Tag Archives: Life

Success for literary fiction defined

WHY DO I WANT TO BE WIDELY READ?

Success? I don’t know if others are in the enviable position of not writing for a living, but I am. Which is good, because I’m what we used to call glacially slow, until the glaciers started calving and melting with climate change. A friend called it ‘at the speed of continental drift,’ which still works.

My concern is that after I’ve put twenty-two years so far into the first two books of a mainstream literary trilogy, I want READERS. Legacy would be nice, but that isn’t exactly an aim, and if you’re not known during your lifetime, you will have to be unbelievably lucky in today’s world to be known because someone championed your work after you left us.

Disability – and now – retirement make writing my personal choice. I always meant to do it when I retired from computational plasma physics at Princeton; disability just made that happen at 40 instead of 66.

I spend my energy parsimoniously – there isn’t much of it, and I want it spent on writing when it is discretionary. I’m sure that if I had managed to persuade a traditional publisher to take me on, the marketing would have still been a problem – most traditionally-published works get six weeks on a bookstore shelf before they disappear.

I would like to see all the hoopla be about the quality and especially accessibility of the writing itself: as I have always found books such as Rebecca and Jane Eyre eminently accessible STORY- and CHARACTER-wise, that is what I’ve aimed to write. Maybe my view of ‘literary’ is flawed or limited (personally, I’m not a fan of ambiguity – others love it, or of speculative fiction – ditto, or of creatively formatted fiction): I want better, more intense, more compelling fiction with care for all the factors that make a ‘good book’. Which is why I appreciate the genre fiction with a literary quality – ‘Dune’ isn’t just SF: it is at least literary-quality SF, at best literary storytelling.

The problem is that ‘literary’ now covers anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere, a common contamination.

Instead of being the fiction that subtly raises literacy – and pleasure. As it was for me as an American child growing up in Mexico, with limited access to books in English and no libraries.

I want READERS. Readers who find what I write better than their usual fare. That’s how I define ‘success.’ It requires that I do a much better marketing job somehow.

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To see what I mean by ‘accessible’ and ‘pleasurable’, try the short story prequel to Pride’s Children.

If you like that, consider tackling the longer novels:

Pride’s Children: PURGATORY

Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD

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Who and what a writer is matters

WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG, YOU TRY OUT FEELINGS

And the books which become favorites, the ones you remember, are the ones that make you feel good somehow.

Because that’s what you get objectively and subjectively when you read/buy a writer’s book: their particular take on a life, love, and the universal.

It isn’t accidental that some books become classics: they appeal to something in the reader that makes the reader buy the book as an adult, and read it to their children, because it’s an easy way to say that: this is what I want you to grow up loving – and feeling – because it was important to me, and I want you to have it.

As you go through life, and get battered, you choose

But you have to read widely first, so you find out what you need.

Is it The Velveteen Rabbit?

Is is Pooh, original or Disney (or both)?

Is it mysteries or gory serial killer thrillers? Do you like fantasies and are you satisfied when someone else – the protagonist – is The One? Or do you prefer stories in which, due to the writer’s skill, YOU are the center, the quester, the One.

There’s a whole MATRIX of other relevant bits

  • Historical time
  • Gender
  • Location on this planet or an alternate universe
  • Ending
  • Language
  • Complexity of ideas
  • Style and tone and vocabulary
  • Originality

But the most important one is always: how does it make you FEEL?

Because that’s what you’re looking for in the next story, the next favorite, the next book.

And that’s what will determine a basic satisfaction with what you read, and what you look for when you take a chance on something new.

I’m a sucker for well-written books

And I get annoyed when that leads me astray: well-written – but with a basic nastiness to the ending; well-written – but with an underlying misogyny or racism; well-written – but with characters you’d never want to meet in real life.

I still remember one book which was recommended by a literary blog I no longer recall and which the reviewer said it was a shame more people hadn’t read, since it was so well-written. I bought it! I read it! I was indeed very well written. And the recommendation made me miss the early red flags, because the story, about a murdered young girl, and how it affected her family and friends, turned into a story which blamed the victim for her own murder – because of the way she ‘responded’ to the sick adults who perverted her innocence. And the final conclusion to the story was that it wasn’t important to identify and stigmatize the killer!

I deleted the book from my Amazon account, something I rarely do, but haven’t been able to scrub how it made me feel from my mind.

Because first the writer described how wonderful she was and how everyone loved her – and then destroyed her by saying she deserved what happened to her! As if anyone, especially a child, a teen, deserved to be murdered.

It makes me wonder WHY someone would write such a book. And realize there’s a whole subculture of writers who do – and readers who love those books.

When I write I make conscious choices

I leave the characters those turnoffs that the big trucks use on a mountain road when their brakes fail – but I can’t make the characters use them.

I adopt the slow burn: things happen with enough time to think about why, to consider consequences, to justify actions. There are plenty of stories – and real life events – where something pivots on a tiny accidental point. They don’t interest me because there is nothing a character can do to avert the coming disaster – they will cope with the change, and the coping will show who they are, but it’s a cop-out, and, under dire circumstances, even good people make mistakes. And have to live with the consequences of a split second.

Not much in the way of subtlety with the turn-your-life-on-a-twisted-dime stories, especially if the reader can see it coming at the previous mile marker. Plus, those books don’t reward re-reading, and that’s a waste: depending on a trick ending is a fool-me-once.

I WANT to write something re-readable.

I want it to take several readings to see many of the connections.

I want most readers to have to go back and read the previous volume before the new one – or to have internalized what came before so they wouldn’t have to (I’ve had both kinds of readers comment about this).

I offer the usual bargain:

I do the work – you tell me how it made you feel.

Then tell me how it worked for you.

Try it out on the prequel 1500 word short story Too Late.

Then remember there’s plenty more where that came from.

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Phoning in a bad editorial review

PAYING FOR AN EDITORIAL REVIEW GUARANTEES NOTHING

I’m going to be very careful with this post, as getting a bad editorial review is one of the hazards of paying for reviews: your book could be crap, and a proper reviewer is entitled to say exactly what they think of it.

This reviewer sends you the review as a courtesy, so you can tweak any problems before it gets published.

Sometimes you have the recourse of requesting that the review be dumped, and I have exercised that right.

So any quotes I list from the to-not-be-published review are my only product for my money – as only the reviewer and I should have access to the content, and therefore no one should be able to search for the quotes on the internet, and identify the person I’m complaining about here.

Got it?

I will leave off any identifying information

and write only about the substance of the review, which is the subject of my complaint in a general way (I can already see readers wondering how bad Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD was, and whether I simply can’t take criticism).

Indies like me need a few impartial honest editorial reviews and we need to pay for them. They – in full, or quotes from them – go in the Editorial Reviews section of the book’s Amazon page.

Having a decent editorial review legitimizes you as an author, gives you some credibility.

We need to choose our source, as it can get into real money (for example, a Kirkus review is almost $500), and it will take a lot of sales to make that review worth the expenditure.

There are many other reputable review services available to self-published authors (SPAs), less expensive ones, but the field is, like literary agentry, completely unregulated, even taking into account that the ultimate result, the review, is published for anyone to see.

One would hope for some self-regulation, but the standard thing for an author to do if you don’t like a review is to let it sink like the millstone it is and hope no one sees it.

FIGHTING a review is not done, and will get you branded a ‘difficult author.’

Again, got it?

So why am I taking the risk?

Because I had expectations (silly woman?) that a professional reviewer would at least read the book.

Or enough of the book to be able to say something real and thoughtful about what I spent 7 years of my small supply of good energy producing.

When I was offered the draft review to tweak

my heart sank.

I wrote back, after a bit of reflection at the complete mismatch between my understanding of my book, and the review:

…I have been looking forward to your review for a long time.

And now I have to ask you to completely cancel publication.

If you have any interest, let me know, and I can provide you with a list of all the points your review did not mention that are critical to the story continued in NETHERWORLD.

I don’t know what to think, but the review below in the email you just sent me is not something I would want published if I have any choice in the matter. It does not represent the continuing story nor the characters.

Email, 11/5/22

I did NOT expect a response other than cancellation; what I received was:

Oh my! The review can of course be put on hold.

