Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Thank You

"A joy that's shared is a joy made double." - English Proverb

As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to thank all who have purchased and read my books, referred them to others and supported me by reading this blog and following it.  Many thanks also to those who have bought a print of one of my photographs on Fine Art America.  I appreciate it all.  I look forward to continuing this blog in 2016, and finishing my latest book, Williamsburg Hill.

Many wishes for a peaceful holiday to each of you, a happy new year, and I hope that we all somehow learn to share our joys in life.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Your Life is Now

When I was about seventeen years old, I began planning.  It might have started sooner but that’s my earliest recollection of it.  The restless energy of “what’s next and how do I get there?” took hold of me and, for a while, my life became a series of stepping-stones to the next thing.  I didn’t enjoy my senior year of high school, so my focus became college.  In college, my goal was to graduate early.  I accomplished it, even with transferring from one school to another, working, and doing multiple internships.  Looking back, I can say that all it got me was a degree and a shove into the world of working full time. 
Before I knew it, life grabbed me and I watched years pass like days; one job led to the next with moves to new cities, and my kids grew up faster than I liked.  I said goodbye to old friends, hello to new ones and continued to plan for the next stage of my life.  Even now, I still do it.  I’ve written four books, published three and I’m writing the fifth, yet I’m planning the next and the one after it.  I think I need to cram as much into life as I can get.  Perhaps it’s my age and I feel I’m running out of time.  Seeing friends and family members pass away can do this.  Our own mortality looms.
 However, it has also allowed me to reflect on the importance of slowing down, too.  At what point do we realize that life is the journey?  We can plan for the stages of it: graduations, careers, marriage, a family, growth, travel, retirement.  But it’s the jolts, surprises and unexpected knocks that sidetrack you, make you laugh, cause you to cry, make you shake your fist at the world and open your eyes to things you’d never considered before.  It’s the day-to-day living, not the planning; it’s the now, not the future, because there is no guarantee you’ll see it or benefit from all you’ve planned for yourself.   
Your life is now.  I borrowed the title from John Mellencamp’s song, even though the expression is one that’s used often about living life in the moment.  It applies to the journey.  Don’t sprint; take a stroll.  Breathe deeply and smell the roses; appreciate the sound of rain, dance in it.  Relish the taste, laugh, be sentimental, love openly, show kindness, be fearless.  Take the back roads, not the interstates.  Learn, listen and be okay when things don’t go as planned.  Appreciate the small things that come your way along that epic odyssey of life.
 As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I find myself on another emotional roller coaster.  Change is coming, yet I’m going to enjoy the day itself and the meaning behind it, no plans around it other than being with family.  Tomorrow will be dealt with when it gets here.  And if I had done things differently in my life, I would’ve slowed down in college, made deeper friendships, hugged my children until they begged me not to, laughed a little louder and longer, apologized more often and not once would I have sweated over things that didn’t really matter.
Thank you for reading this blog and I hope Thanksgiving finds you happy and healthy; cherish the time with your families and friends, live that moment, the day, to the fullest.  Have a peaceful and fulfilling holiday.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Funny Pages Excerpt

I'm using this space to share an excerpt of my book, Funny Pages, which was published in 2011.  It's still available for sale on Amazon and via several other online sites. I have copies to share, as well, if you'd like to have one signed.  It was written for the middle grade/young adult reader, but I've had adults tell me they liked it, too, particularly the dialogue between the uncles. So that's one section I'm sharing.

Drawing from the archives and posting things via Fine Art America have been my source of blog posts of late because I'm trying to focus on the first draft of my new novel.  It's coming along...still happy with how it's evolving.

As always, thanks for reading my work and the following is copyright protected (©Veronica Randolph Batterson).  Funny Pages is registered with the US Copyright Office.

