Monday, September 24, 2018

Shall We Try This Again...and Again...and Again?

I keep telling myself I'm going to buckle down and make posts on a regular basis, but as you can see, so far that plan has been a dismal failure. In my own defense, however, the last couple of weeks have been exceptionally busy.

Okay, it was busy for Collin. I slept through most of it. I'm training for the nonexistent Olympic Power Napping team. I think I'm a shoo-in for the gold medal!

A few months ago, Collin and I made the decision to leave our publisher, Creativia, and go back to self-publishing. Collin has been getting his degree in business administration, and he's done exceptionally well in marketing courses, so he's really into doing all the business stuff this time around--from packaging to marketing. he handles all the non-writing stuff in addition to collaborating on the research and brainstorming ideas. He did the new cover for Alexander's Empire:


The novel, for those of you who haven't read it, was set in the 1980s, and the World Trade Center was one of the most important settings.
 
He also created new headers for my Facebook page, like this one (it'll have to be altered for Twitter): 

 
Over the next several weeks, we'll be re-releasing The Unicorn's Daughter, Alexander's Empire and Angels at Midnight. I chose to not reissue the rest of my backlist--the old series romances just aren't selling well enough to make the work involved worthwhile. The other two single titles, well, now that I look at them twenty-five years after publication, I just don't think they were all that good. I see how much I've changed as a writer, and it makes me think that my characters, were they real people, would have changed, too--so we'll find out, if I can get off my butt and write the series!

We're not only back at Amazon, we're also now publishing with Smashwords. Once the books are approved for their premium catalog, they'll also be available through Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other outlets. They'll be available through public libraries. And Smashwords offers the audiobook option, which I've always wanted.

And I still don't have to do the grunt work! Yay! 

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

I Hope You Choke on the Tacos, Jerkface!

Okay, I confess. I'm lazy. I can fall asleep upright.  I sleep 20 out of 24 hours a day (yes, I've morphed into a cat!). I love not having to go out to eat, since we have DoorDash, Grub Hub, Uber Eats and Postmates to bring the food to us. Collin has trouble getting me to use public transportation,  now that I've experienced the joys of Lyft.



Unfortunately, however, these luxuries are not without issues. We once had a grocery order delivered that was not only missing our bananas, but included a package of frozen beef patties we didn't order. What am I supposed to do with frozen beef patties?

Don't dare use the C word--you know the word. *shudder* Cook!
 
Once, Collin ordered six bananas. They delivered six pounds of bananas. It's a good thing we love bananas! 

Grocery delivery has improved greatly since then, with Walmart taking the Most Accurate award, if you don't count the employee who filled our order not seeming to know the difference between Great Grains Banana Nut Crunch cereal and Honey Bunches of Nuts cereal with bananas (twice!), or swapping turkey with cheese sandwiches for the chicken salad sandwiches I ordered (I don't like turkey). 
 

 
If only the same could be said for restaurant delivery. Case in point: we ordered Denny's On Demand for dinner on Sunday afternoon, after coming home from our church's Lunch Bunch at  Fuzzy's Tacos after services. (Okay, so we do eat out sometimes!) It would seem they really don't take the On Demand part literally. The order arrived  minus my dessert. Collin contacted them, asking that they send the apple crisp we had already paid for. No, they said,  they couldn't do that. We could either have a credit or we could pick it up at the restaurant. I guess they missed the fact that we ordered delivery to avoid having to go out.

If we wanted to go to the restaurant, we would have eaten there to start with. It was their error, so they should have delivered the missing apple crisp at no additional charge.

This is not an isolated incident. Our orders have arrived with at least one item missing enough times to make us wonder if it's not simply a mistake but delivery drivers taking an item or two from their customers' orders. Once, we placed an order for Jack in the Box. Collin received notification that the driver was at the restaurant. The next notice he received said that the driver was off the radar, so to speak, and they would have to send another one to take care of our order. 


I have this mental image of a DoorDash driver headed south on I-55, eating our tacos. I hope they got pulled over for some traffic violation or other.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Nope, I'm Not Dead...Yet!

