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Going Green by Christina McMullen – available at Amazon

Over the past year, I’ve accumulated a host of books on my Kindle that I’ve simply not gotten around to reading. I’ve had this one since back in the spring and I’m kicking myself for taking so long to get to it – but glad that I finally did.

I’ve read a few zombie apocalypse stories and I have to say that this one is not what I expected – and that’s a good thing as I like stories that take an old theme and turn it into something new and fresh.

It’s kind of a case of “the road to Hell being paved with good intentions” or maybe “missing Heaven and hitting Hell” would be another way of describing it. It’s the end of the world (as we know it) written in a series of interconnected stories that describe the catastrophic outcome of a wrong-way government official having released a toxic agent onto the world that causes nearly everyone to become a shambling, grunting, flesh-eating zombie. While the book is short, the story is complete and definitely won’t leave you hanging. I don’t want to say a lot because I’m afraid of introducing a spoiler but I certainly liked the twist at the end and felt it was the perfect ending.

I loved the writing style, the satire, and the humor, and I certainly will be reading more of Christina McMullen’s work. (While perusing my Kindle I was happy to discover that I already have a couple other of her books and I’ve already bought her newest one.)

If you like sci-fi and zombie stories (and even if you don’t!) you will love this one!  A solid five stars.

Brooklyn: Remembering the old ‘Hood

In my city – Charlotte, North Carolina – they’re finally moving towards redeveloping the neighborhood in which I grew up. Back in late spring or early summer, the city accepted a bid from a contractor, and I just saw someone on the news talking about the plans and how to best honor the place.

They’re calling it “Brooklyn Village” but when I lived there it was simply “Brooklyn”. It was part of the redevelopment program in the nineteen-sixties and until now, though there have been various and sundry proposals made over the years, it was never actually redeveloped unless you count that portion of the freeway that cuts through parts of it, and little pieces of it pinched off for something else – which included a section from the end of Brooklyn where I lived.

Let me tell you about the slice of Brooklyn which was home to me.

The vast majority of the houses were rentals, and by the time I was born in the late forties, the whole area was, in fact, considered to be a slum. Most of the houses were what were called shotgun shacks because they had only three rooms in a straight line, and you could fire a shotgun at the front door and it would go clean through the house and out the back door without hitting the walls (I have no idea who first came up with that description because in all the years I lived there I never actually witnessed anybody firing a shotgun through one of the houses in that fashion).

I lived on Watt Street in one of the poorest section of the neighborhood, and the street had never been paved. It was, instead, covered in gravel rather than the usual tar, and the city sent a truck every year in late spring or early summer to renew the gravel (I hated that gravel because in the summer, we went barefoot and have you ever tried walking without shoes on newly laid-down sharp rocks? Sucks).

When you turned onto our street from Brown Street – which was paved – you could see all the way down to where the street was broken by a creek. I think it was a tributary of Sugar Creek but don’t quote me on that. We just called it “the creek”.

Anyway, there was no bridge across the creek though I think that, once upon a time, there had been one but by the time I came along it was gone, so the only way to get across to the other end of the street – which went up a really steep hill – was to walk across the sewer pipes that came out from under the street and continued in the open across to the other side,  or you could use the large, flat rocks in the creek or wade through the water. Since the pipes stayed slick from the creek spray, I think most folks used the rocks. Or, you could “skin” across the pipes – a method of straddling them and scooting across on your butt.

We, as kids, had a lot of fun “skinning” the pipes across to the other side – when we didn’t try to walk across them without slipping off and onto the rocks below, or into the water.

I vaguely recall seeing fish in that creek when I was very small but by the time I was around four or five years old, the fish were gone and the only things in the creek were broken bottles and other trash, accompanied by an oily sheen that left a greasy residue in the water.

Our parents were always on us to stay out of the creek. Not only were there all those broken bottles plus rocks and other things to cut our feet on, not to mention the germs, the usually shallow creek would rise after a rain and become more than deep enough in which to drown (of course, being kids we sneaked into it anyway. Hey, high water was the best time for skinning the pipes!). High water after a rain was the reason why the houses near the creek were built on stilts or pilings since if the rain was big enough, the creek would overflow its banks.

