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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
Northrop Frye
Progress: 43/200 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

Of Libraries and Clutter

Moonlight Madness's post popped up in my BookLikes feed just as I was finishing another of today's many de-cluttering projects.  It brought a chuckle and a sage nod.


The summer before we moved from Indiana to Arizona, I worked at our local Carnegie Public Library.  Like Moonlight's, it had been built in the early 1900s and remained almost unchanged.  The beautiful oak woodwork was typical of the Craftsman style popular at that time.  It was built to last.


A few years later, the library went on a building spree.  Just like Moonlight's, the building was expanded and systems were upgraded.  I visited once when we returned for a visit in 1992 and it was like walking into a whole new world!  When I worked there in 1985, we still had the mechanical date stamper that cut notches out of the cards, and hand written check-out records; the head librarian didn't even like electric typewriters very much, so computers were out of the question.  The remodeling and expansion brought the library up to snuff, and I see by their website (!) that they've come fully into the digital age.


I've always been lucky to have reasonably decent libraries close at hand, so even when I couldn't afford to own many books, I've at least had access to them.  Though the city I live in now is fairly small, our library is great and has all kinds of digital benefits.


But I've also acquired more than my share of owned books.  And it has to stop.


Today I've been cleaning, organizing, sorting, decluttering, and yes even pitching.  Though I don't have any coherent plans for downsizing or moving, I'm not ruling it out either.  I like my property, with its separate workshop and studio facilities, and moving would require packing up all this STUFF.  Some people might classify me as a borderline hoarder, and it's true that I do sometimes have difficulty getting rid of STUFF.


I began with one stack of books mixed with a bunch of loose paper.  It's been cluttering a small table in my bedroom for . . . months.  Most of the books are now put away, meaning they've been put where they should have been all this time.  Half the loose paper has been disposed of in the recycle box.  I'm working on the other half.


I also resurrected my old decluttering technique -- Every day throw five away.


When I call myself a borderline hoarder it's because I do keep a lot of STUFF other people might throw away, but I don't have any problem throwing away genuine trash.  Well, okay, sometimes I do have a slight problem, but most of the time I do overcome it.


Therefore, throwing away actual ordinary trash doesn't count, like empty cereal boxes or broken dishes.  The rule is that I have to dispose of FIVE ITEMS that I might otherwise have kept or have indeed been keeping for no sensible reason.


So far today I've only pitched three things but I made up for that by tossing not only the loose paper from the bedroom table but also a whole fat file from the big filing cabinet.  Tomorrow I think some clothes are going to get the boot, and maybe some shoes, too.  Pun intended, of course.


The real hoarding chaos is in the studio, but it's still much too hot to work out there very long.  But summer is finally winding down -- it was only 103 here this afternoon -- so before too long I'll have plenty of time to work on the catastrophe of STUFF in the studio.


Today was just a start.




Halloweeen Bingo 2018 - Diverse Voices - House of the Spirits.

The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende

Life is turning chaotic again and I may not have much time for reading.  This may end up being the only book I finish for Bingo!


But I've wanted to read it for a very long time, so I'm dredging up whatever bits of determination I can find.

AAAAAAAAnd, the toilet valve is replaced

The water supply line is iffy and the shut-off valve on it is even more iffy, so I just shut off the main supply for the house.


The actual WC is a very small space -- it may originally have been a shower stall separate from the tub -- which means there's not a lot of room to work in.  BF would have bitched 'til the cows come home, so I did it myself while he was still out socializing with all his little . . . . . . . . . . friends.


His contribution was turning the main valve back on, because he said "It's very sensitive."


Oh, spare me!

Update on the power pole -- yes, I'm screaming

Further update at the end of this, so you don't have to wade through the comments.



The new power pole was installed two weeks ago.  On the Thursday after the installation, I went to the cable company office and explained to them that they needed to move their lines from the old pole to the new one.  I explained that I would not be home on Friday, but I would be here all day Monday, all day Tuesday.  They entered all of this information into the computer and said they would call before confirming the appointment.


They had all of my account information because I was in the office to pay the bill.  They had the bill.  I gave them my address again.  I gave them my phone number again.  Before I had left the office, I received the automated text message that my payment had been applied.


The following week, I waited until Wednesday because had received no call from them on either Monday or Tuesday.  So I called again.  I explained everything again and was told they would call to schedule.  I still received no call.  That was last week.  So this past Monday, I called again.  This time I was angry.  I did not use any bad language, but I was not nice.  The best I could get from them was that they would have someone here on Wednesday, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.


I reiterated - as I have every single time - that because I have dogs and a locked gate, it is absolutely imperative that they give me a minimum of 30 minutes advance notice of their arrival.  I need that time to sequester the dogs, unlock the gate, or whatever.  I do not sit here excitedly anticipating their arrival.  Sometimes I might have to go to the bathroom or something.


I warned them repeatedly, do not show up in the driveway and THEN call me.  If the dogs are out, it will be that much more difficult to corral them.  I need 30 minutes advance warning.  Period.


So here it is Wednesday.  I overslept, but I had the phone in bed with me, so if they had called it would have wakened me.  I was up by 8:40 anyway.  I had things to do that I put off - like changing the toilet valve - so that I could pay attention to the phone for their call.


I had also given them explicit instructions to leave a message if I didn't answer.  They utilize contractors for a lot of this work, and they have their own phones. I don't answer calls from unidentified numbers, so I did my best to impress on the customer service people that they have to leave a message.


Today I got exactly one phone call.  It was a spam call.  They did not leave a message.


At 3:00, BF decided he wanted to go out to eat.  We would leave the house around 5:00 and be back around 6:30.  We would never be more than 15 minutes from the house, so if/when the cable people called, there would be ample time to get home.


They didn't call.


We didn't leave until 5:20.  We finished eating and headed home about 6:30.  There had been no call from the cable company.  BUT THEIR TRUCK WAS SITTING IN THE DRIVEWAY.


We pulled in and I jumped out of the car to open the gate so the technician could drive in.  Instead, he drove away!  I pulled out my phone to see if somehow I had missed the call, but there had been no call.  While I was looking at the phone, it rang; the caller ID said it was coming from New York.  I am in Arizona.  I almost didn't answer it, but on the chance it was the cable company, I did.


It was them.  I told them I had been no more than five minutes away at any time (a slight lie) but that it didn't matter because they had never called!  And by then their technician had already left!


Well, she called him back and he came in and it was almost dark and he was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt and didn't look like much of a technician. 


Originally, there were three different service lines on the pole: electricity, phone, and tv/internet cable.  SRP, the power company, moved their lines when they installed the new pole.  I had to contact the cable company, since that's my service.  And because my neighbor is elderly and doesn't deal with this stuff very well, I took it upon myself to take responsibility for the phone lines even though I don't have a landline any more.  The pole is on my side of the fence anyway.


The guy from the cable company didn't seem to know exactly what he was supposed to do.  He thought he had to drop a whole new line from the pole on the street, and he was going to need another person and another truck to do that.  I explained -- and he observed -- that all that needed to be done was move the existing line from the old pole to the new one.  He said he could do that himself.


Twenty or so minutes later, he had unhooked the cable lines from the old pole and moved them over to the new pole.  It looked like he was actually moving the phone lines instead, but when he had finished I confirmed with him that he had indeed only moved the cable ones.  He said that there was actually a cable to the neighbor's house, even though apparently she doesn't have cable tv.  (She's had satellite service ever since I've been here, though she may have had cable tv before.)


He said he didn't touch the phone lines.


Okay, fine.


By this time it was almost full dark.  The dogs hadn't been out yet, and there was still the worry about snakes, so we wanted to get them outside to potty before it got completely dark.  BF came out and took a quick look at the poles, and both of us immediately realized the job wasn't done.



This is the old pole, before the new pole was installed.  The orange wire visible at the bottom is the tv/internet cable.  It is attached all the way up the pole to the top, where along with the electric and phone service it comes in from the pole at the street, as you can kind of see here below.



The neighbor's lines all go from the top of the pole directly to her house.  All of the lines to my house come down the pole and are buried underground the rest of the way to the house.


He didn't move the cable off the old pole except at the top.  It's still attached all the way down the pole.


I have to call them tomorrow and go through it all over again.


Thursday update:


They hung up on me twice.


I had to go through the whole recitation of everything that happened THREE TIMES.  Their "technician" had filed a false report about what happened last night; he claimed he called and no one responded to open the gate, but he in fact did not call nor did he leave a message.  When the cable company DID call, I was already home.


The first person who hung up on me insisted that the technician had done what he was supposed to do:  transfer the line.  When I tried to explain that there was still wire attached to the old pole, the customer service person had no clue what I was talking about.  I demanded to talk to a supervisor.  Instead of connecting me as promised, she disconnected me.


The second person who hung up on me told me it wasn't the cable company's responsibility to change the wires; it was the power company's.  I told her no no no no no no and asked to speak to a supervisor.  The supervisor told me she was checking to see if/when a technician would be available.  She put me on hold and I never heard another thing.


I called the power company to verify that it was indeed my responsibility to contact the other service providers.  She said she'd call me back.  I haven't heard from them yet.


While I was on the phone with the power company, I got a text message but I couldn't get to it.


The third time I called at the cable company I got an automated message that I was scheduled for a maintenance call this afternoon.  Never mind that no one had confirmed that schedule with me.  When I finally got hold of an actual person, she reiterated that the technician who was out last night had completed the job and there was nothing else they could do.  I demanded again to speak to a supervisor, since one person was saying there was nothing they could do but SOMEONE had scheduled me for a maintenance call!


The supervisor had no clue what was going on.  I had already gone through this three times.  I was on the edge of serious tears.  Another call came in and I was pretty sure it was someone from either the cable company or the power company.


This time it was another technician and he was on his way.  He got here 10 minutes later.  I had to explain everything all over again while he looked at it and told me the lines had been moved and he didn't know what else was supposed to be done.


"Hello?" I said.  "This line that's coming up from under the ground and is still connected to the old pole is supposed to be connected to the new pole.  Is this so difficult to understand?"


The old pole is getting more and more fragile, by the way.  I took more pictures this morning and it's leaning pretty bad.


Well, he finally figured out what had to be done, and about 45 minutes later the line was moved.  I still have to deal with the phone company, and I'm not even a customer any more so that ought to be fun and a half.


Now I have to pick up some groceries, then replace the toilet valve.  It's gonna be a fun day.

Real horror

BF just announced that he disposed of two young rattlesnakes just now.  One was in the yard.   The other was at the bottom of the back door steps.


We moved here in spring of 2006.  One snake the following October, one more a few years after that that bit one of the dogs.  Both of those were . . . dispatched.  A third bit Moby, but we never saw that one, and that was probably in 2011 or '12.  None since.  Now two in one evening.


I do not do snakes at all, and dangerous ones even less.


I am not a happy camper right now.

Halloween Bingo 2018 - headstart selection - CREEPY CARNIVALS

Carousel - Barbara Baldwin

This is one of those Kindle freebies I've had sitting in my files since forever.  It has been republished as Spinning through Time.  (Current cover below.)  How much textual difference there is between the edition I have and the current one, I don't know.  The formatting has been improved - mine has block paragraphs with no extra space between them; the revision has indented paragraphs.


I may check my Amazon account to see if there was a notice that the revised/retitled edition was available to purchasers.


I'm only a few pages in, and while it's mildly entertaining, I'm already finding some details that pull me out of the story.  I'll save those for a formal status report.





Would I do it again? Absolutely, even knowing the price. (very long rant)

The Hepburn - Jan Westcott

If you've been following the current brouhaha on Twitter regarding alleged plagiarism and dishonesty of promoting one's own books and what is or isn't ethical, you'll maybe recognize the source for this. 


One of the tweets this morning was about a perceived culture in which Romancelandia tends to overtly deplore dishonorable actions but maintains a telling silence when certain dishonorable actions are committed by certain untouchable writers.  If the accusation is made by a lesser light (or an Unknown!) of a Big Name Author, the accuser is automatically dismissed.  If the BNA is big in Romance Writers of America, the sweeping under the rug can be painfully obvious.


There is also a tendency for those who are the dismissed accusers to believe that they are alone, that no one ever comes to their defense. It's a horrible feeling, and I know because I've been there.  More than once.


The big example, the one I point to frequently, pertains to the linked novel, The Hepburn, written by Jan Westcott.  I happen to have two copies.  I read it for the first time in the mid-1960s, not long after I read Leslie Turner White's Lord Johnnie


The main character of The Hepburn is not Patrick Hepburn; it's Jane Gordon, who is given in marriage against her will to the eponymous hero.  Jane is "fiesty," and independent and not afraid to speak her mind or even physically confront this man she sees as her mortal enemy.  In a lot of ways, she's not much different from Leanna Somerset, the heroine of Lord Johnnie, or any of the other strong female characters in the historical romances written by men in the 1930s through 1960s.  But Jane is the main character.  Did Westcott's publisher require the book be titled after the male lead because of market expectations?  I don't know.  I just know that Jane is the main character; this is her story, not Patrick's.


This sidebar on The Hepburn is by way of explaining why it meant so much to me and therefore how I knew, that Sunday afternoon in 1990, something horrible had happened.


I was on my way to the airport after the 1990 RWA national conference in San Francisco.  Sharing the taxi with me were authors Connie Flynn and Pat Potter.  Connie was a friend from my local RWA chapter in Phoenix; I didn't know Pat at all.  But it was Pat who asked if we had heard the rumors going around about a major instance of plagiarism.  We hadn't, so she explained that apparently Zebra superstar author Sylvie Sommerfield had copied parts of some old book called . . . The Hepburn.


"The Hepburn?"  I gasped.  "By Jan Westcott?  That's one of my favorite books of all time!"


I bought a copy of Sommerfield's Fires of Surrender when I landed at the airport in Phoenix.  I recognized familiar passages immediately.  Not just here and there but throughout the book.  And that was before I got home and could compare it to the original.


When I did, I was horrified. 


Samples are here on my external blog; I'll try to get some better scans later and post them here.


There was no question that the Sommerfield book was an infringement.  The following Monday morning, I contacted Romantic Times magazine.  They were skeptical.  I mailed them photocopies of selected pages.


Eventually the stories came out from Sommerfield.  First it was that she had been under extreme deadline pressure and had hired an assistant to help her with research.  The assistant took notes and Sommerfield was so impressed that she incorporated those notes into her manuscript.  Then the story changed to the manuscript was written by a hired ghostwriter, and it was all the ghostwriter's fault.  None of that made any difference of course, because the infringement was just too obvious. 


And Westcott was still alive. 


Eventually a settlement was reached, though the details were never released to my knowledge.  The speculation was that Zebra/Kensington, who had published Fires of Surrender, turned over all the royalties to Westcott. 


Without digging into my personal archives, I'm not sure whether Sommerfield resigned from RWA at that time or not.  RWA did not have any means to expel members who committed plagiarism or infringement, but the Sommerfield event did prompt the organization to write expulsion terms into the RWA by-laws.


That was 1990.  I was a nobody.  I had published one book with Leisure, one with Pageant, and had just sold my first title to Zebra shortly before that 1990 conference.  No one knew who I was.  No one cared.


That was 1990.  I was a nobody.  No one knew who I was.  No one cared.


And pretty much for most of the past 28 years, that's what I believed.  Until this morning.


This morning I remembered another instance when I had called out plagiarism/infringement.  And suddenly, for the first time in decades, some things made a little more sense.


In 1982, before I had ever even heard of RWA, I came across an article in The Writer magazine that really hit home with me.  It became my bible as a writer.  I shared it with my penpals.  When I did join RWA in 1984, I shared it with everyone I encountered.  I never claimed it as my own.  I gave the author full credit.





It's 2018 now.  I still have that February 1982 issue of The Writer.  I scanned these two pages (there are two more as well) this afternoon.


In March 1988, the following article appeared in the official RWA magazine, RWA Report.  Yes, I still have the magazine.  I scanned these two pages this afternoon.





For six years I had been promoting Shelly Lowenkopf's article, giving him 100% full credit for it.  I distilled a dozen points from it, printed them on a card, and pinned that card over my desk, but even that carried the appropriate attribution.


I was stunned by Ginna Gray's article.  Stunned, shocked, appalled.  I ran out of words.


I reported it.


Nothing happened.


I have a fat folder in the top drawer of my big filing cabinet. That folder contains all the documentation of my attempts to get to the bottom of Ginna Gray's copying from Shelly Lowenkopf's excellent article.  That fat folder contains the originals of the two magazines and the correspondence I undertook.  Some of my reporting was done by telephone, and I don't have recordings of those calls.  But I do still have the written correspondence, some of it printed on my first dot matrix printer.






A few days later, I got this reply:




Ms.Cresswell did call me regarding the official response to my communication, but I did not receive any further written notice from her.  She reported in her call that Ms. Gray was shocked and shamed and offered the excuse that she had received the information as a hand-out at another conference and incorporated it into her article.  Essentially, nothing was done.  Nothing.


That was 1988.  I was nobody.


In 1989, I brought the Ginna Gray episode up in a letter to another RWA official as part of longer letter on a variety of issues.  Again, I received a phone call, but nothing was put in writing to me.  According to my notes on this call, everything regarding Ginna Gray was discussed in secret RWA executive board session and special permission had been obtained to even give me what little bit of information I got.  Ultimately, however, the RWA board of directors did nothing.  No vague warnings were published in the RWR about not "borrowing" someone else's writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, without proper attribution.


