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31 posts from March 2010

March 21, 2010

Spring Resolution: See More Live Art!

Spring Resolution: See More Live Art!

By Kathy Sweeney

Blog Kelly Strayhorn Pic324  If you didn't read yesterday's blog by Storyteller Mary, you should.  On the heels of that great news, we went to see Squonk Opera last night in an old theater that is being brought back to life.

It was amazing.  The theme of the show, Mahem and Majesty, which made its world debut here in Pittsburgh, was how music can stimulate all the senses. Autumn Ayers, a young woman we met when she was a waitress/struggling singer/songwriter, is the vocal lead.  Her voice is astounding.  She could be on any stage in the world.  We got to see her in a small theater for less than $10.  

Local theater and local arts programs are in trouble.  As you may already know, funding for the arts, especially in schools, has been plummeting for years, and this year's federal and state budgets are even worse. 

That means it is up to us to keep things going.  Why us?  Because we, everyone of us who reads this blog, are patrons of the arts.  We buy books.  We buy music. We tell - or at least share - stories.  You don't have to be a de Medici to support the arts.  Good thing, too - there aren't many de Medici's left.  No offense to the Mona Lisa, whomever she might have been.

You don't have to be rich, or write big checks - or in many cases - spend any money at all.  There are still free concerts and art shows and galleries and poetry readings - all kinds of ways to see the performing and fine arts - but if people don't show up, they will cease as well.

Several years ago, I made it my New Year's Resolution to see something 'live' at least once a month.  At the time, I was in a major country music phase (watch it - I still love country) and went to a bunch of concerts at a roadhouse owned by a friend's family.  I would fill in as a waitress if they needed help.  Got to meet a ton of artists, from Trace Adkins to Kenny Rogers  (yes, the first really is that tall and the second really did have some bad surgery) both of whom put on terrific shows.  I also got to see Phil Vasser, who got his start playing at IUP and is now a big deal - still a great guy.

Since our daughter became a visual arts major in high school, our live art visits have expanded to shows with pottery, paintings, sculpture and fabrics.  Give them a shot as well - the creativity of the human mind will give you faith in the species.

Blog Autumn  If you get a chance to see Squonk Opera, you can't miss our friend Autumn - she looks like a goddess. She has a range from the sweet lilt of the Celtic Women to the gut-check power of Stevie Nicks.  No kidding.  No big production mixes - no back up singers - just a pure and magnificent voice.  If you can't see the show in person, watch for the CD/DVD - they filmed part of it last night.  

So - let's get out there.  What have you seen lately?  What can you recommend for the rest of us?

Happy Spring!

March 19, 2010

Thanks to Team Rachel, I'm Going to L.A.

Thanks to Team Rachel, I’m Going to L.A.

By Very Special Guest blogger and member of the TLC Family, Storyteller Mary!

Disappointment hurts, but we all have to learn to deal with it, going through the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, weeping, ice cream . . . and finally, maybe, acceptance, though sometimes I wait a long time for that one.

Last year I received a disappointment so big and so unexpected that it threw my whole world out of balance.   I would have gone out to eat worms, as in the song my mother used to sing us, but that didn’t seem fair to the worms.  My coping mechanisms strongly favor running away (more “flight” than “fight”), plus getting busy on something else (two CDs and a web site, thanks to the Apple OneToOne teachers), and keeping a list of “good quotes for bad days” to help me through.

. . and ice cream . . . and support and sympathy from good friends, who told me, as good friends will, that I was completely right, very brave to take a stand (because I’d rather take flight), eloquent and kind,  and that I handled myself with amazing grace in the face of rude attacks. . . and “I really can’t understand why anyone would even want to pick on you.”  The very best advice was from my wisest friend, “Do your highest and best work. Let the others do what they will. You know that you are good at what you do and that your work is valuable.  Be strong.”

I did stand up for what I thought was right, a plan to alternate Festival tellers year to year rather than cut half the tellers out completely.  I felt like Don Quixote tilting at windmills or the  Hoja facing Tamerlane (*See "Hoja and the Elephant"  If the link doesn’t work, Google the story description).

Afterward, I could not shake off the sadness and disappointment.   I hadn’t felt this low since I cancelled my trial of eHarmony. Flight wasn’t really an option with my new allergy-friendly home (complete with mortgage), and giving  up storytelling would never do.  However, like the Fox in Flossy and the Fox by Pat McKissack, I had lost my confidence.  I wanted no more rejections.

