Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bakery Math and the Spring Whirlygig

So let's recap, friends and neighbors:

This weekend:

• I have a signing at Maeva's in Alton on Friday night - "Writers of the Riverbend."
• On Saturday, I work for Ye Olde Newspaper.
• On Sunday, I am running a fundraiser at Pottery Hollow for the Relay for Life team. This requires baked goods, as treats were promised to the people coming to paint things. I might be able to get away with cookies and punch.
• Meanwhile Boy goes through his Ordeal for the Order of the Arrow.

Next weekend:

• I am doing a signing in Louisville, Ky. I am leaving on Thursday so I can do some photography on Friday before the signing on Saturday.
• But as soon as the signing is over Saturday, I have to book it back to Illinois. Because...
• Sunday is the 175th anniversary of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. I am responsible for the coffee hour baked goods. And coffee hour is, as we all know, the eighth sacrament of the Episcopal Church.
• Therefore all baking must be done by Wednesday of next week and then hidden from the menfolk.

The following weekend:

• I am coordinating a group author signing at St. Andrew's and the Relay Cafe.
• Which means more baked goods, plus the chili and hot dogs and other schtuff for the cafe, which likewise is raising money for the American Cancer Society.

Therefore, I need to do large-scale bake-sale-type baking in my ha ha ha spare time.

Cookies. Brownies. Cupcakes.

I AM OPEN TO RECIPES, PEOPLE. Preferably things hard to screw up, which don't require refrigeration, and keep for a good while, and tempt people to drop extra dollars in the donation jar.

Meanwhile, I am trying to manage:

• logistics and paperwork for Ian's summer school enrollment, freshman orientation arrangements, orchestra trip to Florida, summer camp counselor gig, and this weekend's Ordeal for the Order of the Arrow;
• travel plans for summer and fall for me, Jim, Ian, and occasionally some combination thereof;
• prom, which happens while I'm in Kentucky so I will MISS IT;
• three (3) separate fundraisers for Relay for Life with another on the horizon plus the Relay itself;
• three (3) group author signings that somehow I am coordinating;
• SPJ and its various spinning plates, including the annual report;
• the side gigs for fiction, photography and editing;
• more doctors' appointments than a syphilitic octogenarian.

Before you say, "Elizabeth, you're doing too much!" ... yeah, I know. This time of year is always nuts, since all the speaking engagements pile up in the spring and Relay comes right at the end of the school year and so on. It's a little crazier this year, because of the one thing I left off the list: Ian's graduation and Jim's 50th birthday, which happen the same weekend.

!!!!!!!

So I'm gonna go find my Zen, which may or may not resemble rum, and y'all feel free to share cookie recipes that will feed all these people with a minimum effort from me, and if you're so inclined, share some of your Zen with me. Because I could really use a vacation.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Peace which the world cannot give, I give to you


I give you a new commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you. By this the world shall know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.


Yeah, brace yourself. It's church talk.

Maundy Thursday is the beginning of the three-night observance leading up to Easter, known as the Great Triduum. I had to go check the spelling. Not everyone knows (or cares) that Easter is not a day or a holiday, it is a season. There are three nights of preparation leading up to Easter Sunday, and then forty days of celebration thereafter. More chocolate for everyone!

Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the entire year. Alas, this year I could not sing, because after five weeks of illness my voice is destroyed. It remains to be seen whether I can stand with my fellow choir members and my son to sing the Hallelujah Chorus on Sunday. My voice is my offering, and without it, I feel as though part of me is missing.

Of course, we would be singing my favorite anthem, one I love so much I asked them to sing it at my wedding and have asked Jimmy to please remember to have them sing it at my funeral.

In remembrance of me, eat this bread.
In remembrance of me, drink this wine.
In remembrance of me, pray for the time
that God's own will is done.

It is the service that remembers the Last Supper, the Seder among Jesus and the disciples. Everyone knows how that night ended, with betrayal and terror and people fleeing into the night in fear for their lives, religious and political oppression crashing down on their heads. But what I tend to remember is the beginning: a group of people gathering to honor their faith, and their leader startling them by washing their feet.

I leave it to the true Biblical scholars and historians to go into the details of why this was absolutely staggering in the cultural mores of the time, as shocking as when a woman used precious perfume and her hair to wash Jesus' feet. But I think one of the true reflections of faith is not necessarily what an action or story meant to people at the time or even how it has been interpreted through the centuries, but the lesson we take from it today.

