Writer’s block.  Seems pretentious to even call it that.  It’s not like I’m…  Actually, I am.  I am a writer.  My two ebooks have earned barely $60 in total but, hey, they are mine and, hey hey hey, I got paid for them.  But now I am blocked.

My son is a talented writer.  And thinker.  And story teller.  The other day he told me that when you are blocked you need to do something to kickstart yourself right out of there, even if it takes some time.  Find out what it is, and then do it.  For him, it’s playing video games.

If I did that, I would lose myself.  Trust me, as a former addict of the game World of Warcraft, I know.  I still dream of being in bear form and knocking the snot out of some big monster while my teammates go in for the kill and others shoot heals my way so I can outlive the monster who is trying to chew my head off.  I have a friend from those days who still plays.  She posts videos of her guild’s battles on her website and talks excitedly about her latest weapon acquisition, so I can enjoy the game vicariously through her.  But I don’t.  I don’t even watch the videos.  It would hurt too much, in a way, because I can no longer play.  I guess that’s partly what makes an addict an addict.

My son and I agree that reading a good book can help unblock the block.  I find that to be a lovely and safe choice.  Usually.

Right now I am reading Agatha Christie Mallowan’s Come, Tell Me How You Live, kindly sent to me by a friend.  It is an accounting of her travels and adventures with her husband, famed British archeologist Sir Max Mallowan, during archeological digs in Iraq and Syria in the 1930s.

If the internet existed back then, Dame Agatha would undoubtedly be tapping away at her blog every day or so–no writer’s block for her!–updating eager readers over tea on her struggles, both mundane and fantastical, ranging from constipation (not hers–she is a true lady, after all) to murder (also not hers, but probably inspiring her fictional works).   She would share with her contemporaries the beauty, charm, and magnificence of the Middle East and its people during this interlude between two world wars.  As for future readers such as you and I, Christie’s poignant references to Aleppo and Mosul, Raqqa and Beirut, Armenian, Arab, Moslem, and Kurd fall heavy on the heart.  But it is a grateful heart, blessed with a glimpse into our own very real world in another very real time.  Between those lines, one can sometimes find hope.

Where Dame Agatha’s work is a gentle, cultured read, my son’s recommendations lean toward the wild side.  Per his encouragement, I have read a dozen of Jim Butcher’s books in his series The Dresden Files, which follows the adventures of a modern day wizard-detective who turns out to be so much more.  Butcher is an incredible writer who blends nonstop action with humor, managing to squeeze in some real character depth while he’s at it.  I took a break from the series after finishing volume 12 last spring.  I’m still too exhausted to pick up number 13.  But I will.

My son is an avid Stephen King fan, as well, so upon his urging I read The Stand.  I texted the poor boy for days afterwards about how much I despised, no, DESPISED!!! the ending.  I slogged for weeks through a thousand-plus pages for that???  I felt so cheated!!!  On the other hand, King sure did manage to elicit a passionate reaction and, for any author, that’s success right there.

Bowing to more of my son’s advice, I read a sneak peak (10 percent of the book) on Amazon of King’s classic horror novel, It.  Yes, It is very well written.  Inspired, you might well say.  But, yikes, Mr. King sure taps into a deep well filled with some very dark stuff.  The sneak peak ended (OF COURSE!) with the frightened little wife shaking in her slippers, turning the doorknob to the bathroom where her husband had mysteriously retired… drip drip drip sounds from the other side of the door.  Amazon then asked me to buy the book.  Instead, I googled spoilers for It and found out what happened without having to get immersed in the remaining 90 percent.  Look who’s the cheater now, ha!

You have to be careful what you put into your brain, you know?

Actually, what I think works best to unblock the block, at least for me, is to simply sit and write.  Just start.  See what pops out, then follow it along until it fades away…  end of story.  Or maybe not.  Go back in a few days and tweak it.  Maybe a crazy video game scene will come crashing into a discussion of Agatha Christie who, in a ladylike turn, will toss her tea and shift into a monster out of a Stephen King novel.  Oh!  Bear form, quick!  I’ll kill Pennywise the clown with my bare paws!!!  And look!  Over 900 words later I have managed to unblock things, at least on the blog front.

Now, back to work on my next little ebook.  It will be sweet, a bit on the tame side, but hey, that’s what I know.  Heck, maybe I will toss in a little spice… but no clowns.  Absolutely no clowns!

(For any interested readers, my ebooks can be found on my Amazon author page,  If you do pick one up and enjoy it, please consider giving it a review.  That is helpful both to search rankings and to author encouragement.  Thank you!)

Renaldo Flown Home

Some backstory for those not up on the adventures of our favorite stowaway…

Not so long ago, in a world far, far away there lived a little bug.  A stinkbug named Renaldo.  Renaldo had a perfectly lovely life in the only home he had ever known.  Surrounded by green, green hills with sweet mountains nearby, Renaldo had achieved great things in his home world and was as well-respected as a stinkbug could be.

Dawny and I were visiting Renaldo’s green, green world last fall and one day he wandered into our home.  Imagine his surprise when he discovered that, not only did our house have wheels, it took off on the next leg of its journey while he was aboard!

