Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Winter Thief

The Winter Thief: A Kamil Pasha Novel
by Jenny White
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Copyright 2009

I received The Winter Thief as an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in the mail along with Christmas cards and the Southern Living Cookbook I bought for my son and daughter-in-law as a gift. Ah! A gift for ME!

"December 1888. Vera Arti carries the Communist Manfesto in Armenian through Istanbul's streets, unaware of the men following her. When the police discover a shipload of guns and the Imperial Ottoman Bank is blown up, suspicion falls on a socialist commune of Arti's friends organized in the eastern mountains. Special Prosecutor Kamil Pasha is called in to investigate. He soon encounters his most ruthless adversary to date: Vahid, head of a special branch of the secret police, who has convinced the sultan that the commune is leading a secessionist movement and should be destroyed - along with surrounding villages. Kamil must stop the massacre, but he finds himself on the wrong side of the law, framed for murder and accused of treason, his family and the woman he loves threatened." (from the back cover)

Well, in the rush and pressure of the season it took me awhile to immerse myself into the derring-do of Kamil Pasha, his buddy, Omar the Police Chief, et al. Actually, it took me some time to sort and cypher names and characters, and to grasp the bureaucracy of the 1888 Ottoman Empire. The Winter Thief is the third book in the series of Kamil Pasha novels and I had not read the previous two, The Sultan's Seal and The Abyssinian Proof. I was pretty much at sea, adrift and flailing in the midst of a place and time in history about which I knew next to nothing. Now that's not all bad - it sent me to googling, reading and learning about a fascinating time and place. But I was half-way through the book before I felt comfortable and more familiar with Kamil Pasha's life and times. For these novels to be stand-alone novels there needs to be more transitional backstory interwoven into the first few chapters.

However, that said, I became enthralled with the machinations of Sultan Abdulhamid's empire and the roiling diversity, political and religious movements of an ancient culture and country with which I was only vaguely familiar. Really, very fascinating. Jenny White is a social anthropologist focused on Turkey, its history and current political culture. You can find her at

I had difficulties with the seeming naiveté and innocence of White's women characters. It made their actions seem disingenuous and I had a hard time warming up to any of them. Perhaps that's my 21st century prejudices showing, but I felt the need for more clarification, more of their stories. We got bits and pieces, but I wanted more.

But I definitely want more of Kamil Pasha….and Omar, too. I very much liked them. I will be adding the first two novels to my TBR list.

*March 15, 2010 is the release date given.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What is it....

about this time of year that can turn perfectly grounded and sane adult human beings into blithering idiots?

Now, I'm not talking the Christmas Syndrome where you feel compelled to shop for every sentient being who has smiled at you or the Perfect Parents' Psychotic Christmas Break where the pile of kids' presents is taller than the 13' foot tree you bought at full price because the youngest whined that the 6 ' one you bought last year after Christmas - 70% off! - was dorky looking.

No. Those are understandable. I've been there, done that. But what insanity drives two of the aforementioned adults to adopt a puppy in winter? When they have two other dogs and two cats already in the household?

The thermometer said -3 F this morning and I stood outside in pjs, robe and slippers, shivering, while I encouraged a four pound, 12 week old Fell Terrier named Archie to pee before our noses froze and fell off.

He didn't.

He waited until he got inside where it was warm.

I didn't blame him.

So, we will have a nice warm house this winter....that smells of puppy pee.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hats Off...

Yesterday, Veterans' Day, was my first outing since my surgery last week. Bud decided I needed an "airing out" and I agreed. I was feeling pretty grungy and pent up, so off we went for a little ride to scout out some antique stores that were new to us and some old favorites.

We made our way to Hebron IL, a farm village rediscovering its own charm with opening several antique stores on its Main Street. It was an early Tuesday morning, so we pretty much had the shops to ourselves. Lots of good stuff there to tickle our fancies, though we made no purchases. Then we took IL 173 over through Harvard IL (famous for their Milk Days) and on up to Walworth WI on Rte 14. In Walworth we stopped at an antique shop where I've found a few wonderful baskets in the past. However, I've pretty well run out of space for more baskets on top of the kitchen cabinets. Bud's threatening a basket addition to the house - but he should talk! Over a 1000 pieces of Occupied Japan porcelain and bisque fill four curio cabinets and spill out onto bedroom dressers! Of course, then there are my books... Maybe an addition might not be a bad idea...

