Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sunday Serenity #58

Lately, probably because Crystal in my Friday Snippets story is a swimmer, I've found myself contemplating water and swimming a lot lately. I was trying to remember the last time I went swimming. And I can't. It must have been over ten years ago. In fact it might have been closer to fifteen or sixteen years ago when we went to a park on the Columbia River west of Longview, WA with Ed's two brother's families and one of the children born in January 90 was two. I can't remember a more recent occasion.

Swimming represents serenity for me. As well as joy.

In fact water in many manifestations is nearly synonymous with serenity for me.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Snippet 46

Apparition of the Face of Aphrodite
by Salvador Dali
print for sale at

It's late but at least I didn't have to put up a shell sans snippet this week.

And now I have a whole weekend without it hanging over my head and I could use the time I've been using to write the late snippets to get started on next week's and maybe finally catch that tail I've been chasing around the hindquarters of the week for two months now.

Or I could catch up on everybody else's snippets!

You can catch up or review via the links to the first eight parts available below.

The entire thing is closing in on 12K. So much for it being a short story. Based on the scenes yet to be written which I know about, I estimate I'm 1/3 to 1/2 way there. That won't be long enough for a novel either. sigh.

But then I hadn't planned on it being a novel. I have enough novels in progress in this story world!

One of them is even set in this same motel. And someone you've already encountered in this story is a POV character in it. You'll learn her name when Crystal does in this snippet. She was the protagonist of my first NaNo novel,
Majoring in Marine Biology.

Home Is Where the Horror Is
by Joy Renee

(part one; part two; part three; part four; part five; part six; part seven; part eight; part nine; part ten; part eleven;)

Crystal let herself be led from the room even as she threw one last frantic glance around it. The sound of the baby burble coming from the housekeeper's pocket had as strong a grip on her as the hand that tugged her out the door and along the walkway in front of the rooms. She had to squint against the sudden bright glint of sunlight off the water of the pool in the fenced courtyard between the two arms of the horseshoe shape created by the three buildings that comprised the motel. There were two overhead walkways connecting the buildings on either side of the pool. One at each end of the pool. They were crossing under the first one almost immediately. Crystal noticed that it approximately bisected the length of the buildings providing convenient access to the pool for the upstairs guests. Between the pool and the street was a parking lot.

At the far end of the pool there was a second enclosed area with a higher and more tightly slatted fence and roofed with a trellis covered with a dense growth of a flowering vine. Most likely wisteria, Crystal thought but could not be sure while moving this fast. The woman whose apron was now saying "Mamamamamamama." pulled her along to the end of the courtyard and into a room whose entrance was under the far walkway between a soda machine and ice dispenser on one side and a large rack full of towels on the other. Next to the rack of towels were signs listing rules for the pool and jacuzzi. The jacuzzi must be inside that enclosure, Crystal realized

Inside was nearly as bright as outside though with much less glare. The large room was lit by banks of florescent lights. The far wall was lined with two rows of front loading commercial dryers all churning loads of milky-white cloth. The wall they were passing to the right was floor to ceiling shelves about half full of stacks of folded sheets and towels. The center of the room held a large flat table piled with a froth of white that seemed brilliant against the various hues of dark skin on the hands and arms of the four women busily folding the linens--two working together to fold sheets while the other two tackled the pile of towels, washcloths, and bathmats. The wall opposite the shelves was a bank of commercial front-loading washing machines full of agitated suds. The women worked in silence which did not surprise Crystal as it would be hard to converse casually over the sound of the machines.

Just before she was pulled through yet another doorway she glanced back toward the entrance and saw that wall held a row of a dozen or more regular sized coin-operated washers and dryers. The dryers atop the washers. Three men with high and tight hair cuts sat on a row of chairs bolted to the floor in front of these machines. One with headphones on leaning back with eyes closed and head bobbing; another lost in a book and the third lost in a clench with the barelegged, halter-topped woman straddling his lap. At the far end a woman was ironing creases into a pair of khaki pants on one of several ironing boards that folded down from the wall.

As soon as Crystal had cleared the doorway the woman let go of her hand and closed the door. In the sudden quiet, she spoke for the first time since they left the room where Crystal and woken into this nightmare within a nightmare no more than an hour ago. "My name is Brook." she said, holding out her right hand for Crystal to shake.

"Crystal." Brook held Crystal's eyes with her own for several beats before nodding and releasing her hand again.

"Do you know your way around babies, Crystal?"

Crystal grinned big. "I'm the oldest of five." *

Brook raised her brows high. "Well then. If they gave college degrees for baby knowhow you'd have a Master's to my Associates. And your mother would have a Doctorate." She was opening a small refrigerator next to a desk strewn with papers. As she bent to pull a bottle out, she suddenly gasped and grabbed her stomach, kneading it just below her ribs. "Now, that's enough of that little Missy." she said to her belly.

"You're after your Bachelor's I see."

"His name is Garrison. Not this one, that one." Brook smiled wryly as she first patted her stomach and then waved at the door opposite the door to the laundry room. Crystal took the bottle of amber juice from her. "He's nine months, crawling and pulling himself up. So watch him around the rocker and anything else that wouldn't support him when he tries that. It'll be better if I don't go in with you since he won't like me having to leave again. He's used to me taking him with me to where I'm working.

"There's not much time so listen quick. There's more juice bottles, yogurt, applesauce, Jello, and pudding cups in the fridge. Popsicles in the freezer compartment. After you change him, bring him out to choose his treat. Help yourself to whatever. I bet you're hungry. There's grownup's drinks in there too. Iced coffee, tea, sodas, juices etc. Now, in there," she nodded at the door behind which the baby babble was now loud enough to hear, a muffled duet with the baby monitor. "There's soda crackers and graham crackers and toasted oats. There's a diaper bag on the couch which I've set up as the changing table with a plastic sheet under the sheet so don't let him play or sleep on there. The rest will be easy to figure out for anyone whose been around babies. The baby monitor is on top of the TV so if you need me holler and I'll call you on this phone here." she pointed to the phone on the desk.

