Six almonds are not a serving

There are two words that make me laugh. They are, in order, "Serving" and "Size." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a "serving" is: "a quantity of food suitable for or served to one person." That seems pleasantly vague. One of the definitions of "size" is, according to the OED, "how big something is." I like that.

But when you put them together on a package of food, they become hilarious. For example, I like Blue Diamond almonds. There is a suggested serving size printed right there on the little round container. I ignore it. The container is the proper serving size for my needs. The whole thing. Pizza? A Red Baron medium frozen pizza says that it will serve, according to the label, four persons. No, it does not. It serves ME! Or what about a 16-ounce tube of pork sausage? It's supposed to serve 8 people! Eight! Don't make me laugh. Finally, a package of eight hot dogs? Once again, eight servings.

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The food industry is not being realistic. Here's another definition I looked up for you, dear reader: "realistic: having or showing a sensible and practical idea of what can be achieved or expected." So go out, ignore serving size suggestions,

Kindness, thy name is Clay Stafford

"Kindness: n. the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate." That definition is from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It describes the man who created and continues to produce Killer Nashville, the pre-eminent conference for writers of mystery, thrillers, horror, and fantasy. That man is Clay Stafford, an entertainment entrepreneur for Blackguard, Inc. which works with writers, TV, movies, agents, publishers, radio, and other venues. Clay, himself, is an award-winning author, screenwriter, movie and TV producer, actor, and educator. I just returned from this year's Killer Nashville and remain awed by Clay's genuine interest in writers, published or not.

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Clay Stafford exudes kindness. My interactions with him are only two years old (both with my attendance at Killer Nashville), but I can tell you that his approach to Killer Nashville is oriented toward encouraging writers, promoting writers, bringing best-selling authors and unpublished authors together for mutual growth, and fellowship that starts at breakfast and does not end even when the conference does. Everything is couched in kindness from registration to the comfort of the facility, organizing and presenting panels, the awards banquet, and endless chances to network. It is no exaggeration that Clay makes time for everyone.

Clay encouraged me to attend, to sit in on several panels (Writing the Literary Novel, Writing Faith-Based Literature, and How To Master Setting) which I enjoyed, asked me to present a medal to one of the writers, and then asked me to have breakfast with him on the last day of the conference. One would never know he is a person of significant stature in the world of writers and entertainment.

One last thing. When the envelope was opened for a key award and he saw that I was the winner, he immediately went to David Morrell, famous creator of Rambo, and, since he knew Morrell had been a professor of mine at the University of Iowa, asked David to make the presentation. Clay was scheduled to make the presentation, but he immediately shifted and made it even more special for me. "Kindness"? Yes, I think that noun fits the man, Clay Stafford.

Everyone's a Critic

Everyone's a Critic

If you're a writer, and serious about your writing, it is important to find a critique group…

Who am I?

After months, actually years, of resisting my family's desire to check out my forebears, I submitted to one of those companies that takes one's money in exchange for information about one's heritage.

But money's not all they take. They need a bodily fluid. They supply a little vial into which one places said bodily fluid. Then one waits for a long time to get the results. The company I was gently persuaded into using wanted a bit of saliva for their analysis. But I figured most of the time physicians want a sample, it's urine.

I decided to just go ahead in the real world and supply the saliva and wait. I was brought up being told that I was mostly Irish, with 1/16th Cherokee, and Jewish. I'm expecting to discover that I am Chinese, Lithuanian, and Eskimo. It's enough to make a guy spit up, but I'll let you know what they find. I doubt anyone is interested.

Top Twenty

Top Twenty

I've written before about how writers, even the great ones, suffer from "corrosive self-doubt," a term coined by the great James Lee Burke.

Come Sail Away

I see ads on TV for cruise ships and vacations to beach communities in the Caribbean. You've seen them, too. They all have one thing in common. Everyone pictured having the time of their life is young, fit, and testimonies to extroversion. I cannot relate. Have you ever seen a pudgy, lily-white, Social Security recipient dancing around beneath the tiki torches and scarfing up colorful drinks with little umbrellas in them?

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