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.


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.

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.


British Airways–My New Favorite Airline (not just because it’s British)

So I’m back from England.  With some lovely souvenirs, my research well started, and a cold.

This baby perfectly expresses my feelings about it.  Also, we have the same hairstyle today.   

This baby perfectly expresses my feelings about it.  Also, we have the same hairstyle today.

Image:  Phaitoon /

Many of my European friends have trouble understanding why Americans don’t travel overseas much.  It’s partly because we have everything we could possibly want to visit right here–oceans, deserts, mountains, forests, you name it.

It’s also because flying overseas is not only expensive, but UNCOMFORTABLE.  And we don’t get the generous time off that Europeans and British people do.  A flight to Europe or the UK takes seven or eight hours.  That’s not counting all the time spent sitting around waiting to board, and flying to a hub because you live in a little tiny place with a little tiny airport.   Just the travel eats up two days of your holiday (there and back again).

Not as comfy as they look.

Not as comfy as they look.

Image:  artur84 /

Oh, sure, if you’re willing to pony up for a business class or first class seat, you could hang out in the lounge, but most of us don’t have the money for that.  Some airlines let you purchase time in a lounge.  That’s nice if you have a long layover, but if it’s under two hours, I’m thinking it’s not worth it.

For this trip, I did some homework (here, and here) and decided to buy a premium economy ticket on British Airways.  I’ve never flown them before, but they appeared on several lists touting how much better foreign airlines’ premium economy is than the US carriers.  As the Asian airlines and Air France tickets were out of my budgeted amount, I decided to go with BA.

They call their premium economy World Traveller Plus, and along with the fancy name, it does not disappoint.  No matter what, flying anything less than First long-haul is going to suck (and I’m just guessing, since that will probably never happen in my lifetime).  But for a bit more money, BA ensures that it will suck a little less.

To start, you get your own cabin. Yes, they separate you from the rest of the economy ticketholders, something that Delta (God love ‘em) does not do.  The last time I flew to London, I paid for an upgrade to Delta’s PE, and it was no better than cattle class.  All I got were four inches of extra legroom, but my neighbor was still in my lap.

A lot like this. 

A lot like this.


On BA’s WT+ (I’m not typing it six hundred times), the seats are wider.  WIDER.  There are TWO armrests and you are not jockeying for them, unless your neighbor has very fat elbows or is an asshole.

When you get on the plane, you get juice and a newspaper.  A British newspaper, no less.

JUICE.  OMG.  And you have a little drink tray.  No juggling your glass!

JUICE.  OMG.  And you have a little drink tray.  No juggling your glass!

Photo:  Elizabeth West

The British have a fetish for newspapers; they still read the crap out of them–on the airplane, the tube, etc.  I thought that was cute, until the first time I found myself on a train with a low phone battery and nothing to look at but shoes and silly adverts.

Like this one.

Like this one.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

 Then I found myself diving for people’s abandoned copies of the Metro or the Evening Standard, both of which you can get free at almost every station.  Coming back, they gave me a Daily Mail with a huge picture of Princess Charlotte on the cover.  I left it at work for coworkers to gaze at and someone appropriated it.  Fine by me; they stack up.

A hot towel follows the juice; Delta did this too, but that was the ONLY perk in premium economy.

In the seat back, you’ll find a big touchscreen through which you can access tons of shows and movies.  I watched the first episode of Fargo going over, before my Unisom kicked in and I had to pass out for a while.  I was gutted when I couldn’t find it on the way back–I wanted to finish the first season.  So I watched Interstellar instead, and finished Broadchurch.

Pretty sweet.  Though Interstellar would have been better on my 37” widescreen.

Pretty sweet.  Though Interstellar would have been better on my 37” widescreen.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Note there are two USB ports for charging your phone or tablet.  You can listen to the shows through the lovely noise-cancelling headphones that come in your amenity pack.

Along with a pretty pillow and a shit blanket. 

Along with a pretty pillow and a shit blanket.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Seriously, they could do better with the blankets.  I had to steal the extra one on the flight over to keep from freezing.  The best use for an airline pillow is in the small of your back–your own neck pillow is probably more comfy for sleeping, and definitely more sanitary.   But these weren’t too bad.

In the amenity kit, they included a small plastic bag containing a sleep mask, earplugs, a pen, a toothbrush and something I suppose was paste, and SOCKS.  Usually you only get socks in fancy class.

Nice, BA.  Nice.

Nice, BA.  Nice.

