Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A young artist: 12 new works

Siddartha [Bengal Tiger #492]
So very proud of this young artist, my son.

Cody Rutty: "12 new oil paintings series finished for opening tonight at State & Lemp in Boise, Idaho. I think there may be one or two seats open for reservations if you can join us." 
Check out a show preview on



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Flutist: memoir 8

flanked by my beach posse
Story-writing was fun, but in 9th grade I discovered a deeper love (in addition to hanging out at the beach with friends). That Christmas I received the most marvelous gift of my life, a silver Gemeinhardt flute. My parents watched me open the sleek black case, quiet, as I gasped then whispered ohthankyouthankyou. A conservatory flute for the serious musician, its rich tone made it a joy to practice. Private lessons on Saturday helped hone my skills.
     I played five hours a day. 
     Five. On my own, without being prompted. One hour before breakfast, two at school -- band and orchestra -- then two at home in between dinner and homework. I loved it. Five hours seemed like nothing. As a freshman at Antelope Valley High School in California, I entered music competitions for solos and sight-reading -- Mozart, Beethoven, Bach -- winning an array of blue ribbons.
     The school's music director, Mr. Ballard, became my most adored teacher. An older man who had suffered a stroke, he dragged his foot when he walked up to the podium. Half his mouth drooped so his speech was slurred, but the other half lifted in a smile. He raised his good arm and with a flip of his baton we, the orchestra, soared with Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite." I was one of three flutes soloing for Danse des Mirlitons, a three-minute piece committed to memory.
     Mr. Ballard encouraged me to challenge the other eight flutists, meaning, audition for rank. Soon I moved up from Last Chair to First, quite an honor. One day in his cluttered office of instruments and sheet music, he handed me an oboe. "Try it," he said, showing me how to adjust the reed. The first notes squawked, but soon we heard it's beautiful, mellow voice. I wanted to master this as well then try its bigger cousin, the bassoon.
     Music was instant. It made me happy and made my family happy. At home with my bedroom door open, Mom and Dad would call out from the kitchen or den, "Oh honey, that sounds wonderful. Keep going."
     So instead of writing stories in painful solitude, I changed my dream. I wanted to be a concert flutist. If I kept working hard, by my senior year at AV High, I'd be ready for the symphony.
     But life has a way of interrupting dreams.
From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rocket man: memoir 7

Friendship 7, blast off!
On February 20, 1962 astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. The principal in our elementary school planned an assembly so we kids could share this phenomenal moment in history.  Already the Russians had beat us by ten months.
     The day was foggy as we filed out of our classrooms. We crossed the asphalt playground painted with yellow lines for hopscotch and tetherball, then into the cafeteria where we sat at the tables. Everyone stared up at a speaker high in a corner, which blasted static and voices from NASA's mission control. Even the kitchen ladies stopped to listen. An aroma of spaghetti and garlic bread meant a good lunch awaited us.
     The survival gear in Friendship 7 fascinated us. It included a raft, signal mirrors, and most tantalizing to me, a shark chaser, whatever that was. I was ten. Of course I imagined a morbid ending so I wrote a story for our teacher titled, "Death in Space:"
     As the large craft with a crew of six men and three women entered the perpetual vacuum, the rocket's engines silenced and left only the quiet hum of fuel moving through tubes and pipes. When would they ever reach this new heavenly body they were seeking? Who would ever know what happened if they never got there or found themselves stranded somewhere else? The perpetual sight of stars: nothing but stars, darkness, and silence.
     Okay, so my stories filled less than a page and I didn't know how to end except to just stop, but at least this spaceship was co-ed. I like to think that if I had added another paragraph, the women aboard would have figured out how to fly the guys safely back to Earth.

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Haunted house: memoir 6

w/ my friend at the scary old house
Another sight from childhood was an old brown house just uphill from the ocean.
     As kids, we passed it on our walks to Becker's Bakery where we loaded up on palm-sized sugar cookies, two for a nickel, then ran out to the end of the pier and back. On our way home we stopped in front of the house [PHOTO, left]. The place was scary: weeds  in the sidewalk, windows with spider-webs, boarded up. We dared each other to peek through the cracks. Once we heard a frightful moan and saw a figure creeping around inside, or at least we thought we did, so we raced away screaming.
     The idea of an old mansion where strange things happen stayed with me through the years and sparked another adventure in the Cabin Creek Mystery series, THE HAUNTING OF HILLSIDE SCHOOL. Here the cousins try to unravel mysterious music and footsteps coming from the attic:
     The old schoolhouse creaked in the autumn wind. Nine-year-old Claire Posey was upstairs in her pottery class when suddenly she turned to look out the window. A girl's face, pale and round, was staring in. But how could that be? The art room was high up on the second floor.
     I wish my friends and I had been brave enough to explore that abandoned house before it was torn down. But as least now I get to have fun creating characters who do!

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mysterious visitor: memoir 5

One December night when I was about ten, my siblings and I woke to a clunk. Our open window brought the familiar sounds of the surf and foghorn, but this noise was new.
with my brother at Christmas
     It was almost Christmas. "Maybe Santa came early!" we whispered. With our parents still asleep we crept out to the living room to investigate.
     Santa had been there! But instead of toys, he left behind a bunch of black boxes in various shapes. We unsnapped the lids, surprised to find a shiny musical instrument in each, nestled in blue velvet: a trumpet, trombone, flute, clarinet, and a saxophone.
     One of us bumped into some brass symbols that Santa had propped against a chair. The crash roused our parents from their room, groggy and in bare feet. "Well this is unusual," Dad said. He let us down gently by explaining Santa Claus was still at the North Pole, so evidently a stranger had entered our home. He picked up the phone and dialed "O" for Operator who contacted the police.
     Turns out, a musician from a beach jazz club had volunteered to deliver the equipment to a friend's home. It had been late and dark. He'd forgotten the address, but when he saw the cottage with the bright porch light and the front door unlocked, he figured he'd found the right place.
     I'm thankful for the man's mistake.
     Years later this curious incident inspired THE SECRET OF THE JUNKYARD SHADOW in my Cabin Creek Mystery series with Scholastic. In this adventure, townsfolk are perplexed when damaged items show up on their porches in shiny good repair:
     This is a real puzzle," Mrs. O'Neal told the cousins. "See, when I went out to get the newspaper this morning, I was flabbergasted to find my broken toaster. Someone had returned it all spiffed up, with a ribbon and a bow."
     It takes much sleuthing for the young detectives, but a lot of nice things happen along the way as they solve the mystery.
     The photo [above] shows my brother and me a few years earlier in our dining room where we were allowed to thumbtack Christmas cards to the pine paneling. We enjoyed regular tea parties with orange juice and little Danish cookies.

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.