"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

Monday, June 29, 2009

Riding Along

The members of the House of Representatives Fish & Game & Marine Resources Committee have the opportunity to sign up for a ride-along with a Conservation Officer (C.O.) in their area. The C.O. duties include being game warden, conducting law enforcement, responding to emergency calls, stocking the waters with fish, search and rescue, handling inquiries from the public, education and trainings. And more.

Today was my ride-along day. At 9 a.m. in the pouring rain I met my C.O. and climbed into big his green F&G truck with the F&G logo on the door.

First order of business was checking his pager and messages. There was information about dead deer carcasses along the highway from auto collisions. It was the morning after a local NASCAR race and the traffic--mostly RV's--was heavy along route 4 as went went to find and collect the first deer.

We didn't find it. Somebody else got there first and hauled it away.

So off we went to Rt. 106 north, practically to the gates of the Speedway (from the traffic you'd think the race had finished up this morning instead of yesterday afternoon!). No sign of a dead deer there, either. Here's the C.O. heading back to the truck.

I felt sort of relieved and sort of disappointed. Watching him load a wet dead deer into the back of the pickup and dump it somewhere would have been kind of cool and kind of gross. I'm one of those people who averts her head when she sees road kill, it really depresses me. So I guess I was more relieved than not.

We made our way to a more rural part of his territory with lots of lakes and streams where he could check fishing licences.

Despite the rainy weather, we did find some fishermen. The C.O. examined their licences, asked about their catch and made sure they didn't have more than the limit. It was so interesting watching him interact with folks. He was very friendly and personable and respectful. But the officer is armed, and has the authority to exact fines and write up complaints and stuff, so nobody gave him any grief. Some people were more talkative than others. I sure learned a lot about good fishing spots!

We went places other people aren't supposed to go!

A very pretty brook in one of the state parks.

At one state park we had a long conversation with the park director about Canada geese. The geese had young, and became really aggressive with people on the beach in recent days. While we were on the scene, there weren't any geese around. I guess they wanted to get out of the rain.

At the same park we were walking the shoreline looking for fishermen when we found a different fish-eater, this great blue heron. It was at the waterside but then walked inland as we approached.

And it kept walking into the woods.

I got pretty close.

It's looking towards the lake.

We think there might have been a nest site nearby and it was trying to draw us away.

On every body of water we saw a heron today, including right beside the roaring outflow from a dam. They are wonderful birds.

One of our last stops was my own little lake. The C.O. wasn't really familiar with it. The regular fishermen were there, close enough to the shore that he waved them in for a licence check.

I gave him a tour of our shoreline. I think he liked it here, asked if any summer cottages were for sale. Not at the moment, as far as I know.

The last stop was to check out a brush fire we spotted from the highway. On Friday there was a really bad rain and wind storm--in almost exactly the same location as the terrible tornado of last summer. I did hear the notorous "freight train" sound here at the Lodge and my power went out for a few hours. On the news that night we found out the massive damage done in the next town. Giant trees knocked down, leaves sheared from the trees by hailstones. The property where people burned brush today had some of the worst damage--I'd seen that house and the toppled trees on the television, I recognised it as soon as we drove down the driveway. The fallen trees hadn't hit the house or cars but the place was a real mess. They were burning some of the wood.

We covered a lot of ground. We didn't have any dead deer to handle. The fishing community, I now know, is undeterred by rain. But lately all it ever does is rain in NH. So if we waited for sunshine to go outside and do stuff, we never would.

It was a great ride-along, exceeding my highest expectations. I was invited to come back on a more "normal" day. Does that mean a dead deer day? The scanner was pretty quiet, even I could tell that. The C.O. also does stake outs at night to catch poachers and intercept other illict activity. I'm not sure I'd sign up for night detail (I had to sign a waiver releasing F&G from responsibility if anything happened to me. And the night work sounds more dangerous.) But I'd definitely do another daytime ride-along!

I had a lot of respect for the C.O.'s before this experience, and now it's increased. I couldn't have asked for a more informative, pleasant, or experienced guide.

