"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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Recent Posts

Temporarily Unplugged -- Gone Fishin'
What I Did with My (Last Week of) Summer
Happy New Year!
Meet Theodore Quincy Blackbear
A Fine New England Finish

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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Temporarily Unplugged -- Gone Fishin'


For the next several weeks, I'm unplugging this blog. The Katzenhaus website will remain functional, and I'll post any new developments there. I'll still be bouncing around Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn, and Pinterest. But for now, I'm taking a break from blogging. When I return, it may be with a whole new approach and a new project to which a blog can contribute. But for now, thanks for reading. Check out the rest of the website, and let's continue our conversations elsewhere.


What I Did with My (Last Week of) Summer

What I Did with My (Last Week of ) Summer

The idea of writing a children’s book about a teddy bear grew out of a small disaster in my own family. When I first started thinking about becoming a writer after retirement, this was the story that came to mind. i did my homework. i learned about page sizes and font sizes and the seemingly unbreakable rule that a picture book must have exactly 32 pages. I found that almost all children’s publishers worked with agents, not authors, and that agents who handled children’s books were hard to find. I discovered that most picture books were illustrated by professional artists hired by the publisher, not the author.

All of this sounded like a lot of work for a 32-page book, but i gamely set out to give it a try. I plotted my 32 pages and squeezed the story into a 1000-word bundle. I sweet-talked my husband into invading a local motel with me so that we could take pictures that I could show to an illustrator . And I started the long, thankless task of writing query letters to agents and publishers. Only a few even bothered to respond, and every one of them turned me down because I had never written a children’s book before. Sigh!

So I wrote grown-up novels instead -- six of them -- and published them. Meanwhile, the little story languished — paper copies in a desk drawer, and the powerpoint files I had used to design my pages lost among the files of an old laptop.  . . .  Until! . . .  Until last week, when Amazon sent out a short announcement that they were making available a free Kindle-based program that could take a powerpoint file and format it for a new section of Amazon called Kindle Kids. It was the solution to my every problem.

I ordered the free download, dug out the old laptop, and found the teddy bear story. It was an amazingly simple process: open the powerpoint and make any needed changes — save it as a .pdf file — open it with Kindle Kids Book Creator — make any other changes — save it as a .mobi file (which it does automatically) — and upload ti to Kindle.  Unless you decide to do a complete re-write, the whole thing can be done in about two hours. Then the KKBK guides you through setting the price and the reading levels.  I found only one glitch: right now the page-counter doesn’t work, so it labels all books as being one page long. You’ll have to take my word for it that this is a regulation 32-page picture book.

And here it is— “Teddy Takes a Road Trip” — available only on Kindle or other electronic devices with a Kindle reader.   It is listed as being for children from 3 to 6 years old or for pre-kindergarten through first grade. (I would add that it is also for any parent who remembers a beloved teddy bear!) The list price is $3.99, but you can get it with free shipping through Amazon Prime, if you are a member, or read it for free if you belong to “kindle unlimited.”


Happy New Year!





Yes, I'm one of that weird bunch of people for whom September 1st means the start of a new year. We're mostly academics, i suppose, our lives tuned to the start of a school year. There are a few witches among us--those for whom harvest festivals and Halloween have special significance. And maybe some of us fall into both categories. (No one I know, of course!)

I have been known to argue that a September start is the only one that makes sense. Why would  we want to start a year in January? It's cold, nasty, and after the holidays there's nothing left except for those leftover pine needles that poke holes in  your socks. The Romans made a case for March. The weather is getting better, I admit, but their month of Martius had nothing to do with baby birds and daffodils and everything to do with time to worship Mars (God of War) by setting out on a march to conquer somebody.  Not my favorite pastime. So what's left? July and the start of summer? Nope, not in Memphis, where by July we're sweltering and sweating and swatting mosquitoes. Nothing attractive there, either. No. Give me September, when there's just a touch of crispness to the morning air, when trees start to put on their red and gold show, when gardens no longer need tending, and harvests load us up with delicious and healthy crops.

I can lollygag my way through summer. I certainly did this year. Looking back, now, I can't tell you much of anything i accomplished.  My lone tomato plant put out a grand total of one tomato, and a great green hornworm had part of that one. After May we did no real traveling. I didn't get a tan. I sold a bunch of books, but Amazon was much more responsible for that than I was. I created some Pinterest boards, but that involved nothing more than looking through some old travel pictures. I did serve my Jury Duty time -- and perhaps I helped keep a nice kid-- one who did something really stupid while trying to be helpful-- from paying for it by spending the rest of his life in prison. But if I wanted to make a case for calling myself a writer, this past summer offers no real evidence of any ability to put words on paper.

Then I turned the page on the calendar, and this first week of September has been a very different story. I've published a children's book, written four chapters (approximately 10% of my next novel,) put out feelers to find narrators for two more audio books, and come  up with ideas for a new publishing venture. Looking ahead, I have plans for at least four trips in the next six weeks. and those trips will involve a writer's conference, a couple of book award ceremonies in which I have a least a fighting chance to see something good come down for one of my books, and a visit to a new location that may one day be the setting for a new book.

I'll fill you on some of the details in the coming days as I get myself back into a blogging routine. Stay tuned!

Meet Theodore Quincy Blackbear


He's a very old bear, as bears go, and he's been around so long that we really do consider him a part of the family. He was born in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where black bears are a lot more common than they are in Memphis. He came to us as a gift from a quiltmaker whose work I was admiring. I ended up buying a quilt from her, of course, and the teddy bear came along with it. That was back in the early nineties, and he's been traveling with us ever since.

He's not easy to get along with, however.  He has his own mind about things, and tends to wander away if we're not vigilant.  He's so old now that he's getting skinny.  The nice padding he was born with is pretty lumpy these days and his arms and legs are so floppy that they allow him to squeeze into unlikely hidey holes.

It'll come as no surprise to anyone who knows him that on more than one occasion he has gotten himself lost. But the story of how he managed to be left behind in a hotel, only to be rescued by an observant housekeeper, has always been a special part of his mystique. Now that story is coming to a Kindle device near you, and we'll be inviting you to share it with the little ones you know, as well as with all those parents who never managed to grow up enough to quit loving bears.

A Fine New England Finish

HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PIE


Cut pumpkin into several pieces; do not pare it; place them on baking tins and set them in the oven; bake slowly until soft, then take them out, scrape all the pumpkin from the shell, and rub it through a colander. It will be fine and light and free from lumps.

For three pies:
•                1 quart milk
•                3 cups stewed and strained pumpkin
•                1½ cups of sugar
•                ½ cup molasses
•                the yolks and whites of four eggs beaten separately
•                pinch salt
•                1 tablespoonful each of ginger and cinnamon.
 
 Beat all together and bake with an under crust.

Boston marrow or Hubbard squash may be substituted for pumpkin and are much preferred by many, as possessing a less strong flavor. They are both orange, and have the same kinds of center seeds. What's the difference? Well, a Hubbard squash has very buttery flesh, while some pumpkins can be stringy and watery.  Technically they are both squashes, so think of them this way. A pumpkin is usually flat, while the Hubbard is tall and slightly crooked. 

You'd never mistake this for a pumpkin, but you'll like it in a pie!

And now that we have finished off another section of Nellie's cookbook, I'm going to let it rest for a few days before taking on the influence of South Carolina and Gullah cookery.