Living and Dying at Ninety…It Ain’t For Sissies

“I’m celebrating the 60th anniversary of my 30th birthday!”
Something my mother would have said if she was still saying these sorts of things.

There are at least two people cited with the “sissies” quote of the title—Bette Davis (of course), also Jerry Lewis (go figure)—but the most memorable person who said it (a lot) was my mother, Virginia Phyllis Amandes, who is turning 90-years-old today and incapable, anymore, of uttering that pithy phrase.

Nope. It ain’t for sissies.

Back in 2011, I wrote about the journey my mom and I set off on almost ten years ago when she came to Los Angeles for her last chapter. In its most recent version, The Mother of My Reinvention… our continuing journey, it tells the story of those early years, so I won’t reiterate here (though I hope you’ll click over and give it a read), but I do want to pick up a bit from there in acknowledgement of my mother’s persistence in staying alive. And to honor her on this, her 90th, birthday.

She doesn’t realize it’s her birthday. When my brother, Tom, mentioned to her recently that she was turning ninety, she looked at him with incredulity, her eyes wide in either stunned disbelief or because she had no idea what he was actually saying. We don’t know these days.

She speaks little now. If she does, it’s usually inexplicable and often incomprehensible. Most days she’s curled in her bed-like wheelchair or the bed she never got out of. Sleeping or staring. Usually sleeping. A woman who loved to laugh, and would regularly do so with boisterous abandon, she’s now locked in the labyrinth of her dementia, incapable of recognizing anything as complex as humor…though my brother and I still try. It’s possible we’re just not that funny. 🙂

He likes showing her photos of his grandkids, and on good days she responds, recently uttering “darling!” when gazing at one prancing around for proud parents in a video. The babies seem to strike a chord.

I sit with her watching “Fixer Upper”—there was nothing she loved better than rearranging the living room when we were kids— occasionally singing hits from our folksinging era, or Doris Day favorites. We still walk around the grounds from time to time, but, though this activity used to elicit exclamations about the bouncing squirrels or that tree groomed like a “gumdrop,” now it’s all silence all the time.

Which is strange for a woman who never stopped talking.

What can we say about this process of living and dying? I don’t know. I suppose it depends on your philosophical beliefs; your faith, your religion, your worldview. She always used to say, “the minute you’re born, you start dying,” which I always found to be a most depressing philosophy of life. But I’m not religious, nor is my brother, so without a subscription to the heaven/hell/God paradigm, one has to surrender to not knowing.

Sometimes I look at her and wonder why she’s holding on, why her frail, failing body hasn’t given up the ghost. Something in her is persistent in this urge to live, this instinct to stay alive, and who am I to presume she’s not having a good old time floating around the ethers, taking it all in with curiosity and appreciation? A medium actually told me that was exactly what she was doing, so I’m happy to let her fulfill whatever destiny is hers. But still…

One of her caregivers said the other day, “She looks good for ninety,” a statement I might take exception to, having known how lovely she was in her day, but maybe she does from their point of view. Maybe the part of her that still peeks out from time to time gives her a spark other 90-year-olds in their care don’t have.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us. You can ignore the voluminous statement of my cheeks (was that much necessary?!) and focus, simply, on her beautiful, smiling face… Ginny, sparkling.

Time, ill-health, and dementia have taken that sparkle from her eyes, a fact that, when I recall her at her most ebullient, celebratory, and engaged, hits my heart like a punch. For someone who “lived out loud” (in ways good and, yes, sometimes less good), the silence of her current state is jarring. I used to say I could still find her in there, but that’s less and less these days. Sometimes we can’t even get her to open her eyes and I wonder: is she busy traipsing through some higher consciousness dream, or just unwilling to wake to a world in which she’s old and weak? I don’t know that either. But I still bring her M&Ms and sing ‘Que Sera Sera.”

And today we’ll celebrate her birthday milestone with verve and cake, because clearly, whatever her reasons, that’s what she wants… to keep living. Keep marking the passage of her life. Keep coming, trying, talking, singing. Keep her company. Keep her in our thoughts. Keep her warm, fed, and cared for. Because she’s still here, still living her life… at whatever volume she has left.

Happy 90th, Mom.

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GUEST POST: We Need A 21st Century Live Aid To Help Fight White Supremacy

My friend, Kimberley A. Johnson had a great idea.

She shared it, I jumped in; we mulled it, discussed it, confabbed about it, then started reaching out to people in the business of concert promotion, music, agenting, etc. As we envisioned what would be needed and how quickly, we decided to throw the idea out to the general public, hoping to intrigue others who might be as intrigued as we are with the concept.

Read below, then feel free to share, come back with any ideas you might have, any people, producers, donors, musicians who might be interested in joining the effort… whatever you have that might help make this idea hatch. It’s too good an idea not to. It really is time for a 21st Century Live Aid… let’s make it HAPPEN!

We Need A 21st Century Live Aid To Help Fight White Supremacy

Aug 22 at 12:03pm
By Kimberley A. Johnson/Co-written by Lorraine Devon Wilke

Global white supremacy is on the rise. One way to combat the hate and ignorance is to look back to 1985, when musicians came together for an epic concert to raise money for Ethiopian famine.

Imagine the positive impact of a venue with a roster of popular artists coming together to raise money for global organizations fighting white supremacy.

Organizing this kind of event  would be a monumental task and one that would require a well-connected, influential promoter: Someone who can get Mick Jagger, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, Pharrell, and Taylor Swift on the phone…someone who has the power to coordinate an event like this by August, September or October of 2020 — right before Americans vote in the in the general election.

The timing of the concert is key. Even though white supremacy is global, Americans are seeing more elected officials, including the President of the United States, making racist comments and suggesting there are “very fine” neo-Nazis. Immigrant families are being ripped apart and caged simply because they’re seeking asylum….


#21stCenturyLiveAid #AbolishWhiteSupremacy #WeAreTheWorld

Abolish White Supremacy photo by Alec Perkins @ Wikimedia Commons

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The Words and Music of Political Activism

I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve started recently, on one political rant or another, that have never made it past the third paragraph. Even the second. Sometimes I can’t even get beyond the headline. For a person who used to crank out up to four articles a day, this is very odd. A conundrum. It’s wreaked havoc on my freelance writing business and certainly my readership in that market. But I can’t seem to change it at the moment

The problem? The noise, the sheer level of noise out there. The thousands (millions?) of voices venting on social media, writing articles for news media, sharing stories on various blogs and platforms, creating a deafening roar of feedback, coverage, and outrage, so loud it’s hard to be heard over the cacophony. And, let’s face it: given the glut of scandals, horrors, and endless corruptions streaming from the swamp of this particular administration, there is endless fodder for those thousands (millions?) of voices, to the point that at some point I say to myself: “What do I have to add to this conversation that’s not already being said?!”

That’s what usually stops me at paragraph two.

But since I remain outspoken, deeply invested, fairly loud, and enthusiastically opinionated, and truly believe one needs to get beyond words to evolve into ACTION anyway, an outlet needed to be clarified. I mean, besides Twitter. Which compelled me to turn my attention to one of my other Muses: MUSIC. Political activism in the form of performance. Yes! Set in a scenario in which I could put that skill set to work and invite others who share my rage and frustration to join me and my cohorts to make the political statement of raising funds for 2020 Democrats. THAT is doable. That is fun. That doesn’t require a third paragraph.

So that’s what I’m doing… what we’re doing:

“Words. Music. Potluck. Politics: A Fundraiser for 2020 Democrats
Saturday, August 17th, 7:00pm-10:00pm 

The Hiner House, 4757 N. Figueroa Avenue, Los Angeles
Donations: $20.oo (min.) per person.

All details in the flier below...

