Saturday, November 20, 2004

Last night, I found out my Grandma H. had a stroke a day or so ago. I guess she's not doing very well, because they called the immediate family in. So Mom is flying to IA even as I type. When I talked to her online last night, she seemed pretty calm about it. As she put it, it's like we already said 'good-bye' to Grandma H. a couple years ago, when we found out she had Alzheimer's after Grandpa H. died. But still...if Grandma H. dies, I'll only have Grandma O. left of all my grandparents, since Grandpa O. died when I was like 16. That's a pretty weird feeling for me. Unlike a lot of people I know (like Cowboy), until I was 16, all four of my grandparents were alive. I lived quite a way away from them, since they all lived in IA, and we moved away from there when I was 3. But I was still fairly close to my grandparents.

See, we'd spend all of the month of July living with Grandpa and Grandma H. in their little house in Hospers during the week, and then on the weekends, we'd go to Grandpa and Grandma O.'s farm. And my H. grandparents would come to visit us once or twice a year too, until I was maybe 16 or so, spending a week with us in the spring and the fall. Sometimes my O. grandparents would visit us too. All four of them came to NC for my Confirmation when I was 13. By the time I got married in 2002, Grandma O. was the only one able to make the trip.

Grandma H. taught me a lot about sewing, whupped me at Scrabble, and made the greatest Dutch Almond Bars ever. Grandpa H. took me for walks to the post office and the bank (where we got free caramels). He really loved those no-bake chocolate cookies. I learned to play pool in their basement. We'd play Rummikub together for hours. Every weeknight, we watched Joepardy! and Wheel of Fortune.

And my O. grandparents went on these amazing road trips with us. When I was 6, they and my parents and my little brother all piled into the Green Car and drove into every state west of the Mississippi River in about 10 days. We also did other trips in later years, to places like Washington, D.C., Niagara Falls, Gettysburg, and all the way along the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. Grandpa let me help him drive the combine when I was little, and Grandma would let me help feed the calves.

To top all this off, the piece I'm working on getting published with Guideposts is about the last time I spend a good chunk of life with my H. grandparents: Easter Break of 2000. Grandma H. might die before I ever get nationally published, something that would have made her so pleased and proud. And even if she's still alive in March, her Alzheimer's is too far along for her to know anyway...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I just read an astounding new book: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Well, it's not 100% new; it first got published in 2002. But considering that the last book I read was published in 1897, it's pretty new. There's a sequel out now: Lost in a Good Book, which I plan to read as soon as the new bookstore in town gets it in for me.

Anyway, about The Eyre Affair. It's incredibly hard to describe, but I'll try. It's set in 1985, but not the 1985 we this 1985, things like time travel and pet dodos are common. The main character, Thursday Next, is a literature detective, and she eventually winds up inside the book Jane Eyre, helping Mr. Rochester rescue Jane from the evil genius who kidnapped her. You can see how this would appeal to me--I dig scifi/fantasy, and what wouldn't I give to step inside some of my favorite books (of which Jane Eyre is obviously one)? It's a well-written book, with great bits like this:

"We try to make art perfect because we never manage it in real life..." (pg 271)

Or here's a section where the character Hobbes from the book interacts with the character Grace Poole in Jane Eyre, as he prepares to kidnap its title character:

"I'm, um, with Mr. Mason," he stammered.
"Rubbish," she replied, staring at him dangerously.
"I want Jane Eyre," he stammered.
"So does Mr. Rochester," she replied in a matter-of-fact tone. "But
he doesn't even kiss her until page one hundred and eighty-one." (pg 296)

See the fun possibilities?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I've mentioned the show Combat! quite often lately, so I thought I'd do a whole post about it, just explaining what it is and my relationship to it. (This will definitely be long)

Combat! ran from 1962-1967 and has 152 episodes. It focuses on American Infantrymen in Normandy after the D-Day Invasion in 1944. The two main stars are Vic Morrow (Sgt. Chip Saunders) and Rick Jason (Lt. Gil Hanley). There were also five other regulars, who made up Sgt. Saunders' squad: Jack Hogan (Pvt. William Kirby), Pierre Jalbert (Pvt. Paul "Caje" Lamay), Dick Peabody (Pvt. Littlejohn), Tom Lowell (Pvt. Billy Nelson), and Conlan Carter (Doc). Actually, the show had two "Doc" characters. The first season has what we call "Doc 1", played by Steven Rogers. But that character was really boring, and I guess Rogers had some personal issues at the time, so seasons 2-5 have "Doc 2". When you read fanfic or listen to fans talk, when they say "Doc" they generally mean "Doc 2". If they mean "Doc 1", they'll say "Doc 1" or "Doc Walton", which is a name the publicity dept. gave him, but which was never used in the show.

Of the stars, all but three are still alive. Vic Morrow died while filming the infamous helicopter scene for Twilight Zone: the Movie (there was a huge court case, and you can find out a lot about it by googling if you want to; I've even seen footage of the crash, which is not pleasant) back in the early 1980's. Rick Jason committed suicide a few years ago, and Dick Peabody died of cancer a year or two later.

The show itself is the longest-running WWII drama in tv history. It had lots of amazing writers (like Gene Levitt and Burt Kennedy), directors (like Richard Donner and Robert Altman) and guest stars (like James Coburn, Charles Bronson, James MacArthur, and a zillion others). Combat! was about as realistic as tv could be in the mid-sixties, or at least non-news tv. It focused on the people involved in war, and was ahead of its time in that it didn't dehumanize the enemy, and worked hard to show the wastefulness inherent in war. The mid-series two-part episode, "Hills are for Heroes" (which Vic Morrow directed) is an amazing look at the useless slaughter that can happen during war. Oh yeah, Vic Morrow got nominated for an Emmy for the first-season ep "Survival", which Robert Altman directed (I'm not a big Altman fan, as he ran off with Morrow's wife, but he did direct some lovely eps). For all the info you would probably ever want about the show, visit Jo Davidsmeyer's site at or , although she's been having some issues with her server lately and sometimes the site won't load.