Funny Pages - Excerpt - ©Veronica Randolph Batterson
“Holy smokes,” Uncle Johnny whistled.
I turned to see what he was talking about and a fly could’ve flown in my mouth as it opened wide in surprise and stayed there.  Pops wasn’t going to be happy.
“A masterpiece, huh?”  Uncle Pete said, proudly.
“Holy smokes,” Uncle Johnny repeated, shaking his head.
“What?  I think it’s much better than before,” said Uncle Pete.
“It used to be much bigger,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Do you know what it is?” asked Uncle Pete.
“It was a shrub,” Uncle Johnny stated.
“I know that!  I’ll give you a hint.  They bark,” Uncle Pete said proudly.
“It does?” asked Uncle Johnny, confused.
“Oh, c’mon.  Can’t you see the tail?” Uncle Pete asked.
“I really can’t,” said Uncle Johnny, slowly.
“Just step back.  Look at the whole thing,” encouraged Uncle Pete.
“I am.  There isn’t much to look at,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Everybody getting finished?” Pops bellowed as he rounded the house.
“Oh boy,” mumbled Uncle Johnny.
“So, Jim, what do you think?” asked Uncle Pete.
Pops’ smile was wide when he came around that corner but when he laid eyes on Uncle Pete’s masterpiece, his smile dropped pretty fast.  His eyes got big too.  And they seemed to get bigger and bigger as the seconds ticked by.  So much so, that I worried his eyes might pop out of his head.  All was very quiet during that time but I knew it wouldn’t last.
“What in thunder?” Pops said a little too quietly.
“You like it, Jim?” asked Uncle Pete.
“Just for the record, this all Pete’s doing.  Keep me out of it,” Uncle Johnny piped in.
“Yep, I came up with this beauty all on my own!” beamed Uncle Pete.
“My beautiful lilac bush,” Pops mumbled.
“Is that what it is?  I didn’t know but I think I’ve made it better.  Kind of straggly before,” Uncle Pete said.
“How could you?” Pops asked, a little louder.
“Well, it was pretty easy.  All I started doing was cutting.  Half way through, I had the idea I’d create a masterpiece.  Tell me you know what it is,” Uncle Pete said, enthusiastically.
 “It was a lilac bush,” Uncle Johnny said.
“No, no, I mean the shape.  Can you tell?” Uncle Pete asked.
Pops said nothing but his face grew redder by the minute.  He started breathing a little heavier, his chest heaving in and out.  I thought he might pass out.  I noticed him balling his fists and suddenly worried he might try punching Uncle Pete.  I didn’t think he would do it, but if he did, Uncle Pete was a former “Mr. Muscle Body”.  I didn’t think Pops would get very far. 
Uncle Johnny started whistling and slowly wandered back to trimming another bush.  He kept stealing glances at Pops and Uncle Pete, wanting nothing to do with what might happen.  Pops stood there huffing like a smoke stack, and Uncle Pete kept smiling expectantly.  He was clueless to Pops’ anger.
Just at that moment, a car horn honked and broke the silence.  A big red, convertible pulled into Pops’ driveway.  Three women riding in it waved in our direction.   I noticed that the woman in the passenger seat was Rosemary Wilson, the lady Pops spoke with at the Lookouts’ game and the woman he had dinner with.  I didn’t recognize the other two, but the one driving had red hair that peaked out underneath a yellow scarf.  She wore sunglasses and dark red lipstick.  The lady in the backseat had dark hair and she was also wearing sunglasses.  They honked the car horn again.
“Hey, boys,” cried Rosemary Wilson, waving.
I glanced at Pops, Uncle Pete and Uncle Johnny.  They looked dumbfounded.  It seemed like it took a full minute before they recovered.  Pops was first.  He raised his hand in greeting and put a smile on his face.  The smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, probably because he was still thinking about how mad he was with Uncle Pete.  Uncle Pete and Uncle Johnny then followed, recognition on their faces.  They raised their hands too.  None of them moved.
“Cat got your tongues, or what?” the woman who was in the driver’s said, as she laughed.
“Of course not,” Pops smiled, with that sing-song voice again.  “We’re just surprised that’s all.  You caught us doing dirty yard work.”
“Oh, Jim.  That’s all right.  We were in the neighborhood and thought we’d say hello,” Rosemary replied.
“Well, that’s just fine, fine,” Pops said, smiling again.
“Hey, what about you, Petey?  Don’t you want to say hi?” asked the woman in the driver’s seat.
Once again, Uncle Pete was speechless.  He was staring at the woman and seemed tongue-tied.  Uncle Pete never lacked confidence, but he didn’t seem to have it where this woman was concerned.  His stupor suddenly wore off.
“Hello there, Millie.  Nice day, isn’t it?” he asked, a little weakly.
“It sure is.  A nice day for a drive in the country with the top down,” Millie crooned.
“It sure is,” repeated Uncle Pete.
“Well, Johnny, are you going to come and say hi to Betty, or what?” asked Millie.
“Hi, Betty,” said Uncle Johnny, not moving.
“Hi, Johnny,” the woman in the backseat said in reply.
“Jim, would you boys like to meet us later for supper?” asked Rosemary.
“Sort of a triple date and catch up on old times?” added Millie.
“Well, that sounds just fine with me.  What about you two?” Pops asked, turning to Uncle Johnny and Uncle Pete.
“Sure,” said Uncle Pete, with a slight screech in his voice.  It sounded like a ruffled cat about to claw the nearest dog.
“You okay, Pete,” asked Millie.
“He’s fine.  Just a little sore throat from talking too much,” Pops said in reply, giving Uncle Pete a dirty look.
“What about you, Johnny?  Can you meet us for supper?” Betty called from the backseat.
“Uh-huh,” nodded Uncle Johnny, his head bobbing up and down, and making no other sound. 
“Well, that settles it then,” said Pops, clapping his hands together and rubbing them back and forth.
“How about 7 o’clock at the Rio Grille?” Rosemary asked.
“We can sit out on the patio.  Should be a nice evening, not too hot,” Millie said.
“Isn’t that the new place up on the boulevard? We might need reservations,” said Pops.
“Already done,” Mille laughed. “I hear they have the best steaks this side of the Mississippi.”
“Looking forward to it, then,” smiled Pops.
Millie honked the car horn once more as they drove away, waving.  Pops waved back, but Uncle Pete and Uncle Johnny stood there like statues.  Once the car was out of sight, Pops turned to the other two.
“Hi and uh-huh?  That’s all I get out of you two?” Pops asked in amazement.
“I can’t help it.  She makes me a nervous wreck,” confessed Uncle Pete.
“Well, I hope you contribute to the conversation a little more tonight, or it’s going to be a long evening,” Pops said.
“Which one makes you a nervous wreck?” asked Uncle Johnny, suddenly.
“Millie.  She’s like a drill sergeant that never quits talking,” moaned Uncle Pete.
“Two peas in a pod,” mumbled Uncle Johnny.
“I’d talk if I were you.  You’re obviously out of sorts around Betty,” accused Uncle Pete.
“She makes me sweat,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Probably just the heat,” added Pops.
“Oh, no.  It’s her.  It could be twenty degrees outside and if I get anywhere near her, I look like someone who just got hosed down with water,” stated Uncle Johnny.
“That bad, huh?” asked Pops.
“Oh, yeah.  I’ll leave a puddle, trust me,” Uncle Johnny said.
“Wear cotton.  It absorbs better,” said Uncle Pete.
“I’ll have to bring a couple extra shirts to be safe,” said Uncle Johnny.
“Bring a stick of deodorant too,” mumbled Uncle Pete.
“You think the restaurant has showers?  I might need one half way through supper,” Uncle Johnny said, suddenly worried.
“Oh, for crying out loud, John.  Of course not!  Restaurants don’t usually have public showers, do they?” Pops stated.
“In foreign countries they might,” added Uncle Pete.
“Geesh, Pete, we’re not in a foreign country,” cried Pops.
“I’m already starting to sweat just thinking about it.  What am I going to do?” panicked Uncle Johnny.
“You do look a little wet.  Could be a problem,” mumbled Uncle Pete, studying Uncle Johnny carefully.
“There’s nothing to worry about, John.  Everything will work out for the best,” said Pops, giving Uncle Pete a warning look.
“You know,” begins Uncle Pete, ignoring Pops, “maybe you should bring a little fan with you.  A mini one that you could plug in at the table.”
“Give us something to talk about all night,” said Uncle Johnny, sarcastically.
“Trust me, they work,” continued Uncle Pete.
“Right.  And I can hear it now,” Uncle Johnny began, lowering his voice and pretending to have a conversation, “John, what’s the fan for?  Oh, it just helps me keep my sweat levels down.”  He crossed his arms and stared at Uncle Pete.
“I see what you’re saying,” admitted Uncle Pete.
“Tell you what, John.  Go on home, take a nap, shower and take your time getting ready for tonight.  There’s nothing to get worked up about,” said Pops.
“What about talcum powder?” Uncle Pete asked suddenly.
“What about it? Tried it and it doesn’t work,” Uncle Johnny said glumly.
“Really? Oh, you’re in bad shape,” Uncle Pete said, shaking his head.
“You think I don’t know it?” cried Uncle Johnny.
“Let’s be calm. Pete, you’re going to take John home.  John, you’re going to do as I suggested. Then we’ll have a nice evening with no worries,” said Pops.
So I watched my uncles drive away in the classic.  Pops had forgotten about the shrub incident until he started collecting yard tools.  He walked right up to the massacred bush and stood there staring.  Every once in a while, he’d shake his head and mumble something to himself, as if that would make the favored lilac bush go back to its original state.  He looked all around the shrub, over it and underneath.  I don’t know what he was searching for but it didn’t make a bit of difference.  Uncle Pete had ruined Pops’ shrub as sure as I was standing and there was nothing that could be done about it.  He gave up and walked away, still shaking his head.  I heard the words ‘Pete’, ‘moron’ and ‘knucklehead’ mixed together, in no particular order, so it was probably a good thing that Uncle Pete left when he did.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Updates and New Photos on Fine Art America

