Category Archives: reviews

WordPress Insights, or helloooooooo out there…


It’s a weird idea to write a blog. I started this one when blogs were relatively new, and I used to have a separate MS blog (“Musings of a MadSow”) back when blogger was a thing…The latter was a place where I could whine about various things about my Multiple Sclerosis – I’d been newly diagnosed and much seemed unjust and strange at the time. (It still does, mind you – I’m just quieter about it).

This one started as an exploratory thing, writing practice, a place for me to dump my thoughts and see how they floated. I’ve done crazy things with it, like try to write a profile of all those countries you see as you scroll down the lists when you sign up for things…(for ex: https://wordpress.com/post/dorothyanneb.com/1931) – that was interesting – for me anyway – and I still have ever so many countries to investigate. Sadly, many of them will be gone as tidal waters rise. Quite terrifying to see how many places will simply be drowned in the next few years. But I digress…

I’ve written about travels and parenting and dating and living alone, about the pandemic and Christmas and politics. In short, it’s been all over the place, grounded only in my mad brain and its various wobbles.

So it’s been interesting to look at the WordPress analytics and see where I’ve touched people, what seems to interest them, how they responded. It’s worth a look to see what tags grabbed attention, what links made people look.

Oddly, one of the most popular terms that sent people to my site was “heffalumps and woozles”! Who’d have guessed that? In any case I am now going to include a reference to h and w in every blog post just to drive traffic…

Scariest animation ever. Hmm. Reminds me of a certain elephant-themed political party…

I also found out how much I’ve earned from the ads that pop up on the site. I get a minuscule amount per click through and I have made an astounding $1.90!! Almost as good as my Kindle Unlimited income which seems also to be an astonishingly small amount (buy Recycled Virgin here and enjoy contributing to my coffee fund as well?)(You’d also be encouraging me to finish the others in the series which at present are languishing…)

Of course, none of this money is paid out until it reached some astonishing number like $100, a total I doubt I will achieve in my lifetime. One can dream of post-mortem success, but really, who will that help? If there is an afterlife, it must be crammed with artists ranting about how they lived in poverty and look, NOW people pay for their work! It must be tremendously annoying. I imagine Van Gogh is particularly incensed.

Not that I am living in poverty, I hasten to add. If you have extra money, please DO share it with people really living in poverty.

In. any case, I thank WordPress for its lovely analytics and its interesting if somewhat depressing statistics.

Do you blog? What were your most often searched for terms? Do people read your blog? Or is it all for you?

A rabbit in every pot and a saint on every corner- or why Malta was so confusing


99AEDA4F-9342-4307-A0D5-B85E0B056E3BI’ve just been lucky enough to take a trip to Malta, land of my grandfather’s birth and burying place of other in-law relatives. It’s not an easy place to get to, but my heart has wanted to go there for years. It’s the fabulous history. Millenia of history. Footprints of travellers from centuries back. The sense of struggle and growth and religious wars. Cool stuff.

Kind son and his lovely partner arranged to take me and led me through hundreds of streets and pathways. I can’t thank them enough. It was a fabulous experience.

It’s an interesting spot. There ARE saints on every building corner. No one seems to notice them. The buildings in Valletta and Birgu are astonishingly attractive, their golden limestone sides glowing in the sun. They are also largely vacant.

Apparently Valletta has been on the downturn for some time- the buildings were wrecks until it was declared a UNESCO international treasure in 2018- lifting the tourism industry and helping with renovations. Some of the four-story buildings have coffee shops and unbelievably tiny shops in them. There are virtually no grocery stores. There ARE pharmacies. And balconies.

And tourists, even in this dead mid-winter time.D0C10A16-99A1-43D3-B532-292AF2EDC7E2

Culturally, it’s an odd place, too- people seem to come and be swept away. Prehistoric temples abound- but the people from that time mysteriously died out. The Phoenicians arrived and created art…but left. Muslims conquered through (and have been wiped off the history), and then the Knights of St John essentially built the Valletta seen today, and as far as I can tell, nothing much has happened since then. It’s all been about maintenance.

