Author Archives: Marcella Burnard
The greatest decade of the twentieth century is this week’s topic. 1900 to 1999. Let’s see. The 90’s had okay clothes. Music, though Grunge is not my thing. It did have some good Techno, though, and you can sort of date me musically to the 90’s based on how much Nine Inch Nails and Frontline Assembly shows up in my playlist. Got to see my first total solar eclipse in the 90’s, too. On a ship. In the Caribbean. The three plus minutes of totality were worth having gone into debt for. I got married in the 90’s. Graduated from college, too.
If you look at the radio station I favor and look at the music I buy these days, you’ll find that I’m a throwback to New Wave and to the dance music (not disco – oh GODS – not disco, that crap’s way too slow) of the 80’s. I spent a lot of time in under 21 dance clubs (no alcohol, no real meat market, fewer fights, stabbings, shootings). The fashionable – which I was not and have never been – had insanely big hair and clothes that were more accessory than clothing. Teenage anthem movies were big. (Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Flashdance, Footloose . . .) It was a huge political decade. We saw the end of the Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall came down. In the Pacific Northwest, Mount St. Helens came down as ash all over the state.
The 70’s? Great decade despite the clothes, the music and the hair. Thank the gods I was a child and therefore not subject to the fashions of the day. I still have shame over some of the bell bottom jeans I wore as a kid. Man, some of those things doubled as split skirts. What I liked about the 70’s was that Nixon ended the Vietnam war – before getting his butt impeached. This mattered. Dad was in the Air Force and got stationed to Vietnam. Ended up not going because THE day he was to report to his transport, he came down with mono. Flight surgeon grounded him. Thus, I still have a father. We ended up stationed in Iceland during the 70’s. My sister and I got to see things few other people ever get to see: Blue whales migrating past the rocks we were standing on. A volcano erupting (from a distance). Geysers – up close. The slash through Iceland that is the mid-Atlantic Rift pulling the two sections of the island apart. It was an amazing experience. The rest of the decade, after we returned to the US, was full of things like Girl Scout camps, strep throat and ear infections. Sometimes, all three things at once.
Ah, but the 60’s. THIS is the one I think takes the title of Greatest Decade. Yeah, yeah. Stupid clothes. Stupid hair. But hope and optimism? Available in spades. Along with enough people all questioning the status quo at the same time that great changes in social policy followed. Granted, I’m a little annoyed that a bunch of the people who participated in all of that activism seem bound and determined to undo it all now – but that’s another post for another time. I’d rather focus on the power of the masses to effect great change in a country when the people are galvanized by any number of causes. Civil rights were won – not that racism died – but a meaningful start to recognizing humans as humans regardless of skin color at least got underway. Above all things, I think the 60’s were the greatest decade because of the power of a single event to spur a generation of kids just barely old enough to remember sitting in front of their tiny black and white TV sets while dressed in footy pajamas, watching the first men step onto the moon. Had you been there and asked any of us who watched that with our own eyes what we wanted to be when we grew up, we’d have all given you the same answer: Astronaut. A bunch of us buckled down in science and math because we understood that’s what NASA wanted – our teachers made sure we knew. I harbored the astronaut fantasy right up to the point that the Air Force Academy recruiter told me that asthma disqualified me 100%. None of the militaries would have me. Since I get air sick just thinking about flying, it was probably for the best that no one wanted to entrust me with multimillion dollar equipment.
But the images from when I was 5, feeling the weight of what I was watching, it never quite went away. It’s no mistake that my first published book was about a woman who’s the captain of her own space ship.
You know it is summer in the Pacific Northwest when I break out the guacamole. Why? First, because only in summer does the rain stop long enough that you can eat corn chips without them turning soggy twixt the bag and your mouth. Second only to that: the guac is all about the avocado and summer brings them in spades (usually from places in the same hemisphere as you). You want avocados that aren’t too soft. They should have a little give when you exert gentle pressure on the skin. The longer an avocado spent on a tree to get to that point and not in the back of a truck means more flavor. Third: Tomatoes. Guacamole that will make your eyes roll back in your head in pleasure relies on truly ripe tomatoes rich with flavor. Roma tomatoes are my fall back tomato position because even when they aren’t at their best, they have more flavor packed into their small packages than any other tomato that isn’t fresh off the vine.
