Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Highlights

The Christmas Tree looked like this:





Christmas Day looked like this: (It rained. A lot.)




Going home on Christmas Day Night looked like this:


video




Getting home and putting my feet up looked like this: (Blissful, happy sigh...)


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Remembering The Slightly Early Christmas Stranger


It's Christmas Eve Eve, and as I always do this time of year, I'm remembering my family's slightly early Christmas Stranger.

You can read the details here.

I hope she learned to make better choices, that she's had a good life, and wherever she is, I'm wishing her a very Merry Christmas...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas Past

My friend, Deena the Poet, sent me this card -- you may recall my comment (confession) that Roy Rogers was (is) my hero. Deena created the card for me herself, and I, of course, am thrilled to receive it. It will take a place of honor beside the Roy Rogers birthday card a reader sent me a few years ago. (Apparently I must tell EVERYBODY I love Roy Rogers.)

Anyway. Deena's card made me think of what was probably my best childhood Christmas ever. I was three, and Roy was in his Hey Day (See below.)

At the time, we lived a block or so from the Rockwell Theater, where Roy appeared regularly on Friday and Saturday nights. I absolutely loved going to the Roy Rogers movies. Roy and popcorn. It didn't get much better than that. I remember the agonizing wait for the movie to actually start. I liked the cartoon, and I didn't mind the previews so much, but oh, that newsreel. (How long, how long?) The newsreels are where I got the idea that President Harry Truman and that other cowboy movie star, Gene Autry, were the same person. (What can I say? They looked alike to me.) I remember, too, that I didn't quite grasp the idea of Santa Claus or why he would want to bring me a present, so imagine my surprise when he left me a pair of red Roy Rogers cowboy boots like the flat-heeled ones on the poster below. Red! Roy Rogers! Cowboy Boots! I think they must be the reason I still love red shoes.




I loved those boots so much -- I'd like to have a pair now, that's how much I loved them. But it wasn't just the boots that made this particular Christmas so special. It was also a white Christmas, one of the very few we've had here in my lifetime. It's even documented in the family photo archives. (See below again.) That's me -- my face is scrunched up because the snow was blowing into it. I also seem to have socks on my hands. No little girl gloves, I guess.

And clearly this photo was taken BEFORE the boots arrived or I'd be wearing them. (I think I actually slept in them.) I don't know the purpose of the upside down barrel. The house you can almost see next door belonged to a banker. Well, actually the banker. I understand he wasn't a very pleasant man. I can only vouch for Mrs. Banker. I ran away from home to their house around this time, and she gave me a peppermint candy cane off their Christmas tree until my mother came to reclaim me. As a result, I liked her quite a lot.




Anyway, that was THEN. The photo below is NOW.

By my calculation, I would have been standing in the vicinity of the "N" and the "G." The banker's house is long gone, too, replaced by a medical office. And see the fire hydrant? I once stood there with three soldiers from Fort Bragg and helped them thumb a ride. At three, it was all very interesting to me -- trying to get a car to stop with one's thumb. We did it, though. I say "we," because I did my best to help. Which they said they appreciated. Very much.



And did I say it's snowing here tonight -- probably the reason I'm so nostalgic. Too early for an actual White Christmas, but still.

So. This concludes my trip down Christmas Memory Lane. Till next time...

P.S. The Roy Rogers "Christmas Is Coming" poster was a gift from the dh. (He's very understanding re: his rival.)



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Recital Report...

video

The Steppin' Out-ers were splendid as always, yes?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Going Digital in February 2010


THE BRIDE FAIR, one of my backlist historical novels and winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award for short historical fiction the year it was published, will be available in a 3-in-1 Kindle format e-book in February 2010.

It was selected by Wendy, the Super Librarian, to be "bundled" with PRAIRIE WIFE by Cheryl St. John and MARRIED BY MIDNIGHT by Judith Stacy.


is now available for pre-ordering at the Kindle Store on amazon.com.
(Click on the link above.)




(I am SO hoping all of you have Kindles.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Pink Glove Dance

I just love it when my own kind goes a little nuts -- especially when it's for a good cause (in this case, Breast Cancer Awareness).

Check it out:





Christmas Recital Coming...

The granddaughter tells me she and her equally adorable fellow dancers will be performing "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" at the upcoming dance recital. If you need to refresh your memory, click on the video play button below. (WARNING: THIS SONG WILL GET STUCK IN YOUR BRAIN AND IT TAKES DAYS TO STOP SINGING/HUMMING IT):












Thursday, November 19, 2009

Squirrel Update




Not only did the precarious squirrel's nest survive four days of heavy rain and 40 mph wind gusts...






