I started this post in October of 2022. I was planning to write about writing today (to get points for writing for Finch — maybe I’ll post about Finch later!). My therapist wants me to actually *write* in hopes of getting a writing career going, so let’s resurrect and finish this post.

All through my childhood, I was told that if I wanted to become a professional writer, which I did, I should keep a journal.

This was quite possibly the worst advice I’d ever been given in my life. You see, I had pretty serious deficits in coordination as a kid, and the adults in my life seemed to think that it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough or something.

Turns out that I may have an actual neurological disorder. I wonder how I’d go about getting tested for that.

So, since I have this coordination disorder, in the era before computers, trying to get me to write longhand was a losing proposition. Holding a pen was physically painful for me.

I legit had a teacher walk up behind me and pick up my whole arm by lifting my pen. “You don’t have to hold on to it that tightly. It’s not going to run away from you.”

That’s lovely. I wasn’t afraid it’d run away. I just couldn’t control the pen enough without a tight grip.

Oh, and when I thought that college might not be for me (I eventually got a bachelor’s degree, a post-bachelor’s paralegal certificate, and a master’s degree) my mom tried to talk me into going into occupational therapy assistant (a career training certificate program at my junior college) because she felt it would be *so* rewarding to help people who had strokes to learn to tie their shoes again. This did not strike me as something I wanted to do.

As fate would have it, do you know who you see about the kind of coordination problems I have? An occupational therapist. Helping kids with problems like mine with those problems? May well have been a winning argument back then.

Alas, I never saw an occupational therapist and so that career field never appealed to me.

I had so many ideas for writing, but it *hurt*.

That’s also part of why my grades were lackluster. Let’s take the girl for whom writing hurts, and make her do pointless nonsense writing exercises, like doing write-ups of the canned science experiments we did in junior high science class. We had to put the materials used, and the steps we took, and the results, and the conclusion for every single one (and we had one almost every day). Like, we all did exactly the same thing with the same materials and came to the same conclusions. Why am I enduring this discomfort for this?

And don’t get me started on the Bible journal that we were supposed to keep my Freshman year of high school.

Now that I have a nice keyboard with keys I don’t have to slam (like I did with my mom’s manual typewriter), I get *so* much more writing done.

I’m going to try writing about writing again tomorrow (maybe about my history with computers and how they helped me become a better writer?). Let’s see if that works out. Wish me luck!

We’re Planning an Out-of-Town Trip. I Hope.

So. I’m writing what I hope will be my first novel (or maybe I’ll finish it and then put it in a metaphorical drawer somewhere on my computer for my grandchildren to find after I’m dead).

So far I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to make a sort of fanfiction-esque thing out of this novel. Much like Smallville or Harry Potter or Dark Shadows or any of the other properties that I’ve written about in the past, I need to know who these people are — what their pasts are, where they live, what they like, what they don’t like, how they dress, etc.

My protagonist grew up and currently lives in Chicago. The book is set in 2007 (for technology purposes, largely), and 2007 was a 17-year cicada year.

And, even though the book is set in the fictional country of Santa Chiara, I felt that refreshing my memory about periodical cicadas would still help me get into the head of my protagonist.

To that end, Alex and I were planning a trip to the Chicago area for the cicadas this year. As we planned, the costs started ballooning. My ballpark figure was about $1,200 for the two of us. But my dad wants us to stay in the suburbs, so that adds money for a rental car. And the Chicago Botanic Garden now charges admission, so there’s that. And we can’t just go all that way, listen to some cicadas and come home, if we’re going that far, we should spend some time, so that’s more hotel room rental. I have to pay to board Mila, and the longer we go, the longer we have to pay for boarding.

However, this is also a 13-year cicada year, and the 13-year cicadas come as far south as Arkansas. There’s a state park where visitors can dig for real diamonds. The Strawn-Wagner diamond, the only perfect diamond that the American Gem Society has ever certified, was found in that park. We’ve been twice and haven’t found a diamond either time, but something like an average of two diamonds a day are found there.

I’m hoping to convince Alex that this would be a better plan. We can drive it in one shot, since it’s in south-central Arkansas. I just looked it up. It’s 8-ish hours.

We can drop Mila off in the morning, drive up in one day, spend the night, do the park one day while experiencing the cicadas, spend the night, then drive back in one day. That would only leave Mila languishing in the vet’s office for two nights, since we could probably make it back before they close if we leave early enough. And if we can’t make it back, I can probably have Evelyn pick her up from the vet and then get her at her apartment.

