Thursday Thoughts, Website Challenges

coffee-cup-1239643-640x480This week, I’m trying to come up with a better website. I don’t know why I didn’t just stick with using this blog with a static page as a website, but nope, I did not want to do that. I think it had something to do with wanting more widget options, although how I could use those options I don’t know. I just wanted ’em.

So I found a video (I’ll post below) by a guy who seems to know how to do this well. He uses wordpress.org and the themes made for wordpress to do this. It seems a lot simpler than using dreamweaver, which I have done before and had to learn about padding and boxes and stuff.

Why do I always think things will be easy?

First I got stuck with hostgator. My domain name is with godaddy. My on-line/writing life is fragmented enough so I wanted to transfer domain names and have everything in one place. This, apparently, requires Knowing Stuff. I do not know stuff. I don’t know what DNS means and I honestly don’t want to know what it means. During one of 4 phone calls I asked because people were throwing it around like candy at a parade (bear with me. It’s early and I’m metaphorically challenged) so I asked what DNS stands for. Guess what? I don’t remember. I forgot before I got off the phone. They also like to say “propogate” a lot. It’s a word they like.

(Takes sip of coffee. Checks facebook to see if I made anybody laugh yet today.)

By the end of Tuesday I was in tears. Real ones. But finally, finally something worked well enough that I could work on the website. Also, I got the dedicated email account that I needed. I think it’s what a dedicated email is. It could be a wishy-washy email account. I haven’t used it yet, so I’m pretty sure it is. Still, I need it to do mailerlite automation emails, which I’m supposed to do, but haven’t because I am as wishy-washy as my dedicated email on my DNS thingy. In other words, if you’ve signed up for my newsletter, you aren’t actually getting any news. Pretty sure you are all right with that, though, for now, until I start writing my little backstory stories for the PostPlague Trilogy characters and sending them out (Did I say I was going to do that? Well now you know I intend upon doing that.)

I started work. By “work” I mean finding the Theme I want. This is not easy for someone who waffles between paper and plastic at the grocery store and always feels guilty about the choice. ie: Should I pay more money to Big Oil and continue to fund wars in the Middle East while destroying the earth with plastic that will not break down? Or should I choose paper and kill trees, rob the earth of much needed O2 from rain forests being destroyed? Either way I’m killing the earth. You can’t win on that one.

Anyway, like U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. There are lots of themes. They don’t really explain what you can customize until you install and activate. Even then the customization is not always easily-knowable and I have no freaking clue what a slider is. People are excited about them, apparently, because they talk a lot about how great their theme is because it has a slider.

What I want is a page that lets me customize colors, will allow for full-width because I don’t always want sidebars, and a header/picture. Now sure why this is such a difficult concept. I’d think it’s what everybody wants. On the other hand, I’ve been on this earth for a few decades now, and I still always think I want what everybody else wants and am often flabbergasted that that it is not true. Why don’t people want to read about a dystopian world with a cool star symbol, and tattoos and a female heroine who cries a lot because killing people in terrible ways is upsetting to her, but she treks onward anyway because killing people is the only way to stop people dying. . .also, more women doing action-y things than men. Of course everybody wants to read that!

Well not yet, at any rate.

Finally I googled WordPress Themes for Authors. Yeah. Not helpful. I googled wordpress words because I want to know what they mean by sliders etc. Not helpful there. Apparently this is yet another thing everybody knows by osmosis and is something I will have to learn through trial and error, which is my most-hated and most-oftened used learning method. If I ever write a book about my life–which I won’t–I would title it Trial and Error, Mostly Error.

I also have to come up with either 1) a good picture or 2) a good header. I’m using Canva for that. Can I make a decision on that? Nope. I’ve tried putting the star symbol on a plain blue header and my name. I’ve tried using the ghosted virus symbol on a header with a train and wrote PostPlague Trilogy, I’ve tried ghosting a temple and putting the symbol over that. I love it all. I hate it all. I am driving Sir Tom–husband and collaborator–nuts. Two nights in a row he’s said, “It’s 9:30. You should knock off for the night.” That’s his way of saying, “I need to not think about this right now.” I answer with “I will in just a minute” which is my way of saying, “I am obsessed and will be doing this at 12 am long after you are a sleep.”

