i blog. sort of.

i blog. sort of.

Friday, August 29, 2014

FYI Friday: Cambria, CA

welcome to Cambria, California
You can't really see this sign from the highway ... there are too many eucalyptus trees in front of it.  But the day I took this picture we were walking from a friend's house on the beach, making for Cambria's little main street.  Eucalyptus trees are awesome, btw.  Their leaves are thick and tough and their seed pods grow with 60's mod-flower motifs in the center (I'll photo some up close one of these days, and post them).  Or you could google them ....

If you've never been there, you should know Cambria is a cool place.  Small and quaint, with a weekly farmer's market year-round that most of us can only dream of.  But the California drought has hit Cambria hard.  The city is running out of water.

Our friends live water-rationed--if they go over their monthly allotment, it's a 500% charge.  It's illegal to use potable water outside, so pretty much everyone pays a watering service to come by once a week and water their yards with semi-treated sewage water.  (Or you can make your way to the water facility and pick up the sewer water yourself.)  According to our friends, you can't build in Cambria unless you 'own' a water meter, meaning you already own a home built prior to 2001.  To build, you would need to take the water meter from your existing home and transfer it to the new one, which, of course, renders your old home waterless.  (And worthless.)

Is Cambria a snap-shot of our future?  Maybe.  Our friends contend the drought can't last forever, but global warming seems here to stay.  I try to picture what it will be like for my daughter forty years from now, but it's not easy.  Growing up, forty years ago, I could have never imagined personal computers or internet.  My childhood friends would have viewed smartphones like Star Trek communicators.  Our phones, after all, were attached to our parents' walls and water ... it was just something you played in, as it burst from the sprinklers on a warm summer afternoon.

Monday, August 25, 2014

WOD: localavor

living local: dry farming along I-5 (central California)

There's a huge push going on in my part of the world (and maybe it's everywhere; I don't know) to grow local, buy local, live local.  It's a fine idea and I like it a lot -- though in my opinion there is no way we will ever totally be local again.  (Until the caldera blows, that is.  Then it's back to the ice age.)  Living local is a pre-industrial revolution way of living.  Something my great-grandmother did on her farm in western Idaho while my other great-grandmother was doing it on her ranch in northern Wyoming.  My ancestral women were as close to self-sustaining as they could be, and it took every waking moment of their lives, 24/7: growing and canning food, raising animals, trading with their neighbors for what they didn't have, the constant birthing of children.  The time you were most likely to starve?  August.  (The crops weren't ripe yet and your stores were depleted.)

But if you've ever raised a little home garden you already know the truth of 'local' in our time: your garden cannot sustain you for more than about seven days of the 365 you live in a year.  The reality of this doesn't stop me from growing my own tomatoes and basil and thyme.  Nor does it stop me from attending the local farmer's markets in August and September.  But year-round?  I'm grateful for the grocery.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

theories on sardine insanity

another shot of the sardine treadmill, Monterey
After returning from Monterey a friend asked: "Did you touch the rays?"

No.  The poor rays cowered in the corner of their pool, as far from people as they could get.  You could almost hear them thinking: find a happy place find a happy place find a happy place.

But my friend's question reminded me of how, when I walked into the 'touching pool' exhibit, I was struck by the similarities between the aquarium, every zoo I've ever been in, and office work.

Years ago, when I started working in an office full time, one guy would come into my department, set up his phone by the paper cutter and pretend to cut off his fingers to make his kids laugh.  (They were watching him via Skype).  Another guy made a point of imitating an Indian co-worker's accent in the 'Apu' (Simpsons) style.

The women talked about each other behind the others' backs.  The men didn't talk about each other.  They talked about the women.

One manager spent all his time texting his girlfriend then farmed out his work to the people he managed.  Another spent her time trying to run her home-business while no one else was looking.  One woman spent half her day on her cell phone talking to relatives; one spent half her day talking to the woman in the cubicle next to hers.  One guy was famous for 'getting in a rut': when he started up about something he thought was funny he'd kick it like a dead horse, right back into its original molecular structure.  One woman plugged in her headset, tuned everyone else out, and rocked herself while she worked.

Which brings us to the sardine I watched lose its mind in the treadmill tank exhibit.  We use confinement as a form of punishment, right?

No sardine would choose to leave the open sea and spend its existence swimming round and round and round in a plexi-glass tube.  No dolphin would leave its family pod to balance balls on its nose in a big salty swimming pool.  No lion would leave the savannah to spend out its life in a 'jungle-like' exhibit.  Confinement makes animals, as it does people, a wee bit crazy.

It's my theory that when you confine a living thing in an artificial environment, you essentially strip that living thing of its true nature because the thing--be it person or snake or tiger--is forced to funnel its energy into coping.  My experience of working in an office created an eight-hour-each-day artificial me: I bit my tongue when something felt unfair if I also felt it jeopardized my job.  I slipped into a routine of 'getting through my day' so that I could 'get on with my life'.  I found ways to get through the endless cycle of tasks that needed doing for doing's sake (my definition of the work).

I'll admit I still do office work -- it helps pay the bills -- though I'm no longer full-time.  And everyday, like I have for years when I come home, I work toward my goal of earning my living doing what has meaning for me: writing and art.  When I'm at my office job I focus on my work and do well.  But I watch the clock, itching for the time when I step away from that artificial environment and into being me. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

bucket lists and the Monterey Bay aquarium

visiting Monterey
The Monterey Bay aquarium has been on my 'bucket list' since before the term was coined ... or at least, since before I'd heard of 'bucket lists'.  It goes way back to when I entered college.  At that time it was my dream to become a marine biologist (until I was sadly informed I didn't have the math skills to fulfill the physics requirements.)

Yes, if you're wondering, my daughter gets a version of this story every time she complains about Kumon.

But this summer I fulfilled a portion of my dream and went to Monterey.  It was cool, but, it was packed.  From the moment I entered the building I felt like this:

sardine treadmill, Monterey

As I watched the sardine treadmill (which is very cool, btw) one of the sardines went insane.  At that moment I vowed that the next time I set out to check something off my bucket list I won't do it in the summer.  I want to be able to take in the experience and enjoy it.  Because although I love people, it became a bit maddening to view almost every exhibit from behind three or four layers deep.

deep sea tank, Monterey

at least my camera can zoom . . .

Thursday, August 14, 2014


If you haven't seen this, it's a must.  I LOVE this video.   Love it, love it, love it.  Thank you, Weird Al Yankovic.  And PS.  How DID you get Donny Osmond to dance for you???

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

WOD [word of the day]: fantasy

alien spacecraft or puffy white clouds . . . .
When I was a kid, I spent hours staring at the sky.  Then I stumbled across this quote: "Fantasy is not an escape from reality -- it's a way of understanding it."

Such a perfect explanation of why I like fantasy, both reading it and writing it.  When I write fantasy what I'm really doing is taking things about our world--the good, bad and ugly--and trying to understand where we are, why we are, and where we could be going.

Monday, August 11, 2014

teton trivia

teton range, wyoming
The Tetons are the youngest mountains in North America, but they're made of some of the oldest rock on the planet.  Take the chairlift to the top of Targhee resort and you're in for a surprise . . . seabed fossils underfoot, and you'll find a little fossilized shell or imprint in almost every stone you pick up.

It's quite cool!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

BEING's new cover . . . and why

As a graphic artist, I've spent my professional life bending my artistic will to the input of others.  And I admit, I liked the original cover of BEING; it was supposed to be space dust that had formed a face.  But  . . .  it didn't come across well.

A live and learn moment pour moi. [I seem to have a blind spot when it comes to designing my own work.  Gah!]

So tonight I redesigned the cover, focusing on (a) the reoccurring image in the story [a glowing sphere] and (b) a highlighted letter i, because the story is one boy's journey toward discovering who he is.

And I'll say right now:  Thank you, random fan.  I like this cover MUCH better.

The cover goes live on Kindle tomorrow, and on the paperback version a few days following.  The cover art will change on Goodreads soon too.  A woops and whoo-hoo moment all wrapped into one :-)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

accosted by a geriatric . . . .

 [picture a red-faced, white-haired, colonel-saunders kind of old guy here]

Today I was in a copy shop, minding my own business, when a rather old man came in and started making color copies on the machine next to mine.  He was giggling.  [Weird.  I know.]  Finally I guess he couldn't stand it anymore; he wandered over to where I was working to show me what he was copying.  Super offensive, and very racist.

I said, um, that is offensive, sir.

He got all red in the face and sort of yelled, so you're a communist.

I had no idea how to take this outburst, but I knew one thing for sure.  I wasn't about to get into it with a nine-hundred-year-old-guy who's idea of funny was formed in 1930s Mississippi.  So I said, I am not a communist, and left.

When I got home and told my husband all about this bizarre encounter he said, do you think the guy is still there?

I said, what, you're going to go battle it out with a geriatric playing with an incomplete deck?

He said, you're right, but you should have put him in his place.

Frankly, I don't see it as my job to put people in their place.  If I did, I'd be the old-faithful of reprimand-spouting.  But I'm still thinking on the situation.  What IS the right thing to do when someone confronts you with their craziness???

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

life questions

nature: my bridge over troubled water

I watched the news last night for the first time in two weeks.  I’ve gotta say, I was tempted to turn my TV off for good.  I mean, I realize the media is all about relaying disaster and murder and mayhem, but when you don’t watch the news for a while and then tune in, the first thing that slams you is this: a lot of people in this world seem to have a problem with hatred.

