Monday, April 23, 2018

Yesterday Once More

Some of you may know that's the title of a song by the Carpenters from the '70s. The title--and the lyrics--fit today's post.

Last time, I wrote about revisiting the past, going back to the home I loved so much and recalling the memories of leaving that home and what happened in the years that followed. When I was a kid, Dad was almost obsessive about open doors. If there was an emergency, he reasoned, he could get to us and, if necessary, get us out of the house. 

That explains the small fortune he spent on fire alarms. 

Anyway, I used to fall asleep at night with the light on, listening to the radio. I listened to AM radio back then--KXOK. The radio host at night was known as Johnny Rabbitt. I never knew if that was his real name or not, but I listened to his show until I fell asleep. Mom would come in before she and Dad went to bed and turn the radio and the light off.

That was the mid- to late sixties, mind you.

In recent years, I started listening to the radio at night again. Collin and I got each other Amazon Echo Dots for Christmas year before last. One of the features of the Echo Dot is that it can play radio stations, not just local but from around the world. Collin discovered that another AM station, KMOX, runs old radio shows from the thirties and forties on Saturday nights, so I decided to check it out. 

The old radio shows air from 1:00am to...I'm not sure when. Anyway, one night I instructed Alexa to play KMOX. I couldn't believe what I got--Johnny Rabbitt, still playing music from the fifties and sixties! At first, I thought it was someone else, using the same name--but when I checked it out, I found this was indeed the same Johnny Rabbitt I listened to all those years ago.

So every Saturday night, I have a short trip back to those days, falling asleep listening to that voice, those songs from a past I still miss after all these years.

Do any of you ever feel a yearning to revisit the past? 


Friday, April 20, 2018

You Can Go Home Again...But You Can't Always Stay There

Everything happens for a reason. There are no coincidences.

When I look back, I see that's true. When I was ten years old, my parents decided to sell the farm and move. I didn't want to leave. I was sure it would mean giving up the horses, and it did--for a while, anyway. My dad had designed and built my mom's dream house--right down to the chandelier in the dining room and the terrazzo floors. It was 1963--the date is still inscribed in the sidewalk leading from the driveway to the front door.

We lived there six years. In that time, Dad built a barn for the horses and he and Mom took in twins, a boy and a girl, nine months old. I was twelve when they came along and quite happy as an only child. Mom did all the baby stuff like diapers and bathing--so the problems didn't start until she and Dad decided to buy a small neighborhood grocery store in south St. Louis. That was in 1969. The twins were four years old. Dad thought the house, the kids and the store would be too much for Mom. He was working full-time, so a Mr. Mom scenario wasn't an option. Their solution? Sell the house, move into something smaller. I protested. I didn't want to move again. I was out of school by that time, and I could do the housework. Surely they could afford a babysitter.

Nope. The house was sold, we moved, and I lost my horse again. To make matters worse, guess who got stuck with the twins? I'd rather have the horse.

I know that sounds harsh, but I was just fifteen and didn't really like kids. I still don't, to be perfectly honest. I love Collin, but he's mine. I've loved him from the minute I realized I was pregnant. I just don't enjoy children who aren't mine. I doubt I'm the only woman who feels that way...though I might be part of a minority who will admit it.

About twenty years ago, Mom and I got to revisit the house. Collin got to see it for the first time.What a shock! Structurally, it was still the same, but there was now a wood-burning stove in the family room and shelves full of canned goods--in the dining room. The couple who owned it had let their daughter paint her bedroom--it was awful. But when I walked into my old bedroom, I only saw how it looked when it was mine--all white furniture, twin beds, bookcase, dresser, and a big armchair in the corner. It brought back memories....

But much as I wanted to, I couldn't get it back. I couldn't go back. 

When I thought about it, I realized that the best thing in my life might not have happened, had we not moved all those years ago. In less than three years, we'd be moving again. Kids throwing rocks in the street outside our place got out of hand, and I was hit. I got, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a bruised brain and seizures. For a while, I lost the use of my left arm and leg.

Anybody still wondering why I don't like kids?

