Bones still dangling, from Fat Duck to Wise Duck, Mistress of the Dark Path cries over Santa, a kid stupidly climbs to the top of a bridge, Air Force fighters ground another flight…
Stories & Books: I’m sorry to report that my latest story Bones in the Tree is not yet complete—even in first draft. I don’t know where the weeks go, but I certainly could use a couple of extra days each week.
Some rocking good news, however: as many of you know, last week was my best week in digital book sales. This week we tied it! And it has been an amazing week of great reviews, too. Is it possible that next week will be even betterJ?
Thank you everyone! I couldn’t do it without loyal readers who keep spreading the word.
Really, THANK YOU!
Understanding Fat Duck: I’ve often thought that understanding animals is a key to being able to take care of them. In Fat Duck’s case, I’m pretty sure that yesterday I passed the understanding test.
When it comes to living in the moment, I’m convinced that Fat Duck takes that philosophy to a whole new level. Watching him sit on his hay bale for hours on end, you might be inclined to think he is pondering the great questions of existence, and you might be convinced he would better be named as Wise Duck. However, I’ve come to believe that the majority of his meditation time is spent wondering who those people keep calling “Fat Duck” and why “Original Duck” has more girlfriends than he does (it’s all about speed, by the way).
So yesterday when Fat Duck found his way up onto the porch just before bedtime, my wife asked me if he would let her pet him. My answer was “Don’t do it; you’ll just make him poop.”
Well, she did…and he did…and I went and uncoiled the hose, AGAINL.
Sometimes, I hate it when I’m right.
My week: I had a crazy busy week filled with a bunch of successful projects. The problem is that there are just so many projects that no matter how many I get done, there are so many more I’d like to do. I could be cloned a dozen times and not fully accomplish my wish list (not that I would clone by the way; it didn’t work out so well for Michael Keaton in MultiplicityJ).
Among the completed home projects were taking some old furniture to the transfer station, providing my daughter with four chairs for her kitchen (they had a table but no chairsL), successfully disassembling the top of my windmill and putting together a repair plan for which I’ll gather the rest of the needed parts this week, and helping a friend with some landscaping that needs to get done before hot weather settles in and kills any chance of growing healthy new grass. I also was able to give away a nice love seat to friends who can use it (they’ll pick it up this coming week).
Professionally, it was a great week. I got lots of amazing charity work done. Unfortunately, I missed my own completion wish date for the Bones in the Tree story, but time is a limited commodity and I was just plum out. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve somehow grown the story from six pages to almost thirty pages. As I mentioned on a Facebook post, there’s probably a reason I’m known more as a novelist than a short story writerJ.
News – Why are our Airlines so incapable of handling Stir-Crazy Passengers? A few weeks ago, a United Airlines passenger whacked someone in front of them for reclining back in their seat too far. This is only one of many accounts of passengers getting out of hand thousands of feet above ground, but in this case the altercation led U.S. Air Force fighter jets to actually escort the Ghana-bound flight back to Dulles International Airport in Washington.
Of course, we understand why the slightest whisper of the word bomb, explosion, or terrorism sends our airplanes bolting for the nearest safe landing haven, but what about mothers who make their kids cry, men who get mad because the wrong soda is served or passengers who scuffle over an over-reclined seat?
Let’s leave aside for the moment the question of why an airplane seat can recline far enough back to actually bother the person behind it and instead address the simple question of why airline staff can’t control these situations that would be little or no problem in a restaurant, post office, or even a movie theater. I’ve seen movie attendants approach disruptive groups of people and calm them down with just a few words, and I’ve watched a postal worker—somehow—calm a customer raging on about the wrong colored stamps. But for some reason, our flight crews seem to have only one response to anything exceeding an irritated grumble: ground the flight.
For those of you that don’t know, sending a flight back to its original airport or ditching it at an interim site can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as thirty thousand dollars, not to mention the lost time and money for all the passengers of that and other flights that are backed up and delayed. I haven’t even a clue how you would also calculate the cost of the fighter jets needed for the flight in question above.
Here’s what I say, let’s install at least one special seat on every airplane. Let’s enclose it with bars, put a burly Air Marshal in that spot for every flight, and install a special sign on the ceiling. Then the next time some bonehead temporarily loses his or her mind, he or she can trade places with the Marshall and the DUNCE sign can be turned on along with permission for everyone to photograph and film them in their predicament. After a few dozen of these folks find their angry pusses streaming into laughing living rooms all over the world, I suspect the Marshals won’t have to trade seats too many times in the future.
Is there really a “Christmas Leap” like I described in The Santa Shop? Over the years, I have heard of various locations around the country that have had multiple suicide deaths (like the Empire State Building) but Christmas Leap is a fictional place in the fictional town of Gray, Vermont. I hope, however, that the overhead steel bridge and that steep ice-clogged ravine are as real to my readers as they were to me when I wrote them.
I will tell you that a very similar bridge in Maine (the one photographed and ultimately shown in the first edition cover of The Santa Shop) is real. I’ll also tell you that one cold September night a certain fourteen-year-old boy with a name strangely similar to mine foolishly scaled the top of that forty- or fifty-foot-tall bridge. It was pitch-black and I was alone—which begs the question: what the hell was I trying to prove and to whom? The wind was gusting that night, and at the top of the bridge a seagull was squatting, refusing to move. As I crouched, hand gripping the cold steel frame, I remember having only one over-riding thought: knowing what an idiot I was.