Anyhow, we were meandering around the second floor of this shop when I suddenly felt like the air had been let out of me and I almost keeled over into a display of vintage hats. Bud was off hunting for OJ pieces someplace on the other side of the room behind the mountains of history's castoffs. I had a moment of hilarity as I thought of him discovering me passed out on the creaky oak floor with feathered and veiled pillboxes piled on top of me. He, however, would not have gotten the joke. (I hated wearing those blasted hats to church when I was a kid!) I bent myself over to get blood to my head and took some deep breaths. That helped some, but that's when I noticed a flat feeling. I still feel it and it's rather depressing.

Bud was all for hauling me straight home and tucking me in bed, and threatened that if I passed out on him he'd leave me there on the floor to fend for myself. Ever my chivalrous hero! No, by the look on his face, my face must have looked very less than blooming. He suggested a snack might revive me, so we headed over to a gas station for a quick infusion of sugar. That helped, but we headed on home anyway by way of a ride through Lake Geneva WI.

Thing is, I can't seem to get those blasted hats off my mind! Anybody remember those little things kind of shaped like butterfly wings that clutched your head, were likely made of wire and covered with velvet? They had short little veils attached that edged onto your forehead and itched? I abhored those things. I would rather have had a huge picture hat with a dramatic ostrich feather than those pesky things. I mean, if you have to wear a hat, wear a HAT, for pete's sake!

I have no idea where this hat obsession is coming from. Winter is approaching and I'll likely don my winter chappeau that looks like a black fuzzy bucket on my head. But that's about warmth and I am well over the age where I'd wear picture hats with ostrich feathers anyway.

So, I'm feeling flat and obsessing about hats. I dunno.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Gratitude . . .

I am grateful we do not own an X-box.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Figures. . .

Just when I'm all excited about NaNoWriMo, I get told that my gallbladder MUST come out. Surgery takes place on Tuesday. BUT! That gives me 10 days off from work to write! Now what I write may be pure shite, since I may be on painkillers. But I will write, dang it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


We had a gorgeous autumn day on Sunday, so I took a couple pictures out front. I figure that I likely won't be paying much attention to the out-of-doors next month once I get started writing for NaNoWriMo, so it was wonderful to have such an outstanding day.

I love autumn. It is my favorite season for the fact of the remarkable beauty it shares with us.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Planning. . . .

A week to go before NaNo begins.

I'm not generally a "planner" per se. I'm more a chunk writer who lets things come as they will. However, with NaNo looming I'm finding the need to know the "whos" and "wheres" of this fantasy world I'm creating. So, I've been googling for images of some of my characters. And found out that Rupert Grint looks very much like my MC - the current Rupert (scroll to near the bottom of the link), not the younger Rupert. Who knew?

Today I am going to attempt map drawing. I've got to get my locations straight in this world I've created. I've got to know where folks are going, where they've come from and some of this world's history. A map should help. I think. Maybe.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
Published by Europa Editions
Translated from the French by Allison Anderson

For some time now I've had an itching to take French lessons. I have no idea why. Long ago, in my ancient past, I took a semester of university French with Madame Maas and did not like the language. I think I felt it too simplistic and effete after the rigors of wrestling with German syntax and Russian verb aspects.

Perhaps, these 40 years later, I am more inclined to a search for elegance.

Muriel Barbery brings us two seemingly disparate characters - a fifty-something concierge for an elite apartment complex and a twelve-year-old daughter of one of the complex families. Both, however, are bitter, super-intelligent misfits who have built themselves into their own individual worlds of misery. They are both philosophical snobs, decrying the fallacies and foibles of those on the other sides of the invisible walls they've built around themselves.

I didn't like either of them much for the first 150 pages or so of their individual journals. I wanted to give them each a swift kick in the keister and wondered why I was even bothering to continue reading. But this is a book not just about redemption, but transformation. Barbery manages to weave a thin thread of hope of that transformation through her characters' misery. Just hints, but they held me through to the sad, but satisfying, ending.

I particularly enjoyed this passage on the joy of writing by Madame Michel, the concierge:
This is eminently true of many happy moments in life. Freed from the demands of decision and intention, adrift on some inner sea, we observe our various movements as if they belonged to someone else, and yet we admire their involuntary excellence. What other reason might I have for writing this - ridiculous journal of an aging concierge - if the writing did not have something of the art of scything about it? The lines gradually become their own demiurges and, like some witless yet miraculous participant, I witness the birth on paper of sentences that have eluded my will and appear in spite of me on the sheet, teaching me something that I neither knew nor thought I might want to know. This painless birth, like an unsolicited proof, gives me untold pleasure, and with neither toil nor certainty but the joy of frank astonishment I follow the pen that is guiding and supporting me.

Yup. I get that. Been there. Frequently.

