Monday, December 31, 2007
As usual, mine will start with 'eat less sugar and chocolate'. This is usually because I've OD'd on sugar and chocolate over the holidays.
Carrot sticks next year, not chocolate and candy!
Stop smoking. (I don't smoke, but it's a darn good resolution to have.) In France, there is No more smoking at all in public places. No more smoke-filled nightclubs, bars, or cafés. It will be odd stepping into the local café to fill out my Lotto ticket, and not find myself in a cloud of smoke.
More exercise! I have the gym schedule next to my computer. No more excuses. Off to the gym! Off with the flab!
Finish the 4 books I started in 2007 and start the series I've been dying to work on.
Work with Calderwood Books getting our titles into Fictionwise and in POD.
Get rid of my tendinitis. (I've been resting my elbow and it feels much better! The house, however, is rawther dusty, and my work is Way, Way falling behind.)
Perfect my golf. (One of my favorite resolutions, after 'Get More Sleep', and 'Relax with a Book more Often'.)
Find more ways to protect the planet.
Take down my Christmas tree.
Happy New Year! May it be filled with Peace and Prosperity for all!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Here are some solutions:
1) The hand-knit sweater. The sleeves are unequal length, the color a sort of 'vomitus green', and the buttons came from the 70's, and haven't aged well at all. It's 100% pure wool. It feels like 100% steel wool. You grit your teeth and smile. "Thank you SO much," you say.
What keeps your smile in place is the knowledge that wool is the best material for buffing wood wax. Woolen sweaters can buff floor wax to a mirror-bright shine.
2) The bracelet. It's plastic. How modern! With large, blue squares held together with black plastic string. The bracelet fits the cat. It hides the flea collar, and makes the mangy cat look almost like a prize feline.
Ugly jewelry can almost always be used for something.
3) The hideous writing paper.
That's a no brainer. Everyone knows paper is fine for starting chimney fires. For those with no chimneys, paper can be used to start the barb-b-cue.
4) The perfume that knocks you out. This is a hard one. Pour it down the drain, and you get whiffs of it for days. Dump it in the toilet, and you feel guilty. There is an answer:
Horrible perfume can be used to freshen the kitchen garbage. Soak a little into a paper towel, and place beneath the plastic bin liner.
5) The book you'll never read.
Put it in your bookcase. It can always be used in a pinch to swat a spider when you don't want to ruin any of your keepers.
After a few days, the sight of the box of chocolates, little nibbles taken out of most of them, is too much to bear. My advice is to never unwrap chocolate boxes. Keep them until your next bridge party and give them to the host/hostess. The round, coconut balls make interesting golf balls after a few years in the back of the closet.
7) The dreadful jacket.
Your mother thinks you're cold and gives you a huge, fireman-red down jacket. It's puffy. It's flashy. It's...just not you.
If you're not allergic to feathers, I suggest taking a pillow case and stuffing it with the jacket. You can also try dying it a different color. Experiment. Tie-dying a down jacket is an excellent rainy day activity. Have fun.
8) The gadget. You have no idea what it is. You read the directions twice, and it still makes no sense. It might be a clock - or a barometer. Check to see if there are batteries you can recuperate. If it's heavy enough, use it as a paperweight until you can't stand the sight of it. Whatever you do, don't put it in a drawer and forget about it.
9) Health-food. Have you ever gotten a bag/box/crate of health food as a gift? A bag of sawdust, you thought at first. Turns out to be the 'Power Drink' of the stars. Tastes like saw dust. Your borders will appreciate it. Also can be used to supplement plant food. Do not feed to the dog.
10) The arts and krafts kit. Oh joy. Oh delight. An arts and krafts kit to make a ____ (fill in the blank). You have to sew (can't sew) or paint (can't paint) or glue together pieces of wood to make something wonderful. But these kits CAN be useful.
A car pulls up, and someone you don't want to see comes to the front door.
Quick! Open the arts and kraft box and strew everything over the table.
"I'm so sorry. I can't talk right now, I'm SO busy," you say, pointing to the pile of ribbons, wood, nails and paint. Saved by the arts and kraft kit.
11) The really ugly shirt. Wear it once and have someone take your picture, as proof you wore it. Then glad rags and more glad rags.
12) The awful music. A CD of some sort of ear-splitting cacophony. If you have a cherry tree, tie it in the branches with sting to scare the birds away. Or use it as a frisbee. Put it under your coffee cup so you don't stain your desk. CD's can be very useful. The thank you note is heartfelt.
13) The tie you'll never wear. It's a given that at some point in your life you'll get a hideous tie. They can be used in a pinch to tie up the dog, to close the trunk, or to wipe up a spill. Keep it in the glove compartment in your car. You never klnow when you might need a garrotte.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Germany’s interior minister called the Church of Scientology "an unconstitutional organization" and said the nation is seeking to ban the group.
Let's dig around the web and see iwhat we can find...
"...To explain the furious hostility between Germany and the Church of Scientology, German officials might point to the story of a young man from Braunschweig named Juergen Behrndt.
Shortly before his graduation from technical school in 1989, Behrndt received an offer of free career counseling in a brochure from an employment agent in Hamburg. But the man turned out to be a Scientologist recruiter, and instead of employment advice, he gave Behrndt a copy of the Scientologists' Bible, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Then a woman from the Scientologists' Hamburg office began calling, Behrndt said, and pressuring him to take a 200-question personality test.
He did, beginning a six-year membership with the group, an endless series of "audits" of his mental health and classes to "stabilize" his mind. "When things went well, I paid ever-more money out of my pocket," Behrndt recalled. "When things went poorly, I was insulted and rebuked." In Behrndt's first year of membership, Scientology officials visited his parents with him seeking a DM 75,000 ($50,250) loan toward his activities. By the time he broke from the group in 1995, Behrndt had spent some DM 200,000 ($134,000), was unemployed and emotionally ravaged: "Many days I saw no reason to even get up."
This article from German Life goes on to explain that:
"Scientology sprouted in America in the 1950s. L. Ron Hubbard, a moderately successful science fiction author, founded the group and wrote Dianetics and other books that outline his principles. Scientologists believe that an intergalactic holocaust 75 million years ago caused mankind's spiritual problems. They perform "audits" of their members' mental states and offer expensive remedies in the form of counseling and self-improvement courses."
To me, Scientology has always been a scam sect featuring movie stars like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Of course, to me, Mormanism is also a sect featuring Donny Osmond and the Morman Tabernacle Choir. A choice between bad movies and even worse music.
And even more interesting is this:
"There are three notable American court cases involving Scientology that illustrate why Germany's concerns about this organization are justified. In the early 1980s, American courts convicted 11 top Scientologists for plotting to plant spies in federal agencies, break into government offices and bug at least one IRS meeting. In 1994, in a case involving Lawrence Wollersheim, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a California court's finding of substantial evidence that Scientology practices took place in a coercive environment and rejected Scientology's claims that the practices were protected under religious freedom guaranties. In September 1997, the Illinois Supreme Court found there was evidence enough to allege that Scientology had driven the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy by filing 21 lawsuits in a 17-month period. The court stated that "such a sustained onslaught of litigation can hardly be deemed 'ordinary', if [the Network] can prove that the actions were brought without probable cause and with malice."
In addition, a New York Times article on March 9, 1997, outlined "an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the [IRS] and people who work there. Among the findings were these: Scientology's lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of IRS officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities." A related New York Times article on December 1, 1997, added that earlier IRS refusals to grant tax exemption "had been upheld by every court." (On December 30, 1997, a Wall Street Journal article outlined details of the $12.5 million tax settlement between the IRS and Scientology, including the Scientology agreement to drop thousands of lawsuits against the IRS.)
On December 1, 1997, a New York Times article described Scientology records seized in an FBI raid on church offices that prove "that Scientology had come to Clearwater with a written plan to take control of the city. Government and community organizations were infiltrated by Scientology members. Plans were undertaken to discredit and silence critics. A fake hit-and-run accident was staged in 1976 to try to ruin the political career of the mayor. A Scientologist infiltrated the local newspaper and reported on the paper's plans to her handlers." A related Times article also on Dec. 1, 1997, reported on a criminal investigation into Scientology's role in a member's death in Clearwater, Florida. In November 1998, the responsible State Attorney charged Scientology's Flag Service Organization with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license.
