Thursday, December 12, 2019

Northern Spy

Sometimes when I tell people about the rural community of Western New York where I live, they get this strange look in their eyes that says “Really? How could anyone willingly live there?” Yes, 150 inches of snow every winter—and that’s on the lake plain, a stretch along the southern shore of Lake Erie that runs from one to three miles deep. The folks who live just up the escarpment from us, get about 220 to 240 inches. Today, I dug my car out, and cleared the snow and ice off the back porch and back stairs so my three Maltese dogs could get out into the big back yard again. They ran and ran and ran, leaving little pawprints in the snow and were very happy to come back into the house and settle down in front of a radiator.

Even if you don’t like frolicking in the snow, there are advantages to this rural lifestyle. People along the lake plain grow grapes, berries, apples, even a few hardy souls manage peaches. And today, in my little village in the middle of nowhere, I stopped at the local pie shop one of two local bakeries--(the local cake shop, is also well worth a stop)-- and brought home a fresh-baked apple crumb pie, made from Northern Spy apples grown along the lake plain about ten miles west of here. Northern Spies are a very late season, large and stout apple with carmine red skin married with streaks of yellow and pale green. Their creamy yellow flesh has just the right bite of tartness to offset the sweet, juicy, cidery taste. They make a fantastic pie. Just the right firmness, and a knock-your-socks-off flavor that lets you know this is a real apple in a real pie.

I’m on the tail end of a ten-day-long cough/chest cold that everyone seems to be getting this year. It laid me low. I couldn’t write, could barely think, blew my nose until it bled, coughed until my ribs hurt. Started to feel like a human being again yesterday.

The Northern Spy pie was dinner. Half of it anyway. My three Maltese dogs got their fair share of the apple crumb crust.

I’ll get back to writing tomorrow.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Muse Has Returned

My third eye injection has come and gone. This one was easiest of all: took only two days to feel normal again. My vision is still blurry in one eye, but the Retinal Specialist says there is "slight improvement," in the condition, --it's early to predict, but signs indicate I am in the 25 percent of patients who actually might get better--and definitely in the 50 percent who don't get worse. 
So the muse has returned. I have cut back on social media and I am back to writing my Work In Progress. So this will be a short note. I have my band of intrepid souls safely on their twin planet, which has nearly devastated its environment by unfettered greed. They've had one run in with the gestapo-like police force, and are hiding out in a rebel encampment, trying to figure out who their friends and enemies are, and how they are going to accomplish their seemingly impossible mission. They don't know it yet, but things are about to get worse. The tyrant Rhondal is aware of their presence and has stepped up his own actions to invade and conquer the other twin planet. And the Galactic police--the warrior race Krieg--who have sworn to annihilate everyone on Rhondal's planet if he tries this, have an itchy finger on the trigger.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A Poke In the Eye

When I lived in Montreal, I learned the French Canadian expression, "it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick." Well, I just found out exactly what that means.
Sometime in April, while working on a scale model diorama for an upcoming exhibition, I noticed that the vision in my right eye had gotten blurry. When it did not go away, I called an eye specialist and got an appointment. After a series of tests, he diagnosed wet AMD, macular degeneration. I had a number of questions, and not all the answers were happy-making. The Opthamologist  said I needed to get an injection in the eye, which he proceeded to do. It was not fun. Even less fun was the research I did online later. I spent a few weeks wondering whether my diorama-building and possibly writing days were coming to a faster close than I would like. 
Fast forward six weeks. My exhibit is up and running. Took four days to set it up. Exhausting, but it's a real treat, seeing my work in a really fine gallery. 
I have just had my second Lucentis injection --yes, in the eye, oy!-- but this one went better than the last, less residual pain, and I have already shown some "slight" improvement according to the Doctor, so I am feeling pretty up. Now that the eye is returning to "normal" --vision blurrier than the left eye, but workable--I'm looking forward to reading and anxious to catch up on my current Work In Progress, and yes, build a few more dioramas and models. 
Untreated, wet AMD would lead to blindness, and not everyone treated with this injection improves, but I have had a positive reaction to the treatment and tremendous support from my friends, so getting poked the eye every 6 to 8 weeks with a sharp stick is not as bad as it could be. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Frankensquirrel Revisited

