There are two things I have tried and tried over my lifetime, that I have proved over and over again that I am no damned good at. No matter how I apply myself, and even though every once in a while I have small successes, in the end, the best I can hope for is… mediocre.
Those two things are gardening and cooking.
The cooking part is easily explained. I have a lousy sense of smell and thus a poor palate, plus I’m allergic and/or sensitive to many yummy foods. So while I can follow a recipe, true mastery of the culinary art is forever beyond me. (Which, by the way, does not prevent me from idolizing Gordon Ramsay, and learning from him)
There is neither reason nor excuse for my black gardening thumb. I come from a line of people who can stick pencils in sand and grow palm trees. I can see what others do, I can follow directions, but the ability to grow a garden eludes me. And pray for any poor houseplant who makes it way through my doors. Its days are numbered and it will, without a doubt, meet some sort of gruesome end.
Julia Rachel Barrett, on the other hand, is both an excellent cook AND a gardener. Don’t believe me? Look here and here and here and here. And if you want a good laugh, look here. I won’t post a bunch of links to her articles about cooking, but you can follow her blog for some yumilicious ideas.
Am I jealous? No! Okay a little bit. Mostly I am inspired.
And so today, after watching the extended weather forecast closely, because this is Colorado where sunny, 80 degree days are often followed by three feet of snow days, I decided to make attempt #1,732 at growing something in my garden plot.
First I had to find gloves. In the garage. The old man’s domain. I love the guy, have put up with him for 30+ years, but he is … untidy. (okay, that wasn’t the word I was looking for, but this is a family blog). 48 pairs of gloves and none of them match, but I found some with heavy leather pads so I could clear out the pine straw and pine cones and prickly weeds. (Remember the allergies? I can’t touch many green things.) Then I dumped in some fresh soil and worked it in with a spade.
All I planted were a pair of artemsias, a Russian sage (started from seed in Colorado, so should be tough enough) and a kalachoe. I know, I know, kalachoe is a houseplant. My daughter-in-law gave it to me for Mom’s Day, and the poor thing faced torture and death inside my house, so I figured it would have a much better chance outside. Pray for it.
I also replanted my rocks. I do pretty good with rocks. I’ve only killed six or seven, while the rest seem to thrive.
I don’t know what that rock is, but it about 8 inches in diameter and weighs about ten pounds, twice as heavy as what you’d expect. I pretend it is a meteorite and has traveled the Universe.
Long ago, somebody decide a glass cactus was a good gift idea. It’s not. It collects dust and I can’t count how many times it’s drawn blood when I’ve touched it. So outside it goes to protect the drusy quartz and antique iron birdbath.
I have never been able to find a hose that fits right on this spigot. They all dribble and spray. So I built a dam of nifty rocks (the two in the back are covered in fossilized sea shells) so water doesn’t dig holes or drown the artemsia.
Russian sage grows well in Colorado. You see it everywhere. Drought resistant, doesn’t seem to mind the abuse of insane weather shifts, and when it’s full grown, it’s beautiful and smells great. It’ll bring the bees and hummingbirds. I don’t think deer like the taste. Big plus. Notice the rotting pot? I am enchanted by decay. I love to watch things slowly return to the soil and find the process quite beautiful. It seems like the perfect perch for my little pot of pretty stones.
I am so inspired by how nice it looks, I want to do some more. When I run to pick up dog food, I’ll find some flowering annuals and stick them in. The deer will probably get them, but they’ll be nice while they last.
See, Julia? I can garden, too!
Spirituality For America may be our only hope. It is straight up raw truth. A must read for everyone. Ed McGaa is a man of great insight and truth. He points out that “Truth is truth which cannot be altered”.
This book is full of rich history about humans and Spirituality given in story form. It draws one into what appears to be conversation. It is about seeking knowledge and recognizing our duty to speak out and make a difference. It’s about learning to think independently, and removing ourselves from contributing to a system of oppression. The need for truth and ceremonies are what is needed if we are to survivie. Becoming aware of every part of
Nature is a must if we are to be conductors of truth, and find answers to our world crisis. Observing Nature may be our only saving grace. It is important to know yourself and what you are going to do concerning the environment.
