20 February 2018

Poems from the Bus, Vol. 2


There is a dancer in my brain.

She remembers all the random dance classes we have taken and a lot of the routines from flag line in high school.

She knows the names of all the moves and steps in Bellydance and can point them out when she sees them.

She sends gentle shocks to my hips when I'm sitting on the bus home and listening to my favourites from Beats Antique and Solace and Linkin Park. I shimmy and then remember I'm in public.

There is an actor in my heart.

She can recite the litany of productions I was in during school and uni. She remembers the songs from the musicals and the blocking from the number from Godspell. 

She laughs at the memory of the C clamp hitting my forehead or the reason that the platforms in The Shadowbox looked like landing strips at a dark airport.

She is in cahoots with the dancer when Here Comes the Sun, Layla, or a myriad of tracks from Cold Spring Harbor come on the radio, spurring me to find a staircase, an air guitar, and a tissue and join the manic dance number that preceded the bows.

There is a linguist in my hands.

She lives to turn a clever phrase from auditory to visual. 

She is magic. 

She is dance and art combined with elation and heartbreak. 

She speaks for me when I cannot stand a single auditory word more or I will shatter into a thousand letters and words and conjunctions. 

She sweeps in, wearing the opera cloak my brain and heart loaned her, and she makes sense of my nonsense, creating sentences and paragraphs out of stutters and false starts.

She is brave. She knows how to use language, not just speak it. Language is her weapon, her balm, her vehicle and her get-away.

There is a coward in my soul.

She looks at the gentle sway of the dancer and reminds me of how clumsy I am.

She applauds the soliloquy of the actor and reminds me that I'm too old and fat to be cast as anything but an afterthought.

She understands perfectly the message that the linguist delivers and reminds me that I am only a mediocre second language learner with no real claim to anything but my own remedial English.

There is a dancer in my brain, an actor in my heart, and a linguist in my hands - with a coward as a gatekeeper.

- N Dunne
19 February 2018

18 February 2018

Poems from the Bus, Vol. 1

To A Woman on the Bus

You caught me looking at you
Your beautiful skin and demure eyes
Your lovely and bright headscarf covering your hair
Comparing my own unruly ginger locks and freckled skin and dingy raincoat

You caught me looking at you
Dark eyes uncertain
Dark glances from others on the bus
Dark feelings swirling in a vortex of discomfort
Comparing our own motives and agendas and beliefs.

 You caught me looking at you
You held my gaze a moment
Your expectations plain
Your daily experience of mistrust and unfounded fear
So I smiled at you and you smiled back and we both continued on our way

You caught me looking at you
But it was really me looking at me
Because we are the same.

-N Dunne
18 Nov 2015

15 February 2018

Second verse, same as the... Nevermind.

Sometimes I am overwhelmingly glad that hubs and I did not have human children.

Students leave the building, Parkland High School.
Image courtesy of USA Today
Yesterday was one of those days. I cannot even imagine what the parents of the surviving students had to talk about last night when they got home - or the silence in the homes of the victims. My thoughts and prayers go out to the idiots who think that it is all right for a country with so many problems - often touted as the true causes of this kind of mass violence - to give access to weapons that can fire that many rounds that fast to anyone that passes a background check. I passed my astronomy tests in college but I am no astronomer nor do I have even a rudimentary understanding of physics. Keep your handguns if you must, this is the Wild Wild West after all. Keep your hunting rifles if you have to and you don't have the skill to hunt with a bow. But for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY can we NOT just say, finally, that having a weapon capable of this kind of carnage is NOT OKAY?

Or, is it okay with you that these sorts of things occur? Don't get me wrong, it is not an either or by any stretch, but I have to wonder. Dunblane happened in 1996. Firearm restriction legislation happened. Go and google how many mass shootings have happened in the UK since. I will wait.

