Friday, March 30, 2012

Memoir: The Orchid Thief, Author: Susan Orlean

First off I have to do this:

Ghost Orchids.
In the language of flowers orchid means 'Refined Beauty'.

The Orchid Thief is a book about passion: "I suppose I do have one unembarrassing passion--I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately." Susan Orlean from her book The Orchid Thief

Passion that takes the form of collecting:  "I still get that collector feeling...It's like I can't just have something. I have to have it and learn about it and grow it and sell it and master it and have a million of it." John Larouche from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean                 

Collecting orchids: "The British Herbal Guide of 1653 advised that orchids be used with discretion. 'They are hot and moist in operation, under the dominion of Venus, and provoke lust accordingly." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about orchids: "The reason for their unusual-ness has always been puzzled over. One guess is that orchids might have evolved in soil that was naturally irradiated by a meteor or mineral deposit, and that the radiation is what mutated them into thousands of amazing forms." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

And what orchids teach us: "Mutation is great. It's the way evolution moves ahead." John Larouche from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about Florida: "Sometimes I think I've figured out some order in the universe, but then I find myself in Florida, swamped by incongruity and paradox, and I have to start all over again." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

And a swamp there: "Spooky places are usually full of death, but the Fakahatchee is crazy with living things." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about people: "People look at what I do and think, is that moral? Is that right? Well, isn't every great thing the result of that kind of struggle?" John Larouche from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

First Nations people: "The Seminole Tribe of Florida has sixteen hundred members..."  The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Collector people: ""Oh, mystery, beauty, unknowability, I suppose," he said, shrugging. "Besides, I think the real reason is that life has no meaning. I mean, no obvious meaning. You wake up, you go to work, you do stuff, I think everybody's always looking for something a little unusual that can preoccupy them and help them pass the time."" Ranger Tony from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about people who collect orchids passionately: "The English have especially felonious urges towards orchids. Kew Gardens has to display its orchids behind shatterproof glass and surrounded by surveillance cameras the way Tiffany's displays its jewels." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about one particular passionate orchid collector - John Larouche: "The current of his mind and behavior was more riptide than rivulet. I didn't care all that much whether what he said was true or not; I just found the flow irresistible." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

And it's a book about a woman who longs to feel the same passion for something as John Larouche feels for orchids - Susan Orlean: "I wanted to want something as much as people wanted these plants, but it isn't part of my constitution." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

I loved this book which is saying something considering narrative usually bores me; this book is largely narrative; and I didn't skip a word of it.

YMMV, of course.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bloggiversary: One year ago today...

My blog was born and I connected with all you wonderful people.

If I had married you:
 - we'd have been arrested because polygamy is frowned upon in the USA
 - it would be our PAPER anniversary

So let's look at some pretty paper (from bing images):

And visit a pretty paper blog...

And listen to one of my favorite songs about paper - M.I.A. Paper Planes (you tube):

And look at an inappropriate cake (from cake wrecks):

 And a more appropriate cake (from bing images):

Champagne anyone? (bing images)

Candlelight dinner? (bing images)

And lisanthus for everyone who has ever read my blog because in the language of flowers lisanthus means 'appreciation' and I appreciate each and every one of you.

This is my 122nd blogpost. Can't believe I've done that many in a year. I missed marking the milestone of number 100 on 1/20/12.

I've enjoyed myself. Hope you have, too. Let's have another really good year!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No regular blogpost today

Getting ready for a blogiversary party-post tomorrow, Wednesday, March 28th, 2012.

You're all invited.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Feminist Fairy Tale, Anti High Heels

Sorry but it probably happened this way

Once there was and once there was not a very gullible woman and a group of oppressive men.
The woman was beautiful and strong. She didn’t know she was strong, though. She didn’t realize she had power that threatened some of the men around her and that she needed to protect her power.
There was a particular man she was attracted to and the feeling was mutual. Deep, deep inside the man was afraid of her though. He wanted her but he didn’t want to have her unless he could strip her of her power.
One of the things that made her powerful was the way she moved. She walked and her body flowed like water; fluid and graceful. She ran fast and strong like a cheetah and beautiful like a horse with its mane flying. She danced like dolphins playing on waves.
The man lay in bed at night scheming how to take her power so that he could have her without risk. What if walking caused her pain? What if running were hard for her? What if dancing wasn’t fun? How could he make that happen?  
He went to sleep, dreaming of the woman, weak and at his mercy. He woke up with a plan.
The next time he saw her, he gave her a present; new shoes. He had them made especially for her. She looked at him, puzzled. There was a tall, pointy thing coming off of the heel. “How can I walk in these?” She asked. “How can I run fast? How can I dance?”
The man told her that he had seen her on tiptoes reaching for something and it made her legs look sexier than when her feet were flat. She didn’t believe him. She told him he was crazy.
He called other men over and they immediately got it. In those shoes women would be weaker. Easier to oppress. They all oohed and aahed. They all told the woman how beautiful she would be in the shoes and how much sexier her legs looked if she stayed up on tiptoes.
Other women gathered around and heard what the men were saying. Soon the shoemaker was rich. Soon the women were weaker because their bodies were no longer carefree when they walked. They couldn’t fun fast or as far in the shoes. They had to pretend to enjoy dancing. They had to drink more alcohol to enjoy dancing, making them even weaker.
Almost all the men were happy. Only a few of them saw the weakened women as less than they could have been and oppressed.
Time passed with women teaching their daughters to believe the lie that their legs were sexier when they were on tiptoes, men teaching their sons to believe the lie that a woman's legs were sexier when they stood up on tiptoes.
And all because no one told the original man who told the original lie that he was a dirty-rotten liar. And a despicable asshole.
Soon the lie was perceived by the culture as truth.

Once there was and once there was not a woman who refused to wear high-heeled shoes. She didn’t believe her legs were sexy when she was on her tiptoes. She felt sexy when she was strong. Her legs felt sexy when she walked carefree without the constraint of shoes that kept her up on her toes. Her legs felt attractive when she ran fast and far. Her legs felt desirable when she danced barefoot and free.
The high-heeled shoes looked hideously ugly to her because they symbolized the attempts of men to oppress her and restrain her movements and freedom. She knew men who wanted her to wear them were weak, fearful and full of shit. She taught her daughters to recognize the lies for what they were. She taught her grandchildren to recognize the lies for what they were.
She wrote a fairy tale and put it up on her blog because she grew weary of hearing otherwise intelligent women repeat the lies.

Once there was and once there was not an original man who told the original lie. He was long dead. He died a slow, painful, suffering death from endless cramps in his feet and legs.

The End.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

(Before I get to the blogpost - question for all you writers - is anyone planning on doing Savvy Author bootcamp in April? I'm considering it and was just wondering if anyone else is. If you don't know what I'm talking about and you want to - go here.)
UPDATE: I just signed up for bootcamp. Signed up. Paid up. Committed. April wip here I come!

I'm currently working on a couple of blogposts but neither is ready so - I'm going to talk about SHELFARI.

I've been a shelfari member since Feb. 28, 2008. Play along as I struggle to explain shelfari to you. It's a community of readers where anyone can have a virtual bookshelf.

My shelf currently has 982 books and I'm definitely not the person with the most.

I use shelfari to keep track of what
-I've read
-I'm reading
-I plan to read

I've found it useful in several ways. If I'm thinking of a book I read and I've forgotten the author I can look through my lists. It's a good place to keep a tbr pile. And it's a safe place to put what I actually think of a book, be that positive or negative. I don't like to do negative here. I actually don't write reviews there, though you can, but I definitely make use of the star system.

And when I'm looking for new ideas for reading - I can look through other people's shelves.

If you search for me on shelfari, I'm MS Judy L and my current avatar is the cover of Believe It Or Not by Tawna Fenske. In my little public profile thing I have a few sentences about how good the book is. I like having a venue for this.

