Friday, April 30, 2010

5 on Friday - Set 12

For today's set, I'm no doubt introducing these artists to most of you. They all hail from my neck of the woods - Atlantic Canada, where the East Coast music scene is perpetually hopping. Whether it's a kitchen party in someone's house, a club or a concert venue, music is as much a part of being Down East as the salt air rolling off the ocean.

I'll share some more traditional east coast sound with you in a future post. For today, here are some alternative rock artists I love grooving to. For more tunes, check out Travis at Trav's Thoughts.

1 - Fashionable People - Joel Plaskett

I don't wanna hang around
In someone else's scene
Fashionable people
Doing questionable things

So ditch him
He's no good for you
Ditch him
Do the switcheroo
Switch him
Switch him up with me

- Joel Plaskett

2 - Jerk - Kim Stockwood

Since you've been gone
I feel so much better
Cause I saw how mean you could be

I used to want
Some explanation
Now all I want is my Patsy Cline CD

- Sheridan / Stockwood

3 - Tall Trees - Matt Mays

Gonna sing you a song
Two hundred years in the ground
Tall trees hanging over the road
Feels like they're staring me down

- Matt Mays

4 - Adam's Rib - Melanie Doane

Once upon a time
I was just a little bone
I was just a little tiny rib
And the rib cage was my home

Some days I'd wonder
How it would feel
To be my own person
To eat my own meals

I never had to make a plan
Just be a little piece of a bigger man

- Melanie Doane

5 - The Other Man - Sloan

You know I want to keep my distance
Does it happen anyway?
He knows you're going to drift apart
And there's nothing he can say

I know that he's a stand-up guy
But that's none of my concern
We've all been in one situation
Or another - it's my turn

To be the other man
No one's sympathising
When you're the other man
That everyone despises

- Ferguson / Murphy / Pentland / Scott

Linda says You always have such an interesting mix of music for your Five on Fridays - love it!

Jamie says What Linda said. I depend on you to be my source for what is new and/or interesting. Great mix and I really love that Fashionable People video.

Bond says Just throwing new and different at us each week. Very interesting.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 156 - 13 Sentence Spotlights Taken From Random Page 99's

I was inspired to go to page 99 for my random sentence spotlight, because I've run into bloggers mentioning page 99 as a place to check out what's happening in their manuscripts.

So here are the first lines encountered on page 99 of thirteen books I've read, or which form my TBR mountain.

If it's a very short sentence, I'm including the one that follows. If it's a sentence carried over from page 98, I'm using either that one or the one immediately following.

1 - He thought of the breakfast he'd eaten - the same breakfast he ate every day of his life: bland porridge in a chipped bowl.

- Julianne MacLean, Portrait of a Lover

2 - Instruct him how to be tactful and charming? As he prepared for the levee, Sir Robert grimaced at himself in the looking glass.

- Deborah Hale, The Bride Ship

3 - The glittering expanse of the ocean rose into stately swells that had taken half the globe to build their bulk.

- Kate Grenville, The Secret River - TBR

4 - Jack looked up, thought. Because of his capture by the Abenaki on the Plains of Abraham in the autumn of 1759, report had been returned that he was probably dead.

- C. C. Humphreys, Absolute Honor - TBR

5 - He stuck his injured finger in the glass of porter and frowned at the cat, now wallowing on its back among the thumbscrews, inviting the unwary to rub its furry belly.

- Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Private Matter - TBR

6 - "It's like Ben gave voice to something that's always been there. I mean Mom isn't exactly nice to you."

"Or you."

- Claudia Hall Christian, The Fey - TBR

7 - She struggled to keep her smile bright, then gave it up and drank half the champagne in her flute.

- Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Midnight Harvest - TBR

8 - In the past music had never been much of a solace and had always been tinged with obligation, the repertoire largely from concerts like this she had had to attend.

- Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader - TBR

9 - To Imogen's disgust, her short foray into the hall had brought up some of the blisters on the soft soles of her feet.

- Jo Beverley, Dark Champion

10 - "It's a kind of trench, or it might be a kind of sunken lane or something," said Jill. "It runs quite straight."

- C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

11 - "For Cecilie, of course." He gave me his broad grin, always unexpected and thrilling.

- Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel's Dart - TBR

12 - She bore the stamp of his possession there in her face and wet on her swollen lips, not to mention in the faded ribbon around her wrist.

- Colleen Gleason, The Rest Falls Away - TBR

13 - "Academic," he replied. "You can't take me before that door falls, and then it will be all over for you."

- Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber

Harriet says Wonderful quotes!

Susan Helene Gottfried says Heh. You're the third Thirteener I've seen today with books on the brain - I've got 'em there, too!

Apprentice Writer says Oatmeal, thumbscrews, and the plains of Abraham: intersting combo!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 147

VA Bookworm 87 says You can always tell Spring is coming when they start springing up!

Nikita Banerjee says I love yellow!

