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Uncertainty

The International Space Station was orbiting about 256 miles above South Australia when a camera on board the orbital complex captured this celestial view of Earth’s atmospheric glow and the Milky Way. (iss057e035382 — Oct. 7, 2018) Photo and caption by NASA.

I don’t often write about the news in this space. It’s not because I don’t pay attention. I take a similar approach with my day job…while I spend at least a quarter of my time there, I devote very little of this real estate to it.

It’s not because I’m not affected by the goings-on in the world, or at my place of employment. I am affected by the goings-on, for sure. Probably a little too much. So much so, as it turns out, that I look to this blog as a bit of an escape.

But there was a news item from last week that I am compelled to write about. It might have easily slipped some folks’ attention, given the impending mid-term elections, and the horrible devastation Hurricane Michael unleashed on Florida’s panhandle and throughout the southeast.

What I’m compelled to write about is the October 11 failure of the Soyuz rocket that was powering a crewed mission to the International Space Station. Fortunately, the occupants of the capsule, astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, survived the aborted mission, apparently no worse for the wear.

However, they were supposed to relieve the current three-person crew onboard the International Space Station. While that crew was set to stay on for another couple of months, the failed mission has put their planned December departure into question. Will they stay on for longer than originally intended? Or will they have to abandon the Space Station altogether? I have read that the station is equipped to fly unmanned for a period of time; but I’ve also read that it’s had a continuous stream of inhabitants for the past eighteen years.

I’m hearing that NASA expects to be able to launch another crewed mission by this December, which would make all these questions moot. However, until they figure out just what went wrong with the Soyuz rocket, the current occupants of the Space Station will have to live with a level of uncertainty more consistent with life down here on terra firma.

And that’s what I was thinking about, when I took a break from my writing this past weekend to watch the International Space Station make a six-minute trek across the sky. It was a clear, lovely evening, and the New Orleans weather had finally turned a touch cooler. But I felt a little melancholy, as I watched the bright reflection of the station carrying Commander Alexander Gerst (European Space Agency), astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor (NASA), and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev (ROSCOSMOS).

Watching the Space Station pass is like a talisman for me, reminding me to seek some perspective on, or away from, my worldly concerns. But this time, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for the three human beings up there. They have to deal with setbacks and uncertainty, just like the rest of us do. The perspective that is slowly dawning on me, is just how connected and similar we all are.

Even if you happen to be orbiting the earth 250 miles from its surface.

Anne McClane and the 1,000 Likes

A little over three years into this blog, and having written 168 posts, WordPress told me I’ve garnered 1,000 likes. I feel pretty good about that! Here’s why:

  • I don’t have a ton of followers on WordPress (less than 250). All those likes aren’t necessarily from followers, but if they were, it would mean followers have read and liked what I’ve written multiple times.
  • I only post once a week, on fairly random topics. I’m playing the long game here, and I’m thrilled to have reached this milestone at this early-ish stage of the game.
  • Links to these posts also appear on my Facebook page. But unlike Facebook, most of my WordPress likes are from people I don’t know personally. Same thing for the followers–most of those follows are from people I’ve encountered through the WordPress platform.

That last point underscores one of my favorite things about WordPress. I love having the freedom to write as much as I want about the topic at hand, in a user-friendly format. But more than that, I love following the posts of my favorite bloggers. There is such a wide range of voices I’ve been introduced to, just by being part of WordPress. Some of these folks feel like friends, even though we’ve never met.

Just like One Thousand and One Nights, the ancient collection of Middle Eastern stories that inspired the title of this post, the blogs I’ve found on WordPress are a treasure trove of different styles, themes, and fantastical ideas. I’m very grateful to be included in this vibrant community.

So long, and thanks for all the likes!!

 

Figure of Speech

Last Saturday, I went to the studios of WRBH and read from my soon-to-be released novel, The Trouble on Highway One. It was a trip! Sitting in sound proof booth, filling up twenty-seven minutes with a soliloquy of my own making. In my marketing past, I’ve done some fill-in voiceover work, and recorded a few 30-second and 60-second radio spots. But this was an entirely different experience. Like the difference between a daily commute and a cross-country road trip.

This segment will air on an upcoming episode of WRBH’s “Figure of Speech.” Here’s the description of the program, from the WRBH website: “Local authors and poets share and discuss their own work, as well as work from the artists who influence and inspire them.” Local meaning New Orleans.