Please let me know what was wrong or missing. I will go over my notes and re-read, and re-do the review to get it right.

Sometimes I leave out some points in a story in favor of trying to preserve some elements of surprise for the reader; but in this case it sounds like I missed too many and was too general.

Please let me know specifics, and I’ll work at identifying where in my notes I went awry, and will redo the reading and notes as needed.

Lovely offer, so what’s the problem?

I’ll go into specifics of a few things below, but ‘missing a few points’ was not my interpretation.

In fact, when I started to make a mental list of the ‘few points,’ I quickly realized that the entire book had been left out, and a completely generic Romance review was what had been supplied.

If anyone knows Pride’s Children, they know that it is NOT a Romance, was never intended to be one, and misses every trope that a Romance reader expects from a satisfying Romance. Romance is a perfectly viable category with dedicated writers and MANY more readers than literary fiction – and enviably lucrative – but I don’t write Romance.

I’ll let a reviewer for PURGATORY comment:

…And the development of the central attraction isn’t a “romance,” except in the sense that a Jane Austen novel could be called one (and allowing for differences in setting and literary conventions between the early 19th and early 21st centuries, a comparison to Austen isn’t entirely inapt!), nor is it predictable or syrupy…

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R37NLDE4OZP2AG/

In fact, as much as I respect Romance writers and readers for knowing and getting what they like to read, I have been fighting Pride’s Children being categorized as a Romance everywhere that crops up, including Goodreads, where the librarians refused to do anything because some READERS had chosen to include PC on a shelf with ‘romance’ somewhere in its title.

Pride’s Children is a LOVE STORY embedded in a mainstream trilogy set in the intersection between Hollywood and writers

From the same reviewer:

…This is solid general fiction of a very high order, in the best Realist tradition, exploring human interactions and relationships between enormously well-drawn characters who come fully alive, as real, intensely human people. These relationships do include romantic attraction and love (and even have it as a central focus), but it’s not the sole focus; family relationships, friendships, working relationships, etc. -some healthy and some not– come under the lens as well…

Op. cit.

And now for a few review details, so you can judge for yourself

The whole mention given to Bianca, arguably the most important character in NETHERWORLD, is “And then there’s Andrew’s film co-star Bianca, whose debut film is starting to make its mark on the world,” followed by a single reference to ‘the dance between these three’ and one to ‘a triangle of connections, ambition, and obsessions that embraces scheming, film industry politics, and love and friendship alike.’

The rest of the review tries, generically, to make a two-character Romance out of the friendship between Andrew and Kary: “… recommended pick for prior enthusiasts of the tale, who will find the ongoing growth and connections between Irish megastar Andrew O’Connell [sic] recluse author Dr. Kary Ashe continues to introduce challenge and revised their visions of life…” and “…As each makes their way through dates, other life connections, and events that test their talents and perspectives, readers receive an intriguing contrast in personalities and love that will especially delight prior followers of Andrew and Kary’s worlds.”

The ending tells libraries that NETHERWORLD has “… thought-provoking escapades and interpersonal conundrums where all the characters are both villain and hero will welcome the nicely-developed tension and psychological insights…”

All the characters are both villain and hero?

Excuse me while I gag. The whole point of Pride’s Children is that integrity and morality are NOT relative, not subjective, not ‘opinions,’ but fraught choices with consequences even for those who don’t get to choose.

What do authors do with bad editorial reviews?

Distinguish here first between the REVIEW being bad and the BOOK being so bad the review which says that is good, but this can be irrelevant unless the book is so hyped people go to the original source to see what was actually written, which could lead to a firestorm of sorts until the internet finds the next flaming pile.

The most obvious and most common response is to find some chunk of words in the review that can be used as a pull quote – words to put on the cover or in an ad – that are TECHNICALLY not a lie, because those words, in that order, appear in the review, even if the review context clearly negates the pull quote. Easy? “…one of the best thrillers…” from an original “Nowhere NEAR one of the best thrillers…” Usually a bit more subtle, but you get the idea.

Or if lucky or money is available, a bad review can be buried by several good ones. With the additional fillip of implying the unwanted review is somehow sour grapes.

Dropping the review completely means the loss of whatever was paid for it, which is sometimes the only option.

Arguing about the review in public, WITH names, is best left to well-paid PR pros, because of all the positive and negative ramifications. ‘Going to war’ is expensive, with pitfalls.

Another option, mine, is to use the review carefully as a cautionary example of what can happen, for the newbies to learn from and more experience writers to commiserate about. And then to put it behind you. And, of course, never use that reviewer or editorial review service again.

I briefly considered one OTHER final option

Complaining to the service managers or owners about the review and the reviewer.

Not probably the best option – the reviewer may have been bringing in cash for the service for a while.

Possibly an excuse for the review service to dump the reviewer (usually added to other examples of the reviewer cutting corners or losing their touch).

But extremely dangerous to the individual unarmored AUTHOR, because people won’t necessarily remember that there was some justification for a complaint, only that a certain AUTHOR (those horrible people) had the nerve to complain about a PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER, followed by closing of the ranks of the pros and more complaints about, in this case, entitled indie AUTHORs.

So I’ll stop at ‘cautionary tale,’ hope I get some feedback and not too many people trolling (if you are not a regular, that behavior will get you banned before leading to any posting of your comment; regulars are welcome because I know they will be civil).

I can’t be the only one unhappy with a paid-for review that seems entirely unrelated to the book.

Am I?

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Oh, and don’t forget to BUY the book (or going to Booksprout to request an ARC if you are even considering writing a review), so you can make your own decision if my happiness with NETHERWORLD, and especially its ending, is a crock.

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How to read and review NETHERWORLD

PRIDE’S CHILDREN: NETHERWORLD IS WAITING FOR REVIEWS

If you hurry, you might be the first to post a review – poor NETHERWORLD is sitting on Amazon without a single one as I write this.

I’m slowly getting over the aftereffects of surgery, so I will be more proactive in the coming months.

FIRST SALE FOR NETHERWORLD BEGINS OCTOBER 19

because Amazon needs its price to not have changed for 30 days, and I have set up a Kindle Countdown Deal for my readers who follow this blog: you can even buy it for $2.99 in ebook on Amazon US that day (unfortunately, countdowns are a US thing, too).

OTHER ways to read and review:

IF you want to download an ARC

follow this link to the books’ site, and it will tell you how to join Booksprout and become a reader/reviewer (they even have other books you might like to download and read). While you’re there, if you haven’t clicked ‘Follow’ before, feel free to do so now – it is the best way to get details about the book delivered to your inbox, and to hear about sales in a timely manner.

I’m using this method because I am still not well enough to handle the back and forth of individual communication about ARCs; if you want that, it’s going to be about a month before I can commit to doing it (it takes a lot of work on my part).

I would appreciate it very much if you join, download and read, and review – and it will be much faster for you.

IF you would rather buy

simply mosey over to Amazon’s page for Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, and choose ebook or print. It is a bit longer than PURGATORY, but the ebook is the same price.

And, of course, I would still love a review!

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It’s that easy.

But be warned: I write long books.

But then: that may be partly why my readers love them.

I’m slowly getting back to functional, but surgery isn’t easy for someone like me. All anyone really needs to know is that it seems to have been successful, and I’m working on the pain part, and can’t wait until I’m back to what passes for normal for me.

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CASCADE is Mark and Steffi and Chapman sticks

There’s a water fall in those hills, somewhere.

A BLOGGER’S OBLIGATIONS: SHARING FINDS

When we find something that blows us away, that touches us somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts – sometimes for an odd reason – in this case because something about Mark reminded me of our middle son, so that when they appeared in my FaceBook feed, with an instrument (the Chapman stick) I’d never heard about, I was intrigued enough to listen: we need to share.

They travel – and busk.

There are, according to Mark’s website, about 8000 Chapman sticks in the world.

It’s like saying ‘there are about 8000 pianos in the world.’ Not a very big number. Not surprising I’d never heard of them (the Chapman sticks) or seen them played.

Their music is unique. There are links on his site to the inventor and pictures, if you care to follow.

The music is the important part

The first video I saw, on FB, was them playing ‘Hallelujah cover on two Chapman Sticks – performed by Cascade,‘ and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is one of my favorite songs. Their instrumental cover is simply beautiful.

Because of my ME/CFS, I have a very hard time listening to music, instrumental or otherwise, and have a horrible tendency to get earworms from it, and to not be able to get it out of my head for literally weeks (I think it’s one of the many processing problems from the damage the disease does to the brain).

So I don’t listen much any more – but Cascade’s versions don’t kick that pile of dust up. I just went through making up a weeks’ pills, listened to 3-4 of their pieces, and none of them wrangled my brain to the ground, so I was immediately prejudiced in their favor, because I LOVE music, and miss it greatly.

So here are a few links for the like-minded

Let me know what you think:

Lost in Time, filmed at Lake Constance in Germany.

The Way Home, new from July 2022.

Floating away, street performance in Molde, Norway.

May you find something you love.

They have the usual CDs and digital downloads – I’ll explore them in the future and definitely get some of their music.

Bon appetit!

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NETHERWORLD is a few tiny steps from uploaded to Amazon – but Mark and Steffi were a beautiful interruption, and I needed to find something like Cascade.

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Font lessons learned the hard way

A LOT CAN CHANGE IN SEVEN YEARS

In 2015, I was publishing a book for the first time, after spending a gazillion years writing the first book in my Pride’s Children mainstream trilogy, PURGATORY.

Newbies have a lot to learn, and it is an intense experience if you do it yourself, and you’re pretty sure there’s no way you will forget the steps.

But you have to allow for change – from the outside world – and it won’t take you or your needs into account.

I forgot two major things: software changes and computer crashes.

Software changes negate some changes you make to your copy

I was barely surviving, even back in 2015 when I spent a summer learning graphics and covers and formatting, and I thought that, between my notes and my blog posts, I was saving enough information to do it again with the second book in the trilogy (eventually named NETHERWORLD).

I didn’t even think – no spare brain cells – that the process would be different in a few years, and that it would take me seven to write the next book. Seven is a big number of years in computers.

Because of several computer crashes during those years, and a coast-to-coast move from New Jersey to California, I had to rely on backups for some of my major applications, and sometimes those backups came from outside my own storage systems.

When you download such a backup, you get a pristine copy, ONE THAT DOESN’T HAVE YOUR MODIFICATIONS.

And the major mod that bit me was that on several of my indispensable applications, including Word, Scrivener, and Pixelmator, I had installed fonts I used for the interior and the exterior of the book – duly licensed and paid for – because I liked them.

Find your fonts: on your computer – or download them again

Because I included a Design Notes page at the end of the printed copies of PURGATORY, I had a list of all the fonts I used, their licensing information, and where I’d downloaded them from; plus where I’d licensed them from, with a copy of the invoice and registration information.

Not easily accessible – I didn’t think they would disappear, so I was cavalier about storing them properly – but (and here I credit Apple for saving my bacon several times by making a back of my data at the time of the crashes) they were there on my computer backups, and I eventually located all my information.

Font information is now stored in a MUCH clearer fashion, in a folder on my Desktop labeled 2022 PC Storage/2022 PC FONTS (incl PC1 fonts), and backed up on my computer and in the iCloud, so I won’t have to do this again.

[NOTE: this is where I’m trying to save other users, especially self-published authors (SPAs), time and effort – do this from the beginning, and add all new fonts to this storage system, and don’t be like Alicia.]

Fonts I use for covers or exteriors for Pride’s Children:

  • Alido (monospaced, from SummitSoft, licensed in the Big Graphics Bundle)
  • New Yorker (a very good imitation of the expensive official one, free from Allen R. Walden, to be credited)
  • Goudy Serial (from SoftMakerSoftwareGmbH, licensed) in 6 weights
  • Sorts Mill Goudy (free from Barry Schwarz, credit)
  • Cambria (pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)
  • Book Antiqua (monospaced, pre-installed, licensed for all uses with MS Office)

Saving – and printing out and saving in physical form – the licensing information is a good idea; fonts are someone’s Intellectual Property, and you don’t want problems with a published book because you don’t have the required information handy to prove you licensed what you use – SPAs are a small business, and it helps to behave like one.

Install the fonts on your system

Before you do anything with additional fonts, they have to be installed on your computer in a form you can then add to your software.

For the Macs, this means installing them into the app Font Book, which couldn’t be simpler (assuming the font is one of the approved font types – which I found listed at Apple Support).

The extra fonts I chose for PURGATORY were all .otf or .ttf, which made it vastly simpler for me: double click on the font, Font Book opens automatically, click Install.

Book Antiqua and Cambria were IN the Font Book already, which makes me think that installing Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac also installed the Office fonts properly. Thanks, Microsoft!

Transfer the fonts to your software – if necessary

On the Mac I don’t have to do this! All the fonts in the Font Book that are not grayed out were now available when I opened Pixelmator!

And now I’m back where I was, font-wise, before the computer crashes and the move, and know a lot more than I did then.

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Scary time of absent brain

The future is boundless; our life, not so much

Not intending to be dire or apocalyptic – but often being able to write a blog post, almost any kind of a post, signals, for me, the end of a difficult period where the brain power needed to do almost anything is just not there, and I’m not sure if it’s the waxing and waning of ME/CFS – or the beginning of the end of being able to write.

Those who know me, or have been following for a while, know how close to the edge of completely non-functional I live. A little bit worse, and no creative juices flow at all.

I wait it out, deal with whatever is causing additional problems beyond chronic illness and disability, pick up where I left off when I can function a bit again.

THERE IS NO POINT

in wasting any of my energy in railing against my fate – it doesn’t help, and doesn’t make me feel better. [Note: my brain supplied ‘railing’ as the appropriate form of protest against things bigger than I can manage. I was terrified for a few seconds when Google only supplied ‘fencing’ as a definition, until I insisted further and ‘rail’ as a verb came up. Phew!]

It is what it is until they figure it out, this ME/CFS, come up with a definitive diagnostic, find the mechanism(s) that cause it, find a treatment, find a CURE!

Today I had an interesting interaction with someone online who claims 1) to have had it, and 2) to have a treatment protocol that cured him. I had the strength of character to tell him I was glad for him, and not interested in arguing with someone online who has the ‘solution of the week.’ And to please stop writing to me.

As we tell new people, “Hope it’s something else – something that DOES have a diagnostic and a treatment.” If something actually cured someone, it is awfully likely they didn’t have what I have in the first place, but something with similar symptoms – and a CURE!/treatment/prognosis.

It’s vanishingly likely that he has something that can help, and I don’t have the bandwidth for another savior with a solution. I’ve been at this nonsense for 32 years.

There is a finite (ie, non-zero) possibility that now that they’re pouring money into long covid research that they will actually look enough to find a real solution. That’s where my hopes are being pinned; ask me in a couple of years if anything panned out – because governments finally realized that 10-30% of the long covid survivors were, essentially, getting ME/CFS and, more importantly to governments, turning from productive working tax-paying citizens into sick citizens needing the disability benefits they have been promised since they started working. Ie, it will COST the governments, and they may figure out a cure is finally worth putting some money into research, instead of telling people it’s all in their heads.

Hope I’m still around.

More than that, hope it works for people who are not recently ill – not that I begrudge the newbies, but I want to be at the head of the line.

Hey! Look! I’m producing coherent (okay, you may argue about that) sentences!

It’s been a rough time since I announced I had finished writing Netherworld, and now that I have finished proofing the text.

The plan was to format and then to get the cover out of my head and onto a page. It’s been weeks. Sometimes I just go read the end, fall in love with it all over again, and go back to sitting staring at the screen.

Because love hasn’t been translating into action.

So far it’s just par for the course, and I expect it will resolve itself, and it won’t hurt to get the new Airbook(name?) from Apple with the M2 thingamabob my eldest daughter says is good – not having the computer question resolved – should I format and cover on the old machine, or wait for the new one and bite the bullet and update my Scrivener which may have some of the things I needed that the previous version didn’t have?

But I can’t believe how much that tiny obstacle in my path stopped me from making ANY progress.