I’m really getting enthusiastic about this.

I hope it works out.

Today was the Annular Eclipse

My dad, Alex, and I were planning to walk to the park around the corner for the eclipse, but that didn’t work out.

It turned out to be chilly and my dad has a very low tolerance for cold, so he backed out. Alex and I offered to stay home with him, but he waved good-bye and so we left.

We ended up deciding to go to Eisenhower Park, which is in the foothills of the Hill Country and so it has a nice view of downtown.

The parking lot was full, and I was afraid it’d be crowded, but Eisenhower is a pretty big park and not many people wanted to walk all the way to the top of the hill.

The sun at the peak-ish of the eclipse. The sky was not that dark. Alex and I took this photo through a pair of those eclipse safe glasses.

I thought about bringing Mila, but there were just too many other dogs there, as it turned out. She probably would have been beside herself, and not in a good way.

My dad got to spend the eclipse with our next-door neighbors. They came and got him and the three of them stood out in our cul-de-sac and watched the eclipse.

I guess I should have a Gratuitous Amazon Link, shouldn’t I? I guess I’m up (down?) to Mrs. March, by Virginia Feito. Mrs. March is set in a sort of weird, timeless version of New York City. It all feels very 1950s or 1960s, but there’s at least one odd reference to something more recent, as I recall. Now I’ll have to reread to see if I can find it.

Anyway, Mrs. March, who is only known by that name throughout the novel, is the wife of successful novelist George March. Her life is predictable in every way until the day that the woman working the counter at the patisserie says that Mrs. March was the inspiration for the protagonist of George’s new novel. And thus begins her psychological decline.

Writing Prompts — Technology

I need to get writing again. Again.

I looked up a site that gives random writing prompts and this one was “Write a story set in a world where people are controlled by technology.” And, well, almost everything I’ve written is set in a world where people are controlled by technology.

Because nearly everything I’ve written is set in a world with electric lights. Science is just now discovering how the never wavering 24-hour access to electric lights have changed our lives and our health.

And we aren’t just talking about, for example, the light over my right shoulder as I write this. The glow from computer screens may have health effects on humans. And that’s not even talking about light pollution.

Now, the streets are, on the whole, way safer than they used to be, and some of that is from streetlights. But drive through a rural area heading towards an urban one. The urban area actually acts like a searchlight. When I was in college, we could have selectively turned off the lights from the town where my college was and create a big Bat-Signal on the clouds overhead on overcast nights.

And that was in the late 1980s. I shudder to think what it looks like now. Has the light pollution from Chicago spread out that far?

The quality and quantity of light also has an effect on our neurotransmitters. And what has more control on us than the very chemicals that run our brains?

I know that the person who came up with that prompt probably was thinking about Cyberpunk dystopias and things, but still. We are, at least to some extent, controlled by technology even in today’s world.

I lost my place in my Gratuitous Amazon Links. I may have lost my place longer ago than I realize. I figured it out! I had my page sorted by Date Added, rather than Date Read. Let’s see if I can fix that.

I’d signed out at some point, which meant that I couldn’t reorder my rows.

Okay. Now I’ve got it figured out. My next selection is actually two books, since the first book ends on a cliffhanger. These are the first two books in Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek series, Skeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine. Ryan is fascinated by Skeleton Creek’s history as a gold mining town and the Dredge, the machine that was once used to mine the gold. Ryan has broken his leg in pursuit of this fascination and he is trapped at home. His best friend, Sarah, has a video camera and she knows how to use it. She uses it to be Ryan’s legs in his obsession with the mystery. Sarah uploads her videos and gives Ryan a password to access it. Ryan shares the passwords with us. So the reader goes back and forth between reading Ryan’s writing and watching Sarah’s videos.

There are apparently now seven books in the series. I don’t know if I’ve ever read any of the others. I should check that out.

Dictated Blog Post & Book Blogging

I recently downloaded the Samsung Voice App so that I can record my book reviews for the YouTube channel. I have a subscription to Dragon Anywhere, but in this economy, I think that I could use that $15 for something else. So now I’m trying the speech-to-text feature for the first time.

My first attempt at this paragraph is in the footnotes. I couldn’t figure out how to make it into a block quote. Hopefully I’ll figure it out someday.*

Also, spoilers for Little Women follow. If you haven’t read Little Women, what are you doing here? Go read Little Women! (<– Project Gutenberg Link)

The thought occurs, that I could maybe post those things both places? You know, as an audio file on YouTube and as text here?

Additionally, as I began this walk tonight, I was thinking about the term “book blogging.” Originally, from what I can remember, a blog was like a journal. The aim was to write every day. I am *so* close to having this year be my second-most-read year (my first year I got a lot of . . . spam views? Like random views that I’m pretty sure couldn’t’ve been actual people) and if I can just get into the swing of posting daily, I might even be able to exceed the number of views I got in that spam year.

My thought was that if I were to, like, actually write out what’s happening in the book I’m reading. Granted, there would be a lot of spoilers for the book that I’m reading doing it this way.

My first post would be pretty simple: this book is the story of the March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth. and Amy, who live in genteel poverty with their mother in Massachusetts. Their father is a chaplain working with the military during the Civil War. Despite their poverty, they will manage to have a servant, Hannah, because that’s just the way things rolled in those days. Ladies just didn’t do their own housework.

Future posts would be: They met their new neighbor boy Laurie Laurence. This give name is Theodore, but apparently Teddy was just a nickname for Edward back then, and not Theodore. Laurie lives with his cranky grandfather.

Eventually, though, it’d be: Welp. Beth just died and everyone has plunged into a deep depression.

There’d just be no way to keep that from happening, I think. think you’re beat I guess there’d be no way to avoid that sort of thing.

I probably can’t start now, since I’m halfway through my current book, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Germane Amazon Link!). I’m beginning to worry a bit. I’m halfway through the book, like, literally at the middle of the book, and I don’t know what’s going to happen to fill the rest of it. I guess I’ll see.

Now, I’ve edited and fleshed out a lot of what I wrote on my walk. At this point, I discovered that either I was talking too fast or the app was too slow, but I had been talking for five minutes, and the app took a while to catch up.

I then blocked it and copied it into an email, then emailed it to myself and blocked and copied it into the blog. And here we are.

*Dictated block post through the Samsung voice app period do care abor bad what’s the hell this works, I hope that it’s okay, because I’m real tired of paying for the dragon dictate the dragon app that I was subbed well-paying for period so last night I used this app to dictate what I’m hoping will be a YouTube video about my history with reading

YouTube Channel — Book Reviews

This is going to be a fast one. I hope.

I think I probably need to prewrite my book reviews for my YouTube channel and then record the vocals and have Alex edit them together with images of the book (and my arthritic hands!) in the park I’m using for the video.

I’m seeing figures of 150 words per minute for voiceover. I guess that means that a 10-minute book review (I need to refresh my memory, but once upon a time videos needed to be 10 minutes to be monetized) would be about 1500 words.


Well, a journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step, I’d better get started planning.

I don’t know if an Amazon Link for a post about book reviews would by definition be Germane or not. So here’s a G* Amazon Link: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel. McKenzie has a YouTube channel about living in a haunted house. This was years before I became a YouTube addict (I mostly watch educational stuff. Mostly.) and I don’t remember if I’ve ever checked out her channel. Anyhow, based on this channel, McKenzie and Sheinmel wrote a trilogy about a girl who can see ghosts. It was really pretty good. I loaned my copy to Phoenix. Did I ever get it back?

Will I Be Remembered in 100 Years?

I was frittering around on, I think it was YouTube, but maybe it was Facebook a while ago and someone asked if “you” would be remembered in 100 years. And I had to answer with a resounding,”Maybe.”

I mean, for one thing, define “remembered.” If you’re asking if anyone alive today will still be alive *to* remember me in 100 years, well, if Evelyn’s daughter makes it to 100 years and six months, that will, in fact, be 100 years from now and I certainly hope that Evelyn and I will stay friends long enough for her to still remember me at that point.

If you mean if someone who will know me during the rest of my life will still remember me in 2123, even if they haven’t remembered me for that whole time, I mean it seems likely? I’m not old yet, and still should have decades left to go. If I live 30 more years, and, say, Alex has a child in another 15 years or so, my grandchild will be 15 when I die. If that “child” lives to be 85, then Bob’s your uncle. I’m remembered in 100 years.

What if it’s not me, personally, that’s remembered? What if it’s a trace of my existence that’s remembered. I write, and I take photographs, and I knit, and I’ve made the odd piece of jewelry. If every single one of those things are wiped out before 2123, then I suspect society will have bigger problems than whether I’m remembered.

