Writing is Hazardous!

Yes, I’ve come to a screeching halt in my projects for the week, all because of writing.

I took off writing last week to accomplish some projects for some deserving people. First, there was five days of dog sitting, during which I installed a fence for the elderly dog, followed by another five days of light projects for Mom, none of which felt very satisfactorily done, thanks to a jhank back.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Oh well. And then there were the projects this past week that were waiting for me at home that were not getting done – namely, the shower repair which was delayed following a mishap with an electric saw, requiring a few stitches. As a wise person once told me, “if a Bandaid will cover it and a wine cooler with dull it, it ain’t that bad.” So by this logic and comparison, the mishap with the power saw doesn’t compare to the jhank back.

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

I blame HGTV, and their ability to fill me with a false sense of my own carpentry prowess. They never show you “take number 15! Someone see about staunching that blood!” I feel justified in deciding to call in a professional, although, it took bloodshed, and a jhank back to convince me.

I decided I could be a productive member of society today by tackling the grass that needs cutting, but halfway through the task, one of the mower blades came loose necessitating that I flip the mower, and lay down on the ground with hand tools… and did I mention my jhank back?

Image by Freddy from Pixabay

So I tried to fix the jhank back by getting on the treadmill, which my burly fellows moved from the house and the room of plumbing repair to my office across the yard. (The thing weighs a ton.) Sadly, some wiring got wrenched during transit across the yard, so maybe I could flip it over to repair it… but for my jhank back.

I’m still trying to decide if I can get to the floor to do the sets of exercises that have worked in the past, but that floor is awfully far away and… it’s a Catch-22, really. How very literary of me.

Image by michellekutzner from Pixabay

So here I sit, at my desk, writing my weekly blog post, which is probably the main reason I have a jhank back. And this is how I’ve come to the conclusion that writing is among the most hazardous of jobs.

I hope you find the time to read a book or make some art. Hey! That sounds like some great advice!

Image by Kim Heimbuch from Pixabay

Branding – What’s in a Name?

Well, it turns out quite a bit. (Long story follows.)

I get regular “Google Alerts” – whenever one of my books is being distributed through a disreputable site for “free.” Rather, it’s free to folks who subscribe to these sites, or the pirates running those “free book” sites are being compensated in some way – advertising, subscriptions, patronage of some sort or another. I, in turn, receive nothing, because it is a pirated copy. I get it. Free stuff is sometimes nearly irresistible, irresistible like looting during a disaster! It’s theft, but it happens with more regularity than we like to think about.

When I learn of a new pirating source, I typically send a form “cease and desist” letter and they pull it or they don’t. It’s nearly impossible to receive compensation (they are pirates, after all. Arrrgh) and lawyers and court fees are more costly than the amount of compensation due, so a C&D is about the best you can do. Ask them to take it down and hope for the power of plenty – a lot of authors who are being pirated, filing C&D orders, or someone else suing the company and getting them shut down for a short period of time until they re-open their “store” under a different name, or slightly different name, etc. That’s not the sort of name I’m writing about. No, this story gets juicier. 😊

(Image by Felix Lichtenfeld, but offered free for commercial use through Pixabay. – i.e., not pirated.)

So just last week, I received another “alert”, this one regarding my photos that are being sold through a questionable source. I do the occasional pen and ink drawing and offer it through various sites for printing on mugs, shopping bags, book plates, etc., so it was not beyond the realm of possibility that my “pictures” were being offered for free without compensation.

My kids constantly warn me, “mom, do not google that. Whatever you do, do not plug that into a search engine! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, do not google that!!!!” It’s good advice.

I didn’t google it. I just followed the link to find out which of my pen and ink drawings was being pirated. (It’s a vanity thing in that someone thinks they’re good enough to pirate.) So I clicked the link… and oh-my-goodness!

Let me say first and foremost, those pictures are not me. Rather, do not confuse SoFie Couch, spelled with an “f” with Sophie Couch, the film star of the exercise tutorial, Naughty Pilates. She is not me (bless her heart). I am not she. Her. I don’t avoid photographs, but I don’t seek them out… and I sure as heck never posed like THAT in front of a camera! I am still laugh/crying!

But then it occurred to me, how many of her followers are clicking on my link, hoping for the reward of an entirely different brand? She may not want to be associated with my MURDER MYSTERIES or romantic comedy.

But here in is the dilemma. If a part of an author’s brand relies on her name/pseudonym, what to do with the cross-over from another person – author or film star – whose brand, er, clashes with your own? UGH!!!

