Tag Archives: writing

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.

The art in us

Here we are. November has arrived after an October that seems to have gone far too quickly.

So what are we doing this month? Writing. Every day. On something real – the blogs don’t count, the facebook page update does not count, twitter does not count (although I will be trying to update this and those every day this month as well, even if my author twitter account tweet of the day is just a quote. This is not to say these things do not count in the overall scheme of things, because they do, but these things are not items I’m looking to publish. But novels? Yes. Poetry? Yes. These are the things that are roadmaps to some kind of audience at the other end. These are the things that someone will want to read, I’ve no doubt. There was a quote I discovered back in high school while researching something or another:

“In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.” (Andre Maurois)

This is true, of course. One need only peruse some reviews at Amazon or GoodReads and see that people love books we ourselves can’t stand, and for every one person who thinks the writing by an author is puerile and careless, there is another for whom the author’s prose sings in their heart. For every one person who thinks a particular book is a poorly done rehash of some other author’s story, there is another who has encountered the underlying story for the very first time and feels the story resonating in their bones. For every one person decrying a book as tedious because it seems to have been stitched together from many pieces of fight scenes just so the author could tag the book a thriller, there is another person who sees that same book as a page-turner of nonstop action that they read in just a few hours because they could not put it down.

And so with this in mind, it makes no sense to listen to that tinny, false voice criticizing every word that makes it to paper, that says no one will want to read any of the pap that’s been written, that says giving up on the writing is the best and honorable thing to do, to save others from having to experience its badness. No: that voice is lying. The words we have matter,  to someone. Making and finishing the art is far better and certainly more honorable than giving in to a voice that does not have our best interests in mind.

Until next time, peeps: Be well. And make your art, whatever that art may be.

Tell me your tale

Back when I was attending the local university, there was a semester where I had about 40 minutes between one class and another. I would generally plop down in the outdoor patio area outside the little food shop and bookstore to either to do some reading for classes or work on papers or whatnot. It never failed that at some point, someone would join me at the table where I was sitting, greet me, and, after I replied, would start talking. They would talk about themselves, and not just relative to the university and classes they happened to be taking, but personal things: surgeries they’ve had, jobs they hold, their kids and partners and parents, where they were from if not from Florida, or if they were, what city/town they were from, broad strokes about their homes and the people in their towns, and virtually any other topic that came to mind.

This is not isolated; I’ve had the same experience in other places as well. I don’t ask them anything about themselves when they sit/stand with me or say “Hi, how are you, why don’t you tell me every single thing you can about yourself in the x minutes we have together in this little dot on the planet we find ourselves sharing.”

No, I generally return the greeting, and then simply wait or glance over whatever it is I’m doing – studying, finding a part in a store, looking over electronic gear the geek in me loves to play with and touch. I would say 80% of the people with whom I come in contact spill their guts to me.

Interestingly enough, this seems to be hereditary. My mother is the queen of people giving her info dumps about themselves, and it’s almost she has something on her forehead written in an invisible ink that only lights up when someone’s talkative aura triggers it, saying “Tell me your life story.”

She was telling me about the people in the waiting room at the hospital – my aunt going in for a procedure, not me: Dora, an elderly lady who never married, who has a bundle of nieces and nephews, and who sleeps in a recliner when any of those nieces or nephews stay over. She stopped smoking 20 years ago, and loaned out a daybed/futon to one of the clan, only to receive it back with the mattress almost destroyed and useless, and the frame disassembled when it was returned to her, which was missing some nuts and bolts when she was attempting to reassemble – so many, in fact, that building it back up would be pointless, so out it went to the road for someone to pick up out of her trash.

She collects these tales wherever she goes, from the grocery store to a medical waiting room of some sort.

I’ve told her to start writing them down and emailing them to me, even if just in a stream of conscience matter, without worrying about punctuation or capitalization or spelling. While we were discussing this, I also came up with a title for a collection of stories told to the unnamed protagonist, to detail how intimately some people can confide into a total stranger – I imagine from a psychological standpoint, it helps to be able to unload the stress or the boasts or the worries or any of the usual life situations to strangers, as there’s no emotional involvement as there would be with their family, immediate or otherwise.

