kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Do you enjoy reading? So do I! Great news -- there's a new website/blog devoted to book lovers and readers of all kinds. I'll be contributing book reviews and occasional articles to this new site called Lit Stack.

LitStack is a new reviews site dedicated to readers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories, literary magazines, ebooks, manga and graphic novels. (We'll probably even be posting some spoken-word stuff for the super-artsy types.) The site also features indie bookstores and literary landmarks across the world (one city at a time), and cool bookish finds and news we run across online.

In addition to daily book reviews and regular spotlights on indie bookstores we love, LitStack also features regular segments to promote current titles and build appreciation for older works.

LitStack’s Featured Author- This month-long series of posts includes reviews of previous releases by our Featured Author, along with a current interview and review to coincide with the author’s upcoming release.

LitStaff Picks- Once a week, we feature a collection of books new and old--the favorites of our staff within a specific theme.

ShortStacks - Original short stories and essays by established authors.

Footnotes - Multiple weekly posts highlighting literary events in history, including the birthdays of famous authors, publication and award dates of classic titles, and memorial posts for beloved figures.

Author Interviews - Launch week will feature interviews with Adam Schuitema and Hannah Moskowitz. In the coming weeks, Locus winner Cherie Priest, NYT Bestseller Terry Brooks and Irish Book Awards winner Marian Keyes are scheduled to appear.

The Book Club - Every month LitStack will have a couple of featured titles; a review, open-thread discussion and author Q&A (when available) will be posted for each book so you can read along and share your thoughts.

So check us out. LitStack debuts today 8:00 A.M. CST.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Top Ten Lists

You see them everywhere these days. Newspapers, magazines, internet sites, late night talk shows. The top ten best places to . . . , the top ten favorite . . . , the top ten easiest . . . , the top ten worst . . . . A writer friend of mine insists these top ten lists amount to nothing more than lazy journalism. Mere filler and fluff for pages or airwaves. And yet they remain a pop culture staple. Publishers love them. Do readers? Personally, I get pretty excited when I read that Pittsburgh is the number one most livable city, rates high for having a low cost of living, or boasts the most football fans. I feel sad when I read that Louisiana ranks high as one of most unhealthy states or has poor standards for education.

What do you think? Do you read top ten lists? Do you enjoy them? Do they influence your behavior or opinions? Do you really want someone telling you where to find the best pizza in town or would you rather figure that out for yourself?

I guess I was lazy this weekend. I did little exciting or noteworthy. So here are my own top ten best reasons to love living in southwest Louisiana.

10. Shorts and t-shirts in January. Sure, we suffer stifling heat and humidity in the summer – what part of the country hasn’t lately – and occasional hurricanes. But I love not bundling up and shivering in winter, dealing with treacherous driving conditions, and paying $300.00 monthly heating bills. I love that I can get outdoors and play year round. Recently, I'm learning how to kayak. Like I always say, I’d rather be hot in the summer than cold in the winter.

9. Free parking. Everywhere. No kidding.

8. Minimal traffic. Seriously. If five cars line up behind a stop light, the locals think it’s a traffic jam.

7. Roads. Long, straight, basic grid pattern, easy to learn my way around. And without the freeze/thaw thing going on in the winter, very few if any potholes. Okay, enough about driving and weather.

6. Food. Since moving to Louisiana, my taste buds have savored the most incredible new cuisines and some dishes I’d never even heard of before. Gumbo, jambalaya, etoufee, po boys, boudin, crawfish, shrimp and other fresh seafood; it’s all so good!

5. Interesting wildlife. Nutria, roseate spoonbills, armadillos . . . . An alligator in Lowe’s garden center? Why did the chicken cross the road? To show the opossum it actually can in fact be done.

4. Festivals. Louisiana.com states Calcasieu Parish alone hosts over 75 annual festivals. That's only one parish in a five parish region. Suffice it to say, there are a whole lot of festivals around here. I've said it before; we celebrate everything!

3. Music. Zydeco, Cajun, swamp pop . . . if all that doesn’t make you want to dance, there’s no hope for you.

2. Unique culture. I’m learning French by osmosis. I’m fascinated by the traditions of Mardi Gras, pirates, swamp lore, and the Acadians. It’s a daily learning experience. And I love the arts in Lake Charles; the many galleries and museums, theater, ballet, the symphony, the list goes on and on.

And my number one top ten reason why I love living in southwest Louisiana . . . friendly people. The folks here are amazing; kind, helpful, caring, welcoming, shirt-off-their-backs-for-anyone-types. My family and I have been on the receiving end of so much goodness. It’s truly heartwarming. Of course, Pittsburghers rank high on the friendly list, too. On my top ten, Pittsburgh and Lake Charles are tied for first place in the friendly category.

Let me know what you think on those earlier questions. And just for fun, create a top ten list related to your own hometown.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Happenings

Wow, what an awesome weekend for Lake Charles music fans. Street Side Jazz Band played at Stellar Beans coffee shop Friday evening. Asleep at the Wheel, a favorite of mine from college days, performed at the Civic Center Saturday night. Various bands at the annual Cajun Music and Food Festival entertained all weekend at Burton Coliseum.

And I didn’t see or hear any of it. Nope, except for a writing/work-related thing on Saturday and church on Sunday (which also has awesome music!) I stayed home, read, walked, watched a movie, perused the Sunday paper, baked banana bread, swung in the hammock, rode my bike . . . relaxed. Some weekends are simply meant to be less exciting (busy, stressful) than others. Yay for downtime!

While I wiled away a Sunday afternoon, photographer/writer friend Frank DiCesare went to that Cajun music festival and took a few photos. The guys below call themselves Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin' Cajuns. You can find more of Frank’s photography on his website.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fort Lauderdale

Bob and I spent the weekend in Fort Lauderdale. Quick trip, but fun, while the boys were away at camp. Here’s Bob hanging out at Bahia Cabana with his buddies Jake and Elwood.

You may not know this about me, but I have a fountain fetish. Truly.

We weren’t really there long enough to see much besides big yachts and mansions while riding on the water taxi. I kinda like this one.

By far the sight that wins the most interesting/unusual/weird award goes to this car. Who does this?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

Cost of a plane ticket from Lake Charles to Pittsburgh . . . more than my husband wanted to spend.

Number of travel hours, after a flight delay, missed connection, overnight stay in Houston, and a rental car malfunction . . . way more than I wanted to spend.

The look on Mom's face and the joy in our hearts when I surprised her and showed up at her 70th birthday party . . .