Decatur Book Festival 2014

Okay, bookworms, tonight is the official start of the Decatur Book Festival. It’s Joyce Carol Oates, so it’s SOLD OUT. Never fear, though, there are all sorts of goodies coming your way on Saturday and Sunday. In fact, my only problems so far are that I can’t see Joshilyn Jackson speak because I’ll be moderating. Then I’m speaking at the same time as both Pearl Cleage and Raymond Atkins. Le sigh.  So far, I’m at least clear for Karen Abbott, and I’m crossing my fingers and toes that I’ll make it over to Amanda Kyle Williams.

In case you can’t tell, authors are my rock stars.

Even better? The Decatur Book Festival has a brand spanking new Romance Track. We at Georgia Romance Writers have a shiny new pavilion. For your personal edification, I’m putting a list of ALL the romance events on one handy sheet. Be sure, of course, to check out all of the awesome authors that will be at the Decatur Book Festival. I would be honored if you came to here me speak–even if you’re just there to heckle.

Saturday, August 30

10:00-10:45 Tackling Sensitive Topics in Fiction GRW Pavilion

Marilyn Baron, Melissa Klein, Linda Joyce, Kennedy Ryan

 

11:15-12:00 Small Towns and Furry Sidekicks GRW Pavilion 

Diane Kelly, Larissa Reinhart, Sally Kilpatrick, Tina Whittle 

 

12:30-1:15 Smart Girls Read Romance GRW Paviion

Maggie Worth, Sally Kilpatrick, Jennifer McQuiston

 

1:45-2:30 Sexy and Intense Decatur Recreation Gym

Rachel Gibson and Jennifer Armentrout writing as J. Lynn

What happens when a New Adult genre author and a romance author team up on a DBF panel? Things heat up.

 

1:45-2:30 #WeReadDiverseBooks: African-American Popular Fiction GRW Pavilion 

Alicia McCalla, Seressia Glass, Piper Huguley, Vanessa Riley, Lauren Kelly

 

3:00-3:45 Beautiful and Sultry Marriott Conference Center Auditorium 

Lindsay Evans and Nicki Salcedo

Tough but fragile heroines and their gorgeous, wealthy, would-be lovers

 

3:00-3:45 Blurred Lines: Historical Fiction and Romance GRW Pavilion 

Jennifer McQuiston, Cathy Maxwell, Lynn Cullen, Ann Hite

 

4:15-5:00 Athletes and Alpha Men GRW Pavilion 

Rachel Gibson, Tracy Solheim

 

5:30-6:15 Book Club Meet & Greet GRW Pavilion 

Readers and authors mingle

Sunday, August 31

12:00-12:45 Young Adult Fiction: Why YA Matters GRW Pavilion 

Gillian Summers, Maureen Hardegree, Jana Oliver

 

1:15-2:00 AWC Erotica Panel Marriott Conference Center Auditorium 

Miasha and Shakir Rashaan

The Atlanta Writer’s Club presents a panel of erotica authors with new works.

 

1:15-2:00 He Said/She Said GRW Pavilion 

Charles Martin, Tracy Solheim

 

2:30-3:15 Triumph of Turbulent Love Marriott Conference Center Ballroom B 

Abby Niles and C.L. Wilson  

Fantasy romance meets modern day romance

 

2:30-3:15 50 Shades of Sex GRW Pavilion

Terry Poca, Maggie Worth, Nicki Salcedo

 

3:45-4:30 It’s Not Just Peachtree Street: Writing Around Atlanta GRW Pavilion 

Romily Bernard, Jana Oliver, Nicki Salcedo

 

5:00-5:45 Your Deepest Desires Marriott Conference Center Auditorium 

Sheree Greer and Fiona Zedde 

These well-established romance authors will share their sensuously written stories of lesbian love and desire, both set in the sweltering, sultry deep South.

 

5:00-5:45 Where the Husbands Are Decatur Recreation Center Gym 

Cathy Maxwell and Jennifer McQuiston 

A conversation about writing historical romances

 

5:00-5:45 Book Club Meet & Greet GRW Pavilion 

Readers and authors mingle

PTA Madness

That’s right. I’m breaking out the Susan Powter. I think we all know what that means.

So I go to the Meet and Greet at each school. We meet the teachers, buy the agenda, and see what crazy thing they’ve done with the buses this year. Then I have to face the PTA table.

Stop the Insanity.

I beg of you.

It’s the PTA, not a sports team looking for sponsorships. Nevertheless, we parents have options.