My band, Sixth & Third, comprised of me and five grand fellows—Tom Amandes, Jeff Brown, Erik Krogh, Ben Amandes, and Jeffrey Brown—are all of the liberal/Democratic persuasion, all outraged by our current political culture, and all enthused by the idea of putting our music to meaningful purpose. Joining us, and, in fact, hosting this  event at his historic home in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, is my dear friend, and actor/storyteller extraordinaire, Troy Evans, who you might know from ER, Veep, and most recently, as “Barrel” of the hilarious cop team, “Crate & Barrel,” on Amazon’s hit series, Bosch. Troy has often performed his iconic one-man show, Montana Tales in and around Los Angeles, and for our event, he’s going to present a few of his most salient, theme-appropriate stories, which you won’t want to miss. We are joining him on a double-bill, adding a few new songs to the roster to soundtrack the evening’s theme.

We want you to join us. We want as many of you as possible to show up to not only enjoy the show, but to help us raise as much money as possible to send to ActBlue. All the information is in the flier below; download it if you like and send it out to your like-minded family and friends. They’re all invited. And if you would, pop over to our Facebook Event page to RSVP so we make sure we’ve got the venue properly set up for the headcount; that would be much appreciated.

In a particular moment in time when so little feels within our control, this is something we can do: we can gather, share music and storytelling, and pool our resources in support of the candidates we’re entrusting to change the political trajectory. Let’s do that in glorious numbers. See you on the 17th!!

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Talking ‘The Alchemy of Noise’… After Hours with Rick Kogan

When I was in Chicago during “The Alchemy of Noise Book Launch Tour” in April, I had the great pleasure of meeting Rick Kogan, iconic Chicago Tribune writer and radio personality, in the wonderful setting of my dear friends—Jason Brett and Lauren Streicher‘s—home. A warm, welcoming man with a tremendous legacy in the beloved city of my birth, I was delighted when he invited me to join him on his radio show to talk about my book.

We’ll be having that conversation this Sunday night, June 23rd, 8:00pm PST/10:00pm CT, on the “After Hours with Rick Kogan Show / WGN 720 AM.

“The Voice of Chicago is back on The Voice of Chicago! Rick Kogan starts off your week with discussion, commentary and interviews with the people – writers, musicians, artists, characters, newsmakers – who make Chicago tick. 9-11 p.m., Sundays, WGN Radio 720 AM.”

“After Hours with Rick Kogan (9-11pm CT/WGN 720 AM) welcomes Mark Caro on his latest book, Behind the Laughter; Bonnie Koloc Singer/Songwriter on her songs; Lorraine Devon Wilke on her book, The Alchemy of Noise, and Tony Fitzpatrick with some bird loving pals to talk about the Montrose bird-concert controversy.”

Again, my segment starts at 8:00 pm PST/10:00 pm CT, but odds are good the entire show will be offer fascinating conversation! Here’s the link (my segment starts at the halfway point):

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Guest Post: The Alchemy of Noise deserves to be on your summer reading list!

As time goes on & the hoopla around a book’s launch dies down, it’s sometimes challenging to know where and what your book is doing out there in the world. So, when an unexpected review pops up, one that so artfully and accurately expresses exactly the message and narrative you were hoping to convey in your story, there is something deeply gratifying about that.

Thank you, Janny Ess, for your articulate, moving review. I am touched… thrilled that you enjoyed the book, and appreciative of your taking the time to write so beautifully about it.

Review is below:

* * * * * * * *


“The Alchemy of Noise” by Lorraine Devon-Wilke is a timely story I hope screen writers and movie makers will discover and develop. In the pages of this literary work the ride you embark on will make you stop and think more than once.  The “Alchemy of Noise” is a heart wrenching yet inspirational read as the characters inner lives leave us questioning our own role in dividing or unifying human beings.

Almost poetic in some passages, Devon-Wilke weaves “The Alchemy of Noise” with an intelligent pen of compassion and soulfulness. Her characters are all relatable as you find yourself transported inside the torn social fabric of our contemporary world to first person perspectives of family matters, addiction, police brutality and racism.

While reading I felt such frustration on Chris’s behalf I yelled out loud just as I have been known to do at a movie where I felt the…

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Everyone Is Right OR Why I Don’t Debate Politics On Social Media

I bet that surprises you, that I don’t debate politics on social media. Given how outspoken I am about pretty much everything under the sun, it’s possible you presume I doIt might even seem like I do.

I don’t.

What I do is share articles that might express my views or cover something I believe or support. I write pieces that are frank and unvarnished, thereby revealing my opinions. I comment on posts that—in all sorts of ways —”out” my preferences. I’ll even stand up to those who imply I’m a fool for not agreeing with their positions or preferences. Sometimes I just block them, depending on how rude they are.

But I don’t actually debate. I won’t.


Debating politics on social media is a fool’s errand. In the decade or so in which I’ve been on social media, had a blog, or wrote for journalistic sites like HuffPost and others, experience has taught me the following:

  1. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone. All people. Everywhere.
  2. Everyone is right.
  3. My opinion is less valued/pertinent/correct than theirs.
  4.  They’re convinced they can convince me of their opinion.
  5. If they can’t, they’re convinced they can insult me, with varying degrees of insults, often on my own page, article, or social media thread.
  6. They presume insulting others on my page, article, social media thread is also acceptable behavior.
  7. They presume I haven’t done as much research/thinking/pondering as they have to arrive at their “more correct” opinion.
  8. They demand I defend my stated preference, presuming I am obligated to respond to that demand.
  9. If I don’t (which I won’t), they frame it as “cowardice,” or a lack of supporting rationale for my choice.
  10. Then they dismiss me as clueless, intractable, or locked in an echo chamber.

Sigh. So tiresome.

But no one—not troll, bot, friend, family, or foe—has ever caused me to change my mind about something by virtue of debating me on social media. No one. About anything. Accept maybe the “best donut.” I can go soft there.

The point is, there is no point. I can’t speak for others, but for me, attempting to debate politics—or religion, sex, vaccines, women’s issues, men’s issues, television shows, etc.—is nothing but wasted time, energy, and stress chemicals, none of which I choose to waste or trigger.

Because here’s the thing: I’m a decider. I don’t dwaddle when it comes to making decisions. I’ve learned to trust my gut on issues large and small. I read, watch, ponder, assess, research, talk, listen, learn, and then come to a decision. And, once I do, I’m good to go. You can share your opinion with me if you like, but your opinion is not going to sway mine. The only thing that will sway mine is if my own further research or experience leads to me to be swayed. No offense to you and your research, but it’s possible you and I travel to the beat of a different drum, so I just gotta go my own way (lots of 70s references there, I know).

Someone once asked me, “But don’t you think it’s important to hear other people’s views, so you understand how they think and what causes them to form their opinions? Isn’t it important to be open to listening to others, even those you might not agree with?”

Yes. It’s important. There’s value in it. Just not on social media.

When people are not face-to-face, either in the same room or looking at a shared Go-To-Meeting or Skype screen, they change. At least most people do. When most people are typing at a computer or tapping into a smartphone, they tend to detach from essential aspects of their personalities and decorum, their normal level of good manners, civility, and respect. They get more aggressive, they speak more tersely; they can more readily go to insults, get patronizing and condescending, usually in ways they would not do if you were sitting right across from them in a room. Over a dinner table. Even, likely, speaking on the phone.

Much research has been done on this, the way people act online. I was going to quote a few articles but there were so damn many, I decided to—yes… let you do your own research. Suffice it to say, it’s been scientifically proven that people are meaner online for a whole host of reasons, in most cases, meaner than they would be IRL (online code for “in real life”…see, I learned that!). I will leave this one article here; it’s from a science site and, in its detail, makes the case: Is there a psychological reason for people being mean on the Internet? The answer is: YES.

So, since it’s proven that people tend to be meaner and more hostile and aggressive online, why would I choose to debate controversial, provocative topics in that forum? I wouldn’t. And don’t.

I will “IRL.” And have. Sometimes it’s gotten testy, even heated. Sometimes people storm off or declare “this conversation is over.” And sometimes actual intelligent discourse occurs, and it’s all kind of stimulating and adult when that happens! But that rarely, if ever, happens while debating online.

And, yes, I do know some people actually enjoy social media “fisticuffs.” They get a kick out of taking on a troll, getting down with hardcore opposition, going after people who state idiocies or share ignorance. More power to ’em. That ain’t me. I might do one-or-two rounds for a quick minute, but if the conversation devolves, doesn’t reach detente, or starts spewing like Chernobyl, I’m out. Life is too short and I’d rather watch Netflix.

So, to summarize: if I state an opinion that differs from yours, or share an article that reveals that my lean leans in a different direction than yours… and you think there’s merit in letting me know where you sit on these various things I state or share, feel free. You’re welcome to. As long as you’re civil and respectful, I have no problem with you offering your opinion, choice, preference, or proclivity even in counterpoint to my own. But only do it because you are so moved, we’re colleagues, friends, relatives, etc., and you want me to know where you stand. That’s fine.

Don’t do it with the intent of changing my mind. You won’t. Don’t do it with the idea of belittling or insulting me or my choices. I’ll likely just block you. Don’t do it to try to start a debate. It will never happen… for all the reasons expressed. And certainly don’t do it to pontificate, proselytize, patronize, condescend, man-splain, woman-splain, or otherwise act superior. I can call that Scientology guy back if I want to get into all that.

Now, if we meet for coffee, take a walk on the beach, end up sitting in a room together and those hot topics come up, sure… let’s debate. Kindly. Quietly. With intelligence. And you get the drinks.

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The Alchemy of Noise by Lorraine Devon Wilke (Review)

A writer writes a book to have an impact; to tell a story that conveys ideas, thoughts, messages, illumination. At least this writer does! And when a reader so beautifully articulates that they GOT that message, felt that impact, were moved by that story, it’s incredibly touching. I had to pass this one on… it will always mean a lot to me when this happens.

Thank you.


This book. Stop what you are doing. And read this book. It’s heartbreaking, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s daring in the most important way.

Sidonie and Chris are falling for each other in what promises to be the great love story of their lives. They adore each other, make each other laugh, and think, and smile. The magnetism was instant and that’s all that matters right? Sadly, no.

Because Sidonie is white, and Chris is black. So sadly, love is definitely not enough in this urban Chicago tale of a mixed-race couple who go through not only an emotional, but psychological rollercoaster that is the very definition of trauma.

This book haunts me – but it’s a good thing. I cannot stop thinking about it. I feel as if Sidonie and Chris are real people, and in a way, they are – as the gut-wrenching brutality, tension, and racism is entirely…

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Oh, Happy Day… It’s Pub Day!

It was a day long in coming. Pub day.

I started this book over three years ago; walked down many and myriad roads in the quest for publication, often got confused and discouraged, but was always clear it was a book meant to find its place. That it found its place with She Writes Press  was a boon.

I am so pleased and proud of the end product, a book that fully represents my creative sensibilities in every way: narratively, artistically, production and promotion-wise. I’m honored by the people I work with, grateful for Brooke Warner, president of She Writes Press, and Crystal Patriarche (Booksparks); my project manager, Samantha Strom, and certainly the fabulous Tabitha Bailey, my senior publicist who has walked this walk with me on an almost daily basis and done so with such empathy and enthusiasm. Thank you, Tabitha… thanks to you all!

To those who’ve bought the book, will buy the book; will read the book, think about it, hopefully be moved and entertained by it… thank you. It was, after all, meant for you.

Today I’m going to take it all in; close my eyes, take a deep breath, let myself feel it, and revel in the celebration… it’s a very good day.

(See you in Seattle (4.10), San Diego (4/16), Los Angeles (4.18), San Francisco (4.25) or Chicago (5.3)!)

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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

‘Empathy Is the Antidote To Everything’: my interview with author/coach Sara Connell

Eight years ago, shortly after I launched this blog in 2010, I reached out to Ariana Huffington with samples of my work, hoping to interest her in my writing for The Huffington Post. In a rare and wonderful anomaly (how many big CEOs respond to those kinds of emails?), she wrote back—in a writing style echoing her very unique speaking voice—to say she would love to have me onboard, and so I leapt. I was there from February of 2011 until January 2018 (when they shut down the program), and  it was a fascinating and pivotal turn in my writing career, one for which I’ll always be grateful.

Fast forward to almost a decade later. I’m approaching the pub date for my latest novel, and in enters Sara Connell, an author and writing coach out of Chicago, who invites me to participate in an interview with her for… Thrive Global, Ariana’s new endeavor. A karmic moment, indeed, so of course I did.

It was a provocative, far-reaching interview, covering everything from issues of racism, white privilege, my goals in writing this new book, The Alchemy of  Noise, to my perspective on  the writing process and the power of fiction to illuminate essential themes and inspire activism. It was meaningful to get that deep into topics that pull my attention on a regular basis, so I hope you enjoy the conversation we shared:

“Empathy is the antidote to everything” when sparking a movement, an interview with authors Sara Connell & Lorraine Devon Wilke

From Sara: “As part of my series about ‘How to write a book that sparks a movement’ I had the great pleasure of interviewing Lorraine Devon Wilke. An accomplished writer in several genres of the medium, Lorraine Devon Wilke, a Chicago native and one of eleven children, has built a library […]

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?

My particular backstory started in Chicago, where I was born the third child of a Greek-American father whose parents emigrated from Turkey, and an Irish/German/American mother who was raised by an extended family of rowdy Irish Catholics after her mother died and father absconded. This dramatic starting point infused my own upbringing with some rather stunning polarities on all fronts, from religion to politics to sex to how to raise children, and I became a very opinionated child as a result.

While still formulating my character, however, my parents fled the city, relocating to as disparate a place as one could imagine: Richmond, a tiny (population 350 at the time) farm town in northern Illinois, bike-riding distance from Wisconsin, as homogenized and white as Chicago was diverse. Too young to grasp the impact this would have my worldview, I reveled in the insular charms of small-town life until I grew old enough to realize I’d be fleeing in reversal of my mother and father…

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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

PODCAST: A Conversation About Fiction, Culture & The Alchemy of Noise w/ The Three Tomatoes

It’s not every day you’re invited to converse with The Three Tomatoes, but I was, and I did, and it was quite the invigorating exchange with their always effervescent podcast hostess, Debbie Zipp.

To give you a bit of background on the group: the brainchild of founder/publisher, Cheryl Benton, and co-founding partner, Roni Jenkins, The Three Tomatoes describes itself as a “digital lifestyle magazine for women who aren’t kids,” with a mission to curate and provide an entertaining, informative, bicoastal lifestyle guide for “smart, savvy women who want to live their lives fully at every age and every stage.” Within that framework, they swing from fashion, travel, and cooking, to frank discussions of sex, aging, and contemporary culture. It’s a fun, eclectic, vibrant site with a big audience, so when they invited me to come talk about my new novel, The Alchemy of Noise, in the context of a discussion a about fiction and its particular power to the illuminate, I was more than happy to accept.

Below you’ll find the link to the podcast, and I hope you  take a listen. Feel free to share it on social media, and certainly if you’re so inspired to express thoughts, comments, or questions, I hope you’ll visit the Facebook and Twitter pages of the The Three Tomatoes to join in the conversation yourself! Of course, you always  know where to find me.


Episode #11: Stories, Imagination and the True Power of Fiction!

Guest: author, writer, Lorraine Devon Wilke

If you love reading and your first impulse is to pick up a book of fiction, then you are making a truly powerful choice. It isn’t always just entertainment! Award winning author and writer, Lorraine Devon Wilke, joins our LA Editor, Debbie Zipp, in a lively and illuminating conversation delving into the importance of fiction and why it has such a powerful impact in our lives. Lorraine’s award-winning novels, After the Sucker Punch and Hysterical Love, are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Her latest, The Alchemy of Noise, a literary fiction that digs deep into issues of privilege, profiling, and prejudice in contemporary Chicago, will be released April 9, 2019. Learn more at her web site.

Listen to the episode at:

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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.