Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Warren C. Norwood Page 1 of 2

This square image has a variegated background with a tan-edged, variegated rectangle on a layer floating above the background layer. Three square images from the blog post are arranged on the diagonal across the middle. They overlap each other – but not enough that we can’t see what they are. Design by Jan S. Gephardt.

A Mixed Bag in April

I had a mixed bag in April, when it comes to posts on The Weird Blog . . . and also when it comes to just about everything else, too. My ongoing book review work continues. However, I prefer to blog about books and share their reviews in themed groups of three to five. I didn’t have neatly themed groups of much of anything in April.

Book review topics were only one category of “hodgepodge” in April. I’m also transitioning out of the intense burst of art direction projects (see more below, for those). And because beta reader comments have now come in for Bone of Contention I made another kind of transition, back into working on the polishing round of revisions.

Transitions of that sort are a recipe for “mixed bag.” So are random variables, and we had one enormous new “random variable” in our household this month. In my last novel, A Bone to Pick, my fictional characters Charlie, Hildie, and Rex discovered that random variables can sometimes pack a nasty punch. Our new household random variable wasn’t what I’d call nasty – but he did prove to be extremely time- and energy-consuming.

New husky puppy Moon Gephardt in action: Clockwise from upper left, walking on the wall, chewing on and tossing a toy, and Moon takes a good sniff of Yoshi, while Yoshi sends an imploring look toward the camera. All photos © 2024 by Jan S. Gephardt.
See Credits below.

Meet Moon, Our Random Variable

Moon, our new dog, contributed more than his share to that mixed bag in April. Every new household member arrives bringing challenges. When my son adopted a year-old husky at the end of March, we thought we knew what we were getting into, because we’d had a lot of dogs in our lives. But I gained a whole new appreciation for the “puppy sequence” in the movie Togo after a few weeks of living with Moon. Like Togo, Moon is a Siberian husky.

In true husky fashion, he is intelligent, creative, charming, loving, persistent, and athletic. He’s a wonderful dog. And he’s been giving me an awesome experience to take notes for future books when XK9 puppies come on the scene. He’s also lighting-fast, extremely strong, bullheaded, and needs constant watching.

We have a senior cat, a middle-aged cat, and a middle-aged, somewhat smaller dog. They range from hanging out amicably when Moon’s feeling mellow, to being irritated by Moon, and sometimes to actively being in danger from him. That’s not because he’s mean. It’s simply because he’s so much bigger, stronger, and faster – and he’s a puppy, so he doesn’t know his own strength.

Even when my husband is on the scene, keeping Moon well supervised, especially around our other pets, is challenging. When my husband left for an 8-day trip to help a friend in Mississippi, the “Moon management” effort during the final week of April shifted from “challenging” to seriously exhausting. Let’s just say my productivity took a nosedive.

This montage shows the four illustrations from the blog post “A Proper Balance of Politics and Business,” published on The Weird Blog April 10, 2024. All montages by Jan S. Gephardt. See the original blog post for details from individual illustrations.
See Credits below.

Striking “A Proper Balance of Politics and Business”

As noted above, my Weird Blog post topics presented a mixed bag in April. The first post, A Proper Balance of Politics and Business, explored a question that perplexes many businesses, both large and small: just ask Nike or Bud Light about that! Even we Weird Sisters ourselves differ on what works best for our mutual corporate (as Weird Sisters Publishing) and separate professional balances.

My sister G. S. Norwood generally prefers to eschew any overt political comment. It’s a caution well-learned and deeply entrenched after a professional lifetime of interactions in the business community of Dallas, TX. Politics isn’t a major factor in her written fiction work, either, so it seems quite appropriate to walk a line of neutrality in her professional persona.

In my own work, I find it very difficult – indeed, counter-productive – to attempt to erase general political assumptions and concepts from the worldbuilding of science fiction. The artistic choices one makes in my genre are shot through with political understandings. I think politics in science fiction is kind of baked in. That holds, whether one is commenting pointedly or not. Consider the implied comment of many dystopian visions. Or the assumptions made in a post-apocalyptic setting. Or the ways that political and corporate balances of power are portrayed in any given science fictional story-universe.

This montage includes one of Chaz Kemp’s variations on the “Windhover” space ship in the center. Behind “Windy,” clockwise from upper left are Lucy A. Synk’s “Quadra,” “Thisseling and Rajor Zee,” “Mosseen,” Jose-Luis Segura’s “Mac and Yo-Yo in their workshop,” and Lucy A. Synk’s “Kril, Daytime, with Moons.” The words say, “Astronomicals © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk,” “Windhover ship ©2022 by Chaz Kemp,” and “© 2021 by Jose-Luis Segura,” on the “Mac and Yo-Yo” picture. Montage by Jan S. Gephardt.
See Credits below.

The Windhover Tetralogy as Illustrated Books

From politics to the beauty and potential of illustrated books? Yes, The Weird Blog’s topics were quite the mixed bag in April! Our second post of the month explored the new way that I’m planning to present the “vintage 1980s” science fiction of my late brother-in-law, Warren C. Norwood.

My objective was to give the new reissue editions of his first, four-book series a better evocation of Warren’s wide and wildly inventive imagined worlds. To achieve that, I’ve engaged the talents of three different illustrators, Lucy A. Synk, Chaz Kemp, and Jose-Luis Segura.

We’re tackling this rather extensive, involved project in two bursts of production work. The first one, which started in December and has run through the spring, is beginning to wind down. Other production considerations kick in during the summer, specifically finishing up the Bone of Contention rollout. Then we plan to crank it back up and finish the work this fall and winter, with book release dates in 2025.

For more details, and for more looks at work we’ve finished so far, check theIllustrated Bookspostitself. And I bet by now you see my point about how all the assorted projects and random variables created such a mixed bag in April.

About the Author

Author Jan S. Gephardt Is shifting from the mixed bag in April to focus more fully once again on her own XK9 Series of science fiction novels and shorter fiction in May and through the summer. Subscribers to her monthly newsletter currently have access to more original short fiction set in the XK9s’ universe than is currently available for sale. Her newest title, Bone of Contention, is set to be published September 24, 2024. It completes the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, although the series will continue.

IMAGE CREDITS

All photos in the “Moon Montage” are © 2024 by Jan S. Gephardt, who also designed the montage. The second montage shows the four illustrations from the blog post “A Proper Balance of Politics and Business,” published on The Weird Blog April 10, 2024. All montages were designed by Jan S. Gephardt. See the original blog post for details about sources within the individual illustrations.

The third montage includes one of Chaz Kemp’s variations on the “Windhover” space ship in the center. Behind “Windy,” clockwise from upper left are Lucy A. Synk’s “Quadra,” “Thisseling and Rajor Zee,” “Mosseen,” Jose-Luis Segura’s “Mac and Yo-Yo in their workshop,” and Lucy A. Synk’s “Kril, Daytime, with Moons.” The words say, “Astronomicals © 2019-2024 by Lucy A. Synk,” “Windhover ship ©2022 by Chaz Kemp,” and “© 2021 by Jose-Luis Segura,” on the “Mac and Yo-Yo” picture. Montage by Jan S. Gephardt.

I’m so sorry to have to write this! Change of plans: I won’t go to FenCon after all.

One Schedule-Change

By Jan S. Gephardt

One schedule-change. That’s all it technically boils down to. One simple scratch-out on a calendar. I’d planned on going, but now I’m not.

Except, it’s not a simple thing at all. Not simply one schedule-change. No, it’s actually a whole end-of-summer tipped upside-down in a cascade of if-this-then-that change, after change, after change.

I’m so sorry to have to write this! Change of plans: I won’t go to FenCon after all.
This is one schedule-change I didn’t want to make. (Credits below).

Deciding not to go to FenCon, it turned out (as I knew it would), led to way more than one schedule-change.

I Love FenCon

Okay, so, what’s the big deal? Well, several things. First, I should explain that FenCon is a regional science fiction convention that’s been held in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area since 2004. It’s a friendly, fan-run convention that’s been the subject of several blog posts since Ty and I decided to try it out in 2018. We tried it, and agreed we didn’t want to miss out on any future FenCons!

It quickly become one of my favorite cons. Not that I go to any bad ones, mind you. I love going to science fiction conventions. But there are just some where the appeal is like instant chemistry, and going back each time is a small version of “coming home.” For me, FenCon is one of those special conventions.

Glimpses of past years’ parties, places, art displays, and panel events at FenCon.
Glimpses from FenCon in 2018 and 2019. (Jan S. Gephardt).

FenCon also has the added attraction of being in my sister’s neck of the woods. Each FenCon I’ve attended so far has been followed up by a “Corporate Summit” of Weird Sisters Publishing LLC. That means G., Ty, and I get to hang out and eat, schmooze, and then G. and I discuss, face-to-face, our plans and ideas about where our little publishing venture goes from here.

So, there are lots of reasons why I love going to FenCon. And lots of reasons why I did not want to make that one schedule-change.

This Year was an Extra-Special FenCon

Of all the years I didn’t want to miss FenCon, this year I especially didn’t want to miss it. Above and beyond “I love FenCon.” In addition to the Corporate Summit opportunity. This year’s FenCon was going to be my first con “post-COVID.”

