Wednesday, December 28, 2011

War Horse


I saw War Horse today with Kim and Gen. If you are a horse owner or a lover of horses you must see the movie with other horse lovers. Otherwise no one will understand why you are blubbering throughout the movie.

A couple of comments up front:
  • Homo sapiens are the dumbest species on this planet.
  • Horses are far more noble than we can ever hope to be.
I got through the movie with only three tissues. However, they were shredded and I actually could have used twice that many. Horse owners will recognize the scenes revealing horse nature. Spielberg, whose wife and daughter ride, absorbed some knowledge of equines. The horse that won't be caught? Face plant over a jump? Been there, done that. Velvety muzzle searching for treats, horse head using you as a scratching post? Ditto.

Even though I suspected there would be a happy ending, it was the dickens getting there. If you've read Black Beauty you will recognize a couple of events in the movie.

And there was one heck of a battle scene that made me wonder what in the world is wrong with humans. World War I was the transition from the "chivalrous" form of warfare with cavalry charges to the mechanical type of warfare we implement today. Young men thought they were going off on a grand adventure to protect England. They came home maimed and broken from artillery shells and mustard gas. As for the horses and dogs used in the war effort, they had no idea what they were getting into. Over a million horses were used in World War I, but only 60,000+ survived, and many of them ended up feeding the starving people who lived through the conflict.

War Horse is a favorite for an Academy Award nomination. I hope they have a special Oscar for Finders Key, the California bred thoroughbred who portrayed Joey through much of the move.

So -- if you decide to see War Horse, bring plenty of tissues and be prepared to be emotionally exhausted at the end. Horse owners will undoubtedly bring extra treats for equine partners on the next visit to the barn.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Oregon Humane Society Santa Paws 2011

Mary, Indy, and Santa wish you and yours
the best for the holidays and new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy First Day of Winter!

Freezing fog maintains its grip in the Wilsonville/Aurora area. Temperatures remained below freezing and the fog never lifted. This made for a chilly but beautiful afternoon walk with Indy.

Built in winter coat.

Frosty toes.

Canyon Creek Road North

Sugar coated ivy? Nope, frozen fog.

Frosty pine.

Frozen web.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Books


I grew up in a home where once a book crossed the threshold it didn't leave. Thus, later in life, I have always been surprised when entering a home devoid of bookcases. I can understand the absence of artwork on the walls. Art can be expensive. Not everyone had a painter in the home like we did (my father). But no books?

Only recently have I taken to purging my library. No reason to keep a book I've already read and didn't care for. I'm now putting a little more consideration into my book purchases. But I'm still growing the library.

So when I enter a home and can't spy a single book, I shake my head. Who are these people?

Then I saw the above book and felt vindicated. Apparently there are enough other people like me to form a sufficient audience to offset the cost of printing and distribution of a book about books.  An audience that considers every flat surface as a viable landing site for a book or magazine.

Last week The Oregonian ran an oped from an antiquarian book collector/dealer who begged people not to ruin the value of books by writing inscriptions in the front or scribbling notes throughout. I've always made a habit of writing an inscription when I give a book as a gift. So I was a little taken aback by the recommendation.

This Sunday the paper included responses to the "don't scribble" opinion. Once again I was vindicated.

In the world of rare and collectible books, inscriptions and notes may be ruinous. But I find it intriguing to read these notations in a used book. It sets my imagination into motion. Who were the giver and recipient? Why was that particular book selected? What did the reader think of the book? It's especially fun in older books with a history (from gift to library to used book store).

So, as a book inscriber and book keeper, it was nice to learn I'm not alone in my bookish habits.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Stills: Pets

An anniversary salute to the launch of Sunday Stills. Capture and post photos of the "fur people" with whom we share our lives.

Indy and the Yogurt Cup

Oh boy! Yogurt!

Yum.

There's more at the bottom.

Mmm, mmm good.

Gotta get a good grip.

Almost gone.

More?

To see more pets visit Sunday Stills.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sparkly Air


It was still dark when Indy insisted on going for his morning walk. I bundled up against yet another morning of freezing fog and set out for the nearby high tech campus. The parking lots of the campus are well lighted but otherwise the area was peacefully dusky and quiet for our walk.

