Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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I really tried. I kept telling myself there would be a story, a romance, that I could read and review. Somehow I would be able to set aside the problems and read the book. But it's not going to happen.
Piper and her mother are set upon by thieves/kidnappers, but they are rescued by our caped hero, who turns out to be the Barrett Maddox, 6th Duke of Manchester. What he's doing in Boston we don't know yet.
He rescues Piper, almost kisses her, then discovers she is with her mother. He suggests/invites them to join him sailing to New York.
Here's where things about the writing just got really, really bad.
First, we don't know what an English Duke is doing in Boston. Dukes have responsibilities that they can't just up and leave for extended periods of time.
Second, we learn that Piper's mother used to be "Lady Carolyn Vesser," but not how that title applied to her. Is she an earl's daughter? Why would she have left England and married an American in the 1830s?
Third, the original implication is that the duke is sailing on the same ship, the Maria, as Piper and her mother. When Piper asks him where he is taking them,
“To the Maria.” He paused as his eyes drank her in again. “Although it’s an awful ship. I am travelling to New York as well, and you could both travel with me. You would, most assuredly, be safer.”
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 9). Kindle Edition.
A few pages later, however, we learn that he has led them -- distance not described -- to his own "boat."
“Lady Vesser, why don’t I send a note to the Maria that you will be travelling with us tonight? My boat is right here and I am sure you will be more comfortable.”
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 10). Kindle Edition.
Fourth, there are a couple references to Piper's cleavage. She tries to cover it and Maddox's eyes travel to it. I'm just not comfortable thinking that a well-bred young woman traveling from Boston to New York in 1854 would be wearing something that bares her bosom. Even though it's May, the weather in the evening might be cool, and it almost certainly will be once they're at sea, so shouldn't she have some kind of cloak or cape or other covering?
Fifth, there is the matter of their luggage. These two women are essentially moving to New York, so they have trunks. TRUNKS. Only one apiece? Or more? Oh, who knows? The author isn't specific, and she just has the driver of the carriage pick up both trunks and carry them to the bottom of the gangplank to Maddox's "boat."
Sixth, we get this nonsense about peerage titles, something that drives me up the ever-loving wall.
Piper and her mother are going to New York to visit (or live with?) Piper's cousin Sybil, who has already been referred to as "Lady Fairfield."
But now, in the company of the duke, Mrs. Baker says:
". . . Piper, I was girlhood friends with Mr. Maddox’s mother, Lady Priscilla Fairfield Maddox. Now the Duchess, of course."
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (pp. 11-12). Kindle Edition.
I thought I had misread something, but later on that same page, Piper replies to a question about having family in England:
“Yes, of course,” she replied. “Actually my cousin, Lady Sybil Fairfield, Viscountess of Abberforth, is waiting for us in New York.”
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 12). Kindle Edition.
The same family name???? And a viscount is never "of" something. Viscount Abberforth would be the correct form.
Okay, that's bad enough. But how is Sybil a viscountess? She's already been described as being in desperate need of a husband, so we know she's not married to the viscount. If she's the daughter of the viscount Abberforth, we know he's dead because that's already been established, too.
Her cousin, Sybil, also needed to marry but had yet to choose a suitor. A sigh escaped her lips to think of her cousin. Beautiful and titled, she supposed most women would be jealous of Sybil, but Piper knew the truth. After the death of her parents, Sybil felt weighed down with responsibility. She was having difficulty running the estate.
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 2). Kindle Edition.
If her father the viscount died without a male heir, the title would have gone to another male such as a nephew. In the absence of a direct male heir, the title would have gone in abeyance or reverted to the crown. The idea of Sybil, a young woman in America, being given a title in her own right is utterly implausible.
And what is this business of running an estate? In New York? Rural New York, perhaps, but the implication is New York City, since Piper is counting on Sybil's ability to introduce her to New York society.
Furthermore, while Mrs. Baker may have given up her own title when she married an American, she would not not NOT have referred to His Grace the Duke of Manchester as "Mr. Maddox." Never, never, never. If there is an explanation for this, it needs to come at the spot the event happens, not more pages into the book.
