The Christmas Pageant

Christmas is a mixed bag with me – it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. We Catholics anticipate Christmas all the year. While Easter is a downer (the King is dead, long live the King…) Christmas is all about a babe in a manger, shepherds guarding their sheep, three kings bearing gifts, a poor man, a donkey, and the Virgin Mary. As a little kid, I had fantasies about being the Virgin Mary. She was so kind and accepting, so solemn and calm. In none of the statues or paintings or drawings of her, does she have any expression except tranquility. (Lightyears away from my character – but there you go – we all want what we can’t have.) I imagined myself as Mary during the Christmas pageant – after all, our church had a Christmas pageant, right? Not at first – they didn’t even sing at first; this was the hard, Puritan, New England Catholic church, built of invincible gray granite, no fancy trim, not even any singing or choir. But that year, a new priest declared it “the year of the pageant” and it included all the kids in Sunday school, even me, even though I’d been kicked out. But I had dispensation because as a Catholic child, I – along with a handful of other Catholic children going to the local public school – was bussed to the church on Wednesday afternoons (missing study hour) to confess and save my mortal soul. So I was excited. For the first time ever, I would try out for the part of the Virgin Mary.

On the day of the try outs, it became obvious the the words ‘try outs’ were misleading. We arrived, stood in line, and the priest and his accolytes moved down the line pointing. To the boys it went:  “King, angel, shepherd, king, Joseph, shepherd, king, cow, donkey.”  To the girls it was: “Angel, angel, angel, Mary, angel, angel, sheep, sheep, sheep.” 

I felt sorry for the cow and donkey – then I was declared a sheep. I wasn’t even an angel. I would have nothing but ‘baaaa’ to say and wear a white fluffly sweater, a knit hat with ears, and sit quietly in the background imitating a sheep. The animals were taken to a small room for our costume fitting (the cow was a brown coat, a hat vaguely reminiscent of a Viking helmet, and a cowbell. The donkey was a gray blanket and a paper mâché head with huge doney ears made out of cardboard. The sheep were, as I said, white fluffy sweaters and knit caps with little ears. It soon became obvious that the animal kingdom included the trouble-makers. The new priest must have been informed by the sisters which of us were best left in the background. But this cowed us – including the cow. We were oddly silent as we sat on our folding chairs, our costumes on our laps. Each of us had secretly been hoping for the starring role – Mary, Joseph or a king, or even better, an angel (who wouldn’t want a pair of wings and a supercilious expression to wear?)

We spent the remaining half hour plotting ways to increase our visibility with the crowd – the donkey considered ways of moving its ears (and maybe taking a shit – I won’t lie – we were the Sunday school dropouts) and the cow and sheep all just sat and sulked. And then one of the nuns poked her head in the door and said the bus was here, to leave our costumes on our chairs, and to remember that we had to come to each rehersal, because if one of the main characters or angels (God forbid) got sick, we would have the honor of replacing them.  Is it unchristian to wish the angels catch the flu?

I longed to resemble the Virgin Mary. I loved her blue robes, her narrow hands, her smooth face devoid of expression. Not a line, not a wrinkle marred that perfect brow. She was the original botox beauty.

The girl chosen to portray the Virgin Mary was a lovely girl with long, dark brown hair and perfect manners. She was also head of the class, her father was a doctor, and I used to copy all her papers when I was in first grade, so she stayed as far away from me as possible. It wasn’t as if I couldn’t count all the fish in the bowl and circle the number ‘4’ – it was just that I’d daydream so much that the teacher would call time before I’d even started. So I’d peer at this girl’s paper and quick copy all the numbers, knowing she had carefully counted and gotten everything just perfect. Since I had the conviction that these worksheets were just a way to keep us quiet while the teacher read her Reader’s Digest in peace, I had no qualms…until I got caught. When I got caught, the teacher made me admit what I’d done in front of the class, then apologise to the girl whose paper I’d copied, which convinced her I was most likely a serial killer in training. It didn’t help that she’d been in her father’s office the day my mother had brought me in with an ear-ache. The doctor took one look at my ear and reached for his syringue. “A shot of antibiotics will clear that right up”, he said. I was off the table and out of the window like a shot, dashing across the porch, leaping down the steps, and sprinting across the lawn, screaming that he’d have to catch me first.