"Now, I better head on back to that room. I left it wide open and if I'm going to rescue your stuff.. Can you describe your bag and shoes and your 'friends'?"

"The bag is a purple duffel with black wheels and pull handle and straps for wearing as a backpack. The sandals are kinda like flip-flops but with bands around the heel and over the top of the ankle too so you can walk in the surf without loosing them." Crystal looked down at her hand still holding the shaming Polaroid pictures. Closing her eyes she sighed and then handed them to Brook, feeling a hot blush rise in her cheeks. "This will be quicker than describing them."

Brook took the pictures. "I know these two. They're good tippers. It'll be a shame to loose their custom."** She handed the pictures back. "Honey, you do realize they're both men?"

Crystal shook her head, eyes widened in shock.

"You can just make out the Adam's apple if you know what you're looking for. I might have been fooled if I hadn't seen these guys in person and been cleaning up after them occasionally for over a year. Two years ago, I would have been as clueless as you apparently are."

The babble over the baby monitor was becoming strident and interspersed with whines and whimpers. "You better get in there before he has a melt down."

*or seven, if I write the twins between Winston and Jade back in on a rewrite. I mentioned them in part four and then forgot to include them in the following scenes. I had plans for them later in the THEN strand and I'm not feeling content at the thought of dropping those plans so don't be surprised if they seem to drop in out of nowhere when I return to the THEN strand. I will lessen the confusion with another reminder when/if the time comes.

**custom is not the right word help me out here


Thursday, May 29, 2008


I'm having one of those days when I wonder if I should change my name to avoid charges of false advertising.

I'm not going to go into details as there is nothing of substance to hang the moodiness on and allowing myself to complain about this or that or the other thing just intensifies it, gives credibility to the illusion that it is more than just a mood-coaster.

Besides, I really need to put up a quick post tonight so I can get back to work on my snippet. I still have high hopes, tho only because I keep tossing them back up the slippery slope, that I won't have to put up a Friday Snippet shell sans snippet again this week.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #88


Oh, the Possibilities!
by Joy Renee

Thought you guys might like to see
all that I got on my $3 Trillion shopping spree.
I could have gone wild and thought only of me,
but I wanted instead to spread the glee.
Since, after all, this big pot of money
represents the cost of Iraq to out country--
the sum of all we spent and borrowed plus any
interest to accrue before the bill is due--
all of which is funded by tax revenue.
So I bought only that guaranteed
to add the greatest quality
to the lives of the majority
of Americans and incidentally
the whole global community.
I know it's just a fantasy,
but picture with me the possibility
of a world where security
can be insured with a strategy
as far unlike that of a bully
as the temperament of a ewe
is unlike that of a shrew.
Imagine with me
a global society
with a strong economy
whose currency
is not based on greed
but rather mutual hospitality.
It may seem like idiocy,
but the old way is insanity.

Thirteen of the 103 things I bought on my $3 Trillion Shopping Spree:

Cure a Deadly Disease
8 purchased for $1,500,000.00 each

Achieve Universal Literacy
1 purchased for $5,000,000,000.00 each

finish repairing the damage done by Katrina
1 purchased for $200,000,000,000.00 each

End hunger and poverty related diseases
1 purchased for $195,000,000,000.00 each

Universal Health Care for Every American (300 million of us)
1 purchased for $920,100,000,000.00 each

Food, Shelter & Vet Care for Unwanted Pets
1 purchased for $15,000,000,000.00 each

Build & Fill a New Library
8 purchased for $50,000,000.00 each
(after buying these eight, I found a an option for buying them in bulk
100 New Libraries
2 purchased for $5,000,000,000.00 each. So I really bought 208 fully stocked libraries, including electronic media)

1,000 Librarians' Salaries
7 purchased for $38,000,000.00 each. That's 7000 librarians!

120,000 Nurses (US shortage 2003)
1 purchased for $6,240,000,000.00 each

Create an Art Center that would provide free programs for all school children in dance, theater, fine arts, creative media, writing, music, etc.
1 purchased for $30,000,000.00 each

100,000 low income housing units
14 purchased for $500,000,000.00 each

100,000 low income housing units
14 purchased for $500,000,000.00 each

News Corp
1 purchased for $56,540,600,000.00 each

This last one probably needs some explanation. I bought this global mega media monopoly in order to break it up and sell off its constituent TV and radio broadcasting stations, publishing houses, magazines, newspapers, TV and movie production companies, etc because no one man, corporation or any other type of man-made entity should have that much control over what does and doesn't get published or produced or broadcast; nor the ability that kind of monopoly gives them to fix prices, wages, and royalties and control copyrights indefinitely.

I am not just picking on Fox. I would do the same to Time Warner and many other media conglomerates. Not only does this kind of monopoly of information dumb down the population it also makes it harder for new artists--writers, musicians, performers, etc to break in and be fairly rewarded for their efforts and their talent.

For more info on just how far the influence and control of such media monopoly goes, click on the link above and read the explanation there and see the list of all the media companies owned by News Corp.

See the rest of my 103 purchases by clicking on the link in the second line of my introductory poem.

Go have your own shopping spree. Warning: it takes a long time to spend $3,000,000,000,000. Even when you're just pretending.

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!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Merlin, Well Named or What?

Merlin was discovered just after four this morning by my father-in-law. He was in the back hall aka laundry room just inside Sweetie's doggy door. Ed's Dad picked him up and brought him out to the front room and cat sat until 5AM when Ed got up. When Ed opened our room door, Merlin was waiting there. Ed's Dad said he had been going back and forth between the couch and our door ever few minutes.

If you read last night's post you know that Merlin, an indoor cat since a kitten, had got out yesterday sometime before 11:30 AM and that I was in a panic about it from the moment it started pouring rain about 8:15 PM last night.

Here's the thing. He was bone dry with not a speck of dirt on him. How to explain that? A talent for appartating like his namesake Merlin the Wizard? Or can he walk between the rain drops and levitate?

