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?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Murphy's Law, Christmas Edition

I'm back, just in case anyone noticed I was gone.

I haven't been around much lately, and discovered I was about two weeks behind on blog comments--so if I haven't left a comment on anyone's post, I apologize. I'm still playing catch-up.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment with my primary care doctor--just a routine check-up. I had an ingrown fingernail that was bugging me, but I didn't think it was any big deal, so I didn't mention it to Dr. B.  Big mistake. That was on a Friday. By Sunday, there was swelling and a pocket of pus on the side of my fingertip. It wasn't painful and I had no fever, so on Monday morning, I emailed Dr. B. a photo of it and asked if I could just poke it with a sterilized needle and drain it. Her response: absolutely not! She wanted to see me that afternoon. I persuaded her to wait until Tuesday so Collin could go with me.

Gross, isn't it? And I wanted Collin to
do a video of the....uh, cutting....

When I saw her on Tuesday, she read me the riot act. She told me she couldn't treat it herself, that it would require a hand surgeon. Surgeon? Just what was she thinking? She said there was an infection, that it would require an incision to drain the pus and could cost me the fingertip or the whole finger. Maybe even the whole hand. Whoa! I'm right-handed and my left hand is rarely very cooperative. Nobody was cutting my hand off!

The hand surgeon, as it turned out, was triple-booked and couldn't see me that day, so Dr. B. insisted I go to the emergency room at St. Mary's across the street. Oh, great, I thought. An entire afternoon and maybe the evening as well, stuck in the ER waiting room? I almost didn't go.

As it turned out, the waiting room in the ER was nearly deserted. I was taken in immediately and seen by a doctor who, as it happened, had considerable experience in this sort of thing. He patiently explained the problem to me in medical jargon, describing what was building up in my finger.

"Pus," I concluded.

He nodded. "Pus."

He said he would anesthetize my finger, which would take about fifteen minutes. It would take two minutes max to drain it, then it would be bandaged. I asked if it would need stitches. He assured me it would not. It had to drain, after all. I felt a slight sting when he administered the anesthetic, but nothing after that, not even when he made the incision. He had me rest my arm on the arm of the chair, then covered it with a small cloth with a hole in it for my finger, similar to those used in operating rooms.

"Raise your finger," he told me, "like you're flipping me off."

I grimaced. "I think that's what got me into this mess." Is it possible to have an overworked flipping finger?

It was over in no time. The bandage made it look worse than it really was--like a mummy finger puppet. Collin and I left the ER in time to go to lunch, puck up some groceries and still get home by three that afternoon.

Now, it's healed and looks as if nothing ever happened. I think the most painful part was that $150 copay. Even with insurance, with my deductibles and out-of-pocket minimums met, it was still $150? Boy, am I glad we had insurance....

Monday, November 20, 2017

How They Have Changed in Thirty-Plus Years!

Having been housebound for the past ten days with a weird allergic reaction to something that has yet to be identified, I wasn't up for much of anything except lying on the couch watching TV. I decided to check out the Dynasty reboot. I hadn't planned to watch it at all, but I was sleeping a lot and figured if I fell asleep during an episode, I wouldn't mind so much. I had watched the original series back in the '80s and found it fell short (in my opinion) to Dallas. The original Dynasty was more of a fashion show than anything else, with less emphasis on character and story than on what the women were wearing.

Blake Carrington was the head of Denver-Carrington, a major oil company. At the start of the series, he had two children, daughter Fallon, who was headstrong and a bit of a tramp. Son Steven was quieter, more thoughtful--and gay, to his father's shame (a TV father was allowed to be ashamed of a gay child in the '80s). Fallon ended up married to Jeff Colby, nephew of Denver Carrington's chief rival, Cecil Colby of Colbyco. Blake married his secretary, the mostly spineless Crystal, who had previously been involved with a fellow employee, the mostly married Matthew Blaisdel. Then there was Crystal's niece, Sammy Jo, who managed to marry Steven--though of course it didn't last.

In 2017, Denver Carrington has been relocated to Atlanta, is no longer all about the oil, and is rechristened Carrington Atlantic. Crystal is now Cristal, the Hispanic COO of Carrington Atlantic, and Sammy Jo is now a guy. I guess that works better as far as his relationship with Steven is concerned. Time will tell. Fallon is furious that her father has promoted his new wife over her and becomes his competition in the business world. Her partner, Jeff Colby, is now an African-American tech whiz.

Oh, how times have changed!

It made me think. Years ago, when I decided to reissue my backlist books as ebooks, I considered updating them much in the way Dynasty has been updated. Mainly, I wanted to drop the glitz and glamour (even I used to refer to four of the five books I did during my time at Berkley as Lifestyles of the Shallow and Superficial). I saw Alexander's Empire (Dance of the Gods) as story more focused on his flashes of memory and his ties to a woman in a mental hospital. I considered making him an equestrian champion who bought a farm in the Midwest with a tragic history, only to find living there was triggering memories he didn't understand.The title, of course, would have to be changed.