...there are more up there than I thought. Five, at last count. The pecan tree is only a few yards to the right. Very handy.



It rained off and on all day yesterday. Still gloomy and overcast this morning. More rain coming Sunday.

And this concludes the local weather and critter report. (What can I say? Sometimes there's not much happening -- for which I am very grateful.)

Till next time...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So, What Have You Been Doing?


I've been participating in a quest for a cookbook, a team effort with a very nice reader of the blog who wanted to find a copy of The Grange Range for her young daughter who is a budding cook. It was also matter of nostalgia for her -- her mom had owned (and used) one. There is no doubt that the cookbook is a stellar collection of "real" recipes from "real"cooks and worth the effort to locate one.

So. The quest was ultimately successful. You can read a blow-by-blow account and discover the way to acquire a new, updated copy of said cookbook by clicking on The Grange Range link above.



I've also participated in a Big 1-3 Birthday Bash for grandson No. 2. (I gave him some "manly" shower gel in honor of his teen-hood, among other things.) Children get older so fast, don't they?

I'm really anticipating Thanksgiving this year. Assorted family is coming from afar, including our World Traveler, if he's over his cold and sore throat enough to be able to fly. The menu is changing constantly. My locked-in contribution is always potato salad and I'd be happy Charlie Brown-ing it with toast and popcorn, so this isn't on my worry list. It's times like these, though, that I miss my Grandmaw Wagner and her chicken and noodles, green beans and white corn (yes, cooked together), and peach custard pie with a meringue top. (sigh)

And speaking of Thanksgiving menus and cookbooks, one of my favorite holiday recipes from The Grange Range is Mrs. Troy Miller's "Cherry Salad."

I thought I'd share it with you:

CHERRY SALAD

1 large can sour pitted cherries (save the juice)
2 small cans crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped nuts
1 orange, grated rind plus juice
1 lemon, grated rind plus juice
2 packages cherry Jell-O (NOT the sugar-free kind)
3/4 cup of sugar

Mix juice from the cherries and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Add all other ingredients (except nuts) and stir until Jell-O is dissolved. Add nuts (I use pecans). Pour into a pretty bowl and refrigerate until set.

(NOTE: Don't fiddle around with the can sizes because it may not gel if you do and you don't want Cherry Salad soup.)




That's it for this time.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!





Monday, November 9, 2009

Autumn In The Back Yard


Today, a short fall tour. In the photograph below is The Swing. I'm very fond of it because late uncle made it for me using a pattern that belonged to my grandfather. It's incredibly comfortable for an uncushioned wooden swing and highly effective when it comes to getting a baby to nap. Add a little warm sunshine. A soft breeze. MawMaw's lap -- and "Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...." Unfortunately, it's also a favorite place for wasps to build their nests, so one has to be careful before sitting. There are a few wind chimes in the maple tree just to add soothing ambiance. This particular tree is lucky to be here. Hurricane Hugo took out its center, and for a long time it looked like a big leafy bowl on a stem. It has recovered nicely.

See?









Another view of said maple, with a dash of pecan tree and an oak tree in the distance:







And here are two of the many reasons why I never get any pecans off the pecan tree. See the two brown blobs high in the treetop? Those would be squirrel nests. The one on the left is in a very precarious location. We may be getting some high winds by midweek courtesy of the late season hurricane (Ida, is it?), so this particular limb choice could be a problem for the nest dwellers. Like many of life's situations, I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time.






That's all for now.















Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Updating (Once Again)...


First of all, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I hope you get lots and lots of candy. Candy is no longer in my personal food chain, but I don't begrudge your having it. Really. Even if it's Snickers or dark chocolate Hershey's Kisses. Or Truffles. Or Sweet Tarts. Or... (sigh)

Moving right along to family updating...

It's raining here today, a cold steady rain that's supposed to last through tomorrow. The dh is decorating the front porch for the Trick or Treaters. I'm here in the warm and dry with you.

Grandson No. 1 is doing very well with his chest brace. He's able to carry out his JROTC duties for the most part. He really seems to enjoy JROTC. I'm not sure why, but he does, blisters and all, braced or not. Could be the uniform. I understand the girls get all swoon-y and hug-y at the sight of it.

