Goodies, Captured Critters & Politics

Sort of a quick diary entry of our day, with our usual adventures with photography.

Allergy shot today (only 28 more to go. LOL)

Afterward, we had a joyful visit to Barnes & Noble (a rare treat these days) and got some goodies.

Melissa bought me a pen-cup I loved, and we of course bought some books too. Tesla: The Life & Times of an Electric Messiah, Pocket Birds of North America, Speeches That Changed the World, The Total Outdoorsman (read: outdoorswoman–sexist bastards.) and a fabulous journal.

On the way home, we saw a fox with an injured paw. Followed it, got some video and some stills.

Melissa called Game and Fish to see if someone could come capture the poor thing and maybe nurse him or her back to health.

Just before we turned into the driveway, we saw a turkey vulture feeding on an armadillo carcass. eek. I’ll spare you the picture of that one.

We had dinner and started watching a video (Senate committee “question and hear testimony from the Honorable Sally Yates, Former Acting Attorney General and the Honorable James Clapper, Former Director of National Intelligence on Russian Interference in our elections”–which I strongly advise any concerned American to watch! It’s at the end of this post).

We paused.

Rustling noises in the wooded lot next door. Hackles up on Poppet at the window, and Noodle growling. We go outside with our headlamps and cameras to see what little critter is in the woods. At first i thought it was a possum, but it was an armadillo.

Night photography without that set up is challenging, but i managed to photoshop enough to see some of the shots.

Just thought it was cool. Enjoy.

Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election

Watch LIVE as Senate Dems question and hear testimony from the Honorable Sally Yates, Former Acting Attorney General and the Honorable James Clapper, Former Director of National Intelligence on Russian Interference in our elections:

Posted by U.S. Senate Democrats on Monday, May 8, 2017

Why I changed my Pinterest boards to SECRET

Today I had a revelation. I had forgotten to address a very big problem that had recently applied elsewhere. One I had addressed already in the obvious places, but overlooked for a while.

I switched almost all of my Pinterest boards to secret.

At first, I was horrified to think I was going to have to delete them all and start over, or cancel my account to prevent a looming disaster. Only recently did Pinterest offer a solution to the legal quagmire they so blithely pied-piper’d us into.

By now, you’ve probably guessed I’m referring to copyright infringement. Thankfully, Pinterest had the good sense, recently, to offer the option of making a currently public board secret, and put no limit on it. (Just hover over the board, select EDIT, and then switch the toggle to SECRET, and then SAVE).

This is possibly one of the few things Pinterest did right (along with having a great idea at the start).

As an Indie Author and rather prolific creative person, I found Pinterest to be a fantastic outlet for all my endeavors. That it was all meant to be shared with everyone else, was secondary to my initial interest, which was to have a sort of online scrapbook of things and ideas. So making the grand majority of my boards secret has allowed me to avoid what is a very real and possibly devastating event: being accused of that aforementioned copyright infringement.

Copyright law is perhaps the most vague of topics in the legal world. No one seems to agree on anything except that it could go either way, in regard to whether or not an infringement has taken place. And no matter what you have heard about how unlikely it is that you will ever be accused of this infraction, I’m here to tell you, from personal experience, that it can happen.

It all started with an image I used on my blog. A typewriter. I had found the photo and it had no copyright

This is how I imagine the shark-attorney looks

attached to it. I felt certain it was just one of those free images floating around. Several years after the fact, I received a letter from an attorney representing a photographer who said I had used her image without permission. There was no “please take it down” request, as is the common practice. If there had been, I would have gladly removed it (And i did, immediately, and said so in my first correspondence back to him). No, this shark attorney, probably made his living off of scouring the Internet for images owned by his client, and then taking legal action against the unfortunate souls who had used them without paying.

Friends, that oversight cost me several thousand dollars. It would have cost me more in legal fees–many thousands of dollars–but I agreed to a payment arrangement. That barrister had me by the short hairs, because of the ambiguity of copyright law, and he knew it.

SIDEBAR: After i paid it off, he had the stones to offer his services to me in the future, should i require his help. Unbelievable. 

Don’t get me wrong…Copyright is important. Not only am I an Indie author and publisher, I’m also a songwriter and artist, so I get the concept that intellectual and creative property ought to be protected and we ought to be compensated for our work. But there are dishonest people out there, and some of them will do anything to make a buck.

Thus, sufficiently paranoid and terrified, this experience led to a complete overhaul of how I did things. I deleted every picture in my media folder on WordPress (which of course, meant they all disappeared from my posts, but there was little I could do about that). Then, I made the obvious decision to change every book cover and every promo sign for them in my catalog (and I have 51 books!) This meant updating all of them by reuploading the new covers to KDP and Createspace (where i publish the print versions), and tracking down the old covers here and there and deleting them. It took a long time and it was time-consuming, meticulous work. I also removed the images on my website where they appear on the books’ pages; and also removed them from social media accounts.  I can now say that everything is updated, and all possibilities of infringement avoided. It was a tough mountain to climb, but i got it done.

I now pay a monthly subscription for Adobe Stock, and indeed for the entire Adobe suite of programs so I can do everything properly. Aside from Adobe, I use only Pexels and Pixabay for free use stock images; they have the terms right there on each picture, just to be clear. Still, when I use one of those, I take a screenshot of the page I got it from so I can prove, if necessary, I acted on the clear legal statements found on those sites.

Additionally, I decided I would also be taking many of my own pictures from then on, to help alleviate the dearth of an image-pool I now had. I bought two Canon cameras for myself and my wife, and we began what has been a delightful new hobby, that is integral to my business.

1 in a cast of thousands c)KJB

After a few months, I realized I had thousands of photos just gathering digital dust on my hard drive and thought how wasteful that was. I do believe that creative endeavors should be shared. That’s perhaps the most compelling reason I became an Indie Author, rather than let my work languish in a dark desk drawer, gathering REAL dust, waiting for that one in a million chance that a traditional publisher would choose my book to publish. (There are many, many other reasons, but this one pertains to the subject at hand). Also, since the majority of my writing is in the lesbian market, there was little chance of a lucrative contract anyway.  I write for niche markets, and traditional publishing houses rarely if ever publish lesbian fiction. (Don’t get me started on how pathetic a contract is with them, no matter what you write…why get 10-15% on your books, when you can get 70?) It’s a great big myth that when you decide to become a writer, you’ll simply get a publisher and an agent, and then a huge advance, and become rich. Pfffft. We only hear about the hugely successful authors, not the hundreds of thousands of ones who don’t “make it”).

Digression aside, I also thought of all the other Indie Authors out there who often have trouble finding images for their book covers and promotional materials, and I thought, why not offer my original photos for sale? And since I wasn’t a professional photographer, and since the cost of stock photography is notoriously and prohibitively expensive, I decided to offer them for one-time use, at only two bucks a pop. Thus, my new website, 2 Dollar Shots was born. I am still hard at work on it, and I hope to have it live within the next month or two. It will be constantly updated, as my wife and I embark upon our new lifestyle, touring around the country in a travel trailer before setting up our homestead. So our photos will get used and appreciated, and those who can’t afford the cost of high quality photos get their problem solved, and I make a new (if small) income stream. It’s a win-win.

Until Pinterest and the legal profession gets their act together on what is and isn’t okay about sharing and using photos, I believe the Powers That Be ought to at least make it a legal requirement for all artists/photographers/creators to place a watermark on their copyrighted images. And since often, other people will remove the part of the photo with that on it and spread the image around, the offending party who unknowingly used it ought to have a chance to take it down with no legal action, before unscrupulous lawyers are allowed to pursue it, only as a means to line their own pockets.

Bottom line, people, if you don’t want to run the risk of losing everything, you should make all your Pinterest boards secret too, unless you own the images you post.

And please share this post on Pinterest. 

Simple Procedures I Get to Sleep Through

Today, I had a dentist appointment, to get a tooth pulled and cavities filled. That’s what I get for avoiding dentists for–what? 15 years? I’ve been fortunate, since I have always enjoyed healthy teeth, but I should have gone to a few of those appointments along the way. I accept the mantel of shame in that regard.

We had to go to Springfield, so we didn’t get home until evening.

When I laid back in the awesome Chair-I-Wish-I-Had-at-Home, It soon became apparent that they were not sure why I was there. Seems the VA had not sent over the records of the checkup I had in Fayetteville that resulted in a referral out to another provider (them) who used nitrous oxide, rather than those barbaric needles. While the overhead sound system took me to Funky Town, I was informed that they would just do the whole exam over again. She asked what kind of work I did and I said I was a full-time author, but omitted the TMI of expounding that I haven’t actually worked on a single book for the last five month, since I was on a sabbatical. “Oh? What sort of things do you write?”

“Novels.”

“What kind?”

I left out the “Lesbian” and just gave my stock answer to non-gay people: “Oh, a little of everything. I write in about 16 genres.”

After the pleasantries, I prepared for those 18 photos with a small camera inside my mouth, which didn’t feel small at all. A camera I had to clamp down on, feeling the hard parts of it cutting into my tender mouthy parts, just like the last time, but perhaps not quite as bad as the first time, which made my mouth bloody and sore for two days. Unpleasant, but not insurmountable.

After the photo shoot, the hygienist came in with her mask over her mouth, but not her nose, and explained all she was going to do and how she’d be calling out numbers to the assistant who would record them as she checked everything. Numbers 1 through 3 were good or okay, and anything above that was not so good. While she pierced my gums on either side of each tooth, front and back and called out numbers, I heard something like, “Two, four, five, six, five, four, three, two, four, five, six…” Uh-oh. That does not bode well. But I couldn’t comment on it because she had her fingers and a sharp needle-instrument in my mouth. After all this, the dentist came in next, and he did his exam and then told me I had moved past gingivitis and into periodontal disease. Fantastic. Now I really felt terrible about letting my dental health go while I had been busy dealing with Adrenal Exhaustion, menopause, hormonal imbalances, a cold, tonsillitis, bronchitis, severe allergies and allergy shots, weight gain, blood pressure issues, nerve pains in my back, fibroids, biopsies, and the looming hysterectomy. Yes, it seems all my pressing and new health issues seem to be converging at once. I try to think of it as getting it all over with so I can begin my new lifestyle with my wife, footloose and fancy free.

