Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Firebrand (Alternative Detective #2) by A.J. Hartley

Dear Mr Hartley,
Please accept my humble apology. I am unable at this time to write a review of Firebrand, for reasons which are far too mundane to go into here (i.e. life gets complicated sometimes). I really wanted to have written a stellar one, since, in all likelihood, I'll be meeting you at JordanCon next week. (In theory I'd be the one wearing the sign that says "Sorry I didn't get to review your book before meeting you" --  though more likely I'll just be wearing a sheepish grin on my face.)

However, thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow out my nails, as I seemed to have bitten them down. In Ang, you have created a great character, and keep unfolding a world that fascinates me. My unease with some of the  political situations were because they rang a little truer than they might have when you were penning the story, but please don't mistake unease for complacency. Ang isn't the only female who can do some shit-kicking. Some of us have to do it land based or behind a computer, rather than from a rooftop or crane. And I know a cos-player or two who could use Madam Nahreem's guidance to help pull off a role realistically.

As to the question raised at the end of the book, unless Willinghouse really steps up his game, I hope it's Daria over her stuffed-shirt brother. I suspect life would be a lot more colorful, exciting, and passionate with that choice.

Many thanks to friends at Tor Books for sending me this ARC. My only complaint is that now I have to wait extra long for the next Alternative Detective book to make it into my hands.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Put a good face (or 3) with a Good Deed

Yesterday, I wrote a little story about Peter & Sons, a family business that as long as I have known them (which would be in 1981 when I came in to have the heel repaired my shoe that had broken while I was dancing at a friend's wedding. I had been a bridesmaid-- hated the dress, but loved the shoes I had gotten to wear with them. I flung the shoes into a corner to continue dancing, but the next morning, took them to a Peter & Sons, which had opened in the brief interim when I had left Charleston to pursue life in the frozen north.) The act of kindness bestowed has touched a lot of hearts. I printed off the blog post and took a copy to the shop this morning. I wanted to tell them in person how far their story had gone.

Once again, when I walked in,  the store delighted me. I could see the top of Igor's head above the partition that delineates the line between customer space and workshop. I could hear the cadences of speech that reminded me of my mother's family, who also were Ukrainian Jews. The sons of Peter joshed with me as I told them I needed to talk to them, "Not me", said Igor as he pointed to his older brother. "He did it."
"I hear someone calling me in back", said Josif, pretending to walk away from me.
But the story got told, and I gave them the post.
And then I asked if I could take their picture. Daniel (Josif's son) joined us (and already knew the story of the guitar) and after a little discussion of where to take the photo, it was done.
Josif, Daniel, and Igor Tsveer

So why did the sons and grandson of Peter decide to take the picture in this spot? Over their shoulder is the one who made it all possible, the man who taught these men by example to be the men they are: Mr Peter. Yup, photobombed by the patriarch. It's a good thing.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Do a Mitzvah

Something nice happened.

A few months back, I realized I was not playing my guitar, a purchase that I saved nickels and pennies, and occasional dollars for in my college years. I'd spent high school diligently learning to play, mostly borrowing friends guitars, but longed for one of my own, one that I earned, one that chose me as I chose it. And in the early 1970's my guitar and I found each other. I had exactly enough coin to cover the cost, and once I passed it over, the Goya  dreadnought pattern guitar came home with me.

That guitar travelled with me: summers in the mountains of West Virginia where I played the folk tunes I'd learned, winters initially in Charleston, but later in the Finger Lakes region of New York, when I  went off to University, and then to St Louis, where I finished my undergraduate work. It came back to Charleston with me, where my roommate and I would sit on our porch, in the soft southern air, singing songs of the 60's. It travelled with me when I fell in love and married, though I rarely took it out of the case with all the added happenings of being one of two, and then of motherhood. When I did play, it was a solitary song, because by then, I'd forgotten many of the chords, and my transitions were no longer as smooth as I might hope.

In the continuing effort to downsize, and lighten the burden of sorting through decades of accumulations that my children will face when I pop off, I made the decision to sell my guitar. Since it had been a steady companion for over 40 years, I felt funny just putting it up on Craigslist, so instead, I inquired among my friends if anyone was interested. There were several nibbles, but before I could commit, another friend suggested that I might want to consider putting it up in an auction  which benefited charity we both were supported-- and maybe, if I were to try my hand at decorating it, it might raise even more. Somehow, that sounded really right. Really, really right.

So, I began planning. I made a template of the guitar face and worked on my design, while also talking to others who had decorated instruments, Tate Nation, a wonderful artist and friend here in Charleston and Maggie Stiefvater, an author and artist I know through her YA books, and her very entertaining twitter feed (and who I briefly met when we both were guests at YallFest 2016) being two of the most helpful. 

It was a pleasure to try such a different venue for my folk art pysanky-inspired style of drawing. With a constant cheering section from the folks in a JordanCon Group*, the design grew, til all it needed were new strings (which are being donated by Ross Newberry) and initials of the final buyer to be put into the design by yours truly.

JordanCon is next week. It was time to give the case a cleaning and make sure all was ready for it to travel to the auction. As I took the case out of storage, the handle came away in my hand. This has been an exceptionally odd year for me with art accidents, so somehow, I wasn't surprised. But, I knew I had to get it fixed, and somewhat speedily, too.

Peter and Sons in South Windermere has helped my family out many a time: from the snapped strap on a shoulder bag, to the torn zipper on a suitcase (Peter has long since retired, but his sons, and grandsons continue to run the business.) My favorite visit to the shop was when I brought my son's size 14 Italian red leather shoes (made by the same craftsman who made Pope Benedict XVI's red shoes) to get stains and creases out of them after some travel abuse, so he could wear them for a wedding. "They look a little big for you," quipped the son behind the counter, "but I'll see what I can do." He worked magic. They looked great.

Hugging the guitar case in my arms, I entered the shop. I love the mix inside: luggage and cases, jumbled together with various styles shoes, hand written signs, bumper stickers from long ago campaigns, and various other items, all surrounded by the essence of leather and shoe polish. Add the two brothers, the sons of Peter, with their warm humor, quick wit, and the accents of their Ukrainian heritage, and it's a heady mix. Today, it was the brother who has lost 50 pounds (he'll tell you the story, and show you the original hole on his belt which was his "before" weight) who helped me. I figured I'd drop the case off today, and come back in a day or two, so told him I just needed it back so I could to get it to the auction on time. "No, no, no", he said. "Just have a seat." he told me as he wandered into the back.

When he returned, the handle was fixed.  The rivet may not match exactly, but it's sturdy. When I asked how much I owed, the cost was nothing. "You give; I give. That makes me feel rich here", he said, pointing to his heart. "Better than money."

And that, my friends, is the mensch who did a mitzvah.

*JordanCon  is a yearly gathering of fans of Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series, as well as fans of fantasy in general. James Rigney, best known to his fans around the world as "Robert Jordan," succumbed to  cardiac amyloidosis in 2007. since it's inception in 2008, JordanCon has raised more than  $9,000 for Amyloidosis research fund at the Mayo Clinic through its charity events at the annual gathering.
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