Can This Mouse Roar?

:::aside to Jason – If you read this, I haven’t changed my mind about wanting the cover:::

http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20070412234361/redwall/images/archive/b/b7/20070503005030!Matthias.JPG

 

I’m having wild swings of emotion these days, due in part to the change of jobs coming up. I have one week left at my current job, after which I will start at the new job at my former company. For a few moments in the office the other day as I was training one of my co-workers to take over one of my job functions, I had a feeling of competence that I haven’t really had for the last two years. This place has done such a number on my self-worth I’ve begun to think of myself as an incompetent screw-up.

Now, however, trying to pass down what I know to others to hand off everything I do (and you should have seen the list of job functions my supervisor was trying to figure out how to parcel out among the others) I realized how much I DO know about my job, and how impossible it will be to transfer all of it. And that’s only with this one particular task. The office manager has been particularly nice to me the last few days, not sure what that means.

Big Boss, however, has been as cold to me as ever. She knows I’m leaving and hasn’t said more than a ‘good morning’ when she arrives in the office. She’s out of town all next week, so I will never see her again. If I had any doubts about this being the right move for my mental health, that removed them. Financially this may not be the best move, but there are more important things.

So now I’m having second thoughts about this whole book thing. Can I really do this? Should I?  I’m still editing. And rewriting. And terrified, basically. I don’t know where people get the confidence to go ahead with these things and market their books (relentlessly) online. Moments of “Why not?” alternate with “Why bother?” Despite some aperiodic Leonine bravado, I am a mouse at heart.

Maybe my psyche’s not as strong as it once was. The older we get the more we realize how little we know. I think I’ll go write and play with my imaginary friends.

The Grump, or: Why I Don’t Need You to Find Me a MAY-UN

Minnesota_State_Capitol_Woodworkers_Toolbox_Historical_Society

 

This is kind of long because I feel it necessary to illustrate fully the character of the titular subject.

I mentioned one of my fellow bus riders, Carol, in the ghost post. Carol’s been married to her husband since the dawn of time. It’s not always rosy between them, in fact for awhile they seemed to be going through a bit of a rough patch judging by Carol’s demeanor at the bus stop in the morning. She vaguely alluded to the fact that I was single and sometimes she wished she was (she was pretty cranky that day). I really think she was angry enough at him during those days that, had she had the means, she would have left him.

It was a long time before I met her spouse – let’s see, what shall we call him? Let’s call him The Grump – and honestly, the woman is a saint for living with him all these years.  She’s even told me that none of their neighbors like him and avoid being outside if he’s home and outside anywhere.

Back when I first met her, Carol was driving a car borrowed from a family member. The Grump was driving a spiffy new rig (“rig” of course being redneck-speak for a pickup truck) they had bought all shiny and new not long before. Well, eventually the day came when The Grump lost his job, and that of course led to them losing the truck. Not long after, the family member whose car Carol had been driving needed their car back. So they were down to an old Ford Explorer that needs some TLC from a mechanic. With The Grump out of work, he had the use of the Explorer all day, and was driving Carol to the bus stop most days. Many days he’d just take her all the way to work. I think it was an excuse for him to get out of the house. Despite The Grump’s lack of employment, and Carol having no wheels to get herself around, The Grump spends HUNDREDS of dollars a month on all kinds of crap (just the other day it was a box of assorted wood for I’m not sure what that he had picked up at some garage or estate sale), not to mention all the gas driving around and up to Seattle for a “Tool Club”. It’s a group of old geezers who like to buy and sell antique tools. Was ever a club more aptly named?

The Grump is a member, and Carol has to go along and collect the dues and spend the day wherever the meeting is because The Grump “likes to spend time with her.” So she sits and reads a book most of the day while he’s off looking at items with the other grouchy old goats.

And they just laid out a fortune for new brakes on the Explorer, when it was discovered they were down to metal-on-metal. Carol wasn’t sure how they were going to buy food after that, but by god, The Grump is always out buying more crap at garage or ‘estate’ sales.

Since The Grump has been working a little lately and interviewing for jobs (and therefore of course he gets the car), Carol has had no way to get to the bus stop, so I’ve been picking her up in the morning and driving her to the park-n-ride where we catch the bus, then taking her home again in the afternoon from the park-n-ride. She doesn’t live far so it’s no problem. She and The Grump have often given me rides home from work to avoid having to take the bus on days when The Grump comes to give Carol a ride. This all sounds great, except then I’m subjected to country music in their car, and having to listen to The Grump regale me with his tales of accidents and run-ins with the police and his opinions on everything. If it costs the public any money, he’s against it. Laws seem to exist only to suck money out of people and be a hindrance to life. He beat up a bus driver once who’d hit his car, but of course The Grump was held at fault for ‘violating the civil rights’ of the driver (who evidently was black). He can tell you that seat belts cost as many lives as they save. He can tell you of the corruption of the police, and city building code scams designed to suck money out of honest citizens.

So you see why I call him The Grump.

