Words, Books, and Other Magic

“The Pain of Progress”

I read this phrase in reference to a theme in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and it struck me deeply. It explains so much, including the world we are living in now. Because I follow the news, I can often fall into pessimism when I look at the world today, which is why I choose to read and view only light, humor-filled, man-conquering-obstacles, uplifting stories. The backlash against voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, the environment, and the state of war (invasion), poverty, income inequality, and racial relations can cast me into darkness from which I find it difficult to climb, so my entertainment requires something that will let me escape from reality.

I get it. People my age are terrified because the world is undergoing a major shift that is foreign to their world view. It’s a good shift. It’s a great shift. Most of the younger generations, especially the youngest, don’t think in the same way my generation does. They are more pliable, more open, more fair, more accepting. I honestly believe once this old guard is gone, things will get better (except for the minority whom they were able to poison) in general. There are some of us old people (and, yes, I do count myself as one) who can and are willing to learn and bend and rethink, but sixty plus years of thinking in one way is difficult to overcome for most people. It takes work, effort, and an admission of, well, if not guilt, then at least that you were wrong. Admitting failure and ignorance is sometimes the hardest thing to do.

I’m not excusing my generation. I despise that some people are hanging on to their old tenets with tenacity, closed-mindedness, and stubbornness. Power is one motivator. Power is heady and addictive. And corrupting. They don’t want to lose it, and they see the only way to hang onto it by riling up fear. Speaking of which, fear is another motivator. They fear being obsolete or irrelevant, and that their actions and legacy will be viewed cruel, inhumane, and short-sighted. (We all are still struggling with how to accept that historical figures can be both amazing and horrible at the same time—our founding fathers, for example). Greed is another motivator. That one pisses me off the most.

It’s far easier to NOT think for yourself and parrot the loudest, most powerful “leaders.” Thinking takes work, and ideas are often scary. Making changes in how you live isn’t easy. Accepting that the life you expected you or your children would lead won’t follow your plan means giving up on a dream. Acknowledging that the way you think is wrong hurts. Progress is painful.

Arizona sunset from a dirty car window on my way to a volleyball tournament where we won gold.

I’m trying to choose to be optimistic. I try to find joy and beauty where I can, and I love the hell out of those I love. And I open myself to learning and rethinking. I make mistakes (unlearning pronouns is HARD), but I make the attempt. And I need a haircut. Why is that so hard to do?


Books I’m reading now:

Jhereg by Steven Brust

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

The Strange Case of the Alchemists’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

A Life in Search of a Plot

I went to Phoenix, actually Tempe, this past weekend. On the drive home from AZ, we stopped for gas and a restroom. Admittedly, my gait wasn’t as spry as the previous day’s. In the ladies’ room, the door to the handicapped stall was wide open, and the opening plus the door blocked the view of the entire length of that end. As I stumbled into the restroom, a woman came in right behind me. I moved the door and revealed a second stall. She said, “I can tell from the way you walk you need the big one.”

I burst into laughter. My shuffling gait was the product of winning gold in a senior volleyball tournament. I had played in the Arizona Senior Olympic State games. I had hit well, run well, served well, passed well, and at times awesomely in all areas. My team got the gold in the ladies 60s division. Whoot whoot! When I was 25, if someone had told me that I’d be playing better volleyball at sixty, (Jesus, sixty!), I never would have believed it. But, yes, I do believe I play better now than I did back then. The difference is the price that I pay at this age for playing volleyball from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM.

Ah, the way the world finds a way to bring you down to earth.

Books I’m reading now:

Beach Read by Emily Henry

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

The Reason I Like Writing Better than Speaking

On paper (or screen–showing my age here), I am eloquent, witty, erudite, logical. At least I like to think so. I’m not here to argue my delusions. The reason I can believe myself  those things is because I can edit and revise before my words become public. Because in real life I stammer often, I transpose letters often, and I just say stupid, awkward things. I always warn people I’m in-person friends with that I will, at some point, say something either insulting or inappropriate when I didn’t mean to.

