Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Month: June 2017 (page 1 of 2)

I’ve updated the covers of all my “Tojet” versions

This is cross-posted on my writing blog here: https://nyssashobbithole.com/author/ive-updated-covers-tojet-versions/

I now have an eye-popping cover on all my versions of Tojet.  The artwork is by Kimberly Steele.  For years I haven’t changed the cover because of, well, fear of changing anything in my book: Revisions could make something go goofy.  😛  Here is the new cover:

Also, while working on the revisions, I had to update my pricing as well.  The last time I did this, I could set my own royalty at a reasonable rate to keep the book prices as low as possible for the reader.  But now, Lulu is making me set minimum prices higher than I wanted–and I discovered that retailers such as Amazon would then take away most of that royalty!  If I want anything above 70 cents from an Amazon royalty, I’ll have to jack up the print prices so high that no one will buy it.  >:(

So I don’t think I’ll be selling my print books through retailers anymore, except for any copies they may have in inventory.  But now that I’ve made both of my books available as e-books in the versatile epub format, those should soon be available through retailers.  Print versions, however, will have to go through Lulu.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the cover of The Lighthouse.  It’s a Lulu-provided cover, but I haven’t had the opportunity to get a better one.  I could make one, but I don’t do full-color paintings, so I hesitate.  Paying someone costs $$$.  Public domain images just don’t look right for the book.  So for now it’s staying as it is, unless I come up with a better one.

 

 

 

Tojet and The Lighthouse: Now available in Epub Format for E-books

(This was also posted on my writing blog here.)

For years I’ve wanted a Kindle, but didn’t have the $$$.  But I recently discovered that Amazon offers payment plans for Kindles, and I had a birthday coming up.  So now I have one–

and discovered how sucky my old e-books look on a Kindle.

In the early days of e-books, offering your book as a PDF was enough because most people probably would just open it on their computers anyway, and PDFs looked good and professional.  PDFs were also good if you wanted to print the book.

As technology began to pass me by, I had no idea that my PDF offerings were now tough to use on the fancy e-book readers.  Since I didn’t have one, I didn’t know how they worked.

Well, now that I have my own Kindle, I see clearly that the old PDFs just aren’t good enough.  So now–

after a lot of frustration because of formatting issues and the tendency of both Word and WordPerfect to use punctuation that turns to garbledygook in HTML  >:(  —

I am offering both Tojet and The Lighthouse as epub-format e-books.  At the moment, they’re available from Lulu, but they should soon be available from more stores, including Amazon’s Kindle store.  I use Calibre to convert my epubs to use on my Kindle.

So come check them out if you have an e-book reader.  As before, I offer them for $3 each: My Lulu Storefront

 

 

So I googled a sociopath from my past….

(By the way, I hear that my old friend Catherine is dealing with a “friend” living in her place and giving her much the same trouble my old “boarders” gave me.  Not moving out, complaining about everything, blaming you for everything, then getting all cutesy to manipulate you into letting them stay.  Dang, that sounds familiar.  Hubby, who just told me all about it, says people like this prey on people like Catherine and me, who are nice and sweet etc.  He was just telling me all about Catherine’s “boarder.”)

Now for the sociopath I googled.

I’ve mentioned this guy on my blog before.  Almost 20 years ago now (  wait–what?  ? )  , a guy came to my SCA shire (medieval re-enactment; a shire is a local group) and immediately began turning it upside-down.

First he made an entrance which I consider attention-seeking: He came to a Halloween event with a mask, so we’d wonder who he was.  Nobody else wore masks.  His girlfriend, one of our members, helped out by saying, “Who is it?”

Finally, after intriguing us all, making us wonder if he was some famous personage, he took off the mask–and was nobody anybody knew.  Shortly afterward, he began to insult the religious beliefs of my husband and me.