So that’s where I am. Those are my Thursday thoughts. I guess I should put the video in, huh? Also, I’ll add some of the headings and pictures I’ve come up with, because hey, why not? I have yet to commit to a shutterstock image so I haven’t bought one yet, so they say shutterstock.

Video. Okay, apparently I don’t know how to put one in. Also, I use apparently a lot. Also, also. Here is a link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiB0HPMy4GE&t=1137s

Untitled design-8

 

ThePostPlagueTrilogy

Thursday thoughts

I just got back from my yearly physical. We discussed exercise, something I know I should do, something that truly makes me feel better in almost all aspects, and something I absolutely despise. She, like so many people, said that means I just haven’t found the exercise that’s right for me. The truth is, there is no exercise that’s right for me. I hate it all. I am a happily sedentary person.

She also kept talking about “classes.” I do really love this woman, and I enjoy going to see her. She is very good at her job, but she’s obviously an extravert. I told her I am an introvert and I didn’t want to go to classes because there are people. She said I didn’t have to talk to them if I didn’t want to. And this, right here, is where the gap between extraversion and introversion–or at least my kind of introversion–is so large that it seems impossible to bridge it.

I am not an HSP (highly sensitive person). I have friends who are, which is a blessing to me and sort of a curse to them. I am no more affected by loud noises than the average person, and messes and clutter bother me not-at-all. I am not particularly sensitive to
“loud” or garish colors, or smells. I am extremely sensitive to touch, but in terms of sensory stimulus, that’s the only place I’m “extra”.

Unless you throw people in the mix.

Garish clothing I notice. High voice, low voices, soft voices, loud voices I notice. I hear, I almost “see” tone changes. I note word choices. I am affected by smells. I take in every facial expression, every bit of body language. I pick up consciously and subconsciously all information and my brain tries to process it. This happens if I am see someone walking down a food isle in a store. It happens when I walk the neighborhood. It happens with every person I encounter. And the more people, the more information, the more stimulus, the more exhaustion.

I couldn’t explain this to her. I can’t seem to explain it to extroverts in general. Part of the reason is that I don’t want to come off sounding “special” or extremely observant or any manner of “superior.” That’s not how I feel at all. So I didn’t say that. I don’t say that to people. I’m writing it, instead.

And here’s the thing–I don’t know if I am actually more bombarded with these things than other people, or if they just handle it better. Does my NP go to a class and the same thing comes at her but she has some ability to turn it off that I don’t? Is it always working? Is this something I just need to learn to do? If someone has a secret he/she isn’t sharing, I would appreciate the information. Now. I mean right now, because I am terrible at turning “it” off. I could close my eyes to shut down the sight information, but I will still hear–movement, sighs, even the increase or decrease breathing patterns. And words, and speech patterns in those words. Accents and the choice of words and the hesitation or strength.

If you shut down sight and sound, then feel and smell will kick in. I can feel people approaching or moving away. Maybe others do too; I don’t know. I just know I do. The sense of smell will heighten. This is all why when I created in the PostPlague series the Social category the opposite is Observer.

And so, no. Classes will not make exercise better for me, because the more people there, the more I am bombarded with information. The less people there, the more I feel like I should communicate with the other members. It is not that I don’t like people. I do. A lot. I love social media because I can “be” with people but I have only the written word to work through as cues. It is much, much easier for me to have conversations without all the extraneous information and honestly, I can usually pick up feelings and emotions through the words people use. What they say. What they don’t. How long or short answers or comments are. How quickly they come. And it is all one sentence at a time instead of a barrage of other information. It will tire me out because of all the processing, but at a much, much slower pace.

And that’s this week’s thoughts.

Thursday Thoughts, that Giveaway, and apparently an Excerpt

So, today. . .it’s raining. And we’re in for a deluge here after a week of rain which followed an April Fool’s snowstorm. I’m not posting the picture. It’s too depressing.