I bought some of their prescription strength sensitivity toothpaste and will be returning to another appointment later to have two teeth pulled, heal from that and then on another few visits have the treatments/cleaning for the periodontal issues. As unpleasant as all that is, it still wasn’t near as bad as the other things I was dealing with, or will be dealing with soon.

Toward the end of March, I posted on Facebook,

It’s been a stressful week. I’ve been feeling bad for a while, now. On top of this bronchitis that has been hanging on for 3 months, and all the menopause stuff, a visit to the dentist and a scheduling of another dentist in Springfield (who uses gas, which is the only thing I’ve had a reasonably okay experience with) to have a tooth pulled and some cavities filled, and finally getting my allergy shots started, I’m NOW waiting on lab results for a uterine biopsy. Expect to know results of that and the ultrasounds on Wednesday. That part is huge and scary.

All indications after the exams are, however, that i have l fibroids causing me quite a lot of trouble, but of course it’s wise to be safe and have the recommended tests. Going to GYN for me is a lot like being violated/molested, especially when it has to be a male GYN. I tend to avoid it unless something serious seems to be going on. I felt it was more important to get the quickest appointment.

Gory details aside, one of my biggest fears has always been having surgery, and it appears as though that’s going to happen, regardless, and probably not the easy-peasy laparoscopic version, but the full-fledged abdominal hysterectomy. MAJOR SURGERY. I’m trying really hard not to “pre-feel” all the stages of stuff on the horizon, but just focus on right now. That’s hard enough all by itself. First, these test results, then the plan for what will be done, which i believe at my age, needs to be a full hysterectomy so i won’t have to worry about future issues. Then the waiting for the surgery. Then the surgery itself (I’ve never had surgery, never been under anesthetic. Never been in the hospital.) Then the worries about post-op–not the pain or the recovery time, but the complications. If something wasn’t done properly, an instrument was left in my guts, or i don’t wake up from the anesthesia, or something else unexpected happens. SCARY SCARY SCARY.

Knowledge is always power to me, so I spent about 4 hours at HysterSisters.com last night (didn’t get to sleep until 5am today). Good information there, with many others who have dealt with all this. It helped to have more information from sources who had real experience with it. Helps ease the panic a bit, but it wouldn’t take much through this whole thing for me to have a melt-down. I’m really not good with the unknown, or trust–putting my life in the hands of strangers, facing one of my top three fears, the inevitable delays in our plans, etc. I’m trying to be brave. Melissa is being wonderfully supportive.

The good news is that the biopsy came back clean, which was the scariest part to contemplate. Second, the OB/GYN told me it appears it can be handled via laparoscopic, rather than the dreaded abdominal method. Huge relief there, too. Overall, I feel very fortunate. Now, I only have to deal with removing the software that those fibroids are embedded in. Uterus. Ovaries. Farewell to those organs that never served any other damn purpose in my life. Seriously. None.

It does seem that a large portion of my health issues are caused by those little critters in my womb–those illegitimate, evil demon-babies made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue, that could have been used more effectively in other areas of my aging body, thank you very much.

My thoughts are now directed at the upcoming medical experience for which I have no affection–the process of ridding myself once and for all of the tumors and any of their cousins that might someday wish to attach even more dangerously to another pair of organs. As much as surgery is on my Top Five Biggest Fears, it should be done, and if I am to have the life and health I desire, it must be done. But that infamous Second-Biggest Fear is being dealt with by largely ignoring it entirely for as long as possible. No sense being stressed and panicked until I absolutely have to be. I’m sure there will be plenty of fear to go around the day of the…the…medical procedure. That’s the other thing I do. It freaks me out to call it SURGERY. So whenever I refer to it, verbally or in my mind, I say it’s the simple-procedure-which-i-get-to-sleep-through….

I won’t meet the surgeon until May 10. I’ve another lovely invasive GYN exam to dread, after the two other lovely invasive ones I already got. I usually steadfastly refuse to go to a male GYN. First, I’m very modest, and am quite ashamed of my corpulent body (at least partially caused by all this hormonal jazz, and second, I’m gay and it feels really wrong to have a man seeing my lady parts; and even worse, having his digits up in there) But the medical concern had to override my usual sensibilities.

Now that all labs have come back and there’s nothing ominous, other than the need for a total hysterectomy to solve the other issues,  and getting on HRT, I turn my attention toward meeting this physician I will be turning my life over to in the operating room. On the 10th of May, I assume there will be a thorough interview and quite a lot of questions from me to him.

I have no idea when Dr. H (H for hysterectomy?) will schedule the procedure after that. It could be quickly, could be months from then. Should the prolonged waiting scenario take place, I have thought about what to do in that case; how it will affect our intention to pack up and get on the road as soon as possible, to begin our Operation Homestead, precluded by Operation Segue, where we will travel all around America with our travel trailer. I think if the procedure is scheduled too far into the future, we should not hang around, twiddling thumbs and feeling trapped, but will instead stay on our original schedule, and leave anyway. Get the new trailer as planned, store what we want to keep here, and head north, make camp. Visit Melissa’s family, a few friends all along the way, enjoy a few photography excursions, then, when the procedure draws nigh, we can hook up and head back down to an RV park near Washington Regional in Fayetteville, have the procedure, go back to the camp site to recover for a few days, and then we can head back north, and decide what the next plan is.

On the way to the dentist today we discussed that, and I suggested that if we were going to make a round trip to the Oregon coast, we might as well plot a course to see all 48 states. At our leisure. We’ll be saving money toward buying our homesteading land anyway, and we’ll be able to travel, regardless, since our expenses will be so much less. So while we’re saving for our dream,we get to live another one, and see this beautiful country of ours, and record the adventure in memoir and on our Operation Homestead YouTube channel and on my under-construction photo stock page, 2 Dollar Shots…

I’ll be able to get back to writing in earnest. No schedules, no deadlines. Just going where we want, straying how we wish, resting when we need to, and enjoying the ride.

Before all that can happen, though, I have to get most of this other stuff taken care of. Hopefully I can have the procedure BEFORE we leave. If not, it’s plan B, because we won’t delay this dream any longer, unless it’s impossible to do otherwise.

I know that this type of surgery is frequent enough for it to be commonplace, and not as ominous as I might feel it is in my fragile moments. I have a chief of surgery doing it; a highly credentialed man with 25-some-odd years of experience, and a five-star rating for both his skills and his bedside manner. I take comfort in these facts, and spend a good deal of energy deflecting irrational responses that curl up into my brain and try to take root. It seems the scariest things in life are always mired in the unknown. What we don’t know or understand, we fear. It’s a primitive response; one which I wish I could conquer once and for all.

I hope that one day soon, I will look back on it all and wonder why it frightened me so much, and the trade-off will be well worth the temporary terror. I must have courage, because it’s happening and it’s the right decision. After I face this inevitable result of the aging process, I can get back to being my old self again (no pun intended); back to enjoying the things I used to, back to regular exercise that isn’t painful, back to a healthy weight, back to writing my novels, and embracing the delicious adventure on the horizon with my precious wife.

Day of the Turkeys (with one exceptional squirrel)

For our first wedding anniversary, Melissa and I went to Onyx cave in Eureka Springs. Heading out, we were, as usual, watching for good pictures, our cameras at the ready, as I steered the Avalanche (whom we lovingly call Ava Lanche, as in French style Launch-SHAY. She is like another one of our pets.)

IMG_1630Just down the road on Highway 23, we stopped to take photos of a tree full of turkey vultures. Creepy and wonderful. IMG_1617This was balanced by a precious little bluebird Melissa captured nearby. But not a turkey bluebird.

We were starving, but thought we’d just stop somewhere along the way to eat. Problem with that is, when you’re in some of the rural areas, there is no food for miles, unless you’re willing to kill it and skin it yourself. I was not. I can’t imagine a turkey vulture tasting like anything good. My miscalculation meant we would press on toward the cave, hoping they’d have a cafe.

Enjoying the scenic little road, we both noticed a really IMG_0743_turkey_enlarged_vibsatlarge bird along the woodline ahead. I slowed the truck to a crawl and finally stopped, as Melissa said there! I took a couple of blind shots, as the sun was in my eyes and on the viewing screen, and my glasses were in just the wrong position to see it. She informed me it crossed the road, even though i didn’t see it. Luckily, one of my quick shots actually caught it as it crossed the road. A very large turkey, ironically enough, since we’d already seen turkey vultures. I was tempted to make that our lunch, but again, not unless we were stranded in the wilderness and it was absolutely necessary. But apparently, just like chickens, turkeys also cross the road just to get to the other side.

Anyway, we found Onyx Cave, and realized they didn’t have a cafe or snacks, and we were both so hungry we were in pain, so we opted to drive back out and stop at the first place that was open.

Back along the winding bucolic road, Melissa suddenly whipped her head toward the window, and said, “What the hell was that?! Stop! Stop!”

I had this moment where I thought (nay, hoped) that she had spotted Bigfoot. Not that I believe in that sort of thing, but I’d be delighted to be the first one to get a really good picture, for once. (I had a really good time writing a Bigfoot sighting scene in Also Known as Sleepy Cat Peak.)

Anyway, no, regrettably, it wasn’t Bigfoot. She jumped out of Ava as I put her in park and followed. Flipping the cap off her camera lens, and hitting the power button as she hurried back the way we came on the road, she said whatever she saw was white. I countered in my head that maybe it was a Yeti, then. A Yeti who had wandered far away from its natural habitat. She added that it darted into the forest and up a tree. I was sure then it wasn’t a Yeti, either. I seriously doubt a Yeti could dart up a tree. And I suspect Yetis don’t dart.

IMG_0749Either way, white animals are just not commonly seen in the woods.  I started snapping pictures in that general direction, just like I always do, in case I miss the good shot, I’ll at least maybe capture something I can enlarge later. It happened with the turkey earlier, so, hey.

What I saw was just a slight puffy white color clinging to the side of a tree. My rational/skeptical mind told me it might just be a wayward plastic sack that some wretched litterbug had the audacity to sully the landscape with. But as we got closer, I heard her urgent whisper: “It’s a squirrel!” A white squirrel.

whitesquirrel30Mar2017_Melissapic

Melissa’s perfect shot of the white squirrel.

Well a two-toned squirrel. Hybrid, I guessed–part gray, part white. Sort of a calico version of squirrels. One that seemed incredibly cuddly.

I wondered if it was rare in general, or just rare for us. I had never seen one my whole life. Melissa got the best picture of it. Sort of perfect, really.

