Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nothing special

I just saw the words, Jimmy Firenipples, and I'm not sure I want to delve any further into the mystery. I think the words are enough to get stuck in my brain.

One of my gifts arrived (finally) yesterday despite the Priority Mail guarantee of 1-2 days. This took a week, which is, to my mind, far outside the 1-2 day guarantee, especially since the package sat here in Colorado Springs for 4 days. I'm not pleased with the post office or their service. Every time they raise the rates, and they just got ANOTHER rate hike this month, the service gets worse and I get to pay even more for it. I may have to switch to UPS or FedEx to get packages to where they are going since the post office doesn't seem competent or capable of doing the job. Reminds me of Obama, who also costs more and more all the time and does less and less, except for lying, which he does a lot. So much so that he earned Lie of the Year from Politifact.

A reporter asked Obama what he thought about being called the liar of the year and his answer, true to form, was yet another ad for Obamacare and how it would be fixed. Now how does that have anything to do with the question, "How do you feel about being called the Liar of the Year?" Someone I am acquainted with asked on Facebook whether it was him or does Obama really never answer questions. No, Obama doesn't answer questions, but he will lead you around the barn and through the brambles while he smiles and uses a lot of words that mean absolutely nothing and never gets close to an answer. He does that really well.

One thing that Obama is going to have to answer is why he uses Harrison J. Bounel's social security number instead of his own? A Massachusetts judge has ordered Social Security and the White House to provide documentation and answers. I think this time, unless a deal is done under the table and behind the backs of the American taxpayers yet again, a straight answer will have to be given. Of course, this will have serious implications if it is found that Obama is guilty of fraud. On such a national scale, that kind of fraud will end his political career and his freedom very quickly and we will be stuck with Joe Biden in the office of President of the US unless something happens to him and John Boehner steps into the Oval Office. Talk about a fine kettle of fish -- smelly, decaying, rotten fish at that. I'm sure Obama and his crew will find a way to side step this faux political scandal. Whatever happens, I wonder how many other skeletons will fall out of Obama's cabinet and how many questions will finally be answered. Should be an interesting year in 2014.

Funny, but I didn't intend to get into politics or yet another Obama scandal, but it jumped right out there. What I intended to do was muse on a comment a friend of mine made during a phone call last night. She opened my Yule gift last night and was pleased with the contents of the package. She got the leopard I cross stitched and always meant for her to have. She said it will go well in her library - when the remodel is finally finished and everything can finally be hung.

She said I cross stitch at the speed of light. I think it's a rather slow light, but I am beginning to wonder if I do stitch faster than most people. I follow a blog called The Speedy Stitcher and she is quite fast, except that her projects tend to be small items like biscornu and tiny mice about 2-3 inches high and not much bigger around. I could finish one of those in a couple of hours, or an afternoon come to that. The projects I make are much larger and much more complex, like Xmas stockings, which take me about a month to finish, unless they are Brittercup designs. Those are much quicker and much less detailed and take me a week at the outside. I don't stitch constantly since I have a job and other things to do as well. I have been known to do a very complicated and detailed piece in 2 weeks, but I didn't have a job then and worked about 8 hours on the piece. The longest I have taken to finish a cross stitch pattern is 2 months, but that was very large and very detailed and had hundreds of beads to be attached.

I don't know that I'm quick as much as focused when I cross stitch, except when there is a big mistake that has to be fixed or I'm working in unfamiliar territory and have to design as I stitch. That's a whole different situation altogether. The only thing I can say -- and did say to my friend -- is that I am good with my hands. Always have been. So, take good with hands and add in a healthy splash of tunnel vision (focus), add a dash of determination to finish whatever I've started (family issues - don't go there), and sheer joy at the task and I have a lot of finished pieces, most of which end up as gifts. It's a good combination for getting things done.

In the end, for me, it's all about giving someone a gift they will treasure and enjoy for years and that makes it all worthwhile.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

REVIEW: Have Wormhole, Will Travel by Tony McFadden

Australia gave us Mad Max in a post apocalyptic world. Now there is Tony McFadden with a new twist on history and physics and vampires. By the way, there is no such thing as vampires, just aliens who gave Bram Stoker the idea for vampires. Or at least that is the way the story goes.

Take two tall, pale-skinned, and very strong aliens who have been on Earth for 400 years as advance scouts for their own planet 20 light years away, add 3 very lovely and unusual fan girls convinced Callum and his partner are vampires, throw in a mad scientist who thinks he can create wormholes and you have a world on the brink of destruction. It seems Callum's bosses back on his home planet are ready to direct a neutron star through a wormhole in Earth's direction if they can conceivably create wormholes to be used as a means of going to the home planet to steal their resources and wage war. They have destroyed other emerging technological societies and they are ready to do it again. Their only problem is Callum who has come to see Earth as a lovely planet to spend the rest of his very long life on -- and he is strongly to attracted to one of the fan girls, the martial arts teacher and fitness buff who owns her own business and just happens to be living with the not so mad scientist. He has a choice to make and he is running out of time. Earth's slated for destruction.

Tony McFadden uses Sydney, Australia and the surrounding areas to set her story, except for a few quick trips to the home planet quarantine chamber, and creates not only a plausible story but one that is fascinating and full of science and adventure. Who knew aliens have been watching us right here on our own planet and have quashed some of the best technological advances all to keep us in the Thules? (That's toolies to the uninformed.)

The scientist has a brilliant mind and and an ego to match and Jackie, the martial arts teacher and studio/dojo owner, is not as stupid as the scientist thinks. The other two fan girls are not quite so clueless either and they provide some of the humor and gum for the works. Three aliens, the ones on planet, are part of the story, but so is the elder in the quarantine chamber on the home planet and he is a bit one-dimensional as all villains and elders entrenched in a certain way of thinking and doing things. Add in an autocratic administrator of the university and a general of the armed forces with their own single-minded goals and you have a corner of the world where things get interesting quickly. McFadden hasn't stinted on the science either, even if there isn't enough of it to help anyone make a wormhole with cold fusion to power it. A genius or two might come up with the means to take us off planet and explore the universe with just those clues.

Have Wormhole, Will Travel is an inventive, funny, serious, and eminently fast read that satisfies and astonishes in equal measure. Aside from the one-dimensional characters, I'd say the book is just the beginning of a new friendship for a whole new bunch of science and fiction buffs, and the odd fan boy/girl. Well done. Now, when will Tony McFadden write something else I can devour? I really liked this modern urban science fiction as much as I enjoyed Mad Max.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holidays Aren't for Family and Fun Any More

Not having holidays is not surprise to me. I work in the health care industry as a medical transcriptionist and the company I work for doesn't give us holidays off -- none of them. I work through Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, and every other holiday that falls on a weekday. It's the price I pay for having a full time job.

However, most people have jobs with benefits that include holidays off with pay and they look forward to spending the time with their families and friends. I wish I could be one of them, but hospitals never close and I'm not a doctor who comes and goes as she pleases. I'm one of the worker ants and take what I can get.

Oh, there are a lot of people without families or friends or a place to share the holidays and there are always people who have no interest in the holidays because of a family tragedy or plain old every day tragedy that makes the holidays difficult. There are the those that find any lightness difficult to bear for many reasons, but by and large people want to share their holidays with their loved ones or at least spend time with the poor and homeless at shelters and gatherings where food and companionship is shared where it's warm and there is food donated and served by caring people. There are lots of options and many places to go if you've a mind to carve out a small piece of holiday cheer and a good meal. That is except for this 2013 season of holidays. Obama has decided that the holidays are his to use for his own purposes.

President Obama has decided to use families to have The Talk with their friends and relatives about signing up for the Affordable Care Act. That is far more important than turkey, family, and football. It is even more important shopping and handing out gifts from under the Christmas tree or during the holy time of Channukah or Eid or Kwanzaa or whichever way you celebrate the autumn and winter holidays. Obama has thoughtfully provided a list of talking points and how to plan your Talk about Health Care because in the end it is all about health care and the Affordable Care Act and not about holidays or family or peace on Earth with good will toward wo/men.

I suppose this too will go by the boards as just another quirk in the otherwise smooth running of America during Obama's term in office. Business as usual. People don't really care about having time off to spend with their families and every holiday family meal would be enhanced by bringing up health care, especially if Aunt Martha or Uncle Ted eat too much food or have too much dessert so they end up unconscious or in pain on the floor while someone calls 9-1-1 or EMS to take them away to the hospital. There is always the possibility that someone will die, as has happened many times before and will again in the future, during the holidays, so why not make the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare the main topic of conversation? It doesn't matter that the health care will be too late to save Uncle Ted and Aunt Martha, but at least the rest of the family will be safe from the expense of a long hospital stay or catastrophic illness. You know how people like to announce to the whole family they have cancer and only a few months to live during the holidays while they have everyone gathered together. Nothing like impending death and high health costs to brighten up a family gathering.

