When I first saw a picture of Zailey, she had more white fur than anything else. I wasn’t impressed. I think blue heelers should be blue. My wife then explained that she would turn colors. She then showed me a picture of Zailey’s parents. They were pretty and what I expected. I was intrigued and hopeful.
When I finally met her, she was bluer, but still not like today. Though, in the winter, she is darker than in the summer. I do like her coloration better the darker she is.
I’ve just read this awesome book from beginning to end for the first time. I’m going to read it again next week. While it was that good, I do have ulterior motives. This time I’ll be reading it for grammar and other errors. I’ll correct things as I go.
Death Curse was awesome to read the first time around, but it’ll be even better by the time its published. Just like Zailey is prettier now than when she was a pup!
Do you ever just see animals making noises and imagine the conversation they are having? Two geese were hanging around me all afternoon a little over a week ago. About an hour before their rowdy conversation, one went to a creek just down the hill from me. About forty-five minutes later, the one left laying on hillside got up and honked a few times. Fifteen minutes later, the creek one returned answering the call from the hillside one.
Her: Where have you been?
Him: Swimming and hunting in the creek.
Her: You've between there all damn day! Now you stink!
Him: Only an hour.
Her: Well, I've been hungry the last fifteen minutes.
Him: Then why didn't you join me in the creek?
Her: I don't want creek food. Plus, I don't want to smell like creek. I want good food from a clean place!
Him: Then where do you want to go eat?
Her: I don't know.
Her: Not from the creek.
Him: Then let's go north. There's a nice lake up there.
They fly and start heading north.
Her: You sure I'll like it.
Him: You'll like it.
Her: Is it clean water?
Him: It's clean.
She continued to nag as they fly. He did his best to comfort her. I hope they found something for her!
For me, dialoging a piece of writing is fairly easy. I imagine what a person would say in context of what is going on around them. Then I switch my thinking to imagine what the other person would do (nonverbal) and say in response. I continue to switch back and forth until I get to the conclusion I want to get to.
Even harder is when there are three or more people in the scene. Sometimes, I ignore the extraneous characters the first pass through the writing. Then the subsequent pass or passes, I write in their stuff and do my best not to mess up what is going on with the main two. It works well if I have a crowd that can cheer or boo at appropriate times, though that doesn’t happen too often. I can sometimes pass the buck to someone else for a moment through the scene. Say A and B are talking back and forth. C and D are in the background for much of the scene. Maybe there are some lines where it doesn’t matter if A or C or D say them. Yet other lines where I can substitute C or D in for B. This way all four players are in the scene and active. Another way I incorporate multiple players is if I have one of the people in the background agree with one of the main talkers and maybe even add some clarifying remarks. This keeps the dialogue between the main two the same, but I’m giving more of a roll to my other actors.
It all starts with imagination, though real life, like the geese, often have a way of shedding a light on how a conversation should flow. All you have to do is observe what is around you.
Mistake number one was that I filled up with gas. I didn’t have to, but I was at a quarter of a tank and knew I’d be making a run to Manhattan the next Monday (this was a Friday). Manhattan gas prices are about a dime higher than in Junction City, so I filled up well in advance.
Mistake number two was assuming that everyone else would follow the laws of the road. I didn’t have a care when I saw that green light and could go straight through the intersection.
Mistake number three which followed from mistake number two was that I didn’t slow down. It was an intersection, and it was “rush hour”. Plus, it was Friday, so people were in a hurry to start their weekend.
Mistake number four was not looking for idiots. Again, this kind of follows from mistake two. I just wasn’t expecting someone to turn right in front of me when they didn’t have the right-of-way.
Luckily, my car didn’t push their SUV all the way over. If I didn’t stop when I did, I’m sure it was going over.
Luckily, we both walked away. I did go to the ER as the airbag whacked my arm rather good. I had no broken bones. I did have a contusion from the seatbelt, a concussion, and was achy in general.
Speaking of concussion, I just started the first story for a new collection of short stories and I’m calling it Concussion. The cover will be a planet being hit by a moon and the resulting planet breaking up. (Yes, the cover is already done since I no longer start writing books without a cover as it is more important than the book.)
Not all concussions are bad, but the car is totaled. I already miss it. We’re going to wait for finances to stabilize before replacing it. I’m looking forward to the replacement and the new book!
