The Salamander’s Eternal Flame

Sekhmina, the Salamander of the Red CityI have only seen the magnificent Salamander, or Sallymander, once. It is said that in the whole Wide World, there can be only one such creature, and should there be two — well, we could hardly predict the results, so vastly would this disturb the balance of magickal power.

A quiet, self-possessed creature was the Salamander when I saw her. This is a likeness which I drew from memory, so perhaps she was a bit rounder, or perhaps a bit more reddish around her delicate little feet.

From such a tiny creature, one might imagine that little magickal power could arise. But never in all of my travels have I known greater power to exist in a tiny frame. Should you chance upon the Salamander, do not be deceived by its innocent mien, or gentle, soft voice. The Salamander burns with an unquenchable, eternal fire. Should it question you, and it is a curious beast, beware that you tell the truth in all regards. For the Salamander knows truth from falsehood instantly, and as for liars — they will be instantly burned to cinders. Doubtless, this was the source of the many dark, ashy and oily spots here and there in the Salamander’s chambers when I visited her those many years ago. It is very well that I had no inclination to dissimulate, or I would not be here, telling the tale of her charming demeanor and visage today.

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BATMAN #681: A Very Short Review

This issue is the conclusion of the BATMAN R.I.P. arc, and so is not the place to jump on. In fact the entire arc is tailored specifically for people like me, who have been reading Batman since the ’60’s. It is deliberately, self-indulgently arcane and obscure, as if to repel everybody who isn’t already deeply into all things Bat — a terrible marketing decision IMO.

Furthermore, analyzed purely as a story, the thing is elliptical, with many confusing cuts, flashbacks, unidentified characters, and allusions to things that may or may not have happened. Oh, and did I mention that Batman himself suffers a major mental breakdown and thus is the most unreliable of narrators? It might be best to wait for the inevitable trade paperback, so that you could read all the issues in order at one sitting; this would be your best prayer of figuring out what is going on.

I would have guessed this script to be unsaleable and unpublishable, except in a year where a blockbuster Batman movie came out. There is a balance between telling the reader all, and keeping all the cards close to your chest. This arc is a fine example of failing at the latter.


Iceoglyphs, by Vonda N. McIntyre

Triple Arches Bridge--Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Photo courtesy
Library of Congress

Under rehabilitation: Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Leading east/west through the middle of Glacier National Park, the road is an amazing creation, a project of the WPA, dedicated in 1933. Park displays include photographs of workers hanging from hemp ropes next to sheer rock faces, building the arches of Three Arches Bridge. When I drove the road, and admired the bridge, I thought, “This is the sort of project that will never happen again.” I was glad to see the road being maintained, because the budgets for most of our national parks have been whittled away during the last eight years. The deterioration is heartbreaking. Continue reading


Exploring the First Contact Cafe

Greetings from the Dragon Lair of Irene Radford aka P.R. Frost, aka C.F. Bentley, Phyl to my friends:

Today the first of my short stories rotates to the front page of Book View Cafe. “It’s A Con World Afterall” first appeared in a highly abbreviated form in the program book for RadCon in 2003 when I was Guest of Honor. At the time, RadCon was still primarlily a regional gaming con with limited guests and paneling, 12 guest and about 800 members. Wow has that con changed in 5 short years. In 2008 the convention hosted about 2000 members and 175 guests. To tie in with the dominant membership in 2003 I wrote the short story based upon a world I’d created for an anthology and is now a featured part of my newest series “The Confederated Star Systems Volume #1: Harmony,” by C.F. Bentley from DAW Books August 2008.

Let’s back up a bit to another con. Continue reading


Enjoying a Review

cover of Conscientious Inconsistencies

Here’s the most important thing about reviews: They’re a sign your work is being noticed.

Of course, bad reviews can be depressing, which is probably why many famous people say they never read them. But it’s even worse when no one pays any attention at all. After all, while I may write because I’d go nuts if I didn’t, I also write to be read.

Lyndon Perry made my day in his review of my collection, Conscientious Inconsistencies, on The Fix, with this observation: “I have to say I was impressed.”

That’s probably enough praise to satisfy any author — especially when the reviewer had no previous experience with my work — but he made me even happier by showing that he understood what I was doing in several of the stories. For example, he wrote about the story “Homesteading”:

The new dynamic is not the byproduct of the typical male way of warriorship. But, then, as the clan discovers, Isabel is not your typical warrior.

That’s what I was trying to do.
Continue reading


Things I Almost Didn’t Do in Cornwall

From Sarah’s Travel Journal:

Okay, this is turning into the trip of Things I Almost Didn’t Do, But Am Glad I Did.

Woke up to gray, rainy cornish day and thanked the God of Travellers I did decide to do the castle yesterday. those stairs in the rain? NO, thank you. But could I hike the moor as planned?

Had breakfast, chatted with a couple from Oz who’d been travelling round the states and Great Britain for a few months. V. nice. Another couple joined the conversation. The man had actually been born in the cottage where we were now staying. Side note: /we wound up talking about rising crime rates in the country and contrary to stereotype, the Brits were firmly in favor of the death penalty, and the Yank was agin it. Just goes to show I suppose.

Anyway. After waffling a bit, I decided to go out to the tor (I was planning on climbing Rough (pronounced Row) Tor, the highest point on Bodmin Moor), and at least have a look. Packed foul weather gear and hiking boots and went.

Continue reading


The Name Game

From the dragon lair of Phyllis IRENE RADFORD, aka P.R. Frost, aka C.F. Bentley:

To paraphrase Eliza Dolittle in “My Fair Lady”:  Names, names, names, I’m so sick of names, first from them, now from me…

As I accumulate pseudonymns I find my readers complaining about each new series of books carrying a new author name.  How can they hope to find me if I change my name?

Believe me, if I could remain Irene Radford, I would.   I cherish that name and worked hard to maintain it.  It too is not my true name.  When I first sold “The Glass Dragon”  I used my married name and signed things as Phyllis Radford Karr.   Phyllis Ann Karr was still writing fantasy and science fiction, and had been for 20 years.  The firsts question out of my editor’s mouth after negotiating the sale was “You don’t want to use your real name, do you?”  Ms Karr was born to the name, I married it.  So she got to keep it.

I knew several authors who’d been forced by publishers to take a pseudonym in which the publisher owned the name.  No one else could use the name, but the author couldn’t take the name to a different publisher.  My friends had to put out lot of money and jump through some nasty legal hoops to retain possession of the pseudonym.  One even legally changed her name to her pen name so she wouldn’t have to go through that again.  So I chose to use a name I legally owned: my middle name and my maiden name, Irene Radford.

Fifteen books later, the marketing department at my publisher demand a new one.  Partly because “Hounding the Moon”, a contemporary fantasy,  was so very different from either the Dragon Nimbus Books or the Merlin’s Descendant Series–both more traditional fantasies.  Then the marketing department chimed in, because of arcane marketing numbers and formulae worthy of a wizard.  I got to choose the name, but they had to approve it.  So I chose the gender neutral P.R. Frost.  P.R. for my by then legal name of Phyllis irene Radford.  (I may have dropped Tim’s last name but not Tim. We’re still married and celebrated our 38th anniversary this week.)  And Frost because that was my grandmother’s maiden name.

Then I got this really cool idea for a new book.  I call “Harmony” my spiritual journey with a literary twist in a space opera landscape.  Nothing like anything I’d ever written before.  Even before the numbers for “Hounding the Moon” began lining up in the marketing formulae my editor suggested another name.  Sensual, dark, violent, contemporary P.R. Frost shouldn’t write “Harmony.”  And so off again into the family tree to dredge out yet another name.  Charlotte Frost was my great-grandmother.  Her dauther married into the Bentley clan.  So C.F. Bentley began making the rounds.

So, will my next new series carry a new pseudonym?  Light candles, burn incense, cast the runes, read the stars.  Your guess is as good as mine.  But I’m hoping to go back to Irene Radford.

Here on Bookview Cafe you can find me cross indexed under my legal name of Phyllis Irene Radford no matter what byline shows at the top of the story.

Happy reading.  As much as we want to support our favorite authors, it is afterall the story that counts.



While you are giving thanks, help a family — Just a buck can change their luck

Just a buck? Well, if 10,000 people donate a dollar, a nice young couple won’t lose their house to the mortgage company. Their story is like so many stories right now. They are both ministers, Ebony currently a stay-at-home mom dealing with a special needs child, Daniel working elsewhere to support his family.

Frustration right now is pegging the meter — where and how can we help? Here’s one place. $1 — $5 — $10? It may save their house — or pay the deposit on a rental.

When you take old cars that break down and cost a bundle to fix, plus losing job, plus second mortgage to try to pull things back together, and stir in the fact that they loaned or gave away most of their savings in the past year to REALLY needy people — and an unexpected baby on the way — and you have a sliver of mainstream America.

Whether or not you can afford to donate, please repost!

— kek


Macrobiotics #1: Thoughts on feeding body and soul.

Macrobiotic = Long Life.

From the Greek “macro” (large, long) and “bios” (life)

“Doing something over and over the same way and expecting a different result is considered a sign of insanity.”

I’ve never had what you might call the average American diet. Junk food has been minimal in my life. My father was a dentist. I never tasted candy until I was 5 years old. We were part of a study. I remember the white boxes, and thought it was weird, because shouldn’t singing raisins be on this box? I had a brief affair with Twinkies, back in the day, and I love baking unusual cookies. Chocolate, good chocolate was my friend.

But I wasn’t more than 10 when my mother started cooking Weight Watchers’ style -– back when there were no points, just sound principles of eating. The family lost some weight, and did not gain more. I decided I hated diet drinks and switched to water.

I experimented with cooking “lighter” (chicken was my god) and I gave up alcohol because it was fattening and I never liked the effect anyway. I tried vegetarian, but TVP and I only connected with my killer veggie lasagna, which has fooled more than a few meat eaters. Without meat, I was exhausted. When you’re training for a physical profession, fatigue is bad.

I started “losing” foods. I would fall asleep after eating them. I literally could not control it; only the grace of heaven kept me from driving off the road or falling down a staircase. It’s weird, your system shutting down to process sugar – even white bread reminded me of its high glycemic load. I gave up white potatoes. I gave up pasta. I gave up all those cookies and birthday cakes that show up in the office. I dumped dairy for a long time, marveling that I could not hear my body grumbling in stereo, now that there was no longer hot chocolate every morning. I gave up wheat and corn.

I discovered the blood type diet, Atkins, Protein Power, Neanderthin, the Zone, the fat resistance diet – as the intolerances got worse, I got worried. I ate a lot of Indian food, which confirmed that not everyone makes things the same way. Indian yogurt was no problem for me – cow and even goat yogurt was a problem. Lots of supplements in there, to try and make up for lost foods. Finally it was doctors, diagnoses and meds for way too long. I knew the exact problem connected to several major foods…so I lost interest in eating.

You give your body years of meds, and it will take revenge. Continue reading