The fact is that the disastrous launch of the website has eaten away the numbers expected to sign on and sign up and the bottom line is -- as always -- numbers. If Obama cannot motivate people to give up their peaceful and happy holidays to strong arm their family and friends into signing up for ACA then Obama's singature legislation will have failed and the opposition will win. Politics during the holidays, what could be more appropriate and timely?

Maybe it's time you decide what you want to do with your holidays and how you spend them. After all, choice is still free in America -- so far.

Happy holidays to all and to all a good night.

Monday, November 25, 2013

REVIEW: The Darkness of Shadows by Chris Little

In my search to find new and interesting books to read, I came across The Darkness of Shadows by Chris Little. Talk about unusual and yet familiar. This urban fantasy shows its roots without pandering to or stealing from other similar series.

Chris Little gives nods to the Anita Blake series and to Kim Harrison's day walking demon, Rachel, by choosing to write urban fantasy, but that is where the similarities end. Little sets his first novel in what is obviously a series in New Jersey and writes a completely new history of witchcraft, necromancers, vampires, and supernatural demons and angels. There are also new protocols for the world Little builds and it is a doozy.

There are the usual villains, but not who or what one expects. Child abuse is the focal point of novel and the driving force throughout the story. Natalie as used by her parents as nothing more than a tool and she still has not gotten over it. That abuse and the scars left behind color her view of the world, but they have not hampered her ability to make a life for herself and find strength. What she does not know will hurt her, but Natalie is a survivor and she is more, so much more.

Most urban fantasies follow a formula that has gotten old -- at least to me. The Darkness of Shadows surprised me in so many ways, not the least of which was how quickly it moves. Little's writing seems simple at first glance, but there is more to the writing as well. Little makes it look easy, but there is hard work shown in the intricacies of the plot and the way information is doled out at just the right time and pace.

Though the central focus on the description of the book is on revenge, werewolves, ancient magic, and vampires, there are few vampires or werewolves seen. They are mentioned in passing and will likely fuel the continuing series. Revenge and ancient magic are more prevalent, but Little imbues the more fantastical elements of the story with a strong, beating heart that drives the action. Protectors and Healers bond and are stronger together, but secrets hold them back. Youth, with all of its ambition and passion, are central to The Darkness of Shadows, but so is love: the love of family, of friends, of life.

The Darkness of Shadows stands alone on its own merits, but I definitely want more of this dynamic and exciting new urban fantasy. And so will you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

RE-RELEASE: Between Darkness and Light by Brianna Hawthorne

A new cover for the the re-release of Brianna Hawthornes Fantasy... 

Between Darkness and Light

Shi’ahn and her brother William find themselves transported into a realm beyond anything they could have imagined. Where they had once been powerful individuals, they are now almost inconsequential - at first. Soon though, they discover something monumental, and everything begins to change. Reality is not what it had seemed. As Shi’ahn and her brother follow where events are leading them, it becomes evident that both are destined for greater things. Shi'ahn does have one advantage that is exceedingly rare - she can hear and manipulate the song of the Universe.

As Shi’ahn and William embark upon their new journey they must survive intrigue, danger, and their growing relationship with the foundations of the Universe itself.

This is the first book in the Universe Cycle.

Brianna Hawthorne has been a tree farm laborer, a choir director, a restaurant worker, a telemarketer (She lasted one day), a transportation planner, a small business computer support worker, a printing specialist, computer help desk technician, a firewall and server administrator, computer security manager, an emergency preparedness coordinator, and now, finally, an author. It's been one heck of a ride...

But the stresses of her profession and all the political. stuff it entailed eventually drove her to write. After many more years and frustrations, she ran away to the mountains where, aside from trips to the Island that inspired the creation of Shiral, she wishes to remain until the end of her days. Before the responsibilities of parenthood overtook her, she loved to play role-playing games and being a weekend historian in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Now she concentrates on providing the healthiest home environment for her family as possible. She enjoys growing her own organic foods and herbs, and listening to a wide variety of music.

Facebook ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ GoodReads



COVER REVEAL: The Alexandria Winter Anthology 2013

It is the time of year where the best feeling in the world is to give and the writers at the Alexandria Publishing group have a great gift to be unwrapped today! November has been a busy month for all of you writers with NaNoWriMo and for everyone who is finishing projects to launch in time for the holidays. Here at The APG, we  have our own project launching just in time for e-stock stuffing! But first...

We're proud to present the cover of the new release which has been created by the wonderful Renée Barratt:

An Alexandria Winter Anthology 2013

The Alexandria Publishing Group is an eclectic group of writers, and we've pooled together our talents again this year to create another exciting Winter Anthology.


By Valerie Douglas - A Home for the Holidays - Family isn't always the one you were born to...

By D Kai Wilson-Viola - Low winter, Blood Moon - Merridian's last night in Edinburgh is meant to be a time to grieve...but when she finds herself running for her life in Holyrood park, a null magic area, all she knows is she's being chased by a big, angry werewolf...

By Denise McGee - Full Moon Christmas - When a reclusive werewolf finds a lost child too close to the full moon, he must fight the change or live with the knowledge that he killed an innocent.

By Mary-Ann Peden-Covellio - Cynophobia - One very small dog and two not-so-angelic girls give Santa Claus a Christmas he'd rather forget.

By Paul Kater - Our Ghostly Winter - A young boy learns that there is more between earth and heaven, and that it can take the shape of a snowman.

By Terry Simpson - The Gifts - 12 Gifts will change a young boy's life forever.

By D Kai Wilson-Viola - Silent Fright - Jess knows that the boys are planning a big surprise and to go along with that, Jess decorates...but the lights attract more than just other survivors and for the first time in months, the walls are overrun with zombies.


We'll be back with you as soon as the new release is available. On behalf of all our writers and other artists we thank you for being with us, and we wish you a wonderful festive season. Till then from all our writers, artists and support staff may your holiday season from here on in be exciting and fun!

Just in case you missed last years, our Winter 2012 Anthology is still available from Smashwords and Amazon.

As soon as it is released we will let you all know so you can stuff everyone's e-stockings with some festive holiday joy for you and your friends and family! from all our writers, artists and support staff.

Official Launch Page:



Alexandria Publishing Group is a writers’ collective made up of individual authors with proven talent. Each has shown dedication and skill in creating and producing amazing books that compel and create a strong, solid reading platform.  Quality is a key and critical factor in inclusion on the group’s’ roster, alongside writers with a true passion for writing.

“I’ve always written,” says Kai, “and it really appeals to me to work with other indie authors and providers to pool our resources. Working as an editor with the group too, really means I can be sure that I’m investing in like-minded individuals and have the support I need for my own books. And while I can offer a lot as a writer, I’m also keen to help indies reach a broader audience.”

To discover more selections of some of the best indie books in print or e-books from the authors above and others in the APG please explore the rest of the website, subscribe to our newsletter, check out more from our authors, or join us over on our Facebook page!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Zombies Skating up the Glass Hill

School principal, Verenice Gutierrez, has decided that a peanut butter sandwich is racist. It is not enough that people can be racist, but now our food is racist. Everything we eat now has a vicious connotation and Ms. Gutierrez is making sure that teachers in her school take a sensitivity course so that they are not subtly racist.


From the insidious indoctrination of children with Common Core educational materials to sensitivity training for teachers so that they do not inadvertently traumatize a child by using a peanut butter sandwich as a racist teaching tool, it is obvious that we have gone off the deep end.

Have you ever seen someone tie himself into knots over not mentioning a scar or obvious handicap or a woman yelling at a deaf man so she can be heard? It can be funny, but not so funny in today's world as people become pretzels navigating the intricate and treacherous waters of Politically Correct language -- and now food.

What I have seen is that the more we bow to these made up conventions the more we fall into error and abuse. It's no wonder so many people are on drugs and why they put their children on drugs. It is almost criminal to be unhappy or disenchanted or even a  rowdy child full of energy just bursting at the seams. I used to say, "If you have a problem, my mother has a pill," but what was a joke is now the default setting for society and it is nothing like the world we envisioned with the Jetsons, or even Willie Wonka, where a meal is contained in a pill form. It is so much worse. At this rate, there will soon be a pill to make everyone bland, inoffensive, and passive - or maybe it will be put into the air so a silent gas can make us either dead or Reivers like in  Joss Whedon's Firefly television show. That worked out so well.

