Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Amazon Book Reviews 2013

I have been spurred on to write Amazon Book Reviews. It was a confluence of Amazon probing me to write reviews of of my purchases, and an abundant  overload of really bad (read: free) ebooks.

I have a Kindle, and I know how to use it. I also have a pipeline for free ebooks from the eReader Cafe and BookBub—and I've been an involuntary invalid. I just can't believe there's so much bad escape fiction out there. In self defense, I'm doing something about it review, by review. Maybe it's also self-inflicted punishment for reading so much drivel. Cat-o-nine-tails. Reviewing books is not an easy writing form for me. My cousin said: Why don't you review them too? And so I did. Another tool in the craft toolkit.

Deep Fried and Pickled (The Rachael O'Brien Chronicles Book 1)
Price: $4.99
Great ideas, fun, quirky readDecember 16, 2013

I liked much of the story, how it was written, the format (month by month chronicle of freshman year in 1986), the end of chapter notes to the character's self, and the mystery element. I was never convinced the heroine Rachael O'Brien was an art history major. We're told this about one third way into the story--so it required readjusting one's definition of the central character, and so much of the story is dependent upon this fact. I'm also not convinced of clueless Rachel's sleuthing skills. The introduction of the art theft and forgery ring was a great idea, but full of holes. One reviewer accurately noted that the story was carried by stereotypical drunken college parties, attempts to get laid, irresponsible behavior, and road trips. The story is very juvenile. Not exactly Cold Sassy Tree, but it was a sassy read. Better quality than the usual free ebooks. That said, I'm still deleting it from my library. Meh

The Riddles of Hillgate (Z&C Mysteries, #1)
Price: $3.99

Don't waste your time, it's worth more than this free ebookDecember 16, 2013
To say this book is poorly written is an understatement. It's so bad, it made me cranky enough to want to write my first review, and a negative review at that. Reviewers who posted that this book a well-written great read and rated it five stars, must also find cereal boxes entertaining. Or, they're shills. Trust me, wonderfully written, this book ain't--and I'll read just about anything, including cereal boxes.

Many reviewers commented that this book sounds like it was written by a child, rings too true--only I suspect this ebook was dictated by a 2nd grader with an over-indulgent mother typing every utterance verbatim. I found myself gnashing my teeth and literally yelling at the author(s) over myriad goofy sentences and plot leaps. It's not exactly escape fiction when the reader is fighting with a poorly crafted book.

Virgin Shirley Temples? Really? Hmm, I thought Shirley Temples were already virgin. Odd appearances of other virgin drinks had me wondering if the mother-daughter duo had a secret drinking problem. And how does this relate to the plot? But there's plenty of booze under all the sinks, and plenty for rum cake too.

Wow, first, the mother & daughter duo are broke, then, with no money, they turn the mansion into a hotel, and then and a niteclub all in one fell swoop? Did I miss a chapter or three? We won't mention that the ditzy duo slept in the same bed, and their boyfriends in a separate wing. Really? Claire falls through the rotted floor--where a new washer-dryer were installed? Really? And how did the skeletons get in the basement? We also won't mention the contrived IRS scenario. Segues would be good. Whatever happened to the concept of the suspension of disbelief? Or pyramid structure of ideas? Myriad improbable scenes and dropped storylines galore are guaranteed to have readers gnashing their teeth.

Mother author: seriously? I think it's adorable that you're writing books with your baby daughter (insert awww-factor here), but whatever happened to fostering basic writing skills? At least take some responsibility for the readers who have to READ the stupid books.There's no excuse for this kind of bad writing. Even in a free ebook.

Utter lack of plot development and sequence. Lose the adverbs, adjectives--or at least place the dangling modifiers in the right part of the sentence. Develop plot sequence. Get an editor. Make that several editors: concept/plot; development/sequence editors, and a copy editor too. Attending a writers' group would be useful as well. Hint: spellcheck is not your friend. Just because a word is spelled right doesn't mean it's the exact right word.

