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Muse du Jour



My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can fi



Last Build Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 20:29:09 +0000

 



THE MARTIAN....A Book Review

Thu, 04 Dec 2014 20:53:00 +0000

“I think there was a sense after dad’s (Scott Carpenter, Aurora 7, 1962) flight that we had the wrong type of astronaut going up into space, so it was a coup. They (Chris Kraft and Deke Slayton) built it (the flight program) in accordance with their (own) vision, which had more to do with machines than exploration, and in time, of course, they lost the hearts and minds of the American people.”      Kris Stoever (nee Carpenter), Moon Dust, by Andrew Smith, Bloomsbury, UK 2005THE MARTIANby  Andy WeirCROWN, Random House; Hardcover; $24.00 US;ISBN 978-0-8041-3902-1;  369 pages; 2014; Originally self-published, in different form, as an ebook in 2011.Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge,December 2014There’s been a lot said since the end of the Apollo space program that NASA made going to the Moon about as exciting as taking a bus ride to Cleveland, or some such. That so much of the scary side of going into space, the mishaps, the politics, the almost-catastrophic incidents, near misses, personal conflicts and larger-than-life personalities, sometimes flawed, of the astronauts, etcetera were covered up and hidden behind a unified glossy NASA facade of carefully staged strength and heroic demeanour, and aspiring to a perfect flight record. And in spite of that drive for dedication, concentration, and the need for a strictly structured environment, the loss of the outwardly ‘human’ side of the astronauts left the space program appearing somewhat inflexible and humourless, and not something that the public could readily identify with or cosy up to. Or at least for several decades, it did. However, the latest breed of astronauts flying to and from the International Space Station (ISS), seem marginally more relaxed and have a wary sense of fun. One such example is Colonel Chris Hadfield, who played and sung David Bowie’s “Major Tom” on his guitar during his shift on the ISS to a rapt audience back on Earth. He was instantly personable and visual...someone the public could connect with, relate to. It was this persona and attitude that stuck in the back of my mind when I read Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN. Numerous films have dealt with the stranding of a human on Mars (or other worlds) over the past 60-70 years, beginning perhaps with the obvious ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, bypassing the 1980s campy TOTAL RECALL, including the ambitious millennial duplicity of MISSION TO MARS and RED PLANET, and more recently, portions of the excellent INTERSTELLAR, but none of them quite capture the personal nature or the deepest level of survival that THE MARTIAN does in its bold directness and deceptive simplicity. The vivacity of this book and its protagonist rivals even the best of the comparative Mars stories written in the last century. THE MARTIAN begins with a freak dust storm that tests the strengths of the Ares 3 mission on Mars six days into its thirty day planet-bound operation and nearly wrecks the launch vehicle. Calling an abort, the Commander herds her six person crew toward their only means of escaping the red planet, the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) and via it to the orbiting mother-ship, Hermes. In the wildly gusting wind and dust, one crew member is skewered by a flying communications antenna and blown away with it. His biomedical readout abruptly flatlines. Commander Lewis searches and searches for his body but ultimately must surrender the bitter loss in favour of saving the rest of her crew. The MAV, barely standing by this stage, launches successfully and reaches Hermes in good time. Unable to go back, NASA orders the ship and crew home. Back on Mars, amid the silence of the clearing dust and winds, astronaut Mark Watney doesn’t wake up dead. But that’s when his troubles really begin. The self-confessed least important member of the crew, Watney is an engineer with a passion for botany. The first guarantees he can fix almost anything technical that goes wrong, but the second is considered a bit useless on a world that doesn’t have much heat, no air, and less [...]




Fri, 14 Nov 2014 22:09:00 +0000

STATION ELEVEN...A Book ReviewSTATION ELEVEN:A NOVELBy Emily St. John Mandel 2014; Alfred A. Knopf; Hardcover  ISBN: 978-0-385-35330-4333 Pages; USD $24.95A Book Review by Marianne Plumridge - November 2014  On a snowy winter night in Toronto, a well-loved and celebrated actor dies onstage during his quintessential performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear. A child actress who was close to the actor, witnesses his death while a member of the audience leaps onto the stage to try and save him. As a little-noticed backdrop to this drama, a much greater tragedy begins to unfurl its tendrils all around the world. This single death becomes a catalyst for a number of people, radiating outward in a tangled cause and effect of connectivity. Still touching them decades on into the future, past the ravening clutches of the Georgia Flu which came out of the nether reaches of Russia to kill each of its victims within a few short hours of contact, and into the remnant pockets of civilization that are left. Jeevan Chaudhary was the man, an EMT, who leapt onto the stage to save a life in vain. During that time, Arthur Leander, actor, died, and Jeevan’s girlfriend callously abandoned him and went home. Jeevan subsequently wanders the snowy, freezing night trying to collect himself in the aftermath…and receives the first of a series of devastating phone calls from a friend who is an emergency room doctor. The friend, who is known to be unflappable in the face dire odds, is panicking over this new bug called the Georgia Flu. The infected are insurmountable and the deaths are piling up. In the last phone call, Jeevan hears his friend coughing and an eerie sense of defeat. An impulsive shopping spree at a late night market lands Jeevan, along with seven trolley loads of food, water and essentials at his invalid brother’s apartment ready to settle in for the duration. He was one of the lucky ones. Kirsten, the little girl actress from the play, never sees her parents again and she is handed over to the care her older brother while the city begins to panic. Amidst a nightmare of the dying, they eventually walk out of a dead city.A plane carrying several family and friends to Arthur Leander’s funeral in Toronto is diverted to the Severn Airport and never leaves it again. The dividing line between ‘before’ and ‘after’ in this story is drawn by a vignette called ‘An Incomplete List’.  It is a litany of perceptions rather than a complete and literal notation of every little thing the human race currently takes for granted…all that is lost to them in their post apocalyptic future. It is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Present time begins again twenty years in the future with the travels of the nomadic Traveling Symphony. The rustic group brings performances of music – “classical, jazz, and orchestral renditions of pre-collapse pop songs”, and Shakespeare’s plays to the isolated towns and encampments in a circuitous annual pilgrimage like the troubadours of centuries past. It is here that the beauty of the author’s world-building really begins. Little Kirsten is now a lead actress in the plays the Symphony performs, and it is through her eyes the reader witnesses the state of survival and the remnant population at large, including loves, losses, discoveries, danger and death along the way. The Symphony returns to an ad hoc town called St Deborah by the Water after a two year absence to pick up two of their company that they were forced to leave behind. The town is mysteriously not the same and the two lost players and their newborn child have disappeared. A religious Prophet of enormous charisma and dangerous deception has taken over the town and sees it as his property, along with any woman or girl that catches his eye. The Symphony flees the town, but not without dire repercussions. Apparently, the Prophet digs graves for those who desert him, escaping the town and his absolute authority. Any who dare to return, do not survive t[...]



IF DINOSAURS LIVED IN MY TOWN....Our New Book

Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:55:00 +0000

I have been remiss in posting about this, but last year my first ever children's picture book was published. I wrote it, my husband, Bob Eggleton painted all of the dinosaurs, and Cortney Skinner digitally inserted those images into meticulously researched photographic backgrounds. All of this was done in 2007 via Hollan Publishing and we were thoroughly happy with all that we had accomplished with this project. Unfortunately, the original publisher that the book was destined to be published by changed editorial management and a whole lot of books were dropped from their schedule, including ours. For a long time our book was kept on offer in case another publisher wanted to pick it up and publish it and we all kept our fingers crossed. Well, that finally happened last year and the final product was truly worth the wait.... "...Imagine a town where dinosaurs never went extinct. What would you do? Would you frantically run away and hide under your bed? Or, would you have a hamburger-eating contest with a Tyrannosaurus rex; go fishing with a Rhamphorhynchus; or travel through space with a Coelophysis? The possibilities are endless!Can you guess which dinosaur would be a crossing guard, a babysitter, or a circus star? Presenting enjoyable, quirky scenarios led by lovable but gigantic creatures, readers of all ages will surely be whisked away to a world where a Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, and Leaellynasaura are merely your friendly neighbors. Marianne Plumridge includes insightful facts about your favorite dinos, which complement Bob Eggleton's vivid and imaginative illustrations to create a thrilling experience for kids and parents to enjoy. Prepare to enter a world ruled by dinosaurs and humans alike!"Grade Level: Preschool - 3Hardcover: 56 pagesPublisher: Sky Pony Press; 1 edition (November 6, 2013)Language: EnglishISBN-10: 1626361762ISBN-13: 978-1626361768 Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 10 x 0.5 inches Our first review was from Publisher's Weekly.... http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-62636-176-8We got a nice mention on this list of dinosaur books for young readers, and sharing space with the ever talented Jane Yolen... http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865597899/Young-readers-really-dig-dinosaur-books.html?pg=allAnother lovely review.... http://www.ctparent.com/bookshelf/14-01-bookshelf.htm This is a really cute video review of our book, passed along by our publisher.... This is Liam and he is a self-professed dinosaur expert. http://www.flickr.com/photos/brilliant_one/11875525686/ One of the places where people can buy the book online.... AND read the nice reviews a few people have left us... http://www.amazon.com/If-Dinosaurs-Lived-My-Town/dp/1626361762/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396207796&sr=1-1&keywords=if+dinosaurs+lived+in+my+town  And if you want to keep up with what's happening with our book, news, reviews and soon-to-be-added downloadable worksheets and coloring-in pages for parents, teachers and librarians, please visit the IF DINOSAURS LIVED IN MY TOWN Facebook page...https://www.facebook.com/IfDinosaursLivedinMyTownI hope you enjoy our book as much as we enjoyed creating it. Please feel free to leave anecdotes or comments about our book here or on our Facebook page, or just talk to us about it.Thanks again for stopping by,Cheers,Marianne[...]