I just watched TV coverage of Sen. John McCain's funeral--the beginning of it, anyway. The hearse just arrived at the state capitol building in Phoenix. It's a sad day, for his family, for the state of Arizona, and for all of us. There aren't many good guys left in our government. We need more good guys, especially now. Some of them are retired now, some have passed away.


We just lost another one.

I hate funerals. I've decided to skip my own, actually.

My dad planned ahead for everything. Except his own funeral. He knew it was coming--and not just in the general sense. He had a premonition, dreams of his own death. He had money saved for Mom. He just didn't make any plans for his burial. He didn't buy a cemetery plot or make any funeral arrangements.

Not that it was never discussed. He had been in the Army and therefore was entitled to be buried at Jefferson Barracks. He was fine with that. Mom wasn't. She wanted them both to be buried at the same cemetery where her parents, my grandparents, were buried. Cremation was discussed. I brought it up. Dad liked the idea. Mom didn't.

So when Dad passed away, unexpected by everyone but Dad himself, we had to make last-minute arrangements. Mom was a basket case, popping sedatives like they were Pez. I bought four plots at the cemetery she'd chosen and a family friend helped make the funeral arrangements. It was a small, dignified service on a cold, February afternoon. Collin was only eleven at the time, so I didn't take him to the cemetery. Still, I knew it was difficult for him. Collin adored Dad. He didn't know his own father; Dad was the only male role model he had in his life.

Mom's funeral, by contrast, was a freak show. The twins she and Dad raised, who couldn't be bothered to visit her in the two years before, while she was struggling after a series of strokes, showed up. The girl put on a show, supposedly overcome by grief. The boy took one of Mom's sisters aside to ask if Mom had any insurance, if he was a beneficiary. There was a couple in attendance, the family suck-ups who were not there out of any respect or love for Mom, but for her eldest sister.

I found myself wishing I wasn't there. I'm fairly certain Mom would have felt the same way.

I decided then that I don't want Collin to have to deal with the stress of a funeral when my time comes. I asked our pastor if there's anything in the Bible that prohibits either cremation or donating organs for transplants or medical research. He assured me there isn't, if it's done for the right reasons.

It would seem the Gnostics did some weird stuff that raised questions about cremation.

Pastor Brandon reminded me that the Bible says we get new bodies at the Resurrection. He said if we kept these old ones, we'd all be walking around looking like zombies.

Ick!

I wonder if the new bodies look like the ones we have now? I'm hoping for an upgrade....

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Who Knew the Mouse Was Actually a Rat?


Bear with each other and forgive one 
another if any of you has a grievance 
against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

- Colossians 3:13

If God can forgive, why can't Disney?


  Oh, Mickey, how could you?

Recently, Disney Studios fired Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn after some offensive Twitter posts he'd done almost a decade earlier were unearthed by right-wingers upset about his very vocal opposition to the guy currently living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Almost immediately, the fans rallied to Gunn's defense, posting their protests on Twitter and Facebook.

Predictably, there were also posts applauding the termination and attacking anyone who defended Gunn. Were they disappointed Marvel fans, or were they just trolls? Nobody knows, yet.

The Guardians cast--Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn (yes, James Gunn's brother) and Karen Gillan--issued a joint statement in support of Gunn and asking for his reinstatement. I'm one of over 300,000 who signed a petition demanding he be rehired and voicing my support on social media.

One nitwit who believed Gunn's (old) inappropriate tweets mean he's a pedophile responded to me with a suggestion that I have James Gunn babysit my son. My response: "Well, James Gunn would be way out of my pay range and my son is 39 and bigger than Dave Bautista, so...."

Why do I feel so strongly about this? Aside from being a fan, I know too well what it's like to do something really stupid (and to some, offensive) and still be judged for it decades later. As actress Selma Blair put it, if we go on persecuting someone for mistakes they've owned up to years later, even though they've changed and are no longer the person they were then,  what incentive do we have to change, to grow?

As for the content of Gunn's tweets, I can relate there as well. When my contract with one of my publishers ended, I was determined to break away from the glamorous romance writer image that had been created for me. It was an exhausting role to do. I was by no means glamorous and knew almost nothing about romance. I delivered my option proposal, about a bush pilot living in Africa, a story as un-glamorous and un-romantic as I could think up. They rejected it, of course.

Then my dad died.

