Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Yes, I know it's only Christmas Eve, but I intend to make myself very scarce online for the next two days, starting after I post this.  Thanks to book promotion, it seems like I've been spending a rather large chunk of my time online lately, and I don't particularly like it.  In any case, the internet and Christmas don't really fit to me.  So I'd like to wish everyone an exceptionally Merry Christmas, full of all the things each of you like best (because there's no sense in wishing everyone the same thing, they mightn't like each other's taste) and now I shall go downstairs and make huckleberry pancakes for breakfast.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Controversy vs. Dancing Snow Angels

So...I promised my friend Tara, a fairly controversial blog post concerning my experiences with our country's health care system.  This week I'd been getting my ideas together and thinking things out concerning it.  The plan was to write it this evening.  Then a funny thing happened.  This afternoon I had my regular ballet class, followed by rehearsal.  Afterwards, I was standing out on the sidewalk with a friend while we waited for her ride, chatting about various things.  There was a nice layer of fluffy white snow on the ground, and somehow or other we started making pictures in it with our feet, flowers and curlicues across the lawn.  Then we moved to the other side of the sidewalk and made snow angels, a horse, a camel...running about like children, covered in snow and laughing.  It was the best time I've had in quite a while, a delightful moment of pure enjoyment in the midst of more complicated life.  I still intend to write about my experiences with the health care system, but I can't tonight.  It seems so drab, and tonight I want nothing to do with drab.  I will end my day with moonlight on snow and the sound of laughter, and leave more serious and dull subjects for another day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Elegance of the Hedgehog...and remotely related thoughts

This morning I finished reading The Elegance Of The Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.  It does not, as you might think, have anything to do with hedgehogs, except for the single paragraph from which the title was born, but it is, in my opinion, a brilliant creation.  It's the sort of book you absorb rather than read, an interesting mix of novel and philosophical work.

I picked it up this morning after Aaron left for work at 5:30, thinking that I would read a few chapters before I started the day.  I was a little over halfway through it.  I love those early morning hours.  They give you the chance to prepare your mind for the day.  Anyway, before I knew what had happened I was only pages away from the end and I knew it was hopeless to attempt anything else until I was done.

The final impression it left on my mind was one of beauty and triumph, contained within a shell of lovely, thoughtful prose.

“I have finally concluded, maybe that's what life is about: there's a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. It's as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never. Yes, that's it, an always within never.” 

We live for moments of beauty, however brief.  The trick is learning to see.  This may seem overly simplified, but I don't think it is.  So many people stumble around blindly, thinking they are doing important things (like Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh, incidentally) but missing the beauty of life along the way.

“...This is the first time I have met someone who seeks out people and who sees beyond...We never look beyond our assumptions and, what's worse, we have given up trying to meet others; we just meet ourselves. We don't recognize each other because other people have become our permanent mirrors. If we actually realized this, if we were to become aware of the fact that we are alone in the wilderness, we would go crazy...As for me, I implore fate to give me the chance to see beyond myself and truly meet someone.” 

C.S. Lewis said that he began his journey to Christianity from Atheism when he read George MacDonald's book Phantastes.  I read Phantastes myself when I was in my teens.  It's a lovely fantasy novel about a young man who finds his way into fairyland.  There are dryads, both beautiful and frightening, fairies, living statues...but no mention anywhere of God, of Christ, of Faith.  Only a piercing beauty.  Reading that book makes me feel the same way I do standing in an open field in early spring, with no one for miles and mud between my toes, a cool breeze ruffling my hair.  For C.S. Lewis, he said that what caught him in Phantastes was goodness.

Goodness, beauty...for me they are inseparable, intertwined, essential, and for all of us, no matter what creed we follow, they are things we can give to each other.

...I think I'm done now.  The novel has been neglected today, but I still have most of the afternoon, and this blog post has been brewing in my brain for some time now in various forms.  Cheers!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giveaways and Such

For those who haven't noticed the nifty little widget to the right of this page, I am doing a giveaway through Goodreads for three signed copies of Ashford.  It's a good way to maybe get your hands on one if you're interested but aren't sure about shelling out the cash.  Signing up with Goodreads is pretty easy if you aren't already (I wasn't until just recently, being rather behind the times) and it's a great way to find out what's going on with your favorite authors and discover new ones.

Making progress on the new novel, though I'm not far enough along to share any real details yet.  Hopefully soon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a short post to say Happy Thanksgiving before I go downstairs to bake pies for tomorrow. After several days of heavy snow, it has warmed up into the 40s. I took a walk in the rain this morning, enjoying the rain-smell and the freshness that comes with it. I love walks in the rain. I always feel better afterwards, as if my body and soul have been washed clean.

I'll leave you with a song I've only recently discovered. A gem, and it also happens to be on my pie-baking playlist. Cheers! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Slumps and Their Cures

I have to admit, yesterday morning I fell into a slump.  It happens.  If anyone claims it doesn't happen to them, they lie.  I'm at that stage in the self-promotion process where a great deal of time and energy has been spent on it, but the results are still unclear.  Roooowwwwrrrr!  Growling is sometimes the most satisfying response to these things.  However, my slump evaporated in the early afternoon thanks to a friend of a friend.  The friend of a friend had borrowed Ashford from the friend and I was informed that the friend of the friend (confused yet?) had read it in a day, cried uncontrollably at the end, and could not stop thinking of Perry Bertram.  Ahhhhh!  My day was instantly rosy.  I made someone cry!  I created a hero that teenage girls obsess over!