Photo: Elizabeth West

I already packed all these things on my own, including an inflatable footrest (that saved my back on the Delta flight, where I had a bulkhead seat and couldn’t use my bag as one). But I didn’t need the latter, because the seats have footrests that go up and down.  There’s not much room under them for your stuff, but the overhead bins are more than generous.


You get a menu with a choice of two entrees.  The food comes from the Club World menu, which is BA’s business class.  It’s airplane food–don’t expect a five-star Michelin experience.  However, they do their best to smarten it up with a real cloth napkin and metal cutlery.

The tray folds out from your armrest–it’s quite sturdy, and because the seats are wider, there’s no elbow whacking when you try to eat.  Lovely.

WT+ Supper

A real glass for the wine, too.


Photo: Elizabeth West

Going over, I had a pasta thing with artichoke hearts–in the picture–and it was pretty tasty.  Coming back, I chose the British beef.  Not bad, but the potatoes were quite mushy.  Bleah.  No worries; I had no problem with the rest of the meal.  It probably didn’t help that I had lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food at Heathrow.

Yum yum.  Every scrap of this was utterly delicious.

Yum yum.  Every scrap of this was utterly delicious.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

No matter how nice everything is, few people can sleep comfortably on a long-haul flight when they can’t lie down.  I’m a side sleeper, which doesn’t help.  The Delta flight, with no room to even turn sideways, was torture.  I prepped for this one by bringing my own mask, earplugs, and a packet of Unisom fast-melt tablets.

Thanks to a cabin that wasn’t completely full, enabling me to move to a nearby empty seat and stretch my legs into my own footrest, an extra blanket and my pashmina for warmth and the Unisom, I was able to get enough sleep to prevent a full zombification upon arrival.

Pretty much me last time.

Pretty much me upon arrival last time.


The flight attendants on BA were pleasant and helpful.  I would give them all big fat raises–are you listening, executives?  Seriously, FAs don’t make nearly as much as they should, given all they do for passengers.  Like, you know, being trained to save our asses during an emergency and all that.

Overall, I’d rate my experience in World Traveller Plus with a great big fat A minus.  The minus addresses two things:

  • The shit blankets (I don’t expect much from an airline blanket, so perhaps it’s not a fair rating). I’m really glad I took my pashmina because without it, I would have frozen.
  • WT+ gets Club World food, but we’re not allowed to use the Club World loos. No, we had to go back into Economy (World Traveller on BA) and wait in line along with everyone back there.  Since there are so few people in WT+, I see no issue with us using the CW loos, but that’s up to the flight attendants, I suppose.  One side of my cabin had the rope up and the other didn’t.  If CW passengers didn’t mind, I guess they’d let us use it.

All in all, I’d fly this airline again in a hot minute.  In fact, I’m gutted because they have a sale on right now and I have to book by May 14 in order to take advantage of it, and I don’t have the money.  Arggh!

I did join their Executive Club and received 5,000 Avios points.  I could get more if I could get a BA-branded credit card, but since I can’t get a credit card right now, that’s out.  Oh well, I’ll slowly rack up points, because I’m definitely not ever flying an American carrier overseas again, unless I’m in First.  And maybe not even then.

New favorite airline. 

New favorite airline.


A Slight Delay

Hey everyone, I will post the Blogging from A-Z Challenge I post along with J for tomorrow (Saturday).  An old knee injury has reared an ugly and vindictive head (of course, less than two weeks before I need to sprint through airports!), and I’m just too woozed up on Tylenol-3 to do a proper post today.

blargh i am ded

I hope it will clear itself up soon.*  For the I post, which will be Interviewing, I might have a Part 2 at a later date, after the Challenge.

See you tomorrow.



*How about NAOW.

The Blogging from A-Z Challenge is Upon Us!


atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

A is for Ad-lib

APRIL FOOL!  The Challenge hasn’t started yet.  I won’t have time to prank you then.

Ad-lib is short for ad libitum, a Latin term meaning “at liberty,” or “at one’s pleasure.”  In theater or film, the term refers to making up lines as you go with no set script (alt. extemporize, or improvise), or adding lines / business that weren’t scripted.

Just so you know why I picked this word for the game plan post, I AM AD-LIBBING THIS A-Z CHALLENGE.



I only know how to do research as if I were at university.  I did a crap-ton of it for Rose’s Hostage, but that hardly makes me an expert.  I was flying by the seat of my pants there too.