So then came 1990 and the Sylvie Sommerfield mess, and I was right smack dab in the middle of that, too.  And I felt guilty.  I felt guilty about reporting Ginna Gray and I felt guilty about reporting Sylvie Sommerfield.  But no one else was.


By the summer of 1991, the Sommerfield thing had blown over or been settled, and I assumed the Ginna Gray thing had been dealt with, too.  I made plans to attend the national conference that summer, held in New Orleans.  When I saw that Ginna Gray was scheduled to deliver one of the workshops and that it was titled "Great Beginnings," I had a bad feeling in my gut.  I considered calling the conference chair about it, but I shrugged it off.  I was already in enough trouble with RWA.  So I said nothing.


But I did attend Ginna Gray's workshop.


This was 1991.  I was nobody.


Ginna Gray used even more of Shelly Lowenkopf's article, verbatim, in her 1991 workshop than she had in the 1988 article.  I purchased the official cassette recording of the workshop and transcribed it.  There was no doubt in my mind that she had copied.


Against my better judgment, I reported it again.  I included copies of previous correspondence as well as the transcript I had made of the tape.  Once again, nothing happened, other than I was told to stop harassing everyone.  I was told Ginna Gray had done nothing wrong.  I was told I was the one in trouble.


It didn't take long for me to locate Shelly Lowenkopf.  I took the drastic step of contacting him and giving him the details.  We had a long phone conversation, and then I received the following letter from him.








Nothing happened.  RWA did nothing.  When Janet Dailey infringed on her friend Nora Roberts in 1995 or so, RWA did nothing.  (Dailey was not a current member at the time, so there wasn't much they could do other than decline to continue to grant her "Janet Dailey" award.)


I have other documents in my fat file folder that take the issue into the late 1990s and my departure from RWA.  Those documents aren't quite as relevant, but I have them.


Why did I keep all of it for well over 30 years?  I'm not sure.  I guess it's because I'm a mean person, maybe vindictive and vicious.  I've never denied that I can be self-righteous, and I can certainly be stubborn.


But this latest bullshit with authors "lifting" from other authors and lying about it and shrugging it off as nothing, and then other authors coming along and shrugging it off because it's not really, technically, precisely plagiarism because it's just common tropes and blah, blah, blah, well, that just got to me.  And it reminded me this morning that maybe my persistence over Ginna Gray -- who I believe is a charter member of RWA, one of the original group that met in the bank basement in Houston and formed the organization -- played a larger part in my being a kind of persona non grata in the organization.  Because the vaunted sisterhood of romance writers is, after all, bullshit.


I offer no apologies.  I offer only the evidence.

Posted without comment











Pole Setting Crew Has Arrived

Jackhammer crew was here for 2.5 hours.  Moby barked for the first two hours and last 15 minutes.


Pole setting crew just drove in.  I had a chat with the foreman, and learned that there were even MORE errors on this project than were revealed yesterday.


1.  The map used to identify locations for the poles-to-be-replaced was incorrect.  It showed my electric service coming from a non-existent pole at the back of the property connected to a pole on the street behind it, which is where the transformer is located.  (See #4 below.)


2.  The streets were all misidentified on the map.  My account and property had the correct address but was actually marked on the wrong street on the map.


3.  The email notice that was sent -- twice -- had the wrong information regarding outages.  Accounts without email contact information -- like Patti's -- aren't always contacted by phone, because . . . . . they just aren't.


4.  The pole that's being replaced today does not have a transformer on it.  The pole with the transformer that serves both my property and the house next door is at the front of my property.  Under normal circumstances, it should have been replaced at the same time as the other OR BEFORE.  Because of a whole bunch of other errors, this pole isn't scheduled for replacement right away, but will be . . . . . eventually.  There are possibilities for more screw-ups when that is scheduled.


Supposedly, all the corrections have now been made, but I'm not holding my breath.


5.  Because I was told there would be an outage this morning, I didn't even try to do any real work.  I was informed by this second crew that the information I was given yesterday about an outage was completely wrong.  There was no reason why I should have been told there would be an outage, as there was no way the pole being replaced "somewhere else" would affect me.  It's a transformer pole, like the one at the front of my property.  The one that was replaced "somewhere else" serves other customers, not me.


So I wasted the whole morning when I could have been doing other things without fear of an outage.


BF is out of the house for the rest of the day until mid afternoon.  He offered to treat to dinner out tonight, and I'm not arguing.  My brain and nerves are SHOT.


The hole before jackhammering.



The hole after jackhammering.



The rocks in the foreground are probably in the 30-pound range, though I didn't even try to pick one up.  The one half buried in dirt is . . . . larger.

Why is communication so fucking difficult? (Long rant, off topic, frustrated)

This is one of those TL/DR rants.


Background --


Several months ago, the local power company Salt River Project ("SRP") showed up in my yard unannounced around 9:00 a.m.  Fortunately, we had just brought the dogs in, or they might have got out and who knows what would have happened.  There had been no notice at all from SRP, none.  No postcard in the mail, no email, no notice with the monthly bills.  It should be noted here that I have two separate accounts for this property, so I get two distinct paper bills.  One is for the house and workshop, the other for the studio.  So there were two opportunities for SRP to notify me of this planned intrusion.




The visit, as I learned after several phone calls and a 45 minute in person meeting with the supervisor, was to document whether the existing wooden power pole was due for replacement.  The pole had been installed in 1985/86; they take a lot of abuse from our severe hot weather. 


During my conversation with the supervisor, Greg, I learned that there should have been notices but he didn't know how or when they were sent out.  Interestingly enough, he gave me a door hanger card in bright golden orange that contained all the pertinent information, including his phone number.  I asked why one of these cards hadn't been hung on my gate, or even on my front door.


He didn't know.


