Exploring Independent Authors and Why Reviews Matter……

I had an interesting conversation with a friend at lunch yesterday and it brought to mind something that I had been thinking about for a while. When you go onto Amazon.com or other sites, you see the option to review a book. While it is true that best-selling authors don’t need the reviews, people often post them because they are excited about the book or sometimes disappointed. For we little known authors though, 4 & 5 star reviews are extra important. As people search for books and consider taking a chance on an author they are not familiar with, they are likely to read the reviews. The advent of E-books has made it easier than ever for writers to be published and that comes with advantages and disadvantages. It greatly increases the number of books available, but also makes it more difficult to choose when you don’t know anything about the author. That’s why features like “Look Inside the Book” are important, but another tool is the reviews.

I, of course, have an affinity for lesser-known authors and now that I have a Kindle, I often take time to roam through, looking for those that I might add to my list of, “Hey, you need to try XXXXX. Yesterdays Are Forever by Andrew Badger was one such book. Since it is a story about two professors in the literary world, it will be mostly keenly appreciated by readers who understand all the references, but it is also the story of a marriage of many years that contains more secrets that either spouse realizes. Anyway, my point is that when you do discover a new author that you like well enough to award a 4-5 star rating, please consider taking the time to post a review. It may not seem to be a big thing to you, but it genuinely can be a big help to the author.

Venturing Into Quilting, Sort Of…..

Cover Small Tonw LiesIf you have visited my website (www.charliehudson.net) in the past week then you already know that Small Town Lies, the first book in the new series, The Helen Crowder Adventures, will be released this spring. Helen Crowder has been born and raised in the small town of Wallington, Georgia and she is an avid quilter. While anyone can enjoy the book/books, they will hold special meaning for anyone who has ever lived in a small town. The series is a part of the American Quilter’s Society (AQS) line of fiction and this is where it gets interesting. This is also what I was referring to in my previous post of Quilting as a Craft.

Although I am not a quilter, I do have an abiding love of quilts and admiration for those who quilt. The manner in which I became involved in this project is somewhat different than my others. AQS put out a call for authors and I was intrigued with the idea. I was very upfront though about my lack of actual quilting experience and when I received the “green light”, I immediately sought out the group of ladies that I was told meet for quilting at the local Community Center on Tuesdays. Actuallly, there is a group on Tuesday and another on Thursday. Anyway, I ventured into the room and explained my situation. They could not have been more generous with me. They suggested I return the following Tuesday so they could bring a number of samples to show me some of the many variations in the world of quilting. I did so and it was a delightfully informative evening. We met another time after that and I will be dropping by this coming Tuesday to let them know that Small Town Lies is available for pre-order and of course, I could not have done it without them.

Later this month I will be traveling to Largo, Florida for a luncheon and auction with a lot of quilters and I have no doubt that, too, will be an adventure for me. I’m having a wonderful time creating Wallington and the residents, and I am gaining an even greater appreciation for quilting. Here is a big thanks to those who have already embraced the craft.

Loving History……

As always when speaking with her, I had a wonderful converstion with Dr. Sally Bauer the other day – a conversation that will be the subject of another post, but in the course of the discussion was the comment about a love of history. This was not the love of history in general, since that is a different subject. We were discussing taking a particular topic that you are interested in – the history of diving in this case – and devoting a great deal of time to seeking out as many levels of the history as you can. Reading or collecting the authoritative books or articles, sure, but it’s beyond that. The vast capabilities of the internet have become an amazing resource of course, yet there is still the search through archives and little known sources. The rummaging around in old bookstores, antique stores, garage sales, small museums that may be either specifically about your topic or related to it. It’s learning what to look for in references that can lead you to other information.

A few years ago, when I was coping with estate issues from my first husband’s mother, (discussed in Your Room at the End) a gentleman came to the estate sale and purchased one of the more expensive items that had belonged to her husband. He also inquired as to if I had certain items from WW II. I thought I did, but couldn’t find them because the woman handling (or sloppily handling as it turned out) the sale had them. She brought them around the next day and I contacted the gentleman to see if it was what he was looking for. It was, and my curiosity was aroused since I didn’t know his name as a friend of the family. In acutality, he’d never met the family, but my father-in-law’s father had been well known in the martime community as was my father-in-law and this gentleman had become intrigued with that aspect of their lives. It was obvious that his interest was genuine and so I let him look at boxes of family history that I had held back, knowing we did not need all of it, but neither did I wish these items to be bought as “old junk”. It was the proverbial win-win. The gentleman was able to obtain some things he would not have otherwise, and I learned about an aspect of my father-in-law’s family that I had been only partially familiar with.

