Just a few months ago, I began going back to a hobby that I pursued from high school on to a point when I had a real, full-size house to play with – that is, miniature interiors and structures, I had subscriptions to all the good hobbyist magazines, frequented conventions as often as I could, really spent more than I probably could afford on the good stuff, and my family knew what to get for me, for birthdays and Christmas. Great-Aunt Nan was especially good at this, after I provided her with some print catalogues with the items that I really, really, really desired all circled. (With exclamation points!) Anyway – it was really quite mentally satisfying, constructing tiny environments out of this and that, but the interest faded when I had a for-real, for-permanent house and garden to play with.

Until I found some interesting kits on Amazon last year, and was offered some of the nicer, more detailed ones through the Vine program, and suddenly, I was interested again. The latest, which just arrived today, is a half-inch-to-a-foot scale Japanese sushi restaurant – a basic little building, with all the banners, flags, display cabinets and all … and about eighty tiny individual dishes of various sushi and noodle bowls to contrive and display – just like in such real Japanese restaurants, where the sample dishes were artfully made from plastic and on display in the windows, with the price next to each. It used to be very easy to meal-shop in ordinary Japanese restaurants; if the menu was impenetrable, you just went to the window with the waitress and pointed to whichever dish looked good. And with the realistic degree that such items were made – it was very easy to figure out what you would like to eat, since it would come out from the kitchen looking exactly like it did in the display. (more information here, about this interesting and useful Japanese restaurant custom.)

The instruction booklet – the actual building is 6.5 inches wide, by 5 deep.

The first page of instructions for making the tiny sushi – the two platters are about the size of a dime.

So, it’s come to me having to think about the next book project. We’re going to wrap up the Luna City chronicles in the next few months, although I will likely go and do a kid’s adventure series featuring some of the characters as children in the 20s and 30s. I think I can probably do one more collection of Jim Reade and Toby Shaw adventures in the time of the Republic of Texas. Likely, I could do one more adventure with the ancestors of the Vining and Becker families during the Revolution, but right now that prospective project seems more like a grim obligation to fill out the series than anything else. A writer has to feel some enthusiasm embarking on a new book project – it also helps if the enthusiasm lasts through the first draft.

In a way, I’m circling back to my very first historical novel – the one which doesn’t have a single thing to do with Texas. But it has proved enduringly popular and is the only one of my books other than the Jim and Toby stories that I can unequivocally recommend to tween and teen readers. I had an idea – to create a wagon-train adventure again, but with a tween protagonist, experiencing a coming-of-age adventure-journey. Perhaps extend the adventure to the initial discovery of gold at Sutter’s mill, and the wild and raucous days in the gold mines where women and intact families were so rare as to be practically an endangered species … I already have most of the necessary references in house, which saves on research time. Another trilogy, perhaps – but each book separate and stand-alone as a separate adventure. Make the series about a close-knit and affectionate family, like the Ingalls family, of the Little House series. That should have the charm of the unusual, given the current trend in YA for flamingly dysfunctional families. Offer adventures which subtly demonstrate the values of courage, accepting responsibility, and problem-solving … yes, I could have fun with this, and make it a good, engaging read – like Harry Potter, although I’ll likely never be able to buy a couple of castles out of my royalty payments. For some peculiar reason, it seems more natural to me to do the story in first person voice. Which can be fun – I can try and model the main character/narrator voice after a combination of Jaimie, from The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, Huckleberry from Huckleberry Finn and Mattie from True Grit – just make the reading level and vocabulary a bit more comfortable for modern tween and teen readers. So … off we go, on another book adventure!

