Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I've Got NaNo Fever

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The typewriter in the NaNo icon reminds me so much of my first typewriter, a little portable Underwood that was at least ten years older than I was when I received it for my thirteenth birthday. On November 13th 1970.


In just two hours and a few minutes I get to start writing the story that I've spent the last nineteen days dreaming and jotting notes for. I'm raring to go.

This year my story is a love story. I was going to try to do a straight romance genre story but I seem to be incapable of creating characters and plots that don't take me into philosophical musings. So I've listed my novel as literary fiction at NaNo again this year. The icon above links to my profile at the sight.

My novel is titled Spring Fever. It is the story of Graham Palmer Simons a Professor of Medieval poetry with a special interest in Dante's Divine Comedy; his wife Holly Dawn Harper also a professor but a poet in her own right whose work explores the concepts of time, seasons, and change; a grad student Maia Fleur Robins who's thesis is on the symbols of transformation embedded in the Tarot. Maia's thesis adviser is Holly but she must take classes from Graham. She and Graham get off to a rocky start when she arrives late to her first class with him. Their encounters after that simmer with intense emotions; not just the resentment but because of an instant mutual attraction that neither can afford to be conscious of. But Holly notices and gives it her blessing, though she says nothing to either of them. She sets out to matchmake them, seeing in Maia Graham's potential salvation in the event of her impending death. Holly knows she is fast approaching the end stage of the MS she has battled for fifteen years and she knows that Graham is in denial about it and fears for his sanity after she is gone. For the loss of his first love in a tragic accident had sent him into a tailspin from which he barely escaped with life and mind intact. Meanwhile Maia has recently been badly betrayed by a professor from her undergraduate years and has no wish to think about another relationship let alone with another professor twenty years her senior.

I don't know yet but I suspect that I am going to be alternating POV among these three.

I once posted the original storyseed for this story here, the beginnings of a scene I wrote years ago. It is a story that has been simmering in my imagination for nearly ten years. But in honor of the NaNo requirement that no scenes be written ahead of November 1, I was disqualifying this story. But I was desperate and decided that instead of disqualifying the story entire, I would just forbid myself to look at that storyseed again until at least several days into NaNo. Not even to remind myself of character's names and descriptions. I haven't looked at in in over a year. I found the link to it in my archives by its title.

I've thirty minutes left before I can

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oh, Joy! The Books Are Back



The Phoenix branch of our library system opened at ten Monday morning. I was sitting on the brick-enclosed flowerbed by the front door when the librarian arrived to unlock the door at two minutes til ten. I had not slept. I had tried, but it was no go. The day before a big event has always been one of my insomnia triggers.

I was sooooo tired last night. My muscles and joints are still trying to decide if they reeealy want to know each other that well.

My haul included 7 novels for Ed; 5 novels and 5 NF for me; and 4 DVD. Sound like a lot? Ha! Then you don't know me well. Take a look at my profile pic. That was me bringing back the last of the books on the last day the libraries were open last April 6th. About a month before that, I'd had to bring back three or four times that many in the week before they put a 30 item limit on each card. At the heighth of last winter/spring I topped 130 items on my card alone.

That wasn't typical though. 60-80 items on my card is more typical. I kinda went a bit crazy after news of the impending library closure. I had dozens of projects ongoing. I tried to bring as many as possible to adequate stopping places. I panicked. Instead of doing a dozen things well in the last four months, I did six dozen in slip-shod fashion. I stopped taking notes. I tried to become a sponge for the words but no matter which thing I was working on, anxiety about several of the others kept my mind distracted.

I'm hoping I've learned some lessons that will stick over the last seven months. I probably wouldn't have committed to 70 Days of Sweat if I'd still been a slave to library book due dates. I probably wouldn't have committed to posting daily to Joystory either. I do not want to loose the momentum of giving quality time to my writing. I want to bring the ratio of fiction to NF reading back towards half and half. Fiction, my first love, had slipped to less than 10% of my reading over the last decade.

I also learned during the Read-a-Thon October 20th that my reading speed has slipped to between 20 and 30 pages per hour. That is a large drop from the 50 page per hour rate I was at 7 years ago. I'm hoping that removal of a cataract in my right eye and new prescription glasses will allow me to bring that back up but until then, an adjustment of expectations is in order.

Somehow, I got confused today and spent most of the day thinking it was the last day of October and that NaNoWriMo kicked off at midnight. It wasn't until just before dinner this evening that I figured it out. This afternoon I had finally gone to the NaNo site and reactivated my account and updated my profile. I'd been putting it off because part of the task was to grab icon gifs off their site for display in my sidebar. It had been so long since I'd altered my sidebar, I'd forgotten how to do it. I also needed to change the image at the top of the sidebar, shaming Southern Oregon for the library closures. The one showing a jumbled pile of books with a red circle and slash over them.

There were several other things I changed on my sidebar. I spent the evening after dinner plugging away at it, learning how to add URL links to images that refer to their site instead of to blogger's photo id. Also, in reverse, to add an image to a link in a link list. I made a number of changes but there are still more to do. For one, I need to totally revamp my link lists. This evening I eliminated at least half of the links in 'Blogs I Haunt' because I hadn't visited for months or I knew the link was invalid. I need to add in the ones that have become regular haunts over the last year.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #23




This is another poem that disturbs me as much as By the Blood does. Early versions were written in the weeks following the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I considered using pictures from the event for this post but the chaos and terror of that day is not the point I wish to emphasize. The first versions of this poem were dark and full of despair. Over the years I have added and subtracted and rearranged words and lines, tweaked punctuation and repeatedly decided to destroy all copies and versions. I'm still not entirely comfortable with it. And yet. There is just something.

I think it keeps drawing me back because it is so strongly associated in time and symbol to the event of my definitive break with the fundamentalist sect I was raised in. For five and a half months preceding that April 19th, my dreams had been full of ruined buildings, bombed landscapes, contorted bodies of children as my world unbuilt itself. Throughout the news coverage in the weeks following, I was never quite sure if I was dreaming or awake.

Even the early versions of this though attempted to focus on the aspect of community--its vulnerability and resilience, its faith and its heart. In loosing my community, I was at first bereft and adrift. But apparently by the time I began composing this, I'd already begun to see the possibility of belonging somewhere again. Since then I've learned that it is not only possible, it is necessary.

Heartland
by Joy Renee

Oh, oh, oh, Oklahoma!
Our nation’s heart.
Land of the free.
Domain of love.
It harbors our hope and in no
Sense from the rest is set apart.

They can resist its innate charm?

“Honey no sweeter
Than revenge.”
Answers fear
To injustice hinged.

Anger, home-grown and adamant
Timid reason and appeasement
To resist til vengeance
Jabs disturb plain faith.

“A beneficial call to arms
Stirs our bitter rage uncoiled.”

Heartland love:
Its innocence
Partook in harmony.
Then dangers intimidate.
And judgment foiled, liberties are
Leased by terrors some name just.

“Deuces are wild,
Jokers suffice
Our grapes of wrath
Your peace un-spun.”

Yet we must again partake
In that song of hope and faith;
Reclaim our trust; reach out with love;
Establish anew our reliance
On community, on harmony;
Proclaim with humble defiance:
“It’s not just dues but sour grapes
That kills the heart for its mistakes!”

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Serenity #29


I was really resisting putting up my Sunday Serenity today. And I knew that just meant I needed it that much more than those times when it is easy. Here I return to the roots of this exercise for me. My first Sunday Serenity was put up as an effort to stop associating Sunday primarily with the death of my beloved cat, Gremlyn, who had died on a Sunday a few weeks earlier. My Gremlyn was a very vocal kitty and we held long conversations that went something like:

G: Meow?
J: What?
G: Meeeeeow
J: You don't say!
G: Murrreow purrrrlinow
J: That's some story girl.
G: Yearrowl Grrrrrrnow
J: Tell me more
G: Rawwwerrowl meeearowl
J: Nobody will believe it
G: Yurrrrlum mawl

Gremlyn alway had to have the last word. But if I stopped responding before she wanted to stop, she would reach for my mouth or chin to remind me it was my turn and if that didn't work, she would nip my nose to elicit an "Ow!" and get the conversation going again.

I miss her so much sometimes. Especially when I've been sick like this past week. She was such a comfort, curling up and purring under my chin, grooming my face, purrling into my ear.

Her markings were similar to the kitty in this video who's saying "You say what?" She was an Abyssinian/Siamese/Tabby mix with the Tabby stripes on face, tail and limbs; the Siamese personality and vocal traits; the Abyssinian salt, pepper, paprika marking on her back and small size. As an adult she was often mistaken for a six month old kitten.

Join us in a moment of serenity. (laughter counts)

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Serve Me Some Cheese With This

I'm not much in the mood to put up my Sunday Serenity just now. Which probably means it is more important that I put my mind to it.

I've been fighting headaches all week. None have been as bad as the one that woke me Sunday after only six hours of sleep following the Read-a-Thon but they have been bad enough to disrupt my days.

These headaches are often triggered by food sensitivities. Some of the items Ed bought for our Read-a-Thon last weekend were probably suspect. Then there was the extra caffeine I had that day too. But the reason I'm still having problems is that at least four out of the last six evening meals have contained suspect items. My system has not been able to regain equilibrium. I am not the cook, shopper or menu planner here, so I feel I've really no place complaining about what is put on the table. But this leaves me feeling rather helpless sometimes.

