Category Archives: News

General news posts that aren’t categorized

Trapped In the House

and lots of time to mess around with this blog!

August 5/22

There’s this thing about wordless camping videos on Youtube.

It’s got to be about 60 days now with temperatures in excess of 100. No rain for two months and in the 100s since April and in the hot hours I have to stay inside, I can’t work in this heat. The hot hours means from about 10:30 to 7.

So at any rate, here’s something about the non-talking camping videos on Youtube. The ASMR videos. Peculiar! And interesting!

They are selfie videos about people going out in the wilderness and camping in the rain, or storms, or blizzards, building a shelter in the nick of time and you just watch them cope and survive. A great many of them advertise ‘no talking’. Sometimes there are comments in text but mainly the adventurer struggles in wordless silence except for chopping sounds as they split firewood, crackling sounds as they walk through leaves or snow, spitting and sparking sounds of a hot tent-stove, and many of the videos promise howling winds, rain and lightning and they deliver. Then there are the crispy sizzling sounds as they make supper and mmmmmm crunching sounds as they eat it.

I came upon them researching horseback travel for Chenneville.

At least one of these videos has hit 21,000,000 views. This is clearly a subculture of outdoors-type-stuff videos. And from the comments, most viewers aren’t adventurers themselves.

It’s absolutely hypnotic.

As I said, they advertise their video as “no talking” and “ASMR sounds” and “Comfort food” and “only natural sounds” meaning ‘this is the real thing, I never added fake wind noise’.

Every one of them has The Supper Scene — and some are clearly made for The Supper Scene and nothing else — I mean somebody has unloaded a cheap tent in a public park and proceeded to fry Spam and green beans while turning a sprinkler on the tent overhead, but these can be summarily dismissed for their pure and evident fakiness. But others, as above, are people who want your subscription and are willing to freeze their asses off to earn it. And they apparently love doing it.

Supper scenes; campers from Russia to Thailand to Canada to Oklahoma:

Rice and pot stickers and rib-eyes and borscht and King Ranch Chicken, it’s the Supper Scene! And It’s loveable because the supper-maker has fought wind and snow and rain to make his/her own little shelter in a cruel world and they deserve it. It is with relief that we see them fortify themselves with various national cuisines!

(Sorry — also breakfast. How a bear could not smell this is beyond me.)

This one above is an engaging young guy named Dima who camps out and builds shelters — and appropriates shelters — in the Russian forests and somehow he managed to keep those tomatoes in perfect condition.

What is the attraction? For one thing, the silence, the wordless solitude. They are all a kind of story or narrative without words. There is some talking to the camera if the person is demonstrating camping equipment for some company that has given him demos, but mainly they forge on in sweet untalking quiet. They have clever little campstoves, ingenious tents, brilliantly designed backpacks, and we envy them. They have no deadlines, don’t work in an office and their dogs love them. Their food is delicious. Their sleep is untroubled.

They don’t weigh us down with woke stuff, with disapprovals, with negative takes on other people. And these aren’t glamorous people, they are un-made-up and are devoid of urban polish. It’s just them and the fire-starter and a galloping wind-driven tent that threatens to sail away into the blizzard. These are little stories about self-reliance, their main character is always Robinson Crusoe and Robinson Crusoe stories never fail to captivate.

And why are the sounds of chopping wood, cutting meat, stirring the soup, trudging through dry leaves, hypnotic? These stories are all images and sounds, no dialogue. You fall into a kind of timelessness. Deep attention is paid to the most ordinary things and every leaf and every dance of the lamp-flame is profoundly interesting; when the tent finally is erected everything is in intense close-up. So that’s why they get 21 million views, and ten million and fifteen million.

And so I also looked up what might be the most popular Youtube videos and it turns out that music videos are way, way down the list and of those ‘Baby Shark’ is the most popular by a long shot. I suppose these would fall into the DIY category? Or How-To? Don’t know.

So if he just keeps on there’ll be a cozy fantasy and a rib-eye at the end of his quest.

July 30/22

Another post same day

The publication of my next book has been delayed again, to a year from this October or November perhaps. The finished manuscript remains with my editor.


A Story of Loss, Murder and Vengeance

He came back from the Civil War both wounded and spent, only to find that his beloved sister and her family had been murdered in an unsolved and shocking crime. He is a tall man, quiet and watchful after three years of fighting. He is the son of a wealthy landowner of the old St. Louis French and had fought for the Union in Virginia. Now he must find his sister’s killer somewhere on the long road to Texas.

He rides into a land in chaos, but he is used to chaos now. He has forfeited his ancestral lands in Bonnemaison for this untethered life in search of a murderer, following the telegraph lines from St. Louis to Galveston. Using the new technology of the post-Civil War era in his search — the ambrotype and the telegraph — he is solitary and unshakeable in his determination to find justice for his sister and her family.