Once again, the point is to make the pages disappear so the reader is lost in the story, not wondering why there are all these unexplained anomalies.
Eighth -- the overall effect.
The pacing is completely off. The opening scene does nothing to set the plot in motion; all it really does is raise questions. When Piper and her mother go to the docks to board their ship, there's still not enough explanation. And there's no description at all! I don't know what Piper looks like. I don't know what kind of night it is. Warm? Breezy? How does the air smell in the harbor area? We get some of Piper's reactions to being touched by the duke, but it's kind of silly description. Her heart is pounding. Something happens to her nerves. It's beyond clichéd.
This is one of those books that might have a decent romance plot buried in the garbage, but it desperately needs competent editing. It needs to be fleshed out with good description, reasonable background development, and for the love of Queen Victoria, some historical research!
DNF, because I refuse to waste any more time on this piece of crap.
His dark hair was neatly tied back despite the struggle.
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 7). Kindle Edition.
“Where are you going in this section of town at this time of night?” his rough voice grated out.
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 7). Kindle Edition.
He quirked a small smile and Piper actually gasped.
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 7). Kindle Edition.
Yes. One page.
And I didn't even copy all the times and places their eyes -- hers as well as his -- went wandering off by themselves.
But it has 88 reviews on Amazon, and 83% of them are four and five stars.
It has 88 reviews on Amazon, with a 4.3 star average. A single one-star rating. I didn't look at Goodreads.
Nearly every paragraph has me rolling my eyes. That's not the way to enjoy reading a book.
The ship Piper and her mother are to take from Boston to New York is berthed in a "questionable" neighborhood. Hello? Most docks in most harbors are not located in fashionable areas. This is just stupid writing.
Mr. Abbott doesn't accompany them - pretty suspicious in itself - when these two ladies are to board the vessel sailing at night. Are they traveling through the city at night alone? Ew, the guy is slime, but Piper and her mother should have known not to go along with this. It's stupid. Characters should not be stupid.
The carriage in which they are riding is set upon by ruffians. In the middle of the city? IN the harbor area? Shouldn't there be some kind of law enforcement? Even if the driver is in cahoots with the robbers, this is awfully brazen.
But never fear! Along comes the caped rider on the great big horse, pulls two pistols from his felt and dispatches all the miscreants.
Oh, give me a fucking break!
It's not that this sort of drama isn't ever seen in historical romance. It is, and frequently. Sometimes it's done well. This is not one of those times.
There's no set-up for this kind of cartoon rescue. Piper's situation isn't developed sufficiently for her being in this kind of risk. We still don't even know what she looks like! The only information about her is that she's nineteen years old and apparently drop dead gorgeous because all the men are drooling after her.
Who is this Mr. Abbott? Why is he so skeevy as to let the women ride out alone? Supposedly he has "business" to take care of. At night? How are the ladies to get their luggage on the ship by themselves?
The lack of introductory action is bad enough, but what makes it worse is that the author could have used that exposition to give better background.
And the reference to a "British accent" was a knockdown of two points.
So I pick up the Kindle to start reading more and the first thing I read is this:
Piper’s opinion of Mr. Abbott did not improve as their carriage headed to the docks. First, this ship was in a rather questionable area of the city. Second, he had last-minute business and had left the two women to find their own way. He said he would join them on the boat.
Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 4). Kindle Edition.
I switched reading devices, and the little Kindle only shows percentage read. So that's why the change.
At the 2% mark, I've read approximately the first chapter or section or whatever, and I think I've pinpointed the main problem, along with a lot of smaller ones.
This project would never have survived any critique group of which I was ever a member. It's that bad.
The main problem is . . . nothing happens.
As Shelly Lowenkopf wrote in "Creating a Rejection-Resistant Novel," the author has about three pages in which to engage the reader's interest. Something has to happen, something that threatens the main character or otherwise prompts them to take action.
Start with important action. Involve someone of consequence in an event of consequence or with a threat of significant impact. A major complaint among editors . . . : Nothing happens. Make sure something happens in your opening, even if it is only an artful promise that something momentous is building and will explode soon.
