Friday, July 27, 2012

Why I Love Dave Robicheaux.

"Cynicism is really the stuff of sophistry. It’s simplistic in nature, it requires no insight and it requires no creativity. Anyone can, in effect, be negative.” - James Lee Burke

In an interview with Christian Science Monitor that was published today, James Lee Burke, one of my favorite writers and, in my opinion, one of the best writers in this country today talked about the appeal of his character Dave Robicheaux, the Cajun cop from New Iberia, Louisiana. Creole Belle, the 19th book in Burke's Robicheaux series, was recently published. I have not yet read it but I downloaded the Audible version and I am looking forward to it. In the interview Burke also said, “Washington Irving said something I never forgot. He said the narrator must establish a familiarity and a sense of trust between himself and the reader. It’s a kind of an intimate relationship that doesn’t exist outside literature.”

I appreciated that because I totally agree with him. I'm tired of obnoxious, unlikable characters which seem so ubiquitous in contemporary fiction. I'm tired of the cynicism of writers who say they write that way because that's how people are, and I'm tired of finishing a book – or not finishing a book – and thinking what a bunch of creeps. If I am going to invest the time it takes to read a full-length novel I want somebody to root for, I want somebody to care about, I want, as the great Sol Stein says, “to fall in love.”

I love what Irving says about building a sense of trust between himself and the reader. I feel genuinely betrayed when I get to the end of the book and there is no climax, no resolution, no sense that the whole story served any purpose at all.

Two recent novels come to mind that illustrate the difference: Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife and Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. Both start out with characters that are deeply flawed, have made bad choices and led not very admirable lives. While reading both books I was a little uncomfortable with a story in which I didn't much like anyone. But the stories were good, the writing was done well, and I was sufficiently intrigued to stay with them.

With The Reliable Wife I gradually warmed up to the character of Ralph and, though he'd been an unpleasant person in the past, he began to change. He fell in love and through that love he evolved and grew and by the end of the book I was completely in love with him. I loved that book. Gone Girl was a completely different experience. The young couple at the core of the book were annoying, totally self-absorbed and selfish, but the plot was clever and there were twists and turns that were nearly breath-taking. And then the book just ended. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the big finish and – nothing. Both people were just as obnoxious at the end, there was no climax, no evolution, nothing. Just two miserable people who, the best you could say about them was that the deserved each other.

To me, as a reader, that is a betrayal of trust. I entered into the story trusting that something would happen, that somehow one or the other of these characters would be transformed, and there would be a sense of satisfaction. It just never happened.

I don't think all endings have to be happy but I do think that all endings have to be resolved – or should be. Maybe I expected too much but I don't think so. The guy married a psychopath who out-maneuvered him on every single move right up to the last sentence of the book. Is it me?

Lately I've been worrying about what is going on in the literary world. Some of the runaway best-sellers puzzle me. I am not saying they are bad, I just wonder if the popularity of certain works says something about our society. Have we become cynical and just given up belief that situations will be resolved? I wonder.

A friend sent me a link to a column written by the ever-detestible Rush Limbaugh about the 50 Shades books. I won't go into detail because the very thought of him makes my skin crawl but the conclusion he drew from their rampant popularity is that it is evidence of the failure of feminism and proof that women really secretly want to be submissive and controlled by a dominant male. Gag. I've written a lot about my inability to comprehend the allure of submissive erotica and I still don't. It's easy to be cynical about this subject and I don't want to do that but I have a lot of understanding to gain.

I love Dave Robicheaux. He is a very flawed man who battles demons on a regular basis and is sometimes a pretty awful person. But he is also a very loving person. He lives in a dark, dark world but he always sees the bits and pieces of beauty in it. For me Dave Robicheaux is a character I trust. I know he will make mistakes but I know he will know that he made them and try to make it right. I trust him.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Four Five-Stars in Six Days! Thank you!

The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Volume 1 (Secrets of Marienstadt) has only been available for six days and has already received four lovely five star reviews. I appreciate it so much. All the feedback has been very good. I'm hard at work on Volume 2! Thanks to all who have purchased and reviewed!!!

