getting organized


My mother was a very traditional Thanksgiving cook. We always had the same menu: pimento-cheese-celery, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing (not dressing), something orange and squishy, green beans-and-mushroom-soup casserole, pumpkin pie. We loved Thanksgiving, our food, and our turkey—the next day’s sandwiches.
When I became the family matriarch, a title I inherited when Mom didn’t have access to a stove any more and I had an elevator to get her up to our place, I decided to do things differently. Gone was the cheese-stuffed celery, since Bill, our cousin who loved it most, was also gone. Gone also were the green beans, replaced by roasted Brussels sprouts, which have offended certain taste buds big time. My biggest decision, a few years ago, was to do something different with the potatoes. I made gnocchi, sort of, my first try, and one of my sons commented that they looked like goose do. (He’s also the son who said I needed  some blood and violence in my novels if I wanted I’d sell them.) I did not repeat that experiment.
So every Thanksgiving, for the past who-knows-now many years under my leadership, has included some food no one at the table has ever experienced. I consider it my duty. I love the risk of cooking something for others that may either please or disgust them. So far, it’s been about fifty-fifty, please/disgust-wise. 
This year I determined to attack the turkey. I would do the In thing. I would butterfly it.  Spatchcocking, the magazines called it. The bird would fit in the fridge better, in the oven along with the roasted beans, and, according to the articles, brine better (another innovation my mother would have laughed at.) Then my son, the same one as above, sent by mail, a frozen wild turkey to represent him, since he and his family could not join us, at the table.
This bird’s breasts Dolly Parton would yearn for. All that flying, you know. It doesn’t matter that he is male, these breasts are for flying, the skinny legs for landing. And our first view of Henry, we named him, is bloody juice, leaking from the box my son had mailed him in, all over the entry of my building. Our mailman will get a nice thank you at Christmas, since Henry had also leaked all over his vehicle.
Wild turkeys are a different color than the ones that sit around getting fed hormones and antibiotics, and corn. He was pretty red, even his chest, and he continued to leak a little, in a sickening kind of way, as we debated spatchcocking first then brining, or the reverse? Brining of wild turkeys is important. Those big breasts are tough babies from working so hard
Henry did not spatchcock easily. His bones were really tough; we had to saw at his backbone with a carving knife, and pound and stand on his chest to flatten him into a butterfly. At some point, I felt so sorry for him, I wanted to quit. I couldn’t, of course.  He was due at a Thanksgiving dinner table. I’ll take the results out of the oven in a couple of days,
Along with Henry, I have taken another Thanksgiving risk. I’ve spatchcocked Graffiti Grandma. She is now being worked over by someone other than me. I’ve given her over to people who will shape her up, make her look good, maybe make her taste better, turn her into a new presence. This too, is a risk. For her, for me. For a year, I wanted to treat her in my own traditional “I can do it myself” way. I’m now allowing someone to take over, butterfly her. I’ll find out the results in a few weeks.


So, now that both Graffiti Grandma and The Solarium are being sold on Amazon, Lulu, iBook and Nook (don’t even ask what this last few weeks have been like), I am beginning the marketing.

I like that word. Marketing. It seems professional. A Facebook page is under construction. I am reading a few other writers’ blogs. I have hired a web page genius who happens to also be a good friend even though I’m twice her age. I have on-line joined a couple of indie writers and publishers groups. That’s what we self-publishers are called with only a slight squint nowadays, a lot better than the derisive downward curve of the lip that used to accompany “vanity press.”

I haven’t a clue what to do next. Altogether I have sold maybe thirty copies of my books. My son even bought one and downloaded onto his 21-inch Mac. He will be paralyzed if he tries to read it that way, sitting straight up in his desk chair, but the effort warms his mother’s heart. A friend gave up trying to find one of my books on iTunes and downloaded the Glee-Madonna album instead. Another friend said, “Jo, I don’t do e-books. I don’t do Facebook. I don’t do the internet. Mostly, I don’t do computer. What else is there?” I ran off the manuscript of The Solarium and sent it snail mail to her, but warned her to open it carefully because Kindle formatting doesn’t do page numbers.

For the past day or so, I’ve begun to realize how easy it is to become addicted to the possibilities that the computer screen offers anyone who needs to make life, or in my case, marketing, perfect. This morning I Googled “e-book reviews” and two hours later it comes to me that I’ve been overtaken by hundreds of reviews of e-books, yes, but books written by Janet Evanovitch and that Patterson guy and others who get reviewed whenever they sneeze. No one’s going to review either one of my offerings, except my friend-writer Peggy who knew I’d also do it for her if it comes to that. Which it won’t because her first book may be picked up by a publisher who is entering the e-book business with romantic-mystery books, which is Peggy’s genre.

There is no genre for stories of old ladies who may or may not have mysterious (at least to anyone under sixty) notions–but think about it–who’s out there to notion with? Perhaps that’s where the mystery comes in. An old people’s genre? Somehow made sell-worthy with a handsome ninety-year-old lothario who happens to be a serial killer? (I’m noting that last sentence for further consideration.)

I have decided to take control of my days and my computer. Mornings are for writing the next novel about an old lady, to hell with it, and the afternoons will be for cruising the internet for marketing ideas that don’t cost $3,000. At noon I am joining a senior exercise class and giving my body a break.

“Mens sana in corpore sano.” At least I may get one of those right.

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