If You Lived Here: The Top 30 All Time Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds....nominate now!!

Mon, 18 Jul 2011 16:21:00 +0000

The project, authored and edited by Jeff VanderMeer, is called If You Lived Here: The Top 30 All Time Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds. It's a compendium, of sorts, but also a travel guide to places like Dune, Ring World, Middle Earth, Lankhmar . . . and beyond . . . We've all lived in these places--in imagination if not in fact--and we're all united by our common experiences of them. We wanted to collect the worlds together in one place as both a walk down memory lane and a place to start new dreams. Underland Press is reaching out to readers, writers, and booksellers to ask for nominations of worlds to include. They've set up a web form at www.ifyoulivedherebook.com, which takes the nominations and asks respondents to describe what they love about the world. (If things go according to plan, they'll include some of the responses in the book itself.) They're looking for as much community involvement as possible in this project. I've already nominated the three old favourites that I've been reading for decades and still make me feel warm and fuzzy. Many of you will like more recent offerings I haven't even caught up with yet. It will all be welcome. I'm looking forward to reading the book that comes of this survey, to revisit familiar settings and see if I get inspired by newer ones described therein.To visit the Underland Press website: www.underlandpress.com/Jeff VanderMeer:  www.jeffvandermeer.com/ Cheers,Marianne[...]



LITTLE FUZZY/FUZZY NATION…A Comparative Review

Wed, 11 May 2011 04:04:00 +0000

Little Fuzzy...and...Fuzzy NationBE WARNED - SPOILERS BELOW!!   LITTLE FUZZY By H. Beam Piper©1962FUZZY NATIONBy John Scalzi © 2011TOR Books; Hardcover; ISBN: 978-0-7653-2854-0;301 Pages; USD $24.99 A book review and comparison by Marianne PlumridgeOne thing about the works of H.Beam Piper, they have never been long neglected in print, especially the beloved LITTLE FUZZY books. Since the first book, LITTLE FUZZY, was published in 1962, it and its sequels have been resurrected, repackaged, and reprinted each decade for a new audience. However it was only a matter of time before another author decided to add his ideas to the pantheon in the new millennium. Ardath Mayhar had already done so with GOLDEN DREAM in 1983, so it wasn’t a great stretch when author John Scalzi decided to write his FUZZY NATION. The difference lies in the fact that FUZZY NATION isn’t so much an addition to the works of Piper, but a whole ‘re-imagining’ of the first Fuzzy book to bring it up to date nearly four decades after the first one was published. I have reacquainted myself with H.Beam Piper’s LITTLE FUZZY books every few years or so because they are unapologetically a nostalgic, endearing, as well as a decidedly funny return to the golden age of science fiction. Sure, the technology is a little outmoded due to progress in recent decades, some of the characters perhaps a mite quaint, the slang largely outdated, and the lifestyle and mannerisms firmly fixed in the 1950/60s along with the once popular but now antiquated ‘cocktail hour’, but the story still holds its charm. Humans have expanded to other worlds to explore and mine and have rarely encountered sentient life. The appearance of a family of diminutive golden haired ‘animals’ that prove more human than some of the humans they meet up with throw a huge spanner in the main Corporate works. Are they sentient or not? A deadly struggle of proof ensues until a Colonial Court settles the matter once and for all. Above it all, in Piper’s book, the Fuzzies are front and center and have distinct personalities – completely coming alive as an innocent, childlike species within the story. They share the lead with the main human protagonist, Jack Holloway because the story is about both humans and Fuzzies and one of the warmest, funniest, first contact stories in the annals of science fiction. Even after all of these years, the arguments on sapience, the subplots and inter-character relationships are still strong and based on a solid plot. LITTLE FUZZY remains a captivating story. In John Scalzi’s FUZZY NATION, the fundamentals are the same, but there is a narrower cast of characters and focus, where the Fuzzies almost appear to take second place to the human action. The character of Jack Holloway is very much the protagonist of this book as well as the ‘devil’s advocate’. He doesn’t believe that the Fuzzies are sentient: somewhat contrary to Piper’s Holloway. It does make for a more layered character though, that a modern audience will appreciate. Some may miss the extensive layered, engaging antics that Piper’s Fuzzies got up to, and their learning process as the plot of his book progresses. The Fuzzies ‘presence’ in FUZZY NATION isn’t quite the same and personally feels a bit lacking in ‘character presence’. In LITTLE FUZZY there are eighteen Fuzzies creating mayhem by the time the reader reaches the climax, in FUZZY NATION there is a constant of only five majorly interactive Fuzzies for most of the story. In LITTLE FUZZY, the Fuzzies are constantly learning and using what they learn: this creates the bonds between them and the humans that study them – or in some humans who have other agendas, an antithesis and antagonism. In FUZZY NATION, the Fuzzies who arrive at John Holloway’s treetop camp already have a secret that isn’t revealed until much later. Two of the major revelations, including the Fuzzies’ secret are re[...]



A Woman of Mars: The Poems of an Early Homesteader...A Book Review

Fri, 06 May 2011 19:36:00 +0000

A WOMAN OF MARS:                          The Poems of an Early Homesteaderby  Helen PatriceStanza Press/PS Publishing Grosvenor House, 1 New Road, Hornsea HU18 1 PG, England; Hardcover;ISBN: 978-1-848631-32-8;  f14.00 GBP; 36 pages; 2011Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – May 2011I had the good fortune to read “A Woman of Mars” in manuscript form two years ago. And upon rereading it now as a fully fledged anthology, I am still as riveted by the words and their vision as I was then. The author has written about a young woman who dreamed of the stars in childhood, only to step forward and volunteer as a colonist for the first push outwards to Mars. Never antiseptic, but with a bare minimum of prose, Ms Patrice vivifies the psychological pressures, the physical demands, and the emotional responses of her protagonist and the tiny colony as a whole. Risk, regret, hope, and more are washed with the very gritty red sands of Mars in this stark, but not bleak, telling. A first reading of this cycle of poems will leave the reader gripped by the story unfolding and the stories not told but sensed in between. Arrival, settlement, birth, death, psychosis, loss, living, existing, new myth and mysteries, survival, starvation, and testament to humanity all flow within these poems as humankind try to carve out a life for themselves and others on an unutterably alien world…where the word for green might almost be forgotten...When Ray Bradbury read “A Woman of Mars: The Poems of an Early Homesteader” in manuscript form, he stated:“Helen Patrice’s poems are little love letters not only to the Red Planet but also to the sense of alien wonder that is so often missing from imaginative fiction and poetry. Bravo to her! And bravo to Stanza Press for providing a platform for her work!”A Woman of Mars is a slim volume of 34 poems told in chronological order about the first colony on Mars. The covers are Mars red augmented with drawings by Bob Eggleton. Upon opening the front cover, is found a gem of a watercolour painting acting as ‘Red Mars’ end papers. Inside the back cover is another, different painting depicting ‘Green Mars’ after the beginning of terra-forming. Eggleton’s drawing is nicely reused throughout as page edging and spot illustrations. If I had one thing to contribute to a pioneer settlement reaching out for Mars, it would be this book. For each and every new venture has to have had an initial dream or vision to build upon to reach its goal. A Woman of Mars would be a very favourable start…Marianne PlumridgePS: Okay, there's a bit of nepotism here...my husband, Bob Eggleton, did the illustrations. :-D [...]