Sandy NailMitakuye Oyasin!We are all related!
While I’m like many people who find politics and religion fascinating subjects, I don’t generally discuss either in public forums. All too often those discussions devolve into: “Anyone who disagrees with me is eeee-VIL!” and the name-calling and idiocy begins. Plus my tolerance for bigotry is extremely low–from all sides. (bigotry is a sign of a lazy, sloppy intellect and thus, irritates and bores the snot out of me)
That said, I’m going to blog anyway about a book that covers BOTH religion AND politics. What the hell. This is my blog and I think this book is worth reading.
The first is the author. Eagle Man is a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe and this book is autobiographical in many respects. He covers his military service (Marine combat pilot), his childhood, his world travels and his involvement in Lakota spiritual ceremonies: yuwipi (spirit calling), vision quests, sweat lodge and the Sioux Sun Dance (he participated in six!).
He writes about many fascinating people from history: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Genghis Khan, President Eisenhower, Black Elk and Custer. And people he has known: Ben Black Elk (who served as his father’s translator for Black Elk Speaks), Fools Crow and Bill Eagle Feather.
Throughout his position is that Organized Religion takes people away from their connection to the earth. Because of that, we’re facing environmental disaster. Earth will survive, but people may not. To reverse the trend and begin repairing some of the damage, he suggests a return to Natural Way Spirituality that acknowledges the Creator is a great mystery and people should learn to live together instead of trying to establish dominion over earth and other people.
What makes this book stand out from some others I have read about Native American spirituality is that it is NOT theoretical. The author has walked the walk and now talks the talk based on his personal observations, experiences and historical facts. I can’t say that I agree with all his conclusions, but I don’t fault his methodology. He sounds like somebody I could sit down and have a discussion with.
My only real complaint about the book is that is filled with references to other interesting sounding books and my list of “gotta read that, too” books has about doubled.
M.H. Mead, the writing team of Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion, hooked me with their first novel, Fate’s Mirror. They write my favorite type of science fiction–highly speculative and spookily prescient. When their newest novel, Taking the Highway, came out, I snatched it up on the first day of release.
I asked Margaret and Harry about Taking the Highway and its theme of technophobia. Here is what they had to say:
Will restaurants someday seat customers by their tech preference, much the same way they used to seat them by their smoking preference?
Yes. In fact, some already are.
We’re science fiction writers, so we love to predict the future. We guess what’s around the corner, hoping the real world doesn’t catch up to our fictional one before the book is published. Our newest novel, Taking the Highway, is set in a future that’s even more high-tech than our own. But the culture has shifted, and there is a huge backlash against technology, especially where it intersects with social life. So of course we had to include a scene in a restaurant. What’s more social than dining out? In Taking the Highway, the restaurant hostess decides where to seat patrons by asking, “tech or no tech?”
We thought we’d just made that up. Imagine our surprise when we discovered a restaurant in Los Angeles which is already doing this. The restaurant, called Eva, gives patrons a 5% discount if they turn in their phones or computers when they arrive. There is no honor system here, no sneaking a look at texts under the table. The staff at Eva confiscates the cell phones and computers until the customer is ready to leave.
We’re personally shocked that anyone wouldn’t take that deal, but not everyone does. And of course, the tech-free bubble only lasts for the duration of one meal—a very short time. Here’s a paragraph from Taking the Highway. Our hero, homicide detective Andre LaCroix, is meeting his brother for lunch, and the hostess has just asked if he wants to sit in the tech or no tech section.
Andre peered around the hostess into the restaurant and saw several empty tables, most of them set for single diners. Nobody had to eat alone when they could bring their virtual friends with them. But was it truly worse than the tables of two and four and six? The bigger the group, the more blips, egrams and phone calls it took to pick a restaurant. Then they used GPS to find the place, and when they finally sat down, they reveled in the incredible tangibility of it all, patting themselves on the back for keeping it real.