Work continues on the new manuscript tentatively titled Williamsburg Hill.  I had hoped to be finished with the first draft by the end of October but now realize that was a bit ambitious, particularly due to reasons I will share at a later time.  A new short story is brewing, too, and hopefully I'll share that soon.  For now, I'll update with some new photographs I've added to the Fine Art America site.  Autumn color in Baraboo, Wisconsin to beautiful Aspen, Colorado...sharing just a sample of the Ashcroft Ghost Town, Maroon Bells and the John Denver Sanctuary photos, too.  Higher resolution images are available at www.veronica-batterson.artistwebsites.com. You'll also find many more photos I've added there.

Thanks for taking a look!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Oswego Literary Festival 2015

Just a reminder that I'll be participating in the Oswego Literary Festival this Saturday, October 3, 2015, sponsored by the Village of Oswego Cultural Arts Commission and the Oswego Public Library District. The event runs from 9am - 1pm and will be held at the Oswego Public Library District's Oswego Campus located at 32 West Jefferson, Oswego, IL.

Copies of my books Daniel's Esperanza, Funny Pages and Billy's First Dance will be for sale; I'll be happy to sign copies and provide information on the current project (historical fiction manuscript in the works).

Many authors with books to sell with be there. Stop by and say hello to a lot of hard-working, creative folks. We're appreciative of the support!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Catch a Bunch of Authors 2015 - Aurora Public Library Author Fair

This Saturday, September 12, 2015, I'll be participating in the annual "Catch a Bunch of Authors" event sponsored by the Aurora Public Library in Aurora, Illinois.  The author fair runs from 2pm - 4pm and will be held at the new Santori Public Library of Aurora, 101 S. River Street.

Copies of my books, Daniel's Esperanza, Billy's First Dance and Funny Pages will be for sale, and I'll be happy to sign them, too.  Information will be available about the latest book I'm writing, as well.

