- #2521 (no title)
- About Monica
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James Surowiecki, in The Wisdom of Crowds, talked about an experiment Francis Galton, the father of modern statistics, ran at a 1906 county fair. Eight hundred people entered a competition to guess the weight of an ox that proved to weigh 1,198 pounds. While the winner was close enough, he was a long way away from the actual weight. However, when Galton gathered all 800 guesses and averaged them, he discovered that the average of 800 best guesses was 1,197 pounds.
As you may know, Goddy’s boyfriend Rafael is a coin collector, and wants to become a coin dealer. I love research (just look over my adventures!) so what could I do but become a coin collector? The scramble after good American coins is fierce. I’m an Anglophile, so what am I to do but collect English coins?
English coins have variety. In early days there were many small kingdoms a-coining in the British Isles. Go far enough back, and there were Romans. I got started accidentally, over forty years ago, when I found an inexpensive Edward III penny in a pile of random coins in a collector’s shop. In the days of Edward III (king 1327-1377) the penny was a mighty silver coin, though not so mighty as the silver groat (fourpence) let alone the gold Noble.
With an Edward III coin, I began searching after its friends and relations. William the Conqueror was fairly easy, and Queen Elizabeth II was easier. Finally I settled on a thousand years of coins, starting with Canute the Great (king 1016 – 1035). That ended up being something like forty-seven monarchs. The number can be adjusted — do the Cromwells count as monarchs? And what to do about Edward VIII, who abdicated so rapidly the mint of England never got around to minting coins for him? (There are rumors of a mint test piece. One coin. Even Scrooge McDuck couldn’t afford it.)
After a while, I had quite a few coins, enough to make a display. So I did. Here are twenty coins, starting with Canute and ending with Elizabeth II:
The display is 36″ x 24″, and not very readable. But you can see the background before the coins were mounted: CoinDisp-Page001. The tricky part was finding roughly contemporaneous portraits, but thanks to the Bayeux Tapestry and funeral sculpture, it was surprisingly possible.
A lot has befallen us since I last posted. For one, as of February 19, Ellen has a new knee. Up to a short while ago, she was doing at least as well as can be expected – until she fell yesterday evening. You know the routine, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” And I couldn’t lift her. Two enormous firemen came over, raised her to a sitting position, then up and I scooted a chair under her. Then she got to her feet all by herself and all was well. Except the heart rate is still slowing bit by bit. Gosh. Ya never know, ya know?
The weather outside is frightful, has been frightful for several weeks. We have set an all time record for snow in February and teased out record low temperatures, overnight and daytime. The two freeways south of the Cities, I-35 and I-94 were closed over the weekend due to blowing, drifting snow and the roads were lined with trapped motorists and semi-drivers, the last of them only rescued Monday morning. God help the ones not stopping frequently to top off gas tanks, because the real air temps have been in the single digits and you can’t stay warm in a Minnesota winter inside a dead car. More snow tonight – and again this weekend, though by then we’ll be out of range to top the new record snowfalls for February. By the way, ordinarily our average daytime temperatures have started to rise above freezing. Yesterday afternoon we were forty degrees below that. And yet, For Sale signs are not popping up all over the Twin Cities.
Next? My muse has gone south again. Wish I could follow.
Oh, and exactly seven days ago I woke up very sick. Haven’t thrown up that hard since – maybe ever. Hurt myself. Ellen had her knee replaced later that morning, and I couldn’t be at the hospital with her. Sick all week, couldn’t eat, and hurting. A friend came over Sunday night and was alarmed, said I was dehydrated, lifted the skin on the back of my hand and it stayed up, like a little tent. She kept insisting I drink fluids. I protested, my stomach hurt and I’d throw it up again, but she brought a ginger drink and I kept it down, and then lime-flavored water, then plain water – and suddenly it was like I woke up. I’d been sitting huddled in a recliner, trying to get the strength to go to bed, and suddenly I felt a whole, whole lot better. Ellen, adrift on pain meds in the bedroom, had no idea I was in trouble. God bless Elizabeth. But I’m going to the doctor today, because my stomach is still sore. I told Elizabeth I think I tried to throw up my esophagus.
We went to Virginia – Minnesota, that is. on Valentine’s Day. You think it’s cold down here? It’s like tropical by comparison. But the crowd at the public library (fifty people!) was sweet, and the tea treats fancy as well as delicious. We started to drive home right after the talk, which ended around three, but it had begin to snow hard and blow harder. Couldn’t see the road, which kept trying to slip away from under our tires. No one else was stupid enough to be out with us. Within ten miles we became frightened and groped our way back. Next morning was bright and sunny and unbelievably cold, forty below cold. With incredible efficiency the roads had been cleared, so no trouble driving home. There is the most enormous hole on the edge of Virginia, this being the Iron Range and miners long taking the ore right off the top, though trees are starting to cover the scars. You could put the whole town in that hole with room left over for the Statue of Liberty, maybe just her torch sticking out the top. It’s possible your first car’s shell came out of that hole. I’d like to go back up there in the summer and explore.
Many long years ago I started amusing myself on long road journeys by looking for handsome Christmas trees, wishing I could mark them and come back to harvest one or two. Then, later, I started picking out those stubby, long-needled ones near the road verges, broad and crooked, and thought how it would take a special stand to keep it upright and how sophisticated a Christmas tree it would make. This year I fell in love again with lodge-pole pines, very tall and narrow, rising like steeples from among other trees, then noticed how sometimes they are bent or have one limb sticking out near the top, or no limbs on one side, or split into two stems. What fun to have a Charlie Brown tree! And then I thought to start a Christmas tree company, call it The Last Tree (on the Lot) and sell them for hundreds of dollars – maybe duplicate the worst/best of them because maybe topping a pine tree kills it (does it?) and only the last four or six feet of these thirty or forty-foot trees would do. So how to harvest them? But wouldn’t it be fun? I’d love to have a really twisted tree because in a curious way they are beautiful works of art. Funny the things to occupy the mind in the passenger seat on a long road trip. Lodge pole pines are rare down here in the Cities but extremely common as you go north. Unforgettable once you see them. Most of them are elegantly slim and beautiful, but here and there: Charlie Brown!
I’m having trouble posting this. I’m back from the doctor; I’m going to be fine, try not to cough and aggravate my bruised diaphragm.
See the above? My creativity is doing just fine – except writing crime fiction. Durn.
(Originally written Feb. 28. Here we are at March 12th, and the weather is no better, though somewhat warmer.)
Just got an offer from a publisher ($$$ offer) to bring out a large-print copy of Knit Your Own Murder. Hurrah! Makes me feel like I’m still in the author business. Don’t know when it will appear or what the cover will look like, or even if it’s hard or soft-cover. Details to come, as they say.
And we are spending Valentine’s Day in Virginia – Virginia, Minnesota, that is. I got an invitation to be the star attraction at a fancy tea at their library. It’s an annual event. They asked me to come back in September or October and it sounded like fun, so I said Yes, thank you, I’d love to. But here it is February and it’s been snowing almost every day for nearly a week, it’s snowing now. And Virginia, Minnesota, is up on the Iron Range. Which is north of here. Far north of here, like within a stone’s throw of Canada. Where if you’re on the road up there you put a serious winter survival kit in the back seat, not the trunk, and make sure your cell phone batteries have a fresh charge. I’m really looking forward to the tea, but not the drive up there. Or back, for that matter. Maybe if we get up there safely, we can just rent a place and stay until the roads clear. Like in June. Meanwhile, if you’re already up there, stop in around noon February 14 for some warm cheer.
Ellen says she didn’t see this post, though I loaded it early this morning. So here it is (again?).
I loaded Chapter One of Tying the Knot and did some work on it. Not a lot, but some. It felt odd, but satisfying. But now I’ve had to halt work, because I’m preparing my Thousand Years of English Coins exhibit for The Coin Show in March. Ellen is doing magnificent work on it, but I’m moving it from two frames to one, and that means I can only put twenty coins in the single frame. How to choose, how to choose? And how to assure the audience that I do have all but seven coins between Canute and Elizabeth I?
Survived the bitter cold last week by the simple method of staying home. It’s supposed to turn very cold later this week – but not the forty-below of last week. The air may drop to six below. I may go out in shorts.
I’m running a “free e-book” promotion on Amazon for eight books. Just search for Monica Ferris Presents, and there they are.
Feb 04-08 – The Chronicles of Deer Abbey by Margaret of Shaftesbury
Feb 11-15 – Minnesota Vice by Ellen and Mary Kuhfeld
Feb 18-22 – Secret Murder by Ellen Kuhfeld
Feb 25-29 – Murder at the War by Mary Monica Pulver
Mar 04-08 – The Unforgiving Minutes by Mary Monica Pulver
Mar 11-15 – Ashes to Ashes by Mary Monica Pulver
Mar 18-22 – Original Sin by Mary Monica Pulver
Mar 25-29 – Show Stopper by Mary Monica Pulver
Through the miracle of Pen Names, there are only two authors involved. Ellen Kuhfeld is Ellen Kuhfeld; all the other names belong to the writer currently called Monica Ferris. Every book has murders; Secret Murder adds Vikings, Barons, bailiffs and Finns, while The Chronicles of Deer Abbey has nuns, lords, ladies, and princes. (both are set in the past). Minnesota Vice has Norwegians, werewolves, and mad scientists.
The remaining books by Mary Monica Pulver are my first series, with show horses and detection. This series received one short, wonderful review: “Peter Brichter is a hard-boiled detective who has somehow wandered into a cozy series.”
The forecast for today is killer cold. Literally, in the outdoor temperature for today, frostbite sets in on bare skin in about five minutes. Even worse cold tomorrow. Schools are closed everywhere until Thursday. On Wednesday every week a little group of us gathers to go to lunch, then go either to a local needlework shop or one of our homes to sit and talk and stitch. But there’s that drive to the gathering place, and so when Becky suggested we cancel, I wrote her back: I think it’s wise to cancel. If we don’t, sure enough someone of us is going to end up standing beside an inoperable car in the killer cold, no traffic nearby (who else would come out on such a day?), cell phone battery dead (the default on my phone), frostbite creeping up the fingers and toes – ugh! I’ll think about you and Tanya sitting home stitching in your warm house, a cup of tea or coffee or hot chocolate within reach, the cats dozing nearby, and you can think of me doing much the same except when I get up to throw peanuts to any crow brave enough to fly over and caw a demand at me. Ahhhhh . . . There is much to be said for the twenty-first century.
I mean, seriously. Imagine waking in a cold, cold house, rising to fumble for matches to light the kerosene lantern, then gathering kindling to coax a little fire in the stove, then adding sticks and finally logs and in half an hour or so (!) the house starting to warm. When today all I have to do is – well, nothing. The thermostat has instructed the furnace to keep the place warm and I flip a stitch to have light.
Speaking of cats, I think Java plays a game with me when we go to bed. She lies on my stomach or legs, and I reach to stroke her, ending by grasping her tail very loosely. She pulls it out of my fingers then gently lashes it, eventually brushing my hand. After a few tries, I catch it and hold it until she pulls it loose and then she “accidentally” brushes my hand again. When she’s had enough, the tail goes still and we both go to sleep.
Today I mop and vacuum and then, I promise, I will write something besides this blog entry.
That’s the title I meant to put on my blog entry – and Still Groggy I am, I guess.
I wrote this yesterday (Monday) evening. Today I woke up early, but then wandered around most of the day, went to the store, came back and ate some lunch, turned on the tv and slept most of the afternoon. Still groggy, but trying to post this thing.
This past Sunday Ellen and I went to a special gathering of the writers’ group, Crème de la Crime, to honor a founding member, Carl Brookins, on his retirement from active participation. Lots of people came to see Carl presented with a heavy glass slab carved with his name and our thanks for his work and guidance. That’s Carl, standing in the center. And yes, that’s William Kent Kruger in the picture, sitting on the right. He was in the group for years – he read Ordinary Grace to us and we were all blown away at its brilliance. He confessed at this gathering that he was frightened to begin reading it to us, as it was such a departure from his northern Minnesota mystery stories.
It was exciting to be among all those writers, talking with them about their books and other adventures in the world of publishing. Made me wish with all my heart that I could get back to writing. Maybe I should set Tying the Knot aside and try to write something else. But what? Another mystery? My biography? I’ve had some great adventures, some sad, some scary, some uplifting, but most of them comical, even embarrassing. Maybe I could write a young adult adventure story, set in the mid-twentieth century, or in fifteenth century England. Nah, I want to work on getting Goddy and Rafael married. And get the killer of that wedding planner captured.
I’m going to start revamping my coin collection display to bring to The Money Show, put on by the Northwest Coin Club in mid-March. I will also enter it in our State Fair late this summer. I am eight coins short of having one silver coin for each British Monarch between Canute and Elizabeth II – a thousand years of English money. Does anyone out there have a William and Mary they’d like to sell?
I’ve been concerned about my forgetfulness, so I took a lengthy cognition test and got the results yesterday: I’m within normal range in all aspects. Really? They why am I so forgetful? Or maybe I’ve been much better than normal all these years and only now have I dropped down into normal range. But it doesn’t explain why I can no longer write mystery stories.
Because I’m not spending hours a day writing a novel, I find I have more time to read. I’m mostly reading old favorites: Christie, Marsh, Kipling, Earl Derr Biggers; and more recent favorites: Pratchett, Westlake. Happiness may be a warm puppy, but it’s also found in a favorite author’s stories. And just for the variety, I hinted and so got, a video copy of the old movie, “Blithe Spirit,” starring Rex Harrison and Margaret Rutherford. I have long been a fan of Ms. Rutherford, whose homely face always brightens mine, even when she played an outrageously untrue to the character Miss Marple. I would have adored to have her as an aunt.
I’ve been sick. It’s not flu, it’s just a very, very bad cold. No vomiting, just coughing. And coughing, and coughing. Aches and tiredness, too. I’m getting better, but slowly. Ellen has it worse than I do, but she’s improving, too. The coughing is less scary, and we no longer speak in deep voices, sounding like strangers. I’m feeling well enough to tackle the Christmas tree, which stands in tired glory. There’s something depressing about a Christmas tree after Epiphany, even an artificial one, so it’s got to come down today.
And I think I need to watch something funny. A funny movie. Or listen to an old, funny radio show – Fibber McGee and Molly, maybe. Or, if I can distance myself from his shocking downfall, Bill Cosby. His riff on a visit to his dentist is a riot. Poor old man – maybe not Bill Cosby. He makes me angry that his humor is ruined. It wasn’t angry or cruel, like so many comics’ humor is. Sometimes I feel like writing him a furious letter, because I loved him, or the person I thought he was. I saw him in person, back in the early sixties, at the Hungry i in San Francisco, and became an instant fan. I had all his records, and watched his television show faithfully. And then . . . dammit. Dammit to hell. So maybe not Bill Cosby. As Molly says to Fibber at least once in every show, “T’ain’t funny, McGee.” Not anymore, anyhow.