Daisy Award: A Special Award for the Brave of Heart

It is on rare occasion that a connection is available to the creator of an award. This time the beginning link in a chain of unknown number of recipients is Subtle Kate.


In Kate’s own words on June 28, 2012, “I would like to start a new award. It’s called the Daisy Award.  Daisy’s are very sweet flowers, but they are stealth with hardiness. They’ll come up anywhere and beat the frost.  This award is for the brave.”

So without further ado, these are the rules to follow:

Thank the person who nominated you.

This is the easiest part. I keep finding myself thanking Sharla, (Awakenings and CatnipOfLife). Sharla, you have become so much a part of my life it’s hard to explain to people who someone who I’ve never met face to face could become so interwoven with my life. You are the best, you really are. Hugs and thanks fly over the miles, from me to you!

Tell your readers seven unusual things about yourself.

What can I tell you that you don’t already know? I think by now I’ve told everybody everything. But let’s see how these fly:

  1. I am a peculiar combination of sentimental, tough, sympathetic, empathetic and impatient. All at the same time. I love and admire people who laugh in the face of disaster but cry at reruns of Flipper.
  2. I love survivors and people who share the good in their lives while trying to spare others from pain.
  3. I appreciate that while I’ve had a rough time, others have had worse.
  4. I’m a risk taker and whenever I take a risk, I’m scared to death. My motto is “What the Hell; do it anyhow!”
  5. I don’t believe that any of us deserve medals for doing the best we can with whatever hand we’ve been dealt. That’s what you are supposed to do. Life can be messy and unfair. No one gets a free ride.
  6. I’m a fighter, even when I know I can’t win. I figure it’s better to lose then give up while letting the fates use you as a soccer ball.
  7. I am a relentless student of everything and when I stop learning, it will be because I’m no longer breathing.

Nominate several worthy bloggers.

This award is for the brave … and I think I’m choosing rightly.

For Mike, at Mike’s Film Talk, because while watching his life crash and burn, he’s managed to somehow keep a sense of humor and a sense of perspective and recognize that there will be another day.

For Jenny Threet at Rumpy Dog who fights a never-ending battle to try to protect our furry friends in the face of ignorance and indifference.

For Jordan Rich at  Jordan Rich, a man who has a been a friend and supporter of every kind of worthy cause, donated his time, his celebrity, and personal resources to help everyone to the best of his ability. Which I might add is considerable. He has his own problems and faces them with courage and honor and without complaint. The Jordan Rich Show airs Friday and Saturday nights, from midnight until 5AM on WBZ AM 1030AM and WCCO Minneapolis.


My People, Our City


I’m never in any of the pictures because I’m always the one holding the camera.

Family at the corner
Family at the corner

There were other cameras in the party. Both Kaity and Steph had cameras, Kaity her Canon point and shoot (like mine, but with an even better super-zoom on it) and Steph had her Canon T3-1. But they only took pictures of themselves.


I did not realize until this excursion how completely self-absorbed teenage girls are. They don’t even take pictures of each other: their goals seem to be to perfect the ability to take a perfect self-portrait that can be posted on Facebook. I think Steph may have taken a couple of pictures of her feet, too.

Cool shoes.
Cool shoes.

Even I took a picture or two of her feet. Cool shoes. If I could still wear heels, I would probably wear these … but these days, if it isn’t soft and comfortable, it doesn’t get anywhere near my tender tootsies. I remember back when I was not much older than Kaity that I wore high heels … very high heels … all the time. When my mother asked me how I could walk in them, I was actually puzzled. They really didn’t bother me. I was fine. I’m glad I wore them while I could, because the days of high heels ended rather abruptly before I was out of my 20s.

Feet. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

Garry bemused
Garry bemused

So that left me to take other pictures. Amidst the many shots of buildings and alleys and pillars, I managed to catch a few portraits and moments of joy in our Christmas trip to the Boston Pops.


I sometimes forget how entirely different it is taking pictures of people out on an excursion as opposed to at a party or organized event. If you want candid shots, you can’t give instructions, tell them to move together. And there are all the other people roaming around, their heads and other body parts showing up at the strange angles.

The Girls
The Girls

Back in the city again …

Before we became country mice, we were city rats. Garry lived in Boston, downtown in Government Center, for 20 years, then another 10 in Roxbury. I lived in Jerusalem for 9 years, Boston for 3, then Roxbury (which is really part of Boston) for 10 … and then we took our show on the road and moved out here.