If you're in the Chicagoland area, please stop by and say hello, and see this beautiful new facility.  Plus, over forty authors will be in attendance, with many books for sale.  Thanks to all who come out and support us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Independence Pass - Take a Pass if You're Squeamish

There is a road in Colorado that has earned its name.  Officially called the Virginia Canyon Road, its more famous moniker expresses a person’s state of mind when traveling it.  The “Oh-My-God-Road” (yes, it is listed on maps and found on the web as such), runs from Idaho Springs to Central City in Clear Creek County, passing through historic mining areas and Russell Gulch Ghost Town.  As I’ve never traveled this scenic route, I can only assume the endearment flies from the mouths of passengers as they encounter 12% grade sections along a graveled two-way road (not quite wide enough for two cars), with guardrail-free drop-offs, washed-out shoulders and no winter maintenance.  Not for the faint of heart.
The section of Colorado State Highway 82 that is Independence Pass serves as my own, personal “Oh-My-God-Road”.  Traveling from Denver to Aspen, my husband and I took this scenic stretch of highway recently.  Scenic it is, but if the word “precipice” causes sudden clamminess or the urge to utter things you wouldn’t normally say in polite company, perhaps taking Interstate 70 is the better option. 
Independence Pass, elevation 12,095 feet, is the highest paved pass in Colorado and the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide.  There are higher paved roads, but not mountain passes.  It is a two-lane road with a series of switchback turns, hairpin curves, steep drop-offs, and sections that are minus guardrails. The Colorado Department of Transportation states that tight curves and single lane segments of the highway require heightened attention by drivers.  Yes, single lane segments…for two-way traffic.  Never mind the warnings about rock falls, wildlife and cyclists (we saw a few hearty souls).  Apparently there are avalanches, too, although the pass is closed to traffic from late October/early November until Memorial Day, so that was one less thing to worry about when we crossed.
There is a place to stop once you reach the summit.  We did and I jumped out of the car, camera in hand, eager to get some photos and thankful I’d survived the ascent.  However, at over 12,000 feet, the altitude made it a little difficult for me, and being asthmatic made it tougher.  The frenzy from the drive up probably didn’t help.
I took as many photographs as I could stand without getting lightheaded, of a terrain that was so different from what we’d seen prior to stopping.  It was desolate and barren with sparse growth and small bodies of water.  It was still beautiful.
I’ve read reviews and comments about Independence Pass and the Oh-My-God-Road, and they are mixed.  Seasoned drivers and adventurers tend to think people like me are wimps and there’s nothing scary about either of the routes.  Well, I am a wimp.  And there are others, perhaps in the minority, who agree with me.  Some of those “faint at heart” had some amusing phrases about the pass:  “Hella dangerous”, “Hit the head before you hit the road”, “Death trap”, “Scared spitless”, “The CDOT just lets you kind of figure it out on your own” (about the single lanes).  One woman even described how she’d played her Garmin in different languages repeatedly (to distract her) as her husband drove the curves.  I had my white-knuckle, squirming/muttering/swearing/sweating moments, too, and my husband (who was behind the wheel) said that made things worse for him.  He also proudly claimed the drive didn’t bother him.  I don’t believe him.
When we finally reached Aspen, I was happy.  Happy that we’d arrived, happy we had taken the route we did (it was an accomplishment, after all), happy to see such incredible scenery.  Happiness fostered by relief.  I was more than happy to take I-70 from Glenwood Springs (the alternate route) back to Denver when the time came to leave, which provided beautiful scenery, too, but offered a less than thrilling adventure.  I’m also happy to say about Independence Pass: once is enough for this wimp.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Events Plus Sara Teasdale's Poetry

A couple of upcoming events this fall include some author fairs I've been invited to attend.  First, the Aurora Public Library's "Catch a Bunch of Authors" on Saturday, September 12, 2015, at the new Santori Branch from 2pm - 4pm in Aurora, Illinois.  I will also be at the Oswego Literary Festival, Saturday, October 3, 2015 from 9am - 1pm at the Oswego, Illinois Public Library.  I will be selling and signing copies of my books, Daniel's Esperanza, Funny Pages and Billy's First Dance at both events.  If you're in the Chicagoland area on those dates and are free, stop by and say hello.  Many talented folks attend these festivals.

Just a reminder, if ebooks are your preference, Daniel's Esperanza is now available for Kindle download on Amazon for only $3.99, and Funny Pages for only $4.95. Paperback versions of all three are still for sale, too.

Work continues on my new manuscript, Williamsburg Hill, and my goal is to finish the first draft by the end of October.  We shall see.

As I'm always searching for blog ideas, I thought I'd share some poetry by the late Sara Teasdale. Simple, powerful, moving are words I would use to describe her work. As always, thanks for reading this blog. I appreciate it very much.

I Love You
By Sara Teasdale

When April bends above me
And finds me fast asleep,
Dust need not keep the secret
A live heart died to keep.

When April tells the thrushes,
The meadow-larks will know,
And pipe the three words lightly
To all the winds that blow.

Above his roof the swallows,
In notes like far-blown rain,
Will tell the little sparrow
Beside his window-pane.

O sparrow, little sparrow,
When I am fast asleep,
Then tell my love the secret
That I have died to keep.

By Sara Teasdale

When I am all alone
Envy me most,
Then my thoughts flutter round me
In a glimmering host;

Some dressed in silver,
Some dressed in white,
Each like a taper
Blossoming light;

Most of them merry,
Some of them grave,
Each of them lithe
As willows that wave;

Some bearing violets,
Some bearing bay,
One with a burning rose
Hidden away —

When I am all alone
Envy me then,
For I have better friends
Than women and men.

The Look
By Sara Teasdale

      Strephon kissed me in the spring,
      Robin in the fall,
      But Colin only looked at me
      And never kissed at all.

      Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
      Robin's lost in play,
      But the kiss in Colin's eyes
      Haunts me night and day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hai Karate - Be Careful How You Use It

I grew up during the 1960s and 1970s then attended college in the early 1980s.   Those years were three significantly different decades of historical events, change, rebellion, peace, love, big hair, spandex and bell bottoms.  The eras defined the music and the clothes, the toys, candy and, of course, the commercials.  Thanks to YouTube, antique stores, TV Land, and catalogs from places selling some of the same products from that time, we’re able to relive a little of our childhoods.  The vintage kitsch makes us nostalgic.
For some reason, I receive a mail-order catalog from The Vermont Country Store.  I don’t think I’ve ever ordered anything from them but I do get a kick out of some of the things they sell.  Does anyone remember the aftershave called Hai Karate from the 1960s and 70s?  They sell it.  YouTube triggered my memories of the commercials, too.  Campy and silly with a martial arts theme, each one ended with the slogan, “Be Careful How You Use It”.  It reminded me of the Batman and Dark Shadows television series.
After viewing those ads on YouTube, I then spent about twenty minutes watching a compilation of 60s and 70s commercial clips.  I remembered all but two or three of them.  Some of the catchphrases that brought an “Oh, yeah” from me:  Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut”, “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing”,  “Frito Bandito”, “How Many Licks Does It Take to Get to the Center…”,  “People Start Pollution…”, “Let Noxzema Cream Your Face” (Joe Namath & Farrah Fawcett); “It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature”, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”,  “K-Tel Records”.  I could go on. 
Whenever I wander through antique stores, I always find something that reminds me of my youth.  I used to think that if toys from my childhood made it into a vintage store then I had to be getting old.  Now I just appreciate seeing the occasional Lite-Brite, ViewMaster, Etch A Sketch, Operation and Spirograph games.  Tip-it, Toss Across and Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots (my brother had this one)…I loved playing with all of them.  And I’m referring to the originals, as I know that updated and newer versions are still being sold today.  I guess kids know a good thing when they see it.
I associate many of the items in the Vermont Country Store catalog with my grandmother.  I remember butter mints and pecan divinities, peppermint puffs and peppermint straw candy as things she always had on hand.  My grandmother loved to drink TAB (until she discovered Diet Pepsi) and she wore White Shoulders perfume.  I learned about Dippity-Do at her house because my aunts used it; and I recall accidentally spraying myself with a bottle of Wind Song cologne and gagging over the smell.  Mosser glass, percolators and soft-bonnet hair dryers.  Clarks Teaberry Gum, princess phones and mood lipstick.  Wella Balsam, Breck Girl and Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoos.  It’s amazing what a little vintage reminder will do to a person.
Finally, candy (at least the kind I ate and not the kind my grandmother had on hand).  Milk Duds and Sugar Daddy were two of my favorites from back then and it’s amazing that people of my generation have any teeth left.  Who can forget wax lips, bubblegum cigars and fake candy cigarettes (Camel and Lucky Strike come to mind)?  Perhaps not the best choices for youth back in the day, but those were the times.  And I still love Almond Joy and Goobers (yes, I do) but I rarely eat candy nowadays, so it’s a treat if I ever indulge.
I suppose I should give credit where credit is due for this blog post.  I’m always searching for things I can write about and share here.  A Facebook friend inadvertently triggered this one by expressing surprise when finding Prell shampoo at a local CVS Pharmacy.  That caused this little trip down memory lane.  It is appreciated. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Madame X

A photograph of the original
John Singer Sargent, born to American parents in Florence, Italy (1856), was considered the leading portrait painter of his era.  In 1884, he exhibited in Paris what would eventually be considered a masterpiece; at the time, Paris society hated the painting and his reputation suffered.  He fled to London. 

Sargent named the portrait "Madame X" and the only thing that exists of the original as it hung in the Paris salon is a photograph.  The artist repainted the original (with right shoulder strap in place), which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The painting was viewed as scandalous, but seems very mild compared to today's standards for modesty and indecency.  I've written a flash fiction piece based on this...a very short story that I, too, call Madame X.  Thanks for reading, and if you're interested in more short stories, I've shared a few on this blog.  Just check out the links to the right.  As always, copyright applies (©Veronica Randolph Batterson).

Madame X

By Veronica Randolph Batterson

(©Veronica Randolph Batterson)

Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau.  Elle est un opportuniste. 
He fidgeted with his hands, pulling at the collar of his shirt as if doing so would loosen the tightness around his neck.  The room was warm and sweat formed at his hairline, the rivulets running down his face and into his eyes.  He patted his forehead with a handkerchief and thought he would be ill.  Soon there would be an audience.
Madame Pierre Gautreau, the artist’s dream, agreed to his request; she consented to sit for him.  A vision.  And he had painted her as such.   Sensual, regal, beautiful and unusual, her powdered skin and its lavender hue stood pasty and stark against the black dress.  The velvet bodice cut low over her breasts and held in place with two slim, jeweled straps.  He had been nervous at first.  Reflecting, perhaps that had lent to his displeasure and uncertainty of the painting.
Monsieur Sargent?  Will this work?
With her left hand she had gripped the velvet skirt while clutching the edge of a side table with the right one.  Her patrician profile exuded nobility; she was untouchable.  In an instant, it happened.  The slightest movement that changed everything.  The jeweled shoulder strap dropped suggestively from her right shoulder.  How do I look?  The little slip was painted into the portrait. 
Salle 31. 1884.
He waited for the unveiling as Paris society ambled into the salon, unforgiving and judgmental.  Champagne flowed amidst fluttery ladies on the arms of stodgy gentlemen.  A violinist performed but he could barely hear the music, so loud was the beat of his own heart.   He thought of leaving.  There his Madame X stood at eye level.  The Gautreau that everyone flocked to view.
John Singer Sargent.
The artist who painted a scandalous portrait of a difficile woman; it hadn’t been as he had hoped.  He knew the outcome of his folly and Amélie had known what she was doing, toying with him.  Feigning innocence.  Indolent.  How foolish he had been for following instincts instead of reason.  Now he would pay with his reputation.
Arriviste.  Ceci est scandaleux!
The gasps caught his attention.  Vulgaire.  Choquant.  Indécent.  The whispers grew as one voice, loud, biting and cruel.  They shouted his recklessness and relished his mistake, declaring the end for him in Paris while clucking at his foolishness.  L’artiste a échoué!  There was spiteful glee in his failure.  He was humiliated.  Some were repulsed by the pallor of her skin; most were shocked by the revealing décolletage.  Trop sensuelle.
He had exhibited at the Palais de Industrie for six years and was the preferred portrait artist of Paris.  The mocking confirmed it was over.   How could this happen, such fickleness?   Dejected, he felt he must retrieve the portrait before the Gautreau family obtained and destroyed it.  Then he would flee to London.  
Au revoir, Monsieur Sargent. 
He left.  Bitter, disappointed and angry.  To start over.  Optimiste.

