Tea at the Olympic Hotel

The Olympic Hotel opened in 1924. It was a grand, opulent place meant for the wealthy movers and shakers of Seattle. Since the novella I’m finishing up  research on has a scene in the Olympic and one nearby in an alley, it was one of my planned visits. Then I discovered that the Georgian Room, located in the hotel, serves fancy afternoon tea – you know, delicate nibbles usually provided to women in big hats.

Tea drinkers in the Georgian Room. One lady does have a big hat.

Tea drinkers in the Georgian Room. One lady does have a big hat.

(Note: I did not wear my big hat because it was foggy that day.)

Before I talk about tea at the Olympic, a brief note about the other scene. In the novella, the ingenue character slips away from a party-planning meeting at the Olympic (her engagement party, as it happens) and meets her secret lover—okay, well, not-so-secret lover—in a nearby alley. The main character follows her and catches them.

This meant I needed to find an alley near the hotel. I’d looked at maps on Google and paper maps and “made up” an alley between 4th and 5th Streets, connecting Spring and Seneca. I was really hoping there was an alley there. To my delight, there was! As a bonus, the outside stairs from my hotel, the Executive Pacific, ended in that alley. Hurray! My search for another alley needed in the story was not so successful, so this was a standout.

I made a reservation at the Georgian Room for tea on Thursday, which was my first full day there. The marine layer visits downtown regularly in the summer, and it was a welcome relief to me after driving though hot, fire-ravaged, smoke-clouded northern California and Oregon. Coming along Lake Shasta had been like driving through an apocalyptic movie – it was like driving through fog, only it was both blue and coppery, and 90+ degrees outside.

Oh my gosh! That lobby.

Oh my gosh! That lobby.

But back to tea… I went back to my room after visiting the waterfront and changed my jacket because the dress code (yes, dress code) for the Georgian is “business casual,” so I brought a jacket that matched my slacks. And walked over, through that vital alleyway. It appears that through a terrible oversight I did not get a picture of the Olympic entrance; but the book I bought corrects for that in most respects. The hotel is currently operated by Fairmont, and the building is on the registry of historic buildings. First I walked into that – gasp! – lobby. I looked right and there, up a few stairs, was the Georgian Room. I went in, where this young lady greeted me. They had my reservation and the table was all set up for tea – which is a different setup than for a lunch. I asked if I could take her picture.

Yeah, that lobby.

Yeah, that lobby.

“Of course! Do you want me looking at the camera, or working?” She smiled. “Or pretending to work?”

The pleasant and hard-working hostess.

The pleasant and hard-working hostess.

I opted for working/pretending to work so she folded some napkins. (It looked like actual work to me.) Then she guided me over to my table, near the back wall, close to one of the two private dining rooms. My table didn’t have a chair. It had a settee.

My reservation was for 1:15. The place was nearly empty; two tables held tea-partakers, and two others had duos, both male, all four in suits. I can imagine my characters, Fiona and Tony, the two who have been directed into an arranged marriage, being dragged here for tea by Tony’s strong-willed mother. I watched the two tables of guys in suits. They did not look like brash young tech startup dudes, who might have business meetings at a strip club or at one of the many Starbuck’s “Reserve Tasting Room” coffee houses. No, these guys looked like they already hang out in the E-suite of established mega-corps. They might get booted out of their companies in four or five years, with mere $40 million bonus/parachutes, but right now they are sleek, self-satisfied and enjoying their cocktails.

The trio of women directly across from me, one of whom did have a big hat, was having the champagne tea, which costs $64 per person. A note about sales tax in Washington; Washington has no income tax, and sales tax is 10% on everything. “Everything” includes food. That $64 price is before sales tax.

The un-champagned tea cost $49. I added a bottle of sparkling water which boosted the price, plus the sales tax. (This was basically my meal for the day.) Tea had three courses; berries and fruit, scones, and an array of tea sandwiches and petit fours. The berries were served in a martini glass with a couple of mint sprigs. The scones were white chocolate cherry, and there were two. Lastly, the server brought out the famous tea stand with three levels. There was a chicken finger sandwich, a tomato basil sandwich and a tiny savory quiche, a matcha tea flavored petit four, a chocolate thing that looked a lot like a truffle, and a macaroon. All the food was beautifully presented.

Fresh fruit started the meal.

Fresh fruit started the meal.

And the tea stand, loaded with finger-sized sandwiches and sweet treats.

And the tea stand, loaded with finger-sized sandwiches and sweet treats.

I had golden dragon jasmine tea, which was fragrant and a rich amber in color, and blew my reduced-caffeine regimen straight out of the water. The tea was wonderful. The food was good but not exceptional. I have had better scones locally. Nothing was bad, and I was mostly there for the ambience anyway. I doubt anyone goes to “afternoon tea at the Georgian Room” for the tea cuisine. There was enough food left that I took half of it back to my hotel and snacked on it the rest of the trip. I had the scone with Pike Place Market raspberries for breakfast the next morning. The chicken sandwich and the petit four were dinner my last night there.