  • Membership Level $6–Basically this is meant to be the loser level. This is your basic membership, nothing more–and it’s just good for one person!
  • White Level $50–My problem here is you get an unspecified number of memberships and coupons. You do not, however, get the class shirt that you are “required” to buy for field trips and.  By the time you pay the $10 for said shirt, you might as well get the next level up. I think that was the insidious intention. (And you can deduct a paltry $47.05 on your taxes.)
  • Crimson Level $75–Here you only get a $10 voucher for spirit wear (enough to get your class shirt), all the coupons, and, again, an unspecified number of memberships, a bag and pen and magnet and  (And you can deduct $60.31 on your taxes!)
  • Platinum Level $100–You get everything in the Crimson level but then you also get a $20 spirit wear voucher AND add a stadium blanket and a frisbee, too! Besides, it’s platinum! This is where everybody who’s anybody is going to be! And did I mention the stadium blanket? (And you can deduct $64.61 on your taxes!!!!!!!!!!!!)

On a scale of one to even, I cannot.

This is a PUBLIC SCHOOL.

What the heck? What are these people doing with all of this money? I was on board for paying $50/family and not having to do a fundraiser. That seemed more than equitable to me. Then one day I turn around and $50 won’t even get me the frickin-frackin class shirt? Are we doing some kind of humanitarian aid with this money? Or, and this is just a thought, are we busy showing off how much we can donate while actually decreasing the number of donations because people like me are about to throw our hands up in the air and pay for “loser” memberships because we’re done? What about those of us who now have kids in two–or heaven forbid–three schools? Are we really expected to cough up $100 per school as well as all the school supplies and a new wardrobe? Apparently, because the middle school has adopted similar levels. At least their third tier is a reasonable $25 and includes entrance to school socials.

But wait…here’s the kicker. When I went to elementary school Open House (Yes, this is different than Meet and Greet. No, I don’t know why we need both of these.) the president of the PTSA touted the membership options and proudly declared there would be no fundraisers. In the next breath he asked people to support….a fundraiser. *face palm* To top it all off? I didn’t even get a copy of the PTA budget at Open House this year. Gee, I wonder why those weren’t readily available….

Now, maybe I’m just a jaded and cynical former high school teacher. (Okay. I am. We all know it.), but this is ridiculous. At the middle school, one teacher said, “And we could really, really use donations of Kleenex. By the time December rolls around, we’re out, and the kids have to use toilet paper!”

Guess what? When we run out of Kleenex in La Casa Kilpatrick, we have to use toilet paper. Oddly enough, we’ve all survived to date. And for 7 of the 8 years I taught high school, my students ALWAYS had to use toilet paper because I wasn’t allowed to ask for Kleenex. Mis angelitos? They, too, survived. (Year 8 I taught on the East Side. I’m pretty sure you can request and will receive just about anything on the East Side.)

Y’all. We gotta stop the insanity. It’s a public school, not a let’s-see-how-much-money-we-can-donate contest. Basics, people, basics.

*steps off soap box*

*blows nose on toilet paper*

It’s a Dry Town!

So let’s talk about dry towns. First of all, take a look at this handy-dandy map that I borrowed from the Wikipedia page on the subject. Notice anything interesting? Why, yes! We southerners sure do like to have dry towns. I come from a county that still prohibits both liquor sales and selling drinks in restaurants. I think you can get beer at some of the convenience stores but that’s about it.

I found a couple of interesting pieces on Prohibition. Here’s one from PBS on the Unintended Consequences of Prohibition. This rather long and scholarly article on Did Prohibition Work? is a nice counterpoint to what we’ve been taught. As in most things, prohibition can’t be explained in black and white terms. A couple of really bad things came out of prohibition. First and foremost, a bunch of people were suddenly out of a job. Bigger companies like Coors and Anheuser-Busch managed to find alternative products to produce, but many other beer and liquor manufacturers simply closed their doors. Wineries were also out of business, although the first article points out that the laws were a little more lax on wineries so some home manufacturers managed to skate by.

So scholarly article argues that Prohibition did, indeed, work in the sense that alcohol consumption did decrease. Some of the problems, though, were that organized crime did get worse thanks to prohibition. The first article also points out that about a thousand people a year died from improperly made alcohol because….illegal and thus no oversight. Also? There were plenty of folks who supported prohibition but didn’t think it would be as extreme. They drank in moderation in the home but wanted to get rid of public drinking in places like saloons. Well. Prohibition took care of the saloons but not the public drinking. Suddenly women who were drinking on the sly were out at the speakeasies because that, my friends, is where the liquor was. One of the worst consequences of prohibition, though? Inebriate asylums closed because, ostensibly, there was no need for them. People who were drinking to excess, then, had nowhere to go for help. It’s no coincidence that AA was founded in 1935 after the repeal of prohibition.

