Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year, continued

I'm off to the wilds of Prairie Village, Kansas, but don't let that stop you if you want to party on. Remember, Andif has a couch available, and you'll only have to pick off about a million dog hairs. But that's okay, because one or two of you may need a little hair of the dog in the morning. ; p

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Eve


Whatcha gonna do?

I'll be spending the night with friends, so I'll be there on New Year's Morning to watch the Cotton Bowl with them.

As I started writing this, it occured to me to be grateful for the things I DON'T have to resolve to do in 2008, like. . .I don't have to make a resolution to stop smoking, because I did that many decades ago. I don't have to resolve to lose the 15 pounds I lost last year. I don't have to resolve to meditate every day. It's really NICE to have some things I'm already doing, instead of thinking I ought to be doing.

Is there anything you don't have to resolve to do? I think that's worth celebrating. I know that Family Man doesn't have to resolve to relax more. :) Kimberly doesn't have to resolve to sell her novel. :)))) If there's something you've accomplished so that you no longer have to resolve to do it, breathe a sigh of relief, raise a toast of gratitude to yourself, and here. . .have some more champagne.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sunday Bulletin Board


Let's get our coffee To Go this morning, and then go wandering around our Village to see what our friends are up to. (I wrote most of these on Saturday, so when you visit these blogs you may want to hit Refresh to make sure you're getting the latest news.)

Cathyc has stepped down from the throne and passed over the scepter as president of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She must have done an exceptionally good job, judging from what they gave her. Go read about the charm bracelet they presented to Cathy. It's the most amazing one I've ever heard of, and must have required hours of thought, love, and effort to make for her.

You have got to take a look at Boran2's most recent finished painting. But first, to fully appreciate his accomplishment, look at his first version. (Scroll down just a bit.) Then go see the final one here.

By now, Beth is either in the air or already returned from her vacation in Mexico. She caught a cold, dagnabit, so you can give her your best cold remedy. Why do I suspect most of them will involve some kind of spirits? ; } She also had an attack of the deadly Brain Fart, for which there is no known cure.

Conda has wise things to say about tradition and change.

Family Man's, er, family does it right. They manage to balance tradition with change in beautiful ways.

I do love You Tube. And bless Jen for posting a You Tube video of Buffalo Springfield singing, "For What It's Worth." It is, she says, probably her favorite protest song. It's definitely mine, although "Ohio" always gets to me, too. Until I saw that clip on her blog, I had never seen Buffalo Springfield perform! It takes me right back to my senior year at the University of Missouri, and the pride I felt that the "Springfield" in their name was--impossible to believe--the one in my own state.

Last I heard, Kimberly was taking a well-deserved break that involved down comforters, good books, and plenty of hot chocolate.

I'm pretty sure Man Eegee is out of town, but you can still catch up with the latest picture of The Noble Bud if you scroll down just a bit.

Rick Bylina is, as always, aMUSEing and observant. He's also generous. Do you know he regularly gives writing ideas away? I don't know how many potential best-seller plots he has offered to anybody who wants them, but I hope he'll get a percentage of sales, or at least a nice box of very good chocolate. Better yet, I hope he gets his own best-sellers.

Kelly and Mrs. Kelly have colds, poor babies, but that doesn't keep Wyrdsmiths from wyrding right along.

Over at Jungle Red, they've added another writing pal to the blog: Roberta Islieb who is the new national president of Sisters In Crime. When I was "tagged" by Man Eegee, I tagged five of my seven just by linking to them, and they were awfully good sports about responding. I haven't read the last few they wrote, but that's on my touring list of pleasures for today.

Katie's got a brand new blog. Well, not really, but Katiebird is going to have a "fresh, new look" soon. In the meantime, just by visiting there yesterday, I was reminded to drink more water. As many of you know, Eat4Today is the place to go if you need a nudge (and friendly support) to sustain good, healthy habits.


Okay, maybe this doesn't exactly fall under "good healthy habits," lol, but I'm putting up a link to something delicious at Far Manor. Hey, they've got milk, they've got wheat, they've got eggs!

Did somebody say, "bird butts"? Why, that makes me think of Olivia! Here's a link to one of my favorites of her recent shots: Widdle Bitty Bird Butt.

One of our new friends, Paul Lamb, has a blog about the agony and ecstasy of the writing life. The post to which I'm linking is one in which you will find both the A and the E, plus an example of sane and practical perseverance. God and The Flying Spaghetti Monster both know that it's not easy for a writer to remain sane and practical in this business.

Another new friend, Kathy McIntosh, also has a great blog about the writing and life, where she has strong words about "conversing fuel," (lol!), and even a recipe for hummus. Plus, she recently got "tagged" by Conda, so you can read all (okay, some) about her.

Ghostfolk and Andif don't have their own blogs, so I can't link to them. If they did, they might not be here so much. Therefore, you won't catch me doing any more than the bare polite minimum to encourage them to get their own blogs. I like things JUST FINE the way they are, where I get to make Andi my unofficial blog photographer, and I don't have to leave home to read Ghostie's posties. I guess I could say thanks, though, and tell them I love their presence and presents. :)

Another little bird told me you'll also enjoy Knucklehead's photo blog, and, of course, The Daily Coyote.

Oh, and as for me, on Saturday, I saw the movie "Charlie Wilson's War," and loved it. Best role for Tom Hanks in ages. Written by Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing"). Directed by Mike Nichols. Also starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. What's not to like? Although. . .I might not have liked it nearly so well if it hadn't ended Just Right.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Green Planet


This is such a gorgeous picture by Andif. Otherwordly. Do you dare to follow Captain Pickard down the path, into the Comments?




