Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

Booklist 2010

I am publishing my unfinished book list for 2010 because I hope to be away for the rest of the year.  I may update it, because I have a list of maybe 5 books I haven't added yet.  (Not counting the ones I've forgotten to record!)

Booklist 2010

  1. The Blue Roan Child, Jamieson Findlay, Jan 2, 2010
  2. The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynn Reid Banks, Jan 2, 2010
  3. Summer on Blossom Street, Debbie Macomber, January 3, 2010
  4. Angel Rock, Darren Williams, January 4, 2010
  5. Angel City, by Tony Johnston and Carol Byard, ch, Jan 7, 10 (read twice)
  6. I Can Make You Thin, by Paul McKenna
  7. A Passage to India, E. M. Forster, Jan 12, 2010
  8. The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver, Jan 15, 2010
  9. Back on Blossom Street, Debbie Maccomber, Jan 19, 2010
  10. Home, Marilynn Robinson, January 20, 2010
  11. Housekeeping, Marilynn Robinson, January 25, 2010
  12. Where Angels Go, Debbie Macomber, 1-31-10
  13. Muggie Maggie, Beverly Cleary, Children's, 2-1-10
  14. Animals in the Snow, Margaret Wise Brown, ch, 2-2-10
  15. The Sunday Philosophy Club, Alexander McCall Smith, 2-3-10
  16. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, rr, 2-10-10
  17. Gilead, by Marilynn Robinson, 2-18-10
  18. The Big Six, by Arthur Ransom, 2-21-10
  19. 74 Seaside Ave, Debbie McComber, 2-25-10
  20. Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith
  21. Dust for Dinner, Ann Turner & Robert Barrett, ch
  22. Twenty Wishes, Debbie Macomber, 3-10-10
  23. Morris the Artist, by Laure Segal, ch, 3-13-10
  24. A BIG little life, Dean Koontz
  25. Smoking Mirror, Douglas Rees
  26. Life is Good, Trixie Koontz
  27. Mr Putter and Tabby Write the book, by Cynthia Rylant, ch
  28. Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 3-21-10
  29. Rugby and Rosie, Nan Parson Rossiter, ch, 3-23-10
  30. Frog and Toad together. Arnold Lobel, ch, rr, 3-24-10
  31. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver, 3-24-10
  32. Dr. DeSoto, William Steig, ch
  33. 1 is One, Tasha Tudor, ch
  34. Henry's First Moon Birthday, Lenore Look, ch
  35. From the Corner of his Eye, Dean Koontz, 4-7-10
  36. Frog and Toad are Friends, Arnold Lobel, 4-11-10, ch
  37. Emma in Charge, David McPhail, 4-11-10, ch
  38. Just Like Me, Miriam Schlein & Marilyn Janovitz, ch, 4-11-10
  39. Painting the Wind, Patricia and Emily MacLaghlan & Katy Schneider, ch, 4-11-10
  40. Brother Odd, Dean Koontz, 4-14-10
  41. Aunt Minnie and the Twister, Mary Skillings Prigger and Betsy Lewin, ch, 4-16-10
  42. Forever Odd, Dean Koontz, 4-20-10
  43. Earth Tigerlets, by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, ch, 4-23-10
  44. The Lady and the Poet, Maeve Haran, 4-25-10
  45. Persuasion, Jane Austin, 4-30-10
  46. Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood, 4-30-10
  47. The Lakeshore Limited, Sue Miller, 5-7-10
  48. Earth Tigerlets, by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, ch, 5-7-10
  49. The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood, 5-22-10
  50. Ribsy, Beverly Cleary, ch, rr, 5-22-10
  51. White Horses, by Douglas Milliken, 5-29-10
  52. Flush, by Carl Hiaasen, ya, 5-30-10
  53. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, rr, 6-4-10
  54. Ramona and her Father, Beverly Clearly, rr, ch, 6-6-10
  55. feathers, Jacqueline Woodson, ya, 6-7-10
  56. Saving Cinnamon, by Christine Sullivan, 6-12-10
  57. Frida Kahlo, The Artist in the Blue House, ch, 6-14-10
  58. The Truth About Lord Stoneville, Sabrina Jeffries, 6-14-10
  59. Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, John Grisham, ya, 6-16-10
  60. Face Parts, Simon Jennings, 6-17-10
  61. Marley and Me, John Grogan, 6-18-10
  62. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman, 6-26-10
  63. The Green GLass Sea, Ellen Klages, ch, 6-27-10
  64. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne. rr, ch, 7-11-10
  65. Field Guide to Wild Berries and Fruits, Teresa Marrone. 7-11-10
  66. The Hammer, Vance Neudorf, ch, 7-19-10
  67. Wesley the Owl, Stacey O'Brien, 7-22-10
  68. The Kitchen God's Wife, Amy Tan, 7-23-10
  69. In the Moon of Red Ponies, James Lee Burke, 7-26-10
  70. The Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri, 7-27-10
  71. Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch, Dai Sijie, 8-5-10
  72. Scat, Carl Hiassen, 8-9-10
  73. Nora, Nora, Anne Rivers Siddon, 8-10-10
  74. Testimony, Anita Shreve, 8-19-10
  75. Amber Brown is not a Crayon, Paula Danziger, ch, 8-21-10
  76. Amber Brown, You Can't eat Your Chicken Pox, Paula Danziger, ch, 8-24-10
  77. Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit. Paula Danziger, ch, 8-25-10
  78. Amber Brown Sees Red, Paula Danziger, ch, 8-27-10
  79. Amber Brown is Feeling Blue, Paula Danziger, ch, 8-28-10
  80. Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood, 8-28-10
  81. PS Longer Letter Later, Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin, ch, 8-30-10
  82. Hannah's List, by Debbie Macomber, 9-2-10
  83. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson, 9-4-10
  84. A Gift of Dragons, Anne McCaffrey, 9-8-10
  85. Get Well Soon. Julie Halpern, 9-14-10
  86. The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson,
  87. Any Place I hang my Hat, Susan Isaacs
  88. The Girl who kicked the Hornets Nest, Stieg Larsson, 9-25-10
  89. Firefly Beach, Luanne Rice, 9-30-10
  90. Ape's Adventure in Alphabet Town (read Twice), ch, 10-1-10
  91. Birthright, Nora Roberts, 10-7-10
  92. Wicked, Gregory McGuire, 10-16-10
  93. Rise and Shine, Anna Quindlen, 10-25-10
  94. Animals in the Snow, Margaret Wise Brown, Ch, 10-28-10
  95. Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit, Joan Carris, ch, 11-2-10
  96. Airy Fairy, Magic Music, Margaret Ryan, ch, 10-30-10
  97. Hey, What's wrong with this one? Maia Wojcieshowska, ch, 10-30-10
  98. The Cottage, Daniel Steel, 11-8-10
  99. The Summer of the Swans, Betsy Byars, ch 11-9-10
  100. The Family Under the Bridge, Natalie Savage Carlson, ch, 11-9-10
  101. The Known World, Edward P. Jones. 11-11-10
  102. Blessings, Anna Quindlen, 11-17-10
  103. A Fire on the Deep, Vernor Vinge, 11-13-10
  104. Dr. Suess ABC, 2 X reread, ch, 11-16-10
  105. Piggy Wiglet and the Great Adventure, David Lee Harrison, 2X, reread, ch, 11-16-10
  106. When the Cows come Home, David Lee Harrison, 2X, ch, 11-16-10
  107. Teddy's First Christmas, Amanda Davidson, ch 11-29-10
  108. The first Snowfall, Anne and Harlow Rockwell, ch, 11-29-10
  109. Songs of the Humpback Whale, Jody Picoult, 12-2-10
  110. Legacy, Danielle Steel
  111. Nineteen Minutes, Jody Picoult, 12-19-10
  112. My Sister's Keeper, Jody Picoult, 12-29-10

