End-of-the-book Blues!


Notes from Alexis: Laughing about her “weeping and wailing’ about “what and if, to write next.” Not only did she write 20 novels, she also wrote over 20 genealogy books. Will wonders never cease.


Dearest Lex,

Well, I have another hummingbird story for you. Saturday morning I heard one sing. Well, sing might be a little strong. It sounded something like the swishing sound one makes when walking through tall, dry grass. It took me a while to identify it and where it was coming from- seeing the little bird with — his mouth open, throat throbbing – helped coordinate eye and ear.

I have now given up all thoughts of gargling with sugar water to improve my voice. If it won’t work for birds, how can it work for people?

I had spent a day in town with S.F. and between her and your Aunt A. I have become a born-again ‘weed’. Those two are such frail, delicate, helpless clinging vines, that I have decided to stop babying myself and toughen up. Both of them are tough—minded broads, and their helpless acts blew my cool.

I have been working in the garden, and there can be nothing in the world harder than ‘stooping’ labor. I just feel awfully sorry for myself, which amuses Dad. What is embarrassing is that I should be so out of shape, that a few weeds could put me down. I am determined to be as tough as weeds.

I loved your computer story. Mine is not so interesting. I did, however, wake up the other day and knew exactly how to write the last section of the ‘Guide.’ I went into the computer, and I’ll be darned if it didn’t all un-roll before my wondering eyes. I still have to work out the details, but at least now I know I can, and I sure didn’t know that before. If I get cracking, I should finish the first draft this week. I am still finding tidbits for Part I.

Also, I am into the end-of-the-book-blues. I just hate to finish a book, so sad. And there is no way I can convince myself there will ever be another one. Each one is the last. The very last. I just know it, and it’s enough to make a body cry.

Then I get a letter from my pen pal (you) and you have 100 lbs of plaster, while I am left bereft and Bookless. Is there no justice? Dad finds my weeping and wailing funny and doesn’t believe for a minute that I won’t start another book. Where does one go for sympathy?
I have some fun clippings for you, and it’s a good thing, because my brain has shrunk from all that weeding and fuming at the ladies.




The Sweetness of Creativeness!

Notes from Alexis: Being a potter, I am deep in “mud” a great deal of the time, and I love it. She is knee deep in creativeness – in so many ways – it is a delight to see.


Dearest Lex,

Well, I hope this finds you knee-deep in mud, or all fired up or something.

I just wrote something creative for the first time in ages, and the sweetness of it makes me feel good. I feel sorry for all the folks who have never known such a thing.

I have enjoyed the ‘Guide’ so much. I mean that it has been fun, but it hasn’t been creative; just no ‘honey’ to it. I can see non-fiction is probably not my full line, I need some creative writing along for my sweet tooth.

You aren’t going to believe this, but good old Mom and Dad now have two beds in Studio II. Our neighbors, the preacher and his wife, are moving out. He quit the church, and they are going to California or Timbuktu. If they know where they are going they ain’t saying. They had a yard sale and had this neat trundle bed. It’s two twin beds, one beneath the other. You pull the bottom one out and it snaps up to the height of the other, and makes a Queen-size bed. Pretty neat

And are we coming up? Probably not. At least not right away. Dad can’t get any time off and I, of course, am in the middle of the ‘Guide’. I have such a feeling of urgency about it. Ten years from now when it is moldering away in the closet, you can remind me of this.

Now I’ve got a long story to tell you about the Wilhelmi spinning wheel. This is one of those stories that just fills up all the vacant spaces in storytelling, and just takes over. Unbelievable! It is also a neighbor story. Where I made my big mistake was not writing all the stories down as they came along. But who would have thought I would end up with a trunk full of them?

Well, meanwhile, back at the ranch, you remember me telling you about E. coming and taking the spinning wheel. I found myself suddenly feeling like I was drowning in E.; with her voice in this little-girl range, twisting her fingers and the overall helplessness. So I told her to take it home and work with it for a week, and then if she wanted to buy it, she could give me $50, and if not, she could bring it back. It is worth something, right?

That was six months ago and every now and again I would get in a froth about it. I called her and, Oh yes, she had to have the spinning wheel, but Mr. L. hadn’t paid her. What is this L. business?

