Thursday, November 29, 2007

Glue gun!

My halo is shining brightly, according to my neighbor Lynn. I went with her on Tusday to help the school Christmas market committee build wreaths to sell for their market. My daughter used to go to that elementary school, so I was glad to help out and see some of the women I'd lost sight of when my daughter graduated to middle school.

We worked with glue guns - the first time I'd ever used one, and of course I burned myself. My thumb is sporting a nice blister, and my nail got scorched. That glue is boiling hot! (well, d'uh!)

Today I'm off to help another friend with another Christmas market - I'm doing greeting cards with small groups of students. We're having a great time glueing glitter and buttons on colored paper - (no glue guns here!)
The schools usually sign up for the various Christmas markets in the villages (usually held in the town community center) in order to raise some money for the classes. The elementary school raises money for their annual trip to Finland, and the other school is raising money this year for an association, giving the whole amount to a charity that helps handicapped children.
So I'm quite happy to go help out at both places. It gives me a chance to 'play' with glitter, sparkles, beads, buttons, and tinsel - it's like Ali Baba's cave in the workshop!
But I won't be working the glue gun anymore.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Love me, love my favorite book

Young, single friend: (sobbing) "My new boyfriend doesn't like my favorite book in the whole world! I don't think our relationship can work"

Me: "What book is this?"

Her: "(title removed - just think of your favorite book in the Whole world)"

Me: "That's not really a 'guy' book. Does he read other books? He's not totally illiterate, is he?" (An honest question - her last boyfriend was, I think, the missing link.)

Her "No, he's well read. But he likes political books and murder mysteries."

Me: "Well, my husband hasn't read any of my books (except some excerpts - ahem) and I don't care. His taste in reading is execrable. I finally had to buy him books myself. But I bought books in the genre he likes."

Her: "But I think it's so important that he at least tries to read my favorite book. But he won't! He says it's not important."

Me: "I don't think it's really important either."

Her: (glaring) "If I'm going to spend the rest of my life with someone, he has to have read my favorite book. Period."

Me: "You don't think you can be flexible about this?"

Her: "No."

Me: "You know, he's still calling you up and taking you out to great places. I'd reconsider. After all, there are a lot of guys out there who would run the other way if you bugged them about reading a book."

Her: "When I showed it to him, he said the cover was lamatable."

Me: "At least he uses four syllable words. I'm impressed. Come on! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You know, if it were one of my books he was refusing to read, I'd say dump the jerk. But seriously. Having a favorite book in common is not a prerequisite for a happy marriage. Honest."

Her: "I'm going to give him one more try. If he doesn't read it, it's all over between us."
(She gets her coat and leaves)

I run to the internet and send an e-mail:

"Hey, I just saw your girlfriend. A word of advice. Look up (title) on the internet and find a good synopsis. Tell her you read the book!"

I get a message back:

"I'm sorry - I've decided to break up with her. She told me her favorite album was by James Blunt."

Friday, November 23, 2007

A new store

Yesterday I found a new store. It's a 'bio' store - everything is biological (green labels everywhere) and it's set up like a big warehouse.
Everything is a lot more expensive than what you find in the supermarket. The veggies, the shampoos and hair dyes - to give an example - a box of hair dye costs 7 euros in the store, and 11 euros in the 'bio' shop. The veggies were more expensive too, but I bought a bag of onions, some celery (wonderful celery, by the way) and some soap. I also tried the bio hair dye. I've been looking for something less harsh and chemical, and this worked nicely. OK, it didn't cover all the gray, but it did cover Most of it, and it looks pretty natural. And there is no (whatever they say) harsh chemicals. (It didn't seem to make my hair as dry as regular hair dyes.)
But it was depressing to see all these interesting products at prices that put them out of my reach. (And apparently out of most people's reaches.) It doesn't seem fair that one has to be wealthy to help save the planet. There are 'green label' bio products slowly making a timid appearance in my grocery store. I buy 'green' 100% biodegradeable washing powder and detergant. But there is nothing, for example, for the dishes. I bought some 'bio' sponges to clean with, and I don't buy window cleaner (haven't for years) but instead use a mix of white vinegar and water. I'd love to be able to buy all my veggies and home cleaning products at the 'bio' store, as well as the clothes they have. But the price is prohibitive.
I'd also love to have a 'green' car, but I noticed that those too were far more expensive than normal cars. Shouldn't they be government subsidized, I wondered? Shouldn't efforts to save our planet be rewarded?

