Books by Debi Ennis Binder

Fantasy worlds. Magical inhabitants. Timeless battles between Good and Evil.

Category Archives: Life in These Strange Times

Uninsured Brain

4

It has to be the #1 accident in my state. I’m sitting at a stoplight, waiting to turn, when a car plows into me. It hits me so hard that my rearview mirror flies off, just missing me, and winds up in the back seat. My head and shoulders are well-cushioned by the headrest. I look over at my kiddo. “You ok?” She nods. She’s an adult now and looks more excited than scared. Kids.

I glance at the two outer mirrors. The car that had hit me is about the same size as mine; however, I have a hefty trailer hitch on the back. I don’t expect much damage, at least not for me. Two women, probably in their forties, are exiting, and they look pissed. I punch up the rear camera app and download the crash to the family account.

“This should be pretty quick,” I tell kiddo as I grab my phone, driver’s license, and the wallet with the car info, and open the door. “You stay here.” She nods again and goes back to her phone. Probably a video game I’ll never understand. No, wait. She’s a little older now. She’s probably sharing the video I just downloaded and spreading the joy to everyone she knows. “Don’t tell your dad,” I shout as I walk away.

When I get to the rear of my car, it’s just as I expected. It has a few scratches—the trailer hitch, not the vehicle. But wow—that thing did a number on their now-Pekinese-faced car. The driver glares at me, her hands fisted at her side. She’s shaking. The other driver is—I kid you not—holding her neck, then her stomach, then her neck again. She keeps glancing at me to see if I’m looking.

So, this is how the meeting goes:

“You hit me!” the driver screams as I open my mouth to point out the same thing.

I look at my car, then hers, behind me, and ask her how she figures that. By that time, kiddo has appeared next to me. She’s so danged protective.

“It’s your fault because you didn’t turn fast enough,” the driver says in that tone people reserve for their stupid children. We’ll call her Clueless; it’s better than Karen. That’s the name of a dear friend, and believe me, she’s no Karen.

Kiddo has already called the cops. Clever child.

“The cops should be here soon, meanwhile we can—” I start to suggest we exchange information.

I hear this strange, snorting sound. Now I know what it means when someone’s eyes bug out. Wow. Fascinating. Clueless is really pissed that we called the cops. After a bit more back and forth, they huddle together for a discussion, and I pick up on a few things. They live together, doesn’t matter why, but what does matter is the neck-stomach clutcher is responsible for household upkeep, and she didn’t pay the last car insurance bill. Oh, and now her head hurts, too.

“They don’t have insurance,” I say to kiddo, aside. She chuckles in that kid way that suggests she wants to roll her eyes. “I know, I know. I remember what Dad said. This is why we get Uninsured Motorist.”

Amazingly, the other conversation comes to a halt. I see Clueless’s face light up. She turns to Clutcher—“It’s ok, Tippy, they got that uninsured thingy.”

Me and kiddo exchange a look. I shrug, lean against the car, and cross my ankles. Clueless is making a call, and she looks so damned happy. She’s chatting away. I hear her tell the other person some yahoo didn’t turn quick enough, so she bumped her stupid car. Only there were a lot of f-bombs in that snippet of info. And she really called me a yahoo. Wow. Then she says triumphantly, “She’s got Uninsured, so we’re all good.”

I hear that weird, keening sound kiddo makes when she’s trying not to laugh. She’s so polite. She decides to head back to the car.

As soon as Clueless hangs up, I mosey over to her and Tippy. “You sure look happy for someone with a radiator in their front seat,” I say casually, looking her car over. 

Clueless peers at me and glances at Tippy, probably wondering if it’s safe to talk to me. Her exuberance wins. “Well yeah! You didn’t turn. You made me hit you! But I heard you say you got the Uninsured Motorist, so we’re ok.” Big smile.

Hmm. How to address this… “Umm…do you know what Uninsured Motorist is for?”

“Well, sure! Your insurance pays to fix the uninsured motorist’s car. Like me.”

As I mosey back to my car, I see the cop car approaching. I lean in the window to ask kiddo if she heard that—never mind. She’s howling with laughter.

“Go ahead and call your dad,” I tell her. “We might be here a while.”

There is Method to My Madness

0

Someone on Quora asked me how I write a book, so I sat down and really thought about it. This is what I came up with. (They got a condensed version)

When an idea pops into my head—from a dream, something I heard or saw on TV, or heard in my (but more likely someone else’s) conversation—I write it down as quickly as possible, usually using a notepad app on my phone. Note: No matter what I’m doing, part of my brain is off in another world doing crazy things there. I just that notepad a lot!