At first I thought it was my eyes, but after a few blinks I realized what I was observing were ice crystals in the fog sparkling under the parking lot lights. Against the darker backdrop it looked like fine glitter floating past.

:-)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The "C" Thing (aka Canter)


I finally got brave enough to canter Phantom yesterday. You'd think we'd have this ironed out by now, but I haven't consistently taken lessons (for a variety of reasons) during my partnership with Phantom.

My Big Goober Boy (Indy being my Little Goober Boy) attempts to crossfire during the trot to canter transition. This requires popping his rear end as he attempts to arrange his hind legs in a contra-indicated position. This move also pops me out of the saddle. Which means I have to be secure in the saddle before we attempt the initial canter depart of the session. Once we've struggled through the first canters in both directions subsequent canters proceed smoothly.

Now, I know the fix for the problem is to properly set up Phantom before asking for the canter (forward, soft on the bit, responsive to the leg). Leg yielding off the inside leg at a corner or on a circle is generally our best bet for success. But there are those days when we just can't get our act together, or Phantom offers the canter before we're really set up. Heck, I'm only human. I get impatient or go with the flow knowing it will be a struggle.

The lead up to yesterday's canter has been several months of a disrupted riding schedule. It began with Phantom's girth galls. While waiting for the raw areas to heal I rode briefly at a walk. A new string girth solved that issue. Then my mother broke her hip. Once she pulled through and was on the mend I hoped to resume my barn schedule -- only to discover Phantom was mysteriously lame. Trainer Julie loosened up a stiff shoulder but then Phantom had more time off while our schedule was overtaken by therapist visits and doctor appointments. Finally, life returned to a version of normalcy in November.

Phantom, of course, has been enjoying daily turnouts and galloping around with the boys. I'm the one who had to get back in shape. Which involved feeling secure enough to stick in the saddle while Phantom rearranged his hind end for a canter.

So -- yesterday's canter was an accomplishment. I'll take 'em where and when I can get 'em.


Monday, December 5, 2011

NW Authors Series: Christina Katz


This month's session was especially fun since it was part of Christina's launch of her newest book. Christina Katz is the person behind the Northwest Author Series of workshops at the Wilsonville Library. She is a writing coach as well as an author who helps writers negotiate changes in the publishing industry. Her previous books include Writer Mama and Get Known Before the Book Deal.


Christina and others familiar with the publishing business advise aspiring authors that we will be responsible for marketing our own books. Unless you are consistently on the best seller list, publishers allot few resources to advertising and marketing books. With the advent of digital self-publishing, you are obviously on your own to promote your work.

Christina's previous books helped multi-tasking mothers find time to write and explained the importance of developing a "platform" for nonfiction as well as fiction writers. In her session introducing The Writer's Workout she discussed the job of developing and maintaining a writing career. Foremost is the writing. That is always your priority. But other skills the writer needs include:  selling, focusing, learning, and self-promotion.

To sell yourself you must know yourself. What sets you apart from everyone else hoping readers will purchase their books? Assess your strengths and what you are doing to get your name and your work out there. Where have you published? Do you have a blog? Are you using social networks effectively? Christina shared worksheets from her books that guide self assessment. The completed worksheets collect personal information that can be converted into a "one pager" promotional document.

With easy access to digital publishing, Christina believes authors will and should be selling their words in a variety of formats. For example, a collection of poems or articles, small pamphlets or booklets, short stories or novellas, etc. Perhaps you have knowledge or experience that would interest a specific segment of the population. Not enough to interest a traditional publishers, but enough for modest electronic sales to a niche group. She suggests writers go through their work to see what may be appropriate for the new digital world.

Most importantly, Christina emphasized growth and progress. Keep learning. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small.

The Writer's Workout contains 366 tips for a writing life (2012 is a leap year!). Each is introduced with an appropriate quotation. It is divided into "seasons" that may be interpreted as seasons of the calendar or seasons of your writing career. The reader can dive in on any page as needed.

I'm looking forward to discovering the encouraging words and tips that will keep me going

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Stills: Backlit and Portrait

Catching up with Sunday Stills challenges. Since I put up our tree yesterday (yeah, yeah, fake tree in the Christmas tree capital of the world) I decided to take advantage of the lights and capture a shot of a new ornament for this year.


