Monday, March 28, 2011


Here are some of the sketches from the blue sketch pad that appeared in my Sunday Stills contribution.

This Norwegian fjord horse was drawn from a calendar photo, as are many of my drawings:

This classic turnout was taken from a photo of the Royal Windsor horse show:

This sketch was done as a gift from the owner's husband. Both were pleased with the result which, in turn, pleased me.

This is one of my favorites, drawn from the cover of the Dover Saddlery catalogue.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Stills: The Color Blue

Had my camera on my desk from a previous download, so I prowled the loft for blue items. Not too difficult, since the color scheme is inspired by the Black Watch plaid.

This is my favorite. A navy blue basket:

I like the reflective surfaces in this one:

And the sketch pad, ready for inspiration:

To see more patches of blue, visit Sunday Stills.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I don't know how a thrown shoe can become so totally and completely lost in the arena footing, but Phantom's left front is hiding somewhere in the tanbark.

We did a walk-and-talk with Gen and Zorro as our warm up. Zorro, clever man, has an infected cut just above his coronet band. He's on the mend and the initial swelling is down. The vet prescribed antibiotics and recommended stall rest and walking (hand or ridden) so Gen hopped on bareback today for a stroll.

Sidebar: Do vets get their yucks by recommending hand walking a stall-bound horse? "Stall rest (snigger, snigger) for your horse accustomed to daily turnout and hand walking (guffaw) once a day."

After Gen and Zorro's departure from the arena, Phantom and I went to work. For a change, we shared the arena with three other boarders. It was nice to have company and the activity to divert Phantom's attention from the open end gate (tractor access) that is always closed. Took awhile to get bits of round trot, and his left lead canter was a challenge since I'm again weighted to the right side of the saddle. But we handled the distractions for a decent ride. It wasn't until I dismounted and headed back to Phantom's stall that I noticed he had a "flat."

And of course, this was just minutes after the shoer had packed up and left for his next appointment.

I recalled that Phantom had tripped pretty good at one point during my ride, which made me wonder if that's when he caught the shoe. Whatever he did, he removed it cleanly. He just had a trim and reset on Tuesday, so his bare foot doesn't even look like there had been a shoe on it. *sigh*

So after I turned out Phantom I went on a search and rescue mission in the arena. I started in the vicinity where I recalled the trip. I dragged my feet, kicked tanbark, you name it. Not a glimmer of metal. I expanded my search but found nothing. The single aught shoe apparently had gone to ground.

I gave the barn crew a heads up to keep an eye out for a shoe during their arena maintenance chores. The shoer will be back out on Monday so he will remedy the situation then.

But I'm still shaking my head in wonder that a thrown shoe can disappear so quickly. Imagine the surprise of the individual living in the parallel universe where Phantom's shoe appeared suddenly out of thin air!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Club Discussion: "Rebecca"

Regrettably, two of our members could not attend our session last week and I was a little late, but we managed to have a good discussion about a book that turned out to be a favorite. Two of us had read Rebecca decades ago, and one of our members was still in the middle of the novel, but there was much to admire about the Du Maurier work.

We considered Rebecca to be an intriguing and unusual book. The title character is deceased and never appears in the novel. The narrator remains unnamed. And Manderley, the de Winter family manse, is a major character in the story.

We agreed that it was based on the tradition of gothic novels -- that is, a naive young woman lacking family connections finds herself in an isolated and darkly mysterious location with a handsome, worldly, tormented man.

We also saw elements of a coming-of-age novel. The narrator, the young and inexperienced second Mrs. de Winter, is very much a girl when she first meets Maxim but the events of the book age her quickly. We found her fanciful thoughts and imagined conversations to be realistic for a young woman of 20. She, like most young people entering adulthood, was desperately trying to find her place in the world and defining herself by her surroundings. She believed she needed to meet the standards established by the sophisticated first Mrs. de Winter and found herself failing miserably.

Although we readily identified with the young narrator via our younger selves (two of us read it while in high school), from our more "seasoned" perspectives we were a bit impatient with the young Mrs. de Winter. "Com'on! Get some backbone!" I have already expressed my irritation with Maxim for leaving his bride to sink or swim on her own as mistress of Manderley. Other members of the club found him disrespectful, treating his wife like a child.

Which brought us to the issue of "unreliable narrator." The second Mrs. de Winter's lack of self-confidence and esteem colored her view of events. All that the reader knows of the other characters and settings is filtered through the young bride. She calls herself plain, yet other characters call her pretty. She is intimidated by the servants and household routines established by Rebecca. Did Maxim really stroke her head like he petted their dog, Jasper?