I'm drained tonight, though. I enjoyed the walking we did but didn't have a lot of stamina due to this stupid cold. I haven't been able to shake it off because I have been so busy--yesterday was just insane, I was zipping across the state from one church to another. The rest of the week will be less hectic.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Stroll

Photos taken Saturday, posted Sunday. I expect to be indoors most of today doing church-y things on the Seacoast and diocesan-y things in Concord.

Rose of the Day: Apothecary Rose. It's official name is rosa gallica officinalis and it's another really, really old gallica. It's an enormous shrub that clings to the handrail of our deck steps and canes and flowers poke through the balusters in a very pretty fashion at this time of year.

Eden is a modern rose. This one isn't a good bloomer for me, but it's pretty and heavily scented so I'm glad when it does what it should do.

My mock orange is blooming. This isn't the scented variety I grew up with but for my birthday my mother scent me cuttings from hers--the one I did grow up with. They have rooted well, so perhaps someday I'll have the one I really want.

Flower arranging on the kitchen counter. I finally cut some lathyrus (perennial sweetpea, unscented). The flowers are sadly rainspotted so I took the best of them and some that haven't bloomed yet.

Yesterday I wore myself out with spring cleaning the upstairs of the house. Yes, I know spring is over. Yes, I know I'm ill. I thought it would be "light tidying" but it turned into heavy de-grotting. Hence not a lot of time outdoors except for a brief stroll. It was hot and so humid you could almost drink the air.

Thanks for stopping by. If you'd like to continue strolling, go here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's About Time

The female painted turtles march into our yard every June to lay their eggs, always an exciting time. This year, however, not a single turtle was spotted at the usual time. Normally the egg-laying process is well under way by mid-month. Presumably due to the chilly temperatures, either in the little lake or in the air, the girls never came.

Until today. Perhaps because the mercury soared to 84 degrees.

The first '09 and latest-ever turtle spotting occurred immediately after a massive thunderstorm. I was desperate for entertainment after the electricity was cut, and had plenty of leisure time to watch her from an upstairs window.

She wandered about in the drive.

She checked out the grass.

Back to the dirt again.

"We're being invaded!" shrieks Jewel, who jumped up onto the window seat.

The process of finding a nesting spot takes quite a long time. Laying the eggs goes on even longer.

This morning we had a County Delegation meeting to accept and expend American Recovery and Re-Investment Act (aka ARRA aka Stimulus) funds for various deserving, ready-to-rip projects. And to elect a new interim County Commissioner to replace a retiring one until the 2010 election.

Therefore I had a chance to drive my new car to town. Sweet ride! After we adjourned I ran errands. Posted a birthday parcel to France, did birthday shopping for the Chap, picked up a few clothing items that will probably travel well to California. I also bought a new chew toy for the girls. The old reliable, favourite durable chew has been discontinued. Jewel with the Jaws of Steel totally destroyed the new one in record time. Ruth never even had the opportunity to steal it away from her!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Roses

Rose of the Day: Rosa Mundi. Rosa gallica versicolor is the official name of this, my favourite rose. No, really, I do love this one the best! The bush is as tall as me now and laden with buds (and bugs, alas.) It's a mutant gallica dating from the Middle Ages/Renaissance.

The powerfully scented Isphahan is used for making rose essential oil for perfume.

Tuscany is another ancient gallica.

A species rose, one of the dog rose types that volunteered in my very weedy rose garden behind the house. It had that apple scent of English hedgerow roses, especially when wet as it often has been lately.

What was shaping up to be an excellent rose year has proved disappointing. The ceaseless rain has spoilt some of the buds and adversely affects the blossoms and encourages weeds which I've got no time to pull. The nasty desctructive little green worms are everywhere, gnawing the foliage. I've been too busy to battle them. Nor have I cut as many bouquets as I normally do. That will change now that my State House duties are over for a while.

The foxgloves are blooming also.