Closer to the business district of the neighborhood and therefore closer to the uptown of the city, there was an elementary and a junior/senior high school – Myers Street and Second Ward schools, respectively – that served the blacks (or “coloreds” as we were called in those days) in the community, both of which were several blocks from my street and to which we walked – rain, shine, sleet, or snow.

There was a neighborhood playground on the street that ran parallel to the street I lived on,  a block behind the house I lived in ( which, by the way, was one of the two or three houses on my street that were not shotgun shacks because it had four rooms, though it was unpainted and had a tin roof that leaked, and up until I was around five or six years old, the only water to the house was a facet out on the back porch).

We enjoyed that playground immensely, especially during the summer when we’d go “swimming” in the wading pool. In the winter, we’d go washing-machine-lid or cardboard-box sledding down the steep hills of the playground when there was snow (sometimes we’d go “sledding” on the slick grass when there wasn’t any snow – or we’d just roll down the hills). It had a cement skating rink where everybody eventually got scraped up from falls on our adjustable skates that sometimes loosened up on us.

There were businesses that served the neighborhood: beauty and barber shops, little grocery stores, a drug store, clubs, a couple of movie houses, and various other shops (we won’t get into the illegal liquor houses but they were there, too, though mostly down side streets or back alleys. Hey, there was one on my street. A very nice lady ran it). There was even a library for us, up on Second Street next door to the Savoy theater. I hung out at the library a lot but along with all the other kids, I also frequented the “movie house”. This was because when school let out for the summer, we were all given “show badges” that allowed us to get in and see a movie for a nickel instead of the usual ten cents.

So, we’d go to the library first (you also got gold stars for the books you read over the summer) then we’d hook next door to see the double feature and the cartoon that was always shown in between. The movies were changed twice a week, so we’d hustle up five more cents and go back for the new films. I read a whole lot of books and saw plenty of movies (my favorite books were fairy tales, and once I discovered them, science fiction and fantasy, and my favorite movies were science fiction, horror, and monsters. I probably saw every one ever made).

I reckon it wasn’t what could be called the finest of neighborhoods, but I suppose with it being segregated the way such neighborhoods were back then, that it was a little town – or a village – within the city. I imagine that’s why they’re calling it Brooklyn Village, now – except that one hopes the new place won’t be so segregated.

When urban renewal came rolling through, the people were moved out, and a lot of them went to live in the newly built public housing of Earl Village. My family opted not to move into those – my mother said she didn’t want to live in an apartment because there wasn’t enough yard, and she did love her flower and vegetable gardens – so we moved from our street into a house that was still in the general vicinity but nearer the high school which was a later part of the redevelopment program.

So, there the area has sat for all these years, not really being developed or used for much of anything.

There have been a lot of proposals made for what to do with the place since then but nothing really happened. Now, at last, they’re revving up for renewal, and I truly hope it comes about, this time. I just saw on the news where the developer wants to honor the old neighborhood, and I suppose that’s good. However, will there be room for folk who used to live there? I saw where they’ll be putting in retail, hotels, and residential housing, and even keeping a portion of a park (Marshall Park) that was built much later in what I would call the actual uptown, plus, I think I’ve heard someone say the old Second Ward High School gym – which is still there though the school is long gone – will be retained (nice touch!) but I wonder – what of the people who used to live there? Will anyone (still alive) who used to live there be able to afford to move back? I hope so but I would say that for the most part: probably not.

This is not the entirety of my experience of having lived in Brooklyn as I could probably fill a book if I were to write it all but as unsavory as it may seem to some now, it was home and I loved it.

It’ll be interesting to see what they’re planning to do to “honor” the old neighborhood. Since the work isn’t scheduled to begin anytime soon – in five years for the first stage, I think – and I’m sixty-nine years old, I just hope I’m around long enough to at least see it get a good start.

