Stranger Things

Today’s post will be another quick one, as I am still very deep in writing, and it’s going well. I just want to alert those of you with Netflix to a remarkable 8-part series, set in 1983, called Stranger Things. It’s kind of Firestarter meets Jean Grey of the X-Men, with a little It thrown in. I’ve heard Stephen King is a fan, and I don’t doubt it. The series owes a lot to him, and I don’t just mean his trademark, the seamless intermingling of horror and real life. Like King’s best work, Stranger Things spotlights children in an unusually believable way, provides interesting backstories to virtually all adult characters, and unfolds at a unhurried, masterful pace.

Stranger Things stars 80s staples Winona Ryder (with a haircut straight out of the movie Silkwood) and Matthew Modine, who some of you might remember as the hunk from Vision Quest. It also features several future stars, including Millie Bobby Brown as El and Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin.

That’s it. Enough from me! Go watch it.

Stranger Things Poster

Dispatches from Cornwall, Part #4

Hello! I’m currently at that stage of writing where my answer to everyone, in virtually all situations, is, “Not now, I’m working on the book.” But I’ll pause this morning to upload some more pics relating to my  June 2016 trip to England’s southwest country.

Rhododendrons are everywhere in Cornwall. Even a “routine” drive along the freeway was enlivened by bursts of color.

Rhododendron London Park

(My collection.)

Climbing roses. The notion of a rose-covered English cottage is quite real and just as lovely as you might imagine.

Climbing roses

(My collection.)

Lupines are another flower I frequently encountered. It’s no exaggeration to say that on every twenty-minute ramble along a footpath, I could have collected a bouquet of wildflowers.

Lupines in vase

(My collection.)

Chamomile flowers were also common, particularly in Plymouth (which is in the neighboring county of Devon).


(My collection.)

Variations on the English rose were everywhere: formal gardens, public greens, churchyards. They occupied pride of place in many front gardens, each specimen’s health and beauty a testament to the homeowner’s hard work. When the hired car got a flat and we awaited rescue, I enjoyed the neighborhood’s roses. They were just as fine as the ones I’d admired at St. Michael’s Mount the day before.

Damask rose

(My collection.)

All right, I must get back to writing. Have a wonderful weekend.


Dispatches from Cornwall, Part #3

Hello again. It’s Saturday and I plan to spend the weekend writing, so here’s another post that’s essentially just snapshots from my latest visit to the Mother Ship, England.

Fans of Poldark won’t be surprised to learn I spent a day at St. Agnes, which is part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site. Because I was still recovering from surgery, I didn’t actually get to walk among the abandoned mines. (Too much of a climb.) However, I could see them, even from far below:

2016-06-05 12.34.11-1

Here’s a much better professional photo of a tin mine, purchased a couple of years ago:

Cornish Tin Mine

From my collection.

According to The Little Book of Cornwall (a book I highly recommend for Anglophiles), “Most of the national Trust’s stately homes in Cornwall were built on the profits of our mineral trade.” That declined in the 1800s and disappeared altogether in the 1900s, but one wonders if the knockers remain in those deserted shafts. To learn about the knockers, also called Tommyknockers, click here.

More of my snapshots from St. Agnes:

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My favorite view.

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A holiday cottage for rent. (Or “to let,” as I should say.)

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Entrance to a old shaft.

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Another lovely view.

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A dreamy version of St. Agnes as viewed by me and optimized by Instagram. 

Have a safe and happy weekend.

Everything I Ever Needed To Know as a Writer, I Learned From the X-Men

It’s July 3rd and I am still embroiled in writing, so here’s a quick post for the next week. When I was 11, my good friend Rosemary O’Malley introduced me to the Uncanny X-Men. Here’s just a smattering of the lessons I learned.

Sometimes heroes and villains just have to take off their masks and have a rational (if contentious) discussion. The villain might even be genuinely horrified to hear that one of his adversaries is dead.


First issue I ever bought, Uncanny X-Men #150 (Claremont/Cockrum/Marvel).

The best villains are capable of human emotion, including remorse.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Cockrum/Marvel)

There are times when a tricky scene is best viewed through the eyes of a character who stands apart.


Uncanny X-men (Claremont/Byrne/Marvel)

Even the closest relationships have their angry moments, especially if the dynamic is mentor/mentee or parent/child.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Cockrum/Marvel)

When good people do terrible things, the root cause is always the same.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Byrne/Marvel)

Different leadership styles may be called for, and surprising results may occur.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Byrne/Marvel)

Change is never easy.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Romita, Jr./Marvel)

Even tough guys can be paralyzed by fear.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Byrne/Marvel)

The most interesting hero/villain dynamics are based on similarities as well as differences.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Cockrum/Marvel)

Your most impulsive character may literally throw himself off a cliff rather than quit while ahead. Also: it’s glorious to see a hero do something stupid when that stupid action entirely in keeping with their characterization.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Romita, Jr./Marvel)

There is such a thing as a genuine change of heart. But amends and trust-building won’t come easy.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Marvel)

There’s all kinds of toughness (emotional, intellectual, physical) and all kinds of heroic people, from pretty ladies to growling savages.


Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Smith/Marvel)

It’s natural to look back on your old writing and want to cringe, laugh, or kill it with fire.


Uncanny X-Men (Lee/Adams/Marvel)

Note: it’s difficult to credit anything as collaborative as comics properly, but let me give a shout out to Glynis Oliver and Tom Orzechowski, who hand-colored and hand-lettered most of the panels I included, back in the day.

The complete stories these panels were pulled from can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other retailers.

Dispatches from Devon: Dartmouth

Hello! I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful holiday weekend. Me, I am writing. Thank goodness, nothing makes me happier than the times when it really flows. So here’s a quick peek at some of my snaps from a visit to Dartmouth Castle, Devon.

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Dartmouth village. We drove to the village of Knightswear and took the ferry across the river Dart. I love all that green. 

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Celtic cross on the grave of a local drowning victim.

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Inside the castle.

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The River Dart.


Here’s a gorgeous shot of Knightswear and the River Dart that I found on Wikimedia Commons. (credit: Herbythyme

And last but certainly not least, some flying quadcopter footage of the castle and grounds. (Credit: SparkoRC)



Game of Thrones Predictions: How Will The Characters End Up?

Disclaimer: I may get silly. Feel free to dispute my ideas in the comments or offer theories of your own.


Jon Snow, make that Stark-ish, make that Targaryen. (HBO)

Jon Snow: I hope he gets a happily-ever-after, but a bittersweet pyrrhic  victory from George R. R. Martin wouldn’t surprise me. Best case scenario, he and Daenerys make a political marriage that ultimately brings peace and prosperity back to Westeros. And perhaps in time they’ll grow to love one another as much as Ned and Catelyn did. Worst case: he turns out to be Azor Ahai and dies saving the land from the White Walkers.

Sansa Stark: Marries Littlefinger, is widowed again (see below), and takes the Vale for her seat, extending Stark rule beyond the North.

Arya Life and Lemons

(Via Game of Memes, Facebook)

Arya Stark: Reunites with Nymeria and cleans up the Riverlands with an assist from the Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners. Rules in Rivverrun, extending Stark rule beyond the North.

Bran Stark: Physically dies but wargs into one of Daenerys’s dragons. Lives out the rest of his days as a magnificent flying beast.

Stranger 3


Daenerys: Marries Jon and gets that happily-ever-after I’ve been brainwashed to expect from fictional ladies. Or dies along with her dragons to save Westeros. Or conquers Westeros, sets up a fledgling democratic state, and retires to the Summer Isles to conquer boogie boarding.

Tyrion: Revealed to be a Targaryen fathered by the Mad King. Prospers as either (1) the Hand of the Queen or (2) the Prime Minister of Dany’s new democratic state with Varys the Comptroller of Public Sentiment at his side.



