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29 December 2010

COLORADO COLLEEN: Check my essay on skiing in The Denver Post

If you are or were an alpine skier--or rider--you'll appreciate the sentiments.

If you're not, you'll better understand why we skiers risk life and limb, endure traffic jams, and potentially suffer frostbite--all at a pretty penny.

That's me after a long day on the slopes at Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, last season. Pardon my helmet hair.

The Denver Post published "Skiing: An elevated state" Monday.
That's me after a long day on the slopes at Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, last season.


24 December 2010

25 Christmas quotes: Join us at Friday Jones Publishing on Facebook

To celebrate the season and
to offer succor to anybody suffering Christmas blues, I'm posting 25 Christmas quotes and uplifting images on Friday Jones Publishing's Facebook page today.
I hope you will join us there.

Merry Christmas!

Photo courtesy of James Baca Share/Save/Bookmark

19 December 2010

Winter Solstice, full lunar eclipse: Rare celestial event coming soon to sky near you

Leroy Leonard is the most accomplished amateur astronomer I know, and he's also able to articulate astrophysics to help the rest of us grasp what he understands. Here, Leroy offers his insights to this Winter Solstice full lunar eclipse:

"Hey Colleen! Let’s see, lunar eclipses occur about twice a year. That means that, statistically, any given day in the year – including the winter solstice - has about a 1/182.5 chance of hosting one. OK, the average life expectancy for someone born in 2010 is 67 years. That is a tad over 1/3 the possibility of lunar eclipses on a given day in one year. So, this eclipse is about a once-in-three-life-times event. Another way to put it is to say, that if you want to see a lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice, you’d better do it this time because, from a statistical stand point, you’d have to be reincarnated three times to have another shot at it! (Please don’t argue that the actual moment of solstice happens the several hours after the eclipse. I think this one counts.)
To help you not miss it, here is the schedule: Eclipse begins Monday Dec 20 at 11:32 p.m. MST Totality begins 12:40 a.m. MST Mid Eclipse 1:17 a.m. MST Totality ends 1:53 a.m. MST Eclipse ends 3:01 a.m. MST."

Thanks, Leroy. I'll set my alarm clock!

Christmas angels' hand-painted glory in Munich Glass

"It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold."

Christmas angels--notice the star at lower left--in Munich glass window at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Denver, Colorado. The cathedral, also designated a basilica, inspired the setting for the newly released, critically acclaimed novel "Glass Halo" by Colleen Smith.

Photo courtesy of James Baca

18 December 2010

Christmas nostalgia: "Bring joy to your heart"

Share/Save/Bookmark "
This Christmas,
bring joy to your heart."

17 December 2010

Christmas nostalgia



16 December 2010

CD REVIEW: "Love Is Strange" ~ Jackson Browne & David Lindley

“Love is strange": That's an understatement, and also the title of the 2-CD fiesta of acoustic, eclectic, mostly Jackson Browne songs recorded live in Spain.

Love is strange, yet no more so than David Lindley--the man Browne calls “a longtime friend and compatriot” and also “maestro.” Lindley is strange in terms of unabashed quirkiness: runaway sideburns, loud polyester shirts, epic tales of headcheese, cheesy references to “Elvis,” and oddball self-portrait caricatures on his website.

Mr. Dave also is strange in the sense of the hermit, as Browne explains in his entertaining liner notes describing “stalking the wild Lindley.”

Best known as a featured accompanist for Browne, Lindley’s string theory also backed Warren Zevon, Rod Steward, Ry Cooder, Linda Rondstadt, Aaron Neville, Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris, Dan Fogelberg, John Prine, America, Bread, Shawn Colvin, Karla Bonoff, The Bangles, Bonnie Kolac, James Taylor, Leo Sayer, Marshall Crenshaw, Crosby, Stills, Nash and others.

Lindley performed on Browne’s albums from “For Everyman” (1973) to “I’m Alive” (1996) and joined the tour again last year. Lindley’s strings add more than historical tones to old songs such as “For Everyman” and “Call It A Loan.” His twangs and twists make these old songs new again.