Blog Mary 032010  Then, stuck in place, grieving, I received help from a most unexpected source.  Kathy Sweeney started posting on TLC that we were all to watch her daughter’s friend Rachel on Teen Jeopardy!  I don’t usually watch Jeopardy, but Kathy was really excited, so I tuned in.  (With apologies to the Smothers Brothers: If Kathy asked you to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too? . . . “Well, not again.”)

It was wonderful!  Rachel never gave up, even learning to buzz that buzzer more quickly to get ahead of those boys.  She admitted that being on the show was, “harder than I imagined,” big grin, “and much more fun!” and mentioned the parties with their opponents in the game.  Huzzah, Rachel!

One of the clues was a bit of “rhyming philosophy from Dr. Phil.” (I don’t often watch his show either, so I had never heard it): "Make your goal something you can control."  It resonated.  We cannot change others’ decisions, only our own actions.  My goals had to be things I could do and then feel good about having done my part.  I listed three events to which I would apply, and the goal would be the application itself, not the uncertain results.  I allowed myself to feel good about simply having completed and mailed the audition CDs, and if that were all of the story, it would be a happy ending, but stories always continue . . . and this one got even better!

My version of “Sheherazade” has been chosen for the All-Regions Concert at the National Storytelling Network conference in L.A. in July!  There will be only one teller from  each of the seven regions, and I will be representing the South Central Region: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (many good storytellers in those states!)   It's a surprise and an honor, and my feet have not yet quite touched the ground.  See you July 30, 7:30 at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA (northern Los Angeles). Open to the public (I just checked); tickets are $10.

L.A. National Storytelling Conference

The second application was also accepted, but it is only one week before the Ohio O.O.P.S. Conference to which I had applied earlier.  I don’t think I could do both with enough energy to do them justice (though Laraine is sharing ideas that might in the future make me more durable on the road), so I tendered my regrets and will apply again next year.

The third application was for the National Festival in Jonesborough, TN.  The organizers keep those applications from year to year, so it’s never a “no,” just a “not yet.”  My new goal is to add something new to my file every year for as long as it takes.

*One final note, when I was looking for the Hoja story online, Google took me to my own version, contributed to Healing Stories in 1993.   Life is so . . . interesting . . .Storylady's Healing Story

The Hoja and the Elephant

The Tamerlane had given an elephant to the Hoja's village.  A gift from the Tamerlane is a great honor, but the village suffered from the appetite and destruction of the great elephant.  The Hoja was asked to go to Tamerlane to explain the problem and return the elephant, but without offending the giver.  Hoja agreed, if they would all go with him.  Along the way, the Hoja was rehearsing his speech and did not notice his neighbors slipping away from the group.

When he reached the Tamerlane, he began, "Oh Great Tamerlane, the elephant was a wonderful gift, but my friends and I," and as he turned around to indicate his friends, he realized they were not there, "my friends and I feel she is lonely."

The Tamerlane gladly gave the Hoja a second elephant, with which he returned to his village.  His friends surrounded him with complaints, but the Hoja merely smiled and replied, "And where were you as I talked with the Tamerlane?  Be glad he didn't send more."     Contributed by Mary Garrett

Ed Note from Kathy Sweeney: I've known about this for awhile and wanted to keep the secret so Mary could share it with the entire TLC Family.  This is a tremendous honor for her, and as you can tell, it is well-earned. I cannot tell you how proud I am of her and her willingness to keep the faith.  I have this story on my wall where I see it every day. The lessons of love and friendship and loyalty are truly profound - which is the gift of the true Storyteller.  It reminds me to be thankful for people like Mary, who work so hard at their art so the rest of us can be inspired. It reminds me of Rachel and Kate, who will be graduating soon.  And it reminds me of how blessed I am to be a part of the entire TLC Family, where art and books are treasured rather than brawn or money - where we are all part of something bigger.  MAZELTOV, Mary!!

Margie's Sufferage Story

Margie's Sufferage Story

By Me, Margie, who hates missing out on a good battle so be forewarned

Blog Woman Suffrage booth  Okay, in case you are dumb or something, March is Women's History Month.  So I am going to tell you some things about Women and Sufferage, which is about how women used to do all the work but were totally ignored by the men who ran the government.  And, yes, smartypantzers, I know, but I like my spelling better and I am the one filling in for Sweeney so write your own damn story if you don't like mine and get a life.  It's called artistic license. Duh.

I'm sure you know the basics - the 19th Amendment, passed in 1920 (thanks for nothing, founding fathers) that finally gave women the right to vote.  If you don't know, then learn it like all members of the intelligentsia learn shit - School House Rock.  Seriously?  What did you people do before I got here?

