December 29th, 2011


The Often Silent Battlefield of Despair

Someone posted this on Facebook for the anniversary of a loved one's death by suicide. I value this perspective. If I ever lose this battle I would prefer for people to remember all the years I held out for the sake of my family and friends, rather than just focus on the final outcome. I think it is amazing sometimes that I have survived so long. It is also, always, the sole responsibility of the person who chooses suicide.

When Someone Takes His Own Life

by Norman Vincent Peale

In many ways, this seems the most tragic form of death. Certainly it can entail more shock and grief for those who are left behind than any other. And often the stigma of suicide is what rests most heavily on those left behind…..

And my heart goes out to those who are left behind, because I know that they suffer terribly. Children in particular are left under a cloud of differentness all the more terrifying because it can never be fully explained or lifted. The immediate family of the victim is left wide open to tidal waves of guilt: “What did I fail to do that I should have done? What did I do that was wrong?” To such grieving persons I can only say, “Lift up your heads and your hearts. Surely you did your best. And surely the loved one who is gone did his best, for as long as he could. Remember, now, that his battles and torments are over. Do not judge him, and do not presume to fathom the mind of God where this one of His child is concerned.”

A few years ago, when a young man died by his own hand, a service for him was conducted by his pastor, the Rev. Weston Stevens. What he said that day expresses far more eloquently than I can, the message that I’m trying to convey. Here are some of his words:

“Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and his strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared that he had lost the war. But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!

“For one thing, he has won our admiration, because even if he lost the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could. We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember not his last day of defeat, but we shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years that he had. Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that God does know, and understands.”

The Price of Ebooks

When Jim Butcher’s book Ghost Story came out, the ebook price slightly exceeded the hard cover price by about 20 cents or so. [Roc Hardcover, affiliated with Penguin.] I gritted my teeth and paid it since the previous book ended on a cliffhanger. Then the price-fixing lawsuit was publicized and suddenly they reduced the ebook price and raised the hard cover price (as set by the publisher). I had already paid the higher price so this didn’t make me very happy. Now, months later, the ebook price is $14.99, slightly higher than what I originally paid by about 50 cents. The hard cover price is now $13.97. It is hard not to feel like we are just being jerked around.

I see no reason why I should subsidize the print production costs and certainly no reason why my copy should cost more than a hardbound book. My eyesight makes ebooks a necessity since publishers no longer wish to take on the expense of printing (many) large print books. I certainly don’t see large print editions of my favorite sci fi and fantasy authors. I did recently find a contact email for a real person at an imprint who kindly responded to my email about pricing and am in dialogue with him but I don’t see many such email links or even contact forms. I think if I were a big publisher I would have polls about things like ebook pricing, how many customers preferred ebooks for vision-related reasons and so on, to get an idea of how customers are thinking about such things. I read a lot and have bought many new hard cover books through the years but I have always supplemented that with affordable used books. That’s not really an option now.

I am increasingly reluctant to invest in reading new series of books if new Kindle editions are going to cost me more than a hard bound book. I find myself checking out more and more self-published books and there are some good writers there. If publishers were smart, they would realize that they could nurture more new authors by publishing some in ebook only, with all of the editing, cover art etc., they’d struggle to produce with self-publishing. If those ebooks start earning, then they can do print runs.

This post was inspired by discussion and debate at the following sites:


Response to Anti-Homeless Rant in the Santa Cruz Paper

The usual Santa Cruz privileged rant goes something like this: Santa Cruz is easy on homeless people and that attracts more to move there, the city coddles them and liberals make a lot of money providing services for them on taxpayer's dime, people choose the homeless lifestyle (I'm not kidding) and don't want to work, are lazy bums using drugs or drinking and so on. It gets old. After reading several comments to that effect in response to a letter to the editor, this was my response.

I am always disheartened by the misconceptions and stereotypes people have about homeless people. Poor the poor choice to be mentally ill? Or to have lost one's home after being downsized and unable to find another job quickly enough in a bad economy? Or to have parents who fell on hard times?

Once upon a time I was one of those homeless people. I apparently made a poor choice to flee my abusive home after social services didn't have a placement for me, then I ended up in an abusive relationship with a man who was SO nice during the courtship phase. He made the actual choices that led to our being homeless in Santa Cruz in 1980 for a few months. I certainly didn't feel like Santa Cruz was easy on us back then (or now) because it was essentially illegal for me to sleep! Imagine, closing your eyes in a public place and falling asleep from exhaustion was illegal, then and now, because that is "camping" and there is a camping ban. It adds insult to injury to not have a roof over your head and then be subject to arrest if you fall asleep without one!

I felt that going back to my abusive family was an absolute last resort but finally I did so, trading physical and verbal abuse for merely verbal and gaining a roof over my head and a safe place to sleep. I later went back to school and got my education after receiving some therapy for my PTSD. I didn't come here to be homeless; I was here already when I became homeless. Many homeless people can find a stable situation or even prosper if given help at the right moment. Such help can turn a homeless person into a taxpayer once again. Isn't that a desirable outcome?

How many of those of you who scorn homeless people have families who helped you out when you experienced some financial set backs that were not of your own creation? What if there was not a family with the resources to help? You all seem to assume that the same people are perpetually choosing to be homeless and get a free ride. You can probably find someone who fits that stereotype; there are always a few people who fit any stereotype about their group. What is more often the case is that people fall through the cracks of our society as it becomes increasingly stratified and favors those who already have wealth. They experience weeks or months of homelessness until they receive some services or help to get back out. Others take their place. Since you don't know any of them or really see the individual faces it seems to you like the same people "choose" to be homeless for years on end or that social policies to help people escape homelessness aren't working. I assure you, they are.

I challenge you all to get to know some actual homeless people and learn about their stories, whether it is mental illness, surviving abuse, a lost struggle with addiction, temporarily being broke, bankrupt from a physical illness that caused them to lose their job, and so many other reasons. Some have worked hard all their lives. We'd like to believe homelessness stems from "poor choices" because we'd like to believe it could never happen to us. If you are middle class it might not, if you have friends and family who would help you out and money in savings. But this last recession has thrown even many middle class people into homelessness in their cars or campers. Treat homeless people just as you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes. Creating a climate of intolerance may come back to haunt you if it ever happens to you.