Writing Sappho’s Agency

Sapphos agency poster (482x640)Sappho’s Agency is what-if story about sexuality in a society with three girls for every boy. Years ago, the Beach Boys song “Surf City” got me thinking that such a ratio might not be a picnic on the beach. I wrote three books about such a world before my writing took an abrupt shift toward the graphic and erotic.


At the time, I was searching for a publisher for my science fiction novel Princess Politkofsky of Fenria, but I was having readers repeatedly mistake it for YA and asking for it to be rewritten to appeal to a younger audience. I was loth to do this since I don’t see this story as a YA adventure.


While I was in the midst of preparing a query packet, the moderator of an online critique group announced that no R-rated material would be allowed for submission. I was puzzled since this group was purportedly devoted to science fiction romance. I don’t see how we can write romance or science fiction without including sex and violence. The moderator wasn’t forthcoming with any guidelines other than to say PG-13 only.


I set about doing research and discovered that the film ratings are inconsistent as well as secretive and arbitrary. I watched the documentary, This Film not Yet Rated, about the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system. I also read up the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. This is the list of books once banned by the Roman Catholic Church.


Title page of Index Librorum Prohibitorum, or ...

Title page of Index Librorum Prohibitorum, or List of Prohibited Books, (Venice 1564). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Inspired, I set forth to write a story which I found to be both erotic and interesting. I faced up to my own sexuality. In my defense of my kinky taste, it’s largely in response to caring for my husband who lived in chronic and excruciating pain before he died. I’m turned on by relieving pain, not by causing pain. I do not intend to promote wild promiscuity or irresponsible behavior or to objectify either women or men. My own sexual orientation and preference is monogamy.


I later backed off on my use of graphic language. According to publishers of erotica, the sex in Sappho’s Agency isn’t spicy enough, so I went the other direction and removed crude language while keeping most of the scenes unaltered. I also removed all sex scenes which were unnecessary to the plot.


I soon met up with more instances of censorship. After I read from Sappho’s Agency at a writers’ conference, I was approached by a woman who thought my story inappropriate since there were teenage girls in the audience. I spoke with her about what exactly she found objectionable. It turns out she didn’t like the word “pussy.” I later removed this word as part of fine-tuning the language of the story. Possibly she actually objected to a portrayal of women enjoying sex. This seems to be the major no-no of the film ratings board.


She spoke to the organizers of a conference who instituted a policy that all readings at the conference must be appropriate for those under eighteen. I’m hoping the conference will change their policy by having an adult only reading time. I feel sex and sexuality are important issues which need a hearing before an adult audience. I also think erotic literature should be respected as serious literature.


Publishing isn’t the next Gold Rush

We’ve heard it how self-publishing is the new gold rush, a repeat of the California, Pike’s Peak, Klondike, and Nome Gold Rushes, among others. Once again we have the boondoggles and shysters, the Soapy Smiths and Phillip Arnolds. Phillip Arnold sold worthless investments in diamond mines. Soapy Smith ran a number of confidence schemes until he met his death on the docks of Skagway

.But then e-books aren’t gold, and that’s a key difference. Placer gold is non-renewable. Once it’s dredged from the sandbars it’s gone. Even if you find the mother lode and bring in the big money needed for hard rock mining, gold eventually gets played out. Not e-books. There’s more where they came from, an inexhaustible mother lode of creativity.

John_McDougallMy great-great-great grandfather and his brother struck it rich in wild west. George and John McDougal(l) headed west in 1945, fought in the Mexican-American War, and the drummed up support for the California Gold Rush. I suspect this was a ploy for political power, an attempt to get US citizens into newly won territory quickly. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and nightmares.


John McDougal was the second governor of the state of California. George and John McDougal made their money selling real-estate. They parceled out land in San Francisco and Sacramento to newly arrived gold seekers. Men and women rushed into the west faster than law enforcement could keep up. John, George, and their colleague Mariano Vallejo, the former Mexican governor of California, struggled to maintain the rule of law. They cobbled together the California prison system starting with a single prison ship moored in San Francisco harbor. They attempted to defend the rule of law with guns and failed spectacularly.

