"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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

The only jack o'lanterns I've decorated are the ones pictured above. No sharp and terrifying knives, no messy punkin guts.

There's not a speck of candy in the house. Every year I buy it in bulk, and nobody shows up. (In our forest, the population of active trick or treaters had diminshed over the years. Now we've got none.) Had I taken the risk, made the investment, purchased the candy, I'd have got stuck with it. And would've been forced to eat it myself. All by myself (the Chap's away at a conference).

I did dress up for Halloween...

as a State Legislator!


(Some people, I know, think we're scary.)

This morning I attended a Freshmen House Members' Coffee and Chat hosted by the Majority Leader, an Asst. Majority Leader, and Majority Office Staff. (We had Halloween cookies, too!) Then we and many other reps and senators went to a luncheon at which we were fed sandwiches, more Halloween cookies, and information about the predatory and usurious Pay-day and Auto-Title Lending business. Plenty of horror stories to creep us out. Not sure I'll be able to sleep tonight.

Last night I attended a Board of Selectmen's meeting in one of my district's towns. Apparently there are or were bats in the Town Hall--but none of them showed up. (I was hoping....) Rumour has it that they flew over to the Police Station where the gaps in the roof are bigger. Or was it because the furnace works better?

If they'll let me, maybe I'll dress up the dogs. And take pictures.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back Again

Yesterday I had lunch in Portsmouth with this author friend who lives in a neighbouring state and is on her book tour in my territory. We had a fantastic lunch here. Our spouses were unavailable so it was just us. So we could talk our hearts out about writing, publishing, family members, conferences, and of course, our spouses!

Today I've been working on the list of primary sources I'll be consulting in my upcoming library visit.

I'm getting lots of research done in the evenings. I continually find elusive answers to long-asked questions. Example: a couple of days ago, I discovered the birthplace of the duchess (see entry below). It plays no part in my novel, but it's nice knowing. The genealogists have got it oh, so wrong...they assume she was born in the house in which her father died. Sorry, but no. Her parents lived in at least two other residences before that final one. When she was a young child they moved from her birth side across the square to this house where she would have spent part of her childhood. Both are familiar to me, I pass by them often. I look forward to soon gazing at them again, though their are much altered since her and her parents' time.

My diurnal clock is messed up. I've got Book Insomnia. I write scenes in my head all night and sleep really late in the morning.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Presenting the Duchess (subtitle: My Great Ebay Miracle)

Whether writing nonfiction biography or a fictional one (I've worked on both), the writer obsesses about images. Specifically, portraits of the subject.

The couple in my novel, as members of the aristocracy, were frequently painted, from childhood onwards. The male protagonist sat to Lely, Kneller, Jervas, and others. Some of these images remain with his descendants, some I've found through auction house catalogues, one hangs at a castle in Gloucestershire, one is in the New York's Metropolitan Museum.

I've identified three portraits of the female protagonist, all by Godfrey Kneller.

He painted her as a little girl, with her sister. The whereabouts of that portrait appear to be unknown but I found an illustration in a reference book, his catalogue raisonné.

At the Queen's request, Kneller painted her again. She was then a teenager, one of several aristocratic beauties who surrounded Her Majesty as ladies-in-waiting or maids of honour. That portrait, property of the present Queen, hangs at Hampton Court. About 18 months ago, I went there to visit it.

Yes. I crossed an ocean to look at a picture of the person about whom I'm writing. (I conducted a variety of other research activities--I also discovered her last will and testament in a dusty box in a London library. But I had no idea in advance that it would be accessible.)

My anticipation mounted as we neared the room where she was. As soon as we entered, I asked the Chap to guess which of the lovelies on the wall was the one in my novel. Pointing her out, he said, "That one--the one who looks like you," he said.

Well, I'm not so sure about that. I seem to more strongly resemble the side of the family not related to the duchess. But it was oh, so sweet of him to say so.

For research purposes, I obtained a full-colour print of that portrait. But I haven't purchased the reproduction rights so I can't post it here.

I refer to the third portrait as the "wedding portrait" because Kneller painted it in 1694, the year she married her duke. There's no evidence about what happened to the actual canvas--in all its full-colour glory. It doesn't seem to be in the family, along with other pictures and prints and jewels and other artifacts. I'm still researching its fate.

