Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuckered Out in Troutdale

Tomorrow is Halloween. That means the holiday season is sharpening its teeth around the corner. And for many of us, tradition is rearing its vicious head, pulling us into its swirling vortex.

Sure, most of us have traditions, even if we don't want to admit it. For some it means getting together at Thanksgiving, having a big turkey dinner, and dumping some eggnog into a snifter of brandy. For others it means hauling out the silver aluminum Christmas tree, dangling three dozen glass bulbs from its eighteen branches and pointing the rotating four-color-light-wheel toward it. And for others, it means a movie a day from Thanksgiving to Christmas, beginning with the original Miracle on 34th Street and ending with Christmas Vacation. I mean, not that I know this for sure or anything, but these could be some people's traditions.

About fifteen years ago, I began going to the Larch Mountain Country Artisans sale in November. They have everything there, from homemade doggie treats to blown glass, to beaded jewelry. Sandra Tucker is one of those artists. The first year I bought some earrings from her and gave them to my daughter for Christmas. This began a tradition. During our Christmas morning present exchange my daughter would open one, take it out, examine it and then look over at me.

"Sandra?" she'd ask.


She'd smile, nod, slip it on or hang it up, depending on what it was, and we'd move on with our festivities. My daughter became so enthralled with Sandra's jewelry that Sandra gave her a lesson in beading and lent her some supplies to try it out.

The last couple years I haven't bought anything from Sandra, but she reminded me today that the "Heart of the Country" show and sale is scheduled for November 20, 21 and 22 at the Glenn Otto Community Park in Troutdale.

I think it is time to renew the Sandra tradition. Maybe I'll skip the Christmas movie and drive out to Troutdale, hit the outlet stores and swing by the Heart of the Country show.

Plus she has promised to give me a dynamite recipe for hot buttered rum batter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The First Edit

I'm almost done with the first edit. In fact the goal was so close. Only 750 words left to edit out. So close. But a scene needed tweaking. A few changes here and there, perhaps more clarity. It is better, but now I have nearly 1000 words to edit out and only about 40 more pages until the end.

If I can't reach the goal, an entire scene may have to go. Cut. Crush. Zap. Poof.
I'm almost done reading Elizabeth Lyon's book and ready to begin the second edit as soon as the first is finished.

The picture has nothing at all to do with the blog. Hobie kept putting his paws on my shoulder as I worked on the computer. In all fairness to me, I need to add that while working on my laptop, I was not flying an aircraft. Just thought I'd add that little tidbit since two pilots overshot their destination by 150 miles today because they were working on their laptops.

Yeah, right. They must have found free wireless up there.

Friday, October 23, 2009

En Garde Me 'earties, Engage.

Have you ever cringed when you had to do research? In school did you want to weep when you had to spend hours online or in the library researching a report? I remember when the instructor mentioned bibliography my heart would mourn the loss of free time, and my eyes would cross. Bibliography always meant multiple source research.

It is different when you are writing. Research is engaging. Research can extend your own imagination and envelopes your writing with short flicks of knowledge interspersed with conversation and expose. Research can advance your story as you thrust your protagonist toward the opposition, and beat toward the climax, finally dropping into retreat. It is not for the feint of heart.

When fellow writer, Peggy, told me she wanted to do some research at the local fencing school, I lunged at the opportunity. We are lucky, because David Cogley, in Camas, is an impressive instructor: agile, affable, dangerous. We watched the beginning and intermediate class, and after, David stayed late, bringing out a bag filled with weapons.
There is something intriguing about a gentleman with a satchel of foils, Épées and sabres. I can't really put my finger on it. I cannot wait for our private lesson. I love research.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Cup Runneth

The title of my manuscript is "The Pirate's Reckoning". This title may change, but that is the working title. Although I wrote in some pirates, it is not really a pirate tale. This has not stopped people from giving me pirate items. I have pirate hats, pirate earrings, pirate eye patches, pirate daggers, pirate mouse pads and pirate hooks.

Two things have happened. I find I like the pirate items and I no longer think twice about them. So, a few days back, early in the morning at work, I made a strong pot of coffee and filled my cup. When I turned around, the president of the company stood behind me and his eyes travelled down to my cup.
"What does that say?" he asked.
I held it up and glanced at it. "It says 'Work is for people who don't know how to plunder,'" I answered.
"Hmmm," he said, and lowered his eyebrows, wrinkling his forehead. "Should I be worried about this?"
"Whatever would make you worry?"