This became a pattern for him at subsequent SCA events, insulting Christians, getting up on his soapbox and railing against them.  I wanted to go to events to have fun, not to hear how my religion is evil and must be vanquished.  It was very stressful.

Then he took over the shire’s brand-new website and turned it into a platform promoting his own religious beliefs, leading to a link on his own site which said he was on a campaign to stamp out Christianity.  Now, religion in the context of medieval times would have been fine, but a shire website is not supposed to be about promoting anybody’s religion or giving instructions on how to astral-project.

Some people complained; my husband, the president of the group at the time, was the go-between and tried to resolve things peacefully.  He asked the guy to remove the stuff promoting religion without historical medieval context, and make some aesthetic changes because the site was a resource hog that took forever to load.  (Lots and lots of pictures, many animated, ON ONE PAGE, in the days of dial-up and HTML.)

This guy turned it into a huge conspiracy against him.  He made himself into a martyr, posted our e-mails online without proper context (such as phone calls which tried to resolve things peacefully), posted his e-mails as “proof” of what we allegedly “did” even though his e-mails twisted everything in their details, left out Hubby’s initial e-mail which was very diplomatic, brought in everybody he knew to support him, e-mailed other shires to badmouth us, tried to involve kingdom officials, and turned us into the Evil Oppressors of the Innocent Him.  And yes, he used everybody’s full, real names or SCA names.  Months later, one of our members got an e-mail from a stranger saying how horrible my husband and a few others were, because of what he read on the site, which was still up.

Finally he left the group.  We got a new webmaster, who made the site into a simple, informative website with meeting and event schedules, member bios, that sort of thing.  It also loaded a lot faster.

The kingdom–our local regional group–put out a webmaster’s guide which specifically prohibited every single thing this guy did.  It said the sites were not to be used to promote religions, not to be used as a soapbox, etc. etc.

But then we got mailbombed with about 100 e-mails labeled “karma.”  I strongly suspect this guy did it–especially since I later learned that he uses the term “karma” when punishing those he thinks have oppressed him.

He also came to a shire event brandishing a real sword, not fake ones like you’re supposed to have in the SCA, violating rules and creating a safety hazard.  Hubby felt he did this to goad Hubby into responding, because Hubby was sitting troll (ie, taking entrance fees and having people sign the customary waivers).

“Jenny’s Story” in my collection The Lighthouse was partially inspired by this whole thing.  I put this guy’s words into the mouth of Scott, the accuser of Jenny.  It was my way to deal with the anger over what he did to my husband and others in the shire.

I don’t want to make this a big, long post, but there’s much to sum up.  Over the years, every now and then–like maybe every five years or so–I wonder what the dude’s been up to, and start googling.  I keep coming up with some freaky stuff, like:

He claims to be the creator of several Atari games, which he claims intellectual rights to, and that Atari screwed him.

He likes to create computer viruses/trojans to avenge various perceived wrongs done against him or others.  He created one such trojan to punish Charter, the cable company.  Another was used against a bank.

He was busted for shooting naughty pictures of a 15-year-old, and now has to register as a sex offender.

He moved around a bit after leaving our shire, but eventually settled in a city in the next county where the shire is based.  (No, it’s not Fond du Lac or this county, thank goodness!)  I found an entire web forum in that city devoted to hating on him back around 2009.  I found all sorts of threads about his criminal history and complaining about him.

Over the years, I have gotten a strong picture of a guy who is severely mentally disturbed, probably a narcissistic sociopath.  Someone who must have attention, martyr complex, paranoia, that sort of thing.  Must be grandiose, must be the subject of some conspiracy, must avenge all wrongs like he’s Don Quixote.  Even the name he chose for the SCA was Lightbringer, like he’s a Messiah.

You can find this type in the writings of Sam Vaknin.

Well, tonight I went looking again, to see if yet another criminal case has been taken out against him.  Every once in a while, state court records show that he’s been arrested for something again, usually for violating the requirements of the sex registry.  And he always complains about being treated unfairly in one way or another.