12. January 2024 · Comments Off on Things That Make You Go “Hmmmm…” · Categories: Uncategorized

So, I’ve been a Vine reviewer for a number of years – a situation which has paid off rather handily for us, especially when it came to baby items for Wee Jamie. I have no idea how this came about, in case anyone wonders how I fell into this sweet, sweet gig, other than a lot of Amazon shoppers about ten years ago marked down my reviews of books and movies as being very helpful. Something tripped the magic algorithm, and hey, presto – I got an invite. I do have to pay tax on the estimated value of the items that I ask for, and write a review on them … but on the whole, it’s been quite handy. I’m not totally mercenary, though – I don’t routinely ask for high-value items which can be resold, which I understand that some reviewers have made out very well in doing so. I only ask for items which I can use in the household.

This is by way of saying that we have frequent Amazon deliveries. Last night we had a delivery so late that we had all gone to bed by the time that the delivery was made. This morning, my daughter retrieved the packages when she came back from her early-morning marathon run – and there were three of them, instead of the expected two.

Huh … well, maybe I had asked for the cat water fountain with the filters that purify the recycled water. My name was on the package label, so it wasn’t a mistake and meant for someone else. But I had never asked for it, or purchased one, and there was no notation of it being a gift from anyone else. It’s a mystery. Although it could be a glitch in the Vine product queue system, there is another possible explanation – that one of our cats accessed my computer, and ordered it, like Ivan the cat in this book: Ivan the very clever cat who has his own cellphone and media account.

We suspect Miso, or perhaps Persephone. Although it is not entirely out of the question that Sarah Hoyt’s Indy managed to order it for his mother and odd-eyed fluffy white brother, Prince.

01. January 2024 · Comments Off on My Grandmother’s House · Categories: Uncategorized

I dreamed of going to my maternal grandmother’s house rather vividly the other night, of walking through familiar yet near empty rooms, waiting for Dad to come and pick me up. Weirdly, I was also taking care of Wee Jamie, who was reluctant to go down for a nap, and Benji the unruly dog, as I was clearing out the last contents of the house, and regretfully preparing the place for sale. I have no idea of why I dream so often of one grandparent’s house and not the other, save that the paternal grandparents moved several times. First from a small cottage in Altadena when I was barely school-age, to a tract house in Camarillo, and from there to a series of double-wide trailers in various senior citizen parks in Camarillo and Oxnard – of which no very firm memories remain save of the tract house, the star pine in the front yard and the St. Augustine grass around it which eventually formed a thick, spongy and mattress-like turf.

Granny Jessie and Grandpa Jim stayed put for fifty years, in a little white cottage on South Lotus Avenue, in Pasadena, about a block or so south of Colorado Boulevard, and a bit east of Rosemead. Even after Grandpa Jim died when I was eleven, Granny Jessie remained there for more than another decade, util she moved to the Gold Star Mother Home in Long Beach. I think that I remember that house so vividly because I spent so much more time there, comparatively. It was the place where Mom and I lived when I was born, and for another year until Dad was doing his Army time in Korea. Mom and her older brother Jimmy Junior had grown up in that house – the house that Grandpa Jim and Granny Jessie had bought when they married in the early 1920s. A long straight driveway ran across the left side of the lot, all the way to a single-car garage at the very back. Mom told us that she learned very well how to back a car, all the way out from that garage to the street.

Mom, in front of the house – showing the oak tree which towered over the house, and the garage behind it.

I can mentally walk through the house, front to back, and visualize just about all of the furniture in place, although some of it more clearly than others. The living room was carpeted in flecked white, black and gray low-pile, the walls were nondescript – only a few framed prints of dreary sepia-colored landscapes – and Granny Jessie’s windows were curtained in filmy white chiffon. Only the back bedroom had wallpaper, I recall. The living room carpet was lightly flecked with little burn marks from Grandpa Jim’s ever-present cigarettes. After he died, Granny Jessie replaced the carpet with the same pattern. More »

The work crew completed the short length of fence with gate across the font of the house last night – and today, my daughter bought six bags of rubber mulch, and rearranged the plants and the patio furniture! This doubles the pleasant living space in the front bedroom, and provides a sheltered outdoor play area for Wee Jamie.

It will also completely confuse anyone making deliveries as to where in the heck the front door is … but oh, well….