which way do I go…

Photo Friday has changed their site. I’ve done 515 Photo Friday posts; my first one was July 14, 2006. Sometimes Photo Friday hasn’t posted new challenges–usually around holidays, and most recently, as they’ve revamped their site. But I don’t think I’ve missed a challenge in all that time, not even when I went on the occasional posting hiatus. I tried to follow every theme they used, no matter what a stretch I had to make between a photo and a theme.

I don’t know where I first saw Photo Friday. I’m sure it was on someone’s blog. I know several of my other blogging friends did Photo Fridays, too, but only one or two still do, and not always consistently. Shit, for that matter, who’s still blogging? I’m barely here other than Fridays and Sundays.

The reason I began blogging was because I enjoyed other people’s blogs. Tim started a LiveJournal and I liked it, so I started one, too. That was in late 2004. In time, I realized what my other writer friends knew–keeping an online journal or blog was PUBLICITY for what we published. And readers could find us on our blogs and interact with us in a way that rarely happened in the old snail mail days. I still have friends I made via blogging. I also met some people who are with good reason not friends. It’s a weird world out there.

I migrated from LJ to a WordPress blog in April of 2011 because I already owned beckycochrane.com and didn’t have anything to put there, not having published a novel since 2009. I figured I might as well use it as my blogging platform. In time, I stopped talking politics because that became too mean and no fun. After even more time, I wrote only occasionally. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram pretty much killed blogs. Who wants to read some longass post from a stranger when you can read 140 characters from tons of strangers. After all, didn’t the Bell Companies–and by that, I mean Southern, Western, Mountain, etc. Bell who later became AT&T–teach us that a romantic story or a sentimental celebration among aging parents and their children or a girl’s idol worship of her big brother could be conveyed in 30 to 60 seconds? Who needs movies? Or even half-hour sitcoms? Those phone commercials were the forerunner of Twitter.

I doggedly blogged even when almost everyone I knew stopped because I WASN’T writing novels. The blog became a creative outlet for my photographs, my paintings, my magnetic poetry, my nostalgia, my doll fashions. When Rescued Pets Movement began to consume my time–and you have no idea how much time that is, but all the people I never call or write or meet for lunch or email or see or travel to see or send birthday cards to: THEY know–the only things I was sure I’d make time for were those Photo Friday and Button Sunday posts. Even so, I linked to them on FB and people would comment there and never here, so my traffic must be pretty slim compared to the number of readers in blogging days of yore. A “like” button on FB is easy, and a comment there is mostly private since almost all my FB posts are friends and family only. This blog remains public, and though the dozens of comments from the old days are now only a few comments here and there, I still read them with the same interest and delight because connecting here continues to feel more genuine than on all those other quick and easy social media sites. This is one-to-one time between me and YOU, who still reads and comments. We’re not just one of a long line of tweets or FB posts or instagram photos. For a moment, we meet, just you and me, because we both want to be HERE, not just two voices lost in a cacophony of more voices than most of us, or at least I, care to hear at one time.

And Photo Friday–well, honestly, I started participating because by making the photos public in my otherwise mostly private Flickr account, and by posting them to the Photo Friday site, I could drive more traffic to the blog and therefore expose the Timothy James Beck novels and the edited anthologies and my own novels to a wider audience.

But now, as I say, Photo Friday has changed. I’ve been trying to figure out its new design, and as best I can tell, it allows us a better view of all the photos submitted on the actual site rather than clicking on the photographers’ links and going to their websites. In other words, Photo Friday has joined the quick and easy view it on your phone or tablet generation, no need to go to all those other places to see photos anymore. YAY!

Except…not yay. Because I liked clicking on those links and never knowing what I might see. A brilliant photographer from some country whose name I couldn’t pronounce? A hobby photographer who wrote really engaging stories about her crazy friends? By going to those contributors’ blogs or journals or websites, I have discovered whole new worlds that intrigued or entertained or dismayed or educated me.