He travels light during a hard winter, his only friends a Remington New Model Army revolver and a Spencer carbine. When he asks for information he usually gets it one way or another. But as in any hero tale, the tall man accumulates companions along the way, including a redbone hound named Dixie, a plowhorse called Major, and the enigmatic Victoria Reavis, telegrapher, an unseen helper whose voice is made of dashes, dots and sparks. It is a bodiless voice, sane and comforting, and he is afraid to meet her.

Against the lush and forgotten background of the old French colonies of Missouri, the hard winter of Reconstruction in Texas in 1866 and the unsettled world of Oklahoma’s San Bois Mountains, a strange serial killer is tracked down to an astonishing conclusion.”

July 30/22

The cypresses along the Sabinal River are dying. I an see them from here, my house on the ridge. Long stretches of rusty-red color, dead trees.

I am trying to keep this little live-oak tree alive because it’s a kind of memorial to my friend Laurie Wagner Jameson. I wrote her about it and since she was an avid gardener, the care of any kind of plant or tree was pleasing to her. So I carry containers of water to it, as my hoses won’t reach that far. The blue planter has three holes drilled in the bottom so that the water soaks in slowly.

It’s a kind of little bonsai tree that has struggled mightily to stay alive and so I am helping it long.

Laurie wrote the most amazing memoir, When I Came West, years ago. I hope someday it is recognized for what it is, an ordinary girl somehow totally taken with the idea of living in the western wilderness with a writer’s skill and a poet’s eye. And so how do you do that if you’re not wealthy or well-connected or can manage an academic appointment at a western university? She just did it. Her attention to detail is amazing; she saw everything; goats, horses, pumpkin pies, bear hunts, mountains.

Rest in Peace.

The Automaton

July 25/22

AI Hype and Type

Having looked further into use of AI writing software used by authors, I have come to the inevitable end, which is a creeping paranoia; just how many and how much of the writing we see today is actually machine-generated? Some of the software programs cheerfully enthuse about generating blog content. Why work hard? Why work? Why? An AI program takes care of that bad thing called work. Also thinking. Also why?

AI can generate a blog post on any given subject in minutes! (Me; So then wouldn’t it be like everybody else’s blog posts?Same language, same sentence structure etc.)

But then…are all the girls on TikTok paid actresses with AI generated scripts? Are the news presenters all robots that have escaped the Uncanny Valley? Is there really a country called Ukraine? And so on.

Also entire novels! “Publish it on Amazon!”

So how many novels on Amazon are written by software programs?

One of the programs enthuses so:


—“AI novel writing software can be used for many different types of novels. For example: A Sci-Fi story set in the distant future where humans have become slaves of machines. A murder mystery taking place on an isolated island. An epic historical drama about a war that is fought between two ancient nations. Very fast and saves time.”

—“You can have a high-quality product that is also original and unique.”

—“You’ll feel more confident in writing your novel.” (Me; But I thought you weren’t writing it?)

—-“Enjoy seeing your story come to life in front of you.”

Then: more reasons to use this software:

—“It is helpful for people who have problems with writer’s block.” (Me: people who have writers block are either 1.) not writers and are writing something merely for the prestige of saying “I’m a writer” or 2.) They are writing the wrong kind of story that does not suit them.)

—“You do not need any experience in writing a novel nor do you have to write it from start to finish.” (Me; this is approaching parody and invites some sort of clever ridicule but I can’t think of anything right now)

—“Based on the information that you provide, your AI program will generate an original plot and well-developed characters.”

—-“People are using this to write books under 7 days!” (Me; I did not eliminate the ‘in’. The AI did it.)

Then, finally, it cries out, “Shout me if you need more help!”

So I’ll just leave this here.

July 24/22

Computer-generated fiction! What could be better? Think of the time you could save and the pacing up and down thinking and the thesaurus-thumbing.

I have not yet sampled its delights but I would have to start out with (click on) Hero story as opposed to (click on) relationship stories/beach reads. Then when I got to the option of Hero story I would have further options; (click) YA hero poor-with-hidden-magic-talents or military sci-fi commander or tortured-by-past hero or Empress of the Golden Plains.

And what about the dialogue? I find that intriguing. I imagine garbled AI voices as all your options implode and bot voices speak to one another, taking on lives of their own.

Lincoln Michel’s substack touches on this. His substack is called Counter Craft and it’s always interesting. The article is called ‘Outsourcing Originality’. He refers to an author that uses a program called Sudo-Write and I looked up that author’s book and it has not done well. In fact, abysmally.

