So I Saw the Total Eclipse, Y’all

You may recall that last Monday, the U.S. had a total solar eclipse.

Eclipses occur quite frequently around the world, but this one got a lot of hype because many more people than usual were within traveling distance of totality. Including me. I’ve seen many partial eclipses, but I’ve heard from tons of people who said you must, simply must, experience the ultimate photobomb at least once in your lifetime.

My mum happens to live in a city in Missouri located in the band of totality that stretched across the continental United States. So, as is my wont, I vastly overpacked for three days and drove over on Saturday.

Mum’s brother decided to drive over too, on his own. I prefer not to carpool in case my travel anxiety dictates an urgent need to leave; a fortuitous habit, as it turned out.  Mum put me downstairs in the finished basement. I didn’t mind this, but I had to sleep on a slowly deflating air mattress, and I might as well have been on the floor. Oof.

Getting old ain’t for sissies.

Image: Alex Rotas / positivenews

S. and A., chat room friends from Europe, were traveling in the States for a concert and other visits, and they messaged me that they were coming to St. Louis for the eclipse and wanted to meet up. Mum was fine with them coming down to watch with us, so they did.

My uncle plays the guitar like a goddamn virtuoso and he really impressed them. We had an outstanding visit. I rarely get to see S. and A., because 1) they’re in the Netherlands and Poland, respectively, and 2) I can’t travel as much as they do.

The total eclipse absolutely amazed me. Anyone who saw a partial just cannot understand how mind-bendingly weird it is. The strange silvery light–like twilight but not, that no camera can capture. The crescent shadows (partials will make those, so you saw them if you were in any of it).

Crescent shadows on uncle’s car.

Image: Elizabeth West

As the day slowly darkened, the birds settled down as if it were night. We have cicadas this year, and they began to buzz the way they do at dusk. The temperature dropped. The day had grown butt-melting hot, so we appreciated that more than you could know. A breeze started to blow. The diamond ring appeared as the eclipse neared its peak, and we could see Bailey’s beads.

Then, totality.

I always thought when the moon obscured the sun, it would slide slowly over it and the sun would gradually fade out, but it wasn’t like that at all.  When totality comes, the moon sort of slams into place over the sun like a manhole cover, and the corona explodes into view.  It’s not the least bit subtle! And then you take off your glasses and see this big black hole in the sky.


Okay, so I may have freaked out a little bit.

View this post on Instagram

I forgot to upload this, I think. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Elizabeth West (@dame_writesalot) on

Video: Elizabeth West

Of course it’s bigger than the camera shows, because cameras suck and I don’t have a zoom lens (but I will next time, dammit). It resembled those pictures of black holes where artists have rendered a glowing event horizon around the edges. If you look at this picture and squint to obscure the stars, you can get a rough idea of how it looked.

Image: M. Weiss / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics /

Totality lasted a little over two minutes–the shortest two minutes of my entire life. It felt more like thirty seconds. All too soon, the diamond ring reappeared and we put our glasses back on.

We didn’t stay outside for the rest of it. Instead, we went inside for a delicious lunch of chicken tenders with herbs and apricot sauce and roasted smashed potatoes (my mum could easily take Martha Stewart’s crown right off her smug little head).

Even the potatoes did the crescent thing. This was totally accidental, btw.

Image: Elizabeth West

My uncle ran a quick errand, and unfortunately, his car decided to throw a rod or something. He had to stay over another night to have it fixed. Which meant another night on the floor for me, so I decided to go home.

S. and A. left to drive back to St. Louis for the night; they spent the next two days driving to Chicago to visit a couple of other chat friends. I’d planned to hang out with them in Krakow this past May at the Fans of Film Music festival, but as you know, I lost my damn job. But with luck, I’ll see them again soon.

The next total eclipse visible in the U.S. will occur on April 8, 2024. The path of totality lies further east. If I were you, I’d start planning now.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that your discontented ass needs to see.

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!

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 /

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2014!

Avast, ye scurvy knaves!  Tomorrow be International Talk Like a Pirate Day (or TLAPD, as it be known on ye olde intertubes). Ye better be practicin’ yer pirate lingo, or I’ll keelhaul ye!