Well, we moved the squirrel feeder from the tree near the porch one hundred and some feet away---hung it on the wooden fence around the flower garden.
The squirrels all took to it immediately. They soon figured out they are safe from the three Maltese dogs confined behind the small wire fence some 50 or so feet away.
But, as will occur, battles for "ownership" of the feeder commenced, and the larger squirrels succeeded in chasing Frankensquirrel off pretty much every time any of them were there.
So now, with most of the thieving of the bird feeders having been reduced by giving the squirrels an alternative to having to run for their lives when the hounds are loosed, and Frankensquirrel clearly back at the bottom of the squirrel pecking order, there's a large pet bowl on the back porch, filled with a mix of raisins, nuts and seeds. We can't help it. Franky comes to the back porch, sits on the railings, watches us, and otherwise makes it clear he thinks he is one of the "pack," and has adopted us.
The dogs, of course, disagree.

Sunday, March 31, 2019


He struck again today, launching himself from the porch railing to the top of the bird feeder pole and chasing the tweety birds away. He plopped himself down into the shelled peanut tray that the blue jays and woodpeckers are so enamored of, and proceeded to stuff himself.
We loosed the hounds—three Maltese dogs, only one of which is bigger than Frankensquirrel. And of course, he ran, And they chased him. Off the porch, down the steps, across the yard, up the wire fence, off the wire fence, back through the yard,---with Tooki, the fiercest of the three Maltese, snapping at his tail--to the tree, where he made his escape..
It’s our own fault. We first saw Frankensquirrel in the winter. He was thin, small, probably the runt of the litter, and he looked miserable. We decided to fill the squirrel feeder on the tree for him. It worked. He became a daily visitor, in a time when there were only one or two birds coming to the bird feeders.
And he fattened up. Now, he seems convinced that we put food out only for him. The birds have come back, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Nuthatches, three different Woodpeckers, and of course, Sparrows and Juncoes..  He chases everyone away. We have created a monster. We’ve tried reasoning with him. Tried confining him to the squirrel feeder. Nothing seems to work.
So we loose the hounds on him. Of course, he’s faster than they are, but Tooki gets pretty close. After a really close call, Frankensquirrel seems to go somewhere else for a few hours. Most of the time, he’s back in less than fifteen minutes.
We’re now concerned that he may not be able to forage for food on his own.
We’ll find out this winter.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Who Am I?

Writers are artists. Our medium is words. And as artists, we have to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” What defines me? What role do I choose to play in my art? Am I a Maurice Chevalier or an Edith Piaf? Am I a Glen Campbell or a Tommy Smothers?
During World War II, Maurice Chevalier decided he was an entertainer and it was not his role to do other than entertain, even if it was for those who had overrun his country. After the war, some Frenchmen accused Chevalier of collaboration, which he denied. Edit Piaf was an active member of the Resistance. Obviously, she was not found out, for she would have paid a far more serious price than Tommy Smothers.
During the Vietnam conflict, Glen Campbell decided he was an entertainer and it was not his role to take part in the politics of pro or anti-war factions. Tommy Smothers decided otherwise. Tommy paid for that decision. His TV show was cancelled. For his activism, he gained some fans and he lost others. And for his decision, Campbell gained some fans and lost others.
In these days when the trumpery seems to get worse by the minute, artists must also ask themselves “Who am I?” And in asking that question, I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it.”
I believe in the power of words to place people in positions where they can change their own minds about something. I believe, as the psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl--who survived the Nazi death camps to write some of the most positive psychology the world has ever seen-- pointed out, you cannot make anyone do anything they truly do not want to do. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Choice always intervenes. So I choose.
I'm done with trying to not alienate Trump supporters. Time is up. I'm done with that. The man is deeply disturbed and objectively reprehensible. His condition is worsening, and as long as he remains in power, our nation is in jeopardy.
If you choose not to see that, it's time to think long and hard about what that says about you, who you choose to be. To my mind, anything that can be destroyed by truth, should be destroyed. In my writing I will continue to speak the truth. Silence in the face of evil is collaboration.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Just spoke with the Vet. Tino is coming out of anesthesia and doing okay. The surgery was "difficult" because he's so small (5 1/2 pounds) and quite a few of the gall stones had lodged themselves in his urethra. One stone was large enough to have stopped his urinary flow if left unchecked, so we got to it in time. He's nine years old. This was his second gall stone surgery--last one was in July of 2016. He has a genetic  disposition to develop them. So the good news is, we still have him for however long we have.
Now if I can only learn a defense to the Russian Wolfhound Gambit he's so fond of, I might beat him at chess some day.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Plots and World-Building

