Monday, May 21, 2018

Pack This, Not That

Baggalini purse - awesome.
Secret silk neck purse - never used.
Having planned carefully (so I thought) I found some things I packed for my three week trip to Europe turned out to be super-helpful - and other things, much less so. Learn now from my mistakes, kids.

The Baggalini purse on the left was awesome, with pockets for EVERYTHING. Comfortable, lightweight, adjustable strap... I would marry this purse if I could.

Pro-tip: If you're like me, and rarely change your purse, switch to your "travel purse" a week or two before the trip, so you can get used to it.


I thought the little silk, under-the-clothes purse would be handy, but I never used it. It was just a little too small to fit in all the things I needed, and the neck string was irritating.



This set of credit card and passport sleeves - I don't know whether they actually protected me from having my information lifted, or were an unnecessary precaution. But there were no issues and made me feel more secure, so I'll go with, worth the investment (under $10 for the set).




Small(ish) suitcase with an EXPANSION ZIPPER and wheels that go in ALL the directions. OMG, yes! Provided you are not too close to pushing the baggage weight limit, it will provide just enough room for souvenirs (if you don't go too overboard on them), for the return leg.








Which brings us to: small hand-held baggage scale. I got this (along with my suitcase) at TJ Maxx. It will weigh a suitcase in both kilograms and pounds, necessary for an American flying both domestic and internationally.

Rather than a standard carry-on, I bought this Victorinox travel backpack (again, with the zillion pockets!!) It even had a padded pocket that is perfect for a small laptop or a Kindle.




The amount of things it could hold and still fit under an airline seat or into the overhead bin was truly remarkable.

This was both a good thing, and a bad thing, as I discovered the first day I loaded it up to go touristing. The sucker got progressively heavier and heaver as the day went on, even WITHOUT adding significant souvenir weight.

I swear, I think there were gremlins adding invisible bricks to it.







Converter kits - I bought this one, which had plugs and attachments for both the UK and France. Heavy, but worth it, as we had not only cellphones and Kindles to charge, but standard "plug" units for our camera batteries.

Even though our AirBnB hosts had some converters, this power converter was still something we used every day.




Do: put extra electrical cords, earbuds, and charging plugs in a ziploc bag for ease of getting to them. Do NOT forget to bring a charging cord with you everywhere you go. DO bring earplugs (but maybe not a whole box of them).

If you are not 100% certain you can use your phone in Europe, DO buy an "Orange Holiday" SIM card at the earliest opportunity.

I missed out on meeting a wonderful friend in London, and almost lost my mind when my niece and  I got separated at the Louvre and we couldn't communicate, due to lack of the European SIM card in my phone. Also due to my phone running out of juice because I was carrying these recharging batteries but did not have a cord with me. *heavy sigh*



These portable batteries, on the left, one of the best trip purchases I made. Inexpensive, (relatively) lightweight, and powerful, I used them every day we were out and about. By buying different colors, it also helped me track which one was all tapped out, which one still had juice.







All the travel-sized things... Pack them! If nothing else, they help create a great feeling of accomplishment, as you finish each travel size bottle or tube. Especially since I've been working on my travel toothpaste stash for something like ten years.

Optimistic Me: And now that I've gotten rid of .3 fluid ounces of contact lens solution, I will have room for three pounds of souvenirs in its place.











DO bring a calendar with lots of room for taking notes for what you did each day. I also brought a journal, because I was going to journal, every night, about that day and evening's experiences.

Bwahahahaha! Three weeks, and ONE day's journaling.

Also, the extra notebooks I brought, in case I was seized with the creative inspiration and time to work on one of my fictional stories? See bwahaha, above. Extra. Dead. Weight.



My Kindle Fire: Pack this, if you have one. I used mine to read a little, to play music, including soothe you to sleep stuff when I was having problems falling asleep, and to access social media. Several nights I streamed movies for the two of us to watch.

Note: there were a lot of documentaries and travelogues I wanted to watch and show my niece, about the places we were visiting, that were not available to stream, while we were across the Pond. So if there is something of the sort you really WANT to watch, download it while in America.

Selfie Stick - don't bother. My niece brought hers, and we NEVER used it.

Many of the places we were visiting do NOT allow selfie sticks or tripods in the place, at all. Something about not wanting clumsy tourists to leave a gash across the Mona Lisa's face or something.