To add to the glory of the day, I ended it with a fantastic ballet class in the evening. Those two things will last me at least a week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Launch, a Load of Self-Promotion, and a Hedgehog

Yes, it's been a week and a half, and I completely forgot to update my blog concerning the outcome of my book launch, which is doubly bad because I have this URL listed in the front of the book as my website and I hate the thought of people thinking, "oooh, blog" and then finding it stagnant.  Not that they would, necessarily, be thinking, "oooh, blog" but they might, and I would hate for them to be disappointed.  

In any case, the launch went very well.  There was a steady stream of people, and by the end my face hurt from smiling, so I think that would generally indicate success.  Afterwards I went home to collapse on the couch with Kezia while we consumed pizza and Strongbow and watched An Education (great film by the way, based on a memoir) and had a lovely evening.  Since then I've been wrestling with the beast known as Self-Promotion, which does not come naturally at all.  I've known people who were simply genius at it, but I am not one of them.  In a way, the online promotion part is easier.  Those people don't know you.  And Very Old Friends, who've watched you slave over the novels for years and even perhaps read manuscripts...those aren't bad either.  It's the hometown promotion that's the hardest, I find.  Suddenly you're approaching people who, though they don't really know you, per se, have seen you about town and known of you since you were a midget.  I can assure you, I was thoroughly unimpressive as a midget.  Yes, I had fabulous adventures in my head, but who was to know?  I certainly didn't tell them.  Cancer threw me a little more into the public eye, but who wants to be known for being disease-ridden?  Anyway, approaching people who know you in the aforementioned vague way, and saying, essentially, "Hi, I've written a book.  Please buy it," can feel rather odd.  However, I have been gritting my teeth and getting it done, though generally in a less blunt fashion.  The online promotion has slowly been coming along as well, though it's a lot to learn.  There is, in the end, so much that could be done for promotion, with all the resources available, that I find I have to make myself stop, to set it aside and go back to the writing.  After all, the writing is what really counts.  Without it, there would be nothing to promote, not to mention that without it I would turn into a sodden mass.  We write for the same reason we breathe: because without it we would not survive.  Numbers and sales seem petty things then.

I have acquired a new friend recently.  His name is Ferdinand, or Ferdy for short, and he is an African Pygmy Hedgehog, an anniversary gift from my husband.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Juliette Greco

I've recently become obsessed with the music of Juliette Greco.  She has such an amazing voice.  Right now she's helping calm my nerves as I prepare for the book launch this afternoon.

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallows Eve

A very happy All Hallow' Eve to everyone!  I think I mentioned this last year, but I've always preferred "All Hallows Eve" to "Halloween".  It has such a mysterious ring.  It is reminiscent of wood smoke and moonlit fields, and I like the old tradition of it being a night to remember the dead.  "Halloween" is reminiscent of candy and latex, and has become too much of a platform for selling rubber outfits and horror films.  I do enjoy dressing up, and won the local costume contest two years ago for my costume, "Going Postal", which involved a tutu I made out of electric blue bubble wrap, decorated with many postage stamps and postal stickers.  In any case, I enjoy the holiday, and tonight I shall light a few candles, hand out candy to the adorable midgets who come to my door, and spend some time thinking of those who have gone before me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Word On Henry VIII...or several

Okay, I realized several days ago that I've been all business lately, getting Ashford out, setting up a launch, formatting for Kindle, etc...  I need a break from this, and my blog most certainly does.  In any case, Ashford is set at the moment.  It's up on,, it's available on Kindle, posters are up for the launch, postcards sent out, "event" set up on facebook.  It will take care of itself for a day, and I will emerge from my recent wild-haired, crazy-eyed, hermit persona to take a walk on this lovely autumn day, write on the new novel, and finish off the day by getting dressed up to go to the ballet with my husband and friends.

But first I shall begin my day by devoting a word or several to a man who is accidentally responsible for a great deal of my education: King Henry VIII.

I was about twelve years old when my obsession began.  It really started with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  It seemed to me at the time that everyone knew he had six wives, but nobody seemed to know much about the wives themselves besides the litany: Divorced, Beheaded, Died in Childbirth, Divorced, Beheaded, Outlived Henry.  Of course, as is probably inevitable with a solitary, literary-minded, nerdish child, I decided that I would write an epic novel about Catherine's life.  (I know, not very original, but I must state here that this was, at least, before Phillipa Gregory.)  As a novel, it never developed into more than a few lines here and there, but the research phase went on for over a year, and became much more than a history lesson.  So here is my list of Lessons From Henry:

1.  Henry is proof that things haven't really changed much. To quote Community, "Men are monsters who crave young flesh."  Power still corrupts.  Henry began his reign as a handsome, idealistic young man, and look what he turned into.  I must admit I'm not sure how Hugh Hefner started out, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't as a prunish, withered lecher.

2.  Henry established my earliest Catholic sympathies.  I liked Sir Thomas More from the beginning.  He was loyal, kind, devout, brilliant, and he had pet monkeys.  Henry had his head cut off.  One can argue reasonably for problems within any church system, but breaking with a church and setting up a new one with yourself as its sole head because you want a younger, hotter wife...?