Of course, Andre’s problems go way beyond where to sit when dining out. He has to deal with car crashes, professional hitchhikers, terrorists, dirty cops, and a dangerous killer. Ironically enough, in the scene above, he chooses not to eat in that restaurant at all. But it’s more than a bit of background scenery. It’s also a clue. Andre uses both high-tech and no-tech methods to catch a killer and ultimately triumph.
We think of Andre when we’re trapped in a restaurant, seated near an idiot yelling into his cell phone. We also think of him when we see people genuinely enjoying the company of their real-world dining companions.
And we dream of a future when those two kinds of people are seated nowhere near each other in a restaurant.
About the authors: Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion write near-future thrillers under the shared pen name M.H. Mead. To learn more about them, or about Taking the Highway or to share a great key lime pie recipe, visit their website at www.yangandcampion.com.
I asked Marina if she had a new zombie report for her readers. She threw a shoe at my head and made a growling noise that made the hair lift on the back of my neck.
You see, she’s writing a new zombie story. We’re really hoping to have it finished before Christmas (she writes, I edit and produce). Apparently, my asking if she’s done yet (or asking her to write more posts for this blog) has the same effect as my kids screaming from the backseat of the car: “Are we there yet?!?” (It’s her own fault. I love Zombies Take Manhattan and I’m a greedy reader and, much like zombies, some is never enough.)
She did say if I was really, really good and quit bugging the snot out of her, she’ll let me read her work in progress on Monday. Well, shoot. That means I have to be good all weekend. That’s iffy.
It also means I can’t talk about the new story. I can say it has zombies in it. And, best of all, it features one of my favorite characters. Anything else, my lips are zipped.
That’s not much of a zombie report.
Zombie news, zombie news… I’ve already beaten my disappointment in The Walking Dead to death (I suggested to Marina that she include a scene where Rick and Carl show up in NYC and get eaten–oddly enough she didn’t think that was a grand idea…writers, hmmph). I did find a Jeff McComsey GUTTERS comic strip called “8 Easy Steps To Create a Walking Dead Storyline” that was pretty good. I read Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night, which was horrendously creepy and disturbing and gave me nightmares–meaning I loved it. I also watched (again) one of my favorite zombie movies
DANCE OF THE DEAD!
Maybe not the classic that Night of the Living Dead is, but it cracks me up every single time.
So zombie report fans, you have my sympathy. You, like me, will have to wait until Marina comes up for air. It’ll be worth the wait.
Whistling, twiddling my thumbs, being good…
I haven’t been posting much about books here lately. I’ve been very busy. Not only do I read, I also write and I also produce ebooks for other writers. Not that I’m reading less, but I have less time to natter on about it.
In no particular order, some books I’ve read lately that you might find fun and/or interesting to read, too.
The Moses MacGuire series by Josh Stallings.
When I first started reading about Moses I wasn’t sure I’d like him. He’s a burnt out strip club bouncer with a prison record and few socially redeeming qualities. He grew on me. Bad boys tend to do that. Stallings writes gritty, unapologetic thrillers with nasty bad guys, nasty crimes and a lot of surprising twists. As soon as I finished reading Beautiful, Naked & Dead, I immediately read Out There Bad. Pretty soon there’ll be a new Moses story, One More Body. I’m looking forward to it.
Moses McGuire a suicidal strip club bouncer is out to avenge the death of one of his girls. From his East L.A. home, through the legal brothels of Nevada and finally to a battle with the mob in the mountains above Palo Alto, it is a sex soaked, rage driven, road trip from hell.
“Out There Bad is the follow up novel to the critically claimed Beautiful, Naked & Dead. Armenian mobsters, Russian strippers, human traffickers, Mexican assassins, they all want Moses dead. Hell most days, even Moses wants Moses dead, but he’ll have to put his dark thoughts on hold. Somewhere between Moscow and LA a young girl has disappeared. The hunt for her will take Moses deep into the heart of Mexico. He will be taught once again that that which does not kill you, often leaves you scarred for life.”