And you, over there, waving your hand madly to add that once they took away the guns there were deaths by stabbing and that people are being run over by cars...of course, these things are happening. Our world is populated with horrible people and with very sick people who do horrendous things. That falls under that other category of issues that need fixing. Those types of events can be tied, I think, to violence being so prevalent in our culture. Those types of people are the ones being failed by mental health care in this country. But the numbers don't prove that a knife or a car can take out as many people as quickly as an AR-15 - believed to be the type of firearm used in Florida yesterday. 

Y'all, I'm so left leaning that I've almost fallen over. I'm basically a socialist. This is not news to anyone that knows me well. I spend as much time being sad for the state of our world (yep, the whole world and not just the United States) as I do being afraid for the world. What happened yesterday is not okay, and there is international evidence to support the idea that if we could just stand up to the NRA and the other lobbies and restrict the KINDS of weapons available, we would be safer. Why is that such a hard thing to do?

30 mass shootings this year - 18 of those at schools - and we aren't even two months in yet. How much is too much?

09 February 2018

Of crowdfunding and its tenuous link to socialism

Willow's Creative Process
I'm off work today because I have an appointment here in Greenville later, and of course, that means CLEAN THE KITCHEN and THINK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS that would make for great blog posts and/or new novels. Most of the time it stops there with the thinking, but not today. Lucky, lucky, Lettuce Readers.

I got to thinking this morning about crowdfunding. A good friend of mine and fellow Rennie/HOEF-er has posted a Go Fund Me for her precious boy, Rowan, who was hit by a car after accidentally getting loose. It could happen to any of us. It has happened to me, minus the car, when my three greyhounds got out the front door of my house - not once, but three times - before I learned that if you closed ANY door in that house the pressure would cause the front door to pop open if it was not locked. I know that terror. I cannot imagine the rest of it and hope that I never will. Please follow the link above and if you feel so inclined, donate - but at least give it a share.

I've actually been thinking about crowdfunding a lot because I'm staring down a summer without my bi-weekly allowance from the university where I work. Nine-month employees are required to sign up for that deferment annually, and somehow this past August it completely slipped my mind. My paychecks are a bit higher this academic year, but with each one, I'm reminded that I will essentially be living on what I can hustle through freelance interpreting gigs over the summer. I am investigating Patreon as a way to supplement what I'm earning via interpreting so that I can continue to work on my novels, but I'm not sure that it would work OR that I would be able to live with myself. (This is the point at which socialism comes in, in case you guys were wondering.)

To me, one of the basic tenets of socialism is taking care of each other. Sharing your wealth, sharing your food, sharing whatever you have with everyone else, regardless of what they can share with you in return. Socialised medicine happens when everyone shares the burden of paying for everyone's health care, for example. We already practice some socialism here in the US - I pay a part of my taxes to support education, even though I don't have children. Other people do, and those children will grow up to lead our cities and states and country, and I don't mind helping them.

The idea behind Patreon is a simple one. In the past, creative types would find wealthy patrons to support them so that they could create their art. Now, instead of one wealthy patron, this outfit seeks to connect people who want to support artists of all genres with those artists. I first learned about it because of an artist that I like, Amanda Palmer (the link there is to her Patreon page). She was in on the ground level and has an excellent explanation of the difference between Patreon and Kickstarter on the page linked above. If you browse around the site, you will find just about any kind of artistic endeavor you could possibly imagine - most of which have at least a few dollars of funding. While this is a way for well-known artists to take the producer/middleman out of the equation, for some this is their sole means of being able to do what they love.

This would be the second point at which I bring up socialism. You like to read fantasy novels? I like to write them! Perfect! Not exactly. I am just starting out as an author/indie publisher, and I can already see improvements in the second and third books in the Nature Walker Trilogy when compared to the first book. I'm learning. I'm listening to my beta readers and editors. On the rare occasion when someone leaves me a review or contacts me to talk to me about how they found the first book (or my back catalog of dog books), I get feedback that I can use to become a better writer. All of this I do in my limited free time when my brain and my hands are not overwhelmed with work from my day job that pays for our house, food, car, etc. etc. etc. I just wonder how much better and more organized I would be as an author without the weight of the day job - and that's what a program like Patreon could help me discover.

