Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18, 2014 - Celebrating (the demise of) wisteria

Welcome to Friday  and VikLit 's blog hop.  We're celebrating the small things that make our lives richer.

The information on the hop is below.  Why don't you join us? 

False advertising!
Today I am celebrating going to war against the wisteria in my back yard. I planted some, years ago,   and now have more than I need. No one told me (and to be honest, I didn't do my research) that the species is considered invasive and will send runners and roots all over the place. It is strong and insidious, and can take down a castle.

The only structure that can withstand wisteria is in Wales
In fact, Cromwell tried to use it against Harlech castle.  Harlech won that engagement.  But, alas, I don't live in Harlech castle, so I am off to war.

Wisteria's true nature!
Wisteria is pretty when it blooms, with cascades of fluttery grape-like blossoms.  The Japanese love it.  I (once) loved it.  Not any more.  The stuff has taken down temples in the jungle, and after considerable research and cursing, I have concluded that it is related to The Blob.

The final annoyance is that it has never once bloomed in my yard.  That has sealed its fate.  ...If it does not blob me to death.

I also have chokecherries. (the lookalike weeds, I mean)  They are juicy-stemmed, shoot up like (you guessed it) weeds, and multiply like Hercules' hydra.
Who cares if it can be used for ink?

The berries can be used in place of ink, but since I only have one fountain pen, inherited from my father, I'm not going to gum up its works, or dye my hands, with the stuff.

But this weekend I am waging war, and I am prepared! 

Off to war!

Enjoy yours, everyone!
(weekend, not war)

(...I certainly hope that my dog does not attack the wisteria and chokecherries with lifted leg before I get at them!...)

So...  What are you celebrating?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 14, 2014 - Wishing the People of France a Happy Bastille Day!

I am a citizen of history.  History tells the story of people.  If you read history, you will learn something, or be reminded of something.  You will find how the pieces of the puzzle of human and national relations fit, and you will understand the present.

At the very least you will never be bored.

Bastille Day Fireworks over the Pont Alexandre III, Paris
My father loved France.  I studied the French language.  I was 2/3 of the way to being fluent.  I am a little out of practice now.  But my French served me well when I visited Paris and loved nearly every minute of it.

My studies in history have made me aware of something that is not generally known nowadays:

P. O'Brien - The Battle of the Chesapeake
If it were not for the intervention of France, the fledgling United States of America might never have been able to survive its war with England.  France recognized the United States in 1778, and sent troops, munitions and naval forces to assist in the fight.  In Europe, France formed alliances with the Netherlands and Spain, leaving Britain without an ally in that conflict.  French troops served under George Washington.    The French Navy fought the English at the battle of Chesapeake under the command of Admiral DeGrasse, an action that directly led to the English surrender. 

Charles E. Stanton, an aide of General John ('Black Jack') Pershing, upon landing in France during World War I, gave this speech at the tomb of Lafayette at the cemetery of Picpus in Paris:

“America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here.”

I wish the citizens of France a splendid Bastille day, and years of prosperity and peace.

Vive la France!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Celebrations, July 11 - Inspiration, however late, is a good thing...

Welcome to Friday  and VikLit 's blog hop.  We're celebrating the small things that make our lives richer.

You'll hear from parents, athletes, thinkers (most of them are!), doers, dreamers, movers and shakers, shakers, poets, people who write, people who crochet, people who do all sorts of things that make you feel somewhat inadequate, but it's all in your own head.  People who read books, write and review books.  People from all over the place (and this is the odd thing: you can be following a blog for literally years and suddenly realize that the blogger is from the other side of the world, and you never suspected it).

In this hop, they're all smiling.

The information on the hop is below.  Why don't you join us?  Or, at least, visit the various posts and smile.

Today I am celebrating last night's burst of inspiration.  Well, I'm not sure it's a burst, exactly.  Rather more like saying "What was WRONG with me?  It will work better this way!"

I'm speaking of my covers for The Memphis Cycle.  Something wasn't quite satisfactory.  And I figured out what it was, and changed it.

See if you can tell the difference:

...And that is what I am celebrating today!  (Took me long enough!)