And I, who am not a brilliant photographer and don’t pretend to be, am supposed to upload my photos there to be eclipsed by many far superior photos, and there’ll be no more visits from people who came to see one photo and, maybe intrigued by my tags, poked around and found other things that interested them, or that we had in common or–hey, you wrote BOOKS? Real books on paper that were sold in bookstores? I’m going to order one right now!

Anyway, this has all been WAY more than 140 characters, and thank you if you read this far as it means you are a rare and wondrous creature who still has an attention span and I probably love you more than Charlie the Unicorn. If I stop doing the Photo Friday challenges, I’ll still do something. I actually have a list in the notes app on my phone of what people told me they wanted me to blog about. It’s from July 17, 2010, and it makes me smile when I scroll down that far and discover it again.

YOU make me smile. Thank you for still reading here. I still love reading your thoughts.

Photo Friday, No. 450

Current Photo Friday theme: Road Trip

I do have photos from road trips, but I’m dedicating this Photo Friday to Linda (Raven Moore) Gentile, one of the loveliest people I never met.

I first became acquainted with Linda through mutual blogging/online journaling friends. Over the years, I admired her gentle nature, her nomadic spirit, and her lovely humor. I wrote in my own blog about my enjoyment of her book A Little Twist of Texas, the tale of a road trip she took on her motorcycle, Beastie.

Later, she and her husband Don put most of their stuff in storage and began living on the road in their RV, Harvey. Linda’s passion was finding historical landmarks and historical markers, and she and her fellow travelers recorded them on her website Markeroni. Somewhere along the way, when she found out about my collection of Barbie dolls, she offered to dig through that storage room the next time they were there and send me the two Harley Barbies pictured above. In typical road trip fashion Linda could appreciate, the dolls were lost for a while en route, and we’d both given up on their ever making it to my house, but finally they did.

Harvey became one of the inspirations for part of my novel A Coventry Wedding, which reminds me of another way Linda was generous with me. When I had book signings, she encouraged her Houston-area friends to come see me and buy my novels.

In her quiet, graceful fashion, when Linda became ill with metastatic melanoma, she shared the news with only her family and a few close friends. Since I was a reader of her blog (the link no longer works), I wondered why she’d grown quiet, and my heart ached for Don, her family, and friends when he shared the news of her death in March in an email. As Don said, On the custom of flowers or contributions in her name, she preferred that flowers be left to grow, and suggested we simply “pay it forwards.” Linda’s mindset, intentions, and actions often included “paying it forwards” – altruistically redirecting repayment of her good deeds to others, increasing them, rather than back to herself.

I will think of her now whenever I see wildflowers and historical markers along the highways I drive. I will think of the adventurous spirit that drew her to the United States from England, to build a life with Don on a road less traveled. I will never have the opportunity to meet her in person, so I choose to think of her continuing her journey–not without a few misadventures. Those were the moments that tested her and that she rose above, choosing to look back on them with humor. She had a big heart, a sharp mind, and a gift of sharing both with her readers.

Thank you, Linda, for your many gifts. As the old Irish blessing goes, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields.”

For you

Some of the spam comments I get on this blog are unintentionally hilarious so I often peruse them before I delete them. Today included a new favorite:

“This text is worth everyone”

No punctuation, nothing else, just that. I want y’all to remember that my writing is worth EVERYONE. When the planet decides to shrug us all off, probably this text will remain. With the cockroaches. And Cher.

Here, let me distract you from that hard reality with a pretty photo of Tim’s azaleas and roses.

