Saturday, October 16, 2021

Halloween 1995, Dad's Dying

“Hello?” I mummer, the phone’s ringer woke me from a deep sleep. My eyes squint to look at the clock: seven.

“Mom?” It’s Karen, my daughter. My mind clicks awake. This is Sunday, early morning for us. This is Karen, who I started phoning in the afternoon after waking her all too frequently at ten o'clock on Sunday mornings because of our locational time differences. Her voice is all-soft and tense, something is wrong voice. I’m instantly alert. “Grandma has been trying to reach you. It’s Grandpa. He’s dying. She tried to call you but couldn’t get through.”

I calm Karen while briefly profaning my mother for worrying my daughter. My mother, who has called my number weekly for decades without a problem. I curse myself. Mom must be in a real state if she cannot dial the phone. I tell Karen it will be all right. "We have expected this. It’s for the best." I hear the tears in her goodbye. She hangs up.

“What was that?” Bill asks from the bathroom door. He has showered and stands in the bathroom doorway drying himself. I explain. “What do you want to do?” he asks. 

“Call Jim.”  I looked up my older brother’s number and dialed the Tampa exchange. “Jim?”

“You got the call too, huh?”

“Yes. You going?”

“God, Robbie, I don't know what to do. You know how Mom gets. I’ve been up there so many times when Dad's been dying. I can’t afford to take more time off work for my father dying when he doesn’t.”

“I know.” I’ve not been able to go all the times my father had been supposedly dying. I’ve received many calls telling me to expect Dad’s death, only to wait days to learn he pulled through one more time. I listen to Jim tell of his dilemma at work. I listen, but my thoughts slip into another channel. Dad has been dying at least six times in the last ten years. Each time was very serious, the doctors telling my mother he would not pull through. Memories flash through my mind.

Shortly after I was married, Dad lost an eye in a freak accident with a dropped baby aspirin bottle smashing into the bathroom sink. The emergency room would not touch him. They made an appointment with him for a specialist. The specialist could not see him for two days. Well, with glass embedded in his eye, he could not see any way, but by the time the doctor saw him, it was too late. They tried to save the eye, but for the year it was left in, he was in such pain that afterward, he could remember nothing of that year. From then on he had a glass eye.

I remember on a phone call Dad told me he and mom had been at an event, and he went into a restroom to rinse the eye off, as sometimes things got in it. A man using a urinal ask if he were some pervert who liked to watch or if pissing embarrassed him. “No,” Dad told him. “I need to remove my eye.” The guy laughed in disbelief and wanted to see it happen. Dad told me with laughter clear in his voice, that he shrugged and took out his eye. The guy shouted and rushed from the restroom.

Years after that accident, he had five bypass heart surgeries in a time when you stayed in the hospital for weeks. At the time of the first one, I lived in Lansing, and I waited with my family in the waiting room for the long surgery. A migraine started and I remember little. On the way home I had to have Bill pull to the side of the road, so I could vomit. 

Then it was discovered he had emphysema. World War II soldiers smoked. It was the times, it was the war. My Dad smoked three packs a day until he lost his eye. While taking the pain medications he stopped smoking and stopped drinking a few beers (6-pack?) every night. Nothing tasted right.

That had been years ago. The lung specialist said the heart surgeon had to have known. “They had to physically lift these lungs out of the way to get to the heart,” he told my parents. “They had to have seen.” 

Too late again. Five years or more had gone by since the heart surgery and the emphysema had advanced. They gave him six months to a year to live. He lasted another decade, plus between bouts with pneumonia, he and Mom made trips to the Veterans Hospital in Detroit when the drugs became too expensive for him to afford. Dad had been self-employed, so had no pension, no health plan. Dad drove, scaring Mom because, with one eye, his depth perception was gone.

Years ago, when urban renewal had taken his Citgo service station, they gave him nineteen thousand dollars because that was all the property was worth. Riverfront property, one block off the town’s downtown area and on the main highway coming through town. It angered me. The town screwed him. Urban renewal destroyed my hometown as I knew it, and took the only livelihood I could remember my Dad having. For God's sake, what was he going to do? 

He got a job. He may or may not have been happy at it, I was living out of state and raising my own family, and time slid by unobserved. When he became too ill to work, he baked bread and peddled it around town to working women. Even his doctor took payment in bread. I think the doctor liked honey whole wheat best. Pies, cookies, great French bread, you name it, he made it. He taught my son Chris to bake during summer visits. My Dad never retired.

My intellect tells me nothing stays the same, but my heart believes nothing changes. The man who just yesterday swung me into his arms when I ran to him yelling “Daddy, Daddy” might be dying. It was hard to fathom. I haven’t heard a word of what Jim’s been saying for several minutes. Blanking out a conversation like this happens to me a lot. “Tell you what Jim. You’ve been there when I couldn’t. Let me go up and see what is happening. If things look really bad, I’ll call you. Okay?” We exchange a few more words and hang up.

Dad and four of his five kids -- that's me on the right.