::rolls eyes::


The determination was made, on the basis of in-person inspection as well as photographic evidence, that indeed the pole needed to be replaced after 30+ years.  That project would be scheduled "later," and I would receive advance notice.


This altered how we handled letting the dogs out during the day, since we really didn't trust SRP very much.  We even talked about going back to locking the inside gate, though this creates an additional inconvenience on top of the existing inconvenience of opening and closing the gate every time one of us leaves or comes in.  Plus, we would have to add locks to the two walk-through gates.


Last week, without any notice at all, SRP showed up and dropped off not one but TWO replacement power poles.  They unloaded them by the side of the road -- I ought to go out and take photos -- and marked them with traffic cones so no one would drive into them.  A few days later, I received an email notifying me that a crew would be out to replace the existing pole, within a window of "the week of August 15" and "between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m."


In other words, either leave the property totally accessible during that entire window, or sit around and wait for them to show up.


Now, if both of us worked outside the home, this would present a problem. Would we be expected to just leave the property accessible and not even know if/when someone would show up?


(When I spoke today with "Cristina" the scheduler, she kind of didn't quite understand that.)


Anyway, last Thursday I called one of the numbers on the door hanger card that Greg had given me.  I left a detailed message as to why I was calling -- I wanted some advance warning on when the crew was going to be out to replace the pole.  "Noelle" called me back and said she understood my needing a better schedule than just sometime next week.  She would get with the scheduler and call me back.


She never did.


Over the weekend, BF and I decided that it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and start locking all the gates, especially when both of us are gone.  We happened to have three padlocks in the workshop, all of which opened with the same key.  And we had the three keys for them.  So Saturday morning, locks went on all the gates.  It's a major inconvenience, but we felt it was necessary.


Nothing happened yesterday.  No phone call from SRP, nothing.


This morning (Tuesday) I received another email, virtually identical to the one I received last week.  I read through it to see if there were any more specific information, and there was not.  I still had received no return call from the scheduler after last week's conversation.


I had no errands to run today.  I had a lot of little chores around the house, including laundry.


At 10:29, the phone rang.  I don't answer it if I don't recognize the number.  A minute or so later, the phone beeped to let me know there was a voice mail.  Because most of the 25-second voice mails I get are from scam IRS calls, I almost didn't listen to this one.  But I did, and it was from the SRP crew letting me know they were on their way and would be here in 10 minutes.


I wasn't fully dressed.  I could have been in the shower.  I could have been not at home.


I barely had time to throw on some clothes, grab my keys, and go out to unlock the gate.  I chewed the guy out for the short notice and almost sent him packing, but it really wasn't his fault.


Now, remember when I said they dropped off two replacement poles last week?  Well, it turns out they're not going to replace both of the poles on my property.  The second new pole, according to the crew leader, was to go "on the back" somewhere.  He didn't know exactly where.


I told him there are no poles on the back of my property.  There are no power lines back there.  This didn't seem to bother him.


As it turned out, however, is crew wasn't going to actually replace the pole or poles.  They were only there to drill the hole into which the new pole would be dropped.


I asked him when that was going to be.


He didn't know.


So now here I am faced with ANOTHER potential interruption at some unknown point in the future.


I got on the phone again.  I had to leave a message with "Noelle," and it wasn't easy because by this time the crew had driven in through the gate and Moby was barking his very loud head off incessantly.  (He did that until they left an hour later.)


A short while later, Cristina called me back.  She was very nice, very sympathetic.  She apologized that I didn't get more notice.  I went through the whole timeline of what had happened.


She now gave me yet another version of what's going on. 


Yes, there are two poles to be replaced.  One is on my property, the other is "somewhere else."  There will be a separate crew to install the poles.  My power will be off after they replace the pole on my property and the power lines are switched from the old pole to the new one.  This will take two to three hours, but because it's summer, SRP guarantees that it will be NO LONGER than three hours.


What do they do if they can't finish in three hours?  Well, Cristina didn't know.


She asked, however, if 24 hours notice would be sufficient for me, and I told her yes that would be great.


A short while later, she called back and said she had talked to "Glenn," whose crew would be installing the poles.  He had another installation to do tomorrow morning, so would noon tomorrow (Wednesday) be good for me?  I told her that would be fine, as I had nothing scheduled for Wednesday at all.  I'd make arrangements for the power being off in the afternoon.


I also told her that in the event that weather -- always a consideration around here during monsoon season -- altered the schedule, I would be less flexible on Thursday and not at all flexible on Friday.  (I did not tell her that BF might be here and able to handle gate minding duties, because he wasn't home at the time so I couldn't confirm anything with him anyway.)


During all this time, the crew was still working out there with their big drill/auger, their huge truck filling the entire driveway.  Moby was still barking.


I had tried to convey the essentials to BF via text while all this was going on.  He finally returned from his morning socializing around 11:30.  Whether the crew had moved their big truck before then or not, I don't know.  But BF came in and said there was a problem.


::rolls eyes::


The auger had encountered too many rocks and couldn't finish the hole.


The property is literally at the base of a mountain.  There are rocks EVERYWHERE.



This is the "retaining wall" along my driveway that terraces the slope between my yard and my neighbor's.  It's roughly 18 inches high.  All the rocks here, and all the rocks in her yard, are from the ground here.  We have very little soil.  We have lots of rocks.  Some of them are pretty good sized.  They're everywhere, they're everywhere.


Why the crew didn't come prepared to encounter rocks is beyond me.  They informed BF, however, that their auger wasn't going to be able to complete the hole.  They were going to have to come back in the morning. . . . .




They wanted to know what was a good time.  I said 9:00 a.m.


Now, remember that there is another pole to be installed somewhere else.  The crew leader didn't know where.


When BF told me this -- I didn't talk to the crew leader myself -- I took it upon myself to call Cristina at SRP and let her know, just in case this was going to affect the installation of my pole scheduled for noon tomorrow.


Needless to say, NO ONE had notified her of the delay in drilling the hole.


Even so, she didn't think it would make much difference.  So the Wednesday noon installation was still on.


I then began explaining some of the other relevant details to BF regarding how the wires would actually be moved, and so on, and that I would have to notify the cable company to get their act together so they can move their wires from the old pole to the new one, after which I would then notify SRP that they can remove the old pole.


It was at that point that I realized my neighbor, Patti, also has wires attached to that pole.  She also has a landline phone.  Not knowing if she had been notified, I thought I'd be neighborly and check with her.




She didn't know anything about the wires.  She's 80 or 81, a widow whose husband took care of everything.  "I don't understand that stuff.  Ernie took care of it and I don't know anything about where the wires are or what they do."


Despite the temperature being in the upper 90s, I agreed to meet her out at the fence to take a look at the pole.


For some reason or other, the power lines for both of our houses come from the street to a pole at the front of my property, then from that pole to the one that's being replaced.  But even though my house was moved in two years before Patti's, my lines from the "inside" pole are then buried, where hers are strung from the top of the pole to the house.  (Very likely this is why she has more problems with her service than I ever have, but that's neither here nor there.)  She also has her landline phone strung from pole to house.  (She has a cell phone for emergencies but doesn't trust it.  She doesn't trust anyone or anything.)


Patti has no computer, refuses to have one.  (She doesn't trust them, either.  Someone could get her bank information and steal all her money.)  But she does have a phone and an answering machine, and she is very diligent about answering the answering machine.


I asked her if she had received any notification from SRP about this pole replacement and related power outage.


She had received none.


I explained everything to her, including that the power would be out for about two to three hours starting at noon tomorrow.  She said she has a doctor's appointment in the morning but would be home by noon.


I then came back in the house and called Cristina again to let her know that my neighbor hadn't been notified.  Cristina insisted there was no one else affected by this pole.  I said I was just outside and looked at it with Patti, and there is no question that her power line and my power line are on the same pole.  How is that mine will be out, but hers won't?


Cristina began looking. She had my address, XX77 East (street name, which is no big secret).  She asked what Patti's address was.  I told her it was XX55, right next door to me.  I gave her Patti's name, her full name, her late husband's name.


Cristina had no record of Patti at that address.  Could the account be in someone else's name?  She suggested a name, which she had on her records as being at that address.  But I informed her that Patti only has one son, so the last name would be the same, and no other relatives.


By now I was starting to lose what little faith I had had in Cristina.  She's supposedly looking AT A MAP of the properties that shows where the poles are to be replaced.  She has identified my property ON THE MAP.  But Patti isn't there?


I explained to Cristina that Patti is elderly and this isn't her area of expertise.  How could SRP possibly have failed to notify someone of a pending outage?


Well, Cristina explained, SRP sends out letters and then they follow up with email.


I told her -- again -- that Patti doesn't have email. 


Well, Cristina said, maybe she had an email on file at one time.


No, I told her.  Patti has NEVER had a computer, NEVER had email.  She has a cell phone she won't give anyone the number to because it's only for emergencies, and she has a landline.


Well, Cristina asked, does she have an answering machine?


Yes, and she checks it religiously.  "She never got a phone call from you."  I even gave Cristina Patti's phone number to see if she had it in her records.  She didn't.


She had no record of Patti at all.


Starting to lose my temper, I said, "So this elderly lady would have been just sitting there minding her own business at noon  tomorrow, probably sitting down to have her lunch, and her power would have gone off and she would have had no warning?"


That's when Cristina informed me that . . . . .


My power is going to go off at 9:00 a.m., not noon.  It will go off when the OTHER pole, the one we don't know the location of, is replaced.


That's not what she had told me before.  That's not what anyone had told me before.


I had always been told that my power -- and of course Patti's as well as anyone else who might be on the same pole -- would go off when MY pole was replaced and MY lines were transferred to the new pole.


Oh, no, that's not how it works, Cristina said.  The power will go off when the OTHER pole is replaced and the lines are transferred.


At this point, BF is standing there making gestures like he wants to butt in.  I ask Cristina to hold on for a minute and BF butts in.


"The guy who was digging the hole told me the power will be off when they replace the pole here," he says.


"The pole they're digging the hole for that they need the jackhammer for?" I asked.


"Yes," he confirmed.


"Not the other pole that we don't know where it is?"


He shook his head.  "Not the other pole.  They don't know anything about that one."


Okay, put everything on pause for a minute.


There are two new power poles lying on the ground by the side of the road in front of my property.  They were delivered last week.


One of those two poles is to replace the rotting, 30+ year old pole on my property.  The other is to go . . . somewhere else.


The guy who is going to install my pole at noon tomorrow is going to install the OTHER pole at this OTHER site before he installs mine.


The crew digging the holes for these poles does not know where the other pole goes, but it has to be installed before mine.


Are you getting a sense of FUBAR about this?  I certainly was.


So, back to real time.


I tell Cristina that it's a good thing this is all screwed up because if I hadn't called her back, I would have been under the impression -- which was given by everyone I had talked to -- that it was the replacement of my pole that would require the outage, NOT the replacement of this somewhere-or-other second pole.


By this point I was losing it.  I got off the phone with Cristina and called Patti next door to tell her she didn't exist, according to SRP's records.  I gave her Cristina's number so she could call and find out what was going on.


I actually asked BF if it was just me or if this was completely fucked up. 


He said it was completely fucked up.


A few minutes later, Patti called back.  More or less everything is now straightened out.  Sort of.


Cristina had my address correct.  She was looking at the map that had my address and my property on it, both listed correctly.  But when Patti called Cristina, Cristina realized she was looking at the wrong street!! 


Our street has a name, but most of the other parallel streets here only have numbers.  I could understand if she mixed up, say, 26th Street and 28th Street, which might look similar on a map.  BUT NOT A WORD AND A NUMBER.


