Monthly Archives: December 2013

Winter Darkness, Winter Malaise


Depressed? Seasonal or chronic? Both?

I’m seasonal. Cranky…irritable…and I’ve got the slows. Like I’m wading through mashed potatoes. My brain is tired of thinking and I don’t want to do anything but drink coffee, eat cookies and chocolate, and sleep until these symptoms disappear.

The world over, this is why in so many cultures, ‘the ancients’ invented a holiday to coincide with the dark cold days of winter. Call it what you will…

Were I to respond to the desires of my earthly body and ethereal spirit, I’d settle myself down for this long winter’s nap. I’d stop nagging on myself to get more things done, stop scolding myself for all I have not done, or done badly. I’d swath myself in flannel and get under a quilt.

And eat cookies.

In the Modern Era (ever wonder just how long the ‘Modern Era’ will last? and what we’ll call the next one?) we feed this Winter Malaise by engaging in online seasonal Retail Therapy on Amazon. Or if the weather’s not too frightful, we bump into strangers crowding the shopping malls looking for sparkly things to give to loved (and not-so-loved) ones.

And then we all fall into the longest sleep, dream in the darkness of winter and marvel at the mysteries within.

Resistance is Futile

And why should I resist? The sun in the Northern Hemisphere is approaching its solstice position on the horizon. About as low-down south as you can get. Minimal daylight hours; darkness falls before suppertime. I fall with it.

The Winter Solstice is upon us. Me. I feel its weight, dragging me slowly down into darkness, where all my stories, memories, my dreams and imagination reside. From here I will tell my tales in a new year, evoking the mysteries of the Universe that flows through us all.

I’m gone with it.



Corvus Rising Cleared for Take-off!

Today, I am happy to announce the launching of the Kindle Edition of my Ecofantasy novel Corvus Rising!

What’s New?

CorvusRisingCover2Corvus has a new cover especially designed for the Kindle edition.


WilderMapFigureA map of the area in which the book takes place, including the enchanted Wilder Island, known to the corvid inhabitants as Cadeña-l’jadia.

(click on map for enlarged view..)


By popular demand….a Glossary of Patua’ Words:

Cadeña-l’jadia (caw-DANE-ya—la HADya)—the land of swampy waters amid green forests and mists

Judavoid (JOOda-voyd)—a whippersnapper, a brat

Kreegans (KREE-guns)—children

Weebs (WEEBZ) – Mother

Zazu (ZAH-zoo) – Father

…and more!

Check it out at

First Crow, First Raven, First Human: The Still

The following tale is the third in the series of tongue-in-beak stories I made up concerning the ancient relationship our species has had with the corvids-a group of birds whose most familiar members are crows, ravens and magpies. It seems as if Crow and Raven taught our species everything we know…

df6c072e1fe5a5ce7fc590df721af24cDriven to drink from the Garden of Eden

“What in the bloody hell are they doing down there, Cousin?” Crow asked.

The two birds grasped a branch in a tree which overlooked a group of hominids who were dancing and carrying on, singing off-key, laughing at the most inane jokes, staggering around saying stupid things and falling down. “Are they ill?” Crow wondered. “Do they need first aid?”

Fist fights broke out here and there, but always ended with a group hug, “I love you, Man,” they said to each other over and over again, tears running down their faces.

Then the puking started.

“They are ill,” Crow said. “Upchucking like that.”

“Them’re drunk,” Raven drawled. “Got into the hooch a couple hours ago.”

Crow stared at his cousin, “Drunk? Hooch? Where’d they get it?”

When Raven did not answer, Crow narrowed his eyes. “Oh, don’t tell me! Seriously? Are you an idiot? I can’t believe you sometimes.” He shook his head and pecked at the branch upon which they perched.

“What? Don’t look at me, Cousin.” Raven said blandly, “You’re the one that taught them about fermentation.”

“I taught them how to make sauerkraut, that’s all I did,” Crow was really irritated. “It was for digestive purposes. They were getting tummy aches from too much vegetable matter in the gut. A little lactic acid fermentation and poof! Tummy ache gone. No one gets drunk on sauerkraut. They hadn’t even progressed to bread yet. So, I ask you again, where did they get the booze?”

