Thursday, November 30, 2006

Poetry Meme

A Poetry Meme!!

I've been tagged by Les and I've got a few minutes between chauffeuring duties, so here goes.

1. What's the first poem you remember reading/hearing/reacting to?
I can't say one specific poem first grabbed me, but we had a lovely Disney book of Mother Goose Rhymes that I absolutely loved. When I grew older and married a guy with the last name "Horner", I was shocked to find out that not everyone knew "Little Jack Horner" by heart. So, I quit saying, "Horner, you know, like Little Jack Horner?" and started spelling the darned name out. While you're my captive, I must tell you that there was, in fact, a Jack Horner who carried ten deeds for the king and stole one; hence, the origin of the poem. The plum Jack pulled out with his thumb was a plum piece of land. There is still a Lord Horner in England. No relation, darn it.

2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and . . .

Actually, I had to memorize quite a few. The only one that really stands out in my memory is "Daffodils" by William Wordsworth because I loved it. And, I really hated reciting.

3. I read/don't read poetry because . . .

Like Les, I don't generally seek out poetry because I have no understanding of it, but when someone mentions a favorite poet I will flip through a book and read a little, maybe buy if I'm absolutely captivated. That seldom occurs, but after seeing Il Postino, I sought out Pablo Neruda's poetry because I loved everything I heard in the movie. And, I'm a Pablo Neruda fan, now, thank you very much.

I wish I could read Neruda's poetry in Spanish because (anecdote coming) when I was in high school I plopped down in the hallway beside a fellow I'd known since elementary school and he read some poetry to me in Spanish, then tried to describe it. But, he said, it loses it's beauty in the translation. Either way, it's utterly cool to have a handsome guy who emigrated from Spain read to you in his language. Whew. I'd have married him on the spot if he asked. Kidding, just kidding. I think.

4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is . . .

"Daffodils" by Wordsworth. I just love it; it's a happy poem.

5. I write/don't write poetry, but . . .

I used to write what I thought was poetry, but I was never schooled in meter or whatever you call it. I have no idea how one determines what is poetry and what's doggerel. I had a poem entered in a contest by an elementary school teacher and it was one of the few of my childhood writings that didn't win anything, so I've always just assumed it was garbage. And, I used to write song lyrics when I regularly played guitar - they pretty much sucked, as well.

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature . . .

Hmm, I'm not sure what to say to that one. I think I understand literature better than poetry, but imagery is not something anyone ever taught me, so I'm kind of a literary fool, as well. Geez, I'm feeling a little stupid. Let's just say I'm an avid fiction reader but not an avid poetry reader and leave it at that, shall we?

7. I find poetry . . .

is often incomprehensible and sometimes inspiring, but there's a fine line between what works and doesn't, at least for me.

8. The last time I heard poetry . . .

My husband blurts out the poems he learned in childhood, now and then. I think the last I heard was a recitation of something from Alice in Wonderland, which he started reciting because I mentioned that I really need to read that book. He's also a fan of Robert Service, so I get to hear that dude's poetry whenever I least expect it.

9. I think poetry is like . . .

The person who writes it. William Wordsworth loved nature and lived in the stunning Lake Country in England (which is gorgeous even from an ugly motorway; I want to go there for a lengthy visit, one day). That really comes through in his poetry. Pablo Neruda was a man who loved women and his country; yep, you can tell. He also had a sense of humor. Here's an excerpt that makes me smile, from "To the Dead Poor Man" by Pablo Neruda:

"Today we are burying our own poor man;
our poor poor man.

He was always so badly off
that this is the first time
his person is personified."

It's really quite a touching poem, actually, but I've always thought that portion is pretty funny.

Off to take the kiddo to swim practice. I nominate anyone who wants to carry on this meme, but I'd especially like to see answers to these questions from Andi. Someone nudge Andi!!!

Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper

The new computer is giving me fits, I must admit, but I'll do my best to try to get back in the swing of things, here. I'd forgotten how you become accustomed to having your files set up a certain way and moving them is like packing and moving an entire house. The furniture has to be set up, just so, and the unpacking done in a certain way. Fortunately, I had Anderson Cooper's book cover saved as a draft before my meltdown. But, he's been a pain and shifted where I didn't want him, so pardon the delay in posting.

I'm in Maradi, Niger. It's late July 2005. A few days ago, I was in Rwanda with friends on vacation. I'd gone to see the mountain gorillas and to tour the new genocide museum. Not everyone's idea of fun, perhaps, but I've never been very good at taking time off. I burn on beaches, and get bored really quickly. I had a couple of days left in Rwanda, and was watching TV in my hotel room when a short report came on about starvation in Niger.

"According to a report by the United Nations, 3.5 million Nigerians are at risk of starvation, many of them children," the news anchor said, then moved on to something else.

I called CNN to see if I could go. My travel companions were pissed off, but not all that surprised. They were used to my bailing out on them at the last minute.

"Why would you want to go to Niger?" one of them asked when I told him of the change of plans.
"Why wouldn't you want to go?" I responded.
"Um, because I'm normal," he said, laughing.

I wished I knew how to explain it to them. It's as if a window opens and you realize the world has been reformed. I wanted to see the starvation. I needed to remind myself of its reality. I worry that if I get too comfortable, too complacent, I'll lose all feeling, all sensation.

