Thursday, December 17, 2015

PASTE MAGAZINE'S BEST BOOKS OF 2015               

Robert Brockway

So, I'm noodling around today, between trying to come up with some flash-fiction that isn't terrible and looking at some facebook memes. My orchestra is on winter break until January 6, 2016, and I'm reading a book called “On Writing”, by Stephen King, which I'm told will cure my editing blues. I hope this is true, because I really, really suck at editing. I think I'm pretty much a one-trick pony, with that 71% left-brain thing and all that math, has left me pretty barren in the creativity department. I can't write music or, it seems, fiction very well, although I have a dear, DEAR friend, who plays bass and not only writes screen plays, but can act. He's extremely creative. I can't even begin to fathom. Oh well. But, maybe it's just perseverance.

Anyway, today I get a little message on fb from Robert Brockway as I'm fooling around with a flash-fiction story about “O/S, A Love Story” where my Intelligent House falls in love with me, or the owner and all I'm seeing is 1s and 0s. Boolean Logic. It's awful. Thank God I have this message to distract me, and it's a hum-dinger. An acquaintance's (not the bass player's) book, that he wrote and published this year; that I read was chosen as one of Paste Magazine's 30 Best Books of 2015. On this same list are books by Jonathan Franzen and Neil Gaiman. Pretty neat. The acquaintance is Robert Brockway, and while I hesitate to call him a “friend”, we've talked off and on for a few years; given each other shit and congratulated one another when things were going well, and commiserated with one another when they didn't. Well, what the HELL! He's MY FRIEND!

When I “won” the NaNoWriMo 2013 thing he Tweeted, “Nice! Did you just write “Fuck” 50,000 times?” I tweeted back, “No. I wrote “Fuck you” 25,000 times. Saved time.” That kind of shit. He was very kind when I was going through my own misery with the mysterious “motor disorder” and happy when it was diagnosed. Conversely, I called out my “Parkinson's Posse” folks when he had a similar mystifying illness. It's what carbon-based life forms (the good kind) do for one another.

I cannot tell anyone how happy I am that his hard work and his own perseverance and imagination has paid off for him. I know he works like a mo-fo at his own writing and makes it wonderful. Reading his columns at were just a sheer joy (I wanted to wed some of them) and his book, “The Unmentionables” was a pure delight from start to finish. I did NOT rush through it. I went back and re-read passages purely for the language, just to savor the beauty of it. It's that kind of book to me. Even in the middle of the gore and craziness of it. There's so much to taste and so many layers in it, although it is a deceptively slim book, there's plenty of meat there.

I highly, highly recommend this book. It is for people who do love math, and logic, as do I. I really dug that part of it. It is also for the fey part within us, the part that looks for the shadows in the corners of our eyes, and does not quite catch them, no matter how quickly we turn our heads. That is the part we always dread. It's well-done; jumps and bumps with some real belly-laughs along the way. Ever-present though is the humanity that Brockway has always brought to his writing. That is always there. I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Hats off to you, Robert!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


In the crescendo of chaos that seems to be my life, whilst having a grand time playing with author Nikki McCormack's Jumping Spiders (a game we made up. On Twitter, no less), congratulating fellow #TeamDamyanti (headed by the most wonderful DamyantiG) members Jemima Pett and Guilie Castillo-Oriard on the release of their books and enjoying their successes, as much as if they were my own, playing and reveling in "Scheherazade" and then starting rehearsals for an old friend - "Rachmaninoff's Piano Concert No. 2", which is richly "viola-centric" in melodies and lines, I almost forgot that today was the day to post for #IWSG. 

Judging by the above, I have nothing regarding writing to be insecure about, because I haven't done any. This isn't tantamount to saying the dog ate the homework. This is just flat-out saying I didn't do any, or very little, with the exception of a post I wrote for #mst3k on Turkey Day. I did the Marathon with the Guys and on Twitter. Last year at this time, Jim and I would have cooked for the homeless around here and given away food, but he passed away in May. I went down to Trinity on T-Day and they were not open, so, I did the #MST3K thing and had a fine time. 

Anyway, I hope one and all had a great turkey day and all of that. Now, on to 2016!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Anyone who has ever read my drivel, knows that even though I can be formidably articulate, there are times when even I have trouble trying to put a name to certain things. This does not include the time I was learning how to swear, which every good Scot does by the age of oh, say, nine years of age, lest you shame your family. I remember that episode distinctly.

I was trying to describe a picture of a smiling dog I had seen in one rag or another. Flailing around for words, and even though I was pretty wordy for a nine year old, I had finally run out of descriptors for this smiling dog. I stuttered and stammered for a moment and then blurted out, “It sure was damn lookin'!” My dad, without skipping a beat, retorted “Well, I'll be hell!” My mom piped up, “And this is why little Mary can't swear!” A warm family moment.

Christmas of 1956. I'm already saying "pee-pee and ca-ca". I'm one year old and already swearing up a blue streak. Note the festive holiday baby talcum powder to my mom's right.

But, during those years of growing up, my father and sporadically, my mother, enjoyed watching horrible movies or TV shows and tearing them apart, as we watched. We invariably ended up rolling around on the floor in laughter. I have to say that my father took much more delight in this activity than my mother. I suspect she was laughing at the two idiots watching dreck and amusing themselves to the point of apoplexy.

My dad in his B-29 in the Korean War. He went on to become a CPA and work with logistical military contractors. You'd think he was a serious person. He was anything but. Once, when he accompanied me to SFO for a flight, he started walking backward on the "horizontal people mover". A business man ran into him and shouted, "Sir, why don't you go play somewhere else!" Neither of us were shamed by this.  
Probably one of the most memorable moments I have, aside from my father moaning along with the soundtrack from “Hercules Unchained” or some generic sand-and-sandals epic, is the time we were watching “The Creeping Terror” which was being hosted by the late, great Bob Wilkins, who for many years, appeared on the Saturday night “Creature Features” out of San Francisco. His prologues prior to any of his movies were memorable and the one for “The Creeping Terror” had my father and I in absolute pants-peeing glee. Bob warned his audience not to leave house plants around the tv during the film, as they might die. He also cautioned us not to have any open fires (in the house?) while viewing, as we might all fall asleep and the house would burn down.

My mom; another pilot. I'm not sure what's up with that. I loathe flying. And whoever took this picture was a whole lot braver than I was. My dad was actually a wonderful pilot, but God looked out for my Mom. She would crab and yaw down a runway on takeoff and it would take her forever. Her landings were worse. I always swore she was going to go into the ground like a lawn dart. I always pulled up lame, or had to wax my viola on the days she flew.

He also mentioned the “quality” production values of this fine opus; the stock footage of a Mercury rocket ship being launched, only the film was run backward, to depict the aliens “landing” on earth, so that you see the rocket flames going UP into the ship. Check with your local physicist on that one. He also told everyone about how the soundtrack was lost and the script was lost, although Wikipedia tells me that there never was a script, and a narrator was hired post-production to tell us about what we were seeing, because we are complete morons. Well, that's debatable, since we're watching THIS tripe. 