Bill has been listening. He has to work and can’t come with me. I’m grateful because I want to be alone on this trip, I prefer experiencing my sad moments in private.“Give me the phone and I’ll get you tickets.”

After Bill gets the tickets, I call my new employer and let him know I’d be gone. A few hours later I leave Lambert Airport in St. Louis headed for Metro in Detroit. After reaching Detroit, I’m an hour's drive from home in Fenton. The small post-war brick house looks the same, a little shabby, but welcoming. Mom looks the same as my last visit: worn, her dark brunette now silver-white. Her eyes are sad, but she is glad to see me. The last few years show. You have to respect someone giving up everything to care for another person. I always think I subconsciously suspect them too; wonder if I could do it, would do it; maybe, but grudgingly.

Juli, Patty, and Doug, and his wife Jan are there, the hometown family. I remember Jan lost her mother not so long ago. I wonder if I remembered to send a condolence card; hope I did. I’m so bad at carrying through on social graces. These are the ones who carried the brunt of family concerns, visited the hospital, planned holidays, birthdays, done the day-to-day things only they and Mom know about--like mow the lawn, paint the house, fixing this or that.

"Come and see Dad,” Mom says. “I can’t keep pajamas on him. He kicks and shoves his way out of them. He doesn’t want anything on." She sounds so very normal. I don't want to go into the room.

He is laying in the small family room on a hospital bed. It began as a bedroom he had built on after the house’s original two bedrooms were inadequate with four children. One more would come, but Jim would be graduating and joining the Navy shortly after that. Pat and Juli enter. I suddenly realize I’m involved in a death watch. It seems so totally archaic. I want to leave. I don't want people, family, to watch me die. I am embarrassed for myself, nervous, and uncomfortable. You’d think I was the one waiting to die.

I stand by the bed looking at Dad. Mom says he has been dozing. A sheet covers him. His oxygen tube is missing. He must not need it any longer. His eyes open. "My God, Robbie!" he says half rising and then collapses back into the bed. His eyes close and in minutes he is asleep. I say nothing. What am I supposed to do? I greet Jan. I love incurably kind and comforting Jan. She can keep a conversation going with such ease. I suppose it’s a good thing. Doug can be very reticent. As can I. We talk, our voices low, around a sleeping man. Mom says, “Go ahead, Robin, talk to Dad, he can hear you.” I am speechless. What could I possibly say in front of everyone? The kids are fine, bla, bla, bla.

Meaningless drivel? The often trivial deliberation involved in everyday exchanges? I say nothing. Hours go by in which Dad remains the same. We change rooms, move to the tiny living room and conversation normalizes with the general catching up between visits too far apart. Funny things that have happened, kids have been kids. We laugh. We’ve done this every time I’ve visited. It’s familiar, it’s normal. Mom perches nearby, fluttering between the bedroom and the living room. 

In the back of my mind, my Dad's presence constantly lingers. He threads through our conversation. Dad anecdotes; everyone’s words echo “and Dad said,” or “then Dad.” The phone continually rings. Mom and Dad’s friends from a lifetime of living in the same town call. Food arrives at the door. Emogene brings a platter of cold meats and vegetables. She and her husband Howard were host and hostess at my wedding reception. Howard has passed on. Emogene is so shrunken and bent over with osteoporosis I’m surprised she can lift the huge platter she carries. Her smile remains exactly the same. Her voice holds the same cheeky buoyancy I remember. Others come, commonly saying, “I just can’t believe it. He told me he felt fine just the other day when I asked.”

Dad's common phrase was, “Feel fine, couldn’t be better,” even when he could hardly draw a breath. Even to the doctor. Even to his daughter. “Every day you wake up is a good day,” he’d tell me.

One of Dad’s fellow members of the American Legion arrives, another World War II survivor, grey now, shorter with age. He refuses to come in, his eyes water so bad he can’t speak. Just passes me a dish of food, waves away a thank-you, and leaves, one of the last of a dying breed.

It strikes me there is a generation passing here. My Dad turned seventy-five in April, and never thought to see seventy. Five sisters predeceased him, all before reaching sixty-five, most from cancer. They lived harder lives than I have had to live. I remember my Dad speaking of his Dad bringing home a bag of potatoes or a fifty-pound sack of oats in payment for a day's labor. That’s what he and his sisters ate that week. His dad took his children frogging and sold the frog legs for two cents each to Detroit restaurants. When Dad told the story it was an adventure, but actually, it was scrimping by during the Depression. He had a baby brother lost to measles. My Dad was lucky in many ways to have lived this long. He had been on duty Sunday morning at Hickam Field in the middle of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941.

Mom comes into the living room. The Hospice nurse has arrived, and it’s the one my mother particularly likes. The nurse puts a diaper on Dad who has been lying naked, sheet and covers kicked off. He doesn’t rouse. Before the nurse leaves, she and my mother chat, everyday inconsequential things interspersed with what will happen and what to do when it does—facts and information. The bureaucracy is as involved with the dying as it is with the living.

