Tag Archives: cats

River Hawks Bookstore Lowell – Reading on My Old Home Turf

 

So, on May 28th I gave my final reading of the month at my alma mater’s bookstore, River Hawks.  It wasn’t exactly a trek back to Tara, but it was a wonderful experience for seeing so many old friends at UMass Lowell.Lowell4

First of all, the day was a scorcher:  in the 90s!  Of course, I had to have a hot cappuccino before my performance!  Thank God this place is air conditioned – but the nice, comfortable kind of air conditioning, not the Arctic temps that make polar bears shiver, which you find too often once May rolls around.  Lowell5Here, I’m sitting, looking over my notes and finishing my coffee in the lobby.  The building is really nice, with lots of windows and airy space.

Ham bone that I am, I had to get a picture of myself with the display for my book! Lowell1 The young woman clerking at the counter was nice enough to do the honors.  Like the dress?  Yang made it for me by copying a vintage dress I’d bought on Ebay.  This way we get the beauty of authentic vintage design combined with the convenience of material you can hand or machine wash!  There’s not much he can’t do:  from using physics to move boulders to building an oxygen R08chamber for a kitten recovering from double pneumonia.  Note the luxurious quarters:  litter box, bed, blanket, toys, and inspiring pictures (Rosie the Riveter, Rosalind in AYLI, and Rosalind Russell).

Before the session, I had a nice chat with Abbey and Christina, who had taken charge of setting up the space for me.  As you can see from the pictures, it’s a great area for doing a reading.  Lowell7What I could really kick myself over is that I had such a wonderful time seeing old friends that I forgot to have my entourage (Yang) take any pictures of folks.  Damn! Not even a group shot!  So, who’s on the red – or here royal blue-  carpet?

Sue Thorne-Gagnon and her husband Bobby were first to arrive.  Sue and I were at ULowell together at the same time, but darned if we never met until years later when we were working at BASF systems before we both went back into teaching.  She’s a wonderful teacher and flutist.  Next came Lisa McCarthy and her daughter Hedda.  I’ve known Lisa since the late seventies, and we’ve been through everything together from rambles around Boston, hikes through the woods, and Star Trek conventions.  My nephew Phil and his wife Steph also appeared on the scene.  Steph is responsible for addicting me to Psych; Monk; Murder, She Wrote; and Miss Fisher’s Mysteries.  Can I get her hooked on Murdoch?  Steph is a teacher and Phil is a filmmaker – check out his co-production of My Name Is Jonah.  When he and his older brother were kids, Sharon&GeoffI used to hold them under the arms and swing them in a circle, which they loved.  Now they can do it to me, but not at the reading. Here’s a picture of my giving Geoffrey a whirl.

After the reading started, I was so excited to see, first, Barbara DeMeuth then Mary Lou Beausoleil slip in!  These guys have been my friends since grammar school!  Clearly, they have much forbearance.  It was fantastic that they came to support me!  Barb is actually my oldest friend – not in age but in duration.  We met when we were going into the fifth grade.  Mary Lou is only a few months behind.  But we can’t get together as much as we’d like, so it was fantastic to catch up!  Mary Lou was one of the earliest readers of one of the earliest versions of Bait and Switch – and she still came, anyway!  Barb and I have managed to stay in touch on the phone or over an occasional lunch lo! these many years.  Both have wonderfully wicked senses of humor!

It was an absolute delight to see people I care so much about, and who showed me they cared by being here to share in the success of Bait and Switch. And thanks to Maria Shusta, Christina, and Abbey at River Hawks for doing a wonderful job of setting everything up for me and making the day run so smoothly.

So, if you’re a friend from the Merrimack Valley, old or new, who missed the reading but still would like to get Bait and Switch, they have copies awaiting you at the Dusty1River Hawks Bookstore, 220 Pawtucket Street, Lowell.  Dusty from Bait and Switch will be watching for you.

Spring Bicycle Ride

We recently did the North Central Pathway rail trail. It technically extends between Gardner and Winchendon, though there is a break of about a mile that has not been developed yet.  It’s a beautiful paved trail that runs through clear, lovely, green woods in a straight path.  At the Winchendon end, we cycled down toward a sports/recreation area,Winchendon1 but right off the trail is this cool abandoned factory and what appears to be a ware house. It’s all next to a set of falls and canal off the river. Since there weren’t any “No Tresspassing” warnings or locked gates, we  checked out the area, being careful not to take any risks of falling or hurting ourselves.

 

 

Here’s a picture of a smoke stack;Winchendon2 somehow the rest of the factory seems to have fallen away – although there was a building behind it that looked as if it might have been part of the original manufacturing site.  Look at how gorgeously azure-blue the sky was that day.  The sun was so bright, I had to wear my shades – prescription, of course, or I’d have been riding off the road.

In this other Winchendon3shot of the chimney, you can better see the tree growing up around it and what’s left of the building behind it.

 

 

 

There were man-made falls next to the buildings and a canal running along it for water power. The scene was beautiful.  Winchendon5I have no idea what they made here.  Since this town was the rocking horse capital, perhaps that’s what they produced?

 

 

We got back on the trail for our return ride, passing a pond that had some Barrows Golden Eye Ducks.  Would that they  had been close enough to photograph.  These are diving ducks.  So it was a hoot to watch the flock sit up on the water, flap their wings, then dive down and disappear beneath the surface for a stretch.  Then, up they’d all pop.  Now you see them, now you don’t, now you do!

We did get to photograph some cute critters, though – at least I think they are cute.  So, here’s the trigger warning:  PICTURES OF A SNAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I almost ran over a little one of these guys when he was trying to cross the trail. I guess he wanted to get to the other side.  Playing chicken?  He was too small for me to see right away, but Yang assured me he was okay. Winchendon9 Then, I came across his big sister right here.  A beauty, eh?  I don’t know what kind this one is.  His/her color is coppery with darker markings, so it doesn’t look like a garter snake to me.  What do you think? Can anyone answer my query?

Here Mr. or Ms. Snake seems to be saying:  “I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. Demile!”Winchedon8

So, for those freaked out by this lovely creature, here are some soothing images.  First, the ginormous (for us, anyway) Winchendon13pumpkins Yang and I grew last year.

Then, Yang, himself, always a calming influence. Wynchendon6

And, of course two of the most adorable black cats in the world, NatashaWinchendon14

Winchendon15and Rosalind.

 

 

Yang Speaks!

So, to keep you entertained while you breathlessly await the forthcoming blogs on my appearance at The Book Lover’s Gourmet and my adventures at the Shakespeare of America Convention in New Orleans, here’s a link to an audio interview with me by Pat Driscoll for The New Worcester Spy.  It contains more details on my interests in film noir and horror, on film and on the page, and even a little more on my background. Just click here.  It’s what Dusty would want! Dusty reduced1

 

 

Bait and Switch: My First Reading at Annie’s Bookstop

Well, after all my announcements and commotion, here, at last, is the report on my reading and signing at Annie’s Bookstop in Worcester.  I HAD A BALL! What a wonderful experience.  So, I will commemorate it in words and pictures for you.

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Ah, a long shot of Annie’s as viewed by the author and her entourage – aka her husband.  Hey, he’s one guy but he’s worth a battalion.  We all know that about Yang!
Wait, here’s the heart-stopping moment where I see myself and my work celebrated in an honest-to-goodness advertisement!  I’m a star!  For the day.  Sort of.  That’s good enough for me!

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One of my loyal fans, Barbara Werblin greets me with gifts celebrating my great victory in actuallyAnnies3 getting the darned thing published!    We’re buddies from the “Y,” so she’s seen me in my sweats and really knows me!  Barb’s a great friend who has given me tons of encouragement – and she loves the book, too!  As the Mom of a wonderful poet, she understands the writer’s burden.  Sigh!
You can see my pal and colleague MaryLynn just behind me in the shot above. In these two pictures, you can see my friend and former student, Erin Bassler, having a good time while she reports on the event for The New Worcester Spy. (Read the article here!) Annies4Ultimately, we had about 12 or 13 people attend, all told.  I had loads of support from my friends:  students, colleagues, folks I know who enjoyed Bait and Switch and like seeing me be a wise guy.  So take a gander at some of the shots from the reading, question answering, and signing. annies5 Also, note how I got myself all gussied up in my smart-talking, forties gal, film noir look:  white blouse, black skirt, black and white spectator pumps, technicolor red lipstick.  Agent Carter, eat out your heart!

 

Someone said something shocking!  annies7How about those gorgeous flowers that Barbara got me for the occasion?  And chocolate.  She got me chocolate, too.  A brilliant woman!

 

 

 

Here are some nice shots of other folks coming up with questions, pondering the noir-style mysteries engendered by Annies8James Crawford leaving Jessica Minton that mysterious package in Bait and Switch.
Erin Fragola follows along intently while I ham up my reading in the background.
Everyone gets intense  with Pam McKay concentrating to Annies9express her thoughts on one of the many exciting and intriguing questions people posed to me on the characters, plot, historical background, cinematic style of the novel, and the true identity of Dusty. Both Erin Bassler and I look perplexed.  Must have been a humdinger of a query!  Something to do with Nazis?

 

 

 

While I’m signing books for my loyal fans, Annies11Pam and her friend Gaylene are perusing Bait and Switch to throw more thought-provoking questions my way.

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Ah, the end of an exhilarating day!  Here the author poses with her masterpiece.  I could use a nice cuppa about now.Annies12Bait and Switch is the first in the series of Jessica Minton’s adventures in the 1940s.  I’m not telling who else will be along for the ride in subsequent novels.  You’ll have to buy the books to find out!
I’m lucky to have so many friends to support me and to enjoy what I write.  My only regret is that I didn’t get to  include pictures of two people who made this wonderful day possible, but I do extend my heartfelt thanks.  Patty at Annie’s and my husband, who always believes in me – and is lots of fun to be with – yes, I know I dangled a preposition.  So there!

 

Dusty reduced1Dusty says, “Buy Bait and Switch!  Don’t miss my catly charm!”

 

 

 

 

Christmas Cat Tails

 

So, you’d think these two were little angels:  nice without a hint of naughty.  Christmas garlnd9Albeit, Rosalind looks a little worried about which of Santa’s lists she’s on.

Still, look at Natasha as “O Little Cat of Bethlehem” here.2015Chritmastree

 

 

Not so much.  2016Christmas blackHere, you have the reason for the Great Christmas Blackout of Bethlehem, 2011.

 

 

And of course Rosalind isn’t above diving into the fray to tear2015Christmas apart the pile of presents under the tree.

 

 

 

Popping out of a bag of wrapping paper scraps like the  creature in Alien has its appeal for Miss Rosalind as well.Rosy

We used to blame Rosie for knocking ornaments off the tree and batting them around, often to be found under the couch, sometime in July.  However, one day I came home to find Natasha sitting on the arm of the loveseat next to the tree, smacking down ornaments to her sister on the floor.  I was never quite sure if  ‘Tasha were doing Rosalind a favor or just setting her up to get blamed for striking down the bauble with which we’d catch her playing.2015Christmasmantel I don’t have any pictures of that, but I do have a couple of Natasha showing me 2015Chritsmatmantlethat the mantle piece is not off limits in her book.

 

 

 

 

Natasha is also quite sly about getting around rules.  One cardinal one is that cats are not allowed to walk, rest, or put even a paw on the dining-room table.  I’ve been fairly successful at ensuring they obey while I’m in the house.  Christmas basket2With the clever mind of a lawyer or a student trying to game the syllabus, Tasha found a way to sleep on the table without sleeping on the table.

 

So, there, Mummy!2016Christmas basket4

 

 

 

 

But at the end of the day, after gifts have been gnawed, paper has been shredded and disemboweled, turkey and gravy has been consumed, 2015Christmashangoverboth girls collapse together in a moment of holiday quiescence.

 

 

 

 

The Best of Holiday Cheer from

Rosalind

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and Natasha!

Christmas Garland

 

 

 

 

 

It’s in the Bag!

So, the other night, my husband, one of the cats, and I were in the living room watching TV, when we heard a strange rattling commotion in the kitchen.  I bravely got up to check.  No, I didn’t see either Santa or eight tiny reindeer come early.  In fact, it took me a moment to pin point the noise, which came from some fancy paper bags Bag2 hanging by a hook next to the top of the refrigerator.  A single green eye peered out at me warily.

 

 

 

A call of my friend’s name, and Rosalind poked her head out defiantly, Bag1daring me to challenge her position.

 

 

 

 

Now, you’ve got to understand, these bags are hanging almost six feet off the floor.  Rosie the Riveter had to have jumped up on the counter on the other side of the refrigerator, climbed over the top of it, then slid into the bags.  Like her namesake, “She CAN do it!”Bag3How she plopped her nine pounds in there without the bags ripping and dropping her plop on the floor is beyond me.  Strong bags, I guess.  Here, I register shock as Yang commemorates the moment on, well, I guess not film – just digitally.