Wow. If that doesn't tell you enough about Anderson Cooper, I don't know what will. Dispatches from the Edge is not just a book about Anderson Cooper's experiences in war- and disaster-ravaged areas, along with reflections on his past. It's all about who the man really is, why he needs to constantly throw himself into situations most of us would consider either too terrifying or too depressing to bear. It's the story of his journey inside himself and his desperate need to understand his brother's suicide, to somehow grasp why anyone could feel so hopeless that he would take his own life. Anderson Cooper simply chose to battle his grief in a very unusual way, by pursuing his passion. His passion has been to take himself to places where ordinary people are faced with extraordinary circumstances, to try to understand and impart their stories.

Since the places Anderson Cooper goes to tell those stories generally involve war and earthly disaster--and he's very good at getting to the heart of the matter--the book is compelling and gripping. Sound bites and clips chosen for their drama simply don't show the real picture. This is one of Cooper's greatest frustrations. But, apparently, his compassion shows through when he appears on the news. I can't say because we have neither cable or satellite service and I've actually never seen Cooper at work. But, I know he has a heart and I'm sure it shows.

I was particularly thrilled to read his thoughts on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, having lived through the hurricane and its aftermath, which is difficult to even begin to describe without ranting (and we had it easy in Vicksburg, with gusts up to about 100 mph). It was during his time in New Orleans that he finally began to recover from the loss of both his father and brother.

I'm not sure when it happened, when I realized that something had changed. I don't think there was a precise moment, a particular day. It's like when you're mourning and suddenly you become aware that the pain has faded. You don't remember exactly when it did. One day you laugh, and it shocks you. You forget that your body could make such a sound.

There are light moments, too. My favorite is the story of the time Cooper was stopped at a checkpoint by the National Guard and asked if he had a letter from the battalion commander:

"I don't need a letter from the battalion commander," I say. He nods and waves me on.
"Nice going, Obi Wan," Neil Hallsworth, my cameraman, says to me. "We're not the droids you're looking for."

I gulped down the first 50 pages of this book late on Saturday night and then gobbled the rest of the book the next day. It is an excellent, thought-provoking memoir of a fascinating, amazing man. My only complaint was that occasionally I had trouble reorienting myself because he jumped from time period to time period. But, since that was important to the relating of his story, I don't think it merits a rating drop. Two huge thumbs up for this one and extra special thanks to Barbara for sending it to me!!


Did reading make me want to meet the author? Yes, definitely.

Just finished:
To Play the Fool by Laurie R. King - review forthcoming

Still reading: Once Upon a Time by Gloria Vanderbilt

Just started: Earth in the Balance by Al Gore

Thinking about: Rain, all that stuff that needs to be put away, why modern medicine hasn't come up with a nifty cure for migraines.

Drinking: Mountain Dew and water.

Feeling: Fat, but oddly upbeat for a gal with an earache and post-migraine blecch.

Be happy, buckle up, stay alive 'cause if you're reading this you are loved by a Bookfool.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bookfool Survives Meltdown Disaster, Film at 11

Whoo, boy, yesterday was a day! My computer started making a grinding noise on Monday and hubby was so darned busy that I never did get around to telling him because we were playing phone tag most of the evening. He's been away on business, as usual. So, by yesterday the computer was shutting itself down repeatedly . . . and the shutdowns got closer and closer together each time it happened. Things were growing ominous. Then, the hubby finally got in touch during dinner and said, "It's hard disk failure, so you need to do some backing up very quickly. "

Well, all I can say is that the cats had a mighty fine time licking up the cheese on the dinner I abandoned. We did salvage most everything. If you are one of the lovely souls who email me at my personal address, I've lost your email. But, my photos and documents were saved with the help of a Very Wonderful Teenager (Praise God for teenage boys who have technical knowledge and can translate Husband Nerdspeak).

Other news: I surpassed 50,000 words on my 2006 Nano Novel! Woohoo! I'm a "winner"! So, I haven't actually finished writing the book, but I can stop to pay the bills. Assuming I can find them. I got a little messy, this month. Blushing, here.

Finished: Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper - review forthcoming.

Reading: Once Upon a Time by Gloria Vanderbilt (Anderson's mommy)
and still working on To Play the Fool by Laurie R. King

Currently fighting: One darned slow connection; I'm unable to load any cutesy images. More later!!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen

Today, Waverley feels like a big ship beached here on this sloping lawn, ablaze with lights and filled with sea-drunk madmen. Bellatrix is sawing away at her violin, first a bit of Dvorak, an odd piece she's been learning lately, full of spiky incidentals, shiveringly passionate asides, and now she's playing Bach, which is allowing me the only shred of focus I've had all day. I like her playing: I am thrilled to find something to like today, and by the fact that her well-played Bach is a pellucid bath of light that's enabling me to see clearly enough to write here.

First, a warning: This book is not for the faint of heart as it's written from a male perspective and the hero has all the appearance of a brilliant but hopeless sleazebag, although the deeper you delve into the story, the more you understand where he's coming from and why he appears to be so warped. And, you can't help but wonder . . . What will become of Hugo and his strange family? And, why on earth is he so magnetic?

Later--I am now back from shopping for that damn Christmas dinner. The impossible Vero insists with humorless academic doggedness on making lists, accompanying me to butcher, snooty yuppie organic overpriced upscale farmers' market, bakery, supermarket, etc., giving unsolicited advice and opinions and directions all the while, which I ignore, and therefore she and I are embroiled in a passive-aggressive mutual disapproval that must make everyone think we're husband and wife.