I won’t be writin’ a pirate-y post fer ye, as I’m preppin’ to go te that great seafarin’ nation o’ England.  Aye, it be just a few days and I’ll be off, but not aboard ship, more’s the pity.  No, I be havin’ to take a flyin’ machine, arrrr.  These days, it not be the most fun way te travel.

Arrr, this be the way to go.

Image:  Captain Woodget/

But I got me some comfy trousers, and I’ll be wearin’ me best boots and neckerchief (a scarf for ye fashionably impaired).  I’m told I look European in me glad rags, and as ye know, a good pirate likes to mix with the locals.

Bein’ as this TLAP Day be on a Friday, ye might be wantin’ to step out to the pub for some grog and a hearty yo-ho-ho with yer best mates.  So switch yer Facebook to pirate talk, quaff a flagon fer me, and don’t get yerself thrown in the brig!



Sumer is A’Goin Out

Yes, that title would be my really terrible bastardization of The Cuckoo Song.  I apologize to any cringing medieval scholars out there.

I’ve been so busy working on Secret Book I completely didn’t notice there was a three-day weekend coming up (Labor Day in the U.S.).  Holy catfish, it’s almost September already!

My vacation is getting closer and closer.  I hope that 1) the time I’m away doesn’t pass as quickly as the last month has, and 2) that if the stupid volcano Bardarbunga (I always read that as Cowabunga) decides to blow its top, it waits until I’m already in the U.K.  I wouldn’t mind getting stuck there, but if I can’t go, everyone in Iceland will hear me scream.

Stop it.  Stop it now.

Stop it.  Stop it now.


By the way, I have donated to the ALS Association, even though no one has nominated me for the Ice Bucket Challenge (officially).  Speaking of which, composer and one of my chat friends Bernhard P. Eder made this HILARIOUS video, in which he takes the Challenge.  I had to post this because it made me laugh at work.

Check out some of Bernhard’s music here!

This holiday weekend, my plans look something like this:

  •  Skate
  • Remove some things from inside the house to the newly cleaned garage so they can be donated or thrown away
  • Clean the shit out of the house
  • Start trying on outfits (this could be really sad because I haven’t lost as much weight as I wanted to)
  • Shop for jeans (this, too, could end in tears)
  • Read.  I’m trying to get through Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, which is rockin’ good, and Writing 21st Century Fiction, by Donald Maass
  • Watch the two Netflix DVDs that have been on my coffee table forever

Everyone out there, be careful whilst you bid summer a fond adieu.  I’ll be back this weekend with a vocabulary post, I promise.

The Sad and the Glad Today

Sad news today:  we lost Maya Angelou, poet, writer, and activist.  She was a strong voice for change and equality.  She will be greatly missed.  Rest in peace, beautiful lady.


Angelou reciting her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning", at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, January 1993

Angelou reciting her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning”, at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, January 1993

Image:  Office of the White House PD-USGOV-POTUS / Wikipedia

 Today is my birthday!  No one hit my car!  Of course, I still have to go to the rink later, so let’s hope it stays that way.


Birthday mall haul!

Birthday mall haul!

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I went to the mall and got a REALLY REALLY EXPENSIVE pair of walking shoes for my holiday.  The scarves were on sale at Charming Charlie’s, so I got two for less than the price of one.  I don’t typically wear scarves, but I’d like to start.  Now I need to practice tying them so I don’t look like a complete fashion fail.

My favorite food truck gave me a delicious pie for my birthday.  :D

My friends have all wished me a happy birthday.

Back to work tomorrow, but today has been a good day.  Think I’ll mail another query.  Hope your day is splendid as well!

Flea Market Fabulous


Asian chest

Photograph:  Elizabeth West

I have been looking for a nice linen chest for AGES.  Either they’re too expensive (cedar chests), too big (trunks), too small (also trunks), too dirty on the inside (trunks again), or I saw something I liked and didn’t have the money.

