Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Face Blindness, Part Three

I had a “break-through” the other day. Not in a novel-writing way, but in a oh-wow-I-figured-out-how-my-mind works sort of way. I know, mid-forties is kind of late to be figuring such things out, but then again I didn’t realize that I was face blind until I was in my thirties.

I wrote a couple of posts on face-blindness several months ago. Here. And here. And lots of people wanted to know how I recognized people if it wasn’t by their faces. And I wasn’t completely sure. Recognizing people is just something you do, not something you think about.

Then, the other day, Cal and I went out for anniversary. We went to El Meson, a Mexican restaurant that boasts three important things: cheap prices, two for one margaritas, and entrees cooked from scratch (even the tortillas). We go there every four to six months. Anyway, as we sat there, a waitress walked from one corner of the restaurant to the other and we never saw her face. I said to Cal, “Oh, look, she bleached her hair.” Cal said, “Who is she?” I said, “One of their regular waitresses.” He couldn’t figure out how I knew who she was since we hadn’t seen her face (and she’s never been our waitress).

It hit me then. I had no idea what this woman’s face looked like, but I could identify and describe her gait, her leg/torso proportions, the slump of her shoulders, her weight, her height, etc., etc. Then, of course, we played the “game” of me trying to describe our friends’ faces (which I couldn’t do) and then their other physical characteristics, which I could. I was jazzed.

After dinner, Cal and I went to see Midnight in Paris (A cute Woody Allen movie that involved time travel, which every person who ever took an English modernism lit class should see.) About halfway through the movie, one of the female main characters was shown walking down the street (all her other scenes had been close-ups) in shadows—and I finally recognized her as the wife in Inception.

I think there should be a new rule in filmmaking, in every movie the director should be forced to show the characters walking down a street so those of us who are face-blind can recognize the actors and actresses. Plus, think of how many spouses of face-blind people will be benefitted. They won’t get nudged in the movie and asked, “Uh, is that the same person the main character was kissing earlier?” Actually, it probably won’t help much given that when there’s a new Hollywood actor/actress, I won’t know what they look like and I’m guessing it takes longer to form my “person memory” than it does for someone who can recognize faces. Oh, well.

N.B. Thanks to everyone for their comments on my novel cover—it’s joy to share this journey with you!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cover Art

Here is the cover art for my YA novel. Enjoy. It was designed by graphic artist Tara Rimondi. She did an amazing job and was a joy to work with. If you are interested in a book cover, click the link and check out her website. (Tara also does web design and printed materials.) My novel should be available on Amazon in early July.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in June

Last Thanksgiving, I bought an extra turkey. Turkeys are good, cheap protein. And I thought it would be fun to cook one for something other than Thanksgiving. Since I really needed to defrost the big freezer and the turkey wouldn’t fit in the small freezer, I decided it was time to cook the turkey. (Actually, the kids are going to defrost the freezer. I just haven’t told them yet.)

I was planning to brine the turkey. I've never brined a turkey and it sounded cool--I love to experiment when I cook. However, the kids found out. Ariel said, “You’re going to pickle the turkey?!” I tried to explain that I wasn’t pickling the turkey, but all I got was hostile, betrayed looks from her and the boys. So I decided not to pickle the turkey. I stuffed it with cornbread dressing. I made mashed potatoes from red potatoes—yum, so rich. I made French beans, just barely seared with butter and lemon. Ariel made country gravy. Matt made a tart cranberry sauce using fresh cranberries that I froze at Christmas time. And my mom made a fresh berry trifle.

The scent of turkey cooking was amazing—it made a muggy, overcast, hot June day festive. And since I didn’t use the china, crystal, or the needs-to-be-ironed table linens, it was much easier in terms of preparation.  I’m starting a new tradition, Thanksgiving in June.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


am the proud owner of a summer cold. I can tell you right now that I need to get better ASAP because I have had a turkey defrosting since Monday (I defrost it in a cooler so it takes a while) and I do not want to stuff/roast a turkey and mash potatoes, etc., while I’m sick.

