Two Ways of Looking at Things

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There’s always two ways to consider something. I’d be willing to bet that there’s usually even more than that.

My husband, Bernd, and I have two different basic modes of operation. His is mainly to panic. Mine is to mainly remain calm. It’s not that I’m more enlightened than he is. It just that I don’t like how I feel when I panic, so I try not to. Mostly, I am successful. Thankfully.

Two nights ago, the power went out around 12:45 a.m. I know this because the battery back-up/surge suppressor for our computer started beeping non-stop and it woke me up.

I got up and shut down the computer. After that, the battery back-up stopped beeping continuously and began beeping twice and then pausing, beeping twice and then pausing. Eventually, it ran out of power and stopped doing that. It was much more peaceful after that.

Bernd sleeps with ear plugs in his ears, so he never heard it. When he woke up around 2:30 to feed the cat, I let him know that the power was out and that I had already shut down the computer. Then I went back to sleep.

I’d had some worry about all the stuff in the fridge and it going bad and how hard it is to find animal protein right now. But I decided that whatever happened, we’d deal with it. We’d eat eggs, or rice and beans. Whatever.

Bernd had a different response that kept him awake for several hours. He panicked.

He spent time on his phone trying to figure out what was going on. APS (Arizona Public Service) said that there was an equipment failure and that power would be restored on May 6. If needed, they would reimburse customers for 20 pounds of dry ice or 40 pounds of regular ice. So he panicked even more.

He didn’t know the current date. And in the middle of the night, I guess it sounded like the restoration of service was days away. To make matters worse, his phone seemed to be using an inordinate amount of battery power and dropped below 5% in no time at all. It freaked him out. Luckily, we have some night lights that also serve as a battery back-up for our cell phones. He hooked both our phones up. We live in an area that gets huge thunderstorms in the summer and we can rely on the power going out occasionally so it helps to be prepared.

When we got up he said to me that they said power would be restored on 5/6. So I told him that today was the sixth. And in any case, the power came back on a little after 5:00 a.m. I heard the battery back-up and microwave beep. And also there was the flashing display on my bedside clock. When we got up about an hour later and he told me about his middle of the night escapades, I said to him, “I guess my response was ‘We’ll deal with it’ and yours was ‘Oh my God! What are we going to do?!'”

Bernd was worried about the meat we have in the freezer and the coming shortage of meat. He was worried about the loss of the cost of all the food in the fridge. He was worried in general. He can find more things to worry about in a day than I can in an entire month. I wish, for his sake, that it weren’t so. I don’t know how to change it really.

I think that part of his problem is that his memory for events is not very precise. I know that in the past, we’ve weathered all sorts of difficult situations. We’ve always managed to find a way through whatever adversity we have faced. I’m guessing he doesn’t have this reassuring outlook.

I often remind him of our capacity to overcome adversity, but he either forgets or his tendency to panic is so well-seated that it will always be his first response no matter what I might say.

I don’t know where I come by my aplomb. Maybe I owe it to my dad and his preparedness in all things. His calmly rational manner of looking at a situation. Or maybe I owe it to my mom and her organizational skills and ability to accomplish just about anything she set her mind to. Probably, I owe it to the both of them.

It might seem like there’s not a lot to be thankful for right now. But when I start breaking it down into small, easily digestible bits, I find there are many things for which I am grateful. This is just one of them. So thank you, Mom and Dad, for the grace and ease you have taught me. I only wish Bernd’s parents had done the same.

All Other Concerns Aside …

It’s springtime. Where we live in the higher elevations of central Arizona, which means wild swings in temperature between night and day.

The lows are still in the forties (just two weeks ago they were in the thirties), but the days are in the eighties. That’s a forty degree shift.

During the hottest part of the summer, the shift might be only 20 degrees. Same for during the coldest part of the winter.

Typically, this time of year, we’ve turned off the furnace and we leave doors and windows open overnight. Right now, the house usually cools down to about 63 degrees by the time the sun comes up again. That’s a good starting point.