Cersei: Strangled by Jaime.

Jaime: Dies in the arms of Brienne during the last battle.

Brienne: Dies gloriously during the last battle.

Sam Tarly


Samwell: Becomes a wizard, which automatically makes him Grand Maester. (After all, Pycelle is dead and the position has been posted.) First act as Grand Maester: changes the rules so maesters can marry. Second act: discovers something really helpful that contributes mightily to saving Westeros.

Littlefinger: Headfirst out the Moon Door. Remember his speech in “The Climb?” Time to fall.

Daario: Eaten by Drogon after betraying Dany.



The Hound: Knighted against his will by Arya for acts of heroism in the Riverlands. Also awarded a lifetime supply of chicken.

Theon and Yara: Down with the fleet to meet the Drowned God. The Iron Islands are given to Lyanna Mormont, extending that house’s influence far beyond Bear Island and teaching a fairly backward group about girl power, not to mention common decency.

Olenna Tyrell: Digs up some likely Tyrell bastard, legitimizes her, and plants her dynasty anew.

Red Woman Season 6


The Red Woman: Burned at the stake to forge/magically create Azor Ahai’s flaming sword Lightbringer.

Ellaria Sand: Makes Sand the official ruling house of Dorne. Seals the peace by marrying off the most annoying Sandsnake (a tough choice) to Robin Arryn, giving two loathsome creatures just what they deserve.

Davos: Created Lord of Dragonstone for his service to the realm.

Gendry: Still rowing.

Game of Thrones 6.10: “The Winds of Winter”


Don’t pretend you didn’t cheer. (Via Chelseab343 on Tumblr; HBO)

Last night’s season six finale was incredibly satisfying. Afterward, I wandered the web’s digital streets, reading tweets and posts and joining in the social media reaction. Tumblr is a place I rarely visit, because it’s such a treasure trove of GIFs and screencaps and witty observations; once I fall in, it’s devilish hard to climb out. But last night I gave in, and returned with some spot-on fan observations to spice up my recap.


Is it just me, or does she look a bit like a blonde Romulan?

King’s Landing: I loved the slow, deliberate way we saw the major players dress themselves and draw together for the trials of Ser Loras and Cersei. Like many fans, I expected Cersei to use the Wildfire option, and after watching the High Sparrow and his ilk humiliate, publicly mutilate, and disenfranchise Loras, I was eager to see the old fanatic go up like a Roman candle. But before it happened, we were treated to seeing Margaery drop the mask (“Forget about the bloody gods for a moment!”) and the High Sparrow’s face as he realized she’d played him.


(Via shanacus/Tumblr)

Farewell, Grand Maester Pycelle. Adieu, Lancel Lannister, you worthless numpty. Goodbye, Mace Tyrell. RIP Ser Loras, we’ll see you on the other side (Netflix’s upcoming superhero series, Iron Fist.) RIP Queen Margaery, who evaded or outwitted countless moronic males, but couldn’t quite escape the High Sparrow.


Even my cold, shriveled Grinch heart felt sorry for Loras as he stood there bleeding. (Credit: HBO)

And let’s all spare a moment to remember King Tommen, whose tragic end made me gasp. A pawn his entire life, he was manipulated by Cersei, by Margaery (however gently), and finally by the High Sparrow. It’s not quite hyperbole to say his suicide was the only major decision he ever made of his own free will. And while it was heartbreaking, he might work a miracle in death. More on that later.

Sam, Gilly, and the Citadel’s Library: How wonderful to see a kind, gentle soul get precisely what he deserves: access to the Westerosi version of the Library of Alexandria. Heaven knows what secrets he’ll uncover there. Remember in season one when he said he’d always wanted to be a wizard? And later in the season, when Maester Luwin said that like all young Citadel students, he tried his hand at magic? Now that dragons have returned to the world and cold winds are rising, perhaps Sam’s boyhood dream of being a wizard is within reach.


Goodbye Daario (smell ya later!) and hello, possible marriage alliance in Westeros.

Dany and Tyrion: Of course, I was pleased to see Daenerys cut Daario loose. I wanted him revealed as a villain and summarily executed, but alas. However, I can’t help but think we haven’t seen the last of him. When Euron and his ships get to Meeren, will Daario strike back at Dany by throwing in with the Ironborn? I still expect a betrayal from him.

How lovely to see Tyrion made Hand of the Queen! (And why on earth didn’t I see that coming?) Perhaps the fan theory about him being a secret Targaryen (and Dany’s half-brother) will come true next year.


“What’s your name? Barbara? Let the grown women speak.”

Olenna Tyrell Personally Redeems the Much-Maligned Dorne Subplot: Yeah, I hate Dorne. I did like George R. R. Martin’s novel-version of the Sandsnakes, but the TV translation left me cold. They seem like a softcore porn parody of the books’ trio: three hardbodied hotties whose only function is starring in Game of Bones VI: Dirty in Dorne, available for in-hotel room viewing for $29.99. But watching the vengeful Queen of Thorns verbally dispatch them with her trademark caustic wit was a thing of beauty.

Walder Frey

Considering all the young girls he abused, it’s fitting that a young girl killed him.

At Last, Walder Frey, At Last: All right, so it wasn’t how I imagined it. It was better. Walder Frey received the poetic, if disgusting, retribution he deserved, and Arya claimed vengeance for Catelyn and Robb. Immediately a few questions came to mind. Wasn’t she warned that wearing another’s face when you aren’t No One is like poison? Secretly killing the two Frey sons seems well within her skill set, but carving them up (unnoticed) and baking them into a pie (Arya baked? Arya??) has some logistical issues. Then again, I am reminded of when Steven Spielberg was shooting the finale of Jurassic Park, in which the T-Rex rather magically crashes in to save the heroes. Someone on-set famously asked, “But how did it get there?” To which Spielberg replied, “Who cares?” That’s pretty much the correct answer here.

Cersei Lannister, First of Her Name: Once again–why didn’t I see this coming? She took Tommen’s suicide pretty well. I think because Maggy the Frog’s prophecy assured her it would happen. And GoT superfans know what comes next:


(Via artofthrones/Tumblr)

Valonqar, of course, means “little brother” in High Valyrion. Cersei has always assumed her death would come at Tyrion’s hands. But it wasn’t Tyrion who rode up to see King’s Landing crippled by the very method he lost his honor to prevent. And it wasn’t Tyrion who stood in the gallery and stared at Cersei with what can only be called loathing. If Jaime takes poor Tommen’s end as hard as I think he has, perhaps the boy’s death isn’t entirely in vain.


Man bun firmly in place.

Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon Snow:  It’s a plot that stirs many of us at the most basic level. A highborn hero or heroine raised far from their rightful realm, forced to grow tough, smart, and resilient in ways a pampered royal brat never could. Many of us have expected the Tower of Joy reveal since season one. But Jon being declared the White Wolf, “the King in the North?” Once again, I’m sorry to admit, I never saw it coming.


(Via chelsea343/Tumblr; HBO)

Lady Lyanna Mormont’s impassioned speech was a highlight in an episode that felt like a feature-length highlight reel. If that little girl isn’t the reincarnation of Jon’s mother, she’s well-named, nonetheless.


(Via queenmormont/Tumblr)

Valar Morghulis: All posts must end. Especially when there are books to write. Therefore, I entirely skipped over many questions. What’s next for Sansa now that Littlefinger has professed his true desire? What was the design of Cersei’s crown meant to signify? Has Varys learned to teleport? Did Arya enlist Hot Pie’s help with her culinary masterpiece? (Knowing GRRM, that’s the whole reason Hot Pie was introduced in the first place.) It’s been an incredible season. I’ll leave you with a two more burning questions.


(Via frenchfilmelephant/Tumblr)


(Via salt-and-shade/Tumblr)




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