Poets, Colors, and Surprises

I love words! Words combined by skillful writers pile together in unexpected combinations that glow brilliantly and wake up the reader’s vision. They are like colors, the tools of art.

Watercolors glide and puddle, merging in ways that surprise the artist and change the plot. Acrylics clump one glob upon another – lavender, orange, green – bringing life to a rock that seemed only gray before the artist delved its truth. Great writers do the same.

I’m reading George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw was enamored of Ellen Terry, a beautiful, intelligent actress in the late 1800s. He writes that when, one day, her personal correspondence is collected and published, “It will then, I believe, be discovered that every famous man of the last quarter of the nineteenth century – provided he were a playgoer – has been in love with Ellen Terry, and that many of them have found in her friendship the utmost consolation one can hope for from a wise, witty, and beautiful woman whose love is already engaged elsewhere, and whose heart has withstood a thousand attempts to capture it. To me – for I am one of the unsuccessful lovers – Ellen Terry’s skill as an actress is the least interesting thing about her.”

That might lead you to want to read more or to at least see what she looked like. Here’s a good link with my favorite picture, taken when she was 16 and already married:

Or here, where John Singer Sargent painted her as Lady Macbeth. What a stunning performance that must have been!

Words are being abandoned in cyberspace. Evolution of language is as natural as in everything else, but so is devolution is. Conversation is giving way to quick tweets and hasty email messages. I know this is not my original idea. You’ve thought it, too. In fact, it’s a cliché by now. But nevertheless, it’s true.

When my children were young in the 70s, I wrote a letter each week to their grandparents who lived far away. I stamped and mailed these letters. My mother-in-law kept every one so now I have evidence of what my family life was like and can share it with my children, proving to them that their memories may not be entirely accurate – nor mine. Cyber notes will never be historical because they are lost as soon as we hit “archive” or “delete.” How many archived messages are ever retrieved? One of my future chores will be to glean the best of the thousands of emails written over the last 15 years.

Meanwhile, I have re-edited chapters 1-38 or so of the new book. It’s really good, I’m happy to say! I never know when I go back to the early drafts how I will feel about it. It’s terrifying in a way, knowing that what I spent months on may turn out to be claptrap. But it didn’t! Reading it again, straightening it up, smoothing it out, trimming and curling here and there, I was excited by the story and worried about my two main characters as they head into some hard times. Now I must get back to it. Cheers!

Grape Stomping

Hot Springs
Morning harvest
My grape processor
Watercolor I did in Boulder CO 15 years ago
On the vine
Years ago a friend served me fresh-frozen, thawed red grape juice from her wildish vineyard of Concord grapes. Up till then, I hadn’t even liked grape juice!

My young grape vines produced beautifully this year, as did the older one. Last night while floating in remote hot springs [see pic], my friends and I nibbled grapes and discussed the qualities of various juicers on the market. I listened, they talked. It was evident that the only way to get grape juice from the grapes we hadn’t eaten would be to purchase a $400-$500 juicer. That was last night.

This morning, I had an “aha” moment (embarrassing because it’s so obvious). My first mental picture was of Italians stomping on grapes. Perhaps the French stomp also, but it seems better suited to the hedonistic leanings of the descendants of ancient Rome.

Rather than stomp my grapes, I put them in a bowl, took a full bottle of V8 juice for weight, and did a mini-stomp with a substitute foot. Then I dumped the mess into my regular strainer, nothing fancy. It dripped for a few minutes, enough for about a half glass full. Drank it.

Fanfare, please! Souza march music! Beethoven’s 9th! Pooh and his honey pot!

The fullness of flavor astonished me! There’s so much more to grape juice when it’s not filtered and cooked (though some done that way are good, like Newman’s Own Concord Juice). It’s how grapes have been done for eons! Why do we think we need processors?

Wow! I feel good today! It’s already 9:27 a.m. and I must get on with the Amara (working title) rewrite! First, though, I’m going to pick some more grapes, take pix, and show you my equipment and the hot springs.

Un-Link Me!

The Real Vickie
Have you heard the heartbreaking old country song: “Please release me, let me go, for I don’t love you anymore.”

Someone wanted to link to me so I went on Linked In. Found out I’d been a member since 2007. Didn’t like it then; don’t like it now. But since I have a book to promote, I tried to edit my profile and maybe get a hit or two. As it was, everything that showed belonged to the friend who wanted to link. Computers do the strangest things!

A screen came up and I changed her to me, but when I went back to see my profile, she was still there. No, the picture was me, so why weren’t the words me? It was like an episode on Warehouse 13 where Alice comes out of the mirror and takes over what’s-her-name’s body.

I spent too much time trying to solve this. Couldn’t even opt out, as in erase myself from LinkedIn’s memory, gracefully or not.

If you link to me, you’ll see a myth. I’m not who it says I am, except for the picture. But if you want a good summer read, search for Victoria Paulsen on Amazon and buy The Amulet.

Some book groups are considering picking it up for next year. Would I love that? You bet!

Thieves and Cheese


I began Book 2 of the series early in December and am now (12/29) over halfway through!  First draft, that is.  Once I had the main character and sort of a plot, things fell into place.