Case in point: Many years ago, I met a famous, successful author at a book signing. She outsells me by orders of magnitude. I won’t mention her name because she is rather well-known (not Nora Roberts). It was a free book giveaway at a writers conference; her line was long, so I didn’t have a conversation with her. Just a week before I had read a review of her latest that said her books were all the same. I was thinking about that review–don’t ask me why it stuck in my head–while waiting to meet this author. So what do I say to her when I get to the front of the line? “You’re books are all the same, but you suck me in every time.” Yes, I actually said that. She was magnificent; never blinked or said anything rude back to me, and handed me her book with a smile. But from the shocked look on her face, I know she heard me.

What was I thinking? Yes, there is a sameness quality to her novels, but the sameness is her style, her voice that envelops me like a warm comforting blanket when I read her. I read her before then, I read her now. I still enjoy her books tremendously, and several appear on my keepers shelf. Why couldn’t I have said the blanket thing to her instead? I started to worry about her remembering me for that stupid line. I know she meets a million people who have said stupid things to her, but we tend to remember those people, and I believe I stick out anyway at a woman’s conference because I’m rather taller than most attendees. But it’s not like we wear honking big name tags that advertise who we are. Oh, wait, we do. It’s a conference.

A few years later I passed her walking down a hallway, and our eyes connected. She smiled at me, in friendly manner. I immediately turned my head away so she wouldn’t see me. Yeah, ’cause that works really well walking down a hallway when you’ve made eye contact with someone. Mortification can make you do stupid things. So in essence I’ve snubbed her twice.

Another example: when talking about a subject and someone makes a humorous observation about that subject, I often don’t laugh. I understand it’s a joke, and I understand the humor. It’s not even that I didn’t find it funny, but for whatever reason it’s not funny enough for me to laugh. I will then proceed to address that point as if their joke was serious. I know it wasn’t; I just missed my part of the underlying social cues needed for a non-awkward conversation. For some reason this happens all the time with my sister. With others too, but at least once per conversation with my sister.

We all have our quirks.


Books I’m reading now:

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (Yes, I’ve seen the show)




The Foggy Years

I am old.

Not so old that I dodder, but old enough that injuries don’t heal as fast anymore. I’m old enough to remember a world without cable TV, but not old enough to remember dinosaurs. (Ha! That’s a a bad old joke.) Okay, not old enough to remember communicating via telegram but old enough to have received telegrams on my wedding day. Old enough to have gray hair, but not old enough to completely let go about caring that it makes me look old. I’m old enough to see the years whizz by, but young enough to stop and notice details.

People will say that I am middle aged. Not unless I live to be 120. I’m old enough to play in senior volleyball events across the country, but not so old that I can’t pound the ball. Seriously. I think I’d surprise you. I’m old enough to know my knees hurt, but not so old that I want to take up golf instead. Besides, my retirement sport plans to be birdwatching. I’m old enough to have lost one parent, but he died when I was young. The other one is still going strong.

I’m young enough to learn new things. I’m a year and a half into Taekwondo (Orange belt, thank you very much), and I just received my Open Diver Certification this last weekend (for the second time–long story).

But I’m old enough to have failed in my career choice, despite some hopeful and fitful starts, and young enough to have it hurt like hell. And now I fear I’ve reached a point where no one will take my desire to try again seriously. And I want to try again.

So I figure I have about thirty years left in me. What do I want to do with those years? I have family members to take care of, my own health to look after, and a couple of dogs I like. I am old enough to be sensible, but young enough to dream.

Those dreams are still as big as when I was twenty. And I remember twenty. And I feel twenty. So… thirty years. Here I go again.


Books I’m reading now:

The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes

Battlemage by Peter Flannery


Things that Need to Come Back

No, I certainly don’t want to bring back the 1950’s, but some things are disappearing or gone, and I think we should fight for them to stay.

