Friday, December 27, 2013

47 Ronin

On Christmas Day, "47 Ronin" was a small gift.  A scrumptiously costumed piece set in feudal Japan, the movie was obviously a piece created out of love.  Based on the famous tale of 47 ronin, masterless samurai who are sworn not to take revenge for the death of their master, the fable came to life with magic and mayhem.  

Kai is a half-breed teenager who comes to the village of Arco after fleeing for his life from another world.  He is taken in by Master Asado, the samurai warrior who runs the village, and falls in love with Asado's daughter, Mika.  However, since he is not from the same culture, he can never be a true samurai and prove himself worthy of Mika's love.  Despite his skills with a sword, he winds up being sold off in slavery when Master Asado is killed using witchcraft by Kira, the rival lord from another village.  

The masterless samurai warriors are led by Oeshi, a long-time samurai who looked down upon Kai when he was a villager.  After he is punished for a year, Oeshi is expected to leave the village and his wife and son to live in infamy; however, instead he plots revenge upon Kira for his treacherous act against Master Asado and his upcoming wedding to fatherless Mika.  Oeshi seeks out Kai in his slavery, knowing that the young man loves Mika and will do anything for her.  Given his background with demons, Kai knows how to acquire weapons for the samurai and joins them to take their revenge.  

The movie is a jewel of a show, with beautiful scenery, gorgeous costumes, and elaborate fantasies in the beast, the demons, and the witch-dragon.  Since the scene is in the trailer, I can talk about the witch-dragon and how realistic its fight scene was, with its muscular snake body and its razor-sharp teeth.  The creature virtually swam through the air and danced with Keanu.  The other fight scenes are also well-done, with intricate sophistication and straightforward strength.  Keanu Reeves has created a tiny masterpiece, the revenge fantasy ending as it could only end, in love and blood. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA)

I live in Idaho, one of the many states whose governor is refusing to get on-board with the ACA and expand Medicaid so that my boyfriend can actually have health insurance.  I've two experiences with the process - the first trying to enroll my boyfriend and the second for myself.

It did not take very long to verify my boyfriend's application - as I mentioned, he would qualify for the expanded Medicaid if our governor allowed it, and there were several options available to him - if he had the money to purchase the plan.  Because of his (lack of) income and the lack of the Medicaid expansion, he is exempt from having to have a policy effective January 1st, so all is well with him, except he still has no coverage.

As for me, I am extremely fortunate.  Despite my disability, there are many plans now available to me.  I've hung onto my $1000-per-month insurance like a raggedy blanket, clutching it for dear life, afraid that I'd never qualify for anything again because of "preexisting conditions" - however, it appears with that gone, I can purchase a plan at half the cost I've been paying with supposedly the same coverage or close to it.  They also referred my application to the State's Medicaid plan to see whether I qualified through them as well - which I probably won't because I make too much money between my pension and SSDI.  I've taken a huge leap of faith and enrolled in the new coverage - paid for it, even -- and been reassured that by the end of the month, I'll have a new enrollment card.  I've spoken with the company three separate times and been reassured every time that, yes, I really have coverage.  We'll see come January 1st...

All in all, I found that the governmental site was rather easy to use and that the variety of plans was pretty reasonable.  I'm not sure if that's because Idaho's marketplace is better than other states or what.  Again, until I actually have an enrollment card in my cold little hands and start seeing how the insurance really pays, I am reserving judgment.  I also hung onto my dental coverage through my former employer to ensure that if this year is a complete bust, I can get my old policy back again, come next November.

Here's hoping that everyone else who've commented negatively find the process a little easier this month!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Water - Flash Fiction Challenge Part II

I'm still continuing in Chuck Wendig's Flash Writing assignment where we have been creating round-robin-type stories.  I created the first section, and H. Peterson created the second (below - also see at his blog spot with several others he's revised:   
The sandcat softly chuffed as it crouched, its dun coat speckled with black blending into the sandy floor.  The black tip of its twitching tail could be seen from the watering hole where antelope drank their fill, their white tails glowing in the dawn.  He tensed, and the beasts galloped off, to bells tinkling and soft hoofbeats as the caravan approached.  The big cat coughed in disgust as it stalked off, ignoring the approaching dust and ruckus.
 A swarthy man hustled a young woman down from a horse, pushed her to her knees, and addressed the older man who approached them both, “See, wiseman, as promised, the girl can sense water on the wind…”
“Silence!” he interrupted, before turning to the girl in a burnoose covering her from head to toe.  He peered above the veil, “Well, girl, you seem to be talented enough.  How do you sense the water?”
Sana raised her head.  “I close my eyes until I see the sun blazing behind my lids.  Then I wait to see where darkness covers the sun.  It is in that direction.”  She bowed her head, staring at her bound hands.
“Well, Hanara, she has magic.  Let’s deal.”
“You still have our original deal to complete, Marwik…when we get to Riverfork we can talk about your next deal.” The Wiseman glanced at Sana’s beautiful almond colored eyes. He knew Marwik had no idea of his captive’s identity.
“You paid me half of the agreed price and we are half way there now. Hanara…you know I can get twice as much for her when we arrive at the Riverfork market.” Marwik eyed the ochre colored cloud just showing itself on the horizon.
“We better get those water bags filled and the horses prepared for the sand storm approaching.”
“Don’t try anything, you’re five days out of anywhere safe…and I will track you. Fill em!” Marwik slices the rope binding her hands and she bends down and picks up the empty water bags.
“You make a run for it and you will kill the horse with all this weight.” Marwik turned to Hanara and said. “There’s a cave an hours ride from here…we can set up for the night.”
As Sana leaned over the watering hole she saw the speck behind them that had following them for the last three days…could it be…but he had been shot by Marwik.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I'm Finally "Published!"