rr = reread
ch = children's
ya = young adult

Unfinished books 2010:

Pirate Latitudes, Michael Crichton, March, 2010--read half (UGH!) :-( too much graphic violence for me. The story line would have been interesting if it weren't for the overdone violence. I would say this is probably a book intended for men. :-(

Movies 2010:

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (read first, much earlier)
The Complete Metropolis, Fritz Lang
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I

CDs and audiotapes 2010:

David Sedaris Live

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Songs of the Humpback Whale, Jody Picoult

Songs of the Humpback WhaleSongs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked it very much, liked the interesting way it was told, and how she let you know what was going to happen. It was a sad book, and I cried at the end. The characters who survived all had life changing experiences and difficult lives and love, and isn't that what life is all about? This is a good story, with adventure, thoughtfulness, change. I wish I had time to write real review, but I do not. I hate spoilers, except when they are an intended part of the book,so I won't say what happens. Suffice it to say that Jane and Rebecca, Jane's daughter, start out on a cross-country trip after a fight with Jane's Marine biologist husband Oliver and guided by letters from Jane's brother Joley. And they find adventure aplenty. Good times and bad.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


or, Looking up at the sky, a bit of silliness from an image Erwin made of me. (Click image to view slightly larger).

Monday, November 29, 2010

YAY! I'm a NaNoWriMo Winner!!!

I got not only the 50,000 required words, but more than 65,000.

But the first draft of the novel is maybe a half to 2/3 done. So I
haven't really completed the novel, only the challenge.

I am going to start planning my novel for next Novemebr while I am
working on completing this one!

Friday, November 19, 2010


I did this quick illo for sneaky for illustration Friday on my iPad on
artrage while babysitting for my week-old grandson.


À coeur vaillant rien d'impossible."I don't want to face my fears, I am
afraid of them!" Spongebob


Friday, November 12, 2010

a painting in two steps with detail

I did this painting on my iPad in Artrage at dinner tonight. First I sketched the face gesturally with pastels and then painted over it with oils. I was looking across the table at my husband who was not holding still! (No photo involved. Drawn by hand on iPad screen, a "finger-painting")
Click image to view larger.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I did this as yet possibly unfinished painting in the car driving to and from Krista's baptism last night. I did it on my iPad using Artrage. I did not start from a photo of any kind, not even a reference photo-- it's a freehand digital finger painting. I used almost all the available tools--experimenting with them, just for the fun of it. I combined things that might be hard to combine on paper: oils, acrylics, water colors, pastels, crayons, pencils, air bush, etc. I think I used everything.