My son has the flu of some kind. He's seen the doctor and he's taking medications. He told me that at one point his abject misery was interrupted by a doorway visit from my granddaughter (who was also under the weather). She wanted to give him a very alarmed report on the video she'd been watching -- "Jack and the Beanstalk." "There was this really BIG giant," she told him. "And he said, 'Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an English muffin!!!!!"

Which underlines what one of my clinical instructors used to tell us when I was in nursing school. No matter what you say, the person is going to hear it according to his or her own point of reference. It was very helpful advice -- even before I learned about muffins with a circulatory system.

I tried the South Beach Diet for six whole days. It was a terrible experience. Phase One severely restricts carbs, and I was really hungry all the time. ALL the time. The carbs in vegetables apparently aren't "carb-y" enough to keep my blood sugar at a level where I can function. Recommendations for this problem on the various websites were drinking a cup of milk -- which I can't do -- or eating an apple now and again. Apples worked nicely -- for about an hour. Between the hypoglycemic episodes (one near fainting one) and the significant headaches, plus the giant migraine of Day 2, it was hard going. So I bailed. While I could still get around. I'm not proud of it, but there you are. Besides all that, I didn't lose an ounce. I have friends who thrive on this diet, but clearly, The South Beach People are not going to want me as a spokesperson.

That's it for this time. Bulletins as they happen...


Friday, October 16, 2009

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BEING A WRITER...

Or: How Wendy, The Super Librarian, Made My Day and How THE WRITERS' NETWORK (in North Carolina) Totally Ruined It.















(Batgirl Icon/Graphic by artist Eric Wolfe Hanson)



Let's start with Wendy.



On her The Misadvantures of Super_Librarian blog today (October 16, 2009), Wendy posted her personal list of the top 16 romance novels (in no particular order).

I don't often read my own reviews (unless someone tells me I ought to), but I do like to read reviews in general, especially when they're done by someone as astute and knowledgeable as Wendy is. So. I wandered over to her Bat Cave this afternoon, looking for said reviews to peruse, and there was her list.

I am very pleased to report that I am on it. Twice.





Which brings us to THE WRITERS' NETWORK.

A couple of months ago I entered a Short Fiction Contest. One could submit a short story or a chapter of a novel, 5000 words or less. I entered a chapter from a WIP novel, the prologue actually.

While I was still reading Wendy's Truly Wonderful and Incisive List, the dh came in with the mail, which included, I'm sorry to say, The Loser Letter.

This is what it said:




Do you see the identifying information? That it's a PROLOGUE from the novel THE GOOD HUSBAND?

And can you read the handwritten part: "Intriguing story with good details -- it moves too slowly for a short story..."

Well, it would, wouldn't it. It's a NOVEL. It's not a short story!!!!!!!

I don't like losing under any circumstances, but losing for this reason is most annoying. It's like entering your best beagle in the dog show and finding out it lost because the judges think it's a chicken.

Very soon I will consult the grandchildren for an appropriate epithet to call these so-called contest judges, but for now I'm going be good.

Instead, I think I'll give the dh the opportunity to redeem himself for delivering such a letter by taking me out to eat.

(Always lose with dignity, grace, and fine cuisine, that's me.)

Oh, and Wendy. Thanks...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

As I may have said before, I just love little girls -- probably because I used to be one. My grandchildren have a hard time with this concept, but it's true. Really.


See?










My appreciation was reinforced yesterday when I dashed into the CVS Pharmacy to get the Vitamin D supplement my doctor had recommended.

A little girl, who I would guess was around four years old, and her mother were walking down the makeup aisle. The little girl stopped suddenly and cried, "Mommy! Look! Look! We have to buy some of this so we can decorate!"

Personally, I am very fond of "decorating." Nothing cheers me up better than a new lipstick or an eyeshadow -- and usually for a guilt-free price. I did once buy a Lancome lipstick, which, as lipsticks go, was the absolute best I've ever used. It was also the most expensive. I still sometimes look at them longingly when I'm in Belk's at the mall (brown family with rose undertones -- be still my beating heart), but thus far my credit card has stayed out of mischief. I just can't bring myself to spend that much money to "decorate," even if it does do wonders for my psyche.

Anyway, the little girl in CVS made me laugh, so I thought I'd share. It's hard to find even smile-worthy moments these days.

Till next time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things...














Well, one favorite thing actually. (My ducks are still all over the place and not likely to organize anytime soon, so I thought I would just forget the ducks for a while -- or try to -- and share this with you.)



I've said in a previous post that I grew up listening to radio drama and that that is part of the reason why I like my local library's audiobook digital lending program so much.

