Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Liebster Blog

First off, I want to thank Krispy again for the award. And I'll have you know that I posted it all by myself without help from my techie children. (Which means that my coolness points just went up. Smile.)

I have to pass on the award to since it's intended to connect bloggers, specifically those with less than 200 followers. Here are the rules.

  • Show my thanks to the blogger who gave me the award by linking back to them.
  • Reveal my top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the award on my blog.
  • Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the internet—other writers.
  • And best of all – have fun and spread the love.
Without further ado, I'd like to spread the Liebster Blog Award to:

1. Rowenna at Hyaline Prosaic who always wows me with her sewing and history knowledge. 

2. E Louise Bates who always has a kind and encouraging word to say, a true Barnabas.

3. Kirsten Walker at Tanta's Kitchen who shares her wonderful recipes. 

4. Katie Klein at Katie Klein Writes, who's indie writing success inspires me and helps me figure out the hows/whys of indie publishing.

5. Ellen at Hurrayic. Her creative endeavors never fail to amaze me.

One more bit of excitement. I guest blogged "Removing the Scaffolding: Finish Editing" at My First Book. (Thanks, Misha, for the opportunity.)

Monday, August 29, 2011


The other day I was given a blog award. (Thanks, Krispy!! You should visit her blog. She and her blog buddy do great book reviews, talk about writing, and they're in the midst of NaNoWriMo* in August.) And when Krispy mentioned me on her blog she called me “cool.” I told my kids about it at dinner. “I was called ‘cool’ today by someone who actually is.”

Sighs were heard from around the table. Then, came the commentary. “Yeah, my friend (name redacted to protect the innocent) told me that he thinks you’re cool.” And “my friend X said, ‘Wow, your Mom is so cool.’” Several similar statements were made. My kids were not happy. Apparently, moms aren’t supposed to be cool.

I explained that everyone has an opportunity to be cool. My husband Cal was cool when he was young. Even when we were married, everyone thought he was “a surfer dude” back in the day when that was a compliment. (He did have beautiful, streaked blond hair and a dark tan.) But Cal used up his coolness when he was young. Though he's still very handsome.

I, on the other hand, had a full contingent of the possibility-for-coolness left over from adolescence because I have never been cool. In the ’80s, when everyone was listening to Pearl Jam, Blue Oyster Cult, and, even, Debbie Gibson, I was listening to Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, and Judy Garland. This, of course, made me extremely cool in the late ’90s and early ’00s when big band music was the latest rage. And when most people were watching Freddie Kruger, my friends (Hi, Kristin) and I watched Hitchcock revivals and Cary Grant movies. We dressed up and went to an old theater and sat with really old people who were also dressed to the nines. I wore a white dress and hat. And I even had white gloves.

Of course, now that Cary Grant is cool, all my kids’ friends know that I have near-complete knowledge of the Cary Grant oeuvre, including movies like Penny Serenade and I Was A Male War Bride.

I remembered when my daughter was in elementary school and had friends to the house for a birthday sleepover. I put in Roman Holiday. Some girls said, “Euw, black and white.” Two hours later, those same girls were in tears and said, “Oh, Mrs. Keller, I have to go home and watch that with my mom.”

Then there was the time that Jake and his friends were bored out of their minds. So I sat in the midst of them and said, “Old Captain Kirk versus New Captain Kirk.” Much discussion later, the new Capt. Kirk had won, and we were discussing the merits of Voldemort versus Darth Vader.

As I thought about these things, my head began to swell. My kids’ friends thought I was cool. But then, I realized that I was going to have to ask one of my kids how to post the award on my blog because I had no idea how to do it. I was like a pin prick in my swelled head. Because everyone knows that the new cool is nerdy, and I’m tech-challenged.

At least, my kids are cool.

* For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It's in November and the participants try to write 50,000 words in one month, which I can't imagine. I'd be drooling on myself by the end of the month. No, not really, it would be by the end of the first week.

PS I'm pass the award along and fulfill all the obligations on Wednesday, when I get help putting up the award.