FBHopWhat else? Hmmmm, oh Giveaway. Here, I’ll load the picture. Okay, not sure why it is not next to my text, but there it is. I’ve got to figure out this whole picture thing a whole lot better.

Anyway, I am personally giving away a set of ebooks–The Liars and The Children of Liberty, along with a $20 Amazon gift card. Go to my facebook page to register. You can get the link to the $200 amazon card there or just click on this. It’s running to 4/9/17. Whether or not it’s through the day on 4/9, I’m not sure, so you might want to register right now.

What else? I started work on The Sacrifice or Sacrifice. Not sure which yet, or even if that’ll be the title, but it is for now. To be honest, I had already started work on it. I don’t write in order. I had a clear picture of some scenes later in the book, so I wrote them. It helps me to keep in mind what I’m working toward.

Anyway, the new words I wrote include a description of one of Neri’s meditations. I really like it. I’ll put some more words in today.

The song I have going on in the background is I Found by Amber Run. (I’m giving you the lyrics link, because when I use songs to write by, I don’t want the original video–I interpret the lyrics in relation to my story). The lines I love so much, that feel so appropriate for the series is “I found love where it wasn’t supposed to be, right in front of me.” That is true for all three of the people in the love triangle. Evan “found love” with a girl headed for The Temple, which he hates because of his mother’s death. Jarvis “found love” with a married woman. A woman married to his ultimate employer and the most powerful man in the country, Grayson Starling. Neri found like with Evan when she was a teenager–the son of a dissident, which would destroy her chances of becoming a priestess. She found love with Jarvis after she was married. And, outside of this triangle, she found love with Grayson, a brutal leader whom she believe she could change–and then was betrayed. The lyrics in this song–I’ll use you as a warning sign–could be interpreted to mean Grayson. But they also explain how all three of them feel. “I’ll use you as a focal point, so I don’t lose sight of what I want” really applies to how Evan and Jarvis feel about Neri, at least in the beginning of The Liars.

So check it out! I love this song. It’s hauntingly beautiful.

What else? Well we re-learned this week that Assad is a monster, didn’t we? And by re-learning that we also re-learn how difficult the situation in Syria is. It’s a horror story for the ones caught in the crossfire, the refugees fleeing with their families. But what the world does about it, what it should do, is hard to fathom. If we (the U.S. and/or the world) were to step in, which side do we work with? If we fight against Assad, does ISIS take over? The idea is horrific. On the other hand, Assad is no better. He’s gassed his own people twice now at least. Neither of these is a solution and a third solution–helping Syrians find and establish a good leader–gets into nation building. That can go very wrong, and requires steady, sustained work and $$$ from the world, a world that does not seem particularly magnanimous right now.

All right, this is depressing. How about an excerpt? Let me see if I can find something. I’ll come back.

Okay, I’m back. This is from The Children of Liberty. Early in the second book in the trilogy, Neri meets two new characters. Two young women living in the Rocky Mountains. This is one of the early scenes between them, which also gives a description of Neri’s Temple tattoo. I really love Maya and Tansy. Also, at some point, I need to give you all the recipe for the raspberry sauce.

***

“This is heavenly,” I say after the first forkful of Tansy’s roast duck with raspberry sauce. “I’ve never had anything this good in Temple City. Or Central City for that matter.”

Two pretty red circles rise in Tansy’s cheeks. She beams at me. “Really?”

“Really,” I answer. We’re sitting in the dining area of their two-room log cabin. This furniture is handmade as well. A huge stone fireplace heats the entire room—dining room, kitchen and living area.

“Tansy’s a very inventive cook,” Maya says. Her voice is cool and even, but nobody could mistake the pride in it. “No matter how short we are of supplies, she always comes up with something delicious.”

Tansy offers me some bread. “You’re lucky. Yesterday was baking day. We only have enough flour for one loaf a week.”

I’m a fugitive from the law and my life isn’t worth the chair I’m sitting on. That’s hardly lucky, but I try to keep my usual cynicism out of my voice. “I’ve always had good fortune when it comes to running from bears and falling down cliffs.”

Maya raises her eyebrows. Oh well, at least I tried.