Pop Art Diva says I absolutely love it when the bulb plants start to bloom - always the harbingers of Spring! And the next year you get more too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Through the Opera Glasses - 56 - April Art Show - A Lady's Fan

Here is a look at the art I've featured this month in my Sidebar Art Gallery:

The Fan by James Tissot

Geisha With Orchids by Takayuki Harada

Spanish Woman With Fan, a 1920's bookplate

Victorian fashion plate, 1877, from An Englishwoman's domestic magazine

Lady With the Fan by Charles Soulacroix

The Japanese Fan by William Strang

Donna con ventaglio (Woman with fan) by Gustav Klimt

Lady With a Fan (or Portrait of Ann Charlotte Gaillard) by Mary Cassatt

At the Ball by Berthe Morisot

Jennifer Leeland says These are so beautiful. You've really captured a mood here.

Akelamalu says I love the Geisha, though they are all beautiful. :)

Nikita Banerjee says I love the first one and the one from English Woman's mag! Awesome...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 149 - This is a Photograph of Me

For this final post during National Poetry Month, I'd like to share one of my very favorite poems.

Margaret Atwood's This is a Photograph of Me really struck a chord when I first read it in grade 11. At the time I was still into making my poems flow in a beautiful rhythm. Her poem really set me on the path towards using free verse.


Photo by George Whiteside

This is a Photograph of Me

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
you will see me.)

- Margaret Atwood

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Gautami Tripathy says Thanks for sharing this. I like Atwoods' works.

Jennie Marsland says Wow! Quite a twist, isn't it?

Marinela says Just beautiful :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 4

It's the weekend, and that means a new installment of Scorpius' back story.

For the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I'm following the boyhood back story of an adult character I'm writing for a dark fantasy.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 4

The first time they arrived on their mounts, Richolf told Scorpius to stay put with a quick motion of his hand. His master walked out to meet them, his customary stride replaced by bowed head and averted glances.

Scorpius couldn’t help himself. He stole to the window, peering through the beveled glass till he could catch glimpses of the visitors.

Something squeezed in his chest when Richolf laced his fingers together and stooped, making a stirrup for the lord to dismount. His master hastened to help the others down and whistled sharply for the dog, who came at a bound. Richolf took hold of two halters and tied the beasts to hitching posts as the gentlemen stood talking and gesturing. Scorpius was glad Richolf hadn’t called for him to help with the other two mounts. He’d never been this close to such animals before.

There was something about the assured manner his master used, even while hurrying to secure the mounts by himself, even while avoiding direct speech to the visitors. Richolf somehow managed to be the host to these noble strangers. He loosened a pair of saddlebags, balancing them over one shoulder, while the gentleman chuckled over a joke. He signaled to the dog and bowed to the men, sweeping an elegant hand toward the field where he’d brought Scorpius to train in the hunt.

In a few moments the hunting party disappeared down the lane between the falcon mews. Scorpius’ heart beat quickened as he contemplated following them. The silence in the empty cottage unnerved him until the feeling in his gut was unbearable.

He stole from the cottage, slipping along the wall with the stealth he’d learned back at the manor house, always careful never to wake the babies. Slipping past the long buildings with their captive birds of prey, Scorpius kept Richolf and the gentlemen in sight. When he got to the corner of the last building, he crouched and watched with one eye past the rough shingles.

The hunters and his master walked through the grasses along the edge of the woods, until Scorpius was certain they’d move past his sight line. He rose from his crouch, just about to slink after them, when the gentlemen stopped and Richolf turned to put the saddlebags down.

One of his master's arms remained extended, a dark hawk perched upon the heavy leather gauntlet. Scorpius ducked back behind the corner of the mews, but not quickly enough.

When he peeked again, both the dog and Richolf stared at his hiding place.

Scorpius’ stomach seized with dread.

© Julia Smith

Alice Audrey says Oh, the poor kid. I know that sense of panic well.

Ann (bunnygirl) says I like the way this is developing. Scorpius is seeing that there's status to be gained if he does well, but he's keenly aware of how fragile his position is.

Julie says Yes, he is keen to do well for obvious reasons. He is getting possessive to some extent. I wonder where this trait is going to take him! I like the pace of this piece.

5 on Friday - Set 11 - by Guest Blogger Connie, My BFF

Welcome to my second single-artist showcase for 5 on Friday. For this post, I had to enlist the help of my lifelong Best Friend Forever, Connie.

I wanted to bring you five songs by Bruce Springsteen, and Bruce is to Connie what ballet is to me. In fact, over the years she has flown to Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Boston, Orlando, Dallas, Houston and London, England to see Bruce in concert.

To find out what other tunes bloggers have gathered up for us, drop by 5 on Friday Central and say hi to Travis at Trav's Thoughts.

And now - over to you, Con!


This was a little more difficult than I had anticipated. The first 4 were easy, but it was tough to decide on the last one. There are just too many to choose from:

1 - Land of Hope and Dreams (Live version) - gives me goosebumps and makes me cry every time I hear it.

-I will provide for you
And I'll stand by your side
You'll need a good companion for
This part of the ride

This Train
Dreams will not be thwarted
This Train
Faith will be rewarded-

- Bruce Springsteen

2 - Born to Run - not really my favourite song, but it is iconic Springsteen. This song catapulted him to stardom and has become the unofficial New Jersey state anthem.

-Let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions

Someday girl I don't know when
we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go
and we'll walk in the sun-

- Bruce Springsteen

3 - Thunder Road - Driving in a convertible with the top down and Thunder Road blasting from the speakers. Life does not get any better than this!
CLICK HERE to watch the video

-Well now I'm no hero
That's understood

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back
If you're ready to take that long walk

It's a town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win-

- Bruce Springsteen

4 - The Rising - Gospel sound, uplifting and inspirational!