We had our first, severe thunderstorm a couple of weeks ago. Milo, as usual, was freaking out. He was trembling and cowering with every strike. It didn’t help that some of it shook the house. Plus, the rain was pelting down in big drops.
He first sought solace in a blanket on the couch, but it wasn’t long before he was on my lap then crawling up my chest. Zailey just looked at him like he was dumb. Or maybe she was jealous of the extra attention. Anyway, Milo trembled and whined as he laid on my chest (I was halfway reclined in my chair). Even after the thunderheads were gone, he still stayed where he was since it was raining, and he didn’t know if there was going to be another strike soon or not.
I’m doing some work in my novel, Thunderbolt Curse, which starts with a lightning strike that knocks Marta and Bourne unconscious. Marta recovers quickly, but Bourne is out of it for a couple of days. The “witch” (the gender of the person is called into question) who attacks them has some abilities that the current ensemble of good guys (well, mainly gals, but I’m using guys here in the collective human sense) lack.
From the very beginning, even though Marta is previously shown as this all powerful being, her abilities are put to the test. Plus, I’ve now got a bigger cast of characters to juggle through this new threat to them and possibly more than just them. All because of a little lightning strike and not knowing when or where the next strike will come from.
So, while Milo has nothing to fear from the thunder, my characters do. I’ll keep comforting Milo and cranking out more of this story.
A few weeks ago, it was nice out. I let the dogs out for the morning unlike when it was cold out. Around noon, I took my lunch break and let the dogs in. They were a bit wound up, but they soon settled. They laid down while I ate and watched a show.
After lunch, I decided to stay downstairs with the dogs (something I do from time to time, especially when it is cold out, so they aren’t just in their kennels). Neither dog stirred. Zailey even snored for a while. Whatever they were doing that morning wiped them out! They were done.
Another thing that is done is Death Curse. Having spent the last two years writing it, I feel good about it. I still need to revise and self-edit before turning it over to my editor (who already agreed to do it). This is the sequel to Flaming Curse and is probably even better, if that is possible. There is certainly much more action in this one.
One thing I try to not do with my series is to be formulaic. While there is some structure that carry over between the two, I really went off-script in coming up with a baddy for this book. I’ve also divided up my characters early on (Bourne, Greta, and Beth get kidnapped) and brought in a bunch of new characters, including a very likable Native American girl named Wind Rock. Bourne also carries more of the action in this book since his story diverges, but Marta is the big badass (okay, she’s scared shitless, but is willing to face her fears to get her guy and friends back). It does standalone (though, it does help to know about the characters from the first book) and is fun at the same time!
So, just like my dogs, I’m finished. Stick a fork in me. *Takes a nap. Wakes.* Now I’m ready to start another book! Time to get Thunderbolt Curse (or maybe something else) going!
Sorry, but I am going to deviate from my usual blog format of linking animal behavior to my writing. Instead, I’m going to talk about multiple interests aligning. In this case, writing, numismatics, and outer space have all neatly come together for me. I’ve made a display of my various artifacts and will present them at the Manhattan Coin Show this Sunday.
First is my writing. With some of my sci-fi, I went off world with it. Notably, Alien Fear and its sequel, Tech Fear, are set on the planet Centaur in the Alpha Centari system. Humanity’s move to this planet was even a plot device. The amount of scientific research I did for these novels enhanced the reader’s experience and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished. Now my Martian Western, Desperados of Mars, is getting the same treatment. Plus, all my short stories set off world were fun little journeys into the unknown.
A few years ago, I made a trip to Florida for work. I had some down time, so I headed for Kennedy Space Center and was amazed by much of what I saw. I also got to meet astronaut John Herrington and enjoyed a short chat with him. He was from Colorado and saw my Broncos hat and so we started there, but also talked about being an author (he wrote a children’s book and is thinking about doing a memoir). In 2019, as the first Native American tribesmen (there were other astronauts who were part Native American, but not part of a tribe) to fly in space, he was honored by being put on the reverse of the 2019 Sacagawea Dollar. I also acquired a Sacagawea Dollar that was encapsulated with his signature. Other coins pay tribute to other space related items including the 2019 50th anniversary Apollo 11 commemoratives (of which I have all but the gold piece).
