The plumbingpocalypse of 2022

Okay, so, we moved into this house in June of 2021. It’s a nice double-wide trailer with plenty of floor space for kids to run around. Well, as soon as we moved in, we discovered that we had plumbing leaks under the eastern corner of the house.

Being new home owners after 15 years in apartments, we didn’t really know what to do. We tried calling out the home warranty folks to fix it, because that’s why we pay them, right? Turns out, the contractors who worked with the home warranty people are all experts at milking the system. We had three major plumbing leaks. The plumbers would only fix one at a time, forcing us to pay the fee multiple times to get each one fixed. It took so long to do this that the third leak had time to create a massive black mold pool under the house. The plumbers absolutely refused to get under there and fix the mold until we had restoration people come fix the mold. Whereas if they fixed the leak, there wouldn’t have been any mold … so yeah.

Yeah, it was bad

So, we spent most of the year going back and forth with various people who took one look at the problem and ghosted us. Meanwhile, I dug a drainage trench to control the water pouring out from under our house, and would bail it into a random sewer hookup that some previous inhabitant of the house had set up for a trailer.

Round about February, I was so miserable and sick of putting my hands in waste water that I begged my husband to just call a plumber and fix the leak. And this is where it gets weird.

So the plumber came out and crawled under the house and fixed the leak in about ten minutes. No problems with black mold, it was no big deal. So we ran water to make sure it was holding, and instantly all the sinks and showers backed up. So the plumber went around, trying to figure out where the blockage was. In the process, he discovered that our entire plumbing system had been ‘fixed’ by the people who flipped our house … ‘fixed’ to go into a complete circle without draining. Yes, our plumbing was an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail.

The plumber, by this time, was furious. He referred us to some friends of his who would rip out all the plumbing and redo it for a reasonable price. The quote we got was 14k. We had to wait for our tax return, which wound up not being quite enough, not if we had to stay in an Airbnb for a week while our pipes got redone. So we renegotiated down to about 8k, which was much more reasonable.

So they came to rip out our pipes, and we relocated to an Airbnb in town. It was very small, but it was cheap. I entertained the kids with videogames and everything from the junk food section of the grocery store. They went from groaning about the tiny space to proclaiming it our best vacation ever.

It only took the plumbers about 5 days to redo all the water and drains, instead of the 2 weeks they had initially thought. They were able to get parts, and everything went smoothly. When we came back, we had water hooked up to our fridge at last, meaning the fridge with a water dispenser and ice maker that we hadn’t been able to use for a year suddenly works. Nothing drains into the yard. The washing machine doesn’t drain into the kitchen sink. The showers actually have water pressure. I can’t begin to express how wonderful it is to not have to put my hands into wastewater multiple times a day.

So that’s the tale of the plumbingpocalypse. We’re slated to have an electropocalypse next, and then a structural damagepocalypse. Word to the wise: never buy a flipped house. While I’ve heard that some house flippers do a nice job, the ones who did this house did not. They didn’t update the wiring to support an AC unit, they ouroboros’d the plumbing, and instead of redoing the ancient bathroom, they painted over the bad spots. The paint is now flaking away, revealing how gross it is. You know that movie Matilda, where the dad is the used car salesman who has all these tricks to make a car run just until he can sell it to some chump? Yeah, that’s what these house flippers did. They made the house look just good enough to pass inspection. I hope they go to jail someday.

In search of goodness in modern books

A few years ago, I was listening to Elizabeth Elliot teach on the Fruits of the Spirit. I knew what Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. were, but I’d never understood what Goodness was. It’s sandwiched in between kindness and gentleness, and my thinking was that Goodness was part of both of those. Kind of like saying “He’s nice.” It doesn’t mean anything.

So I was fascinated when Elizabeth Elliot defined Goodness as being high quality. “It’s like when we say, ‘This is a good cheese,’, or ‘This is a good vintage of wine’. In the same way, we are to be high-quality people.”

This stuck in my mind, especially as applied to writing. Was I portraying Goodness as desirable? Was I showing characters struggling to become higher and higher quality? After all, the refining process takes time and pain, both of which make for great stories.

Note: Holiness is: The state or character of being holy or sinless; purity of moral character; perfect freedom from all evil; sanctity.