5.0 out of 5 stars Great StoriesJuly 25, 2012
This review is from: The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Volume 1 (Secrets of Marienstadt) (Kindle Edition)
I think the passion that Kathleen puts into her books and characters stems from the wonderful upbringing in this area of central Pennsylvania. I share that same beginning. The first book I read by this author was "The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood". While growing up in a German family, we were all aware of the tradition of Belsnickel and some even carry this to their extended family. Now we can be sure that others will know about this through some great writing! As I read through the pages, this entire book made me smile! Thank you and I am now a follower of Kathleen Valentine's new book "The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Volume 1 (Secrets of Marienstadt)". Keep them coming and thank you for the memories.

5.0 out of 5 stars Home in the airJuly 25, 2012
This review is from: The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Volume 1 (Secrets of Marienstadt) (Kindle Edition)
Like the various smells during the holidays that transport your thoughts over the years of celebrations, this book awakens your senses and stimulates memories for any reader who grew up in a small nurturing community. I loved exploring the characters and found humor with my own history. Thank you.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book thumbs up:-) :-) :-) :-) :-)July 24, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Volume 1 (Secrets of Marienstadt) (Kindle Edition)
I have read all of Kathleen's books and especially like the ones written with ties to her hometown and enjoyed every one of them. Just got done with The Whiskey Bottle in the wall and loved it. Can't wait for Vol. 2 and 3. Thanks for taking the time to write about our little town and some of the traditions.

5.0 out of 5 stars The wait is over!July 23, 2012
Linda Weber (Erie, PA, US) 
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Volume 1 (Secrets of Marienstadt) (Kindle Edition)
After reading the story that prompted Kathleen to write a series of stories about Marienstadt (The Reluctant Belsnickel,) I just couldn't wait to see what would develop with all the wonderful characters. The wait, thankfully, is over. At least the wait for Volume 1 is over. These stories and characters warm your heart. Kathleen's style of writing these wonderful short stories is light-hearted and just plain fun. The characters are the kind of people you wish you knew in real life. The businesses come to life along with their proprietors and customers. I've waited some time to read these stories and was not disappointed. I am now anxiously waiting the next installments. If you love quirky characters, and like it when the good guy wins, or when good triumphs over evil, you'll love these stories. Once again, Kathleen delivered in wonderful form.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Time for Some Shunning?

It is said that the Amish practice a custom called “Shunning.” I have no direct knowledge of this but I've heard about it for years. When a member of the community behaves in a way that is unacceptable, the rest of the community “shuns” that person. They do not speak to them or interact with them in any way. The person is free to go about their life but they are ignored by everyone else. It is an effective form of discipline, especially for people accustomed to living within community.

Years ago I heard a story about a boy, I think he was a young teen, who lived in a small town where there was a community pond in which swans lived. One night, for whatever reason, the boy killed one of the swans. On purpose, not by accident. The people of the town were outraged but there was no real punishment enacted and the boy's parents were very outspoken in defense of their kid. The father criticized the people for getting so upset over a “stupid animal.” Apparently the apple did not fall far from the tree. So the people of the town decided to shun the family. They just came to the decision on their own and from that point on the boy and his parents were free to go about their lives but no one in the community would talk to them or acknowledge their existence. I don't know how that all turned out but I thought it was interesting.

I've been thinking about this in relation to the horrific mass murder in Colorado. There are so many things that it is tempting to say but, of course, there just are no words for such things. We can talk about reinstating the ban on assault weapons and banning high-capacity clips but as long as the NRA is as powerful as it is, those discussions go nowhere. But there is something I would like to see happen. I would like to see a national agreement on the part of everyone, most especially the media, to refuse to say the name of the perpetrator or to show his face. Total anonymity. The perpetrator will be known as The Accused or The Perpetrator or, my preference, The Coward. This will be aggreed to by all and the public will know about it.

Last night Anderson Cooper and Lawrence O'Donnell took a step in this direction by refusing to say his name or show his picture and I applaud them for that. I would like to see all the media agree to this and I would like the public to agree to shun any news outlets that refuse to practice it. Don't go to their web sites. Don't listen to their broadcasts. Refuse to participate in The Perpetrator's desire for fame and notoriety.

Psychopaths are a special breed and this is something a lot of people can't quite understand. For one thing, severe punishment feeds their ego. They see themselves as so evil that society is terrified of them and has to resort to extreme measures to protect itself from them. I agree that they need to be punished but it should be in the most ordinary of ways --- jail sentences within the general prison population. No special accommodations at all, just another convict. Or confinement in a Super-Max with no interaction at all. The man in the iron mask.