Browne has polished his vocals against four decades of performing. His sometimes gravely delivery sounds authentically melancholic. Browne gets a bit bluesy, but does not stretch for high “Disco Apocalypse” notes of his days of yore.

Lindley, however, does. Mr. Dave’s startling clear falsetto is fully intact on “Stay.”

Along with classics from Browne’s canon, “Love is Strange” includes songs by Lindley and others. Fringe fans might find themselves annoyed at rambling introductions in Browne’s “Espanol di California” and Barcelonian lisp. A couple of Browne’s songs are covered by friends who are popular recording artists native to Spain, where cuts were taped live at five gigs.

Initially, I was disappointed that instead of Browne, a woman I’ve never heard of sings “These Days.” But Luz Casal’s charming accent—particularly the way she says, before the song, “Hey, Yackson”—won me over, and Lindley’s fiddle licks transform the existential heft of this classic. Following the last lyric- “Don’t confront me with my failures; I have not forgotten them”--Lindley tickles a jaunty fiddle riff that leaves listeners more uplifted than the original track did.

In the end, I found myself wishing Casal had added backup vocals in the tradition of Rosemary Butler.

I applaud exotic notes added by Celtic whistle, Hawaiian guitar, cajon, bouzouki and banduria. And given Browne’s international scope, the cross-cultural collaboration seems perfectly appropriate.

Crank it up and imagine the players performing in casa. One of the best aspects is hearing the tuning, and the bandmaster’s directions such as—on “Your Bright Baby Blues”—when Browne says, “No, it’s you; it’s you; it’s you, David.”

Love is strange; and love is gracious, too. Jackson Browne generously shares his secured limelight with some Spanish peers; and the amigos pull off this transcontinental musical summit with simpatico and aplomb.


Colleen Smith’s critically acclaimed first novel, “Glass Halo,” is available at bookstores, and The novel was selected from among 448 entries as a finalist for the Sante Fe Literary Prize.


06 December 2010

THE WRITTEN WORD: Raymond Carver & Barry Hannah

Yesterday's New York Times Book Review--the holiday edition--weighed in at a splendid 68 pages. Near the back of the book, on "Paperback Row," a brief item noted that "Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life" now is available in paperback.

Also yesterday, in The Denver Post, William Porter's piece about Barry Hannah caught my eye. Titled, "A rogue's gallery of the south," Porter's story reviewed "Long, Last, Happy, New, and Selected Stories."

Both writers struggled with alcoholism. Both writers reportedly struggled with their relationships with women.

And both writers were on the Iowa Writers' Workshop scene--still drinkers, then--when I was a student at the University of Iowa.

I remember Raymond Carver reading his story "Feathers"--a hilarious yet sad story typical of his ouvre.

Stephen King originally reviewed the Carver bio for the Book Review and dubbed the book "meticulous and heartbreaking" and "a welcome and necessary corrective." The Book Review went on to include the biography by Carol Sklenicka in their list of the 10 Best Books of 2009.

For regular posts on books--and also dogs, art, gardens and more--join us on Friday Jones Publishing's Facebook page.

Wag your tale.

Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

To learn more, visit and, become a friend on Facebook, or follow FridayPublisher on Twitter.


05 December 2010

THE WRITTEN WORD: Encounter With a Young Writer After My Book-Signing Yesterday

Yesterday, after a book-signing I did at the invitation of a local bookstore, a young woman approached me. She was petite, pale, brunette. She wore a canvas messenger bag across her torso, and clutched some notebooks as if they were her child. We were at Fireside Books & Coffee in Englewood, Colorado.

In the photo, "Glass Halo"--my first novel--enjoys a prominent place at Fireside Books & Coffee in Englewood, Colorado.

“So you own a publishing company now,” the young woman said, a statement not a question.

"Friday Jones Publishing," I said, trying to peek at messages on my iPhone.

“That’s pretty cool,” she said.

“Yeah,” I admitted, not really up for a conversation, feeling somehow drained from standing up to speak about my novel to a room filled with strangers, including this young woman.

But people in bookstores tend to be gentle people. I tend to like people who like books.

And this girl seemed friendly enough, curious. “So you worked on that book for almost 27 years? she asked, astonishment twinkling in her eyes.