These headaches also further impair my vision. Besides having less than 10 degrees of vision left in each eye because of the RP, my right eye has a cataract which needs to be taken care of. I had the cataract removed on my left eye in the late nineties. I'd been blaming all my vision loss on the RP and was greatly surprised to have the central vision in my left eye returned to me.

It is also past time to get my new prescription glasses. The last time I had my prescription renewed was in 2000 when we were in Sunnyvale CA. At that time I was told that the cataract on my right eye was 'ripe' and should probably be removed. Knowing this, I have put off going after new eye glasses until I could get the cataract surgery first. Because I'd need a new prescription afterwards and we are only allowed one pair in two years. Which also means I will have to have bifocals instead of a separate pair for reading.

Meanwhile, two years ago, I damaged the lenses of both my walk-around glasses and my reading glasses. I had a habit of putting one pair on top of my head while wearing the other pair. This had caused no problem for years. Then my sister gave me the rest of her hair gel because she had developed an allergy to it. Apparently it contained something that ate away at the plastic lenses. It left some splotches of undamaged lens but trying to aim the right part of each retina at the right part of each lens is a challenge all its own.

Adding to that challenge is the missing ear piece on my reading glasses. On the hot days this summer during the Sweating for Sven challenge, real sweat became a huge issue. I had trouble keeping the glasses on my face. The contortions I put my poor neck to! Sometimes I just gave up and took them off and that turned out to be a sorta blessing because not being able to see more than a blur forming under the cursor made me less tempted to backspace, to stop and fix spelling or second guess what I was typing.

Because of the headaches and sensitive eyes even when the pain was gone, I've done little reading all week. I've done even less writing--other than emails and IM. I'm going to have to report a second week of zero word count to 70 Days of Sweat tomorrow too.
I'm starting to panic but good at the fast approaching start of NaNo.

I've even feeling as much dread as excited anticipation about the opening of the library Monday. I haven't made the walk in seven months. I can count the times I've been out of this yard in that same seven months on one hand. I realized it is liable to be crowded on the first day and thus hold all my sensory overload and social anxiety triggers. Which is making me think of waiting until Wednesday to go...

Times like these I'm wondering just who I think I'm kidding.

OK. I'm done whining now. Feel free to serve me some cheese. (as long as it's not aged Cheddar or spelled with a z i.e. processed food product with additives) :)

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Snippets 16

I won a short story contest online with this one a year or so ago. But I really see it as the prologue to a novel. One that belongs in the Fruit of the Spirit story world.

A Tale of a Wail
by Joy Renee


Her mother would tell the tale for decades of how Abigail Ames sucked in her first breath and released it in a vibrato wail, with no impetus but surprise and how it took her seven years to break her daughter of the embarrassing habit of howling in the face of the tiniest disappointment. And her mother had broken her well. So well that she didn’t cry when at age eight, she watched her brother’s dog Griswald break the neck of her kitten Calypso while her brother, Darcy, stood by laughing. So well that she didn’t cry out at age ten when Darcy and his buddy Curtis strung a rope over a high tree branch and put a noose around her neck and slowly tightened it until crying out would have been impossible anyway as simply drawing breath burned like fire. When they lifted her into the tangle of leaves and branches and then let go of the rope so that she fell, breaking her right arm and spraining her left ankle, still she was silent.

Her self-enforced silence began the night of her seventh birthday when her mortified mother removed her from the dinner party after she let loose an endless open-mouthed howl when eleven year old Darcy blew out her candles for her and told her that meant he had just stolen her wish. Her wish had been to someday sing the part of Annie in the Broadway musical. It didn’t strike her that the transference of such a wish to her brother was a ludicrous concept. All she had registered was the irrevocable loss of hope. She was inconsolable. So her mother took her to her room and lectured her on the protocols of social engagements and the expediency of stiff upper lips for young ladies. Especially for a daughter of the Apostle of the Airwaves, Amos Ames, author of Daring To Profess.

"If you simply must cry, then go somewhere no one can hear you. And if that is impossible, then at least get off alone and put your hand over your mouth like this." She placed Abigail’s own hand over her mouth and pressed. "There, see? You can cry as hard as you want and no one can hear. Pretty soon you will learn to do it without even using your hand. Once you learn to do it without screwing up your face into that unsightly mess, you can scream and cry and carry on in a crowd without even disturbing your make-up."

Abigail took the lecture to heart. She never again cried out loud. But nor did she ever again sing out loud. Not, at least, until she was nearly out of her teens and too old to play Annie. Darcy had stolen her wish after all. The first of many precious things he stole from her. And now he was about to take from her the last precious thing because he refused to take her years of silence in lieu of an oath of eternal silence.

"Swear on what, Darcy?" she asked. "On my purity? On my honor? You took those from me long ago. And what point is there to swearing an oath to a man without honor? It would be nothing but babble in his ears. Easy enough to disregard on a whim."

Nor would an oath suffice. Darcy had not gone to the trouble of tracing her after ten years just to hear her mouth a ritual phrase. She doubted he, on his own, had the means to track her to this remote mountain cabin in Southern Oregon. But he had managed to get a message to her through the one childhood friend whom she hadn’t the heart to cut loose of. Nor would Darcy have gone to that trouble on his own. It had to be on behalf of, and with the resources of, Curtis Christopher, currently campaigning for United Sates Senator in Idaho. Darcy had been Curtis’ campaign manager for every election he ran in since his run for Class President his senior year of college. Abigail had been privy to the inner-circle of that one, though still in high-school herself. She knew that Curtis kept himself willfully ignorant of the tactics Darcy used to make things go his way. She knew that their ambitions had been, from the beginning, to go all the way to the White House. With stakes that high, there was only one guarantee of silence that would satisfy Darcy.

Darcy’s mistake was in thinking that she had spent the last decade cowering in this redoubt, nurturing terror and shame, with nothing more than a salacious tale to tell that could be spun as sibling rivalry, if she ever dared to voice it, an embarrassment that could be averted by a single stroke. He could not suspect that the timid, biddable Abigail had been preparing to sing on a stage dwarfing any stage her seven-year-old imagination could have conjured, for if he had he would not have attempted to back her into the corner that abutted that stage on one side and the abyss on the other.

For, far from nurturing terror or shame, she had been cultivating a network and a name recognized for integrity and intrepid truth scrounging. Trudy Ann Daring, Investigative Journalist and founder of TruthDaring.com, had created the stage on which she would sing. And her tale was far more than an uncorroborated he said/she said family scandal. She had proof--documented facts and the living, breathing truth, that last precious thing--Truth Ann Daring, not yet ten, sleeping that peaceful sleep of innocence--just this little bit longer--in the loft over Abigail’s head.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #56



Thirteen Books, DVD or Authors On My High-Priority List Now That the Libraries Are Open Again


1. Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation.
I had only made it fifty or so pages into this before the libraries closed in April. I had to wait in queue twice for my turn.

2. Anything by Ken Wilber

3. Marcus J. Borg's The Heart of Christianity.
Because someone just recommended it to me.

4. The last five or more titles published by Joyce Carol Oates.
A recent visit to the bookstore alerted me that I've missed at least that many. How did that happen?

5. Same thing for Stephen R. Donaldson's novels.
I've been thinking for some years that I would like to re-read his two Thomas Covenant Chronicles since I read them the first time over a decade before my exit from fundamentalism and I've been curious to see what new things I might see in the story after my explorations in religion and philosophy. I discovered at that same book store visit that he has just published a second volume in a third trilogy set in the same world. How did I miss that? Now I need to decide if I want to re-read the first six books first....

6. Stephen King's Dark Tower series.
I read the first five and then decided to stop and wait for him to complete the series and then start from book one again. He issued the final volume last year and I was planning to get started after NaNo last year but after news of the impending library closures the first week of December, I decided to wait.

7. Anything by Neil Gaiman.
I had just discovered him last spring. Brought home a couple of his novels for Ed who read them and agreed that they were my kind of story.

8. Anything by Holly Lisle.
Ed has been reading her for years and trying to get me to try one. Since I've been participating in her Friday Snippets since early June, I have regretted I never read one of her novels. I just read her Plot Clinic which I won in a 70 Days of Sweat drawing and am hoping our library system will have her World Building and Language Building and Character clinics too.

9. Shakespeare plays on DVD

10. Shakespeare from A-Z
This book compiles info about Shakespeare, the plays and his time in an encyclopedia format. It includes synopsis of each play, entries for every character and info about the production of the plays through time and famous actors who played Shakespearean roles.

11. Dracula
Both the novel by Bram Stoker and the movies made based on it are of interest to me because of my current reading of Elizabeth Kostava's The Historian.

12. Anything by Dorris Lessing, this year's Nobel Prize for Literature.
I discovered Lessing in the eighties and once had my own well thumbed and underlined copy of her The Golden Notebook. But like several other of my favorite novelists, I lost track of her latest during the nineties after the weight of my reading shifted to the non-fiction because of my quest.

While I'm at it I want to return to last year's Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. Another one I'd just discovered last winter. I had waited in queue for months for my turn with several of his novels and never got the chance to read them.