Given this background, Germany, as well as Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Israel and Mexico, remain unconvinced that Scientology is a religion. "
(The above lifted from here)
Now, ever since a Hari Krishna stuck a pin in my back because I kicked her out of the store where I was working, I've been against any sort of sect. I also chased the Hari Krishna down the street and would have pounded her if I hadn't been hampered by my sarong falling down.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
So far, my holidays have been surreal.
Today we woke up and the water pipes were frozen. I went into the shed and sure enough, the workers had forgotten to put the insulation back on the pipes. So, several hot towels and newspaper and a hair dryer later, we have water again. I have to go find where the workers put the insulation and tuck it all back in, but it's cold out there.
The temperatures will rise a little this week, but will plunge again next week. I love the cold when it's sunny out, and so far we've had glorious weather - bright, sunny, and cold.
My daughter is sick - the school called yesterday and sent us into a panic. The school nurse thought she might have menigitis.
So yesterday I'm in church listening to the children's choir for the private school in Montfort (Gorgeous church, Unesco site) and the cell phone rings, and it's my husband with the news about my daughter. I leave right in the middle of 'Angels We Have Heard on High' and sprint for the car. I was with my friend Andrea, so she had to drop me off. We rushed her to the doctor, who reassured me. It's just a gastirc flu. Causes headaches, muscle aches, and nausea. Poor kid is once again in bed (well, with the TV on, big fluffy pillows, and room service...) I do hate getting scared like that though.
Auguste is escaping again. (he goes through stages) Now he's learned to climb the stone wall on the right side of our garden. (Strange sight, a dachshund taking a flying leap at the wall, then gripping and scrabbling over it.) It would be funnier if I weren't so worried he'd get hit by a car once outside the garden. Silly dog.
Gabriele, I got the French version of the Deryni series, I didn't even check to see if it was in English. It's by Pocket books, so maybe they have a series in German? I know most of my German friends prefer to read books that are written in English in English. I'm always amazed at how well my German friends speak English.
I wish I came from a country with an educational system that thought learning a foreign language was important...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
"...In 1982, 56.9 per cent of Americans had read a work of creative literature in the previous twelve months. The proportion fell to fifty-four per cent in 1992, and to 46.7 per cent in 2002. Last month, the N.E.A. released a follow-up report, “To Read or Not to Read,” which showed correlations between the decline of reading and social phenomena as diverse as income disparity, exercise, and voting. In his introduction, the N.E.A. chairman, Dana Gioia, wrote, “Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement.”"
Book sales have stagnated, even fallen, in the past few years, dropping from "8.27 books per person in 2001 to 7.93 in 2006."
As a reader, I'm stunned to learn that only 46.7 per cent of Americans have read a work of creative literature (poem, short story, novel) in 2002. (N.E.A. statistics). But the average American's household budget for books was 126$ in 2005, and the price of books as well as the cost of living having risen, I imagine that the number is even lower today.
What can be done about the death of reading? It's true that TV and computer games have pushed books aside, but we shouldn't let this happen without a struggle. What good can come of letting reading be phased out? The army general in me has already made up plans to ban televisision after 8pm, and install reading time instead "Unless there's a really good film or documentary on," says the hedonist in me. The army general huffs but usually looses to the hedonist. :-)
Last week I finished reading the Pullman trilogy (I'd only read the first book - seeing the film made me want to finish the series, and I really enjoyed it.)
Now I'm back in Katherine Kurtz' Deryni books, because I bought them for my neice, and I thought I'd quick read them before I wrapped them up. (Is this a Christmas faux pas, I wonder? It is, however, a family tradiction...) I am very careful not to fold the pages or crease the spine...lol.
My daughter is actually looking forward to reading Moliere's "Le Malade Imaginaire" over the holidays. I'm going to read two new mystery books I bought, plus the book I won from Linda Winfree and that I'm looking forward to reading as well.
Back to the article, it says that "Taking the long view, it’s not the neglect of reading that has to be explained but the fact that we read at all. “The act of reading is not natural,” Maryanne Wolf writes in “Proust and the Squid”" Which is interesting.
It also states that, "There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century."
Anyhow, reading the article in the New Yorker was interesting, here's a link if you'd like to take a look. I especially liked the replies of the illiterate peasants in a 1930's study.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
There is even a mention of us in this industry blog:
"...Hundreds of e-writers must have been cheering or groaning as the news filtered into the inboxes of their PCs throughout the world. E-mails Thursday were telling them whether they were finalists in the e-bookdom’s high-stakes contest, the Eppie awards. Just who among the six-hundred contestants–anyone can enter–had survived the first cut?
As I scanned down the finalist lists, I saw a lot of heavy hitters in the e-biz (Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, Loose Id), but also smaller new houses, like Calderwood Books–which, strengthened by gifted new authors, had made strong showings. I also saw big New York houses in the ranks, such as Harlequin and Silhouette. Sylvia Day at Kensington Books made the finals last year. "
Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses (YA)
North Star (Fantasy)
The Falling Down Man (Mystery)
If you haven't read them, go grab a copy from Calderwood Books!
Friday, December 14, 2007
Decided to clean house and finish wrapping presents. My daughter counted the presents under the tree. Wanted to know why she only had 1.
(I've hidden the rest. This is called torturing your child.)
"Because we're only giving you one present this year. But don't worry. You'll love the book..I mean present."
"One book?" (Outraged tone of voice.)
"Did I say book? Ignore it. Forget what I said. Christmas is all about the birth of Christ, not presents. In order to become more Christian this year, I've decided to forego presents. Too commercial."
"What?! What about the presents the three kings gave to Jesus. Shouldn't I get at least three presents?"
"Well, if you insist. I don't know where I'll get the myrhh though. Insense is easy, and I suppose I have an old gold ring somewhere I can wrap up."
Daughter narrows eyes. "I was thinking more along the lines of a pony, and a new saddle blanket."
"Forget it. Gold, insense, and mryhh."
"I've decided to become Jewish. That way I get eight presents."
"You have to know how to speak Hebrew. Can you speak Hebrew? No? Well, no Hannukka presents. Sorry."
"How about we become Muslims and celebrate Eid ul-Adha? OK?"
"You know that calls for sacrificing the family's best domestic animal. Do you want us to have to kill Auguste?"
"That's not for dogs! It's for sheep, goats, or cows!"
"Or ponies. Maybe you can get a pony for Christmas and we can sacrifice it for Eid ul-Adha?"
"Stop teasing me!" (howls)
(Kids have no sense of humor.)
Actually, neither do religeous fanatics so I'd better stop here. Never fear, we won't sacrifice Auguste - he's too young and too small, for one thing. Hannukka is already over (I hope my Jewish friends had a happy Hannukka) and so we'll just have to stick with celebrating Christmas. Somehow I have to convince my daughter that the poor and meek will inherit the earth, and when that happens, we'll have all the ponies and horses she'll need.
And for all my friends for this holiday season:
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
My husband and I were looking at the picture today, and he said, "Kids can really surprise you, don't they?"
And it's true. I never imagined Sebi as a fireman (he's also a full time psychology student!) but it's nice when kids surprise you (most of the time, lol.) We never pushed our kids in any particular direction, except to get their diplomas. Maybe I pushed my other son, Alex, towards veterinary medicine, but right now he's studying microbiology and loving it, so maybe he'll change direction as well. My daughter has announced she wants to be a mounted policewoman. I love when kids look toward the future and see wonderful, intersting choices ahead of them. That's when I think that I've done a good job as a mother.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
There is one over on the incomparable Bernita's blog as well - and the prize is a paperback copy of "Weirdly: A Collection of Strange Tales". So sharpen your pens and write a story in less than 250 words. Get your inspiration from a hauntingly lovely picture.
Here is my entry - read it, then go to Bernita's blog and see if you imagined the picture!
