Farewell Jo Bourne

Anne here with the other Word Wenches, farewelling Joanna Bourne, who has been such a beloved member of our community for more than ten years. Jo-Head shot

I first "met" Jo through her writing. It was 2008. I was in New York for a conference, and meeting with my editor. I was in her office, about to leave, when I said, "Is there anyone you think I should be reading? She pulled The Spymaster's Lady from her shelf and handed it to me. It hadn't yet been published — Jo and I shared the same editor.  I read The Spymaster's Lady on the plane on the way home and wow! It blew me away. 

I met her in person in 2009, the night she won her first RITA for the Spymaster's Lady. It was a thrilling night all around. Wench Jo Beverley presented her with it — seems Joanna was almost fated to become a Word Wench.

JoannabourneRITA2009I interviewed her here, and the following month Joanna joined us as a word wench. This was her first post. And since then she's become a valued member of the word wench family. You can catch up with her previous posts here — there's a wealth of Jo-reading. And now, over to the other wenches . . .

From Pat:  Jo, I totally wish you well in your retirement but secretly hope the imps of creativity crawl out of their holes and start chewing on your fingers. Your brilliant, funny, creative mind needs a good outlet, and I need my Job fix of humor on a regular basis. I’ll miss you so much!

For those of you who have only read Jo’s books, dig around on the Wench blog and look for her epistles. Humor lurks under every word and insight. Behind the scenes, when the wenches are talking, she’s even funnier and pithier. And if you haven’t read Jo’s books, do so now! As you can see by her pictures, she looks like a mischievous imp, not an evil mind who grips you by the throat and won’t let go!

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Pigeons in the Park

Columba livia

Pigeon. Or dove.

Joanna here, delving into the nitty gritty of the past. Asking myself what would be familiar to a time traveller dipping into history? What would be stunningly weird?

What I’m  pondering today is pigeons.

Like, “What is a pigeon and why isn’t it a dove?” and vice versa.
One of those cases we have two words for the same thing, really. Kind of comforting to know we're stocked up with synonyms.


Screen Shot 2021-01-27 at 11.35.42 AMBackground: There are 344 species in the Columbidae family worldwide. They're called pigeon or dove more or less at random. Whenever you think you’ve got some difference nailed down – like pigeons are larger and plumper – you’ll come across some tiny bitty twittering bird in the Far East that’s called a pigeon and category common sense goes flying out the window.

In other zoological news, pigeons are most closely related to cuckoos. Many of us have this problem.

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Sleeping, Dreaming, and Creating


Me, sleeping creatively

Joanna here, talking about one of my favorite things in all the world, aka sleeping. Writing is another thing I’m fond of. There’s a bit of an interconnection between these.

I tend to generate new material when I’m relaxed in the bathtub or lying in bed. I even get good work done in dreams. If I were talking about the creative process I might say I try to sleep a lot.

Let me talk about Coleridge who is a more interesting topic than many of those going

Screen Shot 2021-01-11 at 9.24.25 AM

Coleridge in 1795

through my mind these days. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, of  course, is the English poet who gave us such popular thrillers as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner which many of us read in Middle School. It includes the poignant lines

“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea! 
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.”

As I say, Middle School. This is stuck in my memory forever.

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Tis the Season of … Saturnalia

Ww stonehenge sunrise day of winter solstice

Among other things, this happens on the Solstice

Joanna here, thinking about the Solstice. It’s the 21st of December this year.

The Solstice can show up anytime between 20th December and the 23rd because the calendar in our cell phone or hanging on the wall does not fit neatly into astronomical reality.
Many of us have trouble adjusting to reality.

Thing is, the calendar counts the year as 365 days, even. The universe thinks it’s 365.256 days.

These thing do not match and no amount of refreshing your computer screen is going to change this. We are all playthings in the hands of the gods.

I suppose you could take a post-it note a quarter the size of one of the calendar days and let it dangle off the end of December. That would be more accurate.

Ww sagittaius

Sagittarius, looking pretty cool

Anyhow, that’s why the date of the Solstice changes from year to year.

This year the shortest, darkest day of the year, the Solstice, falls on a Monday.

After all, it’s 2020.

On the Solstice the sun will move into Sagittarius. You’d say into the House of Sagittarius, if you think of the Zodiac signs as living in fancy houses up in the sky, which I am perfectly willing to do.

Ww wagittarius stars

The stars of Sagittarius without the imagination. Less cool.


You’d think this means you can look up into the night sky and get a really good view of the constellation Sagittarius, wouldn’t you?

Au contraire, as the French would say.

When the sun is in Sagittarius it means it’s sitting on top of Sagittarius. You’d have to look directly through the sun to see the constellation. Sagittarius won’t be up at night on the 21st. It’s going to be high in the sky at noon, hiding in the light.


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To Lady’s Maid or Not to Lady’s Maid

Chocolate maid

A Lady's maid delivering hot chocolate in the morning

Joanna here.  The other day I was thinking about a discussion on Twitter that talked about the life of a lady’s maid. This related somewhat tangentially to my own life since I am trying and failing to fix my clothes washer and have thus taken refuge in philosophy.

It is better than kicking the washer and swearing, I suppose.

The Twitter thread was touched off by a video of a woman getting dressed in the 1890s.

There were many frothy bits of clothing, all of which had to be tugged up or around or pulled over and then tied or buttoned.

Folks pointed out, rightly, that it would have taken a bit of time and a lot of wriggling and gymnastics to get the woman dressed. Look at all those layers, they said. Bet she had a maid to help.

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