Let’s Play Dress UP (redux)

By Phyllis Irene Radford

Warning, this blog is photo heavy.

I recently encountered an individual who shuddered and shook his head at a middle-aged woman at a tourist attraction who had green streaks in her hair and had gelled it into spikes. She was also wearing layers of floating black that looked tattered when the wind caught her draperies. The man said, “It isn’t Halloween yet.”

Why is it that costumes for adults are reserved for Halloween only? Some people like reinventing themselves on a daily basis. Some people aren’t afraid to broadcast who they really are deep down inside. The gentleman mentioned above, I suspect, fears stepping outside convention. I know people like that. Color coordination in proper combinations, hems at a precise length, necklines revealing only a certain amount of cleavage… boring to the point of invisibility.

The Red Hat Society was founded by women who needed to step beyond the conventions that make them invisible after a certain age. Once we reach fifty, who cares if we combine red and purple? Who cares if we go out and have fun and attract attention? What do we have to lose?

Why are we so afraid of being judged by strangers that we embrace invisibility?

But then the Society got organized. The minute they command that one must wear purple clothing and sport red hats (the gaudier the better), the command makes them part of the establishment we are rebelling against.

We do wear costumes throughout our life but we mask them as uniforms. Look at policemen, firefighters, nurses, and priests to name a few. Even the postalworkers have uniforms. Then there are special events. We wear specific robes at graduation.graduation

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The Changes Just Keep on Coming

As you read this, I am in the final, frantic stages of packing for my move to California.

All moves create change, and cross-country ones even more so. But this one is about more than a new location.

Last week, while waiting in the cellphone lot at the airport for my sweetheart to get his bags, it suddenly dawned on me that as soon as I picked him up, I wasn’t single any more.

Not that I’ve really been single since we started seeing each other a little over two years ago. But we have been maintaining separate households, despite all our travel back and forth.

He came to Texas to help me get organized and drive to California. We might not yet be moved in together, but we are already at the point where our lives are completely intertwined.

And the move and the deepening relationship aren’t the only changes in my life. I also sold a science fiction novel to Aqueduct Press.  It will be coming out in 2015.

Both my personal life and my professional life are on the cusp of big changes. Continue reading

Posted in Announcements, Lifestyle, science fiction, Writers on Writing | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

BVC Eats: Chicken in saffron cream sauce

Saffron comes from crocus  blossoms.

Saffron comes from crocus blossoms.

Readers of my food blogs are used to extremely high-fat recipes.

This one does call for half a stick of butter, but you can reduce that if you decide to wuss out on the fat. The heavy cream is non-negotiable because of how the saffron suffuses it with all its subtle flavor notes.

This is “white food,” i.e., comfort food with cream and butter and a hint of sweet.

Jennifer’s Chicken with Saffron Cream Sauce

Preheat oven to 325oF.

Five or six boneless, skinless chicken thighs, washed, drained, and dried
8 oz chicken stock, heated
4 T butter, melted
1-2 T anise seeds, pounded a bit in a mortar
1-2 cloves of garlic, smashed
pinch of saffron
1/2 cup heavy cream

because, garlic

because, garlic

Put the stock and the next four ingredients together in a bowl and stir it up. Cover and let sit until the saffron has started to dissolve and the anise seeds are plumping up.

Lay the chix thighs in a shallow, buttered casserole that has a cover.

Pour the stock mixture over the thighs. Cover and bake for 40 minutes at 325oF or until the chicken is cooked through but still tender.

Remove the chicken to a serving dish.

Pour the stock mixture into a saucepan. Heat and reduce by half. Add the heavy cream and cook slightly until not-quite-boiling.

pound the seed first to release its oils

pound the seed first to release its oils

You may also add 1T cornstarch to the stock mixture when it is done reducing and before adding the heavy cream, to thicken it. I don’t. But then, I use the leftover sauce to flavor scrambled eggs in the morning. Yom!

This recipe doesn’t work as well with chicken breasts, which dry out too readily and have less flavor than chicken thighs.


One large Vidalia onion, slice super-thin and laid over the top of the chicken breasts.
One fennel bulb, sliced ditto and laid ditto.
One bland potato (white baking potato or similar) per person, cooked whole with the chicken, then sliced in coins, and served with the saffron sauce poured over it.

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I Love a Cliché

This post was originally published in 2009.  I came upon it the other day and liked it well enough to share.

ClichesOne of the standard Words of Advice that writers–new and old–get, is to avoid clichés.  The advice itself is rather a cliché but, like all clichés, it is based in truth, and it would be wrong to reflexively ignore it.

But.  There’s always a but.  I think cliché has its place, for both the writer and the reader.  I’ll grant that over-reliance on cliché is not only a problem on its own, but often signals a hoard of other problems, of which lack of originality is only the first.  And we all want to be original, don’t we?  Except when the pursuit of originality starts driving the whole process of writing to the detriment of the work….

Lemme ‘splain.   Continue reading

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Social Notes

BVC members Shannon Page and Mark Ferrari were married Saturday, October 11.