PPS Thanks to to Susan who also said she was giving me the award. You should visit her blog too. She's always got some random, funny facts to share. And who doesn't need a smile?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not A Level Playing Field

Yesterday, the boys and I watched the Yankees hit three grand slams in one baseball game. It was really cool to see history being made. I Facebooked about it and got some comments about the Yankees’ payroll. It’s true that they have a ton of money, and it allows them to acquire great players. And I understand why fans of teams with less financial ability get frustrated. My parents, who are Mariners fans, often call Seattle the AAA farm team for the Yankees because their best players often get taken by the Yankees. Interestingly, many other franchises have the ability to make the same kind of money, according to my daughter’s sports economics class at the university. But they don’t. Why? Because they aren’t as successful. It’s hard to get fans to come when you lose. And it’s hard to get the money to get better players if you don’t have tremendous fan support.

So why am I doing this whole baseball post when I’m not really that much of a baseball fan? I think a lot of this applies to writing and writers. It’s easy for writers to grouse when they see books that make the bestsellers’ list that they deem not well-written. But the truth is that while the playing field is level, i.e., any book can make the NYT best sellers’ list (excepting indie e-books), in another way the field is not level.

Publishing is a business. And individual books sales are greatly influenced by your publishing house. Whether they give your book the editing it needs, the book cover they select (authors get some input, but not final say so), whether they pay for good book placement in bookstores, etc. But those things are out of writers’ control. Yes, you can do marketing, and every writer does, but there are no guarantees.

And like baseball fans and players, writers have to do it for the love it. That’s where the satisfaction and the joy come from. And who knows, maybe you’ll do well—word of mouth is the greatest sales tool. Don’t forget, the Athletics took two out of the three games. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is It Only Wednesday?

Okay, this week has been twice the length of a normal one. And it’s only Wednesday. I think it’s the whole back to school/college thing. We don’t have an established schedule yet. Plus, I’m trying to figure out who needs which car when (five drivers and three vehicles). Throw in multiple jobs (Luke has two and Ariel has one), and things get hairy.  

And, of course, I need to start teaching Shakespeare and I can’t find my notes. ACK. How can this be? I know I put my Shakespeare lit crit book on the shelf, but it’s not there. GRR. I’ve scoured every bookcase, and it’s still missing. Did I let someone borrow it? I did find my MacBeth notes, which were in a different place. So guess which play we’re starting with?

Oh, we also have a GI bug in the house, which means I was up past midnight with a sick person. The week is becoming longer by the moment. But, hey, no appliances have died in the last month. My black flies bites have stopped itching. And autumn is right around the corner. Things are looking good.

Monday, August 22, 2011


While we were on vacation, Ariel and I, along with the friends we were visiting went shopping. In case I haven’t said it 100 times already, I hate shopping. However, I’ve been known to shop if it’s a good thrift store and If Ariel comes with me.

You see, thrifting isn’t really shopping. Thifting is more like treasure hunting. You drive to a part of town where the rents are cheap. You enter store that looks like it hasn’t been painted it the last decade, or two. First, the smell hits you. If it’s nauseating, you turn and leave. If it smells like Great Aunt Millie’s house, you’ve hit the jackpot. An important fact to remember is that 99% of the stuff in the store is dreck. This is where the treasure hunting comes in. You have to find the one percent. I’m not skilled at this. You’d think that with Dutch blood and a tight pocketbook, I’d have the necessary skill set. I don’t. But Ariel does.

For example, I grab a couple of pairs of jeans. They fit. I look at Ariel. She says, “No. Those are Mom jeans.” I say, “But I’m a Mom.” Ariel says, “Not that kind of Mom.” I say, “Yeah, but—” Then, Ariel plays her trump card, “Dad will not like those jeans.” And she’s right. My friend hands me a pair of pants—they’re my size, they’re hip, a very good name, and cheap--$3. The pants were keepers.

My thrifting forte is shoes and purses. I found a cute pair of backless red heeled sandals for $3. And I found the mother lode in purses. First, you have to ignore the purses that should have been put in the garbage. Then you have to pass by the ones that are so big that they ought to have been labeled “luggage.” Finally, you have to steel yourself against the styles that were popular in the 80s and 90s. Then, you can find a brown, leather Tommy Hilfiger purse that’s never been used for $3.50. You can also find a deep red leather, snakeskin patterned purse that matches the cute red heels for $3.50. And then, when you hem and haw over whether you really need it, your precious daughter says, “Let me buy that for you.”

