It’s That Time of Year Again

Yep, we’re right in the middle of Banned Books Week.

This year’s Banned Books theme is Young Adult fiction.  Fiction for young adults (teenagers, more or less, though actual readers of young adult books can be just about any age) draws a lot of censorship fire.

The reasons aren’t hard to guess.  Teenagers make a lot of people nervous.  They’re too big to be physically coerced with any guarantee of success, they’re heading toward independence of thought and action with a singleness of purpose that’s bound to frighten anybody with a vested interest in keeping them under control, and they’re exposed to all sorts of strange and threatening new ideas on a daily basis.   The gatekeepers that could be relied on* to keep unwelcome ideas from getting too close to younger children – parents with the power of the purse, teachers with control over the reading list and the classroom bookshelves, librarians with the whole children’s collection in their hands – hold far less sway over teenagers with money of their own to spend and the ability to range freely in both the physical and on-line worlds.

Hence, the often frantic efforts to keep as tight a grip as possible on those sources of teenage reading material that are susceptible to control – and we all know what Princess Leia said about that.

*At least in theory – librarians these days are often dangerous radicals themselves.

Sometimes Life Hands You a Sack of Ingredients

Maybe you have a friend with a garden that’s overproducing, and you get a surprise gift of a bag of zucchini and homegrown potatoes. You already know about making zucchini bread out of other people’s excess zucchini, but the potatoes deserve to have something good done to them before they go to waste, so you decide to make this;

Spinach and Bacon Potatoes


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped (when in doubt, err on the side of more onion, rather than less)
  • 1/2 pound bacon, finely chopped (the original version called for pancetta, the which we do not have, up here in the wilds of the north country, but regular bacon works just fine so long as it isn’t maple-cured or something like that. I buy packages of bacon ends and pieces at the IGA, and they do just fine as ingredient-grade bacon.)
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (throw in a couple extra if your potatoes are running small)
  • 1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (cheddar will also work)
  • 1 pint heavy cream (or half and half, if you’re being economical with money or fat)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium baking dish.
  • Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onion and bacon until onion is tender and bacon is cooked through.
  • Alternately layer the potato slices, the bacon and onion mixture, the spinach, and the cheese in the prepared baking dish.
  • Pour the heavy cream evenly over everything.
  • Cover and bake 1 hour in the preheated oven.
  • Uncover, and continue baking 30 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.

The writing life can be like this sometimes, as well.  You may be going along, working on the project or projects you currently have in hand, when your personal muse shows up with a basket full of ideas and says to you, “Here.  I’m sure you can make something tasty out of these.”

Since it’s a bad idea to ignore gifts from your muse, even inconvenient ones, you’ll have to do something with all those fresh ingredients.  Maybe they can go together to make something you can whip up in a hurry before getting back to your main projects – a quick short story stir fry, as it were.  But maybe they’re better suited for something complex and long-simmering that you don’t have time for right now, so what else can you do?

Well, that’s where food preservation techniques real or virtual scrapbooks and idea files come in.  Get that gift basket full of ideas safely frozen or pickled or salted down and stored in the root cellar, and come the cold midwinter of the mind, they’ll be waiting there to nourish you.

Link of the Day

Now out in e-text in all the usual formats – Debra Jess’s science-fiction romance novel, Bloodsurfer.  (The link will take you to her blog post with links to all the usual suspects.)

I’m claiming just a wee bit of bragging rights on this one, because Debra Jess is a Viable Paradise alumna, and also one of my editorial clients.

So, go – buy, read, have fun!

When Writers Get Bored

My husband and co-author James D. Macdonald got bored the other day – he’s also an EMT, and he was sitting around the ambulance HQ waiting for somebody in their area of operations to have chest pains or run their car into a tree, but nobody did – so he wrote this.

(This also explains why, in our collaborations, he’s usually the plot wrangler and I’m the prose wrangler.  The secret to picking a good collaborator is locating one who thinks that the stuff you find difficult is actually easy, and vice versa.)

A Peeve and a Signal Boost

First, the signal boost:  Fran Wilde’s novel Updraft comes out today.  Smashing science fiction from a Viable Paradise alumna, available in hardcover and ebook formats from the usual suspects.

And now the peeve, because while it’s the first of September summer isn’t quite ready to let go of us just yet, and hot weather makes me feel peevish:

For heaven’s sake, people – copyeditors of the world, I’m looking at you – learn the difference between auger and augur.  Writers have at least some excuse, since the gift of good writing and the gift of good spelling are very much not the same thing, but it’s a copyeditor’s job to be aware of these  differences and keep good writers from looking like bad spellers in front of the reading public. For that reason, it annoys me when I spot mistakes like this in published work.

Okay.  Deep breath.

An auger, with an e, is a drill, specifically a tool with a helical bit for boring holes in wood or dirt.

As part of his cunning plan to do away with his fishing partner, Joe used an auger to drill a hole in the bottom of the rowboat they used on alternate days.

An augur, with a u, is an ancient Roman prophet or soothsayer, specifically one who was trained in reading the future from omens such as the flight of birds (and not to be confused with a haruspex, who did the same thing by studying the innards of sacrificial animals.) The predictions thus obtained are known as auguries, and the verb to augur still means “to portend a good or bad outcome.”

Joe’s fishing partner (who commuted on alternate days from ancient Rome by way of temporal translocation) consulted an augur about the day’s fishing prospects.  The augur, observing a flight of geese in the left-hand rear quadrant of the sky, said that the signs did not augur well for going on the water that morning.  When the rowboat sank at the pier later that day with no-one on board, Joe’s partner’s confidence in the auguries was confirmed.

So.  Two different things, two different spellings.