Steak Flambe and Ubuntu Day!

Ubuntu release day went well for us. I didn't hear anyone screaming that their computers took over the world so I decided that I should make something a little fancy for dinner.

Steak and chicken is usually called for on Ubuntu Release Day, grilled to perfection over charcoal. Yesterday we were not so lucky, we had scattered rain showers so the charcoal grill was out. Instead, I took the steak and chicken and marinated them in Worcestershire sauce. I also had a generously large sweet potato and rice to work with. I like to bake my sweet potatoes whole with the skin on. I don't baste it, I just poke some holes in them and put them on the rack in the oven. Now doing this, the sweet potato will drip and create a smokey scent that will fill up the kitchen, but I like this too because halfway through cooking the sweet potato, I'll put in the chicken. The unpleasant side effect of having to clean the oven can be prevented with a pan underneath the sweet potato. Not as much smoke, but not as much effort the next day.  

When the sweet potato and the chicken is done, it's time for the steak. This goes fast.  I get cheap steak. I make no bones about the fact that I don't have any money for good beef. This does not mean I cannot have something interesting and delicious! I choose thick steaks and everyone gets 4 oz each. See me there in the picture? Yeah, I love this picture of me. My husband Che Dean takes great pictures! And I love doing this. Flambe steak with no alcohol. Yep, no alcohol.  It works because I have a gas stove, stainless steel pans, and thick metal that the pan sits on. It doesn't always work, but when it does WOW does it have a fabulous taste. 


1. I Marinate the steak. I use worchestershire, but anything will do, a bit of vinegar, a bit of wine, a bit of barbeque sauce and water. Since I freeze meat, I usually marinate it as long as it takes to thaw.  

2. When it is thawed and ready to cook, I create a thin layer of oil in a stainless steel pan that can take high temps. I like peanut oil. Olive oil is not great for this. Vegetable oil works too. I have a gas oven and I put it on about medium. I wait until the oil is shimmering. Just before the oil starts to smoke, I lay the steak whole in the pan and let it sit for about 2 minutes. Turn it over and another 2 minutes in the very hot pan.   2 minutes is my time based on how thick the steak is. What I really need is a good crust on both sides of the steak. Its important also that I get a good char going on at the bottom of the pan. No scraping the bottom, I just leave it alone. Most of the oil is usually gone by now. 

3. I turn off the gas, whip the steak out of the pan onto the cutting board and I cut it into slices. Then I get the pan back onto the heat and have the bottle of balsamic vinegar sitting nearby. I try to do this process as smoothly and quickly as possible. I don't want the pan to cool off too much. 

4. Individual portions of steak go back into the pan. Just a few seconds to let that steak sizzle and then start moving that pan. Scrape it along the metal to create sparks. Toss a bit of balsamic vinegar into the pan over the serving of steak. This should result in the steak screaming for mercy, but no mercy is shown. Now is the moment I have to "catch" some of those sparks that I create in the pan. This should ignite the char in the pan and cause a momentary flame out, or flambe. The steak slices take on a crispy look and it's done. Slide it onto the plate and do the next portion.  This time I was successful with the first portion, not so much with the next, but a few moments in the pan and the second portion came out great. 

Now, a portion of sweet potato in it's birthday suit on one side, a spoonful of rice with a sprinkle of soy sauce on the other and... BAM. 

You're welcome. The crispy skinned chicken comes later, as a snack!

Status 4-18-2015

9:28 a.m.

The farmers market here in Corvallis starts today. And I am TIRED. Taking advantage of the good weather, the day before last my husband Che and I went to get (6) 2 liter bags of potting soil on our bicycle trailers, then yesterday we took a nice long 5 mile walk to an asian market in town (with a few stops for beer of course!)

The side effect of course, being that my body is now sick and tired of all this exercise! Unfortunately today needs to happen. In a half an hour I have to be ready to get back on my bike and ride downtown to the market. My knife needs sharpening and I really want to find a bunny (to eat).  Not to mention I need to keep my son in fruit. That’s a full time job in itself!

10:20 a.m.

We are on the hunt. We’ve perused the whole market once and are on our way back down. Talon’s eye finally falls upon Strawberries. In the midst of a huge crowd, I attempt to take a picture. I am minorly successful. I’m glad I gave him money before the market and don’t have to juggle backpack, my wallet, give him money, and take a photo at the same time.

15 - 1 (2).jpg


10:30 a.m.

Score! BUNNEH!!! aka Stewing rabbit (The nice lady said maybe I could get a picture of her next week)

11:45 a.m.

Home...omg..I’m going to die. Seriously, I won’t make it to the house. Ok, so I made it in the house. All I have to do is get this animal in the pot. Did I mention I got berries too?

12:00 Noon

Cut Leeks and potatoes, dismember said bunneh. Don't cut yourself.


12:30 p.m.

Brown bunneh pieces in peanut oil.


12:45 p.m.

Deglaze the pot with a dash of balsamic vinegar and a half cup water. After deglazing, add 3 to 4 cups of broth and arrange bunneh and veggies. The liquid should come almost to the top of the veg. Mmm…..

Cover and put into the oven at 200F for 1 hour. Increase temp to 320F and cook for 4 to 5 hours.

When the meat wants to com off the bones easily, it's done. It's going to take a long time. Strain the bunneh and veg, keeping the liquid in a separate pot. Arrange bunneh meat and veg in bowls. Make gravy with the liquid. I really really suggest Bisto Gravy, but it's not easy to get in the U.S. so any rich gravy would do. Dribble gravy over meat and vegetables in the bowl. 

   Now, I can hear everyone now. Ermagerd! BUNNEH!! That was my PET! But no. Truth time: The carbon footprint of raising rabbit for meat is far lower than a cow, they poop less, they take less water, and they produce faster. A responsible rabbit raiser can also provide manure that has double the Nitrogen of chicken manure, quadruple that of cow manure, and it smells like almost nothing. Rabbit meat has lower calories per pound than even chicken, and tastes just as good. There are some people who claim it is easier to digest, having less fat. This may be an option for those who are having intestinal difficulties but still need meat as a protein source.   Whoever you buy rabbit from should be able to tell you where they send the rabbits for processing. Local farms may process their rabbits themselves and should be willing to tell you about it. Responsible sellers of meat animals are proud of the way they raise and treat their animals for human consumption. They do not participate in hocus-pocus sleight of hand with their information.   This rabbit came from My Pharm in Monroe, Oregon. This farmer also raises lamb and pork for human consumption. Julia Sunkler is trained by Oregon State University in animal sciences and takes good care of her farm, her animals, and her customers.  Now here's a tip when looking for rabbit. A stewing rabbit is older meat, make sure you stew that one for at least 4 to 5 hours. if you want rabbit for grilling or frying, ask for younger fryer rabbits.   Photography beyond the first photograph is by  Che Dean .    Resources:    


Now, I can hear everyone now. Ermagerd! BUNNEH!! That was my PET! But no. Truth time: The carbon footprint of raising rabbit for meat is far lower than a cow, they poop less, they take less water, and they produce faster. A responsible rabbit raiser can also provide manure that has double the Nitrogen of chicken manure, quadruple that of cow manure, and it smells like almost nothing. Rabbit meat has lower calories per pound than even chicken, and tastes just as good. There are some people who claim it is easier to digest, having less fat. This may be an option for those who are having intestinal difficulties but still need meat as a protein source. 

Whoever you buy rabbit from should be able to tell you where they send the rabbits for processing. Local farms may process their rabbits themselves and should be willing to tell you about it. Responsible sellers of meat animals are proud of the way they raise and treat their animals for human consumption. They do not participate in hocus-pocus sleight of hand with their information. 

This rabbit came from My Pharm in Monroe, Oregon. This farmer also raises lamb and pork for human consumption. Julia Sunkler is trained by Oregon State University in animal sciences and takes good care of her farm, her animals, and her customers.

Now here's a tip when looking for rabbit. A stewing rabbit is older meat, make sure you stew that one for at least 4 to 5 hours. if you want rabbit for grilling or frying, ask for younger fryer rabbits. 

Photography beyond the first photograph is by Che Dean



The Editing Process

He came at her with a scythe. It gleamed with it’s deadly precision edge. It had been finely honed with years of loving care. Her pulse began to pound as she saw the edge descend. It seemed aimed straight at her heart. Faster. Faster! She wanted to run, but she couldn’t make her feet move. Then the blade hit. It sliced through skin, through muscle, through bone. It tore her flimsy costume away. Her heart fluttered as she felt it gripping her soul. And the bleeding went on and on.

Somewhere around dawn, she became aware that the bleeding had tapered off. The slicing had stopped. The wounds were healing. She stood up.

The morning illuminated a new form. Tight shoulders, firm hands, an impressively trimmed suit. Her breath was deep. No hacking or wheezing. Even the wind seemed to sigh in appreciation of her transformation.

It was a good day to be a book.



This is the process of editing. You finish up writing the book and your pride makes you think that this bunch of loose papers shoved into a third rate pee-chee folder should make people tremble in gratitude for the opportunity to merely glance at your scrawl. Then you have to give it to the editor. You realize your pride is not enough to make this angly, bloated, pile of junk shine like gold. Your hands tremble as you hand it over.

The editor takes the moldy sheaf with a slight look of disgust, but there is a small gleam in their eye. It could be hope.

“Somewhere in there are a few words worth saving, aren’t there?” You ask.

The editor retreats to their lair and somewhere in the stormy night laced with lightning you hear them cackling. Then come the sounds of slicing, spurting verbs, withering punctuation.

“Live! Damn you, live!” The editor screams. Thunder punctuates his emphasis.

And in the morning, your editor leads you inside. There upon the table where you thought you’d see nothing but a scattering of dissonant consonants, you see a perfect little font bound in a sheath that would make Plato jealous. The editor takes your hand and a tear gleams in the corner of their eye.

“Congratulations. It’s a novel.” The editor says.


Realistically, editing is nothing but a human removing and adding characters to make people understand what you really want to say. Emotionally, it feels like an ongoing drama. You write, you turn it over, you fix it, you turn it over again. They fix it, you read it, someone else fixes it more, you read it again. In there you all spend moments laughing and crying. You are convinced that you are the best author that ever lived, and the worst scum on the planet. Unfortunately you believe both of these things at the same moment.


I am to this point. With copy editing just a short jog away from being completed. I want to cradle my novel in my arms. Obviously I cannot spell and I know crap a doodle day about punctuation. All I have is hope. I have to force myself to NOT watch over the editor’s shoulder asking “Is it going to make it?” every few seconds. I can only hope it becomes publishable, and that no one will take one look and walk away...laughing.

It Begins

It was hopeless. We were beaten far, far before we ever began to fight. We never even found out their names. I just called them the Evil Aliens. But all the way until the end, we still hoped. We still planned. We still fought. It was the human way. We just couldn’t adapt fast enough. Not to suit them, and not to save ourselves. They had made an entire culture out of manipulation and taking advantage of other species. Our little planet had nothing they needed. Oh, maybe some uranium or certain pretty Lapis Lazuli, but other than pretties, they gained nothing except a fulfillment of sadistic tendencies. And in that, they revelled.


So begins the first chapter of my new work “Aliens Among Us.”

While I AM still planning on continuing to work on Dragon Masters, it is such a wreck I need lots of time with it. This alien story is beginning to shape up in my mind quite quickly and with organization. I will always go with a more publishable work, even if it’s not written yet, rather than try to re-organize 60,000 words of bloated crapola with no real point. I could see Dragon Masters taking me a year or more to “fix.”

And although my husband would love for me to publish my original NaNoWriMo novel Hunchback, I am still not convinced it is a novel that should ever be presented to the public. It was a success in that I actually wrote a novel length work and gave me confidence, but I think that is where it may stay.

“Aliens Among Us” will give me a chance to express my love of science while still allowing me to spark other’s imaginative possibilities and perhaps make a teeny tiny social statement which of course is one of my favorite themes.

So what would happen if we were removed from our planet? Would we survive? In a true “random pick” situation, would one million people be able to get it right all over again? So many many many possibilities.

Eulogy For A Mother Not Yet Gone


My mother, sainted soul that she is…deserves to be remembered far before she ever leaves this Earth. So I shall let her know by writing this Eulogy, because I want her to know what I’m going to say when the old bat kicks the bucket.

My mother has been a genuinely kind person. She does love her bit of tipple, but seeing the world struggle as it has, who the hell doesn’t? My mother has always been witty, and appreciative, and has lived her life with definite feminist morality. If someone told her that a woman couldn’t get an abortion because some old book told them so….that book’s goin in the trash! Or at the very least, large chunks would be sharpied out and rewritten by hand. God told MY mother that she, God, is a believer in equality first, sanctimonious religious craptitude after. My mother didn’t march for equal rights just to have someone tell her daughter that she couldn’t get what she wanted because she was of the delicate female persuasion. So I get to study what ever the hell I want, when I want, and go where I want, and talk to who I want, because my mommy said so.