For Christmas, Thrim gave me a 7-dvd set of the History Channel’s series on Ancient Rome.  All I can say is, I’m glad my story takes place in Gaul and Britannia, far from Rome.  Not that the Roman influence isn’t there.  It is, because conquerors always try to spread their way of life.  The Romans, unlike some others, allowed the local population to continue their customs as long as they conformed to certain Roman ways, such as honoring the Roman gods.

The legal system often had elements of Roman law and local law, as shown in the New Testament during Christ’s trial.  The Jews and the Romans were at odds with one another, but finally the Roman leader gave up, saying, “Do what you want.  I’m not handling this.”

One of my new characters, Fortius, is a farmer who sells his sheep cheese [remember sheep and cheese from the last blog entry?] in Lyon.  He has a sideline of hiring thieves to steal from people who leave their belongings in the baths while they are bathing.  It was quite common to be robbed while you were at the baths.  I wonder why the rich people didn’t take more precautions.  They probably did, such as bringing a slave along to guard the goods.  But if the slave had friends among thieves who gave kickbacks for fine jewels and money, most likely he’d risk the wrath of his master by helping the robber.

Fortius is found out because one of his thieves squeals on him.  He is taken to prison where he will be whipped with the flagellum, a wicked instrument with three to twelve leather thongs studded with lead spikes and weights.  A few blows with that could tear up a guy’s back real badly.  I feel sorry for Fortius, but I’m also upset with him because to save his own hide, he’s going to snitch and get some main characters in big trouble.

It seems from the dvd that there wasn’t a lot of justice for those who were not wealthy, and Fortius is not.  He makes good cheese, though, so maybe he’ll get off.  I don’t know.  I do know that his wife, Marcia, is going to try to persuade him to do whatever it takes to get free.  I can’t blame her.  She’s got her family to think about, and he’s their breadwinner.

France, still the home of superb cheese!

Yep, History Repeats Itself

I love having the time and resources to resurrect my college education.  “Resurrect” because there were classes like Classical Literature I glossed over, barely attending enough times to pass.  Now, thanks to researching my novels, the classics are coming to life for me!   Here are a few things gleaned from Meyer Reinhold:

1)       Greece never recovered from the loss of wealth and manpower caused by the Peloponnesian War which lasted 27 years from 431-404 BC.

2)      There was a growing gap between the large number of poor and the few rich.

3)      Disillusionment with government caused a greater concern for self and family.

4)      The rise of professional politicians let others avoid civic responsibility.

Re: 1)  The U.S. has surpassed the 27-year war by 3.  For 30 years, since 1981, there has been continual involvement in military conflicts.  Some have been huge, like the Persian Gulf war (1990-1991), and some small like “peacekeeping” operations.  Before 1981, a whole generation had been demoralized by the Vietnam War and before that, the Korean War.  [Click this link for a good website about this.]

Greece may have lost wealth in their ancient wars, but the U.S. seems to depend on wars for gaining wealth.  There is higher employment, more manufacturing, more scientific research, and more support programs when we are fighting somewhere.  I could add that there is also more graft and corruption because of the temptation to grab some of the wealth.  The current economic wreckage  is not because of war but because of financial greed by bankers and investors worldwide who followed the example of the U.S.

Re: 2)  Doesn’t the Occupy movement all over the world, pitting the 99% against the 1% , confirm that the gap exists now?  There’s not only an economic gap but an idealogical gap, a huge one.  Studies have shown that even the extremely rich don’t think they are.  There’s always someone richer, someone with more houses, more planes, more everything.  They are thus compelled to keep amassing wealth, to be at the top.

Croesus, the enormously rich king of Lydia (560-547 BC), was told by Solon that wealth was not the key to happiness.  Croesus dismissed Solon as a fool, but by the end of his reign he realized it was true.  [Told by Herodotus.]

Re: 3)  When people live together in larger numbers than families, like towns or cities or states, they usually develop a civilized way of cooperating with each other.  It is necessary for life.  Governments are set up to help people help each other by sharing resources, ideals, and working together.  When a government is run by selfish people, corruption inevitably follows.

When politicians parade their love of “family” for show, for gain, that’s selfish.  Families are the first building block of a nation because they are the smallest unit of people living and working together.  In a good nation, one that genuinely cherishes and supports the family unit, things go well.  Some of the more successful nations in this regard are the Scandinavian countries and others who tax heavily so all can benefit.

Here’s an example of non-civilized order.  It’s a Somali saying:

I and Somalia against the world.

I and my clan against Somalia.

I and my family against the clan.

I and my brother against the family.

I against my brother.

Re: 4)  Good people are often elected to office.  After a few years, surrounded by temptations of all kinds, many are corrupted and begin to think more about themselves and their cohorts than about the larger constituency who elected them.

Sometimes I think that there should be no politicians.  The responsibility for governing would be entrusted to every adult.  Each year, a certain number of names would be drawn from a hat (a large hat) and those chosen would be in charge for one year.  Each state would provide housing and per diem so these people could live in Washington D.C. and run the nation during their time in office.  No-one could repeat the same job.  The Athenians tried something like this and it was successful for a time, but eventually people lost interest and governing fell into the hands of the wealthier few.

It would also be a good idea to move the nation’s capitol to the geographic center so that the East Coasters would learn some humility.  Students near D.C. grow up with politics in their backyard.  Students west of the Mississippi rarely get a chance to see government in action or feel a part of it.

Roman gladiators, from the museum in Nimes, France.

If this blog has been too serious, don’t give up.  Humor is coming with the Greek comedies!