If she sent me those, I could flesh them out, and after compilation, the resulting book could be called Other Peoples’ Stories.

Hastily written notes

When you’re still working between 2 and 3 AM and have some wild thought occur to you while you’re trying to fight off sleep and succeeding at least some of the time, it would help if you scribbled it down as something someone could decipher. Including yourself.

I think it says “Retrieving boxes/suitcases of beer”. Maybe. Could be “Swap cases” of something. Ah well. If it wants to come back, I’m sure it will. Next time I’ll try to take a moment to be a tiny bit tidier about it. After all, that could be the next blockbuster book.

Speaking of things book-related, my intent today was to spend a few hours writing. But since Tuesdays are hell on earth for us for whatever reason, I spent the whole day doing work work and not the side work. Toss in a blizzard of (entirely unnecessary) emails from the control panel software, which helped freak even more people out than usually turn up in the desk on the day, and it was a zoo. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day, although it will become my today soon enough if I don’t get a little sleep overnight.

Heading for a Fall

We may finally be heading toward fall here at the ranch.

The maples have discarded most of their leaves, the water oaks are following suit,  and the wind from the north carries with it the promise of our little piece of the planet cooling down just a tad.

(Two days later…)

Our forecast stands, thankfully: cooler weather will definitely help me get the gardens pruned back of weeds and covered for the next few months. And by “me”, I mean I’ll be pulling weeds and my sister will be putting the weedblock down. She hates weeding. And that’s okay, since I’m having her do the heavy lifting – I’ve done something to my shoulder and either damaged my rotator cuff or the labrum. I’m leaning more toward the rotator cuff, because of the clicking and popping and it hurts pretty damned badly to raise my arm. My right arm, I should clarify: my good arm, since the surgery from the (fuck you, cancer!) cancer removed muscle and nerve tissue from my left arm and while I can carry stuff with that arm, mostly, I can’t raise it up over my head like a normal person would. So, two damaged arms. One from surgery. The other probably from throwing the ball for the puppy without being warmed up sufficiently each round. The round where it popped was apparently the one that was trying to my attention and tell me to stop doing the stupid thing.

Cooler weather also brings in the time for making (which sounds like something out of  fantasy novel, and who knows, that may very well be somewhere in the fantasy trilogy that’s bouncing around in my head). I can make a huge batch of hot sauce made from tabascos – obviously I can’t just call it “tabasco sauce”, since McIlhenny would probably sue me to death, so I need a name for it. But that’s a thing that needs to be done with all the windows open and fans going, and I still have to wear a mask while making it. The upside is that once made and stored properly, it will not lose a lot of flavor as it ages. It won’t go bad – there’s just vinegar, salt, and tabascos in it, so it’s by far the simplest thing I make as far as processing the harvest goes. But if it’s stored in a warm, hot place, it can lose some flavor.

The other item: some more coffee roasting. We’ve decided that really does have to be done outside, because some of the roasts are darker – I made an absolutely miller batch of columbian/sumatran been mix, roasted dark – but it does smoke a little, making the smoke alarms go off, and the whole house smells like a coffee processing outfit. The latter is not so bad, but the former is annoying. Since the weather is agreeable, I’ll be roasting up some combinations for my taste testers to do some trials. I did a medium roast on some Indonesian beans that my mom really liked, so that will also be on the agenda. Want some? Drop me a comment here, or drop me a note via email (clients: in a ticket is fine, it will reach me). It won’t be packaged in anything fancy, like an actual coffee bag, but we will vacuum pack it. Specify whole beans or ground – I recommend whole bean if you have a grinder, as whole beans retain their flavor longer than ground, but the ground version won’t be so much that you can’t drink it in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, in the beeyard, the swarm I caught last season swarmed away, and one of the new hives had to have killed the queen, made a new one, and absconded. In the newer hives, the queens have one wing clipped so they can’t go anywhere. And since I’ve been ill pretty much constantly this year, including three times in the hospital, I’ve not been able to pay attention to them as I would have liked. But, I did get out there the other day, and did a few quick inspections. Most of the boxes are bursting with bees (yes, I do like some alliteration), with one that’s straggling pretty badly, and I’m thinking that next season I’m probably going to have to commit some regicide and put a new queen in that box.

I also picked up, courtesy of the vast intarwebz, an idea for controlling small hive beetles. These little assholes get into the hives, poop everywhere, go through the comb, ruining the comb AND the honey in it, and are generally a royal pain in the ass. Specialty food/bar prep towels, cut in squares, and laid on the two back edges between two hive bodies has done more to keep the small hive beetles under control than any other non-chemical way I’ve used. The towels are thicker than usual paper towels, and have some tufting to them. The bees will pick at it, because it’s a foreign item in the hive and they want to clean it up and get it out, but more importantly, bees herd the beetles into corners on their own. When they do that without anything in place, the beetles are still alive and they will break themselves out when the beekeeper removes a frame. With these towels in place, the beetles get stuck, very much like velcro, because they have barbs on their legs. Leave the towels in for a couple of weeks, and then change them out for a fesh set. I thought I had a photo of some of the beetles caught in a couple of the hives I tried it in, but I can’t find that, so I’l just take some new pics on my visit to the beeyard tomorrow. I’ll be inspecting a few more hives, feeding the ones who need it, and generally getting them ready for “winter”, such as it is here.

Enough of the almost all word dump that doesn’t even do justice to anything. Until next time, peeps: be well.

Fans of the long form

Once again, an unfinished post because I worked (for work work, not book-related work) until the wee hours and then fell into bed.

That aside, I’ve seen rumblings for quite some time from people getting frustrated with the various social media things because it’s simply too difficult to write anything in a long form that will be seen all the time. By “seen” I don’t mean that no one will see the piece, ever, but that the piece will be seen by the intended audience for it. This occurred to me last year: even on Facebook, if you’re following someone, it’s entirely possible Facebook’s strange algorithms will prevent you from seeing everything that person has written unless you are specifically working to check what has been posted by that person. Even if you do see what someone has posted, if it’s long, it will be truncated and a “read more” link given – even for Facebook notes. For authors of the content, that is a bad thing: there are a fair number of people who will not choose to read the entire piece. A couple of paragraphs above the fold will be it, and they’ll toss a like on it, maybe offer a comment, and move on in the cluttered landscape of Facebook.

Twitter? Trying to follow some tweet thread/storm that someone has posted can be an exercise in patience or frustration, depending on how you look at it, as there’s a good chance that while the author is tweeting within the character limit, people may  also be commenting on any number of messages within the thread, disrupting the flow of whatever the author of the tweets is saying. In addition, many people follow hundreds, if not thousands of other people/organizations. It’s terribly easy to miss threads you might otherwise read from someone if you caught it in the firehose of content that is the twitterverse.

The same things go for any of the other social media outlets: sometimes, perhaps even a lot of times, the content creators find they are not reaching all of their followers, and the followers often miss out on what that creator has posted, because it gets buried in some fashion – most of the time, through sheer volume, because people just click “follow” without understanding it simply is not possible to get the content from every single person they’re following without being on the social media platform 24/7.

These things are why I’ve been seeing more and more people go back to basics, resurrecting long-dormant blogs so they can post longer content and ensure that one, their followers can find it, and two, followers can read the entire piece, without any interruptions by ads or “sponsored content” or trying to follow a thread down a rabbit hole. It’s terribly difficult to get the same nuances in long form writing when it’s being done on Facebook or Twitter or wherever else, as they simply do not easily lend themselves to that. There are plugins available that allow content on the blogs to automatically post to the various social media outlets, even if it’s just a quick snapshot of the title or first paragraph or so.

This is not to say I’m against social media. I firmly believe content producers should put their work out via any means possible, and if they manage to get peoples’ eyeballs on it within those social media circle, so much the better. But I am saying as more and more people realize what a time suck  (among other problems) social media is and move away from it (like yours truly) and with more people writing, worrying how much will be truncated by any particular outlet, or how many ads will be posted with it, or how many tweets they’d have to rapid-fire post  to get their content across,  the long form content writing area is coming back around. That, in my book, is an incredibly important -and good – thing.