Category Archives: Uncategorized


Just this Once, an Illustration that Goes With The Title!

What? You thought it was pronounced “paradigims?”

A paradigm, pronounced just like what is pictured above (for non-north americans, those coins are worth ten cents, and are called “dimes.” There are two of them — a pair) is an excellent example of something, and that something can be a football league, or how a society is organized and operates. As it happens, every so often (about once in everybody’s lifetime, in fact) a free society needs to reorganize and develop new paradigms to live by. Prior to the depression/World War Two, nobody liked the idea of consumerism, moving to the suburbs, commuting to work. After those events, that’s how we’ve lived for the past 80 years or more. It worked great for a while. Some of the other paradigms we’ve lived by include the idea that, to a “good” person, minority citizens need help; to a “bad” citizen, minority citizens are inherently inferior. Also, growth is good for its own sake. Bigger is better, and so is faster and further. Moving around a lot is the way to live is another. There are oodles of paradigms by which we all attempt to make our way through life. But the paradigms that work so damned well when they’re first developed turn into big negatives when they’re used past their expiration date, so to speak. And that’s where we are.

The conservative among us can see this perfectly well. And it frightens them. That’s why they say that they want to “Make America Great Again.” After all, when America was truly ruling the world, those paradigms were how we were living. Makes sense that they’d work again, if we can only get back to them. But, there is a problem with that idea.

It won’t work.

Commuting is a major cause of ill health, in more ways than one. The car ads present a world that cannot exist. No matter what you do, you will never be able to cheerfully park right in front of the country club and leisurely stroll in. You will never have the twisty mountain road to yourself. You will never be able to do a damned thing to avoid that nasty-ass commute you’re stuck with every damned day.

Those minorities are not minorities any more. There are more “non-white” children in the US than “white” kids. Nothing can be done to reverse that. In some places, such as where I live, “white” people are no longer a majority of the population. (This causes, um, nothing, actually, except that you need to be polite to everybody regardless of how they look.)

And our use of burning fuels to power all of our stuff is resulting in a shift in worldwide climate that will make continuing to use the old paradigms impossible in the first place. These are examples; there are plenty of other things that aren’t working properly anymore, but these should be enough to show what I mean. Short story is that it’s time for new paradigms, new approaches to how we live and relate to each other. I have a feeling that one of the new paradigms (for the US, not for most of the advanced world) will be that health care is a right. (No arguments in this forum, please. That’s what Twitter is for, after all, and I’m just stating what I think will happen, not registering an opinion.) For another, we will need to find alternate sources of energy that don’t involve burning things. (Again, no arguments here, please.) And we will no doubt learn to live in an actual multi-cultural country, not just one that pays lip service to the concept. And there will be more, much more, that I can’t begin to see from where we are today.

The new paradigms will seem to create a world that is ever so much better than the one that came before. There will be what you might call “Nouveau Archie Bunkers” who pine for the mid-twentieth century, but most people will be happier. Until, in a few decades, whatever these new paradigms are start to malfunction for reasons I couldn’t begin to guess, and we end up back at the end of the world as we know it.

That is exactly where we are today, and, in the words of Michael Stipes, I Feel Fine!

Now What?

It’s ME, in an ugly sweater. Photo by Holly Ecker

There is more to that picture, of course, but I don’t reveal everything. When I way “Now, What?” I refer to how confusing some thing have become lately. Not politics, nothing from Washington has surprised me lately, but with the way life as a writer and a resident of my neighborhood has been churning.

I received the email notifying me that it’s time to renew my RWA membership this week. I can’t do it until they demonstrate that they’ve once again become a stable platform for advocacy and promotion of people writing romance. (Please don’t call them ‘bodice rippers,’ although there is this subgenre of erotica that, ahem.) They were always seemingly a rock of stability in an ever evolving world of publishing, but various developments have shaken that view considerably. For a more comprehensive view of how things developed in the organization, I invite you to read Nora Roberts’ Blog Post on the matter. I am still a member of SCBWI, but now each time I see something from them I flash onto the RWA scandal, and even though SCBWI doesn’t deserve it, I’m sorta off on the idea of large writers’ groups. Sorry, world. I’ll get better, I’m sure.