©Veronica Randolph Batterson

Friday, May 29, 2015

Auctions and Upcoming Events

League of Chicago Theatres Gala Auction
Often I get asked to donate one of my books or photographs to benefit charitable auctions and non-profit events.  From a recent League of Chicago Theatres Gala to an upcoming Association for Individual Development fall auction, I'm always happy to help.  Prints of my photographs can be found at www.veronica-batterson.artistwebsites.com.  If anyone reading this post is in search of auction donations, take a look at my work, then contact me if you're interested.  I'd be happy to provide an autographed copy of one of my books, as well.  Daniel's Esperanza, Billy's First Dance and Funny Pages are sold on Amazon, as well as other sites.  For donations, however, the books would come directly from me.  Comment here if you're interested, or send me a message via my website www.veronicabatterson.com or the Fine Art America site.

A couple of upcoming events: I'll be attending the Grand Opening/Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the new Santori Library in Aurora, IL on June 14.  The event runs from 1-5 p.m.  Also, another Author Fair in September: Aurora Public Library's "Catch a Bunch of Authors", September 12, 2015 from 2-4 p.m.  More information will be provided as the date gets closer.

I've been working on the manuscript for the new book and I like the way it's going. I hope to get another short story posted here soon.  Thanks to all who continue to read these posts.  It's always appreciated. Sharing some screen shots of new prints from the Fine Art America site.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mother's Day a Year Ago...Luka Bloom and the Blackhawks

What a difference a year makes.  When Mother’s Day of 2014 approached, I was one month away from seeing my younger daughter get married; the first weekend of May, I hosted a bridal shower for her.  I’d been working on my latest book for three years, and dealt with two literary agents who kept the manuscript for an entire year between the two of them.  I truly felt at least one of them would be interested in representation based on the feedback and vibes I was getting.  When they passed on the project, I endured the blow of rejection once again.  Trying a different publishing route, in May I began working with a cover designer that didn’t pan out.  Enter another designer and deadlines with the publisher I eventually chose.  The book was published in August.  Also in August: moving said daughter and new son-in-law to Colorado.
It’s fair to say with all of the above and the wedding planning that had taken well over a year’s time, I wasn’t myself.  I was exhausted, run down, not sleeping and couldn’t get farther than the day’s lists of things I had to do.  My health and immune system went a little under the weather, too.  An EKG revealed I needed to have an echocardiogram and wear a 24-hour Holter monitor to determine the source of heart palpitations and an irregular heartbeat.  My thyroid levels were out of sorts.  Months of blood work and adjusted doses of medication followed.  All is well now but stress and worry do affect your health.
With all of that going on, I think Mother’s Day was an “anything you ask for” kind of holiday last year…a Saturday and Sunday event.  On the day itself, my husband and I went to a Chicago Blackhawks playoff game and, incidentally, they played the same team in the second round that they’re playing now.  Saturday was spent at the Old Town School of Folk Music, attending a concert by the Irish singer and songwriter, Luka Bloom.
I can’t remember how I started listening to Luka Bloom’s music, but I’ve been a fan of his for quite some time.  He’s described as a contemporary folk artist and I think his sound is beautiful, haunting and unique; his lyrics read as poetry. When I discovered he was touring the United States and Chicago was one of the stops, I knew I had to get tickets, as I wasn’t sure if he would tour the US again in the near future.  It was my first concert of his and it was as good as I’d expected it to be.
If I had to recommend some of his music, a few of my favorites (originals and covers) include Lighthouse, Diamond Mountain, Everyman, Listen to the River, Exploring the Blue, See You Soon, Dreams In America, Me and My Guitar, Throw Your Arms Around Me, If I Were A Carpenter and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.  The latter two are, I’ll admit, the most romantic cover versions I’ve ever heard of the two.  Probably many women of my generation who are Luka Bloom fans would agree. 
So Mother’s Day will be a little quieter this year for me.  However, this time next year, daughter number one will be walking down the aisle.  I hope to at least have the first draft of the book I’m working on finished by then, but I’m making no promises.  However, if it all comes together, I’d better start making plans…I’ll probably need to recuperate again.
 Happy Mother's Day to all.

