Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Two Authors' "First Novels": one Noir and one, just plain Dark

Image
Noir:

James Anderson is a regional, Pacific Northwest writer of fiction, poetry, reviews as well as an editor and teacher. "The Never-Open Desert Diner" is his first novel.

I have mentioned my local book exchange often provides 'uncorrected proof; not for sale' books for advance readers, reviewer and I guess, the library.  I love these editions and always give them "a look". I find authors I never would have.   This book was one of those.

The Hero, Ben Jones, has an interesting business: he has a short haul (200 miles round trip everyday) truck service over an isolated desert route in Utah, south of Salt Lake City. His route is so remote that the Majors in the business hire him to carry their packages. Often, he's the only vehicle on the road.

Against this blank desert canvas, Anderson begins sketching the outline of various weird, eccentric characters Ben supplies with the things they need to survive, packages, things he sells from the truck, etc. (He…

Still "Hier"!

Image
Having a great summer, having parties (this one brought both of our sons home (at the same time) for the first time in 7 years; and their sweet wives; it was great!).

A few more butterflies are nearing readiness for release; a few little trips still to come--and working steadily on trim painting details, etc. on the house.


Butterflies! Butterflies! and more Butterflies!

Image
Above, the Before Picture"...


After about 12 days, the butterfly emerges from it's tight enclosure (on the lower left, above) with amazing speed, (like, 2 seconds) once it is ready. The swallowtail above was out for a few hours, since its wings are well expanded.

 After it has had time to dry off and expand, we take it--cage and all--outside. Sometimes they have to be coaxed onto your finger and lifted out, to fly away. Sometimes, they want to ride around on your finger for a while. They are surprisingly individual.


This one settled on a cone flower in the garden and sat for several hours, another perched in a tree for a while, others soar immediately and disappear.


When they first emerge, their wings are tiny.




Here is a glorious example! We charmed both sets our neighbors' visiting grandchildren with this venture.

The photos have all shown different butterflies--we've released about a dozen at least, by now. The one shown above was especially individual. After his/h…

...a Book by its Cover...Robert Hicks' "The Widow of the South"...

Image
What an eye-catching cover design on this novel of historic fiction! So evocative of the second half of the 19th Century. But is it fiction? Partly: the story is a novel based on the life of a lady--almost totally forgotten now--whose name, Carrie McGavock--was practically a "household word" at the turn of the 20th Century.

In the tiny town of Franklin, TN (now part of greater Nashville; home to country music stars) late in the American Civil War, a giant gush of bloodletting took place called The Battle of Franklin. The South lost; even had they won the battle it would not change the outcome: the surrender came about 4 months later. For the number of troops and the length of the battle: about 5 hours, Franklin is considered perhaps the bloodiest battle ever fought by Americans; a hopeless charge by the South against entrenched Northern troops in the town.

At end of the day, about 6,000 Confederates were dead--all over town--along with 1,000 Northerners.
Countless were horr…

Update on the "Hotel"

Image
A total of 11 caterpillars were found and brought inside away from the greedy beaks of the birds.

I was concerned the over-crowding would result in caterpillar fights, but they get along nicely together. Ignoring one another.

I clean the tank frequently. 7 caterpillars are actively eating now. 4 have purged, found a comfortable twig and formed their cocoons. That is a very interesting process to watch, too.

In a few days, we will have lovely butterflies to release. I will try to photo record them. I have plenty of nectar rich blooms to support them once they are free. I hope they hang around a while.

The only "down side": the messy tank and the overpowering "dill" smell. Otherwise, a fun experiment.




Our Butterfly Shelter Hostel and Resort (for Black Swallowtail Butterflies) is open for the Season!

Image
A couple of years ago, we noticed the caterpillars on our dill plants; research showed they were of the Black Swallowtail type. To our horror, we observed that the little caterpillars were the perfect snack for any passing bird!

More internet research showed us how to bring the little guys (and girls) inside to a dry aquarium with paper towel on the bottom and several plastic contains for water to keep their food (dill sprigs) fresh. Cover the container with aluminum foil so the caterpillars don't fall in and drown.

You need a couple of strong twiggy branches in there too, for their last transformation into butterflies.

The caterpillars eat the dill and poop. So you need to get in there every couple of days, renew the dill and change the paper towel, maybe refresh the water.

The first year we tried this, we saved one butterfly. Last year, two. Downstairs in my butterfly hotel right now I have 8 or 10 specimens, in different stages of caterpillar-dom. Old Lady Fun.

"Meh" Thrillers from (not-so) Great Britain...

Image
The best books by John LeCarre may be behind us by now; but I keep on reading all I find.

Lately, that included "Single & Single", a post Cold War crime thriller, featuring violence, money laundering, vice peddling of all kinds, gun running and so on. A readable novel, certainly.

The relationship between the spymaster (or undercover agent runner, in this case) and his agent, the son of the money launderer who has "turned"is delved.  As in "Our Game", the agent goes rogue in former USSR Georgia; as in "The Night Manager", the agent flirts with love---this female character was stronger, more interesting than the ladies in either of the above.

Bad Bait:

I was interested to find a British novel, made and sold in the UK which somehow found its way to my local paperback exchange: John Harvey's "Good Bait". "No one in Britain is writing better crime fiction" gasps The Times on the front cover. I feel I was duped, or standar…

Lots of Renovation Projects in Paducah, KY

Image
What a nice facade on this old retail and office building. I hope it will be saved.



Imagine the old hardware store in its prime. Clerks, customers, managers all busy; the place would have been brimming with stock. Look at those lonely shelves.



The old Public Market was converted into retail space and theater; lovely historic space.

Paducah!

Image
Best "ghost sign" I've ever seen!






Paducah, KY is on the come back trail, I hope. After a long industrial past, the town is the center of a growing arts and touring destination, especially for people who enjoy or take part in, the textile arts.

I loved walking the main streets of the downtown, with many restored old store fronts from the various eras; many are in the process.

There is an entire museum dedicated to quilting; the art and workmanship makes this attractive to all but the tiniest children. My husband enjoyed it. No photography allowed inside the museum, or I would show some examples.

Paducah was fun.

Rowan Oak, home of William Faulkner, Oxford MS

Image
The iconic view of the front entrance to the home (not so much a mansion as an old MS farm) built in the 1840's, purchased and named by Faulkner in 1930.  Probably the most photographed view in Mississippi.


Faulkner died young (by today's standards) from injury suffered in fall from a horse. The house was never occupied by other owners; was soon under ownership of Ol' Miss. Mostly, the house was left the way it was when the Faulkner's resided.  Perhaps and probably, he touched the door handle with is own hands. (when visiting homes of historic people, you don't usually feel the "presence"; here, you do.) His spirit might be amused to watch the dozens of reverent fans--young and old--trooping through the house, sitting outside on lawn chairs, some reading his books or writing in notebooks.

Faulkner's specially designed writing studio, with the typewriter he used. He would closet himself in this room for days on end--so there's a bed for resting wh…

Memorial Day is a Remembrance Time

Remembering my Grandmother's younger brother, Frederick Ambrose Feigel (1900-1944).

He was a civilian working on Mindanao, the southern large island of the Philippines when the Japanese invaded in December 1941.

He and others like him; men, women and children, were trapped on the island for the duration of the war, in most cases. Only toward the end of the war were allied submarines able to sneak past the Japanese and rescue some, like his wife.

He and other American men, joined the Philippine-American Resistance to try to discourage the Japanese on the islands.

In this endeavor, he was commissioned a Captain in the US Army.

During operations in July 1944, he was ambushed and shot by Japanese snipers.

His body was never recovered.

Reading "Faulkner" in Mississippi...

Image
While William Faulkner was not a perfect person, he had compassion, empathy and even sympathy for good people of whichever race; and he scorned evil and cruelty in anyone, regardless of race.

I read "Go Down, Moses", a group of stories and short novels from the early 1940's. The stories were published individually for nationwide distributions in magazines like Atlantic Monthly or Saturday Evening Post; later gathered together to loosely form the flow of a novel about the former slaves, servants and tenants of the McCaslin plantation (17 miles from Jefferson) and how their history influenced young Isaac McCaslin (direct heir to the property of his Grandfather) to renounce his inheritance and assume a modest role in town, living on a small stipend, till near 80. (Considered very old in 1940).

"The Bear" is one of Faulkner's most well regarded works; I don't know how you read that story without the context of the preceding tales in this book.

"Was&qu…

The final Resting Place of Wm. Faulkner and his wife, Estelle

Image
As evidenced by empty liquor bottle and shot cups left graveside, people visit to drink a toast...or just tipple. He'd probably approve.  He was not a perfect person, not a perfect writer; but the body of his work adds up to "the Great American novel", in my opinion.

A Day Spent in Oxford, MS: University town; home and inspiration to William Faulkner.

Image
If you are a reader of the works of William Faulkner, to see the monument and town square of  real world Oxford is to be transported to 19th and early 20th Century "Jefferson", even with today's cars.
In "The Reivers", Grandfather's car was one of only two in town in 1905. Today, the square is packed with traffic.




During his life, some in the town did not wholly approve of Faulkner, especially due to a shocking little book called "Sanctuary"(shocking for the time, sadly; today the story is all to familiar from any days' news.) But his body of work is expansive and deep, his words ring true with tearful sadness all the way to rollicking humor--sometimes in the same sentence! This statue of Faulkner will keep you company with you sit next to him on the bench on the square.

The Tanglefoot Trail goes through Pontotoc, MS.

Image
After returning from Los Angeles, we stayed briefly at home, then drove off to Mississippi so Hubsy could bike the lovely trails offered by this state. I was just as interested in exploring places I'd never been before.

Pontotoc is a county seat town of about 6 thousand friendly people in North Miss'ippy, full of
photo-ops. While the others biked the Tanglefoot Trail, I explored the bustling little town. It has a rich history.



In some places, the sidewalks simply followed the curvature of the land; evocative entrance.


 Neat old neon side still remains, though the storefront is currently another business.

Ghost sign's trying to come back to life.


There once was a railroad through the town, of course, with passenger service (that is now the bike trail). So the red brick building looks like a nicely preserved but decommissioned downtown hotel. There is evidence of renovation going on within.

I met a dozen or so very hospitable people during the day, as I chose to stop and en…