Literary Ghetto

I had an epiphany yesterday about my books. At the Narrow Gauge Book Co-op there is a special section for “local authors.” The sign over the shelf says, “We love local authors!” Not really. Putting them on a shelf like that isn’t “love.” It’s stigmatization.

Here’s what I mean.

None of the books I took to the Narrow Gauge in October have sold. It occurred to me that the local authors shelf is kind of a ghetto neighborhood. Local authors’ books should be interspersed with the other books in their genres. My books should be shelved with historical fiction. Why would anyone look for historical fiction about Switzerland, Mennonites or the Crusades on a shelf in an Alamosa bookstore tagged “Local Authors?” That does not mean “most desirable.” It sounds like a warning… I’m thinking of liberating them next week some time.

This has also led me to think about how much of life is disappointing. We want things. We hope things. All the time. Most of the time we don’t get whatever it was we hoped for or wanted (or is that just me?). Along the way we get wise advice, such as “Let nature take it’s course,” or “All in the fullness of time.”

When I was in Milan about a million years ago there was a young woman in the neighborhood where my friend’s sister had a store. This young woman was determined and earnest about converting me to Buddhism. I was pretty miserable in Milan a million years ago. I had a broken heart, a fairly flat wallet, few options and a desperate desire to get away, but I couldn’t. I had to deal. That the girl was so adamant, so desirous, of persuading me was, right there, an eloquent synopsis of the whole philosophical/spiritual problem of striving to overcome desire.

It’s incredible how many times that situation happens in life. You’re trapped with your emotions and all you can do is deal. Anyway, I wrote pretty beautifully about it in a book that will never be in the local author’s section or anywhere else. 😉

I wrote about being in Venice alone one afternoon, wandering around and studying the mosaics in the Basilica San Marco. While I was there, I suddenly understood Yeat’s poems, “Byzantium,” and “Sailing to Byzantium” more profoundly, differently, than I had before. They are poems about artifice and desire…

From the book…

To work for ANYTHING without WANTING to? The merely MECHANICAL, for a man to to work without desire. But a machine? No desire, yet,working, furthering the desires of its maker for earthbound immortality? Extending the purpose for which the artist was born? Good God. Yeats’ golden bird chirps into infinity. A soulless, animatronic, singing mechanism, like this Byzantine labyrinthine basilica, a curiosity for which I waited in line 48 years. Yeats himself left only the immortal idea, there is no bird, only songs, “. . . images that yet, fresh images beget” Inspiration; the animating breath. In a corner, in a dark and quiet shelter from the gold, the devout kneel, noiseless, before a painted statue of the Virgin. Her sweet face, compassionate and gentle, the child on one arm but the other open ready to succor another, offer mournful man what he needs more than God’s glory–God’s mercy; she models, inspires, love. 

I look at the ceiling and for the first time notice how living stories suffuse each voluptuous arch. The fish of the sea and the birds of the air struggle to life in a segment between archangels. The sea is crowded with fish; in their midst, a dragon. A golden eagle dives from one corner; a goose, a swan, a gull, a heron, an egret, a duck and a raven fill the rest of this compressed and golden sky. “All mere complexities of mire and blood.” Nearby, Noah releases a dove. St. Mark crosses the Mediterranean and is hauled up the Adriatic. His corpse sits on the boat like a living entity; the sea is rough; three men struggle to bring in the sail while a fourth, the animate soul of St. Mark, holds the rudder steady.

I study this “monument to its own magnificence” (Basilica San Marco in Venice) as well as I can–though to do a decent job would take me YEARS; I am that ignorant. I buy postcards, step outside and wait for my eyes to adjust to the light of the pigeon tormented piazza. In Yeats I had found not just “a” key but the key. 