On the paranormal side, two stories from two of my favorite authors: Ben Aaronovitch and J.F. Lewis. Aaronovitch writes the Peter Grant series about a London cop who ends up apprenticed to a wizard. Sort of Harry Potter meets Sherlock Holmes, but funnier. The latest is Whispers Underground where Peter has to solve a magical murder with a most mundane motive. Then we have J.F. Lewis who writes the wildly funny Void City novels featuring Eric the vampire and a screwball cast of creatures. A Corpse of Mistaken Identity is not a Void City novel, it’s a novella featuring a zaomancer (a very special resurrectionist). I really hope everybody runs out and buys this to encourage Lewis to write more about the zaomancers.
If someone dies an unnatural death, an untimely death, and you have to have them back, no matter what the cost… Marlo Morne can help, but there are rules, time is an important factor, and there are always clients who want those rules to be broken on their behalf.
For a change of pace from murder, magic and mayhem, I read a Regency romance, The Taming of Lady Kate, by G. G. Vandagriff, the second in her series: Three Rogues and Their Ladies. Written with wit and style and plenty of big sigh romance.
Back to murder and mayhem, but this time in sci-fi, Riding Fourth, by M. H. Mead. Let us call it carpooling run amok. This short story (available free right now!) is a teaser for a new novel, Taking the Highway, coming in December. Can’t hardly wait.
That’s not all I’ve read, but I have to get back to work. Ebooks don’t format themselves, you know.
Okay. I admit it. I am procrastinating. I’m supposed to be cleaning up a scanned manuscript that I ran through OCR conversion. Not a fun job, and given that it’s for my own book, not an especially urgent job either. Buckle down and work, I order myself, but then…
My sister went to an auction and purchased a vintage cigar box filled with beads. She sent the box to me. Some beads were in bags, but most of those bags were so degraded they’d split apart. So most of the beads were loose in the box.
To some that might be awful. It is heaven to me. I love sorting beads and discovering treasures.
This is nothing new. I’ve been a bead artist, jewelry maker and hoarder for a long, long time. I have a huge stash. Not just of beads either. I also collect findings, buttons, cabochons, and vintage jewelry–much of it broken. I have drawers full of components. Shiny bits to use…someday.
Along with the old components, I have my regular bead stash: seed beads, Delicas, bugles, cubes, pillows, pressed glass, lampwork, stone, wood, vintage Lucite, Czech, Japanese, German, crystals, pearls, sequins, and more in almost every color you can think of and a vast array of shapes.
For those of the beady persuasion, you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? It’s shiny, it sparkles, it’s pretty, it’s odd–it might be fixable, usable, repurposed into something gloriously new. Beads and bead hoards are all about potential. They are the stuff from which dreams are made.
Beading is a good hobby for a writer. My preferred beading techniques are peyote and brick stitch using Delicas or 15/0 seed beads. (off-loom weaving techniques using very small beads and hair-thin needles). Beading requires patience. Things get done one bead at a time, much as books get written one word at a time. It can’t be rushed. Repetitive motions are very good for thinking. With the hands soothingly occupied (except when a needle is jammed accidentally into flesh or a sliver of Nymo works it way under my nail bed) my mind is free to wander. Some of my best story ideas come when I’m playing with beads.
They’re also a great way to procrastinate. Hey, I’m allowed. That big pile of seed beads and bugles and miniature glass pearls won’t get sorted by themselves.
I got into an argument with my cable service provider and ended up cancelling TV before the new season of The Walking Dead began. This bummed me out until I discovered I could buy episodes from Amazon and watch them on my Kindle Fire. Well… Well. After how disappointed I was in the last season, I was hesitant about watching this season. Marina kept talking about it and I am forever the optimist, so I’ve been keeping up.
And not digging it. Not at all.
Rule Number One (and the only rule that counts): Don’t be a bore.
