Tag Archives: inspiration

A jackhammer sounds like a helicopter

Road crew with dump truck and excavator digging a hole in the street in front of our house to repair a sewer pipe crack.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING IN LIFE

Homeowner problems

This is still our house, but really? Now? A month before we don’t own it any more?

Didn’t need the worry!

We have owned this house since it was built in 1981. March 5th we moved in, and it has had no other family in it. In all those years, we NEVER had a sewer problem connected to the street.

Well, just for funsies, the day AFTER the Open House, a small sink hole developed by the curb, right near the real estate sign, and we wondered whether they had nicked the water line into the house (since no markings were made on the grass and bushes, and no flags set by utility companies). So we duly reported it, the township fixed the small sink hole, and we thought that was that.

Told lawyer and real estate agent, so they wouldn’t say we didn’t inform them of potential problems (water line, sewer) that we might be required to disclose.

Then we got a message on our answering machine from the head of the Sewer Dept., stating there was a problem where our sewer pipe connected to the main – in the middle of the street (so not on our property).

When contacted, found out they would get it fixed by contractors as soon as they had enough for a day’s work for one. We thought it would be forever, but they started early this morning, did NOT (bless them!) ring our door bell until around 9am when they needed us not to send anything down the sewer line for a while (now over), and they proceeded to make a standard repair.

Which they are in the process of asphalting right this minute.

What was that sound?

The sound I heard, which was like every helicopter in every movie, was actually a man tamping down soil and gravel into the hole with a jackhammer-like device (probably called, with all due irony, a tamper), was not Black Hawks landing on our lawn.

Much more prosaic.

And over much sooner than I expected – so I am impressed by our township’s efficiency at keeping us in the loop, and the contractor’s at getting a ‘not uncommon’ problem fixed efficiently and quickly.

Yay, taxes!

Yay, First World problems.

Not our responsibility, thank goodness – no digging up the front lawn and all the way to the house – no cost.

I have never been happier to pay property taxes which include infrastructure.


Of such is my life right now.

And y’all get such interesting but ultimately unimportant trivia because I can, courtesy of iPhone and WordPress, mail a photo snapped in a moment out my office window directly to my Media Library. Gotta love the modern world.


 

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Boosting Jennie Spotila’s post on dancing

Little girl in bikini dancing on beach. Text: Dance. It's good for you. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

TODAY IS ME AWARENESS DAY

Jennie uses her inability to dance as a metaphor – the entire post (and her blog in general) is always worth reading.

This excerpt chilled me, because we’ve been TOLD, by the NIH (National Institutes for Health) and its director who has been ignoring us for decades, Dr. Francis Collins, that we’ve getting DOUBLE the research money this year that we had last year:

If you see ME, you are watching a disaster advancing before your eyes. It’s not a disaster because the powers that be are simply unaware of it; they know. And it’s not a disaster because ME is a difficult disease to unravel. After all, cancer is a difficult disease to unravel. What can we do about complicated problems? We invest the resources needed to solve them.

ME is an unsolved mystery because the biomedical research enterprise has consistently refused to invest the funding and expertise needed to figure it out.

NIH points out that it has nearly doubled its investment in ME research from 2016 to 2017. But even NIH has admitted that ME funding must be 10 to 20 times its current level. Compared to the need, NIH funding went from .04% of the need in 2016 to .07% of the need in 2017. In other words, double of practically nothing is still practically nothing.

DOUBLE OF NOTHING IS NOTHING. Remember that – it’s an old joke.

Please read her whole, excellent post.

Dancing is a human right

No one should stop you from moving except yourself (and we all had that desire to move as small children, so ask where it went, if it’s gone).

Moving freely in your body, with energy, is a human right (and we’d be attached to rocks if we didn’t have it). Except I can’t any more, and haven’t had that energy in a long time.

I gave my remaining love of dance to my character, Kary, in Pride’s Children, because I know what it is to dance for a short while in my kitchen – something I lost years ago to both the ME/CFS and my back problems – and miss daily.

The end of Chapter 16 in Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (Andrew comes back unexpectedly to pick up a script):

Dance excerpt 1, PC1, Chapter 16

Dance excerpt 2, PC1, Chapter 16

I kind of like this one.

I REALLY miss dancing.

Shall we dance?


Remember, my royalties for May go to the fight against ignorance and lack of research.


Thanks again to Stencil, for giving me the free image (the words are mine) of a little girl dancing on the beach. It was perfect.

May 12 – ME/CFS Awareness Day – again

Picture of dog with its tongue out. Text: No treats for me. ME/CFS has stolen all my energy. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

AND AGAIN THERE ISN’T ENOUGH ENERGY TO GO

I am represented by my shoes. Thanks to the people who take the shoes, label them, place them where people stop and look and ask: my shoes represent one of the #MillionsMissing. Me.

I am represented by my fiction. Specifically, ALL my royalties for May 2018 will go to support #MEAction‘s fundraiser – because they are being activists for all of us who have ME/CFS and need medical recognition, research, and training. I’m not delusional, trust me. I’m just sick. Lots of us are. You can ignore us – and make us even more miserable than we already are. But you can’t make us go away and not be sick, and, like AIDS patients before us, we are holding you accountable for this misery – because those wo do nothing when they could are enablers of the misery.