Six Things

  1. The last time I went to the post office, I had a package from Rob, also known as The Smiling Bagel. I call him St. Louis’s goodwill ambassador, because his blog always makes me want to visit that city. He sent me some bottle caps for my ongoing art series. I haven’t painted in a while. Maybe this is the nudge I needed. It wasn’t until I photographed the bottle caps and uploaded the picture that I became aware of….
  2. A tiny wrapped package of pressed pennies from the St. Louis Zoo featuring a train, a hippo, a peacock, and a butterfly. See what I mean about how he promotes his home city? He remembered that I like to collect pressed pennies from tourist attractions, and now I have four new ones. Thank you so much, Rob–for the bottle caps and the pressed pennies!
  3. In going through some old pictures, I found this photo of my mother’s desk. I think Laura and Jess got that desk. The four paintings on the top are four of my One Word Art paintings that she once picked out for either her birthday or Christmas. They were the four that spoke to her, she said. Rather than reclaiming them, I believe I sent them with a box of stuff to Daniel. I’d forgotten them until I saw this photo. I believe they are, left to right, “Trust,” “Surrender,” “Plant,” and “Learn.”
  4. I’m reading Karl Soehnlein’s novel Robin and Ruby. I wanted to photograph one of Barnaby’s bigger-than-your-head salads to show you how enormous it is. I usually get a dinner, the next day’s lunch, and maybe a third small salad out of one of these. The salad is excellent, but their ranch dressing is THE BEST. It’s great for dipping fries in, too.
  5. When Jim was here, one afternoon we went to the Menil Collection and the Cy Twombly Gallery. I have to go back to the Menil soon. The next day, we hit up the Museum of Fine Arts, the Lawndale Art Center, and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. The last is where Jim got me into trouble when he posed for me–it was like the dozenth photo I’d taken, but only when Jim got all goofy were we told, “You can’t take photos of the art here!” Oops. I’d like to say I feel remorse, but I don’t (and I didn’t use a flash). I do recommend that particular exhibit: INTERSTITIAL SPACES: JULIA BARELLO & BEVERLY PENN. It’s there until September 1.
  6. I finally persuaded myself to download Instagram to my iPhone. That’s my first photo: Pixie and Penny all bored, watching out the window for something exciting like a squirrel to appear. I don’t know how much I’ll use Instagram–I have two other photo apps on my phone that I never use. I need to feel the heft of a camera in my hands. But at least now I can look at other people’s Instagram galleries, and some of their pictures are beautiful and creative.

I was not compensated by any businesses, artists, or products mentioned in this post other than sales of my own art work.

Work of Art 2:7

Dear Fiat:

Last week on Bravo’s Work of Art, the artists were given time to grab auto parts for your Fiat 500 and turn them into a work of art. Coincidentally, I received a packet in the mail advertising the Fiat 500. I believe this was a sign!

I decided to use bits and pieces of your sales material in my creation for the Follow Work of Art blog. Lindsey suggested that since we wouldn’t have access to Fiat car parts, we should do a sculptural piece inspired by a car or any part of a car. Mine is not a sculptural piece. It’s a fabric-and-paper-on-foam-board tribute to the Fiat 500. Here’s how it turned out:

“Hole in My Heart”

What may not be immediately apparent is that the center Fiat is actually a cut-out through which you can see cracked concrete. That, and the title, are meant to convey to you how my heart is still not over the loss of my Honda CR-V after it was totaled in April 2010. As I considered this challenge, I realized my most immediate connection to a car is: I DON’T HAVE ONE. In Houston! A city that’s just as car-centric as Los Angeles!

I figured I’d write you a letter and show you my tribute and promise you that if you give me a Fiat 500, I would blog about an adventure in it EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR! That’s advertising for you at the cost of a (reasonably priced!) car, which is probably a hundredth of a second of Super Bowl ad time.

I know what you’re thinking: We haven’t even given those Work of Art people a car, and who the hell are you anyway?

While it’s true that I don’t have the readership of some popular bloggers, let’s take a look at a few of them.

First, there’s dooce.com. Sure, Heather Armstrong has a ton of loyal readers, but she already does product endorsements. I’d be exclusive to Fiat! Also, she’s a mommy blogger. That means she has kids. She doesn’t need a Fiat 500, she needs a minivan or an SUV. If you gave her a Fiat, she’d probably just turn it into an apartment for her Mythical Bobcat.

Then there’s Hyperbole and A Half. When Allie Brosh posts, she gets like five thousand comments, but she blogs only every two months or so. I’m promising you 365 blog entries! Do the math: more blog for your buck.

Of course, The Bloggess also has a large readership, and Jenny Lawson would probably even promise to wear a wolf pelt while driving her free car. I don’t own a wolf pelt. I also don’t own a car. Jenny Lawson does. Enough said.

