Past is Present

We all have some claim to fame, often in the form of a distant relative of some distinction. Mine is Homer Laughlin. He’s my great-granduncle (or something like that) and founder of Homer Laughlin China, the company that produces Fiestaware.

Homer Laughlin - ancestral potter

Homer Laughlin – ancestral potter

Yes, Fiestaware. That is my claim to fame. Hey, it’s all I got!

On the other hand, my husband, Khanh, has an ancestor of great distinction. He is a direct descendent of Nguyễn Văn Tường, a powerful mandarin who ruled as the regent of Vietnam during the mid-nineteenth century.

Nguyễn Văn Tường - actually made history.

Nguyễn Văn Tường – actually made history.

He is a controversial figure, comparable to Richard III of England. Some see him as a king slayer and a traitor, selling out the country to French colonialists. Others see him as a hero and the man who tried to stop the French from colonizing Vietnam. History, of course, is written by the winners and much of what information is available in English about Nguyễn Văn Tường favors the French version of events.

Khanh’s family denies most of the allegations made against Nguyễn Văn Tường. My father-in-law did extensive research and authored a scholarly biography of his ancestor’s life that ultimately dispels many of the accusations made against him.

Family altar of Nguyễn Văn Tường.

Family altar of Nguyễn Văn Tường.

Every two years, the descendants of Nguyễn Văn Tường gather to honor his memory. Khanh and I attended the ceremony this year. The past was indeed present as the family showed pride and reverence toward their maligned and vindicated ancestor. It was an honor to be there.

When History Happens

This past weekend I went to a Shut Up and Write marathon at a cafe in downtown San Francisco. Try as I might to do just that, it was hard to concentrate when history was happening right outside the door. Finally, I packed it in and followed the rainbow clad crowd to the Pride celebration happening down the street.

SF City Hall

San Francisco City Hall has Pride!

It’s always a festive crowd, but this year it was even more so. There was so much happiness in the air over this great victory for human rights. People were literally jumping for joy!

SF Cheer

Ready and…

Cheer SF



That’s Cheer SF performing at the festival. People were hopping all over the place, having a great time. I did, too, until my computer started feeling heavy on my back and I headed home.

Later, when I got online, I noticed some interesting problems mentioned in several writing forums. One person asked, what should writers do if their contemporary WIP concerns a gay couple who can’t get married, since now they can? Another wondered if prejudice against LGBTQ people is an issue any more.

Of course, this sparked some interesting debate. For the first topic, it was mostly suggested to set the story a few years ago or deal with what history has handed you. For the second topic, the original poster was reminded that the SCOTUS ruling was 5 to 4 and prejudice sadly remains an issue.

When writing contemporary fiction, history can indeed hand you a whopper. Consider this scenario: you spend years working on your saga of espionage along the Korean border. Then, boom! Kim Jong-un is assassinated, and the north and south are reunified. Sound farfetched? So did the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it happened. Authors of Cold War spy fiction probably had to rethink their entire careers.

History happens and when it does, don’t panic! Instead, see it as an opportunity to make your story even more relevant.

Free Again – Drinking with Dead Women Writers

I posted this book before and it’s come up free again. If you missed it last time, get it now while it still costs $0. I read it and loved it. Imagine having a drink or two, or too many, with some of literature’s most famous dead women authors. It’s a funny and informative read.

  Drinking with Dead Women Writers by Elaine Ambrose and AK Turner
Essays on drinking with Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Erma Bombeck, The Bronte Sisters, Willa Cather, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, Margaret Mead, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Margaret Mitchell, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath, Ayn Rand and Virginia Woolf.

Most early female writers used pen names because women weren’t regarded as competent writers. Margaret Mitchell wrote only one published novel in her lifetime, but Gone with the Wind won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937 and sold more than 30 million copies. Emily Dickinson was so paranoid that she only spoke to people from behind a door. Carson McCullers wrote The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter at age 22. Her husband wanted them to commit suicide in the French countryside, but she refused.

Ambrose and Turner explore these and other intriguing facts about the most famous (but departed) women in literary history.

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Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found this book via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

This freebie is a limited time offer and there is no guarantee it will still be free when you click on the link. Grab it sooner rather than later.

Nikola Tesla Day

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla. Image from Wikimedia.

Today is the 156th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla. On this day, geekdom celebrates his astounding genius, world-changing inventions and batshit craziness. For those not familiar with Tesla, let’s just say he makes Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory” look like an Average Joe.

Much has been said about the rivalry between Tesla and Thomas Edison, who was said to have exploited and ripped off Tesla while he was an employee. I’ll add that Edison was never cool enough to be portrayed by David Bowie.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla

David Bowie (left) as Nikola Tesla in the movie, “The Prestige.” Image from Popular Mechanics.

The web comic, The Oatmeal, has published an homage to Tesla. It is informative, hilarious, touching and profane. It is also a bitter indictment against Edison. Not work safe. I do recommend reading it to learn more about this amazing man to whom we owe so much.

Nikola Tesla by The Oatmeal

This is just a portion of the whole comic. See the rest here.

If you get a chance, watch “The Prestige,” a very cool and wicked movie. It’s available for streaming on Amazon and VUDU.

Kindle Freebies – June 14, 2012

Today I Loaded My Kindle With…

History. After finding a humorous nonfiction book titled, “Killer History: Why do they leave all the fun stuff out of the history books?”, I found myself in the mood for historical fiction. What I wound up with is a wonderful mishmash of historical fantasy, mystery, horror and even a Regency romance. I also picked up a contemporary fantasy and a retold fairy tale, two of my favorite genres.

No new city guides or travel books today. I did pick up a booklet of cooking conversion charts that would have been really useful when I was living in Denmark. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen staring at packages of ingredients, a Danish-English dictionary in one hand and the conversion charts my husband had printed for me in the other hand. Needless to say, it took awhile to make a meal.

Today’s other cooking finds include recipe books for garlic bread (yummy!), Italian cooking and a time-saving instruction book for preparing meals. Probably could have used that in Denmark, too.


Ripper’s Row by Donnie Light and Shawn Weaver
In the fall of 1888, Jack the Ripper cut a swath of blood and terror through the streets of London, in an area known as Whitechaple. The papers called him a monster for attacking innocent women in the night. But if the world only knew the truth behind Jack’s monstrous acts, they would think differently. Jack was a madman, yes, but a madman on a mission to save the world from the foul creatures of the night. Creatures that haunted his soul, tortured his existence, and made every minute of his life a living hell. Only Jack the Ripper could save the unsuspecting masses from the vampires that ruled the streets of Whitechaple after dark. Only he could strike down the dangerous Master Vampire William Carpenter–or die in the attempt.

Still Life With Murder by P.B. Ryan
Book #1 of P.B. Ryan’s bestselling historical mystery series featuring Boston governess Nell Sweeney and opium-smoking former battle surgeon Will Hewitt. Long thought to have died during the Civil War, Will is arrested for murder, and it’s up to Nell to prove his innocence.

The Fox by Arlene Radasky
The Romans’ path of destruction jeopardizes a Caledonian clan unless they are able to strike a bargain with the Gods, which ultimately means a human sacrifice. Jahna is a member of this first century tribe. She has the power to merge minds, which she chooses to do with a twenty-first century woman, Aine MacRae and her contemporary, a young man Lovern, to whom she was hand-fasted in her time and of whom she shared a child, in order to save her people.

Ridiculous by D.L. Carter
After the death of her miserly cousin Antony North, Millicent Boarder is determined her family should never be poor or vulnerable again. To protect them she conceals her cousin’s death and assumes his identity. Now she must face the Ton and the world as Mr. North and accept the price she must pay for her family’s safety — she will never be loved. Which means, of course, at this point she will meet the perfect man.

Rumpel, A Cursed Tales Novel by Eileen Cruz Coleman
Why did Rumpelstiltskin want a baby? What was he going to do with it once he got it? What was his childhood like? What was his world like? Who were the people in his life? How could he spin straw into gold? Rumpel is the dark and quirky retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s Rumpelstiltskin which answers all of these questions and more. In keeping with the original Brothers Grimm’s Rumpelstiltskin, Rumpel is dark and at times disturbing, yet it also has a light and quirky element to it in that it is told from the point of view of many different characters all of which play an integral part of the story and how it unfolds. We also get to know Rumpelstiltskin as a child, then as a young man, and finally as a broken-hearted adult.

Birthrights by Christine Butler and Jennifer Oliver
In the middle of the night Caislyn Vadoma auto-sketches a scene in which her parents are kidnapped from the family bookstore. She awakens in the morning to find that her sketch, a rare glimpse into the future, has already become reality. Jasmine DeLaney leaves her life behind when an abusive boyfriend puts her in the hospital. She becomes Jaxon, an art consultant in a new town, always looking over her shoulder for the danger she knows will catch up to her eventually. As Caislyn scrambles for clues to her parents’ whereabouts, she casts a spell that leads her to Jaxon. From the moment they meet, the girls are emmersed in a world of chaos and secrets. Finding out they are part of a very dangerous prophecy not only has them on the run, but discovering their own hidden pasts as well.


Killer History: Why do they leave all the fun stuff out of the history books? by Marek McKenna
Killer History: Why do they leave all the fun stuff out of the history books? is an irreverent look at the past. We will look at Thomas Jefferson’s presidential hobby. We will explore if George Washington married a hot babe. You may not have known about Woodrow Wilson’s fascination with traffic laws enforcement. We will dig into the presidential scandals of the Grant Administration. We will also explore if Richard Nixon’s drinking nearly caused World War III.

Recipe Books

Conversion Charts and Oven Temperatures by Jane Romsey
This is a conversion booklet to aid in cooking and baking. I have done it as an addendum to my recipe books to make things easier to convert to your choice of measurements.

The Simple Italian Cookbook by Angie Sansom
This book is packed with 60 easy to follow recipes. It has a wonderful collection of bread recipes, sauces and dressings, salad and pasta, meat and fish and treats to suit different occasions. Why not try a menu of Italian Herb Bread with a Balsamic Dip, followed by a Creamy Italian Spiral Salad and orange-glazed pork tenderloin and for a treat an Italian Cheesecake. These inspiring recipes are suited to please the hungry of families.

27 Delicious Garlic Bread Recipes by Cynthia Rolland
In Cynthia Rolland’s “27 Delicious Garlic Bread”, you’re going to get her exact recipes for baking prize winning Garlic Breads that are so good you’ll be saying “Mhhmmm…” after every bite.

How to Save Time Preparing Meals by Donna Leed
For busy people on the go, it can be very challenging to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals for your family. We often resort to take-out or dine-out and that’s not always the healthy or budget-wise choice. How to Save Time Preparing Meals – For Busy People On the Go, will show you ways to change all this and begin enjoying dinner at home again. By taking time to plan your meals ahead; maximizing your shopping, kitchen prep and storage, you’ll be able to come home on a busy night and get dinner on the table much faster. You’ll be eating more balanced, tasty meals that are healthier for you and your family and get you out the door fast.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.