Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did Jo Rowling Have This Problem?

I hit a roadblock with my first draft of The Curse of the Blood Stone. The scene in question involved a mounted game that I "invented" for my YA fantasy novel. In actuality I have combined two existing games, one of which I was vaguely familiar with and the other I'd never heard of before.

While pondering how to approach the problem scene I returned to the Internet to watch a view videos that helped me figure out how to block out the movements of the characters.

So I dive into the scene and within a couple of paragraphs I'm struggling with the locations of the players on the field. Ack! I snatch a piece of paper and the next thing I know I'm doing the football schematic thing. You know -- the Xs and Os with the arrows going every which way. By the time I was done my sketch looked like a bowl of spaghetti -- but it worked. I think. At least I completed the action and I hope the reader can follow it.

Now -- my game is fairly conventional in that it is played on a large field (or pitch) with a goal at each end. No flying around. Strictly earthbound. And I have only three players per team participating in the action.

How in the world did Jo Rowling block out the movement of Harry et al. for a Quidditch match with everyone flying all over the place?! My thinking cap is off to her because adding the extra dimension of up-and-down to back-and-forth would have given me fits.

Anyway, I'm glad that I can move on from this scene. It is significant for my vision of the novel's climactic scene -- thus the need to get it right.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dressage at Devonwood 2011

Riding by the letters.
Trainer's advice at the warmup ring.
Enter at A

Cool shades.
At B.
Canter pirouette for the judge.
Flying change.
Trot out.
Trot the diagonal.
A job well done.
The "break room

Only at a horse show.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Stills: Farm Animals.

No farms visited this week, but I did spend a morning at one of Oregon's largest dressage shows. Dressage at Devonwood attracts riders from all over the west coast and Canada. I'll post a few of my show photos in a day or two.

For this week's challenge, I chose a couple of the more casual sights at the show.

Done for the day.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Club: "Cutting for Stone"

Although we all enjoyed the book, several of us were bothered by what we perceived as a passive protagonist and felt the story dragged in many places. We all agreed that Verghese did an excellent job of character development and it was our curiosity about these people that maintained our interest in the book.

This is a multi-cultural novel, the greater portion of which is set in Ethiopia. It begins in 1954 with flashbacks in the opening chapters to establish key characters. Verghese, a physician himself, focuses on the doctors and staff of a charity hospital known as "Missing Hospital" -- a mangling of "Mission" but appropriate for the characters that populate the book (the "Missing People"). The novel chronicles the birth and lives of twins Marion and Shiva who were conjoined at birth and successfully separated by their surgeon father. Their mother, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, died as a result of the difficult delivery. Their father, Thomas Stone, fled immediately afterward. The boys were raised by the two doctors who kept the hospital going following the departure of its premiere surgeon.

The twins are referred to as Shivamarion; a single unit, a collective. Genet, illegitimate daughter of their housekeeper/nanny, completes the threesome that is exceptionally attuned to each other. During childhood the trio are inseparable. However, adolescent betrayal and political turmoil in Ethiopia tear them apart. Marion silently nurses anger and resentment toward Shiva and Genet that he does not resolve until years later.

I won't go into the details of Marion's upbringing, which constitutes seemingly 3/4 of the novel. Personally, the pace and grinding details in some scenes made it difficult for me to read at times. The book read more like a memoir than a work of fiction. Having been immersed in plot-driven novels of late, I grew frustrated waiting for the "action" to begin and narrator Marion to take over his own life. Yet the group wondered if this was done deliberately to reflect the minutia that are significant to children, the slower pace of the Ethiopian culture, and to reconstruct the leisurely approach of 19th century novels.

It seems likely that the entire novel was structured to illustrate the fable of Abu Kassem's Slippers told by one of the characters. The tale teaches that everything you see, do, touch - what you do or don't do -becomes part of your destiny. "The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not."

Thus -- although several of us found the narrator irritatingly static, his lack of action was as influential on the outcome of the novel as were the choices made by the other characters.

The events and inter-personal relationships of the novel are too complex to summarize here. From adolescent angst to political upheaval to race and social status -- the novel encompasses a number of themes.

What we all took away from Cutting for Stone was the observation made by one of the characters that we live life forward, but understand it backward.


Our next book is Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts. This will be our first nonfiction book for the group. I recently skimmed through it for research. Aside from Voldemort, who better to study in developing a nasty antagonist that Hitler and his cohorts? So now I will reread the book with more care.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scenes From Hunter Creek Farm

These are some of my favorite photos from The Country Classic Preview and The Country Classic horse shows held at Hunter Creek Farm in Wilsonville, Oregon. I enjoy the challenge of capturing the action in the ring as well as illustrating behind-the-scenes activity at the shows.

Higher jumper fences mean more "air time."
The details:  elevator bit, spurs, flying stirrup leather....

Happy junior hunter. This it what it's all about.

Neatly braided and waiting patiently.


Schooling chaps and riding crop.

