Thursday, August 17, 2017

Geeking Science: Solar Eclipse on Monday August 21

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at

Oh, no - The Dragon is Coming!!!

On Monday August 21st, a solar eclipse will be visible coast-to-coast. North Carolina will be covered from 1 pm to 4 pm with the height about 2:45.

NASA has a website dedicated to Solar Eclipses - find out more about what is coming here:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings

(but does have grammarly in the image)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: Old Nathan

Book Cover from Amazon


The forces of evil are poised to prey on the folk of the hamlets and hollows: witches, demons, and red-handed men—but first they'll have to overcome Old Nathan the Wizard.

He doesn't claim much for his magical powers, but they're real enough for what they are—and besides, he hasn't forgotten how to use his long flintlock rifle ....

Enter the gritty, realistic world of Old Nathan, a backwoodsman who talks to animals and says he'll face The Devil himself-and who in the end will have to face The Devil in very fact.

Old Nathan by David Drake is a collection of stories about a cunning (witchy) man located in the Carolinas about fifty years after the revolutionary war strung together in a novel-type package but easily read separately. Old Nathan is the person a body goes to when you've dun run out of all other options. His price is high. Mostly swallowing yer pride but he do speak to animals and does strange things, and maybe in league with the Devil.

The writing is in the dialect language of the space-time. The stories themselves are getting long-in-the-tooth; not enough for a modern high-speed cellphone addict to identify with. A different time and place, slower and more magic. Back with the things in the woods didn't take selfies with intruders, they ate 'em.

I enjoyed the magic not being wiz-bang wizard robes and lightning bolts. Farseeing was done with wellwater; ghosts were dealt with by feeding them ashcakes cooked in the hearth. Old Nathan is creepy powerful in that he not only does the minor hedge magic, but goes beyond, into the shadow realms opened at twilight, into places which bend the mind and create madness. 

He is old enough and lived through the war that death holds little fear over him. He is too slow and tired to run far from things people in their right minds should run from. And so the things in the night become curious since he isn't running or scared, and in their curiosity the teethy things become vulnerable. Not greatly vulnerable - they still be hungry, with great claws and teeth, but sometimes the second pause of "what is this different thing" gives Old Nathan the moment he needs to live. It worked for him so far, but in each story the question is "is this time when the beast will be faster then cunning?"

I wrote the review after the third story but have finished the rest. Again, the stories may not be enjoyed very much longer just because living in one-room houses, drawing from wells, and needing horses to get to your nearest neighbor are becoming things of ancient history.

Is the cunning man always cunning enough, or does he need to run from the danger in some of the stories? Well that would be tellin'. 

If this your cup of tea, you should read it. - The book is offered for free on Kindle, so take the chance.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Flash: Grass

Image courtesy of foto76 at

The walks surrounding the Inter-species Conference Enclave campus meandered through immaculate lawns, stopping occasionally to admire rose bushes, day lilies, statuary, and other areas of interest with a widening of the brickwork and a bench here and there in their travels. Azza followed the paths with her human counterpart at her side. Arching a fur-feather eyebrow, she asked the much taller black male, “Why do you dedicate so much land to non-food?”

The use of the “her” pronoun was problematic for both Azza and Sefu, since the Spican species had only one gender. But because of the average height of the Spican, their high voices, and their offspring liquid gland locations match human female norm, the pronoun had been applied to all Spican members since the humans had found the first Conference planet. Sefu, one of Earth’s polygots chosen to learn the interstellar tongues, was still struggling with the Conference tongue, a constructed language used by most spacegoers, and Spicese, a complicated language constantly expanded by the natural linguists of Azza’s planet for play and professional reasons. As a result, most of Azza’s and Sefu’s conversations fell back to the gender-driven English language of the country where the campus had been located. He tried not to limit his view of Azza with the pronoun, but thinking in a language always limits some concepts. Kenya would have been a better the host nation with the genderless Swahili to communicate in, in his unasked for opinion.

“Well, umm, if we put all the land to food usage it will exhaust the ground.” Sefu struggled in his answer. “It would require constant fertilization and work.”

Azza nodded like a human. “So, you rotate this … grass … with other crops?” Her species specialization as linguists made Sefu jealous; in three handful of months she mastered the complicated English language complete with the non-verbal cues. The specialization was spectacular even among the Conference members, therefore Spican’s always were the Speaker for the first Enclave sent to newly discovered civilizations. She had already sent the full report of English and Mandarin back to the Conference Core so those languages could be added to the translators. The present language assignment for the Enclave was Spanish and they were already making arrangements for Hindi. They would continue down the line until they reach languages of less than a million speakers. Azza and the six other Spican on the Enclave were having a ball; most species only have one, maybe two languages when they reach interstellar space.

On the human side, they had the basic grammar and over 1,000 root words for the Conference’s Every-Speak, and the computers had recorded nearly 89,000 words of Spicese with no end in sight for the intonation, non-verbal, and grammatical-vocabulary-modification nightmare making up the linguists native tongue, a language so complex they could easily pick up any other language in the galaxy. With approval of all forty members of the Enclave, recording instruments had been installed throughout the campus and gave them a good grasp of Pegasian, Ursate, and Virgrril, though Mensate baffled the biological and computer translators as much as Spicese so far. The one Lucian of the Enclave, with its light-based communication, was beyond their abilities, at the moment; the Conference translator would be working overtime for it as soon as the new programming became available. A Lucian colony was the human’s closest neighbors and their first market and both the humans and Lucian were chomping at the bit to start, but the Speaker declared, as was traditional, no trade talks translations were allowed by her team during the first generation of contact. The inexact translation by machine would have to do for the businessmen once it became available in another eight years. The major hold up was just travel time for the language assessments to get to programmers.