It is a bigger different than mere geography. It’s a completely different ambiance, a different texture. Ironically, although the air is cleaner, almost completely free of industrial pollutants, it is thick with pollen and dust. My asthma is far worse out here in the country among the trees and grasses than it ever was in town with the car fumes and chimney soot and all. That, and of course all the dog hair we have in the air and everywhere.

It’s pretty out here. We’ve got the river and the canal, waterfalls everywhere you look. Autumn, when we don’t get rained out, is glorious and you can stop at farm stands and get fresh organic veggies and fruits any time they are in season. We’ve got cows and horses, goats and a dizzying array of wildlife.

Deer, raccoon, the cheekiest chipmunks you’ve ever met … and then there are bats, rats, an infinite number of field mice. A bobcat with glow-in-the-dark eyes and coyotes that look like big friendly dogs. Nasty fishers with coats like mink and when the bobcat hasn’t eaten them all, rabbits. Squirrels, but fewer than there used to be before the bobcats. They are small but mighty hunters.

Irony again: the biggest, nastiest raccoon I ever met was on Beacon Hill, in our back walled garden. He was big, fat, and he wasn’t taking any crap from me. He informed me that the back patio belonged to him and I was disinclined to argue the point.

I never went back there again. At least the raccoons around here stay in their own part of town, or woods.

The Symphony Stop

Christmas Pops
Christmas Pops
Symphony Hall Pillar
Symphony Hall Pillar

Not the oldest part of the city. That honor goes to Beacon Hill, but much of this area dates to the 1800s, some of it a bit earlier. A mix of commercial, cultural, and residential, it provides an interesting look at the architecture of the times.

On the street
On the street
Boston University Theatre
Boston University Theatre

The area is now known as “Symphony” since it is dominated by Symphony Hall. The Berkeley School of Music is here, music store, other smaller concert and performance venues. It’s very music-centric.

Horticultural Hall
Horticultural Hall
Side door
Side door


See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

We westerners love to make fun of foreigners who have difficulty with the English language. This “mickey-taking” (English slang for making fun of) does not limit itself to making fun of the Japanese’s confusion about English and its non-logical methods. Also known as Engrish, which to me sounds a little insulting; I have decided that in the world of blogging there is another kind of “Glish.”

Spamglish, like its distant cousin, Japanglish has the same illogical application of nouns, verbs, pronouns, subjects, adjectives and tenses. The notion that there is a world of blog writers who don’t have enough of a command of the English language to spam properly tickles me. So, in my mind at least, I’ve created a new sort of language. One that is spoken and written in Spamglish.

I don’t know if I’m just easily amused or if I have a “cracked” sense of humour; but, I just adore spam comments. You know the ones I mean. The ones that akismet take and put in their spam folder in order to show how good they are at protecting your blog from unwanted sales oriented spammers.

Most of them can make me laugh until I cry. They are truly hysterical. I know that a contributing factor is that the spam comes from countries where English isn’t even a second language and they have to rely on Google Translate or other similar programs.

A lot of the time these “spam” comments start with the words “Hi, I do believe your website has browser compatibility problems.” This statement or the not too dissimilar, “I see you are lacking some factors on your site’” and the many variants of the same message make me groan and quickly empty my spam bin.

Some, though, are worth a read. They invariably make me laugh and wonder if the person writing the comment has editing problems or if they were inebriated or stoned while writing their “comments.”

Here are a few examples:

Excellent publish, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not understand this. You must continue your writing. I’m sure, you have a great readers’ base already!|What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely helpful and it has aided me out loads. I hope to contribute & help different customers like its helped me. Good job.

*This was from a Polish site…I think.*

your posts gives me motivation to keep on my intention to create a blog one day. thank you for all


i didn’t even see something like this before because of the scarcity of this type of information *Portuguese*

*Now this one is Chinese (basic Han, whatever that is) and it translates to – Analysis is very thorough, appreciate your views, learning* amusingly the page view shows an advert for Babylon Translator something they did not bother to use.

I have had a lot of other amusing comments all by “sales sites” and they vary. Some start as a sort of mangled congratulatory message. For example: “I used to really like reading your blog but now not so much”. Another one is: “You used to be expert at this subject now I think don’t have enough knowledge.”

Of course the comments are amusing by themselves but the blog post that they appear on usually highlights the comedic element of the comments.

I would like to think that the problem is just translation, but after reading a few young people’s letters (where they use “text speak and spell”) and the horrendous sentence structure – I know, I’m no champ myself – I am beginning to believe that the art of communication via the written word is a dying art. It also appears to be contagious.

