March 3rd. They do stunning work, and enjoy yearly treks into Zion National Park, Canyonlands, and Moab. The more snow the better for them.
 JB and Susan met through photography and are kindred spirits. They absolutely have a blast together and their eyes light up when discussing each others' work or their own.
 The Goodrich Gallery is sponsored by the United Methodist Church in Dallas. I liked this sign. Apparently, they use a jury committee to invite artists to exhibit - rather selective in their choices.
JB and I worked together a long time ago, in the world of electronics. He managed to escape and now his job is his dream - photography. Check out the Harlin website  and enjoy their work.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Blog Guest: Ann Summerville

I welcome author Ann Summerville to my blog. Here we are last summer at a writer event. Ann's new book, Trouble at the Manor, is the fourth in her Lowenna cozy mysteries, and she's ramping up a new series. Let's hear from this prolific author.

What are your current or upcoming works?
I’m currently working on a new series, Pecan Valley. Each book will be based on a quilt pattern. I thought it would be fun to introduce an older protagonist (retirement age). I think my readers will love the new characters.


Grandmother’s Flower Garden

Bea peeked through the blinds in her kitchen. They were still there, both of them. Two feet clad in mud-covered brown boots protruding, uninvited, from beneath the vines of her sunshine yellow squash or was it a cucumber vine? She couldn’t tell from the window. Regardless of which vegetable patch these boots were invading, she had no doubt that the owner was lifeless. After all, who lies beneath vegetation in someone’s well tended garden in the middle of a Texas summer?

This wasn’t what Bea had anticipated when she told her friends she was starting a new life, moving from the hustle and bustle of the city, moving to the country and she said . . . . Bea paused for a moment, thinking of the words she had used.

“I’ll have a vegetable patch, grow raspberries. I’ll buy storage jars for the vegetables and make jam. Perhaps even pickles.”

But there in the middle of her prized squash . . . Bea lowered one of the blinds with her finger until it resembled a v-shape, scrunched her brow and considered looking for her glasses. No, the feet were definitely pointed toe up among the yellow flowered cucumbers.

What was she to do? The garden club tour was in less than a week and having yellow tape and crime scene people traipsing around just simply wouldn’t do. But regardless which vegetable from the cucumber family had been invaded, this was the second death in as many weeks and she began to reconsider her life changing decision.

Who is your favorite character in your books?

In the Lowenna Series, Rose is my favorite character. She is who she is. She doesn’t do anything to impress anyone, says how she feels and loves her friends dearly.

Any chance of a screenplay from your book? Who would you cast as your leading characters?

I have started writing a screenplay of A Graceful Death, but with such a busy schedule, I haven’t had time to delve deeper into this side of the writing industry.

Where can we buy your book? Advise any contact info.

All my books are available in print on or for e-readers at and

My books are all listed on my Amazon author page

Favorite tunes playing as you write?

I prefer quiet when I write. I find music distracting.

Are you consistent in genres of movies/books/TV or do you prefer a variety of entertainment choices?

I mostly like mysteries, and dramas (especially British ones). Of course Downton Abbey is a favorite. I also read mysteries, but I have joined more than one book club this year and that has helped me to read something a little different. I plan to find more biographies this year.

If you could go anywhere on a paid vacation or retreat to write, where would you choose?

Italy would be my first choice. I particularly like Venice, but then the Cornish coast in England would be another lovely retreat, especially as the Lowenna series is based there.

If you won the lottery, but had to give away half the winnings, where would you spread the joy?

Even if it wasn’t a requirement, I’d look into opening a no-kill shelter for animals and also expand our local crisis pregnancy center where I have volunteered for over 20 years.
Do you encounter writer's block? What do you do to get over it?

The only time I ever experience writer’s block is when I’m in a classroom setting and the teacher asks for something written in a few minutes. My mind seems to fly out the window. Otherwise, I never have problems writing. I’ve always got more than one project going on, so if I’m stuck with one project I go on to another one.

Thanks Ann for sharing your thoughts on writing, on your upcoming projects, and for joining Word Splash

Thank you Joanne for inviting me to be a guest on your amazing blog today.