Some of my family wasn't even here then, not that Italy was run by Political Amazons.  But some of my great-aunts were and they had stories which I know are totally true, because they wore black all the time and carried rosaries from The Vatican.  They can't tell lies because they will be strangled by their rosaries.

Back in the olden days, when the men were writing the Constitution, they were fighting about the nouns.  If they had just stuck to the word People, all this later crap would have been avoided, but no, they had to use the word men because that's what men do to remind eachother they have dicks.  Not that Franklin or Jefferson needed to remind anyone, since I bet half the kids running around looked like one or the other. But not John Adams, who didn't cheat and usually had a sour look on his face.  Just saying.

These men had big fights about slavery and so when the original Con was signed, it gave rights to white men and that's it.  Eventually, the people woke up and said WTF is that about and they started the Abolition Movement to outlaw slavery.  Guess who basically ran that show?  Women.  It's totally true, look it up.

Blog force fed Suffrage  Women were also bitching because they couldn't vote.  Neither could non-white men.  At the beginning, they all teamed up and then someone decided they had a better shot if they split up and tried to work on gender equality separate from racial equality.  I personally think this was dumb as hell, but then nobody asked me because I would have fixed it without any sisters going to jail and being force fed and force whatever else those redneck jailers were in the mood for - I know people.

There was a big divide in the Women's Sufferage movement and they even created two different organizations. I blame the white men, of course, because they were the only ones with something to lose and so of course they figured if they could pit the women against each other, the women would be so focused on the massive cat fight that they would be too dumb to remember about the voting thing and plus men love to see women fight because they think there is a chance they will see breasts.  Now that I think about it, that was probably the driving force behind the whole thing because if there is anything that can mesmerize a whole bunch of men, besides their own penises, it is the off chance of an appearance of tits.

Can you imagine there was a time when you couldn't vote unless you had the right genital parts in the right color? That's right: no balls = no vote. That is some batshit crazy stuff right there, but it's true.  Women finally got the right to vote in 1920.  Which is like forever ago, but not really when you consider the country started voting back in the 1770s.

Blog susan-b-anthony no failure  Still, the only woman given any real props - measured by who is on the money - was Susan B. Anthony, who got a dollar coin that was just a throwaway invented to appease women and create molds for the Franklin Mint. Nobody even uses them because they look too much like the size of a quarter and most people are too stone assed dumb to get it straight.  That's what we do these days - we accommodate the dumbasses instead of making them nut up and use a brain cell or two.  Which means no women on the money.  Or cut into the sides of big mountains, or made of stone and presiding over Washington D.C.  Why is this?  Because just because women have the right to vote doesn't mean they get voted ON - which means nominated and elected. Know what we call this?  A Fail. A big, fat, blow hole Whale Fail.

Which is why it should totally be the next Women's Movement, and I'm giving you a big clue right here.  Today's women (that would be me and my cousins) know how to get shit done.  And it involves movement, all right. Or the lack of and I don't just mean sex.  Okay I mean mostly sex, but we're no shy flowers just standing around looking good.  Today, we not only look fabulous, but we will kick your ass up and down main street without chipping any nail polish.  

So the ending of this story is being written right now and you'd best get on board and own that March may be the only month officially dedicated to women, but baby, if you want to be happy, every month is women's month.

The end.

March 18, 2010

The Look

The Look

by Nancy Go to fullsize image

On Monday evening, my friend Ruth (Hi, Ruth!) called and asked if she could stop by my house with a book for me to autograph for a friend's birthday.  Of course, I said. 

So, later that evening, after dark, when I was alone in the house, I heard someone pound assertively on the front door. Naturally, I assumed it was Ruth, because she's a bit of a character and might pound on a door just to be amusing. I left my desk and went upstairs to greet her, assuming she had a funny story to tell me.

I opened the front door without looking out the window first, which was Wrong, I admit.

There, with the storm door open, one foot on the threshold and himself halfway into the house, was not a home invader bent on mayhem, thank heaven, but a kid--er, young man with a big smile and a clipboard.  He said brightly, "Hi, how are you?"  And I said in a less than friendly tone,  "You just scared the hell out of me."

I don't know about your neighborhood, but I live in a part of the city known for its liberal politics, and we tend to get swarms of kids with clipboards this time of year--all of them gathering names, signatures, addresses, phone numbers and/or email contact info that they swear will only be used for:

1. The Sierra Club or

2. Some organization in favor of clean water or

3.  Another organization in favor of jobs or

4. A third organization that says it provides books for children who don't have enough books.

Now, I defy even Sarah Palin to object to any of those causes, but the truth is?  Despite what they promise, the clipboard kids scamper out of the neighborhood and immediately sell all that contact information to any politician, liberal cause or fundraiser for every medical charity on the planet. Call me a Communist, if you like, but I find that really annoying.