I could have known he was back nearly an hour sooner if Merlin had vocalized even once after coming back in the house. He is not much of a talker. Unlike our Gremlyn who seldom shut up unless she was eating or sleeping.

I had just turned out my light, finally willing to give in to sleep just a few minutes before five and had just started to doze when Ed got up. I had heard his Dad get up and come out to the front room shortly after four and my only thought was that I hoped it hadn't been my going out onto the front porch to take one last peek for any sign of Merlin that had disturbed him as he usually doesn't get up until after 5:30.

I was listening to Ed get up, find his glasses and watch in the dark and open the door. I was listening for the door to close but instead I heard Ed say, "I see." and then heard him turn back into the room and say, "Joy! Turn on your light."

Before I could find the switch to my lamp though, I felt the weight of Merlin hit the bed near my feet. That familiar thump/bounce sensation. And there he was. His first order of business was to greet me and exchange nuzzles. He even let me snuggle him for half a minute before struggling away. He headed to his food dish and went at it as if he meant to be at it all day. But after only a couple bites he came back for more nuzzles, snuggles and petting. And for the next twenty minutes he alternated between his food dish and me.

All day long he has been extra hungry, extra tired and extra affectionate.

I'm left wondering just what he did and where he went and how he managed to stay dry and clean? But I guess my insatiable need to know the story will have to learn to live with the mystery. Merlin ain't tellin.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!

Merlin went missing today. He must have got out of the room when one of us were going in or out. And then got outside via Sweetie's doggy door.

The last time I saw him was about 2:30 this morning shortly after I posted my poem and left the room to fix a snack. I wondered why he never bugged me for a bite of my roast beef sandwich but just figured he had gone under the bed to sleep--a new habit of his since we stopped keeping him on the harness 24/7 after the room makeover in January.

Now I'm wondering if he got out of the room when I was leaving or returning that time. But Ed swears he saw him when he got up at seven this morning and that he didn't stir off the bed when he left. Ed came and went several times between 7 and 11:30 when his return coincided with the Memorial Day military jet flyover that woke me up into a full blown panic attack.

There was a lot of confusion in the next five minutes as I grounded my psyche in reality. Ed left, closing the door and then I got up and opened the door again within seconds to go, well, you know, to do the things you do when you first wake up. I never checked to see if Merlin was near the door before I opened it. I never looked for him when I got back nor even really thought about him until a bit after 1PM when I called him, jingling the leash and harness which now means let's go outside. I was planning to go sit with him in the back yard and read The Historian for awhile and maybe work on my way overdue Friday Snippet with pencil and paper. Ed was going to join us with his book.

I didn't think too much of it when he didn't come to the jangle of the leash. I decided to visit a few Poetry Train participants while I waited. But he didn't show his face by 2 and I started to worry. Ed came back in about then to switch out books--he'd finished yet another one. I lost count of the books he finished on his three day weekend. The races were canceled Saturday due to the rain we'd been having since Tuesday and his Mom also had the three days off so he couldn't hang out on the PC as long in the mornings and I was monopolizing my laptop whenever I was awake.

Ed tried the harness jangle and then the extra noisy eating of potato chips, massaging the bag etc. Always sure to bring him out from wherever he is. But he didn't show. So I went and got a yogurt and popped it open in the room. Merlin NEVER allows me to eat a yogurt in peace! NEVER. So when he hadn't shown his face before I finished it, I was convinced he wasn't in the room at all or else too sick (or worse) to respond to our call and temptations.

At that point, Ed put new batteries in our flashlight and pulled a few things out from under the bed at the foot so he could shine the light under. He couldn't spot him but neither could he see clear to all corners from wall to wall. Then we sent this mechanical cat toy under the bed. It is a motorized ball with a ribbon for a tail. There is a weight inside that is spinning which causes the ball to roll and wobble, bump up against things, change its course and so forth. You can also put it in a paper bag and the bag acts like something alive is in it. Ed's Dad bought it for Merlin on one of their trips to the coast last winter. Merlin was afraid of it at first but I got him used to it by putting it in confined spaces like in a mound of blankets on the bed. Once it found its way out of that mound and onto the floor and before I could coral it it had gone under the bed. I was sure it would get stuck back under there and wear its battery out but it found its way back out. That was the time Merlin finally started chasing it. Though not under the bed where it was but rather on top of the bed wherever the noise it was making was though he did get down on the floor and watch it from a safe distance like a cat crouching at a mouse hole. But the second it came out from under the bed he was leaping away and back onto the bed to watch it careen around his food and water dishes.

It was remembering this incident that led us to try sending the motorized ball under the bed to try to flush him out. When I heard absolutely no sound of him moving around under there I became convinced he wasn't under there. The alternative is too grim to think. For our Merlin is a cowardly lion. The most timid cat I've ever known.

That is why it is so nerve wracking to think of him being on his own outside. He has been an indoor cat from a kitten. This trailer park has a dozen or more unfixed toms running loose and several of them are notoriously mean. There are also several mean dogs that occasionally get loose. The dogs aren't supposed to be but sometimes they do. One of them is rumored to be part wolf. Then there are the wild animals that populate the creek area. The two that concern me the most are the raccoons and the owls.

I managed to stay fairly calm all day. At least outwardly. But when it started to pour down rain just as it was starting to get dark about 8:15 this evening I couldn't keep the tears at bay for one more second so when Ed came in from the porch to switch out books yet again he found me blubbering over Merlin's leash and harness. My distress was as much due to loosing what little hope I had left that he would show up before dark. When it started to rain I knew he would not venture out in it if he had any other choice. He hates to walk across wet grass! He hates the rain. So if he had found any kind of shelter from that at all he would stay put until it stopped. So there was a bit of self-pity in my tears. I knew I was going to have to wait it out through the night sitting here with nothing but my overactive imagination for company. That and Ed's snores.

