EULOGY FOR A GOOD MAN

My uncle Bruce Perry died June 1, 2019. It was a relief for him and everybody who loved him, because his body decided to quit before his mind and spirit were ready, and left him in great pain until his soul was finally released. Nevertheless, we all will miss him for a long time.

Uncle Bruce was one of those people that so many cynics would say, “Nobody is that terrific! You’re either ignorant or hiding something!”

He wasn’t perfect. He was always the first to admit that. He had a temper, he was impatient, and he had opinions that could put people’s backs up. But he was a solid family man, loved his wife even after she died, loved and worried about his sons and their children, didn’t drink, didn’t gamble, and only smoked cigars for a while.

Although he played for some time in a country and western band in honky-tonks, it was more for the pleasure of making music with his friends than any other reason. He worked hard during the days at various jobs, supporting his family and saving his money so that he and his wife could have a worry-free retirement. They looked forward to growing old together.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way. His wife became ill and their savings were drained. After she passed away, his health got worse and he spent more time than he wanted to in the hospital. His eyes and his ears began failing, totally frustrating him because he could no longer hear his beloved music, or easily read the Bible studies that were his main interest. He had to move in with his son Barney after his son Clay who had been living with and watching over him passed away. Such are the afflictions of age.

He didn’t like the change in his circumstances and it frustrated and annoyed him that he could no longer be independent, but he understood it. What he couldn’t understand was one anxiety that he could not get rid of and spoke to me continually about: Was he really saved?

When he first brought it up in conversation, I was astonished. I didn’t know many men who embodied the Christian virtues more than him. He had not always gone to church, but never stopped his prayers and Bible study. He didn’t smoke, drink, fool around, gamble, cuss, and very rarely spoke critically of other people.

I began to think he was sort of like Job. He was never rich with 10 kids, but there wasn’t much the Devil could use to torment him. He lost his wife, oldest son, and a grandchild , but that didn’t affect his relationship with God. He lost his savings and was cheated out of a lot of money by people he trusted, but he didn’t get angry with God. He lost his health, and then his independence, but he didn’t lose his faith.

What he lost was his confidence in his salvation. All the Devil could use was the guilt of a child and he used it well. You see, when my uncle was young they had preachers who, especially during revivals, would pressure the youths to ‘come forward and be saved!’ so they could quote numbers of souls saved. Services could last a long time until somebody came forward.

During one such service he and several other ‘unsaved’ boys were getting weary of the constant exhortations of the preacher and one finally suggested they just go forward and claim to repent and get baptized just so they could finally go home and get some sleep. Exhaustion won out over their reluctance to lie in church, and they went forward as a group.

Ever since, Uncle Bruce felt guilty about his lie and wondered if it meant he had never really been saved. He worried about it constantly. He knew and believed I talked with God all the time and asked me if I could find out if he was really saved. I told him God said, “He’d better wise up and stop letting the Devil get between them.” I had to repeat that often.

I don’t think he worries about it anymore. I figure if he showed up at the Pearly Gates and hesitated to go in because he wasn’t sure he qualified, Jesus might come out and grab him by the ear to drag him inside. I imagine he’s picking and grinning with an angel band now, and getting all his questions about things he read in the Bible answered. No painful failing body to bother him, no more anxiety, no more worries, but surrounded by love. A fitting end for a good man.

Book Review: “Dead Sea Rising” by Jerry Jenkins

 

Just as in real life, one life connects to others in this thriller by Jerry Jenkins.  The father of the man who would become Abraham; a young Jewish man maturing under fire in Vietnam; and his daughter, years later, determined to follow in her father’s archeological footsteps. Murder, Biblical history, love, and loss come together in a riveting tale.

At first, I thought of the triple story in this book as a braid, each piece even and tied together in the end, but it didn’t seem to fit. Then I realized what I was observing was a trio of instruments playing together, harmonizing and creating a song that sticks in your memory. They didn’t just come together in the end, the separate pieces worked to enhance the story all the way through.  I was so caught up in it I had a hard return to reality when I got to the end. Excellent story by an excellent composer of words!

Deja Vu (What, Again?)