And shortly after this passage twelve-year-old Paloma brings us this after a visit to her grandmother:
So, we mustn't forget any of this, absolutely not. We have to live with the certainty that we'll get old and that it won't look nice or be good or feel happy. And tell ourselves that it's now that matters: to build something, now, at any price, using all our strength. Always remember that there's a retirement home waiting somewhere and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying. Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity.

That's what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people.

So, basically what Barbery tells us through Madame Michel and Paloma is get out of your heads, break down your invisible walls, find your passion, and live life like it will end tomorrow, because it might. Not an original premise certainly - we hear it from motivational speakers ad infinitum - but Barbery presents it in such a very elegant way.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I'm stunned.


It's official.

I have clearly lost my mind.

I've committed myself. . . .

to writing a 50,000 word novel in one month.

I've joined the thousands of other loonies who do this every November.

What have I done?

How can I possibly?

What will I write?

I'm stunned.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tyranny of the Tiny

Here's another from my archives that hit me today as very appropriate for some reason.

We had a cat as a family many moons ago named Isaiah. I've spoken about him someplace, I think - Isaiah the Grumpy Prophet. He could drop you in your tracks, pull you up short with one of his dirty looks from across the room. Just walk in, he'd look at you and you felt that all the secrets you hold from other people and yourself were being laid bare in front of you and you better straighten up and fly right, sister!

He wasn't a big cat, rather small and not very muscular, and rather non-descript mottled gray tabby. We called him Tiny as a kitten. I'm not sure who came up with it, but when this would happen - the moments we suffered this look of accountability - we had a brief "prayer" we'd vocalize.
"Lord, save us from the Tyranny of the Tiny."

Perhaps we're suffering a time of walking through the little stuff - the Tyranny of the Tiny. The everyday crappiness that gets in our way. The debris of past little bits that show up like spinach stuck in your teeth.

You know, we both...and some others...have gone through a year of "big stuff." We've landed in places both physical and spiritual which we could not have imagined.... But life isn't all about the big stuff. Mostly it's about the Tyranny of the Tiny. So, I think we're in kind of a limbo energy-wise (though the RC church now says there is no limbo! Who'd a thunk?!), coming down from the mountain and assimilating the little stuff that bugs the crap out of us.

*goofy sentimental, knowing smile*
You're okay.
I'm okay.
Lord, save us from the Tyranny of the Tiny.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Money and Charity

I was scrolling through old documents looking for something else (which I have yet to find...grrr) when I ran across something I'd written for a forum post three years ago. The discussion was about money and charity and the question was put out if anyone really thought there was a case where throwing money at a situation actually helped? Specifically, a global situation.

The following is what I wrote. I'm not sure I actually posted it or not. I often write things and then don't post them. But since I've heard so much discussion about "lack" these days, I thought I might put this here.

It's got me thinking.

I suppose it depends on what the expectations are. If $ are thrown at a situation with the expectations of creating something to agree with a specific set of expectations...then, I'd so no, it never works. But if $ are given with the intent and expectation that they will flow where they are needed, then, yes, it does work.

What outcome is expected? That every dollar will be spent in a specific manner? Wisely and creatively in the manner the giver expects?

Money is funny stuff. It circulates, you see. It doesn't just buy something and then, that's it. It moves on. Sometimes it is spent foolishly or dangerously. Sometimes gambled away. Sometimes it sits in an account (or behind a radiator wrapped in plastic bags and a shoebox in my mother-in-law's case) for a long period of time and seemingly produces nothing. Most often it is wielded as power for control of others.

Now think of love. You could apply all the above also to love, couldn't you? Does love ever end? Do we ever see the final outcome of love?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that energy spontaneously disperses from being localized to becoming spread out if it is not hindered from doing so. And even if it is hindered what happens? Nothing? Poof! – energy gone? Nope, it changes to something else and moves on.

Okay, Betty…get real here, we’re talking about money. Money! You see that’s the thing….our perception of what money is and how that results in those expectations. I’ve had to look loooooong and hard at this. Money…both having and not having it…has been one of my greatest fears. Thing is…one never HAS it. You can’t. It comes and goes. It circulates. It flows. It disperses, gets hindered, and goes off in another direction. So, actually, we’re wrangling energy and trying to direct it in the directions we perceive as having the best outcome. We can do our best to direct it wisely and creatively with the understanding that it is temporary and must flow on.

It’s akin to herding cats. You do your best, but you can count on a mighty small percentage making it where you want em to go. Some folks will be better at it than others, but since one knows the nature of cats, I wouldn’t give up my day job to become a cat herder. They are independent little cusses and you’re likely to come away covered in scratches and the ones you have penned are often creative enough to find another way out anyway.

