Category Archives: Writing

Reading

I’m sure people already know this, but I’m a voracious reader, and always have been. Throughout high school and even after graduation, I was deep into science fiction and fantasy even more. For a time after high school, I thought I would write fantasy. I had ideas for stories to tell in the worlds I’d created. I started a few, but never finished, and gradually drifted away from that realm and into mysteries.

We had a bunch of Agatha Christie’s work in the house when I grew up, John B. McDonald, Robert Ludlum, Robin Cook, etc. – the spectrum of the mystery/thriller genre. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized those were the kinds of books I really wanted to write: puzzles. I love puzzles and always have, and ruminating on things now, I realize that every piece of literature really is a mystery at heart.

Will the lovers in that romance novel finally be together at the end? Or will they meet some tragic ending, like Romeo and Juliet in their play? Will the crime be solved? Or will it go cold, waiting for the right person to pick up the case? Will the main character in that literary novel find the thing they are seeking, whether it is a lost relative or a greater understanding of themselves or the world at large?

I’ve read two books in two days, both with series characters, and both the first book in their respective series. I do like to find series, because you (usually) get to see the evolution of the characters over time. The first series is by Steve Hamilton, and features Alex McKnight. The second is from  William Kent Kreuger and features Cork O’Connor. Both series are set in the upper Midwest. I’d say I recommend both, and although both had first novels in the series that were good, I like to hold on to recommendations just in case things go horribly awry deeper in, frustrating me for having to go find another character to read about. And of course, it reminds me that anyone can write and get through the process.

Now – over a span of decades “now” –  my head is filled with ideas for mystery/thriller novels, featuring various characters. I struggle with writing their stories, the little niggling self doubt creeping in, trying to convince me I am not now and never will be a good writer, thanks a douchebag from my younger past. I tell myself his voice is not one I should listen to, because my adult self sees the egotism, insecurity, and manipulation are his failings, not mine. It’s difficult to shut out that voice, but I am resolved to kick that asshole to the curb and write the things I know I can, and that people want to read (as I’ve had people tell me they want the rest when I give them samples). I can do this. And I can say to others who have gone through similar experiences: WE can do this. it is possible. And what could be more satisfying than showing the ghosts from our pasts that we did what they said we could not?

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Welcome to spring, Florida style

Finally.

We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.

He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.

While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.

Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?

Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).

Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and  227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.

Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,

And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this

To this

In just five days.

Things are looking up at the ranch.

One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.

No more.  I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Night drive

I missed the window for a new posting on Wednesday. I was actually in the process of composing it when I had to head out to the NOC to beat a server into submission. Unfortunately, I also found another issue with a power unit while I was there, which means setting up another unit, configuring it, then switching the servers on the bad unit to the new one. It seems as if there is always something crying out for attention in the tech world. It can be very annoying and quite tedious.

But it was somewhere around 11 PM when I left, and the roads were mostly clear. There is literally no way to get anywhere I need to go without running into construction along the way. Jacksonville: Our Lady of Perpetual Construction.

It isn’t a terrible drive for thinking and having some music on during the trip out and back (about an hour and 20 minutes for the total round trip). I let my mind wander throughout the drive, and usually come up with a scene or two for some of the books that have been percolating in the back of my head. That happened tonight, and one of those scenes is a rather pivotal scene toward the end of the book that will contain it. The problem is I haven’t been writing. At all. Between being sick and work, where things can be really nutty sometimes, and have always-active tasks that need to be done, it doesn’t leave a ton of time when my brain is not totally fried from dealing with those tasks or with clients who are having some kind of issue.

I’ve said before (maybe here, maybe not) that a lot of tech work involves waiting. Waiting for a new kernel build to update on the servers. Waiting for the servers to reboot to finalize those new builds. Working on transfers of content from other networks to ours and doing the hundred little things that need to be done if they’re coming from a network that doesn’t use the same control panel we use. I’d guess it probably amounts to a little over a quarter of our time. What I would like to do is be able to train myself to get some writing done in those in between times of waiting or on tickets that land in the box for support. I read that Anthony Trollope would break out his writing into 15 minute chunks over the span of a few hours. He managed to pound out all sorts of stuff doing that. AND he was working for the post office.  Since it’s rare that I’d have a few hours in a row, I’ll have to make some adjustments and grab time where I can, making it a priority.

And that, my handful of readers, was my late evening. I hope yours were quieter.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Return to discipline

Again.