We survived another August.  Barely.  The aftershocks are lingering, keeping us from our rest, but at least the outside temperature has dropped 10 degrees.  Sure, it’s only dropped from 102 to 92 degrees, but you have to appreciate the small stuff or scream, right?  Right?  Excuse me, I have to press a pillow over my face for a moment…

I wrote a previous blog, The Ides of August, about the trials that strike my family during the infamous month.  This year is up for top awards in the “I’m really tired of this…” category.  My sister came down with her second round of ovarian cancer.  It’s been very painful for her, expensive, frustrating, and exhausting for her and me both.  She had surgery in May to remove the cancer they could find, then began chemotherapy.  It didn’t go well.  She has had strong reactions to the drugs.

But because August has to show up the rest of the calendar, the first of the month found her back in the hospital having major abdominal surgery AGAIN.  The rest of the month has had her in wound care and physical therapy, and me playing nurse, chauffeur, cook, housemaid, and donkey since she was ordered not to carry anything.  She still has all the usual ‘fun’ of cancer like uncooperative taste buds, neuropathy, weakness, exhaustion, and exorbitant medical bills.

Experience has caused our family to adopt a policy of never leaving members in the hospital alone.  I was staying with her but had to run home for a day to pay bills and wash clothes.  As anybody who has been there knows, you don’t get much sleep in a hospital. The hospital they put her in was almost four hours away, so I was even more exhausted by the time I got home.  I was going to spend one night at home, so I was rushing to get laundry done and paying as many bills online as possible.

Of course, I made a mistake.  It just had to be on the biggest payment – our mortgage.  I completely forgot I had just the month before set it up for automatic payments.  Yep, I paid it twice.  And I didn’t notice, until a week later when the overdraft fees and chiding alerts began arriving on my account.  I live on a fixed income and a very tight budget.  My sister’s bout with cancer left her unable to work and with no money to add to the family budget.  I immediately contacted the mortgage company and they said, hey, no problem, send us a bank statement showing both the payments and we’ll send one of the payments back.

You guessed it.  It is now September, and I just spent a very frustrating call with the company.   Frustrating first because the static on the line was so bad, I asked him to send me an email because I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.  Second, because, duh, I still don’t have my money so I am going to be short this month but they said my account shows the money was supposed to be sent to me August 25.  Then where is it???  Third, they took my September payment, but NOT ALL OF IT.  Why? They are researching. Gah.

My sister had her chemo drugs changed, and it helped, and her surgery is healing well.  But she still can’t work, she’s still in pain, and she still is pretty shaky on her feet.  Then our oven stopped working.  Then the hot water heater blew a gasket (actually, literally…).  Luckily (?) I noticed before it flooded the kitchen.  (Forty gallons of hot water? Eesh.  Welcome to the jungle…)  So no hot showers, no dishwasher use, and no baking until we get these appliances replaced.  Repair is no use, we were told.  Of course not.

We deal.  Life goes on, and we have endured worse.  I have a teakettle to heat water.  The air conditioner is working, the cold water still runs, and my sister lives.  We have a home.  We have a car.  We have food to eat.  We have family and we have friends.  My sister gets cheered by Skype calls from the newest member of the family born in May, and his grandmother, our sister.  Later this month an even newer member will arrive from our sister’s other daughter, who has triumphed with a second child after five miscarriages.

People shake their heads and ask how I can laugh about our travails.  Oh, I keep the screaming for my bedroom.  I hate watching people grab their ears.  But, mostly, it’s because God gave me a sense of humor to endure such frustration and constant tripping over life’s rocks.  What’s the point of being given a useful gift if you never get to use it?  Heh.  Careful what you ask for, trust me.  If He gives you something, you’ll usually get lots of opportunities to use it.

I noticed my year has been so chaotic I haven’t blogged for a while.  Sorry.  I need to write up a bunch during the odd moments I’m not dashing around doing and can actually sit and think so I can schedule them for publication.  I have been on Twitter meeting other writers and some admittedly odd characters, but it’s been fun.  If you’re actually interested, my Twitter handle is @ghostwriter4God.

I have finished my third book and named it Angels With Attitude.  Of course, it’s available on Amazon in print or Ebook, like Once Upon a Christmastime and Standing Next to a Miracle.

