Saturday, October 31, 2009

Writings from The Crypt Vault

I am sitting at The Vault, which is fast becoming my preferred hangout spot. I came in with the intention of having a cup of coffee, but when I got here, a young lady was up on a ladder in front of the pastry case, writing "Wild Chanterelle Mushroom Soup" on a chalkboard. The next thing I knew, I was ordering lunch (a cup of the soup, alongside a piece of phyllo-wrapped salmon).  Lunch is delicious, and I'm sure that the Americano I'm drinking will have me buzzing for the rest of the day. Today, that's not such a bad thing. I have shopping to do, then laundry. If the sun keeps shining, I will take a Parkway walk.  (Yes! The sun is shining on Nanaimo. It's glorious outside these windows that first attracted me to The Vault.)

Then, around six p.m., I will walk up Sixth Street to Bruce Avenue, along Bruce to Seventh Street, and down Seventh toward Old Victoria Road, hoping to meet Jane and Franco along the way. They will be out walking as well, and we will all be hoping to meet the Olympic flame as it is carried along that route. I may dress up in a Hallowe'en costume for the occasion, but I'm not sure.

After that, I will go home and be on Trick or Treat duty for a while. We don't usually get many Hallowe'en visits, and I suspect that the flu scare will keep the volume down tonight, so I may have a bag of candies to consume while I work on my novel. (It's a dirty job....)

Finally, I will start the serious countdown to midnight and NaNoWriMo. My fingernails are suitably short now. I've been filing them shorter and shorter over the last week, bringing them gradually down to ideal typing length -- not so long as to get in the way, but long enough to create a satisfying click when they hit the keys. I have put direct links to NaNoWriMo and My Writing Nook here at The Turtle, so that I don't have to waste time going through Google to get there. 

By the way, if you write, and if you haven't discovered My Writing Nook, do have a look at it. It's a very spiffy little no-frills writing venue that enables you to sit at Starbucks (or in The Vault!) and work on your current opus online. I don't know why I find it so much more satisfying to work online than in Word, but I do. My plan is to write everything to My Writing Nook and  e-mail my work to myself, day by day, as a backup.

Right now, though, my plan is to go to the NaNoWriMo site and wave, hoping somebody will notice me and come to The Vault to join me.  Happy Hallowe'en, everybody.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout -- Park Landscapes

We have been under water for several days, but for a while this afternoon, the sun came out, and I took the opportunity to snap a few photos in Bowen Park, which is right in downtown Nanaimo.  As you can see, Bowen Park is well-treed, but it also has many other attractions. At one end of the park there is a soccer field. At the other end is the Curling Club. Within the park there are tennis courts,

an outdoor swimming pool,

children's playground equipment, and a lovely bowling green, where white-clad bowlers may be seen cavorting on summer days.

There is a very popular seniors' recreation centre next to the bowling green.

Farther inside the park, there used to be a group of totem poles. I tried to find them today, but they had disappeared. It turns out that they were rotting and considered a safety hazard, so they have been removed. Timing is everything. I wish I had taken photos of them before they were pulled down.

There is still the duck pond, though, near where the totem poles were, and now there appears to be a fountain that I don't remember.

I don't remember this bridge, either. I suspect it's been a long time since I took a walk in Bowen  Park. Thanks to JarieLyn for this assignment. For more Friday Photo Shootout posts, just click on the camera in my sidebar.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Enjoying the remains of October

Earlier this evening, having had a very long day, I checked my e-mail, read a couple of posts, and turned the computer off, figuring that I would be asleep in short order. I had a few chores to do, so I set about doing them. As I was loading clothes into the dryer, I remembered that I hadn't told you about Amelia. So, back I came, and that's a good thing, because it was wa-a-a-ay too early to be going to sleep.

We did go to the movies last night, after we ate curried prawns and rice and salad (and a few side dishes from our neighbourhood Chinese restaurant). It was dark out, and raining, so we allowed lots of time to get to the theatre. That was just as well. I don't drive very fast under those conditions. We arrived at the theatre just in time to enjoy the commercial. It was an advertisement for some sort of hair product. I said "Since when do we get commercials at the movies?" and Jane replied "What's surprising is that it's taken this long." I had to admit she was right. We have become such cynics, she and I.

Then came the previews of coming attractions, some of which were not very attractive. I must confess, though, I was rather taken with the animated film about the kid who accidentally punctures the fake Great Pyramid and deflates it. That one had possibilities. It made me giggle.

As for the main feature, Amelia was a lot more about Earhart's love life than about her flying, which I suppose is fair enough. People have been raving and speculating about her flying for more than eighty years, since she made her first Atlantic crossing (as a passenger). She did fly in this movie, and there were nice touches like the fact that when she was flying, she and the plane vibrated. It felt very real. I found the chronology a little difficult to follow. The action took place in 1937, 1928, 1932, 1930 (or was it 1934?) and 1937. That year popped up a lot. Sometimes it was hard to tell when we were watching.
Nonetheless, I did enjoy the movie. I said I would be absorbing the atmosphere, and that's what I did. When we left the theatre, I was thinking about fox fur stoles, cloche hats, loose trousers, leather jackets and jodphurs, and this song:

p.s. Check out the poem in my sidebar. The lady had many talents.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

 Four days - no -Three days.

I have read as far as I could read in No Plot? No Problem!  That amounted to  Part I, which looks like about half the book. At that point, the author said it was time to stop, that each week in November has its own chapter, and I shouldn't read any chapter before its time. Okay. Being a good and obedient student, I stopped -- though it's making me a little crazy, like knowing where my Christmas presents are but knowing I mustn't peek at them because, really, come Christmas morning, it will be much better to open the packages and be surprised by what's inside.