Tansy laughs. “If you’re going to make it a habit, do it on baking day.”

“How about I forget the falling part, and just arrive on baking day?”

“You are welcome any day, High Priestess,” Tansy says warmly. Then, for the third time since we sat down, her eyes rest on my Temple tattoo.

I’ve eaten enough that I can stand putting down my fork. Turning my right arm over, I push back my sleeve to show it to her. It’s a gold facetted circle, cut into ten pie pieces to represent each of the Temple’s sects, which are the governmental departments of the Order. Each pie piece is colored with a corresponding sect’s color: 1st, the Guard, is royal blue, the 2nd, Arts and Education is rose pink, and so on. All Temple members have a tattoo of the circle, with the sect they belong to colored in. Only the Prophet, High Priestess and Apprentice—the next in line for Prophet—have all of the pieces colored.

Tansy gasps. “Oh, it sparkles!”

“It’s the kind of ink they use,” I say. I move my wrist for effect and watch it sparkle in the light, courtesy of solar panels on the roof. The tattoo really is gorgeous. Or would be if it didn’t represent oppression, cruelty, and my six years of living in fear. “Go ahead, you can touch it.”

She runs her fingers over it, and then smiles shyly at me. When she’s done, I dig into my dinner again. “So, Maya,” I start casually, “you said Temple City is three days away. How often do you visit?” And who do you visit, my worried brain adds. Friends on the High Council? Inquisitors?

“It’s three days by horse,” Maya says. “You’ll want a couple days to mend first, so that’s five days.” She peers at me. “Will the Prophet be worried about you?”

Very much. But not in the way she thinks.

I need a good answer, though, one that will satisfy curiosity, not inflame it. My head is still so foggy. A minute goes by. A minute and a half. What do I say?

“Maybe Priestess—” Maya starts just as a thought hits me.

“He thinks I’m in SouthMid.”

She starts, then frowns. “Why does he think that?”

Why indeed? And why was I running for my life from a mother bear in the middle of the wilderness? I need a good lie. The best are based in reality. There was a train accident, and I ended up here.

There’s no reality in that, and trains don’t run near the mountains.

I was on a camping trip and got lost.

Closer to reality, but who was I with? The High Priestess would never camp alone. Honestly, the High Priestess, or at least this High Priestess, would never camp, period.

I was on a picnic—

“Try the truth,” Maya says. She speaks coolly, as if she isn’t calling me a liar. I should respond with indignation; the High Priestess is not to be questioned.

Except by Grayson. And the Inquisitors.

I’m not indignant, and I am no longer the High Priestess. At best I’m a dissident, which is just a nice word for traitor. “I ran away.”

Maya raises her brows.

“What?” Tansy asks, perplexed. “But why?”

“I needed some time . . . alone. To think.”

Tansy blinks. Socials, even in terrible situations, would run to other people, not to the wilderness.

Maya puts down her fork with careful precision. “They must be searching for you.”

“I told the Prophet I was going to SouthMid.” That lie works now, and I’m vaguely pleased with myself. Given enough time I can weave lies as soft as silk.

“I’m sure they’ve discovered you aren’t there.”

“Possibly,” I say with a wave of my hand, “but they’d never think to look for me here.”

“So you pretended to board a train,” Maya says in clipped tones, “but instead borrowed a horse. Then rode out into the wilderness with no provisions to speak of. No tent, no lighting. No food. Because you wanted to think?

“When you say it like that it sounds stupid.”

“I don’t know how I’d say it so it wouldn’t sound stupid.”

Maya,” Tansy hisses. “She’s the High Priestess.”

“I don’t care if she’s God herself. She’s lying.”

Damn. Now what? She’s not buying my lies, silken or otherwise. “I did run away,” I insist. “And they aren’t looking for me here.” Because nobody in their right mind would do what I did. But I am not in my right mind and Maya is realizing that. She continues to stare at me with that penetrating gaze. She’s waiting for an answer, a truthful one. She reminds me of Jarvis, whom I trusted with my life. Maybe I can trust her too.

At any rate, I’m out of options.

