"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ready for a New Year

A light snow is falling around the Lodge as we await the arrival of 2006.

The busy year concluded with a very busy week. I won't go into it, except to same that I spent more time away from home than in it.

Today we received a copy of Preservation magazine, published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It features an architectural photo of mine. Also received the Novelists Ink newsletter, with lots of inspiration for the new year of book writing.

Funny Susie blogged about me--far more flatteringly than I deserve. If this is what I get for tagging a busy, busy person...well, I should do it more often.

I was tagged, too, by Teresa , but being a busy person myself, haven't had the time or the brain space to create answers. But I shall!

Now all is quiet and restful.

Moment ago I ticked the last of my boxes when the new website, margaretevansporter.com was uploaded.

Soon as I sign off, it's champagne all around!

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Festivities

We enjoyed a peaceful, perfect Christmas here at the Lodge.

Here I am, decked out on Christmas Eve. Check out my shiny gold shoes.



Before going to bed, we opened a few special gifts. Shadow and I are thrilled to get a DVD copy of our favourite movie, Local Hero.



On Christmas morning, Lola enviously inspects the contents of our stockings. She and Shadow received some scrummy chewy treats--which didn't last long. That's why she's so interested in the people stuff!



Everyone hunts under the tree, picking out a gift for me to open.



Oh, joy! Flannel loungewear for the sheep lover. Check out Shadow's expression--she thinks I'm a wacko.



Lola is fascinated with my tea infuser spoon.



We had roast duck for dinner. My husband roasted it (exquisitely, I must add). I was responsible for all the side dishes.



For pudding I made my family's traditional holiday dessert.

Boxing Day was spent pleasantly tidying up and playing with new toys. A thunderstorm brought a ton of rain, and even some thunder and lightning in the morning. Overnight, the rain turned into heavy, wet snow, so this morning we woke to a frosted world.



This will be a productive week, I hope, before the next round of festivities. I've got a few meetings scheduled. And I'll be focussed on my website re-launch, set for December 31st. It's coming soon, but I'm not panicking. Yet!


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve with Beasts

The temperatures have moderated, and although it's well above freezing for a change, there's so much snow we're guaranteed a White Christmas.

This morning we rose late and enjoyed a festive French toast brunch, with maple syrup from a friend's sugar house.

The warmer weather tempted one of the local chipmunks out of its burrow--extremely rare for this time of year. A Christmas Eve miracle!



Zippy has only a stub of a tail, so when running he zips along, flying over the snow. He soon had some serious comptetition for the cracked corn--a big grey squirrel.




But they decided to eat together in peace and harmony. Another Christmas Eve miracle!



The girls, delighted to see the bright morning sunshine, played outside on the deck.



And they did some sunbathing--atop the snowpack! Here's a very contented Shadow.



We're hanging out, listening to carols and Christmas folk music on the cd player and radio. The gifts are piled under the gigantic tree and our stockings are filled--dogs' and humans'--and I predict some early gift-opening this evening...it's a tradition around here.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Getting Ready

Meet Hamish. He's a Highland cow ("coo") from Scotland. My mother rang me a couple of weeks ago saying Hamish needed a home. We provided one. I think she and my Dad might've got him when in Scotland a couple of months ago.



I haven't managed to get the perfect tree shot yet. I'm still working out what's the best vantage for shooting it...it's so big that I have to stand far away to get the whole thing in frame.

Lola and Shadow are already wearing their Christmas bandanas. Yes, yes, I confess, I decorate my dogs for the holidays. Almost every holiday. Lola tolerates it--she thinks she's too cool for that sort of thing. Shadow absolutely loves dressing up, she's like a little kid when she sees me with a bandana in my hand. Over the years we've assembled quite a wardrobe. Sometimes, especially on hot summer days, I borrow one from the girls to tie up my hair. (A clean one--they are regularly laundered.) I really like the toile-patterned ones, almost as much as the totally cute pink and aqua one that belongs to Shadow...only I'm not sure she likes sharing it with me.

Here are the girls, (play) fighting to see who opens the first Christmas present....