I couldn't focus on anything else all day. Which is why I didn't visit more than a couple poems and didn't get back to work on my overdue snippet. At a quarter to nine, I phoned my sister, Jamie, to borrow her shoulder. We talked for 37 minutes, catching up on each other's week. Only the first and last five minutes were about Merlin being missing. She challenged me to stop obsessing and try to write something. Anything. Todays post, a new poem, journaling or best of all the overdue snippet. She knows me well. She knows that writing is the way I work crisis out. She knows that I tend to get hyper-focused and when that focus is trained on an unpleasant situation which I have no control over that my mind will just wallow in it like a car in the mud, spinning its wheels uselessly, accomplishing nothing but flinging mud onto the windows and digging me in deeper and deeper.

So I took up Jamie's challenge. I decided to make today's post essentially a journal entry about the situation I am hyper-focused on, the crisis I need to work out or at least articulate. And maybe garner another shoulder or two? Or a prayer or two on Merlin's behalf?

I think I'm ready to move on to the snippet. Where I left off Crystal's story last Monday, I was sure I would have no trouble getting the next scene prepared for Friday. And I wouldn't have if I'd kept working on it the next day. I think I finally figured out the problem that is keeping me feeling like I'm chasing a short tail all week long with the memes. With Friday Snippet coming the day after Thursday Thirteen, it means I either have to have my snippet ready to go before I post my TT or I have to halt visiting TT until it is ready. The first thirty odd weeks I did Friday Snippets I was posting work from my files and portfolio which made it an easy nearly effortless post each week. Just cut and paste and post. Or in a few cases type it up off a hard copy.

The first installment of Crystal's story, Home Is Where the Horror Is, was the last of the material from my files and I thought I was scraping the bottom of the barrel. But a couple of the comments led me to rethink that. There was evidently some real hook in the story seed I had written over fifteen years ago. I had managed to make people care about fifteen-year-old Crystal and want to know what happened to bring her to the dire straights she found herself in and wonder what would happen to her. I found myself re-engaged in the story. I decided it would be a good exercise for me to take that story and play with it like a toy. Most of my other WIP I have turned into intricate knots of plot with interwoven time lines that trip me up when various issues requiring research doesn't put the brakes on entirely.

So I challenged myself to posting a scene per week hot off the keyboard. With the second Crystal snippet, I announced my intention. And then almost immediately came down with the flu. Which of course also played a role in digging the hole I'm in.

A week or two before that, I had also begun to post a new hot off the keyboard poem each Sunday or Monday for Monday Poetry Train. Which means that in spite of the flu that zapped me so hard for four weeks, the last two months have been some of the most productive for new creative output with ten or twelve new poems and nine new fiction snippets ranging from 700 to 2000+ words. How I wish I'd split that 2000+ word one in half and saved the second half for the next week. Especially since that was the weekend of the first or second time I put up a shell sans snippet on Friday and didn't paste in the snippet until Sunday afternoon. Every since then I've been chasing an ever shortening tail around the spinning hindquarters of the week.

Since I've got another seven or eight hours to wait before I can even poke my head outdoors to look for signs of Merlin, I'm going to turn my attention to Crystal's woes and aim for 1000+ words before I quit. But as soon as I have 4-500 I'm going to paste it in to Friday's shell. It may be more of a teaser than a full scene but that's better than nothing. And since it is obvious that Friday night through Wednesday morning is when I have the freest blocks of time for devoting to fiction and poetry, I need to stop waiting until after my TT is up to start working on the next snippet. If the snippet is prepared before Wednesday afternoon, then I would be free to totally immerse myself in the TT experience and enjoy it and then the following day do the same with Friday Snippet. It is something to aim for anyway.

If I had any sense, I'd split this post off from where I started talking about Crystal's story etc and save it for tomorrow's post. LOL But I'm hopeful tomorrow's post will be announcing Merlin's safe return.

For more pics or stories about him, click on the label 'Merlin'


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #47

A Ravishing
by Joy Renee

Alone I sit
among the high-stacked
rows of dusty gilt,
reading ancient script
on ancient scrolls,
running fingers through
tangled plots,
along the rusty
edge of time,
across the voices
that rasp their
ancient whispered
thoughts, imparting
knotted tales
of woe and weal.

When on my neck
I feel the cold
breath of history
stirring the tendrils
of ancient fears
and freezing the bones
of conscious will
thus baring the neck
of innocence
to the icy prick
of musty guilt
as to the ravishing
stories I submit.


This poem was inspired by the ambiance of the novel I'm still plodding my way through. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova which I've blogged about several times in the past couple of weeks and also last October.

The graphic above is a photographic print by Jon Davison of Bookshelves in Codrington Library, All Souls College, Oxford, England and is for sale at


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sunday Serenity #57

Music to relax with and a colorful eye-enchanting screen-saver type video. Dolphin vocals are interspersed making this a three-fer for me.

Join us in a moment of serenity


Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Snippet 45

Apparition of the Face of Aphrodite
by Salvador Dali
print for sale at

Update: the snippet is pasted in. It's Tuesday morning. Sigh.

You guessed it. Its just a shell yet again. I'll do my best to get the snippet pasted in tomorrow. So much for my best!


You can catch up or review via the links to the first eight parts available below.

Thanks for your patience.

Home Is Where the Horror Is
by Joy Renee

(part one; part two; part three; part four; part five; part six; part seven; part eight; part nine; part ten;)

Crystal's heart now pounded furiously and she couldn't catch her breath. Her vision was browning out around the edges and her teeth began to chatter. When she felt a hand on her shoulder she jumped and choked off a scream as she looked up into the concerned eyes of the housekeeper.

"Honey. Are you sick?"

Crystal slowly shook her head, whispering, "I don't know how I got here."

"Well that does sometimes happen the day after." the woman gave a meaningful glance at the wastebasket overflowing with beer and liquor bottles.

"I know." Crystal hung her head. "But never this bad before. Never this much time missing. At least a whole day. And I can't find my duffel or my sandals." She spun her head around giving the room a frantic scan. "Maybe they took them to keep me from leaving? Maybe that's why she didn't carry her own bag?"

Crystal held up the red beach bag. "This couple sat by me on the beach yesterday and shared their lunch with me. She was carrying this bag. I think the drink they gave me was drugged. My memories start flickering about the time I started drinking that soda."

