Its been exactly twenty-two days since Anthony Ghiossi’s memorial service held at St. Francis Cabrini’s church in San Jose, California. It was just prior to that when I started Part One of this blog post. I wanted to write about dark days and more promising light-filled ones.
I thought I had seen clear through to the end of the story but the days have been dragging on…sometimes it’s hard to see any rays of light after the trajectory beams of the afterlife have pulled our loved ones from our sight. That scant visibility as it is, obscured by swollen, tear-filled eyes.
It does not feel good being stuck either…unable to move on, move forward, or even move at all. So for the purpose of moving this blog along, I shall try to find words that are luminous.
The Reverend Michael Hendrickson did an excellent job at handling the ceremony, and he tried his best to bring hope to those mourning a very dark day. He spoke of how we humans, despite our best medical interventions and technological advances, still are not infallible beings. We still can not fix everything. We can not save everyone. We can not thwart death. We, quite simply, are just not in control of these things. These things that go awry, those things that delve deeply into the night.
Life is about birth. About living. And, yes, about death. It goes on about this, endlessly…for as long as we have been aware of our existence here on this earth.
There is nothing to celebrate in death. But perhaps were we to be sure of heaven, of endless love and light, we might.
There are however, endless things to celebrate about life, about living.
The Reverend called out to Anthony’s two sons, sitting small, and up front. He bade them look around them, take in the entire church full, every last pew full, of people who had loved their father; people who had admired the way he treated life, his loves. He told them to always remember this day, and all of these people who had come to respect their father. For in seeing, and remembering, they could keep that love alive.
For those who must continue on, who need to feel love, who need to see light, and promise, and continued hope in living…it is around us.
I see it in a picture; his two sons, faint smiles while the sun gleams on their blonde heads as they play in the surf at the beach. The waves wash over them, hopefully cleansing them of their sadness…with the salty seawater so similar in composition to our tears.

RANTINGS AND RAVINGS OF A SCREENPLAY READER Now Available Through Amazon.

This morning I awoke even earlier than usual, at 3 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.  A lot of people have been having trouble sleeping, I’ve noticed…based on my casual interpretations of fellow FB friend’s nocturnal musings.  There are all kinds of reasons I awake.  It’s hot.  The neighbor’s dogs won’t shut-up.  The pool pump in the adjoining yard just has to come on at 2 a.m.  The dream I just had, which re-articulated for me, in great detail, the falling out of my crown, which of course had just occurred that early evening.  

There are helpful tips in life of course, how to fall asleep, stay asleep, get back to sleep.  But what of the musings which arise in the middle of the night?  My emotions these days are pretty stable.  Scarily so.  Like, I didn’t even cry last year at my own daughter’s wedding.  

I think we, as a society are being numbed so much these days, that we think the real goal is only to fall back asleep.  And stay asleep.  It doesn’t seem to be working for me.  So today, I did not worry that I was awake.  I stayed awake, thinking thoughts of darkness and light.  When I knew for sure that sleep would prove a struggle, I decided to be open to what my mind wanted to think about.  And so it thought, and I listened.

It thought about one of my daughter’s best friends, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, an aggressive stage two prognosis.  Then it thought about other women I follow on FB, and these friends public journeys of battling breast cancer, bravely outlined for us to follow their daily struggles. We are able to assist only on the periphery, by offering words of support and sending out messages laced with love and prayer.  

My mind then thought about a very close friend of mine, who lost a son-in-law just a little over a year ago.  A young musician away from his family on the road on a musical tour, who never came home, just died in his sleep, leaving my friend’s daughter and two little girls, bereft and torn asunder.  I had been at the couple’s wedding.  Later, my friend and I laid on his gravesite, looking up at the  clouds…wondering why now, this year, her other son-in-law was diagnosed with cancer.  He too, young and vibrant, handsome, intelligent and fit.  A wonderful father to his two young sons; a loving husband to his wife, whom I used to babysit when she was only 7 years old.  The clouds floated overhead, but gave no answers.

