FAR Manor - the annex


Original illustration by Tom Gauld



I did, years ago. No regrets.



BMW owners take note!



BMW owners take note!

Review: Mind Noise by Helen Howell

If you could read my mind, love,
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel,
The kind the drugstore sells.
— Gordon Lightfoot


The title of Helen Howell’s latest, Mind Noise, is enough to tell you about the downside of being able to read minds. Mikey, an adolescent boy, has that ability. But his inability to shut out all the mental chatter around him drives him to seek shelter away from everyone. As much as he wants to have friends and fit in with the others, he cannot.

What Mikey doesn’t know is that there are two people very interested in him: Catherine, an older girl at school, and a mysterious old man who calls himself Mr. Brown. The old man offers to teach Mikey how to develop his ability—not only how to shut out the chatter, but to do much more. Catherine, a mind reader born into a family of mind readers, is keenly interested in what Mikey is learning, and befriends him. Catherine’s family knows about the old man, and what his real agenda is.

The relationships are portrayed with Helen’s usual skill—the friendly old man with a hidden secret, Catherine’s tightrope walk as she tries to warn Mikey without losing his trust, the school bully who has a problem with Mikey. (Unfortunately for Peter the bully, Mikey isn’t easily intimidated, and has a few tricks up his sleeve!) As Mikey’s power grows, so does the temptation to abuse it. When we get to the final confrontation… well, the story ends with a warning, that’s all I can say without getting into spoiler territory.

The story itself is a short novella, just the thing to escape a rainy afternoon. Shut out the noise, put your feet up, and follow Mikey and Catherine as they try to figure things out.

I give it 4 stars out of 5. Available in eBook and paperback at Amazon.


Saw this on the way home. “Police will kill you”


Saw this on the way home.
“Police will kill you”




These dad jokes from Reddit prove that dads are the original text posters. (images from dadsonvacation.tumblr.com)



I confess, I’ve pulled a few of these.

Review: Pigments of My Imagination, by Angela Kulig

Get it: Amazon

When I first ran across Angela Kulig a few years ago, she had posted an excerpt to her novel in progress on her blog. A girl starting art school stumbles across a boy painting swans in a pond. But the water in his painting ripples, and the swans swim and fly. I was captivated by this sample, and figured (given a sufficient amount of justice) Pigments of My Imagination would be a hit.

Time went by. Angela got picked up by Red Iris, rewrote Pigments of My Imagination to suit the darker tone of their titles, split with the publisher, rewrote it back to something closer to the original. She founded a co-op, I was invited to join, and most of the other members fell away, leaving the two of us having each others’ backs. As she puts it, I make the insides look good (editing, formatting), she makes the outsides look good (cover art, marketing). We spend a lot of time IM’ing each other.

But Pigments of My Imagination was still “coming.” It went through yet another rewrite. I’d poke her about it every once in a while. Be careful what you ask for… she got me to edit it. I wasn’t the only one waiting for the finished product, and never expected that I would be a major part of it getting finished.

But it’s done. It’s out.

And it delivers.

The story starts out in an ordinary fashion. Lucia, an artistically-talented high schooler, is about to start her first day at a Galveston art school. There’s the anxiety of separating from her best friend, and her family, and Lucia’s still having a hard time believing her mother is letting her out of sight. That gets us through the first day of the story, and the last “normal” day Lucia will ever have.

By lunch the next day, Lucia has entered a world of living paintings, secret societies (and secret passages), mortal enemies, and soulmates who find each other again and again in each life—and she is at the center of it all. But she doesn’t know enough about herself and her own abilities, and things are coming to a head quickly, the result of both machinations by their enemies and things that Lucia herself set in motion in her previous life. All she wants is to reacquaint herself with Leo, her own soulmate, but there may not be time…

You need to read this. The characters are colorful, and speak with their own voices. Sometimes, you can’t tell which side some of them are on… and maybe they don’t know, either. The last fourth of the book goes at a frantic pace, leading to a cliffhanger ending that almost made me scream.

This story was worth the wait. If I hadn’t been so involved in the production, I’d be glad to give it five stars.


Poveglia Island - Haunted, Abandoned and Terrifying

A quarantine station, a dumping place for plague victims, and a mental hospital, the tiny island of Poveglia in the Venice Lagoon of Italy has served many sad and disturbing purposes over the years. Today it stands abandoned, a crumbling collection of deserted buildings and weeds. Legends and rumors about Poveglia run rampant. The island’s past reads like a horror story and the horror continues as Poveglia is said to be very haunted.

During the black plague, so many people were burned and buried there that the soil is supposedly 50% human ash. Local fisherman avoid the island in fear of catching bones rather than fish. The psychiatrist who ran the mental hospital tortured and  butchered his patients and then went mad, throwing himself from the island’s bell tower, only to survive the fall and be strangled by a “ghostly mist” that emerged from the ground.

The last known use of the island was a home for the indigent elderly and was abandoned in 1968. The island has been empty ever since. Twenty years ago, work crews hastily erected scaffolding all along the main buildings’ frontage — not to fix them up but merely to delay their falling down.
The island’s first use was as a lazaretto, a quarantine island for maritime travelers opened in 1403, the first institution of its kind. Panicked officials shipped anyone displaying symptoms of plague, be they commoners or nobility, off to the lazarettos. Doctors wore long-nosed masks stuffed with herbs in an attempt to filter sickness from the air they breathed.

During the worst outbreaks, the island was quickly overrun with the dead and dying who were hastily shoveled into grave pits, and when those were full, burned. There are estimated to be many such grave pits on Poveglia, though their locations are unknown unless unearthed during construction, like the one pictured above. Local lore holds that the part of the island traditionally used for growing food holds most of the bodies.


No writing prompts here, nope nope. :-P

Aha… derp is spazz

Josh Barro writes in Business Insider that the term “derp” is here to stay. He (or rather, Prof. Noah Smith) defines derp as the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors, even when those priors (assumptions) have been repeatedly debunked.

I saw more than my fair share of derp in 1999, during the Y2K wars, with doomers clinging desperately to the flimsiest shreds of evidence that supported their stance, ignoring or dismissing the every-stronger evidence that Y2K was not going to bring on the apocalypse. But 14 years ago, “derp” wasn’t a word. Still, it needed a word, and I coined the term “spazz” (with two Zs) for it, named after the twitching that accompanied the rejection of facts.

So… derp is spazz. Or spazz is derp. I guess spazz is the archaic form, and needs to retire to a tropical beach, drinking rum and ogling the bikinis.

Spazz, we hardly knew ya.

An Anecdote about Kids and Technology

Mason, at age 3, figured out how to use the iPad easily enough. But the previous generation has stories of its own to tell.

It was a Big Day for The Boy’s 3rd grade class—their first computer lab. The teacher gave the kids their worksheets, took them to the lab, sat them down in front of the iMacs… and before they could get started, she was summoned to the office.

"Just wait," she said, "I’ll be back soon." So the kids sat and waited…except for The Boy, Mason’s dad, who had an iMac at home. Knowing how to do the assignment, he got started.

The kids next to him said, “how do you do that?” so he showed them. And the kids next to them. By the time the teacher returned, they were all plonking away at their worksheets.