"Honey, you should come with me to the office and call the cops."

Crystal shook her head and jumped up in a panic. "No!"

"You can't stay here! Not if you think these people did that."

"I know!" Crystal started yanking on the blankets that had fallen to the floor at the foot of the bed. "That's why I need to find my bag and shoes."

More than the beach sandals, even more than the windbreaker and sweats that kept off the chill of the night time breezes off the ocean, she was thinking of the photos of Winston, Jade, Jasper, Mother and baby Beryl. How could she go on without even their pictures? Though she realized that after more than six months none of them would look much like their photos anymore. Even Mother, whose picture had been taken over a year ago, before she was expecting Beryl; before the stroke that melted the right side of her face. She wondered if Beryl was saying 'Mama' yet.

Just then, as if her very thoughts had conjured it, she heard the sound of baby babble and burble. It was coming from the housekeeper who reached a hand into one of the deep pockets of her apron and pulled out a baby monitor, flashed it at Crystal before dropping it back into the pocket and reaching for Crystals free hand, the one not holding the flyer and Polaroids. She grabbed it firmly. "You're coming with me. Don't worry about your stuff we'll figure it out."


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Remembering Uncle Don and Daddy.

Today was my Daddy's birthday. It is the third one we have celebrated without him since his passing September 24, 2005.

Yesterday, I got the news that Daddy's older brother, my Uncle Don, had passed that morning.

In honor of the two of them I am going to post an excerpt from a TT I put together in honor of Daddy on his birthday last May and a couple of photos.

Above circa 1990: My Dad and his brothers. From left to right: Uncle Dean, Uncle Don and Daddy aka Richard. Pictured below is the brothers with their parents Fay and Jean on their farm in Idaho sometime in the mid 1930s. My Dad looks 4 or 5 years old. Don would have been approximately two years older and Dean two years older yet. Faye is wearing the overalls. Thought I better clarify since both names can be either gender. :)

The excerpt is one of the thirteen memories of Daddy that I shared for TT that day and Uncle Don has a starring role in it:

Me, Joy Renee, age 3. Taken the spring or summer of 1961.

The event related below probably occurred in July of that year as it was before my brother turned 2 that August 6.
When I was about three our family went camping with his brother's family near a lake. I am remembering the name White Horse for some reason but I don't know if that was the name of the lake, the camp ground, a nearby town or a toy one of my cousins had with them that day. It was somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, most likely southern Washington or Northern Oregon. This was in the early sixties.

I remember this grassy slope and feeling perfect delight in it. My cousins were rolling down it, which I had been forbidden to do. So instead I started running. Ah, the joy of running down a hill. Possibly my joy in running began that day. It is certain that it is my first clear memory of associating delight with running.

I remember the sound of my Daddy's and my Uncle's voices calling to me to stop. I remember intentionally ignoring them. I was getting close to the bottom where the ankle high grass suddenly got taller than me when suddenly I was swooped into the air and was looking down on my Daddy's face from over the top of my Uncle's head.

I remember feeling disconcerted that I could not interpret Daddy's expression. But from today's adult viewpoint, I am pretty sure it was a combination of emotions vying for dominance along with the exertion of running, for he hadn't quite caught up with his taller, more athletic brother. Fear and relief were probably the two strongest. for I can now interpret the view I had from atop my Uncle's shoulders. A shimmering carpet of sky and clouds rolled out from the other side of that tall grass which I had not quite reached. That tall grass which was probably growing in the water at the edge of that lake.

I learned from my mother after posting the above that White Horse was the name of the park and it was on a river not a lake. She can't remember the river's name. Mom also remembers it as being further south than Eugene which is about half-way between the north and south borders of Oregon and possibly even east of the Rogue Valley here in Southern Oregon where I am living now. After she told me this last December, I meant to Google Oregon maps for White Horse but I haven't done it yet.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #87


Thirteen Things I'm Wondering About the Story I'm Reading: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

1. What is the name of the principle narrator/protagonist, daughter of the historian and diplomat Paul?

2. Why has this otherwise meticulous narrator neglected to introduce herself by name after over 200 pages? (I was blaming my own bad memory for not being able to remember her name from my first foray into this story last October so I was careful to watch for it this time.)

3. What is going to happen next?

4. Will a romance bloom between her and the young Oxford student, Barley, assigned as her traveling chaperon when Paul is called away urgently while he and his eighteen year old daughter were visiting the college?

5. Will/did Paul ever find the whereabouts of his mentor Professor Rossi who disappeared over twenty years earlier? And if so will he/was he living, dead or undead?

6. Will Paul's daughter ever learn the rest of that story her father was doling out in dribs and drabs over three years before he took off, leaving behind a note saying he had gone to look for her mother whom she had always believed was dead?

7. Did a romance ever bloom between Paul and Helen the young Romanian grad student who joined him on his search for Rossi because she believed Rossi was her father?

8. Is Paul's daughter named Helen and thus why she, as narrator thirty odd years after the events she lived through, has been withholding that?

9. Why did Rossi fail to mention to Paul his visit to Wallachia in the 1930s to track down the tomb of Vlad Tepes aka Vlad the Impaler aka Count Drakulya nemesis of the Turks in the mid 15th century, although he had been seemingly meticulous about that part of his research and adventures he did relate and had assured Paul that the envelope he passed on to him the night he disappeared contained all his notes and materials related to his search?

10. Why did Rossi reply to the letter Helen's mother sent him announcing her pregnancy by claiming there must be some mistake as he had never been to Wallachia nor met her? Was it to protect her from the mysterious stalker(s) of his research efforts? Or was it someone else claiming to be Rossi who was in Wallachia poking around Vlad's castle and asking locals about the stories of Vlad and local Vampire lore?

11. Why are there so many librarians, researchers, and archivists in institutions all over the world where any information about Vlad or vampire lore is housed or handled who end up dead, disappeared or sporting strange paired puncture wounds on the sides of their necks?

