About Mother's Day

May 10, 2010
Mother's Day approaches, andthis year is significant to me for two momentousreasons. The first is personal, the second, professional.

I learned a few weeks ago that my daughter, Rachel, is pregnant with her third child. This was totallyunexpected and, actually, just short of a miracle. After conceivingher first child with no trouble at all, she and her husband worked for four years to conceiveagain. Eventually, they resorted to in vitro fertilization to get sonnumber two. Now, three years later, without any assistance frommodern medical science, God and Mother Nature did their thing, and so this Mother's Day finds me celebrating the imminent arrival of a new life.

My only quarrel is with their timing. This will be the third grandchild with a November birthday.Plus my husband's, plus my sister's. Throw Thanksgiving into the mix, andthe eleventh month is a crowded one for the Brown family!

Now to the second reasonfor this Mother's Day being particularly significant. My son Ryan'sdebut book, PLAY DEAD, goes on sale May 4th.

I was both gladdened andsaddened when he told me he was writing a novel. Gladdened because hewanted to work at something that I love so deeply. Saddened because I knewhow rough the road ahead would be for him...as it is for every writer.

I realized that he would fall asleep each night gnawing on the plot elements of his work in progressand fear that they might not be as brilliant as he had originallythought, and then wake up every morning sick with anxiety andsure beyond all reasonable doubt that whatever talent he'd possessed the day beforehad been stolen by the Evil Creativity Thieves while he fitfullyslept.

As a parent I got a littlequeasy knowing that he would soon dread looming deadlines, andnit-picky copyeditors, most of whom declare that they couldn't possibly write anovel, but who have no compunction whatsoever against tearing into yours andunderlining all your stupid mistakes.

No doubt Ryan will come to resent critics, those who have a byline and are paid totrash your work, and those self-appointed anonymous ones on the Internet whooften express their opinion in the vernacular vein of: "This booksucked."

(That they're sometimes rightdoesn't make it any easier to have it out there for all the world to read!)

So, yeah, just as Ryan inherited my aversion to heights and love of Tabasco, I fear that he will come to experience all these professional anxieties, too.

And maybe -- hopefully -- he'llalso experience some of the joys of being a fiction writer: Getting a starred review. (Which he already has done in the March 1 issue of Publisher's Weekly.), receiving a fan letter that is so heartfelt in its praise that it brings tears to the eyes, seeing passengers on the bus, subway train, or airplane thoroughly engrossed in your book. And of course, composing that one sentence that doesn't make you want to throw up....stuff like that.

So, a heartfelt thank you to both my children this Mother's Day. To Rachel for giving me another grandchild to spoil, and to Ryan for an autographed copy of PLAY DEAD.

Both have done me proud!

Family Traditions

January 05, 2010
Why do I hear Hank Williams Jr in my head? The one Christmas tradition we have in my family is that the traditions keep being altered. When I was a kid, we always packed up and drove 250 miles to my grandparents house, where I got to see my number one favorite cousin. Santa Claus always -- miraculously -- found my sisters and me there. One smart cookie was Santa. He worked around our not being at our house. Flash forward a decade or two and my grandparents are no longer with us. MY parents were the grandparents, and we spent every Christmas Day at their house with my four sisters and their family. A horde of about 30 people. Loud, noisy, lots of food and fun. Then I lost my parents, and suddenly (not sure how it happened) my husband and I are the oldest in the family and everyone now comes to us. The kids would come home from college, my sisters would bring their families...again, a loving noisy horde. This lasted a few years. Then my children got married within three months of each other and we added two more children to the family, but NOW we had to split the holiday with INLAWS. Who had their own traditions (weird ones, if you ask me) and their own timetables (which invariably conflict with ours) and so we settled on having Christmas Day at our house only every other year. The "off" year being the one where the kids, and now our precious grandsons, go to the INLAWS and observe all those weird traditions -- like Boxing Day. Okay, I'd almost learned to behave like a grownup about the whole sharing thing, when last year (MY year), I was informed by the kids that they want to be at home on Christmas morning so the grandsons could experience Santa Claus. So now, I have to compete with the only man in the world who holds more influence than a grandparent. Don't they know how smart he is? More importantly, how in the world did my children not get the memo about Santa finding the little ones anywhere?!?!

Let The Countdown Begin!

November 16, 2009
I don't count down the days to Christmas. Instead, I count down the days to Thanksgiving, because it's one of maybe a dozen days a year when I cook. Kind of like with writing, if you don't cook habitually, you don't acquire good cooking skills. Hence, the countdown. Not with anticipation, but with anxiety. Give me a chapter that needs work any day over preparing a meal. I don't even attempt baking a turkey. A baster looks like something that belongs in a doctor's office, and an examination you dread. As for stuffing a cavity. . . No thank you. If I tried deep frying the bird Cajun-style, which is delicious, I'd catch the house on fire. So, I order a smoked turkey from Greenberg's in Tyler, Texas. These delicious turkeys are world renown and they arrive ready to serve except for carving, which my husband does. So I never actually have to touch the fowl except to eat it and the main course is taken care of. That leaves only the side dishes, and heaven forbid they vary from one Thanksgiving to the next. The menu is etched in the stone of family annals. Which means the slicing, dicing, and chopping is the same dreary chore each year. I allow a day and a half for that alone. The cornbread for the dressing (I'm from the South, and it's dressing, not stuffing. See above.) must be made days ahead of time so it can get to the proper state of staleness...You get the idea. This one meal takes up a week of my life each year. But on Thanksgiving Day, it's worth it. The family is so proud. I guess making the New York Times bestseller list doesn't impress like ambrosia. And they get so misty over sweet potato souffle. (From the recipes of Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House in Savannah) In fact while I was writing this, my daughter called and asked what I was doing. I told her, and she said, (I swear) "You're going to cook? Sweet!"

Being Web 2.0 is Hard Work

October 27, 2009
A year or so ago when my assistant, Amie, who’s the Internet guru of the office, came to me and said, “We need to talk about your blog,” I thought she was referring to a figure flaw. “I agree,” said I. “Something must be done. Soon.” Long story short, I’m now providing blog entries. But not very faithfully, I’ll admit. Amie persistently says, “You need to update several blogs. What’s happening in your life? Do you have anything for Facebook?” See that’s the thing. Rarely is anything happening that I think my readers would be interested in knowing about. Apparently I’m wrong. I’ve been told by many to “Get a clue.” So I got a clue, and I’m doing blogs. And, honestly, it’s fun. But here’s the hiccup: my readers will also expect a book late next summer. If I fail to keep you updated on the tantalizing details of my everyday life, it’s because I’m busy writing. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for your interest. Your continued support means more to me than I can express. I want to repay your loyalty with the best possible stories I can write, which take time, energy and concentration. Please bear with me if days or weeks go by without my checking in. I promise you’re on my mind. Thank you!