Amid the bacchanalia below, a group of females began a seductive dance, shaking their hips and smiling alluringly at the males. Catcalls and whistles erupted from the males while the old folks kept time by banging the bleached bones of a Big Hairy Beast together. Soon males danced with females and after awhile, the dance couples stole off into the darkness.

“So they have a good time, occasionally.” Raven avoided answering the question. He was sick of Crow’s negativity.

“They’re just blowing off a little steam. What’s the matter with that? A little partying never hurt anyone. Their lives are hard—you say that all the time. Their infant mortality rate is at least double ours, even in the best of times. They suffer a lot; I hear that all the time from you too, ad nauseum, Cousin. Give them a break! It’ll wear off.” Raven looked at Crow, who stared back in speechless rage.

“You would grudge them a moment of silly forgetfulness?” Raven continued. “I just thought a moment or two away from their otherwise miserable pathetic lives would really improve their morale. Why are you getting all bent out of shape?”

“You thought!” Crow stared at Raven in utter disbelief. “Please save me, save us all from your thoughts! You know what booze does to humans? It makes them forgetful and stupid. And mean. For cripes sake, the last thing we want is a bunch of mean, stupid humans on our hands. You know they only just barely made it through the Stone Age, finally. They have weapons. And now thanks to you, they have booze. Stupidity, booze, and weapons. Great combination. Let the carnage begin!” Crow was apoplectic, spraying spittle as he spoke and losing a few feathers that floated lazily to the ground.

“And who taught them to make weapons? Hmmm?” Raven said, enjoying the argument.  “Are you not responsible for unintended consequences of that fiasco?”

“I taught them to hunt food!” Crow said defensively. “I was helping them even the odds, remember? Remember when they first showed up naked? How cold and hungry and absolutely forsaken they were? Remember, they’d just gotten kicked out of the Garden of Eden.”

“I’ve only heard rumors,” Raven said darkly. “What’d they do? Maim a unicorn?”

“Well, no,” Crow said. “There was this snake, see, and he gave the female an apple, and when she and the male ate the apple, suddenly she was sore ashamed of their lack of fur or feathers, and they both covered up their stinky parts with leaves. That’s how we found them, remember? Shivering naked in the cold.”

“I remember,” Raven said. “And, not to drive this unintended consequences thing into the ground, after you taught them to sew, she develops this enormous sense of fashion and wants to wear new and  expensive clothes all the time. Nice job, Cousin! They’ve blamed a snake!” He chuckled heartily. “Well done!

A sudden silence wafted up from the ground. Crow and Raven looked down upon a pile of bodies. Crow looked at Raven. “Well done,” he said sarcastically. “Well done, Cousin.”

“Whatever.” Raven yawned. “They built a still on their own, without your unsolicited expert advice. Or mine. You know how good they are with their hands.”

Raven’s mockery bit into Crow’s flesh like buckshot. Paralyzed by his own anger, he nearly let go of the branch. “I had nothing to do with it,” Raven continued blandly. “Other than to answer a few questions, about the latent heat of evaporation, a little organic chemistry maybe. They didn’t get it, of course.” He picked a caterpillar off a leaf and noisily ate it. A loud explosion from the human camp below rocked their tree, nearly dislodging both birds.

“There she blows!” Raven cackled.

Jammin’ it down to the Solstice

“Now is the time when my winter coat is at its fullest, yet my soul is still empty.”  —Henri, le Chat Noir

The Winter Solstice is upon us. It’s still over a week away, but I’ve got the slows, the blues, the grays, the crankies…

As a child way back in the last century, I never noticed much about December 21, other than it was my father’s birthday, and that it was kind of a bummer to have a birthday so close to Christmas. I grew up and marveled that the phases of the moon control the tides and affect women’s fertility cycles and births of babies. A few more years flew by before I noticed the mood-altering effects of the seasons of the sun.

Standing Sun

That’s what solstice means. Standing sun-twice each year, for three days the sun seems to stand still on the horizon. That’s all fine and dandy if it happens to be the Summer Solstice, when days are long and warm, and nights are short and sweet.

I am severely annoyed if not traumatized that darkness now falls before the end of the day. During these last days jamming on down to the Winter Solstice,  I am nearly frantic sometimes about scarce daylight hours, and fret about the darkness through the longest nights of the year.  The urban glacier on my street–a remnant of the last snow blast to the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies–deflates any enthusiasm I might have had to leave the warmth and safety of home.

