Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Philly (suburbs) Fall Frolic

In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you (Leo Tolstoy) I did plenty of that in North Wales, PA for Thanksgiving at my Dad's. No work, lots of putzing, plenty of laughs, tons of food, and some observations. I didn't write much, but words churn in my brain and material will erupt from my time with family and friends.

Goethe wrote One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to get leisure. I think Ben Franklin's goal was to rock on my father's front porch and watch the leaves swirl like snow.

Look up, look down, seek that surprise splash of color.

Bushes are at eye level and trap leaves. Stand still and listen for the rustle, inhale the fragrant evergreen, revel in the crisp air, and then contemplate a cup of cocoa. Winter bleakness knocks at the door. We're not answering ...yet.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Tales

Just when you think there's nothing prettier than tulips in spring or crepe myrtles in summer, along come mums in the fall. This was given to me in October for my birthday and it's the gift that keeps giving (Thanks, Ann). Fall - I love the crisp air, frosty mornings, and a sweatshirt (Purple - TCU - that's a fave).

Not thankful for leaves in the pool. They clog up the basket and ultimately cause agitation - for the pump and for Ray.

Artsy shot. I need to remember this description as my heroine strolls in her backyard, pensive, regretting her past. The dying leaves represent so much ... Tell me - too dramatic?

Crazy red holly berries. I'm not sure if any birds eat them or if they are poisonous. Either way, we have a bounty this year, which could mean an extra cold winter. I'm ready with a stack of books. Like a squirrel with nuts, I store reading material. You just never know when you could get iced. (it's Texas)

I'm grateful for words, books, friends and family, faithful blog readers, my future agent and editor (I know you are out there). Thanks to Ray for his support.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tea Time Temptations

Go often to the house of thy friend, for weeds soon choke up the unused pavement. Fortunately the path is clear as one enters my friend Linda's home, and last Sunday she entertained a group of seven with a tea. Yummy desserts lingered in the corner.
Fabulous presentation harkened back to olden days. I thought of Jane Austen and all of the etiquette involved in her novels. Plus, there are plenty of books about tea service and teatime snacks. However, sometimes you have to step back from the books and wing it. Our good friend Kearny, in town from Cincinnati, has no fear in the kitchen. Cucumber sandwiches projected a Texas flair with a sourcream ranch style filler. Don't have this ingredient? Try that.

We sampled everything Saturday night while slicing, dicing, and laughing. Kearny ended up soaking the baguettes in olive oil to moisten them for the pesto sauce, mozzarella, and tomato topping. I like to think that the cooks and servants from historical novels also enjoyed tea preparation -sneaking tastes and stuffing goodies in apron pockets for later.

"Oh dear," said Kearny as she pursed her lips in review of the table. I followed Linda's example per her first place setting. It worked for me. "Oh you lefties," K exclaimed. She rearranged water glasses, knife rests, etc for the "proper" table ta-da factor. (This shall be a humorous anecdote in an upcoming story. I've taken notes.)

Finally, I extrapolated from tea to an Agatha Christie moment. As we gathered in the parlor, had a crime been committed? Poke the fire and ponder the day. Review the cast of characters. Tales abound.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spanish Influence

The Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University offers a delightful atmosphere for learning more about Spanish art. It was a lovely Saturday and we strolled the grounds first, enjoying band music wafting in from the nearby stadium, clear blue skies, and solemn brick buildings harboring culture and scholarship
A hint of fall and a really cool face sculpture best admired from a distance
Pristine grounds and powerful bronze artwork

This was a quiet piece worthy of contemplation

Inside we were treated to pieces from the Meadows vast collection as well as works on loan from the Prado in Spain. Religious art is not necessarily my favorite - too many flayings, banishments, and anguish - but I can appreciate the stories these pieces tell of the times and beliefs. One of the great masters, El Greco, is featured and Pentecost is striking. Vivid colors, figures in motion, emotions aswirl - he captured divine holiness.
Visit the Meadows for more artistic stories, feel the power, and surrender in awe.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Sound of Writing

WSJ 10/30-31 - "When Stephen Sondheim writes, he looks at a blank wall." This brilliant composer apparently has a fabulous view of New York city, but he turns his back, picks up a yellow legal pad, and stares. From a blank pad and black walled view grew West Side Story, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, and A Little Night Music.

"A lyric doesn't have very many words in it, so every line is like a scene in a play," he said, " and that means every word is like a passage of dialogue." He relies on Roget's Thesaurus and Clement Wood's rhyming dictionary.

I enjoyed this article because it made me think about word usage. He says that "words that are spelled differently but sound the same engage the ear more than rhyming words. Words using hard consonants such as k or p are useful for underscoring rage or resolve.

As I write dialogue, I do re-read my words out loud. This helps cut clunky, awkward phrasing. Indeed it's imperative to use words and sounds to convey the depths of character emotion.

