The Positive and the Negative

It is funny how we let things affect us. I had started this blog as an exercise, a way to write even if I couldn’t think of anything story related to write. Even if I couldn’t do it every day I was trying for every week. It didn’t take too terribly long before I stopped, however.

There was a negative person in my office who honestly just really seemed to enjoy making me miserable. Passive aggressively of course, so she couldn’t be called out on it directly. Due to work I had her as a friend on my Facebook page. This blog links to my Facebook page, so when I started it, she saw. That’s when the comments started.

“Who blogs? I mean really? Who cares what you had for breakfast?” The comments were always about how stupid a blog was and always made in my presence. They also seemed to always start up again after I made a new post. I got tired of hearing it so I stopped the blog. The comments stopped.

This person has since moved on to another job, far away from here. Still, it has taken me time to get back around to doing this. But other than negative words and attitudes taking a little while to get over, there have also been some positive things happening that have kept me busy.

For one, I returned to college. I only had one semester under my belt when the doctors found that my Nana’s cancer had not only come back, but had metastasized to several critical areas. I made the decision to leave college and spend time at home with her, especially since the college I went to was a few states away. Then life happened, as it does. I am now one semester away from completing my AA, and plan to move on to a BA after.

Also, in the grand tradition of burying the lead, my book is published! Available on Amazon for paperback, and Kindle for E-book, Waking Up Dead is the first book in my “Life After” series. Book 2 is already in the editing stage and I hope to have it out this fall. Inserting shameless plug below 🙂

Waking Up Dead

I should be more active here from now on, and I welcome interaction, so feel free to drop me a comment or a line.

Til next time, friends.

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The Loud Silence

I’ve been absent here for a bit. Part of it was due to finishing up coursework for my AA degree, which I got (with Honors, at that!). Part of it was the usual parts of life that keep us all busy: friends, family, the day job, illness. Another part was focusing on getting things rolling for “The Dead Show,” which is book 3 in my Life After series.

The major issue has been what to say here.

Regarding my books, I have “Dead Vessel” in the hands of my editor, I am currently working on “The Dead Show” and I have at least one other story in in a kind of preproduction status. I have also begun writing articles for Frightmeter.com, of which I am a voting awards committee member. My love of horror runs deep, what can I say?

However, every time I begin to get my thoughts together about these kinds of things, something happens in the world at large that makes my talking about writing seem flimsy, self centered, and willfully ignorant of the world around me. I look at the news every day and the majority of what I see is very worrisome. Every time I think I have found something to talk about, something else happens that seems equally important to discuss.

I know I am supposed to be talking about my works here. I know I am supposed to be “building my brand,” especially since I am an indie author in the process of looking for an agent. I know that being in any way political could damage my chances of finding an agent and could drive away some of the people who would otherwise enjoy my work.

And yet I will persist.

Rather than the circus in Washington which seems to take a great deal of the media’s attention and doesn’t need an armchair quarterback like me commenting on it, I want to talk about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, and what has happened since Valentine’s Day. Specifically I want to talk about the survivors and the other high school students since that heinous day.

Ignoring the ridiculous claims of “crisis actors,” I want to applaud what the survivors of the horrendous tragedy have done. They have turned their anger and their grief into action. Not only that, their courage and conviction has served to mobilize an army of teenagers across the nation. Teenagers who are normally sneered at by adults for being apathetic, teenagers who are constantly told that they need to be educated about current events and have opinions so that they can actively participate in society.

Now these teenagers have found their voice, their leaders, and a cause to rally behind. However many comments I see on social media attached to the news stories of student walk outs and protests are dismissive. “What do they know? They just want to get out of class,” one commenter says. “What makes them think they get have opinions, or try to make their opinions valid? They’re just stupid kids!” And most damning of all “If they walk out or protest, they should be expelled.”

While these people have the right to express their opinions, I have the right to find these opinions nauseating and without merit. For years we have been telling these kids that they are the future. That if they want to see change in the way things work, they need to be the ones to make that change. That they need to care, they need to get involved. Yet when they do the adults seem only to happy to quickly try to swat them down.

