Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Copyedits, Cats, and Crazies

Life has been hectic lately. The sale on my mom's house fell through because the buyer I thought was nice turned out to be so crazy that the real estate agent who was helping her find a property actually dropped her. So we had to go back on the market. We've just signed a new contract, ironically for 10% more than the last sale; hopefully this one will go through.

At the same time, I've been going over the copyedits of WHO BURIES THE DEAD. It's been about six months since I read this book, so I was coming at it with fairly fresh eyes. I must say, it's an unusual book. But then, who wants to keep reading the same thing, right? Please tell me I'm right!

And then, of course, I'm still dealing with this little guy. I have flyers at the two vets I work with, but still no takers. He's now clean of the worms, fleas, and mites he had when he arrived, and he's had his first shots, so he could come in the house EXCEPT.... Huck is sick again, this time with a dangerously low white blood cell count (yes, I am worried; he's never been well since he almost died last fall). And since we don't know what's causing it, Indie is only allowed in the rooms occupied by our houseguests, aka Rosco and Peanut.

Rosco is a weird cat who would be on Ativan if he were a person. I don't trust him alone with the little guy (who looks enough like him to be his own offspring), so we've been having 1-2 hour play dates: Indie plays while Rosco hisses and swats, and I sit there like an anxious mama and watch. I do wish I could find a proper home for the little baby; I seem to spend my life taking care of special needs cats.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

About that Syndrome....

Sebastian is afflicted with a hereditary genetic condition known as Bithil Syndrome. It gives him yellow eyes, incredible hearing and eyesight, quick reflexes, and (although he'd have no way of knowing it without an x-ray) a funky lower vertebra. Although I have been accused (rather nastily, I might add) of making this up, I didn't. I swear, I didn't. The problem is, there are literally thousands of weird syndromes, and most of them are so rare that if you look them up on Google, you won't find them. But just because something doesn't turn up in Google doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

So how did I hear about it? Well, it all began some  eleven years ago when my older daughter took a freshman biology course at LSU. For extra credit the students could volunteer to have their DNA tested, and so she volunteered. Because we were very interested in genealogy at the time, she called me up rather excited to tell me she had this weird thing they called "Bithil Syndrome," and they had asked to run more tests on her. (To complicate matters, she may have misspelled it; it could actually be Bithel.) Eventually, the geneticist told her she had the purest expression of the syndrome they'd yet found in the western hemisphere. Now, I've always known my daughter had incredible, unnatural hearing; when she was a little girl, you could whisper something in the living room, and she'd open her bedroom door at the other end of the house and shout, "I heard that!"(Yes, it was a pain.) She could read highway signs waaaay down the Interstate. The only aspect of it she doesn't have to any great extent is the quick reflexes; hers are only slightly above normal. And she doesn't have yellow eyes because the color is recessive to brown and, like me, my daughter has brown eyes. But my father had yellow eyes. He was also an incredible marksman and, when we were kids, he spent a great deal of his time yelling at us not to make so damned much noise. So I know exactly where it came from.

Since I was in the middle of developing my idea for the Sebastian series at the time, it seemed like a cool thing to give Sebastian a real genetic condition that made him just a little bit different. It also provides an unusual, identifiable thread for him to follow in his quest to untangle the questions about his paternity (something that comes up again in a significant way in Book #11, which I'm writing now). If I'd been clever, I'd have contacted the geneticist involved and asked for more information, but I didn't, and at this point my daughter can't even remember his name. Because she's now a medical doctor herself, she keeps promising she's going to look it up for me. But she's still a resident and I quit holding my breath long ago.

So, do I have the syndrome? Yes and no. I have that damned funky vertebra in my lower back. But my eyesight was seriously damaged when I was in oxygen for a week after birth. I do still see very well at night (I only recently realized that most people don't see what I see), but the down side to that is that bright light kills you and family members who don't have the syndrome constantly complain that you keep your house dark. Ironically, from my mother I inherited another genetic defect that causes hearing impairment. In me, it averaged things out so that my hearing is only slightly above normal (enough that I am still driven crazy by electric hums that most people don't hear and I wear earplugs in the cinema). But my younger daughter, who inherited the one genetic sequence and not the other, is actually hearing impaired. (Yeah, she's cranky about it.)

So there you have it. This is why I generally avoid talking about it--because it's a sort of personal thing, and the truth is that when I started the series all those years ago I didn't realize just how rare it is, or that the series would go on so long, or that this aspect of it would generate so much interest.




Thursday, July 31, 2014

Goodbye to a Faithful Companion

Eons ago, when I was still an unpublished author, I sprang for what at the time felt like a really expensive desk chair for someone who'd yet to sell a book. I suffer from a bad back thanks to a serious tobogganing accident in my misspent youth, and so I ordered a chair that was custom built to give me the support I needed. It didn't look like much, but it was a wonderful chair.  Every single book I ever published--and a few I didn't--I typed in that chair. When I moved from Australia to New Orleans, it came with me.

Eventually the fabric began to fray. I thought about recovering the seat, but there always seemed to be something else to do. When it went through Katrina, I refused to set it out on the huge trash pile that lined our street and simply scrubbed it down with bleach. My family said, "Don't you think you ought to get a new chair? That thing is embarrassing." I said, "I know. But it's so comfortable. And it's been with me through so much."

But eventually, the foam seat started to disintegrate. The adjustment mechanisms quit adjusting. Even my cleaning lady (tired of sweeping up bits of crumbling foam) said, "I think you need a new chair." And so, last Mother's Day, we trooped down to Ethan Allen and ordered a replacement. Today, it arrived. Yes, it's beautiful. Yes, it's comfortable. I guess after twenty years and twenty-two books, the time had come.



Monday, July 28, 2014

I Said That?--UPDATE

Like most authors, I periodically amuse myself by plugging my name into Google Images. It's how I find reissues of foreign editions of my books, such as the French one above, which is a new cover they've given Night in Eden ( can you say, misleading?!). But I occasionally come across surprises, such as this nice boxed quote:
I don't even remember which book that's from. It sounds rather like Night in Eden. But then, women discovering they are stronger than they thought they were is one of the themes that runs through all my books.The same site had another boxed quote from me, and with this one I am absolutely clueless about the origins:


Anyone know? When you've written over two million words, they do tend to blur.

UPDATE: So Google is my friend; I plugged the quotes in and it took me to another site that not only had the quotes, but the books they came from. The first is indeed Night in Eden, while the second is from Whispers of Heaven. They also had a third quote, also from Whispers of Heaven“She had discovered early that what we want out of life can change; that the important thing is to learn to recognize or even simply just admit what we really want, and then to have the courage to reach for it.” Interesting.




Friday, July 25, 2014

Letting the Good Times Roll

It's official: according to researchers at Harvard and British Columbia, the five happiest cities in the United States are all in Louisiana. They are, in order: Lafayette, Houma, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria. A sixth Louisiana city, Lake Charles, made it into the top ten. (New Orleans, I'm afraid, wasn't very high up on the list).

So why is a place bedeviled by deadly hurricanes and oil spills and poverty so happy? Who knows. But I suspect it has something to do with strong family ties and deep roots, a devotion to good eating and good music, a love of outdoor activities and eating and festivals and eating and... You get the idea.
The unhappiest city in the country was identified as New York City, followed by St. Joseph, Missouri and South Bend, Indiana. Anyone know why?




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