CLICK HERE to watch the video

-Can't see nothin' in front of me
Can't see nothin' coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I've gone
How far I've gone, how high I've climbed
On my back's a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine-

- Bruce Springsteen

5 - Dancing in the Dark - FUN, FUN, FUN, FUN! I first fell in love with Bruce Springsteen 30 years ago while watching the video of this song on Much Music at my best friend, Julia's house (a love that continues to this day!)

-Man I ain't getting nowhere
I'm just living in a dump like this
There's something happening somewhere
I just know that there is

You sit around getting older
There's a joke here somewhere and it's on me
I'll shake this world off my shoulders
Come on this laugh's on me

You can't start a fire sitting 'round crying over a broken heart
You can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart-

- Bruce Springsteen

Travis says I remember getting caught up in how good the Born in the USA album was.

Jamie says The variety of Springsteen always surprises me. One of my favorites, "The Rising". Thank you.

Anne MacFarlane says That was the best 5 on Friday. Ever!! He's the only singer I would camp outside overnight to get tickets for. In the rain. With a broken foot. By myself.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 155 - 13 of My Poems - It's National Poetry Month!

In both Canada and the US, it's National Poetry Month. In honour of this celebration, here are thirteen of my poems which I've featured on my blog over the past three years:

1 - Where I'm From

2 - Awaiting the Unicorn

3 - Citadel

4 - Skewed Landscapes

5 - Falling With Abandon

6 - Celestial DNA

7 - Gold That Burns

8 - I Can't Be Your Captive If I Give Myself To You

9 - She Was Too Strong For Me

10 - In Medieval English Woods

11 - Take One More With Him

12 - Not After That Look

13 - Bluebird

For more details, check out the links below:

National Poetry Month in Canada

National Poetry Month in the US

To join in the fun on Mondays:

Monday Poetry Train Revisited

Tahereh says Holy cow! Amazing!

Jill Conyers says Wow. Amazing talent.

Brenda ND says Very cool. I'm going to send my poet friend your link. :D

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 146

Roland D. Yeomans says True beauty only needs to be appreciated. Words sometimes only lessens its impact. Have a beautiful Wednesday.

Harriet says That is really cool :)

Angie says I love stained glass in any form.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 148 - American sentence 6

Just got back from the first of three intense evenings of choral singing:

Sunday evening rehearsal, the first with Nova Sinfonia and our guest conductor, Dr. Mark Shapiro, from New York.

Monday evening dress rehearsal

Tuesday evening - concert!

I confess I was a bit nervous all day, knowing that he would make us work hard. We're a combined choir of amateur singers ( my choir, Dartmouth Choral Society and the Chebucto Singers) and he's used to professional singers.

However, he turned out to be extremely forgiving, yet at the same time took hold of us and yanked us up to stand tall and let loose our inner divas.

For today's stop on the Poetry Train, I give you this American sentence:

First violinist introduced conductor to director - old charm.

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

For any of you in the Halifax area, my concert is on:

Tuesday, April 20th
St. Matthew's Church
1479 Barrington St., Halifax, Nova Scotia
7:30 pm

The concert program:

Schubert's Mass No. 2 in G major
Vaughan Williams' Antiphon from Five Mystical Songs
Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major

Tickets are:

$15 adults
$10 seniors
$5 students

Stan Ski says I'm sure you sing just as well as professionals.

Gautami Tripathy says Good one too!

Travis says I didn't write nearly enough poetry during my vacation, especially with this being poetry month. Oh well...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Weekend Writers Retreat - 3

Time for another installment of Scorpius' backstory.

For the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I'm following the boyhood backstory of an adult character I'm writing for a dark fantasy.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 3

The game hen’s feather’s brushed his face as it beat its wings in furious effort. Scorpius saw his master release the hawk.

A part of him felt for the hen. Every shred of strength it possessed went into the fight to get away. The hawk flew in a different direction, gaining height. Circling back, it flapped its wings once, twice, gliding smoothly, no hurry apparent at all. Even so, the distance between it and the hen closed rapidly.

The kill was brief. One moment the game hen sped over the field. The next a startling collision knocked it from its flight path. Dangling with wings askew, the hawk carried it for several lengths before dropping it into the tall grasses. Racing to retrieve it, the dog trotted in triumph to lay the prize at the master’s feet.

Scorpius fought for breath as though he’d run for his own life. The hawk swooped low. Stretching the gloved arm out in welcome, Richolf settled the bird to his perch with a few gulped bits of meat offered from a pouch around his waist.

Scorpius could see where the game hen had hidden until he’d forced it into the open with his awkward swipes. He stared down into the maze of branches, into the little haven he’d destroyed with his stick.

He could still feel the love of life that had driven the hen to try. He could even taste it when they sat down to eat later that evening. The roasted hen filled his mouth with joyous flavor. It was better than anything he’d ever eaten back at the manor. The dog licked its lips, waiting with keen eyes for the skin and the bits thrown by their master.