Well, BBC 4 has raised the art of non-visual dramatization to new heights. They are truly skilled at making you "see" what you can't actually see at all, not with smoke and mirrors but with fine actors, skilled sound effects technicians, wonderful writers, producers, etc. Some of the actors you may immediately recognize, like Shirley Henderson ("Moaning Myrtle" from the Harry Potter movies.) Her droll reading of a modernized fairy tale was hilarious.

The above link will take you to their "Drama" page. There is plenty of other programming, but "Drama" is what I like best. I've especially enjoyed the "Book At Bedtime," fifteen minute installments, 5 days a week, of an almost always entertaining novel I'm not likely to read.
There are also plays, "readings" (non-fiction books and short stories). There are mysteries, comedies, and the classics -- I'm listening to the production of Beau Geste at the moment -- and bestsellers like The Help.

Try it sometime, especially if you've never experienced real radio drama. It's a whole new world. For those of you who've had the radio experience, you'll be amazed at how the BBC has improved it.

Now I'm off to wrangle my ducks some more. Or maybe I'll drink some iced tea and watch The Good Wife....





Updating...


I've been trying to get my ducks in a row. Unfortunately, my ducks don't look like these ducks, and aggravations abound.

More later...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Even MORE 1940s Movie Stars

I've been revisiting my late sister-in-law's collection of movie star photos, and something struck me as interesting about these particular ones.

Look closely. Can you can see it?













No? Well, here it is. They all seem to have essentially the same mouth, which I doubt was actually the case. There must have be a studio-approved set of "Hollywood lips" make-up artists did their best to paint on everybody.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Important Birthday

Today is my mom's birthday. (Isn't she beautiful?)





HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOMMY!!!!!!












Friday, September 11, 2009

Birthday Greetings and Me




I'm having a birthday in a little less than two weeks, and yesterday I got five birthday greetings. FIVE. Three cards, one email, and one very gorgeous purple quilted tote with a matching clutch.

The tote and clutch were an early birthday gift from my sister. Two of the cards were from my cousin and my aunt, respectively. The other card was from Verizon, America's Largest and Most Reliable Wireless Network.

Now I'm not surprised that my sister, my cousin, and my aunt know that my birthday is coming around -- but Verizon Wireless? We've never even met. I understand the concept of "junk mail," but not "junk mail Birthday Greetings." It was nice of them, I guess. I don't plan on becoming a customer, but still.

And the email? That Birthday Greeting was from Medicare. Now how scary is that?


Monday, September 7, 2009

Photography and Me



As I think I've mentioned before, sometimes I end up with digital photographs in the trusty red Kodak's memory card that are a total mystery to me. Or, to put it another way, I seem to be able to raise bad photography to a whole new level. In fact, Kodak would probably prefer that I not tell you I used their technology to create this kind of damage.

Here. Let me show you the latest:


This is a photograph of...some swirly things. I'm sure these were not in the view finder when I took the picture, but I have no idea what was.





And here we have some multicolored dots:





And some more multicolored dots:




(These remind me of those picture puzzles where, if you squinted long enough, you could see words, or bunnies, or something. Or so I'm told. I never could see anything but the dots themselves because of my mostly unilateral vision.)


Which brings us to the two photographs that actually came out as intended:


The almost last of the tomatoes:





And absolutely the very last rose of summer:





And that's all I have to show you this time...









Monday, August 31, 2009

The BIG 4-0 Birthday!!!!


My son turns 40 today. Needless to say, I'm astounded. On so many levels. I didn't know anything about actually raising a child, especially a boy child, but somehow he got to be this old.

I fully expect him to run wild now, mostly because of the many, MANY times I told him that when he was 40, he could do whatever he wanted to. For example (see photo above), he could say all the "bad words" he wanted to say when he was 40, but he was NOT saying them NOW. Ditto: cigarettes, whiskey, and wild, wild women. Likewise, late curfews.

So here I am. Wishing him a very Happy 40th Birthday -- and hoping my chickens don't come home to roost.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Writer's Dream





I usually try to set attainable goals. It saves a lot a wear and tear on my already stressed psyche. (Let's just say it's not easy being on the receiving end of the Family Bat Phone.)

Recently, in keeping with my usual mild-mannered goal-setting, I wanted to go see the new Harry Potter movie. I like Harry Potter. I like Good vs. Evil, especially when Good wins. Besides that, I'd never seen Harry on the big screen, and I wanted to.

But did I make it to the movie? No. I did not. Not even close. And I thought somewhat drolly, "Cheryl, you need to stop it already with the impossible dreams."

But then I thought, why not have impossible dreams? There's even a song dedicated to the concept. If I can't pull off the little ones, what's the problem with not pulling off the big ones?

Hence the blueprint and the photograph above.

They're from a SOUTHERN LIVING magazine -- a very old issue of SOUTHERN LIVING magazine. This, for all intents and purposes, is my dream writer's cabin. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, and I've saved the magazine ever since. The magazine has seen better days, so I thought I'd scan the photos that are essentially my heart's desire before they disintegrated. Then, I thought, I'd show them to you. (You can help me pine.)

So. Here we go.

The first thing that's so appealing to me about the cabin in the photo above is the tower. What a wonderful place to write. Next is the color. The green reminds me of the buildings in the North Carolina State Parks when I was a little girl -- Morrow Mountain State Park, specifically, which eventually became the partial setting for the historical, FORBIDDEN BRIDE. According to the blueprint, there's also a screened in porch. It doesn't get much better than that.

This is the interior of the tower (I see myself writing right here instead of eating, though eating is good):








This is the dining room, which is off the galley kitchen. You can just see the kitchen in the photo of the spiral stairs.







This is the spiral staircase which leads to the loft sleeping area, the lower tower room, and the stairs to the upper tower room, or as I think of it: Writer Heaven.
















And this is the living room with a fireplace.



I'm telling you I LOVE this cabin. I feel the same way about it as I did about Roy Rogers somehow showing up and letting me ride Trigger when I was four. He had a daughter named "Cheryl," after all. If that could happen, anything was possible.

So there it is. My imaginary writer's cabin. Thanks for letting me share...










Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Kitty" Update




I saw "Kitty" today. She hung out with Little Cinderella and me (Big Cinderella, that would be) for a couple of hours this afternoon. She was wearing a fuchsia and turquoise crushed velvet cape and a gold and opal tiara. She looked good, too.

(I have GOT to start putting the digital camera in my purse.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Poor, poor "Kitty"


I know. This looks bad. "Kitty," as she is almost generically known, was well into her second round of Beloved Stuffed Animal-hood, courtesy of Grandchild #2. And, as good as the Ty company is at making stuffed critters, it would seem that at some point, one of them will literally have the stuffing hugged out of it, or in this case, the PVC pellets. It was an alarming time. "Kitty" was leaking and no one could find the leak. It didn't help that certain brothers in the household didn't want to find the leak. Much better to sling her around and have pellets flying all over the place.

Enter, Yours Truly. It's been long established that the dh can fix all things mechanical -- cars, bikes, trucks, skate boards, etc., etc. My job is Everything Else. I've sutured a lot of stuffed animals in my time, and I don't let the fact that I can't sew hold me back. I'm always hopeful that when it comes to grandchildren with injured comfort toys, it's the thought that counts.

So. I was hereby given the task of re-inflating "Kitty," who by this time was pretty flat. I thought I'd never find the hole -- Ty is really good at hiding their seams. Eventually, I did, which brought us to the next hurdle: Where To Find PVC Pellets?

Nowhere around here, I soon learned. And no, I couldn't just stuff her with something else. You can't play fast and loose with the details in a situation like this. The beloved injured critter has to be as close to the Way It Was as you can make it. (Those of you who are not yet grandmothers, please take note.)

There was only one thing to do. I had to sacrifice somebody else's PVC innards. Several somebody else's, as it turned out. But I was very gentle, and I re-sewed all the holes I made. The bottom line is that "Kitty" has been returned to her previous self -- except for the Sponge Bob Band-Aid on what must be her elbow. (Future grandmothers should take note of this, too: Grandchildren like for their wounded to have Band-Aids.)

"Kitty" is looking good now; the sacrificial "lambs," not so much. "You do know," the dh said, looking at their flat little bodies, "these are the ones that are probably going to be worth a fortune."


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Birthday Time

Belated Happy Birthday to Grandboy #1 who turned 14 Tuesday. How that happened is beyond me. I just posted that he'd entered Teenage Boy-hood not long ago. Somehow twelve months passed without my notice.

Anyway, we had a very nice family event -- lunch at the Icheban restaurant (I had the fried rice and vegetable plate) and then back home for birthday cupcakes, chips, Cheerwine (longtime, local non-alcoholic soft drink for those of you who don't follow the blog regularly), pink lemonade, and birthday cake ice cream. And then the birthday presents.