"Hard Magic"....a Book Review

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 22:06:00 +0000

HARD MAGIC  Book 1: Paranormal Scene InvestigationsBy Laura Anne GilmanMay 2010; Luna Books (www.luna-books.com). Trade Paperback (ISBN: 13:978-0-373-80313-2); 329 pages;  Price $14.95Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – January 2011Bonita Torres is a magic user, a Talent, born to an itinerant Lonejack father and brought up and mentored by a member of the Council. She is both and neither. One of Bonnie’s feet is still in the world of lone wolf magic users and their sense of wild justice, while the other is firmly within the community of ‘Council’ with all of their ambiguous elite rules and mores. It’s very easy to feel like an outsider. However, three months out from college graduation with a good resume and a bag full of mixed talent and some unusual experiences using such, isn’t getting her anywhere. J, her Mentor, had been paying for her studies and upkeep since she was 8 years old, but Bonnie is itching to prove herself, stand on her own two feet, and find her own life. Unfortunately, of all the resumes and interviews she’d sent out or been on, nobody else seemed to know what to do with her either. Frustrated, panicky and feeling out of sorts in the Big Apple, Bonnie receives a voicemail message that sounds…interesting. It wasn’t anyone she’d contacted about a job…but they firmly indicated that she should come for the interview anyway. Trying to scrye for some information about the forthcoming encounter leaves her with a pounding heart and shattered crystal all over her hotel bed, the loud ‘No Cheating’ rebuke still ringing in her skull. Four disparate personalities await Bonnie at THE interview and she’s somewhat disappointed to find competition in the offing. But nothing is what it appears at first glance and neither are the Talented rivals. Pietr, a decorative young man who smells like trouble and can fade out at will; Sharon, an elegant, blond paralegal who can detect even the whiff of a lie and becomes the on the spot paramedic when needed; Nick “Nifty” Lawrence, a gifted footballer who would prefer to use his brains and Talent rather than brawn; and the other Nick, the one whose demeanor screams ‘nerd’ who has his own strange gift of ‘hacking’. All have personality issues and attitudes, all are far deeper and more complicated than their surface facades suggest. Working together is not going to be easy. The interviewer is dead…and that is the first test. The five twenty-something kids are hired en masse as a unit for something called P.U.P.I – Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations. A team of Talents using magic in a Forensic CSI fashion to collect evidence from death/crime scenes to determine if a crime was committed and if Talent was involved. There has never been anything like it in the recorded history of all mage talented communities, but it is direly needed in spite of denial and sometimes violent opposition. The Talented are dying in mysterious ways that look like suicides or accidents but leave a major question mark that no one – Null or Talent – can answer. Enter P.U.P.I – five fractious “puppies” with secrets and skills of their own, hired, shaped, and lead by two “Guys”: heavyweight Talents, Benjamin Venec and Ian Stoller who are also referred to as ‘the big dogs’ by their protégés. They are not enforcers of any kind, but the creed is to be true to the evidence found and present it to clients and Council alike to be dealt with. What follows for Bonnie, Nick, Nifty, Sharon, and Pietr is a strenuous rollercoaster ride of bootcamp magic learning and stretching that encompasses explosions, implosions, finicky electrical reactions, and blowups strangely reminiscent of ‘Mythbusters’ experimentalism, being shot at, a sibling tantrum of epic proportions, and a professional killer for hire who is as silent and slippery as silk. None of them will e[...]



Murphy's Lore: Tales From Bulfinches Pub....A Book Review

Fri, 15 Oct 2010 00:50:00 +0000

“MURPHY’S LORE: TALES FROM BULFINCHE’S PUB”by  Patrick ThomasPadwolf Publishing; Trade paperback; ISBN: 1-890096-07-5;  $14.00 US293 pages; 2000Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – February 2005First Published by www.infinityplus.co.uk - 2005If ever you’re in Manhattan and see a rainbow, follow it to its end. There you will find a place called Bulfinche’s Pub and a sympathetic ear to hear your story – sometimes several. This might not sound so unusual or impressive, until you find out who the owner and employees of the premises really are, let alone the regular clientele. Then the magic begins…The Murphy of the title is, initially, a lost soul himself who, in the very first story, finds his way to Bulfinche’s by way of a rainbow. Murphy has lost his soul-mate wife to cancer and his will to go on. At Bulfinche’s, he discovers that it is the magical place that his wife found during her last months on the mortal coil, that she could relax and paint and draw in while Murphy was at work. In the end, Murphy stumbles through the same pub door and finds the same thing his love did: a respite, hope, friends, and finally home. Owner and client alike stand in awe when they realize that Murphy’s wife’s last painting was of the very bar and occupants itself: entitled, Rainbow’s End. The painting stands now over the bar.The subsequent stories in this anthology regale the reader about the Owner and patrons of Bulfinche’s and are narrated by Murphy. However, don’t ever think to presume that you know what’s coming next. The stories are funny, underwritten by a sly sense of humour that could be loosely termed ‘hard-boiled comicalness’ that’s definitely got a New York edge to it. And it’s very entertaining. Underpinning the humor is an intrinsically subtle, but solid psychiatric base. With that combination, I can only say that there are some really interesting twists in these stories. But don’t ever make the mistake that they are simple. These tales linger in the mind for ages after you’ve read them.Urban fantasy doesn’t really appeal to me as a reader generally, and I began this book with just a little trepidation. There are no fairies – wicked or otherwise – tricking we bumbling humans around New York; no fantasitical warlords that bespeak Manga influences trying to invade the city; or dragons trying to pass as human and seeing us as fodder. No, the employees and patrons of Bulfinche’s Pub have a solid grounding in the multiplicity of history, religion and myth of the human race, but are bound by rules and sometimes curses. The rules and curses are suspended in Bulfinches however, except for the standing rule of ‘no powers to be used’ inside the pub, imposed by the premises’ immortal owner, Paddy Moran. Paddy is a Leprechaun, and only stands out because of his height – or lack of it. His employees include, besides Murphy behind the bar, Dionysus as head brewer and bartender, Hercules mans, or ‘gods’ the door as bouncer, while Demeter runs the kitchen. Other personnel change from time to time. Paddy bought the pub and the building that houses it one hundred years ago with his pot of gold, but he is still required to help people that need it. Therefore whenever a rainbow beacon leads a troubled soul to the door of Bulfinche’s, he, she or it will always find surcease and help.The best thing about these stories is that they address social issues right along side the whimsical ones. Humankind has always invented Gods, demons, angels of various religions callings, and other spiritual beings over the eons, so it isn’t too surprising to find them a lot like us, with woes like ours, just with a lot more personal power and sometimes even less responsibility.So come on down to Bulfinche’s Pub. The first drink is on the house…I really enjoyed this book. Now I have to wait for the ne[...]



Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World... A Book Review

Sun, 03 Oct 2010 15:38:00 +0000

DEWEY: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the WorldBy Vicki Myron, with Bret WitterGrand Central Publishing; Hardcover, ISBN-10  0-446-40741-0;  $19.99 US277 pages.Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – October 2008I like reading biographies now and then. I also like reading animal biographies once in a blue moon. Blame ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’ from when I was a kid. I was reading comments on a mystery writers’ blog when one commenter quipped an aside that caught my attention. She said: “Hey, I just read an advance copy of DEWEY - about the famous library cat. It’s the new MARLEY AND ME.” Or words to that effect. ‘Library’ and ‘Cat’ stood out, so I looked it up. So I’m a sucker for things that happen in libraries…Anyway, I obtained a copy of the book when it came out this week and read it the same day. The headache following that was well worth it.Back in Spencer, Iowa, on 18 January 1988, the temperature had dropped to below 15 degrees. The wind made it seem much, much colder. When Public Librarian, Vicki Myron arrived at work that morning, she and a co-worker found something strange in the overnight drop box: a tiny bundle of near frozen fur containing a huge pair of hopeless eyes. Vicki and Jean rescued the poor little kitten and strived to warm it up, since it was too early to call the vet. A warm bath in the sink revealed that the little fellow was actually orange, not grey, and turned out to be a very young long-haired orange tabby cat. On his first hobble (his toes were a bit frostbitten) around the table to introduce himself to the rest of the library staff, the boy kitten melted the hearts of all he met. They called him Dewey and hoped that the Library could keep him.That was the tricky bit - gaining acceptance of the Library Board of Directors as well as the Mayor, and the majority of the patrons. Things like allergies, asthma, and complaints had to be addressed, since the library was a public place. Vicki did her homework and got medical opinions about all of the health concerns. It turned out that the Spencer Public Library was perfectly built to house both Dewey and the allergy/asthma ridden visitors, so most people were assured. One woman though, whom the library staff never did meet all of the long years that Dewey lived there, wrote a letter of complaint that was pure “…fire and brimstone, full of images of children keeling over from sudden asthma attacks and pregnant mothers spontaneously miscarrying when exposed to kitty litter. According to the letter, I was a murderous madwoman who was not only threatening the health of every innocent child in town, born or unborn, but also destroying the very fabric of the community…” Sad, really. Dewey himself was perfectly behaved. From kitten-hood onward, he was a calm, friendly people-loving, social cat who wove himself into the fabric of the Spencer community during both good times and bad. And there were bad times and crises. Despite personal problems of her own, Vicki Myron strived to make the Public Library a place for enjoyment as well as help to the many people who needed it. Economic downturn, loss of employment, bankruptcies, etcetera, all took their toll on the rural populace. Vicki created the Job Bank at the Library: a section that contained all the job listings, books on job skills, job descriptions, and technical training, a computer to create resumes and letters, and a caring staff to help them use it all. Dewey’s arrival seemed to help too, although “…Dewey didn’t put food on anyone’s table. He didn’t create jobs. He didn’t turn our economy around. But one of the worst things about bad times is the effect on you mind. Bad times drain you of energy. They occupy your thoughts. They taint everything in your life. Bad news is as poisonous as bad bread. At the very least[...]



Eulogy For a Dream...

Wed, 15 Jul 2009 14:17:00 +0000

(c) Marianne Plumridge, 1 February 2003I am a child of the 1960s. Born into that turbulent decade which oversaw so many changes in the world. War, peace, civic awareness, the awakening of racial issues, the cold war, burgeoning freedoms on many levels, and personal freedoms formerly restrained by the overworked images of the previous decade: the American Dream; the perfect society; the unquestioning roles formed for us by government and church. Into all this turmoil though, came an idea whose seed was planted in the closing years of World War II: spaceflight. It started out as a whisper, and became a dream. The ‘what if we could put a man in space?’ became ‘what if we could put a man on the moon?’ Despite the personal troubles of the ‘everyman/woman’ around the globe, the world watched in awe and joy as humankind achieved its ultimate goal: flying a person to, and landing on, another cosmic body across the void of space vacuum, and then safely returning him home.What happened to that dream?The ‘everyman/woman’ got bored. They could not see where this ‘space travel’ would take them. After all, only a chosen few could go into space, and that didn’t include them or even their children. And NASA’s careful, methodical machinations for each flight, did little to ease the restlessness of an increasingly ‘instant gratification’ propelled populace. The funds spent on this expensive experiment were brought into question. The populace required that more important things closer to home, like health care, education, social issues, be addressed and the ‘wasted’ funds for the space program be redirected to them.So it was, that following the near tragedy of Apollo 13, the Apollo space program was cancelled after only a few more flights. NASA concentrated the ensuing years of the 1970s into developing a reusable spacecraft: the Space Transportation System (STS), commonly called the ‘space shuttle’.Whatever dreams still held by the few who still wanted to go into space, whose childhood heroes were astronauts instead of a transient celebrity, were redirected to the space shuttle. It would be several more years however before those dreamers realised that the shuttle was only ever going to be used for low-Earth-orbit flights, that we weren’t going back to the Moon, or any other planet, any time soon. But the space shuttle was an answer in itself. It wasn’t Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, although the test model was christened that, and it wasn’t the elegant pointy rocket ship that filled the pulps and movies in the past, but it was close. Sleek, white, majestic, powerful: it shone brilliantly in the Florida morning sunshine and it was ‘real’. To some, it must have felt like we were on the very verge of ‘going out there’.Those children eventually grew up to become the normal, everyday ‘Joe’ or ‘Jane’ whose attention was now held by the day-to-day matters of a job, marriage, children, etcetera, while the space program learned to ‘walk’ using the space shuttle, following the 1960s headlong desperate ‘run’ to the Moon. An admirable trait really: learn what you need to know first before any more lives are lost or put at risk, and make it more inexpensive if you can. Learn to walk before you run.Over the years, the shuttle flights seemed to lose their mysticism and most of us just followed them with half an eye or ear. We’d grown complacent yet again because lifestyles were becoming more complicated and technology more commonplace. I continued my life: joining the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at seventeen so I could be part of the future in some small way. Life in an enclosed community in the coalfields north of my native Newcastle, NSW, wasn’t really going to do it for me, so I joined up. Learning and growing came next. Throughout i[...]



Lighting the Way Home...

Fri, 26 Dec 2008 03:47:00 +0000

(image) The higher temperatures and the warm rain in the night washed away the majority of the snow and ice from the storm from last weekend. And today the trees raised their spindly dark fingers to a soft blue sky. Things sparkled in the glorious sun, and it could have been a breath of forthcoming spring. We basked in the sunlight as we ate our Christmas day roast and talked and laughed, and thought of friends and family spun away across the globe. Afterwards, we opened presents by the open fire. The rest of the afternoon was spent with cups of tea and dessert and vintage James Bond films on the tv. All of the stresses of previous days fell away and everything rose to mellow well being, as it should be.

One of the best Christmases we've had in recent years.

The universe has been good to us recently, so we made a conscious decision to share it this year. Bob and I happily shopped big for the community Food Bank and gave two sizeable baggies of toys and kiddies books to the Toys for Tots collection last week, and can hope we made a small difference to some families this holiday season. Odd dollars and change went to the various bell ringers and charities who asked as we passed them on the street.

Meanwhile, the lighted house pictured above has been a constant in our lives for many years. Its concentric three-tiered design makes it look like a beautiful birthday cake, and that's how we affectionately refer to it every December. The times we've had to fly somewhere in December, we usually fly home at night. Being near the airport, and under a flight path, we always look for our house as we come in low. As it is dark, we can't see it, but we always see 'the birthday cake'. And for many Decembers it has lit our way home... Just across the street and down a bit, it's the first thing we see... So I thought I'd share it with you all.

"To absent friends"

And to Uncle Keith, wherever you may be: Fair winds and following seas, Swabbie.

Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, Blessed Be, Happy Solstice, a Cheery Kwanzaa, or whatever it is you choose to celebrate or cherish at this time of year. You are all in my thoughts.

Warmest wishes,
Marianne



Honourable Mention

Fri, 26 Dec 2008 03:39:00 +0000

I got a lovely email this morning to say that my story, "Wormhole Magic" has won an Honourable Mention in the Spec the Halls contest. When I went and looked up the details, it seems that the only other prize was the winner. Yayyyy!!!

Thanks Santa and Abra.
Cheers,
Marianne



Spec the Halls - holiday fiction contest entry...

Tue, 18 Nov 2008 16:31:00 +0000

This story is part of the Spec the Halls contest for speculative winter holiday-themed fiction, artwork, and poetry. You may find guidelines and links to other entries at http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.htmlWORMHOLE MAGICby Marianne Plumridge (c) 2003/2008(First Published at www.infinityplus.co.uk 2003) I’ve been here three months now, and I still haven’t decided what my Astrogation Thesis is going to be about. Prof. Jordan harrumphs about this every time he sends a data burst - which I thankfully receive only once a week. Whenever he prefaces a sentence with ‘Now then, William, it’s time to make a decision…” I know the usual lecture on my future, career, commitment, and profitability, is in the offing. I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it, but at the moment, it’s more fun just exploring the outpost and the Moon’s surface. So much junk is stored here - left behind no doubt by those who wanted to keep some of history intact for future use. I suppose the novelty will wear off soon enough, but I’m enjoying the freedom now. As long as I do my caretaker chores, the Foundation is happy.I was having a great time in Section C one afternoon, going through some old plascrete crates full of something called ‘books’. At least that was what the label on the crate read. The contents were blocky and short, and stacked neatly inside. They smelled kind of musty though. Old, like the inside of well used space suits – only cleaner somehow. A moment of consideration and heavy thinking produced a solution to my puzzlement: these were paper products. I shivered in distaste, and nearly dropped the one I was holding. It fanned open. Bound sheets of fine white stuff, neatly covered with tiny text, flapped back at me. I fingered one in awe: these were once part of a living tree. Paper manufacture was one of a myriad of things that ultimately caused the creation of this outpost, Earthwatch Prime, in the first place. I felt like I was touching the distant chaotic past. I must tell Jen about this, I thought. She’s a rapt audience when I wax lyrical about my ‘finds’: like most of us – craving for all things ‘Earth’. Besides, even with two light-years distance between us, I’d much rather talk to her than the Professor. She’s much prettier, and funnier than he. Jen’s also a lot smarter than I am, and knows exactly what she wants out of life. Professor Jordan adores her for that fact alone. I thought it was rather nice of him to assign her to be my tutor two years ago. And believe me, I’ve been availing myself of every opportunity to get ahead – one way or another. As I carefully replaced the artifact in its receptacle, a splurge of color caught my eye. I gingerly plucked another blocky volume from the crate and inspected it. There was a small inset picture, but it didn’t look real. Painted perhaps? They did things like that back then, or so I’m told. The little ‘painting’ was primarily dark blue with white speckled all over it. Damage? Ash? I gently wiped a forefinger over it, but it didn’t come off, and the surface was not pitted. It must really be part of the picture, I surmised. There was a structure with a sharply inclined roof, all lit up from inside, and something long in the sky behind it. I looked at it for a long time, but couldn’t make believable sense of it, so I turned my attention to the label. The script was so ornate, that it was even more difficult to fathom. After some minutes, I managed to decipher “T’was The Night Before Christmas”.“Who, or what, is Christmas?” I mused aloud.I had my hand on the edge of the book ready to open the cover to find out, when a klaxon alarm sounded overhead. A very loud klaxon alarm. It nearly deafened me. The voi[...]



Fault Line...a Book Review

Fri, 31 Oct 2008 19:18:00 +0000

FAULT LINEBy Barry EislerA Ballantine Books Hardcover; ISBN 978-0-345-50508-8; $25.00 USD; 306 pages;DUE FOR RELEASE - 24 FEBRUARY 2009.Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – October 2008There’s nothing like misunderstandings, misassumptions, personal tragedy, and a whole bucketful of grudges to stir an already dangerous mix. Worse if it involves family.Ben Treven, cold, cynical and a damn fine tool of an undercover operative for the USA is called home by his younger brother because someone is trying to kill him. Baby brother Alex, a brilliant young attorney and a typical yuppie is worried. His client is killed in a situation that just doesn’t ring right, and Alex’s contact at the Patents and Trademarks office in Virginia dies just a few hours later, then a home invasion attack on Alex himself rings major alarm bells in his mind. Virtually alone in the world and unsure who to trust, Alex calls his big brother whom he hasn’t spoken to in ten years. There are unresolved issues between them, a massive amount of anger and resentment, and a truckload of simmering grief. There were too many deaths and years between them to allow them to be comfortable around each other. But Ben had always saved his baby brother’s butt and worn the consequences. Why should now be any different? Add a beautiful woman that they both desire to the mix and things begin to smolder. Sarah Hosseini, a lovelyl Iranian/American who is a first year associate with the law firm Alex works for, assists him with the patenting of the Obsidian technology. The complex computer program that can disrupt networks is what everybody seems to want, and covert operatives are ready to kill innocent people just for knowing it exists. Ben, Alex, and Sarah don’t know who is behind it all, but events come to a head when the mole in the law firm Alex and Sarah work for lets slip one vital piece of information. The threat is more close to home than they suspected, and Alex must ransom the information he has for the lives of his brother and Sarah. Suspicions abound, trusts are broken, remade, and shifted again, and the pace is hot.The familial strangeness between Ben and Alex goes back years to when their sister, Katie, was killed in an auto accident. She had been the loving lynch pin that held them all together, and with her tragic death, the family began a downward spiral of disintegration. Accusations of blame abounded at first, but the later retractions fell by the wayside as the damage had already been done. The difference in their ages and unspoken grief drove a wedge into Alex and Ben’s already rocky brotherly relationship that should have brought them closer together. Less than a year after Katie died, Ben dropped out of Stanford College and joined the army. Their father committed suicide one month later because he felt that Katie needed him where ever she was now. It was left to Alex to nurse their mother through her battle with cancer and the last years of her life.Through the current story, those years and those deaths are still tearing Ben and Alex apart. If battling the enemy weren’t bad enough, and killing the Russian mob hoods that came after Alex, Ben must face down the constant insults and animosity from both Sarah and Alex. He can’t seem to make them understand that the bright lives they live are precarious things and the dark deeds that are done to keep them alive, whole, and free have to be done by someone able to do them. Someone very like him. And while information must be free…freedom comes with a price.'Fault Line' is the first stand-alone thriller for Barry Eisler, a former CIA operative-turned-bestselling-novelist. Eisler has had major success with his John Rain book series for Signet, [...]



SHORT NOTES FROM BOUCHERCON 2008

Thu, 16 Oct 2008 15:03:00 +0000

I attended many panel discussions at Bouchercon, but these few are the ones I kept notes on. It doesn’t mean that the other panels weren’t notable, but I enjoyed listening to them rather than taking notes about subjects I already know a good bit about. It was nice to hear my theories confirmed or a fresh outlook on them. All of the panelists were knowledgeable and the Mediators took their jobs very seriously indeed, giving structure and coherent direction to the topic at hand. I must admit to ducking out of a couple of afternoon panels to fetch much needed coffee to offset the ‘mid-afternoon droopies’. I did take notes of authors’ works though, that I wanted to follow up later – the list is getting rather long. Meanwhile, here are the short notes…STOP, I’M ALREADY DEAD! – Keeping a Series Interesting(Friday, 10am Panel)Perpetrators…er, panelists: Jeff Cohen, Mark de Castrique, Felicia Donovan, Jerry Healy, and Hope McIntyre.Jerry Healy’s nutshell ideas:- Include cutting edge/controversial topics that don’t date. Adding a non-fiction element that can lead to greater media promotions: ie, a topic that fills newspaper headlines rather than some tiny item buried in page nine of any given paper. Apparently the controversial and topical nature of one of Jerry’s recent novels was enough to make him an ‘expert’ and put him on the talk show circuit and major newspaper reviews.- Work a ‘fish out of water’ or ‘stranger in a strange land’ scenario. It gives the reader a greater empathy with the protagonist or character undergoing said scenario.- Conflicts throughout the plot, complicated protagonist and characters. If it doesn’t’ have conflict or complications, it’s going to be BORING.Felicia Donovan:- Remember to inject humour to balance seriousness. Unrelieved seriousness can be wearing on the reader.- Keep characters REAL. Nothing irks a reader as much as unrealistic characters or characters who have a distinct ‘nature’ then do something completely ‘out of character’ just so the writer can fulfill a difficult plot point.Mark de Castrique:- Strong characters and settings will keep your reader riveted.- Milk real situations, because sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Collect memories, photos for physical appearance reference, and snip article clippings of newspaper/magazine stories that tweak your interest, or may make good fodder for future stories.Hope McIntyre:- Like your characters and know them well. Give them depth. You will be sharing your journey with them for some time.- For characters, don’t give all details all at once in big gobs. Peel back layers as you would an onion or the petals on a rose – each should be revealing, and reveal something new as the story goes on.THINGS TO REMEMBER:- The passage of time between books varies for various reasons. Aging a character is up to the author, but if you’re planning a long series, age the protagonist only a couple of months at a time perhaps. Mind you, if you’re writing one book per year, time is spinning on for you, but not for your character – timelines would need adjusting in the books, one would think.- Never kill a cat!!WHO ARE YOU? – Making Your Characters Believable.(Friday, 11:30am panel)Perpetrators…er, panelists: Alison Jannsen, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Victoria Houston, Craig Johnson, Julia Pomeroy.THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS PANEL:- Your own memories and perceptions can create great stories.- Write what you know about – the breadth and depth might surprise you.- A good character will write his/her own story and directs the plot in doing so.- Suit the character to the appropriate setting, or the dissonance will jar the[...]



BOUCHERCON 2008...a Convention Review!

Mon, 13 Oct 2008 17:18:00 +0000

BOUCHERCON 2008 – CHARMED TO DEATH!Well, I’ve been greatly anticipating this year’s Bouchercon in lovely Balitmore – as much for it being my first mystery convention as well as being my first Bouchercon. I’d only been reading about them for the last few years and dreaming wistfully. My husband and I hopped a train south and arrived early afternoon on the Thursday to find the convention in full swing. I was attending, while he was going to do a marathon tour of art galleries and museums in both Baltimore and Washington – he needs inspiration too!I missed the panel with author Wendy Roberts on it, but managed to catch the one with my blog-buddy Cornelia Read on it. However: no Cornelia! According to some ladies in the audience, she had to cancel the con at the last moment due to a health problem. Dang: that was disappointing. I’d been really looking forward to swapping funny stories with her in the bar. Get well soon, Miss C. – I missed you! So, that being the case, I darted across to the Jungle Red Writers (mystery author blogsite) panel and really enjoyed that. At that stage, I was already boggled by the size of the panel audiences: some had standing room only! That rarely happens at the Science Fiction Conventions I usually attend. I was really tired about this time and starting to feel the inward despondency that I felt at my first American convention years ago: I didn’t know anybody. So I started reading lots of name badges and searching faces. And so spent two days looking for my friend Patty Smiley, whom I’d never met face to face before. You’d be surprised at just how many people no longer resemble their publicity photos! I was tooling down the main corridor to the book room on Friday when I happened past a trio of men talking. I gazed at them and did a double take. The middle guy had distinctive eyes that gave me pause. I excused myself and asked him if he was Jim Born (aka, James O. Born, Miami police procedural author). He looked down – he wasn’t wearing his name tag – and then up, surprised. “How did you know?” he said. I grinned “Your eyes and upper face bone structure, and your shirt”. We both looked down at his shirt which sported a Florida State logo. Come on, you gotta put clues together when you’re at a mystery con! We chatted for a few minutes, and he remembered me from my comments on the Naked Authors blog and also from having sent him some NASA info in the past. Jim is also a big science fiction fan and loves my hubby’s artwork. I promised to introduce them later. Jim has read all of John Scalzi’s SF books and my Bob paints the covers, so he was chuffed. After that, I ran into a couple of SF fans that I knew, and immediately felt much better.Convention Baggie full of Goodies... I didn’t spend much money at all in the Bookroom/Dealers Room all weekend. I felt that it would be like a bursting dam if I did. One book would be the beginning of a huge avalanche – and I didn’t fancy dragging it all home on the train. Books are HEAVY. The fabulous convention baggie with all of its book, magazine, and t-shirt contents already weighed a ton and would take days of mooching through the reading material when I got home. I did however, discover a vintage Baynard Kendrick “Duncan MacLain – Blind Detective” novel which I duly purchased and promptly read after a victory lap around the Bookroom. Kendrick’s novels are hard to find, but by gum, they’re a damned good read. Witness bleary-eyed me the next two days.Patty and Me...Saturday dawned and Bob tooled off to forage for breakfast and art, while I tootled on down to the lavishly food-appointed Hospitality sui[...]



Metal Gear Solid...A Book Review

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 20:45:00 +0000

METAL GEAR SOLIDThe Official Novel of the Thrilling Konami Video Game Created by Hideo Kojima.By Raymond BensonA Del Rey Trade Paperback Original; ISBN-13: 978-0-345-50328-2 (pbk); 321 Pages; Price: $12.95Reviewed by Marianne PlumridgeTwo babies are cloned from the legendary soldier and dictator, Big Boss. One grows up to become a US black ops raider who takes out his ‘father’ as a member of FOXHOUND, before retiring to the Alaskan wilderness at the age of 33. The other is a renegade British spy who disappears in the Middle East, is rescued and then also joins FOXHOUND as an operative. Solid Snake is the American retiree called back to deal with his ‘brother’, Liquid Snake, when the latter glues together a terrorist team from the splintered remnants of FOXHOUND and an army of brainwashed genome soldiers, and threatens nuclear annihilation. Liquid’s lieutenants are formidable: Psycho Mantis – a Russian with powerful psychic abilities that keeps the genome troops under control, and distinct advantage in psychological warfare; Sniper Wolf – a Kurdish woman from Iraq who is sexy and lethal, and unparalleled with a sniper rifle, who can control the wolf and other canines; Decoy Octopus – is a Mexican master of disguise, a metamorph who can become anyone or anything and speak a dozen languages; Vulcan Raven – half Alaskan Indian and half Inuit Eskimo, is a veritable giant with Shamanist magic at his control; lastly, there is Revolver Ocelot – a Russian expert gunfighter and interrogator specialist. They have taken over the secret nuclear warfare facility on Shadow Moses Island in the Aleutians, and Solid Snake must go in and take them down. Alone. Snake’s objective is to rescue DARPA Chief Donald Anderson and the President of ArmsTech, Kenneth Baker. A complication is that the niece of Snake’s controller/commander, Colonel Roy Campbell, is also a hostage on the island and may possibly be a loose canon that gets in Snake’s way. Injected with an anti-freezing agent and armed with only a 45 caliber Mark 23 SOCOM gun and a Codec communications device – that comes with a small Greek chorus of listening experts – Snake sneaks onto the island via submarine and gets ready to take down the bad guys, disarm the nukes, rescue the hostages, and save the world. Piece of cake…And so begins possibly one of the longest, back and forth, to and fro, up and down, black ops rescues in fictional history.The pace, of course, reflects video game play, with protagonist repeatedly ‘finding’ things that are helpful along the way; like ammunition for his gun, mines, several caches of Chaffee grenades, etcetera. Coincidental plot devices, like Solid Snake overhearing snatches of guards’ conversations that tell him exactly where his prey is located or things he needs to know right at that moment, abound. Meanwhile the men he is sent to rescue just happen to die of natural causes or results of their wounds right after they tell Snake everything he needs to know to continue his mission. Being dead, they don’t affect slowing Snake, nor the plot, down. Continuing the pattern of video game logic of acquiring talismans or ‘handy power items’, Snake manages to stock up on ammunition, pass keys, and valuable information from just about everyone he encounters and quite often defeats or kills.The author’s extensive background in writing technical laden scenarios in ‘action hero fiction’ was made for writing this narrative. It positively wallows in superfluous expository technical dialog – usually supplied by the experts listening in to Snake’s activities on the Codec. Even if it is [...]



The Art Corner - After the Fire and Grand Reopening

Sun, 15 Jun 2008 19:01:00 +0000

In late April of this year, our dear friends Wendy and Charles "Chuck" Lang fell afoul of an aging electrical wire that finally gave way inside their charming framing store and gallery, The Art Corner, in Salem, Massacheussetts. At around 9pm, after the store closed, the slowly smouldering wire burst into flame and consumed the entire upstairs of the shop. It took a good hour for the Fire Dept to get it under control, but do so they did - even rescuing the goldfish which miraculously all survived, except two little ones. The store itself has been in business for 30 years, 18 of which Wendy was the manager there until she purchased it from the owner three years ago. She and Chuck, and their able assistants redecorated, held regular exhibits from local artists, exhibited photos from old Salem, and had artist friends around to 'paint in the window'. Bob and I are two of the regulars who do paint performances, so when Wendy asked us back to paint again on the new premises, we leapt at the chance to show our support and just have fun with two friends who've been through a lot this year...This is the new shop that The Art Corner has moved into until it is finally decided what to do with the old premises.Wendy, behind the counter serving a regular customer in the new store. A true creative is our Wendy, one of her own paintings sits in the top right hand corner of the photo below. Looking over the top of my paintbox and resident cute panda painting, you can see the opposite corner of the shop where my husband, Bob, is painting. The gentleman off the right is a very patient customer. Through the door at the back, is the snug workshop. As lovely as the new/temporary premises are, the space is actually significantly smaller than the original store, but oh so light and airy...Charles "Chuck" Lang working next to Bob on a painting of his own. Behind them are a lot of the antique frames that were saved from the nearly untouched basement of the original store.My paint box, plus panda...Bob near the main window of the store, showing the corner where I set up my paintbox. The little print rack and some of the prints it contained, were our gift to the store for the reopening.I asked Wendy if she needed some paintings for the new blank walls and received a heartfelt YES. So Bob and I brought along some of our daily paintings for consignment. Chuck's paintings, including two of his unique banana ones, are in the top row; mine are in the middle; and four of Bob's landscapes are in the middle of the bottom row, flanked by two of Wendy's cats.Bob painting...The back wall of the new shop displayed photos of the fire, ones of better times of the staff, and newspaper articles about the fire... Chuck wanted to go and rub some of the ash behind each piece so people would look closely and say "wow, you can almost smell it!"And while Wendy was showing visitors around the new store, Chuck gave others the '5 cent tour' of the burnt out old Art Corner building around the corner.Right in front of the front entrance where the fish tank used to stand. I worried about that poor porcelain horse on the floor. All of his mates, small and large, were consumed, but he doesn't look too bad there. The pumpkin painting is one of Chuck's, and we joked that it had assumed a lot of appropriate character with its smoke and ash damage. It's still a sad loss though.Looking to the right of the front door into the stock frames area and gallery exhibition wall. Sad to say the photo exhibit was lost. And you can still see the small frames I used to gleefully paw through during our visits.A better view of the porcelai[...]



Bloodline...A Book Review

Sat, 31 May 2008 19:45:00 +0000

BLOODLINE:A Genealogical MysteryBy Fiona MountainSignet Mystery, an imprint of the Penguin Group (USA). Paperback ISBN: 978-0-451-22268-8;296 pages; RRP $6.99.A book review by Marianne Plumridge Genealogy is often seen as a gentle hobby of enthusiasts who want to reconnect with their ancestors, the roots from whence they sprung. Not often is it referred to as dangerous or worth murdering someone over. However, the past often surprises us with its scandal, sordidness, criminal elements and radical inaccuracies, as well as the tedium of quiet life after quiet life. Beware of bestirring the dust of ages past, for there are those who don’t like the coverlet of anonymity lifted for all the world to see and judge.And there are those who would kill to let sleeping secrets lie.When Natasha Blake accepts a very well paid emergency commission to trace a young man’s family tree for his prospective grandfather in law, it seems mysterious only in the fact that her client wouldn’t do it himself. Wealthy magnate, Charles Seagrove is an accomplished genealogist of note, and quite able to trace his soon to be son in law’s antecedents for himself. Instead, he hires Natasha for a very tidy sum. Somehow, the results of the research have a profound affect on Seagrove and he moves to end his grand daughter’s betrothal to her beloved John. No one really understands why. When Seagrove is murdered the two days after a garden party at Shadwell Manor, and raving great row with his granddaughter over her fiancé, Natasha is branded the cause of it all. At least her commissioned research is, but she is made the butt of their anger. The remaining Seagroves: wife, son, and granddaughter all pour outrage, aggression and anger over Natasha and accuse her of deliberately interfering with the family and doing damage. I’m quite at a loss as to why they should do so, other than perhaps the misdirected blame of the bereaved. The son, Richard Seagrove, forces Natasha to continue her research into the Hellier family to find out why Charles Seagrove turned on his future son in law, and perhaps the truth of his own murder. In delving into the history of Charles Seagrove himself and the increasingly shadowy past of Shadwell manor, Natasha turns up more than she bargained for. Nothing is what it seems, and nor was the victim. The consequences of his actions and beliefs affect three generations of his family, destroys lives, and almost destroys the one about to be born. In amongst it all are a strange anonymous letter, the ghostly sounds of a baby crying, secrets, death, legacy, longing, and revenge, which Natasha’s questing fingers must tease into a semblance of order and truth.The roots of the cause lay in the outcome of the First World War and its famed Christmas Truce, the rise of the Nazis in the new Germany, and the radical effects of genocide and breeding programs. And the resulting effect on one young, impressionable boy, Charles Seagrove, and his response to it. Though, how embracing the Nazi beliefs connects with the honor and dignity of the ‘Christmas Truce’ of 1914, as recounted in the novel, is never fully explained. The reader might benefit from the thought processes of Charles Seagrove, and how he made the journey from the former to the latter with such absolute conviction. But they are not fully aired or explored, mores the pity. There is a generalization of how Seagrove was one of many wealthy landowners in England, as well as the unemployed masses, who were “... disillusioned by what they saw as the useless slaughter of the First World War, har[...]