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Three stories in one…

 

Trilogy of Quiet SW

A Short Trilogy of Quiet – contains the three stories of the Cady and Sam series – Only 2.19! Or buy them separately (see below)

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Excerpt from chapter 2 of  “Interruptions” (FREE as a single at Smashwords, no coupon needed. Also free at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBooks)

 

“I recognize that car, Cadence.  It was parked beside mine at the Harris-Teeter,” she whispered in that breathless voice.  She had her cell ‘phone out and was turning it around trying to detect a signal.

I looked at the car, and could see why it would be recognizable.  Damned thing was a real rust bucket with flaking green paint, and the grill looked as if it had tangled with a pole or a tree at some point and then pulled back out into some half-assed semblance of straight.  Eloise had probably been relieved that whoever owned it hadn’t slammed the door into her Mercedes.

The door opened, and a big, burly guy stepped out.  “You ladies need some help?” he asked, languidly.  I could see two other heads in the car and the door opened out on the other side.

Uh-oh.  I smelled them and knew.  In my mind I said: Sam, we got a problem.

How many?  he asked the same way.  He knew I wouldn’t call him without a good reason.  I could handle three regular human guys.  These guys were not human.  I surreptitiously sniffed again, to be sure of exactly what they were.  Ghouls.  I wondered, absently, why the hell they were bothering Eloise.

Three big ghouls, SamGet here fast.  “Eloise,” I said quietly, “Get behind me.  Don’t say anything.  Let me do the talking.  I don’t think they’re here to help.”  They were probably the ones who’d put the antifreeze in her tank.

Taking Annamae next door, Babes, then I’m on my way.  Hang tough, he said.  Good daddy.  He wasn’t about to leave our kid in the house alone even though it would delay him a few minutes.

The big guy walked over to us swaggering a little.  I could see the two others coming around the car to start across the road.  They were nearly as big as the first one.  They were confident they had this.  Ghouls can’t smell worth a crap so no way they knew what I was.  Some paras  can tell even if they can’t smell, but ghouls can’t.

I’m small as a human, though even then I’m stronger than I look.  When I’m outside my neighborhood, I often pretend to struggle with heavy objects, just so I don’t get strange looks.  I’m a not-so-small wolf, and even stronger then.  I could probably take on three little ones though it wouldn’t be easy, but three big ghouls was a whole different bucket of bolts.  I could have taken one of them, maybe even two, but three this size especially with Eloise to look out for – not so much.  And I knew I’d have to change.  I hoped it wouldn’t scare the bejeezus out of Eloise.  Maybe she’d just faint and roll under the car or something.  Still, I wasn’t changing until I had to.  Even though it’s fast, it hurts like a sonofabitch.

“We’re fine, sir,” I said as if I didn’t know what he was.  “My husband is on his way.”

They looked at each other and grinned – horribly.  Behind me, I heard Eloise gasp.  Yeah, razor sharp teeth.  She hadn’t seen yet, that they also had very long claws.

“Oh, we’ll just wait right here with you, then,” he drawled, “just to make sure you’re…safe.”  The other two snickered.  I could see their pointed teeth gleaming in the faint light from the far off street lamp.

They were trying to get us rattled to heighten our fear.  They got off on it.  I backed into Eloise as they came closer, and I could feel her shaking.  I could smell her fear, too.  Damn.  That was just going to excite them even more.  “If you don’t mind, sir, please stop right there,” I requested politely.

I’m on my way, dear, keep ‘em talking if you can, sent Sam.

Trying, but I think they’re about to attack, I sent back just as the big one abruptly moved fast, coming at me like a suddenly unleashed pit-bull, claws extended.

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Excerpt from chapter 3 of  “Living in the Moment” (.99 at Smashwords as a single)

 

I bounded forward and went through the broken door after the ghoul.  Very faintly, I could hear Eloise screaming.  She was in a safe room.  Too bad she didn’t have sense enough to be quiet so that the ghoul would have to hunt for her instead of just going up and starting to rip at the wall.

I started for him, but suddenly smelled one of the vampires.  I needed to take it out first.  I hoped the ghoul wouldn’t get into Eloise’s safe room, and turned to find the vampire.

I couldn’t see it, well, actually it was a “her”, but I knew where she was, and jumped at what appeared to be thin air, hitting Miss Fang and knocking her against the wall, which jarred her back to visibility.