"That fact that you work in accounting."

Perhaps it is time to disavow any knowledge of insider trading, golden parachutes, numbered Swiss bank accounts or private jets making regular trips to countries with no extradition.
Should I go back to using my old cup? A few years ago I decided to go on a health kick and cut back to only one cup of coffee a day. I found the perfect cup, green too, so I'd be helping the planet. I quit using it because the coffee would get cold before I finished it.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance Theory vs. Melanie Theory

Have you ever noticed the human mind is not consistent? I'm not talking about cognitive dissonance, although it could possibly apply in my case. I'm talking about the amount of thoughts the mind processes at once is inconsistent.

For instance, when someone says, "Okay, pay attention to this, it will be on the test," suddenly my mind is inundated with thought. Unfortunately they are rarely related to the topic at hand.

For instance, if the instructor says, "remember to always highlight before you instruct the computer to copy," my mind is thinking hundreds of thoughts. I won't name them all, but some of them are:

"highlight stuff"
"high and mighty"
"copy this down"
"what does that woman's sweatshirt say?"
"does that man know his hair is smooshed on the right side?"
"did I get gas this morning?"
"I have to remember to buy Tabasco sauce."
"how did that twenty something afford that brand new BMW?"
"what if he is the son of someone who invented something that sold really well and his parents are buying him the best?
"what if he never learns to rely on himself?"
"what if the invention is preempted by another invention in ten years and he has to rely on himself?"
"what is for dinner?"

All these thoughts take only seconds to bolt though the gray sieve. Most go no further.

And then, when it is time for the test, why are there no thoughts at all?

"Okay, what is the answer to the question "What must you first do before you copy on the computer?"
Tap tap tap.
"Okay, what is the answer?"
Tap tap tap.

Yesterday, at a Chevron station in Oregon, I had to wait for my gas to be pumped. You cannot pump your own petrol in Oregon; you must allow the employees to do so. While I waited, I noted all twelve spots filled with waiting people. One man got out and started filling his time by checking his tire pressure. Another stepped out and washed his windshield. Another got out and watched the one attendant scramble from one car to the next, grabbing the credit card, slipping the nozzle into the tank and flipping on the pump.

A woman pointed to the hose, "Um, I think it stopped."

"I'll be there in a moment," the attendant puffed.

And I waited.

The man ahead of me finished checking his tires. He eyed the hose, probably judging if he could get it into his tank and start the meter before the employee knew he'd done it.

Out of nowhere, another young man appeared, running up to my car at the same time the first employee jogged to the car in front of me. I handed out my credit card and asked him to fill it with regular. He grabbed the card and loped over to the pump, running the card through and shoving the nozzle into my tank. The first employee glanced up at him and glared, his hair wet with rain and sweat. "Where the heck have you been all this time?"

The young man trotted back to my driver's door and just as he held out my card to me, he yelled, "I had to go to the bathroom."

"Geeez, you sure took long enough."


Oh dear lord. A hundred thoughts crashed into each other as my fingers closed over the card.

The rest of the trip home I concentrated on not touching my face, my eyes, my mouth. I tried very hard to keep my hands on the same place on the steering wheel. I prayed I wouldn't sneeze. I swore I could feel swine flu symptoms start. I began mixing in symptoms of Legionnaires' disease and E. coli. Tsi tsi fly malaria even crossed through the jumble.

Maybe it would be best if I never read the news.

1 in three men do not wash their hands after using the toilet

I'm keeping disinfectant wipes in my car from now on.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yo ho ho

Aye matey.

My birthday fell not long ago. 'Tis not something to be celebrated so much as to be acknowledged. Another year. Another year filled with pillage and plunder. Aye, and I've even intimated such goings on in this blog during a riotous rampage on July 22. That day, we bought a bottle of rum. I'm pretty sure it was Admiral Nelson's Premium Spiced Rum. It does not surprise me, when faced with the knowledge we must buy something at a liquor store, that I would gravitate toward to grog.

What surprises me is that we didn't drink it. We certainly opened it, but I vaguely remember we couldn't find it an hour later. I suspect it got packed in a purloined box, and was not seen again.

Until my birthday.

My niece, Traci, and her significant other, Josh, traveled up from New Mexico and my parents, my sister, Nina and my brother-in-law, Laurent met me at a German restaurant halfway between our residences. Kelly, my belly-dancing daughter, met us there, too. During the meal, my niece plunked a huge birthday bag onto the table with a thud. Inside, a nice card from Traci and Josh wished me good fortune (in my old age). But all I really saw was the gobs of bubble wrap tied with a red ribbon.

