Trivia Time: Florence Nightingale

Here is something most people don’t know about me, I am obsessed with Florence Nightingale. Florence Nightingale is probably the most influential figure in the history of nursing, and she’s definitely the most recognized. But this is not what intrigues me about the woman. It’s how different the real woman was from her public image.

Florence’s public image

The events that launched her into the history books and cemented her legacy was her involvement in the Crimean War in 1854. She arrived at Scutari Barracks Hospital to find the place dilapidated, dirty and woefully unprepared for the thousands of wounded soldiers brought there. The mortality rate was astounding, 42% by one estimate. In a matter of months she turned the place around, reducing mortality to 2% and making it a model for military and civilian hospitals alike.

In public perception, she is the Lady with the Lamp, making rounds through the hospital at night. She is a saintly, almost Mother-Theresa-like figure. She is epitome of kindness and compassion. Nurses today still take the Nightingale Pledge and the image of the Lady with Lamp adorns many nursing pins, caps and nursing school logos.

The real Florence Nightingale

640px-Florence_Nightingale_CDV_by_H_Lenthall

The real Florence Nightingale was a wealthy noble woman who detested the “gilded cage” of her social position. A staunch feminist, she saw nursing as means to give women an avenue for independent careers and lives. Her reforms at Scutari had to do with demanding better sanitation, higher standards of care, adequate supplies for the staff and patients alike. She was a capable administrator, but more than anything, she was a bitch. And I say that with pride. A friend described her in a letter, “she scolds sergeants and orderlies all day long, you would be astonished to see how fierce is grown.”

This is the Florence I love. She knows what needs to be done and she’ll see it done, no matter what. If she couldn’t get the men under her to do what needed done, she complained to their superiors. When the superiors didn’t budge, she wrote letters home to influential people she knew. In one letter she said, “It is a current joke here to offer a prize for the discovery of any one willing to take responsibility.” A prize she notes, that remained uncollected. When influential men back home proved unable to help her, as was often the case, she took matters into her own hands and did it herself. She broke into and rummaged the purveyor’s office almost daily to steal supplies, by her own admission even. When they failed to assign enough carpenters to repair the hospital, she went and hired more on her own.

This is the Florence I wish they taught about in nursing school; the fierce advocate for her patients. The tough woman who wouldn’t back down when she knew she was right. The practical problem solver who invented the notion, if you want something done, do it yourself.

And then there is this…

I have recently returned to my obsession with Florence because I had the idea that she would make a great steampunk character. In the course of my research I picked up Edward Cook’s 1913 biography of her life. It’s the kind of book only a history buff would love, but they will love it well.

Here is the most amazing tidbit I’ve picked up so far. The conditions at Scutari when Florence arrived were so bad, the hospital was over ran with vermin. Florence joked that “if they had but unity of purpose” they could easily have carried off the entire hospital. One of the skills she was noted for in the early days there was killing rats. A visitor wrote home to tell the story of how Florence, sitting at a Nun’s sick bed, knock a rat out of the rafters and killed it, without waking the patient.

What is not to love about this? Florence Nightingale, mother of modern nursing, killing rats. Now I have to make her a steampunk character, for that one scene alone.

 

Fan Fiction on the Kindle?

I recently stumbled across this post: Amazon now indulges in your GI Joe fan fiction. I was going to tweet it out, but some times my thoughts range over the 140 character limit, no matter how hard I try. This is not the first, in fact Amazon has been running Kindle worlds, a program that allows you to write and sell fan fiction for licensed worlds, which range from Gossip Girls to Vampire Diaries.

Fan fiction is nothing new. In high school I had a friend who had stacks of floppy disks (this was back in the eighties when floppy disks were not only still in use, they were actually floppy) with his own Transformer stories. I can only assume that before computers people were writing out their fan fiction long hand. When the internet appeared people began to share their fan fiction and it was existed online for many years.

But selling fan fiction? That has been taboo for a long time. Will it take off? How will effect publishing?

I have never really be a fan of fan fic, pun somewhat intended. As a reader I have always been more drawn to exploring new worlds and writers, rather than rehashing series. As a writer, my rare attempts at fan fiction were short and stifled. (Other than the occasional joke.) Many writers claim to have gotten their start in fan fic, but to me it’s harder than original writing. Trying to tell a story within someone else’s context is something I could never wrap my brain around.

