Mother’s Day 2024 Check-In

Happy Mother’s Day, to those that observe. Statistically, crimes are at their all time low on Mother’s Day, so for all those mothers out their taking a day off from breaking the law, thank you!

Melissa is out having fun with Chris. I think Bryanna is working today, so maybe Melissa and Bryanna will have some fun later. I’m not sure.

I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks. Michael Gallowglas may be joining me at some point today. I have a Mel Walker story to work on, and some updates I want to post here. So let’s get into it.

The things I will talk about today:

  • The Next Mel Walker Novel
  • The Cover for The Repossessed Ghost
  • My Mom, Work, and my Emotional Life
  • A Brief Moment in Politics
  • Everything Else

The Next Mel Walker Novel

To my humble surprise, a few people have asked about when the next Mel Walker story is coming out. Here is some news on that front.

I wrote a novelette and ran it through my critique group called The Psychic on the Jury. In that short story, Mel Walker, a psychic with the ability to talk to ghosts and look into the past, is summoned to serve on a jury. What could go wrong?

The Psychic on the Jury did reasonably well with my critique group. It needed a little bit of work, so I made some minor tweaks and polished it up. A few weeks ago, I sent it to Water Dragon in the hopes that it may serve as a short, stand-alone story as part of The Mel Walker series. I haven’t heard back on it yet, but I’m optimistic. It’s a good story, and it’s one that someone can read without having read The Repossessed Ghost, so if someone is curious about my writing and leery about spending full price on a novel, they can try this shorter piece.

The short story also serves as a transition between The Repossessed Ghost and the next full length novel, The Psychic out of Time. That’s the working title, for now. As I get deeper into the story, a better title may occur to me.

It’s The Psychic out of Time that I worked on some last weekend, and it’s the story I’ll be working on today. At this point, I’m still in the planning stage. I’ve got an outline, but it’s missing a lot of pieces. I’m excited about the beginning, the mid-point, and the end.

This story is going to have a lot more going on than The Repossessed Ghost. That’s not necessarily better, but it’s what I’m doing. I’m hoping I can write something that rewards the reader when they pay close attention to the details. At the same time, I want it to be as easy and as approachable as the first book.

I’ll talk more about this novel as I get into it.

The Cover for The Repossessed Ghost

At Sacramento Comic-Con, Steven Radecki and I talked about changing the cover for The Repossessed Ghost to help it stand out. Something with more “oomph.” I like the original cover very much, but if we can come up with something even better, I’m all for it.

Steven sent me a candidate this week, and it’s pretty neat! I’m not going to share it here yet, but I’ll describe it. It features the Nova, but instead of turned at an angle, it’s facing the reader. The headlights are on, and The Moon is big and directly behind it, with clouds and whisps of ground fog all around. The overall effect is that the car is a little bit darker, more detailed, while the top of the image is brighter.

It’s a very similar cover, but the contrast is higher. Also, and I don’t think this is intentional, but the picture is much more in-line with Mel’s perspective during an early scene, where Mel felt the touch of a ghost on his shoulder for the first time, freaked out, and fled the car. He looks back at the car and faces the headlights. That’s what this new cover looks like.

Melissa likes the new cover, and sees it as a marginal improvement. I shared it with my gaming buddies and they thought it was okay. I shared it with my critique group and Jennifer Moore said, “It’s definitely spookier. I like the new one, but it’s a close race.”

I sent it to Michael Gallowglas last night and he just said, “Not a fan.” He clarified later that it’s just the fonts that are wrong, and Steven and I both agree. If we get a better font, then Michael thinks it’s okay, too.

Overall, semi-mixed results, leading towards a small improvement over the original. I think I like it a little bit more than the first, but the first is special, to me.. The original, as of this writing, is still at the top of my blog. I never did get my image updated to include One for the Road. I should probably do something about that.

My Mom, Work, and My Emotional Life

It’s Mother’s Day, so I should talk about my Mom. I’ve been thinking about her quite a bit this month, so let’s talk about Evajean Buhl.