The remaining gifts to distant family members were wrapped and shipped last week. Last night I wrapped mine to my husband, and started to fill his stocking. I think he'll have some fun surprises. I keep freaking him out by giggling to myself and now he's worried that I've gone overboard and that he'd better get busy. Maybe that's why I came home this afternoon to find an early present--a lovely Crown of Thorn plant in full bloom. (He always gives me a plant on special occasions.)



The vast majority of the Christmas cards are in the post now, the rest will go out tomorrow.



Sunday, December 18, 2005

Oops!

Yesterday was beautiful, but the driving conditions on the badly-plowed roads in my area were lousy.

I was almost home after a post office/shopping/Christmas card copying excursion when I spun out on a patch of black ice and this happened.





All I can say is, thank God for sturdy Scandinavian automobiles. Thank God I was driving the posted speed limit. Thank God the roadside snow bank slowed my descent. Thank God I hit the birch saplings instead of the massive 200 year old oak right beside them. Thank God for cellphones. Thank God my husband was only 5 minutes away.

I emerged--on the passenger side--without a scratch or even a bruise. The car is still drive-able, but it already has an appointment at the body shop.

And especially warm thanks to all you countless, nameless Good Samaritans who stopped to see if I was okay and offered help! Our tow truck man did arrive, eventually, after a long wait. He was having a busy day....

We were supposed to go to a party that afternoon/evening, just down the road from the scene of my accident. But I was feeling a little shaken and not terribly sociable--and more than a little reluctant to confront that treacherous stretch of road again. In the dark.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Moonlight and Snow

Here's last night's moon--the full moon of December is called the Full Cold Moon, which is all too appropriate. We've had very clear skies at night this week, and lovely bright (frigid) days.



But things have taken a turn. This morning we woke to white out conditions.

whiteout conditions this morning

Shadow and Lola really enjoy snow days!

Shadow asks Lola if she wants to play

Shadow and Lola romp in the snow

And so do I. Because all activities were cancelled around our region, and people are warned to stay off the roads, I'm having a delightful homebound day. Exaclty like last Friday!


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Breakfast with Owl

This morning, while eating breakfast, I looked up through our half-moon Palladian window to find a barred owl perched on a branch of the big beech tree. It's a very, very cold day--single digit temperatures--and like all the birds he had his feathers fluffed out, making him appear even more massive.

The blue jays, who were zooming in to retrieve the cracked corn and bread I'd flung out onto the snow, continually flew up to the place where the owl was sitting. Some of them almost bumped into him. He was unperturbed. This picture of jay and owl shows the size difference.



He remained in place for a full hour. Sometimes his eyes were closed. At one point he bent his head and coughed up--well, I'm not sure what, but most likely the body parts of whatever unlucky rodent he'd eaten for breakfast.

We hear owls often in our woods, especially on summer nights. They cry back and forth to one another--"hoo! hoo! hoo! hoo! hoo!" repeatedly. Our husky Lola, who occasionally needs to go out in the middle of the night, talks back to them, following the same pattern--"woof! woof! woof! woof! woof!" They pick up the refrain. We lie in bed, giggling.

The barred owl is the most common owl in our part of New England, and loves woodlands near water, which is why they're so familiar to us here at the Lodge. It hunts nocturnally--rodents (mostly mice), frogs, and birds) but is sometimes visible in the daytime.

Eventually something caught the owl's attention.



He turned his body away from the house and towards the woods, and hunched over, watching intently.



Suddenly he flew into the trees. I expected him to snatch up the little red squirrel running up and down a hemlock trunk. But he didn't.



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tagged Again!

That crafty Carla has tagged me. Again.

the beautiful beach on Sea Island
Seven Things to Do Before I Die:

1. Return to Sea Island, Georgia and play in the sand and surf
2. Complete a play script
3. Complete a screenplay
4. Re-read the Complete Works of Shakespeare
5. Wear a particular pair of Shoes I've Never Worn
6. Revive my French language skills
7. Kiss my husband trillion gazillion times more

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

1. Bungee-jump (I don't want to either, so it's okay)
2. Use a tennis racquet in my left hand (and I'm left-handed!)
3. Scuba-dive (Carla Neggers said this, and for me it's equally true)
4. Play cribbage
5. Say "no" easily
6. Eat beets
7. Leave the church

My Spouse
Seven Things that Attract Me to My Spouse (romantic interest, best friend, whomever, not necssarily in this order):

1. The way he laughs
2. The way my name sounds when he says it
3. His confidence in me
4. How smart he is
5. His innate goodness
6. His tidiness
7. The fact that he's a grown-up and behaves like one

Seven Things I Say (or write!) Most Often:

Here Shadow, Here Lola!