These teenagers are watching their friends die. They are watching family members and the family members of friends die. They are watching one dumpster fire after another happen all around them. I for one am glad they are finally standing up and saying “No more!” Though I mourn the cause for this new found fire, I am thrilled they are becoming activists for the causes that matter to them, causes where they can make a real difference to the society that has been left to them.

I am Gen-X. The Baby Boomers labelled us as lazy and apathetic, and many of us said “Okay, fine, if that’s how you see us, why should we try to be anything else?” This is likely the result of the low voter turnout we keep seeing during elections. We saw the ugly side of money in the yuppies that our parents became. We were forced into not having opinions because those opinions might differ from those of our parents and damage their careers. Life became a numbing tune of watching our parents play at keeping up appearances while being as slick as they could to amass more wealth, more control. We see the money in politics and know that our voice has no meaning unless there are millions of dollars attached to that.

The survivors of Stoneman Douglas High are more than just survivors now. They are warriors. They are leaders. They are mobilizing their peers to take action and to try to overcome the old guard. They are fighting not only for common sense and the betterment of the society around them, they are fighting for their lives. No child should have to worry about being gunned down in school. No teacher should have to be the shield between their students and a hail of bullets.

I am the mother of a high school student and a soon to be high school student. With the protests and the walkouts, I have told both of my children to be as active as they want to be. If they want to participate, just let us know, we support them. I want my children to feel they have a voice, I want them to know we are listening, and most of all I want them to be safe.

I have seen on Facebook a movement that keep kids on school grounds during school hours, but still lets them honor those 17 lives that were lost. Honestly I would like to see more added for the other massacres as well. Sandy Hook, Columbine, and countless others. This movement is called #WalkUpNotOut.

On March 14, encourage students to walk up, not out. Walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite her to sit with you. Walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner, smile and say hi. Walk up to the kid who may be disruptive in class and ask him how he’s doing. Walk up to teachers and school staff and say thank you. Walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know him/her. Walk up to 14 students and 3 teachers and say something kind. Honor the lives of those lost by walking up, not out. #walkupnotout.

I don’t know who the original poster is, but it is a wonderful idea. That being said, I think it is high time we encourage our children to have voices, to have opinions, and to start to learn how to express them. If you don’t want them walking out of school for 17 minutes, tell them about the above movement. Have them get involved in rallies and protests. Have them learn about candidates in the government, what they stand for, and to question what they see and hear from them.

It’s time to stop telling them they are just kids. It’s time to stop telling them to shut up and sit down. It’s time to start teaching them that their voice matters, that they can make a difference, and it is never too early to start. Most of all it’s time to teach them to rise up and lead for what they believe in now, not wait for some tragedy to hit close to home.

These teenagers are the warriors that will lead us into the future. Do not try to dim their fire.

Until next time, my friends.

Happy Haunts.

Tales From the Dark Side of the Phone

Unless you are lucky enough to make a good living off of your writing, you tend to have a day job. The soul sucking drudgery that you do to pay the bills while you pen your glittering, masterful flights of fancy and dream of some day leaving the drudgery behind. A friend of mine used to write hysterical Facebook updates regarding his day job, which was actually an overnight gig at a hotel. So I have stolen the idea from him to make this entry. Thank you, my friend, you know who you are!

*****

“You need to connect me to the person who keeps advertising to me on Facebook, I want to be taken off your list.” That was one of the calls that started my day today. I then spent five minutes trying to explain to this very angry octogenarian that we were not responsible for the algorithm that Facebook uses to populate your sidebar or news feed with ads. “Well I don’t want to see them anymore, I’m 80 years old, and you’re wasting my time.”

“It’s Facebook, just scroll by it if it is in your feed. It takes maybe a whole second to do so. Meanwhile calling me to complain about something no one here can control is definitely wasting more time than that. Just scroll by or call Facebook to complain, or click the button to hide the ads from us. At this point I have told you seven times that it is not something anyone here has control over so get off my damned phone and stop wasting my time,” I thought to myself. Instead I calmly and politely reiterated that no one here had control over it, that she did have the option herself to block our ads, and if she had further issues she should contact Facebook.

“I thought to myself…” tends to be a phrase my friends, family, and co-workers hear a great deal from me. It differentiates what I wish I could say, which is usually quite expletive laden, from what I actually say in order to keep my job. Everyone has stories about work that make people shake their heads, but some jobs provide far more entertainment and frustration than others. Being a switchboard operator seems to combine both.