I painted it in the car in the dark in the backseat hurtling along the freeway over bumps and around turns. I am working to learn the new iPad Artrage. I couldn't have painted with oils or acrylics in that situation. I couldn't even type--I tried it!

For some reason, I kept wanting to add a crown of thorns, but felt it would be sacrilegious. I was thinking perhaps it reminds me, maybe because of the colors, of a famous painting of Jesus with the crown of thorns. I had a painting in mind, after I thought of it, but I googled it and couldn't find it. Maybe it wasn't a famous painting. Maybe just something I saw in someone's house. Originally, Bethany wasn't smiling. Smiling, it seems like a crown of thorns would be wholly inappropriate.

Click image to view larger.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Walking today (From a letter)

101030J  October 30, 2010


I am walking from Rolandale tower the hospital on my first walk of the day.  The sun is shining weakly through thin clods.  The clouds are ribbed and scaled like. Dead fish lying on the beach.  The sidewalk, lawns, and streets are littered with fallen leaves, some golden yellow, some red, some brown and crumpled.  The wall by the hospital parking garage is covered with ivy and grapevines that are red scarlet, salmon, orange and yellow.  All the trees are painted in brilliant hues.  There are pink chrysanthemums flowering in a yard I pass.


I am not feeling very well.  Not terrible, but unwell.  Achy, sore.


I have been working hard today, all day.  I carried down, washed and folded two loads of laundry and there's another in the dryer, partly folded.  I called about the meter replacement, but did not get fr with that.  I did my exercises, worked a little in the yards at both Rolandale and Moran, watered plants at both houses, etc.  And so on.


Boring, right?  Well, that's my day.


I am wearing my Dodge Poetry Festival shirt, though, sadly, I missed the festival this year.


What you can't see, among other things, is that I am writing while walking on my iPad.  Wait!  I am not walking on the iPad, I am writing on the iPad while walking.  But it is too heavy, and bulky to do this with any comfort, it hurts my wrists and back. 


I have walked over to Radio Shack and Ritz on Mack, not because I want to go there, but because that's where this particular walking loop goes.  There are lots of places I want and need to go, but those are not among them.


I turn back into the hoods.  A dog barks frantically at me.  I pass a young couple grinning foolishly at each other--ah young love.    I pass the lovely leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua--sweet gum, and a red bud tree with single heart-shaped leaves still clinging to it.  I pass a large handprints in cement and that same moony young couple who must have circled around another way.  I pass pumpkins and scarecrows and holiday decorations.  I do not like the plastic ones.


Soon, I will be back to the retreat and studio house and my walk will be over, though I will walk again, God willing and the creeks don't rise, in a little while.  The studio house is about to lurch into view.  There it is and my car in front of it.  I have to moth the African violets and go back to Moran.  I walked 34 minutes, a little slow because of writing.


I worked really hard today--on chores and necessities.  What I did NOT do was work hard on my writing or my art.  :-(


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quick Random lists, writers, artists

The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what authors my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.)

Annie Dillard
Barbara Kingsolver
Mary Oliver
Patrick Lawler
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Charles Dickens
Jane Austen
Jim Kjelgaard
Alice Walker,
Mark Twain
Harper Lee

(kind of quick and random)

ANother quick random one with various kinds of artists:

Annie Dillard
Van Gogh
Barbara Kingsolver
Sylvia Plath
Robert Frost
Emily Dickinson
Phillip LeVine
Margaret Atwood
Denise Levertov

Your turn

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day! WATER!

Water is everywhere. It sustains life. It makes our planet livable.

We drink it, we cook with it, we swim in it, we sail on it.

But water is endangered! We threaten our own lives, our children and grandchildren, by polluting our water.

Yet there is HOPE!

Five facts about water:

  1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it's no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.
  2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.
  3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.
  4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that's just one meal! It would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.
  5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using that same amount to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.|Start Petition

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Mole Art

Hennie Mavis has added some wonderful art to my mole from the first round. I visited her the day before yesterday, and on the way home today, with ballpoint in the round one mole, I drew this picture of BB driving, then colored it with colored pencils, and then painted over it with Windsor Newton mini-pan watercolors. I was fascinated by the way I could see his chin through his beard in the brilliant light coming in the window of the car. The original pictures in this mole were from May of 2008! The Mole still has a few blank pages.

This was all done going about 80 miles an hour on the interstate highway and I had trouble with bumps and sways etc. I used the watercolors full strength and they acted a lot like gouache. I wanted the beard to be white and not the yellow color of the paper. Below is a photo of the original sketch in ballpoint. Do click on the my mole link above to see Hennie's Hermit Thrush, if you haven't already seen it! It's great!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Walking in the Rain!!!


