Happy New Year

Big Z thinks this looks like me and my husband. It does. Well, almost. I gave it to her for Christmas. She thinks it's hil-arious! It's two inches tall, thus the lack of detail. This blog is biggering it. 

Big Z

Little Z prefers to be called Big Z now that she has reached the sagacious age of seven years. 
It's difficult to draw people who never sit still. She almost sits still when she's writing emails or playing video games. 

I think I might draw or write something every day of 2015. Wonder if I can. 

2014 has been the most creative year of my life. It seems to keep the despair at bay. I recommend making art. It's a good hobby. It works for me, at least. It's like meditating, only easier and with the same benefits afterward. Although I have no idea if it's the same for others. When I meditate, though, my thoughts go like,




"Oh, hey, I wasn't thinking there! Oh, dam, thinking about not thinking is a thought... Wonder how long I wasn't thinking for? Doh! That was a thought. Don't think. Don't think..., what time is it? @&$@ I'm the worst meditator ever!"

And when I'm drawing or painting, my thoughts go like, 




"Red there."





"Perspective off."



"Better now."









"@$&&ing pen's out of ink..."



So, in summary, drawing is more meditative than meditating, for me, and I also sometimes have something worth saving in the end. So I think I'm going to make it a goal to do it a lot. 

How about you? 

Is it Christmas Day today?

If it is, my children's book, A Murder of Crows and Other Woes, is free in the e-book version. Merry Christmas!


Milk and cookies for Santa, bucket of water for the reindeer... a nylon sock full of birdseed for the chickens (I bet you didn't even know Santa had chickens) and a homemade sword and shield for ... Defense? I just hope the reindeer don't poop on the carpet. 


Looking at pictures of this last year, I came across this little dude:

“Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.”

-Werner Herzog

P.S. After the first comment, I thought I should clarify: I love chickens. It's just a crazy Werner Herzog quote. He said the same thing about me in 1987.

Book Round-Up for 2014

I liked every book I read this year! So the last book in the list is still a good book. But that means number one is a truly great book! I have no sorting of fiction or nonfiction or comedy or horror, so I'll include the genre after the title. They're all together because they're just the books I happened to read in 2014.

The Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson historical fiction
      There were times, reading the Cryptonomicon, when I felt like blogging about it and just quoting five pages at once to show all of you how great it was. But then I realized that would require that I pause in my reading and do something else, so that never happened. I could not stop reading this book. I read this through a strange combination of listening via audio book while I did farm chores and reading at night from a real book. That worked. Real people like Alan Turing are characters in this book, but the main characters are all made up. And what characters! Fascinating people. It's about people who crack codes and the drama around wars and such. And it's about so much more. I loved loved loved this book.
The Cryptonomicon is the the best book I read this year.

Going Green by Christina McMullen parody zombie fiction
    I feel a little bit funny putting this one at number two, because Christina McMullen reads this blog and it feels almost like an inside deal, but seriously, this book is at least number two for me. I read it three times in 2014. It's a quick read. The thing I love about it is that it's the only feasible zombie apocalypse story I've ever read (or seen in film). There's an actual legitimate explanation. And the characters are funny and real. The style in which it is written is actually a lot like Where'd You Go, Bernadette? but where Semple fails to make outlandish situations seem completely plausible, McMullen delivers (which feels really funny to write, because Semple is a Hollywood writer and McMullen is an indie author, but there you go). The text alone would put this towards the top of my list, but then McMullen went and had a special illustrated version with bonus material printed, and the artist for the illustrated version? Ben Boyce. So that just nailed it for me. The bonus material includes things to do in the event of the zombie apocalypse. Color your own zombie, for instance. This is the kind of thing I've never really seen done well before. But there you have it.
Ben Boyce illustrated Going Green by Christina McMullen,
my second favorite book of 2014. 