In remembrance of me, heal the sick.
In remembrance of me, feed the poor.
In remembrance of me, open the door
and let your brother in.

For me, the story and the way my church chooses to symbolize it is a central tenet of my own faith: let us be servants to one another. In the Maundy Thursday service of the Episcopal Church, people may choose to have their feet washed by the priest before the altar. This is done in a ritualistic manner, with bare feet and a basin placed in the center of the aisle.

The priest states in his prayer beforehand that none should be so aware of their servanthood than those whom God has called to be his ministers, and that he does this to remember whose servant he is. And, as he says, we are then called to be servants to others.

Some people don't like it. They don't always choose to participate. Some parishes to which I've belonged had almost complete participation in the foot-washing; at this Thursday's service, there were fewer than ten, I think. And that's one of the nifty things about being Episcopalian: that's okay. Do or do not, as thou wilt.

Sure, it's awkward and weird. We don't usually take our shoes off in public, at least in an Episcopal church. We don't usually let other people wash our feet as long as we are capable of doing it ourselves.

But then, there are so many things in faith that ask us to set aside How It's Always Done and do something different.

Take, eat and be comforted
Drink, and remember too
That this is my Body and precious Blood
Shed for you

Being a lifelong Episcopalian means I've seen the footwashing performed in many different ways. What's the old joke: ask five Episcopalians for their theological opinion and you'll get six different answers. At my church for the last couple of decades, the priest washes everyone's feet, while the choir sings in the background.

At another church I attended in the past, each person washes the next person's feet. This is logistically more difficult, but I like it better: servants to one another. As the person in front of me washes my feet, so I will wash the feet of the person after me.

At yet another church I attended, the entire service was removed from the sanctuary into the parish hall. It was an extremely small church, and they chose a different rite, that celebrates remarkably similar to a Seder meal. We sat at a table instead of pews, ate small symbolic pieces of food, and washed each others' feet when the time came. It was not an attempt to co-opt the Seder, so much as it was paying homage to our ancestors and acknowledging our roots, respecting that the traditions we follow have their origins in faiths older than our own.

As I have washed the feet of my fellow parishioners, I found it among the most moving and spiritual experiences of my life as a woman of faith. I felt closer to my fellow parishioners, and closer to our heritage and the experiences of the people in the upper room.

In remembrance of me, search for truth.
In remembrance of me, always love.

To me, the most direct and beautiful expression of faith is not in words but in actions. When we choose to treat one another with love and respect, we are offering witness to the world. It's easy to sit in judgment and lecture someone else about what they should believe and how they should live appropriate to Scripture or doctrine. It's not so easy to offer kindness in return for anger, to set aside darker impulses in favor of forgiveness, or to recall that we are not the judges of all the world. True sin is to presume to know the mind of God, and to pass judgment in His name.

And it can be difficult for us to listen to the cascade of snide remarks, jokes about Zombie Jesus or Magic Sky Fairy from friends and family who would never be so disrespectful of another faith... and then remember how many of our own faith have used far worse weapons than words against others.

We are all beholden to one another. It was the final lesson our teacher attempted to give, and the one at which we have failed the most miserably.

I know more than most how people can come together and help each other when they choose. I have experienced far more of the love and generosity of friends, family and community than was my share. I continue to strive to give back what I have received, to pay it forward in whatever way I can, but I know that my balance will always be in the red.

As the service ends, the altar is stripped. Everything is removed, leaving bare wood. It is sometimes disconcerting to see the trappings removed, a reminder that these sacred things are only things. Perhaps we need to strip everything down to the floor sometimes in order to truly see what is important.

Afterward we remain in silent prayer and meditation for as long as we wish, so we can watch with Him one bitter hour. Yet it is never bitter to me, a time of silence, of prayer and stillness. We are rarely still in this crazed life, and peace can be hard to find.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Let me not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.

Allow me to wash your feet, and then you will wash the feet of the one who comes after you. What I do for you, you do for another. And thus the five thousand are fed.

In remembrance of me, don't look above
But in your heart for God.
In remembrance of me.



Note: Portions of this post originally ran in 2013.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Snippets: Catchup Edition with bonus HAMILTON!

For some reason, the Illness Edition(s) didn't run when I was sick. I was already on an antibiotic for another ailment when the Mysterious Fever of March struck. It went as high as 103, and stuck around for six days. Flu test was negative, other symptoms were all fever-related, including lower white cell count.