And this year,  Chaz Kemp is the Artist Guest of Honor. How could any con be more perfect for my big return to con-going? Chaz has become a Very Important Person for Weird Sisters Publishing. He’s the man who’s created the Deep Ellum covers. He’s the illustrator whose work will give Warren’s Windhover series a vastly improved set of covers when we release them in 2022. Chaz created G.’s official Author Portrait. So, yes. I wanted to be there to celebrate Chaz.

Covers for “Deep Ellum Pawn,” “Deep Ellum Blues,” and G. S. Norwood’s Author Portrait.
Artwork made for Weird Sisters Publishing, © 2019-2020 by Chaz Kemp.

On top of all that, this year I was going to debut A Bone to Pick at FenCon. If a book’s release is anything like a debutante’s first cotillion, FenCon was supposed to be A Bone to Pick’s “coming out party.”

It’s not as if book releases happen all the time for either me, or for Weird Sisters. This is my first book since before the pandemic lockdowns started. This is the first Weird Sisters release since last September.

I literally timed the release date to coordinate with FenCon!

So, Why this One Schedule-Change?

Of all the conventions, in all of the places, with all of the Guests of Honor—FenCon XVII was the one schedule-change I least wanted to make!

But I made it anyway. Why? Well, if you have to ask, perhaps you’ve lost your Internet connection to your hermit cave for most of the summer. (I mean, everyone fortunate enough to afford to self-isolate has been living in a hermit cave for more than a year, now. The hermit cave is kind of a given).

But just when we were all looking forward to leaving our hermit caves, people started opting out of taking the free, widely-distributed, highly-effective COVID vaccines that had been giving us grounds for hope. They tore off and burned their masks, declared premature victory, and went to Sturgis for a motorcycle rally (or to some other super-spreader-event).

A crowd at the Sturgis ND motorcycle rally.
Many came to Sturgis. Few wore masks. (CNN/Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

And they did this just as the Delta variant of the virus was getting a solid foothold throughout the United States.

The Delta Variant (and its Proponents) are Messing with Texas

Personal responsibility matters. Lack of personal responsibility kills. Regular old COVID-19 had already killed more than 600,000 of us before the vaccines were widely distributed. But those high death counts had plummeted . . . until recently. Once people stopped getting vaccinated, and once Delta took root, the numbers did a U-turn and started to skyrocket.

This is especially true in Florida and Texas. Those two large, populous states seem to have been perversely extra-cursed. They have governors who, in the face of Delta’s surge, appear hell-bent on killing or compromising the health of as many of their citizens as possible.

Outside the Texas Supreme Court building, anti-mask demonstrators hold up signs.
In Texas the anti-mask contingent has gubernatorial support. (Click2Houston).

Texas Gov. Abbott isn’t the only homicidal maniac on the loose in Texas, unfortunately. The Texas Supreme Court recently sided with him. They’re incited and cheered on by certain parents, sad to say. This hamstrings school districts, such as the Dallas Independent School District, that are trying to avoid killing the children who attend their schools.

Does my Language Offend You?

There may be readers who think I’ve used hyperbole, or judged Gov. Abbott and his friends too harshly. But how else should I describe the situation and stay on pace with the facts? There are no available pediatric ICU beds in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, and many smaller, rural hospitals have reached capacity. In the face of these facts, it’s hardly hyperbole to say children are dying. Others may try to be more polite, but I’m sick of that.

Anti-mask, anti-vaccination rhetoric and misinformation inevitably results in more people dying. Hundreds and thousands of people dying. Children are dying in ever-growing numbers. Young, healthy adults are dying. Even vaccinated people are suffering breakthrough infections, and some of them are dying.

A chart from the New York Times shows how Texas COVID cases are climbing steeply in August 2021.
Recent weeks saw a sharp spike in Texas COVID cases. (Chart from New York Times).

This is last year’s movie. We were supposed to be done with this by now. Last spring, when the organizers decided to hold FenCon and I signed up to go to it, we all thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We thought we’d soon be in the clear.

But the “light” is a headlamp on a locomotive called Delta Variant. And the train is driven by anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. I speak for many when I say that the responsible folk who locked down, masked up, and got their vaccinations as soon as we could are furious.

Don’t anyone dare tell me I’m overstating this situation. Honey, I’m holding back how I really feel.

Ripples from That One Schedule-Change

I had been eagerly designing and ordering new S.W.A.G. for FenCon. Guess there’s less of a rush on that, now. I’d been worrying about getting print-edition copies of A Bone to Pick ready to publish in time to have physical books at FenCon. Don’t need to sweat that one, either, I suppose.

I’d been updating my wardrobe, trying to produce new artwork, starting to make checklists and signs. Guess those aren’t as urgent now, either. The party’s canceled. I’m grounded again. Gotta take my ribbons and my bookmarks and my shiny new copies of my happy new book, and go schlump on back inside my hermit cave. Dammit.

But wait! There’s still Archon!

Yes, I’m still scheduled to go to Archon 44 in Collinsville, IL on October 1-3. At least, so far I’m still scheduled to go to Archon. But it’s six weeks away. Six weeks ago, I was still planning to go to FenCon. So, we’ll see. I’m growing more dubious by the day, but I still hope that’s one schedule-change I won’t have to make.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to FenCon XVII for their logo, from the header on their website. The “Raindrop” background is from Facebook. The “COVID-Canceled” symbol is a combination of symbols from “uspenskayaa” and “bentosi,”obtained via 123rf.

All of the photos in the FenCon montage (also assembled by Jan S. Gephardt) are from Jan’s 2018 and 2019 archives.

The covers for Deep Ellum Pawn and Deep Ellum Blues, plus G. S. Norwood’s Author Portrait were all commissioned for use by Weird Sisters Publishing and G. S. Norwood. They are © 2019-2020 by Chaz Kemp.

We appreciate CNN for the photo by Michael Ciaglo of Getty Images, taken at the 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Much gratitude to Click2Houston, for the still image captured from a video of anti-mask protestors outside the Texas Supreme Court in Austin. Many thanks also to the New York Times for its chart showing the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases in Texas. This post wouldn’t be the same without you!

A montage of variations on macaroni and cheese.

What’s Your Comfort Food?

By G. S. Norwood

For a while there, it looked like we might be out of the woods. The rate of coronavirus infections had begun to fall as the vaccination rate was on the rise. The CDC said it was okay for us to go out again, hit the Farmers Market and maybe even take in a movie. But then came the Delta variant. Now we’re all headed back to the bunker again. And what do we crave? Comfort food!

A montage of crowded venues from an earlier post on this blog, with a circular “NO” symbol over it. The circle of the “NO” symbol has the outline of a coronavirus molecule.
Remember those crowded venues we dreamed of last June? The COVID-19 Delta variant has canceled them for now. (Credits listed below).

What is Comfort Food?

I define comfort food as that special meal you turn to when you need emotional support as well as physical sustenance. Maybe it’s chicken soup, when you have a head cold, or ramen noodles when you’ve just been dumped by the love of your life. It’s the Chinese food you must eat while you study for your finals, or the midnight waffles you and the rest of the cast opt for when the performance is over.

Sometimes there’s a ritual element to it. As a kid, if I got a sore throat, I wanted ice cream. But not just any ice cream. For a sore throat I needed vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, served in a coffee mug. I’d smush the ice cream up with the syrup until it was like a thick milk shake, then eat it with saltine crackers. Nothing beats it for childhood strep. It’s classic comfort food.

Montage: Grilled Cheese sandwich with tomato soup; Ham and Beans.
Grilled Cheese sandwiches just naturally pair with Tomato Soup, while Homemade Ham and Bean Soup is classic comfort food.( Dallas Grilled Cheese Co./G. S. Norwood).

More adult-oriented comfort food often includes stuff that’s super simple to prepare after a stress-filled work week: eggs and bacon for supper, or a grilled cheese sandwich with hamburger dills on the side. Leftovers make excellent comfort food, particularly when you’re only cooking for one. Ham and beans that can feed you for a week? The endless possibilities of Sunday pot roast come Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday? There’s comfort in every bite you don’t have to cook.

The Twenty-Four Hour Breakfast

Eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, cinnamon toast, and waffles are staples of the comfort food menu. There’s a reason round-the-clock truck stops and 24-hour diners make bank on this stuff. People who stumble in, weary from the road, don’t need to deal with exotic food. They need basic carbs and protein that their stomachs will recognize and accept without controversy. It’s the International House of Pancakes for a reason, right?

Montage: Picnic foods from Whataburger, a vintage photo of G. and Warren playing music together, and a variety of International House of Pancakes breakfast offerings.
Some years back, G. and Warren (shown here on lap harp and ukulele) wrote an ode to the likes of food from Whataburger and IHOP. (Credits below).

Warren and I even had a song about late night comfort food. The Texas-based fast food chain Whataburger is always open. There was an outlet conveniently positioned between our home in Parker County and the Fort Worth concert venue where we got to see Guy Clark, Joe Ely, and numerous other Americana greats. Once, as the clock neared midnight, we hijacked the tune of the old Doc Watson song, Crawdad Hole, and came up with this ode to comfort food:

Carbohydrates, grease and salt, honey, honey
Carbohydrates, grease and salt, babe.
Carbohydrates, grease and salt:
Top ‘em off with a rich, thick malt!
Honey, oh baby mine!