Fortunately, a mezzotint was made by John Smith, who had the "reproduction rights" of the day for Godfrey Kneller's artwork. The mezzotint process was developed in the mid-17th century, and it enabled Samuel Pepys and those so inclined to purchase prints of the pretty women they admired to hang in their chambers.

My duchess was an early "pin-up" girl.

The National Portrait Gallery in London owns one of the original 1694 prints. It's the only extant one of which I'm aware. And it isn't on display. I've intended to arrange a private view, but haven't got round to it yet. However, a couple of years ago I mail ordered a photo reproduction. A year ago I stopped in to purchase a second one. The NPG has reproduction rights (and licences them, for a price) so I've never been able to share this image on my blog or website.

Occasionally I conduct Ebay searches related to my subjects. On one occasion, the duke's autograph turned up--he'd written a brief note permitting somebody to shoot on his country estate. I didn't need it, but I added the image to my ever-growing file.

My dream item, which I assumed to be unattainable, was the 1694 print of the duchess. The same one the NPG holds. Sure, I looked from time to time, not just on Ebay but all over the internet. But I never in my wildest imaginings expected to locate one.

About three weeks ago, when I was up at the cottage, it occurred to me that I hadn't done my Ebay search for a while. So I did, then and there.

My whim had immediate results--my miracle.

Somebody in the UK was offering the 1694 print. Nobody had placed a bid. The auction had 4 more days to run.

Fast forward 4 days (which dragged by, I can tell you.) By the closing date there was a single bid.

The auction concluded at 2:29 AM my time. Before going to bed, I set alarm clocks all over the bedroom.

When the chorus of clocks woke me in the middle of the night, I staggered into the dining room. I logged onto Ebay from my laptop. I waited till the concluding moments of the auction and placed my bid--a hefty price in any currency. It happened to be in pounds sterling, so the dollar figure was twice that amount, so much that no normal, non-obsessive person could possibly conceive of paying that amount for a very old paper in a dodgy frame.

Needless to say, I won the item. It didn't come cheap, but I prevailed over the other bidder and still hadn't hit my highly inflated maximum.

There were a few harrowing days during which the seller went silent. Later, when contact between us resumed, it transpired that the person had been unwell. Then I felt bad about all my selfish worries that somehow the deal might fall through.

I could've picked up the print on my UK trip, but it was cheaper and quicker to entrust it to the Royal Mail and the USPS. I couldn't wait, I was too impatient to get my hands on it.

Yesterday I arrived home to find a large flat parcel leaning against the door. When I saw it was a box from a B&Q (a UK store) I realised the duchess had arrived sooner than I expected. I ripped away the cardboard and the bubble wrap.

And there she was.

I judge the frame to be 19th century. Turning the frame over, I discovered it's pieced together from very old, holey boards, and the backing is held by tiny metal nails.

I intend to remove the print--which is in remarkable condition, considering it's 313 years old--get it scanned somewhere (it's larger than my flatbed scanner) and give it an acid-free mounting with new frame.

I've taken lots of pictures of the framed print, glass and all, and can offer a closer view:

Oh--naturally I asked how and where the seller acquired the print.

"Car boot sale," I was told.

I wondered if maybe my treasure had cost a fiver, or some insanely small sum--not that I cared. Based on the amount on the Customs' valuation, the seller's investment was about half what I paid (shipping excluded).

What a journey! From a print shop in 17th century London to somebody--or many somebodies'--households to a bric-a-brac market in Southern England to the one person in the world who was searching for it. And is elated to actually, miraculously possess it!

Moral of the story:
Never, ever give up hope.

Friday, October 26, 2007


On Wednesday it rained. I told the guys at the tire company that's why I was ready to change out my regular tires for my snow tires. That's not really the reason, I was just trying to make them laugh--and succeeded. The sky did have the "incoming snow" appearance, and the air was raw, but we were well above the freezing stage. Being the earliest bird has it advantages, I was in and out in about 20 minutes.

The real reason is that by the time we return from London, it might be snow season...and there would be a long wait.