I was in a really dark place for a long time. I tried psychotherapy, but had a therapist who did more harm than good. I had to find my way back to healthy with a different guide. I kept writing, but the proposals I sent to my agent were so dark and disturbing, she wisely refused to send any of them out.

I'm fortunate, it would seem, that Twitter didn't exist in the early 1990s.

Some of you who know me well have heard this story before. My agent urged me to take some time off, to heal. She likened me to Picasso.  "He had his Red Period and his Blue Period," she told me. "This is your Ugly Period."

I struggled to get the creative spark back, but it took a long time. First, I had to find faith. I had to find God. When I did finally emerge from the darkness, my first published work was Chasing the Wind, a novel about faith and redemption, the struggle between good and evil, focused on a scientist involved in illegal experiments who discovers he's been chosen to be a prophet.

Yes, we can and do change. Some for the better, some, sadly, not for the better.

If every time the alt-right targets someone with trash from their pasts and manages to ruin their careers, their lives, who's next?  Where does it end?

Think about that. 

Postscript: Just read this from ComicBook.com. Looks like good news could be forthcoming!
http://comicbook.com/2018/07/31/james-gunn-guardians-of-the-galaxy-reinstated-possible/ 

 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"Nobody Could Possibly Be That Annoying in Real Life!"

Are you a fan of TV sitcoms?

I am. I love shows like Mom, The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Superstore, One Day at a Time, etc.--though I'll admit that sometimes, the characters and/or plots are so outrageous they border on annoying. Occasionally, they cross that border. I used to say, "Nobody in real life would put up with that!" But a recent conversation with a friend made me realize that's not entirely true.

I might not put up with it, but some people do.



Like Sheldon Cooper, I have my own spot on the couch. Truth be told, most of us have an unofficial seating arrangement, at home and elsewhere. A couple of weeks ago, at church, our pastor commented about the congregation's seating arrangement.

We just don't obsess about it like Sheldon does.



I've known a few Sheldon wannabes in my time. A friend who lived 30-40 miles from us once showed up at our door, unexpected, and the first thing she said, directing her gaze toward the TV was, "Can I turn the channel?"

Seriously? She drove all that way and all she wanted was to change the channel on a show I was watching? Why didn't she just stay home to see whatever it was she wanted to watch?

"No," I told her.

She also had a tendency to have to top everyone at everything. A girl we knew back in high school once said if you told her you ate a shit sandwich, she would say she'd had at least two. And they were delicious!

Then there was the friend who decided she was going to take me to her hairstylist. Okay, I might look like I need it. My hair is not easy to style. It's fine, it's thin, it's stick-straight. I used to spend a lot of time trying to make it look like something it just wasn't. These days, I keep it short (last year, I got a buzz cut--it's finally growing out) because I just don't have the inclination to do all that anymore. Bad hair day? That's what hats and caps are for!

But I found her announcement insulting. My hair, my business. If you don't like what you see, don't look at it. "No you're not," I told her.

"Yes, I am," she insisted.

"No, you're NOT," I told her again.

Her persistence made me angry. We haven't spoken in twelve years.

Another friend showed up one day, having lost her job. She decided she would spend her days at our place so her husband wouldn't know she'd lost her job. I explained that she couldn't do that, as I did my writing when Collin was at work.

"Oh, you can write at night," she said. Wasn't that nice of her to give me permission to write when she didn't need the use of my apartment?

I don't know where she ended up spending her days...or how she explained the absence of a paycheck to her husband.

She didn't get that everything wasn't about her. Not long after that, a friend from church helped us get our stuff from the storage locker and bring it home. We had just finished unloading the truck and trailer. There were boxes everywhere. The unemployed friend showed up at the door before I could even start to unpack.

"This isn't a good time," I told her.

"Oh, that's okay." She stepped past me and navigated her way through the maze of boxes to a chair. I went on about my business, ignoring her. I guess if it wasn't an inconvenience for her, it didn't matter that she was just in my way.

Finally, she took the hint and left.

Do any of you just smile and tolerate unreasonable friends?

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Emergency That Wasn't...Or Was It?

