Thursday, December 28, 2017

Side Effects from Watching the Hallmark Channel on Mute

Coping with grief means I allow myself to heal in whatever way works for me. Isn't that how it works? Currently I'm still doing some unusual things. I'm reading philosophy. Stoicism. I'm serious. You know what's worse? It helps.

My writing is currently short stories caused by travel inspiration and slam poetry. A vampire story. It's literary, I swear it. But I saw this cemetery in England and WHAT would you do with it?

Vampire that's what.

The slam poetry is just my secret thing. 

I'm also watching the Hallmark channel on mute. It's on mute so that I can play Christmas carols at the same time. Yeah, it's obvious I'm teetering here, but it's definitely the Hallmark channel I'm having these following odd reactions to.

1. The firm knowledge that I have ZERO decorating skills.
2. A disorienting realization that Santa Claus moved from mercenary capitalist to wish-granting Demi-God. Why do I NEVER get the damn memos?!
3. Wonders if ANYONE ANYWHERE outside of a Hallmark movie has EVER danced to ANY Christmas carol? And I'm not talking about an impromptu line dance to Feliz Navidad, we've all been there. I'm talking about couples waltzing to Silent Night. Just, no.
4. But the power of Hallmark compelled me to send Christmas Flowers to many old friends and family. Nice ones from florists and everything.
5. Also, Christmas cards. With stamps.
6. TERRIFYING INTROVERTED SIDE EFFECT: Everyone who got flowers was then compelled to CALL ME—NOT TEXT—BUT LITERALLY CALL ME TO SAY THANK YOU AND AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! WORDS!!!! OUT LOUD!!! Why can’t I love you from afar?!
7. SHOCKING REVELATION 101: I loved talking to them!
8. I need a freaking intervention before I start baking something.

9. Too late. I made an English Trifle from scratch, with real custard and homemade whipped cream. My mixer didn't know what to think. That's about the fourth time I've used it in six years. The worst part? It was fantastic, and now expectations are sky-high that I'll make it again.

Reality is so freaking dangerous. Go ahead and mix in some unrealistic expectations and see what the hell happens. Are you with me?

What damage has the Hallmark channel done to you? I'm telling you I WENT TO HOBBY LOBBY. INSIDE. TWICE.

The rest of the year I'm just going to read Fiction and drink chai tea until the muse drags me off and forces another book out of me. That hurts too, but it doesn't scare my loved ones nearly as much.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Deaf From Flights of Fancy—How To Fly With An Ear Infection

The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

This time I was that annoying traveler. The one armed with bags of cough drops, nasal spray, and tissue. 

There's no excuse for flying sick. I've just had more than one trip to London cancelled, and I decided there was no way in hell I was missing this one. Besides, I wasn't contagious.

Hubby had also caught the cold I'd been battling for a week. He drove me to the airport on his way to work.
   "You're so annoying," I said. "You should stay home and rest!"
   "Who's the one getting on an international flight right now?"
   "But I'm not contagious. I'm on antibiotics and I googled how to fly with an ear infection."
   "Sure. Good luck with that."

He never interferes with my brilliant plans, and I try to grant him the same courtesy. We do, however, hit up the I told you so's later.

The night before I left, my ear infection still hurt. A friend suggested a trick she'd learned flying as a teen with a double ear infection. Now she's a Mama and renowned for her ability to magically soothes her kids' ear infections with this life hack. 

Take a plastic cup and put a hot paper towel inside of it. I ran one under hot water and then nuked it in the microwave a few seconds. It was hot. I don't think it should have been that hot. Move your hair out of the way and place the plastic cup over your ear tightly. It takes the air pressure off of your eardrum says my mad scientist husband. Instant relief was all I knew. 

I did it for a couple hours that night. My eardrum stopped hurting because it popped. Did it pop because of my cup hot paper towel magic? I don't know. So don't use this treatment without medical approval. I'm not a doctor. In fact use caution when taking any advice I may give you. I make shit up for a living. It's a writer thing. Keep that in mind.

All flights out of the shire require connections, so I had to fly for an entire day to arrive in London the next morning. Ear infections hurt like hell and damnation. I couldn't hold a cup over my ear the entire time. Won't kid you though, I did pack a plastic cup and paper towels in my carry-on. Just in case. 

But I had googled how to fly with an ear infection. Mostly everything said DON'T DO IT STUPID, and WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT, YOUR HEARING OR YOUR TRIP? Well, sorry I'm a cake and eat it too person, because my hearing and London were of equal importance. 

So after seeing them mentioned online, I searched far and wide for ear plugs called Ear Planes. They have them on Amazon. I couldn't find them anywhere near me. They basically screw deep into your ear canal. You have to put them in before the plane door is closed, and leave them in until it opens upon arrival.

