That's what happened here.
I was totally ON the writing thing, but I got tired of listening to myself talk.
I needed a break to listen to the world a bit. I'll be back.
This 9 minute film is so simple and yet so gorgeous that I had to share it.
The key is holding the space between us, and deepening it through our own willingness to feel and be present.
It's Peace Globe day again!
I have been participating in the blog blast for peace since 2007. I'm deeply grateful for Mimi who hosts this every year.
The laughing heart
your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
Nic Askew, from Soul Biographies, is at it again.
Somehow this became the question of the month.
Here's the thing, I live in one of those in between zones. You know what I mean. I live in a neighborhood between here and there.
If Rose and I go out midday or midnight, we're bound to see black, brown, white, and the blue haired of every class in various stages of dress wandering around. When school is in session, we run into black, brown, white, and blue-haired young people wearing hoodies stomping their way down the street. Homeless people sleep in the park and beg on the big street. There's a large employment office up the street, a rock venue which spews drunk punk rockers at 2 am. And the stoned. We see them all moving back and forth along our sidewalks.
My usual answer to the question is: "Which time?"
"But what would you do if an angry young man wearing a hoodie came right up to you?"
Early this morning, in the dim light of predawn, Rose and I were stalking bunnies in the local park. Chasing after a runaway bunny, we turned the corner near the bathroom and a young black man wearing a hood came right up to us. Inches away from him, I could smell his rage. He seemed drunk on that adolescent mixture of indignation and testosterone. He was fit, athletic, and a bit taller than I am. His hood was pulled around his face and he was wearing headphones.
In that brief instance, I felt the natural, normal spike of fear that I feel when I'm startled.
What did I do?
I spoke these magical words: "Good morning!" and smiled again. Following my cue, Rose wiggled at him.
As if he was waking from a dream, he blinked. I look at his face and caught his eyes.
"What's going on?" I asked.
He sized me up. I nodded to encourage him to answer the question.
"Cleaning this bathroom," he said. "Sucks sometimes."
I nodded. He grinned in the way of teenage boys who know they're making a big deal out of nothing.
"Need the job," he said.
"Every job sucks sometimes," I said. "Sorry your's does today."
He nodded, stepped around me, and went to his park services golf cart to get more towels.
He works for the park cleaning toilets. That's his job. And sometimes it sucks. That's why he was angry. It didn't have anything to do with me.
He didn't scare me because of me. He scared me because of him. He scared me by startling me and getting close to me.
But it was MY fear. And as an adult, I know how to manage my fear.
My first response is to my own fear is to use my technique - smile, speak, see the person clearly.
Why? My technique works.
It worked for me when a guy brought a shotgun into A-16, where I worked as a cashier. I knew he had the weapon. He knew he had the weapon. I smiled, said "Hello", and we chatted for a bit. He left the store. The police told us that they had been looking for this group of young people. They had been robbing stores up and down the street. A few minutes later, the police raced out of there. A store down the road had been robbed with the same shotgun I'd seen just moments ago.
It worked for me in the middle of the gang war in Venice Beach. I needed to ride my bike to Gold's Gym in by 5 am and they were having their freakin' war in the middle of my workout time. (Priorities people! Priorities!) I was stopped by a group of young angry, this time brown, men. Smile, laugh, explanation: "I have a spinal cord injury. I need to get to workout before I go to work", and I was on my way. Next time I saw them, they waved.
There's a caveat to this: I don't take unnecessary risks. My life, home, and work are prudently set up. I won't put myself in a dangerous situations. If something doesn't feel right, I don't leave the car, I call the police, I go the other direction, I walk around or away. I don't confront or seek out person-to-person danger.
But if danger comes upon me (which is the question, right?), the first thing I'm going to pull out is my smile - my humanity and my compassion.
I've asked upset and screaming young men if they are all right and can I call someone for them. I've listened to young men while they cry about their mothers, their girlfriends, their lives, and their dashed hopes. I've sat beside young people whose dog's have died suddenly, who got in a fight with their sibling, who want to run away from home, or who are simply heartbroken.
I ask: "What's going on?" "Can I help?" These two questions turn situations on their heads.
That's my job as a human being.
