It’s been far too long since I’ve blogged and I am going to try to be more diligent. I blame FaceBook. It’s far too easy to simply post a single-line blurb there. However, since I can post the same here and have it publish to FB, I shall try to do things that way…at least for this month. We’ll see how it goes.
So…for those of you who are NOT following me on FB, here’s what’s new. We have been discussing for ages the possibility of adding a puppy or younger dog to our household. Charlie is 13 and a half, and though spry and active (albeit with the hip problems we all face as we age), he’s not doing a lot of moving around when we’re not home. We wanted someone who might encourage him to do so without challenging his “*I’m* the man” status. Not that he’s a forceful beastie, but he’s been here, it’s his house, he shouldn’t have to prove that.
We investigate, asked the vet, sought more opinions than I did on my new car, and looked at endless photos of rescue dogs. We wanted to rescue again, as we had Charlie. I’m still not entirely certain as to who rescued whom with him. Anyway, we narrowed our choices and then found a likely candidate.
I called, was “pre-screened” by the friend of the rescuer lady (to whom we shall forever after refer to as “Old Wackadoodle Lady,” or OWL for short). After that phone screen, OWL phoned me and we went through yet another vetting. Then we (Sheryl, Charlie, and I) had to trek down to Beverly Hills to meet said OWL. I was expecting, based upon her address, her general overprotectiveness, and her exhausting phone calls and details on how to access her gate, a mansion with loads of “help” flittering around.
What we found was a well-beyond-prime ex-actress (no, I’ll not share her name, but really…she’s been in a LOT of things, including, to our delight, a Doris Day film) living in a 1920′s HOVEL with overgrown trees, and barred windows. The house was filled with…well, it wasn’t pretty. There were, however, original posters from films and actual photos (not reprints or cutouts) of Jack and Jackie Kennedy with OWL and OWL with lots (and lots) of famous faces.
It was actually kind of sad.
Anyway. She made it sound as if we were the #1 candidate for the puppy she called Bella, whom we were going to name Beckett. She was a lab/golden mix, chocolate with a golden undercoat. A true sweetie. We scheduled a “home visit” for her to come on Friday (the 8th). Her aide said she’s be bringing the puppy and it looked as if we were set to go. Thursday night, however, as I was teaching my last class of the week, OWL phoned to tell me that she was not coming up and would most likely (the aide later said “assuredly”) place Bella and her sister India with a young couple with two kids.
Well…crap! Based upon OWL and aide’s assurances, we’d gone ahead and used our fabulous Amazon Christmas money to outfit ourselves with all things puppy-related. Now…crap. But…well, at least Bella could stay with her sister and would be loved. Nobody loves dogs more than do kids.
So…I began again the search. This time I was determined to only go through an actual rescue agency. I searched, sent out queries, and on Friday morning had narrowed our choices to two. Luckily, both dogs were available to be seen. The first was completely unsuitable once we (Charlie and I) met her. She was 3, quite assertive, and actually nipped Charlie and drew blood. I was not happy about that.
After giving Charlie treats, cuddles and taking a nice walk in a local park, he and I headed off to Riverside. Riverside is, on a good day, an hour and a half drive away. I had already spoken to the rescue place, The Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center, where Jack (totally family, btw, and say that in a singsong way) assured me that “Calpurnia” was even cuter than her photos.
Two hours later, in the driving rain and thunder, we arrived. Charlie and I ran inside on what was apparently their monthly ‘free spay and neuter’ day, and it was madness. However. Hol-eeee cow. I walked in and all of the staff are in fun kitten or puppy scrubs. Not a single person was grumpy. The place was SHINEEEEEEE CLEAN and smelled fantastic (in contrast to the LA Animal Shelter which smelled of enough ammonia that I was afraid of someone lighting a match!).
Clean, well-lit, friendly staff, and oh, so, careful in their screening. As we waited we listened (or, I listened, Charlie wagged and grinned) as an intake person took info from a lady who’d found a dog on the streets. I was really, really impressed.
Jack and Jill (not kidding, the other “counselor” was named Jill) brought out our girl. Jill held her and the young vet tech came to me and said, “Here’s what we do. You will wait here, I will bring Charlie into the room where the puppy is. We will see how they do together. If he doesn’t react well to her, or she to him, there won’t be an adoption. It really doesn’t matter to us if you’re in love with her, it’s the dogs that matter.”