Walking in the Rain

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's raining—cold, wet and miserable. If you like to walk daily to keep in shape and breathe fresh air, you have several choices: walk at the mall, do laps or treadmill at the gym, run up and down the stairs at a local high-rise or parking... Read more »

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Walking at Balduck!

Walking at Balduck Park

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Looking for something a little different in a walking location? If you don’t need miles of trails and are satisfied with a shorter walk, Balduck Park may be just the ticket. Balduck Park is located at the intersections of Canyon and Chandler Park...Read more »

Firefly Beach, by Luanne Rice

Firefly Beach (Hubbard's Point / Black Hall series)Firefly Beach by Luanne Rice

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story was excellent and emotionally engaging--I really enjoyed it. It centers around the relationships of a woman and her sisters, mother, and a boy she met through strange sad circumstances as well as how the past comes back to haunt and maybe free them. The editing and grammar were particularly poor, though. I don't want to say too much about the plot because I hate spoilers, but the story is good. I would give it a four or 4.5 for plot and a 2 for editing.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I'm not 100% sure this counts.  I wrote it down for the ROAK blog here, where you can read my story in situo.

Here is a story that is not exactly a random act of kindness, probably. I was driving home from work and decided to stop and visit my parents, who were elderly at the time. That was random, I guess. It put me in the right place and time.

It was early spring. The leaves had not come out yet, it was cool verging on cold.

After I visited with them, chatted etc and left, I had driven only a short ways when I saw a girl, or young woman, laying on the pavement half in and half out of the road, on the yellow line dividing the road from the pavement. She was not moving. People were driving past, not stopping. I was afraid she'd be hit there.

I pulled up behind her and turned on my flashers and got out and checked her pulse. She was alive, but unconscious. I tried to flag down some cars--no one would stop.

I ran across the street and knocked on a door. The person opened the door looked out, and slammed the door in my face. This happened twice more before someone would talk to me. "Call 911," I said, and returned to the girl. 

I got a blanket out of my trunk and covered her. She was dressed in light indoor clothes and it was chilly.  Then I tried flagging down more cars for help, since I am not a doctor. A can finally stopped, and the man who got out asked if I had HIT the girl! He did know what to do medically, but he set up some flares.

911 came and took the girl--almost took my blanket. She was still alive. I never found out what had happened to her. I hope my attempt at helping did actually help.

RAOK #3 Random Acts of Kindness on the Trail

I hiked the Northville-Placid Trail, 135 miles through the Adirondack Wilderness, alone. It's a scary thing to do for anyone, and even more so for a woman alone.

Before the trip, I drove up north into the mountains and hung two bundles of food high in the trees to restock my provisions en route.

When I arrived at the first bundle, it was safe and I continued on my hike.  But when I reached the second bundle, completely out of food, the bears had gotten the bundle and had eaten every item of food except one can of tuna that had huge teeth marks in it. Needless to say, I was worried. Carrying a large pack through the wilderness with tent, sleeping bag, spare clothes and other necessities uses a lot of energy, and I got very hungry.

I ate the tuna from the dented can and continued on to the next lean-to.

As a woman hiking alone, I normally did not stay at lean-tos. Rather, I hiked back into the woods and pitched my one-man (one WOMAN) tent out of sight in the trees. However, now I needed help!  At the lean-to, I told me story and was give a little bit of food by the other through-hikers. No one had much to spare, because most people planned to carry exactly what they needed. If you carry enough food on your back for many days, along with clothes, tent and bedding, you do not want anything extra.

The next day, I was fortunate to meet a man who was very strong, and who planned well for possible emergencies. He had plenty of extra food, was kind, generous and not aggressive, and paced his hike to match mine.  He provided food for me to complete my hike all the way to Placid. I was very grateful.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Adding new art to More Scribbles

I've added more of my new art to my art blog, more scribbles. If you go there and click on a thumbnail and then on the image, you can see each one quite a bit larger.

Frog Haven

I got this note from a friend with whom I'd shared my novel, Frog Haven.  I was gratified to get it, because I had just received yet another rejection from a literary agency.  I was very sad and depressed.  The letter cheered me up.

Dear Mary,

Thank you for writing and sharing with me Frog Haven.  Sissy is a heroine.  I was worried for those kids.  Is she you?

I know that many of the places you mention are real--for example, there is Union College in Schenectady, I think.  

I don't like rules about some things, like what I put in my body. About staying up or not.  I'm really undisciplined.  I'm obeying some capitalization rules for that character, Sissy's father.

I loved your novel.  It's the first novel I have completed in many years. Thank you again.


Here is part of my response:  

SIssy is based on me as a child and parts of the story are real.  There really was a cabin in the woods near where I lived when I was a kid.  The ponds are real, the starling, and many of the characters are real.  Actually, all of the characters are based on real people, to some extent, but the work is a work of fiction.  And all the things people said to each other and did in this story are entirely made up.

There was a LEGEND (kid story) that there was a dead guy in the cabin and supposedly some of the kids had seen him.  I had NOT!  I based the story on that legend.

