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Judy Alter


Judy Alter has been writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers for twenty years. She has a Ph.D. in English with a special interest in the history and literature of the American West. Alter is the director of a small academic press, and writes in her spare time. She is the mother of four, and now lives with her dog, her cat, her garden, and her books.

Judy's Books

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Discovering Australia's Land, People, and Wildlife

Discovering Australia's Land, People, and Wildlife

A MyReportLinks.com Book

Judy Alter
In this new edition of the Continents of the World series, author Judy Alter uncovers the land and climate, plant and animal life, scientific discoveries, and history and exploration of Australia. This book offers fun and interesting facts about the planet’s smallest continent...Read More

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ISBN: 978-0-7660-5207-9
Binding: Library Bound Book
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Judy's Latest Blog Entries

A day of good things


Getting my first vaccination shot

Sometimes good things seem to happen all at once, That’s what happened to me yesterday. A welcome change of pace from what days have been like lately.

First my doctor called, himself, in person, to ask if I wanted the first vaccine shot today. I said of course, and we made an appointment for 11:30 this morning.

Then Priscilla Leder who does a book review radio program out of San Marcos, sent me the questions she planned to ask in today’s interview about the book, The Second Battle of the Alamo.

And then I got an email from my editor at TwoDot Books with the edited version of my forthcoming (September) book, The Most Land, the Best Cattle: the Waggoners of Texas.

All this meant that today was a full day. Jordan drove me to the doctor’s office this morning, where an efficient procedure waited for us. We sat in the waiting room for just a few minutes and then went into a room where someone asked lots of questions about my health and, “Which arm?” We decided right because I sleep on the left. My one question was which vaccine, though it made no difference to me. I got Moderna. The shot is quick and painless—just a tiny prick—and then we had to wait in another waiting room for fifteen minutes to be sure I had no reaction. That was it. We were there at most half an hour.

Came home, took one of my frequent naps, and did the radio interview in my pjs. Priscilla does a thorough reading of the book and had prepared three single-spaced pages of questions. I in turn scribbled lots of notes on those three pages—principally minor characters names that I didn’t want to forget. A big worry for me was how much of the detail I would remember about the book—after all, it’s now been two years since I wrote the text and a year since the book was published. I’m happy that it all came back as we talked about it.

One big point, for me, was to acknowledge the late Debra Winegarten, who had the contract on the book and who asked me to write it once she was diagnosed with overwhelming terminal malignancy. I was pleased to be able to describe her as perhaps the most energetic writer I’ve ever met. Her partner wrote me late today to say how much she’d enjoyed the interview, and that made me feel good.

I haven’t yet even looked at the edits for the Waggoner book. That will probably be a weeks-long project, but I am eager to dig into it. One thing that bothered me as we went through the holidays was that I had no solid project to work on. So now I do.

This morning I was full of energy and minus the nausea I’d been feeling in recent weeks. I told the doctor I’d write tomorrow with a good report. That all went south, however, this evening when the nausea returned, and my energy drifted away. Since about six tonight I’ve had two short naps and will probably go to bed soon for the night. In the morning, I’ll send the doctor a long email. This is a terrible malady for someone like me who loves cooking, writes a food blog, and has compiled two cookbooks.

One interesting note: yesterday the yard crew came with their usual noisy equipment. Sophie was safely in the cottage, and I was napping—no surprise there. What worried me was that she never barked, not once. She usually goes ballistic, beyond control, unfazed by my reassurance that it’s all right and deaf to my pleas for quiet. I called Jordan and said I was afraid she was sick. Jordan suggested she knew I didn’t feel well and was watching out for me. Then it dawned on me—she has been sleeping by my bed instead of in her beloved crate. Dogs know. I’m wondering if with her acute sense of smell she sense illness in me that we, as people, can’t smell (thank goodness). I am so grateful for her company.

Tomorrow will be a better day. I just know it.

Our snow day was a bust


This is NOT what inner-city Fort Worth looked like,
at least at my house

After a lot of hype from weather forecasters, I woke up this morning expecting a white-covered world. At 6:30, when Sophie decided she had to go out, we had nothing, only dry sidewalks. For some unknown reason, in that cold, she decided to stay out for an hour and a half. I did what I never do when she’s outside—went back to bed. But I kept popping up to try and at least see her. No luck, until she came in and woke me. Then she wanted to go right back out. I declined that suggestion and spoke rather harshly to her.

Fast forward to nine o’clock, when I finally got up—to a still-dry world. Snow finally began about 9:30—fat, lovely flakes that melted as soon as they hit the ground. I began to see pictures online of lovely, snowy scenes—from Glen Rose and Sweetwater and even south Fort Worth. My brother called from about an hour southwest to report six inches. We remained gray and wet—and pretty soon, even those large flakes stopped. Now, as I write, it is damp and dismal. Oh well, the snow was supposed to melt tomorrow anyway.

Twice today when Sophie was out, I caught her grazing like a cow. I’ve always heard that when a dog eats grass, it’s a sign their stomach is bothering them. Oh, good! Something else to worry about. She didn’t eat her dinner last night, but I watched her eat every bite tonight. So I’ll watch over the next day or two before I call the vet.