I have had this burning question for nearly four decades. Just what in the hell are those things? They look like radiator hoses to me.

There are huge spans of time in the film with no dialog, no narration, no nothing. And so on. We proceeded to watch the film and it exceeded our expectations! My dad and I rolled around on the floor, lost our breaths, got cramps in our cheeks. We cried and rolled around some more. At one point, my dad said “I can't believe someone made this shit!” My mom, perched on her bar stool in the living room and half in the bag, said “I can't believe you're watching this shit!” Another warm family moment!

I can't believe someone made this shit! I guess it's a “Creeping Terror” ashtray. Who doesn't want to display this at a dinner party, or at some swanky soiree. I cried for 15 minutes over this. Some people have no taste and God! How I love them for it!

I can remember doing this as far back as 1960 or 1961, when we lived in Muskegon, Michigan. This would have predated “Fractured Flickers”, a live action show created by Jay Ward, who is responsible for having visited upon us “Rocky and Bullwinkle”. Now, my parents LOVED “Rocky and Bullwinkle” and I loved it because it was a cartoon. The reason my folks loved “Rocky and Bullwinkle” so much, is because, as I later found out as an adult, the show is subversive as hell, with badly-drawn graphics and snarky goings-on. As a matter of fact, my folks watched every show that Jay Ward ever produced. “Rocky” has really held up over the test of time and is still as entertaining as ever. But back to “Fractured Flickers”.

We never missed Bob Wilkins' "Creature Features" on Saturday nights, broadcast on KTVU out of Oakland, California. He often showed excellent movies; Hammer classics and his show was expanded to a double feature. He premiered the original "Night of the Living Dead" and regularly beat out "Saturday Night Live" in the ratings.

Fractured Flickers” was a live-action show, produced again, by Jay Ward and hosted by Hans Conreid who was hysterical. “Flickers” stayed true to Ward's sense of humor, using one-liners and puns and carefully dubbing the dialog over silent films. The show was at its funniest when it desecrated early melodramas, such as Victor Hugo's “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, with Lon Chaney, Sr., calling him “Dinky Dunstan, Boy Cheerleader”. The show itself was not above making fun of itself, as we witnessed Hans Conreid himself say “This is what we'll be doing for the next several weeks-or until someone finds out.” This was early days for television, and I do remember my father waiting like a hawk for the new episodes to come out. Unfortunately, only tweny-six episodes were produced; we watched them over and over until we pretty much had them memorized. But we still had our horrible movies to watch. It was much later that we saw “The Creeping Terror” and so many others. Nothing was sacrosanct and we had an amazing time doing this.

Apparently, ours was not the only family doing this crazy thing, because up in Minnesota, an enterprising and surprisingly funny magician, named Joel Hodgson came up with a little show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. It premiered on KTMA in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 1998 and later was picked up by Comedy Central, which is where I found it in 1990. I was living in Dearborn, Michigan and playing viola at the time, and when I first saw this show, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Unfortunately, I didn't have a dad to share this craziness with; he died in 1987. He would have loved this show.

"The Mads" as Joel and later Mike Nelson, referred to TV's Frank and Dr. ClaytonForrester, played by Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu.

Hodgson's influences include “Mad Movies With the LA Connection” and the “Canned Film Festival”, both of which lasted only a season. When he first conceived of the show, he enlisted the help of a couple of local area comics Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein, along with producer Jim Mallon to help him shoot the pilot. Hodgson reverted to university days and pulled an all-nighter to build the robots and the sets. The following day, they filmed a 30-minute pilot. The camera work was done by Kevin Murphy, who worked at the station, KTMA, where the show first debuted. The robots were not in the “theater” with Hodgson; it hadn't been built yet, so Joel interacted with them in between segments. Crow was voiced by Beaulieu, Beeper and Gypsy by Weinstein.

Joel and the robots, Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo.

Kevin Murphy also designed the “theater seating” and the door sequences for the show. Jim Mallon was able to meet with the station manager for KTMA, Donald O'Conner (apparently, song and dance was no longer working for him-jk) and persuade him to sign up “Mystery Science Theater” (The “3000”) was added later.

Joel and Mike Nelson, who took over for Joel, midway through season 5.

MST3K” debuted on November 24, 1988, with its first episode “Invaders From the Deep” and ran for the initial 13 episodes, which were expanded to 21. At first, no one at KTMA knew what the viewers response would be, so Mallon set up a phone line for viewers to call in on. The response was tremendous and plans were made for a live show.

In spite of the show's wild success, it was canceled, due to the station's overall declining fortunes, so a “best of” reel was prepared and sent to then-Comedy Channel, which merged with HA in “MST3K”'s second season and became Comedy Central. The rest is pretty much history, and is where I first saw it and loved it immediately.

I started making tapes of some of the shows when I was a touring musician and these were always a big hit on the bus. By the time this happened, I had relocated to Florida and had pretty much left the symphonic world behind. I was a free-range violist and that means, lots and lots of time on buses. The bus rides became the highlights of our tours, because we all had such gut-busting fun with “Samson vs the Vampire Women”, “Pod People”, and yes, “The Creeping Terror” among others. I played with several touring orchestras and troupes and I have to say that we would sometimes have conductors who had no birds in their cages.

Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett and Mike Nelson. Three of the original MST3K'ers.

The conductor always sits up in front by the driver. Most conductors I know would love to be driving the bus, and I'd be happy to let 'em, if it kept them off the podium. This particular conductor was more cretinous than most that I've dealt with, plus he had that extra layer of poseur that made him soooo not-delightful. After one screamingly-funny riff by Joel Hodgson and the bots and the bus is in an uproar and we're finally settling down, what do we hear from Our Conductor? “This film would be a whole lot better without those three guys down in front!” The film? “Manos Hands of Fate”; Happy Thanksgiving day everyone! Enjoy the Marathon! Comments are welcome! What is your favorite MST3K episode and are you happy about the reboot?

The Kickstarter is moving along, as you can see. You can also watch the Turkey Day Marathon here or at the website!

NOTE: I'll deal with RiffTrax in a later post. I wasn't aware for the longest time that they are the same crew for the most part as MST3K, but I'm a violist, and that's a primary requirement: Permanent confusion. I have it trade-marked: Confuse-a-what

Sunday, November 22, 2015

#ROW80 - NFC Championshi-ERK! EDIT from 2013 Original

As I have mentioned to several of you, I am in the process of editing several of my posts for inclusion in an e-book about my life. I have NEVER edited anything. I just sort of "pants" it and go. I did a bit of work on this, expanded it and tried to clean it up for language. I'm including the link to the original post, at the bottom. Anyone who cares to or who has the time to, is welcome to compare the two and make suggestions. I know you'll be kind, as you always have been to me. Thanks!

I wonder if these are free-range violas, because, if not, the price has really skyrocketed!

Q: Have you heard about the latest form of urban violence?
A: Drive-by viola solos.

So, here's a little number I cobbled up during the American Football season almost three years ago as we headed into our playoff season. Enjoy!

First off, goals, schmoals – I should explain that this was written as part of “where am I now” in the writing process of the #ROW80 group that I belong to. We try to set measurable goals for our writing, none of which has ever occurred for me. I am a slacker. Anyway, I got a wild hair and was completely taken with this topic after what I witnessed during a Falcons-I Forget (*scrolls down* – SAN FRANCISCO 49'ers!) playoff game in January of 2013. My latent low inhibition just took over. Oh well, look at the happy part of this; I'm off the streets and fending off muggers, and I'm not mugging anybody. Just kidding.

This is not your typical Sunday check in post. Nope, first off, it's Monday and second off, here in the good ol’ U S of A, it is Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday and President Obama's 2nd Inaugural Celebration! So, what better way for me to celebrate, than to write about 2013's NFC Championship game between the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers that featured guys running over guys and plowing into unaware guys on the side-lines. That’s right, “UNAWARE” guys on the side lines, during one of two games that will decide which of two teams are going to the Hyper Bowl, er, uh I mean, Super Bowl LXVII (is that 47 or 67? I failed Roman Numerals in Ancient Times class, or I skipped that day.)

Sing Along: "I see I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVII Wheels On The Big Rig" or however the stupid song goes. Whip that out at parties, and you'll be asked to leave.

Anyway, dude got clipped below the knees and fell as if pole-axed, backward onto that hard surface and landed backwards, head-first, with a bounce or two and was thankfully unhurt. Apparently, he works at the Atlanta Falcons field and this was their first ever(!) playoff event, and really, he can’t be faulted for that part of it. The poor guy had his back turned to the action and was most likely, looking at and marveling at the crowd and all of their noise, hoo ha, folderol and mostly, NOISE. And boy, howdy, there was a bunch of it, being as how, my Google says, the Georgia Dome can shovel 71,250 people into permanent seats.

The first time I ever faced a crowd like that was when I played for The Moody Blues. I was in my mid-30s and had been playing viola professionally for about 20 years, by this time. My performing experience went from symphony-polite-coughing and maybe a standing ovation, or two. Occasionally, the standing ovations were prolonged.

Stunning, wonderous. I love Mozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..... *snore*

Once, during a Grand Pause, or a fermata, where the orchestra came to a screeching halt after a fortississimo passage and it was deathly quiet, I had the great good fortune to hear a bellowed “I FRY MINE IN LARD…” from the back of the audience and then, stunning quiet. Nary a peep, cough, fart or rustle.

The fermata, unfortunately, is one of those musical devices that has no metered time, so as the Conductor stared us all down, daring us to laugh, and we all played “one potato, two potato, three potato, four…” Concert master and Principal Second Violin and Principal Viola and Principal Cello all sitting there, giving one another the evil eye, the hairy eyeball, the stink-eye and it's all becoming rather “High Noon-ish,” I and my stand partner who are on the 2nd stand, are not daring to look at one another, because we are truly deranged idiots, pinheads, morons and jokers. We are holding our breaths, and are puffing up like horses around rattle snakes, or, horses being saddled, because HolyMotherOfGod, I’mSoGonnaLaugh… I see his viola scroll start to shake out of the corner of my eye and just then? As I start to go eeeeeeeeeee? As the air is leaking out? And I think I hear a similar eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee coming from somewhere around the oboe section and I'm thinking “If there is a God, may He smite us all now so that we may know His mercy and NOT suffer the Wrath of the Conductor”, who is beginning to sweat blood from his eyeballs, it would appear. . .

But,allofasudden, the Conductor gives the downbeat and off we go. To this day, I do not remember what on God’s Green Earth we were playing, probably Rachmaninoff. I’ve been ambushed by him a number of times. Him and his G. P.s. Well, that was a digression.

This all changed when we started playing in open-air theaters and stadiums.

Okay, I haven't faced Wembley and I'm sure I don't want to; actually, I probably do. We rocked it at 1-800-ASK-GARY Field. A name like that for a Venue just drips class. I can't wait until Kotex, or Fleet Enema buys a sponsorship and demands to have it named after their company.

In the summer of 1992, The Moody Blues were in a resurgence and instead of having a summer off, we had a tour around the Midwest for a few weeks. We had an afternoon rehearsal with their conductor who told us the basics, miced us up and off we went. We had a full orchestra, and plexiglass partitions between each section. I felt like we were in cattle pens. That night, the orchestra was in place, when the Blues with Justin Hayward took the stage.

There were 10,000 people in the audience. Up to that point, I had never played with that many people in an audience. When that audience roared and that sound hit the stage, the orchestra, who for the most part had not experienced that before, was pretty well aware that this night and this concert were going to be different. But first, we had to get over the shock of all of those people yelling. If we had been zebras, and the yelling people lions, we would have been dead ones. We all just froze for about 2 beats and then our training kicked in and off we went.

It was an exhilarating experience; I’ve always loved the Moody Blues more orchestral stuff, but the conductor, Larry Greene is also their arranger, and he had gone back and arranged some of their harder rock stuff like “Ride My Seesaw” for strings and that’s even more more fun to play. I’ve found that I like music with a harder edge to it. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons I don’t like Mozart and I revere Beethoven.

Mozart gets right up to an idea and then backs away. Beethoven takes it in his teeth and just ragdolls it. I love that. I also love the fact that he doesn’t bore the violists to death in his orchestral and other ensemble writing. Mozart is pwecious, hard to play and there’s damn little reward for all of that work; he’s insipid. Oops, lemme get back to our sideline guy.

I’ve enjoyed my rock ‘n’ roll violist career, which has also veered off into blues, metal and a bit of rap, believe it or not. But, back to our poor dude. Man, did I feel for him. Guy stood up; I was so relieved, because he fell so hard. As he was turning around, the Fox Team, (Terry, Howie, Michael, Jimmy and Whoever) were helpfully pointing out that this was the Falcon’s first playoff Event ever. The guy who had been knocked over was wearing a jacket that said “Event Team” on it.

I hunted and hunted for the actual footage, but alas, it was not to be found. This is pre-game footage in the stadium prior to the NFC Championship game between the Atlanta Falcons and the S. F. Forty-Niners in 2013, which S. F. won by 28-24. The noise must have been incredible and it is understandable that Guy Who Was Knocked Down was a bit overwhelmed at first. 

As the man turned and looked at the camera you could see the horror slowly growing on his face. You could tell what he was thinking: “That shit right there was just on tee vee. Oh... Dear... God... can I move to Saturn? Maybe to Pluto. Pluto isn’t far enough away… My wife is going to divorce me. No, that's not punishment enough. She's going to kill me and set my ass on fire, and then EAT it! What was I thinking, looking at that stupid bunch of loud-ass people? My ass is on the line, here. My ass... is my ass too wide? Do these pants fit okay? My kids, my grandkids, my great grandkids are going to be talking about this and wanting to hear this story, forever! This is going to be on AFV, isn’t it? 