12. Were the two ancient leather covered books with dragons on the cover--the first falling into Rossi's hands and the second into Paul's hands when they were grad students in the 193os and 1950s respectively--a kind of recruitment gambit? And if so were they being recruited into the exclusive brotherhood of Vampires? Or into a brotherhood of Vampire hunters?

13. When can I get back to the story to start finding answers to these questions?

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!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Raise Him Up

In prayer. And all his family with him.

The news today that Ted Kennedy has a malignant inoperable brain tumor was sobering.

I, like many in my generation, mark my personal time line by certain events involving the Kennedy family. John and Robert's assassinations and their funerals. John John's (he will always be John John to me) plane crashing into the ocean. Ted's run for the presidency. Maria Shriver's wedding.

I remember the week of the JFK assassination with the most vividness in both visual and emotional memory for it was one of the few times I witnessed my mother weeping. I had just turned six. She was sitting at her sewing machine working on an outfit and listening to the radio. When I noticed her tears and stood by her, patting her knee she explained to me that someone had just shot our president. At that time, living in a home with no TV and having never been to the movies, I did not understand 'shot' and really had an inaccurate concept of 'our president'. I imagined it must be a relative like a cousin or uncle.

In a sense, maybe my child mind was not so far off the mark. The Kennedy family has been America's family since John John and Caroline graced the White House with their laughter and tears in the sixties.

The news of Teddy Kennedy's diagnosis is especially poignant for me coming as it does two days before my Daddy's birthday--the third one we will celebrate without him. Less than two months before he died he had a small brain tumor pressing on his optic nerve removed. One of many tumors that metastasized through out his body from the original colon cancer he had fought for nearly two years. They removed the brain tumor not to save his life but to preserve his vision for his final months.

Of all the many things Ted Kennedy accomplished in his years in office, the one our family is the most grateful for is his advocating for the Americans With Disabilities Act.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Toasted Air

The title of this post is borrowed from the first line of the haiku I wrote yesterday for Monday Poetry Train. The art print I found to go with it features a campfire and that is the perfect analogy to what the last several days have been like. Like standing too close to a campfire where the air itself singes your skin and the inside of your nose and inhaling its smoke is unavoidable.

The smoke isn't imagination induced by an over-extended metaphor. They (not sure who this they is the other theys mean but it sounds like an officially sanctioned activity) have been doing something called a controlled burn in the hills west of us and the smoke from it, no different from the smoke of a forest fire, has been suffusing the valley, adding to the misery and the sense that each breath is a weight to be lifted.

As a response to the heat, we bought a new fan to replace the small stationary two-speed fan we had. The new one is about nine or ten inches in diameter to the old ones six. It has three speeds and oscillates. Its relief now reaches me as I sit at the laptop on the edge of the bed.

A second line of defense was to get rid of my hair. It had nearly reached my collar bones again from the jaw length cut I'd got in February or early March. I have very thick hair and it is like a blanket. A blanket that can stay sweat-soaked around the clock!

I described Rachel Maddow's hair to the hairstylist as best I could--about inch and a half on top, tapered down the sides and back, off the ears and off the neck. What I got isn't a perfect copy of Rachel's, which I had been looking at with increasing envy every time she showed up on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olberman lately, but it is close. Though I can't carry it off as well as she can. She has much that I don't have and I much that she doesn't. She has the poise and grace and youth. I have a hundred pounds over her--at least.

Today only reached the mid nineties. A slight relief after three days near or over 100 degrees F.

What seems imaginary is the snow we got last month!

They (yet different theys) say we should only see mid eighties tomorrow and possibly seventies. And then Wednesday might sink back into the sixties! Which means the next time it shoots back up will probably be just as miserable as this time as it takes several days to acclimate. It typically takes me a week of temps above 87 to start finding a sense of normality and feeling any sense of energy to go with whatever ambition hasn't melted.

Today, I did manage to spend hours with my hands hovered over the toasty warm keyboard of my laptop in order to get my Friday Snippet finished and pasted into the shell I put up Friday. That was accomplished less than an hour ago and as soon as this is posted I'll be free to pick up The Historian for awhile.

Tomorrow I plan to dedicate to catching up on over a week of meme visits.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #46

Dance to the Heat Wave
Photographic print
by Leroy Drumm
for sale at

All I have in me today is a Haiku. The heat is sapping me. I'm only dreaming of dancing.

Heat Wave
by Joy Renee

Toasted air.
Sweat drips in my eyes.
Each breath weighs.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sunday Serenity #56

What's better than being carried away by a story? That has always been a reliable serenity inducer for me. Even stories about scary things like vampires.

I am deep into The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova this weekend. Again. I started it last October just before our library system reopened and then set it aside to participate in NaNo. I was over 300 pages in.

I was planning to pick it up again immediately after NaNo but December was taken up by a trip to visit my family followed by holiday events. I did take it with me to Longview WA but probably read five pages the entire two weeks.

Then the first two weeks of January was all about the room makeover I blogged about then. You might have seen the book in a starring role in the photos I took of the room as I was putting it back together. I kept it close to me throughout the month of January and into February. Until the reopening of our Phoenix branch library in its new building on the sixth. After that it was a combination being distracted by the library books and the difficulties imposed by three viruses I fought through the end of April.

Last week my frustration with myself came to a head and I ruthlessly sent back nearly all of the library books due in the next two weeks and all of the novels due in the next three, clearing the way to devote my attention to The Historian again. If two weeks isn't enough time, I will do it again. I am determined to finish it this time. All 640 odd pages.

I found the first 380 pages the most exquisitely crafted prose I've ever encountered. Each sentence like a savory dish. The plot was intricate and the characters complex. And to top it off the protagonists are bibliophiles of a sort, being historians by education and temperament. Many scenes take place in libraries and ancient manuscript archives and museums.

I had to start it over of course. Even though I remember every scene once I am involved in it again, I got too confused trying to start where I left off. I am enjoying the reread of the first half as much, if not more than the first time through. The first time I was pressuring myself to finish before NaNo and was frustrated that I couldn't read it as fast as I had anticipated. Partly due to the savory prose that I just had to--well--savor. Mostly due to desperately needing new reading glasses which I got the week after Thanksgiving. This time I am taking my time, putting enjoyment of the story above all other considerations.

