Friday, December 29, 2006


We moved into our house exactly one year ago. Around noon that day, I took the dog for a walk and the wind, which was gusting at 60 mph, blew my left sunglass lens out, never to be found again. Little did I know that it was an omen of things to come.

That night, we discovered that the upstairs heating didn't work. It being New Year's weekend, we were stuck with the cold for days. (After the first night, I slept on the pull-out couch in the living room while hot-blooded Darling Husband toughed it out upstairs.) We subsequently learned that there was a Potemkin thermostat in the hall; instead of being connected to the basement boiler,
its wire ended in a closet just 6 feet away.

Since then, we had to get the heating redone, including all new thermostats; the leaky gas hookup to the range repaired; the kitchen waste pipe replumbed (it was slanted uphill); the downstairs toilet reinstalled; 28 windows replaced; the fill at the sides of the house regraded; storm doors installed; plus various "extra" carpentry and plumbing jobs. Now our concrete front steps are crumbling and must be replaced as soon as the snow clears. I'm praying that the roof stays OK.

And yes, if you can believe it, we had the house inspected before we bought it. We'd be throwing lawsuits around, only Darling Husband and I agreed that we've had too much tsuris already with my medical woes. Still, I refer to the seller (read: speculator) and the guy who did most of the work on the house as "those wankers." It's scant comfort, but it's something.

More Whiteness

East High School, the Boy Wonder's alma mater (also actor Don Cheedle's).

"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
--James Joyce, "The Dead"

The end of my block. The mausoleum at left is the Tattered Cover Book Store.

It's been snowing here in Denver since 10:30 yesterday morning, with no end in sight. On top of last week's two feet, we got 8 inches overnight and 2 or so inches today; 2-5 more is predicted tonight and another 3-5 inches tomorrow. During my last winter in Maine 12 years ago, we had more than 100 inches of snow. We got so sick of it that we called it "the S word." I'm close to that point now.

O Pioneers!

Still, it's pretty--as long as you don't have to go anywhere. And I don't. Expecting to host a party tomorrow in celebration of surviving (barely!) our first year in Denver, I did a mega-shopping on Wednesday. We postponed the festivities till next week, so we are well provisioned, particularly in the green salad department. Also soda and chips, to the great delight of the Boy Wonder. I'd put the kibosh on cracking open one of the 2-liter bottles of Pepsi, but was overridden by Darling Husband, who was craving some himself. (I loathe cola; also beer.)

Jenny explores the base of a monument at the Esplanade.

When I took Jenny out this morning, I felt as though I was in "Dr. Zhivago," with the rumbling and wheezing of traffic substituting for "Lara's Theme." The samovar is collecting dust in the basement, but all this s*** may have me hitting the vodka soon. Zdorov'ya! (See more Russian toasts here.)

I'd gladly stay hunkered inside, only Jenny is suffering from an as-yet-undiagnosed urinary malady, which necessitates taking her out every couple of hours. She's been leaking on her bedding like a canine Betsy Wetsy; I haven't done so many loads of laundry since the Boy Wonder was in diapers.

Max hasn't set foot outdoors today. At 5:45 a.m., I was awakened to the sound of distant, frantic mewing. After searching various closets and BW's room, I opened the front door to find a desperate, snow-covered kitty. Apparently he'd slipped out during one of the dog walks last night. He was very cuddly and friendly all morning.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mr. Rogers Was Right

I am special. Apparently I'm the only Bella Stander in the whole U.S. of A., which makes me 1 in about 300 million. Here's how I found out for sure:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

According to the last census (which apparently didn't count me despite all the fun I had filling out the form), there were 1110 people with the surname Stander in the country;
8999 people with the first name of Bella. I think the second number will go up soon because there are lots of dogs named Bella these days (I knew of 4 in Charlottesville, VA, alone, from a harlequin Great Dane to a homely little black thing of very mixed parentage), and I've noticed that where dogs lead, kids soon follow.

Max and Hannah are popular names now, after being attached to several dogs of my acquaintance a few years ago. (Disclosure: My cat is Max; he also eats MaxCat food.) Bella, Max and Hannah were common in our (great-) grandparents' era too. My grandmother was Belle, called Bella, and there were any number of Max Standers 100 years ago. Though as I discovered to my frustration when researching family history, Max was a common Jewish nickname for a man whose middle name was Menachem or Mordechai--or most anything that began with "M." So there are some big question marks on the family tree.

Darling Husband shares his name with just one other person, though I'll bet that guy has a middle name, unlike DH. The Boy Wonder is much more common: there are 220 others with the same first and last names. They were bestowed upon him by his father, but after BW was born my father told me that his boyhood nickname was the same as BW's first name. I'll never know exactly why (I have my guesses)--another question mark for the tree.