As part of the opening ceremonies of our closing day in the State House, a singer sang a song about soldiers and sacrifice and NH-based musician Ed Gerhard performed a familiar tune (our signal to take our seats). We approved committee of conference reports all morning. After our lunch break we passed the budget bills. Our other headline item was the passage of a medical marijuana bill, the most restrictive in the nation. Remains to be seen whether the Governor will sign it. It was a very humid day in Representatives Hall. Outside it rained off and on. We had demonstrations on the front lawn, anti-tax protesters, state employees, pro-medical marijuana activists. I was never on that side of the building and regretted it when I heard there were people dressed in chicken suits.

I arrived at the Lodge just before suppertime feeling absolutely drained by this cold bug. The Chap had picked up my new dark green Mercedes after work and drove it home. (And then cooked an awesome omelet for our meal!) Our garage now contains 2 Mercs. For the time being our 2 auxiliary vehicles will be exposed to the elements in each of our 2 driveways.

I'm having a quiet day because the next few days won't be. Bailed out of my mandolin lesson--haven't practised much this week and even though I'm feeling a bit better than yesterday I don't feel well enough to drive to Concord. Tomorrow I'll take my new wheels for a spin. For now, I need to do some writing!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Roses & Remorse

Let's start with the roses, shall we? A much more cheerful item than the other.

Rose of the Day: Celsiana In past years I've taken time to provide historical thumbnail of my roses. Right now, time does not permit. I invite you to trawl my archives for previous late June/early July rose reports, fuller than I can provide right now. Celsiana is an old variety of damask, dating from about the middle of the 18th century. This blossom probably peaked yesterday. She gets blowsier and looser over time. Her fragrance is indescribable!

Rose de Rescht. It's old, too, a variety of Portland rose, meaning it repeat blooms. Theoretically.

Rosa rugosa alba.

Henry Kelsey, bright red Canadian climber.

Now the remorse.

Tomorrow the House & Senate vote on the state budget for the 2010-2011 biennium, which begins on July 1st--next week. It's practically my last vote of this 2009 session, and undoubtedly the hardest of all. Budgeting in these economic times is fraught with bad choices.

Ever since the House/Senate Committee of Conference report was issued at approximately 1:15 a.m. Friday morning, I've received phone calls and emails and letters from persons who will be adversely affected--financially--by my decision to vote yes tomorrow. And I've heard from individuals who will be adversely affected if I vote no. As an illustration, I just got off the phone with someone (not a constituent) who had left a message on my answerphone. She believes she's likely to lose her job if the budget passes tomorrow. I hope and pray she's wrong. I explained the reasons I felt compelled to pass the budget--apologetically. I asked whether she'd shared her story with all the other members. She said I was the only one who phoned her back.

As people say so often, "This budget has something for everyone to hate in it." For me, there are many things I dislike. Things I wanted that aren't there. Things there that I loathe. But I realise the consequences of not passing a budget are far worse. Our state can't even afford the passage of a continuing resolution so we can come back in a few months for a do-over. Because during those months we'd be living by a budget crafted 2 years ago...in a different economy. We no longer receive enough state revenues to support those expenditures. So we'd be another $35 million (or more) in the hole. And by law, our budget must balance.

One thing I didn't expect to see in the final version: the FEMA buyout matching funds for my flood-ravaged constituents, is there. Fourteen people whose homes are condemed, unliveable, unsafe, unsaleable will rejoice. I'm so thankful this bill I co-sponsored and fought for so hard has survived the chipping away process of recent weeks. And yet...I'm confronted with all the "dislikes."

I spent today with leadership, with the Governor, with members from both parties, with my party caucus. Hour after hour of information sharing, speculation, a lot of dread expressed about the consequences if we don't pass this budget.

I admit there have been times the past 24 hours when I considered taking the coward's way out by phoning in sick tomorrow. And I wouldn't be faking. Yesterday I woke with a painful sore throat, earache, headache, all the aches. Seems to be a virulent strain of summer cold--not that this week's weather deserves the term "summer." No medical excuse for me to dodge a difficult vote. In the morning I'll dope myself to the max and get myself to the State House and do my duty. Remorsefully.