Goodness is: The state or quality of being good, in any sense; excellence; purity; virtue; grace; benevolence.

Speaking of great stories, the other day, we were talking in my Discord about why Narnia and Lord of the Rings are still the Christian fantasy gold standards. One person said, “It’s wrong that their writings are still the best of Christian fantasy. By now we should have hundreds of works that are way better, and they’d be mostly honoured as those who started, not … all that it’s recommended when looking for Christian fantasy books.”

This got me thinking. As a Christian writer, I am obsessed with showing sinful man grappling with Ultimate Good. Evil is less interesting to me. Like, I pick up any Christian book, and yawn, it’s some lukewarm believer sinning again. You know what made Lewis and Tolkien stand out? They didn’t bother wallowing in the evil. Sauron has zero on-screen appearances. Instead, they grappled with Goodness, and man struggling to measure up. The Ring is a constant temptation, and arrayed against it are the Goodness of the elves, and Gandalf, and Gondor, and all the Good characters struggling to maintain their holiness in the face of corruption.

Goodness is treasured. It is something precious and desirable.

In Narnia, it’s each character coming to grips with Aslan. We’re not so much interested in what a pathetic waste of space Eustace is. We want to see him face Aslan and see how he changes. Each character is transformed by the end of each book by their confrontation with Good–they are either changed, or destroyed by it.

How many Christian books have been written since then that focus on man’s struggle with Goodness and Holiness and Righteousness? How many treasure goodness and constantly seek it out? I can’t think of any, and I’ve read quite a few. They kind of miss the point. Instead, they turn God into this cosmic battery that the hero channels in order to defeat the Bad Guys. Oh, and the hero wallows in evil. A lot. Like, in some books, the evil is pretty much front and center. This is no different from any book written by a non-believer.

Now, Mormons tend to get it right, and that’s why we have runaway authors like Sanderson and Meyers and Farland. They still write the stories of Man grappling with Good, although imperfectly. I think that’s why their books resonate so much.

For instance, Jeff Wheeler says in his Manifesto on Virtue:


When I was in college at San Jose State, I took Latin classes from Marianina Olcott. That is where I learned about the Roman concept of Virtus (pronounced “where-tuus”). It was a trait that the Romans respected, but it did not mean just virtue. It included other qualities too: prudentia (prudence), iustitia (justice), temperantia (self-control), and fortitudo (courage).

As I look around in the world today, I see that these traits are no longer honored and respected as they were in the past. Maybe that is why I love reading and why I have certain favorite movies I watch over and over again. You see, in my favorite books and films, the stories that grab me are about Virtus. All right, they can be cheesy sometimes. But I love that moment in Return of the Jedi when Luke throws down his light saber and tells the Emperor he failed to turn him to the Dark Side. That despite everything that will happen to his friends and (gulp) his “sister”, he surrenders and takes the blast of Force lightning full in the chest. That is Virtus.


I posted about this in a Christian writer’s group on social media. I received comments utterly dismissing my argument out of hand.

“Simple factor. [Narnia and LOTR] were not wrtten as “Christian” books. They were written for a secular audience and published by secular publishers. They were just writing great literature. They weren’t writing great “Christian” literature.

And both being classically trained lit professors probably didn’t hurt, especially considering the types of education they got. They probably wrote more during their teen years than most authors writing today have done in their entire lives”

Because Lewis and Tolkien were obviously gods among men and we can’t hope to achieve anything they did, or even study them to learn what they did. Yes. Very good lesson to draw from this.

I was also informed that stories that are dark and vile and end in death and despair have value. I have to wonder, to whom? English lit teachers? Fantasy readers seem to enjoy it with Game of Thrones, but I think that, even there, people still hope for some kind of a satisfying ending. There will probably never be one.

So, as a fellow Christian writer, I challenge every writer. Look at your books and see if you are glorifying good or evil. How many pages are devoted to villains and sin and perversion? How many pages are devoted to Goodness and Righteousness and Holiness? And I don’t mean in an ironic way. I mean in an honest, actual, doctrinal way, which shows what you know of Goodness?

Tolkien and Lewis changed the entire fantasy genre. Let’s change it again, writers. But we have to focus on grappling with the Good.

