A Box of Dragons

We moved into our house when Sunny, who is seven—“and a half, Mom!”— was still being toted around in her pumpkin seat.

Unless this is the first post you’ve read around here, it should come as no surprise that we aren’t quite unpacked, yet. We’re so used to that stack of boxes in the corner of the dining room that they’ve effectively become an extension of the sideboard, and don’t get me started on the garage, because if I complain, I might be forced to do something about it, and I don’t want to.

The kids view the garage boxes as challenges on their personal game show Awesome or Junk? in which the contestants unpack cartons with energetic abandon, scattering the packing materials for extra points, before picking over the contents for things to add to their personal hoards, and abandoning the mess for the stagehands to clean up.

I don’t like that show very much, even when nothing else is on.

But this weekend, Jane—who has just reached the Fantasy Novels Are All That stage in her development—noticed one of the boxes out there had the word DRAGONS written on it.

“Like, dragon dragons?” she asked, her eyes shining.

“Figurines,” I said. “Little statues and things. And some other stuff. I used to collect them.”

“COOL. Can we open it?”

“I’m not sure—”

“Please, Mommy?” Sunny said.  “I want to see the dragons, too!”

“But they’re safe where they are,” I said, “and I don’t really want to repack every—”

“Did you know,” Jane said, “there’s a set of dragon statues in the museum gift shop?  They’re so, so awesome.”

“That’s nice, but—“

“The big one is like a hundred and twenty dollars, but the small one is only eighty. I thought maybe for my birthday?”

“Go get the box.”

If there is any doubt that dragons are magical creatures, please consider that a single average-sized book carton produced twenty-four of them.


There were elegant dragons:

Red Dragon


 Metal dragons (and one fabric art dragon, a cute clay one, and an elephant):

Janes Dragons


Two Dragons


Pocket Dragons®:

Pocket Squad


Stuffed dragons:

Sunnys Dragons


A shelf dragon:

Hangin Dragon


Two badly photographed wearable dragonistas (the fur one is a puppet with a remote controlled head):



Aaaaand two wooden dragons—one flat Celtic brooch and a winged South American winged one meant to hang over a cradle to give the baby nightmares protect the baby against evil spirits—that I forgot to photograph this morning when I realized I needed a blog post.

But that’s not all.

In that same box, we found:

Two cats from Peru and Japan:

Peru Cat

Japanese Cat


Assorted Mice:




Some old writing buddies:

Goat Dude

Goat Dude

Worm Guy

Worm Guy

Derpy McTurtleson

“Derpy McTurtleson!” Jane said.


A grumpy-faced composer:



And gnomes.


Because gnomes have happened to me all my life, that’s why.

There were also a frog, a turtle, and a lion carved out of tiger’s eye that I couldn’t photograph well enough to share. And, of course, that metal elephant bank up there somewhere that was part, I believe, of my christening set.


It must have been magic, because I don’t remember fitting it all in there—or being such an efficient packer.

We really need to save that box . . .

After I told the kids the stories behind each one—I won’t bore you, unless asked—we divvied up the spoils and distributed the prizes around the house, as artistically as possible.

I guess Awesome or Junk? isn’t that bad a game after all.

But don’t tell the kids about the other DRAGON box I stashed around somewhere.

It’s getting crowded around here.



Poetry Wednesday: Other People’s Opinions

National Poetry Month is coming to a close.

And as a gift to you, I’m stepping back and offering other people’s opinions on poetry.

You’re welcome.


 Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.

—Khalil Gibran

The Persian language has only one pronoun for all genders. This means that genders in Persian love poetry—and in verses meant to celebrate the adoration of the divine— are essentially fluid.  How cool is that ?


Simple Haiku Mug


I’ve had it with these cheap sons of bitches who claim they love poetry but never buy a book.

—Kenneth Rexroth

Folk Music and Bees(Me, too)

Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.

—T. S. Eliot

Poet Mug

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during the moment.

—Carl Sandburg


Slam the Poet on Writing Poetry

His Prayer to Gaia blew me away.  Go watch it now.


There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.

—Robert Graves

Cow Mug

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.

—Jean Cocteau

(For more appropriate Emily, sort of, try these)

The poetry you read has been written for you, each of you – black, white, Hispanic, man, woman, gay, straight.

—Maya Angelou


Limericks Mug


To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.

—Robert Frost



All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.

—Oscar Wilde

chickenpoetblog(For more of Doug Savage’s insanely funny poetry cartoons, try his website)


Okay, y’all . . . 