I am represented by my blogs. This one, and Pride’s Children’s blog – where there is a new post! About me learning to use a new marketing book which may help me find the people who will read and love and be waiting for the next book in the trilogy (coming – as fast as I possibly can – this year, or next at the latest). A curious thing (to me) has been a whole bunch of people signing up to follow it and liking the posts – without ever going to that site. I suspect the word ‘marketing’ kicked some bots into gear, but traffic is traffic. It’s difficult for me to market when the people who have left 5* reviews range from young women in their 20s to older men in their 80s. I’m greedy. I want more of you.

I am represented by my Patreon, where at least one lovely patron and I are having very interesting discussions – and the patrons get to read Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD before anyone else. Curious? Drop by and read the free public posts – and ask yourself if you can REALLY wait another year…

I’m represented by my Facebook page, which is for RL friends and family, and a few extras (it’s not all that exciting, though I have boosted a few posts).

But I’m not represented by me. 😦 Because, as happened today, the spoons went to something silly and necessary that jumped to the top of the To Do list right during one of my four naps, and had to be done that minute. Today’s energy, and tomorrow’s, are used up already. And Sunday, I already know I won’t be able to go sing – there is nothing in the energy bank to allow me to do what I want to do. And I know perfectly well I’ll make myself much worse if I foolishly try. No problem – I can do it, go sing – but the cost will be days of staring at the wall, and I can’t afford them.

Thanks to all who are doing something and going to an event for May 12, ME/CFS Awareness Day – again, since we’re still not getting anywhere, and not only are we still sick, but new ones join us every day. I’ll be there in spirit. Spirits are invisible.

From a slow writer: NETHERWORLD in scenes

 

Not a working button; link in SIDEBAR

ONLY FOR THE IMPATIENT

Me at Patreon.

I can’t do an actual Patron linked button because this is a WordPress.com free blog (for which I’m very grateful), and you can’t sell things from them. [Figured out how to make a link available in the sidebar!!! – updated 4/16/18]

I am literally terrified to change anything on my blogs. It isn’t the money, though, unless you’re selling very well, costs can be more than you earn.

It’s change. There is so much change in my life right now, I can’t take on any more.

Plus it’s time – to figure out a WordPress.org site would take more time than it’s worth, and make NETHERWORLD even later. Seems counterproductive.

Click the link (not the fake button) – there will be a few scenes from the beginning, and in a week or so, all of the first chapter (Chapter 21 in the continued Pride’s Children numbering) for you to read.

For those who become patrons, I’ll post the scenes as close as possible to finishing them, as I serialized PURGATORY in 2013 – 2015, and they’ll get access to the completed book a little sooner than the general public.

Why?

I did this for myself, for the fun of it. I expect few of the people who say they can’t wait for Book 2, Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, to be serious enough about it to sign up for an inexpensive Patreon and get the scenes as I finish creating and polishing them, in my painfully slow and deliberate writing process. I’ve made it ‘pay per creation’, not monthly, in case my cache of startup finished scenes runs out.

I know I can do this – I serialized PURGATORY, publishing a finished scene every Tuesday for two years. It’s presumably going to be a bit faster this time.

There will be some extra content, available in special posts, because I generate at least 10 to 100 times more words than end up in a typical 2000 word scene during the writing thereof, and some of it is interesting.

Since I will be talking mostly to true fans, I expect to have some discussions and questions of a different sort than on this general writing/life blog of mine. If so, I’m hoping it will encourage the writing. That is if anyone signs up: I’ll do the writing anyway.

It’s a different beast from this* or the Pride’s Children blog**

For one, I have expectations of my patrons (and tell them right up front), which I’m always muting in the world in general (where nobody wants to hear writers talk endlessly about their ‘creations’).

It’ll be all about the book and the writing and the characters, and possibly the research and the ideas…

Not so much ego (though there’s plenty of that) as self-centeredness. Me, me, ME. And my book, of course.

Different focus, different content, and me as supreme ruler of… Oops! Don’t have any interest in running the world – too much work, not enough writing time. Just what I’d love to talk to people about, as they try to slip away.

(*General and writing and life posts here.)

(**The Pride’s Children blog was specifically created for those who want to be notified when NETHERWORLD is finished, and I promised not to use it for anything but that and the occasional sales.)


Finishing the trilogy and the story is still top priority

Writing fiction is still the main focus, and everything else comes to a halt when the brain and body give me a break and I can write. And I won’t be writing too much additional content/new blog posts at Patreon, but more grabbing ‘bits’ and throwing them out there from the massive archives.

And patrons can join or quit any time.

I’m doing this for fun – and for me.


Figured out how to make a link available in the sidebar!!!

Life imitates art for investigative journalism

A red typewriter with a manuscript in progress, with the words: Can a story contribute to the cause it's based on? Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

EMPATHY COMES FROM SOMEWHERE

ALL my ROYALTIES for Pride’s Children for April 2018, Kindle Unlimited, ebook, and print, will be DONATED to: Help me help ME/CFS investigative journalist, David Tuller, PhD Public Health, Berkeley, get funding for another year.

David has been unbelievably hardworking this past year – and is up to speed. More than that, he is feared (that’s the only thing that explains it) by the UK psychologists who insist a disease I’ve had for 28+ years is both all in my head, and can be cured by 1) changing my belief system, and 2) doing more exercise.

I won’t tell you how useless it is to turn a real physical illness into hysteria. And that I would be in perfect shape if exercise helped: it is KNOWN to make everything worse for us – within very strict limits, I stay as fit as possible, but going over those limits will crash me for days.

Sympathy comes from watching someone else’s story

Beautiful real life ME/CFS (ME/CFS – myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) sufferer Jennifer Brea gets our sympathy, for her wonderful documentary UNREST (hope you’ve seen it) portraying her personal story, and that of others.