“Off and on,” I said. “I wrote another novel in tandem. When I got lost on one, I went back to the other.” I wondered how old she might be. “Are you still in school?” I asked. She had a dreamy, authentic look in her eyes. Her face was entirely unlined, a smattering of freckles across her little nose and plump, ivory cheeks.

She announced herself a novelist many times over, this girl

“I’m 17 years old. I’ve already written several novels," she said. "But they’re childish." She had long dark hair. She stared up at me.

"So do you have a writing program at your high school?" I asked, remembering how nervous I used to get whenever talking to a "real" writer while I was a student in the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Suddenly, I saw myself in this 17-year-old.

She told me she was in a small, experiential learning high school with only about 100 students. "So we don't have much. I like short stories," she said; and we clicked.

"It's one of my favorite forms," I said, now truly interested in our conversation.

We spoke of sentences. Short stories. Plot. Characters, and whether they needed to change.

“I just like a beautiful sentence next to another beautiful sentence,” I confessed to her. “Sometimes, that’s enough for me.”

She nodded. We shared a giggle over our agreement.

“Sometimes, I like to write just dialogue. And sometimes, I like to write with no dialogue, at all,” she said.

I knew she had it bad, the writing bug. I detected her literary fever. “It’s good to experiment,” I said.

“I like to write horror,” she said.

“Then you must like all the Dracula books out now,” I said.

“Oh, no.” She gave me solemn look. “They’re childish.”

She, at 17, arbiter of childish.

And then they were calling for a group photo of the authors.

“Colleen,” I heard my name called.

“That’s me,” I said. I wish I would have asked her name. I wanted to tell her, “Run! Run from writing: It’s too difficult. Cultivate a career in gardening.” I wanted to say, on the other hand, “Follow your writing. It will inform your life with wonder and gratification.” But instead I said, “Good luck with your writing.”

And then I took my place among five other local authors lined up before the fireplace at Fireside Books & Coffee as she watched.

I wish I had thought to give her a copy of my book.

Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

To learn more, visit and, become a friend on Facebook, or follow FridayPublisher on Twitter.


29 November 2010

Nora Ephron: She Remembers Everything

As a freshman English major, we read Nora Ephron. I can't remember exactly what we read, but our English 101 professor obviously thought enough of her work to include her in his canon.
Now age 69--tho' she hardly looks it--Ephron is in the news again with yet another book: "I Remember Nothing," a memoir released this month. On the heels of "I Feel Bad About My Neck" And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman," this writer and film director dominated The New York Times this weekend with an interesting interview in the magazine section AND a nice page-and-a-half piece complete with 4-color portrait in the Book Review.

Even if you don't know Ephron's books, you probably know her movies.

In addition to her books and essays, Ephron, in case you didn't know, brought us these romantic comedy confections: "When Harry Met Sally" and "Heartburn," "You've Got Mail," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Julie and Julia."

Some writerly fine points from the pieces:

From "Domains: On Location" by Edward Lewine:

• Nora Ephron uses "Freedom" on her computer so she can write without Internet distraction.

• She not only writes, she reads: "I read four or five books a year I wish I had written," she said.

• She reads the newspapers in bed. Breakfasts. "Then at some point I actually sit down to write."

• Her parents, Phoebe and Henry Ephron, were writers.

From "The Oft-Examined Life" by Alex Kuczynski:

• She has been nominated for three Oscars.

• "She's like Benjamin Franklin or Shakespeare: her words are now part of the fabric of the English language. Whenever we talk about 'white man's overbite'...we're quoting her."

• "...Ephron is the poster girl for the religion of When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade."

And Ephron's evidently still got the juice.

Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

To learn more, visit and, become a friend on Facebook, or follow FridayPublisher on Twitter.


10 November 2010

"GLASS HALO" upcoming book-signing events in Denver

Writing a book is one thing. Publishing a book is another. And signing one's own published book? Well, that's something entirely different, too.

Photo by James Baca: Signing copies of my first novel at the "Glass Halo" launch at Dixon's Downtown Grill.