And one also knows the nature of humans and their current perceptions of money (money=power?) and charity. Charity once upon a time meant “love of humankind.” Hmmmm. What does that tell you about that perception? Somewhere along the line it changed, didn’t it? Maybe it got hindered by the money=power perception?

So, should we just give up giving to charities? Walk past the guy with his hand out because he looks disreputable and will likely spend it on booze or drugs or cigarettes, or maybe he’s really got an old beater around the corner or a watch on his wrist that he could sell and why should you give him anything if he has that? That cat obviously isn’t going to go where you want it to.

Or is this charity going to spend their money in a proper manner? One can do their research, but there is always doubt about exactly where that hard-earned money is going to go. Another cat going astray.

What’s the perception? What’s the intent?

Now if one’s perception of charity truly is a love of mankind, then intent will be followed by action. And most often that particular perception is not followed by the intent of “throwing money” at a situation. It will be followed by involvement in some manner. Volunteerism, advocacy, service, etc.

However! Money finds its way. Perhaps a percentage of that money makes its way to someone who truly needs it at the moment and then it moves on…someplace else. Or, even if that money sits in an account in the Cayman Islands for awhile or buys someone a new Mercedes and a palatial estate, it still will go someplace else later. And we have no idea where it will go or how it is spent. Who will benefit? Will they be worthy of our donation? Worth? By whose perception?

It’s the perception that determines the intent and the action. How do we change a global perception? We change our own first, then the Second Law of Thermodynamics takes over one cat at a time and disperses on its way. We have no control over the outcome.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Writing Buddies

Above are my Writing Buddies. That's the usual scene behind me as I sit at my desk here. Only problem comes when, like at the moment, Dusty (the one nearest my pillow) decides it's playtime. This happens maybe once or twice a week. Then he and Brandy (the head's-up one) go tearing through the house chasing and growling at each other. It's very annoying and not conducive to thoughtful structure of devastatingly beautiful prose when they ram into my chair and desk and knock my coffee on the floor. Huh.

Now what is interesting in the above photo is my feline soul partner, Fox, stretched out there between the two black monsters. He and Dusty get on very well, always have. But Fox and Brandy have a mutual fascination with surprising one another into mini-chases through the house. They're like typical siblings who can't seem to keep from torturing one another.

However, they will lay that aside for naps. Ahhh, the Great Schlaf! I am continually grateful for both the canine and feline propensity for napping.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fish Fry

Well, mine didn't look exactly like that in the picture, but close enough.

Yesterday we had Stephanie and Chad over for a Perch Fry. The Perch were some we'd caught while at Keystone. Saturday we'd stopped at the local farm stand (Stade's) for sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and green pepper. Their sweet corn is wonderful! The kind that dribbles down your chin in lovely sweetness with every bite. Nirvana!

I fixed the Perch as my mother and grandmother did before me. I can't even remember when I first fixed fish...I'm sure it was as a child...just don't remember. It's done very simply. Dip the fillets in an egg-milk wash, dredge them in flour-salt-pepper mixture, saute in olive oil (we used to use butter or shortening, but those days are long gone) until golden brown. Nothing fancy. With fresh fish that's really all one needs. The fish is flakey, tender and delightful. Nothing gets in their way.

I also fixed potatoes with onions. Now, here I repent. The flavor depends on a buttery taste, so I've been using I Can't Believe It's Not Butter...and lots of it. We don't have these often anymore, they are a sinful delight. Saute the onions, add sliced potatoes and get them a little brown around the edges, add a 1/2 cup of water and simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Yum.

I added a side-dish of fresh, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers.

Oh, Steph and I sipped a Reisling that went quite well with the fish. And dessert, about an hour later, was vanilla ice cream with Smuckers Dark Chocolate topping.

It was a good, honest, filling meal.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Day the Falls Stood Still

The Day the Falls Stood Still
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
A Hyperion book
copyright 2009

Once again when I got home from my Canadian vacation I had an ARC awaiting me in my stack of mail! What a treat to come home to! Even more of a treat because The Day the Falls Stood Still takes place during a time-span that fascinates me - WWI and just after.

My father told of how, when he was a child and his father was in bed with the Spanish flu, dad would listen on his home-made crystal radio for war news and move thumbtacks on a map of Europe so his father could keep track of what was transpiring. Dad was all of 8-10 years old at the time.

The Day the Falls Stood Still
takes place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls beginning in 1915 when Bess Heath was a seventeen year old convent school girl. She was the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. The advent and boom of hydro-electric power moves her story and the story of her family through the following years.