Recently, I applied for the position of book reviewer at "The Qwillery," an online blog devoted to speculative fiction.  To my great surprise, I was actually chosen.  Now whenever I read a book, I get to write a review and have it posted on the website.  I'm so excited!!!  Check out my first review at the website:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Forest Road - Flash Fiction Part III

I'm continuing with Chuck Wendig's roundrobin challenge, where someone starts a story with two hundred words, the next person adds their 200 words to that story, and so on until there is a completed story for a total of 1,000 words.  (see and  I've completed two rounds now.  The original part was done by Snellopy ( while the second portion was done by David Kearney (

Here is my continuation of "The Forest Road:"

The Forest Road

“Blades out lads it’ll be wet work with this lot, no doubt about that.”
Some faces showed smiles, others grimaced but nowhere was fear to be seen. Eagerly they watched the carriage as it moved unsuspectingly into their ambush.
An arrow thunked into the throat of the coachman and the band flung themselves at the road with an animalistic scream. The horses, rearing in fright had their throats slashed – although they were valuable beasts, it would be too long before they could sell them and make a profit.
Flintlocks poked through the windows and a few ineffective shots did little more than fill the carriage with smoke before they were torn from their owner’s hands. The door was wrenched from the hinges and the attackers leaned in, keen to ascertain the nature of their spoils.
“God’s teeth!” swore the leader, and he reeled back in shock, for one of the passengers was not human. Large yellow eyes nictitating wildly in the sudden clamour stared back at them from the being trussed up on the floor of the carriage. Green, scaly skin covered its hide, and the other passengers were torn between watching their charge and dealing with the bandits that now milled in confusion on the road.
A blood-curdling screech filled the air.
The leader, Marin, rolled clear of the carriage an instant before a jet of flame engulfed two of his dumbfounded companions and set the carriage on fire. “They’re transporting a dragon!”
Two soldiers burst from the burning carriage, Flintlocks in hand, and opened fire at their scattering foes. Another bandit fell before the pair discarded their spent pistols and reached for the rapiers at their side.
Marin sprang into action, running the first soldier through before he could unsheathe his sword. “Stand your ground lads,” he said. “Surround the wagon.” The second soldier lunged at the bandit leader, who deftly parried the attack then plunged his blade through the soldier’s heart. 
As the remaining bandits took up positions around their prize, the air shimmered and became deathly cold. When the flames vanished, the men shifted nervously, looking at Marin with wide eyes. He knew what securing a dragon would mean for his small band. He also knew that the spoils of battle weren’t worth having unless they could be enjoyed. But what he didn’t know was whether his rag tag company could survive a battle with the magician inside the smouldering carriage.
A petite red-head dressed in a green pelisse delicately stepped out of the carriage.  Once she stood, she brushed down her jade satin skirts, settled her hands on her hips, and surveyed the band with bright yellow eyes.  She grinned up at Marin.  “Thanks much, mates.  I was growing tired of the accommodations.”
Marin swallowed heavily.  “Milady, you are now our prisoner.  Come forth and we’ll treat you with all respect.  Otherwise, we’ll cut you down where you stand.”
“Really, heavy-handed threats?  I expected more from a group of brigands such as yourselves.  How on earth will you hold me?  I could transform and wipe you out with a single breath.”  She picked her way forward, around the bodies of the two dead guards.  “However, I should be grateful.  You freed me from the King’s men.  How best can I reward you?”  She tapped her chin with a forefinger.  “How best, indeed?” 

His men looked at him and back at the magician, for a magician she had to be.  No one had ever heard of a female magician, let alone one who could transform.  Marin knew he needed to take control of the situation before he lost his men.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unpredictable Magic Flash Fiction - Part II

This is part two of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge – 200 Words at a Time Part Two (   This is a round-robin fiction writing exercise where the first person writes 200 words, a second person takes those 200 words and adds another 200 for a total of 400, and then a third person will take those 400 and add on another 200 of his/her own and so forth until the end of the year.  I took J.D. Fitch’s 199 words and added a total of 206 of my own.  Here is the story so far:   
God, how she hated dance music. Tony blared that crap every day at work, and after four years, she couldn’t take it anymore. Most had their I-phones or mp3’s and earbuds to stuff in their heads. The rest of them had to suffer. Her fist smashed the bread dough with a vengeance. One fist beat the soft, yeasty mass over and over.
“Screw this.” [Gloria] reached and ‘touched’ the electric plug that asshole’s antique radio was plugged into. Sparks crackled from the outlet, the acrid smell of burnt plastic ripped across the room.
“Judas Priest!” The sift super rushed over and yanked the cord from the wall. “Tony, this piece of crap is gone. You understand me? Three times in one week? Burn it, burn your own house down, but keep it out of my bakery.” Allen rammed the offending device into Tony’s chest before stalking off.
Gloria could not help the smile that crossed her lips. Then common sense took over. Shit.Why did magic have to be so unpredictable? Two years, and she still could not predict the outcomes, not like her teacher. Who would no doubt taste the magic in the air around her.

