Happiness is a warm Jack o’ Lantern

This is the official blog of Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff—Bahá’í, writer, editor, musician, general misfit, child of Ray Bradbury and Star Trek, lover of baseball, magical realism, Dr. Who, the month of October and Jack’o’Lanterns (which make me very, very happy).

This is where I post things that mean something (cue mashed potatoes.)

New Release from Book View Cafe: THE SPIRIT GATE

New Release! The Spirit Gate

New Release! The Spirit Gate

December 16, 2014, Book View Cafe releases THE SPIRIT GATE, an alternate history / fantasy by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff.

What’s it about? Well, magic and faith and political intrigue and I can’t say more without spoilers. Here’s the promotional copy:

The magic of Polia is broken, the delicate connection between its male and female elements, sundered. Blame for this and other calamities both natural and political has long been laid at the feet of the White Mothersrare adepts who can handle both male and female elements. The young widow, Kassia Telek, is one such woman. Barred from the legitimate use of her talents, she peddles herbs in the town square to feed herself and her son, Beyla … until, one day, she comes to the attention of Master Lukasha, head of Polia’s foremost center of arcane learning. Lukasha sees in the young widow a chance to mend his broken and besieged land and save Polia’s king from the necessity of a disastrous political marriage to a daughter of the Frankish Empire. It seems his dearest hopes will be realized when Kassia’s native curiosity and talent lead her to discover a trove of hidden knowledge. But Kassia gradually discovers that not everything that can be known should be known. The magic to which she holds the key, thrusts her into a battle with forces that can save Polia from its enemies or destroy everything she holds dear.

The novel will be available as an eBook with both EPUB (for iPad, Sony Reader, Nook, etc.) and MOBI (Kindle) formats. If you buy the novel from Book View Cafe, there is no digital rights management. That means you own any versions of the eBook BVC produces and can always download your book again for any of those formats.

It will also be available in the near future at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and the iBookstore.


Guests of Honor at Windycon 42


Wrigley FieldI can now announced that Jeff and I will be Guests of Honor at WindyCon 42, which will be held Nov. 13-15, 2015 at the Westin Yorktown in Lombard Illinois.

Here’s the linkage: www.windycon.org.

We’re pleased to be returning to the Chicago area and I can say, without sarcasm or irony, that I am going to love being in Chicago in November because I expect to get my real weather fix for the year. As you may know, we do not have winter in paradise valley (aka Silicon Valley). In fact, the entire state of California is weather challenged to one degree or another.

Instead of the usual seasons as experienced by the Midwest (where I grew up), we get Spring, Summer, Fire and Earthquake. :)


Ferguson, Staten Island and National Triage

Eric Garner Memorial

Eric Garner Memorial

National leaders and would-be leaders are weighing in on who’s to blame for the high profile deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, among others. In Brown’s case, a law enforcement officer shot the young man until he fell dead in the middle of a Ferguson street. In Garner’s case, a law enforcement officer choked the man into cardiac arrest.

In Brown’s case, there is no video record, witnesses disagree on what happened—forcing the grand jury to decide whom to believe—and forensic evidence was inconclusive. In Garner’s case, there is a video record that does not match the officer’s account in a couple of important aspects, the forensic exam concluded the death was a homicide. The cause of death was heart attack caused by choking and chest compression.

If Michael Brown’s case is murky and confusing, Eric Garner’s seems straightforward. Neither case resulted in charges being leveled against the officer involved in the death. Both have resulted in demonstrations and outrage among Americans of all ethnicities and both major political parties.

Thus, it was surprising to hear high profile political operatives such Ben Carson and Rand Paul laying blame for these deaths on such things as the “women’s lib movement” which is responsible for a lack of male role models, and the politicians who wrote the law under which Eric Garner was arrested. The police involved were innocent of responsibiity.

I’d like to focus on Rand Paul’s commentary because it has the virtue of making reasonable-sounding points. After pointing out that Eric Garner would not have been accosted by police if the tax on cigarettes were not so high in New York and if selling single cigarettes were not illegal, Paul added,

I have no intention to scold, but escaping the poverty and crime trap will require more than just criminal justice reform. Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.

Leaving aside the point that saying, “I have no intention to scold” will strike most people as setting up a scold, the senator makes several good points. We live in a society—a community—we are our brother’s keeper and our own. But the suggestion that this is really all about welfare reform and that we ought to be putting our energy and attention on that at this moment struck me as missing the bigger picture that Paul claims he wishes to address.

