Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friends, Fellowship, Cheer

I'm writing as moments offer along with the understanding that it's okay to live a little, especially around the holidays. On Thursday, I used a gift certificate to have a Balinese Stress Relief Wrap at Daya, followed by a manicure. That night GLS and I had dinner with FH and BY at El Gringo. I split the cracker crusted oysters and tequila cured salmon an appetizers and liked the later so much that I ordered it again to split as a desert. Dinner was shrimp and grits, which I enjoyed but would probably try something else next time.

Yesterday, I had a lovely lunch with JW, newly returned from Korea and San Francisco, at Green Pastures. We were seated in the southeast dining room, and our waiter lit a fire for us. After eyeing it many times before, I indulged in the seafood crepes in celebration of the holiday and plan to make annual use of that reasoning for years to come. I also did some shopping at Prima Dora on South Congress and BookPeople at Sixth and Lamar, where I spotted Santa. Last night, we road-tripped with AB and SP to the Hill Country to TC's log home in Travis Peak. It featured a signing clock in the dining room and singing dogs in the bathroom. Dinner was his signature vegetarian tortilla soup with sandwiches and assorted appetizers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Christmas Carol

Each night GLS is reading to me from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick, 2006)(inside spread). I've always been fond of watching the stage and screen reinterpretations, but it's my first time to hear/read the original text.

What makes the difference this time? Here is a beautifully produced, wonderfully illustrated book, designed to be held in your lap, with type big enough to actually see. For too long, classics have been the fodder of flimsy paperbacks for the squinty. Bah to that. Here, we have a book that invites readers into Dickens' world, and it's a very merry experience indeed.

What else? Holiday cards are hanging from the kitchen cabinet glass doors. Currently in a tight race, family photo cards are tied with snowmen, 5 to 5. Letters and animal cards are likewise tied for second place at 3 each. Wreath and sled cards both have two representatives. Making a showing also are an angel, topiaries, candles, cityscape, and drummer boy with one each.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Yesterday, GLS and I road-tripped to Fredericksburg, Texas; a historically German-American small town with a healthy downtown shopping and dining district. Highlights include the Marktplatz and National Museum of the Pacific War, which we've yet to visit and is currently under rennovation.

It was a perfect winter day in the Hill Country--sunny, 70-something degrees with a light wind, and the town wasn't nearly as crowded as we'd expected. I especially enjoyed the country western singers/guitar players and accordian players. Though I still have gifts to buy, we didn't find anything there. But I did enjoy my lunch, a Greek salad, at the Silver Creek Beer Gardens and Grille. That said, it's more of a fudge, bratwurst, beer, and schnitzel town.

Research topics: Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; Tsavo lions; Sea World, San Antonio.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Hotels

GLS and I had the honor dining with GB at MH this past Friday night at the Driskill Grill, which one of Austin's premier restaurants and located inside The Driskill, our grandest historic hotel.

I ordered a three-course dinner: Texas chop salad (Maytag Bleu cheese, smoked bacon, avocado, crisp plantains); pistachio crusted sea scallop (scallop quenelle, chanterelle mushrooms, truffled herb salad); and pan broiled lobster tail (green onion crepe, lobster grits, smoked almond butter).

Last night we stopped by the lobby lounge at the Four Seasons for cocoa, piano, and to check out the always impressive gingerbread village on display.

Beyond that, I'm home for the holidays and writing steadily on E. It occured to me yesterday that a building plotline was off-focus, too big for this story, competing with its core. So, snip! On the upside, it also occured to me that the cut portion might be just the launching bad I need for U, which is the manuscript to follow. So, I moved it to my ideas file.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Roaring Fork

I'm reading round five of VC packets, having finished public events until the spring semester. Last night GLS and I made an Austin dining find. Locals and visitors should make every effort to nab one of the two incredibly comfy couches tucked discreetly behind the bar at The Roaring Fork on North Congress. We sank into the leather for about two hours last night, and for the cow-friendly, there is another available in cloth. The new shrimp tempura appetizer is likewise highly recommended.

Spooky Link

Julia Durango is having a holiday book giveaway at her LJ! Zip over right now to enter.

Friday, December 01, 2006

On Writing Horror

The Horror Writers Association just released the newly updated edition of its how-to handbook, On Writing Horror (Writers Digest, 2006). This is an official HWA publication, edited by Mort Castle. The 260-page handbook features such masters of the genre as Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum, and David Morrell.

Spooky Links

Gothic Fantasy and Suspense for Teens and Tweens from my website.

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007).

Decking the Halls

What's new? GLS and I did another radio interview about Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), this one with WEOL AM 930/"Les in the Morning" in Elyria-Lorian, Ohio. I spent some time cleaning up my profile and sidebar on Cynsations and Spookycyn. I also worked on a discussion guide for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

This weekend, GLS and I will be reading and signing at Barnes & Noble Round Rock on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and at Barnes & Noble Westlake on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. GLS also will be speaking to a teen reading group at the Cedar Park Public Library on Saturday at 11 a.m. We hope to see some of you there.

I plan to spend most of today blessedly working on E.

More personally, my home is now decorated for Christmas. The electric train is set up on the kitchen table. Berry garland is draped over the fireplace mantle and what was once great-grandma Bessie's clock. Red and white crystals hang in candycane colors from the parlor chandelier. Throw pillows are embroidered with German nutcrackers and sayings like "hum bug." The stable of the creche sits atop four Chirstmas picture books.

What I love most is the tree. It's about 10', set in the corner of the dining room, safely protected by French doors from the cats (and vise versa). The unifying colors are traditional--gold, silver, red, and green, though GLS is talking about adding a dark blue.

The theme is music as represented by musical notes and instruments, as a tribute to the original owners of the house. We plan to augment that with books/writing ornaments this year.

The tree also features ornaments more personal to us. The ballet dancer from "The Nutcracker" is a tribute to the years I spent in audiences cheering my pseudo-baby sister and dear friend, a dancer who lived next door to me as a child. (She was later my matron of honor).

The Plaza Lights painted ball is a reminder of my hometown of Kansas City, which hosts a traditional lighting ceremony each Thanksgiving night.

The Eiffel Tour is a reminder of my summer law studies in Paris.

The Marshall Field's clock and miniature silver Art Institute of Chicago harken to GLS's hometown, where we lived in the early years of our marriage.

There are clay armadillos and metal angels and a new limited edition Radko Austin postcard ornament, and a T-rex lurks in the branches in honor of GLS's debut novel.

Here and there, I can also spot an ornament inherited from Grandma Dorothy. This is my first Christmas without her, but the spirit lives on. I can almost hear her, complaining about how the gravy didn't turn out just right.