I have also contributed a story titled Sweet Talking Man to a sweet romance anthology called Cool Weather, Warm Hearts.  It will be released in Ebook form October 30 but is available for pre-order now.  The proceeds will go to two charities, The Magical Moon Foundation which helps sick children and their families and The Wounded Warrior Project which helps our Vets!  For those of you as ignorant as I had been about terminology, ‘sweet’ romances mean no sex.  I would assume it also means no vulgarities of speech or actions.  I don’t write that sort of thing, so I didn’t have to censor myself.

I hope your year is going better.

 

All Warm and Cozy

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’ve just finished my first cup of coffee.  I’d love to go back to sleep, but I have a plumber coming in today so I need to stay awake and get some work done before he gets here.  He was here yesterday working on several plumbing issues, and one of them waited until he was gone to suddenly spout another leak.  Now he has to come back and check his work or fix yet another problem.  He told us yesterday to get an electrician to check the wiring in our house.  When my sister got home she moaned, “This place is becoming a money pit!” A little dramatic, but accurate.

It’s Christmastime, and we still have gifts to purchase and wrap.  Several of my friends are staring at empty chairs after losing loved ones this year.  The news is full of sad stories, bad weather, foolish politics, and stupid scandals.  My arthritis is flaring, and my sleep patterns are erratic.

But you know what? I DON’T CARE.  Life is good.  I’m working part-time as a substitute teacher at a local small school, and I find it fascinating.  Frustrating, annoying, and exasperating, yes, but that happens anytime you deal with kids.  I enjoy getting to know the kids and helping them further their education.  It’s not just babysitting while the teacher is away.  My favorite moment was watching all the young ones from 3-year-olds in the Head Start Program through the 5th graders practice their Christmas program.  I know it was maddening for the teachers to try to corral them and get them to practice, but I adored watching the children just enjoy their day, running around, climbing all over the bleachers in the gym, and just being children.  Too many adults have lost the ability to live in the moment.

I had a good time last week when the local book club reviewed my first book, “Once Upon A Christmastime”.  Here is a link to the article posted about it in the local newspaper: Once Upon a Christmastime Review.  I was quite chuffed to hear them complain it was too short and they wanted a longer collection for next Christmas.  I’ve already got some story ideas lined up.  One of the club members posted a review of it on Goodreads: Kacy A Jey’s Review.  More than one of the members ran local bed and breakfasts and inns and said they were placing the book out for guests to read.

It’s always nice to hear they like the way you write, but it warmed my heart to hear it helped them get into the Christmas spirit, especially when, as one member said, she definitely wasn’t.  I smiled when they said at least two of the stories would make good Hallmark stories because my stories always seem like movies to me.  I would love to see them made into movies because I like to help lift the spirits of people.  Having people in a good mood around me makes all of life so much easier.

Especially when I still don’t have a working toilet and I have to clean house.  Merry Christmas!

How I Roll

One of the Facebook pages I follow, Novel Encounters, is about several historical romance novelists.  (I only read historical romances.  I’m still working on writing one that popped into my head, which of course doesn’t fit any historical period I know of.  Maybe if I call it a historical fantasy romance adventure…) This week they were asked to describe their writing process, and since all of them are different, it has been fascinating to see how they think and create and do the practical details of bringing their stories out of their brains and onto a published manuscript.  It got me to wondering just how I would describe how I create.

This  is how it usually begins:

I do mental movies of novels. I write a few chapters. Then I go do something else, usually another mental movie of a different story. I come back, read what I’ve written, vaguely feel there’s something not quite right, put it back and run through the movie in my head and discover much has been left on the cutting room floor and many scenes added.

I start thinking in scenes, detailing them in my mind. I think, maybe I should make a note, then it might not change. Now I have a general – well, not outline, really, but mostly a time line of actions and conversations – and as I look closer at each scene, I begin wondering about details like landscape, environment, odors, temperature, what side characters are doing while the main characters are busy at the front of the stage, clothing, food, shelter, etc.

I then begin to look at early scenes and wonder if they should become backstory instead. For example, mentally, I have had several stories begin at the birth or in one case, the rape conception of the main character. Then as the story developed, I began to think it might be better as backstory to be mentioned casually in a conversation between characters. Suddenly what was becoming a very long timeline of scenes shortens and I begin to feel the story is workable.  Crazed sessions of unstoppable typing ensue.

