The Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh

The Browne Sisters are one of my favorite Celtic music groups, and I was reminded of them the other day by a Celtic Thunder video.  This is odd, because normally it’s Celtic Woman who reminds me of the Browne Sisters.  Technically the name of the band is the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh, as it consists of sisters Diane Browne, Pamela Browne Logan, Laura Browne-Sorenson, and their cousin, George Cavanaugh.

The other day on Facebook, I saw a video of Emmet Cahill of Celtic Thunder performing the popular folk song “Spanish Lady.” He did an excellent job, as did the woman dancing with him.  The set was beautiful.  The musicians were superb.  What surprised me was that Celtic Thunder asked on their Facebook page “Here is a fun song for you, anyone heard this one before??”  I was even more surprised when several people said it was new to them, or that they had only learned it from Celtic Thunder’s sister-group, Celtic Woman.  Alex Beaton has performed it.  The Dubliners have performed it.  So have the Irish Rovers, Johnny McEvoy, the Kilkennys, the Irish Tenors, the Whistlin’ Donkeys, and too many other musicians to count.  My personal favorite rendition is by George Cavanaugh and his three cousins, Diane, Pam, and Laura.  It’s on their album Ready for the Storm.  The song itself is roughly 300 years old.  Mind you, Emmet Cahill’s version is now my second favorite.

The Browne Sisters & George Cavanaugh | Castle Dangerous     The Browne Sisters & George Cavanaugh | West of Home      

Once when we were in the car, playing Castle Dangerous on CD, my daughter said that they sounded like Celtic Woman.  I pointed out that since the Browne Sisters have been performing longer than Celtic Woman has, no, Celtic Woman sounded like them.

The first time I heard the Browne Sisters in person was at the Orange County Highland Games, in Costa Mesa, CA.  My husband and I were still dating then, and we’ve been married more than twenty years, so we’ve been fans of the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh for quite a while now.  They sing a mixture of Irish and Scottish folk songs, mostly traditional, some contemporary.  They sing a few songs in Gaelic.  When I last saw them perform in person, they said they learned the Gaelic songs phonetically, but it’s been a while.  For all I know they’ve learned to speak Gaelic since then.

They have seven albums, which means they have a lot of good songs.  When I listen to “Black and Tan,” I forget that my Irish ancestors were almost all northern Irish and sing along enthusiastically.  “Silver Darlings” is one of their most popular songs and the title song on their first album.  Their versions of “Follow Me Up to Carlow” and “Queen of Argyll” rival the versions by Wild Oats and other bands.  If I absolutely had to choose a favorite, it would be their album Castle Dangerous, which has some of my favorite songs:  “Gypsies in the Wood,” “The Irish Boy,” “The Gallant Forty-Twa,” “Smugglers,” and “Black is the Color.”

The Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh would be very happy if you bought any of their albums.  They’re available through CD Baby or at any good Highland Games.

Silver Darlings, Castle Dangerous, West of Home, Bringing Down the House, Ready for the Storm, Miles Through the Night, and Christmas Travelers

I would be very happy if you bought any of my books or stories.

R is for Renaissance Faire  (children’s book)

Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid  (four western stories)

Sword and Sorceress #30, containing my story “The Piper’s Wife”  (fantasy)

Colorado Supernatural, containing my story “Thank You, Thad”  (horror)

Barbarian Crowns, containing my stories “Vixen’s Song” and “Two Princes”  (fantasy)

Photo from the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh’s webpage; used with their kind permission.  Tapadh leibh!

Hero of the First Amendment: Pauli Murray

First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”



Pauli Murray has been one of my personal heroes for years.  It’s a good thing she was a real person, because if she were a fictional character, any decent editor would complain that she was unrealistic and demand that the author tone her down to something more plausible. Pauli Murray (born Anna Pauline Murray) was a poet, a lawyer, a civil rights activist, an educator, and the first female African-American to be ordained as an Episcopalian priest.  She helped co-found both CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in 1942 and NOW (National Organization for Women) in 1966.  She was turned down when she applied for a position at Cornell University because her references (Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, and Philip Randolph) were too radical. In her younger days, she’d been turned down from attending the University of North Carolina (which her ancestors had helped found) because she was Black and from attending Harvard because she was female. Her reply to Harvard was classic.

“I would gladly change my sex to meet your requirements, but since the way to such change has not been revealed to me, I have no recourse but to appeal to you to change your minds. Are you to tell me that one is as difficult as the other?”

