Category Archives: Writing

Gearing up

Aaaaaannnnnnd we are back. Again.

When I finally got over having pneumonia all the time, I thought, great, now I’ll be able to get stuff done and also start writing. But it didn’t quite turn out that way, thanks to a number of things, one of which is the constant shuffling at the NOC. They’d like it very much if we moved over to Jax2, which is the shiny new area they’ve built out. I’m trying to stop saying “the only problem with that is…” because it sounds rather like I’m valuing problems more than solutions. So, the solution to that would be to physically move all the servers and assorted gear from Jax1 to Jax2. Our racks, the ones we own, cannot go there – we’d be using their racks (for free) and we’d still have a cage to ourselves, just as we do now. We’d remove our racks from the NOC entirely – they would join the ones already in my shed here at the ranch, and would be destined for craigslist, I imagine. The logistics need to be worked out on that.

Circling back to the main point: there are going to be some changes around here. I spent much of 2018 dealing with about a billion things that slipped into Todo Lake while I was busy being sick. That impacted other things, like the bees and the gardens: neither thrived. I also got virtually no writing done.

After this all bled into 2019, I made a decision: either I was going to write – which I’ve wanted to do since I was quite young – or I was not. And if I was not, I was going to stop talking about it and thinking about it, and just go on with the rest of my life. It is not an easy conversation to have with yourself, believe me. But I decided that yes, writing was something I really, really wanted to do: both prose and poetry, the latter of which sustained me through high school boredom.

How do we prioritize writing over everything else I have going on (except the business; that of course has to stay, as it’s what pays the bills)?

By brain dumping absolutely everything that needs to be done in all the non-writing areas of my life, no matter how large or small they are, no matter how much or little time each task will take. And then, going over the lists and knocking out items from Todo Lake. What do those dumps look like? Like this:

This is two pages, just for the biz, of two columns each. I have lists for other areas: bees, chickens, gardens, home. The idea is to run through the lists and start knocking things out: if I run across something that will take five or ten minutes, and I’m in a position to do that something, the goal is to go ahead and do it at the moment, instead of saying “I’ll do it at x time” or allowing that five or so second of decision making pass and allow the chore, whatever it is, to be punted along down the road.

Obviously, not everything will take just a few minutes to do. But if there is something I estimate will take 15 minutes or more, or is a multi-day item (rolling out some administrative scripts to all servers, for instance, would probably be a multi day activity), doing X numbers of servers each day until they are all completed.

I’ve given myself the month of February to cross off as much of this as I can. On March 1, the writing takes priority, regardless of how many items are still floating in Todo Lake. Those will then get done by and by.

There are some things, though, I’ve decided to start early.  One is that I deactivated my primary facebook account over two years ago, and have just a personal facebook profile that now manages my author facebook page (since publishers want you to have a “platform”, ugh) and the biz page. I’ve also kicked myself off my personal twitter account this week: no going on twitter for any reason, including to look at links other people send me.

Two is to post on this here blog every day. I’ve had streaks before, but this particular exercise is to do it regardless of how I feel, what else is going on, if I “don’t have time” (there is usually some kind of block of a few minutes or longer to put something up), or if I don’t have anything in particular to say. Even if I just type in the date and the time, that will be enough. The goal: to simply make sure I can commit to it. After all, writing novels takes that kind of commitment.

Three: read 100 pages of a book every day. Any book, any subject. The goal: to keep up my reading habits. Not terribly difficult, since i love to read. The danger of this is settling in to read and then not stopping to do the other things I want to get done.

Four: meditate for ten minutes a day. The goal: mindfulness and stress relief. The secondary goal for this is to bump that to twice a day. I plan to start small, for five minutes a day to begin, because I know it will take practice to get my brain to stop yammering away when it should be still.

I hope all of you are pursuing whatever it is you want badly to do. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Coloring the sky

After a pretty heavy storm back in July, we got a nifty double rainbow at the ranch: sharp, full colors, courtesy of Mother Nature.

I had been doing really well both with the daily blog posts and with the writing toward the novel, but got derailed because (as usual) I shift a ton of energy to all the things that are on the todo list – which of course never ends – for the business. By the end of the day, between the chickens, bees, and work on the property/in the gardens, and the work work added on top of that, I’m usually falling asleep at my desk.

So, I have to rein in the “everything has to be checked off every day!” portion of the brain and divert that energy into writing. I’ve recruited one of my sisters to act as an accountability person for me, just to ask me if I got my writing done each day around her bedtime hour.

I keep having specific scenes for books other than the one I’m working on primarily, and ideas for other books come zipping into my brain all the time. I suppose this is a good problem to have, Focus. Focus. Focus. Get the first one done. Then you’ll know you can do it, and the next one should be easier in reducing that gut-wrenching worry about finishing something. Anything.