by Luka Bloom
I see the red boat coming
Beyond out in the bay
Cutting through salt water
The end of a working day
Bringing in cargo
Of words I’m meant to hear
Words of loving kindness
To soften hate and fear
May I be happy
May I be well
May I be happy
May I be well
I can see the lighthouse
It’s coming to night view
Providing safe passage
For me and for you
You’ve shouldered your crosses
And brought them to this shore
Lay down your burdens
They’ll rule you no more
May you be happy
May you be well
May you be happy
May you be well

by Luka Bloom
There is a quiet spirit in the world
Sleeping tonight
We’ll worry no more
You’ve let go the fight
Everyman takes his own load
Down the line
Everyman walks his own road
To the end of time
A faraway look in your eyes
Out beyond the door
Many tried to reach you
Bring you home to the shore
Everyman takes his own load
Down the line
Everyman walks his own road
To the end of time
There’s a quiet spirit in the world
You brought a smile to my face
A butterfly leaves the room
In its wake your grace
Everyman sees his own road
Into the light
Everyman lets his own load go
One last night
Sleep in peace tonight
Sleep in peace new life
Sleep in peace tonight
Sleep in peace goodnight

Thursday, April 30, 2015

First Draft, Research and Updates

I've started writing the first draft of the next book (I'm assuming it will be) and research has slowed its progress. Part of the novel takes place in the nineteenth century so something as minor as period clothing and common names used at that time are important. The small stuff matters.

Updating and staying involved with social media accounts are all-consuming, too, and take a little time away from the work. Kudos to those who can do it all well, but I'm not one of them. If you follow me or become one of my friends via Twitter (@VRBatterson) or my Goodreads account, for example, please be patient with me. I'm working hard so updates and interactions will come.

Also, please check out my artist website on Fine Art America. I add new photos there periodically and they offer great products. If you purchase any art of mine, please let me know. Take a look at Veronica Batterson - Artist Websites.

Don't forget my books, Daniel's Esperanza, Funny Pages and Billy's First Dance - all available on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, BooksAMillion.com and many other websites. Any bookstore can order them. Continue to check in here on the blog, as well, for short stories, musings and further updates.

As always, thank you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

With Spring Comes a Bit of Homesickness

It’s the same every year.  April rolls around and I start itching to plant things.  A true sign of the growing season where I live is the white tent pitched in the parking lot of the local Jewel grocery store, with promises of geraniums, snapdragons, other annuals, rosebushes and perennials for sale.  Flower bed and landscaping heaven for the likes of me.  But in my neck of the woods, I never plant anything until May has arrived and it’s often necessary to cover things at night for a while.
Call me a native southerner, a transplanted southerner or originally from the south, but twenty-one years have passed since I lived in that part of the country. This is a time of year that I long for being there; I get homesick for it in the spring.  I’m envious of my southern friends and family who are enjoying the beauty of spring, and their ability to plant things long before I will.  The warmth, the endless color and the extreme pleasure of just being outside and drinking in all of nature’s beauty are things that I can’t describe with words.  The world comes to life.  Photographs don’t do it justice.  It’s necessary to be there, feel it, to experience it.  And I miss it in the spring.
Probably a lot of it has to do with nostalgia.  So much of this time of year reminds me of my grandmother.  I associate magnolia trees and dogwoods with her, their blooms a feast for the eyes.  There were honeysuckle vines in her yard and I remember sucking the nectar from the blooms during the late spring when I was a child.  Easter was celebrated with and around my grandmother…Sunday dinner was at her house with Easter egg hunts afterward.  It’s a time of year that I miss her most.  Perhaps that’s why I ache for the southern springtime.
As winter nods its head and goes to sleep, I will long for a certain time of my life that has passed, but moving away allowed me to appreciate the other seasons.  While northern springs don’t seem as long, colorful or as warm as those in the south, autumn in the north is spectacular.  And it’s something you won’t find in the southern states.  The duration of color and cool but comfortable temperatures are things to experience.  I learned to love winter and its snow (often a lot of it); and I certainly appreciate summer when humidity levels aren’t making you wilt or pass out.  If I could pick one place to live, its seasons would be a combination of all the above…the perfect climate, at least in my opinion.  I’m not sure there is such a place. 
So I will continue to watch for that white tent.  It’s not there yet, but I noticed this morning the area is roped off, with bags of mulch and potting soil waiting for its arrival.  It’ll be my cue that it’s okay to at least start browsing and buying, even if it is too early to plant.  There is the garage after all, when the chill remains in the air and plants have to come inside.
Then I’ll continue reading about spring (with longing) from all of my southern Facebook friends, while being content with tulip-filled vases inside my house.   

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Author Event at Yorkville Public Library

The Yorkville Public Library will be hosting its first annual Author Event, Saturday, March 28th, 2015 from 10am-2pm. If you're in the Yorkville, Illinois or Chicagoland area and have some free time, stop by and say hello. Just posting this as a reminder that I'll be there signing and selling copies of my books.  A list of all participating authors is provided below...hope to see some of your smiling faces there.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Old Norse Gale

"Old Norse Gale" is a short story I recently finished. I've shared over a dozen original short stories and poems on this blog, which can be found in the links to the right. Thanks to all who take the time to read the stories, musings and such.  As always, all work is copyright protected (©Veronica Randolph Batterson).