And it's my best defense at defusing a scary, potentially violent situation.
Goodness. Who would believe it?
Step by step, word by word, week by week, Denver Cereal continued until, low and behold, it turned five years old today.
Most of you have heard me tell the story of how it started.
I'd written a short serial for another blog to see if a) I was capable of writing serial fiction and, b) if I enjoyed it. I was out to dinner with Ricardo Baca when the conversation turned to Denver Cereal. Rick told me that when he was reading the story, he kept trying to link it back to the places he knew in Denver. He said something like, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a series written here?"
I went home, took out a little story about Jill, and Denver Cereal began.
Just like that.
In the meantime, the entire publishing industry has reorganized, Kindle has tried their hand at serial fiction, new blogs have started, old blogs have ended, and Denver Cereal has continued.
I'm so very grateful.
I feel so incredibly lucky that Jill, Jacob, Valerie, Mike, Delphie, Sam, Celia, Sandy, Aden, MJ, Honey, Charlie, Sissy, Nash, Noelle, Teddy, Katy, Jackie, Maggie, and... all the other supporting characters who drop in to create chaos, laughter, and support.
Thank you for making this happen. Without you, there would be no Denver Cereal.
Thank you for your support, kindness, laughter, and general "What?" when we're all surprised at what's going on.
In order to celebrate Denver Cereal's 5th birthday, we're giving away 3 sets of Denver Cereal 1-7 in paperback.
To enter, leave a comment and tell me which Denver Cereal character owns a condo in this building in the photo; or answer the question on Facebook; or reply with the correct answer to the newsletter (goes out at 10 am MT).
Winners will be chosen at random from those who get the correct answer. Good luck.
Our home was built by hand in 1917 using a Sear's Craftsman plan and materials from throughout the west and mid-western United States. When they finished the home, the man who owned the house signed it with pride.
Twelve years later, the stock market crashed. A few years later, a severe drought and the subsequent dust bowl hit the continental United States and Canada.
To stay afloat, the man who built this home sold the special features. The lead glass windows disappeared. The stained glass windows vanished. The large French doors and siding doors disappeared soon enough. Like many of the homes here, the features disappeared and the home fell into disrepair.
In the 1980s, the home was flipped - cleaned up, painted, and sold. The folks we bought the house from had lived in the home for fifteen years and done nothing.
The husband fell in love with our home the moment he walked in. We closed around his birthday and set to work.
The electrical and water had to go.
The foundation needed shoring up.
The basement needed cleaning up.
We needed a new porch.
And... oh gosh, just thinking about it makes me exhausted.
I always wanted to replace the mantle windows. My dream was to replace the plain windows with what had been before - leaded windows on either side of the fireplace mantle.
Last weekend, the husband found four leaded windows circa 1916 on eBay. The advertisement said they were from a home that was demolished somewhere in Michigan. The windows were ridiculously inexpensive.
They arrived yesterday and are gorgeous.
If you read Denver Cereal, you know what will happen next. We'll call Jim from Commercial Art Glass. He's helped us with our stained glass window before. He also built the stained glass windows for Delphie's chapel in Denver Cereal. He'll come over sometime next week and tell me all about the windows. In a month or so, these will hang in our mantle windows.
One step at a time, with any luck, we'll put this house back together.
In the last months, I've been up to my neck in... well, everything. Rather than go through a round of "where have you been," I thought I'd tell you about the decisions we've made, why we made them, and what we did.
In the fall of last year, a couple of our WordPress websites were hacked. With the help of Super Steve, I was able to quickly, and quite smugly I might add, fix the sites. Everything was super awesome, until the sites were hacked again. With the help of our awesome host, DreamHost, we were able to fix our problem. We installed an awesome plugin (Better WP Security) which forced us to change some habits and all was well.
But getting hacked twice in rapid succession really did something to me.
I started to look around the world. Without much effort, I found that Antivirus software makers are at least a month or more behind virus protection.
"Consumers and businesses spend billions of dollars every year on antivirus software. But these programs rarely, if ever, block freshly minted computer viruses, experts say, because the virus creators move too quickly."
I knew that even the best antivirus software couldn't keep me from catching at trojan or having problems with the software I use every day (story for another day), because I had Kaspersky installed a few years ago when I caught not one but two trojans, back to back.