I couldn't manage "Bokeh" (November 27) as I don't know nothin' 'bout no f stops. Obviously I need to take a digital photography class.

However, I did give portrait (November 20) a try with my handiest subject:


To see how others met this week's photo assignment, visit Sunday Stills.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Twilght" Redux


As an aspiring author of young adult sf/f novels, it behooves me to read what's popular in the genre. For that reason I just acquired the Hunger Games trilogy through the Science Fiction Book Club. I also attempted to read Twilight earlier this year. Not only is it a best seller among YA readers, it's set in the Pacific Northwest.

I couldn't finish Twilight. I could not generate any interest in Bella, supposedly the main character. And I found her relationship with Edward to be unhealthy even beyond the thirsty vampire aspect. She was passive, he was controlling -- the classic set up for an emotionally abusive relationship (not to mention the potential physical abuse of turning her into a vampire).

Needless to say, I haven't bothered to see any of the Twilight movies at the local multi-screen. However, when the first movie in the series aired on television I decided to give it a try.

:-P

It was as bad as the book in my opinion. The dialogue was lame. Bella was still passive. Things happened to her. She didn't instigate the action. The exact opposite of everything I'm learning in fiction writing workshops!

So count me out of the Twilight Camp.

The Harry Potter series may not have been great literature, but at least Jo Rowling made me care about the characters and Harry was the driving force in the novels. The characters formed healthy friendships, maintained their integrity, and didn't give up worthy goals against malignant forces.

Bella -- not so much, at least as far as I could stand to read and watch Twilight.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Elevator Pitch

You're in the elevator with Steven Spielberg or Donald Maas and you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch your script or novel. You have mere seconds to describe your project. How do you succinctly express your concept?

_____ meets _____

So ---

My young adult science fiction adventure, Galactic Empress, is:

Indiana Jones



meets

Princess Leia

Monday, November 21, 2011

Momentum


I didn't sign up for NaNoWriMo because on November 1st I was still developing the novel that had drawn me off onto a tangent. But a week into the month I had a nine-page summary of the story complete with sub plots and an opening scene.

So I started writing.

As of this morning I'm at 8,328 words -- so I obviously won't reach the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words by November 30th.

However....

I have applied the NaNoWriMo philosophy of write at any and every opportunity without stopping. And this made the light bulb pop on.



The advantage of participating in NaNoWriMo is MOMENTUM. Keeping the story foremost in your mind and focusing on getting it down in thirty days or less. Not getting sidetracked (at least, not for too long). Letting things that can wait, well, wait.

Thus, even though I won't finish Galactic Empress (working title only) by November 30th, maybe I can complete it by December 31st.

I just need to maintain the momentum!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Club: "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven"


Fannie Flagg's Can't Wait to Get to Heaven was the most recent selection of our little book club. Flagg is best know for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe which was made into a popular movie. This book continues the story of several characters introduced in Standing in the Rainbow.

The story centers on Elner Shimfissle and the residents of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Elner is an active octogenarian fretted over by her niece, Norma. Elner falls from the fig tree in her back yard when attacked by a swarm of wasps and she is pronounced dead at the hospital. News of her death spreads quickly as family and friends recall how she touched their lives. When Elner unexpectedly wakes up at the hospital, a frightened nurse runs away never to return to the profession and the residents of Elmwood Springs are left wondering what to do with all the "funeral food" they had prepared.

As Judy stated it so well, this is not a "message book" but it is a message book. Flagg makes us aware of how we touch so many others during our lives and how simple kindness builds a network of mutual care.

Elner, the widow of a farmer, left the farm to live in town at the insistence of Norma. She is a robust, independent woman with a mind that doesn't stop working. Elner is awed by the wonders of the universe and full of questions. She admires Thomas Edison and celebrates his birthday by turning on every electrical appliance in her home.

Elner has a near death experience in which she travels down hospital corridors, goes on an amusement park elevator ride, and ends up in Heaven where she is met by the Supreme Being in the shape of her former neighbor, Doc Smith with his wife Dorothy. Elner's Heaven is Elmwood Springs of the decade following World War II populated by friends who passed before her arrival. When she returns to the present and tells Norma about her NDE, Norma insists that she tell no one about it. The doctors will surely institutionalize Elner if they hear her tale.