Piper is sitting on the couch at the Senator's house. She's surrounded by admiring men. It's supposed to be a party, but there's no party atmosphere. We don't know why she's at the Senator's house. We don't know why she's just sitting there with all these men. She's bored and not doing anything, but she's also desperate. She is aware she's beautiful, that she is able to snare any man she wants. But she wants a challenge.
What kind of challenge? A man she wants but who doesn't want her? A man she has to expend some effort to win? Then she's not really desperate, is she.
She pauses in her boredom and desperation to think about her cousin, Sybil, Lady Fairchild, who is beautiful and also desperate. If there is any conversation going on around Piper while she muses about her desperate, beloved cousin, the reader isn't made aware of it. Finally, Piper gets bored enough to leave, reminding all her suitors (the word is used far too often) that she is leaving for New York the next day. That's when we learn her mother is there, too.
Piper and her mother go to Piper's room. Still no explanation for why she is at the Senator's home. Now we get the information that Piper and her mother are sailing to New York the following evening, taking a "later tide" because it's cheaper. Piper's wardrobe is slightly out of date, which may cause problems when she tries to get into New York society. She hopes her orphaned -- but titled?? -- cousin will facilitate her entry into the world of potential husbands.
From this first little bit, the reader gets a hint that Piper is in some financial difficulty, but that rather than select a wealthy husband from all the men paying court to her, she chooses to spend time and money going to New York. Her problem, therefore, is at least partly of her own making. There are solutions to her plight available, but she's not taking them.
As a reader, we have less sympathy for someone like Piper, with her beautiful trill of a laugh and her habit of snaring men and then discarding them, than we would for a character who finds herself or himself in economic straits due to circumstances beyond their control.
That's the major structural problem. Nothing happens, and as a result I just don't care about Piper. Even at the end of the scene, where she muses about finding a man who will take care of both her and her mother, I just plain don't care. There are probably two or three or more men amongst the gathering in the Senator's parlor who could do that, but that's not enough for Piper. She's definitely not desperate enough.
The writing is adequate, but not good. Maybe a C-minus? D-plus? As mentioned above, the word "suitor" is used far too often, to the point that every time I read it, I heard bells. I don't want to hear bells! I want to hear voices and the swish of elegant gowns and the crackle of fire and the snort of horses and the rattle of carriage wheels on cobblestones. There was very little -- indeed, if any -- description in this opening. Not of the setting, not of the characters. Telling the reader it's 1854 Boston isn't enough, not by a long shot.
In fact, most of the narrative is far too much telling and almost no showing. Where there could have been dialogue, there was the author telling the reader what Piper was thinking. This improved slightly when Piper and her mother discussed the voyage to New York, but by then it was too little, too late, and not particularly well done.
As written above, this project would not have made it through a first reading at any of the critique groups I've been in over the past 40 years or so. Nothing happens, there's no description, the main character isn't likable. But readers today don't seem to care.
I still care.
UPDATE: SEE SHORT FUNNY NOTE AT THE END.
I was reading in bed last night and the Kindle Fire keyboard is a royal pain in the butt to write on. So I posted my immediate reactions and then went to sleep. So here is an expansion, while I'm waiting for my hair to dry a bit before I head out for groceries.
Names. Names. Names.
Names are soooooo important! Think Scarlett O'Hara. Think Ebenezer Scrooge. Think Harry Potter.
It's not that Piper Baker is a bad name for a character. Piper might be anachronistic for the time setting, but I'm not even going to go there. The problem for me is that the Piper Baker rhythm is wrong. That's why I wrote Piper Baker Walker Rider. It could as well be Piper Singer Sawyer Roper. What made the rhythm more pronounced and the name choice thereby weaker was that the author paired it with Senator Asher Grey. Piper Baker Asher Potter Dancer.
Asher Grey, of course, contributed to the bombardment of unfortunate names. And look, I went to high school with David Crockett and Elizabeth Taylor. (Betty Taylor for a time was married to Dean Martin, to make things even worse.) Does the Senator have a brother named Slate and a sister named Dove?