Well, that quote is a hint. He's fascinating. Every page allows a further peek into Hugo's history and what makes him tick. From nearly the beginning, the reader understands that he has done some very, very bad things, though.

Now that you're forwarned, I can tell you that I was completely mesmerized by The Epicure's Lament and the writing blew me away. The hero, Hugo Whittier, is a reclusive misanthrope who sees little purpose to much of anything other than food and s*x (not typed out to avoid bad hits) and his musings are often coarse. Language alone would cause some to close the book right away. But, set aside the seedy thoughts (and actions) and you won't understand Hugo at all.

The Epicure's Lament is a set of Hugo's fictional journals written during his dying days. The Whittier family has a fiercely blue-blooded history, remnants of the family's fortune allowing Hugo to do nothing but eat, write, sleep, and smoke in the crumbling family mansion on the Hudson River, if he so desires. And, he's perfectly content, in his own bent way, knowing that he is going to smoke himself to death, with a rare disease attacking him little by little, the sacrifice of cigarettes to save himself unfathomable.

Then, unexpectedly, people begin to move back into the family home, upsetting Hugo's plans to die in peace. As he reflects on his past and present, reads and quotes snippets of Montaigne's musings on the saneness of ending one's own life, and tolerates the growing family presence, he smokes even more vigorously, grumbles and insults fiercely, and perplexes everyone around him.

Occasionally, Hugo got on my nerves - particularly, in the middle of the book, when he appeared to be at his peak of pathos and debauchery. But, Christensen's an amazing writer and there's great depth to the story. The characters are a fun, oddball sort and stunningly real in their eccentrities. I was drawn in from the first page and closed the book completely satisfied. This is one I will definitely want to reread. Hugo himself would probably liken his story to the peeling of an onion, the fine layers of his life being slowly stripped away to reveal his core.

Did I say I loved this book? I loved this book. Avoid it, though, if you get sick and tired of the "f" word. Hugo is base and often repulsive. You want to wring his neck, kick his shins, slap him into sensibility; and, at the same time, find that you occasionally glimpse his tender side. Andi observed that he sounded a lot like the character Gregory House in House, M.D. Yep, definitely. I had a scruffed-up Hugh Jackman mentally cast in the role of Hugo, but I can easily imagine either Jackman or Laurie playing the role, were it to be translated to screen. Since I did occasionally need a minor break from Hugo, it gets a very close but not utterly perfect rating:


Weird number, eh?

Currently reading: To Play the Fool by Laurie R. King - a mystery and therefore quite a departure for me as I've been through my mystery phase and my mystery-avoidance phase and settled into the little-bit-of-everything, but low on mystery, part of my life. I hope to go through plenty more phases, thank you.

Recently walked into my house and begging to be read: Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper (thanks to Queen Barbara of Pennsylvania, one of the most generous booklovers on Planet Earth and, unfortunately, not a blogger because she's immensely busy reading when she isn't working or wrapping up books and sending them to people).

Nano update: 42,000 words down, 8,000 to go, 6 days remaining.

Thanksgiving after-effects: Turkey - bad news; I think he's dead, Jim. Yes, our turkey was, in fact, the victim of one big spread and two turkey enchilada leftover meals. Family - stuffed but happy (including cats). Ratio of calories burned to calories consumed: way too low.

Hope my American bloggy friends had an excellent Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cozy Reading By the Fire Truck?

First things first: Credit where credit is due . . . Litlove came up with the Aspirational Meme which I copied and used, a few days ago. Thank you to Litlove for starting the fun. I've happened across this meme, here and there in the bloggy world, and it's fascinating reading.

Second things second: Just looked up "reading by the fire" in order to find a cozy image, if possible. What did I find? "Fire extinguisher in reading center", complete with photo of a purple wall and the extinguisher in question. Below that: "Reading after a fire alarm", with the photo above right (found here). Hey, a gal who knows what's important during a time of crisis! I did find a few photos that fit the bill, however those two were too humorous not to mention.

Something I should have added to the Aspirational Meme: I want to learn how to do those darned button things that everyone else has for their challenges. The Chunkster Challenge just won't feel right without a button, I'm certain.

A light moment, at left, for those who haven't already seen it on my Alaska blog (everyone in the world but my in-laws, Nat, and Les, as far as I know): The husband in Anchorage. I had to get down on my belly in the grass and back up, back up, back up to get this photo exactly right (which meant crawling backwards while people continued to stream out the door behind hubby). Am I married to a good sport, or what?

Currently reading: The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen. So far, I am loving the protagonist: a sleazy, misanthropic and very snarky hero whose objective is to smoke himself to death in peace and is doing a fine job of it . . . till people start moving into his nice, quiet, crumbling mansion. This is not, by the way, for the faint of heart as it has some strong language and the hero, Hugo, has a little bit of a Humbert Humbert leaning (i.e., he gravitates toward young teenaged girls, probably because he never has fully grown up, himself).

Listening to: Taylor Grocery Band. Excellent music, particularly for folk/blues lovers. I have to admit that I was a little bit afraid to walk into the Taylor Grocery Store in Taylor, MS, when we were there a couple years ago. See why, here. Maybe it was just bad timing because Food TV fixture Alton Brown seems to have enjoyed himself when he made a pit stop in Taylor.