Thursday, December 27, 2007

What I love about spring


I'm still dreaming of spring. One of one of my favorite things is to wander down rows of baby flowers. It's like sliding a tray down a cafeteria line where my eyes are bigger than my stomach, only in this case my eyes are bigger than my garden. But I just know I can make room for a bit of this, and a little of that, and oh! look what's over there. . .

What's your favorite season of the year?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Spring skiing


Okay, I'm sick o' snow. I'm ready for spring, so I went looking for it, and I found this amazing photo of a Japanese flower garden, or at least that's how it's labeled. It looks like the world's most colorful ski slope to me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Apres-Turkey



Pigging out is such sweet sorrow.

I can't eat more until tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What's that in my stocking?


Andif, you crack me up! For the uninformed, those creatures in the stockings are marmots/groundhogs. A marmot was an unofficial mascot of the Booman Tribune political blog, back in the day. Andif introduced him to the masses, and then provided endless entertainment by placing him in compromising positions like the ones above. (You should see him with the hookah pipe.) As for the stocking, it says "kansas," because that's how I was known in those days.

And now I've gone on to a blog of my own. But more important by far is the fact that an entire family of real-life marmots populates our back yard every spring and summer. And to think I didn't even know what a marmot was until Andif became possessed by their spirit. The constant presence of them in my life since then must be, I dunno, fate.

So from the stuffed marmot and me---and thanks entirely to Ms. Marmot, herself, Andif--here is a wish for a happy Christmas, if that's your flavor. If it isn't, I wish you a happy whatever you have, with bells.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Light posting


Photo by Andif, of course.

As the picture suggests, I'll be doing light posting through the hollydays. If I had any heavy thoughts I think I absent-mindedly stuffed them in a package and wrapped them. Somebody's going to be so surprised tomorrow. :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

By Far, the Best Rolls


And "by Far," I mean these beauties were homemade by our own Farfetched from his grandmother's recipe. Omg, can't you just smell them from where you are? I could eat the whole plate of them. First with butter, then with turkey leftovers.

So what's yeasty in your life right now?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Boing


"Boing" as in spring, and springing back. Didcha miss me? I missed you! I sorta read the comments, now and then, but I tried to stay away as much as possible to make good on my vow to write. I finished one short story rewrite, got part of another one done, and not much else, I'm afraid, though I also finished my Christmas shopping. The photo of fireweed is one of my favorites from Andif. (Correction: It's actually from her husband, Jim.)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Open house


Knock, knock? Hmm, looks like nobody's home. Oh, well, let's go on in anyway. She said we're welcome to make ourselves at home even if she isn't here, didn't she? Good. I thought so. There's supposed to always be coffee and tea and plenty of food in the 'fridge and the pantry, and she said she never stops the newspapers. No, don't lock the door. She said to leave it open so her friends can come and go as they please. . .

What does that note say? Hi, Guys. I've had to leave for a few days to get some writing done, but don't let my absence stop you. I'll miss you, but I'll be back before you know it. In the meantime, come in any time you feel like it, and stay as long as you like. Love, NP

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunday Bulletin Board



The bulletin for this Sunday is, Don't Forget to Feed the Critters! My wildlife loving and feeding neighbor tells me this is a hard winter for the feathery and furry ones, because weather conditions earlier this year have deprived them of some of their usual food to get them through this season. For instance, there's a mockingbird who lives in a tree in our front yard, and ordinarily he and his family look forward to the berries in a little tree in the neighbor's yard, but this year there was not a single berry on that tree for them. Not. One. Berry. Our little friends need help this year.

I'm putting seed and bread crumbs on our deck above and patio below through these snowy, icy, bitter cold weeks. On the deck, we get Junco sparrows like the one in the photo, and Cardinal pairs, other sparrows, blue jays, doves, flickers, and a couple of squirrels who are using their tails like luxurious fur coats to cover their backs. Down below, our tidbits feed the wild turkeys and anybody else who wanders by. I also hung suet, which is popular with a woodpecker. I don't worry about providing water, because our wonderful neighbors keep a clean stream running all winter.

So my Sunday message for this week is: CHIRP! , which translates, I've been told, into both "Please," and "Thank You!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Best present

My son will be 24 on Monday. Although he was born on the 17th, because of complications we were still in the maternity ward on Christmas of '83. That morning, the nurses dressed the babies in little Santa hats like the one in the picture, and then put wee Santa bibs on them before bringing them into us moms.

I guess you don't have to try to guess what was the best Christmas present I ever got. :) Oh, and did I mention that my first book went on sale within the same twenty-four hours when my child was delivered?

Of all the gifts you have received for any occasion, do you have a favorite? Or was there one that ranks as the worst evah?


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Once upon a blog



I don't think I ever said how much I loved everybody's storm stories. Thanks so much for telling them, and for all the other great stories you natural-born story tellers spin around here. And considering that my brain feels as frozen as the tundra outside my doors, this might be an excellent day for you to spin some more. . .


:)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Coffee Shop Heaven

At our coffee shop, the weather is perfect, the coffee is fresh and hot, there's a fabulous choice of teas, and laptop batteries run forever. (Family Man's recliner is off to the left, just out of the photo.) Plus, we always reserve a couple of chairs for any lurkers who might decide to sit down and say howdy. It's okay to drop crumbs, because I have to vacuum today anyway. Just don't forget to give the waitress a tip--like how to multiply by nine on your fingers, how to run a chicken house, or how to bargain for a taxi ride in India.

