Saturday, July 31, 2010

“When 102 years old you are, look this good you will not!” -Yoda

Vivian Smith, my aunt-in-law, turned 102 on July 29. No way does she look it! She takes no meds except over-the-counter stuff occasionally, but these days she does need a walker to get around. Yes, she’s very hard of hearing, but is still quite sociable and loves going out to eat. Eating out, in fact, has been her favorite thing forever.

We marked the occasion with a small family gathering at a seafood place in Galveston. The restaurant’s marquee read: “Happy Birthday Vivian Smith, 102 years.” OMG you should’ve seen the close calls on Seawall Blvd. with folks slowing down to snap pics of that sign! Other restaurant patrons stopped by the table to offer congratulations. Aunt V was, as always, warm and gracious to all.

My sister-in-law Kathy planned everything – even had the group over to her lovely house afterward for cake and punch.

Aunt V is in care now. Kathy bravely tried to do it all herself for a couple of years, but she has to work and Aunt V can’t remember to do things like eat, bathe, or change clothes. The short-term memory is totally shot. Still, she’s a happy, pleasant person to be around, and she remembers everything from 1990 on back. And that’s quite a lot.

I have no doubt we’ll be celebrating birthday number 103. In fact, Aunt Vivian will probably outlive us all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Odd Moments in History

July 2, 1843 is remembered as the time an alligator fell from the sky during a thunderstorm in Charleston, SC. And do you know why July 22 is known as Ratchatcher’s Day? Legend has it that in 1376, that’s the day the Pied Piper led rats out of Hamelin.

Ever since I started researching the Today in History feature for the Media Room page of I’ve been amazed at the crazy things that get recorded for posterity. Like, on July 18, 1994, Crayola introduced scented crayons. Gee. That should be worth a few firecrackers. This certainly would: that same day back on 64 AD, the great fire of Rome began. No, it wasn’t due to unruly crowds at Nero’s violin concert.

Dairy Queen’s Blizzard of the Month is Pecan Pie because – guess what! – July 12 is National Pecan Pie Day.

July 19, 1994 is famous for the first game ever cancelled due to falling tiles. That happened at Seattle’s Kingdome.

July 13, 1568 is in the books as the day the art of bottling beer was perfected at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

July 17, 1070, Arnulf the Hapless became the Earl of Flanders. Are we having fun yet?

Almost every day commemorates some bizarre thing or other. July 17, for instance, is Yellow Pig Day. Yes, it is. It’s a mathematician’s holiday of sorts – a day when all the Lennys and Sheldons of the world consider the interesting properties of the number 17. The designation arose in the early 1960s when certain geeks at Princeton U discovered that yellow pigs have 17 eyelashes.

Obviously I just started this in July (National Ice Cream Month and National Anti-Boredom Month, among other things) so I am only scratching the surface of what’s Out There. Can’t wait for August…

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And I thought publishing fiction was rough! Ever try writing a textbook?

On a cruise back in May, our table assignment landed me next to a fellow author. But she was no mere novelist. Dr. Ann Moseley produces such ponderous tomes as Strategies for College Writing: Sentences, Paragraphs, Essays and Interactions: A Thematic Reader. One has gone to five editions. Talk about suddenly feeling two inches high!

Of course, that’s not all she’s done. Besides achieving multiple degrees in record time, teaching college level English, and penning the above-mentioned texts, she’s also working on a comprehensive Willa Cather Scholarly Edition. OMG.

Once I recovered from open-mouthed awe, we began comparing notes. I have one editor. She has four: (1) acquisitions editor (who works out contract details), (2) developmental editor (who manages pre-publication reviews of a new edition, which involves about 30-40% change, and includes proposals and advice throughout the process) (3) permissions editor (who negotiates permissions and fees to use copyrighted materials), and (4) copyeditor who checks for errors and problems in style. Gasp.

My process is basically 3 steps: manuscript review, revision, production.

Dr. Ann’s current work consists of eight units. After all receive final revisions (she has just submitted #3), she must then create the Instructor's Resource Manual, some brief comprehension quizzes, and additional student instruction for the website.

Well, I bet she’s never had to deal with a Third World press writer...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A VerveStar is Born!


Okay, so VerveStar has been around for a while. It’s a literary PR firm I met through my first publisher. One of the partners, Miranda Spigener, happens to live in the area so I’ve actually met her. She surprised me by showing up to my first book signing a couple of years ago. She’s done a lot for me: got me on the shelf at Borders, got me translated into Indonesian, and wrangled me a neat display box. Much more, actually – guidance, encouragement, etc.

So what’s new? VerveStar is debuting their greatly expanded media services, now including special packaging and book publishing. They have a great new website: to which my miniscule contribution is to research the “Today in History” calendar feature.

Anyway, I find the whole thing terribly exciting. Miranda and her partners have been working sleeplessly on this launch for over a week now. They’re already well proven; real hard-hitters and go-getters.

Actually, everything in this field is pretty much over my head, but I'm learning!

In the meantime, I want to wish them all the best in their new ventures!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Can’t win for losing!

You can’t do something nice for someone without making someone else miserable. This July 4th I’m caught between cooking out with my husband or giving some long overdue relief to his sister who’s taking care of two Very Old Ladies. While we were off on a luxurious cruise, followed immediately by my trip to New York City for the Book Expo, his sister was seeing to his 94-year-old mother, his aunt who will turn 102 later this month, working the Census, running her pet-sitting business, and suffering from horrendous headaches.

But here’s the thing: my husband and his sister don’t get along. At all. And Husband has little patience with Very Old Ladies. So if I’m to offer any help, I must leave him alone on a holiday.

At first he was not happy about it. He griped about me making deviled eggs for the occasion to the extent that I didn’t even mention key lime pie. I’ll pick one up on my way down. He thinks I’m going to a party, not trying to entertain two deaf women, one with little knowledge or interest in the world, the other with absolutely no short-term memory.

Now he’s reconsidered and is being very supportive. He picked up some links and hamburger and will have grills for me to clean when I get back. And eventually I will have a party. After we take Mom home and Aunt Vivian back to Concord Manor, there will be margaritas and fireworks on the beach. Since I’m not much of a drinker, I’ll stay the night and we’ll take our hangovers to IHOP in the morning. Husband hates IHOP, so that’s another plus to the outing. I’ll go happy and leave guilt-ridden.

Enough venting. Hope everyone has a great Fourth!