Reader’s Comments

Some time ago, I read a post in a forum from an author discussing reader comments about one of their stories. I guess the reader had either not read the story or had missed the point. What interested me were responses to his post. Most replies said writers should not let reader’s comments bother them, which is true—but the number of writers responding that they don’t even read the comments was higher than I expected. I disagree with that—especially as a new author.

Comments on my books are a learning tool for me. Perhaps the best lessons I learned was in comments for Transition.

Many complained about Transition’s length—that I could have ended it shortly after Kevin admitted his love for Ansely.  Thinking about it, I had to agree… I ignored proper story construction—I should have concluded the story shortly after the climax, but didn’t.  I didn’t want to stop telling a story, although I could have–in a sequel. Other readers complained about the length of the chapters in Transition. Most chapters were 10 to 13 pages or more.

An acquaintance at work expressed it best by telling me the end of chapters were like a commercial break on TV.  For TV, commercial breaks gave her a time to do something like get a snack, and chapter breaks gave her time to sleep.  “Honey, a chapter’s a mini-story in the book’s big story. Bad enough your book takes forever to read, and I have to stop in the middle of it—but you also make me have to stop in the middle of a mini-story so’s I can sleep!”

I love telling stories. Publishing has been a lifelong dream finally achieved. But it’s not worthwhile unless people enjoy what I write and want to come back for more. Some stories I tell may not interest some, and they’ll move on to other writers—I can’t change that. But I can change the way I tell a story you want to hear so you’ll enjoy it. I get windy, and your comments have convinced me to change.

I listen.

As for Parched Earth, Green Corn: Warrior… last Christmas, I said my drunk self had let the story go to hell. The story needed a lot of work, and I’ve spent the past 9 months correcting it to make it enjoyable. I apologize I dropped the ball, but hope you’ll find the time worth it. I am in the final edits now and hope to have it soon.

Billie

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

Yes, it’s been some time since I posted here.  Life took me on a winding path and set my schedule back months.

Last April, I posted how bad the stress was as an essential worker in retail during this pandemic.  Truth is, the stress was greater than I posted, and got worse, making more difficult a fight I’d been struggling with for years.  That fight was alcohol addiction, and it became so bad I knew I needed help.  With my brother’s encouragement, in early July, I entered Retreat Behavioral Health in New Haven, CT, to get that help.

Alcohol withdrawal was an eye-opening experience, especially learning my addiction was severe enough to threaten my health and life… learning I might not see another birthday should I continue.  Yet despite these warnings, I still felt desire to drink—it was so strong.  But my first few days were in detox, where I learned why I had to quit.  The rest of my 30 days was in rehab, learning how to quit.

Since I missed the planned publishing date of Parched Earth , Green Corn: Warrior in April, I hoped to publish in the summer, but I missed that, too.  While in rehab, I didn’t have access to a computer or my story, but thought of changes, and made notes for when I returned to it.

I returned home in August, where I changed habits to help prevent relapse, including  less time behind the computer, more time doing other things, and getting to bed earlier than I used to.  On work nights, this caused less time for editing, so most editing happened on weekends and holidays.  And as I returned to my story, I realized it was nowhere near ready for publication.  It needed work, and I’ve been working on it since.

Soon after publishing Fem’an, several readers showed interest in Warrior, and I feel guilty for it’s delay.  I plan to publish in April 2021, and hope I will make up for the wait with a story you will enjoy.  I may post the prologue for Warrior here soon to give you an idea what’s to come.

As for rehab… this was my first rehab experience, I can’t really compare Retreat Behavioral Health to other rehab centers.  I can only say that they helped me, and I consider that the bottom line.  I entered Retreat’s doors on July 10, 2020 and now, five and a-half months later, remain sober—the longest I ever have.  I’ve had my moments of temptation—such as this Holiday Season, but Retreat gave me the tools to work through addiction’s siren calls and they’ve worked.  And should I relapse, I know they will be there for help.

Please understand that this isn’t an advertisement for Retreat.  It’s a thank-you to them from my heart.

2020 will soon be done and I’ve survived.  I now look forward to 2021, planning to make it better regardless what it thinks it has in store for me.  I wish you all the best of the holidays and the coming New Year.

Hugs, Billie.

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Stores Are Not Entertainment

Sorry for the rant, but we know you’re bored.  However, stores aren’t entertainment – a place to roam because you or your kids are bored and want something to do.