To make the wait a little more bearable, I do get to go see Amelia tomorrow night. Meanwhile, I keep finding pieces of paper in my purse, in my pockets, in the car, and all over the house, with little notes scribbled on them: "Sister Ruth -- St. Benedict medal." "Dirty underwear." "Corned beef and cabbage." Some of them make sense to me when I find them. Others make me knit my brow. What was I thinking?

I drove down the road today, carrying on both sides of a potential argument between two of my characters. Nobody was winning, both of me were unhappy, and eventually I stopped arguing. So scratch that scene.

I'm beginning to have second (twentieth) thoughts about NaNoWriMo.  This can't be healthy.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Just this once, I remember what I dreamed. I had a rough, and a short, night because yesterday afternoon I went to The Vault to see whether I could meet up with another local NaNoWriMo participant (no). I sat and listened to the Threnody, wrote a poem, surfed the net, and drank an Americano. Then I drank another Americano, this one half-caf. I came home, made dinner, etc. until 9:30 p.m., when I went to bed, because my alarm was to go off at 5:15 this morning. At 1:00 a.m. I was still awake. I had forgotten the warning I received, that The Vault's coffee was very good, but that it would take the top of my head off. Lesson learned. Anyway, this was my dream:

I was standing at a counter, waiting. The woman beside me said that her husband had wanted to come back (here) to see what he had to share. She pointed at a jar on the counter. It was filled with small, egg-shaped objects that were labeled GUM. I picked up the jar and held it out to her. She took an egg, and I took one. My egg (gum?)had a chocolate shell and a liquid centre. The label read "chocolate-absinthe flavour." I was just biting into it when my alarm went off.

How annoying. Damned alarms, going off just when things are going to get interesting. And apart from the chocolate-absinthe label, this was such a pedestrian dream. No flying, no time shifts, no weird animals. Why was this one so memorable? Oh, well. Time may tell.

Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Runnin' for the Bus

I thought I'd better get here early, because it looks as if Dr. Einstein is one of those Demon Bus Drivers that don't know from schedules, just drive as fast as their wheels will take them. So okay, I won't post-date this post. Sheesh. Scientists. Always in a hurry.

TFE's Monday (sic) Poetry Bus
assignment was to write a poem while listening to a harrowing piece of music called "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" by Krzysztof Penderecki. (Please note that when I say "harrowing" that is not a criticism. The piece is riveting, which is good, right? but it's also harrowing. Not what I'd call Easy Listening.)

I've copied the YouTube video below, because I want to keep track of it. Meanwhile, here is what I wrote under its influence:


Hearts bursting, minds aflame,
we stumble through the rubble
of the world we knew before,
choking back our agony,
searching in vain for absolution,
finding only horror in our path.

Where are you, my darlings? Where are you?

The ghosts of those who died here
rise like a poisonous cloud before us,
hover, dark butterflies larger than the sky,
singed, moaning. Oh, the keening!
As too late we close our eyes and ears,
they shriek their accusation:

How could you? How could you?

Evermore, forever we will look
into our own children's eyes
and see these others looking back.
We will see their mouths gape open,
feel their terror and their pain, know
that whatever learned men may say,

It need not have come to this.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's here! It's here!

I got a call from Chapters on Thursday night, to tell me that my copy of No Plot? No Problem! had arrived. I jumped up and down a lot, but it was too late to drive to the north end of town to pick the book up, so I put that off until morning. I didn't have much time to devote to reading yesterday, but what little time I did have, I spent giggling my way through the first few pages.

I thought the novelists who kindly stop by The Turtle might enjoy this brief quotation from NPNP:

If we loved books, we were equally awestruck by their creators. Novelists were clearly a different branch of Homo sapiens; an enlightened subspecies endowed with a monstrously overdeveloped understanding of the human condition and the supernatural ability to spell words properly.

pages 8-9

That must have been in the pre-spell check era. Nowadays, spelling isn't nearly the challenge it used to be. That "overdeveloped understanding of the human condition" thing, though -- that's still pretty impressive. Is it true? When I finish my 50,000 words (Please note I said "when") will I suddenly develop a keen understanding of human nature? That would be very cool.

Also on the subject of It's here! It's here! I checked the theatre listings this morning, and sure enough, Amelia is showing this week, so our Wednesday night dinner and a movie date is on. I don't suppose I'll be able to take notes during the movie, but I'll be absorbing the atmosphere, big time.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about Bridget's childhood. What kind of soap did she use?(Ivory, without a doubt) What kind of coffee was in the pantry -- or was coffee so expensive during the Depression (Bridget was born in 1920, so she was nine years old when the stock market crashed) that the family couldn't afford it? I've been doing some googling on the subject. It's amazing what you can find on the interwebs.  One article gave me this gem:

Imagine buying just a plain (if you can get one today) cup of coffee with cream and sugar, for five cents; a two-egg-bacon-and-toast-with-a-piece-of-pie-and-a-cup-of-coffee breakfast, for 25 cents; or a candy bar for a dime.
It doesn't sound like a lot, except those who were employed might only have been earning $2 or $3 a-day, but when you don't have those few small coins, food prices of the great depression seemed pretty high! For those who had money, life was, undoubtedly, more comfortable even considering the times, but for those who had to scrimp and scrape to put food on the table, their days were filled with worry and strife...

As the clock ticks (faster and faster, it seems) toward November 1, all these tiny, niggling questions keep popping into my mind. What if I get it wrong? What if my characters are using soap and drinking coffee that you just couldn't get in New York in the thirties? What if they take the wrong bus, or what if there was no bus in that neighbourhood at that time?