Some of the people I met and talked with in Milan were Buddhists, Italian Buddhists. From these Italian Buddhists, I heard the argument that mastering desire is enlightenment. One handed me hand-rolled sticks of incense from Tibet as I stood in the doorway of the shop in the Naviglia. “If you do not WANT anything you are free.” This, I guess, is peace? The thin young woman who pressed the sandalwood sticks on me had an earnest not beautiful face; passionately and with consummate desire, she tried to get me to change my mind without knowing my mind. For me, God is inexpressible, unutterable. Awe. God is the force that pushes me beyond myself. I am his “golden handiwork;” his “golden bird upon a golden bough”–this earth. I WANT that song with all the burning ferocity of lust. 

The tranquil slow evening, the leisurely shutting down of businesses along the street, a new bottle of Italian spring water, I stood holding my incense; that was my first night in Milan. Tomorrow will be my last. I see all of it already in my mind as a form distilled and perfected through time, emerging. I loved that fervent girl standing there, color for my yet unpainted picture. I smiled and told her that yes indeed I do know the terrible pitfalls of desire (who would know better?) that I even saw the Dahlai Lama, and when? you were six or seven I tell her. It isn’t that I did not believe that what she told me is true. That desire makes us miserable is ONLY logical, but logic isn’t sufficient. “Hey, you guys overcome desire, you can reach Nirvana; you can become divine.”

Marvel of the Modern World

Not really all that long ago I went to my first ever – well, OK, 12 years ago – writers conference. I had my doubts about it — it was to be my first real foray into the world after my first hip surgery in 2007. I was apprehensive (which I’ve learned is normal after a joint replacement). I might not have gone, but I felt the need to challenge myself, the conference was in town (San Diego) and I had paid. A couple of my male friends were there — both aspiring writers, both talented.

Ahead of the conference, I had done everything I was supposed to. I had a flyer about my book (Martin of Gfenn). I’d set up three interviews with agents. I’d found a couple of sessions I thought I might learn from.

The first was packed, and I had to stand outside the open door while an agent — one of those I was scheduled to talk to later — complained about the sheer number of manuscripts that were sent to her. “You don’t know what that’s like,” she whined.

I was a writing teacher. I knew EXACTLY what that was like and I had a vision of this person lying in bed sipping gin and eating bon-bone and opening manuscripts and tossing the ones that didn’t “grab” her in the first sentence. I hated her. I didn’t have that luxury (or the gin and bon-bons) of tossing those essays that didn’t “grab” me in the first sentence. I had to read every damned thing all the way through and then GRADE them and face the possibility of being yelled at by the kid who got a (god forbid) B!!!

I walked away, grateful I hadn’t been able to get into the room. But, I’d also signed up to have lunch at this woman’s table. When that moment arrived I sat with 9 other aspiring (and, in a couple of cases, groveling) writers and I saw that the gin was possible, the bon-bons unlikely and that she was a woman in her fifties in the early stages of burnout. Everyone burns out, I believe. When I met her in the interview, my assessment proved correct. She talked to me about the challenges of raising a teenage son alone. We didn’t talk about my book at all.

Another session that I attended that day was a woman speaking about “self-publishing.” Publishing books online was in its early infancy then. Putting a book together and publishing it was an expensive and challenging process. This woman had not gone the route of “vanity publishing,” which is where you pay someone thousands of bucks to publish your book so it looks like a “real” book. She’d done the work herself. This woman had written a couple of kids books and they were bound like theses or dissertations. Her big thrill was that they were BOTH in her local library. She was a retired school teacher and it had been her life dream just to write a book and have it in a library.

I felt a strange sense of superiority that day when I drove home. I can’t explain WHY. Of course then I thought, “Well my book is so good SOMEONE is going to publish it and I will become famous and NOT have to self-publish it and beg for it to be put in a local library.”

The next several years were — wow, a huge challenge. Sometime during the struggle of regaining my financial footing after ejecting the Evil X and battling the Great Recession, I discovered LULU and its self-publishing platform. I don’t think Amazon had built its platform completely at that point, anyway, when I tried it, it was cumbersome compared to LULU’s. I thought, “What if?” and I built my first book. It was fun. That book is/was Free Magic Show and it’s just a collection of stories and thoughts. It was a marvel to me that I could do that.