“No. We use it for aesthetic purposes. It is decorative.” Feeling slightly less provincial since the alien had searched for the word grass, Sefu paused in his walk to watch her non-verbal cues more closely.

Azza swiveled her head slightly further than humanly possible, taking in the landscape. “It is very green.”

“Yes.” The Earthling born on the African continent agreed.

“Does the grass ever fruit?”

Each of the visiting species had shown pictures of their homeworlds as part of the linguistic and cultural exchange required before full Conference membership approval. Azza’s home commune was a riot of color from food-bearing tree and bushes.

Shaking his head, Sefu explained, “We cut it before it goes to seed, that makes the root system stronger.”

Azza’s face wrinkled in consideration. “Is any other maintenance required?”

“Other than mowing every one week or two?” Azza’s eyes widened. Sefu understood from the monitors they had been allowed to install the Spican applied a defoliator and bleach to remove stripes which normally ran across their face so the humans could better read the non-verbal cues they were mimicking. Internally, he looked forward to the day they trusted the humans enough to stop doing that. It would mean they were considered equals. “Yes. The landscapers have to lay in weed killer and bug killer and fertilize every fall and spring. Plus reseed regularly.”

“So the grass requires as much work as food crop.” Azza looked out at the lawns again. A sweet smell similar to honeysuckle drifted on the breeze, a scent Sefu noticed whenever Azza was figuring something out. He made a mental note to see if the odorific monitors had been installed; part of the Spicese non-verbal language had to include scent.

Turning his tone a little dry, knowing sarcasm did not translate well with any of the Conference members but the Ursians, Sefu commented, “More, actually. Crops only need to be cut once.”

The honeysuckle scent grew stronger. “Wasting land and effort like this is not logical.” She waved her hand at the acreage surrounding the sprawling buildings.

“Humans are not logical.”

“You keep saying that.” Azza looked him in the eye. “And I keep seeing evidence of truth.”

Sefu shrugged.

“It’s amazing you ever made it into space.” Her face mimicked exasperation, and her scent changed to sour green apples. Or more accurately zefs, one of the few things already transferred in the cultural exchange. Zefs, a quick-growing berry, had dozen of variations made suitable for zero-g growth; the four space stations already integrated them into the crop cycle. The campus greenhouses grew some of the gravity varieties for the visitors, after Earth and Conference scientists confirmed the variations were mules in every of Earth’s environments, so Enclave members had a taste of home, and Sefu had eaten some during the meal visits.

Those were landmine filled occasions as each of the six visiting species had different customs related to eating before even taking into account the cultures of the nineteen Earth polygots drawn from six different continents. Each meal centered around a different species’ tradition with five days of instruction beforehand; fourteen times they had been through the rotation since Sefu joined the team and they still had nine more of the Virg causal meals to go before they started on the formal variations.

He looked forward to the Lucian weeks as they only ate socially during mating mergers, what humans call weddings. Otherwise consumption could be done during any activity such as playing games. Falling-Wavelength-552-to-577 turned its meals into game nights, the primary social activity for its species, many of the games had human equivalents. It had fallen in love with Chess when Judit used the human game to explain K-band-frenquency-19 to the rest of the team. The Lucian meal nights left the Pegasian and Mensate on the outside, but then most meals left the Lucian sitting alone.

“Getting into space only requires determination, not logic.”

“For your species.” Azza blew out her breath, then started walking again. A little faster than before, so Sefu needed to stroll instead of saunter, to match her short steps. “Your ships make as little sense as you.”

Thinking about the very functional, nearly universal stick and globe assemblages passing for spaceships among the Conference members, with only minor variation for environmental difference, compared to the sleek human ships, Sefu bragged, “They look great.”

“Ships do not need to look great,” Azza spun on him, her hand flung sideways while the calluses rotated into thorn-spine positions in her species version of frustration, while the skin under where the stripes would be if they hadn’t been bleached swelled slightly. “They need to function well.”

“They function fine.” Sefu felt amusement at the cute anger shown by the Spican. Quickly he cut off that emotional reaction. This was not an American or Australian female getting riled up, but an alien species and head of the Enclave. Damn English thoughts; he really wanted to switch to his native Swahili. “They got us to a Conference planet before you guys found us.” The colonial swagger-laden words tripped out of his mouth before he could stop them.

“True statement.” The white and gray skinned alien, topped by black feather-fur dappled with blue and red highlights, brought her arm back to a more human stance and the nearly human facial features, which caused the polygots no end of grief because they made it too easy to forget the Spican were aliens, returned to resting levels. A mimicked half-smile touched Azza’s lips. “By practically exploding the engine room every activation of the DM drive.”

