Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
All of a sudden, through a gate in the fence separating the soccer fields from the rest of the park and up a hill of about 15 feet, came thundering toward us a large, male Labrador bent on mayhem and destruction. My reaction was an ineffectual, “Hello! Come get your dog!”
The two male dogs stood eyeball to eyeball. I wasn’t overly concerned at that point since I’d never met an aggressive Lab. I called out to the non-present owner to come get his dog. No one appeared at the gate through which the Lab had appeared. The Lab had a collar on, but, even though every entrance to the park clearly states that every dog must be leashed, this dog had no leash nor an owner.
Suddenly, the Lab lunged at Tux. Although outweighed by 50 pounds, Tux didn’t turn tail and run. He hung in there and put himself between the Lab and Grace and me. There was much snarling and snapping of teeth. For my part, I began yelling at the top of my lungs for the dog's owner and trying to protect my two Cockers.
Grace reared up on her hind legs, put her two front paws on the Lab’s shoulder, and went for his ear.
That’s all the Lab needed to decide to quit the field. As quickly, as the dog fight had begun, it was over. The Lab headed back up the hill toward the gate through which he’d come just as his owner appeared, leash in hand.
“Are you crazy?” I yelled.
“Sorry,” he said, finally putting a leash on his vicious Cocker Spaniel hating Lab.
He turned and disappeared through the gate without bothering to ask if Tux and Grace were hurt.
Grace & Tux Weathered the Storm
I turned toward Tux to ensure that he hadn’t been injured, and found him none-the-worse for the experience. In fact, he seemed stunned. But then, he stood a little taller and looked at me as if he had vanquished the foe and saved both his sister and his Mom from the vicious, snarling, drooling devil-dog.
Tux the Conqueror
Neither Grace, who I swear looked at me with a small knowing smile, nor I told Tux that it was the lunge for the Lab’s ear that had vanquished the enemy not Tux standing toe-to-toe with the ugly hulk. Why let the air out of his inflated ego? It’s little enough as it is. Grace and I were only hoping that he wouldn’t have an exaggerated since of himself in the days to follow.
Tux doesn’t have the longest memory in the world. In fact, he quickly forgot about the fight. He had better things to think about. Like that Lhaso Apso that was in front of us prancing along like some kind of prince.
Like Tux, we need to have short memories when it comes to rejections and slights. We need to remember that it’s not personal. The rejecting agents/publishers are not saying a single word about who we are or the kind of people we are. They are simply saying that our book(s) are not for them. Period.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumpter in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. The next day, Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort to Confederate General Beauregard. Thus, began America’s Civil War.
During the years leading up to the firing on Fort Sumter, Southern sympathizer Secretary of War John Floyd had posted the majority of Union troops west of the Mississippi while Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey, another Southern sympathizer, had ordered most of the US navy to set sail for the West Indies while nearly all the rest of the US ships were dry docked behind Confederate lines in Norfolk, Virginia.
The new Union President, Abraham Lincoln, on April 15th, issued a call for 75,000 troops to be raised by Union states to suppress the rebellion and defend Washington. There was much speculation about who would reach the Capitol first - Federal or Confederate troops.
With Washington left essentially undefended (there were only 1500 US troops in the city), Confederate President Jefferson Davis vowed he’d be living in the White House by May 1st. Mrs. Davis even sent out invitations to her friends living in the North to join her at the White House on May 1st for tea. It was rumored that there 20,000 Confederate troops within striking distance of the Capitol.
With Federal troops deployed in the west and the navy sailing for the West Indies, Washington, DC was left vulnerable. It was an easy target for the taking. For 12 days, Washington was cut off from the North and reinforcements.
Strangely, though, despite calls for “On to Washington” sounding across the South, there was no attempt by the South to take the US capitol.
Author John Lockwood explains why Washington was not attacked in “The Siege of Washington.” Subtitled “The Untold Story of the Twelve Days that Shook the Union,’ Lockwood unlocks the mystery behind the South’s failure to take Washington. There has been speculation that had the South acted, the Civil War would have ended with the fall of Washington and the bloodbath that was the Civil War would have been averted. Instead, the first battle of the Civil War took place two months later at Bull Run.
We all know the outcome of this drama. Nevertheless, Lockwood sheds new light on the story of the beginning of the Civil War. For instance, while Lee didn’t resign his commission in the US Army until April 20th, he felt it was more important to shore up Virginia’s defenses rather than take Washington.
This is an easy to read and compelling story of 12 days that changed the face of American history. If you are interested in the American Civil War or want to be more informed about that period of US history, this is a must read.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
In Must You Go?: My Life with Harold Pinter, Antonia Fraser uses her diaries to tell the story of her relationship with the playwright Harold Pinter.