To end on a brighter note, at midday the Speaker of the House hosted her annual Ice Cream Social. (Held indoors, due to the aforementioned unseasonal weather.) Nothing goes down a sore throat better than cold black raspberry ice cream, so for me it was the perfect "lunch"! I had seconds.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Musical Monday: I Love My Dog(s)

In honour of being recently reunited with Jewel and Ruth, with whom I'm so happy to be spending this day--and vice versa!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Stroll

This is a combination of strolls. A little bit of rose garden strolling on Saturday, because I wasn't sure today's weather would be conducive, and again today both at the Lodge and at church.

Rose of the Day: Shailer's Provence. I usually describe this is as my favourite rose. (Warning: The phrase "my favourite rose" will often recur during Rose Season. It's a Boursault variety, dates from about 1796 (I think) and the enormous, taller-than-me plants began as a couple of fragile slips my mother rooted from her plant many years ago.

Here's what it looked like yesterday.

And this morning, in the rain. As usual, it is absolutely covered with buds and the blossoms are just opening.

The following rose photos are mostly from yesterday.

Quatre Saisons, the Four Seasons Rose, also known as Autumn Damask, possibly the most ancient of cultivated (not wild) roses. I'll probably have better photos later, but this was the first bloom to open.

The Bishop, which I seem to recall is a gallica rose, so named because it's colour is identical to that of a Bishop's purple shirt.

A species rose, similar to the dog rose (rosa canina) but with a larger flower. It's a volunteer, possibly Eglantine. I didn't mean to grow it, it found me. But it's a nice flower with that apple scent of English wild hedgerow roses.

Some of the flowers growing in the church garden.

Peony season--how appropriate that they decorated the altar!

Losing a father right before Father's Day is hard. As we left church the Chap was handed a big bouquet of altar peonies, now gracing our dining room.

A mourning dove takes a nap on the deck rail in the rain.

This is the first day of Summer although one couldn't guess it from the temperature. We're having so much rain that everything is lush and green, a nice (but dripping) backdrop for my rose gardens.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and if you'd like to follow other strolls go here!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

3 B's

Today's purchase: my Benz.

How I celebrated: with my fave Beverage

What I saw from the deck a few minutes ago: that big Bunny (snowshoe hare)

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Backward Glance

A week ago to today I arrived in Schaumburg IL (outside Chicago) for the Historical Novel Society's North American conference. I intended to blog about it on my return, but the death in our family the day after I got back home and other factors prevented me. In fact, the delay in writing about the event is no big deal, because a retrospective view allows for a fuller assessment.

The North American conference occurs every 2 years, alternating with a UK conference. I always sort of thought I might attend the UK one before the NA one...but I believe it usually takes place in July. And in recent years I've been loathe to uproot myself from the lake cottage at that time of year. (This July being an exception to that rule, which will soon become evident.)

My flight from MHT was at 6:50 and the plane arrived at O'Hare early, not long after 8--normally I'm not out of bed at that time. Travelled to the Hyatt Regency Woodfield via shuttle, found myself in a huge-normous corner room with the longest sofa I've ever seen and a view of the front gardens (workers were planting things) and the massive shopping mall across the street.

My friend and conference buddy Susan Holloway Scott and I met for a chatty lunch. In the evening there was a reception and banquet (see my photo op with Margaret George in a previous post.) Saw lots of friends, real life and online.

On Saturday morning I had to step out of the first workshop for an appointment with an editor. After 21 years as a published author, 11 novels, a novella, articles, columns, nonfiction book, and poetry under my belt, I finally had my very first ever editorial appointment. The sign of an excellent conference is having difficulty choosing which workshop to attend, and that was certainly true for this conference! Enjoyed some Saturday afternoon schmoozing with pals in the lobby. There was another reception and banquet, with Sharon Kay Penman as keynoter. Her speech was followed by a costume pageant/competition and the Late Night Sex Scene Reading, which seems to be a tradition.

Sunday was much the same, I left the first workshop for my second ever editorial appointment. By the time it was over I needed to finish my packing and check out and be ready for my scheduled shuttle, so the conference pretty much ended for me with my editor meeting. All my travel to and from went amazingly smoothly, not a single hitch, and I felt amazingly fortunate.