Mr.Sondheim says he's learned to silence his inner critic and to not "just throw your pencil down."
"Isn't it rich ..." (from Send in the Clowns/A Little Night Music)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNo Filler

In a recent Wall Street Journal essay Block That Adjective!, Alexander McCall Smith discussed overuse of adjectives. He conjectured that creative writing courses are a good idea except when they aren't. He discussed overwriting - writing a mountain out of a molehill and using far too many words to make a point.

Well, obviously, he has not written during November, i.e. National Novel Writing Month, where to reach the 50,000 word goal in a mere 30 days involves an excruciating amount of adjectives, adverbs, and cliches. Trust me, scene descriptions can go on forever. Pour a cup of coffee - you live through the beans being picked.

McCall Smith protests the temptation to overindulge in words, "like a chocolate box with multiple layers." Good analogy, but in NaNo - bring on the nougats, cremes, and fruit flavors.

He clamors for conciseness. He desires sparing use of metaphor. What?

Is he insane? No, wait, NaNo writers are insane and we are abusing the English language with flowery prose. We are not letting our reader use his imagination. Oh well. Mr.McCall Smith blames Roget's thesaurus and demands it be put away.

NO, Sir - absolutely not until December 1st. At that time, I shall re-peruse your essay, re-read my work, and begin to pluck useless adjectives from the path of meaning.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post Series Blues

October 31st - attended Game 4 of the World Series in Arlington, Texas. (Took tons of pics - hence this bonus blog) Part of history for the Texas Rangers. Two hours before game time, the stadium concourse was packed with people. Throngs of fans in red and blue stood in line for souvenirs, beer, and food. The excitement was palpable, the air electric. I admit I'm a whiner when it's 100 degrees at 9 pm (in July) and sweat trickles behind my knees. Ugh. I believe in the seventh inning stretch and leave at that juncture. However, this was the freakin' World Series. I was prepared to stay until they called up Ray to pitch at 3 am, if necessary.
Somehow the concept of Claws and Antlers became a prevailing theme for the Rangers. They clawed their way into the series, and their speed (i.e. fleet of foot deer) helped at some serious scoring time. Plus it's the American way to transform anything into a hideous t-shirt.

No matter what, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is a superb sports venue. It's pretty, classic, and very fan friendly (despite Texas summers). Ray and I are halfway through baseball park visits, and the Ballpark is worthy of top five ranking. Its sister is Camden Yards in Baltimore - very cool. Wrigley Field is still beyond description. I loved old Shea Stadium, and Ray had a ton of fun at the old Milwaukee home. We've not been to the holy grail of Fenway. Old Yankees - eh...concrete history.........We weren't mega-impressed.

Big flags - always impressive. I'll give credit to Texas for its distinctive flag. Simple and yet truly memorable.

My grandmother (Julia Crowther) loved her Phillies and Mike Schmidt. We'd visit on a Sunday and she'd be listening to a game - old school. So, I guess baseball is in my blood, especially being married to Ray. The Rangers were very exciting - so many stories, so many ups and downs. When you looked at the crowds - their enthusiasm, their commitment to history - you felt chills and had to root for the home team, eat Cracker Jack, buy some peanuts, and bask in the glow.
P.S. The Giants won and they were worthy contenders. Known as the Misfits, they were wacky characters with great pitching, bats at the right time, and a darn smart coach. As Ron Washington, Ranger's coach sorta said, "So goes baseball."

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo World Series

The Rangers being in the World Series eats up a lot of time. I'm truly thrilled and excited that they are in the Big Show, but I'm actually watching baseball on television. Watching - not browsing a magazine, not potentially writing for NaNoWriMo. No, I'm watching every pitch and holding my breath. I have the vapors!

I don't usually include a lot of personal pics in this blog. My emphasis is on writing and the arts, but we got to attend Game 4 on Halloween - October 31st 2010 (thanks to my most generous boss). Rangers in the World Series. Well, they lost, but it was still thrilling and my first chapter will involve attendance at the ballpark. It might be a throwaway chapter, but it's fresh in my mind - the crowds, the sea of red and blue, the absolute chills during the anthem and seeing two former Presidents - George Sr. and George Jr. throwing the first pitch to Nolan Ryan (our hero owner).
My husband, Ray, has been a Ranger fan before they were Rangers. Here he's a total tourist complete with purchased World Series caps. No coupons involved. Full price, baby. We helped the Arlington economy and that's the true American spirit.

Two hours before first pitch and we watched batting practice. The stands were full, the energy over the top, and it wasn't raining or snowing. Halloween and blue skies.

Folks calling out Go Rangers! or Go Giants! united to shout USA! USA!
God Bless America, God Bless baseball, and Hooray for the Rangers season. It gave me something to write about.