Remains of the Dead...A Book Review

Wed, 09 Apr 2008 19:37:00 +0000

THE REMAINS OF THE DEAD: A Ghost Dusters Mystery.By Wendy RobertsA Mass Market Paperback Mystery from Obsidian Mystery, an imprint of the Penguin Group. ISBN: 978-0-451-22268-8.A book review by Marianne Plumridge‘The Remains of the Dead’ is the first book in a new series by mystery author Wendy Roberts. Sadie Novak is the protagonist of the story, who owns and operates Scene 2 Clean, a biohazard recovery team that cleans crime scenes once the police have finished with them. That in itself would be a complicated career, but Sadie has a few added disadvantages: she can’t keep new help for long, and she talks to the dead.Five years previously, Sadie’s beloved older brother, Brian, took his own life with a shotgun. And when there was no service available to clean the scene, it fell to Sadie to accomplish herself, to save her family any more grief. Brian was a happy go lucky type who had a great relationship with his two sisters, and they loved him right back. There was no suicide note, no indication that he was unhappy, let alone depressed enough to take the ultimate ‘out’. And Sadie couldn’t see him when he’d gone. From the time she was little, she’d been able to see and easily communicate with the earthbound ghosts who didn’t know or wouldn’t admit they were dead. She continues to help them crossover when she can, and find their way ‘home’, but she can’t see the ghosts of suicide victims or those who’ve made it to the other side on their own as spirits. For five long years that intense grief of never knowing why Brian did it, nor be able to say goodbye to him, has gnawed at her heart and soul. Strong and feisty, Sadie found that she couldn’t stand the idea of other families losing loved ones and then facing up to cleaning up the remains of their mortal shells, so she formed her own cleaning company to do it for them. Her staunch belief that no friend or family should ever have to see what she’d seen, or do what she’d had to do after Brian went, keeps her going.But sometimes the ghosts complicate things.Three people know about Sadie’s ability: her employee, Zack, who is barely able to tolerate it; her sister, Dawn was still adjusting to the idea; and her best friend, Pam, who wants her to go on ‘Oprah’. So it gets that much more difficult when a ghost tries to tell her that the other half of a murder/suicide she’s cleaning up after didn’t commit the crime. Trying to discreetly handle the Police, the deceased’s distraught parent, and personal commitments gets rather trying for Sadie as her curiosity digs her deeper and deeper into the affairs of the real killer. Framed, shot at, nearly seduced by the too-damn-sexy-by-far chief suspect, as well as her unresolved attraction to Zack, leads her a dangerous dance on a knife edge, while simultaneously trying to keep Scene 2 Clean operating and in the black, despite rumours and bad publicity. And in the meantime, there are the ghosts: some desperate, some funny, and some too poignant for words. Sadie gets incredible satisfaction from helping them, and a feeling of momentary inner peace for doing good. Pity it couldn’t translate into the chaos of her own life and issues. Sadie seems relatively comfortable in her self-professed curse, until an encounter with a 'medium' of a different type forces her to confront her own issues about it and others' gifts. Sadie's antagonistic meeting and grudging friendship with the psychic, Maeva is at times both rambunctious and funny. And downright dangerous. This new friendship is probabl[...]



Library Lion...a Book Review

Fri, 25 Jan 2008 21:58:00 +0000

Two dreams emerged from my childhood: one was to be a science fiction book-cover illustrator; while the second was to write and illustrate children’s picture books. The first dream I gave up on a few years back. It changed me in a lot of ways, including my perspective on genre fiction. I read a lot more mystery fiction than science fiction or fantasy; I read a bit more young adult fiction; and I always find that I am reading and buying new additions to my childrens picture book collection. The thing is - I don’t have kids. But that doesn’t stop me from liking their perspective on life, their unbridled imagination and ‘what if?’ way of seeing things. Books created for young children know no bounds when it comes to the imagination. Even rules are simple and uncomplicated by the adult world. This is an incredible gift, to re capture a sense of wonder in pictures and so few words - to make even a harried adult stop for the ten minutes it takes to read one of these books, and bring a goofy smile to his or her face. The Library Lion does exactly this. I received it for Christmas, and it appealed to not only the librarian in me, but the memory of hours I spent joyfully roaming our local library’s shelves when I was young. As ever, books have been my way of escaping the rat race, and this is no exception…*********************************************************LIBRARY LIONBy Michelle Knudsen, Illustrated by Kevin HawkesA Picture Book from Candlewick Press, 2006.Hardcover – ISBN: 978-0-7636-2262-6; 48 Pages; Dust Jacket.For ages: 4-8A book review by Marianne Plumridge.I’ve never really given up my fascination for children’s picture books, even now being all grown up. Only now, I collect them – and on occasion, write them. Sometimes the artwork is gorgeous and artistic; sometimes the artwork is just too charming; sometimes the story is irresistible and fresh; or sometimes a book hits just the right place in the heart. But the best books are all of these things. Award winning, New York Times Bestseller, ‘Library Lion’ happens to be one of the best ones.It’s a simple story. A lion walks into the library one day. Just like a child in a new place, he likes to look around. Then satisfied, he settles in for nap. A wondrous thing called ‘Story Hour’ wakes him up, and he sits just as entranced as the children and listens to each book the Story Lady reads aloud. People are a bit nervous and wary of this large furry visitor, but as he seems to be behaving himself, they go on with what they were doing. Mr McBee from Circulations is incensed. There are no rules about lions in the Library. He complains to the Librarian, Miss Merriweather. She asks if the lion is doing anything against the rules. Mr McBee says no, so Miss Merriweather tells her colleague to leave him be.Things go well until Story Hour ends. The lion, upset, roars and roars, bringing Miss Merriweather from her office. She sternly tells the lion that if he can’t follow the rules, then he’ll have to leave, which makes the lion even more upset. Finally a child pipes up with an idea: if the lion is quiet, then he could come back tomorrow. The tension is palpable until Miss Merriweather graciously agrees. The lion comes back the next day – early. Miss Merriweather gets him to help with a few things, and then ensuing days, the lion helps out on his own. People grow to love him and wonder what they ever did without him. Mr McBee is not happy: the Library did quite well without a lion in the past. One day, Miss M[...]