13. The movie, House of Sand and Fog, on DVD.
I read the novel in 2000. I had been in queue for my turn with the movie for months and my turn was next the week the library closed. I'll have to get in queue again as they did not preserve the requests records.

####

Of course, I'm not going to find many of these in the tiny Phoenix branch. I will have to put my requests in. But I have to go in to the library to do so as they aren't adding back the option of requesting materials online until mid November.

The Medford and Ashland branches opened yesterday but they both entail bus rides. I'm waiting for Phoenix to open next Monday morning. I'm planning to be waiting on the doorstep.



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When Discipline Becomes Abuse

I woke from a dream this morning that has haunted me all day.

In the dream, I had taken a job as a live-in babysitter or nanny. It seems there was more than one child but I only saw one. It was a toddler about 18 months. A boy. The child's mother and I were visiting affably as he played nearby. Then the mother left the room and the boy became a little manic. Not destructive or aggressive but silly and playful and he made a mess with the objects of his play, using them in ways they were not intended.

When the mother returned, I pointed this out to her, barely able to contain my amusement and my sense of wonder at the creativity of such young child; a baby really. But the mother was not amused. She grabbed up something long and flexible which I understood was a belt and she took the toddler by his arm and began swinging that belt across his bare legs.

I was shocked and dismayed. I had to leave the room. When I came back, I told the mother this wasn't going to work and she needed to take me home. Except that I'd forgotten this was home since I was a live-in child care provider. But before I remembered that, I had packed my things in her car (which looked very much like the Mustang I drove while still living in my parents home) But we got in the car anyway. She in the driver's seat after handing a bundle wrapped in a quilt.

We drove around for a bit but I was unable to give her directions to my 'home' so she pulled over and made me get out and tossed my belongings out with me and drove off, calling back to me, "It's all yours."

It was then I realized that I was still holding the quilt-wrapped bundle and knew that inside was the broken, bloody body of that baby which had not stirred the entire time I'd been holding him.

Some of you may of read one of the few posts in which I talk about how my break with the fundamentalist sect I was raised in was triggered by witnessing a baby being disciplined. I must admit here that recent events had caused me to reflect on that once again. So that might have had something to do with the conjuring of those images at this time and the emotional power they held. But based on a repeated pattern over decades, I've found that the appearance of infants and small children in my dreams nearly always reflects a current creative project or creativity itself.

It is not hard to see this as a warning from my psyche that I'm once again sweating the small stuff with the 70 Days of Sweat and upcoming NaNoWriMo challenges. Just like last July and the last three attempts at NaNo, I've put too much emphasis on rules and expectations and measurements of success that tend to beat the silly, the playful and the messiness out of the process and of course this kills both the creativity and the joy.

Umm pun unintended but probably relevant anyway.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Erratic Static

That's been my mental state ever since waking up Sunday afternoon about six hours after signing off the Read-a-Thon with my last update. I woke with a headache that was probably a migraine. Though if it was, I got off easy on the pain side. Not so easy on the mental and emotional side-effects. It was probably triggered by something I ate or drank Saturday and exacerbated by sleep deprivation.

Although the pain and nausea lifted by wee hours of Monday morning about twelve hours after it began, the other symptoms have not. I continue to be plagued by tangled thoughts, mischievous memories, muck bathed emotions and extra vision impairment. Spending much time looking at the laptop screen makes me motion sick.

Thus I'm not getting anything productive done. And that includes writing. So the wrath of Sven looms like a storm cloud threatening to drench me in 70,000 drops of sweat. And NaNoWriMo is only one week off now... See me crawling under the blankets and whimpering? Next thing I'll be sticking my thumb in my mouth.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #22


Happy Toes II by Kim Garraway
print for sale at art.com



Legacy of Laughter
by Joy Renee

Sarah--
One of laughter, one of love.
Your upwelling, out-flowing,
Inundating exuberance
Revealed the essence
Of life to us:
To live is to love,
To love is to live.

Your ebullient soul--
A dancing rainbow
--barely restrained
By body or mind,
Shimmered in your eyes, in your smile,
In the play of your hands
On their every find.
“I’m alive! I’m alive!”
They seemed to say.
“And I will love you
With all that I am.”

Then, with a SLAM
A door shut and you were gone,
Leaving behind but
Echoes of your laughter,
Memories of your love,
As you rushed to the arms
Of that One who Loved us all Alive.

This our comfort and our hope:
Knowing that there your soul dances
In unfettered Joy.
And that soon--Even so Lord!--
Soon we shall see you face to face
And join with you in His embrace.

In memoriam: Sarah Lynn M. 1973-1989

###############

Sarah was the adopted daughter of my cousin. She was a special needs child. I was fifteen when she was born. She was the first baby I bonded with. I couldn't have loved her more if she had been my own. She died suddenly at age sixteen.

Her death is coupled in my mind with the beginning of the end of my unquestioning acceptance of the doctrines I'd been raised with. Not due directly to her death but because the doctrinal disputes that had been simmering for decades among our twenty or so assemblies had begun to boil over. I did not know it consciously until 1992 but my quest had begun by 1987 because I had started to ask questions that could not be answered from inside the approved system of reasoning.

Since then I've learned that religion is not the only system of thought that can get doctrinaire and dogmatic.

Whenever I am tempted to despair by the incorrigible mean-spiritedness of so many of the debates among and between religions, nations, ideologies, and the sciences, I remember Sarah and what she taught me about the meaning of life.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Serenity #28



Maybe I Should Get Some Sleep
art print for sale at art.com



Yep, that was me at the close of the Read-a-Thon this morning. Got some sleep. Want some more. But just found out we're expecting company.

I doubt I'll be posting my poetry train poem before tomorrow now.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

This Is My Brain On Books



This is where I will blog about anything Read-a-Thon connected for the duration. With my most recent updates, musings, etc. added to the top below this intro, it is a bit like a blog within a blog. The pic at top is linked to sponsor Dewey's blog where you can find more participants.

6:00 AM--So I guess this is the wrap-up. I made 66 pages into The Nature of Jade. The descriptions of panic attacks are almost too good. I began to feel on the edge of one and had to remind myself I was just reading about one and that I haven't had a full-blown one for years.

Out of the last 24 hours I've read 20. I subtracted one hour each for:
-reading nest building and rearranging
-visiting readers and checking out mini-challenges
--writing updates
--misc

I was afraid I might be too jazzed to sleep. But I that's not going to be the problem. It's Merlin who is jazzed up now. Here's hoping that once I shut the laptop lid and turn off my reading lamp and snuggle down with my cuddle blanket he loves to knead, that he'll figure out that it is now a normal morning--we're going sleepy-bye as the birds start to sing.

3:30 AM--L-squared is reading Dracula.~~Alison seems to be jaunting about with cheer shaker this half hour as well.

OK for the duration I'm going to pick up a YA loaned to me by my niece. The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti. She has been very anxious for me to read this. After reading the inside cover I can see why:

I am not my illness. "Girl with Anxiety," "Trauma of the Week"--no. I hate stuff like that. Everyone, everyone has their issue. But the one thing my illness did make me realize is how necessary it is to ignore the dangers of living in order to live. And how much trouble you can get into if you can't.


My niece and I both have issues with anxiety that interferes with our daily living. She will be pleased to learn I've set aside The Historian in order to read this.

3:00 AM
--I'm off to pass around some cheer to the remaining readers for the next half hour or so.

2:30 AM
--See Don Quixote/Swing his sword/ Bravo! Don Bravo!

That was my contribution to this (21st) hours mini-challenge to write a haiku or limerick about a character we read about today.

Does that tell you which Spanish novel I spent the last hour with? I should have known better than to go looking for a modern best selling author to find a free on-line text. At least it didn't take more than five minutes on the search page to figure it out. I soon found this.

I 'read' to the end of chapter four. By 'read' I mean that I not only passed my eyes over the words, I sounded them out in my head as close as possible to the cadence of the Mexican-American speech I hear frequently here in Southern Oregon. I did not read for meaning but when meaning caught me by surprise I was quite pleased. I recognized with confidence about one in ten words and could guess at about that many again. 20% of the words are not quite enough to make out the story. Though my imagination was eager to play with the words: road, mule, dame, sad, house, sword, valor, brave, (bravado?) mercy, mayor, reason, imagination, magnificence, miracle, water. I could easily make my own story out of those words but since I'm somewhat familiar with Cervantes' story, I could also guess at some of what was going on here.

The most important thing I learned from this exercise is that Cervantes had an ear for his language. I felt the whole time like I was reading poetry. The lines were rife with alliteration. I could almost hear them being sung. It sounded like opera.

For awhile I completely forgot to hear Ed's snores.

And Merlin must have said "Forget it." after his several attempts to supplant the laptop were rebuffed. He seems to have found his spot down by Ed's feet. What is it with cats and dirty socks?

1:30 AM
--OK I think I may be getting that second wind which comes so often right about this hour. Sometimes the wee morning hours are my most creative and especially when I've been awake for more than twenty hours. I think I am going to try something off the wall. I'm going to go find a novel in Spanish and spend an hour 'reading' it for the mini-challenge put up by Sarah. I'm thinking this playful, dreamy mood would actually be more helpful than a more rational 'solve the puzzle' state of mind.