I should never have set it aside for NaNo. That was a self-imposed rule that I'm not going to impose on myself again. I believed for years, after a college writing teacher pointed out to me how my prose style changed from scene to scene and even in the middle of scenes and I then traced those changes to the prose styles of the novels I happened to be reading the day I was writing the scene, that I mustn't be reading fiction while I was writing it.

I have, just recently realized that was a huge mistake. Not only does it force me to choose between two loves--the reading of stories and the writing of stories--but it deprives me of fodder for the muse and the best source of how-to any aspiring writer can access: the successful stories themselves.

So I've lifted the ban on reading fiction on the same day I'm writing fiction, trusting myself to know how to smooth out the style hiccups on re-writes. Imagine asking an artist to stop looking at art.

But now I've got to learn or re-learn how to balance the reading of fiction with the writing of fiction. I was supposed to be working on the snippet that was supposed to be posted Friday. And now here it is closing in on midnight Saturday...

I can put part of the blame on the heatwave we're having that makes close encounters with laptop keyboards quite miserable. But, not all as I woke in plenty of time this morning to have worked four or five hours before the heat got unbearable. I picked up The Historian first instead.

Join us for a moment of serenity.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Snippet 44

Apparition of the Face of Aphrodite
by Salvador Dali
print for sale at

Update: The snippet is now pasted in. The story returns to the time frame of the first three parts, the morning Crystal woke in the strange motel room. A year after the events covered in the last six parts. If you are lost, you can review or catch-up with the links below.

This is was a shell sans snippet again. This week it's the heat wave that is making it hard to get the scene written. It reached 103 F here today. I can't stand the heat coming off the keyboard as I'm typing this paragraph. We have a fan with a 6 inch diameter blade to cool our room.

I will get got the scene pasted in as soon as possible Monday night.


You can catch up or review via the links to the first eight parts available below.

Thanks for your patience.

Home Is Where the Horror Is
by Joy Renee

(part one; part two; part three; part four; part five; part six; part seven; part eight; part nine;)

Still holding the three Polaroids in her had as she debated whether to confiscate the two she was in and thus forfeit her chance to spend another night in this motel room, Crystal's eyes darted around the room looking for her own duffel in case she needed to make a quick getaway. She needed her beach sandals too. She bent over to look under the bed again and that is when she spotted the distinctive red beach bag with the gold buckles. The same bag carried by the young Latino woman who had sat down on the sand a yard or two from where Crystal had been eating her lunch and watching the seaguls play Chinese jump rope with the surf.

Her lunch had been half of a hamburger she had grabbed out of a waste can seconds after witnessing someone drop it in. The woman had been hard to miss with that bright scarlet bag with buckles that caught the sun and scatter shot it. The woman had laughed at the antics of the seagulls swarming around a picnicking family whose children were throwing French fries up in the air. When one child, a girl about three, had been too slow letting go of her French fry, a daring bird and swooped in and snatched it out of her hand, flapping his wings hard around her head as he perched on it, talons gripping her hair, launching itself skyward with strands of it still wound around them, the fry sticking out of its beak like a limp cigarette.

When the little girl screamed until she lost her breath, the woman with the red beach bag said, "Well, there goes another potential fan of Hitchcock's The Birds."
Crystal had looked around for who else she might have been speaking to but there was no one else within earshot of them. She hated that the woman had sat down so near, that she had focused her attention on the same family Crystal had been watching and was now trying to engage her in conversation. All of which made Crystal's chances of unobtrusively rescuing their lunch discards from the waste can before anyone else dumped something nasty on top of it. Families with young children often tossed out enough in one meal for Crystal to make three meals of it.

Crystal had just looked shyly down at the sand under her crossed feet and shrugged, she couldn't have made a relevant comment in any case, not having a clue what Hitchcock's The Birds was. A music group maybe? The need to think up something to say was preempted by the arrival of a man the color of fresh brewed coffee, carrying a large fast-food bag and cardboard tray holding three drinks who sat down on the beach towel beside the Latino woman. Crystal had not been able to take her eyes off the bulging muscles on his forearms and calves as he squatted down and handed off the bag of food to the woman and then lowered the tray of drinks to the sand in front of him. Divested of his burden Crystal could now see the front of his camouflage print T shirt and the words Semper FI in gold over the gold Marine Corp emblem. The same shirt she had fished out of the bed in this motel room earlier.

Suddenly Crystal was shaking uncontrollably and sinking to her knees as she remembered how he had handed one drink to his friend and taken one for himself before reaching across and setting the third one down on the sand by her knee. When she turned to him with eyes startled wide, he said, "Don't pretend you don't want that. It's a long walk to the nearest water fountain and people don't throw out as many half-drunk sodas as they do half-eaten sandwiches and those they do don't often land upright."

Crystal remembered staring at the waxed cup, mesmerized by the the drops condensing on it before her eyes and running uselessly into the sand. She had whispered a thank-you that the surf seemed to take as a refrain as she picked up the soda and filled her parched mouth with biting bubbles. When she set the half empty cup back down there was a whole, still unwrapped hamburger setting there.

As Crystal had unwrapped the hamburger with fingers trembling with as much shame and embarrassment as hunger, the man introduced himself as Michael and his friend as Gabriella. Crystal remembered having said something about archangels and someone laughing, maybe herself. But, squeezing her eyes shut as though that would squeeze out more memories, she could not remember anything of what followed with any more clarity than a fever dream.

She pulled the red beach bag from under the bed by its strap. The edge of a white sheet of paper stuck out of one of the side pockets. Crystal pulled it out and found herself staring at herself. It was a photocopy of a picture taken over a year ago. Below it read HAVE YOU SEEN CRYSTAL? REWARD! CALL 1-800-CRY-STAL.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hot! Tired! Cranky!

We're having our first heatwave of the season here this week. It reached the high eighties yesterday and the mid to high nineties today and tomorrow is expected to hit the triple digits. I can barely stand the heat coming off my laptop keyboard.

