Posted in Updates

A Month of Not Blogging

So.

It’s, uh, been a while. Lots of stuff’s been going on, between writing short stories and a new job and hopefully heading back to school this fall.

Life’s in motion. More so than I’m used to, but I like it. Well. Except for the part where I’m not blogging as much. It really hasn’t felt like almost a month since I posted anything in this space, but it has been.

There are a couple posts that I’ve got chilling in the green room, basically ready to step onstage. And I’ve got a handful of post ideas that I’m raring to get writing.

Since it’s about 9:30 on a Saturday night when I’m writing this and I’m already starting to fall asleep, I’m going to wrap this post up. It’s short. It’s sweet. It’s to the point. I will end by saying that another great place to keep up with me is Twitter where I’m @SEStone519. I livetweet the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and retweet pictures of cute puppies. And I’m always looking to chat with new people over there.

 

Posted in Not a Good German

I Call My Senators and Ask Them Not to Kill People

In a perfect world, I would spend my evenings live-tweeting Ghost Adventures or down the rabbit hole of a book or cursing as I write. But America is far from perfect right now. The country is a raging dumpster fire.

So instead of devoting all my time to doing those fun things, I spend my time calling my senators and my representative with the goal of convincing them not to pour gasoline on the fire. And while there are multiple things on fire, the one burning brightest right now is the Senate Republicans’ healthcare bill, the BCRA.

The BCRA is the work of thirteen Senate Republicans who spent about a month writing the bill in secrecy after the House of Representatives passed the AHCA in May. Republicans finally released the text of the bill last week, and it’s absolutely not in the best interest of the American people.

You may think that I’m being dramatic or exaggerating. Or you may think that whatever this bill is, it must be better than Obamacare.

Here’s the thing: Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction towards making healthcare accessible for all Americans.

I can hear the protests already: Maybe those Americans get insurance through Obamacare should go get a job. I’m going to let you in on a secret. Lots of people on Obamacare have jobs. They’re small business owners, freelancers, full time employees at companies that don’t offer health insurance, part-time employees who work multiple jobs. There’s also the fact that Obamacare includes a Medicare expansion that provides for people who are disabled and can’t work, for children, and for the elderly.

Well, the insurance plans offered through Obamacare are expensive.  

That is an excellent point. Health insurance through the Marketplace is expensive and the plans aren’t all that great. Part of that is due to Obamacare being imperfect and partly due to political maneuvering on the federal level. But things would get a whole lot worse under the BCRA.

The BCRA phases out subsidies that help those who’re insured through the marketplace with paying out-of-pocket costs. So by 2019, low-income individuals will face the challenge of covering the cost of high deductibles. It also changes the tax credits for premiums, allotting less funds for those in need of help paying their premium.

Should health insurance be so expensive that people can’t pay their monthly premiums or their deductible without help? Absolutely not. But does it make sense to go backwards, to a place where people can’t afford health insurance? Nope.

We should trust the Republicans in the Senate. They work for us, and they’ve got our best interest in mind. 

I disagree. The BCRA does a couple of things that have the potential to curtail coverage for a significant number of Americans.  Under Obamacare, insurance companies must provide essential health benefits like maternity care and mental health services. They also cannot put annual or lifetime caps on coverage.

While the BCRA technically keeps those restrictions in place, it allows states to waive those rules in their own insurance markets. So a state may decide to waive the rule requiring insurance companies to cover essential health benefits such as addiction treatment or prescription drugs or maternity care. Or they may decide to allow insurance companies to put an annual or lifetime cap on coverage.

Do you have an illness like diabetes? What about depression or anxiety? Do you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol? If your state issues a waiver to insurance companies, the cost of your treatment might run higher than the cap your insurance company has on said treatment. What happens then? You either cough up the cash to pay for it yourself or you go without.

But I have insurance through my/my spouse’s employer. Those things won’t affect me.

Here’s the thing. They could. The BCRA will also eliminate the requirement for large companies to offer affordable health insurance to their employees. So it’s entirely possible that your employer or your spouses’s employer might decide that it’s more cost-effective to offer employees another health plan that’s not as affordable.

There’s also the question of the unforeseeable. What if you lose your job? Then you’ll have to decide between signing up for insurance through the marketplace or go without until you get another job. Just be careful about how long that takes because the BCRA would institute a six month hold on being able to sign up for coverage for someone who has been without coverage for more than 63 days.


We all deserve affordable healthcare. We deserve to sleep at night instead of lying awake and trying to figure out how to pay the next medical bill. We deserve a world where we don’t have to make the choice between paying for prescriptions and paying rent. We deserve not to go bankrupt because shit happened.