"No, this is too stupid for that. It's gonna be on World's Dumbest Workers #9 ! Heavens to Murgatroyd and Zeus! on National TV, no, INTERNATIONAL, TV! Gah! Did my Aunt in Outer Slobovia see me? I hope I don’t get fired. Damn, does my head hurt. Can I go home? Do I have a home? My wife has probably packed up and moved by now. Mebbe my wife'll let me sleep in the garage or the dog house. Mebbe in the trunk of the car. Mebbe I should just go to a hotel. . . Mebbe I can become a hobo. They still have those, don't they?”

Relax, guy, if I hear you got in trouble over this, I’m writing a letter. I’ve done so much stupid stuff in front of the public, it’s not funny. I’ve fallen off stages, fallen out of chairs. Fallen off risers. I very gracefully draped myself across 3 people once, along with my viola and bow, held up over my head and rolled like a barrel down to the floor, protecting my baby, my viola, Wolf. How I managed that, I will never know. I’ve taken bows wearing Taco Bell on formal, black velvet unknowingly, after playing a triumphant Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. To make matters worse, my stand partner’s fly was open during the whole performance which he proceeded to holler out to me, as we took our bows, during a standing ovation, as if I needed that information to make my post-performance glow complete. I don’t think Beethoven would have minded.

The point is, a roaring crowd is pretty impressive; I was awed by it when I was on the “receiving” end of it the first time. It does take some getting used to. So, Guy Who Was Knocked Down and Was Embarrassed, don’t be. I hope you get a chance to get used to playoff events as more come your way. I hope you are okay. You totally made my day! Almost three years later, you are still a fond memory.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Time for the monthly #IWSG check for insecure writers for November. I, for one, am truly glad Alex reminded us to keep “on topic” and to visit others. You see, I have a tendency to ramble, deviate, run down blind alleys, and about them participles? Let them dangle. What an unholy mess! But, that is kind of the story of my life. Believe it or not, I'm really happy with it, the way it is. I not only sight-read music pretty well, and write by the seat-of-my-pants (poor #NaNoWriMo; a 3rd novel that is a sequel to nothing, if you get my drift), so, why not live my life by the seat of my pants?

I've Scoobied my way out of so many messes, it's become my default state. Want me to edit something? Ya better give me a blank piece of paper, or a paper with a bunch of anagrams on it, and I'll cobble something up for you, just don't expect any coherence out of it. I'm also kind of in the “I don't give a damn” mood, because I'm doing something right now that takes all thought and energy and focus away from every other thing in my life: I'm playing my viola. I have insecurities a-plenty about that, and not just because I'm playing over a motor disorder and finding out new ways to skirt around that. The newest thing I've discovered is to not take ANY of the medications prescribed for either that or my bipolar or depression on the day of performing and I'm fine. Take 'em after and I don't have to worry about cramping and weirdness. I know, I know, I'm off topic. But, all musicians are insecure; boy, howdy are they. But I got a “man, you rock!” after Sunday's concert from some people I hold in high esteem. That made me feel good for about 15 minutes. Then, I looked at Wolf and went, “oh yeah, I still sucketh.” We all do it.

As to writing. I'm trying like hell to dredge up some semblance of a story that will fit with what I wrote 2 years ago, when I finished NaNo and the 2nd book I didn't finish, but presumably will. I'll work on it for a while, and then just run out of steam. Part of it is the fact that maybe I'm not hungry enough, and I also have enough material from when I first started this blog, to e-publish my own “life and times” à la James Thurber, with five sections and I think that might be the smarter option, instead of trying to write this huge, sprawling epic that has characters changing names, sexes, disappearing, reappearing and I think a few of re-incarnated and not in the "X-Files" way, along with the usual plot lines that run up the previously mentioned dead ends and blind alleys. Of course, I could pretend I'm writing scripts for MST3K, always huge fun!

I have enough followers on Twitter and elsewhere, that I may actually make a tiny profit, and I have some pretty funny stories. Anyway, I've written for lo, these many years and have never sold anything, but it might be a good time to think about doing that, plus I have another project in mind that will involve both playing and writing – I'm keeping it under wraps right now, 'cause jinx and all of that. So, what say you all?

Oh, and here is some blargle and pictures from Sunday's concert. We have just one more to play in this series and then it's on to Rachmaninoff's “Piano Concerto No. 2” and some Slavonic Dances written by our own Conductor, Mark Sforzini.


Sunday afternoon at the Straz Center in Tampa, the Tampa Bay Symphony, led by our great Conductor, Mark Sforzini, performed an awesome concert, featuring highlights from "Madama Butterfly" by Puccini with soprano Susan Hellman Spatafora and tenor Samuel Hall, with a cameo appearance by mezzo-soprano Nicole Evans. This was preceded by Beethoven's Turkish March from the "Ruins of Athens" and then after the concert break, we played Rimsky-Korsakov's powerful "Scheherazade". The violin solo was played by our Concertmaster, Virginia Respess, and played beautifully. This orchestra just keeps sounding better and better and it was a delight to play!

For some reason, the first picture looks like my head is in a fog bank, which is probably just tangible proof of the cloud-like state of confusion I exist in, and spread most of the time and is also requirement number one for a viola-player. The second is a close-up of the most glorious Wolf, who did his part. He was in full voice and I was NOT going to let him be unseen!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Well, the month of October that usually starts with rounds of Halloween parties, and lots of delights and frights and ends with the celebration of Samhain or All Hallow's Eve has certainly gotten off to a bang this year around here. But, this being Nebraska Ave., 33602, 33605, where everything can and has happened at one time or another and has seen the visitation and/or arrest of everyone from Harry Truman, to Theodore Roosevelt (neither of whom saw a jail cell) to Darryl Strawberry and several other athletes and congressmen (who have visited our fine Orient Road Jail), why should I be at all surprised that October started out with something like James Thurber's “The Night The Bed Fell” and as of Sunday, we experienced a little bit of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”, “Baron von Munchausen” (or Munchausen by Proxy), and ended the week with a re-enactment of a segment of “The Jerry Springer Show”, minus the “who the baby daddy?”

"I suppose that the high-water mark of my youth in Columbus, Ohio, was the night the bed fell on my father." ~ James Thurber

Of course, all of this needs some 'splainin'. My erst-while roommate who is no longer my roommate, had spent most of September in New York, visiting her birth mother who was in the hospital, with liver failure. When her mother did not expire, she returned home with her relatives. The condition of her release from prison, stated that she would be unable to live with them, so because I do belong to a political committee and because one of the Chairwomen knew of Jim's passing, it was thought that this might be a win-win for us both, as I am living on my own income. I was rather reluctant at first, but said I would at least talk to the girl's aunt. The aunt seemed rational enough, so she brought her niece over and we struck a deal.

Well, the first month wasn't so noticeable, because the girl was in NY for most of the month, and when she was in the apartment, she kept to herself, writing her letters, being quiet. She did however, mention that she knew it was me putting coffee filters in the coffee pot. I dismissed this, as just some off-hand remark; I knew she was trying to adjust to living “outside” and I just went about my day. Then, she left for NY again, and her mother died. Now, she was not close at all with her birth mother; she was raised by her grandmother and had very little feeling for her birth mother, but when she returned, she acted like her world had fallen apart.

I tried to be sympathetic, but we've all lost people at some point in our lives, and this does not give us license to be. . . well, stupid about things like coffee filters. I say this, because she brought this up again, by leaving a note on the coffee pot. I answered her note, in kind. Just really immature, and stupid stuff. This was just as she went to NY. While she was there, I felt an immense sense of relief and was dreading October. Well, October came and it was something.

A week ago last Monday, which would still have been in September, I took my night-time medications. I take the same thing every time and have been on the same meds for at least 2 years. The essential tremor medications quell the high-frequency tremors, but along with that I have to take a mild muscle relaxant to quell the dystonia (cramping) that the tremors will cause. It allows me to play and do all the virtuosic things I'm used to doing on the viola. Because I have a motor disorder, ANY deviation from any of my medications louses me up and I've heard this from many other people who have everything from Parkinson's Disease to Tardive Dyskenisia. It's why I wear that faboo little bracelet, made for me by Handmade by Heroes! Thanks, Guys!

And on a side note, the roommate was also using a TON of bleach in the apartment, which I had specifically asked her NOT to do (even when I pee'd) because she claimed her nose was so “sensitive” (more on that later). I had started to develop a cough that was nagging and much like an upper respiratory infection that I would normally develop if I weren't taking my medications for my COPD, so that was an issue.

Anyway, last Monday night, about half an hour after I had fallen asleep, I felt a burning sensation on the left side of my face, up by my left eye, and I was in a sort of half-awake, half-asleep state. I had the sensation of seeing something over my left eye (the eye has a flaw, like a caul and it's like looking through hand-made glass; wavering) and it was bright and melting. I sort of jerked more awake and fluthered around and bleated “help help”. Had Jim been there, he would have talked me down, as he did numerous times, when we were together. We were really good for each other that way. But no one was there. It was 1:30 in the morning, and I had a rehearsal the next day.

So, I jump up, and I'm bumbling around for my phone and I'm trying to dial 911 and I babble something into my “smartphone” and it hangs up on me. Great. Then, it calls me back, and it's a 911 operator, and they send Fire-Rescue out.

Now, in the past, when I've had a panic attack or felt like I was having a heart attack, they come out, take my vitals, everything is normal; and the Fire-Rescue guy says, “did you take your anxiety medication?” and I say “no” and he says “Well, there's your problem, right there”. They're good about it and it hasn't happened in a long, long time.

This time, they had me sit in a chair, and my vitals were okay, but. . . my blood pressure was orthostatic. That means that when I stood up, my blood pressure dropped and my heart rate went up. I explained to them that my muscle relaxant does that in the first hour to 2 hours that I take it, and it had only been about 45 minutes. I talked and talked and danced and Scoobied and they weren't having any of that. Well, shit. So, they bundled me up, made sure my cat had food and water, locked the door and off we went.

Once, I got to TGH, I went through the whole blah blah again, and was getting all ready to put my sho-I'm in my damned bare feet! And skate out of there, after they ran all their tests, feeling fine, gimme my cab voucher, I got a rehearsal!

Whoa Nellie, here comes an Attending doctor with five neurologists. Oh hell's bells. We go though the routine again. Eye, hurt, bright, melt, jump, blah, blah, blah. Only, I am very precise with these doctors, because I have a “history” and an “agreement” with TGH.

This used to be called Grand Rounds. Now, it's more of a "Chat 'n' Chew". Back in the day when I worked at the University of Michigan Teaching Hospital they would have anywhere from 15 to 20 interns. Now, depending on the specialty, I noticed, only 5 or 6 and I felt like I was doing the teaching. Eek!

It goes like this and it came about after a totally nasty and humiliating experience I had when two of the Attending Neurologists were not willing to listen to what I was saying. I describe a symptom to the doctor and the doctor paraphrases it to me. If I feel that he or she is mis-interpreting what I said, I correct them, and vice-versa. It makes for a much more productive experience.

Because I have a world-class neurologist, they decided they would run “due diligence” and keep me overnight (which wasn't what I wanted, but I couldn't very well say no, either) run some tests and see where that went. Everything checked out and I was released from the hospital late, late, late Tuesday night. I really did appreciate their concern. I've always been compliant and I've been granted such a marvelous quality of life, who am I to bitch?

This has to be one of the most terrifying movies I've ever seen in my life. I never realized I was going to star in an episode of it.

So, I come home to “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”. My roommate is home, and things are back to normal, whatever that is. I wake up the next morning, and I'm sore. I've had IVs in both arms. For some reason, the food at TGH, which used to be pretty awesome, was horrible this time around. I'm hungry and I missed my rehearsal which did not make me happy. I look over and on top of my bag of potato chips is. . . a coffee filter. I'm instantly pissed.

I go in the kitchen and I say to my roommate, “What is this?” She feigns surprise. “Oh! I don't know where that came from!” I looked at her. “You put this on my bag of chips. Listen, I don't do head games. I won't have this. If you're going to continue in this vein, you can't stay here. No head games!” I emphasized. I turned and left the room. I got my cane and sunglasses and left the house.

Of course, when I came back in, it smelled like bleach. She went to her grandmother's house to pick up the rent and I deposited it and paid it, and the rest of the bills. Alex and I had bought groceries while she was gone and 2 days later she told me that her roll of stamps was missing, implying he had taken them, although they had been by her computer, and I had worked AT her computer that evening and she failed to mention it to me for 2 days. I just bought her some new stamps; she didn't like Alex, although he is the closest person to me and the best thing in my life.

Sunday was the kicker. I woke up with a bladder infection. I haven't had one of these boogers in decades and they're horrible. I knew I hadn't been drinking enough water and I knew there was plenty of tension going on in the house. Luckily, I was able to get some AZO and Cipro and it started clearing up, right away. But, on one of my many trips to the bathroom, I caught my roommate spying on my, which just freaked me right the hell out. As soon as I came out of the bathroom, I decided that was it. Especially since, she went right behind me and poured half a gallon of bleach in the toilet. I called Alex, he came over, and I went outside. I called her aunt and told her to come and get her niece. Now, normally, if the woman had been civil, I would have offered to pay her for the days the niece didn't stay there, but what transpired was something out of “Jerry Springer” minus wondering about the parentage.

The aunt came bolting out of the car and screaming, “I want my money! I want my money!” I said, very calmly, “I told you over the phone, I don't have your money, I had to pay the rent. Now, we can set up a payment plan, but I cannot pay you now.” I'm standing on my neighbor's porch, and my neighbor Sheila, who is seven months pregnant is outraged. She yells, “She doesn't have to give you anything!” and she proceeds to get right up in the aunt's face. This escalates and the two women are hollering and all of a sudden, the aunt hauls back and she's going to slug Sheila, my neighbor. I'm just behind Sheila, on the phone to 911, who cannot understand anything for all the yelling, and I'm trying to get to the aunt to punch her before she hits Sheila. Sheila's roommate, my soon-to-be-ex roommate are hollering and there's just this scrum of women hopping up and down. . . until, Alex, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, ROARS, I mean, ROARS “JUST A GODDAMNED MINUTE! EVERYONE CALM DOWN!

We all freeze; and from the four corners of da 'hood, comes every able-bodied male to help. The clarion call had gone out that the House of Women was in distress, apparently, and the men rose to the occasion. The roommate was stuffing her crap in the car as fast as she could, but the aunt wanted to wait for the police. Fine. We waited. The police kind of sided with the aunt, but the roommate wanted to beat feet, so they all left, yelling “Go die!” or something. The true classiness of people really comes out when it comes to money. Just ask my ex-husband, Bill Nunnally. Totally unclassy.

I got a lovely little text from the aunt the next day, saying that she was coming by with the police to get the money, or she would take me to small claims court. I texted her back; this was after I had spoken to the head of the political action committee and discovered that I had been lied to; that the roommate was to have had her ID and been registered by 10/1 and had made no attempt to do so. I told the aunt that her niece was already in violation of Florida statute and she knew that, and also if she did try to take me to small claims court, I had nothin' but time on my hands. I would delay, delay, delay and ask for continuance after continuance, whereas she would have to keep taking time off from work. I'm not proud of doing something like that, but I will protect myself and my loved ones.

I will also continue to live by myself and make my plans for what I had originally started to do after Jim died. More to come on that. My political activism will remain in the background. With all this crap going on, I didn't have time to be insecure about writing. I was more insecure about my playing viola. It's been that kinda month already! Oh, by the way, the cough cleared up, now that there's no more bleach being poured all over the house!

Friday, October 2, 2015

“PRINCELINGS OF THE EAST” by Jemima Pett – Blog Tour

About a year and 8 months ago, I met a lovely woman by the name of Jemima Pett, who lives in the U. K. We became acquaintances during the “A to Z Challenge” of 2014 when we were on the same “Theme Reveal” Team and were busily scratching our heads and working with Damyanti G., Guilie, Samantha Geary-Jones, Vidya Sury, Anna Tan, Csenka, (plus myself and Jemima, to make up the “7 Fair Ladies of I Forget” because I'm typing like a fiend, as I am behind the 8-ball*, as per usual) to get our Theme Reveal Post going and set by March 23rd and trying to help all the newbies and it was just. . . Arrrrrghhh. Everyone had questions, or rambled a lot and never found a question in all the verbiage and we were ALL pulling our hair out.

*I was in the hospital for 2 days this week; I tried to Scooby my way out of it, but I was orthostatic and Tampa Fire-Rescue wasn't going to let me skate. Then, at TGH, they got all boresome and insisted I stay the night and the next day! More later on that whole fiasco. It was more like Thurber's “The Night The Bed Fell”.       

"I suppose that the high water-mark of my youth in Columbus, Ohio was the night the bed fell on my father." ~ James Thurber

What started as a disparate group of women became a batch of friends, forged in the heat of fire. Not the fire of Stalingrad, by any means, but the fire of just the usual frustrations of stupid computers, internet connections and storms half-way around the world that would put us out of touch with one or another for a day or so. We have continued to stay in touch and a bond of affection has developed between us. When Jemima was looking for some folks for her book tour, I jumped at the chance. I wasn't too sure she liked me at first, but realized later, it is her way. She is a dear, dear lady and I really enjoy her writing. I know you will too!

Fred, looking imperious on his wheelbarrow, I think.

She writes of that fey creature, the guinea pig and Jemima is a world-builder for them. I will say no more than that, but let her interview tell you about what she has written and accomplished, and share her pictures with you. After reading the excerpt, the Spotlight, the Author Interview and the Character Interview, follow the links provided for my reviews of the books! You will not be disappointed! My thanks to Jemima Pett for allowing me to participate in this tour and to her Tour Guide/Assistant Tonya for running a flawless tour!

It is not preposterous, nor "soppy" (as Jemima has said) to build a world or write stories that feature animals in a series of settings that may seem anthropomorphic or counter to whatever we, as people would otherwise have them do. Richard Adams wrote a very successful barnburner of a suspense yarn about a bunch of rabbits called "Watership Down" and more ominously, George Orwell wrote "Animal Farm" a cautionary tale with a bitter ending about the risks of Capitalism. Pett's Guinea Pigs inhabit no such worlds, but they do face problems and solve them, and then are left with bigger problems to solve later on; a not un-life-like scenario. Let us enter her world and see what we can find. The first thing we hear is a rather braggadocios someone talking to someone else. . .


This is Lord Mariusz of Hattan, who thinks he's a tough guy, and in control of everything. He likes to think of himself as a more refined type of gangster leader, but really he's a businessman carrying on the Wozna Cola empire built up by his grandfather. He appears from a side tunnel in mysterious circumstances in The
Princelings of the East, then he narrates his own story in The Traveler in Black and White (Book 4 of the series). And then, because he's simply irrepressible, he turns up in book 6, Bravo Victor. And he's scheduled for brief appearances in books 7 and 8, probably, too.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Castle Hattan, on the Isle of Hattan. It's a busy Metropolis on the edge of the Great Ocean.

What do you want from life?

When I was young I wanted success, power and wealth. Now I'm successful, powerful and wealthy, and I wish people would just stop messing with that. It pains me to have to move some of them out of the way.

Could you describe yourself to me?

I'm tall, dark and built like a powerhouse – which of course I am. I have black hair with a distinguished white bit that sticks up in front. I call it a crest, I don't know what you'd call it.

If you were granted three wishes, what would you ask for?

The first would be to get the other two gangs to give up trying to mess with my patch, and just knuckle down under my plans for them. I have to waste security on my best guys when they want to walk the streets of Hattan, on regular stuff like dining out, you know?

The second would be for my science guru, Saku, to invent something to move the stock by sea, very fast, so we could stop having pesky franchises on the other side of the world.

My third would be for a nice dame to come and visit me any night I fancied without expecting diamonds and pearls as gifts before and after. It's easy enough to ask for a bit of respect, isn't it?

In your relationship with others, how are you different with family than you are with friends? Why?

Family! Load of good-for-nothings, most of them. Nephews, lounging around instead of working their butts off like I had to. The womenfolk stay in the lower levels, I don't know what they get up to. The kids, I have to find work for them. They don't know how lucky they are. When I was their age I was running errands, learning the ropes, working day and night to keep the business ahead of the opposition. Never time to make friends, although I reckon I count Saku as a friend. Willow too, but he died. They are the sort of people you work with, you know how they react, you can rely on them; they don't give you trouble, you know? Yeah.

The only decent nephew seems to have disappeared. Willoughby. He's got talent, that one. He could be a contender for my successor. That's what you have to do with family, keep an eye on them, work out who's going to inherit, make sure he knows his job. Friends, they know the score, you can rely on them.

How do you fall in love? At first sight? Over a long period?

Love is a waste of time. Playmates, fine, see someone you like, enjoy your time together, move on and get on with business. You can't mix business with pleasure.

Describe your ideal mate.

Cute, sassy and knows her place. Although I've met a couple in another place entirely that could make excellent bosses of this castle. Hmm, I wonder... but that would mess up the established line. Too much trouble.

What parts of loving come easy for you? Hard?

Easy to charm them, have a good time; hard to deal with their demands when you're in my position. Best keep to business arrangements – much safer.

When you walk into a room, what do you notice first? Second?

In my business you don't just walk into a room and notice things. You assess the situation before you open the door, so you know who's there, where they are, and whether anyone is primed to spring a surprise on you. Okay, it's not as bad as the old days, but old habits die hard. On the other hand, when someone else walks into a room the first thing he'd better notice is me.

What really moves you, or touches you to the soul?

Genuine kindness. For no other reason than wanting to help. It doesn't happen much here, so it kinda wrong-foots me when I meet it on my travels. Amazing that there can be places where people are kind to each other and want nothing in return, no points scoring, no scores to be settled.

Just to be kind. Weird.

Thanks for interviewing me. Have a sample of Wozna, the best cola in the universe. Doesn't that taste good?


Lord of Hattan

Victor, having a snack.


I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old. I still have a small booklet I found in my mother’s box of treasures, written in a very childish hand, entitled The Little Stream. It reads very much like the story of Smetana’s Vltava, or The Moldau as it was called when I was young, so I must have been into classical music at an early age (I blame my brothers’ influence). My early fiction attempts failed for want of suitable inspiration: I couldn’t get characters or plot that seemed interesting, and my first attempts were derided by a ‘friend’. I had the bug for writing, though, and wrote articles and event reports for newsletters and magazines whenever I got the opportunity. My career in business and in environmental research kept me chained to a desk for many years, but also gave me the opportunity to write manuals, reports, science papers, blogs, journals, anything and everything that kept the words flowing. Finally the characters jumped into my head with stories that needed to be told…

I now live in a village in Norfolk, UK, with my guinea pigs, the first of whom, Fred, George, Victor and Hugo, provided the inspiration for the Princelings stories.


Hi Jemima,

Thank you for sitting down with me today for an interview. Before we start though, I have to tell you I was blown away by your website – how much information you have provided about your younger years: when you began writing; why you didn’t continue until later in life; your career; your guinea pig pets (love the photo) and what you’re doing in the writing world today! 

Definitely an inspiring tale and I smiled my way through everything, so thanks!
And, since your author website contains practically everything a reader/fan might want to know about you, I’d like to just focus on your writing.

1) You mentioned in your bio that you first began writing when you were eight. What prompted this? Did you, or your family, read extensively and you just woke up one day thinking that you would write a story? Had the desire to write been there all along, but you opted to wait until you mastered cursive/penmanship so it would look neat and pretty? (That’s actually a ‘page’ from my childhood). Or, was it something entirely different?

I know I read a lot, so I expect I just started writing because that seemed to be what happened. I recall that writers were fairly common among the parents of kids in the books I read, so the concept that someone had to write a book took hold early on, and I did write to Enid Blyton (Famous Five, Malory Towers, Noddy) to say how much I liked her books (the Adventure series, early on) and got a typed postcard in reply. For the record, the only other author I've ever written to is J K Rowling, after Deathly Hallows, and yes, I got a reply from her, too!

I don't remember how it fit in with the handwriting issue, but I did get a certificate for handwriting that most people in my class entered, sponsored by the chocolate makers, Cadbury. It's among my school certificates still!

2) As a child, you wrote a book titled The Little Stream. You compared it to the story of Smetana’s Vltava which, of course, makes me wonder if you brought the ‘drama’ of the entire suite into your story. The castle, the river, the spurned maiden, etc.? Or, was it similar only to the river (Vltava) piece? Either way, was there some form of ‘happily ever after?’

Well, it wasn't very long! I think it's eight pages (sixteen sides) about the size of a digital compact camera. It mostly concentrated on the passage of the river through the landscape and its development from a babbling brook into a wide estuary. Maybe there's a bit of Siddartha in it, but I only learned about that in my late teens, and finally read it about 8 years ago.

3) Do you ever regret that you didn’t write books sooner, due in part to the unkind words from a ‘friend?’ What advice would you give to new, or aspiring, authors should they wind up in a similar situation?

Yes. When I look back on the amount of writing in other ways, particularly event reports for my sport, I realise I was always telling stories. My sporting achievements might have been greater had I not gone off into a reverie of how I would write the report of this event while I was halfway through it! I always had stories in my head. Most people have imaginary friends, I don't know whether most people enact adventures with them in quite the way I did. I also created lands, drew maps, (one place had a railway timetable), and had a whole load of adventures with my imaginary team of horses. So my advice to anyone else in that situation is, don't keep it to yourself, write it down.

Of course, I was completely untutored in writing. I think this is something where the craft can come later; the creativity is important. There are parallels with painting here. Who would teach a child to paint starting with the colour wheel?  Or maybe some people are and that's why so many people believe they can't draw.

And my friend was right – the book I had started to write was rubbish. But that's the whole point of learning anything. Early attempts may well be rubbish. Very few people are perfect at anything they do straight away. We all have to hone our craft, skill, expertise... and learn more about the world and life too, if we are writers and want to make our stories believable.

4) Your next phase of writing was articles and event reports for newsletters (is that a newspaper?) and magazines. How did you get accepted on as a writer for these publications? And what prompted your desire to write them? Any absolute favorites that added to the family photo album?

If in doubt, start your own magazine ;) No, join a club. Writing event reports is something most clubs and societies have trouble finding volunteers for. And many clubs had newsletters that were circulated to the members to keep them informed and involved. These days, some of those have gone online as the website or facebook page, but most also have physical (or pdf copies) of a magazine format for members who prefer to get things by mail. So I wrote for, and edited, one newsletter off and on for ten years (with other equally talented writers contributing too, but often filling the gaps myself). Then there's the event reports for the local newspaper, or the national sports magazine... I never wrote fiction for newspapers or magazines... although a lot of the event reports were somewhat fictional!

5) Okay, so eventually, (to quote you) “the characters jumped into myhead with stories that needed to be told…” Where were you in life when this happened? What triggered the ‘release?’ Was it some random experience? Maybe a dream – or a television program? Your cute, furry, guinea pig pets?

Entirely the guinea pigs, Fred and George, who were named after the Weasley twins, of course. I'd changed jobs, moved home, and was self-employed again. I needed company and I chose guinea pigs. I was fascinated with them, and watched their behaviour and interactions with each other, wondering about their personalities (I'd been in human resources before I'd retrained for environmental research), and I dubbed them the Philosopher (Fred) and the Engineer (George) way before the writing started. Well, six months at least, which is a long time in a guinea pig life. Then Hugo and Victor turned up, with totally different personalities... and we were doing a silly story on the guinea pig forum, writing one paragraph at a time, and somehow I just took that off into a whole new area and decided they needed a book. Three books, with the titles as they are today. And then I started writing them.

6) Alright, let’s talk about your Princelings books. I’ve read the series ‘about’ and all the books look like they’ll be a fun adventure read. (I even downloaded a free Amazon copy, yay)! Can you provide a brief, series overview here for readers?

As one of my reviewers neatly summed it up: we are in a feudal world with advanced technology running on strawberry juice.... At first, there really isn't much in the way of advanced technology, but due to the curious circumstances of the first book, George gets the idea to develop a new power source running on strawberry juice, which is a project that runs in the background of the second and third books, and then promotes change that occurs in society over the rest of the series. The series starts with two innocents using their friendship and their brains to solve problems, and the problems get bigger, and more acute as the series goes on, with an ever-growing cast of characters, some of whom pop up again in unexpected places. The big question, is how are they ever going to deliver the promise made at the end of the first book, when everything in their world is changing?

7) Now, I could be wrong, but it does seem that you pulled some of your own life experiences into these tales? How did you go about incorporating your business and environmental wisdom into these books while still ensuring they’re interesting reads? Are there any messages within the pages that you hope readers will take away with them?

Ah-hah! Well, I do try to show how living within our own resources might lead to having a more enjoyable life, but it isn't easy, especially when kids are so bombarded with ways of spending money. In a way, I just write being me, and the experiences I've had make me who I am. And they do say 'write what you know' even if it does have to be translated into appropriate settings for younger readers at times. If there is a message, I hope it is 'use your brains, and work with your friends'.

8) Let’s focus now on one specific book:The Princelings of the East.Again, can you provide us with a teeny synopsis? What was your inspiration for this book? When you were done with the writing – did the manuscript match your initial vision or had it changed? I imagine if your characters embodied some of your pets’ personalities they might have given you some ‘attitude’ and just done their own thing. *chuckle*

Two young princelings (of the royal line but unlikely to inherit any titles) realise there is a problem with energy disappearing when it's most needed, so they set out to find what to do about it. They encounter strange businessmen, princes and barkeepers, and have to work out who of these powerful people are allies, who are not, and how to solve a nationwide problem. Both trust and time are of the essence!

The inspiration came from the story we were writing online, which I mentioned earlier – we had linked universes with a tunnel between castles, and the world at the other end ran on strawberry juice. I know that was my invention, so I felt free to use it myself.

I was extremely satisfied with the book once I'd finished it (although I did improve it later, in the 2nd edition), but what I learned in the process is that characters do things of their own accord, if they are good enough characters.  If you let them make decisions because of who they are, they take you down paths that may be different from those you'd imagined – and a whole lot better!

9) Last question – it looks like you’re currently working on book two of your BookElves Anthology, as well as book two of your Viridian System series. Would you be willing to provide a tiny tidbit of information about one or the other? (Or both)? Enough to whet our appetites? *smile*

The BookElves are a group of twelve great authors of middle grade type books, who come together to do things that help promote each other. The idea of the Anthology last year was both great fun, and well-received by our readers, so we decided to do another this year. Seven of us are currently working on short stories to go in this year's book, which is scheduled for 12th November. Titles tend to include the words Christmas and Adventure quite a lot, so if you like Christmas adventures you may like the book!

My Viridian System series is for grown-ups, although there's not much to offend older teens. I suppose anyone allowed to read James Bond would be ok with them, although it's a science fiction series with more in common with Star Trek than a spy series. My heroes Big Pete and the Swede are asteroid miners looking for a vacation, and finding trouble, and the first in the series will be out in January 2016 – The Perihelix. There's a Sampler of short stories available for 99c from 28th September. I've already started the second book, because I couldn't stop writing about them, and various ideas I wanted to include are better written down straight away these days, before I forget them!

Thank you again for sitting down with me, Jemima.
It's a pleasure, thank you for having me.
This has certainly been fun and I’m looking forward to reading my copy of The Princelings of the East.


Link for BookElves Anthology Vol 1:

Link for the Viridian System Sampler:
Also at B&N and iTunes.  Website

This interview has been redacted for brevity and for a discussion regarding pictures which I don't have to share with you, but I DO want to thank Charline Ratcliff for providing this interview and her generosity in sharing it with us all on the blog tour. Please, please, please, visit her on her website at! Thank you!


1 x $25 gift card/PayPal cash (paypal cash is much easier for me to deliver)

1 x set of the six Princelings of the East paperbacks 

5 x  1 signed print of a chapter illustration of the winner's choice (approx. half letter-sized/A5, unmounted)

EXCERPT FROM The Princelings of the East

Fred sat staring at the tunnel, lost in thought. George waited. This might take a while. He could hear soft sounds of crackling flames in the fire on the other side of the wall, and in the distance the occasional pitter-patter of footsteps echoing down the corridors. He wondered what would happen if they ventured out of this castle into the tunnels.

When he had been out in the marshes, he’d never gone a long way from home; the castle was always visible in the

distance, light glinting on its spires. He’d never been out overnight, either. He identified a strange feeling inside him.

They might be on the edge of a Great Adventure, but he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t rather be safely tucked up in bed.

Fred stirred. “We need to go and investigate this Great Energy Drain,” he said. “We must find out whether it is a widespread phenomenon, and whether the causes are known.”

George nodded; this was elementary procedure for an investigation. “And then?” he asked.

And then,” answered Fred, “we shall come up with some ideas for how to solve it.”

Good idea!” said George, knowing that you can never know exactly how you are going to do something until you have made the preliminary investigation and tested out a few theories. But the aim was set, and all they had to do now was
decide... to go or not to go?


TITLE – The Princelings of the East

SERIES – The Princelings of the East

AUTHOR – Jemima Pett

GENRE – MG/Fantasy/scifi

PUBLICATION DATE – November 2011 (paperback June 2015)

LENGTH (Pages/# Words) – 158 / 37,300

PUBLISHER – Princelings Publications

COVER ARTIST – Danielle English


The Princelings of the East is an adventure set in a world of labyrinthine castles, bustling inns, and the curious Isle of Hattan.

Princelings George and Fred leave the security of their isolated castle to solve the problem of the Great Energy Drain, meeting the dubious businessman Hugo, the young barkeeper Victor, the impressive Prince of Buckmore, and other movers and shakers. Who should these two innocents trust? Their wits and each other, for sure, but when something comes between them, each is left to his own devices, and some of those devices are very strange indeed – and time is of the essence.

The Princelings of the East is the start of a saga where friendship and intelligence are rewarded, even in the face of treachery and deceit.



This appears to be George, perhaps having a post-prandial snooze, or he's off thinking about an engineering problem.