Futility Closet: An Idler's Miscellany of Compendious Amusements 
by Greg Ross nonfiction trivia and thought puzzles
   Another independently published book, this time a book of facts, oddities, puzzles, and really interesting things that you never knew. Each tidbit takes about five minutes of your time. This is a book you can put down and pick up again many times, and always feel entertained. I had to resist the urge to go around reading stories from it out loud to everyone I knew. I mean this in the best possible way: a good bathroom book. 
Animals doing the jobs of humans is but one category
of interesting stories in the Futility Closet: An Idler's Miscellany of Compendious Amusements,
my third favorite book of 2014.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro psychological horror fiction
    This comes off as a boring story for the first half, maybe, until you realize what is really going on. And then the second half is... disturbing. It's one of those books where you are left with more questions than you got answered, but at the same time, Ishiguro is a master at making you grab for that extra... something. I liked how he messed with my head. He knew what he was doing.

Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living by Doug Fine nonfiction comedy
    This Doug Fine guy was someone I could really relate to. Enjoyable read all-round. I believe I wrote a review already of this one.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr historical fiction mystery
    This is something that really took me by surprise. It's a Sherlock Holmes-esque story that takes place in early twentieth century New York City, and the case involves a serial killer who kills young male prostitutes. Very strange! And interesting. Teddy Roosevelt is a character in it. It's a highly entertaining read. The only thing I didn't buy was the female detective in it.

Bossypants by Tina Fey nonfiction autobiography
    I guess I'm not that with it, but before I read this, I didn't know who Tina Fey was. It was still a good read. My friends who read it said it was "hilarious," but I honestly didn't laugh as much. I just thought she had a great story to tell.

Hyperion 1, 2, 3... 4(?) by Dan Simmons science fiction fantasy
    This was a huge time investment. It was one of those things where I got so invested in this alternate reality that I had to know what was going to happen next! Did I enjoy the time spent reading all of these books? Yes. And they put me right to sleep at night for two months straight.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple fiction comedy
    I believe Maria Semple has, among other things, written for television. It shows. She has a good ear for dialogue. Her characters are hilarious. The only reason she is this far down the list is that I just couldn't wrap my head around the ending. I didn't buy it. But the book is laugh out loud funny at times. I would still recommend reading it. For example, Bernadette and her daughter like to observe the "smiling angry people" which is people who, the angrier they get, the more they smile? Or something like that. I could totally relate. She had me at "smiling angry people," but she lost me at... um... the ending. (no spoilers)

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline Science Fiction Fantasy
     This is great for people who enjoy eighties memorabilia, movies, and I don't know... video games, of course. Light-hearted fun. It takes place in a future where life is so awful that everyone lives in a virtual reality and just plays video games. What I couldn't understand was how, in this dystopian future where people don't have fuel or anything to eat, how could you power all of this elaborate infrastructure for the interactive video games? It's still a good read, though.

The Terror by Dan Simmons horror fiction
     I came to this book with overly high hopes because I love Dan Simmons in general, I love real-life arctic adventure stories, and because I thought I heard my cousin Corey say once that this was his favorite book of all time. It was, indeed, a great book, but by great, I mean the archaic definition, "big". This book is too long for a horror book. Or... something. I did the audio book and the real book at night, but it turned out that I got the abridged audio book, so some things didn't make sense. Even the abridged version was excessively long, though. I don't know. It was too long to hang out in hell, basically. I enjoyed the conclusion, though, and I loved the characters. I feel like one of my old middle school students, saying a book was too long, but it is! To love this book, you just need lots of time and a love for macabre fantasy in the arctic. (I do recommend reading Drude first, if you have never read Dan Simmons. Thanks to Zgjenyue for turning me on to him.)

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt  fiction
    This book was entertaining. It's about these psychopathic brothers who go around killing people and make their way down to San Francisco during the gold rush and get into some trouble. Someone they're mixed up with invented a chemical to make gold magically come out of the ground. What could possibly go wrong? They have a weird relationship with each other and with their mother, who tells them to masturbate when their tempers get out of hand. It's a page turner, but I think some of the historical facts aren't real and that bugged me. I like my historical fiction to be really based on history and not just fictional historical fiction, which is just some weird alternate reality fantasy pretending to be historical fiction or... well, anyway, it was still a compelling tale, and still a good book, just a few little issues bothered me. Also, it was difficult to relate to psychopathic hit men in the 1850s. Still, a lovely read. Luke warm recommendation.