Tag, I'm it

Man Eegee, that rascal, tagged me today.

These are the rules:

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.

2) Share 7 facts about yourself.

3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.

4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

My seven facts. . .

l. I recently started meditating once a day. This time, I think it's going to take.

2. I love anything that makes me laugh uncontrollably.

3. I cannot play a musical instrument, and believe me, I've tried. I took piano lessons as a child and then again as an adult. In another life I'm coming back as Ahmad Jamal and playing "Poinciana" until I'm sick of it.

4. I absolutely adored being a soccer mom.

5. I love to cuss. I don't understand people who don't love to cuss. My best friends all love to cuss. We must have all been sailors together in another life. Don't tell our mothers.

6. I have never learned the multiplication and division tables.

7. I like to experiment. Like, I went without credit cards for a year and a half, partly to see what that's like in this society. Luckily, I never needed to rent a car. It was tricky at hotels. I felt a constant undercurrent of nervousness about the whole thing, which I hated. I now have two cards, but one is a bank cash card, not a real credit card, and the other is for Macy's. And I have greater understanding of what it's like to pay only cash in a credit society.

And now the new tagees. . .Hank, Rosemary, Hallie, Jan, and Roberta, you've all been tagged. You, too, Conda and Beth. The rest of you are spared either because I know you're swamped, or because I suspect you've already been tagged before.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It was a dark and stormy. . .


Do you recall some memorable storms in your life? The weather kind, not the emotional ones. :) I'll never forget the "Ruskin Heights Tornado" when I was 12, and the "Plaza Flood," and the cold and ice when my son was born, and. . .

I'm writing this on Monday night, hoping the ice that's coming won't create another memorable storm, the kind that's brilliantly beautiful to look at but which comes accompanied by the cracking of tree limbs and the green flare of electrical transformers going out, and the bouncing of bumper cars. . .

Let's forget the storms of the present. Come on over to the bonfire, grab a stick and a marshmallow, and tell us a storm story from the past. Maybe you were scared, maybe you were thrilled, maybe you were cozy, maybe you were vulnerable, maybe you saved somebody, maybe you were saved, maybe you nearly died, maybe you felt really alive, maybe you played the world's longest game of Monopoly, maybe you got drunk, maybe you got pregnant, maybe it was beautiful. . ..anything can happen in a storm!


What happened to you?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Groupies



Are writers the only ones who have groups? Do computer guys and girls meet at somebody's home once a month to angst about code? Do doctors meet for lunch to read their diagnoses to each other? Do plumbers gather to discuss plastic vs. metal pipes? Do librarians long to flock together over wine?

New writers always seem to be looking for a writing group. They want to know how to a.) find one; and b.) tell if it's a good one. Finding one can take some time, and it can take some boldness. . .like going to a class or a conference and asking people if they want to form a group with you. I did that once, and we met for years. So, yeah, finding a group can be a challenge. But telling if a group is a good one? That's easy.

Here is Nancy's Law About Writing Groups, and it also applies to writing classes and teachers, friends and relatives, agents and editors, spouses and dogs:

It's a good one if it makes you feel like writing.

It's a bad one if it makes you feel like not writing.

Oh, sure, I could say a little more. I could say the best writing group is one where people tell the truth, but in a kind and sensitive way, and where each of them understands that their opinion is just that. . .their opinion. That, honestly, is all there is to it. If you gather kind, truth-telling people around you, everything else will work out fine.

Here's Annie Lamott's description of one good writing group she knows:

Helping each other has made their hearts get bigger. . .All four of them are excellent writers, but only one of them has been published at all, and that was just one article. But you know what? They love each other. They still look forward to their meetings after all these years. They are better writers and better people because of their work with each other.

That last line is the part I love best: "They're better writers and better people because of their work with each other." That should be true of any work we do, because if it can't make our hearts bigger, then what good is it?

Happy Monday to one of the good groups. :)

Updated: Sing like a coyote

I just had to add this photo to today's post, apropos of nothing. That's a coyote. It's from a wonderful blog I just discovered, about a young woman, her cat, and the coyote who lives with them. You'll love it, I promise. The blog is called The Daily Coyote.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the blogs are so delightful,
And since we can't go outdoors,
Let it pour, let it pour, let it pour.

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
But we've got corn for popping,
We'll do as we darn well please--
Let it freeze, let it freeze, let it freeze!

When we finally say goodnight,
We won't have to go out in the storm,
When we finally turn out the light,
We can stay home and be warm.

The ice will start its melting,
The sleet will stop its pelting,
As long as we've here to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Friday, December 7, 2007

The devil's teeth


This is our weather forecast for the next SEVERAL DAYS AND NIGHTS. Pray for us. :) But doesn't that photo make you want to run your hand along them and knock them off and hear the tinkle tinkle of icicles?

What's your forecast for this weekend? I predict a day of breezy writing, followed by a low-pressure front of relaxation produced by heavy movie going, accompanied by light eating and drinking.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

White linen

Frost Flowers by Andif

Most of us had never even heard of them until we saw this photo yesterday.


. . .a frost flower is . . .layers of ice squeezed from the stem of a plant.

I hope that today somebody tells us something else we never knew before.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tracking the story


Just because I want to see Andif's photo of the path again. I hope I can follow it today to the end of a new short story.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cravings



Caution! This post, and the comments that follow it, could be hazardous to a diet.