Union College is really in Schenectady.  Saratoga Springs is a real place with a fountain in the river and leaves covered with crystals.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Renaissance Center, inside looking out

Here's another shot inside the same room I posted yesterday. This is from balcony on the opposite side of the room looking out toward the Detroit River.

Oops, this was posted to the wrong blog. I meant to post it to Detroit Daily. I will post it there also, sorry about the duplication.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Testimony (Hardcover) by Anita Shreve Testimony by Anita Shreve 688398Mary's review Aug 20, 10

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a happy book, but it is excellent and thought provoking. It tells the story of a "mistake" involving 5 students and two adults at a private school from the point of view of each of the students, the parents, teachers, headmaster, and other characters. The consequences of the mistake, which is of a sexual nature, are far-reaching and devastating. It might be slightly overdone, but probably not. It's pretty amazing. I don't want to spoil it. The voices and characterizations are very well done. I really enjoyed/appreciated this book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oh NO! Another new blog!

I am trying out yet another new blog where I am posting just artwork (at this point). there are thumbnails and you can click on them to see them bigger and then, bigger yet. Donno if it will prove useful or not.

It's called MORE SCRIBBLES and is at

Homeless and Hungry #100818-1147

Homeless & Hungry #100818-1147, watercolor. (by me, today.) Click image to view larger.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mama Bear with Triplets

This is my collaboration with Steve, a splotch monster of sorts. Top: Mama bear with triplets, bottom: original splotch by Steve.

Monday, August 16, 2010

new painting: Yellow Lady's Slipper

Creative Every Day. I am creative Every Day. I'm working on a poetry Ms, writing a novel, painting, participating in a mole exchange--I'm so creative that I haven't much time to post about it.

The fire of August in the creative every day Challenge is the SUN which gave energy to this flower to grow and to me, though the food I ate--all energy comes from the sun, from fire--to paint the picture.

Friday, August 13, 2010

WeekWord: Collection

When I first saw the WeekWord over at Textilspanieln, I thought to myself, I no longer collect anything. I was remembering my old stamp collections which I gave away, my insect collections (which I still have, but no longer add to it), my coin collections and rock collections, that sort of thing. I was thinking of people who collect figurines or dolls or stuffed animals. Frog figures or pigs or elephants. Nope, I don't collect any of those things.

But I do collect things. Not always on purpose.

Cameras, for example:

And this is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Between us, my husband and I have hundreds of cameras. I don't collect them intentionally. He does. But I have almost as many as he does. He collects olf vintage cameras (even if they don't work). I want cameras that take good pictures. I want cameras that fit in my pocket. I want a spy camera, that no one can see me using. Yep. That's a confession--I want to be able to take pictures without disturbing people. Or making them angry.

Some of the things I collect might be considered a little odd. Like skulls. Once again, this is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg of my skull collection. But remember, I worked for 33 years as a naturalist and science educator. Skulls can teach us a lot about animals, their diet, their lives.

These are one goose skull and some gull skulls. I have deer and horse and cow and snake and hawk and rabbit and 'possom and raccoon and muskrat and many others.

Another group of things I "collect" (have a collection of) is house plants, including African violets. I guess this makes me officially and "old lady." Here are just two (three?) of many that grace my house and office. I love their colors and beauty, they cheer me up!

I also collect toilet paper tubes for someone who uses them in preschool!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

White Horses, by Douglas Milliken

White Horses by Douglas Milliken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dreamlike and druggy, poignant and sad, deeply disturbing, a wonderful read. This group of stories is so poetic as to be almost prose poems. Reading it makes life seem unbearably sad, yet deeply important. Excellent!

I asked Douglas Milliken a few questions:

Q: White Horses is so powerful. It clutches me, wrings me out, leaves me with a deep melancholy. what kinds of syntactical choices did you make to inject it with such utter sadness? (or, how did you do it?)

A: To answer this by means of a tangential anecdote: in the process of refining WHITE HORSES for print, Andy (Lyman, of NaDa Publishing) and I have developed a pretty close relationship. We get together a few times a week. We ride bikes out of the city and into the woods. We make asses of ourselves in public. During each of these little get-togethers, Andy updates me that another reader has contacted him by one means or another to tell him that, if nothing else, the book has left them weeping. In one instance, the reader (a close friend) called him in tears the moment she was finished reading. She got the book in the mail, read it straight through, wept and called him weeping. Which is very overwhelming! My objective in writing--not just WHITE HORSES but any story or poem or song, in drawing a picture, in cooking dinner for a friend--has always been to simply create a scenario wherein someone--anyone--might feel something. Feel anything. Just feel. WHITE HORSES definitely explores some dark and challenging territory, so I'd assumed that people would have a melancholic response. But actual tears? I'm blown away every time another report comes in. I don't know how I did it. I had read an interview with Gary Lutz around the time I first started writing WHITE HORSES. There was a lot of discussion on his process, which I found really inspiring. The way he writes a story like a stonemason building a wall. Only one stone can fit between all the others. Only the correct works will tell the story correctly. Any substitutes are just filler. I know I did not come anywhere near the expert finesse of Lutz, but then again, I wasn't aiming to. I was pushed by the idea of Lutz's work, not the possibility of recreating it. I was also morbidly depressed while writing WHITE HORSES. It was a cold winter, and the woman that I lived with was slowly falling out of love with me, which was sort of like watching a car crash in slow-motion. I was haunted by nightmares of her and my brother and all the other people I loved disappearing or being murdered or simply leaving me. I think WHITE HORSES was my attempt to create something that might possibly make all these bad things better. Like I could weave a safety net out of words. Like I might be able to save what little I still had. I think all these desperate factors together created a sort of poetry.

