oh dear

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So, as it turns out, I was absolutely rubbish at blogging on vacation– far too wrapped up in just enjoying the experiences moment by moment, wandering around London in absolute awe or curling up on the couch with an blanket and a Target novel on a chilly afternoon or wandering down the boardwalk in Brighton, hand in hand with my fella.

I do still want to share some of my marvelous experiences, though, so I’ll write them up a few at a time– with some pictures that Dave took (as my camera battery died almost immediately upon arrival and my adaptor went caput. Ah well, he’s a better photographer than I am anyway.) 

 So, stay tuned, folks.   

 

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Waiting

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So, it’s now 2:12 pm on Monday, and my friend will be here to pick me up in about an hour , and she’ll drive me to the airport. I’ve done everything I can do short of putting on my shoes, and this is one of the hardest parts of waiting.  I’m comfy and at home and everything feels like usual, so it’s easy to feel lazy like it’s any other day.  But I’m bubbling over with excitement, and a bit worried about the actual travelling part, which is mostly because I’ve never travelled internationally before.  I’m finding ways to kill a bit of time (this being one of them), but the clock is ticking slower than it does during the afternoon of the last day of school.  It’ll be all hurry up and wait all afternoon, I know that.  Just wanna get started on my adventure!

Adventures await

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Hi.

I know, it’s been a long while.  How’s everyone?

Me, well, I’m two weeks into my summer vacation, and I admit to enjoying a few extremely lazy days lately. 

However, here’s the big news, are you ready?  In four days I get on a plane to visit England for two and a half weeks!!!  I’ve been planning the trip for the better part of a year now, and have been actively counting down the days since February.  Now it’s finally here, and I’m nearly ready to crawl out of my skin with excitement!  I’ve never been out of the US before. I’ve always wanted to visit England, as do most of my friends, given the number of them who’ve begged to stow-away in my suitcase the past few weeks.  There’s the Flashing Blade podcast picnic on the 2nd of July, where I’ll get to actually meet many of the people with whom I’ve only tweeted or Skyped or Facebooked or such [my inner grammar nerd is really rebelling at turning all of those words into verbs, but as I’m on vacation, I shall tell her to shush].  Incredibly looking forward to seeing friends in person!

And, most importantly of all, I’ll have over two weeks together with my fella. You know, on the same continent, which will make a nice change.  Yes, *blush* as pretty much everyone knows by now, my co-host Dave and I are a couple.  Have been for quite awhile now.  I can see the knowing grins of our PDAIS listeners from here.  Yeah, you were right, guys 😉  Though we’ve tried to be a bit discreet, as long-distance is hard enough without everyone watching, I suspect this will come as a surprise to no one at the picnic… or on the twitters. 

We’ve got such adventures planned!  In addition to the picnic, there’ll be Shakespearean theater [Tennant and Tate in “Much Ado About Nothing”!], touristy wanderings, the Doctor Who Experience, and all kinds of wonderfulness.  Hence the update here on the blog.  I’m going to try to write down some of my England adventures– partially so I don’t forget how marvelous they all were amid the whirlwind of what I know will be a blazing fast two weeks, and partially to let my friends enjoy vicariously, the second best thing to stowing away.  Our goal is to do a few podcast discussions together and put those up on the PDAIS feed, so these might act as a supplement to those as well.  Anyway, adventures await!

to make your Friday more fun

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Hi… um…. it’s been awhile.  again. 

So… since December… what’s been going on? 

We’ve just finished our Spring Break– which was the first Spring Break (since what, 1996?) I’ve not spent with my family.   My mom came to visit at the beginning and the end of the week, though, and it was really nice to see her.  Becoming adult friends with my mother is a great joy, really.

Most of my creative energies these days are going into preparations and recordings of our podcast, Professor Dave’s Ark in Space– PDAIS, for short– http://profdais.libsyn.com  My co-hosts (our team has grown to 5 people now:

Professor Dave, Doctor Thomas, Viki the Vixen, International Sensation Danielle, and me!).  I so much enjoy our discussions!  I’m earning my comic book nerd card at the moment, as Doctor Thomas introduces me to graphic novels.  In this latest one, we talked all about the Asterix books.  I now understand the reference in the Eddie Izzard routine about Mister Dog.  🙂 

Oh! Oh!  And I really want to tell you about, though, are tongue-in-cheek radio serial episodes Our newest escapade is our PDAIS Presents: http://pdaispresents.libsyn.com/  Right now we’re Superheroes.  Doctor Thomas writes our scripts.  If you laugh even just half as much as we do while reading and recording them…

Work-wise, well, it gets intense this time of year. A mixture of calm and relaxed days (like today) and really difficult and frustrating days (like yesterday). I’d tell you some of the shenanigans, but you wouldn’t believe me!  [Here’s just a snippet.  I had to say the words, “‘He threw it at me first’ is not an acceptable reason for throwing books across the room.” And that was before 9am in the morning. Le sigh.]  Three weeks until our big state test, so the pressures to make the kids perform is ramped up to 11.   I’m up to my ears in grading most of the time.  Starbucks becomes a bit of a second home, as massive amounts of solo venti peppermint java chip frappachinos are required to deal with the hundreds of weekly journals. 