Sefu gulped internally. Was the anger and frustration real or this half-tease? Was Azza here just to teach language and culture, or did a darker imperative drive the cultural exchange? The humans weren’t the only species to create a Dark Matter drive, but, according to the Conference, less than 10% of new species even had worked out the theory before crossing paths with a Conference outpost. Earthlings were one of seven species to invent the drive completely on their own. Being in the back-end of nowhere, at the edge of a spiral arm, contributed to the Humans developing the theories and ships independently. That backwater location combined with a jump from electronic communication having bleedoff past the local atmosphere to interstellar flight in less than three hundred years, when the average for most species is closer to two thousand years, prevented any of the Conference cultural surveillance drones from spotting them before humans blinked out of DM warp in their sleek, rotating hub and spear shape ship into the Alpheratz system and its three inhabited planets.

Licking his lips, Sefu decided to poke to see which way Azza jumped. “Ah, but the results of the controlled explosions are cool. What is it? Four times faster than any other DM ship out there?” And that was very fast indeed, since DM speed was measured exponentially due to energy-state transfers within warp, which means a Conference spaceship from the Lucian outpost in the Cervantes system, 50-light years away, takes nineteen weeks with their fastest ship. A human DM drive ship takes six days, including the sub-light maneuvers.

The skin raised again, but Azza’s face remained neutral. “The human interpretation of DM theory is intuitive rather than deductive, at best, making your drives irrational disasters. The Earth ships already have the worst safety record of any Conference ship, but you only care about how fast and …cool… they look?”

Sefu forced himself to imagine her saying the words through gritted teeth instead of with the calm almost indulgent mimicked expression on her face. His gut told him he was right about the anger. He stepped sideways so the nearby monitor could have an unobstructed view of her. Deciding against overtly flagging the conversation for closer review since this was Azza and all her conversations were dissected, Sefu poked her again. “Humans are not logical.” And, obviously, the Conference could not reverse engineer the human version of DM drives and they were applying pressure to the Enclave to get results.

“No, humans grow grass which has no purpose other than be green.” She blew out air, and the scent of burnt starch, like plantain slices fried too long, made Sefu’s nose burn. He never had noticed that scent before.

Arranging a careful smile on his face to match her false one, Sefu said, “Exactly. You are beginning to understand us Speaker.”

“I hope not. I really hope not.” The alien and human resumed their walk, a pseudo-companionship silence falling on their travel.

Privately, and against the fiber of his communication-oriented polygot soul, Sefu agreed.

(words 2,083 – first published 7/30/2017)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review: I, Zombie

Book Cover from Amazon

* Someone is Murdering the Dead. *
I, Zombie by Doris Piserchia under the pen name of Curtis Shelby

When the girl from the asylum drowned in the lake that night, she thought it was the end of her life, but she was wrong.

With robots at fifty thousand dollars a unit, it was far more economical to use corpse labour - all it took was a two-thousand dollar animating pack in the brain, and a zombie worker, under the direction of a helmeted controller, could do just about anything except think.

Or so everyone said. But in the zombie dorms at night, with only the walking dead for roommates, things were not as they should have been. The girl from the asylum seemed to have more mental ability, not less, and someone was trying to kill her. Kill a dead girl?

Maybe there was more to heaven than an afterlife of manual labour in the company of a bunch of stiffs!

One of my favorite books of all time, I don't know how many times I have read it. Picked it up back when it was first released in 1982 at an airport to keep from getting bored on a plane. (now available on kindle - yeah! ... because my original paperback is Beat Up(tm).)

Interesting psychological study. Pretty cool worldbuilding with the Frogs and the Zombies (deceased humans with brain packs to work them). Actually excellent worldbuilding, the layers to the Zombies and the world trying to translate that over to the mentally disturbed. Layers upon layers with the brain pack technology and the Frog culture.

Then the action adventure with fights in front of a furnace and problem-solving mysteries with someone murdering the dead and the ice world melting, keeps everything moving at a fast pace.

This book is one of my happy places.

NOTE: Curt Selby is the pen name of Doris Piserchia, so "Curt Shelby" appears on the cover but you will now find the book under Doris Pierchia's real name for the kindle.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blog: Recycling


I noticed my town asked for the shredding to not go into single-stream recycling bin. What's up with that? They want us to take it to shred day. Really, who has time for that?

Turns out they have great reasons:

(1) Shredding breaks up the paper into very short fibers which downgrades the quality of the paper and they get less money for it. Since it is mixed in and clings with all the other paper, any bundle with shredded paper now is the lowest quality. Towns are trying to lower taxes through recycling, and so the shredding is money out of the taxpayer pocket, out of your pocket.

(2) Remember I just mention shred clings? Yeah, it clings to the machinery doing the separation of all the single-stream recycling, breaking them down more often, kicking paper dust in the air as an environmental (and fire) hazard to workers, and really screwing up everything the minute it gets wet. All this means the machinery is stopped more often for maintenance and needs replacing more often. Where does the maintenance and replacement money come from - well, hopefully the selling of the recycling materials. But it also means that less money gets put back into the tax bucket so the bucket has to be filled by other means, like property taxes. Again, money out of your pocket.

We all have learned plastic bags don't go into recycling - for the same reasons as shred. Now I need to add shred to the list of "no-go's" in my head and take it to the special shred day.