Mostly you can get good selfies at arms' length, or trade with other tourists to take their pictures, and then they'll take yours.


Some kind of facial cleansing, makeup remover wipes - oh, yes!! Used every day. And the premoistened wipes aren't considered liquid, so they can go in the carry on.

Bring hair scrunchies, and whatever else you "do" your hair with. If you use a curling iron, like my niece does, make sure you have the kind of power converter that will work with it. Ours worked okay in Paris, but not in London.











Wet wipes - a Yes, but. They came in handy on several occasions, but MOST places had access to running water and paper hand towels. Bringing a half dozen packets, rather than an entire box of 24, would have been plenty.


Travel neck pillows - ditch the old style ones, filled with memory foam, and get one of the inflatable ones. Try not to lose the carrying bag for it on the very first leg of the trip (but still, even if you do, it's not a tragedy).




Sunscreen: the large can of sunscreen was packed in my outgoing checked luggage, as a sealed virgin container - and came home as a sealed virgin container. Most cities DO sell sunscreen, as needed, and we really didn't need it.

However, if you have sensitive skin and a particular brand of sunscreen specifically for the face works for you, do bring that.

Other suggestions: If you have a small, compact rainjacket, bring it. I used mine on several days. My niece also brought a down jacket that could be compressed into a small bag when not worn - and then the bag used as a small-of-the-back support pillow.



And now, my brilliant idea... My books and bookmarks.  Because they were going on tour, too. I had plans taking pictures of the books everywhere. Me, my tiara, and my book right up next to the Crown Jewels. And in all the places we visited.

My therapist suggested that instead of bringing my actual books, I get mock-ups made of the covers, and use those, to save on weight.

But how heavy could a couple of books be? I was running short of time, and besides, I wanted them to look AUTHENTIC.

My books were ridiculously heavy, especially as the day wore on. And many of the historic places, like the room with the Crown Jewels, didn't allow photos anyway. If I were to do it again, I would bring half the bookmarks, and cover facsimiles, only. By the end of the trip, I was NOT lugging around one gum wrapper more than I had to. Sorry, Versailles, Marie Antoinette and company will just have to accept being photoshopped in, in future work.


And of course, I forgot my tiara in my mad dash out the door to meet my Lyft. Which I had somehow ordered to pick me up at my work address rather than home address, but the driver was nice enough not to cancel on me despite that.

I did acquire a new tiara from Westminster Abbey, so I only had to spend a few days tiara-less.

There are dozens more stories and photos coming, but I wanted to start you - and your travel adventures, should you be planning any - off on the right foot.

Your thoughts?

Questions?
Things you forgot you wish you'd packed? Or vice-versa?


Monday, April 30, 2018

Motherless on Mothers' Day

Do you ever feel stabby about all the ads and commercials for picture-perfect mother-daughter Mothers' Day outings, from brunches to pedis to long warm Facetime chats?

You don't want to get all bitchy and jealous, because it's not like anyone's fault they still have a great relationship with a living, healthy mother, but...

If you are dealing with the effect of feeling like you are on the outside, looking in, for seemingly endless weeks of what many describe as a Hallmark holiday, you are not the only one.




It took me a long time to start processing my mother loss and grief, and longer still to realize that this process is a journey I will always be on. (Unlike Paris, which I'll be leaving shortly, boo-hoo!)

The good news is, mother loss doesn't have to be awful all the time. And, unlike Rose clinging to Jack's hand in Titanic, we don't have to let go. Our relationship with our missing mothers can be magical and empowering and a thing of beauty and connection, not merely loss and pain.

Mothers' Day, for me, is now a time I connect with my mother, emotionally, and practice self-care. That might look like something pink and bubbly to drink, or soak in, it might mean watching a favorite movie or buying myself flowers or diving into a juicy book.

What does your Mothers' Day self-care look like?

P.S. - As this post is being published, I am enjoying my bucket trip to Paris! But I have
un petit cadeau for you. My memoir is on sale as a Mothers' Day gift to you, OR you can get a FREEE review copy through Netgalley in May. 