Wishing for: Something lined with sheepskin (fake is fine) for the icy toesies. I am so not accustomed to cold floors and the concrete hallway is . . . really something.

Off to finish the bedroom cleaning so I can climb into the bed and read. No cozy fire extinguishers will be nearby.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Your Planet or Mine? by Susan Grant

In Your Planet or Mine?, there's a nice, feisty heroine and a hunky hero from another planet. What more could you ask for? Fast-moving plot? Tons of action? You've got it.

California State Senator Jana Jasper comes from a long line of politicians who are deservedly well-respected. So, when Jana's family comes under fire for corruption, she is horrified. She makes a side trip to the grocery store for some comforting ice cream and bumps into an alien who just happens to look vaguely familiar.

Human, but from another planet, Cavin of Far Star has come to earth to save Jana and the people of her planet. Unfortunately, an assassin is after Cavin and Jana isn't entirely convinced that Cavin isn't a figment of her imagination. Will Cavin survive long enough to save earth? And, what on earth is Jana going to do about that handsome alien?

Your Planet or Mine? is a romance, technically speaking, and I'm not an avid romance reader but there are times you just need a little brain break and romantic comedy fits the bill for me. And, what a whopper of a fun story this one is. With an abundance of action including my favorite kind of scenes - people being chased and things blowing up - Your Planet or Mine? is a wild ride from beginning to end. I absolutely loved it and would have gobbled it up even faster if not for the fact that I'm in the midst of National Novel Writing Month. And, I do appreciate Susan Grant's ability to entertain even more than I normally would, thanks to the many hours I've spent wondering how on earth anyone ever manages to complete a novel and make it something worth reading. Many thanks to SciFi Chick for the excellent review that led me to this book!


And on to the latest:

Nano Report: Just over 31,000 words and I can feel my butt spreading. I really wish my walking buddy hadn't "fallen off the wagon", but the rain would have probably stopped us, anyway (insert lengthy sigh).

Nano Stupidity Level: Growing exponentially, actually significantly faster than the word count is rising.

Today I drank: So many different sugary drinks I probably couldn't even list them if I tried. And, I'm not willing to try. But, somewhere in there you can insert at least one type of coffee, one tea and one soda. Take your pick. For one of the hot drinks I used the mug at right, which features a painting of Oxford's town square by Mississippi artist Wyatt Waters. It's available at Square Books because Wyatt's not stupid. He knows when to paint something commercially viable and sell it through the store featured in his painting. Smart guy.

Why the heck I'm posting after 4 am: Son #2's nap lasted forever, so we got a very late start on the last bit of that geography project I've been wailing about because the teacher absolutely cannot be pleased (if she takes off points indiscriminately, she simply leaves off the explanation). Since it was too late to take an Ambien and the alarm hasn't actually awakened me recently, I figured . . . nyeh, might as well stay up all night. I'm going to pay dearly for this.

Now focusing on: The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster. My goodness, he has an interesting family history - and a rocking vocabulary. I want to be as intelligent as Paul Auster and write as descriptively as he does when I grow up. Oh, dear, can that happen if I last another 40 years?

Save me from: The song "Muskrat Love", which is on continuous mental replay in my Bookfool brain. Ugh. Didn't skip it fast enough while listening to America's Greatest Hits, this afternoon. I'll try diligently to avoid that making that mistake again, in the future. Ugh, ugh, ugh!

Group hugs all around!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

An Aspirational Meme

I don't do memes very often because I'm too busy babbling to join in; but, I really liked this one, found at Bookgirl's Nightstand. Photo is from Note that I have trouble limiting myself to one item per question. Kinda flighty, I admit, but that's me.

What part of the past would you bring back if you possibly could?
All of 1989. It was the last year I had with my dad, the year we lived in Ann Arbor. We had a great visit from my parents, loved everything about Michigan, met a lot of wonderful people from all over the world, and enjoyed a terrific Christmas together in Oklahoma. Nobody could have possibly known it would be the last time we'd all be together.

What character trait would you alter if you could?
I'd be more independent (and sociable, which kind of goes along with independence as I just don't go out much at all without my husband and he's seldom here).

Which skill would you like to have the time and energy to really work on?
I'd love to have the time to work on my education so I wouldn't feel quite so tied to the house.

Are you money poor, love poor, time poor or freedom poor?
Time and freedom. It's really difficult to find the time and freedom to be myself. Having to drop off and pick up, haul and fetch the child and nudge him all evening on homework is extremely time-consuming and having a traveling husband who can't do any of those things is very confining.

What element of your partner's character would you alter if you could?
This one's so funny. I read it last night and then told my husband I'd seen this question and could think of absolutely nothing!!! Not a thing! Not one thing!! Hahaha. He was just about doubled over and he doesn't laugh much. There's so darn much I'd like to change about him, but I'd particularly like to make him empathic (he's so short on empathy, it's a wonder he's such a nice guy considering he actually doesn't give a flip what anyone thinks about . . . well, anything) and it would be really, really nice if he wasn't a slob.

What three things are you going to do next year that you've been meaning to do for ages but never got around to?
I'm not sure next year will be the year (I'm waiting for kiddo to get a license and drive for a while, first - we're slow to let our kids drive independently), but I want to go back to school. I'd also like to figure out how to use those little portable memory thingies, so that I can easily have photos printed out. I want to make some scrapbooks (when I figure out how to get the photos printed) and I'd like to take some art or literature courses.