So I indicated to the kid with the clipboard that I wasn't interested in having any conversation with him. I used no words, just one hand up in the "stop right there, young man" position. He stopped speaking at once, but kept his foot on the threshold.  Not in a threatening way exactly, but in an "I'm not leaving yet, lady" manner.

At which point, it was up to me, in a split second, to sternly order the kid back into the darkness, off my property. Did I have a baseball bat behind the door?  Did I--God forbid--have a loaded weapon in the nearby drawer? A slavering pitbull at my heels?


I used The Look.

Those of you who are mothers need read no further, as you have no doubt instantly concluded that I emerged from this small confrontation victorious. Those of you who have had mothers should also understand what I mean by The Look.  It is a simple stare that packs the energy of no less than a plutonium bomb.  It is capable of rendering grown men completely helpless. And it certainly has the power to command a kid with a clipboard to back off.

I will admit that this particular kid was still of an age extraordinarily susceptible to The Look, but I assure you, he was off my porch in a gratifying heartbeat. 

I learned The Look from my mother, who learned it from her mother.  And I'm very, very proud to report that I have recently witnessed my own daughter deploy The Look to control her 18-month-old son. The Look is an ancestral power passed from generation to generation doubtless via mitochondrial DNA, rather like red hair or the ability to predict the future in some families.

Ours is not the only family, by any means, blessed with this priceless skill. I feel certain nearly everyone reading these words has experienced and/or used The Look at appropriate times.  It's not a resource to be squandered on small potatoes, of course.  The Look should be reserved for important moments or it loses it's potence.

Those of you who use it wisely know exactly what I mean.

May The Look endure.

Me, I'm going to the Virginia Festival of the Book tomorrow and Saturday.  It's one of the most delightful book events around, if you ask me.  If you happen to be in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, stop at the Omni and look for me.  I'll be the one withholding The Look unless I really need to use it.

ps.  Yesterday, I was featured on a blog that asks authors to comment on th 69th page of their current release.  Check out The Page 69 Test.

March 17, 2010

Stars and Bars

By Elaine VietsStljail

Everything gets star ratings these days: Hotels, movies, restaurants – even jail.

St. Louis County has a starred jail. It rates four-and-a-half stars on Citysearch.com. The nearby Ritz-Carleton has ratings just as high.

St. Louis County is the setting for my Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, and Josie visits the Clayton jail in some novels. Clayton is the St. Louis County seat. Years ago, it was part of the city of St. Louis. In a stunning act of stupidity, the city separated itself from the more rural parts of the county in 1876. St. Louis county grew fat and rich. The city became poor.

St. Louis has been trying to lure back the county ever since, but St. Louis County spurns its advances. Why would a successful yuppie hook up a pauper? Clayton has a median family income of $107,346, last time I checked the stats.

Clayton has more yuppies than a greasy spoon has cockroaches. They overrun Clayton’s pricey bars and restaurants. They try to stay out of the St. Louis County Jail. They must regret that jail is built on a prize piece of downtown Clayton real estate.

I’ve read the three "jail user" reviews in Citysearch and can’t tell if they are send-ups or not. I suspect "toadtws," whoever he – or she – is, has done genuine jail time.

Prison-guard- and man "Great Stay – As Usual," the reviewer begins, crowning the jail with five stars. "Excellent location right in the heart of beautiful downtown Clayton. Easily accessible by public transportation (by the way, ST.L.Co. P.D. police cars have excellent leg room in the back seat)."

That remark made me suspect the reviewer has been in more than one police car. The rest of the miscreant’s review is a parody of a starred hotel rating:

"Excellent staff who remember your name each time you come back. They always do their best to make you feel welcome. The presentation upon arrival meets and exceeds that of all other similar facilities I have ever experienced. The accommodations were more clean and spacious than other places I’ve stayed in the past. No detail is too small to be overlooked. Cannot say enough good things about my recent stay from the location, the views, the other guests, the dining fare . . . everything met and even exceeded my expectations. Even though I am a frequent guest, I always look forward to my stays. Will return again and again."

That should thrill the uptight, upright Clayton taxpayers. Citysearch provides helpful maps and information about parks, restaurants and other spots suitable for muggers and robbers. Theif

"Toadtws" listed the jail’s pros and cons:

"Pros: Best Baloney Sandwich in the State. Cons: Lack of a Frequent Guest Program."