Monday, April 16, 2018

Getting Found Through Getting Lost... In Space

I probably spent as much time living vicariously on the Jupiter 2, as a child, as was possible. Because even with intergalactic monsters and cosmic storms, there was a comforting expectation that at the end of the show, the family would be intact, Robot, Dr. Smith, and all.

Autographed Cast Photo via Jimmy on Flickr

It's been a fun, and sometimes introspective look back to my childhood to revisit Lost in Space, with the help of Marc Cushman's amazing TV show biographies, one thick, ridiculously detailed volume per show season.

My Goodreads reviews: Lost in Space Volume I/First Season ( 699 pages)
Lost in Space Volume II/Second Season ( 492 pages)
Lost in Space Volume III/Third Season (522 pages)


As I did previously with Marc's Star Trek series, I read the chapter about it, then watched each episode while pedaling my recumbent bike. 83 episodes times 50 minutes pedaling per episode = almost seventy hours biking. Not bad.



Lost in Space was originally broadcast beginning in 1965, through 1968; three seasons in all, and picked up for syndication immediately after it ceased production, beginning in 1969. Keep in mind, space was happening - we were sending astronauts to walk on the moon! But they were adult men. LIS gave me a way to picture myself as a space explorer - and not only as a woman, but as a girl. Kids in space!

From the eyes of a child...

I wanted to look like Penny, and had a major crush on Major West. (The first, if not last Mark I would have a crush on.) I loved both John and Maureen Robinson; they made me feel safe and warm. Dr. Smith was annoying AF, I did not understand why they didn't drop him off at the nearest asteroid. Judy seemed blondeishly nice. I also adored The Robot, and was the proud owner of one or two of the small knock-off Robots Remco sold. Will Robinson, meh. I had nothing against him, but he seemed like a bit of a know-it-all, and why was he getting to do all the fun, exciting things?

From adult eyes...

Now I'm cognizant of the behind-the-scenes issues with the cast, the scripts, the production. I didn't realize that Guy Williams, Professor Robinson, had been Zorro! (Somebody whom, due to the magic of syndication, I would later develop a girlish ladyboner for, based on that show. Apparently I have a thing for the angry young man stereotype.) But in Lost in Space, he portrayed a brave, kind, heroic father. The father I wished I had.

Maureen reminded me much of my own mother: also kind, smart, lovely. Also underappreciated and vastly underused. While some of the characters who rarely got screen time occasionally got an episode with a starring role, like Marta Kristen did in Attack of the Killer Plants, which was brilliant, Maureen was regularly sidelined except when needed, as mothers often are.

I also found, interestingly, that the sizzling chemistry and kisses between John and Maureen in the first few episodes made show creator Irwin Allen uneasy, so PDA's became forbidden. Kids were not supposed to see adults acting attracted to one another, the horror! I believe the married Robinsons might have theoretically shared a cabin, but I don't recall any footage of them in it, or emerging from it together. How you make three children without kissing and chemistry, I know not.

Allen also put the kibosh on exploring the chemistry between Don and Judy. Although there were scenes whether they seemed to have an "understanding," and might have indicated attraction via posture and body language, after the first couple episodes, no mushy stuff allowed!! Monsters and spaceship crashes, yes, kisses, no! The sex negativity of this and other shows of the period really pisses me off, now.

Mark Goddard as Don West... I still have a crush. Although in watching the series over again, good heavens, the poor dude was always getting beat up, knocked unconscious, getting a body part trapped somewhere, not to mention, always crashing the Jupiter 2. He and Guy Williams were terrific in The Anti-Matter Man, and it was amusing to read in the book about Goddard's beard mishap during the filming.

Marta Kristen was much more than just a pretty face, she was a very talented actress, but she was sidelined almost as much as June Lockhart. Angela Cartwright as Penny got a bit more screen time, and I wanted a Bloop as a pet (though reading about that chimp made me very sad, the way she was treated). As an adult, it is easy to see all the ways sexist dynamics narrowed the way little girls could envision themselves, even ones who were theoretically astronauts. Maureen Robinson was supposed to be a biochemist, but did we ever see her biochemisting? Nope, just making dinner and doing the laundry.

Billy, now Bill Mumy. I found him him less of a show-off and more as a brilliant child actor who became a thoughtful, interesting, and very attractive man. (I have since discovered a taste for gingers.)  I really enjoyed episodes like Return From Outer Space and Trip Through the Robot, the many interviews with Mumy sprinkled throughout the books and in some of the bonus features on the DVDs.

