Monday, December 10, 2012

Hitting the Road

Riddle: What popular Christmas carols are reworded here? Beckon the entire group of all those who are loyal in their belief. During the evening hours when the guardians of wooly animals survey their charges. Is your perception of the reverberations emanating from the heavens identical with mine?

We had a huge snowstorm Saturday night and Sunday. The roads are still a bit slippery, though reports are, it's better farther south. Wish us safe travel as we set off on our brief book tour.

I'm going to post this on Monday, because Tuesday we'll be on the road from LaCrosse to Madison, Wisconsin, having done a talk and signing at an Embroiderers Guild of America meeting in LaCrosse and going to do a reading and signing in Madison Tuesday evening. Then we'll go to three cities in Iowa (Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines), ending up in Omaha on Saturday. Driving means lots of room in the back seat for my hats!

After conferring with my editor, my agent, and my husband, we have discarded both names I had proposed for my next Betsy Devonshire novel. I was initially calling it Watered Silk, but that is a fabric term, not a needlework term. So then I thought, how about HardAnger, with the Hard in one color and the Anger in another, but printed on the cover as one word – Hardanger is, in fact, a kind of embroidery. But it looked kind of hard boiled, and I definitely don't write hard boiled. An exchange of e-mails followed and at last someone in my editor's office at Berkley suggested A Drowning Spool. So that's currently the title. It involves Betsy teaching a stitchery class at a senior retirement complex and a body found drowned in their therapy pool.

There's More to Dogs than Fur and Barking:
Some while back I saw a story on The Learning Channel, or maybe it was Animal Planet, or even some other cable channel, about a very bright dog being trained as a helper. The human trainer sat in a chair and held up a big card with commands printed on it in big black letters. SIT, read one. The dog looked at it and sat. DOWN, read another and the dog lay down. Someone who fancied himself a scientist said the dog wasn't really reading, he was just looking at the black marks on the cards and turning them into commands in his head. Um, that's reading, right?

Now, very recently, I read a short article about teaching dogs the names of objects using nonsense words. Dax, for example, for ball. Then showing the dog a selection of objects (not including his ball) and asking him to fetch a Dax. The selection included ball-shaped objects much larger and smaller than his ball, along with other objects. The dog would select objects either of the same texture as his ball, or the same size, rather than ball-shaped objects. The theory is that dogs use their noses and mouths much more than their eyes, and so choose on that basis. Interesting, because nevertheless, the dog had internalized the concept.

A resident in our building is losing her vision, and gave me four big balls of white wool yarn. Nice thick yarn, very high quality, very soft. Using big knitting needles, I am making a scarf, knit two, purl two Haven't done such basic knitting in awhile, and I'm loving it!

For a different look at Betsy Devonshire, go here:
It was great fun writing that!

Answers: O Come, All Ye Faithful; While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night; and Do You Hear What I Hear?


Betty Hechtman said...

Drowning Spool is a great title! Have safe travels. I'm in Chicago now and the snow missed us entirely.

Monica Ferris said...

I'm glad to hear that, Betty! We're in Madison for tonight's signing at Booked for Murder and there's maybe an inch and a half of snow on the ground. The highways are in great shape. Had a super time last night in La Crosse. A large group of EGA members brought delicious food to a pot luck, and I gave a shortened version of my usual talk. It was very well received. And they bought a lot of books!

Linda O. Johnston said...

As someone whose dogs have each determined the best ways to communicate their demands to me, Monica, I've no doubt that they can learn to recognize and react to whatever symbols and words are provided to them. And I like the title A Drowning Spool.