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, and even longer, I think, since I've made regular comments on any of the blogs I regularly follow. It's been a real crapfest. First, I fell and tore my rotator cuff. Then, last week, there was a major emergency. Collin's blood pressure, for a long time under control, suddenly wasn't. It started to climb...higher...higher, until it reached numbers that fell under the heading of hypertensive crisis.

 
Heart disease and stroke run in our family. Okay, they're the family curse, the trifecta (along with diabetes) nobody wants. I called our primary care doctor. She wanted me to get him to the emergency room. She didn't have to tell me twice. Our dear friend Cathy picked us up and drove us there. He was checked in at 7:30 in the evening--but wasn't actually examined until 1:00am.

This is why I hate hospitals. One of the reasons, anyway.

I'd tried to get him to go to Urgent Care earlier that day, but he was stubborn. (I wonder where he gets that?) He had a meeting involving tech for his new work from home job, and he wasn't risking losing that job for some minor thing like a potential stroke. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic.)

So there we were, in a standing room only waiting room...waiting...and waiting...and waiting. People were called, but not Collin. I kidded him about it. I told him they weren't calling names when they came out--they were just looking at him and saying, "Not you."

10:00: "Not you...."

10:30: "Not you...." 

11:00: "Not you...." 

11:30: "Not you...." 

Midnight: "Not you...."

Collin's blood pressure was dangerously high, but apparently that didn't constitute a real emergency. The people in the waiting room with chest pains, potential heart attacks, also not that important. To my knowledge, there were no gunshot wounds...so what did qualify as a true emergency situation?

Several times, I told Cathy she should go home. It looked to be a long night, and she had to go to work the next day. She didn't want to leave us there, so she stayed. Finally, at around 12:30, she said if he wasn't called by 1:00, she would go ahead and leave. I turned to Collin. "I'll bet you don't get called by 1:00," I told him.

"I'll take that bet," he said confidently.

At 12:55, as Cathy was getting ready to leave, Collin got up and went up to the admissions desk. Within a couple of minutes, he was taken back to a room and prepped for observation.

I didn't think of it until the next day, but he'd gotten them to take him before 1:00. That snake had cheated his way into a win on the bet!

But it was an emergency. For the next five hours, he was monitored. The blood pressure cuff on his left arm checked his blood pressure automatically every ten minutes. An ECG checked his heart and his oxygen was continually tested. I sat with him and prayed. I don't think I could survive losing him. I've always wondered how any parent could deal with the loss of a child. I had to bury both of my parents. That was painful enough. It still is. 

At around 4:00, he was given a pill. It was expected that his blood pressure would return to normal in about thirty minutes. It didn't. At 6:00, he was given another drug. He drifted off to sleep for a little while. I went to use the bathroom. When I returned, he was awake, sitting up and smiling. He gave me the thumbs up as the monitor was being disconnected. 

My prayers had been answered.

We both realized we were ravenously hungry, so we went to the hospital cafeteria for breakfast, then got a Lyft home. We both slept off and on the rest of the day. He's back to normal now. I think it's going to take me a while longer....

 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Celebrating Our Independence...While We Still Have It

Hope y'all had a great 4th of July. Collin and I celebrated in the most logical way we could think of: hot dogs, fried chicken, apple pie--and a Captain America film festival. 




Oh, come on--what's more American than Captain America?

I like barbecue, but Collin doesn't, so we settled on hot dogs and fried chicken. No, I didn't fry the chicken. We thought the guys at the fire department might like a day off. Besides, I prefer chicken that's edible. Nuking hot dogs in the microwave--now that I can do. Sometimes. Potato salad? Didn't do that myself, either. Got it at Sam's Club.  The apple pies--hand pies, actually--came from Church's, along with the chicken.

I'm still a Hopalong Casualty, as Collin can testify. I have two bad knees, one arm that only operates at 50% (folding sheets, taking showers and washing my hair are real challenges). The walker helps as far as venturing out into the real world. And my brain pretty much does what it wants to. If it wants me to write, I can write. If not, well, I go full couch potato.

We skipped Fair St. Louis, as we do every year. I have a thing about crowds and pickpockets. There were plenty of fireworks--even though they're illegal in St. Louis County, neighbors up the street celebrated with a bang. Literally. I told Collin I didn't think the birds, rabbits or squirrels would be around this morning.

So...how did you (Americans) celebrate?