That's the china pattern.

That’s the china pattern.

The server filled my teapot with loose leaves and hot water.

The server filled my teapot with loose leaves and hot water.

The walls in the Georgian Room, painted pale yellow with white trim, must be twenty feet high. The named streets run roughly east-west in downtown, and the University Street side has tall, arched windows. The inner wall has fifteen feet tall mirrors that mimic those windows. They need ceilings that high just to have room for those chandeliers. The sideboard held a collection of Dale Chiluly glass.

Just one of the crystal chandeliers.

Just one of the crystal chandeliers.

Mirrors on the Georgian Room wall.

Mirrors on the Georgian Room wall.

 

An old sideboard filled with art glass.

An old sideboard filled with art glass.

After I finished up, paid, and got my to-go box, which was put into a huge Fairmont paper bag with handles, I went out into the lobby to take more pictures. I approached the concierge desk to ask if they had any written information on the hotel. They did indeed and shared it with me. One man handed me a book commissioned by Fairmont to provide the history of the hotel. “It’s the only one we’ve got left, I think, but you’re welcome to have a seat and look through it.”

The book gives the history of the hotel... the handouts were free!

The book gives the history of the hotel… the handouts were free!

Another concierge glanced up. “We’ve got a few of those left,” he said.

“I didn’t see them.”

“Maggie moved them. I’ll go look.” Off he went and then back he came, with this. It was $20, well worth the price.

I had a good time, was pleasantly overwhelmed by architecture and design, and managed to check the third location off my six-location to-do list. Plus, I was so buzzed on caffeine I would have run wind-sprints the rest of the day. That energy served me well at Pike Place Market.

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Pike Place Market

I went to Pike Place Market twice today. Actually, I went to the waterfront and Pike Place Market twice today. I’m all about habit.

Pike Place Market.

Pike Place Market, the tourist magnet I visited twice.

The second time I decided to ship something from the fish market to a certain person — okay, I’m no good at being coy, it was Spouse. The fish market ships anywhere in the US with next day delivery. I did all the paperwork, they swiped my card, and handed me the slip to sign. Meanwhile they got started on the woman behind me who was shipping home some prawns. “Wait, wait,” the guy said to me. “Just one more thing.” I’m holding my receipt and my card and I’m like, what? Dude, only two hands here, and he hands me something in a square of waxed paper and it’s smoked salmon. And it’s a big chunk of smoked salmon. He handed one to the other lady too.

Just a small sample of the fish market's selection, but if you touch it, you just bought it.

Just a small sample of the fish market’s selection, but if you touch it, you just bought it.

I noticed that she held her waxed paper and daintily plucked off shimmering pink shreds of the smoked meat. Not me. I was eating it like an ice cream cone. I took one bite and stopped, eyes closed, in the middle of Pike Place Market (not that I’m the only person to ever do that), my credit card still in my hand because I was totally HAVING A MOMENT. Having a food moment.

Oh, and I really hope Spouse’s oceanic treat arrives fresh and safe.

Acres of fresh, vivid flowers.

Acres of fresh, vivid flowers.

The market has fish, flowers, fruits, vegetables, cheese, street food, coffee, pastries, honey, spices, olive oil, T-shirts, jewelry, tote bags, souvenirs, new and used books, tchochkies, music… I’m sure I’m forgetting many things. Restaurants; it has sit-down restaurants, and, maybe, the original Starbuck’s coffee house.

A flower vendor who graciously posed for me.

A flower vendor who graciously posed for me. She IS smiling.

Pike Place Market was the city’s original farmers market and goes back to the early 1900s. Probably it didn’t sell as many postcards or “Pike Place Pig” charms back then. I imagine horse-drawn carts unloading vegetables, fruit, grain and cheese, freshly butchered meat, and maybe some fish although I don’t know how much fishing was done at the turn of the 20th century. The regrade project dumped tons of silt into the harbor and there was a massive fish die-off for several years, but it’s possible the population had recovered by the time the 20th rolled around.

Mt Rainier honey with sunlight shining through it.

Mt Rainier honey with sunlight shining through it.

Fun fact; the north-south axis of downtown is much flatter than the east-west. This morning, I walked straight down to the waterfront and then back on the east-west, up he hills, and my calves aren’t speaking to me. This afternoon, I had to go find the Bon Marche department store (now it’s a Macy’s) and that meant walking north on 4th street. Google even said, “This route is mostly flat.” And it was! After I found the Bon, I headed west again on Pike Street and there I was, back in the market.

The stairs from Alaska Way up to Pike Place.