In my neighborhood we have been plagued the past six months or so with waves of homeless people sleeping in the wash (Flamingo Wash, the one that goes through the parking garage of that hotel you’ve heard about) and, in some cases, contributing to thefts, vandalism, noise, and of course, that stuff all humans make that most of us flush away. I’m not Pollyannaish enough to think that a neighborhood should all be clean and “nice.” In fact, I kind of dislike the concept of “nice,” especially when applied to language. But, that said, even though our house is fairly secure, a lot of neighbors are rather upset because their house isn’t so much secure, or they are Pollyanna enough to think nobody is going to drive off with their car if they warm it up out front, or both. (There is no need to warm up a car built since the mid-1970s, if not earlier. When I  lived in Minnesota, you’d take off as soon as you could get that sucker into gear.) While my sympathies vary somewhat with the circumstances surrounding each incident, I do not appreciate having my neighbors all upset over what is in fact a wide-spread social issue. Which means that action must be taken on local, county, state, and national levels if we want a peaceful neighborhood into the future.

There is a neighborhood group working with the county and Metro (the Las Vegas Police Department, headed by our elected Sheriff) to come up with solutions. And I’m pretty sure that there are solutions, but they all involve changes in behaviors and attitude not just amongst the homeless, but amongst the neighbors as well. Sigh.

Now What?

I guess I have only to wait to find out, huh?

It’s 2019. Let’s Compromise.

Be Upset By This, I Dare You!

Let’s Compromise. Seriously. That’s treated as if it were a dirty word, or has been in recent years at least. But it isn’t a dirty word at all. It’s how a democracy functions. Here’s a hard truth for many: You are never going to get everything you want. In fact, you are going to have to give up some of what you want so that other people get something of what they want so that they’ll be okay with you getting some of what you want. That’s a compromise, and that’s how democracy works. Think of it as a rough consensus, if that helps.

Other groups aren’t responsible for everything that’s wrong. MAGA didn’t cause the problem. Neither did Libtards, or Republicans, or Democrats, or Trumpists, or Socialists. Not even those idiot neighbors down the street are responsible for the problems in your world. You may be a part of your own problems, but, you know what? You’re not responsible for the trouble, either. Sometimes, things just don’t go your way. That’s life. The way to solve the problems is to talk with the Libtards, MAGA, Democrats, Socialists Conservatives, crazy neighbors, and whomever is involved to work out a way that you can each get a piece of what you want out of the situation. But, take note, it will never be “those people” going away and never bothering you again. Whomever they are, they’re here, and you need to deal with that. Nothing can change what is. Not earnest belief, not carrying torches, nothing at all. You and your group are going to have to work with them and their groups until you come to some sort of rough consensus, you know, a compromise, where each of your groups, and each of their groups, gets something of what it wants, but where nobody gets everything that they want, and where nobody is completely happy with the result, but everybody is willing to live with the result. And so we move on.

I know this is not fair. Nothing in life is fair. What this is, though, is the way human beings get along with other human beings. By talking with each other, and listening to each other. It’s 2019! Maybe it’s time we gave it a try.


This tree was in our yard in Centennial Colorado for Christmas 2001.

That’s one down. Luckily for me, one we don’t celebrate. But some of my cousins do, and some of my friends do (and yes, I could name them, but not here, okay?) And a few more to come. The biggie, the Federal Holiday, is Christmas, of course. Never mind that the Feast of Christ (or Christ’s Mass) was originally in the Spring. As a writer of lies (look up the word “fiction”) it is important to know the truth. So, to me, it doesn’t matter what we call the winter solstice holiday. My pagan ancestors called it Jule, or Yule, and the celebration isn’t all that different today. Less official first-time sex for the kiddies, of course, but mostly it’s very similar. The song Deck the Halls is an old pre-Christian Yule song. Not a Christmas song, but popular anyway.