Bess meets and falls in love with Tom Çole, a riverman whose almost psychic connection with the Niagara has made him, as it did his grandfather, a legend in his own time. When events transpire that make him a threat to the power companies, Bess' and Tom's marriage is also threatened.

The story is very loosely based on an actual legendary Niagara riverman, William "Red" Hill. Throughout the book are actual photos taken of some of events mentioned and fictional newspaper clippings that put the reader right there, in the moment, of what is happening.

I've never visited Niagara Falls, but throughout reading this book I swear I could hear the rush of water in the background. Buchanan does a wonderful job of putting us there, in the moment. Bess is beautifully written. We see her grow from a silly, privileged school girl into a strong, passionate, self-sufficient woman.

My only quibble is that there is much use of flashback and it gets quite predictable fairly soon. And while it might be argued that this mirrors Bess'(and her culture's) feet originally stuck in the past and her eventual movement toward balance, it was still very annoying at times. Flashbacks for backstory always make me feel like the author went, "Whoops! I forgot to tell you this... " But aside from this, Buchanan tells a powerful and engrossing story.

I would definitely recommend The Day the Falls Stood Still to anyone interested in this time period, Niagara Falls, hydro-electric power, or just a plain good story.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Bud reminded me that I forgot to report something about our Northwoods experience. Shame on me!

Bud had caught one of his biggest Bass and I was taking the picture. I had set my rod down propped against the side of the boat, jig plus worm dangling just slightly at water-line. I was about to press the camera button when Bud stood up, "Your rod!"

I turned around and NO ROD! Bud saw it disappear over the side of the boat! Those Bass are aggressive little buggers and one obviously took advantage of a tasty meal hanging like the proverbial carrot in front of his nose.

My nice, lightweight, Shimano rod was gone! Phooey! Bud's custom crafted for him G. Loomis (no relation) rods just didn't feel right - stiffer, heavier. I was bummed.

We went on fishing. Bud caught more Bass. I moped. (Damn Bass! Grumble...grumble...grumble)

About an hour later as I was sighing and deciding to just get on with it, Betty, this is silly, when Bud says, "Hey! Look what I got!"

My rod!!! He was hauling in my rod, complete with reel, jig...and still wriggling worm! He thought he had a weed or, maybe, a Northern on the other end. But what were the chances that it would be my rod, for Pete's sake??? Geeez!

Bud said we'd used up all our luck for the week right then and there.

However, we did come into Walleye later in the week anyway. But not as many Bass after that. That Bass must have gotten more than he bargained for and spread the word.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back from the Northwoods

We got back early Sunday afternoon from our 2009 sojourn into Northwestern Ontario. I have a hard time getting myself back into my usual routine when home. Yesterday, I just went through the motions, today I'm starting to actually be consciously aware of what's going on around me. I'd much rather not, but I gotta.

Bud says that this trip could be boiled down to two words, "Wet ass!" The seat of his pants never seemed to dry out because his seat cushion in the boat we used was perpetually soggy! It rained. It sprinkled. It poured down in buckets. It spit at us. It thundered. It boomed. It lightninged. It cracked. It shocked us awake in the middle of the night, hearts thumping, skin tingling. For seven out of the 10 days we were there.

The sun did manage to peep out for short periods between showers (that brought out some beautiful rainbows!), so we did get out between the worst deluges. We had brought with us some good rain gear to help keep us dry, but it was rather discouraging to have to skitter back to camp with the first rumble of thunder just when the walleye would start biting again!

We knew that the weather had been miserable up there for the previous two weeks, but we got a phone call from the Frostiaks, the Keystone Lodge owners and proprietors, the day before we left and they told us that they would meet us to transport our belongings from the one mile mark from the camp because that last mile of the road was washed out! Indeed, when we turned onto the 8 mile gravel road that leads to the camp we were met a couple miles in by a worn, wet and bedraggled looking Dave Frostiak on his ATV telling us that, instead, we and our belongings would be transported via boat from a sister camp to Keystone. Our van stayed parked at the Northern Lights camp for the duration. Heather, the 15 yr old Frostiak daughter, navigated our boat for the 40 minute lake ride, in the rain, to Keystone Lodge. She made a wrong turn at one point and her brother, Mike, didn't let her live that down all week! It was, definitely, not an auspicious beginning to the week.

That ride started Bud's chronic ear infection to start ferociously up again despite the precautionary meds he was taking. Wednesday, one of the days the sun managed to stay out until late afternoon, we hopped in a boat, made the 40 minute trip back to the van and went to the Dryden hospital (another hour+ ride). A tiny, petite, very young woman doctor named Esther (What young woman is named Esther these days? And if I saw her on the street I'd think I was pushing it if I thought she was 20!) dressed in blue jeans and hoodie prescribed different meds for Bud and off we went back to camp. Blessedly, the meds worked wonders! Thank you, Esther!