The knights were very ornamental – to the right you can see the interior of St. John’s co-cathedral, decorated on every flat surface. Even the floor is ornate, covered with decorative memorial slabs. It’s spectacular.

6C17B68D-72CF-4A2D-86C7-0D2C8007F6F2Earthquakes have shaken the place- half of the former capital of Mdina was shaken to the ground- original buildings are medieval style, rebuilding is Baroque. To the right, you can see the line along a wall where the medieval crumbled away, the right side rebuilt in the Baroque era. (They rebuilt it almost exactly the same, but with Baroque fancies.) Much of Malta seems to be repairing things to be exactly as they were.

The Maltese people have lived through invasions, the Inquisition (which apparently involved the ‘overstretching of muscles’ only and was MUCH gentler than the Spanish Inquisition), the blockades of the world wars and starvation thereof. They perch on an island made of limestone, with a thin coating of soil. Somehow they farm.

So, they’ve had a challenging time.

Now, they are having a harder one. Hidden behind the fronts of the tall houses are the Uber-rich, the 0.001%. Apartments are over 2,000,000 euros for a tiny cold space. The only real offices downtown are wealth management and investment companies. The rich hide in the tax haven, rarely seen. Do they contribute? Every museum collection and painting is labelled with the name of its sponsor, going right back to the dawn of history. Do the Uber-rich willingly pay for sewer and electrical systems when their names cannot be attached?

The rest of the island seems to rely on tourism only for support, and tourism is a fickle thing…and it doesn’t pay enough for people to live in the places they show to tourists.

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Church seems scandalized

 

Music isn’t as present as I would have thought. We wandered over a large part of the main island and heard only top of the charts from the 1980s – except for in one very funky coffee bar down near the waterfront. In one extremely posh restaurant, we ate our dinner to a selection of bad covers of North American 80s tunes. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard YMCA sung as a ballad. Or “Killing me Softly” as an upbeat tune. It

100B945A-DECE-43BB-B39A-68EED03D0E66broke my heart a bit, local music being one of the things I like best about travel.

Instead I listened to the language, a marvellous river of Maltese, English, Arabic, Italian, all swirling around, mingling even in the same sentence. It was fascinating, and loud.

Art in Valletta seems focused on the past, even in the new art gallery, Muza. As with

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Antonio Sciortino’s flowing sculptures

much of Valletta, the new museum was built within the framework of a baroque building. This is charming, and makes every museum visit interesting on many levels, but it means little conveniences like elevators, accessible washrooms, etc. are missing.

Of course, there is so much art – temples inscribed in the many years BC, decorated pots and crypts and walls and floors and sculptures on every corner by city by-law. Saints are hung by every house door.

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sculptor unknown

The new artists seem to choose ancient subjects – religious paintings are prevalent. Sculptures, though new, reflect ancient events. The most recent images seem to be of the terror of WW2 (well, except the mandatory prime ministerial statues. One wonders what they will do with the latest PM, escorted in shame from the country).

Of course, they know what sells. It is a tourist destination, after all, and people come to see the saints on every corner, enjoy the buttery sun on the beaches and the buildings, taste the rabbit that is on every menu. (It’s good!) But it has the air of a country frozen solidly in time. It’s beautiful, but, like the women climbing through the cobblestone streets in stiletto heels, Malta seems to be teetering on the edge.

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Oh, Mr. Neville…


05103c84733200777408f3c80b5eb4da4e65deOne of the blessings of my enforced by MS flare-up idleness is that I have been able to plunge myself into a myriad of books, to wallow in lives not my own, to lay on my patented “chaise short” (an antique chaise with the merit of being less than 5 feet long and thus fitting both me and my apartment) and read the hours away.

It’s been wonderful, but I see that I have chosen the last three books unwisely. The first mistake was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book tells of a man who loved a woman so much he followed her around, through her marriage and children, at a distance,  until her husband dies. Then he asks for her hand. She accepts, and he tells her he had remained a virgin for her, all those 60 years. She says, simply, “liar!”, and they go to sleep. Meanwhile, he had been keeping track of the conquests he had to relieve his suffering for her love. He had arrived at 650 or more.