I unwrapped it while we feasted on cheese fondue and German beer. It took a while because my parents had a lot of bubble wrap to get rid of, and when I finally came to the prize, my only thought was, "GROG". AHrrrrrrrr.

It was Nina whose jaw dropped. "It is open. You're giving her an open bottle of rum?"

Funny, I didn't see anything wrong with that. When we pillage a town, matey, we ain't caring if the grog done been opened. We'll takes it full or nearly empty, we will, and we'll be glad for having it. We got no powder-headed maggots under our wigs, worrying about what bilge-drinking scupperlout done took a swig afore us.

Ah, my parents knows me well, they do. For, indeed, the rum was from them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

To My Three, Two

I went to supper. Not far away. Just down the hall. When I came back, after only 20 minutes, a gaping hole appeared in the area normally occupied by the two and three on my laptop keyboard.

Oh dear lord.

I needed to go online because Carol had begun a skirmish on twitter, recruiting "followers" on her blog. "On the subject of blogs... will ya'll click on mine & follow me? In a contest with @Scupperlout and we're dead even," she broadcast.

But wait, on twitter, one must have the @ sign. It is how someone knows you are talking to them and not the universe. I tried just pressing the blank area of the two, and it worked with some effort, but then I began to wonder if I could be electrocuted. Maybe it is just me, but that prospect didn't appeal to me.

I searched for the missing keys. I found one. Well, not one...three...not three, THE three. It was mauled. Little cat teeth protrusions stuck up like braille and it was bent. I balanced the three on the two to answer the tweets coming in like sheet lightning, but it popped off too fast.

The cats snuggled down in their beds beside the computer and pretended to be asleep, but I heard one snorting. Patting the carpet, I located the vagrant two and moved the three from the two and pressed the two into place.

Pop. Tinkle, tinkle, plop.

Back on the floor, the two hid behind the leg of the desk. Back to the keyboard. Pop, tinkle, tinkle, grrrrrrr. I tried the three in the two spot again, but that left the # sign still missing. Glue. Would glue hurt the keyboard?

Cats remained positioned in their beds, but occasionally an eye would squint open. I finally pushed very hard on the two and it remains, but askew. The three is a mess and is hard to use.

I am putting Hobiecat and Schooner on Craigslist, the vicious little beasts.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meant to Be

Have you ever gotten a shiver when you discover something the moment you were supposed to discover it? You know you are where you are supposed to be, as it was meant to be? Or sometimes you don't know until later that it was the right choice. The shiver was your only sign.

Recently I bought an old Ethan Allen bureau and hutch for my office and I began to wonder if my end tables and my coffee table were also Ethan Allen. They are maple, with the same hardware and similar in look. But I didn't take the time to tip one over and look at the bottom. Until this morning.

Last night I looked on Craigslist with my mother for an antique dresser to match her fabulous headboard and foot board. We wanted to narrow our search to "good, strong, quality" brands and couldn't think of any other than Ethan Allen. We finally thought of Thomasville and a couple others but little could be found on Craigslist.
So this morning, I took the polished rock, the lipstick and the little glass candle holder off the coffee table and tipped it over. Baumritter. I googled it, as any interested person would do.
What I discovered was that Theodore Baumritter and his brother-in-law, Nathan Ancell founded the Baumritter Corporation in New York City in 1932, making garden swings and plaster gnomes, among other household items.

In 1936 they took what I imagine to be a leap of faith and bought out a failing furniture company in Beecher Falls, Vermont. Theodore and Nathan fell in love with Vermont and the craftsmanship and style of early American furniture. In the midst of the depression, they hired workers and began to produce a line of furniture they named after Vermont's Green Mountain Boys' revolutionary war hero, Ethan Allen.
In 1939 they announced the Ethan Allen line of furniture, naming their first collection as "Heirloom". The Ethan Allen Heirloom collection remained popular for over 50 years, but the company continued to evolve, bringing in a "modern" line of furniture in 1951. New lines continued to be introduced, but the Ethan Allen Heirloom continued to be a top seller. Theodore retired in 1969 or 1970 and Nathan Ancell decided to go public, changing the name of Baumritter Corporation to Ethan Allen, Inc.

The company today remains a symbol of quality and beauty. People compare their furniture to Ethan Allen, when trying to sell it. "Three drawer dresser made with Ethan Allen quality" or "This dining room set is as good as Ethan Allen".