Sure enough, he’s currently in such a case, updated just a few days ago.  A little googling revealed that he has turned this court case into part of a grand conspiracy against him, involving an allegedly corrupt local police force and even our state governor Scott Walker.  There are videos about this on Youtube.  It’s a featured case on a website called Leagle.

I even found his petition for writ of habeas corpus demanding a “federal criminal grand jury investigation.”  It has some weird garbledygook about not being a citizen of the US (Inc) but of the US, therefore not subject to the US (Inc).

O_o

o_O

He calls himself a Reverend now.  He’s talking about murder threats, false imprisonment, that the local police are out to get him and he didn’t really commit a crime with the 15-year-old, government conspiracy….

Picard Facepalm image

Oh yeah, and the court records for the current case reveal the state questioned his competence to stand trial.

Hmmmmmmmmm.

So, a guy with a history of grandiosity, a martyr complex and sociopathy is claiming that he’s the target of a vast conspiracy and didn’t REALLY take naughty pictures of a 15-year-old.  (I’ve seen the website he ran around the time he was arrested for that charge, and its pictures of teenage girls, so I can believe he really did take naughty pics.)

And I recall how he turned my husband and several shire members into a kind of Evil Coalition against him, when they just wanted him to make the website into a simple, informative site which loads in less than 10 minutes and doesn’t hide page links.  (Seriously, the page links were invisible unless you knew to look for them.  This was 1999, when most people didn’t yet know a picture could also be a link.)

Yeah, I’m having a REALLY hard time believing that anything he says is for reals.  I think he wants his life to be a Hollywood movie.

No, I won’t name the guy on my website.  But I thought it was an amusing example of the kind of sociopathy you may come across.  And an example of why we should be careful not to believe just anything we read on the Net.

[Update 6-29-18: He STILL has not gone to trial, having changed his attorney several times.  See here.]

 

We evicted a family of skunks from under our porch

Now for an update on this post.  I wrote about a skunk which had moved into a den underneath our porch stoop.

On May 28, we didn’t smell a “skunk bomb” in the basement at sunset like usual, so we hoped the skunk had taken the hint from our tampering with the den, and run off.  But no, next night we smelled it again, and the stuff we put over the hole was moved again.  We soon began finding all sorts of rocks the color of our porch stoop, surrounding the entrance of the hole.  Hubby said it was making the den bigger–yet another indication that it was a she, with a litter coming or already here.

The presence of a litter complicated things: We could easily block her out after dark, but any babies in the den would soon die–leaving us with an even bigger problem.  It’s much easier to remove living animals than dead ones from under a porch, and if the smell of living skunk in the basement was bad, the smell of dead baby skunks would be much worse–and could last for months!

Besides, even if we did block it off, she would probably gain super-skunkie strength and move the block to get to her babies.  Because that’s what mommies do.

So I started keeping an eye on Mama Skunkie.  Every evening around dusk, I could see her stroll over to the little cement drive/walkway out back of the condos.  She’d follow the drive instead of cutting across the grass, probably going to the woods beyond to find food.  When a litter of kits began following her, we could try blocking the den.  We didn’t know how long that could be; information on the Web said we’d have to wait a few weeks before they were old enough.

But then, on Sunday, June 4, shortly after Mama Skunkie went for her stroll, somebody scared her, probably the dog that lives over there.  And you know what happens when you scare a skunk.

The stink was so bad that even our scented candles struggled to fight it off.  Next morning, the smell of skunk mixed with candle smoke was not much better.  I aired out the house, but come evening, a fresh stink would fill the basement again.  It was also starting to come into the kitchen, because the den was right below the windows on that side of the house.

We also feared for the structure of the concrete, with her digging all the time.  As Hubby learned later on, Mama Skunkie dug into the concrete itself, forming a shelf to make room in the den for everybody.  And if the concrete collapsed, not only would we have to replace it, but somebody could get hurt–especially the skunk family.

