Reading between the lines

Okay, the agent to whom I last submitted my chick lit has finally replied with an e-mail rejection. I’m trying to read between the lines, as usual.

“Hi Shalanna — I’m sorry to take so long to respond to this — I’m sure
you’ve moved on with it by now. I’m just not able to take on that many
new clients right now so I think I’ll have to pass, but you are clearly
on the road to success and I wish you well.”

So. What does it REALLY mean, aside from the obvious–my book didn’t grab her or “send” her or whatever the current vernacular is? She didn’t think it would sell immediately, of course, or else she’d have taken on a new client (an easy sale would not be passed on.) However, she says I’m on the road to success. So the book must not completely be on the road to SUCK-cess. What I NEED to know is whether she thought the pace in the opening was too slow, whether this wasn’t chick lit, or WHAT exactly it really was. She had an exclusive (I suppose I didn’t tell her that), so it hasn’t gone elsewhere yet.

I wonder whether I might reply with a brief e-mail thanking her for considering the title and asking whether she had any advice–as in, was the pacing too slow, was it not a chick lit, or what the REAL problem is. Of course, sometimes you just don’t particularly LIKE something. I find this is true when I browse the bookstore. Things that others seem to think are wonderful just bore me or don’t move me. The lack of sparkle is not something I can correct. But maybe there is something that I *could* correct.

Maybe she was just being nice with that road to success remark. She doesn’t want a bunch of nasty e-mail from people she has rejected, after all. Though usually it’s the “not right for us” remark that gets appended.

I really can’t survive the endless marketing thing. There are people who are wildly well suited for it. But what I need is an agent. I feel strongly that my books have an audience out there, and that all of these people who turn it down are just ripping themselves off of the money they could make off me. However, they don’t care. There’s other stuff they’ll bet on, and they’ll win a few, lose a few. So (as I’ve said before) the Universe may not be inclined to have me doing this. If that’s the case, I would really appreciate some kind of sign. I mean a sign toward what I AM SUPPOSED to be wasting my time on, I mean doing.

Anyhow. What do you read between the lines?

(That gave me an earworm. You know in “If You Could Read My Mind,” where Gordon Lightfoot says, “and if you read between the lines you’ll know that I’m just tryin’ to understand. . . .”)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Piano!

Yes, I *have* been asleep. Woke up because I’m too tired to sleep.

We went to that piano party last night. I’ll post about that later. (The kicker is that if you have already read that previous entry that I’ll post later, you already know what I haven’t written yet. Um, my timesense hurts.)

I played. I waited until after the guy who played the Brahms Intermezzo #1 (!) and a few Beethoven scholars and some jazzmen. Then I waited for the host’s children to take another turn. After *that*, I got up and played a movement of a happy Diabelli sonatina to warm up, and then went into Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” (from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and other Charles Schulz “Peanuts” specials). THAT one, they recognized. A good time was had by all. I hardly screwed it up at all (I got to going too fast–my wheels skidded down the runway–but I slowed it back down). And the oldest of the children came over yelling, “Was that the Charlie Brown music? Where did you get it?!” Actually, I learned it by ear. But there IS sheet music for the main theme (without the improv interludes) that I’ll be sending to them, partly in thanks for hosting the party.