They say there is a place where lightning doesn't strike twice - but three times, four time, over and over.They say the trees can't grow there. When one gets too tall, it's struck down.They say there's a place where the air vibrates with electrons, calling the bolts of lightning down flicker-quick and hot fingered, singing the trees that dare raise their heads too high so they grow sideways to defeat the electric enemy.
There are places like that where I have lived. Don't raise your head too high. Don't act too proud. Don't show off. Don't show at all. Hide your body and your mind. Hide behind mediocraty. Because if you don't, then someone will be quick to knock you down - make sure you realize that you better toe the line, stay in line, keep your head down. And if, by some quirk of talent or fate you stand out, you're the lightning rod.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
So there I was - wearing my daughter's waterproof winter coat, my husband's Australian cowboy hat, and my yellow rubber boots...in the pouring rain. Hands wet, clubs wet - sloshing through puddles with my two partners in the scramble. We had a wonderful time. Laughed our heads off - and won the tournament by six strokes; yes folks, I am definitely not a fair weather friend, but a foul weather golfer.
We nearly lost a club (slipped out of the guy's hands at the tee and flew into a huge puddle in a sand trap) we lost an umbrella -( turned inside out in the wind and broke) We had wind, rain, sleet and hail. We arrived soaked. My jeans were dripping into my boots and my feet were soaked. My hair was tangled and sopping wet.. But we won!!!
And I got a new pink woman's golf glove as first prize.
Friday, December 07, 2007
I had been having problems with my camera. I thought it was broken, but it turned out to be a problem with the batteries. Nothing serious. Easily fixed. So I thought I'd start my photo journal again.
Here's one of the first pics I took after my camera got better. It's of the church in front of our house. You can see the war monument and the old chestnut tree (planted during Napoleon's reign) that shades the village square.
You can also see the original front door, (restored last year) which dates from the 9th century, and the original body of the church which also dates from that period. The transept and apse is all that is left. The nave and the rest of the curch was destroyed a hundred years ago after a huge storm knocked over a bell tower opposite the one standing, and the French army decided to use dynamite to take it down. They over estimated the amount they needed and blew up most of the church. Funnily enough, only the added-on parts were destroyed. The original door and old apse were intact.They've made the transept into the nave now, so the chairs are arranged in a coptic cross shape facing the altar. Here is another picture looking through the ruined nave towards the new doorway (it used to be that the arches were not walled up - that and the doors were added after the explosion.
Yes, I know it's a tippy picture. But I had to stick my hands in through the gate to get a shot without iron bars, and I guess I didn't hold the camera very straight! (The church does have some slanted walls, but you can't tell until you're inside, actually.)
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
"Mills & Boon: 100 years of heaven or hell?
Mills & Boon enjoys a huge readership, but has attracted furious critics during its 10 decades in business. Daisy Cummins explains why she is proud to write for the company, while Julie Bindel just wishes the books would go away.
Daisy Cummins and Julie Bindel
Wednesday December 5, 2007The Guardian
Love and hate: Modern Mills & Boon books.
A fine romance
Mills & Boon books have long been an easy flogging horse. Many assume they are only read by the hopelessly unfashionable and out of touch, desperate for tales of helpless heroines swept off their feet by dashing, mildly brutish heroes.
In fact, though, the person reading an M&B is far more likely to be a successful, highly intelligent woman in her 20s or 30s. And neither these women nor the heroines they love are waiting for a man to come and rescue them. M&B has moved on and sexed up.
Next year sees the firm celebrate its centenary and high sales figures continue to speak for its success. Two hundred million books sold worldwide per annum; 13m shifted each year in the UK.
As the daughter of a single-parent feminist, I was hard-wired from an early age to balk at the merest whiff of sexism. Yet, after finding a M&B in my Irish Catholic grandmother's room one summer, I was hooked. I had discovered an exciting world of feisty heroines and hard-muscled heroes. Sexual tension simmered and exploded. And there was always a happy ending. The hero and heroine were equal partners and every conflict was happily resolved, not necessarily in a marriage but with a firm commitment for the future. For me, the child of a revolutionary and somewhat bohemian background, it was a welcome - albeit, at first, slightly guilt-inducing - contrast to the anger at men I had witnessed growing up.
My mother knew I read them and said nothing, giving her tacit permission. She understood the need to balance things out. I now write for M&B myself, and am supremely proud to do so. My last book, The Kouros Marriage Revenge, was about a devastatingly gorgeous Greek. I write under the name Abby Green purely for the thrill of having a pseudonym.
Let's start with the first old chestnut that's used against these books: that they are pulp fiction written in purple prose. Well, they have never been presented as contenders for literary prizes and therefore need not offend anyone who would denigrate them on this basis. These books started out as serials, novellas written to appeal to women who would pick them up for an exotic, escapist treat. And, as with any successful business venture, the original formula has stayed largely the same. Man meets woman, they fall in love, there is a conflict and, ultimately, a happy ending. It is the paradigm behind every great literary romantic work.
Detractors believe that these books perpetuate the stereotype of the doormat woman, taken by a boorish hero, crushed in his arms and transformed into a newer, different type of doormat. They suggest that this fiction encourages women to subscribe to a mythical fairytale, in which men are always the saviour. What drivel. The women who populate these books come from as disparate and wide-ranging economic situations as the women who read them. To say they are all mindless romantic illiterates yearning to be saved is lazy ignorance.
I consider myself a feminist. Not perhaps in the sense that my mother would have called herself a feminist. That fight was fought, and necessarily. For me, feminism means being economically independent; able to pursue the career of my choice without being thwarted; free to make decisions concerning my body, or my vote. I have never struggled with sexual discrimination.
Lovers of romantic fiction, of M&B, know our own minds, we know our own expectations of love and romance. We can separate fantasy and reality. We are not stupid. So go forth in public, ladies - and gents, if you like - take your copy of Bought for the Frenchman's Pleasure or The Italian's Captive Virgin and read it with a smile on your face, cover held high, proud in the knowledge that you are sticking two fingers up to the begrudgers of romance.
* Daisy Cummins
Fifteen years ago, I read 20 Mills & Boon novels as research for a dissertation on "romantic fiction and the rape myth". It was the easiest piece of research I have ever done. In every book, there was a scene where the heroine is "broken in", both emotionally and physically, by the hero. Having fallen for this tall, brooding figure of masculinity, the heroine becomes consumed with capturing him. The hero is behaving in a way that, in real life, causes many women to develop low self-esteem, depression and self-harming behaviour - blowing hot and cold, and treating her like dirt. But all comes right in the end. After the heroine displays extraordinary vulnerability during a crisis, Mr Macho saves the day and shows her he cares.
By this time (you know how uppity women can be), our heroine is so fed up that she does not comply when he grabs her inevitably small frame in his huge arms, and attempts to take her to bed. And so begins the "gender dance" - man chases woman, woman resists, and, finally, woman submits in a blaze of passion.
My loathing of M&B novels has nothing to do with snobbery. I could not care less if the books are trashy, formulaic or pulp fiction - Martina Cole novels, which I love, are also formulaic. But I do care about the type of propaganda perpetuated by M&B. I would go so far as to say it is misogynistic hate speech.
Why do I care so much about books that few take seriously? Are there not more important battles to fight? Challenging the low conviction rate for rape certainly seems more urgent than trashing novels that perpetuate gender stereotypes, but there is no doubt that such novels feed directly into some women's sense of themselves as lesser beings, as creatures desperate to be dominated.
One argument from M&B apologists is that the heroine has moved with the times. True, she is now more physically active and sexually imaginative. The modern-day character often dares to have sex before marriage, knows what she wants in terms of her career and personal life, and even has a sense of humour.
As a result of the changing heroine, the hero has been required to catch up. But rather than becoming a "new man", it seems he has become even more masculine and domineering in order to keep the heroine in line. This is how the rape fantasies so integral to the plot have been able to persist.
Take this description of a recent M&B novel, The Desert Sheikh's Captive Wife: "Tilda was regretting her short-lived romance with Rashad, the Crown Prince of Bakhar. Now, with her impoverished family indebted to him, Rashad was blackmailing her by insisting she pay up ... as his concubine! Soon Tilda was the arrogant Sheikh's captive, ready to be ravished in his far-away desert kingdom."