Monday, I called a wildlife specialist.  It’s expensive, but I had to find a way to swing the money.  No, the Humane Society will not do this job; they deal with domestic animals.  The wildlife specialist uses humane methods and finds a new home for the animal, rather than killing it.  I didn’t want Mama Skunkie dead.  I wanted her frolicking free and happy–far away from my porch.

Around 6pm, I came down with a splitting headache and nausea.  It was so bad that for an hour or two, I could do nothing except lie back on the couch and rest, kept conscious only because my husband needed directions for making dinner.  For days, the nausea remained, until the skunks were removed.  I strongly suspect the skunk smell did it, especially since I couldn’t get away from it.

Around dusk, food had restored me enough that I stood at the door and waited for Mama Skunkie to come out of the den.  I could manage this because anything else–reading, watching TV–would hurt my head.  My son and I listened to her dig and dig and dig inside the den, and saw occasional stones fly out.  I waited for an hour and a half, yet she still kept digging, so I finally got tired and went away.

I said to my son, “When they catch her, she’s going to think, ‘Dang, and I just got that den the way I like it!'”

The next day, the wildlife specialist set the live traps.  Hubby thought the skunk would turn up her nose and avoid the traps.  First night, we got nothing, and I feared he was right.

But then Night Two came, Wednesday.  Just as the night before, around dusk I kept the inside door open and the kitchen lights off, so I could check for the skunk without scaring it.  Shortly after dusk, I got up to peek out the storm door window.

Before my eyes, in the dim light from the nearby lights, was a whole mass of black fur and white stripes, milling around and squirming!  Three little furry babies were caught in one trap, complaining and trying to get out.  Mama Skunkie was surprised and distressed, wondering what happened to her babies.  Many more babies tried to figure out what was wrong with their trapped siblings.  I loudly whispered down to my son, who was in the basement, to come look.  Hubby heard and came up, too.

I’ve never seen a skunk family up close like that, and probably never will again.  There must have been half a dozen babies.  How did they all fit under my porch???!!!  We watched in amazement for a while.  Then Mama and the remaining babies wandered off for a bit, probably to find breakfast.  Well, except for one who stayed behind, touching the cage, apparently worried and watching over its trapped siblings.

I called the wildlife specialist; he said he would come by first thing in the morning to pick them up.

I kept looking throughout the hours before bedtime, peeking out the window shades because Hubby closed the door to keep from surprising Mama Skunkie.  Because you know what happens when you surprise a skunk.

Eventually, the others came back and crowded around the cages late into the night, playing with each other.  Mama Skunkie kept prowling around the yard, looking anxious.  I wished I could tell her that we would not hurt her babies, that they all would be together again soon.  I didn’t worry about them now that she was around them again.

Before bed, I saw the other trap was now full.  In the dark, I couldn’t tell if it was one skunk or three.  I eventually decided it was three babies, and went to bed.

Around 5am Thursday morning, after dreaming of catching skunks, I woke up, went downstairs, and looked out again.  In the dawn light, I could now see one cage held three babies, but Mama Skunkie was in the other one.  The other babies were gone somewhere unknown.  Mama Skunkie went back and forth in the cage at times, and slept other times.  The babies in the other cage must have been asleep.

A monster-sized bunny lives around the house somewhere.  She probably used to live in the den herself.  I saw her in the yard as well, over by the garden, which is protected by chicken wire, but some of the plants poke through.  She and her babies love the plants that poke through.  Now she sat by the garden and watched the skunks in the cage, peering at them as if to say, “Oh, so they finally got you, huh?”

The wildlife specialist came in around the same time the landscapers came to mow the lawns of the condo association.  I heard the whir of the trimmers come around our yard, but then move away.  Sure enough, on Saturday Hubby learned that they called up the officers of the association and said, “We’re not mowing that lawn today!”  They wanted nothing to do with skunks, caged or not.