One last polish.

Field boots and red tack trunk.

Making a new friend. (Note the tight grip on Mom.)

Pony hunter triple combination jump.

Final fence.

Who needs a horse?

Where's my treat?

Final instructions after a disappointing first round.


Excused from the ring after naughty pony refused to jump.

Good luck wishes from the trainer.

Ready for the trailer ride home.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Stills: People

Horse Show People

Trainers in the warm up ring.
Grooms on the way to the wash rack.

Spectators at the rail.
Spectators on the bleachers.
Riders between classes.
Making new friends.
Happy competitors on course.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


The final Harry Potter movie debuts at midnight here in the Colonies. As a build up to the event there have been Harry Potter movie marathons on cable television, and the Biography channel is replaying its making-of series.

It was while I was viewing the efforts to create the world of Harry Potter for the big screen that I became depressed with my current novel-in-progress and intimidated by the touchstone YA fantasy series.

The various directors and producers discussed the search for young actors to play the main characters, the difficulty in locating suitable locations and building detailed sets, and the development of believable creatures by combining animatronics with CGI. All of it done to leap from two-dimensional pages into a three-dimensional world of sights and sounds that transport us to the world of Jo Rowling's creation.

My novel-in-progress is a thin broth compared to Rowling's hearty stew.

I'm still drafting the Set Up section of The Curse of the Blood Stone. I may as well quit while I'm behind. In no way have I established a story world comparable to that of Rowling's.


My writing has always been the reverse of peeling an onion. Like blocking a stage play early during the rehearsal process. I have a theme in mind, a protagonist with supporting characters, and settings. I've started moving my characters through the settings and given them dialogue. If I slog on to complete my first draft I will have a framework on which to build the story world that exists in my mind.

After all -- every stew begins with a broth.

And every writer tells her (or his) story in her own way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gadget Technicians Are So Funny

I was 80% into our current book club read when I decided to turn on my Kindle to check out a novel I'd just heard about. The last-page read appeared per normal. I went to Menu and turned on the 3G/WiFi. Then attempted to access the Kindle Store.

That's when I received the "no access" message. Now, I was seated in the exact same location I always occupy when reading and perusing books on my Kindle, so I know darned well I have Wi Fi and 3G access from that site.

Nevertheless, I turned off the 3G/WiFi, turned off the Kindle, tried everything all over again. This time I'd lost all my books as well as access to 3G/WiFi. And the menu items were non-responsive. Nothing I did remedied the situation.

With Kindle in hand, I went to the computer to visit Amazon's Kindle Troubleshooting site. Of the FAQs, none really addressed the frozen menu and lost books that I was experiencing in addition to lack of Wi Fi access. But I tried the option related to the no Wi Fi access message. There I read that when all else fails I should enter:  Home > Menu > Restart.

Which I did.

Except -- when the Kindle is frozen, nothing happens when the Menu button is pressed!!

So I used the email option under "Contact Us" to explain the problem.

And a Kindle technician responded in a timely manner.

The solution to my problem?  Go to the Menu and press "Restart."


Fortunately, immediately after sending my email to the Amazon Kindle Troubleshooting site I Googled "frozen Kindle" and located a chat room where I was reminded to hold the power button for 15 seconds. Obviously, I should have done this instead of going to the Kindle Troubleshooting page.

I held the power button for 15 seconds (which I remembered doing before when I got the "no WiFi access" message). My Kindle rebooted, and all my books were recovered. I had to scan to the last-page read for the book club novel (regrettably I lost all my highlights/bookmarks/notes -- but hey, the book was back!) and all was well with the world again.

  1. I love it when the gadget technicians advise you to use the features of the device that aren't working in order to solve the problem you're having with the electronic wonder. 
  2. I've never had this problem with a good old-fashioned, ink-on-paper, bound book. Misplaced, food/drink spilled, pages torn or stuck together, etc. But never have I had a book freeze up or disappear in my grip.
I am currently purging my bookshelves to slim down my personal library -- but I will never, ever give up printed books. They never need to be recharged in the middle of the climactic scene.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Stills: The Letter "F"

"F" is for Fences! 

The horse show season is in full swing and I'm fortunate to live close to an active venue for hunter-jumper competitions. Have camera, will "horse around."

Oxer to vertical fence combination in the hunter ring.

Another combination (fixed stride distance) in the hunter ring.

A mess of colorful fences in the jumper ring.

Jumper fence in use!

Visit Sunday Stills to see how others were inspired by this week's challenge.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Stills: Patriotism and 4th of July Celebrations

Every year a local realtor places these small flags in each yard in our neighborhood. Some of the residents aren't happy about it, but most of us like the gesture. Personally, I like seeing the uniform appearance of the flags for the Independence Day holiday. Not everyone has a porch flagpole, so these little flags (even with the realtor's business card attached) give everyone the opportunity to fly our colors.

To see how others celebrate Independence Day, visit Sunday Stills.