Remember, folks: it’s never too late.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Off my feed

Ever wonder where that phrase came from?

Anyone raised on, near, or around a farm would know immediately.

I was up until after 5:30 this morning transferring mail from one server to another. While one rather large batch was transferring, I took the opportunity to grab a quick nap. I got back up, set off another item, went back to bed for about 40 minutes, then got back up again, unpacked something, updated a ticket, and hauled myself out for some physical therapy related to laryngospasms, which are unpleasant and make you feel like you’re going to die because you can’t breathe. I then waited at the rehab place for 45 minutes before actually getting into it. If I had not been short on both sleep and food, I probably would have been more charitable in my mind about waiting – again – for some medical-related bullshit. To make things even more exciting, I have an appointment with an ortho tomorrow, then on the 3rd, 7th, and 9th, with different doctors, with a followup at the rehab place on the 14th. Thrilling. Also, fuck cancer. If you’re offended by the f word….this probably is not the place for you.

The chicks have shipped, according to an email from the hatchery. I’m hoping they arrive tomorrow, but they can survive up to three days in transit – shorter times are better, of course, but such is the wonder of being able to order just about anything through the mail.

I had planned on mowing late this afternoon, but it has been so humid here today that nothing dried out. Such if the wonder of Florida.

The even weirder than normal sleep thing and food thing have me off my feed in the “I feel odd” way. I’m hoping that will pass if this little tech world of mine cools it a bit. I’m hoping that getting this done and getting some writing done will help, too. Killing off someone – literarily speaking, of course – does wonders for one’s mood.

I was looking to the skies the other night – the moon and Mars are very close to one another in the early evening sky, and got this shot of the moon.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Adversity

As you, dear readers, know, I’ve had my share of adversity lo these 13 recent years. This morning, one of those annoyances made their appearance: a nasty headache. I managed to get up, then thought it would probably be better if I could get a little more sleep and not endure the worst of it.

Did not work out. Part of that was because I’m an insomniac even at the best of times, and it takes me forever to fall asleep anyway unless I am totally beat. The other part was because my brain wouldn’t shut up with scenes for the current novel, ideas for the next one or two or ten, snatches of dialogue, the things I needed to get done today, and the things I had planned to do today.

So I got back up and used tylenol and caffeine to deal with it. That has worked out okay, but it’s like a small piece of my brain noggin is on an acid trip (or what I imagine it would be, since I’m not into that sort of thing): a little out of myself. No hallucinations, thankfully. I almost  blew off today’s blog, because let’s face it, who is reading this? But I reminded myself that this is more me than anyone else, and it warms me up nicely for the other writing I need to do. Thanks, Brain!

One of the things I needed to get done was to feed the bees. We’re heading into the next nectar flow, and they’ll probably only need this week before they’ll be able to forage what’s blooming in the area. They’ll likely be able to fend for themselves through August and September, and perhaps (if this year is like last year) into October. It’s kind of a dicey time for a beekeeper: if  you get a swarm going in October, that’s probably a death sentence for the swarm and the hive it came from, even if October is warm, as it was last year (in fact, this is how I lost a hive last year: they thought it would be a good idea to swarm in October, when it was in the 80s, only to have October turn into fall and be substantially cooler). I captured the swarm, but they died and the original hive died as well. So, that’s going to take at least weekly inspections, during the muggiest, swampiest time of the year for us here. It was brutally nasty when I fed them today AND I got stung, twice, on my right quad while getting some rainwater out of one of the feed holders on a hive. Bitches.

Last night I went outside to get some audio of the peepers because they were SO LOUD. As I was coming in, i did the usual check for frogs, to try to keep them on the outside, where they belong, instead of the inside, where they sometimes die and mummify, leaving us to find them in the weirdest spots – and then yours truly has to clean those up, because no one else likes to. Sissies.

Here’s the video from last night: the Green Frog Rescue Follies. The two with hair on them were the ones I kicked out of the house as I went outside to get that audio.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And be on the lookout for tiny green frogs.

Consistency

As of yesterday, I had posted to the blog nine days in a row. Today makes ten. Go me.

At first, I thought I might just do something short and silly, like type the date and call it done. Interesting enough, I’ve found something to talk about, even if it’s of interest only to me. And even if it is only me interested, I’m okay with that.

I’ve also written – actual writing on the novel front – for five days in a row. As with the blog, at first I thought I might not have a whole lot to write toward the story – or at least, nothing that I’d be proud to point to and say, “This is not total shit.”

As with this here blog, though, it seems to be not terrible – the act of getting the words down or the words themselves. There will be things to fix, of course, and I can handle that. But if you never write it, it can never be really fixed, even if you think it’s perfect in your head. Excelsior!

I’ll leave you with two pics of a mystery bird my mom caught in the top of one of the trees in the rear of the property. It’s obviously some kind of heron, with that neck extension.