If your fairy godmother gave you three wishes, what would you wish for?
Health, happiness, wisdom

What one thing would you change about your living conditions?
More space and light. Our house is just crammed full of stuff and because we're shaded by two gigantic oak trees we get very little light inside the house.

How could the quality of your free time be improved?
I'd get out more, see movies, go places with friends. Actually, I'd have to find some friends. Everyone moves out of Vicksburg, eventually, and I got tired of saying "goodbye"; that's how I became a bit of a hermit.

What change have you made to your life recently that you're most proud of?
I've gotten back into photography after 16 years of slowly letting it go. Photography was a joy my dad and I shared.

The latest . . .

Nano update: Stalled at 28K, hoping to write 3-4,000 words, tomorrow. I slept way too late and then had a plethora of errands to run. Pooh. And, tonight I've got to help the kiddo finish a major project, darn it. Silly me for sleeping through the good writing hours.

Reading update: Almost finished with Your Planet or Mine? Resisted buying anything at Barnes & Noble while in Jackson for kiddo's orthodontist appointment. Am proud of self as several books were singing, calling, begging, screaming, pleading for me to take them home. I politely told them, "Not today, dearies."

Best news of the day: Still have good reflexes, thank goodness. While waiting at a stop sign, the driver in front of me --who had stopped her car at a ridiculous leftward angle, effectively blocking anyone from going past in the opposite direction-- suddenly threw her car into reverse to allow a truck to go by. She didn't bother to look behind her and there was . . . I'd say maybe three feet between us. I shifted into reverse as fast as possible and gunned it. Oh, my gosh, that's the closest I've come to getting smashed in a long time. And, that driver never even realized she came within inches of hitting me. So, while it sent my heartbeat to the moon and back, the fact that I reacted quickly and avoided a collision is very, very positive. I wish my insurance agent had been there.

Currently drinking: Pumpkin Spice Coffee in a mug from Tattered Cover, a Denver bookstore worth hyperventilating over.

Weirdest thing happening in my life: Our hallway is currently down to concrete because the carpet got wet and we're going to put down tile. You should see the hallway, seriously. It looks like the Baghdad Hotel in 2002.

Stupidest thing I've done, lately: Recorded a goofy message on my answering machine (after a power outage erased the regular one) and then forgot to erase it and change back to a normal message. What would you have heard if you'd called me, today? "Nyeh, go away." Hubby thinks that's a riot.

Feel free to share the weirdness in your life.

Monday, November 13, 2006

November Calendar

I'm still not getting in much blog-hopping, thanks to NaNoWriMo, but I dropped by Nat's blog to look for her review of The Thirteenth Tale and noticed that she'd posted the November photo from her calendar (it's a good one - you should go look). So, I jogged over to the Chappy's Mom page to see what that was all about. Ah, interesting. Chappy's Mom's birthday is in November and she wants to see what other folks' November calendar photos look like. Okay, I'll play. My calendar for 2006 is "Greek Cats". I usually have one mini photo calendar on the fridge (always something very upbeat, playful, or fun - like Paris in the 40's) and the rest of my calendars are monthly appointment books, which I keep in my purse and different rooms because if I don't, I will forget little things like dental appointments and prescription refills - things that won't kill you but might cause a little pain in the long run, if you know what I mean.

And, in case you're just dying of curiosity, here's the whole upper portion of the refrigerator where the calendar hangs:
Call me a hot-tea drinking positive thinker who has visited Great Britain, graduated from Oklahoma State University, and would really like to see Greece. At least, that's what my fridge seems to say. The tiny purple and pink magnet in the lower right-hand corner is an image of the cover of the anthology in which I once had a story published (printed off the website where it was sold, at the time). Does that make me vain?

So just after I got into the car, the aliens attacked and then my friend went into rehab after the magic hawk flew off with my laptop . . .

Parts of the subject line, above, are fictionalized. Can you guess which portions are actually reality-based? Because, I'm telling you, life can get pretty freaking interesting sometimes. The image at right (found here) shows how my brain felt, this morning. It's supposed to be a screensaver, but my computer is special in an elderly way. Actually, now that I look at that image, I'm pretty sure that green cloud is eating something. Eww.

We drove down to Hattiesburg, MS this weekend for a swim meet and saw a few hawks - not that many, actually, by comparison with our drive to Laurel a couple weeks ago. Okay, that's the car bit from the title line. The swim meet was great. Will took 1.5 seconds off his 100-meter freestyle time on Saturday, so we were happy. We did some hoopty shopping because Hattiesburg has a ridiculously fun salvage store. Then, on Sunday, I skipped the swimming events because I didn't bother to write at all on Saturday. The pool area is far too muggy and noisy, so I sat in the car with my laptop and whipped out a few thousand words on my Nano story. Cool. Came home, loaded photos, took a nice bath and woke up to call my friend. Turns out she's going into rehab, so she couldn't walk with me. I'm telling you, if you're a writer you definitely need to hang out with a person who comes from a large, extended Southern family. The drama could make some excellent story material. This is a first for me, though, having a friend in rehab. Hopefully, it will also be the last. Prayers for her would be appreciated; she's having a rough year.