Edit 12/26: Take the info at with a BIG grain of salt. Per the comments, several people have discovered that they & their families don't exist. The Boy Wonder searched for the last name Rosewater, and supposedly there are zero people in the entire country who have it; whereas I found two in the Denver phone book. However, I still think I'm the one & only Bella Stander, as no one else comes up in Google & Yahoo! White Pages searches.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Around & About

After reading news, edtorials & opinions in the papers & online, I'm awash in words. So here are some pictures--OK, with some explanatory words--to cleanse the mental palate.

Shades of me (w/ camera) & Darling Husband overlooking the mighty Mt. Vernon Creek in Morrison, CO, a few days before Thanksgiving.

Telluride, CO, four days ago.

One of my favorite road signs, on I-70 heading D-O-W-N towards Denver, taken on the way back from Telluride. (Another fave reads "Correctional Facility. Do not pick up hitchhikers.")

Side view off my back porch yesterday. The big egg is the grill.

The Whiteness of Being

Lantern Waste...The view from my front stoop Wednesday night.
As reported, we got the Big Dump O' Snow in Denver, with some 2 feet falling from late Tuesday night thru Thursday noon. Though there wasn't a cloud in the sky all day Tuesday and the weather forecasts here are notoriously unreliable (I'm still fuming over the unforeseen -13 last February when our heat was on the fritz), I heeded the reports of a coming storm and stocked up on groceries. Good thing, too, as the Boy Wonder (nearly 6' 4", 132 lbs) seems to be eating for three these days, and he would have cleaned us out by yesterday morning.

I was feeling all safe and smug and toasty, hunkered down with Darling Husband, the BW, Jenny dog and Max cat, visions of a huge pot of stew dancing in my head. Then yesterday I went into the basement in search of my snow gaiters, which I'd stowed away somewhere really clever...and forgettable. (I'd already scoured the whole upstairs for them.) And what did I find but a large pool of water on the floor emanating from the kitchen waste pipe (repaired in the spring) which was steadily dripping onto a stack of cardboard boxes. Oh @#$%*!!!

I will draw a discreet curtain over the ensuing scene. The happy news is that nothing important was ruined and a large picnic cooler is now catching the drips until the plumber, who fortunately lives nearby, can dig out his truck and make his way here. And I found the gaiters in a waterproof bin, well away from the leak.

Jenny (rear) frolicking with a neighbor yesterday.
Max is electing to remain indoors.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Out on Reprieve

Brian, Chutney, Kristin & me at the Something-or-other
rest area overlooking the Whatchamacallit River.
For the first time since May, I'm away from home by myself overnight (actually 3 nights) and... I'm not in a hospital!

I'm in Telluride, Colo., along with literary agent Kristin Nelson, her husband and their little dog too. Kristin and I spoke at an author-agent conference, sponsored by the Telluride public library, on Friday evening and Saturday. The rest of the time we've been hanging out, dining out (sumptuously!) and gadding about.

Seems that right now is a quiet time in Telluride; all hell breaks loose on December 26th. I'm one of only 5 guests at my hotel, and we've easily gotten tables at popular restaurants during peak dinner time without reservations. A dog could have taken a nap in the middle of the main street at noon today, with little fear of being disturbed. (There was a dog asleep on the sidewalk in front of one of the bars; he was there yesterday too.)

View of lunchtime non-traffic from the Floradora Saloon.
There were hardly any lines at the lifts later this afternoon either; not that I was doing any skiing, given my recent injuries. We three took the free gondola up the mountain and had a drink at a (the only?) relatively inexpensive pub, not coincidentally frequented by a much younger crowd than elsewhere.

View from my hotel room balcony.

Telluride is a quaint little town with spectacular scenery and clean evergreen-scented air, but the racket of the nearby snow-making machines sounds as though Paul Bunyan is running his espresso maker. And I have never been so scared walking city streets anywhere as I have been here, at least until the newly fallen snow provided some traction today.

One would think that a pontzy ski resort town, with two (count 'em!) Sotheby real estate offices, and restaurants that fly in fresh seafood from both coasts every day, would have ice-free sidewalks and street lights. But NOOO!!! I crept around like a little old lady, terrified that I'd fall down and rebreak my arm, or something else. My heart was in my mouth Friday night as the three of us minced down the steep, icy and very dark hill to our hotels after a fantabulous dinner at the Excelsior restaurant.