1. I love you.
2. Awesome!
3. Rats!
4. No way!
5. Mean people suck.
6. Here, Shadow! Here, Lola!
7. Sure I can.


Seven Books (or series) I Love:

1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
2. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
3. My Winnie-the-Pooh books
4. Katherine, by Anya Seton
5. A Chance to Sit Down, by Meredith Daneman
6. Arabella, by Georgette Heyer
7. The Mapp and Lucia books, by E.F. Benson

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:


1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
2. A Room with a View
3. Dr. Strangelove
4. Bringing Up Baby
5. Sense & Sensibility
6. Gone with the Wind
7. The Wizard of Oz

Seven People I Want to Join In (Be Tagged):

1. Teresa Eckford
2. Edith Layton
3. Tess Gerritsen
4. Jo Manning
5. Any and all of Squawk Radio
6. The Madwoman Herself, aka Kathy Li
7. MJ Rose(good call, Carla!)



Sunday, December 11, 2005

World of White

On Friday morning, Lola energetically roused us--and Shadow--at her usual time (7:18 am), demanding breakfast. At that point there was maybe an inch or two of snow. By the time the humans ate, about an hour later, there were many more inches and the flakes were pelting down. The girls went outside when my husband shovelled the deck, and in no time they were coated. (And yet oblivious.)

Lola and Shadow getting snowed upon

All day long we had white-out conditions, what we refer to as "pond effect" snow. Late in the afternoon, it abruptly stopped, like somebody had turned a switch. Our total was 12 to 13 inches. I stopped decorating the tree long enough to snap this dramatic view from our bedroom window.

the snow piled up on the rooftop

The sky cleared, and we had a gorgeous sunset.

sunset after a very snowy day

We didn't receive our mail delivery. Don't believe everything you hear about "neither rain nor snow nor etc. etc." If the town plow doesn't plow your road, the postman can't get to your box. Sean, our very own Snow Plow man, did a spectacular job on our private road.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and clear. I drove to the city to speak to a local writers' group. It was a make-good: my lecture was originally scheduled last March but was cancelled due to (believe it or not) a blizzard. You can pretty much forecast dire weather based upon my lecturing schedule, or my husband's overseas business trips!

On my way to civilisation, I paused to admire our little lake. The surface had frozen over only a few days earlier.

the view of our little lake after the snowstorm


As planned, I spent a great portion of Friday on a steep ladder, trimming the tallest Christmas tree we've ever had. This is what it looked like on Friday night, when I was only about 2/3 done. On Saturday afternoon, when I returned home from the writers' group meeting, I finished up.
I could write an entire blog about our ornaments, and probably will. Every one has a story--some date from my childhood, my grandmother made many by hand, and lots are souvenirs from our foreign trips.


I've always been the tree-trimmer in my family, even when I was a kid. It's one of my favourite tasks. Fortunately, I married a man who has tree-trimming trauma, meaning he's perfectly happy to set up the tree and walk away and let me do my thing in my own way. Saturday night, when I finished, he made a caipirinha for each of us and we turned out all the lights in the sitting room and sat there marvelling. We're convinced that tree is still growing, because it seems to get taller every day!

So, here I am this morning, smiling in relief that my work on the tree is finally done. Big ones take a lot longer to decorate, I've discovered!

My work here is done

This is supposed to be a writing blog, and I've got writing news--well, publishing news, really. This week I received a copy of my Slovakian edition, penned by the exotic-sounding Margaret Evansov√° Porterov√°. It's a lovely presentation, with a foil-embossed title. Plus, a mystery book review I wrote appeared in the books section of today's paper.

I'm busy with website stuff, preparing for a re-launch of my author site. So the writing I'll do this afternoon will mostly be in html code!


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sanity in an Eggnog Milkshake

Or maybe I mean MacEggnog.