But the change in times also mattered.  Patti has a doctor appointment tomorrow morning, and she worried that if the power was off while she wasn't home, it could come back on and blow out her circuit breakers and cause a fire.  Or that her alarm system would be off and someone would break in and rob her (in the middle of the day with neighbors watching).


Patti is very paranoid.


So she was going to cancel her doctor's appointment and reschedule.  Of course, if the planned pole replacement and power outage doesn't go as planned, I don't know what she'll do.


BF has a doctor appointment, too, tomorrow, and I have one on Friday.  Mostly there will be someone here during the normal SRP working hours one way or another.  But this has just become stupid and a half.


I have now lost almost all of today on this crap.  Some will say I should have just brushed it all off and done . . . . . something else.  No, not gonna happen.  This is the way I am.  I can't stand being forced to deal with gross incompetence.  What if there were essential medical devices that needed electricity?  What if I were working from home and had an important project going on the computer when suddenly the power went off?  Yes, these things happen unexpectedly, and we try to be prepared for them.  But there's no excuse when it's "planned maintenance" and no proper notice is given.


I hate stupid people.


I'm in a bad mood.





Spinning my wheels

Since returning from my little vacation in Seattle, I've been very busy but have accomplished almost nothing.  At least nothing of substance.


A crafting project that had made a total mess of its own in the studio is, however, now completed.  My inventory of this particular item had been almost entirely depleted, so I had to replenish stock before the show season starts.  And a good thing, too, because the day I finished restocking, I received a nice wholesale order.  With that out of the way, I can focus on adding to my jewelry stock, which was also depleted after last season.  I can't really complain!


I've received confirmation of my acceptance into two more art shows for this season, bringing the total right now to three.  Last season I did eight (I think) and that really was too much for me to do by myself.  I'm limiting this year to six definite (if I'm accepted into the other three) plus two more possibles, only because three of the definites will require much less set-up labor than last year.  And if the two possibles don't work out, it's no big deal.


But then there is the really important stuff.


My intentions to read and to write got shoved aside. . . mostly.  I haven't even had time to sort out what books to read for Halloween Bingo, though there are a few fairly obvious ones in my collection.  My promise to myself is not to go looking for books to add to the existing library for Bingo, but to read only items already on hand.   


Now if only the freebie offerings wouldn't show up in my email every morning!


I do manage to get in at least half an hour of focused reading each evening, by which I mean no distractions, no interruptions.  I'm trying to finish David Corn and Michael Isikoff's Russian Roulette before my last digital library renewal runs out.


The writing, however, has been almost completely sidelined.  My sole accomplishment in that area has been to collect, sort out, and transcribe most of the hand-written notes that have been scattered about the house.  The dozen or so pages of text for Forgotten Magic, alas, have not turned up; the only conclusion is that somehow I threw them away in my cleaning zeal just before vacation.  Almost all the rest has been taken care of, and my plan is to finish the rest of it before this week is over.


Part of the reason for not writing lies in the lack of reading.  I write more when I read more.  So I'm hoping that situation will change as I sort through more of the chaos that seems to have accumulated over the summer.


Another huge project staring me in the face - and directly related to the chaos - is the clutter.  The junk.  The stuff that's been hoarded over the years (decades?) under the malicious twin rubrics of "Don't throw that away; I might need it someday" and "Wait, set that aside; I think I can make something out of it."  At present, it's still too hot to spend very much time in the workshop, where the bulk of the "stuff" is stored, but daytime temperatures are hovering around 100 now rather than 110, and nights occasionally dip all the way down into the (upper) 70s, which means summer is winding down.  I'm at least able now to make some plans on what to do with the "stuff" -- and that means throwing some of it away.


As mentioned above, I've cleaned up most of the assorted writing bits and scraps, and the crafting project that migrated from the studio to the house in its final stages has been dealt with.  Summer is the time when I fold lots and lots and lots of paper squares for my origami jewelry boxes, so that stuff is in little stacks everywhere. Now I'm starting to assemble them and move them back to the studio, thus cleaning up various little messes here and there.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, order will be returned.  Maybe.


But as I sit here waiting for a load of laundry to finish in the dryer, I can't help thinking how lovely it would be to crawl back in bed, prop a couple fat pillows behind me, and just read the day away.

Halloween Book Bingo- freebie today



Would fit several squares, and it's free 10 Aug 2018.

Regency Digital Re-Issues - Edith Layton

Per Ms. Layton's daughter Susie on Twitter:




I have only two or three of Edith's books, but I thoroughly enjoyed them.


One of the things I've missed since leaving RWA is the opportunity to visit with my fellow authors.  Edith and I chatted for several hours in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis in New York at an RWA conference, about writing, about Richard III, and about politics.


I'm not a huge fan of the Regency sub-genre, but I found Edith's books more than a cut above.  I look forward to picking up at least a few of them as ebooks.

R.I.P. Stan Mikita

Chicago Blackhawks' all-time leading scorer.





Extending my mini-vacation, and then it's over

  • The four-day week-end I spent in the Seattle area was not much of a vacation, other than being a break from cooking and washing dishes.

    I think I walked three or four miles just through the airports and had the burden of hauling a suitcase and overloaded laptop case.  Being old and out of shape doesn't help.  Even on wheels, the combination of luggage was heavy.  There was no way I could have carried it up and down stairs, so I appreciated the escalators, but in many places there were just ramps.  They're fine on the downward slant, but uphill ramps have always done a number on my ankle and calf muscles.

    During my stay, we went to baseball games three days out of the four, and invariably there was uphill and downhill walking, with the same effect on my muscles as airport ramps.  Nights were often late and most mornings were early, so I didn't get nearly as much sleep as I would have liked.  And sleep in an unfamiliar bed never provides the best rest.  Each day I fell further and further behind.