I adored this book, both for the love over the years and for the practical approach to it. It’s a grown up book, with grown up affection. And lasting love. And badness, concupiscence, and humour.

The next mistake was another of Marquez’s  – All My Melancholy Whores, an amazing and surprisingly sweet book. A ninety-year-old man desires to bed a virgin to celebrate his birthday – (at first a horrific thought.) He goes to a whorehouse that he used to frequent when younger – of course, it has aged, too. The madam obtains the virgin, but the girl is nervous so she is drugged, asleep when he meets her. The man finds he prefers to simply look at her, and sleep beside her.

Over a number of visits, he falls in love with her, and she with him. The romance is chaste and both sad and joyful in turns. I loved it.  Again, a twist on the usual story, and characters with deep, serious emotions. I suspect Marquez of being one of those men who truly loves women. There aren’t so many of them about…

images-10Third mistake – The charming, witty, and ultimately motivational Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – winner of the Booker Prize, and I can see why she won. It’s brilliant.

Edith, the protagonist, is a writer who has been sent to the Hotel du Lac as punishment for something awful she’s done. She has not been a “good woman”. The hotel is almost closed down for the season – it’s fall, and it is not in a fashionable ski resort. The weather is generally glum and foggy, as is Edith’s poor mind. She’s trying to write another novel, but she is emotionally fraught.

We don’t learn why until halfway through the book. She is in love with a man, David, but scheduled to marry another. David is married to a Very Perfect Wife, and thus available only upon his whim. The man who is to marry her is a bit too commanding for my liking, and also for Edith’s. She stands him up at the altar. The author is wise to put the “reveal” in the middle of the book – by this time we’ve grown to quite love Edith and her quick wit and desperate kindness, her loneliness and her resilience. So, of course, we cheer when she tosses the bossy man into the drink.

The other characters at the hotel and the employees are all charmant, all interesting in different ways, all dealing with their own issues. The rampant consumerism of some females is hauled out and mocked; Edith is made to feel inadequate in dress. (It’s a common enough thread amongst women – I’ve felt it myself. Edith and I favour comfort and giant sweaters. We may, at times, look sloppy. Just saying. ) There is a very thin woman with a tiny dog, a fat older woman and her clingy but oddly sensuous daughter, a deaf woman who smiles or grimaces on occasion, and a mysterious man, Mr. Neville, who seems to like Edith.

He proposes to her and offers her his companionship because he wants someone “steady” to help him rebuild his status after having his wife leave him. He says cheerily that he doesn’t love her, that he will have affairs and she can, too. I identified so much with Edith, I found myself saying ‘NO!” out loud when she decides to accept him.

But she rallies. And I am left cheering, and, oddly, with the desire to write.*

So what is the problem with reading these three all together? They all three deal with solitude and loneliness, with the interweaving between the desire for contact and the desire for silence, with connections made and severed.

It’s too close to my reality to be completely comfortable.

And, they are all filled with discussions of passionate love – not the “grab and smooch” kind my cousin and I used to giggle over in “the soaps”.

bb0daba08d0cc572acfe66e4a94d018c--forever-alone-quotes-being-alone-quotesThe sort of love that lasts through hardship and challenge, the kind that comes unexpectedly, but is fulfilling even if incomplete.

The kind of love that fills in the spaces around one’s life, enriching it.

The kind I would still like to find.

So the three in sequence makes me feel a bit sad, a bit lonely. I feel an ache. It’s not painful, just a bit of a gap.

Which is what makes me want to write.

 

*Of Anita Brookner, Wikipedia has this to say: “Her novels explore themes of emotional loss and difficulties associated with fitting into society, and typically depict intellectual, middle-class women, who suffer isolation and disappointments in love.” Hmmmmm. I think I may have found a kindred spirit.

Statute of Limitations


images-9I’ve just read Nuala O’Faolin’s “Almost There”, a book of the second half of her life, after the success of part one of her memoir. I love her writing and she makes me want to go live in Ireland forever, but in this book, I found myself irritated by her perspective.