Q: White Horses seems to be a series of dream-like yet very realistic stories. It's also very poetic. Yet it somehow hangs together, almost like a novel. How would you define it, or, would you prefer not to?

A: I don't know of any succinct term that can sum up whatever literary form WHITE HORSES might be. "Interconnected short stories" doesn't seem to cut it. A patchwork novella? Whatever. I'm not terribly concerned with labeling my work. From a traditional writer-publisher standpoint, being unable or unwilling to define what you do is almost always a near-fatal pitfall. Luckily, NaDa is not traditional by any way, shape, or means. Andy read the manuscript and immediately got behind it. There was no real talk about its potential marketability. There was no conversation as to how it should be defined. As far as either of us was concerned, WHITE HORSES was label enough.

Q: Would you say that your writing was more "psychological," as in, a pouring out of angst or more "constructed," as in the stone by stone you refer to "above?" If angst, do you feel that your previous training as a writer allowed you to construct your outpouring in such a way that it has such incredible impact?

A: Well, I've never been the sort who writes for the sake of therapy. Writing can be a valid way of coming to terms with events, but rarely is that the sort of thing anyone would want to read. The first story that I wrote was the title piece, which came out of a conversation with my ex about how I was suddenly able to afford life insurance but not health insurance, that I was worth something dead but not necessarily worth anything alive. The next piece was "On Marriage," which was based on a dream. Then came "XXVI," which was based on the horror of accidentally revealing yourself. We're all so embarrassed about ourselves! It hurts when we can't hide who we are. Inexplicably, these three stories--told by different people about very different circumstances--all seemed of a whole to me. These voices were all singing the same song. I began to imagine an alternate version of myself and an alternate version of the woman who I considered to be my wife though we were in no legal sense married. What would I be like if I gave myself up completely to my dreams and my fantasies? What would it be like to live with and be married to someone like that? I pushed my current circumstances to an extreme to see how horrible it could become. I could have taken it much further. Maybe I should have. Maybe I wimped out. But I grew to like these people, who had at some point become unique individuals, no longer stand-ins but actual people in their own right, if only in my own mind. I loved them. I didn't want to hurt them any more than I already had. I saved them from their circumstance when I could not save myself from mine.

Q: When revising the work, did you revise most for poetic construction, plot, character, or emotional impact. I realize you probably wanted to maximize all of these, which you did successfully, but how did you make choices as to what to leave, what to cut, what to embellish?

A: There were two entire stories that didn't make the cut. Andy never even saw them. Neither was strong enough to hold its own weight. "Naked Light" almost got axed as well, because the language was originally really opaque and clunky. I'm glad I was able to save it, though I still consider it the least-readable portion of the book. Ten minutes before we sent the final manuscript to the printers, I was still making edits to that story.

None of the changes made were for the sake of plot because it isn't a plot-driven story. A lot of the re-reading focused on consistency in tone and rhythm. If something sounded wrong or felt wrong in my mouth, it needed to be fixed. A lot of attention was given to making sure the female character was real and rounded and believable, partly because of her limited air-time but mostly because of the simple nature of my own maleness. Female characters are hard for me. I tend to construct them with more care and attention than the males. I still don't think she's as complete as she could be. Certain things are universal among all people, but some things aren't. You can't just shrug off these considerations.

More than anything else, though, I wanted to make sure that there was no point in the story where anyone could ever say that these two people (or any of the auxiliary characters, for that matter) aren't full of love, that they do not love one another. Things get bad and things get worse, and all the crazy mean destructive things they do to each other, they do out of love. People do horrible things while screaming "love love love," and people do beautiful things while singing the same dumb song. It's probably a really cheesy theme to emphasize these days. I hope it doesn't come across as cheesy.

View excerpts from White Horses here.

This is a great book, a wonderful, startling, fascinating rad, and you can get it now for 15% off through August 13. See coupon below:

Read more about it here at the book's website!
Read another interview here at Thoughts in Progress.

Bye bye barn coat

Back when I used to raise chickens, my hens liked to create stealth nests. If the hidden nests had too many eggs, I usually let them sit. Other wise, I rounded them up, cracked them into an "egg cup" (glass custard dish), and if they looked OK, I ate them. Or we did.

In cooler weather, I had a barn coat and when I went to the barn to collect eggs, I put them in the pockets of the barn coat.

One autumn day, late September, I put on my barn coat for the first time in a couple months or 3 or 4, and I went out to the barn. As I was sliding the door to the side to enter the barn, there was a huge loud sound, like a gunshot or a bomb and then a terrible smell!

