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03 Mar Comfort Reading

We all have “comfort food”—foods that either evoke our childhoods or special happy times in our lives or just make us feel safe and comforted. One of mine is popcorn—every Friday night was popcorn night at our house when I was growing up, and I still have and use the pan my father used to pop his corn. He would make two pans’ worth, put it in a big roaster with butter and salt, and give each of us a little dish-full of our own. The dishes were green Melmac. Heaven!

Comfort food isn’t something we eat every day, or even necessarily our favorite food. It’s just—well—comforting. Comfort reading is much the same. My favorite sort of reading is a big, thick, richly-textured serious historical novel, with lots of detail about another place and time. But my comfort reading is E.F. Benson’s deliciously witty Lucia novels.

I love Lucia (Mrs. Emmeline Lucas to the uninitiated), her aide-de-camp in the culture wars Georgie Pillson, her great rival Miss Elizabeth Mapp and her lesser adversary Mrs. Daisy Quantock. I can read straight through all six Lucia novels and then go back and start again from the beginning. Bliss! Why do they soothe my soul so deeply? I’m not sure. English society was certainly undergoing enormous upheaval in the period between the two world wars, but in backwater villages like Riseholme and Tilling, order remained. It is that sense of order and place that I love. There was a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. It had nothing to do with morality. It was about behavior. I think it’s the same craving for order that leads me to read old etiquette books with such nostalgic delight.

What is your comfort reading? How does it differ from your favorite books?

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02 Mar Boo Has a Not-So-Excellent Adventure

Poor Boudin, not feeling very wellA terribly sick doggie over the weekend. This morning at last he seems to be better. Not sure if it was some kind of bacterial or viral thing, or just some contraband delicacy he came across in the back yard—the vet seemed to be leaning toward a dietary indiscretion because sick as he was, Mr. Boo had no fever. In any case, about six-thirty last night he suddenly got up, stretched, ate food, drank water, and looked around as if to say “What’s all the fuss?” He slept normally through the night with no emergencies. Life chez Loupas can now carry on as usual, I hope.

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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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