Photos for January Stones and April PAD 2012 property of M J Dills (exception 1/16)

Friday, August 30, 2013

We're the Government and We're Here to Help

I’ve been notified that I owe the government money; Employment Security to be specific. For those of you who don’t know, that’s “Unemployment” and if ever there was an oxymoron…
The amount is $409.00 because “the information provided is different than the information provided by [my] employer or other resources for the same period.” Sigh. Those were my bonuses. I shared them with my co-manager, too, but the checks were made out to me.
Considering I get approximately $194 a week from ESD, this will take a big bite out of my crime.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the funds filtered into my bank account every week, enabling me to barely make my rent, pay my bills and depend on friends and family for fun and frivolity.  I would be getting more, if not for the fact I receive $575 a month in the form of rent stipend for a job that I put in somewhere between 65 and 80 hours a month. Break that one down. The money, I must assume, that I’ve made from bonuses, is not, indeed, bonus money at all, but regarded as income. So screw me if I want to have a latte, or buy a book or take a ferry ride or go to a movie. Never mind an extravagance like a nice dinner out and/or a concert, new boots, yoga classes, a road trip (but that would require my car, which is a whole other story.)
I know what you’re saying: So, get a J O B.
Yes. I’ve been working on that. As a matter of fact, Employment Security put me in touch with the Department of Vocational Rehab, who have been so kind as to help me get hearing aids, since my hearing loss is one of the reasons I am limited to what type of job I can get.  They also looked into helping with auto repairs to further facilitate my job seeking, which was greatly appreciated, though it didn’t work out. The woman who’s been helping me referred to getting the “breaks” on my car fixed. I overlooked it, as we all make mistakes and after all, spell-check probably wouldn’t catch that. But when I asked her if the DVR would be willing to help with payment for classes, I was told the courses I was interested in taking didn’t really fit with my profile and she wondered if that make “since” to me.
I don’t see myself as some flaming intellect. If I were, then maybe I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place, where my retirement funds got eaten up by some national debt monster or bestowed to some global purpose that I had missed somewhere in small print.
The DVR put me in touch with one of their employment agencies. I would need a new profile. After being flipped around to three different people within that agency, one who chewed gum throughout the entire interview, I was assigned to a young lady who explained that she was an expert in resume writing and could really help me out. She proudly presented my re-written resume to me, with experience misspelled three times. She made me look like a whiz kid by including that currently I simultaneously managed a dental office, restaurant, two business offices and apartment buildings. If I did all that, I doubt I would require her assistance in finding employment. (I manage an apartment building in which there is a dental office and restaurant. The other information she simply fucked up in general after I repeatedly gave her details.) 
I’m not afraid of work. I do lots of it, get paid little and what I’m collecting from the government is a bit of a joke. An insult. And now they want me to give them money. For my bonuses.  

Beware of: We’re the government and we’re here to help you.