There are certain foods I have to have at regular but long-spaced intervals:

A double cheeseburger from Winstead's once a month. I have to have it with a 50/50, which is half fries, half onion rings.


A chocolate malt--must be a malted--from the same place, once a year.


Mexican food once a month.


Fried Chicken from Stroud's, once every few years.


A bag of Frito's, twice a year.


Cheetos when I travel by car. And a Hersey's Almond bar, or two.


A hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and pecans, hold the cherry, once a summer. I would really like to make it a Banana Split, but I can't bring myself to take the plunge.

Is there anything you can't live without, but which you don't have to eat often in order to feel satisfied?

Monday, December 3, 2007

She Said, He Said

I'm declaring this Share-a-Quote Day, which means if you've got a funny, wise, inspiring, thoughtful, educational, encouraging, supportive, comforting, beautiful , or any other kind of quote to share with your blog buddies, you've come to the right place on the right day.

I'll start. . .

I have not a shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith. Gandhi

That cracks me up, at the same time as I take it seriously. Oh, so that's all there is to it! Just make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith as Gandhi. Nothin' to it. :) We can probably achieve that by noon.

Got something funny or inspirational to share?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In praise of mistakes


There was a time in my life when I was fascinated enough by Aikido to visit a couple of dojos and watch them do their stuff. I was impressed by the beauty, grace, and daring of the movements, but it didn't take long for me to face the truth that I didn't want to throw myself around like that, or get flipped around by partners.


During that period, I also read a few books about that Japanese martial art, including The Intuitive Body by Wendy Palmer. In a chapter called, "Practice," she retells the story of a Chinese man who climbs a mountain to ask a hermit sage about the meaning of life:


What is the most important aspect of one's life?

Experience.

How do you get experience?

Good judgment.

How do you get good judgment?

Bad judgment.


This week, may we all have the good judgment to seek learning and experience in the things we want to do more than anything else in the world. And may we then be fortunate enough to make some mistakes that will help us become better at those things we want to do. I can almost guarantee that if I do the former, the latter is sure to follow. :)


Sunday Bulletin Board


Okay, is it fair to lose a championship game AND your phone and internet service all on the same night?
Sad Tiggers. Tiggers dragging tails.
Here's to next year!
Got any better news than I do?

Friday, November 30, 2007

MIZZOU-RAH!

The reason this Missouri University mascot looks like a deer in the headlights is that even he can't believe we're #1 in the nation. At the moment. Possibly until tonight. Tonight we play Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship. If we beat that team that already beat us once this season we'll go to the national championship bowl game! That sounds unbelievable to you? It sounds unbelievable to us, too.

As a NYT columnist wrote this week:

Imagine Albania playing for the World Cup title in soccer, or an amateur golfer approaching the final hole with the United States Open at stake. Think of Adam Sandler as a nominee for best actor at the Academy Awards. . .Over the past four decades, Missouri football has sent reporters thumbing through their thesauruses to find new ways to describe the Tigers’ football futility.

We're not even insulted. We understand. We're in shock, too.

Please root for the undertiger tonight!! We're such undertigers that a friend of mine has changed her cheer to, "Go, Tiggers!"

Go, Tiggers!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yo? No.

Recently, I saw a movie that was set in the 60's, and a couple of things grated on me.

One was that a character said to another, "T'sup?" Nope. That's a recent locution. You wouldn't have heard it in Harlem, Haight-Ashbury, or Kansas City.

The other telling, and wrong, detail was the way in which a character pronounced, "cool." Oh, we said "cool," back then, but it was pronounced very differently from how it is said now. Then, it was just a straightforward, "cool," in the way you'd say, "We have cool weather." Cool car. Cool girl. Cool party. But there was no special inflection, there were no extra syllables, just. . .cool. It wasn't used as a single word either, but only in a complete sentence. "He's so cool!" "What a cool car!" I think its meaning was a little different then, too. It was all about popularity and/or attitude, not so much about voicing approval or agreement. ("Want to go get drunk and throw up?" "Sure. Cool.") The preppy (also not used then) quarterback of your high school team might be cool, but so was James Dean. (They were also "dreamy.") But nothing was "coo-uhl," or all the other inventive ways the word is pronounced now. It's cool the way it's used now. I like it. But it's different from how it was used back in the day (which is also a phrase you would never have heard in the 60's). There was no such thing as the word "uncool," either. Neither was there a "chill," except in the air, or a chill-out.

It's tough to get every detail right when you're doing a period piece, whether in a novel or a film. I don't like to watch Vietnam era movies anymore because we're far enough away from it that the portrayals tend to be just off, or way off. Simply playing "White Rabbit," wearing tie-dye, and saying groovy a lot doesn't do it. (There were several different ways to say groovy, btw, much as there are for "cool" now.) It's the same with the Fifties. Sometimes I can barely recognize the time they think they're depicting. Makes you wonder about movies about the French Revolution, doesn't it?

You probably think I'm leading up to some point with this, don't you? Ha! I guess my only point is a plea. . .if you're writing about a time when you weren't here, and there are still people around who were, check it out with them. They can tell a cool from a coo-ul, and a what's happenin' from a T'sup? and a Brother from a bro. Some of you may remember that when I was writing Virgin I asked on the Booman Tribune blog if anybody remembered if boys called girls "hot chicks" back in the eighties. Thanks to your input, I decided to say it another way. Things like that can make a difference in leading the reader to trust everything else you tell them.

And thass a fact (which was also not said back then in the same way that it's used now).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pull up a chair, 2





Family Man requested recliners for the Corner Coffee Shop, so I went shopping. What do you think?