It finally scampered off and smiling, we got back in Ava feeling elated. This traveling-around-taking-pictures thing was really a whole lot of fun. We talked about how many other things we were gong to see and experience when we get on the road, soon.

The sudden pitstop was well-worth delaying our abject hunger.

IMG_0754Our stomachs gurgling amid our complaints, we continued out to Highway 23 toward Eureka-proper, and decided we’d stop at the first open restaurant. That happened to be the bright yellow building just inside the outskirts of town by the train station, called Ice Cream Delights. A charming, retro ice cream IMG_0771parlor. We had delicious barbecue sandwiches.

The nice gentleman who owned the shop dashed our dreams of zoological discovery, and informed us that white squirrels weren’t that uncommon here, which I didn’t know.

But there was a IMG_0756backstory.

He said the Crescent Hotel apparently brought a bunch of white squirrels in, maybe to bolster their image as a haunted hotel, and then the little critters bred with the local squirrels and that’s why there are some that are two colors. It was still a really exciting experience, notwithstanding their commonality.

At the parlour, we took a seat near another couple, and started chatting. He worked for National Geographic, (the logo was actually on the shirt he was wearing). We had a pleasant chat about this IMG_0770and that, and at one point he shared a story from one of his colleagues, a National Geographic Explorer named Andres Ruzo, who discovered a “boiling river” in the Amazon. Ruzo spoke of how he was told by an indigenous tribe member to walk barefoot in the area, and the explorer, in a very un-explorer type way, didn’t feel okay about that. He should have listened, because the ground melted his shoe to his foot. Seems if you go barefoot in that region, you know where to walk IMG_0801because your feet will sense the heat, and tell you where to go safely. But with shoes on, not so much. Sometimes the counter-intuitive is actually the right thing to do. Ruzo did a TED talk about it. Pretty amazing stuff.

We never did think to get the names of this nice couple. I made a mental note to start doing that, since we will be traveling all around soon. I did manage to get them to pose for a picture, though.

Jae&MElissa_OnyxCave30Mar2017

Here are two more turkeys

After lunch, we headed back to Onyx Cave and did the self-guided tour, and bought a few things from the gift shop. I picked out a carved crystal shaped like a white squirrel–for obvious reasons. Perfect.

Later, we drove over to Cafe Amore, where we ate at our 1 year (meeting) anniversary, which is the same day as our wedding anniversary.

We love chef/owner Katherine and her wife, realtor, Amy Jane. A sort of power-couple in Eureka Springs.

Everyone there is always so friendly and the food, as usualIMG_0877, was delicious. We had a meat-lover’s pizza, because that’s the traditional meal for a first wedding anniversary (right?).

While chatting with one of the waiters about our day, we mentioned we went to Onyx Cave. He asked how we liked it, with a bit of a frown. Seems he found the experience a bit anti-climactic.

Well, it wasn’t mind-boggling, no. It was a cave. But I IMG_0784imagine it was because the cave was dark. Imagine, a cave being dark. How inconvenient.hehehe

I wonder why they don’t light up the caves more. Would make more sense. But regardless, we did get some pretty pictures. And I think that sometimes maybe we are desensitized to the beauty and wonder of nature, because we’ve watched so many extreme things on television. It takes a lot, these days to surprise or delight us. But if you’re able to look closely and just pay attention, it’s often wondrous enough all on its own.

But again, the cave was dark. We would have taken advantage of that, but we understood there were cameras. Most of my life is on the Internet, but I don’t think I want one of these new experiences to be revenge-porn.

Inflatable Travel Companion

department-store-mannequinsMost of my adult life, I’ve wanted a full-sized female mannequin posted in my foyer. Not just for comedic value. For practicality. I’m very utilitarian. I figured I could use her to hold the stuff I need by the door. She could wear my hat, hold my keys, my bag, my jacket– either wearing it or draped over one stiff arm. Or I imagined I could just put her in the house somewhere and dress her up in different outfits.

Since my wife and I are always talking about our future life on the road in a travel trailer, throwing caution to the wind and being open to adventure and fun, I thought maybe it was time to actually get that mannequin.

With further consideration of the logistics–we’d be traipsing all around on foot some of the time, of course. So I realized a standard mannequin would be cumbersome to cart around on various excursions wherein we might find an opportune situation to pose her. So i thought an inflatable model (get it? an inflatable MODEL) would be easier. I began my online search.

That’s when I realized I was talking about a blow-up doll. Because what i found were dolls depicted in obscene and disturbing poses in, albeit, a very plasticy way.

Now, was I really serious? Was I really going to carry around a blow-up doll? Hell, yes, i was. How much fun would it be to unfurl her from our backpack and start inflating her? Now, if i didn’t want to pass out from all that huffing and puffing to get her up (I’ll forego the sexual joke here), I realized we could just use a bicycle pump. (or considering the topic–maybe a penis pump? No, wait, that would suck the air OUT of her. Sorry, i should have skipped that joke, too). Then I imagined how funny it would be if we videoed it while one of us was inflating her in public. The reaction of onlookers. Priceless. Excellent fodder for our Operation Homestead YouTube channel.

But we’d probably risk getting arrested, I thought.

For what? Indecent exposure? Of a DOLL? Okay, maybe lewd and lascivious behavior? Does anyone still enforce that?

Either which way, I began searching Amazon for blow up dolls, and for various reasons I eventually opted out of the “blow up dolls” terminology and tried Inflatable Mannequins instead. I found a candidate, pointed at it, and Melissa glanced at my screen.

“Seriously? You want the Vivid Raw Teen Queen Love Doll?”

“It doesn’t matter what it’s called, just what it looks like,” I defended.

Thoughtfully, she said, “Well what does the review say?”

sexdoll reviewI laughed. “Who cares?”

“I’m curious.”

So I read the review.

Afterward, I’m thinking, Seriously? Too stiff? You do know that it’s filled with AIR right? Maybe you could just drain some of it out?

I’m also thinking about how the Powers That Be are now spying on our search histories. Knock yourselves out, you Nazis. I have nothing to hide. Especially when it’s hysterically funny.

And as a fiction author, it’s not as if i don’t do plenty of other searches that might get me called in for questioning. like,

>How long does it take to suffocate someone?

>Do small caliber bullets do more damage than large ones?

>What’s the best way to get rid of a body?

Back to the doll.

Aside from the practicality of declawing the cats before our inflatable travel companion joins us in the trailer, it could be a load of fun. Imagine the possibilities. Photos of her lounging outside the camper by the fire holding a stick with a marshmallow or a weenie (again, i will forego the joke in that one, since we’re talking
about a phallic object and a sex doll)… I suppose we’d have to be mindful not to put her TOO close to the fire. We wouldn’t want her to melt.

We could give her a really elegant name. Like Penelope. mannequin-985555_640Melissa suggested Peaches CocoaPudding. But my considered opinion was that Melissa’s name suggestion would relegate her to Lady of the Evening status, and we want our blow up doll to have some class, goddammit.

Also, when we go out on one of our excursions, we could leave Penelope/Peaches sitting in the trailer at the table with a book and coffee. It might make the cats and maybe the dog feel less lonely. An added benefit is that any would-be burglers might be dissuaded, because they’d see someone through the curtains, inside the trailer. Using a doll-decoy to qualify you for the carpool lane has been done successfully; it should work for this, too. I’ve even heard of women using big male mannequins in the passenger seat of their cars so no one will think they’re driving alone. A safety precaution. Very wise indeed.

I guess there’s always a chance that we could come back and find all our stuff gone, and Penelope tied up and violated (perhaps appropriately, since she would be a sex doll, and they exist for the sole purpose of violation). Men can be sick bastards.

All that aside, we could also pose her all over the nation in photos, while we enjoy our travels. wouldn’t that be a laugh-riot?

Nom Nom Nom de Plume (with a side of science and metaphor)

How delicious. To be someone else. To reinvent oneself. I’m not talking about who you are at your core, but about characteristics that might not be serving you anymore.

IMG_2637I’ve done it several times over, and not only with names. As long ago as my early twenties, I began referring to myself and introducing myself to others by another name. Eventually, it led me to legally change it. Psychologically, that was one of the best decisions I ever made for my health. I maintain that the name-change wasn’t running AWAY from something, but running TO. Seeking identity. I wanted to feel like my name was an accurate representation of myself. Like those comfortable clothes or shoes you wear that bring a sense of well-being and satisfaction.

I think everyone should consider changing their birth name, if they don’t like it. When you think about it, we don’t get any say in the matter. Our parents name us when we’re born, and I don’t think any other person, not even one who brings us into this world, has the ultimate right to tell us who we are, to include what we are named. A name is too intensely personal for that.

This reinvention extends to the other areas of your life. If something isn’t serving you in a beneficial way, then why not change it? Nowhere is it written, in stone or otherwise, that your life is static and cannot be altered.

Thus, my wife and I are about to embark upon a journey. We know our destination, and while hoping boat-832801_640it will be a lovely adventure, we also know it will be full of change and challenge. We are still rather in the harbor, deciding what to put on the boat, and indeed, still finalizing the ownership of that boat– but this voyage is very much about identity. Who we are and what we want our lives to be.

In my estimation, an authentic life must reflect that core identity, and only when we ignore the true self-expression, do we overcomplicate matters and invite a sort of imbalance with the natural order of things. This leads to all manner of adjustments, for which there are myriad examples. A few might be:

bottle-2032980_640In general terms, water seeks its own level. Refer to Pascal’s Principle, for the scientific explanation, but basically, it means that when you pour a glass of water, it doesn’t just fill up on one side. It fills the whole glass uniformly.  Metaphorically, what we do in our immediate space affects everything around us, and also often has effects far beyond our awareness or comprehension. Personally, this level-seeking water has reached a saturation point, and my wife and I feel compelled and completely convinced that we are pointed in the right direction.nature-670025_640

Globally, we can also see the effects of this imbalance when Mother Earth strikes back with disasters after we have abused her, seeking to swat away the life forms that vex her. Again, another scientific principle: Newton’s Third Law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Metaphorically, what we push, will push back, and it seems ever so much easier to stop doing so much pushing, and start going with the flow, as it were. To reference the Mother Earth analogy, this would mean living in harmony with the earth, instead of violating it. Personally, this is reflected in the ultimate goal my wife and I have set to reject the consumptive, wasteful, consumerist rat-race, in favor of homesteading; living more self-sufficient, organic, natural lives, and being more aligned with and in tune with nature.