Or Bought: One Island, One Bride: "Self-made billionaire Alexander Kosta has come to the island of Lefkis for revenge ... He doesn't count on feisty pint-sized beauty Ellie Mendoras to be the thorn in his side! ... There's a dangerous smile on Alexander's lips ... As far as he's concerned Ellie's a little firecracker who needs to be tamed. He'll seduce her into compliance, then buy her body and soul!!"
Or Virgin Slave, Barbarian King: "Julia Livia Rufa is horrified when barbarians invade Rome and steal everything in sight. But she doesn't expect to be among the taken! As Wulfric's woman, she's ordered to keep house for the uncivilised marauders. Soon, though, Julia realises that she's more free as a slave than she ever was as a sheltered Roman virgin."
The first two were published this year, the third comes out in January.
In 1970, one of M&B's regular writers, Violet Winspear, claimed that her heroes had to be "capable of rape". Another, Hilary Wilde, said in 1966, "The odd thing is that if I met one of my heroes, I would probably bash him over the head with an empty whisky bottle. It is a type I loathe and detest. I imagine in all women, deep down inside us, is a primitive desire to be arrogantly bullied." These comments may have been made some time ago, but the tradition seems to continue in the many M&B novels that depict female submission to dominant heroes.
My horror at the genre is not directed towards either the women who write or, indeed, read them. I do not believe in blaming women for our own oppression. Women are the only oppressed group required not only to submit to our oppressors, but to love and sexually desire them at the same time. This is what heterosexual romantic fiction promotes - the sexual submission of women to men. M&B novels are full of patriarchal propaganda.
I can say it no better than the late, great Andrea Dworkin. This classic depiction of romance is simply "rape embellished with meaningful looks".
*Julie Bindel "
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I was lying in bed last night, and I was thinking of blogging subjects (I rarely do this, so you'd think I'd remember what I was thinking about) and I thought of something interesting...and I forgot what it was about.
As my husband would say "It must not have been that interesting." Which he always says when I tell him I've forgotten what I was about to say.
My train of thought is easily derailed.
I'm in deadline Hell, so forgive me if I don't blog hop as much as I'd like to.
And I'll try to remember what it was I was about to say.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Yesterday I kicked some elf butt with my barbarians. Yes, I got an early Christmas present from my son. We're Heroes of Might and Magic players (well, I am. My sons play everything). And I got the last game in the series - the barbarian hordes. Lots of fun. I built up a mighty army and stomped all over those pretty elf warriors.
In game one, (if you've played Heroes you'll know what I mean) the action was very stilted. Sort of like the ancient pakman games. Or Mario Brothers one! I remember the day my husband Finally saved the princess. He'd been playing for weeks (months!) and he finally got to the end! (I still hadn't quite managed to perfect the 'B' jump). Then Mario morphed and became more complex. I still held onto game one, along with the old Nintendo unit until it finally blew a fuse and died. Well, Heroes evolved the same way. From two dimensional clonking figures to amazing three dimensional life-like artforms. Gorgeous backgrounds. Amazing effects.
And I was thinking - During my lifetime we went from table-tennis games (the famous ping-pong TV game set in a huge table) to packman, to space invadors (You remember them?) to more complex games that were total busts (We had the first Star Trek game. My kids would make Captain Kurt shoot at Spock, and Spock would say, "Jim! Point that gun somewhere else!")
And then the games evolved and got even more amazing (Rama). And then we discovered Mario, Heroes, and the rest is...progress.
So that was the progress in my life. And telephones too. That's what I remember most about the progress made during my life so far. Communication and video games.
My great-grandmother was born in the late 1800's - she remembers the advent of electricity, cars, and space travel.
Now, who has more impressive memories? Is it just me, or is mankind getting bogged down in the gaming thing?
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Be careful what you name your teddy bear. An elementary school teacher in Sudan let her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammad and she was arrested. The Sudanese government stepped in and sentenced her to prison. Thousands of Sudanese marched in a protest - not to protest against her prison sentence, but to ask for her death. Death - for letting children name a teddy bear Muhammad.
So, if you were thinking about naming your teddy Muhammad, think again.
In other news, Timothy Garton Ash writes a thought-provoking article and calls for comments at the end. Most people just like to comment and I wonder how many actually Read the article.
And there is a hysterically funny article here. But again, the comment section almost makes me laugh harder as Most people have not read carefully and have taken it at face value.
Oh, and if you really want to read funny, you have to see this. It is Hysterical. Unless, of course, you're a Republican. Then, well, you may be gnashing your teeth a bit.
As you can see, I've been reading the news this morning.
I'll try to think of something more blog worthy this afternoon. Until then, spread the news!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
We worked with glue guns - the first time I'd ever used one, and of course I burned myself. My thumb is sporting a nice blister, and my nail got scorched. That glue is boiling hot! (well, d'uh!)
Today I'm off to help another friend with another Christmas market - I'm doing greeting cards with small groups of students. We're having a great time glueing glitter and buttons on colored paper - (no glue guns here!)
The schools usually sign up for the various Christmas markets in the villages (usually held in the town community center) in order to raise some money for the classes. The elementary school raises money for their annual trip to Finland, and the other school is raising money this year for an association, giving the whole amount to a charity that helps handicapped children.
So I'm quite happy to go help out at both places. It gives me a chance to 'play' with glitter, sparkles, beads, buttons, and tinsel - it's like Ali Baba's cave in the workshop!
But I won't be working the glue gun anymore.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Me: "What book is this?"
Her: "(title removed - just think of your favorite book in the Whole world)"
Me: "That's not really a 'guy' book. Does he read other books? He's not totally illiterate, is he?" (An honest question - her last boyfriend was, I think, the missing link.)
Her "No, he's well read. But he likes political books and murder mysteries."
Me: "Well, my husband hasn't read any of my books (except some excerpts - ahem) and I don't care. His taste in reading is execrable. I finally had to buy him books myself. But I bought books in the genre he likes."
Her: "But I think it's so important that he at least tries to read my favorite book. But he won't! He says it's not important."
Me: "I don't think it's really important either."
Her: (glaring) "If I'm going to spend the rest of my life with someone, he has to have read my favorite book. Period."
Me: "You don't think you can be flexible about this?"
Me: "You know, he's still calling you up and taking you out to great places. I'd reconsider. After all, there are a lot of guys out there who would run the other way if you bugged them about reading a book."
Her: "When I showed it to him, he said the cover was lamatable."
Me: "At least he uses four syllable words. I'm impressed. Come on! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You know, if it were one of my books he was refusing to read, I'd say dump the jerk. But seriously. Having a favorite book in common is not a prerequisite for a happy marriage. Honest."
Her: "I'm going to give him one more try. If he doesn't read it, it's all over between us."
(She gets her coat and leaves)
I run to the internet and send an e-mail:
"Hey, I just saw your girlfriend. A word of advice. Look up (title) on the internet and find a good synopsis. Tell her you read the book!"
I get a message back:
"I'm sorry - I've decided to break up with her. She told me her favorite album was by James Blunt."
Friday, November 23, 2007
Everything is a lot more expensive than what you find in the supermarket. The veggies, the shampoos and hair dyes - to give an example - a box of hair dye costs 7 euros in the store, and 11 euros in the 'bio' shop. The veggies were more expensive too, but I bought a bag of onions, some celery (wonderful celery, by the way) and some soap. I also tried the bio hair dye. I've been looking for something less harsh and chemical, and this worked nicely. OK, it didn't cover all the gray, but it did cover Most of it, and it looks pretty natural. And there is no (whatever they say) harsh chemicals. (It didn't seem to make my hair as dry as regular hair dyes.)
But it was depressing to see all these interesting products at prices that put them out of my reach. (And apparently out of most people's reaches.) It doesn't seem fair that one has to be wealthy to help save the planet. There are 'green label' bio products slowly making a timid appearance in my grocery store. I buy 'green' 100% biodegradeable washing powder and detergant. But there is nothing, for example, for the dishes. I bought some 'bio' sponges to clean with, and I don't buy window cleaner (haven't for years) but instead use a mix of white vinegar and water. I'd love to be able to buy all my veggies and home cleaning products at the 'bio' store, as well as the clothes they have. But the price is prohibitive.