Monday, August 19, 2013


After asking why didn't I self-publish, a friend recently wanted to know how long I would continue to promote my books. There was no hesitation in my response.
“I will always continue to promote my books.”
My first, Nothing Gold, is a memoir. It’s totally on the shelf now and if I ever have time to devote to such narcissism, I’ll pull it down and put it through a re-write. Nothing Gold is about my husband, how he got sick, almost died, recovered and turned our world upside down. We’re not married anymore and to me he's dead, because the person we knew vanished, replaced by a stranger whose brain was deprived of oxygen for sixteen days.
I completed Mozo in February 2007. I was busy at the time doing other writing and didn't put the effort into querying that it deserved (and I was over confident, the plague of all first time novelists). But that was okay, because it desperately required a complete re-write, which I finished in 2009 and proceeded to have properly edited. I changed the name to Seven Waves and in 2011, received some serious interest from a couple agents, one who hung on to it until all the tequila had evaporated from my query battery. I have changed the name once again to Sing, and Don’t Cry and my heart is buried somewhere within the pages of that book. I’m counting on it to be a great follow up to my first publication.
In November of 2011, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo; the once yearly effort of many crazed and sleep deprived writers who, with a minimum of 1667 words a day, turn out a 50,000 word novel in one short month. Not, Actually was born. I came up with the name from some late night thread where a writer was asked if she knew what she was writing for NaNoWriMo and said “Not, actually.” It struck a chord and I headed into the future with my past. I wrote a book about a nineteen year old na├»ve farm girl, who ends up in Los Angeles, pregnant and directionless. Her mother arranges for her to place her baby with an adoption agency but Robin, the protagonist, proceeds to marry a cute British boy, who happens to be gay and in need of a green card to stay in the country so he can continue his relationship with a South American. With their financial help, she is able to take care of her baby, whom she miraculously retrieves from the adoption agency. That was my own personal history and I started to pound it out on the keyboard early in the mornings, before I took off to work at a snobby little boutique in the University Village. Those were long days.
After I got my NaNoWriMo badge, I kept going and ended up with over 90,000 words. Then I went back and did a complete re-write and after much consternation, came up with a more workable title: The Story of Robin Dockery and Her Songs. This book is partly cathartic, because it lets me end things much better than they have actually (there’s that word again), plus I have been able to get a story out there that begs to be told, regarding the 60’s/70’s and what it was like to be an innocent pregnant teenager, without any guidance. There were many of us, believe me.
I began sending Robin out on July 26, and have thirteen total queries submitted, as of date, with four form rejections received and eight messages floating in the ethernet. On August 6, I had an amazing turnaround of twenty minutes when Kathleen Anderson of Anderson Literary Management responded and asked me to send a FULL HARD COPY. I dropped everything and went about getting a new flash drive, making a full copy and sending it via FedEx. The clerk at Kinko’s backed off a bit when I kissed the manuscript and slid it into the envelope. It cost me an unsightly $67.69, which is a lot of money for someone who has taken the year off to finish writing a book. If I get another request like that, I may have to wander down to the local 7-11 with my paper gun.
Now is limbo. FedEx left Robin at the front door of Anderson Lit on August 13 and I’ve heard nothing since. I’ve preoccupied myself with things like the KPLU Haiku contest (link below), reviving my blog and polishing old silver platters that haven’t seen the light of day since last century.
I’m also working on Carlos at the Broken Arms, another novel. At dusk last night, on my walk, when deciding who I would dedicate my first book to (ah, perchance to dream), I realized the ideal name for Carlos’s dear aunt, whose death sets his new life in motion. Authors manage to find ways to literally bestow honor, assign heroes, villains and misanthropes. That’s why we write.
And that’s why we continue to sell ourselves so we can share what we write.
So… until the cold front warms up, the land of rejection decides to no longer embrace me, and the warm meadow of acceptance, contracts and undivided attention to honing my craft opens up like a reluctant clam shell, yes.

I will keep promoting and querying and hoping and praying. Always. 

Thanks for reading.

To vote for me in the KPLU contest, use this link. I thank you ecstatically. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013



Peaches, being a baby’s first food, were never in short supply in our old farmhouse. Fresh in the summer and obtainable all through the rest of the year, they beamed from a long row in the pantry, jar after jar of canned smiles.
Every August, on a mild weekday morning, before the sun made an appearance, I dragged my sleeping children into the gas guzzling Gran Torino station wagon and buckled them in. With wobbly heads they fell back to sleep instantly.
Once on the road, I had time to listen to the radio, twisting the dial when out of range, hearing agriculture reports along with weather and road conditions. I listened to everything, relishing stolen quiet moments until one yawner awoke and quickly roused the others.
The drive from Enumclaw to Union Gap, over Chinook pass, was about three hours and by the time we got there, I had hungry travelers. Their first meal of the day was a big, fat, fresh peach, fuzz removed with whatever buffer available. They didn’t actually mind the downy skin and begged for more. There is nothing like a fresh peach straight from the orchard.
Once I made my purchases, usually three lugs, approximately 75 pounds, we headed back to the other side of the mountains. Ordinarily we pulled into the driveway shortly after noon. The kids were wired from the long ride and tumbled into the yard, chasing chickens, doing cartwheels and unloading pent up energy.
I hauled the lugs onto the tailgate and started picking out ripe fruit. The canners were already on the stove, filled with water and ready to be loaded with jars, which had been sterilized and covered the day before.
The next two days were spent canning; first dipping peaches in scalding water, then into a cold bath, peeling the skin and halving them. The sink was full of pinkish water skimmed with peach fuzz. Dinner was late on those nights and kids fell asleep somewhere in the vicinity of bedrooms if they were lucky. The baby usually was located in a Johnny-jump-up or infant seat, following my every move with her eyes.
Today, the peaches one buys don’t taste, regardless of where you buy them, Whole Foods, Co-op stores or the like. By don’t taste, I mean they aren’t like the dripping, sweet, candy-like peaches I hauled fresh over the mountains and fed my family throughout the winter.

The other day my friend Marni brought an apron-full of peaches from her family orchard in Kettle Falls. The taste is like juicy sugar heaven. I miss having a baby in the house who I can introduce this first fruit. I nearly ate them all myself.