“Summertime and the livin’ is easy…” One of my favorite songs says it all. It’s hot pretty much everywhere, especially in Texas. Too hot to do much more than take it easy. My hammock beckons on sultry summer afternoons. Lounging there, I watch the wild birds flitting about, enjoying a rainbow of sparkling water droplets spraying over their bird bath. My worries melt away as I remember Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” There is so much joy in sharing what I have with these little feathered folk who flock to my bird feeders every morning and sing down the sun every evening. Sometimes, as in this photo by taken by Tina Andrews, I get a special gift that fills my heart with delight. Like me, Tina has long hair that sometimes gets away from her. She found this bird nest on her lawn and realized the center was her own soft, shining hair made into baby bird bedding. Now, everytime we clean loose hairs from our combs and brushes and toss them outside, we make living easier for our beautiful wild birds.
Spring in the Heart of Texas
Agarita Bush bursting into Bloom!
Suddenly, it’s Spring in the Heart of Texas - just in time for Austin’s annual Spring Break Music+ MegaFestival - SXSW! Check my Facebook page for daily SXSW-related recommendations, especially free shows away from the downtown crowds and live shows online and on air. This year, bluebonnets are just starting to show their pretty heads on the roadsides. They’ll increase over the next couple months, along with all the other wonderful Texas wildflowers - a spectacular show and one of the rewards for living in the Lone Star State.
Cardinals in the Heart of Texas
In answer to a question from a Northerner after reading my new Christmas novelette: Yes, birds in Texas do nest in the fall and winter as well as spring and summer and they really like to line those nests with hair and other soft, insulating materials. For the most part, birds here in the fall and winter have migrated here from the north and our spring and summer birds have migrated south. However, our cardinals stay here year round and it is not unusual for them to have baby cardinals during warm autumns. They are some of my favorite birds at my place. I love to throw my hair out for the birds :) This wonderful photo is by wonderful author Jeanell Bolton, taken at Christmas a few years ago. For more information about cardinals in Texas: https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdpubs/introducing_birds/cardinals/
More Love than Water!
“More Love than Water” said Gary Sapone, a beloved fellow Kerrvert who lives in Houston. “More Love than Water” became the rallying cry for the Austin to Houston - Harvey Relief Group headed by Hondo Crouch and joined by thousands on Facebook, including Gary, me, and many of the real people in my novels. Yes, Hondo - the hero in my newest novel - is a hero in real life too. Hondo, Gary, and the others need more hands and more donations to help ordinary people devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Their needs are far more important right now than mine. Please go to http://icreateforiam.omb10.com/hurricanerelief Then join the group and follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/114024145969417/ Thanks for sharing more Love than Water!
Today, I’m celebrating the solar eclipse! The Great American Solar Eclipse Star Party has taken precedence over my new light-hearted murder mystery: “Murder at the Music Festival”. There will be plenty of time tomorrow to format and submit my manuscript. Then I’ll be busy for a while with all the things other than writing which must be done: PR and promotion, updating my website and adding new covers to “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “Hot in the Heart of Texas” so they match “Safe in the Heart of Texas”. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I’m starting to work on “Christmas in the Heart of Texas 2017”. But today, I’m celebrating a dramatic interaction between the sun and the moon. Let there be Light!
Live music outside at the Moontower Saloon
Oops! I missed blogging last month. I have been so busy writing Murder at the Music Festival that I have lost track of time more than once. The first draft is almost finished. Next, I’ll rewrite and send that off to my best friend from kindergarten for proofreading and suggestions. (I am so lucky!) While she’s reading the manuscript I’ll finish designing the cover and update my website. I love writing novels almost as much as I love listening to live music. My favorite show these days is the monthly Sunday evening Hondo Presents Outlaw Open Mic at the Moontower Saloon in South Austin, which is coming up very soon: July 16 and August 27. It’s so much fun to relax outside on their breezy deck with a cold drink and listen to some of the best (mostly Central Texas) musicians compete for Hondo’s two hundred dollar first prize! Hondo is also one of the heroes in my new murder mystery series, in which only Hondo and the musicians are real...
A funny thing happened in the middle of writing my next novel. Suddenly, another book started writing itself in my head and now I’m working on two different novels simultaneously. Even more surprising, this new novel is a murder mystery: Murder at the Music Festival. I never planned to write a murder mystery, but one morning late last month I woke up with the plot in my head and the words started tumbling out. Like my previous novels, Murder at the Music Festival is set in Texas and features several real Texas musicians. Unlike my Heart of Texas series, this novel is almost completely fiction. Only Hondo and the musicians are real. Since this book is coming together almost on its own, it looks like Murder at the Music Festival will be out next - possibly next month - before the book it has interrupted. I can already see the cover in my mind, but I need help to make it real. I need a photo of a smashed guitar for the cover but I’m certainly not about to smash one myself. So I’m sending out a request. If you have a photo of a smashed guitar or know someone who does, I’d like to see it. If I can use it you’ll get full credit for the photo, if desired. It’s important to me that no actual musical instruments are ever mistreated in any way for this or any other books. Thanks!