Yesterday was packed with activity. My first mandolin lesson. It went extremely well, I really, really like the instructor, who is personable and encouraging and a good teacher. I learnt tuning techniques, chord variations, and enough individual notes to play the G-major scale. Not bad for 1/2 hour!

The music studio is a convenient 3 minutes from the legislative parking garage, my next stop. I headed over to the State House to meet up with a small 4th grade class from a Christian academy in my town, who were having their tour. It was a nice group, and best of all I didn't have to flounce away to a committee meeting as I did last week, so I tagged along for the entire tour. Very informative.

After all the kids had a chance to sit in the Governor's chair at the head of the table in the Executive Council Chamber, the Gov himself stepped out of his office to greet the visitors. We had a group photo with him. He asked if they'd learned how much money a legislator makes in a year, and they chimed, "$100!" In a somewhat pitying voice. In this era, that doesn't sound like much to a 10-year old. At their age, I'd have considered it a bloody fortune. With a glance at me, the Governor asked if they thought that was a sufficient salary. (There's an LSR in the coming session proposing a rise in salary to a munificent $125 per week. Fat chance!)

Back at the Lodge, the chicken curry was burbling in the slow cooker. I whipped up a quick apple crisp. The Chap arrived home about an hour before our dinner guest turned up.

Today was absolutely gorgeous. The trees have reached that late-October richness, deep, warm oranges, with accents of yellow late-changing foliage. Driving down-state, I admired the landscape.

Met my former office associates for a nice, long lunch at a Bedford restaurant. I predicted to the Chap this morning that I'd have crab cakes. The menu featured crab cakes and a crab melt sandwich. I ordered the calamari. I'm so unpredictable I can't correctly predict my own behaviour.

Two of us shared a disgustingly oozy and decadently delicious molten chocolate cake with maple ice cream.

It was my first time on the tollways since the Gov and Exec. Council raised the tolls from 75 cents to $1.00. But due to my legislatrix status, I don't pay.

I noticed an improvement in my mileage since putting the snow tires on, which seems counter-intuitive to me. Normally I average 28.3 mph non-notorway, and close to 30 mph motorway. Now I'm getting 30 mph non- and between 31.8 and 32 mph motorway. I know, it's not exactly in the Prius range, but not bad for a big black Saab. (Mind you, it's only "big" by comparison to our smaller Saab. Big Car People we're not!)

Inspiration for an episode of Mythbusters perhaps?

I've avoided blogging on the World Series because frankly, I'm slightly--ever so slightly--conflicted. There. I said it.

I lived in Colorado when the Rockies came into being. I watched their very first home game on telly--during the debut season they were playing on Broncos' Stadium.

Bottom of the first, first batter up, very first (I think) pitch...Eric Young rips it out of the park. Solo home run. The crowd leaps to its feet. "Team of destiny," I murmur.

It took a while, but apparently there was truth in the observation.

We attended a memorable game at Broncos' Stadium. They were playing the Braves. I was conflicted then, too--the Braves have always been My Team. The Chap later saw them play at Coors Field.

Usually in the Series, I cheer on the National League team, out of habit--I learnt about baseball in a National League universe. Unless the NL Champs are playing the blessed Red Sox.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm rooting against the blessed Red Sox. I value my life too much. And I do love them--how could I not, after decades of praying that they'd break that Curse. How I cried over Bill Buckner...if I think about it, I'll start up again.

But...I can't help being fond of the Rockies. It made me sad--although I didn't cry over it--to see their very impressive winning streak come to an end.

So I'll just say...

Go Team!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scenes from the Sofa (Starring Jewel)

It's hard to sleep with that camera flash going.

When Ruth hops down to the floor, I can stretch out.

I wake up when the Chap brings me ice cream.

Not sure I'm getting enough sleep.

Would you PLEASE stop using that flash?

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Spent yesterday doing tons of laundry (two dwellings' worth because we've got the cottage linens as well), writing and submitting a couple of articles (48-hours before deadline, I proudly note!), dithering about when to bring deck and porch plants into the house, making lunch dates, ordering a new houseplant via telephone, setting constituent appointments, researching upcoming scenes of the novel, thinking about my upcoming guest blogging stint.