I had accidentally left an egg in one of the pockets the barn coat ALL SUMMER in the heat! It exploded and smelled horrible. I threw the coat into the lake (I was living at Beaver Lake then). Later I hosed it off. Then I washed it many times and never completely got rid of that terrible smell. I finally abandoned that coat!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nora Nora, by Anne Rivers Siddon

I just finished Nora Nora, by Anne Rivers Siddon, and absolutely loved it! Excellent, poignant book, deal with relationships, love, betrayal, education, poverty, racial issues, through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl. (Not a kids book!)

My 73rd book of 2010.

Scat, by Carl Hiassen

Scat, by Carl Hiassen, finished 8-9-10

Fantastic! Right up my alley, maybe his best book yet! I loved it! This book deals with so many issues: environmental, honesty, relationships, trust, education, endangered animals, making good choices, and it does it all in an engaging and spell-binding way. I recommend it highly. :-D

Liesl (at Goodreads) says, "They [Hiassen's YA books:] are all, however, a little redundant. Same characters, same setting, same basic issue, same story format. You can predict it all." I felt that way after I read the last one, FLUSH, although I enjoyed the book very much anyway. But this one struck me as different enough from the others to be worthwhile. Yes, they all look at environmental issues, but each issue is different, with different problems and solutions required. It's true they all have "happy endings," but we don't know exactly what the ending will be or HOW THEY WILL GET THERE, and therein lies the fun!

My opinion is that kids need to read a LOT of these books so they are aware of the problems in the environment, the possible solutions, and the kinds of choices that can solve the problems vs. the kinds of choices that make them worse.

Some idiots are building an illegal oil rig on state land and discover a "panther" there and shoot at it to get rid of it, because it's endangered and would draw the game warden etc and conservationists, and they separate the mama from its babies, one of which dies--a dreaded bio teacher, a weirdo and a misfit kid try to reunite the baby with its mother and all kinds of stuff comes down --exciting.

This is my 72nd book of 2010.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Sidewalk Saturday

Something has been spilled on the sidewalk near the Flagstar Bank.
It leaves a pretty pattern on the sidewalk, but I hope it is not
something toxic.

WeekWord: Balance, with Links

Terry remembers her first handstand at age 14. (See note about this below!) :-(

Links for all the wonderful people who played along:

Silly Tail of a Biomouse, coming soon

The next WeekWord will be hosted by Elisabeth at Textilspanieln.

If you have done (or do) a new post on this topic, balance, this time around (Sorry about the repetition--I'm new. didn't know, and had no time to research, so sorry), post the link in the comments and I will add it.

* * * *

The image above is an unfinished (and maybe stand-in) illustration for my novel, Disappearing. I did it on the iPad, rather hastily. You may wonder why I am doing an illo on the iPad when I'd probably do better on the regular computer or even with pen and paper. It's because of several things, among them doctor appointments (long waits in the waiting room), new toy and trying to learn the iPad. I am really disappointed because the image posted above doesn't look anything like it does on the iPad--the colors are all wrong. Way too saturated. But I ran out of time to fiddle. I needed to post those links. (Click image to view larger.)

There is a story to go with the illo, which is an excerpt from my novel in progress, Disappearing. I realize many of you are too busy to read long novel excepts, so if you don't have time, you can just leave a comment on my illo. Because I am currently working on two manuscripts, I don't have time to dream up something else to do.

* * * *

Here is the novel excerpt on this topic, which I wrote just for this post, right into the actual novel (as I did with last week's topic):

Balance (From the novel Ms, Disappearing)

Travesty's third grade notebook was set up in a similar way to the 5th grade notebook Terry had been studying earlier. Faded blue mimeos of the assignments were taped to the left side of the notebook pages and the assignments were completed by Travesty on the right side, and sometimes continued on to the next pages. Perhaps all the teachers at her school had attended a conference or a school meeting and had been taught or had agreed to do it that way.

In third grade, Travesty's writing had been larger and more awkward than it was two years later, but at the same times, more care had been taken with each letter. Terry found drafts in the notebook at the back like the ones she'd discovered in the later notebook. Terry couldn't believe how much effort Travesty had put into her work, for such a young child. There were notes and vocabulary suggestions in the drafts, which helped explain to some extent Travesty's seemingly above average writing skills, but not entirely.

Terry flipped past the essay on summer vacation and the next couple, eager though she was to read them. She knew she didn't have much time before Travesty returned, and was looking for something a little different, possibly with some fresh information about the girl. She stopped flipping when she saw the 4th assignment, which read: "Something New: Tell us about something you have just learned, not at school, but at home or somewhere outside school. Use specific sensory details from your five senses.

Yes, all the teachers must have gone to the same workshop, or they were using some general system or something, or taking handout material from the same books. Terry turned to the right to see what
Travesty had written. How old would she have been then? Maybe nine?