Then my dog was shot. We didn't know it at first. I let her out to do her business, never had to keep her on a chain or in a fenced area. She could find her way home no matter how far she might roam. There was never any sign of a wound--no blood, nothing, until months later, when she began to limp. At first, it didn't seem a big deal. Then she started having trouble getting around at all. We took her to the vet. He did some x-rays, and we were all surprised to find a bullet in her leg. It was a freak thing--her bone had started to grow abnormally, pressing on her lungs, making it more and more difficult to breathe. She had to be put to sleep.

With everything else I'd been through, this was the final blow. I sunk into a deep depression and was hospitalized for three months. Mom and Dad, thinking I needed a major change, moved while I was in the hospital. When I was released, I came home to a whole new home.

There is a point to this. I'm getting there, I promise.

Had that move not happened, I might not have met some of the people who are still my friends, after all these years. I would not have been in the right place at the right time.

Collin might not have been born.

Chance? I don't think so.

Monday, April 16, 2018

If You Want to Make God Laugh...You Know the Rest


As you know if you read my last post, I planned to have the new blogs launched within a few weeks. That was in mid-March. I still plan to have them up and running by the end of April--a couple of them, anyway. But plans change. Life happens. S*** happens. There's been a lot of the latter happening lately. I haven't pulled my hair out yet, but there have been a few close calls.

There was the trip to my neurologist's office. It rained that day. All day. All freaking day. A cold, miserable rain. My coat was still wet, two days later! I would have rescheduled the appointment, but Collin had his heart set on going--not to see the doctor, but because there's a Captain D's near her office. Our friend C.C. was going to meet us there--not at Captain D's, at the doctor's office. She often accompanies me into the exam room to remember the things I forget or to ask intelligent questions (she's a nurse as well as a good friend).

This time, Collin decided he wanted to sit in on the exam, too. My son, my only child, the light of my life...the rat fink threw me under the bus! He told Dr. P. everything I tend to downplay, and now I have to have an EEG in two weeks! Thanks, honey. What's next? Dropping me off on the curb at the nursing home? 

We did get Captain D's for dinner, but the shake maker (or whatever it's called) at the Rally's next door was broken, so no banana split milkshakes for us. Color me unhappy.

Across the street, two birds were doing a cute little mating dance in the rain, flying up and down, circling each other, was so sweet...oh, my God! They were getting it on! And why was that other bird watching them? Shame on you, you little feathered pervert! 

Okay, I confess. Had it not been raining, I would have made a video on my phone. Birdy porn. Gee, that sounds sick!

And then there was the incident at the mall. I'm convinced the world has gone Looney Tunes--and not just because we ended up with an idiot in the White House. 

You've probably encountered people on parking lots, clipboards in hand, asking for signatures on petitions. We have, many times in the past. But recently, a TV news story focused on people doing this to just get personal information. There were warnings to be careful what we sign. Read the fine print and all that. Not long after that warning aired, Collin and I were at the mall. As we crossed the parking lot, a young woman approached. Normally, the petition people can take a hint. If you step up your pace, they see you're not interested and back off. Not this girl. She refused to take no for an answer. The faster we walked, the faster she moved to keep up, until we were almost running. I reached into my pocket for my stun gun. Had Collin not stepped between us at that moment, Miss Pushy would have ended up with a big shock. Literally.

She made me think of a joke I heard on the Tonight Show years ago. I can't remember who told it, but the comedian was extolling the virtues of living in an RV. He said the biggest advantage was that the average Jehovah's Witness could only run forty miles per hour max.

Which brings me to this week. Oh, this week has been really special. First, there was food poisoning. Both Collin and I were down--but he recovered in less than twenty-four hours. I'm still not 100%, but I'm getting there. Then, last night, Collin had a headache--Collin, who's always been freakishly healthy. I got out the cuff and took his blood pressure. It was 167/101. I panicked. He had to go to the ER immediately, in spite of his protests. (Yeah. I was getting even with him for ratting me out at the doctor's office. Maybe.) I texted our friend C.S., who was en route to take us to the hospital...when I discovered Collin's blood pressure had returned to normal. False alarm.

Okay, time to get back to work.... 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Coming Attractions--and They Won't Cost You a Dime!