That's why I'm so glad that my book arrived. It's full of "Take a deep breath" advice. It reminds me that I'm writing a first draft in that thirty day period, not a finished novel. I can fix my mistakes, right? I should worry about who Bridget is and how she feels about Amelia Earhart and how that feeling sets her on her life's course and....and lots of things besides what's in the pantry in 1934.

I'm a little wound up. ;>)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Classics of Childhood

I've been thinking a lot today about this assignment. I do have a photo for you -- that's my granddaughter getting ready to follow her brother down the slide at Maffeo Sutton Park. The slide, the jungle gym, the swings, the carousel -- all the elements of a child's playground are classics -- even the modern, fancified, brightly-coloured fancies that I see in modern playgrounds.  As a child,

I loved all the playground equipment, but for me the highlight of the playground was the swing. I would swing and sing, swing and sing.

There was another classic of my childhood that I simply must mention. I don't have any photographs from those days, but I found this clip at You Tube. By the way, I should issue a warning. This episode contains a clown! Viewer discretion is advised.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Theme Thursday -  Traffic

This week's theme was suggested by C.M. Jackson. As many things do, these days, the theme made me think of my mother.

My mother was not a patient woman. In fact, she had a reputation as a hothead. The reputation was well-deserved. When I read today's assignment, my mind went immediately to memories of sitting in the back seat of my mother's enormous car. She had a Studebaker, then a Buick, and finally a 1959 pink Cadillac with huge tail fins. At one time or another, I sat in the back of each of them, being ferried to school or somewhere else, trying to be invisible. My younger sister would often be sitting beside me, being annoying in a little-sisterly fashion and, I would imagine, also trying to be invisible. This is why.

First of all, my mother saw no reason why she should not drive around while wearing her pajamas. Nor did she see any reason to take the bobby pins out of her hair (or the scarf, Rosie the Riveter-style, from around her head) before we left the house. That was problem number one.

Then, there was her impatience with traffic. I remember her pulling up to a stop sign, second in line behind some poor, unsuspecting soul. If said soul did not move out from the stop sign fast enough to suit my mother, Mom would roll down the window, lean out, and yell "There's a bus leaving Tijuana in half an hour. You gonna wait for that, too?" (Odd. I'm almost sure I remember her saying 'gonna.' If we, her children, ever said 'gonna,' we had to put our allowance in the cuss box on top of the fridge. Hmmm.)

On the other hand, she was not easily intimidated by other drivers. If she happened to be first in line at the stop sign and a driver behind her had the nerve to honk at her, she would put her car in Park, turn off the ignition, take the keys out of the ignition, get out of the car (IN HER PAJAMAS!), walk back to the offending driver, dangle the keys from her fingers at about eye level, and ask sweetly,

"Would you like to drive?"

Now it must be said that my mother died young, probably at least in part because of her temper, but I have always found it rather impressive that she lived as long as she did, given the road rage she both felt and inspired.

Meanwhile, my younger sister and I would be sinking lower and lower into our seat, trying to get our heads down below the level of the windows. Although we did at least a normal amount of wrangling, I think these vehicular excursions may have brought us closer together, in the long run.

Ha! As I write, my husband has turned on the television to watch Jeopardy. One of the answers was a fill-in-the-blank -- "_____ the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet!"  Is anybody old enough to remember Dinah Shore doing those ads?  See the U.S.A...

 So I went to You Tube and found this ad. It made me laugh because there's hardly any traffic on the roads in it. It reminded me of Angel May's TT post, in which she remembered fondly a time when traffic was much lighter than it is today. Nowadays, I often wonder where on earth all those people are going, and why they all have to go at once. Then I remember that I'm out there in my car, too.

p.s. Speaking of traffic, I installed a counter on The Turtle earlier this month, and it tells me that there have been over 1,000 hits since Oct. 4 (1066 as of a minute ago.) Holy crow. I had no idea traffic was so heavy out here.

For more Theme Thursday posts, click here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Too Bad, So Sad

I did not find fame and fortune by posting my little story at the Public Query Slushpile. On the other hand, the stories that have been chosen as finalists are quite good, and my favourite is very funny. After I finish here, I must go back and vote.

But the good news is that I've started a warm-up to NaNoWriMo. Writing the 500 (okay 495) word story was my Day 1 Exercise. Yesterday was Day 2. I set myself a goal of 750 words. I wrote in Marie's blog -- 777 words. Today, Day 3, I am aiming for 1,000 words. Marie is going to have to do some serious remembering. I keep having to remind myself of what Kathryn Magendie says. I don't remember when, but some time ago, she said that you don't have to be afraid of running out of words. There are always more words. I'm trusting you on this one, Kathryn. If I run out before the end of NaNoWriMo, sputter to a halt 1,000 words before the finish line, I'll come looking for you. ;>)

The other good news is that I saw an ad on television for a new movie -- Amelia -- coming out on Friday. It stars Hilary Swank, and it's the story of Amelia Earhart. Perfect! They must have known I was researching Amelia Earhart for Fly Away Home, and just like that (!) they put out a movie about her. Cool. I'm going to go see it, as soon as it arrives. It will be my pre-NaNo reward for good intentions.