All of the long-time residents of Elmwood Springs have been touched by Elner. Her selfless gestures ranged from minor thoughtfulness to guiding young Luther Griggs, who was headed for delinquency and worse, toward productive adulthood. These tales uplifted all of us and made us realize how even the smallest kindness may have significance to the recipient.

Flagg is a comedienne, and her books have laugh-out-loud moments as well as thought-provoking stories. The hospital administrator and legal counsel are convinced Elner and her family will sue the hospital. The attorney interviews Elner about her erroneous diagnosis, and she tries to keep her promise to Norma about not revealing her NDE while also answering truthfully. She leaves out Heaven, but mentions floating above the hospital and spying a brown golf shoe on the roof. The shoe becomes the obsession of the attorney in a subplot that ends well -- as do most of the other subplots.

We all enjoyed the fact that Flagg left the tale of the golf shoe and a heavenly piece of cake open to interpretation by the reader. The discovery of a loaded gun at the bottom of Elner's dirty clothes hamper has a shocking story behind it that is resolved satisfactorily but allows the reader to consider the moral dilemma of the characters.

In Flagg's novels, the characters are everything. She portrays them with foibles the reader can relate to and gives them obstacles we can identify with. In a small town, everyone knows everything about everyone else. I grew up in Portland -- so it was Judy, Christine, and Rhonda who discussed their youths in small towns. Childhood in their small towns was free ranging, with entire days spent outside the home. However, by their teenage years they found their home towns stifling. For them, Flagg's portrayal of Elmwood Springs rang true.

During her brief visit in Heaven, Elner gets to meet Thomas Edison. We discussed historical figures we would like to meet:  Eisenhower, Jane Austen, Churchill, and Darwin. We added Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mother Theresa. People who touched many lives and who drew on inner strengths during challenging times.

I had both Standing in the Rainbow and Can't Wait to Get to Heaven on my bookshelf, so I read the set. I highly recommend both books. I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe years ago and, per usual, the book is more dense than the movie (although in this case the screenplay written by Flagg made for an excellent film). I also highly recommend Flagg's Welcome to the World Baby Girl. Her books are easy to read, they are funny, yet they make the reader ponder serious issues. 

Our next book is The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. We will discuss it in January after the holidays.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thirty Day Novel?!



If it's November it must be National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Chris Baty is credited with creating or at least promoting the effort to draft a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Lots of folks daydream about writing a novel and seeing their book on the shelf at a bookstore or in the library. But daydreaming is a far cry from actually writing. And it is off putting when we hear stories about people spending years writing and editing a novel -- so most wanna be authors move on with their real lives and never write that book.

Baty determined that, "The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It's the lack of a deadline." Hey, if a deadline works for cleaning the house before guests arrive, why can't it work for a novel?!

Andi Erickson recently presented a workshop on "How to Write a Novel in 30 Days" for the Wilsonville Library's Dewey Speaks series. A previous winner of NaNoWriMo, Ms. Erickson summarized the effort in three simple steps:

  • Have something to write with,
  • Have a plan,
  • Write.

Okay. See ya!

Of course, there's more to it than that. As we learn in all novel-writing workshops, good fiction is about conflict. The main character has a want and there is an obstacle to that want. Publishable novels require a plot, defined as conflict + action + resolution. Plot is developed around a basic structure, the classic being the three act format:

  • Act I = set up the conflict (beginning),
  • Act II = conflict and escalation of conflict (middle),
  • Act III = resolve the conflict (end).

There are a variety of approaches to developing a publishable novel and Ms. Erickson emphasized that no one method works for all writers. Find what works for you and run with it. But she summarized plot development questions that pretty much work no matter how one goes about creating a long work of fiction.

  • Who wants what?
  • What gets in his/her way?
  • What does she/he do about it?
  • What is the result?

These questions not only work in developing the entire story arc, but also apply to each scene.

Wants _____ but _____ so _____ and then _____ ... but then _____.

The character has a desire, but there is an obstacle to obtaining that desire, so the character acts, and then there is a result of that action. We are carried into the next scene with "but then...."

At the resolution of the novel the goal is obtained, or the attempt fails, or the goal is reached but it turns out not to be what the character really wanted, or the character fails but it turns out to be okay.