Shelfari also has groups you can belong to. I'm in a few of them.

I belong to some groups that are fans of particular authors:
Jayne Anne Krentz And Her Alter Egos
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Je Suis Priest (I joined this one instead of other Gabaldon ones because I have issues with the Outlander series but I love the Lord John Grey books unconditionally.)

Alas, there is no Crusie group. I've thought of starting one but who's got the time?

I belong to one group that allows me to express my beliefs about a certain subject in a place designed not to offend others:
Just For Atheists

And there is a group I started with a friend of mine:
Lighten Up Club

LUC started out to be about weight loss. Specifically it was a group of women who were studying the book - The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size by Julia Cameron . (Julia Cameron is famous for the book, The Artist's Way - sidebar to this sidebar - she has also written some books for writers) - but the group has had several evolutions. It is now about lightening up in all areas of your life.

None of these groups is active daily. Currently they range from one whose last activity was 6 days ago and one whose last activity was 3 months ago.

I've garnered 3 good friends from shelfari:
Jane, whom I started LUC with. She lives in Florida. We talk on the phone, e-mail, facebook and shelfari.
Natasha who co-administers Just For Atheists with me. She lives in New Zealand. We im on facebook, e-mail, shelfari and read each others blogs.
Ursula who shares my love of books and blogging. She made me co-admin of the Jayne Anne Krentz group because we both love her.

Shelfari has given me a lot. I don't always go there as much as I'd like but I do tend to obsess about keeping up my shelf and making my profile current to my interests of the moment. is shelfari's babymama or babydaddy so if you have political reasons for not liking amazon, it won't work for you. Your personal login is the email address and password you use for amazon.

I sympathize with you if you have reasons for not liking amazon - but please don't share them with me because, frankly, for this woman who lives more than an hour from the nearest bookstore, amazon keeps me sane. And I don't need one more thing to feel guilty about. Kay?

To sum up, shelfari gives me; my own personal, virtual bookshelf, a little venue for my interest of the moment, groups with a common interest and friends who share my love of books.

Where else are you going to find all that for free?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Romance Novel: Rainshadow Road, Author: Lisa Kleypas

Rainshadow Road -- book one of Lisa Kleypas's new contemporary romance quartet

Lucy had been burned.

“Fireflies can’t find the signals of their mates, because they’re so distracted by porch lights, streetlamps, illuminated sign letters…” “You think you’ve found the perfect mate and you head for him, blinking as fast as you can, and then you find out he’s a Bic lighter.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Sam was handsome enough that he got what he wanted from women – sex only:

“Staring into those ocean-green eyes had been like sinking into moonlight.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Lucy was a glass artist:

“Lucy had struggled to understand how and why it happened, until she had read a quote by Einstein—that one had to live as though everything was a miracle or as if nothing was a miracle. And then she had understood that whether she called her gift a phenomenon of molecular physics, or magic, both definitions were true, and the words didn’t matter anyway.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Sam was a grape grower:

“Something was at work in the vineyard…some force of nature or enchantment, a wordless language that summoned the vines in a canticle of respiration.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

“As Sam tended the plants, bees never stung him and flies never bothered him, and the trees extended their branches as far as they could to keep him shaded.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

When they were together, magic happened:

“Is glass feminine or masculine?”
“Lucy gave a surprised laugh, having never been asked such a question before. She considered it carefully. You had to let glass do what it would, partner it rather than control it, handle it with gentleness and strength.”
“Feminine,” she said. “What about wine? Is it feminine or masculine?” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

This is Kleypas’s latest book just out and I am SO GLAD that it is the first in a trilogy. We can look forward to book 2 in August of 2012. The story is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. She talks about magic in the book and the way she uses words is obviously her magic.

UPDATE: As commenter Ann_a_reader advised me below - this is the second in a quartet. Book #1 is Christmas Eve At Friday Harbor. Book #2 is Rainshadow Road. I've never been happier to be wrong cause now I don't have to wait until August to read another one of these. Thanks Ann!

There are shimmering sentences:

…the distance between ordinary and extraordinary was only a step, a breath, a heartbeat away.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

“Stolen moments, filled with the bittersweet knowledge that happiness was ephemeral as moonlight.Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

There are funny conversations:

“If you flush hundred-dollar bills down the toilet continuously for a week, that amount would just about cover it.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

There are resonating truths:

Sometimes giving up something you want is the very kindest thing you can do for yourself.Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Truths that seem to conflict with one another but are made irrefutably true by the simple words – sometimes – and – there are times.

“There are times in life when you had to take a risk that might end in failure. Because otherwise you would be haunted by what you hadn’t done…the paths you hadn’t taken, the things you hadn’t experienced.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

This truth reminds me of a recent blogpost by Delia  and the subsequent conversation in the comments:

The realization was so simple that many people would dismiss it as being beneath more sophisticated minds. Only those with some remnant potential for wonder would understand.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

The take away from the post and the comments was; there are lots of good people out there who still have this sense of wonder and are parenting their children in ways that foster it in them, as well.

I’ve tried to give you a taste of the book without giving any spoilers. I loved every word of it. I’ve already read it twice and it is one that I will read a couple more times before the sequel comes out.

And saving the best for last;  for all of us who love geeks---

“It doesn’t matter where you go now,” he murmured. “No matter what, we’re together. A binary star can have a distant orbit, but it’s still held together by gravity.”  Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas   

That’s right ladies. Be still your hearts and mine – this book has…

“Geek love talk.” Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Memoir: The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, Author: Susan Orlean

"...every time Cristina kills a bull she forms part of a singular and unforgettable tableau--that of an attractive, self-possessed young woman elegantly slaying a large animal in a somber and ancient masculine ritual--and regardless of gender, she is a really good matador..." from The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean

This is a paradox for me. On the one hand I'm proud of women who make it in arenas that formerly only men were allowed to compete in. On the other hand, she's participating in the brutal torture and killing of an animal. I wish I could say my gender was too intelligent and advanced to participate in that.

Another paradox is this. Did you know that after they kill the bull they eat it? On the one hand, I'm glad the bull doesn't die in vain and isn't wasted. On the other hand, the bull didn't have to die at all.

But I digress. Cristina Sanchez:

She is one of many people Susan Orlean writes about in her creative memoir book, The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup. Orlean traveled to Spain to spend time with Sanchez and to watch her fight bulls.

Orlean has her own misgivings with bullfighting. She writes:
"But on the other hand I was lost and nauseous and knew I didn't understand how so many people, a whole nation of people, weren't shaken by the gore, and the idea of watching a ballet that always, unfailingly ends with a gradual and deliberate death. I didn't understand it then, and I doubt I ever will." The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean

Reading the story of Orlean's time with Cristina Sanchez, I was struck by something. In the countries where it's practiced, bullfighting is like demolition derbies and drag races are here. They take place in county fairs. There are food vendors and people selling bullfighting t-shirts, hats and other swag.
" could only exist where strangeness is expected and treasured and long-standing and even a familiar part of everyday." The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean
The same can be said for demo derbies. If you don't believe me then you've never seen a riding lawnmower demo derby, or a big yellow school bus one.

Cristina Sanchez said: "People who don't understand the bullfighting world think you have to be extremely strong, but that's not the case. What is important is technique and experience. You have to be in good shape, but you don't have to match a man's strength. Besides, YOUR REAL OPPONENT IS THE BULL, AND YOU CAN NEVER MATCH IT IN STRENGTH." The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean

I read that quote and I wonder, how many other situations are like that? How many instances are there where women think they can't compete with men because men are stronger but they don't really have to compete with men, at all. They just have to stand up to the bull, whatever the bull may be for them.

So anywho - creative memoir. I couldn't find a good definition. I've read a lot of it but Orlean is my favorite. I will be writing another post from this book about the Maui surf girls story which inspired the movie, Blue Crush. Then I'll write at least one post, maybe more about The Orchid Thief, a book which I really loved. It inspired a movie, Adaptation, which I haven't seen but it's on it's way from Netflix. (I may space the blogs out, though. Don't want to bore my readers. Anymore than normal, that is.)

In other news, I read Tawna Fenske's romantic comedy novel, Believe It Or Not. I loved it. Making Waves, her first book, was good. This one was even better.

Susan Donovan's latest novel also just came out. I Want Candy is the sequel to her book, Cheri On Top. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both of them.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Work In Progress: Tangible Taffy, Backstory

(Keep in mind, this has not been read by anyone, even beta readers. Or editted. Or revised. And it's backstory so some of it may never appear in Tangible Taffy.)

Taffeta Holly Darrow, aka Taffy, and Brocade Jocelyn Dykstra, aka Kate because she got tired of correcting people who couldn't seem to grasp the nickname Cade, were sisters whose mother loved formal balls. Or rather, reading historical romance novels that involved formal balls since her life seldom led to her attending one. While Charlotte Dykstra's mind conjured up castles and elegant affairs, her body preferred big men whose work left them sweaty and who attended ball games rather than functions that landed on the society page. She married three such men and between those three marriages, had fun with numerous others.

Charlotte's first husband, the girl's father, Blade Darrow, was a soldier who died while deployed overseas when Taffy was seven and Kate was two years old. The Army had settled a large amount of money on Charlotte. Kate was too young and Charlotte too stupid to live but Taffy adored her father and began to withdraw from the world, grieving him.

Not so coincidentally Charlotte ran out of money at the same time that she agreed to marry husband number two, Van Dykstra. Van owned a waste management company with a string of garbage trucks. He came home smelly and sweaty but he was obsessive about being clean any time he wasn't working.
Van was a good guy who became father to the girls. He and Kate were inseparable, both loving professional soccer. Kate even insisted on taking Van's last name. Kate proved to be a talented soccer player herself but Taffy was definitely not athletic preferring to stay home with a book.

When she was 23 years old, Taffy's boyfriend of 8 years accidentally drove his motorcycle over a cliff and died. Shortly after his death Taffy learned that her younger sister, 18 year old Kate, was pregnant with her boyfriend's child, having gotten that way under manipulative circumstances not yet determined. Taffy took off, never planning to return.

Shortly before the baby was to be born, Van came to find Taffy and bring her home. Charlotte had run off with a large sum of his money and his business partner after Van beat the crap out of him when finding him in bed with Charlotte. Van was sentenced to serve 8 months in jail for assault. Charlotte was gone and Van would be in jail leaving no one to help Kate with her birth and the first months of her childs life.

Van got Taffy to agree to return by reminding her that while she was angry, Kate was her sister and the baby would be the son of the man/boy she'd loved for 8 years. He sweetened the pot by offering to deed over a duplex that his mother had left him. He knew Taffy loved the duplex. And he offered to help her with a start up for the bookkeeping business she had planned for when getting her college degree.

After jail, while rebuilding his life and his business, Van took over care of the girls and became grandpa to little Carlos, Kate's son and Taffy's nephew, named, of course, after famous soccer player, Carlos Tevez.

Five years went by before they heard from Charlotte. An envelope arrived in the mail with a clipping from a newspaper with a wedding announcement. She had apparently married husband number three who was not the business partner she ran away with. If she expected the girls to take her return address and try to reunite with her, she'd been disappointed. The announcement and envelope it came in were stuck in the middle of an old Webster's Dictionary which currently was wedged under the leg of a work table in the basement of the house where Van, Kate and Carlos all lived.

Taffy lived in one side of her duplex. The other side of the duplex was rented out to a crotchety elderly woman aptly named Etta Grumble. Because she did. Grumble.

Taffy retreated within herself, becoming an avid reader who had better relationships with characters in books who had never betrayed or hurt her, than with any real life person except her nephew. She tolerated Kate for the sake of her son and Van as the only father she'd known.

She also loved her houseplants and made one of them, Agnes, an asparagus plant named after her favorite Jennifer Crusie character, her confidant.

She convinced herself that she was content with her life and her serial-monogamous-fuck-buddy-only relationships with men. But she was actually out of sync with the world outside her home or books and rarely present in her day-to-day life.

She would need to arc accordingly to have any real connection with another real human being, hence the title, Tangible Taffy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

my car stages an intervention against me


So, unsettling, random things have been happening to me. (For details see my last post.) Upon confiding the first of these things to Julie her take on the situation was that I need to "stay home."

What's really needed, is for me to set up and enforce the one day of the week when I have no obligations to leave the house, as MY DAY. Y'all know what I mean. My day where I can write all day and stay in my jammies and maybe just drink tea and chill.

I'm down with that - until - my daughter asked me if I would commit to taking my gdaughter to a painting class one afternoon a week this month on - you guessed it - my day.

Now, this is something I won't say no to. I am the village. The infamous village that helps raise my gkids. And I love them. And I love spending time with them. And my gdaughter is a talented artist who IMHO needs to be encouraged in every way possible. Such as with painting classes. So I said yes.

Enter the part of me that wants me to set boundaries for my day. Are you listening, Julie? Today, the day before my day and the day before the first painting class - 2 things happen. 1 -My mom finds out that no one has the tire she needs for her car and when they ordered it - it won't come in for 3 days. 2- I go to the store and when I come back out, my car won't start. I call AAA to jump me. It's not the battery. I call AAA again to tow me. Now mom and I are both officially without vehicles.

I will have my day. At least, this week. So I'm going to put the plan in motion that I've developed for working on my novel. I just got GMC by Deb Dixon from the library. (If it helps me, I'll buy it.) So I'm going to backstory, goal-motivation-conflict each of the main characters.

You like?

Anywho - protagonist Taffy's backstory will appear here on Friday's post. ( I can almost promise this as it's already written.)

Intervention successful. Sort of. For now.

ps Delia here's the pic you wanted to see from the last post (my hair after 2 color strippers and a dye job that was supposed to be light ash brown but is actually red)

UPDATE: My daughter called to say that when she told my gdaughter to get ready to go to the class today, Kat told her she prefers the summer art classes where she is with her peers (not her wording but you get it) so she won't be attending this class, after all. Freeing up my Tuesdays again.
This wouldn't have happened if I were driving her today because my gkids will always choose time with me, even if it's just chauffeur time. I'm that awesome. hehehe.
Intervention successful 100 %.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Unsettled, Metaphysical signs, Owls, Deer, Dogs, Rescue puppies

Several things happened in recent days that are a little unsettling.

-We had a storm of major proportions. In the surrounding counties there were tornadoes. In the surrounding states there were deaths. In my room, hail and rain pounded the metal roof and wind blew strong and loud.

-3 deer flew across my path chased by a shaggy yellow dog when I was driving.

-Back my shoulderless two-lane road a van was turned over on it's side. Police and a tow truck were there, blue and white lights shining up the night as I drove home from work at 1am. (This was not even a mile from the scene of one of those big bucket trucks the utility company uses being turned on it's side a week or so before.)

-5 minutes after the van incident, a Barred Owl slammed into my windshield. I hope I only stunned it. I've looked for it on the side of the road since but it wasn't there. I know it was a barred owl because I got an up close and personal view of the underside of it's huge wingspan and it's talons.

Has anything unsettled you lately?

On the upside - all 3 of the puppies dropped off at my house a week ago have now been adopted.

On the up-upside - after 2 color strip kits and 1 dye kit my hair turned out okay. I got red, which I didn't want cause it turns brassy on me, but even brassy is better than the black I had, considering my coloring. (Green eyes and freckles.)

What's your upside? Up-upside?