And more universally, this imbalance can be illustrated in the evolutionary tenets of natural selection. It will always insure survival of–not the strongest–but the most resilient, industrious, adaptable. Metaphorically, when we learn to adapt to the changes around us, we stand a much better chance of survival. Personally, if I don’t embrace a certain type of lifestyle soon, it will have some ugly repercussions all the way around.

correcting-1870721_640As a writer, the concept of revision takes on a deeper meaning in this context.

RE-VISION. As in, look at it again.

One of my most valuable lessons has served me well repeatedly. Just as I might write a novel, I would reach the end of the first draft, and inevitably, things at the beginning would have to change, because as the story evolved, the original ideas usually no longer fit the story. Likewise, I learned long ago that the decisions I make in my life should always be based upon the most recent data.

We must be willing to look at our decisions again. How often have we heard others say,

I hate where I live.

I hate my job.

I hate my marriage

I hate my life?

Leaving the importance of happiness aside for a moment, the first question to ask yourself, is Are the conditions still present that led to this decision? If the reasons for a decision are no longer present, then the decision itself warrants reconsideration.

woman-792817_640For example, on a personal level, where I live; I made a set of decisions about where I wanted to go, based on a set of circumstances at the time. I had been in a highly stressful situation for almost three years, inundated with the unfamiliar, feeling helpless and trapped and invisible and lonely. When I left that situation and landed in the place I live now, it seemed idyllic, and indeed, served its purpose.

Until it didn’t.

That situation evolved into something different. Then the place of refuge and healing and relief, suddenly became another place of discomfort. So I had to look at those decisions again, apply the new data, and make new decisions accordingly. I had to ask myself the same set of questions again, to include what do I want and need right now? What’s missing? What is my idea of a perfect life? What makes me happy?

puzzle-587812_640Critics and naysayers might say that changing locations, jobs, partners, and whatnot, is a sign of instability. Somehow changing things makes you undependable. Wishy-washy. Even unstable, yourself. Certainly, there are those who can’t commit, can’t be relied upon. There are those who lack the discernment and self-awareness to make good decisions; those who flail about, seeking answers in change, when the answers are to be found within. That’s not what I’m suggesting we be.

I’m suggesting–or rather emphatically stating–that you must rearrange the furniture in your life until it pleases you, and when it no longer does, you must rearrange it again.

There are no trophies for martyrdom. Your life is your own, and no one else can live it for you. food-1050813_640Happiness and contentment and joy are things we should aspire to, even if it means trying and failing to achieve it, repeatedly. If we are self-actualized; if we seek to know ourselves well enough,
we will understand what we need in order to have the life we want, and perhaps avoid needless iterations of the wrong thing. We will then make decisions based on changing circumstances and desires, in the natural ebb and flow of our lives, and not on a blind quest for what it is we might want, maybe, if we knew what that was.

So remember, life is supposed to be a banquet. You won’t always like every dish on the table, but you do have the right to choose. Eat up. Even if your place card has a different name on it.

Operation Homostead & Dooflingywhatsit

12211090_10153666616407969_1726922244_o
While I’m battling The Change of Life, we are also dealing with A Change of Life. Major changes on the horizon, all of which we have chosen for ourselves, which of course, makes it easier to weather.

Our decision to make homesteading our goal, had to begin with all the preliminaries. Where? When? How?
We know we want to settle in central Wisconsin, mostly because Melissa is from that area, and around Chicago, and her family is all there. She needs to be close to her grandmother, who is well into her 90’s and has had some health scares.


But Melissa has always loved the Northwoods, and so, I agreed this was the destination. As a writer, I can work anywhere, as long as I have a home base and the things I need to function. And i prefer colder weather, and my allergies absolutely hate it here. We are also anxious to put some distance between us and all the red-state-confederate-flag-waving-bubbas that are plentiful in this state. I am well and truly done with the south this time. Especially after this last election.
In anticipation of our new journey, we have created a YouTube channel to document our progress. We hope to make our first video on Operation Homostead today or tomorrow.

We’ll get a unique URL after we have 100 subscribers. So pop over and subscribe! And don’t forget to check out my catalog of books while I am on a hiatus from writing. I’m hoping once we get in the trailer and on the road, I’ll have the time and the mindset again to get back to it. Burnout is a real thing.

Zombies1_3DBookcvr_whitebakAnd then there’s Melissa, with her budding writer-self–she has already put out her first episode in Lesbian Zombies from Hell. She wants to finish up episode two and get that out as soon as possible. I’m very proud of her, and i think she has fantastic potential as an Indie Author.
But we’ll have to get some things done so that we can both sit down and focus on writing again.
Ava&Dooflingywhatsit

So, toward the goal of a homestead, it occurred to me that just moving to a rental place up there and dealing with switching everything, paying deposits and hook-ups for utilities and such, it would just be another money-sucking situation, that we would rather spend toward getting our land. I finally realized that the most obvious solution was to get a travel trailer and just go upt here and park it at a KOA park, and then we would be free to search for a homestead without making expensive trips and doing everything from a distance. We both agreed we could live that way if it was toward our ultimate goals and would get us there faster.

The search was on for an affordable travel trailer, using the money I had saved toward buying land. It’s a calculated risk, but i feel like it was a wise one. Within about a week, we found a salvage trailer at Colaw RV in Carthage, MO. We bought it, pulled it home. But then we discovered we couldn’t park it in the driveway as we planned (the best laid plans of mice and WOmen). As of yesterday, it is parked at a storage facility nearby. Thanks, Deaton Storage! We named her Dooflingywhatsit, and we will be painting it on the side. LOL).  We’ll have to go back over there today or tomorrow to fix a few of the stabilizers, and do a few things initially; make a trip to Walmart for some tools and supplies.

 

In other news, after the trip home, and then to storage, we have become convinced that we need to skytreesM&Ava_IMG_0937_sm_crop2trade in the Avalanche for a 3/4 ton truck, just to be safe. I’m afraid we’d put too much strain on the Ava. So although we think of this truck as one of our pets (LOL. I know), we’re going to have to let her go soon. Sniff sniff. We have to let go of things to embrace others, right? We want to do things the right way, and so it’s a process.

I can’t believe i actually got the truck and trailer in our driveway TWICE, both forward and backward. But we couldn’t keep it there, and then i couldn’t get it out, because there was so little maneuverability there. Had to call on the expert services of our friend and neighbor Mary Pinkley to get it out and give us pointers. Thanks Mary!

 
Then, when we took Dooflingywhatsit to storage, we had to find the safest route through these curvy, hilly streets, and then i had to get it in a ten foot wide parking spot. It took a long time, and more stress and frustration. Jeez. It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but it was surprising how much i didn’t know about backing up a trailer. There are nuances there you never even think about, until you try to do it. I think Melissa and I will be taking a class on parking a trailer and all the setup and such, so we won’t end up in divorce court. LOL.
In fact, this whole thing is a big learning curve. I have always prided myself on being competent in most things, but this has made me feel like the village idiot, and I’m afraid i have been very irritable and stressed about it. I’ve got to get my brain-framing going, and find a way to be more patient with myself and not contribute to the arguments that come up when we’re both standing there going,
“How the hell does that work?”
“Don’t ask me, I have no idea.”
or while trying to back up:
“Go left.”pexels-photo-196666
“Which thing? the back of the trailer? The back of the truck? My tires? or the steering wheel?” (After
all that, we watched a video to learn the proper hand signals and mindset for parking a trailer).
It will indeed be an adventure, but it could be stressful and negative unless we find our Zen about it. You’ve heard the old-dogs-new-tricks thing, right? Well this old dog is also really bad at being bad at something. I have an aversion to not-knowing. So, bring it, O’ Learning Curve Spirits. We have gloves on, and our jaws set, feet planted.
More to come.

Spider-Cabal

So last night, we got in bed and were reading, trying to relax after our incident with smacking into a deer on the way home. While ironically reading about prepping for various disasters and emergency situations, I felt a little tickle near my ribs. My first thought was that it might be a member of the arachnid species, but my mind immediately soothed, It could just be a wayward cdd5e4b3e380b32d2b6a03d01a67eb9ehair, or a cat’s tail, or Noodle’s whiskers.

With impressive constraint, I pointed beside me. “Baby, is there something in the bed right here?”

Melissa looked down and simultaneously shot out of bed, while saying, “Oh shit!”

Well there was my answer right there. And the only thing to do was jet out of bed myself. We stared at the bed in horror. The spider had skittered away. At the foot of the bed on the floor, she spotted it. Casting her eyes about for some spider-worthy weapon. It turned out to be the copy of Clan of the Cave Bear she had in her hand–which, she insists, is the solution for all survival situations. She used the back of it to smack the little brown recluse that was likely part of a spider-cabal we have around here. Problem solved.

That one, anyway.

Now there were the nagging questions. Was that the original spider, or just one of his leggy friends? And since we’d seen three spiders in as many days, we wondered if perhaps there were several of them in the room with us.

Resolute, she headed back to bed, while I hovered in the doorway, chewing a nail.

So out came the peppermint spray, and she misted all around the bed while I considered the wisdom of taking a peppermint bath. If spiders were repelled by peppermint, I thought it might be a good idea to douse myself in the stuff.

I mused about moving to another house, but one never knows if there would be spiders everywhere else we went. It took quite a lot of cajoling to get me back in that bed. I even considered sleeping in the recliner. But she pointing out, there might be a spider there, too.

IMG_1923_4x6

Her theory about recent spider-sightings was that she had sprayed peppermint all around recently, and they were all trying to

get away from it. Unfortunately, their escape led them right into our warm bed.

We shook out the sheets, and pillows, and I made sure to peek into the pillow cases, just in CASE.

I felt no further tickling, and as the fog rolled in outside the windows, I reassured myself that the trauma was short-lived and that one day, I would simply have to accept the fact that we would deal with various lifeforms that didn’t meet with our approval.

Thoughts on The Thief of Time by John Boyles

book-1031359_640I have missed sitting down with a physical book and reading. My recent decision to take a sabbatical and just allow myself to be creative and deadline-free, had me standing in front of my fiction bookshelf, seeking something new. Something enjoyable.