    Sunday, we went to beaches.  Several of them.  We went in search of stones and seaglass.  I found enough little stones at one beach to maybe make a small tumbler load and maybe produce some casual jewelry, but the seaglass beach was inaccessible.  That was a bit of a disappointment.

    We also went to the beaches to take pictures.  No one has any pictures of me because I'm always the one taking the photos, and I don't like any of the photos of me anyway.  But everyone wanted some family pictures, so we found a big driftwood log at one beach and some pictures were taken.  I haven't seen them yet.  I'm not sure when I will.

    I returned to Arizona Monday – the airport walks were longer and even more horrendous because I was already exhausted – and wasted no time.  Dirty laundry was the first thing unpacked, and while the washer was running I finished the unpacking.  As soon as the clothes were in the dryer, I set the timer for an hour and crawled into bed for a 60 minute nap.  There being insufficient groceries in the house to fix supper – and there being absolutely no enthusiasm on my part for cooking it anyway – we went out to eat.  I came home completely exhausted in spite of my nap, and was sound asleep shortly after 9:00.

    This morning I woke up earlier than I really wanted to and had no desire to get out of bed, so I spent about an hour just being lazy and doing some thinking.  It's not the first morning I've done that, but for a variety of reasons this morning was a bit different.

    A good portion of the past weekend was also devoted to motivational conversations, for reasons I won't go into here.  Although I was not the object of these discussions, much of what was said hit home: I've not been adequately motivated to stick to my writing and I've also been far too willing to come up with convenient excuses.  The weather is too hot or too cold, there are too many worries about finances, too many appliances have broken, blah, blah, blah, blah.  The end result is that I have two novels sitting at well more than 50,000 words each, and I have done virtually nothing on either of them for months.

    A few weeks ago, I figured out why one of the books was stalled.  The problems were fixable, with some work, and the fix would make the story much stronger.  And even at 50,000 words, the book was going to require a whole lot more writing anyway.  The words don't write themselves; I'd have to stop making excuses and get to work.

    The other book presents a much more complicated problem.  I began writing it without a clear idea where it was going.  The plot was vague and strongly character-driven, so I had the character arc well formed, but not much else.  The more I worked on it, the more the writing veered to the character part of the plot and away from the story, because the story wasn't strong enough to pull it back.

    The story also had a huge hole.  No, that's not quite right.  The story as I had written it up to those 50,000 words had an obvious weakness.  At least it was obvious to me.

    As I read other books and saw similar or even worse weaknesses, I wondered if readers noticed, and if they noticed, did they care.  These flimsy plots and characters who acted without proper motivation or consistency bothered me.  Did they bother other readers?  Whether or not they did, I knew I was having more and more problems with this book because it bothered me.  I had put my character, the one who was driving the whole book, into a situation I couldn't imagine her actually getting herself into.  It made no sense to me the author; how could I even begin to make it make sense to a reader?

    Over the weekend I found an answer, or at least a possible answer.  As with the other stalled novel, this one would require more work.  I'm not sure how much work, or where the changes will need to be made.  Will I have to go back into those existing 50,000 words and make major modifications?  It's been months since I've read it all the way through and I know there are details I've forgotten.  Will they fit in this new "fix" I've sort of come up with?

    The truth is, I've allowed myself to be distracted far too much.  I've forgotten how difficult writing is.  I wanted it to be easy.

    In fact, writing has always been easy for me.  That's not to say the easy writing is always good writing, but I've always been able to do it.  

    What's hard is turning off the distractions.  What's hard is sitting down and facing the next blank line, the next sentence, the next paragraph, without worrying whether some reader is going to like it or not.  What's hard is turning of my internal editor who has the rejection slip already in her hand and just needs my own SASE to send it back to me.

    Today is Tuesday.  I'm catching up on some other work while I mentally play with these two plot improvement projects.  Tomorrow I have another grocery shopping expedition on the schedule, with the follow-up of putting the groceries away.  Overall, it will take up my entire morning.  Another list of chores faces me related to the upcoming art show season.  My first scheduled show is less than ten weeks away.

    The arts and crafts stuff is part of this.  It's a distraction in and of itself, but it's also a source of income, which I need.  There's a necessary balance to be achieved, and frankly, I haven't found it yet.  That's another task for the next couple of days as I think this all through.

    I've been in this position before.  There's always a desire to write, and plenty of workable ideas to which to apply that desire, but the distractions and emotional obstacles stand in the way.  Self doubt is a big one, and maybe having these two plots worked out – at least for now – will help erase some of that doubt.  I've never had an abundance of self-confidence, and it gets pummeled pretty regularly.  Even a light-hearted Twitter query about "Did you ever have someone who had more confidence in yourself than you did, and how did it affect you?" can feel like a dagger to the heart.  No, I never had anyone who had more confidence in me than I did.  Never.  And I never really had much confidence in myself to begin with.

    It's hard to push past that, and yet I've done it in the past.  I know it can be done.  I know I can do it.  I just have to do it.            

    Therefore, I've given myself the rest of this week to put all these other issues in order and out of the way.  There will still be work to be done for the art shows, but that's an ongoing effort.  The other stuff needs to be set aside, so I can focus on the writing.

    There were elements of my four-day weekend that were enough of a vacation to give me the opportunity to think out the problems of these two books and clarify potential fixes.  As I continue to think these through, my job is also to make -- make, not find -- the time to do the writing.  That means to stop making excuses, stop finding excuses.
    I think we get a warm feeling inside at the thought of everyone having a mentor, a supporter, someone who makes each of us somehow rise above whatever is holding us back so we can achieve our dreams.  The sad truth is that most of us don't have that someone.  Most of us don't achieve our dreams.  Many of us don't achieve those dreams because we're waiting for that bit of support or encouragement.  But I wonder just how many successes out there are attributable to raw, ugly, solo determination.  I'm taking that for my model.

Russian Roulette - must read

Russian Roulette - Michael Isikoff

Sending from kindle in Seattle.


Reading digital library edition but may have to spring for my own copy.