So what’s been going on? Recovering from the laryngectomy, Regrouping from yet another lost season in the garden. Finally getting back on the tractor for mowing. Doing other chores like taking care of the bees and cleaning out the mobile chicken coop. The latter is made not quite so onerous by the fact that my sense of smell is gone unless I work at it, so moving around chicken crap and soiled nesting material in the heat is not a “pass out from the odor” moment.
Speaking of mowing, there has been a lone cattle egret hanging around the property on the days I mow. It’s a sound strategy, considering all the grasshoppers and crickets and frogs that get disturbed. It’s practically a drive-through for the winged creatures that are on the property – the chickens, but also this guy/gal:
Swallowed it whole, as they do.
S/he spent awhile wandering around in the beeyard as I moved on to finishe mowing elsewhere. It was a nice visit.
In work-related news, one of our biggest vendors decided to upend their entire licensing scheme, so I’ve been spending a ton of time dealing with that (which irritates me, because I could be spending that time on other, more enjoyabe things, but such is life).
I plan to start updating again regularly, just to get me in the habit of doing it. Hopefully, I can translate that over to my (fiction) writing.
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.
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.
“The writing was superb, and for those who say no I ask you a question “Do you have a degree from a university in English? Have you written a novel? If you answered no to both question well you are not qualified as a professional to discuss writing.”
That’s an actual quote from someone to another party who didn’t like the book they were reviewing, but that the commenter liked quite a lot.
And it’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. You do not need an MFA, nor do you have to have a published novel to review books and pass judgment on the writing in a book, just as you don’t need to have played professional football (or to have played football at all) to know that a not-so-stellar quarterback – which, alas, Jax has had over and over and over again – throwing downfield back across his body is a bad idea 99% of the time.
Let me tell you this about writing: there are no rules for the art of writing. But there are rules about the craft of writing. These are two very different realms.
The art of writing may take you to the point of creating your own universe, or only having left handed people in your book, or deciding time is a useless construct.
But the craft of writing means you need to get these things across to people in a manner they can understand, and in a manner that jibes with the world you’re in. Did you write a high fantasy novel? If so, having someone tell another person “Later!” as they’re leaving is poor craftsmanship, and a break in the mindset of the reader. Did you decide in your literary novel that you were not going to identify any characters, ever, in dialogue, leading to confusion on the part of your readers as to who is saying what? Bad idea. Does your thriller have saidisms absolutely everywhere, with people intoning, muttering, spitting, without them every just saying something – or with people “intoning gravely” or “muttering resignedly” or “spitting angrily” versus “saying”? Not good.
What you do need to do: use grammar properly. If you think you must write in the dialect of one character, don’t do it every time the character speaks, and don’t do a wall of text from that character in dialect. When the character first speaks, sure, do the dialect thing. Then let it go, as you’ve planted it in the mind of the reader. Readers are pretty smart. They’ll get it.
Likewise, make sure your continuity is good. Unless you are specifically writing third person omniscient, don’t go into all the characters’ heads. And even if you are, don’t head hop in a single paragraph. Don’t switch from first person to third person in the middle of a paragraph or chapter. This is confusing. Don’t change from present tense to past tense in the middle of the book unless you are moving to something that has happened in the past. If you have a character named Stan at the beginning of the book, don’t start calling him Dan somewhere in Chapter Six. If Stan has dark, shoulder-length hair, don’t make him blonde with a buzzcut three chapters later unless you show us this or at least explain it.
And don’t – DO NOT – wade into your one or two star reviews and tell someone who disliked your book that they’re stupid and obviously don’t know what’s going on in the world. That’s a one way ticket to be put on peoples’ “Never Read” list.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?