Some spammers though are trying to appear legitimate with the elegant and downright flattering tone of their comments. I actually got halfway through an entire paragraph of praises when I realised that the comment was from a “sex aid” company. The blog post in question was one of my Quorn articles.

But my all time favourite has to be the last Portuguese comment I got today: haha! i agree with you! This was in reference to a book review I did on The Unlucky Lottery. This one at least “looked” like it could be a legitimate comment.

I guess that the more illiterate or garbled comments make me think of the character Manuel from Fawlty Towers (played to hilarious perfection by the English actor Andrew Sachs) whose attempts at communication in English were classic comedy. In my mind I see a score of Manuel’s all sitting in front of a laptop adding what they know are pertinent comments on blogs that they are attempting to spam.

Of course were it not for askimet and their wide spam catching net, most of these would be read anyway, but, because askimet have rounded all the “offending” spam into one easy to access folder it makes reading them less annoying and more entertaining.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

I’ve also written about this and I never get tired of these hilarious messages. My question remains unanswered: does anyone actually respond to these messages?

See on mikesfilmtalk.com

Visiting the oncologist if you forgot the Kindle but brought a camera …

A visit to one’s oncologist … the routine kind of visit when you haven’t got any deeply disturbing new symptoms and your best hope is that nobody finds anything the least bit interesting and you get to go home with all the same pieces you had on arrival. A visit after which no one calls to say you need to come back for more tests. The “normal” visits everyone who survives cancer hates, but figure as long as they stay boring, that’s good. “Survivor” as we all know, means “not dead yet,” and that’s the way we want it to remain. Whatever else is wrong with us, as long as the bottom line is “I’m alive!!” we are happy campers, or as close to happy as you can be when one of your primary doctors is an oncologist.


Yesterday was a deferred, re-scheduled quarterly visit.

And wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to stuff my Kindle into my bag. The lab took forever and the only tech they have who can find my good vein was off. I have only one usable vein. If you miss it, good luck finding another that will yield enough blood to run the tests.

The day had gotten off to a roaring start, as it so often does, because we got stuck behind one of the areas super slow drivers. Being as our roads are one lane in each direction, stuck is stuck. Naturally, whoever they were, they were going exactly where we were going … the Milford Medical complex — Milford Hospital and our local Dana Farber outpost. We  tried not to start honking the horn or acting  crazy.

It happens every time we have to go somewhere and need to be there at a particular time. I’m not sure how they know we’re coming, but that 25 mph driver is waiting and will always be immediately in front of us as we try to get wherever we are going, almost always a doctor or hospital. Oddly, we never have any trouble getting home quickly … when we aren’t on a schedule.


We got there more or less on time anyhow, but the lab took a long time. She needed to keep hunting for that vein. She finally found it and I tried not to act as surly as I felt. Probably I failed. I was surly. They never listen to me.  You’d think, having been the owner/operator of this body for 65 long, painful years, they’d figure I might know a thing or two about it, but they always assume I’m either senile or retarded. Maybe both.


We had to wait for the lab. We had to wait for the doctor. Then, we had to wait some more because I needed a chest X-ray and the X-ray tech was in the other building (the hospital across the street) and when he showed up, the software that runs the X-ray machine was on the fritz. I suggested he reboot. He said the last time he did that, it totally died. I pointed out he had nothing to lose: it wasn’t working anyhow.


He rebooted. It died completely. Another tech joined him and they concluded that the machine was (again because this is apparently a regular event) broken. I could have told them that. The reason that there happened to be a second tech right on the spot was because my patient husband, who was sitting there reading his newspaper had realized that his paper was getting wet. That it was raining outside was one issue, but we were in the lobby of the relatively new Dana Farber almost-but-not-quite state-of-the-art cancer facility. Less than 5 years old, anyhow.


So they called the guy to fix the leak (again) because this too was a regular event. They had yet to figure out where the water was coming from. They thought maybe it was coming through the electrical system and leaking out through a lightbulb, leading me to suggest that they could put a lot of people out of their misery by upping the voltage and electrocuting people in the waiting room. The administrative nurse says “Nah, we’d need an electrical upgrade to get the voltage high enough to do anyone in, but maybe they could fix it on the next remodel.”  I love nurses.



I had nothing to do through most of this. Lacking my Kindle, I dug around and found my little Canon Powershot 260, which I carry all the time to handle photographic emergencies. After exploring the contents of the chip, deleting some really bad pictures, I figured I might as well try to see if there’s anything to photograph in the various waiting areas of Dana Farber Cancer Treatment Center in Milford, Massachusetts. That’s what happens when you forget to bring something to read.