3.  Henry is responsible for a great deal of my sex education.  I remember many wide-eyed moments spent in the perusal of Antonia Fraser's The Wives of Henry VIII (a thorough, engrossing, and very honest historical work).  The Tudors were not exactly subtle.  And all of Henry's wives are, in the end, examples of women who used their sexuality or whose sexuality was used by others (either well or poorly depending on their fate) to gain power.  All women use their sexuality for power in some way or other, as far as I can see.  It goes back to the old idea of working with the tools you've been given.  But some people like to use chainsaws for things that could be taken care of with a pair of pruning shears.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It has been a very busy week here, full of new things for me as I explore new territory in the realm of self-promotion.  I find myself grateful that the golf season is over, even though that means I'm currently unemployed, because it's been giving me time and energy to devote to Ashford which I would not have otherwise.  Yesterday was probably the most frustrating, as I spent the morning re-formatting the novel for Kindle.  I nearly threw my computer out the window in a violent rage.  However, it is now available on Kindle, and it is also available on as a paperback.  I'm attaching the link below, for the paperback version.  So far the one for Kindle is easier to find in a search for some reason.  I've also been setting up a book launch at the local coffeehouse where I used to work.  This is more my thing.  I'm not a Kindle person.  Never will be, I fear.  I like the feel of paper, and the book smell.  And the launch combines two of my favorite things.  Books, and coffee.  My husband will also be providing live music for the launch.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just a quick post to let everyone know that Ashford is officially available online at the link below. is currently pending, but it should be available there shortly, also available by request in your local bookstores and libraries.  Anyone who requests it shall have my undying gratitude, and if you come to Chewelah I'll make you fresh-brewed espresso and home-made tiramisu.  Tired now.  It has been a very long but productive day, and I intend to leave my book-launch preparations for tomorrow and go downstairs to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and somebody else's brilliant prose.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Publishing and Other Odds and Ends I remember how to blog?  It really has been a while, but September has been a very busy month.  I know, excuses, excuses.  But in all honesty, since the last time I posted plenty of things have happened: my sister broke her ankle, I went to Portland to visit her, my husband got a new job, and I wriggled my way through the preliminary steps of publishing Ashford, among other things.

Yes, I'm self-publishing.  A controversial move, but much less so than in the past.  At this point it can't do me any harm, and might do me some good.  The manuscript had been edited and re-edited multiple times, by others and myself, and was starting to build a little fan base.  It's time for it to exist in another form, and it's time for me to learn how to market it.

From the back cover:

Seventeen year old Anna is a naive American orphan, delighted to find herself on a tour of Europe in the spring of 1939.  A feeling of camaraderie with all mankind thrills her as she mingles with throngs of foreigners, but her joy is short-lived.  WWII shatters the world.  As fathers and sons, husbands and brothers dive grimly into the trenches, Anna is left stranded in England, disillusioned and afraid.  However, this worldwide catastrophe may be the perfect catalyst to mature Anna into the brave young woman she longs to be.  Even as the world is shadowed with disaster, Anna finds friends in the kindly Bertram family.  In the midst of all that threatens to tear her world apart, will she find a place to truly belong?
My thanks to Megan Andrews for the back cover description.
The golf season is winding down, and I have to say (surprise!) that I'm ready for it to be over.  It's been a good experience over all, but it's not my world.  People look at me when I speak, and it's like they don't understand the language.  In all fairness, I probably look the same when they start talking about golf.  That world and mine are like oil and vinegar (to borrow a phrase from Anthony Trollope).  Not to say that mine is better or theirs worse.  They just don't fit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


A few brief observations:

A man sporting a comb-over should never attempt to drive a convertible with the top down.

Hugh Laurie can sing the blues!  And play some killer piano!

I am finding the adolescence of my characters as frustrating as my own. Luckily it's a fairly brief faze in the novel.

Fresh figs are wonderful!

Why does everyone assume that Jack and Jill were children?  The rhyme doesn't specify.  Maybe they were old and decrepit and that's why they fell down the hill.

That's all.  Cheers!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Prologue To a Busy Day

Greetings at the beginning of a very full day.  This morning: finishing off a going-away gift for my good friend who is leaving for college next week, baking a batch of croissants as a thank-you gift for a certain very generous favor (and, incidentally, for breakfast tomorrow), getting a decent start on the next chapter of my novel so that tomorrow when I have more time and concentration I can delve directly into the next tragedy which will propel the plot forward and in which I shall not have any sentences this long or confusing.  This afternoon: demonstrating for a ballet class full of brand new adorable urchins, helping my mom set up her Etsy shop, going back for my own ballet class and staying late for photos, after which I shall come home and gratefully fall into bed.

At least I'm hoping to get all of that done today.  I make no promises.  The novel is coming along nicely these days, and I think my new-found dedication is starting to pay off.  There are still some days where I write only very little, don't like that very little and delete it the next day, but I try to tell myself that those days are as much a part of the process as the productive ones.

Lately I've taken to reading Robin McKinley's blog.  Check it out at if you're interested.  I've always loved her writing, whether it's her YA work (Beauty, Dragonhaven) or her more adult stuff (the wonderful and unsettling Deerskin, or Sunshine).  It's fantasy with real literary merit.  In any case, she blogs daily -- which in itself is impressive to me -- about life in general, which for her often involves raising hounds, ringing handbells, gardening, chasing bats out of her attic, and writing of course.  I find it delightful.