Then it went away, shortly after I stopped taking the medicine. All that remained was pain in my hand and finger joints and a weird, painful swelling at the back of my head, which later turned out to be an infected lymph node. Two days later, my lips suddenly swelled up like Mick Jagger and my arms and legs itched so terribly I had to smear myself with lidocaine gel just to be able to sleep. A few days of antihistimines made it go away.

Methinks I'm allergic to something. WebMD said I had dengue fever or meningitis. Never put your symptoms into WebMD. You're either dying of an obscure tropical virus or having a panic attack.

A few weeks later, and suddenly I have a lung infection reminiscent of Ebola. High fever, the usual delights, plus a weekend bonus of killing my voice. Thirteen days later, the voice is still in hiding, and I'm supposed to sing the great Triduum and Easter in a few days. Grrr argh.

How do I get this twice in five weeks? One of the extra-fun delights of being immune-compromised.

In the meantime... Snippets!

ME: I don't want to get you sick, so I may sleep on the couch.
MAN: ... Okay. I'm not going to argue with you.
ME: That would be a first.
MAN: You do what you have to.
ME: I hardly know what to do. You argue with me on everything. Everyone thinks I've got you like under my thumb, and they don't know how stubborn you are.
MAN: Well, you taught me everything I know.
ME: Did not. They don't know that you're the stubborn one in this relationship.
MAN: HA!
ME: Hey!
MAN: *grabs little jewelry holder off my dresser and works its opening like a puppet-mouth* You liiiiiie, woman.
ME: a) Don't call me woman, and b) that's NOT a puppet, you're gonna mangle it and then I'll have to throw it away!

******

MAN: Seriously, if you get worse, call me and I'll come home.
ME: So you can do what, stand over me and cluck your tongue at me?
MAN: *clucks tongue over me*
ME: Fine, if that'll make me better, come do it before you go to work. But I'm not calling you.
MAN: Seriously!
ME: No!
MAN: You will too!
ME: Will not! The only reason I'd call you was if I had to go to the ER, and since all they'll do is pat me on the head, tell me to call the doc in the morning and charge me nine thousand dollars, I'll just stay home to die, thank you.
MAN: ...
ME: Well, I thought it was funny.
MAN: If your temp gets over 104, call me.
ME: Well, I won't, because you told me to.
MAN: That's right, you WILL, and I'll show you who's boss.
ME: And who would that be?
MAN: ...Me.
ME: You wish.

******

Finally there were a few doctor visits. These are from today. Did I mention I love the Awesome Doc?

DOC: So what's going on? Never mind, I don't wanna hear complaints, don't give me yer troubles.
ME: See, that's exactly what a person likes to hear from their doctor.
DOC: What, compassion?
ME: Compassion, understanding, sensitivity...
DOC: *waves hand* Nah.
ME: *snerk*

ME: I have to come back in three months again, don't I?
DOC: Well, you give me blood results that make me happy, and I'll leave you alone.
ME: *sigh*

At one point we discussed the likelihood of me singing on Sunday, which led to talking about music.

DOC: I've got a nephew in the music business, he was on Broadway. Something called Hamilton, you ever heard of it?
ME: ... Yes, I've heard of Hamilton. So has, um, everyone.
DOC: Yeah, he was in that.
ME: You are totally pulling my leg.
DOC: I swear. His name is Chris Jackson, he played George Washington.
ME: Yeah, I've heard of George Washington, too.

So then I look up Chris Jackson, and holy Hera, he not only originated the role of George Washington in Hamilton and won a freaking Tony for it, but then I saw his photo. I texted it to Jim, and he replied, "Holy shit!"

Absolute spitting image of the Awesome Doc.


Before I left, Awesome Doc wrote something down for my reference.

ME: *examines card* Hey, this is almost readable. Are you sure you're a doctor?
DOC: Stahp it.
ME: *snerk*


******

Meanwhile, back at the farm...

TV CHARACTER: Sagittarius.
BOY: Pause. *I press pause* What is Sagittarius?
ME: You don't... know? Sagittarius is a sign of the zodiac. It originates from the constellations.
BOY: How do you...
ME: Know what you are? Birthdate. You are... *googles* Capricorn. Your element is Earth, your birthstone is garnet, and your animal is the sea-goat.
BOY: What are you?
ME: I'm a Pisces. You know what that means?
BOY: What?
ME: I'm a fishy character who works for scale.
BOY: *side-eye*
ME: Nothing?
BOY: That was terrible.
ME: I am unappreciated in my house.