A reader wants to get lost in the book, to see the scenes and hear the voices and forget that it's all just little black symbols on a white page. The author's task is to make the manuscript, the printed page, invisible. This author failed and failed miserably.
So by the fourth or fifth page, all I'm thinking about is this spoiled, bored Piper Potter Carter Weaver and her grey as ashes host, and along comes (pun intended) Peter Long!!
Piper! Asher! Peter!
(I was never able to forgive Hollywood for Richard Long. I mean, seriously.)
The sad thing is that most readers really don't care. The bar is now so low that this kind of sloppy, lazy writing belongs to a "USA Today Bestselling Author."
And I haven't even touched on the actual writing . . . .
Addendum re names: I was tired last night and in a bit of a hurry this morning, or maybe my mind was just overwhelmed with Bad Names for Characters. At any rate, as soon as I relaxed after putting the groceries away, I realized there was another problem with those names, but one only old timers like me would recognize.
You can't have a Peter and an Asher together, and heaven help us if she throws in a Gordon and a Waller.
Names. Names. Names.
Heroine Piper Baker (Walker Rider) is at the home of Sen. Asher (Ashes, Ashen) Grey.
One of the male (!) guests is Mr. Peter Long.
Disclosure: I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on 17 June 2018. I do not know the author nor have I ever communicated with her about this book or any other matter. I am an author of historical and contemporary romances and assorted non-fiction.
I wasn't going to do this review as a standard "currently reading" status update process, but a single page was enough to change my mind.
Without going back into my BookLikes archives, I can't post the link, but I'm pretty sure I posted about the obvious error months ago, probably when I acquired the book.
In addition to that, however, the formatting is a distraction. That big fat florid M doesn't belong there. I can't stop seeing it, can't get over the fact that it's . . . wrong.
One page. One Kindle page.
And I'm thinking of the opening scene of another book, with another young lady surrounded by all her admirers and being a little bit bored by it.
I'm also feeling a huge distance between myself as reader and this Piper person. I'm not in the scene. I'm reading, not experiencing.
I'm not really going through my 5700+ Kindle books alphabetically by author, but this seemed like a convenient place to start. Probably won't have formal status reports, but I absolutely must read or I'm going to lose my mind.
More commentary when I've read a bit, but it is already no more than 4-star and probably likely to fall further.
After a disappointing art show yesterday, I had planned a busy productive day for today.
It began with my sleeping in until 9:20.
However, initial laziness gave way to determination, and by 10:15 I had the car completely unloaded and everything put away where it belonged except the table covers. They were in the washer. I had visions -- and intentions -- of having them washed, dried, folded, and put away before noon, with the rest of the day to attack the accumulated messes around the studio.
But my determination also brought on some back pain that even a nice long hot shower didn't completely erase. By noon I had half the table covers done, and more than half a back ache. I decided to try the semi-preventive muscle relaxer I'd been prescribed a couple of months ago to see if they worked. I was prepared to have them knock me out.
And they did.
I fought the fog, but the fog won. I slept for almost three hours, and woke up groggy and . . . blah. With a sincere effort to focus on getting something done and clearing my head, I managed to finish putting away the table covers, so that all my art show equipment is back in its assigned storage spaces, awaiting the next show in February.
Now, several hours later, I'm finally feeling more alert and ready to actually accomplish something. And yes, my back does feel a whole lot better, probably just because I slept instead of pushing through the pain and making it worse!
So here I am, looking back on the major disappointments of this fall's art shows -- one was rained out, the other two were shamefully under-promoted and thus under-attended -- and trying to figure out what I'm going to do in the future.
Since it's December and year-end reflections are already starting, this seemed like a good evening to do some of my own thinking-out-loud.
1. The option of just packing up and moving to a more compatible environment remains on the table. I've taken and will continue to take small steps toward facilitating such a move if it becomes the best alternative.
2. The art group to which I belong and which sponsors these events is holding elections on 12 December for next year's board of directors. I've been asked to run. Despite deep-seated antipathy, I've been both tempted and urged to run if only to make things in the group better for myself. There are some arguments in favor; there are a lot of arguments against. For one thing, I do not play well with others, especially others who are doing things that make no sense. Anyway, we'll know how this works out in . . . nine days.