Life sucked chunks.
She had to be more careful or else be caught by the Authorities.  They might taste the magic she leaked after tweaking the radio. 

Most kids were screened by preschool to see whether they had talent – somehow Gloria had been missed.  

Good thing Claudia had seen her magician’s performance at a child’s birthday party.  Everything had gone wrong that day – instead of a rabbit, she pulled a python out of the hat.  Of course, the party had been for boys, so that went over well.  But it didn’t go over with the parents when her bra and panties had pulled out of her sleeve along with the handkerchiefs.  Not sure how that happened. 

Claudia had tasted the taint and offered to tutor her if she promised to stop playing magician. 

Gloria needed to control herself first if she wanted to control the magic.  Otherwise, some Telemage would catch a whiff and she would be slammed into a Control Chair.  Then some Docmage would fry out her brain section that created magic – and they weren’t too careful about what else was around, like body functions or reasoning.  She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life drooling in the corner of a closed ward, finger-painting. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Water - Flash Fiction Part I

Chuck Wendig's blog has a challenge this week (200 Words at a Time, Part One), where you write the beginning to a story, 200 words or less, and then next week, everyone chooses another's work to continue with another 200 words, and then the week after we round-robin again, and so on until the usual 1,000-word total is written.  I decided to try it - here's my start at 200 words even!

The sandcat softly chuffed as it crouched, its dun coat speckled with black blending into the sandy floor.  The black tip of its twitching tail could be seen from the watering hole where antelope drank their fill, their white tails glowing in the dawn.  He tensed, and the beasts galloped off, to bells tinkling and soft hoofbeats as the caravan approached.  The big cat coughed in disgust as it stalked off, ignoring the approaching dust and ruckus. 

A swarthy man hustled a young woman down from a horse, pushed her to her knees, and addressed the older man who approached them both, “See, wiseman, as promised, the girl can sense water on the wind...”

“Silence!” he interrupted, before turning to the girl in a burnoose covering her from head to toe.  He peered above the veil, “Well, girl, you seem to be talented enough.  How do you sense the water?” 

Sana raised her head.  “I close my eyes until I see the sun blazing behind my lids.  Then I wait to see where darkness covers the sun.  It is in that direction.”  She bowed her head, staring at her bound hands. 

“Well, Hanara, she has magic.  Let’s deal.” 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NaNoWriMo Failure

Well, as I sigh heavily, I have decided I am a complete failure at NaNoWriMo this year.  I think I need to do some preliminary work before I can really participate fully.  At the very least, I need to have some idea about what I want to write.  I am going to pull some of my old writing out and retype it to get back in the mode.  In addition, I think I'm going to take up Chuck Windig's challenge, write 200 words for the beginning of the story, and then start a round-robin affair, where you take someone else's 200 words, add your own 200 words to make 400 words, then grab someone else's 400 words and wash and repeat.  I can write 200 words easily.

In addition, I have been doing some critiques of poetry on Goodread's Poetry group site.  I find I am actually pretty good at taking someone else's work and helping them improve it.  That gives me enough confidence that I might try my hand at writing some poetry as well.

But for now, the NaNoWriMo experiment is over for me, five days before the official cutoff date.  I'll just have to be satisfied with my 2,660 words rather than the expected 50,000.  (I am such an abject failure...wallow, wallow, wallow!)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jennifer Estep's Heart of Venom

Jennifer Estep presents her ninth novel starring Gin Blanco as an assassin with a heart of gold, although she has never killed anyone for money since the first novel several years ago.  In this one, Sophia is kidnapped by the same man who kidnapped her so many years ago and destroyed her voice.  Gin, who has taken on the Devereau sisters as her family, takes the kidnapping personally and involves her remaining friends and family in a rescue attempt.  For the first time, we learn about Sophia's back story, and it's a terrible one.  Her kidnapper is a violent, horrible Fire mage who fixated on Sophie from an early age and never has forgotten her.  But for his actions against her family, she vows he and his psychotic sister must die - and Gin always follows through on her promises.

I raced through this novel, especially appreciating that we finally get to see more about Sophie and her past. We have known since the first novel that something dark affected her years ago and several novels further in, we discovered that a Fire mage destroyed her voice by making her breathe in fire.  However, I was not prepared for how truly bad her experiences were.  Having been a victim of sexual abuse myself, I should have expected something similar to what she describes but not at such a young age as Sophia was.

To say that Gin is loyal to her friends and family is an understatement.  Gin is an atypical assassin.  As I mentioned before, she has not plied her assassin's trade for profit since the first novel; however, in this one, she would be rich given her body count.  Most of the kills are with her trusty knives, but she does do a blowout with her ice magic that wears her out.

Without giving away any spoilers, I was glad to see her reunited with one of the friends who seemed to have been out of sorts during the last few novels.  I loved the way he returned to accepting her as she truly is, blood and all.  I really enjoy this series and am looking forward to the next novel with great anticipation.

Thomas Sniegoski's "In the House of the Wicked"

This is Remy Chandler's fifth outing as one of God's warrior angels masquerading as a regular human being.  In this novel, the part-time PI is asked to search for Ashley, the now-college-bound teen who normally babysat his dog.  Unfortunately, her kidnapping is related to Remy himself, as a sorcerer has kidnapped her in an attempt to find vengeance against his enemies.  Not only that, but the war within himself between his Seraphim and his "humanity" continues, until his angelic powers are stolen and used against him.  Of course, Remy and his friends, Francis and Ashley herself, prevail against all evil - but is there a greater evil out there waiting for Remy?  Only the next novel will tell.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm so excited!

Recently, I was asked to review Cover Art for All Things Urban Fantasy.  This is the first time a REAL entity has asked me to write something for them.  They published it today, and I'm so excited!!!  My first name is published with my writing - SQUEEEE!!!.  Check out the reviews for yourself (link below).  I was amazed that my comments mirrored most of the other reviewers, who have been doing this forever.  I hope they ask me to do it again or even something else in the future - man, I'm feeling really great today!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Ender's Game"

I have to admit – I hesitated to see “Ender’s Game” at first.  I know that it is a classic Science Fiction novel and one that I should have read long ago, but I stopped reading most strictly Sci-Fi novels to focus on Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Mysteries.  Mostly, I was uncertain about whether to see the movie because of the controversy over the author’s personal views about gays. 

Now, I am an advocate for GLBT rights.  I believe that you have no choice if you are attracted sexually to someone of the same gender or if you are born into what feels like the wrong gender body.  Truthfully, why would anyone ever make that “choice” with all the negativity that comes along with it?  Orson Scott Card does have a bias against GLBT rights, and so many who support those rights have chosen to boycott the movie (and probably his books). 

While I have not read any of the “Ender” books, many years ago, I did read his novels about the “Seventh Son,” Alvin Maker, a fantasy series.  I thought they were well-written and had some interesting concepts about religion and a messiah figure.  There was nothing negative about being gay in any of the novels that I read.  Nor was it an issue in the movie.  I chose to see the movie because I believe that art is art, regardless of the artist, and that sometimes art informs us about the artist and his views and sometimes it does not.   In this case, “Ender’s Game” can be seen completely separate from Card’s opinions about gays.  However, it truly is a disturbing story in how it treats children and adolescents. 

Asa Butterfield, as Ender, did a fabulous job carrying the tremendous burden of being a potential leader and hero for his people.  As a “third” (apparently no more than two children per family are typically permitted) and the youngest family member to attempt to make it through the war program that both his siblings failed, Ender has high expectations set upon him and set by himself.  Hailee Steinfeld shines as one of his team members, maybe not quite as brightly as she did in “True Grit.”  Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Viola Davis are the adults who are training these children to be warriors and leaders, and they do a fine job at describing the balance of the needs of the children against the needs of the military. 

Strategically, it is a brilliant concept to begin training children at such a young age and to expect excellence in such diverse topics as rocket science.  Children are resilient and better equipped to learn than adults.  Posing the training as games and competitions, particularly videogames, is particularly brilliant.  In today’s military, some of the most successful members are those who played videogames as teenagers.  However, when I finally understood the title of the story about halfway through the movie, I was ultimately deeply troubled by the concept.  Only the ending resolution made the movie feel “better” for me. 

Whether you are an advocate of LGBT rights or not, “Ender’s Game” is a fascinating look at military strategy and war.  It disappoints me that its artistic merits will not be judged by those who choose to boycott it based on its author’s opinions.  Ultimately, this is a movie that is ripe for discussion about honesty, manipulation, competition, warfare, and their effects on children and adolescents.  I would highly recommend it.  

As a side note, I am attempting to participate in the NaNoWriMo program this month.  While I did not write anything pertaining to a novel, I wrote this piece and spent another 1,540 words on a draft letter I am preparing to submit to my credit score report.  So at least I spent the majority of the day writing something!

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo - November 1

This is National Novel Writing Month, and it's the first time that I've decided to participate.  I really have no idea on how to start - characters, plot outline, dialogue, setting - it's all a mystery to me.  But I decided if I wanted to participate, at the very least, I needed to write something every day – regardless of how many words it is.  So I decided to start writing here and then maybe post some of what I write in my blog site. 
I think I’ll just start by writing phrases and lines that I particularly enjoy, words that come rolling off the tongue pleasantly. 

She sells seashells by the seashore.  I love the ocean, the waves pounding on the sand and the sand susurring down as the water pulls it back into the ocean and then pushes it back up yet again, rhythmically.  Rocking gently through the day and night, crashing through the storms and rains, the ocean has its own emotions and feelings that it demonstrates in its tides and waves.  One minute it can be calm and collected; the next it is storming and roiling in sound and fury. 