Anyway, I ended up getting a ride home with them a couple of days ago. I was being quiet as I normally am in their car while The Grump holds forth on his grouchy tale of the day, when suddenly the conversation turned to a  member of their tool  club. As Carol tells it, this tool club guy is super-polite (a foreign concept to most of these old buzzards, it seems) and all the wives of the men in this club are trying to hook him up with their young daughters. The Grump says they rib him about being “A-mish” because he’s so nice. So then he suggests I need to meet this guy.

“Why?” sez I.

“So you can get free membership in the club,” sez Carol.

“Why do I want to join this club?” I ask.

She laughs and shakes her head. “You don’t.”

Damn straight, I’m thinking.

That was the end of the conversation but this made me realize they must have been talking amongst themselves, deciding I need a MAY-UN in my life (because really, who doesn’t want to be miserable and make excuses for a foul spouse?) and thought up this little scheme to match-make me and Mr.  “A-mish” dude.

Now, let’s just leave aside for a moment the fact that this would be a TERRIBLE match, and focus on how people can not get their heads around the idea that a single woman could be happy with her life. I don’t have to put up with anybody’s bad tempers or moodiness, or smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling, or spending money on crap they can’t afford. Why is it people can’t stand for a woman to be single? Why does being single = failure for a woman?

Carol opines on a regular basis about how every weekend they’re busy doing stuff that The Grump wants to do and she never gets time to herself or to do what she wants.

“Because he likes to spend time with me,” she says. Same reason he drives her to work, instead of letting her take the bus.

Now some of you may be thinking it’s charming that he still wants to spend time with her like this after so many years of marriage, but I’m seeing this as a control issue. She doesn’t even like to take a day off during the week because if she just stays home to relax or catch up on things, he’ll be around bugging her to go do things and she won’t be able to do anything she wants to do.

At my last job, Overseer (whom some of you will recall) even tried to give me advice for finding a MAY-UN. He informed me one day, unbidden, that his wife advocated making a list of desirable qualities that you want in a partner. Somehow this would set events in motion throughout the cosmos to manifest whatever you were looking for. And yet people say they don’t believe in magic. Trust me, I shut him down very quickly on the subject.

I understand relationships are a series of compromises, but they never seem to be equal. I don’t think Carol and her husband are an uncommon example. But, I never say anything critical about The Grump or their marriage, it’s not my place. I simply choose not to live my life that way. I wish other people would extend the same courtesy to those of us who are, for whatever reason, single. And I sure as hell don’t need people like The Grump interfering in my personal life.

Cover Me

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My time lately has been concentrated on researching book covers: designs, designers, how-to, software, stock photos, pre-made vs. commissioned. What I’ve decided is since I want to give the book its best chance possible I am going to commission cover art. My reasons are thus:

1. I want good art that will stand out, and won’t make me feel embarrassed to show someone, like these would. (Fair warning: you may need trauma counseling after viewing that site.)

2. The book is the first of what I hope will be a trilogy.  I want a cohesive look, rather than a mish-mash of different styles so I’m hoping to be able to have the same artist do the covers of the next books as well.

3. Design programs like PhotoShop or GIMP have a steep learning curve. If you don’t already know how to use them, it’s not likely to be something you can learn to do well in a weekend (unless you’re a whole lot smarter than I am). I suspect it would take years to achieve the level of mastery I’m after.  I got as far as downloading GIMP and was flummoxed. As much as I love playing around with it, I have no idea what I’m doing and the effort would be amateurish at best.  Again, the embarrassment factor.

4. I love really good cover art. Most of the pre-made covers are formulaic, or just not quite right and make me want to tweak the design this way or that, even if the art isn’t bad. I don’t want to settle for something that’s almost there.

5. I’m not an artist and know only the merest basics of design principles.

What can I say? Champagne taste on a beer budget.

It will cost more money, but people do judge books by their covers (I know I do) and those cheesey, bad CGI covers with ugly fonts are a turn-off to me, so probably are to most other people as well.  I’ve solicited information from three or four artists online (and dismissed others out of hand due to their prices) and am pretty well focused on one. It’s not that I begrudge these people their rates, god knows a real artist with real talent deserves to be compensated for their work. I simply can’t come up with that much money right now. And high prices are also no guarantee of talent, as you can quickly discover. I trolled the internet for a couple of weeks, looking up all kinds of artists, checking out the DIY options, pre-made offerings. This, I believe, is the best course.

The whole process is kind of taking my breath away, and my heart beat faster. This is really happening. Unless I chicken out and decide not to do it. I’ll probably just quietly put the book up on Amazon and hope no one notices…

Blessed Beltane

Blessed Beltane to all my pagan followers, of whatever tradition you follow. Beltane/Beltaine is also known as Walpurgis Night, or Walpurgisnacht, and it’s one of the four big fire festivals of the pagan year.