Sorry, TWD, but this season is a wretched bore.
You writers have made an elementary mistake. You’ve mistaken situation for plot. I don’t care how interesting any particular situation might be, it can only hold a reader’s or viewer’s interest for so long. The zombies are a situation. Once you’ve killed a few thousand and had them kill a few dozen characters, nobody cares. They just aren’t that interesting.
What makes any story interesting is the drama. Drama comes from the characters. Boy, have you guys dropped the ball regarding TWD characters. Your second elementary mistakes lies in narrowing the individual stories to the situation. The characters are flat because the only thing they do is react to the zombies. Fine, we get it. Zombies bad. Kill or be killed. You’ve reduced the characters to survival mode, but survive for what? I wouldn’t want any of those sad sacks to attend my Christmas party. Last season you had some interesting conflicts playing out. Glenn and Maggie’s romance. Shane’s struggle with madness. Herschel’s hope for a cure. This season? Stick them in a prison. Big whoop. I had hopes for Andrea and Michon. But all Andrea is doing is playing mouthpiece and Michon just wanders around looking sullen. And the governor? Come on! Haven’t we seen this villain in just about every bad movie ever produced? The guy’s picture should be in the dictionary next to “Stereotype.”
I have a suggestion for you (that is, if you’re hoping for another season–if your real goal is to kill everybody off and the season finale will be a gray screen with THE END IS OVER, then ignore this post). If you want to salvage TWD, watch Faith.
Faith is a Korean fantasy-historical series. It has time travel and a mystic warrior and a king and queen and sword fights and martial arts and an annoying twit of a heroine and absurd sub-titles and gorgeous production values and wonderful costumes. Mostly what it has are incredible characters.
Every night for the past week I’ve been watching Faith on hulu.com. It’s riveting. I am caught up in the story. I am invested. Why? The characters.
As I said, the heroine is an annoying twit. She screams and whines and overacts and screws up and accidentally stabs people. She shouldn’t be likeable. Except… she wants to go home. She was kidnapped from the future and she doesn’t belong in ancient Korea. It frightens her. She doesn’t understand the culture. That’s kind of her strength, too. The other characters don’t understand her either and they either over- or under-estimate her. Annoying or not, she’s never boring.
And the hero? This is a guy with a story. What he wants is to honorably fulfill his obligations so he can retire peacefully. He’s suicidal, too, and you’d think that would make him a downer, but it’s a cultural thing and it doesn’t mean he’s depressed. It means that’s a reasonable option for him, which actually heightens suspense and causes genuine conflict between him and the heroine. Plus, he keeps making promises he is honor-bound to keep, so he’s in conflict with himself, too.
You want a villain? Watch a few episodes and meet Excellency Gi Cheo. That guy is evil. He’s also charming and sly and funny, and he tries to hide a huge weakness. He doesn’t just want power. He wants everything! If he can’t get it through the people, he’ll kill them all and get new people. If he can’t it through the king, then he’ll get a new king. And if heaven tells him no? Well, he’ll figure out a way to remake god. He’s fascinating to watch.
Faith knows how to use female characters. Strong, active female characters with their own stories, desires, goals and conflicts. A queen and a court lady and female warriors and an assassin and a drug dealer. The writers on this show aren’t afraid to give the females stories and big dreams and interesting things to do.
Know why viewers hated Lori? Because you bounced her around like an irritating puppet. What did she want? What was in her heart? Every time you worked up an interesting conflict for her, you solved it with a zombie attack.
So do yourselves and the fans of TWD a favor and watch Faith. pay attention to the characters. You’ll learn something.