The truth is, Christmas is a war on Yule, and Saturnalia. The non-Christians didn’t declare the war. The Christians did. Somehow they believed that calling the holiday by a Christian name (can’t get closer than “Christmas” after all) would cause people to forget the old holidays. Just like some latter-day people believed that outlawing alcohol would stop people from drinking. Same with outlawing Marijuana, which has not become more readily available since it’s been legal, just easier to get due to not having to sneak around. The marijuana people, alcohol people, and Christians all suffered from the same delusion: that human nature is subject to legislation. Oh, my, there’s fodder for a whole mess of novels in that attitude, isn’t there? I may even have read a book or two that touched on that theme. Let me think . . .

Oh, thinking is too much trouble, obviously. But you see my point: you can call a solstice celebration anything you want, but it ends up being a celebration of the fact that it ain’t gonna get any darker this year, and the sun is gonna come back after all! That’s why we light fires, string lights all over our houses, drink, eat, and party in defiance of the darkness that has just been vanquished. I don’t know about you, but I like it. And, if you want to call it Christmas, what do I care? It’s a good thing, any way you look at it.

And if it takes me until Valentine’s Day to lose the extra weight? Bah, Humbug on it! Gimmie some more cookies!

My Turn at the RWA National Conference

It Was Requested of Me to Pose Here. I Declined

I reposted Barbara Oneal’s take on the conference in Denver. Please read it. You can just go to the immediate previous post from this page, or click here. Just close the page when you’re done, if you choose that option.  This was not my first RWA conference, and I’ll get to some reasons why I recommend one below. First, though, I also noticed the almost obsessive attention to diversity in the organization. I have to say, it is about time. Lest you think that a man at that conference was unwelcome, I assure you that such was not the case. My career was as respected as anyone’s. I was a peer, and treated as such. I got to talk frankly with more African Americans than perhaps I ever have before, and that was excellent. I wish those who see “others” everywhere could do something similar, because, in the end, there are no “others.” We’re all stuck with each other.

Yeah, at times that sucks, but it’s true. Humans are the worst species on the planet, except all of the others, and that’s a fact. You think that beavers ever have second thoughts about their destructive ways? 

Thanks to millennia of stupid thinking, the sort of activism seen everywhere in America these days is necessary. Too bad that’s true, but it’s true. There are those who take it farther than necessary, for sure. (Wendy, the new take on Peter Pan, seems unnecessary. When I read the book, Wendy already seemed to be a strong female lead, but maybe that’s just me. And, anyway, if it sells, who am I to say it nay?) But maybe taking it beyond the end point is the only way to get to the end point. That point, for me, is simply when I can quit worrying about being diverse and simply write stories about people. I may not live that long, but I do believe that the current political climate is hurrying us toward that day.

Whew! Now, on to the conference.

My wife has been a member of RWA for decades. And for decades she has been telling me how useful RWA conferences are. Finally, at a conference in New York three years ago, I found out that she is correct. Here is a sample page of a few hours of programming in Denver last Friday:

See what I mean? There are practical workshops (my favorites) on topics like how to price your books, how to use Scrivener, Research help, as well as book signings (by the actual authors, of course) and a chance to meet one-on-one with various publishers, editors, agents, and so on. At that luncheon, seating is mostly open, meaning that you may well end up having lunch with a famous author (it’s happened) or an editor (ditto) or an agent you’ve been wanting to meet (also ditto.) This goes on for four days. The price includes two luncheons, the first being on Thursday, when the awards for best as yet unpublished books are given out. Not surprisingly, being nominated for one of those awards (called the Golden Heart) is an excellent way to exit that unpublished status.

Or, of course, you can publish your own darned book, which is what a lot of the workshops aimed at helping one do. As the previous post says, publishing is a lot different these days. Bomb in the traditional market and you’re a pariah. Bomb today, and oh, heck, try another one. Maybe they’ll appreciate the first one after you’ve wowed them with the second. (This also happens.)