The Rules

Comfort food is different for every soul who needs comforting. Your choice will depend on your age, your culture, and what your mama fed you when her sweet baby didn’t feel good. Whether you turn to tea and a danish when you need a spiritual boost, or head straight for a quart of Ben and Jerry’s, there are rules we should all observe about comfort food:

When it comes to comfort food, G. lays out Da Rules (a “Fairly Oddparents” reference).
Let these “Comfort Food Rules” guide you the next time you need a “food-based hug.” (Credits below).
  1. You don’t get to make fun of anybody else’s comfort food. Elvis liked peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwiches. Some people toast their grilled cheese with mayonnaise instead of butter. A fried bologna sandwich on white bread can be your best friend in a crisis. It takes all kinds. Let people find comfort where they can.
  2. Don’t go all gourmand about it. Macaroni and cheese with spinach penne, a dollop of truffle oil, and four kinds of cheese that aren’t Velveeta may be delicious. But a moment of crisis is no time to insist you must make your pasta by hand using that massive stand mixer with the extrusion attachment.
  3. Don’t try to make it healthy. Comfort food is loaded with fat and salt. That’s what makes it comforting. If, in your hour of need, you crave tuna casserole the way Mom used to make it, beware. Making it with egg white noodles, low sodium mushroom soup and 2% milk will only plunge you back into despair.
  4. There is no substitute for bacon. You know I’m right.

Mac and Cheese for the Win!

When it comes to comfort food, we each have our favorite. But, after a completely unscientific survey of the friends who still take my weird questions, it has become clear to me that one comfort food rules them all: Macaroni and Cheese.

A montage of variations on macaroni and cheese.
We won’t judge you, however you prefer your macaroni and cheese (well, maybe a little, if it involves truffle oil). (Credits below).

Different generations approach this classic in different ways. When Jan and I were young, our mother made macaroni and cheese from scratch using whole milk, medium pasta shells, and—yeah, gotta fess up here—Velveeta pasteurized, prepared cheese product. Jan was a bigger fan than I was, but she loved it, hot out of the oven with burned cheese on top, or cold the next day in her lunchbox. We made a pact about it. I would get all the tuna casserole leftovers if she could have all the mac and cheese.

By the time Jan and I hit college, Kraft had cornered the market on comfort food mac and cheese with convenient boxed mixes that were supposed to feed the whole family. But c’mon! That little box was single-serving size for famished youngsters for at least the next two generations. Jan’s two children learned to cook it for themselves at a rather tender age, and still reach for it when emotional times are tough.

Classic Comfort

These days, macaroni and cheese comes ready-made in custom-sized servings from individual microwavable cups for your lunch box all the way up to genuinely family-sized casseroles tucked in next to the frozen lasagna at the supermarket.

Gift, the cat, cuddles under author G. S. Norwood’s chin.
My cat, Gift, is also great when I need comfort. (G. S. Norwood).

Grandmothers, hard working parents, busy young singles—they all name macaroni and cheese as one of their top five comfort foods. I even know a four-year-old diva—who should not yet know the need for comfort food—who names it as her #1 go to.

Serve it as a meal. Serve it as a side dish. Dump a whole bunch of it into your favorite bowl and eat it on your couch in your pajamas. However you like it, macaroni and cheese will not let you down. Unlike that user/loser ex-boyfriend of yours who . . . Well, never mind. Take comfort in the fact that macaroni and cheese is a universally understood food-based hug.

What are your go-to comfort foods? Leave a comment below to let us know. We promise not to laugh.

IMAGE CREDITS:

The “Crowded Texas Venues” montage from our prematurely-hopeful “What’s it Gonna Take?” post in May brought together six photos from pre-COVID times. Many thanks to The Dallas Morning News, for both the photo of the Dallas Cowboys game from 2019, by photographer Tom Fox, and the Shed at the Dallas Farmers Market, by photographer Ron Baselice. We thank Second Baptist Church’s Facebook Page and Wide Open Country for the photo of people at a service. Our gratitude goes to Texas Hill Country for the photo of rides at a county fair after dark, and Travel Texas for the undated photo of the unidentified barrel racer. Thanks also to The Dallas Observer and photographer Brian Maschino for the photo from the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

This and all montages in the post are by Jan S. Gephardt. She made the “Canceled by COVID-19” symbol from symbols created for 123rf by “upenskayaa” and “bentosi.”

All Those Comfort Food Photos (and a couple of others)

We deeply appreciate The Dallas Grilled Cheese Company (check them out, when you’re in Dallas!) and G. S. Norwood herself for the Comfort Combo montage featuring grilled cheese with tomato soup and ham and beans, respectively. G. also included the “cat cuddle” pic at the end. We also want to thank Whataburger on Twitter for the picnic pic, Margaret Norwood Donnelly for the Family Archive photo of G. on the lap harp and Warren on ukulele, and City of Aiken, SC Tourism for the photo of menu items from the International House of Pancakes.

Many thanks for the “Da Rules” cartoon image, courtesy of Formula Student Austria. The photo of colorful scoops of ice cream came from The Mom Collective’s Kansas City Ice Cream Guide. Those nachos came from “Picuki’s” Instagram gallery. And the cookies are Peanut Butter Kisses from Scrapality’s “Christmas Cookies Galore!” article. Our gratitude to all!

Far from least, we marvel at the mac-and-cheese munificence from Dinner at the Zoo (bacon mac & cheese) and Benjamin McCormick on Medium (square white dish). We’re particularly grateful for double yumminess from Spend with Pennies (the round white bowl, and the cheddar topping), and Dallas Grilled Cheese Company (again), with the two grilled mac-and-cheese sandwiches. We’re not worthy, but we’re definitely hungry. Many thanks to each of you!

A montage of public events in Texas

What’s it Gonna Take?

By G. S. Norwood

With the number of new COVID-19 cases dropping, and Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, what’s it gonna take to get you out of the house and back into large entertainment venues this summer? I’m thinking specifically of movie theaters and concert halls, but that’s just me. What about sports arenas and churches? County fairs, rodeos, and festivals? Are you prepared to dive back into public pools and farmers’ markets? Just how comfortable are you going into public spaces, indoors or out, where a lot of people gather, with or without masks?

Montage of public events in Texas.
Texas, like the rest of the country, offers a variety of crowded events (see below for credits).

Let’s Take it For a Spin

My youngest granddaughter graduated from high school a couple of weekends ago. She was home-schooled, and the home school association that sponsored the graduation ceremony aligns with the evangelical Christian movement. All of which is to explain why I found myself in a crowd of happy people, celebrating their children’s rite of passage without a mask in sight, and—at a guess—not many vaccinated people in attendance.

But I love Warren’s daughter and her family. My granddaughter wanted me to be there. So I went. Never mind that, only a few months ago, the whole thing would have been a prime candidate for a super-spreader event. I decided to take my fully-vaccinated status, and the latest CDC guidelines, out for a spin.

Go Live? Or go Livestream?

But that was family, and I hadn’t seen any of them in quite a while. What’s it gonna take to get me out to an event that doesn’t involve relatives? Well . . . Maybe money?

Crowded concerts by The Dallas Winds.
Will you be ready to return to concerts like these at the Dallas Winds? (see below for credits).

July Fourth is a big day for the Dallas Winds. Every year, except for last year, we have a concert at Dallas’ Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Lots of patriotic music. Lots of fun. A giant flag drops from above the stage. CO2 cannons fire streamers into the air. A delightful guy in maybe the best Uncle Sam costume I’ve ever seen hands out flags to kids and grownups in the lobby. He used to do it on stilts. It’s a big, old fashioned celebration of patriotism and American music. The concert usually sells out the 2,061-seat house.

As Director of Concert Operations, I’ll be involved in it up to my eyebrows. It’s my job, and I’ll be paid for it. You can bet I’ll be there. But will you?

You will have the option to attend in person, whether the city limits us to no more than 500 socially distanced ticket holders, or lifts the limits and lets us sell the whole house. You’ll also have the option to purchase a pay-to-view livestream of the concert. Are streamer cannons and flag drops enough to get you out of your house after a year without the magic of a live concert? Or will you be content to sit back and watch it on a small screen at home?

200 piccolos and Uncle Sam on stilts join the Dallas Winds on July 4, 2016. (see below for credits).

Two Hours in the Dark With Your Dreams

Speaking of magic, what about movies? As much as I adore a live concert, my idea of the perfect getaway is to sit in the dark for a couple of hours, watching somebody else’s story unfold in front of me on a giant screen. With popcorn, of course. But I haven’t been to a movie theater since November 2019, when I went to see Knives Out.

Movie posters for “The Green Knight,” “Black Widow,” and “Knives Out.”
The author is looking forward to a return to movies in theaters (see below for credits).

Oh, I’ve watched feature films since then, but that was streaming video at home. I had to make my own popcorn and get my own soda refills. Didn’t have to gamble on having time to hit the restroom during the big fight sequence in the middle. I could pause the action for as long as I wanted, go to the bathroom, take the dogs out, maybe order a pizza and wait for delivery. And I was certainly not glued to my chair, bound by time limits to absorb the whole experience right now, the way you are in a movie theatre.

Cinemark is the dominant theater chain in my area. They’ve devoted a lot of their website to detailing the steps they take to make their theaters clean and safe for patrons. You want to check it out? There’s a banner at the top of every page you can click for more information. Or read it here.