I'm reading about aliens in Your Planet or Mine? by Susan Grant. Started that on Saturday night and am not far but loving it for the Brain Break and the general silliness. I took a mere 6 books with me to Hattiesburg. Really, you'd think I was packing for a month of trekking across the continent if not for the fact that I only took one pair of shoes. And, speaking of shoes . . . those at left had us all baffled. Sequined shoes? At a pool? You get splashed a lot at the pool so athletic shoes, sandals, and those totally hideous foam shoes (crocs?) are what the casual observer will typically notice (pardon the poor focus, if you would please). Sequins are a bit unusual. The beaded sweater that chick was wearing was really cute, in case you're interested. Actually, the shoes are pretty cute, too - just kind of a funny thing to see at a swimming event.

Nano update:

24,250 words down, 25,750 to go. Nearly halfway!!! My weekend goal was 25K, but I'm just going to be satisfied I came close.

Books I'm reading bits of, now and then:

The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster
No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty

Best weekend splurge purchase at the salvage store:

Bubble bath and smelly patchouli soap ("French Clay" was the name, probably because of the pinkish brown color). There's nothing like a little bit of smelly stuff to make a hotel bath feel more homey.

Best unexpected surprise:

Bumped into my writer friend John Floyd (author of Rainbow's End) at Border's in Jackson, at just the moment that I happened to be absentmindedly thinking, "I need to email John, but wouldn't it be great if he happened to be in Borders at the same time?" I hope I didn't talk a leg off of him. He mentioned this total bit of coolness: the publisher of Rainbow's End (a book you really need to buy - have I mentioned that?) quoted my blog at the Dogwood Press website in the review section. Neato burrito.

I still hope to join in on the From the Stacks challenge, but haven't managed to sign up, set aside titles or snatch the little button. I'm falling behind, here. But, I think it's a lovely idea and wanted to mention it. John caught me with an armload of remaindered books, so I'd have to sign up to start as of today or later. I'm guilty, guilty, guilty of adding to the stacks. It's a disease. Where is the magical cure? Let me know if you locate some sort of potion that enables a compulsive book purchaser and hoarder to both part with unneeded books and shut off the, "I really need that book," button.

Off to write. Watch out for aliens.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Whoopee! I finally finished The Thirteenth Tale! Ten guesses where I acquired the image at left? What, you got it in one? Amazing!

Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes - characters even - caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book they are still with you. Well, it was like that. All day I had been prey to distractions. Thoughts, memories, feelings, irrelevant fragments of my own life, playing havoc with my concentration.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a previous book to blame for my lack of concentration; but, I did have trouble focusing on this book. Why? I've mulled that question a great deal, actually, since just about everyone with the exception of Les seems to have fallen instantly in love with The Thirteenth Tale. I think probably the most likely culprit was timing because the moody, gothic atmosphere was well described and Setterfield's writing fairly graceful, if not occasionally eloquent. There are several passages I've marked because they expressed something I have personally felt, often either uniquely or in a manner that I wish I could have come up with, myself.

I irritate myself by putting things down and forgetting where I have left them. And when I pick up my book at night, my bookmark tells me that the previous night I must have turned the pages blindly, for I have no recollection at all of the events on the page or the one before.

That sentiment was unfortunately familiar. Yes, this book was pretty much a slog, for me. But, no, I can't really blame it entirely on the book - even our fantastic weather probably had something to do with the fact that I never became thoroughly immersed in the story.

I did dislike the fact that there were so many characters who were simply born evil and stayed that way or, their opposite, passive little lambs. However, as the book progressed, characters I found likable or whom I admired for their strength, humor, or intelligence gradually appeared. And, the pace seemed to really pick up during the last 50-75 pages.

Overall, I think the book was above average - very good writing and a storyline whose strands were nicely woven together toward the end. I loved the way the author insisted on wrapping up every little thread of the story, so that no loose ends were left to dangle and torment the reader. So, in spite of taking absolutely forever to finish the book, I'm going to give it a very slightly above-average rating (which really kind of looks weird, but I don't feel right going as far as to call it an "excellent" book).


Thursday, November 09, 2006

9-Day Nano Blues

Still on track, but I hate my Nano novel, today. I really, truly hate it. Maybe I should throw my heroine off a cliff or put her in the same building with all my other characters and just blow the whole thing up. This is always a possibility when writing fiction. Usually, I enjoy blowing things up. Maybe I'm just bored because nothing has exploded. Hmmm, something to think about.

Best news of the day: I am acquainted with the Head Turkey Carver at a local church. Wow, what a distinction.

Worst news of the day: Nah, you don't want to hear bad news, do you?

Best use for a laminating machine: Funky, homemade bookmarks. This could also be filed under the "best waste of time in the last 24 hours" category.

Amount of time spent reading: None.

Why no reading, you silly goose? I grabbed the camera and walked over to the little swampy area near the high school, while I waited for the dismissal bell to ring (my normal daylight reading time). It was quite interesting. I never realized there was bamboo lining the road. Funny how we drive past things day in and day out without really focusing on them, isn't it? I didn't spot the heron that I've seen flying away from that particular little stream, twice. Darn. And, there went my daytime reading slot. But . . .

I'm about to go read, now. One book in two weeks is really, really bad. It's getting on my nerves.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oh, what a happy Bookfool am I

What a terrific day! I went for a walk with my friend Teasha (gorgeous, incredible weather).

Autumn: Mother Nature's apology for Mississippi summers. Hahaha.