I'm baaaaack!

How long has it been now, a little over a month since my last post? If nobody realized I was MIA, I'm going to be really disappointed. There's been a lot going on, most of it really, really boring--but I do have some new projects making their debut in the next few weeks. It's just a matter of setup now.

As those of you who've been regulars here (thank you, by the way!) know, I've been struggling creatively. Haven't finished a new book since 2009--in writer years, that's a long time. There have been times I haven't even wanted to write. I've been down all the roads already. First, there was traditional publishing--fourteen books, two major publishers. There were definite advantages, like large advances, skilled editors, major promotions. They did all the grunt work: editing, copyediting, proofreading, formatting, advertising, marketing. I didn't pay them. They paid me. That was a good thing. What wasn't a good thing was not getting to do the books I really wanted to write. When my agent told me she wouldn't even send out one of my proposals because it "wasn't glamorous," I knew my goose was cooked. 

Then I tried self-publishing. It was great, for a while. I wrote what I wanted to write. No deadlines, no compromises. And my writer life was good--for a while. I hated the grunt work. I hated self-promotion. I know authors who have been so aggressive in their marketing they've been blocked from some Facebook groups. I hated having to ask friends to write reviews--something, I confess, I rarely do myself. I can review a movie, probably because I remember more of what I see and hear up on the screen than I remember of a printed page (wow--that's not going to be a popular confession, coming from an author). Collin handled the formatting and all for a while, but with a full time job and trying to complete his degree, time was an issue--and converting my old (backlist) books to the necessary format for ebooks was a b****. 

Did I mention that I now have a virtual cuss jar?

Anyway, Collin and I talked it over and decided that we should find an indie publisher who could handle all that stuff. We went with Creativia because they came highly recommended by a fellow author. They reissued six of my sixteen books. I didn't expect to get rich, or even to make the Amazon bestseller list. I achieved bestseller status years ago, so been there, done that. I just wanted to make the books available to anyone who might not have already read them. And I wanted them on my own Kindles.

After six, I even had second thoughts about reissuing the rest. Why? Long story.

Four of the six reissues have been around since the late '80s-early '90s, and Chasing the Wind and Final Hours were first published in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Again, a long time in book years. So...what could I do? I wasn't sure. I knew I could no longer work on a deadline. Epilepsy has been an issue. There are good days and bad days. On the bad days, I can't even write a grocery list without forgetting something. Last summer, I discovered I'd had a stroke--a pinpoint stroke, but it seems even those can cause permanent problems in the right (wrong?) place.

So...where to go from there? When I first sent Chasing the Wind out to literary agents, one of them, someone I'd known from her days as a publishing executive and trusted, told me, "This is a movie, not a book."  I gave some thought to that in the past year. I considered trying my hand at screenwriting--but that's a crapshoot. And again, it involves deadlines. Deadlines I might not be able to keep.

But I still want to write. What options are left?

I decided to blog the as yet unfinished projects. Blogging a book is nothing new. Bestselling author Andy Weir first blogged The Martian before it was a novel and a movie. It's actually a recommended game plan for some nonfiction authors. This, I decided, would be a way I could tell the stories I want to tell in my own time, in my own way, with none of the grunt work. No marketing, no begging for reviews, nothing but writing. I had attempted to do this once before, but I hadn't really thought it through and it didn't work. This time, there's been a lot of advance planning. Collin created the above headers for three of the projects. I'm still trying to decide if they'll be here on Blogger or on Wordpress--Blogger's easier to use, but Wordpress looks more professional and has actual techies as their support team, rather than expecting bloggers to rely on the "community" for answers. Maybe both! I have posts ready to go--not just one or two, but enough to keep the posts consistent throughout my bad days. An Army of Angels will include text from Chasing the Wind and bring back characters from four of my backlist books.

I'll post the links here when they're up and running. I hope you all will check them out! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

On Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One

Last night, NBC aired a special episode of This Is Us after the Super Bowl. (If any fans of the show reading this have not yet viewed that episode, stop now. This post has spoilers.) It was a real tear-jerker, finally revealing how Jack Pearson died and how his widow and each of his three children are still dealing with their loss twenty years later. It resonated for me because Collin and I are also dealing with loss. Twenty-seven years ago last Monday, my dad died. In October, it will be twenty years since my mom passed away.
 Mom in happier days.

