musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

June 7, 2017

Shadows Fall is available again

My romantic mystery novel, Shadows Fall, is available again as a Kindle-only ebook and is on sale today as a countdown deal, or available anytime on loan through Kindle Unlimited.

Shadows Fall at Amazon

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:32 am PST, 06/07/17

June 25, 2009

Which is smarter?

A cat or a dog?

I have never thought dogs are smarter than cats, but according to a study described in The Guardian, Cats outsmarted in psychologist’s test, they are, at least in some ways. I’m not quite convinced, since I don’t fully understand the test myself. Either I need a better description or the dogs in the study are smarter than I am as well. What I found most entertaining about the article was the comments. We will defend our pets to the bitter end! I love both dogs and cats, and I’m not sure why humans feel a need to take sides as dog people or cat people. Frankly, I don’t care which are smarter, cats or dogs. Members of both species seem to know quite a bit about friendship, and have something to teach us humans….

So maybe the question should be: Which are smarter, cats, dogs, or people?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 7:51 pm PST, 06/25/09

May 25, 2009

World Tarot Day

No, you haven’t landed on the wrong blog. Though I usually only post about Tarot on my other blog, Spirit Blooms, in honor of World Tarot Day, I’d like to share my love of Tarot a bit more broadly, and also to honor some of the people of Tarot, including writers and artists that I think are rather special.

By the way, I understand that today is also World Towel Day for Arthur Dent fans (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:48 pm PST, 05/25/09

February 24, 2009

Watch the skies for Comet Lulin

It’s a hazy, cloudy day here today, so I don’t hold out much hope, but in some places tonight will be the best night to see the comet Lulin:

Green Comet Approaches Earth

Comet Lulin making nearest approach toward earth, one-time only

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:56 pm PST, 02/24/09

December 9, 2008

Plane crash

It was much smaller in scale, in terms of lives lost, but the F/A-18 crash in University City yesterday brought to my mind another crash, while I watched the news on TV yesterday, horrified — the crash in North Park in 1978, when a Cessna collided mid-air with PSA Flight 182. Both happened in residential neighborhoods, and there were many witnesses, including this amazing account by a mail carrier, to both planes going down right over homes. No one who lived in San Diego at the time could forget that other crash 30 years ago, and the one yesterday touched many people deeply as well.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of the four who died yesterday, a mother, grandmother, and two baby girls, as well as to those who’ve lost homes or sustained other damage, to the neighbors and students at nearby schools traumatized by the incident, to the pilot, and to all the rescue/emergency workers who responded. It could’ve been much worse, but that doesn’t change or lessen the impact of this tragedy on so many lives.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 5:28 pm PST, 12/09/08

July 9, 2007

Gloria Steinem proposes a new film genre label

Gloria Steinem: In Defense of the ‘Chick Flick’:

“I propose, as the opposite of “chick flick,” films called “prick flicks.” Not only will it serve film critics well, but its variants will add to the literary lexicon.” (read article)

Maybe the term “prick” is too strong. It’s not the word I would’ve chosen, yet it answers the fact that a lot of women are put off by the tone and expression, if not the word, used when we hear the term “chick flick.”

Steinem’s editorial reminds me of something that occurred in a “Modern Fantasy” literature class I took, back in the seventies, when Mary Stewart’s first two Merlin and Arthur novels, The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills, were recent bestsellers. One of the young men in the class was so taken with them, he asked what other books Mary Stewart had written. I told him she’d written mostly romantic suspense in the past. I had an entire collection of her books at home, older hardcover editions gleaned from thrift store shelves. I thought when he expressed an interest that here was another new fan. But when the young man heard the word “romantic,” he took on a look of utter distaste and lost interest.

Some female mystery novelists still publish today using their first and middle initials rather than their full first names, in order to stretch past that still-existent gender barrier in many male readers’ minds, a practice reminiscent of the Brontës publishing under masculine names. One would’ve hoped that by the time this century rolled around we’d have advanced further. I don’t have statistics on this, but I’ll hazard a guess that there are more women who read and write fiction containing a predominately masculine point of view than there are men who read or write fiction containing a predominately feminine point of view.

Yet I know women, myself included, who enjoy a good action film, of the type once considered a favorite of men. Why is it that women, both in their reading and writing, as well as in movie preferences, might more readily cross old gender barriers?

Mind you, many men do take an equal interest in less violent or less action-oriented movies and books, and I admire men who are open to genres and interests considered historically feminine. I also admire women who open up more to interests previously considered masculine. More women today are sports fans than ever before, and don’t restrict their interests, as I do, to figure skating. My lack of interest is mostly due to bad experiences in physical education classes — I was that awkward, non-athletic kid always picked last for the team. It has nothing to do with my admiration of any outstanding achievement, physical or otherwise, and I enjoy watching good sports-related movies.

What is it that continues to keep some men from enjoying what they term as “chick flicks?” Is it that they truly don’t enjoy more thoughtful, slower-moving, or less action-oriented stories, once they give them a chance? Or is there another reason? Is it adrenaline addiction? (Understandable, among men and women, in today’s world, though perhaps best not encouraged.) Is it fear of what their friends will think? I’m trying not to make assumptions here. I’d really like to know, especially as a female writer trying to sell my fiction.

We all have types of stories we don’t like, or even parts of movies we like that we could do without. I personally back away from anything about child abductions, gangster movies that are overly violent onscreen, comedies that resort to tasteless bathroom humor (bathrooms have doors for a reason), and horror with too much blood and gore added for shock value. As far as I’m concerned, vomit and excrement belong off-screen. There’s enough of them in real life, and they’re not entertaining. They’re certainly not the kind of realism I’m looking for in a story.

I can understand someone not liking romance, even though I usually enjoy it provided it’s not overly sappy. But no one’s personal preference for certain types of stories and not others explains why we need the term “chick flick,” and especially not why it so often seems to be used as a derogatory term. Do the men who don’t like “chick flicks” prefer movies with only men? Is that what it boils down to?

I’m reminded of a line from Frank Herbert’s Dune regarding taking the “waters of life.” It mentions the place in their minds the Bene Gesserit mother superiors (women) fear to go, a place they believe only the fabled Kwisatz Haderach (a man) can access. The Kwisatz Haderach, once he accesses that place, becomes a superior being destined to lead his people to freedom. I wonder about the allegory Herbert intended, if any. Is there a place like that inside the female psyche, where some of the toughest men fear to go? Is that what they fear about “chick flicks?” Will they gain power if they find a way to access that, or will they lose power, possibly even die, as many men did who attempted to become the Kwisatz Haderach? Or will they simply gain a broader understanding of life and the world around them? In that case, maybe it’s worth a shot.

Gloria Steinem makes an interesting observation about power, and about nouns and adjectives in labels:

“Just as there are “novelists” and then “women novelists,” there are “movies” and then “chick flicks.” Whoever is in power takes over the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful get an adjective. Thus, we read about “African American doctors” but not “European American doctors,” “Hispanic leaders” but not “Anglo leaders,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,” and so on.” (read article)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:35 pm PST, 07/09/07

May 16, 2007

Judging the news

I’ve never been much for reading or watching the news, especially when I was younger. I used to catch criticism for not doing the grownup thing — watching the news or reading the paper as much as everyone else did. I managed to keep up with most of the important news, but I noticed early on that the news upset me, a lot. It got me worked up about things beyond my control, and raised my overall fear and frustration level, without giving me all the facts, or any resolution. It’s possible this news avoidance started when I had a brother serving in Vietnam and saw war news every night during the dinner hour. Maybe it began even earlier. But those negative side effects of the news stayed with me and seemed to outweigh or play down the benefits of keeping up with every little thing presented as news. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 8:14 pm PST, 05/16/07

February 25, 2007

More poetry

Aside from the novel, I’ve been reading, writing, learning about, and pretty much immersing myself in poetry. I’ve posted some bits and pieces, mostly practice and works in progress, over at Spirit Blooms in the Poetry Sketchbook category. Feel free to drop by there if you’re curious. Though I’ve taken creative writing workshops in the past, I’ve never taken a poetry workshop, and I think I have a lot to learn before I go even that far. Right now I’m refreshing my memory with basics that I learned when I was young but are now a bit fuzzy.

Beverly Jackson has been an inspiration with her poetry posts, (not to mention her abstract paintings — wow!). She recently shared her experiences at the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway – Cape May N.J. and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival on her blog. She also provided examples and book recommendations she got from poets there. Dig into her January archive to read the first of those posts, beginning here.

Right now I’m reading Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, which I mentioned in a previous post.

HW Longfellow Postage Stamp

My renewed interest in poetry arrives just in time for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s bicentennial, which the United States Postal Service is commemorating with a special stamp — the second to bear his likeness. Longfellow is one of only two writers to be immortalized on more than one US postage stamp. Herman Melville was the other, a distinction he earned, in my estimation, with The Encantadas alone — his sketchbook about the Galapagos Islands.

The stamp displays a portrait of Longfellow, as well as a depiction of Paul Revere’s famous ride. The Smithsonian Magazine’s online biography, Famous Once Again provides lots of interesting details about Longfellow’s life. I never knew, for instance, that he was proficient in so many languages — ten altogether, at one point in his life. He’s considered the “uncrowned poet laureate” of the 19th-century US, and February 27 will be his 200th birthday.

I’m out of touch with today’s curriculums, but when I was young, just hearing or reading the first line, “Listen my children and you shall hear,” could set the cadence of Paul Revere’s Ride beating in my mind. Do kids still learn Longfellow in school? I was older when I read Evangeline, but the first verse is just as deeply embedded in my mind. I’ve since gone back for a taste, drawn in by the same first lines:

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers –
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
(read poem)

I had no idea what a Druid was when I first read that, but the poet drew me into that forest and I was hooked. I wanted to know everything about it. I wanted to know what happened to the Acadians who once lived there.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:23 pm PST, 02/25/07

February 17, 2007

Indie publishers ask for less and win

Less turns out to be a good thing at times in today’s corporatist economic and political scene, and especially in the publishing arena, where seven very big fish own almost everything, having devoured nearly every other fish in the water. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:25 pm PST, 02/17/07

January 11, 2007

To Kill A Mockingbird author makes rare appearance

Reclusive author Harper Lee attended a student performance of To Kill A Mockingbird on Wednesday night in Alabama. What a rare treat for those kids!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 5:35 pm PST, 01/11/07

Recent Comments