Saturday, the Frostiaks thought it might be safe, after a couple of dry days, to try transporting us out of camp over that mile of washed out road. We headed out in the Suburban. Yikes! That road was one big mud pit! Shortly before we hit that mile mark we got mired to the axles. Bud and I sat in the Suburban while Mike Frostiak dejectedly slogged back to camp for reinforcements. He and another camp visitor came back, Mike on the ATV and the visitor in a truck. We transferred our belongings to the truck. . . . then the truck got mired. . . .

Mike went back to camp on the ATV. He and Dave came back on the ATV with a covered trailer attached. Most of our belongings fit into the trailer and I got my first ATV ride with Dave back to the camp. We unloaded and he went back for Bud and more of our stuff. We wound up boating back to our van at the other camp in that visitor's very de-luxe boat. Lovely thing! And we made the trip in half the time! But what a muddy, soggy mess we were!

The Frostiaks were continually apologizing, poor things. But what could they have done? They had no more control over the weather than anyone else! They did everything they could and, as usual, bent over backwards to make everyone as comfortable as possible. Neither Bud nor I have any complaints about Keystone Lodge and its proprietors. Quite the contrary. They did all they could to make our stay a good one. And it was, despite the crummy weather. We caught lots of fish! Northwestern Ontario is gorgeous, even in the rain. We rested, slept and ate well while we were there. And the company was the best! They are plain, good folks.

Anyhow.... despite those adventures, there were others to be had! On our way up to Keystone I saw a Wolf! It was just standing amid some trees by the side of the road somewhere between Duluth and Twig, MN. I just stared at it as I went by, hardly believing my eyes! Beautiful character. Lanky and sinewy, golden and black coat, standing there, panting, looking like he was considering whether he should risk trying to cross the road or not. There was no question in my mind it was a Wolf and not a dog. My gosh, he was beautiful. For an hour afterward I just sat smiling to myself.

We also saw a couple of Beavers, three very playful Otters, countless Loons and Bald Eagles, Deer - one particularly handsome fellow with a marvelous rack - and a Moose! Well, Bud saw a Moose. I saw a brown lump on the edge of the water from too far away to determine what that brown lump was and so I turned away. Then Bud says, "A Moose!" He saw it stand up from bending down and drinking and walk back into the woods. So, I kinda saw a Moose.

I got two good books read while waiting for rain to stop. One, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, I will recommend to anyone. It is a treasure. And the other was a Temperance Brennan novel, Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs, the novels that inspired the TV show Bones. Gruesome at times, but fun stuff to read.

So that's my foray into the Northwestern Ontario wilderness for 2009.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marketing, This and That . . .

This is going to be a rather muddled post. Follows my current brain pattern, I guess. (The Boss and I will be leaving for Canada on Tuesday and I have bug spray, worms, and sweatshirts muddled in along with all the following up there in my noggin.)

Marketing...that's the thread here. While I have a B.A. in Business, marketing got short shrift in my courses. Suited me fine back then - I had no idea I'd need to market myself and my skills when I hit 60 years old. But that's what I'm looking at with Swan Church Services. What to do? How do I put SCS out there? And where? Exactly whom do I target? And how do I get past that cringing little person inside me whose mother exhorted her to not impose herself on others?

I'm not the only one facing the daunting challenge of marketing in this web-oriented world. My friend, Cinnamon Moon, recently launched a Spiritual Studies website at Spirit in conjunction with her Spirit Lodge discussion board where I met her many moons ago. She has even more exciting marketing plans in the works for the future.

And there's my friend, Michelle Frost (who blogs over at Crow's Feet), who has put together this wonderful trailer for promotion of her very exciting debut novel, First Light.

Michelle is an excellent story-teller and a lyrical writer. I am so excited for her. First Light is a beautiful story with characters who draw you in and make you want to know more about them. Michelle hints that a sequel may be in the works. I dearly hope so!

Anyhow, Michelle has taken the leap into creating that trailer to promote her book. How exciting is that!

And then over on Writer Unboxed, I read an article by J.C. Hutchins who promoted his first novel, 7th Son, via a freebie Podcast when that was a mere fledling art. Now, along with a flourishing website that promotes the work of other authors as well as his own, Hutchins novel 7th Son: Descent, picked up by St. Martin's Press, will be in bookstores this fall!