I’ve been doing Poetry Wednesdays here since April of 2011, which is roughly 167 posts.  And though it may seem like I winged most of ’em,  it  does take time to research and write these particular posts—and it seems like reader interest has been flagging over the past few months.

So, while my enjoyment of poetry of all kinds—not to mention my prurient curiosity about the people who write the stuff—hasn’t diminished at all, I’m thinking it might be best to drop the regular poetry posts and just save ’em for April or when I feel the random need to share.

If I’m wrong about the general disinterest, and you’d like me to keep going, please give me your opinion by liking or commenting on this post, or by dropping me an e-mail.

Otherwise, it’s been a terrific run and I’ve met a lot of wonderful poets and poetry lovers along the way.

Thank you all—even you Thomas Hardy fans—for letting me babble on for so long about something I truly love.

And also for all the reprehensible limericks.  You know who you are.

Drama Mama


Wondermark is created by David Malki!, Sheldon is the brainchild of Dave Kellett, xkcd is written by Randall Munroe, and Savage Chicken is drawn by Doug Savage.  Ownership of these images remains with the creators, and in some cases permission to repost is restricted—so please check before sharing!

Location, location, location . . .

After spending a few years hunched over my laptop at the dining room table—which worked very nicely until it didn’t*—I’ve recently reclaimed a corner of the master bedroom as my own writing space.

It took an hour or two of digging my desk out of all the stuff my family piled on top of it and I shoved under it, a relocation of the incontinent shredder, and a careful assessment of outlets and cables—so many cables—but I finally have it almost the way I want it.


The only problem I had, initially, that the desk is about as far away from the wireless router as it can be and still be inside the house, so the eeeBox I’d bought to take the burden off my overworked, menopausal laptop,** not to mention my aching back,***  was limping along on one  measly bar, when it wasn’t refusing to admit there was a router at all.

This was actually beneficial for my focus during Writing Hours, but a lot of Blogging Time was spent reconnecting every two minutes until I ran out of patience and colorful vocabulary and reached for my poor laptop, which didn’t seem to have any trouble.   I figured it was a bad wireless card or whatever, and had just about decided to send the thing back to the pound and adopt a new one . . . until Watson figured out that the right half of the desk, where I’d set up the unit, is in a Dead Zoneprobably because of a metal strut in the wall, or possibly the lawnmower, which lives on the other side of the wall.

Once I switched the unit with everything else, I had three bars, a relieved laptop, and a need for greater willpower during Writing Hours.

The only thing I could use is a plank—I’m thinking a walnut-finished shelf board—to stretch across those pull-out extensions so I don’t have to balance the keyboard on that legal pad over the center drawer.  It didn’t occur to me that the edge of the rolltop  doesn’t retract completely, so the screen is about four inches closer than I’d expected and I’m sitting about six inches farther from the desk, as I value the eyesight I have left, and every blessed hour spent without migraine sparklies dancing around the edges of my POV.

But as I tested out the space, something else was missing—a lot of things, actually, all buried in piles of scribbled notes or hidden in plain sight among the mass of jottings on my makeshift mousepad, which I’d intended to use for lists and timelines, but instead use for . . . everything.

What I needed was a single place to put things pertinent to my current project.

So I went to Office Max.


And bought myself a whiteboard and an assortment of markers.

And a corkboard strip and pushpins and a couple of glass magnets for images and articles, partially because I’m resisting Pinterest like a woman who has finally taken that first step and admitted she has a Time Suck Problem,  but mostly because I have no self-control in office supply or stationary stores at all.


But at least now I also have a character diagram, some reminders, and a wordcount-goal line—with scene annotations—that I’m hoping will keep me hitting those plot points in a timely fashion.

And magnets to play with when I get stuck.


We’ll see how it goes.

What’s in your space?


*My kids have somehow become even louder with age, my poor posture has become even worse with age, and the daily, pointed remarks from several of the adults in the family about the mess covering the table were really getting old.

**Symptoms may include hot flashes, mood swings, and USB Dysfunction

***I wasn’t kidding about the hunching, and the pain was no joke, either.  Sitting upright for a week or two has helped a lot—my spine isn’t doing its impression of a Gatling gun in the mornings any more and I actually might be getting taller . . . though when I mentioned this to Janie, she looked me in the eye, smirked, and said, “Right, Mom.”

^Which is why there’s a mugful of black wood Ninja pencils by my lamp, now.  You can’t see them in the pictures, for reasons that should be obvious.


Bouchercon Aftermath

So . . . I arrived home from Bouchercon  (“Oh,  is that where you were?”) early yesterday evening, having achieved a truce with the GPS.*   I hugged and gifted and babbled like only an exhausted woman hyped on adrenaline and four bottles of diet Pepsi who is me can.