As most of you know by now, I have become quite finicky about my fiction reading. I read so much of my own work in pumping out work in the last ten years, that I have had little time to read for pleasure, and when I do, it’s inevitably just before I go to sleep, and by then, my brain is tired, and I tend to fall asleep after a few pages, or if I’m lucky, a chapter. But now, I had no such limitation. I could sit in my recliner in the middle of the day, bold as lime-green neon, reading.

The first book that tweaked me from my shelf was John Boyne’s The Thief of Time.

John Boyne has become internationally known for his acclaimed novels Crippen and the bestselling thethiefoftime_boyneThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Now, for the first time in the United States, comes the book that started the career of the author that the Irish Examiner calls “one of the best and original of the new generation of Irish writers.”

It is 1758 and Matthieu Zela is fleeing Paris after witnessing the murder of his mother and his stepfather’s execution. Matthieu’s life is characterized by one extraordinary fact: before the eighteenth century ends, he discovers that his body has stopped ageing. At the end of the twentieth century and the ripe old age of 256 he is suddenly forced to answer an uncomfortable question: what is the worth of immortality without love?

In this carefully crafted novel, John Boyne juxtaposes history and the buzz of the modern world, weaving together portraits of 1920s Hollywood, the Great Exhibition of 1851, the French Revolution, the Wall Street Crash, and other landmark events into one man’s story of murder, love, and redemption.

I was intrigued by the idea of immortality, and the jaunt through history from the perspective of one person. I always try to read other works that cover similar themes I address in my own books, but usually, it’s nonfiction. I have several books that explore time-travel, historical detail, and http://viewbook.at/NHW1Keepersimmortality (such as my New Harbor Witches series). But no matter how intriguing the subject, I simply will not read poorly-written fiction. I was at once intrigued and delighted by the command of language I found on just the first few pages of this book, and so I jumped in. So far, it has maintained my interest 60 or so pages in. I thought of my friend, T.T. Thomas–an impressive Indie author who writes historical fiction, and wondered if she had read it, and if not, I thought to recommend it, but as is the case with many of my reading endeavors, I can enjoy a book for a time, and then it seems the author loses command of the material, or otherwise begins to disappoint me, so that I inevitably put the book down and move on to something else; thus I decided I should wait until I’d read the entire book, before recommending it. I still hope this won’t be the case with this novel, and I found myself checking the reviews, to see what other readers thought of it. I was surprised to see a rather stark response on the spectrum. It seemed readers either hated it, or loved it. I wondered if maybe this was going to be another of those novels I begin and then reject as it loses its way.

I also wondered if the less than universal voracious appetite for this book was largely due to the correcting-1870721_640dulled palate of modern readers. My career has depended upon genre fiction, and there are certain tropes and expectations that must be met in order to maintain that readership. While I always try to defy those expectations in a fresh way that will still keep the reader interested, it’s a precarious balance, and I struggle with the idea that American readers suffer from a sort of dumbing-down. This concept bleeds into our everyday lives, perhaps most notably, in our politics. I never want to contribute to that, but as I pointed out, I also don’t want to become another hack who doesn’t take the craft seriously. So I try to read above my skill-level.

Unfortunately, I do not find most “literary” fiction interesting or even good, and The Thief of Time appears to be in this genre. Some exemplary quotes to illustrate this might be:

“The history that one can create with a friend, a lifetime of history and shared experience, is a wonderful thing and shabbily sacrificed. And yet a true friend is a rare thing; sometimes those whom we perceive as friends are simply people with whom we spend a lot of time.”

“The moral of the story”, he repeated, leaning forward and placing his hands flat on the desk in front of him, “is that every so often a natural disaster comes along, an act of God, and it blows all the dust away and when it does people can see that whatever’s left underneath ain’t so pretty. You get it?’”

“The problem with today’s young people,” I said, “isn’t that they do things which are bad for them, as so much of the media likes to think. It’s that they don’t do these things right. You’re all so intent on getting off your heads on drugs that you don’t think about the fact that you could overdose and, to put it plainly, die. You drink until your liver explodes. You smoke until your lungs collapse beneath the rot. You create diseases which threaten to wipe you out. Have fun, by all means. Be debauched, it’s your duty. But be wise about it. All things in excess, but just know how to cope with them, that’s all I ask.”

“And I am not one of these long-living fictional characters who prays for death as a release from the captivity of eternal life; not for me the endless whining and wailing of the undead.”

The voice of the main character,  Matthieu Zela, is engaging, intelligent, thought-provoking. This is one of the primary elements that will keep me turning pages, no matter what genre I’m reading.

Thus, I will continue to read The Thief of Time until I find a compelling enough reason to stop. Either way, there will be value in it, for as a writer, I benefit from filling my reader’s mind with well-wrought language. Garbage in, garbage out.

That Whooshing Sound

message-in-a-bottle-413680_640Message in a bottle… After almost two years of struggle with the vicissitudes of Indie writing and publishing, I have, I believe, come up with a solution to all that has been vexing me, and keeping me from reaching the goals I have been working so hard to achieve, and all that has annihilated the joy to be found in the journey.

With the new lease on life I got after my return from New Zealand, I have been focused mostly on getting my health back, but also in increasing and maintaining the momentum in my career, which I didn’t want to lose. I’ve invested so much in it.

But I had convinced myself that I had to be a Type A personality in order to keep up with everyone else and have a chance in the Indie authoring and publishing world. As Shakespeare’s King Lear said, “Oh, that way, madness lies.” I hyperfocused on being the sole employee of my own company, and doing the work of 10 or 20 people, constantly chastising myself for not keeping up; for not being able to do it all up to a standard I hold dear. And all the while, I was forced to ignore everything else in my life. All the personal business, other creative pursuits, all the domestic trivia, my relationship with my wife. I wanted to enjoy the NOW, rather than living only for what comes next,fig-1272928_640

Yesterday, I was struck by a lightning bolt of revelation, when I was refilling my coffee cup, and Melissa drew up beside me and said, “Hey, I need a hug,” and as my arms wrapped around her, my first thought was, “I don’t have time for this.” And then I heard Dorothy Parker’s words “What fresh hell is this?” What had I let my mind make me into, when I allowed that niggling little dictator in my head to tell me that I had no time to hug my wife?

So this morning, when I woke, that part of myself was hovering in the scurrilous recesses of my mind, her heartbeat echoing through the labyrinthine corridors, ignored, again. I wanted to just write something. Anything, no matter what it was–still trying to find that creative space I used to enjoy. I sat down at the computer, and just started jotting down some ideas about a story I had been toying with for several years: Behind the Left: Authoring the Apocalypse. After 700 words of notes, I sat back and thought about it. Thinking of how I should have been working on the next in one of my series. And then i didn’t feel like writing anymore. And I wondered if there was irony in it–if maybe I was authoring my own apocalypse. What was it, that was keeping me from enjoying my writing these days? The answer was immediate.

The pressures of the business side of writing.

The constant battle of keeping up with everyone else in advertising, promotions, production, spreadsheets…and everything else that goes along with being an Indie author and publisher. The problem was, the business side was sucking all my energy and tainting the very thing it’s all supposed to be about. The writing. The story. The creativity.401253_10150570344882969_1758463_n

In years past, I used to write some, then work on music projects; writing songs, recording and producing them, then abstract painting or playing in the clay, firing, glazing, enjoying that process and the result, go somewhere, take pictures, read someone else’s book, and then I’d swing back around to writing again. And I got just as much done, though I didn’t release a book every month or two, because back then, there weren’t as many other Indie writers saturating the Amazon lists. Once I 3200_87762517968_1734056_nbegan to enjoy bestseller status, I had to work even harder to maintain that position. But more importantly, I ceased to enjoy every minute of it, as I had before. I img_0007had lost the joy, the satisfaction. Writing had become a means to an end, rather than a self-contained delight that began and ended with the creative process. Now, I suffer from anhedonia–exacerbated by the machinations of menopause, and the need to rebuild that broken life I found myself in after my almost three years in New Zealand, and the fallout from an ill-fated love.

But my frenetic work ethic only served to taint that beautiful process. I had painted myself into a sinister corner.

While I worked 15 hour days, 7 days a week, I was missing out on the now. Missing out on my life as pexels-photo-140945it unfolded, in favor of the life I believed was on the horizon. Always just out of reach. Out there, somewhere. John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” And that’s exactly the quagmire I found myself in. With everything that has happened in my recent past, and with my health, and our presidential election season, and how much it sucked out of me, and the potential for devastation that is likely to occur, I had lost my way.

I had to ask myself what was most important. What must matter, aside from all those societal issues and the ideals we hold dear, is those we love, and the very real preciousness of life as we live it, not life as we will one day live it, maybe, if we work hard enough, often enough, and with as much single-minded focus as we can muster.

Over coffee, Melissa and I sat in my office this morning discussing this; our goal to move to the Northwoods at some point, in order to have the life we want, and to feel safe and secure again; and discussing what I thought I must do to correct course with my career, and our lives together. I had spent a year and half regaining a good deal of my health, and I didn’t want to wind up relapsing. More than that, I simply didn’t want to see hugging her as in interruption of my precious schedule. She deserves so much better than that. And so do I.

Knowing what those things are that allow me to thrive, I had to wonder why I had wandered so far off my path. What was the one thing that kept me from happily–joyfully– pursuing my goals? One answer was: deadlines. Those often self-imposed limits we place on ourselves. For me, it was painfully obvious but I had chosen to ignore this Screaming Ugly. I don’t like deadlines. I never have. It’s one reason I became an Indie author and publisher. I want to do what I do, the way I want to do it, in the timeframe of my choosing, and to hell with the marketplace and with what others expected. “I love deadlines,” author Douglas Adams said. “I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” It was time for me to get back to myself. The self I liked. The life I enjoyed.

So, here’s the plan. I am taking a sabbatical. I will spend an undetermined amount of time–perhaps pexels-photo-196666six months, let’s say tentatively–just being in my life and writing what I want to write, when I want to write it, with no deadlines. No publication dates. I will then have time to address all aspects of my life; take pictures, play in the clay, do some music, write, sleep enough, pay attention to my health, get some of those things crossed off the list that I have let go, not the least of which is paying more attention to my relationship and my wife. After this block of time, if I have books done and ready to publish, I will publish them incrementally, focusing on just that part of it, and after that, return to sabbatical mode.