If you own a home, teach your kids to paint and do yard work.  If they’re too young to mow a lawn, let them hold your hand as you push the mower.  If you use a riding mower, buy a push mower to do this.  When they’re old enough, they’ll know how to.  Remove the grass-catchers then let them rake the yard after.  Teach them to trim.

Teach them to build birdhouses, then get a smartphone app that identifies birds, or go online.  Create a list of birds you see each day.  Learn about the birds.  Do they migrate or remain?  What do their nests and eggs look like?  What sounds do they make?  What plants can you grow to attract more, or what birdseed do they enjoy?

Get an app that identifies plants, and wander the yard learning what those “weeds” are.  If you can – and can follow Social-Distancing guidelines doing so – wander local parks and local woods learning what plants exist there.  Again, record what you found and look them up online.  Some plants may be edible.  Think of ideas how to include them in meals.

Teach your kids how to cook.  If there isn’t fire danger where you live, and it’s legal, light a fire in a fire pit outside.  Teach your kids to cook over it, or learn together.  Teach them how to pop popcorn with no microwave available – do YOU know how?  Sing around the fire.  Camp next to it for a night and boil water for tea or cocoa in the morning.

Plan a garden and – when frost danger is over for where you live – teach your kids how to garden and grow their own food.  This may be most important this year, as produce dwindles.  Don’t have a yard?  Try potted vegetables on your balcony.  If your apartment has a yard, ask your landlord if you can have a “Victory Garden” of potted veggies.  When we lived in an apartment, we were allowed to plant a small garden in the back, near the foundation.

Many modern televisions have ports for plugging a computer video output into.  Plug yours in and make research a family affair.  Learn recipes online.  Learn gardening tips online.  Explore Google Maps.  Show your children where you live, where their grandparents live (or lived).  Click on a random country and learn about it together.  Learn the stars, make a planisphere and try finding stars and constellations at night.

And, please!  Don’t forget reading!  Too young?  Bull.  My father read to me every night since I can remember, and I came away with a voracious appetite for reading – and writing.  You may not know how to teach English, Math, or other courses at home, but when they return to school, you’ll help many teachers by putting the love of reading in their head.

Speaking of education, try finding educational services online.  If you don’t know English, Math or Social Studies, learn it with them.  Do quizzes together – let them test you!  Learn the history of your town, your state or province and your country!

If you’re spiritual, spend time reading your religious texts and research the meanings online.  If you are clergy, reach out to others of your faith online, whether video or blog.  If you’re doing video, include your family.  Sing your hymns together.  Show your love of faith and family.

Yes, you’ll need to shop for many things.  Send your spouse.  If you need to decide on a paint color, one of you go get a handful of swatches, then discuss ideas at home.  If online ordering is available, use it and have your choices delivered, or use curbside-pickup at the store.  Use that TV with your computer connected and let the family virtual-shop with you.  If you must go to a store, one of you go, get what you need then go home.

Stores may be reducing the number of customers allowed inside at a time, but stores also lack many workers due to sickness, using time off, or who quit.  This increases the workload on the workers remaining, who have to face those in the store with you AND those waiting outside to enter next.  Some stores have had to close due to a large loss of employees, only opening again after receiving volunteers from other stores of their chain.  Some stores may close for long periods of time – or forever.

Workers are stressing.  You may be in fine physical shape and will survive the virus, but some workers aren’t and worry about getting ill, but continue working because they need the pay and fear using personal-time-off needed should they get ill.

You want to thank Essentials, heed what I’ve said here.

I love you all.  Stay safe and stay home.  Don’t touch your face until you’ve washed your hands.

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John Pavlovitz

In case you aren’t aware, I am an atheist.  I used to be an angry one, hateful because of theists who felt they needed to “fix” me – such as a born-again who repeatedly left literature in hopes he’d save me.  Eventually, I began to consider any theist as enemy.

But as I realized how I felt about my gender, and joined social media groups for support, I found theists who didn’t want to “fix” me, just love me.  One is Paula, who helped guide my writing about Pastor Aaron Warren in Transition, Minister Patricia Lavin in Making Dull the Thorns and Pastor Elenore Potts in New Blessings and True Blessings I published on Wattpad.  Paula still helps with my stories, and I appreciate her input immensely.

