Blogs, Clogs and Dogs

I didn’t bring my Croc clogs on our most recent return to Seattle, but we did bring the dogs, and I decided I would write my blog about that trip.

The trip was for a necessary return to the surgeon so that she could assess the husband’s progress post surgery No. 2 on the left displaced humeral fracture. The 6 inch metal plate fastened to the bone by 13 screws remained intact—this time. The husband, poor dear, fretted about what the surgeon would say, but she was happy with the result—a great relief to the man.

I booked a little house through a popular rental website that I have used many times before. I must not have used my usual care: how many stairs, was there a full kitchen, how big was it really? The place was easy to find, the host friendly via messaging, the price was right. And they accepted our two English mastiffs as guests.

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Crete, Part 5: Plakias Pleasures

The journey and accommodation were a lot different from my previous trip to southern Crete 37 years ago. But the magic of swimming the purple-blue sea remains the same!

NOTE: Of course, Thor and I had to make another trip to Greece, as he’s fallen as much in love with the islands as I am. This time, in addition to other island-hopping, I wanted to return to Crete after 37 years. My first months-long trip was as a hippie backpacker, camping in the ruins and falling under the spell of the mysterious, vanished Minoan culture. This time, I got to introduce Thor to “glorious Kriti” and research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. This new blog series started October 19, 2019, and will continue every Saturday.

You may recall that Thor and I left the ancient Minoan cemetery of Armeni (Nov. 2 post) to drive over the mountainous spine of the island and through one of the narrow gorges that guard the southwest coast. My first glimpse of the sea beyond the rocky passage sent me into a flashback of my first trip to these shores (Nov. 9 post), but sitting beside my hero-driver and most excellent husband Thor, I’m grateful for the new adventures we’re sharing. And for some comforts this time around. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Places to Stay

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

Once you’ve found your way to where you’re going . . . what then? Where are you going to stay once you get there?

Let’s start, as we so often do, at the most basic end: sleeping rough. This can happen because you’re traveling through an area where there are no accommodations for travelers, or because you can’t afford to stay in them, or because the proprietors don’t want you there. If you’re lucky you have some kind of bedroll to put under you and/or a blanket to put over you; without that, the ground is a hard and unfriendly place to sleep, and hypothermia can be a real risk even at relatively mild temperatures. Depending on the environment, you may be able to pad your makeshift bed with some kind of springy boughs or other vegetation (and survival guides can give you more tips on this for different environments). If it’s likely to rain or snow, you hope for a tree or a hedge to keep the weather at least somewhat off you.

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Kansas: Food & Comedy

This phase of my visit here is devoted to rest and relaxation. And food! Boy, can you get beautiful barbecue here. If you’re on a paleontologist diet Kansas is the place for you.

The other thing we did was attend an Open Mike night at the Comedy Club of Kansas City. I have never done this before, but fellow writer John Ordover has shifted over to the performance arts, and the place is only 8 minutes away. So, clearly, I had to go! It turns out that my concentration fades after a martini paired with a couple hours of rapi-fire gags, but it was great to see a vintage style of stand-up. Hold your own, John!

John Ordover

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A Couple Weeks in Kansas

My daughter is working in Kansas City MO this year, and has made her home in Overland Park, KS just across the river. So we are visiting for a couple weeks. It is a comfortable suburb, quite well-off thanks to dozens of hospitals, medical facilities and clinics.

Today however it’s record cold and snowy. So we have done nothing in particular but shelter in place.

snow storm

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The Duchess Rants – Looking in the Story Mirror

What is the most important thing in a story? That it contains characters that you can identify with, people who look like you, see the world like you?

For far too many readers, that is what they expect from any story, any book or movie. If they find it difficult to find anyone ‘like themselves’, they are discomfited, even angry, and often stop reading or watching.

I do see the problem.

People have to FIGHT to have a true representation of the protagonists of their stories showing up on the covers of books that feature them.

In most literature the main character is barely described, and without description or context that character defaults to “generic milquetoast white”. Many readers or viewers of color feel silenced or disappeared because they never see in fiction anything or anyone they really recognize. There is an excellent and urgent case to be made for the presence of a greater swathe of the world’s cultural heritage in the offerings we are given in our entertainment options.

