Tag Archives: inspiration

Marching off to the carpet store

Apartment layout with colored sections to indicate rug and tile colors

Grownups with crayons

NECESSARY STEPS ON THE CRITICAL PATH

I figured I’d update my faithful followers and occasional readers on WHY there is not more progress toward Book 2 in the Pride’s Children trilogy.

And reassure you – there has been some progress, which I will write about when the current scene is actually written, because I discovered a new technique (for me), and it dislodged the logjam.

But I’m not actually writing yet because…

I have to focus now on getting out of this temporary place as soon as possible.

Which in practical terms has meant such things as borrowing a box of crayons from Facilities (who got it from the ‘healthcare activity department’) – to decide which colors go where.

Above is the winner.

You’d think they’d have visualization tools in a place where apartments are being renovated for each new set of residents, some nice piece of software with all the floor plans already included, and a quick way to try your choices even for the non-computer-savvy crowd.

But no.

Turnover is significant in a community this large

I hadn’t really thought about what it means to be 96% occupied, but one thing we found was that certain apartments – if you have a preference – may not come up for reoccupation as often as you might need, so there are waiting lists.

Also, a community of this size (and with permanent residents) may have a large number of units turn over every year (around 20, for a rough estimate), and that each of these gets renovated to the taste of the new occupant.

In an ordinary apartment complex, many things are standardized, and the tenants don’t decide what the floor coverings will be, and often have no choice of colors. Management makes changes mostly on its own schedule.

In a different community, one of ownership – houses or condominiums – individual owners arrange for – and pay for – their own choices with individual contractors.

But in a CCRC, management makes the changes according to the new residents‘ wishes. Too many cooks. Many of those ‘cooks’ also think of the apartment they don’t own as if it were their own new house. Many are willing to pay for significant upgrades – because they’re used to having their own way. Which process may also delay the completion of the new units, so the residents can’t move in!

We’re going for the simpler version

Let management do most of what they want – it seems good enough, and we’re easy.

Ha!

But easy or not, we still have to sign off on everything, and it turns out their desire to standardize more from here on (and speed up the turnover of units) is getting a bit of pushback from us because ours is the first apartment of our floorplan in the new system, and we think there’s room for improvement. So we make very logical explanations of why something is better.

And they, wanting new people to be happy, have listened.

So the battle is to make the decisions as quickly as possible – but with foresight and questions and details and…

Meanwhile, we’re occupying two units.

And I desperately want to get back to my writing, especially now that I’ve figured out a path through the maze, but I can’t, in due conscience, live with a faucet which is installed so far back on the bathroom countertop that you can’t move the lever which closes the sink. Or a host of other minor atrocities.

So we move each day a little closer

And I try to have a little more patience, and move things along, but still not end up with a light fixture in the bathroom with naked compact fluorescent bulbs!

So, for your delectation – and in appreciation of your patience and because I haven’t blogged in too long – I give you my crayon drawings.

The colors are the ones we both still like – and will remind us of the home we sold (and which doesn’t probably look anything like that any more).

We don’t like white. Not for floors. They always look dirty, always show up pieces of stuff, always need vacuuming, and require instant action if you spill something so it doesn’t stain permanently. Newer carpeting is better, but I’m still not impressed. White is loved by designers because it artificially makes places look bigger. ‘Artificially’ is the key word.

And you have to watch these people very carefully: so far, every time we’ve had a layout presented to us which solved a problem, and which we now approve of – they have snuck something else in which wasn’t a problem before – and now is. I’m sure that’s a finite problem, and we will eventually lock it in – but we have to watch each new printout for the removal of things we thought we’d already agreed on!

Authority and responsibility should go together, in principle

But this process doesn’t work that way, because there are three parties involved. We’ll be living in the new apartment for the rest of our lifetime’s ability to live independently (a sobering thought), but we’re not paying for most of the renovations – except through the buy-in, but that’s not a direct payment to the contractor.

We have not been given a budget (they like to keep that under their hat), except that they’ve finally given us a number to aim for in the carpeting cost (we’re off to use that information today).

We don’t know exactly what the budget is for appliances – but the facility likes to keep them in certain families because they have spare parts which makes maintenance easier for them (except that they had given us the option of a refrigerator with a water dispenser, which we enthusiastically accepted, and then rescinded it).

I drink a lot of water. I’ve been filling water bottles and putting them in the fridge. Back in NJ I didn’t take the trouble to have the icemaker fixed, and so spent a lot of time filling ice cube trays, and don’t want to be doing either for the rest of my life, especially as I get older and feebler…

And so it boring goes

It should be over soon.

Except then for making sure they do what we thought we agreed to have them do.

Before correcting mistakes gets too costly.