It seems that four years ago when Mrs. L., our neighbor, was going for her treatments, they hired E. to babysit and then didn’t pay her. What else is new? Believe me if I had known the sale of the wheel depended on Mr. L. there would have been no sale. I got to the point where I was going to call and tell her to bring the wheel back pronto, if not sooner, and then I got a call from a gal saying she wanted to buy a cheap spinning wheel, so I said ‘okey-dokey’ I got one. You came to the right place, lady. I called E. and said I need the wheel back, because I have a gal who wants to buy it. E. called Mrs. L., Mrs. L. called me, and then Mrs. L. called Mr.L. Repeat the above, four or five times. The upshot was that Mr. L. came over and paid me for the time he owed E. Do you know what that asshole told us when he brought over the check? He said he never thought she’d catch up with him after all this time. That bum!

E. suddenly found her grown up voice, and just like Alice in Wonderland began to grow up. I called the other gal, and she turned out to be a whiner too. Deliver me from helpless types! They are murder on me. I have always been leery of instant friendships, and now I have to worry about instant enemy-ships.

Can you stand another long story? I just love writing letters because you can’t turn me off. The reason the gal called was because I had some fibers down at the art gallery. The weavers finally got it all together and had a show. They had to invite me, because there were just too many people who knew me, and insisted I be there, I guess. Jeez, it killed D.A.’s soul, but I got invited:

So I got together about $900 worth of fibers and books. It seemed like a neat thing to me because I had small bags of exotic and unusual fibers, and books that can’t be bought locally and some are out of print. I won’t make a dime, but at least the things will be out there where they can be seen.

Watching them set up the exhibit and the old interplay of wills and inter-tribal warfare, was most interesting. Of course, I’m outside the pale, totally untouchable and glad of it. Getting the fibers ready just about did me in though. Made me sick as a dog for three days, and I do believe it cured me altogether, totally and forever.

I’l1 take whatever they don’t sell (most I presume) and peddle it in Eugene or Bandon, or wherever.

I have another good book for you, a must read. ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman’ by Feynman and Leighton. Good reading.

Well, got to run and get this in the mail before noon.



That sly turtle!

Lex new Home II

Notes from Alexis: Her first venture into “Printshop” and the mighty turtle. I remember learning all about the “turtle” back in those days as well. You younger folks may wonder what we are talking about!


Dearest Lex,

The photo is the lesson I used the “The Printshop” software on my computer. I found I’m a lot smarter with “smart software” than with programming.

I was the envy of all for this card, even though I didn’t know what I was doing from start to finish. The type is “Alexia” by the way.

I go for a free practice on Friday, and I am going to tackle “Logo” again. I will NOT be defeated by a turtle. This is the language they teach little kids. That turtle is sly!

Well, this has been a curious week, all told.

I sent the disk to the publisher. It contained the 18 chapters of the first half of the book, “GuideStar” with Glossary, Dedication, Introduction and seven appendices- 21,000 words. I know that because I counted them with my word counter. In about 10 minutes. If you understand that I hate counting words with a purple passion, then you will appreciate my satisfaction.

Well anyway, after I left yesterday, I went to Duffy’s (the grocery store) and saw P. R. and her daughter, who is a doll. We stood and talked for the longest time. She was hungry for adult talk I think. She wanted to know all about you and your house. So then she asked what I had been doing, and I told her about the computer and the “GuideStar” manual.

She was really interested and said she had some ideas about a book. She asked me all kinds of publishing questions, and finally I figured out she wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book. I asked her if she had ever considered illustrating someone else’s book, and she said she would love it.

The upshot is that I told her about “Goats Don’t Care” and she acted like she wanted to see it. I told her she should only consider it if she fell in love with the book. I don’t plan to become a children’s writer, and it is not important, to me at this point, whether I get it published or not.

She just seemed so excited that I got enthused, too. She is just starved to get back to her art. She hasn’t had a minute even to think about it since her baby was born. I’m sure you sympathize with her plight.

So all kinds of things happening here. I woke up yesterday knowing how to start the “ReportStar” section of the Guide, and actually wrote the first chapter, so all is excitement as I go into the nether regions of the Program. Don’t you think it is curious that we are all involved with computers? Dad’s shop will go total computer August 1st, and that may be a total disaster.

Well, we had sautéed fennel and fennel fern in our salad the other night. Quite tasty. Smells like anise, but tastes like fennel.

Well, writing calls to me. I have to make a small computer dictionary for my spell checker so it won’t keep bugging me with computer words. Then I have to make a form for the Index and try to get that going.

Loved the story about bird-spit soup, but frankly, I think I can find better ways to spend my two thousand, but interesting still.



Lord it’s a great life – if you don’t weaken!

Notes from Alexis: Funny dreams and out-smarting the mighty computer.

May 30,1985

Dearest Lex,

So glad to get your letter. I had high-centered with the “Guide,” and was walking around swearing horrible oaths. I decided to take a break and go to the post office. I’d made up my mind, that if there wasn’t a letter from you, someone would suffer a fate worse than death (one of my Mums hexes). Thank goodness your letter was there.