So many authors that I read or try to read seem to have grown up in a netherworld of urban isolation, as if quarantined. They imagine their main characters as people who are subject to events and then have emotions about these events. Doingness or intelligent problem-solving is rare, most characters seem insolvent, in a psychological sense. It’s the fashion for victim characters, I suppose. They always seem holier and more pure than do-ers. (Using David Foster Wallace’s terminology). I wonder what Sudo-Write does with this situation.

On another substack site I came across this alarming statistic; “98% of the books that publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies.”


Best seller, 9th Century

I just re-read 1984 and halfway through I grew really weary of Winston’s confused inertia. I suppose Orwell was trying to show how even the best-intentioned human being was overcome by television propaganda, but still. At any rate, I had forgotten that the girl worked in the Fiction Department.

…in Preparation for the Two Minutes Hate a girl (came into the room) whom he had often passed in the corridors. He did not know her name but he knew she worked in the Fiction Department. Presumably — since he had often seen her with oily hands and a spanner — she had some mechanical job on one of the novel-writing machines.

And It was the girl with the dark hair… as she came nearer he saw that her right arm was in a sling…probably she had crushed her hand while swinging round one of the big kaleidoscopes on which the plots of novels were ‘roughed in’. It was a common accident in the fiction department.

And …She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly in running and servicing a powerful but tricky electric motor. She was ‘not clever’ but was fond of using her hands and felt at home with the machinery. She could describe the whole process of composing a novel, from the general directive issued by the Planning Committee down to the final touching-up by the Rewrite Squad. But she was not interested in the finished product. Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.

Futureology back in the Fifties had no concept of the digital. Same with Stanislav Lem’s Solaris. But one doesn’t mind, the stories that are told are so gripping. Who cares if they were using glass retorts and paper records in the space-station labs, I for one do not. And wonderful Ray Bradbury didn’t gave a damn one way or another, he had his spacemen stepping out of their spaceship on Mars and setting up a card table on which to spread their lunch sandwiches. Probably tuna.

“Fiction being a fundamental aspect of human culture, one of the defining characteristics of humanity.”

Amazing heat wave

When there’s a drought and very high temperatures, there’s a lot more work when you’re rural. Dragging hoses around trying to save trees, keeping animals cool, keeping self cool. I had to drive to Uvalde (40 miles away) to pay my Cricket phone bill and the temperature on the highway was plain scary.

But they had the Fourth of July parade anyway.

I didn’t stay too long, it was just too absolutely crushingly hot.

I manage to keep the upstairs study cool by putting those mylar space blankets on the windows and door. Makes it dark but at least I can work. I miss my big tall windows but whatever.

I’m working on putting all the Lighthouse Island books into shape. It’s the same future dystopian world of overpopulation/drought/civic dysfunction and rigid class structure that all gets swept away by floods. There are now three books. The fourth on the way and the final one (the fifth) will be very far into the future when human population is almost nil. In the first four it’s all the same timeline, with different characters and different plots. They do run into each other briefly. The location is a future Kansas City that has spread so far with overpopulation and slums that it is about to run into St. Louis. It’s life on the hot streets, and the survival devices and joys and miseries of the poor and the semi-poor.

In the fifth book the characters of the first four show up briefly in ancient video devices.

They are: Lighthouse Island (now called At Large) 2.) The Weaponsmaker — 3.) Action Figure —4.) (working title) Quinn. The final one, (working title), The Plague.

It’s fun! Keeps me busy.

Social life goes on as always, horses and music, also planning a trip to Coatepec with my DIL Nadine and stepson Jim, that’ll be August and God knows it will be cooler than here. A great visit with the Contreras family. Coatepec is at about 3000 feet, just outside Veracruz, at the foot of El Cofre de Peyrote and not too far from Orizaba.

Happy Independence Day!

Which, for my ancestors — the Giles’, the McCords, the Dobsons and others — I imagine was an enormous relief. They probably just heard the news of Cornwallis’ surrender in Yorktown and sat down and said Thank God at last, peace. North Carolina had been ravaged and burnt by Cornwallis and Tarleton. For seven years they’d been fighting mostly barefoot, always hungry, winter-ragged, and at last it was all over.

This is a contemporary painting of the 1st Maryland Continentals fighting at Guilford Courthouse, NC. They all look pretty healthy and well-fed, which they weren’t. In fact, most of the faces all look like the same guy. The artist must have had a template for ‘resolute fighting man’ and just re-used it. Anyway, I don’t have any pictures of North Carolina troops — that would have been the North Carolina milita, and of the Revolutionary War reminiscences I have read, the NC militia were said to talk funny, most were barefoot, slovenly and tended to go home after the battle was over to take care of the farm. But they helped win the war. You’re welcome.

Heroes — Just add title

Because there are so many kinds. For a long time, in literature and storytelling in general, heroes have been missing in action as novels become less read, more interior, the fashion ambiguous and gentility the only approach. But heroes keep leaping back up and making money, considering Star Wars and the Reacher novels. And Tom Cruise, the maverick birdman. Okay so that’s a movie, so whatever.