So here goes. I'm going to take my 30 year old high-school Spanish and my talent for pattern recognition and my sleep-deprived, story-stuffed brain over to Google Books and look for a Gabriele Garcia Marquez or an Isabelle Allende or Umberto Eco (wait, did he write in Spanish or Italian? I guess I'll find out.)

Meanwhile, Ed is snoring (there's more sharing for you) and Merlin is talking in his sleep.


11:30 PM
--I started reading Women Who Run With the Wolves over my coffee two hours ago and forgot to stop back by to note that choice. Ah, well. I'm forgetting more and more intentions as the hours wear on. I'm starting to feel as though I've got one foot treading a dreamscape. And I don't mean that to sound like a complaint. In fact, I often cultivate this state intentionally when I'm after a high-octane creative state. This is a good place from which to write poems. Not so good for reading anything that needs focus, concentration, memory. But it is a good place in which to create a compost of words, images, symbols, names taken from thither and yon and jammed in odd juxtaposition, cheek by jowl, in a jumble that can stew in the juices of memory and dream until that moment when something new tumbles out struts its jaunty stuff into a poem or story or a new numinous dream.

Ed dropped out at 10:30 and that entailed a third reconfiguring of my reading nest in the bed. This caused me to ruminate on how sharing is one of the ingredients of an enduring marriage and of all the things we shared to make this event work for both of us: we shared the light to read by, we shared the space on a standard size mattress, we shared the air we breathed, we shared ideas, we shared the laptop to make updates and read our reader's comments, we shared giggles and we shared a spoon.

All of this reminded me of the mini-challenge posted in hour 1: to post something about Joshua Henken's novel, Matrimony and then drop him a line to be in line for a chance to win a signed copy!. Based on Dewey's review, I feel pretty sure the couple in this novel do a whole lot of sharing, including pain and hardship, disappointments and tears, but also of dreams and desire and hope and joy. It is a character-driven story that muses about character-driven stories. Sounds like my kind of story.

oooops! speaking of forgetting. i forgot to click publish when i finished this update. or did i forget to finish it? i don't know. i don't remember.

i forgot to put fresh water down for Merlin too. But he is good at reminding. A claw tap on the wrist while lifting a water bottle is a better reminder than a string tied around it.

and as u can see i'm 'forgetting' many keystrokes. my hands are as weary as my eyes but just as jazzed on coffee as my brain. a lot of sizzle but little control, like a downed electrical wire in a storm.

8:30 PM
--I was determined to reach a total of 100 pages for the day in The Historian before I took another break. I just reached page 350 for a total of 104. It took me much longer than I expected. I may have slid to 10 pph in that last hour! It is only partly the small print. It is at least as much due to the delectable sentences Kostova composes. They have the staid cadences of an academic treatise while being jam-packed with those all-important nouns and verbs that move a story's plot forward.

Oh, but she dishes that plot out in eye-dropper size doses while stirring in exquisite details of local culture and landscape and history. The various narrators are all historians by training and passion and their diction reflects that in its precision and attention to detail. And yet, the story of these historians turned vampire hunters is as bone-chilling as any Stephen King has concocted.

I desperately want to continue. But I know that if I do, I will never make it til dawn. Besides, how can I do such a fine story justice if I'm starting to see the word 'napkin' as 'napalm'? I caught myself on that one. What have I not caught?

So I think I will be moving on to other things for the duration. I may return to Joseph Campbell's Mask of God series. I may pick up Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes for a chapter or two because the featuring of Hungarian culture and history in The Historian reminded me that Pinkola Estes had drawn from that well with her re-tellings of stories of the wild woman archetype.

I also have the thought of looking for a free e-book of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. I've never read it and it is almost a breathing presence in Kostova's story.

And at some point before I quit, I want to make an attempt at the mini-challenge sponsored by Sarah at There's Something About Translation to spend an hour trying to read a story in a language other than my mother tongue.

I will let you know what I've decided to do next after I've taken a short break to get something to eat and make a cup of coffee.

Merlin waits patiently for me to decide too. He wants this spot between my knees where the laptop is now perched on a box. He would probably vote for another Read-a-Thon real soon if he knew he had it to thank for his hours of usurping the laptop's place today.

4:30 PM
--I was forced to take a break from The Historian by the arrival home from work of my husband Ed, of Ed's Thread, bearing bags of finger foods and energy drinks for feasting as we read. He's going to join in now for as long as he is able. But seeing as he just completed a sixth full work day in a row, we'll forgive him if he can't hang in til dawn.

While Ed was getting his Read-a-Thon post up, I demolished the nest I'd created on the bed for myself right after he crawled out this morning. I put back on there shelves the couple dozen books and reordered blankets and pillows to accommodate two. (But what about me? cries Merlin.) OK three. Happy Mr. Wizard?

I'm going to return to The Historian for awhile. At least long enough to find a better stopping place than the middle of a conversation in a Budapest restaurant. After that I will see. As much as I am loving this story--one of the best I've ever read--the small print is hard on my eyes. As the night wears on, I may switch to a YA out of the selection of fifteen or so my niece has loaned me.

2:00 PM
--OK I spent longer over at Dewey's and checking out the mini-challenges and visiting etc than I intended. It is kind of addictive. I going to return to The Historian for awhile. What better novel could I have chosen for today than one featuring libraries and ancient manuscript collections all across Europe and America? It is a story inside a story inside a story wrapped in a weave of history and legend and myth.

As for Merlin? He's more impressed with the bookmark. His favorite game is to steal it out of the book while I'm not looking. Which is quite easy to do what with my RP aka tunnel vision.

12 Noon
--As I munch on salt and vinegar potato chips and drink a Sobe's energy drink, I'm going to take a break from reading for awhile to go check in on doings at Dewey's and then drop by a few readers to pass along some of the cheer left here for me.

"Merlin! Get outta the chip bag!"

9:00 AM
--I've reached page 280 of The Historian after two and a half hours. Not even the average of 25 pages per hour I was managing earlier this week. I probably should have started off the morning with something in a larger print. But I wanted to read fiction and I don't like to have multiple novels going at once. (Though I have on occasion. When a library book due date loomed say. And I set The Historian aside for three days last weekend in order to read again The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton during my nieces visit so we could discuss it.)

About 8:30 I set aside The Historian and began browsing in Joseph Campbell's The Masks of God, a set of four books published between 1959 and 1968 tracing the roots of myths from prehistoric to modern culture. From the cover blurbs:

Vol. I Primitive Mythology: The primitive roots of the mythology of the world are examined in the light of the most recent discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, and psychology.

Vol. II Oriental Mythology: An exploration of Eastern mythology as it developed into the distinctive religions of Egypt, India, China, and Japan.

Vol. III Occidental Mythology: A systematic and fascinating comparison of the themes that underlie the are, worship, and literature of the Western world.

Vol. IV Creative Mythology: The whole inner story of modern culture, spanning our entire philosophical, spiritual, and artistic history since the Dark Ages, and treating modern man's unique position as the creator of his own mythology.

I was introduced to Campbell's works in the early nineties as I began my quest to find my place in the larger world outside the fundamentalist sect I was raised in. I cannot now imagine that journey without Campbell's aid. I've since come to hold in awe and reverence all the sacred stories of all the traditions for the evidence they hold of how deep and strong the roots of story grow as people struggle to explain their world and themselves to themselves. I've come to see human being's need for story as equal in power and necessity to that of hunger and thirst.

I'm going to continue browsing Campbell for at least another hour. It took me an hour to type this update because I couldn't stop browsing.

I'm not going to keep track of pages for this. With my vision constraints I'm not in the running for prizes for most pages read anyway. For me, today is all about guilt-free reading.

I was going to make a trek to the kitchen for a snack and another cup of coffee but Merlin has made his own nest in a blanket next to my right hip and is happily snoring. I think I will let him be for now.


6:30 AM
--I begin on page 246 of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which, if it fulfills all the expectations laid down in the first third, is one of the best novels I've encountered in years.

That is, I will begin if Merlin will settle down and stop turning off the light!! He's chasing wrinkles on the bed and jumping up to grab the light fixture chain. That's the thanks I get for bringing him a cup of milk when I went after my coffee. I guess I got him all riled while building my little nest on the bed with a couple dozen books within reach among the infinitely mutable mountain of blankets and pillows.

OK. Here's my book, where's that coffee? Merlin, no....

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Snipets 15

You can find links to the rest of this story and to Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities, the story introducing Faye et all here.

And now we conclude...

Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes

11

Faye wakes to the sound of rain splattering the multi-paned door to the garden. Dawn light muted by clouds suffuses the room. She needs a moment to remember why she is sleeping in the recliner in the music room and when she does she quickly reaches for the swaddled bundle in the crook of her left arm. When Brandy had finally fallen asleep in the wee hours, Faye had been too weary to move and too afraid of waking her if she did, so she had just reached for the lever that reclined the chair. Her hand encounters the still form nestled against her breast and sinks into the soft foam of Dolly. She is instantly wide awake and sitting upright.

"You were sleeping so good." Briana said from the glider-chair next to the softly playing stereo. "Brandy was just stirring when I found you. I figured you could use whatever extra seconds of snooze you could snatch. If I were you I’d be having second thoughts about now. You can’t have any idea what you got yourself into never having no kid of your own." She bends and kisses the temple of her nursing daughter.