I'd also love to have a 'green' car, but I noticed that those too were far more expensive than normal cars. Shouldn't they be government subsidized, I wondered? Shouldn't efforts to save our planet be rewarded?
Here is a little snippet that may make you rethink your view on things made of paper. It's from a journalist remarking on the deforestation of Tazmania, and is pretty depressing.
(Exerpt from the online Guardian News):
"Trees are bulldozed or blown apart with explosives and the ground cleared by fires, started by napalm dropped from helicopters. Any native wildlife that survives is culled by sodium fluoroacetate poison, allowing regimented new saplings to grow - monoculture on an industrial scale...Turned into woodchip and then exported as chlorine-bleached pulp, much of what remains of Tasmania's native forests may end up as cheap paper for the hungry markets... "
So thank you, e-book readers. Each time you buy an e-book, you can pat yourself on the back. You saved native wildlife, and that's no mean feat.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
1: My friends and family.
2: To live in such a nice village, so near a golf course.
3: My readers.
4: My gym class
5: My English students
6: My dogs, for being such great doggies.
7: My husband counts as family, but I'm putting and extra thanks in here for him!
8: My health
9: My Thrift Shop wardrobe. My daughter and I were laughing about it last night. We love buying bags of clothes at the thrift. She says it's the only place she feels good about buying lots of stuff.
10: The internet, and all my internet friends.
11: My ancient laptop is still working!
12: My even older car is still working!
13: Calderwood Books
I wish everyone a Wonderful Thanksgiving - no matter where you are. A day of thanks is a nice way (for us Pollyanna types) to count our blessings!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Also, I was a bit shy. My brand new husband (this was on our honeymoon trip to Argentina - 3 months while he bought horses) was usually gone at the crack of dawn or earlier, and I was too timid to go into the huge dining room for the formal breakfast.
My Spanish was spotty, but every morning, the cook and maids would pounce on me as I came in, because they'd discovered I remembered my dreams.
They would hustle over to the table when I arrived, a book in hand, and several sheest of lottery paper. Then, they would grill me about my dreams.
I had to concentrate, and tell them everything that happened.
They'd check the book.
You rode in a car? A new car or an old car? A new car? That's number 47.
The number 47 was ticked off on the lottery ticket.
And so on, until they'd filled in the whole ticket.
There is a book in Argentina called the Lottery Dream Book.
Each object in your dream (or happening, like a trip or a fall) has a corresponding number. So the cook and maids, being avid lottery players, would fill out an entire ticket from my dreams.
And no, they never won the jackpot, as far as I know.
Out of curiosity, I tried to find the book online. I found a whole page of books dedicated to finding lottery numbers with dreams.
Good Luck - and if you win, you have to give me a 10% finder's fee!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
And things get strange.
As we walk into the forest, the trees get bigger. They lean over us like buildings. Instead of a grove of trees on my left, there seems to be a high, cement wall with birch trees painted on it.
I throw my second shot and it bounces off a tree trunk and lands right back in my hand. Laughing, I throw again. A good shot, it slides under a huge fallen tree to land near the first basket.
We all get within putting distance.
As soon as we start to putt, our frisbees change. Mine changes into a plastic coffee cup lid. My brother's changes into a sweatshirt. Someone else's changes into a pie tin, another into a belt, and still another becomes an empty soda can. Then the frisbee golf basket changes into a gate, so we walk through it.
We look around, and we're standing in a graveyard. It's old, overgrown, and run down. A small apple tree is growing near a crypt. The apples on it are huge and so dark red they look almost black. I pick one and eat it. Inside, the flesh is purple, and the seeds are huge. (In dreams, I can't really taste anything, but I imagined it as being too sweet - almost cloying.) It's getting dark, and we don't like the place, so we leave the graveyard and find ourselves in a forest clearing. There is an abandoned, ruined house nearby, and dead leaves crackle underfoot. The trees are bare, and a cold wind makes us shiver.
Someone comes through the trees, pushing a wheelbarrow. It's a gardener. He gives us each something from the wheelbarrow. We each get a small plant. There are eggplants, vines, tomato plants, and I get a small flowering plant with orange berries. Then the gardener tells us to hurry up, the next train is about to leave. When I look around, I notice we're now at a train station. I hurry into the train - everyone is waiting for me. The train pulls out of the station and I see the gardener, waving. Behind him, in the ruined house, a door opens and an old woman walks out and waves too.
It's getting darker and the wind outside is whipping the trees into a frenzy. The train is old and noisy, and we're looking around for tea cups when the whistle starts to blow.
It's the telephone.
I wake up with a start.
My friend Andrea is calling early to ask if I'm coming to the school this morning to help with the decorations.
Yes, I'm on my way. But first I want to write down this very strange dream!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Sequel to TIME FOR ALEXANDER and 2nd in the Iskander series. Alexander the Great's campaign against the mountain tribes is given a new kind of life, told from the viewpoint of a time traveling reporter who is married to Alexander. The innate humor of the author is rounded out with the personal triumphs and tragedies of the loving, appealing, sensual Ashley, who has made herself a new life and close friends 3,000 years in her past. Click on the cover to buy!
The first hard frost of the season has arrived. I just barely saved my son's bonsai tree, which was outside in the garden getting some fresh air. The temperature plunged, and my daughter's horse show today was cancelled because the ground is frozen.I love it when everything is silvery and white - and since it's sunny this morning, the world just glitters.
Mrs. Giggles reviewed it and had this to say:
Yesterday I got a review for Zombie Jack!
“…The story is really enjoyable as Ms Winston deliciously brings on the zany dark humor in a manner that really appeals to the fan of the macabre in me. The humor is not too overpowering or too farcical - just enough to keep me laughing. There is already a beautiful kind of poetry in the premise, what with a hero who lacks a heart, but is in love, and who is supposed to be dead but ends up a hero instead. The story doesn't disappoint in delivering a fun Tim Burton kind of romantic adventure where I am concerned.
...Zombie Jack is a most enjoyable read and it will be a waste, I feel, if the author doesn't revisit her world at least one more time. I'm pretty desensitized when it comes to all those vampires and werewolves in the market so it says a lot about how excited I am about this one. Zombie Jack is too much fun and the party seems to be only beginning by the last page, so do give me more.”
Today we're going to hike over to the next village and try to find some mistletoe in an old apple orchard. (There is a lot of it, and the owner has given us permission to take some for decoration!) Someone gave me an old book on herbs and spells, and there are quite a few one can do with misteltoe. I think today I'll put on my witch's hat and cast some spells...
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
When I lived in the tropics, I didn't even own a sweater. Even the rainy season was hot. I never had to turn the heat on (we didn't have heat anyway in the house) and once we lived in a house with a fireplace, and we never lit it; it held a huge potted fern.
Now I live in an old house with such drafts in front of the doors and windows that the curtains move as if in a breeze. Sleet is the most common form of precipitation. What can be better about France than the tropics?
1) I don't have to shake my shoes out every morning. It used to be a habit. I don't do it anymore. It was to dislodge the scorpions that liked to take up residence there. I shook my shoes for about ten years after leaving the islands. It's a hard habit to - er, shake.
2) I can open the cereal and pour myself a bowl, then add milk and eat it without first examining it for sugar ants. Sugar ants are tiny, almost invisible ants that get into Everything. To check for sugar ants you:
pour the cereal in a bowl. Hold it very still while peering at it closely. If the cereal starts to move, you toss everything in the garbage.
3) I can go to the bathroom at night without turning the light on.
In St. Thomas, the bathroom was the nighttime gathering place for the tarantula. They would go to the bathroom to drink from the shower, and you did not want to surprise one - they move incredibly fast and in the opposite direction of where you think they're pointing.
Usually they try for high ground when they're terrified. Your legs look like tree trunks to them.
Terror spreads from the spider to you as it sprints up your leg. Some nights, no one gets any sleep.