I “met” Martin Turnbull through his blog. I fell in love with his humor and enthusiasm and persistence in bringing to life his novels about the Golden Age of Hollywood. When I read his first Garden of Allah novel, The Garden on Sunset, by damned, double the pleasure, the guy can write. His characters, Marcus the screenwriter, Gwendolyn the actress, and Kathryn the reporter, enchanted me and I wanted more. I’ve been waiting, rather impatiently, for Martin to finish the second novel, The Trouble With Scarlett. Now it’s here and it doesn’t disappoint. Aside from the three main characters, what makes these novels so much fun to read is how Martin brings the period to life. It’s like being a fly on the wall at a Hollywood party. Name-dropping, gossip, machinations, scheming, struggles, feuds, glamour, fashion and places so real you can hear the music and smell the food.
I asked Martin about The Trouble With Scarlett and how it fit in with his series. This is what he had to say:
I was about 15 when Gone with the Wind was theatrically re-released and I couldn’t wait to see it. I was the kind of kid who, if I wasn’t spending my after-school hours with my face wedged in a book, I was watching old Hollywood movies on TV. I had my favorites, of course—Gene Kelly, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Bogie and Bacall—but generally speaking, if it was made during the golden age of Hollywood, I tuned in. But I’d never seen the movie-to-end-all-movies. And at last I was going to get to see it.
I wasn’t disappointed. From those opening chords of Tara’s Theme all the way through to the closing credits, my eyeballs were super-glued to the screen the whole time. Still half-dazed, I wandered out of the Forum Theater in downtown Melbourne promising myself that I’d read the book one day.
To help survive the exams at the end of high school, I dangled a carrot in front of myself: on the day of the French final, my last exam, I planned to ride my bike directly from school to the local book store and buy myself a copy of Gone with the Wind and, by golly, I’d spend the rest of the month reading it! That’s what happened and I passed the first few weeks of my post-high school life sprawled on my bed burrowing my way through 1000 pages.
Why a bookish teenage kid from Australia would be so thrilled about a tempestuous, willful, spoiled, determined Southern belle from halfway around the world and 100 years before is beyond me. Who’s to say what characters we are drawn to in fiction? I’m sure more than a thesis or two has been written on the subject, but my guess is that it’s probably got less to do with the outer circumstances of the character and more to do with that character’s inner life, struggles and ambitions.
At any rate, fast forward 30 years and I am now living in Los Angeles and I conceive a series of historical novels set in Hollywood during its golden age, centered around life at the (real) Garden of Allah hotel which sat on Sunset Boulevard from 1927 (the dawn of Hollywood’s golden era) to 1959 (the dusk of the Hollywood studio system.) My Garden of Allah series of novels follows the lives of a screenwriter, a gossip columnist and an actress. Gwendolyn, the actress, is from the South (in fact, she’s from Hollywood, Florida) in part because, from the get-go, I wanted her to want the role of Scarlett O’Hara so badly she’d do practically anything for it.
Fast forward another four years and the second novel in my series is released. It’s called The Trouble with Scarlett and looks at life in Hollywood from 1936 to 1939 when Hollywood—not to mention the entire country—was obsessed with all things Gone with the Wind, and especially the casting of the central role of Miss Scarlett O’Hara. The list of actresses who were considered for the role is as long as it is varied, and sometimes startling. The list ended up totaling nearly 130 names which included Lucille Ball, Clara Bow, Tallulah Bankhead, Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, Katharine Hepburn, Miriam Hopkins, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, Pola Negri (!!!), Paulette Goddard, and Susan Hayward. I knew that if I was going to write about life in Hollywood during the late 1930s, I couldn’t not write about the book and the movie that gripped a country in the same way it gripped the imagination of my 15-year-old self all those years and all those miles away.
Nowadays, we live in the world of monthly blockbusters, billion-dollar mega-hits, Harry Potter warlocks and Twilight witches, but back in the 1930s, enormously popular, game-changing books like Gone with the Wind came around once in a generation. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it remains so popular—after more than 75 years, the book still sells an estimated 75,000 copies a year. Or maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to look any further that Miss Katie Scarlett O’Hara herself. Love her, hate her, admire her, loathe her, fear her or just flat out are baffled by her, there’s no denying that she provokes a reaction in just about everyone, and that’s why I thought it was worth my while to take care of the trouble with Scarlett.