Since I have a problem with air conditioned air, we try to use the air conditioning as little as possible. So it isn’t on right now either. And when we do finally turn it on, it will be set to come on only after the house reaches 85 degrees inside. At any rate, yesterday, the house heated up to a max temperature of 79 degrees.

But it’s the temperature of the house in the morning that concerns me most at this moment.

We take our dog, Maddie, for a walk first thing each morning shortly after the sun comes up. Then we come back home and we all have breakfast. I eat a simple breakfast of dry rolled oats and a hot drink. The drink is called “Pero” and it’s intended as a substitute for coffee, but tastes nothing like coffee. It’s better than plain hot water though. Maddie has a sumptuous breakfast. First there is a little scrambled egg followed by a piece of chicken jerky. Then she eats the canned food in her bowl. Often there are left over cat snacks on the floor that Bonfire did not eat and she eats those.

They say that you should eat breakfast like a kind, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I don’t do that, but Maddie eats breakfast like a kind for sure.

I eat my breakfast while sitting in my recliner. Actually, Bernd and I don’t use the dining table much for eating. It usually has a jigsaw puzzle in progress on it. Maddie often joins me in my recliner. While I’m sitting there, we help each other stay warm. But eventually, I have to get up and get busy with the days chores. Maddie usually remains in my chair.

I worry that she might get a bit chilly once I leave. So I cover her with a throw. This morning, she looked particularly fetching with her head on the pillow and the throw snuggled around her. So I had to take a photo of her.

None of this is really momentous stuff. Especially in the face of the current pandemic. But this is what is important to me right now; my love for our little pooch and my concern for her comfort.

“The Alien Visitation Chronicle” is Live on Amazon

I haven’t received my author copies yet, so this photo of the proof copy will have to do.

I was waiting for the two versions (eBook and print-on-demand) to link up on Amazon before making the announcement that my newest novel is live and available on Amazon. But it has been six days since I published it and five days since it went live and they are still listed separately. Amazon says it can take up to five days, but I lost my patience. Bad me.

So just this morning, I sent out my announcement in emails. As time goes by I might come up with a few more people to let know about my latest novel. But I’m pretty sure that I’ve sent it to all my closest friends. I don’t have much of a marketing strategy. Sigh. Or money for advertising. Big sigh.

I’m not lighting the world on fire with sales. My first novel, “Millie’s Adventures in Time,” has sold a few copies. I don’t expect this latest to do much better.

I didn’t write them to make money. It would be nice if they did. But that isn’t a financial necessity. Thankfully.  Yet.

I write because I love to write. I enjoy creating characters and scenarios and seeing how it all plays out. I enjoy building lives and relationships.

So here’s the rundown. I’ve got about half the sequel to “Millie” written. I have a mystery novel that I started at about the same time as “Millie” and shelved because I was having too much fun writing “Millie.” I’ll get back to the mystery sooner or later. I like the main character too much to just let it go.

Bernd has a fascination with the human form. He also had a fascination for a while with angels. Combining the two seemed like a no-brainer to him.

I have another novel that began as short stories and morphed into what will eventually become a whole story. This one is more of what they call “Women’s Fiction.”  And I have a very short children’s novel that I wrote years and years ago based on an aquarium that my husband and I kept for a while and the funny fishes that inhabited it. If I can get my husband to get really serious about doing some watercolor illustrations for it, I might actually publish it someday. He’s done a lot of watercolors. Some even have won awards at our county fair. He’s sold a few too. Pretty cool.

Bernd has done a number of Native American themed paintings. I like his landscapes a little better. But they are all under glass and hanging on our walls and so I can’t get a decent photograph of them.

And rounding the whole thing out is my memoir tentatively titled “It’s Okay Mom, I’ve been Around the Block.” You don’t have to be famous to write a memoir. Although I suppose it helps if your intent is to sell the thing. Mostly I’m writing the memoir for me. And maybe for my sister a little bit too. I might publish it one day. Could be fun to hold it in my hands.

