Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Books: Pandemic Reading: Patricia Wentworth

So. Let's write something.

A pandemic calls for easy, friendly reading. If that easy, friendly reading caters to one of my prejudices, yay!

So. Patricia Wentworth. Patricia Wentworth is a British author who wrote a whole lot of mysteries and some romances and a fair bit of novels in between, most of them in the first half of the twentieth century. The protagonists and the detectives and all their friends are nice. Sweet. Amusing. With only friendly little flaws. The villains are, well, villains. They rarely have any good points that make you regret their eventual doom. But they're also not the creepy Hannibal Lecter type that keeps you up at night. They lose, and they flutter away with the breeze.

And in between, there's usually a passive-aggressive, narcissistic manipulative woman, or a few of them. And all the characters that you care about see right through them.

I enjoy that.

The other plot that comes up over and over again is what's called, I'm told, a "second chance" romance. A couple who were separated--often by a passive-aggressive, narcissistic manipulative woman--find each other again. It's always pleasing to watch them untangle whatever it was that went wrong however many years ago (sometimes five, sometimes twenty) and go on to their happy ending.

Patricia Wentworth always serves up a happy ending.

There are some bits that make me tilt my head a bit--like a lot of stuff that seems to be about taste, in both dress and home decor. I don't fully understand it. Patricia Wentworth's equivalent of Miss Marple is Miss Maud Silver. In almost every book, there's a detailed description of Miss Silver's home and clothes, with a thread of...contempt? Amusement? Contemptuous amusement? We always hear about yellow maple and prints of Victorian pictures--Hope, The Black Brunswicker, The Stag at Bay, and I think Bubbles. I suspect that if I were a British mid-century citizen, I would completely understand the message. Maybe you can look at those links and translate it for me.

If you want to know where to start, I recommend The Gazebo. You get the passive-aggressive, narcissistic manipulative woman on the very first page, so you know where you are.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, January 17, 2021




I have a blog.

I've been writing. The first draft of the novel is close to done. It's going asymptotic--the closer it gets to done, the slower my progress.  That's partly, I suspect because I foolishly abandoned the strategy that got me to nearly-done.

But meanwhile, as the world falls apart, I feel the urge for less goal-oriented writing. I realize that for many people, blogging is immensely goal-oriented. Not for me.

So much "not for me" that I'm abandoning the thing that kept me from publishing the last few posts that I tried to type: The idea that when a person walks away from a blog for two years, that person's first post when they return should really be something.

But...those posts didn't get published.

So, if anybody's out there, hi! I hope I'll have something worth reading next time.

Image: Mine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Still Typing

Hey, look! I have a blog! Who knew?

I've been working on the novel. It's still in first draft. After...eighteen months since I started? Is that right? But it's getting closer to done--that is, closer to the first draft being done. Picture it, for a moment, as a patchwork quilt. For a long time, it was like a bunch of patches laid out on a table, a few here, a few there, but with no particular form. Now I can see the form of the quilt; it has big holes, but I can see them as holes, and holes mean there's a structure. So I'm progressing to the end of the first draft.

I may have already used that metaphor.

Anyway! I'm not sure how many drafts I'm going to go through, because I have discovered that my writing habits are weird. I like polishing. I know that many people hate editing--I love editing. I get no satisfaction from a piece of writing until it has a certain level of smooth readability.

So my "unit" of writing is the polished scene. I start a scene, write, delete, write, delete, figure out what the scene wants to be, finish writing it, polish it once, twice, probably three times, maybe five times, until it's as polished as my current level of skill can make it. Then I put it away, take a breath, and a day or so later start another scene. In theory, I write one scene every three days. In practice, it's more like every five days. But that's OK; as long as the progress is steady, it's OK if it's slower than the goal.

So when I go to the second draft of this novel, I'm not going to have a slimy mishmash of incoherent writing. I'm going to have a bunch of polished scenes that may, combined, make up a slimy mishmash of incoherent plot.


So. First draft not done.

That is all.

(Oh, and I sent off for fourteen perfume samples. So I may also be blogging about perfume. More woo!)

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 9, 2018

Blogging: Still alive

Well, that took a while.

I'm now about 130,000 words into a 100,000 word novel. And only eighty percent done. There will be cutting, lots of cutting, but that will wait for a later draft.

The novel is filling my brain. When the novel briefly retreats, the Farm fills my brain. So, logically, if I want this blog to be alive, I should be writing about those things.

Except, I put my arms around the novel like a suspicious eater protects their plate--I have some beta (alpha?) readers, but I hesitate to put even a hint on the blog.

But I could write about writing, yes? And, of course, also about the Farm. I have no particular expertise for writing about writing, but I didn't have any particular expertise for writing about perfume or gardening, either. So why not?

So that might happen. Or you might not see me for another six months. Or you may have all deleted this blog as being idle.

Let's see.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Whoah. Been a while.

I'm not dead, nor do I intend to abandon the blog forever.

The novel is up to 53,000 words. Actually, the scrap heap also has 87,000 words, but that's not a reliable count; some scenes are represented by four or five scrap heap versions. I'd say that there are about 30,000 words of scrap that may or may not re-enter the main timeline of the novel.

So I've been writing.

Just not here.

Eat turkey!

That is all.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Rambling: Huh.

It's been a while.

The novel is up to 25,000 words.


Apparently that's where my writing time is going.


I'll be back eventually. Hopefully it won't be seven weeks again.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

SOTD: Parfum d'Empire Tabac Tabou

Tabac Tabou. Good name.

I dug through the subset of samples that live in the Tightly Sealed Metal Canister, and this one had by far the most interesting name. I tried to find something else, because it was in one of those pop-top 1ml vials, but nothing else intrigued.

So, after struggling with thumb and fingertips and fingernails and a butterknife over the sink, I finally got it open.  By then the excitement had faded, because the wet traces on the edge of the cap and on my fingernails didn't really smell all that interesting. But I smeared just a little on my wrist, and...


The opening was a civet-forward "what have I done?" moment, a shout of "I'm going to be really dirty!" A blast of animalic and dark-spicy notes that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then the civet apparently shrugged and wandered off, and for the next few minutes I smelled moderately aggressive leather, progressing from well-worn and slightly sweaty to new and clean, a new belt emerging from tissue paper. It was accompanied by a little tobacco, quiet and retiring.


What is that? There's still an echo of leather and pipe smoke, but the main body of the scent has a powdery and faintly creamy vibe. It makes me think tea, not tobacco, but tea with a texture like buttercream cupcake frosting, with a faint crunch of sugar crystals now and then. 

And now I finally look at the notes--I try to force myself to experience at least a few minutes of a scent without looking. Luckyscent says "immortelle, tobacco, narcissus, honey, grass, musk". I'm guessing that the tobacco-tea-cupcake is coming from the honey and immortelle. The honey grows as time passes, with no hint of that urinous thing. I love beeswax, and this is close enough to be pleasing.

By the way, I'm not getting narcissus. At all. Not a hint. 

At this point, the scent also feels vintage. Some scents do a sort of deja vu thing on me, where a new scent announces itself as familiar. My brain is trying to say, "Oh, that smells just like Aunt Amelia always used to smell..." even though there never was an Aunt Amelia. 

I like it. So far I like it a lot. I actually tried it yesterday (SOTY?) but I can still smell it on my wrist if I put my nose up to the skin. I want to buy some, but a bottle would be madness--based on the projection and longevity I got just from that tiny smear, I suspect that the 1ml vial alone would last me a dozen or more wearings. So, a decant. I think. Though we might be at Scent Bar later this year...


That is all.

Review Roundup: Fragrantica and Now Smell This (from whom I realize that, yes! that scent I can't put my finger on does have a vibe of horse) and Kafkaesque and colognoisseur and Scent For Thought and memoryofscent and FragranceGeek and A Bottled Rose.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Gardening: More Perennials!

I may have mentioned that The Farm has 120 four-foot-by-six-foot beds.

Prepping and planting a bed--lifting the weed barrier, digging or forking, adding fertilizer, adding compost, possibly swapping the weed barrier with a piece that has suitable holes for the new crop, re-attaching the weed barrier, making a watering apparatus or moving in an apparatus suitable for the new crop, manicuring the soil of the holes or drills, possibly adding sand or vermiculite or compost to accept the seeds, possibly mixing seeds with sand, planting seeds or plants, possibly adding a layer of compost, watering the planting in...


...takes at least a couple of hours per bed. Planting a line of several beds--like the 24-by-4-foot garlic bed or last year's 36-by-4-foot bean bed--doesn't really reduce it that much.

120 beds, two or three plantings per bed per year, takes us to, oh, maybe 300 hours of prep-and-plant per year.  On weekends, when the weather is suitable and we're in town and I have time. So this explains why I have yet to get the whole farm in production at one time.


Perennials. Edible perennials. Preferably what I'm calling "soft" perennials--the kind that are easy to move or eat or give away if I want a bed back for annuals, someday when I have more gardening time.

Currently, the perennial list is:
  • Six (seven?) beds of strawberries.
  • Three of black currants.
  • Two and a half of chives.
  • Half a bed of garlic chives.
  • One bed of thyme and oregano and tarragon.
  • One of sage.
  • One of rosemary.
  • One of perennial scallions.
  • Two of Jerusalem artichokes.
  • One of artichokes.
So, nineteen or twenty. I'll probably remember one or two more. So that's a little under twenty percent perennials.

My plans for more include:
  • Another bed of chives.
  • Another five beds of strawberries.
  • Two beds of garlic chives.
  • Ten beds (one full row) of blueberries.
  • Probably six beds of raspberries.
  • A sweet bay.
  • At least one more bed of herbs.
  • Ten roses along the left-hand fence. Probably rugosas, for lots of rose hips, so that they count as food. See the picture up top? Fruity!
  • Ten of something along the right-hand fence, where the ground is painfully gravel-filled from the parking lot next door. Something tough, like maybe butterfly bushes to bring in pollinators for the rest of the stuff.
  • Five evergreen shrubs of some kind, preferably edible or edible-themed, along the front of the five right-hand rows.
  • Another five at the back of those same rows.
What's that add up to? Seventy-six total, leaving twenty-four beds for annuals. Three-quarters perennials. I'm not sure if that's too many or two few annuals. And I'm a little worried about the high number of un-soft ones--for example, you can't peacefully pull a blueberry bush out of the ground and replant it or give it away the way you can a raspberry or a clump of chives. But it's going to take me plenty of time to plant the extra fifty-six (fifty six!) bed of perennials, so, I have some time to decide how much those things worry me.

Oh, hey, I forgot asparagus. And I keep thinking about breaking the edible theme and planting some peonies.

Anyway, it's a plan.

That is all.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Writing: Highly Flavored Fiction

As usual: Wow, it's been a long time since I posted.

So I've actually been writing fiction. A couple of weeks ago, I started a new strategy: the highly flavored strategy. I'm...

OK, let's just paste in what I wrote on a writing forum at the time.
So after talking about flow over in the writer's block thread, I did some thinking about what used to be rewarding back when I spun daydreams in my head. Some of the appeal, I realize, is that in my own head I embrace any situation that I find emotionally satisfying, even if it seems foolishly angsty or sentimental, and even if it doesn't necessarily fit a neatly coherent and likely plot. I go for immediate emotional reward. For the fictional equivalent of salt and fat and sugar. (Isn't there a Yiddish criticism that translates to "without salt or fat"? Or am I misremembering?)

So I sat down to write a scene in a fictional/fantasy world, with the deliberate determination that when something feels a little too salty or buttery or sugary, I'll embrace that something rather than back off. I'll embrace, in fact pursue, the overflavored first draft.
One goal, I realize a while after writing the above, is to have a period where I enjoy writing fiction. I usually enjoy having written fiction; I don't usually enjoy doing it. I'm enjoying doing this. I've written five thousand words since the third, which is admittedly not a lot, but it's (1) more than my official allotment of 300 a day (446 a day on average), (2) got written during a high-stress time when I'd probably write nothing, and (3) I enjoyed almost every minute of it. I say "almost" because the first couple of sentences, each time I sat down to write, had to fight against resistance, but then I was into enjoyment. Oh, and (4) The plot is surprisingly close to coherent.

The flaw with this as far as the blog is concerned is that highly flavored scenes give me stage fright, so I'm not willing to post them to the blog. We'll see if that changes.

That is all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rambling: Farm Rambling

Wow. A month since I posted.

I've been writing scraps of one of my book ideas. Not all that reliably, but more reliably than usual.

The farm is progressing nicely. Much of the following was already discussed, but, hey, I'll re-list!
  • Onions! All the onions! Garlic, potato onions, shallots, French grey shallots, perennial scallions. Oh, and I divided one big clump of chives into 21 sub-clumps. There will be a lot of chives. Later on, I'll do the same thing with a big clump of garlic chives.
  • The Oregon Giant peas are nice big plants and there's a flower or three in the bed; it shouldn't be too long for peas.
  • This past weekend I planted some potatoes--German Butterball, Purple Majesty, and Yukon Gem. Only three beds, instead of the planned six, but I did plant them mostly right. In a later post, I'll probably show pictures. If they, well, grow.
  • Sadly, the raspberries that I planted a few weeks ago didn't grow; six out of nine died. I'm not good with bare root plants. I'm going to prep another set of beds, get more raspberries from either the back yard or the grange, and fill those beds with the new ones and the survivors.
  • I'm moving the survivors because I really wanted to get some beans planted, and the spaces that the dead raspberries vacated were all ready for me to just poke some seeds into the ground. I planted some Blue Lake bush beans in part of it. In the other part, I planted Russian Mammoth sunflowers, with the plan of growing Fortex up them. I had very few of both means; I'll be ordering more.
  • Oh, and herbs. A few weeks ago I planted a new bed of oregano, tarragon, and two kinds of thyme. Soon I'll plant sage and marjoram in another bed.
Oh! And the overwintering cauliflower overwintered! I thought that it had "buttoned" (made an itty bitty head) but I ended up with three perfectly nice heads out of, I think, four plants. (If it was six plants that's obviously rather less successful.)

I'm extra pleased with this year's spring garden, due to the fall and winter planted crops; it doesn't have that sad desolate look. I'm going to try to plant more this coming year. Let's make another list:
  • Again, the garlic, shallots, French shallots, potato onions.
  • Lots more overwintering cauliflower.
  • A much bigger late summer crop of carrots.
  • Late winter peas again.
  • More potatoes--if they work this year.
But I'm also discovering that I simply won't do all the work required to plant every bed every year. So, I'm thinking about some added perennials:
  • If those perennial scallions take hold well, a couple of beds of them.
  • Another multi-bed block of strawberries.
  • Hedgy perennials that are kinda food: Rosemary, sweet bay, roses known to produce lots of hips.
  • Maybe daylilies. People eat the flowers, after all.
  • We've been planning a row of blueberries forever. Someday it might happen.
  • Probably some perennial flowers.
I look at the annual beds that that leaves, and I get nervous. But I've left a number of beds unplanted every single year; it would be a lot more fun to see things growing everywhere. I need to remind myself that if I have more time, I can always give some things away and go back to annuals.

And so. That is all.