Faye remains silent, watching the surrealistic Madonna and child tableau before her. She counts at least three separate sections--each a different length and color--in the hair on the head bent over the babe. Over the left ear it is nearly shaved and snow-white. The top is two or three inches of variegated blue and black molded into the shape of a breaking wave. Faye wonders what it takes to preserve that shape through all that has happened in the last twenty hours--glue? Shellac? The left ear is shrouded in a magenta and purple tapestry, a plethora of colored string and beads and, yes, she does believe that is tinsel, braided into it.

Briana looks up and catches Faye watching her. "I love her so much but there are moments when I’m tempted to trade her for a couple hours of carefree sleep. But then I’m given the chance free gratis and I keep waking up in a panic because she’s not where I can touch her, hear her breathe. Go figure."

"That’s Mother-love for you." Faye said. "The mother-lode of all mysteries."

Briana hummed and swayed gently to the closing riff of the song she was listening to, her motion setting the chair gliding. Faye recognized the song as Fancy’s hit, "Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes." After fifteen years of struggling against the odds, this thirty-year-old grandma might have finally hit the jackpot. And Faye could take a bit of the credit for it. In the years following Briana’s rescue from the tree, Faye had been the voice coach for both mother and daughter and young Cassandra as well. She would have done it for pure joy, but Mae Bea would have none of that so the three girls had worked for her. Mostly caring for the dozens of stray cats that found their way to the estate.

The CD cycled back to the beginning of the track and Faye joined Briana in humming counterpoint to Fancy:

Mama makes a living making rag doll babies
And praying once a week at the church for bingos.
She says the only blessing she asks of heaven
Is a winning number for Wednesday’s lotto.


"My Mama makes a living singing about her Mama." Briana raised her eyebrows at Faye as the music segued into the chorus.

She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And promising the moon a cloudless sky.
She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And laughing like a loon who cannot fly.


"So, Mae Bea makes rag doll babies. Fancy sings about Mae Bea. What will Breezy do?" Faye muses as the chorus repeats.

"Maybe I’ll write about Fancy." Briana snickered. "I half wrote this song after all."

"Faye smiled. "Fancy could take you far in this world. ‘So full of shapes is fancy that it alone is high fantastical.’ That was Bard Shakespeare’s take on it and look how far it took him?"

"Fancy’s full of it, no doubt." Briana said.

"Full of love for you. Never doubt it."

The second verse begins and Briana sings along. After a couple lines Faye joins in.

My Mama for each birthday made me rag doll babies
That looked just like me and every day she dressed us just alike.
She told us ‘Doll Babies, this life is all caprice.
You gotta take what it gives and give what it takes.


By the time they reached the chorus Faye and Briana’s voices were drowning out the stereo. Briana reached over and nudged the volume up.

She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And hasn’t got a clue that I’m alive.
She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And finding life’s a tune she’s sung too high.


But as the first chorus repeats Briana turns it down again. "Speaking of Mama Mae Bea." she said as she nestled Brandy against her neck to burp. "I dreamed of our house this morning. You know how it is. Every room chockfull of rag doll babies. I’m wandering through it carrying Brandy, singing her a lullaby. Then it is on fire and I head for the door but I see it is not Brandy in my arms but a rag doll. I’m frantic. I hear Brandy cry and I run towards her but every time I think I am picking her up it’s another doll. Fire is everywhere now. I start to cry and that wakes me up. I reached for her and found only Dolly."

As she listened to Briana, Faye’s eye is caught by a fiery leaf performing a spinning dance upon the strong breeze swirling through the garden. She is awed and her heart lifts as though straining to join this exuberant celebration of…life. And when the gust finally plastered it against the multi-paned door she does not feel dismay as she might once have. She can only marvel at its beauty and be grateful for its being--one of nature’s grace notes.

"Wisdom has the use of many and various messengers." Speaking these words aloud as the understanding bloomed in her heart, Faye felt suddenly possessed of her self--and of a careful confidence that this newest charge to mentor a new Mama was immanently doable. With such gifts as dreams and breezes bestow, failure would have to be assiduously sought. And for the first time since childhood’s joy had dissolved in the acid of duty, she felt she could own her first name again--Jubilee.

The need to move was undeniable. She launched herself from her chair and over to the stereo, cranked it, then on the Persian rug in the middle of the room, hands on hips, she began a simple two-step dance.

Briana, who had been busy settling Brandy to the second breast, looked up, shock replacing the usual scornful set to her features. Faye laughed and extended a hand. "Join me." She invited. "This beat simply begs a line-dance."

Briana looked askance at her but came and stood beside her. Hooking one arm through Faye’s elbow and cradling Brandy with the other she let her feet follow Faye’s. Together they danced and sang along with the third and final verse and the choruses that finished it.

I say, "Mama, I’m not another dolly to set on your shelf,
I’m your real live child set on being myself!"
Mama tells me, "Baby! This world’s plum crazy
And you just never know when your card’s gonna win. See,

"I’m making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And promising the moon a cloudless sky,
Cause making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
Is just my way of giving you the sky.

"I’m making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And promising the moon a cloudless sky,
Cause making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
Is just my way of teaching you to fly."


They collapsed together, breathless and laughing, on the love-seat facing the garden door. "I’m going to have to learn to dance without watching the floor." Faye pointed at the rug. "The pattern was making me dizzy."

"And I had you pegged for a stodgy old prude." Briana shook her head in wonderment. "Mae Bea plays with her dolls and Fancy plays her music but in all my born days, I never saw either of them get playful like that."

"You-you’ve just forgotten, chi-child." Faye had to puff out the words. "If that rag doll costume your Mama used to prance around the stage wearing wasn’t playful I sure don’t know what would be. And she continued with that routine until you were past six, I’m sure."

"Oh, I do sorta remember that. But I don’t remember it seeming playful. She worked hard at putting on the act whether she felt that way or not. Mostly not. And backstage she let me and whoever else was handy see her true feelings. I learned not to trust her displays of hearty-ha-ha. And when she would come in to wake me up in the mornings--when she was home that is--singing ‘Good Morning Sunshine’ or ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ I wondered where the audience was she thought she was playing to. Because I sure wasn’t buying it."

"Maybe you were the audience." Faye rose to go turn down the stereo.

"Yeah, right!" Briana poured bitter scorn into her voice.

"Breezy Mae Morgan!" Faye planted herself in front of her. "You no longer have the luxury of ambling through adolescent angst. Not if you’re planning to be the Mama of that precious new person you have given life to. Fifteen years from now Brandy will be the one bending someone’s ear with Mama stories. What do you suppose her complaints will be? Your Mama was a year younger than you when you were born and her Mama just your age. Just think on that a bit."

Briana bent her head over Brandy, the beaded and threaded braids veiling her face. Faye gentled her tone. "If you value playfulness so much, consider how you might gift your child with it so that she will not grow up believing that it belongs only to children who don’t know better. You have already shown me the possibility of it, just by being yourself. Why, anyone getting an eyeful of that hair would have to either growl or giggle. I choose giggle."

Briana looked up with an impish grin. Faye sat back down beside her and took her free hand. "The best of Mamas make mistakes. But if they’re good enough the child will have learned the art of forgiveness along with the skills to make their own way. I know being raised up by Mae Bea and Fancy did not give you the consistency that youngsters set such store by. Maybe they didn’t fill every one of your expectations exactly on cue. But so what? Mamas are people too. And if you can shift your gaze for one moment off their mistakes and onto them you might see what it is they have gifted you with. If you can follow in your Mama’s footsteps the same way she followed in Mae Bea’s, you will do well by your self and Brandy. They’ve each turned a passion into a means of support for their selves and their daughters. A rare and laudable accomplishment. Now, if you don’t want your daily work to be drudgery, you must ask yourself, do you have a passion or only complaints?

As if on cue, there is a plaintive cry and they both instinctively look at Brandy. But she is contentedly nursing. The cry comes again. Their eyes track the room. Then they both spot it. In the bottom pane of the garden door is the tiny face of a drenched kitten. It meows again and Briana cries out with sympathy and alarm, "Poor baby!" She jumps up, disengaging Brandy from her breast without ceremony. She thrusts the squalling baby into Faye’s arms and rushes for the door. She returns with the soaked and shivering kitten and wraps it in one of Brandy’s receiving blankets, gently rubbing it.

"I bet that’s the kitten that was sleeping on my lap when Cassie was here last evening." Faye said. "Brandy’s cries startled her and she ran out into the garden. She must have been trapped out there all night, poor little dickens."

Brandy flails her fists and feet and keeps up a steady pulsating screech. Faye tries several positions but nothing soothes her. "Ai! You’re a feisty one, you are. Like your Mama you are. Like an Irish Rose." She turns to Briana. "This young kitten will be all right. She’s got fight in her. And that’s a good thing for a young one to have. A good thing for anyone to have. But see how she pummels the air with fists and feet? How she squenches shut her eyes and howls. She’s as likely to fend off help as harm that-a-way. Wiser heads must teach her how to direct that feeble flailing where it will do the most good. How to open her eyes and look the feared thing in the face. How to stifle the howl and listen for the music that comforts the heart. There is more to the singing of a lullaby than the momentary soothing of an infant."

