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Saturday, September 01, 2018

Cover reveal for my next release!

I've been vacillating about when to do a cover reveal on this (much neglected) blog, but the time has come. I'm thrilled to show off the cover that Damonza's Alisha did for my upcoming novel Water to Water.

Here is my (tentative) teaser for the book.


Two young Vushla questioned what everyone knew about death. What should they do with the answer?

When the time comes for Vushla to die, they go into the ocean and are dissolved away. Or so Terrill has always believed, and still believes after accompanying his father on the latter’s final journey. But after meeting another young Vushlu, Terrill must confront new information that calls this fundamental belief into question. Will the two of them discover the truth? And what should they do with what they find?


If all goes well, the book will be out on October 17, 2018.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

One more poem -- this time, a curse (general issue)

For my probably-last poem post, here's one with no autobiographical aspect. I particularly wanted to point that out because the poem is, as the title indicates, a curse (in the ill-wishing sense). The final lines may suggest a spurned lover, but could cover other situations. Feel free to recite it at any enemies you may acquire.



May your blood boil by night,
and freeze by day . . .

May the passing of clouds across the sky
be to you
as nails dragged shrieking
across flat dry stone . . .

May the trees whisper soft nightmares
as you shivering pass by . . .

May the moon’s light be blinding
and the sunlight
dim . . .

May you know no more piece
than I

and may you never forget me.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Even more serious - poem about a murder, plus some backstory

I went to Stanford University for my undergrad degree (English and American literature). I liked spending time in the Memorial Church, enjoying the quiet, looking at the impressive stained glass windows. (You can see photos of the windows at this link.)

One night, when I'd been visiting the church again, I tried to leave and discovered I'd been locked in. The minister had failed to notice me when he locked up and left. This was long before cell phones, and there was no pay phone anywhere I could see in the accessible area. After a while, however, the minister came back for something, found me, and let me out.

I believe it was a couple of days later that a girl was stabbed to death in the church at night. As you can imagine, what would have struck me as tragic and shocking in any event had an extra impact, given my recent experience.

So I wrote this poem. The imagery refers to several of the windows.


On the Murder in Memorial Church

Strange impotence:
stained glass night-frozen,
unable to beam
its pictured Salvation;
Jesus the healer,
caught trapped in a corner;
Christus crying into the darkness,
take this cup away! –
the Agony presiding
invisibly helpless;
unillumined, the desperate
will drown.

Another, more serious poem, siding with Lot's wife

Here's another post about my decades-old poetry, recently unearthed.

I can only remember writing two poems with Biblical subjects, and one -- re Job -- is hiding somewhere. But here is the other, untitled but basically siding with Lot's wife rather than Lot.


When Lot’s wife
turned to salt from grief;
her posture proclaiming,
I will be a dry monument to tears,
her protest,
I give not my leaving to this, God;


Lot looked up
The Lord rumbled faintly
Lot looked down
Salt crystals gathered at his feet

looked up
looked down
and proceeded on,
careful not
to look round.


Next time, a poem with a truly serious theme -- murder.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Well, I used to write poetry . . . (first of several)

I started out -- no later than age nine -- wanting to be a novelist. I wrote my first novel-of-sorts at age ten. But I didn't write my second until after I turned 55. What, if anything, did I write in the meantime?

Well, first I tried poetry. I kept at it through high school and the beginning of college. Later in college, I tried short stories, until I let myself be discouraged as to all creative writing by a stunningly clueless teaching associate. For decades, all I did was jot down a line or two of potential poetry once every blue moon. Then, while I was pregnant with Daughter #1, I started writing picture book manuscripts. Fast forward seventeen years or so, and I followed that daughter into National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo) -- and the rest, if not history, is a total of eight novels with two more in the pipeline.

But back to poetry.

Recently, pondering the awe-inspiring bad luck of a friend, I was reminded of a poem I wrote long ago about Job (as in the Biblical figure). I dug up a folder of my poetry and looked for it. I didn't find it, but I did find a few others I liked enough to bring into the light of day.

Here's the first, one of the lightest in tone. I believe I wrote this during or after my high school physics class. If I were writing it today, the title might include the word "nerd."


Love Song

Every mass
has an attraction for every other mass
which varies as the inverse square
of the distance between them.
That is,
if you allow me
to decrease the radius of my orbit
you will find me
increasingly attractive.

I wish to
race toward you at ever-increasing speed
(known as acceleration)
(which, times my mass,
which is constant,
would become the force with which I would
collide with you,
"knocking you off your feet")
until we engage in
a perfectly inelastic collision
(in which the two bodies concerned
collide and


And yes, I know the punctuation at the end is incorrect, but it works better that way.

Here's one more, untitled, frivolous and fanciful.


The conductor and the violinist
are near each other.
Bow and baton
time after time
come perilously close.
Will they cross swords?
The conductor looks angry.
We can expect a duel
any minute.


Next time, a poem or two with more emotional heft behind them.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Dangers that Grow in the Dark

I've been pondering the very unwelcome news that the candidate running closest to Senator Dianne Feinstein in California's primary (which does not separate out Democratic and Republican candidates) is Patrick Little, an unabashed anti-Semite whose rhetoric would make Adolf Hitler purr in his grave. I'm trying to explain it to myself, since I don't believe either that a large number of Americans actively hate Jews or that Californians are significantly more inclined toward such hatred. I've had a few thoughts on what might be going on.

What came to mind first were some memories from my youth. I'm not ancient enough to have seen the movie Reefer Madness when it first came out (in 1936), but for much of my life, there have been teachers and government officials doing their best to convince young people that marijuana was highly addictive and wildly dangerous. And for much of my life, young people have looked around at their weed-smoking friends, or at their weed-smoking selves, and observed that these claims were largely invalid. Some of them almost certainly overgeneralized from this observation and concluded that all claims about the dangers of illegal drugs were just killjoy hokum. (Indeed, some of those other claims were grossly exaggerated -- but not all.) How much better young people would have been served by open, accurate discussion of the effects and qualities of various drugs.

Then there's the perennial problem of kids with insufficient accurate information about sex learning about sex from other kids. How many pregnancies and STDs have resulted?

Finally, and most controversially these days, we have the issues of ethnic, religious, and gender differences. It's a rare and brave soul who dares to discuss crime statistics concerning different ethnic groups and ask whether social and cultural factors have anything to do with those statistics. Or to point out that the male/female distinction, though far from all-encompassing and inadequate to describe some individuals and conditions, has a fundamental basis in Terran biology, and to ask whether such a fundamental distinction might indeed have some correlates in human psychology and behavior.

What difficulties might result from the prohibition on these last areas of discourse? Well, when open discussion is loudly declared to be taboo, and when well-informed, well-meaning, rational people yield to that prohibition, who's going to be left standing and talking? The haters, that's who. The actual haters, not those who for fear of that label have fallen silent. And who will be left listening? Those who resent political taboos but themselves know little about, e.g., ethnic groups outside their own acquaintance.

When speech is suppressed, many will admire anyone who defies that suppression, little as a particular defiant individual may deserve admiration. When people are berated or threatened for discussing such questions as whether a disproportionate percentage of Muslims embrace religiously motivated violence, some of those people will be more ready to believe slanderous claims about other religious groups, including Jews. And the woefully inadequate teaching of history in this country, lo these many years, fails to provide an antidote to such slanders.

It has always been a core American value that the answer to false speech is true speech, not suppression of speech -- even if laws and lawmakers have not always kept that in mind. And the consequences of suppressing speech show us the wisdom of that maxim. The candidacy of Patrick Little should provide a loud and alarming wake-up call.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Appropriate Census Questions and the Fourteenth Amendment

As often happens, I am posting what my husband could post in more detail, had he the time and inclination.

There is much agitation at present about the plan to add a question to the census concerning citizenship status. This is not a new idea. In 1950, every household was asked about citizenship. For much of the time since then, the long form census questionnaire (received by a smaller sample) included the question as well. However, that history doesn't answer the question of whether asking about citizenship is constitutionally appropriate. (What, we're supposed to consider the Constitution in figuring what questions belong in the census? Well, yes, since our federal government is supposed to exercise only enumerated powers, quaint as that restriction seems to many.)

Before the Fourteenth Amendment, the language of Article I, section 2 provided that "Representatives  . . . shall be apportioned among the several States . . . according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons . . . three fifths of all other Persons." It went on to prescribe the schedule for "the actual Enumeration." Note the use of the term "persons," and the inclusion of three-fifths of the number of slaves, who were obviously not voting citizens.

The Fourteenth Amendment, section 2, replaced this language with the following: "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State . . . ." We're still counting persons, not citizens. It went on, however, into new territory: "But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial Officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, shall be denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State." (The Nineteenth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments extended the right to vote to female citizens and citizens eighteen to twenty years old, respectively.) There is no mention of, and hence no change in, the language setting out the schedule for counting "persons," aka the census. It seems a logical inference that, since the new language requires knowing how many citizens with the franchise there are in the state as well as which of those citizens are being prevented from voting, the census is the appropriate tool to find that out. Based on those numbers, a state that prevents citizens entitled to vote from voting should find its number of members in the House of Representatives cut back in proportion to those so prevented.

It is thus not only appropriate, but necessary that the census, while continuing to count "persons" resident in the states, also count citizens entitled to vote, and quite possibly inquire whether any of those citizens have been unlawfully barred from the polls.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Masterpiece Cakes case and freedom of and establishment of religion

Opening clarification: I have not the slightest objection to same-sex marriage and hope to attend one, co-starring my daughter, someday.

Reading live blog accounts of the Masterpiece Cakes argument at the U.S. Supreme Court, it seemed (though not having attended, I could certainly be wrong) that there was insufficient exploration of two First Amendment issues other than free speech: freedom of religion and, especially, establishment of religion.

If the state may say that only those whose religion accepts same-sex marriage may practice certain professions, isn't that not only an infringement of the freedom to practice some religions, but a broad-brush state establishment of religion via exclusion of some religions?

Those arguing on the baker's behalf, I got the impression, did not defend the right of a makeup artist or hair stylist to decline same-sex wedding business. But, as Justice Kennedy suggested out in a complex-cake hypothetical, actually needing to be present at a service is different from selling a product or providing a service months and miles away. Would Oregon allow a makeup artist or hair stylist to say, "I am not available for on-site services for same-sex weddings -- you must come to my shop and then travel to the wedding venue"? I have my doubts.

What about a Muslim hair stylist who believes that no woman, or at least no woman claiming to be Muslim, should appear in public in front of men outside her family with her hair showing? Can she be compelled to provide her services to a woman self-identifying as Muslim who intends to be married in the middle of Harvard Square with her husband's frat buddies as his attendants and all sorts of male strangers walking past? If so, is the state infringing on her freedom of religion and/or establishing less restrictive forms of Islam over more restrictive ones?

Feel free to discuss these issues in the comments.