Pauli Murray was arrested for sitting in the wrong part of the bus fifteen years before Rosa Parks, and for following Gandhi’s example of peaceful civil disobedience while Martin Luther King was still in short pants. She led sit-ins in Washington, DC during WWII.

Saturday afternoon, April 22, 1944, Pauli Murray and fellow students from Howard University began a demonstration at Thompson’s, at Eleventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, a cafeteria only a few blocks from the White House.  Some picketed outside.  Some, including Pauli, went inside and asked to order. The cafeteria refused to serve them, so they took empty trays to vacant tables and sat down. Pauli, as the only female law student at Howard University at the time, was spokeswoman for the group.  Politely but firmly, she reminded the staff at Thompson’s that Washington, DC, law did not require segregation.  It was custom, not legally required.

Police watched the picketers and the crowd gathering to protest the protesters to make sure no laws were broken, but they did not interfere. The posters said:

  • “Are you for HITLER’S Way (Race Supremacy) or the AMERICAN Way (Equality)?  Make Up Your Mind!”
  •  “We Die Together.  Why Can’t We Eat Together?”
  • “Our Boys, our Bonds, our Brothers are Fighting for YOU!  Why Can’t We Eat Here?”

The students from Howard entered the restaurant in small groups, two or three at a time.  They continued to occupy tables, preventing paying customers from eating.  Six African-American soldiers, who were not involved with the demonstration and had not known Thompson’s didn’t serve African-Americans, came in to get a meal.  White soldiers and sailors were already inside Thompson’s eating.  When the manager refused to serve them, they, too, sat down at empty tables and read the newspapers, rather than going elsewhere to look for somewhere that would serve Blacks.  By five o’clock that evening, there were fifty-six demonstrators (including the soldiers) taking up tables.  Thompson’s was losing money.  The manager asked them to leave, but Pauli pointed out they were not breaking any laws.  The district supervisor of the Thompson’s chain came and asked them to leave.  Pauli refused, politely.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. will do years later, she was practicing civil disobedience (with an emphasis on the civility).  Finally, after telephone consultations with Thompson’s main office in Chicago, the restaurant agreed to serve them, after four and a half hours of peaceful sit-in.  The cafeteria’s waitresses refused to serve African-American customers, so the manager and the district supervisor had to act as waiters.

Pauli, being a law student at the time, knew the First Amendment and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

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“What is often called exceptional ability is nothing more than persistent endeavor.” Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray was born November 20, 1910, in Baltimore, Maryland.  She died July 1, 1985 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In between 1910 and 1985, she fought against racism and sexism.  She was the first African-American Deputy Attorney General for the state of California.  In 1947, Mademoiselle Magazine named her Woman of the Year. She wrote poems, essays, and books. She was the first African-American to earn a doctorate of law at Yale University.  She taught law at several colleges, both in the United States and Ghana.

She held these truths to be self-evident:  that all men and women are created equal.




Hero of the First Amendment: Richard Allen

First Amendment of the Constitution:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Related image Bishop Richard Allen, 1760 – 1831

Richard Allen is an important figure in American history, especially the history of religion and civil rights in this country. He founded both the Free African Society,  a “non-denominational religious mutual-aid society dedicated to helping the Black community,” and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which later spun off the A. M. E. Zion Church and the C. M. E. Church.

Richard Allen was probably born in 1760, in or near Philadelphia.  He was born a slave, which means his birth was probably not recorded at the time.  February 14, 1760 is given as his usual birth date, which makes today his 257th birthday, and he was born in Pennsylvania or Delaware.  As a teenager he converted to Methodism and became a lay preacher.  His owner, Stokeley Sturgis, also converted to Methodism, and permitted Richard Allen and his other slaves the opportunity to purchase their freedom.  (He did not convert in so holy a manner and to so generous a heart that he freed them without at least partial reimbursement for the loss of their labor.) He bought his freedom in 1783 (some sources say 1780) for $2,000.  In 1786, “joined St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, where he became active in teaching and preaching.”  He often preached at all-Black services early on Sunday mornings, at 5:00 a.m.  However, when he and other Black members of the congregation attended the regular services later in the day, they were required to be segregated from the white members of the congregation.