Now my mind wanted to think about things even closer to home.  I allowed it.  It thought about my step-daughter’s husband, who after a bad bout with a VA hospital over an ankle injury, wound up losing a leg.  His leg.  Not just a leg.  There are really no words sometimes.  Just gaping holes, just loss.  Just dark thoughts…

My own eldest daughter announced this week, after awaiting MRI results, the results still not forthcoming after 2 months of waiting, that she personally thinks the latest brain lesions are indicative of M.S.  I denied it of course, telling her that lots of tests would have to sway that verdict, but did say that newer medications were showing amazing promise at halting the progression of this particular disease in this miraculous day and age.  I could offer nothing more, so at the time I offered up medical marijuana grown by her step-sister’s husband.  It seems to have helped him.  

I, of course, notice many people’s struggles.  To not become overwhelmed with grief, I know I have shut down.  I have battened the hatches and braced for events, just hoping to ride out the storms.  The victims of life’s frailties and assaults are of course not the lucky ones.  But for the survivors who witness this torment, who endure the torture of sometimes watching their loved ones suffer mercilessly without the divine intercession from a God who seems not to be listening to our whispered prayers, our shouted rage, and then our quiet whimperings in the night…for them, when does this suffering end?  Death comes quickly, or slowly, offering a peaceful refuge for those who have suffered so…but it does not provide immediate relief to those living, and still loving, nearby.  And now, finally, I cry.

(To be continued)

 

 

 

 

Last Spring, somewhere near Knoxville, Tennessee, my sister-in-law decided we should go biking.  It was an overcast day and scattered snowstorms were forecast for overnight; but getting out of the house sounded fun.  I helped to load all of the bicycles into the back of my brother’s truck, and we set off.

When we got to Milton Lake, the bikes were quickly unloaded, and Jamie set out down the path with the attached contraption that held my comfortably-seated niece, Liv, 2.  Hallie, 7, took off after them on her newly acquired bicycle.  She did her best to keep up with her mom.  I trailed behind as slow as I could go, not wanting to leave Hallie behind on her own, as she swerved back and forth unsteadily.

We biked along the wind-swept lake, on a wonderfully paved trail that seemed like it could go on forever. We swooshed past ducks, geese, fields-for-play, and a still-wintry landscape.  Hallie was quickly getting tired.  Her mom decided to hang back, and told me to go on ahead and enjoy myself, full-throttle for awhile.

I was happy for permission to do so, and quickly biked ahead of the now-lagging group.   As I continued on deeper into the woods,  the scenery took on a surreal hue.   Skeletal trees were caught up in each other’s arms on the banks of the lake, contorted into anguished-looking beings, as they stretched and competed years, for the sun’s light and warmth.  The sky overhead was darkening ever so slightly towards dusk.  Riding through a semi-clearing, I noticed what could have been the set for ‘Friday the 13th’, the movie.  I chuckled to myself about my imagination, rolling on past the ramshackle cabin and open clearing.  A rusty gate once securing the property, now hung slightly open.  An invitation, I thought?  I continued on.

I finally decided to stop and wait for my kin to catch up to me.  I would enjoy some quiet repose before the group caught up.
I parked the bike off the path next to a bench, which faced away from the lake, and sat down.  I faced a thicket of trees. I breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh air and view.

No sooner had I sat down though, that sure enough, someone came hiking up the path, using a tall walking stick to guide them surely and quickly my way.  It seemed to be a man, seemingly with his full attention fixed upon me…and I begged silently for him to just keep walking past, hoping he would not stop to talk.  All I wanted was a minute or two of alone-time.  He stopped in the middle of the trail, facing me.  I sighed inwardly.

Not wanting to ignore him, as this would seem rude, I said politely, “Hello.”

He looked me over, as if determining whether I was worthy of saying hello to…and then came closer, still not saying a word.  My high-alert-readiness-mode kicked in just then, and I wondered why, oh why, I always had to meet strange people.  He took another step in my direction.  Finally, he deigned to speak.

“Look at me!” It wasn’t a question, it was an order.  I acquiesced quickly, wanting to assure him he had my full attention.  I already was taking him all in, looking him over thoroughly for tell-tale signs that I was hopefully dealing with just a regular ol’ hiker…and not the type of man he looked like – the guy on the bike who warns those kids in ‘Friday the 13th.’ 

“Can you see it?” he asked, still not giving even the most rudimentary of hello’s.  

I had still been doing a check…khaki pants, hiking boots…oversized hat, huge sunglasses (even on a day with no sun) which still looked normal…and I was just beginning to breathe comfortably again when he said, “Well, do you see it?”

Just then my attention had been drawn to the end of his walking stick — and the huge spike embedded into the top end.  Shit!  Was this what he was referring to, did I see this?  And was I to take that as a challenge, a threat?

Someone had warned me once to never run from strange animals…so I held stock-still as he leaned another step closer, now taking off his sunglasses.  He had a huge black eye, which totally had been hidden by the large sunblockers, and as soon as he lowered these, I understood it was this he was referring to…so I answered quickly to break the tension.

“Wow, that’s a beauty…” I whistled appreciatively, as if genuinely both impressed and interested.  He stood there, judging my sincerity.  I decided I had to go all in.  “How’d that happen?”  I dutifully asked.  He smiled crookedly a bit and stepped back, which I took to be reassuring…for a second, until I noticed it was just for him to be able to bring his walking stick, slash weapon, into nearer proximity to me.

I held my ground, and readied my muscles silently for a quick beat out of there…I was pretty sure I still had game over what appeared to be an old guy in his 70’s…but, you never know.
“O.K., so you see this here?”
I guess he had meant to wave it towards me, as he continued doing, brandishing the walking stick.
“Yes,” I responded simply, holding my breath.

“So,” he said, “I use this for reaching plastic bottles and glass.  I stick them like this,” and here he made a jabbing motion towards the ground, after he had turned the walking stick around to have the spike fully on display.  I nod, thinking to myself…and how does that work on glass?

“I went out on that dock right there,” he continued, “because they float up to that place and collect,” and he nods in the direction I’m supposed to look, just a bit past us up the path.

There is a dock on the lake, no boats tied up to it; no one sitting at the lone bench attached to it.  Just a grey dock, on a grey day.
I look…and I nod for him to go on.

“Well I was reaching, trying to get one…and I slipped, fell, and hit my face right on that dock!”
“Oh, my!” I exclaimed, truly sympathizing.
“Yeah, it was bad!  And look!  Right here!”  He motioned to the right side of his forehead, where I could still see a nasty cut, bruises, and stitches. “Seven stitches! Good thing my son was in town!”
“Oh, my…” I repeated, relaxing into the listening of just a lonely man’s tale.
“That is horrible…good thing your son was in town to take you to the doctor’s!” I was very relieved he wasn’t a complete kook, and listened for awhile as he talked about the lake, his son, and then the weather.

My clan was just cresting a small hill in the path, and I could see that they would be near us, in like, under a minute.
“So, you know all that rain we got last night?” he was saying as my attention drifted back to him.  “Yes, that was a killer storm,” I answered.

“Well, guess what?” he asked, smiling a little wider now.  I was happy for him that his story was no longer dwelling on his injury, so I asked innocently and politely, “what?”

My sister-in-law and her girls were rolling up to us now, and came to a stop.  

He lowered his voice just a bit.  “My blood is still all over that dock…the rain did not wash it all off yet!”

I took this in, shocked at the change that had come over the man, who now…that an innocent mom and two little girls had shown up, was regressing back into creeper land.  Jamie probably thought I was just chatting up some harmless old hiker.  I shot my sister-in-law a glance, a glance that I think only moms who have learned to read danger signs, as a result of protecting their brood, could interpret.  She understood me immediately, and I was grateful for her intelligence, and quick wit.

Mr. Creeper spoke. “I’m going to go home and get clear pol-y-ur-e-thane…and I’m gonna paint that deck, so my blood is there forever…”

I was done listening and I motioned for everyone to just turn around and start pedalling.

“This is MY park,” he said loudly, not liking that he was losing his audience so quickly.  “I want my blood to be a part of it!”  

We were heading away from him now, me saying “go, just go!”  And Jamie saying, “what was that all about?” She pedalled quickly, and I urged poor Hallie, who hadn’t got to rest at all, that she could do it.  She could make that crest of a hill again.  We all pumped our feet faster.  

Over our shoulders he yelled now.  “Hey,” he called, “Hey, look at this!”

I filled Jamie in on what the creeper had said, and we glanced over our shoulders, watching as he walked quickly after us, still yelling, and then ordering, “Hey! Come here!”

