A Meerkat Rants: A Taxing Topic…

We’re baaaaack, and so too are the Rants!  An in honor of the season, I’m ranting about something that comes up every year around this time.

No, not crocuses (who could rant about such cute little flowers?).  No, I mean that other thing that shows its head around this time… taxes.

Actually, I’m not going to rant about taxes.  I’m going to rant about ranting about taxes.

I don’t understand people who don’t want to pay taxes.

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I Have Always Depended Upon the Kindness of Strangers

Kindness of Strangers

That’s Blanche DuBois, above (Vivien Leigh) talking about the way she gets through life. In her case, there’s a sort of learned-helpless dependency thing going on. But really, in a civil society, in a kind society, we all depend upon each other for large and small kindnesses.

Case in point: when my daughter was four months old we took her on a not-road road trip to visit my aunt and uncle in LA, and my sister- and brother-in-law in northern California. My daughter, about the size of a respectable rump roast but O! much cuter, was a champion on the flight from NYC, and then on the flight from LA to SFO. Unfortunately, on the flight back to New York… she started teething.

Babies are often unhappy about air travel anyway: the changes in air pressure play merry hob with their inner ears. A teething baby is already unhappy: there are sharp pointy teeth trying to erupt through those tiny pink gums, and it hurts like hell. A teething baby on a 5-hour flight is going to be every business-traveler’s nightmare. Continue reading

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Books, Reading, and Hoarding

I have a physical To Be Read pile about a mile high. I’ve got about a billion things on my e-reader. I often find myself bringing home more books or downloading, knowing I’ll probably not get around to them. . . .maybe ever. I know I’m not alone in this habit. That’s not my problem. Well, if it is, it’s not the one I’m talking about.

My problem is that I can’t seem to finish a book. I find that am delighted with the story, but after I set it down for whatever reason, I can’t make myself pick it up. I have two really good books I’m reading now that I can’t seem to make myself go back to.

I have no idea why I’m having trouble. The books are fiction, and I’m thinking of trying more nonfiction to see how I do with it. But it’s frustrating. Instead I’m doing some knitting and other crafting. I sure wish I had an answer, though. And a way to change it. Continue reading

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Genrelization

No, the title isn’t a typo. It is my attempt to define the word: genre. No wait, I already wrote a blog about that, and I got some interesting responses.

Instead, I’m going to write about people in the world that I want to interview. Mostly, because I want to know why they do the things they doI just want to understand.

My top ten interview questions are:

1. Why don’t you use your signal? Is it broken? Did you forget you had one? Was the bagel/phone/mascara brush in the hand opposite the signal arm, and you felt it was unsafe to take your free hand off the wheel? Please explain.

2. Why do you wear your pants around your rear? People still do this? Are you pleased to be filed in a drawer so-to-speak filled with a bunch of people who wear their pants around their rear?

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The Rambling Writer Explores More Greek Islands, Part 14: Ancient Kameiros on Rhodes

Thor and I follow in the footsteps of Philhellene author Lawrence Durrell as we admire the ancient city overlooking the blue Aegean Sea.

NOTE: Since our recent trip to Greece to research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT, Thor and I knew we had to return to this magical region. My first entry in this new blog series posted here on Saturday, 10/20/2018. It gives an overview of our rambles from Athens to seven islands in the Dodecanese and Cyclades groups, ending our ferry-hopping pilgrimage on the anciently sacred island of Delos.

After visiting Durrell’s haunts in Old Rhodos Town, we rounded out our visit to this beautiful island with a trip to one his favorite sites. Kameiros was one of three Doric cities that controlled the island from around 400 B.C., with later occupation by Romans. It’s a lovely site perched among pine trees above the sea, the layout of the town well preserved.