"Romantic," said a second reviewer and possible repeat offender. This "jail user" awarded the county lockup a stingy three stars, but sounded nostalgic about the stays: "I feel that over the yeras (sic) it had become a little run down, it adds to its charm. I will always remember the tender service offered by the guards, the intimate guest rooms, and chic modern decor.

"It’s where me and Blaine had our first kiss.

"Highly recommend.

"Pros: Location, everything you need right there.

"Cons: hard to get out of quickly."

"Best time I’ve served," said a third reviewer, giving the jail the high five. "One of the finest jails in Missouri. Excellent educational programs, GED opportunities, low-cost laundry service. Located in desirable downtown Clayton, just blocks from gourmet eateries (although take-out can be difficult). Visitors welcome.

"Pros: Extended weekends, Laundry service, Private rooms.

"Cons: Surrounded by them, Limited rec time, YOU’RE IN JAIL."

Oh, right.

On a semi-related note: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!Honor the Irish and stay out of jail – no matter how many stars it has. St pat and beer

March 16, 2010

Bubblegum Sal

By Sarah

Finally, I got my hair cut and colored this weekend. Okay, foiled. (Sounds better.)

My hairdresser - Melodie LaPorte, god bless her ever living soul - learned my father died and offered toFoil   come in Saturday morning to take care of me after I traveled to Florida and back with roots that, according to my son, were reminiscent of Garth as in Wayne's World. Think two-toned Chevy.

For anyone who's endured a period of grief, hair care is essential to returning to civilization. I will never forget writing a news story about two little girls, one of whom had just lost her teenage brother to suicide. The sister of the deceased sat in a chair while her friend brushed and brushed her hair for hours after his death, saying nothing, just comforting. It makes me cry to this day. When my mother died, I went to a salon and got my locks clipped. Looking in the rearview mirror of my car, I thought, "Now, I am an adult." And I was.

But that's not the point of this blog. The point is that, after returning to the glorious bright bottle blond I was meant to be, I went looking for Downtown Dave. Downtown Dave is one of the many, many delightfully insane folks we have wandering around Montpelier. You get to know these people because with no jobs or family to occupy their hours, they are simply around. Plus, they're hard to miss.

The story with Downtown Dave is  - like many of these sagas - vague, dramatic and inaccurate. I've heard that he was an A+ student who went on a bad acid trip and broke his parents hearts. If so, that's very sad. All I know is that he notices my hair the day I get it cut. I'll stroll down the street minutes after leaving Stairway to Style and there will be Downtown Dave, slightly slack jawed, at the corner waiting for the light. "Hey!" he'll exclaim. "Like what you did with your hair."

It's fantastic.

Multihair  As Downtown Dave's hair changes from blue to green to bright orange daily, it is only polite to respond, "Likewise." Honestly, we have a friendship based solely on compliments of dead follicles.

Now, Downtown Dave should not be confused with Other Downtown Dave. Other Downtown Dave walks slowly with big, exaggerated strides while smoking constantly. Once, when I was working out at First in Fitness, Other Downtown Dave hopped onto the cross trainer next to me in his duster and jeans sending up billows of stale cigarette fumes that nearly made me puke. Other Downtown Dave never notices my hair. 

Neither does Mad Nancy, the bald woman in a sailor suit who murdered her parents in their sleep. Oh, it was nothing, years ago when she was sixteen. With the medications these days she's perfectly normal. Except when she's not. I try to avoid eye contact with Mad Nancy if I can help it though it's not easy as she likes to hang outside the bookstore. And yell. A lot.

I like nutty people. The truly insane remind us of our own insanity and, if we're lucky, inspire.

Consider Bubblegum Sal, a rootin' tootin' bleached blond cowgirl who used to wear go-go boots and fringed leather skirts when I was growing up in Bethlehem, PA. My mother warned me not to speak with her, but it was hard to resist. Bubblegum Sal was everything I wanted to be - tall, thin and blond with bright pink lips and blue leather skirts. As a grownup, I reworked her a bit and turned her into Bubbles Yablonsky.

Of course, I can't say all nutty people have been a delight. For years in New Hampshire I wrote about an eccentric heir named Alexander Beyer who made everyone's life a living hell by sending out mass mailingsBubble   claiming the father of his former fiancee was a child molester. To make matters worse, the father was a postman who had to distribute the defamatory mailings about himself. "Zan" was convicted of defamation and, the day afterward, shot himself. Nice that he didn't take the rest of us with him. His enemies list was quite long and I was on it.

So those are the nutty members of my life. Got any in yours? I think it's always nice to say hello and great them with casual conversation. After all, they're not the ones who are dangerous. It's the normal ones who pose a far bigger threat.


March 15, 2010

They're Baaaaaaack!

by Hank Phillippi Ryan

This is a story with the happiest of endings. But first let me say: We don't have any pets.

Yes, I had cats, before, and Lola and Leon were stellar. Lola, especially perverse at age 19, knew that Jonathan was allergic to her. So Queen Lola, who never agreed that anyone else existed but me, spent the last year of her life stalking my sneezing but stalwart husband-to-be.

All of our friends have dogs. And I know that would be fun, but unfair, since we're never home. For awhile, we had an invisible dog, Wheatie, who we would "walk" and "feed" and discuss. But then we forgot, which is another indication it's good we don't have a dog.

I promise you this is about ducks. Just hang on. Ducks flap

One of my favorite books of all time is "The Worlds Largest Cheese" by Christopher Cerf. Its a sort of a compendium-collection of random funny stuff. Including, of course, a photo of the world's largest cheese, and a photo of a baseball player who doesn't have any vowels in his name. It also has a list of  "Famous Animals in the White House," which includes pets US Presidents didnt know they had.  John Adams' field mouse, for instance. And Rutherfod B. Hayes' daddy long legs. (You might have to read it to see how funny it really is. I'm realizing it sounds pretty out there.)

Anyway, that made me realize we might actually have pets. But the pets chose us, we didnt choose them. 


Yes, ducks.

In our back yard, there's a swimming pool. It's in ground, and built in the fifties, maybe? (In the winter, it's covered with a tarp, and fills with snow, then rain).  Its lovely and peaceful and  surrounded in spring and summer and fall by flowers and graceful trees. 

But several years ago, on a March afternoon,  my husband and I were sitting on the couch in the sun room--and suddenly heard the strangest sound. A huge splash!  We looked at each other, surprised and questioning--and then looked outside.

Flo and eddy

Paddling on the pool, just as if they belonged there, were two  mallards, a male and a female. The male with an iridescent green head, and a perfect white stripe around his neck, and a slash of purple on each wings. The female, demure and wrenny, a thousand shades of brown. Paddling around.  Just as if they belonged there.

Jonathan and I burst out laughing. “Got any duck food?” I said. (Which is hilarious if you know the duck food joke. If you don’t, let me know. )

Anyway.  I  got some bread and quietly quietly opened the back  door, and fed them. We named them Flo and Eddy.   (Which I thought sounded nice and watery.)

The next day they  came back. And brought friends.   We guess they thought the tarp-covered pool was a pond. The ducks flew in and out all spring. We fed them, and got to know them. We learned their methods of communication..how they bob their heads when they’re ready to leave. How they swim completely underwater. How they stand on one leg and sun themselves, motionless for hours. How two males can swim together, but not three, unless they each stay in a different part of the pool. And when there are three males and a female arrives, they fight. I’m just saying.That’s how it is.

Sometimes they would fly up onto the roof. Bizarre.

Ducks on roof



And then, one almost-summer day, they did not arrive. 

I was so sad. But I knew the pool people were coming soon to open the pool-- they would  take off the tarp, put in chlorine,  and make it nice for humans, but not so nice for ducks.  So it was, actually, time for the ducks to go. How did they know that? 

The next day, one lone female duck, who I recognized as Eddy, came back, swam around a bit, then flew away. Then she brought Flo.Ducks in pool

They swam for a moment, in the chlorine, looking confused. Then they flew away together.

And they didn't come back.

Summer came, and then the dahlias,  and then the leaves turned and the pool closed and  we were in the midst of the Boston winter.   And then...as  March arrived and  the ice on the pool started to melt, and there was a certain kind of ripple on the water, there was another splash.  

The ducks were back.

The same ducks.

And they've been back every year since. Six or seven years in a row.First the robins arrive, then the crocus shoots, and then, the ducks.

So a few days ago, as the ice started melting, and the trees got tiny buds, and the water in the pool had a certain kind of ripple, and I said to Jonathan--it's just about duck time. I wonder if they'll come?

And Sunday they arrived! And here they are.

Flo and eddy on side 2010

  Flo and Eddy, I'm sure of it. It was pouring rain, but you know. Good weather for ducks.  And they waddled up to our back door for duck food, which we provided, then they got back into the pond. Er, pool.   

It's spring, no doubt about that. And I'm not sure you could call Flo and Eddy "pets." But maybe so.

What are you hoping for—waiting for—expecting--this spring?  And have unexpected pets arrived at your house?

