So it goes...

So it goes...
Kurt Vonnegut was, no is, my favorite author. My favorite book of his is 'Welcome to the Monkey House', because it is such a clear reflection of humankind. It's a collection of short stories and I've read my copy until the pages are frayed and soft on the corners.

My second favorite book of his is 'Saughterhouse V', and if you've never read it, I feel sorry for you, like you've never had a hot fudge sundae or seen a beautiful sunset over a lake. So go to your local library (please) and get a copy of Slaughterhouse V. As you read it, remember that he was in the war, he was a young kid fighting in WWII, and he was captured and brought to Dresden. He survived the horrific fire bombing. He was one of seventeen soldiers to survive because he was in the basement of a meat factory. So when you read this book, think about a nineteen year old kid who has just witnessed the destruction of a whole city, and then his captives order him to incinerate the bodies with a flame thrower. And somehow, some way - he kept his sense of humor, and Saughterhouse V is a funny book. A funny, whacky, sad story. It's also one of the best and truest examples of war and what it does to people.

Here is an excerpt from his last book, "A Man Without a Country". He wrote this in 2005, when he'd already said everything he'd wanted to say. He didn't think he'd be writing another book but he did, and it was a best seller. Here's what he said about it. "It's like a glass of champagne at the end of my life."
He also said "So it goes." Kurt Vonnegut is dead. So it goes.

"Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, five hundred years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.
The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was another one.

We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer Show
But back to people like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, each of whom have said in their own way how we could behave more humanely and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favourite humans is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana.
Get a load of this. Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was not yet four, ran five times as the Socialist party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, almost 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:
"As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
"As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it.
"As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?
When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn't you like to say. "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
And so on.
Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly George W Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld stuff.
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the US Constitution.
But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'état imaginable.
I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale".
George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.
To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!
Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.
PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!
And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.
So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.
They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilise the reserves! Privatise the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!
There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.
The title of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury's great science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Four hundred and fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of Bradbury's novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.
While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
And still on the subject of books: our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what's really going on.
I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published in early 2004, that humiliating, shameful, blood-soaked year.
In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African-Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry - who stand unopposed.
In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as Nazis once were.
And with good reason.
In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanised millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.
Piece of cake.
In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanised our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.
Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.
Piece of cake.
The O'Reilly Factor.
So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.
Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed there were weapons of mass destruction there.
Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the first world war. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the first world war so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.
Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?
Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the second world war and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.
My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."
Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas
Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler. What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?

© 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Extracted from A Man Without a Country: A Memoir of Life in George W Bush's America,

Still Writing!

It's very quiet around here. The dogs are sleeping. My son is on duty at the fire department. My daughter is at a horse show in Normandy with her friend. My husband is at the polo club. And I finished cleaning the house, finished formating a book, and am looking over some contracts and trying to decide what to do with my projects.
Everyone says (to an author) "Keep writing!" What they don't tell you is the amount of time you spend promoting: updating your website, writing blurbs, keeping abreast of publishing news, and blogs. They don't tell you what to do when a publisher folds and you get your rights back - how do you market a book that's already been published? Most publishers won't touch it. *sigh* They don't tell you what to do with a project that's been to a couple editors and that's come back to you. They don't tell you what to do when you know your book is a good fit for a publisher, but you can't contact anyone there because they won't accept unagented queries.
What you are supposed to do is this:
Write your query letter. Give it your best shot. Send it out following the agent/publisher/editor's guidelines. Wait for a month, 2 months, 3 months...Once I waited almost a year before hearing back from a submission.
In the meantime, in between time...Ain't we got fun?
In the meantime, we're supposed to keep writing.
So, I write.
But I'm starting to wonder if it wouldn't be better to do something more constructive with my time. If I spent as much time ironing as I did writing, we'd have the neatest clothes in town. If I spent as much time cleaning my house, we'de be in House Beautiful. If I spent as much time in the garden, we'd be in House and Garden, lol.
I suppose my children would love to have my undivided attention.
Or my husband? He'd go nuts.
My dogs? They mostly sleep. If I kept waking them up they would be cross.
I could draw. (I already do that.) I could learn to knit, take up jogging, take up chicken farming, double my tutoring load, get a job as a translator?
Actually, I think I'm going to go into the publishing end of the business with a friend and see where that goes. She's an editor and a reviewer, she wants a reader, cover artist, and a website designer. I love designing covers and websites, and reading is lots of fun.
Well, it's an idea.
And in the meantime, in between time, I'm still writing.

A newsletter, a pirate, and a gold crown

I spent four days struggling to master the formating for the Siren's newsletter, and I finally did it. It was such a thrill to see it finally uploaded online and looking decent. For so many days I'd stared at missing text, huge blank spots, uneven lines, and different sized fonts that I thought I'd go mad. I wanted to throw my computer out the window. I wanted to jump out the window. I literally sat at the computer and and screamed out of sheer frustration. (Well, yelled very loudly.) (Actually I swore in a rather louder than usual voice after making sure my kids were nowhere in hearing and the window was closed.)
But now it is done, the newsletter formatted and it looks GOOD. Ha! I did it.
Here is the link:
It works.
And I have to thank my friend Katherine Kingston who has been formating this newsletter for the past two years, and whose task I have now taken over. Kathrine, you deserve a medal.

