"Roundheads and Ramblings"
Things that made me grumpy yesterday morning:
A newspaper advice column told the story of a
woman complaining that her children will not ALLOW her to put Grandma in a
nursing home, even though the old woman suffers from advanced dementia and
needs 24-hour-a-day nursing care. And how old are these children? She doesn’t
say, but she does say that Grandma came to live with the family when the
children were just babies, so they have never known life without her in the
home. And how long ago was that? Seven years ago, she says. So the children are
. . . what? Eight or nine, at the most.
What’s worse, the columnist seems to side with the children and suggests
that the parents promise to take the children to visit Grandma every few days.
Whatever happened to a family structure in which parents made the rules and
children obeyed them?
A request for old people who can still read
cursive to volunteer to transcribe historical documents for the sake of people
who can only read printing. I asked why it wouldn’t be better to teach everyone
to read cursive and got no agreement. Yes, I’m old. And I can still remember my
graduate school days when I was reading 12-century hand lettering
that pre-dated cursive. It was difficult to do, but If I wanted to know what
the document said, I had to learn to read it. Is this shrinkage of intellectual
curiosity the measure of what computers have done to the human brain?
Maybe so, because my next discovery this morning
was a posting from a PhD-holding woman whom I have always respected. She had
just played one of those Facebook games that promises to analyze your
personality if you will just give the application the right to use all your
personal information as well as all of your friends’ information. You know the
games—the ones like Cambridge Analytica all over the news right now because they have leaked that
information to anyone willing to pay for it. Has this woman missed every news
source for the last month?
Several other Facebook posts this morning
announced that the posters were no longer going to use Facebook for anything
important. However, they claimed to still need comments about the weather, cat
cartoons, personal comments on their current maladies, birthday wishes, and
tasty recipes. Not believing everything Facebook says is a first step in
reclaiming one’s privacy (or sanity), I suppose. But what makes people assume
that weather reports, cat pictures, and recipes are among the necessities of
Yesterday, I went out to my mailbox and
encountered a gentleman walking his dog. That happens most every day around
here, but this little yappy creature was particularly annoying and on a very
long leash. He soon had my feet tangled. I held onto the mailbox post for
balance and asked the gentleman to rein in his dog so that I could walk away. I
think I smiled—maybe even chuckled a bit as Yappy danced around me on two paws.
But his owner reacted with eye-narrowed anger, telling me that if I couldn’t
walk without tripping, I shouldn’t be allowed out of my house. Whatever
happened to civility?
A friend sent me some “Old Age” jokes this
morning, and I chose my favorite: it said something like: There was a time when
my brain would step in and warn me that it might not be a good idea to say what
I was thinking. But now, it says “What the hell? Let’s see what happens!” That’s definitely my
(Note for a Monday morning: Sun is out. Flowers did not freeze. Had raspberries for breakfast. All is well again.)
Saturday mornings around here offer a chance to stop, catch my breath, take stock of where I've been, and get ready for what lies just ahead. This morning my head is buzzing as I realize how many activities I'm juggling. They reduce themselves to list-making, so here's the weekend's RBOC:
- The audio book files for "Beyond All Price" have gone to ACX for quality control checks before the final copy is ready for sale. They suggest it will be 10 - 14 days, so there's still time for you to get your name entered into
- the contest for a free copy.
- I've opened two more titles for auditions. With luck we may someday have audio books for "The Road to Frogmore" and "Damned Yankee." Narrators, please take note and check ACX for further information.
- I heard yesterday from my only living first cousin -- someone I had not seen or heard from in 54 years. He turned up on Facebook with a comment that began, "Hi Cuz!" and then told me I looked just like my mother. Mixed reactions to that!
- His resurfacing, however, is pushing me to get back to our family genealogy and scan in some more pictures from the early 1900s. That may be a good way to spend this rainy day.
- Looking ahead, I see two unusual events scheduled next week: the calendar reads "jury duty and fishing rodeo."
- Jury duty? Yep, being over 70 is no longer an excuse, apparently. I have to report on Wednesday, not to start passing judgment but to choose what week I will be on call. I'm hoping to get it out of the way soon. Hate having it hanging over me.