Part of any good SF/F novel is the new world you take the reader to. It has to be logical, should be scientifically possible, and--interesting. And the plot had better be intriguing. In my work in progress, I have twins Zakan and Javek, from the planet Saecula, about to go on a quest to their brother planet, Saetana. Saecula and Saetana make up the Chret homeworld--twin planets sharing a common orbit, but, 4000 years after the cosmic disaster that struck them, separated by --among other things---their way of life, philosophy and religion.

Saecula is similar in many ways to the high plains of the United States. A cool, semi-arid climate full of mountains. The Saec, who inhabit the planet, are anti-modernists who walk everywhere, live simple lives, wear simple robes, and worship Amara, the goddess mother. 

Saetana, is more of an oceanic climate, where weather is a drab constant, always raining, always blowing, cloudy and foggy. The Saet are overly modernized, have brought their planet to near disastrous climate change by over developing, wear flashy pant suits, worship Kharv, a male god, and want to take over Saecula to develop its vast resources, since theirs are running out. 

The two things keeping the Saet from doing this are--the Krieg warrior race, who police the Seven Worlds and would readily destroy any ship daring to take an invasion party across the sea of space, and the Gate between the worlds, which used to allow instantaneous two-way travel, but now has been shut down from Saet to Saec, and is only one-way. The Saec, of course, have no desire to go to Saetana, which they believe is on a fool's path. The Saet have found a way to infiltrate Saecula, and their despotic leader, Rhondal, has them preparing to invade. The notoriously impatient Krieg are considering massive military action against Saetana.. 

Things have become urgent, and the twins, Zakan and Javek have been chosen to take up the perilous task of saving the two worlds.

Sound like something you might want to read?

Saturday, January 26, 2019


If I've been a bit absent (or absent-minded) lately, it's because we have three unhappy Maltese dogs . 

Valentino, our almost-nine-year-old, took a fall and slipped a disc in his back. He's been on intense steroid treatment for five days, now on a less intense regimen, is able to walk again, but is still a bit wobbly. He may never completely recover. 

Katie, our eight-year-old (Valentino's sister) just went through six weeks of dietary change in a vain attempt to melt gallstones--she had surgery Thursday, and is now home on pain medications and antibiotics for ten to fourteen days. Both of them have to be carried up and down any stairs, and have absolutely limited walking time. 

Tooki, our five-year-old, is confused---why are Tino and Katie being locked up in crates all the time, why can't we wrassle, and how come I don't get picked up, swaddled in a blanket and hugged as much as they do??? So of course, he's misbehaving. 

Valentino is due to go in for his own gall bladder surgery next Thursday, since he seems to be recovering from his fall so well so far. The gall stones seem to be a genetic problem for both him and his sister. So I'll be playing "momynurse" for a while yet.

But----right now, I'm sitting in my study,, with my laptop on my lap, and all three pups sprawled on the rug, where, for the moment, things are back to normal.