Personally, well… let’s just say that I’ve got a really wonderful fella and am silly happy.  *blush* 

Also (and not unrelated to the previous point), I’m planning a trip this summer [end of June/ early July] to London, England– actually finally bought my airline tickets this week, which left me dancing about the living room with excitement and glee! 

Well, that’s about that.  I’ve updated my Library Bag links along the side, and after tomorrow’s library trip I’ll try to remember to update them again.  Tonight, I’m curling up with the new Carrie Bebris book.    I’d like to blog about the Kat Atkinson novel, as it had quite a few interesting points.  Oh… and in a few months I might have a really cool short story collection by a fantastic to review for you.  I should also blog about ‘Blue Box Boy’ by Matthew Waterhouse, as that was pretty special too.

Right. Calling it a night, ya’ll.

long long overdue review: “Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical”

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Title: Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical

Author: Rob Shearman

Pub: Big Finish, 2009

Genre: Short Stories/ Novellas

Awards Won: Shirley Jackson Awards, Edge Hill Short Story Readers Prize,  2010 British Fantasy Awards

 The first thing you should know about this book is that it’s exactly what a short story collection should be– rather like expensive chocolate truffles.  The best way to enjoy is to slowly nibble just one at a time, savoring the flavors  and the artistry.  Then, put the book down.  Wander off, cook, feed the cat, mail the letters, or do the laundry.  As you do, the memory of the story, the ethereal taste, will ghost just along with you.  Then, sometime later… an hour, a day, just as the flavor fades… you’ll come back and taste another– different from the first and yet just as exquisite.

The second thing you should know about this book is that it’s apparently impossible to review it without resorting to lyricism.   

Shearman’s narrative style is deceptively straight-forward.  No flowery flights of language.  He creates a world in just a few deft strokes, that we completely recognize as our own–

–just to pick one, the opening of ‘Your Long, Loving Arms’ introduces us to Steve: “In the end, it was the afternoons that were killing him.  The evenings were fine.  The evenings, he could cope with.  He wasn’t working in the evenings, it was true, but that was okay, lots of people didn’t work in the evenings. He’d play with Ben a bit, like a normal dad, might read him a bedtime story if Ben fancied it. Like a normal dad, and in a normal family too, he’d cuddle up with Cheryl on the sofa and they’d watch a spot of telly, and at last Cheryl would say that she’d best go to bed, she had to be up early in the morning. And he’d go with her, though he didn’t have to be up early, not any more” (87).   Simple enough, right?  and heart-breakingly recognizable in these days of unemployment and redundancy–

— then Shearman slips our world just a little bit sideways with a word, but ever so gently that it seems the only natural way to be.  So, our Steve, in an attempt to stem the tide of those lengthening afternoons, enlists in the Tree Scheme: “It was funny– after an hour or so you didn’t feel the stiffness in your arms.  First they numbed, then felt like something detached from the body altogether.  And when the breeze fluttered his leaves, Steve thrilled to it– the wind just teasing them, they didn’t seem so much blown about as stroked” (92).  You need to read it now, don’t you?

Hence why, though his stories are often nominated for Fantasy and Horror awards, they’re not really either, in the traditional sense– but in the sense that we are amazed and terrified by ourselves, reflected back in one of those mirrors where it’s just twisted enough that you recognize a stranger’s face in your own.  Plus, what the labels tend to set aside is the humor woven deftly into the fabric of these stories.  Not the burst into laugher in public kind– though you might, as I did, get asked what you’re grinning about, which you will find yourself utterly unable to describe– but that kind of communal recognition that life is a funny old thing, after all, but it’s ours.

Sitting here, writing this and flipping through the book to find my favorite to tell you about, I keep finding one favorite and then another and then another, but all for different reasons.  Each story’s narrator is unique and both exactly like someone you know and completely unlike anyone else at all–some through the delicacy of third person [including “Love Among the Lobelias,” “Roadkill,” and “Love in a Time of Sharing”] and some through the intimacy of first [including “Not About Love,” “Be of Good Cheer,” “14.2,” and “At the Crease”].  Tenderness, shyness, loss, loneliness, hope, cynicism, yes, and longing too– the stories are about love, after all.  And, along the way, perhaps just a tinge of that fear of love gone a bit (well more than a bit really, a very very lot) wrong, there’s “George Clooney’s Mustache.” 

The third thing you should know about this book is that picking a favorite story is too hard.

Go on then.  Here you are: http://www.bigfinish.com/ranges/love-songs-for-the-shy-and-cynical

The Lizard– a slam poem

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As heard on the latest PDAIS podcast (episode 17), my contribution to our Slam Poetry segment.  Enjoy!