Briana sets the bundled kitten beside Faye and takes Brandy back. "I don’t think it’s any feared thing she is howling about right now." she said as Brandy found what she was howling for.

Faye laughs and takes up the kitten and continues massaging it with the blanket. In the sudden silence they can hear the rain on the windows and Fancy’s softly playing song. Brandy begins to murmur and smack. Briana to hum and the kitten to purr. Faye leans back with a sigh. The kitten pokes its head out to touch noses with her.

"You seem to be making a habit of rescuing kittens out of dire straits." she said. "You suppose there’s a passion lurking in there somewhere?"

"If there is, I can’t see a way for it to pay for itself let alone support two people."

"You just never know." Faye chuckles. "Chances are even you could find a way if you open your heart to possibilities."

The two of them turn at the sound of the hall door opening. Inny sticks his head in. "Is it well with thee? Is it well with the child?" he asks. His gaze traverses the room, taking in the evidence of contentment. The nursing infant. The humming Mama. The purring kitten. The rain falling on the garden. He meets Faye’s eyes and they exchange smiles. He nods and she sighs.

"It is well." They say in unison.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #55



Thirteen More LOL Title/Author Combos




1. Ambulance Driving: Adam Muhway
2. Ambush! by May T. Surprise
3. And Shut Up! by Sid Downe
4. And the Other People by Allan Sundry
5. Animal Illnesses by Ann Thrax
6. Animal Scents: Farrah Mones
7. April Fool! by Sue Prize
8. Archery: Beau N. Arrow
9. Armed Heists by Robin Banks
10. Artificial Clothing by Polly Ester
11. Artificial Weightlessness by Andy Gravity
12. As Solid as...: Rocco Gibraltar
13. Assault with Battery by Eva Ready



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hot Fingers



I'm going to wait until tomorrow to post my TT. I'm exhausted and might as well take advantage of that to try to get my hours switched for the start of Saturday's Read-a-Thon.

Besides, I burned my fingers while making dinner tonight and two of them still feel like they are on fire. I dropped a slice of liver in the skillet from too high up and it splashed hot oil across the knuckles of the ring and little finger of my right hand I don't think it is even going to blister but it hurts like a bad sunburn.

Have you ever tried to wash dishes while keeping one hand out of the hot water? I would have waited until tomorrow to do up the dishes but we learned this evening that the trailer park is shutting of the water at midnight to drain the pipes for repairs scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Tonight is our last night home alone. Ed's folks are due home from their week-long vacation some time tomorrow afternoon or evening. I wish they could have picked a different day to turn the water off.

I was doing laundry all afternoon and still had two or three more loads I hoped to do. I stopped to focus on dinner. It was the first time I've made dinner for Ed in years. With the water going off at midnight coupled with my fingers current allergy to heat added to Ed's needing to get his shower before bed tonight, I decided to stop working on the laundry. That means keeping my fingers crossed the water comes back on by noon so I can get another load or two done before my in-laws get home with their bags full of vacation laundry.

I did my best to get the kitchen cleaned up tonight. Will have to sweep the floor tomorrow when there is better light in there. Besides the laundry, I too need a shower and shampoo. My last chance to get one without feeling rushed to get done in under half an hour so as not to inconvenience anyone.

My biggest chore of all to get done tomorrow is moving my 'office' out of the living room and back to the bedroom. I brought all the stuff out here in small chunks and it grew like a fungus. There are books on nearly every chair and table. My laptop and my reading lamp are among the many non-book items. As are my needlework supplies and projects. Also blankets and a coat because a couple of the nights got quite chilly. All in all it is probably going to take me a couple hours to get it moved back in the bedroom and put away and the living room put back in order.

Ah, Gads. Now I'm wishing I hadn't just pushed TT off until tomorrow. I should have just numbered these paragraphs. Oh, well. You will probably get another slice of that list of LOL title and author combos like week before last.

And I just realized that I forgot to check in at 70 Days of Sweat. But I'm too tired now. That would take me another hour. I always read everybody's comments and take forever composing mine.

Arrrrgh! Have you ever had one of those days?

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Practicing Transition

These thoughts are a continuation of yesterday's post in which I confessed my difficulty with transitioning between activities or states of being. I'm determined to find a way to incorporate more than one of my passions into my life at one time.

I am so very grateful for the 70 Days of Sweat challenge last summer for having provided me the opportunity to reconnect with my passion for writing stories. And I don't want to loose it again. But this was made possible, in part, by the way I immersed my self in my story world to the exclusion of nearly everything else, averaging eight to ten hour work sessions with many that went past 24.

Meanwhile, other passions and enjoyed pastimes dropped away. Among them, reading fiction as I discussed yesterday. But there were many others including fine needle work, research not related to my story world, TV shows, computer games, walks, meditation, other writing projects, other web presence projects both old and new. And that doesn't even address the issue of the physical care of my person and surroundings. Yeah, you don't want to go there. TMI as my nephew likes to say.

This cannot be allowed to stand. Yet I must not loose that precious connection to that place where my stories come out to play nor the habit of daily interaction with it. So I'm in the process of working out what I'm going to do about it. I don't know exactly what it is going to look like yet. Some of it probably needs to grow organically out of the circumstances.

Dewey left a comment in last night's post suggesting a 'transition toolbox'. I like that concept and immediately knew of two things I would put in it. The first is a timer or two--one a software ap for my laptop, the other a physical one which I could transport to other rooms and outdoors.

The second tool is the concept of functional fixedness. It would be more apt to say that I need a compartment in the toolbox to collect a number of customized tools that make use of this psychological principle that when one thing is tightly associated with another, exposure to one can elicit the physical, mental and emotional states of the other. Something like Pavlov's dogs who learned to salivate at the sound of a bell.

I relearned this principle early in the first round of 70 Days of Sweat after remembering that I had always used to play my soundtrack to Twin Peaks at the beginning of my writing sessions with my Faye stories in the nineties. I posted about that several times in the last half of July. I think I even had a fleeting thought that I should try to find ways to apply the principle to other activities I found difficult transitioning in and out of. But I got distracted and then I got sick and then I spent the last month of the challenge feeling like I was on a hamsters wheel.

The triggering event doesn't have to be music. It doesn't even have to be a sound. It can tap any of the senses or several at once. It can be a location. It can be in the ordering of activities so that one always follows the other. I learned the term functional fixedness from Robert Owen Butler in his From Where You Dream which was compiled from his lectures on the process of writing fiction.

That is one of the first books I'm going to send for as soon as the libraries open in two weeks.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: I'm In




I debated for a long time whether to commit to this or not. When I first learned about it a month ago, I was instantly intrigued, but when I realized that it was scheduled for the Saturday right after the second round of 70 Days of Sweat and only ten days before NaNoWriMo, I backed off, thinking that I couldn't risk loosing ground that early in the challenge or getting distracted. But I couldn't get it out of my mind. The concept of spending a whole 24 hours reading! It is something I used to do frequently mostly because staying awake for 24, or 36, or 48 hours was also a regular habit. My personal record for being awake was 75 hours but I wasn't doing much of anything constructive in the last 24 hours.

Anyway. Back on topic. I have been doing a lot of reevaluating of my commitments to the writing challenges, 70 Days and NaNoWriMo and the ways in which I managed my time when participating in the past. I have a tendency to get hyper-focused on whatever I'm doing and have great difficulty switching to another project or topic or state of being. By state of being I mean things like: from dry to wet; from indoors to outdoors; from active to inactive; from solitude to social; from awake to asleep. And to each of those add visa-versa. Difficult is not a strong enough word. The transitions are painful, like a psychic tooth-pulling.

I'm sure my insomnia and anxiety disorder are connected but not sure whether they are the cause or the result of the difficulties in transitioning. I'm also sure that many of the behaviors that result are impairing my health in many subtle and not so subtle ways. It definitely impairs my quality of life. And, although this hyper-focusing ability has occasionally resulted in a brilliant breakthrough in a creative project it is always more likely to result in a burnout and/or illness that forces me to stop and then, of course, it is anybodies guess as to when or if I ever return to the project.

I did end up ill for three weeks during the first round of 70 Days and spent over two weeks too exhausted to sit up for more than minutes at a time. I'm still not back to where I was in mid July and early August. This shook me up because I had just rediscovered my passion for my Fruits of the Spirit story world and was panicked that there would be another months long or years long hiatus.

Anyone who followed last weeks posts beginning with last Sunday night's Monday Poetry Train witnessed an example of this hyper-focusing in action. I set out to find an image online to illustrate my poem's primary metaphor, blood. Twelve hours later, after encountering several thousand images depicting the myriad ways in which the blood metaphor is expressed in our culture, I was finally able to choose one to feature at the top of the post and half a dozen more to link to each occurrence of the word blood in the poem. The following night I decided to try the same search on YouTube and after fifteen hours had collected more than enough for a Thursday Thirteen list.

I shudder to think what might have happened if the news of the local libraries immanent re-opening had not broken through on Tuesday morning.

All of this was on my mind this past week along with the frustration incurred during the last round of 70 Days by my denying myself permission for fiction reading for days on end and even then limiting it to YA so as not to risk influencing my own voice and style. I apparently have an ear for language like musicians have an ear for music and can be an excellent mimic without consciously realizing it. A professor reading one of my rough drafts when I was in college pointed out that my prose style changed dramatically several times within the twenty pages or so. After he pointed it out, I was able to match each distinctive section with the novel I'd been reading the day I was writing it.