Freakin’ awesome! None of the other shelters would let Charlie anywhere near a potential buddy! This was great!
So, in went Calpurnia (I know, I know), then in went Charlie. I stealthily peeked in through the window, keeping out of Charlie’s sight, while he and the puppy sniffed each other. After ten (long) minutes, they finally let me in.
I sat on the floor and we all got to know each other. I won’t go into all of that, this is long enough. Suffice to say, it all went well. An hour and a half later, a little bit (but not much, really) poorer, Charlie, the puppy, and I headed home!
Through rain, sleet, hail, rain, brilliant sunshine, more rain, bigger hail and a little more sleet. Honestly, I thought I’d missed a turn and ended up back in Wisconsin! Finally, we were home. Charlie seemed pleased to be there and is getting used to our new pal.
After sorting through tons of name options and trying some on for size, we have settled on “Hopper.” We chose that for two reasons: 1) She hops. A lot; and 2) I am a huge admirer of Rear Adm. Grace Hopper (Ret.), the programmer of the Mark computers and the person who identified the first computer bug. Look it (and her) up.
Anyway, you can find photos of Hopper on my FB (Pol Robinson) page or enjoy this brief vid:
Rachel Gold was nice enough to start us off on this, so I’m carrying forward. As Rachel said, I don’t think I’m the “next big thing,” but I think this is a great chance to meet new authors. I’ve linked to Rachel’s site above, and since I feel as if I struck gold in “discovering” MB Panichi, I’m linking to her as well. My “second” author (Rachel doesn’t count as she added me) is the wonderful Erica Abbott.
Each author fills out a short blog interview like the one you see below and then recommends a few other authors with upcoming projects.
So without further ado, here’s my response to this blog hopping interview:
What is the working title of your next book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
There’s a folk song about the women in Dundee, Scotland, who kept the village fed and basically alive during extremely lean years at the turn of the century. As a musician and a writer, I wanted to explore that…the basis for men (the traditional singers of folk songs) to write a song about the efforts of women. To make it relevant to today, one of my characters is an ethnomusicologist, a careers I’d have loved to tackle had I the talent.
I have a terrific source in my aunt who is in fact a musicologist and music historian, so I’m excited to be in the middle of this project.
What genre does your book fall under?
What is the synopsis or blurb of your book?
Celtic Tide is the story of Grace O’Malley, an American musician and researcher who has run away to Ireland to escape her troubles, and Anne Flaherty, the woman who rights Grace’s upside-down world. Though she tells herself she is simply “expanding her research opportunities,” Grace, a 35-year-old music professor, is hiding. The scandal that rocked her small-town college shattered her confidence and broke her heart, and she wants nothing more than to tuck herself away in the small village of An Daingean (Dingle), Ireland—the village in which her grandfather grew up.
Anne Flaherty has lived in the village of An Daingean all of her life, save for two brief years away at Trinity College, Dublin. Her time at Trinity was bittersweet, allowing her to grow and build her musical range, but battering both her confidence and her gentle heart. A Catholic struggling with her own demons, she resists her growing attraction to the American musician, insisting on a platonic friendship, despite wanting . . . and needing . . . more.
This is Grace and Anne’s story. Neither is looking for love and both have been deeply hurt. Together they will heal each other and themselves, and begin to build a friendship that can only deepen into love. This is a story that can only be told here, in Dingle, Ireland, where the endless days of summer are painted in fairylike light and the music of a community blends with the rhythm of life and love to make magic happen.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Wow. Um…I’m terrible at this part since I don’t see a lot of movies or watch a lot of TV. Let’s see…nope. I’ve got nuthin.’
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Bella published my first book and graciously accepted this, my second.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Hmm…hard to quantify, because I don’t write full-time. Truthfully, I’m still hammering out the last parts of the manuscript, but I think…yes, if I had to quantify, I’d say about six months.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This is similar to the “get the idea…” question, but I’ll answer this: what inspired me to set it in Ireland? We took a trip to Ireland a few years ago and I fell in love with the village of Dingle (An Daingean). The pub in which Grace meets Anne is a real place. Most of the characters in the book are based upon real people from the village.