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Sexuality in Fantasy

For a number of years, I had the privilege of editing the anthology series, Lace and Blade. The concept was a certain flavor of elegant, romantic sword and sorcery, witty and stylized, sensual yet with plenty of swashbuckling action (think The Scarlet Pimpernel with magic). Because the publishers wanted to release the first volume for Valentine’s Day, I contacted a group of seasoned professional authors, people I could depend on to understand what I was looking for and to deliver top quality stories to deadline. For various reasons, the publisher insisted that the second volume be open to submissions. If I had any idea what I was getting myself into, I would have refused. Insulated in the world of competent fantasy writers and readers who are versed in the grandeur of everyone from J.R.R. Tolkien to Tanith Lee, I was ill-prepared for what mundanes think of when they hear “fantasy.”

Needless to say, when I talk about sexuality or eroticism or sensuality or gender issues in fantasy, I do not mean pornography. It seems that for far too many people, sexuality is such an emotionally difficult subject that instead of facing it honestly, discussing it openly, they shroud it in prurience and embarrassment, or else turn it into something salacious or forbidden. Yet just about every human being over the age of puberty has had sexual feelings (notice my delicate use of qualifiers). So if sexuality in fantasy does not mean “your most lascivious and pornographic imaginings, regardless of whether you’d really like to do these things, because how would you know what you enjoy if you’ve never been permitted to experiment,” what is the role of sexuality in fantasy? Does it even have one? Should we keep sex out of fantasy literature, restrict the love stories to a chaste kiss now and again, and keep the hero/ine’s mind firmly fixed on nobler causes?

I believe that sex is such a powerful force in human lives that it is impossible to portray the full scope of emotions and motivations without it. People might not, for a whole panoply of reasons, act on their sexual desires, but they have them. They have them in wildly inappropriate situations, as well as those times and places that nurture genuine emotional intimacy. The feelings are ignored or fulfilled, misdirected or frustrated, overly indulged or denied utterly. Freud had a few things to say about what happens when such a basic drive does not find healthy expression, and although his theories were dead wrong on many counts, he was not mistaken about the fact that sex will not go away simply because society (aka The Authorities, secular or clerical) disapprove. So already, we have two ways in which considerations of sexuality are important to any story: character development and world-building. Continue reading

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BVC Announces Whistle While You Plow by Irene Radford

Whistle While You Plow by Irene Radford
Whistle While You Plow
Whistling River Lodge Mysteries 2
by Phyllis Irene Radford

An antique steam tractor pull removes a stump at the Whistling River Resort and Golf Course, revealing a skeleton in the root ball of a man who has been both shot and hung. Glenna McClain, general manager and part owner of the resort fears the assortment of police, FBI, ATF, and potential suspects descending on the golf course will prevent her one and only chance to have the course reconfigured by a top designer from Scotland. She needs to find the killer before she loses the land to a Japanese developer.

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Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Writing Off The Map…

It’s a favorite panel topic at science fiction conventions – scratch around in any con’s program and some variation of “pantser or plotter?” will pop up, like you’re playing Whack-a-Mole. You’d think people have heard everything to be said about that subject already – and yet it’s a perennial of enduring interest and fascination and there are always interested people in the audience, readers trying to understand the writing process, writers seeking validation for their own way of creating a story.

And there’s the basic thing. It’s an individual process. You simply cannot sit up and categorically state this or that is “better”. There are writers out there who swear by things like Scrivener, which allows them to plot at the level of SCENES; there are other writers for whom that very idea is such anathema that they recoil from it making the sign against the evil eye. What works for THIS writer and does not work for THAT writer is not in itself good or bad. It’s like fire, in that. It’s a good servant, but a very bad master.

When I get put on these panels I am… possibly… worse than useless. I cannot transmit advice on this topic; it is absolutely no use asking me how I do things. I am a total organic pantser, and as I am fond of telling people in metaphorical terms, when I write, I pop a story seed into a pot and until it sprouts I literally don’t know if I have a redwood or a lettuce on my hands. The idea of plotting out a story in detail before I write the thing absolutely horrifies me – and would murder that story because that part of my brain that is the story creator will simply see that story as having been written already, and will lose interest in doing so again. No, my stories have to happen first, without trammels, without scaffolding, without a net – otherwise they cannot fly at all.

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Rebooting the Writing Life, Part 2

I have to start today’s blog with a small scream. I am so excited about HBO’s dramatization of His Dark Materials. Having entered the premier date in my calendar, I was on my sofa that very day to watch and was not disappointed. I also applaud the show runners, and their decision to use the trilogy’s name for their series, rather than The Golden Compass. Unlike HBO’s Game of Thrones and the inexplicable decision to use the first book of seven (five published) as the title for the entire run. Song of Ice and Fire, I suppose, was not a good selling feature in their view.

Anyway, the feast of fantastic shows (Carnival Row—there is a Season 2!, Penny Dreadful—bummed it was canceled after 2 seasons!) available for streaming is yummy indeed.

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