Okay. Vote, then write --

P.S.  I'm ba-a-a-ck.  I wrote - or Marie, my alter ego, wrote - 1,013 words in her blog.  We actually wrote it at My Writing Nook, and I copied it over to WordPress. I'm having the same problem I had last night. I can copy my text into the blog, but the Submit button is missing. It took me a couple of hours yesterday to convince WordPress to pay attention to me. I don't know whether I have the patience tonight -- it's nearly midnight -- so Marie's words might just have to stay in My Writing Nook until WordPress is feeling better.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Watching Paint Dry

Buoyed by the excitement of this week's Poetry Bus ride, I went out for a walk this morning. I hadn't had any exercise in about a week (I really must stop being such a wimp. It's only rain) and my body was complaining. I had the day off , and the seemingly relentless rain had relented at last. Nanaimo had put on her autumnal finery. I met several people along the trail. Every one of them was extraordinarily cheerful. I chatted with one lady about how this brilliant day, coming as it had after a week of rain, felt like a gift.

Although I could feel the effects of a week without exercise, I did complete my walk, and it was filled with beautiful moments. There was, of course, the colour. We don't get the brilliant autumn colours that the eastern provinces get, because most of our trees are Douglas firs and the like, but we do have some maples and Lombardy poplars, which brighten our forests at this time of year. What I noticed most today, though, was the fragrance of autumn. There was that musty smell that fallen leaves produce, that seems to fill not only my nose, but my mouth as well, and as I passed Westwood Orchard, there was a warm, cidery smell. Maybe they were making cider today. I should check, the next time I drive by.

In the evening, I wrote a short-short story, and I submitted it to The Public Query Slushpile. That's where my post title comes from. The challenge was to write a story (300-500 words) about watching paint dry, and make it interesting. I hope I succeeded. I think I came in at 495 words.

Tomorrow we will be spending the day in Victoria. I hope this weaather holds. Victoria in the sunshine is the most beautiful city in the world.
All Aboard!

(Photo from Flickr - Click here for source.)

Hear the engine roar! TFE's Poetry Bus is on the move, taking us, this week, to places we might not want to go. Okay, fellow travelers, I'll hold your hands, and you hold mine, and we'll face the demons together. Safety in numbers, right?

The Followers
by Sandra Leigh

When we are very young,
when the world is ours to make,
when our hard-won power is at its giddy peak,
even then, death is a hungry shadow slouched
behind every open door, every velvet drapery.
Silken, smooth as Johnny Depp in a soft grey fedora,
he licks at the eager hollows of our necks,
whispering seductive poetry
of dark annihilation, and we listen.

We listen, tempted,
goose-flesh peppering every limb,
flushed and faint from the hot confusion
of contrary impulses, warring desires.
Is it sex we want, or death?
Or is it, perhaps, to die of sex?

The wonder of us, the luminous beauty,
the capacity for joy, the moist glow of skin
the electric touch of skin on skin,
break our startled hearts, stop us in our tracks
just when we most need strong pumps to move us,
and the sudden knowledge that this shuddering joy,
this arrogant perfection, cannot last forever
is more than we can bear, and the sibilant urging
to end it, end it now, while it still shines,
before time and toil and sadness have gnawed it away,

rings like music,
glows like a distant star.
And sometimes, sometimes
we follow it
into the cold forever.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Educating Sandra

In answering Barry's comment on yesterday's Fiction Friday post, I said that perhaps I should continue writing my story about Anita and the Handyman - that it wasn't very nice to leave the poor woman sitting in the mud. I should be exercising my writing muscles anyway, what with NaNoWriMo rushing at me, so I will do that - later. Right now, I want to explore something I've been thinking about all day. Bear with me. It's a little tangential, but I think (I hope?) there's a "Well, anyway..." moment at the end.

I've been researching Fly Away Home and making notes on index cards, but in between those times, I've been looking at a book called Fingerpainting on the Moon by Peter Levitt (ISBN 0-609-61048-1. New York, Harmony Books: 2003). When I picked Fingerpainting up, I thought it was a straightforward book on writing technique. Shortly, though, I realized that I should have read the subtitle, "Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom." Oh, dear, I thought. This is going to be all touchy-feely-new-age, and that is not what I need. I need a mechanic, not a priest. Nonetheless, I continue to pick it up and read bits of it from time to time, and I find that despite my resistance, the book is Speaking to My Condition. Who'd have guessed?

I was especially impressed with this passage:

"If you could name your own unspoken fears in regard to your creative life, what would you say? Perhaps you might believe that you really can't do it -- that you can't write well, or at least well enough to express what most wants to be said. Perhaps you fear that, in truth, you have nothing of interest, nothing deep or wise enough, to say." (Levitt, page 39)

Uh, yeah. That pretty well covers it -- except for the "I'm unobservant and I have no imagination" part. He forgot that. A writer is supposed to be incredibly observant and have a powerful imagination.

Case in point: I have known men who shaved off their beards. I have stared quizzically at them, knowing there was something different about them, but completely clueless as to what had changed. And as for imagination, I thought I had none. How the hell was I ever going to write a novel?

Events of the past few days have changed my mind about my supposed lack of imagination. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not. This is what happened.

Earlier this week, there was a terrible accident here in Nanaimo. It involved a small car and a train. I happened to drive past the scene shortly after the accident. I saw the crushed car, the ambulances, police cars, and fire engines, the train stopped just below a level crossing. In the days since, I have heard theories and rumours, read newspaper articles, taken part in discussions of the How? and the Why? of this horrible event. I have also driven past the scene many times in the course of my work day. Every single time, my heart skips a beat. For a moment, I stop breathing. I hear sounds that I never actually heard, but which must surely have filled the air. I feel paralyzing fear and sorrow, both for the people involved in the accident and for their family.

The day after that accident -- the very next day -- I watched this clip on the BBC. Again, my mind was filled with How? and Why? But I watch the video, and I am inside the mind of this baby's mother -- and then I'm the engineer, watching the scene unfold, unable to stop, knowing what I will see when, finally, I am able to leave the train and go back -- and then seeing something incredible.