Then someone else got up and played a Beethoven sonata I wasn’t familiar with. When I came over (after he finished) to ask what it had been, it turned out it was Op. 49, No. 1. Wow! Because I just learned Op. 49, No. 2 (easier). That’s a pair of “easy” sonatas, at least “easy” when measured by the yardstick of other Beethoven sonatas. So I couldn’t resist sitting down to play mvt. 2, the “Tempo di Menuetto” of that one. Then (naturally) I had a memory lapse 3/4 through, and held up my hands to say, “Well, that’s all for that one,” and they yelled, “Wait! Want the music? We’ve been sight-reading along with you!” That’s piano nerds for you. But I was getting tired, so I just played a quick medley of “Try to Remember” (from The Fantasticks–it was a hit single when I was a little bitty kid, and I remember my cousin taking me through the dime store when she went and got it out of the 45RPM racks. She paid a dollar, I think. Yes, I’m ancient) and “Unchained Melody” (the song everyone remembers as being in “Ghost,” the movie, but it’s really an old Righteous Brothers tune). That one is always a crowd-pleaser. So I did my brave deed for the evening. And I got to play on an AWESOME Petrof grand (7+ feet) with a much heavier action than Nellybell, my 1930 Schumann baby grand that came through Mama’s house fire and was restored (but was already soft-action because it had belonged to a piano teacher.) Man, you’d really have strong fingers if you played on that piano all the time–I mean, the Petrof. It was a real beauty. “Beauty,” as the Canadians on the “Red Green Show” say.

But the IMPORTANT part is that I got this recipe for


2 cups flour
1 cup Quick or Old Fashioned oats (uncooked)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup to 1 can (for moister cookies) Libby’s pumpkin (I use almost the entire can)
1 cup to 1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips (I used the whole bag because I like chocolate!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients, set aside. Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add pumpkin to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips. For each cookie, drop 1 tblsp. cookie dough (in the shape of a piano) on a non-stick cookie sheet. The recipe says to bake for 20 minutes, but I only bake mine for 17 minutes.

**Wow**! I wish I could “legally” eat one of these. I’ll probably make them for the Rubber Stamp Maniacs meeting later in the month and just CHEAT and eat a couple. I’ll just have to suffer with high blood sugar for a while and work it off. Suffer, suffer, suffer.

But they do sound good, don’t they?! Let me know if you make them before I do (which will be around the 24th.)

Happy memories of Dallas’ special place, the Olla Podrida

This article about a Dallas developer contains a paragraph that caught my Googly-eye. But don’t bother to click the link; here’s all you need to know.

“The Olla Podrida, a specialty shopping center converted from an abandoned warehouse*, utilized recycled building materials and architectural antiques. Containing 88 specialty and craft shops, artists’ galleries, antique[s] retailers, and classrooms, it was one of Dallas’ most popular shopping facilities for 25 years. It generated some of the highest sales per square foot of any retail center in the city and was one Dallas’ major tourist attractions.”

*(It looked like an old red barn with three shopping bays, but Heath Coker of Dallas recalls, “My dad bought the land when he was a partner of Trammel Crow and they developed it into the office park called Park Central. We often raced up & down the old runway before there were buildings there. I can tell you that the site of the Olla Podrida was actually the hangar of the old Highland Park airport. I used to ride my horses in them. It was 3 hangars that were turned into a shopping center unlike any other at that time.”)

I loved the place. My friend Linda and I used to find any excuse to go out there for lunch or just to wander around. There was a shop that was made like a cave; it sold Australian opals. That was the first time I ever saw a string of those unearthly beauties. Aaarghh. They had a dollhouse and miniatures shop where I got my tiny gumball machine. There was a place where you could browse through all sorts of unusual cards and posters and stationery; Ann and I got prints of the “Strawberry Force,” which was a unique painting of a snail’s transparent shell like in Doctor Doolittle but with everything shaped like strawberries in an underwater strawberry field. (I suppose it was kind of like a head shop.) The Acoma House upstairs sold the first “nacho cheese sauce” I ever had, along with wonderful tortilla chips. A needlework shop there provided me with many a cross-stitch and needlepoint project back when I did that stuff. There was a belly dance shop! That’s where I got my first coin bra and belt, as well as several CDs and a heavy belt made of tiny “bells.” There was a glassblower with a classroom, a homebrew (zymurgy) shop, the Haystack theater where a marionette class for children took place every summer, and a cobbler where you could have moccasins made to measure, and . . . just everything. Wonderful place.

And they say in that article that it generated some of the HIGHEST SALES PER SQUARE FOOT, so it had to be profitable.