It is, I believe, the only way I can regain that self who enjoys each day, and relishes the peace and creativity again. I hope my readers will be there when I emerge and offer the fruits of my retreat, but  I can no longer live each day and measure each breath by how well my books are doing on the charts. Living my life is more important, enjoying my moments is more important, and certainly, appreciating my wife to the degree she deserves, is more important.

Whole Brain Literary Food

Recently, I posted a inquiry to my readers, about a publishing aspect of my work. All the responses were encouraging and thought-provoking, but one in particular touched upon some deeper themes. Here it is.

refe_56e5185800d7c_anc5acj7v0TO MY READERS–A QUESTION: As authors, we want to please everyone, but that’s just not possible. For instance, on my newest novella, Saturation Point, I have 4 and 5 star reviews and personal messages and emails that tell me how much they enjoyed the introspective nature of this book, and the characters, but on one review, the reviewer was bored because there wasn’t dialogue on every page, and they didn’t like one of the characters. And so it goes. I still continue to try to strike a balance, but more than that, I always try to tell a story in a new way. I never want my writing to get stale or predictable. That’s another reason why I started the Cross-Pollination Series where I combine popular characters from my books into one storyline.

There are also other considerations, such as how in the world I will keep up with writing the next book in each of my series, when it does take some extra time to compose a full-length novel. With that in mind, I’m going to be trying something to solve that problem. Since I can put out novellas much quicker, I’m going to be doing novella length books for a while–that way, I can add another installment to each series much quicker, for those who have particular series favorites. I’d be able to get a new AKA Investigations book out and a few weeks later, the next in Northwoods Trilogy, and so on through Rain Falls, New Harbor Witches, Run the Risk, etc. Hopefully, the frequency of publication will make up for the shorter length of the books. Interested in hearing from my readers about this idea. What do you think?

FROM ONE RESPONDENT:
I would, if I were you, write what “I” wanted, the way I wanted, and in the time frame, I wanted. As an artist your inspiration is pure creative expression, from you, and then you share your story. You are either a commercial writer that loses her spark, or you are an author who creates worlds from a unique place, whether long or short, novel or novella. I enjoy books I can lose myself in. I feel their magic when I become so emerged in a literary expression that I become a part of the environment and lose myself. The length of story is irrelevant.


MY RESPONSE:

I appreciate that. And i agree with everything you say. I must respectfully point out, though, that writing-427527_1920unfortunately, the idealized view of my work has to be tempered by the practicalities of it also being my JOB…Thus, those of us in the creative arts, if we are to ask for payment for our creations, are under a certain kind of umbrella. I chose to do this professionally. It is not a hobby. Therefore, I MUST be concerned about the readers and what they want to see. I don’t believe i have to compromise my integrity to do that. I still honor the creative aspects and i still tell only the stories i want to tell, in the way I want to tell them. I could do nothing less and still be who I am. While inspiration is a creative expression, and storytelling is also, the implementation and BUSINESS of that creativity is a great deal of work and does also demand judicious things. Novelwriting is a WHOLE BRAIN activity. So is the publishing business. The more I understand about my readers and what they need, the better I can provide what they want, within the parameters of my free creative expression. Thank you for your insight. It’s always appreciated.
1c1a9389b4Last night a reader contacted me and told me I saved her life. That my books saved her from despondency and suicide. She said she started reading one of my books, and kept reading, and kept reading, moving through my body of work. And she was able to keep going. Moments like that serve to remind me that my work is not just entertainment or escapism, but also a method of inspiring strength, or bringing light to darkness, of revealing the beauty of the human spirit. I always try to depict my characters in a way that inspires others to move forward, even when pitted against seemingly insurmountable odds. I always SHOW, without myth or tilting at windmills, how it’s possible to rise above, and survive when bad people do bad things. I will continue to do that, because it is the core of who I am. And because the world needs that, more than I need a pat on the head, or a paycheck. But the paycheck must be considered. I just choose to find ways to honor myself and my readers, while also honoring the realities of the business, and the limits of sharing creative expressions with the public.

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Policing the Police

usa-1120579_1280UPDATE: see end of this essay for my updated remarks after learning new information….

Few things are black and white, unless you’re talking about racism. In regard to gun violence and police shootings, there are solid arguments on either side of this contentious issue which tells me once again that the truth is most often found in the middle and that extremism of any kind is both dangerous and counterproductive.

Right out of the chute, let me say that I know there are good cops out there. In fact, I believe that MOST cops are honorable, compassionate people who really do believe they are there to protect and serve.

Having said that, I have a bone to pick with those good cops. In this sense, “good” is not just a noun–a person, place or thing; but a VERB–it shows action, and a state of being. In my mind, good cops no longer have any right to complain about how they are lumped into the same some with rogue or corrupt or trigger-happy cops. They lost that right within the echo of their own silence. The police is still an old-school frat; a good-old-boy network with a thick blue line, and police officers cross this line under pain of death or at the very least ostracization and the loss of a career. But ultimately, these are squad-car-1209719_1920choices that speak to integrity and character, and those lofty ideals should never be dismissed, and indeed, we find ourselves in the environment we do because too many have chosen a career or paycheck over those principles. If good cops begin to mobilize and speak out, then police departments nationwide would move in the direction we need to go. In this case, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. It would take time and dedication, but the end result would place us back in a position of peace and trust between police and the communities they serve. There is no other way. The tumors of racism and self-serving authorities have to be cut out and discarded if we have any hope of reaching those better angels of our nature.

In tandem with the policing issues, are the gun-control issues. Just as a trigger-happy, racist cop has no right to hold a position as an officer of the law, citizens who pose a threat to the public at large, constitution-1486010_1280also have no business obtaining guns as easily as they do. The Second Amendment–let’s be clear–was intended as a way for citizens to defend the state, not themselves or their property. It was written during a time when the country was young, and the arms they had the right to bear were muskets, not AK-47’s. They were not anarchists, set on fighting their own government.

Things have changed. The United States has evolved into a different entity than it was when the framers of the Constitution set those words down.

Moreover, the President is the Commander in Chief of those militias, should they be called on. There is plenty of material to educate yourself with, and I encourage you to seek them out. Here are a few to get you started.

http://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-ii

http://www.lectlaw.com/files/gun01.htm

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/second-amendment-guns-michael-waldman

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/nra-guns-second-amendment-106856

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/amendment-don-article-1.1223900

All that aside, if I feel I need a firearm to hunt for food, or protect myself, my property, or my family, I will have one. Or two. This isn’t me, enjoying a Second Amendment right. This is me, making a decision. That’s all. Having a personal firearm for those reasons is not part of the argument, as far as I’m concerned.

But all these petulant, authoritarian white men who walk around Walmart with their M-16’s–this is an gun-523052_1920aberration of both law and what this country was founded upon. Who needs an automatic weapon in the grocery store? What are they afraid of? Marauding melons? A bathmat blitzkrieg? And how are other members of our citizenry to feel safe when any person with one of those guns, feels he has a right to start shooting, as he sees fit? As such, i am not a proponent of open-carry, as if we are living in the Wild Wild West. And yes, there will always be those who carry firearms concealed, but at least they know they have to hide it and are less likely to use the gun, if they know it’s against the law. That acts as a deterrent for cavalier treatment of a weapon that can take a human life. And proper legislation further protects us from so many of those guns falling into the wrong hands. Once it’s accepted for everyone to walk around with guns strapped to their person, it’s that much easier to think that using that gun is also acceptable.

Regardless, I will not patronize any establishment that allows customers to parade around with guns.

This same I’m-in-charge-because-I-have-the-gun mentality leads to the sort of god-complex we are now seeing with such frequency in some of our police officers. The unfettered, unregulated ability to take the life of another human being can easily slip into a sense that you can pull that trigger by fiat, and that’s why training and education are so crucial to this situation. Keeping the guns out of the hands of terrorists and emotionally troubled and the mentally ill is only one segment in the plurality, but one that is a necessary first step in addressing the problem, notwithstanding the abject and egregious failure of Republican legislators who refuse to do so.

Another important segment of this issue, is making certain that The Dark Blue are not above the law, and are not performing their duties from a position of racism, fear or the inability to handle a crucial part of their jobs.

TULSA and CHARLOTTE

The recent Tulsa shooting of Terence Crutcher by Officer Betty Shelby is almost certainly a case of murder. The video shows that Mr. Crutcher was not being combative or aggressive, and in fact, was blue-light-1675687_1920merely a motorist whose car had broken down. That’s when police should have rendered assistance, not fired a bullet. Protect and serve. PROTECT AND SERVE. What’s so hard about that concept these days, that officers have forgotten what their job is? A badge should never afford you a free pass when taking the life of another human being. While I was gratified that the officer in question was arrested for manslaughter, I have little faith that she will be found guilty and made to pay for her crime, as officers in these cases seldom are.

The police shooting in Charlotte is a bit murkier in the fact-department, but still smacks of police corruption and another trigger-happy cop with poor training.

My wife and I have been watching that video taken by Mrs. Scott, often stopping it and playing it slowly, frame by frame. The more I watched it, the more I felt that things just didn’t add up and certainly didn’t jive with what the police and other city authorities were reporting. Perhaps releasing the police video would help clear up some of these questions, perhaps not, but they should be released, and not doing so, only exacerbates the sense that police are corrupt and untrustworthy. Until some clarity can be offered, nothing is clear. In watching the video released by Mrs. Scott, I had lots of questions and concerns.

First, the police officers weren’t there to confront Mr. Scott, but to serve a warrant on someone else. Yet somehow, they were suddenly hyperfocused on him, as he sat in the car, waiting for his child to be dropped off from school, while his wife ran in the house to get her phone charger. Somehow, officers were all over his car treating him like a bank robber they had been chasing, and never took the opportunities to deescalate, or give Mr. Scott a chance. His wife told the police he had a TBI and had just taken his medication. It just seemed like the cops were determined to kill this man no matter what.

Also, since the first police vehicle was unmarked, it’s possible Mr. Scott thought he was being robbed or carjacked, or maybe he just didn’t know what was going on, at all. He was on medication that caused confusion, after all, which the cops were told quite loudly by Mrs. Scott as she approached the scene with her cell phone recording; they apparently ignored her.

By the time the second police vehicle arrived, Mr. Scott was probably afraid HE WOULD BE SHOT and didn’t want to get out of the car. UNDERSTANDABLE– look what happened.