I should finish up the first draft of “Guide Through DataStar” today. I have decided it will be two manuals, not one. I have also written a publisher about it, and now here I sit in fear and trembling.

It has taken me exactly one month to write the first draft. Of course, I have gone at it tooth and toenail. I write all night long, and sleep a troubled sleep because of it.

I dreamed a funny dream about Dad. I dreamed I woke up one morning and here was a fuzzy gray pup in bed with us. Dad said its name was Tippy, and he had found it wandering around in the shopping center. I was not overjoyed, but I could hardly say anything considering all the pups I’ve brought home. The scene shifted and here was Dad, and you kids, in the front room of a house I’ve never seen before. You kids were all younger with M. about 11-12. Dad was showing you his collection of miniature glass animals. The place was full of those little glass things. Every color under the rainbow and every kind of critter. He had set up a piece of plywood on sawhorses across one end of the front room, and it was filled with his collection. My thought was,  “Who’s going to dust them?” And “You’ve gone too far, Donald!”

He was mightily amused when I told him about the dream, and said he didn’t think I had to worry about Tippy or the glass collection.

Speaking of dreams. I do believe I’ve come upon the solution of some dreams I’ve had through the years. You know the ones I mean, where I find a room I hadn’t known was there, and I’m so thrilled.

The obvious explanation is that whole new worlds are going to open up, etc. Well, it sounds great, but…. not quite right. Something happened yesterday that gave me a clue.

I was reading around in my ‘Profiles’ magazine, which is the Kaypro magazine, and found out I can actually poke around in the Wordstar program. Suddenly I had the same feeling of those dreams. I have always thought of the software programs as rooms one could enter.

I have this mental picture of opening a door and walking into a program, where I can go into the basement and look at the furnace and the pipes. What a thrill! I’m going to go in and fiddle with some of the wiring, so that when Wordstar comes on, it will be logged on the’ B drive’ instead of the ‘A drive’. It aggravates me that I always have to go through that step of changing from A to B, and I NEVER use ‘A’ for writing, except in emergencies -say when I have a disk-full situation on ‘B’.

Lord, it’s a great life if you don’t weaken, ain’t it?

Well, will close for now and write more later.



How we are ruled by the machines in our lives!

Notes from Alexis: I love the yearnings for pie (I personally love pie), the need to conquer the mighty computer, and cats that talk.


Dearest Lex

I had it all planned out to tell you this gruesome story about how foul the weather has been; you know the kind where we have to build a fire every day, the first week in June? Then we got up, and it is a bonny day, and we ate breakfast out on the porch. I’m delighted, but it ruined a good story.

Of course, there is a good story of the canoe. Dad has now trimmed the top edge and has started sanding inside. All I heard for the last year, and a half was; it was too long and too wide. Now he thinks it is perfect.

I’m sorry about your bad experience with the computer. It took me five lessons before I stopped shaking, but then I fell in love with it.

The story of D. is like some sort of horror play. I’m sure we would get up and walk out of a movie with such a plot, and declare it beyond belief! Whatever do you think the story is Karma—wise? Is she reachable, or is she bound on self-destruction at any price? I’m just sorry that our good thoughts aren’t getting through to her.

I have started back to genealogy meetings and plan to become an active member. I need all their knowledge and help. These people know so much about tracing ancestors. They are all a bunch of detectives. When I go back to Texas to get the information I need, I will have the credentials of the club behind me, and will be able to find kindred spirits in clubs out there.

The first draft of the ‘Guide’ is finished, and I have started rewriting the second. The first publisher turned me down, but being undaunted, I plan to send it off to another one, in a day or two. This one will accept disks, so I am going to be brave and send a chapter or two on a disk, just for the sheer pleasure of doing it.

As I say; I consider all this a learning process, and now I can understand why I couldn’t see the titles on the books, in my dreams. Would I have believed what I saw? Or even understood it?

The part that is so fascinating to me is that I am getting tremendous pleasure out of writing and rewriting the ‘Guide’. I have also sent for a computer book for you. It is by Peter McWilliams and is ‘Computers for the Disabled’ but don’t let the title throw you. It is a dear book. He is now on my list of heroes.

Speaking of heroes, here is another one: Marva Collins. She is a teacher in Chicago. Some years ago, 60 Minutes did a piece, and then there was a movie. I just read her book, “Marvin Collin’s Way” by Civia Tamarkin and Marva Collins. A delightful book, so try and get it through your library.