How does one do this? This marketing thing? I am awed.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Homer's Odyssey

Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper
Published by Delacorte Press
an imprint of Random House Publishing
Available in Hardcover August 25, 2009

I've lived with cats now for 38 years. Currently, I reside with two felines - Fox, my soul partner, who came to me at 5 weeks old, a petite, biege fluffball with huge blue eyes and chocolate points and who grew into a 10 pound long-haired moose, and Buster, a very vocal, tiny black/white, sleek, lovable acrobat whose favorite spot to sleep is on Bud's head.

I love cats. I love their independent and entitled spirits, their barbarism and their delicacy. They are paradoxes that slink on tiny, fastidious, lethal toes. They are capable of anything. I love that about them.

And they call us mere humans to account for ourselves. The first time my prospective daughter-in-law visited me and Fox in our then apartment, Fox did what he naturally does. He checked her out by sitting smack in front of her on the floor and stared at her with his huge, blue eyes. Just sat and stared. After a few minutes, she began to squirm and asked me if I could get my cat to quit staring at her, it made her very nervous.

I didn't blame her. It's a very predatory behavior. It makes us nervous. We humans, after all, are supposed to be at the top of the food chain, yes? A cat's predatory behavior reminds us that we are, in fact, predators ourselves. We have that in common. Predators are survivors. They take those leaps of faith that are less choice than necessity.

Homer's Odyssey is the memior of a cat that, not only is blind, but has no eyes at all. His eyes removed as a kitten due to infection, Homer never knew what it was to be a cat with eyes. Gwen Cooper rescues Homer from euthanasia after being gently cajoled by a Veterinarian friend to do so. Gwen wonders what she is getting herself into and, indeed, Homer's presence in her life and the lives of her two other cats, Scarlet and Vashti, changes them all forever.

Homer's and Gwen's story, for this is really more about Gwen than Homer, is touching and inspiring as one would expect a pet memoir to be. But it is not maudlin or mawkish, it doesn't even ask us to run out and adopt disabled cats.

Their story is more about respect. Respect for each other, human and feline, in all our marvelous diversity of peculiarities and frailties. Respect for the primal, survivor, predatory traits that we share. Respect for that which compels us to leaps of faith, that "stuff" that moves us forward when the odds may otherwise be stacked against us.

Homer is Gwen's eyeless mirror. He couldn't sit and stare, but he sure as heck made himself known in other ways.

A well-written memoir, each chapter prefaced by a quote from that other Homer's Odyssey, Gwen Cooper gives us not just another cat story, but a reflective look at what makes us uniquely human, as well as what makes a cat uniquely feline.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Our Present Past...

I've been scanning and uploading old family photos to Facebook to be shared with the scattered remnants of the Lindholm-Gentleman-Navta clans. There aren't many of us. And we're getting fewer and fewer as the years go by.

That twerpy girl in the middle above is me. I'm about 8 years old there and that was my beloved bike. It was a cream and green, Huffy Convertible 20 incher. Oh, how I loved that bike! It took me to the monkey bars at Dawes school and the Tastee Freeze for hot fudge sundaes. It was freedom on two wheels.

Those two other characters are my cousins. The one sitting on the handle bars, Jack, was a year or so older than I. He passed away at the very young age of 27 - a very sad story I won't go into here. The other character (and, oh, do I mean character!) is my cousin, Bill, who is 3 years my senior.

I look at this picture and realize that Bill is really the only remaining peer of our generation who actually remembers me as this twerpy girlchild. I do have a couple 2nd cousins out there, but we were never as close. Bill and I have shared holidays, graduations, funerals, weddings, births, divorces - it's been a long haul of changes and transitions.

Now we do have a few remaining elders in our family - my Uncle Bud, Bill's father and my godfather, will be 94 this month. He is our precious link to that generation whom we greatly miss.

Perhaps it is because I didn't have siblings that this strikes me as so unique and important. Perhaps it's taken for granted if you have siblings? I don't know. But it is so affirming to have someone who can look at me now - white haired and wrinkled - and see the woman I am and know all I have lived through, but also see that twerpy girlchild.

It's a gift.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Well, we finally made it to Wrinkled Pages. I'm not sure why it has taken so long to get there, but I am so glad we did! Oh, my. It's a wonderful little store filled with delight. I came home with Margaret Lawrence's Roanoke, Lauren Willig's The Masque of the Black Tulip, Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, Alison Weir's Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Todd McCaffrey's Dragon Harper. And I barely touched the Fiction section at all, really. And there was a whole room full of Historical Romance that I just walked through with my mouth hanging open.

And I was not alone. Bud bought four books about the Vietnam War! We both walked out the door with satisfied little smirks on our faces.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Writing Prompt...