By the way, a few days before this, we got no paper.  I don’t hold it against the carrier, because I strongly suspect the skunk scared him away.

The specialist took the traps, checked the den for more kits, then left to “re-home” the skunk family.  I hosed off the sidewalk.  By the way, skunkie poo is black and smells just like skunk.  😛

Nobody knows where the rest of the litter went off to (the nearby woods?), but we’re confident they’re not in the den.  Not only did the specialist check it, but we covered it loosely with netting, and nothing disturbed the netting for days.  So now we’ve sealed it up with concrete.

Turns out other people in the condo association have had skunks living under their porches, too, so they could sympathize.   There’s a small wood out back, beyond the school field, and you can smell skunks in there.  I think they also like the milkweed I’m trying to grow out back.  I had several beautiful stalks coming up big and strong–which suddenly vanished one morning.  Something keeps eating it, even with a fence, and there are holes in the dirt probably dug by Mama Skunkie.

Before now, we had various animals living in the den: bunnies, small rodents.  We didn’t seal it up because we never knew what was down there.  Also, the inhabitants were too small to dig much or cause trouble.  So we co-existed peacefully, and treated them almost like pets.  But now, the hotel is closed!

 

#13ReasonsWhy : my take on the series

I just finished watching the last episode of 13 Reasons Why, the controversial Netflix series on teenage suicide.  Apparently I signed up for Netflix just in time….

I want to avoid posting spoilers.  But this series was extremely well done–well-written, well-acted, intelligent, going into all the angles.  You get a wide range of perspectives, from the suicidal girl to her friends, frenemies, enemies, counselor at school, parents.

Now, of course, I haven’t watched much teenage TV since I left high school, and my son only just hit his teenage years, so I don’t know what’s “normal” these days.  But I was surprised at how frank the show is, depicting the teenage love of the f- word, scenes of rape, scenes of violence.

It’s not the usual whitewashed version of teenage life which I used to see.  Sure we had Beverly Hills: 90210 when I was a kid, but you still had FCC guidelines restricting what we saw.  And, of course, concerns about what you’re teaching the children if you make underage bad behaviors seem normal or attractive.  On the other side of the spectrum, there were the happy-joy versions of teenage life on shows such as Head of the Class or Cosby Show or Saved by the Bell.  There were movies as well, not worried about the FCC, but usually either goofy or teen exploitation (Last American Virgin, Porky’s, slasher movies, that sort of thing).

Also, in shows like that, parents were often clueless or nonexistent, just off-screen entities.  Or silly, with weird ideas about fashion or what’s cool.  Or the school administration would just be out to get you.

13 Reasons Why is not restricted by FCC guidelines, since it’s on the Internet, not TV.  And it does not hold back.  On the one hand, it’s startling to see this on a show directed toward teens, but on the other hand, I remember what teenagers were really like when I was a kid.  And yeah, it was like this, except that cassette tapes were not antiques in those days, and we didn’t have the Net or cell phones….You could argue that young teenagers should not watch this, but older ones have heard at least as bad every day in their high schools.

Also, the parents in the series are varied: everything from neglectful to involved, though still clueless because their kids didn’t tell them anything about their struggles.  But they’re trying to get through to their kids, trying to understand them, not letting them get away with “It’s nothing, so leave me alone.”

Parents and school administration are shown as a resource teens can go to for help, though they’re not perfect, as you see the principal and the counselor being clueless or not pushing hard enough.  But once the teens realize they can talk to their parents, a light begins to shine in their darkened lives.  This is just what the producers intended, to encourage them to talk to adults.  I can recall being just like that myself in high school, not opening up to teachers or my parents about bullying at school, even though they could have helped me.

This series has become controversial recently, with adults concerned that it’s glorifying suicide or doesn’t help kids dealing with these issues.

But I see no glorification; I see pain, lots of pain, not just in the suicidal girl but in everyone orbiting her.