She screeched and grabbed me around the neck, trying to pull my head off.  I did my twist and slipped out of her grip, and bit her right leg off.  I felt something rush past me as the vampire jumped up balancing on her remaining leg.  Boy was she pissed.  Those take a while to grow back.

She changed into that huge bat-thingy with three-inch fangs they can become, and came at me.  That was a bad move on her part.  Not enough room to stretch those wings out.  She must have been relatively young or she wouldn’t have tried something like that in an enclosed area, anyway.  It was the last change she ever made.

She fell forward, and we went tumbling through the living room, she trying to sink her fangs into me as we rolled, me trying to avoid that and get mine into her.  We bumped and crashed into just about everything in that poor room, each trying to get the upper hand.  Eloise’s stuff was taking an awful beating.

We separated, and she immediately hopped at me on her one leg, missed, and skidded into the crushed coffee table.  I jumped on her back, grabbing the back of her neck in my fangs, and bit her head off.  I batted the head farther into the living room and plunged my claws into her chest.  Taking her head off would kill her, but I wanted to be sure.  She started crumbling into a pile of dust.  Okay, beg pardon.  That was the last change she ever made.

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Excerpt from chapter 2 of  “A Blankie for Baby” (1.99 at Smashwords as a single)

 

“Fight’s in the woods to the left!” I yelled, turning and running the few feet to the tree line.

As soon as we passed the first trees, I shucked my clothes and changed on the run, and from the grunts I heard, so did the other three.  The transformation is always instantaneous and painful.  You get used to it after a while but it can still wring a groan or two from you sometimes.

As a wolf, I was just as large as the male and a lot bigger than the females.  I could tell they were surprised but we all kept running toward the sound of the fighting.

We burst through the trees and into a clearing to see three werewolves surrounded by a slew of ghouls and several…things.  From the shriveled remains on the ground in various places, there had been more ghouls, and from the ugly sulfurous smell lingering in the air, the things were demons.

I jumped on the back of a big bruiser of a ghoul, extended my claws and ripped his back open.  My claws shredded his heart, and I quickly flipped the remains away and whipped around to find myself facing one of the demon thingies.  Shit. Shit. Shit.  I abhorred demons.

My face and head had been ripped open by a demon during that battle over eleven years ago, and my scar was now throbbing as if in memory of it.  We circled, each looking for an opening, some kind of weakness.

Cady, they’re minor demonsI dispatched one by hamstringing it.  Go for its legs!  Sam sent urgently.

Trying, I sent.

I darted in snapping at its ankles and dodged away just as it grew rapier sharp blades from its fingers and swiped at me.  Yikes.  Shades of Wolverine!  Fucking copy-cat!  I rushed back in between its legs and it stumbled.  Yes!  I twisted around and grabbed its scabrous looking calf in my jaws and bit down – yuck it tasted awful – it screeched out in a high pitched whistle and brought those blades down again but I was already moving and it only managed to clip some of the fur on the left side of my head.  Damn.

If I survived this, I was going to have to even up my hair on the other side.  Good thing I wore it short.

I saw the smoky fumes coming from the holes I’d put in its calf and I did a roll and wriggle and grabbed the other leg and bit through its ankle.  Its foot came off amid more reeking fumes and the demon vanished, dispatched back to Hell.  Whew.

Something smacked me in the top of the head and though I was seeing stars, I pushed off and twisted around to see a ghoul drawing back his ham fist to have another try at busting my head open.  He must not have been too experienced at this.  Everybody knew you couldn’t bash a werewolf’s head open that way.  Skull’s too hard.

I whipped around and extended my claws and the ghoul looked at me in shock.  That claw-extension thing of mine takes ‘em by surprise, sometimes.

The dumb-shit goon yelled, with indignation: “You ain’t no damned cat! How th’ hell…!” He didn’t get any further with that thought as my not-supposed-to-be-able-to-be-extended claws took his head off just then, as I leaped high and swiped hard.  Then I opened his chest up and pulled his heart out and tossed it into the trees.  The ghoul immediately began that shriveling thing they do when killed.