It is pretty well-acknowledged by experts in the field that those who commit these kinds of mass murders do it for the fame and the attention. They see themselves as powerless and a failure in regular, everyday life and this is their way of distinguishing themselves. They become the embodiment of pure evil, someone that the masses will regard with fear and loathing. Being feared is powerful. I want us to cut that off. Make it known that heinous acts will automatically relegate the perpetrator to total anonymity, a nobody whose name will never be in a paper or a newscast, whose face will never be seen.

We live in scary times. People feel increasingly alienated and many younger people have a lack of social skills that keeps them on the fringes of society. There are a lot of reasons for this and those are issues that need to be dealt with, too. But if we as a nation agree to automatically relegate the perpetrators of mass shootings to total anonymity, it IMMEDIATELY removes the incentive to distinguish oneself by committing this kind of horror. We need to refuse to grant their desire for infamy and to shun those who contribute to it. It's a start.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Latest Sewing Project: Crazy for Cozies

Gadgets seem to be breeding and growing around here. It started with my Kindle and then grew to include a cell phone, an iPod, a new little digital camera, a Fire, and so on. So I got this idea to make a "toy bag" to put them all in and some cute little cozies for each device. And this is the result.
It started out with a pile of scraps of silk dupioni I got on eBay because I have a hard time saying "no" to silk.
Below is a step-by-step example. I decided to make 2 more cozies for my glasses and sunglasses. There is no pattern for these. I just measured the length and the width I would need for each device. For the width I added an inch and for the length I doubled it and then added an inch for fold and 2 more inches for the flap. For each cozy I used 2 pieces of silk - 1 for the shell (outside) and 1 for the lining, plus 1 piece of interfacing (I actually used some medium weight linen leftover from another project.) For the little loop the flap tucks in to I cut a piece of the lining color that is 1 inch long and slightly wider than the width:
 Don't you love my pin cushion? My sister Lisa made it for me.

Next I folded them, and pinned the sides. Make sure the interfacing is on the outside.
For the loop, fold it in half lengthwise, stitch leaving a 1/4 in. seam allowance, turn it inside out and press. Position it on the inside of the shell fabric about 3/4 in from the opening.

Stitch up the sides to 1/4 inch of the opening with. When both the shell and the lining are stitched, turn them face to face. I discovered it is a lot easier if you press them at this point. Stitch around the outside of the flap.
That's pretty much all there is to it. Turn the flap inside out:
Trim the edges. Then turn the shell inside out and tuck the lining into it.
Fold in the seam allowance you left at the top of the opening and press. Then stitch shut by hand:
I now have two cozies for my glasses and sunglasses:
For the one for my Kindle, instead of a loop to tuck the flap into I made a buttonhole and added a pretty button. The bag that holds all of them is a nice size to use as a purse and it has a long shoulder strap that can be worn crosswise. I made it from three long strips of sueded rayon left from another project. I cut them 40" long by 1 inch wide and braided them leaving the edges raw. It looks like leather. I made a similar handle for the iPod cozy so I can loop it around my neck when I want to listen to audio books while I'm doing other things. I used three lengths of some sport-weight recycled silk yarn and braided them together. Braiding is very pretty and also strong!

And here are all my cozies in their cozy. 
Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Belsnickel is FREE & Volume 1 is Live!

It's live, it's live, it's live! Finally! Volume One of The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt is now live on Amazon and, to celebrate it, The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood is free through Amazon Select thru Sunday.

I don't think I've ever written anything that I've enjoyed working on as much as these stories. I've written a lot about them and you can read more at the page on this blog about the entire series. But for now you can go to Amazon, get a free copy of the Belsnickel story that started this whole adventure. And, I hope, you will be sufficiently intrigued to try Volume One.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where The Title Came From...

This Saturday Volume 1 of The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall will be available in digital format from Amazon. I have not yet decided whether to make it available through other online sellers or not but I probably will. Everyone keeps asking me where I got the idea for this book. It is the fastest I have ever written a book – eight months – and I suspect that is because I knew the material so well. It is pretty much my own life, or at least the world I grew up in.