“It’s a great day at Blankitty Blank McBlankitty, how may I direct your call?”

“Where is this?” asked the caller.

“Well, had you freaking paid attention to what I was saying when I answered, you would know. You really don’t know where you called? Do you have amnesia, dementia, or did you just dial random numbers to see if you could win a jackpot?” I thought to myself. Instead I simply repeat myself and identify where they have called. Oh, and yes, they really do make us say that it’s a great day. What could be worse than having to continually repeat yourself to someone who doesn’t know where they are calling? Having to deal with someone who doesn’t know who they are calling for, that’s what.

“It’s a great day at Blankitty Blank McBlankitty, how may I direct your call?”

“Yeah, I need to talk to that lady with the brown hair and the pink sweater who sits in the second desk from the door, I don’t know her name,” said the caller.

“There are close to three thousand employees in multiple offices with multiple doors in this building. Could you vague that up for me anymore?” I thought to myself. Experience has taught me which department they are looking for; as we only have a few that the general public can normally walk in to. However, as that office is on the other side of a half mile long building from where the switchboard is, I don’t make it a habit to go down there every day to see who is wearing what, what color hair they have, or if they were glasses or not. In this case I will usually name off a few names from that department to see if it jogs the memory of the caller. If not, I transfer them to a random person in that office, as that person will know far better than I would who is wearing the pink sweater. People don’t realize just how big this building is. That is put in sharp relief people feel they really need to speak to someone or some department immediately.

“It’s a great day at Blankitty Blank McBlankitty, how may I direct your call?”

“I keep calling John Smith and I keep getting voicemail, is he in today?” asked the caller.

“Well let me just look in my crystal ball here… Yes, he is in, he’s just avoiding you because you’re annoying and keep calling but not leaving a voicemail for him to return,” I thought to myself. Instead I say “I’m sorry, that department is on the other side of the building from me so I wouldn’t know. I can put you through to his extension and you can leave him a voicemail and he will get back to you.”

“Well can you put me through to someone else down there?”

“Oh sure, let’s play extension roulette and see how well that works out for you,” I thought to myself. Instead I agree and put them through to a different extension. This conversation generally repeats about five times with the same caller before I get to the inevitable conclusion of this series of calls.

“It’s me again. Can you just go over to that department and see who is there at their desk to take a phone call?”

“Why yes, of course. I’ll just put the entire switchboard on hold for ten minutes while I walk across to a department that is not mine, go through it like I was Sarah walking the Goblin King’s maze in Labyrinth, because everyone has five and a half-foot tall cubicles and I’m only a couple of inches over five feet. I will pray I find someone at their desk that, in the ten minutes it will take me to get back to my desk, just might still be available to speak with you,” I thought to myself. Instead I reply that I cannot leave the switchboard and have no way of knowing who is in, at their desk, and able to take their call, but I will be happy to try another extension for them. This kind of call is especially rampant around payday.

I’m not even going to go into the people who call to get a number and then don’t seem to be able to find pen or paper within a five-mile radius of their location. Or the people who ask for a phone number and then try to punch it into their cell phones as you give it to them, coincidentally making you deaf because the tones are sounding right into your skull via the headset you are wearing.

Suffice it to say that most people deal with people for work, be it on the phone, or in the service or hospitality industries, have an excellent brain-to-mouth filter. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t still be working. Just remember, when you call a switchboard, use some common sense, and be nice to the operator. Otherwise you might end up in someone’s blog!

Until later my friends!

Happy Haunts!

 

 

Back in the Saddle Again

Believe it or not the first drafts of Waking Up Dead and Dead Vessel, the first two books in the Life After Series, were finished around this time back in 2011. It took 5 years of tinkering and revision to get the first book to where I felt I could publish it. I was also lucky enough to be put in touch with a great editor who helped me polish it. Given the fact that most of my Creative Writing classes had taken place in the 1990’s I am fairly sure she was ready to kill me since a few rules had changed in the last three decades.