We pretty much agreed that this was the best written novel we've read thus far. The descriptive passages evoked all five senses. Du Maurier was masterful in her use of the weather to foreshadow events. Likewise, her descriptions of Manderley created lovely images of its exterior and the estate while the interior was portrayed with more ominous and unsettled terms. Du Maurier creates a full-fledged character arc where the narrator is little more than a child when she first meets Maxim but matures to support him later in the novel when the situation turns grim.

Still, there was room for the reader to apply his or her imagination. Just what exactly did Rebecca say and do that made Maxim despise her? Dialogue by Mrs. Danvers and Jack Favell gives us an idea of Rebecca's personality. Maxim wasn't angered so much by Rebecca's infidelities as he was the manner with which she hurt others for her own amusement. Du Maurier leaves it to the reader to fill in the blanks regarding Rebecca's true personality. And what exactly happened to Mrs. Danvers? We know she packed her things and had her bags picked up -- but then what? Was she destroyed with Manderley, as Hitchcock chose to portray? Or...?

We concluded our discussion with the passage in which Maxim de Winter discussed his love for Manderley: "I thought about Manderley too much. I put Manderley first, before anything else. And it does not prosper, that sort of love. They don't preach about it in the churches. Christ said nothing about stones, and bricks, and walls, the love that a man can bear for his plot of earth, his soil, his little kingdom. It does not come into the Christian creed." Maxim had been willing to suffer a loveless marriage and put on a pretext of the perfect relationship for the benefit of Manderley. It was Rebecca's impeccable taste that turned Manderley into a showplace. It was Rebecca's parties at Manderley that people spoke of for years afterward. Maxim's sacrifices for the estate reminded us of Scarlet O'Hara's love for Tara. Both books were published about the same time (1938) as were the movies. We wondered if the Depression highlighted a reverence for land? Holding on to it for all one was worth.

* * *

Our next book for discussion will be Lawrence Hill's Someone Knows My Name. Fortunately, March is a long month which gives us an extra week to read this longer novel.

I've been tapped to select a science fiction novel for our May meeting. This is tricky, since none of our members (to my knowledge) have ever read SF/F. So -- nothing too geeky. I've narrowed it down to Ender's Game, Dragonflight (first book of Dragronriders of Pern), To Say Nothing of the Dog, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Darwin's Radio. I may change my mind before our April meeting when we select the next read for our May discussion.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Stills: Canine Companions

This past week was on the stressful side, so I thought I'd have to go to the archives for this challenge. However, I did manage to take a couple of mediocre pictures. So on the way to the loft where my computer resides, I snapped a couple more of Indy on the landing.

Gosh and begorra (I didn't do much celebrating on Thursday, so I'm making up for it) -- the spur of the moment photos weren't too bad.

Well, this one is a little fuzzy:

But then, Indy is pretty fluffy himself.

However, this one turned out pretty good for a brief stop on the stairs:

To see more lovable pooches, visit Sunday Stills.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On Reading "Rebecca" Again

I'll post the book club comments following our Wednesday meeting, but just a note with my thoughts on rereading Rebecca.

I first read the book in 1967. I so identified with the shy, awkward narrator at that time. Since then I've seen the movie several times on television, which follows the book fairly closely.

This time around I knew the story twist ahead of time and could appreciate Du Maurier's set up and foreshadowing. Her writing is much more dense than is currently popular. Nowadays folks want to speed through novels, but Manderley is a character itself so descriptions of the manse and its grounds are critical to establishing the story atmosphere.

The story is narrated by the unnamed second Mrs. de Winter who is 20-some years younger than her husband and inexperienced with the lifestyle into which she married. Using this POV character was genius. Her interpretation of people and events establishes the reader's expectations of the story's direction. And the story doesn't exactly go where expected.

It's also interesting to view the narrator from a more "advanced" age. When I first read the story I could empathize with the naive bride who was cowed by the servants and awed by Manderley. From my current viewpoint, I was irritated with Maxim de Winter who left his new wife to sink or swim as the mistress of an historic manse. And perhaps a wee bit exasperated by the young woman who crumbled so easily.

Taking a second look at Mrs. Danvers revealed why she also wreaks havoc in Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next series.

This time around I could not read Rebecca without envisioning the actors from Hitchcock's movie version of the novel. The casting was perfection. George Sanders has never been more oily. Dame Judith Anderson could give one nightmares. Olivier was appropriately handsome yet moody. Joan Fontaine conveyed so much of the narrator's self doubts through her expression and posture. There was a remake with Charles Dance as Maxim de Winter -- but I think the Hitchcock version nailed it.