I shove aside the pain that thoughts of Jarvis always bring and hold Maya’s gaze. “I’m a fugitive. The Temple suspects me of spying on the Prophet. I escaped before the Inquisitors could take me in for questioning.”

“Oh,” Tansy breathes. “Pa told us horror stories about the Inquisitors. But surely . . . surely they would treat the High Priestess with reverence? Follow every clue until they discover who is really responsible.”

Neither Maya nor I break our gazes. After a few seconds, her eyes flicker. “She wasn’t set up,” Maya says. “She did it.”

“No,” Tansy says doubtfully.

I just shrug.

Maya sits back and I watch as the tension in her muscles drains away. With it goes the unnatural aging of anxiety, leaving behind a woman who’s probably five or six years my junior. “Well I’ll show you the way back, but you’re welcome to stay with us if you’d rather.”

You’re welcome to die here. That’s what she really means.

Thursday Thoughts and a Giveaway

lost-in-thought-1529724-639x852First thought: I really have to learn how to do the photo thing better on wordpress. It confuses me every time. I’ve added and deleted this photo four times now.  Also, I need to make enough money someday so I can pay people for their photos.

Second thought: Giveaway. So I’m in something called a facebook hop. Not entirely sure what this is, but it’s a promotional thing and I will be giving away book or books, and an Amazon card next week. It runs from April 3rd to the 9th. Just go like my facebook page–it’s over there in the sidebar–and sign up for my newsletter there and you will be entered. You will somehow be contacted. Not sure how right now, but I have friends who will be kind enough to tell me how this works. . .also, there will be a main giveaway on a main facebook page with a $200 amazon card giveaway. Now that is definitely worth it, right? I think there will be a list of other facebook author pages also doing a giveaway. There, I said giveaway three times. I think the search engine will not call me spam.

Random thought: I hate spam. My mother use to make a spam meal in which she coated the spam in cornflakes or some such thing and put pineapples on top. I won’t be posting that recipe here, I promise.

So this week was learning how to be an actually selling author instead of one who just posts things on a couple sites and hopes for the best. I’ve realized that I am actually a small business owner. This has been a very slow epiphany. I would say that it’s not really an epiphany, which by definition is sudden, but the words popped into my head suddenly. It’s the fact that I’ve been moving toward this that’s been slow.

I’ve resisted this for years. I hate the idea that creative people have to think about selling. We should just be creative. But there’s something freeing about saying “small business owner” as opposed to “promotion” or “marketing.” Also, I don’t know why I put those words in quotes. Grammar is a thing that I am always learning. That’s not on my list right now, though.

On my list is continuing to learn how to be a good small business owner. It appeals to the side of me that studied finance years ago. I own a small business and my product is my writing. It’s kind of cool, when I think of it that way. I have a product.

So I’m in a metamorphis stage right now, learning a lot of stuff. I have to say, how-to youtube videos are fantastic. I have learned how to create webpages using wordpress, instead of from scratch with Dreamweaver. I will be doing this for the Postplague series in the next week or so, and I will be moving this blog too. I’ll somehow manage to redirect if you’re following this blog.  At the very least, I’ll put a link on this page.

Final thing–newsletters! I’ve always thought of these as spammy things (did I mention how much I hate spam?) that just irritate people with constant “buy me!” links etc. But I am learning something else: newsletters are fun ways for readers and authors to have conversations. I like that idea. I write to share my thoughts, and I put them best in fiction form.

Then I thought, man, I have very few people on my newsletter. I have to fix that. And then I looked at this site and I have no newsletter sign up! So I’ll be adding that as well. I’m considering what I want to do with them right now. I don’t want to send them out more than once a month. And I’m considering writing little short stories for the members of COL and sending them to newsletter subscribers. Each short story (novella?) will show you, instead of telling you like I do in the books, how the COL member because a part of COL–their journey to rebellion.

I have a pretty clear idea already of Jarvis and Evan. Writing these stories will be fun for me, and useful too. Although I know their journeys, writing them out will give me details currently hidden. I’ll also be able to show you all more of the world. I think–but not promising because these are still concepts–that in Evan’s story we’ll see the Neri and Grayson’s joining ceremony.