She spent the book blaming her mother for being absent with depression and alcoholism, and her father for not being there. Really? REALLY? I mean, in this book she’s in her 60’s!! Can you honestly go through your entire adult life blaming your parents? Surely you must have contributed something to your general state of misery yourself by age 60 – heck, 40 even! Blaming your parents in late middle age is kind of ridiculous unless you’ve been living with them your entire life. parents-to-blame

I had differences with my parents, especially my mum, but I can’t hold things against her anymore. I certainly don’t blame her for me being single and a bit odd and perhaps a bit messed up. Nope, that’s all down to me. I figure at this stage I should take responsibility for myself, thanks. Hardly fair to blame a woman who is now gone for 25 years.

It’s a bit like chewing over marriage/relationship issues endlessly. Your marriage ends, you work out the hateful details, and then, by golly, you should let it go. Even if the guy/gal treated you horribly, holding onto anger just leaves you trapped. Sure, there are things to work out, like why you let them treat you that way, and how you can prevent it in the future, but there’s no point in blaming them for this work.

Everyone contributes to their own growth or lack of same, to some extent. I know women get trapped in abusive relationships, and I am sad for them. But when they pull themselves out of the toxic scene, they need to let go of it, move to making themselves whole again, instead of endlessly rehashing the situation.

 

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Still, she makes a good point…

I know I had to do this. When I left my lonely marriage, I wrote all of the reasons I was angry on a piece of paper and burned it. When my ex kept demanding to know why I was leaving, I couldn’t remember – I’d burned my memories. I didn’t want to live with them anymore. Fortunately, I had journals or I might have reconsidered – but my review of those at one point reminded me of the little cruelties we’d visited upon one another until the desire to live together was gone. For me, anyway. (Some of the love remains, and always will.)

There should be a statute of limitations on blaming people for unhappiness. Eventually, it isn’t fair. And there’s a need to get on with life, find the things that make your life better, ditch the sulkies over being treated badly. And go live a little! As for me, I’m letting go of the anger I feel over a child’s betrayal. He’s made his choice. Time for me to move on.

After all, as George Hebert said, “Living well is the best revenge.”

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On being ravished, or why the Iceland Writers Retreat is simply perfect


IMG_1475And now for the other side of the story, and why it is so likely that I will be going to the IWR again.

It’s hard to encapsulate this event. To say it was life-changing sounds trite and overblown, but it was so for me. When I went, it was with a mind set of failure, wondering why I had spent so much money (again) on the writing I never seem to get done properly.  It was, I thought to myself, the final kick at the can, the Y in the road. If I couldn’t tolerate the conference with my MS brain, then I knew all was lost and crafts would have me forever (not that that is a bad thing, precisely, but…).

And then I entered the vortex that is the IWR.

IMG_1443It is set perfectly in Iceland, an island. A place sufficiently different to make the visitor feel vaguely alien, set apart, unreachable by real life. Nature like the surface of the moon, isolating us together. A place where both other human beings and that nature are reachable and attractive, in the way that magnets are attractive. You are inevitably drawn to the poetry here – the visual, musical, otherworldly poetry.

It rains here. Rain is so much better for writing than any other weather. Mists swirled.

And Eliza Reid and Erica Green have pulled together those trailing mists and created magic.

The Iceland Writers Retreat is a big conference these days. On the last day, I saw people I hadn’t seen all week. Yet, it feels intimate, safe, friendly, warm, and oh so supportive. The group of fellow writers, from the professionals to the new, were to a person kind and willing to share.

Usually, at a conference, you will meet the designated asshole, the one 130902_a17742_g2048-600who dominates everything, who is filled with nothing but complaints. I didn’t meet that person. (unless it was me – gasp!)

The classes were small, with an overwhelmingly spectacular faculty: Meg WolitzerClaudia Casper, Chris Cleave, Esi Edugyan, Carsten Jansen, Bret Anthony Johnston, David Lebovitz, Paula McLean, Nadifa Mohamed, Paul Murray, Madeleine Thien, Hallgrimur Helgason, Viborg Davidosdottir, and many more Icelandic writers I didn’t have the pleasure to meet. They were so approachable they likely needed a long space in utter silence after they left.