The point to that rather rambling personel anecdote is that people can become intrigued with well-established history or less documented people, events, regions, periods, things,etc., History of all sorts can be a great hobby that can stay with you for a lifetime of enjoyment.

Contemplating Superbowl Menu……

My husband’s chili is the Superbowl stand-by, although we do try and go for regionally appropriate fare. I mean, when it was the New Orleans Saints, how can you not have gumbo? With Baltimore and San Francisco in, it raises some questions. We’re not going to have Cheasapeake Bay crabs flown in, but crab cakes are easy enough to do. Sour dough bread is a given – it’s after that where we need to decide.

My husband does love a good cioppino which is the San Francisco equivalent to the spicy fish stew that we often make and that may well be the route that we take. We tend not to invite a crowd for the game, more like one or two other couples. I guess I should go look for Anchor Steam beer, too – at least I think that’s a San Francisco brewery. Back to the food, however. Tri-tip steak is another California thing, although I’m not sure you can even get that cut around here. There were several places around Baltimore who claimed to have great fried chicken and while it was in fact excellant chicken, I simply cannot accept that as a signature dish. Our respective Louisiana and Georgia ancestry would collectively turn in their graves over that one. So, okay, folks – I’m up for suggestions at this point.


Fringe Finale…..

Okay, just like when the Eureka series ended, we’re coming up tonight on the two-hour finale for Fringe. For those who are fans, you know how complicated the show is. If you’ve never watched it, Fringe is similar to the X-Files that Fox did several years ago. There are parallel universes, different timelines, intertwined characters, questions as to what should be the boundaries of science, and is there an element of fate to love. There have been sad moments in the show and among the questions to be resolved is if some of those tragedies can be reversed. As much as we fans want answers, Fox was pretty cagey when they ended X-Files and let us say that their definition of “providing all the answers” did not meet my definition. Of course, there have also been multiple X-Files movies since then.

I have my own way of wanting Fringe to end, although there are really three scenarios that I will be okay with. It is distinctly likely that we will lose some of the characters and again, if done for the right reasons, I’ll accept those solutions. I do agree with ending the show since quite frankly, I’m not sure how much longer they could have continued considering all the strange events that have occurred over the past few years.

The Puzzle of Yogurt….

Yogurt on the way to being a smoothie.

Yogurt on the way to being a smoothie.

“I don’t like yogurt,” I said to my brother many years ago when I’d taken him out for lunch and we were looking at the desserts to share. “That’s because you haven’t tried it frozen,” he assured me. The dessert in question was crepes filled with frozen vanilla yogurt and topped with hot cinnamon apples.

I trusted him, and did indeed enjoy the dessert. Over the years, I have eaten no telling how much frozen yogurt in a variety of flavors. I have yogurt in smoothies and I sometimes cook with it. Here’s the puzzle though – I still can’t stand to eat regular yogurt. Yes, I’ve tried many different brands, I’ve tried freezing it myself, I’ve tried mixing it with granola, and I can’t manage more than a bite. Why is this? Are there any yogurt lovers out there who can explain it?

Now About Water in Restaurants…..

Yesterday completely got away from me for reasons that I will post about in the future. I had said that I would explain about me and water in restaurants that is related to the subject of straws. I don’t find this to be complicated, but again, it goes to habit and routine of a restaurant staff. I drink water all the time, I mean all day long. (Bottled and fitlered water are different subjects that I’m not getting into in this post.) I especially like to have water when I’m drinking alcohol which is basically any time I’m out for dinner and frequently for lunch. Yes, I thoroughly believe in wine/beer for lunch under most circumstances. Anyway, my husband does not drink water in most of those settings, but might take a sip or two. Therefore, it is perfectly logical for me to ask for one glass of water, no straw, if water is not automatically provided.

I’m fine with a restaurant not automatically pouring water precisely because many people are like my husband and don’t drink it. However, this disparity between us seems to often set up one of three scenarios. The first, as I said in the last post, was I ask for one glass of water and we each get one. Okay, I’ll drink most of his and mine. Or, I can’t get a glass of water without repeatedly making the request and occasionally, I just give up. The final scenario is that I take one sip of water and someone is hovering over me to refill. Granted, once I have water, I can at least let them know not to refill.