Instead of commenting on this post, please do a bit of research into the BCRA. Check out the CBO’s analysis of the bill, and check out which organizations oppose the bill. Or check out this New York Times article on the differences on the BCRA and Obamacare.

(Want to call your senators and representatives but don’t know where to start? Check out 5Calls.org .)

Posted in Books

My ConCarolinas Book Haul

I’ve added to my bookshelves so much in the past few months that I banned myself from buying any new books. The ban doesn’t work, of course. I’ll see a paperback on sale at Target, add it to my basket, and then remember after I’ve paid that I’m not supposed to be buying anymore books.

But I gave myself permission to consciously lift the ban when I headed to ConCarolinas. It wouldn’t have made any sense to go to a convention with dozens of authors and not buy their books. Though I will say that I surprised myself: I didn’t buy nearly as many books as I thought I would.

Here are the four books I picked up at ConCarolinas:

Creek Walking by Tally Johnson
Tally Johnson was promoting his book as Southern Gothic ghost stories during his panels on the paranormal. He was such a presence on the panels and a great storyteller that I picked up his book without even reading the blurb on the back.

Phoenix Rising: Naked by Alexandra Christian
I saw Alexandra Christian on a couple of panels, the first being “Romancing Your Readers”. I’m a sucker for romance novels, an Christian talking about how she made the heroine an active hero/participant in the novel sealed the deal.

Curious Incidents: More Improbably Adventures edited by A.C. Thompson
The second time I saw Alexandra Christian was on a panel about themed anthologies, and she’d brought Curious Incidents with her as an example of an anthology that she’d edit. It’s a Sherlock Holmes/paranormal anthology. Need I say more?

Perishables by Michael G. Williams
I walked past dozens of authors, and Michael G. Williams was the only one who pitched his book to me. I listened at first just to be polite. And then he said that Perishables was about a vampire at a neighborhood dinner when the zombie apocalypse begins. I bought the first book in the series right then and there.

Posted in Movies, TV & Games

Studying Stories: Characters of “The Mummy”

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoiler for The Mummy (2017)

Image result for the mummy 2017 posterEvery story–whether it’s a movie or a book or a TV show or a graphic novel–offers the opportunity to learn. I’m terrible at taking the time to examine the stories I consume and seeing what works (or what falls flat). But it’s something I want to take the time to do more often. So what better time to start it than after seeing The Mummy in theaters?

The protagonist is Nick Morton, a soldier-slash-black-market-antiquities-dealer, is the stereotypical bad boy. He sleeps with archaeologist Jenny Halsey to steal a map, enters an insurgent-controlled town in hopes of finding treasure, and tries to lie his way out of trouble with his commanding officer when caught. He has some pretty good comedic moments, and I absolutely loved how he chooses to become the Egyptian god, Set, in order to save Jenny.

Nick isn’t a bad protagonist; he’s engaging enough. But he’s not memorable. There have been thousands–in not millions–of Nick Mortons in movies and books and TV shows.

So I’ve got to ask myself: how would I have made Nick memorable?

My Nick Morton would’ve been a woman, probably a woman of color. Then leave everything else the same: the soldier-slash-thief, the sleeping with Jenny to steal the map, and the running into an insurgent-controlled town. It’s a small change. But it’s a huge one.

The other character that stuck out was the antagonist, Ahmanet. She’s a Egyptian princess who made a deal with Set in order to become Pharaoh of Egypt. She kills her father, her stepmother, and her newborn stepbrother and nearly kills her lover (to make him a vessel for Set) before being stopped and sentenced to residing for eternity in a sarcophagus.

Now the problem that I had with Ahmanet’s backstory is that it’s cliche. She’s a power-hungry woman who’ll stop at nothing–like killing her family and summoning the god of death–to get what she wants. The viewer isn’t allowed to be sympathetic or to see the world through her eyes. And that’s a shame.

If I’d written Ahmanet, I’ve have given her a different reason for summoning Set. She’s first introduced in a flashback, and she’s sparring with a man under the watchful eye of her father, the Pharaoh. I’d have taken that warrior-princess vibe and run with it.

Ahmanet would’ve been a Princess in an Egypt full of corruption. A general looking to stage a coup killed the Pharaoh and her family, and then framed her for the murders. She summons Set in order to raise her own army of the dead and stop the coup, but the army prevents her from finishing the ritual. So when she awakens in the 21st century, her only desire is to give Set a human form before retaking Egypt.

Seeing The Mummy was fun. It was certainly well worth the price of the ticket, and I’ll definitely see the other “Dark Universe” movies when (if) they’re released. But it was also a fantastic opportunity to examine character and character motivations.