And now February

I kind of fell off the bandwagon with Bloganuary, sadly. I kept trying to do the prompts, but they were like, “Describe yourself as a tree” and “what do you feel when you look at the stars?” and … I had nothing. Or more like, I had way too much and it was too personal to put in a public blog, heh.

Anyway, now it’s February, and I need to get my rear in gear. I have a book to publish this month! It’s Beauty and the Beast set in space with aliens. It’s only a novella, probably barely topping 100 pages. I had my husband proof read it for me. He was ‘meh’ until he got to the kidnapping and space battle stuff, and then he was entertained. So hopefully this story will entertain guys as well as girls.

I’m hoping to have it out by the 14th for Valentine’s, so I’ll be formatting and launching it this week to get it live on all platforms before I announce it. I like to give people lots of buying options.

After that, I hope to get Sanctuary launched in March. It’s the next book in my After Atlantis series, and it’s still deep in revisions. I’m pondering whether to add a couple of scenes, and got bogged down. I’m very happy with it so far, though. It has the fluff and magic and wonder I was aiming for when I wrote it: basically, what happens when a guy whose very life force is infused into a magical island begins breaking his heart over a fickle girl. And how both him and his island begin to die in very apocalyptic ways. And how the girl has to straighten out her own problems in order to save him … and then still half-injured, stave off an attack of bad guys who would like nothing better than to drag both guy and girl off and leash them for their magic.

And then I have to write a fresh book and I have no idea how I’m going to top Sanctuary. 😀 😀

Here’s a manga-style book cover mockup for another story I’m playing with. It’s high fantasy inspired by Final Fantasy 14, which is interesting, because I loathe high fantasy. It’s just a little story about an angstball knight on a quest to find the wife he saw in a vision, and the healer who travels with him and thinks it’s great fun. They earn their keep by slaying monsters, so … it’s like fantasy battles and romance all in one.

Bloganuary: What makes you feel strong

This one is a bit tough for me. What makes me feel strong? As in, spiritually? Emotionally? Physically?

I don’t feel particularly strong spiritually or emotionally. I’m kind of a wimp in those areas. But then I remembered the other day, how I physically conquered an obstacle. And boy, did it make me feel strong and empowered.

Out here in Arizona, there is this terrible thistle thing. I don’t know what it’s called, but it smells like a corpse and it grows about three feet tall and … infinite … wide. I’ve found mats of them that were six or eight feet across. If they keep getting water, they keep spreading. Their roots go down about two feet, and they’re just about impossible to get rid of.

I don’t know what this stuff is, but it’s horrible

We have a concrete slab in our back yard for parking a trailer on. The kids use it for riding bikes and playing games, kind of an impromptu patio. Anyway, one of those terrible thistle things had taken root under the edge of the concrete slab and had spread to about three feet wide. The only way I’ve successfully killed one of these things was when I poured an entire container of ice cream salt brine on it right before a rain, and the salt soaked into the ground. Nothing else touches these. I have not yet tried Round Up because I hate the smell.

Anyway, it had rained and softened the ground a bit, so I decided that that plant had to go. I got my shovel and clippers and a T-post. First I hacked the plant to the ground, then I went after it with my shovel. Once I had excavated a few feet of soil, I started levering the roots out of the ground with the T-post. The plant came out in sections, like it had just grown copies of itself to construct the root mat. I tore out pieces of it for a solid hour. Fortunately it hadn’t grown as deep under the concrete as I’d feared, and I tore out the last section of roots with a triumphant laugh.

So there you go. Pulling weeds makes me feel strong. Really big, invasive, horrible weeds that smell like a dead animal. Just one more step on the road to reclaiming our yard from the wilderness. I swear, nobody has touched this yard in 30 years.

Bloganuary: Something mysterious: chupacabras

I recently saw one of these mysterious canines as it ran across the road in front of my car in broad daylight. I had to go back and find this post I made about them in 2015 when I did a ton of research on them. Here’s what I saw:

He was a smallish dog, probably not more than 40 pounds. He was in the median, and dashed across the road so close that I had to slow down or hit him. He had a huge, boxy head, like a pit bull, and at first I thought he was somebody’s pet that had gotten out. But he was too small for a pit bull, and his color was blue merle, like an Australian shepherd. And he had very short hair. Actually, I think in my drawing here, I still drew the head too small. He was weird looking. And I was way out in the Tucson Mountain Park with no houses around.