Currently, I have a small wicker chest with a bashed-in top.  My linens have no hope of fitting in the tiny thing.  I plan to measure it and get a piece of wood and foam and make a little seat on top (easy), then sell it in my garage sale.  I’m sure someone will like it.

I noticed the chest in a booth full of older furniture and odds and ends, just hanging out.  Two light kitchen chairs perched on top of it, and I had to move them before I could open it.  It’s a policy of mine to always open trunks, chests, file cabinets, etc. before I buy them, to see if there’s dirt or damage I don’t want to deal with.

You’ve seen Oliver (my car), in this post.  He’s not very large; I really did not know how I would get it home.  But the lady whose booth the chest was in had a truck, and she was actually onsite today.  She offered to bring it home for me and helped me get it into the house.  This lovely woman was so helpful!  She told me she was very happy the chest was going to a good home.

She told me she got it at a sale, and apparently it belonged to an Asian lady’s mother who had died.  She said it was made of camphor wood.  It’s not heavy, just long and awkward.  It just needs a little cleanup and some TLC for the watermark on the top, but otherwise it’s in good shape and solid.  Not bad for $100!

Camphor tree in Osaka prefecture, Japan

Camphor tree in Osaka prefecture, Japan

Image: KENPEI/Wikimedia Commons

I did a little research on camphor wood; it comes from the Cinnamomum camphora tree pictured above and was common for chests and containers made in the Far East.  The tree is native to China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.  It’s the source of camphor, the natural version which was used in mothballs and itch creams, and the wood repels insects.  That makes it ideal for a storage chest.   I wondered why it was so aromatic when I opened it; it didn’t smell like cedar.  I just assumed it had been stored with mothballs or something similar inside.

I can hardly wait to get it cleaned up and filled up!

Happy 4th of July! Updates

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Oh joy, more noisy fireworks.  Just great.

Oh joy, more noisy fireworks. Just great.

Photograph by Elizabeth West

Well, Psycho Kitty won’t be very happy, and neither will lots of kittehs and goggies.  Read this article from the ASPCA on how to keep your pets safe on Independence Day.

News updates:

Brian Keene has announced the last batch of manuscripts he was reviewing will be out by the end of the month.  I stated on his Facebook page that I am alternately excited and terrified to see what he has to say about mine.  He responded by liking that comment.  I could picture him laughing like Snidely Whiplash—muwahaha.  I will let you know what he says, if I’m not too traumatized.

Tunerville is hanging loose while I finish some research.  This consists of a book on physics, some interviewing, and numerous viewings of Twilight Zone episodes for hints on speculative elements—oh wait, that last is just me being lazy.  Sorry about that.

Psst! It’s on Syfy right now!

Image:  Wikimedia Commons

I have discovered a horrible distraction— (Good Old Games).  Here, you can download older games by the ton and play them on updated systems.  It’s all legit.  Check them out—they’re having a DRM-free Summer Sale right now.  I have downloaded The 7th Guest and Myst: Masterpiece Edition.  I may or may not emerge sometime this summer; we’ll see.

Recently, I found a meetup group of fellow Doctor Who fans, so that might get me out of the house more often.  They also belong to a sci-fi book club—I’m contemplating that as well.  Since Tunerville and another novel I have planned both have speculative elements, it might be worthwhile to (1) read more sci-fi and (2) discuss it.

I’ll leave you to your holiday now.  Have fun and be safe.





The Adventures of Psycho Kitty

Photographs in this post by Elizabeth West

I took Psycho Kitty to the vet this morning—it was time for a couple of her shots.  Plus, she’s had trouble with her mouth.  She needs a tooth pulled.  It’s going to cost $150, plus all the soft food I have to feed her until then.  Stupid cat.

I’ve posted her here before.  You may also recognize her as Patio Cat, to whom I like to randomly attribute quotes now and then.

PatioCat INternet famousI didn’t really want a kitty.  She belonged to my former neighbors across the street, whose mama cat hid her as a kitten, so she didn’t get socialized to people.  The two of them hung out at my house a lot because my yard is fenced (and safe).  I took care of them during the ice storm in 2007, after which Mama Cat ran off and Psycho Kitty did not.