See, this is why I take her thrifting.

Here are the red heels. 

One more bit of news, my YA novel, Screwing Up Time, got another five star review on Amazon. Yay!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five

Today is the last day of summer vacation for me. School starts up on Monday. I couldn’t decide whether this Friday Five should be nostalgic for the summer or looking forward to the fall and winter. So it’s both. List what you’ll miss about summer and what you are anticipating in the next few months.

1. I miss the days when I can stand outside and let the heat penetrate my skin. I always imagine that the sun’s rays are sharing their power with me. (I know that’s hokey, but it makes it easier for me to embrace the heat.) I’m looking forward to cold breezes that bite the skin and give me a zest for life.

2. I’ll miss the butterflies, snowy egrets and the hummingbirds. But bring on the freezing death of cockroaches, mosquitoes, and biting black flies.

3. I’ll miss swimming pools and the ocean. On the other hand, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

4. I’ll miss homemade ice cream, cranberry juice popsicles, and watermelon. But it’s time for steaming hot chocolate made from dark chocolate cocoa.

5. I’ll miss getting up whenever I want (I hate alarm clocks). But there’s nothing like watching the pink of sunrise streak the sky.

What are your Friday Five?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Attack of the Mutant Blood Sucking Creatures

I have blogged numerous times about my extreme hatred of mosquitoes. How mosquitoes are a scourge to me. How even Deep Woods Off is merely an aperitif to the mosquitoes who feast upon me. And you know how I have tried almost every remedy known to humankind, including fans, vitamins, vodka (wiped on the skin, which may have been my big mistake because if I’d have drunk the vodka at least I wouldn’t have cared.) The newest mosquito remedies I’ve heard of are Listerine and fabric softener sheets.

I haven’t tried either new remedy. In fact, I’ve “come to terms” with the fact that I am a mosquito feeding ground. And I can live with that. Assuming that I buy cases of topical Benadryl gel.

Then I discovered that there are worse things than mosquitoes. I suppose I should have known something like this might happen. I have always attracted blood thirsty feasters. When Cal and I were first married, we went sailing in San Diego bay. Afterwards, we were pulling the catamaran, and my legs were stinging. I assumed it was salt water on freshly shaven legs. It wasn’t. I stepped out of the water and discovered clear jelly-fish like creatures turning pink with my blood. Cal and I ripped them off. Over the next couple of weeks my legs got severely infected. It was an omen.

A couple of months ago, I woke up in bed yelling. Some creature the likes of which I have never seen was biting me. I ripped it off my arm and flung across the room. Cal thought I’d had a nightmare because the “alien bug thingy” I described couldn’t possibly be real. Even when I pointed out the fangs marks on my arm, he was doubtful. But he agreed to look for it since I said I couldn’t go back to sleep until it was dead. When he found it, he said, “Oh, wow! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” This was also an omen.

The final omen occurred on vacation. One evening we were swimming at the beach. I finished my saltwater frolic and sat on my beach towel to let the salty water dry on my skin. (There’s nothing like the taste of salt water on your lips. Bliss. I really am a selkie.) Anyway, after a few seconds of bliss, I felt stings. I opened my eyes. Big black flies were clustered on bare skin, sucking my blood. I swatted. They circled and came back. I covered myself in beach towels; they found the edges and flew underneath. Needless to say, the beach outing came to a quick end.

And these bites did not respond to Benadryl gel—I wanted to scratch my skin off. Thankfully, the bites have faded. Especially since my kids told me I looked creepy with bites all over my neck. The bites were everywhere, but the neck ones were particularly nasty. But here’s the thing. This time I recognize the final omen. The Apocalypse of Mutant Blood Sucking Vermin is coming. Prepare yourself. And remember, Benadryl probably won’t work.