The Heroes’ Journey has the same steps every time but a writer has to meet the challenge to make his/her heroes’ journey distinct. And write it well. Put the story on an exo-planet or in 18th Century Ohio or the streets of a city slum, but the story had best be full of details. And the hero a genuine one. The term is being thrown around constantly to include any main character at all. But it doesn’t work that way.

Heroes are frequently simplistic. They are often very crude. There’s no getting around it. But they crudely keep coming back into the human imagination and striking down demons, evildoers and the Devil himself.

(The Punisher action figure and Hercules striking down Nessus, also a punisher, both of them with clublike things.)

They become raw and unfinished and coarse when neglected. Refinement comes with attention, care, the novelist giving them a local habitation and a name. A cause, a journey and the refining fire of injury. A story, a plot, a narrative highway into the unknown. Mystery. Heroes go really well with mystery.

I know many writers feel that a story should instruct, teach, admonish, lecture, edify and improve the attitudes of the person reading. But this assumes an unequal relationship between reader and author. The author being powerful and smart, lecturing the reader who is presumed to be powerless and very dimwitted. OR — reader and author can sort of gang up and together sneer at all those others out there who don’t get it. However, the hero’s journey invites you to tag along, if you wish. If not, put the book down. I’m going someplace, I have something I have to do, you can come if you want.

This is assuming the hero of the story knows the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, chalk and cheese and does not need a biologist to tell them the difference between The Punisher and Sweet Georgia Brown. The permutations of the Hero are endless, but their appeal is powerful; thus the success of Star Wars, Harry Potter and Jack Reacher. The longing for hero stories will never die. You and I will, but the stories won’t.

Number Three in the catching-up business

June 10th myself and April and June and Evelyn hauled horses to Fort Clark, which is now a privately-owned sort of development, to stay for two nights and ride the famous Las Moras Creek, an oasis of green in a very dry land. My husband Jim’s dad and/or uncle were in the US Cavalry (I think the 112th) in the 20’s and were assigned here. I looked at some very incomplete records in the Museum in the old Guardhouse but could not find them. However, the more complete records are stored away and not available. Of course the easiest thing to do would be to simply look up their service records with the Army.

It was 103 when we got there. But we got up at about 6:30 and fed, saddled, ate breakfast and got going about 8:30 and it was alright.

It was still green even though the creek and springs had dried up in this drought — for the first time in 20 years.

April on Indira.

Fort Clark was the home of the Seminole Scouts, who included among their number four Medal of Honor recipients. Evelyn, June and April stayed in their living-quarter horse trailers and I got a room at the hotel made from the old cavalry barracks.

I like to think Jim’s dad and uncle stayed in these barracks where I spent the night with air-conditioning. And a small cat came to my door and asked to come in. It was108 F. outside. Of course I let her in. She was quite amenable and polite. She slept the heat of the day away in the air-conditioning and then asked to go outside. I am sure she found her owner/s and got her supper.

You can see the thick stone sill. It’s not a well-finished doorway but then they were lucky to get enough grant money to make comfortable rooms at all.

More catching up

A wonderful person named Susan Paddlety-Dunlap who is Kiowa visited last year and wanted to meet me because she loved News of the World — she is Kiowa and was heartened by the way the Kiowa were treated respectfully in the book, in fact she said she was quite moved, and luckily she came back this year so we all got together- Susan and myself and Auriel, at the Main Street Utopia boutique. We had a wonderful time and a great talk. Susan brought two bottles of very good wine. It was a splendid day. Susan is a beadwork artist, a pow-wow dancer and a great hand at interior decoration. She made me these children’s moccasins with the Kiowa oak-leaf symbol. She said these would have been what Cicada’s Kiowa mother would have made for her. They are just beautiful! I was absolutely blown away by this special gift.

Susan has represented her tribe at many levels with large corporations, as a beauty queen, as an interpreter of tribal life to non-natives and in many other capacities. Auriel took our picture together and after four tries I cannot for the life of me get the photo transferred from my phone to my downloads and so I have stopped tearing my hair and cursing digital devices and will get somebody else to do it for me soon. Anyway, we laughed a lot. She’s a very special person and a blessing.

Eva Lou Ware was her aunt I was happy and surprised to learn. When I was writing News of the World I searched everywhere for some example of spoken Kiowa and on the internet came across some small company that sold tapes with example sentences from everywhere in the world. And as luck would have it they did one in Kiowa! By a lady named Eva Lou Ware, as it said on the cassette, who had a rich, deep voice, and Susan said it was her aunt!

Many connections.

I finally managed a photo of the lovely Susan Paddlety-Dunlap!