Okay, I believe that. So WHY IN THE 3@%&#*@(*) was it torn down several years ago? The excuse I heard was that the disabled persons lobby insisted that EVERY shopping area MUST be totally accessible, and the Olla Pod could not be made to agree. Why could it not have been given a “dispensation,” as the Church used to in the old days? Why did they have to say, in effect, “If you don’t do it our way, you cannot have your building AT ALL because we’re pissy little sulkers?” Is that how it happened? (Note that I have a visual infirmity and am not attacking people who are not “able-bodied” or whatever the official term is; I’m attacking whoever it was as far as the lobbyist who caused this ordinance problem. I am simply saying that the reasoning doesn’t follow logic.)

I think that’s a lie. I believe it was done actually because the land there is now worth so much money. Medical City Dallas is a stone’s throw away. There are big, big businesses that want the area to re-develop.

But the rumor was that it would be too expensive to “update and bring under the new code for accessiblity.” If so, that makes me think less of whoever was supposedly lobbying “for” the disabled; I should have thought they’d be willing to make an exception for such an EXCEPTIONAL tourist attraction. I am hoping that’s just an urban legend, but I remember the Morning Snooze running stories about this. It was something about an external elevator and how the little wooden “footbridge” paths upstairs that creaked wouldn’t hold a wheelchair. Okay, so they wouldn’t; but hey, do I say that since I can’t fit on a child’s swingset or into a little wading pool, that NO ONE may have one? Is that in any way reasonable? Because wheelchairs and so forth rolled around on the LOWER level ALL THE TIME. They just couldn’t go up to the narrow circle that comprised the upper level of shops. (They also couldn’t cross the Swing-Along Bridge at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and they couldn’t climb the Matterhorn or other mountains in the scooter or chair, but don’t TELL anyone because those attractions might have to be closed down if anyone realized it.) It just blows my mind that a minority of the few can ruin something so thoroughly for everyone else. But then that’s why we have all sorts of rules . . . somebody’s going to get something we don’t if we don’t have a rule. The modifications that the code would have required were too expensive and too elaborate for the property owners to implement. They could have “grandfathered” this building in so that it didn’t have to be reworked and STILL have had their new code for other buildings. I just don’t understand why someone was “out to get” this beautiful, special place.

Please don’t think that I’m mean to the disabled. My grandmother had a failed hip replacement way back in the early 1960s when it was still experimental and had to use crutches and a walker (and later a wheelchair) for the rest of her life. Back then when I was a kid, there WERE NO “handicapped parking spaces,” and we often were honked at or yelled at when we stopped at the curb to let her out of the car so we could go and park. She used to have a lot of trouble with curbs and split-level houses and so forth. There were a lot of places she simply could not go (because we didn’t have a man to pick her up and carry her past the obstacle). Nowadays, the disabled can do things on their own more easily, and people don’t even blink when wheelchairs and scooters pass by. Things have improved, and that is all good. What I am saying here is that I don’t expect that there should be NO STROBE LIGHTS ANYWHERE just because I can’t tolerate them any more . . . I don’t say that NO DISCO BALLS MUST EXIST because I can’t handle the flashing . . . I don’t even say that skinny women must be made to gain weight because I’m fat. I just don’t see why ONE EXTRA-SPECIAL WONDERLAND had to be taken from us and demolished over some idiotic complaint about a “level playing field.” There will never BE a “level playing field” for everyone everywhere. There are things that I cannot and will not be able to do because I have some physical limitations. So I live with that, and I’m happy for people who can jump a mile high or who can lift a piano with one hand or whatever. It’s okay if they can do it and I can’t. It’s not as if we’re asking for lots of exceptions to the “accessibility” rule. Just the one.

It’s too late for the lost lamented Olla Pod, though. A Jewish day school has just bought that property. (sigh) The artisans long ago left and scattered across the land. There was talk at first of finding another venue, but it just didn’t happen. The magic is gone. Some idiot mowed down the fairy ring. *poof* in a cloud of orange smoke.