Stupid-ass.  Who the hell stops to get outraged during a fight to the death?

 

 

Need a fun book for Summer reading?  Try this one!

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First – A novel

 

The teenage years can be stressful.  It is a time of a lot of “firsts”: first crush; first date; first kiss, even a first heartbreak.

For sixteen-year-old Lyssa Brunner, life is pretty smooth.  Predictable, ordinary, safe.

Until one day it isn’t.

Until she discovers something about her family that’s been withheld from her “for her own good”.

Until she learns she’s not who she thought she was and is hit with some “firsts” she would never have imagined, and her life takes a decided turn for the weird.

Follow her as she struggles to come to terms with an existence that has changed from normal to, irrevocably, “other”.

Click to buy @ Amazon – available in ebook and paperback

 

In some respects, this book kind of reminds me of Herman Hesse’s “Siddartha” in that the protagonist is on a path to self-discovery. It is a book that is an experience. It has time-traveling, religion, and science, with a good dollop of mysticism.
From the moment the protagonist awakens to find a mysterious being in his room, you’re off to other dimensions and other worlds as he is taken on a mission that twists through different times and places. He is brought up against a powerful antagonist and placed in circumstances that would blow anyone’s mind yet he somehow manages to maintain his sanity in his attempts to rise to the challenges.
I must admit that I found it somewhat hard to understand in places, and felt there were a few things that could’ve been made clearer. However, I still found it to be quite an intriguing read and I believe it to be a great book for anyone who loves enigmatic plot twists.

4/5 stars

Why I Hated School

During my seventh grade year, I began hating school.  Before then, I still pretty much enjoyed going, though some of my original eagerness had cooled off in the fourth grade in the wake of an incident that I’ve previously blogged about (see Why I Don’t Like Math).

Here’s what happened to snuff my desire to get up every morning and look forward to spending most of the day enclosed in a brick building learning one subject or another.

I was eleven years old at the beginning of my seventh-grade year, and excited about going to junior high school (it wasn’t called “middle” school back in the fifties; we had three divisions of school: elementary was grades one to six; junior high was grade seven to nine, and of course, there was high school which was from grade  ten to twelve).  I was looking forward to learning to go to different classrooms for each subject (wasn’t any of that in elementary school) even though on the first day of school I wasn’t feeling well.

On the second day of school, I, unfortunately, learned why I hadn’t been feeling well: my appendix ruptured.  I was in the hospital for two weeks and was put on bed rest for four weeks after that.  I should’ve been able to get back in school before Halloween of that year, however, I didn’t get back until after Christmas because that was the year the city buses went on strike.

Such a strike nowadays wouldn’t affect getting to school because kids now ride big yellow school buses, but at that time, short of walking or unless you had a car, the city bus was the only way to get from my house to my assigned school which was clean across town from where I lived.  We didn’t have a car, and my mom wouldn’t allow me to walk so I was stuck at home until the strike was over.

Now you may think that being unable to get there was the reason why my enthusiasm for going to school waned.  After all, while I was out ill, I wasn’t sent a tutor (I wasn’t aware until years later that one should’ve been sent), and even if I’d had one, the tutor wouldn’t have remained while I was out due to the strike, so I would’ve been lagging far behind after being out for half the school year.  You’d be wrong.  My mom was my tutor for that period of time, so I was up to date on the school-work.

Bear with me, I’m getting to the cause of my disaffection with school.

I showed up on the first day after the New Year, relieved to be back.  I was all brushed and polished and ready to go, my mom had even allowed me to put on a smattering of lipstick.  My homeroom teacher (who shall remain nameless), a man whom I’d only met briefly at the beginning of the school year, welcomed me back.  I noticed he kept glancing at me, but I thought nothing of it.

He asked me to remain when the bell rang for my first class and I thought it was to go over my schedule with me.  However, instead, to my consternation, he began to lecture me because I was wearing that barely discernable amount of lipstick.  Turned out seventh-graders weren’t allowed to wear it, a fact I hadn’t known because I was out sick.  He told me that the punishment for breaking this rule was paddling (corporal punishment in schools was still very much in effect in nineteen fifty-eight).