Jonathan Harris, the nefarious, cowardly, pompous Dr. Zachary Smith. He, too, was brilliant, if a bit of an asshole. He could have performed his role and left space and advocated for the other actors, been more of a team player, but he chose not to, though he nurtured a super warm relationship with the crew. I can see from an adult storyteller's perspective, how much Harris brought to the table, and how that made the show more conflict-laden (which we want in stories, not so much in real life) and entertaining. I must admit waiting to hear "Oh, the pain, the pain!" and whatever alliterative insult Dr. Smith would spout at The Robot, the poor Bubbleheaded Booby.

The Robot, loyal companion in all circumstances, performed brilliantly by Bob May (body) and Dick Tufeld (voice). I still think of him like a cross between an uncle and older brother, and sooo believable. Who doesn't know how to say, "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!" while waving their arms like The Robot?

Paul Zastupnevich, assistant to Irwin Allen and costume designer. He designed so many costumes and props that would fit right in at a BDSM dungeon, today. Deliberate, or accidental?

Jonathan Harris and guest star Francine York from The Colonists, via Lost in Space wikia
The music:

I had remembered the music having a big impact on me, but I was really struck by it, in my revisiting of it.  The initial theme song and much of the first few episodes were scored by Johnny Williams (later to be John Williams, of Jaws, Close Encounters, Star Wars, and so much more).  There were also snippets borrowed from The Day the Earth Stood Still, and original themes by Alexander Courage (Star Trek,Superman) and others.

>

Watching the show, and really listening to it... It would have had a fraction of the impact on me, without the soundtrack. (I think I've mentioned being a groupie at heart.)

There's one sweet, warm theme frequently repeated, which I discovered from the Cushman LIS books, is called "Family." You can hear it, above, at about 19:56.

Other themes weren't identified, but I invite you to listen to how I've labeled some of them, and see if you agree:

0:00 - Original Lost in Space Theme by John(ny) Williams

My labeling:
  0:56 - Tense Times
  1:59 - something chilling from The Day the Earth Stood Still
  3:42 - Noble Exploration
  5:10 - Something Creepy is Around the Corner (this makes my heart beat faster)
  6:22 - The Monster Is Coming. One. Step. At. A. Time. (my heart POUNDS)
  8:45 - Silly Dr. Smith theme (a dark version, sometimes it's lighter)
  9:29 - Look Out For That Rock - The Chariot Charioting
11:22 - Curiosity Killed the Cat
12:08 - Entering Twisted Fairyland (used a lot with Penny stories)
13:09 - Come Into My Lair, Said The Spider
18:48 - Perhaps We've Learned Our Lesson
19:28 - The Robot's March
19:56 - Family, as described above. Tender, wistful, sentimental.
There's so much more. Circusy themes, playful themes, Western themes, more stuff that almost kidnaps you to come back after commercial. As much as the sight of The Robot waving his arms and announcing, "Danger! Danger!" or my happy interest at the sight of Mark Goddard in his silver jumpsuit, this music is my childhood.

Do you have a favorite Los in Space episode, star, or musical theme?
And have you voted in my tiara poll. yet? Only a couple days left.
Your thoughts?


Monday, April 9, 2018

It's Complicated - An Interview with Nikki Prince

I'm pleased to welcome super-talented, organized and busy author Nikki Prince to my blog this month to talk about writing stuff, including her newest book, It's Complicated.

Ashton Locke has had a thing for Keiko Jarrett since college. So when she proposes adding friends with benefits to the mix, he's intrigued, but wary. Sure, he’s always wanted her, and is definitely not ready to settle down with anyone, but what happens if one of them crosses the line?

Keiko is ready to take her flirty friendship with Ashton to the next level of hot. But she never bargained for feelings to intrude and cause complications. She laughed at Ashton's hesitation and promised she'd remain heart-whole.

Some promises are meant to be broken and as Keiko and Ashton's "benefits" bleed in all aspects of their lives, Keiko needs to convince Ashton that love is worth the risk. 

1) Your longer bio talks about earlier learning disabilities that seemed to have been vanquished via the reading, and later, writing, of romance novels. Since you have sooo many books and stories out there (sorry for not having read them all – yet), are there any that feature a heroine or hero with disabilities? Or are there plans to write some, soon? 