Meanwhile, somewhere in there, I realized, thanks to the tutelage of Truman Capote, Martin of Gfenn was an over-written, repetitive mess. That’s when my life as a “real” writer began. I understood that I owed my effort to my work. I still studied HOW to reach an agent, but the advice I found seemed random and impossible. Every agent wanted a different thing, partly because the whole process of submitting a manuscript was changing. It took a while for online submissions to become “thing,” and submitting a manuscript required a lot of paper and postage. I have saved one of those manila envelopes with the pricey stamps. It’s been very interesting living and working in this moment of time — crossing the bridge between the “old” days of paper manuscripts and the “new” days of electronic submission.

Now, I think, it’s really up to an author what they want from the experience of writing a book. For me, the biggest part is love. I have pretty much abandoned the process of soliciting agents. I know it’s not going to happen, and I no longer regard it as failure on my part — though I did. There’s a certain freedom in “failure,” and that is no external entities (readers, agents, publishers) have any expectations of me. There’s no, “Hey we need another of those dog books,” for example or, “You write science fiction. What’s with this leper? You’re going to lose your audience,” or “We need seven chapters by October 1.”

This entire argosy has taught me that — for me — the reward of writing a book comes from writing it. Designing the book at the end of the process is the cherry on the sundae. Twelve years ago at that writers conference, I could not have imagined being here now.

Publish WHERE???

Everyone (thinks they) know everything. Since I’m not one of everyone, I keep trying to find things out.

I was reading a blog post on IndieBRAG about why I shouldn’t publish books using Amazon because bookstores hate Amazon. I should use Ingram/Spark. So, I went to see about that and found incredible complexity. Since I was up most of the night with an upset stomach, most things are too complex for me right now. I can see, though, they might be a good platform with a few more options, but… I wondered about Amazon’s “expanded distribution” which puts books out there where Ingram puts books. I wasn’t sure so I found a Youtube video about this and a young, bald, bespectacled talking head yammered at me from a position too close to the camera and never answered the question. Why is it so many people who make Youtube videos do that? Why is it so hard for them to get to the point?* Anyway, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. The books end up in the same conduit where libraries and bookstores can order them if they want to.

I need a proxy to do this stuff for me, to make these decisions and learn all this stuff continually because I’m not into it. I tell myself that I don’t care if people buy my books, but it’s only a half-truth. I do know that I’m not sitting here today trying to figure out another publishing platform. I don’t know what I’m doing (tired, still a little funky in the stomach) but I’m not doing that.

*I have the same problem with TED talks, except for the too-close to the camera part. 😀 Probably the price I pay for not being an aural learner, but stronger on visual and kinesthetic learning. I focus on people’s faces and what they do rather than hearing their words.

Rambling Discourse on Self-Publishing

I’d be lion if I said I have something to write this morning about lions. I don’t. More of a tiger person, myself.

Yesterday I got the idea of looking at some of my short stories, many unfinished, and that’s consuming me until I get the proof of the China book back from my editor.

This is the fourth book my editor, Beth Bruno, has helped me with. Long, long ago when I first wrote Martin of Gfenn and was submitting it to agents, I got a response. The agent had written in Magic Marker, big black letters, “Get an editor.”

I honestly didn’t know what he meant. I thought that was what you got after you got a publisher. It took fourteen years or so for me to “finish” Martin of Gfenn by which time the agent thing was moot. I published it. I sent it around. Then… I looked at the published book and saw it was rife with small errors of the type someone like me would never, ever, ever see. Savior was (I thought) finished, but I was afraid it was also fraught with errors. I went online to find an editor and I found Beth.

I found others at the same time and contacted several. I ended up hiring Beth because she presented herself in a straight-forward manner, and her commitment seemed to be helping writers write THEIR boosk rather than writing HER book through someone else, if that makes any sense. Many of the editors I found did not seem to have the professionalism or detachment Beth has. Her references were good and supported my perception of her.