(In case you haven't seen this news report before, here is a quote from the information at the You Tube site: "The pram was carried 30m as the desperate driver tried to pull up the 250 tonne train. It ploughed into the pram at about 35km/h, dragging the child along beneath the front carriage.

Witnesses watched in horror, fearing the baby had no hope.

But he was safely back in his mother's arms when ambulance officers arrived minutes later..."

Even as I type this post, a little voice in my head is saying "For God's sake, Sandra. You're such a ghoul - and somehow you've made these incidents, a tragedy and a near-tragedy, All About You. You may not be unimaginative, but you're creepy."

Well anyway, for better or worse, I am imagining. I am questioning. I am traveling through time and space and inhabiting the bodies and minds of other people. All that stuff I've been saying -- and believing -- about myself? It's hooey. And I know that someday, all this imagining will find its way into a story.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fiction Friday - in which Sandra joins the fray.

This week's challenge:

Your character finds a mysterious package on his/her doorstep. What’s inside?

My contribution:

Anita managed to stack all her purchases first on the hood of the Mercedes, then carefully lifted them off and balanced them in her arms as she walked up the flagstone path to the front porch. It wasn't too risky a move. Most of the boxes were full of shoes wrapped in tissue and well-protected, though the wide-brimmed hat sitting precariously in the top box might well lose its girlish looks if it tumbled into the garden. Anita walked carefully. She was humming, smiling, remembering her shopping spree. Nothing made her happier than shopping. It was her joust, her bullfight, her pitched battle, and it never failed to leave her feeling exhausted and triumphant.

She negotiated the flagstones without incident, walking on tiptoes so that her spike heels wouldn't sink into the soft soil around the flags. When she got to the porch, she stepped carefully up onto the first step, then the second. Left foot; right foot. She couldn't see the steps, because of the packages in her arms, but it was her porch, her house, after all, and she could climb these steps blindfolded.

The third step was her undoing. As she eased her left foot up and forward, her pointy Jimmy Choo toe encountered an obstacle. She heard a loud buzzing sound, and she jerked back. Her left foot waved about, trying to find purchase. Her arms flailed. Boxes flew everywhere. Some of them remained stubbornly closed, thanks to the diligence of those blessed Saks sales clerks. Others flew open. Shoes and lingerie littered her front garden. The hat box opened. The wide-brimmed straw hat sailed away on the afternoon breeze, trailing its flower-strewn veil, landing soggily in the next-door neighbour's goldfish pond.

Anita herself landed on her back, narrowly missing the flagstones. The air rushed from her lungs and her eyes filled with tears. Slowly, she moved her arms, then her legs, just to make sure she could. Then she sat up and looked for the first time at the author of her misfortune. It was a box - not a flimsy cardboard box like the ones that were tumbling around in the breeze, but a metal one. It looked like a toolbox. It was a toolbox. What on earth? Who would leave something like that on her front porch? She had no use for a toolbox. Toolboxes were for men. Handy men.

Ah. Handymen. She had asked her housekeeper to hire one today, to fix a few things around the house. Anita looked up at her front door. A man stood there. He was tall and muscular. He looked a little like a young Paul Newman. He was holding an electric drill in his right hand. His left hand steadied the new hinge he was installing.

"You should be more careful," he said. "There are sharp tools in that box. You could have hurt yourself."
Friday Photo Shootout - Sunrises and Sunsets

Easier said than done. I went out with good intentions yesterday morning, prepared to photograph one of our lovely island sunrises. It was dark outside, and there was a crescent moon. Time passed. I waited. Eventually, I found that I could see the world around me. That was it. It was daytime. Somehow, we went from night to day without passing through sunrise along the way. The problem is, the monsoon is upon us. If it isn't raining, it's just stopped raining, or else it is about to rain. The sun, for all its power, cannot compete with the mist. I wondered whether things might improve in time for sunset, but I didn't have much hope - so instead, I went on a hunting expedition in my holiday photos, and sure enough, I found a sunset that I photographed at one of my homes away from home. This shot is from beautiful Zihuantanejo in Guerrero, Mexico. If you click on the Wiki article, you'll see that they have posted a sunset shot too, but I like mine better. ;>)

For more Friday Photo Shootout posts, just click on the big camera on my sidebar. I'm sure the sun rose somewhere - just not here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Theme Thursday - Climate Change

We're certainly experiencing climate change right now, here on the island. It's not an unexpected change. It is, after all, mid-October. Summer couldn't last forever. Nonetheless, it's shocking to look out the window and see this

instead of this.

I'm particularly aware of the change this year, because for the first time in several years, we will not be taking The Turtle to Mexico this winter. We have plans for an extended trip to England in the Spring, and the travel budget won't allow for both trips. We will go to Hawaii for a couple of weeks, but not until late January - so we will be here on the island for most of the winter. Considering how hard winter hit the island last year, I'm more than a little apprehensive. I don't do winter, you know. It's cold and it's slippery.

I cannot speak with any authority to the larger issue of Climate Change, except to say that the doubters should maybe have a look around them, or step outside. Therefore, I shall close with a fond memory. A friend in Ontario said - oh, it must have been twenty years ago - that she was buying a house and staying put, because sooner or later, Ontario would be the Banana Belt. It seems she was a bit of a prophet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Morning After the Night Before

Something happened at Willow's ball that I found very interesting. I got a little tipsy. Not that there is anything all that interesting about getting tipsy as such, but you see, I don't drink. I used to drink, back in the old days, before I figured out that my life was much less complicated if I didn't. Now I wax ecstatic over a good bottle of Carl Jung de-alcoholized red.