There wasn't time for Amazon to come through for me. But while questing the shire for them, I found another brand that also screw into your ears. The brand is called Mack's, and they worked just fine. They're not comfortable. Not that they're painful, they're soft plastic and well-made, but after a couple flights, one of which is about nine hours, you are dying to take them out of your ears.

For starters you can't hear shit. I will never again give friends crap who spent their wasted youth blasting out their ear drums with rock music. I never realized how awful it is not to be able to hear. I couldn't hear my seat mate ask for me to move so they could use the bathroom. I couldn't hear the flight attendant ask what I wanted to drink. 

Not that I was completely deaf. You hear through the bones behind your ears too, but I couldn't quite make out the words spoken to me and misunderstood a lot. Would you like a cup of tea, my seat mate helpfully translated for me. I got up so he could pee. 

I could hear the movies I played because I have headphones that cup over my ears. I turned the volume on full blast and could make them out just fine. But there were plenty of half-deaf moments when I was interrupted with questions I couldn't make out.

In London I met up with a friend who's a writer/doctor. Picking me up at Heathrow she said, You really are sick. But we didn't let it stop us from using every second to hit the sites, hike little villages and churchyards, and stay up until all hours talking books and philosophy and loving every moment of our time together. 

You've probably noticed that the least sympathetic people on the planet are mostly in the medical profession. When my ear bled a couple of times she said in her delightful Natasha Eastern European accent, "Ear drums burst. They feel better when they do that. Your hearing will come back eventually."

It took a few weeks but it did. Temporary hearing loss definitely builds character. Plowing through an eternal cold to go visit London was the nicest thing I did to myself in the past month. If you want to see my amazing pictures, follow me on Instagram. I'm srkarfelt there. Currently I have 29,046 photos on my phone. I don't post them all. Just the good ones.

Sometimes you have to set your mind to endure. I have no regrets and had the best of times. I paid for it by hanging onto the cough portion of that cold for over six weeks now. My husband does keep saying, I told you so. But see, he still has it too, so I say the same thing. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

There is Now Nothing Left for Dementia or Alzheimer's to Take

Gummy died.

On a Sunday afternoon she took her last breath and our hearts broke. There were no profound last words. There was no Hollywood scene to soothe her passing.

Hospice never showed up. On the other side of the curtain her rehab roommate did exercises with her physical therapist. We held our vigil alone, unseen, and ignored. Our chairs pressed against her bed, chairs we'd sneaked from other parts of the home.

   We're here.
   We love you.
   We're staying here with you.

Once I held a vigil at the bedside of a friend's child. Machines were turned off while hospital noise and nurse laughter filled the hallway.

Maybe that's how it should be. The world does not stop for death. You get your purse and dig out car keys and drive home, leaving behind a child, parent, or a mother-in-law.

At home I stare at nothing and go through motions, dinner, laundry, funeral. I call people and go to the mall so Gummy can have a pretty new blouse for her funeral. I buy underthings too, expensive ones, because this is the last thing I can do for her.

During the next week I think that often, until I follow the minister's eulogy and speak aloud the words I'd written in the notes app of my phone, heated words, loving words. A wise woman once told me to speak even if my voice shakes. It doesn't, but my hands do. They want to hit something. Afterwards I kiss Gummy goodbye and know she's not there. I help carry the coffin that the guys said isn't heavy. It is.

At the cemetery I sit in one of the chairs by the grave, watching light and dark bounce shadows over the mahogany of the casket, like it did over Gummy's life. The minister unexpectedly sings. It's a song about turning into a butterfly. He has a beautiful voice. Mentally I always correct these lyrics. Butterflies do not hatch from cocoons. They drop their exoskeleton and form a chrysalis. It's much more magical and possibly painful, like Gummy's painful struggle with dementia and Alzheimer's. 

With family and friends I place a yellow rose on top of her casket and walk away.

Between the cemetery and the church I have time to cry. There will be more time later when sorting through her things from memory care and I find all the little notes she wrote herself.

   Gummy Karfelt.
   Call Poppy and tell him to come get you. It's been tough here.
   Gummy Karfelt.
   Gummy Karfelt. My phone number is...
   My birthday is...

Small stupid things break my heart.

   Those personal pizzas they sell at the front of Target that she liked.
   Her frog socks.
   The broken shard of a ceramic piece in the bottom of her purse—the brown hand of a Native American Princess she'd painted and broke during a tantrum. 
   A single vintage hair curler from the 50's.

The ceramic hand and curler will end up in a baggie with her notes, and tucked into a drawer in the room she used to live in at my house. 