Ms. Erickson drew from her own experience plus Baty's book to provide various aids to help writers through the four week effort. But what I scribbled on a sticky note that I have applied to the front of my Mac was the scene/story arc summary. Even though I've heard it before (or variations), it takes several times before it sinks in. I can only absorb so much at each workshop I attend or from each book I read about creating fiction.

Most comforting is the reminder that a first draft (no matter how long it takes to complete) is not expected to be good. Per Baty, Ernest Hemingway said "The first draft of anything is shit." I've even heard and read of writers who label it "shitty first draft" to give them the freedom to write without interference from the inner editor.

So, if it's November (or any time you choose), write often, write fast, just write.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Stills: In the Dark

I've never tried taking photos at night but in thinking about the challenge I wondered if I could capture some Fall color and some dramatic lighting using the street lights. With that in mind I grabbed the camera for Indy's final walk of the evening and came up with these:



Hmmm. No wonder the new NBC program Grimm is filmed in Portland!

To see how others met the dark challenge, visit Sunday Stills.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Okay, Okay -- It's Fall


Getting ready to take Indy on his morning walk reminded me of suiting up an astronaut. Me:  jeans and turtleneck, fleece jacket, waterproof Ariat barn boots, waterproof zip-on pants and hooded jacket, Kerrits baseball cap, gloves. Indy:  waterproof "turnout sheet."

We've had some wet days already this Fall, but temperatures were in the high 50s or low- to mid-60s. Recent frosty mornings gave way to sunny afternoons. This week we finally got the first of the wet cold fronts that will be with us until June. Snow levels have dropped and the furnace started early this morning. Not conducive to jumping out of bed except for an insistent Sheltie.

As if suiting up for Indy's walk wasn't bad enough, peeling off the wet clothes when we return is, well, ishy. Everything is drippy and uncooperative. Indy at least waits patiently for removal of his doggy coat because it means I will dry off his paws and give him a tummy rub with the towel.

The calendar says it's Autumn, but it's hard to give up on the pleasant transitional days that are comfortably warm with cool nights. However, this morning I had to admit that it really is Fall. Clammy wet leaves cover the ground, the walnut trees are bombing unsuspecting pedestrians, and the sky is a monotonous shade of gray.

Okay. I give.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Off on a Tangent -- Again

Artwork of Francesco Paduano
Non-writers often ask where the ideas for novels come from. For me, the story ideas are everywhere. From news stories, novels and movies, to daily observations. Take the evening news, pick one story and ask "what if...?" Add a twist to the reported facts. Dig deeper into the story. Add or subtract a character to the factual story.

My most recent tangent away from Curse of the Blood Stone occurred while watching a typical adventure movie. The hero and his sidekick rescue a beautiful damsel and foil the antagonist's plans. Granted, the beautiful damsel in this case was brainy and resourceful. But the little lightbulb went on and I asked, what if...?

What if the "rescued" damsel turns the tables on the pair of adventurers and uses them to achieve her goal? And what if the damsel falls for the sidekick instead of the dashing hero?

I already had the seeds for a heroine planted with the working title Galactic Empress. I tried folding in the adventure tale twist and actually came up with a story that has a doable main plot with feasible subplots. The main characters are young adults in the 15-17 age range. The setting is a space opera. The plot is a bit of Indiana Jones meets Princess Leia. Hmmm.

Just in time for NaNoWriMo. Although -- I don't think I'll commit myself to 50,000 words  this November. But I do hope to attend the local library's session on writing a novel in 30 days. Any hints on speeding up the writing process will be appreciated! I'm still applying the Six Core Competencies and Snowflake methods to developing my latest novel. I've been scribbling ideas in a grid-lined composition book and I have a binder full of research. I've even settled on pictures of the main characters (some well-known actors in their younger years)!

So we'll see where this tangent takes me.

I am such a Gemini! *sigh*

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Chuckle


Every Fall I get a chuckle out of the Halloween decorations I observe while walking Indy. They remind me of a former coworker who was upset when fellow employees decorated their cubicles and the office with the typical witches, ghosts, and hobgoblins. She claimed to be a good Christian woman who was upset by the "devil worship" symbols that surrounded her.

