Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vertical words

This will be weird.

Lately, plot points are coming into my head in a new way.

The photo above is the closest I am able to come to illustrating what it is.

Here's how it seems to work, using yesterday as an example: I had already written a scene. Yesterday, I rewrote it. I thought it was finished, but I still wasn't totally sure why it was in the book. It seemed a kind of. . .departure. Then, on the drive home, a sentence fell vertically into my mind. That's exactly how it feels/seems. The sentence was something like, "He thinks she lured him away so people could hurt his family while he was gone." It was an aha for that scene and it explained why it is in the book, something I didn't know before that vertical sentence dropped out of the blue.

One more thing: the vertical sentences drop into the very center of my head, and there is a little physical sensation. If I could move that silver thing further to the middle of the photo, I would, to give you the correct impression.

Told ya it would be weird.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Meet Fluffy

Because I can't go for long without a velociraptor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hump Day Dog

With a new puppy in the house, Sniff needs special attention.

Photo by his Best Friend Forever.

Monday, July 28, 2008


This is one of my favorites of Andif's photographs.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Light blogging week

There may be lots of empty chairs on the porch this week. I won't be occupying mine very often, either. What with vacations, illness, or deadlines, we're going to be missing some people for a little while. But the rocking chairs and the porch swing are available, there's coffee and tea inside, and blogworld exists where it is not 99 degrees in the shade. Enjoy. I'll drop in whenever I can. . .

Friday, July 25, 2008

Saturday & Sunday Smoke Signals

. .here is a smoke signal, unmistakable but unobtrusive--we are following what comes, going through the world, knowing each other, building our little fires. . .

That quotation is from an introduction that the poet William Stafford wrote for a collection of his poems. It struck me as a pretty good description of what we do in our blog village and the larger blog world.

Happy weekend, y'all, from my little fire to yours.

Photo from coolchaser.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kimberly gets a handle on things

It was Kimberly who noticed yesterday what I had not, not even after I'd stared at the Blue Door several times. It has no handle! There's a mystery for you. And here's a handle that Olivia photographed during her Europe trip. Of course, it is attached to another door that probably belongs to somebody, but maybe they won't mind if we remove it and tiptoe over to the Blue Door and put it there. I feel a little nervous about opening it now. . .

Maybe Friday is inside?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blue doors and ideas

Those of you who frequent Olivia's photo blog have seen this one recently in her Mykonos album. I asked her permission to post it here, because it's so beautiful and because it's a perfect picture for triggering ideas. I can imagine poems, short stories, novels, plays, essays, and who knows what other forms of writing being inspired by this "simple" blue door.

When I look at it, my gaze is drawn to the weeds at the bottom. They make me feel curious. They suggest this door hasn't been opened for awhile. And that makes me wonder why that might be. I know what the "real" answer is, because Olivia told me, but it's the "unreal" answers that intrique me.

All sorts of ideas could arise from this door.

What do you notice the most about this photo?

Be sure to go see this photo on her blog where it looks even prettier. Thank you for sharing, Olivia!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Remember this?

It's hot. Here's some cold. Enjoy.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Ugliest Elf

Once upon a time there was an elf who lived all by himself in an enchanted forest. He was an ugly little fellow whose mother abandoned him as soon as he was old enough to crack walnuts with his own teeth.

She didn't even leave him a name.

He was so ugly that not even the squirrels would speak to him. Chipmunks chittered away in fear when he smiled at them. Even the birds flew off with loud chirps to warn other creatures of the presence in the forest of a little monster.

His only friend was an enormous tortoise who was already 150 years old and who didn't have a name, either. The tortoise, who had very bad eyesight, didn't know the elf was ugly. He would frequently squint at the elf and chuckle, and say, "My eyesight's so bad that you look ugly as a wart!"

"I AM ugly as a wart," the elf would say.

But the tortoise would merely rumble his deep chuckle and refuse to believe it. He thought the elf was only being modest.

And so the elf, unloved except by a 150-year-old tortoise with bad eyesight, grew up almost alone.

And then, on his twenty-first birthday, he woke up feeling as if something had changed. . .

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Cow Artist

I like cows. This is a pair that's interesting to me. The mother is a Hereford; her calf is a Black Baldy, which means Daddy was an Angus. It used to be that the hills--or rather, the prairies--were alive with the gorgeous rust-red of Herefords as far as your eye could see. It was red and white, all over the place, and hardly another color of cattle to be found. Problem was, Hereford heifers are small, Hereford bulls are big, you see the problem. So ranchers started breeding Angus bulls, which are smaller, to Hereford heifers, and they got more live calves and fewer dead mothers. But in so doing, they also changed the look of the plains. Now what you see is black and white, or just black, as far as the eye can see. In fewer than twenty years, the aesthetics of ranching in this part of the country has changed permanently.

I miss seeing fields full of purebred Hereford cattle. l loved the look of curly red and white on green grass in the summer and russet grass in the fall.

This pair was painted by The Cowboy Artist, whom I discovered only just now when I went searching for cows in Google Images. From what I can tell, she paints cows beautifully. To me--and trust me, I saw a few cows in my time as a rancher's wife--her cows really look and "feel" like the real thing.

I'd hang this painting on my wall, I really would, that's how much I like cows. I also like them in hamburgers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fact to fiction

I rarely do this. I hardly ever look for a photo of a real building and "copy" it into a novel. But this time I just had to find a house that figures importantly in the novel I'm writing, and this is it, although I've made some changes. This is the old Spring Hill Ranch House that's now part of the a national prairie park in the Flint Hills of Kansas. You can't see it in this photo, but to the left of this house there's a 3-story stone barn that I put in another book. Up the highway to the right, there's a one-story schoolhouse sitting all by its lonesome on top of a cold windy hill. I haven't used it yet, but its time may come. One of the ranches where my son works is a little past the schoolhouse. I love this area and I keep coming back to it for inspiration.

You writers out there, do you ever do this? Model your fictional buildings on real ones, your fictional people on real ones, or your fictional places on real ones?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Waiter, there's a marmot in my drink

A few years ago, Andi barricaded herself in the dark recesses of The Photoshop Bar & Grill where all the empty kegs go to die. When at last she emerged, cobwebby but triumphant, she presented a new drink to the world--The Dirty Marmotini!*

Around here, when we say, "bottoms up," we mean it, hic.

*Official Drink of The Booman Tribune Cafe

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Three of the reasons I want a camera

In my back yard this week. . .a marmot, two red foxes, and two spotted fawns.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Heavenly Nosh

Either there are cupcakes in heaven, or I'm not goin'.
These beauties are from "Sweet Revenge," the new (and "much more than a") cupcake emporium owned and operated by Andif's niece, Marlo Scott, at 62 Carmine Street, in New York City.
". . .velvety smooth, delicate, and delicious," gushed a reviewer.
I'm sure I'd agree, but I'd have to test them all first, just to be sure.
Congratulations, Marlo, from your aunt's friends at ASMoL!

Monday, July 14, 2008


Photo by Andif.

The Comment Coffee Shop is open twenty-four hours a day, so help yourself to your libation of preference. I think Beth has hidden a bottle of huckleberry wine over there in the corner, and there's always caffeine.

Farfetched, can you bring your homemade rolls and jam for breakfast?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The importance of the orange dot

This is either our intrepid photographer, Andif, or our intrepid photographer's intrepid husband, Jim. Andi, is this near Lake Powell? And who is that orange dot and why is he/she wearing a life jacket to swim in rocks?

There's something about this wonderful photo that makes me think a writing thought. I've been reading a little book, a "meditation," about the killing of the Amish girls in that schoolhouse a couple of years ago, remember that? The motives given for the man who killed them and himself were: a.) that years ago he may have molested other girls and was now feeling irresistible urges to do it again; and b.) that he was furious at god for the death of a baby daughter several years before, and he wanted to show god how pain felt. Well, here's the writing thought: as a motive for a murder in a novel, I could buy (a), but not (b). (Actually, I don't buy it as a motive in real life, either.) I do not know of a single novelist who could write a story with god as the villian and make me believe it--unless God is like the God of the Book of Job, and sits and has amusing conversations with that Satan fellow next door.