 

When we lowered her majesty to the floor, she was not amused. DSCN2583 Maybe she should train for Army Special Forces or the Navy Seals?

 

 

 

Natasha and Rosalind Give “Monster” Therapy

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the creature created by Frankenstein  demands that humanity take their fair share of responsibility for their abusive treatment making him as much a monster on the inside as he appears on the outside:  “Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humanity sinned against me? . . . .I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, kicked, and trampled on.  Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.”  How different things would have turned out for him (and most of Switzerland!) if, after his “father” Victor spurned him, the creature had been taken in paw by my cats Natasha and Rosalind.Halloween14a  They have nothing but tenderness, friendliness, and courtesy for the “monsters” – although mice are another matter.  Look at this adorable face!

 

 

Here is Natasha proudly keeping company with her new monstrous acquaintance.  Halloween2No contumely or spurning can be seen on her furry countenance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course ‘Tasha is always solicitous of her companion’s Dscn1231well-being.  A well-timed nuzzle is just the thing to make a creature forget all about those nasty villagers and their pitchforks or flaming torches!

 

 

 

 

Most important of all, Natasha Rose knows that it’s important to listen and learn from others. Halloween3You can expand your horizons, and you build others’ confidence by validating that they have something valuable to teach you!  Here, she attentively follows the observations of a friendly Halloween death’s head.

 

 

 

And of course, sometimes it’s nice just to have a relaxing sit down with a screaming good guest in the parlor.

Hallowee11Or perhaps Natasha is giving him therapy.  “Tell me how you feel about people chasing you with flaming torches and pitch forks.”  Dr. Bob Hartley would be proud.

 

 

Not to be outdone by her big sister, Rosalind (aka Rosie Roosevelt Yang) makes the Scream feel at home with a lively game of hide and seek.  Play therapy?Halloween5

 

 

So, whatever kind of human or inhuman you are, try not to be too quick to call those you don’t understand monsters. Instead,– follow the leads of Rosalind and Natasha – except when it comes to mice.

Happy Halloween!Hallowee14

Beijing Arboretum

One of my favorite places on our trip to China in November ’14 was the Beijing DSCN1267Arboretum next to Xiang Shan (Fragrant Hill, 香山).  We arrived there after a long, traffic-packed drive from the city and got a second dose of autumn colors.

There were plenty of paths to hike amongst the trees and plenty of critters and birds about, including the ever-present magpies and azure winged magpies.  There were also many Great Tits (like our Chickadees) and sparrows – is there ANY place that isn’t over-run with sparrows?  Unfortunately, they were all too quick to allow any Dscn1270picture taking.  However, here’s a picture of Yang, who as just as charming to behold as any of our feathered friends.

The trails wended through wonderful pine and willow forests and up slopes of jagged rocks, at times past pavilions and monuments to students who had camped out and trained here to prepare to fight the Japanese during WWII. Dscn1277 Yang and I weren’t quite so tough.  Here, I’m giving my knee a rest (gardening injury), well-pleased with the scenery and the hiking. Aren’t the seats made from old red wood trees interesting?

There was also some unexpected forms of “wild life” in the park.  We came acrossDscn1273 well-fed dogs and cats, just chilling in the forest, part of the families of people who worked and lived at the park.  Here is a cat with a surprising resemblance to Winston Churchill.  He even miaowed gruffly!  Dig that expression.  Could it be a reincarnation?

A young Chinese girl and I had a laugh over how unique he appeared, and how nonchalant, in a gruff way, he was with humans.  When she said in English to me, “It’s a cat!” I meant to say “Dui” In Chinese, but my default mode slipped and I concurred, “Oui!”  We both had a chuckle.  Dscn1275I actually managed to converse a little with her in Chinese, saying that I liked cats and we had two at home.  That was as far as I could go in Chinese at that point, so we switched to English.  She and her boyfriend were a cute couple, so we took a picture of them with their camera and they took a picture of us with ours!

 

 

Dscn1278 When we came down the hill, we enjoyed the beautiful fall colors around us.

 

 

 

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Surprisingly, though there was lots of traffic coming out here, most people were visiting the nearby Xiang Shan parks.

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This little guy is called a Little Grebe (if you click on the picture, you can see him much better).

 

 

 

Here’s one more neat shot of the wonderful fall colors.  I understand that when there hasn’t been a drought, the colors are really gorgeous.

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Finally, I have to insert a picture of a creature we saw which really knocked Yang and I for a loop.  Like dopes, we didn’t take the camera out until he had scampered away.  So, this creature climbed out of the tangle of a twisted pine.  At first, I thought I was seeing a big black crow.  Then he settled on the ground and sat up.  I was flabbergasted!  It took a moment to figure out we were seeing a squirrel.  He poked around, looking for food, then sat eating for a bit, and finally scampered away by the time I realized we had a camera.  When we got back to the hotel, we checked him out on line.  I knew I’d seen pictures of this critttree squirel1er before, and discovered he was a Eurasian Red Squirrel – except he’s black.  Go figure.  Interestingly enough, I read that the black variety of squirrel thrives in pine forests better than its red brethren.   There’s plenty of pine in this place! tree squirrel4 Also, in China, the name for this type of guy is “Satan’s Squirrel.”  He is rather demonic looking, isn’t he?  Apparently, they are also bred commercially and sold as pets.

Getting home was almost as much of an adventure as the hike, what with overpacked buses – when they finally came.  What the heck!  When you have great company and beautiful weather and everyone’s in the same boat, er, bus, who cares!Dscn1272

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No copyright infringement intended, noncommercial use of photosTree Squirrel Photo 1: http://cutterlight.com/tag/hiking-near-ulaanbaatar/
Tree Squirrel Photo 2  Squirrel, Photo © Tim Edelsten on http://www.birdskorea.org/Birds/Birdnews/BK-BN-birdnews-2009-02.shtml

 

Pacification via a Dosage of Feline Adorableness

Hi folks! Many people have been champing at the bit for more information on Bait and Switch. Since I don’t have anything for you yet, I thought I’d extend a calming hand with this post about a beautiful black kitten who became my buddy on my trip to China last November.

My husband’s sister-in-law and her husband took us out to a cafe for coffee and dessert. While they had me sitting alone, waiting for them to graciously bring over all our comestibles and beverages, I felt something soft settle in my lap. I looked down and this is what I found!Cat3a

Of all the people in the restaurant, this little black kitten had selected me for her buddy. Do yoCat2au think she knew I was missing my two feline pals at home and needed some catly comforting? Maybe my lap was more padded than the other customers’? Whatever, she settled in for me to do some petting that pleased us both, while she dozed and kneaded away. When the others joined us, she protested leaving my lap when my sister-in-law picked her up – sneaking back as soon as Cindy wasn’t paying any attention.

Needless to say, the kitten was quite happy to get a few bites from my cheesecake; but her visit wasn’t purely gustatory. She decided to snuggle with me long before any food showed up.Cat5

Happily, this little guy was no stray. She lived at the cafe with her mom and two siblings. You can see from her coat and girth that she was well-cared for.

TheCat6a owners told me that her name was Shao Bai, which means “Little Whitey.”  Sometimes irony is adorable.

Dusty from Bait and Switch would surely approve!  Dusty reduced1

birdsSpring? Really?

This week has been gorgeous! ––the weather, the birds and their spring songs, the flowers (and, unfortunately, their pollen!). snowglories1I think, I hope, that spring is really here. I got my hopes up when one of my favorite flowers burst into view a few weeks ago, the Early Snow Glory. I love this purple/blue star with its snow center and lively slender yellow stamens. This year, they’ve migrated all over my yard. Beautiful.  The hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and daffodils have all blossomed, with lilac and pink hyacinths just now drooping their flowers.    But now the Bleeding Hearts are taking over.DSCN1800

The birds are wonderful to see, too. The Gold Finches have transformed from winter olive-drab to brilliant yellow.DSCN1742 The house finch couple, the male looking as if he had been “dipped in strawberry syrup” (Peterson’s), are showing up far more often. A more romantic pair are the cardinals; the scarlet male tenderly (really) feeding his olive Mrs.––or Ms. DSCN1727

The Red-Winged Blackbird whistles his presence then bares the startling orange and yellow of his epaulets. Best of all is our pair of male

Rosebreasted Grosbeaks. Their black hood, the flash and flicker of black and white patterns on their fluttering tails and wings, and the liquid pink on their chests are a visual delight.DSCN1718

Maybe last year’s Baltimore Oriole will return?  I think I’ve heard his song, sometimes, in the trees behind my house.

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Oh yes, the humans aren’t the only ones in our house who enjoy bird watching.

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