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Paula with mini-Bob

 

I am presently in love (in an acceptable way) with David L. as he offered me such reassurance and good cheer I feel ready to write on for months purely on that. Of course, some of my time will have to be spent on reading his lovely cookbooks. Bret was a no- nonsense writer and dropped pearls of wisdom threw rocks of wisdom, each veined with marble, each ready for use. Meg gave us our Wonder Woman bracelets of fiction writing. Claudia spoke wisdom about the publishing world and promoted Canadian writers, gods bless her. Paula gave us the idea of mapping out our character’s world, and using that to highlight what was important to them, and to us. All of them shared books they loved, useful books, ideas and stories. Suffice to say my reading list has grown another five feet tall!

IMG_1456All were hilarious and excellent teachers. Writing well does not necessarily equal teaching well, but however the two E.’s selected this group, the faaculty were masters of both. I never felt tired, or feared dozing, in their classes. All of us were deeply involved in every one. That is truly rare, especially in jet-lagged, well-fed folks. And we were very very well-fed. Yum. If I could have an Icelandic breakfast every morning, I could take over the world. But I digress…

I learned so much, from them and from other writers – like my fellow Dorothy from Australia, who spoke to me of how to work the trauma in my YA book and my cookbook class who told me to write the damn MS book and pull in the royalties.

I am smiling thinking of it all. Even our tour guide, the charming Sigurlin Bjarney Gisladottir, aka Bjarney, was a writer, a multiply published poet. Who can also cook eggs in a hot spring.

We were taken to meet the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, a charming man who coincidently has translated several books by Stephen King! I pressed two felted mice on him for his daughters. I fear he thought them an unacceptable gift, but it was all I had to say humble thanks for the warmth and kindness of his country’s welcome.

IMG_1415We went to the home of Halldor Laxness, the Nobel Prize-winning author of Independent People. I’d read that book, and to see where he wrote it was beyond compare – to say nothing of his beautiful home itself, with its view of the mountains and its geothermal swimming pool, steaming gently in the frosty air. He walked every day, a pattern highly recommended by many of the other authors for jogging your brain into submission.

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In the Laxness dining room

 

I’m taking that idea on. We have fog here as well…in all senses of the word.

I missed much of the fun of the retreat, as I ran out of energy early in the day and skipped the evening events. Instead, I had time for in-depth discussions with fellow writers, many of whom I hope will remain friends.

We were discussing dating at the lunch table one day and in my usual inappropriate way, I told my tablemates that I simply wanted to be ravished. The literary definition of ravish is: (ignoring the more violent ancient definition…)

fill (someone) with intense delight; enrapture.
“ravished by a sunny afternoon, she had agreed without even thinking”
synonyms: enrapture, enchant, delight, charm, entrance, enthrall, captivate

“you will be ravished by this wine”

 

I have been ravished by the Iceland Writers Retreat. I remain enraptured.

I will go again. And possibly again.

 

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The Laxness walking forest…

 

Stardust


There are times, frequently, when I wonder if the world really needs another book, especially one written by my clumsy creative heart. After all, there are so very many BAD books out there, killing trees by the thousands.

I really wonder about this, though, when I read something so marvellous, so heart-changing that I am left with nothing but awe. The kind of book or story that makes you weep when it is over, that makes you wish for the world it describes, that transports you so readily that you feel jarred when the day is over and you have to pull yourself out of the book and toss yourself into the comparative greyness of your dreams.

9405533_origNeil Gaiman routinely does this to me. I’ve just finished reading his lovely fantasy tale (or is it fantasy? I wonder…), Stardust. It is filled with witches and dread kings and lowly boys who dream big and fallen stars and even a unicorn. Characters can walk on clouds and even hail ships that sail on them.

And it is all utterly believable. I suspect Mr. Gaiman is a wizard ship_on_clouds_by_totialcott-d4iu6nahimself. Somehow he has seen into the world I dreamed of as a young girl and he has recreated it, filled with beautiful language and quotes from famous literature and derring do and the type of boy I’ve always looked for in my romantic heart of hearts, the boy I’d thought I’d found only to realize he was not, quite.