  • First, the use of whom. It’s not that hard, folks. If you’d use the word him or her when you replaced the interrogative or relative pronoun, then you use the word whom. The dog rescue sticker I see on many automobiles? It should read, Who rescued whom? You have a crush on a celebrity and you meet him? I met the celebrity whom I love. But if the celebrity has a crush on you? I met the celebrity who loves me. [By the way, there is a well-covered song and not one singer has fixed the grammar error in it. In “Life is a Highway” a line in the song goes, “There is a distance between you and I.” I want to scream every time I hear it. It’s “between you and me,” damn it!!! You’d think one person would sing it correctly. (You probably don’t want me to rant about the subjunctive here.)]
  • The passenger pigeon. Yes, I know the subject of cloning is fraught, Jurassic Park and all that, but I don’t care. I want the passenger pigeon. While we’re at it, let’s bring back the great auk, the northern white rhino,  the ivory-billed woodpecker, the Tasmanian tiger, and even the dodo. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a real live dodo? Heck, let’s bring all them animals back that should be here.
  • Firefly
  • Comfortable air travel
  • More big publishing houses (or the opposite of bringing back, fewer conglomerates)
  • Art and music in the schools
  • And vocational training

Anything else you want to add here? Please feel free.


Books I’m reading now:

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole


The Foot Post

Two things you have to know before I go on: first, I’ve had surgery on my feet that don’t allow my toes to bend all the way down; second, I have a high threshold of pain tolerance.

This post is about feeling good about myself. I recently started Taekwando, and took my first belt test this weekend. It involved learning the first twelve punches, three sets of kicking sequences, the first form (taegeuk il jang) and breaking two boards with two different kicks. I passed.

So I am now officially a white belt with a black stripe. I have a long way to go, but this first step made me prouder than expected.

And now, a warning. I hate feet, but I took a picture of one of mine, the one I kicked the boards with. I had a monster kick and broke right through the board. It felt amazing and powerful. But remember above where I mentioned I’ve had foot surgery? To kick through a board, you’re supposed to use the top of your foot. I did. That’s why I broke the board so easily. But even with pointing my foot, my toes don’t bend beneath the top of my foot. So I ended up with this (foot pic coming)

Yup, those are bruises. Before I sat down, the bruises were already showing. At first I thought, wow, that board must have been dusty because I have a line of dirt on my toes. Nope. Bruises.

But I’ve also told you that I have a high pain threshold. I am weirdly proud of these bruises, and they don’t hurt.

I hesitated to post this blog because I hate feet (I said that already) and I really don’t want to attract and foot fetish people. I also think my toes are particularly ugly (I call them snausages because they’re short and weird looking). But I like the bruises. And no, I’m not into BDSM.

By the way, the second kick through a board uses the heel, so no problem there.


Books I’m reading now:

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.


Yes, I know it’s May for a few more days at least.  I’ve posted here before about nor really celebrating NewYear’s (yes, I’m aware it’s May) with resolutions or even considering January as a new beginning. Time measurement is an artificial construct and I tend to be contrary. So in a few days it’s June, and I fell the urge to do the whole new beginning thing now.

I’ve had a marvelous and busy past few weeks. I’ve been in Boston, where MYSTIC won second place in a writing contest and I had a chance to visit with one daughter; I’ve been to Reno and the last RT (which so plays into the whole spectrum of my luck in the writing business); I’ve been to SoCal to visit with another daughter and other family (and, of course, a trip to the “happiest place on earth,” where this Disney fan walked until she couldn’t walk any more). So now I’m home, and ready to get back to work. That’s the perfect time to have a new beginning.

So in June I plan to finish the sequel to Mystic (first draft), get my newsletter updated and GDPR compliant, put myself out there, and be professional.

Of course, in keeping with my run of luck in the writing business, I got called for jury duty starting June 15.


Books I’m reading now:

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Issacson

A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Word of Mouth

I just finished rereading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Sigh. I have never reached the tipping point with any of my novels.

At some point you have to believe that it’s you and not just luck. Even though my writing has won awards and contests –heck, I’m up for the New England Reader’s Choice award with Mystic (two weeks from now)–I can’t seem to break out. And it doesn’t help that I see an acquaintance get excited about her first book. It has reached number four on some YA list. I’m am truly thrilled for her. Really. I am also wondering what the heck she did or didn’t do to get such word of mouth about her first book. I can’t get such reception on book fourteen!

Am I whinging? Perhaps. But as I said above, at some point you have to believe it’s your writing. You’d think that if you were truly good, people would have discovered you by now. I just don’t seem to generate word of mouth.

When I read a book I love I talk about it–to friends, on social media, in lists. I’ve talked about Ready Player One and Theft of Swords. I’ve loaned out my copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society until a friend spilled coffee on it and had to replace it for me. I’ve taught Dandelion Wine and bought From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler for my kids and will buy it again for my grandkids should I ever have any. I have recommended Jennifer Crusie and Julia Quinn when people claim romance is mindless.  You want a scare? And Then There Were None.

I don’t claim literary genius, a case I can make for the above books. However, I don’t even seem to touch or reach the mavens (see The Tipping Point). MysticCover

Do your favorite authors, or even the ones you just enjoyed,  a favor. Become a mini maven. Leave a review at Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads, or wherever. Or tell a friend or twenty. Or tweet about it. Or whatever. Or send the author a note. That can make an author’s day.  But word of mouth helps. It’s still the best way to build readership, and no one really knows how to create word of mouth except to write the best book you can.

Hope this wasn’t too self-centered and self-pitying.


Books I’m reading now:

The Tippping Point by Malcom Gladwell

Trial and Error by Jack Woodford


If You Think…

I love language and languages. I especially love when I learn something new about it. Like the saying “getting his just deserts.” One “S”. Because it not about that sweet thing you eat after a meal and getting one that fits what you’ve done, although that makes sense and it’s what most people think, but because deserts is a noun form from the verb deserve, so it means getting what one deserves. (Oversimplified, but, hey, you get what I mean.)

Just desserts (One of my favorite Hungarian cakes)

Stuff like that probably makes me a pedant, but I wear that badge proudly. I like knowing things. It’s because I like learning things. I make mistakes. I know for a fact that at least one of my early books makes the mistake between loathe and loath. The copy editor didn’t catch it, so it’s in print that way forever. I know the difference now (loathe is the verb meaning to hate, and loath is the adjective meaning reluctant).

So back to the title of this post. You know the saying, “If you think …, then you have another…” and there I pause. We learn language by making errors. Little children will say things like, “I goed,” or “He drinked.” They have internalized adding -ed to make the past tense, but haven’t learned that irregular verbs have different forms. We internalize language and don’t think about grammar when we speak. We just speak.

So when someone makes an error on purpose, it’s hard not to try to correct it in our minds. The saying actually is, “If you think you’re right, you have another think coming.” Think about it (there’s that word again). It’s grammatically incorrect on purpose. It sounds strange to our ears to use a verb, think, as a noun, but doesn’t think make a whole lot more sense than thing? What does “You have another thing coming” even mean? Oh, we’ve tried to make sense of it, like the dessert vs desert thing (there’s that word again). Before I knew the true form, I always thought the saying meant you should get a punishment of some sort. But, really, how harsh is that for thinking something (Oooo, think and thing in the same sentence)? Thing is so vague, so meaningless. Yet look how often we use it, even in this post. Think makes more sense, when you analyze it. (I almost wrote “when you think about it,” but that would be excessive, don’t you think?)

But language is nothing if not fluid, and most people will tell you that the saying is “If you think you’re right, then you have another thing coming.” That’s our internalized grammar editor trying to correct an error made on purpose. We know English, and you can’t use the verb think as a noun. So using thing has become acceptable. You will hear thing used on TV or see it in books, but now you know better.

Perhaps it will drive you as nuts as it does me. >twisting my evil villain mustache< Bwhahahaha. Wait until I point out the difference between fewer and less.


Books I am reading now:

The Unseducible Earl by Sheri Humphreys

Sonnet Coupled by Roxanne D Howard



My Favorite Pieces of Art

There are two. One is  “Youki desse de la neige” in the Petit Palais in Geneva. I saw this painting when I was 20 and it stuck with me. I thought she was beautiful.

This is a picture of the postcard I bought of the painting. It’s now in the album I made during my year abroad.

The other is “El Rio de Luz” by Frederic Edwin Church. There’s something about this painting, the yellows and browns and greens  with that tiny burst of red on the bird at the almost center. I could stare at it for hours. I always make sure I view it when I get to the National Gallery of Art in DC (so far about four times).


(I didn’t want to break copyright laws by posting a picture, but definitely click on the link. ) The canvas is enormous so no picture does it justice.

Do you have any favorites?


Books I’m reading now:

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake