Monday, November 29, 2010

Royal Scoop Monday

As promised here is my next tidbit of royal info leading up to the wedding on April 29th. I'm annoyed about their choice of date as I'll be at the Malice Domestic convention on that day, so I'd better let them know that there is no point in sending me an invitation :)

Anyway last week the newspapers in England were coming up with evil little snippets to hint that future princess Kate came from the lowliest of lowly families. Her great grandmother worked in a jam factory while her grandfather had to look after his 6 siblings.

Well, it turns out that was only one part of the story. On her father's side the family were rich industrialists who built the first shopping center in the city of Leeds and helped to found Leeds University..and left a hefty trust so that Kate went to one of the most expensive private schools, Marlborough College.  However, they were always commoners and to the British aristocracy that is a gap that can never be breached.

Small example: I was at a sherry party in the Cotswolds once (snooty area of England) and the hostess beckoned us all closer and said, "My dears, you'll never guess who bought that house across the valley."
And everyone said, "Do tell!"
and she said, "My dears, he's a grocer."
And everyone made expressions of surprise, disgust, horror etc.
And the point is that even if he owned Safeway, he'd still be a grocer to them.

So poor Kate. Let's hope the rules are finally breaking down for her sake.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post-thanksgiving thoughts.

The turkey has been dismembered, the pies devoured and we've all had a chance to think about what we are thankful for. So here's my list :
1. I'm thankful for my family and friends. Money, success, material goods mean nothing if you don't have people who love you.
2. I'm thankful for my health. You can't enjoy anything if you're not feeling well
3. I'm thankful that I live in a society where I am allowed to express my opinions, worship in any religion, have a chance as a woman to run for office, be a judge, or do any job that I choose.
4. I'm thankful that I've been lucky enough to make a good living at what I love to do for most of my life. I realize that success is always a mixture of talent mixed with perseverance mixed with luck.
5. I'm thankful that people like my books. What point would there be in writing books if I didn't have fans?
6.I'm thankful that I can live in a beautiful place, or rather two beautiful places. When I wake up, look out of the window at mountains and sunshine, when I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge or walk through the Sonoran Desert then I feel that all is right with the world.
7. I'm thankful that I've had the chance to travel, to see much of the world and to visit places of spectacular beauty.
8. I'm thankful for a sense of humor so that I can laugh if I take myself too seriously.
9. I'm thankful that I love to read. I'll always have exciting places to visit.
10. I'm thankful that I enjoy singing, crafts, painting, learning new things. I'll never be bored.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Royal Wedding, Royal Scandals

Since I'm heavily involved with royal personages in my life--albeit not living ones--I shall be following with great interest the build up to the wedding of William and Kate (or Katherine as we are now supposed to call her).
So visit this blog every Monday for latest snippets of royal gossip, royal scandals from the past and juicy details for royal watchers.

I'm starting off with a couple of really juicy details to share: the first were the comments made this weekend by the Bishop of Willesden, in North London. (blogger note--I didn't even know they had a bishop in Willesden. he must be a very minor one!) Anyway this clueless guy posted on Facebook that he thought the upcoming royal wedding was a ridiculous waste of public money and that the couple would be divorced within seven years. He went on to compare it to the lavish celebrations for Charles and Diana, whom he refered to as Big Ears and the porcelain doll, reminding people what happened to them. He could not have been more offensive and said he'll be in France on the day, celebrating with other republicans.

Note this is a Bishop of the Church of England, the head of which is...THE QUEEN. He's attacking his employer, essentially and IMHO should be out of a cushy job, standing in an employment line. That will make him rethink his views on republicanism!
Anyway, he's apologized today, or been made to apologize. How stupid not to think that the world would pick up his Facebook comments.

There have been outcries about the cost in UK, but the complainers don't stop to think that the wedding is projected to bring in 260 million in additional tourist pounds for the event. It will make a profit, however expensive it is to the tax payer, and both the queen and Charles have already said they plan to foot a good part of the bill.

So do you think it's a waste of money?

And one other juicy tidbit for today... Kate's great grandmother worked in a jam factory. I told you it would be juicy, didn't I? 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Made in the USA

This blog and a similar post on Facebook seem to have opened a whole outburst of frustration among a lot of people.
It seems we all feel strongly about buying locally, buying US made goods, keeping jobs in the USA.
So I've been looking into having bumper stickers made saying BUY LOCALLY MADE IN USA.
If you're interested, let me know. I'm trying to get a feel of how many to order.
You can comment here or email me at

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chinese Eyes

I was in a hurry to buy a new eye shadow yesterday. I grabbed one from the shelf that seemed to be the right shade. As I was standing in line I read the words "Made in China" on the back. It was returned to the shelf and I had to leave without one. I'd never really looked before and now I wonder how much other stuff made in China I've put on my face. I've nothing against the Chinese but any country that can put poisonous additives in baby formula and kill pets with tainted pet food can most definitely shove mercury/lead etc into my eye shadow!

So then I had to look at all the other cosmetics I buy and I have to report--buy the good brands. All the reputable brands are made in the USA, except for my other favorites like Lancome that actually say Made in France.So no more impulse buys in future without checking the back. (You'll notice they don't put the ingredients on cosmetics!)

All this checking and double checking on all consumer items is becoming annoying. I found some lovely looking salmon the other day then saw that it too came from China. With the polutant levels in those waters I simply can't risk my health.
I've already becoming selective about where my clothes are made. I won't buy anything made in certain Central American countries where girls work in sweatshops. I am somewhat leery about buying from China as one never knows what the conditions might be like for their workers. But it's a difficult choice. If I don't buy that item, will that sweatshop be forced to close, thus leaving those girls with no work at all?

My daughter and son-in-law worked among the poor in Juarez Mexico for three years. Of course this is the site of the maquilas--the factories owned by US companies where US goods are made without any US regulations. My son in law tried to talk to factory managers to try and improve conditions for workers, and you know what those managers said to him?  "If you make things difficult for us, we'll simply close up and go somewhere else."
Which would mean no income at all for those people.

So all these well-meant decisions come at a price--and the knowledge that it's not always an easy matter to make the world right. And I haven't even touched upon the fact that all those Made In China sweaters mean one American garment worker out of a job. In my book For the Love of Mike I depicted the conditions in the sweatshops in New York at the turn of the century and the brave girls who defied odds to form the Ladies Garment Workers Union. That union brought imporoved conditions but also made American goods more expensive.

So the question is--are we prepared to pay more for goods that are made here? I'm trying to adopt the European attitude and buy fewer clothes--but good quality, preferably made in the USA. And I'm definitely going to look carefully at what goes on my face.I think you should too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not going gentle into that good night.

I am currently between books. I've sent off Naughty in Nice and I have to start the next Molly book in January, so I'm reading up on Tammany Hall and Irish politics. We're in Arizona and the weather is perfect. The desert beckons, there are great restaurants and yet I am feeling guilty because I'm not working. I should be starting a short story. I should be finishing my travel book on Australia.

I have to face that I am not good at doing nothing. I feel the need to be working all the time. And this is not good because most of my friends have retired or are approaching retirement. They are happily playing bridge, taking art classes or volunteering. And I--I cannot picture a life without writing, without working to deadlines, without flying around the country and making speeches. I keep telling myself that it would be good to slow down and not push myself so hard, but in truth I don't want to.

Luckily both series seem to be in demand still, my sales are still good, so there is no need for me to slow down my pace, but I can't help looking to the future. Will there be a time I have to stop writing, and if so, what would I do with myself all day? It's a scary thought. So I'm interested to know what others contemplating retirement feel about it. Who else intends to go on working for ever? Who looks forward to doing nothing? Am I unique?

Friday, November 12, 2010

In the Dog House?

I've just come back from speaking at a fundraising event for a women's garden in Dallas, and I've spent this morning cleaning the kitchen after two days of husband being on his own. I've swept the crevises in the floor from where he decided to make breadcrumbs. I've discovered new gadgets bought to replace perfectly good gadgets. I've even discovered a new tea pot (bought to replace a perfectly good tea pot).  And I've loaded half washed sticky implements into dishwasher.