I went back and looked at this old blog post, and the Texas Blue Dogs are very close to what I saw. Except with an even bigger, pit bull kind of head. That’s all I can think to compare it to.

The animals below look much closer to a coyote-dog hybrid than the dog I saw. I’m still not sure what he was, but I do know that I don’t want it getting into the yard with any chickens.

From 2015:


Mention the word “chupacabra” anywhere online, and you get two reactions:

The wide-eyed nod of the believer, and

The frothing, spluttering, teeth-gnashing of researchers and scientists.

I’ve heard about the strange, bald dog people have seen running around killing livestock, and how it seems to prefer drinking the blood of its victims. I personally don’t see anything too weird about this–there’s stories of sheep-killing dogs that only kill to drink the blood (see the novel Bob, son of Battle, for example). Heck, foxes will butcher an entire coop full of chickens just for the fun and flavor.

So here’s the results of my research.

The first place I ended up was the family in Texas who trapped a weird hairless animal that was eating corn. But if you look at its little hands, and the remnants of silvery hairs all over it, it’s totally a sick little raccoon. And it doesn’t have the jughead that the bigger dog chupacabras do. This theory is talked about here:

Another clue about the animal’s origins can be found in where it was discovered: in a tree. This is a typical place to find a raccoon, but unlikely for a dog or coyote. Furthermore, in a video of the animal, the Ratcliffe chupacabra picks up food with its paws to eat. This behavior is also typical of raccoons. The mysterious critter is currently being fed a diet of corn and cat food, but if the creature truly is a chupacabra, that theory can be easily tested: Put it in a pen with a goat or chicken, and see if it attacks them and sucks out its blood.

The reason that the Ratcliffe chupacabra has been called a chupacabra is not that the mysterious animal’s characteristics match those of the legendary vampire — because they don’t — but instead because those who found it didn’t know what else to call it.

But that still leaves the big nasty dog-thing.

Bluedog-chupacabra

This is the taxidermized dog that Phylis Canion dealt with–it killed a bunch of her chickens, then she found it dead and had it mounted.

Here’s another one that taxidermist in Blanco mounted, and it caused quite a stir:

Bluedog-chupacabra2

Phylis Canion sent her specimen around to have its DNA tested.

However, quickly it became clear that the animal was not a dog when a genetic marker identified it as a coyote. Forstner notes, “We got the sequences back, uniquely within coyote there’s an area of the D-loop, which is the area of mitochondrial DNA… it gives us data on things that are closely related… Uniquely in coyotes there’s a deletion of several bases in one section, and another deletion in another area of an additional seven-base block. Turns out that the sequences that came back had those two unique deletions, and did not match any dogs or wolf. It came back with 97 percent confidence that it was Canis latrans, which is the coyote.”

Canion was not happy with the results, so she commissioned a second DNA test at a genetics lab st the University of California at Davis. Essentially, the new test confirmed the findings from the University of Texas.

However, with a slight twist: Canion’s animal turned out to be a hybrid.

A comment on the article pointed me to the Mexican breed Xolo. Otherwise known as the Mexican Hairless dog. And what do you know:

xolodogs
XoloJune1Gather29

They look suspiciously like the dead animals above, don’t they?

So, probably, what we’re seeing is a strain of hybrid coyote/Mexican hairless dogs, running around killing things the way coyotes do–except they look so weird, nobody knows what they are. And boy, do the experts get MAD when you call them chupacabras. But if they fit the description … why not?

Bloganuary challenge: Favorite quote?

Today’s prompt is, “What is your favorite quote, and why?”

I have plenty, but the first one that comes to mind is, “Let the excellence of your work be your protest.”

I can’t remember the guy’s name anymore, but he was the mentor of music artist Michael Card. Apparently, when he was starting out, Michael Card was disappointed with the relative low standards set by his peers in the music industry. His mentor then told him that quote. Be so excellent that your work outshines theirs, and you make your point without speaking a word.