But the point of this post was not my financial woes, it was how wonderful I think programs like Patreon, GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and others of their ilk are in our society today. As an American, I was raised to look at socialism as an evil thing that took away my unique ability to DO IT MYSELF. These organizations allow others to offer help so that it isn't all on me or other artists. I saw someone say on Facebook yesterday that you can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don't have any.

Now, can I accept those bootstraps if they are offered? That's another blog post for another day. 

01 February 2018

Hey, y'all...guess what?

What is it they call it on Car Talk? "The Shameless Commerce Division?" Yep, that's pretty much me today. Click below to pre-order.


(Amazon.co.uk and other Amazon sites pre-order coming soon!)

Of sadness and happiness and being oh so very lucky...

Me and Sandy at a McDonald family gathering, early 90's.
Sometimes you can get a text message that makes your whole day. Sometimes the message breaks your heart. Sometimes...all of the above.

I got the photo to the right during a class this morning, and as soon as I saw that it was from one of my favorite cousins, Margaret, I had an idea of what it was. I opened the message and my breath caught in my throat.

There is so much in this photo to unpack, and I'm only just scratching the surface, but here goes. On the surface, this is a picture of me and my cousin Sandy who left us last month due to a degenerative muscle disease that he has had for many years. Most of the time my husband knew him, Sandy used a wheelchair. I honestly can't put a date on the last time he was independently mobile like he is in this photo. Sandy and I...I don't know how to even begin to describe our relationship, and if I spend too much time trying this post will be over before it begins and I will have to walk away and compose myself. There we are, though, pouring over what I'm sure is either photos from an Amy Grant concert or Camp Glisson, just as we always did at the quarterly McDonald family gatherings that I attended every three months of every year of my life until I went to live in England. How many extended families see each other THAT much? My mother's people are close, y'all. Close.

My father's family, the Allens, usually saw each other at Christmas and very often my Aunt Inez (the one of his four sisters that was the closest to my father and was very much a second mother for me and Susan) would join us when we hosted the McDonalds - but the rest of my paternal extended family just wasn't as close in the same way, I suppose?

The second thing I noticed in this photo happened as I was trying to identify when it was taken. When you have a get together EVERY three months there are a lot of possibilities. First thing I noticed is that it is not Christmas. How do I know that? Two things:

  • My dad, who is in the background holding a child, is not wearing anything red, green, or otherwise both in a plaid. The man is nothing if not consistent. Also, I am not wearing shoes. Leaving aside the jokes about being born and raised in the Southern United States, I would have had shoes on in December. It really does get cold in Georgia, I promise.
  • There are no presents or wrapping paper anywhere in the photo. One thing I remember clearly about the number of McDonald Family Christmases that my parents hosted was that there was always a mountain of wrapping paper for me and Susan to clean up when it was over. 

Next, I had to confirm that it was indeed at one of the 8 parsonages where I lived growing up. I'm guessing from the curtain and the photo behind Sandy's head this was taken when Mom and Dad were in Commerce. The dish in my hand is one of a collection that had a rooster right in the middle of the plates and bowls that my parents had. I'm sure there is nothing but whipped cream in it, either.

Further, once I enhanced the photo a little I could see that the necklace I'm wearing is most likely my Sigma Beta Sigma necklace that I wore my freshman and sophomore years of college. I stopped wearing it when I got to Maryville in 1991 because MC did not have social greek organizations and I was 19 and all about BLENDING IN so the necklace stayed at home with my folks.

We are narrowed down now to somewhere between August of 1989 and June of 1991, and I'm leaning toward the spring gathering in 1991. My hair was short, but not yet the gorgeous Molly Ringwald inspired orange that I dyed it shortly before graduation in June of 1991. THAT IS MY NATURAL HAIR COLOR, PEOPLE. Also, please note the Artist-Wanna-Be pose that I'm striking in that chair. Back then I was in theatre and was going to be an actor, and since Sandy had been involved in theatre and performing, it was an easy match.