All across our state yesterday, temperature records were smashed. It got up to 80 and above in places. Today it's in the 70's with blustery winds--so long, pretty leaves!--and the mercury is dropping fast. It put an end to my dithering, and I spent part of this morning bringing plants inside. I'll spend part of the afternoon working out where to place them....I've got so many. And another on the way.

I finally had the discipline to deal with my legislative email...permanently deleted 490 deleted messages, 25 at a time. How do I hate thee, Outlook? Let me count the ways! I still need to do something about the 220 inbox messages. I've answered the ones that required it, but I haven't yet separated the constituent contacts from the rest. Not really a priority right now.

On the schedule today: writing, more laundry, mandolin practice (first lesson coming up this week!), registering for a novelists' NY conference, menu planning (dinner guest on Thursday), and a romping session with the young dogs.

Recently it occurred to me that at least a fortnight had passed since I'd had any crabcakes. The Chap was dining out that night, between meetings, so I could please myself. So I made crabcakes.

I've noticed that on Kitchen Nightmares, when Gordon first arrives at a restaurant he always orders crabcakes (if listed on the menu.) I wonder whether it's a favourite of his or, more likely, it's a good test of a chef's skill. I'm rather fussy about crabcakes myself. Not sure how mine would rate with Gordon, but I was pleased.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


It's sunny, mild, at least 70 degrees--doesn't feel like autumn at all, but with all the blazing colour it definitely looks like autumn.

A transitional maple in the front yard.

After church, we enjoyed a canoe voyage round the little lake. Along the way, we met neighbours walking or biking along the road, making the most of this incredible gift of an afternoon.

At the spot where we "park" the canoe, a few cherished chestnuts are growing.

These are actual rare wild American chestnuts. The species was vulnerable to a chestnut blight and supposedly they live only a few years and die back. And yet, as the years pass, we can identify chestnuts on our property that would seem to have outlived any predictions--they grow and grow!

For the first part of our journey, I devoted myself to photographing bright leaves floating in the water.

None of my shots turned out as artsy as I'd hoped, but I had fun. And didn't fall out of the canoe!

The hillside on the western shore of the lake.

A very attractive tree.

Facing the eastern shore--and the Lodge. Which can't be seen because of all the trees.

We spent much of yesterday driving around, leaf-peeping. We had a meeting downtown and afterwards re-visited a recently re-opened restaurant we used to enjoy in a town on the other side of the capital city. My positive research karma kicked into overdrive at the antiquarian book store, where I stumbled upon three very desirable and necessary history books. The Chap bought me a present--a souvenir booklet, circa 1971, marking the 50th anniversary of females in the New Hampshire Legislature. Highly entertaining! Returned home along a wonderfully scenic route.

Last night we watched the Very Important Sporting Event on telly. On this blog I've kept stum, for fear of jinxing things...will continue to do so. I prayed hard about it this morning at church and reckon all the other parishioners were doing the same!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Utter Peace (Quiet Included)

morning view of our little lake

The first day after departing my temporary, part-time, accidental office job is atmospherically grey and foggy with bright orange and yellow and red leaves colouring the landscape, and utterly quiet. Ideal for thinking about writing. And doing some writing.

This morning at the breakfast table, my off-duty brain was in a receptive state. My Muse--I use that term for want of a better one--was paying attention and sent forth a message that is crucial to this or any novel. She gave me the theme. Dropped it right into my head, just like that.

Are you surprised that I've been working on this book for so long without a theme? Don't be. It happens.

Allow me to chart the gestation of this project:

About a decade ago, when I was under contract for multiple books, I became increasingly obsessed with a pair of historical characters who lived in fascinating, changeable times and were connected to the kings and queens, the controversies, battles, and high society of their day. Conveniently, it's the historical period
I'd studied intensively at British universities. Not only did this couple happen to be physically gorgeous and frequently painted and occasionally referenced in diaries and memoirs and documents--quite possibly I can claim a blood relationship with both individuals. In fact, my interest initiated through genealogical research. And I've actually met their descendent and heir to the dukedom.