I love the forest.  Even though they both possess groves of trees, wild forests are filled with sounds that usually go unnoticed in big-city parks.  The wind rustling the leaves, branches creaking, a bird piping here and there.  In good weather, the shade dapples the ground, alternating with the sunny patches here and there.  It seems as though the trees sway gently in their own unpredictable patterns – never quite in synch with one another but making a rhythm of their very own. 

The desert is quiet almost all the time, except for when the wind blows.  The cacti stand at attention, and the sun beats down on the crusted earth.  Here and there might be the slip-sliding trace of a sidewinder or the scuttled clots thrown up by a scorpion.  Overhead the vultures glide in long, winding loops, barely moving their wings yet able to hang for hours seemingly without moving a feather.  Once in awhile, the thunder rumbles and heavy clouds hang low just before they dump their heavy load onto the earth and the water runs across the land in sheets, barely sinking into the hardened earth, just drifting across the land in little rivulets that eventually gather into long streams that rush across and threaten to drown the standing pillars of cacti. 

The Great Salt Lake is a dead ocean in the middle of nowhere, and it smells as though it has been rotting there in the middle of the nation for millennia.  The water is saltier even than the ocean, and it burns and itches against your skin.  Swimming is easy because you have to force yourself to sink, and your very spirit rebels against putting your head deeper underneath that unnatural liquid.  If by chance you accidentally swallow some of the water, you gasp and choke, and the tears you shed are not half as bitter as your stomach. 

There, my task for the evening is done.  I have typed over 500 words.  That must be enough for the first day of NaNoWriMo.  I will try something a little different tomorrow.  I must read up on Jim Butcher’s advice on writing.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review of "Enough Said"

I really love The Flicks movie theatre, and I regret that I do not attend more movies there.  Often my roommate and I go to the blockbuster, popcorn films shown at Edwards, but this time I was able to persuade my way into seeing “Enough Said,” one of James Gandolfini’s last films before he died earlier this year.  The movie also stars Julie Louis-Dreyfus, not usually one of my favorite actresses, as a masseuse and Catherine Keener as her newest client and new best friend.  

As Eva, Louis-Dreyfus is funny and cynical in a way that I did not see in her show, “Seinfeld.”  She lugs around her massage table from client to client, listening to their complaints and troubles and providing them with a soothing respite that she herself could use. She meets Gandolfini’s Albert at a party, where they both announce that they are not physically attracted to anyone there, but somehow Albert manages to cajole her into a first date, which leads to a sweet and funny romance.  

Unfortunately, Albert is the ex-husband of Marianne (Keener), who constantly complains about the foibles and quirks that drove her away from him.  As Eva begins almost to aspire to become the sophisticated woman that Marianne is, she realizes that Marianne has been describing Albert, her Albert, the sweet, funny loving man she has been seeing.  Suddenly Eva is questioning her own feelings about Albert.  At a sad but hilarious dinner party thrown by her true best friend (Toni Collette with an accent that was extremely distracting), a drunken Eva begins nitpicking at Albert about his weight, how he eats, and even worse, how he cannot whisper to save his soul.  Of course, the fragile construct must come crashing down on Eva, as she betrays not only her lover, but also her new best friend by continuing to pretend not to know that Albert is Marianne’s ex-husband.

“Enough Said” is not a loud movie; it is a quiet movie about adults who struggle with dating after divorce, couples who strive to remain together after years of marriage, and parents who must let their children grow up and go.  Eva is like many of us, unsure of her own perceptions and wanting validation from others about her romantic choice because she failed so significantly in her first marriage.  The director wraps the movie up, not with a neat and tidy bow, but more like setting a gem into ring, making sure the audience sees both the sparkles and the depths of the stone.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013


My brother was a heroin addict.  While I was on a family vacation with my soon-to-be in-laws, he was supposed to be celebrating being clean for several months, finally having received Social Security Disability Income, and moving into his own nice apartment after living with my ex-husband and me off and on for those clean months.  He threw himself a party, and some of his old using friends showed up with heroin.  For whatever reason, my brother decided to use.  He overdosed. 

His so-called “friends” panicked.  They filled his new bathtub with ice and cold water and placed his body in there to try to shock it.  That did not work.  So they left him.  Alone.  In a cold and icy bathtub.  One of them came back the next day.  I do not know whether my brother was still alive or not at that point, but the person finally called an ambulance.  When it arrived, it was too late.  My 28-year-old brother was dead. 

I was ten years old when my brother was born.  He had a lot of issues growing up.  For one thing, he had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder).  He had trouble in school.  He did not make friends easily.  He would become hyper-focused on some topic or subject and obsess about it for hours, days, months.  People often took advantage of him.  Our family was not the happiest one on the block, and our parents divorced when he was 13.  I believe that was when he started using drugs.  Over the next 15 years, he lived with my then-husband and me off and on, whenever he was serious about getting clean.  My ex dragged him to hundreds of Narcotics Anonymous meetings.  He went to counseling.  We put him into rehab.  My parents and I actually institutionalized him in a mental health facility once when he threatened suicide because he was so overwhelmingly miserable coming off of the heroin. 

