February 2009

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23 Feb Stargazing Update

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Comet Lulin tonight and tomorrow night. It’s kind of cloudy here right now and I’m hoping the clouds blow off by tonight.

The coolest thing about Comet Lulin (besides being backwards and green, both of which are both pretty cool in themselves) is that this is its one trip around the sun. Most comets have orbits and return periodically, even if their periods are hundreds of years. Lulin, however, appears to have enough velocity to escape from the solar system entirely on its way out, and disappear forever into deep space. So we are the only people, in the whole history of mankind and the entire future of mankind, to see it.

Stargazing is just pretty incredible.

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22 Feb Relentlessly Optimistic

If you do any sort of creative work at all, you have to read this:

Relentlessly Optimistic

It uses actors as a reference, but it’s about writers, too. Do we not throw our tender hearts out in front of the speeding trains of beta readers and agents and editors? Do we not have to learn to take one more chance, even though we swear our hearts can’t take it?

Read this. You must. And then dig around in Communicatrix’s site. Connect with stories? Of course we connect with stories. We’re storytellers, after all.

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21 Feb The Lost Weekend

Where did the past week go? Lots of sleeping, aching, drinking water, aching, sleeping, sneezing, taking aspirin, aching, sleeping and sleeping, with the occasional reading of a chapter or so.

I love libraries and librarians (what writer of historical fiction can survive without Inter-Library Loan, even in these days of the Internet?), but I’m afraid it was a librarian who shared the cold with me. I was at the library on Friday the 13th (ack! No wonder! I hadn’t made that connection until just this moment) and the new! updated! better! self-checkout machine wasn’t working properly. So the librarian came over and leaned close to help. That’s when I suspect the germs made the leap. And in the end she had to check out the books manually anyway.

By Sunday night I was miserable. The rest of the week is a write-off.

I did, however, have some vivid dreams. Some of them weren’t too helpful (Emeril Lagasse as the Pope. No, really, zucchetto and vestments and all), but one gave me a fabulous idea for my next book. Exactly the thing I’ve been looking for to spark the story. Thank you, subconscious mind!

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18 Feb Where Have I Been?

I’d like to say I’ve been happily reading, but the truth is I’ve been struggling to fight off the cold/flu plague that seems to be spreading magically through the Internet. I guess I need to rub some Purell on our router. Or something.

Not fair that I get sick when I’m supposed to be on vacation!

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13 Feb The Ballad of (a) Reading Gaol Vacation

With apologies to dear Oscar Wilde. And of course I mean “reading” and not “Reading” as in “Reading, Berkshire.” Although I would love to visit Reading, Berkshire one day. Barring the gaol, of course.

Anyway. Starting today I am on a reading vacation for the rest of the month. No writing, just reading. This morning I collected, from library and bookstore, a stack of eight beautiful books to start me off—seven novels and 1434 by Gavin Menzies, subtitled “The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance.” Who could resist that?

Stay tuned for reviews and comments.

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12 Feb Fortune Cookie Fortune

Tonight I had yummy Szechuan chicken with vegetables and brown rice. And a fortune cookie. The fortune read:

“A romantic mystery will soon add interest to your life.”

I have tacked it to my bulletin board and decided that I believe fervently in fortune cookie fortunes.

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10 Feb The Cloud Moon

The full moon of February 9, 2009, photographed through a haze of clouds at Casa LoupasThe February full moon was last night. As you can see, the February stargazing score is now clouds two, Elizabeth zero—all I saw was a fuzzy-looking disk (no, that’s not the camera, it’s the clouds) high over the gables of our house. This full moon is usually called the Snow Moon or Hunger Moon. Colonial Americans called it the Trapper’s Moon and in medieval England it was sometimes called the Storm Moon. The Chinese refer to it as the Budding Moon (and some of our trees are already budding—it’s in the seventies today, although we’re under a tornado watch at the moment) and the Celts called it the Ice Moon. This year I’m calling it the Cloud Moon!

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09 Feb Garden Dreaming

Detail of Isabella and the Pot of Basil, by William Holman Hunt. In the collections of the Tyne & Wear Museums, Tyneside and Wearside, Newcastle, United Kingdom.

We’re in “zone 8” here along the Elm Fork of the Trinity, which means our last frost-free date is in early April. Time for me to start thinking about my garden for 2009! I do love my garden, although I’m not quite as intense about it as Isabella was about her pot of basil!

I always start with a salad garden—tomatoes, red and gold peppers, cucumbers and lettuce. The garden plot is a twelve-foot square divided into four quarters: one quarter for the tomatoes, one for the peppers, one for the cukes and one for the lettuce. The cukes and the lettuce I’ll grow from seed. I’ll buy plants for the tomatoes and peppers. Mmmm—tomatoes fresh out of the garden. There is nothing like them.

I like to plant herbs in containers, in nooks and crannies around the yard, and in the salad garden between the vegetable sections. This year I want oregano and a couple of types of basil, dill and mint, Italian parsley and cilantro, some thyme and sage and mint and lavender, plus chamomile and lemon balm for teas. I have to admit that I don’t cook with fresh herbs as much as I probably should, but I love growing them because they’re so fragrant. And they’re infused with so much history. When I pick leaves of thyme and sage and lavender and breathe in their scents, I feel as if I’m part of a long, long line of women who’ve grown and used herbs back to the dawn of time.

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05 Feb An Unordered List

  • I didn’t get to see the occultation of the Pleiades by the gibbous moon on Tuesday night. It was cloudy. Boo hiss clouds. One of the hazards of stargazing.
  • I don’t know how people manage 10,000 steps a day on pedometers. The best I’ve been able to do is about 6,000, and that includes a walk with the doggies.
  • What I am reading right now: The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin. I loved Mistress of the Art of Death and I love this one, too. The story of “Fair Rosamund” has always intrigued me and I’m willing to suspend all sorts of disbelief to immerse myself in Franklin’s evocative, texture-rich tale.
  • Flat Stanley update: “Flat” is about to conclude his adventures in Texas and return home. Yesterday he helped me glue together a birdhouse.
  • Many thanks to everyone for the congratulations and well-wishes on signing with Fox Literary. Welcome to the new visitors to the blog! It’s up to Barbara now, to make her way in the world.
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03 Feb Seven-League Boots

Seven League (Cowboy) Boots(In my case, of course, they’re cowboy boots.)

There are several big, exciting, seven-league steps a writer takes. One of them is the sudden strike of The Idea. Another is typing “The End.” Another is making that click connection with the perfect agent for you and your work.

I’d already done the first and second, and very satisfying they were, too. This week I took the third giant step. I’m so pleased to be able to say that The Second Duchess and I are now represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary.

Onward!

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