Being me, I started thinking about a novel. But it wasn't the sort of novel my various publishers seemed to want from me, so it became my sideline. The legendary "book of my heart." All novelists seem to have one, or more. I have several, but this has long been The Big One.

Fast forward to a few years ago. The market for historical fiction had (potentially) become highly favourable for a project of this sort. I went into research overdrive, and when we hopped over to the UK a couple of times a year I haunted libraries, delved into the primary (mostly unpublished) sources for every factual nugget I could find about my protagonists. I started plotting out the novel, developing my historical timelines, writing scenes and chapters.

And yes, I was able to do all this without having precisely nailed down the theme. Usually the theme develops--or presents itself--fairly early in the process, out of the mishmash of outline, character, conflicts, and so on. Sometimes I try to tease it out, other times I just wait. It's not that I didn't have the theme. I sort of did, but it was amorphous and ungainly and fuzzy at the edges and soft in the middle. I wasn't fussed about it, wasn't far enough along in the writing for the lack of one to be a problem.

All of which is a long way of saying that what happened this morning is momentous and most timely, and my heart goes pitter-patter just thinking about it. Best of all, it came to me with perfect clarity, in a single sentence, to be inserted the very first chapter. First chapters are terribly, wonderfully important, and like a lot of my writing they inevitably contain secret codes.

Included in my first chapter, initially obvious only to me, is the entire theme of the book, along with a foreshadowing of the journey that is about to unfold. It's very subtle--at least I hope so. I suppose an astute reader might spot the sentence or phrase, but I'm never sure. For me, the words jump out as if blasted on a giant stadium billboard, in flashing red letters surrounded by bursting firecrackers.

I've taped my sentence, slightly tweaked and refined, to my computer screen. At the moment I can't do anything more... Still haven't finished that chapter dealing with the Duke of Monmouth's execution. Probably it's emerging so slowly because I'm so impatient to be done with it. The Muse can be contrary that way.

Oh, other novel-related developments: in the past fortnight, three incredibly positive and useful discoveries occurred, one after another. Timing is everything, and perfect timing seems like a good omen to me. I was able to purchase two research books, each containing solid information about my protagonists. More exciting still was what I can't help referring to as "the miraculous eBay auction"--a story that must wait for another day.

So, that's my update from the creative side of life. As for the rest...

My last day at the office was uneventful, other than receiving a very nice card from the Program Director and making a lunch date with her and my other colleague for next week. I also met their new hire, who came in to fill out all the voluminous and requisite University System paperwork. I can't call her my "replacement" because her duties will be similar yet far more extensive and important than mine. And she doesn't even get my office--the Program Director is taking it. That's how nice it is!

I'll miss the camaraderie that developed with the two women with whom I worked so closely, and our class members and committee people and other supporters and the college staffers. But I'm oh, so thankful to get my life back! I've been so impatient to return to fulltime work on this novel! I expected to the office job to last no longer than September, but ended up continuing till now because of the organisation's period of greatest need. In future, I'll be available for paid consulting--editorial, organisational, whatever--on a project-by-project basis. When I'm able. And I'll do it from home--no more commuting.

It might take a while before I stop trying to dial "9" for an outside line whenever I pick up my telephone here at the Lodge!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Official Activities

I began the morning at the State House, where 50+ fourth graders plus teachers and parents from one of the elementary schools from in my district had their scheduled tour. As I arrived, they were gathered at the front steps.

The State Reps and State Senator were there to greet them and welcome them to the people's house. I was able to participate in the tour as far as the Senate Chamber. Then I had to go to the Legislative Office Building, where my committee was meeting in Executive Session to deal with our two retained bills. They both went down in flames, as I expected.

It was a pleasant surprise when the Chap, who had been monitoring a committee across the hall came into our chamber and sat in on the last hour or so of our deliberations. He and I then went into the dungeon cafeteria for a quick lunch date. I had pink lemonade and the biggest brownie I've ever seen. It was about 6 inches square. I shared it with my husband, ate a portion myself, and it still took me all afternoon to finish it off. It was delicious, very moist. I'm sorry I discovered it. Could become a habit.