It’s hard as hell reading about what’s going on in this country today. We all know, and as I’ve said, I try to avoid politics here. But – and I don’t think I’d be alone in saying this, even for people whose political bents are 180 degrees opposite mine – I don’t think there has been a failure in the government of this country larger or more profound  than what we’re seen since January. It’s stressful and disheartening, and it is going to take us years to recover.

That’s one of the reasons I shut down my personal facebook page, creating another profile just to manage a page that I need to maintain. I got tired of the nonsense, and even more tired of realizing how much of the finite time I have left on this earth it was ticking away. The only reason I visit fb these days is to update that page, or to view some funny video someone thinks I’ll find amusing. I can safely say I have not missed it. I had turned more to twitter, thinking I could just scan through it, post a couple of things, and not have it wind up as a massive timesink or add anything bad – like stress – to my life.

Wrong.

Continue reading Return to discipline

Discipline

Lacking. Completely.

Nah, not totally, but it could use a bit of a kick in the pants. I’m in week six of the current pneumonia battle. This one is hanging around longer than the other five times this year. I have however, been busy, both inside and out. Sort of.

The gardens, oh my, the gardens.

It’s almost like I’ve been growing this crap on purpose

That’s the front. The back garden area is bad, too. But I’ve been concentrating on the front because there are things actively growing there right now: peppers, still chugging along – the tabascos certainly, the jalapenos to a lesser extent, and either the tabascos or the cayennes that weren’t chewed to death by bugs, too. Why the or? Because they both start out looking the same, and it’s impossible to tell what is in what frame row without breaking out the original season map I did. I haven’t done that, as it’s depressing to see the season that could have been.

That pic up there is from November 21. I decided to get off my ass and start pulling weeds and get things moving as our “winter” doesn’t last long. I’d rather not have a gigantic list of things that need to be done to get the gardens in shape when I’m tending seedlings and trying to guess what Mother Nature is going to give us in the new year – if it’s a mild winter, do I take the chance and start getting tender things like tomatoes and peppers out, or do I wait until our usual last frost date, that we didn’t have last year? It’s a challenge.

This is what I got done by November 27.

Less crap, more open space and clean!

This is December 2.

Getting there

In the mid left are the remaining peppers, and behind that, the long asparagus bed. At the far, far rear, those are palmetto bushes along the area near the fenceline, not more crap to pull. Those are horrific to deal with when you want them gone, and take my advice: hire a tractor guy/gal or rent something to dig down into the ground and pull them. Don’t dig them by hand. One, sure, maybe. More? Nope.

When I managed to get the frame where the carrots had been a bit clear, I found some carrots that had either happily sat there for months or that were just now germinating for whatever reason – most likely, weed pressure, since I was sowing carrots every other week when spring came. When the hurricanes blew through us, they also blew down many of the taller weeds in that frame (and others), allowing light to get down to those carrots seeds again. There aren’t many, but the ones I found were perfect, and – according to others – mighty tasty.

I pulled more weeds yesterday, and the asparagus row is about halfway cleared. None pulled today, because it’s the time of the year my health insurance company jacks up my rates by 50% and the other options available basically amount to the exact same plan I have now as they relate to premiums plus deductibles plus copays and total out of pocket. This is life with chronic health issues. But, I know the vast majority of people will not have to pay higher premiums thanks to the ACA, so that’s good.

There was also no weed pulling today as I had to go to the car dealership and pick up my car – a couple of recall notices about the airbags, an oil change, and new tires. The service guy who handled it also mentioned other thins they “found” during the inspection – like “the engine is leaking oil somewhere, and to find it [they] will have to drain the engine, put dye in it, and find that, and oh, that will cost a couple hundred bucks just for that”. Really? It’s funny that seems to be a problem when there isn’t any oil under my car on the garage pad where I park. So, no thanks to all of that, and I’ll have my mechanic brother in law look at things here. One amusing note: that same BIL told my mother that one guy there in service was to be avoided if at all possible because he’s a jackass. Guess who handled my car check in yesterday. Yup. That guy, who wants to sell me another grand or so on other things.

**This took me a couple of days to get finished thanks to every day being a Tuesday for some reason – Tuesdays, in our little corner of the world, are batshit crazydays, and usually, they restrict themselves to Tuesdays instead of bleeding into others. But, who knows, this might be a change. It’s pretty quiet tonight, I’ve dealt with the issues that are incredibly time-consuming poking around in client stuff that wasn’t working and have gotten them all solved in some fashion over yesterday and today, and maybe, just maybe, the universe has decided my efforts have been enough to reward me with writing time.