I'm racing around all week like a maniac with too many scheduled meetings--meeting here, meeting there, meeting everywhere. In fact, the only proper meals I've eaten have been at lunch meetings or dinner meetings. The rest of the time, I'm eating--well, mostly drinking--on the move. Mobile meals are the norm.

My Christmas spirit has lain dormant, except when I'm slurping down a fabulous, festive, and filling Eggnog Milkshake. I've swallowed 'em for lunch, I've downed 'em as dinner.

Due to an impending, incoming blizzard, the church Christmas party tomorrow night has already been cancelled. I'm sorry about that. However, I had a moment of epiphany (yes, in Advent) while slurping yet another noggy post-meeting shake.

The blizzard will keep me housebound. Being snowed in means I can finally get down to decorating. As embarassing as it is to confess, that gorgeous green tree is unadorned, due to my frantic rushing around day and night.

Our tallest ladder stands ready. My fave holiday tunes are stacked by the cd player. The boxes of ornaments have been unearthed.

I can hardly wait!


Monday, December 05, 2005

Feeling Seasonal

Yesterday was very Christmas-y. And it was snowing, which added to the festive atmosphere.

This is the creche at church. Last year, new figures were donated by our parishioners. We gave the flock of sheep and a sheepdog, marked with arrows.



After lunch, we headed over to the place where we always cut our tree, and were confronted by a vast array of choices. Which one should we choose?



We walked nearly the entire property and checked out a lot of trees when we found this beauty, which met all my criteria for height and width. As a bonus, it was "$20 dollar special."



Here it is, going down. Timmm-berrrrr!



We brought it home and set it up. It's a new location this year, because our upstairs sitting room has been rearranged since last Christmas.



Last night, I drove into the city to attend a performance of The Messiah, held at a large church. The soloists were magnificent, the pianist and oragnist and trumpet and horn were outstanding. I snapped this shot when we all stood up for the "Hallelujah" chorus.



This morning, I've got a constant re-wind of "Lift up your heads, O ye Gates" going on and on in my head. All that lovely music is still stuck in there!


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tagged!

The wonderful Carla Neggers tagged me for a Book Meme. I’m supposed to share 15 facts or personal preferences about books. Here goes:

1. I’m nearly always reading 2 books at once, a novel and a nonfiction work--most often a biography, but sometimes a travel memoir, 18th century social history, or something about the film industry.

2. Every few years I re-read one of my own novels. Why? Initially I wrote them for myself, and I’m curious to see if I still like them.

3. My most frequent re-reads are probably Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.
4. The chapter “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump” inevitably makes me laugh unto tears.
5. I suspect the Pooh books are partly responsible for my being inordinately fond of Pigs and living in a wood which contains a Bear.


6. In my house I've got at least 1000 bookmarks—-fancy ones, foreign ones, promotional ones—-but because they conceal themselves in mysterious places I rely on bits of scrap paper and pieces rippped from discarded envelopes to mark my place when reading.

7. I haven’t yet read the latest Harry Potter. But I will!

8. I’ve consigned paperback books I truly detested to our local dump but am too tender-hearted to carry them there myself. That’s what husbands are for.

9. When I’m travelling, I mostly carry along books written by people I actually know.

10. And, being a hoarder, I bring the same books back home with me.

11. I’ve developed an obsession for trade sized paperbacks. At least 75% of my recent fiction purchases--historical or contemporary--have been trade sized.

12. Last year, for the very first time, I was published in trade size.

13. The first thing I read in a book is the author’s biography. If there isn’t one, I get depressed. Why? Because I'm so nosy--I mean, curious about other writers.

14. One of my rare (very rare) "real world" jobs was in a college library. I became a very fast and efficient shelver, just so I could goof off for a while and read books while I was lurking in the stacks.

15. I can't imagine stalking a movie or tv star but will admit to deliberately hunting down and stealthily driving past the homes of favourite writers just to see where they make their magic.

Now it’s my turn to tag... hope you’re paying attention Theresa Eckford, happenin' comedy chick Susie Felber, and UK author Kate Allan.

Background music for Blogging: Handel's The Messiah. I'm seeing it live tomorrow.