He would disappear for several months and then reappear, scarecrow thin with open sores all over his body and hacking and coughing like he had tuberculosis.  He contracted Hepatitis B.  When his stripper/addict girlfriend became pregnant, my then-husband and I offered to adopt the baby if she would just stay clean for the duration of the pregnancy.  She went behind his back and got an abortion.  He wept for days.  Then he went out and got high. 

For whatever reason, I do not understand addiction.  My first ex-husband is a recovering addict.  Many members of his family are in recovery.  After 18 years of marriage and several different addictions, I finally had too much and left him because of his then gambling addiction.  To my regret, our son is currently incarcerated due to crimes he committed while addicted to methamphetamines.   I have lived with addicts for years, and I still do not understand what drives them to abuse their bodies, their minds, their families, and their souls for one more fix. 

I will never understand why my brother, who had finally seemed to turn his life around, chose to try heroin one more time.  My mother’s biggest fear is that it was a suicide attempt, but if that was the case, then every time he used, he was attempting suicide, and I do not believe that.  I believe he felt his life was so miserable and he was so desperately unhappy, that heroin was the cure for it.  It made all his misery go away.  It also took his life. 

My brother was an addict, and he would have been 39 this year, had he lived.  I still miss him every day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Young Dubliners

The Young Dubliners are a Celtic rock band that occasionally plays live in the Boise area.  I fell in love with their music after hearing them play "Black and White" on the alternative radio station, KF95 "The River," in Boise, Idaho.  Even though it was late on a Thursday night and I'd worked past 7pm, their songs and interview made me convince my husband to come back downtown to hear them play at a free live concert.  They didn't even start to play until 11pm, but I stayed on my feet dancing (jumping up and down in place, per the other "Dubbers") until they shut the place down later that night at 2am.  The next day I was exhausted and my feet hurt, but I walked to the Record Exchange, an independent music shop 10 blocks from where I worked, and purchased the only two albums they had out at that time - "Rocky Road" and "Breathe."  It's nearly 20 years later, and I have everything they have ever recorded (nine albums), and I have never regretted hearing that song on the radio! 

They play a mix of old Irish tunes "rockified" and their own written songs.  Try giving them a listen at their website and see what you think.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kelley Armstrong's "Omens"

Since I absolutely love Kelley Armstrong’s series “The Otherworld,” I felt compelled to read this first novel in her new series about a town named Cainsville and its various inhabitants.  Her protagonist, Olivia Taylor-Jones, is the only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family one day, and the next, she discovers she really is adopted Eden Larsen, the only daughter of a pair of notorious serial killers who are in prison.  As her world crumbles around her, Olivia flees to a community in the Chicago suburbs, Cainsville, where she tries to determine whom she really is.  Part of that process involves meeting her birth mother and taking on the challenge of discovering whether her parents really are innocent of at least one of the murders for which they were convicted.   She is joined in this endeavor by Gabriel Walsh, her mother’s former attorney and a former resident of Cainsville himself.  She meets many of the town “elders” as she takes a job waitressing at the local diner rather than take money from her adopted family until she feels more comfortable with her new self. 

“Omens” was an interesting novel.  Olivia’s character becomes aware of her ability to read “omens” – potential portents of the future, such as vision of poppies preceding deaths of which Olivia becomes aware and ravens being an ominous sign of trouble to come.  While Olivia struggles with the concepts of someone having the “sight” – the ability to predict potential futures - or the ability to read “omens,” by the end of the novel, she is learning to trust those insights that come to her through the omens she sees that no one else can.

Gabriel Walsh was probably the most interesting character besides Olivia.  As Olivia discovers more about his past, the motives behind the actions he takes make much more sense, and by interacting with Olivia, he begins to change somewhat, like Olivia herself, which is really what happens when two people begin to work closely with one another.  By the end of the novel, he was a much more fully realized character and one that I had come to enjoy.  

The plot moved quickly, and while most of the other surviving characters were never fully formed, I expect that they will become more so as Armstrong proceeds with her next planned novel.  This happened in her “Otherworld” series as well – whenever someone new was introduced in a novel, one of the next novels or short stories focused on or more fully developed that character.   I was impressed enough with “Omens” that I am looking forward to reading the next one – I hope I do not have to wait very long! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jennifer Roberson's "Sword-Bound"

Casually browsing through the new books at Barnes and Noble, I gasped aloud when I saw a new Del and Tiger book from Jennifer Roberson, "Sword-Bound."  Roberson had announced years ago an end to the Del and Tiger novels, and I had grieved because it truly was one of my all-time favorite series.  To see a new book about Del and Tiger made my little heart go pitter-patter, and I absolutely had to buy it.  THEN to find out there would be another one in a few more months – I practically died right there in the store!

Roberson is famous for her series about the Cheysuli, but I never was able to get into those stories.  I came to appreciate her work from her stories about Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood before I discovered Del and Tiger.  This latest story catches up with Del and Tiger in a good place, with a school for sword dancers and a little girl of their own.  Tiger still occasionally must dance against those who want to kill him for his oath-breaking or for their own validation, but it is a quiet, peaceful life until Tiger’s son accuses him of being “domesticated.”  Of course, the Sand Tiger must challenge that notion, and soon they are on the road to adventures.  Unfortunately, these adventures become a lot more dangerous, especially for Del.  By the end, the plots are wrapped up, but there still are some threads to follow in the next novel.  Now all I need to know is when the newest novel will be published!  