Yet the pagan-based symbols associated with Christmas didn't bother her. Likely because she didn't know that the tree, holly, winter date, etc., were absorbed into the holiday along with the pagans that were converted to Christianity. :-/

Addressing my mother's recent health issues has drained me and I was tempted to leave the porch light dark and front door locked on Halloween. But we're both doing better now so I've got to prepare for the onslaught. Which means a trip to the dollar store for party favors and toys.

For the past few years I've filled a large stainless steel bowl with toys and let the children pick one. The reactions from the children and their parents provide my real Halloween chuckles. The trick-or-treaters are often surprised and stymied by making a decision instead of having candy dumped in their bag. The smallest ones often don't have the concept of taking only one toy. Many parents are grateful for something other than candy. The youngest children are delighted by the toys, while some of the older trick-or-treaters are disgusted (one even threw his bottle of bubbles at our front door - hard). However, last year even the older goblins seemed to enjoy something different.

So -- whether you celebrate Samhain or All Hallows Eve -- have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Club: "Corduroy Mansions"


We only had three members in attendance this time (one was on a trip to Paris!) but we managed to discuss a book that didn't lend itself to much analysis.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the popular Ladies #1 Detective Agency series set in Botswana, plus several more series set in the UK. Corduroy Mansions is the first book in his latest series originally published in serial form for "The Telegraph." The author says he is more interested in the quirky characters than he is a plot-driven story. Anyone expecting a traditional story arc will be disappointed, but when read as a series of vignettes about the characters the book makes for a pleasant read.

Corduroy Mansions is the nickname for the boarding house where William French lives on the top floor above "the girls" (Dee, Jo, Caroline, Jenny) who share a flat on the first floor, and Mr. Wickramsinghe on the ground floor. William is a modestly successful wine dealer who is less than successful in persuading his deadbeat son Eddie to get a job and move out.

We agreed that Marcia the caterer instigated the "action" of the story by insinuating herself into William's life. She suggests William acquire a dog, since Eddie is afraid of dogs and they assume he will depart rather than share quarters with one. Thus, Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier, is introduced. (I googled the UKC and AKC and found no official listing for a Pimlico terrier, which I presume is a breed created by the author. The photos of Freddie greatly resemble a Jack Russell terrier, a lively breed deserving of first and last names.) When Eddie inexplicably accepts a canine in the flat, Marcia suggests that she move in with William by taking over Eddie's room.

William, being the kind but passive gentle man that he is, does not object. He rather feels that his life has been taken over, yet he allows Marcia to have her way. Eddie angrily picks up his belongings and moves in with his disreputable friends. Despite the shakeups to his settled life, William is pleasantly surprised that he is pleased with the changes.

As is often the case in our modern society, we recognize our neighbors as we go about our individual busy schedules, but never get to know them well. Freddie proves to be an icebreaker for William who becomes better acquainted with his housemates -- in particular the young working women who live downstairs.

Through Carolyn (the art student) and Jenny (the assistant to MP Oedipus Snark) the reader meets a wider circle of characters whose lives we observe. Snark is an egotistical, self-absorbed politician who neglects his editor girlfriend (Barbara Ragg) and takes for granted his assistant Jenny. Snark's mother, Berthea, is writing an expose biography of the son she dislikes. She takes a break from writing to visit her ethereal brother, Terence Moongrove. If you haven't already guessed, the author is having a little Dickensian fun with the names of his characters.

Because characterization takes precedence over plot, we discussed the loose ends left dangling at the end of the book, plus the unexpectedly neat wrap up of other story lines.
Marcia and William seemed to come to an amicable understanding that they would be no more than roommates, but will Carolyn win the heart of the confused James who magically acquired a girlfriend in the last chapter? Is Barbara Ragg's new lover, Hugh, too good to be true? What is Berthea's intention for the biography of her loathsome son? Why was Oedipus so interested in the new book Barbara had acquired for her publisher?


The second book in the series (The Dog Who Came In from the Cold) is available in the US and the third installment of serialized chapters (A Conspiracy of Friends) was recently concluded on "The Telegraph" web site. I have the impression that a more recognizable story arc occurs over the span of the other books in the series and the questions we were left with will be answered in them.


Throughout the book the characters express their views of our modern world and reveal the philosophies that help them contend with the complexities of life. I believe the theme of the book and series is expressed in William's poem that ends the book:  "Happiness flows most readily from friendship."

