I recently joined Facebook mostly as a means of promoting my first novel Crossing the Border (available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback and electronically at other fine book sellers). Immediately I started posting things I had written over the years on different occasions and I expressed excitement at having finally found a home of material that had been sitting forlorn and unloved in my filing cabinet. The lovely Marianne suggested that Facebook was probably not the place where I should grace the world with my unpublished genius. I forget the reasoning, but I considered it sound at the time. As I think about it, she might have said something like “maybe you shouldn’t inflict your doggerel on your friends.”

But now I have a blog! The perfect answer. Visitors will visit if my doggerel and other assorted musings entertains them; I won’t be foisting my stuff on anyone.

Herewith then the inaugural post of verse. I wrote this on the occasion of friend turning 40. At the celebration, I prefaced the reading by noting that the phrase “life begins at 40” was actually the first line of a poem, but that for reasons soon to be apparent the rest of the verse has been lost in the mists of time and only that lone first verse has remained in popular use.

Life begins at forty
A steady slow decline
And even though the day before
You think you feel just fine,
You will soon notice
The ravages of age.
Fading eyesight,
Creaking joints,
A sudden shortness of breath–
Because life begins at forty
The relentless march toward death.

Science Fiction v. Magic

A neighbor of mine recently asked me to review a manuscript of a mid grade science fiction novel with an eye toward the world building in the story. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have read a lot of science fiction over the course of my life and I’m always willing to offer my opinions regardless of how well or ill founded they may be. My wife saw part of what I wrote and thought it might make a good blog post. It was on the difference between magic and science fiction.

One of the things I included in my ramblings was a favorite aphorism coined by Arthur C. Clarke a famous science fiction author and scientist in his own right: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So the difference between a fairy tale and science fiction is changing the label from “magic” to “science.”

In the fairy tale Cinderella’s fairy godmother sprinkles fairy dust on her dress that magically transforms it into a beautiful gown. In the science fiction the female scientist dispenses nano machines that gather atoms from the surrounding environment (including Cinderella’s dress) and build them into molecules then assemble the molecules according to a pattern encoded into the spin state of their electrons into a beautiful gown.

The scientific mumbo jumbo is meaningless but serves as a tag that lets the reader know the story she is reading is science fiction not a fairy tale with magic.

An Explanation

I owe you an apology. I should not have thrown that first post out into the void without some explanation of its origin and significance. So, here goes.

I belong to a neighborhood book club. Thanatopsis, (yes, the club has a name–it also has T-Shirts, but that’s another story) was formed in 1984 and in the thirty-four years since has met once a month to discuss books. From the beginning Thanatopsis has operated on a six month calendar. Each six months a schedule of books to be read is put together and members of the club volunteer to host meetings and to lead discussions. That obviously requires some coordination and the person charged with that coordination has, for reasons lost in the mists of time, been referred to as “The Girl.” The Girl is also tasked with reminding members of upcoming meetings.

My wife was invited to join Thanatopsis shortly after we moved into the neighborhood in 1986. A few years later I expressed interest in attending and was invited to participate as the token male because while no rule exists regarding the sex of the members and men have been invited to become part of the club from time to time I am the only man foolish or brave enough to join the group. My involvement over the years has been spotty owing to work and other commitments; my wife has been a faithful attendee. Since my retirement four and a half years ago (ah, maybe the subject of another post) I have attended regularly. A year or so after my retirement, the member who was acting as The Girl expressed a desire to move on from that position. As I was retired and secure in my masculinity (toxic though it may be), I volunteered to become The Girl.

So every month I send out reminders of upcoming meetings and occasionally provide other information. I try to amuse myself when writing the reminders. I’m gratified when I’m able to amuse others as well.

My first post was the most recent reminder. It was more involved than most.

Book Club Announcement–A Gentleman In Sandy

For my inaugural post I thought I’d post my most recent announcement for Thanatopsis. We recently read A Gentleman in Moscow. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I wish I had written it. Herewith the announcement for our meeting of May 29.


Bounding up the stairs two at a time with an alacrity and energy belying his sixty two years, he cleared the last three with a leap, alighting with feline grace in the dining room inches from the table. Years ago and half a continent away, that table had adorned his childhood home and even now evoked piquant recollections of convivial meals—ricotta cheese pancakes, veal parmesan, tuna casseroles, original joe’s. The table’s craftsman, cunningly working in teak and eschewing a pedestrian round, square or oblong configuration had instead, employing the golden ratios, wrought it in a simple, stunning oval. At first blush appearing to comfortably accommodate six, the table, reflecting the craftsman’s exquisite skill, was fashioned in two separate halves that when slid apart along cleverly placed hidden rails parted to reveal an adroitly disguised extension that, upon unfolding, expanded the table’s capacity from six to ten. Tracing his fingers across the table’s surface stained with the memories of half a thousand festive gatherings of family and friends, Kevin Bates glided through the dining room only to be brought up short. In the living room before him curled into a corner of the loveseat glowed the beauty that had first mesmerized him forty years before. A softly shining computer screen limned her face, drew his eye to fetching silver highlights in her casually mussed hair and reflected from her glasses. Intently peering at the screen with pursed lips, Marianne appeared in the throws of intense mental focus.

Unwilling to disturb such beauty in concentration, Kevin waited until Marianne’s attention wavered and she glanced up from her task. “Bonsoir, ma cherie,” he said, because even after forty years of wedded felicity these small affectionate expressions were not rote repetition but distilled declarations of adoration. (In truth their domestic delight’s forty year mark was still six months in the future, but in matters of the heart a certain gauziness in memory and vision is devoutly to be pursued in place of unwarranted precision.)

“Oh, hey Kev. Don’t forget to send out the book club reminder.”

Apparently forty years sufficed to erode at least one person’s desire to nourish a relationship even with rote repetition. But, zut alors! How could he have forgotten? Tasks lay at hand to be completed with exactness and punctuality. Taking up his computer, Kevin threw himself on the living room settee. Composed of a material that called forth in memory the inimitable Ricardo Montalban purring the praises of “fine Corinthian leather” in automobile upholstery, they had acquired the settee while on holiday in Murray—a Utah paesino where he and his wife had been celebrating their wedding anniversary—from a small, exclusive purveyor of luxury furnishings known as RC Willey.

Accessing the email program, Kevin wracked his brain seeking les mots justes for the Thanatopsis missive, after all he had admirers to please and skeptics to confound.  However, unable to compose an appropriately witty and thoughtful message, he decided ultimately to offer a simple précis because pith is always très élégante.

What:                    Thanatopsis discussing A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

Where:                Debbie’s home

Who:                     Kevin Bates, leading the discussion.

The essentials having been communicated with admirable concision, he contemplated with furrowed brow an appropriate conclusion, one that was not overly ornate, but yet exhibited the flourish he modestly considered to be his calling card. Ah! He had it.

“Exhausted, yet also strangely exhilarated from the effort of feigning gentility even in the small matter of a notification, I remain,

your humble and decidedly ungentle servant,

the Girl