Finally, there’s The Pioneer Woman, who I don’t read. All I can say is: Look at her blog’s name! Free covered wagon? Yes! Free Fiat 500? I think not.

Clearly, in every way, I’m the more deserving recipient of a free will-blog-for car.

If you don’t agree, does one of your executives have his or her deceased aunt’s Oldsmobile taking up space in the garage? I’ll accept it in lieu of a Fiat 500, but I can’t promise that My Adventures in Aunt Susan’s Olds will have quite the appeal of My Adventures in a Fiat 500.


Looking back

He smiles because it’s raining. Even the sun likes variety.

A little over a year ago (July 17, to be precise), I asked you what you wanted me to blog about. I went back and checked the list to see how I’m doing:

Dog pictures–check
Tim and Hanley–check
Hot weather–check
Pictures of things that are my favorite color–I could do more of this.
Guinness and Margot pictures–check
Houston photos and stories–check
Bike tour with photos–I’ll have to work on that one. I learned early that my neighborhood is not friendly to my three-wheeler. But I can probably take it and my camera to a better location.
Who would I cast in a Three Fortunes movie–That will take some thought. It’s more fun for me to know who you’d cast.
Photos of my bookshelves–There’ve been a few, usually as backdrops. I could do more.
Tales and photos of Craft Night–check (Even an appearance by Puterbaugh! And a spontaneous Lila Craft Night.)

I’d say my average so far is pretty good. I’m always open to new suggestions.

Button Sunday

I don’t know who’s responsible for this beautiful photo because I stole it from the Internet. In fact, blogging turned me into a photo thief, and I know I’m not the only one.

I chose this button because today is the fifth anniversary of Timothy J. Lambert’s LiveJournal. That date is important to me not just because it gave my writing partner more presence on the Internet. In the winter of 2004, we were finishing writing Timothy James Beck’s Someone Like You as well as Cochrane Lambert’s Three Fortunes in One Cookie. All my writing partners were proofreading SLY, Tim was adding his final chapters to 3F, and I was at loose ends. So, as I have many times, after a couple of weeks, I followed Tim’s example and started my own LiveJournal. It pretty much ended my time on message boards (just as message boards had once ended my time in chat rooms).

I have no idea how many blogs I was reading at the height of the blogging craze, but as bloggers have tapered off updating their blogs, my reading has fallen off. There are times I think about ending my LJ because it’s frequently difficult to come up with content, and I know that my readership, like everyone’s, is less than it used to be. (Hello, Facebook and Twitter.)

But then I think about how many interesting, funny, kind, quirky, and good people I’ve met through here. I consider all it’s taught me about HTML and formatting. It’s given me a forum to discuss art, photography, literature, and politics. It’s provided a means for family and longtime friends to keep up with what’s going on in my life (though I’ve never used it to discuss those things I want to keep private). It’s also given me a means to share news about one friend with many other friends–in a way that’s more fun to me than e-mail.

I’ve tried hard to keep it from ever being insulting or mean-spirited. I’ve enjoyed using it to share photographs as I try to become a better photographer.

And of course, it gives me a place to put everybody else’s photos after I steal them.

To get back to the reason for this post and the button, during these five years, I’ve never gotten tired of getting a glimpse at the world through Tim’s perspective, courtesy of his photos, his stories, his association with Scout’s Honor, and his art. So happy blog-iversay, Tim, and thank you.

Hump Day Happy

It always surprises me when people who know me in ways other than the Internet are skeptical about the time I spend online or the relationships I’ve formed here. Let’s assess this… Without the Internet, there would be no Timothy James Beck novels, or the relationships with the editors who bought THE DEAL and THREE FORTUNES, not to mention my two Coventry books. I met my writing partners on the Internet, and theirs are three of the most vital friendships in my life. I wouldn’t know Steve C or Ron–or know that Ron is my cousin a few times removed. I wouldn’t know Rhonda or Lindsey or Sugar. Tim wouldn’t be living in Houston, he’d have no Rex, the dogs he’s fostered wouldn’t have received his unique care before going to loving forever homes. He wouldn’t know The Big H!