Angels at Midnight would be about a young up and coming artist who married an idealistic lawyer with a dark family secret; a tech whiz who worked for a conglomerate taken over by a criminal element; and a custody fight that led to some creative forms of revenge.

Yeah, I guess I could have rebooted the four books. I was just never sure if it would be worth the effort....

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's Finally Here! I Was Startiing to Think it Might Not Come This Year!

I'm talking, of course, about the autumn colors. They were expected to show in mid-October, but only arrived in full this past week. I had Collin do the photo honors. And after he was finished, he explained to me that the Samsung Galaxy has a special feature that compensates for shaky hands like mine....


Monday, November 6, 2017

When You Just Have to Take a Break from the Real World....

It's been that kind of a week. It's been that kind of a month.

After Collin's health scare--he still has to have a neuromuscular consultation at St. Louis University on January 16th to verify that whatever happened to him isn't coming back--he's doing well and going back to work tomorrow. A lot of prayer got us through that one and apparently, God is still looking after us (we do need to be looked after). I still have some intermittent speech problems, but have reassurances from my doctors that I don't need to go to the ER every time I trip over my tongue. The rough patch was followed by an unexpected miracle. (Yes, they do happen. You just have to be watching for them.)

Having been through so much, we both needed a  break--from reality. Reality these days is not so great, between our Idiot-in-Chief still being in the White House, shootings at concerts and church services and a terrorist attacking people on a bike path in New York City. I grew up in a world that was a pretty great place. I had hoped it would be the same great place for Collin and any grandchildren I might have in the years to come. Sadly, it isn't.

But that's for another post. Last Friday, we got that desperately-needed break. We went to the movies--to see Thor: Ragnarok. We'd both been anxiously awaiting its release, and it did not disappoint--in fact, it was better than my expectations. The title might suggest a grimmer story than it is. It's got a lot of laughs. It's in some ways a buddy movie focused on Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), once they get that initial beatdown out of the way.  This movie explains a lot of what took place in the two previous Thor movies (I always wondered why Odin (Anthony Hopkins), particularly why Odin was so tough on Thor and his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). By the way, Loki is no longer the black sheep of Odin's family. Loki's actions were nothing compared to those of their long-lost sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett). 

I've known a lot of dysfunctional families, but Odin's family is far and away the most dysfunctional--but then, they've had thousands of years to build up all that nastiness.

I'll be posting my full review at Rotten Tomatoes later this week.

After the movie, we headed over to TGI Fridays for lunch. And since that day was World Sandwich Day and Subway was offering not only a buy-one-get-one-free deal. they were also making a contribution to Feeding America, we picked up subs for dinner. Any day I don't have to cook is a good day for me!

Oh, and one more thing: for months now, I've been entertaining the idea of getting a buzz cut. I was on the fence at first for a number of reasons. I didn't want to look butch. I didn't want anyone to think I was trying to turn into a guy or something. And I always thought that while it's a look that works great for some women, I don't have the face or bone structure for an almost-hairless look. I didn't want anyone to think I'm sick, either. On the other hand, my hair is baby-fine and has always been a pain in the backside, no matter how I wore it. I always wear a hat or a cap when I go out. In winter, I couldn't wear a knit cap because it did bizarre things to my baby-fine fluff. When we went to get our haircuts last week, I decided to take the plunge. Even so, the stylist was hesitant. She stood behind me, razor in hand.

"Are you sure about this?" she asked.

I was. And I am. I love it. It's so easy to care for. I'm planning to keep it this way for the foreseeable future. I don't have any photos yet, but it looks very much like this character from Marvel's Inhumans....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Next Time You Want to See a Movie, It Had Better be a Disney Movie!"

Happy Halloween, everyone! Today's post is one I've thought about doing for a long time now. It just fits the occasion. Back in 1973, I talked two friends, Shirley and Yvonne, into going to see The Exorcist. They were reluctant at first, but allowed themselves to be persuaded. If you've seen the movie, you know there are a couple of real appetite-killing onscreen moments. During one of those moments, both of my friends abruptly shoved their bags of chips at me. Being stuck in the middle between two unhappy moviegoers can be an awkward thing.

As we were leaving the theater, they issued a warning: "Next time you want to see a movie, it had better be a Disney movie!"

The following year, I transferred from Jefferson College to Saint Louis University. That was where I learned the true story behind The Exorcist. It was legend around the campus. The exorcism on which the movie and William Peter Blatty's novel were based took place at SLU. The details can be found on the University's website, but the child who was believed to be possessed was a boy, not a girl as was the case in the movie. The child, known only under an alias, was from the Washington DC area, but was brought here to a relative's home. The Jesuits performed the rituals at three locations--the relatives' home in Bel-Nor, the Jesuit rectory at St. Francis Xavier College Church on the SLU campus, and at the Alexian Brothers Hospital in south St. Louis. The old rectory was torn down and replaced in 1966; the hospital building where the final days of the exorcism took place was leveled and rebuilt in 1978. 

Yes, I've wondered if the destruction of those two buildings had anything to do with the exorcism....