Scorpius had been a part of this, had helped to send the hen on its way so the hawk could dive with its lethal strike. The dog had done its part, the master had done his, and Scorpius the same. No bread he’d helped to knead, no roots he’d helped to scrape for Cook had ever tasted so sweet.

In the weeks that followed, Richolf showed him how to clean out the mews where the hawks were housed, how to prepare the meat tidbits used in training the birds, how to beat the grasses as well as bushes to drive different game into the open. He showed Scorpius how to identify burrows and nests, what commands were used to co-ordinate the dog’s efforts and the hawks’, how to pluck and skin and prepare roasts.

Sometimes upon first waking, Scorpius expected Nurse to call for him. He listened for the clink and rattle of the breakfast cart, for the babble of the babies, until he rubbed his eyes and heard the click of the dog’s claws upon the main room floor.

Then he got up from his bed and dressed quickly, not wanting the master to be after him.

Scorpius hadn’t known how starved he’d been for purpose until Richolf had come to claim him. It thrilled Scorpius to be an integral part of the hunt. Discovering where he fit into the scheme of things gave his world form and weight. The crushing realization that his family had not come for him quickly gave way to hero worship.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Ann (bunnygirl) says I like the insight into Scorpius and his need for purpose. I think we're all like that. Much of our societal dysfunction comes from the seeming triviality of our modern lives.

Janet I'm glad to see Scorpius settling into his new home. I was a little surprised at his reaction to the dinner - after such empathy for the hen (or maybe that was my empathy for the hen).

Julie says As he acclimatizes to his new world, I do hope that Scorpius does not lose that pang of regret that you describe so well here as he looks into the nest of the hen before he helped her to her death.

5 on Friday - Set 10

Welcome to my first single-artist showcase for 5 on Friday. The clear choice for me is to give this honor to Gogol Bordello.

I'm still deeply infatuated with this new discovery. Six months ago, I didn't know this group existed, even though they've been together, recording and touring since 1999. But a series of events led me to them and there's been no looking back since.

I featured lead singer Eugene Hutz in a post last October over at my group blog, Popculturedivas. There are songs and clips featured in this post: Nothing Attracts Women Quite Like the Unattainable Man

In November I featured the lyrics from Letter to Mother as a Poetry Train Monday post while I was deep into NaNoWriMo. I also included the full song: Letter to Mother

Following my triumphant finish to the 50,000-word mark, I featured Forces of Victory in this post: 13 Things That Kept Me Going During NaNoWriMo. I dedicated the same song to the Canadian Olympic hockey team for my third set for 5 on Friday.

For my first Thursday Thirteen for 2010, I featured Eugene's offshoot group J.U.F. as well as Gogol Bordello: 13 Songs to Get Your Blood Pumping For All of Those Get-Fit Resolutions

This new group of songs debuts at A Piece of My Mind for my tenth set. This meme is hosted by Travis at Trav's Thoughts.

1 - Avenue B

Eugene speaks about growing up before the song begins at the 1:20 mark. Keep in mind that Eugene has a habit of singing in English, Ukrainian and Roma (Gypsy,) and all in the same song!

Sitting in a Russian bathhouse on Avenue B
No matter how much we sweat we just can't agree

Tall little Sally, my darling
Your panic's so charming
Your shopping techniques are amazing
Celebrity erudition disarming

- Eugene Hutz

2 - Ultimate

If we are here not to do
What you and I wanna do
And go forever crazy with it
Why the hell we are even here?

- Eugene Hutz

3 - My Strange Uncles From Abroad

Bright open eyes
That are still looking
They are still finding
A few unpoisoned hearts
No matter where you are exiled
You are exiled

- Eugene Hutz

4 - Oh No

Oh yeah, oh no, it doesn't have to be so
It is possible any time anywhere
Even without any dough
Oh yeah, oh no, it doesn't have to be so
Forces of the creative mind unstoppable!

- Eugene Hutz

5 - Super Taranta!

Second time I read the Bible
I was thinking, 'It's alright, man'
I was thinking
I v dushe vse na gitarkah

Ai, ai, shadows of forbidden existence
Come with me, to the future now!

- Eugene Hutz

Linda says This is what I love about Travis' meme - those are five songs that I had never heard of and never would have if you hadn't shared them with us!

Travis says I really enjoyed the first video, listening to the guy speak about his influences. I think it demonstrates how a culture can stagnate if creativity and artistry is never nurtured.

Bond says Interesting find indeed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 154 - 13 Things I Did This Week

1 - Even though last week included Good Friday, and this week included Easter Monday, which meant a four-day weekend for me, I worked so hard for the three days I was at my scanner - including two overtime shifts - that I gratefully embraced my Friday off. We're at an especially high-volume time for my department. I'm so-o-o tired.

2 - To make matters more trying, I battled a migraine last week which culminated with Thursday's rather exciting color-prism aura which developed in the afternoon. Since my acupuncture treatment which began last June, I have gotten to the point that my pain medication has been radically downgraded. But once the prism-aura started I went for my narcotic painkiller. Within 20 minutes the aura was gone. I guess it's true that if you're in enough pain, you see stars.