Y’all wouldn’t be reading this. I wouldn’t know you or interact with people from all across the U.S. and the world. The many writers who have inspired me and become my friends and acquaintances would be just names on book covers. There would be no FOOL FOR LOVE with all its funny/sad/quirky/amazing stories.

For me, it’s a no-brainer. The Internet, with all its hazards (we all read about the scams and disappointments weekly–and I’ve had a few unpleasant experiences, too), provides a powerful means of connection.

So when I was up late working and housekeeping on Saturday night and into the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, it was fun to follow, with thousands of people across the globe, the Tweets from Heather and Jon Armstrong (dooce.com and blurbomat.com) while she was in labor with their second daughter. I don’t know them, I just read their blogs and have for years, which makes them part of my daily life in that unique Internet way.

During the months of her pregnancy, Dooce provided a monthly shot of her expanding tummy. One of the last ones, a self-mocking portrayal of her very pregnant self with a beer tucked into her waistband, a cigarette hanging from her lips, a bag of powdered doughnuts ready to be stuffed into her overly made-up face under badly teased hair, became her most recent masthead. It was her response to the small percentage of people from among her million readers who criticize her life and mothering choices, and it still cracks me up whenever I go to her site.

It awed me that when she posted a photo of her newborn on Twitter, it received sixteen THOUSAND views in no time flat. Then I was dumbfounded by how many people didn’t understand that the first “name” the two proud parents provided–Lil Donette–was a joke based on her pregnancy photo. With the Internet, you take the crazy with the good.

Welcome to the world Marlo Iris Armstrong, and thank you for making June 14 a reason to be happy.

If you, my LJ readers who I’m always grateful to connect with, would like some sweet happiness of your own, please comment with a page number between 1 and 611, and another number between 1 and 25, and I’ll consult the happiness book for you.



Reading’s getting hotter

I was alerted by Shawn over at Everything and Nothing to this article in the New York Times telling us there’s been a reverse in a twenty-five-year decline in the number of people reading for pleasure. Since the publishing industry has been as hard-hit as any other recently–and no one’s offering writers a bailout, the bastards–it’s always good to hear anything encouraging.

I love readers, and related to that…

Linda over at Raven’s Range gave me permission to reprint a photo of her enjoying a book during a sunny break from a blast of snowy weather they had recently.

Linda’s promised to send me a photo of herself reading A Coventry Wedding as soon as she purchases a copy. I am SO LOVING the e-mail I’m getting. I’ve hit a bit of a writing slump. Not writer’s block, just writer’s dormancy. So getting positive feedback on the new novel is sort of a kick in the PJ bottoms. I felt the same upon reading a thoughtful review from Lawrence Schimel in the Lambda Book Report for When You Don’t See Me.

Did I mention that I love readers?

I’ve posted before on here, or maybe on MGH’s LJ, about the first book I remember reading, which was aptly titled Baby’s First Book. The cover illustration gave me my first glimmer of the concept of eternity. It’s a book the termites ate, and my mother later found a used copy to replace it. Little Golden Books, bless them, still publishes it, and I scored a copy for Miss Amelia because the cover baby reminds me so much of her:

And speaking of children reading, my sister wrote a book to give to her granddaughter Morgan at Christmas. Morgan’s aunt (Debby’s daughter Sarah) illustrated it. I don’t have a copy of the illustrated version, but I do have the story itself on my computer now, and I’m looking forward to reading it. You never know with kids if they’ll understand how special something like that is, but when Debby turned away from Morgan after giving her the book, Morgan suddenly hugged it tightly to her chest and closed her eyes. I didn’t get a shot of that, unfortunately, but I did get Morgan in the coolest jeans ever.

There’ll be more beautiful/cool children photos for a while, because I’m so crazy about them. And remember, if you have a photo of yourself reading my books, or ANY books, I’ll be delighted to post them on here as part of the Reading is Hot campaign. Even if the book you’re reading is one by Famous Author Rob Byrnes, although we’re still not sure who he paid off to steal our Lammy back in Aught Seven.