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Well, first and foremost I’m working on blogging again. Quinn’s last six months of life were a sort of tour de force. When we got back from Florida at the end of September, 2013, I had all these grand plans for beta reading, handcrafting and novel-writing. Then the longer we were back the more it sank in that a large portion of my good hours were going to be spent taking care of him. I think back on it and I wonder if it was stupid to spend so much energy caring for a dog at the end of his life and then I realise that love and commitment are love and commitment. You don’t kill ones you love simply because it would make your life easier. He wasn’t suffering and we had a good long last year together. Thing was, I didn’t realise until he was gone just how much of my time (and more critically, energy) was spent on him. I feel like my days have doubled in length as I come out of the more intense grieving and I look around to see all the stuff I left behind. Like blogging. And so I’m back to blogging tentatively but eagerly nonetheless. And a good start to it is to answer this four-question writers’ survey put to Jay DiNitto by Jill Domschot.

1.WHAT NOVEL AM I WORKING ON?

My current work today is a fake celebrity biography. (A book about a famous person who doesn’t really exist.) I’m always tinkering with my Big book too…the one about the Welsh and the history of medicine. But that one continually morphs. It’s sort of like my Pillars Of The Earth; I’m not ready to tell it yet, but it’s there in my head. In between I work on these “little” books. General women’s fiction type things that are about the various kinds of love that women have in their lives.

2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

I’m writing it. Really, there’s so much out there in the women’s fiction/aga saga/bonkbuster category that the only difference is that this one is told with my voice, with my humour, with my worldview. It’s a story that I mean to make others happy.

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I agree with Jay that this is poorly-worded. I am assuming they mean “why do I choose to write this type of work as opposed to the many other types of work out there?” The answer to that is that these are the stories that bring me comfort. I write to connect with others and I’d like for my books to bring them a comfortable escape that also gives them little nuggets to think about. (My heroes in this type of writing are Lois McMaster Bujold and Maeve Binchy.) People have hard lives. Everyone. I want to write books that make people feel like they’ve given over however many hours of their life in exchange for a bit of happiness.

4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

The characters are in my head already. I take them through dialogues while I exercise and do housework. The process of inventing dialogue (talking to myself, but not really–it’s the characters talking to each other) moves the story in the directions it needs to go, usually. Then I sit down and write when I am able. The rest of the time I make notes and sketches in my iphone or ipad if something strikes me while I’m about something else.

A Note Of Thanks

During this week I’ve watched a lot of conversations about Robin Williams’ death. Many of them have been unfortunate.

That got me to thinking of how long I’ve been blogging (9 or 10 years) and how I was when I started versus how I am now.

And I have readers to thank for that. Readers who have become friends or enemies, readers who have yelled at me or gently corrected me or argued with me or laughed with me or all of the above. I’ve grown over the years and I’m still growing. But the whole reason I wanted to write, to be A Writer, was to connect with other humans. Those who have connected with me through my non-fiction (this blog, facebook, countless emails) have taught me how to be a better person.

I’m crazy thankful for that, and frankly I’m awed at your patience.

“Yay! The Supreme Court found in favour of Hobby Lobby! Woo-hoo!”

Such was the general consensus among many of my more conservative friends yesterday. They celebrated what has become a cause celebre in the right-wing allied factions within the Christian Church. The Green family–founders of the craft supply store I sometimes shop at called “Hobby Lobby”–said that they as Christians founded their company to be a reflection of their Christian values. As such they do not open to customers for business transactions on Sunday.[1] They play instrumental hymns over their store sound system, don’t sell things that promote drinking or drugs (no tacky Margaritaville signs!) and they pay their employees well. What they don’t want to do is pay for abortifacent (or alleged abortifacent) drugs under their employer-provided and government-mandated health care. There were four medicines in dispute.

Many Christians who are also pro-life (as I am) felt that this decision was a crucial stand for our freedoms. How, after all, can the government make a Christian pay for abortion?

When the decision came down on the morning of 30 June, 2014, it was celebrated as a triumph for the freedom of religion.

What got overlooked in all the yaysaying was this:

The most straightforward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.

[2]

And who, you may ask, is “the Government”? Well, it’s all of us. Me, you, your pro-choice neighbour. In celebrating the right of for-profit corporations to have religious freedom everyone overlooked that a big ol’ slice of their own just got bartered away. It’s the most pyrrhic of victories.

The only ones who won here were the corporations. By ducking their share of the burden they in fact burdened other Christians with it, other pro-life people who aren’t Christians are equally burdened.

Of course the income tax system has several hiccups like this. My pacifist friends have long paid taxes that buy bombs. My atheist friends often shoulder a larger tax burden because churches are tax-exempt. When it comes to the cost of living in America everyone gives a little to get a lot. At what point does the giving become too onerus and the receiving become to minimal to countenance objectionable taxation? I don’t know. Those are longer conversations. Conversations we need to have.

But before we have them I’d like us all to be honest and to face what goes on with our eyes open. Hobby Lobby sold its case to the very Christians that it has now burdened as being a win for them when it was in fact a very large loss for everyone but Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and any future corporations who get to pass off their fiscal obligation to the taxpayers.

[1] They do buy wholesale product from manufacturers whose employees work on Sunday.

[2] Burwell V. Hobby Lobby, p41, paragraph 1

The Players

Hachette Publishing

Hachette Publishing


Amazon

Amazon


The Buying Public

The Buying Public

The Plot

There is an old business that has existed for many decades and has ruled the town. They are the ones who make the product and if you want the product you get what they say you get. They’re in this to make money and they enjoy their seat at the head of the table.

Along comes another fellow who wants to make money, yes, but also wants to find a way to get people what they want at a good price. He puts together a scheme where the customers decide what to pay, where the people can invest their own work and earn a profit from shared production and cooperative exposure.

—-

A lot of words have been written about Hachette Vs. Amazon in the last couple of weeks. Hachette has been brilliant about the spin they’ve put on it. Just like Mr. Potter the Legacy Publishers have sat back and bemoaned the discontented, lazy rabble even as they put out an increasingly substandard, overpriced product. In their well-authored spin they’ve created a story whereby they are a crusader for the little guy (all us poor authors and our royalties! All those poor independent booksellers teetering on the brink of extinction!) and Amazon is the villain threatening to ruin the world with their blasted low prices and vast selection.

It’s a good story. Shame it is about as true as Mr. Potter’s love for the people of Bedford Falls.

So how exactly is Amazon the George Bailey of the story? Well, they aren’t exactly. Amazon is the Bailey Building and Loan. Amazon is the company that realised that authors needed a place to publish their works if only so they didn’t have to go crawling to Potter-er-Legacy Publishers like Hachette. Amazon provided another place for authors to get published. It provided a place where customers could find books they actually wanted instead of getting stuck with the few books the Publishing Conglomerate told them they could read.

And now that they’re finding their way of life in danger the publishers have decided to make George Bailey look like a thief and an embezzler.

Really, the parallels between the two stories are eerie. The Publisher War IS _It’s A Wonderful Life_. Think of all the independent authors–the Mr. Martinis if you will–who have a home for their work thanks to Amazon. Who got a better deal than the falling down “houses” (poor contracts) provided by Mr. Potter.

Who am I? I’m Violet Sharpe. I’m the whore for books. I’m the bad girl. The outsider. I love George Bailey and he helps me when I need a fix. Yes, I admit it. I’m on Amazon’s side in this. Hard not to be when you think about how Mr. Potter has ruined this town.

I love bees.  I don’t love them as much as spiders (bees don’t do thread art) but I do love them.   Let’s flash back to the summer of 2000 for a moment.

In September of 1999 we moved into our house.  In January of 2000 my husband’s company–a tech startup–hit the skids.   We were hanging on by our teeth.   I went out and got a job and began learning a lot of lessons about how it’s not always getting what you want but keeping what you’ve gotten that drives a person.  The job in a bank was not a good one physically or emotionally and I did what I’ve always done when life’s tempestuous sea is battering against the gunwhale.  I read books.    The first book was The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King.   The idea of Sherlock Holmes keeping bees was a sort of super heaven for me and I sat on the front porch in the spring warmth and disappeared into that world.   When I finished all of King’s series I wanted something else to read.   There was a battered copy of a book in Tim’s home office that was given to us by a friend at the company.   I had at first told Tim I didn’t want it in the house but since the book was someone else’s property I didn’t think I should throw it away.   But it was evil and I didn’t want it around.   I told him to take it back to Steven but Steven was sailing in some flotilla down to Bermuda and the book stayed in its desultory place.  Finally my 30 year old self said “you have enough discernment.  You read it for yourself and see for yourself.  Then you can at least talk about it intelligently.”

That’s how I picked up Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone in the Summer of 2000.   Anyone who knows me knows what happened next, knows how the books became so close to my heart and how in their pages I found not a lurking Satan but a loving Christ.

It wasn’t until many years later that I made the connection and saw that God’s hand is so much in everything that even as it directs events it leaves poetry in the margins.

A main character in the Harry Potter series is Dumbledore.

Dumbledore is an old word for what is now more commonly called ‘bumblebee’

Deborah (my hebrew name and almost my given English name) comes from the same word root as ‘dumbledore’ (dbr) and that root means Word

In John 1 we see that  Jesus is the Living Word.

In the Middle Ages the Bee was used as a symbol of Christ himself.

It all weaves together in the prettiest of tapestries, in God signing “I Am” in the corner of the painting that is my life.

I love bees. And now bees are dying. There are several arguments as to exactly why. The cause is not yet known for certain. But it’s happening and it’s a major concern.

I know it’s trendy to keep chickens, and I can’t fault people for wanting fresh eggs, although I find chickens disgusting. Ideally more folks will start home beekeeping as well. Bees save the planet…kind of like Christ.

I just logged into GoodReads to mark that I’d started reading Mildred Pierce by James N. Cain.   I’d long ago seen the movie version starring Joan Crawford and didn’t care for the people involved.  It never occurred to me that the film may be based on a novel or that the novel may be very good in spite of the essentially grim characters who people it.    But when Laura Lippmann mentioned offhandedly that the book was “quotidian” I downloaded that sucker from the library.    I adore quotidian stories, because I love the stories of everyday people having every day lives and making it through their everyday battles.   I love Maeve Binchy’s stories where the issue is “how do we earn enough for jam for tea?” and “how shall we brighten this dreary shed in the garden?”    Those are the kinds of stories that hide in the skin of all of us and those conflicts are oddly satisfying to see resolved.    Add to that usual fascination with the beauty of the ordinary the fact that lately I’ve tired of the endless parades of stories about What The King Is Doing Tonight.   All of the top books–and even some of my favourites–are about bloodshed and kingships.  All the conflict is intense and bloody and world-changing.   I was in the mood for some “let’s see how a normal person pays her mortgage”.   And so…quotidian book, here I come.

I’m about 40% of the way through the story now, and just thought to log it in GoodReads before I forgot altogether.   When I got there I saw that a GR Friend from a Christian Reading Group had given the book two stars.   No explanation was appended; the two stars were all the friend was going to say.  After three years of seeing this person remark upon books, though, I had a fairly good idea what the issue was.   And while this person didn’t address it directly others did.   They didn’t like the book because the characters drink.  The characters get divorced.   The characters have sex outside of marriage.

IS THE BOOK GOOD?  IS THE STORY WELL-WRITTEN? ARE THE CHARACTERS REALISTIC?  

Those are reasons to dislike a book.  Yes, I have my prejudices.  I know that I  personally have trouble with a book when an animal is in jeopardy.  I can’t get into a book if none of the characters are at all likable.    Those may not be fair prejudices but I own them and I admit them when they affect a review.

I’ve read countless reviews from other Christians where well-written, masterful works of fiction are given a poor grade because the occasional “foul language” shows up or the characters do something that Good People Don’t Do.   I used to just chalk it up to the cost of doing business in a vacuum but now I think I’m truly over it.

I’m over people who can’t appreciate the beauty of a thing, the essential good in the thing simply  because the thing isn’t perfect.  There’s that old saying about perfect being the enemy of the good and it’s never more true than when some Christians evaluate stories.      These folks think that standing ground and frowning upon humans acting human in story is what God would want from them.   The same God who loves them in spite of their flaws…

This book is well-written.  I know it is because I don’t think the characters are especially likable but the story has exacted such a pull upon me that I can’t put it down in spite of the characters’ basic baseness.   This is not a two-star book, quality-wise.   It’s a story of how flawed humans get through life.   It’s the story God has read billions of times since our creation.   Rating books is not an exercise in censorship.

I know a lot of writers and entertainers make use of the thing where they get a google alert every time their name gets mentioned somewhere online.   I’m pretty sure the talked-about-incessently people like Miley Cyrus don’t use them but I’ve gotten enough blog comments and emails from various authors when I’ve talked about there work here to know that it’s common enough.

So I’m resorting to this cheap, underhanded, probably useless trick.   I’ve tried everything else.  I started simple, hitting minor notification buttons on other websites.   Then I started emailing.

Now I’m using my blog to openly plead.

Marge Piercy, I’m begging you.  I’m pleading with you.  I don’t know what pull you have–if any–with your publisher.   I know they’ve converted many of your wonderful books to e-book already.

But back in the 80s you wrote what may be one of the top three novels about World War II, and is definitely the absolute hands-down best book about how the war was lived by women.   Yes, Marge Piercy, I have read Gone To Soldiers at least a dozen times since I first read it in 1986 or 1987 as a teenager recovering from surgery.    There is a well-worn paperback copy in the shelf next to my bed where I keep the books that mean the most to me.   (Yes, you’re right next to the Bible, funnily enough.)

The problem is that now I’m disabled by RA and can’t hold the giant book anymore.   I have a Kindle because it’s the assistive device that allows me to continue reading wonderful things.   Once a week–every monday–I check Amazon to see if Gone To Soldiers has been added to the Kindle format.   It never is.   Marge Piercy, I have been doing this FOR FOUR YEARS NOW.    Please, Marge Piercy, you’re one of my favourite authors.   You wrote one of my favourite books.   Please put it on ebook so that I can read it again and so that I can brag to people about how this is one of the books they HAVE to read so go buy it right now.

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