4) When it rains here, it's a pretty regular rain. In St. Thomas, we got hurricanes. Three times, when I lived there, the island was declared a national disaster area. Our road was washed out, the school was washed out, the house was full of mud, and that's if the house managed to keep its roof.
5) I can get fresh vegetables and fruit. No, there are no fresh veggies on St. Thomas - or very few. Everything is shipped in. There are home-grown mangoes and g'nips, tamarands and some coconuts. Everything else comes from 'the mainland'. Here in France, the market is full of fresh veggies and fruit. I love it.
6) Cuts don't go sceptic in two seconds flat. (that sort of speaks for itself. In the tropics, cuts and scratches got infected. Period.)
7) I can control the ticks and fleas here. In St. Thomas, it's very hard to keep your dogs and cats tick and flea free. I'm allergic to fleas. They give me huge red welts. Guess who had huge red welts all over her legs and arms for the senior prom?
8) You don't feel caged in. I used to look out to sea. Endless ocean on all sides. (We lived on a mountaintop - the view was spectacular) and I'd think...'I'm trapped.' Now I can get in my car and drive. I can take a train. I can walk. I can 'get away from it all'.
9) There are no people who have come here to 'get away from it all'. In St. Thomas, most of the people who arrived to live there wanted to 'get away from it all'. They usually lasted about 6 months. Then they either packed up and left (usually owing 6 months rent) or they landed in the local loony bin and had a nice rest for a while, before leaving for good.
10) There are four seasons here, and I love summer and fall. In the tropics there is hurricane season and the rest of the time.
11) Huge, fifteen inch centipedes. Need I say more?
12) A huge, and I mean huge, difference in class and race - the rich and the poor in the extremes. It's depressing any way you look at it, and from any angle. I rarely saw such poverty as in the tropics.
13) The crime rate is staggeringly high - drugs, murder and mayhem. True, the mafia did move in and clean things up a bit - but overall, the crime there is scary. Here, I don't have dogs for protection.
And next Thursday - what I miss. (you can resume dreaming of clear, turquoise water and warm beaches now...)
Monday, November 12, 2007
But it got me thinking. When I started writing Zombie Jack, I wanted to jettison all my preconcieved ideas about zombies. After all...preconcieved ideas are made to be junked, right?
There was Vlad the Impaller, who became, through literary manipulation, the sexy vampire hero we know today. A hundred years ago, no one would have thought there was a chance in a billion a vampire would be a romance hero.Then there was the werewolf. In legends, there is nothing appealing about the werewolf. Doomed to change into a bloodthirsty beast on the full moon, he's evolved into the thinking wolf - dangerous, yes - but sexy.So - what's a zombie? Well, let's let Dr. Ling-Li, necromancer and zombie expert, tell us:
(Excerpt from Zombie Jack by yours truly!)
How to Make a Zombie in Three Hundred Easy Steps
Mr. Ling-Li paused and cupped his hands beneath his chin. He looked infinitely old, wise, and sorrowful. He caught Brianna’s glance and smiled.
“Necromancy is one of the oldest arts. It was present in ancient Egypt, where the most extensive writings about it exist. But, it was also present in Ur and Sumeria, and in Africa and China, where it was practiced by priests and witch doctors, scholars and laymen alike. You know it best by its connection to voodoo, which is the African branch of this art. I come from China, where my family practiced necromancy for fifty generations. Since we all live more than five hundred years, you can see that it is very much part of my existence, present in the very matrix of my being.
“A necromancer, in the simplest form, is simply a mortician. Someone who prepares the dead for the funeral, makes the dead look presentable, and changes the body using chemicals or herbs. But that is not what I am, although traditionally we work as morticians.
“In a more complex form, a necromancer is a like a priest. One who accompanies the dead to the underworld and shows their souls the way. The ancient Egyptians preserved the mummies. That also is a form of necromancy. And much of necromancy involves herbs and poisons.”
“Is that how to make zombies? With herbs?”
“Oh, much more than just herbs. In the beginning, someone lost a beloved and wanted to bring them back to life. The Greeks have a legend about Orpheus. He went to the underworld to beg Hades for his wife’s soul. Hades gave it to him, but Orpheus looked back, his beloved wife faded back into the underworld, and Orpheus went mad with grief. The longing to bring back someone from the dead is an old one, certainly far older than the legend of Orpheus, but the story illustrates both the longing and the dangers of such a dream.”
Brianna curled her hands around her hot teacup. “I thought that it was just a voodoo thing,” she admitted.
“Oh, no, zombies have different names in different places. Zombi is also the name of the voodoo snake god of Niger-Congo origin; it is akin to the Bantu word nzambi, which means god. But the word ‘god’ here is closer to ‘spirit,’ or one who talks to spirits, than your definition. And to tell you the truth, what you call zombies have nothing to do with Jack or May.”
May again. Brianna pasted a bright smile on her face and said, “Mostly we think of zombies as being mindless slaves in decaying bodies.”
“That’s because there are many different ways to make a zombie, and the easiest way is for a bokor, or zombie maker, to poison his victim, steal his soul, put it in a clay pot, and use the zombie’s body as his slave. Some people claim zombies are caused by a virus, and again, it’s true up to a point. There have been zombies made after contracting a certain virus, but they are not the same as what I do. You see, a bokor, or someone who makes zombies like the Heart Taker has, is not a necromancer. No, that involves something completely different.
“Some believe that necromancy is the most powerful of all magic, because it defeats even death itself. Jack is technically what you call an undead, but still has his soul. And for that, he is different from the other undead, such as vampires or bokor-made zombies.”
What do you think about Zombies? Are you willing to suspend your disbelief for a while and meet a sexy zombie - Jack the Stripper?
Friday, November 09, 2007
I lost my keys between the parking lot, the retaurant, and the pro shop. I may have put them in someone else's bag by accident.
If you find them, please drop them off at the pro shop.
I'll buy the finder lunch or dinner at the restaurant!
I loved the part about him maybe putting the keys in someone else's bag.
I don't feel quite so absent-minded now.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
"Lysimachus, I don't tell fortunes. You can't look into the future. There's no such thing as fate!" I tried to talk common sense to him, but it was hopeless.
"Please, we'll pay you! Look, my friends and I have sixteen oboles, and we'll throw in a white chicken. You can sacrifice the chicken and tell us our fortunes with the entrails. Please?"
"Aren't you afraid of what I might say?"
"Of course, who wouldn't be? We know you're a real oracle. Please? The one in the village is so old, we can't understand a thing she says."
I pursed my lips. This oracle business was starting to get on my nerves, yet it intrigued me at the same time. "On one condition."
"First, you take me to see the oracle in the village." I wanted to see the old lady and find out what all the fuss was about.
Barsine insisted on coming with us. Even she believed in oracles. Alexander was in Persepolis with Nearchus. Otherwise, I don't know what he would have thought about this outing. Plexis joined our troop. He said he wouldn't miss it for the world. Usse watched us leave with a faint line of worry between his brows.
I rode my white donkey, but everyone else walked. We sang and joked as we went toward the town. For me, the whole thing was a lark; a sightseeing trip for a tourist from the future. I didn't believe in gods, oracles or fortune-tellers, but for the people walking along beside me, the gods were real. For the Greeks, the only difference between the gods and men, was that the gods were immortal and could change form. The gods had the same emotions and frailties as men, and loved to meddle in human affairs – they would often come to earth from their home on Mount Olympus and walk among the unsuspecting humans.
The oracle, or pythia as she was sometimes called, was an old woman living on the outskirts of the village. Her cottage was surrounded by a hedge of fragrant thyme and lavender. Several white goats and chickens were in a small paddock in the back.
Her house was actually a temple. It had an open courtyard with a large stone altar under an olive tree. When we arrived, the old woman was outside sitting in the sun, her face hidden in the shadow of a large-brimmed straw hat. She wore a white robe, Greek style. When she stood to greet us, I saw she was almost as tall as I.
She might have looked old but her voice was authoritative. "Bring the donkey to the altar," she ordered.
"Why?" I asked, getting off White Beauty's back and patting her affectionately.
"For the sacrifice. You've brought her for the oracle, have you not? Do you want to consult Apollo? Have you the pelanos?" This was the fee paid to the oracle.