Now I know why I haven't seen any old people in Telluride: They're all home with broken hips.
Street corner with sloped curb for handicapped accessibility (ha!).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Author Go Happy

From Ginny Rorby, author of the YA novel Hurt Go Happy (Tor), who took my Book Promotion 101 workshop in San Francisco last year:

Hurt Go Happy came out in August, but I was already hard at work putting into practice some of the tips I garnered from your class.

I sent out 2500 postcards to all the deaf schools, all the zoos with gift shops, all the libraries nationwide, all the bookstores specializing in children's books, and hundreds of personal friends. I created Google Alerts, so that everything that came out about chimpanzees, sign language or deafness, the title of my book or my name, I got an email. I then researched each person mentioned in the article and sent them a postcard.

The results have been terrific.

Here in town [Fort Bragg, CA], I had to do two readings, both of which were packed with friends. Nearly 400 books have sold locally. I am doing a fundraiser in FL and a reading at Books & Books in Miami. The book was a Junior Library Guild selection (4500 copies), a Scholastic Book Fair selection (they order 63,000 trade paperback copies) and was voted one of the Top 100 children's books of the Year by the NY Public Library Assoc.

It's hard to know if what I did was successful and what would have happened anyway, but I can't help but think that getting it before all those eyeballs helped.

Self-Promotion: What Works & What Doesn't?

On Nov. 28, in "A Lesson in Self-Promotion," GalleyCat posted a link to How I Promoted My Book by David Louis Edelman, author of the sci-fi novel Infoquake. Edelman took stock as follows:
  • Promotional efforts that were well worth doing.
  • Promotional efforts that may have had some positive impact, but it's hard to tell.
  • Things I tried that have had seemingly no impact.
  • What lessons have I learned?
This is such a good idea that I'm going to "sample" it (y'know, like Ian McEwan did with that WWII nurse's memoir in Atonement). To that end, please make out your own lists as per the headings above and send them to me: {bella at}. I'll post them here and cite them (with attribution, natch) in my workshops. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

Recharge in the Desert

Sure wish I could go...

FINDING THE FLOW: Writing from the Inside Out

ARIZONA WRITING RETREAT, January 17-21, led by novelist Katharine Weber and clinical psychologist Lynette Danylchuk, Ph.D., with essayist and poet Floyd Skloot, and painter Beverly Hallberg.

For writers at any level of experience, this workshop is a rare opportunity to connect with your writing dreams in a nurturing group at Pocket Sanctuary, a restored dude ranch set in the spectacular desert landscape south of Tucson. The workshop will combine guided imagery, psychodrama, role play and other techniques, plus art projects, lectures, readings and private conferences to enable you to tap your imagination and find the flow for the writing you want to do.

Price for workshop, lodging & meals: $900. For more information, phone Lisa Griffin at Pocket Sanctuary 520-398-8073 or send email to {pocketsanctuary at earthlink dot net}.

On the Road Again

In light of my recent travails, it's going to be a while till I'm back in the saddle. In fact, I have to put in a few more hours on my shrink's couch till I'm able to even stop by the stable to say hello. And even more hours till I can watch any movie rough stuff without feeling panicky and nauseous, as happened when I saw "Casino Royale" last weekend. (There's a spectacular view of the mountains from that couch, so I don't mind sitting there.)

However, now that
I can carry my laptop with my right hand again--for a minute or two, anyway--I've set up workshops for this winter. Registration is limited to 8. Discount for Early Birds; I'll feed you good too. See complete details here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Registration Deadline: January 13

Guest Speakers:
Guest Publicists:
Bonus: Poolside chat & refreshments after the workshop with Kathryn Jordan, Jennifer Kaufman, Karen Mack, Kerry Madden & Quong Pham.

Saturday, March 10, 2007
Registration Deadline: February 24

Guest Speakers:
  • Jane Cleland, business speaker & author of the mystery Consigned to Death
  • Ron Hogan, co-editor, GalleyCat; founder, Beatrice; author, The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane!: American Films of the 1970s
  • Jen Singer, proprietor of & author of 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime: A Stay-at-Home Mom's Life in 27 Funny Little Stories
  • Eileen Winnick, media trainer & president, The Winnick Group

Guest Publicists:
Bonus: "Field trip" on March 7 to National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists Reading at the New School.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Latin Ending

Per the preceding post, Steven P. Hill, professor of Cinema Studies, Univ. of Illinois, wrote:
For future reference, you may want to adjust the little header on the next anniversary remembrance of LS's passing to the feminine accusative "-am" in Latin, that is, "In memoriam." ("Memorium" would make a gender switch to neuter...)
Therefore, in accordance with Prof. Hill's feminine accusative, I offer this edit:

In Memoriam
Lionel Stander (center) in an episode of "Hart to Hart"