That’s it for now, peeps. Until next time: be well.

 

Best laid plans

The actual quote behind “best laid plans” is from Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, in his poem “To a Mouse: On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough“, written in 1785:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
This comes toward the end of the poem. Of course the phrase has morphed over the years, and by now all one has to say is “Best laid plans…” in order to allow others to understand that something has gone awry.
Coincidentally, and probably not of interest to anyone but me,  but John Steinbeck took the title of his book “Of Mice and Men” from that very same poem.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this – it’s been several hours since I began this post before getting bogged down in work, but I think it’s going to be a twofer: one, writing progress. Two, dealing with assholes.
The first bit should probably be called lack of progress. I should have known better than to even attempt to believe Tuesday would cut us a break and not be insane, as they normally are. So yesterday, no writing, to bed at about 4AM this morning. Back up at 8:30 as my sister and the Soul Eating Baby came over, and of course, work work work. It’s pretty quiet now, so I’m going to get some writing in after I post this. “Why not do it before you post this?” you may ask.
Eating. Plus, getting warmed up before writing. (Note: this has not worked, as that very sentence was left hanging while dealing with someone’s DNS issue.) Summary: no writing yesterday, no writing today. It’s quite annoying.
Second bit: assholes who don’t pay their bills for five months beginning late LAST year, and who were termed early THIS year, having the audacity to show up a year later whining about their stuff, claiming that they were thisclose, on the cusp, on the edge, almost about to write a no doubt best-selling book and need that one domain for it, and why is that no longer theirs and what have I been paying you for.
You know what that gets you? A timeout. Also a bullshit notice, internally, because look, if you’re serious about your stuff and you have been around for years, and you’ve been billed the same way, at the same time, every month for years, it might occur to you to wonder a bit about how it’s odd that no charges from us have appeared. Or that the site was suspended. Or that the domain wasn’t working. Or, you know, you might show up a lot sooner than a whole YEAR LATER, asking what the issue is. That is, if it was actually important, and not some magically coincidental lie. Because we’ve read THAT book before. And it blows.
So there you have it. Another day in paradise. Until the next day in paradise, peeps: be well.

Random

I just saw an ad for the Winter Olympics.  I suppose that makes sense since the opening is exactly three months from now.

There are few things that bother me more than ungrateful people, and that means to anyone. If someone helps you with something, a simple “thanks” will do loads to improve their day. If everyone was a tad more free with expressing their gratitude for something – anything – the world would be a better place. Even if it starts with just a small corner of it. It’s why I always thank the people at Publix for whatever they’ve done, and mean it. Mindlessly blurting out anything from “thanks” to “have a nice day” to “thank you for your service”  doesn’t mean anything. It may just be because I’m a writer that I think these words and the way they are given to others should matter just as much as anything else people think are important. Or I may just be cranky. Who knows?

I’m not feeling particularly insightful or profound right now, thanks to the latest bout of pneumonia I’ve managed to get, and I did think this was going to be very random (like the fact that the Seahawks are wearing neon green uniforms that make them look a lot like the Oregon college team and their ever-changing, eye-popping unis).

 

Walmart will never convince me that they have some cheerful, personal shopper for you who will go gather All The Things, bag them up, and take them to your car. Or that they’ll have a bunch of xmas-festooned clerks keeping an eye on the lines and opening a new checkout when the lines are starting to snake back into the store. And I wish they would stop using music I like in their ads.

A cool front is making its way to us. The winds are swirling around on the front and back porches, giving a deep voice to the wind chimes as they move with the wind, bumping into one another.  Even when the wind has let up, their tones continue until the last vibrations of the chimes have run their course.

I’m always casting about to find new things to read, especially mysteries and more especially mysteries with series characters. This means that I read a lot of blurbs and reviews on Amazon during my hunt, and sometimes the things they suggest are not strictly mysteries, but more like thrillers. I’m not averse to reading those, and today while searching I found an author with more than a dozen books in three series, featuring the usual thriller-type main character: ex special forces or spy, very nearly indestructible, who prefers to work alone, usually pissed off at their previous employer and betrayed by their fellow agents or their employer, or both. Reading through the material on them, I found three that were pretty much the plots of movies – ex spy gets insulted or otherwise chewed out by a dumbass sheriff in a small town, takes to the mountains and has to be hunted down (Rambo). Or, ex spy finds a young boy who has witnessed a murder, sees the crooked cop in a picture as the ex spy is about to go to the police, and the ex spy takes the kid and hides out in a nearby community that prefers their own company to the world at large (Witness). Or, ex spy is pregnant, betrayed by her team and her handler, gets left for dead, recovers, vows revenge, heads off to Hong Kong, and starts taking out the other members of the team, and even uses a samurai sword at one point. Did I mention she has lung cancer, a year to live, does all the murderous rampage, is actually named Beatrix, and finds her kid? (Kill Bill). I know that there is nothing terribly new or original under the sun and writers are basically rewriting all the stories all the time, but when a lot of the scenes in the books are exact replicas of scenes in the movies, that’s a bit too close.