Last night was different. I dressed in the finest finery, arranged to be driven to the ball in a truly luxurious car, made my grand entrance on the arm of the divine Colin Firth in his Darcy persona, and proceeded to tie one on. I drank anything that I could get my hands on - martinis, champagne, tequila - I mixed the grain and the grape with abandon (an exciting combination, that) and tripped the light fantastic. Colin, the cad, turned out to be escorting several ladies, which involved a good deal of disappearing/re-appearing and costume changes on his part. I found that quite amusing. When I wasn't with Colin, I danced with someone else - lots of someone elses. I even learned to rhumba with Reya (I don't think either of us realized that the other one didn't actually know how to rhumba. We may have been doing the hokey-pokey, for all I know.) Given the amount I drank, it's a wonder I could walk, much less dance, but dance I did - and you know what? I feel great today - no hangover at all. There's a lot to be said for virtual drunkenness. All the disinhibition, none of the sequelae.

What else? The virtual ball, the virtual wardrobe and transportation and drunkenness and desserts (Oh, my - the desserts!) were wonderful exercise for my imagination. I feel restored and ready to write. Thank you, Willow. You made some magic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We've arrived!

Isn't it splendid? My heart is absolutely pounding with excitement. Just look at the beautiful gardens, all aglow with fairy lights - and the brilliant entryway.

Oh, Willow has done herself proud! We just climbed out of the Bentley and left it in the capable hands of Willow's parking attendants. Oh, wait - I nearly forgot my hostess gift. Here - have a look. I think I chose well - a literary gift for a literary hostess. It's a first edition copy of Pride and Prejudice - fitting, don't you think, considering that I have Colin Firth, the definitive Mr. Darcy, on my arm?

Listen! Can you hear the music? Oh, I can hardly wait to be twirling around and around the ballroom, my ears and my heart filled with that wonderful sound. Is that Herr Mozart's orchestra? Splendid, indeed!
Shall We Dance?

It's here at last -- the Willow Manor Ball! I wasn't in town for last year's ball, so this year's invitation came as a delightful surprise. As soon as I read it, I set about my preparations - shopping, making arrangements for transportation -oh, by the way, what do you think of my Bentley? I've had it detailed for the occasion (gilding the lily, I confess. The car is pristine.) and the rear-seat bar is stocked with champagne and strawberries, to tide us over on the way to the ball.

I took an inordinate amount of time picking out my dancing shoes. I wanted something elegant, but something that I could comfortably wear while I danced for hours and hours in the arms of my partner. In the end, I chose these. They are satin pumps, designed for dancing, in a neutral colour with just a bit of sheen - not so much as to compete with my dress:

Speaking of dresses, I've been so excited, and also terribly worried that I wouldn't be able to find something to wear. I don't know why I worried so much, though. I found the absolutely perfect, perfectly splendid gown. It suits me very well, don't you think? Not only does it highlight the wasp waist I've worked so hard to attain, but it shows off my new, youthful face and skin (By the way, there was no surgery involved - just a bit of magic that I learned on the set of Bewitched).

And here is - Wait - are you sitting down? Get out your fans, ladies. First, I must tell you a secret - well, two secrets - First, I thought of asking Matt McConaughey to the ball. He certainly knows his way around the dance floor, as those of you who have seen The Wedding Planner will agree, but I was afraid that we would start talking about his role in my book, and this evening is meant to be a break from all that. Then, Antonio Banderas was hinting about escorting me, and I confess I was tempted, as he dances divinely. He is particularly adept at the tango.

In the end, though, a way with the tango just wasn't enough. I needed the perfect partner, and there was only one man who fit that bill. There were other ladies who felt the same way, but when he saw me, my dream partner would hold no other woman in his perfect arms, twirl no other across the ballroom to the swelling strains of the immortal Strauss waltzes.

You may not be able to pick us out of the crowd, but we have danced together before, and if you know where to look, you'll see us, and you'll see how happy we are to be dancing together.

So, without further ado, I present for your admiration (and your envy, if I'm to be perfectly honest) my escort for the evening, the glorious Colin Firth, Darcy himself.

Eat your heart out, Elizabeth Bennett!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Aboard the Poetry Bus

...where the company is stimulating, the scenery is fascinating, and even the seats are comfortable. We seem to have left the station a little early this week. What am I saying? We weren't actually supposed to leave until next week -- but our wanderlust is such, we couldn't resist a little joyride. We would push the bus ourselves, if we couldn't get the engine running.

Fortunately, there's no need for that. This bus is humming, and TFE is at the wheel. He showed us three photos, and suggested that we use them to inspire our poems. The photo that caught my eye was the third one (third photo, not third eye).

I suppose this is as good a time as any to confess that my eyes don't work very well, any of them. The photo, as I saw it, brought to mind hoarding. When I went back just now to confirm that it was in fact the third photo, I enlarged it, for some reason. That photo isn't about hoarding at all. It's about desolation and the hope of redemption and...oh, well. This is what I wrote about hoarding. ;>)

Cling to the memories, girl -
hoard them; hold them
close beside your body
while you weep, while you sleep.
Inhale the heady fragrance of them,
rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye,
caress the tattered softness
of their flannelette skin.
Never let them go, girl,
they bind you, they blind you
to your filed away and folded
and circumscribed life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meet Duffy!

Wilson and Steinbeck have a new sister!

I was at Chapters yesterday, trying to buy a copy of No Plot, No Problem. They didn't have one, so I ordered it. My copy is due to arrive around the 28th of October. Thus, the three days before my NaNoWriMo will be devoted to reading about NaNoWriMo.