This is not a biography of Pinter nor is it a memoir of Fraser’s life. This is all about their relationship - how they met, how they got together, and how they made their relationship work for over 30 years. It is obvious from Fraser’s entries from her diaries that they were very much in love, they respected each other’s talents, and were a support for each other. Many of the entries sound like a who’s who of the literary world as Fraser and Pinter move through it.
Fraser intersperses her own memories with her diary entries, sometimes to explain the diary entry, sometimes to add information. This is a fast read and only the hard hearted will not cry at the end. Any one who is interested in the literary scene will find this fascinating and informative.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
The Brutal Telling is the fifth in Louise Penny’s excellent series featuring Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec. In this outing, Gamache and his team return to the small town of Three Pines when the local bookstore owner reports seeing a body in the bistro. The body is that of an unidentified man whom none of the locals claim to know or to have seen. With nothing to go on other than where the victim was found, Gamache begins his search not only for a murderer, but for his identity as well.
It doesn’t take long for Gamache to know that he’s been lied to. What he doesn’t know is why. Finally, the team is told, by the bistro owner, Olivier, that the man was known only as the Hermit. Olivier is the only one who has seen him. They catch a lucky break when a local, riding a horse along a newly forged riding trail, spots a cabin deep in the woods on her property. She reports the find to Gamache who goes to the cabin and what he finds there stuns and fascinates him.
In the end, Gamache makes an arrest based on the evidence. Doubts as to the man’s innocence or guilt remain in the minds of the locals who know him. Penny subtly allows the reader to question the evidence as well and to wonder whether Gamache is convinced he’s arrested the right man.
As Gamache goes about his inquiry, Penny gives her readers an update on many of the locals whom we met in the first book in this series, Still Life. Ruth Zardo, the small town’s curmudgeon and a renown poet, is now dressing the foundling duckling she adopted in a previous book in a variety of clothing including a sweater and raincoat. Claire, whose paintings have been “discovered” by a Montreal art gallery owner, must decide whether to stand up for her principles and lose the opportunity to become well known or keep quiet. Peter, her already-well-known artist/husband, must come to grips with the knowledge that his wife may be more talented than he is. The old Hadley House has new owners and we meet them in this book.
Once again, Penny has written an outstanding story. She takes the reader through each step of the investigation, only occasionally withholding information that Gamache has found, which only adds to the tension. Penny does not rush to the end as some authors do. She meticulously allows the reader to chew on and savor each new bit of information.
In this book, it is fall with a touch of winter in the air. Once again, Penny allows us to see autumn and almost smell it as well. In following a clue, Gamache travels to the Queen Charlotte Islands and introduces non-Canadians to little known historical events that occurred there.
Award-winning Louise Penny deserves every accolade heaped on her for this series. She is in the company of P.D. James as one of the best procedural writers writing today.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Tux and Grace got their Spring haircuts not too long ago, and it promptly snowed. They no longer had their shaggy Winter coats to keep them warm. I found myself being snuggled a lot. I didn’t let myself think I was being snuggled for snuggles sake. No, I was aware that I was the object of snuggling because I emanated heat - and I had the throw.
Tux tries to be independent. He works hard at it. For instance, as we speak, he is lying on his doggie bed with his back to Grace and I. We both know, though, that he has his favorite plush toy in his mouth and is falling asleep with it in his mouth. His back to us tells us that he’s aware that tough, independent Alpha dogs don’t sleep with their plush toys.
By the end of the day, Tux has had enough of being Alpha dog tough. He’s ready for some pets and snuggles from his Mom. So he climbs into my chair with me and we spend the evening together. He has to share me with my laptop, but he’s willing to give me that concession in order to be able to be close. He knows what he wants - an evening of being snuggled. He knows how to get it, too.
Too often we humans, unlike Tux, don’t know what we want. We have some vague idea of what it is, like “I want to be a best-selling author.” That’s a wonderful goal. Too often, though, we have no idea what it takes to get to that goal. Some think that all they have to do is write a book. While it’s true that in order to be a best-selling author, you do have to write a book, that’s not all there is to it. It may sound easy to some to say, “I’ll write a book.” It’s altogether another thing to sit down and do it. Writing a minimum of 80,000 words is no easy task.
Getting published is no easy task either. It takes perseverance and guts. If you can’t stick to it, sometimes for years, don’t go down the road. If you don’t have the guts to take rejections and to keep going after major setbacks, take the road more traveled. The road less traveled is sometimes full of travails that are not for the faint-of-heart.