Damn Yankee Chicken Pie

In 1939 my Aunt Bec (Bessie) made the long and perilous train journey from rural Alabama to New England. She needed to check out my newborn eldest brother to make certain he was a fitting heir to the Radford name.

wedding photo

Wedding photo Miriam Elizabeth Bentley and Edwin Smith Radford December 26, 1937

My parents hadn’t much money at the time and tried hard to put together an economical meal that was “fancy” enough for company. In other words, cheap and filling. My mother and grandmother hit upon an old family favorite, chicken pie.
Aunt Bec, of course had to supervise the preparation. She knew about chicken pot pie with a flaky pie crust on top. After all, she served it often to her company. But she had never seen a chicken pie like this one! Continue reading


Changing With the Times — Sometimes

Kaypro II

In our rapidly changing technological world, the tools needed for everyday life are constantly being updated. Over the years, I’ve found that while I adopt some very quickly, others seem unimportant to me.

I got my first computer in 1983 — a Kaypro II — and loved it. To be able to write and then revise with ease was fantastic for me, a person who writes to figure out what she’s trying to say. At the time I got it, and for several years afterwards, it was more useful equipment than the clunky word processors then in use in the places where I worked.

I haven’t been without a personal computer since. I’ve still got the Kaypro — surely it will be a valuable antique someday — but these days I do my writing and a hundred other things on my Mac PowerBook. I love it, too.

On the other hand, I finally got a cell phone in 2004, when I was taking a vacation by myself in Arizona and thought it might come in handy in an emergency.  Continue reading


Book Release Day

betrayal-cover150Today’s the day!  My fantasy novel, The Betrayal, is officially released for sale today by Del Rey Books.  Ask for it at your favorite bookstore.

To celebrate, I’ve uploaded another excerpt to Book View Cafe.   The BVC crew is cooking up a contest, too, with a free copy of The Betrayal as a prize.  Stay tuned for more about that in the next few days.  We’ll announce it in the blog.  (Hint:   it’ll be tweet!)

About the novel:

Centuries ago the ælven vanquished their enemies, the alben, and drove them across the Ebon Mountains. Now the leader of the blood-hungry alben, Shalár, is determined to win back her people’s home in the ælven lands.

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Jerboas and Other Small Endangered Rodents

Meredith got a new pet a couple of months ago. He’s a Russian hamster and his name is Mr. Hammy. He’s extremely gentle. When she first brought him home, I was stunned by the size of his “nads” in comparison to the rest of his small body. Apparently, this is a common physical trait of male hamsters. All that aside, he is an extremely sweet, affectionate little fellow, and only in slight danger from being eaten by Badger while recreating on the floor. Hammy is descended from a small tribe of hamsters discovered in the Syrian desert 70 years ago, and all of his positive traits as a pet have led to the adoption of hamsters as one of the most popular small pets worldwide.

Hamsters aren’t in any type of danger, but many other small rodents are. This is a cute video of a Jerboa. Jerboas are nocturnal rodents distributed throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Some people say they resemble miniature kangaroos. Their long tasselled tail helps to balance them when they jump — they can jump pretty high and cover distances quickly. Jerboas are regarded as endangered. The animal was known of, but not much-studied until 2007. The BBC has an excellent report from December 2007 on Jerboas, thanks to an expedition to the Gobi Desert funded by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Dr. Jonathan Baillie, who led the trip, said that jerboas were “the Mickey Mouse of the desert,” extremely cute and comical. As a nocturnal animal, the jerboa is endangered as a result of habitat destruction more than anything else – they were only recently studied because they were as a rule, not often seen. Utah_prairie_dog1

But here is another animal that everyone knows in America: the prairie dog. A number of prairie dog species are endangered, and efforts to protect these animals (which are regarded as lower than gophers – which is like, how low can you go? – by many ranchers) are on the increase. Prairie dogs, which entertain children endlessly in zoo environments and on television, are social animals that live in towns – laid out with neighborhoods, various rooms, and they have an elaborate system of protection. The warning barks of “lookouts” earned them the nickname prairie “dog” upon encountering English-speaking people settling the wide-open spaces of the American prairie. Continue reading


The Centipede’s Dilemma

Everyone probably has heard some version of this one. It’s the old story about the centipede that’s doing fine until someone asks him which foot moves first. At that point, according to one rhyme, he winds up distracted in a ditch, considering how to walk. You don’t even need more than two feet to experience this. Try walking slowly some time while you consider each and every tiny movement of your body. It’s amazing how clumsy and awkward it can make you feel! I had a dance instructor who used this exercise to make students aware of how much of their movement is done on autopilot.