A couple of other interesting things that came out of prohibition:

  • There was a loophole for farmers if their grape juice wasn’t fermented. California farmers made what they called bricks and then sold them with this warning: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.” (from Wikipedia article on Prohibition) I’m surprised they didn’t go ahead and write wink-wink, nudge-nudge on those warnings.
  • Churches were still allowed to have wine for sacraments. Church enrollment increased. Do with that what you will.
  • Theaters, amusement parks, and restaurants actually suffered under prohibitions because people didn’t go. (Probably because they were at home drinking that grape juice that they most certainly did not put in a jug in the cupboard for twenty days.)
  • The idea of “dirty cops” comes from this period. Many law enforcement officials remained honest, but there were enough federal agents and state/local officers who took the money that the stereotype damaged the people’s trust in law enforcement.
  • Alcohol regulation is no longer under the jurisdiction of federal government, rather in the hands of a number of local counties or towns, for the most part.
  • More binge drinkers. While most Americans actually followed the law and stopped drinking during prohibition, there were others who started drinking for the first time. And when they started? They were partying not just having a glass of wine with dinner.

    Isn’t he dreamy?

Interestingly, The Methodists led the charge for prohibition. Up until recently, the vows of a Methodist minister still included abstinence from alcohol. That’s why you’ll see articles on Bible studies in a bar led by, say, Lutherans, but I haven’t run across a Methodist one yet. I let my preacher, Luke Daniels, be a little avant-garde, I suppose. Oh, and one last thing: Welch’s grape juice? That comes from devout Methodist Thomas Branwell Welch’s development of pasteurization for unfermented grape juice to be used in communion.

And that’s part of the story of how I had a character create a Bible Study in a bar that sat just over the county line from a church. Having a representative of the ultimate teetotalers meet a band of folks who really didn’t care for temperance in anything meant instant conflict. Now, for your amusement, take a look at one of my favorite songs, Miranda Lambert’s “Dry Town:”

Flashdance Ice Bucket Challenge: Behind the Music

First things first, we need to get something out of the way:

ALS Grab

ALS Grab

On Friday I finally accepted the #ALSicebucketchallenge. We decided to have a little fun with it. Okay, a lot of fun with it. Ryan and Her Majesty did the filming, and I got to do fun things like ride a bike and dance in place and have ice water poured over my head. Now, if you’re skeptical about what this has to do with anything, I hear you. I seriously considered taking the Sir Patrick Stewart approach, which you can see here. One, I don’t have P-Stew money. Two, a little research revealed that the amount of exposure from the videos has been incredibly helpful so I thought, “Hey, I can make a dork out of myself for a good cause.”

The first time I really understood what ALS is–beyond that it’s the disease that made Lou Gehrig quit playing baseball–I was sitting in Melanie Sumner’s class. She was working on The Ghost of Milagro Creek, a novel narrated by the ghost of a woman who’s died from ALS. While we were in class, however, Melanie told us more about ALS, about what happens to a person who has been diagnosed. She would know because she lost her husband to the disease. Her descriptions left me horrified on her behalf–and that of her husband–some of those details are now fuzzy, but I remember thinking sufferers sounded like prisoners in a body that slowly but surely quits functioning.

Still not sure what all of the fuss is about? For the basic info, check out the Web MD Overview for ALS. For something more personal, this article, Ice Bucket Challenge All You want, But Understand ALS, tells the heartbreaking story of a Chicago man who’s been diagnosed with the disease. Hopefully, you’ve decided to donate a little money yourself to this worthy cause. You can do so here at the ALSA donation page.

One of the most fascinating and heartening parts of the Ice Bucket Challenge is how it spread due to people who felt really passionate about a cause. So, and here’s the real challenge, I challenge you to find a cause you feel passionate about and work hard to make the world a better place even if it’s in a small way. Author Kennedy Ryan donates 25% of her personal royalties to help families who are raising kids with autism. She’s passionate about that cause because she, too, is raising a kid with autism. I plan to donate a portion of royalties to a different charity for each book. For The Happy Hour Choir, I’ll be choosing a charity that helps victims of domestic abuse. For book 2, it will be Heifer International, and for book 3, it will be the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

For the past few weeks, I have felt passionate about something else: the events in Ferguson, Missouri. No video I make can help, but I will be donating money to both Wellspring Church and to the Ferguson Municipal Library. (No fancy receipts for those–I’m even mailing the check to the library) If you want to find out more ways to help in Ferguson, This article (How to Help Ferguson Get Food, Counseling, Education They Need) has lots of options.