In order to speed health along, I spent most of the day crashed on the couch. I had the energy levels of a semi-dead slug. But, always eager to redeem the time, I decided to work on getting my YA novel ready. Okay, here’s the problem. Why is it that I always run into weird grammar problems that can’t be answered by The Chicago Manual of Style or Google? Surely, I’m not the only person in the world who has these questions. For example, how do you capitalize these sentences?

You were voted class nerd.


You were voted Mr. Popularity.


They called you The Fish.


Do you use italics because the words are being used as a term and not what the word itself is used for?

Any ideas?

And then there’s my favorite conundrum “that.” Now I know it is a relative pronoun, and I know the difference between “which,” “that,” and “who.” I know that “who” is used for persons. “That” is used for restrictive clauses. And “which” is used for non-restrictive clauses and thus must take commas because it is parenthetical. (Unless it’s the object of a preposition. Or unless you’re British, in which case, you don’t use commas with “which.”)

M’kay, so we have the usage down. But then, I read books and there are no whichs or thats where they’re supposed to be. And it’s not even in dialogue. So what’s up with that?! Can you just leave them out if you so feel led? Is it a readability issue?

Ariel watched me pour over grammar tomes and asked how long I’d wasted on this fruitless project. I told her (that?) I had no idea and I didn’t want to know. She pointed out that if I couldn’t find the answer after all that work, probably no one cared either way.

Ack! She may be right, but I care. So now I pose the question to you all. Do you have any ideas? I’m sure that I’m not the only grammar junkie out there. Help me, please. Thanks.

Monday, June 20, 2011


My husband turned fifty last week. And, I wanted to get him a special gift. His watches tend to die quickly. As in, “Cal, why aren’t you ready to go?” He’d point to his watch and say, “We still have an hour.” Then he’d look at the watch and do a double take—it had stopped running. A nice watch was what I wanted.

But I had to be sly about collecting the money. For several reasons. First, we don’t have extra money that I can use, especially after the six appliance deaths, the AC replacement, and the car repair. But, I spoke at a women’s conference and that was a great nest egg beginner. But the second reason is that Cal is meticulous with finances. He knows where every penny goes. Not that he’s controlling or difficult—he’s just been ripped off by the bank enough times. Once he caught the bank making a $500 error. And I don’t do the banking because I reverse numbers. When we got married, we joined our checking accounts—my checking account balance was off by hundreds of dollars. Though it was fun finding money for grad school. At any rate, I saved enough money. Five dollars here, ten dollars there, and it added up. I bought Cal a beautiful Seiko watch. It’s kinetic so no batteries. He loves it.

It’s kind of weird though that he turned fifty. I thought he’d be older when he reached the half century mark. After all, everyone I knew was old when they turned fifty, but Cal is young. Hmm. It must be one of those strange universe ending paradoxes.

PS The kids bought Cal a brew kit. So tonight Cal and chemist son will be brewing Skull Splitter. I’ll be working on editing/proofreading—my young adult novel will be going on Amazon in the next couple of weeks.

Here’s a photo of the birthday boy and me.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I finally saw Jaws. I didn’t intend to see Jaws. In fact, I had no desire to see Jaws, ever. But the boys were interested. And they have an ace up their sleeve—grandparents. The boys and my dad made some kind of deal, and my dad ordered it from Netflix.

When I heard the plan, Cal assured me that it wasn’t about bimbos-in-bikinis-being-bitten. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the alliteration.) So we watched it last night after my dad and Cal’s birthday party. I’m not sure what my 92 year old grandmother thought of the shark flick, but she probably fell asleep during the movie.

Of course, the shark left something to be desired for people jaded by amazing CGI. But back in the day, I’m sure viewers screamed instead of thinking, “They just need to biff that shark on his rubber nose.”

I have to say I enjoyed it, although maybe not for the reasons that director/writer/producer intended. I loved the leisure suits, the poufy hairdos, the over the top emotional outbursts of the crazed shark hunter. And who doesn’t love Richard Dreyfus’s sarcastic commentary, “I’m not going to talk to this guy ‘cause he’s getting in line to be a hot lunch.”