So, if this is around March of 1991, I was 19 and a half and Sandy was 28. We were the two edges of the gap in age for our McDonald cousins. Susan was the youngest (she is 4.5 years younger than I am) and Havelyn (not pictured) was the oldest. There were 7 of us and we ranged in age (at the time of this photo) from 14 to...I don't know, Havelyn might have been in her 40s then? Susan tended to be more into playing with our second cousins who were all younger than she, and I desperately wanted to be cool like my older cousins. Sandy never treated me like anything less than an equal, even with the nine-year age gap. He came to visit me when I was at Young Harris and he wrote a song for me afterward. It is one of the great regrets of my life that I no longer have the cassette that he gave me that had that song on it.

So while this photo initially brought tears to my eyes because I miss him - I miss this kind of family, this kind of gathering where we are all happy and enjoying each other's company and not worrying over ill health or missing the latest family member to leave us... I am happy in those memories in a way I haven't been lately. I've put Amy Grant back in my Spotify for Sandy, to remember how he took me and Susan to see her in Atlanta at the Omni. I'm going to the Highland Games and repping Clan Donald, even though I've only gotten my own genealogy back to the ancestor that left Scotland for America.

I said to Susan today that we were so very lucky to grow up in this family, filled with love, always visiting and keeping in touch. In the world today where so many people have so little and families aren't always able to see each other as often as they would prefer, I can say with pride that I did not have back then that I was raised part of the McDonald family (or clan, as my Uncle Lewis used to call us). Raised up in love.

In which I apologize profusely if you are not a fan of Mystery Science Theatre 3K...

If you ARE a fan, think "King Dinosaur..."

01 January 2018

All that and the (Goodreads) sync...

Cover design for Tempest: Fall of the Nature Walker
Concept by me, final design by Brian Collins
So, today is a big day. I mean, of course it is, it's New Year's Day, January 1st, 2018, but in my little corner of life, it is also Cover Reveal Day for the second book in my trilogy, Tempest, as you can see there just to the right of here. Once again, my good friend Brian, who is so very talented, has created a masterpiece out of my mucky concept. 

In revealing the cover, I am also committing to a timeline, something that is hard AND easy for me in equal measure. I know that I work better with one, and with a hard and fast deadline, but I also know myself. I am extremely impatient and I want ALL OF THE PEOPLE TO HAVE ALL OF THE BOOKS NOW rather than do what normal people do and release them on a schedule. In fact, in order to distract myself from fretting over getting Tempest into the eReaders of ALL OF THE PEOPLE, I distracted myself by writing a prequel of sorts, a history of Orana, that in its current state is just heaps and heaps of slightly coherent ones and zeroes, waiting in my cloud drive to be edited. And by edited, I mean ripped to bits and probably rearranged a bit. I'm pleased with it, but I'm the only one that has read it so far, so there's that.

In linking my blog to Goodreads (if you're reading me from there and the cover graphic looks wonky, I'm sorry), I am revealing a part of my self to (hopefully) a large group of people that don't know me yet, either as a writer or as me. That's okay, if not a little nerve-wracking. But here I am to reveal parts of both of those sides of me, anxiety be damned. 

The cover for Wanderer is being reworked a bit so that it falls in a bit better with this concept direction we have taken with Tempest, and that will be revealed here as well when it's ready. If you are new to the Lettuce, please feel free to mosey around. There are large time gaps, I will warn you, and if you go alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way back 10 years to where it started you will see a very different me in the posts. You may also want to head over to Our Daily Bryn, a photo blog of our life with our Irish Wolfhound, Bryn - who is the star of her own series of books (so far only a series of one, but I'm working on that), Clobberpaws.