Just to let everybody know, I have changed my settings to allow for comments from readers who are not officially followers of my blog.  I didn't do this at first because I was trying to avoid spam, but I do enjoy comments and I like feedback, so I changed the settings so that anybody can leave a comment but I have to approve it before it posts.  Hopefully this will help.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nine Years and Counting

Recently the Chewelah golf course played host to a benefit tournament and silent auction for a local high school girl fighting cancer.  Talk about memories.  After nine years there are times when I forget how it felt, but when it comes back it feels like it all happened weeks ago rather than years.  Harder for the parents, siblings and friends in so many ways.  Someday I will write it all into a novel, or a memoir.  Everyone said I should then, but until recently it still seemed too close.  It's odd, but these days it is mostly the good things that I remember: the kindness of friends and family, nurses and doctors; making my oncologist laugh; the warmth of the heated blankets they wrapped around me; the feeling of peace when everything else is gone.  Especially the last.  For a year the future meant nothing.  The moment was everything, all there was.  It was the aftermath that was most difficult in many ways, learning how to plan again, to think of my life as something beyond today.

Of course I remember other things: weakness; nausea; allergic reactions which led to waking up in the ER stuck full of needles.  But these things don't last.  The pain subsides, until all that is left is a weird sense of wonder.  I am alive.  In my more philosophical moments I wonder why, then I realize that why doesn't really matter.  I am here, now.  It's the old lesson, still the same.  Apart from past pains and future worries, here I am.  Now, this moment, always.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Costumes and a Karaoke Man

This past week has been more than a little crazy, and this weekend I'm a bridesmaid for a friend's wedding.  Consequently, not much time for blogging, particularly since my newly rekindled self-discipline requires me to spend my spare time on the novel first, before the blog.  Yesterday, as I had a couple of free hours, this self-discipline led me to pack up my laptop and walk down to the park.  This method has worked very well for me lately.  I give myself a designated amount of time, I get to be outdoors in the sun, barefoot in the grass, and free from distractions.  Sans laundry, sans sewing, sans bills, sans internet access.

Yesterday, however, I realized I had unwittingly picked the one day of the entire summer when KaraokeMan sets up on the park stage.  I don't know his name, or why he does it, or anything else about him except that one day every summer he sets up a karaoke machine and belts out a motley collection of songs in the Chewelah city park.

I went around to the side of the park behind the stage, on the other side of the creek, where the music was not quite so loud, and settled down to write.  Wrote through a selection of ABBA tunes with slowly ebbing enthusiasm, which slowed to a drip as he started in on Whistle While You Work.  Then he started yodeling, and I gave up in despair, shut off my computer, and set out for home again just as he was settling in with Who Wears Short Shorts.

I just realized that I promised more costuming photos some time ago.  Here is one with three of my solo costumes.  Costumes for solos are the most fun, because you don't have to worry about being able to duplicate anything.  I'm in the center, with Lexie and Megan on either side.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Le Corsaire' Pas de Deux

Okay, yes, it's another ballet video. Le Corsaire is one of my favorite ballets. How could it not be, when you get amazing dancing, pirates, evil slave traders, beautiful slave girls, betrayal, abductions, daring rescues... The storyteller in me delights in the wonderful mishmash of plot. On top of that, you get these two dancers. Daniil Simkin is the up-and-coming talent of American Ballet Theatre. I discovered him several years ago and he's splendid in this. Maria Kochetkova is a young principal dancer for San Francisco Ballet. I'm not as familiar with her at this point but she's lovely. They performed this two years ago at a festival in Tokyo. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Returned Sense of Purpose

Returning to real life after the PNWA Conference is always a bit squiffy for me. (Yes, I am aware that "squiffy" is not a word.  But it should be.)  Four days of concentrated writing, the society of other writers, writing workshops, featured speakers on's lovely.  Writers are their own kind of weird, and I think that's the thing that helps me the most every year.  It's a companionable weirdness, a solidarity, and it encourages me that I'm not alone in this obsession with words and stories.  Writers may be famously introverted and depressed, but those things considered they are very encouraging people.  I never feel any sense of competition.  Everybody wants everybody else to succeed, because if they succeed it means you can too.  Also, it's one of very few places where you can mention having arguments with your characters or reading the dictionary for fun without being branded a psycho.

So once again I've returned to the real world, but I hope I've carried a piece of that atmosphere back with me, and through contact with writer friends met there I will keep hold of it throughout the year to come.  The biggest thing I came away with this year was a new sense of determination and discipline in my writing.  This is what I've wanted since I was a little girl.  Only I can make it happen.  Also, in going through old manuscripts the other day I realized that I am currently working on my sixth novel.  What matter that the first four I wouldn't dream of showing to anyone?  Those were practice, and I never have to write that terrible "first novel" again.  Hurrah!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Alice and Humpty Dumpty

As I was packing for the conference this morning, the following segment from Alice Through the Looking Glass popped into my head.  It's always been one of my favorite passages.