Since publishing Waking Up Dead at the end of August in 2016 I have been tinkering and working on the revisions to Dead Vessel. That book is in the hands of my editor now and it is my fervent hope that I am not inspiring more homicidal thoughts in her.

In January of 2012 I began the third book, The Dead Show. I got roughly 50,000 words in when I realized it was not going well. I had too many named characters in a scene. I was having to draw sketches and diagrams to keep track of who was where. I realized if I couldn’t keep track of the characters, there was no way the reader would be able to. The side plot was also foundering. So I put it aside to work on getting the first two out.

Now I am able to come back to the third book not only with a fresh set of eyes and a clearer vision of what it should be, but also with renewed purpose. Working on the first two and getting them out there made me excited for the story again. Now as I sit here reorganizing notes for the book and writing a new outline I feel that familiar excitement. Like a kid in a candy store I get to play around with all the threads of my plot again. Some threads are clearly developed; certain characters and places. Others are only now being woven in. One or two others are even the kind of thread that changes color unexpectedly.

I am very excited to begin writing it, not just outlining, in the New Year. I have such a wonderful and exciting story to tell you all!

Until later my friends.

Happy Haunts!

‘Twas the Week Before Christmas…

Is it me or has 2017 really flown by? It’s hard for me to fathom the fact that we are just a week away from Christmas and 2 weeks away from 2018. Here’s hoping that the holidays are good to all of you, and that 2018 is a better year. For almost everyone I know personally it’s been meh at best in 2017.

All of that aside, I have had some milestone moments this year despite the ups and downs. I had the privilege of having a store carrying hard copies of my novel, and sales have been fairly steady there (a grateful shout out to Tom Lotz at Cool Comics and Games in Cape Coral, FL.). I was lucky enough to attend my first convention as an author this past October. For a new author with only one book, I did pretty well there as well. I even spoke on a couple of panels, which for anyone who knows me knows how big and terrifying a thing that is for me. I got Book 2, Dead Vessel, into the hands of lovely and fearless editor, Gail Matson, and was lucky enough to find Sarah Anderson, a phenomenal cover artist. For those of you with a current copy of the book, hang on to it. It will soon be the “First Edition” copy as I will be giving Waking Up Dead a new cover about the same time Dead Vessel comes out.

All of that, and I am so far surviving my kids teenage years! Trust me, at 15 and 13, some days are touch and go, but I love the little drama makers, so I think I’ll keep them 🙂

I have plenty more coming up in the new year. I am currently working on Book 3 of the series, and I have submitted a short story to an anthology series (I won’t find out til the end of the year if I am accepted or not). I have two appearances in February booked, and I am looking at booking one of the more major conventions as well.

That’s all for now. Happy Haunts my friends!

Bad Times at the Movies

Last weekend was spent in a haze of stress as my husband prepared for his Radiographic Positiong 2 and Physics finals. A lot was riding on those finals and while he was confident about the latter, he was less so about the former as it was a cumulative final that encompassed last semester’s (Positioning 1) information as well. This week he passed both, so this weekend was about relaxing and celebrating. With Free Comic Book Day on Saturday and Star Wars Day today, it seemed like we were going to have a great time, and for the most part we have.

We also planned to take our kids to see The Amazing Spiderman 2. A little reward for them for dealing with us through the stress, as we were probably a little crankier and a little less available for family time the past weekend. Going to the movies is no small feat for us. The movie theater has changed their Matinee times. They have recently changed it to any movie showing BEFORE noon. Once upon a time it used to be before five. They changed it about a decade ago to before three. I personally think before noon is ridiculous and greedy, but I’m sure they really don’t care what I think. Anyway, for us to attend a movie (2D) it’s about $40. That’s tickets only folks. No popcorn or drinks or candy, because the cost of that stuff is truly insane ($12 for a medium popcorn and small drink when I glanced at the board yesterday). We also don’t really do 3D movies as it adds another $12 to the ticket cost and gives me a screaming headache.

A friend came with us and we get to the theater, got our tickets and went in. The theater is packed and this is where my social anxiety decides it’s party time. We ended up in the third row, which sucked a little because it was closer than we all wanted to be, but it was the only place left (other than the first two rows) where five people could sit together. We get settled and I give my daughter the usual rigamarole of don’t talk during the movie, save your questions for the end, etc. In hind sight I should have given that talk to the 10 teenagers in the row behind us.