There are no glamorous princesses here (well, maybe one); there are dirty, muddy, and wet journeys; there is kindness and cruelty. It’s a real world, but with the magic I sometimes see the edge of in our world.

It reminded me of that magic at a time I really needed it, as we watch the world we loved dissolve in anger and frustration, peril and threat. It reminded me of the fact that we are both fact and fantasy, that by tilting our head to one side we still can see the beauty that surrounds us.

Thank you, Neil Gaiman. May you ever dwell in the joy you provide.

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Am I ignorant? Dim? Or why can’t I enjoy prize-winning books?


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heaven

I read. A lot. I have authors I love, I have ones I can’t dig through. Colm Toibin is impenetrable. Jane Urquhart makes me want to weep, and not in a good way. Even Tom Hardy gets into the story faster than these two. I need a long time in the quiet of a soundproofed cabin with lots of wine, a self-maintaining fire, and an IV infusion so I never hunger just to focus on their stories.

I am often reminded of the wail of the actor in “the Complete Works of Wm Shakespeare, abridged” when asked to perform Hamlet in the second half. “So many WORDS!”

I’m reading an award-winning book right now (author’s name withheld) and I can barely stand it. I can’t keep track of the story because of all the words blowing through the pages like gently frost-enclosed leaves from the mountain that existed behind my house and that we walked every seventh day when the sun climbed into the sky like a weak thing only to brighten to shimmering coin gold by the time we reached the windy granite-strewn rounded summit and turned, gardenia-like, to face it.

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kindergarten rules

I understand the desire for concrete descriptors. Showing instead of telling, yes, I get it. Saying something is nice doesn’t cut it.

But I can’t help but think that describing a cup in all of its form cuts it, either, especially if it happens with every &*&(^^ object in the story and every time the object or person reappears, it is described differently, by new and extended names or nicknames, or a novel piece of backstory that rumbles on for paragraphs.

Don’t authors know we read these things before bed???

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now find the little man on the sixth level…

 

This book that I’m reading has so much description it has the effect of distancing me from involvement. I feel as if I am looking down at a very confusing miniature trainset where the tracks frequently move, trains vanish or change appearance every few pages, and that somehow I am going to be tested on remembering the schedules of each one.

As someone who attempts to write, I’ve taken more classes than I care to remember that emphasized the need to be simple. To put the story forward, to involve the reader, to create empathy with the characters. It’s almost impossible to care one whit about these characters, smothered as they are in the fluffy cotton and silk and ribbons and wool and paper corsages and tiny hidden diaries and bits of recipes and hints of music and some offal. And yet, the story could be fascinating. I WANT to read it. I want to know about the things that happen, but characters disappear and pages are spent wafting about some past encounter. Time changes; half is in memory, half is in distant past, half is in present.

Yes, I know that equals more than one.

I feel buffeted by time zones, tossed about like a Caesar salad and as lost as a fallen sales receipt from that little craft store on the corner just up past the schoolyard that I go to with my aunt Mary, who never likes the crafts but knows the owner’s mother, on the blue-green silk sea of descriptors.

I have to take breaks from reading this book, because the urge to throw it becomes too strong. I feel a bit like Dorothy Parker:

I’m much better now, in fact, than I was when we started. I wish you could have heard that pretty crash “Beauty and the Beast” made when, with one sweeping, liquid gesture, I tossed it out of my twelfth-story window.

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not Bendicks

(I have skipped any reference to throwing books at cats (of which there are many) as Bendicks is watching and will stomp on my keyboard when I’m not looking and readjust my investments.)

The thing is, I feel like a failure. I continually read award-winning books and am so often frustrated by them. I must be lacking something.

There are exceptions. Andre Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs was wonderful, miraculous, and a real treasure. I WALLOWED in it. Anakana Shofield’s Martin John was intensely interesting and gripping. And those two are from the 2016 Giller List.