Is it enough? Maybe. But maybe it will take all that plus Black Widow. Or The Green Knight. Will Dev Patel on a horse be enough to tempt me out of the house in the middle of the summer?

The Green Knight releases on July 30, 2021. (see below for credits).

What’s it Gonna Take?

2020 was the year of the introvert. We all got to stay home, deal with work remotely, and insulate ourselves from the pandemic craziness outside. But things are opening up again now. Although only 35% of people in Texas are fully vaccinated, we’re going to have to go back out there sooner or later. You tell me. What’s it gonna take?

IMAGE CREDITS:

We have lots of thanks to share, this week. Both videos come from the YouTube channels of their originators. The Dallas Winds and the World Record for Most Piccolos Playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” and The Green Knight Official Trailer in HD from A24. Much obliged!

All image montages were assembled by Jan S. Gephardt.

Crowded Texas Venues

Many thanks to The Dallas Morning News, for both the photo of the Dallas Cowboys game from 2019, by photographer Tom Fox, and the Shed at the Dallas Farmers Market, by photographer Ron Baselice. We thank Second Baptist Church’s Facebook Page and Wide Open Country for the photo of people at a service. Our gratitude goes to Texas Hill Country for the photo of rides at a county fair after dark, and Travel Texas for the undated photo of the unidentified barrel racer. Thanks also to The Dallas Observer and photographer Brian Maschino for the photo from the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Dallas Winds at the Meyerson

Many thanks to The Dallas Winds for the image of their logo, the photo of the crowd listening to a fanfare at the Meyerson, and the “Star Spangled Spectacular” concert (also used in a previous post). The photo of a Dallas Winds audience is courtesy of Culture Pass: Dallas Culture. We thank you all.

Three Movie Posters

Our deepest gratitude goes to Amazon for the posters for the movies Knives Out and Black Widow. The not-at-all-green poster image for The Green Knight is straight from A24, the studio itself. We are grateful to all!

Sabrina and I met in the McAlester OK Wal-Mart parking lot.

How I Met the Hillbilly Girl

By G. S. Norwood

Last Thursday was National Rescue Dog Day. Technically, it’s Jan’s week to write the blog, but she is busy rescuing dogs in the nail-biter finale of her upcoming novel, A Bone to Pick. So I thought I’d mark the occasion with another story about one of the dogs I’ve helped rescue. I’m calling this one, “How I Met the Hillbilly Girl.”

Rescue Required

Rescue groups coordinate their efforts all the time. So it wasn’t really a surprise when somebody from Mo-Kan Border Collie Rescue got in touch with the group I volunteered for early in March 2013. Headquartered in Houston, All Border Collie Rescue had outposts in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Oklahoma City back then. Mo-Kan had spotted what looked like a pure-bred dog in a small shelter in east central Oklahoma. She needed to get out, but Mo-Kan didn’t have a foster for her. They hoped we did.

The woman who worked at the shelter said the dog’s situation was dire. Not only did the shelter euthanize dogs when they ran out of space, they didn’t have separate runs for the dogs. This young female border collie—the shelter called her Sabrina—was in a big pen with a bunch of pit bulls. Some of them were unneutered males. Plus, Sabrina clearly hated the shelter. She was starting to shut down emotionally.

Sabrina in the shelter.
You can tell by the look on her face, Sabrina is saying, “Somebody get me out of here!” (see credit note below).

A Stake and a Chain

One potential foster backed out. Another couldn’t take the dog until the foster got back from a business trip. Meanwhile, the woman at the shelter was getting frantic.

“A man looked at her today,” she told us. “He said he didn’t have room, but he’s gone to ask if his nephew can keep her in his yard. He said he’d pick up a stake and a chain, to chain her out! If I tag her for rescue now, she won’t be available for him to adopt. Sabrina is a great dog. She deserves a better life than being staked out on a chain.”

Somebody had to step up. Even though I lived in a rented house at the time, and already had all the dogs my landladies would allow, I said I’d take Sabrina for a week, until the other foster got back from her business trip.

Warren’s purple truck.
I used Warren’s Dodge Dakota pickup truck for a lot of my dog transports. It’s easy to spot in a parking lot. (G. S. Norwood).

How I Met the Hillbilly Girl

A Mo-Kan volunteer in Fort Smith, Arkansas, agreed to pull Sabrina from the shelter. I would drive north to McAlester, Oklahoma. We’d meet in the Wal-Mart parking lot so I could take Sabrina to my place in Texas, where I’d hold her for the week.

It was cold and cloudy when I pulled into the McAlester Wal-Mart parking lot that Saturday morning. It wasn’t long before I spotted the blue Hyundai I was watching for—and she spotted my infamous purple Dodge Dakota pickup truck. (It was Warren’s. It’s hard to miss.)

Sabrina was more than happy to get out of the car and take a deep breath of freedom. Then she sat on my feet, leaned on my leg. Jumped up to wrap her front legs around me and give me a kiss. Wendy, the Mo-Kan volunteer, took some pictures, then I loaded Sabrina into the front seat of my truck, and we were Texas bound.

Sabrina and I met in the McAlester OK Wal-Mart parking lot.
Sabrina was really happy to get out of that shelter and meet me for her ride to Texas. (Photo by Wendy Mac).

Transport Failure

Some dogs fresh out of the shelter are so bouncy I have to crate them so it’s safe to drive. Not Sabrina. She curled up on the seat and fell asleep almost instantly. Little by little, as I drove south, Sabrina moved closer to me, until she was pressing against my leg. As we crossed the Red River I said, “Congratulations, pretty girl. You’re a Texan now.”

She let out a huge sigh, put her head on my knee, and fell deeply asleep.

I had been looking to adopt a classic black and white female border collie for the past five months. I thought a female would be a better fit with my very shy male dog, Tam. I had a foster dog, Chess, but he would be up for adoption soon. I wanted a second dog to keep.

When a volunteer agrees to foster a dog, we’re supposed to help the dog be adopted by someone else. If the foster decides to adopt the dog herself, we call that a “foster failure.” By the time I got Sabrina home, I knew she wasn’t even going to be a foster failure. She was a transport failure.

Zoe the first night out of the shelter.
Zoe’s first night in her new home. Note the untouched chicken in her bowl. (G. S. Norwood).

Meet Zoe, the Hillbilly Girl

I was on the phone to my chapter coordinator as soon as I got home. Sabrina became Zoe. I brought her home on a Saturday. On Monday, she went into her first heat cycle. We had pulled her in the nick of time.

She wasn’t used to fancy dog food. That first night out of the shelter she completely snubbed some home-cooked chicken and rice I’d made her. The next night I sprinkled a little Purina Dog Chow on the chicken. Now THAT was good eatin’!

She showed other preferences as I got to know her better. She was super tuned in to pizza and Whataburger drive-up windows. She liked men in their late 20s to early 30s. And she always perked up when she heard a motorcycle drive by. You can tell a lot about a dog by the things she likes, and Zoe’s tastes were distinctly redneck. That’s how she got the nickname Hillbilly Girl. Still, she’s a class act. I don’t know what we’d do without her.

Three photos from Zoe’s current life.
The Hillbilly Girl Zoe is now the “Sheriff” of the Pack (photos L-R by G. S. Norwood, Christine Lindsay, and Julia Rigler Photography).

IMAGE CREDITS:

We have several sources to thank for the photos in this post. The first one is Sabrina’s shelter photo (Maybe they’ve been able to improve conditions since then, but we’ve chosen to redact the shelter’s name). The series of Sabrina and G. meeting is by Wendy Mac, the Mo-Kan volunteer from Arkansas (montage by Jan S. Gephardt). And the photos of Warren’s purple truck and Sabrina/Zoe on her first night in her new home are by G. S. Norwood. In the final montage, L-R, the photos are by G. S. Norwood, Christine Lindsay, and Julia Rigler (again, montage by Jan S. Gephardt). Many thanks to all!

Deviled eggs, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Brownies with chocolate chips, and the movie “Wreck-It Ralph.”

Stuff that Works

By G. S. Norwood

Do you have trusted favorites? Movies you always turn to when you’re sad? Music that somehow never grows old? Maybe it’s a series of books that feature such a beloved setting and characters you can slip away into them whenever the world makes you weary, and find yourself at home amongst friends. Do you long to pull on your favorite sweater, and settle down in your favorite chair, with your favorite tea in your favorite mug? Congratulations! You’ve found yourself some stuff that works.

“Stuff that Works,” by Guy Clark (Paul Adamietz and his You Tube Channel)

Americana music legend Guy Clark defined stuff that works as, “Stuff that’s real. Stuff you feel. The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall.” Here’s some of the stuff that works for me.

As You Wish

My relationship with The Princess Bride goes all the way back to William Goldman’s original novel. I discovered it at a little science fiction book store just off campus when I was working toward my BFA in Theatre. I read it in a weekend to escape more academic reading assignments, then started sharing it with my friends. And I even brought it to the costume shop where I worked over the summer. If an actor was assigned to help us, but had no sewing skills, we would demand dramatic readings for entertainment. The sword fight on the Cliffs of Insanity was a big favorite.

A montage of images from “The Princess Bride.”
One thing that works: The Princess Bride. (Credits below).

So I was eager to see what Rob Reiner had done with the story when the film came out in 1987. Warren had no experience with the story, but trusted my judgement, and he loved it so much we went back a second time to take his mother to see it. Then we visited my mother at Thanksgiving and took her to see it, too. Now I divide my friends into those who quote The Princess Bride and those who have no idea what the rest of us are laughing about.