'You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice. 'Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called "Jabberwocky"?'
'Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'I can explain all the poems that ever were invented — and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'
This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:
''Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.
'That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: 'there are plenty of hard words there. "Brillig" means four o'clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.'
'That'll do very well,' said Alice: 'and "slithy"?'
'Well, "slithy" means "lithe and slimy". "Lithe" is the same as "active". You see it's like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.'
'I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully: 'and what are "toves"?'
'Well, "toves" are something like badgers — they're something like lizards — and they're something like corkscrews.'
'They must be very curious-looking creatures.'
'They are that,' said Humpty Dumpty; 'also they make their nests under sun-dials — also they live on cheese.'
'And what's to "gyre" and to "gimble"?'
'To "gyre" is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To "gimble" is to make holes like a gimlet.'
'And "the wabe" is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?' said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.
'Of course it is. It's called "wabe" you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it —'
'And a long way beyond it on each side,' Alice added.
'Exactly so. Well then, "mimsy" is "flimsy and miserable" (there's another portmanteau for you). And a "borogove" is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round — something like a live mop.'
'And then "mome raths"?' said Alice. 'I'm afraid I'm giving you a great deal of trouble.'
'Well, a "rath" is a sort of green pig: but "mome" I'm not certain about. I think it's short for "from home" — meaning that they'd lost their way, you know.'
'And what does "outgrabe" mean?'
'Well, "outgribing" is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you'll hear it done, maybe — down in the wood yonder — and, when you've once heard it, you'll be quite content."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Release, Richard, Rants, and a Feral Ballerina

The album release party was a success.  Everyone enjoyed the music, and we sold a number of cds, perhaps not so many as we hoped, but not so few as we feared either.

As a follow-up to a recent post, I must say that Richard III was quite good, the setting in the 1930s done very well, and Ian McKellen simply perfection as Richard, slimy and charming, wily and paranoid, all at once.  So the woman at the junk store was once again proved wrong, not that I ever listened to her recommendations much anyway.

I leave Thursday morning for my annual writers' conference, and find myself in a state of mingled excitement and worry, as usual.  Excitement because of the cathartic experience of spending four days in the company of fellow writers, concentrating on writing, writing as life rather than an accessory to life.  Worry, because of meeting editors and agents and exposing my writing (and through it, myself) to the scrutiny of others.  These things will always be harrowing experiences I think, no matter how my writing eventually fares, or how much confidence I gain.

The four days of the conference serve another useful (at this point indispensable) purpose as well.  They shall offer me a brief respite from work.  In general it hasn't been too bad.  I've met some lovely people, found an endless new supply of character ideas, and the tips aren't so bad either.  The last two days, however, have worn me down into a fine paste.  There are always days like that, there always will be, at any job.  At the coffeehouse there was the man who invited me out to his "ranch", the one who always asked you to stir his coffee with your little finger "to sweeten it up", the woman who went on a tirade when you ran out of her favorite salad dressing.  At the golf course there is the man who offered to be my sugar daddy, or the one who mocked me as I split up his tab, or the woman who insisted I stop and take her party's order as I was on my way to the kitchen with three water glasses in each hand, menus under one arm, and the ketchup and mustard carousel dangling from my little finger.  Not that my days are made up entirely of these occurrences.  Hardly.  There are generally plenty of good things to balance out the bad.  I don't mind cleaning up after people, really, and I actually quite like waiting on tables.  What I don't like, what makes me see red, is the air of entitlement which so often comes with the aforementioned actions, the attitude that the fact that you are waiting tables and they are not gives them the right to treat you in any way they see fit, to mock, harangue, or hit on you without compunction.  Meanwhile, they expect speed, efficiency, serenity, and grace from you.  Generally I can manage the speed and serenity, if not always the other two.  The last two days I've been slipping.  Four days of rejuvenating literary immersion should be just what I need.

Rant over.  By next Monday morning I will love customer service again, or at least see the amusing side again and dislike it a little less fiercely.

I must conclude this post with a photo of my alter-ego, the Feral Ballerina, from Stephen Pastis' comic strip Pearls Before Swine.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Work, Storms, Lettuce...tra la la!

Just home from the busiest Monday of work since the 4th of July.  Don't know why.  There wasn't anything special on.  Apparently everyone just decided to golf all at once, and then to eat breakfast all at once, and then to drink all at once, and then to lunch all at once.  I am now thoroughly exhausted in mind and body...but I did make good tips.


I wrote the above several hours ago, when the weather, which had been suffering from a severe personality disorder most of the day, decided to turn thunderous.  Stormy weather effects me in strange ways, and warm stormy weather always makes me want to caper about out of doors, which I am fully aware is not the wisest course of action when the storm is breaking over your head.  It also brings odd looks from the neighbors.  On this occasion, however, though I restrained the urge for an outdoor caper, the storm did a splendid job of restoring my post-work wilted lettuce person to something more closely resembling a crisp new leaf.  That and a visit from my Portland-based sister combined to make the latter part of the day quite splendid.

The album release is set for this coming Saturday at 7pm, as part of an all-day block party.  Looking forward to it.  I've been asked to bring some of my clothes to show as well.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Next Step

My rewrite is finished, and two copies of the manuscript have been printed and given to two new readers.  One step closer.  Now I have to start working up my nerve for the really difficult part: the selling.  I like doing signings.  You don't have to talk much, besides smiling and saying "thank you" or "what name should I put on it?".  When my mom and I were actively working at selling An Amazing Alphabetic Anthology, we went several times to speak to a second grade class in Spokane.  The teacher had discovered our book herself and loved it.  She had several copies in her classroom and three years running she had us come in and talk to her class.  That was lovely, but it was especially nice because it wasn't just me alone.  Also, the kids were fantastic.  The first time we did it we didn't really know what to expect, and the two other authors who were there had perfectly planned presentations worked up.  We started out just talking about the book, but the kids had so many questions (really intelligent questions too) about it that we just turned it into a Q & A session, and they loved it.  Then another year the teacher had the second-graders pair up with the fifth-graders and each took a letter of the alphabet and made up their own stories.  The Chewelah elementary schools did something very similar.  I have four books, put together by the kids with their own illustrations, inspired by our book.  I've seldom felt so proud, or so honored.  Now, if I could get into doing things like that for my novel, I would be so pleased.