I was writing fanfiction at the time, and, well … even hearing the word ‘fanfiction’ tells you all you need to know, right? Not only is there zero bar to entry, most of it is smut. I wanted to write action and adventure and explore the characters and world building deeper than the video games themselves did. (It was Sonic the Hedgehog stuff.) But when I looked around at what was being written for Sonic fanfic, it was pretty disappointing stuff.

So I took this quote to heart, decided that the excellence of my work would be my protest, and I set to work learning how to write. I produced a body of work that I’m still proud of, and I still have people years later telling me how much they loved those fanfics. I later did the same with Destiny fanfics, and then with my books. I may not be the best writer in the world, but doggone, I can be passionate. I’ve been amused to see how many people fell in love with my characters, afterward admitting that they didn’t like those kinds of characters until they read mine.

So that’s my favorite quote and where it came from. Hopefully it inspires you in your work, too. 🙂

Bloganuary challenge: Favorite photo

So I only just found out about Bloganuary, a month-long event hosted by WordPress to blog every day. There’s prompts and everything! I might wind up doing these into Feb. I love blogging, I just need an excuse.

Today’s prompt is, “What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?”

And I be like

This, hands down, is my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. She was so excited about my phone!

For favorite artworks, I think this one is still one of my favorites:

I’ll be here tomorrow with another Bloganuary post! (Seriously, guys, it’s a terrible name, you can’t even pronounce it. Should have been Blanuary!) 😀

How 2021 fared, resolutions for 2022

Yikes, it’s already the 3rd, and I haven’t written my yearly resolutions post yet!

First, a look at last year’s post.

My goals were to publish Mercurion in the early part of the year, and to buy a house. Mercurion wound up needing a rewrite that took most of the year, and it got launched in the fall. And we bought a house! We absolutely had to move in June when our rent was up, and everything worked out perfectly. God’s hand was totally in it all. We live in the country now, and after 15 years in apartments, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is. Here’s one of my posts about the wildflowers out here in the desert.

Flowers on jumping cholla cactus

My goals for 2022 are pretty loose. I want to get our overgrown property whipped into shape, I want to get the kids playing outside more, and I want to write the last After Atlantis book.

After Atlantis has been building to a huge war between the supers and the Exiled Atlanteans, who want to come home and plan to drive everyone out of the islands. I had a lot of scattered ideas of books that could take place during the war, then it dawned on me that I could do all of them in one book. And what an awesome book it would be. My husband is over here hyping about it, and I’m like, dude, I just barely started planning it. 😀

I want to get back to doing a weekly art post on my blog, here. I kind of forgot about updating it, between my deviantart, my other deviantart, my tumblr, my other tumblr, and my instagram, where I’m the most active. Poor blog.

Anyway, that is my very short New Years resolution post. I want to write 1 book and work out in the yard. And … that’s pretty much it. But man, if you could see the ragged state of this property, you’d agree that it’s going to take a whole year.

Moving sucks but we did it

Two years ago, in September, I discovered that baby number 7 was on the way. We were living in an 800 square-foot apartment. I looked at my husband and said, “That’s it. We have to get a house, now.”

We were packed to the gills in that tiny place, bunk beds with roll away beds beneath them, and a crib jammed in somehow. My husband had finally landed a decent job, and a house was tentatively within our grasp.

The baby was born in 2020, meaning that the year wasn’t a total loss. I knew that I couldn’t pack and move until the baby was a year old, because I wouldn’t be physically strong enough until then. So we decided to wait for our tax return and start the house hunt in March of 2021.

Between that and the Covid stimulus checks, which we saved, we had enough for the various fees and down payments that houses require. A home loan secured, we ventured forth into the housing market.

And oh, what a crazy place it is. In Tucson, Arizona, housing is in such high demand, people pay 25 to 30k over asking price, no matter what garbage condition the house might be in. And they’re paying in cash. Little fish like us are squeezed out of the running by the big, fat fish coming in from CA, New York, and other states. We placed offers on three houses, only to find out that there were ten other offers on the same house. We rode the emotional roller coaster of Yay! We made an offer! to Ultimate Bummer, we were outbid.

We really didn’t want to get a flipper house, but house flipping is very big out here in Tucson. Two such listings were passed to us by our realtor: nice sized double-wides that were “undergoing renovations”. Translation: being flipped as fast as possible.