As for why Ireland and not Scotland, I wanted the book set in Ireland, but the song that inspired the story, the Women of Dundee, is set, of course, in Scotland. In working out why Grace is in Ireland and not Scotland, I also found a good deal of Grace…her reasons for moving around, her spinta.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There’s romance, there’s music, there’s self-discovery (though this is not a coming-out story, per se).
Here are the writers whose work you can check out next:
If you’re a fan of women in uniform, Erica Abbott’s Fragmentary Blue is for you. Erica writes a tight, well-plotted tale, and her knowledge of the legal system adds terrific depth and texture to the story without being overwhelming.
I was lucky enough to be the Golden Crown Literary Society mentor to a bright new author, MB Panichi. MaryBeth’s debut novel, Saving Morgan, is due out in Fall of 2013. The best part of mentoring is the chance to read terrific new talent long before anyone else gets to. Saving Morgan is a taught, well-crafted sci-fi story that I cannot wait to hold in my hands. The only problem I have with having read her manuscript so early is that I have to wait that much longer for the sequel.
I decided to post today’s pithy thoughts to my blog, since it’s been an age and then some since I’ve updated. It’s been nearly 30 years since I rode a bicycle that was not considered a “performance” bike, complete with clips (For those ‘old school’ among our audience, these are clips that the bottoms of my biking shoes snap into to secure my feet to the pedals. This is to enable you to not only push down on a stroke, but to also pull UP, thus increasing your drive on the bike.).
So…nearly 30 years since I’ve been on a bike that does not secure my feet to the pedals. For most of you, you are left wondering…well, what’s the big deal, Pol? I’ll tell you. There are actually two things:
- Nearly 30 years of cycling in a manner that enables action on the downstroke AND upstroke gives you a different style of pedaling.
- The last year since the back surgery, since waking up to have one foot/lower leg that has not regained sensation and/or 100% motor control, means that I have relied upon that toe clip to keep the “floppy leg” in position, and to have it still be a contributing member of the team.
Since I no longer have the time to do the kind of riding I used to on this bike:
Since my rides on this bike usually meant “get on, go fast, get off,” that precluded leisurely rides with my sweetie. Times, and demands, have changed. I no longer enter Century rides for charity (lack of time), and it’s lonely doing those “get on, go fast, get off” rides without my sweetie.
Thus we decided that it was time the nice road bike went on its way and in its place we welcome this new set of wheels:
It’s a sweet little bike, nice action, smooth Shimano gears. It’s a sort of baby mountain bike/road bike. Just what we want for leisurely weekend rides and/or camping trips with some light trail riding.
I took delivery of the new wheels yesterday. After a happy evening spent tinkering and adjusting, I took it for its first ride today. Things that I learned:
- The aforementioned floppy leg does not do so well just sitting upon pedals. I can push down, but there’s no pull up. When I pull up, lo and behold, the…wait for it…FOOT COMES OFF THE PEDAL! How very odd!
- When #1 happens, the result is that unless I take my eyes off of the road to lift and place my left foot into place (I can’t feel in that leg/foot, remember, so cannot do it by ‘feel’), said floppy foot/leg ends up kind of wonky on the pedal. The result? Floppy foot falls off said pedal, twists the attached ankle (which is okay, as I can’t feel when that happens, but I end up with no forward motion as I am not, in fact, actually propelling the bike anywhere!
The other, and far more prosaic, thing that I learned this afternoon is that I do not know how to NOT “get on, go fast, get off.” The idea of a “leisurely ride” seems to be a bit beyond my ken.
I got on, raced off, and then thought…um…now what? I raced over to my first destination (lunch), then raced over to Starbucks where I drank tea and graded papers. Then I hopped on again to run my errands. Halfway to my destination I realized that…I didn’t really have to go so fast. I could, in fact, go…slowly.
I could even take a moment and look around. Enjoy the lovely day. See who else was out and about.
What an odd thing to do; ride a bike, look around, and enjoy the scenery.
Wonder if anyone else has discovered this?
I may have to try this again sometime.