So, the first day of rehersal, the Virgin Mary took one look at me, dressed in my sheep costume, and visibly paled. “She can’t sit behind me,” she said to the Sister. The Sister, who knew me, nodded and put me on the other side of the stage, nearest the donkey and the Shepherd with a crook (Hit her if she moves an inch), next to the far wall, and under the spotlight (it wasn’t shining on me, but I looked up, and there it was – the spotlight that represented the The Star of Bethlehem). That first day of rehersal, everyone was handed their lines (except the animals. We had no lines to speak. According to the Catholic church, animals don’t even have souls, so believe me when I say that we sheep, ass, and cow were the lowest of the low on the pageant ladder.) We were expected to sit quietly, nodding our heads was the most we were permitted to do – and not a sound should we make. I was a sheep. It wasn’t that bad – a little hot, a little itchy, but bearable. The cow rested his head on his hands and dozed, and the donkey, hidden behind his paper-mache mask, was unscrutable. But before he’d put on his mask, I’d seen he’d sported a bruise on his face. I sidled up to him and poked him with my foot. “What happened?” I whispered. He swung his head sideways and shrugged. “When my dad heard I was to be the ass for the pageant, he got mad.”

I knew his father. They were our closest neighbors. The five kids lived in an old house just down the dirt road from us. They had chickens in the backyard, and an old washer-wringer. The children helped their mother cook and clean. The father worked all day, and came home, and when he came home, he terrified his family. Sometimes I’d be over there playing when the car drove up. When that happened, the board game was shoved under the couch, the kids all leapt up and ran to their rooms, and I hied out the back door, across their back garden, and headed home before he saw me. The mother regularly sported a black eye or split lip. The kids were often limping or holding sore arms. That family was a reminder that, no matter how bad things were – they could always be worse.

The pageant was to take place during regular Sunday service, and if everything went well, for midnight mass. The priest was giving us a test – and of course, I failed. It was my fault. The Star of Bethlehem, like I said before, was a spotlight. I was sitting next to the wall it hung upon. The wire ran down the wall, and the plug was within reach. Just as the shepherd started talking about the star, I reached over and unplugged it. Then I looked up and gave my best “Baaaaaa”. Inspired, I added, “Baaaaad sheep.”

Someone tittered in the congregation. The priest glared at me. The shepherd nearest me pushed me aside and plugged in the light. Plugging it in and out must have strained the bulb, because it popped – with a huge “Bang” and a shower of sparks.

The donkey, cow, and sheep exited stage left, while the shepherds, angels, and three kings ran to the right. Joseph and the Virgin Mary ducked under the pulpit, and a huge spark landed in the manger, where a doll, dressed in swaddling clothes, lay in the straw. The straw caught fire.

And that was the end of the Christmas pageant. That was the end of my career as a sheep. That was the end, actually, of my trips on the bus to the church on Wednesdays, as the priest told me there wasn’t any use of me confessing anymore. And anyhow, two months later, we moved (again- I was always moving) and I never saw that school, bus, or church again.

But be of good cheer. Years later – years and years later, my 3 yr old son had an earache. We were visiting friends, and they sent us to the nearest clinic. At the clinic, the doctor who took care of my son looked at me and frowned. Then he started to smile. “Remember me?” he asked. “I was the ass in the Christmas pageant.”

(first published December 2018)

I got the jab!

Stef and I got our first shots of AstraZeneca against Covid. Stef had no ill-efects, but I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and chills. I went to work the next day feeling tired, but the fever and chills went away with doses of paracetamal, so it was no big deal.

I keep reading and hearing about the thrombosis from the AstraZeneca, and saw that some doctors think that the vaccine was encouraging some cells to work like platelets and act as ‘bandaids’, causing blood clots. It is worrisome that this wasn’t found out before the vaccine was rolled out, but on the other hand, it is extremely rare, so only a huge roll out would have brought this to light. The fact that over thirty million doses have been given and such a small number of people affected makes it difficult to say whether or not the cases of throbosis were caused by the vaccine, or would have happened anyway.

Because people have been in a sort of lockdown for over a year and have therefor gotten less excercise than they normally would have could also be a factor. After weighing the risk of getting thrombisis (one in every 600,000 persons) and catching Covid, I decided that the AstraZeneca jab was a better choice for me. I was impressed at how it was developed, the price, and hopeful that it will be able to slow, even stop, the spread of Covid if enough people get it. Because it is so cheap to make, it will be a boon for the poorer countries. So let’s take a moment to give thanks to science and to scientific breakthroughs, and let’s hope that this marks the beginning of the end for the pandemic.