Then, there’s John Pavlovitz.  I found his blog years ago, and his wonderful devotion to Jesus Christ, and the Bible, helped reaffirm that there ARE True Christians who know Christ’s word.  His blogs insist on following Christ’s teachings and condemn those who cherry-pick the Bible to justify hate.  He helped my change from angry atheist to an accepting one similar to Christie Haines in the Blessings stories.  Indeed, a bit of my opinion of him is seen in Pastor Arron Warren.

If you’ve not heard of Mr. Pavlovitz, follow the link above.  It’s not about religion, it’s about love and kindness.

Love you all,

Billie

 

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Update on PE,GC: Warrior

I had hoped to have Parched Earth, Green Corn: Warrior out for publication this month but, due to Covid-19, it’s delayed.  I’m not certain how long.

Being essential and having to travel to several stores, some in areas hard-hit by Covid-19, my anxiety has increased.  As a result, time I normally spend writing, I instead spend doing things to ground me – including increased sleep time.  The normal 4 to 6 chapters per day I was editing has dropped to 1 to 2, maybe 3.  At the moment, the book contains 82 chapters, though that may increase.  I want to make certain Warrior is enjoyable and not a nightmare of poor spelling and grammar.

And I’m not alone with anxiousness – retail workers in many stores tell me they are also, and not only the chain I work for, but the grocery, the pharmacy, the gas station and the liquor store.

The anxiousness worsens as the number of customers increases, as families come in and – while parents discuss which paint color they want – their children run about the store, touching everything.  There’s the customer coughing into hands just before handing a cashier money, and the customers leaning in worker’s faces, refusing to stay 6-feet away because, “This is all BS – a great-big joke!  The media  is blowing it out of proportion!

I speak for many workers when I say: we’re here for you when you need us.  Please help us by making Social Distancing rules a habit.

It sucks living like this, but I don’t want to use personal time-off (PTO) and not have any should I get sick.  Nor do I want to force my company to have to put in place a “back-fill” technician to cover for me.  We have an excellent back-fill team who covers for us when on vacation or sick – I used to be one.  But the tech covering me isn’t familiar with the nuances of the stores I care for – that a printer jamming when copying isn’t a bad printer, just feed-rollers needing a good cleaning.  Things like that.

I know many would love to have time off, and I respect your anger that I have PTO and you don’t.  Knowing many stay-at-homes are stressing how to pay bills and feed their families is why I give to food banks.  If you have a food bank, see if they can help.  If you are working – and can afford to – help fill a food bank.

I love you all.  Stay home, wash your hands, and stay well.

Billie

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Life

This week, in all this mayhem of COVID-19 and the strife it’s creating, something special happened.

This beautiful child was born.  Autumn Everlee – my first great-granddaughter.

Welcome to the world, Autumn.  I can’t wait for the day I can hold you and fall asleep with you in my arms as I did with your father.  The day I can watch your father read to you, and listen to you giggle as he tries to read “Fox in Socks” as he did when I tried.

I wish your great-grandma could be here, snapping the twenty-million pictures of you as she did with your Dad.

Congratulations, Kim and Jason.  I love you both.

 

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Thoughts on Covid-19

When fire threatens a forest, anything burnable in it’s path, that can be removed, is removed to slow the fire’s advance and give firefighters the chance to extinguish it.  Asking us to stay home to combat this virus is much the same.  Staying home reduces the availability of hosts Covid-19 could infect, slowing its spread and giving doctors and nurses a chance to fight the virus.

As a child, my parents spoke often about the war effort during World War Two.  That effort was something US Americans were proud of.  Our fathers were called to war.  Our mothers replaced them in the workplace.  Civilians tightened belts, planted gardens, and gave up things needed by the military.  And it wasn’t only US Americans making the effort, but nations across the world, rolling up sleeves and banding together.

That was the 1940s.  It’s now 2020 – almost one-hundred years later.  We are smarter, and have made many advancements since then.  What we did then, we can do now, and do better.

We can social distance while still remaining Human.  Respect others and keep your distance.  Be considerate of retail workers facing potential exposure to Covid-19 while providing you with what you need.  Go to a store only when you need something, not when you just “feel like something,” or are bored and “need to get out.”

Most important, be civil, be kind.  Our enemy is a little virus, not each other.

We will do fine if we all pull together and do this – if we show our parents and grandparents we learned the lessons they taught us in World War Two.  “We can do this” doesn’t have to be a phrase from then, but a phrase we past to the future.

Meanwhile, as of this morning, all three of my books are available free for the next five days.  I’d do it for longer if Kindle would allow, and I hope other authors will also do so, offering plenty to read.