Others have blogged about the conference and took more photos than I (unusual, I know!). If you're interested in other accounts, go here and here and here (a comprehensive link list from one of the organisers.)

Mind you, throughout all this my father-in-law's condition was wavering between somewhat hopeful to quite dire. So I was regualarly nipping up to my room to check in with the Chap via phone or email for updates.

I came home from the conference with some solid information on the state of the mainstream historical fiction market. I interacted with people who do what I do, which is always refreshing. Both editors requested my manuscript when it's finished, so I had good news to pass along to my agent. Additional proof of how excellent the conference was: I came home energised, not exhausted. I commend the "Historical Novel Society for sponsoring the very best writers' conference I've ever attended. And after 21 years in the biz, I've attended more than my share.

My time away has already borne fruit. From Wednesday afternoon till late last night, I wrote an astonishing (unprecedented) 5000 words. That's five times my normal daily output. I can't credit this solely to the HNS, however. It was constantly raining, and I was stuck indoors. And now I'm close enough to the end that it feels like I'm on a rollercoaster zooming down that last sharp slope, and gravity is pulling me fast. The story is there, I just follow my outline and listen to the voices in my head, and hope my fingers on the keyboard can keep up! And yet, even when I felt sure there's nothing more to learn about my characters' history...last night, after forcing (yes, forcing!) myself to stop creating, I did a little bit of "just for fun" research in some primary source material. Lo and behold, I stumbled on a nugget of factual information about my male protagonist that a) I didn't know, and b) is extremely useful, and c) will fit beautifully into my very next chapter.

This morning, after our walk in the rain, the dogs and I returned to the Lodge. I phoned the auto dealer to make a deposit on a vehicle to hold it. Then I went to the State House to give some visitors a quick tour. Not much going on there--except in Reps Hall, which had been taken over by CityYear. My guests got to see the Speaker's Office (she was out) and the Executive Council chamber and the Senate chamber and my cool parking space.

It has been a very strange and challenging week. Sad (death in our family) and insanely productive (5000 words in just over 24 hours! finishing the cookbook project--final galley proofing this weekend, off to the printer on Monday!) and exciting (found out a friend is visiting in August) and has presented me with big decisions (car purchase, next week's state budget vote) and fascinating (spawning fish!)

The sun is out--for only the second time in over a week. Hope it sticks around.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The dogs and I came up to the lake cottage a little while ago. Lots of errands along the way--P.O. to post my dad's Father's Day parcel, convenience store for hard cider and worms for my pet fish, the bank.

It's a gorgeous sunny day, air is pleasantly cool.

After our usual walk, immediately after arrival, we headed down to the dock. I needed to clean the water filter down at the pump and I wanted to throw a worm to Walter my fish.

Walter was busy. With Mrs. Walter. I caught them in the act--of spawning.

A very interesting process.

They swim very close together, around in a circle about 2 feet in a diameter, moving either clockwise or ante-clockwise.

This way...

...and that.

She sometimes would move down to the bottom, sort of on her side. She's the big speckled one.

Clearly he thinks she's hot.

I did throw out a worm, just to see if they'd be interested. (Looked to me like they're working up an appetite.) They didn't even notice it!

Yes, I'm a voyeur. I took many photographs. The dogs didn't notice, they were scavenging unripe blueberries low down on the bush.

I just went to check on Walter. He's by himself now. Evidently the missus doesn't stay after The Deed is done--love him and leave him. Now he just has me...and worms. And spawn to watch over until it hatches.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Around and About

I'm truly grateful for the kind comments in response to my previous post. We are well here at the Lodge.

This morning the sun returned after a long absence. I took time to wander my gardens, which proved very interesting. A naughty deer visited in the night to chew the tops off some perennials as well as tender shoots off a few rose bushes. The damage could've been a lot worse.

I spotted the snowshoe hare hopping about the front yard, before I had my camera in hand. It was enormous! It's been quite a long time since a big brown bunny sighting. I'm happy for proof that it survived the winter and is still bouncing along.