I watched it again not long ago, and am delighted to say that it still holds up just fine.

Dried Leaves in Water

Somehow, I never picked up the habit of drinking coffee. I remember, when I was a kid, my parents’ morning coffee smelled so good as it was perking. But, when I begged for a sip, the bitter brew tasted just horrible. They drank it black, and never thought to sweeten it with milk and sugar for a child’s palate.

Tea was a different story. Mom used to give us hot tea with buttered graham crackers when we came home from school in the afternoon. We always had iced tea in the summer. By the time I got to college, my taste for tea marked me as a slightly eccentric individual. (Even back then I enjoyed having that kind of reputation.) Now I start nearly every day with a cup of hot tea.

A mug, a plate, and a teapot near G.’s tea kettle.
All set for dried leaves in water! The ceramics are all by Alex Macias. (Photo by G. S. Norwood).

My taste for functional pottery grew out of my love for tea. Now my mug collection threatens to take over my kitchen cabinets, and nearly all my dishes are handmade pottery creations.

A Home in Notting Hill

I have never been to England, but I feel as if I have friends in Notting Hill. This is because mystery writer Deborah Crombie does such a great job of evoking the sights, sounds, and criminal intent of London in her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels. She calls them “novels with a body in them,” and has created such a beloved cast of characters that I can’t wait to read each book as it comes out. Opening a new Deborah Crombie novel is like sitting down with old friends over tea, for a nice long gossip, to catch up on what they’ve been doing. Going back to re-read earlier books is a joy as well. Escaping the stress and boredom of the mundane world with a trip to Notting Hill is a coping mechanism that has worked for me for years.

Deborah Crombie and all of her books that were published as of May, 2021.
Mystery novelist Deborah Crombie and her book covers to date (credits below).

Random Pleasures

There’s lots of other random stuff that works for me. Stuff I can go back to whenever I feel stressed or just too tired to think. The animated film, Wreck-it Ralph is a good example. Weird, I know, but I’ve watched it more than a dozen times.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s cover of the old Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia song, Ripple. You can play that one at my funeral, if you’re not sure what music is appropriate.

A soft gray sweater tunic I picked up one year at Chico’s. It’s baggy. Shapeless. It came in purple and gray. I leaned toward the purple, but it looked horrible on me. The gray, however, was cloud-soft, flattered my face, and lived in my closet for years and years and years. I always look forward to the onset of cold weather because I know it is waiting for me.

Deviled eggs, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Brownies with chocolate chips, and the movie “Wreck-It Ralph.”
Some of the Stuff that Works for G. (credits below).

Stuff That Works

Deviled Eggs and Fudge Brownies are not necessarily to be eaten together. But these two simple foods are my go-to recipes when I need to contribute to a pot luck dinner. I am a traditionalist on both fronts.

The deviled eggs have mayo, yellow mustard, and a dusting of paprika. You can use vinegar, pickle relish, Dijon mustard, or any number of other “gourmet” variations, but they won’t taste right. The original is always the best.

Ditto the brownies. Make ‘em from scratch. Use butter and Baker’s unsweetened chocolate. Replace the walnuts the recipe calls for with Nestle’s Toll House Morsels. You won’t regret it.

And that’s the goal, isn’t it? To find stuff you can reach for, time and again, when you need just the right thing without overthinking it. What is some of the stuff that works for you?

IMAGE CREDITS:

We definitely have a lot of people to thank for the imagery in this week’s post, starting with Paul Adamietz and his You Tube Channel for the “GUY CLARK STUFF THAT WORKS” video. If you enjoyed it, please give him a thumbs-up (and maybe subscribe?). While we’re on the relatively simple images, we’d like to thank G. S. Norwood for the photo of her MUG, PLATE, AND TEAPOT, all created by Alex Macias, of Alex Macias Ceramics of McKinney, TX. All of the montages were assembled by Jan S. Gephardt. Credits for the montage images are grouped by montage.

For the PRINCESS BRIDE montage:

We thank the following: Fototelegraf, for the movie still of Fred Savage and Peter Falk as the grandson and grandfather. Kentucky Sports Radio, for the photo of Inigo (Mandy Patinkin), Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), and Fezzik (André the Giant). All Posters, for the kiss that “left them all behind,” featuring Westley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright). On roughly the next row down, we acknowledge with gratitude: Abe Books, for the 1984 cover of the edition that G. read, of William Goldman’s book, The Princess Bride.

We were delighted to find Kelly Martinez’s “Movies from Another Point of View” on Buzzfeed, with the “Have Fun Storming the Castle” photo of Carol Kane and Billy Crystal as Valerie and Miracle Max (the latter recently quoted in a different post on this blog). Thanks very much to Amazon, for the nice image of the original movie poster from 1987. And for the center-bottom photo, once again featuring Elwes and Wright as Westley and Buttercup, we’d like to acknowledge (and urge you to investigate) All Roads Lead to the Kitchen’s recipe for “Fire Swamp Fireball Cocktail.”

For the montage of DEBORAH CROMBIE and ALL HER BOOKS:

We are delighted to thank Ms. Crombie herself, via her website. Since G. mentioned the Notting Hill setting, we were pleased to find the photo of Deborah Crombie at Falafel King in Notting Hill, London (2009) in her website’s photo gallery. And we gratefully acquired the images of her book covers (with helpful ordinal numbers!) from her website’s listing of The Books. Many thanks and much love, Deb!

For the STUFF THAT WORKS montage:

Many thanks to IMDB, for the Wreck-It Ralph movie poster. A big thank-you to Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s website “Photos” gallery, for the photo of Gilmore on stage. The mouth-watering photo of fudge brownies with chocolate chips comes from Food and Thrift’s post, “Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies . . . and Breast Cancer Awareness!” (YES! There’s a recipe there, too!). Now we’re both grateful to blogger Elizabeth, and craving brownies. Finally, author G. S. Norwood is also the author of the deviled eggs (and the apple pie in the background), as well as the photographer for the last image on the right. Many thanks to all!

The front of the Kansas City VA Medical Center, in Kansas City, MO.

Our veterans haven’t failed us. But have we failed them?

Every Veterans Day, as a nation we’re supposed to pause. We’re supposed remember the many ways that veterans have never failed to serve our nation, when we called on them. But, especially on this Veterans Day, I worry: have we failed them?

Personal connections

I’ve never served in the armed forces, but service members and veterans have had a place in my heart for a long time. My father is a World War II Navy vet. He was one of the last men off of the USS St. Lo aircraft carrier, after a kamikaze sank it during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944.

A kamikaze suicide pilot hits the USS St. Lo on Oct. 25, 1944. Gi’s and my father was one of the last men off the ship. Many thanks to Col. Tannenbusch and You Tube for this video.

My first beat as a student journalist was the Veterans Club at my alma mater, the university now known as Missouri State University. That was during the Vietnam War, so veterans weren’t excessively popular at the time, but I tried to represent them fairly. They eventually voted me the Vets Club Sweetheart (how’s that for unbiased journalistic rigor?).

The men of my generation

My brother-in-law Warren C. Norwood, our “Honorary third Weird Sister” of Weird Sisters Publishing, served in Vietnam. It changed his life. As my sister G. S. Norwood puts it, “Warren was proud of his service but didn’t recommend it to others. He went in as a born again Baptist, went through an atheist period before becoming a Buddhist by the time he came home from Nam.”

My Beloved is a longtime employee of the Kansas City VA Medical Center. My immediate family’s livelihood, for more than four decades, has depended on service to veterans.

Blogging through the Veterans Days

On a background of the US flag are the symbols of the five branches of US military service and the words "Veterans Day: Remembering all who served."
We remember. But have we failed them? Image courtesy of the City of Coronado, CA.

So, let the record show that I care about veterans. But as a country, have we failed them? Some of those worries came up in earlier posts.

Last year on Veterans Day, I blogged about the price of veterans’ service. In 2018, the centennial of the Armistice was a can’t-miss opportunity to look back. But the year before that I again echoed worries about the respect that we pay. Is it enough? Or have we failed them?

My 2016 Veterans Day post is one of my most popular by far. It tried to answer the question of “how can we thank them?” with three suggestions. But the acts of individuals—although they can be powerful—ultimately are not enough.

As my sister G. put it, “we owe our soldiers more than just thanks for their service. If we ask people to volunteer to serve their country we need to make sure it’s a worthy cause and we need to take care of them when they come home. They are not disposable.”

Have we failed them?

Before anyone ends up a veteran, they have to serve active duty. And active duty is fraught with needless difficulty—in addition to all the hostile action one may see. Recent uses (or threatened uses) of the military by President Trump have placed our armed services in a bad position.

Although Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milly accompanied Trump to his infamous photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church in June, the general later apologized. “I should not have been there,” he said. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

President Trump walks to St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1 with Atty. Gen. William Barr, Defense Secretary John Esper and Gen. Mark Milley.
President Trump walks to St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1 with Atty. Gen. William Barr, Defense Secretary John Esper and Gen. Mark Milley. Image courtesy of Associated Press / Patrick Semansky, via the LA Times.

2020 protests

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) said this summer, of Trump’s plan to call out National Guardsmen to counter demonstrations: “The American military should not be the president’s tool . . . to suppress Americans’ First Amendment rights.”