(It’s got to have been the filthy lucre. If they think they can get $$$ for the land, they’d tear down ANYthing. The only way to protect a location is with a historical marker. I’m not sure they couldn’t figure out a way to get around that. My cousin is having to move because his apartment complex is on three acres in Highland Park, and now the owners say they can’t afford NOT to sell and let the developers raze it. Along with all its lovely history.)

It has been ten years or so since the Olla Podrida closed, but I’m still upset.

That stained glass window logo was pretty, too. Wonder who bought the fixtures and stained glass out of the building before it was demolished? Surely someone has it and is using it and enjoying it.

Anyhow . . . I can still go to Scarborough Faire. Craft malls aren’t the same. Maybe Old Sturbridge Village and that kind of place might be similar.

“Olla podrida” comes from the Spanish, literally “rotten pot.” From olla, “pot” (from Latin olla) + podrida, feminine of podrido, “rotten,” from Latin putridus. That nasty connotation aside, the term has come to mean any mixture; a hodgepodge. An eclectic mix.

An Olla Podrida today is a gallimaufry, a salamagundi, a potpourri, a hodgepodge, a miscellany of ingredients cooked together one pot. It appears in Don Quixote as a long, slow-cooked stew, “the rotten pot”.

In 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote of dining on olio, or olla podrida. “To the Mulberry garden, where Sheres is to treat us with a Spanish Olio by a cook of his acquaintance that is there, that was with my Lord in Spain: and without any other company, he did do it, and mighty nobly; and the Olio was indeed a noble dish, such as I never saw better, or any more of.”

The original olla podrida is the mother of all Spanish stews, traditionally calling for chickpeas, chorizo, cabbage, beans, onions, leeks, garlic, and various meats, from Serrano ham and blood sausages to pork shoulder or stewing brisket.

Here’s a recipe I found for it in the form of a chicken, chorizo, and chickpea stew. But the very nature of an olla podrida allows you to use whatever you like. A little bit of everything.


Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 mins

8 chicken pieces (breasts, legs, thighs)
2 chorizo sausages, pricked
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
1/2 a Savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, halved and sliced
2 potatoes, halved and sliced
1 can (400g) chickpeas, drained
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a large pot. Saute the onion for a minute; brown the chicken and sausages. Add paprika, bay leaves, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Add cold water almost to cover and bring slowly to the boil, skimming if necessary. Simmer gently, partly covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas, seasoning with sea salt and pepper if desired, and simmer for 10 minutes.

To serve, remove the meats and cut into hearty chunks. Using a slotted spoon, divide the chickpeas and vegetables between four warmed shallow bowls. Arrange the meats on top, and spoon a little broth over. Scatter parsley flakes on top and serve.

Serves 4.

(I don’t know if I’d ever try this, because we’re not really into stews, but it could be okay. You could even try putting a little wine in it, if you like to try out recipes.)

Who in the hell is up at 4 in the morning wondering these kinds of things?!

Nobody normal, that’s for sure.

Oh, readers. . . .

I have a question for those of you who consider yourselves avid readers. Of fiction–novels, I guess I mean.

There’s a friend of mine who is a bit older (in her 60s) and who has offered to read my manuscripts as a reader. I welcome all that kind of feedback and treasure the “finds” they make that I can fix, so don’t get the notion that I don’t appreciate what she says. She is extremely intelligent and has traveled the world. Yet she’s kind of on the literal side. Many times, I will say something that she obviously doesn’t “get” at all. She’s pretty hip to pop culture, but things can soar over her head. (I’m not talking about my infamous literary allusions, in which I make a funny joke that only classical scholars who have read Aristophanes and Ovid can “get.” At least not THIS time.)

So. I have my poor little heroine in her car in a parking lot, and she starts backing out of her slot only to be “bumped” pretty hard by a pickup truck whose driver started backing at the same time. The pickup’s tailgate was down and a metal bookcase was sticking out of it, so they were closer to collision than either realized. (This actually happened to me–bummer.) And so I describe the situation, and when my character realizes what has happened, she “thinks”:

“So much for my spidey-sense.”