Guacamole on the Dock
2 firm, ripe avocados, seeded, flesh scooped and dumped in bowl
1 ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, chopped (to peel a tomato, blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, run cold water over it. Cut, and the skin should slide right off.) Add chopped tomato to bowl – try to leave most of the seeds and juice on your cutting board or your guac will be soupy.
1/4 – 1/2 white onion, minced. Add to bowl
juice of 1/2 lime. Add to bowl
sprinkle of garlic salt to taste sprinkled over all
Mash. Eat. If you like cilantro, add that. My family hates it so we leave it out. Want some kick in your guac? Seed, mince and add part of a jalapeno. The lovely thing about guacamole is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you like. But the biggest point of it? Sitting outside in the sun with friends shoveling chunky green goo (it’s a technical term. Trust me.) into your mouths with corn chips. And look. You still have half of a lime for the beer you’d drink…
Evil minions are something I aspire to. Problem is, I have cats. Thus I *am* a minion. And minions rarely get to have their own minions, I find. Annoying. Beyond that, my favorite evil minion to hate comes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Remember the slimy SS agent? The one who picked up the medallion and burned the front of it into his hand? Him. How do I know he’s my favorite? Easy. He brought out the worst aspects of humanity in an entire theater full of people. Need proof? Did you cheer his face melting? I did. This likely disqualifies me for any kind of sainthood. Ever.
However. I also have a favorite evil minion. One I don’t hate entirely – frankly, he’s too gullible to hate. This is actually one of my major stumbling blocks when it comes to evil minions. I find that most of the minions in the employ of truly heinous villains usually lack a few brain cells. They’re misguided more than they’re evil. A less, perhaps, to those of us considering writing (or having) evil minions. A certain level of intellect and ill-intent are necessary to inspire fear and loathing among the population you, as evil mastermind, wish to oppress. Anyway. Here’s my favorite:
INTRO: These next two weeks, we’re experimenting. I’ve started a story. My fellow authors are going to further the story and then finally complete it. But no pressure. 😀 We have not talked about our plans or compared notes on the characters or plotline. This should be a surprise for all of us.
“Ms. Smith? I’m Samuel Talbridge, the reporter you asked for.”
The woman pacing the faded, thread-bare carpet of motel room he’d been given a key to, glanced at him. The impression of pale, tawny hair, long, muscular legs, broad shoulders and a prominent jaw line made him hesitate in the open doorway. But it was the intensity in her amber eyes that whispered ‘danger’.
“Come in, Mr. Talbridge. Close the door,” she said in a rich, mellow alto. “Who do you write for?”
Forcing a smile to his face, he complied and then pulled his notepad from his pocket. Most reporters recorded interviews. He did, too, but he found the physical distraction of pen and notepad let him control the flow of information. Something about the woman studying him made him suspect he needed every advantage he could get. “I freelance. My stories are usually published by the local papers. A few have been picked up by the AP. If you have a story. I’d very much like to hear it. Even if Smith isn’t your real name.”
She lifted an eyebrow. “Is that an impediment, my attempt to protect myself?”
“Not if your story warrants it.”
“It does. I am a were, Mr. Talbridge. A were alone. I’d like your . . .”
“What sort of were?”
“One of the big cats.”
His shoulders drooped. He’d been trying to crack the werewolf packs for three years.
‘Ms. Smith’ laughed. “Restrain a puppy, Mr. Talbridge, and it submits, going limp in your grasp, whimpering to urge you not to kill it. Restrain a kitten and it fights to its last ounce of strength against the indignity.”
“Cats are fragile,” he said.
“It pleases me to have you think so.”
In a flash he couldn’t see she spun, lashing out with one hand at his cheek. He felt the breeze of her hand pass. She’d missed.
Blood sprinkled his notepad.
He blinked. His cheek burned. His heart thudded hard against his ribcage as he touched a tentative fingertip to his face. Scratches. She’d whipped her claws across his face. A tremor of belated panic flooded his gut.
He met her cool, amber gaze. Her nostrils flared and her lips curled.
“I see your point,” he said.
“Four of them,” she corrected, lifting her bloodied nails for inspection.
“Right.” He pressed his handkerchief against his face. The burn turned to a throb, but when he pulled the cloth away and glanced at it, very little blood marred the white surface. He put it away to hide the fact that his hands were shaking. “So. You – uh – you’re a solo? Driven from your – what? Pack?”
“Pride,” she corrected, turning away to look out the window again.
“I thought cats were solitary ani–creatures.”
“And nocturnal?” she supplied. “We are. In the wild. But the press of modern civilization requires that we adapt. When hunting territories can be negotiated and worked out, there are advantages in numbers.”
“But you were thrown out. Why?”
“Atavistic manifestation of traits that once existed, but which do no longer.”
The bitter, derisive edge in her tone made him stare at her, trying to discern some hint of what her words meant from the lines of tension in her back. Atavistic?
She glanced over her shoulder at him, amber eyes glittering. “I’m a throwback.”
He leaned forward, curiosity piqued against his better judgment. “How far back?”
His brain scrambled for footing. What cat had lived so long ago? “Sabre-toothed?”
“Smilodon populator. Huge. Native to parts of the world I’ve never seen,” she said.
She sighed, faced him, and shrugged. “I’m not a geneticist. I don’t know. Even those who proposed to study my DNA speak only in terms of hypothesis and conjecture. Am I a mutant to have become something that once existed in the world but which went extinct with the advent of the last ice age? Or is this some unlikely malfunction on the genome? One that brought fourth an ancient form in the modern world? No matter how you slice it, I’m a freak of nature. Something that can’t, shouldn’t exist.”
“But you do.”
“I don’t want your pity.”
“What do you want?”
“It is possible, if unlikely, that I am not the only legend walking around and taking on fur with the moon phases. If other prides have cast out their misfits and those misfits have survived, I’d like you to help me find them.”
Washington state is relatively young in the grand scheme of the United States. It gained statehood in 1889, so for the most part, historic buildings are thin on the ground. Except, we have our very own Victorian seaport. Port Townsend was founded in 1851 and at the time, was making a run at being THE port city for Puget Sound – a designation that ultimately went to Seattle and Tacoma. Port Townsend went bust in 1890 and the ambition to be a great port city crumbled along with a number of the buildings and docks. A few hardy souls clung on and the town endured. The historic buildings gained recognition and funding for preservation. Many of the fine, old Victorian homes have been converted to bed and breakfasts. The town has just short of 9,ooo residents these days. It’s about 40 miles north of Seattle and across Puget Sound. Close enough that a writer seeking a few days of quiet and dedicated writing time can get there via one ferry ride and a couple of buses. There are great restaurants, galleries, and shops to wander. You’ll also find beaches and loads of maritime distractions if you want them. Port Townsend achieved some status as a port – for pleasure boaters looking for a place and the skilled shipwrights to work on their boats. Play your cards right and you can stay in the Palace Hotel – a building with a checkered past that included serving as a brothel.
Here’re the pictures from my recent three day retreat:
First photo: Main Street through town (From the Palace Hotel doorway). Second photo: Beach at Point Hudson looking toward Point Wilson and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was proximity to the not-so-friendly waters of the Strait (the entrance to Puget Sound from the Pacific Ocean) that made Port Townsend attractive as a port city, initially.
Lots to see – nice long walks to take. And when the writer is ready to get down to work, there’s a tea shop in town (not to mention a dozen or more coffee shops if that’s your poison). Treats, tea, and a WIP in a friendly, historic setting. What’s not to like?
For your entertainment, see how well YOU know sidekicks. Eleven questions. The original had 53 questions (from a reader party held at the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in Chicago. Don’t ask me which year – within the past five is the best I have for you.)
1. Which of the following was Superman’s animal sidekick, a member of the Legion of Super-Pets?
a. Krypto the Super Dog
b. Beppo the Super Monkey
c. Streaky the Super Cat
d. All of the above
2. Comet the Super-Horse was a sidekick for which of the following heroines:
b. Wonder Woman
c. Saturn Girl
d. Ms. Marvel
3. Wonder Woman had her own sidekick. Was it:
a. Wonder Man
b. The Wonderful Wizard of Paradise Island
c. Wonder Girl
d. Winged Victory
4. The sidekick of Xena, Warrior Princess, was _____________.
5. The Flash had his own boy sidekick. Who was it?
b. Kid Flash
6. In Futurama, Leela the one-eyed pilot has a pet. What’s his name?
7. Jabba the Hutt ha a giggling, gremlin-like sidekick in Return of the Jedi. Who was it?
a. Salacious Crumb
b. Lando Calrissian
c. Boba Fett
d. Darth Maul
8. John Snow in Game of Thrones has three sidekicks on the Wall. Who is not a sidekick:
9. Who is Frodo’s sidekick in Lord of the Rings?
a. Samwise Gamgee
10. Big Bird on Sesame Street has an invisible sidekick. He is:
a. Mr. Snuffalupagus
b. Oscar the Grouch
d. the Count
11. Bert is Ernie’s favorite sidekick on Sesame Street. Bert has a fondness for:
b. Bottle caps
c. Paper clips
d. All of the above
ANSWERS: 1. D, 2. A, 3. C, 4. Gabrielle, 5. B, 6. C, 7. A, 8. D, 9. A, 10. A, 11. D
My urban fantasy NIGHTMARE INK came out on Tuesday. I’m in the midst of a month long blog tour. You can win a copy of the book by visiting a blog or two and leaving a comment. The easiest way to keep track is to follow me on Twitter (@marcellaburnard) I’ll post links every day. Rest assured, I’m too socially awkward to be very noisy on Twitter. 😀 If you’d like to know a little more about the book before committing to a blog comment, have a look at Penguin’s site.
On to sexy gods and/or pantheons!
Egyptian. Let me qualify that lest you imagine I have some repressed beast-headed god kink. I love the Egyptian pantheon and not just because it rose up as my patron pantheon as I was being initiated into Wicca. Since I was training in a Celtic tradition, the Egyptian thing was a big surprise.
Thing is, I’m into the intellectuals and the Egyptian pantheon is chock full. Thoth, Osiris, Horus, even Set is pretty brainy if a tad twisted. I confess, though, that one of the reasons I love this pantheon so very much is that the goddesses are equals of the gods. They are as fierce and as powerful. That’s part of what’s so attractive to me. Gods who are seducing goddesses who are their equals – there’s so much more intellectual interplay and that’s sexy.
Besides. The Egyptian gods wore eyeliner. What’s not to like? 😀
At the end of our two weeks of secrets, there’ll be an author gift basket giveaway. Each author gets to choose from one of the following three items to put in the basket: 1) an ebook; 2) a print book; or 3) a gift card. We aren’t telling. Secrets, remember? So the winner will receive four surprise prizes.
How do you win?
Easy. Comment on the blog post of our authors. All commenters will be assigned a number and entered into a raffle. A winner will be chosen with random.org, which selects numbers at–you guessed it–random. You can increase your chances of winning by commenting on several authors’ posts. There are four of us, so if you comment on all four of our blog posts, we will assign you four number in the raffle. If you comment on just three, then you’ll be assigned three numbers, and so forth.
Secret posts where you can comment:
Pst. Grab a glass of champagne and have a seat. No. No. I won’t try to wheedle your secrets from you. Don’t have to, see? Because *my* secret is right here. In the cards I read. Oh, yes. Tarot cards. You needn’t believe in order for them to work. Let’s pretend you’re one of my clients. You called, made an appointment, and here we are. I’ll ask that you NOT tell me what’s bothering you. I’d prefer you not say anything at all, initially. The cards should tell me exactly what you’re concerned about. I count on it, in fact, as a method by which I assure myself (as much as possible) that I’m not just reading your body language or vocal intonations and telling you what you want to hear in a session. For this reason, 95% of my readings happen over the phone, not in person. I can’t read body language I can’t see. Is it perfect assurance that the readings are ‘real’? Probably not. I’m not sure there is any perfect assurance. I can only focus on the cards I pull for you and talk about what they tell me.
This is my preferred deck. The Robin Wood Tarot. (The image should be linked to the store that sells the deck and that supplied this graphic – if I did it correctly…) After shuffling, I lay out an 11 card spread called a modified Celtic Cross. The first three cards go in the middle. Question card, cover card, and cross card. These three cards describe your situation. When I read, I talk about those three cards, first as individual cards, and then as a group. After I’ve done that, I ask for feedback. “Does this make sense? Does this describe your situation?” Most of the time, clients say yes and we go on with the rest of the reading. On the few occasions someone has said no, I reshuffle and try again. If we’re still not getting it, I stop the reading, and ask to reschedule. A client never pays for a reading that didn’t work. Almost always, at the rescheduled session, we get it right. It is rare, but it does happen that I just can’t read for someone. I refer that person to another card reader – one I call upon to read for me from time to time – someone I know will treat them well and respectfully.
Why is my card reading a secret, you ask? It isn’t, exactly. It’s merely ‘not widely known’. I’m not even sure why. Maybe because I’m an introvert and being on the phone with several clients a day induces a mild panic attack? Funny. I really do enjoy reading for people, when it’s in limited doses – like the arrangement I have now. Could I raise my prices? Sure. But I want people to be able to afford asking for information. (The cards will never tell you what to do – they only offer information and/or new ways to look at a situation.) Could I push for more clients? Probably. But I’m not sure I’d be doing anyone a service by it. I like card reading because it seems to help the people I read for. I want to make very, very sure that ego and greed don’t enter into that equation. So I go slowly. Carefully. Ready to yank myself back by the scruff of the neck should I start trying to fake it.
Now. Shall we shuffle and have a look at your cards for real? No? I understand. Here. Allow me to top up that champagne. Enjoy the relaunch party – and never fear. No permission, no reading. Your secrets are safe.
And don’t forget:
At the end of our two weeks of secrets, they’ll be an author gift basket giveaway. Each author gets to choose from one of the following three items to put in the basket: 1) an ebook; 2) a print book; or 3) a gift card. We aren’t telling. Secrets, remember? So the winner will receive four surprise prizes.
How do you win?
Easy. Comment on the blog post of our authors. All commenters will be assigned a number and entered into a raffle. A winner will be chosen with random.org, which selects numbers at–you guessed it–random. You can increase your chances of winning by commenting on several authors’ posts. There are four of us, so if you comment on all four of our blog posts, we will assign you four numbers in the raffle. If you comment on just three, then you’ll be assigned three numbers, and so forth.
Come and join the fun. What’s your secret?
It’s my turn to blog today. Ain’t gonna happen. Beyond, you know, this. I’m out of town, which would usually be a good thing. In this case, I’m at my parents’ house taking care of my sister. She had surgery to reconstruct an ankle. Lots of pain involved with that. Immobility, too. And lots of medications to keep straight and record so we stay on top of the pain without killing anyone.
Those of you in the nursing profession, have no earthly clue how you do it. It’s only been three days and this is murder. Maybe it’s the waking up every three hours throughout the night to administer meds and make sure she doesn’t capsize while trying to get to the bathroom. Whatever it is, I fully acknowledge that there’s no comparison to what real nurses do. I have just one patient and while she’s snoozing under the influence of her pain pills, I can do things like sit nearby and type. Or pet the cat. Or make my niece’s breakfast before school.
So. Those of you tending patients for a living? You have my every appreciation.
Another entry into evidence, if you please. To whit: Why it takes so long for Marcella to write anything.
This is Hatshepsut trying to eat one of my earplugs. I write. After a few hours of writing, I take a break and do ten minutes of alpha state meditation to reset my brain. This includes some sensory deprivation – like earplugs – to help focus. It’s a great tool for problem solving in a story. When the timer goes off, ending my session, I’m supposed to get right back up to the page so I can record whatever bubbled to the surface during the meditation. Based on this video, you can see that isn’t happening.
At least I know about Hatshepsut’s odd taste for earplugs. The first time I discovered that she’d eaten my earplugs, and I do mean eaten – she’d left slimy, rubbery yellow and red bits of them all over the floor, I called the vet’s office in a panic. I figured she’d block up her system or be poisoned by the stupid things. No. Nothing to worry about. Not that the vet tech managed to get those words out over the phone. I gathered, from the gales of laughter, that my cat was in no danger.