I was posting old family photos on Facebook for the younger gen of the combined clans today when I became entranced by this one of my mother, my aunt, and an unknown young woman circa early 1940s. Mom's a little bit blurry on the right, sassy Aunt Kay is in the middle. They are walking down a Chicago street, likely wartime (WWII). Notice the short skirts (particularly Aunt Kay's - Goodness, almost a mini!).

Mom worked for the 5th Army Quartermaster Depot in Chicago at this time. Don't know what Aunt Kay was about then. But don't they look the trio of young business women strutting along on a beautiful summer's day? Where are they going? Out to lunch? Shopping? What are they chatting about?

Ooooo...I so would love the story....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Passions. . . .

Yesterday, three boxes were at our doorstep when we got home from work. One was for me, two were for Bud. Mine, of course, was from Amazon - books! Oh, yes! I've already started Foxmask by Juliet Marillier, the second in her Wolfskin series. And on deck now I have another of Laura Childs' Tea Shop mysteries, The Jasmine Moon Murder; Jane Lindskold's Wolf's Blood, a Firekeeper book; and The Sparks Fly Upward, another of the Makepeace Burke books by Diana Norman (Ariana Franklin). Ooooo...I'm just itching to get at them all!

But I want to share about another passion - Bud's passion for collecting Occupied Japan figurines. That's what was in the other two boxes.

I've never been much of a collector - except for books, of course. I just can't seem to find anything I feel worth collecting. Oh, I take that back. I do have a collection of baskets. But they were collected with a purpose - filling in the space above the kitchen cabinets. Now, unless a basket reeeeally strikes me as something I just have to have, the collection is done. Complete. Finis.

But for Bud, it's really the process of collecting that is the passion, I think. Not that some the figurines aren't downright gorgeous and beautifully crafted - quite the contrary. Like the Jester here.
Bud lusted after this piece for many years. It is truly exquisite.

One of my favorites is The Recital. I love the delicacy of hands playing the instruments in this one. Lovely things. And I've gotten so that when we are out haunting the flea markets and antique shops I can hone in on what might be a piece of Occupied Japan porcelain. Bud can saunter through the aisles with an eagle eye for the stuff. Remarkable. It's like he has a specialized radar for it. Of course, he's been collecting it for some twenty-odd years now.

But I truly believe it is The Hunt for him. He spends much of his time on E-Bay now. Most of the truly good pieces can only be found there. When we are out hunting we can find smaller pieces, but we never see pieces such as these two now. E-Bay collectors have snatched them all up. It's rather sad.

But then, I wonder. Someday my passion for the feel, scent and delight in ownership of books may be passe. Kindle and its clones are fast making inroads and changing the face of publishing.

Both of our passions may become a lot more expensive in future and really....just not the same passionate feeling at all. *sigh*

Sad. Very sad.

I've been away....

Well, I've not been posting here, so I've been away from here. Actually, I've been very much at home. Too much at home. My hours were cut back at the church from full-time to part-time - 2 days a week. Yes, isn't the economy lovely?

Ah, well. I go with the flow, but one does need to support one's self. Sooo, I've been creating a little free-lance business of my own doing basically what I do at my job - desktop publishing for churches. That's bulletins, newsletters, brochures, flyers, etc. I'm a Virtual Church Assistant! I have also added editing and proofreading services, as well.

It is called Swan Church Services and you may find it HERE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
Published by Riverhead Books of
The Penguin Group

The Cellist of Sarajevo is a very personal and condensed account of the Seige of Sarajevo (1992-1996) during the Bosnian War through the stories of three individuals - four, if you count the cellist himself. The cellist, however, is more a focus point around which this riveting story is told. Everyday for 22 days the cellist played the same tune at the same site where a mortar attack killed his friends and neighbors. This was a true event.
See photo here.

I vaguely remember those years, ’92-’96. I was a busy working mother at the time. The Bosnian War played like Muzak through the days of my life. I was aware, but hardly conscious of what was going on. Reading Arrow’s, Dragan’s and Kenan’s stories of daily living with sniper fire, no water or electricity, the fear of what the next day might bring, I felt and saw an almost contrapuntal weaving of events during those years - their lives and mine playing totally different and dissonant tunes and yet weaving around one another.

It is a lovely book, a lyrical book. I was drawn into the characters’ lives, walked the sniper-infested streets with them, hid in the shadows of their bombed out buildings and homes with them, heard hope in the notes of Albinoni’s Adagio with them.

My only argument would be with the last three chapters where Galloway gets a little preachy and tells us what we already really know. Arrow, Dragan and Kenan told us. We didn’t need a summation.

But I definitely recommend this book. Read it. Please.