So I'm wondering--would somebody please invent a boarding kennel for husbands when wives have to go away?

It could consist of nice little cubicles with recliner, TV and remote, computer desk, small fridge full of beer and a bed. Every day he could be let out to socialize with other husbands on benches at the back of the property where there would be a horseshoe court or bocce ball for those who felt energetic. He could even be walked to the nearest pub  and back for exercise.

He'd be served all the meals he likes that I won't cook ( shake and bake chicken,  for example). He'd be left alone to potter and do his thing and he'd be in heaven.

I'd be willing to pay anything. Someone please set one up near me soon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Don't Do Serial Killers!

I am probably the last person in the universe to read The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. Spoiler alert--if there is another person after me who has not read it, please disregard this post. I shall give away plot points.
For the first two hundred pages I was
a. enjoying it as an interesting read but
at the same time wondering why it generated so much buzz as it was not particularly exciting or unique.

Then I got to the nitty gritty and found that the family secrets included a branch of sadistic serial murderers. And that was it for me. I don't do serial killers. I find them a real cop-out for the mystery writer. I would much rather read about an ordinary, normal person who has been driven to kill by circumstances that might put any of us in his position. I like to see all my characters as humans to whom I can relate. 

The twisted warped mind of a serial killer may be fascinating as a psychological study, but it doesn't play fair with the readers on the whodunit level. Obviously a good serial killer leaves no motive clues, because the only motive is his crazy gratification.

So I had hoped that the skeletons within the Varner family in TGWTDT would have been those of greed, betrayal, fear... those motives with which we can identify.

So please share your opinions. Do you enjoy serial killer stories? Do you think that writers write about them because they are shocking and scary and thus have 'bestseller' potential?  Did you like the GWTDT? 
Do you think it deserved the hype?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Good Old Days?

My umbrella broke in the wind the other day and I was reminded of that song about the man who mended umbrellas. Can you imagine being able to make a living mending umbrellas? Yet there were also people who earned their living repairing shoes, re-tailoring clothes, even collecting old rags. There was no throw away society when I was growing up.

And in those days milk was delivered to the doorstep. So were newspapers. Sheets were sent to the laundry once a week. The window cleaners came every Wednesday. The piano tuner every couple of months. On buses there was a conductor to collect the money. At stations there were plenty of porters to carry the bags. Theaters always had a live orchestra. And the point is that all these people could earn a living doing these jobs, and we could afford to pay them.

The cost of living and wages have risen so steeply that all the above have disappeared. Likewise the big corporations have shipped manufacturing jobs abroad, the banks have shipped their service centers abroad. It makes one wonder what jobs will be available for the generation now growing up.

I had a long chat yesterday with a young man working as a bagger at the supermarket. He's also a college student and asked me if I thought his generation lacked the drive and enthusiasm of former generations, who had wanted to make the world a better place. I said I thought he had grown up in bad economic times which had created a depressing atmosphere for many young people. In the past we expected to get a good job after college. This is no longer true. In fact in some parts of Britain there are people who will never work in their lives. There are no jobs in areas that used to be coal mining, ship building etc.
So what's the answer? Obviously the bright young people will make jobs for themselves. The next Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will do fine. But how can a country sustain itself and flourish if there aren't enough jobs? My own daughter has been unemployed for two years now. And she applies for several jobs every day. And she has great credentials and work experience. She's been reduced to part time babysitting and office work in an attempt to keep her head above water.

As a writer I watch as the e-book gains momentum, wondering what that will do to my future book sales. obviously I don't make as much from an e-book as from a hardcover. And then there are the pirated e-books being offered free on the internet. Almost every day my name shows up on one of those sites now. The music industry has the same problem. I remember when we'd rush to the music store the day the new Beatles song came out on a 45. (I realize this dates me)

So what do you think is the answer? Where are we heading? Is there any good news for our young people?