March 14, 2010

All Things Sticky

By Lori & Tony Karayianni

(aka Tori Carrington) Tori Carrington

In TLC's continuing effort to turn your TBR pile into a mountain, here's Lori and Tony Karayianni, the most romantic writing duo two genres. If you get a chance to see them live, run, don't walk (and don't trip, either) to the bookstore. They are hilarious. 

All things sticky. Mmm…sound intriguing? If you’re familiar with our romance novels, you may think I’m referring to our next steamy Harlequin Blaze. Au contraire. In this instance, I’m talking about Sofie Metropolis, PI.

Don’t know who our girl Sofie is? Please, allow me to introduce her: she’s our sassy Greek-American series character, budding P.I. and Queens girl. She’s starred in several books so far, with the fourth title, WORKING STIFF, now available everywhere in paperback. She has a wacky Greek family; a sometimes insufferable but always adorable male Jack Russell terrier named Muffy who is both her roommate and sidekick.

So far she’s gotten herself into more trouble than she can get out of…especially in the love department with the presence of two men in her life that tempt and frustrate her no end: the hot, mysterious bounty hunter Jake Porter, and the sexy, mouthwatering Greek baker Dino Antonopoulos.

In WORKING STIFF, circumstances get stickier yet for our intrepid gal pal. Here’s the official blurb: It’s the week before Halloween and a body disappears from Sofie’s Aunt’s funeral home. It might be a holiday prank, but Sofie’s barely begun to investigate when she’s handed a truly hot case: prove the innocence of Little Johnny Laughton who's on trial for murder! And what happens when sexy Aussie bounty hunter Jake Porter finally takes her up on her many offers?

I can’t tell you how much fun we’re having growing Sofie from amateur sleuth/pet detective into a kick-ass, master P.I….um, -slash-pet detective. We view her as the daughter we never had (we have two adult sons), and are reminded how frustrating and rebellious children can be when she often thwarts our attempts to manage her. As with our sons, sometimes we just have to stand back and bite our tongues as she navigates her way over and around life’s many potholes . . . and pray she doesn’t fall into one too deep.

Seeing as Tony hails from Greece, we’re constantly surrounded by all things Greek. Music, community and food play a large role in our lives. Which brings me to the next thing sticky: Greek food.

Now, you know we couldn’t possibly write a series set in ethnically rich Astoria, Queens, without including liberal mentions of Greek cuisine. From the corner souvlaki stand on the corner of Broadway and 32nd, to the yummy Greek bakery, Lefkos Pirgos, on 31st, we include real places where not only Sofie eats, but where you can stop on your next visit to the city, as well. And no story including a Greek family would be complete without lots of time spent sticking a spoon in a pot in Mom’s kitchen. Why should Sofie learn to cook? Sunday family dinners leave her with enough yummy leftovers to see her through the week.

Workingstiffpaperlrg I’m sorry, am I making you hungry? Are you craving a huge portion of spanakopita (spinach pie)? A honey-laden piece of baklava? Want to know what souvlaki is, exactly? No worries! In the back of each Sofie title we include recipes for some of the food mentioned in the stories, including Tony’s Famous Baklava. You can also find many of them at our Web site http://www.sofiemetro.com. Each recipe comes from our own kitchen, and in the case of spanakopita, includes easy shortcuts that don’t interfere with the flavor, but considerably lessen prep time.

In closing, I’d like to offer up a huge sas euxaristoumai (thank you!) to the Tarts of The Lipstick Chronicles, especially Elaine Vets, for inviting us for a visit! To sweeten the plot, we’re offering up copies of the first three titles in the series in hardcover – SOFIE METROPOLIS, DIRTY LAUNDRY and FOUL PLAY – to one lucky commenter at day’s end. All you need do to qualify is share your favorite Greek dish! Oh, all right . . . all you have to do is say "Yiasou!"

March 13, 2010

Real True Confessions

By Sherrill Bodine *    Sherrillpubphoto

It's true. I write about real people. But all personalities and body parts are mixed and matched.

I write about real events. Like my friend, Tim Long, Curator of Costumes at the Chicago History Museum, being poisoned by a vintage black Dior evening gown. And I write about real places.

Seriously, how could I resist telling you all about a secret fall-out shelter outside Chicago now converted into storage for a treasure trove of vintage couture?

I can't resist bringing my passion for fashion – vintage and new – and my fascination for jewelry – vintage and new – and shoes (any kind as long as they are a size 5) into my books.

The prevailing wisdom is that writers should write what they know. That is why doctors write medical thrillers. Lawyers write courtroom dramas. Detectives write true crime. You know the drill.

