Cassia as small-town royalty

From one perspective in my novel What’s Left, Cassia’s family begins to resemble royalty in a small-town setting. It’s not that they’re living a life of ease – far from it, everyone works hard, including long hours at the family restaurant. But they do inhabit an old Victorian house that resembles a small castle, and they are known throughout the community and are financially secure. For the record, even pampered royalty must perform daily duty and live up to standards.

I’ve sometimes joked that if were emperor, I’d eliminate some pet peeve of the moment, like maybe banning onions or requiring everyone to do something like go to the opera rather than another soccer match. Luckily, you’re spared the consequences.

What would it be like to be born a princess? Or even a prince? (Well, while we’re at it, is there even a country – real or imaginary – you’d prefer to rule over?)

Ten essential cheeses

When I was growing up, cheese in our household was almost exclusively of the processed variety. Some even came out of a jar, like yellow glue. Grandma and Grandpa would have the real stuff – Colby longhorn or a bitter Swiss, mostly. It wasn’t until I was off on my own after college – and in the ashram, especially – that I discovered how marvelous natural cheese could be.

Here are ten favorites.

  1. Cheddar. These days, we rely on Cabot. Mild to sharp, it’s all good.
  2. Calef’s. A general store in a neighboring town makes its own, starting with rat trap but extending into cheddar. The roasted garlic and wasabi variations are special treats here, especially after picking apples.
  3. Mozzarella. Lovely stringiness for pizzas and French onion soup.
  4. Parmesan. Grated on soups, pastas, and salads, of course, but also delightful with eggplant.
  5. Feta. Let’s start on salads for a Greek twist.
  6. Baby Swiss. Especially when made by nearby Amish cooperatives as I learned living in Ohio.
  7. Provolone. Love it on sandwiches, hot or cold.
  8. Gruyere. Uncork a wine, too, and open the crackers.
  9. Gouda. Ditto. With a sliced apple, anyone?
  10. Cream. For bagels and cheesecakes, especially.

What would you add to the list?

Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, the place starts rocking

The old church is rechristened, as it were, when their live rock nights take over. In What’s Left, my novel many of the musicians are already connected to the family restaurant, one way or another.

As I explain in a passage that was more than anyone needed in the final version:

Much to their credit, Dimitri and Graham and Barney and Pia have a knack for attracting talent – and for listening to all their ideas. It isn’t all just food-oriented, either.

Oh, I’m so glad Cassia’s stopped talking like this. In the final version, she’s refreshingly snippy.

~*~

Thanks to her aunt Yin, a teenaged Cassia winds up booking up-and-coming acts – ones that can play well in their old church. It’s a matter of people skills and organizational skills, especially, along with taking good advice from her musically alert cousins.

Imagine stepping in for her. What kind of music or other entertainment would you most like on the schedule? Is there a local band or singer or comedian (nobody widely known yet) you’d like to pitch to Cassia if you could? (Feel free to add a link to their website or YouTube action, if you wish.) Go ahead, shamelessly plug them, be the loyal fan club – let the world know! Go wild, oh yay! Me? How about a weekly contradance?

Right next door, hallelujah

Let me confess, as an author, this was an impulse purchase for me. Have you ever driven through an old residential neighborhood and noticed an old church just plunked down in the middle of the block?

The one in my novel What’s Left sits next to the family manse. Here’s an early description of the site, one I decided not to include in the final version:

One thing that hadn’t been discussed when he left was the use of the old white church. We bought it just because we could. Thea Nita has joked it was the missing lot on our Monopoly board, and you could agree that she’s right. Yes, it was a great indoor playground for us kids but, as I’ve learned, that hardly justified the expense. Early uses included folk dancing, especially square dances and New England contras – events that included live music and callers, along with instruction. And there were a few weddings. It wasn’t a particularly big church, though – the pews held maybe a hundred people? Well, we promptly put those into storage.

Oh, I’m so glad she stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy. You get the idea.

~*~

I’m ready to up that capacity number somewhat, anyway. Wouldn’t 200 be more fitting?

If you’re like me, music’s an essential part of life. I’m in a community choir that rehearses in the social hall of a church that rents out space for our offices, too – we do a big Christmas production at Harvard every year. I could imagine something similar working out of this space.

Where do you go for live music or dancing? Do you prefer a small club setting? An auditorium? A big arena? Or just somebody’s garage or basement? What kind of neighborhood is it in?

You need to visit this ‘Bootcamp’

My newest novel takes place in a Yoga Bootcamp. It’s run by an unorthodox American swami who’s also known as Elvis or Big Pumpkin, for good reasons. His followers think he’s divine, and they’re out to spread the word as yoga itself is first becoming popular across the nation.

Each of them has moved to his farm to intensify their practice. What they find has as much to do with cleaning toilets or weeding the garden as does standing on their heads in exercise class. Even a single day can embrace eternity as well as a cosmic sense of humor.

Mysticism? It’s largely quite down-to-earth, as you’ll see.

The novel is being published and released today at Smashwords.com. And that certainly has me levitating.

Be among the first to read it!