Here is a little snippet that may make you rethink your view on things made of paper. It's from a journalist remarking on the deforestation of Tazmania, and is pretty depressing.
(Exerpt from the online Guardian News):
"Trees are bulldozed or blown apart with explosives and the ground cleared by fires, started by napalm dropped from helicopters. Any native wildlife that survives is culled by sodium fluoroacetate poison, allowing regimented new saplings to grow - monoculture on an industrial scale...Turned into woodchip and then exported as chlorine-bleached pulp, much of what remains of Tasmania's native forests may end up as cheap paper for the hungry markets... "

So thank you, e-book readers. Each time you buy an e-book, you can pat yourself on the back. You saved native wildlife, and that's no mean feat.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday Thanksgiving Thirteen

I am thankful for:

1: My friends and family.

2: To live in such a nice village, so near a golf course.

3: My readers.

4: My gym class

5: My English students

6: My dogs, for being such great doggies.

7: My husband counts as family, but I'm putting and extra thanks in here for him!

8: My health

9: My Thrift Shop wardrobe. My daughter and I were laughing about it last night. We love buying bags of clothes at the thrift. She says it's the only place she feels good about buying lots of stuff.

10: The internet, and all my internet friends.

11: My ancient laptop is still working!

12: My even older car is still working!

13: Calderwood Books

I wish everyone a Wonderful Thanksgiving - no matter where you are. A day of thanks is a nice way (for us Pollyanna types) to count our blessings!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Dream Book

When I was in Argentina, I'd usually get to the kitchen early and have breakfast with the staff at the house where we were staying. I really loved sitting at the huge table with the family's three young daughters, the nanny, the cook, and the maids. The nanny was Irish, and we could speak English together. In the entire household, she was the only other native English speaker, so that's one reason I liked to hang out there for breakfast.
Also, I was a bit shy. My brand new husband (this was on our honeymoon trip to Argentina - 3 months while he bought horses) was usually gone at the crack of dawn or earlier, and I was too timid to go into the huge dining room for the formal breakfast.
My Spanish was spotty, but every morning, the cook and maids would pounce on me as I came in, because they'd discovered I remembered my dreams.
They would hustle over to the table when I arrived, a book in hand, and several sheest of lottery paper. Then, they would grill me about my dreams.
I had to concentrate, and tell them everything that happened.
They'd check the book.
You rode in a car? A new car or an old car? A new car? That's number 47.
The number 47 was ticked off on the lottery ticket.
And so on, until they'd filled in the whole ticket.
There is a book in Argentina called the Lottery Dream Book.
Each object in your dream (or happening, like a trip or a fall) has a corresponding number. So the cook and maids, being avid lottery players, would fill out an entire ticket from my dreams.
And no, they never won the jackpot, as far as I know.
Out of curiosity, I tried to find the book online. I found a whole page of books dedicated to finding lottery numbers with dreams.
Good Luck - and if you win, you have to give me a 10% finder's fee!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A strange dream