This weekend, I'm scheduled to sign copies of my now critically-acclaimed novel, "Glass Halo" at several locations: a greenhouse, a warehouse, and--more conventionally--a bookstore.
Here are the details. Thanks for stopping by to say hi. And remember: Books make terrific and easy-to-wrap gifts for people on your holiday shopping list.
Thank you for helping me wag my tale.

• Friday, November 12: Echter's Holiday Art Sale ~ Three of my passions come together: books, glass art, and gardening. I'll join the Glass Artist's Fellowship as they open their 7th annual show. Glass looks great in the natural light of the greenhouse!

• Saturday, November 13: Gallagher Books ~ signing from 1 - 3 p.m.
This bookstore boasts the original shelves from the first Denver Public Library.

• Sunday, November 14 and Saturday, November 20: Shop to the Nines ~ signing from 11 am - 2 pm.
This event happens over two weekends, offering a "haute holiday shopping weekend;" find chic and high-quality gifts at deeply discounted prices.

• Saturday, December 4: Fireside Books ~ signing from 1 - 3 pm
Drop by this bookstore for a great inventory of used books and fresh pastries.

• Thursday, December 9: Broadway Book Mall ~ signing begins at 7 pm
This book mall houses ten bookstores offering a wide array of books that can satisfy every reader's tastes.

Colleen Smith’s first novel, Glass Halo, is available through bookstores and

Named a finalist for the Sante Fe Literary Prize and favorably reviewed in the Fall 2010 issue of The Bloomsbury Review, the novel is set in Denver.
• To learn more about Glass Halo and Friday Jones Publishing
visit and--if you like--please post a comment on the blog.
• Or visit Friday Jones Publishing on Facebook and become a fan.
• Follow wagyourtale on Twitter.


06 November 2010

Seeing Wild Parrots on Telegraph Hill, San Francisco

When the documentary "The Parrots of Telegraph Hill" came out in 2005, one of my editors called me and told me, "This is your kind of film." She knows I am an animal-lover, a tree-hugger, and a colorist.
The documentary sounded fascinating, yet I never got to the theater. And then I forgot about it.
Until recently, when I was preparing for another trip to San Francisco. My editor, whose husband used to be a report for The San Francisco Chronicle, sent me a list of curious San Francisco highlights. She mentioned that she walked up Telegraph Hill, but never saw any parrots.
I remembered her recommendation, years ago, of the film.
In San Francisco, I had the good fortune to meet up with two friends for a walk. The three of us share similar interests: walks, museums, nature, art. We decided to take a long walk to a secret garden mentioned in a guide book. The secret garden was in a long corridor-like space on a hill. Charming and romantic, the garden had exotic features such as Chinese lanterns and elegant birdbaths, bright bouganvillea and mossy fern-covered shady spots.

Parrots in a secret garden

As we made our way down the stairs and around a corner, one of my friends ahead of me remarked that the tree was shedding something. It had been raining off and on, so I wondered it she was seeing or hearing raindrops. Then I looked into the tree and saw them: parrots!
"The parrots! The parrots!" I said, sneaking back up the stairs and pulling out my iPhone.
My friends had not heard of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. We watched them for a good long while as they feasted on the red berries in the trees. We took photos and got quite close to them.
"There you go," one of my friends said as one of the parrots made his way down a branch. "He's posing for you."
And then, suddenly, with a screech, the parrots flew off in a hurry, lime Jell-O green on the wing.

Parrots with personalities: Lessons from so-called bird brains

Today, I picked up the film at Denver Public Library. Tonight, I watched The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I laughed. I cried. And I almost flew out of my chair after the delightful surprise ending.
If you get this DVD, be sure to watch some of the extra tracks, too. Colorful and uplifting! Share/Save/Bookmark

05 November 2010

American Indian design draws upon ravens

In 1990, November was declared National American Indian Heritage Month. Native American design and lore frequently draws upon the mysterious raven. Scientific research has revealed ravens to be highly intelligent creatures, sentient beings. Learn more about this common, yet uncommon bird at this link to my feature on ravens: "The Raven in Your Garden"

THE IMAGE: Birds inspire Native American dance.

••• Colleen Smith's first novel, "Glass Halo," was released 1 September 2010, and was a finalist for the prestigious Sante Fe Literary Prize.
••• Check out the book at your local library, bookstore, or
Wag your tale.