It was expensive (for me) but it was worth it to me. Since then, Beth has helped me with three books. Now that she knows what she will be getting from me (a finished manuscript that doesn’t need a lot of development assistance) it’s more affordable for me, and we have evolved into a team. We work using the comments and changes feature on Words/Pages and by phone. With the China book, she was especially helpful in reminding me that I was writing about a world most people have not experienced, and I needed to clarify terms, ideas, moments, cultural details so others would know what I was writing about.

Working together on the China book has been great. After she finished the work specified in the contract, she offered to do a final reading of the finished project, something she’s just completed. We both love the project, I guess.

I was also thinking last night that initially I considered self-publishing (Indie publishing, has that phrase caught on?) to be failure, something you did when no one wanted your work because it wasn’t marketable for any one of a number of reasons. I still feel that way, but I also understand that a work not being marketable might not mean it’s a bad book, poorly written, or uninteresting. It just means that there’s no agent who feels they can sell it to a publisher because there’s no publisher who sees a market for your work. The market isn’t the arbiter of quality, just what people will buy.

Over this evolution I read a lot of best-selling historical novels that I would be ashamed to have written. I learned that I have an intrinsic sense of what makes a good book and that sense is sacred to me. I also realized none of this really matters. I understood this when I saw that just because I couldn’t find an agent, I would not stop writing. I also learned that I enjoy the process of putting a book together. For a brief moment I had a publisher for one of my books — The Brothers Path. That experience showed me the compromise that would be involved if I went “legit,” so to speak. And then he went out of business, and I was able to do my book myself. Disappointed, but…

Recently, The Price garnered an IndeBRAG Medallion. I’m happy and proud because that means all three books in that trilogy get to wear that badge. It also meant I could combine them in a single book and sell it at a lower price.

The president of IndieBRAG messaged me that she loved the cover of the The Price and asked who’d done it for me. I wrote back that I’d designed the cover for that and all my books. She was surprised. But I think it’s fun to figure that out; what images tell the story?

I still wish that there was an agent who saw the possibilities for my books, but the process of submittal got to be really grueling and my attitude toward it shifted from one of hope and possibility to, “Who the fuck are you to sit in judgement on my books?” That shift began at a writer’s conference in which an agent complained about having manuscripts to read. Really? That, Sweet Cheeks, is job security. Another wondered if the leprous hero in Martin of Gfenn got married and had children at the end. Over time, I encountered this again and again and realized that I’m just not on the public pulse. Can I go there? I don’t know. I don’t think so, even though there are a lot of good books out there that ARE on the public pulse.

Do I still feel that self-published books are “failures”? Yes, in a way. But a bigger failure would be allowing an external notion of success to stop me from doing what I love.

Red and White Blues

The best discovery I’ve made in a long time is an Apple program that makes it a lot easier for me to make Kindle books. I have found that process tedious and boring, never mind not knowing if they work or not other than the various simulated eReaders offered me by Amazon’s publishing platform.

I’ve long had the theory that no one WANTS me to do that particular formatting task myself because people want me to HIRE them to do that for me. I’d love to, but I haven’t discovered buried treasure, well, there were three antique burlap potato sacks in my crawl space that were pretty cool. The name of the program is iBooks Author and maybe it’s been around for a while and I just didn’t know it.

Anyway, I’m now putting the trilogy of Savior, The Brothers Path and The Price together in one Kindle book. I can’t see putting them together in a paperback unless there is a market for door stops that I haven’t heard of.

Meanwhile, here we are at the 4th of July. Other than the random firecrackers being blown up in town, scaring Bear (and though through it all she feels she must protect me) I think it best to draw a veil of silence over the whole thing. I have a lot of opinions, substantial anger and even more substantial sorrow over the state of things in “my” country.

I’m telling my dog — and myself — it’s just one day and soon (maybe next Monday?) our wildlife area will be open to the public (and the black Angus herd that’s there now). Hopefully the shady trail by the river isn’t underwater, but I think it probably is. I can’t wait to see how things are going out there.

If you live in the US, have a safe 4th of July.

Good News for My Most Recent Novel, The Price!

After writing my blog this morning in which I discuss writing and success, I learned that The Price has been awarded an Indie BRAG Medallion. I’m very happy because The Price is the third book in a series and the other two — Savior and The Brothers Path both had won this award. I’ve been wanting to publish them for Kindle as a series, one huge file, and now I can.

When readers evaluate a book for the BRAG Medallion they fill out rating sheets. I’ve read some non-fiction books and the process is detailed and the standards are high. I was very happy to read the ratings for The Price. They were both gratifying and helpful. Because of them I felt less discouraged AND I got a heads up about a few minor problems in the text that I had missed.

Here are the comments:

  1. The book could have used better formatting. Not to be too picky, but sometimes the chapters started on a fresh kindle page, and sometimes they started on the same page the previous chapter had ended. A small detail, but one that I noticed. There were a few other mistakes, although I can’t recall them now. The cover could have been better – maybe with the image of the people making their way to the new world. It would help readers connect with the charactes in the story. Overall, though, I loved the book. Its point of view of the immigrants who first settled in the US was fascinating; the conflicting feelings they would have had about leaving were heartbraking (sic); the trials they endured something I cannot even imagine living through on my own. The characters were ones I could connect with, the writing was well done. The issues I mentioned above were minor, but detract from an otherwise wonderful story.
  2. Well written and an attention grabber throughout the book and how these immigrants made it in the new world
  3. The Price deserves to be considered a classic, along with such novels on immigration to America as Giants in the Earth. It is a book that should be taught in schools and read by every American, especially those who have forgotten their immigrant origins. I have given a slightly lower rating for style: the opening couple of chapters do not have the polish and professional tone of the rest of the book. I’ve also given a lower rating for copy editing. Too often words are missing, and a couple of times it looks like a spell checker may have substituted the wrong word for what was clearly intended. I recommend one more careful edit, for the importance of this book, one more careful edit is well worth it.

Some of the “typos” I cannot fix — they are in quotations from materials printed in the 18th century when printers used abbreviations for words such as “which” (wch), but the few real problems Amazon also caught on the upload of the newly formatted version. Which brings me to more good gnus…

I got some good software, finally, for making books to read on eReaders — so far I’m only publishing on Kindle, but the software is good for other formats, too. Formatting for Kindle has been a huge challenge for me because, first of all, I don’t use an eReader and, second, I had no really good software for formatting them. I used it first on the work in progress, As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder and today I reformatted both The Price and The Brothers Path. I’ll be reformatting Savior, Martin of Gfenn and My Everest.

Copy, Right?

Yesterday I got an email from KDP, Amazon’s publishing platform.

During our review, we found that the following book(s) contains content for which you may not hold the necessary rights. Some or all of the content within your book(s) is freely available on the internet. As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder: A Foreign Expert in English, Guangzhou China, 1982-83 by Kennedy, Martha (AUTHOR)

At first I thought (grad student forever) they were impugning my citations. How dare they! I taught that shit! I lived by it! Then I realized that they must have a bot searching that vast wilderness of words, the internet, and it found my blog.

God forbid I compete with myself, right? I responded that it was my blog and that I’d removed the posts (yesterday). A double problem for them — I imagine there are authors who steal the work of bloggers and I can also see they wouldn’t want to go to the expense of publishing a book that no one has to buy to read it.

I hope this will help someone out. I know many people write blogs with the thought of someday turning the blog into a book. Of course there’s the chance I’m the one person in the universe who didn’t know this.

Update: I got this message this morning. I guess I cleared everything up.

Thanks for your message regarding the following book:

As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder: A Foreign Expert in English, Guangzhou China, 1982-83   ID: 32561303

Your book is currently live and available for purchase. Check out the detail page to check the status:


P.S. KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing that was once Amazon’s e-book publication interface. They had another for paper books, Createspace. They’ve combined the two under KDP. It works well, has become easier to use and has a wide reach (obviously).

Quotidian Update 8.2i.a

We got about an inch of snow out of our most recent storm. It’s enough to quench Bear’s yearning. It was the real thing. Cold, night, drifting sparkling flakes. The happy snowplow came by at light speed. The sun is rising in a foggy sky. Tonight we’ll be getting real San Luis Valley winter temperatures. They’re predicting -4 F (-20 C). Of course, there are days coming when -4 will be the daily high.

I’m a few days over six months out from my non-invasive hip replacement procedure. Rehab continues. A month or so ago I added a simple yoga routine to help me develop more flexibility and balance. It was difficult at first, but I was happy just to realize that I could do — on a very low level — most of the poses I wanted to do. It gets easier every time, and now I think anyone who saw me would recognize what I’m doing. I’m not a major yoga enthusiast, but I learned several years ago how really good and helpful it is. 🙂

I’ve also “run” a couple of times. I know I’m running because Bear runs beside me. I think the last time I attempted it, it might have been recognizeable to anyone that I was running (poorly, slowly, awkwardly). I have run 20 yards at a time. I would probably run farther but Bear would (I think) think we’re in it for the long haul and take off. Mostly I’m afraid of falling and yoga is helping me overcome that fear. Down on a yoga mat you’re essentially in the “post fall” position. I don’t expect to return to running. My knees wouldn’t be able to handle it, but I want to be ABLE to run 50 yards. It’s a funny goal for a person who used to run miles and miles, but it’s OK with me.

The Schneebelis Go to America is moving along on its trajectory to being a book. This past Saturday I set it up for Kindle and it’s available for pre-order on Amazon under its real title, The Price. I am waiting for a second proof copy to arrive (tomorrow? day after?) at which point I’ll finish it and it will be a legit paper back. I’m using LULU rather than Amazon’s platform this time. There’s no advantage to it other than their product is nicer. The paper is higher quality and the binding more stable. The downside is that it’s more expensive and I will make less per book sold, but obviously I’m not in it for the money. It will be available in all the usual place on December 5. It looks like there will be a little book review blog tour for it. I hadn’t thought of it, but one of my readers did. If you’re interested in participating, let me know. I now have the book in all formats thanks to help from readers of my blog. ❤

I’ve begun research for what I think will be my next project which, I think, is going to be the story of Martin of Gfenn’s teacher, Michele, who (according to my own story) got in trouble in Verona (you either had to be there or read the book, Martin of Gfenn) and was exiled to Zürich as punishment. I’ve always known (because I invented him?) that Michele fell in with a bad crowd (in this case “bad” is truly subjective). Anyway, Michele is — or at least aspired to be — a Goliard. I think he will fail at this, as it seems for a lot of medieval humanists it was a passing phase. It’s not easy living “beyond the pale.” A person can get hungry out there. I really won’t know until I get there. Meanwhile, I’m learning, reading about them and soon reading more of their (very secular) poetry.


Yesterday, not long after my blog post went up, I got a text from one of my neighbors who’s currently a “snow bird.” “I want to read your hiking book.” She’s originally from San Diego and her grandson lives within sight of the main locale of the stories.

I texted her back, “It’s not happening,” with a little explanation, then I went about my morning. In the back of my mind was the book, of course.

The book is flawed. I don’t think there’s anything I can do about that. Its flaws are, in their way, reflections of MY flaws. I fixed the two new typos I’d found and closed the file.

Then I did my chores, thinking the book was a done deal, a closed subject.

I looked at Bear’s blue eyes, which are very beautiful but they are also, probably, the reason I have her.

“Whoa,” I thought. “Whoever bred Bear thought they were a flaw. Thought they indicated deafness or blindness or?” Then I thought of Dusty T. Dog. He was so flawed the shelter didn’t think he was adoptable. He’s STILL flawed, but WOW. For nearly 12 years he’s been my loyal, loving companion no matter WHAT.

Then I thought of Mission Trails Regional Park itself — the location of most of the stories in my book. It’s not perfect. It was never where I WANTED to be. It was simply what I had, the only place I could hike with my dogs during a long and VERY flawed time in my life. And it ITSELF was barely snatched from development and freeways — by whom? A group of San Diego citizens INCLUDING me! I, with all my flaws, was one small agent in the protection of 5800 acres of chaparral for future generations to see, know, enjoy.