This is such an awesome question.  You know I did write a character in Freeing His Swan Dancer where the heroine’s child was autistic.  I’ve thought about writing more with perhaps a learning disabled heroine or hero but haven’t done so yet.  Thank you for reminding me about that.  It is a must.  I think everyone should have their story told.  Reading for me was freedom as well as writing.  My learning disability in everything else is gone with the exception of math which is a whole other side of the brain.


2) Two kids, Honor Society college student, prolific writer, former President of OCC/RWA and heading up PI/RWA in your spare time. Do you get a discount at the cleaners’ on your Superwoman capes? How DO you do it all?

I am past president of OCC/RWA for two years and now currently president of Passionate Ink RWA online.  I learned from getting the divorce that I needed to stay busy.  I had to immerse myself in the things I loved in order to survive and be the best mom that I can be.  I do it all because I have no choice.  My kids understand that there isn’t the word can’t in our vocabulary.  I do because I have too and I’m enjoying every minute of it.


3) When do you get your reading in?  What do you read - how much do you allow yourself to read for pure fun, and how much is Official Research?

I do my reading just like I do everything else.  I squeeze it in.  Sometimes it’s late at night or sometimes I might be traveling and I get it in.  I read for pure pleasure.  Official research happens when I’m writing my stories.


4) According to your website, you “write Hot Erotic romance with interracial characters and in different pairings, not just male and female.” I had to swear I was over 18 and not likely to freak out, to be allowed in. Are you comfortable with this choice/branding, or did you ever think you might want to give up the smut and write bonnet books?

I love writing erotic romances.  I don’t consider it smut.  I think erotic can be a beautiful thing tied in with love as hey…we weren’t all brought here in test tubes.  Sex happens…I just happen to write with the door open and where sex and love happens all together.  I’m very comfortable with my branding.  I also have written young adult but I do that on another name to keep them separate as they should be.


5) Let’s talk about the elephant in the living room. You’re a Woman of Color in a field, writing, that has not been particularly welcoming to WOC, even though, from Octavia Butler to Beverly Jenkins, WOC have truly made a name for themselves with a brilliant body of work. Even in organizations like RWA, there are insults, snubs, and passive-aggressive discouragement from a lot of “nice white women.” How do you cope without going all stabby, and have the patience to continually educate the well-meaning but ignorant? What kind of self-care do you suggest for WOC overwhelmed by micro-aggressions?

Writing is my dream.  There is no way in the world that I would ever allow anyone to take it from me.  As an 11 year old I grew up reading romances with white women and men on the cover.  Not to say that was a bad thing, but it wasn’t the real world for me.  The books brought to life my desire to write and when I finally realized some years later 2011-2012 that I could write books that told my story and others?  I went for it.  No matter the snubs…I will keep going.  This is where I’m meant to be.  The world is beautifully filled with diversity and there are so many WOC and AOC’s out there…who have stories to tell.  I say tell them and snubbing be DAMNED.  My self-care is that I remember how it was to struggle in school and then to find romance books that spoke to me and told me that love is something to celebrate.  I’m not sorry to tell the world that love is love and should be colorblind.  I am going to celebrate that fact.  Without diversity the world will be gray, I prefer to live in Technicolor.  Everyone deserves to see themselves in a story…I write those stories.  My tagline is “Where Love is Colorblind,” I stand by that wholeheartedly.


6) As one of the well-meaning but ignorant, here, how can white women and men better support you and other WOC in your careers? What do you want to see from us?

Listen to us.  Read our books and review them.  Don’t automatically assume that our books are badly written or that we don’t have stories to tell.   Don’t assume because there is a person of color on the cover or in the pages that you can’t relate.  A story is a story ….is a story.


7) Your first published book – what was that like for you? What was the best and worst part of that journey?

My first published book was a novella called Mocha Kisses (it’s gone through two editions, first edition was sold by Mocha Memoris Press and the second is out from Boroughs Publishing group and was extended).  It was great because I’d also gotten a contract for two other books one called Demon Mine with Evernight Publishing and the other called Hot for Teacher with Keith Publications.  As you can imagine I was on cloud nine in 2012.  I was new to being published and so thrilled that I didn’t have time to feel a worse part.