On another note, my ballet teacher has been working on choreography for a new piece (one that we're all very excited about) and has asked me to design costumes for it.  Talking to her about the music and the particular feel of the piece, it sounds as though we have a very similar vision for it, which is splendid.  It's amazing how well the process flows when you're in tune in that way and you're not just trying to match your design to someone else's vision.  I can't wait to start working on them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Carbon Leaf - grey sky eyes

This is a beautiful song that I've been obsessing over lately. Yes, the autumn leaf pictures are a little premature, but we do have cloudy skies today, possibly preliminary to a summer storm. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer, Ashford, and Sewing

Summer has finally arrived, though it took its time about getting here.  My roses are starting to bloom, and the raspberries (which we just planted this spring) have little green berries.  The plum tree has its usual horde of tiny purple plums, which are rather hard to see because the leaves on the plum tree are purple as well, so you have to hunt for the plums.

The Ashford rewrite is coming along steadily.  I've committed myself to a chapter or two a day, but no more, even if it's going well.  If I do more I find I start scanning instead of reading carefully, and then I miss things.  I'm approximately half-way through, and hoping to be done by the end of July, assuming I don't have to do anything too drastic, like delete whole characters or add six new scenes.  Then I have to get it out to a few people, preferably people who have never read it before, to make sure it all works and catch anything horrid I've missed.  After that, if all goes well...we'll see.  I have ideas.

For the sewing, I've sold a jacket and a skirt in the past month.  Yes, they were to personal friends, but a sale is a sale, right?  Besides, though a little extra income is always nice, the main reason I'm trying to sell them is to give myself some excuse for something I would be doing anyway.  I enjoy making things, particularly out of other people's old clothes and curtains and table-cloths, and it's more fun if I'm not the only one enjoying them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shakespeare in a Junk Shop

So, I've already mentioned my soft spot for second-hand bookshops.  This also translates to junk shops in general, in spite of the allergy-inducing effects of the dust which usually permeates such places.  To clarify, I don't care for moth-eaten table-cloths, and I find half-used bottles of lotion and great-aunt-Ethel's perfume to be quite frankly disturbing, but if one can look past such things one can sometimes find hidden gems.  For me these gems generally come in the shape of something that can be made into something else, however, yesterday I had the good luck to come across an old VHS copy of Richard III, with Ian McKellen, Maggie Smith, and a number of other quality names.  Personally, when I see the names William Shakespeare and Ian McKellen combined like that, I snatch, regardless of whether I've heard anything of the performance before.  In any case, I took it up to the counter, and this was the ensuing conversation.  I shall put my thoughts in bold italics.

Woman at counter: "Oh, I saw this when it came in.  Thought it was Shakespeare, then turned it over and saw it was a remake."

Technically, any of Shakespeare's plays performed after 1616 could be called a remake, but I'll assume you're referring to the fact that they set it in the 1930s.

Me, aloud: "Hm."

Woman at counter (shaking her head): "Yeah, I don't know.  It's weird."

You're weird!

Me, aloud: "Sometimes I like the updated versions, depending on who performs them.  I've never heard of this one, but the cast looks good."

Woman at counter (with a cackle and another shake of the head as I'm walking away): "Well, you know, even William Shatner was a trained Shakespearean actor."

I give up!

Afterwards I recalled that it was the same woman who, when my sister bought a book, said that she'd started trying to read it, but the tone was "too British".  Ha!

Friday, June 24, 2011

OZ - The Wonderful Wizard

Had to share this delightfully weird clip, from the Staatsballet Berlin's new production of Oz - The Wonderful Wizard. Hoping this comes out on DVD.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thoughts On a Rainy Wednesday Evening

I have decided to commence a massive rewrite of Ashford as a summer project, so this morning I tore quite ruthlessly into chapter one.  I think I've had the necessary distance from it to look at the thing a little more objectively now, so we'll see how it goes.  I am not, however, finding it any easier to cope with scathing critiques, particularly when they contradict each other.  And not, I don't think, because I can't accept criticism.  I've had critiques before from people who didn't like everything about the manuscript, who thought this or that could stand to be changed, improved, or simply taken out, but last week brought two reviews from separate individuals, both of whom clearly (and rather nastily) had very poor opinions of just about every aspect of my writing.  One claimed I didn't describe things enough.  The other insisted that I spent far too much time on the descriptions, even going so far as to say, quite spitefully, "it's no wonder the description is good, considering how much time is spent on it."

I am trying to take these conflicting opinions as gracefully as possible without letting them discourage me.  After all, a good friend, (who has, by the way, great taste in literature in general) read it through, then started again, reading it aloud to her younger sister, who then had to read it a second time herself.  Surely if she'd been thinking only of not hurting my feelings she wouldn't have felt the need to be quite so enthusiastic.  They are both in love with Perry now.  Not that I blame them.  I'm quite fond of him myself.

So I'm going back to the beginning and scrutinizing every sentence, determined to weed out cliches and unnecessary adjectives, knowing that I won't please everyone, but doing my best to please those whose opinion is most important: the would-be reader whose vision sees what I have feebly tried to show.