I have some ideas for other books, but they are not very clear in my head yet. So that’s all I’m going to say about them.

I’m very excited to have published another novel. It’s scary in a way, too. But mostly, I’m just happy to have done it. A lot of living seems to be like that. Very big sigh.

Love Your Characters

first page of the original manuscript

While proof reading the hard copy of my first novel (“Millie’s Adventures in Time”) just now, I had a revelation.

It’s been a long while now since I finished writing it and it’s been awhile since I last worked on the sequel. So I had quite forgotten the tone of my writing and how I approached describing my characters.

One of my most favorite authors is Dean Koontz. Many years ago, before I considered writing any kind of real novel of my own, I thought that nothing would be better than to be able to write like Dean Koontz.

I am not comparing myself to that esteemed author. Nor do I think that I will ever write as well as he does. But I think there is one thing we might have in common. It is this: we love our characters. We love them deep down inside.

Until just now, I didn’t realize this was true for me. Shoot, I didn’t really think of Koontz’s writing in those terms either. But reading, just now, what I had written about Millie, I realized that I love her and all her foibles and inconsistencies. I love her opinionated ideas and uncompromising standards. It was then that I realized that the same must be true for Koontz.

I believe that Dean Koontz loves even his evil characters. You can sense this in the completeness with which he portrays their lives and motivations.

I think this is key. I think loving them is what makes my characters real for me. One needs to know and love their characters very well in order to write about them very well. They have to be real for the author in order for them to be real for the reader. And love is always a good place to begin.

I like Science Fiction but I Don’t want to Participate

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Well … if I could get on a rocket and go to the moon today, I’d be sorely tempted. I’ll qualify that: a nicely settled, well-established moon base would be preferable. Hey! I’m 67. I like some comfort in my life these days.

It’s movies like “Andromeda Strain” and “Contagion” that I don’t really want in my real life.

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I started reading science fiction when I was about 11 years old. I’d grown tired of the limits of my super hero comic books and wanted more. The Librarian at our local library was most helpful. She got me started on the sci-fi for kids.

Andre Norton PERILOUS DREAMS book cover scans
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I read every book in that section and moved on into the adult section, again with help from that Librarian. She introduced me to some of the simpler reads in the adult area. I read books by Andre Norton to begin with and slowly worked my way into the likes of Vonnegut, McCaffrey, Delaney and Heinlein.

Before I knew it I was reading Silverberg, Asimov, Clarke and all those authors people these days think of as classics. Eventually Crichton made the list as did Sagan, Dick, Niven and Le Guin. I’ve probably read them all. Just sitting here and thinking about it, names keep popping into my head. I might be able to list them all, but it would be really long. I mean LONG.

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There were a few that might qualify as “pulpy.” There was E. E. Doc Smith, the father of space opera. I loved his “Lensman” and “Skylark” series. “Doc Savage” started out as actual pulp fiction and morphed into paperback books. For one summer vacation, my mom bought me the whole series for my birthday. She thought it would last me all summer. Hah!

It hasn’t been lost on me that what we are going through right now with Covid-19 is a lot like a science fiction movie or novel. And I don’t much like it. It doesn’t help that those movies and novels have always shown how easily things can get out of hand. Spiral out of control. Create apocalypse kind of trouble.

It seems like a lot of the people where we live are relaxing their vigilance lately. It worries me. It saddens me too. It’s my belief that this could still all go south in a heartbeat. I’d rather it didn’t. We all would. But the only way it will not is if we batten down the hatches, dig in for the long haul, and think proactively about what is needed to keep people alive and the world running along at the same time.

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I don’t have the answers. I’m willing to bet that no one actually does. Every day I read something new about the novel corona virus that makes me wonder if we will ever get to the end of the things it messes up; of the havoc it can wreak on the human body, young, old, and in between.

I just hope that the measures that are already in place are sufficient and that people stick with them long enough to make a real difference. Consistency and perseverance are absolutely essential to the realization of any goal.