Our feeders are busy with colourful birds--orioles, hummingbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, blue jays. The orioles have taught their bumbling baby where to come for food. The red-breasted nuthatch brood is constantly pecking at the suet cage, as are the young hairy woodpeckers.

My wisteria is looking quite lovely. I waited so many years for this plant to produce flowers, I never cease to cherish them!

My Therese Bugnet rugosa has already appeared as a Rose of the Day, but this specimen seemed worthy of a wider audience. My hand clasping the stem gives some perspective on how massive this blossom is.

When I drove off to begin my daily errands I saw the mallard family in the shallows of the little lake. I pulled over to take some pics. They retreated into the foliage.

They thought I couldn't see them.

It's a huge brood. Above you see Mama Mallard and six large ducklings. Papa Mallard and another duckling had headed out into deeper waters.

This duckling was laughing at me.

In Concord I dropped off an official Honorable MEP letter in support of funding for an Early Head Start Program in 2 of my district towns. Then to Manchester to test drive the car the Chap found for me while I was away. Back to Concord for my mandolin lesson.

Got home to find another condolence offering decorating the deck, a very attractive living plant arrangement, from the Chap's office. Yesterday his department colleagues sent one. People have been so kind about phone calls and notes. It really means a lot.

I've just now polished off final edits and the indexing of the cookbook, which goes to the printers at week's end.

I'm planning a trek to the lake cottage to resume novel-writing. And to catch up on sleep, something I've not had much of since about Wednesday.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I am very thankful that I returned home when I did. I was sleeping beside my husband when the call came, at about 12:35 this morning--his brother informing us their father passed away in hospital in South Carolina.

In recent weeks my father-in-law, a tough New England Yankee, had endured a difficult time and many challenges. A combination of conditions prevented him from recovering from the surgery he had over a week ago. At age 87, and despite the vigor he displayed in advanced age, it was increasingly obvious that time was running out. Over the past month he had visits from his daughter (when still at his retirement home), my husband (when in hospital but discharged from ICU), and his other son (who was there for the final days of tranfers from various care units and all the medical interventions.)

My brother-in-law returned to his PA home last night. There was a conference call in the evening with the 3 siblings, to prepare them. Except that nobody is ever prepared, really, to lose a parent. Or so it seems. I feel blessed to have mine still, and spoke to them this morning.

When the D-Day observances took place last weekend and commentators spoke of the diminishing population of veterans, I was all too aware of the precarious state this particular aged vet who had arrived in France from the UK a few days after that famous landing. Now there's another loss from that brave contingent, a man who personified the Greatest Generation in all the best ways. Son, soldier, husband, father, businessman. It was quite a journey, from lovely Salem, MA to the war-torn Europe to North Carolina (where he met and married a Southern beauty), to Milwaukee where he built a career and where his three children were born, to retirement in North Carolina, to the hospital across the state line where the long and well-lived life ended. And of course, the countless summers at the New Hampshire lake cottage, winter recreation on the frozen lake, autumn foliage--making the most of that very special spot we all cherish.

We don't yet know the exact time of death but likely it was after midnight. There's a certain comfort in his leaving us today--the birthday of his first wife, my husband's mother, who died 20 years ago. He leaves behind a widow.

The Chap stayed home from the office today. Lots of phone calls ahead, arrangements to be made long-distance, and informing far-flung relatives and friends, most of whom won't be expecting this unhappy news.

I'll say it again. I'm very thankful I'm back home at the Lodge and not in Chicago or even up at the lake cottage. There's not much I can do, I speak what comfort I can, but just being here with the Chap right now is so necessary.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Soar & Soak

A sunny day and a Great Lake (with Chicago skyline above the wing of my eastbound flight)

A rainy day on my little lake

Joyous reunion with spouse and dogs late this afternoon. Much exhilaration over awesome historical writers' conference (more on that later). Some exhaustion, even though the hotel bed was the best one ever and my travels today were smooth as silk and everything on time.

For the usual garden strolls, stop by Aisling's place.