I'm with my family, and with my brother and his family. We're playing frisbee golf. At first, it seems to be a normal golf course - a summertime park with some tee-off areas and metal chain baskets hanging on poles in guise of holes. We throw our first frisbees and everything is fine. My throw is pretty straight. We head towards our frisbees.
And things get strange.
As we walk into the forest, the trees get bigger. They lean over us like buildings. Instead of a grove of trees on my left, there seems to be a high, cement wall with birch trees painted on it.
I throw my second shot and it bounces off a tree trunk and lands right back in my hand. Laughing, I throw again. A good shot, it slides under a huge fallen tree to land near the first basket.
We all get within putting distance.
As soon as we start to putt, our frisbees change. Mine changes into a plastic coffee cup lid. My brother's changes into a sweatshirt. Someone else's changes into a pie tin, another into a belt, and still another becomes an empty soda can. Then the frisbee golf basket changes into a gate, so we walk through it.
We look around, and we're standing in a graveyard. It's old, overgrown, and run down. A small apple tree is growing near a crypt. The apples on it are huge and so dark red they look almost black. I pick one and eat it. Inside, the flesh is purple, and the seeds are huge. (In dreams, I can't really taste anything, but I imagined it as being too sweet - almost cloying.) It's getting dark, and we don't like the place, so we leave the graveyard and find ourselves in a forest clearing. There is an abandoned, ruined house nearby, and dead leaves crackle underfoot. The trees are bare, and a cold wind makes us shiver.
Someone comes through the trees, pushing a wheelbarrow. It's a gardener. He gives us each something from the wheelbarrow. We each get a small plant. There are eggplants, vines, tomato plants, and I get a small flowering plant with orange berries. Then the gardener tells us to hurry up, the next train is about to leave. When I look around, I notice we're now at a train station. I hurry into the train - everyone is waiting for me. The train pulls out of the station and I see the gardener, waving. Behind him, in the ruined house, a door opens and an old woman walks out and waves too.
It's getting darker and the wind outside is whipping the trees into a frenzy. The train is old and noisy, and we're looking around for tea cups when the whistle starts to blow.
It's the telephone.
I wake up with a start.
My friend Andrea is calling early to ask if I'm coming to the school this morning to help with the decorations.
Yes, I'm on my way. But first I want to write down this very strange dream!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zombie Jack, Jack Frost, and Heroes in the Dust!

Heroes in the Dust is now available at Calderwood Books!
Sequel to TIME FOR ALEXANDER and 2nd in the Iskander series. Alexander the Great's campaign against the mountain tribes is given a new kind of life, told from the viewpoint of a time traveling reporter who is married to Alexander. The innate humor of the author is rounded out with the personal triumphs and tragedies of the loving, appealing, sensual Ashley, who has made herself a new life and close friends 3,000 years in her past. Click on the cover to buy!
(thank you!)

The first hard frost of the season has arrived. I just barely saved my son's bonsai tree, which was outside in the garden getting some fresh air. The temperature plunged, and my daughter's horse show today was cancelled because the ground is frozen.I love it when everything is silvery and white - and since it's sunny this morning, the world just glitters.

Yesterday I got a review for Zombie Jack!

Mrs. Giggles reviewed it and had this to say:
“…The story is really enjoyable as Ms Winston deliciously brings on the zany dark humor in a manner that really appeals to the fan of the macabre in me. The humor is not too overpowering or too farcical - just enough to keep me laughing. There is already a beautiful kind of poetry in the premise, what with a hero who lacks a heart, but is in love, and who is supposed to be dead but ends up a hero instead. The story doesn't disappoint in delivering a fun Tim Burton kind of romantic adventure where I am concerned.
...Zombie Jack is a most enjoyable read and it will be a waste, I feel, if the author doesn't revisit her world at least one more time. I'm pretty desensitized when it comes to all those vampires and werewolves in the market so it says a lot about how excited I am about this one. Zombie Jack is too much fun and the party seems to be only beginning by the last page, so do give me more.”
~Mrs. Giggles

Today we're going to hike over to the next village and try to find some mistletoe in an old apple orchard. (There is a lot of it, and the owner has given us permission to take some for decoration!) Someone gave me an old book on herbs and spells, and there are quite a few one can do with misteltoe. I think today I'll put on my witch's hat and cast some spells...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thirteen things better than the Tropics

I was sitting here, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, the curtains drawn, while frozen rain pattered on the windows thinking to myself, 'Why did I ever leave the tropics?'
When I lived in the tropics, I didn't even own a sweater. Even the rainy season was hot. I never had to turn the heat on (we didn't have heat anyway in the house) and once we lived in a house with a fireplace, and we never lit it; it held a huge potted fern.
Now I live in an old house with such drafts in front of the doors and windows that the curtains move as if in a breeze. Sleet is the most common form of precipitation. What can be better about France than the tropics?

1) I don't have to shake my shoes out every morning. It used to be a habit. I don't do it anymore. It was to dislodge the scorpions that liked to take up residence there. I shook my shoes for about ten years after leaving the islands. It's a hard habit to - er, shake.

