Saturday, February 22, 2020

this town has a mardi gras, but because we are 9000 feet up, and it's late february, we can't really count on good weather. one year it snowed hard and i skipped the whole thing. but this year i'm on the volunteer fire department, and we were drawn in to it, and my daughter was on the truck throwing candy and beads. so i was in, all in.

the fire department used two tenders (they call them), or firetrucks, and one ambulance. the girls along with both the girls' and boys' basketball teams, were at the top of the firetrucks, on the hoses, throwing candy and beads. i was in the passenger seat of one tender, throwing candy and beads. there were lots of beads, maybe more beads than candy. it was a grim, drizzly day but above freezing. the steeper hills were not covered with ice.

to us, that's good news, that roads are clear and that people can actually stand out there. they looked kind of hard-bitten by the winter - this place is the minnesota of the southwest, and winters are long. there were still piles of plowed snow on the walks and in parking spots. people were bundled up but had their kids out there, chasing after the beads and candy. one of the kids was unusually obnoxious. most of them had piles of beads around their necks.

the two firetrucks and ambulance actually occupied spot #13. there were other volunteer fire departments there, and the whole parade was organized around honoring first responders and firefighters. i felt a little guilty, wearing the vfd hat when i've yet to go out on a call, but i do go to trainings, and i helped wash the firetrucks and do some of the work of setting it up. my daughter was ecstatic. it was a huge deal to be on top, throwing candy and beads, and seeing the town from that perspective. she'd been excited about it for weeks.

there was actually a call just as we were getting into town. we had a caravan, going to the parade, of two firetrucks, one ambulance, me in my truck, another truck or two, when suddenly one of the firetrucks pulled over - somebody came to get the chief, who is the main e m t for the canyon we were in. he was needed for this call. didn't matter, mardi gras or whatever, life went on, and somebody had to respond.

in spite of the grim weather, people liked the parade. for one thing, people at least in our valley contributed lots of candy and spread it all over the place. the beads, i noticed, gave mardi gras a unique character, because they were mardi gras colors: dark purple, bright green, bright yellow. at first, since the town was about nine degrees colder than our canyon, i was saying that if you hold a mardi gras at the end of february, you're better off doing it in a place like new orleans, where you can count on slightly balmier weather. people here said that almost every mardi gras, there was some issue with the weather. it was almost as if part of february is not so much frozen and icy, as just unpredictable and variable.

first they said maybe five inches of snow in the town, while just a slight drizzle out in the canyon; then they changed it to rain; then they said rain but maybe later. in fact it started sprinkling around the time we left, at about three. it was a cold drizzle, landing on the street and on the piles of snow, and i thought maybe it would turn to ice, maybe not. it depended really on how much. a fairly warm dry road can take about an inch of that stuff before it turns to ice, but late in the afternoon, temps go down, and the curved roads become slick and cars go off the edge into the ditches sometimes. there's a steady melting of the snow that's already there, and that stuff goes across the roads and tends to freeze as well.

the cloudy sky, though, put me in a kind of reflective mood. i wouldn't trade this mardi gras for the the big one. ours is a small-town deal, trying to get anyone to come up from the valley to enjoy the last of the snow and cold, and give them something to get drunk over, as if they didn't already have enough. much of the crowd in fact looked like they were either just out of the beer tent, or about to go back into it, or both, and i'm not sure if they really had so much beer or what, or if maybe the tent had cajun food and everyone walked over to the bar after that.

but it was mardi gras, one way or the other, and now it's over.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020

i used to say that my style was bold and simple, like hemingway, and that this was due to my many years in esl. in fact, thirty years of esl taught me to avoid tortured sentences, or complex cultural references, or turns of phrase that many people wouldn't get. so yes, it was pretty accessible.

on this blog, i didn't make demands on myself. i decided i'd write it for me, write it to keep writing, write it to have a real record of my mind's wanderings from day to day. now this blog has survived and even thrived, for many years, but it's mostly because i write so much and so actively that it hits all the google hot-buttons and a lot of people visit just to see what's going on. it's not like that many strangers actually care about my day-to-day ramblings.

but in the process of writing prolifically, i let myself make tortured sentences, sentences with too many commas, for example. like this one i just did. that's making a demand on the reader, and a lot of readers will simply give up rather than tolerate writing that is to rambly or too full of commas.