Details differ as to the great walk-out of St. George’s by the Black congregation members.  It may have been in 1787 or 1792.  It may have been because visitors to the church did not realize they were sitting in the “whites only” section of the church or it may have been a deliberate attempt at integration by Allen’s friend, Absalom Jones.  Some versions of the story claim the church forced segregated seating on the congregation without warning, and this was the first — and last — Sabbath they did so.  What is sure is this:  African-Americans sat in the “white pews.”  An usher tried to tell them to move, but as he was doing so, it was the time in the service to kneel for prayer.  They refused to move until prayers were over and scolded the usher for interrupting the prayers.  When the prayers ended, they rose to their feet and walked out of the church.  Richard Allen and Absalom Jones led all the other Black members of the church out.

Absalom Jones was the first African-American to be officially ordained in the United States; he chose to join the Episcopal Church.  Richard Allen did not want to leave the Methodist church, but decided that what was needed was a church where African-Americans could worship together.

“I was confident that there was no religious sect or denomination would suit the capacity of the colored people as well as the Methodist; for the plain and simple Gospel suits best for any people.”

Using his own money, Richard Allen bought an old blacksmith’s shop and established the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Bishop Francis Asbury consecrated the building. He also ordained Allen.

Richard Allen Richard Allen, circa 1784

Having been a slave himself, Allen naturally became an abolitionist. Both his home and Bethel Church were stops on the Underground Railroad.  He worked for better conditions and civil rights for free African-Americans, especially education.  He opened a school for African-American children.  He wrote articles on the evils of slavery,  on the brotherhood of slaves and free Blacks, on religious topics, and on African-Americans staying in the United States and improving themselves, gaining self-determination, rather than freed slaves going back to Africa.

“We will never separate ourselves voluntarily from the slave population in this country; they are our brethren and we feel there is more virtue in suffering privations with them than fancied advantage for a season.”

The local white Methodist Episcopal churches tried to exercise authority over Bethel Church, but Allen fought them in court. January 1, 1816, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ruled the church belonged to Allen and his associates. In that same year, Allen “united four African-American congregations of the Methodist Church in Philadelphia; Salem, New Jersey; Delaware and Maryland. Together they founded the independent denomination of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first fully independent black denomination in the United States. On April 10, 1816, the other ministers elected Allen as their first bishop.”

Bishop Richard Allen died on March 26, 1831,  at his home on Spruce Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was buried under Bethel Church, which is considered the Mother Church of the AME Church.

Biographies of Bishop Richard Allen
Richard Allen, The Life, Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, Written by Himself (Philadelphia, 1793; reprinted Nashville: Abingdon, 1960)

Carol V. R. George, Richard Allen and the Emergence of Independent Black Churches (New York: Oxford University, 1973)

Richard Newman, Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church and the Black Founding Fathers (NYC: NYU Press, 2008)


Happy St. Valentine’s Day.

Happy African-American History Month.

Happy Richard Allen’s Birthday.

Hero of the First Amendment: Ida B. Wells

First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Mary Garrity - Ida B. Wells-Barnett - Google Art Project - restoration crop.jpg Ida Bell Wells-Barnett

Who was Ida B. Wells?  She was an American heroine.  She was a teacher, a journalist, a lecturer, and a civil rights activist. She fought for freedom of the press and freedom of speech.  She worked to publicize the evils of lynching and fought to stop it.  She worked for female suffrage and equal rights for men and women, white and Black.

Ida Bell Wells was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862. When her parents and one of her brothers died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1878, she became a teacher to support herself and her remaining siblings, so the family would not need to be split up among various relatives. She eventually moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where teachers earned better pay, although she still earned less than white teachers.

“On May 4, 1884, a train conductor with the Memphis and Charleston Railroad ordered Wells to give up her seat in the first-class ladies car and move to the smoking car, which was already crowded with other passengers.” She refused, and was forcibly removed from the train. She sued. A local circuit court awarded her $500, but the railroad appealed, and the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the case.

Wells began writing for newspapers, mostly on racial issues.  She became editor and co-owner of the Free Speech and Headlight in 1889.  In 1891, she lost her teaching job when the Memphis Board of Education disapproved of her articles criticizing the condition of the “colored” schools in Shelby County.  In 1892, she began in earnest the crusade for which she is most famous:  publicizing the evils of lynching, and explaining that lynching was not the result of white justice-seekers too impatient to wait for the courts, but of white businessmen and leaders determined to stop African-American economic competition and social improvement.  In 1892, Tom Moss, an African-American grocery store owner and a friend of Ida B. Wells, was arrested for defending his store from white vandals.  He and his business partners, Calvin McDowell and Will Stewart, were dragged from the jail and murdered by a lynch mob.

Wells not only wrote about her friend’s lynching.  She traveled the south for two months, investigating other lynchings and collecting statistics.  When she wrote about her findings, especially  that lynchings were not the result of Black men raping white women, a mob in Memphis broke into her newspaper office and destroyed her printing press.  She was out of Tennessee at the time, and was warned not to return to Memphis.  She traveled in the north and the midwest, writing and lecturing about lynching. She went to Europe on a lecture tour.

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Unable to return safely to Memphis, she settled in Chicago, where she and Frederick Douglass organized a boycott of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. She, Douglass, Irvine G. Pen, and her future husband, attorney Ferdinand L. Barnett, co-wrote a pamphlet explaining Reasons Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition. More than 20,000 copies of the pamphlet were passed out to visitors to the exposition.

Ida B. Wells married Ferdinand L. Barnett, an African-American lawyer and journalist, in 1895. He was a widower, with two sons by his first wife.  He and Ida B. Wells-Barnett (one of the first women to keep her own name after marriage) had four children together.

 The Ida B. Wells-Barnett House, a National Historical Landmark in Chicago, IL, is where Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Ferdinand L. Barnett lived from 1919-1930.

In addition to her many newspaper articles and speeches on lynching, Ida B. Wells-Barnett wrote two pamphlets, both of which are out of copyright and available on-line.  In Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, published in 1892, she examined the causes of lynching and suggested that African-Americans use their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves.

The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honour in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great a risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.

In 1895, she published The Red Recordwhich examined lynchings since the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.  Most white northerners were either unaware or refused to believe how widespread lynching was in the south.  Wells-Barnett explained “ten thousand Negroes have been killed in cold blood,  without the formality of judicial trial and legal execution” since slavery had ended.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Ida B. Wells-Barnett tried to balance raising her family with fighting against lynching, fighting for women’s suffrage, and working for urban reform for the many African-Americans who were fleeing the dangers and poverty of the south to come to northern cities looking for a better life.  She founded the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the National Afro-American Council in 1896. In 1909, she helped W. E. B. DuBois found the NAACP.  She founded the Negro Fellowship League in 1910.  She died in Chicago, March 25, 1931.

Image result for ida b wells Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Her home in Chicago is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is currently a private home and not open to tours. The Bolling-Gatewood House in Holly Springs, MS, once the home of Spires Bolling, the man who owned her as a child, is now the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum. Several schools are named after her, including the Ida B. Wells Academy in Memphis and the Ida B. Wells Preparatory Elementary Academy in Chicago.

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Sweet and Sour, Food and Fascism

I was going to write about another hero of the First Amendment this week, maybe Ida B. Wells or Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Then the president’s executive order on immigrants and refugees was issued, and before I could set fingers to keyboard, Sally Yates was fired for doing her job. At that point I thought about my friends flooding Facebook with kittens, to distract us from the Kafkaesque political situation.  Maybe I’d just post a few of my favorite cookie recipes.  (If nothing else, it would prevent me from losing my chocolate chocolate-chip cookie recipe again.)  Think about something other than the fact that Trump’s administration seems to being trying to attempt a coup.

But no, that is what the current regime wants us to do.  They want us to give up.  They want outrage fatigue. So I’ll share the sweet, like my cookie recipes, and I’ll rant about the sour, like our president ignoring the U. S. Constitution.  I’ll talk about food, and I’ll talk about fighting 21st century fascism.

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies

1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips, M&Ms, etc.

Preheat oven to 350.
Beat butter, sugar, eggs, & vanilla.
Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, & salt in another bowl.
Slowly stir dry ingredients into butter mixture until well blended.
Mix in chocolate chips, M&Ms, chopped nuts, white chocolate chips, or whatever add-in you prefer.
Drop by rounded teaspoons on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8-10 minutes.
Cool slightly on cookie sheets before transferring to cooling racks.

Who is Sally Yates and What Did She Do?


Sally Yates was the Acting Attorney General, until yesterday. She refused to have Department of Justice attorneys defend the executive order banning travelers from seven nations. President Trump fired her, using on of his favorite insults “weak.” He accused her of betraying the nation.

Ironically, when the Senate confirmed Ms. Yates for her position, Senator Jeff Sessions — Trump’s as-yet-unconfirmed nomination for Attorney General — asked her if she would say no to the president if he requested her to do something unconstitutional.  She did so, and she was fired.

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

Crackle Cookies

1 box of cake mix, any flavor
1/2 cup shortening
1 tbsp water
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Mix together with spoon.
Batter will be stiff.
Roll into balls.
(Optional) roll balls in sugar.
Place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.
Makes two dozen cookies.

