Now Chapter 3 on YouTube!

Keeping with my “Shelter In Place” project of recording YouTube videos of me (or future guest) reading Valeria & The Enemy of Time, here’s number three! I’m going to be like government agencies and Banks. Instead of putting up my video on Monday this time, I took Memorial Day off.

I have no idea why I ended up sort of sideways to the camera. Next time I will try to center on it. But maybe you like a sort of side-glance reader. If so, this one is for you.

I’m putting them all in a playlist so it should be easy to find one and then the others once you go to YouTube.

Hope you enjoy it!

Annndddd…Chapter 2 on YouTube!

I am reading my book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time on YouTube, one chapter at a time, in case you haven’t been following. So chapter 2, “Lost in the Fog” is now live and ready to watch/listen to! I’m planning on making the videos a little more fancy, in the future, with some pictures fading in, and maybe some green screen. But whatever I do, I don’t want to take away from what one’s own imagination does with the pictures that words alone can paint!

Now…On Video!

“Shelter in Place” has got me looking for new creative projects to keep my world fresh and exciting. One area I’m interested in is making little videos. I’ve been wanting to make another video—ANY video for awhile. I just needed a little inspiration and a bit of time set aside.

Then my dear friend, Kelly shared a Facebook video with me, saying, “You could do this with your book!” In the Facebook Live video, and author was reading from her book. What fun! I thought. It would be a great little project; do a little reading, a little editing, get my book out there a little more… 

So now, I’ve got the first chapter up on YouTube!!! It was fun, and I’ve got lots of chapters left to experiment with some different little fun elements. My plan is to get at least one new chapter up a week. Each time I do, I’ll share it here on the blog. 

Maybe you like to listen better than to read. Maybe you know some kids in about 5th-9th grade who would like to be read to. Maybe you just want to see what I sound like reading a book. Perhaps you want to see what music I put in with the credits. (Okay, so it’s banjo. What did you expect?) Anyway, check it out here!

Chapter 1, “The Wreck,” is now dedicated to Kelly!

Concerning Website, Sale, and Regaining Creativity

Welcome to my newly updated website! We have changed some of the background colors, making it easier to read and to find the previous blogposts you might be looking for. To celebrate this, (and in these time, I am always looking for new things to celebrate!) I have put the Kindle version of Valeria & The Enemy of Time on sale for $2.99. That’s a dollar off the previous price, and is as low as Amazon will let me go. You will find that the hours your imagination spends in Valeria’s world will be more than worth the cost! (And if you like it, I’d love a review/rating on Amazon!)

I’m going to keep it on sale for several days, and then it will go back to $3.99, still a bargain. The paperback remains at $9.99 for now. 

It hasn’t been easy to focus on my projects. All the normal schedules, routines, plans, and news have been upended, keeping me a little off-balanced. But I’m feeling excited and anxious to get back to writing now. Before all this happened with the coronavirus, I had a good start on the 2nd Valeria book, and I’m going to get back on that. I’m also going to be thinking about another novella in the “Sweet Danger” Jessie McConnell stories. My local writing group is gathering short stories from the members for a contest, trying to keep that connection we all had when we met once a month. When I get a short story together for this, I’ll publish it here, and you can tell me what you think!

From the beginning of the “stay at home” orders, I knew that to stay mentally happy and healthy, I would have to continually bring new things into my days, have some things that stick to a schedule, and have long and short term creative projects that I am actively working on, even if my progress is just making lists about doing them!

For “new things each day,” there is nothing like a package in the mail! Or UPS, or FedEx. Random trips to the hardware, grocery and variety stores just aren’t happening. So there are some things I just NEED, and I order them. Usually by the time the package arrives, I have forgotten what is supposed to be coming, so I’m surprised. It’s like my birthday, even if it is just a box of my favorite mustard and decaf tea bags. My recent delivery was a box of nuts and dried fruit from Nuts.com. They have a wonderful product, and I’ve never been disappointed. This time, I decided I deserved something extra, so I threw in a box of chocolate walnut fudge. It was the best fudge I’ve ever had! (Next time, it’s two boxes.)