Speaking of Richard Dreyfus, if you haven’t seen What About Bob?, see it. I can describe it in two words: Death Therapy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Living With The Bubble

When I work on a novel, I enter what my kids call “the writing bubble.” Once I’m in it, I’m physically present, but mentally gone. My kids have been known to abuse this*. For example, I’ve given permission for Matt and Jake to play computer games for the rest of their natural lives. Of course, I’ve rescinded this blanket permission. The current rule is that for every two minutes of piano you practice, you get one minute of computer time. You’d think that they practice a lot. They don’t, not more than the minimum requirement.

Yesterday when I came out of the writing bubble, I found them on the computer playing games.

Me: Hey, you don’t have permission to play computer games.

Jake: We’re not.

Me: How is that little humanoid-ish thing bouncing around the screen not “playing computer games?”

Jake: I’m doing a level editor, programming a game.

Me: I don’t see coding. I see the humanoid-ish thing bouncing around the screen.

Jake: I’m testing the changes that I’ve made.

Me (having no idea what to do about this loophole): Ah. Well. Set that timer. You’re done “programming” in 15 minutes.

Jake: Sure.

Hmm. I think I lost that round of parental authority/supervision. Oh, well, back to the bubble.

* Matthew and Jake think "bubble brain" is hilarious and test it out all the time. I've been asked if they can tattoo 666 on their forehead or change their name to "semi-colon."

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Plea for Help

Okay, blog readers, I need your help. If I decide to e-publish my young adult novel, I need cover art. I have a friend who’s a graphic artist (and has actually designed a book cover before) who’s promised to help me. But she’d like some input from me. And I’m a total blank. For someone who thinks in pictures, it’s pathetic but true.

On my last post, Lydia volunteered to help—and I thought that would be a great idea. So I’m asking all of you for suggestions. Here’s the pertinent info. My YA novel is called Screwing Up Time. It’s a rom-com (romantic comedy) with a dark edge. This is the hardest aspect for me. How do you convey darkness and romantic comedy? Plus, the novel is told from the male point of view. So no cutesy covers and no pink—it’s got to appeal to teenage boys as well as girls. The significant “objects” in the book include a poison ring, a fedora, and the colors of time.

Here’s my pitch paragraph.

Mark Montgomery is a slacker content with his life. He’s a senior at New Haven Prep, has a great friend, and after graduation he’ll get a brand new sports car from his parents, assuming he stays out of trouble. Then, she comes into his life—Miranda with her I-just-escaped-from-a-Renaissance-Fair clothing. Only, she hasn’t.  She has come from Bodiam Castle in the Middle Ages and demands a secret ingredient and a book of recipes for traveling through the treacherous colors of time. Although Mark has never even heard of either before, he must find them, or Miranda will die. To save her, Mark must break into a psych hospital to visit his grandfather who once tried to kill him, pass through the colors of time, take on a medieval alchemist, prevent Miranda’s marriage to a two-timing baron, and keep it all hidden from his parents. The sports car is definitely in trouble.

Have at it. I’m eager to hear your suggestions.

Friday, June 10, 2011

To E-publish or Not to E-Publish

I have a YA book sitting in a drawer at home. It’s sitting there because I couldn’t get an agent to pitch it to an editor. I had several agents that told me that they loved the book. But they couldn’t represent it because someone sold a book with a similar plot element (though it hasn’t been published yet). So I put the novel in a drawer.

My daughter thinks that’s absolutely ridiculous. She’s been hounding me the last few months to e-publish it. I’ve blown her off. She’s hounded me more. I made excuses. She shot them down.

1. Me: I’m too busy, Ariel: It’s summer. You’re not too busy.

2. Me: I’m not tech savy. Ariel: But I am, and I’ll do all the formatting.

3. Me: I can’t afford to have someone proofread it. Ariel: Mom, you worked for Harcourt as a professional writer/editor. I think you can probably proofread your own book. Besides the Chicago Manual of Style sits on your desk proudly stuffed with post-it flags.

This morning she hit me with a sheaf of pages. Printouts on everything from the tech aspects to the copyright to the front matter and back matter.

