Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just in time for Halloween!

I thought this anthology was coming out in November, but it actually came out at the end of September. How did I miss that?!?!? Anyway, Cover of Darkness, a horror anthology through Sam's Dot Publishing, also has a short story in it that I wrote called "The Man in the Hat." The beginning is based on a true story I read in the paper years ago, still have the article somewhere. But besides my story, there are plenty of other spooky tales and poems. And if you're too impatient to order the hard copy here, you can also order the eBook here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Death of an economy: Which stage of grief are you at?

“So, I guess this is just the way things are now.”

I was waiting with a friend of mine for the tow truck to pull his truck in and park it. It, my friend’s truck, had broken down on the freeway after most autoshops are closed, so home it came to be towed in the morning somewhere else. We had been talking about how we probably wouldn’t get to retire like our parent before us, and the state of the economy, while waiting for the truck. We talked about how we kept waiting for the economy to get better. How, at first we , as in the entire world, couldn’t believe how bad things were. And now, of course, we’re all very angry about it. As we talked about it, my friend and I realized it was like the entire world, or maybe just the industrial world, was going through the stages of grieving for an economy that no longer exists.

The stages of grieving, in case you’ve forgotten, are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

I think we went through Bargaining before we went through Anger. Our economists, our government leaders, our business people, we all denied it at first of course, and then tried to bargain it away. Now we’re angry – oh so very angry. We’ve had our livelihoods stolen from us, we feel. How could this happen? Who is to blame? Someone must pay! We are all so very, very angry. And we feel helpless. And still angry.

Eventually, after the anger dissipates, we’ll be depressed. But will that come before or after Christmas?

Recently the LA Times had an article that said our economy has gone up 2.5% and they were so excited! (Part of Bargaining? Part of Denial?). I wake up in the morning to NPR’s Morning Edition and hear the economists talk about going into a second recession and I’m surprised because I didn’t think we’d ever left the first. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my personal recession started a few years ago and I never got out of it – I don’t know where people are getting money for iPads or cars or homes or vacations or anything. My client list has decreased. The clients I have are calling less. And the hours at my one part-time job have been cut. And I KNOW I’m not the only one out there going through all this. And they say our economy is growing? Or that it ever left the recession first time round?

What do you expect of theorists? Personally, I think they’re all still stuck in Denial and haven’t moved on yet to where the rest of us are.

Not sure when the Depression will break in. Will it be before Christmas, because we all realize we’re not getting the extra hours or extra job to pull in much needed holiday funds so we won’t be able to spend money on holiday things? Or will it be after Christmas and the holidays when we realize we spent what little we had left in savings on holiday stuff and now January’s rent is staring us in the face and not letting us alone for another minute?

Whether it arrives in mid December or late December, it will arrive. And if you’ve never been depressed before, be prepared for an entire world that doesn’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, because what’s the use? Not like we’re going to make any money anyway, right?

You won’t believe it at the time, but eventually the depression passes. Because if it doesn’t, you’ll die. But once the depression passes you realize you just need to get up, get dressed and do your best each day. And that’s all you can do. It’s all you’ve ever been able to do, really, but now you know it truly.

And then you’ll have hit Acceptance. You’ll accept that your credit is crap now, that you’ve moved into your parents’ basement and that the tech toys of 2011 will be the last you purchase for a good 5-10 years because let’s face it, rent and grocery bills are more important than that shiny eReader or SmartPhone that neither you nor your parents can afford for you to have anymore. And if you still have a car, it will not be new, you’ll do what you can on duct tape and paper clips to keep it going, or get ride of it and get a bike or moped to get to work because you can’t afford to pay for a hunk of metal, insurance, gas, parking tickets and upkeep, and the darn thing keeps costing too much to drive anywhere anyway. So, you find a job close to home, if you freelance, you keep it all to telecommute or meetings in the neighborhood, and it saves time and money and the environment. You don’t have the cool stereo system anymore, but you no longer drive two hours each way to work, anyway.

Because that’s just the way things are now.

As my friend and I were talking, the tow truck driver parked the truck and made sure of the AAA card number from my friend’s husband, then waved and drove off.

“We really need to get a new car, but that will just have to wait,” my friend sighed.

