Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jefferson Baths

The Jefferson Baths (Ladies Section)

We spent an hour, way back at the end of April, in these warm spring waters in the hills of Virginia.  We were staying at The Homestead, which owns the Jefferson Baths, and decided to try the experience. First of all, this is a photo of the roof reflecting in the water. Those lumps you can see (if you squint) are big rocks on the bottom of the pool. Water rushes continually through the bathhouse and is crystal clear and loaded with minerals. The roof itself is as rickety looking as the building around the pool (peeling wood, warping and not too stable-looking), and the skylight is open. The light from the holes in the roof dances around the water, and the effect is other-worldly.

If I were Dean Koontz, I'd open a horror novel here. Warm mineral waters, dancing sunlight, decrepit structure, yeah, just what the aliens like.

On another note, why doesn't The Homestead maintain the building better? I can understand retaining its historic integrity, but on the other hand, shouldn't it get a little help?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Web Site Down/Description in Fiction

The two items in the title for this blog have absolutely nothing to do with each other, but what the heck.  I believe in stream of consciousness.  Sometimes.

Purely by accident, I discovered my web site is down. Hopefully, it'll be fixed and running soon, but sheesh...wish I were a web-designer techie so I could understand the lingo. I have a hard enough time with English.

Now for the more pleasant ruminations: description in fiction.  We listened to an old Michael Connally (1996) on our road trip through the cornfields of Wisconsin, and I declare, I wanted to haul out a big red pen and start marking through whole paragraphs. Why do I care what Bosch cooked for dinner?   I wanted to fast forward through the story like crazy to get to the action, the dialogue.  Then I realized, I'm more accustomed to the current style, in which all that description is terse and truncated.  As our society becomes more attuned to "faster is better," books have to keep up with that trend.  Read an early Elmore Leonard, and then a new one, and you'll see what I mean.  (I still want Leonard to write westerns again, sigh.)

My critique partner and I are in continual discussion about "how much description is too much?"  I want enough to see the characters, where they are, and how it affects them in the context of the action of the story.  I'm visually oriented, and when I write, I "see" what is happening. (Art history degree here...every piece of art tells a story.)  But I've learned to write more and more dialogue, because that's one way to move the story forward quickly.  I also think more people "hear" a story more than "see" it, as I do.  While I adore Dean Koontz's poetic descriptions, I think it's because I just like his language.  It doesn't advance the story, not every time he lapses into it.  But he's the master storyteller, as far as I'm concerned, and as long as he writes those beautiful, emotionally descriptive scenes, I'm with him. Of course, I have to have my dictionary close at hand, LOL.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Green Lake

This is my Beloved, standing where his family would put in their dock every summer for their boat, in Green Lake, Wisconsin.  He has fond memories of summers there as a child, and wanted to walk me through his old stomping grounds.  I now understand his affinity for lakes, while I'm an ocean gal myself. 

We stayed at the Heidel House, a hotel and conference center I can't recommend. If you go, stay in a B&B on the lake.  Or better yet, rent a cottage on Green Lake Terrace.  The views alone are worth the trip.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Home Again

We're back from a VERY long road trip, to Green Lake, Wisconsin, Batavia, Illinois, and Evanston, Illinois.Green Lake was a nostalgia trip for my Beloved, who spent summers there as a child. Lovely place. Will post more later.

I wanted to mention a book I read in the car on the long drive, Fran Shaff's FOR LOVE OF MAGGIE. It's a sweet romance, but what makes it different is that the heroine is a single mom to a child with Down Syndrome. Everyone in the story (except for the lone bad guy), is motivated by love to help a child. Getting it right between the two
protagonists isn't easy. No bed hopping, though there's plenty of sexual tension. No profanity. It's a tough book to write, from an author's viewpoint, but Fran pulls it off. Far above your average romance.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kurt Busch

I've avoided thinking about what's going on with Kurt Busch, mostly because I don't know.  In a way, I think he's become a target in NASCAR, the driver with attitude (and they all have it, or they wouldn't be driving at that level) who has the bulls eye from hell on his back when it comes to the Powers that Be, i.e. NA$CAR.  

It must be said, the guy has a mouth on him.  Unfortunately, he uses it rather savagely whenever cameras or recording equipment are around. The language isn't all that unusual (anyone ever listen to Dale Jr berate Tony Eury Jr. during a race during his first year with Hendrick?), but Kurt has a way of twisting the bon mots around so they're particularly acerbic. I mean, the guy has battery acid in his voice when he's really ticked off. Crew guys  and crew chiefs don't like it, but it's part of the game with certain drivers.

Reporters, however, tattle. Or get tattled.  Dr. Jerry Punch didn't know a fan was recording Kurt's bullets of profanity, a video that got Kurt fired from Penske.  Bob Pockrass did ask a dumb question (for the fourteenth time, it seems, that Kurt had to listen to it), pushing the proverbial hot buttons that tripped the wire on Kurt's grenade. As Kurt explosions go, it was pretty tame and profanity-free.

But it was enough. Kurt knows he's a marked man.  He needs to bite his tongue until it's hamburger, or get out of the sport before he's ignominiously kicked out.  He's a wheel man, and I say, let him have the wheel. You know you get the mouth with the talent. (Joe Gibbs and Tony Stewart, anyone?) James Finch seems more concerned with wrecked race cars, and if Kurt gets the boot at Phoenix Racing, it'll probably be over the money issue with continually stuffing a car in the wall.

