My Sweet New Hardware

I bought a new piece of bitchin’ hardware yesterday. It’s a Specialized Allez Elite, and it is stunning. White with black and red markings.

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This is the floor model. The bike shop, where I will be spending lots and lots of time, has to order it in my size (52), so it should be between my legs in a week. That’s what she said.

It is the second Specialized I’ve owned. My first was a Specialized Allez Pro, and it was a beauty too, though now it looks very old fashioned. I won (and didn’t win) several races on this bike.

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Obviously Specialized has earned some repeat business. They build very high-quality bikes, stiff and very responsive. I love them.

With this baby, I ordered the Shimano 105 pedals, a controversial choice for me. They’re not top of the line; they’re pitched as pedals for those starting to look for real performance. They’re a bit heavier than the pros would use, but you know, I’m okay with that. I need to get back in cycling shape, so I’m not as picky about having the BEST-BEST-BEST gear.

My plan, in fact, is to use this year to train and then start to compete locally in 2014. (My first race will be in December 2013; I’m using it to gauge my fitness and ability.)

To go with my pedals, I bought the Specialized BG Spirita Women’s Road Shoe, with the three bolt cleat. They’re black. They come in white, which seems to be the new craze these days, but I am so old skool I refuse to wear anything other than black shoes. But talk to me next year, I might change my mind.

I also got the Specialized Echelon helmet in red and white. I am usually not so matchy-matchy, but I guess the color scheme appealed to me.

I got a gloss white water cage (“rib cage”) and a Specialized wireless computer. I am so very ready. I am on tenterhooks now waiting for my baby to come in.

The previous bike was named Lucinda because she was spicy and prickly. This one is Magdalena, because she’s a bit more refined and European.

Life is sweet.

An Author Interview With Rookie Romance

I had a quick and fun interview with Rookie Romance Blog. Do check it out!

On Book Dedications

I love book dedications, the more cryptic the better. I like to imagine they are little messages sent into the universe, almost like a code, but crackable only by the person whose name is inscribed therein. They’re sidebars. Whispers. Asides. Postscripts. The dedication feels like the most informal sigh of the writer, the last thing she writes before the book goes to publication. They’re a personal message enclosed in the most public document in the world.

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Anne Rice once dedicated a book to herself, which I thought was a riot. Often, writers dedicate books to their significant others, which is compelling – a way to make a teensy bit of them immortal. Or at least the moment of emotion immortal.

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The books dedicated to agents and publishers, I understand. These midwives of creativity and business are invaluable. They can sometimes also become your friends, which makes the work relationship even more special.

Occasionally I’ve seen books dedicated to pets. That makes me roll my eyes. Or dedications like this, which are completely inexplicable because NOBODY EVER LOVES PARADES.

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I didn’t have a book dedication for At Any Cost, which I sort of regret now. So here’s my belated dedication:

To Paul.

The Print Cover of At Any Cost

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It’s Release Day For At Any Cost!

Oh happy day! Today my book is finally published! I’m so filled with author squee and happiness. I hope you love the book! If you do, I hope you might consider reviewing it on Goodreads.

Buy from Amazon, iBookstore, Kobo. You can also buy locally: Politics & Prose, my favourite D.C. bookstore, and my favourite Houston bookshop, Murder By The Book. More locations will be added later today.

I’m about halfway through with the second book, which is Omar and Leah’s story. It is already an intense and sexy book, with locations through Europe and of course my hometown of Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, enjoy the sexy suspense of AT ANY COST.

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Sylvia Plath’s Ariel – May 26, 2013 Royal Festival Hall

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The performance was introduced by Sylvia Plath’s daughter, Frieda Hughes. She looked so much like her mother I was caught off guard: wide eyes, that full, generous mouth. Slender and compact in her black dress.

Her voice is also very much like Sylvia’s, English and cool. She spoke confidently about how the Ariel poems had gone through so many edits and iterations, that this “restored” version could not possibly be considered final; it was a work in progress. She also made the point that this was just one snapshot in her mother’s life, that had she lived, she’d have continued to evolve. She strongly defended her father, saying that with “painstaking care”, he had nurtured Sylvia’s artistic legacy, protecting it for her and her brother, Nicholas. She spoke very passionately about her father’s love for Sylvia, and for herself and her brother, and she was able to say that her mother was caught up in a moment of “revenge” when she wrote Ariel.

Forty women poets and actors sat in a huge semi-circle with three podiums in front. Each reader, dressed in a palette of grey, black, and red, would read, then return to their seats, and the next three would arise. This format was excellent. It kept things moving, and it had the feel of a much more intimate gathering than it actually was.