Meanwhile, my irritability quotient is on the rise, slowed only by the daily intake of cookies and chocolate, which coincidentally are everywhere. I’ve learned to give into it, all of it–the malaise of  winter darkness, the cookies, the chocolate. I surrender to winter’s dark lethargy while joking about my crankiness.  It passes, miraculously, this dark mood–about four days after the Winter Solstice.

Summer’s coming!

That’ll be my battle cry, come December 21. Daylight returns and I’ll be doing the happy dance again, irritability quotient almost back to normal. Neither snow, nor ice, nor chilly wind will blow this candle out. The added plus: there’ll still be cookies!

And that, Virginia, is why Christmas comes four days after the Winter Solstice. Gives everyone a chance to get into a better mood.

But until then….I’m a crosspatch. Cookies in one hand, chocolate in the other….


#WW #FF #WTF? Twitter Thoughts

As I explained it to my mother, Twitter is like a superhighway comprising an infinite number of lanes that head in all directions. Over a half billion cars travel this highway, and they’re all honking their horns at once, 24 hours/day 7 days a week.

I Tweet You Tweet We All Tweet

The noise is deafening. Relentless, continuous chattering–554,750,000 registered users spouting a half million tweets at the rate of 6- 9,o00/second. (Click here for more Twitter statistics….)

Every day.


Whatever that means. There is general agreement among us Twits that the second W refers to Wednesday. But what of the first W? Some say it’s Wacky, some say it’s Wet, some say it’s Writer’s. Wicked Wednesday, maybe?

Friday it’ll be #FF. Fast Friday? Freaking Friday? Finally Friday? Oh,’s FOLLOW FRIDAY!


Everyone knows what that means. But seriously, wtf?

Whether it be #WW, #FF #MM (Monday, Monday?) what does it all mean? Well, as I told it to my mother, #WW and #FF are days of Mutual Admiration, where we honor and mention each other for RT’ing, following, SO’s and etc. I might tweet: #WW @YouRock, @MinnieTheMoocher, @EroticPancreas, @Nauseum…thanks for the follow!

Some overachievers–and I have been one–will tweet several #WW’s, because there’s that 140 character limit and I have many Twits to thank. After the #WW posts, @YouRock, @MinnieTheMoocher, @EroticPancreas, @Nauseum all retweet it to all their followers, who may retweet it to all their followers.

No #WW, No Cry

I’m totally grateful for any mention or attention I get on Twitter; far be it from me to complain about that. But, the Twitter traffic generated from these retweeted #WW’s–which really don’t say anything at all beyond a list of @What’sHerNames–is about as interesting and productive as a real-life traffic jam at rush hour in Denver.

I have adopted a new method for dealing with #WW, #FF tweets. Mention me? Instead of retweeting the #WW with a whole slew of @WhoAreYou, I’ll try to retweet something meaningful about you–from your profile, your tweets.

Make it easy on me.

Don’t make me search page after page of your RTing of everyone else to find the one tweet about YOU. Don’t make me compose something from your mini-bio on your profile page–I have x amount of time to spend on Twitter–I am happy to promote you, your book, your art, your diet plan, or your donuts. It’s OK to mention something you are doing a couple times a day in the midst of RTing everyone else. We are all here promoting ourselves, after all. Make it easy on me.

This blog by Alicia Cowan (@Absolute Alicia) gives fabulous advice on the whole #FF thing “Simple Twitter Tips: What Does #FF Mean?”

And  let’s cut down on that meaningless #WW, #FF chatter, eh?

First Crow, First Raven, First Human: Tan Me Hide and Teach Me to Sew

The following tale is the second in the series of tongue-in-beak stories I made up concerning the ancient relationship our species has had with the corvids-a group of birds whose most familiar members are crows, ravens and magpies. Though I have been accused of anthropomorphizing these birds, I beg to differ. Perhaps they corvo-morphized us.

df6c072e1fe5a5ce7fc590df721af24cFirst Crow and First Raven had gained a vast storehouse of learned experience in the eons they flew the skies of Earth, well before the first human took a bite of the first apple from the Tree of Knowledge. In the beginning, Raven especially got a big kick out of tricking these silly gullible creatures. They believed anything he said.
“Look! Over yonder, on the horizon! It is the Great Spirit!” Raven would call out and point with one wing. When the humans looked away, Raven swooped down upon them and stole their food. Time after time.

Crow and Raven grew quite fat; they lacked nothing due in large part not to Raven’s trickery, but also because humans were so astonishing wasteful.

“They wouldn’t have to work so hard at hunting and gathering if they didn’t waste so much food.” Crow beaked an eyeball from the severed head of a Big Hairy Beast and swallowed it in one gulp. “They leave so much on the ground for us, which I for one am dreadfully grateful, but if they were more efficient, their food would go further, and they would not have to struggle so to get more.”

“Don’t let them hear you say that!” Raven said, shushing Crow with his wings. He never could leave well enough alone, could not resist wanting to be helpful to these pitiful creatures.

“You see Cousin, in a perfect world, the amount of time we Corvid should spend obtaining food needs to be inversely proportional to the time humans do. That is my famous Inverse Proportionality Rule governing work. Remember? Let’s say they work twice as hard as they have to, which translates into us doing half the work we have. Eh, Cousin?”
Crow’s beady black eyes glazed over, and Raven knew his cousin was only barely listening. But he also needed to remind Crow that his interference in human affairs nearly always backfired. “In other words, dear Cousin,” he said, shaking Crow out of his daydreams of rescue and assistance, “the more they hunt and gather, the less we have to. If they start slacking off, we’ll have to find our own food. No, Cousin. Their wastefulness is our largesse. Think about it. And shut up, please. For the good of us all.”
Crow had always tried to be helpful to the foolish humans. For instance, after they’d hunted and killed the Big Hairy Beast, he had suggested they skin it.
“Why?” the Chieftain asked. “The skin is no good to eat. Too much fur. It is tough and hard to swallow. Even the dogs won’t eat it.”
“No, Crow said, shaking his head. “You must skin the Beast before you cook him so that you can use his fur to keep yourselves warm.”
The humans stared at Crow, slack-jawed. They hadn’t thought of that; the fire in the spit always burned most of the hair off. They ate the meat, and threw the burnt hide back into the fire.
Crow taught the humans how to carefully slice through the hide up the Big Hairy Beast’s big belly and down the underside of its limbs. The humans learned how to scrape the inside of the hide with a rock, and Crow showed them where to find the trees whose bark could boiled down to produce the preservative that would keep the hide from rotting or falling apart.
“You want the biggest pieces of hide you can get,” he told them. “Stitching a lot of small pieces together would be very labor-intensive.

“Stitching?” the Chieftain asked, scratching his aching head. “What is stitching?”
“You make needles from his bones, and laces from strips of his hide,” Crow instructed the humans exhaustively and in a day or so, they had managed to not only make a few bone needles, but to thread them as well with long thin strips of Big Hairy Beast hide.
“Now,” Crow said, nodding as the humans finished poking a line of holes through the edges of the hide, “you can attach pieces of hide together, just make sure the holes line up.” He picked up a threaded needle in his beak and jammed the pointy end into the holes through the two layers of hide. The humans broke into a surprised outcry when they saw him reach underneath the hide and pull the needle through. After poking the needle in one side and out the other a few more times, Crow stood back and said, “And that, my friends, is stitching.”
The humans were sore amazed, but were also clever and deft with their hands, and they stitched together every piece of hide they could find. Soon the whole tribe had fur cloaks, and Crow was very happy to see them all warm and toasty. To show their gratitude to Crow for bringing the gift of sewing, the humans gave him the head of the very same Big Hairy Beast whose hide they all wore.
Crow lugged the head back to the tree in short flights punctuated with a drop to the ground to rest a few moments; the meat was heavy and made it hard to fly very far. He dropped the hunk at the bottom of the tree Raven, who didn’t care as much for the company of humans as did his Cousin.
“Cousin,”Raven said after they’d feasted on Beast head, “I have to thank you for the tanning lessons you gave them.”
“Why, thank you! It is good to see the poor things fending off the cold,” Crow said, ever hopeful that compassion had awakened in his cousin’s heart.
“Yes, well that too, I reckon,” Raven replied as he picked small bits of flesh from his feathers. “But the stench of burning Big Hairy Beast hair made me gag.”
And so the great partnership of humans and Corvus continued. As the years went by, Crow and Raven taught the naked and ignorant humans everything they needed to know to survive on Earth.

First Crow and First Raven Bring Fire to Humans

The following tale is the first in the series of tongue-in-beak stories I made up concerning the ancient relationship our species has had with the corvids-a group of birds whose most familiar members are crows, ravens and magpies. Though I have been accused of anthropomorphizing these birds, I beg to differ. Perhaps they corvo-morphized us.

At the Very Dawn of Human History…

df6c072e1fe5a5ce7fc590df721af24cFirst Raven and First Crow had flown the skies of Earth for eons before First Human showed up. They didn’t know where these odd beings came from, and they didn’t care. The fact was, there they were. Skinny and hairless, no claws, pathetic flat little teeth, they were utterly defenseless. They could neither fly nor swim nor run fast. Raven and Crow wondered how they came to be so ill-equipped to survive in the world.

The cousins perched in a tree overlooking a band of humans huddled together below them. “They’re sitting ducks down there,” Raven said, his breath frosty in the frigid dawn light. “They’ve got exactly zero advantages, and no defenses. And they don’t know squat.” He pulled a tick from under a wingpit, spat it out.

“They’re pretty good with their hands,” Crow mused, “though they have not yet learned to adapt to this cold world. I do not know what it is they pack inside those huge heads,  but it sure ain’t brains. We should lend a wing. You know, help them out a bit.”

Raven looked at his cousin and shook his head. ”Are you insane?” He stood up on his branch and unfurled his great wings. “Remember the old corvid proverb: No good deed goes unpunished. You mark my words, Cousin. The best policy is non-interference.”

“I am not interfering,” Crow said defensively, rising up to remain eye-to-eye with his cousin. “I am helping. And so should you, Cousin. How can you sit up here in your warm downy feathers, your stomach fattened by daily gluttony, due in large part to the abundantly wasteful habits of yonder humans. Yet still you look with such a cold eye upon those poor hairless fools shivering in the dark?”

Raven looked down upon the poor hairless fools and wondered why in the Great Orb it was his problem. “I’m sure they were put here naked for a purpose,” he said, yawning.  “They got big brains in those skulls–don’t you remember the one who fell of the cliff? Schmucked ‘em all over the rocks. What a feast it was! Remember?”

Both birds paused for a moment. Recalling, salivating…

“There’s absolutely no reason why they can’t figure out how to stay warm,” Raven said, blithely. “Who taught us? No one! We learned. We had to make our own mistakes, and we’re better for it.”

But Crow was overcome with pity. “How would you like to be out in this wind in your bare skin?” He felt sad for the humans. They were cold and hungry.

In the morning, Crow left his roost and dropped to the ground and told the humans, “You must learn to make fire to keep yourselves warm.”

The Chieftain looked at Crow blankly, his teeth chattering in his nakedness. “M-m-make f-f-fire?”

Crow spent many days teaching the humans how to make fire, but it was all magic to them, and they had great difficulty acquiring the skill. ”It was like the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing,” he reported to Raven on the dismal lack of progress. “Like their own two hands didn’t belong on the same body, and they argued with each other all the time.”

“You’re wasting your time, Cousin,” Raven said with a yawn. “Let them shiver. Necessity is the mother of invention, you know.” He hunkered down in his warm feathers and shut his eyes.

The sound of the humans teeth chattering on the ground below irritated him however, and he couldn’t sleep. “I really don’t see what the big deal is,” he said, opening one eye. “It’s a simple exothermic oxygen-consuming process brought on by the excessive heat generated from the friction of rubbing two sticks together. Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. I grow weary of their dim wits.”

“But it’s so unfair!” Crow wailed as he paced back and forth on the branch. “We didn’t have to find our own feathers, did we? No, we came with them. But these humans have neither feather nor fur. They’re cold. Who can think critically when they’re cold?”

Thunder rumbled across the valley, and the shivering humans buried their heads in fear under their arms. The wind picked up, and a few pellets of cold rain hit Raven on the head. The sound of wailing below grew louder.

“That tears it!” Raven said angrily.
Without further word or warning, he unfolded his great wings, leapt into the air and flew off into the darkening sky.

Alarmed at Raven’s sudden departure, for the storm promised to be a very wild one, Crow called out: “Cousin, no, don’t go!”