This boy is growing up so fast. (!) His voice has dropped two octaves but of course it yodels all over the place, too. He never knows what's coming out. I try not to laugh at this rite-of-passage affliction, but it's not easy. It's so cute!

He advised me recently that he's thinking of of joining the marines. This is startling to me on several levels, not the least of which is a dream I had years ago when he was still in elementary school, one of my standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and the back door opening -- and there he is, his grown up self, in marine digital print BDUs (the marines were the only ones who had the digital print cammo at that time -- which is how I knew he was a marine). He's grinning and he's proud and his hair is buzz cut practically down to the skull, the kind of haircut he'd never had. It was unsettling then. It's even more unsettling now, in light of the "considering enlistment" revelation. I have cousins who were marines (are marines, they would say). And navy. And army. The dh was in 6 years. Most all of the men in the family have served in the military. But I don't know what I think about this.

He's my boy...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rabbits and Windchimes and Breezes, Oh, My!


video

Sunday afternoon on the patio. Cool breezes, blooming impatiens, tinkling wind chimes. As Martha Stewart would say, this is a good thing.

And not far away, a wild rabbit lolls in the grass. Let me say here that, as a general rule, wild rabbits don't "loll," especially out in the open. They are prey animals in many a food chain. Their vision range is nearly 360 degrees, and they stay on high alert most all the time. Except for this one. She comes out regularly to just...relax. Often she will lie and watch me hang clothes on the line. I don't know why this is interesting to her, but apparently it is. Sometimes I feel like turning toward her and saying, "What!?"

Clearly, she's not the least bit concerned that I might suddenly remember that I come from a long line of hasenpfeffer people.

I've been a semi-country girl all my life, and I've never seen a wild rabbit do this. I once picked wild strawberries alongside one when I was a little girl, but we were both hungry. Lying around like this was so odd to me I looked up "rabbit behavior" on the internet. It apparently has significant meaning among the Family Leporidae:






Life is good.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

THE HELP



I don't often recommend specific books, but I want to tell you that I loved this one. It's what I like to write and what I like to read -- character-driven gravitas with humor, set against an important historical (in this case, the early 1960s) backdrop.

Kathryn Stockett is a stellar writer. Did I say I loved this book?





Friday, July 3, 2009

What I'm Reading/Listening To



















While checking out Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book recently (What can I say? I like "Harry Potter-y" books), I made a discovery. My local library has a wonderful new service -- access to the NC Digital Library. With a library card, a PIN number, a computer and special software downloaded from the library website, you can check out digital audio books (among other things) which can be listened to on your PC or Mac (so far only a few book downloads are Mac compatible) or transferred to you MP3 or iPod. Some books can also be burned to a CD so that you can listen to them in your car. The books are checked out for seven days and you're limited to four selections at a time.

The upside: I love the convenience. Everything is done online, even getting on the waiting list for a popular release. And it's like old times. I grew up doing household chores while listening to soap operas (Guiding Light, Our Gal Sunday, Hilltop House) and variety shows (Breakfast Club, Arthur Godfrey) on the radio, so it's a familiar and enjoyable experience hanging clothes on the line, vacuuming, washing dishes and all the rest of the cleaning while listening to a book I don't have the time or the inclination to actually read. And, an MP3 player with a book on it is also a wonderful thing if you have to go someplace and wait.

The downside: Listening to an author's writing is not the same as reading it, i.e., I get no sense of the writer's "voice." It becomes the voice of the actor or actress who was hired to do the audio version. For example, I can't tell a Jodi Picoult from an Elizabeth Berg or anybody else in the audio versions.

"Voice" aside, some audio book readers are simply better at it than others. Some of the productions are better than others, as well. The Widow of the South, for example had music interspersed for dramatic effect, making it much more enjoyable for me, the old radio listener. Some versions will make a point of telling you when a new chapter begins and there are significant pauses when the narrative switches from one character to another. Others don't tell you anything, or elongate the pauses, which can be confusing.

And some readers are out and out obnoxious. I listened to a non-fiction book (the cover of which isn't above) and found myself insulted on so many levels -- Southern customs, Southern heritage, Southern accent, the South in general. Even the small town where my aunt lives got skewered. Or it sounded that way, thanks to the over-the-top and mocking style of the woman who read the thing. I suppose she wanted to make a very dry and inconclusive book seem witty and exciting. Didn't work, though.

All in all, I have to say I like this new technology. You might want to check your own library to see if they offer digital downloads.


And that's all for this time. Except for my wishing you a HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY...