Sunday, February 22, 2015



                                                           BRING IT ON!

 Last April I successfully completed the A to Z Challenge, and it was exhausting but also a lot of fun, and so this April I'm going to go for it again.  The Challenge is a month-long commitment to post a theme-related blog a day, all the way though the alphabet, every day except Sunday, and to meet and support other bloggers who are doing the same.  You ask, Why? and I reply, Why not?  It's a chance to be part of a blogging community and to spend a month diving deep into an obsession of my choice.
     Last year my theme was My Favorite Things, and so I was thinking that this year I should round it all out by choosing Things I Hate, but frankly I was feeling uninspired.  The things I hate are, after all, the same things that everyone hates: telemarketers.  Rubbernecking delays.  I was just getting started thinking up some of the posts and I was already boring myself to death.
     But then this week I was talking with Yvonne Ventresca (who was the one who told me about this Challenge in the first place), and somehow the subject of the 16th century came up, and I was telling her about how I'll read almost anything about that era that I can get my hands on, and she came up with the brilliant idea of making that my A to Z Challenge theme.  And I immediately got so energized that in the few days since then, I've come up with the subject matter for each one of my 26 themed posts, and I've even got the name for my themed challenge.  I'm calling it (as you already know from the title of this post):

     It's not that I wish I'd lived then.  God, no.  I would have been poor, as all my ancestors have undoubtedly been, and I would have been female, because it's hard enough to imagine all that time travel without tacking on gender-switching, and that combination would have ensured that I had a life expectancy of less than 30 years (yes, really) and probably would have died painfully during or just after childbirth, when the infections set in.  Go read a biography of any man of the 1500's who wasn't a royal (the royals had state-of-the-art medical care, although that didn't save poor Jane Seymour).  Chances are that your chosen commoner married at least twice, and more likely three times, after his (much younger) wives died.  Repeatedly giving birth in those days was a more hazardous occupation than the daily physical work engaged in by any peasant, male or female.
     So what is it about that century that so fascinates me?  I think of it as the time when the collective human brain began to yawn, stretch, and fully rouse itself; to tentatively recognize that experience and observation could trump the accepted wisdom of centuries, or even millennia, gone by.  How do we know that the human body is controlled by the four humors?  What if it isn't?  How do we know that the earth is the center of the universe?  What if it isn't?  How do we know that witchcraft can cause plagues and crop failures?  What if it can't?  Maybe, just maybe, there's a way we can find out.  It was the dawn of what we now call scientific thought.  And it led to the 17th-century Enlightenment - also known as the Age of Reason - and, eventually, to space travel, the Internet, and - best of all - this very blog you're reading.
     I've decided to focus each of my 26 April blog posts on a different 16th-century person.  Some of them are people I knew of before I started researching for this Challenge, but most of them aren't.  To keep things interesting, I've come up with a few rules:
     1.  No European monarchs.  No Henry VIII, no Elizabeth I, none of those folks.
     2.  No incredibly famous people that everyone already knows something about.  No Michelangelo, no Leonardo da Vinci, no Galileo, no Shakespeare. 
     3.  No conquistadors of any nationality, because I'm too conflicted about them.  No Hernan Cortez.
     4.  No religious leaders, for much the same reasons.  No Martin Luther.  I make only one exception, and it's for someone no one has ever heard of, but you'll have to wait until I get to U for the details.
     5.  As many women as I could reasonably include, which isn't easy when you're excluding royals, because not that many nonroyal women made it into the pages of history books.  But there were some, and I'm going to offer a sampling of six of them.

     So there you have it.  That's what this blog will consist of for the month of April, and I hope it will be as entertaining as it is informative.  So, would you like to join me in the Challenge?  I wish you would!  You don't even need to have a theme if you don't want to, although I think it makes it more fun and will probably bring you more followers.  C'mon!  It'll be a blast!!

Friday, February 13, 2015


     ...and sooner or later even the most avoidant bloggers (hi there!) have to overcome their resistance

and get back to blogging.  And let me say this about that.  I really, really loathe sitting around waiting to hear back from a literary agent.  I also really, really loathe bitterly cold weather that requires fortitude to even venture out into.  And what have I got to look forward to over the next couple of weeks?  BINGO!!  A two-for-one special!  So why would I want to inflict my misery on a wonderful person like yourself, when you've done nothing wrong beyond innocently stumbling across my blog?  I mean, even I have some standards of decency.
     I do have a couple of things to look forward to during the remainder of the godforsaken month of February, and believe me, I'm hoarding those things like gold.  A small dinner party tomorrow night.  Tickets to a play next weekend.  Lunch with one friend on a weekday.  Maybe breakfast with another.  And I even have a fabulous piece of news.  My son - this guy -

- who is somehow going to graduate law school in May and be released on the unsuspecting world - this very same son has gotten the post-graduation, post-bar exam job he most wanted, and he got it solely because he worked very hard and earned it.  And I don't really see how it could be possible for any parent to be prouder.
     But after all, it's all about ME, not about him, and as for ME, it looks like the rest of this month is going to really suck, so, yeah.  Don't even bother reading my blog until March rolls around.  Word to the wise.  Just leave me alone.  You won't regret it.

     See this woman?  Well, just picture her bundled up in fifteen sweaters, gloves, a hat, and a down jacket with a hood, and voila!  You're lookin' at me.

p.s.  Eureka!  I just learned that there is reason to hope that I and others from my planet may someday be able to communicate with earthlings!  Looky here:  Noncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067.  Now, that's something to celebrate!

Monday, February 2, 2015


     Last night the Superbowl was played, although you probably missed it because it never gets much hype.  Today, though, you just couldn't get away from the Children's Book Awards announcements, am I right?  I mean, I love children's books as much as the next guy, but doesn't there have to be a limit somewhere?
     Anyway.  Tonight for my own amusement, and possibly even for yours, I drew up my own handy little compare/contrast chart for these two notable events and their respective fields of endeavor:

1. FOOTBALL: Everyone in America knows who won the Superbowl last night. 
    CBA: People in the industry know who won the CBAs today.                    

2. FOOTBALL: Football players have uniforms.
    CBA: CB authors have sweatpants for the formal occasions when they need to change out of their pajamas.                     

3. FOOTBALL: Celebrities in other fields don't get to play on NFL teams just because they
think it would be fun to try their hands at pro football.
   CBA: Enough said.

4. FOOTBALL: Physical strength and agility tend to carry the day.
    CBA: Physical strength and agility tend to arouse suspicion.                        

 5. FOOTBALL: There is an off-season.
     CBA: [hysterical laughter]                           

6. FOOTBALL: football players work really hard.                
    CBA: CB authors work really hard.

7. FOOTBALL: Professional players and coaches earn millions of dollars a year.
    CBA: Except for a tiny fraction of the most successful, professional CB authors don't earn enough
  money to live on.

8. FOOTBALL: Women exist solely as decorative objects.
    CBA: In CB writing and publishing, women exist at the top of every category.

9. FOOTBALL: People from every walk of life identify with their hometown teams.                    
    CBA:  Non-authors don't identify with authors, no  matter where they live. But sometimes magic
 occurs, and readers identify with characters who don't live anywhere except within the pages of
 a book.  And that makes it all worth it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015



If you're like me, you read a lot, which means you know a lot of words - what they mean, how they're spelled - but don't necessarily know how to pronounce them all, which means that you're embarrassed to use them in conversation.  Well, if you're one of those people, then I'm about to change your life as mine was just changed yesterday. Because yesterday, my friends, I stumbled across the most amazing website ever created.  Are you ready?  Then go to  Now type in a word... any word, as long as it's one that would be found in the dictionary.  And lastly, feast your ears on the cultured, slightly British, disembodied voice pronouncing it for you!!!  Is that the most awesome thing you've ever experienced?  It certainly was for me.  I started with cochineal, which is the subject of the book I'm reading and which led me to the site in the first place, but then I went on to immediately plow through nascent, reconnoiter, insouciant, and a host of others.  Not that those words come up in every conversation, but you never known when the situation might arise, and isn't it always best to be prepared?
     You're very, very welcome for this incredibly useful snippet.  Let's all pronounce our words correctly from now on, shall we?  Oh, and that reminds me of s a story.
     It was 1998.  My daughter was two years old, and my son was nine, and HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE had just been released by Scholastic in the United States.  My son had read it and loved it, and somehow I learned that J.K. Rowling herself was going to be signing copies of the book at my local Borders bookstore.  For some reason I can't now recall, my son couldn't go, and my husband couldn't go, and I could go to try to get the book signed for Nathan, but I had to bring the baby with me.  Which was fine, really, because even though I knew there would be a tremendously long line outside the store, it was warm and sunny out, and I went equipped with all of my Mommy Stuff: crayons and drawing pads (yes, my daughter was a budding artist even then) and snacks and books and who knows what else.  Well, the line was even longer than I had anticipated, and after waiting for two or three hours in the parking lot we were turned away before even getting close to the store itself.  And all of that would have actually been okay, if it weren't for the man on line directly behind me.
     Oh, he seemed nice enough, and he had brought his three school-aged children, and they all seemed to be having a great time together, and so on and so forth.  But then.  Then he took out his copy of the book we were all waiting to have signed, and he proceeded to read aloud from it to his kids.  AND HE THOUGHT THAT "HERMIONE" WAS PRONOUNCED HER-ME-OWN.
     I can listen to someone say HER-ME-OWN once, twice, perhaps ten times.  But it was relentless.  I tried to ignore it, but he was reading very loudly, as if pleased with his prowess.  Thank God, my daughter was being extremely well-behaved, which helped, but not enough.  My neighbor read on and on and on, and it began to feel to me as if every other word he read was Hermione's name, and no matter how I braced myself, each time it felt like fingernails scraping on a blackboard.  HER-ME-OWN.  HER-ME-OWN.  I could think of no way to correct him without (1) embarrassing him in front of his children and (2) screaming like a lunatic, so I just stood there for several eternities, confining the screaming to my own head, until finally we all got sent home.
     You see the lesson here?  Don't be that guy on line saying HER-ME-OWN.  Whenever you come across a word in a book that you don't know how to pronounce, what do you do?  That's right.  You go directly to and look it up.  And someday, someone standing on a line behind you will thank you.