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Leonardo da Vinci has fascinated me for a very long time, so when I learned of Walter Isaacson’s biography of the quintessential Renaissance Man, I snapped it up. The hardcover edition is a hefty tome, not merely by virtue of its 624 pages, but also because of the heavy coated paper, employed to better display the many color plates and illustrations that are scattered throughout the book.

Isaacson’s analysis of Leonardo’s life, personality, virtues, and faults, is engagingly warm and human, bringing the deified icon of the Italian Renaissance back down to earth. That Leonardo was a genius is not in dispute—his wide-ranging expertise on everything from anatomy to optics to engineering to painting to architecture provide ample proof of his genius—but he was a flawed one, given to bouts of vanity, arrogance, self-doubt, and impatience. His reputation as a master of science and art was matched by his reputation for failure: commissions repeatedly went unfinished, and projects dragged on and on until patrons found someone else to fulfill their needs. Continue Reading »

On occasion, I ask my brain to go through its memory banks and search for something I know I know, but which I cannot at the moment remember. This search method is a technique honed by decades of living in a pre-Internet world, before Google, Wikipedia, IMDb, and all the rest.

What is her phone number? Didn’t I read a book about this subject? Who wrote that song? Where have I seen that actor before?

I got so good at this that I could do it in my sleep. Literally.

Continue Reading »

It’s been a helluva week.

At work, I had all my tasks turned back-burnered by “walk-on” issues, I called in chits to get assistance from team members who’ve moved on to greener pastures, and I yelled at my boss in an open meeting (no profanity, and no actual “yelling,” per se, but my blood was definitely up).

At home, I tested a new recipe, answered my correspondence, got a chance to playtest a new boardgame, and (after days of back and forth texts) finally got the contractor to agree on a date to start work fixing the back stairs.

But it was my Work-In-Progress that really did me in.

I sat down with what I have written so far and the current outline, and took a look forward. Even though this novel has so far been the hardest for me to write, all indications are that it’s going to be a struggle to get it up to a decent novel-length, a realization that thoroughly depressed me. I mean, it’s hard enough to sell a novel these days, but selling a thin novel is likely to be even harder.

There are thin novels out there, true, but in general they’re either classics (when the expectations of novel length were different), or they’re written by established authors. Neither of those cases pertains to me, a modern writer with only modest credits to my name. Word counts of my previous books have all been in the 90–120k range—standard for their genres—but this one looks like it’s going to be closer to 60k. 

Some of you may scoff at my struggle to reach 60,000 words. “Pish tosh,” you say. “I know folks who can write 20k in a weekend.”

I know some of those writers, as well.

I am not one of those writers.

In my head, the novel already exists. I know where I’m going, I know how it will all be resolved. But I am not Zeus, and things do not sprout fully formed from my mortal noggin. Putting the words down is torturous, as my desires and my failing confidence vie in a battle royale. Even the good review the WIP got from First Reader cannot cure that malady. It’s why NaNoWriMo is such a turn-off for me; it requires a skill that, try as I might, I cannot acquire, much less master. This book especially, with its new genre and its intensely personal content, has been very difficult to write.

And yet, I want to write it. I want to finish it. I want it to be read.

I also want to sell it, so it can reach more readers than I can garner on my own, but that will be a long hill to climb.

First, though, I have to finish the damned thing.

k

Across the Sound there is a place where, when the day is young, I can walk the forest trail and emerge, my shins wet from wading through ferns heavy with dew, and climb the concrete steps to ramparts set high atop a bluff overlooking the steel-grey waters of the Salish Sea. Continue Reading »

This past holiday weekend, we broke with our stay-cation tradition and took a little getaway to a lovely place, a re-purposed US Army base on the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula.

But I don’t want to talk about the place, not right now. Instead, I want to share what we did while we were there. (Don’t worry, it’s SFW.)

Regular readers may have wondered what the hell is happening with my current Work-In-Progress, my dual-timeline novel set in Seattle. And you’ve had good reason to wonder. Continue Reading »

Winter storms Maya and Nadia came and went, leaving Seattle bound in white.

They came in right on schedule, dumping nearly a foot of snow in the downtown area, and up to two feet of it out in the ‘burbs.

Here on my cul-de-sac, we had a foot of snow on the street, helpfully deposited in three episodes, so we could all add multiple snow-shoveling sessions to our weekend workouts. Kids sledded, snowfolk were built, and internecine battles raged from yard to yard, filling the air with squeals of carnage before parents called the belligerents in to dinner. On Saturday, we had an overnight low of 9°F (-13°C), but then the temps staged a return to something more reasonable. In my back garden, the spruce lost two more twenty-foot-long branches and dozens of little ones, and the cypress boughs were hanging so low I thought we’d lose several there, too, but they bounced back once the snow slipped off.

On Monday, the city came through with plows to clear the arterials, which is great, if you live on an arterial, but most of us don’t. One plow actually came up our cul-de-sac and our hearts soared, but it just turned around and left without making a damned bit of difference. So no plow. No sand trucks. No salt. Just a hey-how-ya-doin’ wave from the plow-driver as she abandoned us side-street residents to look after our own.

Today (Wednesday), I had to go into the office, so I bundled up and walked to the bus stop. The street was a combination of corn-snow, slush, and ice, and it was a real dilemma, deciding whether to trudge through the unsullied drifts like a Neanderthal, or do the crisscross pony-walk like a runway model down the ruts left by the tires of the few cars who’d braved our block. Going up the hills was relatively easy, jamming my toes into the snow to make steps as I walked the steep incline, but downhills were dodgy, and I learned that while walking like a penguin (keeping your center of gravity over your front foot) is a good way to avoid slipping, it’s tiring. I wouldn’t make a very good penguin.

But I made it to the bus stop with only a small bit of slippage and hand waving. The bus arrived, chains clacking against its wheel wells, and we rumbled on down the plowed arterial. On the way, every side street was either a slushy, rutted mess, or just plain snowbound. The college down the road brought out a backhoe to scrape the parking lot clear as best it could. On the main roads, all the cocky I-know-what-I’m-doing idiots had been weeded out (or quickly educated) and remaining drivers were being fairly responsible. For pedestrians, though, it is still an obstacle course, and will remain so for at least another couple of days.

The worst is past, though.

Onward.

k

It’s quiet out there now. The literal calm before the storm.

Later today, Seattle is set to receive a buttload of snow, so I went out to provision our larder for an expected week of housebound activity (though I don’t think I got enough wine). The experience perfectly illustrated Seattle’s love/hate relationship with the white stuff. Continue Reading »

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