The Chase...A Book Review

Wed, 21 Nov 2007 18:16:00 +0000

THE CHASEby Clive Cussler2007; G. P. Putnam’s Sons.Hardcover, ISBN 13: 978-0-399-15438-6; 404 pages; Price $26.95Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – November 2007It is unusual for Clive Cussler to deviate into a new lead character and timeline for a book, other than his usual, highly successful masculine leads: Dirk Pitt and Kurt Austin. However, the hero from ‘The Chase’, Isaac Bell, is tellingly cut from the same cloth. Born to wealth and privilege, able to call his own shots financially, romantically, and adventuristically, and something of a ladies man, Bell differs only in that he is an actual private detective working for the ‘famous’ Van Dorn Detective agency. He is, of course, a favourite with ‘the old man’ – Van Dorn, himself – and is the agency’s best agent. Like Pitt and Austin, Bell also has a passion for big boys’ toys: a unique fast car, an equally fast motorcycle, and trains. He likes to travel and reside expensively, but isn’t above getting his hands very dirty, or wading into danger. Exotically handsome, blonde, with mesmeric lavender-blue eyes, tall, lean, urbane, both playful and determined, Bell is the quintessential turn of the 19th century gentleman - one of the more exciting ones. With the current excesses of technology in today’s world, we live the future with a blasé acceptance and increasing lack of a sense of wonder about it all. Recent trends increasingly view the past as exotic and exciting, tinted with a rose-coloured romanticism: harking back to simpler times, when personal borders were not so blurred as they are today. Perhaps Mr. Cussler is trying to breathe new life into an overstressed literary field looking to excite its readers anew. This step back into the American past takes the reader to a time when the industrial age, and all of its knowledge and dreams were brand new, and there were still new frontiers to see and conquer.‘The Chase’ begins enigmatically enough in 1950, with the raising of an antique train engine and its dead crew from the uttermost depths of a Montana lake. A mysterious stranger watches impassively and supplies background information about the locomotive and its fate. The scene then switches backward in time to 1906, to a bank robbery and murder. Enter the ‘Butcher Bandit’ a serial killer who robs banks of their payroll cash and cold-bloodedly executes any witnesses. He leaves no clues, and no-one to report his passing. His crimes are brilliantly thought out and meticulously rehearsed before being put into action. He seems un-locatable and unstoppable. In desperation, the government employs the Van Dorn agency to capture or kill the phantom-like robber/murderer, and Van Dorn calls in its best agent, Isaac Bell. Bell reviews the case file and like any good detective, sets out to revisit the scene of each of the most recent crimes. To talk to lawmen and anyone who might have unwittingly witnessed the passing of something, or someone strange. Foreshadowing in the text supplies the few ‘witnesses’ and their pitiable scraps of minute things seen or heard. From finding and questioning these people, Bell adroitly manipulates the few straws of information into a proverbial tapestry of a profile of the ‘Butcher Bandit’. It was a few of these ‘leaps of logic’ that left me frowning at the page and then going back to reread the previous pages, to find out how the character got from point A to point D in his assumptions. My curiosity wasn’t always satisfied. I wince[...]



New Art Sale Page!

Fri, 05 Oct 2007 21:05:00 +0000

Hello all,

Thanks for following my artistic endeavours this year, but I must apologise for the serious lack thereof in recent months. This is customarily our busiest time of the year, usually involving lots of travel, frantic working towards deadlines, conventions, and the subsequent getting ready for art shows. Well the majority of that has come to an end now, for the year, so I'll be getting back to some serious painting and writing real soon now. I have a hankering to continue my quirky still lifes-with-toys-and-pumpkins themes, but bigger.

Meanwhile, I thought about something a fan said to me recently in Japan. He said that although he loved my website, he didn't know what works were still available for sale, because there was no mention of price, availability, etcetera, mentioned there. So, being easier to update my blogsites than to update my website, I have now made up an ongoing blog page to list my works for sale. This includes older fantasy pieces as well as the more recent incarnations. Hopefully you'll drop by to look occasionally, and might even find something you might like. I'll be updating every week or two. When things are sold, they'll be marked as such, so there is no confusion.

The Sale Page can be found at http://artsalepage.blogspot.com/ or by clicking the link 'Marianne's ART Sale Page' at the left of this screen.

Thanks,
Marianne



The Story of Nick Paper

Tue, 11 Sep 2007 10:02:00 +0000

Today, we've come full circle from those terrible events of the last Tuesday, September 11...2001. Here is how we found friendship and creativity helped us get through that day. Here is...'THE STORY OF 'NICK PAPER'In my husband, Bob’s previous books, ‘Dragonhenge’ and ‘Stardragons’, he has used hand-tinted drawing paper for some of the illustrations contained therein. As a drawing surface, it’s about average and takes charcoal or pencil work really well. However the incidental imperfections caused during the hand-tinting process makes for all kinds of wonderful serendipitous inspirations. We’ve since affectionately dubbed it ‘Nick Paper’, because it all began with our friend Nick Stathopoulos.Go back to the late summer of 2001 and the World Science Fiction Convention held in Philadelphia. Our good friend Nick had come all the way from Sydney, Australia to attend the convention and display his beautiful artwork in the art show there. Some of the pieces were exquisite drawings on golden tinted paper. Like many convention goers, we gazed at them in open admiration – at the paper as much as at the drawings. Always restless for new drawing surfaces that inspire, Bob and I joked about how we could get our hands upon some to ‘play’ with.As it was, Nick came to stay with us in Rhode Island for a few days following the convention. And like all good friends, we talked for hours on end about everything: books, music, art, artists, movies, life, the universe, and anything in between. Eventually we got around to art techniques, and it was then that he told us about his golden paper and his joy in it. What kind of paper and paint he used, and how he got such great results. It wasn’t long after this, and after having driven Nick all over New England in a whirlwind sightseeing tour, that we had to drive him to New Jersey. Nick was staying with mutual friends before flying back to the West Coast from there on the Sunday, prior to going home to Sydney.Bob and I spent quality time with other good friends that same weekend, and felt an almost beatific contentment with the world at the beginning of the workweek. It was the calm before the storm.Tuesday morning came, and we were getting ready to go out and have coffee and run some errands before settling into some serious painting. Then the phone rang. Our friend Jay was on the line. “Turn on the TV! Turn on the TV! The World Trade Center’s on fire. It’s world war three!” Bob and I tuned in just in time to see the second plane hit the other Trade Center tower. Then the attack on the Pentagon was announced. Bob told Jay that we’d call him back. I don’t know how long we watched after that. Finally, I took the phone from my husband’s hand and dialed Australia. We travel all over the world for business and for our art, and my parents didn’t often know where we were at any given time. I wanted to let them know we weren’t in New York.The rest of the day passed in a haze. We got some errands done, spent a lot of time trying to contact friends, trying to talk it out. And we nervously waited for word from those we knew in New York City and the Pentagon, that they were safe. Meanwhile, our eyes were glued to the TV screen and the horror. My heart went cold when the first tower began to buckle and crumple from the heat. I had some rescue training in the Royal Australian Air Force many years ago, and my reaction was instinctive. “My God. The [...]



Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos...a book review

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 15:34:00 +0000

TALES OF THE LOVECRAFT MYTHOSEdited by Robert M. PriceOctober 2002 – Ballantine Books; ISBN 0-345-44408-6; A Del ReyTrade Paperback , 352 pages; Price $14.95Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge –November 2003.First Published by www.infinityplus.co.uk 2003“Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos” was last published in 1992 by Ballantine Publishing Company. This current edition by Del Rey, sports a spiffy new cover and binding, but not much else. This does not diminish the content, though, by one iota. A well-rounded collection, it begins with a charming Preface by Robert Bloch. Following this, is a lengthy Introduction by Robert M. Price, in which Price discusses the history of Lovecraftian style literature; makes comparisons between the so-called heirs to H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy of dark terror fantasy fiction; and muses on the earnest rivalry between August Derleth and Dirk W. Mosig, and other writers, who contested Derleth’s interpretation of Lovecraft’s created mythos. Curiosity, fascination with the supernatural and ancient things left over from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and great, all-encompassing horrors simply ooze from the pages that follow.The first two entries in this anthology are by Robert E. Howard. ‘The Thing on the Roof’ dates from 1932, while the ‘Fires of Asshurbanipal’ was updated from its original form and re-published in 1972, and is now referred to as the ‘non-supernatural version’. It makes me want to go dig up the original short story just to find out what was missing. Anyway, as much as I do love the stories and Howard’s easy storytelling style, I find that the use of language is somewhat pale in comparison to Lovecraft’s rich tapestry of text. The atmosphere and setting (ie. Mood) are a tangible thing, almost a character in themselves, in the works of the master, but never quite as deep in Howard’s tales.Clark Ashton Smith’s entry, ‘The Seven Geases’ is written in formal English and contains many words no longer in common usage today. The use of these words creates a picturesque feel to the text, as does the author-created names of peoples and places in the story. One tries not to trip over them during reading, but it is difficult as so many of the vowel sounds are similar. Anyway, I didn’t think that this was a fully well rounded story, despite the palpable ‘journey motif’ and the beautifully exotic grotesqueries described along the way. The opening pages might have been that of a novel, so much was related about the arrogant protagonist, but this gets lost on his geas-driven journey into the labyrinthine bowels of the Earth and its various gods and sorcerers. The journey itself is almost an allegorical study of the so-called pinnacle of human perfection forced to tread back through the steps of evolution, only to be pronounced that he is not a worthy heir to all that the creator god has given birth to throughout the ages. However, he is barely aware of it because of his utter exhaustion. When it would seem that the protagonist is to regain the outer world, and with it a profound humility and wisdom, he is summarily and inexplicably cast down a hole to his death - as if he were just so much waste and flotsam. Hmm. Then again, that might be a lesson in itself.‘The Fane of the Black Pharaoh’ written by Robert Bloch, is an excellent inclusion in this anthology. This story opens slowly but grows more swiftly in terro[...]