Tuesday, September 27, 2005


My uncles came to visit from Prague, just in time for my birthday. We met them at the airport. They're not as tall as I remember, and uncle Petr complained about how fat he'd gotten (not that fat). It's so good to see them. They have warm smiles and crow's feet wrinkles by their eyes from laughing all the time. They were the last two passengers released into the US, due to some sort of trouble in immigration, so they kept us in suspense for an hour and a half past their arrival time.
They'd probably disagree, but they haven't aged much. I expected frosted, even white hair. They're still healthy, vital, big men, men you'd expect to be ex-football players, with heavy jaws and meaty shoulders and big hands. My mother is very small between them, but she's the eldest of the three, though not the oldest sibling. Her sister is in South Africa. I've never met her, my aunt, but I've seen pictures. That part of the family is far away.

The Czech Republic is far away too, but they managed to find their way here, and we've managed to visit them. I'd like to take Rory and the kids sometime.

My mother's side of the family is originally from Moravia, specifically, Polna. Polna is a simple place (mentioned briefly in the link on 'day 6' of the bike tour). When I went there last, someone was still using a horse-drawn cart. It's not exactly a tourist town, though it's a stop for some folk of Jewish faith, as there's a very old synagogue there, an interesting ghetto, as well as a grave of a Jewish girl murdered in the forest outside of town. That should tell you something ... that although the murder happened generations ago, people still talk about it, still feel it as something shameful that never should have happened. Well, that may be my idealized view of it. My family still talks about it, and what an awful thing it was that the poor girl was killed by some creep passing through, and when they go mushroom picking they have to stop there to place wildflowers on her grave. When we visited just before the Velvet Revolution, there were already fresh wildflowers there. That probably explains why we didn't find much in the way of mushrooms.

It's hard for me to explain 'different culture' in the depth that I'd like to. You can see a different culture, maybe even intellectualize about the whys of a different culture, but I've *lived* in two cultures and it's hard to express the Czech feeling my uncles inspire in me when I see them. Because I wasn't raised in the country in which I was born (past age 1 1/2, anyway) there are a lot of mysteries, as well as a sense of being shipwrecked on a tiny island surrounded by native born Americans. We were always different, and by learning to be more the same (though never wholly the same), I am missing key nuances to Czech life. But the stories I grew up with were Czech, and when I go back to the 'home country' I don't feel like a foreigner. I feel like a dummy, but not a foreigner. We speak the same language. Not in words ( have the halting vocabulary of a four year old), but with our hearts. We like to sing and dance, we create art without a sense of shame, inadequacy or without being raised to believe that if you aren't a professional artist your work is crap. There are a lot of differences between individuals, huge differences, but we're more alike than we're unalike.

So imagine, if you can, a very small country of people like you. Is it a good place? If you go there, would you find yourself at home?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


My eyes are closed, and I'm writing by feel. Rory, Ris and I killed two trees today. Well, more like euthanized them. They were dying from fireblight, a particularly nasty disease that really does a number on pit fruits, especially cherries like the ones we destroyed today. We left large stumps where a bird bath, bird feeder and birdhouses will perch someday. The sky is strangely empty where they once stood.

It's quiet now, and my body is tired and very heavy. I'm hypnotized by a chemical cascade that says keep your eyes on the watch. Now your body feels like it weighs too much to hold up. You're getting sleepy ...

The wine didn't help.

Speaking of wine, I'm late in taking care of my wine. It probably won't hurt anything, but tomorrow at some point I really have to take out the giant tea bag of plums, stir things up, and even decant into secondary fermentation containers. I also said I'd volunteer for the SW Humane Society tomorrow. I'll go, but maybe not all day. There's just too much to do, and I'm so beat. Not defeated beat, but battered, tattered, worn threadbare. Committing a whole day, even to a worthy cause, will shuffle aside too many other worthy things that have to happen, like laundry so my children have clean clothes to wear.

So I'll leave this blog short. Sleep fast, everyone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Pip. Pip. Pip.
The champagne yeast is doing its work in a 3 gallon jug of sugar and plums. It's the sugar plum fairy, yay! The steady rhythm of pip, pip, pip as bubbles of carbon dioxide flow through the air lock fascinates my daughter and myself in the morning as we go to check and see if the airlock was blown off by the pressure again.
Meanwhile, next to it, the five gallons of plum cuvée has an entirely different rhythm. Bloop-bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop. In threes, twos and fours, it bubbles in a mad rush and then is quite for a breath. Yesterday, when the champagne popped its airlock, sometimes complete with cork (sterilize, grumble, replace) three times, leaving splashes of bluish purple on the walls, the cuvée didn't offer a single comment. It sat there with a thin layer of gooey foam and sulked. But apparently now it's happy.
So the liquid yeasts do start faster. Maybe too fast.
Meanwhile, Beast, our airedale, is whining and limping around. I called the vet and it's okay for him to take Nikita's arthritis med, Rimadyl, for any pain and inflammation. It may go away, she said. Let him limp around for a couple of days, see if he improves. She's really good about not wasting our money. So I have to watch to make sure he's still putting weight on it (he still is) and try to figure out if he's getting worse or better. He got a bath (he had such a cute, bummed out look in the tub!) and got dried off (and had way too much fun playing with the towel), ears cleaned, toenails trimmed, and while I was down there I checked each pad and between the toes. Nothing. Nada. Looks gorgeous and whole, no hot spots. I felt some heat along his leg while bathing him, but it might have just been him working that muscle trying to balance on the slippery tub floor.

Hmm. Maybe I should get one of those no-skid mats for when I bathe the dogs.

Kami envisions Beast having the ability to brace on said no-skid mat and vaulting out of the tub, soaking wet.

Maybe not.

That'd make one helluva bloop, though. Or maybe more like a SPLOOOOOSH!

Sunday, September 11, 2005


The season is flowing into the extra layers of clothing time, the hot chocolate time, the shivery morning time. Yesterday Rick and I made must for plum wine. The plums and sugar and honey made an incredible hot fragrance. Tomorrow, assuming the pectic enzyme did its work, the yeast goes in, Champagne and Cuvée. The ash trees are already yellowing, giving up on the long dry and heading into winter early. The garden is past its fullness but not rotting yet, like Dumbledore's phoenix really needing to go up in flames so it can return with spring's youth.

It's seed collecting time: nasturtium, echinacea, sweet peas, poppy, honeymelon sage and lion's tails, oregano and gentian. While I tap the monarda heads, bugs fall out. They love the seeds, and there aren't many left.

If you're a short story writer, now it's time to write about spring. The chill in spring's air is different, and the rain is a too-ardent lover. The novelist is lucky; s/he can jump ahead or revisit what's happened, impregnating the scent of air at first light into the setting.

It's also the wandering, time to explore. The migratory birds aren't the only ones that want to fly. The horizon is someone you see from behind who might be a friend. Tap them on the shoulder and even if they're a stranger, you may merrily meet.

Time to write.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Getting it right

Sometimes you just have to get it right.

I opened up my laptop this morning expecting to make a few entries and balance my books. When I was 'done' I called the bank to take care of a clerical error they made to the tune of $8. That amount wouldn't break me, but hey, I'd done more work clipping coupons to save less.
Our bank is on an automated system, so before I could talk to a person I had to sign in and jump through the hoops. I'd done this often enough that I was through them lickety split. I got my balance, as usual--and almost dropped the phone.
What do you mean zero?
Adrenaline bled into my bloodstream. Thankfully it's a relatively slow build up and hopefully I would calm down as soon as I figured out what happened and fixed it. I went over my purchases over the weekend in my head. No ... no ... not all of them combined and doubled could zero me out. So what happened?
It's almost 11pm locally and after phone calls, more bookkeeping, and finally succumbing to the necessity of online banking, I have a non-zero balance and a new commitment to daily bookkeeping. This once every month is not cutting it.

Sometimes you just have to do it right.

I learned a lot at the convention I just came from, Cascadiacon, as well. After talking to editors and professional writers, I found out that doing it right was exactly as I'd been told ... sort of. There were subtle details that opened my eyes to what I'd been doing wrong and were quite likely partly responsible for why I hadn't been published yet.
The reason you don't mention your lack of publishing credentials is because as far as the editor knows, you could have all kinds of publishing credits and choose not to mention them. Because of this, I now fully realize that putting in minor publishing credits really is a bad idea. If I spell them out, they know that's all there is.
Mentioning that you're tight with famous writers or editors, again, only makes you look like you're coming from a weak position and need something to make yourself look like a pro. A real pro doesn't mention who s/he hangs with, even if it's a professional relationship. Duh. [Kami bangs her head against a wall]
If there's already lots of it out there, don't bother sending it unless they request it. If your character is a vampire, a ghost, an alien, a hot shot pilot or whatever favorites you've seen, don't pretend that character is special. It's about the story. The more 'specialness' you can strip from a character, the better. They're not kewl because they suck blood or because they're the best. Their purpose is to struggle, to succeed on the page by the barest margins, or fail but keep fighting until they've met the ugly end you've devised for them. The more bells and whistles they have, the harder it is going to be to get the readers to care, and to worry.
Plot twists are not a silly contrivance. They're a necessity, otherwise (duh) we're going to know what will happen, and that's boring. You shouldn't be amazed by how easily an editor is bored. All the flowery language and pretty setting in the world won't make your story interesting if it's a flat, straight road to the end. I'm not just talking about everything going as planned. I'm talking those twists that surprise the character, the reader, the editor--the plot twists that surprise you as you're writing. They should make you stop writing a second and think 'oh crap!' at minimum, and not necessarily a happy 'oh crap!'

You have to do it right.

Now I have to get a splinter out of my thumb. I'll get all the necessary tools (it's deep) and do it right so my thumb doesn't infect and fall off. Afterward, maybe I'll get some writing in.