My homecoming, for those of you who didn’t see it on Facebook, went a little like this:

‎”So, how was the conference, honey?”
“I loved it! I learned a lot and met all these great people–”
“–Aaand I’m back.”

After baths and babble and a little Internet catch-up, I faceplanted into my own pillow and slept until 9:30 this morning, got up, and started doing laundry.  I swear, I didn’t pack this much . . .

But while I wait for the second load to dry,  I thought I’d do one final post about the experience.  I promise.

What I learned:

Pack something extra to wear just in case the weather gets nastier—or nicer—than it’s supposed to be.  And an umbrella.

Do not attempt the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without sensible shoes, moleskin-lined fab shoes, or a blister-care kit.   Watson just reminded me that moleskin packs flat, so go with that.

Don’t skip lunch or a  substantial snack just to squeeze in one more panel—even if you had breakfast four mornings straight and screwed up your hunger cues—and remember to stay hydrated, or you, too, will get seasick during that last afternoon panel because your blood sugar tanked and the gentleman in front of you kept swaying fore and aft to see the speakers.

Speak to almost everyone you meet—some won’t want to go past hello or a remark about the lethargy of the elevators, but the others will turn out to be interesting people: librarians and readers and tattoo enthusiasts, writers whose books you love or will love,** and a few who are wondering what’s going on—I had a couple of great conversations with the server at my hotel bar, where I dragged myself every afternoon to have a very late lunch.

Writers and agents and editors are real people.  Most of them are really nice people.  And they really, really don’t mind you telling them how much you love their work, clients, new releases, or blog posts.

You don’t have to worry about finding something to read at Bouchercon, but you may have trouble finding time to read.

Take in everything—while eating and staying hydrated—it’s only for a few days, sleep is optional, if you’re gonna do it, do it!

And take a day or two off afterward to recover—if I’d gone to work today, I’d have died.

What I brought home:

Eleven swag books; three first chapter sampler books; three books I bought for me; five books I bought for other people; a charge on my Amazon account for four more and a DVD; two tee-shirts, five buttons, and six pencils for friends; seven new e-mail or phone contacts and three Facebook friends; something fun for Mom, who reads this blog so enough about that (Dad, you’re getting one of the Amazon-purchased books); clinical exhaustion ; and my new favorite necklace:

I collect tiger’s eye jewelry (it’s rare enough to make it interesting, but not expensive enough to make it impossible) and friends have sort of made me into a collector of skulls, so the combination was irresistible.

The book room was a treasure trove, but there were other hunters out there and I lost out a couple times.  I managed to snag one of two copies of Jaden Terril’s A Cup Full of Midnight, but couldn’t find any of Mike Cooper’s books for love or money—same with Duffy Brown and R.D. Cain (whose books, as I think I mentioned, were stopped at the Canadian border).

As for those swag books, I’m planning to mail one title to each of the four people who wrote me poems lamenting the lack of a Poetry Wednesday—and don’t think I didn’t notice that no one complained until I offered a bribe—Averil, independentclause, Odie, and Kev.  E-mail me your first and second choices and a mailing address (Averil and Kev, send me a reminder, because I don’t know where I put yours).  And thanks for humoring me.

From top to bottom (cat not included):

Vision Impossible by Victoria Laurie

The Stranger you Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

The Pain Scale by Tyler Dilts

Life Without Parole by Clare O’Donohue

Road to Nowhere by JimFusilli

The Bubblegum Thief by Jeff Miller

Stolen Hearts by Jane Tesh

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker

Murder at the Lanterne Rouge by Cara Black

It was a great time.  I highly recommend this conference for anyone who likes mysteries, cozies, thrillers, crime fiction, and general insights about writing and the business thereof—or who just wants to have a terrific time mingling with people who do.

The next Bouchercon is in Albany, which is probably not within solo driving distance for me, but if I can, I will.***  And if anyone would like to carpool, I can always pick up people along the way.


*She did lead me slightly astray on my way to meet Sherry Stanfa-Stanley for lunch—which really deserves its own post, because the whole trip was worth it just for that—but it wasn’t her fault, really, or mine, as her maps are four years old and the restaurant had moved.

**True story: twice, I ended up chatting to people for a while, only to find out that they were quite well-known authors.  I already mentioned Libby Fischer Hellmann, but Saturday night, I was talking with a friend of Alexandra Sokoloff and found out twenty minutes later that she was Heather Graham.  My patrons, who read anything of hers we can find, are going to plotz.

**I don’t mind flying, but I dislike airlines and airports (in general, not specifically) and loathe their business models.