I see the kids shifting from denial, to trying to defend themselves, to letting history repeat itself when their friends show signs of suicidal thoughts, to finally beginning to take responsibility for their actions and do what needs to be done.  I see the adults begin to realize what they need to do as well.

I see a strong message that actions have consequences: not just the kids who bullied the girl, but the girl’s actions, and the actions of adults.

I see a frank depiction of what girls deal with in high school, that there are still guys who feel entitled to rank girls according to “hotness” or take whatever they want from them, even now in 2017 after decades of feminism.  I see a vivid depiction of what it’s like to be raped, and then see your rapist cheered and honored.  I see a girl dying in pain rather than drifting off to sleep in some sanitized version of suicide.

I also see notices in the series of how to get help, such as this website.

I don’t think it’s just meant for teenagers.  I think it’s also meant to wake up adults to what kids are going through, especially adults who have forgotten what high school was like.

At the end of the series is a kind of making-of episode explaining what everyone involved in the show wanted to accomplish.  You see what’s on their hearts and why they made such graphic depictions.  They wanted to give teenagers honesty, and help them.  They wanted to take high school struggles seriously instead of dismissing them, because to teens, they are their whole world and are intense.  Also, the writer of the Netflix adaptation explains here that he once wanted to take his own life.  He says,

In 13 Reasons Why, the story of a high-school girl who takes her own life, I saw the opportunity to explore issues of cyberbullying, sexual assault, depression, and what it means to live in a country where women are devalued to the extent that a man who brags about sexually assaulting them can still be elected president. And, beyond all that, I recognized the potential for the show to bravely and unflinchingly explore the realities of suicide for teens and young adults—a topic I felt very strongly about.

He explains that he was in the process of swallowing pills when he remembered a woman he once knew, and her horrifying story of a suicide attempt.  It was brutal, painful, and I’ll let you read the article to get the details.  He realized what he was doing, and began to throw up the pills.  He says,

So when it came time to discuss the portrayal of the protagonist’s suicide in 13 Reasons Why, I of course immediately flashed on my own experience. It seemed to me the perfect opportunity to show what an actual suicide really looks like—to dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off, and to make viewers face the reality of what happens when you jump from a burning building into something much, much worse.

It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all. In AA, they call it playing the tape: encouraging alcoholics to really think through in detail the exact sequence of events that will occur after relapse. It’s the same thing with suicide. To play the tape through is to see the ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all—it’s a screaming, agonizing, horror.

The rape scenes were difficult to watch, of course, as a woman, that feeling of powerlessness because a man is typically physically larger and stronger than a girl or woman.  I remember times when an ex forced or tried to force me into doing things I repeatedly refused to do.  How he seemed to feel entitled to expect these things from me.  But just because it’s difficult to watch, does not mean it should not be depicted.

This is hardly a new problem.  In my teens, suicide had become a big issue.  The radio played songs telling kids “don’t say suicide.”

I remember times in my teen years and early 20s when I thought my suffering would never end.  I remember wanting to kill myself.  I’ve been through it again, about 7 years ago when I lost a friendship that was important to me.

7 years ago, I was old enough to know it would eventually pass, and push through.  But when I was a kid, I didn’t know things would ever get better.  But I didn’t have the means, I knew it would hurt my parents, and I believed that I would go to Hell, so I didn’t do it.

Now, I look back at my reasons and know they weren’t worth suicide, that life got better afterward.  I realize all the things I would’ve missed out on.  But a teenager doesn’t know all that.

This series is trying to help stop teenage suicide, not cause it.  Despite all the controversy it has inspired, I think we should applaud and support it, not fight it.

Is it perfect?  Apparently not, considering all the controversy.  People find all sorts of reasons to attack it.  But is any work of art ever truly perfect?  Is that even possible?

 

Olderposts

Copyright © 2019 Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Powered by ClassicPress | Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: