Monday, August 30, 2010

95th birthday. 65th anniversary. Barbecued rabbit.

A recurring thread in Half Italian is barbecued rabbit, something my family served every Easter Sunday. That's correct, Easter. And no, my childhood wasn't warped; we looked forward to this treat each year, prepared by the cousin I call "Mario," who raised the rabbits himself.

I attended Mario's 95th birthday party last Saturday, at the same farm where the Easter Sunday barbecue took place each year when I was growing up. It was also a celebration of Mario's 65th wedding anniversary. Both of them are still sharp as tacks, and in feisty humor.

A cousin who was visiting from Italy, seventeen and distractingly beautiful also attended. I wish I wasn't so shy about speaking Italian when my family visits; I always freeze, afraid to try. So, she practiced her English.

No barbecued rabbit this time, just lots of fun. How I love my family.

- PJ

Friday, August 20, 2010


An actress I know, a friend, recently gifted me with a copy of her own book, her autobiography. Her picture on the cover easily grabs one's attention, a marketing tool, because she's known. Her book sells itself, to a degree.

Marketing expense is a hefty reduction to income. Twenty years in the accounting profession, which I have, are not necessary to tell me that my friend's recognition to the general public, her platform, means less marketing expense for publishers. Author's platform = publisher value retained.

That kind of platform I don't have. Like my friend, I have a book, but my only platform is this blog, and who I am. My actress friend's signature on my personal copy of her book included a note saying I have a huge heart, an open heart. One of my cousins recently said that I'm the family "glue." An honor to me, that they see me the same as I saw those beloved relatives whom I've written about in Half Italian. I have value.

But is my platform's value enough to sell a book?

- PJ

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Enjoying the wait

Responses aren't coming in as fast this time as with past submissions. Is this because agents are considering, or because it's summer vacation? Nevertheless, I'm enjoying the time.

Since my mind has been on south France lately, evoked by a pending vacation and the book I'm reading, I decided to prepare a vegetable dish I saw in a France magazine: zucchini and red bell peppers cooked in tomatoes, olive oil, shallot, garlic, and basil. Here in the San Fernando Valley we have a truly wonderful Latino market chain with great produce at great prices. Having grown up on a farm, I remember the look and feel of fresh-from-the-field produce; this market's produce is a match. 19.4 pounds of produce -- tomatoes, zucchini, red bell peppers, bananas, cantaloupe, two heads of red lettuce, and one head of garlic cost me $11.46. That's what I've often paid for just the lettuce and peppers (wilted and wrinkled, respectively) at a large unionized grocery chain, sold by a disinterested clerk earning union wage, who never made eye contact.

I put my own twist on the vegetable dish with a throw of sweet marsala, and served it with chicken thighs roasted in seasonings and a splash of white wine and balsamic vinegar. Wine: usually my feeling is "if it's not red, it's not wine"; however, this time I brought out a Chardonnay. Yes, I'm enjoying the wait.

- PJ

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Responses to my hardcopy queries are trickling in. Yikes, two were returned as undeliverable. Are agents' lives becoming as unpredictable or unstable as the book business itself? Agents say they're overwhelmed by the amount of queries they receive. I'm curious to know the percent breakdown by category -- just what is everybody writing about?

I wait for more replies. And while I'm waiting, Carol Drinkwater's "The Olive Farm" is keeping me company. Those precious few minutes in the morning before work that just weeks ago were filled with proofreading I now spend in Provence, transported mentally by reading her adventures. I return to Provence after work, with my glass of whiskey, looking out the window once in a while at my little Tuscany. As I look, I amusedly think of the dinner guest with whom I shared that view a few months back, who wryly said I must have a good imagination.* Many thanks I have for that!

- PJ

*See 7/17 post.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Countdown to France: 2 clicks

On July 11, I wrote that I'm leaving for France on October 21, a return trip to Provence. Advancing from any current month on a digital calendar to the month of departure, I count each month until vacation as one click. Two to go.

I love France, and I'm blessed to have visited much of the country. The northeast is an exception; it's on my list, I just haven't been yet. Some of the most beautiful country I've seen, and felt, is the Dordogne area. Brittany, the Jura, Burgundy, and the Languedoc are a joy. Provence is magic.

I love ceramics, but as time passes you can bring home only so many and I've reached that limit. Now, I bring back goods that can be consumed, like Dijon mustard, which I also love. Here in Los Angeles, rarely can I bring myself to spend $6.29 -- for the smallest jar -- when the largest in France is around .89 euro (approximately $1.15). Last trip I brought back 9 jars, causing my traveling partner departure-morning anxiety over airline baggage weight limits. Our check-in clerk at DeGaulle, however, was compassionate.

My solution: more suitcases this time, because nine jars went fast.

Two clicks still seems so long.

- PJ