Springtime with Shelley King in the Heart of Texas
Wow! Where has March gone? Is it really almost Easter?! Truth be told, I’ve been out and about rather than writing as much as I’d like. Springtime in the Heart of Texas is absolutely glorious again this year. I’ve been driving around a lot, looking at wildflowers - which are everywhere. (Go to my Facebook page for photos and links to the best wildflower sightings.) I was also been able to enjoy even more wonderful music than usual last week. Fletcher Clark, one of the real people in my Heart of Texas trilogy, hosts Evenings with Songwriters the last Tuesday night of every month (except December) in Lockhart’s beautiful, historic Eugene Clark Library and one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Shelley King, was the star last week (photo above). I am so excited that Shelley will be in my next novel (working title: Crash!) and this was one of the best Evenings, ever! Two days later, I was blessed to be at Ruthie Foster’s Studio 1A concert for KUTX. Friday night, I got together with many of the real people in the trilogy for more live music at the Kerrville Folk Festival Volunteer benefit, and Sunday afternoon I helped another favorite person celebrated her birthday at Giddy Ups, a classic Texas honkytonk, with more great live music. This week was devoted to wildflower drives and catching up. Now it’s almost Easter, followed by Old Settlers’ Music Festival and more fun, and then it will be time to get ready for the Kerrville Folk Festival.Yes, the fun never stops here in the Heart of Texas! Happy Easter, y’all!
SXSW 2017 has come a long way from its spur of the moment start. I know, because I’ve covered SXSW since the beginning, when SXSW started as an offshoot of the Austin Chronicle. Read about the early days of South by Southwest in the first book of my Heart of Texas trilogy, Deep in the Heart of Texas. Now, SXSW has become an enormous multifaceted mega-festival. The SXSW Music Festival is still at the forefront, but SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive Festivals have also become extremely popular. SXSW Edu - the newest addition - adds Education-related workshops and events. While welcoming all who come to Austin for SXSW, these days I stay on the fringes because there are just too many people crammed into downtown for my comfort. There’s plenty of excellent music at fringe events like Shakespeare’s “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges” backyard house concert (more about that also in Deep in the Heart of Texas), Hondo Presents Open Mic at the Moontower Saloon (also in Christmas in the Heart of Texas) and many, many more. For 2017 recommendations, dates and daily updates, please check my Facebook page. At its best, SXSW is a state of mind. If you choose to enjoy it in person, you are in for a wild ride. Enjoy! But if your mind wants to experience SXSW while your body is elsewhere, that is even easier. Listen on the radio or live stream. It’s all good! Enjoy!
Remembering Townes Van Zandt on his Birthday
I love to wake up listening to my favorite radio host, John Aielli, playing whatever strikes his fancy on Eklektikos, his morning show on Austin’s KUTX. This morning, on his own birthday, John reminded me that today is also the birthday of incomparable, gone-far-too-soon, singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt. I first met Townes on a dark, snowy night eons ago, crammed into a small, warm room with a bunch of other travellers trapped for the night in the tiny town of Raton, New Mexico because Raton Pass was closed until snow plows could clear the way. As we turned the delay into a party, guitars came out and songs were sung, including a haunting homage to the snow around us by a tall, dark-haired, skinny hippie with a shy smile who brushed off our applause. Many years later, at the now defunct Rockne Roadhouse, I heard that same refrain and saw that same tall, skinny songwriter up onstage. I got to hear, and even to hug, Townes for the next fifteen years. I love all his songs but “Snowing on Raton” remains one of my absolute favorites, because it also reminds me that I have found my way home here in the Heart of Texas. Back then, I was looking for my “Home” - crisscrossing the country repeatedly - looking for wherever it was that I belonged, wherever it was that I would find other people like me. Back then, I never dreamed I belonged in Texas. It would take a couple more years, an ice storm in Oklahoma and another road closure, sending me south on I-35 to Austin, to finally get here and realize I was “Home” at last. Finding Townes here too… those memories still bring me to tears. Happy Birthday Townes. May your memory - and your songs - be eternal. By the way, I just checked the weather forecast for Raton. They are expecting “round after round” of snow in the next few days. Here in the Heart of Texas, bluebonnets and other wildflowers are blooming. It has been years since I’ve seen snow.
Avoid VistaPrint Website Builder Service like the Plague it is!
Please excuse me while I rant a bit, and also learn from my sad experience. Whatever you do, DO NOT attempt to build a website through VistaPrint. VistaPrint is just fine for inexpensive business cards, banners and such, but their website builder service caused me more than half a year of anguish. It didn’t work for me at all and VistaPrint also registered my domain name without notification or permission. Even after I bought my own domain name back, VistaPrint continued to run an unauthorized advertisement for their web builder on my website until yesterday. I hope you didn’t see it and I hope it is gone forever. Please let me know if it pops up again. There is at least one good website builder service for non-techies and I will be happy to recommend it, with instructions, after I have used it for a while. If you want more information about the VistaPrint services, enter VistaPrint Website Fraud into your favorite search engine.
WhooHoo! It's taken me much more time than I'd planned, but I finally have launched this website! I'll be writing here in between everything else I do but for daily updates please check my Facebook page.