My Mom was infuriating. She was often right and she wasn’t graceful about it. When I was very young, I used to listen to her tell stories about our life, and I would hear all of the ways in which she exaggerated the details, and my young, analytical brain told me, “Oh. My Mom lies, all the time.”

Here is an unsettling truth. If you listen to the pattern and cadence of Trump when he’s giving an anecdote, it is the same way my Mom would tell a story. Stew on that for a moment.

My Dad was much more measured. He was also drunk most of the time until I was about 12, but even after he went to AA, he was still a more calming influence than my Mom. He was also right all the time, but he could be satisfied with knowing he was right, without having to shove it down the other person’s throat.

All my life, I have tried to be more like my Dad. And, all of my life, when I look at the way I behave, I see my Mom reflected back at me.

I had a hard time living with my Mom. I have a very hard time living with myself.

I don’t lie or exaggerate the way my Mom did. On that front, I think I’m an improvement on the original model. Maybe I use that energy to write stories. I don’t know. I think my writing is the one thing in my life that is uniquely me.

What about my programming? What about my day job?

That is another place where I think my Mom and I are similar. My Mom wasn’t a programmer, but she was the person her team would go to in order to solve problems. She was profoundly competent. Her coworkers appreciated her, just as mine appreciate me.

She could also be emotional and difficult to handle. She didn’t stop being logical when she got emotional. Sometimes, she took the emotion, good or bad, and just channeled it into her work. Just like me.

Growing up, my Mom changed jobs several times and we moved quite a bit. She worked at Kaiser in San Jose until I was 7. Then she worked at the hospital in Susanville until I was 9. We went to Oregon and she worked at Rogue Valley Medical Center until I was 15. That’s when my Dad died, and her emotional life got in the way. It was impossible for her to continue working just down the hall from where her husband passed away. They fired her, and she became a consultant.

I went with her the next summer and we lived in Washington D.C. Before the beginning of the next school year, I returned to Medford and lived in our old house alone. During my Junior year, she took a job in Albuquerque and made me move there. I thought she was being selfish and I hated it. We had no money, I had no friends, and I wound up working at a bowling alley and helped support us while still trying to attend High School. It did not go well.

My Mom died in January 2002. Sixty-eight years old. The 5 or 6 years before she died were spent in and out of hospitals. She didn’t really have much of a retirement.

I’m now 51. I’m 4 years younger than my Mom when she was forced to leave Rogue Valley Medical Center and seek jobs on the road. She had blood pressure issues all my life. My blood pressure last week was 140/95.

I’m so much like my Mom, and I don’t want to be. I want to break the cycle and just be Brian C. E. Buhl, the writer. But I don’t see a way to get there from here.

A Brief Moment in Politics

I just mentioned Trump, and he’s all over the news, so let’s get into it. I actually don’t want to talk about this anymore than you want me to write about it so I’ll try to be brief.

If you look at the polls, Trump is broadly ahead of Biden. FiveThirtyEight says that while Trump is ahead in some polls, Biden will likely still be win.

It makes me ask, “Why is it this close?” I can ask the question, but I have the answer.

Trump’s fans are loyal to him, even if he’s a felon. Even if he does not stand for what they said they used to stand for. They don’t see him as a monster. They see him as one of them, which is weird, all things considered, but they’re not considering all things. To them, Trump is great. Biden sucks, no matter what he says or does.

What about Biden? He’s faced with a complicated situation. He has to somehow stand up to long-time ally Israel without feeding the antisemites. What a shit show.

Principled, well-meaning, intelligent people know that what Israel is doing with Gaza is wrong. Protesting the slaughter of innocents is the correct thing to do. Biden’s slow-rolling, cautious approach with Israel is galling, and worthy of criticism.

I’ll vote for Biden, but not with enthusiasm. I’ve listened to some of his speeches. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes his age is catching up to him. Biden’s supporters point at the former, while his critiques focus on the latter. I think it’s stupid to ignore his age, just like I think it’s stupid to ignore Trump’s crimes.

At the end of the day, Trump is a wanna-be fascist and Biden is an old guy doing his best. These are the oldest candidates for President ever, beating out the last oldest set of candidates we’ve ever had, which were the same men four years ago.