Face it. People are going to use what is different about someone else during a heated discussion or a fight and the government and schools are going to remedy that natural inclination with drugs, indoctrination, and sensitivity training. No wonder people are tense and emotionally on the edge and feel that drugs are the answer. I can hear the conspiracy theorists winding up in the bull pen.

I would have used conspiracy nuts but I've no doubt that someone on the Thought Police will cite me for food racism or worse.

Who would have thought that hippies/flower children putting daisies in the gun barrels of National Guard reservists in the 1960s and 1970s would have landed us here in a world treading on egg shells? I certainly didn't. So much for anti-establishment hippies. They have become the establishment.

I envisioned a world where 1984 was just a book by George Orwell and Animal Farm was a parody of communism, Marxism, fascism, and government control. Instead I know that Big Brother is watching us and recording all of our private conversations, chats, emails, and communications and children are being indoctrinated to believe that the government is always right and they should never question the government because it is wrong. The next thing that happens will be that the Magisterium will arise on the scene locked and loaded to make a little cut to severe us all from our souls when we are children to keep the Dust from perverting us and making us individuals unwilling to go quietly into that good dark night, leaving us in a generation with soulless zombies unquestioningly obedient to the Magisterial government that cares for us from cradle to grave so that we need never know the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

Maybe you shouldn't buy that white bread to go with the peanut butter and blackberry jam for your kids' lunches. Stick with hummus and pita bread. You could use roasted termites. I hear they taste just like peanut butter.

No wonder there has been such a rise in the popularity of zombie fiction. Look in the mirrored surface of the glass hill you're skating up. The zombie may be you.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Free-falling Down the Slippery Slope

The future of this country as a free democracy is in dire peril.

I admit I am late coming to this discussion, but I am doing my homework. I have no children in school - my oldest is 40 years old - but my children have children in school and I worry about the indoctrination and fate of children throughout this country. The best way to implement communist, Marxist, and socialist government is to start with impressionable children. Hitler used the youth of Germany to watch, inform on, and cow the adult populace and look what happened there. Children in China and other communist countries begin indoctrination at the earliest levels and only now (in the past 2 decades) since the advent of access to the Internet have China's youths begun to fight back.

None of can afford to stand back and let our young children be subjected to this kind of insidious indoctrination. This is the creeping evil that has infected our country and has finally come to fruition with the election of Barack Obama and his continuation as President of the United States. It all comes down to his leadership and his constant campaigning and PR side stepping that is at the heart of this.

I know how this sounds, that I am a reactionary (big surprise), that I am old-fashioned (not a big surprise), and that I don't know what I'm talking about.  There, you would be wrong. I have read some of the educational materials and, though I do not have knowledge of the whole program, I am angry and shocked enough to continue to look for more information. I have been to no meetings and I have not listened to a speaker at a group. I read everything, pro and con, and I will, as always, make up my own mind, but at this moment I see danger and I fear for our children, for my grandchildren, and for the future. This is beyond economic problems and political differences, it is even beyond racial differences. We are all Americans, at least those of us not profiting from and intent on forcing yet another government program through the usual checks and balances, and as Americans we need to stand up and be counted. We need to stop this creeping plague before it gets a firm foothold in our future -- in our children. We as a people must come together and stop this if America is to remain a bastion of freedom and choice, the same democracy that once held honor and decency and strong moral values as sacred as the voice of the people in a democratic republic free of outside control.

I once memorized Patrick Henry's speech when I was in the 5th grade. It's last lines are burned into my soul. "...but as for me, give me liberty or give me death." I have been asked if there is anything worth fighting for, worth dying for. I say again, yes. The liberty and freedom of our children, our immortality and stake in the future, is worth fighting for, being imprisoned for, and, yes, even dying for. Those words mean a lot to me, but what do they mean to you when your children and your neighbor's children are at stake? Now is the time to answer that question.

Friday, November 15, 2013

With all the hype about the pendemic of obesity in America, it's hard to separate fact from fiction. Obese people eat too much and are lazy. Obese people have more heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and a host of other diseases. Obesity is the nation's #1 killer. Obesity is bad. Obesity means people no longer have discipline or are just too lazy to get out and exercise. Obesity is the devil.

Isn't that always the way? Demonize the problem -- or the person -- and fail to get at the root cause. It is the way of this information saturated world and there is little of truth or verifiable data to be had. Getting grants to study where and how people migrated by studying the roots of fairy tales are easy t get, but a study of what makes people fat, other than the obvious reasons, is either under reported or nonexistent. What is going on? Why are more people getting fat?

Is it the boom of fast food restaurants cropping up all over the country? That can't be it since there are bumper crops of fast food restaurants all over the world and the people in those countries aren't nearly as obese as Americans. Is it because fewer Americans walk everywhere or maybe it is because more people are unemployed in America than ever in history? What is going on and how do we get at the root cause?

For my money, it's what is and isn't in the food served at all those fast food restaurants and in grocery stores all over the country. What isn't in the food is nutrition.

According to scientists opposing Monsanto's Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), the genetic code of crops has been changed and that means when we eat GMOs we are eating information. Our intestinal tract is being turned into a chemical factory that does not digest food and turn it into nourishment, but may be creating pesticides that repel certain weeds and insects. Sounds more like science fiction than fact, but it could be possible. Generations have been eating GMOs without knowing it and the people in the middle and lower classes of society buy cheap food, cheap GMOs, that is changing the very nature of their bodies.

Eat food without nutritive value, with very little nutrition, and you have to eat more of it to get any benefit and be satisfied. Reminds me a lot of cigarettes. Tobacco comanies changed the tobacco to be more addictive so that people would need to buy more cigarettes and smoke more to satisfy their cravings. How is food any different? Engineer the food so that people need more to get more benefit and the resultis obesity. Even less nutritious food contains calories and eating more calories means the body deposits more adispose tissue -- more fat. It's not the fat that is making people fat, but the genetically modified food-like stuff. 

People also get more sodium (salt) and the wrong kind of sodium at that, which erodes the inside lining of blood vessels which in turn creates weakness in the cellular structure of the veins and makes people more susceptible to high blood pressure, aneurysm, and stroke, among other serious health problems. Few people realize that the body needs salt to help regulate temperature and maintain the body at its factory levels (that means original state), but the wrong kind of salt, processed salt/sodium, which contains minute particles of glass and sand are that act like sandpaper on the inside of blood vessel walls. It's like sandblasting, or glass and sand blasting in this case, and that is what is used to clean the outside of brick and stone buildings. If it can remove centuries of dirt and decay from stone, think what it can do to the tissues inside the body carried by the force of the blood pumped from the heart, which means all that sand and glass is also sand blasting the inside of the heart. Do you begin to see a connection? I certainly do.

There may also be substances in the food that are being used to calm and make the population docile, in addition to the lack of nutrition. People in jails and prisons are fed a high carbohydrate diet to keep them slow and make them docile. I don't personally know about adding salt peter to the Kool-Aid to quiet the hormonal urges, but at the heart of every fairy tale is a kernel of truth. A docile prison population without hormonal urges is just what the warden wants -- and needs.

It might also follow that a government intent on destroying the country, or at least raping and pillaging the economy and democracy, would want their greed and evil doings overlooked by a docile population. Engineering the food supply to provide that docility is just what the politicians want and need. They could use a partner in crime and Monsanto is made to order. So are pharmaceutical companies with the Prozac and Ativan and Seroquel and other mood levelers and enhancers. If the people get too worried about their sex drive, there's always Viagra to get them up to speed.

I kow. It all sounds like crazy conspiracy talk. I'll bet you think I wear a tin foil hat and mark up newspapers and books with highlighters looking for the hidden code. Not at all. I'm merely following the money and adding 1 and 2 so that they equal 3. It's probably an effect from eating more organic and natural food and staying away from processed fast food -- except for the occasional steak quesadilla from Taco Bell that keeps singing it's siren song for me.

The point is that it's time to take a look at obesity and health problems from a different angle. Everyone cannot afford to eat expensive organic food when they have about $5 a day to feed themselves and their families. Michelle Obama tried her limited, good food approach at some schools and the children were unable to concentrate and constantly hungry because they weren't getting enough food -- enough nutrition -- to fuel their brain and help them grow. The bite of gnawing hunger does not help people learn or behave since the body is saying it's not sufficiently fed. There seems to be an almost addictive reaction going on as well. Something isn't right and the only place to look is at the food and where it comes from.