The stairs from Alaska Way up to Pike Place. These are only the beginning.

And then there is the art.

And then there is the art. Mural of a merman on he side of a building.

And then there is the art.

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Under the Streets of Seattle

There are two tours that lead people though the underground streets of Seattle. Bill Speidel has the most famous one that is in all the guidebooks, Seattle Underground. There is a new company  called Beneath the Streets and I took that tour yesterday. I took notes but I didn’t write down our friendly tour guide’s name, so I’m going to call him Bill. I hope that’s not confusing.

Downtown Seattle is kind of a miracle of engineering, and kind of a precarious place to be. It highlights human ingenuity and human hubris, especially European-American hubris. And it’s cool. When you’re walking around on S Jackson Street or 1st street, or the lower parts of Spring Street, you aren’t walking on solid ground. You’re walking on the roof of an entire underground; the city’s “first floor.”

Bill took us to a masonry pylon underground that is featured in an historic photo of the area before the underground was underground. Topside, he said, a copper column marks the same spot.

Our lively and informative tour guide hugs a copper column attached to a pylon underground.

Our lively and informative tour guide hugs a copper column attached to a pylon underground.

The US government provided land grants for this part of the Washington territory in 1850. The plan was to get a European-American settlement up and running to have a pretext to claim the land before England did, which is was poised to do. The US government was unconcerned about the people who already lived in the area and had for 5,000 years, the Doowamish tribe. Settlers imagined coming out and farming. They arrived to find a steep hilly terrain covered with majestic evergreen trees. So they switched to logging.

The hills were too steep to navigate easily, so the business part of town was built, basically, on the beach. High tide frequently flooded businesses. Roads were graded out of dirt, and, well, have I mentioned that it rains frequently in Seattle? Between the high tides and the rain, the streets were mud. Despite this, the town rumbled along, cutting down trees, milling them at Yesler’s Mill and selling them.

In 1889 a massive fire destroyed the business district. The city fathers, such as they were, wanted to rebuild immediately (some came back days after the fire, pitched tents, and tried to reopen). Engineers offered an alternative; using massive water-cannon, they would erode away or “regrade” the surrounding hills, creating a gentler slope, and use the dirt to raise the downtown area. They saw a chance to correct the earlier design flaw and they were eager to try it. The town fathers thought that was cool, too, until they heard that it would probably take ten years. A compromise was reached. The business people would rebuild and open. In addition, they would build huge retaining walls, fifteen feet high in some spots, around each block in a grid pattern. When that was done, the regrading would begin, and the dirt would be directed between the retaining walls. “Picture a waffle,” said our guide. Eventually, when it was done, people would build a new building on top of the old “first story” one.

A set of stairs to the underground.

A set of stairs to the underground.

This image is the old "first floor" of the building above...

This image is the old “first floor” of the building above…

... while this is technically on the underground "sidewalk."

… while this is technically on the underground “sidewalk.”

For about ten years, the streets of downtown Seattle were about twenty feet higher than the sidewalks. While, miraculously, no one was killed in the catastrophic fire, plenty of people died in those ten years from falling off the street. That’s not a cause of death you hear every day.

Bill shared some above ground history of old Seattle, and not so old. The Central, he said, is where a group called Nirvana played the gig that got them discovered. (Bill is a musician and has played many venues in Seattle and the west coast.)

The Central, a dive bar famous for hosting Nirvana.

The Central, a dive bar famous for hosting Nirvana.

Brief detour: two men who got land grants, Dr. “Doc” Maynard and Arthur Denny, had plats next to each other and disliked each other. Denny was uptight and puritanical Maynard was life-and-let-live. The main business in the town was lumber; men outnumbered women by ten to one; prostitution was legal in the territory. Maynard thought it should be accepted, along with bars. (I think he thought legal drinking and prostitution would help keep a lid on violent crime). Denny, of course, wanted it banned. Yesler Way split their properties, and it was called the “deadline.” The south side (Maynard’s) was the bad part of town… or maybe the fun part if you were a guy. No “decent” women went south of the deadline. As Bill said, “If you were seen there it was assumed you worked there, and nobody thought you were a seamstress, if you know what I mean.”

One really cool thing about the underground are the glass skylights. From topside they look like utility covers, studded with clear, milky and amethyst colored disks. Those disks are the bases of glass prisms, that let light into the “underground” story.

These glass dots are prisms, bringing in the light from up top.

These glass dots are prisms, bringing in the light from up top.

I sized this next picture a little bigger.

Detail of skylight prism.

Sorry about the blur, I didn’t want to use flash.

Bill has lived in town twenty years, and he had lots more to say. The group was small– there were three of us– and I think we got a lot more detail, and more of Bill’s personal history, than many groups do.

It was fun, and it makes me want to go reread Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker right now.

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I Am In Seattle!

My room space is nothing like the palatial digs of the Embassy Suites in Portland. It is efficient; reminding me a little bit of my hotel room the first two nights in Reykjavik. I have everything I need without a lot of frills. It feels very executive. That’s good, because this is the Executive Pacific Hotel. It’s right downtown, four blocks to the waterfront. Four blocks down to the waterfront and four long calf-workout-aching blocks back up to the hotel. Exercise is grand!

This building, which I can see out my window, is the Seattle Central Library. It is pretty amazing and I’m looking forward to checking out the interior tomorrow.

Seattle Central Library

Seattle Central Library

After I checked in I walked down to Pioneer Square and took one of the underground tours. The underground tour is not part of my research project but it’s interesting and fun.

This is the Smith Tower. It was, the underground guide said, the tallest building west of the Mississippi until the 1970s. I hadn’t known that, although I did know that there used to be a radio station that broadcast from it.

The dizzying Smith Tower.

The dizzying Smith Tower.

And, plenty of stunning architecture, including embellishments on nearly every building, like this.

Architectural detail.

Architectural detail.

I hiked my way back up the Spring Street hill to the hotel and stopped for dinner at Vovito, which is connected to the hotel. It’s a coffee/gelato/pizza/samosa place and that isn’t as weird as it might sound. I had a vegetable samosa and two flavors of sorbetto on the “happy hour” special and it came to $12 with the tip. The passionfruit sorbetto was exquisite. Anyway, it made a nice dinner after the longish walk. Tomorrow, when I’m awake, I’ll post some more photos.

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Where You Can Find My Work

A short story of mine called “Adagio for Tiamat Station” will appear in Beyond the Stars; Unimagined Realms on 8/24/18. I’ll post the link as soon as I have one.

I don’t have a ETA on my fantasy novella from Falstaff Books yet. The title is Aluminum Leaves. At last, I have learned to spell “aluminum.” The story is part of the Shattered Cities series, about parallel worlds.

“Littoral Zone,” my general fiction story about a bad relationship, can be found in the Noyo River Review, Volume 6.

And then the old standbys:

“Strays,” in Flash Fiction Online.

“Location, Location, Location,” in Daily Science Fiction.

“Never Truly Yours” in Podcastle.

“Magpie’s Curse” in the cross-genre anthology Strange California.

I hope there will be more to come, sooner rather than later!

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MCWC, 2018: Looking in the Rearview

This year’s Mendocino Coast Writers Conference was good for me. Vanessa Hua, who taught the short story workshop, chose a different element of story to examine (setting, dialogue, stakes, character, etc) each day. We opened with a writing exercise and then workshopped the stories. It was a great group, too; lots of skill, lots of unique voices and, as a group, dedicated and generous readers. While you do tend to get that at this conference, you don’t always get it, and I am always appreciative when I do.

(Vanessa has a book of short fiction out, and just released, (or is releasing, the pub date is a week away as I write this)  a novel called A River of Stars.)

Dialogue:  Without calling it “subtext,” Vanessa asked us to write a passage of dialogue between two people that was very fraught, where the topic of the conversation was not what was really going on.

The story I submitted was about 90% subtext, so naturally I liked this one. I like stories where, with the main character, I have to puzzle out what people really mean, what they are hiding, what they are uncomfortable saying and hope someone will coax out of them.

Setting: Setting, and what the MC notices of the setting, tells us a lot about the story. Our exercise for that day was to remember a place from our past that carried a strong feeling; then put a character with a conflict into it. I really had trouble with this one. I was remembering a library from when I was a kid, but I wasn’t getting much of a charge from it. Later I looked over what I’d written and realized I chosen a library that was pretty, or neat looking, but wasn’t the one that resonated emotionally. I think this exercise would have clicked into place for me better if I had used the tiny little library from my elementary school, which is the first library I clearly remember.

Raising the stakes: We put a character in trouble. I think the assignment was to have a character do a bad thing. The idea here is that the stakes, the consequences, have to be high in order for a piece of fiction to work. This doesn’t mean Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer style Saving-the-World stakes, although that does explain the stakes in a lot of genre fiction, especially thrillers. It means that the main character will lose something important to them. Stakes don’t have to be realistic but they have to be believable for the character.

Stakes are easier in genre, as I noted above. Basically, in a mystery, the stakes are that a killer will go uncaught if the mystery isn’t solved, or others may die. To raise the stakes, the case will usually have some meaning to the detective character.

In general fiction, which nearly all of our stories were, it’s harder to figure out what the stakes are sometimes, and how to raise them. It’s going to be hard for me as a reader to care too much if the MC brings the same casserole as another person to the neighborhood potluck, for instance, unless you have developed the character so thoroughly (or, perhaps the setting… maybe this is a really tough neighborhood!) that I believe that this would be a catastrophe for them.

Among the stories themselves, we had some beautifully depicted settings. One story, about a young mother experiencing post-partum depression, was claustrophobic, and I mean that as a compliment. In one scene, when she goes outside for a walk with the baby, I felt air whoosh into my lungs and realized I’d been holding my breath. The setting, as experienced in close third-person POV by the MC, contributed to the heaviness, the paralysis she was feeling.

Another story, about a woman who has isolated herself in Alaska and the old lover who comes to find her, had such beautiful atmospheric descriptions it felt like a folk song.

When it came to dialogue and subtext, one of the most interesting passages in the workshop came when a woman desperate to hide secrets encounters another woman who feels she has nothing to lose. The story took place in an upscale southern California neighborhood where appearances are important. Against the backdrop of conversations where no one says what they mean, one woman has gotten news that makes her think it’s time to stop caring what people think. And she’s going to confront some folks. Her dialogue is the opposite of subtext! And the story crackles with energy when she confronts someone who is fighting to maintain her facades.

My friend Donna’s story employed an engaging main character who is, in one specific area, an unreliable narrator. He is a retired widower, living in a Dallas neighborhood. He is mostly satisfied with his garden and his birdwatching, but he’s attracted to recently widowed Madeline, who lives in the neighborhood. Trevor is an astute observer with lots of wry and witty observations about birds, about people and about Texas. His perceptiveness deserts him, however, whenever he encounters Madeline, leading to a sad missed opportunity. It got me thinking about unreliable narrators.

All in all, a great workshop left me with lots to think about. Another great conference experience down.

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Mendocino Pictures

August 2-4, 2018 was the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. I’ve attended it for the last five  consecutive years, so I’m a regular.

People who know me well assume that when I’m in a place that has crows or ravens, I will photograph them. And I did. I photographed mostly ravens, but I didn’t photograph only ravens, and this post will provide photographic evidence.

After I got settled in my suite I drove north to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden.

One view of the heather garden.

One view of the heather garden.

Hummingbird at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden.

Hummingbird at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden.

In the rose garden.

In the rose garden.

 

Another view of the blooming heather.

Another view of the blooming heather.

Dahlias.

Dahlias.

Dahlia.

Dahlia.

Dahlia bud with water drops.

Dahlia bud with water drops.

Hummingbird eating.

Hummingbird eating.

The ocean, just past the forest part of the Garden.

The ocean, just past the forest part of the Garden.

Hummingbird at rest in the vegetable garden, which provides produce for the homeless shelters on the coast.

Hummingbird at rest in the vegetable garden, which provides produce for the homeless shelters on the coast.

 

There are several varieties of sparrow in the area. I think this is a Nuttall’s sparrow but it could also be a white-crowned.

Nuttall's Sparrow, I think, singing.

Nuttall’s Sparrow, I think, singing.

Westinghouse 4-winged fan. Once common throughout the continental USA, it is now usually found in antique shops.

Rare Westinghouse gray  fan. Once common throughout the continental USA, it is now usually found in antique shops.

The colony of ravens lives in the Mendocino village and it’s an understatement to say they are unafraid of humans. These are wild birds and they won’t come eat out of your hand, but they won’t be a big hurry to fly away and they certainly associate humans with food.

Gleeful crows finds some hazelnuts I left for them.

Gleeful crows finds some hazelnuts I left for them.

Raven in the mist.

Raven in the mist.

Yes, it's a raven.

Yes, it’s a raven.

 

 

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Cloak and Dagger on Free Form

The riches of the Marvel Comic universe lie spread out like the ruins of a subaquatic treasure city, and the latest network to go salvaging there is FreeForm, (formerly ABCFamily), with its late-teen fantasy drama Cloak and Dagger.

The best way to watch Cloak and Dagger is to binge it via On Demand and watch at least two episodes in a row each time. The show moves at a glacial pace for the first four episodes. It’s not that things don’t happen, it’s just hard to see how the things that do happen relate to anything, and the connecting-tissues scene don’t look organic, but more like, “Hey, we have to remind the audience that he’s Cloak and she’s Dagger, so let’s throw in a scene here!” Starting with Episode 5, the story smooths out and becomes more cohesive.

The most amazing thing about Cloak and Dagger is Aubrey Omari Joseph, who plays Tyrone Johnson (Cloak). It’s hard to imagine an actor who would inform this character so seamlessly. This was a brilliant job of casting. Joseph’s performance kept me watching through a couple of those early desert-hike episodes, I have to say.

Our two young heroes. (Promo photo).

Our two young heroes. (Promo photo).

The TV series story doesn’t seem closely related to the comic books, but I haven’t read the comics, so maybe I’m wrong. We are introduced to two young people; Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen. Maybe you didn’t notice their names make a nice-sounding pairing – Ty and Tandy – so if the superhero things doesn’t work out they could take up ice skating or something. They live in New Orleans. Eight years previously, Tandy’s father died in a car accident, driving off a bridge into the bay with Tandy in the back seat, at the exact moment the experimental oil rig he worked on for Roxxon Corporation, which was situated in the bay, exploded. At that same exact moment, near the waterfront, eight-year-old Ty saw a corrupt cop shoot and kill his beloved older brother. Ty dove into the water to save his brother, while eight-year-old Tandy was trapped in the sinking car. Somehow the two met and their powers converged to free Tandy from the car and carry them both to the surface. Neither of them, apparently, quite remembers that incident.

Now they are teens. African-American Ty lives with his middle-class parents in a nice house and goes to a Catholic prep school where he excels at basketball and gets good grades. He is driven, controlling, filled with guilt and resentment over his brother’s death. The guilt is because the shooting was indirectly caused by something he did; the resentment is because of course the NOLA cops covered everything up, and there has been no justice for big brother Billy. Ty is a control freak with anger issues.

Tandy has gone in a slightly different direction. She is a grifter, liar and a thief, a homeless girl who sleeps in a de-sanctified church, the second-coolest thing in the show. Tandy and Ty meet again when she steals his wallet at a party. He chases her, and when he grabs her she glows with a fierce white light and he swirls into velvety black tendrils. Their powers are reawakened. Separately, each discovers new facets to the power. If Tandy touches someone, she can read their hopes (and some memories). If Ty does, he reads their innermost fears, and some memories. Tandy can manifest a blade of white light –it’s a dagger! – and Ty can phase shift, which, I’m sorry, is like 100% cooler than manifesting a glowing can opener. It just is.

Then, to some extent it’s Game On, as, separately, Ty and Tandy investigate the mysteries in their pasts, explore their powers, and work toward justice/revenge. Eventually they team up, and soon they discover that the cover-up of the oil rig explosion, for which Tandy’s dead father was blamed, is actually hiding something bigger and more dangerous. The two teens have to work together, which is difficult because of their personalities… and they can’t touch each other or things go Boom, and not in a romantic way.

The third-coolest thing is the high-school Evita who is Ty’s girlfriend, even if she really is just a mole for her psychic aunt who exists to provide exposition about the powers of Cloak and Dagger. Psychic Aunt’s story is that these are two “divine powers” that appear at key points in history, but, alas, in every time period, “One lives, one dies.”  Yeah, in case we worried that Happily Ever After would come too quickly for our angst-ridden protagonists.

One nice bit that comes into play is the presence of krewes (Ty’s dad belonged to one) and the regalia. Of course, this is now Ty chooses his costume, an unfinished cloak that was his brother’s. Still, it’s nice to see the fellowship of black men, and the sense of history and continuity, however lightly it’s addressed.

Mardi Gras krewe regalia, courtesy of the Smithsonian.

Mardi Gras krewe regalia, courtesy of the Smithsonian.

The writing is uneven but improving. I have to say, as a use of “magic” in a story that is trying to balance science/engineering with ancient magical power, the use of a cookie in a specific episode is nothing short of inspired. If only the entire show rose to that level.

Is there an Emmy for Best Use of a snickerdoodle? Because this show deserves one.

Is there an Emmy for Best Use of a snickerdoodle? Because this show deserves one.

On the down side, the introduction of aggressive zombified folks (not spiritual zombies, the other kind) late in the season was a disappointment. This is to introduce the threat the evil corporation is hiding, but… zombies? Really? And in NOLA, you guys?

The show is fun but not brilliant. I think it’s worth watching for some of the performances. Don’t get too attached to the magic, because it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

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Do Not Give This Woman Your Money

I stumbled on the Anna March story over at Twitter, where people were tweeting about her and writers who might have been victimized by her. It caught my attention because I have agents on my mind now and one Twitter account was comparing her to agents. (It looks like she’s never quite presented herself as an actual literary agent.) I just finished writing something that features a grifter with many names as a main character. And here was one live and in person! Once I started reading, I realized that while my fictional character has done far less actual damage than Anna March has.

Here’s the LA Times article.

If I’m reading the article directly, Nancy Kruse, who most recently went by “Anna March,” has been providing inaccurate or false information to employers, partners and on documents signed under penalty of perjury since she was in her early 20s. (In June, according to her own statement, she turned 50.)

After legal problems back east, March, then using the name Delaney Anderson, came to California and went to San Diego. She became involved with a non-profit group called the Writing Center, which sounds wonderful. Originally a volunteer, Anderson became a paid employee and launched a large fund-raising effort. Her reports to the board were obviously false, as the board discovered when they got an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. They called an emergency meeting with Anderson, who left a piece of paper with the words I QUIT on the door and vanished. She left the Writing Center in such bad financial shape it had to declare bankruptcy.