Anyway, I went to the desk, paid for the book, and noticed a shelf full of bears on the wall behind the clerk. If you'll recall, I've been wanting to find a bear for my very small collection of stuffed animals. I wanted a bear that I could name Duffy, after Britain's poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

"What bears are those?" I asked.

"We are selling those to raise funds for the Love of Reading Foundation."

Well. That did it. I had found my bear. Her fur isn't curly -- I thought I wanted a curly-furred bear -- and she doesn't have as pointy a nose as I expected. It's a wonder I recognized her, in fact. However, the fact that she is a fund raiser for a literacy project made her irresistible.

I brought her home and made her pose for her portrait straight away.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Silhouette

When I first moved to Nanaimo, we had a mayor by the name of Frank Ney. Frank was quite a character.Among other things, he was the man who organized the first Great Bathtub Race. He was a controversial man. I didn't agree with his politics, but I remember him fondly as Black Frank, our Pirate Mayor. Recently, the city erected a statue of Frank Ney, dressed in his pirate costume, in Maffeo Sutton Park.

A couple of weeks ago, our grandchildren were here for a visit. On our way out to dinner, we stopped in Maffeo Sutton Park to play, and I took lots of pictures - including this photo of Frank Ney's statue.

Don't I live in an interesting town?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Theme Thursday - Collections

I know. I know. The photo on the left isn't what you would expect from a post about collections. But as it happens, I had forgotten that it was Thursday. My dear friend Angel May reminded me by sending me an e-mail that said something like "So. Are you going to do a Theme Thursday post today?"

Originally, I was going to post something called "Serendipity." That will have to wait. It's Theme Thursday! Meanwhile, I've been invited to Willow's Manor Ball, and I'm very, very excited about that. Not only do I get to go to the ball, I also get to show off my collection. (You thought I'd never get to the point, didn't you?)

What do I collect? Actors.

Yes, actors. I haven't been collecting actors for a long time -- just since I started working on my preparations for NaNoWriMo. I am trying to remember who first suggested that one way to get a handle on your characters was to cast a well-known actor to play each of them. Perhaps it was Willow herself. (Whoever it was, if you read this, please please let me know in the comments section, so that I can properly credit you!) So. I will choose an actor from my collection (I think I know already who my date will be!) to accompany me to the Manor. The rest of my collection of actors will ride in our wake, singing loudly, poking their heads out through the roofs of their limousines, disturbing the peace -- except for the ones that do their celebrating at my own super-hip satellite location, waiting to meet the revelers when they arrive for the after-ball.

Would you like to see a few of the actors in my collection? I'd be delighted to show you.

This lovely lady is Nicole Kidman. (By the way, who is that man that's ogling her?) She will be playing Bridget Connelly, my MC. Nicole would be shocked to know how much de-glamourizing she will have to do for this part. Bridget is not a movie star.

Nicole was actually the first actor I collected. Long before I considered casting her in Fly Away Home, I snagged this photo of Nicole so that I would have something to show to hairdressers. Beth, who cuts my hair when I'm at home, can't be expected to accompany me on all my travels, so I needed a cheat sheet to show the substitute hairdressers just what I wanted to look like. "A foot taller, forty pounds lighter, thirty years younger -- and oh yeah, with hair like this." So Nicole takes up residence on my laptop -- as my wallpaper, in fact -- whenever I travel.

Then came NaNoWriMo and that marvelous suggestion. The first character I thought up was Billy Mitchell. I had no idea who he was. I knew only his name. As I thought about him, though, he began to take shape. This is the shape he took. Not bad, eh?

Yep. The delightful Matthew McConaughey. Shimmering in the sunlight. Oh, dear. I must say, he was wearing clothes when I collected him. Won't he make a beautiful Billy Mitchell, though? Once I had a face for Billy, his character was a lot easier to map out. I think I thought of Matthew right away because my baby sister actually knows him. What's that? Two degrees of separation?

The only actor (so far) who has failed to fit right into the collection is John Cusack, who will play Hugh Beachley. This is not to say that John isn't a lovely man. He is. That's the problem. He's a little lovelier than Hugh -- or a little lovelier than Hugh started out to be. The upshot of that is that Hugh is changing. In fact, a lot of things about the story are changing. Half of me wanted to put John back on the shelf and find another actor, but the other half just adores John Cusack. If he wants a script change, who am I to argue?

I just went to check. There are thirteen actors in my collection, and I have bids in on a couple more. Wouldn't it be great to have shelves full of actors (I think that's called a stable, actually) to call on when you need faces for your characters? I'll save the rest of my collection for the night of the ball, and I won't tell you which one will be escorting me. All I'll say is Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh.

Meanwhile, you can find more Theme Thursday posts here. This week's theme is hosted by Alan. Thank you, Alan.

Monday, October 05, 2009

In memory of Mercedes Sosa, 1935-2009

Mercedes Sosa, the Argentine folk singer also known as "La Negra", has died at the age of 74. She was born July 9, 1935 in the province of Tucuman in northern Chile. She died in Buenos Aires on October 4. Her career spanned nearly sixty years. Sosa performed in Chile, the United States, and Europe. She lived in Paris and Madrid from 1976 to 1982, while she was banned in Chile due to her leftist views.

Thanks to Wiki for these few details. The entire article is here. It quotes Sosa's son Fabian Matus, who said of his mother, "She lived her 74 years to the fullest. She had done practically everything she wanted, she didn't have any type of barrier or any type of fear that limited her."

Is that not splendid? I could not wish for a better epitaph

I've embedded a recording of "Gracias a la Vida", Mercedes Sosa's most famous song. The lyrics were written by Chilean poet Violeta Parra.