In my own defense, I’ve used this nickname since it was bestowed upon me in middle school. (Sweet Sarah? Brat Pat? Joanie Macaroni? Which of you is responsible for this silliness?) I thought using a childhood nickname was a great solution to being vaguely anonymous, yet having a name to which I readily answer. Well, I guess it’s back to the drawing board. I suppose I’ll find a new nom de plume. Sadly, it means reserving that name under all of the most prominent social media sites, acquiring a new URL, etc.

Or I could just continue as SoFie Couch… and enjoy the Facebook friend requests meant for a different Sophie Couch. She is very pretty… and young… and… oh my! Maybe not.


How to Manage the Big Projects

“Inch-by-inch, Row-by-row…”

I’m usually pretty good at tackling the big projects, being my own project manager. I guess I learned that from my Dad who grew up on a farm where they ate what they grew or hunted. If they didn’t grow or hunt, then they didn’t eat, so everyone, all eight kids, seem to have been pretty proficient at those tasks. In farming, if something breaks, you fix it and if you don’t know how to fix it, you figure out how to fix it. That was my Dad.

Cornfield, Mattaponi, VA
(pronounced “matt-upon-eye”)

Over the course of his lifetime, he built five houses for himself… as a hobby. (I’m not counting the countless renovation projects he tackled for us, or friends or relatives.) He worked for Sperry Marine as an estimator, but after he got home from work, the necktie came off and work clothes went on. I remember my Dad walking to whatever site on our property he had chosen to begin building, and he built, first the home of my early childhood, then a duplex as a rental investment, then every five years thereafter, he built another house, as he could afford the materials, which roughly coincided with his building speed.

(Not my childhood home. Just a cool abandoned house in Albereen, VA.

I don’t think he had ever built a house before my childhood home. He and mom drew up a set of plans of their dream ranch-style house on graph paper, taking inspiration from whatever 1960s family situation comedy was on television at the time. Our kitchen cabinets came from a set of plans for the cupboards on the set of Ozzy and Harriet’s kitchen. I’ve no idea how my mother came by the plans.

When Dad reached a stage in the build with which he was unfamiliar, he would drive around the county until he found another house at a similar stage of completion, get out of his truck, and go chat with the guys in the construction crew who were working there, sometimes volunteering to pitch in to perfect his skill. In that way, he became fairly proficient and learned, often by trial and error, how to build a home, start to finish. He taught himself masonry, wiring, plumbing, framing, and roofing. He was the plasterer and on occasion, when resources were tight, the excavator. All of this was learned without the aid of the internet. He was the internet!

As you can imagine, building a house, start to finish, is a HUGE task! I’m fond of saying, “a learned man can preach from the pulpit, but a carpenter built the cathedral.” How to hold all of that in your head and delay gratification of completion until it’s finished? Five years later? You don’t. He tackled each task as its own entity. Of course, by drawing up the plans, he had a fairly good idea of what needed to happen in preparation of the next stage in the building process. He dreamt building. The gratification came every day with the completion of a single row of block work, with each window installed, each roll of roofing felt tacked down. The gratification came every day, but especially at the end of the project, when the first family moved into the rental, or when he built our family vacation home on a river and could enjoy the fruits of his labor on the weekends.

There was always another big project in the back of his mind, but I think he compartmentalized the big stuff, breaking it into smaller, more mind-manageable, bite-sized nuggets.

I hope I absorbed a little bit of that from my dad. In 2020, I converted a shed into my writing studio. At first, I thought of it in its entirety. That overwhelming task sat in my brain for five years before the pandemic. It was only when I sat down and wrote down the different pieces, breaking it up into small, easily digestible tasks, tasks that could be completed in one week, that I finally completed the transformation… in two months.

I flatter myself in thinking that writing a novel compares in some way with building a house. You start with a premise, or an ending, or sometimes, just one unique character, then you start, one word at a time, to form sentences, then paragraphs, then pages, chapters, until it’s finished. And then you start all over again. The short-term gratification comes every day after writing a single scene that you later dream about, create a character so authentic you question whether or not they are real, or when you tweak a line until its meaning is filled with sub-plot, yet elegantly simple.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided, (after the third plumber failed to show up) that I would just rip out the upstairs shower myself. I pulled down the tile and had that sudden sense of dread when faced with a big task. That’s when I think I channeled Dad. I’m back on track now, compartmentalizing tasks: remove backer board, remove shower pan, level floor, install new shower pan, install new backer board, solid surface this time, glass shower doors… I think I need to set a timeline for myself to motivate me in this task. Maybe by next week’s blog post I will have completed the demolition. “Backer board, backer board, backer board…” Boom.

Today, I tweaked chapter whatever  – more than halfway through rough edits of the work-in-progress, mowed the grass (until it started to rain), made dinner, fed the cat, cleaned the sink… I started to get overwhelmed, thinking about the half-gutted shower upstairs, then all of a sudden an old song popped into my head, “Inch-by-inch, row-by-row…”

I got this. Thanks, Dad.