Actually, the whole thing started with the rewrite of my cookbook, Fry Bacon. Add Onions. That was the third edition of this cookbook but this time I added 30 essays from my blog, each one about growing up in St. Marys, Pennsylvania. I was talking to writer Kiana Davenport and said I found it a little bit humbling that, after some 30 odd years of being away from St. Marys, some of the best writing I have ever done turned out to be about St. Marys. She said the same thing happened to her, she couldn't wait to get away from Hawai'i but the book of hers that turned out to be her bestseller was Shark Dialogues – about Hawai'i. Wherever you go, there you are.

During the recent Amazon Select promotion for Fry Bacon. Add Onions over 7,500 copies were downloaded and the book has received 4 5-star reviews because of it. All of them say more or less the same thing, “I love the stories in this book, I feel like I am part of their family.” That's a wonderful thing for a writer to hear. In Fry Bacon. Add Onions there is an essay called Endless Memories and it is from that little essay that the entire Whiskey Bottle in the Wall collection grew.

The story is this: My dad was a carpenter all his life, as was his father and his grandfather. Long after Dad retired from his business he got a phone call from one of the priests at the German church in St. Marys asking him to stop by the rectory. Dad did and the priest showed him an old whiskey bottle that had been found inside the wall of the church's choir loft while renovations were being made. Inside the bottle was a note. The priest took a pair of chopsticks and managed to wind the note around them to extract it without damaging the bottle. The note read, “This whiskey was drunk by us on Christmas Eve 1926.” It was signed by 3 men, one of whom was my grandfather – Dad's dad.

Of course, Dad loved the story. His father and 2 other men were doing some work on the church and decided to get snockered on Christmas Eve then couldn't resist leaving a souvenir. They plastered it into the wall and there it stayed for seventy-five years. I loved that story so much that, when I started writing this collection, I knew it had to be the title.

So this coming weekend, The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood will be free since it is the 9th story in the collection and the one that inspired all the rest. It will introduce readers to my make-believe world called Marienstadt and all the lovely characters who live there.

Kind, gentle Father Nick is the main character, the priest who loves Marienstadt and all its ancient traditions. The two leading ladies are gorgeous, determined Gretchen Fritz who owns Marienstadt's fabric and quilting supplies shop, and lovely, elusive Lola Eckert, whose passionate nature is expressed through the strudels and other luscious confections she makes to sell in her strudel shop. I'm completely besotted by the two main men: gorgeous, sexy Henry Werner, Marienstadt's Chief of Police, who takes care of everyone in town, especially the ladies, and rugged, reclusive Oliver Eberstark, who lives deep in Opelt's Wood where he keeps to himself and protects the elk who live on his land.

But there are dozens of other characters. So many that I created a Cast of Characters that will be at the end of each volume. So I hope you will give The Whiskey Bottlein the Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt Volume 1 a try. If you like my cookbook I am betting you will like these stories!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Fry Bacon. Add Onions" is FREE today and tomorrow!

In preparation for the release of my new e-book, The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt, Volume 1 next Saturday the cookbook that inspired stories in this collection is free for Kindle today and tomorrow.

In the cookbook I tell the story of how my father was called to the German church's rectory in my hometown, St. Marys, Pennsylvania, and shown a whiskey bottle with a note in it that had been found hidden in the wall of the choir loft. It had been placed there on Christmas Eve 1926 by his father and two of his friends. The note inside said "Drunk by us on Christmas Eve" and was signed and dated by them. That story inspired this whole collection.

Of course the note inside the whiskey bottle in my story is far more dramatic but that is the nature of stories.

So if you don't have a copy of Fry Bacon, Add Onions this is your chance to grab it. I hope that you'll enjoy it!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cape Ann Re-imaged from Clare Higgins

Clare Higgins has one of the most interesting minds I have ever encountered. A native New Yorker she has worked as a translator in several different languages, did a stint as an actor in off-Broadway, has written several plays one of which -- called "Queer Bent for the Tudor Gent," a parody in words of the Bard -- was performed in a couple small play competitions, one in New York City and one in Sydney, Australia. She is also a designer who has come up with some of the most creative ideas I've ever seen. She also is my next-door neighbor.