It's been a chilly wet day, but I'm cozy inside, wrapped in a blanket, listening to the combined sounds of rain on the roof and Aaron practicing for his album release party.  He recently completed his first album, and we're hoping to schedule a release soon.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beverages and Costuming

I just realized that it's been a week and a half since my last post.  In my defense, I've been quite busy this week.  Still...flaky.  I don't have much time now, since I'll be rushing off to work soon.  Beverage cart today (meaning I get to drive around the course serving drinks) and the weather looks like it might rain, or might clear off and be gorgeous.  Oh, wait, I think it is starting to rain.  Good thing I like the rain.  But will the golfers?  That is the question.  I can't say I've ever considered the opinions of golfers so much before, at least, not so much as to think of them whenever a good storm came on.

Here is a photo (taken before our recent show) of us in the costumes I created for one of our dances, Clouds Below Your Knees.

More soon!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Here are a few of the pictures from today's photo shoot.  Not professional at all, but better than what I had, and they show the clothes to advantage.  The goal is to put them up on Etsy in the next couple of days.  Thanks to Lexie, Megan, and Kezia for modeling for me.

The skirt is 100% mine.  The jacket is second-hand, which I then attacked with the scissors and filled with lace from someone's ex-table-runner, thus making it "Zombie-chic"

This dress was the result of a spell of winter blues and a longing for summer clothes

And hey!  I had extra fabric from the dress, so I made the skirt also, which, I might add, is super comfy.  I did not make the shirt, sadly.  That was someone else's genius creation.

This skirt I had already posted on Etsy, but I wanted better pictures of it.

Another one of my jacket makeovers, though slightly different from the attacked-by-zombies look.

This is the result of my excursion into the world of hat making.  I made it by braiding strips of fabric cut from second-hand lingerie, which I then wrapped, sewed and starched.  I was fairly pleased with the result.

This jacket I had also already posted, but I got much better pictures today.

This is my "Scarlet O'Hara", so-called because I made the skirt from a curtain I found at Value Village.

This butterfly greeted us on our way back to the car, and cooperated wonderfully with having its picture taken.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Moment

It is cooler today, with a light rain.  Inside, the house smells of freshly baked bread.  Outside, the breeze brings the scents of rain and lilacs.  I've been gathering up my sewing for Sunday, when some of the girls are going with me to help take photos for my portfolio.  I like looking at the fabric, lying in a heap, all the colors together.  It's been an idyllic, dreamy sort of day.  I've been alone since Aaron left for work, and it's been one of those days when I think sometimes I will forget how to speak.  The silence goes so deep that I don't like to break it.  In a moment I will leave for class and there will be music, life, movement, laughter.  That is a dream of a different kind.  Just as pleasant, but as alien to this other as the fresh-baked bread to the lilacs and rain.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We had a good show last night, with a full house of delightfully noisy people.  It's amazing how much a good audience can help sometimes.  I admit, I'm a sucker for applause.  I swear it makes me jump higher.  All of the girls danced beautifully, and the little ones were adorable.  This is Lexie's last year with us, and she received mountains of flowers from her adoring fans.  All in all a very satisfying day.

And now I feel a bit like Cinderella after the ball.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Flooding, And A Motley Collection Of Thoughts

The sun is shining, and I've just come in from a glorious lunch and iced coffee on the deck with a good book for company.  I'd like to think it's my reward for spending yesterday stressing about the hot water heater (we had no hot water at all yesterday and I was terribly afraid we were going to have to replace the whole tank, but luckily it was only the thermostat) but my more sensible self is pretty sure today was going to be lovely whether I paid my stress-dues yesterday or not.

I did find time yesterday, however, to walk down and look at the flooding in the park.  The creek hasn't flooded the park since the mid-1990s, and even then I don't remember it being this extreme.  There was water running down both sides of the highway as well, and Lincoln St. was completely flooded.  Luckily it seems to be subsiding somewhat now, and the dry weather of the past two days is helping immensely.

I have, without question, an extraordinarily good life.  Sometimes I feel rather guilty about it... that I have what others do not, that I can spend an hour absorbing sunlight and reading delicious prose, that I have a good husband who encourages my various obsessions and thinks it's cool that my dancer's feet have serrated edges.  I feel guilty for having what others lack, and I feel guilty for wanting... other things.  True, wanting is part of the human condition.  Everybody looks for the perfect life that is free from any sort of longing; yet longing, striving, craving, is so much of what it means to be human.  Healthy striving makes us grow.  Unhealthy striving distorts and shrivels us.  I think mine is the healthy kind, mostly.  I want to succeed in my various creative endeavors.  I want to not be dependent on others.  I want days spent in the sunshine with a good book without feeling that I should be doing something more important.  I want to travel.  I want to help people.  Sometimes I want pie, or a massage, or red shoes and a striped ball gown.  But is it healthy?  Or is it reaching for the ridiculous?  Ought I to be content to share my creative endeavors with my friends, sans fame and fortune?  I've already traveled more than many people my age.  I can bake my own pies, paint my old shoes red, and sew myself a striped ball gown.  (Here my mother's voice calls in my head, "Where would you even wear a striped ball gown?")  I already spend days in the sun.  Is it so important that they come without remorse?  Perhaps I should be striving more in the material sense, picking up more work, but I come from the school of thought that says if you spend all your time toiling for the perfect life you miss the good one you might have had.