This is How Much I Love Family…

I lead a small existence. I have home, immediate family, and a few friends I connect with on the regular. It’s what I’m used to and what I most enjoy. Heck, I fill the bulk of my days talking to voices in my head. You can’t get much smaller than living inside your head!

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

We went on vacation about a month ago. We drove to Quebec, Canada, which, depending upon where you live, is either a big deal or a little deal. For me, it was a big deal, having to drive half-way across the country (from south to north, so maybe not such a big deal as I make it sound, but yeah. Fiction. It’s what I do.)

Image by JoeBreuer from Pixabay

But for the first time in my life, I had a panic attack. Okay, I’m not sure it was a full-blown panic attack, so I don’t want to minimize the trauma suffered by people who have full-on panic attacks. But if anything is going to induce a panic attack, I would say the traffic around New York/New Jersey along the turnpike, is probably up there with panic attack-inducing events.

Image by Marc Pascual from Pixabay

I’m a pretty cautious person. I drive the speed limit or a mile or two under… unless it’s raining, and then I’m 5-10 mph under the speed limit. (Yes, I am that old woman.) I’m comfortable doing that. I drive in heavy traffic if I must. But since that event driving through NY/NJ, I’ve been a nut job. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more now, having experienced it once. I sit in the passenger seat, clenching the door handle, sucking air through my teeth when someone cuts in front of us in what I would deem an unsafe maneuver, and I have even said the choice word or two. (Okay, for both of my kids, their first swear words came out while in heavy traffic. One was in her little car seat. She asked me if, indeed, that car that had just cut dangerously close in front of me was an “ass-ho’”. The other child, while playing with MatchBox cars with his father, looked up at him angrily and said, “Daddy, you bein’ a ‘ass-ho’.” Note: don’t cut my kids off in traffic. They’re adults now and have a richer vocabulary and they’re not afraid to use it.)

Okay, so I’m a nut job who has panic attacks in heavy traffic and I was a terrible parent of toddlers.

All this just to say, we just drove through the D.C. Metro area on our way to Ocean City Maryland, the busiest, touristy, peoplest place on the east coast, and that is why I’m blogging from a little Microtel, in the dark, recovering from yesterday’s trauma. Not sure it’s worth it for a three day weekend away, but the company that awaits us in Ocean City is worth it. Proof that I’d cross hell and back for you. See ya soon!


I Live a Cozy Mystery

No, no one has lost a life or limb by unnatural means. Well, okay, occasionally, every town has a “stranger than fiction” occurrence. That’s the fodder for writing, but mostly, I think of myself as living a cozy mystery, because of the setting.

I live in a strange little community where the make up of neighbors runs the gamut, from what some would call “filthy rich” to “church mouse” socio-economic status. There are the salt-of-the-earth characters, the gossips, the high-rollers, the social climbers, the mean girls, the church-goers, a wiccan or two, diversity in race, gender, orientation…

In the same neighborhood, there is an old mill for atmosphere, pastures of horses, cows, sheep, quaint and elegant churches, mountains, a country club behind gates, vineyards and a cidery…

Millhouse in the woods…

I can always drive just a few miles for inspiration… or look out my own window. Heck, sometimes, I don’t even have to look outside the window very far, like the time my son found a buried treasure in the form of those little porcelain animals that used to come in boxes of tea, a miniature two-inch soda bottle… filled with soda! Remnants of a dog kennel behind an old shed where it was purported someone died, a death in our own house that occurred before our habitation, an old moonshine still….

Last weekend, I was inspired by the environs on the Mattaponi River, so much so, I’ll be heading back this weekend. There is a main street community, multiple churches within the township, water, wildlife, and in my next cozy series, there’s even a made up building or two, inspired by long-gone historical features.

The Terminal Hotel. (Grey’s Hotel, in my books.)

I hope you will join me for the introduction of this new series and “family” of outcasts who make friends and enemies by shining light on murder and mischief. I keep pushing back the release date, but let’s say, before the end of the year.

In the meantime, here’s one of those made-up buildings that figures prominently in the first book in the series.

How can a cozy be based on both fact and fiction? Well, here’s a long-form blurb from the first book with explanations in parentheses: “Rocky Smith loves his hometown of Poropotank. (Poh-rope-oh-tank – it means muddy river in a native dialect. The town does not actually exist, but it is based on the peninsular town of West Point, VA.) So much so, he finds himself still lurking around after his death. Searching for his raison d’etre in this limbo, he takes up residence in the condemned Gray’s Hotel. (Again, it no longer exists in the real town. That’s the beauty of fiction.) From his perch in the attic of the condemned building, Rocky can easily see the comings and goings of the town’s characters, but slowly, as clues are exposed by the dear ladies with whom he shared his life, Rocky begins to remember how he died… and at whose hands.”