Pictures have become priceless and they go into drawers too. For weeks I move slower and can't shake this cold. But I hold the baby tighter no matter what cooties she brings home from day care, and I buy over-priced Harry Potter LEGOS for kids I don't know from the Angel Tree at the bank. At Starbucks I drink the venti size chai latte and talk to a friend in pain of her own. We laugh. A lot.

At night before the stores close I shop for Christmas gifts for family and friends whether they celebrate or not. It doesn't matter. I'm thinking of you. You need to laugh too. We all do. Gummy would understand. Gummy would be laughing already, appropriate or not. I know this. We had the same inappropriate sense of humor.

Stoics say we only have the present. The past is gone. We'll never have the future, only a series of now's. No matter how many we get, they do end. Gummy's now is over. But she had them, and she made them beautiful and light. Neither dementia nor Alzheimer's could do a damn thing about that. Life is beautiful. If you make it so. It's not easy, but it is your choice how to spend your now's. 


Saturday, November 4, 2017

London, While I'm in the Neighborhood

S.R. Karfelt, writing, author, writers life, Glitter Globe

My hope was to have a book signing while I was in the neighborhood, but it didn’t work out. That’s okay. I’ve gotten business trips and vacations horribly mixed up from my years in the engineering world.

Like when I’d be stuck at the optical fiber conference and on the west coast it seemed a good chance to stop and visit a customer in Arizona. That’s how it goes when you have a small business. Multi-tasking is mandatory. I could stay with friends in Tucson and take care of business while seeing friends I’d otherwise probably not have the opportunity to visit.

That business is sold and I’ve moved onto my dream of writing full-time now. Still when I’m planning a trip I consider what else I can do while I’m there.

It’s like when you go upstairs to get the laundry; you grab a stray coat, pick up dirty glasses, and clean a toilet. While you’re in the neighborhood.

While at a workshop another writer invited me to come visit her sometime. You have to be really careful when you invite me to visit sometime. I just might show up. I said as much. She proceeded to tell me what dates would work for her. It took some back and forth, and a couple months of pushing the trip to a more convenient time, but it’s finally happening!

Still, once we had the dates down, I did google bookstores in that area of London and spotted a familiar one. So I called my publisher and asked if I could have a book signing there. In the end it didn’t work out, but I tried. On top of that I decided that while I was in the area I needed to take a tour to see Stonehenge. I’ve never been to Stonehenge. That tour also takes you to Bath. You know, while you’re in the neighborhood.

When I mentioned I’d be staying in the Watford area of London, someone told me that’s where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Well. That set off a whole new round of WHAT!!!! CAN I GO THERE WHILE I’M IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD? My Watford friend was willing by now because I’d already done the whole book signing yes, no, yes, no thing to her. Not to mention the whole should I take the tour that goes to Stonehenge AND Bath or the one that goes to Stonehenge and Cotswold? The Cotswold one offers tea with clotted cream…

Sadly the Harry Potter tour tickets are sold out until next year. I’ll just have to live with that.

It won’t be easy.

Meanwhile I caught a plague of a cold that I’ve been trying to drown with hot tea, and gargling with salt water to cure my sore throat. That means that I'm behind on all those mandatory multi-tasking things that hit us in the real world. Taking care of Gummy (who isn't doing so well), paperwork, housework (I don't actually do that one, but I feel like a better person if I put it on the list), etc. etc. I have managed to pack and hope to head out as planned leaving Gummy in the capable hands of other people for a bit, and hoping that the paperwork gods are feeling benevolent. Unfortunately I did not have time to lose twenty pounds and get super-fit while coughing and using all the tissues. Oh, well. I’m not even good at multi-tasking. I’m barely good at one thing at a time.

One thing I am good at is having days with nothing scheduled so that I can wake up and go do something fun and exciting, or meander and do nothing. That's what I'm looking forward to. Those are always the best days. I don’t even know why I’m trying to multi-task in the first place. It’s not like I can see everything or do everything, and when I try I end up missing living in the moment in my hurry to get to the next thing.

Isn’t it annoying when you realize you know better but slip into old bad habits?

Lately I've noticed when I talk to people that I talk really really fast. Like I've got things to do, places to go, Gummy's to tend to, my house is a wreck, have I paid bills? What day is it? Where am I right now?

I really need a vacation. 

This week I've seen articles circulating online about all the things wrong with the USA. Most of them are things that are out of my pay-grade to have an opinion on at the moment. I'm up to my last nerve on current events and I don't have the time to have an opinion on everything. All my minutes are being devoured by the real world. When I do get online I find myself wasting valuable time doing things like researching whether or not it's viable to raise a herd of alpacas so that I don't have to mow anymore.

