Monday, May 17, 2010


Believe it or not, I think Alfred's back:

Got a visual this morning, but he's not hanging around the feeder long enough to get a picture yet.

I'm so excited -- how strange is that?


Monday, May 10, 2010

Some New Old Books

When my son started high school we cleaned out his room -- literally took everything out, scrubbed every inch of the room, and then put some things back in it. We threw away some stuff, gave away some stuff, and packed up all his books. He's a big reader so there were lots of books to pack. Now, they're all in boxes in the basement and his book shelves are filling up again, but this time with his new favorite genre: science fiction. My husband wanted us to give the books away because it was unlikely that our son would want to venture back into the worlds of elementary and middle grade fiction. I took issue with this because one: I suspect I'll be re-reading Harry Potter books for a long time. Two: I still haven't recovered from my mother giving away the books of my childhood.

All my Nancy Drews, my Laura Ingalls Wilders, the Little Women with the cover that I gazed at for hours, wishing I could put myself in that room with those girls and their Marmee. They're all gone.

As heartbreaking as losing those well known books was, the most frustrating part was not being able to remember the titles of a couple books that made a huge impression on me; they had both, in their own ways, fueled my imagination and shown me how fiction could be about anything at all.

When I finished college and set up my own apartment, I began to search for the two books whose titles had eluded me. The Internet was just a glimmer in some one's eye at that point, so I just had to ask around. I wasn't overly serious about the search, but I asked booksellers and librarians whenever I thought about it. Literally, a couple decades passed and I still hadn't found them. Here were my descriptions:

1. A woman who is captured by bald aliens. The woman falls in love with the bald alien leader.

2. Ghost story about two kids, two ghosts and an old mansion. I think the cover had the kids (live and ghostly) in a garden with a fountain.

In my head, the alien story had a "V" in the title and the ghost story was called something as simple as GHOST or GHOST STORY. But, "V" wasn't enough, and there were no such 'ghost' titles that matched.

I continued the search on the Internet. Search engines, Yahoo answers, whatever, I tried everything, but still to no avail. Then about a year ago I happened upon a web site that was called something like, "What was the Title of that Book?" I typed in my short descriptions. Within five minutes I had the titles and then the books ordered.

The ghost story is called, THE GHOSTS, and here's the cover that was on my original book:

So, no fountain, but not far off otherwise. The version I got this time around has this cover:

which is horrible, but it's a pretty old book.

The alien book is YARGO. Here's the cover:

Same cover that I had, though the "V" I was remembering was a "Y."

I immediately dug into YARGO, hoping to find that magic that it created the first time around. When I read it in high school, I hadn't read many (if any) real romances, so I guess I'd have to call this my first. When I was younger, it made me want to be captured by aliens and taken away. I couldn't put it down - then. Uh, not so much now. I never like to mention books I don't like, but after a few decades, the story in this one didn't quite hold up for me anymore. The writing is dated and females were portrayed much differently when this book was written. So, my long search ended, but the biggest surprise was the author -- Jacqueline Susann, who also wrote a pretty famous book: VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. I admit I haven't read any of Ms. Susann's other books, including VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, but I appreciate her contributions to fiction. YARGO was apparently published after the author's death; an old manuscript someone found in her desk.

Needless to say, I didn't hold out much hope for THE GHOSTS. I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. This book has held up well over time. The writing is really spectacular. Though the pace is a little slower than most middle grade novels of today, it wasn't bothersome to read. In fact, I fell in love with this book all over again. From the little research I did about the author, Antonia Barber, I think she's still alive and living in England. She's written a number of books that I haven't read, but I am so grateful for THE GHOSTS and the magic it created in my youth.

I think that if someone put a better cover on it and marketed it to older elementary school children, it could still find an audience. Middle grade readers seem to be reading much more grown-up stuff than when I was that age, but I bet sixth graders and some fifth graders would enjoy THE GHOSTS. I can't quite stress enough, though, that a new cover is necessary.

And, finally, ending my trip down memory lane -- thanks to whomever created the site that helped me find the books. I wish I could still find you!

Happy reading, everyone!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where to Put The Tattoo?

When I first started writing seriously a number of years ago (here's that story if you're interested:, my big goal was, of course, to get published. It can be an all-consuming and heartbreaking goal, but the work was well worth it.

Shortly after my agent sold my first books to Berkley, I had a fleeting thought that over time somehow turned into a big thought that wouldn't go away. In a happy moment, probably in an off-handed way, I said aloud though not to a live person, "If I ever make the New York Times Best Seller list, I'm getting a tattoo with whatever number I land."

Okay, you have to understand: In my head, this was a dream for some time down the road, and when I envisioned the list, my dream shot for a low number, perhaps 1 or maybe 2. Also, I don't have any tattoos. I don't have piercings other than one hole in each ear. I've admired some body art, but never ever been courageous enough to lend my own to the cause. Translation: I'm a pretty boring middle-aged woman.

I can't even begin to share with you the thrill of landing on the New York Times list. When my editor called to tell me the good news, I laughed, I cried -- but I won't go on because that would make us all uncomfortable. Sure, it was the extended list, and hey, it was number 35 out of 35, but it falls right in there with the best moments of my life. Even a lower number, even number 1, couldn't have been more awesome.

That said, I believe in keeping my deals, keeping my promises, even if they are to that invisible universe. I'm proudly getting a "35" tattoo (my husband joked and said that Bo Derek better watch her back now -- yeah, took me a minute to get it too, but he's a good guy), but I can't decide where to put it. It won't be very big, and anything above my shoulders isn't an option, but I'd love to hear suggestions -- locations, fonts, colors . . . I don't know where to begin.

Oh yeah, if you know my parents, you might not want to tell them.

Happy reading!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wow, so much information on this site. I had no idea there was an Alpaca farm (ranch?) so close to where I live.

Click on the map on the homepage and you're sure to find lots of farms or markets close to home.

The site also sells seeds. I'm ordering some of these, just because I've never heard of them:

What would summer lunches and salads be without the refreshing crunch of cucumbers? The lemon cucumber offers a unique, pleasingly mild lemony tang to this old favorite vegetable!

Beautiful and fragrant, this cucumber has flown off our stand at Farmers Market.

We have also found it easy to grow, and even novice gardeners who bought starts from us this spring have reported great success. Very prolific as well!

25 seeds per packet.

65 days to maturity.

end quote

I'm probably a little late, but I'm curious enough to give them a try.

Anyone else planting something new and/or different?