Headed to my office for a few hours. I was the only staff member there from my department--as I've been all week. My last days on the job have been solitary ones.

My next stop was the opening ceremonies and ribbon cutting for the new independent nonprofit cinema downtown. I've been a supporter of this project for years--the return of an indie art house/cinema has been long-cherished vision of the community. Its predecessor, which I frequented, was closed and demolished well over a decade ago.

I joined a huge crowd crowd inside the theatre, which has three screening rooms. And the most comfortable seats imaginable, well upholstered, and they recline! The seating is stadium style, at a very steep angle so the view of the screen is entirely unobstructed. I watched a Foghorn Leghorn and a Road Runner cartoon in the biggest screening room (awesome state of the art sound system!), some foreign films previews in the next screening room, and some sort of indie film in the smallest screening room. Ran into some constituents and some fellow parishioners in the crowd.

At 6 p.m. we headed into the courtyard for the ribbon cutting. Many dignitaries assembled there--Mayor, City Council folk, at least one Senator, big money donors and supporters, the Board of Directors, general public.

The Yogurt Mogul, the Board Chair, the Governor, and the Theatre Director (pictured below, left to right) made appropriately joyful and celebratory remarks.

Yogurt Mogul, Governor, Board Chair, and others cutting the ribbon.

I'm watching the tv coverage on the 11 o'clock news right now. Don't expect to see myself, I'm too skilled at dodging cameras!

A busy, productive day. Therefore, a good one.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Turning a Corner

We spent a blustery afternoon at the cottage, doing a significant portion of the end-of-season tasks. Seasons, rather, because it's a 3-season residence. With evening temperatures so variable, in and out of the 30's, we needed to turn off the water and drain the pipes. My duties consisted of emptying and turning off the refrigerator, stripping the master bedroom, bringing the porch furniture indoors, lavatories, watching television (the cable isn't turned off yet) and trying to keep warm. It was one of those days with gale force winds whipping down the Bay--Closing-up Day is nearly always like that. Not a bad thing...unpleasant weather means we're not terribly fussed by the end-of-season rituals. We know the weather is only going to worsen!

Strangely, the foliage isn't very far advanced round the Big Lake. I'd hoped for a better show. There are a few things the Chap left for another time, so I may still have a chance to see the full autumn glory.

There was plenty of colour on our homeward drive. We stopped so I could get a nice shot of big bend in the Suncook River.

We were almost home when I spotted this pair of deer in the horse pasture.

They look a lot like the pair I saw in my neighbour's drive a couple of weeks ago.

I'm enjoying a completely free day. I've already practiced the mandolin, read the newspaper, listened to a radio program about network evening news. I intend to empty my email in-box of the 100 messages (read but not dealt with). Then I'll do the same thing to the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Unless I decide to focus on the chapter-in-progress. The primary scene happens to be one of the most gruesome executions in English history, so I'll be glad to finish it off.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Walking the Red Carpet

My sampling of the New Hampshire Film Festival made me regret I wasn't able to participate for more than a single afternoon. Well, there's always the SNOB (Somewhat North of Boston) film festival coming up next month. And next week, the opening celebration of the new independent cinema, a very exciting development and one I've supported for years.

Can you tell I've got nostalgic for my work in filmmaking?

In rainy Portsmouth yesterday, after a quick sidewalk chat with my friend the filmmaker, I hastened to the Music Hall Box Office to pick up my ticket. And there I found the official red carpet.

It had evidently been used Thursday night, when my friend's film was featured on the Music Hall's big screen. I wanted to attend that showing, and the after-party, but I had a conflict--moderating the Diocesan Council meeting.

In case you need to know, or didn't guess, the official garb for a film festival is basic black. That's what I was wearing, along with everybody else!

A good crowd turned up for the screening, which took place in the lower level of a restaurant/club. Good in size, and good in responsiveness to the works. It was a double bill--a 17-minute feature came first.