One entire hour got lost to that this week. In the end I reminded myself that I live in the shire and can't even grow rosebushes because they can't take winter winds that require the stamina of twenty below zero. Pretty sure alpacas come from South America. Oh, my gosh. I'm trying to justify and remind myself why I can't have them! 

I really need a vacation.

The one thing I saw circulating online that I did agree with about the USA is that we don’t get enough vacation. We get globally ridiculed a bit because of our tendency not to know geography well, or not to know the politics of some other countries. Personally I think those things are just a side effect from living in a great big busy country where you only get two weeks a year for vacation.

This trip to London will take me two days of travel. I live in a small town and have connections. When I go to Greece it takes me three days to get to Alonissos. Most Americans don’t have that kind of time. The reason I can do it is because I can write while I’m stuck in an airport or on a plane.

That’s my opinion and observation. I think many problems facing our country could be well-served by increasing vacation time for everyone. We all need to chill. I know I sure as hell do.

 Right now my chill plan is to roll with whatever delays come my way and enjoy my journey, hang out with a friend, and just be there. In the moment.

But if you’re in London, give me a shout out. Maybe we could meet up. You know, while I’m in the neighborhood.

(I really stink at this.)

(You should still get more vacation, don't you think?)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lily's Bitchy Epiphany—A Bitch Witch Vignette

The Glitter Globe, S.R. Karfelt, Fiction, Bitch Witch
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

Predecessors of marionette lines ghost from the corners of my frown down. The rest of me is fine, in the finest sense of the word. But all I can see is the future of those lines.

Cascade happens to all witches. It’s a fucking balloon payment on the horizon.

          I thought there’d be more time. Far more.

Outside dark energy beckons from treetops, rippling through the moonless night, promising another quick fix. I know better. I know how this works. I know these lines are the beginning of my end. My tipping point.

My reflection in the window confirms it, but so the hell what? If nothing else I am pragmatic. I pause only long enough to decide to rack up the biggest debt ever made to dark matter and invite slouching shadows inside.

          Make me gorgeous. Again.
          It works. Again.

There’s just enough time to slip into my dress and stilettos before my niece is at the door.

          “Aunt Lily? Everyone is here and dinner is ready.”

It’s the third time she’s banged on my door. I open it just as she scoots to the top of the stairs, and Claude—who the hell invited that asshole?—is jogging up the steps to hit on her. She’s barely a teenager. I sense the aftershock of my spell heading my way. This one’s expensive. No armload of stray cats can repay a spell once cascade hits. Besides, there aren’t any. My bleeding-heart niece keeps calling the SPCA. She’s a panther pretending to be a kitten. It’s annoying as shit.

The aftershock is nearly on me so I direct it at the girl and Claude. I think she senses it because she runs down the first two steps before it hits her. Claude doesn’t notice a damn thing beyond her bouncing breasts before it hits him face first. He nearly flies down the stairs. Backwards. The girl rolls, head to heels before momentum stretches her out and slams her down the last few steps.

Damn, it looks painful.
She’ll be fine. Like all the women in the family she has the witch gene too.
          Not that it won’t leave a mark. But she’ll heal fast.

          “Goddammit, Lily!” Sissy, shouts from the bottom of the stairs. It’s a stupid thing to say considering her daughter is sprawled at her feet, not to mention Claude’s broken and bleeding on the marble. Besides being a pedophile he knows we’re witches and he still comes around. I’ve never had much sympathy for stupid and really don’t care if he bleeds to death, but I do care that Sissy is being inappropriate. Most of the guests freaking out have no idea what we are. They’re here because of the money or to fuck me.

Only the second motive ever pays out for anyone.

          “Is she—Sarah—okay?” I try to sound concerned. Someone is calling an ambulance and most of the rest return to examining Claude. The musicians are warming up in the ballroom. I put my hand on Sarah’s back and hiss at her to get up. Sissy is glaring daggers. What the hell is her problem? I pay more attention to the kid than she ever has. 

          “It’s her birthday!” Sissy has the meanest eyes. Who would have thought she even remembered when Sarah’s birthday was? “Her sixteenth!”

          Shit! Why didn’t Sissy mention that sooner? It hits me that she’d planned to use the extra dark matter drawn toward the girl for herself. I search Sissy’s face for signs of cascade and find it. And she didn’t even bother trying to fix it!

Once more we’re in this thing together. It’s good not to have to face it alone, even if she’d stab me in the back in a heartbeat. I kind of respect that about her.

Sissy turns her back on everyone else, including her daughter, to growl at me. “No one will get any now! It won’t come if she’s hurt!”

Blood and power arrives at our sixteenth year. I’d have scratched someone’s eyes out for trying to claim my birthright. This girl’s different than me and any other witch I’ve ever known. She won’t know what to do with dark matter even when her own body begins to generate it.