Stay safe.

— Billie

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

Yes, I do not believe in a higher or superior power, but I still celebrate the holiday season.  My parents were religious, and the Christmas Season was always warm with family, friends and much cheer.  I couldn’t push aside those memories when I chose atheism, and I saw no reason to do so.  Many of different beliefs find joy this time of year, so why not find joy as well?

I will admit it’s dimmed since I lost Wanda in 2012.  She inherited her father’s joy of the season, and always made the season bright for us, and – even seven years after – the dimness remains.  But I push on.

So, for those celebrating today, make the most of this day, and beyond this day.  Give an extra hug and kiss, an extra handshake or firstbump.  Enjoy an extra glance at those you celebrate with, because one day they will not be there.  Go outside and sing to the stars.  If others complain, ask them to join you in harmony.

Smile a lot.  Laugh a lot.  Spread your cheer, spread your joy and have a Wonderful Christmas Day.

– Billie

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Hallmark Channel’s Anti-LGBT Decision

12/16/19 – This morning, I learned Crown Media is back-stepping over their decision to stop the advertising after complaints across the world about their actions.  Thank you

For those who haven’t heard, the Hallmark Channel stopped airing several advertisements for zola.com – a wedding planning and registry site.  The ads they stopped featured marrying lesbian couples hugging and kissing after legally becoming spouses, inspiring the wrath of conservative One Million Moms (OMM).  OMM is a part of the anti-LGBT American Family Association (AFA).  Friday, OMM published a petition signed by nearly 25,000 who felt the ads were anti-family, and demanded the Hallmark Channel stop airing them.  Shortly after, The Hallmark Channel informed Zola they were not airing the “offending” ads.

According to the New York Times, in an email, a Hallmark employee said they didn’t accept ads “that are deemed controversial,” that the women’s “public displays of affection” violated the channel’s policies, but didn’t comment why a nearly identical ad featuring a bride and groom kissing was not rejected.

In a statement made to the Hollywood Reporter, a company spokesperson said:

Crown Media Family Networks [who owns Hallmark Channel] made the decision to pull the commercials. The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.

As a result, Zola has decided to remove all advertising from the Hallmark Channel.  Zola’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Chi, stated:

All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.

In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the AFA as a hate group.  The FBI defines hate groups as those whose “primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.”

LGBT people are receiving growing acceptance across the country.  Gay marriage is legal and common – greatly expanding the customer base for businesses such as Zola.  There is no controversy, debate or distraction in these ads.  The only distraction is loud screaming from a hate group angry at the acceptance.  The only controversy is the Hallmark Channel immediately conceding to this hate group – a decision that causes me to wonder whether they welcomed an excuse to stop same-sex ads?

The hashtags, #BoycottHallmark and #BoycottHallmarkChannel, are trending on Twitter and I agree.  I’d like to see more advertisers pulling ads – especially advertisers who have their own advertising featuring same-sex couples and families.  I messaged the Hallmark Channel on their Facebook page, expressing my displeasure, but have not heard a reply.  Should you agree with me, please take a moment to express your displeasure.

Thank  you,
Billie.

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Happy Holidays!

Introducing, New Blessings.

I had intended to release this sooner – hoping to do so Thanksgiving day.  However, the task of getting stores ready for Black Friday was particularly exasperating this year and didn’t leave much time to work on the final edits.

Last year, in True Blessings, I introduced you to Christie Haines, a transgender woman who came out six years before – much to the chagrin of her children and grandchildren.

I also introduced you to her grandson, Sammy, who had to stay with her while his father – Christie’s son, Arnold – went to Texas with his National Guard unit to help victims of flooding there.

You read about a grandson learning his grandparent still loved his children and grandchildren – a love honest and rich – warmer than when she pretended to be a grandfather.  You read as, with the help of his friend, Alice, he learned his grandparent was mentally ill as claimed, and learned to accept her.

It’s now nearly a year later and a wedding looms.  Sammy will soon have a stepmother.  But, he has an aunt threatening the joyous occasion as she takes advantage to try and “fix” her “father.”

Then, a new patient is admitted to the surgical unit where Jennifer works as a nurse

For those who haven’t read it, reading True Blessings may help you understand this story.  It’s free – it only requires joining wattpad.  Wattpad is a wonderful place if you love to read.

Happy Holidays, Billie.

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