P.S. Yesterday I posted a short excerpt from the sequel to Screwing Up Time. Click here to read it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

May Cause Death

Okay, I have a question. Why on earth do pharmaceutical companies advertise their prescription meds to normal/non-medical people? I mean “hello,” it’s not as if I can go to the store and buy them. What do they want from me? Am I supposed to go to the doctor and whine, “I want the new uber-high-potency-give-me-perfect-health medicine”? Isn’t the reason I pay my doctor big bucks because he/she is supposed to know what medication is correct for whatever’s wrong with me?

I suspect the pharmaceutical company wants me to whine at my doctor. Instead of the generic meds, which are cheap, they need to sell their new, weird variation, which doesn’t have a generic, so they want me to want it. But I don’t care. In fact, the ads irritate me. After all, who’s paying for those ads? The consumer!!

And doctors have no idea what the new meds cost (BTW, not all pharmacies charge the same price for the same medicine) or which insurance company covers which drug. When Jake’s doctor prescribed a medication, the cost was $250. Chad, our favorite pharmacist tech, said, “Uh, just so you know, you could get over the counter med A for $6 and prescription med B, which is $8, and if you take them together, they do the same thing at the same strength as the $250 medication.”I called Jake’s doctor, and she gave us a prescription for med B. She also apologized—she had no idea that the medicine she first prescribed was so ridiculously expensive. $250 instead of $14. No wonder health care costs are ludicrous.

And here’s another thing; when they advertise their drug, they’re required to list the side effects. But listing the side effects does NOT make me want to buy the new-uber-high-potency-give-me-perfect-health drug. I mean, thirst and sore-throat are one thing. But what about loss of sensation, heart attack, mood swings, weight gain, appendages falling off, and possession by the prince of darkness. Okay, I made up the last two. But death is usually listed as one of the side effects. Hmm. Doesn’t make me eager to try the new u-h-p-g-m-p-h drug. Let alone whine for it at the doctor’s office. Kind of counter-productive. But then, advertising has never been about logic.

N.B. My novel Screwing Up Time, is being featured this week on Ken Hoss's blog. Click here to visit Ken's "Indie Authors in the Spotlight" page.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vacation Photos

I promised some vacation photos. Here are a couple.

Ariel doing computer work in the car on the drive to NC.

The boys and a friend at an artillery park.

A photo of the moon rise last night at the beach. It's beautifully pink because there was a controlled forest fire going on.

I hope you enjoyed the photos. We're having a relaxing time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Vacation

We're on vacation this week. So I'm taking a break from blogging today. But I hope to blog on Friday and post some photos. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the surf and the sun for you. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Make-up Artist

Friday I became a makeup artist. Now before those of you who know me well enough snort your Monday morning coffee up your nose by accident, let me assure you that it was a one time deal. I volunteered to help the real makeup artist get the actors and actresses ready for the Shakespeare play. (I did it once before a couple of years ago, so I wasn’t a complete newbie.) I was put in charge of highlights. Highlighting consists of painting light and dark shadows on characters’ faces to make their features stand out under the stage lights. (Notice I was not put in charge of blending highlights into the foundation grease paint as I am not a good “blender.”)

But my time as a makeup artist was profitable. I made several discoveries.

1. According to Calvin (who’s trained as a watercolor artist), the important thing about painting is the brushes. You can’t paint well with bad brushes. I must have had bad grease paint brushes.

2. Boys scruntch up their eyes when you put eye-liner on them. And it looks like a dotted line. They also flutter their lashes like butterflies, and mascara smears everywhere. The subsequent mess makes people glare at the incompetent make up artist.

3. I am very good at painting on fairy eyebrows—but mostly because nobody can tell me that I’ve done them wrong.

4. Rubbing alcohol removes grease paint. (Okay, Luke told me that—apparently, basic chemistry should have taught me that.)

5. Young men should shave before showing up for makeup.

6. Under no circumstances should one try to put lipstick on a boy.

7. Although necks also get coated with grease paint, it does not look good on white shirts.

8. Girls, especially little girls, will let you paint as much make-up on their faces as you like. They will, however, have distinct opinions as to the colors they want and the job you have done.

9. Grease paint powder (which keeps the paint from sliding off your face when you sweat) is to be applied ONLY after all the grease paint is applied or blending will not happen.