          “Pick a man for her,” I say, eyeing the half dozen strangers. They all want something from us, but we don’t give. If I have something to say about it tonight, neither will Sarah.
          “She’s just a girl, and not an attractive one at that! Plus she has a broken rib. Can’t you sense it? She can’t just will it away. Not with an aftershock of that magnitude! What the hell did you cast?”
          “Do try to keep up. I’m not offering her up to one of those leeches. I’m giving her one to use.”
          Sissy blew out a breath. “Do you think she’ll do it?”
          “She’d better.” I hoist her to stand, trying to look like a concerned Aunt and noting she’d at least tweezed the unibrow. “Giorgos,” it's the name I remember. He's one of those working on staunching Claude’s head wound. “Please help my niece!” They’re all surgeons but I feel a pang of disappointment as the best-looking rises. I should have given her Stephanos. Still, dark matter is more important than more bad sex. Giorgos takes my hand and I put Sarah’s in it, nodding toward the dining room.

          “If you don’t know what to do,” I whisper in her ear, “you’re dead to me.” 

She heard every word and there’s only so much time I’m willing to waste on her. I’m a witch in cascade now. I turn my attention to Stephanos as a thought floats to the surface of my mind. Everyone falls apart in the end. Maybe it’s about more than us. The thought startles me. How long has anarchy been slouching around in my head? Ridiculous. I rest a hand on Stephano’s arm. Tonight it’s all about me, and he’ll do.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Devils Dance in the Woods

Devils dance in the woods
But I camp in the desert
With water.

Monsters strode from the closet
But I dreamed them away
With books.

Demons stole the food
I showed them my claws
And made them cook.

Evil lurked in the lake
While I stood on the shore
Averting my eyes.

Love ran away
So I sent it a love note
In a bottle.

Happiness drowned in quicksand
But I hid a piece
In ice-cream.

Lions ate the bones of friends
I write about before
Those teeth took.

Hell burned in far off places
Yet I had glitter
And stickers.

Robbers took the money
But I have
A gold card.

Death torched the fields
Missing my pot
Of daisies.

Pestilence bit little children
I hid mine among
The bluebonnets.

Hope went extinct from global warming
Except in my museum.
It's air-conditioned.

The sun went supernova
I picked a star
We danced.

All politicians were abducted by aliens
I appointed my dog
King of the world.

Music got wiped by an EMP
Now my ipod is 
The world's DJ.
(I hope you like Queen.)

Friday, October 13, 2017


S.R. Karfelt, dementia, alzheimers, Gummy
My Seekerville GIVEAWAY
An herbal tea tin
Cookies & Chocolates from STONEHENGE!

Goodness it has been madness here between books, babies, and taking care of Gummy! Today I'm over at Seekerville though!

Swing by and say hi! I'd love to hear from you.

Plus, a truly lovely giveaway!

Also, NOBODY TOLD ME love in the time of dementia is on super sale over on Amazon. In HARDCOVER at half the price of a paperback. Follow this LINK to check it out!

Seekerville: Inspirational Romance Writers

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Glass Castle and Writing A Memoir

Memoir Writing, The Glass Castle, Non-Fiction, Writing Memoirs
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is one of a handful of spectacular memoirs I've read. I read it years before I set out to write or even planned to write Nobody Told Me love in the time of dementia 

I planned to write a memoir about the exact time I started writing it.

There were moments after I'd agreed to write the book that I stared at blank pages in utter terror, wondering if there was a step-by-step program somewhere explaining memoir rules. In the end I decided to make my own rules and took with me only a feeling or a flavor that I wanted to infuse into my memoir. It's not something I'd found in The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle isn't even my favorite memoir. I prefer humor to temper painful realities. Trevor Noah's Born a Crime is my favorite, and Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes is a close second. 

What I loved about The Glass Castle was the brutal honesty. That's something I've always admired. It takes courage and inspires.

When I set out to write my memoir I did it the way I do most things in life, by the seat of my pants. If that sounds like lack of preparation, I'd counter that that's an assumption. I prep while diving into the deep-end and I figure things out. It works for me. When I first started to write fiction novels, I opened up a blank journal and a new document and began to write. 

My only guideline was to tell the truth. My truth. 

I simultaneously read articles and books and talked to publishers and figured it out. Flying by the seat of your pants is not for everyone, but I'm a hands-on learner.

With each new book I find that the process works best if I write with no filters from start to finish. 

Then I go over it again. (And again.) (And again.) Each time I go over the manuscript I add and take away. I fluff out scenes, and tie loose threads together. I clean the book up and watch for unexpected opportunities to expand on a theme.

As I wrote my memoir about my mother-in-law and dementia and all the memories we've shared, I pulled out my blow torch of snark and dusted off our funny stories and got to work. Writing the book while simultaneously watching Gummy tackle dementia every day was painful. I cried a lot, but I laughed too. 