Why are so many children now diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder) and ADD (attention deficit disorder) than ever before and on medication? Why are those same children often obese? Why has there been a rise in autoimmune diseases and intestinal problems? Why are there more behavioral problems, outside of the fact that most parents don't teach and enforce discipline and morals in the home? Why is road rage and rage disorders almost to epidemic proportions? What is going on in this country that we are missing?

It may sound like conspiracy theory, but there has to be a conspiracy for so many things to go wrong for so many people in the same way while corporations like Monsanto, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians keep getting richer while the people who pay for their goods are getting poorer and fatter. Most people don't know that more than half of the obese in this country are malnourished, which wouldn't be the case if they were getting nutritional value from the quantities of food they eat. Heart and kidney disease, diabetes, and obesity are on the rise in a country where there is now more unemployment than during the Great Depression, and people tended to be much thinner in those days because there wasn't enough food -- or money to buy food.

When there are more people taking more drugs and eating fake food with no nutritional value, there is a link. I wonder if we are smart enough or angry enough to demand answers -- or at least ask the questions. How about funding a study on what is actually going on and how we can turn back the tide? We need answers and we need them now.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The holidays are nearly upon me, kicking of my favorite time of year with Halloween, but this year Halloween will be with me a month or so longer this year since I'm busy making my HalloXmas stockings for a friend's boys. I came up with a work around and a pattern I already had to incorporate the zombie elements. I decided that a Xmas stocking should have something in it about Xmas, so one stocking will have Xmas tree branches, holly and berries, and 3 ornaments hanging from lovely gold hangers, but inside where there were previously winter and holiday scenes will be zombies. I didn't like any of the zombies I found in cross stitch patterns so I have designed zombie elements from things that I think will be scary and yet somehow (I hope) festive. Cross stitch friends are telling me I may have stumbled onto something that will sell. After all, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a very big seller and the merchandising is worth millions, hundreds of millions. I doubt my stockings will be quite that successful, but I can always dream. That's what writers do.

I do have to figure out how to turn my drawings into cross stitch patterns, but I have a program or two for that too. It has been so long since I drew or designed anything, but I'm enjoying the change of artistic realms. I haven't felt much like writing lately, as evidenced by me not writing much here  -- or anywhere. I think about writing and I scribble in my paper journals, but it seems with getting ready for the holidays and work I don't have the time -- I haven't made the time. And so it goes.

This morning I did manage to go to the Papyrus Online website and pick out Halloween cards for my grandkids and a couple of cousins. That was actually fun. I forgot how much I missed picking out cards and choosing who gets which one. I had already sent my 2 youngest granddaughters Halloween costumes, after  a size snafu and reordering them. I wanted to make sure there would be no Disney princesses out trick or treating this year, but real scary, but cute, Halloween children dressed up for a night out with the ghouls. I even sent a makeup kit for the girls. That was fun, not nearly as much fun as making costumes, but I haven't done that in a much longer while. The last costumes I made for Halloween were for my nephews Ants and Cody and they have a whole closet full of costumes I made them and they wore them all the time when they played. Well, what else can you do with pumpkins and dinosaurs and cartoon charcters and Dracula? The cape was especially nice with a blood red satin lining. Ants wore that for years and now he works in a haunted house in London, Ohio as a Killer Klown from Space. No, it wasn't my fault. He was already that way because his mom is that way. Beanie loves the horror.

I do love this time of year and I'm definitely not opposed to mixing things up. I call it shaking up the ant farm. And I feel like one of those ants scrambling around making trails (or cross stitch patterns and drawings) and making new paths and trails. It's what living is all about as far as I am concerned. I like change and having to adapt to new situations -- like xmas stockings with zombies. What could be better?

So, in the spirit of HalloXmas, here's blood in your eye.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The War of the Roses is the basis for Philippa Gregory's The White Queen and it was an interesting trip back to England before the excesses of King Henry VIII to learn that there were even more interesting kings and queens and rebellions. 

Elizabeth Woodville decides that she will stand in the road along King Edward IV's path to beg a favor, that he return her husband's lands to her and their sons. Her husband was killed in the war against Edward since her family stood for the Lancastrians and her lands were taken from her, probably as the spoils of war. Edward was winning all his battles and had already been crowned king as leader of the Yorks. He sees Elizabeth and, true to his nature, immediately wants to bed her, but Elizabeth will not sell her virtue or her body so cheaply and eventually draws his own dagger against him when he tries to force her. He gives her the dagger and stalks off in a rage. Elizabeth asked for his favor not to become his mistress.

Her mother is a pragmatic woman and she sets a spell for Elizabeth. Taking her to a tree near the water, she tells Elizabeth to choose one of three strings. Elizabeth chooses and her mother cuts the other two strings, strings tied to destinies Elizabeth may no longer see. Taking up the string a foot a day, Elizabeth eventually draws a golden crown from the water just big enough to fit around her finger, a promise of marriage to Edward, which Edward accomplishes in secret with Elizabeth's mother in attendance in front of a priest Edward brings with him to their family chapel. Thus begins the war within a war as Elizabeth faces down in turn Edward's two brothers, Neville the kingmaker, Edward's mother, and the nation.

The White Queen is part of The Cousins' War series by Philippa Gregory and has all the marks of her writing. There is magic and mystery and thrilling/frightening scenes all with their roots in history.

The first part of The White Queen was romance itself, but as Edward fights on against growing odds from within his own faction and Elizabeth is left more and more alone and in hiding in sanctuary protecting hers and Edward's children and his legacy, Elizabeth becomes less a shining queen and more a frightened and determined woman willing to use magic, which if discovered is punishable by death, to help Edward and eventually to gain her own ends: restoration as queen and her sons as heirs. There is plenty of intrigue and the usual twists and turns that are part of the struggle for a throne and no end of plots and counter plots, betrayal, and death. Through it all, Elizabeth becomes quite an unsympathetic character as she struggles to keep hold on a kingdom that is being denied her and her children.

Elizabeth loses so much as she fights her own battles, but the loss of her mother, father, and brothers leaves her without the strong support that she needs and she becomes desperate. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth, Edward's first born child, sees Elizabeth as the thorn in the rose of her own dreams.

I enjoyed the first half of the novel, but towards the second half of the book, as Gregory paints Elizabeth in dark and unflattering colors, the story began to plod and strain my patience and my interest. Throughout the novel, Gregory admits to adding elements that are not strictly factual or historical, but she does retain honesty in her portrayal of a chapter in history that is at best sketchy. I'd give the books 4/5 for Gregory's take on this turbulent time, but 3/5 in execution since I came to dislike Elizabeth so much during the latter portion of the novel.

The White Queen is an interesting and at times exciting read, but tends to get lost in its own plots and stratagems. The history of Melusina, the mother of Elizabeth's family, was fascinating and well detailed in the novel and provided a fantastical element that gave Gregory's novel a bit of magic.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Emperor is Naked: Marketing and Reverse Psychology

A good writer friend is frustrated with lagging sales on his books and so he confided in me a new strategy to get people to buy more books by using Hans Christian Andersen's tale of The Emperor's New Clothes. You might know the story by its moral: The emperor has no clothes.

The idea is simple and, I have to admit, diabolically clever. By planting reviews and essays about by the books, purportedly by unknown reviewers, the education and intelligence of the reader is questioned. To whit, if you find difficulty in grasping the concept of the book because of a lack of education or exposure to literature outside the common appeal of writers like Stephenie Meyer and the authors of the Dick and Jane series (See Dick run. Run, Dick, run. See Jane fall down. Spot is a dog. Dick and Jane like Spot.) then this novel would not appeal to you. With the use of layered descriptions, inner monologue, and subtle concepts, an understanding of the English language at the college level is necessary.

I told him that, while his idea was brilliant, it was also rude and demeaning to the average reader. Basically, he is challenging the reader to step outside his/her comfort level and consider his novels too intelligent for them.

"Yes," he said. "That is the point. It's like the emperor walking naked through the street and people being afraid to admit they are stupid and can't see his wonderful new clothes."

"It's a fraud."

"It's also reverse psychology."

I had to stop and think about that for a moment. What if he was right? What if some recognizable reviewer or celebrity were willing to go along with his plan and challenge readers to read outside their comfort zone, stretch themselves to see what was always there to read? In his case, the emperor is wearing rich robes. Maybe too rich for the average person reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level, as many modern scholars (and reading statistics in MS Word) claim. Has my friend challenged people to be better or forced them to lie rather than admit that their reading compression is well below where it should be?

I am reminded of every time I was told not to do something and promptly found a way to get past the limits set on me and do what I wanted to do anyway. What was put out of my reach was a challenge to find a way to reach it. Isn't that the essence of human experience, always reaching for the ripest and hopefully tastiest apple at the top of the tree or looking in every possible hiding place until where the Xmas presents were hidden was found?