I imagine James Finch can curse with the best of them, Kurt being among the best.  I don't like the language, but I get that it's part of the culture.  They're probably two peas in a pod, James Finch and Kurt Busch. I hope they can make a go of it. Phoenix Racing deserves its time in the sun, and Kurt needs to get back to the UV rays spotlight.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trimming the junk

It's the small stuff. The forks coming out of the dishwasher that still have rice between the tines.  The dog and cat fur that breeds like bunnies.  The flotsam and jetsam of life that builds up on the stairs, the newel post, beside the front door with the leashes, the boots, and the cushions for the lawn chairs, carried inside on a rainy afternoon.  Sometimes I think a tipi really is the way to go, but I've tried that. The smoke never did exit the flap correctly, the ground is hard as the dickens, and in the summer heat and humidity, there's no air so you're a sweaty mess.  What's the solution?

Ignoring it seems like a good plan until it's yipping at your ankles to be cleaned, picked up and put away, or shoved into someone else's closet. I'm too jealous of my quiet time at the computer, writing, to be able to stand hearing someone else running the vacuum cleaner or knocking the broom on the outside porch.  It's a dilemma all writers face: do the laundry or finish the chapter first?

I think the perfect solution is less to clean, pick up, or keep track of.  Closets have been my enemy for a couple of weeks now, and I ruthlessly toss into the Goodwill pile.  No one sees their shiny emptiness or organization but moi.  Which is fine.  Goodness knows, they'll fill up with junk again. But for now, I have some semblance of order somewhere. 

Order isn't a necessity for this writer, but it helps.  You wouldn't know it by looking at my desk area, but there is a reason for the piles. I know what's there. They need a ruthless weeding, but that'll come on the next rainy day.  While all this pruning and tossing is going on, I'm pruning and tossing the WIP in my head.

It's all good.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


A friend at my college reunion reminded me of the time I almost set the dorm on fire, burning letters from ex-boyfriends in a trash basket. Hey, it was all that was available! I vaguely remember the incident, but what I most remember is not wanting my future kids to read anything even I didn't want to read.  I have to take back that sentiment, at least most of it.

In going through boxes of old photos and letters from my parents' house, I've discovered a treasure trove of history.  While I never knew my father's parents took an extended trip through Europe in 1954, my grandmother kept a travel journal, filled with post cards and observations, many of them astute.  It was such fun to read about her disbelief in certain superstitions, her abhorrence of the pigeons in St. Mark's Square, and her sleuthing to find out the real identity of the mystery man who ate every evening at the captain's table on the boat back to the States. She decided he was a spy. I also learned that the Duke of Windsor was very nice, but his duchess only clever and rather cold, albeit very well preserved.  The Duke of Edinburgh was all that he should be, and Field Marshal Montgomery had a summer chateau near Fountainbleau.  Oh, and the pope was also very charming. How I wish I'd known my grandparents had these stories to tell!

She called my grandfather "Sugar" when she wrote him letters, and her concern for his welfare was always uppermost.  She admonished him to not let the gray weather get him "down," and to keep track of everyone wining and dining him while she was away, so she could repay them with dinners once she got home. The letters sound so much like her, I can almost hear her voice.

My mother wrote her mother religiously, every week. Fortunately my grandmother saved the ones that came from the Middle East, and reading about events I still remember, only from my mother's viewpoint, is fascinating. I didn't realize she was fully cognizant of how bored I was in school, and how much I longed to be an ordinary American teenager, not an "ugly American" living abroad. Politics, espionage, concern for the welfare of Middle Eastern women, and the constant hassle of entertaining on an Embassy level, filled her letters as well. Fortunately, my mom spoke enough Turkish and French to be a real asset to my dad, the army attache', and reading about her linguistic maneuvers on his behalf are a  hoot!

Since enjoying this reading repast, I am determined to write more letters of my own. Photos now languish on my hard drive, emails get deleted, and text messages replace conversations.  The one thing I can do to give myself the feeling of keeping something important from slipping into obscurity, is to write people. Friends. Family. The newspaper.  It doesn't matter.

The written word does.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Facebook and Avalon Books

I did it. After much denial, backing up so fast I tripped, and swearing I'd never join the Devil's Outpost, I am now on Facebook. Taking it slowly.  Getting help from my daughter.  I still don't "get" it, but then, she doesn't "get" Twitter.  So we're even.

My second publisher, Avalon Books (Thomas Bouregy & Co.) sold its backlist to Amazon Publishing this week. The authors who connect on a listserv just for Avalon writers are in a quandary, since so many questions remain, such as, will there be new books printed by Amazon? Will there be print versions at all? What about ebooks? Who is first in the queue?  I have a hundred questions like that, and hopefully, they'll be answered by Amazon, since the former owner of Avalon isn't very forthcoming.  In fact, the sale was a shock to all of us who have published there, especially since Avalon has been in business since 1950.  Amazon can't be worse than the publisher, since she steadfastly and unreasonably refused to return print rights, even after the five or ten year reversion clause kicked in, and no one could buy any of the books in a "new" edition.  The secondary market was doing just fine, but that's of no use to the author!  All in all, this sale may be a good deal.  We'll see.  It's still sad that an old, established publishing house couldn't keep up with the changes in publishing, such as ebook editions.

I authored seven historical westerns with Avalon, and they remain some of my favorite stories.