- Fishing Rodeo? That's a Lions thing. Every year the Germantown Lions Club sponsors and runs a children's fishing rodeo to kick off the city's Fourth of July activities. I'll be working the registration table on Friday, not handling the fish, thank goodness. It's a fun activity, provided it doesn't storm or turn horribly hot.
- And to end with some good news. We'll be celebrating today because "Damned Yankee" has made it into the top 100 Kindle books on the Civil War. The specific ranking varies from hour to hour as people make purchases, but it's a lovely bit of recognition.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
I'm trying to clean up all the loose ends that litter my desk -- hoping to have a nice long weekend when I don't have to spend every day tied to this computer. The result so far? Odds and ends taken care of -- but at the expense of a mind-set that keeps jumping from one issue to another. In the hope of taming some of the issues into submission, here are some "Random Bits of C - - - "
* Yesterday I mentioned that I had a "formerly fluffy cat " who was on her way to the vet because she is going bald. Today, after approximately $200.00 worth of tests to draw up a "wellnesss profile on a 12-year old feline", we got the results. She's completely healthy -- perfect on every score. So why is she going bald? The vet's best guess is that she was upset by my absence while I was in the hospital and rehab. Then we had to rearrange the house to accommodate my walker. Both events were distressing enough that she did some psychologically-induced over-grooming. "Psychogenic allopecia" is the formal diagnosis. Fluffy little peach fuzz is growing back in, so she won't remain bald forever. And as long as I can remain upright and don't take any more pratfalls, she'll be fine. Me? I feel guilty for upsetting her!
* Today, I've been doing "art work." I've finished designing new business cards, new address labels, and a two-sided bookmark -- all of which are intended to help publicize my next book, which has finally entered the last stages of publication. What does that mean? Well, Smashwords has accepted the manuscript for its Premium Catalog" and has shipped the files to Apple, B&N, and Kobo, so that they can start offering pre-orders for the electronic editions. And CreateSpace has turned the book over to their design team to do the layout.
* I've celebrated that progress by re-doing my website to announce the pre-orders and start stirring up interest. If you haven't seen it, please drop by the website
and, while you are there, leave your e-mail so that I can let you know when more developments occur.
* I "scooped" an interesting article I found on-line, one which gently criticizes the historical flaws in Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Cosmos." It's a brilliant explanation, and I'm terribly proud of John Cotts, who wrote the article. Years and years ago, John was a graduate student in medieval history. He read my dissertation and decided to carry my research on a 12th-century bishop into the next generation of episcopal derring-do. I sort of consider him an academic grandchild, and even though he has far-surpassed me academically, I can still take pride in some of his beginnings.
* And speaking of academic children, I've been watching the news on the NYC apartment collapse because for a little while I feared that one of my favorite Rhodes College grads might have been affected by it. (He wasn't, I'm happy to report.)
* What's next? Well, my husband and I are organizing this year's TN State Lions Convention, which will be held here in Memphis. I've set up a website for potential attendees, and I'm now on my way to do a restaurant review for their enlightenment. That doesn't mean I get a meal out, unfortunately. I just have to write a few lines about one of my favorite hamburger joints. Life is never dull around here.
I suspect this post will end up as an RBOC (Random Bits of Crapola) post. I have nothing particularly new and exciting happening today (not so far, at any rate) -- just a lot of tidy-ing up.
1. The website remodel is finished, a least for a while. I have ordered some 3-D renditions of my book covers (the ones that look like real books, not just flat, two-dimensional rectangles.) Marketing theory says 3-D book covers sell better, so I'll be asking for your opinion once they arrive and appear on the site. Other than that, the website should be self-explanatory. Click on a book cover to read more about the book on its own page. Click at the bottom of the book's page to see pictures of the characters and locations.
2. The Road to Frogmore is now in the hands of its design team. CreateSpace does a really good job of tailoring their work to fit the preferences of the author. That's one of those benefits of being a self-publisher that we sometimes forget. When I worked with a traditional publisher, I got absolutely no say on the design of the book. Yesterday, I spent almost an hour on the phone with the design team, talking about such details as page number placement, font choices, page headers, paper color, fleurons at the ends of chapters, and chapter heading designs. Now they're working on a sample of about 30 pages of the book, and I'll have the chance to say, "No, I don't like the looks of that one; try something else." Then they'll lay out the whole book and give me another cut at making changes before they print a proof. The process takes a couple of weeks, but it's definitely worth it.
3. I'm going back over the presentations I'll be making at the Military Writers Society of America Conference at the end of the month. I would welcome suggestions from you on two different matters:
- What features of Amazon, and particularly Kindle, do you find to be most useful to you as a writer or as a reader?
- If you've ever used Scrivener software for writing, which features do you use most often/least often?
I'll be giving a seminar on each one of those topics, and I'd like to be as complete as possible in my coverage, so please chime in below.
4. I'll be gone next week to attend the annual USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum in Tampa. "Son of Isaac" seems to be hovering offshore, but I trust it to move along before we arrive. We're hoping that by the time we get there, they'll have gotten rid of all hurricane remnants and swept away all of the confetti and balloons from the political convention. I'll have computer access but very little free time. So while I'm out of pocket all next week, I'm putting together a series of posts borrowed from Elizabeth Crook on "Writing Historical Fiction." They come from an article that's several years old, but her points are still valid. Hope you enjoy them.
I've been out of pocket the past three days. Part of my excuse was the need to attend a yearly convention at which I was a speaker. Complicating my lack of internet activity was accidentally leaving the briefcase that contained iPads and all charging cords for phones on a kitchen chair. The silence actually created a pleasant interlude, so while my phone didn't get recharged, my spirit did. Here are some of the things I didn't get to write about. But I've been thinking about them while we were away. (Roughly known as Randon Bits of Crap -- RBOC)
Most irritating moment: I was one of two main speakers at business meeting of this convention. Both of us were asked to describe the non-profit organizations we represented, with an eye toward making sure the audience understood what we do and how seriously underfunded we are. The first speaker was introduced as Dr. D, retired professor from X University and now President and CEO of Organization A. I was introduced as Carolyn Schriber, representing Organization B. Both introductions were true, but were they accurate?
Somehow, It think it might have made a difference if I had been introduced -- entirely accurately -- as Dr. S, Professor Emerita
from Y College and now Incoming President of Organization P. That introduction would also have been true. And within a formal situation, I couldn't help feeling that "Dr. D's" message carried more weight with the audience than "Carolyn's" did. I don't usually get upset by gender issues directed at me. I've lived too long in a world where I've constantly had to compete with men. But in this case, it did bother me, although I said nothing about it. What would you have done? What if, as was the case here, the person making the introductions was a friend, not someone intentionally casting a slur on my qualifications?
There were several bright spots to make up for the one uncomfortable moment, however. At the end of the conference, we slipped away for a few minutes to visit a nearby Civil War battlefield. Unfortunately we arrived too late to get in, but across the road we found a Civil War Relics shop. It turned out to be a finely curated mini-museum, and in its book section I discovered a real treasure: a reprint of several volumes of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Best of all, they had Vol. 14 of Series I, which covers the exact period and location of my Civil War books -- the coast of South Carolina in 1862 and 1863. For $17.95 my research just became measurably easier. Score one for my side!
This photograph falls into the cute category. It certainly brightened my day. We had a group of teenaged Leo Club members attending the conference. They were all staying in a group cabin with their parents' as chaperones. They had their own kitchen facilities and enough food to feed them and most of us as well. Look who showed up at their balcony door to beg for a handout. I've attended meetings and other affair at the Inn in this state park for years without seeing an animal. Can raccoons spot a fuzzy-animal-loving teenager from a distance? Thanks, Jordan, for posting the picture and making me smile.
And finally, a couple of signs we spotted along the road on the way home. The more puzzling one was repeated all over one small town: "Leaf Season ends February 29th." Presumably, that's the last day to get your leaves raked and put out for trash collection, but for a few moments I wondered whether there was a town ordinance that controlled the sprouting of all the new leaves we were seeing.
The one that really made me smile, however, was in front of a small town church: "Kneeling often keeps you in good standing."
Keep smiling, friends.