One reader mentioned that it read like a Nancy Drew mystery. At least books FOR children are well-written. This one is not. Irritating writing--and as a writer in the schools, I've worked with kids of all ages--I know what they're capable of. Far better than this drivel. Thankgawd no trees were harmed in the process. A colossal waste of time. Minus five stars.


MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2016
MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015
My Amazon Book Reviews 2014
My Amazon Book Reviews 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Such deep quietude,
listening to an occasional car on the freeway—
like long rolling waves rumbling to the shore.
Had a pre-op visit yesterday,
I’ll be facing knee surgery alone
the day after Little Christmas.
What presents
will the three wise men bring me?

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Someone advises me to bomb our house to get rid of the hordes of Argentine ants running amuck. Unfortunately defpggers are not the answer for an ant infestation—I tend to try & die long after the house is deemed safe for human habitation. I must be part insect.

One time, our landlord, who had taken a shine to Bob, decided to bomb our new house as there were fleas in the shag carpet from the previous tenant. He used two foggers—to be safe. He was very pleased with his work. 

Eight hours later, we came back to a lovely flealess house. As I was putting things on the top shelf, I could smell the faux floral essence of pesticide. My ankles were pleased. No more bites. But Buggins wouldn't come back inside the house.

I should've guessed. Soon it became harder to breathe, my throat was raw, and my ribs hurt from trying to breathe. I began to feel drowsy. Dim alarms went off, the penny dropped. Pesticide! I staggered outside, and began to feel better. But every time I entered the house, my symptoms returned.

I had to camp out in the back yard for a month before the house detoxed enough for me to go back inside. It was a very cold October-November in Cotati, as I recall. I had to take a big breath and run into the house to eat, change, use the loo, etc. I became sensitized and even the minutest trace of defogger still sets me off.

rev 12/16


Today is a three-ant day. 
When the lathe & plaster wall 
was torn out from behind
the leaking kitchen pipes,
A colony of ants poured out of the seams
to attack kitchen counters with vengeance.
So I wiped them up with bleach. Again. 
Yesterday was a nine-ant day. 
The day before, multitudes in my cup.
They surf the standing wave 
inside the cracked  blue sugar bowl—
even with a water moat, they find a way.
I am plagued with ants in my tea. 
Piquant. Peppery. They only surface 
after I add the milk. A dark punctuation
of ants surfing in my tea cup. Again.


So far, the Argentine ants have not invaded the kitchen. They're outside circling the trash bins. They like meat, not sugar. Michael Ellis says Argentinian ants are part of a 560-mile long colony that stretches from San Diego to San Francisco. One colony! Yeow!

A poem on the Argentine ants:

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Clan vs Clann

I know you are just frothing to read this post on Old Irish spelling and Pronunciation by Dennis King (Focal an Lae—a website I used to visit often at the turn of the century). I came to the link rather curiously. Old lives meeting new ones, converging all at once—with rather odd results in the Twitterverse, of all places.

I "met" Dennis, who butted in mid-conversation on Twitter last night. OK, so it was already bizarre, to have five-way twitter conversations all in Irish—me, the only one writing in English—until Google Translate up and quit on me.

It all began because I posted this:
“Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Xhosa Madiba clan in Mvezo, in the Umtata district in Transkei, on July 18, 1918, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela. Nelson was a Christian name given to Rolihlahla in school. The clan name of Madiba, which is often used as a form of address for Mandela, comes from the ancestral chief.”
Someone immediately corrected my spelling of clan to clann and said that it meant children, or offspring, not tribe. Another said stet. leave it be. The battle lines were drawn. I said: it’s not a misspelling at all. The word clan entered into English from the Highlands ca. 1425. Clan is a kinship organized by founding member or symbolic apical ancestor. We were off on a fascinating linguistic bent.

The original question on the table was: why is the word clan spelled clann in Irish? (But not always in Scots-Gaelic). What were the rules?

Dennis, a latecomer to the conversation, instead of answering the question, decided I was the weak link and derided my lack of knowledge of Irish, in Irish. Ní gá. Is léir nach bhfuil tú eolach ar an tSean-Gh ná ar na lámhscríbhinní. Slán. It got worse. Flustered chickens could do no better at chest puffing.

Maybe there was no battle of words, maybe it was merely a case of what gets lost in translation. They were all writing in Irish—mostly in Belfast Metro Irish, at that. That's when he tried to rip me a new one because I dared to ask why. He ranted as if credentials were questioned. To be fair, I hadn't a clue as to who he was—other than he was turning out to be a twit boor.

He let fly. There was a palpable pause, a Twitter dite in the Twitterverse replete with sad emoticons. For my part, clan wars ensued. So, I Googled him, then to put it to rest, I name-dropped. I said: I'll ask my Irish professor, Dan Meila. Perhaps he can shed some light. A hit! A palpable hit!

Let's just say Dennis backpaddled: Tá an Nollaig ag teacht agus chuile strus is straidhn a thagann léi, móide laethanta giorra! His link was a peace-offering, I suspect.

But I'm sure you're all champing at the bit to find out what the frothy lit-bits were all about.

It turns out that clann was originally spelled cland in Old Irish. In the Online Etymological Dictionary we found that clann was a word imported from Latin, planta (a green twig, cutting, graft). Huh? I wasn't taking that at face value.

A little more research yielded that cland arrived via the Welsh word for child, plant. It was a borrowing from Old Welsh plant, which was, itself, a borrowing from the Latin planta

Because Irish is Goidelic, vs. Brythinic Welsh, and the Irish substituted k- or c- sound for the Welsh (or Latin) p- sound. (See Welsh map/mab, and Irish macc (son).) But not for the Irish word, páiste, the later, an imported Anglo-Norman word for child (from page). The original Irish word for child was Ieanbh. In this case, both words existed side by side. (The Handbook of Language Contact)

Of course this raises the question, what did the Welsh and Irish call themselves before they got all Latinate, —túath? But that means tribe in the larger sense. In one dictionary I found that the Irish word for clan is treibh. Circular breathing. And why did the Irish even need to import a word like clan? Or child, for that matter? What does that say about the evolving structure of identity in Medieval Irish/Celtic society? Planta doesn't seem to mean family tree in Latin. Fodder for another time.

Some of my basic orthographic questions: do clann & crann follow the same spelling rule (-nn). And why? Where does it come from? Not sure about other double consonant words like tonn, or crann.

After cracking open five dictionaries smelling of mildew an age, I found nothing, except a scrap of yellowed paper—something my grandmother had written long ago, transliterating Spanish and Nahual into Irish. That's fodder for another blog. My eyes hurt from trying to read the small print, magnifying glasses were in order. Nada. So I dusted off my old Irish grammar books.

What I found: Rudolf Thurneysen, in Old Irish Grammar, wrote that scribes refrained from doubling consonants in unlenited groups (p 86)—and it was written as cland, not clann.

Clann was also written as cland—not clann—in Old Irish Paradigms—John Strachan (p 175).

As a rule, it seems that medieval scribes didn't write -nn—as it wasted precious parchment space. It looks like a lack of lenition also affects use of double consonants.

Someone said the -nn also lengthens the vowel sound. Or it replaced lost fadas. So the double -nn is modern Irish rectifying scribal error in old manuscripts?

If cland is a Latin loanword, it explains why I didn't find it in the Táin Bó Cuailgne or the Táin Bó Fraich. But I did rediscover the saying: Atmu!

Atmu! I said to myself, beating my hand to my chest in oath, like the warrior CuChullain. It was a battle of words, alright. To the bitter end. But we emerged, a tribe.

At least I dusted off all my old Irish books—it's been decades. I’m sure this is way more than you ever wanted to know.

Some lit bits:

Richard Sharpe - Irish manuscripts and the complex page

Online Etymology Dictionary Compilation fo several dictionaries including OED

Lexilogos Portal to multiple Latin (and other) dicitionaries

DIZIONARIO LATIN great for conjugating.

MacBain's Dictionary - Gaelic Languages clann children, clan, so Irish, Old Irish cland, Welsh plant, *qlanatâ: Indo-European root qel; Greek @GtÈlos, company; Old Slavonic celjadi@u, family, Lithuanian kiltis = Lettic zilts, race, stock; Sanskrit k˙la, race. Some have added Latin populus. Usually regarded as borrowed from Latin planta, a sprout, English plant, whence Gaelic clannach, comatus.

eDIL electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL) is a digital edition of the complete contents of the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of the Irish Language based on Old and Middle Irish materials. clan atmu

Wictionary: Old Irish cland Borrowing from Old Welsh plant, from Latin planta.
macc From Primitive Irish genitive ᚋᚐᚊᚊᚔ (maqqi), from Proto-Celtic *makkʷos, a variant of*makwos (“son”), (compare Welsh mab, Gaulish mapos, Maponos), from Proto-Indo-European *meh₂ḱ- (“long, thin”) (compare Ancient Greek μακρός (makros, “long”),Latin macer (“thin”).[1]
túath Proto-Celtic *toutā, from Proto-Indo-European *tewtéh

Wictionary: Old Welsh not much use
Welsh terms derived from Latin plant

IRISH WORD  clan treibh

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Landscapes, sketches (art) 2013

I made these drawings in May and June of 2013, ideas for silk art and wet pastels. I like the drawings better than the finished product.

Landscapes, wet pastels (art) 2013

I'm posting all my 2013 wet pastel landscapes at the end of December, though they were done over the course of a year, most were done during the summer.

Wet chalk and wet construction paper pastels: these are 9x12". I can't go back and finish them when the paper's dry as they're generally far too fragile to re-wet and add details. I usually only have about 10-15 minutes to complete a pastel!

This idea evolved when my after-school art kids at Cleveland Elementary Schools (2007), asked if they could do chalk pastels. I wasn't wild about the idea as I like more painterly colors, etc. But I also love to draw. So we did some pastels and I was disappointed in our results. I noticed that one child developed a cough from inhaling the chalk dust. (It bothers me too). His mother insisted it was only a cold (I think she was afraid I wasn't going to let him participate as he totally loved art). But.... I wondered: how can I reduce the chalk dust? Water. When I worked at a horse training stables, we used to sprinkle the indoor arena sand to keep dust levels down.

I discovered a technique of wetting both paper and chalk and it's akin to painting with sticks of chalk. (I've used both oil sticks and Aquerelle watercolor crayon sticks so it was a natural progression. With the Aquarelles, I weted the stiff morilla board first, or sprayed it with water after the crayon was applied. But I didn't want to use white paper for chalk pastels—besides, morilla board is astronomically expensive to use in the classroom.

So I experimented with all kinds of paper and the ONLY paper that would work was my former school painting/drawing nemesis, construction paper. It has a tooth (texture the chalk needs to adhere to) and the glue that holds the woodpulp together softens and the chalk adheres directly to it. Riverside acid free construction paper works best. Most schools have the worst grade cheap construction paper, but it will work, though it's more fragile and will easily tear.

An added bonus of using chalk wet, the colors are more painterly and vibrant. Cheap kid chalk or hopscotch chalk generally won't work, it's often too hard and will tear the paper, but the heavy teacher white chalkboard chalk is a perfect blending tool with a buttery consistency when wet.

We add black details with the waterbase stabillo pencils at the end of the session. (I also remove black chalk from the pastel sets). Pieces are very fragile until the construction paper dries. I put them on paper towels and in a sunlit window to dry.

Adult pastel sets often have toxic chemicals in them—like vermillion, cadmium and cobalt. Don't use them with kids! make sure the chalks have non-toxic AP labels.

I was nosing around for a silk painting idea and did these instead.

Chalk pastel on construction paper, 6x9" or 9 x 12".