Recently she started talking to me about an idea she had - she called it Cape Ann Re-imaged - to take local icons and reinterpret them in the style of famous artists. Her designs are absolutely wonderful! My favorite (probably because I love Andy Warhol) is this one:
And, because I also love Matisse, I'm quite fond of this:
But all of them are clever! Jasper Johns fans will appreciate her re-interpretation of The Paint Factory:
And she did not neglect Rockport with her vision of Motif #1 as imagined by Rene Magritte:
She also was inspired by Escher to interpret lobsters blending into seashells:
But the most most innovative in my opinion is her tribute to Leonardo DaVinci, the Vetruvian Man at the Wheel:
All of Clare's designs are available on t-shirts and other products through Cafe Press: Cape Ann Re-imaged.

I'm dying to see what she comes up with next!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sitting on the Porch

Where I grew up in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, porches were a big deal. Sitting on porches was a primary summertime activity. Both of my grandmothers' houses had big porches with swings on them and so did my parents' house. I love porches and feel a little sad that the custom of porch sitting seems to have fallen out of fashion in many places.

The house I live in has a back porch which I only discovered a few years ago. Of course I always knew it was there. It's narrow and, being on the second floor, has a great view of the old cemetery behind my house. But for some reason I'd never really taken advantage of my porch. I went out occasionally to have a look at the cemetery or hang something over the rail to dry but I didn't really make use of it. Then for whatever reason a few summers ago I bought a very comfy chair that fit perfectly out there and it has been my recreation-of-choice ever since.

It's a wonderful thing to take my book or my Kindle or my knitting and go out and sit on the porch. Sometimes one of my neighbors sees me and walks over to chat. Leslie, downstairs, and Clare, next door, like to come by. Sometimes we have a drink or two as we gab. Many times I just knit or sew or read. But always I love the sounds of my neighborhood, and the beauty of the old cemetery. This year there are more birds than I ever remember twittering and tweeting away. I find it tremendously relaxing.

So, I'm done working for the day and I'm writing this blog post and thinking about the porch. It calls to me. If you need me I'll be out back on the porch, come over and say hello.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

#SampleSunday: "Depraved Heart" - Seduction at Fiesta

In my new novel Depraved Heart, art curator Tempest Hobbs has been hired by convicted killer and former NFL star Syd Jupiter to catalog the art collection his daughter has inherited from her great-grandfather. Tempest knows about Syd's past but is still mesmerized by him. During Gloucester's annual Fiesta they are watching the Greasy Pole competition when things heat up between them.