3 - My husband and I went to our every-other-Saturday morning acupuncture treatment. I told Wei about my migraine adventure, and she 'listened' to my chi along one forearm, and then after awhile along the other forearm. (The points she's feeling are not the same places western doctors feel your pulse.) Her expression was a mix of confusion and solemn concern. After awhile she pronounced, "Weak," as though beyond comprehension that my chi could be in such a state after all my treatment. I wonder if she's ever treated anyone before who visually appears to be living, but is registering as half-dead in the chi department, as I apparently do. I'm nothing if not a challenge.

4 - Was contacted by a major Acadian genealogy figure here in the Maritimes about our shared family lineage due to a blog post I did two-and-a-half years ago. It was my 22nd Thursday Thirteen - Introducing 13 of My Ancestors. That post has legs! It has led to a most incredible set of developments, including the upcoming DNA testing of my cousin through the AMERINDIAN Ancestry Out of Acadia DNA PROJECT.

5 - Went to lunch with some of the women from my writers' group on Sunday, then stopped in at Chapters before the meeting started and snagged a book by one of the Popculturedivas, Kayla Perrin.

6 - Learned about the YA market (Young Adult) at the meeting, with a workshop given by Renee Field.

7 - Worked overtime on Monday. It's like shooting at 18th century redcoats. No matter how many go down, the formation remains intact and the line continues to advance.

8 - Luckily, the second-last episode of Spartacus cheered me up. It ROCKED. Of course, it turns out that it was directed by Michael Hurst, who played Iolaus on Hercules. My three favorite episodes of Spartacus have all been directed by Michael Hurst.

9 - On Tuesday, Mom picked me up after work and we went to dinner at The Great Wall, my favorite Halifax Chinese restaurant. Then we found a parking space near St. Matthew's Church, nipped into Niche for an hour for coffee and headed to our choir rehearsal for our upcoming concert next Tuesday.

10 - It was the first of three rehearsals at the performance space, so there was a lot of rearranging of our physical placement as well as musical rehearsal. Here's a little preview of part of the Schubert mass we're singing, as performed here by the Ocean Springs High School Choir from Mississippi:

11 - After working overtime on Monday, and having a long rehearsal on Tuesday, I once again worked overtime on Wednesday. And my acupuncturist wonders why she can't find any sign of my chi.

12 - Today I discovered why it's a good thing to fully read work emails that say Wear pink to support anti-bullying. I thought it meant Friday. But it was in fact for Wednesday. So even though my manager sported a spiffy pink dress shirt with matching pink tie, and three other members of my team were radiant in pink, and even though I have several pink outfits I could have worn, I showed up today in my tiger-skin-print shirt. For Anti-bullying Day. Tiger-skin-print.

13 - It's 1:00 in the morning. Time to get off the computer. Only 5 and a half hours till my alarm goes off.

Janet says #4 - How cool is that? As soon as I'm done this comment, I'm off to read that blogpost and check out the link. Fascinating!

Anne MacFarlane says Hope the migraines - and the ot - settle down soon.

Sandy Kessler says #7 priceless.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 145

Robin says What a great place, I can almost hear the crashing of the waves and smell the salt in the air.

Anne MacFarlane says Lovely. The ocean is so peaceful - love the sound and the smell.

VA Bookworm 87 says Our beaches are flat and boring... Not even any good waves!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Through the Opera Glasses - 55 - Blogosphere Event - National Poetry Month

And what do our opera glasses light upon today?

I do believe it's another wonderful Blogosphere event I've come across at several blogs I frequent.

Apparently, April is National Poetry Month all across North America. A few brave souls have taken up the challenge of writing poetry every day for the month of April, a National Poetry Writing Month marathon.

For more details, check out the links below:

National Poetry Month in Canada

National Poetry Month in the US

Read Write Poem, where the poetry marathon originates

For myself, I shall keep this event front and center in my mind for next April. Until then, I shall continue my bliss with my weekly poetry peeps at Monday Poetry Train Revisited.

For those of you not usually prone to poetics, why not switch hats this month and give a poem a spin?

Annette Gallant says I did not know that April was National Poetry Month. I always learn something when I read your blog, Julia. :)

Debby says I have seen it many times in blogland.

Travis says I don't know if I can write a poem every day, but I'll have to work on a few to post in honor of the month!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 147 - Something Which He Knew and Which I Did Not

This poem began as a writing exercise from this afternoon's workshop, given by Renee Field.

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Something Which He Knew and Which I Did Not

I stood in the great hall
In my best doublet
My doublet stiff and musty

Sweat collected along my brow
A draft blew the tapestry behind me

I stood in the great hall
My feet both heavy as stone
Well drilled in court dances

Roland and Stuart entered
My relief loosened a loud guffaw

In the great hall, those around me
Stopped their conversations
Stopped to stare at me

I hurried to join my friends
I wiped the sweat upon one brow

In the great hall, Stuart's voice broke
It broke as he said, "There you are, old man."
Roland grabbed my arm, dragging me

Out of earshot
"We've news."

I stood in the great hall
As Stuart said, "She's here,"
"She?" I said

My heart stuck in my throat
Roland nodded toward the end of the hall

I stood in the great hall
As Roland said, "Yes
he is also here."

Something told me not to look
Just then

In the great hall, I stood there
A glance and
I locked gazes with Guilford

Why don't I ever listen
when something tells me not to look?

I stood in the great hall
And Guilford smirked over something
Which he knew and which I did not

- Julia Smith, Apr. 11, 2010

Stan Ski says Perhaps better you don't know...

