Tuesday, April 7, 2020

National Poetry Month: A Poem for Spring

"Springtime Near Vetheuil" by Monet


By William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Friday, April 3, 2020

More To Life

In this season of fear and isolation, may we take the time to breathe, to take stock, and to appreciate our loved ones. Being forced to re-prioritize a few things may not be a bad thing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Celebrating National Poetry Month, 2020

My favorite literary celebration of the year begins today! Grab your nearest poet and give them a hug to celebrate them and their efforts to express all things humanity.

The best of poems require our full attention, a moment's lingering devotion. They do not give up all their gems at once, but a little at a time. After a little effort from us, the facets are uncovered, and the beauty and value of the jewel before us takes our breath away.

So to kick things off, a stunning, challenging poem by one of my all-time favorite poets:

"Crow Song"
by Margaret Atwood

In the arid sun, over the field
where the corn has rotted and then
dried up, you flock and squabble.
Not much here for you, my people,
but there would be

In my austere black uniform
I raised the banner
which decreed Hope
and which did not succeed
and which is not allowed.
Now I must confront the angel
who says Win,
who tells me to wave any banner
that you will follow

for you ignore me, my
baffled people, you have been through
too many theories
too many stray bullets
your eyes are gravel, skeptical,

in this hard field
you pay attention only
to the rhetoric of seed
fruit stomach elbow.

You have too many leaders
you have too many wars,
all of them pompous and small,
you resist only when you feel
like dressing up,
you forget the sane corpses...

I know you would like a god
to come down and feed you
and punish you. That overcoat
on sticks is not alive
                                 there are no angels,
but the angels of hunger,
prehensile and soft as gullets
                                 Watching you
my people, I become cynical,
you have defrauded me of hope
and left me alone with politics...

(published in Poetry, February 1974)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Isolation and Research

Well, it's clear that I took another hiatus from journaling, blogging, and all social media. How zen and de-stressed life has been because of it. Now to take up a little word-crafting again. (In fact, I haven't written in so long that it feels awkward to do so.)

SO! What's been going on since last September?

* I completed my first paid editing job. A lovely client and a wonderful learning experience.
* Pottery has flourished. Sold nearly all my stock, plus a few commissions.
* Got a cold and bronchitis at Christmas, which lasted for nearly a month.
* Learned to ski. Proof:
Yep, that's me, trying not to be terrified of ski class.
* Caught some weird fever/cough when we got home from ski trip.
* Watched the world go mad.
* Freaked out at the grocery store when shelves were empty.
* Meanwhile, researching for novel continues.

Given that my husband and myself work from home on a daily basis, being on lockdown amid the pandemic hasn't shaken us too much. It just feels like doubling down on routine. Plus, I'm such a successfully functioning introvert that being ordered to stay away from humans sounds too good to be true. My mom told me that whenever I got into trouble as a kiddo, it didn't do any good to "send me to my room" because I loved being alone in my room. It's beyond my comprehension that extroverts are having trouble staying at home in the stillness and quiet, alone. Alone, alone.

Still, even for introverts like myself, I've appreciated the little contact I've had. A walk around the park with a friend. Chatting and gaming with friends online. So the isolation diminishes.

Rehearsals for the apocalypse aside, what am I researching? I mentioned (somewhere?) that I'm moving the setting of a novel (still languishing in rough draft form) from a conventional English countryside to the Nile and the ruins of Egypt. This massive change in setting has induced major changes in the core characters as well, and certainly in the side plots surrounding the main plot.

Here's a few tantalizing clues of my research topics in the form of pics:

Hypostyle Hall, Karnak


(sketch by Brierly, 1869)

Unknown beauty
The best thing about forced isolation is that I have no excuse not to make massive progress on renovating this novel. I guess we'll see what good comes of it.

Monday, September 9, 2019

From Mud to Jewels

My previous post, I see, was a month ago. Whew, what a clay-smooshing frenzy. I've been so focused on improving cups and mugs and getting glazes just right that I made no time for blogging. Ah, well.

Here's my follow-up report.

So the first test firing of my new glazes was a disaster. Almost none of the glazes yielded the results I hoped for. This is after I followed manufacturer advice on how many coats to apply. WRONG! What a mess of drab, dull, ugly color combinations. In some cases, the accent colors disappeared completely. I was so frustrated. But very, very determined to get it right. I tried again.

In some instances I reduced the number coats, in others I doubled the number of coats. And voila!

Mud and minerals applied just right, fired at 2300 degrees in my garage, produces jewels.

Test Group #2: glazed, before the firing.
Test Group #2: after the firing
Just look how happy they are! Not perfect yet, but we're getting there!

Test Group #2: just the cups
Test Group #2: slab cups
The slab cups are a result of my sudden need for a cup to store my tools. I started rummaging through the cabinets for old ugly plastic cups that might work, then it dawned on me. "Hell, girl, you're making mugs. Make a cup for your stuff!" So I did. Gotta learn to think like a potter, I guess.

But, man, add some handles and those cups would be adorable and very sturdy beer steins. Hmm, just a thought.

The possibilities feel endless.

NOTE: all pieces are hand-built. No wheel work. Clay body is Stoneware, Cone 6 Brown. Glazes are from Amaco and Spectrum.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Hands of the Potter

So given the current season I'm walking through, it seemed appropriate to heed my husband's advice and drag out my pottery stuff again. The goal is to craft enough inventory to actually sell. What that looks like, I have no idea.

Anyway, here's the gist. I took two ceramics courses back in college as electives--both hand-building and wheel--and LOVED it. We're talking twenty years ago. In my late twenties, I accumulated my own supplies to throw pots in the dubious comfort of my garage (as a result of icky circumstances that I won't describe online). Then came the novel project. Everything else, all hobbies, friends, family, everything, was set aside so I could finish the Falcons Saga.

Now that the novels are complete, and with the LegendFire Community shut down, I sank into a horrible place of purposelessness. No people and few characters to care for, I realized I was suffering something very closely related to Empty Nest Syndrome.

So now, twice in my life, has pottery stepped in as a source of rest and rejuvenation. I admit, writing, as much as I love it, does not produce this restful feeling. Struggling for words, for plot, for conflict, fills me with tension, if not outright frustration. Not so the pots.

Currently, I have no place to set up my wheel. I mean, it's a hundred degrees in my garage right now, and I'd like my CAR to live in the garage where it belongs, so sans studio, I am hand-building mugs and other things in the cool of my dining room.

wet three-legged mugs
I can't wait to see these mugs glazed and finished.

The firing end of things has turned into a more frustrating venture. Over the past couple of days, I had carefully glazed some test pieces, mainly to see how my new glazes blend (or don't), and to see if my old Paragon kiln is still in working order. However...

I get everything ready, wake up excited to begin, only to discover that the shelves and supports I thought I had, I no longer have. Couldn't find them anywhere. I see my entire day and my hope to see results by nightfall slipping down the gutter. Ugh. So ... I have ordered new kiln shelves and posts.

Setbacks and delays. Which seems to be the running theme of the entire summer. Not a big deal in this instance, but when delays continue to stack up, they feel more dire than they really are.

Maybe I'll get to test-fire next week?

Point is, so many life applications to be found in pottery. For a pot to be made beautiful, it must be turned upside down and have the ugly excess trimmed off. Too often do I find myself the pot in the hands of my Potter. Yet the trimming shows infinite care and loving, purposeful intention.

Isaiah 64:8

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Nocturne for Novellas

I forgot to post about my latest release. So here goes.

"A Nocturne in Red" is available at Amazon for e-readers and in print. It's the inaugural story of Sanjen of Shar, a lute-wielding bard, who gets into all kinds of trouble. Last August, The Society of Misfit Stories was awesome enough to publish it for a few months,but since it's no longer available through their site, I decided to throw it back out there myself. 

I'm hoping the tale is the launching point for many stories featuring this troubled character. Sanjen is full of personality and inner demons--and what won't he do to protect those he loves? Read the first several pages at Amazon or at my site.

Along with the story, I've converted my hand-drawn maps of Tanerra with Wonderdraft. Behold, Sanjen's world:

Click for a full-size view.