John McDougal’s political careers in California came to an end when the vigilantes attempted to hang a gang called the Sydney Ducks. John McDougal put together a swat team which may have included George McDougal and Mariano Vallejo. They raided the vigilante compound, but failed to get the criminals out of the clutches of the vigilantess. As a result John McDougal was roasted by the press and branded with epitaphs such as “I John,” and “his ascendency.” John McDougal left office in disgrace for his efforts. George left the state for Colorado where he “discovered” more gold and sold real-estate in a place soon to be called Denver. Vallejo continued to defend the rights of California Latinos against the depredations of newly arriving Anglos.

I’m considering my ancestors, those who succeeded and those who failed. John McDougal died an alcoholic in 1866. George McDougal took his own life in 1871 after US Congress refused to pay him back for cattle he’d purchased to settle a treaty with California Native American tribes. Mariano Vallejo died 1890 after having lost most of his land.

Others who followed after them made money. Investors moved in. In the California Gold Rush, prospectors where after placer gold which is gold nuggets deposited in sand and gravel. It’s mined by using a sluice and rocker box or by using dredges. Mining for placer gold takes very little start-up money. In this it’s like e-book publishing. As the gold mining industry matured, corporations brought in expensive dredges and very quickly sucked up all the placer gold. Corporations also had the money required for hard rock mining which requires drilling into solid granite to get at pockets of gold.


Governor John McDougal lived in Belmont California. William Ralston, John’s neighbor, became wealthy with the Comstock Lode in Virginia City. Ralston, known as Billy, founded the Bank of California, but he too lost his wealth. After the 1873 stock crash, Ralston was found dead, possibly from suicide. He’d tried to buy the Spring Valley Water Company. This company was later responsible for flooding Hetch Hetchy, an act considered by many to be one of the greatest acts of environmental desecration in the West. Another of my ancestors, Samuel Eastman who was president of The Spring Valley Water Company at the time. Samuel Eastman went nearly bankrupt after the stock crash of 1929.


I can’t consider these men as success stories. For that I look to my immigrant ancestors. My German immigrant great-great uncle who started a grocery store which was absorbed by Ralphs and then by Kroger. Another uncle, son of an Irish immigrant, started the Wiremold Company which eventually produced Cisco routers.


I see that my ancestors who succeed sold services, not non-renewable resources. I also see that my successful ancestors invested for the long term and maintained a focus on people. Wiremold was a success because it provided fair compensation to workers and was willing to innovate. Founded in the late 19th century, provided the non-glamour side of the tech revolution, producing wire management for first the emerging electrification of America and then for the computer industry. It innovated with JIT, just in time production, to compete and keep costs down until it was sold to LeGrand in 2000. JIT is the forerunner of POD.


From history I see that success comes from innovation and long-term investment in people. This is good for e-book publishing because we’re selling a service not a commodity. The supply of creative ideas can’t be used up. The value of a book is only in the mind of a reader. Its value is people, and they can’t be dammed or melted down into hard gold.


“Man” according to The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Sappho’s Agency  Science Fiction Novella

Yesterday, I sent my science fiction novella, Sappho’s Agency to an editor. I wrote it in response to The Catechism of The Catholic Church. My copy of The Catechism is marked up with pencil and sticky notes. The Catechism was compiled in 1994 by Joseph Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict XVI. I have a photo of the Pope Benedict posted above my computer. He fascinates me. I cannot reconcile his bespoke red shoes and gold-encrusted vestments with the gospel. Still, I admire him for stepping down from the papacy. He’s an enigma.

English: Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São...

English: Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São Paulo, Brazil. Italiano: Papa Benedetto XVI durante visita a San Paolo, Brasile. Português: Papa Bento XVI durante visita a São Paulo, Brasil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opening paragraph of The Catechism chaffed at me for years. For me, the thorn, the insurmountable stumbling block, is the ambiguous use of the word “man.” Depending on the meaning of this word, the paragraph has two diametrically opposed interpretations.

Because of the ambiguity, I stopped attending mass and contributing to the offertory. I cannot in good conscious accept communion when other members of the Church are excluded from the sacraments due to sexuality, marital status, or political stance.

The Life of Man: to Know and Love God

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of the family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time has come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

Here is one possible meaning.

The Life of Adult Male Humans: to Know and Love God

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created adult male humans to make them share in their own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to adult male humans. He calls adult male humans to seek him, to know him to love him with all his strength. He calls together all adult male humans, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of the family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time has come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites adult male humans to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

Read this way the paragraph is a call to the exceptionality of adult males. Men are close to God in a special way which isn’t shared by women, children, or those with ambiguous gender. Men are called together as one in their special relationship to God.

My initial reaction after first reading the passage was that I’d misunderstood. Surely the church wouldn’t make male exceptionality a central tenant of Christianity.

After first paragraph, I immediately flipped to the index find a refutation of my interpretation. I didn’t find it. The index contains 126 references to man, only 6 references to women, and no references to humanity. The single reference to women’s ordination uses “man” to mean adult human male. Because only men were present at the last supper, women are excluded from the priesthood. It doesn’t make sense. If “man” means adult human male in regards to ordination surely this is the meaning of “man” throughout the entire catechism.

So here is the other possible meaning.

The Life of Humanity: to Know and Love God

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created humanity to make them share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to humanity. He calls people to seek him, to know him to love him with all his strength. He calls together all people, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of the family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time has come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites people to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

The implications are quite different. If this interpretation is correct then I expect the Church should promote human equality, to act out in deed as well as in word that all people are invited, that all people are heirs, not just adult males. So which is the intended meaning?

I thought maybe it’s a translation problem. Maybe Latin lacks an inclusive word such as “humanity” or “people,” but that’s absurd. Both “humanity” and “people” are Latin words. I asked an Italian translator about this. He assured me that both Latin and Italian have inclusive words. Thus, I conclude the ambiguous use of “man” is deliberate, and so the intended meaning is “adult human male.”

This interpretation is supported by the rest of the Catechism which deny equality to women and homosexuals. This interpretation is further supported by the Church’s actions and in-actions in regards to marriage equality, ordination of woman, and women’s access to health care.

If the Church fathers intended “man” to mean “humanity,” they would have used humanity. There wouldn’t be a reason for ambiguity.

If “man” means adult human males, the Church fathers retain positions of special authority. They can’t they state this in a clear and unambiguous manner, for fear The Catechism would be rejected by nearly everyone in the Catholic Church. Instead, the Church fathers claim special authority in such a way that their words will be misinterpreted.

This deception may have failed. Many of us have left the Church. Many others have refused to vote or to act in accordance with the directives of the Church. In the US, most Catholic couples use contraceptives. Furthermore, most US Catholics support marriage equality. Possibly the Church will soon reverse its position on human equality in regards to marriage, gender, and sexuality.

But even so I wouldn’t go back. The hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is inherently unequal, elevating a few members to positions of great power while marginalizing and denigrating many others. This is not right.


Fenrian Granola

I’m baking up a batch of granola as made on my fictional planet Fenria. Fenria’s climate is cool and wet like Alaska so Fenrians aren’t cultivating much sugar cane, corn, or wheat. They eat more oats and rye and sweetened with barley malt or barley sugar. So here is a recipe for granola made up entirely of foods which could be grown in Alaska.

Fenrian granola

Fenrian granola

Fenrian granola

Fenrian granola

  • 8 cups rolled oats.
  • 1 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds.
  • 1 cup sunflower oil.
  • 1 cup barley malt syrup.
  • 2 cups dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 350. Combine oats and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Measure oil  and poor into a sauce pan. Use the same measuring cup to measure the malt syrup. The oil keeps the malt syrup from sticking. Heat oil and malt while stirring to soften the malt.  . Poor oil and malt over grain mixture and stir to coat oats with oil and malt.Dump grain mixture into an oiled baking dish. Bake granola until toasty stirring every 15 minutes. Cool. Add dried fruit.

I didn’t exactly follow the recipe this time because I’m at my parents place. I used almonds instead of sunflower seeds, canola oil instead of sunflower oil, and raisins instead of cranberries.