More hours pass. Evening comes. Mom insists on making dinner. No one eats much. I try sleeping on the living room couch and hope lack of sleep doesn’t bring on a migraine. I don't know where everyone else is. Occasionally, voices drift into my bouts of sleep, waking me. Midway through the night, I give up trying to sleep.

Juli is sitting with Dad. She has been giving Dad pain medications, coaxing them down a throat that is probably only working by reflex. “No. He swallowed them himself,” she says. “He seems to be doing better.” She gives him water. I look at Dad remembering the horrendous coughing, the excruciating pain, the emaciated body; all part of emphysema. He doesn’t cough now, just breaths very lightly. How much weight can you lose without dying? I bet Dad doesn’t weigh a hundred and ten pounds. I decide not to call Jim, but I hope Dad doesn’t wake, remembering he can’t even sit comfortably. The cartilage between his bones is gone --that cushion that makes moving, sitting, or standing endurable. Maybe I’ll call Jim in the morning. Let him sleep for now. I draw a chair up next to Juli. She talks and I guess I do too. She has seen lots of death. She worked on the oncology floor at McClaren Hospital in Flint for years before becoming a surgical nurse. Couldn’t pay me enough to do what she does, but Juli seems to love it.

Doug comes in. He stands at the head of Dad’s raised bed and whispers in Dad's ear for several minutes. He pats Dad on the shoulder and says, “Fly with the eagles, Dad.” 

Dad has an eagle’s nose and I think he became one in our minds. Doug steps away and Dad wakes, his eyes popping open. “Huh?” he shouts looking wild-eyed above his head. He falls immediately back into sleep or whatever it was he was in. I don't know if Doug saw as he left the room. 

Patty comes in. With only a small lamp on, the room is dark and warm, almost cozy. We three sisters talk in our usual comradery. I find myself petting my Dad's feet that are in easy reach. Feet generally are not attractive, but Dad's are beautiful. Thin, long, high arched, the toes perfect in size and order. They are cool but fleshy pink in color. When I mention this, my Mom, who has joined us, quips, “A good understanding.”

Doug returns. “I called Jim.” Oh shit.

“Told him death was eminent and Dad would probably be gone before he gets here.”Not true. Dad is doing better. His color even looks better. Don't tell me he is going to do this again. I’m afraid to even contemplate it. Could he pull through? I feel buoyed at the thought but counsel myself to expect the worst. I try calling Florida. No one answers. Jim must be on his way.

The hours pass. I am tired; feel the cold, shaky burn of exhaustion radiate through my abdomen, through my bones. So does everyone else; I can see it in their faces. I realize I probably look as bad as they do. Can’t sleep
don't want to, anyway. Want to be somewhere else. We gather around the bed again. Everyone takes turns talking to Dad. I finally blurt out something meaning I love you and burst into tears. That was unexpected. I cover my eyes with my hand and pull myself together. Now my jaw aches.

Bill calls. He has talked to our children. They are both okay. He has arranged airline tickets for them to come to the funeral. He is fine. The cats are fine. Went out and got Halloween candy. I’d forgotten. Today is Halloween.

Nine o’clock in the morning. Jim and his wife Gail arrive looking duly sober. I meet them at the door, Juli and Pat are close behind me looking over my shoulders. “Come and say hi to Dad,” I say. Jim blanches white. They come in and sit in the living room. I explain what has happened, while everyone talks at once. Even Juli thinks Dad looks better.“Damn,” Jim says. “Damn. They put a notice on the board at work, Jake's Dad is dying. Collected money. Lots of money. What am I going to tell them now?”

“It’s going to happen, you are just here early,” Mom tells him. Jim slowly recovers from the shock. “You know, Robbie, paybacks are hell.”

“I didn’t know how else to tell you.” Bane of my life, blurting out whatever, but calling him was not my fault. Two hours later Mom comes and gathers us. “It’s happening.”I wonder if Dad wants everyone watching him end his life’s journey. I don’t. Give me privacy. I think of a friend who died walking home from trout fishing. I wonder if he missed seeing or hearing his family one last time? Wonder if he looked up into the sky for a last glimpse of sun and clouds. I think that’s what I’d like to see. Let my family remember me when we last had a good conversation.

Juli, Patty, Doug, and Mom crowd around the bed, talking to Dad. They urge Dad on. Urge him to make the final transition. I know Dad wants this, wants to escape from the pain he has hidden for years from friends and from us. Mom is great. “Go John, just let go, fly with the eagles.” He still fights, drawing breath after breath. 

Jim and I sit quietly on the couch. Jim turns to me. “I feel kind of lucky. It’s not every guy who gets to see their old man draw his last breath,” he says. “I’m glad I came when I did.”I don't know what I said, or if I even answered. This is taking forever and I’m disgusted with myself for thinking that.

“It’s over,” Mom says, “he’s gone.” It seemed like there was a collective sigh of relief. We leave the room, each trying to find a moment of privacy. I feel myself crying. Mom hugs me, and Pat. I hug them back. “I’m not crying for him, but for myself,” I explain.