From that point on (late eighties) I began to put strict limits on what I allowed myself to read on the days I was writing. This has repercussions that I like even less than rough-drafts that switch willy-nilly between the prose styles of Joan Didion, John Barth and Joyce Carol Oates. It forces me to choose between my passions for writing stories and reading the authors that inspire me the most. Or at least my solution has that result. Since reading is one of the ways I feed my muse, this self-imposed restriction has probably had unknowable blowback on my development as a writer and storyteller.

I suddenly realized that if I wanted to maintain the daily discipline of engaging with my own story worlds I simply must find a way to fit the reading of the best prose and stories available into the regimen. With the long awaited library opening coming up next week, I simply can't imagine waiting until January 15 to go after some of the novels I've been hankering for for over six months already. So I'm going to give myself permission to read whatever I'm drawn too along with the permission to write rough drafts of patchwork prose. I may discover that is not inevitable. But even if it is, I need to learn to trust myself to be able to fix it on rewrites; to identify the needful voice and style for the story and make it consistent throughout.

So I am going to participate in Dewey's Read-a-Thon this Saturday and I'm going to make sure that every week from now on contains at least one large block (at least 4 hrs) of time devoted to reading the best quality stories and every day at least 30 minutes.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #21


This Georgia O'Keeffe print for sale at art.com


Bud Wise
by Joy Renee

A bloom in the womb is a poem curled
Tight around the pistil of its power.
Does a lily take thought of
The process of its being?
Does a rose not repose in that
Ball of its becoming?
Then let your story incubate
Enfolded in its dreaming,
Until the moment of its glory when
Unfurling reveals its flower.

###############

I'm posting this poem in honor of the first day of the second round of 70 Days of Sweat to remind myself of the lesson, hard won and once known well enough to have composed this poem, that forcing things or fretting yourself into a tizzy when a story seems to fizzle out or just get too jumbled and unfocused is counter-productive. Trust the process and let the story, like a bud, keep some of its secrets for a time. And remember that trust is reciprocal.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sunday Serenity #27



print for sale at art.com


Join us for a moment of serenity

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Conundrum

I've been tying my thoughts in knots ever since I signed up for 70 Days of Sweat round 2 a week ago. Right up until then I'd been blithely assuring myself that I could do both 70 Days and NaNoWriMo concurrently. I desperately want to continue working on my Fruits of the Spirit story world. Most especially I want to keep working with Faye's portion of the story. By the end of round 1 I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Faye's story. Not so much in terms of word count but in having the time line of events and the most important of the plot elements worked out and a fairly comprehensive but flexible list of the must-have scenes. Thus, it was conceivable that another seventy days of intensive work on Faye's story could find me with a completed rough draft at the end.

But NaNoWriMo puts a whole new twist on things. Because that requires starting with a brand new novel concept on November 1st and pumping out 50,000 words in thirty days. That is 1666.66 words per day. This would be my fourth attempt if I decide to do it. My first attempt garnered me around 6000 words, my second 12,000 and my third 25,000. See the pattern there? I did on November 30 last year. I realized that if I doubled that month's output the following year, I would finally earn my completion graphic to display in my sidebar.

Thus the thought of backing out of NaNo this year, even for the very good cause of staying with a story that is progressing well and has me in its grip, was dismaying. I am so emotionally invested in making the attempt one more time it is hard to let go of the dream. But if I wanted to commit to NaNo, I had to choose a virgin story and time was running out. I had two options: stay within the Fruits of the Spirit story world, picking one of the other POV characters whom I had not written any scenes for but had mapped out their story arc; or step outside the story world into something completely new.

The problem with the first choice was that even though I have bowed to the necessity of breaking what was intended as a single novel down into several, the story arcs of each novel are intricately intertwined with those of several others. Which is why I still find myself bouncing from one POV character to another, working out details in their time lines, motives, likely perceptions whenever they appear as a supporting actor in another's POV scene.

One of the reasons I struggled so hard to make word count quota during the first round of 70 Days was because I was saving back three of the POV stories as potential NaNo projects. Julia's story is nearly bursting at the seams for example. As Faye's twin sister, her story is the most entwined with Faye's. All my work with Faye's story arc over the summer advanced Julia's but I refrained from writing any scenes in order to preserve its eligibility for NaNo. And now I seriously question the possibility of maintaining the 1666.66 page per day pace with Julia's story.

But, if I give up NaNo, I could easily maintain the 700-1000 page per day pace of 70 Days if I started writing scenes for Julia's story and the two or three others I was holding back on just in case I wanted them for NaNo.

Or I could set aside Faye, Julia and all the rest of Fruits' characters for the month of November and return to them in December after spending thirty days playing in a brand new story world. But what story? Wasn't it already too late to plot out a novel by November 1st considering that starting on Monday I was already committed to start sweating for Sven?

This was my conundrum as it stood Friday morning, the deadline I'd set myself to make the decision because that was when my niece was arriving to spend a three day weekend here at her grandparent's house while her grandparents and parents are out of town. I knew I wouldn't be able to do much serious work during her visit as we have a month's worth of serious catching up to do about what we have been reading and writing and thinking since the last time we talked. And the minute she leaves for school Monday morning I have to start sweating for Sven.

I hadn't met my deadline. So this evening, I started trying to explain my dilemma to her. Believe me, it was not this organized when I described it to her. I rambled on for four hours. Of course I let her talk too. She can ask some very perceptive questions for a thirteen year old. And make very valid points based on insights she gets as she listens to me. She has the same love of story as I do and already has good instincts for what makes a good story work.

As I began to talk about the story ideas for a possible NaNo attempt, she began to ask questions like: Why did she do that? How did he feel about it? What happens next?

At one point I realized we had stayed with one story for quite awhile and were both getting quite animated about it. Not long after that I 'saw' the story arc complete like a rainbow against blue velvet with most of the major plot and motive elements for the first half in place. And I knew this story was ready to go. Except that it was completely dependent on my memory of a conversation. I hadn't been taking notes.

When my niece tired and got ready for bed I headed for my laptop. I itched to start writing down the story elements we had just gone over. But I hadn't posted yet. I had started this post before our conversation began and had been intending to post about this conundrum ever since last Friday. I decided to go ahead and write this post as planned and hope that my niece can help me put the pieces of that story back together, talking me through it again while I take notes. After we've both had a good sleep.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Friday Snipets 14

This week's snippet wraps up the THEN strand of this story with the rescue of five-year-old Briana whom we left hanging by her overall strap off the branch of a tree twenty feet above a swift flowing river.

Next week will wrap up the NOW strand in which fifteen-year-old Briana begins to find her footing as a new mother.

In last week's snippet, Briana related her dream in which she, baby Brandy and the baby's father had been caught in a flood. The father had hoisted himself onto a raft but reached back and pulled his motorcycle up instead of his girlfriend and baby with the words, "Money in the bank."

With those words, Faye, Julia and Wilma instantly knew the identity of Brandy's father and why Briana had been so carefully protecting it for over a year. He was more than ten years older than her.

There seemed to be some confusion among some of the reader's thinking they had missed something from a previous scene or they would have gotten the reveal too. But that scene was intended to set up this one. The reveal is near the end of this part.

But because of that confusion, I've been having second thoughts. I don't want readers to feel cheated or worse, stupid, when they read that scene. I am wondering if I should give the relevant character his line back in part 8 just preceding last week's scene in which Briana recounts the dream? Your thoughts?

If you need to catch up the portal is here. From there you can find part 8 where there is a roster of the characters in this scene. There are twelve people and two dogs and a cat. Well the cat isn't in the roster because it doesn't appear until this scene. I keep meaning to put the roster and some further orientation on the portal post itself but haven't got around to it.

Oh, I also want to make clear that the song Briana is singing as she hangs from the tree in parts 8 and 10 was not written by me. My research on the history of this song was among the notes and papers lost when we moved. I will relate here what I remember. My mother used to sing me this song when I was a child and I sang it to my baby sister from infancy until she was able to talk well enough to ask me to stop because it made her sad.

When I decided to use this song in this story, I asked my Mom if she knew where her Mother had learned it. Had Grandma's Mother also sang it to her? My Mom didn't think so as she remembered her own maternal Grandmother and had no memory of her singing it. She thought the song had been popular on the radio and Victrola records in the years between the two world wars. In the twenties and/or thirties.

This was in the early nineties; several years before I had the Internet. Nor did our library in Longview, Washington have it. I had to hunt through books, some of which were published a decade or more before I was born; and sheet music in a filing cabinet. I found the evidence of recordings of the song in the years decade before my Mother's birth in 1932 and further evidence that it was a popular folk-song throughout backwoods America east of the Rockies. But one source had been able to trace the song clear back to 15th century England (or it might have been the 15oos) as a song sung by the wandering street and fair singers.

It just crossed my mind tonight to do an Internet search about it to see if I could confirm my memories. I was able to confirm all but that last part which is why I couldn't be sure of which century.