******

ME: I am getting Facebook ads for divorce counseling. Anything you need to tell me?
MAN: ...
ME: Well, I thought it was funny...
MAN: I didn't hear the text. And I have nothing to say...
ME: That's not nearly witty enough for the blog.
MAN: Maybe you should be telling ME what is up, woman! Going to leave me for a mouse.
ME: ... a mouse?
MAN: Disney.
ME: I'm taking YOU with me, goofball.

******

Boy had an extensive amount of paperwork to fill out for his summer camp counselor job. I swear I filled out fewer forms when I was hired at Ye Olde Newspaper. It took two consecutive nights of listening to him swear at his computer and providing the occasional guidance. He finished approximately 12 minutes before the deadline.

ME: And have we learned a lesson about the dangers of procrastination?
BOY: Yes. Always procrastinate.

Both Jim and Noah (who was visiting for spring break) thought this was freaking hilarious.

******

MAN: Have you seen Becky yet?
ME: The Becky is here!
MAN: Tell her I say hello. Did you bring her the book?
ME: No, I ate the book. I had the munchies.
MAN: With ketchup? And they have ice cream there! Why eat a poor, defenseless book?
ME: Smartass.
MAN: You taught me well.
ME: I am not responsible for you. You came this way.
MAN: Bad influence.

******

MAN: Any news about the car?
ME: It's an oil leak.
MAN: No shit. What was leaking, woman?
ME: There's a leaking gasket in the... flux capacitor. I can't remember. It's covered by the warranty.
MAN: Glad it is covered unlike Doc Brown's car.
ME: Also don't call me woman.
MAN: Woman.
ME: Don't call me woman or I'm throwing our defective airbag at you.
MAN: Are they fixing the grenade?
ME: Yes. They have the new airbags in stock now.
MAN: Now car don't go boom!


It's been a long month. I promise to stop forgetting this blog exists... Because where else would you get your snark? Now I'm off to find a song sung by my doctor's nephew on iTunes, because that's just too cool.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Snippets: Deskbound Edition

Two things you must know about this Snippet: I am currently in the process of sorting, filing, and reorganizing my office for greater efficiency and less clutter. This is a work in progress.

Also, we are still a one-car family, so Jim is heavily dependent on the bus system for his transportation to and from work. And he is still on the night shift while I'm on the day shift, which means texting is our primary form of marital communication. On this particular day, I had assignments in Collinsville and Belleville.

MAN: Where is your stapler?
ME: My stapler is on my desk.
MAN: ...where?
ME: In plain sight. On the desk.
MAN: Your desk is a war zone.
ME: My desk is not a war zone. I know exactly where everything is on my desk.
MAN: Your desk is a disaster. Your desk looks like a kaiju stomped through it.
ME: My desk is in a state of transition.
MAN: Your desk is in a state of chaos.
ME: Just use the stapler and stop messing up my desk.
MAN: I couldn't possibly mess up your desk.
ME: Get outta my office.
MAN: Ha! No wonder I couldn't find it, it was between two boxes.
ME: Those are stacks. I'm sorting paper.
MAN: Your desk is frightening.
ME: Better quit making fun of my desk, it'll eat you up.
MAN: I'm away from the desk now, I'm safe to make fun of it.
ME: That's what you think.
MAN: Your desk will be known in the history books as the Battle of the Paperclips.
ME: I'm not speaking to you.
MAN: I saw the spores from your coffee cups lining up on your desk forming battle formations. I could have sworn I heard a bugle sounding the charge.
ME: It's a good thing that I had my phone off during my interview, because I would not have been able to resist texting you four-letter words. And there are no coffee cups on my desk. I think.
MAN: You know you love me.

Later...

MAN: My bus still hasn't shown up.
ME: Which bus?
MAN: The one from Leclaire downtown.
ME: I don't know what to tell you, it was due at 4:34.
* checks listings*
ME: Um, due to construction there is no bus for Leclaire today.
MAN: It's okay. I'm on the campus. [Neighbor] Mike saves the day.
ME: Whew.
MAN: Now if he could only save your desk. You should take pictures of the battlegrounds for the sake of history.
ME: My desk is a LOT better than it used to be, meanypants.
MAN: I heard a little bugle sound.... then a tiny voice yell, "Charge!" Thus the Battle of Paperclip Hill began... the carnage....
ME: I'm still not speaking to you.