Just when it seemed that we would never get a house, our realtor called and asked if my husband wanted to see one of the flipped double-wides. It wasn’t on the market yet, and they were still working on it, but they would entertain an offer. It was in our price range. It was in a good area, not too far from my husband’s work. It was a nice rectangle of a trailer house, almost exactly double the space of our apartment. We took a chance and made an offer. It was accepted.

Now we had dozens of inspections, disclaimers, contracts, and agreements to sign, and sign, and sign. Thank goodness they do it digitally now, because it was almost a nightly occurrence.

Long story short, we got the house. We probably shouldn’t have gotten it, and we still feel like we cheated, kind of. It still has some issues that the inspections missed, but home warranties are wonderful things.

When it came time to move, my parents chipped in to hire movers. Last time we moved, it was just my husband and me, and it took us four days. This time, the movers had the truck loaded in four hours, and unloaded at the house in thirty minutes. Those guys were beasts. I just watched in awe. I worked like mad disassembling furniture, then tried to keep up with them, and I just about died of exhaustion.

Anyway, we’re now settled in a much bigger, nicer space. My kids have a yard to play in. After years of dodgy apartment playgrounds, words can’t describe what a relief this is. If they leave a toy outside overnight, it won’t be stolen or destroyed by morning. Rabbits and quail use our yard as a highway, to our constant amusement. It’s like we left prison and moved to the zoo.

Hopefully blogging will be a more regular occurrence, now that my laptop is unpacked again. And drawing! We haven’t found a new routine, so creative things are still a bit hit and miss.

Learning to WordPress

I came to WordPress.com after my WordPress.org blog died in flames and malware smoke on my own server. I thought I pretty much knew how to use WordPress as a whole, and I’ve let the blog coast for several years. Life was busy and I didn’t have time to fool around with blog stuff.

Anyway, this past week, I actually bothered to grab the WordPress app on my phone so I could update my blog on the fly. As I was clicking on stuff, I happened to look at my stats. They pretty much tabulate the rise and fall of social media, where most of my hits came from.

Stats for my sad little blog over its lifetime

As you can see, I moved to wordpress.com in 2015. I update about once a week, or every two weeks, whenever I have something to share. After 2017, you begin to see the social media sites throttling outside traffic. I used to get comments on my blog posts. I forgot what that’s like. Actual people used to visit my blog and say things and for heavens sake, sometimes disagree with me.

My art used to bring in a ton of search results from Google. Google doesn’t like people to use the image search anymore, so that dried up. So now my poor blog sits here with a vast archive and no visitors. People say blogging is dead? Only because social media and the algorithms killed it.

Being the type to never say die, I was poking around in my shiny new app, and discovered the Reader button. It lets you follow blogs, and search for new ones. I started doing that. Lo and behold, I found a whole secret ecosystem of WordPress blogs. They’re interconnected. They share traffic. Some of them get comments.

The trick is the tagging system. WordPress doesn’t make this easy for you. They give you a general idea on their Help section, but they don’t give you a list of categories, except a handful of very broad ones to start. This blog would fall under “art” and “writing” and “creativity”. But thousands of blogs get posted to those categories every day. You’re supposed to use tags to describe your content in a more granular way. My artwork might also be “painting” “illustration” “fanart” “science fiction” “fantasy” and you see the trouble. WordPress’s ecosystem isn’t that big. There’s no way to target the exact readers I want unless I hunt them on social media. And social media hates blogs. Unless it’s Tumblr.

And if you have books to sell? Pff, you’re on your own, buster. Nobody wants to read a story unless it’s a fanfic and it’s free oh and it has the correct ship.

Please don’t make me explain what a ship is.

The point is, I’m going to start experimenting with bringing the ol’ blog in line with Teh Modern Internets. I’m going to repost some of my more popular posts with updated tags and categories. I’m going to try to figure out how to get my artwork onto the search engines. (Better descriptive text? I have to figure this out.) If you see smoke and ashes flying from this blog’s direction, don’t be alarmed. That’s just me, relearning how to blog.

Anybody else out there trying to cope with Teh Modern Internets? If you have tips for me, let me know. I’m woefully behind.