Things settle down to a sniffly, teary, depleted silence. Except for Mom. She rises babbling a list of things she must do. Call Hospice. Call this person or that person. Her way of dealing with her grief. Hours pass. The body can’t be taken by the funeral home until the Hospice nurse arrives and determines if the coroner should be called. The coroner? Yes, Hospice patients are allowed to die at home, but no one is supposed to help them along. It’s several more hours before the nurse can come. 

In the meantime, Juli bathes Dad. “I’m not leaving this for someone else to do,” she says. I reluctantly help her. “Actually, Dad had it pretty easy,” she tells me while she dries his body. This was easy? When we are done, I call Bill and tell him. He has already made arrangements. Karen is on her way and Chris should arrive sometime in the evening. Chris calls a short time later. He doesn’t have a suit. He is doing a Fellowship at the Culinary Institute of America. “Since Grandpa influenced your decision to become a chef, I think he’d like you to wear your Fellow’s jacket.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.” I’m too tired to worry about other people's expectations of how we should appear.

I’m getting antsy with the body still lying in the house. Don’t know why, Dad is beyond pain or caring. The hearse from the funeral home doesn’t arrive until five, and it is already dark out. 

Jim and Doug are out on the porch, stopping Trick or Treaters and giving them candy before they reach the door. Jim told me he was having fun scaring the shit out of the kids. “Hey kid, you want to see a dead body?” Is this another one of Jim's tall, pull-your-leg tales? I expect many parents bypassed our house that night. Who would take their kids to the door of a house with a hearse outside, even on Halloween?

Jim gets his penchant for stories, mostly true but with slow gag lines, from my Dad, who every night over dinner told us stories. Funny experiences from his childhood, from the war, from work, mostly true but slightly slanted. 

With time and distance from childhood, I realize everyone has a different perception of events. A totally different reality. I often wonder about my Dad’s stories. He never mentioned the horror of what he saw on December 7th or those of the following years, not until recently, when he wrote an account of that day and some of the other events of the war and of his life. They were different from the childhood stories I heard, although each story brought a strange deja-vu of family dinner. If my house ever caught fire, I’d grab that loose-leaf book first. He wrote poetry too, but most of it was for the Consumer's Power linemen who came into the gas station to get their trucks serviced. As a young ‘lady,’ I didn’t get to read it, but not from choice. I remember starting to read once, but Mom pulled me away. “No, you don’t read that.”

Where Jim gets his twisted humor, I suppose. Then I think of Dad dying on Halloween. He would enjoy that. Something within the genes, then. I often feel I am the only humorless one in my family. Never thought up really good pranks, never enjoyed those played on me.

It was Tuesday afternoon before we could go to the family viewing. The morticians took years off Dad. I know it is makeup. Wax? Dad lays in a simple pine coffin looking like he did before emphysema ravaged him. It was a blessing to see him like that. After the ceremony part, he would be cremated. The Legion friend returned, bringing a flag to cover the coffin. Flowers were arriving and being arranged by the funeral home personnel.

One arrangement held small paper crows among the flowers. Dad believed one crow, among the many who came to eat bread dough gone wrong that he dumped in the backyard, was his dad, Carl. He called them Carl and the boys. Later, when I eventually arrived home in Missouri, and we got out of the car in the driveway, for the first time I noticed a crow sitting in the tall sycamore tree in our backyard. More deja-vu. 

We went to dinner that evening at a local restaurant, then returned for the evening’s public viewing.

Wednesday was strange. The funeral home is full. I don't count the numbers, it doesn’t matter, but it is noisy, the room filled with talk, even laughter. No hushed viewing this. Laughter frequently bounces off the walls with some tale about my father’s past doings. I walk by the adjoining funeral parlor. It is quiet and somber; a child’s funeral. I think how hard it must be for these mourners to hear even the muffled noise coming from the adjoining parlor.

We went back to the house after the viewing. Jim wanted a picture of me with Karen. I hate having my picture taken, but Karen and I arrange ourselves next to each other. Hearing movement behind me, I turn my head shocked to see Bill walk out of the bedroom. Jim takes the shot. "Paybacks are hell, Robbie," Jim says. Now there will be this picture of me floating around looking like death, head turned and mouth flopping open. Bill has his sheepish grin on. He likes giving surprises, I’ve never liked surprises. I even read the last chapter of a book right after the first chapter, since I like to know what I’m starting.
Paybacks are hell.

Back at the funeral home, it isn’t as hard to view him in his coffin. Dad now has a scouting pin on his lapel. Years ago he was troop club master for the local area. Later I learn my brother pinned it on him. Maybe I’m just past feeling, but I know part of it is because of the people around me. Sharing experiences, sharing life. We all sit through the service. It ends so fast.

We left my mother looking part relieved, part grieved, and still shocked. Already lonely, but the core of strength that has seen her this far remains. Chris and Karen are back on planes to return to their lives. Bill and I are on Southwest headed back to St. Louis. Of everything, I can’t help but remember Dad's feet.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

What Do I Like to Write?