Since I’ve spent the last week in the fog of a nasty virus going around our own town, today I’ll turn to Lawrence Durrell for a description of the site as he saw it in the 1940s, from his memoir Reflections on a Marine Venus: Continue reading

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COVER REVEAL: Walk the Wild With Me

Even though I have another new Pen Name, Rachel Atwood, I have permission from DAW Books to reveal the cover of my next book, coming in December 2019. Rachel’s bio: Rachel Atwood grew up enchanted with British History. Now she writes historical fiction with enchantments. Every time she visits the British Isles she basks in the shadows of standing stones and glories in ancient crypts while drinking in the lush accents of the people she meets. She things driving on the left is natural and round-abouts efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing. This of course describes me perfectly and sets the stage for Walk the Wild With Me. In 1208 AD King John of England and Pope Innocent III divorced each other. The senior clergy was forced out of England and into exile or imprisonment. No sacraments except Baptism and Funeral were allowed throughout the lands claimed by King John. The church bells could not ring to mark the time of day or summon folk to services. Without the restrictions of the Church, the wild folk of the forests can roam freely again among humanity. Join with me and the adventures of Nick, a 12 year old orphan who was taken in by an Abbey but sneaks out often to learn about life beyond the Abbey walls. Much of this book was inspired by the book Walking with the Green Man, by Dr. Bob Curran with illustrations by Ian Daniels.
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New Worlds: Public Sanitation

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

Historical cities were hideous, open sewers, their streets clogged with human and animal filth.

. . . or were they?

Two groups of people would have you believe that’s true: writers of a certain type of gritty fantasy, and the Victorians. And certainly there have been times and places when it’s at least partly accurate; I can’t swear that Renaissance Europe was the filthiest society this planet has ever seen, but I suspect it’s a serious contender. If you look at other time periods and other parts of the world, though, a different picture emerges. Even before germ theory, we didn’t much enjoy wading through rivers of fecal matter, and took steps to deal with waste.

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On Life Changing Experiences and Fear

In May of 1979, I went to the YMCA in Wichita Falls, Texas, and signed up for karate. The same evening I went to my first class. It changed my life.

That might make you think my life at the time was very dull, but, in fact, 1979 was a roller-coaster of a year for me. I was running a legal services office, which was challenging at the best of times. A tornado hit Wichita Falls in April, wiping out twenty percent of the housing in town and killing 45 people. I was lucky, but living in a disaster area is still difficult.

While I was visiting my sister in New York City in the summer, we picked up the New York Times and read in a front page story with pictures above the fold that our hometown was underwater. We called our parents, frantic, and our mother said, “I can’t talk now. The boat is here to pick me up.” Turned out they’d had 43 inches of rain in 24 hours, which was the North American record until 2018. My grandmother came to stay with me in Wichita Falls for a couple of weeks, just to get away from it all.

And then my other grandmother had a stroke while visiting my uncle in Washington, D.C. After which I had surgery on my thyroid. (My mother, who was running a newspaper with my father that wasn’t making any money, who was living in a trailer because her home was uninhabitable, who was dealing with getting her mother back to Texas after the stroke, my mother came up to take care of me during the surgery. I have never forgotten that.) Continue reading

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The Evolution in Space Opera: THE VELA and ANCESTRAL NIGHT

Two new space operas have appeared in the last couple of days. I inhaled them both: one a novel by Elizabeth Bear, and the second is a four-author serial, a form that is becoming increasingly popular

As I pointed out in my Goodreads review of Elizabeth Bear’s  Ancestral Night, space opera, particularly in the hands of some female writers, it is not even remotely retrogressive in the ways that were standard some thirty years ago.

This is also true of the new Serial Box Serial The Vela

For me to get hooked, space opera has to hit at least some of the following elements:

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Research & (Plot) Development
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Hello, my name is Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, and I’m a recovering research-aholic.

I know that research addiction is common among writers of speculative fiction (genres that begin with ”what if…?”). This doesn’t mean there aren’t writers who hate research with a passion, but whether you loathe research or love it, it is necessary to writing fiction. It stands to reason that the ideal is to strike a healthy balance between diving so deeply into the ocean of knowledge that you drown, or barely dipping a toe into the pool.

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