A really good video on recycling is below. It taught me crushing cans and plastic bottles is also undesirable.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Flash: I am Not the Crazy One

Image acquired from the Internet Hive Mind

Many people complain about morning people - us "perky" people who get up during daylight hours and function like it's something humans have been made to do through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Truly the weird people are the night ones.

True life story:

*ring, ring*

"hhhello?" I ask, my throat scratchy.

"Let's go to the Beach," the perky person on the other end states.

"Beach?" not really understanding the word. I peer at the glowing red numbers on my nightstand, squinting. "It's 11:45 ... at night."

"Yes, we can get there in an hour. No traffic. It will be great - the boardwalk is open, lots to do."

.... Real conversation ... what I remember of it.

And I did go to the beach that night. When the dawn came in, I woke up enough to drive us home. *stupid night owl friends* - love you guys, but sometimes it is really, really hard.

(words 157, first published 6/25/2017)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Flash: Political Suicide

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at

The staffer ran after the Republican state senator as she approached the legislature floor still arguing his case in urgent whispered tones. “Please don’t do this ma’am, it’s political suicide.”

“Brett, shhh.” Grabbing his arm, Senator Evans stepped into one of the many side room surrounding the main floor and pulled her chief of staff after her, a man who represented her entire staff located in the capital office. She had two other loyal people operating out of her offices in the county seat and the largest city within her district.

Brett, Margaret, and Corrine had been with her since she first ran for office after her husband died. Twenty-one years later they still were with her; their careers and hers were indistinguishable. What she was about to do might mean they were all unemployed in three years. She hoped the window was enough to prove her right, but some members of the party would never forgive her for crossing the line. It was practically guaranteed someone would run against her in the primary if she did move forward with presenting the bill; just how big a someone and how much they are supported by "grass-roots" and backed by money would depend on how angry the state party was.

“We’ve been over this.” Rebecca hissed quietly adjusting her briefcase strap.

Brett raked his hand through his thinning blonde hair. “We talked about it Friday in general terms, but now you are going full steam with it.”

“I talked to a lot of people this weekend Brett, when I went home.” Rebecca gripped Brett’s shoulders. “It needs to be done.”

“Were the constituents for or against it?” Brett asked, knowing Rebecca didn’t always talk to the same people he did.

Rebecca shook her head then met his eyes. “I didn’t talk to any of the constituents, per say. I did my research. It’s what people pay their representative to do; research things they don’t have time to investigate.”

He deflated and dropped his eyes, knowing nothing would change her mind. “We need to explain to people, get the word out, before you support the bill with Senator Wilson.”

“It’s more important to stand united with the world now than to wait for the news to trickle to our people.”

“Even if it means going against the stated policy of our President?” Brett lifted his eyes a moment, bringing the Big Elephant into the room.

“Yes, yes it does,” she dropped her hands.

Brett repeated, “It’s political suicide.”

The senator gave a half-smile. “Good thing I am not a politician then.”

Brett blinked. “Ma’am, you’ve been in politics for over two decades.”

“Let me let you in on a secret, Brett.” Rebecca leaned forward for a moment. “I may be in politics, but I am not a politician.”

Brett ran his hand through his hair again. He had been an intern helping with her first campaign, just a freshman in college trying to grab some extra credit working for an old lady of twenty-five burning for justice after her husband died in combat. He had watched her raise three children alone while serving in the State Senate. He supported her, fought with her, cried with her; he knew her. He 
waited for the other shoe to drop.

“You see a politician worries about his job first, being elected the next time and the time after that. To me politics is only a tool.” She shrugged. “If I lose the tool, I will be disappointed, because I can do a lot with the tool but in the end what is being built with the tool is more important than the tool itself. This …” she patted her briefcase “… needs to be built.”

She continued, “What is the point of all this if I am too scared to act?”

The man nodded his capitulation. This is why he had followed her for twenty years instead of breaking off for his own political career. He watched her rush out of the room 
because of the delay he caused, hurrying to make the session before it started. 

He followed a statesman, not a politician, and that terrified him as much as made him proud.

(words 699, first published 6/18/2017)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Editing Rant: Distance

Image courtesy of nitinut at

Check the simple stuff.
If you have internet, check distances and dates. People know this stuff.

A book I just read - the main character has "lived her entire life within a seventy-five mile radius of her small town" according to the blurb on the back. Two locations were named - the small town and a well-known third-tier city. I searched these two locations because passing off someone as a country hick that lived for an extended period of time with over a million other people annoyed me. Turns out the locations were 110 miles apart.

The book has a bunch of other issues with fact-checking and continuity. But this, THIS, inability to get distance right really, REALLY bugged me. All they needed to say was one hundred miles, not seventy-five.

Fact checking previously have been discussed

1. Rosemary / Know your topic
2. Other Cool Blogs / Futurama date check
3. Distances

Hint: If I keep coming back to a topic in the Editing Rants, (A) It's Important and (B) People Keep Getting It Wrong.

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Book Review: The Big Bad 2

Book Cover from Amazon

The Big Bad II, an anthology published by Falstaff Books.

Everybody loves the bad guys, and this second edition of The Big Bad brings you more to love! A collection of best-selling fantasy and horror writers brings you twenty-four all-new tales of vampires, demons, ghosts, zombies, and the most terrifying monsters of all - humans. Crack open the pages, if you dare, and explore two dozen tales of humor and horror by some of the brightest names in the business!