We’re going out tonight to one of our regular restaurants, but if we have a new server, as is possible this time of year, it may require a little training. We’ll see how it goes.

About Straws in Restaurants……

“Fine, write a post about it,” my husband sighed the other day when once again, I evidently couldn’t make clear that what I wanted was one glass of water without a straw. That is of course what I asked for, and we received two glasses of water with straws.

Let me explain. I am not an over-the-top environmentalist, but I am a strong believer in sustainability and I take steps in a number of small things. We’ll start with straws. I use a straw for three things. One is for milkshakes/smoothies. Two is when I come from the dentist’s office after one of the many drawn-out procedures that I have had over the years. Three is when I am driving and have a very full cup. That’s it. I don’t use a straw under other circumstances, certainly not when sitting in a restaurant where there is no danger in spilling a drink as I lift it. Now, I admit that me not using a straw isn’t very significant. But if everyone who didn’t actually use a straw didn’t get one, there would be that much less plastic waste to dispose of, and that especially goes true for straws around the marine environment. I specifically ask for no straw and yet, 70% of the time, I get one anyway. Again, if the straw is wrapped in paper, then maybe when I leave it there untouched, it will be put back in the box. (Yeah right, but let’s pretend.) If it’s not wrapped in paper then for sure it will wind up in the trash. As my husband points out, since everyone else uses straws, it’s the norm for a server to give one. Okay, I’ve got that, so who else out there is a limited-straw user? Important note, I do not mean this as a campaign to stop using straws if you like them. I am merely trying to point out that I don’t think I am the only one who doesn’t.

I’ll explain about one glass of water, not two, in the next post.

It’s Three Kings Day……


We keep our decorations up until after Three Kings Day, 6 January

During our combined military careers my husband and I have lived in multiple states, in Germany, Italy, Korea, Puerto Rico, and spent time in Haiti, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. We’ve traveled for pleasure to a number of other countries, and of course have a deep fondness for the Caribbean region. We’ve gained something from all of those cultures and it was in Puerto Rico that we learned about Three Kings Day, the day honoring Los Reyes Magos. This is a custom throughout Latin countries, but our specific experience was in Puerto Rico.

We grew up with the story of the Three Wise Men (also referred to as Kings or Magi) bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the Christ child and the song, “Twelve Days of Christmas”. The Wise Men/Kings/Magi followed the Bright Star that appeared over Bethlehem at the birth of the Christ child, but it took them some days to arrive. Since I have friends and acquaintances who are history buffs, I suppose that at some point I probably heard that the actual twelve days don’t precede Christmas, but instead begin on December 25th with the birth and runs through January 6th, when the Three Kings saw the Christ child. It is therefore January 6th that is the celebration of the Feast of Epiphany, also known as The Adoration of the Magi.

Puerto Rico celebrates Three Kings Day in a big way and no one would think of taking down decorations before then. There are almost as many parties as for Christmas and even though the main presents are now exchanged at Christmas, there are always one or two held back for January 6th. In a gesture similar to milk and cookies for Santa, children leave a small box of hay or straw for the Three Kings’ camels or horses depending on which version you prefer.

It was one of those customs that we enjoyed and when we moved to South Florida and someone made a comment about taking decorations down on New Year’s Day, we immediately said, “No, no, not until after Three Kings Day.” So Happy Three Kings Day for all who celebrate it.









Extra Champagne……

Now this is one of those interesting quirks that other people may have, but perhaps not. The New Year’s Eve dinner was a culinary success and the pork crown roast was lovely. No, I don’t have a photo of it, although there is one in my husband’s phone. I threw in a couple of extra bottles of champagne, just in case, but the guests brought some also, so the two other bottles are still chilling waiting for the appropriate occasion. As my husband said, “We’ll celebrate the weekend.” I suppose we certainly can, yet despite the fact that I drink wine virtually every night, for me there is the sensation that champagne is not a “regular” wine. I logically know that isn’t true, but it doesn’t keep me from thinking that I should have a “reason” to have champagne. I suppose it goes back to the days when there was a genuine price difference and it was something that most people couldn’t routinely afford. On the other hand, being Friday, it is “pizza night”, and I really can’t see myself having champagne with pizza. Okay, out there – does anyone else feel this way about “bubbly”?