Friday, January 1, 2010

XXXI - January 2010


I hope you all have your black-eyed peas and hog jowl for good luck, along with the collard greens to put money in your pocket.

Resolutions? I resolve not to make them.

Peering out from the dark winter time into another year . . . somehow, unbelievably it's 2010! These are uncertain times . . . in the book world as elsewhere. Book stores closing, newspapers cutting review sections . . . 'Don't quit your day job,' I tell the aspiring writers in my classes.

"May you live in interesting times" is said to be an ancient Chinese curse. And these are interesting times, for sure.

But the days are getting longer again; the snow -- 'poor man's fertilize' as the old farmer calls it -- has enriched our fields; and the seed catalogs promise that Spring is coming.

I expect it to be good.

Here's a slide show with pictures from the big snow that knocked out our power for five days. Click on the picture to enlarge and to read the captions.


Deborah E. says: Your photos have inspired me to get out and take photos of the everyday places and things around me, and I have enjoyed it so much. Some of the photos will be used to paint from, others just to enjoy or share. Some I have enlarged for my husband's office. This really make me happy. I enjoy taking pictures so much -- I'm delighted if I've been the cause of someone else discovering this wonderful pastime.

Pat in east TN writes: I read your newsletter and noticed that several folks have read THE HELP. It's an all time favorite of mine and I can't help but recommend it to anyone/everyone. I am anxious to see what this author comes up with next. I'm now reading ALEX STEWART, a book I won on THE BOOK HOUSE blog. Very interesting man who lead quite a life way back in the mountains of east TN. Both on on my TBR list, Pat! It's just a matter of time . . .

Eleanor in Florida loved Olive Kitteredge, btw...and will now do Time Traveler's...I too am tempted by The Help. You should read Julius Winsome too. Thanks, Eleanor -- I always like your recommendations!

Sue P has been reading: The Inspector Rutledge series by Charles Todd, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, The Last(?) Inspector Wexford by Ruth Rendell - The Monster in the Box. As always, so good. Necessary As Blood by my sort-of neighbor, Deborah Crombie.
I'm definitely a Charles Todd and Deborah Crombie fan -- will have to check out the others as well.

Sue also says:Got a Kindle for Christmas, and while I will NEVER give up real books, this will be fun for traveling, or instances like now when I am trying to read the new Stephen King (Under the Dome) - all 1100 pages of it. Especially in bed. It keeping conking me on the head. If I traveled more, I'd be very tempted by the Kindle.

Esta writes: I recently picked up a copy of the children's book The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, and thought it might be something you'd enjoy. It's set in Western NC, the story is simple and moving (and rings true), and the illustrations are gorgeous.

Carol from Fletcher is: Reading thru the Liz Reader, Exerpts from the Late Elizabeth Daniels Squire, Miss her and Her Peaches Dann character!


The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad: A look at a world I can hardly imagine.

Passenger from Frankfurt by Agatha Christie: One of her much later books --- and it was on the NYT Best Sellers for twenty something weeks. Far-fetched fun.

The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys: Historical vignettes that are poetic evocations of London over seven centuries. Amazing writing. And good reading at this cold time of year -- for a reminder of just how deadly winter can be.

Shop Class As Soul Craft
by Matthew B. Crawford: An examination into the dignity and satisfaction of doing things with your hands. I really liked this -- considering it's something I already believed, not surprising.

The corrected page proofs of Miss Birdie's book, The Day of Small Things, are on their way back to New York. So now the ball's in their court.

Next up -- cover art. I sent a suggestion for a cover some while back but have no idea what they're planning. Sadly, Jamie, the woman who's been responsible for all my other covers, was let go in the significant down-sizing that went on at Random House a while back so I really don't know what to expect. Jamie read and liked my books and I think it showed in the covers she designed.

We shall see.

And eventually there will be ARCs - advance reading copies -- to be sent to reviewers and potential blurb writers. And at long last, come September 28, there'll be the book itself.

But now I have to concentrate my efforts on finishing Under the Skin -- the next Elizabeth book.

And after that . . . who knows? Another spin off about the Melungeons, Ish and Mariah, perhaps? An Elizabeth book using all the Myrna Lou story that got removed from Birdie's book? I have several other good ideas percolating in the back of my head, but the uncertain climate in the publishing world may be a factor in whether I get another contract . . .
Like the blue heron, I shall cultivate serenity . . . and a wait-and-see attitude.


Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

Great report Vicki! I want an ARC ! :)

Anonymous said...

Great photos Vicki, especially the ones with the cardinals. Gorgeous!!

Judy Patrick
Washington, DC

Susan T said...

Those cardinals are the look of hope for the New Year. Thanks, Vicki, for the inspiring beginning for 2010!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog!! and your pictures!! I always feel so comforted while reading your blog. I always look forward to reading any of your books.

Sandi from Pittsburgh

Vicki Lane said...

Heaven only knows when they'll be available, Carol!

Thanks, Judy and Susan -- those birds are camera magnets!

What a nice thing to say, Sandi! I do try to avoid the depressing side of life -- mostly. So glad you enjoy the words and pictures!

Jon Michael Riley said...

Vicki, About "The Help", which Janna and Bryan have already read and I am reading now because both of them said "You gotta read this." I'm struggling with use &/or develop as in "The Help" or to trim and not enter that possible Pandora's box. Besides, I'm white middle class and feel on very thin ice when it comes to writing 1960s era Black speech. I do remember you saying something along the line of be very careful about writing dialect, that publishers are now shying away from that. But look at "The Help"!!! Okay, I can't resist: Help!

Vicki Lane said...

Jon -- I haven't read it yet but I took a look at the opening pages on Amazon. I think Stockett has chosen the middle ground -- kind of the same thing I do with the Appalachian dialect.

She isn't doing the dropped g thing -- i.e.,talkin' -- but I think we can still assume that her characters all drop their g's.

She seems to be fairly sparing with phonetic stuff -- and what she does use, like lemme and gimme, are pretty well known so they don't slow the reader down.

Basically, she's using a few simple characteristics and speech patterns so that the 'help's voice is distinct from that of the white women. Gone for going, they for their -- I think it works very well.

As little "dialect" as you can get away with while still establishing your character's unique voice would be a rule to follow. That and being pretty consistent in how you portray the character's voice.

The big thing to avoid is making your reader puzzle out what it is your character's saying. I'm not crazy about Stockett's use of a for of but after a page or so I got used to it.

Sue P said...

Good Lord, Vicki! Your photography is beginning to rival your writing! The creativity you have, along with your artist's eye, make some of your photos just breathtaking. You should seriously consider entering them (like the Blackeyed Peas and the Cardinal in Snow) in a competition. Looking forward to the book! Happy New Year, my friend!

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Sue! Of course, living where I do affords me lots of photo ops! (It's snowing again.)

Victoria said...

Interesting times, indeed! A little too interesting for my tastes, though. I want our old climate back. We used to have around 4 feet of snow on the ground this time of year, but the ground is completely bare. It's cold, but dry.

Love your photos, especially the one taken from under the snow curling off of the roof. And, of course, I always love to see pictures of Eddie! Tell Eddie and Miss Susie Hutchins my cats say "Hey!"

Glenda Council Beall said...

Vicki, your photos are exemplary. What kind of camera do you use? Your pictures are clear and crisp.
And thanks for the lesson on dialect. I often have students ask me about how to use dialect and you have given the best answer I've seen.

Vicki Lane said...

Victoria -I've given your message to Eddie and Miss Susie Hutchins but they say that the existence of any other cats is a myth.

Hi, Glenda -- The first picture was taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 -- which is a wonderful little camera. The others were taken with my new love -- a Nikon D90 SLR with an 18-200mm Nikkor lens -- which is a GREAT camera. (It does stuff I haven't learned how to take advantage of yet but it is also pretty terrific on a more basic level.)

RE dialect -- I've had a few people say they had trouble with it in my first two books and I've tried to get more sparing, as I told Jon. Mostly, I get good feedback about the way I use it. Glad what I said made some sort of sense to you!

Ann said...

The black eye pea and hog jowl is interesting. What do you do with them?

My mum cooked blackeye pea as a substitute protein, but my husband and kids don't like them, so I don't cook them. As we are meat eaters, mum slightly mashed them and recook them in some fatty pork.

Thanks for memories.

Vicki Lane said...

Hello, Ann, Are you in Australia or NZ? I checked your blog briefly but couldn't tell for sure.

Here in the southern USA it's traditional to cook these foods on New Years Day. I boil a bit of the smoked hog jowl along with the black-eyed peas for more flavor to the peas. I also simmer the greens in beef broth and water with a bit of hog jowl -- and onion and hot pepper and garlic.

Thanks for stopping by!