And I guess I’ll wrap up with this. I hear some nyquil calling my name. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

The next big thing

The gardens. They are in terrible shape, thanks to the way 2017 was a total bitch.

The biggest project: weeding. We did get a good number of frames set up with weedblock, but the areas along the edges and in the holes punched for the transplants need to be weeded in the worst way. Fortunately, I decided on no fall crops this year, just allowing the frames to go fallow and break down more of the composted manure they have in them. Unfortunately, I decided on no fall crops this year, and could not/did not keep up with the weeding. Luckily, we do have a winter, such as it is, and the next few months will be devoted to weeding, replacing the plastic-covered frames with weedblock and positioning the irrigation lines, and getting the sides of the frames that have bowed out back to full vertical and braced.

Now, I know, in my head, that this very big project just means starting with a small corner of it and working through to get it done. But there are also those fleeting moments when I’m looking out on the mess and thinking that it’s just far too big a job – it’s the same feeling I get from looking at the narrative outline here for this book and thinking about how much crazy is in me that I presume this is something I can do.

But in those moments, I just step back, take a deep breath, and remind myself that the elephant is eaten in pieces, not in one big gulp.

Unlike the novel, which I feel like I could write in two weeks with the story so fully developed in my head, the gardens are going to take a tad longer. It’s good exercise, though, and I’ll be able to visualize the plans for spring before the seed catalogs start arriving and it’s time to place my order(s).

Get outside, people. Even if  you’re not pulling weeds or thinking of corrupt cops and drug-distributing biker gangs like I am. There’s a big, wide world out there, and you should sometimes remind yourself that your small piece of it has something – at least one thing – you are grateful for when you look out over it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Let them eat soup

This past weekend was soup time. Why?

Frankly, the diet of shakes and formula and yogurt is, at times, something that just does not satisfy that deep inner craving for food that is…well, more food-like. Normal people food, I call it.

Soups made: broccoli cheese and roasted red pepper. The broccoli cheese went over very well, according to the taste testers, and since that one is nearly gone, today I’ll be making an even larger batch, picking up more of what I need after I finish my appointment with the gut doc.

This past weekend was also the weekend I was going to make hot sauce from the tabasco harvest, but I just never really got there to do it. I’m going to put that back on the list and hopefully be able to cross it off this weekend.

In the meantime, my last feed of the night awaits me: formula, yogurt, and my last round of meds for the day. Night.  Early morning now, I see by the clock.

Speaking of clocks, can I just mention here AGAIN that I cannot stand the end of daylight saving time? I’d rather be like Arizona in this one, particular, specific way: leave the clocks alone. Spring forward and just keep it there. The circumstances for which it was created no longer apply to our world in the 21st century, and like old, obsolete hardware, should be put out of its – and our – misery.

On the writing front: I decided to work on one of the novels for NaNoWriMo this month, while working on one of the other novels in the spaces between that writing and “real” work. This is mainly because the entire plot and story for this NaNoWriMo novel came to me last night rather suddenly and completely. I know exactly how it begins, how exactly it ends, and I know the larger chunks of the material filling in the gulf between those two bookends. I am not quite up to the word count total I should be after two days of working on this novel, but that is only because I had not actually planned to do NaNoWriMo, This is a spur of the moment decision. As an even bigger challenge to myself, I’m setting my goal at over the 50K words that deems anyone a “winner” for NaNoWriMo, and I am also committing myself, here in public, to writing the entire novel, doing all the things that need to be done to get it into publishable form, and publishing it.

Lesson for the day? Make your goals big ones, but make sure your path to that goal is broken into manageable chunks. It’s too easy to have fear invade your mind because you are focusing too much on the giant goal you’ve set, thinking you must do it all at once. You don’t.  There is very little in life that can be accomplished in one fell swoop, but there are a large number of things in life that can be done with consistent, persistent effort, and a map that ultimately leads to the larger goal.

Until next time, peeps: be well.