Here in New Orleans, (and in the U.S.), WRBH is the only full-time FM reading radio service. And much of their original content, including “Figure of Speech,” “New Orleans By Mouth,” and “The Writer’s Forum” is available on Soundcloud.

For my segment, I read the first chapters of The Trouble on Highway One, and The Incident Under the Overpass. In between, I talked a little bit about traiteurs, and their healing tradition here in Southern Louisiana. At the end, jumping to artists who’ve inspired me, I mentioned Walker Percy for how he evoked the spirit of New Orleans in his writing, and I read from Jane Austen’s Persuasion (my favorite Jane Austen novel!) Funny how I found my own work easier to read aloud than Jane’s. 😉

My “Figure of Speech” episode should be available sometime in the next month, but in the meantime, don’t hesitate to check out the WRBH programs on Soundcloud. I listened to some really compelling stories as I prepared for my session!

 

 

The Writing Fall

Funny how life follows the seasons. Right now, it feels like the harvest for me. Several seeds, some sown years ago, are coming to fruition.

First: my novel, The Trouble on Highway One, is available for pre-sale on Amazon. Release date is October 30. This is the second story in the Traiteur Trilogy, featuring the protagonist Lacey Becnel as she struggles to understand and utilize her supernatural healing powers.

This is the seed that was planted a long time ago. I began writing it after the first story, The Incident Under the Overpass, was drafted, but not yet published. So it’s been a long road. (A long highway?) I had to mention it first, lest Husband Tim accuse me of “burying the lead.” (Which he does from time to time).

Second: I have an installment in OUTSIDE IN TAKES A STAB: 139 New Perspectives on 139 Buffy Stories by 139 Writers. This is an anthology on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my essay covers “The Dark Age” episode. My piece begins with the sentence, “I hate vampires.” I know certain members of my family will read that, and immediately follow it up with Anakin Skywalker’s whiny soliloquy on sand from Attack of the Clones. (A not-so-inside joke for anyone familiar with the “I hate sand” meme.) OUTSIDE IN TAKES A STAB is available for pre-order, currently scheduled to release November 2.

And finally: an excerpt from my short story, “Lucky Eight,” will appear in the upcoming Louisiana’s Emerging Writers publication. It’s set to publish October 23, and should be available for pre-order from Z Publishing within the next week or so.

Emerging, indeed! Feels pretty good, I have to admit. 🙂

Cover Reveal!

I’m very excited to reveal the cover of my second novel, The Trouble on Highway One! I’m working to make it available for pre-sale on Amazon, and I hope to accomplish this in the next few days. Once I do this, I’ll announce its release date (I’m aiming for October 30).

Here’s what I have for the blurb, so far:

Things are looking up for recent widow Lacey Becnel. A short-term job assignment on California’s beautiful Central Coast, and a new love interest fill her days after a tumultuous summer. But as she discovers more about the mysterious traiteur power bestowed upon her, she will learn that she is not the only one with potent, supernatural abilities.

I’ll have more details next week!

Writers Roundup

All the authors had the opportunity to participate in a book signing. Heather Graham signed her books in front of my banner for a spell!

An overdue shout-out and THANK YOU to Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans. I was excited to attend this writers conference, held in the French Quarter over Labor Day weekend. Here’s a bit more detail, from the “thank you” email sent to the participants:

“We’re a unique little group, which came into being because of the devastation created in NOLA when the levees broke after Katrina. . . We’re warm, we’re small, we’re intimate. And, my biggest hope each year, is that we manage one task for you–and that’s to send you home happy and inspired.”

In my case, they definitely succeeded!

I was happy to meet and spend time with so many writers; and share thoughts and ideas on researching, publishing, and balancing all the demands of life with writing time.

Just a few of the writers there:

Heather Graham—the best-selling author is a native of Florida, but has a long-standing love for New Orleans. Indeed, several of her more than 200(!) romance, suspense, and paranormal novels are set here. I am so very grateful to Heather for her generosity, her time, and her dedication to great stories!

David Morrell—“Rambo’s Daddy,” David Morrell hit the scene in 1972 with his debut novel, First Blood. He is the author of over thirty books, thrillers set in different times and locales. His latest series explores Victorian-era London. And he has such thoughtful advice on writing. Here is something I heard him say in a session (that I later looked up and pulled  from his website): “Before beginning each project, I write a letter to myself that asks the question: ‘Why is this book worth a year of my life?’ There needs to be something about a book’s theme, its research, and the way it is written that grabs me and won’t let go.”