So, we’ve talked about my foray into sci-fi, but not about what got me started. In the ‘80s, I watched most everything Trek. There have been quite a few coins dedicated to the show and the actors and ships on it. I don’t have many pieces, but I do have some.
Speaking of research, one of the things I loved to do is research coins and paper money. There is a story behind the pieces, and it’s interesting to listen to it. I’ve now told a story about some of my experiences that are truly out of this world!
Milo is a little shit. If you’ve been following me for long, you’ve probably gathered this already, but I want to make this clear. He is spoiled rotten, and he’ll do anything to be the center of attention. For instance, if Zailey is on my lap getting attention, Milo will run to the window and do some grunting like something is out there. Zailey, curious like a cat and absolutely can’t stand someone passing our house, will then jump off my lap, run to the couch, and investigate what Milo is alluding to.
Now that my lap is empty, Milo can run to me and settle in. Zailey investigates the yard and when she sees she’s been duped; she begins to pout. She’ll either go to her dog bed or find a nice, comfy place on the couch and look away from me. Oh, she’ll give furtive glances my way with her big, brown, and sad eyes, but she doesn’t fuss. She just pouts that Milo has duped her into switching places for the hundredth time.
In working on Death Curse, I realized that a chapter just didn’t have a natural place to end. I always try to end on something that would naturally propel the reader to the next chapter. That wasn’t happening, so I started writing the next chapter into this current one. Thus, I finally stopped when I wrote this second chapter, making two into one. This meant one less chapter in the book, one less to share with my writing group, and one chapter closer to being done. Since my group meets every couple of weeks, I’ll be done two weeks earlier than expected.
I’ve been sharing short stories with another critique group. This group had more submissions than usual the last month. This meant my latest submission was pushed back a week more than I expected. Thus, it has pushed back my plans for completing Infinite Horizons by a week.
I was planning on releasing Death Curse about a month after Infinite Horizons. With these scheduling changes, it’ll mean Death Curse will come out about a month BEFORE Infinite Horizons. Or at least, that’s the plan for now. Who knows if the plan will change again or not. I was eying Halloween for the first book release, and that is still the plan.
While Milo’s switch was underhanded to say the least, there was nothing underhanded with my writing switch.
Day two of the hunt a few weekends ago started out poorly. The first pass through the field we were working yielded only a few birds that I had a chance on. They were quail and they were heading from my left to right and about thirty yards out, so not an easy shot. I tried at the lead of two out in front of me, not realizing that the third bird took a line straight over my head and would have been the easier shot.
The second pass was just weird. There were two pheasants that got up in front of me and I missed both. The guy to my right (I was at the end of the line) got both, so I had no chance at a second shot. Then I fell in a badger hole and that sucked. The resulting faceplant hurt and it took a minute for me to get up and a few more minutes to get my back unkinked to continue the walk (we were about 2/3rds of a mile into the mile long jaunt).
The next bird that got up didn’t know I was having a bad day. It didn’t know what it was doing. It thought it was going to fly away to my left. The guy to my right shot at it and drew some feathers. I shot and got nothing but head, effectively blowing it off.
In Gun Smuggler’s Tale, I describe a pheasant hunt through an uncut milo field. My character sees a bird slinking up the row, so is ready for it when it flies. He barely aims and cleanly takes off most of the head in his shot. This wasn’t fiction; I was describing a hunt from about twenty years ago. I was the one who cleanly shot the bird’s head off. Well, most of the head. The lower half of the beak was still there.
Life imitates fiction imitating life. Hmm. Or maybe I just get lucky sometimes!
A couple of weeks ago, I was pheasant hunting south of Great Bend. Our group consisted of six dogs from a couple of the guys. These dogs worked together often and worked well. Well, for the most part.
The first pass of the morning through some cropland reduction program (CRP) grasses was tough. It was raining on us, but the moisture made that grass tougher. At one point, there was a type of grass that was nearly six feet tall. Most of the field, the grass was around three foot or so. (Sorry, I don’t know the differences in grasses to tell you exactly what we were walking through.) When the grass switched to the six-foot stuff, the dogs found a scent that they liked, and they were already overly excited since this was the first pass. They homed in on the. A couple of dogs even worked to a frenzy and ended up crossing paths. They were so locked in on their trails, they ran into each other. This was right in front of me and I got a chuckle. Neither dog acted hurt and they just bounced off the other and continued their search. They got up a pheasant a minute later. I shot, but so did some other guys, so who knows if I got this one or not. (I did end the weekend with four solo birds and several others I aided in their demise, so a good weekend!)