My goal was to spread our stories out and take a good look at them while I shared them. I wanted to share this lovely lively soul I've spent so much time with. I didn't want to leave readers destitute and scorched by dementia, because f*ck dementia. Life isn't about dementia. It's about loving through all the shit and enduring the best we can.

That is why I loved The Glass Castle so much. Despite having neglectful parents and a growing up without the things we find vital in our nice first world country, Jeannette survived. She went on to have the best life she could.

What I found mandatory to writing a memoir is unvarnished truth. There were many revisions to Nobody Told Me. Each time I went through it again I asked myself these things:

  • Is this exactly what happened?
  • How did I feel?

Those were the two most important truths. That is the skeleton of a memoir. As a writer those were the things I couldn't doctor up or change. I had to be honest, and with each revision to the story I added more truth. I can't know for certain what other people were thinking. I saw what they did, and I heard what they said, but even dialogue made me nervous. I'd dug through decades for this book. I couldn't always remember verbatim every word that was said.

That's why I wouldn't put my dialogue in quotation marks. That worked fine for everyone except the poor guy who had to format the book to my exacting specifications. Getting everything together with revisions, rewrites, edits, and formatting took nine months exactly. I was in the deep end that entire time and pulling lots of sixteen hours days and night writes. It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but I've never been more satisfied with a book.

My only outline was that flavor I wanted to infuse through the book. The one I got from knowing Gummy all these years. It tastes a bit like hope, humor, and orange zest.

My guideline for memoir writing is what works for me. That's not going to work for everyone. We all have different experiences, different stories, different philosophies, and different voices in our writing. For instance I don't think that Jeannette Walls tells us once in The Glass Castle how she feels. We can tell, or we think we can, but it works beautifully in the book.

Recently a reader told me the same thing. You never told us how you felt.

There's a reason for that. I showed you my truth, my thoughts, my actions. After that it's about how you feel. 

I don't think that the writer should ever tell the reader how to feel. 

Searing stories are difficult to write. They're also tough to read. I think that The Glass Castle was written exactly as it ought to have been. It's my opinion that if Jeannette Walls had told us how she felt about the miseries she endured, the book would have never been finished. Likely she'd have been holed up with a therapist or a bottle of whiskey as she relived it deeply enough to share those feelings. And I doubt we could have handled that truth anyway. 

When it comes to writing memoirs you have to tell your own truth in your own way. Your story. Your voice. 

There will be blood.

After it's written with all the bloody truth you can slather into your manuscript, then you go over it. I looked for these problems first:

  • Revenge. That's any story I told to avenge injustice against either Gummy or myself. It was so deliciously easy, and every word of that crap had to go.
  • Exaggeration. Everything had to be honest.
  • Other people's stories. It took concerted effort and focus to keep other people's stories out. Nobody Told Me works because I stuck to one main story. My relationship with Gummy. It's about a daughter-in-law's journey for better or worse. In our case that plows right into the crack of dementia. 
  • Other people's personal details. I changed names and locations to protect Gummy's privacy and periphery characters, because these are real people. 
  • Things that may or may not have happened that could or could not have resulted in legal trouble. I may have had to file down small details on the advice of my publisher and editors. I'm not saying that anyone said I could wind up in jail, but I'm not saying that they didn't. Just write the truth, then at some point go over it with a lawyer's eye if not the entire lawyer.

Raw truth is always best. It's just not a bad idea to double check statues of limitations if you're talking about anything shady. Imagine if Jeannette Walls had written her memoir when she left home at seventeen. Let's hypothesize she even got it published then. Would there have been any fallout about her parents? I imagine there would have been. 

When do you temper facts?

You don't, but you don't have to include every inflammatory detail if it doesn't serve the story. Only the writer can determine that line in the sand. It's something to think about, but not until you've written the bald truth all the way through to the end and you're up to your eyeballs in re-reads and re-writes and more and more edits. 

As I went over and over Nobody Told Me, I'd read it imagining how Gummy would feel about it, if she'd have a miraculous recovery from dementia. I also read it imagining how Gummy might have felt if she'd read the book before dementia, and she was reading about someone else.

The reason I did that wasn't to edit out painful details. I left those in. I did it for another swipe at the truth. When I saw the book through the eyes of Gummy, it gave me a new perspective. If I was putting in her ugly truth, I had to put mine out there too. 

That's how I knew I was at last finished with combing over the book. When I read it trying to see the story from Gummy's eyes and I didn't change a thing, I knew it was finished.

The writer truth is we own our stories. Freedom of speech permits us to share them. Honor and love demands we tell those stories with honesty, candor, and no hidden agenda.

