Monday, March 30, 2020

The joys of working at home due to covid-19

I have been fortunate enough to work from home since covid-19 became an issue in the United States. I am grateful for the opportunity because this means I continue to work. Not everyone has been so fortunate. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost their jobs at this time, even if it is a temporary loss.

Working at home presents challenges. I not only have to address work-related concerns, I must address home-related concerns. All in the 8 hours I put in at work.

We have ordered numerous items from Amazon and Walmart. Thank you to both companies for continuing to ship merchandise to all of us who have purchased during this time. The first challenge comes when dogs who think they are the boss of everyone decide to sound the verbal alarm that Fedex or UPS are in the driveway. This is complicated if I am on the phone for work purposes. Both of our dogs have a loud bark. So loud that my ears hurt at times. I still love them. Thankfully, showing them a house shoe does the trick. I have yet to use said house shoe on anything other than my foot.

The second challenge comes when I try to juggle too many things at one time and realize I've overwhelmed myself or made stupid mistakes that I should not. I am human and must practice forgiveness of self. Try it some time. It's an uplifting experience.

At the end of the day, in the midst of this chaos, I realize there are blessings everywhere. I can be home with my family. I can work in sweats and a t-shirt. I can split my work day up into manageable chunks, taking breaks when I want to. And through it all, we, as a family, have been forced to become reconnected with each other. We have spent more time lately eating meals together and talking than we have in months.

Not to sound cliche, but this too shall pass. And we will be stronger for it.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Living under the dark cloud of Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Our household has slowly begun to demonstrate signs of cabin fever and stress after nearly two weeks of my self isolating and working at home due to the covid-19 pandemic. Yesterday we devolved into a trio of whining, temperamental, stressed out adults. The dogs decided it was time to turn the house into a race track. Throughout the day they demonstrated a lot of attention-seeking behavior.

Our daughter did what she usually does when experiencing stress or anxiety. She stayed in her room and worked on stress-relieving projects like adult coloring books. She also worked on rubber band and braided bracelets. I'm blown away by the creativity of my child. This morning she's in a good mood. I'm grateful for that as stress has a negative impact on her mental health disorders.

My husband, on the other hand, turned into a toddler. I experienced increased stress due to my work with a healthcare agency that must remain open during this time. Not only did I have to address our stress as a family, I had to address stress/confusion/questions that some staff at our agency experienced. After eight hours of that, I was done with it all. My husband and I argued over stupid, inconsequential things last night. I took some time, took a very hot shower, then returned to discuss things with him like adults. He has gone outside today. Fresh air and sunshine should do him some good. The break for both of us is what we needed.

Things are still moving in the United States. The search for an immunization or effective treatment for covid-19 continues. Cases are on the rise. Our economy is suffering as are many people who cannot work at home or who have lost employment due to businesses shutting down (forced or otherwise). I live in Virginia. I check the Virginia Health Department's website almost daily to see how things are going in our neck of the woods. Here's the link to the most up-to-date data if you're interested:

At the end of it all, we have to come together and figure out a way to survive. We have to be kinder, gentler, more patient, caring, and smarter than we have been in the past. The United States has suffered several life-altering events in the past couple of decades. Our response has been questionable. I hope covid-19 brings positive change to our country and world. That's the best I can hope for out of this entire event.

Until next time.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Why Bother When Inaccurate/Untruthful Reviews Strike

It's tough for an author to work their fingers to the bone, sweat, love, curse, and breathe life into their stories. It's even tougher when bad reviews are posted. I learned a long time ago to not respond to reviews--good or bad. If someone has constructive criticism, I'll more than gladly take it.

The Hunter was one of the first books I published. It is a dark, twisted, corrupted story of life in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Most people can only imagine what it would be like to live through nuclear war and near annihilation. Now imagine what it would be like to struggle to survive. Never knowing where your next meal might come from. Never knowing if the water you or your children drink is pure. Never knowing if you're safe from the next scavver who decides they want what's yours. Think The Road Warrior starring Mel Gibson. That sort of twisted, dark, corrupted world. Even a can of dog food would look good then, wouldn't it? 

So where am I headed with all this? I'm headed down a road leading straight to one reader who took it upon themselves to post an outright lie about The Hunter online. This reader gave the book a five star review then added the caption "5 is pedophilia is your thing". The reader mistakenly left their real name attached. I wrote it down just out of curiosity only to find out less than a day later their name was now anonymously "Kindle Customer". It's ok R. I sort of get why you wrote what you did. Knee jerk reaction much? 

Here's the link to the review if you'd like to read it in its entirety:

Not only did the inaccuracy of said review upset me. Amazon's refusal to remove a review bordering on libelous content upset me. That's okay, Zon, we know money means more to you than the truth. It doesn't reflect well on you to leave that sort of review up there. But what the heck. I'm getting free advertising off a review that screams "read me if you're a real pedophile (even if it's not the truth)". Amazon also removed a second comment from another person who called the reader out on their BS. And another thing, Amazon hides the comments on reviews almost so well that no one knows there is a comment unless you click that nifty comment button like you intended to post a comment. 