After walking I stood outside with my camera and let nature play around me. See my photo blog for some more pics. My friend Mike informed me that the white-faced squirrel at left is a Southern Fox Squirrel when I dropped by to ask if he and wife Judy knew why the interstate was completely bogged down and even the frontage road was closed off (a semi hit an overpass pylon and exploded - yeeks).

Back to the squirrels . . . Mike said, "Some people think they're old because of those white patches but those patches are on the babies, too. I didn't know that till recently." Oh, total coolness. I love learning new things! Isn't that why we so adore books?

Also, I did so much laundry that I made a little mountain to fold - my excuse to sit and watch a movie. I read about three pages of That Book (better than nothing, eh?) and I met my day's writing goal.

Other excitement and a bookish tidbit: Got a book called The English Country House: A Grand Tour for a quarter in my library's sale corner. A quarter! You can imagine my heart palpitating at the sight of a beautiful picture book for twenty-five cents.

And, I do love those English manors. Inside, there is a section devoted to (yahoo!) libraries in the estates. Oh, my. I mean, oh . . . oh, my. The leather, the gold lettering, the beauty of those ancient volumes lining walls, the shining tables, the settees and fireplaces. I searched for photos online and was unable to find any of my favorites (except for a very small image of the library at Arundel Castle, which we have seen - at right), but here is a quote from the book:

"Sir Robert Walpole's library at Houghton, designed for him by William Kent about 1729, was one of the first to treat bookcases as part of the architecture of the room. The shelves, all of solid mahogany, are sunk into the inner walls and echo the shapes of the two Venetian windows opposite. They still contain many of the Prime Minister's books, bound in calf and morocco, tooled in gold, and testifying to the width of his interests - from science and natural history to music, painting and literature."

I did not know that. Houghton Hall does have a website run by the current Lord Cholmondeley (I believe that's pronounced "CHUM-ly") and he appears to be a gracious man with a tremendous admiration for his family and its history. Lovely, lovely place that is going on my wish list of places to go.

Nano progress, Day 8: 33% down, 67% to go! Wahoo! I've got 16,500 words and I'm only writing in short bursts, each day, but it's usually flowing nicely - you know, most of the time.

New Nano buddy: CJ

Number of characters: 8

How I named some of them: Glanced at my bookshelves and picked out a name or two from the spines.

The laundry beckons. Read on.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ties that Bind, Ties that Break by Lensey Namioka

Ties that Bind, Ties that Break is a young adult novel about a Chinese girl who refuses to have her feet bound and must face the consequences of her decision. Read on the heels of Snowflower and the Secret Fan--thanks to the recommendation of my lovely friend, Eileen-- Ties that Bind is a quick read at only 154 pages, but still fascinating and informative . . . and it probably deserves not to end up being compared to Snowflower. However, I can't help it. I did just read Snowflower recently, after all, and it was the fascination with a culture which I knew little about that spawned my interest.

And, so I can tell you that Lily of Snowflower and Ailin of Ties were very different people, although both characters came from wealthy families. Born in different centuries, it would be easy to think that Ailin had it fairly easy. Lily would have likely ended up a concubine or worse if she had not been forced to have her feet bound - possibly dead. Ailin was threatened (to say more would divulge too much), but because she lived just after the turn of the 20th century and a revolution was occuring during the story, she had what I guess you could call the leeway to rebel. Times were changing, after all. I found Ailin a very courageous character and would have liked to read a more in-depth version of her story.


Nano report: Hit a brick wall in the morning and couldn't keep my eyes open, went back to sleep, stared at the screen, wrote for a while and . . . lo and behold, I made it to my day's goal. Wahoo! Not that anything is actually happening in my so-called novel, but I'm having fun as long as the little bars on my profile page keep rising.

Currently reading: The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster . . . and that other book we won't mention.

Just walked into the house: Small Island by Andrea Levy

Back to work on the writing or off to bed? That is the question.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

And, then it was Sunday

Just a quickie, honest.

Update on Nano: 10,500 words/50,000
And, not much has happened, yet. I think I can drag this thing out for another 40,000 words pretty easily. We shall see.

Latest Scary News: Eldest Son is threatening to bring home his new girlfriend for Thanksgiving. I'm thinking, "Noooooo! I need to write! I can't stop to clean! Don't do it!" For one thing, he'd probably scare her off if he brought her home while I'm devoting myself to writing and letting some of the chores go. Are you reading this, eldest son?

Last night's freaky dream: It was raining into the house. And, we awoke to find a mysterious wet spot in the hallway carpet. No rain, no apparent pipe leak, no crack in the foundation. Why was the carpet wet? The dehumidifier was leaking. Okay, weird but not as weird as the fact that I dreamed it was wet inside the house. This is really going to help me with writing a psychic character, I think.

Not even going to mention The Thirteenth Tale and the fact that I'm still only around halfway through. Nope, not going there.

About to finish: Ties that Bind, Ties that Break by Lensey Namioka, a young adult novel about a young Chinese girl who must face the consequences of fighting to keep from having her feet bound.

Tired of: Being conscious

Worst thing about this weekend: Stupidly decided not to take an Ambien and flipped and flopped all night.

Best thing: made it to Bible study and had fun, even though I'm technically three weeks behind on lessons.

Read on, dudes (and write on, for those doing NaNo)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bleccch. And, yet . . .

Still Nanoing away, here.

