Genetic Aesthetics

On May 13, 1945, my Grammy sent this photograph of herself to her mom:

 GrammyPortrait GrammyPortrait-Back

I’ve never really thought that I looked a whole lot like Grammy. I know that my physical appearance comes more from the Stringer/Brokaw side of my gene pool than from the Hoffman side – Meredith got those genes. But I’d never really looked at any photo of Grammy, or of any other relatively other than my Mom, and thought, “Hey, I look like that person.” Maybe Mom’s cousin Rebecca, a little bit… but not really Grammy.

Then Mom pulled out the picture seen above, and one of my senior photos.


I think we were all a little bit surprised. I spent a little time on Photoshop and, after discovering that it’s virtually impossible for this user to apply digital lipstick, made a comparison:

 GrammyPortrait KatePortrait antiqued

Could be much better; I didn’t let myself spend too much time on it. Still – I think the comparison is a little bit startling!

Perhaps the best part of all of this is that Grammy would have been 29 when this picture was taken. I’m having fantasies of making a hair appointment and a photography studio appointment sometime this summer, and trying to recreate the photo before I turn 30. The only problem, I think, is that I’ve gained about forty pounds since that picture was taken, so I’m not sure I still look that much like my teensy Grammy. That, and the whole “exactly how much money do you want to spend on a photograph?” question. And the “my hair is easily twice as long as hers and I’m in no mood to cut it off” thing.

Dunno. It’s fun to think about, anyway.

Nearing the summit…

38Who here is in the mood for another chapter of Wyrd?

I think that we’re getting close… I’ve got all of these bits and pieces that want to be worked in, and I’m not positive that they’ll all fit correctly, but hey – that’s what the revision process is for, right? I’ve got the entire story worked out in my head, all except for (naturally) the part I need to write next. In fact, the other day I was driving to work, and part of the story wrote itself in my head – it actually gave me cold chills. Of course, that might have actually just been the cold car. But I’ll give my INESTIMABLE CREATIVE GENIUS the benefit of the doubt.

This is exciting to write. Not because I think it’s the best story ever, or that I’m the best writer ever, or anything else along those lines. No; it’s exciting because, for the first time ever, I’m writing a first draft and consciously thinking about and planning for revision. It seems to have taken me until I was almost thirty, but I’m finally acting like a real writer.

Anyway, the chapter is here, the password is the same stupid old thing, and, as always, I’ll love ya forever if you leave me a comment, because I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.

In a Row? Well… Not Quite.

Girl_With_Katana_by_chikinrise See, once you get over that hump of trying to force yourself to start writing again, it’s easy to keep it going. At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself until I put this on the back burner for another five months and get threatened with imminent katana-death.

In other words: Chapter 37 has gone live. Fans of Sherlock Holmes and Gregory House will probably want to reach out and shake our heroine, who is not – as it turns out – a highly logical, drug-abusing, curmudgeonly, misogynistic genius. Then again, can you see Will as a Watson/Wilson? The only thing he’s got going for him in that department is a name that starts with W…

The password is the usual. If you don’t know it, PM me on FB or give me your email address and I’ll send it your way.

Not Quite a Chocolate Bunny, But…

By way of an Easter present to my three devoted readers, I’ve resurrected Wyrd.

Was that in poor taste? Woke up at 5:30 this morning after a full week of sleeping in, so I claim no responsibility for tasteless jokes. Anyway, chapter 36 is here. I would have had it up earlier, but decided to start over. (Hey, it’s not November, I can have an Inner Editor if I want to.)

If you’re new to Wyrd, there’s still plenty of time to get caught up. Go here and start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start). You’ll need a password, and to get it you’ll need to provide me with your email address or private-message me on FB. The password is my weak attempt to prevent baddies from stealing my work, because, y’know, there’s a huge market for pilfered first drafts of fantasy novels.

When we last left our heroine, she was in immediate danger of death through drowning, at the hands of the villainous (and somewhat slimy) Salamandar Man. Her only hope were her two comrades who were frantically trying to save her, but could they beat the clock and the rising, icy water? (And if so, will anyone say, “Curses, foiled again?”)

And if you want to give me an Easter present, leave me a comment – on whatever chapter(s) you read – and let me know what you think, good or bad. This is a first draft, and “Beta tester” input helps a lot as I think about revision!

Sidenote: I’m a little amazed that it’s been five months since I’ve done anything with this story. (Well – that’s not quite true. I’ve been doing a lot of writing in my head.) I’m also amazed at how long it’s getting; it’s sitting at 128 pages, 251 if I format for paperback. (Kind of a silly way to measure it, I suppose, but I’ve always found page counts satisfying.) And there’s quite a bit still left to write – I’d say we’re probably another 20k words or so shy of the end, if not more!

Our Furry Little Family

Family Retouched

I’d say that I wondered what Paisley and d’Artagnan were looking at, but I know – it’s Wilford. He decided that the moment when I’m holding for dear life onto a panicky indoor cat was the best possible moment to sashay across the yard.

Wilford Snowball Sophie

That’s Wilford, solid white, and Sophie in flamepoint. Wilford’s real name is Snowball, but really  – how undignified, right? Before we found out his real name, we started to call him Wilford and it just stuck. He lived next door, but then they moved and he was miserable in his new place, so he came back to our neighborhood. We’re one of at least two families taking care of him now.

It’s difficult to give a simple answer to “how many pets do you have?” in this household. We have one dog, and – as best as we can figure it – 1 and 5/6 cats. d’Artagnan is the one cat, Sophie is a half of a cat (because she could care less if we exist 360 days out of the year), and Wilford is one third of a cat, because he never comes inside and we only see him every third day or so.