Maybe one of us is having sympathy pains, because my stomach has been a bit upset too. I’ve temporarily cut out some of the things I love—wine and chocolate—and am trying to eat bland foods. Makes for a dull day with no energy for much except napping, certainly not for working.

It’s been five days since the Capitol invasion—some right-wing media and even Republicans are calling the event the Freedom of Speech Protests, of all innocuous things. Still, it’s about all that’s on the news besides Covid, though as Jordan pointed out little of it is news by today. We see the same pictures on TV, and one more Breaking News text that announces calls for Josh Hawley’s resignation may just send me over the edge. Still there are dribbles and bits of news, like the fact that newly elected Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, she who swears to bring her Glock into Congress, was inside the Capital texting about Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts. Talk about a needed resignation. And trump, watching the invasion with “apparent enthusiasm,” commented that he just wished the invaders weren’t so “low class.” Have they heard those words from the lips of the man for whom many of them have ruined their careers and lives?

There are much bigger questions about security preparedness or lack of it, and those answers may come out in the next days. I think for security purposes we will hear little about the inauguration or the predicted January 17thinvasion as Washington prepares. If you want to keep up with the latest, accurate analysis, I heartily suggest you read the daily column by Heather Cox Richardson—you can google her or find her on Facebook. Well worth reading every darn day.

Maybe all this is why my stomach is upset. Think I’ll go eat my applesauce.

A dog day


Sophie slept so late this morning that I finally woke her up to make sure she was okay. She does that occasionally and, like this morning, most often on a day when I have to be up and about. This morning I was more rushed than usual because of a medical appointment. Sophie did not feel my haste. And once awake she didn’t immediately want to go outside—lay on the bedroom floor and watched me put away dinner dishes and start the day.

My favorite kind of morning is when she wakes me about seven so she can go outside. I can usually lure her back inside within five minutes using a small strip of American cheese—sometimes with a Benadryl wrapped in it if she’s coughing badly because of allergies. Then I can go back to bed and sleep for another hour.

Sometimes in those morning hours I sleep soundly, but other times I doze and do some of my most productive thinking. Yesterday, for instance, I barely dozed because my mind was still racing with thoughts of Wednesday’s attempted coup at the Capitol. I finally got up so I could turn on the TV and see what had happened overnight. Not much except the final confirmation of the electoral vote, but yesterday’s revelation was the extent of the vandalism in the Capitol Building. Files scattered, furniture smashed, even human waste in the hallways. What kind of people do that? I am completely befuddled and very angry.

Internet postings are getting repetitive, calling for instant impeachment—next week is too late. What people don’t stop to realize—or read carefully—is that the House was today preparing impeachment documents, consolidating several versions into one. And next week is not too late because there is an expedited procedure they can follow. I do believe there has to be some swift action, and I think the wheels of government are turning as fast as they can. Nancy Pelosi knows what she’s doing.

I also see people bemoaning that Pence won’t activate the 25th amendment. He has his reasons, and they may be political and futile, but two things I didn’t realize about his defiance of trump on Wednesday were that he was a specific target of the mob. If they could have, they would have used that noose on him. His life was in danger, and cheers to the much-maligned capitol police for keeping him safe. And, finally, he had his wife and daughter with him—they’d been spectators in the gallery. So not only was he worried about himself but about his family.

One more thought, and then I’ll get back to dogs. I’m hearing conspiracy theories from the left—people who are convinced the mob had inside help, the police let them in, the poor law enforcement planning indicates collusion for a coup or something equally sinister. All of that may well be true, but conspiracy theories belong to the alt-right. I like to think we on the left wait for proof—and that will be a while coming as authorities unravel what happened. Our world is too anxious for instant answers, instant action.

Cricket on the left

Even being a dog wasn’t that easy today. Around noon Jordan was in the cottage unpacking groceries, and Christian stuck his head in to say the front door was standing wide open and Cricket was out. She goes neither far nor fast, and I could picture her with a waddle as distinctive as Churchill’s as she explored the great outdoors. Jordan and Christian both ran out, and Jordan found she had made it all the way to the next door neighbor’s yard. Jordan picked her up, however, because she seemed reluctant to come home. Maybe she was enjoying her adventure.

It was cold today—what a friend described as “bone chilling,” but it was sunny. In the early afternoon, Sophie went outside and lay in a patch of gravel that is one of her favorite spots. It gets full sun, and once again she lay on her side, so still. This time though I didn’t worry—she was soaking up that warmth, and I thought how nice her life is. No worry for her about attempted coups and politics and renegade Congress members. When she came in and came up to me for some love, her coat was warm to the touch.

Snow predicted for Sunday! It’s been almost five years since we had an inch of snow, but the record may be broken Sunday. Not enough for a good snowman but just enough to make it miserable outside.