And I was really thrilled to chat with my fellow, local, New Orleans writers; this was my first opportunity to meet most of them face-to-face. I’ve included links to their websites below:

Stella Barcelona – author of the Black Raven romantic thriller series

Colleen Mooney – author of the New Orleans Go Cup Chronicles

Liah Penn – mystery/suspense writer, and author of four novels, including the award-winning Pure Death

Alexandrea Weis – author of multiple paranormal, horror, and romance series, including the Magnus Blackwell series

My apologies to everyone I missed—I’m sure I’m leaving some folks out. I could fill pages and pages more about this event. But I have to stop somewhere.

So, to conclude, I’ll give an update on my own writing: the weekend of the conference, I juggled the sessions with running home and dedicating time to my second novel, The Trouble on Highway One. I was combing through some final edits, and hoped to be complete before the conference began, but, alas, it didn’t happen. I can now report that last Tuesday, September 4, I submitted a (hopefully, nearly,) final draft to my editor for one last review.

Happy and inspired, indeed!

We Now Interrupt…

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

As I write this, a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico is headed this way. The current forecast has it coming ashore east of New Orleans, sometime in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, September 5. Being on the west side of the storm center usually means we’ll see high winds, but not as much rain.

Having been through this rodeo a few times, I’m prepared to be without power on Wednesday morning. I plan to type in a quick update and post this using my cell phone, if necessary.

It’s a pity, because I attended a great writer’s conference this past weekend, and scheduled a post that would cover all the high points. There’s nothing stopping me from featuring it next week, of course. So that’s what I’ll plan to do.

Adaptability is a virtue any time of year, but especially during the height of hurricane season.

Stay safe, everyone!

Update as of 5:30 am CDT: The center of the storm came ashore last night around Pascagoula, near the Mississippi-Alabama border. It’s due to bring rain and winds to the midwest, through this weekend. New Orleans remained outside the path of the storm’s effects. I’m currently in my house, with power. It’s 75 degrees outside, the wind is at 3 MPH.

 

Anticipating My Birthday


Today is my birthday. I endeavor to post to this blog on Wednesday of each week, and my birthday just so happens to fall on a Wednesday this year. Thus, I find myself composing a birthday post.

This occasion seems an appropriate time to share something my mom put together, way back when she was expecting me. She and my father celebrated their fifteenth anniversary with a trip to San Francisco, about two and a half months before I was born.

My mom was a scrapbooker extraordinaire. About two years ago, when my siblings and I were clearing her house, I was fortunate enough to find her scrapbook documenting the San Francisco trip. (I wrote about the monumental task of going through my parents’ house here: Clay.)

I really dig that I got to make this trip with my parents, even though I have no memory of it. (It would be pretty remarkable if I did.) Seeing my mom’s distinctive handwriting makes me wistful, but also so very grateful to have such a concrete and indelible memory of her.

Here are a few snapshots from the scrapbook. But first, here’s some context:

Mom refers to herself in the third person (Ida). Ger is my dad.

Carmel: she’s my godmother. She looked after my six siblings, ranging in age from fourteen (Debby) to three (Stephen), while my parents were in San Francisco. God bless her. A remarkable woman I’ve been meaning to write about forever.

The Herberts: my parents’ first neighbors, when they were newly married and living in an Army barracks. I’ve always heard that they were not neighbors for long…six weeks? six months? Yet my parents maintained a lifelong friendship with the Herberts that saw many reciprocal visits between California and Louisiana.

The trip began to materialize in May, when Ger asked Carmel if she would stay with the children — and she agreed! This was to be a surprise, but Carmel convinced Ger he should tell Ida enough in advance to give her time to think about what she should take. (Dear Carmel!)
So on June 15, 1969 we left via National Airlines for San Francisco! Ger rode the jump seat & Ida was in the other end of the plane. Had one stop in Houston…
…then landed smoggily in San Francisco. After some looking around we found the Herberts & vice versa…got our baggage and drove out to Portola Valley to visit our first neighbors — the Herberts! Tom & Mary Ann; Tommy, Suzanne, Terry
Dad looking like he has a top knot; Tommy, Terry & Suzanne bring to mind the saying “the coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco”

Carmel’s epilogue: Welcome Home, I had a grand time. Hope you did too. I apologize for Stephen. Very pink back. He didn’t seem to care, but I was guilt ridden. Except for dinner time which became hazardous for hearing, we had an uneventful interlude.