What’s an Emolument, and is President Trump Accepting Any?

An emolument is “a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.” In this context, it refers to a politician accepting baksheesh from a foreign power, a private individual, or a company that wishes to influences him. Article I, Section 9 of the U. S. Constitution states “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Some ethics experts claim that Donald Trump’s many investments and debts overseas create a conflict of interest.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and a United Arab Emirates tourism agency both rent office space in Trump Tower in New York City.  Many foreign diplomats stay at his hotel in Washington, DC, some admittedly hoping to curry favor with him by doing so.  There is some doubt as to whether his lease of the Old Washington Post Office building is even legal, now that he is the president.

Sugar Cookies (My Mom’s Recipe)

  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Cream margarine and sugar.
  2. Add eggs; beat well.
  3. Blend in dry ingredients & vanilla.
  4. Chill dough.
  5. Roll out dough 1/4 ” thick and cut on lightly floured surface.
  6. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet, 8-10 minutes at 400 F.

Kellyanne Conway Doesn’t Understand the First Amendment

Kellyanne Conway complained that journalists who said unkind things about the president hadn’t been fired for their horrible actions. She doesn’t seem to understand that a free press is guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution.  Journalists reporting the news are required to be truthful, not kind.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”  Just in case Ms. Conway isn’t familiar with Mr. Jefferson, he was the third president of the United States of America.

My Son’s Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter (or margarine)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  2. Beat sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  3. Slowly stir in flour mixture.
  4. Chill 2 hours (or more).
  5. Roll out dough and cut out cookies.
  6. Dough should be ¼” thick.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 F on an ungreased baking sheet.

How to Impeach the President

The president can only be impeached and removed from office for “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Here’s a quick and easy explanation. Here’s a somewhat flip explanation. Basically, the House of Representatives votes on whether or not to impeach the president.  The Senate then votes on whether or not to convict him.  It’s a difficult process, especially when the majority of Congress belongs to the same party as the president.  Are his current actions severe enough to warrant impeachment?


Is DJT Ready to be President? IMHO, No!

Today is the last full day of B. H. Obama’s term. Tomorrow, about lunch time, D. J. Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. In my opinion, DJT is not qualified for the position, and I strongly suspect he will last less than two years before resigning, being impeached, or death. (Irish betting site Paddy Power is giving 8 to 1 odds that DJT won’t last six months in the White House.) However, as of tomorrow, he will be the president, and I will try to respect the office, as little as I trust the man who will hold it. I have friends and relatives who say I’m overreacting. A writing acquaintance thinks he’ll be a good leader. An old high school classmate says I’m unfair in not giving him a chance. I have relatives who admit DJT is imperfect, but still think HRC would have been worse.

I hope they’re right and I’m wrong. For the sake of our future, for the sake of our nation, I hope to high Heaven I’m wrong.

Donald Trump at a political rally in San Jose, CA.

[Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images,  from my  Reagan endorsed over Trump article]

I, personally, am in little danger from DJT. I am too old and too chubby to attract him, and unlikely to ever meet him in person. I’m WASP, so I have less to fear than my African-American, Native American, atheist, Jewish, and Pagan friends. I have pre-existing health conditions, but not nearly as serious as some of my friends, who face death and/or bankruptcy if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a suitable replacement ready to put in its place. But I have a son who just signed up with Selective Service (couldn’t apply to a state college without proof of doing so) and the man who will be Commander in Chief in approximately 24 hours has a thin skin, a short temper, and an apparent inability to take what he perceives as an insult without responding.

I know we’ve had presidents who were adulterers before, and some of them were good leaders, despite their despicable personal habits. I don’t remember any presidents who were as indiscreet about their infidelity as DJT has been with his three wives.

Donald Trump with third wife, Melania Trump.

[Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images, from my Trump’s feud with Cruz article]

President Grant went bankrupt after his presidency (presidents did not receive a pension at the time), but DJT has had six bankruptcies already. One or two could be understandable, but six, for a successful businessman, seems excessive.

“Like master, like man.” Many of his choices for his administration are unqualified for their posts. Many have conflicts of interest. Many have ungenerous opinions on LGBT civil rights and feminism. Indeed, many of my friends fear a President Pence more than they fear a President Trump.

I find Trump’s “bromance” with Putin troubling. I find the probability of Russian meddling with the American election disgusting.

What concerns me most are his ethics and character. DJT has had hundreds of lawsuits filed against him because of breaking contracts and not paying his bills. Any businessman will face some lawsuits, of course, both as a plaintiff and as a defendant, but DJT has decades of complaints that he has welched on debts and not paid employees and subcontractors what they were owed. His charitable foundation is under investigation for fraud. He made generous donations to state attorney generals who then conveniently dropped investigating the Trump University case, which wound up being settled out of court. He has multiple conflicts of interest, from the North Dakota pipeline to foreign debts. If he’s not an ethical businessman, how can he be an ethical president?

His character is “unpresidented.” He switches opinions like a weather vane, then denies his former statements, even when it’s recorded. He does not seem to know the difference between truth or falsehood, or if he knows, he does not care. Mrs. Clinton said he was too thin-skinned to be commander in chief, and for once, I agree with her. DJT is short-tempered, thin-skinned, and quick to respond (and overreact) to perceived insults. Those who know him claim his attention span is very short. He refuses to read long reports, wanting complex information condensed down to a single page. It is rumored he does not read books. He prefers Twitter over any other method of communication. He has a history of racist and misogynistic comments.

I am not a psychologist, so I cannot say whether he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I can say that he appears very self-centered and mean-spirited.

I am frightened for my country with Donald J. Trump in the White House. I hope I am wrong; I fear I am not.

[Feature Image via Pixabay]

Hidden Figures

Minor Spoilers: proceed at your own risk.

Hidden Figures is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year, and  it deserves to win a few Oscars.

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Hidden Figures tells the story of three African-American women who worked for NASA in the early days of the space program. Taraji P. Henson from Person of Interest and Empire plays Katherine Goble Johnson, a brilliant mathematician. The real Dr. Johnson celebrated her 98th birthday last summer and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.  Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughn, unofficial supervisor of the “Colored Computers” pool, who has the duties of a supervisor, but neither the pay nor the title.  Janelle Monáe plays Mary Jackson, a mathematician whose supervisor wants her to train to be an engineer … something impossible for a Negress in Virginia in the 1960s.

Hidden Figures is a movie about overcoming prejudice.  Hidden Figures is a love story between a handsome colonel and a beautiful mathematician.  Hidden Figures is a portrait of the problems of working mothers (both single mothers and women with husbands to help them). Hidden Figures is a window into the past, to a time not very long ago, but very different.

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The Colored Computers meet John Glenn.    Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary at a chuch picnic

[Images via Fox 2000]

It’s important as a glimpse into the past:  Mrs. Vaughn being escorted from the public library when she goes into the white section instead of the colored section, white and colored water fountains, segregated busing, segregated bathrooms, dial telephones, a courting couple waiting until they’ve known each other for months before their first kiss, computers being a new, strange, and incredibly bulky thing.  For the modern generation, who’ve gotten working calculators as Happy Meal toys, the lack of electronic computers may be the hardest thing to comprehend.

Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, The Untouchables) does a great job as Al Harrison, Katherine’s boss, who desegregates the bathrooms when he learns the reason Katherine takes such long breaks is because the nearest Colored Women’s bathroom is in another building, half a mile away.  Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory) plays engineer Paul Stafford, who looks down on Katherine not only because she’s Colored, but because she’s only a computer. Astronaut John Glenn is portrayed by Glen Powell, who looks at Katherine as though he’s fallen in love when she solves a complicated equation in front of him, and when the new IBM computer has problems, he requests that she double-check its math. Mahershala Ali plays Colonel Jim Johnson, the man who falls in love with Katherine, and Aldis Hodge from Leverage plays Mary’s husband, Levi Jackson.

Katherine JohnsonKatherine G. Johnson [Image via NASA]

Hidden Figures is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and I cannot recommend it too highly. If you’re a parent, you may want to set the stage for your children by explaining some of the background first.  You’ll definitely want to discuss it with them afterwards.  I can’t wait until this comes out on DVD, because I want to own this one, and I’m definitely going to the library to see if they have the book it’s based on, Hidden Figures:  The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by  Margot Lee Shetterly.




Honor Harrington

After being on my read-eventually list for years, I finally got around to reading David Weber‘s Honor Harrington books.  I have now read five of the first six books (haven’t read #5 yet) and am about 100 pages into the seventh book.  They are exceedingly well written and I am hooked.  Weber has a complex social and technological background for his books, and three-dimensional characters.

Honor Harrington, the heroine of the “Honorverse,” is a naval officer for the Star Kingdom of Manticore.  She is human, but a “genie,” i.e., descended from genetically engineered ancestors to better survive living on a planet with slighter higher gravity than Manticore or Old Earth.  Honor is a feature of her character as well as her name: she is intelligent, brave, loyal, patriotic, with a strong sense of duty and justice.

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As a child, Honor was adopted by a treecat, a six-legged creature from her home planet, Sphinx.  She shares an empathic bond with her ‘cat, Nimitz.  Honor believes (correctly) that treecats are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for.  Treecat adoptions are respected in the Star Kingdom of Manticore.  Seven of the last nine monarchs, including the current Queen Elizabeth III, have been adopted by ‘cats.  Therefore, Nimitz accompanies her on her vessels and even attended the academy with her.

David Weber limits the profanity in these books.  Although there is some swearing, including occasional use of a certain four-letter word that rhymes with duck, it is limited to situations and characters where such vocabulary is actually in character.  Unlike the late Tom Clancy, he doesn’t feel the need to drop F-bombs like confetti.

My only complaint with the books thus far is that the Honorverse has certain similarities with the Albion Empire of my own “Captain’s Claim.”  This is not unusual, not even unpredictable.  Weber and I both read the Horatio Hornblower books when we were younger — he even dedicates the first book of the series to C. S. Forester and has Honor reading one of the Hornblower books as pleasure reading in one of the later books.  Both of us watched the Star Wars series of movies, as well as old movies like The Sea Hawk and goodness knows how many other books, TV shows, and movies with space empires.  Elizabeth Moon and Lois McMaster Bujold have also written SF books where  the hero serves in the starfleet of a space empire with a very formal society.  I’m just not looking forward to being accused of copycatting from Mr. Weber, when I’ve been working on Captain’s Claim, off and on, since 1996.

So far I’ve read the first four books in the series, the sixth book, and I’ve started on the seventh.  I’ve been ignoring both housework and ghostwriting in favor of reading these books; they’re hard to put down.  If you like military SF, give David Weber’s Honor Harrington books a try.

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If you like strong women in a western setting, try Juliette Douglas’ Freckled Venom series.

And if you want to buy my western e-book, Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid, I won’t complain.

[Feature Image Galaxy M101: Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI]

The Joys of the Slush Pile

Slush pile:  the unsolicited manuscripts received by a publisher, often of dubious quality.

I’m familiar with slush piles from both sides.  As a (very) minor author, I submit stories and poems to them.  As one of the “first readers” for a science fiction magazine, I read through them, attempting to filter the wheat from the chaff.

Four years ago, Patricia Wrede wrote a blog about slush piles in the style of Judith Viorst’s childhood classic, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  I wasn’t able to reblog it, so I’m giving a link so you can read it yourself.  Please do.  It’s hilarious.

Alexandria and the Terrible, Horrible Parody Piece

The stack of manuscripts is two feet tall and even from here I can see that there’s a pile of pink pages in the middle and a smear down the side where somebody spilled coffee down it and I just know it is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad slush pile.

Wendy Glaas wrote “The Truth about the Slush Pile,” telling of her time as an intern for a literary agency.

I did take my sentinel duties seriously. At first, I imagined unearthing the next National Book Award winner or, at the very least, the next Twilight series. I’d find an unpolished gem for Kate Epstein, head of our agency. I’d make a name for my brilliant editorial and marketing instincts, for finding a fresh new narrative. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to discover that slush pile diving is far from glamorous.

Rachelle Gardner explains why writers whose stories never make it out of the slush pile so seldom find out “Why, Oh Why Did I Get Rejected?”  The late Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote an article years ago well worth reading, “Why Did My Story Get Rejected?

The truth about slush piles?  Almost every author spends time there.  There’s no shame to it, so dive right in with the rest of us.  If your story is neatly composed (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) and set in the proper format (most publishers prefer Shunn’s manuscript format), you stand a fighting chance.  If it’s misspelled, formatted oddly, or written in purple crayon, you’re reducing your odds of being taken seriously, even if you’re the reincarnation of Ernest Hemingway. Be patient.  The magazine I’m a first reader for currently has over 600 stories in the slush pile, and almost all first readers have “real” jobs, as well as being writers themselves.  Your story may be your top priority, but sorry, it isn’t the slush pile reader’s.  Very few magazines can afford to hire full time slush pile divers; most rely on volunteers, friends, or people doing it for networking opportunities and petty cash. Remember, a perfectly good story may be rejected because it’s not right for that particular publisher.  It may be exactly what another publisher is looking for.  There are other markets.  Re-submit it elsewhere.  Submit it to as many slush piles as necessary.  Persistence is as necessary a quality in a writer as proper proofreading.

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Read Patricia Wrede’s books.  They’re good.  Really good.

Read my books.  They’re not as good as hers, but I need the money.

Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid (e-book only) western short stories

R is for Renaissance Faire children’s book, a pictoral guide to RenFaires

Sword and Sorceress #30 containing my fantasy story “The Piper’s Wife”

Supernatural Colorado containing my horror story “Thank You, Thad”

Barbarian Crowns containing my fantasy stories “Vixen’s Song” and “Two Princes”

Feature Image: Patricia Wrede (image via Wikipedia by way of Google Images)

Hero of the First Amendment: Roger Williams

First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

As I write this, it is Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day/Wren Day/the First Day of Kwanzaa.  It is the day after Christmas.  Some people think there is a war on Christmas.  Some people say the United States of America is a Christian nation. Others say it isn’t a Christian nation.  The First Amendment, quoted above, clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  This is generally referred to as the separation of church and state, a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists.  But Jefferson wasn’t the source of this idea.  He got the notion from Roger Williams.

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“When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the candlestick, and made His garden a wilderness, as at this day.”

Roger Williams, as most of us learned in elementary school, was the founder of Rhode Island.  Roger Williams was born in London, circa 1603 (his birth records were destroyed in the Great Fire of London and the exact date is unknown).  He was educated at Cambridge University. Although ordained into the Church of England, he came to believe the church was corrupt and in need of reform.  He also — and this was one of the leading principles of his life — believed the church should be separated from the state.  Even in 2016, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is technically head of the Church of England, and in the 17th century, the ties between monarch and church were far stronger.  At that time the notion of cuius regio, eius religio (that the citizens of a nation should follow the religion of the nation’s ruler) was taken for granted.  

Williams became a Puritan.  He and his wife left England and came to Boston in 1631. Continuing his soul-seeking, left the Puritans and became a Baptist for a time. His religious and political opinions affected not only his ability to keep a job, but led to his being convicted of sedition and heresy in 1635.  Banished from Massachusetts, he went to what is now Rhode Island, creating a safe haven for those “distressed of conscience.” His settlement welcomed Christians of various denominations and beliefs, including Baptists, Quakers, Anabaptists, Antinomians, and Jews.Williams knew Anne Marbury Hutchinson and her sister Katherine Marbury Scott and may have been influenced by their religious opinions. (Disclaimer:  Katherine Scott is my ten-times-great-grandmother.  Her son-in-law, Christopher Holder, my nine-times-great-grandfather, was arrested, flogged, and jailed for being a Quaker preacher in a Puritan town.)  Eventually Williams decided not to be affiliated with any church, although he continued his personal quest for becoming closer to God his entire life and was active in preaching and prayer until his death.

“Forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God.”

Williams despised forced worship.  Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience were critical to him; he referred to the attempt of the state to compel belief as “rape of the soul.”  He also believed that a state could and should enforce civil order and justice without being based on Christianity, a belief most of his contemporaries found ludicrous at best and heretical at worst.  Although he had originally intended to be a missionary to the Native Americans, he came to believe that the Native Americans were entitled to their own culture and beliefs.  He firmly believed that the king did not have the right to grant their land to English settlers without their knowledge and consent, and always insisted on paying tribes for their land.

Roger Williams

Roger Williams was a clergyman, a writer, a linguist, a merchant, a peacemaker, a philosopher, and a colonial leader.  He and his wife, Mary Bernard Williams, had six children, all of whom were born in North America.  He died in 1683.  Like his contemporary Anne Hutchinson, he was one of the founders of the principles of religious freedom and tolerance in this country.


“The sovereign power of all civil authority is founded in the consent of the people.”

“God is too large to be housed under one roof.”

“There goes many a ship to sea, with many hundred souls in one ship, whose weal and woe is common, and is a true picture of a commonwealth or a human combination or society. It hath fallen out sometimes that Papists, Protestants, Jews, and Turks may be embarked in one ship; upon which supposal I affirm that all the liberty of conscience that ever I pleaded for turns upon these two hinges: that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks be forced to come to the ships prayers or worship, nor be compelled [restrained] from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any.”

“That cannot be a true religion that needs carnal weapons to uphold it.”

“It is less hurtful to compel a man to marry someone whom he does not love than to follow a religion in which he does not believe.”

“Men’s consciences ought in no sort to be violated, urged, or constrained.”