Isn't the physicians' motto Do No Harm? That's not the writers' motto. But my personal writerly motto is Do No Harm Unless that Hides the Truth.

Only you can determine your own motto.

After all the hard work, I can stand comfortably beside my memoir. There are always criticisms of a writer's work. I've seen entire blogs written dissing on The Glass Castle. It's interesting to me because these are the stories of someone's truth. It seems that if anyone doesn't approve of your truth, that's kind of their problem. 

So if you're writing a memoir, I wish you all the best with it. If you have some tips, questions, or comments I'd love to hear from you. If you have criticisms, fire away. They might not have any power here, but I'd like to hear your truth.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Six Things Writers Need to Bring to a Book Signing

Writing, Book Signing, S.R. Karfelt, Nobody Told Me
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

A few years ago I joined Toastmasters. I thought it'd be a good idea to brush up on speaking techniques for book marketing purposes. It seemed that every writer conference I attended was full of communications majors and I found myself lacking. Although I'm not shy, I do tend to speak just like I write—with a lot of thought, an explorers mentality, and an occasional meander down a rabbit trail. It's never a problem with the written word, thanks to rewrites and editors, but during a speech I didn't think it would work. 

Toastmasters is wonderful. I loved every meeting. In fact I'd about made up my mind to go to the international convention that year in Kuala Lumpur.

That's why I quit going. It took time away from writing and I found myself losing focus. Writing takes a lot of time, and I find protecting my writing time to be one of my biggest challenges. Since I write without any real outline, because I like to surprise myself as well as the reader when the story unfolds, it takes me a bit longer to write a novel. I still make my deadlines thanks to obsession and night writes, but I don't have time or resources to go to Kuala Lumpur, workshops, research trips, and write a book once or twice a year. 

In order to write I've had to give up things like television and a social life and cleaning my house. 

What I've found is that I don't need to be a communications major when I talk to people. I need to be genuine. It's about the readers, not me, and fortunately I'm a good listener. I'm an introvert but I love everyone one person at a time. I like to hear their stories, what they're reading, and what they have to say. So I ask questions, and listen, and when I'm asked a question I simply answer it. Honestly. 

Since I do spend an inordinate amount of time in the total immersion that is my writing style, I'm thrilled when the opportunity to chat with someone comes up. If we're going to be talking about reading or my books I'll be somewhere around seventh heaven. 

Tomorrow I have a book signing, and I've already packed up all the things I want to take with me. I wear one of the writing t-shirts I love and comfy pants that aren't in the least bit flattering. But this is me, and I need pockets for things like pencils, a pencil sharpener, a little notebook, and my phone, because even if I love to write with pencils I am into tech too.

My goal is to be approachable. Let's chat. I really do want to know what you're reading because I like to read too!

Since I wrote my last book my husband has taken to saying things like, "You look like a writer today." Since that usually means a couple scarves and pencils in my hair, I know he doesn't mean it as a compliment, but I take it as one just the same. This last book was non-fiction and took me many night writes and months to complete. I think it triggered some sort of epiphany where I accepted my inner writing nerd with open arms. It may have looked like I'd given up on looks entirely, but that was an illusion. I simply had to prioritize. 

Now that the book is out and I'm cleaning up the fallout of being so absorbed for nine months, I'm also focusing out getting out into the world. My plan is to catch up on current events (wait, that was a mistake so never mind about that!), hit book stores, and talk to people.

Yes, socializing and even housework are back for a limited time only.

The next couple of months I have several signings booked, and I'm looking forward to them before diving deep into the next project. I've spent some time thinking about book signings and planning what to take. My goal is to keep it as simple as possible, but these are the five things I think are important to take.

  1. Your attention. Listen when someone is talking to you. Don't worry about what you're going to say next. Listen. Ask questions. Be sincere. 
  2. For signing books I take a Sharpie marker. Some book stores provide them, but I take my own because I prefer the fine point Sharpie pens.
  3. Bookmarks. Readers of actual books like bookmarks. You can also give a signed one to those ebook readers in the crowd. I give bookmarks to anyone I chat with or who wanders by. I bring bookmarks to match whatever book I'm signing, and they have my contact information on them.
  4. Scrap paper. This is so everyone can write their name down and I'll get it right. When multi-tasking, I find this crucial. I take part of one of those little blocks of paper and tear one off for each person.
  5. A list for people to sign up for my mailing list.  
  6. A cheat-sheet for me with ideas on what I might want to write inside books I'm signing. When I'm talking to people, sometimes I blank on what I want to say. With this book in particular (it's about dementia) I want to write something different for someone who's lost a loved one to the disease, or works as a caregiver, or a myriad other scenarios. So I've spent some time thinking about this. 