She’s much more photogenic than I am. The documentary was actually nominate for an Oscar!

She’s also had ME/CFS much less time than I have. I really hope she recovers – something which seems to work better for patients if they rest aggressively in the early years.

But to get EMPATHY for this disease

which has devastated the lives of so many millions worldwide, you either have to get the disease (please don’t) or live it virtually – by reading. Pride’s Children: PURGATORY lets you live with CFS for long enough to see how it gets into your bones and affects everything in your life. And yet it is only subtext to the story.

One more degree of difficulty for life, living with a tiny fraction of the energy able people take for granted.

I want more people aware of what someone with ME/CFS goes through, and it is similar to many diseases in some of its aspects. Chronic invisible illnesses hide everywhere among us, and we keep them hidden because no one wants to listen to the details.

As Pat Patterson, Amazon reviewer, says:

“You get a private tour of the life of someone living with an incapacitating disease.”

If you haven’t read, or know someone who hasn’t

This would be a good time to get them to read – even to gift them Pride’s Children: PURGATORY on Amazon.

As I’ve probably mentioned more than once before, I make about the same amount in royalties whether you buy and ebook or a print version, or borrow the book from Kindle Unlimited (with subcription or free trial). Paper is more expensive because there is, well, paper and shipping involved. But because it is a nice fat book, I’ve been able to price so that any of the formats available (including a KU borrow) have about the same effect on my bottom line. So you can freely choose which is your preferred format.

And do a little extra with your dough.


A brief description from Pat Patterson’s review:

“Kary is CLEARLY a hero, by any criteria you want to apply apart from armed combat, and she is the center of the book. She lives in isolation in New Hampshire, and writes; she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and it robbed her of her previous career as a physician, and gave her weak/treacherous husband the excuse he needed to rob her of her family. She has other grief in her life, but she does not share the pain casually.

“Andrew is an Irish actor/singer/modern day knight, who is on the verge of explosive fame, who values his privacy and guards it like a dragon guards his gold. Their paths cross in a late-night talk show, and sparks fly.

“Bianca is a drop-dead gorgeous actress who resents being trivialized by her spectacular beauty. She is attempting to pry credibility from the paws of the power structure, and intends to use Andrew as the crowbar.”

Hey, when your readers are so articulate, it’s much better to quote them. (Used with Pat’s kind permission.)


Thanks to Stencil for the ability to create images like the one above – their picture and fonts, my words.

Chinchilla peeking out between bed and dresser

A NEW HOME FOR GIZZY

It’s not a very good picture (I’ll replace it when I can), but my regular readers know that I have been stressing about either placing my chinchilla with new owners OR moving her to California to a yet-to-be-chosen retirement home.

Either was going to be stressful for her and for me (and for my very patient husband). From New Jersey to California, especially when we don’t have a new place yet and haven’t sold this one, would be … complicated.

But re-homing a pet is a major challenge in life, as anyone who has ever had to do it knows.

The search is over. A good friend, and former assistant, had mentioned a month ago she was interested in Gizzy.

And today Gizzy and her trousseau moved further south in NJ, to what is really the PERFECT home for her: younger, healthy people with experience with small mammals and large ones, and definitely pet people.

I’m not really a pet person

Everyone laughs at me when I say this, and points to the spoiling of the little grey furball by yours truly.

I’ve had Gizzy for over five years, and enjoyed most of it.

She only had to sit there and look at me for my heart to melt. Because she is so beautiful (note to self: must post better picture) and I’m a sucker.

When she did additional things, like sit on my lap, touch noses for a treat, or give me her paw (if you don’t melt when an animal does this…), it was gravy.

‘Owner’ is a misnomer – expect to be more of a zookeeper

But chinchillas are problematic as pets, since they are not really domesticated (disregard Youtube videos) because they are awake for very short periods, generally dislike being picked up or petted (Gizzy chose to sit on my lap), and run entirely on their own timetable. They are overproduced by unscrupulous breeders who sell them to people who don’t realize the chinchilla can live TWENTY YEARS under the right conditions.

They are wild animals, and as such, chinchilla shelters are overwhelmed by mistreated, ignored, or badly understood chinnies who are confined to cages forever. You are given the role of zookeeper when you get one, for relatively little return of affection (the stinker loves my daughter better than me, and behaves – for treats – much better).

You can’t return them to the Andes. And they won’t remain alive, like feral cats, outdoors. They can’t get too hot or survive much humidity. Go look all this up if ever tempted to buy one; if you want a chinchilla, please rescue one.

Anyway…

All of the above is understood by her new family/keepers, and I am so grateful they took her, today, in spite of all this (and have another family member with a chinchilla who told them the exact same things). There were many boxes – hay, treats, housing materials, the pieces to an enclosure, child-proofing gates, a roomy cage, volcanic dust, water bottles – all the stuff that either came with her (like the roomy cat carrier) or we acquired.

So Gizzy is squared away, and I can have the spare bedroom emptied, cleaned, and repainted – and will have to get used to that door being open, as it was unless a child was closeted away, until Gizzy became the rodent who lived under the bed.

I will miss her, but I am not really a pet person. She was my little love, and my responsibility, and I took that very seriously. This will be better for her. I literally can’t do the things she needs – each day it was getting physically trickier, even as I loved to have her walk on my back – when she deigned to.

Changes are unrelenting in moving us forward. There is no going back any more, only savoring everything for the last time here. It is upsetting after 37 years, and high time.