8) What is your advice to a young woman just starting her writing career, in today’s publishing industry? Does it change depending on whether she is white or a WOC?

My advice to anyone wanting to write, male or female.  Keep writing the stories of your heart.  Don’t listen to the naysayers.  If you do that, you’ll probably quit.  There will be naysayers, there always is…this is what we’re dealing with now.  But WOC’s and AOC’s are fighters and we’ll take this to the streets if we have to….or I should say to the laptop/pen/paper whatever you use to write with.  If it is in you to write, write.


9) Without giving away too much, what three things are we going to love about Ashton and Keiko in IT’S COMPLICATED?

Keiko’s strength, tenacity in going for what and who she wants and that is Ashton.  Ashton has always had a thing for Keiko and of course he wants her.  But he also cares for her deeply and doesn’t want to hurt her.


10) What question have you not yet been asked by anybody that you are just dying to answer - and what’s your answer?

I’m never asked about the gaming that I do.  I love World of Warcraft and I have like 6 level 110’s right now.  I also love playing the Sims…designing my own people and pets and having them go through life is fun.  Gaming is relaxing and calming to me just as reading is.  Thank you so much for having me.


Nikki Prince is a mother of two, who’s always had a dream to be a published author in the romance genre. Her passion lies in raising her children as readers, gaming, cooking, reading and her writing..

Nikki’s a multi-published author with several epublishing houses. She loves to write Interracial romances in all genres, but wants to let everyone know to not box her in, because there is always room for growth.  She carries a Master's in English and Creative Writing concentration in Fiction and is on her way to a Master's in English Literature.

Nikki’s also a member of Romance Writers of America National chapter, Passionate Ink RWA, The Beaumonde RWA, CIMRWA, DARA, RWA Philadelphia Chapter, and the Rainbow Romance Writers (RRW).

Nikki would love to hear from you…


It's Complicated is available for purchase or preorder NOW.


Thanks, Nikki, for coming to my blog. Got more questions for her?
Your thoughts?

Monday, April 2, 2018

On Turning Down a Gift Pig

As my eyemask indicates, I am dreaming of Paris. and London. Almost every night.

Some of them are happy dreams, but most are anxiety driven. I can't count how many times I've missed my flight, in my dreams.

I will probably triple-check, times eighteen, my passports, etc., in preparation for this trip across the Pond. because when, in Dreamland, if I am on time for my flights, I discover I am at the airport and don't have my passport. Or tickets, or money.

Those of you who've done a lot of international traveling are probably past that, but it's my VIRGIN trip. (And I'm also flying Virgin, for one of the legs, how's that for irony?)

I am doing several things every day to prep. Last weekend, I cleaned out my phone, freed up 6 G of space. Practiced my French, although I am not sure all of the lessons will be applicable.

I hope not all of the lessons will be applicable. Because THIS is not happening.

It sounds like a ransom demand. Are there roving cheese-and-chocolate bandits in Paris? Stay tuned.


I really don't know where to go with this one.


Is this a thing? Is there a polite way to say, "Thanks, I don't want your pig"? [Merci, je ne veux pas votre cochon]?

This one, however, is spot on.


So excited to be meeting Taron and Rachel Medhurst and Harper Miller and Kay Blake and maybeSkye Jones, on this trip.

Speaking of authors, though I won't be seeing her on this trip. I was pleased and honored to have my dear friend Kim Townsel do an extensive video review of my memoir. Also, I was surprised at the parts that most resonated with her. That has been my experience so far with readers, that some parts really struck a chord... and others fell flat.

(Psst, Kim has an entertaining and informative YouTube channel, you should totally subscribe.)




And as I am beginning to pack, the question of WHICH tiara to take, is still hanging in the balance.

Should I take THIS tiara to London, in a couple weeks? What do you think?


Please go here to vote in my tiara poll.

Do you have tips for international travel - and getting rid of pre-trip nightmares?

Merci beaucoup.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Gyreland: A Musical Escape to The World We Really Want

What if, instead of just this horrible floating pile of plastic crap in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, creative and skilled people built an amazing oasis on it?

That's the story told by an album called Gyreland, by a group named Bomber Goggles. (Disclaimer: I know and am friends with all the members of this band.)


