Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

"You too will marry a boy I choose," said Mrs. Rupa Mehra firmly to her younger daughter."

Did she or didn't she marry a suitable boy?  I'm sorry I won't share and remain coy, except to say, he was, for me, the most unsuitable boy.   

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Writerly Wednesday

James Ensor Old Lady with Blue Shawl (1881)

 Stolen Moments 

Dorothy stroked the soft hand-crocheted shawl draped over the back of her mother’s rocking chair.  Her mother had had it for as long as she could remember. Once a brilliant blue, it had faded with time.   Elizabeth walked into the room with three tea cups and arranged them on the end stand.  The china clinked, fragile and empty. Her eyebrows furrowed as she gazed at Dorothy. 

“The girl,” She waved toward the kitchen, “is making tea. Margaret, I think.”


“Ah yes, that’s right. I just can’t keep them straight these days.”  She sat, hands folded primly in her lap.  “Now then, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

Dorothy had learned a long time ago to go with her mother’s flights of fancy.  She smiled. “It’s Dot.”

“You’re a friend of my daughter? Where did she go?”

“She’s out in the garden.”

Maggie bustled into the room with a silver tea service tray and set it on the coffee table. “So there are our tea cups. You had me wondering darlin’ where they went.”

Her mother flipped a hand, “Thank you, you’re dismissed.”

“Yes mum.” Maggie winked at Dorothy. “We’re in a bit of royal mood today. Mind your p’s and q’s.”  She did a far imitation of a courtesy, poured the tea and handed a cup to Elizabeth.  She chuckled as she left.

Dorothy poured a cup for herself, and settled back in the rocking chair.  She lifted a corner of the shawl, rubbed it against her cheek.  Her mother’s jasmine fragrance clung to the material.  She inhaled, the scent taking her back to the days of old, wrapped together in her mother’s arms, loving away a child’s pain.  The magic shawl, her mother used to say.  It soothed the hurts, comforted the sick and kept away the wallygogs.  She never quite figured out what that meant.

“I made that, you know.” 

“Yes, it’s beautiful”

“When I was pregnant with my Dorothy, everyone else was knitting booties.” She rolled her eyes.  “Not my style. I finished it the day of her birthday.  A princess blanket for my princess.”

Dorothy sucked in a breath, her hand tightening on the shawl.  She closed her eyes against the sting of tears.  A memory her mother had never shared or it could be a new one made up to fill in holes in her mind.  She preferred the former, hoped it was true.

“She wore it for her wedding; so beautiful.  I have a picture somewhere.”  Her mother rummaged through the shelves.  

“Yes, I remember.”  Dorothy chuckled.  Her something borrowed, something blue.  It had looked hideous with her wedding dress, but it had been important to Elizabeth.

“Ah, here it is.” She pulled out a photo album and patted the cushion beside her.  “Come, look.”

Dorothy rose, pulled the shawl off the back of the chair and draped it over her mother’s narrow shoulders.  Elizabeth leaned against her shoulder, the album on both their laps.  She opened the book to a random page, eyed the pictures, shook her head and flipped through more pages.

Dorothy laid her hand over her mom’s to still it.  “What are you looking for, perhaps I can help.”

“It’s not here.”  A shiver ran through her mom’s frail body.

“Oh mama.”  Dorothy rearranged the shawl over both their shoulders and cuddled against her mother. After a few minutes, Elizabeth took her hand and stroked the ring on Dorothy’s finger.

“I gave this to you on your eighteenth birthday. Do you remember why?”

Dorothy closed her eyes for a moment. “Yes, do you?”

Her mother chuckled, “I may be old, but not stupid Dorothy Myers.”  She leaned back and gazed at Dorothy with lucid, life filled eyes.  “I feel asleep on you again, didn’t I?”

For just a few minutes. I love you mom.”

“I love you too, my princess Dorothy.”

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy New Year!

Some days you feel classy and refined

Halstenberg, Sue (b,1957)- Woman Writing in Chair:
Sue Halstenberg -  Woman Writing in Chair

Other days, not so much!