now when i write books i like to think i'm still in my esl mode. but i've given up esl for a few years now, and it's possible i'm not. if i'm letting myself add a few commas, and clauses, and make rambly sentences, then i've gone over a cliff, so to speak. i need to rein myself in.

my sister read my newest book, puritan leveretts, and said "too many commas!" that's a sign that i've gone over the cliff. it's also a sign that my sister is not afraid to tell the truth, or tell me what she really thinks. my wife is the same way. she'll say, "any time your attention is drawn to the construction of the sentence itself, it's a distraction. and it's a very frustrating distraction." those might not have been her exact words, but it's pretty close.

meanwhile, waiting for kids at the school today, i tried to write down both my marketing projects and my unfinished creative works. in the unfinished creative side, i have eight things unfinished. and this is frustrating, because, since my sister's comment, i've been kind of stuck in the mud. mostly, i'm stuck because i know she's right. i went back to a short story that i wrote, maybe a year and a half ago, and there they were - too many commas. but it's not just the commas. it's the tortured way that the sentence breaks grammar rules in favor of a kind of stream-of-consciousness connecting of rambling phrases. this is not what i intend. i have to do some serious copy editing here.

now here's another thing: i am my own copy editor. i really don't use many other people. my brothers and sisters are all interested in these leverett books, because it's who we are, and they are all as into language as i am, but they know i'm sensitive, and there's only so much they'll say. i really need to submit my writing to a more critical crowd, just so i can get raked before i go off the track so much.

on the marketing side, i put down all the books, kindle and paperback rating, on a single sheet. everything is over a million, which means i can't call myself a "best-selling author." i can't even call myself a "selling author," as sometimes i go days without a sale of any kind. and i've started checking the ratings obsessively, just in case something gets added while i'm writing something like this. check at 7, check at 7 30, guess what, not much change there. but sometimes there is, and then i get incredibly happy. some people are reading my books. by and large i think they find them wanting.

so, it would be better to do a good clean job on my eight projects, and write off whatever faults i have shown in the past, as history. too many commas, yes, i went through a stage of too many commas. but you have to read the stories themselves, and notice their range of topics, and their sublime underlying genius (ho ho ho). what i'm saying is, as my sister says, if i can write straight sentences again, i'll win the nobel prize. no reason i can't. i've just been a little sidelined.

on the marketing side i've taken to publishing pop art. and i'm getting it on several venues, twitter, facebook and instagram for starters. and i'm also trying to get a little tighter with myself, so i publish only originals, especially in the service of promoting. one should not borrow others' work, if one is using it for one's own purposes. i don't think anyone is coming after me for cloud quaker photos, but i'm making those only-original as well. fortunately i don't have to have a great cell phone to pull this off. they are, after all, all pop. and i'll share quite a few of them here - why not? they are wild. nobody else does stuff like this. i'm having fun. if i have fun, maybe people will see that, and assume that my stories have fun too. i'm not sure they all have fun. but good pop art will make you think. enjoy!

Monday, February 10, 2020

big storm coming in; supposedly two inches tonight, about eight tomorrow, and two more tomorrow night. ten to twelve, the weather says, but we have our doubts. one point is that it seems to be snowing more than they predict, so two inches turns into six to eight; another trend, though, is that it's getting warmer faster, so more of it may be rain, and it may be gone faster.

i hope it's gone faster, or gone altogether, because i'm the driver, and taking four kids to school in the morning, over the rugged james ridge which is about 8700 feet, steep and icy, and a bit colder than everywhere else around. the problem will not be in the morning, when two inches hasn't really had a chance to stick or cause trouble, but more if they have school, and they stay in school until 3 40, and the snow has fallen five or six more, and the plows don't get up on the ridge in time. by that time, the tracks of the trucks will have pushed the snow into ice on the ridge, and i'll be having a hard time both going up and down. i will have groceries, though, and that i suppose will be a relief.

as it is we are getting low, but considering anyway, just staying home from school. actually kind of hoping the school sees trouble, texts us early in the morning, and calls it off. we are running out of milk, but we have dog food and cat food, so we should be able to hole up for an extra day on what we have sitting around. i kind of like this option, but hope i have the school's permission, since it's no fun sitting around when you know you are really supposed to be somewhere.