And then we went into dinner, a home cooked meal and not out anywhere, because that’s just the way things are now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rae's Bar & Bistro: A Poetry Collection

A collection of both previously published and previously unpublished poetry that ranges from quirky, scifiku to playful to thoughtful to erotic and back to angst-ridden. Pure vanity on my part. I got tired of waiting for someone else to like my poetry and put it out there.

Available soon through and for $9.95 with a 20% discount through the holidays:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's Official...

If you haven’t heard it yet, you will soon. Drollerie Press ( ) is officially closing, which means “The Holly and the Ivan” by Rachel V. Olivier is officially out of print. If you have a copy, it’s a rare thing indeed!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Numbered to death...

(The drummer, the guy who directed this video, is my cousin, Simon Olivier)

In "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," (1974) by Robert M. Pirsig, the main character talks about when he was a teacher. He refers to himself in the third person as Phaedrus. Phaedrus became so preoccupied with defining true quality, but not by the experience, but by quantifying quality, that he went insane. In other words, Phaedrus spent so much time trying to break down objectively (using numbers, fractions, decimals) what is meant to be subjective (language and feeling, and what is "good" or what has "worth") in many cases, that his brain couldn't handle it anymore. He was trying to find the definitive number for something that has no number. For all you quantifiers out there, it's like dividing by zero, or zero by anything. Or finding the square root of zero.

It just doesn't work, because zero doesn't quantify anything, it just is.

Needless to say, Phaedrus went crazy and was sent for electroshock treatments. In the book, the protagonist is trying to find equilibrium between the Phaedrus he was and someone who can simply enjoy something in the moment for what it is without quantifying it.

When I moved to San Francisco I lived in a tiny house in someone's backyard. I had a place for me and my cat to eat and sleep and a garden, and not much else. But I loved it. At last I was going to live amongst artists and writers and have discussions about Sartre or Rousseau or Voltaire or writing and music and painting, and creating paradise in your own backyard.

Instead, every party I went to, every party I held, ended up with many of the people there talking about credit scores, rent and lease amounts, salary, monetary worth. Just like most of the parties I went to in Los Angeles ended up with discussions on sports scores, weight gained or lost, weight pressed, age, monetary worth (again), calories per glass, calories per serving, how much money to make a film, how much money a film had lost.

Just numbers and more numbers and more numbers.

At the end of the parties I would feel so drained and weary, and not just from the party. It was a weariness born of feeling like I would never measure up. I would never meet the required number on my credit score, weight, salary, etc. to achieve true "worth".

Lately I've noticed, as have you, probably, the same weariness prevalent everywhere. It's part of what the Occupy Wall Street protests are about. The numbers - salaries, retirement, loans, credit scores, cost of living, unemployment - don't measure up. They don't measure up on the "have-not" side and they don't measure up on the "have" side, either.

We can't blame anyone else but ourselves for this weariness. Go to Yahoo or Google and just look at the titles of the articles listed on the home page: Ten things women do wrong regarding men, Eight things men won't share with you, Five foods to a healthier body, Four easy ways to exercise at the office, Nine things you didn't know about Steve Jobs, Four things editors wish writers would do, Seven things you didn't know about your postman, Six things your employers don't want you to know, Fifteen exercises you can do in front of your computer, 41 places to find freelance writing jobs, Five weeks to a better you, and it goes on and on and on.

Did you know (I only know this because my mom told me) there is even a series of the Book of Lists? Not just one. They are just lists of lists.

Then, think about how you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night to the news on the radio, TV or your home page. What is that news normally comprised of? Lists and numbers. There's the lists of sports scores. Then the weather. Not just the temperature for the day, not just that it will be hot or cold or dry or wet, but temperature, wind velocity and direction and chill/heat factors, even a number descriptor for air quality. What about American Public Media's "Let's do the numbers" financial discussions and reports. Stocks are up. Stocks are down. Way down. Unemployment is up, spending is down. "Consumer confidence" (now there's a descriptor) is down by whatever percent. A percentile for your confidence in how far your money will go and whether or not you will spend it.

I wonder if there are bookies in Vegas for betting on that kind of thing?

And there's another set of numbers. Bet with the house. Bet against the house. 21, Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw...