But Raven heard him not, and he flew right into the thunderstorm. Powerful winds and sheets of rain battered him, yet he was steadfast in his purpose. Staying low near the ground, Raven dodged lightning bolts until one struck the tree right in front of him, sending fiery projectiles in all directions.

He caught a flaming branch in his beak and bore it out of the storm, back toward the freezing humans. As Raven approached, the skinny hairless things were trying with all they had to get a fire lit, struggling to remember what Crow had taught them. Arguing heatedly with one another, they had no patience with their own ineptitude.

“No, Dufus,” one human said, irritably. “You rub have to rub two sticks togeher, otherwise the fire won’t work.”

“Fine, Dumass, you do it, then.” Dufus said. He threw the fire stick down and walked off in a rage.

At that moment Raven swooped in, a ball of fire in the downpour. His black feathers glistened as a lightning bolt shot across the sky.

The humans cowered and pled for mercy, thinking they would be punished for being stupid, for failing to learn their lessons, for failing to make fire. But Raven said nothing. He dropped the burning branch right into the fire pit.

“Don’t let it go out, you Fools!” Raven called out as he flew away.

When Raven got back to the tree, Crow was overjoyed to see him. “I thought you were goners, Cousin. Whatever made you go out at that moment? That was a nasty storm.”

“Just taking care of a little business,” Raven said and shut his eyes.

The next day Crow flew to the human encampment where they had a roaring fire and were roasting many fish on sticks. Some were dancing around the fire, others were eating.

“How marvelous this fire!” Crow cried as he skidded to a landing right next to the Chieftain. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Chief, I never thought you’d get it, how to build a fire. And now this! I am astonished!”

The Chieftain looked puzzled. Humans hardly ever could tell ravens from crows, and so he had no idea that it had not been Crow, but his cousin Raven that had brought fire to them. The rain abated and the entire tribe had stayed up all night, keeping the fire lit. They stoked it with anything they could get their hands on.

Someone threw a dead fish onto the fire and the odor of its roasting flesh created a thunderous roar among the stomachs of the tribe . They fished the flesh out of the fire and devoured it.

“Look what we discovered, Crow!” the Chieftain exclaimed. “If you put fish into the fire, it comes out great! Try it!”

Crow beaked a few chunks, and agreed. “Marvelous! May I never eat it raw again!”

“Likewise,” the Chieftain said, as bits of pink salmon flesh fell from his mouth.

“We thank you for the gift of fire, Crow, Bearer of the Flame,” the Chieftain said as he pulled a whole salmon from the fire. He handed the meat to Crow and called out to his tribe. “Hear ye Crow, Hear ye Human! Hereafter, Crow, you shall be our friends, gods though you may be. In our camps, wherever we gather, Crow is always welcome.
“In token of our gratitude for bringing us fire, you will forever feast at our table, for all the days of your natural life, and your children’s and their children’s, until such time as children stop being born. Crow and Human will share friendship.”

“And feast,” Crow murmured.

“And feast,” The Chieftain added. “May we never have less! Let neither our friendship nor our feasting cease!”

Crow flew back to the tree and dropped the remains of the blackened fish the humans had bestowed upon him at Raven’s feet. A few chunks had fallen to the ground, or into his beak, on the way back. Still, there was plenty left for his cousin.

“See here, Raven,” Crow bragged, “you laughed every morning when I went off to teach the humans how to make fire. You said they’d never get it. Well, you were wrong, Cousin. They finally learned. For my excellent teaching, they promise me a chunk of meat, cooked to perfection, every day for the rest of my days, and my children’s days, and their children’s days, on into infinity! I will share it with you, Cousin, even though you laughed.”

Raven chuckled. “How precious you are, my dear Cousin. I am happy to know the humans finally learned something. It’s a small victory, though. Chances are we’ll be dragging them kicking and screaming into the Old Stone Age before too long. I reckon you’ll have to beat them over the head with a simple stone tool before they could figure out how to make one.”

“But they sure are grateful!” Crow said as he snagged a chunk of meat.

“For now,” Raven said.

The two cousins gorged themselves on the leftovers from the human table again later that day, and every day after that, for all the days that Crow and Raven lived on Earth. Their children and grandchildren gorged all the days of their lives. And their Great-grandchildren…..