Once I get to the computer, I open a blank Word document and write down everything I can think about regarding the new idea.

The first, most important thing is the story. Is there enough to my idea to find the basic who, what, where, why, and how that every story needs to be a “thing” that lets people envision it when they read. If I add people and a world, will the story take my characters through a specific time in their lives when something(s) happened to them, but they dealt with it, came through it, grew, became better or worse (became or already were the bad guy/good guy) and all the while, entertained people?

The next consideration is characters—not yet people with names and faces, but only what they are, and how and what they’ll contribute. What kind of magical folk, warriors, craftspeople, etc., does my story need (e.g., 1 f. seer, 1 m. griffin, 1 m. Elemental, 1 Magical Entity (no gender), several m. warrior/highborn Fey, 1 f. sprite = “Summerbird Rises”). Or is the story something different, requiring regular people? Or cats? Can I shape these characters into credible people who can take my idea and run with it? The development of characters is important to me, as they write most of my story.

Next is worldbuilding 101—basic stuff about the world and how it helps the idea and characters. Is it this world, alternate, alien, or something else? Medieval, modern, combination? What will the government be, the types of jobs, the currency, the power source, religion—but only if these things matter to the story. I don’t have a list because I’m only thinking about what impacts the concept at this stage. And all stories are different. Worldbuilding is critical to me. It’s also one of my favorite aspects of writing.

If I like my people and their world and think I’ve got something going, it’s time for a strategy meeting with myself. By the time my basic idea has transformed into a Project, I have a feel for it, knowing I can flesh out a 3D world, and populate it with various kinds of people who have an objective and a way to get to where they’re going, plus whatever little necessary subplots they deal with along with way.

Or it hasn’t— At some point, I’ve figured out things just aren’t going to gel. That actually happens; I have several ideas that fizzled in my Plots File. Some are chapters long, but they just didn’t go anywhere for me. Maybe another day. But we’re going on the assumption that this is a workable, decent idea. It deserves a basic plot to be developed, even if I’m a pantster. STOP! What the hell?

A moment to explain: Pantster—A person who writes by ‘the seat of her pants’ as opposed to a plotter, one who plans or outlines her writing. And that’s straight from the Urban Dictionary. And even though, by definition, I should be a plotter, I’m not. I just can’t get into it.

I don’t develop a plot from start to finish and use it. To me, it’s worth taking the time I need to do as I’m describing, and get everything saved in my Plots File. I have about 20 of them now, some with a lot of fleshing out, others with less than a page. It’s a wild and crazy process for me. I’m a slow writer, and my books are long, which is probably why I’m working on only the fourth right now. But thanks to my process, I also have three more that just need good editing and a wee bit of fleshing out. So much fun!

Once the complete first draft is written, I use Word Voice to read it back to me. Hearing mistakes is better for me than trying to read them. I know the document too well; my eyes often skim over typos and other errors. This is also an excellent time to catch things that can be foreshadowed and/or discussed later. I can ask and later answer questions (meaning I set up something to happen and resolve it later), find/add mysterious things that must be explained, remove what doesn’t belong, or put it where it works better. Also cut. Cut, cut, CUT! And I know I still don’t do enough. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said it best—“Murder your darlings.” I find that very difficult.

I have a few people who alpha read for me, that is, read the book along with me as I edit. They’re great because things they’re patient, and find can affect the story as it goes and the outcome. It’s better to get those changes made as early as possible. Note #2: I can always use more readers, especially beta ones, who read when the manuscript is complete. Hint, hint.

After my alpha readers and I reach the end, I get to start over again. I read and make notes. I mostly jot down things that come up as plot points and make sure they’re dealt with. *Actual item on my list for “Summerbird’s Quest” which I’m working on now: Why did Orkey steal ribbon [from the Mart-hoor’s tent]. What’s a Mart-hoor? Make sure the hypen is removed. Yep, misspelled hyphen. See example (excuse my sloppy handwriting).

The checkmark means I went back and resolved the issue somewhere.

I have a process for creating names. Since I write epic fantasy, it’s not logical for my characters to be named Joe and Sally or live in Boringville. But I’ve tried to make them more easily pronounced due to snide remarks from some alpha readers (not necessarily you, who thinks she means me). I have a Word table where I list every character. It includes everything pertinent to them, from names to tattoos to what they like/hate to eat. I hate having to go back and look that stuff up!