Over six months, six thousand miles, and sixteen states later, Renaldo has managed to stick with us.  Often encountering him staring blankly out of a window or buzzing a loop-de-loop past my head, I would scoop him gently into the cup of my hand and toss him out the door.  But he always managed to return in time before we left for our next destination.

A few days before our departure from Virginia, I found Renaldo wandering along a wall.  As I tossed him outside, I called to him, “We leave in a few days for your old home, so pack your bags and don’t you go too far now!”

I wasn’t sure if he heard me.

He did.  And he had his bags packed all right.  Upon our arrival in Tennessee, I went to get my leveling blocks out of their plastic bag, and there sat Renaldo, snuggled safely inside.  Scooping him up and tossing him into the breeze, I bid my stowaway stinkbug a fond farewell.

I can hear him now, sitting around a matchstick campfire with family and old friends, spinning tales of sea cows and cowww-oats, guardian hummingbirds and two-headed birds.  He takes special delight telling the youngsters of the time he had to bunk with a nameless gremlin.  He is happy to be home.

And I am happy to be back in his neck of the woods.  As I shared Renaldo’s tale with a friend at the campground here, he couldn’t help but ask:  “Really, now.  How can you be sure that was the same stinkbug all that time?”

‘Tis a fair question, deserving of a fair answer, even if it does come in the form of another fair question…

Really, now.  How many stinkbugs named Renaldo do you think there are?

Breaking News!!!

Made ya look.

Absolutely no new news here, breaking or broken, unglued or reglued.  But I figured I would continue with my curmudgeonly theme and talk about something that has been bothering me for ages.  TV news.  Not radio news.  It helps that most radio stations only allot a small fraction of time to the news.  It helps even more that radio news lacks cameras.

TV news, not so much.  On most TV news shows:

  • Everything is breaking!  Even stories that broke days ago continue to be labeled as breaking news as reporters dig through every detail in search of some tantalizing tidbit that can be labeled as the next surprising item.  Even better, an exclusive breaking item!
  • Celebrity deaths are milked until you are ready to vomit.  R.I.P. Prince.
  • Warnings that the upcoming video may be disturbing are given gleefully over and over and over and over again as viewers are tortured with near-death and even real-death events.  It reminds me of futuristic movies I saw in my youth where death became just a part–a tool–of the larger goal:  entertainment and money.  (Has anyone else seen the 1975 film “Rollerball,” starring James Caan?)
  • Teasers drive me nuts.  “Tune in tonight for the full story!”  I was hoping to be asleep by then.  Or watching something that I actually might enjoy.  Please.  Just tell it to me now.  If you don’t, please know that I will not be tuning back in just for that snippet.  I’ll find it later on the internet if I am really that interested, thank you very much.
  • Newscasters barely out of their teens reflect the sorry state of our educational system when they can barely string a proper sentence together even when it is spelled out for them in detail.  And then, heaven forbid, something goes wrong with the teleprompter.  The result is likely to be an embarrassment to us all.
  • Most weather girls and half the female newscasters believe that professional dress means bare arms and daring necklines.  What isn’t exposed is stuffed into tiny, tight outfits better suited for date night.  Note:  If you don’t want to be called a “girl,” and would prefer to be treated like a professional woman, please dress like one.  If you don’t want someone to stare at your chest, please cover it.  It is really that simple.  Oh, God, I have become such a curmudgeon.
  • Donning hip boots and wading into rushing waters after six more inches of rain fell than you forecast two days ago does not raise my estimation of your heroic forecasting abilities.  You just look like a little idiot.  A wet little idiot.
  • By the time the weathercaster gets to the part you want to hear–after spending the bulk of their time describing the weather you and others have witnessed with your own eyes over the past 24 hours–you’ve tuned them out.  The jaded part of me, which grows larger by the day, thinks that is probably their intention.  Oh well.
  • Weathercasters think it is necessary to tell you how to dress each day, for each part of the day…  Jackets at the bus stop…  short sleeves at lunch…  umbrella in the afternoon…  hip boots yesterday…  I can figure that out myself, thank you very much.  Just tell me what I don’t know, like the forecast.  Like, now.
  • … … …

Okay, wait a minute.  I actually have some breaking news.  It fits all the criteria:  It is of timely, critical importance, weather plays a vital role, we receive relevant wardrobe guidance, video might be fun, and it is news to me.  Tomorrow is World Naked Gardening Day!  I discovered this golden nugget from nothing other than this evening’s news, oh my!

What gives this pronouncement such tremendous value?  Nothing less than its practical application to real life–my real life–which is as it should be.  Tomorrow I had been scheduled to help plant a tree as part of my volunteer duties.  The lovely volunteer coordinator heard my tiny squeak loud and clear a couple of weeks ago when I noted that I am not the best person to put in a situation with kids, and I was put on bathroom and cabin cleaning duty instead.  Oh!  How fortunate we all are!

Happy World Naked Gardening Day, everybody.  Hopefully some of our local newscasters will show up to promote the event.  Just be careful with those shovels, ladies and gents!