I'm biased, of course, but I thought my friend's documentary was extremely well done. I knew a lot about it, the story of how it came into being was familiar. Sean was still filming his subject, the Jesus Guy, an itinerant street preacher who dresses in a white robe like Jesus, when we worked together producing an informational film. But it's so exciting to see the result, and during the Q&A afterwards we heard how it's being received at other festivals around the country. And what the Jesus Guy thought when he attended the premiere. I'm still astonished at how Sean shot about 70 hours' worth of film to create his 66-minute documentary. Editing was always one of my favourite aspects of creating (with novels, also), but that's a lot of material to assess, to arrange--to discard.

The rain is gone now, the air is crsip, the trees are bright. Alas, I had to spend the morning and early afternoon at a political summit where we strategised for Campaign '08. I've only served half my term, and I'm supposed to be planning for re-election?

Can I finish writing my novel first?

Friday, October 12, 2007

But wait, there's more!

Shot along same detour, another day, different weather.

I think this scene will be incredible next week, as the changes become more profound.

We've had several grey, wet days this week with only the brilliance of the trees brightening the landscape. I'm reminded of the Southern photographer I know whose work magnificently captures the beauty of New England--the foliage, the forests, the seascapes. We used to talk about the effects that the light, the weather, the time of day had on autumn photography.

I'll soon be headed to the Seacoast to view a screening as part of the New Hampshire Film Festival. A friend--and former co-producer--of mine has a documentary entered in the festival. He's been working on the project ever since I've known him and its making the rounds of various film festivals. I missed its debut showing at the NHFF but look forward to attending a repeat performance today.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Detour (with pretty pictures!)

Along my route to my office--and the capital city--lies a major road construction project. It's a pig going and coming, because it's heavily trafficked, and on both sides of an intersection two lanes merge into one. Eventually there will be two lanes on both sides of the stoplights, solving the current problems. But in the short term, our hardworking Department of Transportation has worsened a really bad situation.

My clever spouse knows a detour and taught it to me. (By telling, not showing, so I got lost a time or two when first trying it.)

By turning off the vast, busy highway at a certain spot, one leaves the traffic, the congestion, the idiotic mergers, the cell-phone talkers, the tailgaters behind. Miraculously, it doesn't take any longer than the main highway. And it's a whole lot prettier. Calm-inducing, in fact.

The detour takes me through the woods, up hill and down dale, past farmhouses, barns, stone walls, fields of horses, upland views of the hills on the far side of Concord.

There's no traffic.

I mean, no automobile traffic. Not in the morning, not in the afternoon. Today, I did pass a geriatric walker on the way to my office, and on the way home a kid on a bike.

Heading back to the Lodge late today, I pulled over to photograph a stand of maples growing alongside a stone wall. The trees featured a mix of colour, the entire range of possible hues in this season of change--green, yellow, orange, red.

All the other bloggers in New England seem to have decorated their places with autumn glory. I decided it was time to join in.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cottage Canines

Ruth: I like sitting on this step...

...admiring the view.

Jewel: Where did all those blueberries go?

Lola: The water must be a lot colder than it was when I went
swimming in August.

Everybody: Time for a chipmunk hunt!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Our Anniversary

It's not quite as warm today in New Hampshire as it was all those years ago in the Southern town where we married.

Today, here at the cottage, e celebrate our many years of marriage, surrounded by gifts--and dogs.

I could take up space and time with reminiscences of that happiest of weekends, when we began our new life together. And when I visited this state and lake and cottage for the very first time, never imagining that one day I would live and write here.

I was happy then. I'm even happier now, knowing how blessed I have been. On that distant day, I had no idea of the joy and adventure that awaited us.

Thank you, husband of mine.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What's Wrong with Me?

It's a copyrighted image, so I'm sending you away from this page.

click here.

It expresses a thought that has occurred to me oh, so often. I don't harbour any envy of an another author's success. The same cannot be said of his/her productivity.

Just so you know, my devoted, supportive husband has never uttered the comment in the cartoon.

I do--all the damn time.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Happy Dancin'

For lotsa reasons....

1. Last night I found out that the parish whose priest, my friend, died so suddenly in August this week called a friend of mine to be their new priest-in-charge. Monday was his first day there. Saw him--and some of the parishioners--last night at a diocesan meeting. Everyone was beaming and practically floating. Me, too. I wandered around nibbling cookies and dropping crumbs and saying over and over and over, "I'm sooooooo excited! I'm sooooooooo happy about this!"