On the bright side - the English lesson with the preschoolers went fine - one of the little boys showed up in full pirate regalia including plastic sword. I managed to get it away from him and we sang 'Ten little Indians" and he wanted to sing ten little pirates, so we did that too.
My son was on duty today and I went to the fire department and hung around waiting for him to get back from a 'mission'. I like the fire department, lots of handsome men in uniform!

It's January, which means that it's 'the galette du roi' time. That's a sort of flaky pastry with sweet almond filling, and in the cake is a little china figurine. They used to use a big dried beans, or 'feve', which is why the French call it a 'feve' but it's really a little glass figure (can be just about anything - animal, person, cartoon character...) and the person that gets it in his peice of cake is king or queen, and gets to wear a flashy cardboard crown. It's a cute tradition, and it lasts all month, although the real reason for the cake is the Epiphany.
What happens is you cut the cake while the youngest person at the table hides beneath the table, and you put each slice on a plate and ask 'who's this for?' and the child beneath the table calls out names, and that's how you divide up the cake. If there are no children, then you cut up the cake. But you're expected to wear the crown no matter how old you are.
The other day my husband got the 'feve', and he put the crown on. He got up and went outside to take the dogs out right after dinner, and forgot the take the crown off. He was walking around with the camoflage jacket I got in the states for him to go hunting, his red flannel pyjama bottoms my sister gave him for Christmas, and his gold crown.
The neighbors have taken to giving me sympathetic looks.

I had a dream...

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

"It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence."
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Mr. King - I miss you. I wish you were here to give fiery speeches and stir the American people into action.
What happened to the ideal of nonviolent means of resolving conflicts?

(no subject)

You scored as The Holly. In Celtic astrology, you're a Holly. The animal symbol that accompanies this tree is the unicorn. The ancient Druids say Holly people are cautious, capable, steadfast, efficient, supportive and protective. However, Hollies may be prone to perfectionism, loss of direction and possessiveness, especially toward people.


The Holly


The Rowan


The Hazel


The Vine


The Alder


The Reed


The Ash


The Oak


The Hawthorn


The Elder


The Birch


The Ivy


The Willow


What Tree Are You? (Celtic astrology)
created with

Vacation is OVER

It's SOOOooooo over, lol.
So today I went to the gym and my muscles are Not thanking me. We worked out with weights for an hour and believe me - I am going to be SORE tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm going to another gym class - I did, after all, make a small New Year's resolution - keep working out. And drop the bread from my diet. Oy, it will be Hard - I live in France - country of Zee Vonderful Baguette.
At least there is still coffee. And chocolate. Within reason. LOL.
So this is now my breakfast: (no bread or cereal) a slice of mild cheese, a handful of dates, a plain yogurt & some honey, and COFFEE.
Today my son lost my extra car key, so now we only have one key. This is a pain, because we juggle between the two keys - he takes the car early in the morning and leaves it at the train station, and I go pick it up later. Now that we only have one key, I have to get up and drive him to the station at the ungodly hour of 6:15. I don't wake up officially until 7:00, so this should be interesting. Note to self - make sure coffee is all set to go for the morning.
Someone just reviewed one of my books -actually I got three reviews this week, but this one (and I haven't even seen it yet) is from a woman who blogs and posts reviews on her blog, so it's not an 'official' review. She wrote to me and said she liked the book, found it refreshing and gritty - but warned me that the review wasn't glowing - did I still want her to post it? I thought it was incredibly sweet of her to ask. And I replied that I didn't write books to get glowing reviews (although it's nice to get them) and I was fine with her posting any sort of review she liked - it was her opinion, after all. I'm really thick skinned.
But it got me thinking. A lot of reviewers are afraid to speak their mind for fear of being castigated by A) teh author, or B) the author's fan club. I've seen it happen and it ain't pretty. I've been a reviewer so I know how much work goes into a review, and I don't take kindly to authors complaints in public. In private, I figure you can say what you want. But a reviewer's opinion is simply an opinion, and you can't expect everyone to love the same thing. This person read my book and offered to post a review on her blog, and even if it's not glowing, I'm happy she cared enough to A) read the book and B) blog about it. Even if she is going to blog about what she didn't like about it - that's fine with me. Everyone is entitled to their opinions! Right?
Other news:
And I'm waiting for my second round of edits for 'Merlin's Song' - my editor told me they would be arriving on the 12th. Today's my mom's birthday and she has a cold. My son has decided to leave Ohio and move to NY, and he's trying to transfer his credits and enroll in another college. My other son is taking his 'partials' which are the French equivalent of mid-term exams for university students. I wish him luck - he has a long week ahead of him!

It's raining...Again.