Fishing Float Book Lanyards


I’ve made thirteen book lanyards.  Each can be used as a necklace, bookmark, or badge lanyard. I’ll be giving away six of them. If you subscribe to my newsletter before August 2, I’ll put your name in a hat. I’ll draw six names to see who gets them.

On the Alaska Marine Highway, the crew docks a ferry by throwing a leader line to waiting dock personnel. They have the hawser laid out on the deck ready to go. The personnel on the dock wear orange vests and hard hats. I love watching the procedure, a timeless dance of docking a ship. In over a thousand years not much has changed. Well, except for nylon ropes, the power capstan, and women working openly on the crew. I understand that women used to disguise themselves as men to work aboard ships.20100603_4960 20100603_496220100603_4966

I love making model boats and just had to make a miniature of the gear, so I decided to make miniature docking lines to be used as bookmarks.

Then I recalled at an SF convention seeing glass marbles incorporated into wire sculptures of trees. It had reminded me of fishing floats. I’ve attached the lanyards to miniature fishing floats, each one made of wire or hemp netted around a marble.


Book lanyard in a copy of Two Years Before The Mast


Bloomer Costume on July 4th

20140704_140031_1 (1)20140704_110927On July 4th, I wore my Bloomer costume in Delaney Park. I’ve been working on my Bloomer costume for weeks and thinking about it for years. The costume popularized in 1851 by Amelia Bloomer features a full-skirted knee-length tunic over Turkish trousers. She was the editor of the first magazine editor devoted to women’s issues. The costume didn’t become fully accepted until women took up cycling at the end of the 19th century. I was aware of this when I sold bicycles at REI and that’s when I first wanted to make a Bloomer costume as well as a 19th century ski costume.

Last year I found out that Amelia Bloomer is an Episcopalian saint, and I felt greater impetus to make a Bloomer suite. I bought patterns for A Bloomer Costume from Past Patterns and for 1896 Ripple Jacket from Truly Victorian. The ripple jacket would go well with bicycling or skiing. I put away both patterns and forgot about them until I was faced with doing voter registration. At the Anchorage Summer Solstice Celebration, I couldn’t bring myself to confront strangers about their voter registration status. I realized I’d feel differently if only I had a sandwich board or a hat. Or a costume. A Bloomer Costume!

20140704_121511Ablaze with the idea, I dug out the pattern, purchased fabric and started sewing.The result is a resounding success. I have a blue Bloomer costume with a red-and-white sash announcing, “Vote.” I haven’t actually registered any voters, but I talk to people about the history of suffrage and about the importance of voting. Suffrage means the legally recognized right to vote and run for office.  I even had my picture taken with Harriet Drummond who is running for state house.  I don’t even have to speak. My costume says it all.


Bloomer Costume

Bloomer Costume

"Bloomer" dress of the 1850s.

“Bloomer” dress of the 1850s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1851 Amelia Bloomer, magazine editor, publishing article and images of an innovative new outfit, a knee length skirt over Turkish trousers. This became known as the Bloomer costume. Pictures still circulate on the web. The most popular, done by N Currier, shows a young woman clad in a red bodice coupled with white skirt and trousers. She stands in a rose garden and carries a handkerchief.

Oddly, the woman’s right sleeve is cuffed but her left sleeve is open.. The hairstyle and low neckline don’t seem to fit with the time period when loose hair was a sign of a loose woman. The image looks weird to me.


Depiction of Amelia Bloomer wearing the famous...

Depiction of Amelia Bloomer wearing the famous “bloomer” costume which was named after her (mid-length skirts over quasi-harem-pants) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another image, this one based on a daguerreotype by TW Brown, makes more sense.The image must be an etching based on an actual photo of Bloomer. The hands and feet are in the same position in both images. I suspect that Currier copied the Brown image and gave it his own interpretation, one which harked back to the shepherdesses admired in the time of Marie Antoinette, a time when long pantalettes were risqué.

I also see a similarity between the Brown daguerreotype and another image, this one of the Mexican Spy Company drawn in 1847. Amelia Bloomer’s costume has the same sort of buttons and sash. The Mexican Spy Company fought on the US side during the Mexican American war. They were led by legendary outlaw, Manuel Dominguez. Notice the chaps, the boots, and the high crowned hat. The jacket could very nearly be a modern denim jacket.

I wonder what images Bloomer seen of the war with Mexico. Was this similarity deliberate, or is the similarity merely because of the style of the times?

In my interpretation of the Bloomer costume, I included buttons, hat, and sash inspired by the Mexican spy company. My styling is much closer to the Brown daguerreotype than it is to the Currier image.

mexican spy20140705_5034




Bloomer Voter Registration Drive

Depiction of Amelia Bloomer wearing the famous...

Depiction of Amelia Bloomer wearing the famous “bloomer” costume which was named after her (mid-length skirts over quasi-harem-pants) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the Anchorage July 4 Celebration in Delaney Park, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, I’ll be registering voters while dressed in a 1851 Bloomer costume. If you’d like to join me in registering voters wear a costume from the time era between 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention and 1920, passage of the Nineteenth amendment. Steam punk costumes work great so do mountain-man buckskins. I’d like to make this an annual event.

The Bloomer costume:

In 1851, Bloomer costumes were all the rage. This style of clothing features a calf-length skirt worn over bloomers, ankle length puffy trousers. Amelia Bloomer saw the costume at the Seneca Falls Convention, the kick off for the Woman’s Suffrage movement, and popularized this reformed style of dress in her temperance Journal, The Lily. This innovation freed women from voluminous and dangerous, floor-length petticoats and crinolines. The Bloomer costume has become a symbol of the women’s suffrage movement and thus for all voting rights.

Join the effort:

Let’s celebrate diversity and inclusion. In the late 19th century, US territory had expanded to the California and the American southwest, bringing the diverse peoples of this area into our nation. Slaves were freed. Immigrants from places such as Ireland, China, and Central Europe added to our rich heritage. Let’s wear costumes representing the contributionsof these people and their struggles to achieve full citizenship. Let’s welcome new voters, particularly new citizens.

“Bloomer” dress of the 1850s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The counter-guerrila chief of the mex...


I’m wishing for a rendition of the Mexican Spy Company uniform. During the Mexican American War, GWar, General Winfield Scott organized an intelligence network made up of Latino men, and maybe women too. Without their efforts, most of the western United States would still be part of Mexico. I’m pushing the time window back to 1845 to include the war which made the US into a Hispanic nation and inevitably changed our national character.

Here is a link to a poster showing the uniform. http://www.barewalls.com/i/c/458272_Corps-of-Engineers-and-the-Mexican-Spy-Company-1847.jpg




Fenrian Tides Newsletter

The inaugural edition of Fenrian Tides Quarterly is ready to send out. I’ll be getting it out in accordance with the solstice and equinox tides.

I launch my first novel Sappho’s Agency February 2015. It’s maritime erotic science fiction romance, but that’s too many words so I’m calling it science fiction. If you’d like updates on when my books are coming out, sign up using the form on sidebar to the right.

Sappho and her bisexual partner Daisy, insemination specialists, have landed the case of a lifetime: arrange an anonymous liaison between the most eligible bachelor on the planet and a mysterious young woman. The purpose: to produce a child. But as Sappho and Daisy untangle the identity of the woman and the sexual fetishes of the couple, they discover systematic exploitation reaching to the very top of society. Sappho encourages the young woman to throw off political restraints and follow her heart.

Barbeque Cover

Here is a cover I made for my barbeque out of a 10ft x 12ft tarp.

I  folded in half and cut a 21″ strip out of the middle to go over the top of the barbeque. I folded the remainder in half again and measured out the side pieces then cut them out. I sewed the pieces together with 3/4″ seam allowance. I lined up the bottom hemmed parts and added pleat to the top piece to get it to match.  I finished the seams by trimmed one side of seam allowance to 1/4″, folding over the long side and sewing it down.

The cover is reversible with one side brown and the other side green. I was after the brown but if I want a change I can put green on the outside.