Sparkly Happy Couple

The wedding took place on a beautiful private ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino County. The usual coastal fog cleared for the event, leaving the skies spectacularly blue and gorgeous.

Serious Vow Reading

BVC member Chaz Brenchley was Shannon’s Best Person, and did a marvelous job keeping the jittery bride calm and focused. Fellow writer Elizabeth Bourne was the officiant. Continue reading

Posted in Announcements, Hurrah | 2 Comments

That Great Big Hole in the Middle

Riding the RocketI have sort of a rep, you know? People are always linking and pinging articles and stories about horses, and then standing back to see what I’ll do.

So this past week I got several pointers to this truly lovely article in the New York Times. For those who don’t want to venture the paywall, the article is titled, “Two Horses, One Language,” and it explores various aspects of communication between  horse and human. It’s delightful. It tells stories of the author’s own experience, with pictures of the horses. It even has a baroque horse front and center, a Lusitano of stellar pedigree and achievements.

And it has a great big gaping hole in the middle. Continue reading

Posted in Animals, Education, horses, Lifestyle | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Story Excerpt Sunday: from The Spanish Marriage by Madeleine Robins

The Spanish MarriageThe Spanish Marriage

by Madeleine Robins

A sound like a low-voiced groan brought her out of her fine reverie of vengeance. Surely it was impossible, a man’s voice within the convent enclosure, but it was a voice nonetheless. Thea was almost certain. She was fluent in English, Spanish, and French, but this sound was none of them.

“Hola!” she ventured nervously. No use trying English here; the English were enemies again, since the Bourbon king Carlos had signed the treaty of Fontainebleau with Bonaparte. It might be a French soldier—the thought made her shiver; she had heard stories about the French troops marching through Spain. If it was one such, her borrowed habit would be little protection from him. This complicity with the French had been another of her uncle Tomas’s reasons, there at the inn at Burgos: too dangerous to have a niece, even a half-Spanish one, with an English surname and wheat-blond hair, as part of his household. “Quien es?” she tried again.

There was no sound this time, but a faint rustling in the brush by the ditch. Dorothea considered probabilities. A child from the village, looking for berries; a goat, foraging; a Bonapartist spy; a Fernandista, lost in the northern wilds and come to enlist the aid of the nuns in the Prince’s cause…. Continue reading

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The Building Blocks of Storytelling: Gossip

gossip women

When I was a teacher, I took the part of the stern moralist when dealing with gossip—easy to do when kids were being hurtful, but harder to maintain when they weren’t.

The writer part of me found their daily dramas endlessly entertaining, because I saw not just echoes of my own school experience, but human experience.

Gossip is basically storytelling: not literature, but story in simplest—and most complex—form. Because we don’t just repeat the facts (or what we assume are the facts) of what happened. The first question usually asked is Why? And then people will guess motivation, before commenting on expectations of what will happen next.

The maliciousness of gossip is just about always the first thing one thinks of when the word comes up in discussion—because exposing people’s secrets, or spreading lies about them, is the most memorable form of gossip.

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Posted in Books and Reading, Culture, History | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

History to Fantasy

Giving Him Hell by Jamie QuaidAs many of you know, as Patricia Rice, I’ve been published in historical romance since 1984. I’ve written westerns, Americana, Victoriana, Regencies, and paranormal historical romance well before any of those genres became popular. Historical romance has cycled through variations of these sub-genres over the last three decades (three decades—oh my! Obviously, I wrote my first book as a teenager.), and to speak frankly, the lords and ladies required of today’s historical romance need a lot of creativity to keep fresh. (Working with a younger sons’ theme rather than dukes and earls, I published my last Regency novel, Notorious Atherton, in July 2013. Formidable Lord Quentin will be out 3/31/15.) I’ve always interspersed my historical romance writing with other genres to prevent becoming too jaded, but now I have to go further and further afield to keep my imagination entertained.

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Posted in fantasy, paranormal romance, Urban Fantasy, Worldbuilding, Writers on Writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Going to the Movies. Or Maybe Not.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidBrowsing Netflix the other day, I came across Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I loved it when it first came out, so I clicked on it and started watching.

I quit halfway through.

Understand that I adored Paul Newman and recall with fondness his movies with Robert Redford, of which this was the first. And tongue-in-cheek westerns with funny dialogue help me deal with my complicated relationship with my Texas heritage. I wanted to enjoy this movie again.

But I was bored.

It’s not just that it fails the Bechdel test. (I think Katharine Ross is only in the movie to make it clear that the boys are heterosexual.) When I was younger I dealt with this problem in movies and novels by identifying with the male characters. I find that harder to do these days, but I knew this was a buddy movie.

It’s that witty dialogue between two guys being chased here and yon isn’t enough to keep me watching anymore. There’s a potential for substance in this movie – western outlaws who have outlived their era and refuse to change – but it’s played for laughs.

And I know all those jokes. Continue reading

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