I have written one, count it, one Young Adult romance novel. Heck it has everything: romance, violence, threats of violence, a couple of people who we don’t know die, all sorts of good stuff, and, most important of all, the ending is so happy that it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Watch for it, because you will see it for sale. I’ve written all sorts of other stuff. Chapter books, mostly, which never include romance per se, but which do have happy endings, if not the HEA (Happily Ever After) required of the romance genre. Which is to say, you would (I assume you’re a writer) find this conference useful even if romance writing isn’t really your thing. Sure, romance characters may be a tad overdrawn. Huh. Is Hamlet a tad overdrawn? Is MacBeth? Why, yes, yes they are. You can learn a lot about drawing good characters by simply overdrawing a few.

So, next years conference is in New York City. I probably won’t attend, because, frankly, New York in July is uncomfortable, much as I love that city. But you could go. To learn more about RWA, just click here. Trust me, you could do worse! (A tinge of New York Yiddish humor there.)

The Lisbon Oceanarium

From the Temporary Exhibit "Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano." Photo by Tami Cowden
From the Temporary Exhibit “Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano.” Photo by Tami Cowden

Takashi Amano specialized in creating underwater living art. This is a huge aquarium, planted very carefully with tropical aquatic plants and stocked with tropical fish. Some of the same fish we have (in smaller quantities) in our livingroom aquarium, in fact. It is a very peaceful and calming exhibition, very unlike the normal life of a big city.

Down one level from the temporary exhibit is a pretty cool aquarium. (No whales, I promise.) People visiting can get pretty wide-eyed with delight. To wit:

Photo by Tami Cowden
Photo by Tami Cowden

We have basset hounds, which are pretty cute animals. But we found some other animals in the Oceanarium that are even cuter. I refer, of course, to Sea Otters. You can see thousands of these guys cavorting near Monterrey, California, if you don’t want to come all the way to Lisbon.

Terminal Cuteness - Photo by Tami Cowden
Terminal Cuteness – Photo by Tami Cowden

I wanted to post a video, but my video editing software is on a different computer and difficult to access. Lunch was fine, about what you’d expect, including dessert. We spent several hours at the Ocenarium before we had to recover our car and drive to the rental agency. This brings up an interesting aspect of navigating in a foreign place. It is absolutely essential that at least one phone, with one maps app, be properly charged at all times. Our car’s power outlet didn’t work, so this involved some definite fuss and bother. Luckily, we had an excellent turbo charger that is portable. You charge it; it charges your devices. I highly recommend such an item if you plan to travel. For me, the best thing about being back home is that I no longer have to pay attention to that. My car charger works, and I have my choice of chargers in the house. Whew!

The rental agency woman had offered to take us to the airport, but as we discovered that it was only about six Euros to Uber it, we declined her generous offer. We did give her the bottle of champagne that we got for free at the hotel in Espinho. Maybe she paid our tolls for us, I can’t say, but if she did, thank her for me if you see her. She works at Ausocar Lisbon.


We arrived at the airport with a lot of time to spare, which was good as it took a while to check in and find our gate. Here’s the thing about Lisbon Airport: you Exit Through the Gift Shop! I mean that literally. The path to the gates winds through the largest duty-free shop in existence (or so it seems.) It took about ten minutes to fully clear the place. Many people stopped to buy things, too, so I guess it’s a good idea from a strictly commercial point of view. We, of course, were less than thrilled, but what the heck, we got there in the end. Hungry. Tired. Disgruntled. (Can one be ‘gruntled?’) And, in the end, what matter? We ate from a small restaurant not far from the gate, and were content enough. Once aboard the plane, as soon as I could, I went to sleep. Not the best sleep in the world, you say? It was good enough. We got to our Dublin hotel at about 02:30. By 03:00 or so I was asleep again, in a bed.

Just one more story. Tami joined what Aer Lingus calls the “Aer Club” when she booked our flights. It is free. It doesn’t get you much, but one thing it does get you is priority check-in. We must have passed a hundred other passengers on our way to the “Aer Club” counter. Heck, we were through the gift shop before the last of them checked in. Keep that in mind, should you ever fly Aer Lingus.

