How a Writer Experiences Near Death

I almost died this month. Dramatic, I know, but still true and I can't find a way to say that sentence without the drama except for not using !!! which somehow just makes it even more dramatic. Anyway, I didn't see any lights or even feel a disconnect to my body. I didn't feel fear or any emotions, really. What I felt like was a character in a story. And for a writer, that is a very scary way to die.

I blame winter for the accident, yet at the same time my winter clothes probably saved my life. You see, the door was stuck at the top of the staircase and I yanked on it to pull it shut over the snow. (Another blizzard, who cares anymore we live in a snowy hell). And in my large winter boots (they are too big so I can add extra socks), I lost my footing or my balance, not sure but my hand slipped from the handle (I was wearing those penny gloves) and I fell straight back, down six steps hitting my head on the bottom and probably along the way down, not sure as the head hitting part was not recorded in my brain. Yet the fall back I get to relive over and over again. Arms up, and poof!

From the looks of my clothing, my jacket cushioned the fall and took the punishment. My gloves, although partially to blame, must have stopped some of the impact to my hands as I tried to grab for anything from this realm or another to stop the inevitable. I did slice a part of my hand, nothing serious, I promise. And my toque must have sheltered my head from several of the impacts because it was ripped from head and beside me.

So as I laid staring up at the ceiling, my first thought was that I was dead because no one would survive that. So I got up and looked down at myself, expecting to see a body there all mangled and me invisible looking down at it. (Perhaps I should lay off the paranormal books for a spell.) Obviously, this was not the case and left me feeling confused. Was I really alive? For real? How? Why? (The why part sounds like a strange thing for me think, now, but in the moment, I had a plot running through my head and when a character survives such a fall and just jumps up, there is a why to answer. Why leave this idiot alive... oh because there is a nasty doom awaiting her.)

And so on my feet, I had a blinding pain in my lower back which meant I was alive and still feeling shit and not a character in a book, so I went to close the door. Because yeah. Then I realized my phone was not with me and went to get it in case I had a delayed reaction to death and decided to let someone know I was dead after the fact. (Made sense in the moment.)

And so I took a moment to sit down, phone in hand and gauge just how serious this was. Was I maybe dead and just thought I was alive and this was some alternate universe? (Seriously, I need to cut back on the sci-fi, too.) And so I let my husband know, my boss, and called the hospital for an appointment. Which was stupid and the doctor gave me heck for that, saying that when you fall down steps that is an emergency and you don't make appointments, you go straight there. Yes, that makes sense now. In that moment, I wasn't sure if I was immortal or not and an ER in a blizzard was really pushing my luck. I mean in any good thriller, you know that the victim survives the weirdest fall then dies in a blizzard on the way to the ER. (I am seeing now that perhaps I need a book intervention?)

Anyway, I did have a concussion which explains why I was acting so weird. I am sore now in places meant to remind me that I am in fact alive.

What bothers me is that I don't feel this euphoric energy to go out and enjoy life, perhaps this will come after the pain lets up and hope sizzles in. I don't feel this impending doom that life is too short, perhaps because I have lived many lives in this short one through the eyes of authors and through my own imagination.

I stare at myself in the mirror and I wonder how and why. I look at others and wonder what is their story and how will it end? I do see the world differently, but more like stories with beginnings and ends.

The doctor said the concussion would last weeks, but I still wonder how did I survive something like that and why am I still here? I still feel like a character in a story that is being written by a savage lunatic. And for a writer, that is a very scary way to live.

Have you ever escaped death only to wonder how or why? What was your experience like? And where should I move to escape this snowy hell?  

What Exactly Am I Doing?

So this year I did a few different types of book signing events instead of going to libraries and Christmas parties like I'd done in the past. Just to try something different.

I attended a Tradeshow and sat in the doorway at a few very large and incredible groceries stores and I went to the kickass bookstore of Chapters in Regina.

Each one was a fun event, but they were costly, as I don't live in these cities and had to travel, sometimes stay the night, eat, shop, and whatnot. I enjoyed meeting the helpful and very patient and supportive staff at each location. I do have to admit that these events are stressful beforehand. Mostly because I'm never sure what to expect, being green and all. I found having my hair cut before helped so it was easy to do, and thankfully I tried my pants on the week before and discovered that I must have tossed them in the dryer by mistake because they were way too short! (unless I grew?)

Someone told me to get my nails done, since this is what people are looking at while you sign, but this isn't something I usually do and well... it felt awkward and unnatural and was more stressful so I didn't do that again. No one looked at my hands. While I signed, they picked up another book and read the jacket of that one, too. Or they collected bookmarks. Or they told me a joke.

