Location: one hour from Suffolk, Rockingham, and Scarborough, United States

I'm one of the co-authors of Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams, and The Armor of Light (which, contrary to some reviews is NOT a Points novel). Proud member of CoastLine SF, Piscataqua Obedience Club, and admin for Horseboard.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

That Time of Year

When you host a message board populated by the most colorful group of people this side of Damon Runyon, the national holiday becomes not the Fourth of July, or Victoria Day, or Thanksgiving, but April Fool's. That's when the pressure is on. The pressure to create stories that walk the fine line between absurdity and plausibility. And the few that tumble over into the, "Oh, come on, if you believed this one, I've got a statue you might be interested in." My unindicted co-conspirators, as I like to call them, are capable of much subtler humor than I am, so I leave the more plausible stories to them. One is a whiz with Photoshop. Another brings a wealth of experience as a lawyer, a journalist, and now a lobbyist, which is to say, he brings a rich sense of the absurd. One of my stalwarts might not be able to help out this year, buried as he is in the sands of academe. Or possibly the Racing Form, I'm not sure which.

All I know is, the heat is on tonight. (Yeah, I know, I've known April 1st has been coming for a while now, so why wait to the last minute? Ask Charlie Brown.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The mysterious disappearing comment

Hmmm. One comment on my blogging and gossip post, and guess what? It doesn't load! All I get is a blank screen. In any browser. Maybe it's written in invisible ink? Maybe I really annoyed someone and they disabled that screen. How curious!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Blogging and gossip

I read an interesting article today in the NY Times about blogs and, essentially, the demise of the gossip column. And before you say "good riddance," you might want to read the article, which was largely about Liz Smith, who writes for Newsday (home of my favorite theatre critic, Linda Winer). Smith's kind of gossip doesn't involve looking for smoking guns. She is described as lacking a mean streak -- and, lacking that mean streak, would probably get nowhere if she were starting out today.

A lot of online discourse is unbelievably hostile. The blogs that are replacing the old style gossip columns make hostility and schadenfreude their stock in trade. And that's sad, damn it, sad in that it makes me sad to think of it, and sad as in pathetic. Where has this mania for tearing people down come from? Some people pretend to do it with a tear in their eye, lamenting the loss of old standards and morals (see Major League Baseball and the US Senate). Why can't we look up, instead of down? And don't try to tell me that our "role models" have disappointed us. Find a different damn role model, then.

Sure, it's the facelessness that makes these hostile, dirt-digging blogs possible; I sometimes wonder if, in those dark days before home computers and easy internet access, these would be the same people making prank phone calls? Nah. Too much direct contact.

Oh, god, I'm sounding like Pollyanna again, aren't I? I seem to waver between these two personalities, of believing in the best of all possible worlds (well, Pollyana and Pangloss start with the same letter) and then letting rip at people who don't live up to my own lofty standards. To wit: old fashioned, real-world, bricks-and-mortar cattiness isn't dead yet, either.

(Tangent: what is the difference between cattiness and bitchiness? Level of income? Discuss.)

Tonight I was at the gym (don't laugh), and a bunch of women there were going on and on about how they have NO respect for Camilla Parker-Bowles, and how COULD Charles want to marry her after having been married to Diana? They were laughing themselves silly talking about how unattractive they think Parker-Bowles is and how terrible SHE is. This wasn't precisely schadenfreude, but it was nasty and unpleasant, and I'm afraid I made a few pointed remarks that people wouldn't mind so much if C & C conducted themselves with a certain flair or pizzazz... that the problem wasn't that Charles had A mistress, but that he didn't have several. I'm sure Oscar Wilde could have said it much better.

On a related note, there were a number of links and websites cited in the article on Smith. I checked one out, as it seemed to be of the gentler variety (that is, NOT Defamer). And I found there one of the nicest tributes to Bobby Short that I've read in the past week. A very sweet reminiscence, of a man one could only look up to, for his talent, his determination, his urbanity, his style. I shall always regret never having gotten to see him perform live. Does anyone remember a line -- it might have been in the TV show Benson, where a character is neatly summed up when he says, "Come on, you can help me alphabetize my Bobby Short collection?" I'm sure it was a character played by Rene Auberjonois... Before Star Trek, of course.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Like some typically imperfect Microsoft product, 2005 arrived with its share of bugs masquerading as features. Bah! And Basta! Away with this false 2005!

