Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Resistance is Futile


I never thought this day would come. As I've mentioned elsewhere, Curt has won only one real concession all these years ;-) and that has been, "No cats." Not that I argued all that hard. I like cats and always have, but I've always preferred dogs.

But when you have children -- even older kids -- you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Sara and her boyfriend, Luke, found two sister kittens up near his apartment at school. One kitten is black, the other black and white. Robyn and Andrew adopted the black one and named her Violet Oakley after a famous illustrator. Sara named the black and white one Miss Kitka from the old Batman movie. (Who says kids these days don't know the classics? Heh. Heh.)

Anyway, after much discussion and after meeting Miss Kitka in person, Curt has agreed to let her stay with us until Sara graduates college (2 years from now) but he stipulated that someone else needs to take the cat during the Christmas holidays. We understand that cats love to climb real Christmas trees and that's the one thing Curt won't give up (I turned him to the "dark side" on that one years ago). Robyn and Andrew have graciously agreed to take Kitka during those weeks. And if for some reason they can't, it will be up to Sara to find a friend (Luke??) to babysit for the holidays.

This may sound like a strong request, but believe me, allowing the cat to stay at all is a huge concession for Curt. He's such a softie though.

When we were discussing this away from nosy ears, he said he was feeling a little like Jean-Luc Picard in First Contact ... (paraphrasing) you give a little, you compromise a little, and then it's too late. "The line must be drawn here!" (pronounced "heah!") LOL

Well the line is at Christmas. The girls assure me they'll comply. And with any luck they won't force our assimilation during the holidays. We've discovered, too late, that resistance is futile ;-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pictures from Kerrytown

The Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor, Michigan this past Sunday was wonderful! Robin Agnew of Aunt Agatha's bookstore was in charge of the festival and she did a masterful job. The day was sunny and warm, but the people in Ann Arbor were even warmer. I was so lucky to have been on a panel with Joanna Carl and Miranda Bliss who were charming and full of great ideas.

Just want to share a few pics:
This is our panel in action. Angelee was a wonderful moderator. She read all our books and had specific questions prepared for each of us. That was such a delight!









Posing for pictures before running off to the signing tent....














Here we all are signing after the panel. We were also welcome to sign at the Aunt Agatha booth during the day, which I did for about an hour or so.

I met so many nice people at this event. Ann Arbor is beautiful. And of course, Curt and I had lunch at the famous Zingerman's Deli.

Delish!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kerrytown Bookfest Sunday

If anyone is in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area this Sunday, September 13th - please stop by the Kerrytown Bookfest and say hello. My panel is at 2:00, and we'll be talking about culinary mysteries, of course. Click on Bookfest for more details. Doesn't it sound great? And Jeffrey Deaver is the big guest star. I *love* Jeffrey Deaver. He's not just an amazing writer, he's a great guy. I had the pleasure of meeting him at one of our Midwest chapter meetings at Love is Murder and he was so gracious, so warm.

Anyway, can you tell I'm thrilled to be part of an event where he's featured? Of course, he isn't on the panel talking about culinary mysteries. LOL Could you imagine that? I think I'd be afraid to eat anything one of his characters prepared ;-)

The Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor has lots to offer and I can't wait to get there.

Hope to see some readers there. Please do say hello!

Julie

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Fan Girl

I'm so excited. My friend Rene and I have just bought tickets to go see Diana Gabaldon when she comes to Anderson's Bookshop later this month.

I have loved the Outlander series since I picked up the first in the series in 1998. I read the first four books twice, and Outlander three times. I confess that with all my book *writing* I haven't been able to keep up. Who'd a believed Diana Gabaldon could write these massive tomes faster than I could read them? I'm about halfway through The Fiery Cross and I still have A Breath of Snow and Ashes to get through before I start this new one, An Echo in the Bone.

You can't just walk in to this event. You actually have to purchase a book ($30) and a ticket ($5) in order to be allowed in. This speaks volumes about Gabaldon's popularity. I would love to be that much in demand, but I have to tell you -- I don't like the idea of charging people to attend a book talk. Maybe there are things at work in the background that I'm not aware of (and that's likely), but even as I hope to become that popular over time (I'm dreaming here), I hope no bookstore ever charges people to come to my booksignings.

But that obviously hasn't stopped me from ordering our tickets...
;-)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Hate Mail Hazards of Being Famous

No, I'm not talking about myself. I'm nowhere near "famous," and that's okay. I wouldn't mind if my books were famous, but that's not something I have any control over.

But today on Writers Plot, my friend Lorraine Bartlett talks about a letter she received about one of her books. I can't call it a fan letter because the writer is no such thing. The letter Lorraine received is angry, vehement, and personal. What about? Food issues. Yeah, seriously. Check out the link above for the details.

In the comment section of the blog, Shelly nails it. I have to believe Lorraine was stunned and hurt by this missive. Lorraine is a wonderful story teller and a really nice person to boot. Fortunately she seems as though she's shaken it off quickly -- but this nasty letter makes me wonder, as I often have -- do the people who write angry letters and cruel reviews really understand that there are *people* behind the books? That books are written with the hope that with our stories we can entertain readers, cheer them up, or let them escape for a little while?

When authors read horrid reviews of their books (for an example or two, check out SJ's reviews of my two WHChef novels on Amazon -- or, better yet, *don't* read them), believe me, it hurts. I sincerely hope SJ does *not* pick up a copy of Eggsecutive Orders when it comes out. It's pretty obvious to me she doesn't care for my style.