Because I’d been unaware of this rule, I thought I was simply being warned not to do it again.  I explained that since I now knew, I’d be sure and not wear lipstick to school again.  Wrong.  The bastard pulled out a paddle and bent me over a desk and proceeded to give me five whacks across my behind which were apparently how many you got for wearing lipstick to school.

I was stunned.  I was also embarrassed because there were two other students – boys – watching, and waiting to get their whacks for whatever school rule they’d fractured.

I was not a violent kid, but at that moment, I wished with all my might that his head would explode.  Needless to say, I did not have a good rest of the year at that school.  I was humiliated because all the kids knew I’d been paddled, and some of them teased me which didn’t help anything.  I became quiet and stand-offish.  I didn’t tell my mom because I was too ashamed to do so, and there was no message sent home (no auto-calls then, and even had there been, we were too poor to have telephone service at that time), so I suspect she never knew.

Years later, looking back, I knew I should’ve told her but at the time, I was afraid she’d give me grief for having gotten paddled.   Yeah.  Stupid, I know, but those were different times.

Now, as I said in my post about hating math, I respect teachers and recognize that they have a hard job (my sister is a retired teacher) but, some people are not suited to be teachers.  My seventh grade homeroom teacher certainly wasn’t, and I lost all respect for him.

What this incident had the effect of doing was to make me wary of all teachers, and to absolutely ruin school for me.  After that, I hated going, and though I had to go to homeroom, I refused to have anything to do with that teacher, even refusing to answer roll call, which of course, caused even more trouble for me.  Eventually, I began skipping school and did not finish the seventh grade.  I got into a heap of trouble that year.

It’s a long story that I won’t go into right now, but after I repeated seventh at a different school, I  tested out of eighth grade and was, instead, placed in ninth.  I suppose I should’ve been happy, but I wasn’t.

I’d gotten over the physical pain of being unfairly beaten – and in front of other students at that – but I’d not gotten over the psychological damage.  In high school, I dropped out in tenth grade.  I went back the next year and even made good grades when I felt like it, but I dropped out altogether in twelfth.  It was a long time before I finally understood exactly why I didn’t like school, and by then it was much too late though I later got my GED, and even some college (after I was an adult, and married with children).

I’m a great-grandmother now, and have long since gotten over it, but I sometimes wonder how my life might’ve been different if I’d had a seventh-grade teacher worthy of the title.

 

 

Book 3 of Spaceships and Magic is out now and available at:

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Synopsis:

Juri Turner, the human-born dragon, has ensured that Mur, the magical world next door to Earth, will never again be endangered by its unstable core.

She has also managed to avoid an unwanted marriage to an utter creep of a dragon, but then, she finds herself in a battle, alongside her dragon guardian, Prince Tetharia, and his sister, Princess Terinia, against a powerful demon who threatens not only the dragon kingdom of Tausarae but also the entire world of Mur.

Meanwhile, two large spaceships of the aliens who invaded Earth over two decades ago, are en route to that planet, chasing runaway human slaves from Alpha Centauri, and behind them are even more of the big ugly creatures called scorbs, with an even larger fleet that if not stopped will scour the planet clean of every human.

Duty-bound, Juri will have to help vanquish the demon and save Mur from falling under its rule, and she is, once again, obligated to help defeat the alien invaders who are hell-bent on destroying the humans of Earth.

Again, the fate of two worlds rests on the small, golden shoulders of one young dragon who never asked for anything more than to be left alone to live out her less than fortunate life in peace.

She will do her best to stand up to all the difficulties involved in performing her duty, but will she be able to handle the unexpected changes these events bring about?

 

Every writer has a debut book, right?  You’re supposed to get a blog, go on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc, and do a press release and some serious promoting leading up to your publish date so folk will hear about your brand new baby way in advance.

*SIGH* Well, I did none of that.  As far as I know, nobody knows, even now, that my debut novel was Boucher’s World: Emergent, a science fiction novel set on a world circling the star, Epsilon Eridani.

My reason for doing none of that?  Simple: I didn’t have a clue.  I didn’t know I was supposed to do all that.  I just wanted to get my book published before I died.

I’m an independent writer, one who never tried traditional publishing.  I checked into it but determined that if I went that route, since I was sixty-five years old at the time, by the time I got a book published, I’d be at least in my seventies – assuming I ever got one published.

So I checked on publishing a book on my own and discovered there were several ways of going about it.  I decided it was best to steer clear of vanity publishers – mainly because I was broke and they all wanted a bunch of bucks – and went with doing it as an ebook at Smashwords which was FREE.

I liked free.  I had my book ready to go, so I read the free guide on how to format an ebook and get it distributed to the major ebook sites (the Smashwords Style Guide), uploaded the thing, and off she went.

I have to admit that it’s a good guide, especially for a rank beginner – as I was – and after going through it and following the instructions, I had no problems getting my book through what Smashwords calls their “meat-grinder”.

What I didn’t do, though, was read the other free Smashwords guides:  the Smashwords Book Publishing Guide, and Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  Something I should’ve done before publishing, I suppose, but, who knew?  Had I read those first, I probably wouldn’t have published when I did.  I think I would at least have signed up for Twitter, first.  Heck, I didn’t do that ‘til months later, after I’d already e-published several other books.  Too late, I believed, to holler about my debut novel.

So, I didn’t.  I just kept writing and publishing, mainly because I realized early on that I got a large amount of pleasure out of just writing the stories.  I wish I was good at promoting, though, because I also get a kick out somebody, somewhere, reading one of my books, too.  Not good at that, so I just keep writing.

Anyway, what I’m trying to do (in a round-about way) is holler about my debut book.  I know, I know, it’s a bit past time for that, and at this late date it’s probably useless to even bring it up, but I spent a good deal of enjoyable time writing that book, and I feel it deserves to be acknowledged as the very first book I ever published.

The first in what eventually became a trilogy in a series of nine (so far), that I call the Boucher’s World series, this  book is free on all ebook sites, the others can be had for a negligible sum.

So, here’s an introduction to my debut novel, Boucher’s World: Emergent

Synopsis:

The people of Boucher’s World have been trapped inside a Dome that has covered nearly their entire continent since shortly after the Earthlings arrived on the world a little over two millennia ago.  For ages, they’ve sought a way out.
One day, a Human predult, a young woman named Jade, and her Cat partner, Tally, make a remarkable discovery: a door to the outside.

This book chronicles what happens when the people – which includes sentient cats and dogs, and an alien race called the Elvwists – finally emerge from what has been a cage for them for so long.  Will they be able to contact their home worlds? And what happens to Jade when she’s kidnapped by a man who “collects” young women?  Will she be rescued in time?

 

Find a couple of reviews, here, and here.

Why I Don’t Like Math

I don’t like math.  Yeah, I know.  A lot of people don’t like math.  I don’t know why other people don’t like it, but I know why I don’t.

It’s not because it’s hard, or confusing – though it certainly can be – but I lay the blame at the feet of my fourth-grade teacher.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I have nothing but respect for teachers.  They have a hard job to do and I don’t want to take away from that.  Heck, my sister, who’s retired now, was a teacher.  She was, in fact, a math teacher, and a very good one, not to mention that some of my classmates from high school became teachers.  Those brave souls all get a bow of veneration from me.

But sometimes, I think there are folk who aren’t as cut out for it as others, and the following is why I blame my fourth-grade teacher for my dislike of math.

I don’t know the order in which kids are taught things in elementary school now, but when I was there (back in the ancient days, as my daughter would say, just after they invented water) long division was learned in the fourth grade.

Now, up until the fourth grade, I pretty much liked math, or rather arithmetic, as that’s what it is at that stage.  There was no public kindergarten in our school system at that time, and my family was much too poor to pay for a private one, so my mother, along with teaching me my ABC’s and to read, long before I ever started first grade, also taught me to count to a hundred and how to write my numbers, and to do simple additions and subtractions, so I had no problems with arithmetic.  Until fourth grade.  And I didn’t really have a problem with it then, however, apparently my fourth-grade teacher thought I did, which subsequently made me think I did.