Why they have a grand piano in the lobby is anybody’s guess. I’m afraid to ask.

The 12-Foot Teepee … How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire

Every once in a while, much to my surprise, Amazon informs me that someone bought one of my books. It happened during 2012 and just happened again … wow! Any personal friends who were going to buy or read my book have long since done so. Therefore whoever bought it is not someone I guilted into buying it and is a voluntary reader. This is cause for celebration. Woo hoo.

Don’t think I’m going to make any money from this. Hell no. The Kindled version of my book yields a whopping $1.87 per sale (or loan) and Amazon won’t send money until they owe at least $20. I guess that would require the sale of 11 electronic books? Something like that. Since my 2012 sales have totaled 2 and there have been 2 more this year, I think I have now officially broken the $5 barrier and need about 6 more sales, downloads, or borrowers to earn enough for a trip to McDonald’s. I can barely control my excitement.

The_12-Foot_Teepee_Cover_for_KindleFor all that, I’m always a little tingled when anyone buys or reads my book and especially happy when they tell me they enjoyed it. I’ve been away from it for quite a while already and I don’t think about it often. I’m unlikely to go back that way again. If I ever decide to write a new book, it will be something entirely different. Dogs, maybe.

I wrote it in 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” — so to speak — until 2008. I did those authorly things, some television interviews on local cable, some pretty heavy-duty radio interviews with pretty big guns, locally and regionally. I got some good local press, not as much as I might have wished, but not bad. I arranged some book signings. None of them amounted to much, but they were fun to do and I met other local authors, some of whom have become friends. I sold a few hundred books which I’m told, for a self-published book, is not bad. For a while, I got regular royalty checks, sometimes large enough for a very cheap dinner at a local fast food restaurant. I briefly thought I was going to become a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing did not materialize. So much for dreams of Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. When it first came out and I still held some dreams of glory in my aging brain, my husband had (still has) some good media connections, though as the years pass, colleagues retire and there are fewer … but 5 years ago, many more of Garry’s colleagues were working.


When you write this kind of book, a book that is highly personal and largely based on your own life experiences, you know it’s not going to hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The only time books of this kind will become wildly popular is when they’ve been written by some celebrity who is revealing scandalous details of things done with other celebrities, usually of a sexual nature. Or some other celebrity likes it and pumps it up on a national television show, something that did not happen to me and doesn’t happen to most people.

Unless you have a recognizable name, there’s no market for this kind of book. The ones that do get published on the basis of existing celebrity don’t sell very well either, usually going from the front of the store display to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …” It’s not likely that me or you, unknowns that we are, would be able to convince a publisher that we are worth the ink and paper to produce even a trade paperback first release. Don’t even think about an advance.

Books so bad they should have a warning label

Lately, I have had the assigned task of reading a lot of books that have been judged to be among “the best of 2012.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of the year’s offering, but I’d like to meet the judges and ask them — about at least half the entries — “What were you thinking?” There are some good books amongst the dross I was assigned. There are even a couple of great ones, as well as a bunch of pretty good ones.

Alas, there are also many really awful ones, books so bad that it’s hard to imagine how this literary effort could be regarded by anybody as worth publishing in any form. The absolutely worst book I had to slog through was J. K. RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy.” If you buy this book, you will want your money back. All I can think was she had a contract, got an advance, the due date came around and she threw this together to satisfy a contractual obligation. I certainly hope that’s the scenario because I cannot believe that even she believes this book is worth reading.

After Rowlings dreadful novel, my next three top suggestions for your “don’t read this book” list, all of which should carry large warning labels saying Bad literature!! Keep away! — include:

Any of these books will cause you gastric distress and could lead to existential despair and a desire to read something involving wizards and vampires, or worse, Jean Paul Sartre. Don’t blame me. I warned you.

Then, there are a whole lot of books that are — at best — okay. Not awful enough that maybe there couldn’t be someone somewhere that likes it, but I find it hard to imagine who that might be. Some of these are may simply be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I didn’t like them, but I suppose you could. Some others had redeeming qualities, but not enough, making you wish the author had given the manuscript one more edit … or considered including a plot, storyline, and a few interesting characters.

English: Grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone ...This brings me back to my book. I will say, in advance, that it is not a piece of deathless literature, but it’s not bad — and a whole lot better than most of the books deemed the best of 2012. In fact, comparatively speaking, my book has features that used to be traditional in books: characters, humor, the semblance of a plot, and a good-faith attempt to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps more of how not to build a teepee), should you care to have one of your own … something I highly recommend. Tepees are strangely wonderful. You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure whoever you are, you’d really like having a teepee.