2. Between working at the office and rushing home to feed the girls and driving a million miles (give or take) to the aforementioned meeting, the Chap and I had dinner together at a restaurant. And the crab cakes were good.

3. I didn't have to moderate that same meeting.

4. Also, squeezed in to #2 above, I stopped in at the music center and paid my registration fee for the mandolin lessons.

5. The weather is milder and there's a warming trend for the weekend--our anniversary weekend. It bodes very well for our stay at the cottage on the Big Lake.

6. Today is my sister-in-law's birthday. Happy Happy! You're the best sister-in-law I've ever had. (Also the only one, but still....)

7. I managed to be gracious yet firm yesterday when my employer sought to extend my "temporary" job. My last day was supposed to be the 11th. I caved when I found out they had desperate need of another week of me. When I told the Chap that now I'd be working till October 18th, he said, "Oh yeah, of what year?" I really like the work and my colleagues, and their desire to hang onto me is flattering. But I've got a lot to do before the London trip, and it's not going to get done if I'm away from the Lodge for three days a week.

8. I shopped today and found a solid colour top that goes with a really hard-to-match new skirt I recently acquired. I already had one matching top, a lightweight one, but this colour is so unusual I despaired of finding another in a slightly heavier weight. I can tick that box.

9. Tonight is the first night this week that I get to hang out at the Lodge with my loved ones and make a home-cooked meal for my husband and me and afterwards watch telly and snuggle with dogs on the sofa.

10. I've run out of things to say. (Now you're Happy Dancin' too!)

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Case of MAS

Over at Mandolin Café I learned about MAS, Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome.

"Yeah, right," thought I, assuming I was immune. I'd bought my cheap-o instrument amd reckoned it was exactly what I needed, considering I'd not yet had a single lesson yet.

Allow me to introduce you to my latest acquisition:

A New York Pro natural wood (with maple neck and rosewood fretboard) A-style mandolin.

My ambitions rose a bit higher than the cheap-o. I'm making a serious effort here. My instrument should reflect that.

I bought it from a man in Tennessee with a lovely thick Southern accent. Amazingly, he was born and raised in Nashua. Where his mother still lives. A strange, strange world it is.

After church yesterday (holy baptism, Canon to the Ordinary as visiting priest), I settled down with the NY Pro for several hours with the songbook and instructional DVD that came with.

I now know 6 chords, 4 songs, 2 strumming styles, how to hold and use my pick, how to tune the strings, and I've got burning blisters on my left hand fingertips. The blisters were the point of it all. I mean to build them up into proper calluses before I actually begin my lessons.

My finger pads haven't hurt this much since my first week of playing guitar...years ago. Ouch.

I thought typing would feel worse than it does...but it doesn't feel great, I confess.

My repertoire, such as it is, qualifies me to sit around a campfire. Especially at church camp, or with cowboys, or with James Taylor and Carly Simon. It consists of "He's Got the Whole World (In his Hands)", "Kum ba Yah", "The Streets of Laredo", "Hush, Little Baby, Don't Say a Word (Mama's Gonna Buy You a Mockingbird)".

I'm not quite ready to dig out my collection of music books (The Paul Simon Songbook, Cat Stevens, Folk Songs of Great Britain, etc.) from my guitar-playing years. I've got a long way to go. But it's comforting that I was able to produce sounds that qualify as music, even if only beginner quality music.

Ruth and Jewel were very adorable, curled up on the big sofa in the downstairs sitting room, listening to me play.

This morning, what with the aching fingertips, my practice consisted of forming each of my chords in succession, to make sure I'd already developed some "finger memory". Which I had done.

I'm doing stuff today that doesn't much involve fingers. Prep work for our next London trip. Returning a recently purchased "suitcase friendly" skirt to the store because I later found one I liked much better. Attending a Board of Selectman's meeting.

Tomorrow, I think, I'm going to schedule my first set of mandolin lessons.

MAS (which I hope proves manageable) appears to be the only malady I've got. My report card for the recent routine blood tests came in the mail last week. The doctor hand-wrote "Excellent!" on it.