I’ll continue to read science fiction. I’ll continue to write it too. I just don’t want to live it.

So Close

It’s so close I can taste it. I think that’s how the saying goes.

Yesterday, I finished proof reading and editing “The Alien Visitation Chronicle.” I took my time.

I rushed those aspects of my first novel (“Millie’s Adventures in Time”) and I’m paying the price for that now. It has many errors and I will have to read the entire hard copy to find them. My husband has started on the digital copy and found a lot of mistakes.

The nice thing is that once I’ve fixed the digital copy of “Millie’s Adventures in Time,” I can re-upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing as a second edition. So all future copies will be corrected and hopefully better. I don’t know that I will do any editing, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

I have to say that proof reading from a hard copy is much easier. For some reason, the typos stand out more clearly than when reading from a monitor or a tablet. And because I took my time (never did more than one chapter at a time and sometimes only two chapters in a day), I was able to edit along the way as well.

I am confident that the result will be better than if I hadn’t done this.

Now I just have to make all the corrections and edits in the digital copy. There are a lot of them. Then I have to re-upload it to KDP and run through that copy to see if it transferred okay. Then I can click the Publish button.

I’ve written what I hope is a really good book description for the page on Amazon. Only time will tell about that.

I’m starting to get very excited about this. I’m experiencing some anxiety too. But mostly, I’m just excited.

Weird Words, Part 10

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1971 edition

Foofaraw

This word is said to have originated in the American West where it has been spelled as “fofaraw” and “froufraw.” There are also other spellings.

In writings of the Pioneer West, it was used to describe the frivolous trinkets, baubles, and gewgaws (there’s another weird word) used in trade.

It is also considered to mean a “fuss about nothing” or “flashy finery.” It can mean excessive or unnecessary ornamentation or a fuss or commotion.

Those who are supposed to know these things think it might have come from the Spanish fanfarron, which means braggart. Or perhaps it is from the Arabic word farfar, which means talkative.

The earliest documented use of foofaraw is from 1848. I’ve said this before; do people actually scour all printed texts from the beginning of time to figure out when a word was first used in print? Boggles my mind to think about it.

At any rate, the word’s similarity to froufrou (which most people think of as frilly or fussy and supposedly refers to the rustling of a dress and petticoats as a woman walks) is unmistakable. And it could be that it was adapted to foofaraw in order to add another layer of ridiculousness to a description. In any case, the etymology is actually unclear and it could just be that someone said it one day in an attempt to find some other word and failed and then somehow it caught on. Kind of like the word “squinch,” which would seem to me to be a combination of “squint” and “scrunch.” I’ve seen “squinch” used in print and it refers to something you do with your eyes.

Hullabaloo

At the same time I ran across the previous word, I ran across hullabaloo. Imagine reading those two words in different articles in the same day. What are the odds? Well I suppose if you were reading a book by Dean Koontz, the odds would be pretty good. He’s introduced me to a number of weird words over the years. The first one I remember was bibelot, which is a small decorative ornament or trinket.

Hullabaloo means what it sounds like; a commotion or fuss, a very noisy and confused situation, a situation in which many people are upset and angry about something.

Etymonline says this: 1762, hollo-ballo (with many variant spellings) “uproar, racket, noisy commotion.” Chiefly in northern England and Scottish, perhaps a rhyming reduplication of hallo (see hello). Bartlett (“Dictionary of Americanisms,” 1848) has it as hellabaloo “riotous noise, confusion” and says it is provincial in England.

Hello

So, as you can guess, I just had to check out “hello.” I had never really given much thought to this word. Mostly I wouldn’t think of it as a weird word. And it is a word that seems to have been around forever. In a way it has and in a way it hasn’t.

It is mainly considered to be a greeting between persons meeting up and it was first recorded around 1848 (seems to have been a popular time for the invention of weird words). Early references are to the U. S. western frontier where “hello the house” was said to be the usual greeting upon approaching a habitation.