as of now, 8 30 monday night, the sky is clear and there are stars. we can virtually see the storm coming in from the west, and we know it's going to get colder, and there has been plenty of warning, but i still didn't go out and get milk, or anything else, as i'm kind of traumatized by all the driving, and just wanted to stay and work on the quilt.

the quilt, by the way, is finished. in the sense that of its 224 triangles, i've sewed 223 onto it, and am halfway done with the last one. then i have to put the 56 squares together, sewing them all into one big top. that i figure might take anywhere from a week to a month, unless i get sidetracked. but the last step is getting the batting, and the backing, and the edges, and putting them all together. that also can take anywhere from two weeks to a month. so i could be in for as much as a month or two more, and that's only if i don't get sidetracked; i often do in this stage. it's hard and it takes a lot of space to spread it out and deal with it as a big wide quilt.

it was while making this quilt that i found out that the leverett women were responsible for the first quilt in the colonies. i kid you not. these are not my ancestors, but relatives, as sarah sedgwick, the grand old lady of puritan massachusetts, was considered the originator of this one quilt, along with one of her daughters. now i'm not sure if this is actually possible, for several reasons. one, she died in like 1711, but some people feel that some of the fabrics in it couldn't have come until later. but what happened is this: one of her daughters married a denison, and from there a daughter married a saltonstall, and those saltonstalls were wealthy enough to hang onto stuff and pack it away, so that it would reappear in a museum in a few generations. and that's what happened. today, that quilt, if it truly dates back to beyond 1711, is the oldest surviving quilt from the colonial era.

it's got the same bowtie patterns that mine does, but it has some other things too. in fact it's a little mysterious, in the sense that it's hard to figure out all the particulars of what went into it. as time goes on, i become a little more fascinated with it.

but as for mine, mine is mostly just old jeans and old flannel shirts, with a pure bowtie pattern. it will be the first of three illini shalom quilts, illini in the sense that it will have deep navy blue backing, and orangish ties on the front, and those are illini colors. shalom will be because this one will have a huge, but hard to see, hebrew s in it, like a hebrew peace sign, and it will be obvious to people who know what that is and who look at the quilt from a certain direction. and all three will be like that (as there are three granddaughter recipients, all in illinois), although the shalom may be the whole word in teh second one, sh, l, and m, or whatever. my next job is to look into hebrew, for the second quilt.

the storm brews. i'm getting my oldest son to be cheap on the milk tonight, because a half gallon may have to last a day and a half. as i said, i'm hoping to stay put tomorrow. it could be a very nice storm.





Thursday, February 06, 2020

in retirement, i'm totally free to get obsessed with whatever i want. i actually work two jobs, but they're both part time, and i mean very part time. i work on my writing, and yes, sometimes i get obsessed, sometimes i even get obsessed with the marketing, which seems like a whole lot of fuss for almost no result.

but lately, i've become obsessed with the ice on the roads. there are about eighteen miles between here and the kids' school, and it snows regularly. the snow melts and becomes ice, and because these are steep roads, there are two problems, going up and going down. there is generally a cliff on at least one side of the road. if you fail to keep momentum going up, and you stop, you slide back down and this could mean going over a cliff. now trees would probably catch you, before you went too far, but nonetheless that's an image that sticks in my mind at night.

so we had a huge snowstorm the other night, though it probably wasn't huge on the grand scale, or over many years, as the oldtimers have seen all kinds of things. by huge i mean eight inches in town, about six out here, and plows and trucks making enough paths in the snow to turn the whole road into ice pretty quickly. now there are two fortunate things about new mexico: one is that it actually got above thirty-two in the day, and some of it melted. but the other thing is the sun: virtually anything that gets in the intense sun has the chance to melt, whether it gets above freezing or not.

this left a patchwork on our road, most of which is paved. altogether i'd say that about fifteen miles of it is paved, with only three-and-a-half gravel. and, though some of it is steep, some of it is really not, and winds around down along a canyon where, if you go off the road, you just go into a field, or maybe up against a hillside.

and as this snow melted, pretty soon there was more and more pavement. pavement is good because, when you use your brakes, you stop. or, if you're going up, and you step on the gas, your tires get traction, and you go forward, which is what you want. in general i'm finding that keeping the right speed, and the capability of moving over when other cars come, is really good.

took the kids to school in a blinding blizzard and, up in the village, there was a cloud hanging all over the mountain. on my way back, i saw the emergency vehicles. some guy had turned up his car, on its side, and we could see the underside of this vehicle. a little boy was running around; he was maybe three. the school kids apparently got a ride separately.

he had simply gone off on the ice, i figure. easy enough to do. some days, it's 95% ice, both the steep hills and mild ones. in this case, he was on the highway, but it was still relatively steep, and he had to go fast to keep driving on snow that was turning to ice and becoming very slick. i had been on that same road minutes before. i looked at him, and his kids, and said to myself, there but for the grace of god go i.

i come home and, slightly traumatized, i sit in my chair. life is short. i finish my quilt. i work on my writing, if i have any. i work on my marketing; i'm becoming a pop marketer of my stories. but i'm traumatized. i'm obsessed by the ice out on those roads, and the slope, the dropoffs, the trees, the turns, the angles. i have kids with me about half the time. winter is about half over. basketball season, fortunately, is completely over. the iciest parts of it may be over. but i sit here, still obsessing.

today i took two trips to town. after a snow day, where they'd called off school, i had no idea what condition the roads would be in. they were pretty bad. whole stretches of level straightaway were solid ice; much of the hill was solid ice, going both up and down. much to my surprise there were some clear spots, which i used to my full advantage. my kids know not to make me go faster; that's how things happen like what i saw. you go too fast, you can't stop, you go where your momentum takes you. so i crawl, and i made it to school, both times.

first time, the engine light came on. it was a new car, so i took it straight down the hill. they told me it was a cadillac converter. well, that's actually catalytic converter, but sounds like cadillac converter, they even said it that way. i almost said, hey, if you can convert this into a cadillac, i'll just get me a new life. but i don't want that life. hank williams died in the back of a cadillac; his life was no better than mine, in the end. so, anyway, they'll fix this catalytic converter. and i got groceries and supplies, and headed home.

altogether about a hundred and twenty miles, one trip to town and back (18 + 18), one trip to town and then to alamo and back (18 + 18, 18 + 18), lots of driving on steep roads. but i made it. i saw lots of tow trucks out there. people were getting plenty of business, grabbing these decapacitated cars, and dragging them one place or another. winter will do that, i guess.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

the snow has continued here all day, in spite of reports that said there would be two, one ending early and the other starting tonight. it's already tonight, and the snow never stopped. they canceled school tomorrow, which made me very happy, because i'm already tired of the driving. the conditions are wretched; it's dangerous; and half the time i have kids and feel totally pressured.

i took them to school this morning, and the snow was falling steadily. it was snowing hard. the roads weren't totally icy; in fact, they were dry before the snow and the snow hadn't quite turned to ice yet except in a few spots. but going toward cloudcroft itself, which is another 1600 feet up, it got icy again as it's never really been above freezing up there. and the cloud had settled over the village; you couldn't see a thing. blinding snow, totally white roads, and thick fog. i turned around and came home.

but then around nine in the morning we got an offer from one of the teachers: if you want to get your kids, feel free. we have three in the elementary/middle school, and one in the high school. the one in high school said two thirds of kids didn't show up probably due to weather conditions. we looked at the steadily falling snow, decided it wasn't going to get better, and i went and got them, all four.

that trip was in some ways worse, if only because it had snowed more by then. snow packed to become ice, and never stopped falling, though plows were out there in both directions and on the mountain we cross to get to the highway. it was treacherous and i drove carefully. back at home after the second trip, i settled in for a couple of cups of coffee and to read about the iowa caucuses which stirred me up a little (see below).

and it snowed, and snowed, and snowed. the general pattern is that if they say it'll be two to four inches, it's more likely to be eight. it's just snowing more and heavier than they think, every time, and it's making for a rough winter in that it's always twice as dangerous as they thought too. in our present situation, we have power, we have internet, we have food, so we're going to make it. back when the power was out for a couple of days, i wasn't sure, but now, wind doesn't seem to be a factor anymore. so i'm feeling like kicking back, writing on the blog, enjoying the snow. the sun just set, and it kept snowing: we're at about five inches now, and it's supposed to continue until morning.

where is this enormous storm coming from? well it's worse in colorado, and wyoming, of course, and it comes from the west, like they all do, and it sucks up the moisture from the pacific, and especially the ocean near mexico, where there is way too much water in general anyway, and things are just going to get wetter, most likely. this could mean that our mountain pass will become more impassable, or, miami will go under water, or, some places will experience floods. that's my take on it. but what do i know? i'm glad there's no school tomorrow.

kids had mixed feelings about that. they are so social, they'll actually miss their friends. they'll also have to make it up when the weather gets better. but, they're home. they're safe. they've got electricity, and internet. life is good.
a few hours earlier (see below) i wrote the post about jimmy carter stealing the iowa caucuses. it now appears to me that i have conflated two separate memories, which, to me, have become one, in my mind.

jerry brown ran in both the 1976 and the 1980 caucuses, and i am certain that I was his lone supporter (in my caucus) in one of them. i am also certain that i cast the deciding vote for fred harris in my caucus, and that carter won anyway, or was reported to have won. i believe this would be 1976 now, because carter was virtually unknown in 1976, and hamilton jordan, who was to become famous later, and wrapped up in a cocaine scandal, was still unknown in 1976 as well. we knew who he was, because he was operating the carter campaign behind the scenes. 1976, the bicentennial year, was the year this happened, because carter was virtually unknown at that time, and was one of many candidates, but the lucky one, who happened to pull off a caucus victory that vaulted him to the presidency.

the problem is, i lived on the north side of iowa city at that time, and i don't even remember where my caucus was. it could have been at the elks club building, which was on the near north side somewhere. i just don't remember clearly.

when i lived on the south side, out by the armory, it was 1980. at that caucus, carter was already president; hamilton jordan was now well known. his main opponent was kennedy, who at one point, i heard. i remember the armory well. i remember that now, there was more focus on the caucuses; the world was watching.
all this hoo-hah about the iowa caucuses reminds me of the year jimmy carter stole the iowa caucuses, but i'll tell that story in a minute. first i want to say, it was snowing cats and dogs here out in the southern rockies, and the school told us we could come get our kids if we wanted, since it wasn't likely to get any better, so we did, and came home, and now we're sitting here in what's left of a snowstorm wondering if they will clear the roads. the kids are all out on their own devices.

1980, i believe, i lived in an old shack down on the near-south side of iowa city, near the armory and the old a & p, just on the other side of the tracks. it was a neighborhood that was somewhat hollowed out by urban renewal and is almost totally gone, i.e. not houses, these days, because the town has grown. really the near south side was the post office, the catholic school, and the courthouse, but this was on the other side of the tracks - near, yet maybe three quarter mile from downtown.

in terms of people it was entirely mixed. i was for jerry brown, who was kind of a hippie governor of california, but i was the only one, and it seemed obvious that the others would need me to bolster their case. the others were, basically, fred harris and jimmy carter. jimmy carter had this guy hamilton jordan who was working for him; jordan was a hustler, a mover & shaker, someone who got things done. jimmy did nothing to control him and probably did not even know what was going on.

the iowa caucuses were not big in 1980. in fact it was jordan's idea, or someone in the carter organization, to use them to distinguish him from a number of other candidates who were all much like those we have today. but the idea that it was the first stop of a long campaign - nobody had even thought of it back then. new hampshire was still considered first. caucusing as a way of choosing delegates was also unknown on the national stage. it was almost like what we did was a secret to everyone except us.

jordan, i think, looked around the state and said, some of these counties are going to be very predictable. the farm country, say, goes for harris (i'm not sure that was true), or, the cities, they'll all go for someone else. for some reason this one little precinct of iowa city was very important to him, because it didn't really fit into the stereotypes of the other precincts. it was just kind of unlabeled.

i'm not sure why i would have preferred harris over carter; i'm not even sure why i liked brown. brown, i think, was the only one clearly not in favor of some war. but i hadn't really thought about which way i'd go if brown wasn't viable. obviously, if i was the only brown supporter, he wasn't viable. i had to choose someone, and i chose harris.

at that time harris and carter were tied, so my choice effectively meant that harris won our precinct. however, carter won. my impression of this was that there was behind-closed-doors negotiating, and somehow, when it was over, jordan was able to claim our precinct as his. now it could be that i simply wasn't aware of some other candidate's supporters throwing the whole thing out of balance. but from my point of view, i cast the deciding vote against carter, and he won anyway.

jordan made sure that the whole political world knew that carter had won iowa and in particular the precincts that were wide-open. from that moment on, the iowa caucuses were a thing and played a major role in every election from then on. i was a little angry and never voted for carter, not in 80, not in 84, ever. even today i consider him a fine role model, a christian, a nice guy, but he was someone who couldn't control his workers, or pass along his sense of morality to them, such that they wouldn't throw an election. this also showed when his cia overthrew the government of nicaragua (i believe), or maybe el salvador, while he was talking about human rights. he was big on human rights. but some of his workers were more like, i'll get this done, that's what i do for a living, and i'll cheat if i have to.

the caucuses are supposed to ensure that the people of the democratic party, who take the time to go to the neighborhood meetings, decide who the delegates are and the proportion of delegates represents roughly the proportion of their support among the people. really iowa would do better to hold them later, when they could have the same effect numerically, but skip all the fanfare from the national press, and people like hamilton jordan, who was probably never very comfortable in a farm kitchen. jordan, i think, got caught up in some cocaine scandal, but if i remember correctly, he wasn't the only one; he had a kind of sidekick. i'm not sure if i ever met these guys either. while i was in iowa i got in the habit of going and meeting them if i could, so i saw harris, but actually met john glenn and a few others. i heard edward kennedy speak one time. you could just meet these people if you wanted to. but why would i want to? they were there because the feeling of power had moved their bones. carter was not different from them in that respect. you can be a good and religious man, and still have power move your bones.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

i've noticed a new trend, and it makes me sick. i'm not usually political on this blog, but i am today, because political results can be very personal. we democrats are going into a new season, starting with the iowa caucuses, and going on until we pick a nominee to run against trump. but the problem is, the other side has amassed millions, if not billions, and is willing to use it to manipulate the outcome. the chances are very slim that we, the poor, can get what we want in spite of what billions worth of television ads want.

it's not really trump alone. trump gave trillions in tax cuts to the rich, which is what they wanted, and they can now pay him back, and ensure that that money keeps rolling in. the system is much larger than trump, but trump chose who to sell out to, and chose who he was going to help out, and chose who was to give him kickbacks, and who in return he'd help with his power. and one problem is, the rich have become much richer. there is a lot of money around for those who sell out.

now i suspect that they've thrown their weight behind bernie, much in the same way they supported stein and nader. with stein and nader, they figured, if they could get a couple of million people to not vote democrat, that was as good as, and easier than, getting a couple million to vote for trump. same with this situation. if they can get bernie elected, he'll be easier to beat, because he's divisive, the dem organization doesn't like him, and they can appeal to anti-socialism as well as anti-semitism. and anti-semitism is an incredibly powerful force. dislike of the jews goes way back and is firmly embedded everywhere from the south to the rustbelt.

to bernie's credit, he doesn't take money from people such as koch. their support does nothing to change his firm belief that he's the right guy and he will be good for the country. it doesn't change him much, if they manipulate the system to make sure he wins. but remember, they have fox news, and they have a powerful machine to bring things to the attention of people at just the right time. if they want bernie to win, there's a lot they can do.

the reason i say they are supporting bernie now is that i've noticed a subtle shift in the focus of fox news, and the nature of the headlines. they are generally anti-dem, anti-impeachment, anti all of them. anti-warren, anti-a-o-c, anti-any real change. my support has always been for buttigieg, who could be vague enough to get the nomination, and yet fend off a billion-dollar disinformation campaign against him. in other words, i see it the same way koch does - it's all in the anti campaign that puts billions against whatever democrat. that's what it comes down to. who can fend that off? to me buttigieg is the only one with a chance.

in the past, they were finding things to knock bernie down. it was any little thing, from the way he talked when he spoke about warren, or whatever. now it's all about bernie's surge. they think he's the man. he's the man trump can beat, anyway. and that makes me sick.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Saturday, January 25, 2020

temporarily, i have a little dilemma. the sun comes up in the morning, and my chair is directly in it, to the point that, on a brilliantly clear day, as most of them are, i can't do my work in the morning without shutting the blinds. but that kind of disrupts other people who would simply like to live in the living room...generally i can work while they live, but in the mornings i can't work without shutting them in my cave. one solution is to simply go work outside in the mornings. but in the winter the outside is cold in the morning, and doesn't warm up until the sun has been out for a while warming it up. it's life in new mexico.

a careful study of my selling statistics shows that an old book of mine, actually the first collection of my stories, is selling better than the others. one reason could be because it has "esl" in the title. my name has always been associated with esl so old students who liked my writing could be finding me through this book. or it could be that esl is simply selling well these days, in kindle and in paperback. i'm not sure, and it's tending to make me go in a direction of one of my original plans, which was to make esl books. i even started one, but got it out last night to find that it only had three stories in it, and needed some work. at that point, i got tired and went to bed.

at the moment i'm fighting the sun; it's coming up quickly in the southeast, and dooming any work i might be able to do at this chair. we live in a tiny house and it's unlikely that, in the winter, i could simply do my work in the bed, or in my son's room, or some other place. there just isn't the space. and, i'm in the habit of waiting until night, when my wife is in bed, to get going and do what i want to do, but night, as you can see from the anecdote above, has its own problems. i work around the house; i improve on the landscaping around here (it's a gorgeous pine-forest / sleepygrass kind of place), and i do some of the upkeep, shopping, laundry, etc. required to get the last four teenagers off to school in the mornings. that would be my time, when they are at school. that's the time i often find myself unable to work.

another example is today, saturday. the fourteen-year-olds are still asleep, it being only nine. the eleven-year-old and the eighteen-year-old have already eaten but don't cause me much trouble. but the sun is coming into its own, and, boom, might as well be doing anything else. move the chair? it's possible, but, at the same time, not possible. that may be the angle i work on next.

in a little bit my wife will take the girls horseback riding. this is a good development, basically, because they don't generally leave until about eleven, and by that time the sun has risen out of where it blasts me. i often find that being alone is the best way to really get started. i feel like i haven't quite been able to put my whole self into this writing business yet - i'm sixty five, time is running out, and, though i've written quite a bit, my insistence on doing my own marketing, and not spending money, has meant that whole piles of books are sitting on my "bookshelf" (an amazon word for the books you have made) not selling, slipping in ratings by a few thousand a day, eight thousand a day to be exact.

most of my haiku books are in the eleven million range, fifteen million, eighteen million, etc. story books more or less the same. at eight thousand a day, it doesn't take long, and it isn't like people are snatching them or ordering printing runs on them. i'm talking paperback rating here, which is different from kindle rating; the kindle rating includes everything from how much people actually read without buying, to the paperback sales too. in kindle rating my story books are in the two-million, three-million range, and their ratings, too, are losing out on a couple thousand a day. in other words, i have to keep people interested, in order to keep them from slipping down into the ten million.

and i don't even know if people care about this stuff. i know i myself didn't care for months on end, then i looked all this stuff up all of a sudden and whoa. i found i didn't even have a kindle version of some things. i had some books that were totally unrated - i guess if they don't have a sale, there's not much of a way for them to quantify what they've got. and i hadn't cared, hadn't done a thing about it. i get author's copies, which don't count in the ratings, and i give a few away, here, there, what have you, but i find that even giving them away, to friends, to neighbors, to relatives, doesn't count for much. you hope they'll read it, like it, pass it along, cause some other residual sales, but, i think it ends up on their shelf, looking good (to me), but not counting for much. could be that i'm not really that great of a writer. if so, i'm ok with that.

i was a good teacher, i know that. i don't really need to rely on the image of "writer" when i have the image of "father of ten." i'm not even sure why i get all into their science, what happens, how to influence things, what to do about it. it has occupied a couple of days. i went outside to work on cleaning up the property, moving a gazebo, moving a fire pit, walking around in the cold winter sun, and basically, i became eager to come in, and work on the writing. everyone goes out on the horses, i work on the writing. make a big fat cup of coffee, sit down with the puppy on the lap, and check out the ratings. then write.