I know about clothes, jewelry, accessories and the parties where you should wear them; a slice of life I love to share with readers.

Take for example my recent trip to Milan Fashion Week, or as I fondly call it, "Watching the rich and famous at work and play and loving every moment of it."

I can't resist telling you about being nose to nose with legendary Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, as we made our separate ways to our seats at the Versace Runway Show. If any of you saw the film, "September Issue" I must tell you Anna is much prettier in person. Backstage after the show, I discovered that Donatella Versace is as blond as her pictures and as short as me – I matched her four-and-a half-inch to four-and-a-half-inch stilettos.

The After-Party at the Versace Mansion was surreal and the After-After Party next door at The Four Seasons Hotel was triple surreal when I literally ran into Karl Lagerfeld who for those few moments was utterly charming.

ABlackTieAffaircover The following day, at the Gucci Runway Show, I continued my journey down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. As I walked out of the Gucci Show I was interviewed by a television station and faked my way through their questions about fashions in the Spring Shows.

Half way through the interview I realized I wasn't faking. I HAD learned that for Spring 2010 heels will remain high. Colors will be bright lime, lemon yellow, beautiful shades of blue, rich creams and pristine white. And that Gucci will go back to the old Tom Ford days of cut-outs and sass.

Will I be writing about it? I confess, as a fashionista how can I not?


* Sherrill Bodine has published 15 award-winning novels under two pseudonyms, Lynn Leslie and Leslie Lynn.  Now she's writing under her own name about the people, parties, and high-life in the city she knows best:  Chicago.  Sherrill lives there with her husband, four children and their dogs. Visit her website www.SherrillBodine.com

March 12, 2010

Five Favorite Books and a Contest too!

Five Favorite Books and a Contest Too!

Saturday morning update - WOW!  What great responses!  Keep them coming - I will do the drawing for Mystery Lovers Gift Certificates tomorrow - more lists means more chances to win!

By Kathy Sweeney

Blog five handprint   I am delighted to help kick off a new feature - it's called Five Favorites.  It gives all of us book lovers a chance to share ours with each other - with some guidelines. Here they are:

1.  The books should be in print.  Because there is nothing worse than finding a great new title and not being able to buy it.

2.  Only one book per series.  Yes, I love all the Harry Potter books too, but you have to pick one and then refer to the series.

3. Here is the tricky part - there has to be a theme.  Why?  Because any nockaloop can write down five books.  It takes thought and discernment to choose a common thread.

Blog stack books  4. When you submit your Five Favorites in the comments today, your name will go into a drawing to win a gift certificate from me to Mystery Lovers Bookshop.  That's right.  From Me.  Because I love you and I love MLB.  I used to love the other MLB - Major League Baseball - but given the fact that my team hasn't had a winning season since my 18-year-old was in utero (at the playoffs no less) I must tearfully admit baseball has no longer been berry, berry good to me.

Here are some of my picks to get you started:

Five First in the Series by Book Tarts (in no particular order):

1. Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer

2. Shop Till You Drop by Elaine Viets

3. Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak

4. How To Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin

5. Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

See how easy? Okay, that one was a gimme, so let's crank it up a notch and exclude the Tarts from this next list:

Five (Non-Tart) Mysteries That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (in no particular order):

1. The Burglar in the Closet  by Lawrence Block (or any of the Bernie Rhodenbarr series)

2. Don't Look Down  by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

3. Tricky Business or Big Trouble by Dave Barry (BTW, Big Trouble comes out in paperback in July)

4. Six Geese-a-Slaying by Donna Andrews

5. Bobbie Faye's Very..Bad Day  by Toni McGee Causey - also re-released as Charmed and Dangerous

Getting the picture here?  Okay, one more, and this took some real thought, just so you know, so no excuses for not doing one yourself.

Five Mysteries That Involve Works of Art

1.  The Chrysalis  by Heather Terrell

2.  The Flander's Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte

3.  Doors Open by Ian Rankin

4.  Busy Bodies by Joan Hess (this one is funny, too!)

5. Landscape of Lies  by Peter Watson

Now it's your turn.  Pick five favorites - books with a common thread.  You can get more ideas and post your own list at MLB's website: MLB Five Favorites, but not until after you post it here on TLC. I'll put all the commenters name in a hat - a big Mexican sombrero actually - and pull out a winner.  Since not everyone can post during the day, you have until Saturday night to come up with your list. 


Monday morning update: to clarify - they can be any five books - they don't have to be the first in a series AND each list you submit enters you in the contest - more lists, more chances!