So you see, I can read. I can decipher difficult texts. So why, oh why, can’t I find the gold in some of these gems?

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the risk of reading big books

Sigh. Time for a good mystery or thriller to cleanse the palate and the brain. Or maybe some Proust. With madeleines.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.[5]

 

So impressed…


I had the very good fortune to meet Judy Penz Sheluk some years ago at the fabled  (and sadly, deceased) Bloody Words Mystery Writers Conference. We’ve kept in touch since and I always like to hear from her, but lately she has zoomed on, winning all sorts of awards for her second novel, and I just had to mention her here both to say congrats and bask in reflected glory. You see, we once had a discussion over Tim’s oatmeal and she taught me about that, too. (It is surprisingly good.) I’ve learned a lot from Judy.

She’s a powerhouse. Just sitting by her sets your energy to a high vibrate – she is kind and encouraging, but she just goes. It’s like driving on a highway next to a Porsche. You feel the slipstream and you want to go faster, too.

An example is her website: (click on the image)websiteheader3

It’s stunning (as are her awards). In addition to writing two excellent novels and countless short stories, she’s got marketing down, big time (as the evil T would say). I watch from the sidelines, feeling the breeze and appreciating the energy. She is a professional writer. Me, an amateur. I rather suspect it will be ever thus. For one thing, she gets things done. For another, she gets a ton of things done. Me, I dabble. (ergo my Masters degree and no PhD – focus is difficult, and I hate paperwork.)

It’s well worth spending some time on Judy’s website, even now during Nanowrimo. For one thing, you will see how a professional website should be set up. But beyond that, the site is packed full of reviews and interviews with other authors, information on the publishing journey, links to writing associations and groups, even information on antiques.

It’s utterly splendid and can give you hope when you are in deep into your November writing and realize you are hopelessly lost and you will never be good at writing and life sucks and all that – then look at Judy’s website and realize that her first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose. was published only this year and she has another one out already , Skeletons in the Attic, and who knows where she is headed next!

The website is a motherlode of information. Everything from how to name your characters to how the whole publishing thing works. It’s written in an easy, “you can do it” tone, and I find it cheering to see all the new release reviews.

Of course, I’m still toiling away at my books and stories, being more of a Ford Focus (go fast occasionally, slow right down unexpectedly) kind of writer. I’m glad I get to see Judy whipping past on the left.  I know she’s working hard, doing all the things she should. It is wildly impressive. Check out her site. You’ll be impressed, too.

Better still, read her books. I don’t usually read cozy mysteries as I prefer my mysteries darker and colder, but Judy’s are turny and twisty enough I can’t see what’s happening until the end. I like that. Plus now I want to own an old house and an antique shop and live in a small town. I want to hang out with her characters and slap the bad ones. I can’t wait for novel number THREE!

For now, THREE cheers to you, Judy, for your well-deserved successes. I hope you don’t mind if I look on and maybe learn a few tips!

 

 

On Olympics coverage, or how I am becoming a rabid feminist


There’s a phrase rumbling around the inter webs lately, something like, “When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” I’ve seen it here and there and it resonates with me, with the ENDLESS whining of white men about how hard done they are by having to compete with women for jobs (tho still women suffer with lower pay and less advancement), the growling by Trump-ettes about how they want THEIR country back, yadda yadda. (From another all white almost all male show).

34263_G06_W01But it’s the Olympic coverage that is really driving me insane. I can just barely stand the men chirping about how gosh gee isn’t it cute how all the medals are being won (by Canada) by the WOMEN! The surprise in the voices if the male commentators is annoying but given that our Canadian women are rocking the stats, I can afford to be calm. Last night I just about spat, though. Here are the women, doing their swimming to pretty muted colour commentary, doing the VERY SAME races as the men did right afterwards, and the male commentators went all orgasmic gettyimages-586857690over the men’s 200 meter freestyle – “This is the epic race of the Olympics in swimming” – as if the only important race was this one, and the women’s exactly same race meant nothing.

 

The same is true for the track and field competitions. All focus is on the men, the women compete as a sideline. At least, when listening to the commentary.