I say, BRAVO to Theodore and Nathan for caring about craftsmanship, quality and value. My Baumritter stamped tables are, indeed, Ethan Allen tables and they are lovely. Just as lovely as my Ethan Allen stamped dresser and hutch.

Today I found a reprint in the New York Times, announcing Theodore Baumritter's obituary in 1994. What made him decide to buy that bankrupt furniture company back in the heart of the depression? It was risky. It was dangerous and bold. Did he feel that shiver? Did he and Mr. Ancell know right away they were in the right place at the right time? Or did they realize, only later, that it was meant to be? A part of them will remain with every piece of furniture passed down from generation to generation. And their ancesters will always be able to remember them with pride.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Share Something of Value

My friend, Paul, in Seattle sent this picture of a sunset at the north pole. Interesting that the sun is below the moon.

The Chinese have a saying that goes something like this:

'When someone shares with you something of value, you have an obligation to share it with others!'

He felt the picture had value and passed it on to me.

I have a cousin who has value. She lives along the coast of Florida, one block from the beach, and works in a bed and breakfast as an assistant manager. She has a dog and a convertible and they can put the top down and speed along most any time of the year. (She somehow manages to mention that in most communications with me. Where did she get the idea we cannot do the same in the Northwest? Upholstery will dry eventually.)

Her name is Karen Maxwell. She is the inspiration for the names of my protagonist, Jessamine Maxwell, and her two cousins, Simeon and Gabriel Maxwell, in my novel.

What I didn't know is that she has also written a book, "Blasting by Bucksnort". It is an action-packed road-trip. Speeding down the turnpike toward middle age, Kate agrees to accompany her friend Leah on a rescue mission of an errant daughter, four states away. Dodging gangs, criminals, court orders and the treasury department, will they ever free the daughter being held captive? It has everything; humor, adventure, daring and supportive friendship.

The best part of the book was finding my own name in it. It is a bit part. A walk on. Do you think it would be selfish of me to ask her to re-write the book and give the Melanie character a bigger role?

Karen has already sent the book off on its journey to find publication. I'm thinking it could be the next Thelma and Louise, only with the possibility of a sequel. Karen is smart enough to realize it is not wise to kill off the main characters in book one if one wants to start a series. No wonder there was never a Thelma and Louise, Part II movie.
And since she has given up television for a year, I expect her little fingers to be pounding out book two as she sits in her beach chair, her hair fluffing out in the hurricane winds.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take Risks, Take Chances, Take a Deep Breath

Why do we let ourselves be talked into taking foolish chances?

"Come on, it will be fun," Carol said. "It will be good practice for when we are Oprah together."

It wouldn't be fun. It would be terrifying. It would be risky. It would be like leaping from a tall building into a tea cup.

"Okay, count me in," I grumbled.

I agreed to join Carol at Three Friends Coffee House in Portland. In the Northwest, coffee houses are abundant. What makes this one different is on Mondays, three friends become the entertainment. Carol's twitter friend Ed, agreed to play "When Harry Met Iannis," his microtonal music composed by his computer via algorithmic patterns. Carol and I were to read from our finished (but not completely edited) manuscripts.

Monday, the 5th, arrived much too soon. I hadn't had time to make the chapter I would read as perfect as a Shakespearean Comedy. (Infinity would not be enough time to accomplish such a feat) "Get over it," Carol said. "No excuses. We're doing it. If you chicken out, I'll read it."

With encouragement like that, how could I back out? I mean, not that I wanted to. So Carol and I sat on sofas, facing each other, drinking tea while the computer clock clicked nearer to 7 pm. We each had twenty minutes, minus introduction time, mopping spilled tea time, mopping sweating forehead time, clearing throat time and tapping on the microphone saying "testing, testing," time. I figured that meant about fifteen minutes worth of reading.

Ed had already set up his speakers and music equipment on the stage. If I tried to get up there, I'd trip over the wires and short out the electricity...possibly causing a fire and maybe beginning the end of the world as we know it. My knees shook and my feet went into spasms at the thought. "I'm not getting on that stage. There is no way. Can I sit on this couch and read?"

Luke, the coordinator of Show and Tell Gallery, graciously allowed me to do so. He slipped a microphone in front of me. Microphone? I had to speak into a microphone?

"Well, yes," Carol said. "It will be recorded for a podcast."

Oh dear lord.