2) I can open the cereal and pour myself a bowl, then add milk and eat it without first examining it for sugar ants. Sugar ants are tiny, almost invisible ants that get into Everything. To check for sugar ants you:
pour the cereal in a bowl. Hold it very still while peering at it closely. If the cereal starts to move, you toss everything in the garbage.

3) I can go to the bathroom at night without turning the light on.
In St. Thomas, the bathroom was the nighttime gathering place for the tarantula. They would go to the bathroom to drink from the shower, and you did not want to surprise one - they move incredibly fast and in the opposite direction of where you think they're pointing.
Usually they try for high ground when they're terrified. Your legs look like tree trunks to them.
Terror spreads from the spider to you as it sprints up your leg. Some nights, no one gets any sleep.

4) When it rains here, it's a pretty regular rain. In St. Thomas, we got hurricanes. Three times, when I lived there, the island was declared a national disaster area. Our road was washed out, the school was washed out, the house was full of mud, and that's if the house managed to keep its roof.

5) I can get fresh vegetables and fruit. No, there are no fresh veggies on St. Thomas - or very few. Everything is shipped in. There are home-grown mangoes and g'nips, tamarands and some coconuts. Everything else comes from 'the mainland'. Here in France, the market is full of fresh veggies and fruit. I love it.

6) Cuts don't go sceptic in two seconds flat. (that sort of speaks for itself. In the tropics, cuts and scratches got infected. Period.)

7) I can control the ticks and fleas here. In St. Thomas, it's very hard to keep your dogs and cats tick and flea free. I'm allergic to fleas. They give me huge red welts. Guess who had huge red welts all over her legs and arms for the senior prom?

8) You don't feel caged in. I used to look out to sea. Endless ocean on all sides. (We lived on a mountaintop - the view was spectacular) and I'd think...'I'm trapped.' Now I can get in my car and drive. I can take a train. I can walk. I can 'get away from it all'.

9) There are no people who have come here to 'get away from it all'. In St. Thomas, most of the people who arrived to live there wanted to 'get away from it all'. They usually lasted about 6 months. Then they either packed up and left (usually owing 6 months rent) or they landed in the local loony bin and had a nice rest for a while, before leaving for good.

10) There are four seasons here, and I love summer and fall. In the tropics there is hurricane season and the rest of the time.

11) Huge, fifteen inch centipedes. Need I say more?

12) A huge, and I mean huge, difference in class and race - the rich and the poor in the extremes. It's depressing any way you look at it, and from any angle. I rarely saw such poverty as in the tropics.

13) The crime rate is staggeringly high - drugs, murder and mayhem. True, the mafia did move in and clean things up a bit - but overall, the crime there is scary. Here, I don't have dogs for protection.

And next Thursday - what I miss. (you can resume dreaming of clear, turquoise water and warm beaches now...)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Zombies and Such

I had to post this, because a reviewer just contacted me to talk about Jack. She said she had No idea what to expect when she picked up my book, and it surprised her. (Good surprise, not bad, lol!)
But it got me thinking. When I started writing Zombie Jack, I wanted to jettison all my preconcieved ideas about zombies. After all...preconcieved ideas are made to be junked, right?

There was Vlad the Impaller, who became, through literary manipulation, the sexy vampire hero we know today. A hundred years ago, no one would have thought there was a chance in a billion a vampire would be a romance hero.Then there was the werewolf. In legends, there is nothing appealing about the werewolf. Doomed to change into a bloodthirsty beast on the full moon, he's evolved into the thinking wolf - dangerous, yes - but sexy.So - what's a zombie? Well, let's let Dr. Ling-Li, necromancer and zombie expert, tell us:

(Excerpt from Zombie Jack by yours truly!)

How to Make a Zombie in Three Hundred Easy Steps

Mr. Ling-Li paused and cupped his hands beneath his chin. He looked infinitely old, wise, and sorrowful. He caught Brianna’s glance and smiled.

“Necromancy is one of the oldest arts. It was present in ancient Egypt, where the most extensive writings about it exist. But, it was also present in Ur and Sumeria, and in Africa and China, where it was practiced by priests and witch doctors, scholars and laymen alike. You know it best by its connection to voodoo, which is the African branch of this art. I come from China, where my family practiced necromancy for fifty generations. Since we all live more than five hundred years, you can see that it is very much part of my existence, present in the very matrix of my being.