Friday, October 4, 2013

George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire"

TIME Magazine had it right when they dubbed George R. R. Martin the "American Tolkien" because his "A Song of Ice and Fire" series has the same world-building, complex characters, and engaging multiple plot themes as "The Lord of the Rings" series.  I have loved Martin since I read his "Sandkings" novelette – what a statement about human beings and warfare!  Martin also started the epic “Wild Cards” – another series designed and written by multiple authors with similarly amazing world-building, complex characters, and multiple plot lines, established almost like graphic novels with superheroes, villains, etc. 

*****SPOILER ALERT *****

When I first read “A Game of Thrones,” I knew I was in for one hell of a ride.  Martin did something that few authors are willing to do – he killed his main characters.  After investing an entire novel in Ned Stark and his family, Martin dared to execute the King’s Hand, in front of his daughters no less.  Every major character in the novel suffered some major upheaval or unpleasantry in the course of the book, and no one was unchanged at its end.  

“A Game of Thrones” set the stage for the four novels that followed it, and Martin continued to add new major characters in every story.  As characters died, new characters were introduced, and by the time readers reached “A Dance of Dragons,” there were so many characters, Martin could only focus on about half of them in that novel.  Martin also is a master manipulator in the way that he concludes his novels – I could have killed him myself after the attack on Jon Snow in “A Dance of Dragons.”  I suspect we will not see Snow at all in his next novel – I expect we will only discover his fate in the final scheduled book.  What a wicked thing to do to your audience, but what a way to keep them hooked! 

If you are willing to invest the time, emotional, and sheer physical investment of reading this huge story, read “A Game of Thrones.”  Just try not to continue with the series after that initial venture.  If you have watched any part of the HBO series and plan to continue watching, read the books.  As amazing as the show is, the books are even better.  If you choose not to read the books, please don’t be amazed or upset at episodes like the one that killed Ned Stark or the infamous Red Wedding – that is just the charm of living in George R. R. Martin’s world. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Zombie Apocalypse

One of my favorite television programs right now is "The Walking Dead," returning to AMC on October 11, 2013.  I suspect most everyone has heard about the show, whether they've watched it or not, and zombies are a hot item right now.  I really enjoyed the movie "Warm Bodies" earlier this year when it played, and of course, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake is my all-time favorite zombie-raiser/destroyer.  Her latest novel, "Affliction," was terrific - the graphic sex in the novels truly is necessary to the character and the plots that have developed over time (20 years!), and in this particular novel, the focus is less on the extraordinary sex than on the character relationships, which remain especially human.  It also focuses on a potential "zombie apocalypse."

All of which leads me to my main question today, am I prepared for a zombie apocalypse?  No, I'm not. Given my many health issues, I've already established that I would have died at a lot younger age if I had been born even a century ago, let alone earlier than that.  An apocalypse of any sort these days would probably kill me off early as well.  But if I were forced to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, I have given some thought about where I would go.  I would bunker down in a hospital - not only for my current health issues, but also for any others that might occur as part of the apocalyptic chaos.  I figure with others around, we could defend the safe wards in a hospital and have plenty of supplies to survive at least until I die - which we are all going to do at some point.  The issue I have is how would I live during my remaining days? Probably much as I am today - reveling in hot baths (if that's a possibility), reading the tons of books I still have yet to read, and thinking crazy thoughts about matters like a zombie apocalypse.  I hope that I would still remain kind to people and animals, pray daily in thanks for the blessings that I receive, and make the most of the relationships that I have with those around me.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I have a “mantra” that I recite to myself whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with life, and illness, and the many balls that I force myself to juggle:
“Calm my mind and my heart, and heal my body.”
I recite this to myself whenever I rest – whenever my heart rate accelerates; whenever the hostiles are closing in; whenever I’m about to walk into a scary situation – pretty much every day, multiple times. Rest is critical for not only my mental sanity, but also my physical disabilities. I believe that stress manifests itself in the body, and my multiple diseases are a consequence of the sh– I have gone through for most of my 49 years of life.
“Calm my mind and my heart, and heal my body.” for me, it says everything that I need.

Sexist Propaganda

Please view the above link before reading my response:

This is a travesty - are people so homophobic that they can't allow children (who at various ages are so eager and excited to try on new personas as they develop their own) to be creative in their own way?  When my 3-1/2-year-old son was chastised by his Aunt for using a dollhouse to play with his action figures (HeMan & SheRa), I taught him the phrase "That's sexist propaganda."  It came back to bite me proudly several times later - when at age 7, he accused a mother sponsoring a boy's birthday party that it was "sexist propaganda" not to allow the boy's sister to join the group; and to me, when he was 10 and wanted to get a pierced ear.  What can I say?  He got a pierced ear!

Today he is a heterosexual 30-year-old who is an advocate for LBGTs and all other human rights.  I am extremely proud of him.  