Pull up a chair

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dream house?


Seeing Beth's photo of farfetched's pretty home the other day made me wonder, do any of you live in your dream house? If not, do you have a dream house in your fantasies? I never used to have one, but lately, I know exactly what mine looks like. If I could draw, I'd show you, but basically. . .

Drive up a gravel drive until you see the small wooden house with flowers in front of it.

Get out of your car and walk up about five wooden steps to a wide front porch and notice the friendly rocking chairs, enough for several friends to sit there all at one time.

Come on in the front door, and step inside to the living room.

If you stand there and look forward, you'll see the breakfast counter and past that the very small kitchen. If you walk to the right past the kitchen, you'll pass a booth big enough for four people--cause I love kitchens with booths. If you walk to the left past the kitchen, you'll pass the small laundry room.

Behind the kitchen is the bedroom and bath.

Out the sliding glass doors on the other side of the bedroom is the wide deck.

Beyond that is a very small yard, the detached garage, and a lot of trees.

That's it. Basically two rooms, plus kitchen, plus front porch, garage, and back deck. There's no guest room, but the couches in the living room fold out into beds, and you're welcome to stay if you don't mind sharing the bath.

What does yours look like?


Happy Birthday, Farfetched!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Have you ever. . .?

Did you ever will yourself to get well, and you got well? Or will yourself to do anything that was totally mind over matter?

I'm thinking of that, because on Sunday I had the privilege of sitting in the company of a Tibetan lama who has healed himself of injuries and ailments. (His story is here.) We shouldn't feel bad if we can't do what he has done, however. He meditates about ten hours a day and received healing practices from the Dalai Lama, so he was mended in a first-class Tibetan ER, you might say.

Personally, I have no trouble believing these things happen, because I've experienced minor examples in my own life. The first was in my early twenties soon after I began living on my own, away from my parents' home. One day I began to get that feeling you get when coming down with the flu. You know that feeling? Achy, feverish, etc. I caught myself thinking, at a barely perceptible conscious level, "Oh, good, now my mom will take care of me and bring me crackers and chicken soup." The moment I caught that fleeting wish, I thought, "Wait a minute! I'm not at home. My mom won't be here to take care of me!"

I got well so fast you'd have thought somebody had waved a magic wand.

It was pretty funny, and pretty darned instructive.

How 'bout you? Ever heal yourself? Ever see somebody else do that? Do you believe it can happen?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lost glove, found kindness



Friday afternoon, katiebird and I met for coffee. As we stood in line, a man popped into the shop, and called, "Did somebody lose this glove?" Immediately, without even looking, I knew it was me, because when it comes to lost gloves, it's always me. I turned, said, "I did!" and took it back, with thanks.

He popped back out of the shop.

In the middle of my chat with kb, I realized I was missing an earring.
Katiebird kindly went up front to ask if they'd found it.
"Here it is!" a barrista exclaimed, holding it up. "We were just talking about it."

On the way out of the store, a woman behind me called, "Did you drop this?"
I turned, saw the same glove on the ground, grabbed it and thanked her.
As I did so, the scarf around my neck slid off and fell to the pavement. . .

Kb and I promptly walked to a bead shop so I could buy those plastic thingees that keep earrings from coming out, and when I got home I sewed up the hole in my pocket.

Until just a few minutes ago, the only thing I thought about that series of events was that it was funny. But then it hit me: four examples of kindness, all within an hour's time. There was the man who picked up the glove and went to the trouble of coming back into the coffee shop. There was whoever found my earring and turned it in. There were the barristas who took care of it and turned it back to katiebird for me. And there was the woman who alerted me that I had dropped my glove. And that isn't even counting how nice katiebird was to fetch the earring, and then walk to the bead shop with me.

I love this new collection of mine. I'm glad I was such a "loser" yesterday, so that I could be the beneficiary of so much thoughtfulness.

And here's an amusing addendum to my story: when I went looking for an illustration, I typed "lost glove" into Google Images, and then I followed one of the photos to its website. It turned out to be a site where a fellow took photos of lost gloves! He took 120 pictures before he got bored. Now, apparently, he's collecting the actual gloves, lol. If you'd like to see more like the one above, here's the link.

Has anyone gone out of their way for you lately?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Apres-Turkey


Hot cappuchino to warm you up on Friday morning. . .

Baby, it's cold outside


Gather 'round the fire and tell us about your holiday so far.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Big, fat, and juicy, 2


Oh, no, look what happened to Big Bird!

Who's cooking? We're having Costco's best pizza, and then their pumpkin pie with whipped cream. You think I'm kidding. If my son didn't get the full deal with his dad's much larger family, I'd feel duty-bound to baste a bird. But he does, thank god, so I don't. Usually my cousin Mary Beth joins us (Hi, Mary B!), but she has to work, and my mom's not feeling great, so my son will come out just to say howdy and nibble a little pizza.

Have I mentioned that I love Costco? I know how you all love it, too, so pile in my car, and we'll go get stuffed on their freebie food samples.


Photo site: Worth 1000

Monday, November 19, 2007

Big, fat, and juicy

On Monday, you indulged me and divulged (or tried to) three of the books that have been tops for you at some time in your life. I went over the lists of those books, and the "why" behind them and was struck by a mundane fact about them: for the most part, they're really fat books. How's that for a profound conclusion, lol? Even if I add up the smaller books plus the ones whose size I don't know, the number of Really Fat Books outnumbers them.