“A necromancer, in the simplest form, is simply a mortician. Someone who prepares the dead for the funeral, makes the dead look presentable, and changes the body using chemicals or herbs. But that is not what I am, although traditionally we work as morticians.

“In a more complex form, a necromancer is a like a priest. One who accompanies the dead to the underworld and shows their souls the way. The ancient Egyptians preserved the mummies. That also is a form of necromancy. And much of necromancy involves herbs and poisons.”

“Is that how to make zombies? With herbs?”

“Oh, much more than just herbs. In the beginning, someone lost a beloved and wanted to bring them back to life. The Greeks have a legend about Orpheus. He went to the underworld to beg Hades for his wife’s soul. Hades gave it to him, but Orpheus looked back, his beloved wife faded back into the underworld, and Orpheus went mad with grief. The longing to bring back someone from the dead is an old one, certainly far older than the legend of Orpheus, but the story illustrates both the longing and the dangers of such a dream.”

Brianna curled her hands around her hot teacup. “I thought that it was just a voodoo thing,” she admitted.

“Oh, no, zombies have different names in different places. Zombi is also the name of the voodoo snake god of Niger-Congo origin; it is akin to the Bantu word nzambi, which means god. But the word ‘god’ here is closer to ‘spirit,’ or one who talks to spirits, than your definition. And to tell you the truth, what you call zombies have nothing to do with Jack or May.”

May again. Brianna pasted a bright smile on her face and said, “Mostly we think of zombies as being mindless slaves in decaying bodies.”

“That’s because there are many different ways to make a zombie, and the easiest way is for a bokor, or zombie maker, to poison his victim, steal his soul, put it in a clay pot, and use the zombie’s body as his slave. Some people claim zombies are caused by a virus, and again, it’s true up to a point. There have been zombies made after contracting a certain virus, but they are not the same as what I do. You see, a bokor, or someone who makes zombies like the Heart Taker has, is not a necromancer. No, that involves something completely different.

“Some believe that necromancy is the most powerful of all magic, because it defeats even death itself. Jack is technically what you call an undead, but still has his soul. And for that, he is different from the other undead, such as vampires or bokor-made zombies.”

What do you think about Zombies? Are you willing to suspend your disbelief for a while and meet a sexy zombie - Jack the Stripper?

Friday, November 09, 2007

absent minded...

At the golf club, there was a sign posted on the bulletin board:

Lost Keys!
I lost my keys between the parking lot, the retaurant, and the pro shop. I may have put them in someone else's bag by accident.
If you find them, please drop them off at the pro shop.
I'll buy the finder lunch or dinner at the restaurant!

I loved the part about him maybe putting the keys in someone else's bag.
I don't feel quite so absent-minded now.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oracle Day

Wynn Bexton has posted an excerpt featuring an oracle. I have always been fascinated by them. The Delphic oracle, Cassandra, Macbeth's three witches...and they continue to fascinate as millions of people consult their astrologists, read advice columns, and scan their palms and tarot cards for answers.

In this excerpt, Ashley, a modern woman trapped in the past with Alexander the Great, is fed up with the soldiers infatuation with sooth-saying. The soldiers think she's an oracle, being a goddess (she's mistaken for Persephone) and keep asking her to tell their fortunes. When she hears about a real oracle in a nearby village, she decides to go along and stop the fortune-telling nonsense in its tracks.

"Lysimachus, I don't tell fortunes. You can't look into the future. There's no such thing as fate!" I tried to talk common sense to him, but it was hopeless.

"Please, we'll pay you! Look, my friends and I have sixteen oboles, and we'll throw in a white chicken. You can sacrifice the chicken and tell us our fortunes with the entrails. Please?"
"Aren't you afraid of what I might say?"

"Of course, who wouldn't be? We know you're a real oracle. Please? The one in the village is so old, we can't understand a thing she says."

I pursed my lips. This oracle business was starting to get on my nerves, yet it intrigued me at the same time. "On one condition."

"What's that?"

"First, you take me to see the oracle in the village." I wanted to see the old lady and find out what all the fuss was about.

Barsine insisted on coming with us. Even she believed in oracles. Alexander was in Persepolis with Nearchus. Otherwise, I don't know what he would have thought about this outing. Plexis joined our troop. He said he wouldn't miss it for the world. Usse watched us leave with a faint line of worry between his brows.

I rode my white donkey, but everyone else walked. We sang and joked as we went toward the town. For me, the whole thing was a lark; a sightseeing trip for a tourist from the future. I didn't believe in gods, oracles or fortune-tellers, but for the people walking along beside me, the gods were real. For the Greeks, the only difference between the gods and men, was that the gods were immortal and could change form. The gods had the same emotions and frailties as men, and loved to meddle in human affairs – they would often come to earth from their home on Mount Olympus and walk among the unsuspecting humans.

The oracle, or pythia as she was sometimes called, was an old woman living on the outskirts of the village. Her cottage was surrounded by a hedge of fragrant thyme and lavender. Several white goats and chickens were in a small paddock in the back.

Her house was actually a temple. It had an open courtyard with a large stone altar under an olive tree. When we arrived, the old woman was outside sitting in the sun, her face hidden in the shadow of a large-brimmed straw hat. She wore a white robe, Greek style. When she stood to greet us, I saw she was almost as tall as I.

She might have looked old but her voice was authoritative. "Bring the donkey to the altar," she ordered.

"Why?" I asked, getting off White Beauty's back and patting her affectionately.

"For the sacrifice. You've brought her for the oracle, have you not? Do you want to consult Apollo? Have you the pelanos?" This was the fee paid to the oracle.

"The donkey is mine," I cried. "She's not to be killed!" I got back on, intending to ride away.
One of the soldiers caught her bridle. "The oracle has spoken," he said. "The donkey will be sacrificed."

"No!" I kicked at him with my foot, trying to wrench the donkey's head away. But she was too docile and just stood calmly while the soldiers pulled me off the poor creature and led her to the altar. I screamed, "Barsine! Plexis! Lysimachus! Do something!"

But Barsine wore an expression of pity and disgust, as if I were committing a heinous crime.

Plexis grabbed my arm and squeezed it so hard he bruised it. "Don't say another word!" he hissed. "What do you think you're doing? It's an honor for your donkey."

"You're just mad because I named her Penelope," I sobbed. "Lysimachus, don't let her do that!"
Lysimachus's face was twisted with pity, and he tried to calm me with gentle words. "Why do you protest? You wanted to see the oracle. Don't worry, we'll let you go first, and Apollo will speak directly to you."

While he spoke, the old woman took off her hat and washed her hands in a small spring next to the altar. Then she reached up into the branches of the olive tree and took down a sharp knife. White Beauty didn't even blink when the woman seized her under the chin and lifted her head up. With a deft movement, she cut the donkey's throat. I saw a red line bloom in her snowy coat, and then I fainted.

Barsine shook me awake. She was holding me up, and my head lolled against her arm. "Wake up! Wake up! It's done."

I opened my eyes and saw the old woman take a pitcher and fill it in the spring. Then she dashed cold water onto the body of my poor donkey, whose nerves were still twitching, making her look as if she were trying to get up. I gave a sharp cry, and then my nose bled all over Barsine and my tunic.

Blood splattered everywhere. The soldiers were most impressed. They leapt backwards and stared at me and at the dead donkey. The old woman had disemboweled the carcass and was busy spreading the intestines and liver onto the altar. She looked up and saw me, and her eyes widened.

"A good omen!" she cried, pointing at me with the bloody knife. "A good omen indeed!"
The soldiers cheered and Barsine beamed, and then Plexis took off his skirt and held it to my nose, begging me in a low voice to control myself, or I'd ruin everything.

I was not used to having a naked stranger standing so close to me, especially one as good looking as Plexis. His thighs brushed against mine and I could feel the heat of his body. My nose bled even more. I closed my eyes and said in a strangled voice, "Plexis, will you please get away from me? And put some clothes on, you're making it worse!" He stopped touching me and jumped back as if he'd been scalded. "I don't believe this," I said, my eyes still closed. I sat down and used my tunic to staunch the blood.

The old woman's yard looked like a battlefield. Most of us were covered with blood, either White Beauty's or mine. The intestines and liver were examined and pronounced "most auspicious". Apparently, all our dreams would come true. I kept my eyes closed as much as possible. For me this day was rapidly turning into a nightmare.