Of course, I did my research and read about the tips other authors had and kept the attitude that each event was more about visibility and promoting myself, not about selling books (but that is a plus if it happens). Which was great but then when someone would ask what this book or that book was about, I would draw a blank. I read Ghosts on the Prairies 70 times. I know every word by heart. So why couldn't I stumble out the basic plot in the moment? Urgh. So to solve my sudden stupidity, I had rack cards made with the Whispering Stories on one side and the Sacred Land Stories on the other, and a quick little blurb about them that sums up what each one is about. This helped target readers to the books they wanted, but I found the covers also drew them in. Teens went straight for Can't Dream Without You and men for Ghosts on the Prairies. Which, of course, makes sense since those are my target audiences, but it was still fun to see how well the covers and titles worked to lure people to pick them up.

I got told I was living the dream by a guy, who apparently was considering quitting his job to do what I was doing. I wished him luck. My thoughts were somewhat more on "What exactly AM I doing?" 

I was told by someone who I talked to about each book in great detail that she was going to go to the library to borrow them tomorrow since she was too cheap to buy them (her words, not mine). I smiled and thanked her because maybe she'll like them and recommend them to someone else. It felt like time well spent.

I watched a wife drag her husband from my table. Twice. I decided if he sneaked over a third time I was giving him a copy of Ghosts on the Prairies, since he was drooling for it.

I watched a teen drag his mother to the table. She let him buy Can't Dream Without You and damn, did he ever look like he was about to read the most forbidden book ever written.

I was asked for directions, for a cart, for peanuts that were on sale, and I had to fix a rug that got caught in the door. A gentleman thought I was with the Salvation Army taking donation for Christmas. I ate waayyyy too much fudge at the Tradeshow and was buzzed up for hours. Not even sure how we got home.

I bought chocolates for the staff at Chapters because they had suffered an event that day and were still awesome. For those of you who don't know Chapters--wow. All I can say. The place is where I want to work, sleep, eat, and visit if I ever move to the city.

Here are a few pictures of me at some of the places. I didn't get one at Estevan where I was at the big and incredible Southern Plains Co-op Food Store. It was after a snow storm, which gave me a lot to talk about with the customers and staff. Plus, I met this incredible man who told me the greatest stories and totally made the day!

Me at my first Tradeshow. Saw a lot of familiar faces that day! I also brought the  historical magazine I worked on for the Community Center as this was a great place to promote the research into the local history that I love and do.
Me at Chapters.
The morning got off to a bad start as the place was closed due to an event. So I didn't get in and set up until 2pm, which was when I was supposed to be leaving. The incredible staff let me stay as long as I wanted and I saw and met so many people, and best of all, I was standing in front of a Harry Potter display and my bestie came to share the day!  

NOW! THE BEST PART is that they put my books on the shelf. That's right, my friends, my books are at this awesome store, on the shelf and selling. I have no words to describe how weird it felt to see them on the self.

Me at Save on Food in Regina. It was New Year's Eve and busy, but many people took a moment to chat.

So what tips do you have for hosting such an event where you have to stand for hours on unfamiliar ground, meet people, chat with strangers, and talk about yourself and your work?

They Didn't Have an Award for the Girls.

When I was in grade 1, I won an award. It was for track and field and was beautiful. I had just won the most powerful thing I'd ever seen. It had this red gem fastened to the base that shined like a ruby and the golden man on top of it was a strong warrior. It was a symbol of my great accomplishment, my hard work, and was awesome. I was going to display it with pride.

But! I wasn't allowed to keep this trophy.

I'm not sure if it was because my mom freaked out or someone else. In fact, I wasn't allowed to even touch it. I was told I would get another one to replace it. A more fitting one. When I looked heartbroken, I was given a popsicle to shut me up. I cried on my popsicle.

I didn't understand why I couldn't keep my trophy when the others could. So I approached one of the other winners from grade 5 and 6 who was obviously better in the know. I will forever remember the pride in that boy's eyes. His smile spoke volumes when he said, "You did awesome, today." Then he explained to me that a girl had never won before and they didn't know what to do.

Um... give me my trophy?

Nope. I was told I would get a better one. I wasn't sure yet what was wrong with the one they'd picked out. Later, I stole the trophy from the Sister (Don't worry, she was used to me not listening to her) so I could look at it. Was I really not allowed to have it because I was a girl? What would they do to it?

My mom explained it to me. It was the man on top. Because I was a girl, I should have a trophy with a woman on it. The trophy wasn't fitting. So of course, I asked the obvious questions, "Why didn't they have trophies for the girls?" The competition had been fair. Both girls and boys had competed for the same prize. So why didn't they think a girl could win? Perhaps the world wasn't ready for me. Because I didn't plan to let the fact that I was a girl stop me from doing my best.