Once I decide on people/place names, I google them. Why? you ask. One of my characters in a Work-in-Progress (WIP) was named Chyme. Such a gorgeous name, looks so nice. And it means—drumroll—the semi-fluid mass of partly digested food that is expelled by a person’s stomach (Wikipedia). That’s disgusting. It’s also the worst almost-error I’ve yet to make. Others haven’t been quite so bad—someone’s name or a place, but I always change them. And I always check. How couldn’t I after…Chyme? I mean, who knew?

I know I’ve probably missed some things in describing my process because they aren’t always the same. In another WIP, I took an event from American history and used that as a major event to build around. In yet another WIP, voodoo plays a part, it’s a time-travel piece, so I had to do a lot of research—stop the press!

I forgot about research! I mean, I can’t make up everything! In the WIP I mentioned with the lovely but disgusting name, I had to do a lot of research and finagling answers from friends and relatives about the engine propulsion unit I’d thought up—is it feasible, how will it work in these different situations—I think I drove them crazy! And in my “Dragon” books, water runs all their structural mechanics, so that took more research—I mean, it is my world, and I can run it as I please, but some part of me demands that it at least sound doable.

So, let’s get back to drawing things to a close. For me, writing a book is a life-consuming event; just ask my family. I like to share the process! I can’t not write; I have too much to share running around in my head. But I never forget I’m writing something to hopefully make someone else happy and enable them to escape reality within my story and characters. And my epic fantasies are long enough to keep them there for as long as they want to be!

And to that anonymous Quora person—thanks for asking!

Colonoscopies… The Older You Get, the More Fun They Are!

2

As the year comes to an end, everyone seems to be jumping onto various health bandwagons, perhaps due not so much to health concerns as much as getting what they can before their new insurance deductibles start over. Now that makes sense! And now that my “procedure” is over, I can look back on it with fondness… You know, tell my tale, share my misery, share a chuckle— No, I don’t believe me either.

One lovely morning I get a letter in the mail. I don’t get many letters these days, especially from Gastroenterology. A chill goes down my spine because the time has finally come. It’s time for me to join the many humans across the globe—it’s time for a colonoscopy!

I open my letter and skim through it. Let’s see… I’m doing the “Nulytely/Golytely split dose prep.” I smile. That sounds so charming, like some sort of cotillion at a preparatory school. “Dear Southern Lady, please allow me this opportunity to invite your darling daughter to the Annual Golitely (I prefer that spelling) Split Dose Prep Party. Please, do let me know by the end of the week. Ta ta.”

I dutifully read my instructions. You’ll need to take the rest of the day off from work after your procedure. Okay, I’m retired. I write, so I work from home. No problem. Could I be looking at an excuse not to make dinner? Smile! You’ll need someone to drive you home after the procedure. Cool, my hubby would do that anyway; he’s such a sweetie.

Skim through the other instructions—three days prior, no food with seeds, no corn, no nuts. Sheesh, what are they going to be looking for up there? The day before, DO NOT EAT ANY SOLID FOODS! Okay, now we’re getting to the point. The day before the *procedure*! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner—clear liquids. No red, orange, or purple anything. Why would that matter–ewww. Never mind. I have to mix that weirdly named stuff and refrigerate it… okay, whatever. I’m off to get my supplies.

I go to the store/pharmacy and, while awaiting what the nurse called in for me, collect what I’ll need for the *procedure*. I purchase anti-gas pills, wondering if they really work. I should put one in some 7-Up and see what happens. Guess I’ll find out. Next, A&D Ointment. What’s that? Baby butt cream? I have a bidet; I shouldn’t need it, but I grab a small tube. You never know!

I muse over my list of liquids I can have. Not many… Funny, it specifically says nothing red, orange, or purple. I don’t recall eating that many foods in those colors. Funny though, how few foods one can find that aren’t red, purple, or orange! I get three cans of chicken broth, a jug of white cherry (??) Gatorade (everything else is in the forbidden colors), and some Jello. Two kinds—pink lemonade and lemon. Everything else—yeah, you know. Apple and grape juice to finish, and by now, my prescription is ready.

Imagine my surprise when I get to the counter, and they hand me a big white jug that looks like a 5-gallon container of antifreeze or something. The other customers are looking at me; I know they’re wondering what the hell that could be? I slink up to the front, trying to hide this massive jug that I’m starting to get a bad feeling about, and make the rest of my purchases.

Once I get to the car, I check out the jug. 4000ml. I whip out my calculator… OMG, they want me to drink 1.0 gallons of this stuff? I open it and sniff. Nothing. I get it home, fill it up, and stick it into the refrigerator. Now I wait.