I blogged earlier this year about frightening actions by unmarked, apparently-Federal agents in Portland. These turned out to be from Customs and Border Protection, not the National Guard.

A Russian bounty?

For most of the summer we worried about intelligence reports that the Russians had offered the Taliban a bounty for American and UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

The President claimed no knowledge of it, although it was widely reported. Later he called it a “made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party.” (unfortunately, given the President’s demonstrated trustworthiness when using such language, that convinced me it was probably true).

After a Pentagon probe, officials released a statement that they had “not been able to corroborate the existence of such a program.” While not a clear “no, that didn’t happen,” this did cast more credible doubt on the story.

Meanwhile, though, what must the troops in Afghanistan have been thinking?

In this 2018 photo, US soldiers walk past a building in Logar Province, Afghanistan.
US soldiers in Afghanistan’s Logar Provice, in 2018. Photo courtesy of Reuters/VOA.

Military pay and other issues

Active-duty service members’ problems didn’t just start recently, however.

According to “The Military Wallet,” in recent years the pay for active duty military members has increased enough that those in the lower ranks no longer have to rely so much on food stamps or other assistance programs.

But in July 2019 NBC News found that making ends meet was still a widespread problem for military families. And that was before the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a recession reckoned to be the “worst since World War II.”

More hazards for military families

Low pay brings with it the plague of payday lenders, a predatory industry which somehow is still legal. In 2015, a brief furor erupted over the news that payday lenders often located their stores near military bases, and targeted military service members and their families at twice the rate of civilians.

The Military Lending Act (MLA) pushed back. Passed and signed during the Obama Administration, it provided short-lived protections. By 2017 the Trump Administration eased regulations on payday lenders targeting military family members, to circumvent the MLA. And in 2018 the Administration had so weakened the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which had oversight responsibility) that the bureau’s leader, Richard Cordray, resigned with a fiery letter of protest.

A business offering short-term loans near Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX.
Blatant targeting near Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. Have we failed them? Interest rates on short term loans can reach as much as 80 percent. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/The New York Times.

In 2011, I blogged about reports of substandard school buildings on military bases, and wondered how sincere all the then-in-vogue flag-waving truly was. Unfortunately, all too little has changed, from the look of things.

But once they leave active duty are they okay?

Let’s be clear. Many veterans thrive after their military service. Many use skills they developed in the service to find jobs in the private sector. Military service has enhanced the résumés of many illustrious business, professional, and political leaders.

My husband’s career is testament to the VA’s health care mission (although that hasn’t always been carried out well). Many veterans, such as my father, can comfortably rely on the lifelong health care that veterans (especially Purple Heart veterans like Dad) are entitled to receive.

My father has been supplied with glasses and hearing aids, prescription medicines, a wheelchair, and care by a home health aide from the VA. His medical care has been excellent, and he’s always greeted respectfully. I wish all veterans could have the same kind of experience at VA facilities.

The front of the Kansas City VA Medical Center, in Kansas City, MO.
The Kansas City VA Medical Center has always treated my family well. Photo courtesy Kansas City VA Medical Center, via KSHB 41 Action News.

However

I can’t close with my father’s positive experience. You probably figured a “however” was coming. Unfortunately, there are several “howevers,” and they leave the question of “Have we failed them?” very much still in play.

For years there’s been a steady churn of reports of sexual assault and harassment in our armed forces. It’s risen from murmurs to a roar in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, but as recently as August many observers agreed the system is still badly broken.

“These cases are not handled properly and the follow-up care for the victim is not right,” says Kayla Kight, who was sexually assaulted while serving as an Army nurse. A victim who served in the Navy, Sasha Georgiades, says, “It’s a problem that’s deep in the culture of the military.” Women are targeted at a much higher rate, but men by the thousands suffer, too.

Homeless and/or suicidal

While the numbers of homeless veterans has been decreasing in recent years, at last count approximately “40,000 veterans are without shelter in the US on any given night,” according to a September 2020 report from Policy Advice. Many fear the Covid-19 pandemic and the recession it caused could create another upsurge in homelessness among veterans.

And so far nothing has stemmed the horrific number of suicides among veterans. In March the head of the nonpartisan advocacy group American Veterans called the mental health system “horribly broken.” Now that suicides are rising in the general public, presumably as a response to the pandemic, the picture for suicidal vets could be even worse.

It’s a hard problem to solve, even without the pandemic. During hearings then, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), who is both a veteran and a physician, pointed out that 70% of veterans who commit suicide never sought help from the VA. “How do you identify those veterans who never show up?” he asked. Good question.

Unfortunately, it’s not as hard to find them after it’s too late.

So, um . . . happy Veterans Day?

By all means, please celebrate Veterans Day. Display your flag. Thank a veteran (or give them a hug, if you know them that well). We owe them our respect for their service. We owe them our honor for the (sometimes many) prices they paid and may still be paying. And we certainly owe them far better treatment than they all too often receive.

Have we failed them? I fear the overall answer is yes. So once we’ve folded up the flag and spoken our respect, we need to get to work.

  1. Call or write our representatives.
  2. Advocate for better treatment, both of active-duty service members, and of veterans.
  3. Donate to reputable veterans’ charitable organizations, as we can.

When we fail veterans, we dishonor ourselves and our country.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to Col. Tannenbusch via You Tube, who posted the video “Kamikaze versus USS St. Lo” for us to see. I also am grateful to the city of Coronado, CA, for the Veterans Day graphic. I appreciate the AP, photographer Patrick Semansky, and the LA Times, for the photo of Mr. Trump’s Lafayette Square promenade, and Reuters and VOA, for the photo of the US soldiers in Afghanistan in 2018. Thanks very much to photographer Ivan Pierre Aguirre and The New York Times for the photo of the “Military Lending” store near El Paso, TX, and the Kansas City VA Medical Center, via KSHB 41 Action News, for the photo of the VA Hospital in Kansas City, MO.

A high viewpoint looks down on the formidable gates of a stronghold, where a small, armored figure has pushed the gates partway open.

“We can’t market this”

“We can’t market this” is a reason for rejection that I’ve heard for decades. It says “your book/story doesn’t fit into our pre-made boxes.”

Innovation is sometimes the stuff of new bestsellers, although I’d argue that a book’s worth isn’t always or only revealed by its sales figures. But it admittedly is much harder to sell square pegs when your marketing is solely designed to appeal to round holes.

Gatekeepers

An image, reminiscent of the gated entrance to a millionaire’s estate, forms the words, “The Gate Keepers.”
Image from “Cold Call Coach” website.

The literary world is famously full of multiply-rejected books that later became bestsellers considered classics. But you also might note that their authors, once they finally were published, overwhelmingly tended to be White, and predominantly (though not exclusively) male. This begs the question of who, outside of this privileged subset, can write risky things that eventually are allowed to succeed to their potential.

Whenever we talk about access to markets (and to marketing dollars), we must talk about gatekeepers. In the US today, we’re still having that conversation, because our gatekeepers remain overwhelmingly white, and predominantly male.

It shows up in the bestseller lists. It shows up in the ethnic makeup of mainline publishers, and famously in the Oscars, and the projects that get the largest budgets.

Family stories

The idea for this post began during a recent conversation I had with G. S. Norwood. She wrote a collection of novels during the 1990s that racked up persistent rejections. The editors to whom she submitted them generally thought they were great stories, well written, and with wonderful characters—“but we can’t market this.”

This was a period when the hottest (and by far the biggest) market was in romances. G.’s novels tried to be romances, but in one way or another they didn’t conform to the expectations of the market. She’s now reviewing them, and revising as she sees the need. We’re preparing to offer them as contemporary women’s fiction, the niche where I’ve always thought they belonged.

We have another family story related to this topic of gatekeepers and markets. One of Warren C. Norwood’s last novels, a story deeply rooted in Chaos Theory, apparently confused the editors to whom he pitched it. They might be science fiction editors by title, but they also were recent graduates of Vassar and Brown. Their intellectual roots sank deeper into English literature than into the mathematical modeling of dynamical systems.

This is a photo of the author Warren C. Norwood.
Photo of Warren C. Norwood courtesy of G. S. Norwood.

A couple of decades later, another nerdy novel, The Martian, started out as a blog, then became a self-published ebook, and eventually went on to far more fame and movie rights than it might have had, if there’d been more gatekeepers in play.

Contrast the story of American Dirt, which still persists on Amazon Top-100 lists, despite its inauthenticity.

Self-serving excuses

“We can’t market this” is the classic excuse of the misogynist, the racist, the classist, the formula-slave, the gatekeeper who has outlived his/her usefulness.

It’s the excuse that has dictated decades—no, centuries—of whitewashing. I remember back when the complaint was that “female protagonists don’t sell.” “Black/Latin/Asian/LGBTQAI+ protagonists won’t sell.” “You can’t put a black/Latin/Asian in a central position on the cover because it won’t sell.” This, of course, is all hogwash.

But it banishes women, and all persons of color, from leading roles, cover imagery, and headliner status. Oh, and purely coincidentally of course, it preserves male, White, dominant-culture privilege. I mean, really. Can white dudes help it, if they wrote all the truly great literature, and painted all the great art, while everybody else just couldn’t measure up?

Yeah, right.