There's a truism in novel writing that you shouldn't make your villain something abstract, like "nature," or "the government," or the weather, or god. Any of those things could be a malevolent force in a novel, but it's generally believed that you have to give them a human face. There has to be a malevolent and very specific human bureaucrat, for instance, to represent the evil government, because readers can't easily relate to "characters" that aren't human, unless they're given humanoid traits--as in Hal the computer in "2001: a Space Odessey," or the Cylons in "Battlestar Gallactica." If the villain is an animal or a plant, the human characters have to project human traits onto them. Etc. It is not necessary to agree with this, but it is probably necessary to *do* it in order to get published. If you can think of any exceptions to this "rule," fire away.

That's it, that's my writing thought inspired by the little orange human figure in the big rocky room. It's the little human who draws our attention and makes us curious.

::Everybody wave at the little human!::

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy Wabbit!

My computer guy saved my computer and everything in it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

7 senses?

I do a workshop about rewriting in which I tell students to check every scene for Action, Conflict, Surprise, Emotional Shift, and the Five Senses. Well, here's a surprise. The last couple of days, I've been re-reading one of my favorite autobiographies. It's called Dancing Naked in the Mind Fields, and it was written by Kary Mullis who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1993 for inventing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that revolutionized DNA chemistry. Mullis is a wild man, a surfer, astrologer, a maybe-alien-abductee, LSD taking, legendary goofball and first-class brain. And what he told me in his book is that there are actually seven senses, not five. Perhaps you knew this? I didn't, and I had forgotten it from the first five times I read his book. Hey, I am NOT a legendary brain, heh.

Kary says the 7 senses--our physical windows of perception--are the usual five, plus two he calls "the dubious senses," which are weightlessness, and a sense of the passage of time.

I read that and had an epiphany about my rewriting class, namely that what I call "surprise" is a fictional equivalent of weightlessness, and what I call "emotional shift" is a fictional equivalent of the sense of the passage of time. In the future, because of this, I will talk about putting 7 senses in each scene, and not just five. This will be helpful in getting people to grasp what I mean by "surprise" and "emotional shift," and it will be a wonderful help to me in my own rewriting.

I won't go into detail about the rewriting stuff--it's Friday, for god's sake, and people shouldn't have to think too hard!--but I will say this book seemed to insist on being re-read by me this week. A writer friend of mine received an email from Kary Mullis a couple of days ago, out of the blue. When she told me about it, I got all excited and then sad because I had given his book away the last time I moved. Only, I hadn't. After telling her that I wished I still owned his book, I went down to the basement to watch tv. When the show was over, I got up and looked behind me. The book was under a table, propped up against other books, and facing me so I couldn't miss it. I would have sworn--sworn, I tell you--that I had never seen that book before in this house.

The Mind Field is an interesting place to dance. Oh, and did I mention the show I was watching was "So You Think You Can Dance"? Yep. Hee.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Look up!

Here I am, up a tree! I'm sitting up there in that bend, which means I've almost made it to the top. If you are on the ground and you lie on your back and you stare up, way up there, that's what it looks like to start a novel. And when you get to the bend, you think, whoa!, I didn't know it was going to do this! And then you get up in the leaves, where you can't see how far you've come, and finally you emerge into the sunlight and it's, like, you're Tarzan AND Jane, and all the chimps, and you can dance from tree top to tree top, swinging and swooping whooping and hollering, and it jes feels sa good. Of course, eventually you have to come down. Gulp.

Ha! Well, I'm not there yet, but I'm at the bend that leads there.

Where on the tree are you today?

Oh, and did I mention? Photo by Andif. The "f" is for foto.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reflections in a golden pond

Photo by Andif

Are you reflecting on anything in particular this Tuesday?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008


I love this photo by Andif.

What words does it bring to your mind? The word that came first to mine was "impending." After that came "passing over."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tree-eating flower

As opposed to a tree, eating flower. Punctuation is everything!

Yesterday, the writers who saw this photo said it immediately gave them story ideas.

Quick! What does it make you think of? I'll tell you my first reaction (in the comments) if you'll tell me yours.

Photo by Andif, of course.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Garden discovery!

Ooo, pretty. I was at a nursery yesterday and found this plant I'd never heard of before. It's an "Ornamental Oregano." I don't know if it's good in spaghetti, but it's definitely going in my garden. Maybe it will also go into one of my books, because it's a "high plains" plant, and you knooow how I love the plains, whether they're high, low, or in the middle.

Have any of you ever seen or heard of it before?