Read something you’re not supposed to: Banned Books Week 2015

Happy Banned Books Week, everyone!


Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

As I’ve pointed out before, the American Library Association has designated the last week in September as Banned Books Week.  During this week, they celebrate freedom of speech by raising awareness of censorship and challenges to free expression and the right to access information, no matter how controversial it may be.

Find a list of 2014’s most challenged books here.  And here is a list of banned and challenged classics.  You can participate in this expression of our fundamental right by reading banned books and by encouraging others to do so.

Read to me this banned book, I beg of you oh Mummy, that my tiny brain may not shrivel and twist like that of a conservative Republican. 

Read to me this banned book, I beg of you, oh Mummy, that my tiny brain may not shrivel and twist like that of a conservative Republican.

Image:  Jomphong /

The American Civil Liberties Union’s website defines censorship as follows:

Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

Why is it so crucial that we speak out against this?  Let’s cite a historical example.  On 10 May 1933, university student sympathizers of the Nazi Party burned thousands of books they felt held “anti-German” sentiments.  You can read more about that event here.


Image:  {{PD-US}} / Wikimedia Commons

Such an image would horrify not only book lovers but those who believe that everyone should have free access to ideas and information.  The Nazis did not want people to read certain books or materials; they wanted to provide those people with their own ideology.  They did not want any dissenters.  We know what happened to the latter–they ended up in concentration camps alongside Jewish, Romany, Catholic, homosexual, disabled, and other folks who either did not fit Hitler’s Aryan ideal or who spoke out against the racism and totalitarianism of the Deutsches Reich.

Censorship like the Nazis perpetrated makes it easier to control people.  Without all information, people cannot make informed decisions or choices.  The person or persons controlling the information find it easier to convince them of their own rhetoric, or even brainwash them.

We can see a similar rhetoric in today’s media bias, when journalists (and I use the term loosely here) publish stories designed to capture clicks or ratings.  “If it bleeds, it leads” is an old news term, meaning the more sensationalistic the headline or teaser, the more likely readers and viewers are to jump on it.

The “viewer discretion advised” notice tells me I’m about to see something crazy!

The “viewer discretion advised” notice tells me I’m about to see something crazy!

Image:  Ambro /

When people restrict information, we don’t get the full picture.  We can’t make good decisions or spot potential problems because we remain unaware of issues.

Lack of sex education is a good example.  Some folks believe that kids should not receive sex education in schools, because it might tempt them to have sex.  Well I’ve got news for those people–a good number of those kids are going to have sex anyway, regardless of whether they’ve been told not to.  Even adults have trouble controlling those drives; they’re that powerful.

So if people are going to do it anyway, they should have some education about how to do it safely.  Many kids don’t get sex education at home.  Their parents don’t take the time to do it, they don’t want to discuss it for religious or other reasons, or they lack knowledge themselves.  Schools may choose not to teach it, but if kids don’t learn it, they aren’t prepared to make good decisions about their bodies, their health, and their futures.

Hi; I’m your son.  Jumping up and down afterward didn’t work, did it?  Nice to meet you!

Hi; I’m your son.  Jumping up and down afterward didn’t work, did it?  Nice to meet you!

Image:  Serge Berstasius Photography /

Dutch schools start teaching sexuality education in kindergarten.  Because they are exposed to this information as a natural part of life, Dutch kids start out with better sexual health habits than Americans do.  They know about:

  • How their own bodies work
  • Sexual identity and gender issues
  • Love and relationships
  • Responsibility
  • Safe sex
  • Ways to protect themselves from abuse

Besides informative material, fiction often finds itself the target of censorship.  Art is subjective; what pleases one person may shock another.  But does that mean no one should see a particular work?  Many of the books that end up on the ALA’s challenged lists get there because they contain fictionalized accounts of sexual behavior, abuse, drug use, or something else complainants find objectionable.

People read for entertainment, but they also like to read about characters with whom they can identify.  A bullied, lonely, or discouraged kid may find courage in a story about another kid in the same situation.  A person who knows nothing about a subject can become fascinated with it when it pops up in a novel.  Learning is almost never a bad thing.

So much scientific data; so little time. 

So much scientific data; so little time.

