Happy Birthday, Leonardo

Several weeks ago I purchased Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci. It’s a thick hardcover, and I promised myself I would read it as soon as I had time to tackle the tome. One thing let to another, and I didn’t touch the book for many weeks, always telling myself I don’t have time for it right now. 

My reason for wanting to read Leonardo’s biography in the first place was the description of him as a curious, intelligent, self-taught, imaginative and creative man we all could learn from, a man who also had his shortcomings and quirks we could relate to. Leonardo loved learning and was a self-taught man. 

I, too, love learning. That’s what’s important to me. Somehow, I feel akin to him, because I feel like a kid when I open a new book, or find an interesting online tutorial, or when I can spend a whole Sunday afternoon drawing and painting in my studio or work on my novel. 

Returning to my story: Today, I decided, is the day to start reading the biography. My curiosity won’t let me rest until I find out more about Leonardo and what he was like, and all the things he did and created.

As I finally open the book and look at the included timeline, I see his date of birth: April 15, 1452. I did not know that. A coincidence? 

So today I celebrate Leonardo’s birthday, his curiosity, inquisitiveness, imagination, creativity and child-like soul. 

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A New Friend

In August last year, I visited the Humane Society to find a new companion dog. I had lost my beloved Kayla in May 2016, and I felt the time had come to look for a new friend.

At the entrance of the shelter, the staff had placed a kennel (at eye level) with the cutest, sweetest feline. While I waited for my turn to see the dog, I stuck my finger into the kennel to scratch her ear and became enchanted with the gray and white kitty as she stretched and twisted, purring while enjoying the scratch.

I met the dog, and he was nice, but I was unsure about adopting him, so I left and all the way home I thought about the cat. Next day, I returned to the shelter, adopted her, and named her Minka.

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At first, Minka was shy and timid in her new surroundings, but as the days turned to weeks and months, she became more confident, and her real personality emerged.

There is no match for Minka’s persistence when she wants something. Minka and I fight the constant battle of who will last longer: she meowing at my bedroom door before it’s time to get up, or I, staying in bed and ignoring her. Most mornings, she wins. Once in a while, she gives up, but not often. At one point I got so mad that I told her that there must have been a reason why she had been in the shelter. She only huffed at that.

As a skilled ball player she would very likely make it onto an all-star basketball team if she were human, because she catches her little round toy mouse out of the air, consistently and with precision. I should set up a hoop. She’d probably slam dunk it every time. Minka never tires of batting that mouse around the house, and of course, she wants me to throw it until I get tired.

Minka is still not very social when it comes to visitors and rarely shows her face when friends come over. She even knows when it’s Tuesday; Tuesday afternoon means piano lessons. I feed her, then she hides and only reemerges when the door closes behind the teacher on his way out.

As I write this, she lies beside me on the couch, snuggling; licking my hand; sweet and quiet. But there is tomorrow morning. We’ll see who wins the next round.

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I almost burned the monkeys

Last weekend I built a fire in the fireplace, making the house feel nice and cozy. As I enjoyed the crackling of the flames in my darkened living room, I forgot to remove the Winnie-the-Pooh ceramic pot with the two toy monkeys from the fireplace inset. The metal gets scorching hot and as the fire died down, I gasped when I finally saw the monkeys (They look a bit like Curious George and his cousin.) still sitting there, probably sweating, but no smoke emerged from the pot. I grabbed the pot quickly—why quickly I don’t know—because it had been sitting there now for more than two hours. When I took George and cousin out of the pot, their bottoms and tails were a bit warm but that was all. Maybe Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore saved them. Who knows?

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A giggle bubbled up. Not sure why I thought it was funny, or if I just felt dumb and relieved. Those monkeys could have caught fire and maybe even burned down the house, and here I was laughing.

Well, not much of a blog. And other than a bit of winter after the spring-like weather of the past few weeks, there’s not much else to talk about.

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Morning Routine

For over a decade now, my 4:45-am mornings have given me time to write and edit my novels. Working on my novels somehow calms me and gives me peace of mind, a sense of accomplishment, and no matter what happens throughout the day, I’ve enjoyed first and done my favorite task.

I love the morning routine. Coffee ready. Let out Dog. Feed dog and cat. Turn on computer. Switch on hot plate for coffee. Sit down. Go!

In the quiet pre-dawn morning, the world still asleep, something very satisfying takes place for the next hour before I ready myself for work. Sometimes magic appears on the page with words, sentences, and paragraphs conjuring up stories. By the time I turn off the computer, I’ve lived through several sweet or scary or exhilarating adventures. Not a bad morning. At 8 am, my job seems lackluster.

Years ago, I never imagined being able to write at the crack of dawn, but with my daily routine I invite the Muse, and she comes.

Here is to the Muse and my morning routine.

Phew! No Major Rewrites

The draft of “Sophie and the Magic Seeds” came back from the editor with lots of comments and suggestions, but none that said, “start over.” Still, some adjustments and rewrites have to happen. First, I’m tackling the comments. Next, I’ll print out a clean draft and start cutting, because often that’s part of the problem, but I’ll also have to change some character dynamics and a few minor plot issues. Sophie is not active enough and must step up to save the day. Anyway, it’s not as bad as I feared.

Lastly, my prose needs to be polished. I intend to read a couple of books on the subject to help me with that task. There’s always room for improvement. The editor suggested two helpful works:

Sin and Syntax: How to craft wicket good prose by Constance Hale
and
Getting the words right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney

Let the rewriting begin.

15 States in 15 Days

As I mentioned in a earlier post, I started working on the journal from my two-week motorcycle solo trip in 1990 from Toronto, Canada to the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone National Park and back.

After having developed the negatives again (I’m glad I still had those.), I discovered that I didn’t use all of the photos in the handwritten journal. Here is one of the photos that I rediscovered.

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Just typing the journal into Word was fun because I could relive the trip, and I remembered a few tidbits I had left out.

Right now I’m debating on how to structure the book, most likely dividing it by the states with a map introducing each chapter or section. In the handwritten journal, I used copies of road atlas maps, which will be replaced with my own drawn maps. It will be neat, and more unique, to show just the stops and stays, and some landmarks.

I’m looking forward to sharing this book and the journey, which left not only a great expression on me but also had profound consequences.

Stay tuned for more.

Not quite a blessing in disguise

Last Monday, I walked my dog through our neighborhood just like any other evening. Still tired from my Sunday hike, I considered letting Kula do a few rounds in the yard instead of walking him but then decided to walk anyway.

We were on the last leg of our walk, when I tripped and fell, crashing heavily onto my right hand. I rolled onto my back and lay on the concrete sidewalk for two minutes. Darn it, it hurt. The hand, especially the pinky, swell up; my left palm was bleeding; and my left knee and right hip felt none too good either. Good old Kula stood there patiently until I recovered enough to get back onto my feet and walk home with him.

My hand was not only badly swollen but also had turned blue. Not knowing exactly what to do, I iced the hand and took an Epsom salt bath, soaking my aching body, then went to bed.

Next day, I had it x-rayed, which showed a clear break in the pinky. Off I went to see an orthopedic specialist who put it in a cast, leaving me with thumb, index and middle fingers to use. He said the cast had to stay on for three weeks, a splint after that, and the pinky would take ten weeks to completely heal.

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Great! How would I be working on my manuscripts? Surely I can’t type with this. What about my piano lessons and my playing? I was finally getting somewhere with my practicing and now I would have to stop for ten weeks? At the art class on Saturday, how would I hold a brush or a pencil? And how about working with a computer mouse or a stylus?

At first I felt defeated and frustrated, but then I thought that I would not let a little broken finger stop me from doing what I want and need to do. It made me realize how I’ve taken my hands and what they can do for granted.

My left hand is actually quite good in taking over most tasks. Fine motor skills are a problem, but the lefty is catching up fast. It turns out that I can work a mouse just fine with two fingers and my thumb. For now, I’ll be concentrating on playing piano with my left hand, learning new techniques while the right hand takes a break.

Although my broken pinky is not a blessing in disguise, it is a great opportunity to try something different and see things in a different light instead of viewing it as a handicap. In ten weeks, I will probably play a solid left hand on the piano.

Happy New Year Again

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Another year gone and much accomplished. I finished, revised, and revised again the sequel to Sophie and the Magic Flower, but I have more work to do. Here is a first look of the cover for Sophie and the Magic Seeds.

The editor just returned the draft to me with lots of suggested changes, which means my original publication date of late spring/early summer 2018 may have been overly optimistic. I’m still aiming for this summer though.

In addition, I will be publishing the journal of a solo motorcycle trip I took in September 1990. It’s been fun to revisit this wonderful trip that took me from Toronto to the Grand Canyon, to Yellowstone National Park and back. Stay tuned for more news on this book as well.

Happy New Year

The new year has begun, and I still have not completed the first draft of my second novel. Call me lazy or something, but it just didn’t happen. I’m still working in the sagging middle of it because the story took twists and turns I hadn’t anticipated. Rather the opposite, I had thought I was almost done, but then the characters went off and did something completely different, and I was stuck going along.

Have you ever gone out with a bunch of friends, and you thought they were going to one place when they were really going somewhere else? And since they were driving their car, you were stuck with them and the only alternative was to walk home by yourself. Well, that seemed to have happened with Sophie and company. Although Sophie and her friends were traveling in a cart pulled by a mule, I still didn’t feel like walking home alone. So, here we are, in the middle of the mountains, and we are lost, and of course, I have to get everybody out of this mess. Good luck, Gabriele. See you in a few months.