Now I have to ask myself “Why won’t I do this?” Maybe it’s pride. But e-pubbing is not a copout. Lots of well-published authors are now e-pubbing on their own. And I’m not giving up on traditional publishing—the “platypus” is currently on exclusive with an agent. But for YA, e-publishing is the perfect vehicle. So maybe it's time.

I’m 90% convinced. I’d love to hear what you all think. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ten Things I Hate About Not Having AC

1. Sweat. I’ve discovered that you have sweat glands everywhere. Enough said.

2. Air. The air doesn’t just get hot. It gets fetid. The humidity becomes thick and sluggish. And you begin smelling odd odors that turn your stomach. And you wonder—okay, maybe you don’t—but I wonder if there’s ever been a murder in the house because things smell like rotting bodies.

3. Sleeping. Sharing a bedroom with lots of people. We’re all crammed into one bedroom because the wall air conditioner cools only one room. We don’t have any snorers, but I’m a very light sleeper. Every wheeze, deep breath, and flutter of a sheet wakes me up.

4. AF. Now I have to listen to Artemis Fowl when I go to bed at night. Don’t get me wrong, I loved most of the AF books. But I don’t like to listen to them when I fall asleep. Matt and Jake do. They both have difficulty sleeping so they listen to books on tape until they fall asleep. It might work for me too, except that they keep the volume low and it sounds like the buzz of a persistent fly.

5. Irritability. As air conditioning dependent people, we haven’t learned the sanctifying art of dealing with the heat. Instead of developing patience, we tend to scowl and gripe. Jacob believes in the sanctifying effect of playing Wii all day to prevent snappishness. I don’t. Like I said—irritablitiy.

6. Fluids. I drink tea by the gallon full. For example, it’s 9 am and I’ve already had three glasses of iced tea. Thankfully, I don’t like mine sweet or I’d need insulin by the end of the day. Time to buy stock in Lipton.

7. Housework. No one wants to do housework. It’s not like anyone normally wants to do housework, but now you’d think I was asking them to gouge out their eyes.

8. Cooking. Turning on a stove or an oven seems like sacrilege. On the other hand, the guys don’t think that gazpacho is a complete meal.

9. Dog. Our dog wears a thick black coat year round. Not bad in the winter. Miserable in the summer. More miserable without AC. So Jezebel sleeps in our bedroom. But Jezebel thinks that we should get up when the sun is up. The sun gets up really early down here in Chattanooga, and after a night of Artemis Fowl followed by waking every half an hour when someone coughs or rolls over...well, you get the idea—Jez and I do not agree about the time to get up in the morning.

10. Waiting. The worst thing is waiting by the phone for the AC guys to call and tell you what day they might be able to show up and replace the AC. (It’s almost as bad as waiting to hear back from a literary agent who asked for a full submission of your latest novel. Almost as bad. But not quite.)

News Flash: the AC guys finally called. They can be here on...Friday. I'm telling myself that a week without AC is no biggie. But I'm having a hard time believing it. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

No Air it’s not enough that the garbage disposal, dishwasher, washing machine, the van brakes, the stove door, and Ariel’s computer all went kablooey.  And we had to buy a generator after the storms to power the sump pump. Nope, not enough.

On Saturday afternoon, I noticed that the living room was getting hot. Now this isn’t surprising given the fact that the outside temperatures are flirting with 98 and 99 degrees. But it felt too warm for inside. Granted the flue cover on the fireplace isn’t working so I had to shove a piece of heavy duty Styrofoam into the flue to keep the air conditioned coolness inside. The fit wasn’t great, but it couldn’t account for the warmth. So I stood on an air conditioning vent—it was pumping out hot air. I immediately assumed that one of my minions was playing a cruel joke and had turned on the heater...until I checked the thermostat, which was set to cool.

This was bad, very bad. Cal checked the breakers. They had popped. So I was hoping that we’d discovered the problem. We fixed the breakers. And restarted the air conditioner. Then Cal checked the outside unit. He yelled for me to turn off the air conditioner—the outside unit wasn’t working. It smelled like it was burning.