He's clearly discovered some things about Paris that have eluded me.

I'm Sitting at the Post Office

My Aunt, Lou Buckingham, lives in a gothic mansion in South Carolina with her husband, Buck Dollars. Behind the house is a building that is rumored to be the original town post office. Buck has  sort of made it his workshop, I believe. At least, the last time I went there, he showed me around, and there were walls torn out and he was building, building, building, demolishing, adding, because he's this creative mechanical genius who always is doing something. In the added on parts were things like pump organs and this two ton antique piece of equipment that... did... something? Whatever it did, it was impressive.

When people try to be "steampunk," I think they are really just trying to be what Aunt Lou and Buck Dollars are naturally.

I think that's what the song is about, his doings in the post office out back. Oh, did I mention? Buck Dollars and Lou Buckingham are in this great gothic rock band, Wasted Wine. So that's why the song is about them. Do I have the greatest family, or what?

Sheep on the Run!

I don't go to a gym, because of stuff like this. When we went to get the ram and send him home, we hoisted him into the truck, and Sevilla the sheep was standing  just inside the fence, and it wasn't latched, and I think Sevilla thought we were sending her away, too, and she bolted! So this was my workout today, a dance I call: Catch That Sheep!
Out, but not sure what she should do now.
Please do not pick up hitchhikers in this area. Thank you. 
Looking at her friends, in the pasture (not shown). 
It was a little bit if a problem: she seemed to want to be with her friends, but if I opened the gate for her to go in, they would all come out, and that would be an even bigger problem. I tried to lure her with corn, but she didn't trust me. After walking around the barn several times, I finally opened the gate to another pasture. Then I left her alone for awhile, hoping she didn't just run away. (I was following the thought that she needed to be alone to make a decision. I know she's a sheep, but she seems to have emotions and make decisions on her own, Sevilla does. She doesn't just follow the crowd, like a sheep. Also, she's probably pregnant, so she's dealing with a lot of emotions right now.) 

Well, I left her alone, and I came back, and she had gone into the pasture. Yay! This was after an hour of chasing her. I gave her a big pile of corn, I was so relieved. 
Silly sheep.

If this is as good as it gets, I'm in.

About a week ago, I had this little art show with five other local people. I called it my book release party for A Murder of Crows and Other Woes, which it was. But it was also an art show. I had paintings. I brought eight. We didn't have a lot of room. We rented out an old one-room schoolhouse and filled it with art and homemade soap, and we invited everyone we knew.

Beforehand, in the back of my mind, I had this goal of selling 70% of my paintings. But I literally told myself (I think I even talked out loud- I'm alone a lot and I talk to myself,)

"You can't set goals like that, because then when you don't sell any, you'll be so disappointed.  Just enjoy being there."

The night of the "Open House" (as we called it) came, and I, in four hours, sold six of the eight paintings I brought. (The mathematicians among you will note that six out of eight is 75% of the paintings.) I also signed and sold a score of books and several magnets of my art work.

So, I guess I was wrong?

It's a funny thing, meeting your goals in something so subjective and "out there" as art. It's hard to fathom.

When I was twelve years old, I wanted to be an artist.  And then I realized that was really impractical. So I decided to be a writer!

Today, I ran into someone who had bought one of my paintings last week at the open house. She introduced me to a man whom I recognized but couldn't place, and she said,

"This is the artist," by way of introducing me.

I immediately assumed he was her husband, who lived with her, and who therefore had asked about this painting showing up in his place of abode. And then I walked away and remembered that he was no such thing. He is married to this other lady and he and the lady who bought the painting are friends, which means that she is telling people about this painting she bought, which she says she loves, and she is telling people about "The Artist" i.e. "Shoshanah" i.e. this consciousness I refer to as "Me." She is telling her friends about "me." I mean...


That was something else. To be The Artist.

I actually wondered, when I saw her, Does she want to return it? I'll give her her money back! 

But she did not at all want her money back. Quite the opposite.

At the open house, there were these people whom I know casually (they buy eggs from me) who just lingered for awhile and talked about my different paintings. They said the nicest things (so nice that I just would feel ridiculous repeating them) and then also this one couple said,

"When we get enough money together, we'll have you decorate our whole house."

What could I say?

"Well, okay, then!"

It's funny, but it's really hard to deal with praise. It's like you don't know what to do with it. Where do you go from success? It's never what you think, success. You're so used to making new goals. Well, if I could only do this, then everything would be so much better.

I'm a little bit tipsy on beer right now. I'm probably writing too much. But then there was this other thing...

The book. The children's book. And my daughter. You think, when you have a kid, you will impose all of your dreams on them and force them to be something they don't want to be because you never got to do that and dammit they will and the Circle of Life continues! Yay! Live out my dreams, Child, because I never got to!

Yet it turns out, in this instance, my daughter is my own biggest advocate. We were shopping for Christmas gifts today and she informed me,

"Your book has been moving around the classroom. I think kids have been reading it. I think it's a popular book. Really. I have three ideas to make it more popular that I'll share them with you after dinner later."

Really, her conversations are like teasers to a Buzzfeed article. But Oh My God! She believes in me! She believes in me as much as I believe in her!

It might be, in the scheme of things? This is as good as it gets. I feel like we're on the precipice of... something. And that might be the best it is, right at the beginning. And that? That right now? RIGHT NOW? If that's as good as it gets, I'm fine with that. We're all good. No worries.

If any entry should have a picture, this one should, but as it happens I'm on this crappy little computer with none of my paintings uploaded. Ah, well. Whatever! So be it!

I heard a story today.

So, it's the Dalai Llama's birthday. And he opens this beautiful present. Beautifully wrapped. Gigantic box. He opens it.

Nothing inside. Nothing at all. And he says,

"Just what I wanted! Nothing at all!"

My daughter just slipped me this note:

She's taken to writing notes lately. This must be my favorite a million times over.

The Second Grade Challenge

Today was the big day! It's been in the works for months. I read A Murder of Crows and Other Woes to Little Z's second grade class and...

I was so nervous before, honestly. But at the end the kids had all sorts of questions, and then it was time for them to go home and they were all like,

"My favorite drawing was the hoola hoops!"

"My favorite drawing was the mosquitos on the finger!"

"My favorite was the giraffes!"


Little Z (my publicist) seemed quite content. She pointed out details her classmates might have missed (i.e. the "tree" is really the leg of a giraffe who appears after the page turn). They all said they could see that she was the model for the drawings. And her teacher is an artist, it turns out! She's thinking of changing over from second grade teacher to art teacher. Now I want to see her art.

I had to keep quiet about the fact that some of their parents had already purchased the book for them for Christmas. At least three parents from Little Z's class came to my book signing last Friday and bought copies, sans children. Today, I was thinking, Good thing you like my book, because that's what you're getting for Christmas! But I kept myself from saying it out loud. I did hint that I thought I had seen Santa Claus buy a few copies.  [Little Z goes around the house lately saying, "All I want for Christmas is something other than my mom's new book. I mean, I like it, but something else would be nice."]

After school, I went to Selah Vie coffee and tea house to drop off some books. They put up this poster in the window:

They're nice people at Selah Vie. 
All in all, a good day. 

Self-Portrait at Fifteen

My parents keep this on the shelf at their house so they can make fun of me. It's not the best self-portrait. But, I don't know... there is something oddly fascinating about it. My step-mother thinks I should start using this as my author photo on the back of my books.
Now yunz can make fun of me, too!  
Tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 5, 2014) is my book release party for A Murder of Crows and Other Woes. It's 4 PM to 8 PM at the Old  Schoolhouse. If you're in the neighborhood, I'm always interested in meeting people who read my blog. :)

It's difficult to enter into this work because of how the sublime beauty of the sexy fish contextualize the remarkable handling of light.

Above quote brought to you by The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator. I have been purchasing thrift store paintings (or prints of famous paintings) and changing small details. Can you tell what I changed about these paintings? Look closely!

"I am going to eat your house! Yum!" Study #1
Monster in Blue

Just going for a little paddle.

"I am going to eat up your house! Yum!" Study #2
Poor little birdie.
Sorry about your house. And your bird.