It's no wonder they're fat: their authors needed room and space for stories jam-packed with action and characters, plots and sub-plots. Quests were big in our books, as were secrets, and magic, and exceptionally strong characters, whether it was Stephanie Plum or King Arthur. Rebels and/or misfits were popular. Humor factored in. (Though that was mentioned specifically by only a few of you, I detected its presence in many of the other choices, too.) Entire new worlds were invented by the authors of many of "our" books, and even if the world wasn't new, the perception of it was. These were not books that were easy to write, that came quickly, that the authors just slid out of their pens in their spare time.

You picked books whose authors weren't afraid to make their characters love big, risk much, and suffer along the way. It could even be argued--with a smile--that P.G. Wodehouse made Bertie Wooster (and those around him) suffer as much as possible for maximum comic effect. Certainly nobody could deny that Jeeves was "long-suffering," lol.

The irony of the fact that so many of us adore big fat delicious novels is that publishing isn't all that encouraging of big fat juicy books. (Which are not the same as overstuffed, "padded" novels.) In the genres, publishers want a book per year, or--if you're a category romance author--more. Big fat books still do get published--think J.K. Rowling, John Irving, Diana Gabaldon, or Stephen King--but they take determined authors who are willing to make sacrifices in order to take the time they need to finish a book of that size, scope, and wonderfulness. And by "sacrifice," I mean they make whatever sacrifices they must make in their own lives, rather than sacrifice the book they're writing.

But it isn't just the authors of fat books who suffer from the time and money crunch--it's also hard for authors of skinnier books to grab enough time from the publishing schedule to raise the quality of their books as the years go by. I remember the editor who admitted to me a few years ago that the latest book by one of her best-selling authors wasn't very good. "I pushed her to get it in before it was ready," the editor told me. Having read the novel in question, I could only think, "Yeah, no shit." Much less successful writers also feel the whip of publishing schedules that have no connection to the writer's creative ebb and flow. (I'm not talking about myself. I have a patient editor.) I don't expect anybody to pity these writers, but I do think their dilemma illustrates that the words "publishing" and "sanity" don't belong in the same sentence.

When it does happen--when the publishing devils shut their yappy mouths and sit on their hyperactive hands and let great writers take the time they need to write great books, and maybe even pay them while they're doing it-- then there's rejoicing in Reader Heaven. And that's where all of us were, during the magical days and nights when we devoured those books we listed yesterday.

Thanks to those authors for big fat unforgettable books, or for short skinny memorable ones, and thanks to you guys for humoring me!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

First, we're readers


Photos by Andif, 4 weeks of changes


Around here we sometimes quote Donald Maass, who's a literary agent and a writer. I'm rereading one of his books, Writing the Breakout Novel, and I came across a question that's not just for writers, and which reminds me that every time I read a book about writing, it also turns out to be about life.

His question is:

What are your top three favorite novels of all time? He goes on to say, "No doubt you have far more than three, but choose three for starters."

Mine turned out to be: Lost Horizon by James Hilton, The Once and Future King by T. H. White, and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. I'm not somebody who re-reads novels, so I suspect I wouldn't find those as wonderful a second time around, but that doesn't matter. What I'm remembering is how they left me feeling hypnotized and exalted at the time I read them. There have been others that also did that, but these are the three that came to me for my list.

Then Maass asks, What do your three novels have in common?

I was pretty damned interested to find out that the things that came to my mind about my favs were: magic, idealism, transformation, revolution, and secrets.

What he's getting at, of course, is trying to nudge writers toward writing what we also love to read. But it seems to me that looking at what mesmerizes us in fiction may not be a bad way of identifying what inspires us in life, or even what's missing from our lives.

Want to play? Don't agonize too much. Just pick the three that pop to the top of your mind and stay there. You can have another three later, if you want to. (The Great Gatsby and The Lord of the Rings really want to squeeze into my list, but I'm sticking to my original three.)

Oh, and nobody gets to criticize your choices. That's an order. King Arthur says so.

Sunday Bulletin Board





Got News?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Playing indoors

It's too chilly to write on Sally's porch any more, so we've moved our parallel writing indoors for the winter. And speaking of such. . . I'm going to experiment with doing that with a group. There's a house in town that's dedicated to the alphabet arts, and it's big enough for a bunch of writers to be there, all tapping away on our laptops at the same time. I'm hoping to get such a group started for the benefit of writers who could use a nudge or who have a hard time finding a time and/or place to write. And, of course, for my benefit, since I love to work in the company of other writers.


What's up with your weekend?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Not about writing

Ha. As if all of life isn't about writing for a writer. But I really am going to pretend it's not about writing today.

It's about lurkers and newbies. Hi, out there!

Lately, we've had a few people dropping by to say a quick hi, or even stay and join the family. I'm so happy when that happens, and I'm pretty sure I can safely assert that all the "regulars" join me in those feelings.

If you're just visiting, I hope you enjoy your tour. Come on into the comments and meet the Krazy Kids who hang out there slurping coffee, except for Kelly who likes tea.

If you're a lurker, you're safe with us. If you ever step into the light, we'll try not to make it so bright that it hurts your eyes. I'm not even going to use this post as an excuse to try to lure you out. You'll delurk when the time is right, if it is ever right. And it's okay if it isn't. We're big on doing your own thing. Meanwhile, I hope you find some interesting and/or inspiring fun around here.

If you're a newbie, I hope you're feeling welcome. We're very glad you're here.

If you're an Olde Regular, I love you guys. But you know that.