Entry Detail:

Happy New Year. I've been contemplating this new year and once again, I can't find one word that defines what will take me through the year.   Perseverance came to mind and the little engine's mantra of I think I can, I think I can.   Yoda's wise Do or do not, there is no try.   I'm already feeling a bit disorganized as both James and I struggle to get back into lessons and writing classes.  The internet distracts, yet I can't unplug because so much of what we do is online.  My attention span...Squirrel!

Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain. ~Author Unknown

Actually I think I will just gather up all the pebbles, mix with a bit of concrete, create stepping stones, make a path and see where it takes me. 

I usually start my year off with a dusty or chunky classical book and this year's choice is by far the longest story yet. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and it is a rather chunky chunkster at 1474 pages, I am learning quite a bit about the history of India and their culture and have been marking passages, looking up unknown words.  To be honest I've never heard of James Elroy Flecker nor Tagore so it will be interesting following rabbit trails. Loved this particular bit of conversation

"Please do not misunderstand me, Professor Mishra," he said, "but that line of argument may be taken by those of us not well versed in the finer forms of parliamentary byplay to be a species of quibbling."

I'm by no means a monogamous reader and have already cheated on A Suitable Boy with Jayne Castle's Deception Cove from her Rainshadow series. Paranormal and urban fantasy stories have become my comfort reads.  James and I are listening to the Harry Potter series in the car and just finished the first book.  Very enjoyable since it's been several years since I read the books. James is constantly dipping into the novels, reading one passage from one for a while, then another.  Perhaps his comfort read in between other books or inspiration for his latest story he is writing.     

On my plate for literature classes coming up is a reread of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well as new to me author Joan Didion and her collection of essay's Slouching Toward Bethlehem

I'm working my way through Dinty Moore's Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Non Fiction in one of my online classes and the current exercise involves writing a piece using 2nd person point of view which should prove to be quite interesting.  I've read very few books written in 2nd POV but discovered Italo Calvino seems to do it flawlessly in If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, and doesn't throw the reader completely out of the story in confusion.   

Well, I'm off to continue exploring 1950's India.

Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Reading Year

Jonathan Wolstenholme 

Well, my goodness.  I just looked at my grand reading plans for 2015 and discovered I only read one of the books in my five categories of Dusty, Chunky, Luke, Translated and Philosophical.  I usually don't plan out what I'm going to read and this is exactly the reason why.  My year took off and I never looked back, too busy with writing and classes and reading whatever books called my name. Yes, I'm a mood reader so don't know why I bothered to make any plans.  Unfortunately, posting on My Two Blessings took a back seat as well which means I didn't keep very good track of what I read when.    

I'm reminded of Robert Burn's poem To the Mouse in which he says  "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

I did end up reading more nonfiction thanks to my writing studies as well as historical books with James.  Which lead to discovering some very interesting creative nonfiction writers and opening up a whole new world.   Writing studies took a front seat this year and finished my writing group's reading of The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LePlante.  Also completed

Charles Baxter – The Art of Subtext
Constance Hale -  Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose
Dinty Moore  -  Rose Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction
Madison Smart Bell – Narrative Design
Peter Turchi – Maps of the Imagination

Statistics wise, I read 110 books and listened to 17 audiobooks out of which 36 are female authors, 15 male authors and 15 new to me authors.  I reread 5 different series including Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels, Anne Bishop's Others, Keri Arthur's Dark Angels,  Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter and Karen Marie Moning's Fever series.   Pretty sure I ended up reading more e-books than physical books because my stacks haven't shrunk at all. In fact, my books had babies and the babies had babies.  I leaned toward more comfort reads with the majority being paranormal, urban fantasy, or military romances with a few suspense novels thrown in for good measure.

Hard to say what my top five favorites are. However I fell in love with Karen Marie Moning this year and read the Fever series twice and listened to all the stories on audiobook as well.  Anne Bishop's Other series comes in a close second with J.R. Ward's Black Daggerbrotherhood series right behind.

An author and book that I'd never thought I'd ever read is Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.  I read Volume 1: Swann's Way this year and liked it enough to continue with Vol 2: In the Shadow of Young Girls in 2016.