Does archaeology count? What if something catastrophic happens and one of my knitting pieces is found in the wreckage of what used to be San Antonio, or if I make something, like a shawl or a blanket, which is passed down through the years and someone remembered that their great-grandmother’s friend made that for their grandmother. I mean, it’s been at least 100 years, and my name’s gone from the story, but I’m being remembered. Right?

So it seems that there is a better than 0%, but maybe not a 100%, chance that I will be remembered, in one way or another.

So, a resounding “maybe.”

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link brings us back to the Riordanverse, this time with the first Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard book, The Sword of Summer. For once, we don’t have to worry about how our hero, in this case, Annabeth’s cousin Magnus, will survive the adventure, because he doesn’t. Yep. The whole series starts with the death of the protagonist. Magnus then ascends to Valhalla and the story progresses from there.

I’ve Had an Epiphany

Well, sort of.

I just realized that these old photos are good for more than (a) my own curiosity and (b) potential use in YouTube videos.

One of my back-burner kids’ books is a steampunk book about a pair of siblings traveling between San Antonio and Chicago on a train. Why San Antonio and Chicago? Because I’ve lived in both places and so I think I can get more of a feeling of what it’s like to have boots on the ground there, versus, like, Louisville, Kentucky or Billings, Montana or something.

I’ve taken the Amtrak between the two cities twice, so I know where the stops are/were/would be on a train trip.

And I now have a good source of photos showing what things would look like in a steampunk world here. Maybe, just maybe, the people the siblings travel with are visiting the Star Film Ranch south of downtown?

I think I might be on to something here.

I was hoping to use something steampunk-y for my Amazon link today, but I really couldn’t come up with anything, so let’s just keep going chronologically. Today, we have a Gratuitous Amazon Link. Diane Duane grew up on Long Island, which explains why that’s Nita and Kit’s normal stomping grounds in the Young Wizards books. Duane now lives in Ireland, and she nods to her newer home in the fourth book in the series, A Wizard Abroad. I love this whole series, but one of the characters in this just rubbed me the wrong way. He’s a fan favorite, though, and he does grow on me in subsequent books.

Thoughts on San Antonio Historical Photo Project

I’m in the Ds now going through the photos on UTSA’s website. In fact, I’m skimming photos that start with “Dr.” right now.

One of the things that makes me pause are photos of historic houses that were taken in 1968. I always go, “Ooh! That house looks old! Oh. Never Mind.”

You see, when they were planning the World’s Fair, San Antonio wasn’t actually that big. For some reason, when the city decided where to put the fair, they put it where a neighborhood was. These photos were taken to memorialize the houses of that neighborhood.

It was the 1960s, and “urban renewal,” which means basically tearing down buildings that were considered to be “urban blight.” In the case of Hemisfair, they tore down a residential neighborhood of about 300 houses, called Germantown.

They saved 22 of the houses for use in the fair, but the rest of the houses are nothing but memories and photographs now. And, of course, the houses that were saved were purchased by eminent domain (which is where the government can basically force you to sell to them) and the families that lived in them were also displaced.

For a city that prides itself on its pride in its history, that’s a damn shame.

Search Engine Optimization

I guess that if I’m going to try to make money at either writing or YouTube or TikTok or whatever, I probably need to figure out how to work an algorithm.

Crap. Where do I even start on this?

I’ve toyed with those on-line keyword tools, but they keep giving me basically garbage. One tool, for example, suggests “blog search” as a keyword for this blog. I talk about travel, books, and history here.

When I put “book reviews” in on another site, it gives me a list of best sellers to, I don’t know, write about? Compare the books I’ve reviewed to? Just mention in passing to get hits?

As to my historical photo collection plan, of 200 pages of photos, I’m on about page 30. Some things I can just scan over, like pictures that start with “Captain,” which I just passed, and was followed soon after with “Carl.” I want buildings and landscapes, not portraits, so those are easy.

Lots and lots of the photos are of HemisFair ’68, which was the World’s Fair when it was held here. Those are great photos, highly historical, and very interesting, but not in the public domain, and therefore not of interest for this project.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is maybe not so gratuitous, since it’s about southern history and so is my photo collection plan. Maybe? It’s The Haunting of Derek Stone, which was published as a four-book series, but which feels largely like one really big middle grade book. Derek is 14 when he experiences a catastrophic train accident, during which his father and brother both disappear into a ravine. I’m going to link to the first book, City of The Dead, but would feel odd linking to the others in subsequent posts, since it feels like one long book to me.