Image:  Stuart Miles /

Restricted material cannot inform.  It cannot lift people out of poverty.  It cannot help them better their health, or learn how to care for themselves and their loved ones.  It cannot entertain them or make them think, or help them understand the viewpoints of people who are different from them.  It cannot mitigate prejudice, and it cannot perpetuate tolerance and understanding.

So read a banned book this week.  Better yet, recommend one to a friend or family member.  Spread the word!

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2015!


Ahoy, me buckos!  I hope ye be havin’ a terrific weekend.  It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day, one o’ me favorite holidays!

I be crazy busy terday.  This mornin’, I did slide ’round on the ice in a fair attempt at lookin’ like I knew what I were doin’.  Fell on me arse a coupla times, but that goes with the territory.

Later this eve, I be joinin’ a fair number o’ fellow Doctor Who fans fer the premiere o’ Series 9, starrin’ everybody’s favorite irascible Time Lord, Peter Capaldi!

Irascible? Who are you calling irascible? And why in the name of the universe are you talking like that?

Irascible? Who are you calling irascible? And why in the name of the universe are you talking like that?


Never mind Ol’ Crabby, mates.  In the meantime, I be workin’ on a few more queries fer Tunerville.  I vow to ye, I’ll get that book sold or my name ain’t — well hell and damnation, I seem to be lackin’ a proper pirate name o’ sorts.  Any suggestions in the comments?

Comin’ up soon, I be startin’ a class through Syracuse University just like the Doctor Who class I took last year, only this be about Star Trek.  Aye, when ye be considerin’ a name fer me pirate persona, keep in mind me nerdy tendencies, ye ken?

And I be workin’ back up to finishin’ the Secret Book.  It were techy for a nibble o’time there–I weren’t sure I had the heart to go on wiv it.  It won’t be easy fer a few days–me computer’s USB ports went belly-up and the little lubber be in the computer hospital.  So I be workin’ on me old Vista machine, and it won’t let me touch anythin’ on me flash drive, bless it!

This be a good way ter handle malfunctions. Avast!

This be a good way ter handle malfunctions. Avast!

Image:  Phaitoon/

Yarr, it be gettin’ late and I need to heave me carcass off this sofa and get ready to go.  I be supposed to bring eatin’ implements (plastic forks) along with me, so I best be gettin’ on with me preparations.

‘Til next time, me hearties!

Remembering September 11

No jokes, silliness, or funny pictures in this post.  Today, I want to give you my words.

I was temping part-time at a previous workplace on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. That morning, I woke with an impulse to go to the TV before making coffee, unusual for me.  I clicked it on and immediately saw smoke pouring from the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.  I thought at first it was just a regular fire; the news announcers muttered distractedly and didn’t make much sense.  But as I watched the screen, BOOM! The second plane hit.

My mouth dropped open.  I immediately called my mum, but she didn’t want to talk then.  She wanted to hear every word the news was saying.

I watched a while longer in growing horror.  The Pentagon attack, and then reports of a downed plane in Pennsylvania.  What was happening to us?

The network had live footage of a man-on-the-street view from local reporters when the towers collapsed.  I remember the faces of the people running away from the dust cloud, running toward the camera, screaming, with a cop standing there frantically gesturing, yelling what was probably, “Go! Go! Go!”

I saw a small redheaded woman, perhaps in her forties or fifties, pelting toward the camera, terrified, her mouth open and shrieking, wearing the same expression as the little boy in the famous Vietnam War photo of the children running down the road after being napalmed.  I cried for her.  I’m crying now thinking about her.  Even now, I think of her often.  I hope she is okay now.

I felt numb.  I got dressed and went to work. Someone had brought in a tiny TV and we watched the news for the rest of the day. The phone only rang twice (we worked for a shopping circular and we took ads over the phone, which typically rang all day long).

Around 2:00 pm, I went out to pick up a copy of a special newspaper supplement and some chocolate chip cookies.  An eerie silence hung over the streets.  Most people were inside, watching the telly or listening to radios.  It hit me suddenly that I could hear no air traffic.  No planes, no helicopters, nothing.  Every plane in the United States had been grounded.  All of them.  Nothing could fly, not even into our tiny, insignificant airport.