Another day of infamy


This morning I remarked to a friend that we have had three days of infamy in my lifetime—December 7, September 11, and now January 6. She reminded me I had made an awful omission—November 22, the day of the Kennedy assassination. Still, it’s remarkable to me that my lifetime has seen such catastrophic events in our history. A slight qualifier: I was one year old when Pearl Harbor was hit and have no memory of the event. Still make me old!

If you’re on social media or the internet news at all, there is not much new to be said about yesterday’s attempted coup. But there are questions, a big one being why the Capitol police were not more prepared. Increasingly, talk on the net attributes that to the underlying racism in our society. Law enforcement simply did not expect violence from a bunch of white guys, though they were armed to the teeth and in riot gear for a BLM rally in recent months. My question though is why, since Capitol police basically handled the rioters with kid gloves until the day got away from them, why did they shoot one woman? Granted, she probably knew the risk, and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it still puzzles me that she was the only apparent victim. Three others are said to have died of medical emergencies.

Today I am in reluctant praise of Vice-president Mike Pence and Leader of the House Mitch McConnell. After sanctioning trump’s antics for four years with their silent complicity, each stood up yesterday and did what they had to do. They probably did more than anything else to defuse the situation. On the other hand, I think Cruz, Hawley and their co-conspirators should not be allowed to help govern our country. The thought of Steve Scalise moaning about violence turns my stomach.

 We’ll be chewing on yesterday’s events for a long time, and we may get some answers. But there are, to me, some good signs—for instance, the Democratic victory in Georgia over two trump supporters. And I bet some trump supporters saw the folly of what they’ve been supporting—too little too late but better than nothing.

Yesterday was sort of a bad day at Black Rock for me even without the national turmoil, though I admit I was glued to the TV all day. I woke in the morning feeling slightly sick to my stomach, a feeling that has bothered me in recent weeks. Never could pinpoint anything I ate and even wondered if it was due to the holidays, covid, and/or the turmoil in our country. Yesterday I contacted my doctor, and he said we would treat it as dyspepsia. The very word conjured up a vision of the gluttonous Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century. But I got a prescription—something not available to Johnson—and expect to feel better from now on.

Then, yesterday, in the midst of the turmoil in Washington, my computer quit. Cold. A black, blank screen. If you know me at all, you know the computer is where I spend my days. I write, I read, I follow some social media, I send and get lots of emails. Without the computer I was at loose ends—seriously considered going back to bed. The plugs and connections for the computer are where my walker and I cannot get to them, so I had to wait for Jordan to finish an extraordinarily long business call. But when she came out to the cottage, she found the problem right away—the monitor had come unplugged. I was back in business.

We had take-out food from our favorite Japanese restaurant last night and then followed our twelfth-night ritual, which we’d almost forgotten in the hectic atmosphere of the day. Jacob was the one who reminded us when he asked at supper, “Isn’t tonight Twelfth night?” Since my childhood, it’s been a family custom for each person to burn a twig from the Christmas tree on Twelfth Night and make a wish for the coming year. Of course, you cannot tell anyone else your wish. So mine was—oh, never mind! Some years we share this custom with neighbors, but this year, because of quarantine, it was just the four of us. At the end of that awful day, I found this custom and a short prayer for Epiphany comforting. It was as a sign that all will be well in the world.

Still, I was grateful last night to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

A homecoming, a moment of panic, and a birthday celebration

I’ve been silent for a few days mostly because there has been nothing going on, and I do mean nothing. My family took a three-night vacation to a friend’s lake house and, though I was cordially invited, I elected to stay home, sleep in my own bed, work on my large remote monitor, and even cook a couple of meals I like and they don’t. But I l admit Sophie and I get a bit lonely when they’re all gone. We happily welcomed them home yesterday in the late afternoon.

Jordan missed my moment of panic, although I recounted it to her later. One of the things about being a writer is that sometimes you need to talk to another writer because no one else will really understand what’s you’re saying. And so it was yesterday just before noon. About a year ago I submitted all the materials for my next book—still as far as I know titled The Most Land, the Best Cattle: the Waggoners of Texas and due out in September. In the meantime, the editor I had worked with took a position with another company, and a new editor took her place. So what’s the trauma? The new editor emailed that she couldn’t find any of the files and would I send everything again—text, pictures, permissions. It would have been one thing if I’d had one lovely file with all that, but I didn’t. Text was no problem, but it would have taken days to reassemble the pictures and permissions. As primarily an author of fiction, I have neither the technical expertise nor the computer programs to deal efficiently with high res images. I sent them to the previous editor piecemeal as I received them. For safekeeping! Hah!

After much gnashing of teeth, I hatched a plan. Fortunately, I remembered where the original editor had gone. Looked her up online, shot off an email, and got an instant reply. She had kept a “just in case” set of files. She sent them to the new editor, and last I heard all is well. Still holding my breath, but I should get edited copy to read next week. Who says the life of an author is dull?  

We ended the day with a happy hour celebration for neighbor Prudence’s birthday—our regular Tuesday night patio gathering with a special twist. Fortunately, the weather cooperated beautifully, and both Jordan and Mary brought charcuteries, Mary brought a wonderful cake, and the birthday girl brought champagne. Most festive.



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