What do you think about fan fiction be available for sale on the Kindle? Do you read fan fiction? Will you pay for it? What effect do you think it will have on publishing?

The Ten Best Things About Being a Werewolf

thebestpartofbeingawerewolf

 

 

 

Last week I wrote about the ten downsides of being a werewolf/shapeshifter. But there are more positives than downsides, especially in the Bear Naked world. So what are the best things about being a werewolf?

1. Wolves are stronger than humans

A lot of guys want to flex their biceps and try to intimidate you. Secretly you are laughing at all of them, because shifters are much stronger than humans. Bears are the strongest, followed by wolves. Otters are the weakest of the shifters but even they are surprisingly strong. School bullies are a lot less intimidating when you know you can bounce them down the hall if you wanted to.

2. Wolves are faster

Need to be somewhere in a hurry? Go on four feet. Wolves can run long distances without tiring.

3. The healing gift

It takes a lot to put a werewolf down, in large part thanks to the healing gift. Is it science or magic? No one knows for sure. But what we do know is this, take a deep cut to the shoulder and tomorrow it will be little more than a scratch. Even bullet holes will heal over in a fraction of the time.

There are limits, as with everything. Whatever the healing gift is, it’s in the blood. If your blood stops pumping, say because someone shoots a huge hole in your heart, you’re dead. If you lose a limb, you lose a limb.

4. Better sense of smell

Wolves have a remarkable sense of smell. Every tribe has its own unique chemistry and you can learn to identify which tribe a shifter is from by catching his or her scent. You can also follow your pack mates by trailing their scent, useful on long missions.

5. Better vision

Wolves have better eyesight than humans, especially in low light situations.

6. Your Pack

Being part of a pack means someone always has your back, no matter what. It means wherever you go, you have your clique and your family with you. As adults packs work together. Everything is better that way. They share responsibilities and chores. There is always a babysitter around. They share money, allowing them to live decent lives without having to sacrifice everything to their human jobs.

7. Your Tribe

You don’t just have a pack when you are a werewolf, you have a tribe as well. The tribe cooperates on bigger enterprises. You never have to be afraid of getting in over your head because you can always call on your tribe to bail you out.

8. Self defense

Between the healing gift and being stronger than the average human, werewolves don’t have a lot to fear. On top of that, most werewolves have some rudimentary martial arts training. fighting is still important to werewolf culture and a skill not easily forgotten. If all else fails, shift. Wolves have better natural weaponry, sharp teeth and long claws.

9. More interesting lives

What did you do this summer? Did you save a friend’s life this spring? Are you going to spend the summer learning to shift and fight in wolf form? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Werewolves have much more interesting lives that you and I.

10. Kick ass summer camp

Finally on the list of best things about being a werewolf is the Leidulf Wolf Camp. Built deep in the woods in Northern Wisconsin, its the ideal place to train new werewolves. Its a long hike from civilization but an easy distance from the Elder’s camp, where all the big tribal decisions are made. Wolf Camp is no picnic. There are tribal and pack hierarchies to work out. There are challenges, martial arts tournaments and its own unique traditions, like knock downs. The one thing it’s not, is boring.

Bear Naked 2: Wolf Camp

Ten Problems with Being a Werewolf

Being a Werewolf sounds cool but there are downsides, too.

Being a Werewolf sounds cool but there are downsides, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Being a shapeshifter sounds really cool, but as we see in the first Bear Naked book, there are downsides. What are the challenges that face modern day shifters?

1. Clothing

Wolf form is differently shaped and sized. Anything you are wearing is probably not going to survive the transition. That’s no big deal when you become a wolf, but it is kind of a big deal when you go back to human. How do you explain your sudden nudity? Not to mention the cost of constantly having to purchase new outfits.

2. Guns

Yeah, shifters are about the biggest bad asses out there. But put a forty five in the hands of a wimp and they can still blow a huge hole in your chest. That sucks.

3. Money

Being a werewolf is a lot of hard work, made harder by the fact that it doesn’t pay shit. Remember what Aaron Leidulf says, “you will always have to balance human needs and human society against wolf needs and society”

4. Humans kind of stink

Having a super sensitive nose is great when you need to track something in wolf form, but let’s face it, do you really want to smell the average human? I didn’t think so.

5. Raw meat

You can survive in wolf form if you need to, and that’s really awesome. But it means hunting and then eating your kill raw, and that is a lot less awesome.

6. Not telling

A lot of cool stuff happens to shifters, but they have to keep it to themselves. You can’t just go around blabbing.

Someone's pet wolf? Or Shapeshifter friend in disguise?

Someone’s pet wolf? Or Shapeshifter friend in disguise?

7. Being part of a pack

Being in a pack has a lot of upsides. Your pack brothers and sisters have got your back. You will never be lonely again. But there are downsides too. Don’t expect a lot of privacy. Or choice, the pack sticks together no matter what. You will spend the rest of your life living and working wherever the pack decides.

8. Pack Hierarchy

Have you noticed that most Shapeshifter fantasies are told from the point of view of the alphas? Why is that? Maybe because being one of the betas or worse still, the omega, isn’t nearly as much fun.

9. Other Werewolves

Wolves are territorial by nature and they don’t all play nice. So get out there and defend your territory.

10. Bears are still bigger

Werewolves are about the biggest badasses out there. But they aren’t the biggest badasses. That spot is reserved for Bear Clan.

What do you think are the downsides of being a werewolf? Do they outweigh the benefits, or not? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

And if you haven’t checked out Bear Naked yet, here is the link.

 

Ten Novels that Influenced Me Growing Up

Here are the ten novels that influenced me the most growing up. Note, these aren’t necessarily my favorite novels now or the ones I consider to be the most important or influential novels. Tastes change as we grow older and experience gives us a different perspective on what it important or not important. These are, rather, ten novels I remember reading and rereading throughout my childhood and teen years. They shaped who I am today.

  1. The Hobbit by J. R. Tolkien: I love anything Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit will always hold a special place in my heart. The opening lines, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…” have always been among my favorite opening to any book. I wrote a book report about the Hobbit every single year of school from somewhere in middle school all the way through high school. And I reread it each time.

  2. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury: I come back to Ray Bradbury regularly. He is one of my all time favorite writers even now, and The Illustrated Man is my favorite work by far.

  3. Dune by Frank Herbert: I was in 8th grade when I discovered Dune at the local library. My mother insisted it was above my reading level. I read it purely to prove her wrong. Looking back on it, I am sure she only said it because she knew that would make me read it. She was that kind of crafty. I loved it and it fueled a love to Science Fiction.

  4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov: Asimov was another writer I read obsessively growing up. I have a long epic fantasy series of my own that I am working on, the Gilded Empire, about a giant magical empire. For a long time my best description of this series was, “I read foundation too many times as a kid and played too much D&D.”

  5. A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony: My sister Mickey got me started reading this book when I was middle school. Throughout high school Xanth was one of those series that I waited impatiently for the next book to come out. I made it through the first nine book before I stopped obsessing. I have read some of the later ones more recently. Either my tastes have changed, or his writing, because I don’t enjoy the series as much anymore.

  6. Dragonriders of Pern by Anne MccAffrey: I got the first one through one of the many book clubs I belonged to and loved it. I read several more in the series throughout high school.

  7. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin: I have to confess that I saw the movie first on this one. PBS was a big part of my life growing up, watching Doctor Who on Saturday Nights and then other old B science fiction that they showed. Then I saw their original 1980 movie, The Lathe of Heaven. I was entranced and had to read the book.

  8. The Mist of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: I can still recall getting the thick hardcover copy from a book club and wondering if it was going to be worth the dough I had forked over, all based on a beautiful cover. It was. I read it multiple times. I have reread it as an adult and, sad to say, it’s not nearly as good as I remembered it to be.

  9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Adams is a master of comedy. This series opened my eyes to the lighter side of being a science fiction geek. I read the entire series. I watched the early BBC miniseries. I played the original text based computer game that came on the large floppy disks, back when we had large floppy disks. This was one of my all time favorite series.

  10. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks: This list is probably dating me pretty bad, but I was around the first paperback release of the Sword of Shannara as well. I loved it and read it several times. I got through the first two trilogies before moving on.

 

That’s my list. I know there are a lot of really good novels that aren’t on the list. Some I didn’t encounter until later in my life, some hadn’t come out yet. I tried hard not to list only one book per author, though I could have easily put a half dozen Ray Bradbury books down (Or Asimov, Tolkien, or Herbert) but I didn’t want to limit the list that way.

It’s a Conspiracy, I tell you

My sister has written humorous book about lesbian life. It is called the Dyke Diagnostic Manual. In it she deals with the tricky question of how do you identify and name a group of lesbians.

My sister’s book of humorous insight into lesbian life, drawn from years of personal experience.

 

After looking throughout nature she decides the best model for lesbian group behavior is geese. They are both matriarchal but have a relatively egalitarian structure. A group of geese is called a gaggle, so a group of lesbians must therefor be named a laggle.

 

Lately I have been spending more time with fellow writers. I am in three different writing groups that I attend regularly. What do you call a group of writers?

 

What animal is at times wise and at times foolish? What animal can be dark and mysterious but also loud and raucous? A crow, of course. And what do you call a group of crows? A murder.

 

But writer’s don’t do anything, they just write about it. So writers can’t be called a murder, we are only a conspiracy.

 

"A conspiracy of writers" I like the ring to that.

“A conspiracy of writers” I like the ring to that.

 

 

The Story of Babi

Babisbottle

There have been two books I have read that really got under my skin because of the situation I was in when I read them. One of those books was Russalka by C.J. Cherryh. The book is set in ancient Russia. The two main characters have to flee town and they become trapped by a wizard in the woods. Most of the action takes place in a two room cabin in the woods. This being ancient times there is nothing more than candlelight. Every night they try to leave when the wizard falls asleep but they are foiled by one of the wizards servants, Babi.

Babi is an earth spirit. The wizard feeds Babi with offerings of vodka. When the characters try to leave Babi is waiting for them. He appears as something between a large black dog and a bear. When they go inside it is as if a large bear has made it’s den in the cellar underneath the cabin. The cabin itself bucks and twists as if a large beast is underneath.

I read the book just after my ex and I moved out into the country. We had a trailer but no regular electricity or running water. During the day we would work the land, planting gardens, clearing woods and working towards building out permanent home. At night I would sit up and read by candlelight.

About this time “something” started to visit our trailer at night. It would bump and then run alongside the edge of the trailer. It was big and heavy enough to rock the trailer slightly. The first time it happened we were certain that the neighbor’s cows had escaped. But when we went out with a flashlight there was nothing there.

This continued for some time. Some nights it would sound like a deer in rut running it’s antlers back and forth along the trailer. Other nights it would just be the bumping. Often there was a sense of a presence.

It matched the story almost too well and I started reading sections of the book to my ex. She agreed, the similarities were eery.

So the next time I was in town I bought a bottle of vodka. That night I filled a shot glass and set it on the outside edge of a window. I sat it up high enough that the chickens couldn’t disturb it. In the morning the glass was still there, undisturbed. The vodka however was gone.

After that he was our friend. Babi became a friendly helpful spirit on our land. I learned as time went on that our Babi like peppermint Schnapps even better than vodka. Many nights after working all day I would sit on the front porch, pour a glass of schnapps and then drink a toast in Babi’s honor. You could almost feel the sense of contentment rolling off the darkness.

As the years went by many friends and visitors had encounters with Babi as well. Once we left the chicken cage in the shade and then we were stuck in town longer than expected. We were terrified that the sun would have moved and the chickens would be scorched in the sun and died. We came home to find that something had undone the latch and let the chickens out so they could get in the shade. More than once something chased coyotes off our property. Visitors would see a black dog-like form checking them out or have something bump their tent at night. It was never unfriendly.

And that is the story of Babi. I still keep a bottle of vodka or schnapps handy whenever I go out to the land and I always leave him a little something.

 

There’s a bear on my altar

Altarbear

I’ve added a small carved bear to my Lakshmi altar in honor of Bear Naked’s release. As you can see I have all my books on the altar already, along with a small Buddha, a set of prayer beads and a carved Rooster. The rooster symbolizes the traits I need to develop in order to succeed in my writing career.

Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of wealth, prosperity and beauty. She governs both spiritual and material success. I pray to her regularly. Believe it or not I am not praying for huge riches, merely enough to make this writing gig to become my full time job. I love writing and I would love nothing more than to devote my life to bringing new stories to my readers.

I have had some success already with my YA stuff, which can be found on my other page, racheleliason.net. I hope that my fantasy writing does even better. Time will tell. In the meantime you can still pre-order Bear Naked for a discount over at thewordverve and pick up my free short story on this site.