BEYOND that, the place itself has seen a lot of life (and destruction) before it became a park — dirt bikes, ATVS, and people four-wheeling up the steep slopes. Stolen cars dumped in the stream and over the embankments. When I first started hiking there, a Ford pickup from the 40s rusted away in the stream leading to Oak Canyon. During WW II it was a military training base, including exploding shells (some unexploded shells have been found in recent years). There had been developer dreams of cutting across the hillside with a four lane freeway on the bed of a road that had been used by the water department. Neither it nor I are a pristine perfect flawless wilderness. I began to wonder if maybe it was a BETTER book because it’s not perfect.

And more… My father’s flaws, his MS, inspired me to propose, design, and raise the money for the building of a wheelchair accessible guided walkway to one of the most interesting historical features in California, Old Mission Dam.


Walkway to Old Mission Dam, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego

Late yesterday, I decided to write a note for the readers of my book explaining its flaws, that Createspace COULDN’T print the cover right no matter what and directing readers to the website where they could see the actual photo (including the featured image for this blog), apologizing for my weak proofreading skills and the relentless and (to me) invisible typos (just now found another one 😦 ) and explaining that it all reflects my flaws and the flaws of the world as it is.

“Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” M. Teresa

As for “jolly” the word of the day, it’s one of those Christmas words. I never use it. Sorry WP.

360 Degrees

Last night, I gave up on the hiking book. I’ve published five OTHER books using Createspace, and they did NOT fuck up those covers, but EVERY cover I’ve put on the hiking book, Createspace has defiled. I’ve complained, tried different designs, done everything I could think of since it’s the inside that matters most, but in this case…

And the inside. I thumbed through one of the ten horrifically ugly copies I had ordered as Christmas presents for people, and found two mistakes, just at random.

As I went to sleep last night I decided it was just fucking hopeless and maybe the book is not meant to be a slender paper back volume. Maybe it’s supposed to be something else or maybe it’s not supposed to be at all.

cover My Everest 12:8.001

RIP Hiking Book


IN OTHER NEWS, the temperatures have arrived at their early winter manic state; 2 F degrees at night, 45 F in the day. It’s gorgeous if the wind isn’t blowing. My professional trainers (Dusty T and Polar Bear Yeti T Dog) took me out yesterday for a long walk. They were determined to test my abilities and we went farther than we have been going.

“You’re not going to get anywhere if you always do the same thing!” said Dusty T. Dog who hates change. I was completely startled by that; first, talking dogs don’t exist, and second, Dusty would never say that.

“It’s the voices,” I say to myself in one of those voices. Still, sometimes we give ourselves good advice.

The trail is a rough dirt road on which only BLM vehicles are allowed. It’s in one section of the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area. Dusty wears his hunting vest like a magic cloak although there is no one there in the middle of the day in hunting season. The slough, a marshy collection of lakes coming off the big ditch and the river, is a nesting area for geese in spring and it is closed to people from early March to my dad’s birthday in July. I watch the ground. It’s uneven enough that I could trip on something. There are some HUGE human footprints, but not many.

There’s a north wind and I wear the Hellnarian Icelandic wool cap I bought in Bogarnes at the supermarket after going to the Settlement Center to see the exhibit of Egil’s Saga. Those must have been the days. Little Egil, six years old, in trouble with his dad for getting drunk at a party.

Truth be told, the walk is boring. It’s flat. There is nothing but dried cattails, tall grass and distant bare cottonwoods to look at. And, I have to pay attention. BUT, the light this time of year is exquisite and mysterious. It lies almost flat against the ground. A herd of Angus cattle in the pasture to the south are silhouetted against it, but they’d be cattle of color anyway. A hawk flies low over the pasture. A couple of magpies fly past against the wind. I think the cranes have finally left the valley.

At .75 miles, I turn around. My goal is 1.5. Nothing, but not that easy with arthritis all over the damned place. My NEXT goal is FARTHER. I’m aiming for 3 mile walks two or three times a week.

In every respect, I have a ways to go.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area