Anyway -- it will be interesting to see what the other book club members think of Rebecca.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The "Snowflake Method" Part Two

I discovered Randy Ingermanson's writing blog and his novel development process dubbed "The Snowflake Method" by way of Larry Brooks' Storyfix blog. I've attended Brooks' "Core Competency" and "Story Structure" workshops at the Willamette Writers Conference and found them to be lifesavers. Ingermanson's Snowflake Method melds well with Brooks' guidelines. So I attempted to apply them in the creation of a new story (instead of trying to salvage an existing draft).

Now, Ingermanson's blog gives a good summary of the Snowflake Method, but when I learned he had co-authored Writing Fiction for Dummies, I made a beeline for the nearest book store.

Ingermanson, like Brooks, is not a my-way-or-the-highway type. Both take into account that some people require a detailed outline before writing, while others need only a blank screen (or piece of paper). But Writing Fiction for Dummies is a book-length expansion of his novel development process that includes a chapter devoted to the ten steps of the Snowflake Method.

I've read numerous books and attended many workshops. I've applied bits and pieces of all in drafting my novels. The results have been mixed.

So this time, in developing The Curse of the Blood Stone, I stuck with Ingermanson's Snowflake Method (underpinned by Brooks' story structure guidelines). I breezed through some steps and struggled with others. I let the story percolate on the back burner when blocked, and scribbled like crazy after the solution came to me.

Bottom line: it works!

I just completed Step 8, the Scene List. I have 101 scenes! A beginning, middle, and end.

Step 9 is analyze the scenes. That is, determine the type of scene, the point-of-view character for each scene, scene setting, decide if it's a proactive or reactive scene, etc. Ingermanson suggests using a spreadsheet to create the scene list, but since I have considerable experience with MS Word and very little with Excel or other spreadsheets, I went with a Word table. The spreadsheet/table will allow me to easily add a column of detail and rearrange the order of the scenes. So I'll print out my scene list and jot my notes, make the necessary changes, print out the revised scene list -- and start writing!

For anyone getting started in the fiction process, I highly recommend Larry Brooks' books:

With the aid of the above three books, a newbie can develop the seed of an idea into a real story, and develop that story on a structure that has all the right scenes in all the right places.

By the way, I don't get a kickback from Ingermanson or Brooks. But if I ever get published I owe them an acknowledgment. ;-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sunday Stills: Favorite Place

Bottom line, at the end of the day, this is where I settle to watch television and read or grumble through a crossword puzzle.

This is my mother's burgundy-leather loveseat. I have so many writing supplies and magazines piled on one half that there is barely enough room for me to squeeze into the remaining half. This house is far larger than the tiny home where I grew up, but we still manage to cover every flat surface.

I generally rest my feet on a cushioned footstool (since I'm vertically challenged and can't sit comfortably with my feet on the floor). Indy usually snoozes on the floor between the sofa and footstool -- making sure that I can't make a move without him knowing about it. My mother spends the evening in her forest green-leather Mission-style rocker where she reads the newspaper.

Other favorite places include the barn (of course):

And my computer desk:

To see more favorite places, visit Sunday Stills.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Right Place at the Right Time

When Indy has to go, Indy has to go. Rain or shine we head out for his "business trips." Generally I head over to the adjacent neighborhood in the mornings, and in the afternoon we often go to the nearby city park.

Yesterday afternoon we darted out between rain storms for a quick spin around the park. As we were heading home I noticed an odd object in the street. It was near the curb in the bicycle lane. I almost walked on by, but something made we wait for two cars to pass so I could take a closer look.

Imagine my surprise to find a soaked check that had fallen out of the damp wallet that still contained cash and credit cards. I collected both and as soon as I got home I began the online search for the owner.

My initial Facebook search was a bust, but subsequent information provided a variation of her name and -- bingo! We made contact and I was able to place the wallet in her hands this morning. Turns out the owner works nearby and suspects she drove off with the wallet on the roof of her car.

I can only hope that someone would do the same for me in similar circumstances. Sadly, that's not often the case. I shake my head when the news media airs a feel-good story about a good citizen. Decent behavior shouldn't be news - it should be commonplace.

Any way, I'm so glad that I came upon the wallet before it had been ransacked and that I located the rightful owner before she had to cancel all her credit cards.

Many thanks to Indy for demanding his walk at the right time.