Inexorability

August 18, 2018 6:13 am
August 20, 2018 6:13 am

I had the good fortune to spend this past weekend at the beach. I read, stuck my feet in the surf, explored a little bit, and otherwise contemplated some of the more lovely aspects of life on this Earth.

My first morning there, watching the sunrise, the word “inexorable” occurred to me. There was the eastern sky, growing brighter, gradually. I knew nothing was going to stop the march of lightness entering my particular part of the world. Or, if something did, it would mean bad news for more people than just me. (7.6 billion more people, really).

It seems the word is more often used to describe human actions or ideas. Dictionary.com offers this definition–unyielding; unalterable: inexorable truth; inexorable justice. Not to be persuaded, moved, or affected by prayers or entreaties: an inexorable creditor. Merriam-Webster offers a similar definition, with the example inexorable progress.

And, don’t get me wrong…I’m not praying for or entreating the sun not to rise. It’s definitely a positive, and the alternative, as I intimated above, would not be.

It has more to do with this: I’m feeling time’s inexorable march most acutely these days. And I’m not talking about my aging body, or middle age. Not first and foremost, at least. No, top of mind is my productivity, and my desire to get more done in a 24-hour-period than I seem to be able to.

I’m in the throes of final edits on my second novel, and also drafting my third novel, and neither is happening as fast as I would like. Granted, my deadlines are all self-imposed, but I imposed them for a reason. Without the threat of an inexorable deadline, I’m sure I’d find a way to drag this work out over countless more sunrises and sunsets.

Back to the inexorable sunrise: it rose through a curtain of rain on the second morning, so I opted to sleep in and stay dry. My final day, conditions were favorable for a leisurely repeat viewing. It just so happened that I snapped a photo with the same exact time stamp as forty-eight hours earlier: 6:13 am.

And it occurred to me that sometimes a little perspective is all that’s needed to lighten the crush of inexorability. Because the sun doesn’t truly rise and set. The Flaming Lips sang it best: “You realize the sun doesn’t go down / It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.”

Annie…Are You Okay?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Today’s post is courtesy of “Random Internet Searches.” Well, really, not so random…I was doing some research on CPR manikins for my fiction. So, there was, at least, sound reasoning for the search before it branched off into the hinterland.

Here’s the useful thing I learned: “manikin” is the appropriate spelling for manikins that serve medical training purposes. “Mannequin” is still appropriate for the insensate figures that model clothing in the few remaining brick-and-mortar stores that employ them.

What follows are the probably-not-as-useful things I learned.

I dug a little deeper than I needed to, because I wanted to learn whatever became of Resusci-Anne. I’ve had CPR training in the past three years or so, and had access to some pretty high-tech manikins, and not one of them was named Resusci-Anne. I was a bit disappointed by that. Anne is both my pen name and the first name I’ve answered to all my life, and I’m partial to it.

Turns out, she’s still around. She’s trademarked by a Norwegian company called Laerdal. But there are plenty of other alternatives available. Kind of like smart phones. If you don’t want to go with Laerdal, you could go with Simulaids Brad and Paul, or CPARLENE, or Fat Old Fred. (As impolitic as that last name may be, I have to admit, it’s memorable.) I think Resusci-Anne might be like the original iPhone.

And her story is kinda fascinating. She was developed by toy maker Asmund Laerdal and anesthesiologist Bjorn Lind, and made her debut in Norway in 1960. She got the name “Anne” after a popular doll in Laerdal’s line of toys. But what’s really trippy is how she got her face. According to the Internet, Resusci-Anne’s face is modeled from a death mask of an unknown woman pulled from the Seine River in Paris. In the 1880s. I guess death masks were a thing back then, and hers was one of the biggest things going as the twentieth century approached. She was known as “L’Inconnue de la Seine.” Apparently, Asmund Laerdal was taken with the story, and that’s why he chose to let L’Inconnue de la Seine’s face live on in Resusci-Anne.

Finally, why did I title this post with the refrain from Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal?” Because (according to the Internet), Michael Jackson reportedly picked up the lyric from a CPR training course. Decades ago, back when Resusci-Anne was still young, CPR instructors would begin the practical training on the manikin with the words, “Annie…Annie…are you okay?” It has since been modified to simply, “Are you okay?” Presumably because not every person needing assistance is named Annie.

According to one source, CPR training was also the inspiration for the Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive.”

I love Random Internet Searches.