So, for now at any rate, I shall enjoy my hours in the sun, and use the twinge of guilt as a motivator to keep me from abusing the privilege.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

We had a warm-up show of sorts last night, as guest performers for another group's show.  Performed two of our pieces and had a chance to get used to the stage again.  Today is our actual stage rehearsal, so I'll be spending the entirety of this afternoon and most of this evening at the auditorium.  Day off tomorrow, for which my feet will be most truly grateful, then regular classes and rehearsals Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Dress rehearsal Friday night, day off Saturday (except for my actual job) and the show Sunday.  It's crazy, but I love it.  Also, it's doing a great job of keeping my mind off the fact that they haven't yet announced the winners of the short story contest I entered.

And I love my girls.  Anyone who's ever performed with a group of any sort (music, theatre, dance) knows the feeling of camaraderie that comes of pulling off some sort of artistic feat together.  Over the rehearsal months I practically live with these girls.  They are wonderful people, dedicated artists, and true friends.  They are also some of the toughest people I know.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dancing, Other Stuff, And More Dancing

Finally, a day that feels like Spring!  It's been such an odd year.  Generally it's fairly safe here to plant your garden after May 1, but we've had frost at least three nights a week until this one.  Then today it's been in the 70s and gorgeous.

I have at last finished my work for the costuming, (I think) with two weeks left until the show.  This may sound like cutting it close, but I have known years of being sewn in the dressing room on performance day, so I feel pretty good about it.  We're having photos taken the next three days, then we're doing two of our pieces for another dance group's show this Friday, so I'll be in slicked-back dancer mode, going through copious amounts of hairspray, until Saturday, then of course again next weekend.  Then I'll wish I could do it all over again.  Not the hairspray and the slicking so much, but the dancing certainly.  I'll try to get some of the photos up on here as soon as I get my hands on them.

The writing has rather taken a back seat to all this lately, but things have been moving in my head, so I'd like to think that once life slows down again I'll be ready with a rush of inspired prose.  The PNWA Conference is coming up in August, and I'd like to have something more to show for my year's work before then, but we shall see.  I do still, at least, have a complete novel to peddle.

Side note: yes, I have been raving endlessly about Alicia Alonso and the Cuban Ballet, but I do so with reason.  I searched and searched for a DVD of one of their performances, and at last came up with their 2007 performance of Don Quixote in Paris.  I own two performances of Don Quixote: this one, and Baryshnikov's.  Notwithstanding Baryshnikov's undeniable charisma, and the excellence of American Ballet Theatre, I have to say the Cuban production is by far my favorite of the two.  The two leads dance with a wonderful passion and obvious enjoyment, and the same extends to the corps, who have much more meaty dancing roles in this performance.  If there is one ballet DVD worth owning and watching over and over again, it would be this own.  It amazes me every time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Alicia Alonso

Interview with the founder of the Cuban National Ballet, Alicia Alonso. I know I've mentioned her before but I cannot say enough about how she inspires me with her artistry, her strength and her determination.

Below is a video of her dancing the White Swan Pas de Deux in 1977.  She was 58 years old.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


I must confess, I am a serial eavesdropper.  Most writers are, I think.  After all what better character fodder is there than the conversation of strangers?  Of course, I don't go out of my way to hear what is obviously intended to be secret, but if people discuss things loudly in public places, they must take the consequences.  I like catching bits and pieces rather than whole conversations, and yes, I am quite easily amused.  Sometimes I jot the best things down, and today I went back through some of my old notebooks and unearthed these gems:

At the coffeehouse:

       "The secret to long life is to keep moving.  They can't bury you if you keep moving."

At the Campbell House, where I used to volunteer... always a goldmine:

       "People used to fall down stairs and die all the time.  It was really common back         then." (Speaking of the early Twentieth Century)

       "That was a 'picture box'.  It's how they watched movies." (Looking at a music box from the same period)

        "But it's a maid, and it's making food!" (A little boy, after seeing me in the kitchen, when his mother called him back upstairs)

        "The chest was made from wood from the Black Forest, from Sherwood Forest!" (This woman clearly thought they were the same place.  Completely aside from this geographical inconsistency, the chest, to the best of my knowledge, is not related to either forest.)
        "Did you hear that babies can't digest pickles all the way?"

And the latest, overheard yesterday when I was at lunch:

        "Now tell me, why would you want to sit diagonally?"

I will always regret that for that last I was sitting with my back to the people involved.

I purchased new pointe shoes yesterday, just in time to get them properly broken in before the show.  I love the smell of new pointe shoes.  It's strangely reminiscent of a saddle shop.  Also took myself to see the new Jane Eyre as a special treat to break up the errands.  Definitely the best version I've seen.  It's something that's been done so often you'd think there'd be nothing new there, but I feel it did the best job of capturing the spirit of the book.  Always there is the difficulty of making the Jane/Rochester relationship not too creepy.  In the book you're in her head.  You understand it.  But it's hard, I think, to transfer that to the screen.  It always seems to end in a compromise, either making Mr. Rochester younger, or getting an older actress to play the eighteen-year-old Jane.  Mia Wasikowska is the first Jane I've seen who is actually the right age, and Michael Fassbender is the perfect Rochester.  Of course, it's always good to see Judi Dench, and I've liked Jamie Bell ever since I saw him first as Smike in Nicholas Nickleby.  They also keep the eerie feel of the book, which seems to be missing from any of the film versions I've seen.  Altogether, they've managed to escape the trend of turning it into just another "period British drama".  I'll stop now, but it's definitely worth seeing, even for people who are not usually fans of period British film.