To frame it in a homely metaphor, imagine that a man has been brought to hospital bleeding from a terrible wound he suffered as a result of misusing his tools. Rand Paul’s response amounts to a leader on the medical team ignoring the gaping wound and informing his fellow medics that the real cause of the man’s injury was not a collision with a saw blade, but his ignorance about how to use the saw properly. Therefore the answer is not to stop the bleeding, stitch up the wound and get the patient into the ICU. What they really need to do is see that the guy gets trained on the proper use of his tools.

That’s patently absurd, of course, for if the man is allowed to bleed out while the medics try to determine who’s responsible for enrolling him in training (and who’s going to pay for it), he will die and all the training in the world will not benefit him one iota.

Our country is like that man on the gurney being rolled into the ER. Surely, we need to treat the immediate problem first, then consult on the forces that may have created the atmosphere in which it occurred. If we fail to do proper triage, to stop the bleeding, operate on the wound, and bandage it properly, then follow up with the right combination of medication, all the changes in law or rehabilitation of politicians or welfare reform will not save America from bleeding out.

O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.


The Healing of America: Healthcare 101


I ran this series on my LiveJournal page some time back. I’m bringing it back because it seems somehow appropriate and because no one read my LJ anyway. :)

Healing-ReidcoverIn his book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Healthcare, journalist T.R. Reid does what I had hoped for some time that our national leaders would do: he undertook to study (through first-hand experience), contrast and compare the healthcare systems of other “first world” nations. (He included a couple of developing countries in his study as well.)

In the book, he details the main features of each system profiled, and shows how the systems compare. He looks at the upsides and downsides of each system and even walks through the process by which the representative countries came by the systems they have. He also profiles how two other countries (Taiwan and Switzerland) made drastic changes to their healthcare in the 1990s—basically redesigning it from the ground up based on a study of what other countries were doing that worked and didn’t work. Mr. Reid lays out his findings clearly in plain English, without polemics or hyperbole. That, in itself, was refreshing.

I’d like to share some of what I learned from his book, but first I want to make something absolutely clear: This is not a political issue to me, it is a moral issue. It is not about capitalism or the free market; it is not about conservatism or liberalism; it is about being human. Continue reading


Cockroaches, Giants, Crying in Baseball and True Love



The image is from the cover of my novel, A Princess of Passyunk, and which seemed perfect for this purpose. Princess, by the way, is a story of magic, baseball and true love that features a fetching cockroach named Svetlana, who has some magic of her own. I’m betting there are going to be cockroach Giant’s t-shirts any day now … hmm, Zazzle…


Sam Harris, Reza Aslan and Hiding the Ball


Sam Harris

There’s a new volley in the ongoing feud between Sam Harris and people who question his crusade against Islam. During a discussion at the Harvard Science Center, Harris made the claim that Muslim violence is different than any other religious violence. He maintained that when any other religionists commit violent acts, they are individuals committing violent acts unrelated to their faith’s doctrines and “articles of faith”. Islam’s articles of faith were uniquely different.

He used as an example the brutality perpetrated against Muslims by Zen warrior-monks, and ended up making this argument that their violence wasn’t religious violence:

“Now, the truth is it was never pure Zen. It was Zen mixed with Shinto mixed with a kind of Japanese nationalism and war ethic. So it was a weird brew, but it was not at all a surprise that certain Zen teachings, which do not emphasize compassion to the degree that most Buddhist teachings do, could be spun into this sort of martial ethic.” (italics mine)

If this prompts a “Wait … what?” response, I would not be surprised. That was certainly my reaction.  Though he has just taken pains to acknowledge that Buddhist on Muslim violence is “a weird brew” caused by external influences and artful interpretation of certain teachings, Harris then faults others for making the same argument in the case of Islam. I’ve studied both Buddhist scriptures and the Qur’an and what stands out in both cases (as in examples of Hindu or Jewish or Christian violence) is that given the preponderance of teachings on compassion in all of those faiths, believers feel they have any wiggle room to “spin” certain teachings into a “martial ethic”. Continue reading


O, Columbus…


pioneerBecause in some parts of our country it’s still Columbus Day and because so few of us really understand what Columbus (Christobal Colon) did, I offer this fictional re-imagination of the events of his landing on Hispaniola.

This is a novelette of alternate history entitled “O, Pioneer”. It was published in Paradox magazine and short-listed for the Sidewise Alternate History award in 2006.

Click to download: OPioneer

The file is a PDF.


Me-attitudes, Civil Liabilities, and Guns


grpcClearly visible and viscerally felt at the recent Gun Rights Policy Conference held in Chicago were polarized factions within the Gun Rights movement. There are those within the movement who have been decried as traitors and turncoats for being willing to consider background check legislation, for example, and others who are viewed as being so extreme that they have become “the enemy” because of the harm their violent rhetoric has done to the public perception of gun rights activism. (Something I find strongly reminiscent of the concurrent discourse about ISIS and Islam.)

The article focuses on a riveting bit of onstage debate between GRPC organizer Alan Gottlieb (considered a traitor by some of the folks in the auditorium) and activist Jeff Knox, whose father was an influential NRA board member until his death in 2005. Continue reading


Borders Part 2: Wiggle Room


Kneeling_Prayer_SilhouetteI often find myself asking people how the teachings of Christ can be reconciled with some of the attitudes of more vocal members of our society about immigrants (among other groups). One classic answer I received was: “Well, Jesus said to ‘render unto Caesar what’s Caesar’s’ and these people aren’t rendering.” The unquoted part of Christ’s statement, of course, is “and render unto God what is God’s.”

This raises a question: What do we owe government and what do we owe God?

If Christ and Bahá’u’lláh’s words are to inform our opinion, we owe both obedience, and I suppose the question is: How is that obedience to be demonstrated? Is the argument that in order to show obedience to Caesar, we must shower those whom we deem disobedient with vitriol? That we should, as a people, ignore their wounds, their hunger, their thirst, their calamities?

As I noted before, Christ calls upon us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He makes that law one on which all others depend. Moreover, He is crystal clear that by our neighbor, He does not mean folks we consider to be part of our community.

I submit that there is no wiggle room in the teachings of Christ by which we—as individuals and as a nation made up of individuals—can treat other human beings as if they really were what Emma Lazarus, in her world-famous poem, termed “wretched refuse”. we could either throw out or just allow to accumulate at the border. Continue reading


Sixteen Things


A while back there was this meme-thingie on the Interwebs in which you tagged someone and asked them to tell 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about themselves.

I came across my list o’ things the other day and thought I’d share. So, without further ado, here are Sixteen Things About Maya You Probably Didn’t Want to Know.

1. I’m a Baha’i.

2. I’m married to a rock star (well, okay, he’s a seriously talented guitarist/songwriter/music producer who looks like a rock star and whose hair was longer than mine when we got married).

Image.aspx3. I love ships—both tall ships and classic ocean liners—and am fascinated by shipwrecks. One of my favorite books of all time is THE ONLY WAY TO CROSS, which is about said classic ocean liners. (I have a favorite ocean liner. She was the Normandie.)

4. I have three mind-bogglingly amazing children who are the best things I’ve ever done. Since I once thought I didn’t want children at all, this is a Big Deal to me. One is in middle school, one teaches middle school and one is in college.

5. My favorite color is the color of fire.

6. I am addicted to archaeology. Mummies rule!

7. I was torn between being a musician, a writer, an artist, and an archaeologist when I was growing up. I’m a musician and a writer and occasionally draw something so I guess I score 2.5 out of 4 ain’t bad.

8. I prefer to drive Volvos. I have owned four of them. Their names were Falda, Kelpie, Serenity and Selkie (who is sitting in my driveway this minute).

9. I was desperate to play the oboe when I was a kid, but they were too expensive, so I played clarinet.

maya_gafilkcloseup10. I play a Taylor guitar — a gorgeous jumbo curly maple named Clancy.

11. I LOVE the process of writing and get depressed when I finish a novel.

12. I LIKE writing Batman and Star Wars novels, so there!

13. The smell of Indian food and basmati rice makes me Snoopy dance.

14. I owned and trained horses when I was a teenager and actually enjoyed mucking out stalls.

15. Desserts I can’t resist: flan, creme brule and pumpkin anything

16. I think Cambridge, England and Hamburg, Germany are the two most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.

Why sixteen things? Who knows. But there it is—totally random.