In the meanwhile, I’ll sit here grading papers, watching football, mentally packing for my trip next week, with a little corner of my brain dedicated to working out plot points on the next book, and another to considering what it is I will make for dinner. After all, one can’t rush into this whole “leisurely” thing.
Tonight: Football and fiction, maybe some pizza
Well. What has happened in the near-month since I updated? I went to the Golden Crown Literary Conference, and annual writers/readers/publishers four day get-together/energy booster/meet up with friends old and new. This year the Con was held in Minneapolis, MN. Well, Bloomfield, actually, just near the Mall of America.
What a con it was! My debut novel, Open Water (2011, Bella Books), though nominated in three categories was only shortlisted for one, “Debut Author.” And…I won! I was one of three winners in that category and, luckily enough, the first award announced that night. Whew! Talk about getting it over with!
The Con overall was great fun and a wonderful chance to reconnect with friends and to meet face-to-face with those I only know through online discussions.
I was so lucky this year to get to go. Finances are exceptionally tight, but my stepdad gave me his mileage for my flight, and I offset the cost of registration by doing the program for the event. My biggest cost was the hotel. Well, and the Lego Store at Mall of America. :::sigh:::
Another pic from this event was all of the Bella Authors dressed up for the awards. I love this photo!
When I returned, it was straight back into work on The Project (and I will update that soon).
It’s coming along quite nicely, and should soon be ready for its maiden voyage. Hopefully.
Now, with the success of one book under my belt (using the term “success” loosely here), it’s more than past time to focus on my sophomore effort. I was working on a new Olympic novel, Thin Ice, but have struggled because the story is far weightier than the first book. For several reasons, chief among them being I want to get the Olympics books back onto the actual Olympics cycle, I have shelved it.
I have two others in the works, and last night finally got the “zing” to work on Celtic Tide, a contemporary romance sent in Ireland, featuring an American musician who, for her own reasons, settles in the town of An Daingean (Dingle, to the non-Gaelic speakers), in County Kerry.
Here is an excerpt:
Grace watched, mesmerized, as Anne’s hand flew along the neck of the fiddle, moving in counterpoint to the bow sizzling across the strings. Quick and bright, and too fast to distinguish one note from another, Anne’s fiddle filled the room with music, accompanied by Sean and Jamie. Eyes closed and foot tapping, Anne didn’t hesitate as Sean finished leading the first round of the tune, allowing Anne to pick up the melody. The music pulled an old man and woman to their feet to dance along. Tourists, American by the look of them, began to clap and laugh as the old gentleman spun his wife in a happy jig.
Tim looked up from the pint he was building and called out to the dancers, “Oh, it’s the O’Shea, is it? Well, boyo, go on then!”
The man smiled back at Tim and gave his wife another spin, pulling her arms down and across in front of her to lead the two of them through the bar, side by side, hands linked together at the waist, feet flying in tandem. Grace watched as the couple kept their eyes on each other and matched their steps together. They’ve done this for years. She laughed with the crowd as the woman gave her husband a saucy wink, ducked under his arm and began a faster step in time with Anne’s speeding fiddle.
The clapping grew louder as Jamie shouted encouragement, giving a yip as he changed key. Anne’s eyes opened and she grinned at him, raising an eyebrow in challenge. The old woman, feet flying and eyes alight, caught the exchange and shouted, “Go on with you, girl!”Anne grinned back and stepped up the tempo as she matched Jamie’s key and his change in tempo. Grace heard the transition from the fast slip jig to an even faster reel and laughed out loud as, impossibly, the two dancers moved to match the musician’s increased speed. Her fingers twitched as Anne’s bow danced across the bridge of the fiddle and Jamie bent low over his guitar, his fingers a blur on the strings.
The dancing couple once again joined together to match steps, waving two others to join them. As had the first two, the new couple easily swung into step, the four of them performing a complicated set. Feet flashed, skirts whirled, and the music danced with them around the room. The noise in the pub grew as the music did, ending with a crescendo of music, rousing cheers and laughter of both participants and spectators.
Suffused with the rush and joy she always felt when there was music, good music, around her, Grace happily looked around the room. This was why she’d come here, to Ireland. This…the pub, the people, and most importantly, the music. She had read and studied all of her life, but she had always known she’d have to come here, to live here, to fully grasp what she’d read. It wasn’t just the music, it was the way it was a part of their lives. Grace watched as the four dancers made their breathless way back to their tables, as Tim began building pints again, laughing and joking with customers, most of whom he’d probably known his entire life. All the studying in the world couldn’t teach her as much as one night in a place like this. The music flowing from the instruments was born in the music of the community. To begin to understand it she had to surround herself with it.
And maybe in the surrounding, she could learn to live again.—
Today: Home Depot in Canoga park for three last things. Tonight: Writing.
I “truckbed” sprayed the underside of the new flooring and did the same to the inside. Especially the area that will become a wet-bath (still looking for a good place to buy one, any ideas?).
Ripped out old electrical and replaced with new, ripped out interior wood and cabinetry and started in on new. Scored an *exceptional* deal at Home Depot on some “we haven’t got a lot of it so let’s sell it super cheap” snap-in flooring and laid that in.
Thankfully, “the Googlz” had a great wiring guide available:
First time laying in that kind of flooring and it was ridiculously easy to do.
Laid in protective covering for the flooring and primer/Killz’d the walls. A friend had some leftover paintable beadboard from a construction project and I had just enough to cover the visible areas.
And the same view with the final color on it.
The green throws the color mix off, but the walls are a nice butter yellow.
Next up (and this is next week’s project), comes the inside cabinetry/benches/sink/stove/wet-bath area.
I mentioned about a month ago my new project. Now that I’m done with my doctorate, I’ve embarked upon The Project, resorting the horrendous camper I purchased (along with resident black widow spiders) for a ridiculously low price.
My goal is to make it into something similar to this:
So. As picked up, the Treehouse (its new name) was in sad shape. We (my Dad and I) replaced the tires before I made the 5-hour trip home with the thing. Put on a set of U-Haul magnetic lights to keep me legal and off I went.
Tows like a dream, no pulling from one side to the other. Got home safely, backed it into the garage (my first attempt *ever* at backing a trailer and I got it into the teeeeeeny space I’d cleared to work on it.
Popped it open in the garage and…
Gnarly old (and smelly) canvas, roof rot, floor rot, the whole works.
Ripped off the canvas and tossed it. Even the zippers. We just didn’t have the energy to pull the zips to save and/or sell them. And since I’m going hard-sided, I didn’t need them.
First up was the floor. After spray-bombing the underside and letting it sit overnight, I sucked up the battlefield of deceased black widows with the shopvac and got to work.
Icky floor is now patched.
“high-tech” wheel wells replaced (yes, that really is chicken wire and duct tape.
Stage one of the new wheel wells.
Well, here’s a thing I realized late last night. I have lost the ability to just…be. To be still. To sit. To relax. To read for pleasure.
Yes, I do have a book due to my publisher on July 1 and really have no hope of making that deadline. I am finding it difficult to sit and write. I am truthfully finding it difficult to just sit.
Yesterday, as I was preparing for my afternoon swim with my neighbor, I realized I had 15 minutes before we were to meet. I thought of at least a dozen things I could do in that time before realizing that I did not HAVE to fill that time with anything!
What a shock!
I have heard that post-doctoral folks tend toward depression following completion of their programs and I can see why. I’m not by any means depressed, but I am finding it hard to not work on something like crazy.
Take, for example, my newest endeavor: The Treehouse.
I have always wanted a treehouse and have always wanted a pop-up camper. Now I have both, combined in one. I bought, for a ridiculously low price, a 30+ year old Starcraft pop-up, complete with worn through canvas, rotted wood, and about 60 or so black widow spiders.
Not kidding about the spiders. Got the thing home, put it in the garage to work on it, and then bombed the crap out of the thing. Came out the next morning and the garage floor resembled Gettysburg, post battle.
Now that I have a Project (aka, the Treehouse), I’m going to town on the thing. Since the doctorate is done, I will be posting the progress on the Project. We are not replacing the canvas. Instead I am making something I saw once, fold-up/down solid walls (the top still pops up). Kind of like this one. The difference is that ours has slide-out beds that will also have rigid sides.
Pictures to follow in the next blog, this has gotten too long.
Tonight. Reading. For realsies. And relaxing.