March 25th being the new moon and the start of the (old) Roman new year, we have decided to release 2005.1 as of midnight. All these health problems will be things of the past. No need for hysterectomies. No more tumors in the brain (or anywhere else, thank you very much). Nothing but blue skies, as it were.

Care to join us?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Still looking

"When in literate company I am
Impelled to try an epigram
I never seek to take the credit:
We all assume that Oscar said it!"

Or maybe it was Tom Paxton. A friend of mine recently started using as her sig, "Could have been the whisky, might have been the gin, could have been the three or four six packs, I don't know, but look at the mess I'm in."

And when I lie awake at night and try to think of scenes for Point of Sighs, which we would really like to be working on (though Melissa is certainly keeping busy with other writing!), I try to figure out why it's -- not there.

Short answer is that, when you have had cancer, an imagination is a very scary thing. I wonder, though, if the treatments also had anything to do with it. "Could have been the chemo, might have been the rads. Could have been the five part radiosurgery..."

But I'm more inclined to think that it's the fact of the cancer itself. And maybe some post-treatment letdown. I've read it can take over a year from when you finish treatments for things to get back to "normal." And of course, having just had the fractionated radiosurgery in January.... crumbs, I was expecting to be back to normal, let's see, November 2003 plus 18 months would make it... this coming May. The thought of having to wait another 18 months...

A friend asked me today if the drive is still there. I suppose to some extent it is, since I'm still posting here. I'm trying to figure out the why of it all, why the drive is gone, and then figure out how to get back to it.

Believe me, I am trying to pull myself up by my creative bootstraps. And it's not as though this sense of ennui has permeated other parts of my life, it hasn't. I was thrilled just a little while ago to see a pair of cardinals in my back yard! I'm eager to get my garden tidied up after the winter, and my seeds started. I like life, as the song goes. I just can't seem to put words together in a meaningful way in terms of fiction.

And it's not as though I feel as though I've outgrown the kind of writing I've always done. I don't cringe when I read the books I've co-authored. But every time I sit down to try to write something, my imagination seizes up.

I'll find a way, a route back to it, I know. I just feel like I'm in this flat landscape; it's not even a case of feeling lost in some alien setting, or not seeing the forest for the trees... There aren't any trees! It's all a blank, like a vast... white sheet of paper. Hmmmmmm.

I'll get back to you.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Odd couple

The other night, I had the pleasure of experiencing the most delightful confluence of unlikely TV shows... or maybe the unlikeliest confluence of delightful TV shows.

The Maine PBS station was showing The Red Green Show, which I love. For one thing, it's gloriously dumb, in a silly sort of way. It's got this amazing repertory company of Canadian actors (leading one to suppose there are only a gross or so of actors in Canada, since they all appear in almost everything). And it has The Man's Prayer: "I'm a man... But I can change... If I have to... I guess."

So, ok, that was fun. But (after discovering that TVG was showing poker instead of horseracing, and what in hell was up with THAT?), I flipped past the Style Network, and discovered another guilty pleasure -- The Brini Maxwell Show!

If you don't know Brini... It's unfair to use the words "Martha Stewart" anywhere near Brini. Brini is all about style... from the 1960s. Her clothing, her hair, her make-up, the food, the crafts, the decor, everything is perfect.

I should also point out that Brini is a man. Well, Brini is played by a man. And so gorgeous I could hate him. But the show is a hoot, and could only be made in NYC, where big tough firefighters are not at all nonplussed at being interviewed by a man who makes a truly exquisite woman.

Red Green and Brini Maxwell. Gosh, it was wonderful!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Seasonal treats

I don't buy tomatoes in winter; it's an exercise in fruitility. I focus on root vegetables and the like, appreciating the sweetness of their flavor in their season.