Not as well-practiced as this fellow.

Not as well-practiced as this fine fellow.


In this year’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge, I will give you a glimpse into one less glamorous side of writing, researching.  I’ll try to make it fun, but I can’t promise anything.  Since I’ll be in London for the latter half of the Challenge, both researching and hanging with my soundtrack nerd peeps, I might have a post or two outside the Challenge about those experiences.


This is MY process only.  I can’t speak for anybody else out there and I’m probably doing many things wrong, so please don’t use my haphazard work as a professional or academic guideline.

How does it go?  Most often, I start with reading.  I google whatever I want to research and look for authentic sources and then read until my eyeballs bleed.  Those sources may consist of books, websites, and multimedia including videos or audio recordings.  In olden times, before the Internet machine had become a thing, I went to the library a lot.  Now, especially since I have a faster connection (yay!), it’s all about Google.  Whom I’m sure has a rather extensive file on me.

“Search history…hmm.  Carry-on packing tips, death by exsanguination, spring recipes, hair braiding videos, how to make things happen with your mind, gas bombs, 1960s Britain.  WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING????” 

“Search history…hmm.  Carry-on packing tips, death by exsanguination, spring recipes, hair braiding videos, how to make things happen with your mind, gas bombs, 1960s Britain.  WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING????”

Image:  imagerymajestic/

While reading, I make copious notes.  I have about six million bookmarks and I often save particularly important pages as PDF files, just in case the website goes down (and so I can work offline if needed).

A few books for Secret Book that I’ve ordered/used/plan to read/stare at bleakly as I become overwhelmed with all I have to do include:

  • Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Britain (Helicon history) by Gale Group.  Word on the Water actually had this one when I visited their lovely book barge in October, but I knew it wouldn’t fit into my suitcase, so I had to order it from Amazon UK.  Sorry, guys!


OMG I am not going to list them all.  You will die. I do not want you to die.  I also don’t want to spoil anything.

If you’re wondering why some of the books come from Amazon UK, it’s because I couldn’t find them anywhere else.

TIPYes, you can have a UK account if you’re in the US, but you have to use a different email from the one you use for your US account.  Remember the exchange rate.  You can set your account to show your total in USD instead of GBP currency so you know how much you’re spending.

And don’t order Kindle books from there if you want to keep your device tied to your American account—if you do, they’ll wipe it.  The UK books are all hard copies.

Watch for the little orange TIP icon throughout the series–it will alert you if I have something tricksy to pass on.

I still have a loooooooooooong way to go before this book is viable.  And I still have to finish the damn thing.  Along with working, traveling, researching, and pursuing those personal goals.

Overwhelmed with Too many tasks

Image:  marcolm/

I can do it.  Along the way, maybe you and I both will learn a few things.

Stay tuned for the A-Z Challenge!

New Year’s Edition–2014 in review!

It’s time for another year-end report!

I want to thank everyone who dropped by to read my posts and comment.  I hope you enjoyed them.  Looks like Graphomaniac was viewed about a thousand times more this year than last.  Yay!  I’ll do my best to keep putting up fun stuff for you.  And I’m trying my darndest to get something published.

Here’s hoping 2015 is a great year for both you and me!  :)


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,700 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Happy Christmas to all my readers who celebrate it!  If you don’t, then have a lovely day off!  If you didn’t get a day off, then after work, go do something nice for yourself because you deserve it!

Secret Book is proceeding.  As you see, I broke 70K words.  I’m getting there.  A lot of research remains.  The more I write, the more things I realize I will need to study to make it good (or even workable), but that is going to have to wait until I am finished.  Right now, I’m not sure what questions I’ll need to ask

Since I have to work tomorrow, I’m on my own, so the Christmas weekend plan is thus:

  • Clean the house (today, because the sun finally came out after two weeks of dreary weather and I can see what I’m doing)
  • Watch The Desolation of Smaug (probably tomorrow night)
  • Watch the Doctor Who Christmas special tonight (!!!)
  • Go see Battle of the Five Armies (probably Saturday or Sunday)
  • Skate (working on new program from Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack)
  • Write (of course)

For the new year, I plan to finish the vocabulary series of posts for you and try to come up with something interesting for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.  I’d like to do another writing-related series as well.  And I am going to double down on trying to publish.  I’m sure you’re getting tired of me talking about all these books you can’t read.

Thank you for sticking with me and for your comments.  Have a lovely holiday and a safe and happy New Year!

dalek the halls