 

UPDATED:  I changed the video, this is a better version, especially for those who won’t be joining a circle around the fire tonight.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Brown lady of Raynham Hall

I had an interesting conversation with a woman on the bus this morning. I’ll call her Carol. Now Carol is a very religious Christian (not sure if she’s the ‘born again’ type or not) who not only attends church every week, she also attends something called ‘Life Group’ which I gather is some kind of Bible study session,  and talks as if it has never occurred to her that there are people in the world who don’t believe what she believes. Maybe it hasn’t.

That’s all fine, people are free to believe whatever they like. Frankly I’m a little surprised she still talks to me since I ‘fessed up about reading Tarot cards. She did seem a little taken aback by that, but nonetheless we get along very well and she’s a very nice person.

So this morning, I was more than a little surprised to hear her laugh at the idea of spirits or ghosts. Recently her own mother took in an elderly lady (let’s call her Milly). Milly is a cousin of Carol’s mother’s husband (with me so far?), somewhere around 97-years-old,  is quite frail, nearly blind, and could no longer live on her own. Milly started insisting she could see people in party dresses of all different colors who were there to visit her, and could also see members of her family (her mother, father, and a sister who I assume are all deceased).

Carol thought this was hilarious, but she played along, asking what color dresses the people were wearing, and who she was pointing at and so on. She asked if the people in the colorful dresses were going to a wedding, and Milly replied that no, they were there to see her.

I said how surprised I was that she, as a religious person, would scoff at the idea of spirits, or visitations. I mean, if you’re going to believe in Heaven, and people rising from the dead, how much of a stretch is it to believe some people can see spirits?

When my own mother was in the hospital for the final time before she died, she kept asking who the woman was who was sitting on the chair in her room. She said it was an Asian woman, who never spoke, but she saw her on several occasions. Mom was pretty sharp, right up to the end. She had many other incidents over the years that she attributed to her guardian angel (she once swore she found herself going the wrong way on the road, and the car was lifted up, turned around and set back down so she was facing the right way. I wasn’t there, I couldn’t say what did or did not happen). She also had a near-death experience many years ago when she had a heart attack. It wasn’t pretty.  She found herself floating down a long dark tunnel, until a voice said, “It’s not time, bring her back up.” At that point she said she felt a hand on each elbow (I think she said she saw a figure on each side of her) and she was lifted back up and woke up in the hospital.  I wish I had written down more of these incidents that she told me about. Mom was a Norwegian Lutheran who hadn’t actually attended church since she first got married, but she was strong believer in the Christian God and Jesus just the same.

I have heard this “phenomenon” of seeing people, or an individual, when death is close, is relatively common. Children have been reported to see the same woman, many of whom have called her by the same name (Bridget?). So I was very surprised that a person of such deep religious conviction would be so skeptical about something like this.

So, what do you think? Does seeing ghosts or spirits dovetail with belief in an afterlife, or is that too ‘New Age-y” for a traditional Christian?

Say When

water overflowing

So, I quietly did Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I thought maybe without the fanfare of announcing I was doing it and worrying about write-ins and taking part in the community (although all those things are great, and a wonderful part of the experience of NaNoWriMo) I would be more focused on the writing and less on talking about it. It seems to a have worked.

What did I work on? The sequel to Revenants Abroad, tentatively titled The Age of Revenants. Is it finished? Hardly. Let’s call it a good start. It’s about as rough as you’d expect 50,000 words cranked out in haste over 30 days to be. But that’s all right, I needed to get some ideas down, and why not put them towards the goal? A couple of things are kind of going off on tangents so may get revised out later, or possibly saved for something else. But I’m pleased that I was able to get this much done. And let me tell you, it was not easy. It’s one reason I’ve been very quiet on Twitter over the last month. And I really had to make a push during the last weekend. So apologies for any crankiness. It’s an insane way to get some writing done, but I feel like I have no choice these days. Would that I could quit the dayjob and just write. I’m so close to handing in my notice I can’t even tell you.

It felt good to get some of this stuff down, but it seems like the more I write, the more ideas I get. I’ve become better about grabbing a pen and paper when I get those lines just as I’m drifting off to sleep, which seems to happen more and more. I suspect I’m not unique in this.

Now to finish RA, get a cover, and get it up at Amazon. I’ve decided to self-pub via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) as agents seem unanimous in their distaste for vampire stories these days. I think there’s still a market, so am taking it upon myself to publish it and see what happens. As I told my dear friend Bunny this morning, I’m taking steel wool to the last few pages, finishing up edits (caught a couple of doozy typos), then I’ll need to get a cover created, and maybe a couple more beta readers, and hopefully have it up for sale before the end of the summer. I have to be done with this so I can move on to the next one. I just haven’t figured out when to say “when.”

Pictures of Spring

strange skies

Interesting cloud bank to the west, and strangely colored clouds.

 

Ornamental cherry trees

I’ve been meaning to get a picture of this street for years. The ornamental cherry trees are stunning. When the petals fall the street looks like it’s covered in pink snow.

 

UPDATE: I have just found out when the petals blow off the trees and it looks like a pink snowstorm, there is a Japanese word for it:

kissing cousins

showy

 

tulips yellow and pink

Maybe if I quit taking so many pictures I’d have time to write.