He slowed the boat as we passed the point of land known in Gloucester as The Fort, where stacks of wire lobster traps were piled like a wall of green and yellow building blocks above the sea wall. As we passed a big white building with the words Cape Pond Ice painted on it, I could see the top of an illuminated Ferris wheel rotating slowly in the summer sunlight. Red, green and gold tinsel decorations strung between telephone poles glittered and the air was filled with singing and loud male voices chanting the Fiesta mantra.
Me chi samiou duté muté?
Viva San Pietro!
You and Dad should come to the carnival. Have you ever been to Fiesta?” Anjelica asked.
Lots of times years ago,” I told her. “When I was a little kid my parents always took me to the carnival, and when I was in high school my friends came every year. But I’ve never watched the Greasy Pole walk before. It’s kind of famous now.”
Syd was guiding the boat up to a float at St. Peter’s Marina. Two girls stood at the top of the ramp, and when they saw Anjelica, they began waving.
Do you need money?” Syd asked as Anjelica’s friends came running down the ramp.
No, I have enough left from yesterday.”
Okay, call me when you want me to come and I’ll meet you right here,” Syd said putting his arms around her.
I will. Love you, Dad,” she said and gave him an enthusiastic hug. He lifted her over the side onto the float. “Have fun,” she yelled to me.
I will.”
Wow.” I heard one of her friends say as they ran back up the ramp. “Your Dad is really big.”
He used to play professional football,” Anjelica said. With no small amount of pride, I thought.
Okay,” Syd said steering the boat back out into the harbor. “Let’s find a place for us.”
He guided the boat into a space close enough to see the fun but far enough away to be comfortable. We unpacked bottles of water and some of the still-warm hush puppies and settled down in the sunlight to watch.
Two hundred yards from the shore a wooden platform rose twenty-five feet in the air. What looked like a telephone pole was mounted at the top sticking straight parallel to the water. At the end of it was a vertical stick festooned with an American flag fluttering above three triangular flags in red, white and green, the colors of the Italian flag. The forty foot pole between the flags and the men crowding the platform was covered half a foot deep in a slimy, slippery concoction.
A police boat hovered below the end of the pole to keep the hundreds of boaters around the area at a safe distance. The entire harbor was packed with everything from large whale watching vessels to solitary sailors in brightly colored kayaks. All of them honking horns, screaming and cheering as each contestant waited for his turn to traverse the distance from the platform to the flag through greasy muck that fell off in clumps as the men ran, walked, slid or slithered along the pole. Most of them were dressed in flamboyant costumes from hula skirts to diapers, which was made all the more hilarious by the fact that the participants tended to be burly men with hairy chests and beards. The object of the walk through the slime was to capture the flags at the end of the pole but, despite an endless variety of techniques, they all ended up in the water, often bouncing off the pole to a chorus of “ouch!” from the crowd.
I’m trying to figure out if it would be better to go fast or slow,” Syd said as he unscrewed the lid on a water bottle and handed it to me. “I’ve seen guys try both methods but it’s hard to say which is better.”
Would you ever do that?”
He laughed. “Not a chance.”
Not even when you were younger?”
I don’t think so. My center of gravity is too high, I think being built low to the ground would be an advantage in that sport.” He leaned back in his seat and stretched his legs. He wore a pair of battered leather moccasins and his legs were well-tanned and muscular. I caught my breath.
Did you always want to play football? I mean when you were a little kid.”
Oh, sure, of course I did. What kid doesn’t? I also wanted to be a priest.”
I couldn’t help laughing. “Really? A priest?”
Well, I was an altar boy at the time at St. Louis Cathedral, and I was so in love with that church I wanted any excuse to be there all the time. Plus...” He looked sideways at me. “...I thought it would be a lot of fun to hear Confessions. I kept imagining all the terrible things I’d hear.”
I giggled. “That’s very funny.”
Yeah, well, I was a little kid. Then for a long time I wanted to be a fisherman like my Dad. He was a good athlete when he was young. He played baseball on a minor league team but never made the majors. I think that was tough on him. He got to see me play football at A&M but he died before I was drafted into the NFL. I’ve always been sorry about that.”
Loud cheering erupted from the crowd. We both looked up but the flags still fluttered at the end of the pole. Whatever happened, we missed it. I turned back to Syd and saw that he was looking at me, not at the festivities on the platform.
Do you mind it if I tell you that I think you’re very pretty?” he said in a low voice.
No.” I looked down at his hands holding the water bottle in his lap. I had admired the size of his hands before but now I noticed how brown and calloused they were. Between Miles’ boat and the gardens around Hathor he had been working hard and his hands showed it.
He kept his eyes on me. “You’re pretty but you also have a lot of warmth. That’s something that I’ve found to be surprisingly rare in young women.”
Well,” I said, “I guess you haven’t been around too many women lately.”
He gave a short laugh. “Good point.”
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound dismissive.”
You didn’t. You sounded like someone who has a hard time accepting compliments.”
I nodded. “That’s... well... yes, that’s true.”
I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
You’re not... well... no more than I ever am.” I looked up at him and wished he wasn’t wearing the sunglasses. I wanted to see his eyes. “I haven’t had very good luck with men in my life.”
I shrugged. “It’s this crazy way I am with people. The way I sense what they’re thinking...”
He smiled. “A woman wouldn’t have to be psychic to know what I’m thinking right now.”
No...” Another roar went up from the crowd and I turned in time to see a young man in a Batman costume crashing into the water clutching his groin.
Ouch,” Syd said. “That had to hurt.”
What happened?”
He fell straight down straddling the pole. It looked really painful.”
Oh.” I glanced down at his hands again and, as though he knew my thoughts, he lifted one and touched a strand of my hair letting it curl around his finger tip. “So, were you surprised when you got drafted by a football team? That’s the word, isn’t it, drafted?”
He nodded, smiling. “Yes and no. Sure I was as surprised as anyone would be, but there was a part of me that sort of knew it was destined to happen. I’d always wanted to be a Steeler.”
His body was almost unbearably close. I found myself straining forward almost against my own will, just wanting to connect. “Not the Saints? You didn’t want to be drafted by the Saints?”
He was watching me and smiling slightly. “No, I wanted to be a Steeler... Actually,” he said. He put his water bottle aside and moved his other hand to pick up one of mine. He held it, caressing the back of it with his thumb. “Actually, what I wanted to be was Franco Harris.”
I looked up at him. Chills were running up and down my back and I was having a hard time staying still. “I don’t know who that is.”
He was their fullback, great big guy. Really, really powerful and really, really fast but so graceful. When he had the ball it was amazing to see how a guy that big could weave in and out without getting knocked down. But the thing I secretly loved most about him was he was mixed race, African-American and Italian.” He was lacing his fingers through mine and I was shivering.
He was mixed race...”
Mm-hmm. Back then there was a lot of racism in this country. I was lucky to grow up in New Orleans where being mixed wasn’t that big a deal, but when I was in Texas with my Dad I was always aware that I was different. So I wanted to be like Franco, a big, tough, good-looking, mixed-race football player.” He grinned. “At least I got to be big, mixed-race, and a football player.”
I think you’re pretty tough. How would you have gotten through everything you have if you weren’t?” I lifted my head and tried to see through his sunglasses. “And I also think you’re good-looking.”
He cupped my chin in his hand. “It doesn’t bother you that I’ve been in prison for fifteen years?”
It bothers me but not in the way you think. It bothers me that you had to go through that.”
Another huge cry arose from the crowd, boat horns began to blow. The cheering was deafening. I turned to look and the flags at the end of the pole were gone.
Somebody won,” I said.
And we missed it.”
He slipped one arm around my waist and lifted me closer to him..... Depraved Heart

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Guest Blog: Using HCG to Fight Middle-Age Spread by Ann Chambers

Thanks to Ann Chambers, author of 35 Quick & Easy HCG Recipes:
It’s stunning how middle age can creep up on a person. And with every year, a couple more pounds. Last year I went to the doctor for a checkup and the first thing the mean nurse did was weigh me.
Fajita Lime Chicken Salad. Our fajita lime marinade and salad dressing are two of my favorite flavors to date.
If any doctors are sitting around wondering how to get people to stop dreading doctor visits, I recommend cutting out the weigh in. It’s a start, at least. Let us lie to you. Just ask us what we weigh, then add 20 pounds. You’ll be close.
Anyway, at that weigh in, I was shocked to discover I had passed my all-time peak weight, which was set 22 years ago when I had twins. Something had to give. But with middle age came a thyroid problem that made losing weight extremely difficult. Nothing seemed to really work.
A month or two later, however, I saw my brother and he had dropped a lot of weight. Turns out he and several other chubby family members had done the HCG diet with great results. They lost between 20 and 45 pounds each depending on how long they stayed on it.
So I trotted right down to my Chiropractor and got HCG drops and diet instructions. The diet is very strict. You must eat exactly what it says and nothing else. I went directly to the grocery and bought the correct foods.
But cooking meals on the diet was practically impossible. I’m from Oklahoma and some consider us Midwestern. Some consider us Southern. I think my cooking leans toward Southern and it’s chock full of bacon grease, butter, gravy, etc. Well HCG is having none of that.
I looked at the possible ingredients and couldn’t imagine anything interesting could be made from these foods. No diary, no fat, no bread. Oh dear!
Luckily, I was dieting with several chubby friends who are also foodies, so we put our heads together and started experimenting. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
With a handful of failures along the way, we figured out a number of great dishes, marinades, and salad dressings that can be made using allowed HCG foods such as vinegars, mustard, lemons and limes, and dry spices.
After we completed the diet, I compiled all our best dishes and discoveries into a recipe book then added an explanation of the diet and the diet protocol along with photos of some of our creations.
Salsa! Now we’re talking flavor!
The book took off and has been a solid seller for me ever since. I think it’s primarily because the diet does make it pretty much impossible to cook any “regular” food.
I recently created forms to help HCG dieters shop for the groceries and track their diet progress. The forms are available for free download on my website/blog at along with some extra HCG recipes.
I hope the book and the forms help other people struggling with their weight find success. The HCG protocol was such a miracle for me. I am pleased to see my book and forms help others.
Ann Chambers is a journalist, author, and long-time foodie. She worked in a variety of restaurants as a teen and college student, developing an interest in food and cooking. Semi-retired after 20 years working full time as a reporter, editor, and researcher, she is now busy experimenting in the kitchen and tending the garden. Over the past year she has compiled 6 new e-cookbooks, including 25 Quick & Easy Quesadilla Recipes, 35 Quick & Easy HCG Recipes, and her latest offering Gourmet Ice Pops for Kids and Adults.