What are you celebrating?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The (Not So) Gentle Art of Upstaging

Anyone who has been in the theatre as a performer is well-acquainted with the cardinal sin of upstaging:


: to take attention away from (someone or something else, such as another performer)

Full Definition of UPSTAGE

transitive verb

1 :  to draw attention away from <upstaging the competition>

An actor being upstaged by his sword
2 :  to force (an actor) to face away from the audience by staying upstage

You don't have to stand upstage (toward the back of the stage, forcing the central character, who is supposed to have everyone's attention, to turn toward you.  You can fiddle with something, whistle, wiggle - anything to make the audience watch you rather than him.

I have been in various theatre groups over the years, with some really electrifying parts - like the society lady of the 1890s with a drinking problem, whose final appearance involves her staggering from the house with a streamer of toilet paper stuck to her shoe, or the countess in The Sound of Music who uttered the deathless lines "Frau Schraeder is charming, Georg!"  I upstaged Captain Von Trapp in that scene by wearing underpants printed with red bicycles.  I did not know, then, that spotlights will cut through clothing and highlight things you would not think visible.  One of the stage hands asked me, after the scene, why on earth I had bicycles on my panties.

We were cautioned against upstaging each other, and given some examples of what it involved and why the one being upstaged was justified in throttling (usually in plays involving stealthy murder), stabbing (Shakespearean) or shooting (crime drama) the upstager.
The Great Tallu
Tallulah Bankhead was notorious for her upstaging antics.  Two stories illustrate them very well.

Tallulah Bankhead was getting nonsense from an upstart young actress who declared she could upstage Tallulah anytime. "Dahling," said Miss Bankhead, "I can upstage you without even being onstage."
The next night, she set out to prove it.

While the upstart actress acted a long telephone conversation, Miss Bankhead made her exit - not before placing her champagne glass on the edge of the table, precariously balanced half-on, half-off.

The audience began to notice the dangling glass, and whisper in a hubbub. The actress was completely upstaged. And Miss Bankhead nowhere in sight.

Afterward, the secret was revealed: Miss Bankhead had put sticky tape on the bottom of the glass.

Tallulah always squabbled with her leading men.  One of them had his revenge.  She had arranged for a phone to ring on stage during his climactic speech.  He tried to ignore it, tried to cover it with a burst of speech.  He finally lifted it and managed a limp "Hello?"  And then he turned to Tallulah and offered the phone with a smile.  "It's for you, Darling!"

I mentioned my experience with Les Miserables  in its first tour in 1988 in Philadelphia.  The actor who played the Inspector, Javert, was the original understudy for the part on Broadway.  He was handsome, had a wonderful presence, a good singing voice, and the body of a dancer  The audience loved him.  At one point in the play, he is spying on the students at the barricade and is unmasked by the little boy, Gavroche, who sings:

Good evening, dear Inspector,
Lovely evening, my dear!
I know this man, my friends -
His name's Inspector Javert!
So don't believe a word he says,
'Cause none of it's true!
This only goes to show what little people can do!

The students seize Javert while the student leader, who has the most superb breath control, gives instructions:

"Tie this man and take him to the tavern in there!
The People will decide your fate, Inspector Javert!"

And Javert, wearing a glisteningly white shirt with a tricolor sash about his waist in this production, had a fine, defiant speech that ended with the vehement wish that all traitors die.  And then, pinioned, he was hustled off the stage by two brawny extras.

We all liked Javert, and the actor, one Herndon Lackey, was doing a fine job and, aside from the part, was an enjoyable person to follow.  We wanted to know what happened to him, even those of us who had read Victor Hugo's 'brick' in French or English.

Eponine bites the big one
The play continued.  The love-lorn waif and prostitute, Eponine, comes to the barricade and dies in Marius' arms.   (Marius being the love interest.  For me, I wanted Javert) after singing a pathetic song.

Well, we saw that, but we also saw that Javert was being dragged up the side of the stage ('stage right', as you face the stage, meaning that it was to the left).  Mr. Lackey (Javert), being an experienced  actor and, apparently, a very loyal one, was resisting as much as he could.  The grimly determined insurgents, who were also rather oblivious, kept hauling him up toward the stage.  I suspect he hissed something because they suddenly all froze and stood motionless while Eponine died tragically in Marius' arms.  She would have done better in Javert's, at least in this production.  They stood like victims of Medusa, turned to stone, while she sang.  Once she was finished, they moved to the taproom and made Javert a prisoner.