Kat Richardson's "Seawitch"

Harper Blaine is an exceptional protagonist.  Having died 3 times and come back as a Greywalker, after 7 books, Harper still continues to grow in her use and understanding of the Grey - the thin line between the normal and paranormal worlds.  The Grey is one of the most unique creations about which I have ever read - nothing even comes close to it in any of the other urban/fantasy novels which I absorb on a daily basis.  Without trying to reveal any spoilers, "Seawitch" used the concepts of seawitches, mermaids, and dubhar-chu' (an Irish sea otter) in very unusual and creative ways, which is always Richardson's style with the paranormal.  In this novel, Harper works hand in hand with Rey Solis, the detective that she has kept at a distance in her past exploits.  She is forced to reveal to him the greater world in which she works, and his reactions to her revelations say much about him as a character.  Richardson also does extensive background on the historical and geographical areas in which she sets her characters, so I find myself falling into the stories and emerging with new concepts of both the normal and paranormal world.  I look forward to her newest Blaine novel, "Possession," which came out in August.  Kat, thank you for yet another absorbing story!  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Docket ID FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073 Re: Removing the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

I'm writing to you today, to voice my opposition to the proposal to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife.

There is no other animal on earth that seems more reviled than the wolf species.  As a predator, it rates alongside lions, tigers, bears, etc., but where these species are protected for (or in spite of) their predatory nature, the wolf is seen as a pariah, a "varmint" by cattlemen and others.

Please reconsider your proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered and threatened list. They are not yet fully recovered, and given the vehement hatred they face, their removal quite possibly could lead to their total extinction.  I truly hope you will consider my opposition, as well as that of many others, to your proposal.

Thank you for your consideration.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Emma Jane Holloway's "The Adventure of the Wollaston Ritual," a prequel to A STUDY IN SILKS

SUVUDU's latest 50-Page Fridays offered the above-mentioned short story, a prequel to Emma Jane Holloway's "A Study in Silks."  (Found at  I had read the description for "A Study in Silks" but written it off as too much like historical romance.  After reading "The Adventure of the Wollaston Ritual," I think I made a mistake, and I've added the novel to my lengthy list of "To Be Read" books.  

Evaline Cooper, the protagonist, is the niece of Sherlock Homes and a former Victorian circus performer with magic in her blood, who was taken from her father's family when she reached the age that girls become young women and was sent by her paternal grandmother to the Wollaston School for Young Ladies.  

I adore Laurie R. King's excellent series about Mary Russell Holmes, a young American heiress who becomes Sherlock Holmes' apprentice and then his wife through her novels.  These have been the only Sherlock Holmes stories, other than the originals, that have ever interested me.  Although I like the television series, "Elementary," and Robert Downey Jr. makes an excellent case as Holmes in his movies, I just haven't been impressed with many of the Holmesian personas and had written off (no pun intended) the idea of trying anything else involving Holmes.  

After reading this short story, which involves magic, clockwork figures, Victorian strictures that hampered the women of the time, and a feisty heroine who seems realistic as a character, I'm going to have to read "A Study in Silks" - probably right after it comes out on September 24, 2013.  Of course, I'm not a total fool - I'll read it from the library before I decide whether I want to add the actual book to my overly large personal collection (I'm running out of room on my shelves).  But in the meantime, the haunting images from this short story will probably come to my mind as I go to sleep this evening - isn't that what good writing does?  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Asiago's in Boise, ID

While the downtown Asiago's has done the best they can with the brick environment, I miss the atmosphere of their old Cole restaurant.  This restaurant seems a little crowded and noisy, and while the service and food were excellent, I preferred their old romantic, vine-ridden, tile-floor neighborhood gem.  Our first visit, the pork chop was somewhat overdone, while the lemon pasta was terrific and bright.  This visit, the bisteca was fabulous - rare, tender, and flavorful by itself as well as with the bacon-jam onions.  The Coho salmon was good but missing that "zing" that true wild salmon has.  We had to wait quite a little while for them to prepare the dessert to go, but all in all, two good visits.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Steubenville Rape

Letter to the Editor for the Washington Post.
Please censure Cohen for his editorial which used Cyrus’ VMA performance to make a larger statement about Ariel Levy’s The New Yorker article regarding the “Steubenville Rape.”  While he cogently argued Cyrus’ performance perpetuated the same stereotyping responsible for the debacle – "teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic . . . ," he dismissed a young woman’s horrific sexual assault and minimized the crime because "this was not a rape involving intercourse."  Mr. Cohen stated the “Internet -- in e-mails and tweets and Facebook, . . . formed itself into a digital lynch mob that demanded the arrest of the innocent for a crime — gang rape — that had not been committed."  Gang rape was never charged; two individuals were charged with rape and adjudicated “delinquent.”  They were not innocent. 
A young woman was inebriated beyond rationale decision-making.  At least five individuals took advantage and assaulted her sexually.  Three assailants received immunity for testimony against the two perpetrators.  Probably others were present who videoed and tweeted photos, and that data went viral - instantly available to anyone with an Internet connection.  I am dreadfully sorry for the victim and perpetrators – they will never be the same.   
Doreen Queen