I understand that not everyone will enjoy my books. And that's okay. It's not the message, it's the tone -- the spite with which the reviews (and Lorraine's letter) were written -- that really stings. As though the writers *wanted* to hurt us. I have to wonder what's going on in the lives of those who so easily diss others. Why spread such anger, such negativity? Does this make them feel better? If that's the case, let them have their say. We'll deal with it. We have to. But I will do my utmost to not let the cycle continue.

Anyway, that's my rant for today.
Let's all try to be kind to one another.

:-)
Julie

Friday, September 04, 2009

Not political - parental

I try hard not to voice any political opinions on this blog. To be honest, I try not to voice political opinions anywhere. Mostly because my opinions are complicated and I don't like having to defend how I think. It just isn't worth it. I much prefer listening to others and stepping back to form my opinions after I believe I've gathered all the facts. Sometimes I discover later *haven't* gathered them all and I wind up revising my opinions. Hard to do after you've taken a strong stand for or against something. Hence, no public displays of opinions...

But today I read that parents are complaining about President Obama's planned speech to students across the nation. Many parents are asking to have their kids excused from having to watch it.

This is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES talking about responsibility and goal-setting and the importance of education. What can people possibly have against that?

I don't understand it. But -- no matter -- let's not debate the "why" of these parents' decision. Let's talk about something far more troubling (IMHO). I want to know what these parents believe they are teaching their kids by avoiding the president's message. I *get* that not everyone likes President Obama. But avoiding him is just dumb. He's here for four years, at least. What do these parents think the kids are taking away from this? That the world and the people who inhabit it should only be experienced in safe, measured doses, and only when it supports what we already believe? That anyone who disagrees with us should be ignored?

I'm willing to bet that some of these parents also head off to school, filled with righteous indignation when their kid gets called out for talking in class. Or chewing gum. Or running in the halls. You know -- the stuff kids will do that teachers chastise for.

I have to believe these people think they're protecting their kids. Yeah, well, the world isn't safe. And the sooner kids learn to cope with the world, the stronger they start to become.

Come on... no matter what your political beliefs, can't everyone see these are teachable moments? Let's say you're a parent who disagrees with President Obama on (name your issue). Can't you sit down with your kid at home that night and open a discussion about what the president talked about? I'll bet there will be nothing political to his speech at all. Further, why not talk to your kid about the real issues - regularly. Find out what he/she believes. A kid can't make an informed decision without facts. No one can. Why should any parent want to keep their child from learning?

Okay, I'm starting to rant.

Two years ago one of my daughters took an AP Government class and -- she's usually an A student -- got a C for a final grade. Know what? My husband and I thought that was just fine. Almost every night she came home with new concepts to discuss. Her teacher brought up things she'd never thought about before and when she talked about them at home, we had great discussions about all things political. I know she learned a lot that year, even though her grade was less than she'd hoped for. But that's all I wanted - for her to learn.

I'll stop here. I'm just flabbergasted by the number of people opposed to letting their kids hear President Obama speak. Just completely blown away by this and I better stop now before I really get rolling ;-)

Happy Friday. Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dream sequences

Many of my writer friends already know that I hate dream sequences in books. No, I'm not talking about "this has all been a dream" at the end of a story (a crime for which the writer should be forever banished from keyboards everywhere), but dream sequences within stories that are supposed to be meaningful or provide the protagonist vital clues.

Sure, in real life, I've dreamed the answers to burning questions (the most remarkable in sophomore year geometry when I couldn't figure out the final proof in that night's homework. Woke up with the answer and got it right!) We've all had interesting, frightening, and possibly meaningful dreams, but reading about them in a story bores me to tears. I admit, there have been a few exceptions, but for the most part, dreams in novels are manufactured by the author, and often too precious. I would rather see the protagonist's reaction to the dream -- see how he/she is affected by his/her nocturnal adventures... And when an author accomplishes that, I am happy to go along for the ride.

That said, I had a weird dream last night. I won't bore you with the details, but I want to share how it affected me. I dreamed I killed someone - not by myself, and not in self defense. Four of us (people I don't know) did it and it terrified me. I didn't experience the actual act, but I knew that it had happened (you know how dreams are). Experts say that the brain reacts to imaginary scenarios the same way it would to real ones, and let me tell you I woke up totally freaked out.

I know where this dream originated. I can usually backtrack through the past few days and figure out what I did/saw that triggered an adventure. This time it was one of the Bond movies on TV we had channel-surfed through and stopped to watch for a bit. One of the characters in the movie was even one of my accomplices. So relax all you Freudian analysts out there - this was just a misfired synapse - ;-)

What I found most fascinating was the reaction my dream-self had to the murder. The enormity of what had been done coupled with the fear of being found out provided a level of trapped terror I'd never known. These are feelings I've never experienced and never plan to experience. But maybe, just maybe, if I ever write from a villain's perspective, I'll be able to draw upon this to make my scenes real.

Right now none of the scenes I imagined would be appropriate in either the Ollie (White House Chef) or Grace (Manor of Murder) series. So I guess I'll have to put these vivid-today memories aside for a while. If I ever do write the sort of novel that features a villain's perspective, I'll just have to rewatch this Bond movie and hope for the best ;-)