The weakest poem for me was “Cut”, read by Amy McAllister. McAllister read directly off paper in monotone, and without any of the humor that Sylvia wrote the poem. It was quickly forgotten.

Juliet Stevenson’s reading of “Tulips” was very good. I also enjoyed Ariel, read by Amy Morgan. And there was a very special treat: Ruth Fainlight, looking tiny and using a cane to help her walk, read Elm, the poem Sylvia dedicated to her.

There were two highlights for me. The first was Berck-Plage read by the stunning Harriet Walter. She lifted the evening to a whole other level. She was simply magnificent. She is a fine actress – I’d always enjoyed her on screen, particularly in Sense & Sensibility – but in this performance, she showed us precisely what Sylvia was feeling, what she truly meant, as she wrote those words. Every emotion flickered across her pretty, unconventional face. The way she rasped the line, “This is what it means to be complete/ it is horrible”, left me rocked to the core. I was brought to tears.

The second heart-stopping moment happened when the lights dimmed and a photo of Sylvia appeared on the screen above the stage, and her words filled the room. I thought of Frieda in the front row, listening, experiencing this with us. She must have heard this a thousand times, but it is probably still dear to her. As for the audience, we were left stupefied when the lights came back up and the readings resumed.

The Arrival Of The Bee Box, read by Miranda Richardson, actually provoked a small laugh from me. Her line “I have simply ordered a box of maniacs” was funny, perfectly intoned. Stings, read by Siobhan Redmond, was very good.

The last poem, Wintering, read by Deborah Findlay, really brought to light the metamorphosis that Sylvia intended. In fact, the whole collection, read aloud by professional actors and poets, actually made sense to me in a way it never had before, despite my well-documented obsessive research. After Daddy, you get the sense that she’s truly through (“daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.”) Now I return to what Frieda emphasized at the introduction. She said the collection was not final, with all questions answered. After the performance, hearing the flow of the poems, I think she’s right. Because in the restored edition, “You’re” and “Fever 103” happen AFTER Daddy. Somehow I had never seen how utterly final “Daddy” is; directly after that poem, You’re and Fever 103 happen, and then she shifts to the bee poems. I can’t help but think those two poems were meant to be directly before Daddy in the final manuscript. Because once Daddy happens, that IS settled. Once Daddy happens, the world is finally neutral again, calm, peaceful. She can “taste the spring”.

The performers took three well-earned bows at the end of the show. I applauded until my hands went numb.

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A Day In London, Part One

We had a plan to take the train into London, take in some museums, then head to the London Literary Festival’s presentation of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. Forty women – well known actresses – would stand at a podium and read one of Plath’s breathtaking Ariel poems in the order she herself had originally planned.

As soon as we arrived on the train, the fun began. There was some kind of rugby match or something happening and the city was teeming with these guys:

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Weirdly though, the tunnels out of Waterloo Station were empty.

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As we came out, there was a lecherous eye staring at me.

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As soon as we were on Waterloo Bridge, I knew something was very different from every other time I’ve been in London, which has been pretty frequently. It was very quiet. Lazy. London wasn’t bustling. It was a bright sunny day, absolutely gorgeous, and London, for once, was taking it easy.

This building, visible from Waterloo Bridge where this was taken, usually has some giant slogan on top of it; it’s the art centre where later we’d be seeing Sylvia. In the past it’s said, “Fight The Boredom!” Today it was this:

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The Thames at low tide:

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We had breakfast then moved on to The Courtauld Gallery, which is housed in Somerset House. There was a Picasso exhibition, and we both really enjoyed that. I’m starting to trust my impressions a bit more; in one case I looked at a painting and said, “that has to be influenced by Van Gogh” and sure enough the placard said he had been admiring Van Gogh’s work and had imitated his style for several of the portraits.

We walked out to the courtyard. It was nice to see people lingering and enjoying the sunshine:

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We then made our way to Covent Garden, by accident more than design, and we found a nice pub to sit and have a drink.

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After a pint, we decided to head toward Trafalgar Square. I passed this sign as we were walking:

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We both wanted to nip into the National Portrait Gallery, right behind Trafalgar Square. It is one of my favourite destinations, and in this instance I was keen to see the famous portrait of Anne Boleyn. (These two aren’t mine as photos are not allowed in the gallery):

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And this portrait of Charles Darwin was new to me but WOW!

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We then walked through Trafalgar Square to get to the National Gallery. The square was alive with people enjoying the good weather. I snapped this statue of George Washington, who stands on one square foot of American soil right in the centre of London:

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We had lunch at a nice Italian place, then wandered out again with the idea that we should find another pub.

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We didn’t like this pub very much, so we found another one. Then we decided to mosey over to the Southbank. We crossed Hungerford Bridge and saw some beautiful scenes:

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We had a nice snacky dinner, browsed some bookstores, then finally it was time to wander to the venue to see Sylvia.

To Be Continued…

A Day In Marlborough

The drive to Marlborough, in the sweet green county of Wiltshire, is as lovely as you can possibly imagine. It is very hilly and there are open swaths of velvety green slashed through with oilseed rape, which is bright neon yellow right now.

Upon arriving in town, I was met with a beautiful old high street lined with cute shops, and in the middle was an open-air market. This is just a picture at the end of a nice path:

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We found a used bookstore, and I found a miracle: an edition of Destiny by Sally Beauman that I had been looking for for YEARS. It felt like fate as soon as I had it in my hands. It is in very good shape and I just love it so much:

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We saw a church that has been around since..oh, the 1300s?

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Inside the church was a little craft store, and I ended up buying a necklace:

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And this little dude who just called to me. I am not sure where he’s going to end up, but for now he’s in a window sill, looking quite proud of his sheepness.

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At last we popped into Waitrose and grabbed some groceries, and I actually snapped a pic of that too:

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Yes there are several bottles of apple cider, fresh from Suffolk.

Finally we got home to discover my new sneaks had arrived. Oh I am in love. Madly, passionately in love.

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Book Review: Vow by Wendy Plump

15793553This is a very difficult book for me to rate. On pure writing, it’s five stars or more; the lady can WRITE. Her prose is drop-dead gorgeous. The problem I had was that her pretty words didn’t overcome my frustration and disgust with the author and her husband. She comes across as very honest – she lays her sins out for all to see which is very admirable – but if she had been a character in a novel, I’d have HATED her. She’s oblivious. She’s a liar, a schemer, a cheater. I had no sympathy for her at all. The longer I read, the more frustrated I became with her awfulness. I don’t know why she even married her husband, who at the best of times she didn’t seem to like very much. They didn’t seem to be in love even at the beginning of their courtship. And when she was cheating on him, she came across as a selfish wench and he was blind to her indiscretions which made me think he was an idiot since she was very flagrant about her extramarital activity.

After three affairs, all of which she would claim were based on love, she discovers her husband has a mistress and an eight month old baby. They live a mile away from her. My empathy peaked for her when she was discussing the other woman and her child. No matter what she has done, it has to be brutal to discover your partner has a child with a person outside the marriage. But even then, she said she wanted to keep her husband, and I just felt so exasperated. WHY? He wasn’t a good husband and she wasn’t a good wife. It seemed to me a vacant union for years. Why hold on to this person who has hurt you so badly?

These questions are answered with her rather confounding and blasé pronouncement that she took her vows, she really only meant the “till death do us part” one. “Forsaking all others” was a dare.

Wendy Plump is a master at words, and I will read anything else she produces. That said, I stopped reading Vow at 74% because I didn’t like her, her husband, or her marriage which was marbled with lies and deceit. It made my skin crawl. It is so hard to respect someone who cheats, and I guess I, like her husband, just could not trust her. I couldn’t trust her to get me through the book feeling like her infidelity mattered, and was made beautiful.

I will try anything else she produces, but this one was just too… ugly.

Pre-Ordered Book Stack

I’ve pre-ordered a stack of books that look so yummy:

15808795 Carolina Girl by Virginia Kantra. I became a fan of Virginia Kantra with her Sea Witch series. Those were deeply emotional, just amazing books. I haven’t read the first in her Dare Island series, but I assume thee contemporaries have the same lush quality as the Sea Witch series.

 

 

 

13642953 A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant. I’ve bought all of Cecilia Grant’s books though I’ve not had a chance to read any of them yet. I feel strongly that I will like these books (once I sit down and read them) because Jane and Dabney at Dear Author have raved about them and my taste is similar to Dabney’s.

 

 

 

16131454The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Heymore. This one just sounded like a good story and it had pretty good reviews, so I’ll give it a whirl.

 

 

 

 

16065734An English Bride in Scotland by Lynsay Sands I’ll just quote from the blurb: Annabel was about to take the veil to become a nun when her mother suddenly arrives at the Abbey to take her home… so that she can marry the Scottish laird who is betrothed to her runaway sister! So yes, I had to get it.

 

 

 

17171425To Capture A Rake by Lori Brighton. This involves a gigolo as the hero, a premise that makes me a bit apprehensive. I enjoyed Escorted by Claire Kent though, so I might be able to enjoy this one too. It’s a challenge, but I’m up for it.

 

 

 

17338876The Perks of Being A Beauty by Manda Collins. A snappy title and beautiful cover made me give this one a go.

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