Writing, Book signing,
If you're a writer, tell me what you think is important to take to a book signing, and if you're a reader, I'd really love to know what you think about author events? Have you attended one? Who'd you get to see?! 

I'd love to go to one for Jeannette Walls who wrote The Glass Castle or Diana Gabaldon of Outlander

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Loving Gummy While Dementia Storms the Castle

This weekend I hung out with writers. We talked books, writing, slept on couches, went to see The Glass Castle (debated the movie versus the book version), and in an unexpected twist, we all joined family for a Gummy lunch out. She wore her Steelers jersey. It says GUMMY on the back. The staff preps her on Sundays because Juan often takes her out to eat. 

Having a table full of people is one of her favorite things. It still is, although she's not often sure who is who or even if she knows us at all. The jokes are familiar to her and she accepts the love just the same.

Someone asked me afterwards, "Was this a good Gummy day, or a bad one?" 

When you're not used to dementia, how do you know what either looks like?

The thing is, that's a tough question.

Maybe because any day or moment in which Gummy isn't in the ER, angry, or in the depths of despair, is a good day or moment now.

It might not look like a good day, but it is.

She ate her salad and her food with little help. Occasionally she joined the conversation. Lowering my expectations has become a game plan.

Maybe I should say lowering my expectations has helped me get through this. Finding joy in those rare moments when Gummy remembers a name is how I'm rolling. If she smiles, it's a win. If she doesn't remember or doesn't smile it's not a loss. It's a time to look for something else to put on the joy list.

Throwing caution to the wind and taking her out in public is our Russian Roulette Gummy Game Plan. 

Not all days are good days to go out, but some are.

Being out among people going about their normal lives is good for extroverted Gummy. She slips into autopilot. She's doing something normal too. I can see her energy level rise.

Sometimes I take her out of memory care in a wheel chair and she walks back in. Not always. Positive energy isn't enough to make her stop forgetting how to walk. Positive energy can't help her remember. But it can stop dementia from draining her in any given moment. It can help her find her smile.

Being left alone in her confusion drains her. 

Watching life and laughter recharges her, especially when she's the one getting a hug or kiss.

If Gummy's outing goes poorly, therein the problems lie. Then getting her back to a comfortable place is paramount. Thank the heavens her comfortable place has become her room at memory care. 

When she returns she at first doesn't know this place. It's been going on a year, and she doesn't recognize the building from outside.
     Now where are we?
     Am I getting out of the car? Nobody told me.
     What is this place?
     You're not dumping me here, are you?

Physical Therapy rearranged her room again. She never notices. The idea is to make it as safe as possible in the hopes she won't fall. My biggest win this entire summer has been getting her a new chair she actually uses. 

Clothes, toothbrushes, even soap, can be ignored. Maybe she doesn't like it. Maybe it's not familiar so she won't touch it because she thinks it might not be hers. Maybe it is familiar so she packs it up and hides it. After the doctor visit this week, she sat in her new chair in memory care and talked to me. When I swung by for an impromptu visit the next day, she sat in that chair and ate a few bites of pizza I brought her. When I didn't come by because a rashy virus has been taking down family members like an army of Orcs, she sat in that chair and talked to me on the phone.
     I haven't seen you in so long!
     It hasn't been that long, Gummy!
     What are you talking about? It's been at least ten years!

The doctor said she needs more salt. Her blood pressure drops when she stands. Gummy loves what I call her pizza potato chip diet. When I visit I bring one or the other. 

Spoiling a child is a bad idea. I don't see the downside to spoiling someone with dementia.

Seize the day?
Hah. Seize the moments. Seize the nanoseconds. Seize whatever you can find despite the fact that we're laughing while the enemy is at the gate. 

I mean if you look hard enough everything has a silver lining.

The castle is under siege, but you can eat whatever you want until the dragon fire gets to this room! I mean this side of the room. How about this chair? 

Now I sit on her bed, and she sits on that chair and we talk. Her words are stifled sometimes, and they evaporate on her. She doesn't always know who the heck I am, but we talk anyway. 
     The guys are driving me nuts, Gummy.
     My car broke down today, Gummy.
     The baby has a fever, Gummy.
Semantics don't matter. We're two women talking. For a moment she focuses, and even when she doesn't know me this conversation happens. 
     Guys do that, you know. Mine drove me nuts. Do you know where he is?
     What kind of car do you have? I don't know where my car is.
     What baby? Is she okay? Is she here?

There's less space to maneuver in now, but we tuck our feet up under us. I've been writing by hand lately, so the tendon problem with my middle finger is flaring up again. It reminds me how to deal with dementia once more. I don't think Gummy has forgotten that part yet. Even if she does, I've got her back.