Old Norse Gale

By Veronica Randolph Batterson
(©Veronica Randolph Batterson)

The wind howled.  Its force shook the walls and rattled the old shutters, which barely hung on as they slammed against the house.  The lights flickered in the dark, dimming then illuminating, fighting to stay lit as the nor’easter battered the coast with ferocious strength.  Waves pounded the shoreline, leaping high over trees and flooding the earth.
He huddled in the corner waiting for the water to seep under the door.  It would slip in and then recede, before invading the wooden planks like a snake creeping across the ground.  The aftermath meant a musty and fishlike smell that lingered for months. 
They told him he should sell the place and it was in times like this that he wished he’d listened.  But the old homestead meant too much to him to part with it; the walls held secrets close to his heart.  So he dealt with Mother Nature’s hell and fury, cleaned up after her and lived the rest of the time isolated with his thoughts.  He’d die in the place, he was sure of it.
Thunder bellowed, fighting to be heard over all the angry sounds of the storm.  Lightning accompanied it, the sudden flash causing him to jump.  He pulled the coat tighter across his chest, as if doing so would provide protection against the battering gale.  It caused him to think of his grandfather.  His ancestor relished storms such as this one; the man’s Scandinavian blood toughened him for it.  Denmark had been his native country and he often spoke of their Viking heritage with reverence.
“Never you worry, these storms are galinn, a voice from God,” he remembered the man saying, the Old Norse tongue slipping as it often did.  He never understood his grandfather’s language, but he loved the sound of it.  The burrs and the rolls slid from his tongue, creating the oddest resonance, but it was soothing.  And the man’s reference to “God” varied, sometimes using “gods” instead, a nod to the pre-Christianity ways of his ancestors.
He had never felt afraid when his grandfather was near, a feeling he’d missed for decades.  Now he was an old man himself, with nothing much to show for it and no one left to remember his time on earth.  He’d been stubborn in his life, loving passionately only one woman, and caring little for the rest.  His grandfather, the man who had raised him, chastised him for his ways.
“Ye’ll regret your choices, mark my words,” came the man’s retort, “a lesser man wouldn’t care, but I know ye do.”
He did care and he hated himself for it.  Caring meant feeling so deeply that all of life’s hurts wounded your soul.  Love and compassion were words that wrecked havoc with a person’s life; physical pain was an easy fix, but not your core, he reasoned.  And he learned a lesson with the woman he had loved.
“Not your heart,” he muttered, as the storm raged and tree limbs brushed the roof.  “Too much disappointment there.”  So he spent a lifetime of numbing himself to the world’s ways, of feeling nothing and getting by day to day. 
A sudden crack then a loud boom filled his ears and shook the foundation of his house.  He guessed lightning had just struck a tree, bringing it down and by the sound of things, it barely missed falling on his roof.   He figured if a tree had taken his home but spared him, he’d viewed it as rotten luck, even though he would finally be rid of the place.  There would be no rebuilding after that. 
“That wind is beastly, son,” came his grandfather’s voice.  The memory brought a vision of the old man standing outside during a hellish storm, his gray hair wild about his head and a smile plastered on his face.  Soaked but standing tall, his grandfather was calm and at peace during chaos and the elements.  He wished he could’ve been more like the man.
No matter how hard he tried to emulate the strength and kindness he’d been shown, he couldn’t.  Put simply, he was weak and hot-tempered and no amount of numbing himself from emotions doused the simmer inside of him.  He’d been hurt by the woman he loved and in turn he hurt the others who followed her.  The resentment built a wall and nothing could tear it down.  He’d never allowed it. 
“Ah, my John, open your heart, son,” his grandfather whispered.  He heard the voice over the bellowing wind.  “Let it feel.”
It was as if the elder man’s soul had returned, fighting to be heard over the storm but falling on ears that were too old to change. 
“But wait for me, Grandpa Jack,” he heard himself say, running after the bearded and larger than life man.  He’d been about seven and wanted nothing more than to go fishing with his idol that day.  But dark clouds hung low and the water grew choppy. 
“Ah, we’ll not fish today,” replied his grandfather.
“But why?”
“That color in the sky is not good for fishing.  And the water is fussing a little too much.”
“What is it fussing about?”
“Well, let me see,” he began, rubbing his chin.  His whiskers slid between his fingers as he looked toward the ocean.  “It could be she’s a little tired.  It’s a lot of work providing fish for us to eat and water to sail upon.  Sometimes she has to remind us to appreciate her.”
“Then can we fish when she’s done reminding?”
His grandfather had thrown back his head and roared with laughter.  The sound carried across the wind and echoed through the trees.  “Ye’ll be the death of me, lad,” he’d said, adding, “yes, we’ll fish when the reminding is over.”
A pane in the front window shattered, bringing his thoughts to the present, while the lights flickered one last time before losing the fight with Mother Nature.  He sat in the darkness, the flashlight and lantern at his side.  He made no effort to use them.  He didn’t need to see the inevitable.
The old house had been his refuge, a place his grandfather built.  It stood as sentinel more decades than he had been around; it weathered the storms outside and those within him.  He observed and learned from his ancestor the way to be a good man, while the walls watched his struggles to follow in the man’s footsteps.  He could never desert it.  The very gales his grandfather loved would claim it and then it would be right.
“Are ye ready, lad?” the tired voice asked.
“I’m ready,” he replied to the empty room.  He could feel the water at his feet and hear the boards creaking beneath.  The wind continued to fist its anger, seizing anything in its path; a tree branch broke through another window.  His Viking gods were telling him to find safety but he couldn’t move.  Then he remembered the man, standing tall in the storm, face uplifted to catch the ocean’s spray upon his skin.  Calm and at peace.  He felt strength for the first time in his life.
“Can we fish today, Grandpa Jack?”
“Aye, today will be good.”
“I’ll catch the biggest fish for supper.”
“Will ye now?”
“I promise!”
“Then are ye ready, lad?’
“I’m ready.”
He opened the door, letting the storm enter.  It seized the house, as if reclaiming something long lost.  And it was right.

©Veronica Randolph Batterson