Everybody wave!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

(Not) Gone again

Photo by Andif

UPDATE: The following is fiction. I'm here, after all. :)
G'morning, everybody! I have to disappear again today, so just pretend I'm out of town, okay? I may be "out of town" for another day or so, too. Y'all make yourselves at home, and try not to attract the cops, okay?

Although, that would make a good story. . .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My plan for Wednesday

My plan for today is: write.

My plan for tonight is: blog.

During the daylight hours, I need to disappear into that other thing I do, but I'll see you when the moon rises. Meanwhile, the regular tables are reserved for you, the coffee's hot, we have Kelly's fav teas, and it's not as if you can't find anything to talk about!

See you in a few hours.

Feeling my way into writing

I had a (maybe) epiphany this morning, having to do with that question everybody asks writers: "Where do you get your ideas?" My epiphany is that mybest ideas for novels and short stories grow out of moments when I've had strong and deep feelings. I think those feelings give me the ideas that grow into the stories that are the easiest for me to write. And I'm wondering if the reason some stories don't develop, or I have an awful struggle making them work, is that I don't have any deep feeling of my own at the heart of them.

I bragged yesterday that I'm writing my fifth short story in three weeks. They have come naturally and easily, and I suspect it's because there was memorable emotion that "birthed" each one of them, even if that birth was decades ago.

The five stories came from these emotions. . .

The fear. . .no, make that terror. . .I had of werewolves dating from when I saw "The Werewolf" when I was maybe eight years old.

The poignancy I felt when we'd take our toddler into restaurants in south Florida and he'd get lots of longing attention from grandparents who missed their own grandkids.

My annoyance over "fan" mail from people who object to any "bad" language I use.

The emptiness I felt when I couldn't communicate with somebody I loved, when I was eighteen.

The unrequited love I felt for a fellow who considered me just a friend, when we were twenty-one.

Contrast that with the book I'm supposedly working on and which is causing me so much trouble. When I try to think about any deep emotion that birthed it, I come up blank. It may be there, but if it is, I haven't felt it yet.

Years ago, I was struggling with a novel, Twilight, that wouldn't let me advance past page 84. I couldn't push out a single word for months. Things got desperate. Finally, one sad day, I gave up. That night, I had a dream in which I felt deep emotion, and when I woke up I realized that's what my heroine would feel on page 85. It was an emotion that I had never felt before, so no wonder I hadn't been able to put it onto the page. Within an hour after I woke up, I was writing again! I wrote 26 pages that day, and finished the book in two weeks, the fastest I've ever written any novel.

My guess is that if were to think back on the stories and books of mine that I consider to be my best ones, I'd find emotion at the heart of them. My emotion. And if I were to look at the ones of mine that I think are my weakest, I'd realize that I had no personal emotional connection to them, and that they were more like a strictly mental exercise of putting together a plot.

I don't know if this late-coming epiphany of mine will help anybody else, but I think it may help me. So thanks for listening as I work it out, out loud.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Holiday Monday

I hereby declare this a holiday even if you have to go to work. We'll take it easy at our corner tables. Newspapers, laptops, coffee, tea. Feet up. Cell phones off. Music on. Ahhh. Now this is the proper way to spend Mondays.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunday Bulletin Board

News around the
neighborhood. . .

Boran2 has the next installment of his new painting posted on his
blog. . .

Dada has a music show! See comments for instructions. . .

Beth's in New Hampshire. . .

Katiebird's blog is down because of server problems. . . :(

Knucklehead has moved into his
new digs, so he's back at his blog. :)

Conda wants to know how you follow your bliss. . .

Jen's got a rant up, and rightfully so. .

Farfetched has Episode 13 posted. . .

Kimberly has book recommendations. . .

Man Eegee has Bud, and that's enough for anybody. . .

Rick got tagged. . .

Family man is up and dancing (or was on Saturday). . .

Ghostfolk's blog is a ghost (see comments). . .

I'm waiting for Monday so I can see Olivia's next photo at her place and Andif's next one here. . . Update! See comments!

Kelly's blog is romancing the dead. . .

Maria is back from the con. . .

And a friend on the picket lines recommends these links about the Writer's Strike:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-herskovitz7nov07,0,5402981.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ55Ir2jCxk

Friday, November 9, 2007

Saturday in the Woods With Andif


This beautiful photo deserves its own story. Would it be fantasy? Science fiction? Mystery? Romance? Supernatural?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Death on the Armpit Express

It's Science Friday! Or what passes for it around here. . .

For your amusement (and mine), from the book The Secret House (The Extraordinary Science of an Ordinary Day), by David Bodanis:

Anti-perspirants do not work by jamming little particles into the openings of the sweat pores in the armpits. . . Aluminum flecks, which are the key ingredient, are negatively charged. That means the extra furry cloud of negative electrons they carry around with them counter-balances the normal positive charge on the skin surface. There's a crackle, some static, the equivalent of sparks, and the whole system is shut, short-circuited, and out of operation for hours. The sweat caught inside dissolves back into the body, crumbling through cracks in the sweat tubes like water from a leaky hose.

For the deodorizing effect. . . a little perfume is mixed in. There's also a nice dose of insecticide and bactericide, chemicals that are near-identical to the poisons in your garden shed, and which here are murder on any soft, unshelled creatures in their way. (They) are as acid as lemon juice. The furry. . .bacteria in your armpits are wiped out, whole colonies coated with poison and left to suffocate where they rest hugging the armpit hairs. Most go in 30 minutes. . .it's their defecation of ammonia that produces the smell we're trying to avoid in using these armpit slaughtering agents.