3a. I've done far too little writing this year of 2018. I've done a lot of thinking about writing, but that doesn't really count.
3b. I've done far too little reading this year of 2018. I've done a lot of talking about reading, but that doesn't really count.
3c. 3a and 3b do not depend on the art group. Or BookLikes. Or Twitter. They depend solely on me.
3d. I make too many excuses for 3a and 3b. See 3c. That has to stop.
4. Speaking of Twitter. I saw an interesting comment on Twitter some weeks ago that I should have bookmarked or somehow kept track of so I could follow up on it. But I didn't. Anyway, whoever wrote it observed that they had always done well in school with little to no effort. Learning came so easily that as an adult, they (he/she) found that the frustration of having to work at something new proved overwhelming. They had never learned how to learn. This struck a nerve with me, because I often find myself giving up on things because they don't come as easily as I expected them to.
For instance, I took to personal computing like the proverbial duck to water. Financial challenges notwithstanding, I bought my first IBM-clone PC in 1987, got online with Prodigy in 1991/2 and opened my still valid AOL account in 1993. But when things don't go my way or they present a challenge, I balk and get peevish. I've never been able to figure out much with my own website and now I'm feeling the same way with Patreon. Both of those are avenues to potential income, but fear of failure is holding me back. This is stupid. This is counterproductive.
I know that what I need to do is sit down with a comfortable block of time when I won't be interrupted, and just go through the process step by step. I can't use the excuse of "Etsy was so easy; why can't Patreon be easy just like Etsy??" I have to do it, because 3a.
5. Writing is another thing that always came easy to me. I'm not able to be objective about the quality of what I write, so I'm not going to go there beyond saying I think I'm at least competent.
But it has always been easy. Even when it's been difficult, it's my own fears and sense of inadequacy that has made it difficult. As soon as the fears poke their nasty little noses into it, I get scared and back away. It's not good enough, it's not good enough, I'm not good enough. No one would ever want to read this shit. I'm putting too much of myself into it (I always do) and no one cares. (Go back to writing in your little journals, Linda Ann. Keep it private. No one wants to read your depressing shit. No one cares.)
A lot of fears are yapping at me now. If I make any resolution at all for 2019, it has to be to stop listening to the yapping.
6. Heinlein's Rule
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting except to [competent] editorial order.
4. You must put your work in front of an editor [audience] who might buy it.
5. You must keep it on the market until it sells.
7. Today's three-hour nap may keep me up half the night, but if so, I'm going to try to spend it reading. I downloaded a bunch of Kindle freebies today, most of which are probably crappy. But even the crappy stuff seems to be selling these days . . . .
Very low turn-out and subsequently very low sales, for a whole lot of totally avoidable reasons.
I made out okay. Not great, not even what I'd call good, but took in enough to cover all expenses and post a tiny -- VERY tiny -- profit.
Next art group meeting is December 12th, with a holiday potluck (aka "Forget business, let's socialize!" ) to follow. Ought to be . . . interesting.
Over the long holiday week-end, I had an issue with an order I had placed with a lapidary supply company. I decided to wait until this morning -- Monday -- to follow up on it. I sent a short email with the order details, and within 90 minutes I had a personal reply to resolve the problem. The item I ordered arrived in the mail less than an hour later! Whoo hoo!
And the price was less than anywhere on Amazon or eBay.
Having an urgent problem taken care of so easily put me in a good mood, so I went out to the studio and collected some rocks to take pictures of. Of course, there's a story behind the pictures.
A few nights ago, just before I logged out of BookLikes and shut the computer down, an ad appeared on my BL dashboard. I should have grabbed a screen shot, but I was tired and not thinking quite straight. Anyway, the ad caught my attention because it was for a rock -- yeah, a plain old rock -- offered for sale on Etsy. It looked very similar to some of my rocks, some of which I've sold on Etsy. But the price on this one was quite shocking. It was on sale for $50.99, knocked down from the regular price of $59.99!
Hello? Sixty dollars for a rock?