That is how my novels begin.  My short stories come from somewhere I’ve never been able to track down.  For all I know, God just puts them there.  Many times I finish typing and have to read them over to figure out what I wrote.  My two collections in print and ebook right now, Once Upon a Christmastime and Standing Next to a Miracle, are like that. I have a third collection to be titled Angels With Attitude, just about ready to go.  Of course, I’ve been saying that since 2014, I just discovered.  Sheesh!

I am going to try the Scrivener program since it seems to use many of the methods I do for setting out a story idea.  I have heard some published authors can’t stand it, others just love it.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, I’ll go work on that collection of short stories and try to get them out.

Finally!

I’m sure you’ve been wondering what I get up to between penning the next best seller and jetting off to see the world’s most exotic scenery.  (Hah! And even harder: HAH!) Here I sit, thinking longingly of the days when I could call my boss and convince them it would be best for the health of my coworkers that I not come in and start a pandemic.

Instead, I have been muttering as I try to coordinate transporting family members to doctors appointments and grocery shopping, church services, Bible study, visits to Mom at her nursing home and volunteer duties like calling Bingo games and chaperoning outings with her fellow residents, writing my next book, and now, because I am a compulsive overachiever, starting an online store.

I have previously designed and tried to sell teeshirts, because I figured if I was going to be constantly coming up with slogans I should try to make money out of them.  But while design was easy, keeping track of inventory (not to mention finding the space for it!) and getting it to the buyers were definitely not.  I told God glumly that it was a failed attempt and swallowed my disappointment because I really liked some of the designs He was inspiring in my mind.

Apparently, though, He has plans for those designs and while I was idly browsing through the Internet one day, I ran across an ad that trumpeted “Start your own teeshirt business in 20 minutes for free!”  My natural skepticism, honed by a lifetime working in government bureaucracy and convenience stores, made me look it up just to see how their scam worked.  It wasn’t a scam, and it was only free for two weeks, but set it up in 20 minutes?  Puh-leeeze.  Hey, there are YouTube videos you can watch that will take you through it step by step!  There’s a Help Center with all the information you’ll ever need! You could even live chat!

Um, no.  Not for all of it.  I spent the last ten years of my career at IRS writing training material and proofing our procedural manuals (I didn’t even get asked to do most of that, I’m just pushy that way) so when it comes to missing procedures, I find them with ease. You wouldn’t believe how many times I had to point out there were some gaps in the set up instructions.  Worse were the times I had to communicate with a linking website, only to discover that only a computer would speak to me, and it had apparently been programmed to pretend human customer service did not exist.

I THINK it’s finally done.  I finally set up a print on demand shop on Shopify (https://words-are-my-life.myshopify.com) and loaded my first designs.  The others are coming, hopefully at a minimum rate of two a week, and can be bought with credit cards, PayPal, and even Amazon.  I set up a Facebook page for it.  I blog on it.  I have to keep track of advertising spending but hey, there’s an app for that!

It’s a whole lot more work than just writing my stories and uploading them to the publishing company for printing.  (By the way,  I’m hoping to start selling my books on my shop site…) But it is rather satisfying, in the same way working on the procedures and training material at IRS was.  I think it has to do with bringing order out of chaos.

In the same way I tried to make my training classes (and my fiction) both entertaining and memorable, I’m hoping my products will amuse buyers and also make them think.  There will be an entire line of faith based products showcased here as well as some humor just because I’ve always felt God had a sense of humor (really, when you look at some of His creations…).

The print on demand company that produces and ships the products have good reviews from merchants and buyers, which is a load off my mind.  All I really have to do now really is come up with concept, send it to an artist who really seems to grasp my vision and doesn’t charge a fortune to put it in visual form, and handle the advertising.  At least so far.  We’ll see how it goes.

I hope you’ll take a look, and consider buying.  I hope you’ll be inspired, entertained, and maybe even educated occasionally.  I am shooting an arrow into the air, and hoping it doesn’t come straight back at me.  But I really feel the Hand of God pushing me around through this, so I’ll let Him worry about the results.

The Importance of Self-Education

When I was a senior in high school our school newspaper sponsor, our English teacher, assigned me the job of editing the various articles that would be posted in the local town newspaper.  I’m pretty sure I got the job because I was the best speller.  We posted little ‘what’s been happening’ paragraphs by each grade’s representative reporter and occasionally published poetry.  One introverted girl who rarely spoke offered a pretty decent poem once that I thought would be excellent with just a change to a couple of words.