So those are this weeks thoughts. I’ll put up a newsletter sign up on the blog soon, but you can also sign up on my facebook page (in the sidebar there) April 3rd-9th and register for that Amazon card. If you want a reminder, follow this blog for the next week. I’ll make sure to mention it, and you’ll read it in your email box.

Cheers all!

Thursday Thoughts

contemplating-life-1554743-639x955I’ve decided I need to commit to weekly blogging. It’s good for me. I also like alliteration, so for the purposes of this post, pretend it’s Thursday.

I’ve spent the week reading about everything I should’ve been doing for years to promote my books. Granted, I only published The Liars in 2015, but my first published book was 2007. I have been doing it wrong. And I’ve known that all along.

Sigh.

I could spend 30 pages ranting about how much I hate promoting, and why writers should just be able to write and talk to fans and the fans should just come like the baseball players in Field of Dreams. In a perfect world this would happen. But the world is not perfect. I have to actually find fans.

Sigh.

I guess one way to do this is to do giveaways. Which I’m happy to do here and there. I mean, not on every book because, contrary to what some readers believe, writers should be paid for their work. But sure, I’m happy to give away some books.

Sadly, though, that’s not enough. You can’t just give away your books, you have to promote the giving away and let people know you’re doing this–facebook, twitter, newsletters, instagram and all the other social media that I don’t even know about. The thing is that I have only like 250 followers on twitter and most of them are book-marketiing type people, so it’s not like I’ll reach a bunch of people.

Sigh. Yeah, I’m sighing a lot. Not sure how to tag this post because I’ve been told that search engines will ignore your tags if you only use the word once. Maybe I should tag “sigh” on this post then.

So that’s what this week was. At some point I’ll tell you all about givewaways and stuff but I’m still learning how to do that well.

So how about you, one person who is reading my blog post? What was your week like? Go ahead and comment. One word would be fine. You can even just write “fine”. Honestly nobody will see it–notice how, introvert that I am, I assume you too are an introvert and don’t want people to “see” you.

 

Ranting and Rating–The Handmaid’s Tale

Okay, I’m going to, for the first time ever, assign a rating to a book. I hate doing that, but 51qGjF8UHJL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_this book is famous and my rating won’t matter to the writer or her sales, so no damage can be done. Also, because I am who I am, I can’t just give you one set of stars. I want a more complex rating.

Plot–*****

Five stars for the uniqueness of this plot. How she created this, I will never know because my brain just is not that good. Did Atwood lie awake at night worrying? Is that how she got here? When I lie awake at night worrying, I don’t come up with new and terrifying realities to express my worry. . .okay that’s not entirely true. I did do that. But it wasn’t because I was lying awake worrying.

Characters–****

I took one star away because while the main character of The Handmaid’s Tale is fully fleshed out, the other characters are not quite as much. We know something about the Commander and something about Serena, but the backstory is very limited. We know a lot about Moira, who is a kick ass heroine, regardless of her ending, but still, no backstory. I get that backstory is not something people give away freely, but. . .people like to talk. The huge change that occurred in this book to go from our world to dystopian happened basically in three years. It’s the nature of people who get anywhere close to other people to talk about it. I mean, Facebook, Twitter, blogs–it’s everywhere.

Storytelling–*****

I separate that from writing. You can be a terrible writer with hardly the ability to string words into a sentence, and yet still tell a great story. The current president of the U.S. is an example of this. Writers everywhere are still waiting for his list of “the best words” but even without them, he told a story that people bought.

Atwood is an incredible story teller. I was flipping pages (which is really just swiping on a kiindle) as fast as I could. It wasn’t until I was about 30% of the way through that I realized pretty much nothing has happened. Offred goes shopping. That’s it. But the way the world is presented, one layer at a time (I refuse the onion peeling metaphor because I’m not a fan of onions), is just so fantastic. This is the part I want to re-read, to learn how she does this. To see if I could learn to do that too.