"The donkey is mine," I cried. "She's not to be killed!" I got back on, intending to ride away.
One of the soldiers caught her bridle. "The oracle has spoken," he said. "The donkey will be sacrificed."
"No!" I kicked at him with my foot, trying to wrench the donkey's head away. But she was too docile and just stood calmly while the soldiers pulled me off the poor creature and led her to the altar. I screamed, "Barsine! Plexis! Lysimachus! Do something!"
But Barsine wore an expression of pity and disgust, as if I were committing a heinous crime.
Plexis grabbed my arm and squeezed it so hard he bruised it. "Don't say another word!" he hissed. "What do you think you're doing? It's an honor for your donkey."
"You're just mad because I named her Penelope," I sobbed. "Lysimachus, don't let her do that!"
Lysimachus's face was twisted with pity, and he tried to calm me with gentle words. "Why do you protest? You wanted to see the oracle. Don't worry, we'll let you go first, and Apollo will speak directly to you."
While he spoke, the old woman took off her hat and washed her hands in a small spring next to the altar. Then she reached up into the branches of the olive tree and took down a sharp knife. White Beauty didn't even blink when the woman seized her under the chin and lifted her head up. With a deft movement, she cut the donkey's throat. I saw a red line bloom in her snowy coat, and then I fainted.
Barsine shook me awake. She was holding me up, and my head lolled against her arm. "Wake up! Wake up! It's done."
I opened my eyes and saw the old woman take a pitcher and fill it in the spring. Then she dashed cold water onto the body of my poor donkey, whose nerves were still twitching, making her look as if she were trying to get up. I gave a sharp cry, and then my nose bled all over Barsine and my tunic.
Blood splattered everywhere. The soldiers were most impressed. They leapt backwards and stared at me and at the dead donkey. The old woman had disemboweled the carcass and was busy spreading the intestines and liver onto the altar. She looked up and saw me, and her eyes widened.
"A good omen!" she cried, pointing at me with the bloody knife. "A good omen indeed!"
The soldiers cheered and Barsine beamed, and then Plexis took off his skirt and held it to my nose, begging me in a low voice to control myself, or I'd ruin everything.
I was not used to having a naked stranger standing so close to me, especially one as good looking as Plexis. His thighs brushed against mine and I could feel the heat of his body. My nose bled even more. I closed my eyes and said in a strangled voice, "Plexis, will you please get away from me? And put some clothes on, you're making it worse!" He stopped touching me and jumped back as if he'd been scalded. "I don't believe this," I said, my eyes still closed. I sat down and used my tunic to staunch the blood.
The old woman's yard looked like a battlefield. Most of us were covered with blood, either White Beauty's or mine. The intestines and liver were examined and pronounced "most auspicious". Apparently, all our dreams would come true. I kept my eyes closed as much as possible. For me this day was rapidly turning into a nightmare.
It wasn't over. The woman washed in the spring and bade us wash too. Then she led us into the temple where a fire smoldered in a bronze brazier. She threw handfuls of leaves and herbs on the fire, and stinging smoke filled the room. I choked and my eyes started watering. Strangely enough, no one else seemed affected. The woman sat with her head right in the smoke for a while, and then she disappeared down a staircase that led to a cellar. We followed her, and found ourselves in a small square room hewn out of the bedrock. The room was lit by a single torch, and there were benches all around the walls.
Everyone sat as if they were in a doctor's waiting room. Barsine pulled me down beside her and held my hand. I was still crying. Plexis wouldn't look at me, Lysimachus looked apprehensive, and the soldiers all seemed in high spirits.
The woman went into another room and drew a heavy curtain behind her. After a few moments she called out in a strange voice muffled by the curtain, "Who asks Apollo first?"
Barsine dug her elbow into my ribs, but I shook my head. "You go first," I sobbed.
She stood up and with a shy smile asked, "Will I have Iskander's son, oh Mighty One?"
The old woman answered, still in her weird voice, "Yes. You will have a son in nine moons' time."
Barsine gave me a radiant smile and sat down.
After looking at me for a minute, Lysimachus stood up. "Is my fortune to be made?" he asked.
"Your fortune will be made at the end of the king's reign. But beware, in the end a new acquaintance will be stronger than you." The voice was sly.
Plexis was next. He cleared his throat. "Will I find the answers I seek?"
The woman cackled. "Most handsome one, listen well. You shall go east and east again. You will see the twelve pillars and the sacred river. However, the answers you look for will only be revealed on your deathbed. Don't seek them too soon."
Plexis turned white and sat down rather suddenly.
The three soldiers looked at me uncertainly; then they stood up and asked their questions, one after another. The voice told them they would go further than they'd ever dreamed, and that they would all found large, prosperous families. This seemed to satisfy them. They sat down, and then everyone looked at me. I didn't move, tears running down my face. For this nonsense, my beloved donkey had been killed?
"I see a stranger in our midst," the voice came from behind the curtain. "Stand! So that I may see you."
Barsine pushed me roughly to my feet.
"Will you not ask a question of me?" asked the mocking voice.
"No. I don't believe in you."
There was a collective gasp from my companions, and Plexis drew in his breath with a hiss.
"To believe or not to believe, that is not the question." The voice was sly again, and teasing. "You have come from farther than anyone here can imagine, and you will have the chance to return. However, to return you must sacrifice a human life: one living man. A donkey is just an animal with no soul, but you must kill a man with a soul. I see past the ice in your heart. Didn't you know?" There was a dry chuckle. "Here is a riddle for the Ice Queen. The king is dead, long live the king." A silence greeted these words. We all looked at each other, perplexed.
"I don't like riddles," I snapped, more angry and miserable than confused.
"I'd love to stay and chat," said the voice, with something very like regret in it. "I too have questions to ask that only you may answer. Grant me one, just one, and I will tell you about your son."
The blood drained from my face and my heart thumped painfully. "What do you want to know?"
"Will my name be remembered? Is my name still on people's lips?"
"What do you mean?" I was confused. What was the old woman's name anyway? "What name?"
"Apollo. I am here, and I want to know. Answer me, child of the future. Answer me now, for soon I will vanish and the centuries will bury me in their dust."
At first I thought the woman was talking about herself, but a shiver run down my spine. My head tingled. "It can't be..."
"There are things you will never be able to explain. Just answer me, if you will. Do you know the name Apollo? Have you heard of me once before, perhaps as a whisper? Perhaps in some long, lost song? Do they still sing about me? Answer me... please."
The voice was plaintive, and for some reason I saw Darius's tragic face in my mind. The deposed king, a fallen angel. I thought of the Apollo space program. Tears pricked my eyes. "Yes," I whispered. "Your name is spoken all the way to the moon, but it has nothing to do with you any more."
There was a deep silence while my words were considered, and then the voice came again, calm and oddly quiet. "Well. I suppose I had to ask. Do you see how similar we are? The gods and men."
"My baby," I breathed. "You promised."
"You shall find him in the Sacred Valley. Guard him well. He will find the lost soul."
After that, there was no more sound, except for harsh breathing coming from behind the curtain. I was shaking uncontrollably, but no one would look at me or touch me.
"Apollo asked you a question!" Lysimachus shook his head in awe.
"Don't ever speak to me about it again," I said fiercely.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Global warming is causing sunny days here, so I went off to play golf.
November 5th, and I played 18 holes with just a cotton turtleneck and a light sleeveless sweater. (Oh, and jeans, yes, and shoes and socks, if you really want to know.)
And the sun shined. The trees were gold, scarlet, peach colored, and the grass was green and soft, and the ground was dry (we've had a drought, and it's far too hot, but who's complaining? The golf was terrific.)
My elbow is not hurting thanks to the wonders of modern medicine - but after next week's golf tournament (the last of the year for me) I'm putting it in a sling and stopping the pills. The wonder pills, as I call them now, are so amazing that ALL aches and pains vanish, but it's a fake relief, becuase as the medicine wears off, the aches and pains return threefold to remind you (me) that you (I) are (am) a simply feeble human & the best medicine is complete rest.
Today was a gorgeous fall day. I made wild duck for dinner. The leaves on the wild cherry trees look like orange silk.
The world is going to hell in a handbasket (I really have to stop reading the news.) Or at least only read the weather report...it's sunny and warm, and will be sunny and warm all winter, as far as I can see.
Global warming is great for my golf game, so I'll keep playing. Besides, our house is heated with natural gas. The price of bread has gone up, the price of eggs, milk, and butter has jumped, and let's not even talk about the cost of filling my gas tank - Oh, what the hell, it's 50$.
But at least we have socialized medicine, and my daughter's braces are not costing me a cent, my elbow is treated for less than five bucks, and the flu shot will set me back another five. So that way, I won't get sick and I'll be able to play golf (probably at Christmas wearing just a teeshirt and shorts...)
As long as the price of a golf game doesn't go through the roof - I'm happy.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
You'd think that an author, someone who uses words to work with, would take care that her children spoke perfectly. The truth is, I believe words are for communication, and that can take many forms. One thing that bothers me about the system of teaching kids a foreign language is the sheer lack of fun in it. It's boring, exacting, and forgettable - whereas language should be fun, forgiving, and most of all - for communicating.
So, my kids learned to talk, but when they made mistakes - if they were cute and made me laugh - I didn't correct them. They'd learn soon enough a grasshopper wasn't really called a Hopper Grass.
Here are some of their best words:
Blankety. (Blanket. But blankety is more fun, has more syllables, and can go on like blankety-blankety-blank.)
Splastic. (Who can resist this word? It's far better than plastic. So we had splastic bags for ages.)
Hopper Grass. (When they found out it was grasshopper, I tried to tell them no, it was really hopper grass. But real words will prevail.)
Tuc-Tuc-peller. (Propeller. The hovercraft we took to go to England and back every summer had huge propellers on the back. They started up with a loud 'Tuc-tuc-tuc!' The boys called propellers tuc-tuc-pellers for ages. Well, I never wanted to correct them! lol)
N'guh-guh - this African sounding word was my daughter's word for 'bread', and she would only use it, completely ignoring any attempts to get her to say 'bread'. Bread was 'N'guh-guh.'
Ada and Ada - my daughter's names for her twin brothers. She called them Ada and Ada. The neighbor boy, Arnaud, was 'Arnaud', painstakingly sounded out, and she would call Carol 'Carol', and Marielle was 'Marielle', so she knew people had names. But for a long time, the twins were Ada and Ada.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
2 cups chopped onions
1 large winter squash - peeled, seeded, cut in cubes
2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons sweet curry
3 tablespoons butter
Melt butter in soup pot, add onions and curry, stir, cook over low heat until soft (about 20 min.)
Add the stock, squash, & apples bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until squash is cooked (mine was very tough - took about 2 hours. Acorn squash will take about 30 min. & is good to use.)
Add cream to taste (I used Madras curry, which smells divine but it very hot. I turned the heat down with a big dollop of 'creme fraiche' - you can use sour cream or plain yoghurt.
Serve with grated apple sprinkled over top.
Tonight, we're having winter soup with fresh bread, salad, and cold chicken.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
College boy #1 is on vacation, but he's a fireman, so he's spending most of his time at the firehouse. In France, the volontary firemen are paid for taking 12 hour shifts, so my son, in order to pay for his miniscule studio in Paris, comes home on weekends to stay at the firehouse. Now that it's vacation, he'll probably be there a lot.
College boy #2 is in the states - in SUNY Potsdam - and I suppose he's getting ready to take his mid-term exams. Vacation will be at Thanksgiving for him.
Daughter in middle school is thrilled that it's vacation, and has already lined up a job at the pony club sorting out a new pony. She will be paid in hours riding, and believe me, she's more than happy! The new pony is a Dartmoor, very cute, but tends to run away with the younger riders.
Right now she's watching an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki (our favorite film-maker). If you don't know his work, or the studio Ghibli films, you're missing out on something wonderful.
I have lots of tutoring jobs lined up. First report cards have arrived, and parents don't want their kids to get left behind, so English, French, and math tutors usually get lots of work during vacation. :-) I'm not complaining - I want to buy new chairs for my dining room!
I'm starting a new project - one my cousin Tony suggested (and even outlined for me!) It's going to take a LOT of work, but it's quite fun. I may need help though. We'll see.
My stupid elbow (can elbows be stupid?) still hurts, and I stopped the medicine, (or wedicin, as my daughter used to say when she was little) because I didn't tolerate it very well. It gave me an upset stomach - ugh!
That's the news for now. It's pretty quiet here. Fall is just starting, and the leaves haven't really turned color yet. I'm waiting until they do to go out for a hike and take photos. I'll post some when I do!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
1) Rejection letters from agents.
Even if the note is just a simple "No thank you," we see this:
Please stop sending me your hackneyed prose. Your stories suck. I hope you have another job, because writing just ain't it. If I sold writing like yours, I'd be the laughing stock of my profession. Please, for my sake and yours, stop querying me. "
2) Rejection letters from publishers.
Again, our imagination tends to see things in a darker light...
Just because we publish several of your online writing buddies, and just because your favorite author in the whole world is in our stable of authors, that doesn't mean you are welcome. As a matter of fact, if it were Christmas eve and ours was the only stables in town, and you were pregnant and riding on a donkey - we still wouldn't take you. Do us and the publishing world a big favor - take up bird watching."
3) Typos in submission letters.
Dear Ms. Snork,
I'd like to submit my story, "Angles on Crusade..."
I'd like to sumbit by story,
4) Typos in our finished and FINALLY published books:
Page 34: Instead of the Gulf of Mexico, it reads the Golf of Mexico...
5) Readers picking up on our little typos.
"Dear ex-favorite author. I read your latest story. Where the f%*@! is the Golf of Mexico? Do you mean the one in Tijuana, the Golf del Sur? Or did you mean the one in Cancun - the Country club and Golf Verdez? In any case, it makes no sense. I'm through reading your books. An ex-fan.
6) Having nobody read our books.
"Dear Author - here is your royalty statement for the year 2006 / 2007:
You sold 0 copies
Your royalties are 0.00$
7) The Advance that Just Won't Go Away.
"Dear Author. Your advance was 1000$. You sold 0.00$ this year. You still owe us 1000$ on your advance against royalties. It will be a cold day in Hell before we sign another contract with you.
8) A Negative Review
(I can dig up a real one for this, but I'm having too much fun...)
"The Tell Tale Tart by Samantha Winston - ZERO STARS
Where to begin? Well, it was hard enough to begin when I started reading, and I barely got to the end - I only threw the book against the wall 86 times, and it's a novella, folks. The Tell Tale Tart starts off with a whimper and ends with a whine. The heroine, Janice, makes having PMS and the stomach flu, along with a raging fever seem fun, and the hero, Mike, really should be locked up somewhere in a maximum security prison for eternity. The good news is, it's practically a short story. The bad news is it cost me 4.95$ as a used book on Amazon. This was the worst piece of trash I've ever read. Don't even bother taking it out of the library.
Nancy the usually really Nice reviewer for Rarin' to Read Reviews"
9) Trying to find a quote to use from a negative review.
"The Tell Tale Tart...The heroine Janice...fun...the hero Mike...eternity. Good News."
Finding out that witty expression your hero spouts throughout your book came from somewhere else. Your subconscious has betrayed you!
"The force be with you," said Mike.
Janice giggled and batted her eyelashes. "You're such a character, Mike."
11) Plagiarism 2
Finding out someone has plagiarised your book - taken your characters and given them slightly different names but kept the plot!
"Keep the force," said Mark.
Jane laughed hysterically and waved her eyelashes in the air. "You're my romance hero, Mark!"
12) Finding out the 'OTHER' book gets a five star review and lands on the NYT best seller list.
"...I can't say enough good things about Ms. Desforges new book. Her fresh new writing makes the wonderful characters come to life. I want to spend my entire life reading more books about Mark and Jane. Fabulous. Highly recommended.
Nancy the really Nice reviewer for Rarin' to Read Reviews"
Because then you have to write another book just as good.
Um....14) Finding out that it's Wednesday.
Just ignore this post until Tomorrow folks.