This month's round-robin is on what other genres, besides novels, do I like to write.  Well, storytelling is what novels are about, and I like to write in the genres of science-fiction, fantasy, historical, and romance. While my stories can have a question or mystery involved, I don't think I would be good at writing a mystery novel. I do like to read them, though. In the fiction arena, I also have tried short stories and some flash fiction which tends to cover that ah-ha moment.

Yet reality calls to me, too. I like writing personal essays which also give me the chance to be creative, although in non-fiction, truth, as it is known, should prevail. Everyone has events in their lives or the lives of close ones that need to be shared. These can range from tragic events that can help others in similar situations cope with their problem, to family stories such as "The Pin" which I wrote about and investigated, or another post "Who Was Edna Ruth?" about my grandmother. Other stories can involve family memories which can seem like fantasy stories to readers but might also help bring back memories of their own past. These can also give warnings or cures to upcoming generations about problems they might face. These can be personal, family, or community events. Currently, the media has recalled many 9/11 memories of those personally involved. Personal narratives not only help others cope but also help keep a record of history.

I also like to write informative articles which range from book reviews to 'how-to' articles, which most of these round-robin articles fall into. Writing letters use to fall into this category, but few people now send letters as they prefer to make calls, texts, or emails, that are faster, easier, and more personable. However, the information is lost once the call is finished. It is from my father's letters that I learned what it was like to be a soldier in WWII, and letters throughout history have given readers new insight into that time. This type of communication includes diaries.

I don't know how many people write in diaries today but I have periodically written my life's events since the early 1980s. Now I can go back and read about many things that happened that I have forgotten.

Please visit these authors and read about their thoughts on this topic:

Marci Baun

VictoriaChatham 

Skye Taylor 

Connie Vines 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Judith Copek 


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Similar Character Habits and Words?

This month's round-robin topic is if the character in different stories share habits or favorite words. I have to say, yes, some of mine do. It probably has to do with how my mind works. 

I've noticed some of my characters have very similar characteristics in they are very independent women who love men who are accepting of that. Three are warrior women, Jezlynn in the Black Angel series, Kissre in Acceptance, and Xandra in The Nanite Warrior, and Maera in Home World Reax. And Kissre and Xandra both have leg wounds that are reinjured during the story. Hmmm...how did that happen? I didn't notice it until I reread the books. At least I know the women's personalities are very different overall.

Another thing I've noticed in re-reading my books is that I have a lot of grimace-smiles my characters make. Someone once told me there is no such thing, but I think there is--an upward lift of the lips on one side and downward on the other. Smiles yes, but not entirely happy ones. Plus many of my characters have smug reactions. I wonder if this happens because maybe I have these habits? I do hope not.

Writing fiction isn't easy because the writer must mix fact with their own mental fantasy, so I suppose similar situations and character reactions are inevitable--until the writer notices it.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Throwing Away Words

Have you ever experienced wishing you could unsay something you've uttered in haste, without thinking, or in temper? Luckily writing helps you do just that, but it can often leave the feeling of the former scenario. 

Writing is often hard. Thinking up words and writing them down takes mental energy and time. Throwing them away can cause me doubts such as am I sure this is the best thing for the story? Have I deleted wording? Yes! Not only paragraphs but sections of numerous pages. Of course, the decision to remove wording is because I think it will make a better, more unified story. Not a few word changes in a sentence for clarity, but discarding several sentences, paragraphs, or even pages because they do not add to the reader's knowledge of the character, the plot, or the setting. Leaving those sections of wording in, no matter how large or small, makes the story ramble and may create disinterest in the reader so they quit the story. 

The writing process requires me to think about the story's purpose. Thoughts like: Where is the story going? Does this section add understanding of the character or expand their character? Or does this character need more clarification or purpose? Are they needed? Sometimes it raises the question should I change the plot and purpose?

Either in the writing process or editing process, when a section slows my reading I ask myself what is its purpose? How does this wording affect the plot or the character development? Or does this wording add to the setting?  

I do keep ejected wording in a separate document just in case I change my mind, but I have discovered I usually don't. I have never thought whether that wording might lead to another story or work in another one in progress, but maybe I should have. 

When the words involved do not apply to the plot, setting, or to the development of the character, it's just wordiness. In that case, it's better for the story and for the reader to get rid of it.

Anne Stenhouse 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Skye Taylor 

Connie Vines 

Marci Baun 

VictoriaChatham 

Beverley Bateman 

Fiona McGier 

Helena Fairfax 

Judith Copec

Sunday, July 4, 2021

In Defense of Home World Aginfeld

One reader's comment about Home World Againfeld called the story trash and spoke of repeated rape of the heroine character because she was forced into the marriage, and when the female said she loved her husband, it was a case of Stockholm Syndrome, plus that the colony should have been annihilated. Well, okay, everyone has the freedom to voice their opinion. I have no problem with that… I also have that freedom.

My science fiction stories are often laced with facts from history, and how, if something has happened once, it can happen again. 

