Going to California

The whole point of this blog was to have something with a history once I released another book.

About a decade ago I had a novel published, though that sounds haughtier than it really is. I had to pay a little bit, though not the typical vanity press fees. I had worked for a small publisher before and the fees seemed reasonable, because I was going to have the book edited and designed, or so I believed. In the end I was the editor and I wish I had been the cover designer. I lost all enthusiasm for the book once I got my copies and didn’t do a thing to market it. Friends and family who read it liked it, but what friend or family would say otherwise? Overall it was a nice learning experience and the book is a good reflection of where I was in my life before I got married. I thought there was valuable stuff for anyone in the story. The book sold a few dozen copies and you can still see it, or buy it, on Amazon. If the link doesn’t work, search for “Going Too Far” under “Steven Gardner.”

The desire to write books has never gone away. After 10 years of reporting I believed I’ve learned a lot about telling stories and plan to use whatever skills I have to tell my own growing up story. The story ends as I leave my family to begin serving my LDS mission. I hesitated for a long time to write the story, because I didn’t know what kind of hook I could have that would make the autobiography. Eventually I just started writing some of the stories I remembered in hopes that one day I’d stumble upon a theme that would work. Early on I considered the main theme being one of walking in two worlds, caused by my family’s conversion to Mormonism when I was 11. That may still be the overall theme that generates whatever may be interesting. But also in telling stories verbally I’ve found it not as difficult as I once thought to make the tales fun. I’m still writing the first draft. The next piece of work will be compiling a mountain of stories and weaving a tale that remains engaging throughout. It means I’ll have to throw out a lot of what I’ve written, or save it for some future project.

A few weeks back I came upon the idea of doing some research that can only be done in California, since that is where I grew up. I won’t give too many details, because it is, from what I can tell, still a unique way of weaving the story together. It does involve newspaper archives. So sometime before summer’s out I’ll make a drive down to Southern Cal. I hope to crash on someone’s floor for about a week as I make daily visits to the Los Angeles County Library in West Covina. I had thought about going as early as May, but that doesn’t look like it will work, because that butts up against our wedding anniversary and because the library will be open one fewer day than in a regular week.

I’m going to make several pitches to go get an agent or a publisher, but I’m also open to self-publishing. The process is much less expensive these days. I can find someone to edit for me so that I’m sure it’s a quality project. Designing a cover shouldn’t be difficult, especially for Diana. And I believe I can make the book sell well enough that writing books will be a worthwhile second career until it becomes a first one. After this book I want to do the same for my father, which would mean making another trip to Los Angeles and to Denver. Besides flattering my own ego and that of my father, doing these books will teach me skills in gathering historical evidence. With that experience it could make me even better suited for taking on more expansive projects, the kind of work done in The Devil in the White City, or American Lightning.

The Hits Just Keep Coming

Steve and Kim, of the Steve and Kim fame, found their way into the police reports again. Thanks to a cohort for giving me the story. There were no arrests.

Someone called about a couple fighting near a convenience store (not the Sev). When Kim talked to police she was apparently drunk. Go figure. They couldn’t get much out of her, other than Steve didn’t hit her. They were arguing over a bag.

Earlier, according to Steve, they had been inside a nearby restaurant enjoying a sundae in a “honeymoon” style, feeding each other. The officer reported Steve still had fudge on his face.

Apparently there was beer in the bag.

Going and Coming Around

After a night meeting in Bremerton a couple weeks ago I took to talking to a woman I’d witnessed earlier on. She was hard to miss. She was in one of those scooter electronic chairs to help her get around. She looked to be in her 70s, was severely overweight and had oxygen fed into her nostrils.

At the meeting the audience was divided into separate groups in which the people would haggle over parking and greenery, with an easel of paper serving as the focal point. This woman stayed on the periphery, not offering up any ideas of her own. Once in a while someone would stand directly in front of her. After a few minutes something would spark a reminder that the woman was interested, even if she wasn’t involved. The ones who had been blocking her view would beg her pardon and get out of the way, occasionally asking if she had input she’d like to offer. She didn’t.

As she waited for the bus to come to take her home, she told me of her life.

She lived in the neighborhood under discussion and was content to learn what everyone was planning and to make sure it wouldn’t affect her too much. Edna, the woman, was filling a role her husband once played. Floyd and Edna had been married 60 years when he died in early 2008. They had a daughter and volunteered for several organizations over the years, including the Washington Association of Retarded Children. When it came to city government stuff, Floyd was the more interested of the two.

With Floyd gone Edna was left to her own devices to get to the bottom of the planning process going on in her neighborhood. She contacted the local transit agency to arrange for rides on the buses specifically designed for the handicapped and made a day of it. She fit in a doctor’s visit to Silverdale and had dinner plans on the agenda until it became clear she couldn’t do the dinner and the meeting.

The oxygen was for the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. She has diabetes. Edna has had two hip replacements and has four broken screws in the same place. With the weight, the COPD and diabetes, there’s too much going on for doctors to risk operating on her anymore.

Edna lives in the same house she and Floyd moved into about a half century ago. The scooter is too big for many of the doorways, so she uses crutches mostly at home. She wants to find an assisted-living center to move to, somewhere close to her daughter, but can’t afford the rent and doesn’t qualify for assistance.

So she gets out a couple times a week fro trips to the doctor, to Family Pancake House, The Dollar Store and Grocery Outlet. And she hopes for karma, that all the years she and Floyd volunteered and served in ways to make life better for other peoples’ children, especially the “retarded” ones, will come back to her now in ways that will make her final years more enjoyable.