February Ain’t For Sissies

It’s February, the time of year when most of the country is ready to bid winter adieu.  Those of us in central Texas keep a wary eye on the weather forecast because, if we’re going to have severe winter weather (read “ice storms”) February tends to be when it hits.  All in all, February is just a downright dreary month, and with COVID restrictions, the dreariness is increased by a factor of ten.  To keep my attitude from going sour, I’m looking for silver linings, bright sides, anticipated events, or lights at the end of the tunnel.  Whatever I can get, actually.

One thing to look forward to this month is the upcoming limited-run series on Starz titled Men in Kilts: A Roadtrip with Sam and Graham.  Don’t know about you, but spending some time with Sam Heughan, Graham McTavish, and the beautiful scenery of the Scottish countryside is just the ticket for a lady looking in need of a boost out of the late winter doldrums.

The audiobook version of G. M. Malliet’s Death of a Cozy Writer has been putting a spring in my step during my morning walks.  The book is delightfully witty, the sort of thing I imagine might result if Noel Coward, Agatha Christie, and Carl Hiaasen were all thrown into a pot together.  Davina Porter’s narration absolutely sparkles, much in the same manner as Jayne Entwistle’s reading of the Flavia De Luce series by Alan Bradley. 

We splurged on a one-year subscription to MasterClass for Christmas, and that has provided some relief from the quarantine tedium.  Aside from sports, we watch very little network TV, preferring to stream movies, documentaries, and series that interest us, and we find that we can watch an entire MasterClass in the course of three evenings.  It’s not that I expect the classes to make me into a composer, magician, or stand-up comic.  Mostly it’s just that I like learning new things and gaining new insights into the world around me.  So far, we’ve watched Neil DeGrasse Tyson, David Baldacci, Penn & Teller, David Axelrod and Karl Rove, Steve Martin, Hans Zimmer, Ron Howard, and Stephen Curry.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Ron Howard were my favorites.  Surprisingly, I liked Stephen Curry’s series even though I’m not a huge basketball fan.  I have about 30 more classes on my watch list.  Occasionally the MasterClass folks award me a few guest passes to send out to friends and family.  The caveat is that the recipient can’t be someone who has already received a pass.  Once the recipient activates the link, they have seven days in which to watch whatever they’d like to watch.  I currently have two such passes available and would be willing to share them with any of you who are interested.  Email me through my website and specify that you are interested in one of the guest passes.  If I run out of this month’s passes, I’ll send you one when I have more available.

The brightest spot of all, perhaps, is the fact that I’ve now had my first round of the COVID vaccine, so I’ll be counting the days until I get the second round in March.  In my area, getting a COVID vaccine appointment is practically a full-time job.  We spend hours day and night trolling all the various providers, filling out online forms for those that accept pre-registration, and trying every trick from meditation to punching pillows to relieve our frustration.  When a handful of appointments became available, the glorious moment triggered a race to try to get my request in before the slots were all booked up.  After I got to the final page where clicking “next” would take me to the golden moment of having my appointment confirmed, the servers were so overloaded that I had to keep clicking “next” over and over again.  I sat with my laptop while we watched the Warriors trounce the Mavericks in basketball, clicking “next” every six or seven seconds so many times I was sure my laptop would rebel.  It hung in there with me, though, and twenty-five minutes later (hooray), that final page saying “Your appointment is confirmed” appeared.  For a moment, it was like winning the lottery!  Anyway, after a long afternoon of waiting in lines, I have a slightly sore arm and a card attesting to the fact that I’ve got the first vaccination DONE.

By the time I get the second round, spring will be upon us.  The redbud trees will be blooming, the sky will be incredibly blue, and we’ll be anticipating wildflower season.  Armed with my vaccinations, I might be able to venture out to see those wildflowers this year.  Now, THAT’S something worth anticipating!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Photo Courtesy of Linda Nickell — lindanickell.com

 
 
 

Locations

Ranches and ranchers were a central feature in The Light Catcher Murders for good reason.  Next to oil, Texas’ most iconic images are those associated with ranching—cowboys, horses, ranchers, and Longhorn cattle.  While most people probably think of the wide-open expanses that form the topography of West Texas ranches, there is a prodigious amount of ranchland in the Hill Country, a region not well suited to farming but quite fit for ranching.  Among those Hill Country ranches, the most famous is the LBJ Ranch, home of former president Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife Claudia Taylor (“Lady Bird”) Johnson.  History has a love-hate relationship with Lyndon, but it is all love when it comes to Lady Bird.  A product of the part of Texas that is more southern than western, Lady Bird was a true “steel magnolia,” all grace and graciousness on the outside but with a steel core on the inside.  You can’t throw a stick in the central Texas region without hitting something bearing the Johnson name, and things named after Lady Bird outnumber all the rest. 

Lady Bird continued to live at the ranch for many years after Lyndon died, and, largely because of her influence, visitors to the LBJ Ranch District of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park near Johnson City find plenty to love.  Aside from the historical significance and tours of the “Texas White House,” there are fields of wildflowers that, for Texans, are synonymous with Lady Bird, and myriad wild and domestic animals, including a celebrated herd of iconic Texas Longhorns.  There are picnic areas and hiking trails with photo opportunities around every bend.  It is a great place to spend a day in the fresh air and surrounded by the Hill Country’s natural beauty, and I encourage you to put it on your list of Hill Country sightseeing destinations.

If you would like to learn more about LBJ, Robert Caro’s multi-volume biographical series, which begins with The Path to Power, is excellent.  Because I’m not a political devotee, I consider Lady Bird the more interesting subject.  Her life story, which reads like a deeply engrossing novel, is compellingly told by Jan Jarboe Russell in Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson.

 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 

February’s “Random Thought"

I recently had the pleasure of watching a presentation by David Baldacci.  One of many excellent points he made was that mystery and thriller fiction writers are only constrained by what is plausible.  We don’t have to ask ourselves, “Is this likely to happen in the real world?”  We only have to ask, “Could this possibly happen?”  It’s not a matter of probability; it’s a matter of plausibility.  This precept doesn’t just free the author to follow their imaginations, but I think it allows writers to give the reader a richer, more entertaining experience.  Writers aren’t confined to a narrow box dictated by the nightly news. Read MORE…

 
 
 
 
 
 

Events

The Silver Dagger Book Blog Tour concludes February 14.  The blog tour includes an Amazon gift card giveaway, so log in to one or more of the stops and register!

If you missed the January 14 edition of Linda Nickell’s Happiness Hour, during which I primarily discussed the photography elements of The Light Catcher Murders, you can watch a recording on YouTube, either by following the link, or by searching “Jo Cassie McRae” on YouTube.  While you’re there, be sure to check out some of the very interesting speakers featured in other episodes.

 
 
 
 
 

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