Okay. That’s a whole heckuva lot more money talk than I like. So let’s end on a way to be cost-efficient. Need snazzy leg warmers like the ones I wore in the video? You, too, can have your very own pair of surprisingly comfortable leg warmers by taking a pair of men’s socks (I’d suggest asking first), cutting out the toes, and jamming those bad boys up on your calves. Voila! The first pair of leg warmers I’ve owned since 1985.

Thanks for watching, laughing, and hopefully donating. Here’s my #ALSicebucketchallenge video:

 

And for you young whipper-snappers, here’s the original Flashdance music video:

 

 

 

Raw Umber, 1981

Crayons retired in 1990, courtesy of Wikipedia

I decided this week I would take a stab at Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Here’s my story:

 

Yesterday Daddy said me and Dontrell couldn’t be friends anymore.

I tried to tell him how Dontrell was sepia and I was tan. Daddy told me I was white, and I’d do well to remember it.

I don’t look white. I’m not a snowman! Mrs. Wilkins told me to use the peach crayon. I am not peach. Matthew is peach. Mama says they used to call that “flesh” when she was my age. I don’t see as how “flesh” is just one color. I mean, Dontrell and I both have flesh but it’s not the same color. Luisa is more of a Burnt Sienna. Jill is raw umber.

No one wants to be raw umber. It’s the color of poo.

Maybe that’s why Jill sits by herself at lunch.

Mrs. Wilkins gave me a nudge the other day and said I should sit by Jill. I was afraid she’d smell like poo, but she doesn’t! She smells like strawberries. She told me her mama buys her that kind of Bonnie Bell chapstick. That’s what my mama buys me!

I liked sitting with Jill. Least I did up until Neely Beth told me she wouldn’t play with me anymore if I sat with Jill again. Neely Beth is mean. Mama says she is spoiled rotten. But if I don’t play with Neely Beth then I won’t get invited to her birthday party.

Neely Beth told me she’s going to have a real pizza party at Pizza Hut, and I get to go! I feel bad about not sitting with Jill, but my family doesn’t eat pizza much. Like ever. Daddy says it’s foreigner food. He says we need to eat our beans and taters and be happy about it.

Today Mrs. Wilkins said she hoped I’d think about sitting with Jill again because how would I feel if none of the other girls wanted to sit with me? I told her she needed to ask Neely Beth. Then she gave me that angry teacher face with the lips like she ate a lemon and those little lines up on her forehead between her eyes.

I don’t like it when Mrs. Wilkins is mad at me. It gives me a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mama says that feeling is disappointment. Come to think of it, I don’t like to make her mad either. I make Daddy mad no matter what I do.

Hey! If I’m going to make him mad, then I might as well sit with Jill. That would make Mrs. Wilkins happy. Come to think of it, Jill was nicer to me than Neely Beth ever is. Jill shares her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and her mama cuts the crusts off for her.

Yeah. I’m going to sit with Jill. Mrs. Wilkins says we can be anything we want to be if we work hard enough. She told me I’m a smart girl, a kind girl. No one’s ever told me that before.

Today I’m going to sit with Jill which means tomorrow I’ll have to sit with Jill. But that’s okay. When Neely Beth calls me white trash, I’m going to tell her about the sticks and the stones. I don’t need her mean pizza.

 

When Chuck threw out colors, my first thought was about all of the colors that Crayola retired back in 1990. If you want to take that walk down memory lane, then you can read the Wikipedia article. About the time I was six, I remember very distinctly coming across an off-brand peachish crayon that was still marked flesh. My mom frowned and started picking out all sorts of colors and asking me if I thought that was a good name for a crayon that only matched the flesh of a very few people and didn’t even match mine. She’s a genius at teachable moments, that mother of mine. I was in high school when Crayola started to discontinue several colors, including Raw Umber. We were still outraged at the loss of some of our favorites. Also, I’d like to point out that Beaver is a color. Can we get a campaign to take care of that perchance? Oh, and last thing, an important thing: that story is totally NOT based on my life. Don’t send my Daddy hate mail. He did NONE of those things. You know this. You’ve seen us all at the pizza buffet.

Guilty Pleasures: The iPod Edition

When I hit the last song of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack yesterday, my iPod started spitting things out at me randomly. I jammed along with Miranda Lambert’s I Can’t Be Bothered and then Will Smith’s Pump Ya Brakes came on. This was followed by the NKOTB classic Baby, I Believe in You. Considering I’d started my day with classical music on NPR, I realized my musical tastes are, um, . . . eclectic?

Then Ryan admitted to still liking Milli-Vanilli–and you all know you can sing the words to those songs. Well, the whole thing got me thinking: what are some of the guilty pleasures on my iPod? What are some of the guilty pleasures on yours?*

Let’s start with some of the songs from this NPR article, The Worst Songs of All Time? I’ll confess I’m really over Starship’s We Built This City, but I still like Brown-eyed Girl, Mambo #5, Escape Club’s Wild, Wild West, and Toto’s Africa. Come on. “I bless the rains down in Africa….”

Wanna take a look at vh1′s 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever? They start with Sunglasses at Night, which I sure as heck wouldn’t list as one of the worst. What? The Final Countdown? If that song were truly heinous, you wouldn’t be singing it right now. And you know you are. Oh, and I’m not buying Never Gonna Give You Up as among the worst. Bonus: you just got Rick-rolled!

So what little gems will you find on my iPod other than the ones above? All sorts of things. Here are a few of the ones I bet you’ll scorn:

1. Anything by the New Kids on the Block. Hate all you want–it’s got a beat, and I can dance to it.

2. Shake Ya Tailfeather. It’s on my running playlist. It amuses me. “I got so many keys you think I’m valet parkin.”

3. The shift from Alan Jackson’s Amazing Grace to Ludacris’s Area Codes. It’s only jarring if the iPod is going alphabetical for some reason.

4. The Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, Fergie, Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears, Paula Abdul, Spice Girls, and Will Smith. Not sorry. Lots of great songs for the running playlist. OWNING IT.

5. Gangnam Style. Yep. I have it. See above.

6. Three Glee Compilations. Things happen. Not only do I like their Christmas work, but I can play their versions of Empire State of Mind and Golddigger when the kids are in the car.

7. Ray Stevens. Okay. His oeuvre can really wear thin, but it’s worth the giggles from the back seat.

8. Ticks by Brad Paisley. I’m sorry, not sorry. Ticks is freaking genius. That’s the kind of guy you gotta give bonus points for creativity.

9. Too Legit to Quit (Hey hey).  Look, I am too legit to quit. Again, it’s on the running playlist.

10. Songs about the sexy. In those 30 minutes or so a day when I’m running, I need to make positive affirmations. Maybe I’m bringing Sexyback. Maybe I’m Sexy and I Know it. Or maybe I’m Too Sexy for this list. You don’t know.

You know this song makes you want to dance like a Monty Python character.

Some things you might not expect?

1. Movie soundtracks. I’m particularly partial to Last of the Mohicans, Amadeus, Pirates, Marvel movies, and anything by John “The Man” Williams.

2. New Orleans Jazz. I have all the jazz. Love the jazz.

3. This weird song by 2Nu called “This Is Ponderous.” It defies description. You’ll have to see if you can find it on iTunes.

4. Mac Davis “It’s Hard to Be Humble.” Well, it is. Especially when you’re perfect in every way.

5. John Denver and the Muppets. Wait. That probably doesn’t surprise you all that much. 

6. Lotso country. I finally found country music I could appreciate. I’m partial to Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, and the aforementioned Brad Paisley. My theme song is Boondocks.

7. Jay-Z’s MTV 

8. Things in Spanish. I’m a hipster Shakira fan because I liked her back when Columbia House was comparing her to Alanis Morrisette. (Psst! She’s better!)

9. All the Glenn Miller and all the Scott Joplin. For reasons.

10. Disco. It’s a sickness, but I love me some KC and the Sunshine Band. It’s good for housecleaning.

I know there were more songs on my iPod–especially in the rock and rap variety–but then I had to downsize a bit. What about you. What’s on your iPod? *waggles eyebrows*

P.S. Quite a few of the songs on the Guardians soundtrack wouldn’t be on my list of faves if not for the movie. I’m looking at you, Escape (The Pina Colada Song)

P.P.S. Don’t think I feel guilty for a minute about anything on my iPod. You shouldn’t, either.