Twenty years after his death, Jack Pearson's family is still grieving, each in their own way. Rebecca, now married to Jack's best friend, has an annual ritual on Super Bowl Sunday. Her new husband respects it and, as he puts it, gives her space. She makes Jack's favorite lasagna and eats it while watching the Super Bowl alone. Kevin goes off alone to a special place and talks to his dad, pouring his heart out, vowing to do better in his own messed-up life, to beat the demons he shares with his late father. Kate watches a video Jack made for her while trying to help her gain the confidence she needed to pursue a future as a singer. In the video, she sees the reflection of her dad peeking through her bedroom door with his videorecorder, and it brings tears to her eyes. She blames herself for his death, because he went back to save her dog--which probably explains why it was so difficult for her to accept another dog in her life. Randall tries hard not to grieve. He celebrates his father's love of the Super Bowl, insisting upon watching the game with his kids  every year--even though the kids really don't care about the Super Bowl. This year, a seemingly unrelated incident--the escape and accidental death of the kids' lizard--has an unexpected effect on him.

I don't have many photos of Dad. 
He didn't like having his picture taken for some reason.

I can relate. When my dad passed away after what should have been a routine surgery--really, no surgery is "routine," but Dad had surgery two months earlier and this was supposed to be a sort of follow-up operation--it affected Mom, Collin and me in very different ways. For one thing, we were all blindsided by it--he'd come through the surgery with no complications, or so we thought. Even after the heart attack, when he was moved from his room to the cardiac intensive care unit, he seemed fine. He was laughing, talking with us, eating. That was Saturday. By Sunday night, he was on a respirator. By Tuesday night, he was gone.

Mom was depressed. She never really got through that. She seemed to have just given up. She went through the motions of living but was never quite there. Collin seemed okay on the surface, but his manner of dealing with things was to not deal with them. I was consumed by guilt. I wasn't sure I even had a right to grieve.

Dad and I had a complicated relationship. As a child, I was definitely Daddy's Girl. We were close. But as I got older and started to think for myself and not always agree with him, he didn't know how to deal with me. He'd come from a less than idyllic childhood that left him with control issues, a demon I inherited. Mom used to say we were always butting heads because we were so much alike--and she was the referee. Dad and I had unfinished business. And I believed that my success as a novelist made him feel unneeded. Before that, we were all dependent upon him for just about everything. 

That was the beginning of a very long, very painful writer's block. It would be another seventeen years before I would finish and publish another novel.

When Mom passed seven years later, Collin and I knew it was coming but it still hit us both hard. The first stroke came in February 1996. I knew the warning signs of stroke, but even when I saw them, I convinced myself that it wasn't any big deal. She'd slept on her arm. That's why it was numb. If I hadn't been in denial, Mom could have had a very different outcome. If she'd listened to our family doctor, she could have had a different outcome. If the two sisters she adored had been there for her when I couldn't be there, she could have had a different outcome. If, if, if...she was gone, and there wouldn't be a do-over. I didn't want to believe I could lose my remaining parent. But I did. I carried on, because I had Collin to think of--though sometimes I think I needed him more than he needed me.

We still miss both of them. We talk about how much they would have loved big-screen TVs, cell phones (maybe), streaming channels, delivery services for just about everything, and we wonder what life will be like on earth after we're gone.

How do you deal with the loss of a loved one?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Memo to the Guy in Charge of the Muses

To Whom it May Concern:

If you're in charge of the Muses, I wish to make a complaint. The one you sent me is a pain in the A. For the past twenty years now, I've been trying to develop Chasing the Wind as a series--books, TV, whatever sells first (assuming either one succeeds--these days, you couldn't get odds in Vegas). From the time the idea was conceived, back in April 1998, I knew it was not going to be a single title. Okay, maybe not from the beginning, but close to it. I went through rewrites, revisions, changing plotlines, characters, relationships. I added material, subtracted material. I came up with sequels. I considered dropping it entirely. I switched from third person point of view to multiple first person POV.