Or something to that effect. I hate writing blurbs. Love writing stories. I never know how much to give up, how much to hold back. I’m like that with gift-giving too. I’m a terrible secret keeper. In my tradition of reading, writing, and making art, I hope you will come back as the release date approaches. I’ll be launching in slow dribbles and drabs, the animated video of the book trailer in serial form. Woo hoo!


Hosting a Writers’ Retreat

I’ve been on a few writers’ retreats over the years. My favorite though, is the one in my own backyard, er, Mom’s backyard, er, Mom’s vacation home backyard. This weekend, I am joined by friends. Not long. Just a three day weekend, but there is something to be said for sun, the sand, good company, any food that I didn’t have to prepare, and the pressure of hearing those keys a clickety-clackin’ in the next room, to get the creative juices flowing.

No, not those keys. Those keys barely budge.

Ever thought of hosting your own Writers’ Retreat? It doesn’t take much, but here’s a list of a few things to consider.


I am lucky enough to have the occasional use of my mother’s home away from home, a very motherly house on the Mattaponi River. She was kind enough to let me come here with a couple of writer friends. We have kayaks and will put them in the water later… provided our balmy 93 degree fahrenheit temperatures take a dip later in the day/early tomorrow morning.  (Somewhere in there, I’ll squeeze in some grass mowing.)

Temp dropped for 86 deg. for kayaking. Currently, 77 deg. F.

If you don’t have access to a cool venue, you might consider an Airbnb, or other venue suited to a very quiet house party. In the past, I’ve attended retreats at Winter Green Ski Resort, The Porches, a lovely remote, rural setting in Nelson County, Virginia, the guest house at a lovely estate just outside of Culpeper, VA, and a few that took place in conference centers. Consider something with few distractions, a nearby grocery store, and an evening amenity or two.

wifi and a grocery store three miles away.


On the topic of food, you may want to confer with your fellow retreaters on this. On a previous retreat weekend, we broke up meal duties by the number of people in attendance, each of us preparing a meal and snacks – three meals over the course of two full days, six writers. It was a hoot and surprise at every meal. It’s tough though if there are special dietary restrictions or likes/dislikes. This weekend, we’ve opted to just catch-as-catch-can. Everyone is on their own for food prep, but we may decide to go out for a meal, or we can always shuffle on over to the grocery store. (I am, of course, the least prepared among us, so l will hit the grocery store before dinner.)


Is your venue accessible to everyone in your party? Our little troop is small enough, we could pile into the one car (electric) so it has also been very little cost to anyone. Okay, it’s no cost to anyone traveling with and literally pennies to charge at the outside plug now that we’re here.


That’s always a consideration. Well, it is for me. This weekend it is not, but at those past retreats, we have had to figure out the rate per person (if we were renting a venue) and split it accordingly. There is typically one person in charge of collecting all that dough and reserving the place. The cost is a factor for many, so they should know that figure going into the retreat.

Quiet Time.

In the past, with larger crowds, we have established quiet times during the day. Those are the hours that everyone agrees will be for the express use of writing or another quiet endeavor. Then there are often pre-determined gathering times. In past retreats, we had a time in the evening when we got together to discuss our WIP. (We arranged to have time slots, so no one person monopolizes the feedback time.) Maybe your writing time is in the evenings and mornings are set aside for a leisurely breakfast together. S’all good. It can be a time for critique or a fun time for a game or two. In our case this weekend, one of my friends and I will head out on the water and scope out the wildlife in the marsh. There are curious tracks on the sand that I believe to belong to a family of fisher cat living in the cypress tree on the beach. I’ve yet to see it or catch it on camera. They are very elusive. Maybe we’ll have better luck checking out the marsh.


Best if everyone is on the same page with regard to check-out times, especially if you may incur financial penalties for late check-out. Depending upon your familiarity with your group, you may or may not want a contract informing everyone of “da rules”, check-out times, check-in times, the structure of the day regarding quiet and not quiet times, etc. I’ve participated in gatherings both ways – loosey goosey and contractual. (We’re all adults, used to working with one another, so no contracts this weekend.)

Most of all, enjoy. Yeah, yeah, it’s work, but all work? Well, to work without distraction you might just as well stay home and shut the office door. Have fun!


Findin’ My Peeps at Comic Con

I’ve been remiss in my blog posts for the past two weeks, but I was doing research, i.e., on vacation, finding my peeps.

Montreal Comic Con 2022.

This year took me all the way to Montreal, Canada for the Montreal Comic Con, 2022! What a hoot!

Jedi and Queen, filtered to protect the innocent… and because my camera is awful.