It was then that the seriousness of the situation came thundering down on me–even in our small Midwestern city, hundreds of miles from NYC, we were potentially in danger.  We had been invaded.  Nobody knew if there were more rogue pilots on other planes or where they might be.  A chill ran down my spine, and I hastened back to the office.

Over the next few days, I heard many stories of Americans stranded in other countries because their flights had been cancelled. They spoke of the help and sympathy given to them. To this day, I still sometimes hear people from other nations mention it and say how sorry they are.  We’re lucky compared to some of them; they deal with this kind of thing every day.  But they knew how we were feeling at that moment–the shock of attack upending our daily lives–and this feeling brought all Americans together too.   Even those of us who were far away from the sites felt it.

We truly thought nobody could ever hurt us–the US is too big.  Now we know that isn’t true.  America grew up a little as a country that day.  It’s too bad we had to pay such a horrible price.

I’d like to think such a thing can never happen again.  But it will.  It has to.  There is too much hate in the world, too much fear of people and cultures we don’t understand.  It’s ironic that the most visible attack took place in one of the most diverse cities in our country.

What can we learn from September 11?  That hate is destructive.  That blindly following any religious doctrine or government decree, especially ones that advocate harming or ostracizing others, is dangerous.  We may think we are immune to the kinds of thinking that produced Al Qaeda militants and suicide pilots, but we are not.  I see it every day online.  On biased news reports.  When I hear people around me saying awful and judgmental things about others.  I see biblical law slowly encroaching and overwhelming our Constitution, destroying the carefully worded values that keep us free.

We’ll tear ourselves apart if we do not open our hearts and minds.  We’ll have another September 11, but it will be a slow, painful one that creeps insidiously into our lives until we wake up one morning and realize how badly we have trapped ourselves.  We have allowed terrorism to change how we live our lives, caved to fear, and in the process, we have permitted our country to backslide into an era when human rights were not a priority.  We are becoming the enemy.

We must remain vigilant, for now we know that those who want to harm us can do so.   But we can’t do it by treating each other with suspicion and prejudice.  We can’t forget what made our country what it is–optimism, openness to new ideas and new exploration (including scientific discovery), and acceptance of people who fled to our shores from horrors we could not imagine.  All our citizens are valuable:  those who were here before we came, and those who will arrive after us.   Those who are different from us in the ways they eat, love, and pray.  Who look different from us and who speak many languages.

Remember the lessons of September 11.  Once a year all Americans, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, orientation, and identity, come together in remembrance of this terrible day.  But we should be standing together every day.

I wish solace for those who lost friends, family, and colleagues.  I remember those who fought bravely on Flight 93 to keep anyone else from getting hurt.  I give my love to the world, and my hope that someday, we will all know each other, understand each other, and come together in harmony.


The Quest to Finish Stuff!

So I had my *mumble* birthday this spring, and it occurred to me that there is quite a lot I haven’t done.  Namely, finish a few things.

Oh, I’m great at starting projects.  Really.  I’ve spent countless hours reading about various subjects in which I am interested, and I’ve amassed a great deal of crap related to activities surrounding those interests.

You know I’ve spoken about getting sucked into research.  Case in point:  dolls’ houses.  I love them.  I’ve had several as a child.  As an adult, I got interested in historical baby houses and finely crafted minatures not meant for playing.

The cabinet houses and baby houses were specially built for adult collectors; they also served as illustrations of idealized household furnishings and appointments.  Children were not allowed to touch them.

Doll's_house_from_Petronella_de_la_Court_1670-1690 by Typezero

Neither are we, sadly. :P

“Doll’s house from Petronella de la Court 1670-1690” by Typezero – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

While my mini skills are far from masterful, I remembered with fondness decorating my favorite dolls’ house, which my uncle made for me (and which I still have).  I acquired kits and some already assembled houses and room boxes, and a ton of craft supplies and even ready-made miniature furniture, fittings, accessories, etc., and another ton of used ones.  I bought and read many books on the subject.

TIPEnglish dolls’ houses are typically fully enclosed and the front wall or walls opens like a door.  American doll’s houses are backless.


I have begun three houses.  I have finished none.

I started knitting a washcloth for my mum (learning how to knit).  I have not finished that.

It’s actually pink.  And pathetic.