Yousei Hime says Echoes of Shakespeare. I thought for sure I was headed toward the Romeo and Juliet story.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm blogging at Popculturedivas

I'm blogging over at Popculturedivas today.

Songs That Make Up the Soundtrack of Your Life

Stop by and let me know which songs make up your own soundtrack.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 2

Here we are, the weekend already, and time for a second installment of my Scorpius tale. You'll be able to follow the whole story arc by clicking on my Works in Progress page, just under my blog header.

For more original fiction, visit Weekend Writer's Retreat.

Scene 2

In some ways the falconer’s home was not much different from the one Scorpius had left behind. Another form of nursery, its fledglings would serve the nobility.

His new master showed him where he would eat, where he would sleep, where he would wash up. Scorpius nodded as he would have nodded to Nurse, acutely aware of Richolf’s strength, of the scar that ran across the still face.

Richolf led him behind the house, a shy look of pride softening his features as they neared several long buildings. A dog loped up to the master who patted him absently.

Scorpius saw the hunched form of a hawk through a screen as it perched. Bells tingled from the shadows. The hawk screeched as the dog caught up to Scorpius and sniffed his hand insistently.

Richolf moved past him, opening the door to enter the bird’s domain. With smooth, assured movements, the falconer slipped a heavy leather gauntlet onto his left hand, holding it out until the bird stepped upon it. A few motions later, the hawk was secured to his master with long leather ties.

Scorpius followed Richolf past the line of buildings, each housing a single falcon. The dog pranced with growing excitement as they made their way to the meadow just beyond.

The master bid Scorpius to find a stick and hit the bushes framing the field. Scorpius couldn’t imagine why he should do such a thing. Nor could he imagine questioning the order of a man who calmly held a ferocious bird at his command. He ran to the tree line, scrambled about for a stick, then glanced back at Richolf.

His master stood watching him, watching with the same piercing gaze as the hawk. The dog half sat, half stood, ready to spring.

Scorpius turned back to the bushes, his skin crawling with shame that he didn’t know how to please this new master. He’d known everything that Nurse wanted or needed. He’d been able to anticipate what she’d want, so that she’d smile so sweetly at him. Sometimes she’d even kissed the top of his head, or scooped him onto her lap and gave him a squeeze, so that he’d melted into all her soft curves for a delicious instant.

Thwacking the stick against the leaves like a ridiculous, overgrown babe, Scorpius’ panic rose as he realized nothing whatsoever was happening. Richolf would be furious with him, he was sure of it.

Something flew directly at his face. His arms went up to shield himself as he turned away.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Janet says A wonderful cliffhanger. I'll be counting down the days until next Friday's instalment!!

Calico Crazy says I really feel for Scorpius as he adjusts to his new life, I always hate those moments when I'm forced to act without knowing the why or what comes next.

Ann (Bunnygirl) says Poor guy - given instructions without explanation. Nicely written. I'm looking forward to next week!

5 on Friday - Set 9

Today's set is a trip down memory lane, to that golden time when I first moved to Toronto in the late 80's.

When I was 21, I moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Toronto, Ontario. Unlike many Maritimers, who pine away in the Big City and only last six months, Toronto was a form of heaven for me. I lived there for 13 glorious years, and returned to Nova Scotia only because my gram needed someone to live in the house with her, not because I was tired of Toronto.

Whenever I hear these songs, I'm instantly transported to that time in my life, especially the first one, E = mc². When that song is playing, I can feel the pulse of the city run through me, hear the streetcars, feel the heat of a Toronto summer, hear people speaking in all different languages, feel the pull of the vast store of experience and culture, the friends I made there, my husband's family whom I miss every day.

For more tunes, visit Travis at Trav's Thoughts.

1 - E = mc² - Big Audio Dynamite

Somebody I never met
But in a way, I know
Didn't think that you could get
So much from a picture show

Ritual ideas
Only buildings
No people

Time slide
Place to hide
Nudge reality
Minds wide
Magic imagery

- Mick Jones

2 - In God's Country - U2

Set me alight
We'll punch a hole right through the night
Every day the dreamers die
See what's on the other side

- Clayton / Evans / Hewson / Mullen

3 - My Ever Changing Moods - The Style Council

Daylight turns to moonlight
And I'm at my best
Praising the way it all works
Gazing upon the rest

The past is knowledge
The present our mistake
And the future we always leave too late

- Paul Weller

4 - Don't Look Back - Fine Young Cannibals

Never had the good things
Only money can buy
I'd drive my car but
I haven't got a car to drive

Oh, I know these times are bad
And it makes you want to cry
Don't be sad, we'll get by

Baby, baby, don't look back

- Gift / Steele

5 - Need You Tonight - INXS

So slide over here
And give me a moment
Your moves are so raw
I've got to let you know
You're one of my kind

- Fariss / Hutchence

Janet says Didn't know you were in TO for that long, Julia! In God's Country (apt for any part of our great nation I've had the opportunity to live).

Akelamalu says Some songs can evoke very vivid memories can't they? I love the photo of you. :)

Bond says Interesting set list. Memories are made for music.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 153 - 13 Things I Did Today

1 - Woke up at 5:00 this morning in a lot of pain (migraine.) Struggled to get up in order to take acetaminophen with codeine. Slept till 7. Second wake-up was much more tolerable.

