I loved The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro. Surprised the hell out of me, it did. Here are some notes…
1. It’s in first person, present tense. Eww, right? But it works well here.
2. There are constant flips to a backstory from 3 years ago. Yucky, normally. But it works to build suspense and character, and Shapiro does it well.
3. There’s a series of old letters from 100 years ago. OMG noooo! But they are oddly… interesting.
4. A whole bunch of technical stuff is plastered in about painting technique. Weirdly fascinating. Plus how can I not adore the word “craquelure?”
5. The heroine’s attraction to a certain dude annoys me, but I’m cheering for her anyway. Go figure.
None of the characters are very likeable, in that they have glaring ethical flaws, yet I can totally sympathize with the heroine regardless. Eh, probably because of her ethical flaws! It’s all in the writing, which kept me invested in the story, the characters, and the outcome. These factors (1-5) often turn me off, but a good writer can overcome them.
Thing is, I never would have found this book, much less bought and enjoyed it, if it wasn’t for the Kindle Unlimited program. I don’t have unlimited funds for book purchases, nor do I feel like lugging around library books. Ebooks are perfect for me and KU keeps me well supplied with new titles.
Although I strive to be serene and even-tempered, the truth is that my moods do swing wildly from blue (optimism) to black (pessimism). I don’t think this is some sort of chemical imbalance as much as a reaction to specific circumstances. Take today, for example. I’ve been really tired lately, even though I have managed to get a normal amount of sleep most nights. But yesterday I literally crashed at 8PM. I went to bed then and woke at 4AM with a raging migraine. IDK why. It could be anything from too much sleep to too little, from the weather to to caffeine. I know it can’t be alcohol because I haven’t had any in ages. Point is, I was in a really dark mood from this nauseating, throbbing pain. I decided I would take a sick day and cancel on my friends tonight.
But then I took sumatriptan and anti-nausea meds, plus put some magic Chinese green elixir on my neck and forehead. Idk what this magic elixir actually is, but it helps, even though (as my doctor points out regarding Icy Hot, which is very similar) it could simply be a way of agitating my nerve cells so I don’t notice the pain so much. It’s not a drug, so it doesn’t really DO anything, except it seems to alleviate some of the worst pain, that’s all I know. And by the time it began wearing off, the migraine med had kicked in. So I went from feeling really bummed out to being happy or at least feeling neutral and deciding I’d go to work after all and hang with my peeps tonight.
These mood swings happen with my hobbies. I was so into painting for a while and spent a bunch of money on art supplies. I painted every time I had a free day. But none of my work came out as good as that random rainbow tree I did at my daughter’s house. I guess that was pure luck. I hate everything else I’ve done and have thrown it all away. Every time I go to the art tutorial Facebook page I see all this FABULOUS stuff, with people going oh hi this is my very first attempt… what do you think? Idk if it’s BS or what, but these pieces are all SO GOOD. This has made me super discouraged and I haven’t painted for over a month. I don’t feel it’s irrational. It is the absolute truth that my painting isn’t good; it’s also true that you can’t improve without practicing. But I’m 60 and have no desire to spend decades practicing art. My idea was to have a few fun hours painting here and there and end up with projects I liked to look at. That hasn’t happened, even when I try to closely follow a tutorial. It’s like when I was 11 and spent a summer drawing doggies from a you-can-draw-doggies book. No, I can’t fucking draw dogs! ARGH!
As far as writing, I swing wildly between believing I write well and that I’m just awful. This isn’t a compliment-fish; there is nothing anyone can say to change my mind either way. It’s all about my mood. I recently reread Switching Positions and think it’s really funny. But then I read a couple of my more “serious” romance pieces and think they suck. I can’t seem to portray the intense visceral chemistry and unbreakable emotional attachment between my protags the way other romance writers can. Maybe because I’ve never experienced that in real life, lol. Actually, in Ghosted, I got close (though it’s more of a mystery than a romance) ~ I put a ton of work into Ghosted, and it’s OK, I guess, but then I read Jodi Picoult’s Vanishing Acts a few days ago and am like holy crap this is so excellent! I can never even dream of writing anything on that level. Now I don’t feel like finishing any more of my crap in progress. My OCD screams at me to finish, but I don’t always listen to my OCD. Maybe I’ve written enough and should just start watching TV like a normal person, even if my self–identity is kinda wrapped up in the writer label.