Writing–****

Yeah, people will get irritated with me for taking away that star because Atwood’s writing is so lush. So full of metaphors and beautiful explanations of #feelingsandthings. This is purely a personal choice for me–I don’t like a lot of that. Some, yes. And there were places where I sunk deep into the story because she has such an amazing ability to write introspection and to bring the world to life. Still, there were many places that I just started swiping. It was too much for me. I’m a pretty bare-bones writer because I’m a pretty bare-bones reader. When I see a tree, it’s a tree. It’s not a tall statue decorated in green life swaying in the wind. It’s a tree.

Also, the commas were in weird places. At least in my version they were. I only noticed because I’m a writer, though, and commas are a “thing” for me.

Conclusion–***

Three being less-than satisfactory. Which is what the rest of my rant is about, which I started before putting in my new rating system:

So, have you read this book by Margaret Atwood? The Handmaid’s Tale is very well known dystopian fiction. My feminist friends are talking a lot about it these days given our social/governmental climate. It’s even being made into a series on Hulu. I never read The Handmaid’s Tale, though,  because I’m not what anybody would call #deepandmeaningful. But, given that they’ve all read it and are re-reading it, I decided to give it a try.

And oh my God, what a good book! I’ll admit it–sometimes these days reading is more chore than joy. This book grabs your from the start and won’t let go; reading was pure joy. It’s the kind of book a writer reads and thinks “This is who I want to be. I want to be a writer like this.” The Handmaid’s Tale is the kind of book a writer reads and then wants to analyze to see how to become a better writer. It is that good.

So here’s the spoiler alert. If you haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale, stop here. It’s a good book, you’ll love it, trust me. But the end is. . .well be prepared that it’s not what you’d hope for.

For everybody else, wtf? Are you kidding me? That’s not an ending! Somebody in a forum wrote about the ambiguity of the ending and how wonderful that is. Okay, maybe I’m plebeian. Maybe I don’t get the literary reasoning behind this. Maybe there’s some #deepandmeaningful reason not to end the book, and my poor little brain doesn’t have the power to see that. Maybe my IQ is seriously in question htere. But that is not an ending.

Spoiler alert # 2. Do not read past this. I’m gonna tell you what happens. You won’t like that. But I’m really irritated.

So maybe it was because I read The Handmaid’s Tale on my kindle and it said I was at 94% and I thought I had a lot more pages before the ending, but when I read “And so I step, into the darkness within; or else the light.” I expect to get into the black van with Offred and  out The Truth. I’m not saying I need to know what happene to Luke or her child. I need to know what happens to Offred. I get the impression, because Nick gives her the codeword, that she’s now with the resistance, no matter how frightened she is. And after reading lots and lots of pages, I feel like I’m entitled to know that.

All right now, let’s delve a little into the details of the story. The world, where some women are basically breeders and others–older women married to high ranking government officials–is brilliant. The plot is breathtakingly (breathtaking for a writer, at least, and I mean that in the literal sense) unique.

I did have some moments of, “Really?” in terms of the timing. The world changed from normal to dystopian in 3 years. We know this because Offred has a husband and a daughter somewhere in the world. The daughter was five when she lost her and she muses that she would be 8 now. Offred became a handmaid–a breeder–soon afterward so she and the world she’s in has only been this way for 3 years. It feels though, based upon how assimilated people are, that it’s been at least 10 years if not 15. Atwood does hint at the lead up to all of this, with book burnings and such, but it’s a little vague.

So this woman, this handmaid, this breeder is living with a Commander and is supposed to produce a child for the couple. They have sex once a month, at ovulation time, in a really bizarre ritual. Because this book is years old, the world–and the writer–did not have modern techniques to ensure pregnancy, but you’d think they’d at least understand that one time, once a month, is not really enough. Still because of the religious undertones, the once a month does work in the story, even if I did want to yell a little.

All women’s lives are severely curtailed. Christianity–although that term is not used–has deemed women to be subservient to men. Sex is deemed to be only for those who can afford to breed; it’s for procreation. It seems that in this world, that those men are old. Maybe because everything’s been taken from younger ones? I don’t know. As I said, it’s only been three years.

Everybody is being watched all the time, and everybody could be a spy. This is typically dystopian but the fear of being discovered is written in every single line. We see up close and personal what happens to those who disobey near the end of the book in a terrible execution. You know it’s bad alredy, but “seeing” it is always harder.

So that’s the world basically, and you get to see it a little more page by page. You get hints to how it came about in Offred’s recollections. You feel the pain she has at having lost her daughter and husband and not knowing where they are. Offred makes no effort to “escape” really or effort to discover what happened. She’s going along to get along, and that’s in every page, too.

There is a resistance and she is sort of “recruited” by another woman. By that time, though, Offred is pretty assimilated and doesn’t really make an effort to help the resistance. For whatever reason, that does not seem to bother this resistance fighter. She continues to tell Offred things and try to convince her to ask questions and learn. This does not really make sense to me.

And then, there’s the end (I’m leaving a lot out here). At the end Offred’s resistance fighter friend is caught. A short time later (although its many pages in the book) the black van–gestapo? secret police?–comes for Offred. But one of the characters, before she goes down to get into the van, gives her a resistances code word. Offred is not sure what it means. Is he part of the resistance? Yes, Offred, yes he is, hon. You have just been pulled so deeply into this terrible world that you no longer believe.

She gets into the van.

And that’s it. End of story. Now I know other readers are wondering if Nick, the suddenly-resistance-fighter, is really a good guy. They’re wondering if Offred will be reunited with her husband and daughter. If I truly loved this character, I probably would be too. But I was able to step back enough from the story that it’s not as much a thing for me. What I want to know is:

1)Who set up a weird pimped out hotel-ish thing where men can go find hookers and have actual fun sex, which apparently, in only 3 years time no longer exists (that’s kind of a reach for me. Not sure people would give that up so easily.)

2)What job does the Commander actually have? What part did he have in creating this dystopian world? Who is head of the world? I want to know all things government, or at least a few things government.

3)What is happening in the Colonies? Where are the Colonies? Why do we have Colonies?

4) Who is the resistance? Where does it reside? Is Nick really a resistance fighter? How’s Canada and Mexico feel about all of this?

5) How did this all actually happen? I mean, yeah, I know–the government was reichstagged (the reichstag in Nazi Germany was basically Congress and was burnt to the ground, at which point Trump–I mean Hitler suspended all civil liberties) but I want more details.

6) Seriously, what about the world outside? We know that Japan is still alive and well because she sees Japanese visitors taking pictures. They are probably actually thriving, because they are here. But how are they here? What did they need to get into this new world, Gilead? We know there’s toxicity “out there.” Has only the U.S. suffered from the toxicity? What created it?

So that’s six major areas for me that I want fleshed out. But the book just ended, nothing is answered and this very interesting world, to me, now feels like a writer just creating something fascinating without any good understanding of how it happened. I am more concrete. I want details. I invested a lot of time and emotion into this book, so I feel like I’m owed those details. Otherwise, as a writer, this ending to me is just a cop out. Atwood didn’t know how to end it so she just stopped writing. I know, I know, people will try to point out the #deepandmeaningful ness of the whole thing. Maybe she did it on purpose for some literary something or other. That doesn’t work for me.

The Giver left the ending up in the air too, but I didn’t feel as dissatisfied.  There are two important distinctions. First, Lowry went on to write 3 more books. And while I didn’t feel they completely answered my questions (my husband and I disagree on this), it was at least an attempt. Second, The Giver is years and years and years into the dystopian world. The separation of time, for me, means I don’t need as much detail to how everything came about. Not sure why that is, but that’s how I felt.

Atwood recently did an interview about her book and today’s political climate. I found a link when I googled for the cover, but I didn’t read it. I’m still too irritated.

So. There. That’s my rant and my rating. What did you think?

Beautiful Art, Alison Jardine

Taking a break from ranting and writing to show you this Alison Jardine’s beautiful pictures. I’ve followed her on twitter and her art runs through my feed. It soothes me. I don’t think I’ve lived through a time when we needed art so much as we do right now. 4053170067_c06a1f8b53

Here’s Alison Jardine’s website where you can contact her if you’d like to purchase something. And you can follow her on twitter.