Monthly Archives: September 2009


DSC_2983Once, long ago, someone called me to tell me he’d written what he called a “picaresque” novel. I didn’t know what that meant so I had to look it up in the dictionary. It means episodic adventures described in realistic detail of an engaging, usually roguish character. Don Quixote is an example. Inman in Cold Mountain is another. The reason I bring this up is I just read the proof (a book before it’s published) of another kind of adventure, a young woman who is pregnant and isn’t married and doesn’t know what to do.

Her adventures are as engaging as Don Quixote or Inman’s, but they involve the attempts to find some security for herself and her child and the attempt to wrap her mind around the fact that there will be a child. Where is the term, like picaresque, for this kind of adventure? It’s been happening to women since forever, and it’s real and honest and desperate. I think of Ada and Ruby in Cold Mountain. They didn’t roam toward home like Inman. They were home, and they used every ounce of their intelligence and spunk just to survive, to make home real, a place of safety and sustenance.

Anyway, I feel irritated that there is this term that describes a guy’s adventures, adventures a woman couldn’t go easily on because she’d be beaten or raped (in the old days, anyway, though maybe that applies now), and here’s this whole other adventure, involving a new life, and there’s no literary term, and yet it’s a common, constant drama whose details we see played out in media stories about real people.



A very bad day with Mother this last week, a reminder that Alzheimer’s is stronger than wishful thinking. No matter what we did, I couldn’t lift her to liveliness. Her smiles were few, her gaze was often vacant, her attitude one of how much a struggle anything was,DSC_5907 getting in and out of the car, undressing for her bath. I came home grieving and then today, looking for what to put in this blog, came across notes from nearly a year ago. How sharply I was reminded of a happier time, that change is the only constant, and that I must treasure the present in this disease. This is what I wrote nearly a year ago:

She was so sweet yesterday that I had to stop and hug her more than once. I told her I was going to Reno, where she had lived so happily before Alzheimer’s demanded changes. I told her I was going to see my sister and her daughter. She thought about what I said, then announced, I ought to go, too. Oh, you ought, I thought.She was once a champion traveler, driving all over the states of Texas and Arkansas to see her children and grandchildren, but now travel, the hurry of it, the length of it, the decisions and disruptions, upset and disorient her.

As part of our day, we went to Penney’s to shop, and when we passed the jewelry counter, she noticed a pair of earrings. Those are beautiful, she said. I caught a glimpse of the black belt shopper and jewelry expert she used to be and it hurt my heart. So we bought them. Later, when we were eating, she remembered that I was leaving on a trip. Where are you going? she asked. To Reno, I answered. I should go, she said. Oh, yes, I thought again. You should. Another time, I told her, and that night I helped her put her new earrings in her ears, even though it was after her bath.

Footnote: The earrings are lost now, put away by her somewhere. And treasuring the moment is a skill useful for far more than Alzheimer’s. So I know, but can seldom seem to live.


Ah, the noise of a September in Houston. A chorus of cicadas screech love DSC_3450or death with the beginning of dusk. There’s a whir, some kind of rythmatic, awful rising and falling in their cadence, like fiddles being badly tuned or violins beyond a bearable pitch, and yet it’s an autumn sound I’ve heard most of my life.

And then it’s still hot, though there are morning hints of cool to come, when the temperature lets go of its hold on the humid 90s, and I can sit outdoors with some comfort. Another September. This time last year, a hurricane had blown in and decimated Galveston and the stock markets were tumbling on a brink that frightened everyone and the election was a free-for-all that made politics seem really vital again.

We’ve hung on, and another fall has begun its cycle. A change in health care has people at the pitch of the cicadas outside. A Congressman is rude to the President in a public address. I wonder what piece an unstated racism has in the hysteria and hate displayed. I wonder why hate plays so well.

Is it so much easier to howl our dark rather than trust our light?

no name

jugFretting over a title for latest novel…..which is not at a publisher’s. My agents read it, like it, but want me to clear up a plot point or two. I never like suggestions, but I’ve learned over time to listen, particularly to those I respect and whose job it is to sell my novels! (There’s more of this on my new blog on my website…..a kind of writing whine). And they thought the title too gender specific….too male. It’s about Louis XIV. It’s about three months in his young life when he was twenty two and did two extraordinary things: took on the most powerful man in France and fell tenderly in love. And I added a man in the iron mask.

At first I called it King. Then I changed it to Monarch (butterfly/transformation). Now I just keep sinking into a quagmire of titles, none of which I like, Crowned with Lilies, Crown and Lily, Lion’s Shadow, Lily and Lion, Monarch and Mistress, Fleur de Lis…..what! These all sound too…..something, and not the something I want. He was called the Sun King. I need some light on this! Meanwhile, I am rereading–after an absence of three months–the manuscript. It’s wonderful to be able to focus almost solely on language, crisping it up. And to know now exactly what dialog should come from character’s mouths. So the fourth novel will be a crisper read with perfect dialog. Unfortunately, it will be unnamed, and you won’t be able to find it.