Luke ambled up on stage and in a smooth, polished voice, introduced Carol, who read the first chapter of her book, "A Single Pearl". Carol comes from a musical/instrumental background, performing all over the world. When she read her manuscript, she performed it, mesmerizing us. When she finished the audience clapped (all five or six of them, if you include the employees and Luke) and she smiled and introduced Ed.

When Ed's composition ended and the applause died down, Carol went back on stage and introduced me. I wished I had asked her to give a false name, like Julie Garwood or Nora Roberts, but she announced my name and everyone's gazes drifted in my direction.

I stuttered out an quick explanation of my book, summing up the first two chapters in two sentences. I began to read Chapter Three. When I read this beforehand it took close to sixteen minutes. On Monday, in front of the microphone, with the whir of the coffee grinder and the hum of traffic passing on 12th and Ash, I read the chapter in twelve minutes. It couldn't have been nerves. I was as steady as the Oakland/San Francisco Bay bridge during the 1989 "World Series" earthquake. It had to have been all that caffeine seeping into the atmosphere. Secondhand caffeine buzz.

But I got through it. I read aloud a portion of my manuscript in public. And when I finished, people clapped. I don't know if they clapped because I was finally finished and now they could sign up for open mic, or just to be polite, but it doesn't matter. I did it.

At 8 PM, as people stood in line for the open mic, Carol and I packed up our computers and tottered out the front door. A man jogged out after us. He reached out his hand, not for spare change, but for a handshake. "I really enjoyed that. I'm here every Monday for open mic and I want you to come back again. Say you'll come back."

I don't know what said. I remember smiling. I remember shaking his hand. I hope I said thank you, but mostly my mind was a fuzz of relief and my body worked to rid itself of the fight-or-flight adrenalin accumulated in the minutes leading up to my "performance". But I thank the man, most sincerely.

Carol has a completely different recounting of this entire incident on her blog, After the coffee comes the concussion . Don't believe a word of it. And if you are interested in the podcast of Three Friends Monday Caffeinated Art #64, here is a link. Carol was first, Ed's music begins about 16:10 and my reading begins about 34:17.

Was the risk foolish? Possibly. But if my book is to be published eventually, it is great experience. The second time will be easier. Right?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Brotherly Love

As a baby, Schooner loved his adopted brother Hobiecat. They each had their own bed, but Schooner quickly decided it was more fun to snuggle in with his older brother.

But it was really only a one cat bed, even though Schooner was small. Hobiecat did the best he could to be a gentleman and a good older brother.

Eventually, they found a harmonious way to share.

But a year and a half later, both Hobiecat and Schooner are bigger. Hobiecat loves to snuggle into his bed located next to my computer. He likes being near me. Schooner doesn't care about being near me. He still loves his brother and he still thinks he is a kitten.
Being a big brother is not always easy.

And Schooner isn't as small as he used to be.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Dishes Can Wait

I've never been the very best housekeeper in the world. I used to have a cleaning service that came once a month. My daughter and I loved coming home on that day to find everything sparkling clean. It was my favorite day. But working full-time, taking care of a child or two, taking care of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, lawns, plants, gutters, decks, and running a child to this or that practice means not everything is going to get done. If it gets done, it might not be done well.

Now that my daughter is out on her own, I've given myself the excuse that I have a full-time job to pay the bills and a part-time job of writing. Once again, that doesn't leave a lot of time for housework. If I have an extra hour, I admit I use it for research or writing or pre-reading with Carol, my writing buddy.

I have the good fortune of living out in the country where no one is likely to drop-in (just passing through and thought I'd stop by). But in the back of my mind, the "what if" crops up. What if I were burglarized and the cops came to dust for prints and my dirty clothes were in two separate piles (whites and darks) on the floor of my bathroom? What if my stove blew up again and the appliance repairman had to come and the top was greasy? What if my water heater sprang a leak and a guy from work offered to come help me fix it and I hadn't vacuumed for a couple weeks?

I follow a young woman's blog in Canada and a "what if" happened to her. It is the stuff from which nightmares are made. Her story went from bad to worse to horrific. And it had tears rolling down my cheeks. From laughing. Not at her trauma, of course, but at her description of it. I recommend you read this one blog. Once you read it, however, you'll probably decide you'd better go do your dishes and wash your windows.

Here is the blog. She'd love a comment. Tell her you got the link from my blog. It will cheer the poor girl up.

I have to go now. I'm going to polish my silver.