Unless a person is blessed with good self-discipline, it’s hard to keep a schedule, to impose one on yourself when no one else is demanding that. We make a lot of jokes about changing from our night pajamas to our day pajamas, and wonder, Why even bother? But with the good weather now, I’m spending time working on the yard and my garden projects. Can’t do those as well in pajamas! I’ve made a point of keeping my “going to bed time,” and my “getting up time.” That feels like good mental self-help. Also, at 3pm every day, my extended family enjoys a “Happy (Half) Hour” Zoom visit. That has become a nice little anchor point for my day. 

My creative projects have mostly been in the bread baking category lately. I made bagels this morning, and a sourdough loaf is going in the oven this evening. (My baby sourdough starter, pictured above, says, “Hi.”) I’ve done a few small sewing projects too. But then I started playing my banjo again. And I actually picked up the fiddle to see if I still remembered how to manage the bow. I thought about the Milliner-Koken collection of tunes book, and whether I might want to buy one with some of my economic stimulus money. I can feel my mind going, “What if?…” again, the beginning of new story ideas. 

It’s taken a couple months, but I’m feeling happy and excited again to live in my favorite kind of creativity. Not that I’ll give up baking though. I’m thinking about making hand pies…

The Red Couch

If you have read my book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time, you might remember the Red Couch, formerly, the Green Couch. Things are breaking down in her timeline, and the couch is only one of the things that is changing. Red is our symbol for Danger! Warning! Halt!, and we can see that in stop signs, circle-with-a-slash signs, signal lights and brake lights, and the “don’t touch” sight of a cherry-red electric burner. In the movie, “Sixth Sense,” M. Night Shyamalan added that splash of color in ominous moments (the sweater) and as a flag for a scene where something is not as the main guy thinks he knows (his wife’s dress at their anniversary dinner). 

This couch lives at the Turtle Bay Museum in Redding, California. They may change the exhibits around regularly, but you can always count on finding the Red Couch somewhere, a place to kick back if your feet are tired, or you want to watch the kids enjoy the fun without you hanging over them for a bit.

My mother-in-law didn’t care much for couches. Her ideal living room was full of rocking chairs and recliners. But I grew up with couches, and I love them! Sometimes Mom called it a “divan,” a fascinating and exotic word. Like you’d say “parlor,” or “dinette.” Or “range” instead of “stove” or “oven.”

I like the way you can change your position in unlimited poses. Reclining, half reclining, feet tucked, legs crossed, feet out on footstool, sitting on the back, sitting on the arm, sleeping…

When I was a kid, a couch was more than something to sit on; it was also a prop for play. One game we played was “Chair.” One kid would sit on the couch, very stiffly, with legs down and arms straight out in front. She was the Chair. Then the other kid would sit on her. The sitter would explore all the “buttons” on the Chair arm, pretending to be shocked at how willful the Chair could be in its mechanics. Imagine an electric recliner going haywire! The footrest would go up and down; halfway, all the way. The back might recline. Sometimes the Chair’s seatbelt would lock up tight, and the sitter couldn’t find the release button. The game always, always ended with the Chair’s eject button being accidentally pressed, sending the sitter flying across the living room!

My favorite couch game was “Sea Hunt.” The couch was the big boat, and the easy chair might be a smaller boat. We would pull our socks down so they flopped in front of us. Those were our flippers. We would fall backward out of the couch-boat, just like Lloyd Bridges did in the show. Then we would wriggle along the floor, on the carpet, “swimming,” and doing all the things we saw the scuba divers doing. Spear guns were a favorite. Getting back to the couch-boat and climbing aboard could be tiring, if you’d just had a close call in the sea.

Another game I played was Superman. It was best played in the matching easy chair, which looked just like the big, square, heavy couch, only not as wide. I wasn’t actually Superman, I was Lois Lane. For some reason, I imagined that the most exciting thing in the world would be riding in Superman’s outstretched arms as he flew through the sky, like in the Superman comic books I bought.

So I sat stretched across the chair, legs hanging over one arm, head resting on the other, my arms clutching the back while my imagination flew over the city, dodging danger.

Our brown, scratchy couch was probably old and used when we got it. Mom had to keep something wedged under one of the feet so it wouldn’t rock when someone sat on it. She finally set it and the chair outside by the road with a sign on it for $25. The neighbors bought it. Then Mom bought a lovely tufted gold velvet set to replace it. The couch was comfy and came with a recliner and love seat. We liked it, but I never remember playing any more games on it.

Disease—What Were They Thinking?

Sometimes I think about the history of human knowledge and discovery of the sources of disease. I muse over all the strange and bizarre ways that people from past times believed caused illness. 

There was lots of weirdness. At least from our current place of knowledge.

The easiest place to lay blame is on the sick person. “Divine retribution” for living a sinful life is an easy diagnosis to make. 

Bad air was another logical choice for the cause of illness. “Miasma theory” was an attempt to pin down a cause and effect.

“In miasma theory, diseases were caused by the presence in the air of a miasma, a poisonous vapour in which were suspended particles of decaying matter that was characterised by its foul smell. The theory originated in the Middle Ages and endured for several centuries.”

Because curbing the stinky air also tended to remove bacteria, it was helpful, in a sideways manner. It lasted until germ theory gradually replaced it.

The theory of “Humours” was the first attempt to separate out disease from the spiritual realm to the physical one. The four generally accepted humours were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. An imbalance of your humours caused illness, and there were ways to restore that balance, such as purges, bloodletting, and emetics. Foods and medicines were given that corresponded with the desired balance. If you were hot and wet (with a fever), cold and dry substances were prescribed. And don’t let hysterical women eat beef! Much too hot and red for calming effects.

I should respect humorism because it was a scientific method rather than superstition, but I have a hard time. Mostly because it lasted so long, not completely dying out until 1858. It amazes me that medicine accepted it for about 2000 years, not really testing it out, just hanging on to it, respecting that important people had brought it to them. (Hippocrates, Galen) And perhaps they were enamored because it is a lovely theory with lots of impressive things you can do for treatment.

It doesn’t take us 2000 years to shift medical theories anymore; we respect science as the institution that can find physical cures, without the conflict of spiritual beliefs or non-tested attractive ideas. 

But I do wonder…what do we do today, what do we think that is totally wrong? That people a thousand years from now will shake their heads in disbelief over? Perhaps we can’t even imagine what that could be, because we don’t have the tools, just like the people from the middle ages had no device to see germs.

I’m sure there is something…

An Interview

Did I look ok? Hair? How was my backdrop? Books, yes, good idea! My first Skype author interview about my book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time. And the questions were coming from one of the most challenging groups—a class of 5th graders.

One of my best friends from grammar and high school had taken a career as a teacher, back home where we both grew up in Tulare county. To my great delight, she enjoyed my book and presented it to her students. They also enjoyed it, and my friend used a great tool, Skype, to get them a real interview with a real author. They posted their reviews of the book on Padlet, so I had an inkling of what questions might come up. 

After a bit of technical wrangling, the interview was on! I looked out over a classroom of bouncy happy kids, some cutting up in front of the camera, some waving their arms in the air. (Pick me! Pick me!) They had printouts of questions they had come up with earlier, so they wouldn’t go blank. Ready, set, go!

I was surprised at many of the questions. Yes, some were about the book. But they wanted to know things about me. Here is a sampling, and a version of my answer.

When did you start writing?

I remember the first time I had the thrill of writing a story. It was in the 3rd grade, and I filled one and a half sides with cursive and decorated it with a crayoned picture at the top. However, no one told me that when you wrote a story, it needed to come out of your own head. I had basically plagiarized one of the stories in our reading book. I think I remember it so well because it was not too long afterwards that I did have that realization and was mortified. But I still saved it because of the joy I had in writing it.

Did what happened to Valeria happen to you? Is she you when you were younger?

Because I wrote the book in the first person, I can see why it might seem that way to a 5th grader, especially because I did take so many snippets of my life and transform them into book elements. But no, she is a made-up person. 

How long did it take you to write the book?

The whole process was about a year and a half. I wrote the edited first draft in a couple months, and then set it aside for almost a year before I revisited it with fresh eyes. Then I began revising it, which took another few months. Final editing and compiling the draft for self-publishing was another intense step that took a month or two.

How old are you?

I’m the same age as your teacher. (Kids look at teacher. Teacher says, “I’ve told them before, I’m as old as dirt.”)

What advice do you give on becoming a writer?

Write a lot. Read a lot. Take classes on writing when you can. Don’t be afraid of learning grammar. Write some more.

Where did you get the name “Valeria?”

I met a little girl with long black hair who was my daughter’s age while we were living in student family housing in Davis, CA. That was her name, and I’d never come across it before. It struck me, and I kept it filed away in my mind.

What was your favorite part?

I really like the section where Valeria is on the bridge, trying to keep the thug from stealing their horse. She is driven by desperation, a fierce loyalty to the little girl she is trying to protect, and an uncompromising resolve to complete the task she has been given. She is a worthy opponent to the unsavory character trying to best her. (Hint: there are knives involved.)

And then the question I knew would come up:

Why didn’t you have Theo tell Valeria what happened to him when he disappeared? 

Because if I didn’t write the words of him telling her, then the reader doesn’t know either, right? Honestly, I had planned on doing that. But when the time came, I had the sense that it would slow down the momentum. In a book, most of the writing needs to exist for a purpose. To advance the plot, to reveal more of the character’s personality, to help the reader visualize where and when the action is taking place, to fill in pieces of the puzzle that are important for the reader. By the time Valeria and Theo got back together again, the reason why he disappeared really wasn’t important anymore. To have stuck it in would have been like, “Okay, hold on, let’s just pause here for a moment and explain something that, really, if you had to guess what happened, 90% would get it right.” I’m sure Valeria asked him what had happened, and he told her. But of course I could never waste the words to write down all their conversations!

The most rewarding thing to find out is that now my friend’s students want to write their own books!

Monsters!

I had a lot of fun writing about Valeria’s Enemy, her monster. The best monsters are human-like, but not really quite there.

I’ve liked monster books and monster movies since I was young. Maybe most kids with imaginations did. I liked monster movies, like “20 Million Miles to Earth,” aka “The Beast From Space,” and “The Thing,” aka “Who Goes There?” In “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad,” I liked the cyclops the best. Oh the horrors when he was turning a man tied to a spit over a fire! 

It was kind of fun being a little scared when you knew it was all make-believe. But being scared of the dark was real, and not very fun. The worst monster of all was that thing that lived under the bed. No, I never saw it, but then again, I never looked. THAT would have been a mistake! It would have known that I knew it was there. Instead, we lived a sort of uneasy co-existence. It existed, and I was uneasy. I wonder how many other kids did “the leap” on to their bed to keep from letting their feet get too close to the dark place right underneath the bed frame? 

Digging through some of my files the other day, I came across this little piece. I think I was probably about Valeria’s and Theo’s ages when I wrote it, but it’s not dated. Maybe 6th grade? I’d forgotten all about it, but my toes still curl when my bare feet walk up a little too close to the edge of the bed. Especially in the dark.

Under The Bed

By Carolyn R. Roberts

It was there, but no one knew it. Everyone felt it, and all were afraid of it, because it lived there. They knew it was there when they got up in the morning, they felt it when they rested in the afternoons, and they were afraid of it when they went in their rooms to sleep at night.

Yes, they all felt it and were afraid of it, but no one believed it.

The family sat down to dinner. “Soon it will be time to go to bed,” the mother said.

“I don’t WANT to go to bed!” young Tommy wailed. “It’s there in my room waiting for me!”

“Don’t talk such nonsense,” the father reproached. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said, although the prospect of going to bed gave him a slight uneasiness himself.

“But Daddy, I can feel it,” Carrie said. “Even Joan does. And it’s getting worse. There’s something there, waiting for us. It’s a feeling I can’t shake off, and…every time I look under the bed, it’s not there,” she added, as though an afterthought.

“Hush! You’re scaring Tommy!” the mother said. “He won’t be able to sleep tonight. And neither will you. So get along to bed.”

I don’t like it, Carrie thought. Something is going to happen, I can feel it.

It waited there, hearing her come in. It chuckled silently, even though silent, it was horrible, a repulsive and chilling laugh. Only a few more seconds now…

As Carrie walked by the bed, she felt icy slimy fingers clutch her bare feet, and jerk them, pulling her down. She grabbed at something, anything, but the horny nails dug down into her flesh, pulling her further and further under. She fought, but to no avail, for now she knew what lived Under the Bed.

The End.