"Even the most modern version of antivirus software doesn't give consumers or enterprises what they need to compete in the hacker world," said Dave Aitel, CEO of security consultancy Immunity. "It's just not as effective as it needs to be." (CNNMoney)
I also knew that the government was pushing Google, Facebook, and others to release personal search information. Let's face it. As the author of the Alex the Fey thrillers, my search history wreaks of all kinds of conspiracy theories. Just last week, while the country was in the grips of the Boston Terrorist search, Congress passed CISPA, a cousin to SOPA, would amend the National Security act of 1947 to include what the government believes is a "cyber threat."
"Those groups argue CISPA contains too few limits on how and when the government may monitor a private individual’s Internet browsing information. Additionally, they fear that such new powers could be used to spy on the general public rather than to pursue malicious hackers." (Wikipedia)
1. Hacking can destroy your business. A targeted hack can take any and all of my creative work and thus my business. A targeted hack can also insert things into a manuscript that weren't there before. Cyberattacks are a huge threat to small creative businesses such as mine.
2. My browser history is suspicious. For the last Alex the Fey thriller, I needed to figure out what exactly was the military capability of North Korea, China, and Russia. I spent days on Google Earth reviewing the landscape of China, North Korea, and Russia. I also researched a variety of US military bases, often on the same day. I have research articles on everything from jihadist propaganda to how to make a bomb. For the Tax Assassin, I spent so much time researching Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site that I could tell you where everything is located on the site. I look so suspicious that when I'm on military sites for a while, they turn on my webcam to look at me. (You have to agree to this kind of visit after you've been on enough sites for long enough.)
Rather than curse the world, shake a fist at lawmakers (I do that enough over their complicity in the destruction of honeybees), I bought an inexpensive computer that I use just for the Internet.
I use my original computer to write, store my research, and for all of our household finances. I back up the computer to an external hard drive.
The computers are connected via a KVM switch which allows me to use one monitor for both computers.
There is no way to keep hackers out. Period. If they want to get in, they will, regardless of your software, firewalls, or any other efforts.
If you are a creative person, I strongly encourage you to do the same thing. Inexpensive internet computers are easily available. Heck, some eReaders work really well on the Internet.
The best way to protect your creative endeavors is to remove them from the Internet.
Newsweek published a story about Jester, the world's most successful spy/hacker. Part hero, part mysterious creature, Jester manages to work without every being prosecuted. (Aaron Swartz's "crime" was downloading a few freakin' magazines from MIT. He faced $1million in fines and 35 years in prison.)
For the last six months or so, Super Steve and I have been working to create a better Stories by Claudia.
I wanted a clean, well-organized site that was easy to use from any device.
Super Steve wanted a site that was super functional and lightning speed fast.
We're both pretty excited about the new Stories by Claudia.
The site is designed as a reading site. You can go there and read everything I've written. We took the time to organize things by series, and in easy to use sections.
For the Denver Cereal, you click on the Denver Cereal icon and are directed to a page with all of the books on it. There you'll find all of Denver Cereal by chapter.
You'll find a section that's everything Alex the Fey. From the Fey to Alex Talks, if it's about Alex, it's in this section. There's a section for the Queen of Cool, and the Seth and Ava Mysteries too.
What does that mean for On a Limb?
I'm moving all of my fiction to Stories by Claudia.
On a limb will remain as my personal blog where I talk about my life, my thoughts, writing, kindness, bees, gardens, and other random things.
If you read The Denver Cereal here, you will soon only be able to read it at Stories by Claudia.
I'm sorry for the inconvenience. We now have so many sites that the sheer maintenance of them has become a burden. Moving everything to one, easy to use site, allows us to stay on top of the site maintenance, as well as provide you with a great place to read.
Please join me in a round of applause for Super Steve who made the recreation of Stories by Claudia happen.
CLAUDIA'S AUTHOR SITE
Claudia is the author of the Alex the Fey thriller series, the sweet and crunchy Denver Cereal, the post-apocalyptic tale Jornada del Muerto, the Seth and Ava Mysteries, Suffer a Witch, and the Queen of Cool.
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