Don't touch becomes a spur that goads us to touch. How many of us can resist the bench on which a wet paint sign hangs? I certainly cannot. I want to know the truth. Is the bench wet? I've come away with paint on my finger enough times to doubt the truth of a wet paint sign, but this is different. His marketing idea cuts through a little wet paint on the finger and goes right to the heart of who and what people think of themselves. He's basically calling them stupid and daring them to prove him wrong. Is he helping people to reach beyond themselves, step out of the comfort zone, and stretch to reach a book on the highest shelf that has been forbidden?

Think about it. Isn't that what clever book cover art and expensive packaging and advertising do? Put something out of reach just so we can reach out and touch it? Isn't book marketing -- advertising in any form -- placing a wet paint sign and daring us to touch?

How many people really believe that true love can be had for the price of a bottle of perfume, an assortment of makeup, clothing that hugs the body and flows gracefully (and exposes all the lumps, bulges, and hanging flab)? And yet we buy it, buy so much of it that companies spend millions of dollars on advertising that challenges our intelligence and goads us into action, the action of buying their products. Companies give away products, not out of charity or benevolence, but the same way a drug pusher lets perspective customers sample the merchandise, to get us hooked.

Considering what is already out there -- food that makes us fat and unhealthy, drinks that destroy the lining of our stomachs and calcify our livers, cars that begs to be driven beyond the speed limit, and so much else that is harmful -- why not use the same marketing tools to get people to buy books, books that are subtle and intelligent and beyond the capability of the average reader? If it sparks sales and turns his modest reputation into a world wide sensation, what is the harm? What is lost but our ignorance? What is gained but an expanded vocabulary and a better understanding of people and the world around us? It would be the difference between hearing about Schopenhauer and Aristotle and really reading and understanding philosophy, or at least a small part of philosophy. It would elevate us rather than dumb us down even further. What is the harm?

I guess it comes down to the mule and the carrot on a stick. The carrot remains out of reach no matter how far the mule travels unless the person who tied the carrot to the string on the stick out of the mule's reach relents and lets the mule have the carrot. With such a reward at the end of the mule's labors, he would be willing to keep following the carrot on a stick as long as the end result is the same. He gets the carrot.

The problem is that people are not mules, however much they may resemble mules in their behavior. The average person would find a way to get the carrot and not have to keep moving forward, thus proving a law of physics. A body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

In other words, most people, while pretending intelligence, prefer to remain ignorant. It's easier.

I doubt my friend's plan will work, but I will keep watching and see how it goes, and if his reviewers decide it's better to pretend to be smart enough to understand a subtle book or will remain ignorant and keep writing, "I didn't get it," while giving him 1- and 2-star reviews and making sure his sales continue to lag.

NOTE:  Picture courtesy of Monica Rodgers

Monday, September 02, 2013

Rewriting History

So much of history is written by the winners, or at least the people who were still standing after the dust settled. Richard III, the king who allegedly murdered his nephews in the Tower, was recently found under a car park in England and the tales his skeleton have to tell are of violent death and humiliation after he was dead and his armor stripped from his body. His clothing was likely also removed before humiliating the body, which is archaeology speak for desecrating the dead body of the king. 

I've been reading The White Queen by Philippa Gregory and I find the story of King Edward and the Wars of the Roses to be fascinating from the perspective of the characters, especially of Elizabeth of York who bore (at the point in the book where I left off) 8 children, mostly girls. Her son Edward, the first born, was taken from her to his own household when he was 3 years old and his guardian was Elizabeth's brother, Anthony, who was a devout man, a great poet, and a clever and successful knight, a man of violence and piety. The attributes that made him a good man of his times would have doomed him in modern times, unless he had grown up in 20th and 21st century America -- or the United Kingdom.

I imagine Anthony would have been a scholar, maybe a writer or a poet sitting around coffee houses reciting his poetry to a bongo band while a flute played in the background and smoking a clove cigarette while the audience snapped their fingers and nodded with approval. Or he might have been a priest, which was certainly the turn of his nature had not the times and his family dictated his actions.

Richard III, the infamous and last king of the Plantagenets, the last York to sit the throne of England, was the son of Elizabeth of York and King Edward who gained his throne by rebelling against the half wit, King Henry, and his vicious bride, Margaret d'Anjou. It is said she allowed her son, Edward of Westminster, to be the kind of child that some say become serial killers. In the late 15th century, his vicious nature did not go unremarked, but he was born during a time of civil strife, his father deposed, and his mother exiled to France so his excesses might have been seen as necessary for his time. After all, what can one expect of a child reared on the run and in and out of battles and battle preparations? It is said that King Henry was so far gone in piety and mental breakdown that Edward's biological father was very possibly Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. And you thought such pot boilers only happened in modern times.

I do often wonder what these people would have been like had they been born in the 20th century? Ours is a less blood thirsty time, although only superficially. We don't go around murdering half wit kings out of their minds while under arrest or vicious desecrate a corpse after it is dead -- well, in the movies certainly, but that's not real life.

Or is it?

Everyone wanted to be king -- or queen -- or pope -- and how you got there is less important than getting there. The riches, the balls, the infidelities and secrets and (some say) witchcraft are nothing compared to the deceit, the envy, the rest of the 7 deadly sins that go along with it.

King Edward, the Yorkist king by his own hand, was a lecher. The tradesmen and merchants said their daughters were not safe from him. Queen Elizabeth I (so that's how our Queen Elizabeth became Elizabeth II) was aware of her husband's wandering eye (and penis) and did not usually worry about him turning his attention to the others (hundreds of others) because Edward still loved her (and proved it often enough to get her with child about every 2 years). There was one woman who gave Elizabeth pause and that was Anne, but that is a subject for another time.

I find all this history and skulduggery quite fascinating. I think an updated version of the Wars of the Roses would be an interesting novel. Since historians and archaeologists have given us a different view of the times from skeletal remains and forensic science, a new twist could give the tale and the characters a very different life. Something to think about.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice

I chose this book because Hypatia the woman philosopher was mentioned and I thought she would have a central presence in the story. She does and she doesn't.

The new patriarch of the Catholic church was Cyril, a young Reader whose uncle, Theophilus, was dying and determined his nephew should take his place as Patriarch. Had Timothy, a much older and more moderate man, become Patriarch the history of that time would likely have been very different. Selene is the daughter of a council member and a very unusual girl of 14. She doesn't want to be a wife and mother; she wants to be a physician. Women of her class did not become physicians. Freedmen -- and women -- had more latitude than a high born lady.

There were women physicians, medicas, that worked in charity wards and hospitals as what would be seen as nurses in the modern world. Selene is much more. She becomes a physician in the truest sense of the world, studying with young men. She apprenticed to Mother Nut who was an Egyptian medica, a herbalist and local wise woman, who tended to the Jews and the poor. In order to study medicine, Selene must approach Hypatia and ask for her assistance, which is how Hypatia is connected to this novel.

Hypatia was important in her time as a counsellor and philosopher of renown hated by the more zealous of the new Christian sect because she was pagan and therefore evil, an agent of Satan. Faith L. Justice describes Hypatia as a petite woman with a powerfully trained voice and a good moral compass. She is respected and adds historical truth to Selene of Alexandria.

Justice uses some of the historical facts of that time in creating a believable background for Selene while Selene is a finely drawn character of flaws and brilliance that is quite memorable. Selene's struggle with following her heart versus the weight of family obligations, the dangerous times in which she lives, and social strictures and expectations illustrates what has been the limitations of patriarchal societies and the often fatal difficulties of being an intelligent woman who wants and reaches for more than she is allowed.

The men in Selene's life are by turns strong and weak, compassionate and emotionally constipated, and as focused on their needs as Selene is focused on her own needs and desires -- to practice medicine and heal those in need. Selene makes no distinctions between the upper and lower classes. Everyone who is ill and needs her help, especially the poor and marginalized, gets her full attention. What Justice does very well is demonstrate how Selene must choose who to help when her resources are limited. Justice sets Selene in an infirmary full of children dying of disease and forces her to choose which ones to help. Although the reasoning is logical, the way in which Selene deals with the wrenching choice is true to her character and adds weight and depth to her character.

Faith L. Justice gives her interpretation of the historical events in the early 5th century Alexandria, especially where the story touches on Cyril, the new Patriarch, Orestes, the governor of Alexandria sent from Constantinople, and Hypatia. Historical accuracy is good even as she chooses how to demonstrate Cyril's actions and thoughts given what is available from the subjective histories. Justice is even handed in her treatment of what was a very volatile period.

Selene of Alexandria is an engrossing story, a fictional novel set in a very authentic 5th century Alexandria. It is an admirable novel.

I would, however, suggest Faith L. Justice take another look at the formatting for Kindle. There are quite a few formatting errors and closer editing for grammar, word choice, spelling, and repetitions would be helpful, hence the 4/5 star rating. None of the errors, however, significantly detract from the story or from Justice's adept blending of fact and fiction.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Death is a Woman

Yesterday, or maybe it was Saturday, a chance comment set me right in the midele of a story that was unreeling in my head. I had to start writing. So I wrote and wrote and wrote and the story consumes me. Consume my time, my thoughts, and the images are clear and colored in mourning.

I haven't been this excited about a story for a long time. This is the way I used to write, in a white heat with no conception of time or food or day. I often do my best writing when everything comes at me like a broken pitching machine at a batting cage, and I'm ready, bat poised to strike and catch each one at the right spot to send the horsehide hurtling over the wall and into the ether.

Finding an illustration for this short post is something else again. That took time. The art is called Death is a Woman and is by embraced1 available at That should give you an idea of the tone of this story. It's not horror, but it is definitely from the shadowy side of the mind and about a dark, cold-hearted murderer.

I thought about posted it in serial form here, but decided to wait until it was all written and edited and published to let people in on what I've been writing. This one needs to make an entrance like Red Death at Prospero's private ball or The Phantom at the masquerade. This story is not like anything I've written in years. You can be the judge of whether it is worth the wait and worth waiting for.

I've waited for a story to fire my imagination like this for a long time. I enjoy writing fictionalized versions of my life, like Among Women and the soon to be released sequel, Among Men, or even a bit of wish fulfillment like Past Imperfect, which began life as a plan for revenge and became something more. It's not even like the story of a woman who sees death as he takes someone close to her and she chases after him to beg him to take her, rather like stalking death. That's an interesting title, Stalking Death.

Other stories and books have languished because I can't get back into the world I created, like Whitechapel Hearts, although I do keep adding to it here and there, and it has some historical context since Jack the Ripper is central to the story, as is Robert Louis Stevenson and a woman. Isn't there always a woman?

No matter how men marginalize and revile women, keeping them in psychological, physical, and societal chains, at the heart of everything is a woman, and some women are quite adept at playing the innocent -- or at least beleaguered and abused so there is a reason for their violence. Puts me in mind of the woman who set her husband on fire while he slept after being abused for years. Marriage has a way of uplifting and destroying people and some people imagine they are being destroyed, or want a way out to start their lives over. Getting away with murder is difficult, even for the so-called geniuses of crime, but to get away with murder and have no one suspect you is a great feat. That is unless something sets the wheels of memory turning until the events of a decade before are shown in a much different light. It's a good thing there is no statute of limitations on murder.

Some murderers get a taste for the violence and decide it is the best -- and most lucrative -- way to solve all their problems. That is where they set themselves up for failure. It's a variation on: fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you.  The murderer might get away with once, but getting away with murderer again under similar circumstances? Spider senses will be tingling all over the place.

Okay, so no more hints and no more clues. Keep an eye out for one woman's story of suicide, gossip, and murder. It'll be a killer.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jigsaw Puzzle Mind

I'm listening to Hall & Oates and rocking out. I like to listen to music while I cross stitch; it helps me clear my mind until the only things left are music and a feeling of peace. That's when I made a big mistake. I checked Facebook.

There were the usual political rants as Right and Left called names and acted like teenager hyped up on hormones (oh, those moaning whores) calling "Chicken!" while girls pulled each other's hair as they dragged each other into the dirt. Liar! Cheater! Idiot! Sycophant! Clueless Neocon! Rhino! Blue Dog Democrat! That was nothing new and I passed quickly past the mud slinging and ad hominem attacks wondering once again what happened to civil debate and common sense.

One long time friend posted a lovely kaleidoscopic silhouette of a person saying that when we forgive someone we take away their power over us. I agree with that, but I would add that moving on with one's life is essential to making sure toxic people take up no more space in your mind. That's where I went wrong and my peace of mind flew out the window.

I am really good at putting mistakes and people behind me. I have crisscrossed this country, and a few others, doing just that. I seldom think about problems until one smacks me right on the nose. Suddenly, I am standing on a beautiful beach with white sand stretching off into infinity with the sun shining down with a benevolent smile and the rhythm of the waves soothing away my aches, pains, and regrets.

Well, one regret isn't easy to shake. I've been struggling with a cross stitch project. Cross stitch is meditation and clears my mind. Not today. I've ripped out the same section three times. My mind is not quiet. My meditation isn't calming or soothing and my tension level keeps spiking. What is wrong with me? Where is my calm place? Where is my peace of mind?

In pieces. A jigsaw puzzle of mixed up emotions and memories that don't fit into the picture any more. That's the problem with memory. Can't catch it when you need it and can't sweep it clear when you want to. Time to put away the cross stitch and write.

That is my default position.  When I'm stressed and need to be able to think clearly, I write. Writing helps me sort the emotions and get a bead on the problem. It may take a while and I can write a lot of nonsense in the process, but eventually everything falls into place. The puzzle ceases to be a jumble and becomes a picture, often colorful and almost always clearer.

I often wonder if that's why I decided as a child to be a writer. Writing was my way to think past the hurdles and blocks. I can think quickly on my feet and my tongue is a double-edged, razor sharp blade capable of slicing and dicing faster than a Ginsu knife in a Japanese chef's hand. Better yet, make that a Samurai sword, a katana wielded by a master. Yes, I am that deadly and accurate, slicing through a wick with the speed of thought, leaving the wick burning and upright seconds after it's been severed, rather like the heads in the basket beneath Madame Guillotine still surprised and looking into the eyes of the rabble.

A sword -- or a razor tongue -- must be used with discretion. That has been the most difficult lesson for me to learn. That is what I've learned from cross stitch. Sometimes it is better to put everything away and walk away. And that is how I feel tonight -- time to put away the cross stitch and let the memories run their course as I find peace of mind in a different way, through writing.

Writing is just like that. Sometimes it is better to erase the last chapter or the last scene, put away the pen or pencil or keyboard, and walk away. When you get to the point of diminishing returns you end up hurting yourself more than you help. There are some hurdles and road blocks that will wait until the mind is better rested and less stressed. Words will be lost, but that might be the best thing.

I feel like that right now. The words I intended to write have been erased and the thoughts that churned them up are quieting down. I can hear the clamor settling down and I no longer need to rant or unleash the sword.

Reminds me a little of Gram's advice, "Count to ten and breathe." By the time I was done, my temperature had dropped back to normal, my dander was smooth again, and I was laughing at Gram making silly faces while she breathed with me, throwing me off until the count that began at ten became 50 or 100. She was right. When someone is angry, help them find their sense of humor and the choler will fade to palest pink.

I haven't forgotten why I needed to write, but it doesn't matter. I'll pack my cross stitch away for another day and be proud of what little I accomplished today. I have lost some ground, but I'm on the right track now. That's worth all the ground.

Hall and Oates are still singing and I'm singing along with my favorites. Peace of mind. I highly recommend it.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

White Cat Solar System

Bleary-eyed, I sat on the commode looking out the bathroom window. There was once a screen in the window but the landlord removed it four years ago when I toilet had to be replaced. The screen sits on the porch repelling mosquitoes, moths, and insects, ground-based and with wings, from a spot on the corner near the old gas, electric, and water meters and I have a clear view into the parking lot that encompasses two-thirds of my cottage.

Into this predawn world strolled a white cat and I perked up immediately as I always do when an animal is nearby. I patted the window sill and called to her (it must have been a female with her aloof and silent manner). She cocked her head at me and took a couple of tentative steps. I called again, "Here, kitty, kitty," and patted the window sill. She looked serenely about her and gracefully padded closer, stopping every few steps to glance about and take the lay of the land.

As she came closer, her left eye glowed a brilliant amber and I held my breath. She was lovely with white fur so perfect and clean. I wanted to hold her on my lap and hear her purr as I stroked and caressed her. She moved closer and the gold of her left eye was nearly eclipsed by the brilliance of her right eye, which seemed at a distance to be blue, the purest crystal blue of a South Pacific island lagoon. She moved closer, each step a lithe dance of springtime and youth and slender trees swaying in a soft breeze. Yes, the right eye was blue, but the left eye was like ancient amber, brilliant warm gold.

She came to the edge of the planter box on the side of the house beneath the bathroom window and no further, pausing with tilted head and artful glance before strolling off along the planter to disappear around the corner of the cottage.

At that moment when I saw this glorious little white cat, I smiled and have smiled randomly throughout the day as summer made its presence known. Her cool glance is all the respite I shall have today since the clouds that have come and gone for the past two months have gone, leaving behind gossamer cirrus clouds wafting along in the Colorado blue sky.

I retreated to my bedroom where I cross stitched while watching and listening to travels among the planets to the farthest reaches of the solar system. The marvels above are as beautiful and distant as the white cat this morning and provoke as many smiles as sighs.

To see the pitted iron ball of Mercury molten in the face of the sun and frozen when it turns away its face is stirring. Venus with its corrosive clouds of acids and volcanic landscape is as mysterious as Mars and its red face and volcanoes towering above  even the most devastating sand storm. Jupiter's red spot tantalizes as it swirls around the planet, a storm that would engulf the Earth, but the moons are spectacular and strange. Io's geysers and volcanic eruptions change the landscape every day while Europa sleeps beneath a watery ice covering that hides the possibility of life. Ganymede generates it's own magnetic field and Callisto sleeps in ancient dream beneath a pitted surface of meteor strikes and sleeping volcanoes that may never rouse again.

Saturn's rings are the remains of dozens of moons while the rest dodge collisions among the numerous rings of ice and rock shepherded by smaller moons. Among the rings of Uranus the moons have an easier go and with the incomplete rings standing above the planet. Miranda may have been smashed and reformed like a jigsaw puzzle, but the moons of Ariel, Umbriel, and Oberon keep company with the shepherd moons of Cordelia and Ophelia that keep a swarm of eight smaller moons from crashing into or increasing the size of Uranus's ten rings.

Neptune, watery Neptune, far from the sun and more beautiful that the sea. Neptune has waked from its icy sleep long enough to capture Triton, a moon so cold it freezes a thought before it's born, but Triton still has its way since it circles Neptune retrograde, moving closer and closer as gravity pulls it in for a final kiss that in billions of years will spin Triton's remains into another ring of debris and ice. Nereid, Proteus, and the remaining moons keep close to Neptune's side, mere shadows in orbit.

Beyond where Neptune holds sway as the guardian of the inner planets lurks Pluto, once a planet and now deemed lesser than its companions in spite of capturing its own move with the force of its embrace. Charon circles Pluto in a close dance, but not until Voyager went by was it possible to see that this downgraded planet has four more chaperons in its journey through the universe: Nix, Styx, Hydra, and Kerberos.

As much as we see and think we know, there is always more to learn, more to see, more to experience. Satellites and orbiting satellites show us so much of our neighbors and the vastness of the universe, but how can ignore the yearning to see with our own eyes the wonders before and around us?

Like the white cat with her mesmerizing eyes of blue and green I enticed closer this morning, I long to push out among the stars and planets and moons and touch the face of the Universe. I may not hold it on my lap or caress it while it purrs, but I can get close enough to see the bright spots of possibility among the black void in between.

NOTE:  The photo is called White cat on a cushion is by Rebecca Korpita

Friday, August 16, 2013

In Memory

It is inevitable when you get to a certain age that death comes quicker for people you know. I didn't expect this one.

Shelby was in the 1974 graduating class at West High School in Columbus, Ohio and I knew her mostly through other people, like her first husband, Rob, who was close to my best friend, Connie. Rob was in band and so was Connie's first husband, Tom.

I saw Shelby at the 15th reunion with Rob and we chatted briefly. I think she knew Hoity-Toity better than she knew me, but that is to be expected since they were in the same graduating class. I got to know Shelby better on Facebook over the past year and she seemed happy and contented with her life. She posted pictures of her children and grandchildren and of her husband and she shared thoughts, quotes, and pictures that were special to her and demonstrated her faith.

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the class of 1973 graduating from WHS. The reunion was held at a casino in Columbus on the west side of town. Shelby had been diagnosed with cancer a few weeks before the reunion and was in a lot of pain. She handled it the best way she could, but I think being invited to join our class reunion helped a lot. Many of my classmates knew Shelby very well and inviting her to the reunion made perfect sense. Shelby didn't plan to go since she was in the class behind us, but at the last minute (the day of the reunion) she decided to go and was welcomed with laughter and open arms.

When I woke up this morning and checked Facebook, the first thing I saw was that classmates were asking for prayers for Shelby's family's loss. I didn't expect that. She had just started chemotherapy and would get better. Except she didn't. Shelby is gone and she leaves a hold in so many lives she touched with her smile and her generous heart.

I didn't know her well and I regret that now. What I have learned of her since we became friends on Facebook is that she is someone I would have enjoyed knowing better. She was a rare person, a woman of faith and family, and a person of depth and strength. She is missed by all that knew her. I miss her, too.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Puppet Masters by Robert. A. Heinlein

When Robert A. Heinlein wrote The Puppet Masters the world was a very different place. The Cold War between the U.S. and Russia was still going on and the Iron Curtain (The Wall) had not yet come down. Heinlein envisioned a world were war had taken out sections of the United States in nuclear attacks and the threat of a final blast was still on the agenda.

Into this armed and ready world came the slugs, or Titans as they were called because they came from Titan, one of Saturn's moons 12 light years away. A landing in Iowa was billed as a hoax a day or so after the event and agent Elihu Nivens, the narrator of the story, remembers that most of the UFO sightings during the 1940s and 1950s were hoaxes. The only difference is that this UFO sighting was the real thing pretending to be a hoax so the Masters, sluglike creatures that fasten to a person's back at the base of the neck and sink tendrils into the spine spine and brain to control people.

Elihu, named Sam for the mission to Iowa, his boss and a beautiful young woman named Mary, pretending to be his sister (blast his luck), pose as tourists to check out the situation. They even got as far as the mayor's office and saw that many people, including the mayor, had humps on their back at the shoulders. It didn't take long to figure out the UFO wasn't a hoax and invaders from space were taking over.

The Masters moved silently using the knowledge in people's minds to make their takeover swift and silent. One Master rode Elihu and nearly took over Washington D.C. It was Mary and the boss of the agency, who just happened to be Elihu's father, that caught Elihu and rid him of his Master. Convincing the President and Congress that measures needed to be taken immediately took longer and didn't happen until they saw it personally.

Heinlein didn't predict the sate of the world as we know it now. He didn't accurately predict the future. There are no cell phones, world wide Internet communication, or any of the social situations we live in today. He did, however, think we would have flying cars by now, which we obviously do not, and Russia is no longer a threat, except in more capitalistic terms, since the Wall came down. Heinlein wasn't clairvoyant, but he did know people and psychology and how people react. That is where The Puppet Masters excels.

In Heinlein's eyes, Venus isn't a hell planet with a surface covered by exploding volcanoes and poisonous fumes for air but a lush jungle hothouse capable of sustaining life and we have gone to the stars and colonized Mars and many other moons, including our own. Heinlein knew how we would react and how our democratic system of government would take its time to vote on whether or not to believe in the danger from the stars and deal with it. There is where I find Heinlein's vision of the future accurate.

I read The Puppet Masters about 20 years ago and reading it again was a revelation. I didn't remember all the details, but I do remember the sense of wonder that came as I turned the pages and dove into the America on the page. Heinlein's belief in mankind and his strengths -- and weaknesses -- was nothing less than miraculous. I cheered as the lights in the Red Zone began to go out even though getting rid of the Masters was borrowed from H. G. Wells's defeat of the Martins in War of the Worlds, and too easy. Although the virus that kills the Titan Masters was effective and Elihu and his wife Mary, who held the key to the Masters' defeat, were on their way to Titan to free the moon's native population and kill every last slug, the sense of hope and the promise to take down any species that presumes to eradicate humans before we can do it ourselves is quite stunning.

The Puppet Masters has its failings, but science fiction isn't an exact science. It is the possibility based on one writer's visions and dreams. Heinlein's work is always about the people, the characters of any given situation, and not about predicting the future. People are endlessly fascinating and frustrating but, even after all these years, Heinlein's writing, in spite of its lack of accurate fortune telling, is worth reading, not for the facts, but for what he leaves behind. The very real and flawed characters of the Old Man, Elihu/Sam, and Mary (to a lesser degree). The relationships between the Old Man and Sam is priceless and shows, even before it is revealed, that this is father and son.

One thing more Heinlein reminds us is that special confidence people have that when the excrement hits the revolving blades there is still hope and we, the human race, will still be standing -- and fighting. I rather enjoy Heinlein's vision of the future as I ride around in my flying car en route to the launching station that will take me to new worlds, moons, and planets.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Lights! Music! Costumes! Dance!


I've been listening to the sound track from Burlesque. It's one of my favorite movies. It's has everything I love most -- music, dancing, and lovely costumes. I've always enjoyed Cher's music, back when she wore her own nose and her own body. That was in the dark ages when she was half of Sonny and Cher. That's was when I grew up -- in the days before extensive plastic surgery that turned people from human with interesting faces to plastic with Botox and some of the users ended up as nightmares. (Think Mickey Rourke and Melanie Griffith.)  I know what it is to get older and wish you still look fresh faced and youthful; I am 58 with silver hair that has recently decided to go back to brown when I was so hoping it would end up shimmering silver without the brown hairs dirtying things up and making my hair gray. Them's the breaks,

Anyway, I was listening to Christina Aguilera. That girl has some serious pipes. I liked Cher's song too, but I keep watching the movie because of all the glam and music and Christina Aguilera's singing and gorgeous costumes. The story is merely an excuse to fill up the time between musical numbers.

The above picture is from the only torch song in the whole show. I loved it. I still love it -- and the dress. Please! What's not to love about green silk draped over a young body?

I really hadn't paid much attention to Christina before Burlesque and I don't pay much attention to her other music, which, from what I have heard, is all right. It just doesn't have that splash and sass and costuming I love so much. I know. You're thinking I'm more into Lady Gaga. Not really. I find her fascinating because of what she chooses to wear but I doubt I could sing any of her songs all the way through. I can with Burlesque songs. I've watched the movie and listened to the music that often.

We've lost something now that there are fewer musicals being made, and not just the dancing, singing, and gorgeous costumes. With musicals there is something special about settling in to be transported to another world. India is going through that phase with their films in Bollywood. I hope they don't lose that spectacle and innocence to go all French cinema with subtitles and even subbier meanings or Hollywood with the flash-bang of summer blockbusters that spill over into every other type of movie -- and television, too. I wouldn't mind a bit of British costume drama, since that is where England excels, or the fun and slapstick of broad comedy, but please, please, please don't give up splashy musicals with colorful costumes and songs that make you want to sing out loud while dancing on a cloud of sequins and air.

That is all. DIsperse.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Have We Met?

It's all about labels. People feel more comfortable with labels, even if the label says generic and inside there is nothing of value. It's labeled. It's known. And so too with people.

I was taught that in a group of people at a party, or anywhere people are gathered, there are three subjects you never discuss: religion, sex, and politics. As I have lately come to realize, politics is the most volatile of the three subjects.

In the short space of a few sentences or a couple of short paragraphs, while discussing the current situation in this country (that would be America), I have been labeled. Republican. Liberal. Wealthy. Privileged. Uncaring. Cheap. Of no consequence. Usually after reading a couple of sentences I have written in a comment on a post. I have learned that people don't really read everything written. They tend to pick out a few words and decide they know the person. As if we had met and had exchanged ideas about politics, poverty, etc. in long discussions into the night. But they haven't read what I wrote, not all of it, and that snippet of information is not indicative of my philosophy, experience, or all of what I believe. It's not even a drop in the ocean that is my life after 58 years, a life I have actually lived.

Europeans and Canadians decry America's lack of universal health care, point to our capitalist society and, with that look usually reserved for the illiterate, unwashed, and uninformed of the world, deem me a greedy capitalist who cares nothing for the plight of the poor, and all because I mentioned socialist in a 30-word comment. They know me. I have money and look down my nose at those less forunate than I. More than likely, I oppress the poor, kick bleeding dogs, and drown sacks of cats on the weekends all while driving around in my BMW or Hummer talking on my iPhone while cursing at slower drivers, honking at pedestrians, and breezing past the huddle masses trying queueing for mass transportation on my way to a front row seat at a seal clubbing so I can get first dibs on a new sealskin coat.

It is amazing to me how people go from 0 to outrage in 3 seconds or less. If only my car had that kind of speed.

The only way to know me is to talk to me. That means leaving outrage and preconceptions outside the conversation until they are needed. Such hair trigger emotion and ideas that my character is defined by a few random words you think I wrote -- as opposed to what I actually wrote -- is a waste of my time and yours.

Someone I know from high school, although I didn't know him well in high school since we didn't travel in the same social circles, asked me what I thought about limiting abortion to 12 weeks. Although the hope that I wasn't an idiot or a murderer were obvious in the tone of his voice, I answered his question honestly. I believe that all women should have the right to choose whether or not they should get an abortion. I do not believe that abortion is the answer for being careless or should be used like the Morning After pill or a condom, or just because you don't want a child by that person (then why were you having unprotected sex with them?). I believe in allowing women to choose because it is not my right or my job to tell them what they should do if they find themselves pregnant and unwilling or unable to care for a child.

That does not, however, mean that I believe aborting a pregnant in the 20th week -- or partial birth abortion -- is right or an answer. I don't have the right to judge them, but I do think that is murder. My personal opinion and of value nowhere else but with me. I think an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is ample time to decide whether or not carrying that fetus to full term. Anything after that, especially at 20 weeks,, at least in my mind, is tantamount to murder because at 20 weeks, that fetus has a change of living outside the mother's womb.

This view doesn't make me popular with the far right religious conservative political crowd, nor does it make me popular with the far left liberal crowd. I don't care. It is what I believe.

Short version, directly from me to you, abortion should be limited to 12 weeks. If it takes you longer than that to choose, go ahead and have the baby and give it up for adoption, but an 11th hour choice is not an option.

I am used to taking flack. I get it all the time from my family, mostly because I'm a writer and I write about my own life, and my family is part of my life. I have had a lot of grief and recriminations from my family because they didn't read exactly what I wrote. They read a piece and weren't familiar with my personal definitions and decided they knew what I meant -- even though that is not what I wrote. Angry emails followed from siblings who haven't taken the time to answer letters or call or visit in the past decades. It was like being at the middle of an angry hive of wasps with only one intention -- kill. Reason was not part of the equation. The need to destroy me was the intention and nothing would stop them, certainly not the calm, cool voice of reason. That would be me. It's as if they had never met me.

Well, in effect, outside of a few holidays we were forced into each other's company once we left home and went our separate ways, they really hadn't met me. Their only knowledge of me was from what I have written -- and they didn't even take the time to read every word or understand what it was I wrote.  Sarcasm and satire are lost on them.

"That was private," they moaned, screamed, and spat at me.

"Did you tell me it was private?"

"I shouldn't have to," was the inevitable response.

"Have we actually met before?" I ask with my tongue firmly in my cheek. "If you didn't say it was private, then it isn't private."

"It was private."

"Well, thank you for telling me after the fact." I pause for effect. "If you will notice, your name was not used and I sincerely doubt that anyone who happens to read this will connect us. We do have different last names and most people, though aware I have siblings, don't know who those siblings are." I wait for the next scripted remark.

"Well, they might and then they'll know all my business."

"Not actually," I say with infinite patience finally wearing thing after this umpteenth discussion on the same topic. The inevitable phone slamming (a lot less effective with a cell phone) is the next move and I am cut off. That sibling won't talk to me for a long time, which won't be a huge loss since they haven't talked to me in years before they happened to read what I wrote.

They know that I was homeless when I was left stranded in New Orleans. They know that I worked for an escort agency for a while. They know I've been married and divorced twice, that I have given birth to 4 sons. They know those facts because I have mentioned them, but they do not know me. They know me about as well as the average reader who comes across one of my books or read something I wrote for Chicken Soup or Cup of Comfort or they knew someone who knew me and had nothing good -- or bad -- to say about me. They haven't actually met me before.

Reading about someone or reading their comments is not the same as sitting down and having a discussion with that person. It's also not the same as having a relationship with that person or having been with them as they laughed, cried, raged, and fell into a depression over a broken heart or devastating loss. The best the can be achieved is an inkling of a shadow of a faint idea of who and what that person is. Labeling them won't change that.

Label me as you will -- because you will do so anyway. If you're really interested, here's a thumbnail sketch. I was a Republican until I could no longer agree with the party line. I became an Independent and remain an independent. I believe that welfare is a trap unless coupled with more than good intentions. There should be a program to educate those on welfare by training or retraining to find a job, manage a budget, and learn that just because you want something doesn't mean you should have it. Spending all your food stamps or money in the first week of the month will leave you like the poor man allowed in to sit at the feast -- sated for a while but then starving when the food has been digested.

I know whereof I speak -- and write -- but you will never know that or understand what is behind my comment, the one you didn't take time to read fully and understand completely, unless you get to know me and discuss these issues with me. It is the only way to know me.