I was there with our in-house Comic-Con talent, UNSOCIALIZED BIRDMAN.

Rare Unsocialized Birdman sighting!

If you’ve never been to a Comic Con before, you might wonder what goes on at such a place. Basically, it’s a venue to meet and greet people of similar ilk, people who have a shared admiration for any of the following: anime, comics/graphic novels, novels, superheroes, sci-fi fantasy, new gamer tech, Cosplay, board games… People whom, if you asked, “what sort of bender is Aang?” would say, “air bender” without hesitation… from behind a rubber face mask.

(left to right) Katara, Aang, and Toph.

Different comic cons specialize in different stuff. There are Sci-fi specific cons (short for conventions), boardgame-specific cons, anime cons, graphic novel cons, mystery cons, but the big cons try to showcase actors from attendees’ favorite shows.

A member of the rebel forces chats up a fairy selling swag.

Characters from the Harry Potter series, Bonnie Wright (Jenny Weasley) and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) were at the Montreal Comic Con. You typically have to pay extra to snap their photos. I did not, and having arrived late, did not catch a glimpse, although I did see Bruce Boxleitner (Tron, Scarecrow and Mrs. King) across a crowded room of Orks, fairies, and furries. No matter. I had a wonderful time admiring the creativity of other attendees who are very accommodating in having their own photos snapped.

Some furries… some taking a break from being furries.

It was weird. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but I think… yeah, I’m pretty sure if I had to choose who I’d want at my side during the apocalypse, I think I’d take a room full of people in odd costumes who believe in the Prime Directive, who have taken to heart a code of honor, who believe in defending the underdog. I think I found my peeps at Comic Con.

A Sims Family at Comic Con!
Captain British-America? Not sure, but she’s bad-ass.

Writer’s Block? Ask the “Write” Questions

There are a lot of posts on strategies to move around “Writer’s Block”. Some even suggest it’s not a thing.

Writer’s Block

Well, I’m here to tell you, it is a thing, but I’ve come up with a list of strategies you may want to try to move past the block.

  1. Stop. Yep. I said that. The smart money says, keep writing. Just choke it down, show up every day, and write even if you don’t feel like it…but I would like to give another suggestion – that you stop writing. Not forever, but take a short break. (Really short.) I’ve tried the “choke it down” suggestion, and usually, what I have on the other side is a lot of garbage words and I’m no closer to the solution. But when I walk away from the WIP (work-in-progress) I give my brain space to be creative. Writing, more of the same drek expecting a different outcome? Well, you know what they say about that. Writing a lot of what I would consider garbage rarely gets me back to what I want – quality writing. Gardening, walking, drawing… that’s usually my ticket home.
  2. Ask the right questions. While you’re on that break, you’re not really leaving off on the writing. (#1 suggestion was a trick.) I usually take a break by doing something completely different, but while I’m doing it, I’m still processing the writing… and I’m asking some questions of myself and my characters. Those questions are usually these: Who are your protagonists/antagonists? (descriptions) What do they want (internal and external goals) Why do they want it? (motivation) Why can’t they get it? (obstacles) Thank you, Deb Dixon.
  3. Check your motivation. Nine times out of ten, the thing that’s causing the block for me is failure to identify either the protagonist or antagonists motivation… or my own motivation! So I ask myself, a) What is their motivation. (see suggestion #2) or What is your motivation? Did you forget your brand? Are you outside your genre? Are you writing for the wrong reasons, thus becoming sloppy in your work or your work habits? Am I writing for a pay check or because I love it? Not loving it? Why not? Pay Check? Is that an empirical goal over which I have control? Nope. I can control producing quality words, I can write quantity over quality, I can enter contests, I can query people. I can’t control their answers, but I can be a receptive listener to their advice and learn from it to write better tomorrow.
  4. Read someone else’s words.  Often times, if I pick up another book, same genre, same sub-genre, that which is missing it hits me like a ton of bricks. For example, recently, I’ve been finishing up a mystery. Something was nagging me, but I couldn’t place it. Finally, the words just dried up, because I knew what I was writing was not what I wanted to write, (i.e., see #3, motivation). Why? (#2 – ask the right questions) then I realized, I loved the book I was reading, because it was funny. Oh yeah. My mystery was becoming way too heavy, too dark. My character’s motivation was dark. He needed some levity. I found the levity in his situation, and then the words flowed for the rest of the day.
  5. Watch something. Like pausing to read something by someone else, the same can be true of watching something in the same sub-genre. Take notes. Can you identify each characters goal, motivation, and conflict – external and internal? No? That’s a problem. Do some research until you understand GMC backward and forward. Or maybe it’s your tone that’s off. What is it you love about the movie that your words lack?
  6. Meditate. This is different from reading or watching a movie. Meditation is living in the moment, turning your attention within, connecting to the whatever on a larger scale. When it’s time, you may find a new perspective when you return to your desk.
  7. Change location. Did you know we learn differently based on our place in the world? I’m not advocating remote viewing or astral jumping. I mean, just shifting your body position sometimes has the power to shift your perspective in other areas of your life. For example, the experience of reading is vastly different if you read a book, turning pages, scroll on a tablet, or listen to the audio of a book. Learning your multiplication tables by repeating them over and over on a piece of paper is different than standing in front of a dry erase board, or in a Montessori classroom where you memorize them by counting different colored beads. I know a bevy of writers who work at standing desktops. Some take their laptops outside for a change of pace. For me, I change my location by cleaning. Yep. I keep a can of furniture polish on my desk. When the mind gets cluttered, I break out the dust cloth and clear the clutter – on my desk and in my brain.
My very messy, cluttered desk…
My slightly more organized desk… to match my brain (I wish)…