What movie have you seen recently? Are there any changes that you would’ve made to the characters?

Posted in Making It Up As I Go

The National Monument to the Forefathers

Adventure should be my middle name. There’s nothing that makes me happier than hitting the open road for someplace entirely new or a corner of town that I’ve never seen.

Grace and I did a bit of exploration in Plymouth, Massachusetts this spring. I’d never been to the National Monument to the Forefathers which is tucked away, down a side street not far from Plymouth Harbor and the Mayflower II. So we took a trip.

It’s a peaceful little spot with a beautiful view of the Harbor if you look east (behind the camera in the picture). Grace had a blast sniffing every blade of grass while I tried to coax her into taking cute pictures.

 

Posted in Books

What I’ve Been Reading… May 2017

7094569Feed by Mira Grant
~Decades after humanity accidentally created the zombie virus, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are following a story that’s the biggest of their careers and could very well get them killed.
Feed was on a list of must-read zombie fiction that I came across at some point, so I grabbed it when I popped into Barnes & Noble back in April. It’s a different zombie story since it deals with twenty-years after the initial outbreak, but I’d recommend it to any zombie-fan. It’s freaking amazing.

25409784Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
~Retired detective Bill Hodges never forgot the unsolved ‘Mercedes massacre’, and he finds himself back on the case when the culprit sends him a taunting letter.
I finally picked up the first book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy after reading #2 last year. I wasn’t too sure about reading a detective story by Stephen King, but this surprised me. It reminded me of old-school Patricia Cornwell from the 90’s.

12899734The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
~In an alternative London, Emma Bannon must do more than protect failed mentath Archibald Claire; she must unravel the conspiracy threatening her Queen.
This is very much a steampunk alternative history that I’d absolutely love to see turned into a TV series, if just to see the world come to life. Though I loved the complex world, it did get to be a lot for me. It’s a fantastic story, and a reader who loves deep world-building will really enjoy it.

 

Posted in Doggies, Making It Up As I Go, Personal

The One with the F#%@ing Mouse (Part 2)

When I left off, Orville the f#%@ing mouse decided it was a good idea to make a break for the upstairs instead of outside the night before Mom and Dad left for their cruise.

Mom and Dad had just gone to bed, and I was upstairs with Sampson and Grace when Grace suddenly zoomed over to the top of the stairs.

Grace: Orville? Buddy? I wanna hunt you!

Me: Gracie… what the f#%@ are you hunting?

Grace: Orville! Orville’s here, S.E.!

Me: F#%@.

Orville: F#%@!

While Orville scurried into and through the kitchen, I shooed Grace to her bed and convinced myself that Grace had been seeing things. Or was hunting a bug that she’d named Orville. The last thing I wanted to believe was that the damn mouse was upstairs.

Then about ten minutes later, Orville decided be stupid for the second time that night.

Orville: I gotta find a way out. Maybe if I sneak by that dog, then I’ll be able to get back downstairs and go out the way I came in. I gotta just make a run for it.

From the corner of my eye, I spotted a gray fuzz dart along the wall before disappearing behind the TV stand. I knew exactly who the furry little bastard was without even a good look. So I did exactly what any grown, badass woman would do: I called Dad’s cell phone and begged him to come upstairs and catch the mouse.

Orville took off underneath the loveseat and then the couch as soon as he saw Mom and Dad coming up the stairs. He managed to disappear for a few minutes before hiding beneath the corner of Sampson’s bed. I grabbed both dogs, and Dad cornered him. He tossed a towel over the gray fuzzball.

Orville: F#%@ing, f#%@!

Me: You got it!

Grace: Let him go! I wanna hunt Orville!

Sampson: Wh-huh? What’s agoing on?

Orville: Okay, hold yourself together. Wait for him to make a mistake. Then make a break for it.

And Dad did make a mistake. He scooped up the towel to get it underneath Orville, and the f#%@ing mouse bolted.

Orville: FREEDOM!!!

Grace: Run, Orville! Run!

Sampson: What’s agoing on?

Me: Annnd shiiiittttt.

I sent Grace after Orville before poking into every corner I could find with the flashlight beam. But no one could find him. There were just too many places for him to hide, whether behind a dresser or underneath a bed or crouched behind cardboard boxes.

That night, I slept on the living room couch because there was a very good chance Orville was in my bedroom. And there was no way in hell I was sleeping in the same room as him.

As for Orville, he was never seen again. I’ve persuaded myself that he escaped through an open door the next day. Maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn’t. Either way, it was the only way that I could go to sleep at night.