She went over the long division method, showed the class how to work such problems, and gave us a sheet with four problems to take home, to be turned in the next day.  I remember being excited about learning something new, and that night, I eagerly worked my problems the way I’d been taught in class.  I showed my work to my mother, and she went over it and gave me a big hug for having all four problems correct.  I was happy.

The next day, we turned in our homework, and the teacher said she would go over our papers and give them back to us after lunch.  I looked forward to that big “A” I knew was going to be on my paper.

I got an “F”.

I saw some of the other kids’ papers, and nobody had an “A” but I was the only one with an “F”.

Well.  It was all I could do to keep from crying, and I was ashamed to take it home to my mother because what that “F” meant to me was, not only did I not understand how to work long division, neither did my mother, and that was something I just couldn’t fathom because I’d thought my mother was the smartest person in the world.  How could she have been so wrong?  Getting an “F” in something that she’d declared to be correct skewed my view of her intellect, and I never again showed her any of my homework.

When my mother asked about it, I lied and told her I got an “A”.  She, of course wanted to see it, so I told another lie and said I dropped the paper and it went down a sewer opening (see – I was already on my way to being a fiction writer!  I actually tore the paper to shreds and tossed it into a trashcan).  Bless her heart, she believed me.  Sigh.

It never occurred to me to ask the teacher why she’d given me the bad grade because back then (it was the nineteen-fifties – right after dirt came into being) you didn’t question your teacher when she gave you an “F”.  Normally, the teacher would tell you why, but for whatever reason, in this case, she never did (and I was so hurt that I never mentioned to to anybody.  Hey, I was eight years old – it just never occurred to me that I should).  By the time I figured it out, it was much too late – by then, I didn’t like arithmetic.  Which, in later years, had segued into disliking math.

In fact, I never got a decent grade in arithmetic the whole fourth grade year because there was always at least one long division problem included in any classroom work or homework, and I refused to work any of those, not even in class.  My reasoning was that since I’d gotten all those wrong at the beginning, and the teacher kept showing us how to do them the same way, then I must not be very smart in arithmetic.

The only reason I passed fourth grade was because I did well in everything else.  Fourth grade was also when we began doing simple fractions, and oddly enough, I didn’t have a problem with those, and the teacher, for some reason, never questioned why I could do those but not long division problems.

By the next year, I finally began to work the long division problems but by then I didn’t like arithmetic, and always rushed through any of it as fast as I could.  I never regained the confidence I’d had in myself for being able to do arithmetic prior to being introduced to long division, so I never knew if what I was doing was correct, and I never had the courage to ask.  My arithmetic grades ranged from so-so to pretty good, depending on how much time I took to work the problems.  I had a preference for reading and writing and I did very well in Language Arts – I could diagram the mess out of a sentence, and conjugate any verb in existence.  And in later grades I did great in History, Civics, English, Literature, etc.  Math?  Nope.

I have to admit: getting all those long division problems wrong really bugged me, and I never forgot the incident.  But it was a long time before I finally figured out why my teacher gave me an “F” on that first homework paper.  It was simple: I was the only one who’d gotten every problem correct, so she’d assumed someone had worked them for me and that I’d simply copied them over to my paper (I remember thinking: sorry Mom, you really were smart!)

The only reason I made that leap to understanding was because one day, years later in high school, I was sitting in a geometry class, wishing I was anywhere else, and noticed a classmate was copying off someone’s paper (Heh, no, not mine, somebody a whole better at it than I was), and it was as if a circuit closed in my brain, and I knew what had happened all those years ago.  No, it didn’t make me suddenly fall in love with math, but I knew with certainty why I didn’t like it (and, I still don’t).

Not liking it doesn’t mean I didn’t learn.  What it meant was that I never learned any more of it than what I had to in order to pass a class, and promptly forgot it as soon as I didn’t need it anymore.

And, who knows, if it hadn’t been for my fourth grade teacher, I might’ve been a great mathematician, or scientist, or…nah.  Who am I kidding?…I like to write science fiction and fantasy too much for that.  Besides, after seventh grade, I hated school.

But that’s another story.

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