The lights go down and the previews… excuse me… commercials start. After about three or four of those we get to the previews. the first one is apparently based on a YA novel, which makes three of the girls behind us erupt into squeals of delight and chatter about the book. I’m annoyed but at least have the vaguest hint that they read, so maybe they are intelligent enough to shut up during the movie. Through every preview they talk. My husband can see I’m getting more and more annoyed, and pats my leg.

“It’s just the previews, they should quiet down once the movie starts,” he says.

Oh…. if only he had been right.

They didn’t even bother whispering. They weren’t loud enough to bother the entire theater, but they were loud enough to continually annoy us. One girl wished she had green eyes like Harry Osborne, another dropped her phone, and there was a mad scramble to find it. I shushed them or said “Shut Up” or “Be Quiet” about six times. My husband did as well. Our friend flat out turned around and told them to be quiet. Even my daughter was giving them dirty looks.

I wanted to get up and go get an usher, but I would have had to climb over people, and my social anxiety doesn’t allow that unless I have absolutely no choice. My husband wanted to as well, but he didn’t want to miss the movie. Besides, we’ve seen what happens when you get an usher. They’ll come in, tell them to shut up, stay for a few minutes, then go away and the group starts talking again. They won’t kick them out of the movie, since they paid to be there. At least that is the philosophy of this theater.

This may be our last movie at this theater. While it is close to home, the changes they have been making are really disappointing. They don’t remove problem people unless those people can’t produce ticket stubs for the movie. The changing of the matinee time to something that leaves out a lot of people (before noon is only one showing of any given movie). They also changed their rewards program from something that gives you more rewards the more movies you see, to something that is the same, but you have to pay $10 a year for the privilege of being part of that program.

We will likely only see 2 more movies at the theater this year. X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy. We reserve going to the theater for the big spectacle, better to see on the big screen and you can take your kids to it films. Everything else waits until we can view it at home. My kids didn’t understand why until this past trip. Now I think they finally get it.

Until next time my friends, May the Fourth be with you, and Excelsior!

Of Worlds and Words

I know I have mentioned before that I have been writing since I was a kid. When I hit 8th grade I remember getting so excited because the school offered Creative Writing as an elective, and I jumped at it! Mrs. George was a great teacher and I remember her class fondly. High school, however, truly began laying the foundations for my seriously considering doing anything with writing beyond amusing myself.

My school offered many electives, but of course my favorites were Creative Writing 1 & 2. Offered as full year courses, the two years I spent in this class were may absolute favorites. When asked today who my favorite teacher was when I was in school, I always answer without hesitation that it was Mr. Verner. He was a patient, encouraging, and incredibly creative man. We had to turn in five pages every week to him, and that poor man would then go home and spend the weekend sorting through messy handwriting, not to mention the good, bad, and ugly that 9th and 10th graders could come up with.

I always smile when I remember him going on about how he hated the Maryland Lottery commercials (he hated the jingle, a song about how you could be walking down the street with a dollar in your pocket, the next be driving your very own crotch rocket). He also had a whole anthology of Sluggy stories. The Sluggy stories were about a boy and his pet slug and their misadventures. Sluggy was ahead of it’s time in that it predated South Park. Just like Kenny dies in that show, Sluggy always died by the end of the stories, usually in horrific and terribly funny ways.

I tell my kids Sluggy stories, simply in honor of this teacher.

Though at times my ambition has wavered, I have never stopped writing because of this teacher.

I got a random invitation from someone at work to join LinkedIn. I figured why not and joined I noticed that my favorite teacher was there. Curiosity set in and I found him on Facebook too! I was so happy to have the chance to tell him myself how much he meant to me, how much he influenced me, and how much I still remember of his classes and how I keep the legacy of Sluggy alive.

He has retired from teaching and is now a published writer and blogger himself. I wish him all the best success in the world with his books. I unfortunately cannot go to his book signings, as he is worlds away (well, states, but for me it might as well be worlds), but I hope he has a good line of fans.

It’s funny how sometimes the world of words can be so small that you can run into those who inspire you after a long time, and find them in places you wouldn’t have thought to look!

Until next time, friends.