Posted in Doggies, Making It Up As I Go, Personal

The One with the F#%@ing Mouse (Part 1)

I recently got home from Massachusetts after spending a month in my hometown. Since I was between jobs when my parents were going on a three-week cruise, I found myself house-sitting and dog-sitting. It’s nothing to complain about: spending a month writing and playing with dogs and hanging with friends.

There was just one hiccup. A f#%@ing mouse named Orville.

Let me backup a bit.

My parents’ house sits between suburbia and wooded wetlands, settled deep enough among trees that you can pretend to be off in the wilderness when the trees are full of leaves in summer. Privacy is great. But the wildlife that lives in the wetlands don’t think twice about encroaching into our space, though Sampson and Grace do a pretty good job of keeping them away.

Well, except for Orville. He arrived a couple days before I returned to Massachusetts.

Orville scurried into the garage for some mousey reason or another, probably following his nose to the crumbs of dog food. He met up with his buddy, Mercury, before descending the stairs to the first floor.

Mercury: Dude, there are f#%@ing dogs in here.

Orville: Shit, you’re right! Big ones.

Mercury: Hurry up and get the food.

Orville: Okay, I’m hurryin’.

Mercury: F#%@! Dog!

Grace: What’re youuu?

Grace happened to be downstairs at the time with Mom when she saw Mercury and Orville. Her muscles went all stiff in stillness yet flexed in a fluid motion when she moved. Her eyes sighted-in on Orville and Mercury with laser focus.

Mercury & Orville: F#%@!

Grace: I’m gonna hunt you.

At that point, Mom shouted for Dad, and he managed to toss a towel of Mercury and catch him. Mercury cursed the whole time as Dad carried him out to the backyard. Orville took the opportunity to bury himself into a shadowy corner, and there he stayed while Dad put out mouse traps.

Days went by. Dad checked the traps. Orville bypassed the tempting smell of bait in favor of the crumbs that collect in the corners of rugs no matter how many times they’re vacuumed.

Then the night before Mom and Dad had to be up and ready for their ride to the airport at 5 AM, Orville decided to make a break for it. But he didn’t do the logical thing, oh no. He didn’t run for the back door when Mom or Dad left it open for a few minutes. He ran the f#%@ upstairs.

To be continued…

Posted in Making It Up As I Go, Personal

Lizard in the Garden

I found this little guy in my garden yesterday morning. It took a little bit of research, but I believe he’s a Carolina anole. This kind of lizard is sometimes also referred to as the American Chameleon because they can change color from brown to green.

In other news, I’m back in North Carolina. I already miss Sampson and Grace, and I’m regularly talking myself out of heading to the shelter to adopt a senior dog. I’m also working on getting myself into a schedule of looking for a day job and writing, with an emphasis on the job search. Another thing that I need to fit into my schedule is joining a gym and working-out. I have a 5k in mind for this fall and wouldn’t mind fitting in another one later this summer.

The writing has been a little tough. I’m trying to get back into the groove that I found during the last half of my Massachusetts trip. I’ll make it happen, once I get back into a routine.

As I’m writing this, it’s about 10:30PM. So I should probably cut this off right here because I need to get back into going to be before midnight. Otherwise jumping back into a job with daytime work hours is going to be rough.

Posted in Making It Up As I Go

B.S. Horoscopes for May

I have so much fun reading horoscopes. I know that they’re B.S., but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. So in the spirit of that B.S. and a desire to read some pretty badass horoscopes, I decided to make up some of my own.

Let me know what you think of yours in the comments.


Aries: Avoid your reflection for the rest of the day, unless you want to witness its murder at the hands of a Yeti.

Taurus: You would’ve found the Graystone Treasure today while walking along the old railroad tracks if Old Bill hadn’t dug it up last week.

Gemini: Today is a good day to stay in bed until noon and then make a blanket fort with the guy secretly living in your attic.

Cancer: Keep your mouth shut today to avoid pissing off the demon next door, or tomorrow you’ll wake up in the middle of a haunted corn maze.

Leo: Try something new when you’re out and about today, like summoning an army of possessed sloths while at the Dollar Store.

Virgo: Today, you’ll accidentally foil your nemesis’s plan to ruin your weekend, so go ahead and make plans without fear of being sidetracked.

Leo: It’s all fun and games today until you realize that you’ve finally achieved your lifelong goal of world domination.

Scorpio: Wearing white with black polka dots today will make all that bird shit falling for the sky less noticeable when you get hit.

Capricorn: The ghost living in your bathroom swapped your shaving cream for whipped cream this morning, just FYI.

Aquarius: Today you will bathe in the tears of your enemies, and then go out for Starbucks.

Pisces: Invest in a good shovel while out shopping this morning because you’ll need it to bury a body tomorrow.