Okay, it might be argued that that’s what I’ve been doing today. There’s something wrong with the “first draft” of the WIP. And yes, I think it’s my antagonist’s motivation. So what did I do today (besides writing my Friday Blog post?) I picked up a pen and paper and began work on what I hope will be a stop-action animation book trailer for this series. Here’s a glimpse of some of the opening artwork.

Yes, it is absolutely haunted…
The Terminal Hotel, West Point, VA., Lost in a fire in 1926.

Basically, it’s also how I end most of my blog posts, by sending you on your way with a hope that you…

Make some art! Read a book!




Electric: It’s not the future. It’s the Present!

(Affiliate links follow, which basically means, if you click on them, I may be compensated – at no additional cost to you – if clicking turns to purchasing, so without further delay…)

Okay, at the risk of sounding like a smug so-and-so, the times, they are a changing, and it’s time I proselytize to all my friends, family, strangers, because friends don’t let friends drive ICE (Internal Combustion Engines).

2015 Fiat 500 e

Trust me, I’ve heard your arguments before, so let me recap:

  1. “It’s no cheaper to drive electric.” Not true. Electric is CHEAP!!! I keep reading articles that talk about the expense of driving electric. Of course, there is the outlay for a car. I’m not insensitive to the idea that not everyone can go out and buy a brand-new car! I get it. I hadn’t purchased a new car since 1996, but I promised myself, the next “new” car I purchased was going to be electric, or I wouldn’t buy a car. It will be several years before you begin to see a nice stock of used electric cars. Our first electric car was a used 2015 Fiat 500 e, purchased in 2018 for $10K. The second, was a new 2019 Kia Niro, purchased toward the end of 2020 three states away. It was around $25K after tax rebates. We sold our last internal combustion engine car for $5k and plunked it toward the cost of the Niro. It didn’t hurt that we were also mid-pandemic, so cars were not moving well.
  2. “It costs as much to ‘pump up’ an electric car as a gas powered one.” Er, nope. Not even close. I just watched my daughter plunk down $80 at the pump to fill up her hybrid after one week of commuter driving emptied her tank. We just made a round-trip from Virginia to Pennsylvania for about $25. That was the cost to charge, twice a day, at high-speed chargers. The rest of the time, we charge at home for pennies. PENNIES!!! We figured we’ve added about $25/month to our electric bill to charge both cars. At least one of us puts regular commuter miles on our car. Mine, well, it used to pull a lot of hours just sitting in the driveway, but since, we’ve loaned it to our daughter. She uses it for her 40 mile round trip daily commute which she now charges on a 110 outlet at her home. Those same articles with cautionary tales about the price of charging vs. pumping, (and there are multiple articles – some I can trace to their biased source, so I’m not going to repeat that which simply is not true) talk about the cost of electricity, figuring in the cost of driving to a charging station across town and paying top dollar. Unless you live in an apartment and cannot install a second-tier charger at home, (which cost us about $300 to install) then okay, you may have to drive to a charger. Our town still offers multiple free second-tier chargers. That could be a pain until apartment complexes begin offering that amenity. The first year I owned the Fiat, I ran the charging cord across the deck to the outdoor 110 plugs. It worked fine. I’d get a full charge over night. Later, I purchased a 230 cord and ran it through the window to an old AC plug, and that worked GREAT, charging in less than half the time. I live just 8 miles from the nearest city. I can get all my running around town on, usually, a half charge. Just like any other vehicle, they’re not all made the same. Some hold more charge and some dispense it at a faster rate. The Fiat eats up charge with climate control engaged. The Niro, not so much.
  3. “But aren’t you afraid of getting stranded somewhere?” No. We have apps on our phones to help us find fast-speed chargers along our route. This will be the way of it until charging stations become ubiquitous. My Fiat has a very short range of only about 80 miles. I can drive to Richmond, 60 miles away, but I’ll have to charge at a second-tier charger for about 90 minutes, (and yes, I’ve found the free chargers for that too.) In the Niro, a fast charge takes about 30-45 minutes and is good for about 280 miles – that’s halfway between central Virginia and central Pennsylvania. Last year, we took the electric car to Maine from Virginia, and this year, we plan to drive to Canada. You might think that’s a lot of time to sit at a charger – two forty-five-minute sessions per day, but consider, we’re old and decrepit. I have to stop for a potty break every 2-3 hours. So that’s just about my speed.
  4. “Well, you haven’t figured in the cost of oil changes.” That’s because electric cars do not require oil changes, and the last time I took my son-in-law’s car in for an oil change, they wanted $65 for “the cheap stuff”!!! What the whoo-ha!?
  5. “But electric cars are too slow.” Again, nope. Electric cars are seriously FAAAAST. In the case of my little Fiat 500e, that thing will actually go faster – top speed and pick-up – than its little lightweight body can safely handle. There was a bit of a learning curve when I first got the Fiat, because I kept squealing out. Not my intention. I had to replace all four tires after the first year of owning it, but now, when I drive it like the respectable old fuddy-duddy that I am, it’s smooth as butter. Still, if some jacked-up pick-up or some little sporty thing with tiny tires and a loud muffler flashes their stuff at a stop light, I’m not above a “gentle”, but safe, peel out that leaves them in the dust. As my grandaddy would have said, “that car can git.”

A little clarification on charging:

A friend suggested I go into a little more detail on this. I preface it with “not all EVs are created equally.” Some have “fast charge capability” while others, (my Fiat) can only manage a reasonably slow charge with limited range. The Fiat can go 80 miles on a charge… without climate control. With Climate control, I’m not sure I would put it to the 80 mile test. It will take about 8 hours to re-charge it on a standard house plug. The Niro can go 280 miles on a single charge. It would probably take an hour to charge it with a fast charger. It is fast charge capable whereas the Fiat is not.

Regarding the different types of chargers, there is your basic household plug, a 110 outlet. That’s the slowest rate of charge, or first tier charging. The next, second tier charging is a 230 outlet – the sort you use for a heavy duty window air conditioner. That requires a different plug, about $250 on Amazon. Both of our cars are amenable to both of these types of charging, but only the Niro has fast charge capability. Fast chargers (which are FAR more expensive to install in your home or garage – thousands more) can spit it out as fast as your car can take it. Again, not all EVs are created equal. Parked next to a Hyundai Ioniq at a fast charger, that EV was able to charge at almost double the rate as our Kia Niro.

Not all chargers cost you. That’s right. Some businesses are beginning to relish a new business model with “charge while you shop” offerings. It’s really smart business. Think about it. For pennies on the hour, they get a shopper who is basically stranded while charging. As mentioned before, my Fiat, with only 25% charge remaining, takes about 90 minutes at a second tier charger to re-charge. That’s an hour and a half at a free charger at Short Pump, VA, next to a Lidl’s, Mellow Mushroom, and a variety of salons and other businesses. (Guess which ones I frequent?) The chargers are located in the shopping center parking lot, in a remote corner. The location isn’t wildly convenient, but the cost sure is… until you figure in the amount of cash I part with while shopping there. 🙂 Smart business.


I’ve been reiterative, harping on the same points in different scenarios. Trust me, I’ve looked for the disadvantages to owning electric. I just cannot find them. Okay, okay, if the east coast was being evacuated because of a giant carnivorous Kraken on the loose, okay. I’m going to be Kraken fodder. That is a valid consideration. While everyone in a gas powered car can stop to pump up in minutes, I’m gonna be there for 45 minutes to an hour. But consider this: because my car is so much faster, I’ve already left you in the dust, so the Kraken gets you, and while he is sated, sleeping off his food coma, I’ve had time to charge, and “beep, beep, zip, bang” – git. outta there. I hope we never have to test that scenario.

It is a scary shift, so while I am adamant… now… it was not always so. I came into EVs slowly. Toward my goal of being all electric, we replaced our mowers over the past 8+/- years with EGO electric mowers. The zero-turn mower is a dream! There was a two week learning curve, but I own that puppy now. Our 1 acre yard takes about 45 minutes to mow, and about as long to charge the zero-turn mower that runs on four portable batteries. (Those bad-boys constitute half of the purchase price.) It’s joined by an EGO push mower, an electric chainsaw, electric hedge trimmer, electric weeder, and a GreenWorx corded electric chipper. (That one is a bit of a pain as you have to be tethered to an outdoor outlet, and that might not be where you mean to dump all those chips. I’m just waiting for a larger battery powered one before I replace it.) Today, I ordered my first weed trimmer/edger on wheels! Can’t wait to try it out. I’ll let you know if it’s all that, so no affiliate link for that one yet. (Update: it’s not “all that.” The cutting capacity was too wimpy, and the metal blade attachments, while sufficiently deadly, are really inefficient for cutting either tough weeds or soft grass. Limb lobbers work better on the tough briers and a string trimmer is better at cutting the soft grass. I’ll stick to my hand-held weed trimmer, but I will consider trying to install a couple of wheels on it. I liked that component of the new electric trimmer.)

Glossary of terms:

ICE – internal combustion engine

To be iced – to come to a charger, only to find it’s been blocked by someone parking their ICE car/truck/trailer.

Second tier chargers – those that charge at twice the rate of a regular household outlet. Instead of taking twelve hours to charge my tiny Fiat on a regular household 110 plug, a second tier charger, 230 plug, takes less than half that time. A fast charger is one that can charge a fast-charge capable electric car in under an hour.

110 plug – your average ordinary household plug.

PlugShare – an app that identifies the location and condition of different chargers. Check it out! You’ll be surprised to see how many chargers there are out there, with more being installed daily!

A New Business Model

This is one that I’m already beginning to see. While traveling, we’ve been fortunate to find several SHEETZ gas stations that offer clean restrooms and a variety of snacks while we charge-up! The cost of those chargers can vary. Some chargers have their own apps that you are encouraged to use by offering huge discounts. (For example, on our last out-of-state trip, one charger was free, and the next one cost us about $4.25 for a full charge.)

We usually choose hotels that offer a free charger on-site, and we are always careful to move our car as soon as it is fully charged to allow someone else the use of it. (Travelers especially are still at the mercy of finding a charging station, so every plug counts.)

At our own business, I have installed a second tier charging outlet – not the cord, but the outlet. We travel with cords in our car for each tier of charger just in case. I suspect the next upgrades for charging stations will be to provide awnings for cover. (It’s not fun to fumble with plugging up your car in the middle of a thunderstorm and downpour.) Also, an internet cafe, a movie theater, or any other business that provides something experiential while you charge would be very welcome…

… at least until we can fully incorporate solar panels on our cars to charge while driving! I can’t wait!


The Great Apology/Summation/Denouement…

(Affiliate Links likely…. bwahahahaha.)

That’s where I am right now in the writing process. I love a cast of 1,000 characters, multiple sub-plots, unrelated stories that tie up in the end. The denouement!

The term, denouement, comes from French,18th century, outcome, but some define it as “un-knot”. Seems fitting.

And that’s what I’ve got here, a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated threads, all knotted together, but now it’s my job to show how all of these threads come out of the knot on the other side in a commonsensical communion with one another.

Nowhere is the denouement more pristine than in Louis Sachar’s HOLES. I bow to the maestro! Three tales – the arrest and punishment of a kid wrongly accused, an historical romance between star-crossed lovers, Sam the Onion Picker, and Kate Barlow, school teacher turned outlaw, and the third sub-plot of Stanley Yelnats’s Dirty-Rotten-Pig-Stealin’-Great-Great-Grandfather. How does one tie those three stories with such beautiful intricacy? He does it. Beautifully.

HOLES, by Louis Sachar. Brilliant denouement.

In mystery, especially who-dunnits, it is referred to as the summation – that scene in which Hercule Poirot identifies each character, their flaws (to their great embarrassment) then finally identifies the killer(s). In MONK, it’s when he explains to the audience HOW they dunnit. There’s usually an audience in the book as well as the audience reading or viewing the story.

MONK, starring Tony Shalhoub.

That audience sweetens the pot, especially, in romance, there’s the “big apology”. This usually follows the BBM (big black moment) when the hero/heroine makes some sacrifice of their core goal for the sake of the object of their limerence. In NOTTING HILL, !!!!Spoiler alert!!!! it’s the scene in a crowded room full of reporters when Hugh Grant risks humiliation to win back Julia Roberts. For Julia Roberts, the BBM was asking Hugh Grant to be her boyfriend, and Hugh rejecting her offer. The apology scene was Hugh Grant’s. (Only fair, considering it’s his story.)

I think I’ve figured out how I can have my cake and eat it too, i.e., how I can incorporate both a summation and a “big apology” scene. Maybe.

I’m off to do some more untangling.

Scout, the muse, untangling my knots.

In the meantime, make some art. Read a book! And if you’re looking for a fabulous book with a killer denouement, check out Gordon Korman’s SCHOOLED. It’s YA, but any adult will enjoy that ending.

SCHOOLED, by Gordon Korman.