It's raining...Again!
I can't believe it's January. The weather is so mild my forsythia is still popping out flowers - the idiot. I keep telling it that it's mid winter, and any little blossom will get frozen, but yellow flowers still appear on the branches. I wonder if it will be flowering in the spring.
My daughter and her friend went outside to walk the dogs, and her friend fell and sprained her ankle. It's always worse when it's somone else's child. Mine don't seem to get into scrapes, but I've had to drive several of their pals to the emergency room for stitches or plasters. One girl fell and snapped her front tooth right off, which was probably the worst thing that happened. Another time we took the kids and their friends to a miniature golf course - and of course it's the friend who gets whacked on the head with the club (not even by anyone we knew - the kid went to another hole to see what was going on.) And each time I was frantic with worry and wishing it had been my kid instead! If it was my kid, I wouldn't feel so awful - like I was supposed to watch them every second, because my kids know that I'm a very 'hands off' mom, who has always let them go on hikes, ride bikes, climb trees - alone. I usually wave as they set off, (with the dogs in tow) and wait for them to come home. So I tend to do the same for their friends. "Sure, go out and walk the dogs - see you in a while." And then here they come five minutes later, the friend with scraped hands and a swollen ankle. (off to check - I made her sit and put ice on it - yes, still swollen but not turning blue or anything.)
I'm such a bad mother that I forget to have my son's stitches out last week. Yesterday he asked me when he should have them out and I'd Completely Forgotten he'd had 3 stitches! (he had a mole removed) No big deal - so I forgot. If there's no huge cast, you can be sure I'll forget. So I took him to see my friend Catherine this morning (a nurse) and she snipped them out and laughed at me for worrying. But I can't help it - as a bad mother I must always worry that my neglect is going to make my kids A) Hate me or B)Become Independant. In the best of worlds it would be B, but I'm always worried about A.
I'm a bad mother because I am sitting here blogging instead of hovering over the poor girl's ankle, but as she's laughing with my daughter, I can be forgiven for thinking she's all right. She keeps breaking off to cry out dramatically "Ow, My Ankle!" but I think that is just theatrics, and since she's been enrolled for three years in a row in drama class, I tend not to take her very seriously. (Just an aside here - why do most poeple take actors so seriously? They are Actors! They dramatize, they excel in theatrics, they are HAMS. Just as I don't take my children very seriously - "Mom, he killed me!" - so I don't take actors seriously either.)
I am not, however, as bad as my husband's aunt, who didn't pay attention to her daughters cries that her arm hurt. TEN days later she finally took her to the doctor who diagnosed a broken collar bone. The child was about twelve. Her Husband was a Surgeon. This is the mother who had a spaniel who growled when her daughter approached her. She would snap at her daughter - "Can't you see you're upsetting the dog?" Now there was a woman with motherly instincts.
I like my husband's aunt, but if I'd been her daughter, I think the dog would have mysteriously died of poison...But then again, maybe not. Maybe the mother would have...Oh, I am getting seriously off subject here.
I was saying that the weather is incredibly warm for the season, and that I was a terrible mother, which isn't totally unrelated. If we turn it into a metaphor for the earth and humans (as being caretakers for the earth) you can agree that we've done a pretty awful job of taking care of the earth, and if things start heating up, you can be sure it's out own fault. What happens when kids rebel? What happens when the earth rebels?

Mixed emotions

Several bits of news hit me with mixed emotions this new year. First of all, I heard a very dear friend died, and that made me sad. Then I heard one of my husband's ex-patrons was killed in a freak accident, and that shocked me. (My husband went to his funeral yesterday and said it was a sad, sad event.) Then my son announced he wasn't going back to Ohio, but was transfering to NY state. He prefers to live there, where he found a good part time job and will be making more money to pay for his studies. That, I must admit, relieved me, because I've been absolutely panicking about paying for his studies in Ohio. In NY, he can live with my mother for a while and won't have to pay rent. He'll be able to save his money and buy a car, and he'll be able to get into Albany State next year and get his BS in micro-biology before applying to vet school. College in the US is so expensive - he has to work every spare minute to pay for his classes. Here in France, the University is free. Kids pay for their books and a small entrance fee - it comes to about 500$ a year. Their insurance is paid by the college too - my son pays 30$ a year for full coverage here in France. My son in the US has insurance too. My husband and I pay almost 250$ a month for his coverage. It's a strain on our budget, but we wouldn't dream of not having insurance in the US. Been there - done that!
So, worried about finances and tired of waiting for my agent and for publishers to get back to me, I put my Alexander series on the web and started to hand sell it. It's doing pretty well. I have gotten some nice letters from people who had been waiting to get the end of the series. I'll leave it up for now, but I'm still trying to negotiate a book deal with the series, so it won't be up for very long. That's not a bad thing. I can't make the paperback prices low enough to be interesting, but I've put the e-book at 3$, which I think is a great price for e-books. I can't stand seeing publishers making readers pay more than 5$ for e-books - even my own publishers. I wish the price was lower and the author's percentage higher. *sigh* and While I'm at it, why don't I wish to win the lottery? LOL!
At any rate, I'm hoping 2007 will be a peaceful, prosperous year - for everyone!