It wasn't over. The woman washed in the spring and bade us wash too. Then she led us into the temple where a fire smoldered in a bronze brazier. She threw handfuls of leaves and herbs on the fire, and stinging smoke filled the room. I choked and my eyes started watering. Strangely enough, no one else seemed affected. The woman sat with her head right in the smoke for a while, and then she disappeared down a staircase that led to a cellar. We followed her, and found ourselves in a small square room hewn out of the bedrock. The room was lit by a single torch, and there were benches all around the walls.

Everyone sat as if they were in a doctor's waiting room. Barsine pulled me down beside her and held my hand. I was still crying. Plexis wouldn't look at me, Lysimachus looked apprehensive, and the soldiers all seemed in high spirits.

The woman went into another room and drew a heavy curtain behind her. After a few moments she called out in a strange voice muffled by the curtain, "Who asks Apollo first?"

Barsine dug her elbow into my ribs, but I shook my head. "You go first," I sobbed.

She stood up and with a shy smile asked, "Will I have Iskander's son, oh Mighty One?"

The old woman answered, still in her weird voice, "Yes. You will have a son in nine moons' time."
Barsine gave me a radiant smile and sat down.

After looking at me for a minute, Lysimachus stood up. "Is my fortune to be made?" he asked.

"Your fortune will be made at the end of the king's reign. But beware, in the end a new acquaintance will be stronger than you." The voice was sly.

Plexis was next. He cleared his throat. "Will I find the answers I seek?"

The woman cackled. "Most handsome one, listen well. You shall go east and east again. You will see the twelve pillars and the sacred river. However, the answers you look for will only be revealed on your deathbed. Don't seek them too soon."

Plexis turned white and sat down rather suddenly.

The three soldiers looked at me uncertainly; then they stood up and asked their questions, one after another. The voice told them they would go further than they'd ever dreamed, and that they would all found large, prosperous families. This seemed to satisfy them. They sat down, and then everyone looked at me. I didn't move, tears running down my face. For this nonsense, my beloved donkey had been killed?

"I see a stranger in our midst," the voice came from behind the curtain. "Stand! So that I may see you."

Barsine pushed me roughly to my feet.

"Will you not ask a question of me?" asked the mocking voice.

"No. I don't believe in you."

There was a collective gasp from my companions, and Plexis drew in his breath with a hiss.

"To believe or not to believe, that is not the question." The voice was sly again, and teasing. "You have come from farther than anyone here can imagine, and you will have the chance to return. However, to return you must sacrifice a human life: one living man. A donkey is just an animal with no soul, but you must kill a man with a soul. I see past the ice in your heart. Didn't you know?" There was a dry chuckle. "Here is a riddle for the Ice Queen. The king is dead, long live the king." A silence greeted these words. We all looked at each other, perplexed.

"I don't like riddles," I snapped, more angry and miserable than confused.

"I'd love to stay and chat," said the voice, with something very like regret in it. "I too have questions to ask that only you may answer. Grant me one, just one, and I will tell you about your son."

The blood drained from my face and my heart thumped painfully. "What do you want to know?"
"Will my name be remembered? Is my name still on people's lips?"

"What do you mean?" I was confused. What was the old woman's name anyway? "What name?"

"Apollo. I am here, and I want to know. Answer me, child of the future. Answer me now, for soon I will vanish and the centuries will bury me in their dust."

At first I thought the woman was talking about herself, but a shiver run down my spine. My head tingled. "It can't be..."

"There are things you will never be able to explain. Just answer me, if you will. Do you know the name Apollo? Have you heard of me once before, perhaps as a whisper? Perhaps in some long, lost song? Do they still sing about me? Answer me... please."

The voice was plaintive, and for some reason I saw Darius's tragic face in my mind. The deposed king, a fallen angel. I thought of the Apollo space program. Tears pricked my eyes. "Yes," I whispered. "Your name is spoken all the way to the moon, but it has nothing to do with you any more."

There was a deep silence while my words were considered, and then the voice came again, calm and oddly quiet. "Well. I suppose I had to ask. Do you see how similar we are? The gods and men."

"My baby," I breathed. "You promised."

"You shall find him in the Sacred Valley. Guard him well. He will find the lost soul."

After that, there was no more sound, except for harsh breathing coming from behind the curtain. I was shaking uncontrollably, but no one would look at me or touch me.

"Apollo asked you a question!" Lysimachus shook his head in awe.

"Don't ever speak to me about it again," I said fiercely.

Monday, November 05, 2007

golfing at the end of the world

While the world goes to hell in a handbasket (where did that expression come from?) with war looming, the price of oil sky-rocketing, the markets collapsing, extremists from all religions suddenly getting shriller and louder, and global warming causing storms and flooding...
Global warming is causing sunny days here, so I went off to play golf.
November 5th, and I played 18 holes with just a cotton turtleneck and a light sleeveless sweater. (Oh, and jeans, yes, and shoes and socks, if you really want to know.)
And the sun shined. The trees were gold, scarlet, peach colored, and the grass was green and soft, and the ground was dry (we've had a drought, and it's far too hot, but who's complaining? The golf was terrific.)
My elbow is not hurting thanks to the wonders of modern medicine - but after next week's golf tournament (the last of the year for me) I'm putting it in a sling and stopping the pills. The wonder pills, as I call them now, are so amazing that ALL aches and pains vanish, but it's a fake relief, becuase as the medicine wears off, the aches and pains return threefold to remind you (me) that you (I) are (am) a simply feeble human & the best medicine is complete rest.
Today was a gorgeous fall day. I made wild duck for dinner. The leaves on the wild cherry trees look like orange silk.

The world is going to hell in a handbasket (I really have to stop reading the news.) Or at least only read the weather's sunny and warm, and will be sunny and warm all winter, as far as I can see.

Global warming is great for my golf game, so I'll keep playing. Besides, our house is heated with natural gas. The price of bread has gone up, the price of eggs, milk, and butter has jumped, and let's not even talk about the cost of filling my gas tank - Oh, what the hell, it's 50$.
But at least we have socialized medicine, and my daughter's braces are not costing me a cent, my elbow is treated for less than five bucks, and the flu shot will set me back another five. So that way, I won't get sick and I'll be able to play golf (probably at Christmas wearing just a teeshirt and shorts...)
As long as the price of a golf game doesn't go through the roof - I'm happy.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Baby Talk

Baby Talk

You'd think that an author, someone who uses words to work with, would take care that her children spoke perfectly. The truth is, I believe words are for communication, and that can take many forms. One thing that bothers me about the system of teaching kids a foreign language is the sheer lack of fun in it. It's boring, exacting, and forgettable - whereas language should be fun, forgiving, and most of all - for communicating.

So, my kids learned to talk, but when they made mistakes - if they were cute and made me laugh - I didn't correct them. They'd learn soon enough a grasshopper wasn't really called a Hopper Grass.
Here are some of their best words:

Blankety. (Blanket. But blankety is more fun, has more syllables, and can go on like blankety-blankety-blank.)

Splastic. (Who can resist this word? It's far better than plastic. So we had splastic bags for ages.)

Hopper Grass. (When they found out it was grasshopper, I tried to tell them no, it was really hopper grass. But real words will prevail.)

Tuc-Tuc-peller. (Propeller. The hovercraft we took to go to England and back every summer had huge propellers on the back. They started up with a loud 'Tuc-tuc-tuc!' The boys called propellers tuc-tuc-pellers for ages. Well, I never wanted to correct them! lol)

N'guh-guh - this African sounding word was my daughter's word for 'bread', and she would only use it, completely ignoring any attempts to get her to say 'bread'. Bread was 'N'guh-guh.'

Ada and Ada - my daughter's names for her twin brothers. She called them Ada and Ada. The neighbor boy, Arnaud, was 'Arnaud', painstakingly sounded out, and she would call Carol 'Carol', and Marielle was 'Marielle', so she knew people had names. But for a long time, the twins were Ada and Ada.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Kate's Contest

Kate's having a Writing Contest!
So go HERE
and have FUN! (the point is to have fun, yanno.)
And enter the contest.
You can win some cool PRIZES.
And check out Kate's Books (Or Summer Devon's)
'Cause they Rock.