And here is the mystery bird leaving the ranch, neck retracted.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

New tools

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just cannot seem to get started on that Thing you really, really want to do, and if you do get started, you don’t carry forward with it.

Now, having things that must be done so something else doesn’t die – managing the bees, for instance, or feeding the dogs, or making sure the chickens are ok – makes it much easier to do those things. Other activities, that hurt no one and nothing (except maybe your psyche) are easier to rationalize when you don’t do them. Writing is one of those things, for me, mainly because in my justifying-energy-use head it just doesn’t seem to be as important as everything else in my life, when in reality, it’s absolutely quite important, according to my “what do I want to be when I grow up, what is it I do best, what’s the most fun thing to do” brain.

I’ve read tons of tips and books and watched scores of videos about procrastination, getting out of your own way, naming the importance of what you want to pursue, and all that other stuff that goes along with not doing the Thing you tell yourself you want to do.

But the other day, via a video (that I was watching more for fun than anything else), I heard about Focusmate.com. The theory behind it is one of an accountability partner – which, as plenty of people know, helps when you’re trying to do something like write or paint or sculpt or practice the piano, or anything else. You create an account, then book a session for whatever time you like. They pair you with someone, and at the designated time, you launch the session, and both you and your partner for that session are on webcams, doing your work and watching (out of the corner of your eye, if your screen is set up correctly) one another.  It’s like being there in person with one another, except without the travel or noise of whatever environment you might been in had you gotten together in real life.

Even though my internet connection sucks on the best of days, and because there is no way I’m meeting up in real life with a person or persons at a coffee shop or anywhere else, it seemed like something worthy of at least a try. So I ordered myself a cheap little webcam that is now hanging atop my monitor like The Raven, eyeing me, and today signed up for a session at 2, with another upcoming at 6. The sessions last 50 minutes – about the time of the typical session with a shrink or analyst, and I imagine that is not by accident. You log in, launch the session with whoever you’ve been paired with, exchange greetings and what you’re working on/hope to get done, and off you go, doing whatever it is you are respectively doing. In the early session, I was paired with a guy working on some computer science-related material; as I type this, it’s about half an hour or so from the second session I booked. I’m happy to report that in that earlier 50 minute session, I pounded out 968 words, according to Scrivener.

You’ll also get notices from the site when the next session is starting if you log in via your phone – I discovered this by accident because our internet connection went down about 40 minutes before the start of the 2 PM session I had booked. A notice popped up on my phone 30 minutes before I was due to launch the session on my desktop. That was nice, although I thought I was going to have to cancel that session thanks to my sucktacular ISP. Luckily, they got themselves going again, and I was able to complete the session without a problem.

So, if you’re looking to do something – even doing some reading you’ve been wanting to get to, I imagine – and like me, can’t get yourself to do it because you have ten million other things you need to do, you might want to give Focusmate a try. It’s free, and the only things you need are a camera, mic, and a computer with an internet connection available.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

When editors retire

And can’t quite leave their job behind. At least that’s what I’m assuming based on the pages of David Drake’s Servant of the Dragon paperback that mom and the younger bro brought back when they went to drop stuff off at the thrift store as we declutter some things around the homestead.

Now, I will not be reading this book; I’ve read some of Drake’s military SF in the past – the Hammer’s Slammers series, if you know of them – but I couldn’t get into others, for whatever reason.

So why am I talking about this book?

This is why.

The entire book is marked up this way, with pointers to pages where the current POV (point of view) character’s tale picks up again, to underlines of “like”, to the “red” markings for past tense verbs.  From time to time, I’d find a notation of “M=x” at the top of a page. It wasn’t until I happened on the third one that I realized the Nameless Editor was counting the number of times Drake used the word “mumurred”. It just so happens that this word also counts as a “red”, ending as it does in “red”. The Nameless Editor also found instances of “red” backwards – appearing as “der” in a word – and alliterative sentences

the marking for one of which looked like something from The Lord of the Rings:

Nameless Editor also picked up continuity errors:

Nameless Editor also noted repeated word use on a single page. Fittingly, this one tied into the “red” obsession, being another color.

He – I’m assuming Nameless Editor is a he – made notes of other repeated usage, like a character’s quarterstaff being “seven feet long” and another “tall thing” being seven feet tall:

He also inserted some commentary about where young, giggling girls should be put in relation to the book.

I’ll comment here and note that page 613 isn’t a page: it’s the inside of the back cover. Nameless Editor has a sense of humor.

After going through the entire book, Nameless Editor had this to say:

I’m not wading through the verify that count, but based on the number of pages that have been marked in some fashion, I’m guessing it’s pretty accurate.

I have no idea who Nameless Editor is, but he surely amused me by doing this.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

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.