TFE's Monday Poetry Challenge

in which we write poems based on photographs that Totalfeckineejit has posted here.

I chose Photograph #2 from The Poetry Bus part deux. It reminded me of two things: my love of the ocean -- no, my love of being near the ocean -- and the photograph of a field in Saskatchewan that I took not long ago. Oh, and it also reminded me of a song. I'll put the song at the end of the post, though, so as to end on a beautiful note.

Meanwhile, the poem. I've called it


How do they do it, the ones whose lives
plod like yoked oxen from cradle to grave?
An earthy furrow holds no charm;
its walls hide the sky and drown the sun.
Its way is straight, its end ordained.

I prefer to follow a winding path,
a way that forgets its beginning
but knows that all the possible paths,
whether arrow straight or serpentine,
come to the same inglorious end.

"Of course," exemplary ox reminds me,
"You'll never get a crop that way,"
and he has a point, there. Yes, he does.
There are no bulging barns
along my road, no winter stores --

But my path - my winding path
might take me anywhere, before it ends,
even on wings to the fiery sun,
or to the salt water's edge
and the deep comfort of the sea.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Me and My Jammies

Here we are, me and my jammies -- well, me in my jammies -- hanging around the house, drinking gen mai cha and soup, watching Miss Congeniality, feeling like Sandra Bullock's "Before" picture, only older. This ought to be a good day to get some writing done, but somehow it isn't. Not yet, anyway.

My accomplishments for the day:

1. Making a pot of Knorr Vegetable Soup. "Instant" sounded good, but by the time I had started with cold water and the soup mix, brought the mixture to a boil over moderately high heat while whisking it constantly, then simmered it for ten minutes, whisking it occasionally, it occurred to me that it might have been easier just to make the soup from scratch.

2. Installing a counter on my blog, for some reason.

3. Moving some things around on the sidebar so that I can find what I'm looking for.

4. Adding a widget that connects to NaNoWriMo.

5. Keeping up with the dishes.

6. Entering Angie's Book Title Contest over at Gumbo Writer. That was fun.

What I should be doing:

Analyzing my Master List, the one I'm supposed to have made yesterday. It's part of the NaNoWriMo prep work I'm doing with the help of Alexandra Sokoloff. What did I do with it? It's all a little hazy. I know I started the list, but I'm not at all sure I finished it.

Okay. What I'm going to do now:

1. Start another Master List.
2. Finish it.
3. Analyze it.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - all about a building

Well, several buildings. When I visited my sister Gracie in Casper, Wyoming this summer, we visited a few of the local places of interest. The first was Fort Caspar (or Fort Casper, depending on who's writing). The 19th century fort has been preserved as a museum. The display consists of log buildings - barracks, mostly -

and the stables,

as well as a group of tepees

and a section of bridge.

Oh - and there was a covered wagon.

Altogether, the folks who look after the museum have made Fort Caspar look like rather a cozy place, but I suspect that the men who lived there didn't find it so. I meant to post these photos way back in July, when the visit was fresh in my mind, but time flew, and I missed my cue, so I'm glad that this subject came up at Friday Photo Shootout. This week's topic was assigned by the Town Blogger Team. You will find more photo shoots right here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Theme Thursday - Flight

Thanks to Roy for this assignment. To see more Theme Thursday posts, click here.

It has been a long time since I last posted my favourite poem, Adrienne Rich's Vertigo. When I saw today's assignment, the first thing that popped into my head was Rich's line "The flight of wings surprises empty air." As it always does, that line made me stop, catch my breath, and say "Ah!" The world is not just a stage on which we act. Suddenly, even the air around us is sentient. Anything is possible.

I will post the poem over on the sidebar, so that it can linger awhile. There was a time, a year or more ago, when I thought I had lost my only hard copy. I have since found it, and it hangs on the wall right under the dry-erase board, where I can find it easily.

I had several plans for this post, including a photo essay about my walk - our walk - on Duke Point today. The problem with long, woodsy, watery walks, though, is that they give you plenty of time to think. What did I think about while I was walking? I thought about my story - the same story I was talking (and thinking) about yesterday.

I thought of a title - at least a working title. My WIP will be called Fly Away Home. I just googled that title, and there is a book by that name at Amazon, but it's a children's book dealing with homelessness - nothing like mine - so for the time being, at least, that's the title.

I thought about my main character, Bridget, which led me to think about her role model, her heroine, Amelia Earhart. Lady Lindy - The First Lady of Flight. Bingo.

The opening scene of Fly Away Home will take place on May 20, 1932, Bridget's twelfth birthday - and the day that Amelia Earhart takes off on her first solo flight across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Ireland. In preparing to write the story, I find myself drawn to read more about Earhart, who was an interesting and controversial woman. Her fascination with flight began when she was twenty-three years old. Her father and she visited an airfield in Long Beach, California. She took a ten-minute (and $10) ride in an airplane. At the end of the ride, she said "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly." She immediately set about finding a way to realize her dream, and she took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921.

Six months later, Earhart bought a second-hand Kinner Airster bi-plane, which she named "The Canary." The photo on the right shows Earhart and her flight instructor, Neta Snook, standing beside The Canary. By the time Earhart obtained her pilot's licence in 1923, she had already set a world record for female pilots by flying The Canary to an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,300 m). I've taken these photos and snippets of information from Wikipedia. I would encourage you to read the entire article, as it is fascinating reading. Just click here.

And/or - have a look at these videos, which will give you more insight into Amelia Earhart's life.

As you can see, flight is much on my mind. I must go now (See? I resisted the temptation to say "I must fly!" Aren't I strong, though?) to stare at my office wall and think writerly thoughts.

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