Perhaps you'd just as soon I stopped there? :)

Who figures this stuff out??

IT'S FRIDAY!! What's gonna make you snap, crackle, and pop this weekend?

Update: Don't miss Rick's story in the comments. It's wonderful.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Writer's strike

In a comment yesterday, FARfetched said...

I guess y'all have seen the Writers Guild of America has gone on strike in Hollywood. Those guys and gals pretty much live on residuals; as DVD sales make up a bigger piece of the pie, they're asking for (among other things) a royalty increase from 4 cents to 8 cents per DVD. The studios are flat refusing to budge on the DVD issue though.It occurs to me that, as writers, we can support our cousins in Hollywood (and elsewhere) by turning off our TVs until the strike is settled. I know that's difficult for a lot of people, and I rarely watch TV anyway, but doing it (and letting the AMPTP know about it) might help — if studios lose their audience, they're toast.

Let 'em know:

Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers

15503 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, CA 91436818-995-3600

Contact form

If we could get them 1000 letters, they will interpret that as a million lost viewers and I think there will be some rapid action. Despite the rhetoric of the AMPTP about "wealthy writers," the vast majority of WGA members earn less per year than I do as a technical writer.

Spread the word around. I'm going to.

You might want to also email supportive messages to mbaissues@wgaeast.org -- I did.

Note from Nancy: I did, too. Turned off tv. (And lived to tell about it. So far.) E'ed the AMPTP. E'ed the WGA.

Monday, November 5, 2007

You talkin' to me?

Last night I had a speaker-phone chat with a group of readers. One of them asked how I picked the murder victim in my latest book. For a moment, I felt totally baffled. It was really funny. I felt as if I'd been asked, "So, why did you have that particular son?" Uh. well, cause he's the one who showed up?

Sometimes I actually can answer a question like that, because of some conscious choice, but a lot of times it's a funny and fascinating question that I can't even hope to answer, because there's no conscious choice involved at all. So when readers ask me things such as, "Why did character X do that?". . .my answer boils down to, "Because he did." Not very helpful, lol. But when a story feels good, it also feels as if it really must have happened to these people for all the reason things happen to us real people. Sometimes we know why. Sometimes we don't. But things keep happening, nevertheless.

Why did I pick that victim, or any of the other characters?

I kind of think they picked me. "Yo, you. Write about us. Now."

Okay, I say meekly. And listen hard and just type. Or so it seems in hindsight.

Writing is a VERY mysterious way to spend a life. :)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bless the ones who don't do as they "ought"



I've read a few of the reviews for the movie, "Into the Wild," which I saw last night. So far I've found only one that highlighted something that was, for me, a really important theme of the movie--and a familiar theme in our most important literature and other arts. That is, how tough our society is for outcasts, outsiders, and people who just plain don't buy into the premises and goals of that society.


Of my boyfriends, my favorite was a man I dated for maybe four years who lived way off the grid. He was the smartest of anybody I ever dated, both in terms of book larnin' and sheer brain power, and he had a college education. But he had no interest--ever--in climbing any kind of ladder except the one he used as a house painter. He was a fascinating fellow--an adventurer who liked to climb glaciers in Canada and go kayaking in Baja, a great conversationalist, a poet, a good friend to his friends, and a, ahem, hell of a lover. But he had no home, no apartment, mostly lived off the kindness of women, lost a couple of modest inheritances by being a fool about money, and was truly paranoid about the U.S. government. A few more inches to the edge and he'd have fallen off of it.

It was hard for him to survive between lovers, because if you can't quite afford a house or apartment, but you're not "homeless" in your own mind, and you don't want to live in your car, or sponge constantly off people, then what do you do for habitat? He needed girlfriends, partly because he loved women, but also so he'd have a place to stay. Even with that kind of help, life was a constant battle of figuring out how to eat, where to live, how to keep his old car running, how to keep clean and dress decently, etc. without getting picked up by the cops, or running into other unfriendly authorities whose job it is to "protect" the rest of us from the likes of him.

I always figured I got a fair shake in my relationship with him, because he was tremendous fun to be with, incredibly attentive, thoughtful, and sensitive, and he urged me into adventures with him. There's a photo of me on a glacier, for instance. . .

As I have from all the men in my life, I learned a lot from him, and I'm grateful. Eventually, he drove me crazy and the trade-off became less attractive, but while it lasted, it was interesting and painful to watch an off-the-grid kinda guy try to survive in this country.

I wish we, as a society, were less judgmental. I wish we were more tolerant of lifestyles that don't do anybody any harm. I wish we cared less about degrees and jobs and salaries and houses in the suburbs.

I wish there were easier places in this country for young men like the one portrayed in the movie, and for ones like the middle-aged man I once loved. But then if there were, we wouldn't have a lot of our most important American mythos, or some of our most important American art, would we? The lives of those men are a pretty high price to pay for it, though.

I guess I want to say. . .send a good thought today to somebody who doesn't do what "everybody" thinks he ought to do. Wish for him today a hot meal, good health, friendly people along his way, and a safe, soft place to rest his head tonight. And if it's a woman you're thinking of, double those kind wishes, because she's going to need them even more than he does.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Boids


I love this latest photo from Andif. (I've got it "large," and if that messes up you guys with dial-up, and smaller will help, just let me know, okay?) Surely there's a ghost in that photo somewhere. It looks like the opening shot of a movie, doesn't it? Now the camera will pull back to. . .comments.