Now, there are some rocks that can actually be said to be worth that much. Either they are rare or beautiful or have the potential to be made into expensive jewelry. Maybe they're difficult to access or require a lot of labor to prepare for sale. None of those qualities really applied to this rock. The more I looked at the listing, the more the rock resembled one I had sold just a few weeks before, right down to the weight of 72 grams.
I have a lot of these rocks. At least one 5-gallon bucket full of them that I know of, and maybe two buckets. Or more. And I know I have several plastic shoe boxes full of them, too. So it wasn't difficult to grab five representative chunks for photos.
They are chalcedony -- kale SAID a knee -- a common form of quartz found all over the desert southwest and other places, too. The one in the upper left and the one at the far right are quite pink. The two in the middle are lighter pink and white. The one on the bottom left is all white. I collected all of them myself.
The big pink one weighed in at 188 grams.
Wow! Does that mean I could sell it for more than twice the $60 asking price from the other listing? Um, no, that's just plain obscene.
The white one is a particularly nicely formed "desert rose" shape, or actually more like a desert lily. Though it looks pinkish in the photo, the indoor light where I took the pictures distorts the color; the stone really is milky white.
And it weighed in at 89 grams.
There are other rocks for sale on Etsy at reasonable prices, but it bothers me that some sellers really seem to be out to rip people off. I know it goes on in every business, even in the book business, but it still bothers me.
Customer service isn't just about getting back to your customer when they have a question or a problem. It's also about treating them fairly from the start, and that means fair pricing.
I've been suckered in the past, and I'm guessing just about everyone has been suckered at some point over some item, whether it's a rock or a book or a collectible salt cellar or a classic car. That doesn't make it right. I can laugh now about some of the over-priced rocks I've bought and pin part of the blame on my own ignorance and blind desire to own a really neat rock. But I've always tried my very best to be fair and honest with the items I sell.
The place where I collect these stones is a 100 mile drive from my house. There are costs involved in driving there, and the labor of climbing up hills and down into dry washes and carrying heavy bags of rocks back to the car. It takes time to clean them of dirt and debris. Any selling venue has costs, too, whether listing on Etsy or another platform, or setting up in an art show. So it's justified that a seller puts some kind of price on the merchandise, to recover costs and make some profit.
But there's no reason to go hog wild and expect an obscene return on a minimal investment. I sure as hell won't do it.
A week or so ago I posted this
about some rocks in my collection that I had finally been able to identify.
This morning I had to change out the tumbler barrel that the other stones were in, and this time I remembered to bring the camera.
When I started this batch over a month ago, all I knew about them was that they were most likely from beaches in the Pacific Northwest, probably Oregon or Washington. When I zeroed in on the orbicular jasper last week, my suspicions of the PNW source were confirmed. Since then I've done some more research, while the stones tumbled through their next-to-last cycle.
Here they are in a small tray filled with water, photographed in the shade to avoid too much glare. Most are jaspers: opaque reds and yellows and browns with a few greens as well. The translucent agates are fewer, and I didn't get pics of the best of those. Patience is required! They'll be done next week and I'll get all kinds of pictures.
I took them out in the sun to get the brighter colors.
The stone that had me most intrigued was the orbicular jasper visible just below the yellow oval at the upper left-center. It did not disappoint!
Above, the stone is wet, and you can clearly see the individual jasper "orbs" in the matrix, as well as a hint of the sparkles, which I suspect are micro-crystals in the matrix. They showed up a little better when I dried the stone off.
As you can see, the stone is starting to show a polish, but wait until you see it next week!
There were at least five orbicular jasper pieces in this batch, along with another bright red jasper that may or may not qualify.
There might be some distinct spherules in there, but I was in too much of a hurry to get them back in the tumbler on the polish cycle and didn't want to take the time to look closely!
This one, however, shows the orbs really well.
I found another blog about PNW rock collecting that had some great photos. It seems to have ended in 2014, though, and that was kind of a shame.
There are some very nice bits of petrified wood in the collection I bought that bear a strong resemblance to the pics in that blog, so I'm beginning to narrow down the possibilities. I'll never be absolutely certain, of course, but it's better to have some idea than none at all!