If you’d like to hear me perform it, here’s the link: http://profdave.libsyn.com/pdais-017

The Lizard

by Lillibet

Absurd.

Clearly.

but–

‘More scared of you than you are of them.’

Not likely.

 

Stella, nose pointed, tail poised, legs primed for action

Nudges the blinds, opening…revealing

 

A hole in the screen, too tempting for this fine fellow, fatal mistake

There in the corner he wriggles— squirmed his way from predator to prey

I hesitate

She pounces

He flees

The chase is on!

 

Advantage Stella, sharp senses, whiskers, clever paws, tail to twitch

Me—with my weaker weapons, plastic cups and panic,

Both of us hoping to capture

He, in desperation, dodging under the desk, diving

From kindness and cruelty

 

A capture!  Triumphal procession to the living room.

A release! 

Not emperor’s mercy but a tyrant queen’s humor

A game to her

Run, little fellow, run

Me, stricken in two minds: save the doomed one,

and please God don’t let it run across my feet!

Too late– 

Again

Again

 

Then sudden…. Success!  Offering the panicked one

Ok… the other panicked one…

An alternative to paws and claws and jaws

Look, a nice cup.

Clapping the other atop it—no climbing out, please…. Please

Rushing out to the garden

Toppling the fellow over the fence—safety maybe in the ferns

 

Back inside

Throwing out the cups—I know I’ll never be able to use them again.

Stella, sadly, tracing where the games had been

Longing for bygones.

Hi, Hannah

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Title: Birth Marks

Author: Sarah Dunant

Published: 1992

Series: The Hannah Wolfe Crime Novels

Summary: Hannah, back in London, is hired to find a missing ballet dancer, Carolyn Hamilton.  When Carolyn is found dead only days after, under the assumption of suicide, Hannah is asked to find out why.    What she uncovers, layer by layer, is a truth that reveals more about herself than she was looking for.

This book was lent to me, highly recommended, by a friend [thank you, Lisa!] who knows my love of mysteries, and my general Anglophilia, so I eagerly began reading it nearly as soon as it was in my hands.  I was hooked after the opening paragraph:

Mistake number one: I should never have sublet the flat.  Mistake number two was letting myself be taken in by appearances.  With a job like mine, you’d think I would have learnt by now.  But she had seemed such a shrinking violet, an anthroplogy student with so many religous books that she was clearly having trouble with Darwin.  Obviously somewhere over the last three months the evolutionists had struck back.  The kitchen smelt as if a dinosaur had died there and the bed looked as though it had been used to test out the survival of the fittest theory.  Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll   It had all happened here.  And I hadn’t had any of them.  Ah, these young people.  As a woman on the wrong side of thirty I could feel disapproval coming on.[1]

Hannah Wolfe’s strong narrative presence is a constant throughout the novel.  She was the reason I kept reading, as her desire to know the truth about the dead dancer fueled the narrative onward.  Hannah’s a professional private eye, and a darn good one.  After reading long series of cozy mysteries where the “detective’s” involvement must be contrived, it was utterly refreshing to have Hannah investigating because it was her job.  Hannah rather reluctantly takes the case because she needs the money and because it’s the better of several rather dreary alternatives.   

Also making a nice change is that Dunant’s novel is peopled with three-dimensional characters, who don’t exist soley to drop the detective a clue.  These characters’ lives continue on while Hannah is not around, and when we revisit them, events in which we’ve played little or no part have altered their willingness to discuss Carolyn’s life. Hannah’s connection to the case grows while she slowly attempts to bring the thusly divergent pictures of the lost Carolyn into focus.  And yes, I am attempting to review this without given away any of the clues that Dunant went to such effort to skillfully scatter throughout her pages.

Being a single woman on “the wrong side of thirty,” Hannah also finds herself particularly vulnerable to the choices that various characters, particularly Carolyn, have made about motherhood– leading us into the central theme of the novel.  This is where Dunant gives herself away as a serious novelist [which she has now become], rather than simply a weaver of mysteries. Hannah’s narration becomes replete with womb imagery (a little heavy-handed, frankly) and her scrutiny of Carolyn’s life and death become a reflection upon her own life’s choices.  Certainly, I think, most women can relate, at least in part, to Hannah’s conflicted thoughts about the single, career-driven, independent life she has (and enjoys) and the children/ marriage/ domestic life she both admires and fears.  However, the existential angst with which Dunant wraps this internal narration had me checking the copyright date.  Yup, I confirmed to myself, 1992 sounds about right– and it also explains some of the ‘decadant eighties big business’ overtones.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed Dunant and Hannah, and will be eagerly adding the other two novels in the series, “Under My Skin” and “Fatlands” to my TBR list.

Sarah Dunant’s official website: http://www.sarahdunant.com/