So, basically, a program that helped emerging writers, gone.

The Times article linked to a Current article in 2005 which interviewed staff at the Writing Center. People there were willing to see Delaney Anderson as charming, charismatic and someone with “her heart in the right place” who just got in over her head. As Anderson/Kruse/March’s track record continues to unspool, that depiction becomes harder for me to believe.

After that, this woman hop-scotched across the country for a bit before initiating her next scheme, under the name Kruse, setting up an alleged fund-raiser for Public  radio. Fifteen PBS radio stations signed on with her company and paid amounts of money ranging from $8700 to $68,000. The stations’ contracts assured them they would recoup that money plus an additional amount (it was, after all, fundraising). Ten stations each got a $10,000 payment, and nothing else. The remaining five got nothing. (They eventually banded to together and filed a successful suit against her, getting back a sliver of what they’d spent.)

Yes, let’s rip off public radio, because why not?

While this was going on, workers at her company were having their paychecks bounce or getting sent home with promissory notes.

After her stint with PBS, March moved to Los Angeles, presenting herself as a literary light, befriending high-profile women authors, calling herself an intersectional feminist. She created a group called Lulu designed to give out awards, but while awards were announced the money was slow in coming… like, a year or more. (Melissa Chadburn, co-writer of the Times article, is one of the people who waited a year to get her $1000 grant.) March set up an online feminist literary magazine called Roar (which has now been suspended), that said it paid its writers a flat rate of $25 per article.

Nine months after the Lulu group was set up, March closed it down and went on to offer writing workshops in luxurious locations, like at Julia Child’s house in Provence, France. Eventually, the workshops started getting cancelled, but again, participants who had paid found it very hard to get their money back. In one case, people planning to attend a workshop at an Italian hotel left for Italy a couple of days early, arriving in the Italian town to find out that not only had the workshop been cancelled, but March had never reserved rooms for the event at the hotel. It’s almost as if she had no intention of holding the workshop at all.

March refused to be interviewed by The Times, and refused to answer any of their emailed questions, but she did post an Open Letter on the Roar site.

I’m no expert on the art of the grift, but March’s technique looks to me like a really poor Ponzi scheme. It looks like March doesn’t write checks that bounce all that often; she just doesn’t pay. Then, suddenly, people will get a little bit of money from her, most likely because some other mark has paid her. Roar agreed to pay its contributors $25 per article, but she often didn’t even pay that.

In her open letter, March says that she was proud to pay a $25 symbolic honorarium because most literary markets pay nothing. There are only two things wrong with that statement; more and more markets do pay; and, well, Roar didn’t pay most of its contributors.

While March was doing these things she often represented herself as a writer and/or a published author. She did have some pieces appear in Salon.com and in The Rumpus. She frequently told people about her published or forthcoming books, which were nonexistent.

Currently, she is working as a “book midwife,” charging enthusiastic, eager writers anywhere between $1600 to $3000 to edit their work.

*

In her open letter, March paints herself as a victim on several levels.

First of all she is the victim of a smear article. She quotes one email Chadburn sent her over the $1000 she hadn’t paid, in which Chadburn sounds (understandably) angry. At the very least, this could make it look like Chadburn’s article was written out of anger. The Times article is so solidly researched that most people won’t be drawn in by that ploy, but most people who are going to start with the Roar letter are going to stop there. March is clever, never naming the reporter or the paper that is doing the story.

According to her, she is the victim of misunderstandings. When she can, she actively mischaracterizes things that have been said about her, like saying that a public receiver had said that she was innocent of any wrongdoing. (That’s kind of the opposite of what the receiver’s report to the court said.)

She’s a victim because she couldn’t help it. When she can, she evades responsibility by the use of passive voice, and hides behind a corporate veil. About the Lulu group she says, “The organization got through the awards event and then didn’t continue,” as if it vanished into a rift in the time-space continuum, but she was founder of the group. The co-founder, a woman named Ford, was surprised when March, March, shut down the group.

Here’s one section of a Twitter thread from a woman who had a workshop cancelled and as of today has not gotten her money back (I’ve left off her name):

 #annamarch responded to my email once, saying first that she “had to cancel the castle” because “people want me to” (which people? wouldn’t the only people who matter be the ones who had booked the workshop specifically because of the location?)/8

Of Roar; “After a year, Roar went on hiatus. Roar has debt. Roar is owned by March Media – not me personally.” Of course it is. That’s why you create a company, so that it, and not you, takes the first hit when there are problems.

(And heaven knows I’m not an internet wizard, but while I could easily find Anna March on the internet, I could not find March Media anywhere.)