This time of year, I'm longing for something green that isn't broccoli. And that usually means asparagus. There's no way native asparagus will be in stores or farmstands for another, oh, 6-8 weeks, I'd say. But there is another barometer. I will not buy asparagus in the spring (ok, late winter) until the price drops to $1.99 a pound. (Or better yet, a bunch.)

As sure as the Derby prep races (and there are a lot of them this weekend, good luck, Pat Kelly and Naughty New Yorker! And Galloping Grocer. And Rockport Harbor! And... oh, never mind...), that first less expensive bunch of asparagus is a sign of warmer (if not quite yet salad) days.

Glory be, there they were, in Fresh Markets this morning, at that magical price!

It's also a good indicator of when I can start my seeds. Received wisdom says the last frost in this zone is May 31. If that were so, I'd be using greenhouses and season extenders like crazy, but we all play fast and loose with that May 31 date. My own garden is its own little microclimate. It faces due south. It's only five feet wide and lies between the stone foundation of the house and a five foot tall wooden fence. It is toasty in there. So this weekend, I'll probably be starting my basil, tomato, and cabbage seeds. And hopefully, the basil will thrive enough so that in mid to late summer, through early fall, I can make and put up enough basil to get us through next winter. There's still a small container in the freezer from last year...

The cabbage is a new experiment; Melissa read in the Johnny's Seeds catalogue about mini-cabbages. You get minis by planting them closer together than you normally would; I'm hoping to get the same effect by planting them in containers. Don't know how it will work out, but it should be fun... and take up less room than the volunteer pumpkin plant we had last year that Melissa wouldn't let me tear up.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Graceful language

I'm writing an opening letter for our new theatre books catalogue. Or I'm trying to ... it has not been a pretty process.

In the course of attempting to do so, I've found myself thinking about what the pervasiveness of computers in our lives has done to language. And I'm not talking about the usual things -- the truncation of entire words down to a kind of base 2 of single consonants and vowels, or the introduction of new words and phrases to the language.

No, I'm talking about being brought up short when I start to use a phrase like, "when a playwright puts pen to paper." Now, I grant you, it's a stock phrase, a cliche, perhaps, but it has a certain grace to it, and rhythm. But, really, how many playwrights still, in fact, do put pen to paper anymore? So, what do I say? "When a playwright makes words appear on the screen?" Maybe "when a playwright's hands dance across the keyboard," but I don't know, it's not as concise, it's not as neat.

I'll let you know if I come up with anything brilliant.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I wonder if Leigh and Leslie Keno would be interested...

Last weekend I did a little pre-spring (spring? what's that?) cleaning. Wedged into one end of my office (a long, narrow room) was an old computer desk. You know the kind, dark particle board grained to look like wood. Weighs a ton. This was indeed an old one -- the structure of it assumes a tractor feed printer.

It used to house my printer (not tractor feed) and my stereo. Besides that, it served to collect stuff. I won't say junk, but a hellacious amount of stuff. And I was tired of it.

So last weekend, I wedged myself into that corner of my office, managed to squirm and twist the old desk around, and with a couple of handy screwdrivers, managed to disassemble it. This thing was so old that it hadn't even required an Allen wrench.

In the process of doing so, however, I had to empty out its various shelves and in doing that, I cam across quite an assortment of old computer peripherals, many of which I could no longer identify. Which old computer did we need the switcher for, and what did it switch to and from? Oh, look, a power pack for a Macintosh Powerbook 110. Or maybe a 140. Cords, cables, disks, mysterious boxes, programs on 5 1/4 inch disks... part of me -- that would be the pack rat part of me -- wondered if they might not be of some interest at some future date. But the very elusiveness of that word "some" convinced me that the right thing to do was to chuck it all.

I just know I'll be kicking myself when Tech Antiques Road Show debuts.


When a straight man uses that word, you know he really means it.

I went up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock yesterday for an MRI, follow-up to the fractionated radiosurgery I had back in January (crumbs, it still FEELS like January out there!).

Cool new thing -- instead of ear plugs, I was offered headphones and music, so I took those. The classical music they had was a nice range of Mozart. The music didn't block out the noise of the MRI at all, so it was rather like Philip Glass competing with Mozart, and more often than not, Glass won! But it was interesting, and as the MRI was completed, the music was quite wonderfully triumphal. (This is where I could use that dancing banana emoticon.)