In going to shows, I run into other authors all the time. You would think that I would see these other authors as competition, and they would see me the same way. We don’t. Instead, we help each other out in trying to make sales for one another. We think about it as cooperation than anything else. We help another author, and they’ll repay the favor.
I also know that my stuff is too dark for some people. It’s fine. Other people enjoy my stuff quite a bit. One way we help each other in a group is to see what genre a person likes and steer them accordingly. Heck, when someone comes to my table, as much diversity as I’m getting with my titles, I’ll steer them to one book over another. Just don’t ask me my favorite! That’s like asking a parent which child is their favorite. (In other words, I have a favorite, it just isn’t proper to tell you which it is.) Instead, I am going to try to figure out which is going to be your favorite so that the next time we meet, you’ll buy another book!
Running into each other is bad for dogs, but good for authors. I hope to run into you soon!
The other day, I was watching TV when a fight broke out. It wasn’t on the TV and it wasn’t even me and my wife. It was the damn dogs and Zailey was out for blood.
I’m hollering for them to stop while trying to break them apart. It took several attempts to grab Zailey by the scruff of her neck. She was slippery. Once I got her, I hauled her ass outside.
Turning to Milo, he had two puncture wounds on his face below his eye; one was very close to his eye. I grabbed a paper towel and held it there for a minute to try to get the bleeding to stop. After the minute, he wasn’t having any of me touching his wounds, so I had to let them bleed. Luckily, they were just oozing at that point.
We kept the animals apart the rest of the night. The next day was cold out, so they didn’t interact much since they were kept kenneled up. They seemed fine after that.
Not sure what prompted the fight. We think maybe there had been some food spilled from a kennel and Milo was eating it. Zailey didn’t want Milo to eat it, so she attacked. But neither my wife nor I saw said food or Milo eating it. We were that engrossed in the show we were watching.
Being engrossed is what you hope for when writing a fight scene. It usually takes me many iterations to get it right.
One night, I woke from a nightmare. A gang of thugs had jumped me in my driveway and wanted to play Russian Roulette with a semi-automatic handgun. Not possible as it will always fire on the first shot. So, I woke before I pulled the trigger.
If you want to stop the nightmare, rewrite the ending. I wrote notes to the nightmare, but I made a little change. I said that I pushed the clip release before yanking back on the slide. This prevented the next bullet from being loaded since the clip was slightly out. A quick push on the butt of the gun to get the clip fully back into place. I then wrote about the gun going click instead of bang. In the gang’s surprise, I then pulled back on the slide again, this time loading the gun. I shot a gang member and then took their weapon to fight the rest of the gang. I of course won!
Poof! No more nightmare. I slept easy the rest of the night. I also knew that my notes were too good not to do something with. At that time, I was still working on the outline for Whispers Within. I split my revised nightmare into two chapters to make sure to add in all the emotions of the incident. It was easy to write these two chapters from the point of view of the character as I could still see it happening to me in my mind. I’m pleased with how this fight turned out.
I can’t say that about all fights. My wife and I are trying several things to get the dogs to calm down and not fight. Hopefully, this’ll be the last fight in real life that I write about!
I want to begin this blog by relating my struggles with quail hunting. Every time I’ve been out, I’ve either missed my shots entirely or knocked them down only to not find them. Thus, I was adamant that I wouldn’t shoot at a quail should one get up where I had a chance so someone else could shoot. In fact, right before getting out of my dad’s truck a couple of weekends ago, I told my dad that I wouldn’t shoot any quail and only shoot pheasants.
Then my brother got up a quail and he shot at it three times, missing each one. My cousin, walking next to me, laughed. Then my brother got up another quail and missed this one. It was rare to see my brother miss, let alone miss two birds in a row. My cousin also made note of this.
A quail flew up in front of me. I didn’t hesitate and brought my shotgun up and fired. Miss. I fired again and this time the bird fell. I noted the spot so I could find it and lowered my gun. Another quail, kind enough to let me finish shooting at the first one before flying, got up. I brought the gun back up and barely aimed when I fired again. Two hits in a row! My cousin yelled, "At least one Olson knows how to shoot quail!" Dogs came over to assist with the retrievals and both birds were found! My streak of non-retrievals was over!