----

ME: Did you bring up my costume trunk from the basement?
MAN: ...
ME: Now I'm definitely not speaking to you.
MAN: Sorry.
ME: Then I will have to bring it up myself and if I fall under its weight and die alone on the basement floor YOU'LL BE SORRY.
MAN: Ask Ian. We have him for hard labor.
ME: He has volleyball tonight.
MAN: He can do it when he gets home.
ME: At 10? I need to pack.
MAN: Oh.
ME: Nothing wittier than that for the blog?
MAN: I'm witted out. The Battle of Paperclip Hill took it out of me.
ME: I shall have to reinspire you with Boy's Life jokes.
MAN: Shoot me now.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Snippets: Writers' Group Edition

My writers' group meets biweekly to work on our books and share our progress. And sometimes our conversations are more fun than the work we're allegedly doing.

ME: So, I have three people down for the May group signing.... who's down for the one in March? Sela?
SELA: Nope.
ME: Is that because it's at oh-my-god-thirty in the morning?
SELA: Yup.
ME: *bawk bawk bawk bawk*
SELA: I don't believe in mornings.
HUNTER: Mornings are for making sure the coffeepot lid is on tight.
ME: I have a man who makes the coffee. He is required to do so.
SELA: Oh really.
ME: Yes, it's in the Bible, man makes coffee. It's in the Book of Hebrews.
WRITERS: *crickets*
DIANE: That was bad.
ME: See, I make that joke a lot at home and nobody ever laughs.
SELA: That's hard to imagine.
ME: I'm unappreciated in my house.

At least ten minutes later...

ME: So I'll be passing along the names to the other organizers, and I will let you know if we get any progress on [other project]-
KAT: HEBREWS!!!
WRITERS: *laughter*
SELA: *crying*
ME: *choking*

Work pretty much ended for fifteen minutes as we roared with laughter. And as Kat left an hour later, she was packing up her computer and muttered under her breath, "Hebrews..."

And we lost it again.

--------

Subject was vacation trips while writing and the benefits of on-site at Disney World vs. off-site.

ME: See, I really regretted staying off-site for that convention, so we were absolutely about staying on site. And we never left, it wasn't a thing.
SELA: Right, because why would you? Well, Universal.
ME: I lied. We did leave - not Universal, because money - but we abdicated one day to go to the beach and see the ocean.
SELA: Yeah. I don't like the ocean.
ME: ... How is it you're the romantic one?
WRITERS: *laughter*
ME: Even me, the romance-challenged, I'm awed by the ocean!
SELA: It smells funny.
ME: *gapes*
SELA: It smells like dead fish, okay?
MICHAEL: I can just see this now in her book: "I reached out for his hand, and the scent of dead fish wafted over me - "

Aaaaand we lost it again.

-----

ME: That was the best thing about Jamaica. The bar was open pretty much from breakfast.
SELA: I miss Key West. They had frozen key lime pie on a stick.
WRITERS: Ooooooh.
ME: See, I have a terrific recipe for key lime pie and I live in a house of men who do not appreciate it.
SELA: That is sad.
ME: Jim is all, "I'm not really one for key lime," and Ian says, "I don't like pie."
WRITERS: *SHOCK*
SELA: Did you drop him on his head as a baby?
MICHAEL: You can not like specific kinds of pie, but to not like pie...
ME: He was clearly switched as an infant by a changeling.
SELA: Clearly.

-----

ME: The most frustrating thing is that I lost eight pounds in Jamaica.
SELA: How did you manage that?
ME: I have no idea. It was all buffets and gourmet restaurants. I ate constantly, paid no attention to carbs, drank like a fish and no, I did not exercise. I sat on my butt on a chaise lounge - no, I did exercise. I swam to the swim-up bar for rum cream.
SELA: Well, clearly that's what you need to do.
MICHAEL: Sure, put in a pool next to your kitchen.
ME: In Illinois. Sounds legit... I'll just ask my doctor for a prescription for Jamaica.
SELA: Can I have one too?

----

MICHAEL: *stares at computer in frustration*
ME: If you keep glaring at it, it'll fix itself.
MICHAEL: I need one more sentence and this story is done.
SELA: How about "the end"?
ME: That's coming.
MICHAEL: I thought it was done a week ago. But it needed more.
ME: "Call me Ishmael."
SELA: No, that's the beginning.
ME: Rats.

Later....

MICHAEL: There. The end.
ALL: Yaaaay!!! *clapclapclap*
DIANE: So, now you'll start another one?
MICHAEL: Oh, it's already started.
ME: See, now you're just making the rest of us look bad.

----

ME: Before I forget, I tossed this out on the Facebook group and response was positive. Everyone likes it here at the library? I should book the next two months here?
WRITERS: *chorus of yes*
SELA: And if they're ever not available we can go to Kool Beanz.
ME: I love Kool Beanz.
MICHAEL: Now there's no food here, so you'll have to start catering.
ME: ... I'll bring key lime pie.
SELA: YES.

----

MICHAEL: The Unseen comes next -
DIANE: The Un-sin?
MICHAEL: Un-SEEN. The Unseen is the new title.
ME: The Un-sin is a completely different book, and probably written by Sela.
SELA: ...no.
DIANE: It's sin, but not quite as bad as full sin.
ME: Kinda half-sin.
SELA: They're sinning, but it's fade to black.
ME: Like those sweet romances, the ones with no swearing and no sex.
SELA: There's sex. You just don't get to see the sex.
ME: Where's the fun in that?
MICHAEL: I'm still trying to work Hebrews into my story.

Aaaaaand we lost it again.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Moonlight Sonata and the Hamsters of Amazon

Announcement! The Kindle edition of Moonlight Sonata is now available for $4.99!

I named my pet raven Edgar. He's happy to meet you.



Q: Wait, the book's been out a week. Why is the ebook just now -
A: Because I'm not Beethoven.
Q: What?
A: Amazon got the ebook version of my new short story collection mixed up with the various renditions and publications of Ludwig's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, which he called "Quasi una fantasia" and we call "Moonlight Sonata."
Q: That seems like a difficult mistake to make.
A: Well, it's not like I didn't know it existed. In fact, I listened to the sonata several times in the playlist I developed while writing the stories in this book. Along with a significant portion of the soundtrack to Sons of Anarchy. It's that kind of book.
Q: So that's why there hasn't been an ebook up until now?
A: Yes. The little hamsters running in the wheels at Amazon got my short story collection confused with a classical music piece written 215 years ago.
Q: Those aren't very smart hamsters.
HAMSTERS: Hey.
A: Never mind, hamsters. It's all sorted out now. We're good.
HAMSTERS: Squeak.
Q: So I can buy the ebook now?
A: By all means. Of course, if you prefer the dead-tree edition in paperback or hardback, those are also available from the hamsters at Amazon or from LiteraryUnderworld.com, and at fine booksellers near you, especially if you go in and request that they carry it. Hint hint.
Q: Wait, I have Kindle Unlimited.
A: Then you're in luck, because it's FREE to you. Go snag it!
Q: Is there anything else I can do to help along your amazing literary masterpiece?
A: I'm so glad you asked. If you are so moved, please go review the book on Amazon. This helps a lot in terms of showing up in search results and being recommended to other people. It's me and Ludwig, folks. Do you know how many musical recordings there have been of the Moonlight Sonata? And, of course, recommend the book to your friends! Forward them this message, or just post the link on social media. Word of mouth is the name of the game.
Q: The book isn't about Beethoven, right?
A: Nope. No half-crazy German composers. Ghosts, monsters, a dead voice from the radio, a haunted church, a covered bridge to hell, immortal love and a few extra ghosts.
Q: Sounds spooky.
A: That's the idea. Hey, did you know that the full name of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata was Sonata quasi una Fantasia per il Clavicembalo o Piano=forte composta e dedicata alla Damigella Contessa Giulietta Guilietta Guicciardi da Luigi van Beethoven Opera 27 No. 2 in Vienna presso Gio. Cappi Sulla Piazza di St. Michele No. 5? 
Q: ...I did not know that.
A: Maybe that's what I should have titled the book. What do you think, Hamsters of Amazon?
HAMSTERS: Squeak.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Weekend: Project Home

It was a lovely, warm weekend here in the Midwest, so naturally Donald-Smith-Gillentine Inc. spent it indoors.

We had one of those lovely rare weekends where we had no obligations, but the far-less-rare status of no money. We spent all the funmoney this month on our Valentine's Day dinner (1808 Chophouse, and man, that was gooooood). So we tackled two long-delayed projects: my office and the Boy's room.

Now, he's a teenage boy. I don't expect pin-straight neatness. The only young male I ever knew who could keep a room tidy was my friend Stephen, and we've all agreed he's a mutant. At one point in Boy's youth, I turned to a fellow choir member in frustration for advice. His children are brilliant, personable, super-achievers, poster children for the new millennium.

ME: Tom, it's all agreed you raised the perfect kids.
TOM: ... okay?
ME: You did this! Successfully! So please, share the secret: How did you get them to clean their rooms?
TOM: We didn't.
ME: What?
TOM: We just sort of closed those doors and pretended those rooms didn't exist.

This strangely made me feel better. But not much. Yikes. How can a kid who absolutely must have the movie/TV show started before he can begin eating his snack and will not brush his teeth until he has gotten dressed because these things must be done in order live in such chaos! Momproblems.

But I cannot throw stones. My office looks like the police definition of "there appears to have been a struggle." I work every day in my home office for the newspaper. And every night I run my businesses and write my books there. Paper breeds on every flat surface. Two years ago I clear-cut it back down, but it's like the papers are gremlins and someone threw water around. (Come to think of it, I can't guarantee the office is gremlin-free. I heard some strange sounds the other night.)

In the meantime, Boy has managed to destroy his bed. And his dresser. Don't ask me how this is possible. It's an ordinary twin bed, and we recently discovered the springs are poking through the bottom of the mattress into the box spring. And ripping through all the bedding on the way. There are holes right through the center of the mattress, and while I know it's the springs that have sprung, it looks for all the world like he took a sword and drove it right through the middle of the bed like Arthur returning Excalibur home.

(He swears he didn't stab his bed with a sword. I believe him. Because I sold the sword three years ago.)

To add to the fun, the bed frame is all bent out of shape. He's also too tall for it - his feet hang off the end. His dresser decided to pile on the fun by almost literally falling apart. I paid $20 for it at a yard sale, so I guess I got my money's worth. Jim examined it closely and declared it totally irreparable. And that was before we found that the door to his armoire has half-ripped off of its hinge, destroying the particleboard keeping it in place.

Demolition Boy's desk and bookshelf have survived intact. Somehow. Probably because they get the least use... STARE. I'm used to the high level of destruction Boy manages to cause simply by the sheer friction of his constant motion - ask me sometime about how a seven-year-old child manages to destroy not one but TWO glass light fixtures several feet over his head using only foam.

To be fair, the dresser was not in the best of shape when we bought it and the bed would need to be replaced even if it hadn't been shredded because it's not HIS fault he is now six-foot-two and 200 pounds. Still, we're looking at the replacement of a mattress, box spring, bed frame, dresser, bedside table (long story), comforter, sheets, mattress pad, plus a shoe organizer and possibly some room-darkening drapes plus the armoire if we can't fix that door. I swear, we used to just throw his shoes into a square bin. Because they were tiny.

In the meantime, I have spent untold hours and gone through almost a box and a half of hanging folders and still have not uncovered the surface of my desk. It occurs to me that this so-called paperless society we've been waiting for is still a long time coming. I've got a book launch happening this week, so I really wanted to get through the mess before my off-duty focus turns to that. Whoops.

Finally, we called it quits a couple of hours before the menfolk had to go to work Sunday night, and we escaped into the now-chilly sunshine to do some photography. Boy got a really nice Nikon Coolpix from my folks for Christmas, and he took some startlingly good shots at the Garden while I did some casual portraits of Jim for *mmmmf* shhhh it's a secret. *whistles*

In all, surprisingly not the worst weekend we've ever had, considering we spent most of it working. In part because I got to hide up in the office and avoid breathing oh my god the dust if I were there I think I'd be coughing until Easter. In part because I actually feel like we accomplished a few things, even though I'm rather discouraged at how long it's going to take to reorganize the office. The desk, the filing, the office supply shelf, the shipping center, the photography desk, the library... everything needs to be pretty much torn down and put back together.

I'm considering a flamethrower. I doubt the landlords would approve.

However, I did spend the entire weekend with my menfolk. That's always good. Progress was made. The floor in Boy's room is visible. We got some nifty photos. The only bad thing about the weekend: it's too short.

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