In the fall of 1975, when I was pregnant with my first child, we bought out first house.
It was a huge barn of a thing, 3200 square feet with five bedrooms . . . and one bathroom. Though the house was less than three years old, we were the third owners, and it wasn't really quite complete. The builder and first owner had gone bankrupt before he could finish it; the second owner ended up in a very messy divorce. So despite the various, um, deficiencies, we bought it. After all, we got it at a remarkably low price, and we were young enough to have faith in our ability to fix those, um, deficiencies.
By Thanksgiving, when I was six months pregnant, I wanted to welcome the family -- my husband's relatives, that is -- to my new home. That's how we had always done holidays in my family: we rotated amongst the various grandparents and aunts and uncles so no one was always stuck with the cleaning and massive meal prep and clean-up.afterward. But my invitation was rebuffed by my mother-in-law with a simple "No."
This made no sense, so I kept insisting. I used the logic of saving the other, older members of the family all the hard work. Somehow I prevailed, though now I'm not exactly sure how that came about.
Then I made the second mistake: I scheduled dinner for 4:00 p.m.
This was blasphemy! Dinner was always at 1:00, never later! What kind of barbarians ate at 4:00 in the afternoon?
My third mistake was falling back on logic again: See, if everyone slept in and rested and had a nice big late breakfast, they wouldn't be hungry until later in the afternoon anyway. And the person doing to big cooking -- that would be me -- wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to "do" the turkey and stuffing and so on. Those who had to travel any distance could avoid the early morning traffic. There'd be time for appetizers beforehand, too.
To which I was asked, "What are appetizers?"
Okay. skip that.
The most important part of the logic, of course, was that a later dinner meant everyone could enjoy football on a full tummy and not be clamoring for snacks at 6:00 p.m., when the dinner dishes were barely dry and the dish washers -- none of this was done by machine! -- had barely had time to sit down.
Despite there being no logical debate on this issue, I consented to a compromise: Dinner would be at 3:00 p.m. But I knew there were hard feelings, though I wasn't quite sure why.
The day arrived and I roasted my turkey and mashed my potatoes and made the gravy and stuffing and bought extra plates and silverware and glasses. I'm not sure where we found enough tables and chairs, but we did, and all the family members arrived and no one complained too much.
My mother-in-law groused a little, but not much. There was plenty of food, and my turkey earned lots of compliments. By 4:00, everyone was full and the football games were on the TV, and all the dirty dishes were left on the table. And on the stove. And all over the counters.
I was tired. Satisfied, but tired. My husband's cousin Kathy had a new baby to take care of, as well as a six-year-old, so she couldn't help. Another cousin's wife, Terri, who was only about six weeks less pregnant than I, offered to help gather up the dishes. If you thought that was enough of a hint for others to pitch in, you're totally wrong.
Terri and I did all the dishes. Scraped, washed, dried, put away.
No one helped. No one thanked me for the dinner. Oh, one uncle did mention that he though the later dinner time was actually a good idea, but he was the sort who never got up before 10:00 a.m. anyway.
I didn't host another family holiday until 1980, in another not-quite-competed house. But that time it wasn't entirely voluntary, and the repercussions were far worse than a mere lack of thanks. Christmas 1980 was the holiday from hell.
By 1985, we had moved to Arizona, in part to get away from just that kind of crap. Our first Thanksgiving in our new "home" was a whole chicken roasted in the tiny little oven of our motorhome. Everything was cramped and crowded and inconvenient, but at least we didn't have to put up with rotten family.
I wish I could say all our subsequent holidays were peaceful and happy and bright; they weren't. And I know there are folks who just can't wait for the holidays, who are already putting up the Christmas decorations, who will go to bed early tonight so they can hit the Black Friday sales. Not me! I enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting on the couch in my comfy clothes, fixing a sandwich for lunch and some leftover teriyaki chicken for dinner. BF is off to visit his friends and watch more football. Good for him.
Another of those books I used for thesis research, and one of those I found most interesting. I think it's time for a long, leisurely re-read.