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What with the blatant misogyny of the current political atmosphere in the US, and the endless revelations that gee golly, yeah, women have been attacked in taxis here in Halifax but you don’t actually expect us to spend time on such things (say the Halifax police, a group with an abysmal record of solving violent crimes against women from what I hear), I’m getting pretty fed up.

images-7I’m so tired of men thinking they should have nice things just because they have an extra dangly appendage (which looks frankly ridiculous when just hanging about, truly) (though I do enjoy some of its conformations, I admit). I’m tired of the blather and the need to prop up fragile male egos while we women thrash along in our own personal situations and just bloody make do, thank you very much.

I’m tired of the assumption of sex when many are happy to share if asked nicely. When it’s expected, it ruins it, y’know? Grabby grabby never gets. Well, except in Halifax, apparently, where it is an added bonus of a taxi ride with one or two men (No need to slur all taxi drivers with the same charge).

I’m tired of every time a woman makes a name for herself she is either ignored or derided. Called a bitch, hated, or in Trump’s and other’s cases, put on the firing line (in all senses of the word). Or stoned or raped, or otherwise destroyed. It’s got to stop. And while you may not equate bad coverage in the Olympics with stoning a woman in Saudi Arabia because her brother raped her, hell! It’s all of a piece!

I’m sick of all womanly achievements being made less than a male equivalent, despite the additional work she has necessarily done to achieve them.

Argh. And yet, I do love men. Or I did, though I am finding them a little tiresome lately. (Except for you know who you are – you I adore).

Just stop the endless whining, will ya? And give some props to that other gender, one of many yes I know and I’m all for trans rights and gay rights and all that, but hell, I’d like to see the women get some props first. After all, we’re over half the population.

It’s enough to make me swear like a sailor.

 

Just that kind of summer…


36fa0fcd251e8234e645b8f252fbf615I’m sitting here in the kind of heat that reduces me to tears anyway, but what IS is about this summer? It’s hot, even for the climate change deny-ers. It’s stormy. Animals are being fried in closed up cars again, and I have no doubt babies are as well. People are shooting people. People are yelling. The terrifying RNC. Soon to be followed by the DNC.

People are driving cranky, swerving in the heat, blasting music out of their windows to protest their lack of air conditioning. Motorcycle drivers are angrier in their leather suits. Can’t say I blame them. Horns. Sirens.

The only cheerful people are the road workers, who have adapted to the heat.

And in amongst this are the losses. My dear Aunt Colleen, one of the kindest women I know, passed away suddenly. A dear friend of mine watched her long time companion ease into death. So many are not doing well, so many are taking those final steps. Perhaps my younger brother is right and these are the end days and all the nice people are being checked out ahead of the disasters. All I can say is, “Hello? I’m still here!!!”

Mind you, so is he.

It’s the kind of summer where you want to sit with your feet in the water somewhere, listening to the waves and bird call, and sipping a series of tangy beers that are light on the tongue. Turn off your phone. Shut down Pokemon Go! Move occasionally to flap away an errant bug. Read. In the SHADE. Read light things like the crazy fun cozies by MaryJane MaffiniVictoria Abbot Melodie Campbell, and  Judy Penz Sheluk. Scary stories like those by the admirable Rick Mofina. Thrillers like those by my newly found fave Alex Marwood.

maxresdefaultNo romances. It’s too hot for romance. Even thinking about a hug is enough to set a sweat cycle off again and trust me, it ain’t pretty. If women glow, I am a firefly these days. And my hair….well, it’s best not spoken about. It’s broken.

No one smells nice.

Mind you, the pheromones are flying about…

Hang tough, world. It doesn’t have to be the end times. Just treat people nice, even if you are a sordid little puddle of malodorous sweat. Be kind. Stop shouting. Have a cool drink or a sip of soothing tea.And pray or dance or hop for all you are worth to whatever deity you may or may not believe in that this fall will turn out all right.

Special hugs to my cousins, who have lost another of the remarkable family we were all lucky enough to grow up in. Love to you all.

And thanks to Philip Hill, who sent me this perfect photo. (Photo by Patrick Joust)