These days, books that sell are mostly cop and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, vampires and other creatures out of myth and fable, many things magical and mystical. Novels about people who live in the real world and do real things … work at paying jobs, raise children who lack magical powers, don’t have access to time travel nor are likely to rocket into space to explore other universes are becoming increasing rare.

Are we no longer able to find the real world as it exists in the here-and-now sufficiently interesting to write books about it? Perhaps we bore ourselves and find our neighbors and families equally uninteresting.

How boring are we?

So here’s my question: are we really that boring? All of us? Is the reason that there are so few good books set in the real world because we find our own lives completely uninteresting. Are our struggles to keep a roof over our heads, get to a doctor, be treated by society with respect … are the day-to-day battles that regular people go through every day so dreary that we can’t bear to write about them?

It is obviously more entertaining to read about things that don’t exist … things that may have happened long in the past … or about events that have or might happen in our real world, but are so far out of the ordinary experiences of regular folks that they might as well happen in an alternate universe.

Discovering the other day that someone bought a copy of my book was a big event for me. It couldn’t be anyone I know. They’ve already got copies, either bought them or got them as gifts from the author, who gets to buy copies at cost (gee). The purchase, which may actually have been a “borrow,” was in Kindle format, so if I sell another 9 books, I will reach the threshold at which Amazon will pay royalties (still hoping to hit that $20 threshold) . So, right now, they own me $3.74, which isn’t close. It’s possible in theory that more people will buy or borrow books, isn’t it? If thousands of people bought and presumably read “A Casual Vacancy” or “The Middlesteins,” maybe 9 or 10 more people, will buy or borrow an electronic copy (or, be still my heart), a hard-copy trade paperback version of my book. Although unlikely, it’s possible. And the book might even resonate with some of you.

It’s about the baggage we haul through life, the baggage that gets loaded on our young backs when we are too small to choose … plus the rest of the boulders we pick up along the way and keep hauling until one day — with a little luck — we realize it’s okay to dump  them.

So, in case you’re of a mind to buy a book … which maybe you’ll enjoy and then again, maybe you won’t … the book is about child abuse and getting over it as well as the strange ways it warps you as you plod through life . How building a tepee helped me dump the heavy load of bullshit from childhood and other stuff added along the way. In advance, I ask your forbearance about typos. Without a proper proofreader and editor, I was left to my own devices. If you read me regularly, you know I’m  a terrible proofreader and the queen of typos. Being a writer and a proofreader have nothing to do with each other. Different skill sets. It is also really hard to proofread your own copy: you tend to see what you meant to write and not what is really there. 75-BooksHP

So, in case there are nine or ten people out there who might want to splurge for an e-book or a paperback, you can find the books on Amazon:

If you have any interest in acquiring the book in whatever form:

You can buy the hardcopy paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can read it for free. Oddly enough, I still get the same $1.87 in royalties, even if you read it at no cost. Go figure.

Note: There is some weird version of my book that comes up indicating that the paper book as no longer available. It’s an Amazon error that I have asked them (sigh) to fix. You get the correct information if you search in Amazon under “books” rather than as a general search. Maybe they’ll fix it, but it’s there, I promise. the links I included here are correct, even though Amazon thinks I published at least one version of this book in 0001 … which would make me a VERY old author.

I have some serious concerns about the state of the publishing industry. I am convinced that there are more good writers who can’t find a publisher than good writers who have gotten published. With the opportunities offered by the electronic publishing services, I would think the potential profit in publishing has increased exponentially. Why not publish more? E-books cost nothing but a little electronic storage space … and books like mine that are published as “print to order” cost nothing until you print one that has already been bought and paid for. It’s risk free. It would be good for everyone.

Perhaps publishers should consider offering opportunities to talented newcomers that don’t necessarily write in safe and trendy categories. I love science fiction and fantasy, but I also enjoy good books about the real world and people to whom I can relate in an earthly way.

I’m afraid the best of America’s writers are getting lost in the scramble to print only best-sellers. It isn’t working, either. Most books flop, just like they always have.  I’m not sure, from what I’m seeing, that most acquisitions editors would know a really good book if it reached up and bit them on the nose. It’s not that I’m so great and couldn’t get a reading, much less a publisher or agent. It’s that the stuff that gets published is so awful. Not a good sign for literature or the publishing industry.