(We’re in a close-up intimate first person viewpoint, so the reader knows these are thoughts.)

Do you “get it”? Doesn’t that make sense as something that a currently living thirty-year-old might think?

This reader ALWAYS clues-out on various things that seem like witticisms to me. I suspect we don’t have the same clue-finder. Yet she loved “South Park” when I made her watch it a couple of weeks ago.

So . . . should I take that one out? I’m too stubborn to do it, but I’m asking “should.” Do as I say, not as I do. 🙂

– – – –

This weekend, I have several invitations for the SAME day. Where were these people when I wanted to go places??

My cousin plans to come down and have me take her to the local Renaissance Festival, Scarborough Faire, on Saturday. It’s over an hour south of here, so we’d be back around four or so. Then there’s a Piano Party that I really REALLY wanted to go to. It’s over in Carrollton and starts at seven. I’ll be covered with mud up to the knees (if past experience is any predictor and guide) and will have to take a shower and change and get something to eat and make sure the dog is fed and that the mother is settled down and that the husband is happy with beans and weenies . . . and then it takes *me* a long time to get places, so even though people tell me that Carrollton/Farmers Branch is only 20 mins from here, it will take me forty-five, guaranteed. And I’ll be too tired to play. Wah!! (I have never been to one of these, but apparently many amateur pianists get together at one player’s house, admire his Petrof grand (!), and take turns playing. I think this would be wonderful! I love to watch people play from close up. And I always THINK that I want to play “Linus and Lucy” . . . until the moment that I sit down to play and can’t figure out what that thing with the black-and-white teeth is and how to work it. It looks like the dashboard of a UFO with levers and pulleys. This is called “unmanageable stage fright.”)

There’s also a Mensa “New Members Party” going on. Officially, ALL board members (of which I am one of ’em) are supposed to attend and greet each of the new members. We are to circulate and be sure that people are made aware of our activities, charity works coming up, trivia parties, contests, and special interest groups. I really REALLY am supposed to go. In fact, yesterday I got a call from the first friend I met when I first joined (and who encouraged me to run for the board) . . . and she was telling me what I could do at the party to stir up interest and participation. She may or may not be able to come herself, because her husband hasn’t been feeling up to par. She’s gonna call me by Saturday to let me know whether she’s coming. I just could not make the words come out of my mouth that “my cousin is coming from out of town to have me take her to Scarborough, and so my lazy butt will be too tired to come to the party at eight.” Hmm.

Now, WHY could these three events not have been scheduled for three different days? Even in a row? I have absotively, posolutely nuffin’ scheduled for Sunday or the rest of the week, at least not anything FUN.

Seriously, I *will* be exhausted after driving for 1-1/2 hrs to the fair, walking around the 13 acres or so doing the activities and taking pictures (and possibly going to the Hair Braiding tent–I always chicken out on this; I always think I might get bugs or whatever, although there’s really no basis for this fear), buying a few things and hauling them all over the footpaths, driving 1-1/2 hrs back, etc. I tire easily in the heat, and it’s already 80 degrees out there during the day. If we actually get there early and leave around 1 PM, it won’t be as bad . . . but maybe she’ll feel she should get to stay ALL DAY so as not to be cheated. I usually go from 9 or 10 AM to 2 PM or so, even though it costs $20, because by then I have seen enough. But then I have *seen* the falconry, the juggling, the joust, the living chess game, the belly dancers, the minstrels, the puppet show, et al. I usually go every summer at least once.

It stinks to be old and tired!! (*Though it still beats the alternative that’s available*)

Pop quiz! Close your textbooks

“Who was your best friend in school?”

That depends on which year. In first grade, Holly Brown. (Clare Ann Jones was our next-door neighbor, but when we started school, she went into a different first grade classroom, so we drifted apart somehow.) In junior high through high school, Linda Cook and Ann Richardson (who weren’t friends with each other–we saw each other at different times.) In college, Linda Loggins and Terry Poot (the latter being a guy–I later had a female best friend Terry, but that was after I was out of school and working.)