Felt lousy, yesterday and not much better, today, so I've chosen to miss the local kick-off party in Jackson, MS. And, yet, in spite of feeling crappy I've managed to crank out enough words to keep my so-called Nano "novel" on track. With approximately 1667 words per day necessary to complete a 50,000-word book, not a lot of time is required if you type like a madwoman . . . or madman . . . for a few hours per day. But it's awfully hard to overcome the feeling that, "This sucks, this sucks, this sucks" has any relevance, whatsoever. It's not like anyone has to see the Nano book you write, yes? Except for the excerpt, which I did post and then desired to take right back off the board (it sucks, it sucks, it sucks). Time constraints and desire to sleep halted me.

Just read an excellent article in this month's Alternative Medicine magazine on "The Other Youth Drug Problem". They're referring to the overmedication of today's youth and the often tragic consequences. This is an article that hits close to home as two of my friends have lost a child (one aged 14, the other 20), to suicide that was almost undoubtedly due to changes in personality caused by antidepressants. One of my children was prescribed the same medication that led to the horrifying, needless death of my friend's son--for a stomach ache, my son was prescribed an antidepressant. Yes, he was stressed by the challenges of school, but isn't that a part of life, something that helps you learn how to deal with pressure in general, in the long run? My husband filled the prescription; I opened the trash can and tossed it in. Thirty dollars went down the drain, but my son didn't need it. Two years have passed and I can say he's thriving, accustomed to the pressure of student life and enjoying his current job. I hope more publications will jump on this topic and help to get the gigantic pharmaceutical bear under control.

Pardon my rant.

Still reading: The Thirteenth Tale. I hope it doesn't take all month.

Watched for pure escapism: The Student Prince. This marks the first time I've seen the actor who played the bodyguard, Robson Green (pictured at left - hunky, eh?), and I was greatly disappointed to find that this handsome British chap is mostly a TV star in Great Britain. Darn. I'd really like to see him in a few more movies. However, the movie itself wasn't that great - sometimes funny, great setting, but not altogether convincing. Mr. Green's acting, and the role itself, were what made the movie enjoyable. Green played a bodyguard who, while assigned to protect a prince at Cambridge University, discovered a surprising love of literature and fell for the same woman as the prince.

And, here's what I really want. Is this too much to ask for? I want a writing studio like Hemingway's (image from
Happy Weekend!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nano Update; Book Slog Report

Day Two of Nano and the crazy lady on the front row said, "Naaaah," to herself, then opened a new file.
Ditched Manuscript #1 due to worthlessness and inevitable plot disaster.
Began Manuscript #2 and still haven't caught up with yesterday's word count.
I have a title and I like it: The Eyes of Margaret Dunn.
The story may end up being a little creepy.
I'm very grateful that the kiddo had a pep rally and is out of the house as he simply would not shush! Sometimes he can be very chatty and fun. Later would be nice.
My Nano mug arrived and it's so cute! The emblem, at left is on one side of the very nice, deep, white mug. On the other side, the words "Novelist Fuel". I shall fill it with hot stuff as it's very, very cold (at least for Vicksburg in November). In fact, I already washed my prized mug.

Currently on page 80, or so, of The Thirteenth Tale.
Too many pointlessly mean characters in one family, in my humble opinion. It's a slog.
Read the intro to Isaac Asimov's Foundation and toes curled with envy at his obvious writing ease (and the fact that he was a selling writer by the age of 18).

Happy . . . uh, Thursday?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Typing Frenzy; Reading Slump

Day 1 of National Novel Writing Month and the site is seriously logjammed. You have to feel for the poor techies dealing with an apparently overwhelming number of hopeful novelists all vying for space in the word-count line. Then again, isn't that what computer technicians love? Oh, boy, a mess to untangle! Or, not.

My current word count: 2560. It's wrong, though. My word processor inflates the word count. Fortunately, the Nano experts did provide ample warning, last year, and I was able to reach the necessary 50K by padding a little (writing beyond 50,000 words, according to my word processor's counting feature, that is).

Words of wisdom to other Nanoing people: Quit reading my blog and write. Also, coffee is good but always take time to exercise, if only for the chance to see buff males doing likewise.

Number of pages read, today: Negative 3. I am not kidding. I am back on Ambien and the few pages I managed to read, last night, were blacked out. Darn. It's awful when you flip open to the bookmarked page and say, "Huh, don't remember that," flip back a page, and another, and another. No words jogged my memory till the page at which I stopped mid-afternoon, whilst collecting son from school. Darn. There is a downfall to Ambien. However, I decided said sleep agent was definitely not causing the now-eradicated possible side-effect that I accused it of causing. So . . . sleep I shall, with a little aid. I didn't get much shut-eye, but some is better than none.

Why am I writing an entry to my blog when I could be working on my brilliant novel? Did I forget to tell you the story already sucks? Last year's novel had a much, much better beginning and it was, quite frankly, total crap. So, a break is in order. In fact, probably a lot of breaks will be in order.

Back to work. Or, maybe I'll check on the laundry, maybe fold a little. Oh, yeah, the kid needs a little nudge to do his homework and there's probably somebody out there who requires a bolstering email or maybe I should unload the dishwasher because it hurts to run into that open dishwasher door and it's kind of silly to leave the drying towel there without actually using the thing so I should definitely dry the dishes and reload . . .

Bookfool is practicing avoidance technique. Can you tell?