It’s actually pink.  And pathetic.

Image:  Elizabeth West

I began writing Secret Book and even traveled to London to look stuff up for it.  It’s not done either.

The actual calendar year is drawing to a close, but I still have a long time before my next birthday, so I’ll go by that.  This is the Year of The Quest to Finish Stuff!

I have many items on my list of crap I always wanted to do.  It’s not quite a bucket list.  So far, I’ve done the Bob Ross painting.  I liked that–it might happen again.

Before my next cake appears, groaning under a *mumble* amount of candles, I vow to finish at least most of the following things.  In no particular order, here they are:

  • The washcloth
  • At least ONE complete dolls’ house and one room box.  That means fully decorated, wired, and furnished; occupants are optional.
  • Four placemats (for desk lunches)–two each for my coworkers that I promised them last year. Oh, and one for myself that I cut out but never sewed.
  • All the books I collected for Secret Book research
  • The rest of the research for Secret Book
  • Painting the inside of my crap house
  • Doing something about my crap bathroom

I may add to this list as items come up.  I’d like to publish something this year, either an actual book or in an actual publication that you may purchase.  I’d like to at least begin the sequel to Rose’s Hostage, and I have a doozy of a third-book case for Detectives Pierce and Rossberger to plunge into when they’re done mucking about with Joshua Rose and company.

Bucket items, like swimming in bioluminescent ocean water, looking through a huge observatory telescope, and visiting the Himalayas, will have to wait until I’m flush again.  That could take a while, at this rate.  I’m quite sure it will happen.

We dinoflagellates are excitedly waiting for you. 

We dinoflagellates are excitedly waiting for you.

Image:  Doug Perrine, Alamy /

Things I Learned While Trying to Paint like Bob Ross

How many of you know who this is?

Image:  Bob Ross Incorporated /

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the man in the picture is Bob Ross, an artist who had a public television show called The Joy of Painting that aired all over the US, in Canada, and in Europe.

In this show, Bob would demonstrate a wet-on-wet painting technique in which he created the most amazing landscapes and seascapes merely by smooshing colors around on a canvas wet with liquid white (gesso) using various-sized brushes.

Watch him do this here:

Sadly, Bob is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on in endless reruns of his show, and the sale of painting kits, supplies, and classes where you can learn this technique.  I always wanted to do this.  Last year, I bought a Bob Ross beginner painting kit.

Today, I decided to try it.

I wish I could have filmed it for you–you would have found my experience pretty hilarious.  I used to dabble in painting (badly) and I haven’t done anything like this in many years.  I learned some things today.  Here are some of them.

  • When you buy a kit, open it the day you buy it. Don’t leave it in the closet for six months.   Mine was missing some things.  There was no fan brush (luckily I have one), and the tray had a space for one more tube of paint than it actually contained.
  • You can do this without an easel, though it’s more difficult. I put double-sided tape on a large cutting mat and used it to hold the canvas still.  Then I stood over it and painted.  I didn’t want to buy an easel until I knew if I would do this again.
  • Very, very old oil paints will still be good, if you can get the tube open. I ended up ripping the bottom off an old art kit tube of yellow ochre and another of burnt sienna, since the kit did not provide those colors.  When I finished, I just rolled the end of the tube back up and smashed it down.
  • Phthalo green will stain your brushes, your clothes, your table, and your palette FOR THE REST OF THEIR NATURAL LIVES.
  • I need FAR more odorless paint thinner than the kit provides. Like gallons of it.  Also, I used almost an entire roll of paper towels to clean up my mess.  There has to be a better way.
  • Beating the brush is just as much fun as Bob made it look on TV. I had to do it inside the coffee can that held my thinner, but it still made me laugh just like he used to.

Ready to see the result?  ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE READY?  Okay, here goes!

What’s that thing in the sky?  A UFO.  Hey, it’s my painting--nobody said I couldn’t put that in there!

What’s that thing in the sky? A UFO. Hey, it’s my painting–nobody said I couldn’t put that in there!

Painting and photograph by Elizabeth West

This technique is harder than it looks.  My misty foothills look like crap, especially the ones right above the water.  The first row marches straight across the canvas; real foothills don’t do that.