I've always loved "concept albums," where it's not just a bunch of songs jumbled together, but a series of songs that tell a story.

So, my thoughts on these songs (note: I don't have a copy of the lyrics, but some of them are pretty easy to understand (or misunderstand, perhaps).

1. Land of Plastic - This song starts with an urgent, driving guitar, presenting the problem - we (humans) were too clever for our own good, we choked the oceans to death with plastic that never goes away.  Really engaging guitar and keyboards solos in the bridge.

2. The Gyre - One of the outcasts from modern civilization sees it and imagines it as a refuge, a place where "it could be beautiful, if we are dutiful..." Lovely, lilting melody that drew me in to sing along with the chorus, on my very first listening pass.

3. Building - An instrumental that starts with urgent drums, sounding like, well, construction work. About a third of the way in, there's an interesting syncopated beat. Couple more changes in tempo and instruments, going kind of jazzy and slower paced, then picking it up again.

4. Telepathy - starting with a bass intro, this dreamy song is about the development of telepathy among the people of the gyre. "I hear every word you do not say." By sharing thoughts, the knowledge and scientific backgrounds of the inhabitants can be utilized more efficiently and productively.

5. Oh Gyreland - gorgeous piano intro here. It's a soaring anthem of hope. Perhaps this new drifting city built out of refuse can become a utopia. "Bring out the best of man."

6. The World We Really Want - begins dreamy, lilting, "the world we really want," the idea of starting over. Kind of gently rocks in the middle, with lovely vocal harmonies.

7. Renewed World - Instrumental. Begins with fast-paced guitars, drums and keyboards, then takes a left turn, melody wise. And then a right turn.

8. We Are Not Alone - "Nothing goes unpunished in this world." Gyreland is being spied upon, by the world powers that be. A happy community living in harmony is a big threat to the warlike countries that surround it, as well as offering technology they could potentially use in their war against the other warlike countries.

9. Triangle of Power - Chinese, Russians, and United States... Interesting vocal arrangement to open, an indictment of the many historic quests for power at the expense of people.

10. Uneasy Truce - Musically begins with a sense of time counting down. Lyrics talk of Russian trawlers, Chinese jets flying overhead... Keyboards in the bridge sound much like jets screaming overhead.

11. Invasion - Military cadence of drums intros this song, some instrumental clashes that give a verbal cue to fighting... The "winner" is unclear (as is usually the case, even when there is a winner).

12. Wistful Waves - A call to thinking people, to all the gods, to embrace what could be, instead of destroying everything in an international pissing contest. Lead guitar is really engaging in the bridge.

13. March of Tides - "We lost our way, but gave ourselves a second chance." Great Yes-ian keyboards in the bridge, ending with gentle, wavelike piano, angelic vocals. "Come celebrate the march of tides. To inspire, to create." So, a happy ending!

I love happy endings, don't you?

You can get a short sample of all the music here on the Facebook.
Or sample the whole Album on Spotify


Even though you CAN, I trust that you will not simply listen to the album for free, because indie artists need our $upport, always. BUY it, here.

And in other news, the date for my bucket list trip to London and Paris is fast approaching. As you know, one of the biggest questions for a trip like this, always, is WHAT TO WEAR.

Help me pack my bag. Go here and vote on which tiara should be making the trip.

Here's a clip of Old Faithful in action:



Would you like to live in Gyreland? 
Have you voted on my tiara poll? 
Your thoughts?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Have Tiara, Will Travel

What do you get when you take a writer with a busy day job, in the busiest season of her day job, who is also doing physical therapy for her plantar fasciitis and working with a web designer on a website relaunch and mix her with a woman who's trying to have a social life of sorts?

You get a blogger neglects her blog, lo these many weeks.

Someone who's ready to run away and join the circus.

Via pxhere.com
In passing, am I the only person to feel disappointed after discovering that Piccadilly Circus was not, in fact, a circus of any kind?

I'm going there anyway.

I'm starting in London, and I'm taking my tiara (one of them, anyway - more on that later) to the TOWER.

Via Wikimedia Commons by Thomas Gun
pam fray / Tower Green and Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London / CC BY-SA 2.0
Hopefully the guards will not get my tiara confused with the Crown Jewels.

So many places to see, so much to do.