Soon we had a good distance between us, and he was left way behind.  Night-time was closing in quickly, and we put the girls in the truck, loaded our bikes, and headed for home.  We were all thankful to leave the lake, and the creeper, far behind.  

O.K., so here’s the reality for anyone interested in becoming an author, or for just whoever might want to know about the process involved when finally getting that tome of yours self-published.  Is it a harsh reality? If I let you think that way…you may never want to try the self-publishing route at all…so let’s just continue to consider it.  You’ve written a story, collection of poems, essays, or the like. You would like to share your work with the world, and thus would like to see it published.  However, despite that want and your gut feeling that your body of work is well-worth being appreciated by the rest of the world…you can not find it a traditional publishing house.

This is what this post is about then:  self-publishing.  Maybe even you are a wayy big-baller, and you don’t want to go the normal route, because you know the drill, and you want your own control over your project.  My first book is a children’s picture-book…and I know since I’m not Jim Carrey, or Spike Lee, who both have recently-published picture-books out right now…the likelihood of me scoring a publishing house, especially because I have my own friend/collaborator who is the artist/illustrator of my project…was pretty slim.  So I didn’t bother going there.

But let’s get to the heart of this post.  I found a printer.  Ingram/Spark.  Best outfit, in my mind, of having the best offerings.  Things like quality printing, fairly inexpensive finished products, and their highly touted global distribution network.  Their claim is 39,000 distributors:  like libraries, on-line retailers, and schools/universities…who if they were to choose your title out of Ingram’s catalogue, could then order as many copies as they would like to carry and or sell.  Which sounds SO exciting! All of those people, able to consider your work!

But…and isn’t there always that one big butt-head thing that stops us? The thing is, even though Ingram, unlike CreateSpace, allows an individual author to publish in a hardback format (aka Case Laminate) and that might be what you would like to see aside from just a paperback (definitely what libraries need) the cost, including an upgrade to a premium color package (for me, or for cookbooks, heavy graphics, etc. which includes a heavier stock of 70#)…is just too prohibitive.  My base price, plus shipping, plus allowing for the traditional ability for retailers to have a “return policy” on their orders, would totally negate any profit I could make, along with a truly horrifying thought that if a retailer could not sell my precious book — I would be on the hook for the return charges!

So, here’s what I have done:  I left my book listed with Ingram/Spark at a premium package.  I disallowed any return policy.  This alone, supposedly and most definitely, will preclude me from being on anyone’s must-order list! I priced it as high as I could to allow for the 55% discount (also supposedly such a tradition, no one will order unless you have allowed this deep cut)  and to allow just the base printing price to be covered.  I think there was something like a $1.80 or so, left-over as profit for myself and illustrator to share.  Because that’s our shared business-plan.  For any on-line retailer, there was still room to make a profit…but not without the gamble of first buying the product outright.  So I know that’s never going to happen.

What is going to happen now is that I am going to still have a very nice place to print off books, one at a time, or as many as I choose to have printed and shipped to me…at a very affordable price; and receiving, for that price..the best quality, professional book I can be proud of.  Then, I am going to continue marketing the eBook version, while at the same time promoting sales of a hardback version, through my own website.  The next marketing move for me, after I can see if I can work out an agreement with any major stores/chains, etc., will be to do just like the big-boy publishers are doing:  print it overseas.  During a recent foray into Barnes & Noble, I found almost every picture-book to have been published (no matter the famous publishing-house) in either China, or Malaysia.

Now, definitely, you may be able to score sales from the global network program, if you are just merely looking to have a paperback listed on Amazon, and hopefully other retailers.  You will be much luckier than I in that regard, as your book will be much less costly to produce, and therefore can be picked up by other retailers! Yay for you! :)

Also, do not forget to produce your book in an eBook format!   If you sell it primarily on the internet, you will need to focus all of your attention on marketing it on the internet where you feel your core group can be found. The business (and it is a business) of marketing is almost full-time, and can take very valuable time away from what you love best:  writing! You may then consider, if your finances allow for it, a marketing team to boost awareness of your product.

When I decide I have some buyers for bigger venues, and I am ready to commit time to local fairs, shows, etc., I will order the minimum shipment allowable (like $3,500 worth) of books from China.  Meanwhile, I am happy to sell them one at a time through word of mouth, or like last week, one copy to a nearby lunch patron who was at the same bistro where I was holding a signing!

The true excitement and value comes when just that one person tells you they like your book.  It’s even better when they are a sweet, loveable child and the story reached them innocently, without that child worrying about how the story came by them and what marketing strategies the writer had to employ…it just came to them.  And they tell you they loved it! My book is titled ‘Spoiled Pink’, and the little girl dressed herself (she was 7) all in pink, to meet me! And what was even cooler, is that she and her mom already had a copy of the book, but just wanted to meet me and have it signed! That, to me, is what it’s all about!

 

 

 

 

A-hunting we will go…

A-hunting we will go….

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Now that it’s spring and house-hunting is under way, I wanted to give a few tips on how to handle your home-buying experience.

1)  If you are in an area of rapid appreciation (due to limited supply…and pent-up demand) perhaps you should just do this one tip for right now:  Sit this one out.  That’s right.  Screw it.  Resign yourself to waiting for next winter, and see if things have calmed down by then.  Take a nice vacation instead, or if you’re frugal, put more money towards paying off other things, such as cars, bills, etc. and put any leftover monies towards that future mortgage.

2)  Still wanting to forge ahead…you’ve been doing all of the above already, and you are one of the lucky few to still be in a good position to buy? Alright then, first – please get pre-approved! This is different from merely getting qualified.  This means not only are you pre-qualified, but you have begun the loan process, and are just waiting for the right home to come along.  If you skip this very vital first step, you will not even make it to first base.  Too many serious buyers are out there, and right now, this is a very serious game.  Sellers want a real buyer, and will choose accordingly.

3)  An interesting fact right now:  there are a lot of cash buyers on the scene.  Buyer’s from different countries are making moves into the U.S., the aging population are leaving inheritances, and there’s that one or two lucky lotto winners! Whatever the reason for it, it is happening a lot! I’ve not seen the latest stats – but I’m going to guess that over 50% of all real estate transactions are now cash sales! That’s O.K., a lot of these cash buyers are investors looking for rentals and the like, and so are not necessarily buying up all the inventory.  Think beginner homes, and rentals.  So tip number three then, is about being ready! What’s that mean? It means be pre-approved and be ready to jump when your Realtor says to! You can not say, “Can I see it tomorrow, or this weekend?” The answer is, NO, it will be gone by then.  (In a Hot Market/area.)

4)  Find a competent agent.  They have to be a hustler.  They have to know what you want.  Right off the bat if you tell them you want only a single-story, and they just send over (usually via email) every listing, not paring it down to the select few, and they send over two-stories anyway…keep looking! If you notice that some homes are not showing up, and they are sold by the time your agent gets around to telling you about them…get a new agent! This person, right now, must look at the Multiple Listing Service all day long, every day.  They must be as willing to jump to show you the listings, at lunch time, evenings, weekends, holidays, as you are.  If not, the other hungry agent’s and their clients will beat you to the punch.

5)  You’ve got your agent.  You are pre-qualified.  You are submitting offers…but not winning at the bidding wars.  What to do?  Is your agent supplying you with the comparable sales prices on each home you bid on?  Is he/she advising you that you must meet the sales price, or better it to currently beat out other home buyer’s?  Are you asking for too many things?  You don’t ever, for instance, want to negotiate on any of the homes’ amenities that don’t normally come with the home…you may ask later for the fridge, fountain, etc. to stay (at a negotiated price!) but asking for them to be thrown in at the beginning will get you the worst response.  Also, if you are pre-approved, you need to reflect that in your closing time.  They might need more than 30 days to close the deal, and move on, but by asking for a shortened escrow period, you show them you are a willing and able buyer.

O.K., are you still thinking that it’s not that easy? Everyone thought that becoming a Realtor was the next best thing to panning for gold! Ha! Alright, you need more tips! That’s right, it’s been a real bitch to get anyone’s offers accepted these days, even cash buyers! So here’s a few more:

6)  You’ve found the house! Write up the offer at the house, leave it in a sealed envelope, along with a quick note (and your pre-approved letter!) to the sellers that you love their house. (Yes, good idea to leave in discreet area away from other snoopy agents) If your agent tells you the house is worth full-price, and you know it is going to have a lot of offers, you can maybe safely stay close to over the asking price, at least to possibly net a counter-offer, if not an outright acceptance.  It’s very hard for a Seller to get a full-price offer, and then say, hey, we really wanted more…and then be total hold-outs.  So you can go over by a moderate amount, to show you really liked their house, without having to go too overboard! BUT, and it’s a big but…performed by butt-head Realtors everywhere, some are pricing their homes way too low to attract such a feeding frenzy! This agent is an idiot…and a lot of times, wants to control the listing, be able to sell it to his friends, family, etc..because you will come along, tell your Realtor, “Oh, wow! See deals still DO exist! Yeah, we will offer the $99K they are asking!”  And your smart agent will tell you “–umm, he/she underpriced it because he/she is an idiot! This house is worth $220K!” But you won’t offer $220K, because you are convinced there is a good-deal fairy, and so you think about it, and offer $110K the next day, only to find out that Mr. Listing Agent, AKA butt-head, sold it to one of his flipper buddies, or drinking buddies, or whatever, for $210K!  They got a deal and saved $10K…just because everyone else wasn’t even playing in the same game! (This is where I feel compelled to say I dislike a lot of Realtors;  which is why I am now a writer :) )

Are you really still reading? I don’t want to break this into 2-3 parts, so I’m going to keep going.  Oh, you’ve heard all this before…and there must be more you can do besides throwing all you’ve got into buying that farm…and don’t forget…that can be a bad thing, when you’ve “bought the farm”.  O.K., let’s go for more:

7)  Those afore-mentioned hated Realtors are going to hate me right back for saying this one, but too bad…here you go:  In a very heated market, where there are at least 10 offers on every good property, and you are missing out, no matter what your devoted, dogged, good-guy realtor can do for you…it’s time for a little change-up.  You need more Realtors! Explain kindly to your Realtor that you have heard about listings only being held “in-house”…this means that Realtors, knowing they hold all the cards, are holding their listings back from ever having to go into MLS.  This happens for a few reasons, and sometimes they are good ones.  Sometimes they are just for bad ones.  It all depends.  Bad reasons:  The Realtor just wants to double-end it.  This means more $$$ for him/her. It also means that they again, provide listings only for themselves, and their own offices to share…and no other agent outside of that office can show it, much less sell it.  They know that eventually you will wander over, abandon your Realtor who has been hunting for you for the last two years, on every weekend, rainy night, and even during his kid’s birthday party.  Because you were desperate! It happens, I know…and the more that Brokerages experience this, the more they join in on this practice.  It can be for good reasons, too though…as in, when it’s a fast market, my husband and I don’t feel it’s fair to charge a full 6% commission, especially if you are also going to buy from us as well.  This way, we can lower our commission, but we have to exclude other agents, or else this plan does not save the Seller money.  We sometimes already have a buyer, so that commission for another agent is not warranted.  In any event, tell your Agent you need to just remain competitive, and you are going to work with other agent’s (in addition to him/her!) so you can be privy to everyone’s in-house listings.  Be upfront and honest with everyone, that you will only offer on a property with an individual, if that property is not listed in the MLS.  And that you already have a “family agent” but that if you can be shown something he/she hasn’t or can’t…then you will write it up with them.  Please do be careful.  (If you have signed a buyer’s agreement with any one particular agent for a certain time period, please do not violate this agreement, and continue working diligently with your agent!) If not, bring any address you see, a sign… first to the attention of your main agent, and ask them about the availability.  If they can not show it to you, only then please proceed.  Realtors, believe it or not, work very long hours, and for relatively low pay, after shared broker’s fees, our CAR/NAR/MLS/desk fees; our almost $4.00 a gallon gas fees as we cart clients around all day…and repetitive paperwork costs and valuable time as we write up offer after offer, to find you the best home possible! Well, I think I’ve hit most everything in regards to how to present offers in a hot market.  If anything else comes to mind I’ll post a Part Two.  Cheers, good luck, and happy house-hunting! (Information obtained whilst working as a Realtor past twenty-some odd years.  My husband/partner (Cliff Lloyd) is still one of the best in town and can be hired at London Properties in Fresno, California @ WeWillSellTeam@yahoo.com.

 

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