Look Ma, One Hand, by Travesty X Brown

Just last week, I learned to do headstands and handstands. I started with headstands. They were hard at first. My mother showed me how to put my forehead on the ground, then put my knees on my elbows, and then slowly lift my legs over my head. At first, I would sometimes do a somersault, which I'd only just learned to do last year. Or I'd get partway up and lose my balance and crash down. Or my legs would wobble all around and I would do a split if I didn't come down right away. I practiced on the rug in the living room so I wouldn't get hurt.

After a few days or maybe a week, I got so I could do it. I was so
excited. Then my Mom said, "Okay, good, now, how about a handstand?"

We walked over to Balduck Park. First Mom demonstrated how to do it. She put her hands down onto the ground and kicked her feet above her head and wobbled around a moment and then got steady. She balanced up there, put her legs together, arched her back, smiled at me and then dropped down. When she came down, she landed on her feet. My mom is pretty athletic. She used to do gymnastics before she had me. She showed me two more times, and then told me to do it. When I tried it, I started losing my balance. She grabbed my legs and held them up in the air until I was able to balance by myself. It only took me five times to get the hang of it. The first time she didn't catch my feet, I did a nosedive into the grass, and the smell of grass and greenness was in my nose all day long. I could even taste it, sort of like spinach.

Now I can do it almost every time I try. I don't even hear my heart banging in my ears any more. I've gotten used to the way the world looks upside down. I can do it in the gymnasium--I showed the gym teacher. I'm so excited about it I want to show everyone. I will do a show and tell for class if you want me to. The best thing is that once I get into a handstand with two hands, sometimes, I can lift one hand up and balance on just one hand.

Terry laughed. The teacher had given her an A++. She wondered if Travesty could still do headstands and handstands. She remembered when she had learned to do a handstand. She was in 9th grade, fourteen years old. She'd been able to do headstands since she was in second or third grade, but handstands she thought she'd never get.

Hah! She had gotten it, finally, and the pictures to prove it. She was so proud of herself and happy. The pictures were at her parent's house in upstate NY. She could picture the cabinet where her childhood the albums were stored, and was sure they were still there. She hadn't tried a handstand on land in years. She wondered if she could still do it. She probably could do in water, but that was easier, water was thicker than air and helped one get balanced. And if you fell, you fell more slowly and just floated back to the surface. Handstands in the water were fun and easy. But then again, when was the last time she'd even done one of those? Not for a while.

Terry thought about balance. It took balance to do handstands. Balance was something she had in short supply. Oh, she could walk along a fence or stand on one foot for ten minutes. But her life was
out of balance in a much deeper way, and Terry wondered briefly how she could fix that. What would a balanced life look like? She didn't have a clue.

Terry had a feeling Travesty's life was out of balance, too, no matter how good she was at handstands.
She heard Travesty coming, running into the house and then up the stairs. Terry remembered her mother saying, as a joke, "Wipe that smile off your face, you can cry, if you try." Terry wiped clean the expression of sadness she'd felt overtaking her face as she thought about her life, and replaced it with a welcoming smile for Travesty, who burst through the door grinning widely.

* * * *

I hope you have a balanced week or if not, are able to be relaxed about it.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Harvest and writing report

If you are looking for the WeekWord, it is here.

Last night, BB drove me over to the studio house.  While he brought up the trash can and checked his patch on the basement floor, I went out to check the garden.

He came out while I was still in the garden and I piled the day's harvest in his arms (later transferred them to a bag):  3 large acorn squash, 1 spaghetti squash (we'd eaten on for dinner last night, too), one yellow squash, 3 perfect okra.  It was out biggest harvest yet.  There were also lots of little ripe tomatoes which we ate out of hand, yum, like candy.

After that, I worked on my poetry Ms and my new novel.  I did have much time, so progress was limited.

Disappearing:  116-122 pp
Desire:  27-31 pp poetry is slower.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


So I wash up, go in my room, close the door and take off my bathrobe to get dressed.  

Of course, I am standing in there naked, as usual, in the interim, then stuffing my breasts into a bra etc.  Putting pad in my undies for the LEEP bleeding, which nearly done.

And then I look up and there is MAN in the tree right outside my window with a chainsaw.  Dunno how long he was there, but I suspect long enough.  :-(

If you are looking for the WeekWord, it is here.

Can I have a piggyback, Dad?

This is my take (collabortion) on one of Steve's recent Splotch Monsters. Click image to view larger.

If you are looking for the WeekWord, it is here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Yellow Lady's Slipper

I did this "painting" with Sketchpad Pro (by Autodesk) on my iPad. I did NOT touch it up on photoshop, this is straight off the iPad--I wanted it to be an untouched iPad picture. I spent several weeks working on it because Sketchpad pro is very slow (for me; I'm a newbie.) Sometimes, I used a pogo stylus, but mostly, I used my finger. I "painted" it from scratch, no photo was used. I did however, use a photo as a reference. The photo I used is one I took myself many years ago in the pouring rain. My mother stood over me with an umbrella. I did not paint all the droplets that were in the photo--that would have taken literally years to do. I just put a few representative ones in. See that floating leaf at the bottom? I tried and tried and it would not write there. So--too bad. The floating leaf is now part of the picture. C'est la vie!

If you are looking for the WeekWord, it is here.