It’s said that it is an alteration of hallo, itself an alteration of holla or hollo. These were shouted to attract attention sort of like we might shout “hey” today. These words seem to go back to at least the late 14th century.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Old High German hala, hola, the emphatic imperative of halon, holon meaning “to fetch” as the basis. It was used especially in hailing a ferryman.

Its rise to popularity as a greeting (1880) coincides with the spread of the telephone where it won out as the word said in answering over Alexander Graham Bell’s suggestion of ahoy. And good thing it did. That’s just my opinion.

Since I always like to finish these up by using the weird words in a sentence, I will offer this, even though it isn’t just one simple sentence. I was a bit stymied for how to make just one.

Hello! Hello. Are you listening? Let’s not make a hullabaloo over all this foofaraw.

In Lieu of the Vet

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My hope was that I could make this amusing. I’m not sure it’s really possible. Maybe once we’ve done it there will be something funny to say about it. Although, upon reflection, that might be a stretch.

The thing is, Maddie is showing all the signs that she needs to have her anal glands expressed. I’ll just let that thought sit there for a moment.

Okay.

Maybe some of you that are reading this have done this in the past for your dogs and you’re thinking “No big deal.” But this will be our first time. Yes, we could take her to the veterinarian or maybe even a groomer to have it done. But in this time of social distancing, that seems ill advised. And I’m not even certain how many veterinarians in our area are actually open for business right now.

I found one excellent video made by an actual veterinarian that explained the process very nicely. The vet had what I’m assuming was a very well behaved dog that had been through the ordeal a number of times and knew what to expect because he stood there and took it like a champ. I am not expecting any such response from our little Maddie.

First the vet demonstrated the external method. This requires you only squeeze from the outside on both sides of the dog’s anus at the same time. A little bit of “stuff” came out. Then using the same dog, the vet demonstrated the internal method and a lot of “stuff” came out. Kind of suddenly and copiously.

This led both my husband and me to figure that the internal method was the better method if you really wanted to do a good job of it. But it requires that you stick your index finger into the dog’s anus and squeeze from the outside with your thumb. And you have to do this twice, once on each side.

My suspicion is that we might get one side done on Maddie and then not be able to do the other side because she will be wise to the whole thing. She’s quick on the uptake and has a phenomenal memory. So any future attempts would most likely be met with a great deal of resistance too.

When our cat’s glands needed to be expressed, the vet sedated him. I don’t think I would ever even consider trying this with our cat. Might be really painful. For us. Not for the cat.

My husband was quick to point out that I had the smaller index fingers and so I should be the one to do the actual deed while he holds Maddie still. Thank you so much.

The vet we watched was a man. The dog was a little larger than Maddie, but not by much. I could point this out to my husband, but I have a feeling it would not shift his opinion.

We have already put this off for a few days. I figure today will finally be the day.

Wish us luck.

Adjusting to Being Home

Bernd, Bonfire and Maddie

I’ve been a stay-at-home wife and humom to a dog (the eponymous Maddie) and cat (Bonfire) for a few years now. I’ve got the routine down. I know the rules of the house as dictated by the dog and the cat.

My husband, Bernd, just this morning got the word that his place of employment is closed for the duration … however long that might be. No one knows right now. In the last few weeks, he’s gone in to work only a handful of days at the most. More likely it’s only about three. So he’s actually been home a lot.

But now that it’s official (he was told he should apply for unemployment insurance benefits and that they would rehire him when they reopen; they said “when” but I think it’s more like “if” they reopen). So just today, I feel like he’s really and truly unemployed. It’s a relief in some ways since now we don’t have to wonder if he’ll get a call to go in to work. We don’t have to worry about what that might expose him to. And we can seriously make plans for our financial future. Mostly that will mean spending as little money as we possibly can.

We always figured that one day he would actually retire. Even though Bernd is 67 now, he still planned to work for quite a few more years. So retirement wasn’t going to come any time soon. Our combined social security benefits are not enough to meet our monthly needs. So he was hoping to continue earning while collecting the benefits so that we might increase our savings.