Although we had tentatively selected Rules of Civility by Amor Towles for our next read, the three of us discussed the advisability of choosing newly published books. Since bargain-priced paperback versions are not yet out, and the library often has long waiting lists for popular new reads, we browsed for books that would be easier for our members to acquire. I suggested Fannie Flagg and we came up with Can't Wait to Get to Heaven. We'll see what the rest of the group thinks about changing our selection.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Naughty runaway Phantom earlier this year.
Apparently the old adage is true. I guess that's why it's an old adage. Duh.

For the first time since I've belonged to Phantom he has, on more than one occasion this summer, run away from me when I walked out into the pasture to bring him in. A couple of times he was still amped up after the geldings had raced around like maniacs. The other times, I'm not exactly sure what set him off. Granted, at our former barn he didn't have as much room for evasive tactics. And last summer at our new barn there was never a problem. But this year he has suddenly taken full advantage of the six acre pasture to play keep-away. Obviously I can't let him get away with it. And so far, after 20-30 minutes of trudging back and forth and fussing with his pasture mates (giving treats to his pal Zorro seemed to trigger cooperation), Phantom would let me catch him as if nothing was wrong.

Regrettably, my time at the barn has been limited of late. My mother's health issues have drastically altered my barn schedule. It's been three weeks since I've been in the saddle and during that time I've only made a few quick trips for a zoom groom to give Phantom a brief check up.

Interestingly enough, Phantom has replaced keep-away with soft nickers and waiting politely for me or even walking toward me. Guess that's the secret to catching him. Once-a-week visits. He is pretty cute, though. Big brown eyes, windblown forelock, welcoming nicker. How sweet! I hope his agreeable attitude lasts.

Barefoot but Not Pregnant

While I was absent last week Phantom once again pulled off his left front shoe (his wonky white foot). This was the third or fourth time he's done this since arriving at CF. *sigh* I just can't deal with it in light of everything else that's going on. So I told the farrier to pull the remaining shoe. I'll leave Phantom barefoot for the winter and consider replacing the front shoes next spring/summer. Shoer Brian says Phantom's feet are in good shape, so my Goober Boy should do okay over our typically wet winters.

I'm hoping I can get out to the barn more often once my mother's post surgery at-home care visits wind down. It's a little hard to get to the barn when two therapists and a nurse keep stopping by between scheduled and unscheduled doctor visits.

Monday, October 10, 2011

So Simple

Confucius (551-479 BC)
"What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

"Men's natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart."

"Study the past if you would define the future."

"Learning without thought is labor lost;
thought without learning is perilous."

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    You know you have a problem when...

    ...you open your tack locker and it smells like hamburger that's waaay past its prime.

    Such was the case on Saturday when I stopped by the barn just long enough to unpack Phantom's old turnout sheet and leave some treats in his feed bucket. I definitely needed to conduct a search and destroy mission, but didn't have the time.

    Today I made another quick trip to the barn, this time to check on Phantom and give him a zoom groom. My tack locker still smelled like old hamburger so I started removing the neatly stacked plastic storage boxes and sure enough...

    ...dead mouse.

    Eeeuuw!

    It took some maneuvering with implements other than hands, but I removed the carcass and added it to the nearest muck bucket.

    Decades ago my father built the tack locker to my specifications with the intent of keeping out mice. Over the years it has done the job admirably. Apparently too well. This mouse must have entered while I was occupied with Phantom and was still perusing the contents when I finished for the day and locked up to return home.

    I certainly hope the "old hamburger" smell dissipates quickly now that the source has been eliminated. But we're entering the Mildew Months of the Willamette Valley, so I'm not too optimistic.

    Guess I need to install a mouse alert to let them know it's time to exit!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    It's Officially Fall

    Not because the calendar says so.



    Not because the leaves are changing color.


    Not because the geese are flying south.


    It is officially Fall because I turned off the sprinkler system...


    ...and I hung Phantom's turnout sheet on his stall.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Sunday Stills: First Signs of Fall

    With temperatures in the 80s in the Willamette Valley it's a little difficult to believe it's Fall, even if the calendar dictates it. However, I managed to capture the following during Indy's morning walk.

    First foggy morning.

    Spots of red.

    Splash of color.

    To see more early signs of Autumn, visit Sunday Stills.