The day before the *procedure* I can’t eat human food—only clear liquids NOT of a certain color. Everything red, purple, or orange suddenly looks delish. My hubby and daughter sit in their chairs in the living room, holding their food like squirrels, nibbling so I can’t see it. Hey, I can still smell that hamburger! You’re supposed to eat eggplant and tofu tonight! You promised!

I pout and drink my consommé… which is fancy bouillon cubes. And I eat pink Jello. Or yellow Jello. Actually, it’s pretty tasty. I love Jello. I think I ate three boxes in all. And wash it down with grape juice and apple juice. The Gatorade was a no-go.

The day before, at 6 p.m., after a day of not eating real human food, the process begins! I have to drink the liquid, one glass every 15 minutes, until I’ve finished half of it. 2 liters. One-half gallon. 2000ml. I pour out a glassful and take my first, big drink. Holy. Sweet. Crap. All I can see are the words—don’t throw it up! The taste is indescribable! OMG, now I understand why they call it bowel solution. They mean it tastes like— never mind. It’s so thick and salty and just… horrible! It still makes me shudder, just to remember it!

Remember when I was reading about the charmingly named gallon jug of powdered death and was told to fill it with water and refrigerate it. Somewhere in those instructions, some guy with a perverse sense of humor stated it “might taste better” if it was first refrigerated. What a joke!! It might turn into liquid gold if refrigerated. Or it might turn into a fully loaded brand new Jaguar—okay, okay. But really, refrigerating it can’t possibly help with how terrible this stuff tastes. You have to not only drink half a gallon, an 8-ounce glass at a time, every 15 minutes, but you have to keep it down! I tried to drink by holding my nose, not very effective, then hit upon using a straw, which I can hold past my taste buds. That works if I drink fast enough. And I think it being cold keeps me from gagging on it.

At 8 p.m., I take the anti-gas pills, then two more at 10 p.m. I’m tired, but did I actually think I was going to get to sleep? Ha, ha, I laugh at my naiveté. As the evening passes, the waiting game begins. First, my stomach starts gurgling and making a fuss. The same lively awakening then happens a bit lower down. And it was more than a fuss! Thank goodness for my bidet. As the evening… and the night… progress, the ointment and I get to know each other quite well. It’s a nice little ointment, just what an adult sore bottom needs.  

On the day of the *procedure* from hell—” I must cut in at this point for those who’ve done this before. I had no idea the fun was just beginning. Okay, back to the report. I had to drink the rest of the delightful concoction six hours before the event. Oh, and still keep it down. I can keep drinking liquids up to four hours before, but by now, I’ve figured out whatever I put in my mouth goes to my stomach, and it doesn’t stay there very long before putting in an explosive appearance at the other end. Like—just passing through on my way out your newly installed back-end cannon, ma’am. See you shortly!

I’m so tired of sitting on the toilet. Of leaning against the wall, sooo sleepy, but knowing there isn’t any point in going to bed. I’m not taking any chances, believe me. I don’t trust my legs to get me to the bathroom fast enough if I’m half-asleep.

As I write this, I recall reading the following droll statements from the instructions:

  • You will have diarrhea from the bowel preparation medications. Gasp! No! No fair; I was expecting a bit of diarrhea, not Armageddon of the Ass.
  • Because of the diarrhea, you will need access to a toilet. Plan your day with this in mind. Really? So that bit about my neighbor’s flower bed shouldn’t have happened—that was just an accident, you know. No, the instructions should have said, “plan your existence with this in mind,” because you can’t get more than a few feet from a toilet. We have two fairly close together in our house, and I made sure I was always somewhere between the two.
  • Most people have bloating and abdominal discomfort. This is normal, don’t feel alarmed. I’m not alarmed. I’m exhausted, cranky as hell, my butt hurts, and only later do I realize—this was just the beginning!
  • And again, with the, “we know you might throw the bowel solution up. Slow down but drink it!” I didn’t throw up, but I feel deprived, as though I might have been happier and somehow vindicated by doing so.

Later, you also learn that they might reschedule you if you aren’t “cleaned out” completely. OMG, what could possibly still be up– Maybe an octopus? Because it would have to be something with suckers the size of dinner plates to hang on after what my intestines just went through!

We get to the hospital. The whole time, I still feel like I’m going to explode, but I know there couldn’t be anything inside me. I haven’t even had water. I’m also having an endoscopy, which is another camera down the throat to look at the stomach. All I need are a couple of tubes up my nose and in my ears, and I won’t have a free orifice open anywhere. I am really grumpy! A lady in the waiting room keeps whining on her phone about how thirsty she is. She wants the person on the other end to sneak in something for her to drink. Really? I want to yell at her— After all you just went through, you’re going to screw it up? I only threw that in as proof of how crabby I am. Normally I ignore other people in waiting rooms. They don’t want to be there any more than I want to.