Rehearsing a dance step over and over, or ballet positions, or yoga or Tai Chi postures, programs the autopilot, so it can take over while allowing the creative mind to focus on something else. Practicing a musical instrument does the same thing, naturally. Even all those endless scales and Hannon exercises in my childhood were designed to program my fingers to move nimbly between keys, while arm and wrist remained quiet and the mind was free to concentrate on the music.

Back when I was a piano major in college, my autopilot was highly programmed and engaged as soon as I sat down and raised my hands to the keys. During my decade of near-silence, when I thought my music gone forever, I lost a lot of that programming. At first I was almost as clumsy on the organ keys (even without the pedals!) as someone who is regaining the ability to walk after a serious injury. Accident victims and wounded veterans relearning motor control face a much more serious situation than I did, but I can relate to their difficulties. It’s a bitch when you lose that autopilot.

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R.E.B.E.L.S #2: A Very Short Review

Remember the Legion of Super-Heroes, the comic as undying as Dracula?   Their popularity of course did not escape the notice of the  powers at DC.  The goal : to clone it in some way, and thus sell more issues and make more money.  rebels This has been tried several ways, never with great success.

The simplest is to just start a second Legion title set in the 30th or 31st  century, with either some members of the original Legion or heroes as similar as possible.  All this served to do was divide the readership.  Another concept, to get around tedious continuity issues and to allow for many more guest stars, is to transplant some part of the team to our time.  This has been tried with several of the more popular individual Legionnaires.  Karate Kid got his own title for a while, and now I see that Mon-El is going to take over Superman’s title for a bit.  This is usually achieved with fast footwork in a time machine, but Mon-El is peculiarly suited for this kind of spin-off because he is actually a 20th century hero, trapped in the Twilight Zone until the Legion sprung him in the far future.  Continue reading


My Life in Comics or: The Kids’ll Love It!


Cover, Armed and Dangerous #, by Bob Hall

Cover, Armed and Dangerous #1, by Bob Hall

Okay: first, I have to apologize.  This should have gone up this morning, but I my day was utterly consumed by the last gasp of Girl Scout Cookie sales.  So let’s talk about something other than cookies, okay?  Like comic books.

For almost four years I was comic-book editor. What was that like? Short answer: it was great.  I got to play with superheroes!  I met talented people and worked hard and made a few actual contributions to an artform I really love.

I have been a comic book reader (to my mother’s dismay) since I was seven and was bought a copy of World’s Finest (then a team-up magazine featuring Batman and Superman) to keep me quiet on a train trip.  Within a couple of years, a friend of my mother gave my brother and me her son’s comic collection which “he had outgrown” (I suspect that meant, in Mom-speak, that she wanted them out of her house).  Suddenly we had over a thousand comic books in the house, and as soon as we’d read those, we started adding to the collection.  We wrote letters to the editor (my first taste of textual analysis!), argued over plot points, had our favorite artists and writers.  And in the fullness of time, we grew up.

And found ourselves working in comics.  My brother got there first: he has been a letterer for something like 30 years.  I came in much later (at age 40) when I was hired as an editor at Acclaim (formerly Valiant) comics.  Unlike most of my co-workers, I was 1) a girl; 2) old; and 3) from a prose-writing background, editorially speaking.  Comics were part of my vocabulary, but by the time I started working at Acclaim I’d published five novels, a bunch of short stories, gone to Clarion, participated in other writing workshops, done some freelance editing.  I was one of two people (my friend Teresa Nielsen Hayden was the other) hired because they wanted someone who brought something more than comics to the table. Continue reading