This is the mindset that left Artemesia Gentileschi “undiscovered” by the wider public until recently. It’s the kind of erasure that goaded Mary Ann Evans, AKA George Elliot, to use a male pen name. And it’s the mindset that inspired Borders Books (remember them?) to put the African-American romance books way back at the back of the store, far removed from the White romances. Those got more central display.

Myths and prejudices

The myth persists (despite plenty of examples to the contrary) that Black, Asian, or Latin main characters, starring actors, and even book cover characters, don’t sell as well as those featuring White people (Just don’t try to convince Black Panther of that).

The 1971 mass market paperback of Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” was released in 6 different colors of cover. This photo shows them. They were white, green, pink, orange, blue, and yellow.
Photo courtesy of “Fonts in Use” blog, via Goodreads and Amazon.

It reminds me of the “green book covers don’t sell” myth, purportedly based on sales of Future Shock, a pop-psychology phenomenon of the early 1970s (yes, I really am older than dirt). The publishers billed it as “a study of mass bewilderment in the face of accelerating change.” I remember people talking about it more as “that book about how we have too many choices.”

It was published in covers of six different colors in 1971 (woah, man, so meta). According to some study somewhere, the green cover sold less well, so it became a “thing” for a while that green covers don’t sell. But then life moved on. Eventually people figured out that beautiful and dynamic green covers actually sell just fine. Who could have seen that coming?

Gatekeepers and Awards

We already mentioned #OscarsSoWhite. An Academy Award has long been considered a pinnacle of achievement (and bankability) within the movie industry. Any theatrical professional locked out of the chance to receive one is automatically barred from the top echelon on the profession.

The Edgar Awards

Literary awards have followed a similar trajectory, because they also purport to be about quality. Prejudices persist, and sometimes that doubles up on the gatekeepers. One case in point: the Edgar Awards. These are the most prestigious awards in mystery writing, but the gatekeeping is notably strict. According to the rules:

“All works submitted for consideration must meet the requirements for Active Status membership as described in the membership guidelines. At this time, self-published work is not eligible for Edgar Award consideration.”

The requirements for Active Status membership in Mystery Writers of America reinforce a narrow list of publishers considered “good enough” to warrant membership. It also places would-be MWA members (and potential Edgar nominees) at the mercy of whatever the gatekeepers think is appropriate.

Does that guarantee higher quality? Maybe. Does it enforce a certain homogeneity? That’s much more likely.

The RITA Awards

The Romance Writers of America have far more inclusive membership requirements, but that hasn’t kept them out of trouble. Controversy over the non-inclusivity of their RITA Awards nearly tore the organization apart last year. (The RITAs are no longer being awarded).

The illustration shows a RITA Award statuette on its side with its head broken off at the shoulders.
Image courtesy of Vox. No illustrator credited.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Recognitions

The Nebula Awards of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (and SFWA membership requirements) are much more open to a variety of backgrounds.

But science fiction’s even-more-famous Hugo Awards fended off a different kind of gatekeeping attempt. a few years ago. The self-styled “Sad Puppies” tried to hijack the Hugos, and thereby stifle more diverse voices. They presented themselves as a threat in 2015 and 2016, but ultimately failed. Turned out the Force—not to mention SF & F fandom—just wasn’t with them.

Nor was it with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, after Jeanette Ng had her say about Campbell’s racism, misogyny, and imperialist sympathies. It’s now the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, embracing an inclusiveness Campbell himself would never have imagined or countenanced.

Beyond Gatekeepers

Traditional publishing and prestigious awards will always, by their nature, have gatekeepers. People whose inclinations and imaginations are limited by “we can’t market this” remain a fact of life. There also are only so many projects any publisher can fund.

I think Indie publishing (independent publishing) is today’s best answer for silenced voices and authors with smaller (but no less vibrant) niches. Other avenues may open in the future. But for now, here’s a venue where new niches can open and new voices seek out an audience.

A high viewpoint looks down on the formidable gates of a stronghold, where a small, armored figure has pushed the gates partway open.
Image by “WiseWizard” via Steam.

It’s very far from an easy path to success. Those gates are darned heavy. When you move away from having others market (or not market) your work, there’s suddenly a lot to learn. You may not hear “we can’t market this” from others, but not everything finds a market. Not everyone (in fact, not most “Indies”) can learn to thrive as entrepreneurs-of-necessity in the independent publishing world.

Can you market this?

Taken overall, self-published writers release a fair amount of dreck each year. Many haven’t done their due diligence, or haven’t learned their craft. Maybe they grew impatient with apprenticeship. Took critiques too personally, and stopped seeking them. Maybe they wearied of rejection after rejection, or couldn’t wait through the long turnaround-times of traditional publishing. Perhaps they published something simply to say they’re an author.

But a lot of writers do have great stories to tell, and strong writing skills. Some have previously been published traditionally. But all, for any of a range of reasons, found the experience unsatisfactory.

It’s possible the gatekeepers didn’t value their visions and their voices. Maybe they were pigeonholed as “just a midlist writer,” and therefore not worth promoting much. Perhaps they heard, “too niche,” or “too far off-genre” just a few too many times.

Or perhaps they heard, “We can’t market this” too often, as my sister did. These days, that doesn’t have to be the final verdict. Independent publishing enables writers to test that “can’t market” analysis for themselves. Maybe it’ll turn out they can market “this,” after all.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to the “Cold Call Coach” website, for the visualization of gatekeeping, and to the “Fonts in Use” blog, via Goodreads and Amazon, for the image of all the 1971 Future Shock covers. G.S. Norwood provided the “Pensive Warren C. Norwood” photo (thanks!). We’re grateful to Vox for the illustration of the broken RITA Award, and the informative article that came with it. And finally, many thanks to the artist “WiseWizard” via Steam, for that evocative image of opening formidable gates.

The covers for Deep Ellum Pawn, Deep Ellum Blues, and a portrait of G. S. Norwood and her dog Kata, by Chaz Kemp.

Why I Admire G. S. Norwood

Please indulge me while I explain why I admire G. S. Norwood. Her new story releases today. Deep Ellum Blues provides a marvelous addition to her growing “Deep Ellum” stories collection. Read our post on The Weird Blog, and consider buying her stories!

Full disclosure: if you’re new to “Artdog Adventures” you may not know that G. is my sister. She and I co-founded the fledgling small press Weird Sisters Publising LLC.

The cover for “Deep Ellum Blues”
Deep Ellum Blues cover art © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

Making Deep Ellum Blues happen

The ebook goes live via Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited today. I recognize that some of my readers resist buying anything from Amazon. Yeah, I get it. However, KU (via both page-reads and sales) offers better ways to maximize income from short fiction such as G.’s individual “Deep Ellum” stories.

Never fear. Once the fourth planned “Deep Ellum” story releases, we mean to collect all of them into one combined volume, and publish that collection “wide.” Both ebook and a print version, available everywhere. And, since G. has a BFA in theater and is a masterful dramatic reader, excellent audio options await in the future.

Others also Admire G. S. Norwood

Other authors also offer an appreciation of G. S. Norwood. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough read the two finished “Deep Ellum” novelettes and told us they’re “some of the best stories I’ve ever read!”

Author Bradley Denton (whose musical alter ego is “Bland Lemon Denton”) wrote in more depth. He said, “G.S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Blues takes the classic notion of “a deal with the Devil” and joyfully twists it sideways into a story that celebrates integrity, dedication, and artistry.

“The Blues have long been said to have more than a passing acquaintance with demonic power, and the tale of Mudcat Randall (and the immortal Miss Eddy’s concern for his fate) stems from that tradition. But Deep Ellum Blues reaches beyond the old stories to reveal that the true power of the Blues is rooted not in darkness and damnation, but in redemption and light.

“And along the way, it pays tribute to all the great artists whose songs have always, in truth, made the same point. Somewhere, Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker are smiling.”

The frustrating years

I take special joy in helping G. bring her stories to new and expanding audiences. That’s because I admire G. S. Norwood’s writing. Only her critique partners knew what a great writer she is until last November. We published Deep Ellum Pawn, the first of the “Deep Ellum” stories, around her birthday.

Like me, she spent a goodly chunk of the 1980s and 1990s balancing other work, writing when she could, and attempting to get traditionally published. Her supportive writer-husband Warren C. Norwood began making more money in the late ’90s. At his urging, she quit to give writing a full-time try. She finished several novels, but none of them sold.

I loved her books, and many editors did, too–but one thing or another always held them back. They would be hard to market. Her romances didn’t quite fit the formula they were looking for (at the time, romance novels dominated much of the market).

I always figured they didn’t sell because romance was the wrong niche. But what did I know? Her writing career seemed to end when Warren died. It was devastating, wrenching, and it forced her to find full-time work again.

The cover for Deep Ellum Pawn
Deep Ellum Pawn cover art © 2019 by Chaz Kemp.

A new opportunity

More than a decade later, we’re selling her stories in a different way. She wrote the first draft of Deep Ellum Pawn in 2017. Then as far as I know she put it in a drawer and didn’t look at it again till after I fumbled and bumbled What’s Bred in the Bone into print.

In between her demanding concert and behind-the-scenes schedule with The Dallas Winds (she’s Head of Concert Operations), she refined it into something we could publish. We really lucked out finding Chaz Kemp to do her covers.