“Who’s your favorite singer?” Bobby Darin. Of course.

“What make was your first car?” The first one I owned? A 1982 Chevy Camaro. The first one I drove? My parents’ white 1964 Dodge Dart station wagon with pushbutton transmission and red leather interior.

“Did you ever play a sport? If so, which one?” I am SO not athletic. Still, I did OK at tetherball in fifth grade; three of us used to go out and play every day at recess. I also played tennis in junior high, but mostly just volleying back and forth. As I said, I was cruddy–you had to hit the ball to me.

“What’s your favorite color? Has it changed over the years?”

Orange. Nope, I’ve always been crazy for all shades of orange. However, orange is the most often reviled color, so until very recently you couldn’t find any home decor or clothing in orange. I’m grabbing stuff while it lasts. (I also like pink, and have found that pink and orange can go together in a sixties “Mod,” “Pop Art” sort of way.)

“Which language do you wish you could speak?”

Dog. I think they understand what WE say pretty well (except certain retrievers, who reportedly just hear “Blah blah blah THEIR NAME blah blah”), but I don’t always know what they would tell us. I would say cat, but cats really don’t want to tell you that much. Dogs, on the other hand, are fairly eager to communicate.

“How do you like your steak cooked?”

Well done, crunchy on the inside.

The Unitarian Jihad–Sorry For Any Inconvenience

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Atom Bomb of Patience.

Get yours.

– – –
Yeah, about movies.

In my post earlier, I left out that I think “Ghostbusters” (and GBII) is another well-structured, masterful film. It has the stuff that was marketable–“Slimer” and the various silly stuff with the ghosts, and the Rick Moranis character being way out there, and so forth–so that the kids would have toys and there’d be a craze. And of course the song was a pop bubblegum hit. But there’s a lot more to the film–to both of them. The theme of GB, or one of them, of course, is love . . . Bill Murray is an unlikely knight, but he certainly rescues Sigourney Weaver at the end. Anyhow, I wanted to add it to movies made after 1970 that I can stand.

If you haven’t ever seen “Play Misty for Me”–Eastwood did it first. He/they did it best. The hazards of playing with someone’s affections–especially when that casual score could be a nutcase. The first idea of “stalking.” Wow. It predated those awful Michael Douglas stalker-woman films and still stands up best. And the glorious scenery of Carmel and the Pacific Coast . . . mmmph. I want that house that Donna Mills’ character lived in, on the cliff. Not that I expect to throw any weirdos out the glass door, but I just want to watch the water all the time. I also like the midcentury modern house that Clint’s character lives in. And I love the idea of being a radio personality. I really SHOULD be one. I’m entertaining as get-out on the amateur bands, I am told. Why, they call me (because of my call sign) “university trained idiot” or “usually talks incessantly.” 😉

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”–that’s another 1960s film, isn’t it? But you should see it.

“Saturday Night Fever” was made in 1977, wasn’t it? Or thereabouts. So it’s another “oldie.” But my mom was watching it tonight and I got sucked in. You know, it’s a lot more complex than one would think. Many people got nothing more out of it (it would seem) than “dance and you’ll be happy and applauded and get girls, and then go get into fights and drink.” But it’s a very deep film. It was really about a kid who had lived happily in a circumscribed world until he slowly started to realize there was a larger, better world out there, one that he could be a part of, and tried to start figuring out how he could enter it. And at the end, you get the feeling he’ll succeed.

“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” — Eric Hoffer

* * *

I decided to learn the “easiest” Beethoven sonata because it’ll only take a few weeks to learn and start polishing, as opposed to movements of the later sonatas. It’s Op. 49, No. 2. I’ve already learned the second mvt., “tempo di minuetto.” It’s got some beautiful parts. Now I’m working on the first mvt. I think the opening theme from this sonata reappears in the Emperor concerto.