Physical problems have been the stumbling block

I don’t want to go into details, yet, on a public blog, but my already-strained-to-the-limit body and mind have had a huge task added to keeping us all going, it has affected sleep, pain, and comfort to an incredible degree, and taken every speck of energy I had.

Finding a solution took energy I didn’t have, and going outside my medical system, and I’m glad I did – but it won’t be over for a while, and it isn’t going to be any fun. Until AFTER September, and then there will be recovery.

And I won’t have any relief from taking care of the problem constantly unless I am very, very, VERY lucky next week.

I’m sleeping in 1-2 hour chunks. That should account for the feeling of doom – sleep deprivation is classified as torture.

So I shouldn’t worry, right?

Except that there’s always that one last straw, the one that breaks the badger’s back, and I wonder, when I have the brain to wonder, whether this is it, and hope it isn’t, because I’m not finished writing quite yet.

If I am, it isn’t because I quit. I was because I was wrestled to a standstill by Reality, which always wins.

Meanwhile, putting words on page has given me a little much-needed hope again, and getting the news my computer situation might be resolving has given me a goal in a decision I kept going back and forth on (wait – or go ahead on familiar if not completely adequate technology – wait -…).

Thinking outside the box hasn’t worked yet

but I am vastly encouraged by the fact that I figured out how to, initiated it, was fortunate enough to find a listening ear (after several tries), and it may work much better than what I have had (nothing). And in my weakened state, no less!

I’m very proud of myself for trying – hope it works out.

So there – and mysterious. The women who read this blog and are older than 50 and/or have had children may have a clue; the rest of you really shouldn’t want to know. It’s grotty and embarrassing and against all the modesty my middle-class Mexican upbringing instilled deep, courtesy of my beloved Mother.

If I navigate it successfully, you may ask privately, and I’ll name the Beast.

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As soon as the fog clears a bit more, and/or the new laptop is here and mastered, I will go doggedly right back to working on the publishing of NETHERWORLD, instead of just going to the file, re-reading the end, and crying into my beer because I love it so much.

I’m just waiting for two good friends to let me know if they liked it, too, to feel a whole lot better.

And if you like to be in at that stage, my contact information is in the About. I could use a few more readers/reviewers who are familiar with PURGATORY, and need to keep going.

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Love in the time of pandemic

AND WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

Gak! It’s been almost a month since I posted anything!

There was a lot of quarantining in that time. NOT because we were exposed to Covid, though some independent living residents in this facility were (we found out because they had dinner with friends in Assisted Living at the Friendship Table, and the AL people ARE tested regularly because they’re in the health-care portion of our facility).

And because those people in IL who WERE exposed to the people in AL who tested positive, the State of California required them to quarantine for FOURTEEN DAYS in their apartments. None of the IL residents got Covid, thank goodness, but WE had a vacation in Lake Tahoe with our kids a few weeks later, and realized that WE wouldn’t be able to go IF we got exposed ourselves, here, and then had to do the same quarantine for 14 days.

That is, we quarantined for 14 days so we wouldn’t have to quarantine for 14 days – at an inconvenient time which would put the kibosh on OUR vacation. Mixed up world, eh?

So – any progress on publishing NETHERWORLD?

Well, yes and no.

For the ms., I created an easy ARC from Scrivener – the complete, very long pdf of the whole thing (~500 pages), and sent it to the first person who’s offered to review AND buy it on launch day (thank you, David!), and as a backup complete proofed file to several places, including my amazing beta reader (thank you, Rachel!), and gave my husband and children the necessary information to manage my literary estate (and publish Netherworld) if something happened on the trip/vacation/return. You never know.

The formatting is no further than that.

For the cover: I have all the pieces, an updated Pixelmator 3, and an updated Learn Pixelmator 3.5 video course (free update – thanks folks!).

I’ve bought licenses for the two cover images from Dreamstime, acquired another photo from the same friend who supplied the sky for Purgatory’s cover, found a couple of low-res images to guide me in the changes I’ll need to create the cover in my head, and put the whole thing into a folder and a backup on the iCloud. Phew.

Now I just have to do the work, get it past my cover mentor (thank you, Jessica!), and create ebook, paper and hardback covers to spec, and then, because I want to make one change to them, redo a bit of the Purgatory covers (bigger name so it shows on the thumbnail, add the award, etc.) which really amounts to redoing a fair amount of the Purgatory covers AND creating the hardcover one.

I have my permissions from Cambridge U. for my KJV quotations – feels nice and official.

I got my copyright certificate from the Library of Congress! I always feel better after I do that, for whatever it might be worth.

Launching is, of course, dependent on having something to launch. I had approached a PR firm, put up with a long delay to talk to them, checked in with them and received a promise of an answer of some kind before the end of May, and than have been ghosted. It does remind me that if people are not reliable in the small things, it’s probably better not to rely on them for the big ones, so that firm is permanently off the table. Too bad, because I liked them, and had already invested some effort into them.

I’m still obsessively re-reading the end of Netherworld – and not changing a word. I promise explosions, and I hope they are well received.

I want to continue getting into writing LIMBO

I literally can’t wait – because there are only a few hours between the end of 2 and the beginning of 3, and I’m very happy how that turned out.

And I’ve already started writing Chapter 41(LIMBO goes to 60).

BUT I’ve been dealing with some medical problems for 2.5 years to no solution, and I’m in the middle of trying to fix some things that really need fixing, and it’s a slow process because disability means EVERYTHING is so much harder – from making phone calls through phone systems that won’t just let you call someone to make an appointment, to doctor visits which consume an incredible amount of prep time, energy, and recovery time, to a whole slew of medical tests with the same problems – which the new doctor insists on before she will even consider DOING something.

Plus a big paperwork problem I’ve finally admitted I had to step in and manage, do some of, get help, hand over to the pros…

And my limited number of daily spoons is gone every day before I manage to write. Because it’s not just ‘write a few words’ now – it’s the whole huge Book 3 planning review, restart, clean up, carry stuff from 1 and 2 typical glorious mess of starting the final volume in a trilogy. Drives me up a tree that I can’t just do it.

But I’m literally doing the best I can

And not managing to sleep very well with all the above, to boot.

I can tell stress that I’m fine until I’m full-body blue, but that does NOT take away the stress. It just doesn’t add worry, but the things I’m having to do are stressful in and of themselves, and that is such a deep autonomic process that you can’t affect it much.

Plus the physical problems have extra pain and much discomfort associated, which has to be micromanaged – and I was already exhausted before that.

There are signs, portents, and possibilities

of improvements, but not fast.

This is literally the first time I’ve even been able to think of writing a simple blog post, in the whole past month.

Life happens – you deal.

I know what my primary aim is (if family is okay), but I’m not able to DO it right now.

Don’t worry. Nothing TOO horribly grim. But I’m all tapped out of spoons every day, almost the end of the morning, when I’ve done nothing yet.

But stuff slowly gets done, and goes into the rearview mirror queue from the To Do list, and I’ll get there.

On the bright side

my oldest daughter is helping me select my new computer for the foreseeable future – my current lovey is from 2015, and can’t be upgraded far enough because then my necessary old software – Office 2011 for Mac and Dramatica Story Expert – won’t work, and I don’t have the mental bandwidth right now to deal with another potential crash.

Everything is properly backed up (Time Machine and iCloud), but bobbles with computers cost me days or weeks when they happen, so for the first time in a long time, I’m being proactive: a new Macbook Air with the M2 processor and good camera should take me far into the future and definitely through LIMBO.

It will, however, require some learning – not my strong point.

So that’s the update:

I’m working as hard as I can on the critical list items

I’m as far along with Netherworld as I can be, including covers

Ditto redoing the Purgatory covers

Ditto writing into the future with Limbo

and dealing with the sorry carcass which makes all of this possible at all in as graceful a manner as I can against the extra stress of having to do it at all, and the unbelievable amount of extra energy it takes

AND, courtesy of my lovely assistant Sammy, whose last day is today (she’s graduating! going on to grad school! going home for the summer!), I have already acquired an assistant for the fall (another senior – so I’ll get 8-9 months of her life, and leave her a changed young woman – but seniors are really handy), and she’s interested in learning the self-pub aspects of the job I haven’t had time to do with Sammy because other things were more, uh, important.

And the ability to write this post reassures me that there’s still a ‘me’ here.

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More when there’s actually progress on this laundry list.

Be well. Have a great summer. Don’t work TOO hard.

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PS: If you are desperate to read NETHERWORLD, and wouldn’t mind writing a review to be posted when it’s published, email me (abehrhardt at gmail), make your case, and I’ll send you what I have at the time.

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May 12 is International ME/CFS Day

Millions of ME/CFS victims are missing from LIFE

Every year this date reminds me that we STILL have no diagnostic marker, treatment, or cure for the devastating disease that stole my life as a physicist in 1989, the week of Nov. 5th.

Another year with nothing really new that can turn me back into a functioning person.

Or even help new victims.

Except that this year there is an understanding that, if we didn’t know what virus had done the damage, ALMOST ALL of the long-covid victims would be diagnosed, based on symptoms, with ME.

But we know that virus, and possibly that will help some of the targeted research that now has been funded to figure out the mechanism of the damage and find a way to reverse some of it.

And maybe, MAYBE, some of that research will benefit newer victims of ME/CFS, and possibly – though the damage is so long-standing it’s hard to think how – those of us who have been waiting for decades.

If you pray, pray for us.

If you’re not the praying kind, think of us kindly.

We’re still sick – and I wouldn’t wish this illness on Putin.

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Meanwhile, Pride’s Children: PURGATORY is still in existence because of ME/CFS, and NETHERWORLD will be out very soon (the disease makes me very slow).

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Where have all the bloggers gone?

Inspired by Where have all the flowers gone? Popular folk song

WANTED: INTERESTING BLOG POSTS ABOUT LIFE AND WRITING

If you’re of a certain age, or ever went to Scout camp, you may already been humming along.

I’m having to sign up to follow and receive via email more and more blogs, because the bloggers I’ve been following for years are publishing fewer and fewer posts, and I need reading material to keep myself centered in the writer-support blogosphere I inhabit.

I write fewer posts because most of my posts have had something to do with the skills I acquired while learning to write – and I’m not actively working on those right now unless I find something I need to learn to get through a current scene.

Because I’m getting to the end of Netherworld – and know exactly where I’m going.

And there aren’t any tricky or new scenes – just the kind of wrapping up I’m hoping will put smiles on readers’ faces, followed by worried frowns about the implications!

I use writers’ blogs to stay up-to-date

I haven’t done marketing in a while (and it shows) because I have two brain cells, and one is needed for breathing, while the other takes an occasional turn at writing a few more words.

But one of these days someone will post something which will trigger something else, and I’ll be off and running.

There are lots of beginner ‘How to’ posts, fewer post on marketing, and almost none on marketing a very small output. At least not successfully.

So I take on new blogs

when I find one which has something a little less basic to say, or is in an area I probably won’t write – hoping to steal the genesis of an idea I can tweak into the book-selling campaign of the century.

I’d appreciate suggestions of blogs to follow, especially if you wouldn’t mind telling me what you like about them.

New platforms may be the problem

I don’t think I’m going to try Instagram or Tik Tok or Book Tok or even Twitter – mostly because I don’t think that’s where my kind of writer finds readers and followers.

Certainly not Youtube – not now! The competition must be fierce.

Trying a Patreon was a waste of time for me (this time) because you have to bring your own followers – and then generate extra material for them. The latter I like – I have lots of words about process and writing – but I don’t have yet the critical mass of followers, and, with very little energy, can’t afford to try.

But a lot of people ARE moving to the new platforms – the young ‘uns don’t use FB much any more.

Where are the readers?

To be more specific for me, where are the readers of mainstream/literary/contemporary fiction, but only those who are not hiding behind the wall of ‘I only read traditionally published and vetted fiction.’

And that, my dear readers, I have not solved yet.

But then I spend most of my time writing lately, and ultimately that will have to yield the answer.

So I try each new blog I find through blogs I already read or people who somehow find me, and participate for a while to see if we are a good fit. There are tens of thousands of my words out there contributing to these fun conversations.

Eventually we will reach critical mass, right?

I’d hate to think the indie experiment is doomed.

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Send me your recommended blogs.

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Don’t throw me under the bus

Davis, California – February 2022

THEY PROMISED US AN ENJOYABLE RETIREMENT

As working people, the ‘system’ promised us, if we worked hard and saved our pennies for retirement, didn’t spend it all, that we would enjoy some years of healthy living, ease, family, and freedom.

Now they want to renege.

The rest of the world wants to go back to ‘normal,’ ignore any public health measures that might prevent passing on a deadly virus which keeps mutating into something even more dire (so far), has killed oh, around a million Americans directly, and, if I’m reading the statistics right, another million or so in ‘excess deaths’ – deaths which wouldn’t have happened if normal ailments had been treated in hospitals in a timely manner.

Well, those hospitals were full of covid patients – still are.

And after every new peak, ‘they’ are quick to assume it’s the last of its kind (remember after Delta, and before Omicron cases started climbing stratospherically?), and give up restrictions before people get tired of them.

The view from the vulnerable block is pure astonishment

In the US and in much of Europe they are already preparing to ‘live with the virus’ – everyone will eventually get it, THE OLD, SICK, VULNERABLE, IMMUNOCOMPROMISED, FRAGILE WILL DIE, and the world will go back to being a lovely place for idiots to party and catch covid at a concert, restaurant, or bar.

And take it home to Grandma.

Who needs Grandma anyway?

People who might have lived for years, decades

Because what they had, while not fun, is manageable: diabetes, heart disease, obesity…

Or potentially curable: some forms of cancer, getting a replacement kidney or a part of someone’s liver or a heart transplant…

are incredibly susceptible to getting covid.

They don’t just fade away: death from covid is painful, exhausting, humiliating – and with little support from family and friends – lonely.

And people dying of covid in a hospital cause other people not to be able to lifesaving surgery or care – and die, too.

Let us get rid of one of these right up front:

Obesity. It’s an ugly word. It’s a word of our time. Before, the chubby of us had reserves for surviving – and potentially fighting off – some diseases, and lasted longer.

Be that as it may.

It is not something that someone can change quickly. Or at all.

Doctor-supervised diets have a 2% success rate after two years.

And it is a cop-out. Just because a doctor doesn’t like it, and blames everything on it, and says, “If you just lost weight and exercised, you wouldn’t be sick,” doesn’t make it so.

And back to the important qualification for being useless: there isn’t a person on this Earth who can lower their weight consistently and safely QUICKLY.

Another is exercise

For post-viral illnesses such as long-covid, ME/CFS, and possibly any others such as chronic Lyme disease, exercise is CONTRAINDICATED. Read that carefully. It means: “Doesn’t help and DOES harm.”

The exercise-and-it’s-all-in-your-head brigade have been thoroughly debunked, their statistics shown to be bad science, and guidelines are changing everywhere. Not fast enough – and with rearguard actions by the biopsychosocial cabal trying to claim their methods actually work (they don’t want to lose all that lovely research money, ‘treatment’ money, and prestige; and in some cases knighthoods or damehoods (sic?)).

New people with our diseases are needy and desperate. They will grasp at anything that offers hope, and they are not good at separating the quacks from the legitimate scientists. They are given something and told it works, and they try over and over, blaming themselves when non-proven methods actually DON’T work.

Worse than that: they make themselves sicker. For every post-exertional crash, the baseline lowers on what a person can safely do. Enough of those, with the very best intentions, and people end up bed-ridden or worse.

Exercise is dangerous for people recovering from these viruses. DANGEROUS.

Compassion fatigue

I always thought, when I was younger, that I would be able to work my way out of anything by just putting the effort in.

As an old person, I would keep walking, keep doing yoga, have the time for more exercise.

And that people who ‘let themselves go’ had brought it all on themselves. Well, some of them have. But I’ve been trying for over three decades and guess what? NOPE. You can’t work yourself out of CFS.

You DO stop going to doctors because they don’t like illnesses without a cookbook approach. They don’t like mysterious illnesses that somehow have normal bloodwork – for the tests the insurance companies will allow.

They don’t like taking into account one of my widely-shared symptoms: intolerance of medicines. We are the people who get all the side-effects of almost everything that works for ‘normal’ people. I actually went through four of the five classes of blood-pressure medications after getting stents (and both Plavix and Effient – which made me deadly ill). My last cardiologist in New Jersey said the fifth kind of BP drugs would most likely make me quite sick, so we skipped them.

The protection of the booster shots for the immunocompromised

should be extended to the elderly if it is warranted.

I’m in the vulnerable category – I got my fourth shot, considered the second booster shot, four days ago. My arm still hurts and a day after the shot during which I felt as if I had the flu was followed by two days of not getting much done because of being a bit woozy and brain-fogged, and I don’t care at all.

In a week and a half or so, I will have whatever immunity my body can build up from the shots, and I was the one who nagged my doctor’s office as soon as the CDC said people like me should have another booster.

We are back, cautiously, to congregant dining – but the husband and I are taking it very slow because I don’t want to get covid at all (I already have the equivalent of long covid; online friends who have had covid on top of ME/CFS are struggling). Everyone here wears masks, distances socially, and avoids as many group activities as possible – except for today, when we celebrated the lives of those fellow residents who left us this past year with a short ceremony and two songs – sung through my KN95 mask.

We are all wondering what will follow Omicron and its B version.

It will take a long time before people like me will feel safe – and seeing mask and other requirements vanishing left and right, when the scientists tell us it is NOT over, doesn’t help.

PLEASE continue to be careful and smart even when the official rules relax.

The life you save may be someone you love.

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I’m hoping my brain will be usable for writing fiction tomorrow.

Please pop over to prideschildren.com and follow if you are a fan of mainstream fiction of the ‘big book variety.’ There is a short story prequel there and a sample. PLUS the first scene of NETHERWORLD, and reports of how close it is to being published.

This post was composed while not completely with it – may be a bit ranty.

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Traveling with a nonstandard mobility device

An Airwheel S8 is a mobility device

THE BIGGEST ADVENTURE IN THREE YEARS

I haven’t posted for a while for a very important reason: traveling to the Boulder area for our son’s and daughter-in-law’s wedding reception. (I am recovering slowly from the trip, and am finding my writing very much more basic this week – bear with me.)

The wedding was a lovely Zoom event a year ago – it wasn’t deemed safe to have it in person before vaccines in the middle of a pandemic – and under Colorado law, the kids could do the actual wedding themselves by signing a form. They chose to do that, and did a wonderful job of vows with a backpacking theme – talking about how and why they packed the items for a trip.

This year, vaccinated and safer, the wedding reception took place in a venue with the Boulder mountains in the background, family and friends from all over present.

The ceremony was out on the grass in the setting sun – I made it to a seat somehow, and was misty-eyed at the very personal and heartfelt words. Big smiles by everyone. They make a great couple, and have been together a long time now.

So we had to get there

Our son had asked if I wanted a mother/son dance after his wife’s father/daughter dance and theirs as a couple, and I said yes.

I can’t stand very long, or walk very far, and am extremely awkward and unstable on my feet.

So of course I said yes – these things are important, and don’t happen very often.

If at all possible, you do them, because regret is the cost of not trying.

We didn’t have time or occasion to practice before, so it was a one-time event.

My secret weapon was Maggie

Maggie (for the magnesium alloy she’s made from, and the maglev motors that run her) is my Emotional Support Robot Mini Riding Horse – and my bionic legs – and my mobility device.

An Airwheel S8, she is a bicycle seat on a hoverboard. We are a proud member of a subgroup on the Electric Unicycle Forum (even though she has two wheels).

She can be used sitting or standing, lasts a long time and distance on one charge, and I use her around the retirement community inside (elevators and long carpeted halls) and outside (on the Davis greenway, sidewalks, and bike paths). I don’t stand – but the kids and others have tried that without problems.

The trick was getting Maggie there and back – on a plane

Without damage.

To Denver International Airport and back to Sacramento.

I follow John Morris’s Wheelchair Travel blog, and knew this wasn’t going to be simple.

Why? For a bunch of reasons:

  • Maggie is not a wheelchair nor a scooter, devices most people are more familiar with as mobility devices.
  • Maggie is electric.
  • Maggie has lithium batteries built in.
  • The batteries cannot be removed – the procedure for replacing one is long and involved.
  • Most devices travel in the cargo hold with the luggage, including my walker of many years, Sylvia.
  • Most people have never seen an Airwheel S8 (I am a ham; I do demos at the drop of a hat, and talk about my mobility device to anyone who evinces the most minor interest).

My greatest fear was showing up at the airport in Sacramento

and having a particular crew (the pilot’s word is final) or counter staff refuse to take her on the plane at all.

The next biggest were having my mobility device damaged during the trip, refused passage on the way back, or become lost baggage. My very sturdy walker has been affected by the many trips she’s been on, and the bracket I put on the front to hold a basket was broken off on a trip long ago. I breathe a sigh of relief every time the walker shows up again while deboarding.

If Maggie stops working (it has happened – this is my second Maggie), she becomes a 32 lb awkwardly shaped piece of metal and plastics that barely rolls.

There have been a number of incidents with cheap lithium batteries causing fires on planes and in other places, so I understand their concern – in principle. But electric wheelchairs travel all the time.

If absolutely necessary, I would have dragged myself all over the wedding venues with my walker. But what would happen to Maggie if I couldn’t take her with me was a big concern, because airports are not a place you can store things and time would be limited (as well as my energy, which is my constant battle to preserve).

Preparation before hand was key

I spent a lot of time a couple weeks prior to the trip (over an hour on the phone) talking to the person the Accessibility phone at the airline had at the other end. We sort of figure out that it would probably work. This person said a ‘note’ would be placed in my file for the trip.

A few days before the trip, I got anxious. I went to my reservation to see if the note said what it was supposed to say. There was no note. The only codes were the ones I had written into the form when buying the tickets – informing the airline that I needed a wheelchair in the airports, and that I can walk enough (hanging onto seatbacks) to get to my seat, so I wouldn’t require the on-board airline wheelchair to get to my seat.

Nothing about Maggie, nonstandard devices, batteries… all the things we discussed. Nothing I could mention to a gate person or counter person.

So I called again – and this time got someone who said she was Accessibility – and didn’t recognize the name of the other person! At the same phone number. Not a good start.

The second person was much more helpful for a specific reason: with a little searching, and knowing the airline website, she was able to find the specific wording which would let me take Maggie onboard, either in the wheelchair closet or in the cargo. I printed it all out, highlighted the relevant sections, and brought it with me.

I didn’t need to use it – but it could have gone the other way.

The airport trip was easier because I have an Assistant again

She was available to drive us and our luggage to the airport when we needed it. And she promised to bring Maggie home if something went wrong and my mobility device wasn’t allowed on the plane. Fortunately, I didn’t end up needing to call her back.

Sacramento was an easy airport to navigate: it was agreed I would use Maggie to get through TSA, and all the way to the gate, where the final decision cabin/cargo hold would be made – by the crew/pilot.

So far so good – and then, at the crowded gate (we were plenty early), the gate person told me the crew said there was no room on board for my device.

First big hurdle

The crew person who came out said there was no room. But I was allowed to go down the ramp to the plane on Maggie.

And at the door, I asked to be allowed to see the closet.

At this point I’m sort of holding up boarding (btw, disabled people are supposed to board before ANYONE, including First Class passengers, VIPs, people with small children – a right more honored in the breach than in the observance), so they let me on (I’m hanging onto anything I can at this point, with Maggie about to go down to the cargo hold), and I see that the only reason they won’t put here there is because it has a bunch of crew luggage.

So I state unaggressively but unambiguously that my wheelchair device has priority over crew luggage. I may have asked if they wanted to see the printout of their website written information; I don’t remember – the counter people didn’t want to see it either.

At that moment one of the pilots stepped out, and asked if he could help. I explained, said Maggie could be picked up with one hand. The flight attendant removed the luggage, the pilot placed Maggie easily in the closet, and the hurdle was over. I am very grateful – but still shaking – as I make my way to my seat, hanging on to seatbacks. My husband dealt with the carry-on luggage, sending the walker to the cargo hold, and putting our other stuff in the overhead bin.

After landing there was a wheelchair waiting for me, so I pushed Maggie in front of me through the very large airport, down to baggage claim (on a train!), the attendant got us to the door, our youngest daughter was waiting in the cell phone parking lot with the car, and the hotel room was actually there (you can bet I had called, prepared them for late arrival, and reminded them I needed an accessible room – but the ride was still spent with me worrying). I made sure to tip the wheelchair attendant very well – he was very helpful and stayed until we were in the car.

The wedding festivities went well

Except for me having zero energy, and being totally wiped out most of the time, everything in Boulder allowed me to participate as much as I could, because our youngest daughter rented a car and did the driving, all of it, and we fit.

At the actual reception venue (not designed at all for disabled people), I either used Maggie as a live cane (she is very stable that way, if a bit too short), or people carried her in for me and I grabbed whatever I could for support, and we managed.

The mother/son dance went incredibly well – I assayed a twirl at the very beginning, and it worked beautifully, so we did a bunch more, and it was really great to dance for the first time in years. I’m hoping someone has video!

The return trip was fraught

for a bunch of reasons, including Denver having a huge number of visitors leaving over the weekend (we were grateful our flight was on Monday).

We got there early. The counter help person took a snapshot, and texted the request for the on-board cabin to the gate. First step accomplished.

But when we navigated the busy airport and TSA and train with another wheelchair attendant, and got to the gate early – there was no one there, and the food venues didn’t have anything I could eat. I ate an Atkins bar, and prepared to wait.

When the gate person showed up, it was a repeat of the first boarding, with none of these people having seen my device (usual), or the form passengers are supposed to supply to go with their device to the hold (they said they had NEVER seen one – it’s on the website), and they started telling me the closet was too small.

Again, very unaggressively, I explained that Federal regulations require a certain size closet, and that Maggie was smaller than those dimensions. They came back with saying that there are many different aircraft, and not all have the closet (even if they have the number of seats that require the closet – 100), and that they didn’t think the closet door was wide enough.

It all felt as if they were trying to prepare me to be disappointed. At this point I’m completely wiped out by the trip, the wedding, the problems at the hotel (the only accessible feature I needed was a shower seat – and it turned out to be coming off the wall!), the physical and mental gymnastics required to be a disabled person in an able world.

Back to me

I managed to pretend to be positive. To do my little demo of how well Maggie serves me. To be polite and chatty with the gate person, the flight attendant who basically told me it probably wouldn’t happen but they were working on it and that the door was too narrow, and the pilot who came out and said all the same things, but that they were going to try.

This time I was allowed to be the first person down the ramp.

When I got there, I was prepared for failure, but of course the closet door was plenty wide (they have to be able to fit a passenger’s folded manual wheelchair into that space), the on-board aisle wheelchair was there, in the closet, and completely folded out of the way – and Maggie went in sideways through the door with space to spare.

I dragged myself to my seat, shaking again, and somehow survived the flight home, the wheelchair from the plane pushing Maggie in front of me, baggage claim, and was lucky enough to have the Lyft driver I arranged for as soon as we were at baggage claim and the suitcases were coming out arrive in three minutes, manage to load all out stuff, and get us home.

Feedback to the airline

Five days later I found the energy to fill out their survey.

I hate those things. They want you to check all kinds of points worded so only a horrible person would complain – but I put enough into the text boxes where allowed to give them a picture of what happened, to say everyone was very nice (they were – even when saying no a lot), and suggested that more on disabled passengers, wheelchairs, the on-board closet, and nonstandard devices should be done in training (knowing they all get periodic passes through it), and submitted. I doubt it will do any good, but you never know – I’ve done what I could.

My husband submitted his version – and he is a very supportive man, and didn’t step in and take over at any point (much appreciated) who knows exactly what I go through – he had some extra comments, again, very polite – and we’ve both done what we can with their awkward survey.

The future – I plan to travel more, and Maggie is an essential part

I hope this post gets shared (and I will ask John Morris if he wants a version for his site) because other people need to be prepared.

It was a constant obstacle course. Things are designed for able-bodied people. Any one of several hundred points on the track could have been the sticking point. Everything that eventually worked could have failed. I am grateful to have gotten there and back – and still exhausted.

Everything takes more energy and time when you are disabled – and you have far less energy than everyone else. Not fair, but it is what it is.

I saw no one else in their own wheelchair in either airport. That was surprising.

I’m sure the system is so daunting most physically disabled people just don’t try it most of the time. The mental strain is significant – and I can see how hard this would have been on someone less coherent than I was (and I was not doing well), or with other problems processing crowds, noise, and roadblocks.

I thought a wheelchair attendant was the key to getting through TSA efficiently (I cannot imagine what shape I would be in after standing in line – sitting on Maggie for any length of time is not great, especially if we aren’t moving), but it isn’t, and I think, after pushing Maggie, live, in front of me through corridors, trains, and elevators, it would be easier if I just rode her, while pushing the walker in front of me. But the attendant was critical in dealing with luggage, saved some of my energy, knew exactly where to go, and would have been helpful had anything gone wrong. Six of one, half a dozen of the other – and tip money very well spent. And an extra pair of hands is nothing to be sneezed at.

But most of all, I am incredibly grateful for those who

have fought all the previous battles:

  • Making sure there is an on-board closet
  • Making sure there is a wheelchair that fits in their aisle to get a passenger who can’t walk to their seat
  • Creating the Americans with Disabilities Act and its protections
  • Creating the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), [which] prohibits discrimination in airline service on the basis of disability – and all its protections
  • for other bloggers like John who write about the joys and perils
  • and who provide feedback constantly on how air travel meets or falls short of these ideals for every day travelers.

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Please excuse my lack of editing this down into something shorter and more pithy – I am still not recovered, and this feels below my standards in many ways, but if I don’t get it all down now, much will lose its immediacy.

Please feel free to pass this on.

Please contribute your own thoughts and experiences and suggestions.

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Stubborn opinionated determined author at work

You can’t guarantee the results

Isn’t ‘effort’ the same thing as ‘work?

After I wrote the above, I realized that I think of them separately (personal choice), with effort being the whole mental atmosphere surrounding what writers do – from paying attention to things other people never notice, including information on publicity, covers, and selling – and work being actually sitting down and turning that attitude into things such as a finished ad or a description that rocks or any number of other ‘deliverables.’

WORK‘, of course, includes the writing itself, the finished words on the page of a pdf you are about to upload to Amazon or others.

And know it’s the best version of the story you are able to provide that mysterious elusive creature, the Reader.

After that, Amazon takes over and supplies copies of the WORK to those who pay for it.

For many of us, Amazon is currently publisher and distributor, for a hefty portion of the rewards (30% for ebooks, more for print books). I am currently okay with that. Because that equation is far worse on the traditional publishing side, and many of the benefits to using them (editing, covers, advertising, promotion, reasonable advances, royalties) are on the path of the Dodo bird.

Writing successful fiction requires two additional things:

Finding your potential readers, and

Getting them to try your writing.

If you haven’t truly written a good book that readers would buy if they only knew about you, YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME when you promote and advertise and stand on your head to do PR. You may fool some of the people some of the time, but that is rarely a recipe for commercial success.

Indeed, after reading some authors’ latest ‘work’, I know I will never read another from them.

But the whole discoverability part of writing is hard, tricky, and requires the one thing I don’t have: energy and the capacity for endless self-promotion.

If you have written ‘a good book’ for a segment of the population

the satisfied readers should be clamoring for more.

If you have more (backlist), they have a lot to discover and enjoy.

If not, well, keep working. And some readers will never get that pleasure from you again, but it won’t be your fault, if you’ just keep truckin’.’

And hope for some luck, or ‘Here a miracle occurs,’ or going viral, or catching someone’s eye…

Some of us will simply have to hope for an afterlife, and wait to ask Margaret Mitchell what happened to Scarlett. Assuming she still cares – the afterlife runs on different rules, I believe.

And now I’m going off to nap, followed by keeping my nose to my particular grindstone.

I do so want to finish. It’s coming nicely. And every time the idea that life might be easier if I spent it entertaining myself instead of torturing myself with imaginary people, I have managed to fight that attitude off.

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What are the things in your life that you will never give up on?

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Won’t read your self-published book because

[WARNING: IF YOU ARE ALREADY PERFECTLY HAPPY WITH YOUR READING MATTER (or have already read PURGATORY and are waiting for the next volume in the trilogy), you may skip what follows with a clear conscience.]

I might find something I liked – and have to change my attitude about SPAs (self-published authors).

I prefer to wait until others decide what I should read.

I like classics – and classics were never produced by SPAs. Oh, wait. They used to be (long list of SPAs such as Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Clemens and…) but modern writers are not good unless they can submit and submit and maybe be granted an audience with an AGENT!

There is so much out there I could never figure out what to try.

I want the opinions of established critics, not my fellow readers. The critics have to know what they’re talking about, right? Because their descriptions and reviews are always exactly what I need to know, right?

I actually don’t want you to read my self-published novel(s)

Because I have some requirements of my READERS:

They have to love to read, even when it is difficult and they have to read in small pieces.

They have to love a lot of classics – because that what I educated myself by reading, and it has a habit of showing in my writing.

They have to love at least something out of the mainstream category

It shows openness of mind. Here’s a partial list of my favorites – and all of them influenced me and my writing in good ways:

Dune

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

The Thorn Birds

Great Expectations

A Tale of Two Cities

Lucifer’s Hammer

Jane Eyre

Pride and Prejudice

Huckleberry Finn

Silas Marner

Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels, especially Strong Poison, Gaudy Night, and Busman’s Honeymoon

Don Quixote and some of the Mexican picaresque novels (for Spanish speakers)

It helps if they loathe

Some of the books I found unsatisfactory because [reason in brackets]:

The Lovely Bones [that ending]

Lolita [subject matter]

The Great Gatsby [cannot get into it – don’t care about any of the characters]

A Confederacy of Dunces [after the first chapter I wanted to wash my brain out with soap – good writing in the service of that?]

Tess of the D’Urbervilles [they couldn’t find some excuse not to hang poor Tess? And yes, I know things were very different back then]

Anything by Dan Brown

Any number of shades of gray

And it really helps if you share some of my blind spots and prejudices

You don’t care for anything supernatural in your novels.

You prefer novels with characters you can identify with. And they can’t be improbably young, sexy, healthy as the only requirement. They should also have a job. And a life.

You don’t want anyone swooping down and saving anyone – salvation must be earned and isn’t assured.

You prefer not to have to ignore a lot of unbelievable plot points (really letting myself in for open season here).

Just because the author writes it isn’t enough justification.

Typos are not good.

Spelling is actually important.

You don’t read modern Romance novels.

You don’t like cozies, except if you categorize Agatha Christie as one.

Chick lit is too perky for you, except in small quantities.

When original authors died, their franchises went with them, and there are NO exceptions to this rule no matter how attractive you find Benedict Cumberbatch. Or Sandra Oh.

Why am I being this picky?

Because I’m looking for people who will actually LOVE the Pride’s Children trilogy, not just sort of like it.

Because I do not write for people who read outside my preferences – they are hard to persuade to try PC, and when they do, if they write a review at all, it is obvious they shouldn’t have tried it in the first place. I’m trying to save them some time. And annoyance (which explains their reaction).

Because people who love may recommend you to their friends, but people who don’t won’t – and book recommendations are the biggest way of finding your ideal readers.

Experience.

BTW, you can be a millenial or younger. That is not an impediment. Your taste palate for novels is the key, not the specifics.

I ALSO love the readers who are not my ‘Ideal Readers’ and love PC anyway. They are my heroes.

What about converts?

I admit to loving those. I have a number of reviews from older men who say, “I don’t normally read this kind of book, but I loved it,” and I treasure those above all others.

But they are very hard to find, it takes me a lot of careful and deliberate effort to get them to try PC, and it is time I should spend finishing the trilogy.

Surely in a world of SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE there are Readers already out there who are looking for specific things, already know what that is, and WILL RECOGNIZE IT WHEN THEY SEE IT.

Oxford commas and all.

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Please excuse my general grumpiness

The writing is going extremely well lately, and I may even finish NETHERWORLD this year, but my physical body is giving me a lot of… shall we say, distraction? And marketing can be a bitch.

Also, feel free to add to my canon in the comments. I will poach any I like and add them to the post, with credit to you.

If you’ve gotten this far without damage to your psyche, click on the book image (top right), read the descriptions and a couple of the reviews for yourself, click on the Look Inside! feature and read the first three scenes or so (you will have had enough to make your own decision by that point, and will have met the main characters for the trilogy). Make up your own mind. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I hope you’re one of us.

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Writer’s difficult decisions mirror human life

THE HARDEST PART OF WRITING…

is what you put your characters through, to tell your story.

Yes, this is what you created and delivered them for. They are your babies, but they were always meant for sorrow, because no good story avoids sorrow.

Writers of fiction are making a point: if I extract the relevant parts of human life, and clean them up so they are tidier and cleaner than the mess that can be real life, can I show that the story has a moral, something I’m trying to say?

There is so much to tell

that it is impossible to tell it all within the confines of the longest epic poem or novel series.

The clock starts counting seconds even before the birth, and doesn’t stop until reaching ‘The End.’

And still the writer, even the one who creates a world which encompasses the whole life of a character in one piece, must discard MOST of that life, and pick only a few high points, hoping to use those to tell you something.

Stories teach

So what will the writer choose to teach?

And what pieces of that character’s life will the writer use as salutary or insalubrious examples the Reader should consider following?

Not the boring parts, not necessarily the exciting parts.

But often the points where the character, a relative unknown to even the author at its conception, makes mistakes. BIG mistakes. Very BAD decisions.

And when we get to creating and writing those mistakes, we may suddenly find that we really wouldn’t have ever done this to our now-child if we had been thinking more clearly – because we love them, and this will HURT. A lot.

Not a bad place to be – as a parent or an author

Our writing choices are better if we care.

If we are going to hurt, damage, punish, instruct a character, it better be worth it.

To both of us.

But it is natural, first, for the author to flounder about, wondering if this torture can be bypassed, whether it is really necessary, whether we should be the ones to inflict the damage.

It’s a testament of a kind to Pride’s Children

that every single time I have hit this point, I have steeled myself, stuck to the original plan which came to me in one piece, ‘vouchsafed’ as I like to say only to me, and written through the pain (mine) and the sorrow (theirs) because that IS the story.

Characters become very real to you when you spend twenty years with them, which I will have spent sometime this year.

They also become more determined, and more pigheaded, more what you made them, more willing and able to carry the burden.

Like the actor chosen to play the villain, they have gotten enamored of their role, and are giving it everything they have.

They would be quite annoyed if the author watered down their part – which now belongs to them and is their chance to shine on stage.

I have enjoyed very much the preparation of Shakespearean actor Anthony Sher, which he writes about in The Year of the King, as he prepares for the role of King Lear. Whether the king is the true villain of the play or not, his decisions are momentous and affect the lives of all the other characters.

Actors live for such a role.

My characters are fictional, but…

Sure they are. I tell my brain that all the time. It doesn’t listen.

No real people are harmed by whatever I do to them.

Yup.

So why do I keep finding myself at this point, where I have to justify to myself what I am about to write them through?

Is it more that it exposes MY worldview?

There is some of that.

But I sat down with this feeling today and realized I get my worldview from the world, the one we all live in.

I’m not one of the experimental science fiction authors who create entire races of very different characters (Olivia Butler does a superb job of this).

I strive for such absolute realism in my writing, from ‘right behind the characters’ eyeballs,’ that you will feel this happened to you – until you close the book.

I want you to live another LIFE

I want you to think very hard about what you would do if faced with the kind of consequences that are determined by the behavior I’m espousing by showing you a character doing it.

And be glad, or maybe experience regret and longing, that they don’t actually happen – to YOU.

So this is my job.

And I go back to it with all my prejudices reinforced.

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