10. Boys really do have longer eyelashes than girls. Grumble. Mutter. 

I wish I could take credit for this make-up job, but the professional did it. 

Here's another photo with Matt and Jacob.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Updating the System

Jacob is a senior in high school this year. And he’s going to take a dual enrollment Calculus 2 class. Originally, he was going to take it at the community college where he took Calc 1. However, in an effort to save money, the community college decided to cut one hour per week from the class. (Yes, per week, and the prof still had to cover the same amount of material—can you say impossible?) Then, to cut down on paperwork, they made the homework and tests “on-line.” In other words, the computer grades everything. Problem. A computer can’t read your work. They overcame that hurdle by making the homework multiple choice. Yes, Calc 2 homework is multiple choice. I won’t even go into what they did for the tests.

Obviously, the community college was out. So we enrolled Jacob in the University dual enrollment program. After I heard the cost and picked myself up off the ground, I said, “Okay.” We don’t want him waiting another year before taking the class. Then came enrollment.

I expected the community college to be horrid at enrollment. (This is a college that forgot to send all the nursing students grades to the nursing board, so they could take their board exams. Oops.) I expected the university to know what they were doing. I was wrong.

Apparently, they don’t know quite how to do dual enrollment. We filled out all the paperwork, and they processed it. Jake tried to sign up for a class. He wasn’t a student. I called dual enrollment. They called the “tech people.” The tech people said it would show up in 24-48 hours. It didn’t. I called dual enrollment. They called the tech people. The tech people promised they’d fix it when they “updated the system that night.” I know that excuse. When I worked at Harcourt, that is what the tech people always said, and then it wasn’t fixed. I think “we’ll update the system tonight” is geek speak for “I’m tired and I’m grabbing a beer on the way home, so bother me tomorrow.” Eventually, when there were only two spaces left, the problem got fixed. Sadly, Jake didn’t get the prof or time he wanted, but he did get the class. And we thought that everything was hunkey-dory. Until we tried to pay for the class.

Jake’s bill was $3491. For one class. The rounds of phone calls began again. It turned out that the computer people mis-coded Jake. And, of course, it would take a computer system update to fix. (Maybe some day, someone can explain why this is necessary.) Just when I thought it was all over, the dual enrollment advisor told me, “Um, just so you know, it’s not my fault, it’s the State’s fault, but the class is now $200 more. I’m really sorry. It’s not my fault.”

Lovely. I wonder what else is waiting around the corner.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


M’kay. Please tell me that you knew this post was about paint stripping. ’Cause my blog is definitely G or PG.

Early this year, I got a lovely idea. The boys’ bathroom, which is also the bathroom-that-everyone-who-visits uses, needed work. But it needed to be cheap and do-it-yourself. Over Spring Break, Luke and I repainted the ceiling and the trim. Then I fixed and re-grouted the old honeycomb tile. Now that summer is waning and I didn’t get any house projects done, I decided the bathroom door and the bathroom linen closet door needed doing.

Cal and I bought heavy-duty stripper. The metal container is covered with skull-n-crossbones and “peligro” warnings. Cal took down the doors and brought them outside. The bathroom now has a privacy sheet—my boys aren’t complaining, but they aren’t impressed. Our dog Jezebel thinks it’s cool.

Today I started stripping. Then I found out that 70+ years of varnish, stain, and paint does not come off easily even with peligro stripper. I also discovered that bare skin which comes into contact with peligro stripper gets chemical burns. Finally, I discovered that even though I coated myself with death-to-mosquitoes bug repellent and the air was redolent with essence of toluene and other vile chemicals, the mosquitoes still bit me. And when I scratched my bites, the toluene does not make the bites less itchy, it just makes them burn like...well, you know.

After four hours of stripping, I now have a “box” full of scraped paint. One door is down to the wood grain after five rounds of stripping. The other isn’t close after three. And, of course, this is only the first side. Round two is Wednesday.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shakespeare Costumes

Today is the beginning of Shakespeare camp.  Monday through Thursday 9 -12, they will work on A Mid-summer Night’s Dream. The performance is Friday, August 5, 7pm at Baylor.

Here is Jake. He plays Demetrius.

Here is Matthew. He plays Puck.