Afterwards we beetled over to radiation oncology to meet with Dr. Hartford. He was very pleased with the results -- the tumor is smaller than it was in December, let alone January. After groping for the right word, he described the response to the treatment as "fabulous." We like fabulous. Fabulous is nice.

I go back for another MRI in mid to late April; at that time, we look at the level of response, and put our heads together as to whether to hit it once more with radiation -- just to be good and sure the little bastard doesn't come back again!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You've Got Comments!

It's sad, isn't it? Being the type of person who checks her email, and when she finds she doesn't have any... checks it again, to be sure?

I do not want to become that way about comments, but holy cow, I had comments the other day! Danny, bless you for your encouragement, and Don, dude, you have always been there for me and my writing!

Don's take on blog posts (entries... things) was interesting, and similar to a debate I've sort of had with a member of Horseboard. He hates emoticons. And I think he views posting on a board very specifically as writing and within the meaning of the act, it is.

But most people, I think, view it as keyboarded conversation. And also, most people are not adept at conveying precisely their tone and meaning with pinpoint accuracy. So, if you're "saying" something that has any kind of a twist to it, emoticons are useful tools.

I view posting on a board more like conversation, and delight in really good emoticons. Some of the members of Horseboard find some terrific ones. My favorite in the arsenal of ones available for our use over there is the dancing banana. Don't ask, but it's very useful.

But I view blogging very much as writing. And that carries with it its own freight and responsibilities. Well, responsibility may not be the right word, or I shouldn't suggest that I'm not very, very careful indeed about what I post on a board. Because I view it as conversation, I make sure not to post anything I would be unwilling to say to someone's face.

So that could be why I'm slower with blog entries than I am to fire off an opinion on this year's Derby contenders...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sure, Rub it in, Oregon!

I like to listen to classical music while I work, and I listen to a webcast from KBPS in Portland, Oregon. Unlike so many classical stations that seem to play Top 40 Classical Hits, KBPS plays a terrific range of music, from early music to early 21st century. They do not play The Meditation from Thais a half dozen times a month!

Only problem is... this time of year, listening to those Portland, OR weather forecasts is really, really painful. Sean Yu and Robert McBride are talking about temps in the upper sixties. Outside my window, I am looking at a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow.

I'm a Yankee, and proud of it. I try not to complain about the weather, especially in winter. You can't cope with winter, you don't belong in New England, right? And everyone knows that March can pack a 1-2 punch. Or a 1-2-3-4...5...6 punch. You roll with it, baby.

But golly, those Portland forecasts sound nice.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Perfecting Avoidance Techniques

Ok, here it is March 5, and if I have any regular readers, they're probably getting turned off by the sporadic posts. Entries. Whatever the heck these things are called.

I kind of watched myself this afternoon dancing around this. I'd open up the bookmarks, wander up and down, always avoiding the one that brings me here. NY Times? Check. Horseboard? Check. Portsmouth Public Library catalogue? Check. Equibase? Check. Damn, I'm good! Oh, wait, I haven't checked my email in, oh, twenty minutes! Check. Oh, the dog needs to be walked, doesn't she? (Regardless of whether she's actually asleep in the bedroom.)

Perhaps it's an inferiority complex. Danny is so wonderfully open. Blog-envy? Am I doing this right? Is this thing on? :-)

Thing is, I hang out with a wicked smart group of people on horseboard, so posting here feels... lonely. Over there, I know I'll hear from Buckhunter, or Josh, or Spajeff, or Rambler, and it's a dialogue. This is like being onstage, and I was never one for stand-up. And while I have a lot of respect for folks who can write one person shows, I don't think I'm one of them.

But I'm not going to give up on this blog. It's still my tool to try to find my way back to writing, to try to persuade my rather nervy imagination that it is, indeed, safe to come out now.

Which I do think it is. I have a follow-up MRI this coming week, to determine how the tumor, you know, the one left over from the breast cancer, the one that is NOT a brain tumor (see Nomenclature), has reacted to the fractionated radiosurgery. If it knows what's good for it, it's on its way out of Dodge, for good.