Despite my previous comments, there isn’t much to say about the procedures themselves because of that wonderful thing called twilight sleep. Such a beautiful name, so lovely, so calming… I hear harps play every time I hear the words. My anesthesiologist was a saint. Ray, I believe, was his name. We held hands and got to know one another through the power of my grip, which is surprisingly strong. Ask Ray. I can’t be put into twilight sleep (*harps*) because of a breathing problem, so it was a bit uncomfortable at times. For me, too. My friends and hubby who have gotten the complete treatment—all they can say is bring it on!

In closing, everything was fine with me. I have to do this more often than most people do. Getting this important but dreadful (to me) procedure is my legacy, left to me by my father, the first one in the family to have, and ultimately pass from, colon cancer. And I’ll stay on top of it, no matter how brutal I think the prep is.

Thanks to all the Gastroenterology people out there—you’re the best!

When Did my Email Change?

1

NOTE: All of these have happened to me. They’re just presented in a whimsical light. But underlying that is the truth–the tone of email has changed, and perhaps not for the better.

Has anyone else had this experience–you’re flipping through your email and you see some weird offering for Cat Insurance or How to Make Wine in the Closet for $4.99 a Bottle–just something that somehow ended up on your email radar. So you scroll to the bottom, past the dire cat-health pictures, or the drunk people living it up in your closet. You’re seeking the Unsubscribe link.

OK, you find the magic Unsubscribe button and hit it. One of several things that happened to me lately have caught my attention.

  1. You get to Unsubscribe. Yay, and you’re off to the next weird email.
  2. An insidious red warning pops up saying if you go to this website your computer will blow up. Or something. Whatever it is, it will be so dreadful my computer makes me sign some kind of waiver just to get into it. So I back out–quickly–and now I’m stuck getting daily messages about how crappy my current car insurance is and how much better Joe Blow’s is. I feel like I’m in some room where if I stick my nose out, my head will get blown off.
  3. Further down, you click on a very annoying email explaining how drinking some magic potion will not only make you lose 3 pounds overnight, but you won’t even be up peeing every 15 minutes, and all that fat will TURN INTO MUSCLE! Wow. Let’s get rid of that one. In order to do so, I have to type my email address into the Unsubscribe box. Wait, I just got an email from your company sent to my email address and you need it again? Something hinky about that one. The old Fast-as-Lightning Net Loans site is the same way. Who knows where my address is going? I have to think about that one.
  4. I deal with several book deals and recipes, then find my cursor hovering over an email that says Hormonal Weight Loss. What does that even mean? Click Unsubscribe and get this one: Never email me again. You will never be able to sign up to receive communications from this sender in the future. You may, however, still receive transactional messages from this sender. Now what does that mean? Isn’t that exactly what I’m trying to get rid of?? Screw it, I go for it.
  5. Another weight loss add. I think someone is trying to tell me something. Do the click–We can’t take you to this site. The connection won’t go through, or something. Why not, you got to my email without any problem, why can’t you return the favor? I try a few more times, just to see what will happen. Finally I get to a huge Dog-and-Pony Show-type ad where I’ll probably not ever find an Unsubscribe link. I know they’re counting on that. So here I go. Five minutes later, and I still can’t find it. Forget it.
  6. This is an oldie–I’ve been getting emails from a certain clothing/household goods company for quite a while. Months. I go to unsubscribe, and they instead invite me to subscribe to their list. Excuse me… I’m not subscribed to you? #*&@%! Then why are you flooding my email with your stupid ads? Do I have to subscribe, then unsuscribe to get you to stop?! I refuse to do it. It’s the principle of the thing. It’s too ridiculous.
  7. And my final for today–yes, there’s the old favorite: Error occurred while updating preferences. Thank you, high-end perfume company.

I’ve included some screenshots, just so you can share my joy. After all, they’re sharing everything with me, whether or not I want it. At least you’re reading this because I’m vaguely entertaining and I don’t want to sell you anything–except my books. I think you’ll love them. The emails? I don’t know what to do about them! Just Unsubscribe when I can, delete all other times.

Yes–Error occurred while updating preferences.
I think I’m being threatened!
Don’t you already have my email? I’m not going to give it to you again!
This one is also scary! I don’t know what to do! I’ve seen it a few times now.
Why? Just why?
Wow. More threats. What would happen if I clicked through? Would Norton blow up my computer? But thanks for guarding me, Norton. This also happens more than I’m comfortable with.
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