Pray for me, sympathize, and this may happen to you, too, some day – so learn what you can.

And I’ll be back to blogging about something less mundane asap.

Happy to hear your stories of remodeling, especially if I can learn something useful for us now.


Meanwhile, check the upper right hand column of this blog if you have Christmas presents to select for literate grownup readers.


 

Advertisements

Second attempt to restart writing

Section of library at University Retirement Community showing Pride's Childre on the new books shelf, Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

THE LIBRARY AT URC’S NEW BOOKS SHELF

It takes a while to get back to work.

My previous attempt, one good working day after six months of nada, was on October 2, 2018, right after I got my files back from the crash.

My apologies for the radio silence, but it has been a combination of 1) things needing doing RIGHT NOW, and 2) an exhaustion so profound as a result of the continued stress that thinking was not a possibility.

Not CREATIVE thinking. Nor ORGANIZED thinking.

Tearing out your life by the roots has consequences

In NJ, we had doctors, cars, a driver’s license, food in the basement freezer, bicycles…

In CA, we didn’t.

We haven’t bought a car, and may not. But the shared car available at our new retirement community requires:

  • a California driver’s license
  • our NJ driving record, which in turn required doing stuff online, waiting until they MAILED us an ID, to be used online to order the record!
  • permission from our doctor (when we didn’t even have a doctor) – and I still can’t believe I had to ask permission from him when I finally got an internist and an appointment
  •  ‘Mature Driver’s Course’ – available online, and which only took me 17 hours and three days to complete. If you would like to experience frustration, try the course. And the test questions seemed to be designed to get you to fail. It only took me two tries – and I could have done it faster if I hadn’t reviewed the entire course first.
  • filling out the forms.

It would just be nice to have the option to sign out the vehicle (which comes with fuel and insurance) instead of having to deal with a car rental agency.

And yes, Lyft and Uber and the facility’s own group vehicles, and the on-site bikes and trike are all available.

But nothing is quit like putting your shoes on, walking to your car, popping in, adjusting the mirrors if necessary – and driving away.

Except that it’s an expensive option if you don’t use if often.

I had assistants in NJ

Wonderful helpful women who made my life easier, because they always did whatever I needed when they came.

But there’s no room in this one-bedroom apartment for an assistant, and a lot less for one to do, so I probably won’t have one here.

As a result, there’s a lot of non-urgent unpacking still to be done.

And we’re still waiting for a larger place.

Everything is different

Have I mentioned having a social life? It’s nice – but there is a lot of it, even with just going to dinner every day.

And most things have an inflexible time, something I only had occasionally back in NJ (congratulate me on not calling it ‘home’ very often). Which basically means a lot of time wasted because it’s almost time to do X, or you just got home from doing X.

But today I gritted my teeth

Told myself to stop wasting time, as I may have a lot less of it than I think.

Blocked the internet for several hours with Freedom.

Located the papers I created or brought.

Took out the Scrivener project, the Dramatica Story Expert file, and my Calendar.

And dove in.

I must say, I am VERY proud of my incessant note-taking as I write – because it was like having everything poured back into my brain from a pitcher.

It’s been seven months (if you don’t count the one day) since anything substantial, and I’m hoping this attempt will take.

And I found that the pieces I’ve already done are just fine, and ready to take to the next step, writing the individual scenes for this chapter.

I don’t care how many tries it takes to really get going

None of the interruptions have been my doing. Everything is taking a lot longer to do than it should in anyone’s imagination.

Registering to vote took ages, but I finally have online proof, which I printed out; the voter registration card which has been promised has not yet arrived. That was a high priority, and is usually done in conjunction with the driver’s license, but, because of the other things I need (including replacing my handicapped placard, for which I needed the doctor mentioned above to fill out the form, which meant I had to see him…), we haven’t gone to get the new licenses yet.

Looking back, there is a mañana attitude to life here – from everyone. People tell me it was years before they were completely settled. Though most people move in here older than we are now. And many are in-state, a large portion of those local enough to keep some of their doctors.

And of course we have to try everything, from the Bizarre Bazaar (bought a table and three chairs) to the End of Life discussion group which is starting (postponed that one – it’s a six-week commitment, for an hour and a half each week, either Tuesday or Saturday right in the middle of the afternoon!) to an activity I won’t mention that didn’t work.

And popping into the pools. Ah, pools! And hot tubs.

And the hours it took to connect so I could have Pride’s Children: PURGATORY catalogued (see picture of New Books section).

Just hope for me that it takes hold this time. I am getting very grumpy.

And how have you all been?


Accidentally published first as page, not post – brain not completely back on board! I was mystified: I usually get at least ONE comment. !Ay, Alicia!

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.


 

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.