Of course, my mother’s life has not been all about beating sanctimonious jackasses over the head with a very large stick. Sometimes it was with a very large sword. Yes, I’m talking about my mother’s adoration of MMO’s. Next to Ms. Pac Man, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman so intent on world domination since Cleopatra brought an end to dynastic rule by breaking the hearts of men for the next two thousand years. The very first hint I had of my mother’s fascination was when we were all eagerly playing Everquest and my mother said, “I found a new game, and all I can say is….WOW…..” Thus began a new dynasty.

To this day I miss my mother’s cooking. She is a very good cook, and I learned a lot from her, although ahem..I learned how to make a better turkey. But even mashed potatoes and ground beef became complimentary under her hands. I never had a fear of roasting or baking after she taught me how to handle food. I stopped being afraid of anything that had “tongue” or “blood” in the name, which is the reason I will try any food, no matter how weird. I believe I even surpassed her adventurous nature with crickets and sushi.

I could talk about my mother for days, she has done so much with her life, but I do need to let other people talk about her. So for now, I will wish that I may someday be able to say to my mother…

“Happy 200th birthday Mom” :)

Song Stories

I have been working on a few song stories today. This is a process where I listen to a song and create a story based on the lyrics, the song rhythms, the notes as they move in their octaves, and the intent behind the song or album.  While doing this, I learned that Terry Pratchett had passed away. It’s clear what Terry gave us, with his bold humor and outrageous sense of imagination. It’s a big loss.

His death has spurred an intense creative process for me. He was not shy about voicing his opinion that those who do nothing, get nothing. In order to be a writer you have to write. You can’t be lazy about this. For myself, I agree. I cannot be lazy. If I don’t write the thoughts, the characters, the story, it all goes stale and crumbles away like a cracker forgotten somewhere in the depths of a cupboard. Nothing happens. I will be remembered for nothing.

This of course is very close coming upon the heels of Leonard Nimoy and I simply cannot let my imagination waste away and dishonor their memories. So I have begun listening again to Severed Fifth, a band started by Jono Bacon. I want to finish the stories that belong with those songs, to illustrate everything those songs describe.

So in honor of Terry Pratchett, today I work. I work to be an inspirational author. Here is the first few paragraphs of Drill Down a song in Severed Fifth’s album “Nightmares By Design”


The motorcycle was going to be fast. Really really fucking fast. Oteo felt the speed contained in the massive engine as he started it. The rumbling purr belied the real strength, but as he let out the throttle it roared to life, begging to be released from confinement. He indulged it. The helmet’s heads up display showed that the pathway out of the cycle barn and into the Arizona desert was clear. Tucking his feet up he turned the machine loose.

Within seconds they were at over sixty miles per hour. The quarter mile mark passed without Oteo even noticing it. The machine seemed to take over as he leaned forward into the body cavity. A sweet feeling of peace spread through Oteos limbs the faster they went on the asphalt trail. Now the bike rose up slightly and they left the ground. He was free! The anger that was ever present in his head faded away. The rumble of the engine turned into his blood and mind, keeping him alive, making him WANT to live.

The peaceful feeling lasted exactly thirteen seconds. A glance at the blips in the proximity sensor in the helmet wrenched him back to reality. Two automated drones caught up with him a heartbeat later. The EMP pulse was invisible. Oteo closed his eyes and relived those thirteen seconds in his head over and over again, ignoring the pain.


Today, there is supposed to be rain. I’m not sure how I will get through the day. Spring is upon us and my normal inclination in this season is to be OUT. Doing and making. Cleaning up beds, turning over soil, landscaping, finding bugs. In the past few days I’ve done this:

I want to do MORE! Being forced to be inside for a whole day is agonizing right now. Of course, since my last embarrassing incident in twisting my back, I also managed to sprain my ankle. It happens occasionally, it’s not bad, but I probably should stay off it for the day. This makes it all worse of course.

So I’m pretty much stuck in my seat, in front of the internet for the day. And I come across stories like, “Should I dye my hair pink?” and “Scientists implant memories in mice! Someday, we will remember it for you wholesale.” (omg Skynet right?) Oh yes, and “10 Chinese dishes that real Chinese people don’t eat.”

I crack my knuckles and get to work. I’ll deal with this.

So I make my replies:

“If you like pink, dye your hair pink, what’s the big deal?”

“Alarmist! Get off the internet if you don’t understand why we’re doing this!”

“If you want to whine that we don’t eat “real” Chinese food start MAKING SOME!”

Then as I always do, I sit back and look at my replies. I hate this habit, it keeps me from looking like a jerk about 20% of the time. (I mute the other 80% where I know people are going to blister my back) The good thing is that I start thinking about what the original post was really saying.

The lady who wants to change her hair color to pink? She wrote:

Alas, I see I’ve fallen right into the basement of People Who Make Superficial Comments, despite my regular attempts to be my Better Self.”

And I realize that this woman who lives in a conservative community is struggling between “be noticed and possibly scorned” and “live life peacefully because who the hell needs this shit.” My response was based on the fact that she talked about the chronological escalator. I wanted to SCORN her for not just doing it.

Memories in mice? yeah, I wound up writing “Alarmist.” and leaving it at that. Because if you are that terrified of science, that you can’t see that someone who has a boatload of memories they can’t access might benefit from this, you need to go back to compassion kindergarten. But even at that, this person doesn’t want someone messing with their life, their decisions. I kind of get that. Because if you can’t make your own decisions, who are you anymore?

The Chinese food. I am always and forever on the lookout for interesting stuff. Ever since I went on a 6 month tour of the western Pacific with the U.S. Navy. When I couldn’t figure out what someone was eating, I’d point, wave some money, and they’d make it. Some of the most delicious food ever I tried by not knowing what it was. Curdled ox blood and some kind of grilled intestinal thing, it was fabulous! So someone comes out with an article telling us that what we’re eating has been homogenized for us and I get angry. I can’t FIND the real stuff! Fermented bean paste and curdled blood just isn’t to be found where I am. It makes me angry! I WANT some! I am your adventurous customer, gimme! But who else going to buy it? If it was in a store it would just sit. If it was in a restaurant wouldn’t the health department really try to shut that crap down? There’s a reason that we can’t even find blood pudding or cooked insects here. Nobody wants it. Yuck! But how must that feel to a chef who wants to make real food, but what they need to make is what the American public will eat? Do they feel betrayed? Do they feel hampered? Do they feel trapped? Perhaps just as trapped as I do, sitting in my house, while it rains. Except it’s not just one day for them, it’s every day.

Every day wondering how coloring your hair will affect other people’s perceptions of you and whether you will have the ability to even walk into a certain store, or a church, or a restaurant. Every day wondering if someone is going to take away your right to vote or speak. Every day making sugary, watered down crap for people who don’t even care that you took out your life savings to come to America and make a future for your family.

Suddenly, I don’t feel SO trapped anymore. I feel a little like writing.

My thanks to and for helping me out today.

Being Black

Many people have noticed that when Black History Month comes around, or an event that highlights people of color in any community I might be in, I become quite silent on the matter. I’ve gotten quite a bit of flak because I simply do not speak up around these times.

I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be black. I’m also not Indian, or Asian. My cultural experiences have not included being segregated because I had a different skin tone than anyone else. Because of this, I relegate my participation in these events to passing along the voices that need to be heard. My job is simply to listen and consider what the people who have the experience have to say. To publicize the fact that they are saying it, and to think about my behavior and actions in relation to people of color.

I too, have in the past, had the emotion of indignation when I thought, “Well, why not have a white history month?” But when I watch the news, I see that my history is already well documented. It’s people of color who are getting shot before they can speak, it’s people of color who are being disenfranchised when they go to vote. We might have a black president, but black children are still being forced to leave private schools because they are black.

My history is well celebrated, but what about the programmers, the scientists, the researchers, the innovators, and the champions, and all the people that are not white? It’s not my time to speak at these events, it’s my time to learn. It’s my time to listen.

I don’t know what it is, being black, but I can listen to the people who do know.

Spock and Nimoy

It took me all day to really take in Leonard Nimoy’s death. He seemed as if he’d just be there forever. Nimoy, who played Spock in Star Trek, was born in 1931. For a man who grew up in a time which was far from the type of society we have now, Nimoy developed a personality that was incredibly accepting. His ethics both on screen and off were quite admirable. He spoke up for others rights, such as the right for women to be paid equally to men. He created books that celebrated women, no matter how much they weighed. He advocated for gay rights. Even in the 60’s, he encouraged teenage girls to be independent and value themselves.

Spock was much the same way, though viewed as being a stone cold Vulcan, he was not as cold as he was logical. The survival of the species meant acceptance. Spock had first hand knowledge of not being accepted by his own kind. Through the Federation of Planets, he was exposed to hundreds of other species, thousands of ways of interacting with cultures.

Both Spock and Leonard Nimoy had the ability to intrigue humanity. I have seen hundreds of different ways that people chose to remember them both today. I remember being very excited when I saw Nimoy narrating our science specials in elementary school. It was Mister Spock!!! And every science special made me want to question more, made science clearly something that was important. And the more I learned about science, the more I wanted to write the fiction. I wanted to write characters like Spock, who intuitively applied science to understand situations.

And although I can always go back and watch Spock on my favorite streaming site, I will never again get the chance to shake Leonard Nimoy’s hand at a convention, or await his newest project to see what he has up his sleeve. All my “perfect moments” with Leonard Nimoy are in my memories.


P.S. (pre script) I actually wrote this yesterday, but just before I could record and post it I managed to pick up something the wrong way and strained the lower left muscles of my back and wound up in bed with a heating pad, ibuprofen, and several rather strong cups of hot chocolate mixed with minty vodka. I DID sleep well… but onto yesterday.


Over the past few years I have been trying to live a more healthy lifestyle. To that end I changed the way I ate. For the past few years I have not eaten fast food, most every meal has been made at home. I have increased my exercise level as well.

Occasionally, I have lapses in judgement.  This year I thought I was doing well on the “Girl Scout” cookie front. I only bought two boxes. Last year I bought twelve. The Girl Scouts are a worthy group here in Oregon and I think that my money brings good resources to the girls who are involved. Of course when I got home I immediately opened a box. I DID share which meant I only had part of the box. The next day, yesterday, I...was not so restrained.

Again, I did share, somewhat. But the whole box was gone in a matter of about an hour and a half. At about five servings of five cookies each, that’s 25 servings in a little under two hours? Normally my greed wouldn’t have too serious repercussions, but because I have spent so long avoiding pre-made foods it just caught up with me, and around midnight I got a terrible stomach ache. Then I quite literally tossed my cookies.

Utilizing healthier methods does not always mean life gets easier. Trying to figure out what my body can handle now and what it can’t means that coming up against my limits can be a very uncomfortable experience. Greed can mean hours or even days of discomfort. I still think I am better for the process, however. I have a far better chance of knowing what caused me to get sick and I am adding years onto my life by knowing what it is I am eating and making choices based on that knowledge.


I was in the U.S. Navy for a little over 3 years. The episode that caused me to leave was a shipmate committing suicide. This aggravated a case of anxiety that I had over my father having committed suicide as well and in turn caused me to suffer from PTSD.

People who have been in the military are different in mindset. We’ve been exposed to a very formed way of thinking and acting. A specific way of doing things that will be there in the back of our minds for the rest of our lives. When someone in our unit or division that we’ve been friends with dies it’s kind of like losing a limb. You always remember what it felt like to have them there, to rely on them. Then they are just, gone.

I will always remember Miller’s face. That is to say I will remember a particular expression he wore. This kind of pensive, confused, desperate look. So I asked him that day, “Hey, are you ok man? You don’t look so hot, can I do anything for you?”

His expression changed to relief. Absolute utter relief. He said, “No, but thanks for noticing. It helped.”

And it did seem to help for awhile, but one person noticing is just not enough. I did send up notices through the command structure to document what I’d seen and let people know when his personality escalated dangerously. I didn’t think he belonged anywhere near weapons.

I was right. Because one day someone couldn’t find him. And I got this cold feeling in my chest. And when we checked on him it was too late, he was gone.

So encountering others of my own “species” from the military can be rough on me. Especially people I know who are veterans who have been forced to begging. I feel this fluttery desperation in my chest. I don’t want them to hurt, I don’t want them to be cold or hungry or sad. I’ve given out some hugs in my day. This morning was not too different. A man I know had been a vet was in front of the post office and I stopped to talk to him for a moment.

I felt bitter and uncomfortable. I had nothing to give him except a smile and a moment of my time. I could do nothing but be one person, noticing him, another person. And although I know he appreciated it today, it doesn’t seem enough.

The Everyday Scientist

If asked how I view myself, one of my answers would be, “I view myself as a scientist.” Although I have only a few years of college training in science, I have always had a curiosity that is common among scientists of all types that causes us to ask “why” and “how.” Unlike those who are trained in microbiology, chemistry, physics, I am a scientist of the everyday or the common things we see. I find myself asking questions like, “Why did that tree grow away from the building when another type of tree seems to like being next to a structure?” or “Why did my hydroponic lettuce bundle grow so enormously fast in one month, when my garden lettuce seems to take forever to get to mature size?”

99% of the time my questions have already been answered and I can usually find out those answers by a simple internet or library search. If I have to dig a little deeper I contact a more expert person than myself. It’s not the training that is important to me, but the drive to know.