Kate and Paisley  Ryan and d'Artagnan

This picture of d’Artagnan, with Ryan, is pretty funny in terms of perspective – he’s this tiny little cat, but he practically looks like a Maine Coon in that shot.

Ryan and Paisley  Kate and d'Artagnan

Anyway, there you have it – our furry little family… Happy Easter!

LIGHTS in Boise: A Review

Disclosure: I was given two tickets to this concert, as well as a copy of LIGHTS’s album, with the understanding that I would write a review. The following review contains my own opinions and observations, which were not influenced or coerced by Warner Brothers, LIGHTS, or the Knitting Factory.

Listening album cover

Inside most every geek, I theorize, there’s a rock star. That’s why we read fiction full of larger-than-life heroes and play games that allow us to live vicariously through over-the-top avatars. Sure, we may be slightly out of shape and tend to wear black t-shirts with white writing on them, but inside we’re perfect human (or non-human) specimens in illogically-skimpy battle armor, renowned throughout the universe for our fighting skills, with perfect skin, perfect hair, and a kickbutt electric guitar solo just waiting to accentuate our witty repartee.

After seeing LIGHTS live at Boise’s Knitting Factory on March 31, I spent some time exploring her website and Youtube channel. I then texted my concert date (who is now insisting that I spell his name RYAN) with one of the highest compliments I can bestow: This gal, I said, is high geek.

But first, the concert itself.

liveinboise2 LIGHTS (legally Lights Valerie Poxleitner) took the stage in a casual outfit, shiny dark hair, and – most interestingly to me – a very practical pair of boots. These boots looked comfortable and well-worn; they told me that she wasn’t some overstyled diva selling more sex than music, but rather someone who didn’t want anything distracting her from her physical interaction with the music.

LIGHTS was flanked by a drummer, Maurie Kaufmann, and a second keyboard/synthesizer player, Adam Weaver. From my roost above the stage, the main thing that kept her from looking like a sixteen-year-old was the collection of tattoos stretching across her long arms.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. The venue looked like an overcrowded junior high dance, and the audience had stayed pretty static for the excellent warm-up act, Paper Route. I’d enjoyed the light, feminine, poppy sound of her album (The Listening, $12.99 through Amazon) and wondered how it would hold up to the sound techs’ heavy hand with the bass. Finally, live acts often fail to live up to studio recordings – so many contemporary artists are simply unable to keep on pitch without technicians correcting their vocal tracks.

Let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised. The aesthetic was significantly different than that of the album; with the drums and bass cranked up, the delicateness was replaced by a more aggressive, passionate sound. It was pretty darn terrific. (That there’s professional concert reviewer jargon.) I feel pretty confident that more people weren’t dancing only because they were packed in so tightly toward the stage; the audience was engaged, enjoying themselves, and frequently filled quiet moments with shouts of “I love you!” and “You’re gorgeous!”

I have to admit that I kind of loved her, too. She was just enjoying herself so much that it was positively infectious. This was my first clue, aside from her press packet, that she really was geek; she let her body move to the music in unreserved, un-choreographed, often flailing ways, all arms and legs reacting unconsciously to what she was playing, singing, and feeling. More than once she appeared to be holding on to her synthesizer’s keys for dear life, lest the sound blow her backwards off the stage. Those low-heeled boots came in handy as she bounced up and down, twisted on her toes, and navigated a stage crisscrossed with power cords. Her performance of “Ice,” in particular, was just a joy to watch – and after watching the video, I now know why. This geek girl really owns and loves her music, because it’s a direct connection to her ripe imagination and big, unabashed emotion.

(I now interrupt this rambly review to present the music video for “Ice.” I think you’ll get a kick out of this.)

All this talk about the visuals of the concert should not be allowed to take away from the actual music, which was also very good (and perfectly on pitch, for what it’s worth). LIGHTS cites Björk as her major musical influence, and I can definitely see it. Her music, which she describes as intergalactic electropop, also reminded me somewhat of Nena and La Roux (neither comparison, I suspect, being terribly surprising). However, it also seems inspired by Styx’s more space-age offerings, particularly those opening bars of “Mr. Roboto.” Although she doesn’t have an enormous voice, LIGHTS does have a versatile instrument that ranges from “sweet little girl” to “superheroine battle cry.” As her voice matures, I can kind of see her becoming electronica’s answer to Fergie.

LIGHTS also performed with confidence, bantering charmingly with the audience and remaining unflappable even when her keytar went out on her. Yes, I said keytar.

RYAN enjoyed the show, although he found LIGHTS perhaps a little “bubblegummy, but not in a bad way.” My only real criticism was that it was difficult (and at times impossible) to understand LIGHTS’s vocals through the wall of bass. I wish, for example, that I could have understood why she told the audience that “Lions” was a song about World of Warcraft. (See, I told you this girl was geek.) The song was great, but I couldn’t make out any of the lyrics.

I’m not good at handing out stars or thumbs-up with reviews; for me, the measure of a good concert is whether it makes me want to go out and buy the album. Both LIGHTS and Paper Route achieved that. (For the record, Owl City did not.) I already have The Listening, courtesy of the press packet, so I’m looking forward to the next album.

And if the concert hadn’t made a fan out of me, LIGHTS’s online offerings probably would have. The best of the best, for those counting geek points, has to be Audio Quest: A Captain LIGHTS Adventure. What’s not to love about a geekgrrl who is also a successful music artist and who has her very own animated sci fi superhero webcomic?


LIGHTS: good, original music; infectiously fun performance; high geek.

Me: looking forward to that collaboration with Björk.

You: should be giving this gal a listen.