So, for me, it wasn’t hard to write that scene. I still remember those ice-cold rivets burning into my palms and wind whipping at my back as I looked down at the cold rushing river that glittered like black tar below me. Had that seagull not moved, or worse, attacked me, The Santa Shop might well never have been written.
Thinking back on all of this, I would again suggest that every scene, every character, every event in any of my books is in some way a direct result of the life I’ve lived. And I’m so very thankful that I got a chance to tell these stories. Fortunately, I didn’t have to pay for the stupidity of that night with my life, but I’m sure there have been other less lucky children who have died for even less stupid things.
My heart goes out to all of them and all of their families.
Thanks so much, Susan A… for a touching glimpse of your personal history and your kind review of The Santa Shop.
««««« (5 out of 5 stars) June 17, 2011
An emotional story that will stay with you...
I normally have a set outline for reviews, but this book has left such an impression on me that I felt compelled to deviate from that format. There is a good reason for this and I will explain. This story is about a man who had a horrible Christmas experience that brought him to a suicidal state one year after that tragic incident. For me, I have never been suicidal, but Christmas has always been an emotional time for me due to similar reasons. My mother died just two weeks before Christmas when I was nine years old. The doctors knew she wouldn't make it and warned my family to prepare for her upcoming death. Brain cancer had left her in a very weakened state, but she wanted to see me and my younger brother open our gifts one last time. So we celebrated early with her that year. Then just a few days later, the cancer won the battle and took her from us. When the actual time for Christmas arrived, my father, brother, and I were in a rather depressed state. A few small, cheap gifts were exchanged. My father was trying, in his own way, but he wasn't our mother who did Christmas in a big way. Also, despite medical insurance, the cost of cancer had left us nearly destitute.
We tried to hang in there that first year. My father attempted to play the dual role of mom and dad, but eventually his depression caught up with him. Alcohol became his alternative and what money we had went toward feeding that need in him to drown out his sorrows. Our Christmas' became a decorated tree with little or nothing under them. Every year, I would cry myself to sleep and mourn the loss of my mother who had always known how to make holidays so special. By the time I had reached fourteen, it became too much. I planned ahead and saved every dollar I had, usually it wasn't much, maybe twenty or thirty total. Then, just a couple days before Christmas, I would go to whatever store was within walking distance to purchase little gifts for my brother and father. I wrapped these meager offerings up and placed them under the tree with the order they not be opened until the appropriate time.
Once Christmas eve had arrived, I would drag my brother to the living room and awaken my father from his drunken stupor. Under my supervising eye, they would open those gifts and each might give a smile. It wasn't much, but somehow I had to make the holiday better for them. They had both fallen to depression, drinking, and other things by this time and I was the only one hanging on. In some way, I was trying to give them a bit of happiness. Then, after the wrapping was cleaned up, my father passed out again, and my brother back in his room, I would go off alone to cry. I had done what I could. All the holidays until I left home seemed to pass this way with only one or two minor exceptions.
That first Christmas when I was eighteen years old was spent in Army barracks in North Carolina. I had just arrived at my unit two months before and only the soldiers who had been in the unit longer were given leave to go home. Perhaps not more than a dozen or so of us were left and I didn't know the others. I sat in my barracks room with its ugly cinder-block walls, once again depressed and even more alone than ever before. Then someone started pounding on all the doors, ordering us out into the hallway. We stumbled out, it was perhaps around 7pm so most hadn't gone to sleep, yet it was dark outside already. They told us all to go to the barracks entrance steps. I didn't want to and argued against it, but they told me it wasn't an option. To my surprise, upon reaching the entrance, a gathering of families were outside singing Christmas carols for us. It was a very cold night, yet they braved it to give us a little cheer. We even received cookies as a small gift. The children smiled so happily, knowing us soldiers needed that extra lift for the holiday. For ten minutes they stood there, just singing in chorus, in the cold, before moving on to the next building. It touched my heart to see people who selflessly came out on their holiday evening to show that they remembered us. The soldiers who sat alone in the dreary old barracks. Maybe they will never know how grateful I was for that kindness, but I hope they did.
So you are probably wondering why I related my story to you. Well, if it touched you at all, then this book will as well. It is about depression, Christmas miracles, and people giving out of the goodness of their hearts. I couldn't read this all in one sitting. It brought out my own memories and caused tears to pour forth from my eyes. I had to walk away from it a couple of times, but always felt compelled to come back and read more. It touched me deeply and I'm glad I read it. For this reason, I'm giving it five stars. Any author that can write a story that pulls so deeply at my heart is truly talented. You will not be sorry for having read this story. It is truly a beautiful tale.
Susan “Suzie” A. Mistress of the Dark Path (be sure to visit her blog Musings of Mistress of the Dark Path, a place for people who love to read)…
In the next blog (Wednesday June 22nd): a bedroom window crashes four stories to the sidewalk below, my review of Falling Skies the new Spielberg’ TNT TV series, exciting news about Bones in the Tree and Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End (I hope) and more….
Thanks for so graciously investing your time with meJ!