Where Character Comes From


It’s Friday, so I like to start Happy Hour early. Here’s a bit of Ogden Nash-esque whimsy for you:

Your brassy hues, my dear

Give us cause to wonder

Are you as bold as your hair suggests

Or did your stylist blunder?

A poem born from painful memory of my first salon experience…but as the accompanying picture suggests, brassy, coppery hues and a certain scorched, peeling appearance from desiccated matter can be quite lovely in nature. Just not on me.


I have known some fabulous, capable hairdressers since that early experience, but I must admit something of the trauma stayed with me and thus my character Mary Ringwell was born. I did grow to like Mary a great deal as I wrote about her, and in the end, she was made to be very happy. 🙂 Here’s an excerpt from the story, which was set in the early 1920’s. I had to research a lot of the hair-styling gizmos from that period to make sure I had Mary well established.

‘The next installment of Encyclopedia Britannica had arrived, volumes E through H, and Allegra was heavily involved in the life of Victor Hugo when an excited whisper broke into her concentration.

“I’ve got something to tell you that will get your nose out of that book for a while.”

It was the arbiter of taste, Mary Ringwell, a small and lively blonde with an unlimited supply of optimism. Being the only hairdresser in town, having set up shop with the newest and latest in hair technology, Mary was also the self-styled expert in matters related to glamour, fashion, and romance. Ever since Allegra had been singled out as the most appropriate target for her expertise, a strange sort of friendship had existed between them. For Mary, it had overtones of a religious crusade, to bring some fun and excitement into ‘the poor girl’s drab existence’. For Allegra, it was more attention than anyone had ever showered her with, and for that reason she found the relationship oddly fascinating in spite of herself.’ [from A Garden for Allegra]

Enjoy the weekend!

Green Thoughts

The Garden at Bishop's Close

The botanical garden at Elk Rock, Dunthorpe

‘If you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.’ (Chinese Proverb)

If you love to wander through an old botanical garden, perhaps with a favorite book tucked under your arm, then I have a couple of recommendations for you.


First, the garden: Just outside of Portland there is a botanical garden of astonishing beauty. The historic Elk Rock Garden was the dream of Scottish gardener and entrepreneur, Peter Kerr. When he died in 1957, his daughters donated the house and grounds in trust, on the condition that it always be open to the public.

How incredibly, wonderfully generous of them.

‘If you would be happy…’

(For more about the history and care of this important legacy in the Pacific Northwest, read here ) Continue reading

And Then It Happened!

A lovely charcoal drawing by Dawn Dale for the second edition of 'A Garden for Allegra'

A lovely charcoal drawing by Dawn Dale for the second edition of ‘A Garden for Allegra’

The title of this entry reflects two things:

1. So much has been happening
2. I can’t seem to write sensibly about any of it

It was in the third grade, with the pleasantly disinterested Mrs. ‘L’ at the helm, (all Kim Novak Vertigo hair and stale cigarette breath but a nice teacher) and I was a fledgling writer with a classroom of bored math students as a captive audience, when I first discovered the magic of that phrase: ‘And then it happened!’

I loved writing it in to my little stories, and it was fun to read aloud to a circle of wide-eyed classmates. It was a phrase highly suggestive of excitement, yet, now that I think about it, boys and girls, delivered more fizzle than sizzle. I didn’t know yet about ‘show, don’t tell’; I was just having too much fun writing stories. It seems I could never write the action down as spellbindingly as it existed in my mind.

Adventure stories were not my calling…..

A great deal of change has happened. But ‘here we are’, as the British like to say in classic understatement. What matters, in terms of this blog, and why you may be reading it, is that Allegra and Molly, with their two very different stories, are unchanged. They are still available on amazon.com (here!), and they are still attracting a modestly sized audience of enthusiastic readers.

Thank you, readers!
Is there a third book in the series in the works? Well, yes and no. But more on that later. ‘And Then It Happened’ isn’t quite happening.


By the by, one of my all time favorite movies is ‘Stranger Than Fiction’. Do you love it?? I do. Brilliantly written by Zach Helm, brilliantly acted by Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Will Ferrell…the reason I bring this up is the use of the iconic phrase in literature ‘little did he know’. This is wonderfully referenced in the movie:

Dr. Jules Hilbert: I’ve written papers on “Little did he know.” I’ve taught classes on “Little did he know.” I once gave an entire seminar based upon “Little did he know.”

Dr. Jules Hilbert: Little did he know. That means there’s something he doesn’t know, which means there’s something you don’t know, did you know that?
Harold Crick: I may already be dead, just not typed.

I’m typing myself back in to the story.