The following summer, my neighbor’s nephew knocked on my door.  When I answered, he handed me a letter from their vet stating it was time for her shots, and said “Congratulations, you have a cat!” Thanks a lot.

Those neighbors have since moved.  Their former home became Meth House, and now it’s generally known as Shithole.

Post 3:00 a.m meth bust.  It doesn’t look much better now.

Post 3:00 a.m meth bust. It doesn’t look much better now.

I managed to tame Psycho Kitty down somewhat, but she is still terrified of everyone but me and my next-door neighbor, who feeds her when I am out of town.  She is an outside cat.  I fixed her up with a little plastic doghouse, which gets stuffed with fleece blankets and insulated in the winter.

If she would just come inside, all her troubles would be over, but she HATES it.  She’ll come in the garage, but if you shut the door, she freaks.  I have to feed her inside a large cardboard box in the winter so she is out of the wind.  She also has an old pillow bed in my storage shed.

She likes to hide in the culvert pipe out front when it’s extremely hot (and when someone is mowing).  Sometimes, I’ll come home and she’ll be sprawled on the ornamental gravel next to the front door, where it’s shady and cool.

Psycho Kitty isn’t engaging all the time like Maru.  I’m lucky to catch her doing anything cute. She does have a few toys.  If I try to play with her, she’ll stare at the toy and at me as if we’re both from Mars.  Once in a while, I can get some action out of her.

Here is a video of her playing.  Sadly, she lost that ball last winter—I think she really liked it.

She’s such a scared, confused kitty.  If you move anything around outside, she freaks.  If I wear any shoes outside except the Crocs I run around the yard in, she freaks.  If I bend over her with my hair hanging loose, she freaks.  I swear, this cat is the biggest chicken on earth.

For her, a good day is a delicious kibble breakfast at 6:00 am. (or whenever Mom gets up on the weekend), then lounging around until I either get home from work or am done farking around at 5:30 or 6:00 pm.  Then dinner, preferably Blue Buffalo canned cat food or Fancy Feast Restaurant-style entrees.  Then running around the yard all night, perhaps into the neighbor’s yard, or hunting bugs on the patio.

Once in a while, she’ll kill a bird or a mouse.  I find these offerings discarded on the patio.  She rarely eats them, although one day a couple of weeks ago I caught her devouring a bird.  The other day, she left me an entire mole.  How she got that one, I’ll never know; it was huge.

Despite her foibles, she’s a pretty good kitty.  Having a pet hasn’t turned out too badly for either of us.

Remember to spay and neuter your pets.  You don’t want another Me running around, although I AM fabulous.

Remember to spay and neuter your pets. You don’t want another Me running around, although I AM fabulous.



Happy Birthday–TO ME!




5-28-13 Oliver accidentYes, I am okay.  Yes, poor little Oliver (my car) is fixable.  Yes, the guy had insurance.

I was making a left turn on a green arrow and he came through the red light and clipped me.  If I had been a second later making my turn, he would have T-boned me and it would have been a LOT worse.

Poor Oliver spun around until I ended up facing back the way I came.  I managed to pull off into the corner gas station parking lot (I was only four blocks from home!), and, bawling, called 911.  The guy didn’t leave; he pulled into the car lot next door and stuck around until the cop came.

After the cop dealt with me, I went over and got his insurance and the cop talked to him a bit more.  While they were doing that, some random woman staggered up to me and began to garble drunkenly at me while I was trying to get my stuff out of the car before the tow truck showed up.  Then her equally wasted guy friend came up and started yelling at me.  I looked frantically for the cop, and screamed “Come get these people off me!”  and he came and rescued me from their horrendous liquor breath.  Drunk Lady got into it with him and he took her down on the grass.

Two more cop cars and the tow truck showed up; while the cops were dealing with the two idiots, they boxed in the tow truck and he had to wait.  But we were laughing our asses off watching Drunk Lady get busted.  Drunk Guy wandered off eventually, and Oliver and I were towed to safety and a body shop.   I got a loaner and finally, FINALLY, made it home.



It’s my birthday!  :D

For you on my birthday–

Maru had a birthday recently too!

Have a good day, everyone!