November 22, 2011

How to cook a turkey--if you're a reader

Are you cooking this week? Here's a tip: buy the biggest frozen turkey you can find. Put it in the oven now. That should give you plenty of time to read my books on Kindle and Nook before you have to serve dinner on Thursday!

The story below was originally from Free Pecan Pie and Other Chick Stories. I'm posting it here because it's about my family. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

A New-fangled Thanksgiving Tradition

Janelle Meraz Hooper
   Thanksgiving dinner was always the same at Mom’s, and that was how we liked it. In a changing world that created new stress by the minute, we could always depend on Mom’s turkey to be perfectly browned, and her cornbread dressing nicely laced with celery, wild pecans, and raisins. Giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas filled in every spare spot on our plate. There were no tortillas on this day—I suspect because there just wasn’t enough free counter space in the kitchen to roll them out. The rolls we ate were the packaged kind that came in a paper tray and were already partially cooked. The cranberry sauce that replaced the normal salsa was canned and always served on our fancy glass tray that had been around since Roosevelt put a turkey in every pot (or was that a chicken?).
   Okay, so it wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it was good—and the large family that came to share it thought it was perfect. Almost every time.
   But one year, when my mom and her sister were both close to eighty, my aunt arrived from California and brought her new-fangled ideas about tradition with her. Thanksgiving morning, my Aunt Pat got up early and beat my mom to the kitchen, determined to “California-ize” our turkey dinner. The first item on the menu that she changed was the cranberries―she used real ones. Mom was suspicious when she looked at the marble-sized fruit bubbling on the stove with bits of fresh orange peel. She didn’t like the looks of those orange shavings. To her, they looked like something that slipped past the food inspectors. Mom believed cranberry sauce should be pushed out of a can with those little ridges that showed her where to cut the slices. “No one will know what this stuff is.” she worried. “This isn’t what they’re used to. And it smells funny.”
   My aunt stood her ground. Resigned to a cranberry failure, Mom went to the living room to relax and read the paper. She didn’t see my aunt pull my mom’s traditional cornbread dressing out of the oven and stir in a bag of fresh spinach. The last thing my aunt did before she left the kitchen was replace the table butter with an unidentified soy product she’d brought in her handbag from Santa Barbara that didn’t look, taste, or smell like butter.
   The family was sitting down at the table when Mom pulled the dressing out of the oven and discovered that it’d turned green. Her sister told her it was the latest thing in California, and much healthier. Mom was appalled and predicted, “No one will eat it.”
   And they didn’t. That bowl was passed around the table so often it looked like it was in its own special green orbit, and no one would touch it. On one of its last flights around the table, my cousin reluctantly put a spoonful on her toddler’s plate, but the kid broke out in tears, so my cousin took it off and hid it in her napkin. Finally, my aunt mumbled something about taking the dressing to the kitchen to heat it up. It never returned.
   The fancy cranberry sauce met much the same fate. When it was passed around the table, everyone would try to get a portion that was not laced with orange peel. No one succeeded. Soon it entered its own orbit, crisscrossing the orbit of the green cornbread dressing. Around and around the table it flew until the contents of the bowl were just a fragrant red blur circling the Planet Table, not unlike the rings around Saturn.
   Mom and her sister are both gone now, and I think of them often, especially around the holidays. Looking back, maybe green dressing and orange cranberries wouldn’t have been that awful. I should have at least tasted them. Although, sister rivalry being what it was, I’m sure Mom would have never forgiven me if I had.
   It has been years since that dinner, but the saga of the New-Fangled Thanksgiving Tradition lives on to this day. No one in our family will accept an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner without first inquiring, “What’s in your cranberries—and what color is your cornbread dressing?”

November 20, 2011

King George's Sleepover, World War II

All Kindle and Nook novels $2.99 USD

The King’s Speech is one of my favorite movies and it’s on TV sometimes now. Even though I saw it in the theater, I usually stop and watch it for a while whenever it’s on.
I like the film for lots of reasons, but the biggest is the character of the speech therapist, Lionel Logue,  played by Goeffrey Rush. A normal person. Not royal-born. Not a doctor. Nonetheless, this unassuming person is able to provide a great service to King George VI and to England. I like that. And the king and his wife stood by him. I like that too.
This week, so soon after our Veteran’s Day, something in the movie triggered a memory of a story my father used to tell. I think it’s true, even though I have to admit my father was a great storyteller. He used to say that, in World War II, when the American soldiers landed in England, they had them set up camp on the grounds around Windsor Castle.
One evening, my father remembered, King George VI and his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth, walked around the encampment, shook hands with the soldiers, and thanked them for coming. Imagine! Cowboys from Texas, loggers from the Northwest, stevedores from New Jersey, maybe even Indians from The Great Plains—all shook hands with the king!
Oh, I hope the story was true. If so, King George—and his daughter—had a lot of class. And that’s not something that comes automatically with a crown.

November 10, 2011

Raven meets Quidditch!

My raven

11-10-11- I like to make little vignettes of books or stories in my house using whatever I find in the closets. This one is a reference to a Native American story about how the raven stole the earth...only I used a Quidditch ball for the earth (okay, it's really just a Quidditch Christmas ornament). Perhaps the funniest thing is that the family never comments! This little story has been up for over a week one has noticed!

I miss my Aunt Norah. She was playful too. One time we had the key to a relative's house so we could feed her cats when she was away. We "broke in" and left a full-size cardboard cutout of Billy Ray Cyrus (Achy, Breaky Heart) in her kitchen. Along with balloons and a sexy note.

In my novels she's always out of town but I write about her a lot. I guess my Turtle Trilogy novels are really fictional autobiographies. Who knew? At the time, I was just trying to get the books written before I lost all of my favorite aunts and my mother. I didn't make it. Not one of them lived long enough to read my valentines to them.

November 08, 2011

New, low Kindle and Nook prices

New, low Kindle and Nook price: $2.99 USD

11-08-11- There's been a lot of discussion among writers who are making their paperback and hardcover books available on electronic devices. What's the right price? What's a fair price? No one knows. In the end, independent writers will make their own decisions. I have made mine: I have lowered the prices of my Kindle and Nook books to $2.99 USD.
Not because there is anything wrong with them (an award winner is still an award winner even if the price changes). And it's not because some of them are old. If you haven't read a book yet, it's still new to you.
Mostly, it's about copyright. I happen to own my works, and there are no "middlemen" for me to pay.
I hope you'll check out my books. They're good reads. I promise.
Other news:
My Free Pecan Pie and Other Chick Stories book of shorts and short stories and As Brown As I Want: The Indianhead Diaries are now a part of Amazon's WorldReader program. I'm delighted to participate in this program to bring books to needy children in underdeveloped countries. I'm hoping other authors will join this program. It's easy. Amazon does all the work!
In October, when I put my As Brown As I Want: The Indianhead Diaries book on sale (the sale is over now) for $.99 cents USD, I was just fooling around. I was sick. And bored. What fun! I got messages from relatives and friends who read the book and remembered some of the events. I never expected this to happen. Thank you all!