Additionally, both police vehicles were far too close to Mr. Scott’s vehicle for cops to have safe and nonviolent options.

Also, before and just after the marked police SUV arrives on scene, (and I have yet to hear anyone else point this out) the cop in the red shirt is lounging nonchalantly at the side of Mr. Scott’s truck, with no gun drawn and no sign in his body language that there was any danger– and he was standing right there, able to see in the cab of the truck. If there was some issue of concern for the other police officers, they could have stepped back and spoken to Mrs. Scott, and cleared up any confusion. Instead, cops went directly into lethal force mode.

Then, after Mr. Scott was shot, he was lying on the ground in an inexplicable position that didn’t make much sense. How did his body get way back there, when dash cam and another police body camera reportedly showed he was obviously confused, and stepping backward AWAY from officers when he was shot?

Then, in the initial frames when cops were cuffing the dying Mr. Scott, there is no sign of the gun on the pavement. Then, the gun is reportedly (and if you look closely, visibly) being guarded by the cop in the red shirt, mostly hidden by that officer’s left foot, behind and to the right of Mr. Scott’s body; then the alleged gun appears in a different spot perhaps 4 to 6 feet away from its original location, directly in the  foreground near Mr. Scott’s feet.

Evidence like that is never to be moved at a crime scene, so how come the alleged gun suddenly appeared and then ended up in a second location seconds later?police-275875_1920

Also, it was a terrible decision for city officials to dispatch police in riot gear and the National Guard. This in no way showed they heard, understood or sympathized with what the people were protesting. Add to that, the police decided not to release the video from dash cam and body cams just makes them look like they’re hiding something. It’s entirely plausible that the gun was planted to cover up a bad shooting–this has been documented as a method used by police in order to protect themselves from responsibility. Some officers carry an extra unregistered gun for just that purpose.

This is not the first, and sadly, it seems, won’t be the last time another person of color will die at the hands of overzealous, untrained, careless and racist cops. When will the good cops speak out? When will our Republican legislators pass the reforms needed to stop this trend? When will voters do their civic duty and cast a vote against this sort of corruption?

Ihandgun-231696_1920 cling to the hope that at some point, those with power will step up and say no. No more. Until then, more innocent people will die, and more corrupt authorities will enjoy their positions of power.

 

UPDATE: since i wrote this blog, two more videos were released by police. It cleared up several things for me. First, Mr. Scott wasn’t in that white pickup, he was in the white SUV to the left of that. (Still doesn’t explain the red-shirt cop being so cavalier when Scott was supposed to be wielding a gun). The other elements i might mention fall away in favor of this very clear impression: Mr. Scott was murdered by police.

He was not being aggressive, he was walking backwards toward the officers, as commanded, and them BAM BAM BAM BAM.

No matter how police might try to spin it, there was no legitimate reason to shoot him. I have ZERO faith that the officer who pulled that trigger four time will face justice. Like all the others, if charged and tried at all, he will not pay for his crime. I’d love to be proved wrong on this, but i don’t expect to.

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Trumpocalypse

'I'm having trouble sleeping. Here's why. I need to say this. And I need you all to hear it and share it. People. Please educate yourselves. Please. This election is no longer about politics. No longer about left and right or republican or democrat. It's about the people. The people who are running for the highest office in the land and the people who will be voting for them. If Trump is elected, you will no longer have to worry about the economy or equality or the minimum wage or your right to bear arms or justice system reform or immigration or gang violence or gun laws or climate change. You won't have to worry about these things because they will be rendered moot. They will no longer matter. Do you hear me? They won't matter at all. Because trump will behave as he always does and he'll piss off the wrong dictator who will then annihilate us with Nukes or biological or chemical weapons and the world as we know it will be gone. Forget the zombie apocalypse. Think #trumpocalypse. The only way you can stop this is to vote for Hillary. Even if you don't like her. Even if you think she's crooked. Is your opinion of her more important than the very survival of the human race? Make no mistake. That's what we're staring down the barrel of. I have so many more books to write, so much more love to give, laughter to share. So please don't cast your vote for ending us all. You can always get your type of candidate next time. For now, let's just save ourselves from Armageddon, shall we?'

Posted this last month on Facebook, and it’s still true, and bears posting again.

I’m having trouble sleeping. Here’s why. I need to say this. And I need you all to hear it and share it.
People. Please educate yourselves. Please. This election is no longer about politics. No longer about left and right or republican or democrat. It’s about the people. The people who are running for the highest office in the land and the people who will be voting for them. If Trump is elected, you will no longer have to worry about the economy or equality or the minimum wage or your right to bear arms or justice system reform or immigration or gang violence or gun laws or climate change. You won’t have to worry about these things because they will be rendered moot. They will no longer matter. Do you hear me? They won’t matter at all. Because trump will behave as he always does and he’ll piss off the wrong dictator who will then annihilate us with Nukes or biological or chemical weapons and the world as we know it will be gone. Forget the zombie apocalypse. Think #trumpocalypse. The only way you can stop this is to vote for Hillary. Even if you don’t like her. Even if you think she’s crooked. Is your opinion of her more important than the very survival of the human race? Make no mistake. That’s what we’re staring down the barrel of. I have so many more books to write, so much more love to give, laughter to share. So please don’t cast your vote for ending us all. You can always get your type of candidate next time. For now, let’s just save ourselves from Armageddon, shall we?

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Medical Mystery Tour

thinker-1294493_1920I have had the strangest developments, lately, with my health. After recovering around 75% of my adrenal health after a year and a half of intensive work on my adrenal exhaustion, and after going into and now being in full-fledged menopause, i now have a mystery on my hands.

First, I have been taking synthroid/levothyroxine (T4) and liothyronine (T3) for 16 years, since diagnosis of Grave’s Disease, and ablation of my thyroid with Radioactive Iodine (RAI). This procedure renders the thyroid gland DEAD, and the thyroid medication then normalizes the subsequent hypothyroidism that results from the dead thyroid.(NOTE: T3 is made from T4 in the body, but some people don’t convert the T4 to T3, and I was one of them. I did fine on T3 for all these years.)

Recently, I started having the symptoms of too much T3, and so i stopped taking it and felt much better. I assumed that meant i no longer needed the T3, and suspected, since it coincided with my adrenal recovery, that my adrenals needed the extra help from the T3, but when they got stronger, no longer needed it. Fine.

Now. I have suffered severe allergies for the last three years, to include a daily sinus headache, sometimes to the point of incapacitation. (I was tested at an allergy clinic and the results showed i was allergic to almost every tree pollen and grass. I never had allergies before, and there is a direct correlation between adrenal exhaustion and severe allergies, among other things). In the last few weeks, however, my allergy symptoms have almost disappeared, easter-1238348_640along with the headaches, but here’s the weird part. While this relief of allergy symptoms came on the heels of increasingly recovering adrenals, it also happened after missing quite a few doses of my thyroid medication (T4). I found an article that said there was a direct connection with allergies and synthroid/levothyroxine, and that patients with this reaction should switch to one of several other types of T4 replacement meds. So i wondered if maybe my allergies had been caused by the synthroid/levothyroxine. Just to test this, i took my T4 and the allergies reappeared. I stopped taking it a few days and the allergies disappeared. So i stopped taking it for 5 days, allergies went away. Started it again, allergies came back. Stopped taking it 7 days, same thing. So this testing, though anecdotal, does seem to indicate there’s something to the allergy/T4 connection.I know this is anecdotal, on my part, but still. It’s significant. That’s not even the weird part, yet.

When you get RAI, the thyroid gland is DEAD. It no longer functions. It does not produce T4. Therefore, missing a dose of your thyroid meds will give you symptoms and eventually, those  symptoms will worsen. But in all those times i went that many days without the T4, i actually felt better BEYOND just he relief from allergies. I felt almost normal again. I had none of those low T4 symptoms and in fact felt better without it in general. Now tell me, how is it possible that I can feel BETTER (the allergy issue aside) when my dead thyroid is not being treated with replacement meds for the T3?

I tried to look up the information–can a dead thyroid, perhaps, reanimate? Did my thyroid only get  PARTIALLY destroyed, but this was masked by the adrenal exhaustion, and when that got better, the thyroid gland recovered in some way? It’s baffling. I don’t understand how i can feel better when i DON’T take my meds, since the body REQUIRES he hormones the thyroid makes, and as in the past, missing only one dose was felt immediately with those low T4 symptoms.

It’s also perhaps important to note that adrenals, thyroid and menopause are all hormonally-related things.

An additional bit of mystery, which may or may not be connected: While on my program to heal my shake-677437_1920adrenals i took a wide range of supplements to strengthen them, and then worried that since there were grasses in the shake i was drinking, it was affecting my allergies, so i stopped taking the shakes, and felt better all the way across the board, so guessed my adrenals didn’t need all that anymore, and/or some of what i was taking might have conflicted with something else i was taking–who knows? But now, i am just getting regular exercise, continuing to eat as much organic as possible, staying away from sugar and alcohol and processed food, drinking lots of distilled water, along with a bottle of water once or twice a day with pink Himalayan sea salt (for adrenal function).

If any of you out there have any insight on this, I’d appreciate a note. I’m getting an appointment soon and will discuss with caregiver, but I’m just curious if anyone else has ever experienced anything like this.

Run the Risk (Excerpt)

Excerpt from Run the Risk

#WIP

After the death of her estranged father, a beleaguered attorney named Sierra Kipling returns to her hometown of Shamrock Cove, Rhode Island, having inherited his bar, The Risk. A much-younger town doctor, Kelsi Belmar, doesn’t know quite what to think of this 50-year-old prodigal daughter, but she intends to find out.

2} Kelsi

boardwalk The door had been left open to let in an Atlantic breeze. Welcomed, in the bar that had no air conditioning.

The low-riding sunlight dimmed, and I turned. The light had been cut by the shadow in the doorway.

As she stepped in, the first thing I noticed was she had a cat on her shoulder. Not a tattoo of a cat. A real cat. It seemed to be holding on easily with its feet, balanced by its tail wrapped around her head, the tip of it stroking her eyebrow.

Then I focused on her. I usually notice the woman first, and not whatever she’s carrying. But hell. There was a Siamese cat on her shoulder.

SierraKipling_RuntheRiskEven with the stern, slightly pissed-off expression on her face, she was beautiful. I’m not usually attracted to older women. And didn’t usually go for redheads. I was not a fan of freckles. But this one. She was like a fine wine. Just like the burgundy color of the tresses falling about her shoulders.