Then there's the other news. Test scores are down, down, down. Number of people who read books is down. Numbers of teen pregnancies is up (or down, depending on the statistic). Number of literate people is down. Number of people without health insurance is up. Number of obese people is up. Number of soldiers still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Number of veterans with PTSD. Number and make of weapons. A new car that gets this many miles per gallon at this fast per hour. Consumer electrical usage is down by this much. Consumer electrical rates are up by this much. We are the 99%. We are the 98%. Your [insert minority or disability here] is whatever percentage of the population.

We can't win.

When we go to school what do they want to know? Grades, test scores, number of times absent, number of times sent to the principal, number of clubs involved in, number in your classroom. You are in the upper percentile in your class. No, the lower percentile in your class. No, you're in the upper mid range, or is that the lower mid range?

Or at the doctor's? Your numbers - weight, age, birthday, height, patient number. What are the numbers on your cholesterol, your blood pressure, your pulse rate, your temperature. The blood tests give you numbers for everything, depending on what you were tested for. If your score is a little too high you're in this category. If a little too low in that category. How many veggies do you eat a day? How many times do you exercise a week? How long do you exercise? Baby, you're off the charts...

We quantify all these parts of our lives that have to do with the QUALITY of our lives in order to make it easier for us to define and live with it. It's supposed to make it easier to figure out where we are in whatever spectrum has been assigned to whatever thing we are measuring. But instead, it just makes us weary; because all it tells us is that we don't measure up. And we never will.

Hey! Wake up! Don't you remember?!?! Phaedrus went INSANE trying to quantify the unquantifiable! And here we are doing the EXACT SAME THING. Every day. Several times a day. What are we thinking!?!?! We're going to go crazy, absolutely stark raving mad and be locked up in Arkham Asylum right next to the Joker and the Riddler and Poison Ivy if we're not careful.

Numbers are abstract concepts. They are ABSTRACT, okay!?!? A number is not a concrete thing. It is simply a descriptor of how many things there are and how these things might possibly, theoretically, interact in the correct set of circumstances.

A NUMBER, for example, is a not a SANDWICH. A SANDWICH is a CONCRETE THING. All the NUMBER does is tell you how many sandwiches you have! Some people have zero sandwiches. Some people have ten. If someone with ten sandwiches eats one, then they have nine left. If they eat one and give away one they have eight left. But the subject is not the number. The number simply describes the subject, which is, in this case, the SANDWICH.

What is important is not how many sandwiches you have, it's whether or not you have a sandwich to begin with, and whether or not that sandwich tastes good. Does it taste good? Are you enjoying it? Is it nourishing you? Good. The problem comes when we try to assign a number to what "Good" is. On a scale of 1 to 10, where does your sandwich sit on that scale of goodness? So, instead of saying better than most, but not as good as the one you had last week, you say, "6". And then it gets entered into a database and pops out a statistic and suddenly you have the weight of the world on your shoulders regarding sandwiches because someone decided to measure the goodness of sandwiches and forgot that "6" doesn't really mean anything. Neither does "six". It's the sandwich that means something.

There are times, of course, where the descriptor is just as important as the subject. You really do need to have a minimum number of abstract dollars in your bank account in order to pay your rent, mortgage, grocery bill, heating/ac bill, etc.

But, when it comes to those things that mean something to you, all that matters is if things are better or worse. Are you healthier today than you were yesterday? Did you write today? It doesn't matter how many words you wrote. It doesn't matter the extent to which you dieted, exercised and meditated. Are you better? Are you worse? Do you have enough control over your circumstances to make it better? Yes or no. Do you have food in the cupboard? A roof over your head? Clothes on your back? Yes or no.

Most of the time, that's all you really need.

Last Chance...

For paranormal romance...

So, there's a chance that "The Holly and the Ivan," a holiday paranormal romance, could be going out of print soon. If you're possibly getting someone a Kindle or Nook or other e-reader for Christmas and want to fill their e-reader with some good stories, then I recommend trying this or any of the other stories at Drollerie Press out. For now, you can find "The Holly and the Ivan" here: Find it on Amazon here:

It's a whole $1.95. If you're not sure whether or not you're interested, then read an excerpt here:

Or hear me reading a portion of it here:

It might be a little early for some folk to start their holiday shopping, but I'm truly unsure as to how much longer this title will be available, so get it while you can!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Grand Announcement

October 1, 2011 I signed the agreement making it official: My novella, “The G.O.D. Factor,” has been optioned by the lovely and talented Elizabeth M. Thurmond, who will be writing a screenplay based on it.