Friday, February 20, 2015

Ice Storm 2015 - The Aftermath

I know there are some smug Northerners out there who think the 2015 ice storm across the Midsouth has been a sort of joke, but I'm a Michigander by birth (a Southerner by choice).  This has been as bad an ice storm as I've ever witnessed, or have experienced, anywhere.

In Tennessee it's been made doubly tragic by the fact that the Department of Transportation isn't generally equipped with the plows and salt trucks made standard in colder climes. Drivers aren't as experienced in slippery weather.

There has been loss of life and property as highway arteries have clogged with traffic collisions, multi-car pile ups, and ditch diving.

Huge areas lost power while temperatures on February 15 plunged to 3 degrees and lower.

Air flights were cancelled, airports shuttered.

And for me and my family, the timing was particularly heart-wrenching, as we received the news that my husband's father died.  We were ice-locked and travel-blocked at every turn, and unable to go to the funeral.

Old Man Winter has felt particularly cruel this year.

Of course, as it always is with nature, there is beauty among ruins. Loveliness amidst savagery.

I ventured out of the house today; the first time in nearly a week. I went only as far as the backyard, searching through the aftermath with my camera, for a glimpse of hope. I wasn't disappointed.

I'm affectionately calling these photos my "ice collection". Tidier in the house, anyway, than the mouthful of icicle Edith brought in for a new chew toy yesterday.

Wrought Ice

Metal and ice together formed a theme today, unintentionally.

Ice Fortress

I have a small outdoor table with a crosshatch metal surface, and as the slab of ice on top melted enough to slide off, I got this amazing honeycomb sort of thing:

Or is it a chess board for ice fairies?

I also have on my patio a wrought iron chair with a high back that looks to be a throne to me. It's one of my favorite things, and I had no idea how it could interact with nature in all her seasons to give me some wonderful inspiration. It appears in many photos.

Ice Cliffs of Insanity


Curlicue on Ice

Then, to my surprise, as I ventured deeper into the yard, my hair got buzzed by a low-flying object. I looked up to find a robin, cheerfully calling, just in front of me.

I quickly snapped. 

I realized in that moment, that in the same yard of cold ice and twisted metal, looking all the glory of an apocalyptic wasteland, sat a sunny patch of wildwood. In the wildwood, in a pinprick of light, sat a robin.

I thought of my father-in-law, then. He loved nature, and taught me about birds, and what they eat, what they look like, and was always devising some sort of contraption to keep squirrels away from their seed. He always enjoyed watching birds as much as I ever have.

I didn't get to go to his funeral to say goodbye. My heart has been frozen cold, and sad. But as he went from this life to the next, maybe I didn't need to say goodbye. 

He's the song in the robin in my backyard.

I miss you, Len.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Five Romantic Movies to Watch This Weekend, or Any Weekend

Social media is abuzz with a certain recent movie. So much so, I have seriously considered closing up my social interfacing until the storm passes.

But in the meantime, I thought I would share my top 10 most watchable romantic movies of all time. According to me.

The following list of movies are in no particular order. Many are simply great entertainment, and maybe some laughs (I love comedies).  But mostly, for me, they pass the real romance test:

A) Characters worth caring about.

B) Male romantic leads that aren't irredeemably psychotic.

Let me start with the most obvious title of all time. We'll just get this out of the way first, for those few of you that haven't heard of it, or maybe haven't seen it in a while.

1) The Princess Bride, 1987

This is the story of Buttercup and her farmboy, as their relationship grows into something more. It's adventure and fantasy, adapted from William Goldberg's novel (have you read it?)

2) Ever After: A Cinderella Story, 1998

Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott star as Danielle and The Prince. It's a refreshingly charming take on the old fairytale, with the character, Danielle, as a rough-and-tumble tomboy who unwittingly sheds new light on the prince's tired old world. 

3) Love Actually, 2003

I'm not just recommending this film because it has just about EVERY SINGLE ONE of my favorite British actors in it. Although, that's partly why. I'm including it as a totally watchable love story because of the so very many expressions of love displayed in a jumble of overlapping relationships. It's funny, and touching, and heartbreaking, but utterly real.

4) Big Business, 1988

Okay, this is more a comedy than a rom-com, but it has Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler, and Lily Tomlin, and Bette Midler! Find me a combo better than that! The comedy duo plays two sets of twins, switched at birth. In each duo, a sister finds herself lost in a world she doesn't belong in, and entangled in a romantic relationship that just doesn't feel right. But the men that love them discover the woman of their dreams is just a twin away. Seriously, see this movie. I mean it.

5) A Walk in the Clouds, 1995

Yes, that is Keanu Reeves. Please don't go screaming into the night. Give him a chance. I believe this is one of the best films he ever made, and he's surrounded by the amazing talents of Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Anthony Quinn, Giancarlo Giannini. He learns from them, he really does. Also, the movie is about a soldier, Paul, returning from war to find his wife a total stranger (she never even read his letters!). He happens into a woman, Victoria, who is pregnant, and about to go home to her family's vineyard in shame. They work out a plan, and he throws his whole heart into it. Really. What I like most is that this beautiful film has you fall in love with Victoria and her family, right along with Paul. Gorgeous photography, amazing story. 

So there you have it! My top five most watchable romantic movies of all time. Take the time this weekend to admire what love could/should really be.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Life After Ashes - an Anthology, and a Helping Hand

Urgent announcement today.

A sad note, and a happy one. I'm a contributing author for an anthology entitled "Life After Ashes". Sad, because this Tilt campaign needs to happen for a fellow veteran and his devastated family, and yet I'm happy to be able to something, anything, to help.

So can you.

A press release:


(16 January 2015 – DAYTON, OHIO – ) An award-winning lineup of over fifty authors are collecting stories to help raise money to help the family of a Navy veteran and fellow author recover after a home-destroying fire. The anthology, entitled Life After Ashes will only be available as a reward to those donating money through a crowdfunding campaign to aid the family before 2 February 2015.
Earlier this month the home of writer, Navy veteran, and single father Greg Campbell burned down. Campbell and his two children, Isaac and Scarlett, lost everything, including childhood mementos, keepsakes and photos of his recently deceased wife, and family pets. To help the family recover, Tia Fix Rumbaugh, Isaac’s stepmother, started a crowdfunding campaign to help the family get back on their feet.
“I started the crowdfunder in a panic,” Rumbaugh said. “My stepson’s house had burned. They were homeless, with only the clothes on their back, and this after my stepson had lost his mother de facto when his Aunt Pam died unexpectedly.”
The anthology started to take shape when author and publisher Steven Saus first offered digital copies of his own books as rewards for backers. “I’d just met Isaac, one of the children who lost their home. Not only is his father an author, but Isaac is an aspiring writer himself and an avid reader. It just seemed natural. Then when other authors asked if they could contribute stories as backer rewards, I knew we had the start of something special.”
Rumbaugh says that this has a great impact for the family. “This anthology isn’t just about raising funds to help the Campbell’s and give people an amazing read from award-winning authors - it’s a cause, it’s a quest, it’s an idea turned into physical hope; hope for Greg, hope for Isaac, hope for Scarlett. Life isn’t all about loss. Life can raise up from the ashes.”
Life After Ashes will have over fifty authors, including Nisi Shawl, Lucy A. Snyder, Gary Braunbeck, Tobias Buckell, Laura Resnick, and many more. It will be available in ePub, Kindle, and PDF formats to anyone who contributes $25 or more to the crowdfunding campaign raising money for the family.
You can find the crowdfunding campaign on at


Should you wish to schedule an interview, please contact Steven Saus at 937-234-7287 or or Tia Fix Rumbaugh at .

Cover art by Steven Gilberts

Let's turn this project into more than just words. Let's make them words of hope.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Snow, and a Sky Full of Singing

We got the first bit of snowfall this winter, in Nashville, that actually stuck around for an hour or so, before dissolving as though it had never been there.

I'm not complaining. I hate the stuff. Got my fill of snow all the years I lived in Michigan!

But, I did grab my camera, slip on some shoes, and run out to my backyard to document the strange little dusting that looked more like vanilla sprinkles than snowflakes. Here's one of my pictures, serving as inspiration for another knitting project, soon:

I can't wait to get started on that!

But, in the meanwhile, I've finished my first scarf project, based on the colors from "In a Nutshell".
I ran into a little trouble trying to photograph the scarf: because of the fun fur, no matter what interesting angle I tried, the thing just looked like a tribble.

So I decided to go with a close-up, instead.

In a Nutshell photo

In a Nutshell scarf

Also on my agenda, I finished reading "The Crystal World" by J. G. Ballard as the book in my 2015 challenge that 'came out the year I was born'. 

I remembered, a page or two in, why it was also a book I started and never finished. I just couldn't engage, no matter how hard I tried. But I soldiered through, this time. 

My reward? The next challenge! 'A book of short stories'. Look at this beauty:

Got this baby right out of my bookshelf, and couldn't even find a reference photo to link online! So I took one myself. I feel like the moment I open the cover, a chorus in the sky will break out. 

I shall read with great reverence, indeed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Knit and Lit

No, not knitting *while* lit. Although, that might be a fun experiment, sometime. (note to self)

I've long had a fascination with photography. I've never taken a course, which I should do, one of these days. But I do like to fiddle around and see what I can manage, and I've gotten a new camera recently--all mine! A "simple" point-and-shoot type thing, with more settings than I know what to do with.

It goes underwater, too!

I like to take it with me (and my dog, Edith) on walks. I have a grand plan to create knitting projects based around the colors of my favorite photos. Or, am I taking photos that would make great color schemes for knitting? Hm.

Either way, I have a few photos to start with! Here's "In a Nutshell":

I've already begun this scarf, with brown/gray/beige, plus cinnamon-colored fun fur to add the pop of autumn orange.

Next up: "Gravel Path":

After I took this picture, I happened across a yarn called "Cobblestone", with big chunks of fluffy woven right in, and couldn't believe my luck. I can hardly wait to see what I make of that! But I have a personal rule that I finish one project before I start another, so this is in my queue.

I'll be sure to post the finished projects with their photos! Plenty more to come. I'm really enjoying my photography/knitting challenge.

Speaking of challenge, I have updates for my 2015 Reading!

I've finished "Dark Dreams" by Roy Hazelwood and Stephen Michaud - a nonfiction book.

Next up - my selection for "a book that came out the year you were born" - which is 1966:

"The Crystal World" actually counts as 'book written by an author with your same initials', and 'book you started but never finished', but I won't double up and count it as three. Where's the fun in that?!

It has a pretty cover (if rather generic), which suddenly gives me an idea to start knitting scarves based on color schemes from book covers. Hm. Hmmmm. 

One more reason to play around in my yarn stash! I like it!

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge - Are you in?

As an author, screenwriter, and filmmaker, I am often so busy creating stories that I seldom have time for my first, real love: reading. I miss it, the way one misses the scent of a favorite stuffed toy, or the comfortable feel of beloved slippers.

I'm making it a priority again this year.

This reading challenge, posted by PopSugar, and brought to my attention by my friend, Robin, makes the task seem fun, rather than guilt-laden for my lack of literary exposure. I'm excited to be excited to read again!

Join in on the fun!

From Tara Block at PopSugar:

"Book-lovers, start your reading engines. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to read more books in 2015, get started now with our ultimate reading challenge. From a book your mom loves to a book with a love triangle, we're giving you a wide range of reads, spanning eras and genres, instead of specific books."


My first book from the challenge is a non-fiction book, chosen from the stack I got for Christmas.

I've read other work from the writing duo, and enjoy their voice. They're able to communicate the fascinating parts, as well as the grim realities, without inflating or making it seem tabloid or gratuitously cheap entertainment.

While I'm on the subject, here's another book I got for Christmas:

I blasted through this amazing book, and will be reading it again. It's a true-to-life (because it IS true) foray into a career that could seem macabre, except, it isn't. 

I can't count it on my challenge for 2015, though, because I read it last week! But maybe next time...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"We" - by Yevgeny Zamyatin

I've only just closed the last page of this fascinating book. I feel as breathless as D-503, the journalist and main character of the story, as he searches for his grip on his reality. What a ride.

The story is chronicled by D-503, a cipher of the One State. He is happily obedient as worker-mathematician, toiling for the Benefactor. But by the meddling in his head of a woman, I-330, he becomes ill with a "soul" that torments him with feelings, laughter,

But she's no ordinary cipher, of course. She has designs. And D-503 finds himself dragged toward his own destruction by the ring in his nose. Has he replaced one dictator for another?

Zamyatin was no stranger to Totalitarianism. This novel emerges from the time of revolutionary Petrograd. It took the Czechs to manage getting it to print. He'd been arrested and exiled from Russia, arrested and internally exiled (when they couldn't keep him out), and put before a judge again who kicked him back out. All for his revolutionary writing.

The claim has been made that Zamyatin is the inventor of the Dystopia, and that might possibly be true in fiction, This book is rife with "cliche" plot twists and turns, but at its time of writing, it hadn't become cliche yet. It was pioneering.

The novel does often read almost as a stream-of-consciousness tale, and at times I truly struggled to tell the difference between D-503's imaginings and what seemed to be reality. Which isn't exactly a departure from what D-503 himself experiences, so I found this forgivable. I've been told the translation can make an astounding difference as to language, tone, and effect, and so I'll share that I read the translation by Natasha Randall, and I found it to be poetically breathtaking.

I struggled for some time to find a tea companion for this novel that truly fits. And I discovered a wonderful new tea at the same time; one I find particularly true to the flavor of "We". Numi's "Golden Chai"-- --is a beautifully delicate balance of traditional chai with a clearly defined ginger overtone that complements the tragic, but septically clean, life of Zamyatin's ciphers with living at the mercy of the One State.

Try both, the book and the tea, and let me know what you think!