Yes, come at a moment’s notice and just remember that I am knee deep in dust and debris. But if you can stand it, so can I.

Dad ordered another load of wood, and went out four times that night to look at it. He is a wealthy man, no doubt about it.

He finally got so tired of the pain that he went to a doctor and found out he doesn’t have ulcers or any other dreaded disease. As a matter of fact, he is in good shape with one exception; he has high cholesterol, and was told to cut down his red meat to once a week (which he already had), and no butter or dairy products but skim milk (which he already had), and only four eggs a week (which he already had). So now what? I am fixing him alfalfa sprouts, and he takes lethicin, so I don’t know what else to do.

The nurse couldn’t believe his low blood pressure, and took it three times to be sure. It was like 130/80 which he thought was high; it has been about 120/70, but he decided ‘it’ was excited about going to the doctor. So now he is taking another kind of aspirin, because the doc says the aspirin was hurting his stomach, and he had to take Maalox because of it. So the pain in his stomach is gone, and the new aspirin is helping his knees. The doc says he will probably have to have his knees operated on one day. It seems all the Campbell’s have had, or will have to have, the operation. Those Campbell’s got some bad genes there.

The neighbor’s cat hauled her four babies over here, and Dad found them playing on the lawn. They are darling, but do we really need four cats? I love the mother cat. She talks up a storm. She has a large vocabulary and tells me everything. Unfortunately, I don’t speak feline, so I don’t know what she is saying, and she gets quite exasperated with me, and walks off in a huff sometimes, because of my ignorance.

Well, dear heart, hold the good thought, and try to come to terms with the computer, because it may be boring, but it beats the heck out of some of the other jobs you have had. Still, I suppose it beats hauling old people in vans. No? (My last job) ‘Detached’ is the state to reach for. After all, nobody else cares if school keeps or not, so why should you? Save your caring for the pottery.

I see by my line count that I have twenty more lines, but do I have 20 more lines of writing? How we are ruled by the machines in our lives!

Speaking of being ruled; I suddenly became obsessed with the need for lemon meringue pie and made one – from scratch, with fresh squeezed lemons and everything. Well, last night it was runny and more pudding than pie, but by today it has set up nice and firm. Where do these yearnings come from?



I pick up things, like flypaper picks up flies!

Notes from Alexis: Some pretty funny statements about learning computers!


Dearest Lex,

How are you? I enjoyed thinking about you driving home after work your last day with special Mobility and experiencing profound relief. Onward and upward, right?

I have a long story about writing and computers, which I will no doubt call “Lost in the Wilds of Computer Writing,” when I write this adventure up. I went to town Thursday and saw a sign on the fairgrounds that said, “Computer Sale May 18th & l9th. What’s a computer sale? I couldn’t stand it, so we went. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense. I believe that the local computer club got together and decided to dump a lot of their stuff. One of the people there was L.M., the owner of the store where I got my Kaypro computer. He also handles a lot of other brands.

He’s like an electric light. When he thinks you are a potential customer, he glows, and when he sees you aren’t, he goes out. I have never seen anyone quite like him. But we all have our little scams, and mine is getting information, so I pretend a gullibility and innocence, that I don’t really possess. My artifice is just not as visible as his.

He was out to make a sale, and I wanted information. I told him that I was writing a Manual for Datastar, and he tried to sell me a great software package ‘Pearl Data’ normally selling for $295 and on sale for only $95 at that moment. He really loved me there for about ten minutes, as I seemed interested.

I sat down and looked through the manual, and for all I know ‘Pearl’ may be the greatest thing since pockets on undershirts, but the manual left a lot to be desired. It didn’t answer any of my questions, and didn’t show me where to find the answers. Now I’m not talking about a ‘training’ manual like I’m writing, or ‘tutorial’ as the computer folks say, but a ‘technical manual’, which should tell all.

He told me that he thought Datastar was peaking as far as sales, and that 95% of the buyers are Kaypro owners. He also said I should talk to S. at his store, because she is their ‘educator’, and could look at my manual and tell me if I was doing it right.

Did you feel the temperature rising in my brain? S. is the one who educated me for 45 minutes, with phone’s ringing, and customers asking questions, and office workers chatting. I didn’t like her approach of ‘push this and push that’, although I did like S. She is a YUPPIE in a lovely sort of way. (Read ‘Power Play’ by Mary Cunningham). I love Yuppies. Although they aren’t as interesting as hippies, but they are CLEAN.

I realized that L.M. didn’t know a whole lot about Datastar, from what he said, and he realized I wasn’t going to buy, so our love affair ended rather abruptly.