And I am proud of myself for figuring out how to take a picture with the iPhone, and email it to myself in a blog post. I guess the old brain still works a bit. I even put in the alt-text.

A memory of GUI Easter eggs

colorful blank cards, with three colored pencils, and the words: Where's an Easter egg when you need one? Alicia Butcher EhrhardtMEMORY TRIGGERS

HAPPY EASTER – to those who celebrate the holiday religiously, and HAPPY PASSOVER to my Jewish friends.

As a blogger, lately I am the most erratic of correspondents. I am simply overwhelmed by the enormous lists of things that keep getting added to daily, often by things that insist on queue-jumping, and being taken care of FIRST. Me, me, ME!

The passport dilemma

On Thursday evening my daughter casually mentioned that she had just received her renewed passport, because it expired this May, and the family has plans for a vacation in May. As I congratulated her on her foresight, for some unknown reason I said, “I’d better check mine,” even though it turns out we’re not leaving the country.

BUT airlines always want you to show them ‘government-issued photo ID’ before they let you on a plane, and I have only two forms of that, my driver’s license and my passport.

So I checked – and, it turned out, we had BOTH applied for our passports together, ten years ago when she was 16, and mine was expiring in May, TOO. Funny how that works.

So panic set in, because the process takes 4-6 weeks FROM THE TIME THEY RECEIVE YOUR APPLICATION. Yeah, I can count. Late May is barely days after those 6 weeks IF I get myself in gear and get that application in FRIDAY.

Those who know me also know that leaving the house is a big deal, because of all the spoon-using steps it requires: Getting the brain on. Taking a nap. Getting dressed. Filling out paperwork on the web on the government website (’nuff said). Getting a photograph of the appropriate quality (thanks CVS). Getting a Priority Mail envelope ready from among my office supplies. Remembering to take the stapler to attach the photo. Driving to two different places.

These are steps healthy normal people take without a second thought, adding it to their list of errands for the day. For me, this is Hannibal over the Alps.

All accomplished. Home. Damp the adrenaline. Stare at the wall for the rest of the day.

The driver’s license.

The next day, Saturday, the husband brings up the form which the State of New Jersey, in its infinite wisdom, seeking to remove the people who MISUSE handicapped license plates and placards from their lists, forces the people who really need them to do MORE PAPERWORK, including getting a doctor certification.

I need this. I look up the paperwork, and navigate a DIFFERENT government site, start up the form, and get to the place where it wants to know when my driver’s license expires. This is not information I carry in my head, since I’ve been renewing by mail for years, so I look at the thing, realize it is expiring this very last day of March 2018. Aargh!

It is almost a comical repeat of the PREVIOUS day’s excursion (I normally try to leave the house no more than once or twice a week, and reserve one for singing at church. This is Easter week.)

It turn out the spouse (who does the paperwork since he retired) has been meaning to get to this. We BOTH have licenses that expire this very day. Oh, joy!

I’ll spare you the details, except that they include getting documents out of the safe to satisfy the state of NJ that we actually exist and live where we say we do (to be safe I bring every document we have), we scramble to get there after I figure out that, even though the DMV in NJ is CLOSED on Good Friday, it is actually open on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday (go figure), and we have until 1PM. Sort of.

I frantically try to find something that proves the DMV office is OPEN, and hit on the little camera they have for the inspection lines! Which has a time stamp of NOW, and shows cars in line. They’re open!

We get there.

The line snakes out of the building and halfway down the block.

Thank God – and all those who fought for them – there are handicapped parking spots right by the door, so I can sit in the car while the husband stands in line, and finish filling out the paperwork, and get everything ready for inside, so as not to hold up the process.

A kind official, seeing me sitting in my walker, moves us ahead a few spaces.

We are out of there with brand new licenses, good for four years (we’re probably moving to a different state THIS year), and a whole host of papers to put back in the safe. But I don’t have to drive to church on Easter weekend with an expired license, and all I have to do is make sure the insurance cards – which have been sitting in the Master’s piles since DECEMBER – get into the cars before we drive to church.

And the Easter egg of the title?

I remember the first time I saw an Apple II something with a graphical user interface – and a mouse! – in the Apple store in the Princeton Shopping Center while trying to help a writer friend of my grandparents (Aaron ‘Rod’ Marc Stein, author of 115 novels) choose his FIRST computer.

It was as if I had found my soulmate. I gently ignored the salesperson (who was having a hard time explaining everything), and used MacPaint on the demo computer, with the mouse letting me size an oval, and add jagged and wavy lines across the oval to separate into sections, sections which I filled with the patterns available, to create a quite decent EASTER EGG. I can still feel the rush!

I wanted to find an Easter egg picture at Stencil.com, but inexplicably for this time of year, couldn’t among the free images for the month.

You’ll have to use your imagination. I seem to have lost MacPaint somewhere in the past many Mac years. Created in an instant by a novice, it was a thing of beauty.

I will be dead meat tomorrow.

So be it. We’re singing for the 4:30 Easter Mass at the Princeton U. chapel, and I wasn’t able to drive in for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or the Easter Vigil last night (have to be in semi-decent shape to sing, and can’t do nights any more), and I’m not about to miss today. So off to First Nap, then lunch, then Second Nap, and the husband is driving, which will save energy.

Tomorrow (and the rest of today) I will be useless, but that’s my life.

Too bad we have to pick a vacation hotel asap.

Have a wonderful day. Pray for me. And how was YOUR Easter and Passover?

The house where Pride’s Children was written

AND IT WON’T BE MINE ANY MORE

If God gives me life and brain, I will finish my epic love story, Pride’s Children, in a couple of years.

Sometimes place is important. One thinks of the Brontës writing in the rectory on the moors, and wonders if it was a cold and dismal place, or a warm and cheery one. Did they have one room they kept cozy and tended to congregate in? I could find some of my answers if I took the time to look.

Sometimes I think that Kary’s house, Sanctuary, is more real than my own. I have put more thought into how it should be.

We have lived in this house, only the second one we’ve ever owned, since March 5, 1981, which is a very long time in these moving times. We have been its only owners.

My children have known no other childhood home.

As I have become more home-bound, I have spent almost all my life in the south bedroom, with a window that opens to a quiet court ended by a cul-de-sac, where the kids all rode their tricycles and bicycles and drew in chalk on the pavement.

I insisted on this house – because the neighborhood had – and has – mature trees everywhere I look. With so many developments built on cornfields, and so many owners who don’t bother to plant a tree when they move in, the new developments have a raw look to them.

I dislike the American house which often shows its concrete foundation, stained by water and rust, like a dirty petticoat peeking out from under a lady’s skirt, long after it is built. As if we should all politely ignore all underwear hanging out. Bushes are planted – which never cover that bottom foot of dirty grey.

Ours has bushes to the ground.

Abandoning a home deliberately is something new for me. I love this one in some way, for its memories, but I’m still here, and the memories are all I have. Already. I don’t want to go start clearing the debris of the winter so the bulbs can come out – I’ve done that too many times; now it’s accompanied by the pain of sitting low, and the sleepless nights that come with the pain.

The kids come very rarely, and are not into dance lessons and Scouts any more, so there is nothing for them to do. They often take the train to NY, and spend the day having fun. Without me. One wanders up to Princeton for a good walk and a bunch of Pokemon Go sites. Without me. Or walks to a local park, ditto.

I face the stairs every day. Sometimes I have to go up in an undignified way. I don’t understand why that doesn’t bother other people a whole lot more than it does. If it were them, and me watching, I would have gotten us out of here years ago. No, I have no desire to stay here – with my sewing machine sitting unused in the little attic closet I turned into a sewing room. Because I have no reason to sew. No costume for Halloween, no dress for a prom. My own clothes, which I started making when I was 14, now come in the mail.

I want to make a new home

While I still can. While I can adjust to a new community. While I can meet new people and do new things with enjoyment.

I don’t even want most of our furniture. The dining room table takes a beating when you’re homeschooling three kids at it. Much of the kid furniture was IKEA, assembled on the spot and not really capable of being disassembled successfully. The nice bedroom set, with the light bridge, is too big. The solid oak kitchen table, carefully hand-finished, and in perfect shape, is too big. Somehow or other, over the last two years, it seems every dining room chair needs re-caning and refinishing (I TOLD them not to lean so hard), and the wheels on the kitchen chairs we’ve enjoyed rolling around are destroying both the chairs and the floor.

This house needs a healthy woman in charge. And people who like to do things at the workbench in the basement. I’m not that woman: I did my time.

But somewhere I need to leave a plaque:

In this house, between 2000 and 2018, Pride’s Children was written.

The beginning of it, anyway, because NETHERWORLD won’t be finished here.

There are places I could leave such a plaque, places I know, places behind – where a new owner won’t even know there is a place.

The written record

If you’re a writer, and have a thought – a blog is the perfect home to let it run free. Who knows – some day you may gather your thoughts in words, clean them up and organize them about a theme, and publish them.

I look at this blog, with over five hundred posts since I started in 2012, and I know some of those posts would make a different kind of book on writing, and others would document the production of my own epic – and marvel that the format allows them to still be there when I’ve moved on. I really ought to go see what is there. Might make for some interesting archaeology.

I’m finishing this at six a.m. because the ice dancing at the Olympics put an earworm into my brain, and then I got hungry… You know the drill. It’s a good time for humans to get nostalgic.

How think ye?


Thanks again for Stencil‘s images – consider them if you need a source of them for your own blog. The pictures make me think, and then we’re off on another wandering trail through the writer’s brain.

Does your character make readers uncomfortable?

WHAT CHARACTERS MAKE READERS SQUIRM?

When I set out to tell the story of Pride’s Children, I was originally driven by a sense of the unfairness of society toward those who have most need of its kindness.

Specifically, your DISABLED character?

There are two USUAL ways to deal with disability in a character: as a decoration or as a problem.

The first – a ‘feature’ of a character – gets mentioned every once in a while, but doesn’t seem to stop the character from doing most of the things ‘normal’ able people do. And it mostly leads that character to be a secondary character, a sidekick, the ‘friend in the wheelchair.’

The second leads to ‘inspiration p0rn’ (avoiding search engine problems here), and the solving of the ‘problem’ consumes the space dedicated to the story, with inspirational results – problem solved – or, sometimes, the character’s death (in a disturbing trend, by suicide while making life easier for those left behind).

Ignore the fact that suicide has a horrible effect on the people left behind. Most of us know of someone close to whom that has happened, and know they would do almost anything if they could go back in time and help.

Disabilities in real life

Disabilities are far more abundant than people think. If you count all disabilities – and I do, of course – estimates run over 20%. Don’t forget the invisible ones: FM, mental health issues, pain, CFS, non-visible genetic ‘abnormalities,’ a thousand things that make life difficult for the disabled person, but generate wrath in observers who watch them use the handicap parking space. Don’t forget old age and its common memory and mobility problems.

The counting is made difficult because of a human tendency to hide problems if it is at all possible, so you will not be ‘different’ or ‘other,’ and attract unwanted attention. Presumably there was some evolutionary benefit to getting rid of tribe members who would slow you down when your tribe was in the hunter/gatherer phase (a rather long time ago).

We ‘pass’ for normal/able as long as we possibly can, which also makes us suddenly appear very disabled when we can’t pretend any more.

Animals do it, too – everyone knows of a pet who didn’t let its owner know something was wrong until it was far too late to help. Wild animals do it so as not to appear vulnerable, as the weak and the sick are noted as easy prey.

But there is a different way for a writer: reality

I have taken the step of writing a disabled MAIN character, with a significant disability, which she ignores as much as possible, and bows to when inevitable.

For this disabled character, writing is a job – and she’s been successful at it, very slowly – and by staying hidden from the world.

An Amazon reviewer:

…while much of the plot centers on the cautious romance, Pride’s Children is also about a writer’s way of interacting with the world, living with a chronic condition (CFS – … I realized that I couldn’t think of any book I’d read, recently, involving a character with a disability or chronic illness – a significant hole in terms of diversity), and the struggle to remain balanced and kind when new people and routines enter one’s carefully-ordered sanctuary…

Disability is a learning experience

Those who are or become disabled have a steep learning curve: everything is harder. Moving, learning, thinking, being independent, even making new friends – all these are more difficult the farther a character is from the norm.

And the effects are interwoven: difficulty reading means trouble holding a job, getting to that job on public transportation or by learning to drive. No disability is purely one thing you cannot do.

There are few disabled characters in fiction (which is why they stand out) because writing them is extra effort. It’s easier to write about kickass heroes and heroines who tough it out through thick and thin and keep on ticking.

Just tonight we watched, in the same show, a character get stabbed in the back by an enormous kitchen knife embedded at least four inches by the blood shown carefully on the blade when it was pulled out by the stabbed character, who then went on to limp a bit while he walked around, interacted, and finally was not shot by the police detective – and who survived with no visible effects by a short time afterward; and a character poked at in the stomach by a little knife who died instantly. Neither of these seemed at all realistic – but the plot required one survive to talk and talk, and the other to be removed quickly from the scene.

In the same way, disability in fiction is mentioned when necessary to make a quick plot point – but not there pervasively.

FICTION = EMPATHY

I have written about how properly-constructed fiction is uniquely helpful in creating empathy in humans because it allows them to live alongside a character the life affected by the choices the author has made (type ’empathy’ into my search box).

They do, however, have to read said fiction, which means it has to be surrounded by the best entertainment the writer can provide.

I’m not surprised there aren’t more disabled characters, but I’m disappointed that indie isn’t more of a place where, since the big publishers are not supervising the product, there are more disabled, diverse, and simply ‘different’ characters and stories.

But there is that pesky thing about having to write well to sneak the empathy bits in under the radar. It takes more space, more words, more time.

It is MUCH harder to market.

I still think it’s worth it.

Do disabled characters make you squirm?

Welcome, drive-by lurker and reader

GLAD TO HAVE YOU VISIT A SPELL

It has happened a number of times, so I will remark on it: I get up in the morning, and, while drinking Diet Coke #1 (my preferred form of caffeine), I check my blog stats, and lo and behold, there has been a jump in ‘views.’

The pattern is the same: though there may be many views of the archives, I assume it’s mostly one new person because a whole bunch of posts get a single view. I think this person may visit the archives page to see which posts might be attracting a few minutes of their attention.

But they never leave a comment or a like or a name or…

And so, for those of you in this category, first I say Welcome!

And then I suggest that you leave a thought. A comment on a post somewhere. An opinion. A like. Even an argument, if civilly stated. I love to get readers, and I like even better having my conversational gambits (for that is what blog posts are, conversation starters) taken up by someone new.

I won’t sell you anything (beyond the gentle suggestion that if you like my prose enough to read that many posts, you might enjoy my fiction (free short stories available, one novel ditto on Amazon, and more to come). But it’s always nice to know who’s listening.

Stay a bit. Chat. Visit with an idea or another commenter (I don’t turn comments off for older posts). Gimme a few words back.

I don’t bite – I just have opinions, which I like to support with whatever data I have.

The internet of ideas depends on you, too.

Caleb Pirtle’s list of 100 indie books to read before you die

Caleb Pirtle, III, is undertaking a monumental task.

Mind you, he is vastly overqualified for it, as he has SEVENTY books published, and runs a well-known eponymous indie book site* with his wife, Linda Pirtle (also an author of mysteries), showcasing mysteries and other genres, and has been doing so far longer than I’ve been involved in the online part of writing and indie publishing (I started reading the blogs in 2011, having this one in 2012).

Here is why:

A similarly titled list on Goodreads ‘had completely overlooked, ignored, and paid absolutely no attention to novels written by indie authors.’

(*You may remember VentureGalleries)


DISCLAIMER

Caleb serialized Pride’s Children way back when I was starting to publish Book 1 one scene at a time.

We have become online friends through extended comments on his site – his opinions,  always well expressed and nuanced, lend themselves to conversations on writing and publishing topics.


Here are the first five and the second five.

I’ll update this post (and you should bookmark his and Linda’s blog) as he continues listing the books he thinks should be on the list. He is always open to comments, too.

Is the artist in the way of the art?

IS THE WRITER’S APPEARANCE A DETRIMENT TO HER OWN WRITING SUCCESS?

When I was growing up, books had plain covers (no representative art), and the only means of interaction between reader and writer were the words on the page.

I usually skipped things like Forewords, and if I read the author’s bio, it was a quick pass, more destined to reinforce his name than anything else, so if I liked the work I could find more by him.

To this day, I have no idea what Robert Heinlein looked like, and only know what Asimov looked like because he was a bit of a media hound (and I had him confused with Einstein, which would have tickled his fancy. I think.).

There are statues of Marcus Aurelius, in stone or bronze, I assume – never even thought to look.

Modern digital life has changed all that

It is almost annoying when an author goes to a great deal of trouble not to let readers know what she looks like.

I prefer actual current photographs for avatars.

It is a problem for those with multiple pen names.

And I wonder just how much it influences the readers, especially in some genres.

Should Romance writers be pretty?

Humans who have sight are very visual creatures. It is estimated (somewhere) that 80% of our energy goes to dealing with visual input.

We react negatively to ugly things – after millenia of evolution that correlated ugly things with things that were often bad for us, such as rotted animals or toxic snakes.

Other things, such as the thickness of the ankles of young women in countries where sunlight was insufficient part of the year – which is an indication of ricketts, a disease which might also have affected her other bones, and make her more likely to have problems in childbirth, have gotten folded into our standards of beauty: thick ankles = not attractive.

I notice the way authors present themselves (check out Kristin Hannah’s Amazon author page) – and wonder how much that affects her sales (she’s gorgeous, and that’s a great photo). Wonder how any others can compete.

Do readers wonder if any of what’s in the stories is based on experience?

What about opinionated authors?

What do you think of authors whose claim to fame includes a very solid amount of in-your-face-ness? Are you more likely to read their books?

I loved Rudyard Kipling stories; reading about his attitudes has put a bit of a damper on reading his books, and would make me think hard about gifting them to a grandchild if I had one.

I make judgments about people based on their appearance

All the time.

I also immediately catch myself at it now, and look at those judgments dispassionately to see how much might be true. I have managed to change my own opinions quite a bit by a continued practice, and no longer automatically make some judgments which used to bother me a lot because they were so automatic, and couldn’t possibly be true.

But I’m wondering if, in the race for sales, those who look good have an unfair advantage. Again.

At least in getting started in the race.

Choose how you present yourself online

Not suggesting this should change, but I can’t quite stop making those automatic judgments about the photos that people choose to represent themselves with on their author page. Or avatar. Or book cover.

The good thing is that it is usually just at a few places, say Amazon, FB, your blog, and they don’t get to see what you look like first thing in the morning.

I need to work on that.

Do you ever think about how you are influenced by what you ‘know’ about an author?

A white rose for my memories

Bouquet of white roses and other blue and white flowers Alicia Butcher EhrhardtMEMORY TRIGGERS?

Things stay with you.

My Mamina, my mother’s mother, lost two boys. One, my uncle Joseph, was her last child, and lived only a day. The other, my uncle Billy, named after my grandfather Papa Memo (Memo is a nickname for Guillermo – William), came down with encephalitis at eleven.

My mother told me the story of how she rode in the taxi with my Papa Memo to take Joseph’s tiny coffin to the cemetery because Mamina was too devastated to go, and still dealing with the birth.

But she was only sixteen, and she missed her little brother Billy enormously, as of course they all did. A child of eleven is not really a child any more. It must have been very hard for my aunts Alicia and Betty, who were even younger.

Families cope with these catastrophes because they must, but it is to their credit that none of them became embittered in any way. My grandparents were some of the warmest people I have ever known, and showered me with love (and possibly a bit of favoritism) when my parents moved us all to Mexico in 1957.

I’m going far afield in a bit of background, but something has come, in an odd way, full circle, and I’m stopping to record it. I’m afraid if I don’t, I might forget.

Mamina told me one day in the garden of the house at Adolfo Prieto 1225, Colonia del Valle, Mexico City, of how, after Billy died, a day toward the end of the year, she came out to the garden to find a single white rose on one of the rosebushes, long after the end of the season, even in Mexico. And she knew, immediately, that Billy was at home in heaven, and safe.

They are with him now, as is my mother, Pepita. Yesterday I received a completely unexpected sympathy gift from, of all people, my financial advisers at Vanguard: a bouquet of flowers, blue – and white. With white roses.

Life happens in between story moments

FENCE, WALL – THAT WAY IS BLOCKED

Where is the rest of life? FRIDAY

One illusion novels maintain is that nothing of importance happens in the moments the writer chooses not to present on the page.

I bank on that bit of prestidigitation myself; I’m not against it, but I have to remember to consult my story calendar, the plot, and logic, when I fill in one of the prompts I always use:

Timing considerations: Since last scene, or last scene for this character, what has changed/happened? Does it make sense? Does it have conflict opportunities? Does it have to be dealt with?

A novelist fills the gap with a word, a flashback later (if the reader is lucky), or a jump cut, simply switching to a new scene with the assumption that readers can figure it out.

And we do. Movies no longer need those silly calendars showing the pages blowing off – we get it.

There is still, in most novels, a sense of moving forward in time, and not bothering to document the smaller bits that make up existence: characters eat, take a taxi, work.

But readers have an innate sense of when an author left something important out. The reader’s mind goes, “Huh?” Too many of those, and the reader is no longer interested in the story because, truly, there isn’t one.

We’re watching a couple of streaming TV programs: Hinterland (set in Wales) and Crossing the Line (set in Europe), and have these little discussions about linearity of plot, because either they do things differently on the other side of the pond, or we’ve lost some important ability, because we don’t get things much more often than we expect not to understand.

It’s a minor annoyance when watching TV, and my guess is that something got cut between the script and the final edit – different people doing the work? The shows are atmospheric enough to carry through (though the first seems both skimping and padding because I think I could cut it from 90 to 50 or 60 minutes and it would be improved considerably).

Life is boring

And full of little details – things which have to be done – but which contribute nothing to the eternal verities. I spent my good time this morning talking to online pharmacy and doctor’s office personnel – and got no writing done. Eventually, the pills I depend on may make their appearance, and I won’t be in so much pain I can’t think, much less write. As many of us are finding, those drug-seekers out there (some of which are probably just getting crappy medical care, and are experiencing pain they should be) are making life much longer and more boring for those of us who are trying to follow the rules.

It’s always so: the rules are tightened, but the people who are breaking them aren’t affected, and the ones who were not doing anything wrong have to deal with more paperwork.

This makes the future scarier

I can sort of cope now – if I don’t do anything time-wasting such as trying to concentrate on my writing for a few hours.

Some day I won’t be able to cope at all, and someone else will have to do this stuff for me, and they probably will neither do it right nor efficiently, and I will have no choice but to suffer the consequences.It is laughably difficult to leave instructions for such things as “don’t feed me carbohydrates,” or ” I can’t lie comfortably very long on my left side without a VERY thin pillow under me,” or “I HATE raw tomatoes.”

I hope that doesn’t happen too soon.

Meanwhile, I cope day-to-day

Badly, because my coping skills are somewhat age-dependent, as everyone’s are, but much slower than most people’s to start with.

I really thought I’d be further along – that I’ve learned to gather the input for a scene faster, and turn it into prose faster – but it isn’t even keeping up with the increased pressure of “thing that must be done.”

The big ones

Settling my parents’ estates and filing the required tax returns – an exercise quite pointless, as there will be no tax money in it for the government.

Finding a retirement community – I have realized lately that financial information (ours and theirs), and knowledge of floor plans and meal plans, is barely the beginning. As I dig deeper, I find the questions of medical care when you can’t navigate it yourself, and even simply paying your bills in that condition, are much more important. And we haven’t even STARTED visiting the Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing components of the Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), which are looming as more and more important to choose correctly from the beginning, because you’re going to end up in them if you live long enough! And you will not be gleefully looking forward to moving in to them in most cases.

Dejunking this house/Selling this house – a difficult pair of things to do requiring millions of decisions which we can repent of at leisure.

And the very worst of all

I resent not being able to work myself out of the current many holes. A lady doing the fast walking jog many people think is called ‘running,’ but won’t mess up her hair or get her too sweaty; the man with the white ponytail and the limp who goes out for a painful walk regardless of the temperature or conditions most days; the children – especially the one little grandson who spends HOURS trying skateboard tricks or shooting baskets when he visits next door – all these people are ‘working on it,’ my standard response when asked about anything, but they are actually working on something.

Me, I’m stuck. I get one little thing done, painfully, and the ‘things needing doing’ merely provides the next customer in a Black Friday-long line.

I gotta get out of this place, but it may end up being the last thing I ever do, at this rate.

I make a list, read it, pick one thing to do. It is the A1 now, and the system is to get it done, because it is the log that is holding everything in a jam. But I’ve been telling myself that for weeks, months, years – and it’s a lie. There’s always another. When do you know if something is real or just depression talking?


What’s the answer? Is there a solution? SATURDAY

I’m hoping so. I’m hoping it is to focus on all the little good pieces:

the last message from the online pharmacy was that they had approved my prior authorization – without any further calls from me to them OR the doctor’s office; they may even manage to send me my perfectly legal, non-narcotic, non-opiate pain pills without me having to chase them down, and possibly even repeat that twice more in 3 and  months. Meanwhile, I pray the generics figure it out.

I am much further along in the estate-settling – and can’t do anything further this weekend; I hope I have figured out the way that doesn’t require exorbitant taxes.

I think that ‘we have to get out of this place’ has finally penetrated – we’re both quite tired of the continuing stream of maintenance, and the computations are almost done; a trip to California may be in the offing (let’s hope I survive!).

I may have located the cause of a couple of physical problems – that would be a lovely set of things to remove from my life.

And my standby solution – rest and reset the brain – still seems to work. Happy weekend – I’m going to go use it now.

And maybe one of these days I’ll learn to advertise…

One for my side: Google confirms I can spell pretidigitation and know what it means!


How’s your weekend going?

And thanks again to Stencil for the ability to make images out of thin air.

The writer comes from somewhere

Ernest and Pepita Butcher

THE BEST START ON LIFE YOU COULD GET

Life has been biting at my ankles this year, and I’m almost at the point of telling you you can have 2017. I don’t want it.

Mother, 94, has gone to Heaven to be with Daddy, who died three years ago at 91. We  imagine them dancing together again. We all thought they would be here forever, even if diminished from their prime of being one of the most vital and alive couples we ever knew.

My sisters and I, growing up in Mexico City, agreed many times that they were the best parents we knew, and we wouldn’t trade them for anybody else’s parents.

So many stories we can tell, and will remind each other of, but I’m sure everyone has their own family stories, and I can’t do them justice. But they SHOWED us what love is.

And we hope we are passing it on.