Something Wicked

I’d like to start by thanking Jennifer Macaire for her hospitality on her blog and then to immediately abuse it by telling you a dark secret about her: Jennifer once tried to learn to dance tango and was so bad at it she was asked to leave the class!!!*

Actually that says a lot about the teacher and nothing about Jennifer’s terpsichorean abilities. As I keep telling her, if she would only come over to London (once we’re allowed to move again) I would happily teach her to dance. If you can ride a bicycle, you can learn to tango. (If you can’t ride a bicycle you may have balance issues that make dancing impossible.)

But should she learn? You never know who you might meet in a darkened ballroom long after midnight. Who can you think of who only comes out at night and who might want to embrace you in the dance with their teeth conveniently close to your neck?

The connection between vampires and tango is so obvious that I can hardly believe someone hasn’t written about it before. (Probably they have. Please don’t tell me.) At least there is a tango vampire story out now and it’s called Something Wicked.

Fortunately my vampires are (generally) urbane types who try to avoid unnecessary gruesomeness. As one of them explains: “There are people who will sell their blood quite cheerfully. Some are happy to let us have it freely. They seem to get some sort of sexual thrill from it. Then, at a pinch, there is animal blood.”

Sometimes, though, things go too far and people die. Over the centuries, vampires have become very good at covering such incidents up. But when a maverick vampire leaves a peer of the realm completely drained of blood, the police inevitably get involved. As Chief Inspector Galbraith closes in on the killer, he faces a dilemma. How will people respond to learning that they are living alongside a substantial vampire sub-culture? Is this a crime that is better left unsolved?

Welcome to the most unusual police procedural novel of 2021.

Something Wicked: not your usual stake out.


 Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels, mostly set in the 19th century. Something Wicked, though, is his second contemporary urban fantasy book (after Dark Magic, which came out on Halloween 2019). His stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt and Borneo and call it research.

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which he does quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.


Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook (


Dark Magic:

Something Wicked:

*Note by Jennifer – Tom is almost right – actually, the teacher stopped dancing with me, saying I’d never learn to tango if I “couldn’t learn to be submissive to the man”. End of quote, and end of any hopes of me ever learning how to tango… 

**More notes – I just got my copy of Something Wicked and it’s terrific! 

A Remedy In Time by Jennifer Macaire

To save the future, she must turn to the past . . .

San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson–genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded–is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . 


In this book we are taken back to the year 3377, a year in which there is a deadly virus that is spreading rapidly and causing havoc all over the world. Scientists are desperately battling to create a vaccine but as of yet to no avail. They soon come to realise that the virus appears to be similar to one that existed in the past, and that the cure could possibly be found within the blood of the sabretooth tiger.

This is the point that we meet Robin Johnson, the scientist who is more than willing to take part in the extraordinary and extremely dangerous decision they come to. Deciding the only feasible chance they have at finding a much needed cure, Robin must go back in time and retrieve the samples herself. From here the ever feisty Robin faces many challenges and obstacles as she tries to do what quite simply seems impossible.

It’s not just the creatures from the past that are a danger to her safety either. Along the way she faces terrible deaths, murder plots and of course a lot of running through the woods and trying to avoid becoming food to one of the many creatures lurking.

This story had me hooked right from the start. The storyline is so completely unique it is impossible to not find yourself getting lost within the world in which Jennifer brings to life so vividly in your mind. Robin’s character certainly grew on me throughout the story too as she learnt about her own inner strengths, making it impossible for me to not grow to adore her and what she stands for. The detail to the past certainly adds to the story and it is clear the author has done extensive research on this. The storyline is also incredibly reflective on life as it is for us all right now as we also try and navigate our own ways through a pandemic. It is purely coincidence of course, however it did allow me to connect to the story in a way I simply did not think was possible.

The entire book is written brilliantly from start to finish, with a perfectly paced storyline that takes hold of your imagination and takes you on a journey. With unique characters, and an even more unique storyline this book is the perfect form of escapism that we all so desperately need right now.

Review by Victoria Wilks

A Remedy in Time

To save the future, she must turn to the past …
San Francisco, Year 3377

A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .


#TimeTravel #IceAge #Historical #Adventure


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When I next opened my eyes, sunlight slanted into the cave. Motes of dust danced and sparkled in the air. An acrid, bittersweet odor filled my nostrils, and smoke made lazy spirals in the breeze. I heard a crackling sound, but it was just the fire dying into embers. My bed, if you can call a pile of furs a bed, faced the cave entrance with the fire between me and the opening. The cave was little more than an indentation in the rock, and not deep at all. It hadn’t been lived in long. The fire had hardly any ash. There were no other signs of human presence except the bed of furs and the fire. I would have expected a more structured space, perhaps some baskets, articles of clothing, weapons even.

I started to feel better and sat up, being careful not to jog my arm. I needed to urinate again, so, bracing myself on the stone wall, I stood. My knees wobbled, but I was up. I checked, and saw my comlink was still around my wrist. I called up my vid cam. It flew into the cave like a demented bat, and I winced. It must have spent the night outside and gotten hung up in a tree. A small branch was stuck to it.

I plucked the branch off it and sent it out to scout, and then I opened a floating screen. I didn’t want to walk into danger. If I had to, I’d stay here until the rescue team came and have my vid cam lead them to me. The screen showed the river. And it also showed the cave I was in. It wasn’t the cave I’d seen from the river – no, that one had been high on the cliff. This one was nearly flush with the river and must flood after too much rain. No wonder it wasn’t used as a dwelling. The caveman must have dragged me here from the river and lit the fire for me. And he’d gotten furs for me. His intentions had been good. He’d gone out of his way to help me. Another thought occurred. I hadn’t been wearing my modern clothes. There wasn’t too much about me that screamed “Woman From the Future!”. My comlink was one I’d chosen because it looked so natural – the band looked like leather with three large copper beads on it: one for my floating screen, one for my vid cam, and one for my computer.

I floated my screen in front of me and sent the vid cam downriver looking for the caveman. There he was, trudging along with a pile of sticks on his shoulder, dragging some sort of dead animal behind him. Oh joy. Breakfast.


About the author

Jennifer Macaire lives with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves cooking, eating chocolate, growing herbs and flowering plants on her balcony, and playing golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

Meet Jennifer on

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A holiday season under lockdown

We had a lovely Christmas despite the covid-19. A quiet dinner with Alex and Sarachel. Alex got tested for Covid antibodies before he came – he was curious to see if, after working at the hospital since December in the Covid ward, he’d caught the virus. But he had no antibodies, so it was unlikely. Stef had gotten tested six days ago, and I was tested too (both negative)! I didn’t find the test that disagreeable but Stef found it very painful. The pharmacist said it was because he’d broken his nose and had scar tissue.
Since Sarachel is a vegetarian, we had a vegetarian dinner – chestnut and pumpkin crumble, endive apple salade, creamed mushrooms on toast, and for dessert we had candied chestnut icecream. The next day we had lunch at Julia’s house, and Sebi came. Céline, he said, was feeling poorly. In fact, we found out she was pregnant, so that was a huge and wonderful surprise. I’m still trying to get used to the idea of becoming a grandmother. I suppose it was bound to happen, but it’s too new, the baby isn’t due until summer, and I’m still digesting the news!
Otherwise things have been very boring here. I like my job better now that I’ve managed to conquer the new computer system and program, but the schedule is pretty hectic. I’m still not used to working a full time job and I suppose I’ll never get used to it. Getting up early is not as hard as I feared (athough I still hate it) but at night I’m pretty tired. Three days a week we work from 9 am to 7 pm, and then we do three half days. I only get Thursday and Sunday off, so I tend to want to crawl under the covers and do Nothing on those days.
My writing has been put to the side – I can’t seem to get back into it. I have a book to hand in soon, and I’m not halfway done. It’s making me cranky, because I have it plotted out in my head but I haven’t written an outline yet, and I keep changing it.
On January 7, my book “A Remedy in Time” will be published, and I’ve been organizing a blog tour, writing some articles on my research, and trying to get back into the author mindset. But my job is really taking all my energy and concentration, so I guess I will have to wait until I’ve gotten more used to it, and I can free up more of my brain cells for creative writing.
France is quiet. It’s like we’re all staring across the Atlantic at the US, wondering what is going on, but maybe that’s just my imagination. But France is quiet. The curfew and masks and closed shops and restaurants make Mantes feel like a ghost town. I know things will get better – we’ve gone through other plagues and things far worse than this – so I’m content to wait. But waiting means shutting down, somehow I feel like I’m hibernating. My life has shrunk to work and my apartment. I haven’t even been to Paris in months. Hopefully this spring will bring the vaccine, which will free up a good part of the population to work and travel. Maybe even this summer, when the new member of our family is born, everything will be back to normal again!

Winding down

Auguste is old. He has survived cancer (twice), two operations, being lost & found (twice), and getting a terrible infection that sent him into a coma and nearly sent him over the “rainbow bridge” just a few months ago. He’s getting increasingly senile; the other night he sat up suddenly and started barking at the chair. He couldn’t be comforted, so I put a big fuzzy scarf in his bed, and now he sleeps with that, curled up around it like it’s his teddy bear. Now he looks for the fuzzy scarf when he goes to bed, so I have to leave it there. He is also increasingly deaf, blind, and for some reason, has started to lick everything. He goes around all day licking the floor, walking from the kitchen to the living room to the hallway; lick, lick, lick. I wonder if it’s a sort of tic he’s developed to deal with some inner stress. Getting old is never easy. Getting old is scary. Getting old is winding down, the ticks getting further apart, slower and slower, while everything around you gets blurry and sound is muffled.
Of course, the alternative to getting old is even more tragic, so let’s raise a glass to getting old. It’s a privilege afforded to some, not all, and should be appreciated. Even as the bones ache and the joints creak the mind dances on, lithe and darting here and there, sometimes wandering in the past, sometimes wondering about the future. What will it be like without Auguste? That one is easy – the bowls will be empty, like his little bed. In the morning, there will be silence and the faraway sound of the train, but we won’t hear him walking about, his nails clicking on the floor, as he gets up, stretches, and comes to our door to whine for his breakfast. We won’t have him underfoot as we cook, tripping over him as I try to carry a tray from kitchen to dining room table. He won’t lick the floor. He won’t bark for a treat. There will be an empty space that will be filled, slowly, with memories. Because that is what happens. There is a loss, and the loss leaves a space according to its importance in your life, and that space is like a hole in your heart that heals bit by bit as it’s filled will memories.
It’s easy to talk about a dog’s demise – I’ve had many dogs and they have all gone over the “rainbow bridge” except one, Auguste, who is sleeping by my side, curled up in his bed, cuddled next to the fuzzy scarf and the radiator. It’s sunny today, so when he wakes up we’ll go for a short walk. Yesterday we walked in the rain and I was worried he’d be cold but it seemed to invigorate him – he trotted and skipped along, pulling on his leash like he used to as a puppy. He’s winding down, but he’s still ticking (and licking). I love him, even as he gets underfoot & exasperates me, he’s funny, he’s a good dog.
I suppose this isn’t the most cheerful post, but it’s the end of the year. Things are winding down, and I’m already looking forward to spring. I want to skip over winter with its endless gray skies and freezing rain, but at the same time, I want time to slow down, so Auguste can have some more of it. I’ll try to be more cheerful, because there is a lot to be happy about, so let’s end this post on a Pollyanna note! My new job is rewarding and interesting and the doctors I work for are both excellent. My family is doing well, and even if the Covid restrictions mean we can’s see each other thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I can ‘see’ them, chat with them, and keep in close touch. I’m looking forward to Christmas and the New Year; hopefully it will bring a vaccine, an end to the Covid restrictions, and a new way of looking at the economy and the healthcare system. Some things deserve to wind down, so let’s toast to the end of Trumpism and tax havens. In fact, let’s toast to taxing the filthy rich, finding a way to insure a world-wide basic income for everyone, doing away with pollution, improving the food chain, and working on making racism and religious intolerance a thing of the past. Vive winding down! Sometimes change can be a good thing.

Freedom of Speech

My daughter is a teacher, and right now, in France, the department of education has asked her to teach about separation of church and state. She has decided to teach using only the textbook definitions, to avoid any misunderstanding. She is also doing this to limit the spread of disinformation. The closer to stick to the real definition of something, the more potent it can be. This is true also about the free speech amendment in the Constitution. In regards to recent developements in the free world, especially regarding the Internet and social media, I wanted to explore the real meaning of ‘Free Speech‘.

The right to express your opinions publicly is known as freedom of speech.

Opinion: a thought or belief about something or someone; the ideas that a person or a group of people have about something or someone, which are based mainly on their feelings and beliefs, or a single idea of this type.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The Cons of Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to have “all” speech. …In the United States, there are four forms of speech which are not protected under the First Amendment.• You cannot make an authentic threat against another individual.• It is illegal to defame others, including libel and slander.• You cannot plagiarize any copyrighted material.• It is illegal to share some obscene material, such as child pornography. If you say something in the United States which causes illegal actions or solicits others to commit a crime, then your speech is not protected by the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech can spread false informationfreedom of speech makes it easier for individuals to spread false information and outright lies, but then still pretend that this data is true.

Freedom of speech can incite violence. …We have seen first hand what inciting violence can do – when you demonize a person or group of people because of race, religion, or socio-economic standing, some people will make the personal choice of committing violence because they were incited by hate speech to do so. Although that was their choice and broke the law, the person who created the outcome because of inflamatory rhetoric is also responsible.

Freedom of speech can equal verbal abuse.
Voltaire’s biographer summed up the views of the philosopher like this: “I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” People are free to call other people names and insult them. This can create a climate of insecurity, bullying, and mental anguish for the victims. It is up to us to stop hate speech, all the while defending free speech.

Freedom of speech can create a mob mentality. For example, the anti-vaccine movemnent was created by a lie and perpetrated by free speech which enabled spreading of information which inflamed public opinion, and led to protests against vaccines which resulted in actual deaths of children and vulnerable people by preventable diseases. The same mob mentality is being created around the Covid-19 virus and the wearing of masks, for example.

The Pros for Freedom of speech are the flip side of the coin of each of the cons. Freedom of speech can be used to inspire people. With freedom of speech, journalists can uncover crimes and publish them freely without fear of being sued. Freedom of speech lets us criticise our government and our religion without fear of being arrested or executed. Freedom of speech is a great power, but, as Spiderman learned, with great power comes great responsibility. We have not yet learned to use free speech as responsibly as we should.

Why sabre-tooth tigers?

About a year ago, I saw a skull on a blog that I hang out on (yeah, I hang out on those kinds of blogs…) that belonged to an extinct animal known as a sabre tooth tiger (or smilodon). I’ve always been a dinosaur geek, but the Paleolithic animals ran a close second – mammoths, giant elk, dire wolves, and sabre tooth tigers, among others. And when I saw the skull it made me wonder how exactly the tiger used his huge, over-sized upper canines – did he use them to stab? That would make the most sense. But how? Wouldn’t they break? What kind of stabbing motion would be the most effective? I went searching for answers, and came up with a lot of different theories. Looking at the skeleton, I was struck at how stocky and massive the animals forearms were. I leaned towards the theory that the animal would leap on his prey from above, grip tightly with its powerful forelegs, stab it in the neck or as close to the skull as it could, using his huge canines like daggers, and probably leap off the animal and wait until its prey bled to death. I even thought it would explain why so many sabre tooth tiger skeletons were recovered from tar pits. Wounded animals head downhill, and downhill is water, and in those days – the water covered the tar pits where the animals bogged down and were trapped.

How could I test my theory? Sabre tooth tigers are extinct, and I don’t have the material to clone one and bring it back to life Jurassic Park style. The next best thing would have to be a voyage back into time to see one for myself, so I sat down and wrote “A Remedy in Time“, about a woman who is sent back to the Paleolithic to find out where a deadly virus has originated from. Her hypothesis is that it came from saber tooth tigers. When I wrote the book, Covid-19 didn’t exist yet, so I can’t claim it was the idea behind the story. In fact, the idea came from an article I read about typhus in American cities. One type, feline typhus, is a parvovirus. Parvoviruses are very resistant to environmental influences and are able to survive for several months (or longer) in the outside world. Coronaviruses are bigger (relitively speaking) and a little more fragile. They are also not very species-specific, so they mutate from infecting animals to infecting humans (as Covid-19 has) fairly easily. Anyhow, back to the parvoviruses – the feline parvo is highly contageous and very deadly. It has never (and most likely never will) mutate to infect humans. But a writer has to do what a writer has to do, and in my book, the virus infects humans, so my heroine, Robin, goes back in time to get some samples from the best-known feline of the time – the saber tooth tiger.

A REMEDY IN TIME by Jennifer Macaire

To save the future, she must turn to the past . . .

San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .

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