It wouldn't be so bad if it had crept up by increments over the last couple months but we were in the mid seventies last weekend and the nights still cooled to the low fifties and lower in some parts of the valley. It was a long cool spring by our usual standards.

I might be handling it better if I hadn't woken at five this morning because I fell asleep before nine last night.

I knew I should have done my post this morning! While it was still cool and I was feeling ambitious and somewhat energetic.

Instead, I used those hours to read another chapter in Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. A library book that was due Monday but which I held onto because I was in the middle of a chapter when Ed made the library run for me Monday afternoon. He was going to take it back the next morning but decided not to. So I made sure to read another chapter. And another. After all, if you are renting a book for twenty cents per day you might as well read twenty cents worth of pages.

This was a book that I had been on a waiting list for weeks, maybe months. And my turn came while I was still sick with the flu. This is a dense, footnoted academic treatise. Not quick reading. I was plowing through it at about ten pages an hour. There are sixteen people in line behind me now. And only the one copy in the system you can reserve. The local college library is part of the county library system and has a copy but I suspect it is being reserved for students in a class. If everyone takes a full three weeks with it I won't get another turn this year.

I didn't spend the entire morning reading that book though. I spent some time getting other books ready to go to the library because Ed had the day off and we were planning to head to the library at ten to get that overdue book in the drop box before they opened at eleven and maybe not be fined for Wednesday, a day our Phoenix branch isn't open. While preparing books going back, I decided to be ruthless with the ones I'd had had for over six weeks already--renewed twice in other words--and were coming due over the next ten days, meaning though the Monday after next. Especially all novels and all NF that wasn't fairly light reading and short. That meant most all of the Shakespeare materials checked out before I got sick. I had ordered all those books in February when my ambition and energy was high; before two colds, a jarring fall and three weeks with the flu zapped me. of the energy if not the ambition.

I had a particular motive for paring down the library books, divesting myself of due dates for the next week and a half or so. I am determined to return to the novel I began in October and set aside over three-hundred pages into it (just over half way!) on the first of November for NaNoWriMo. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I raved about it here in October. I was reading it for many of the hours of the Read-a-Thon in late October. I was loving it. And then...

Ed and I did reach the library nearly an hour before it opened and we took books to read while we waited. I took The Historian. Between that forty minutes or so and another hour or so after we got back home and before the heat stupor hit me, I read nearly fifty pages. I had to start over. But I don't mind. The prose is delicious like the exotic cuisine Kostovo folds into the story at every turn.

Well it is eleven o'clock and I've been ready to sleep since eight. But I still need to go wash the dishes. I just couldn't bear it after dinner was over at seven. I think it might be doable now. At least more so and I don't want it hanging over me for the start of my day tomorrow. Bleh. That would be worse than sweating over them a little now.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #86

Thirteen More (Hey We're Only to the F's) Silly Book Titles

Fortune Telling: Crystal Ball
Fred Can Philosophize!: Immanuel Kant
Free Willy by Freda Wale
French Cars: Myra Neault
French Overpopulation by Francis Crowded
Full Moon by Seymour Buns
Gambling by Monty Carlos
Gangway!: Hedda Steam
Gardening With The Ex-President: Rose Bush
Geez, It's Hot!: Mike Hammeldyed
Genie in a Bottle: Grant Wishes
Get Moving! by Sheik Aleg
Get Out There! by Sally Forth

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!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Julian Pavone the Baby Drummer

This is another of the talented kids featured on Oprah Monday. Julian Pavone, now age 3, started showing real talent with the drumsticks before his first birthday. There are more videos of him posted at YouTube following his progress from more than a year before he graduated out of diapers. This one was taped last September.

My fascination with this kid is enhanced by my own fascination with drums going back to early grade school at least. As I've mentioned here before, my first choice of band instrument as I entered sixth grade was the drums and neither the male teacher nor my parents even paused to contemplate before delivering emphatic 'nos'. All of them opined that girls did not play drums. My Mom's most strenuous objection was their noisiness but both my parents also wanted me to learn an instrument with which I could glorify God and could not envision the drums in that role.

Oh, well. Just because I was intrigued by them didn't mean I had any talent for them. Still, I wonder sometimes....

I'm posting another talented kid video tonight mostly because it is easy. I've been feeling for several days like I'm coming down with another cold while hoping that it is 'just' allergies. Either way it is zapping me of energy I really couldn't spare in the first place.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Charice Pempengco Can Sing!

Charice Pempengco was one of the gifted children featured on Oprah today. Her voice brought tears to my eyes and since I'm sure they weren't tears of sadness they must have been that other emotion that induces tears--joy.

It was mentioned on Oprah that Charice as well as several other of the kids had been YouTube phenoms for sometime. So I went looking. I found and listened to several YouTube of Charice and was about to move on to one of the other kids but YouTube wouldn't let me save the Charice vids to my playlists or favorites because they were doing site maintenance. I then realized that by posting them I could not only save them but also have tonight's post. So here they are.

The first one is of Charice on the Ellen Degeneres show last December. She sang two full songs that really show the range of her voice and her stage presence. Remember she is only fifteen!

In the second one she is singing and dancing in a group and I have no idea where or when but the song, Joyful, Joyful is one of favorites.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #45

A Mother's Day Musing
by Joy Renee

Have you ever noticed,
while flipping the pages
in a family photo album,
how often
mothers seem to not be
in the picture?

Even though we all know,
if we consider for just
one moment,
that every breath

every bite

every step

and every bright

depends on her

Maybe it's because
she was the one
taking the picture
or so busy making
stuff happen
or just
making stuff--
from matching outfits

to fully outfitted

from flapper dresses

to wedding dresses

from birthday cakes

to wedding cakes;


stage props,

rag curls,

curly tops,

smart bow ties


matching eyes.

There needs to be,
don't you agree,
more than one day
each year when
the one who makes
it all happen,
who makes home
feel like home,
who frames all the pictures
of our earliest
is given her rightful
right in the middle
of the picture?


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