So, happy new year, welcome to Brave Lettuce, and I hope to hear from you here in the comments or over on Goodreads!

29 December 2017

Real Life Sheldon Cooper...Or Lucy without Ethel

It was nowhere near this cordial.
So, it's Winter Break from Clemson (Christmas, Hannukah, Eid, Kwanza, etc. etc.) and I have literally not left the house since Monday, Christmas Day, when we went to Atlanta. This is a good thing, as I spend a great deal of my time Not Home and Commuting and At Clemson, so in a way, this has been a welcome break. The girls haven't had to stay crated as much and I've gotten some long overdue cleaning done (more on Beetle later).

Yesterday Hubs came home early from work because he had pulled a pretty significant muscle in his back. He did what everyone on earth save me does in that situation - ibuprofen, hot shower, bed in that order. I was out here in the den with the girls (who had just come in from the yard, leaving the basement door open) when I heard him say (not shout) with absolutely no alarm in his voice whatsoever:

"Nancy, there's a bird in the house."

No alarm at all. I thought he was kidding.

"What?" By this point, I paused the episode of The Flash (I'm binge-watching in between housework, hence the HAVE NOT LEFT THE HOUSE IN FOUR DAYS I mentioned earlier) and he said it again, in the same calm tone like he was telling me we might have spag-bol for our tea tonight.

"There's a bird in the house."

Okay, y'all, I love animals. All of them. I do not love all of them being in my house. I also do not love birds in the same I NEED TO SNUGGLE YOU LIKE YESTERDAY way that I love my dogs or cats or cute little critters of many different species. I have a healthy respect for birds that borders on abject fear. Okay, let's be honest, it is fear. The time my ex-husband took my hand while I wasn't looking and led a cockatiel onto my arm I nearly wet my pants in public. I thought I was brave at a pet store in Keighley when I held an owl, but I really wasn't. If you know me well and you have seen the photo of me and that owl, you can see that I was unable, in that moment, to move any part of my body except my eyes.

Also, if you are my friend Anne, aka Lucy to my Ethel or Ethel to my Lucy, you are probably already remembering the time that we tried to get a bird out of the rafters of the garage of your house when I lived with you after moving back from the UK. Why we decided to help a bird out of a garage THAT HAD NO DOOR with only a ladder, a broom, and a beach towel I'm not sure, but the results were pretty much the same as they were yesterday (only without any of those implements).

I came down the hall and asked where the bird was, to find Hubs still comfortably in bed (although sitting up at this point). "Out there," he says, as though he is telling me where Beetle's charging station is or which way to go to find the dog room. I looked into the dog room and there it was, a little bird of the chickadee/wren/finch body type and size, and it was sitting on the top of Willow's crate. So I did what any normal person would in my case.

"What should I do about it?"

After a few wisecracks about not leaving it in the house, Hubs and I decided that I needed to catch it and put it outside. And when I said we decided that I mean he did and I continued to try to avoid screaming.

Did I mention that the girls were in the house at the time? No? Well...I managed to take the baby gate that keeps them out of the dog room and the one that keeps them out of our bedroom and put them at the other end of the hall to keep the dogs in the kitchen...because both of them were now staring down the hall at me. I think the hungry looks in their eyes were all in my imagination, but I certainly did NOT want to get in between them and a nervous bird.

The bird hopped and flew about in mad fashion and, as you (and certainly Anne) can imagine, I did NOT catch it in the t-shirt that I was waving around like an insane matador. Finally the bird had had enough of my shenanigans and flew into the bedroom. By this point, Hubs was out of bed and trying to help - he planned to catch it with his bare hands! It flew under our bed, which is unfortunate for the bird because I can't tell you the last time I cleaned under there, so I pushed on the mattress. Another normal conversation ensued:

Hubs - "What are you doing?"
Me- "Trying to make mattress noises so that it will come back out."
Hubs - "Mattress noises?"