Enter Covid-19 and the dashing of those hopes. For the time being anyway.

I’m accustomed to keeping things kind of tidy and uncluttered. I like good organization and everything has a place and I like everything to be in its place. Bernd looks at things a little more loosely.

So I find myself constantly reminding myself that he lives here too and that I should relax. It hasn’t been easy. The relaxing part.

Add to that the fact that anything we get in the mail or delivered has to sit somewhere for at least 24 hours before we touch it again (after bringing it in and then thoroughly washing our hands), and you’ve already got a mess that I find weighing on my psyche. I should just look at it all as a learning experience. Can you see my raised eyebrows as I doubt my ability to do that?

On my husband’s part, I explained one of the cardinal rules of the critters with whom we share our lives when he first started being home a lot. Today, I realized, he’s forgotten that rule. I was made aware by the many complaints and heavy sighs and grunts of displeasure that came from the living room as Bernd attempted to peacefully eat his very delicious lunch.

Maddie and Bonfire’s rule number one is this: any time humom or hudad sit down in a chair and make a lap, that lap may be sat upon by either Maddie or Bonfire or both.

I explained to Bernd that if he wants to eat in peace, he cannot sit anywhere that allows his lap to be occupied by either of the wee ones. Today, he forgot about that.

During the day, if I sit, I sit at a desk or on a stool at the breakfast bar. I will sometimes even eat standing up. If I can crochet standing up, I will. Sometimes I will read standing up. All to avoid having to disappoint the little beggars. That’s putting it diplomatically.

So where is Bernd right now? He is sitting in his recliner, having finished lunch quite some time ago, with both Maddie and Bonfire in his lap. He’ll get it figured out sooner or later. In the meantime, it’s really not a bad day to spend in your chair. It is raining off and on with some hail mixed into it. So a hot drink, a good book, and a couple of compliant lap warmers isn’t such a bad thing.

There will be other adjustments we will both have to make while spending all our time together. But we’ve made them in the past when we owned our own business for a few years (that was fairly interesting for a while and that’s putting that diplomatically). So I’m confident that we will be fine this time too. Eventually.

Proof Copies

Proof copy. Note the “Not for Resale” banner across the top.

I am a novice independent publisher. Maybe when I’ve published ten novels, I’ll know all the ins and outs. Maybe not. I can be stubbornly stupid sometimes. Just ask anyone who knows me really well.

I did not order a proof copy of my first novel (“Millie’s Adventures in Time”). I had wanted to. But I couldn’t find the button. Most likely it was staring me right in the face, but I didn’t see it.

While getting ready to publish my second novel (“The Alien Visitation Chronicle”), I found the button. Or rather I should say it was there all the time. It was actually a bit of color-highlighted hypertext, which could explain why I didn’t see it the first time around. No excuse, really, though.

The proof copy of my second novel arrived a few days ago. It was very exciting to have it in my hands. I love the look and the feel of it. And the knowledge that this is something I created.

I started reading it secure in the knowledge that I would find only a couple of errors in it. After all, I’d read it forwards twice and backwards once. I’d corrected errors and edited along the way. I was sure that what I held in my hands was a well-completed work of art.

Hah!

I’ve proofed only 49 pages so far and found 19 things I need to fix or would like to change. I have about 200 more pages to go. Oh my.

I can highly recommend ordering a proof copy of your work before publishing. Yes, you can fix things even after publishing. But there’s a good chance that a lot of your friends bought your book when you announced it was available and … well, let’s just say I’m a bit embarrassed about all the errors in my first novel. Once I get this second one launched, I’ll read my author copy of the first one and make notes about the errors.

The nice thing about the proof copy is that I feel fine marking it up and dog-earing the pages. I wouldn’t do that with my author copy. That would just be wrong.

So get your proof copy. Sit down with a fine-point red pen (mine is actually purple, I have a thing for the color purple) and get to work. You’ll have a better book when you are done. And that’s always a good thing.