That first story didn’t exactly turn into a bestseller. But there’s something awesome about being a published author. Especially with a story people out there in the world actually like and buy. Yes, indeed. Time to take another stab at a writing career!

A growing body of work

She definitely couldn’t yet give up her day job! But she’s been working on a delightful first-in-an-intended-series mystery novel (working title: “Sunshine and Ray”). She paused it to write Deep Ellum Blues, and then developed concepts for two more “Deep Ellum” stories.

Covid-19 lockdown put a serious crimp in the concert schedule. But it’s given G. more time to write. To my delight, she recently dusted off one of those “not-to-formula” romances and gave it an overhaul. I just got a polished new update of the last novel she finished before Warren’s death in 2005.

What’s next?

The novel, Wrong Way Riley, tells the story of a young woman determined to live her own life, despite intense pressure to be something she’s not. This book is no longer trying to be a romance novel (although the main character does enjoy one steamy romance), and it’s all the stronger for it.

If you’ve read G.’s “Deep Ellum” stories, you’ve noticed a strong music theme. Riley stays true to that trend. It’s deeply steeped in Texas folk music (we might get more setlists).

The covers for Deep Ellum Pawn, Deep Ellum Blues, and a portrait of G. S. Norwood and her dog Kata, by Chaz Kemp.
All artwork is © by Chaz Kemp. Be courteous. Re-post or reblog with an attribution and link back to this post and Chaz Kemp.

More will admire G. S. Norwood in the future

All of this means the fun and the discovery has only just begun. Much as I admire G. S. Norwood I could only offer a glimpse of what she has in store next.

She finished several other “failed romances” back in the 1990s. Those wonderful stories–and the “Route 66 novel” she hasn’t yet finished–deserve to be updated and read and loved.

My little sister has a powerful voice. I can’t wait to help her reveal it.

Deborah Crombie interviews G. S. Norwood about her new story, “Deep Ellum Blues.”

Urban Fantasy: Let’s Get to the Root

Deborah Crombie interviews G. S. Norwood

Bestselling mystery writer Deborah Crombie loves to get to the root of an intriguing puzzle. A long-time friend and critique partner of G. S. Norwood, she watched Norwood’s new novelette, Deep Ellum Blues, take shape over many weeks. Now she has some questions.

The cover for “Deep Ellum Blues”
From Weird Sisters Publishing LLC, Artwork © 2020 by Chaz Kemp

G.’s Writing Roots

Debs: Have you always wanted to write? Your late husband (Warren C. Norwood) was a wonderful writer. Were you drawn to him because you wanted to write, or did he inspire you to write? Or both?

Gigi: I tried to write my first story when I was about 4, although I didn’t get very far. I sent Random House my first request for guidelines when I was ten. When I was a freshman in college one of my professors told me that I wrote well enough to consider a career as a professional writer, and that’s when the serious dreaming began. All that was a good decade before I met Warren.

To be honest, the day after I met Warren, I bought his first book and read a few chapters before I met up with him again. I had to make sure he was a good enough writer that I could respect him in the morning. Turned out, of course, he was, and I learned a lot about the craft and the business from him.

Get to the Root of one important influence: G. and Warren C. Norwood were married for more than two decades before his death. This collection shows four snapshots from their life together.
Get to the Root of one important influence: G. and Warren C. Norwood were married for more than two decades before his death. This collection shows four snapshots from their life together. From the personal collection of G. S. Norwood.

Debs: Your background is in the theater and performance. How does that influence your writing?

Gigi: Although I’ve spent most of my theatre years backstage, my real interest is in directing and writing. The great thing about directing is that it teaches you how to deconstruct the play, figuring out the structure of each scene, the pacing of the overall story arc, and the motivations of each character. Knowing how to analyze the way those parts go together has given me a tremendous cheat sheet when I want to create my own characters, plot, setting, mood, and action scenes.

Debs: You write urban fantasy, women’s fiction, and mystery. What ties all these genres together in your work?

Gigi: I tell stories. Each of the genres you mention has a different set of tools I can use to tell the story I want to tell. Should it be a straight-up mystery? Do I blend suspense with romance? Can I let stuff blow up in magical ways? I use whichever set of tools seems to fit the story best, and I am certainly not above using all of them at once if I need to. But if you get to the root, it’s just the way I think about the world. I’m a very practical woman who believes there are magical energies at work in our lives every day. When I put magic into a story, I’m just writing what I know.  

Two moods of Miz Eddy for two covers, as portrayed by Chaz Kemp.
Developmental images of Miz Eddy, L-R for Deep Ellum Pawn and Deep Ellum Blues, ©2019 and ©2020 respectively, by Chaz Kemp.

Debs: Ms. Eddy, the protagonist in Deep Ellum Pawn and now Deep Ellum Blues, is such a fabulous and unique character. What was your inspiration for her?

Gigi: When I was a kid, I read a series of children’s fantasy novels by Lloyd Alexander called The Chronicles of Prydain. The inspiration for Alexander’s fantasy world was The Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh mythology and folklore that dates at least as far back as the 12th century. My fascination with those stories led me to read more deeply about folklore from many different lands and introduced me to a wide range of magical characters.

When I got the idea for Deep Ellum Pawn, I didn’t really know who or what Ms. Eddy was. I had her name, and I knew about the pawn shop, but the rest revealed itself to me, slowly, as I began to write the story. Once I had an idea of what she could do, I had to do more research to figure out what kind of magical being she might be. Once I found it, I realized, “Well of course that’s who she is!” I really enjoy introducing ancient, magical ways to understand the world into modern, urban settings.

The “Deep Ellum Pawn” cover side-by-side with the “Deep Ellum Blues” cover.
From Weird Sisters Publishing LLC, cover art for Deep Ellum Pawn © 2019 by Chaz Kemp. Cover art for Deep Ellum Blues © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

Now We Get to the Root: The music

Debs: Guitars, and guitarists, are central to Deep Ellum Blues. What connected you to guitars? Who are some of your favorite guitarists?

Gigi: Guitars are the dominant instrument of popular music. Some of the most iconic American guitar players of the early 20th century performed in Deep Ellum, or recorded just down the street at 508 Park, the Warner Brothers film and recording distribution center for the Dallas area. So Mudcat Randall, one of the main characters in Deep Ellum Blues had to be a guitar player.

A pen-and-ink drawing of a Stratocaster electric guitar.
Artwork of Mudcat Randall’s tobacco burst Strat ©2020 by Jan S. Gephardt.

I’ve met a lot of guitar players over the years, particularly when I hung out regularly at Craig’s Music in Weatherford, Texas. I have a lot of respect for the working guitarists who used to fill the bars and dance halls with music, before the pandemic. People like Warren’s adopted brother, Gerald Ray, or Fort Worth blues guy, Dave Millsap, keep music alive on the local level, and teach it to the next generation of players.

Outstanding singers, songwriters, and guitar players like Guy Forsyth, down in Austin, or Kevin Welch, formerly of Nashville, feed the music industry from just below the radar. And then there are the more recognizable names among my guitar heroes, like Keb’ Mo and the always amazing Sonny Landreth. I have enough Sonny Landreth stories for a blog post all his own. If you play guitar—particularly slide guitar—and you don’t know who he is, just trust me. Go look him up and prepare to be amazed.

A pen-and-ink drawing of an acoustic resonator guitar from Gretsch.
Artwork of Mudcat Randall’s Gretsch resonator ©2020 by Jan S. Gephardt

Debs: Can you give us a playlist to listen to as we read?

Gigi: I actually put together a set list for Mudcat’s two nights at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum, while I was writing the story. It will be published as part of the e-book, and we’ll probably post it on the Weird Sisters Publishing website. In the meantime, check out music by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keb’ Mo, and Sonny Landreth. That will get you started.

Rooted in the Crossroads

Debs: Deep Ellum is a character in itself. Tell us why this area and its history are so special?

Gigi: Crossroads and margins have always been magical places. The geographical location that is now Deep Ellum was once the shallow edge of the Western Interior Seaway. Later, before European settlers came to the area, several trails used by Native American people met and crossed there. As Dallas grew into a city, Deep Ellum was the neighborhood where people on the outskirts of White society—Black people, but also Hispanics, Germans, and Jews—built lives for themselves.

It was where people from the upper reaches of society went when they wanted to “slum it.” The streets were lined with pawn shops, private clubs, and theaters, as well as the barber shops and dry goods stores that served the people of the neighborhood. That’s prime territory for musicians and entertainers of all types.

Deep Ellum was then, and continues to be today, a place to go when you want to have a slightly edgy good time. The people who have built their businesses there always say there’s a special spirit about the place that gives Deep Ellum its unique vibe. Now we know who that is.

Get to the root of this interviewer: Deborah Crombie with the cover of her book “A Bitter Feast.”
Photo of Deborah Crombie from her website is by Steve Ullathorne. The cover photo for A Bitter Feast is from the detail page on Crombie’s website.

About our Guest Interviewer, Deborah Crombie

Internationally acclaimed author Deborah Crombie has seen her British police procedurals, featuring detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, climb into the top ten of the New York Times bestseller list. Her latest release, A Bitter Feast, is the eighteenth novel in the series.

This post is a re-blog from The Weird Blog. My sister’s story Deep Ellum Blues is set for release on September 30, 2020. I thought you might enjoy Deborah Crombie’s interview of G. S. Norwood.

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