04 November 2010

Color your world; color your mood

At left, one of Vance Kirkland's dot paintings demonstrates the impact of color.

I've been crazy about color since I was a kid. One of my earliest memories involves a family trip to Como Zoo in Minneapolis. I was not yet in kindergarten, so the city and the animals excited me. And the balloon vendor with a giant, buoyant bouquet of red, yellow, and blue balloons--just like on the Wonder Bread wrapper--especially thrilled me.

My parents bought me a balloon.The balloon man asked me which color I wanted. I knew I wanted red, but I was a terribly bashful youngster. Research indicates that red is a favorite color for many kids.

"Which color do you want?" the man asked me again. I was too shy to say. My second choice was blue--a pale sky blue. Almost the color of my eyes. "Do you have a favorite?" the balloon man asked me again. Again, I did not answer, afraid to voice my preference.
And then the balloon man handed me a yellow balloon--my least favorite. I was crestfallen. Maybe he thought the yellow balloon matched my hair. I was disappointed, yet still did not ask to swap the yellow. I wanted red, would settle for blue, but wound up with default yellow. My dad tied the balloon around my little wrist, and I looked up and it and pretended the yellow balloon was the sun. Still, I had wanted red.

Ask for what you want. And don't be afraid to specify.

I look back on that anecdote and realize that it's important to ask for what we want. And sometimes it's ok and even appropriate to ask with some specificity. If we have a choice, why not speak up and ask for our heart's desires?

Pantone Matching System: A designer's wide spectrum rainbow.

The story also underscores my early appreciation of color. Selecting color palettes is one of my favorite aspects of my work as an art director for printed materials. I just inherited a new set of Pantone Matching System color selector books with more PMS colors that you can shake a mahl stick at. This year, Pantone added 566 new colors: 224 solid colors, 300 premium metallics, and 42 neons. You might not believe how much we deliberate over colors. A trained eye can see many colors--even in white.

Color is a vibration: choose carefully.

I have one main rule when I work with color: The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. I've found this truth both in my home decor and in graphic design projects. Colors have clout.

Color, we know from the scientists, is a vibration. Different colors have different vibrations. We know, too, that black in paint represents all pigments. Yet black in light represents none.

Pay attention to colors that lift your spirits. Use them in your wardrobe and on your walls and any way you're able to incorporate your favorite hues to color your world. You just might kick your blues, stop seeing red, and find yourself in the pink. Share/Save/Bookmark

03 November 2010

"I can't get no": Why I won't read Keith Richards' new memoir

I never really rolled with The Stones; but I'm a rock fan, and I saw the band in concert once at Mile High Stadium and could, of course, see and hear what all the fuss was about.
I don't plan to read Keith Richards' newly released memoir, titled "Life."
But I did read David Remnick's review of the book in the new issue of The New Yorker. The magazine where Remnick serves as editor devoted seven pages to the boss's critique of the ghost-written book for which the publisher Little, Brown paid Richards a staggering $7 million advance.

"Maybe you can't always get what you want. The rule doesn't apply to Richards," Remnick wrote.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Remnick's piece in the 1 November 2010 issue demonstrates once again why he's chief at one of the most literate publications in the land. Remnick must be a Stones fan to have turned over so much of his magazine's pricey real estate to his review, titled "Groovin' High." But he provides less-than-flattering commentary, too.

As for the book's redeeming value, Remnick points out that the sweet chord of "Life" sounds when Richards describes playing a guitar. Or, at least, Richards' ghost writer James Fox describes playing guitar.

Remnick labels "Life"--released 26 October--as "half book, half brand extension."

Yet Remnick's review of the book is informative and entertaining. Describing Richards' progression from young rebel to geezer rocker, Remnick wrote, "Where he used to have a wolfhound named Syphilis, he now has a golden Lab named Pumpkin."
It's just one of Remnick's rockin' riffs in this entertaining article that tells me all I want to know about the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll defining Richards' "Life."

••• Colleen Smith is the author of the recently released novel GLASS HALO, which was a finalist for the prestigious Sante Fe literary prize. Purchase GLASS HALO at Denver bookstores or through For more details, visit

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