Much more consistent in story quality than the first book (but slightly less daring), Mr. Hartness and Ms. Leverett seem to have their strides with their second anthology of Big Bad.

So often we see the put-upon minority, the bad guys, get trampled, locked up, even killed by good guys and government agents (unless, of course, those are the bad guys). It is a pleasure seeing them not only survive, but thrive ... I think.

Feels like Justice to Me by Edmund R. Schubert may be one of the best justifications I have ever read for someone doing something unusual. An amazing character piece! This one is a five star. It's about half-way through the anthology.

And Stuart Jaffee for his Portrait of a Psychopathic Man wins the "what was I thinking reading this anthology at midnight" award. Really I was reading this anthology at midnight - WHAT was I THINKING?

Quick rundown on some of the other 24 stories

A Family Affair - by Selah Janel - So nice to see a son take after his mother. I can see him growing up to be just like her ... she should be worried.

Old Nonna - by Gail Z Martin - A lovely twist of an ancient Russian story transferred to mountain folk everywhere.
A Day in the Life - by James R. Tuck - Some days are better than others, even for the fiends of Hell. But you know, a good working environment can help make the difference.
Overkill - by Sara Taylor Woods - Word of advice, don't make a Southern waitress from a redneck bar angry. She will bless your heart.
A Fitter Subject for Study - by Sarah Joy Adams - All in the name of science. (I can soooo see this as the first stage of a Call of Cth game. ... Little surprised the editors choose to have two letter-based shorts, but they are both horrific fun.)
Ghost and Sands - by Jay Requard - Another short about Mr. Conjer whom we met in the first Big Bad Anthology. Pleased to see him still in business.
The House on Cherry Hill by Emily Lavin Leverett - Some old houses are more than just money pits.
Phone Home - by E.D. Guy - A sci-fi! So much of the horror genre is historic or contemporary; so nice to see one proving bad guys continue to destroy humanity in the future.
I Think of Snow - by J. Matthew Saunders - This author's beautiful language perfectly capture a love interest (ummm, maybe not the right description).
and finally ...
The Cully - by D.B. Jackson - A Sephira origin story ... enough said, if you like the Thieftaker series.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Art Projects: Drawn Thread

Drawn Threadwork made my May
This month I taught a class on Drawn Threadwork. Related to the class I ended up making a couple of towels as examples, to work beside my students, and to drum up additional interest in the class.

First towel completed (May 19) - 15 hours
I love Drawn Thread embroidery because of its speed; this 17 inch by 30 inch towel took under 15 hours to complete when many of my embroidery projects can take over 100 hours. The four lines of drawn threadwork include Hound's Tooth, Interlacing (Variation), Zig-Zag, and Interlacing (Basic).

Second towel completed (May 26) 
The lines are as follows(top to edge of fabric) - Hound's tooth bottom; Hound's tooth top; drawn thread 2 lines; drawn thread 4 lines; Double ladder interlace (6 gather for each ladder); drawn thread 4 lines; drawn thread 2 lines; Zig zag; Hound's tooth top.
All white fabric untouched are 6 lines wide. All gathers are 8-thread gathers unless stated otherwise.

And enough of that for a while. Hopefully my students enjoyed the class as much as I did prepping for it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Blog: Author Signing

Amazon Cover

Yesterday I attended my first author signing where I was one of the people signing the books. I used a special pen and everything. Two hours of fun with a bunch of other awesome authors from "We Are Not This". It's available for sale on Amazon now. Click here for paperbackClick here for Kindle.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book Review: Salvage

Book Cover from Amazon

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Internationally bestselling author Stephanie Perkins called it "brilliant, feminist science fiction."

Ava is the captain's daughter. This allows her limited freedom and a certain status in the Parastrata's rigid society—but it doesn't mean she can read or write or even withstand the forces of gravity. When Ava learns she is to be traded in marriage to another merchant ship, she hopes for the best. After all, she is the captain's daughter. But instead, betrayal, banishment, and a brush with love and death are her destiny, and Ava stows away on a mail sloop bound for Earth in order to escape both her past and her future. The gravity almost kills her. Gradually recuperating in a stranger's floating cabin on the Gyre, a huge mass of scrap and garbage in the Pacific Ocean, Ava begins to learn the true meaning of family and home and trust—and she begins to nourish her own strength and soul. This sweeping and harrowing novel explores themes of choice, agency, rebellion, and family, and after a tidal wave destroys the Gyre and all those who live there, ultimately sends its main character on a thrilling journey to Mumbai, the beating heart of Alexandra Duncan's post–climate change Earth. An Andre Norton Award nominee.

A young adult (YA) science-fiction coming-of-age story. Several different venues touched from a broken down post-apocalyptic-feeling spaceship, to a bustling aging space station, to a plastic-trash-mining town in the middle of the ocean, and finally a city in India. 

Some of the readers complained about the unique dialect the isolated spaceship community developed as being hard to follow. Also that the tech language was a bit unapproachable. As a long-time reader of science fiction/fantasy I did not feel either of these fell outside the typical troupe level for the genre; in fact most of the technical language fell solidly within modern science. The only thing I found bad scientifically was Ava's grandfather sociological study of the spaceship-community; but then he broke nearly every rule of studying an isolated community (which is accurately noted in Salvage).

Ms. Duncan does an excellent job of creating a multi-layer universe. From the unique dialect to the boy's home and the cultural drift of the spaceship community, everything holds together well. I found Ava's slow development from a semi-privileged daughter-of-the-captain to a more powerful grown woman believable, especially her long time strength building while residing in Gyre and her frustration as a non-reader in a reading society. The coming-of-age character development has both leaps forward and the back-slides a sixteen year old displays constantly as they go from being a child to an adult both in society and with their body (and the related hormone swings and mental changes).

A couple of things kept this from being perfect. (1) Yet another time when a teenager having sex is immediately punished (at least this time both the girl and boy get about equal bad things happen); (2) Ava is not a Mary-Jane (several times you just want to shake her for being a jerk teenager - this could also be a plus); (3) the instant love between the main character and her first love interest (yes, there are two, but it is not a love triangle except in that comparing new people to the people you lost) - the instant love is believable because Ava first ran into the first-love years earlier (he was the only non-relative male she had every interacted with - so, of course, she crushed on him forever once she reached the age when crushes happen). ... I am just tried of the YA instant-love punishment cycle at this point of my life.

Plus side Ava runs into people during her exile who help her because they just do, people who are indifferent, and people that take advantage of her. And, just like real life, there are actually more people who help than harm even if sometimes it doesn't feel that way.
A really good science fiction YA coming-of-age which I think both genders would enjoy.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: Homegrown Herb Garden

Book Cover from Amazon

As you know, some of my arts include gardening and cooking. I really enjoyed this book.

Take your home cooking to the next level by incorporating fresh homegrown herbs! You don't need lots of space for a huge herb garden, and you don't need to spend a lot of money on fresh herbs at the grocery store or farmers' market. With Homegrown Herb Garden, you can choose the herb or herbs you will use the most and build your herb garden around them. Start with an overview of how to grow, harvest, and store herbs. Then, learn how to handle each herb and what flavors they work well with. The culinary section includes how to prepare and use your herbs, plus savory and sweet recipes to feature them in. Choose your favorite herbs, learn to grow them successfully, and never be at a loss for what to do with them!

Book comes in two parts 25% herbs and 75% recipes for those herbs. Total herbs covered 15; total recipes provided 62.

This is exactly what I've been looking for in an herb book! Each of the fifteen herbs are given height/width growth, water needs, and harvest instructions. The instructions for growing in containers are real instructions instead of the normal "appropriate size container and water regularly" - root depth is covered for instance. Whether the herb is a candidate for early start in house and transfer out to the garden or if it is best just to directly plant it in the garden (tranplantability). Etc.

Ms. McCormick lets the reader know when best to harvest and why (in case you ever wondered why you need to harvest early in the morning). Everything you need to set up an herb garden is here. It is amazing. Why more gardening books don't do I don't know. This changed how I was going to set up my garden - now I am going to split it into the "wet" and "dry" sections. Five stars all the way.

I don't have herbs yet (still setting up the garden), so haven't tried out the recipe section. The recipes are complicated, created by Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef Morgan - beautiful, but complicated. I may eventually attempt one or two (the rosemary chocolate chip cookie recipe is very tempting). At the beginning of each herb recipe section (at least three recipes for each of the fifteen herbs), includes best pairings with the herbs - what types of cheeses, meats, fruits & vegetables. I don't see myself using that information very much, but new cooks working toward mastery of the kitchen may find it useful. More helpful is how to chop/use each herb in a dish - but I got most of that from the herb section. I found Chef Morgan's sectioning herbs into woody and grassing completely unhelpful for my purposes - but I totally can see another cook getting an "a-ha" moment and running with it.

So for the recipe section, I would give two stars (Goodreads - it was okay) or three stars (Amazon - it was okay). But the herb section was so exactly what I have been looking for - and I have gone through a lot of online searches and gardening book reading, I know how rare this is and would have bought the book JUST for the herb section (in fact I did buy it just for the herb section) - I had to give this manuscript Five Stars.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book Review: Shattering the Ley

Book Cover from Amazon


First book in Joshua Palmatier's new epic fantasy trilogy, set in a sprawling city of light and magic fueled by a ley line network.
Erenthrall—sprawling city of light and magic, whose streets are packed with traders from a dozen lands and whose buildings and towers are grown and shaped in the space of a day.

At the heart of the city is the Nexus, the hub of a magical ley line system that powers Erenthrall. This ley line also links the city and the Baronial plains to rest of the continent and the world beyond. The Prime Wielders control the Nexus with secrecy and lies, but it is the Baron who controls the Wielders. The Baron also controls the rest of the Baronies through a web of brutal intimidation enforced by his bloodthirsty guardsmen and unnatural assassins.

When the rebel Kormanley seek to destroy the ley system and the Baron’s chokehold, two people find themselves caught in the chaos that sweeps through Erenthrall and threatens the entire world: Kara Tremain, a young Wielder coming into her power, who discovers the forbidden truth behind the magic that powers the ley lines; and Alan Garrett, a recruit in the Baron’s guard, who learns that the city holds more mysteries and more danger than he could possibly have imagined . . . and who holds a secret within himself that could mean Erenthrall’s destruction -- or its salvation.

A solid fantasy story, sort of in the "epic" variety in that it has multiple points-of-views (POVs),  following a political situation. But also has strong romantic elements, several coming-of-age storylines, start-for-a-series worldbuilding, and some kicking sword and fist fights.

Not of the standard "epic" in that there are no orcs and elves, and the magic - while wieldable by individuals - is treated by this society more like electricity and the "mages" come to your house to fix the stove while the stronger mages fix the power lines - or in this case the ley lines. In some ways this ends up feeling more science-fiction in a historic setting than a fantasy (similar to a steampunk vibe). I guess that is why I enjoyed it so much.

We first meet the POV major characters in their childhood - Justin is 8, Kara is 12, and Allen is 16. The book has many chapters divided among five parts - these five parts read like mini-books and have two major skips through time - one of four years and one of twelve years - so at the end of the book Justin is 24, Kara is 28, and Allen is 32. One or two timing issues made me go "er", but did not impact the story at all. For example not exactly certain what Cory's age is at the beginning of the book. Not that it matters since he isn't a primary POV character, although he does have a couple short POV moments.

Overall a good way to spend a few days.

Addition: With the second book out (Threading the Needle), I think it is okay to mention this is the first book of an apocalyptic story within a fantasy setting. Ecological magic-based disaster. And by apocalypse, I don't mean the more common post-apocalypse where you see the survivors ten or twenty years or even hundreds of years after the disaster. No, this book is about the apocalypse - the destruction of civilization. Characters die - POV characters, both minor and major, die. Ones you like. Ones you don't like. Ones you have bonded with over the course of the book. You feel the loss. Great writing.

Future books of the series hopefully will not be as emotionally draining as the last two parts of this book.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings
(but does have grammarly in the image)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Review: Cellar

Book Cover from Amazon


Something’s not quite right about the neighborhood of Woodland Heights. Five years ago six children disappeared in this suburban heaven. When Laura Wagner moves into a house that had been vacant for most of those five years, this something comes alive.

Laura Wagner, divorced mother of two, addicted to alcohol and Valium, sees nothing wrong with her life; she sees nothing much at all. She gets by as well as she can, aided by the solace of her drugs and whiskey, until the day she backs into a police car in the parking lot of her favorite bar and is sentenced to involuntary rehabilitation treatments.

Returning home clean and sober is an eye-opening experience. The spirit dwelling in her house reveals its true, evil nature and begins to prey upon her, her friends, even her children, avid to spread its message of death and despair.

Laura must learn to control her inner demons before she can subdue these outside forces threatening to break free. She must learn how to distinguish hallucinations from reality, learn how to stop the spirit that requires her death and the deaths of her loved ones.

Author’s Note:
CELLAR is a re-issue of my previous published book (Twelve Steps from Darkness, Copyright © 2007 Karen E. Taylor.) The story, while essentially the same, has been edited and expanded upon in certain areas, resulting in several new scenes and an epilogue.

I finished reading Cellar by Karen Taylor at midnight last night - not exactly the best time to be reading this horror-ghost-recovering-addict story in a house with a damp, dark basement and parts of the house which knock at random moments. Yeah, bad idea.

First off, this is not my normal fare. I avoid horror and mental-health/addict stories, but it was in the Modern Magic pack where I knew a number of Urban Fantasy authors so I read it. It took a long time to get to the "modern magic" part. But in the meantime a solid character study was created for Laura, the Main Character - an alcoholic whose downward spiral included backing into a police car when leaving a bar. After coming home to the empty house following the sentencing, voices whisper in her head about how worthless she is - children taken by husband, loss of job, and soon to spend a month in rehab where they would take the one thing she loved from her - the alcohol. "She would be better off dead." Again and again the whispers tell her, or is it her own mind spiraling down.

And that remains the question with each situation - it is real or her addiction altering her world? Is the depression external forces or an natural internal reaction to her situation? And the real kicker - should she even care? Every step forward she attempts is matched by a failure twice as great. But three people do not give up on her - her two daughters and one police officer who has already taken the journey back from the bottle.

Will it be enough to recover from her descent into the cellar of life with the alcohol and to fight whatever has decided to reside in her basement?

Not for the faint of heart. I'm not sure which is scarier: the "horror" story or the alcoholism whispering its siren song to her.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Flash: Flower Power

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

"Gods, I cannot believe what a bunch of losers you guys have become." Donnie waved with the hand not holding his beer, encompassing the group sitting throughout the upscale living room where they had collapsed after an exhausting evening of interspecies political wrangling. The rant went on and on about the old days and how everything had changed since his friends started pairing off with "the girls," finally ended with, "We're monsters for crying loud!"

The host adjusted himself on the arm of the cream and maroon striped settee to better watch his wife as she bustled around the kitchen. "Just because I have chosen to hand the reigns to someone does not mean I am tame." He nodded happily as Ketzal gave him a wave before she opened the refrigerator. With her hidden behind the stainless steel door, Ebon returned his full attention to his guests, smiling with his canines exposed.

"Get real, the ring on your hand is like a ring through your nose," Donnie sneered. "Dude, you are so pussy whipped I can't even hear the crack of the leather anymore."

Ebon moved faster than even the vampire of the group of immortals could observe. One moment Donnie was leaning against the sofa with Maria and Lorenzo, the next the shifter was holding him at arm’s length with Donnie's legs swinging nearly a foot above the floor. Black hair sprouted along Ebon's elongated arms, rock-hard muscular arms ending in claws around Donnie's neck. The back of the dark elf's head lay gently against an undamaged silk wallcovering.

Everyone stopped moving, and those that could held their breath.

"Do not think my marriage makes me any less dangerous." Black eyes glowed red in the centers. Ebon stepped closer to the wall, bending the arm without effort while keeping the elf suffocating mid-air. He brought his short snout and full set of glistening teeth closer to the Wild Hunt rider face.

"Dinner is ready in ten...Ebon, my heart, put Donnie down."

"Dead or alive," he growled unmoving, staring into the eyes of his trembling prey.

Ketzal's sweet voice replied. "I don't really care, but if you kill him, you will need to dispose of the body after dinner."

"What are we having?"

An exasperated puff came behind him. "What do you think?"

"Something tomatoey," her husband replied after sniffing the air close to the elf's neck.

"Creole Boil."

If anything, Ebon's toothy grin grew wider. "You live." He opened his left hand.

Donnie fell to the floor gasping, rubbing his neck.

"And if you have a minute, can you fetch some wine for the meal?" The brunette swung her waist long hair behind her as the shifter stalked closer to her to give her ear a quick bite.

Whispering into it, which did not obscure the communication to anyone in the room because of their heightened senses, he said, "I will need to give it a taste to choose the right match."

The goddess of flowers and ephemeral things giggled softly a second before turning her lips to his. "I just sampled the dish."

He kissed her a long moment.

"The Sidewood Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, should do." He opened the small door between the living room and kitchen for the wine cellar stairs.

The satisfaction of Ketzal's sigh left no doubt about the happiness of the couple's relationship, even as it moved into its second decade. "Dinner is ready for seating as soon as someone helps me set the table."

Tykevius and Carissa glided from where they had been hovering near the ceiling toward the dining area.

"Oh, and Donnie." Ketzal's musical tones carried the bass throb of power.

The elf snapped his head toward the Aztec goddess.

Her sweet smile looked even scarier than her husband's. "I wouldn't have seconds if I were you."

(words 636, first published January 15, 2017)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: The Human Division

Book Cover from Amazon

Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU's secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance―an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they've invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won't be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant "B Team," centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you're struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man's War universe, plus―for the first time in print―the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn't part of the digital serialization.

Old Man's War Series
#1 Old Man’s War
#2 The Ghost Brigades
#3 The Last Colony
#4 Zoe’s Tale
#5 The Human Division
#6 The End of All Things
Short fiction: “After the Coup”

Mr. Scalzi attempted a new format of releasing 13 episodes as mini-ebooks; similar to the old method of serializing a story in newspapers or magazines (everything that is old is new again). A format option popular with self-published authors. After the episodes were all released, his publisher put together the whole thing in book format, adding two extras.

I did not read this during the episodic releases, and discovered the hard-copy book did not work very well as a straight read-thru. The characters’ lives had ebbs and swells that needed a break every three or four episodes. After getting about half-way through the book, I needed to set it aside for a week. Since my work was asking for 60 to 80-hour weeks during the time I was reading this book, it actually functioned well. Every Saturday I would set aside time to read three more episodes.

The writing is typical, brilliant Scalizi - a combination of humor and observations that are just too much fun. He continues to create a new character voice for each book. I love that his characters are unique - Zoe's Tale had a teenage girl voice; The Human Division had a combination - each episode had a different POV (point of view) of diplomatic approaches. As such the diplomatic-POV did not have the pure snark factor of his first book of the universe (Old Man's War).

I should note the uniqueness of the universe is beginning to wane simply because of familiarity of the World - now in book five - but the universe hasn't reached comfortable glove status. So, in places, this book felt ... awkward... like a teenager - no longer a cute, shiny baby to ooh&aah over, but not fully mature like a George R. Dickson Dorsai! universe story.

This story is essential to the ongoing Old Man's War Universe. It clearly sets up the conspiracy for the next story.

Worth the read, just do it in chunks for maximum enjoyment - the way it was originally published on the Internet.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Blog: New Year 2017

Image stolen randomly from the web

A new year, 2017 ... Time to set up a new set of goals.

2016 (Last year's) goals:
1. Restart the blog -- Met!
2. Start a newsletter -- Done!
3. Start a website -- Oh, yeah!
4. Get a new self-published novel (or two) out. - well, maybe not

Bonus actions

5. Self-publish two flirts- not
6. Attend a convention as a panelist - COMPLETED!
7. Submitted to two anthologies (ended up being four and got accepted once).

Wow, that is going to be a hard set of resolutions to follow. You know I would be plenty happy just to pull that off again.

2017 Goals

Completely under my power
1. Continue the blog with three posts a week (unless get feedback to cut back)
2. Continue the website (... I am going to dump the newsletter, too much extra work)
3. Publish (either by company or by self) a novel and two flirt
4. Submit to three anthologies.

Depends on other people for some results
5. Be a panelists at a convention again.

What do you think? Is this a good set of goals? Should I change anything?