I came home despondent. Who wants to write a manual for a software program that is obsolete before the book can be published? Rather like writing a sales manual for the Edsel car. I wrung my hands and whined, stomped and swore terrible oaths. Dad endured.

Then finally I worked it all out. I will finish ‘Guide’ because:

(A) It is the fun-est thing I had done in a long time and

(B) I still need to learn things about Datastar/ReportStar.

I asked myself if I would want to make a career of writing manuals, and gee that sounded great! Do you suppose there is a Manual Writers Guild? Could I start one?

“What if?” I asked myself, “What if some perspicacious (I looked this up) publisher wanted me to write a manual for other software programs, would I?” Could I resist? Sounded fine, so I have to learn how to write manuals somewhere, and why not with what I’ve got? Maybe I’ll get turned down by all the publishers, and maybe one of them will remember me for another project.

‘Spring came to Gwen’ at the thought, and I was back in business. That’s why we optimists are so unbearable. We can turn every disaster into gold. I mean it is just too tiresome to tell your troubles to an optimist. They will always see the bright side.

I felt quite cheery about the whole business, and Dad is laughing up his sleeve. He never takes my moaning seriously. He knows I will talk myself out of it sooner or later.
So here is another computer story. I wrote to TBKUG (Tampa Bay Kaypro Users Group, to you) and ordered two disks for $10 each, which contained two programs I wanted; a directory and disk cataloging system, and here they came in the mail. Two disks, and that was it. Nary a word, other than a form letter to order more. I went into a complete tizzy with sweaty palms and palpitations. It scared me to death!

But, like a good hacker, I immediately made copies (first rule of computing – MAKE COPIES) and I learned something from that; namely that they sent me single sided disks and my 2X uses double sided disks and can copy SD to DD. Neat, huh? Not all computers can do that. Boy, did I luck out with the 2X.

I could find the directory on each but I don’t have the know how to read the files (I think I just figured it out) so I put WordStar in and read with it. I just couldn’t believe they would send me software with no info, and info has to be typed, right? Sure enough, there it all was. Reams of lovely words, ready to be read by the human eye.

I spent the afternoon happily printing. Not reading, just printing. When I got around to reading, I found I had a ‘Bad Sector Lockout’ (WOW), a ‘Squeezer/Desqueezer’, a ‘Unerase’, and all kinds of super features for the directory and filing system. Talk about Christmas!

I will try out the ‘Bad Sector’ as I have a disk that won’t format. Three of the 30 disks I bought, wouldn’t format, so I twirled them briskly around my finger to realign their molecules, or something, and they formatted. My teacher (educator?) at the computer class did that. I pick up things like flypaper picks up flies.

Well, there you have my news, and hope your news is even more exciting.



The computer has become a “Changing Force” in my life!

Notes from Alexis: She awoke with a new life plan, and as always with her, she fulfilled her plans and more.


Dear Lex,


I got up this morning with the future of my writing outlined in my mind. The fact that the direction I propose to take seems impossible shouldn’t deter me, or be allowed to influence my decision too much.

Along with the change of direction in my writing, has come the most serene feeling imaginable. I am going to write non-fiction. I’m really glad I wrote “EAB” and I think I’ll probably finish it, but from now on I am going to concentrate my time on nonfiction. I am the happiest there.

I enjoyed “Always Going” the most of any of my writing, with the possible exception of “Circumstance of Birth.” The short stories come next, and I see now it is because they are true, or as true as I can get them.

I started a “Guide Through Datastar/Reportstar” and have just loved it. Something as dry as a teaching manual for a software program has absolutely delighted me.

This morning I awoke knowing I wanted to write a biography of the town – Menard, Texas, to be exact. I have been thinking about the town ever since I got the maps of the area, and this morning I could see that was what I had been thinking about and wanting to do all along.

It seems ridiculous for me to be thinking of such a thing at my age, but there it is… I awoke, turned about in a new direction, and I will not be satisfied until I have done it. I will need to go to Texas for research and to see again the places I need to write about.

‘Preposterous’ is the word that first comes to mind, followed immediately by ‘inevitable’. The decision feels so right – and I feel so good about it. I had to laugh, because I believed this morning when I awoke that the ‘Guide’ would support me in my old age. How very curious.

I have the kind of feeling of ‘relief’ that one has after making any momentous decision. I’m so glad I wrote the fiction, and I may continue to write fiction, along (I don’t want to limit myself) but it will always be secondary for me. I had to do it to prove to myself that I could, but I don’t love it like nonfiction. (she went on to write 20 fiction books and over 20 Genealogical books)

The computer has been a ‘changing force’ in my life, beyond anything I could ever have imagined.