I feel like turning comments off for this post because I really DO NOT want any compliments about my writing. They’re just going to seem patronizing to me right now. I’d like to hear commiseration on mood swings though. Then I might not feel like such a weirdo. Do you one day decide you’re great at X thing and the next day believe you are terrible at X? Please elaborate. I really don’t enjoy the motion sickness of careening between blue and black. Jim’s prompt of sky today inspired this word vomit, so you can blame him. I immediately thought of this Jackson Browne song when I read his post, and no I’m not going to C&P a pile of Wikipedia text here when everyone is capable of looking up JB facts themselves if they are interested. I’m just writing about ME and, to me, this song is about the search for self, whatever that is, and while mine sometimes seems clearly defined, other times it’s as elusive as a whisper in the rain…
You’re the color of the sky Reflected in each store-front window pane You’re the whispering and the sighing Of my tires in the rain You’re the hidden cost and the thing that’s lost In everything I do Yeah and I’ll never stop looking for you
In the sunlight and the shadows And the faces on the avenue That’s the way love is That’s the way love is That’s the way love is Sky, sky blue and black
This is one of my early cell phone camera photos, taken with my Moto. I loved that phone because it was so easy to deal with. It had internet access, but I couldn’t do too much internet on it, or it would get overwhelmed and shut down. That was fine though. There was certainly enough time to stalk people and rabbit-hole down links from my laptop at home; I didn’t need to be doing that when I was out and about. But I can now with my Samsung Galaxy 5. Great.
The G5 also takes much better photos. Well, sort of. If I get everything right, then I end up with a perfect photo. But since I don’t understand 90% of the features, and can’t be bothered trying to figure them out because there are people to stalk, links to follow into rabbit holes, books to read, poems to write, socks to alphabetize, etc., I end up clicking away stupidly and getting pretty much the same variable quality photos as before on the Moto. Lots of blurry kitty faces half-turned away, basically.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m much happier with the Samsung now and wouldn’t go back. Once you have more technology you don’t want to settle for less. I have multiple ways to get in touch with my kids, for one thing. Actually, that’s the main thing.
But this pic is still a fave. I like the colors and the composition; it reminds me of the hectic pace here in SoCal. Most of us are not “laid-back” as people elsewhere think we are, lazing around on beaches, not working, chilled out. We are forever rushing somewhere, usually in our cars, and totes stressed. I used this pic as the cover photo for Gatsby’s Facebook page. Because of course I have a page for my cat.
[2021 Update: I now have an iPhone SE and have deleted my cat’s FB page. He got tired of those phony friend requests from Russian Blues.]
“Interesting,” he said, gazing at my sketch. “You chose to portray her as bereft, suggesting abandonment and grief.”
I shrugged. “It’s the feeling I got from her pose, is all.”
He lifted his coffee mug and his gold wedding band gleamed in the bright light. “No one else drew her this way. The white gauzy covers and drapes seem to suggest a happier mood. Perhaps you’re projecting yourself into the work.”
Stung by his implied criticism, I stared at my canvas, ignoring him. As he walked off to chat with other students, I glanced at the sketches to the right and left of me. He was correct. They’d both portrayed her as soft and dreamy, her face suffused with love and hope. Perhaps she’d spent the night with a new man and was imagining their future together.
I watched the teacher smile at a student, the pretty blonde who had recently joined our class. He even picked up her pencil and added a few touches to her work. He’d done that to mine too, in the beginning.
Things are getting back to “normal” in Orange County, California. This week we achieved the yellow tier in the Cootie War. I’ve never been a zealot in following directions, but I did take the mask-wearing and hand-washing seriously. I’ve also been fully vaccinated.
Normal, of course, means traffic everywhere and it’s been increasing. The pic is old, but the cars are back jamming up the roads same as before.
Anyway, I lost interest in wandering malls years ago, before the Cootie War, since it’s so much more convenient to shop online. But yesterday I had an appointment scheduled at the Apple store, so off I went. After finishing my biz there, I thought, hmm, why not look around?
I have to confess that it was entirely enjoyable! I didn’t buy anything, but it was great to see stuff in person. I looked at baby clothes for the grands, checking out fabrics and colors and prices. There was an art gallery I had completely forgotten about, and it made me so happy just to absorb all the beautiful vibes. There was also art from kids displayed throughout the mall. I checked out the cool items in an upscale home decorating store… not to buy, just to ogle. I thought about getting something from Starbucks… maybe next time.
But the main takeaway is that my mall walk was simply unstructured time, free of pressure and purpose. I didn’t need anything nor did I really want anything. I was just chilling. I let the sense perceptions swirl around my mind without the need to make a decision, to click something, to feel productive.
Everyone was masked and I felt perfectly safe. I don’t want to be afraid to interact with peeps. It’s great to feel like I’m part of society again instead of hiding away in my home. I liked chatting with the Apple guy, and it was fun to see families out and about.