2 - Spent the morning dealing with an avalanche of paper (I scan documents,) wondering if anyone had sent out the Saint Bernard to dig me out.

3 - Smiled repeatedly at the signatures of elderly people on the document avalanche. I love their characters which shine through the squiggliness.

4 - Enjoyed break time with my sister, who works in the same office as me. Cool!

5 - Worked like a perpetual motion machine, trying to stay one step ahead of the avalanche.

6 - Kept the pedal to the metal and worked two hours overtime, but got to sing along to my playlist with no one else there but me. Party!

7 - Thanked God when the bus that includes a 3-minute walk for me rolled up first, rather than the one which includes a 20-minute walk. Woo hoo!

8 - Enjoyed the moody fog in the woods as I walked those three minutes between the bus stop and home.

9 - Gave my wiggly-waggly overjoyed-to-see-me dog lots of lovin'.

10 - Made a cup of green tea after supper.

11 - Rolled my eyes at this headline in the Chronicle Herald:

Cardinals claim opposition to gay marriage, abortion fuelling ‘hate’ campaign

12 - Changed into my comfies and sat at the computer.

13 - Put my earphones on and relaxed with a little bit of Richard Armitage therapy. Here's a current favorite on my You Tube playlist. Love the editing job that Liisakee did *applause* Song is Where I Want to Be from the musical Chess, sung by Josh Groban. Clips are from seasons 1-3 of BBC's Robin Hood.

Ms Snarky Pants says I know at least 4 other people, including me, who had a migraine today. Obviously there was something in the air!

Frances says You definitely know how to make lemonade when life hands you a lemon - and first thing in the morning to boot. Waving at you from New York.

Kelly Boyce says Sounds like a pretty good day. Mine was dull, dull, dull. Boss was away and I forgot my flashdrive with my mss on it at home.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 144

Mom Start says Looks like it could be a relaxing evening.

Nikita Banerjee says I like the design on the plate. Is it an heirloom?

Debby says Beautiful!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Through the Opera Glasses - 54 - Sharpe's Challenge and Sharpe's Peril

For a 5 on Friday I did a few weeks ago, I mentioned that the opening theme music to the Sharpe series is way up there on my list of favorites. In fact, everything about the Sharpe series is way up there on my list of favorites.

Sharpe is based on the series of books which follow Napoleonic-era British soldier Richard Sharpe, written by the awesome Bernard Cornwell.

Tom Clegg directed all sixteen of the 2-hour film adaptations of Cornwell's books, starring the sigh-worthy Sean Bean and Daragh O'Malley.

I've been so grateful, these past two weekends, for PBS Masterpiece's broadcasts of the latest two Sharpe's.

Sharpe's Challenge, 2006

This one I'd seen before, but I can never get enough of Sharpe.

It features Toby Stephens in a rather dastardly role, whom I've also enjoyed in many other productions, including his role as the rotten Prince John in season 3 of BBC's Robin Hood.

It also introduces the very handsome Karan Panthaky as a rajah not quite of age, and who is at the mercy of his regent, his late father's foremost concubine and her lover, played by Toby Stephens.

Here's the trailer:

Sharpe's Peril, 2008

I was delighted to find Raza Jaffrey in this one, who played Zaf in seasons 4-6 of Spooks/MI-5.

I was also happy to see David Robb appearing as Major Tredinnick. He looks like this when you can get a close-up:

I saw him in another PBS Masterpiece broadcast back in grade 11 (that's 1981, if you're wondering) in The Flame Trees of Thika and have always admired him since then - especially his gorgeous voice, which is why he obviously does a lot of voice work.

And you can't beat the joy of seeing a recurring character like Simmerson show up, played with elitist relish by Michael Cochrane. He has appeared in 5 of the 16 Sharpe films.

There's lots of challenge in these two stories for our intrepid hero. And amazing stuntwork by dreamy Sean.

And did I mention peril? Did I mention I can never resist a hero in chains?

NOTE: There is a 30-second leader at the beginning of this trailer.

Both of these films are available on DVD, and Sharpe's Peril will be rebroadcast on Saturday on PBS.

Beth says Wow, I've never heard of these before!

Naquility says You've intrigued me. I will have to check these out as they look like very good shows.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 146 - No Cure

Hard at work on the second draft of my vampire story, this long weekend. It's inspired this assessment of the affliction I suffer.

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

No Cure

Story attacks like a virus
No cure except to write
First attempt inside out
Like the transported fly

Years of workshops
Tears of surrender
When it just won't make sense
When it won't leave you in peace

Light bulb moment
Only leads to dissection
Your story's scenes sliced bare
Moments amputated on the floor

Rebuilt version sent out
Fragile as spun sugar
The heart bruises
With every rejection

An offer is made
A contract is signed
Champagne cork popped
Dreams now stock on a shelf

Someone you've never met
Stays up all night
Reading your story in one gulp
As another story attacks you

- Julia Smith, Apr. 4, 2010

Sorcerer says Beautifully done.

Janet says Glad to hear the rewrites are going well - can't wait to hear more about it, Julia!

Akelamalu says Good stuff Julia. :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 1

Welcome to my first post for the Weekend Writer's Retreat.

I noticed that my wonderful blog friend Susan mentioned this meme on her blog, and when I popped over to check it out, I discovered a few more blog friends hanging out over there, as well.

I can't resist the lure of a writer's retreat. And I've been enjoying some serialized flash fiction on several blogs, so I've decided to throw my own hat in the ring.

I'm not sure if my posts will qualify as flash fiction. Hopefully as I do more of them, they will. Flash fiction follows the requirements of a longer piece of fiction, containing conflict and resolution for the characters, however brief.

My pieces are going to be much more like vignettes, scenes that focus on an idea or an impression.

I've decided to begin this feature with my Scorpius character. He came to me during a real life writers' retreat a few years ago. I've got about a quarter of his story written so far.

Scorpius is the Chamberlain of the Keep for Lady Elysande in a world that combines a medieval-type slave-owning society with sophisticated technology and political intrigue. For my Weekend Writer's Retreat scene, I'm going back to Scorpius' boyhood. The stories I share here will be backstory, taking place well before the events of the novel I'm working on. Or will be working on - I'm currently working on my vampire story, and after that I'll be finishing my gardener story. And then I can get back to my Scorpius story.

Scene 1

The falconer strode silently ahead of him. Hurrying to keep pace, Scorpius kept sneaking looks back at the home he’d shared with the other fostered boys and girls until the road turned and there was nothing more to see.

His new master didn’t bother to check to see if he was being followed. For one long moment, Scorpus stood in the road, unwilling to leave his hopes behind.

The distance stretched between himself and the falconer. All the moments when he’d shrugged away from Nurse’s embrace, wished for quiet when the babies shrieked, or when he’d sighed with boredom during chores came rushing back. He’d take it all again gladly if only he didn’t have to go with this man.

He gazed with longing at the turn that concealed the high stone wall and the manor where he’d grown to boyhood. Glancing ahead of him, the empty road cautioned speed, speed.

He could run.

He could run off into the wilds. The scraggly brush could conceal him. The rough boulders could cradle him.

Scorpius listened, but he couldn’t even hear the footsteps of the falconer against the gravelly road. Gaze roaming over the landscape, Scorpius felt the patient breath of unseen predators upon his neck. Just daring to glance up, he saw clouds and sky but no shadow marring the blue.

He knew what it felt like to see that dwarfing wingspan, to scramble for cover only to see his dear friend disappear in a screech of flame. His chest seized horribly with dread.

Scorpius ran, sickly sweat congealing along his spine. He ran till the sight of the scarred man ahead of him made his heart swell with relief. He caught up, his breath loud and ragged in the late morning air. Still the falconer walked, not turning to see who panted and puffed behind him.

Falling into step with his new master, Scorpius fought the urge to look back. What was there to see? Nurse no longer needed him, and the falconer had need of a boy. He’d best get it through his head that no one had come to claim him, and now no one ever would.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Travis says You've packed quite a bit of insight into the character here.

Alice Audrey says That last line is very strong. Well done. Welcome to the Retreat!

Nessa says I like the third paragraph from the end. It is riddled with the tug and anxiety of a frightening yet appealing relationship.

5 on Friday - Set 8

Here is my third character sketch for the love triangle I'm currently writing about. So far you've been introduced to Peredur, a Dark Ages Welsh warrior who becomes a vampire, through Set 6.

Next you met Tanwen, the beloved of Peredur who is left behind in the human realm after his battlefield death, in Set 7.

Today I'm profiling Cavan, the son of the village wise woman, who has always lived in a state of unrequited love for Tanwen. The sequence of five songs runs along Cavan's character arc for the story.

For more great tunes, and if you want to play along, visit Travis at Trav's Thought's.

1 - Without Her - Harry Nilsson

I spend the night in a chair thinking she'll be there
But she never comes
And I wake up and wipe the sleep from my eyes
And I rise to face another day
Without her

And it sounds like a lie
I said I'd rather die than live without her
Without her, I can't go on
There's no song without her

- Ham / Evans

2 - Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Jimi Hendrix

Well, I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand

Cause I'm a voodoo child

If I don't meet you no more in this world, then, uh
I'll meet ya on the next one
I'm a voodoo child baby
I don't take no for an answer

- the Jimi Hendrix Experience

3 - I'm Going Home - Tim Curry

Free to try and find a game
Dealing cards for sorrow
Cards for pain

Cause I've seen blue skies
Through the tears in my eyes
And I realize
I'm going home

O'Brien / Sharman

4 - I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine - Elvis Presley

Well I don't care if the sun don't shine
I get my lovin' in the evening time
When I'm with my baby

Well, it ain't no fun with the sun around
I get going when the sun goes down
And I'm with my baby

- Mack David

5 - See Me Feel Me - The Who

See me
Feel me
Touch me
Heal me

Listening to you
I get the music
Gazing at you
I get the heat
Following you
I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet

- Pete Townshend

Jamie says Tim Curry, Harry Nilsson and Elvis in one set - Now that's creative thinking.

Marina says Jimi Hendrix is my favorite ever!!!! I have all his albums/CDs. I also enjoyed The Who. Great set!

Travis says That is fascinating. I love how you make this work for you in your writing.