The black pinstriped pantsuit didn’t wear her, as it did with other women. She wore it. Shiny black boots clicked along the wooden floor as she advanced, her eyes making a thorough perusal of the place. I tried not to stare at her chest. Cleavage for days; graced by a teasing silver amulet dangling between her breasts.

The brown leather satchel she carried completed the picture of a no-nonsense woman who knew what she was about.

Then I realized. She must be the lawyer who was handling the final arrangements. Somehow I had expected some sweaty bald man with a beer gut and a gold watch. Not a gorgeous older woman with a cat perched on her shoulder.

She fixed vivid blue eyes on me, gave me the once-over, and then stopped a few feet in front of me, barely outside the usual personal space people adhere to. Just enough to be intimidating. To some people.

“Are you the manager?”

I chuckled. “No. Just a customer.”

She looked around at the only other person in the bar. The bartender, Quinn. A twenty-something young man with long red hair and a goatee, wiping the bar that looked already clean.

“The only customer?” she said smartly.

“It’s not happy hour yet.”

“Oh, and then that second person will fill the coffers, I suppose.”

I gave her my best eyebrow lift. Chick had a sharp tongue. I liked that.

“Sierra Kipling,” she said, by way of introduction.

“Sierra Kipling?” I parroted, knowing the name well, but never having a current face to put with it.

“Thorn is—was—my father.”

I’d seen pictures of her. The wall behind the bar was lined with them, but they were all of Sierra as a child. Except for a few. That child was all grown up, now. “So you’re not the attorney?”

“I am an attorney, yes. But I suppose not the attorney.”

Interesting. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

The sentiment seemed to make her uncomfortable. She countered with, “And you are?”

young-woman-1371899_1920“Kelsi Belmar.” I extended my hand, and she looked down at, took it almost begrudgingly. A quick shake, but firm; not limp like a fish, the way most women shake hands. Businesslike. The Siamese reached down and tried to bat my hand away.

“Is that cat surgically attached?”

“Somewhat.” She placed her satchel on the table and a poof of dust danced through the lightbeams. The cat jumped down on the worn leather and laid down. I’d never seen a cat just hang around a human. It acted more like a dog.

“What’s his name?”

“Me-Too.”

I felt myself smile. “How do you keep Me-Too from running off?”

“I don’t. He just stays with me. He always has.”

“What sorcery is this?”

A grin. I’d cracked the stern barrier already. I checked out her necklace again, pretending not to be looking at those copious mounds of flesh mashed together and positioned perfectly in the purple V-neck blouse. When I looked up she was regarding me with unabashed haughtiness.

“Finished ogling the girls?”

I looked away on a grin. “Can’t expect me not to look at the display case.”

“So, that’s how you are.”

“How?”

“You’re…”

“Batting for the other team? Yes. Proudly. What about you?”

“None of your business.” She stood and moved toward the bar.

That would be a yes, I decided.

Quinn Murphy was laying out a lemon, slicing it for the drinks he hoped to be making, soon. That was going to be a crap-shoot right now. Since Thorn Kipling kicked the bucket, business had fallen away. I wondered where everyone was going to get their drink on, now. The liquor store and back home? The liquor store and to dangle their legs off some pier? I also wondered what was going to happen to The Risk, now that old Thorny was gone. I didn’t see Ms. Sierra Kipling running the place. She looked like she’d sooner perform an appendectomy on herself with a spoon. She’d probably take her leave as soon as the funeral was over.

But she was here in this bar for a reason. Maybe just curious to see what her old man had built while she was off in the Big Apple. Maybe she was going to sell the place. Probably Thorny had left it to her. I took a sip of my Yacht Club birch beer, my thumb rubbing the iconic anchor on the label. It was a local brand, and less sweet than most commercial sodas. If you’re going to drink sweet sodas, it was always healthier to just go for regular sugar, rather than high fructose corn syrup.

In a moment, Sierra returned, took a seat beside her satchel. Me-Too had stayed right there on the table, waiting on her, his eyes following her to the bar and back. She removed the umbrella from her Amaretto sour and took a sip, sighed, and leaned back in the chair.

“Long drive?”

She nodded, pressing her fingertips on the small napkin, to soak up the condensation from her rocks glass.

“So, what do you do that allows you to hang around in an empty bar in the middle of the day?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m on call almost twenty-four-seven.”

Now her eyebrow quirked. “For what?”

“Guess…”

She looked me up and down. “Locksmith?”

“Nope.”

She tried again. “Cable tech?”

“Wrong again.”

“I give. What?”

“Doctor.”

“You’re a doctor?”

“I’ll try not to be offended by your shock and awe.”

She shrugged. “You look too young to be a doctor, that’s all.”

“I’m thirty-five, thank you very much.” And how old was she? Forty-something? Maybe older, if I considered the slight crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes. She looked good for that age-group.

She had another sip of her drink. Pulled the cherry from the plastic sword floating in the brown liquid, popped it in her mouth, chewing. A drop of red juice glistened on her lower lip. I had to quell an urge to lick it off.

“Where do you do this doctoring?”

“The clinic, here in town.”

She was eyeing the band-aid on my finger. Probably wondering if that was the extent of my healing skills.

“I thought Doctor McGinnis ran that?”

“He retired five years ago. He’s like a hundred years old. I came here to do a residency, and decided to stay.”

Both eyebrows jumped up, then. “Why in the world would you do that?”

“Because it’s a pretty fucking awesome little town, that’s why.” It came out a little more caustic than I intended.

“No need to get your knickers in a twist.”

“It’s obvious you didn’t want to come back here.”

Her face softened. “I’m sorry…I just…never mind. It just isn’t my cup of tea.”

“You prefer the big city?”

She seemed to consider her answer for a beat longer than was natural for someone who loved the city.

“It’s where I went to Law school,” she answered.

“New York?”

“No, Syracuse.”

“You with a firm up there?”

“Not anymore.”

Cryptic. And just a little bitter. I’d have to break out my shovel. “Where are you practicing now?”

“I’m not.”

“A fancy law degree, and you’re not even using it?”

“Apparently not. I’m between jobs.”

“Maybe you could hang a shingle here for a while.” The Risk: Pub & Legal Services. Had a nice ring to it. Sort of like that Kathy Bates show, Harry’s Law. Except law and drinks, rather than law and shoes.

“Oh, I don’t think so.”

My chair creaked as I leaned back, stretched out, my fingers laced over my head. “Why not? Even small town people need legal services. Just like they need a doctor.”

She said nothing. Probably her way of ending a conversation she did not want to have. Did they teach that in law school?

“Is there a hotel you can recommend?”

“More than you’d think. We get lots of tourists. But Thorny lived in the apartment upstairs. No reason why you couldn’t stay up there.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.”

“Don’t you have to deal with his stuff, anyway?”

She hadn’t thought of that. I could tell. Her eyes went to the ceiling. Like she’d heard chains rattling.

“I have an extra key,” I prodded.

“Why do you have an extra key?”

“Because he trusted me.” I stood. “Bring your drink, I’ll take you up.”

A deep breath later, she was on her feet, the Amaretto sour in one hand, the satchel in another, and Me-Too on her shoulder.

I led her along the bar to the door leading upstairs.

Announcing Countdown Deals!

I will be offering book deals on a rotating basis. Right now, the Rain Falls Countdown Deal is underway. Get each book in the series for 99 cents for this week only. [ends July 5th] Just click the Countdown Deals link in the menu bar of my page for the most current one.{Click image}

RainsFallSERIES_promosign2016

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New Museletter is out!

The new Museletter is out! I’ve done something different with it, and it also includes an excerpt from museletter_screenshot 24-Jun-16 18.44Melissa Walker-Baeli’s Work in Progress. Check it out, and let me know what you think! (those on my mailing list have been sent an email)

If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, please let me know, through the contact box on this site. Otherwise, you can get the Museletter when I post it on my Facebook page.

If you prefer, just send me a PM, with your email address and your location. And if you’d like to include your profession/vocation, give me that, too. I’m always looking for those with certain experiences, expertise, and knowledge. I like to have consultants.

http://kellijaebaeli.com/…/…/06/Museletter_24Jun16_FINAL.pdf

New Harbor Witches: Keepers hits top TEN on Amazon

New Harbor Witches: Keepers is now officially a top ten ‪#‎bestseller‬ {happy dance}
I have always been so proud of this book, and the second in the series, Ravens, even though it had yet to get a good foothold in the market, because it’s in such a specific niche category. I do believe it has universal appeal, however, and maybe this increased visibility will help those readers find it.

My next project is likely to be book three of that series, as a matter of fact. Been toying with it a bit, and it’s pulling at me a bit stronger than the other next-in-series projects.

Here’s the After Words from Keepers:

After Words

 

This book was a complete departure for me, but not surprising, as I always try to challenge myself as a writer, expand my literary horizons. I’ve never even read a book about witches, but had always enjoyed TV programs about them. I did, however, always find myself saying, “that was cool but I wouldn’t do it that way” or “that would be so much better if it had some foundation in logic and genetics.” I wanted to toy with the concept that witches could be not so much magical beings, but evolved beings. Evolution and adaptation being what they are, I figured it wasn’t so far-fetched if I approached the subject from a stance that witches were merely more-evolved humans. I also liked the idea of explaining many supernatural-seeming things in the collective consciousness by way of the presence of real witches.

Any story, for me, always begins with a what-if. For this book, I asked, What if things are not exactly what they seem? What if witches do exist, but they are not able to do everything depicted in popular media? What if historical events could even be explained by the presence of witches? What if I could intertwine that history with the story I wanted to tell? The brainstorming that ensued was rather epic, and that’s when I saw the potential for this series.

And as always, I also wanted to explore more of universal human nature, more of what makes us who we are. The decisions we make, and why. The often gray areas that exist between right and wrong. The perennial battle between good and evil, and how the human spirit can always rise above.

But first, I had to introduce the main characters and provide a foundation for all the events to come.
I hope I did that with Keepers..

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Pooly Fall is now #1 bestseller!

poolyfall_3dbookcvr_20nov2016_300x_whitebakcleanWoo hoo!  Pooly Fall is now a #1 bestseller in its category on Amazon!
Thanks to all my readers for making it so.

 

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