I had better luck with the water than the sky.  The reflection thing works just as advertised.  I’ll have to try again to get fluffy clouds like the ones Bob made.

Also, the instructions in the kit left out a lot.  I would have been better off cueing up an episode of The Joy of Painting and watching it as I went along.

The evergreen trees were easy, but the paint is so wet you really have to be careful not to muddy up the colors.  When Bob tells you to load the brush full, he means it. Using the palette knife takes a very light touch as well.  It turns out that I’m fairly good at cutting off a little roll of paint, but not so great at actually using it.

Like any new skill, painting this way takes practice.  I think I shall try again.  I like doing this–it’s quick, it’s fun, and I enjoyed creating a happy little world, even if my trees look a little bit pissed off.  Despite the horror of this first attempt, I think Bob would be proud of me for trying.


It’s a day later, and I wanted to add a thought.  The most important thing I’ve learned from this? It doesn’t have to be perfect. Despite my mistakes, people have responded favorably to my lame attempt at art.  I’m happy with the painting, even though it isn’t as good as I’d hoped.  It’s still better than I expected.

And that’s about all we can do.  If our endeavors turn out fabulously, we’re golden. But silver is still pretty nice too.

Book Review! The Watchers, Book Two: Hidden Fire

I’m late with this, but here is my review of the The Watchers, Book Two:  Hidden Fire, the sequel to The Watchers:  Knight of Light, a thrilling YA fantasy by Deirdra Eden!

Continuing the mythology of the Books of Enoch and combining it with the history of the Wars of Scottish Independence, Eden crafts an exciting new adventure for her character.

Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers series (don’t you just love her hair!?)

Deirdra Eden, author of The Watchers series (don’t you just love her hair!?)

Image: /

It is a few years after the events of Knight of Light.  Lady Auriella (Aura) struggles with her duty as England’s Watcher and protector against the court’s perception of her as an eligible, powerless woman.  But Auriella still misses her fiancé Lucas, reported killed in the Crusades, and she cannot fathom taking a suitor.

The threat of Erebus and the Shadow Legion hangs over the kingdom, dismissed by King Henry’s successor Edward and the rest of the nobility.  Auriella knows its power, and the monstrous Shadow Lords keep trying to destroy her at every opportunity, even in her bath.

Somebody shut the freaking door!  You’re letting all the demons in!

Somebody shut the freaking door!  You’re letting all the demons in!

Image: imagerymajestic/

Even as the Legion draws nearer, the ignorant Edward gives Auriella an impossible assignment in Scotland.  She must obey, even though it means abandoning her responsibility to the kingdom and her reunion with the newly returned Lucas, whom Edward has made his captain of the guard.

Lucas proposes to Auriella and she finally feels comfortable sharing her secret Neviahan identity with him, though he seems averse to it.  Blinding herself to doubt, Auriella sets out on her quest.

Eden’s storytelling continues to thrill.  An attack in Scotland by the dreaded Shadow Wolves chills the blood.  Auriella meets Azrael, Scotland’s mysteriously masked Watcher, when his tiger Baby saves her from the intended assassination.   Azrael and Korban and Orion, his fellow Neviahans with their own powers, puzzle Auriella.  She hasn’t spent much time with her own kind, and she has much to learn.

Azrael’s bullish and forward way disconcerts Auriella, but she finds that without the gift of Starfire–his fire combined with her blood–they cannot hope to defeat Erebus.  Not only that, but her link to him seems deeper than just their shared heritage and powers.  Despite the sensations her fellow warrior ignites in her, Ariella clings to her vision of the future–to return to London, reunite with her beloved Lucas, and save the kingdom from the enemy’s deceit.

Seriously, Auriella?  You didn’t see that coming? 

Seriously, Auriella?  You didn’t see that coming?


Will the Neviahans succeed?  What will happen to the unprotected kingdom?  Could King Edward be any more of a jerk?  Find out yourself!

I enjoyed revisiting this world and the characters.  Ruburt the Dwarf, friend to Auriella, returns with wisdom and guidance for her.  No Cassi the pixie, darn it.  Perhaps she will return in a later installment.

Hidden Fire is a bit rougher than the first book (lots of swallowing hard and a few editing mistakes), but the story moves just as quickly.  Eden hints at a more mature romantic relationship for Auriella.  Young adult readers may see themselves in her longings and her struggle to master the huge responsibilities she’s been given–she’s got a lot going on, just like they do.  Growing up is hard, folks.

You can buy Hidden Fire on Amazon.  It’s available in paperback or on Kindle.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free app that will allow you to read books in that format on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.


Quotes from the book I liked:

“Open your heart and the man you are destined to be with will naturally fill that void.” –Pearl, Hidden Fire

Let’s hope so, Pearl.

“We have to go through hell to get to heaven.” –Azrael, Hidden Fire

Vocabulary – W is an upside-down M

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter W!

Waftage – the state of being wafted, or an old meaning: transportation through water or air.

I experienced major waftage on my recent flight to London. 

Wastrel – a spendthrift, or a foundling waif (abandoned child)

Welkin (Middle English; chiefly literary) The vault of heaven; the sky

Sea of clouds


Photo:  Elizabeth West

Wether – a castrated male sheep; also wool from a previously shorn sheep.

Whey – the liquid that separates from the curd during the cheese-making process.

Whoreson – a bastard (illegitimate); a disliked and unpleasant person.

I shall smite you, contemptible whoreson!  Also, yer mama!

Image: Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky’s duel. Ilya Repin (1844–1930) / Wikimedia Commons

Widdershins – counterclockwise.

The Doctor and Clara watched in horror as the bewitched TARDIS lifted into the air and began to spin widdershins, throwing off sparks like purple lightning.  

Windigo (Ojibwa; others) also wendigo – a Native American cannibalistic spirit.  Stephen King played with this in Pet Sematary.  The word also refers to the transformation of a person who has eaten human flesh.  A psychiatric syndrome specific to this culture occurs when a person is under the delusion that he has become a windigo.

Woollies (British) – slang for woolen garments, particularly a sweater (in British English, a jumper).  I used this word in Secret Book, heh heh.

Woolly wearing a woolly.  :3

Woolly wearing a woolly.  :3 Buy the woolly at the link below.


Wormery – a container in which worms are kept for study or to make compost.  Find out more about the second use and how to make your own wormery here.

By the way, I learn from these posts as well; I had no idea you could make a wormery until just now.

Writhe (rhymes with tithe) to squirm about as in pain or effort; contort.  Like worms do when you try to pick them up.

Wroth (Middle English) angry.

“Verily, I was wroth to see the condition of the village after its plundering,” the knight said.

Wunderkind (German) “wonder child,” a child prodigy; one who becomes successful when very young.


Allegedly, I was very successful at farting.

Image:  Portrait of a boy. Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805).  Wikimedia Commons. Unconfirmed portrait possibly of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wuthering – the roaring of a strong wind.  See the famous Gothic romance Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brönte; the title is the name of the house in the book.  One could argue that the winds that were the house’s namesake reflect the tumultuous relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff.

Wye – a structure, particularly a railroad track, shaped like a Y.

Also the beautiful Wye Valley in Wales.  Yes, I put this in so I could use this picture that I took at Tintern Abbey.  Read William Wordsworth’s beautiful poem Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798 at this link.

Wye Valley- looking over Tintern Abbey ruins

Photo:  Elizabeth West

That’s all for today, kids.  May your waftage over the Wye land you not in a wormery, and don’t forget your woollies.

Happy Independence Day! Updates

Happy Independence Day!  For me, it’s Not-So-Happy-Wish-I-Were-British Day.  Or at least Wish-I-Were-In-London Day.

I miss this. 

I miss this.

Photograph: Elizabeth West

You might wonder why I’m so attached to England.  When I was a kid, my auntie married an Englishman  and moved to London (they’re divorced now, though she is still there).  This fascinated me–growing up in a small Missouri cow town, I had no concept of foreign places.  Getting Christmas presents from her thrilled.

I corresponded with my step-cousin in high school.  Pen pals were a big thing back then and since we had no internet, we wrote letters.  We sent each other teen magazines and painted nail varnish colo(u)rs on our missives.

Jackie magazine, 9 June 1979.  I had this one, until my mum threw out all my mags and comics while I was at music college.  GAH, MUM!!!

Jackie magazine, 9 June 1979.  I had this one, until my mum threw out all my mags and comics while I was at music college.  GAH, MUM!!!