At missouristate.edu I found five renditions of the song collected during the sixties. I'm going to send you to the one which sounds the closest to the way I learned it--with a slow, mournful cadence--even though I've never heard it sung by a man before and the lyrics vary quite a bit. On this page you will find links to four variations, which are worth looking at just to compare the words in the printed verses:

Babes In the Woods. FYI the left button downloads it in RealPlayer, the right button opens it in a tiny browser window and plays it with Quicktime.


Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes


10

"And when it was night, so sad was their plight,
The moon had gone down and the stars gave no light.
They sobbed and they sighed and they bitterly cried.
Poor babes in the woods, they lay down and died."

Faye was listening to the mournful tune carried to the ears of the searchers congregated at the foot of the tree, eyes riveted on the spot they had last seen the singer, adjusting to the sudden dark after Travis directed Troll to switch off the camera’s light.

"We don’t want to startle her." he had said. "We don’t want her squirming around trying to see us."

"She can’t swim." Fancy’s whisper scratched the night air and sent a shiver through the group.

"No, but maybe she can fly." Travis said, his soft voice holding hope with a reverential tenderness as he peered intently into the tree and then down at the group of boulders below him. "Boys, get the climbing gear out. Be quick, but be quiet."

From her position in the middle of the group, Faye watched as Brandon and Jason, retreating several paces away from the tree, pulled lengths of looped and knotted rope from pouches attached to their belts and huddled over them with Travis. She heard their intense whispers but could make out few words and most of those floated to her on the night air like arcane spells. Carabineer. Double-loop seat. Travis gesticulating and the boys nodding solemnly. And then Brandon followed by Jason slipped loops of rope over their feet and drew them up to their crotch and cinched them in with another loop around their waist. They checked each other’s work and then exchanged terse nods with Travis and the three of them walked back toward the group under the tree.

"Climb as quietly as you can until you can talk to her face to face. Then get her attention gently and explain how important it is she not wiggle about. Then we can train the light on you and I’ll send Jason up to assist."

Brandon signaled Snow to sit and stay and with deft motions swung himself into the tree. The rest of them waited in silence, straining their ears for the sounds of his progress. But those sounds were covered by Briana’s sad song:

"And when they were dead, the robins so red
Took strawberry leaves and over them spread
And all the night long, the branches among,
They mournfully whistled and this was their song:
Poor babes in the woods, poor babes in the woods."

The song ended and there was a collective gasp from the group as a figure, dark limbs flapping the air, seemed to drop out of the sky and float in front of Briana. "Are you an angel?" Even Briana’s speaking voice was musical, the pure tones of curiosity and acceptance carrying effortlessly on the night air.

"Lights." Brick said to Troll in response to Brandon’s signal. And at a nod from him, Jason swung himself into the tree.

"Houston, we have a problem." Came Brandon’s voice garbled with static over the walkie-talkie in Brick’s hand. "Our little canary has caught herself a cat. Over.’

"I bet it’s the kitten that followed me to the bus stop this morning." Faye said.

"Houston copies, Apollo." Brick said into the walkie-talkie. "Stand by." Brick put a hand to his forehead, removed his hat and snugged it back down. "This complicates things." He muttered to his feet. He toggled the walkie-talkie.
"You’re going to have to pass the golden fleece to the Argonaut. Over." he said.

"She calls it Feisty." Brandon answered. "She’s got it tucked inside her shirt and both arms wrapped around it. Won’t let go for the world. Over."

"Ask her if she thinks she can not wiggle no matter how much it tickles or struggles or scratches. Explain why it’s so important. Over."

"She says ‘Yes’, Houston. Over." Brandon answered after a brief exchange with Briana.

"What do you think, Apollo? Over."

"She’s a fighter, Houston. I think she’s got the right stuff. Over."

"OK then. This is what you do. Take off your shirt and cinch it around her waist so the cat can’t escape down her leg. Then button her shirt to the top. Including the collar button. Over."

"All set, Houston. Over."

"Is the Argonaut in place? Over." Brick asked.

"Affirmative, Houston. Over." Jason’s voice, thin with stress, answered. Faye could see his silhouette against the sky, straddling the branch above Briana.

"Proceed as planned. Over." Brick then turned to Troll and directed him to shine the light onto the jumble of boulders that crowded the bank beneath them and curdled the water nearly to mid river. Then to everyone’s astonishment he leapt off the bank onto the nearest one and clambered from one to another until he reached the one directly under Brandon and Briana.

Meanwhile Brandon had eased another of the looped rope harnesses onto Briana and secured it to his own so that they were tethered together, as with an umbilical cord, belly to belly. He leaned his head down so she could reach up and clasp her hands behind his neck. With one hand bracing her back, he gestured to Jason with the other. Jason grasped the desiccated branch that skewered her overall strap with both hands and gave one sharp tug. It broke loose with an audible snap that reminded Faye of the sound the Thanksgiving turkey wishbone made when she and Julia had performed that childhood ritual from the time they were Briana’s age until Julia left for Nam. [note: not sure if the Vietnam war fits the new time line I worked out this summer during 70 Days of Sweat so this might change.]

"Hope he made a good wish." Julia said surprising Faye, not with her uncanny way of thinking the same thing as her twin, but because she had never set much store by wishes since her return from Nam, had in fact often scorned her sister for doing so.

Jason released the jagged-ended stick and Fancy loosed a raggedy moan as it fell and they all herd it rebound off a boulder before splashing into the river. Faye shivered again, against imagination as much as the chill as Jason scooted further out on the limb until he was over Brandon’s position. He gripped the branch with his knees, locking his ankles together underneath before letting go with both hands and reaching for the ropes that supported Brandon and Briana.

Troll’s light, which had been held steady on Jason since he first reached for the branch Briana hung from, now focused on Briana with her arms around Brandon’s neck, her face nested against his collarbone, following them as they were gently lowered toward the boulder below where Brick waited. As soon as he could reach the harness at Brandon’s waist, Brick attached the end of another length of rope to it and then clambered back across the boulders to the bank with his end of the rope. Once there he pulled gently on the rope and its two passengers swung toward him. But Brandon’s feet were yards shy of connecting with dry land when they reached the apogee of their arc.

"Brick raised the Walkie-talkie. "Argonaut, play out a couple more yards. Over."

The figures on the rope lowered until Brandon’s feet were bombarded by spray thrown off by the boulders, appearing in Troll’s light like a blizzard of diamonds. This time Brick’s pull brought Brandon and Briana straight into his chest with enough force to stagger him backwards. But he threw an arm around Brandon’s waist under Briana’s hips and sat heavily on the path with them in his lap.

Before they could sort themselves out Fancy, Cassandra and Mae Bea had fallen to their knees around them, all reaching for Briana at once, patting her back, caressing her hair, scolding her. But they all backed away when Briana squealed, "Wait! I gotta get Feisty."

"I’ll show you a thing or two about feisty, young lady!" Cassie said as Brandon unhooked the umbilical and helped Briana to her feet. "If you ever scare us like that again."

Briana arched her back and squirmed around the writhing swell of cloth over her belly.

She fumbled for the buttons at her neck with one hand and clutched at the bib of her overalls with the other. "Just hold your britches, baby." she gasped.

"Let me help." Faye reached over and undid the buttons and a furry head pushed its way out hissing and snapping at Faye’s fingers. "You have been well, and truly named." she said to the kitten who slid out into her hands blinking fiercely in the brilliant light.

"So, Briana, how did you get yourself into such a fine fix?" Jerrica asked.

"I was trying to take that kitten home to Mama Cat. Anybody can see it is much too little to be all alone in the woods. But it got away from me and got itself stuck in the tree so I had to climb up there to get it. Then I got stuck too. We were both stuck together for a long, long time." she sighed.

"Weren’t you scared?" Jerrica asked.

"Well, we started to be when it got dark. But I prayed for an angel to rescue us. And lo and behold." Briana looked up at Brandon with wonder-filled eyes

Brick laughed. "Apollo may be agile, but an angel he is not."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Houston." Brandon shot back.

"Actually I have more confidence in agility than in angels." Brick said.

"Well I have confidence in my dog." Brandon said as he signaled Snow to come to him for a pat and an ear rub. "We couldn’t have done it without him. I think Snow is about ready to go pro, don’t you?"

"Let’s not forget Snoopy." Jason now down from the tree, joined the group around Briana with Snoopy at heel. Snoopy was carrying the shoe and at a signal from Jason presented it to Briana.

Briana took it and threw her arms around Snoopy saying, "Oh, Snoopy did you snoop out my shoe? Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you." Snoopy wriggled with joy and slurped Briana’s cheek.

"Hey, doesn’t Snow rate a thank-you?" Brandon asked. "Let’s not forget it was Snow who found the shoe first and Snoopy who picked it up against protocol."

"Yes, yes, yes." Briana said rushing at Snow with open arms but Brandon blocked her way.

"No, not like that." Brandon said. He positioned Briana in front of Snow and said, "Snow, shake hands."

Snow raised a paw and Briana took it. "Thank-you so much, Sir Snow."

"You mustn’t encourage a search and rescue dog to play while on duty. You’ll spoil him for the work." Brandon said. "I trained Snow myself. He’s money in the bank."

"Well, you can’t spoil a kitten with too much love." Faye said, a much calmer Feisty nuzzling her earlobe. "And I believe, young lady, that you need to get that shoe back on so you can complete your mission. This little one needs her mama."

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