Well. Later, (it felt like years and years later) I was given my new trophy. It sucked. I did not get a cool ceremony like the other winners (the boys) had enjoyed. The beautiful red ruby was gone and had left a mark on the marble since they kept the base. I was now staring at a woman athlete who looked pretty feeble compares the strong man of the others. Yes, she sucked.

I felt singled out and different, yet I was not. I was equal to every other winner and that older boy hadn't looked upset at all that a girl had won. We had been measured by the same standards and I had won fair and square.

Yet. I was ashamed and cheated and pissed off, but! it felt like a challenge.

Someone even told me that I should sometimes let the boys win. A woman told me this as if I missed the memo and this was secretly what women were doing.

I threw the trophy away.

It became a frustrating reminder that when boys and girls were treated the same in competitions that society did not expect a girl to walk among the victors.

The following year, on the award stand there were prizes of equal beauty for boys and girls and even though the divisions of the groups and the pointing system were no longer universal, a boy and a girl won in each group, somehow, through math that only a grownup could understand.

I, however, did not win. I was placed in competition with an older grade instead of with children my own age, but then the points I earned were measured against the girls of my age. Which makes no sense to me. I did win one or two of the challenges because I refused to go down without a fight, but in the end, I did not win a trophy. And I would not win again until highschool where the rating system meant I was competing against only girls, and all of them my own age. Winning had lost all value to me by that time. It wasn't about winning, but about knowing I was walking away having done my absolute best and that I had fun doing it.

This experience changed my view on things and made me who I am. I am only ever in competition with myself. And I am hard on myself, much harder than society or my peers would be.

I am happy to say, though, that girls did win that year. And they enjoyed the same ceremony as the boys. And!! this time, the trophy had a green gem in it, and the woman was just as strong as the man in the statue beside her. Small victory, but only now do I understand how I changed things for some of those future gals; some even went to provincial competitions where they competed against other girls their own age in a very fair system, and they rocked it. I am proud of them.

I did notice, though, that not once was there only trophies on that podium that were all of women warriors.  Just saying.

I wish I would have kept that ugly trophy, because now it means something to me. It means I made change, not on purpose, but because I am me. And I matter. We all do.

In a competition where women and men are being evaluated as equals, the awards should be gender neutral and either should be expected to win. And the winner should be proud to stand among these other winners and tell them they did awesome.

Lately, there's been some questions concerning awards where both men and women are in equal competition. What title should these awards have? I like the gender neutral titles because it means things were fair, and that either are expected to win.

What about you? As a man would you accept an award with a woman on it because it's all they brought to the podium? As a woman would you be proud to accept an award with a man on it because they were sure a man would win?

We might be competing for the same prize, but win or lose, we deserve respect.

Eerie Emails

So today, I got an email from December 31st, 1969.
There was no sender. No subject.

I deleted it and left. Came back into my emails and there it was again.

I deleted it again. And left again. Checked again and there it was. AGAIN.

So I left and freaked out.

When I checked again, it was gone.

All my other emails are normal. Except one I had deleted that morning was there again. Only one of many I had deleted.

A glitch?

Sounds like the start of a good horror story, but after I considered all magical, time travel, moon-landings, and other freaky solutions, I tossed around a fun plot based on this notion... and well, then I googled it, which seems to be what I do when I freak out about anything.

After going over all the cool things that happened that day in history, I discovered I was not alone in receiving such emails. Which kinda took the magic out of it.

I found this explanation: ghost email explained and HERE. Which basically says if you check your emails in another timezone you could mess up the UNIX time on your device (Explains the UNIX time) and so it resets to the basic data time of Dec 31, 1969 or Jan 1, 1970 on your device, depending on where you are in the world. This especially happens when you travel from different time zones. I hadn't, but sure. Let's go with that.

Of course, that doesn't explain why I would get an email with that date. I mean, sure my time might reset, but why would I get a blank email from no sender with no subject? What is in my phone creating ghost emails? I mean, I find it taxing enough to make emails, now my phone is just making them up on its own!? That is a strange glitch that I need explained...

On the flip side, it does say this issue is supposed to be fixed with the new updates. I just did my new update, so maybe not yet. I'll give it time...

Now that I'm calm, it's really not a problem, I'll just ignore them. Reset my phone. And forget about it. Right? I mean that's what all writers do when faced with freaky-ass things.

Did this ever happen to you? Did you have ideas about what might be going on? Should I expect it to happen again? Anybody know who to call?