The book that made me cry - Dean Kootnz last book in his Odd Thomas series, Saint Odd.  I'll miss Odd.  Also Hampton Sides true life adventure In the Kingdom of Ice. The book that made me laugh  - it's a tie between the men of  Black Dagger Brother hood and M.L. Buchman's fire fighters in his Firehawks series.  The book that was most  touching - Carrie Ann Noble's The Mermaid's Sister. The series that has me spellbound - Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. I finished # 4 Shadow Rising and #5 Fires of Heaven and look forward to reading the next two in the series during 2016

Where did my armchair travels take me this year:  The Arctic ocean and frozen tundra to Russia, Europe, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Netherlands, Japan, China, as well as the United States. It's possible I hit South America at some point, but the visit was very fleeting.  *grin*

Who knows where my travels and reading will take me in 2016. I have all kinds of fun plans in store for my 52 Books in 52 Weeks crew.  Come join us!


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Word Hoards: Writing versus Reading

Jonathan Wolstenhome

I'm working on my year end wrap up bookish wise, but thought in the meantime I'd share a flash non fiction piece written while working through Dinty Moore's Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Non Fiction.

Word Hoards

I met a woman who was rather didactic, who lived to learn, who loved to confuse with her rather pedantic soliloquies over the ramifications of a certain tome.  I met another, autodidactic this one, a lover of words who loved to read, who loved to share her thoughts.  Who also lived to learn, but also to teach.  Yet, you weren’t aware you were being taught anything at all.  She did it in such a way that before you knew it, you’d fallen in like with the sort of book you’d never considered reading before.  Reading and learning seem to go hand in  hand.  Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, whether scratching the surface or diving deep into the underbelly.

It made me stop and consider. Am I autodidactic or a bibliophile.  Can one be both well-read and self-taught.  By no means am I one of those intellectuals with snooty nose in the air with the pinky finger pointed upward as I drink my tea. I’m more of a laid back reader and student of words.  Can’t say I’m pedagogic either.  Do I teach or just pass on what I learn, enjoying the journey and as confused as the next person.  Perhaps.  I love to learn. I love to read.  

Reading is as necessary as breathing.  I can’t live without the words and the stories.  It is an escape or should I call it a decampment from the real world.  I get rather crotchety without my books. Writing isn’t as necessary as breathing.  When I first made that connection or disconnection between reading and writing, it was rather worrisome.  Shouldn’t  it feel the same?  Then I realized writing is a choice, a love, a desire.  I don’t need to write, I want to write.  And because I choose it, it gives me freedom.

I probably missed the boat, the yacht, the battleship in completing this lesson.  Word choices – big or small, pedantic versus natural, high falutin versus simple, genuine tell it like it is.  

Writing is like diving  into a rushing river and seeing where it takes you. You can either swim as hard and as fast as you can against the current, fighting it all the way,  or relax and enjoy the journey. And if you miss the boat. Don’t worry. Another one will come along soon.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Life in the fast lane

This year went incredibly fast.  All my writing and reading goals basically went out the window once I became involved in Writers Village University MFA certificate program.  Bob Hembree, the brain behind WVU, developed an MFA program modeled after university programs.  Along with a one year creative writing, there is now a two year short story cert, and fiction or nonfiction three year certificate. I had completed a few self study courses as well as gotten involved in a group study reading and working through Alice LaPlante's Making of a Short Story. So when he asked for volunteers to help facilitate the classes, I jumped in with both feet.  It's been a remarkable year, learning and writing as well as guiding other writing students through different courses. 

Somehow, the crazy person that I am, volunteered for another year and will be facilitating all the non fiction MFA classes as well as the program's core course, Narrative Design.  *gulp* 

I'm happy to say that as a result of these classes, I've finished a couple short stories, several flash fiction and non fiction flash pieces.  I've also gained more insight into my leading character, Greg, from Eyes in the Ashes. Now I'm contemplating writing a prequel short story for him, the same as I did for Paul and Layla.  Although I have made progress with editing Eyes, the story is still not completely presentable yet. Still need more creative and constructive editing.  

In the midst of my studies, we continue to home school. James is currently in 10th grade and a budding historian as well as fan fiction writer.  His interests lay with World War II and he's now writing alternative historical fiction stories.  He is a passionate, prolific writer and I'm trying to pass on the information I've gleaned from my courses.  By George, I think it's working.

More later, my lovelies!