Next Post in this Series

Previous Post in this Series



Old Books, Bus Rides, and Off We Go

A Watercolor in a Cabinet in the Irish National Museum - photo by Tami Cowden
A Watercolor in a Cabinet in the Irish National Museum – photo by Tami Cowden

I confess that I lied in my previous post. We visited the National Museum in Dublin on Thursday, at least that’s when it was according to the timestamps on a string of photos. This particular painting is displayed for two hours per week. It is a watercolor which they don’t want to deteriorate. As we walked into the gallery, a museum employee came out and said that the cabinet was open. We got lucky! I do not know what the painting depicts, or who painted it, but it is a nice composition with good colors, so I’m glad they’re taking care of it. It was on the way to this museum that we saw the Prime Minister’s official office building, in fact. The cheeseburger place came after. After that, my previous post is accurate. We walked around for a bit, then went to the hotel and slept the sleep of the very tired.

The Long Room in Trinity College Library, Dublin
The Long Room in Trinity College Library, Dublin

Next morning we had a Full Irish breakfast at our quaint hotel. In the basement. It was very good. A Full Irish consists of an egg up, beans, bacon (cured meat, think ham, a black pudding, a white pudding, I believe a few potato bits, juices and coffee or tea. Other than the puddings, you could call it a Full English breakfast. We packed up for our flight to Lisbon in the evening, left our bags in care of the hotel, and eagerly shot out the door headed for Trinity College.

This was a mistake. I had read, specifically, “Skip the Book of Kells,” but somehow that advice left me on this morning. The Book of Kells is the oldest book in Ireland, and as it is an original, one of the oldest extant manuscripts anywhere. The text is the first four Christian gospels in Latin. Ad veniat regnam tuum indeed. The museum display isn’t entirely uninteresting, and seeing an actual book that old is something, but it doesn’t last all that long. Upstairs is the “Long Room” of the Trinity Library, where they store a bunch of old books. You can see the old books to either side in the photo above. That’s what we did, see the old books. You can’t check them out, or even touch them. Makes me wonder what they heck the library is for.

Sort of Looks Like Saint Patrick's Cathedral, but I Don't Think It Is. - photo by Tami Cowden
Sort of Looks Like Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, but I Don’t Think It Is. – photo by Tami Cowden

We hopped on, and off, and on again, a hop on-hop off bus service, which worked pretty well. We toured the city and saw a number of famous and otherwise sights. We did not take the tour of the Guinness facilities. Don’t get me wrong, the Guinness Stout brewed there is one of the finest brews ever brewed. I just didn’t care, and still don’t, how they do it. (It’s true, by the way, that the Guinness Stout is better in Dublin. A lot better.)

I Do Not Know Who This is of, But Tami took this p icture, and it's a good shot.
I Do Not Know Who This is of, But Tami took this picture, and it’s a good shot.






















What we have here, besides the unknown gentleman’s statue, is a bit of the Guinness Storehouse, the world’s second largest Obelisk, behind the Washington Monument, and the West Gate to Trinity College.

We could have done more that day, but we had to get to the airport to catch our plane to Lisbon. Interestingly, on the way in, I could have sworn that the hotel was twice as far away from the airport as it seemed to be on the way back out. Long Hauling? No rideshare allowed in Dublin. I report, you decide. Whatever, after discovering that our checked bags had been forgotten by the Aer Lingus system, we waited in a line at the front of which was a young gentleman who apparently was confused by the computer equipment. Giving up all hope of getting dinner at an airport restaurant, we nonetheless made our flight (a lot like United, if that helps describe it) and bought food on the plane. The food was not at all bad, either. By the time we got to our hotel, it was after ten (I mean 22:00) and we didn’t do much but check out Portuguese TV and go to bed. The hotel was the VIP Executive Marques Aparthotel, an actual hotel with electronic keys, elevators, and a parking garage. More about that next time. For now, it’s time to say “adeus.”

Next Post in this Series.

Previous Post in this Series