Tower Bridge by Sam Valadi via Flickr
via pxhere.com
via pxhere.com


Best of all, I have plans to connect with my longtime writing friends.  Taron of Mind, Body and Scroll.  Rachel Medhurst whose latest release in the Hunted Witch Agency series is making my Kindle fingers twitch.

And then there's Skye Jones, who's got sexy werewolves and dragon shifters ALSO burning up my Kindle. Am hoping her hot pack won't keep her away from enjoying tea with me.

And I asked for songs to get in the London Vibe, and my friends came through. Here's a playlist I created, with this help.



I will only be in the area about a week, and it's guaranteed I will NOT get to see all the things. Because, human.

However, if you were taking your tiara to town to see the Queen, where would you go? Or if you've already been, what should I not miss?

Stay tuned to help me pick which tiara I should take.
Your thoughts?


Monday, January 29, 2018

Glamorous to the Grave? #bodyshaming

Do we have to be glamorous to the grave? Do we have to carry with us all the societal beauty standards and internal fat-shaming and other BS, even when we are terminally ill?

To clarify, I am not terminally ill (any more than anyone else is - the sand in all our personal hourglasses will run out someday).

But I am ranting mad, because a friend of mine recently posted this, in part, about someone she loved, who just passed: "She fought cancer so valiantly. She was so beautiful. She looked like a fitness model til the end. She was a role model for cancer survivors. I will miss her so much."

I didn't want to go off on my friend about this, because cancer sucks, as I can testify, and losing friends sucks. I just told her I was sorry for her loss.

But I am inwardly raging about the words that poured out of her, because this is the message we receive and internalize as women, ALL THE TIME. That being beautiful, fit-looking, somehow makes a death more tragic.  Are fat ugly people the ones who "should" be dying of cancer? Is this why the news media was all over the murder of young, blonde, lovely (and white) Nicole Brown Simpson, yet the murders of black transwomen are barely a blip on the radar?

What does it say about our society that conventional attractiveness seems to impact the expression of how/why we mourn someone?

And how can we unpack this?

I think it's a sore spot for me because my mother worked really hard to lose weight, and she succeeded!! But in her final months, the metastasizing cancer bloated her liver and other internal organs, giving her a big belly. She felt so humiliated and ashamed; it was like a final indignity, cancer kicking her in the 'nads while she was already down.

Another dear friend, my first writing mentor, experienced the same abdominal bloating and terrible embarrassment and shame about it. And I've heard of similar stories from other cancer victims, or heart disease victims, on and on and on. It makes me infuriated, that there is so much societal judgment about being fat that far too many women actually feel guilty about not looking slim when they are dying of #fuckingcancer. Ridiculous!

You can buy this great print of Carrie & Gary by
Lindsay VanEk here.
And we know, we KNOW!! that yo-yo dieting is especially hard on women, and their hearts. Especially older women. Yes, Carrie had done a fair amount of drugs in her youth, and she had sleep apnea, but many wonder if her death was in part related to the huge weight loss she gamely took on, to make the final Star Wars movies. Because, as she quipped, they only wanted to hire 3/4 of her.

Why did her weight even matter? Why couldn't we have had a stocky or fat General Leia? I still would've watched the shit out of that.

As a group, women (and some men) are literally dying to be thin. Why are we are sending the message that nothing, not even death, is worse than being fat?

Must we be glamorous till the fucking grave? I want to join with the spirit of Carrie Fisher and flip off anyone who wants me to be Size Whatever.

And still, I admit, I want to be pretty. To have my loves see me as attractive, and sexy. My boudoir pictures, before and after my surgery, were and continue to be an important piece in reclaiming my life, and my power.

I am still struggling with foot pain issues, and while I'm still not getting on the scale, I know I've gained weight over the last year. It's a vicious cycle - because being active is a problem, more weight is gained, putting more pressure/damage on my feet, which then hurt more...

I hope the physical therapy I'm about to start will help. I don't have the time or patience to be hurting all the time. (Though perhaps it's something the Universe wants me to learn something from?)

I also hope that when I die, a long time from now, people remember me as more than some fat chick (who deserved to die, because, fat). Perhaps, if I'm lucky, I'll be remembered as someone with great boobs who rocked a tiara and made people laugh.

What kinds of body-shaming trigger you?
Your thoughts?