When I turned eighteen, my parents’ graduation gift to me was a two-and-a-half week trip to London to visit Auntie, then-Uncle, and cousins.

I fell madly, passionately in love with it.

I wanted to go back, wanted it crazy bad, but it just didn’t happen.  So I tried my best to put it out of my mind.  It didn’t exactly go.  It lurked silently in my system until last year, when unrelated conversations with both European and American friends brought it roaring back to life.  A bit like how the chicken pox virus hangs out in your spine, only to cause shingles later.

I’ve changed a lot since that first visit, in various ways:

  • I’m not as picky. Seriously, my auntie thought I would starve to death; I barely tried any foods.  The last two times, I ate everything that didn’t eat me first.  Including haggis and black pudding.
This is delicious and there is no way I would have touched it back then. 

This is delicious and there is no way I would have touched it back then.

Photograph: Elizabeth West

  • I’m more experienced. At eighteen, I could not have planned an independent trip to Scotland or Wales.  Also, it’s lucky London is such an easy city to get around in.  I was the most clueless, small-town idiot ever and I’m surprised I didn’t get mugged or fall into the Thames.
Me at 18, in Regent’s Park rose garden.  Oh my God, what a dork.  #TBT (yeah, sorry, I know it’s not Thursday)

Me at 18, in Regent’s Park rose garden.  Oh my God, what a dork.  #TBT (yeah, sorry, I know it’s not Thursday)

Photograph by random English person using my camera

  • Technology has caught up. In the 1980s, no one had a smartphone.  Everyone had a London A-Z.  They still sell this marvelous map of the city, because not everyone has a phone (or wants one), but let’s face it; you look like a tourist standing around flipping through it.  And besides, the print has shrunk–oh, sorry, it’s my ancient eyes.  Well, bollocks.
Getting old ain’t for sissies. 

Getting old ain’t for sissies.

Image: imagerymajestic/

Now everyone has their faces in their phone screens. You pause somewhere to check the directions and it looks like you’re texting or reading email (be careful to watch for phone snatchers, however).  So thank you, Google maps, for helping me blend in and still get around.  An updated A-Z made a great souvenir instead.

I’ve no idea when I will return.  Right now, I feel very much like I did after that first trip, wondering when or if it will happen again, and thinking it’s out of reach.  But I’ve learned one more thing since that time: anything can happen.  Anything at all.

Let’s hope anything does.



  1. Secret Book is becalmed. I’ve slowly realized that it’s a much larger and more involved project than I thought.  The amount of research I still have to do to write convincingly about subjects of which I know nothing staggers me.  I’m still working on it, never fear.  The main priority is still to actually finish the book, but it will be the sketchiest first draft I’ve ever written.  I think that’s part of the problem; I’m headiting too much instead of just writing Blah blah blah check this later like I usually do.
  1. Brian Keene says he is finished critiquing Rose’s Hostage. I hope I get it back now.  I’m still trying to work out a subplot for a sequel.  The book did get a minor rewrite already; I replaced an interrogation scene with a MUCH better version.  It added to the word count, but fuck it.
  1. A friend is beta-reading Tunerville.  She’s my consumer test person; her job is to see if it’s readable.  I’m nervous because I want her to like it.  (She did like Rose’s Hostage.)
  1. I have three queries out on Tunerville at the moment. No word from anyone, but there’s always hope.

That’s all I have today.  Later this week, look for a vocabulary post, and by next weekend, I will post a review of the sequel to Knight of Light for you.

Everybody have a safe and happy Fourth!

A Victory for Love

I am so happy for all my LGBT friends today.  In a history-making decision, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.  This includes every state in the union.  No exceptions.


Excited farting rainbows

Despite what the religious right would have you believe, this push for equality had nothing to do with God, or making everybody be gay (you can’t turn people gay; they are or they aren’t), or with forcing churches to perform same-sex weddings.

See, you can’t do the last bit because the Constitution says you can’t. If you make laws that are based on your religion, then you don’t have religious freedom, because you’ve forced everyone to abide by your religion whether they want to or not.  The Founding Fathers wrote the damn thing exactly this way to prevent you doing just that.

What it also says is that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  At the time, people still thought slavery was pretty cool, that women were property and not people, and anyone engaging in “unnatural congress” was either a witch or a criminal (or both) and should immediately be put to death.

But you know, we learned some things between then and now.

No, it’s always and only been about legal marriage. The right to go to a courthouse and obtain a marriage license to wed the person you love.  You can have all the religion you want, but unless you have that piece of paper, you are not legally married and cannot avail yourself of the legal rights and protections that come with that status.  To name a few:

  • Social Security
  • Tax recognition purposes (including gift tax exemptions)
  • Immigration
  • Federal employee benefits
  • Health coverage

And let’s not forget the tragic story of Shane Bitney Crone, whose partner Tom Bridegroom died unexpectedly in an accident.  Tom’s family barred him from attending his funeral.  Shane could do nothing, because the two were not legally married.  From the linked article:

After Bridegroom’s untimely death on May 7, 2011, Crone was barred from attending the funeral and wake, and wasn’t mentioned in the obituary. His experience trying to obtain information from the hospital was similarly unsuccessful.  “To Tom’s family, I no longer existed, and to the government, Tom and I were mere roommates,” Crone notes.

Imagine if the love of your life died, and this happened to you.  Just think about it for a minute.

A friend of mine, Casey F., posted something on Facebook today that I’d like to share with you.  He was talking about the Confederate flag, but he pointed out our government is not supposed to discriminate (bold emphasis mine):

That’s part of our balance of government – the states have a certain amount of authority and the federal government has a certain amount of authority. And (in theory, anyway) the laws the state legislatures and Congress make are made by people we elect to represent us. The exception here is discrimination. Neither branch of government is supposed to make laws that discriminate. And our definition of discrimination is constantly evolving, so our laws must evolve as well…. 
So although the states should and do have the right to make their own laws as their citizens see fit, we are a civilized nation which should not allow discrimination on any level of government. So sometimes the federal government has to step in and say “no, you can’t do that because it isn’t fair to everyone, even if a lot of your citizens think it is.”

Way to go, Casey–you said it much better than I could.  It IS unfair to restrict the rights of citizens based on something they are and can’t help being–like being black.  Or female.  Or gay.

I experienced a mix of feelings today when I heard.  The first, jubilation.  I’m happy for my gay friends and loved ones who can get married now and have full legal status as life partners, same as my straight ones.  I said “YES!” out loud and did fist pumps at my desk when I saw the news.

The second, a little bit of surprise.  I honestly expected this not to pass.  I know, I know, but the justices of the Supreme Court are older, conservative people.  They have a lot of factors influencing their decision–I know courts are supposed to be impartial, but they are human also.  I expected it to go back to the lower court for some kind of weak amendment perhaps stating yes, it’s unfair, but maybe some bits are less unfair than others, and we can still do X but not Y.  As surprises go, this one rocked.

The third, pride.  For the first time in a very long time, I felt proud to be American.  Not fife-and-drum proud, but less embarrassed than usual.  Usually, when I go abroad, I want to hide.  I had actually considered cultivating a British accent so no one would know where I really live.

The guy on the left had a crush on the drum dude, you know.

Image:  The Spirit of ’76 by Archibald MacNeal Willard / 

Everybody in my monkeysphere is aware that I want a family and they know I’ve had a terrible time finding the right man.  I joked with them, “Hey, now it’s official; everyone except me is allowed to get married!”   For once, however, I’m not jealous.  The people who fought for their rights, and who ran to the courthouse and got married today have put up with a huge load of shite and they deserve every bit of happiness.  They earned it.

All couples, gay and straight, Christian and not, black and white and every combination, should celebrate this day!  It’s not just a victory for gay people.  It’s a victory for love.

James Horner 1953-2015


Photo: Wikipedia

I am gutted.

James Horner, Oscar-winning composer of the scores to Titanic, Avatar, and Braveheart, has died in a plane crash.

Confirmations are coming in from all over the news.  This is a sad day for film and music fans alike.  I was so fortunate to see him in London at the Titanic Live concert.  I’m so glad I went.  I cannot even.  I just CAN. NOT. EVEN.

Your last ride was not in that plane.  Rest in peace, Mr. Horner.  We will miss you very much.