March is a victim because the world is complicated! She’s a good person who wants to make things better, but she can’t understand how things work. She has trouble paying bills on time, and sure, she lies, but can’t we all just get over that? And well, yeah, she hasn’t really had any books published, because she used to get confused between, “We’d love to publish you,” and, “We’re going to publish you.” Well, I’m not an expert on too many things, Ms. March, but I know the answer to this one. The way you can tell they’re going to publish you is when the message says, “Please review, sign and return the attached contract.”

March is a victim because the world is hard. “Did I start and run a business that failed –yes, as 90% of them do.” Actually, more like 67% of them do. And by now, March should realize, if she’s truly not a grifter, that she isn’t skilled at business things and she should stop doing them. I’m thinking a job as a dishwasher somewhere would be good for her.

March is willing to go whole hog and throw in every single tear-jerking trope you can imagine; sick relatives, dying relatives, dead ones, needed surgeries, her own illnesses and on and on. She admits she makes mistakes… but she hasn’t stopped doing what she’s doing. And she’s still luring people into giving them her money.

She’s fascinating in an under-the-rock kind of way, and the obvious lesson is: Don’t send Anna March, whatever name she is using this week, any of your money.

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Cooks Easy, Looks Fancy, Eats Healthy; a Trifecta Recipe

I cooked halibut in parchment paper the other night for dinner. This recipe is genuinely close to a thirty-minute meal; it lets you use fresh vegetables you can find at the farmers market (and it’s healthy); it cooks easily but looks fancy. Kind of a trifecta, if you ask me.

You can use any seasonings and veggies you want. I’ve done this with a slight Italian bent to it; the other night’s was American-Asian. This serves two but this ingredient list scales easily.

You will need;  Parchment paper (in the aisle with waxed paper and aluminum foil); a large baking dish and kitchen twine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½-pound halibut steaks, about ¾ of an inch thick.
  • 1 medium straight-necked yellow squash or squash of your choice
  • 3 shitake mushrooms
  • 1 small or ½ medium shallot or onion of your choice
  • Garlic to taste (I used 2 large cloves)
  • A chunk of fresh ginger
  • Eight sugar snap pea pods.  (I grabbed a double handful and used the rest in salads the rest of the week.)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • Soy sauce
  • Hoisin Sauce, black bean or other sauce of your choice
  • Salt and black pepper

To prepare:

Season the fish with salt and pepper and let it come to room temperature.

Tear off two 10” rectangles of parchment paper.

Slice the squash into thin rounds.

Finely chop the garlic.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin from the ginger, then continue peeling the juicy flesh. I don’t have any idea how much, enough to layer some on both the bottom and the top of the fish. Be guided by how much you like fresh ginger, I guess.

Remove and discard the stems of the mushrooms and slice the tops into matchstick-sized slices. I used 1 ½ mushrooms for each parchment packet.

Split the stalk of celery in half lengthwise and then chop it into small squares. If you don’t use all of it, the rest is also good in a salad. Rinse the pea pods and take off the flowers and stems if any are still attached. Set aside eight.

Assemble:

Lay out the first piece of parchment paper.

Layer the veggies in the center because you’re going to fold the corners up around the food. I did it in this order for looks and also because I was trying to surround the fish with aromatics and flavor;

  • Squash (about eight slices per packet)
  • Mushrooms (reserve two pieces for each packet)
  • Shallot/onion
  • Sprinkle on some garlic
  • One or two ginger shavings

Sprinkle with soy sauce to taste. The squash and the mushrooms will release fluids as they steam, which helps the fish steam and creates a broth, and the soy sauce adds flavor. The ginger and soy were the “forward” flavors.

Brush hoisin or other sauce on top of the fish, sprinkle with remaining garlic and ginger to your taste. Put the fish into the center of parchment paper on top of the veggie pile and layer on the pea pods. Sprinkle in the celery. Add soy sauce if you want and sprinkle with black pepper. Lay the two remaining mushroom slices on top so it looks pretty.

Draw up the corners of the paper like you’re wrapping a bowl for a present. Close up the paper pretty tightly because you don’t want the steam to escape; but leave some room between the fish-and -veggies and the paper. Tie the top shut with kitchen twine.

Repeat for second packet.

Cook:

Put both packets into the baking dish. The dish goes into the oven for 17 minutes. The fish and vegetables steam cook.

If you are terribly gifted and crafty, you can forego twine and do some clever, beautiful folding and crimping of the paper so it looks more like an envelope than a present, but I can’t do that, so it’s twine for me. If you’re going to do that remember to leave some room. Don’t wrap it like it’s a book, in other words.

Put each finished package on a plate and serve. Ta-da! You can snip the twine at the table and unfold the paper, releasing a yummy, saucy, fresh gingery cloud of steam, or you can give your dinner-mate a pair of scissors and let them do it themselves.

We only had a salad with this. You could make a side dish, (rice would be the obvious one) but to me that defeats the purpose.

Enjoy. If you experiment with ingredients, let me know how that goes.

 

 

 

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