Sadly, I have found that more and more frequently, the role of the scientist has been driven into an elitist category. It was not a trained scientist that first found that fire was hot, it was an ancestor that had no training at all but what they had observed. With continued observation and experimentation subsequent ancestors found that fire was useful, and then necessary. This is what scientists do. Scientists of all ages and levels of experience.

A person who cooks is a scientist when they make note of what baking powder does to a specific recipe and then changes that recipe according to their observations. They are finding out how baking powder works with their ingredients and why it creates a specific reaction. They may even decide to look at what other people have done with baking powder, or do a simple google search on the subject. Then they can improve upon someone else’s work and let others know what they have done in order to continue the process. This is cooperative science. When a homebrewer decides to see if there is a way to cultivate yeast cells from unusual materials, they are following an age old tradition of the science of microbiology.

Whoever you are, whatever age you are, you are also a scientist. Even if you are not trained in science, your curiosity makes humanity better. Everyday science encourages us to understand the world we see and interact with all the time. Children who see us questioning the way in which our daily life proceeds are also encouraged to continue to ask questions. Subsequent generations of humans need this curiosity and not just those who will go on to become Einstein or Neil deGrasse Tyson. All of us have an instinctive need to question and understand. The next time you see a call for a science fair, consider it, or at least consider what you would explore. No matter how old you are, your curiosity is not shameful, it makes us all better humans.

Sometimes I have to go back to go forward

This is a scene from Dragon Masters which I wrote in 2012. I recently decided to make it less of a political novel and focus it more on the dragons themselves. This small scene shows the developing personality of a baby dragon. Dread Naught is the only survivor of a clutch from the oldest dragon on the planet. 

"They are our plows Hierophant. They help cut the ground swiftly and with different attachments, we can use them to weed between the rows, interplant, and pull other instruments."

"You mean they move by themselves?"

"They use steam to move the wheels, we have to control them. I wish I could find a way for the plows to do all the work, then I could sit at the end of the row and just wait with an ale in my hand!" 

Erik the Viking laughed loudly along with several other people in the area. 

The Hierophant did not laugh. "Do you have many of these..contraptions?"

"You mean many of the machines? We have about twelve, including the steam road cutter. They are our pride and joy. We have improved our village a hundred fold with these machines. We can afford to have huge feast days like this several times a year now."

"Erik, aren't you afraid of the pollution you cause with these? You must power them with coal or wood."

"Hierophant, the wood of the native Bangor tree burns cleanly and slowly. The ash drops into trays to be used in other places. We experimented with many different types of wood until we found one that worked well. We did not want our village covered in soot after all."

"That is ...imaginative."

"You are welcome to see one in action for yourself Hierophant, if you do not believe me."

The Hierophant turned away, "No I have seen enough here."

She returned to the tables and took a hard look around.

"Where is your Archon?" she said loudly. 

The People fell silent and Erik came forward, looking the Hierophant straight in the eye.

"As the Elder of the village, I made him leave."

"LEAVE?" The Hierophant gasped. "You cannot make an Archon LEAVE a village, they are here to show you the way to LIVE! And you cannot be an Elder. You are too young. Where is the real Elder? Come, show yourself coward!"

A swift motion from the corner of her eye caused the Hierophant to retreat a step. Suddenly, dishes on the table went flying as Dread Naught landed on the table. He looked at the Hierophant with a terrible gleam in his eye.

"You're MEAN! You should go away now! Go away and don't come back until you can be NICE!"

The Hierophant backed away in horror.

"Harboring a Dragon! That is grounds for death! I will see all the women in this village whipped to shame, all the men chained like the traitorous animal you protect!"

Behind the ridge, the dragon Master tensed, but Sethembile grabbed his wing,

"no Master! You'll ruin it all! Please, stay here! Dread Naught wouldn't hurt anyone!"

Rumbling, the dragon settled back down again, very displeased and obviously fighting his own instincts to rescue the hatchling. The hatchling refused to move, his tail waving back and forth. He stared the Hierophant full in the eyes and raised his head in a dominance gesture. 

The Hierophant turned and ran toward the carriage. For a long moment the Polemarch's face showed his reluctance to follow. Then his steps slowly took him back toward the Hierophants carriage. He held the Hierophants cloak crumpled in his arms, heedless of the damage he did it. The four other carriages followed the Hierophants, but not all of the Hierophants entourage went with them.

The hatchling sat down on the sturdy log table and looked at Erik the Viking, "I'm hungry!"

It's Just A Day Like Yours

Sometimes, life is not about writing stories about people doing great things. Sometimes it's about letting others know that your life is just as cluttered and chaotic as they are experiencing. My desk describes my day today perfectly. Today I have to install a fan control in the computer for voice recording work, I have to clear coat my sons desk, I have to sand and paint my own desk, I have to arrange to have my husband photograph crackers that I've made. But before all that can happen I have to take a walk. This is something I just absolutely have to do to keep my mind where it's supposed to be, in my head. Of course even at the store I have to work, doing price comparisons for my fledgling cracker side-business. And so my day looks like my desk. I have to eat, I have to take care of myself, I have to work, I have more work to do, and in among it all I still have to wipe my own butt and blow my nose. If your days are like this, I salute you. Keep on keeping and I'll do my best to understand you, and entertain you, and feed you.

Mister Nero Amelo

#AmEditing "The Hunger Inside" today and I thought I'd give Mister Amelo a look in. Mister Nero Amelo is the original character I began this whole book with. A more arrogant, dismissive, judgmental man you will not see in this book. He's more than happy to jump on any little infraction. Obsessively detail oriented, it's no wonder he became an inspector. 

In the book, Nero becomes a smaller character than the original intent. But it doesn't mean that he's unimportant. He is the ultimate challenge. He is fair, with rules that can be adhered to, but a personality of iron. He takes no notice of a person's shape, color, sex, or anything they cannot change. He ruthlessly points out things that CAN be changed. Ignorance, a lack of attention, careless behavior. He is not judging what a person IS, but what a person does that has an effect on those around them. 

Somehow I need to transform these ideas from the very first appearance, harsh and short, to the last appearance when Nero acknowledges the changes that Sam has made to the business, and herself. The last appearance is much longer by far than the first appearance. I like the first two appearances, but the last one is still too short and unsatisfactory. I should probably explain a bit of Nero's background to give people a sense that he's not just a symbol, but a person.

15 Words A Day

Starting today, for 30 days I will be doing #15wordsaday on Twitter and Google Plus. This means writing a story, 15 words at a time, every day for a month. I know that others have not utilized it like this, but it seems a good way to get a short story of about 450 words out and start each day with a jab of creativity. 

As a writer in the editing phase, I don't always get to have the writing "fun" I want to right at this moment. If I spend hours creating, then it's hard for me to turn and change focus to editing, and The Hunger Inside really needs to be published. On the other hand, I don't want that creative spark to feel abandoned and get sulky. So I take the chances I can to give myself an opportunity to create as well as revise. To see the story develop:

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Almost there!

In honor of the first person to download the S0rceress0 Dragons and Redshirts app for Ubuntu phones, here is the first paragraph from Scene 27 of The Hunger Inside, the scene which is currently under destruction..ahem, I mean CONstruction. Very very soon I'll be done with editing and it goes for a final proofreading, formatting, and then publishing!

It became such that there was very little Sam wouldn’t do for the people of the neighborhood she had invested in. Though some of the time she was still using her own money to survive on, the restaurant made enough to operate and occasionally allowed her to do some extra activities. It was getting better. She did eventually get her phone service back as well. It was a pretty unremarkable day when she met Eva at the bus stop. Eva struggled with three children. The oldest couldn’t have been more than three, a younger toddler and a baby. Getting them wrangled onto the bus was like watching a rodeo. Sam almost wanted to cheer for the toddler who was determined to escape her fate at all costs. The older child was just too curious about the bus stop sign itself to listen to her mother who held the rather large armful of baby and wheeled shopping cart while attempting to snag the toddler. Sam remembered trying to wrangle marines who had been cooped up on a ship for a month and took pity on the tired looking mom.

Still on Page 1

Ok, I guess that the title is a bit misleading. I'm actually not still on PAGE 1. I am, however, still trying to rewrite important bits of the first chapter. I do not want people to wonder about Sam when I introduce her. I want people to wonder what she's going to do next, but I don't want her back story to come completely out of left field. So I need to write tough bits to replace those parts written in a hurry. Parts that are irrelevant. 

It's hard. Once you've written something, deleting it is like peeling off a nicotine patch and saying "I don't need this anymore. Imma go solo on this one." And then it gets real. All of a sudden you have to think about what is happening now instead of what would have happened twenty years ago. I want at least a few people to pick up this book and say "That's me!" in parts of it. It doesn't have to be the main character, but I want these characters to hit home with someone. 

So it's up to me to rewrite this chapter as well as I can. This...might take awhile.