I was about to explain that when you so much as LOOK at our mattress, the entire cheap bedframe (seriously, do NOT buy any furniture from Rooms To Go, it's all cheap) squeaks, but I didn't get a chance to do that because THE BIRD FLEW OUT ON MY SIDE OF THE BED. I hit the deck, Sheldon Cooper Style, and nearly shouted "Bird in the apartment! Bird in the apartment!"

I was not helping at all, and the poor thing went back under the bed for a moment. We had decided that we had to shoo it out an open door rather than catch it, and you should remember that by we I still mean Hubs. In a moment of sheer brilliance, I remembered that we had opened the windows in the bedroom the last time our AC went out and that one of them didn't have a screen.

It was not the one I opened. Of course it wasn't. However, I was able to get the screen pushed out just a bit and left an opening that was just exactly bird-sized but didn't knock the screen out and crashing two stories down to the work site that is Hubs's planned firepit and seating area. Back to shooing. The bird flew back out, I hit the deck again, and Hubs shooed it to the window where it escaped.

As soon as the girls came back in from the yard this morning I shut that basement door. I also locked it, though I know that birds can't generally operate doorknobs. Better safe than sorry.

13 December 2017


Sandy and Margaret McDonald

My friend, I think of you daily
Because I care and it's true
That though we've shared a lot together
It's very rare that I see you

And I want you to know that God loves you
And that I love you too
And that even if we're hardly ever near
I'm talking to Him about you

And I'll be praying for you every morning
As I start off the day with the Lord
And I'll be praying that you're walking with Jesus
And abiding in His Word

I don't know when I'll see you again
A month, a year, or maybe more
But if your heart belongs to the Savior
I'll see you in the sky if not before.

And I want you to know that God loves you
And that I love you too
And that even if we're hardly ever near
I'm talking to Him about you

And I'll be praying for you every morning
As I start off the day with the Lord
And I'll be praying that you're walking with Jesus
And abiding in His Word

Love you so much, my cousin Sandy, my hero. Hug your sisters and your sweet mother for me. I will hug Margaret and the rest of your family for you.

06 November 2017

Sideways...and then some

The I Can't Even face.
Y'all. How is it that things can go from zero to one hundred so fast when I'm not anywhere near where I need to be to help?

This weekend started with Saturday at CRF which was good, just long. Bryn has a weird issue with twilight where her bad behavior gets worse the more day fades into night, and she was tired and cranky and nearly broke both my knees by slamming her giant head into them trying to remove her Perfect Pace harness from her nose OVER AND OVER.

God love that dog.

Sunday was a bit slower which was nice because I felt like the inside of a punching bag, but holy moly did the universe turn that one on its ear in no time flat. I was supposed to meet friends for dinner and a show downtown at 4pm. At 3pm I heard about an incident with the Hounds on the Sunday crew at CRF. I got all the information I could, sent a hurried damage control email to festival administration to let them know we had everything under control, and figured that I could then go downtown (only running about 10 minutes late somehow) and enjoy the musical that lives in my heart before coming back to sort out what happened at the faire that morning. I could not have been more wrong.

I feel the need to pause here and tell you that earlier that morning, Simon and I were laughing at this moment from the Big Bang Theory:

Stuart: Oh, Sheldon, I'm afraid you couldn't be more wrong.
Sheldon: More wrong? Wrong is an absolute state and not subject to gradation.
Stuart: Of course it is. It's a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable, it's very wrong to say it's a suspension bridge.

All kinds of hell broke loose while I was in the theatre and, in theory at least, unable to respond. But me being me, I had to at least check in on what was going on and I think my blood pressure was at an all-time high by the end of the show. I also was not able to fully concentrate on the show which makes me VERY angry at myself.  So now, today, I am sorting through different versions of events and navigating the choppy waters of hurt feelings while all the time walking the tightrope that is our continued existence in a building at this particular faire and I just really want to take a nap. Now. Under my desk.

Poems from the Bus, Vol. 2