When I suggested it, though, she blew up.  You would have thought I suggested sacrificing her first born child on Satan’s altar!  It was my first negative reaction to my editing, and I decided if she wanted an inferior version of her work, then so be it.

Later, when I submitted some of my fiction for critique by editors and agents, I understood her reaction.  My writing is my baby!  Nobody knows my story – or poetry – or anything else – like I do.  Nobody can improve my deathless prose (and rhyme)!  Of course, none of it sold.

Then at work, I was assigned to teach some of the worst training material I had ever been forced to use.  I complained so much that of course, they then assigned me to revise it.  Trust me, there is nothing like technical writing for educating a writer.  I was paid to write it and therefore was forced to do it the way my supervisors wanted it, or be able to successfully argue that my way was better.  Since my supervisors generally had college degrees in education, they tended to win more often than I did, until I got some real experience and self-confidence under my belt.

It was very humbling to realize how much I didn’t know about the technical aspects of writing.  I never got to go to college and graduated from a very small rural school that was unable to provide much of an education.  During my first session of revising the training material, I was totally unprepared for the supervisors’ total dismissal of it and their orders to rewrite it.

I was astonished to discover they wanted me to return and write more training material, but one supervisor told my team bluntly that even though we weren’t perfect, the others who wrote essays for their applications were even worse, and read a few anonymous essays to prove it.  Over the years, my technical knowledge combined with my improved writing skills gained me the name recognition necessary to be allowed to unofficially edit many of the technical procedures we used in our jobs. When I sent in a needed correction to a section because it was either incorrect or made no sense as written, it was accepted without argument.  Many times, it was the way it was written that was the problem.

As a teacher of adults learning new complex procedures for dealing with our job, I quickly discovered that a huge problem was the technical language used.  The instructors, including me,  were experienced and used to the terms and acronyms used on the job.   Since I encouraged questions from the students, not to mention being able to read their expressions, I realized that learning a new language had to be the first step in every training session for new employees.

Once I retired, I didn’t worry about teaching new terms and acronyms to bewildered students or trying to simplify complex procedures into a step by step list that could be easily followed.  I was relieved, thinking that finally, FINALLY, I would have the time to concentrate on my fiction and see about finally getting published.  I began reading various professional writing blogs to see what was selling, by whom, and why.

It didn’t take long before my forehead began wrinkling just like my former students. What were all these terms these writers were using?  Sure, I could look them up in a dictionary, but they didn’t make any sense in the context they were used in the article I was reading.  Nuts.  I had to go back to the basics and learn THEIR language.  Why bother?  Because one very old saying still holds true: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

If you want to write without worrying about being paid for your efforts, you can do it however you wish.  If you want someone to give you money for it, it has to please them. If they ask you about it and you don’t understand the question, it’s up to you to learn the language they are using.  Very few professionals in the publishing business have the time or interest to educate an amateur for free.  They don’t have to.  Writers, even incredibly talented writers, are a dime a dozen.  Sure, some editors probably bitterly regret passing up J. K. Rowling, but life happens.

Don’t think that self-publishing offers a way around that problem.  I have a Kindle, and about 1500 ebooks so far, to go with my print library of several thousand soft and hardbacks.  With ebooks especially buyers can return the book if they don’t like it soon after they buy it.  Most can be previewed and if they are badly written the books may never be bought.

I once bought a book that started out sounding terrific, then evolved into such excruciatingly bad prose, I gave up on the rest of the book.  I was furious.  The book was only about a dollar, but I was angry because the promise of an interesting plot, fascinating characters, and plenty of action was ruined by poor grammar, worse spelling, and ridiculous punctuation.  The only time I have seen worse writing is work by writers who don’t believe in using capitalization, paragraph breaks, or punctuation at all.

I don’t want people criticizing my work for poor writing, so I am learning to write like the authors of books I like to read.  I hope someday to have my work praised by well-known professionals, and if I have to learn their language to understand their criticism, to be able to answer their questions about my work, and to discuss my work in order to improve it, I’ll do it.  I have the Internet.  I may live out in a rural area and still not have transportation and money to get to college classes, but I can still educate myself.  I must, if I want to engage in the conversations I want to, with professional writers and editors and publishers. It’s my responsibility to find a way to make my dreams come true.