I have two smiles for this week and they both involve painting! First, I painted a whole new picture with a tutoring video from Cinnamon Cooney (the Art Sherpa). She gave this one the easiest rating, but of course I found it very difficult. I could not get my sky as bright as hers, no matter what I did. Finally, I decided it was good enough and went on to paint the water, mountains, and trees. My mountains were fabulous… until I realized that I was supposed to have done them in dark purple, not black. Derp. Anyway, things were going really well until I tried to add deer. Cinnamon made it sound so easy… draw an oval, do the neck, head, tail, legs… presto! Well, um. Mine looked like a mutant dog. I tried the next one, which was “bunched up” in a circle, and it was even worse. I didn’t want to destroy the painting, since I’d sent my girls a pic of it half-done and they really liked it. So I dried it with a hair dryer and painted the lake again, eliminating the mutant deer. I call it Oh Deer.
(Btw, I see this morning I need to do touch-up work on the bottom of the mountains and the reflection in the water.)
When I was cleaning up the mess I made doing Oh Deer, I realized I had a bunch of leftover white paint splooched on my paper plate. I hated to throw it away, so I got out my older paintings to see if any of them needed to be fixed. Yes, well, almost all of them, lol. I found one I loved except for the amateur birds, so I blopped over them with Q-Tips full of white and turned them into clouds. (I don’t remember if this painting was from the Art Sherpa or not.) I got carried away, of course, and began dabbing in a bit of pink and orange at the undersides of the clouds. I’m really happy with how it turned out!
I previously titled this one Three Birds, so I could change that, or leave it alone. What do you think?
One of the things I’ve stopped doing in the past few years is wearing makeup. Not that I ever wore a ton of it… only foundation, eye liner, mascara, and lip gloss. I still have it all, but my Maybelline mascara is so old I should probably throw it away. The last time I wore eye makeup was Halloween 2019 and it really bothered me. I find that the longer I go not putting gunk on my eyes, the worse it feels when I try again ~ my eyes tear up and get so itchy. I realized then that there was no reason I needed to wear it. None. My face is my face and I’m okay with that. Even if I’m wearing a costume…
I’m not condemning anyone who enjoys makeup! It was fun back in the day to try different colors of eye shadow and lipstick. And I still like to use nail polish. I may even end up coloring my hair again… who knows?! Nope, I’m just specifically saying that eye makeup irritates my eyes now, and I am not inclined to spend a bunch of money finding fancy kinds that don’t because… who cares? I’d rather spend money on acrylic paint and create more masterpieces.
In fact, I may paint again this weekend. You have been warned!
Welcome to my April A-Z! This month I will be posting about James Bond 007 every day except Sunday, mostly focusing on the movies, not the books. Enjoy!
We’ve already discussed the fabulous Oddjob in my Goldfinger post, and of course I paid special tribute to Blofeld in his own post. Richard Kiel as Jaws gets his due later in this series as well. Lots of henchmen after 007! But only men? Nope. There are plenty of Bond henchwomen too. We mentioned Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love who was an older, unattractive henchwoman. But along with the beauties bedding Bond, there are also other gorgeous women who want to put a bullet in our hero. Okay, sometimes they’re up for both. Here are a couple of good ones…
Barbara Bach (pictured above with Roger Moore as Bond) stars as Anya Amasova in 1974’s The Spy Who Loved Me. We meet her as KGB agent Triple X after an exciting ski chase. Bond and Anya are ordered to work together against a baddie who is trying to trick both the British and the Russians into launching nukes at the USA. It’s a reluctant partnership, especially when Anya discovers that James killed her boyfriend during the ski chase. She tells Bond she plans to kill him in revenge after this mission. But before Anya accomplishes her goal, she falls in love with him. Of course!
Little trivia: Barbara (Gold)bach was born in NYC, to a Jewish dad and an Irish mom. She is married to Ringo Starr and thus is properly titled Lady Starkey. Ringo was knighted in 2018 in Buckingham Palace by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
Barbara Carrera stars as Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again (1983). Here, Sean Connery returns to his iconic role as 007, for the seventh and final time. (Note that this movie is actually based on Fleming’s Thunderball novel.) Bond observes Fatima as a sadistic nurse beating a man in a health clinic where Bond is supposed to get back into top 007 shape. Fatima works for Blofeld, who has Fatima install a fake eye in the man in the clinic, which matches the USA’s President’s eye, so Blofeld can get access to nukes (it’s complicated!). After access, Fatima kills the man by tossing a venomous snake in his car ~ when he crashes, her main concern is retrieving her pet. Cold-blooded!
Fatima beds Bond, and later has him tied up and at her mercy. Fortunately for our hero, Fatima’s ego gets the best of her and before she strikes, she unties Bond and insists that he declare in writing that she was the best sex he ever had. Naturally, Q has supplied Bond with a tricked-out pen…
Barbara earned a Golden Globe nom for her role as Fatima. She is also an accomplished artist, and in 1997 was appointed Ambassador-at-Large for Nicaragua, the country of her birth.
Tune in tomorrow for more A-Z Bond!
Information and images from Vox, Pinterest, and Wikipedia.