When Collin and I finally published the first version in 2008, I had removed a lot of material that was supposed to be the sequel. Still trying to finish that. Or maybe not. At any rate, my muse has been of no help whatsoever. In fact, she's almost never around, let alone doing her job. Whatever she's being paid, it's too much. Muses are not paid to watch soap operas all day. Or are they?

New Year's Eve--or maybe I should say New Year's morning--was the last straw. I missed the ball drop, having fallen asleep--upright, I was so exhausted--so I went to bed. Shortly after one a.m., my muse finally arrived, and in a talkative mood. She kept pestering me until I got out my phone and started making notes--for a twenty-five part series incorporating (but not starting with) Chasing the Wind. I was not amused. What time zone does she think this is, anyway?

Oh, sure, I'm happy to have the thing finally plotted, and in such detail, but do you have any idea what this means? Does she? I can't just unpublish the original novel to restructure the whole thing. Or maybe I can, but I don't want to. I got some pretty darn good reviews on that one. Do you know how difficult it is to get people to write reviews, even short ones, even when they love the book? I think I could hold them at gunpoint and still get nothing. Anyway, I'm no spring chicken. I might not even live long enough to write all of those books. Couldn't Ms. Muse have given me all of this twenty years ago, before my brain decided to retire? It would have been helpful.

All of this inspiration, and nowhere to go. By the way, I'm still trying to catch up on that lost sleep.

Sincerely yours, 
Disgruntled Author



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year's Resolutions: Keeping It Simple

Before I start, I want to dedicate today's post to my blogger friend Ivy. She's been an inspiration, even if this project has taken way too long. Ivy, I bought these at Dollar Tree last week and immediately thought of you....

Ivy's a big Wonder Woman fan!

I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions. I used to give it a shot, but since I never stuck to them, it seemed a big waste of time. But now, I think I just might  manage to finish what I've started. Some months ago, inspired by Ivy, I decided to declutter. I long for the simple life, and decluttering seems the best way to start. I went through my clothes and donated a lot of stuff. Every year, except for 2016, our church has had a yard sale, and I've given them stuff for those sales. Collin has scanned all of our paper documents into the computer so there was no need for paper files. Anything I didn't use was given away or thrown away. Our movies, music and books are almost all digitized now.

And still, things started piling up again.

In the past year, we've spent more time than either of us would have liked in doctors' offices and hospitals. I had a couple of CT scans, x-rays, a brain MRI, a Doppler carotid ultrasound and a trip to the emergency room for an infected finger. I discovered I had a very minor stroke--"pinpoint" was the word my doctor used. Still, it's had an impact.

Collin, on the other hand, has a problem that has yet to be identified. A few months ago, he started having trouble walking. He lost feeling from the waist down. At one point, I had to hold him up. He's fine now, but still needs to be evaluated for a potential neuromuscular disorder. That's scheduled for a couple of weeks ago.

So as I said, things were piling up. I had boxes of stuff I'd planned to donate to the church sale that didn't happen, bags of recycling I couldn't get to the recycling facility. We could barely get into our storeroom. And there was stuff that really needed to go to the dumpsters. We had boxes in the dining room, and things got worse when the time came to set up our Christmas tree. (Yes, we have an artificial tree--we've had the same one for twenty-three years now.) We bought a new plastic container for the tree because the box it came in was falling apart. Problem: the new container is much bigger than the old box, so it won't fit on the shelf where we've kept it as long as we've lived here. We need a new storage spot--but where? The storeroom looks like an episode of Hoarders.

Our storeroom. It was worse.
 A LOT worse.

The wake-up call, for me, came when we were out with a friend just before Christmas. I was telling her my Odd Couple story about issues I'd had with a former roommate--and she was genuinely surprised to hear that I was the Felix in that story! When we got home, I took a look around and decided things had to change. 

It couldn't happen overnight. It was going to require some reorganizing. So Collin and I spent New Year's Eve sorting, bagging, boxing and reorganizing. I estimate another week's work to get everything done, but we're getting there.

Anybody else make any resolutions for 2018 beyond just getting through it?