So, about my relationship to the show (sorry, this is a really long posting, isn't it?). Back in 1994, a new tv channel started up near where we lived, and was showing all sorts of great old shows. They didn't have a listing for it in the local tv guide yet, so my brother and I would just check in every half hour or so to see what was on. One day we checked, I think around 10am, and it was this black-and-white war show with two guys on the screen. One of them said, "You'll go far with that kind of attitude," and the other one said, "Do you mean far in the army, or far over that rough area back there?" We watched a couple minutes, until the opening credits came up and told us we were watching Combat!. We ran to Daddy and said, "Did you ever hear of a show called Combat!?" He said, "Yeah, that was a really good show," or something to that effect, and we started taping it for a few weeks. The first full ep I ever saw was "The Walking Wounded", and it's still my favorite ep. We just found out this year that that very first bit we saw is in an ep called "The Prisoner". Anyway, Sgt. Saunders sauntered his way into my heart quite easily, and I've been hooked ever since. I was 14, and my brother was 9 at the time.

When I got to college, I joined the online Combat! email discussion group, and haven't been off it for more than a month or two ever since. I'd written a few short stories about the show back in high school, but when I joined the discussion group I really discovered fanfiction (or fanfic). I soon improved and lengthened one of my old stories, and in 1999 sometime, "The Escapist" got published online. I followed it with two more stories involving the title character of that one, a certain Private Puling I'd made up. Next began what is now my Fog Trilogy, three stories occuring more-or-less simultaneously and showing what happens to different members of the squad when they got split up by some fog. This Spring, I joined a newer discussion group too, which is all fanfic writers (well, a few fanfic readers too, but we tend to convince them to try to write). All but one of my stories are posted on the Purple Hearts page ( under the name 'White Queen'; "Bulletproof", my first Combat!/Angel crossover, is on the regular Story Nook Combat! page (

One last thing: Combat! is now available on dvd! Season One is out already, and Season Two will be released November 30th, with the other seasons to follow, probably in March, July, and November of next year. Huzzah! You can also catch it on some cable and satellite channels, like Encore's Action Channel and I think Nickelodeon's TV Land might show some too. The channel I originally watched it on back in 1994 no longer shows it, although they still retain the right to, last time I checked. But I have Season One on dvd now, and Season Two preordered!

"Love me, love my sergeant!" Vive l'Combat!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Today I shall share with you three tips for making extra-tasty hot chocolate. First, add a little milk or cream--this will cool it down if you use boiling water, and makes it richer. Second, try putting a pinch or two of chili powder in your hot chocolate and stirring it up (I got this one from the movie Chocolat)--it makes it thick and tasty (although Cowboy insists he can't tell a difference...but what do men really know about chocolate, after all?). Third, stick a mini candy cane (or part of a big one) in your hot chocolate and let it melt. I don't know what would happen if you did chili powder and candy cane at the same time--I haven't gotten around to trying that yet.

Everybody knows about whipped cream, cinnamon, and marshmallows, right? Tell me I don't need to explain those to you.

Time for supper. Cowboy is freshly showered and hungry.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I voted today, as did Cowboy, and we met the Housekarl on the way out. I can't believe how many people are all invigorated about voting this year! The place was packed.

Since voting is pretty much a big question of who is your favorite this or that, here are some more of my favorite things. Oh, I went back to my Oct 23 posting and changed that, adding some elucidation of why I love the things I do, and removing some of the things there so I could put them here with others like them. If that makes no sense, well, neither do I most of the time, I verily believe...

My Favorite __________

#1 TV Show: Combat! (I love stuff set in WWII, and the writing and characters rock!)
#2 TV Show: Angel (It started out as a noirish PI show, and I just kept loving it after that. And did I mention David Boreanaz is hot?)
Combat! Character: Sgt. Chip Saunders (He's tough but sweet, a good warrior that hates war; I've loved him since I was 14 and saw my first ep)
Angel Character: Angel (I'm a sucker for 'Byronic' heroes*, and he's practically an archtype. And did I mention the hotness of David B, who plays him?)
#1 Lord of the Rings Character: Boromir (brave, oh-so-human, and mildly Byronic)
#2 Lord of the Rings Character: Samwise Gamgee (the scene where he says: "I may not be able to carry the ring for you, Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you" makes me weep--he's so brave!)
Harry Potter Character: Sirius Black (amazingly Byronic, and so sweet! Plus, I'm all about escaping from prisons)
Star Wars Character: Han Solo (cocky and smooooth, with a touch of Byronic brooding...and hello? Harrison Ford!)
Shakespearean Play: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Um, yeah, I've read it like 14 times and seen 4 movie versions, and I have gobs of it memorized. It's a very cathartic experience for me, whether I watch or read it)
Indiana Jones movie: The Last Crusade (Indy and his dad play off each other so brilliantly!)
Superheroes: Wolverine (Byronic), Spiderman (snarky), and Robin (vulnerable)

(more to come...)

*'Byronic' heroes: So called because Lord Byron wrote several characters, most prominently the title character in Manfred, who were gloomy, broody, and isolated, with a dark past and lots of inner conflict. Readers found these types to be both frightening and compelling, and the type gained popularity, especially during the Romantic Age, I think. I've realized recently that many of the characters I love are quite Byronic.