So here we go with me defending my book and the truth of the matter. There is no pedophilic content in The Hunter. Everyone who engages in sex in the book is over the age of 18. I also posted a warning about mature/triggering content at the end of the blurb posted for the book before it was published. I suppose Kindle Customer did not read all the way to the end before she clicked buy now for $0.00 dollars during this past weekend's freebies I gave away to ease the boredom of people stuck at home over the coronavirus. 

I posted a comment on Kindle Customer's now anonymous review. Here is what I said in part: 

"This book received one review stating The Hunter and Doppelganger contained pedophilic content. It does not. It does contain strong themes such as violence, forced sex, and profanity. Any characters engaging in mature activities (sex) are adults at the time the activity is engaged in. The books are intended for adults 18+ only.

I wanted to address the issues that person had with my books.

-Nyssa in The Hunter was eighteen when she met Luca. Hailey in Doppelganger is twenty-one-years of age. There are several passages where age for both characters is mentioned. I did this after consulting other authors I trusted because I knew there would be dense people who refused to do the math. 
-Eighteen (18) is the legal age of majority in the United States and most civilized countries in the world. The age when young adults can sign a contract, obtain a loan, buy a car, move out on their own, start dating, get married, start college, find employment, and even, gasp, have sex without anyone's permission. 
-Pedophilia is defined as a sexual attraction to children. 
-The word children is defined as anyone below the age of majority. 
-I do not condone or support pedophilia, fictional or not."

Here's the real truth. I could care less if Kindle Customer liked the book. I just wish that she had taken the time to write an accurate review. Something like "it was tough to read" or "some scenes were too violent" or "I didn't enjoy the book." Call me out on something I did. Typos. Mistakes. Plot holes. Failing to edit thoroughly. If I did it, I'll own it. But if I did not? Hell no. 

Honesty and truth are not things that are required if you want to post reviews on Amazon. Now it makes me wonder if all those 4 and 5 star reviews on some of the products I purchase are truly accurate. 

Until next time.


Life of an Author During COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic

I hope everyone I know is doing great especially given the circumstances our world is facing at this moment. Coronavirus has set us back on our heels. It has made us rethink many things we do. How close we are to people. To stay home versus going out. And of course, should we start hoarding toilet paper?

At least I can work at home. That has given me the ability to avoid exposure. I have respiratory problems that will not do well if I get the virus. The flu seriously compromises my respiratory status. Thankfully, my employer and family understand why I'm a serious introvert now.

Many states are shut down in a "shelter where you are" effort to control the spread of coronavirus. I live in Virginia. We haven't yet had to "shelter where you are", but the trend says that is a possibility sooner rather than later.

Living in a small town has its advantages. People here are reaching out to help others. They are kind, courteous, and helpful. The small-town grocery store has had a full staff working to serve their customers. No major outages except where rice, powdered milk, flour, sugar, corn meal, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and paper towels are concerned. Another chain store has posted limits of 3 packs per customer in the aisle where toilet paper and paper towels are usually kept. I've heard that Walmart is now allowing people who are elderly or disabled to shop first before opening for others. I'm not sure if that's the case at our local Walmart. My sister was there the other day and said the place was literally a ghost town--bare shelves, few customers.

One thing is for certain. My family has been forced to spend time together. We talk more. We eat actual meals together now. We're doing that human thing called socializing. I expect at any minute we will resort to playing board games or cards--something we have not done in years.

I have one other thing to be grateful for. The indie author community is amazing. We have people like Brian K. Morris who has used his Facebook live streams to share ideas on how authors can survive during this crisis. He allows us to post links to our work, websites, social media, and even self promos. That's amazing.

Then we have people in the community who started a group just so authors could share free ebooks for others to read during this crisis. The sense of camaraderie and support in the indie author community is amazing. I'm so proud to call these folks part of my tribe.

We will get through this. It's just a matter of how tough, creative, patient, and resourceful you are. I am reminded also of Rudolph Giuliani's words in the days after 9/11. I am paraphrasing because I am unsure of the exact words:

In times of chaos there must be calm. In times of calm there must be chaos. 

In this time, please let there be calm.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Beast of Land Between the Lakes, a short story

Copyright 2020 A.R. Ford

I am scorned. I am feared. Rumors abound about my kind. Yet none know who I really am.
Rattling, loose-hinged tongues paint me as the bastard beast who devours human flesh. Half man. Half wolf. Fingers tipped with bloody claws. Laughter roars from my maw at the hideous, twisted half truths. None know who I really am.
My mother was cursed and scorned, ostracized from her village months before the lake formed. Quetzalcoatl, the serpent god, found her while she gathered berries for the village. He seduced her with crimson skin, the majestic feathered headdress, and wily words. Months later when the pregnancy became apparent, the village elders cast her out. They did not care that she carried the son of a god within her womb. She was unmarried, and as such, was the scourge of the village.
The serpent god had pity on my mother. He carried her from the village thousands of miles away to the strange northern land. She gave birth alone, huddled in a cave, screaming at the moon and stars as she labored.
Quetzalcoatl was not to be denied his vengeance. He struck the earth. The village was laid low. Only a crimson smear of blood marked where it once stood. The land between the lakes held the imprint of his body. Fearsome. Winged. Massive.
My rage grew as I learned the circumstances of my birth. Mother grew ill. Nothing could save her. When she passed from our earthly realm to the land of moon and stars to walk hand-in-hand with Quetzalcoatl, I swore to avenge her.
I became the Beast from the land between the lakes. Crimson eyes. Part man. Part wolf. The son of a god. I roar each time my gut is filled with human flesh.
One day they will learn.
Until then? I will eat well.

The Old Red Truck, a short story

Copyright 2020 A.R. Ford

The old red truck sat in weeds grown so high the doors nearly disappeared. Rusted. Forlorn. Forgotten. Tires rotted. Rusty rims resting on the ground. 

“It’s a piece o’ crap, Larry. You’ll never get it started,” Gary drawled before loosing a stream of reddish-brown tobacco juice on the ground. He tucked his hands between the bibbed overalls and his bare chest. Like some men in the mountains, Gary wore no shirt with his bibs during the summer. 

“How much?” Larry’s words were bright with hope. The truck was a dream. He could see the beauty in each rusted fender, in the cracked windshield. Even in the stained, ripped seat with jagged springs sticking through. 

“Two fifty. Cash.”

“Is that all?” Larry asked, certain he had misunderstood. 

“Yep. It ain’t worth much sittin’ there rottin’ into the ground.” Gary’s hand reached out, palm up. He grinned when the money kissed the palm of his hand. “I’ll get the title.”

It took a day to coax the old truck onto a flatbed trailer. Another day to clean it out. The ragged seat went to an upholstery shop while Larry figured out just how to breathe life into the old truck. Brakes and tires came first. Then the radiator and engine. There were more dry-rotted hoses and belts than he estimated. It didn’t matter. Old Betty, as he came to call the truck, would be reborn. 

It took most of the summer. Larry swallowed or inhaled more rust and dirt than he cared to admit. After the first speck of rust got in an eye, he learned to wear safety glasses. Cutting corners wasn’t worth a half-day visit to the urgent care clinic having his eye washed out with cold saline. Sally Pritchard, the pudgy nurse from across town, took extra good care of him. Maybe too good. 

Every time Larry thought about Sally leaning over him smelling like Gold Bond powders and medicine, he had an all over body shiver. One that worked from his guts outward, climbing along his spine. It left a bad feeling in the back of his mind. One he didn’t care to think about. Sally might have her sights on him, but he had his sights set on Betty. 

After all of Betty’s mechanical ills were addressed, Larry moved on to the upholstery. He wanted something classy. Black leather with a diamond-stitched pattern. The headliner and carpet had to match. It just wouldn’t do to have Betty wearing mismatched upholstery. 

The final job came after Larry replaced the cracked windshield. Insurance. Tags. Inspection sticker. Now he was ready to roll. 

The key turned over easily. Betty roared before she purred to life. Throaty. Powerful. Understated. Betty didn’t need to show off. Anyone seeing her roll past would be hypnotized by her classic beauty and patina. A clear coat over the body made the faded red paint spotted with rust shine like a new penny. Some girls didn’t need bright, fancy lipstick to make them shine. Betty was that girl. 

Larry kept the truck five miles an hour under the speed limit when he rolled through town. An elbow lay on the door, the window rolled down to let fresh air flow through the cab. He waved and bobbed his head at people as he drove through town. 

By the time he made it to the far end of town, Larry knew one thing for certain. It didn’t take a fancy sports car to get people’s attention. Old Betty would do just fine. 

That day was the shining star of Larry’s young-adult life. He spoke about it often as he grew older. It meant something to him. Being able to save a classic truck on its way to becoming one with the earth. And in some small way, Betty saved him. She kept him grounded. Kept him busy when he could have turned to some of the bad things there were to do in his world. Drugs. Alcohol. Crime. He never forgot the importance of the decision to resurrect Betty. His children and grandchildren learned the tale. 

Old Betty never left his side. She stuck with him when his health faded. When love died. When work disappeared. Not many people were fortunate to have that in their lives. Larry knew and appreciated it. It was a relationship made in heaven. 

The joys of working at home due to covid-19

I have been fortunate enough to work from home since covid-19 became an issue in the United States. I am grateful for the opportunity becaus...