So the temperature inside the house started to rise. Sweat beaded up on our necks and noses. I made the mistake of opening the windows Saturday evening, thinking that the cooler air might drift into the house. Big mistake. The cooler air didn’t drift, but the humidity did. The gauge showed the indoor humidity to be 76%. Yeah, so we live in a swamp. (Thankfully, we have a window air conditioner that Cal put in our bedroom window. The kids sleep on air mattresses on our floor. Everyone except Luke—he’s determined to tough it out and sleep in his room. We think that he’s crazy.)

This morning, I’m waiting for the house to hit 88 degrees. It’s normally at that point that everyone gets irritable. Around 95, everyone gets too hot to be crabby.

We’re waiting for the clock to read 8:00 so we can start calling repair guys. I hope that they aren’t already swamped. In the meantime, my Aunt Judy says that we need to take our “appliance imps” to family planning because they’re reproducing way too quickly. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Five

Today’s Friday Five is movie lines. Not the greatest ones like “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Or insanely stupid ones like “I like smooth things.” (Anakin Skywalker—in case you don’t remember).

But movie lines that you end up quoting...just because.

1. “Don’t you think that daisies are the friendliest flowers?” from You’ve Got Mail. We have daisies in out garden simply because of that line. It’s actually a dumb line, but I find myself saying it anyway.

2. “Gentlemen, the man who folded this tube of toothpaste isn’t looking for buff.” From Sneakers. Spoken by the female math-genius musician that Robert Redford loves. (Cal is a toothpaste tube folder. He wasn’t looking for buff either. Just saying.)

3. “Hair can’t be healthy, it’s dead.” From Proof spoken by a math genius played by Gwyneth Paltrow (You gotta love those movies about female math geniuses.)

4. “It tis Wednesday, Harold.” From Stranger Than Fiction, spoken by a tolerant semi-crazed Russian woman. (STF is my all time favorite movie, which also has great lines like: “Would that be the letter that begins ‘Dear Imperialist Swine?’” and “’Little did he know?!  I taught a whole class on ‘Little did he know.””)

5. “Plasti-cakes. Made from 100% food-like polymers.” From Buzz Lightyear Saturday morning cartoons. My kids say this on the rare occasion that I serve something that’s not made from scratch.  For example, Me: “We’re having apple-turkey sausages.” Keller inhabitant: “Yum. Made from 100% food-like polymers.”

What about you?  What movie quotes do you find yourself using?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Game Philanthropist

We are into games. Probably because we don’t have cable. And probably because I’m very competitive. As a result, our entry closet is full of games—literally full. We own 75 games. That’s good and bad.

Last night, we decided to play a game. Matt and I wanted to play Power Grid. It’s a dominate-the-electrical/nuclear/trash-burning/hydroelectric-market of either the US or Germany—it’s a German game. But Jacob appeared to think playing that game might cause him sudden and instantaneous death. No doubt from electrocution. Luke wanted to play Killer Bunnies. I do NOT get that game. The point is to collect bunnies and carrots while other players dump weapon cards on you to kill your bunnies. Cards like fluorine gas, kitchen wisk, cruise missile prime, quite-irrascible-defractable-cheese-balls, stray asteroid, and nuclear warhead. (Yes, this game was obviously developed by unmarried male grad students in their mid-twenties, which explains why it appeals to Luke.)

We ended up playing Lord of the Rings Monopoly. My personal opinion is any version of Monopoly is equivalent to death-by-boredom. What makes it worse is that Luke peppers the game with random questions like “Who knows what the name of the Shards of Narsil were called when the blade was reforged?” Matt and Jake say simultaneously, “I know.” I say, “They renamed the sword?”

We ended up making a new rule. When you land on someone’s property you must announce it to them and pay them the rent. (Cal is always in his own world so the rule was made by him after he missed about 7 instances of rent.) Of course, this removes the one non-random aspect of Monopoly. So my competitive/sneaky streak died. I decided to become the Monopoly philanthropist. I didn’t build on my properties, and l loaned money to anyone who needed it without charging interest. Interestingly enough, I played the entire game without landing on anyone’s fortress (the LOTR Monopoly’s version of a hotel). I bragged about how I was being blessed for my philanthropic generosity. But the truth of the matter is that I spend most of my board time in jail, which is the best place to be in a killer game of Monopoly.