Yes, the heroine, Alix, is forced into marriage. She agrees because she is under a death sentence for robbery. Today the United Nations (UN) and many countries state that forced marriage is a type of slavery where unwilling participants are joined in a binding ritual. I believe this.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly and according to Wikipedia, "Is an international document that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings. It was accepted by the General Assembly as Resolution 217 during its third session on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France." Since then the UN Human Rights Council in 2013 has adopted documents against childhood marriage, or an early or forced marriage. 

However, forced marriage still happens in many places today, including Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. And, while forced marriage is now banned in the United States and many European countries, it still happens here according to the National Consumers LeagueSo far, no existing country has been decimated because of this issue.

Same with slavery, the first slaves arrived in the North American continent in 1619 at Jamestown, Virginia. Slavery was a major issue of the Civil War and was abolished on September 22, 1862), which led to the 13 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even that was delayed in Texas until June 19, 1865, which became the Juneteenth celebration. 
While it was abolished, racism still remains a huge problem. Some of it resulting from slavery and racial profiling. And slavery is still prevalent in the U.S. in the sex trafficking industry. This only goes to show you that what has happened in the past can reemerge. Those types of circumstances are clearly defined in the story Home World Aginfeld.

So why is it happening in the story of Home World Aginfeld? Didn't the reviewer read the story? The colony is under attack by the Colonial Pact, the very company Earth governments established to help supply colonies so they could survive on alien planets until the population could bioform their world into a living outdoor habitat. The Colonial Pact stored some of the colony's human embryos until Aginfeld's population could leave their ten constructed habitats. After the embryos were requested back by Aginfeld, within years the colony knew the embryos had been altered, causing sterility. Now the colony's death rate is higher than the birth rate. As the planet is nearing a finished bio-formed world, the Colonial Pact is waiting and instigating problems that will lead to the colony's dying out... meaning the Colonial Pact will claim and sell the planet's land for staggering profits.

Yes, the heroine was forced into marriage, but she also initiates change within the colony. In the end, the heroine's husband lets her go, but she chooses to return.

Lastly, if past problems and situations are not exposed in writing, whether in fiction or non-fiction or if the situations are wiped from history's recall, their consequences will be forgotten—until they reoccur.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Keep it, change it, or delete it? Writing in progress.

 This month's topic is about how do I recognize and overcome plot problems or failures? It doesn't matter whether you are a pantser (just start writing and keep going until you finish) or a plotter (plan out everything before beginning to write) the story can change.

First off, I'm a bit plotter and a bit pantser. I start out with an idea but perhaps not an overall purpose, think about the characters and their personalities, and some of the pitfalls they will encounter in the story. It is usually a thread that keeps weaving through my mind until I start writing. Once I start writing, the rest just seems to happen, but during that process, the purpose or goal may change several times.

Continually rereading and rewriting 'finished' sections and chapters as a story progresses through the writing phase helps me recognize plot problems or deviations and allows me to change them before they become obstacles. While doing these multiple rereadings I often come across passages that need fixing or eliminating. Some sentences or paragraphs serve no function or the function I want them to, however, as an author, I can become too involved in my writing and miss important issues.

What types of issues?

Well, I know all description is important as it describes locations, character actions, and the character themselves. It also reaches out to evoke the reader's senses, helping pull them into the story. But too much can overwhelm the purpose and even bore the reader. I need to ask myself if it is expansive enough to explain but succinct enough to not crush its purpose.

I also like to check the waves of tension and drama within the story, releasing them to rebuild again which also allows me to give subtle hints of forthcoming trouble through situations or character introspection. Sometimes some information needs to be deleted. 

Spending hours building a scene to either drastically change or delete it is frustrating. Hopefully, it helps improve the quality of the finished piece.

No wonder my eyes are worn out.

Please visit these sites for more opinions on this topic:

Marci Baun 

Skye Taylor 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator 

Beverley Bateman 

Judith Copek 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Does Writing Change the Author?

I do believe my writing has changed me in many ways, starting with how it has expanded my mind no matter what genre I'm writing. I think having to make up characters and their behaviors helps develop empathy, especially the characters with bad intentions because I have to think about what made them behave the way they do. It also has expanded my ingenuity since I have to think about different situations and how I can make them relatable, compelling, and sometimes unique.

Writing a fiction story requires imagination, but every story also needs a basis in reality. After all, writing a story means creating believable characters and how they interact with other characters. It requires the writer to ask themselves questions about what will happen in the story. How will the characters react? What will result from their actions? How will they overcome their adversities? For this, authors must develop empathy for both their good and bad characters to make them understandable to the reader.

Writing often requires research, even for fiction. I've had to research Michigan police from city to county to state levels in requirements and practices. I've investigated quantum physics and how to bioform a planet, along with how would a spaceship work. I've also researched history for Constantine's Legacy. So I learn by writing, too. Interestingly, writing also helps memory.

Even writing a creative non-fiction narrative or an academic essay requires digging through one's memory and doing research. So writing exercises the brain and helps it stay healthy. 

Mental growth is probably inevitable for writers. Studies of the brain have shown both reading and writing involve different regions of the mind working together, so, at the very least, writing is a good brain exercise. 

Neuroscientists have also studied the effects of writing and reading on the brain. The online article "Creative Writing and Your Brain: The mind works in mysterious ways when it is creating a fiction story, by Jenni Ogden, PhD., in Psychology Today (2013), one line caught my attention. It said: "Creative writing is one of the best exercises we can do for our brains." Interesting as it kind of supports my comments. This is after explaining that the brain does not construct the mind but cooperates with the body to 'create' our mind and help us build memories.

Writing has also changed my physical world, allowing me to become an adjunct professor teaching academic writing. Yes, I had a degree in business communications, but the fact I was already an author had an effect in my hiring, too. So reading and writing always achieve something!

Please read the following author's views on this topic:

Skye Taylor

Anne Stenhouse

Marci Baun 

Diane Bator 

Connie Vines 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Fiona McGie

Judith Copek 

HelenaFairfax 

BeverleyBateman 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Naming a Story's Characters

This month's round robin is about how each author chooses the names for their characters.  In real life, names can be odd identifiers as spellings change and odd names occasionally show up. 

For instance, my legal spelling is Rhobin. Where did the 'h' come from? Not even my mother knew. My brother spread the story that a drunk midwife misspelled the name on the birth certificate as my father said to name me for the bird which was just outside the window while he and mom were deciding on a name. Supposedly she visited a bar across the ally. My brother, who was born at the same facility, gave me the nickname Beergarden because of the story. Although I love him dearly, grrrr! Older Brothers!  Why do I use Robin? Because everyone tends to pronounce Rhobin as row-bin rather than rob-in. Okay, enough about me.

So based on real-life names, fiction names can have a wide swath of usage.

From all of my reading, I know character names are important.  In some instances, they can indicate the period or place of the story's setting, or the ethnicity of the character.

My first caveat in naming characters for me is to not use the name of anyone I know—no family members or friends' names unless they are very commonly used names. But, if I did want to use their name, I would certainly ask if it was all right and describe the character to them. Do I think they would be upset or offended if I used their name? Maybe if used without permission. Yet as mentioned some names are so common that with a different surname the character would be just another person with that name, so it would be okay. While I know many people named Tom, I've used it in a story, but he was an honorable character and, of course, had a different surname. Come to think of it Tom might have represented my now deceased uncle.

It's my evil characters that I try to avoid offending anyone I know by not using their name. Usually, that character receives an entirely made-up moniker.

In my Aegis fantasy stories, the character naming is different. I've researched many historical names and now have a thick folder of names by country and ethnicity.  In it, I found Celtic names seemed to fit my characters best. This is odd because my son just did 23andMe and found out we are 80% Celtic.

Many of my characters in my science fiction books are also made up although I'm sure some historical names used today will also be used in the far future. The key in made-up names is to make sure the spelling clearly expresses the pronunciation.

That's why I use my folder. Luckily, for my historical book, Constantine's Legacy,  I already had a list of Frankish names. The problem is they can be hard to pronounce. 

Even with these caveats, I can search for names that just seem to fit my characters.

Skye Taylor 
Anne Stenhouse 
Victoria Chatham 
Beverley Bateman 
Helena Fairfax 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Marci Baun 
Judith Copek 
Connie Vines 
Fiona McGier 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Tension in My Stories

 How do I develop tension in my stories?

Everyone understands how emotions can cause tension. How a character feels is often how the reader begins to relate to the story. Certainly, relationships between characters can cause stress. Other circumstances factor in, too, like finances, toxic work or family environments, abuse, loss of a friend or loved one, failure at an assigned or desired achievement, all of which can lead to feelings of unworthiness, worthlessness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and more. Plus these feelings can develop unhealthy ways of coping with them. All these situations can create tension for the reader, so starting with characters with problems is one way I try to create tension.

A character's self-concept also plays into emotions. That character's self-image can include their mental image that affects their self-image, their status, strengths, and beliefs. If a character's self-image is confronted in a story, it will affect them mentally and emotionally, and situational or emotional tension will also be involved. 

Situational tension is a huge aspect of how the plot leads the character into the story's purpose. People react differently to each other which often leads to opposition, dislike, hostility, and even personal danger.

Environmental factors that give tension to a story include locational dangers and hazards both nature and human-made. The world has many locations that are dangerous such as trying to climb Mount Everest (or any other mountain) to even an avalanche while skiing in a resort, or being stranded far from any help. People have developed their own dangerous situations from work sites like buildings under construction, chemical plants, or even events like Texans suffered in February--unusually bad, freezing weather leading to no electricity, no heat, and broken water pipes all during an epidemic. 

So, developing tension isn't difficult but not repeating similar situations in other books sometimes becomes a problem.

Marci Baun 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Skye Taylor 

VictoriaChatham 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Where do I get my story ideas?

Brains are amazing organs. The mental part holds memories from experiences and learning and can create imaginative ideas even when the body is not awake. Putting the two together is where stories evolve. I didn't even know I wanted to write a story until this dream character kept showing up in my mind at night. In the end, she didn't even end up in my first novel for she inspired other stories before her own, but hers is the third one in the Aegis series. 

Once started, however, new ideas and characters began to develop. Now my initial story ideas develop when I'm walking, which I think frees my mind to wander, too. Once started, though, the ideas come while writing the story. 

At the beginning of my writing, I found I liked to write science fiction and fantasy, but have since expanded into trying historical fiction and I might, maybe, even write some contemporary romance. 

While writing fantasy and sci-fi I've found I like to delve into both historical and contemporary problems and issues as background in my stories. Why these problems in the future? As conditions change, what has happened in the past can under certain circumstances, always happen again.

Storytelling is an ancient art form that has provided listeners and readers not only entertainment but also lessons about life, and I hope that is what my fiction does while taking readers on (hopefully) imaginative journeys.

Visit these authors for more about where stories come from:

Skye Taylor 

Anne Stenhouse 

Beverley Bateman 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Fiona McGier 

Helena Fairfax 

Marci Baun 

Victoria Chatham 

Judith Copek 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Goals for 2021

Here we are in a new year, and, hopefully, one better than last year although the problems of last year continue to plague us. Still, everyone has to be hopeful to be vaccinated against Covid this year, and the United States has a new president, and perhaps the divisions dividing us will grow smaller or close (ideal, but doubtful). Many qualifiers line the previous sentences, but nothing in future time is guaranteed. As an introvert, being home so long this year hasn't bothered me, and I do go out and walk as often as the weather allows her in Michigan, which is supposed to help with isolation. Winter snows so far have not been as accumulative this year. I suspect Global Warming at work. Sadly for me, last year I didn't move ahead with any novel writing.

Things are, as always, changing, including writing. New programs like Grammarly have arrived. First off, I use Grammarly and find it very helpful, but like everything, its recommendations are not always correct. Users have to be careful that they decide whether the suggestion will work in their writing or not. It just presents options to consider. I must say, it does help me with spelling and finding comma errors. Even so, I have to be selective there, too.

Do I have goals for this year? Yes, the main one being able to concentrate on my writing. I've been rather scattered with many projects going on that have affected my writing. Plus my mind has stalled. I have ideas written down for quite a few books, I just need to find new and different characters and find out what difficulties they face.  Leonard from Constantine's Legacy is beginning to haunt my mind, telling me I need to work on the second volume. I also have a goal to post at least twice a month to my three blogs. Like writing novels, that is sometimes a difficult goal to achieve. 

Besides writing, I have many other projects in art and sewing I want to complete. Then there is the house. It needs painting and some renovations. As long as life goes on, work is at hand.

Check out these authors for their 2021 goals!

Skye Taylor

Victoria Chatham 

Beverley Bateman 

Connie Vines 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Anne Stenhouse  

Diane Bator 

Fiona McGier   

Judith Copek 

Marci Baun  


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Issues with Reading


I've read books since around age six. It is a necessary skill many people are still lacking, so I was very lucky. Now I need ever stronger bifocals to keep reading and I have some macular degeneration. It is a sad state, but I'll still keep reading for as long as I can. If my vision gives out, I can still listen to audiobooks.  Few people can spend all day, every day, or even only free time, reading. 

Reading makes better writers and good writing makes good reading. Author use techniques to ensnare the reader and keep them interested in the story or topic. They keep everything in a logical order with wording that smoothly leads the reader through all the pages to the conclusion, but glitches happen.
The following issues often put me off reading:

Nonfiction:
  • Go-on-forever articles that are full of rambling off-topic opinions.
  • Articles with many unfamiliar and undefined scientific words and acronyms.
  • Must-reads required for work or any other function.
  • Legalize language in any form or content, especially in small type with little space between lines. Done purposefully I'm sure so the reader isn't inclined to read the information. Is it impossible to put important legal information someone must know into an accessible, fast-reading format?
Fiction:
  • Reading stories with characters I dislike, which is usually because of their moral viewpoint. These are the main characters, not secondary or incidental ones. If they are lying cheats I have to know right away what caused this and what mission they are on. If the character has a major turnabout in viewpoint, attitude, or behavior, then okay. However, I sometimes doubt these changes are anything more than to get their own way, so the cause of the turnabout is important.
  • Snarky first-person voices using metaphors to make the reader laugh where I'm completely ignorant of the meaning. Am I behind on cultural jargon?
  • Stories with too many characters. Yes, I'm guilty of writing some, especially in series novels. Most, however, are minor characters. Usually, I keep the main characters to four, and secondary characters to under ten. One novel, Crewkin, had seven characters total until the last chapter.
  • Knowing which character is which bothers me when the names are so close in spelling or sound very similar. I am always mixing them up. This happens often in fantasy novels with Gaelic names. I read one with five Gaelic names beginning with A. I couldn't keep any of them straight but learned the valuable lesson of watching my own characters' names spelling and pronunciation. Isn't it funny how the words sound in our minds as we read?
  • And finally, stories starting with issues listed in the previous round-robin post, What draws you into a story.