Yesterday on the blog I rambled on about questions.  I have a lot of them, and as I churn on them they turn into stories.  Questioning my place in the universe was the prime motivation behind BEING.  Questioning why I fear certain things that others don’t, and vice versa, is the prime motivator of Goodbye Moon [my WIP].  And this brings me to why I mentioned the news.  Questioning why people hate had a lot to do with Painted Boots.

I don’t understand hatred.  To me, it’s an emotion that sucks people dry.  And I guess because I don’t give time to hating, it’s always a shock when I come across people who do.  For example.  One of my neighbors has very deep political hatred.  Whenever I’m in conversation with him I respond with positive comments: his yard looks nice, his daughter is growing up fast, stuff like that.  It’s strange, though, how eager he is to get right back to his negative rant, like talking about positive things is difficult for him.  His hatred infects everything he says (which to me means it has already infected everything he thinks).  One of my life-questions is, was and will always be: why do people hate?  It’s such a downer.

When I wrote Em, the antagonist in Painted Boots, I began with the idea that her personality was fatally infected with hatred.  The emotion owned her; she couldn’t control it.  Em’s character was my way of trying to understand how people, who were once small, sweet children, grow up to hurt others in an effort to make themselves feel powerful.  I don’t know if genuinely hateful people are as narrow and manipulating as Em was . . . but sadly, when I watch the news, I get the feeling I nailed her personality type spot on.

Time to go listen to John Lennon’s Imagine . . . .

Monday, August 4, 2014

WIP: goodbye moon

moonset, Oregon

I’ve noticed that my stories revolve around questions; the little mysteries I’ve spent my life pondering.  With BEING, the questions are all about the universe and my place in it.   With my current WIP, (working title Goodbye Moon), the questions are all about fear.

I’ll admit, here and now, that I was both a brave and fearful kid.  Brave because I was oldest and forged my way into the world without the benefit of an older sibling.  Fearful because, when I was six, my grandmother decided my sister and I should watch a TV special about kidnapping.  My sister, who was five, doesn’t even remember watching the show.  I remember it vividly: every second of that broadcast half-hour defined the next twenty years of my life.  From that night on, if I found myself alone on my way to school, I ran.  I couldn’t sleep, and crawled into bed every night with my sister or my parents—until my parents gave me a room upstairs.  As a teen I never roamed the streets at all hours like my friends did.  As a young adult, I spent my first year of living in my own place completely terrified of every unexpected knock on my door.

I never outgrew my fear; not really.  It made me careful, and in a lot of ways I still am.  But I’ve learned to manage it and most of the time, keep it in perspective.  (I still HATE being in the mountains which I know is weird, seeing as I live at the base of some pretty big ones.)

I offer up this little tale because it's the seed of Goodbye Moon.  The story takes my childhood fears and amplifies them, like a violin note held too long and played too loud.  It all begins when Maya (who tells the story) and her date Beck, become trapped in a vast chamber with no obvious exit.

And they are not alone.

I get the chills just thinking about what Maya and Beck go through.  But like everything else I write, I’m also desperately curious to see how my characters navigate their fate.  So I’m off to write.  It’s a perfect night for it: raining hard, endless thunder, lots of lightning.  And my daughter, on the porch, laughing.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

the redwoods, and Stealth

We've all heard about the redwoods--those abnormally tall trees whose remnants inhabit a corridor along the remote northern California coast and near Yosemite.  (You may recall George Lucas chose to film among the redwoods for the flight scene with Ewoks in 'Return of the Jedi'.)  Like many people, I had not seen redwood trees for real.  At least, not until last week.

Driving along the 'Avenue of the Giants,' heading north from Garberville, CA to Eureka, is like stepping off our planet and onto another one.  A perfectly quiet, peaceful one.  No wonder the hippies were drawn here.  The trees are a trip.  They're that surreal.

a dirt road leading off into the redwood forest

Yet for as crazy-big as the trees looked from within our silver Tundra, the view was nothing compared to what happened when we parked and got out.  I let go of my ego; I had to.  People are to an adult redwood what a sugar ant is to an NBA basketball star: small and insignificant, a little life form just passing by.

my husband (6' tall) under a fallen tree

Redwoods are spiritual, a lesson in endurance.  If I'm lucky, I'll get a century of time on the planet; redwood trees get some 2000 years.  They see us come and go; they weather what they must.  What is one storm to a redwood; what is the loss of one branch or one small bit of bark?

Naturally, Stealth was with us.  After spending a considerable amount of time reflecting, he plopped down on a burl and let his wisdom fly:  "Zee redwoods, zey clearly don't sweat zee small stuff."

 A wee bit about redwoods (sequoias).  When mature, they average 275-375 feet in height.  They aren't the tallest trees in the world (Australia has those) but they are the tallest in north America.  The coastal redwoods average 2000 years old or more.  Sadly, about 95% of the redwoods are gone, cut down for their wood.  If it weren't for our state and national parks, there probably wouldn't be any tall redwoods left at all.