This timeline sucks and I hate it.

Everything Else

Scammers are upping their game. Someone claiming to be from an independent bookstore called Melissa and said they wanted 10 copies of One for the Road. They didn’t ask for anything from us, per se, but the next day, someone else called saying they wanted to interview us. That’s when the “airtime fee” was mentioned, to which we said, “Thanks, bye!” The first call was to verify our information and soften us up. The second call was to plant the hook, but we weren’t biting.

How do I know it was a scam? The exact same calls went to another writer with Water Dragon Publishing. Same fake bookstore. Same fake interview offer. So, writer friends, don’t let your hopes and dreams blind you to the fakers.

What else? Maybe you’re wondering about the story I was going to write publicly?

I’m still planning on doing it. This is part of the process, to be honest. I come up with an idea, I write some notes, and then I let it cook in the back of my brain for a while until I’m ready. I’ve been thinking about the sequel novel to The Repossessed Ghost for most of a decade. I’m not going to wait that long to write the elemental firefighter story, but it’s not at the front of the line right now. I still have to write a follow-up to One for the Road, too. In my head, the title for that one is All Roads Lead to Home. The third story, therefore, will have to be The Road Twice Traveled. I have some plans for Tina.

That’s probably enough. I didn’t mean to write this much in a single blog post, but apparently I had a lot on my mind.

Again, Happy Mother’s day, to those that celebrate! If you don’t, well, have a great Sunday regardless.


Choosing Bears

For posterity, since a few weeks or months from now no one is going to remember anything about this discourse, here is a link that tries to explain the origin. I would have linked to the origin of this avalanche, but I think that was on TikTok and I’m not linking there, for a variety of reasons. That’s probably worthy of a post on its own.

If you don’t want to click that link and you still want the TL;DR: Someone asked the question, “if you’re lost in the woods, would you rather run into a strange man or a bear?” A lot of women choose the bear, and some number of men are upset about that.

Why am I talking about this? Isn’t there already enough discourse on the subject?

To the first question, I think it’s interesting. To the second, I might have something unique to say about it, which centers around empathy.

Regardless, I have been enjoying the memes.

My contribution? Run into the wrong bear in the woods and you might wind up a firefighter.

The jokes make me smile, and I think it’s an interesting question. Some people are taking it very seriously, though.

This is where I want to pivot from all the things everyone else is talking about, and talk about empathy. I think this is one of those rare cases demonstrating that men have and use empathy without thinking about it. In this case, empathizing with the wrong side.

Empathy is simply the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s looking at the world and feeling it through someone else’s perspective. It’s watching someone else’s heartbreak and feeling a lump in your throat. It’s when someone slips off their skateboard, racks themselves on a guardrail, and the onlookers twist in sympathetic groin pain.

Sociopaths are partially defined by their lack of empathy.

When I think of the original question put in front of a woman, I understand the choice of a bear. A bear will kill you, but a strange man will hurt you. Most men are good guys. Most of the time, it would be better for a strange man to show up than a strange bear. On the other hand, historically, men have done more harm than bears, and it’s easy to imagine the worst case scenario: A mad bear will kill you, while a dangerous man will do something worse.

I’m not hearing the question as, “Would you rather be found by a strange bear or Brian Buhl?” If that was the question and people that know me were still picking the bear, I would feel hurt.

That’s where my point about empathy comes in. I think some men are putting themselves in the scenario, seeing themselves as the strange man. Why would someone choose getting mauled by a bear? “Am I not a nice guy? I’m way less scary than a bear!” they think. They may even be correct, but the question isn’t about them. It’s about strange bears versus strange men, and men have a terrible track record.

These upset men are capable of empathy, but are exercising it only one way. They’re putting themselves in the place of the stranger in the woods, rather than imagining the perspective of a woman having to choose between quick death or potential torment.

The funny thing is that as I think about it, the empathy-gender line is firm the other way, too. At least, that’s what I see from some of the comments from women taking this whole thought experiment too seriously.