Theatre review: Escape to Margaritaville



Wednesday night I was privileged to attend the press opening for the new Jimmy Buffett musical, “Escape to Margaritaville” at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago. It was a total hoot.

I’d been wondering how they were going to use Buffett’s existing songs in the story, and even more curious about new songs he’s written for the show.

I got totally sucked in. Of course, it’s mid-November in Chicago, when every day that it doesn’t snow we dance naked in the streets. A play set on an island where there’s one boat a week and you’re stuck with frosty rum drinks, sand, sun, and a lot of lovely scenery? Sign me up. I was a huge fan of Charlie’s Angels back in the day, because Hawaii. Continue reading

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NOT NOW NOT EVER by Lily Anderson


Lily Anderson first came to my attention with her debut book, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, a hilariously witty young adult novel about smart kids at a smart school that used as its substrate Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

So when the chance came along to read a preview copy of her second book, Not Now Not Ever, I grabbed it. What Shakespearean play would she riff off of this time?

Not Shakespeare, but one of my favorite plays of all time, The Importance Of Being Earnest–combined with summer camp for smart kids.

I loved Not Now Not Ever even more.

This romantic young adult novel features high school age kids the summer before senior year of high school. Elliott has sneakily signed up for a summer camp for smart nerds, given at a college that has a famous science fiction section.

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Greece, Part 8: Rhodes Palace of the Grand Masters

Explore with me the fortress-within-a-fortress built by the Medieval Knights of St. John, and restored by the Italian Fascists in gaudy splendor.

NOTE: Since my 4-month backpacking trip around Greece too many years ago, I had been longing to return to this magical land of myth, history, and dramatic landscapes. I recently made a fabulous 3-week return trip there, to research additional settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. My first post in the new series, on September 30, gave an overview of my rambles with my husband Thor from Athens to the islands of Rhodes, Santorini, and Naxos, and finally a pilgrimage to the ancient center of the world at Delphi.

As promised last time, we’ll take a closer look at the grand edifice of the Palace of the Grand Master, built by  Foulkes de Villaret, who was the first Grand Master when the Knights were expelled from Jerusalem along with the other Crusaders in the 14th century AD. The Knights of St. John, who had been tasked with guarding the Holy Sepulchre, were elite fighters who adhered to strict vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience (at least in their early years). After the failure of the Crusades, they negotiated with the Genoese pirate Vignolo de’ Vignoli to relocate to the island of Rhodos, where they built fortresses and established protection for the lucrative maritime trading ports. The island then experienced many years of prosperity before surrendering to a final Turkish siege. The Palace was intended as a final refuge for the Knights in case attackers breached the thick defensive walls of the port city. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Kitchens

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

If you’re anything like me, you take kitchens for granted.

I mean, every house has one, right? There are some apartments that don’t, but even there, the assumption tends to be that it’ll have a kitchen — however tiny it may be — and the ones without are the exception. But that assumption rests on the modern conveniences of indoor plumbing, refrigeration, ovens and stoves, supplemented by microwaves and hot plates and toasters and everything else we use to preserve and cook our food and clean up the mess afterward.

Take those away, and it’s a very different picture. A much more hazardous one, too.

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The Ongoing Conversation

I’m in the process of writing a book on self defense that emphasizes the ability of women to protect themselves, focuses on the non-fighting skills that everyone can develop, and addresses the larger picture of attacks on women. Which is to say, I’m writing a feminist self defense book.

It goes without saying that I’ve been devouring the articles and essays – and Facebook posts and tweets – discussing the host of issues arising from the revelations about Harvey Weinstein et al.

But I’ve also noticed some things that trouble me in many of these pieces. Arwa Mahdawi’s piece in the Nov. 9 issue of The Guardian provides a good example. It’s not her overall point that bothers me; she’s absolutely correct about the internalized misogyny and the effect it has had on women. “Not me” has, up to now, been a lot more common than “me, too.”

Rather, it is her side comment in which she admits she does certain things because she lives in a misogynistic world that gives me pause.

And yet I put in headphones every time I leave the house, even if I’m not listening to anything, so I don’t have to hear gross comments from men on the street; I keep my keys clutched like a weapon in my hand when I walk home alone in the dark, wary of strange men.

First off, wearing headphones is a way to make yourself more vulnerable, not less. Hearing is a useful sense, one that is incredibly valuable in keeping us safe on the street, regardless of whether we are protecting ourselves from assault or from accident. If we’re not listening, we don’t know that someone is coming up behind us, whether it’s a mugger or an out-of-control kid on a skateboard. Continue reading

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Still Here

This last year found me doing something I don’t usually do—namely, working on a couple of projects that aren’t set in the 19th century (gasp!) One of those projects is a story set in the United States in 1917, just as the country has entered World War I on the Allies’ side.

Now, the cool thing about working on a story set in the 20th century is that there’s even more of a wealth of research material than there is for the 19th, my beloved Ackermann’s Repository notwithstanding. My favorite research medium for details of everyday life in other times is magazines. As with any historical source, one has to be careful. Magazines often portray life in an idealized manner—how their readers want to see themselves and their lives rather than how they really are. But even so, they’re a rich source of the kind of details of everyday life that it’s hard to find elsewhere. Continue reading

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Squash Harvest, 2017


Every year we grow winter squashes of various sorts for food. I specify food rather than decoration because the output of a small plot of land in nutrients and calories from winter squashes is extremely good. They’re not only delicious (and beautiful) but are low in sodium and fat, and provide an array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Growing them is fairly easy,although the vines have a tendency to wander and take over.

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Holiday Cheer and a bit of Murder: As Red as Any Blood by Patrice Greenwood

Yuletide in Santa Fe: biscochitos, farolitos, Las Posadas, music…and murder.

Ellen Rosings does not have time for murder investigations. It’s December, and the Wisteria Tearoom is awash in shoppers, cookies, and groups of strange women brought to tea by the eccentric Bird Woman.

Alas, Ellen must cope with murder anyway. One of her high school classmates is stabbed to death, and she and her best friend Gina can’t resist the puzzle. Handsome Tony Aragon is on the case, and Ellen is only too happy to assist, but when a second classmate of Ellen’s turns up dead, Tony’s protective instinct kicks in. Much as Ellen agrees, she can’t stay in a cocoon–she’s got a business to run.
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Watching the birdies

I was never much of a bird-watcher. I liked them and enjoyed feeding them, but except for ooh-ing and ah-ing over the odd goldfinch or bluebird that dropped by for a snack, I wasn’t overly interested in the types of … Continue reading

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The Reluctant Traveler Explores Plot Options

My husband and I, with the assistance of an Australian red blend, discussed a story idea. He writes, too, and in many ways is better than me (yes, it’s true) in his skill with prose, dialog and word choice, being also a poet. However when it comes to story arc, plotting, character, and all the bones of good fiction, in my opinion, he needs a little work.

Writers go to workshops. We learn from experts, from the beginning. Originality is one thing, and talent is good to have, but without story structure and narrative the most beautiful prose can collapse

So, an impromptu discussion about a thought experiment began.

My husband proposed a story idea. “A warden or guard is in charge of deploying robots when there is a request or need.”

Me: Is the warden a robot, or a human?

Him: He could be either.

Me: She could be either, but in my story she would be human, and it is told from her point of view.

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