Image (c) Crowanimation
The play wound on toward its close.  Javert killed himself, once he realized that duty required him to go after Valjean, while his heart told him that the man was too good to arrest. 
The last song was sung, the curtain calls and whistles were over, and I sat back, breathless.  It was a wonderful time.

What stayed with me, with that particular production, was the classic illustration of the gentle art of upstaging an opponent.  This time was not deliberate.  The actor did everything he was supposed to, short of yelling, "Yo, Bozos!"  (it was after all, in Philadelphia...) "Lay off!  She's singing!"

The key is to be what you are, with no effort, with a completely straight face.  Don't say (essentially) "A-HAH!" because you'll be found out.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Celebrations, July 4, 2014

Welcome to Friday  and VikLit 's blog hop.  We're celebrating the small things that make our lives richer.

The information on the hop is below.  Why don't you join?  Or, at least, visit the various posts and smile.

It's a good place to go if you need a smile, a chuckle or a 'hmmm...'

It has been a miserable, wretched really, really lousy week.  It started out well.  I came bouncing into my place of employment, glad to see everyone, and things went south from there.  Grumpy people, people in downright nasty moods, snarking, snarling, finger-pointing.  And I spun my wheels for three days.  Used up quite a lot of tissues, too

Judith Viorst wrote a book about such a time:

I am, however, off today and tomorrow, and I did not need to deal with degenerative snarkosis.  Nor did I have to look at their faces and bite my tongue.  I go into the office tomorrow to get some work done.  (Yes, it's a holiday, but I'm going to be alone.)

So I am, fighting the mood and sipping some red wine from Burgundy: Moulin A Vent ('Windmill' in French, named for the windmill that is visible from the vineyards).

It does appear to be helping.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Celebrating a Break in the Weather

It is Friday and time to enjoy VikLit 's blog hop that highlights small celebrations, the things that we tend to ignore unless something or someone joggles our elbows and says, LOOK!

Today I am celebrating not only the end of the work week (though the fact that I have work during these difficult times is a celebration in itself) but also the fact that Ye Olde  Wizzardes Who Thinke They Hath Ye Means To Foretell Ye Weather are predicting a cooler weekend.

My dog won't sit around and pant so much, I can pull a blanket up to my shoulder, and I can even wear a bathrobe, which for me is a necessity, whether or not I will roast in it.

I hope they are right.

What are you celebrating?  Why don't you join us?  The link is below!

Cover Reveal: Effigy by M. J. Fifield

Today I am happy to participate in the Cover Reveal of Effigy, M. J. Fifield's debut novel.  Danger, excitement, beauty, sacrifice and love figure in the story of Haleine, queen of a once-great kingdom that is crumbling into ruin under her husband's cruel, evil reign. 

The survival of a once-mighty kingdom rests in the hands of its young queen, Haleine CoileĆ”in, as it slowly succumbs to an ancient evil fueled by her husband’s cruelty. 
A sadistic man with a talent for torture and a taste for murder, he is determined to burn the land and all souls within. Haleine is determined to save her kingdom and, after a chance encounter, joins forces with the leader of the people’s rebellion. She gives him her support, soon followed by her heart. 
Loving him is inadvertent but becomes as natural and necessary as breathing. She lies and steals on his behalf, doing anything she can to further their cause. She compromises beliefs held all her life, for what life will exist if evil prevails? 
Her journey leads to a deceiving world of magic, monsters, and gods she never believed existed outside of myth. The deeper she goes, the more her soul is stripped away, but she continues on, desperate to see her quest complete. If she can bring her husband to ruin and save her people, any sacrifice is worth the price—even if it means her life.

M J Fifield
Release date: July 22, 2014 
Cover art by Ravven
About The Author: 
Armed with a deep and lasting love of chocolate, purple pens, and medieval weaponry, M.J. Fifield is nothing if not a uniquely supplied insomniac. When she isn’t writing, she’s on the hunt for oversized baked goods or shiny new daggers. M.J. lives with a variety of furry creatures—mostly pets—in New Hampshire. Effigy is her first novel.
Ravven, the cover artist: