"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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My Love-Hate Relationship with NaNoWriMo
Let's Take the Survey One Step Further
A Question about a New Book -- or Two
My Favorite March Column
Scammers and Trolls Are Alive and Well Today

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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Spring

No More Spring Cleaning. It's Time for Books!

Things have been quiet around Katzenhaus Books lately, because the boss (that’s me!) has been insanely engaged in the “Spring Cleaning” impulse that arises every year when the weather warms up. When i was a kid, we knew it was finally spring in Ohio when the fire in the furnace was banked and put to rest until fall. But that event brought on the next. Every room in the house was now coated with a fine layer of black coal dust after the winter’s heating. The bathroom and kitchen were not a problem because the walls were painted and could quickly be scrubbed. But the other rooms all had wallpaper, and it was real paper, not vinyl, so we couldn’t apply water to it.

The solution was complicated. All furniture was moved to the center of the room and draped with old sheets. Then we opened the yearly supply of Kutol. This was a nasty mixture resembling putty and smelling like a chemical factory. Actually, it was little more than salt, flour, water, and cleaning substances, kept moist in a can until we took out handfuls, wadded them into ball and started wiping down the walls. As it picked up the soot, the clay turned from pink to gray, which called for further kneading until the dirty surface was replaced with cleaner particles. The process worked, but it was messy, and took days. I can still smell those chemicals.  The advent of the gas furnace was a major turning point in my young life, but by the time we converted the old coal furnace,  I had absorbed a need to clean somewhere deep into my genes. It rears its ugly head every year.

This year the impulse began with a search through the garage for a nail to rehang a picture. My hunt turned up 15 containers of used nails, most of them bent, rusty, or tinged with paint. It also revealed several cartons of household goods that had not been unpacked when we moved here twelve years ago, along with box after box of unsorted photographs. Those discoveries, along with a neighbor’s sidelong glance and offer to help me clean up “this horrible mess,”  were enough to trigger the whole “Spring Cleaning” drive.  I’ve been at it ever since. And once I got started with the garage, it carried over into several closets and my husband’s old office furniture. I’m happy to report that I now have a clean garage with room to park an extra car if I should ever need to, as well as a cozy new “girl cave.”  I still have my writing office, full of books, papers, and computers, all of them telling me to get back to work. But this new room is a place where I can curl up in a comfortable rocker and read or daydream or listen to music without feeling guilty.

All those changes fall into the category of “good news.” The bad news is that I haven’t done any writing, and that includes both the new book manuscript and the usual blog posts. Ugh!  I would firmly resolve to get back to work, except that I’m going to be tied up all next week with a writers’ conference.  So to carry us all over until I can be more productive, I’ve scheduled another book promotion. Many of you have read “Damned Yankee” and wondered what happened to the Grenvilles after the Civil War. Now’s your chance to follow them through the turmoil and challenges of the Reconstruction era. I promise it will be more fun than spring house cleaning!

 Here are the details:

On Saturday, May 21, starting at 8:00 AM (Pacific Time), the Kindle edition of “Yankee Reconstructed” will be available for just ninety-nine cents. That’s a price reduction of something like 80%.  Grab it quickly, because at 8:00 AM on Sunday, May 22, the price will jump to $2.99. That’s still a bargain at half-price, of course. But don’t delay further, because at 8:00 AM on Monday, May 23, the price reverts to the list cost of $5.99. This is a once-a-year bargain countdown deal. The clock will be ticking, and the remaining time will show up on the book’s Kindle page, for those of you who need to convert to other time zones. Click here to grab your copy:


A Spring in (or on) My Step


For most of my life, I have not been particularly excited about Spring. Perhaps it has to do with being an academic. Whether you are a student, facing final exams that could determine your future, or the teacher with piles of exams and stacks of term papers to plow through before an unreasonably short deadline, Spring can be a stressful and hectic season--not one to encourage baby plants. 

Growing up in Ohio also introduced me to how dirty piles of slush can be by April. When we lived in Panama City Beach, Spring only meant hordes of drunken spring-breakers. Moving to Ontario for four years brought no relief--no college students tearing up the countryside but that was because it was still buried in snow. Then came the real heart-breaker--Colorado. The weather warmed, we gave into the impulse to plant something, and then would come the inevitable snowstorm, measured not in inches but in feet. We learned to move part of the woodpile into the garage so that we could access enough to keep a fire going when the power went out for days. Even my birthday in May was usually cancelled because of blizzards.

But now -- finally -- in my dotage -- I'm finding real pleasure in springtime. The azaleas growing outside my living room window have been in full blaze for the past three weeks and show no signs of fading yet. I adore opening the shutters every morning to a blanket of pink and coral. The real test, however, comes right outside my front door. Because I live in a condo community with full lawn and garden service, we are not allowed to plant anything. Now, don't get me wrong. I love those fellows who show up regularly to mow, weed, rake, and trim the bushes. But the inborn impulse to plant something is still strong. So I make do with a grouping of pots, which is allowed (within reason). 

Yesterday was gardening day and I loved every muscle-straining moment of it. I was at the garden shop early in the morning (as was a good portion of the total population of Memphis!), because it was the first guaranteed frost-free weekday of the year.  A quick survey of the front porch before I set out had revealed that much of last year's crop had survived the winter. My summer mums and pansies already had new buds and blossoms. Chives, parsley, oregano, and thyme were not only alive, they were already filling their pots -- the thyme so vigorous that I could not lift the pot because its roots had grown through the drainage holes into the surrounding grass. I had a lot of picking and choosing to get through.

I came home with a big bush tomato plant, eight basil plants, and a geranium to fill the last few sunny spots at the edge of the porch. For the porch itself, almost always in the shade, I picked up some lobelias and impatiens to plant around my little potted juniper bush and a huge Boston fern for the table. (I wanted a small one, but they evidently don't come in size small!)













And if you look closely at the last two pictures, you'll see that I had good supervision for all my planting. That's Nutmeg at the door, checking to see if I remembered to pick up some catnip. Sorry, cat!