Every book I release, is another item I have to offer. The more that is out there, the more chances I have of becoming successful. In other words, I’ve noticed that people are more likely to buy if you have more things for them to choose from.
Another thing I see is that I have people looking me up to get another book after they’ve read something of mine. The first time was someone who bought Shorts came back the very next day of a two day event to get Dark Matter. Then, the same guy found me that fall and bought Twisted. Another person bought all three collections of short stories at one event and then found me a couple of months later to buy a couple of novels (I can’t remember which novels).
Last month was another experience entirely. I had a guy come up, look over my titles, listen to my pitches, and then he ended up getting all 7 books (this was before Whispers Within was available). I was blown away. It made my day, not only to see someone so enthused about my stuff, but also financially. I wouldn’t have made my expenses for this show without this sale.
I’m ready to get out there and hit the trails again. Quails and sales are within my grasp!
The post-holiday blues is threatening me. I’m doing my best not to let negativity touch me, but it is hard. Too much going on in the world that I find ridiculous (be kind to one another, people!) is part of the issue. Another are the negative comments, however unjustified, I get about my writing.
Being in a critique group, let alone two, means that you must develop a thick skin. Most of the time, people are trying to help, but there are people that don’t get what I’m doing, don’t know what they’re doing, or are jealous. These people are quick to judge me.
Take for example a short story I submitted to a group about an accident. I tell the story of the accident from two point of views; both think they are right. The people that got this, enjoyed the hell out of my story and enjoyed the structure of it, even. The people that wanted to judge me based on this story were appalled. They even went as far to say that I didn’t have a story. Others said that it was redundant to repeat from the other point of view. I would say that for the most part, these people just didn’t take the time to think about the story and its underlying meaning. It’s like the story was just too complex for them. There were more people who saw the complexity and helped me improve the story. Now, what to do about the people who didn’t get the story?
Fuck ‘em. I can’t please everyone, and it would ruin the story to explain everything to them in the story. If they really want to know what was going on in the story, then they needed to think about and maybe even reread it. Some stories I leave ambiguous, and this is one of them. I mean, if there are two different points of view, which is right? (I think that can be applied to a lot of issues in the world.)
One of the comments my wife and I get about our animals are concerns about their weight. For some people, our cat is too fat. Others think all our animals are too skinny. I think they are the way they are meant to be. I’m concerned for their health, don’t get me wrong. Just not body weight. Yes, I get annoyed that Zailey gets in more white hair in the summer as I like her with her winter, darker coat. I also realize that I wouldn’t appreciate her darker look as much without that disparity.
Thank goodness that cats and dogs don’t care what other people think about them. It might be the language barrier, but I also think it has a lot to do with the fact that someone loves them, and that’s all that matters to them.
One human showing affection is all the animals need to become secure. I think I can learn something from that. I also try to abide by the quote: “The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.” – David Schlosser
Zailey, Milo, and Jynx are brattier than usual. I don’t see that changing in the new year. Jynx and Milo are being finicky eaters of late. Milo’s always been spilling some food from his kennel, but he has been doing it more and more. I guess his bad teeth are getting even more sensitive.
Jynx leaves food he doesn’t like on his plate and is begging for more food even though he has food. He just can’t seem to be happy with the cheaper food. I’ve been switching him to more and more expensive food to keep him happy.
Since I must change Milo’s food, I’ll have to change Zailey’s as well. And the softer the better. I’m already eyeballing some alternatives, but they are looking a little more expensive than what they currently are getting. Though, I’ve already changed their food this year to a little more expensive stuff. So, their new year is looking a little brighter.
My 2021 is looking good, too. I’ve got Whispers Within coming out tomorrow! Get it here if you haven’t pre-ordered it.
Next out of the gate is Infinite Horizons. It’ll be fall before it drops, but I’m putting the final touches on it now and will be getting it in front of the editor soon. After that, Death Curse will be published. I’m currently writing the final chapters and then will work on rewrites and edits before getting the editor to look at it. I’m thinking somewhere around Halloween for the release.
As you can see, I have a busy year ahead of me. I guess I’m making up for “slacking off” in 2020 with nothing being published. I also need to plan the next set of things to work on while I’m keeping the editor busy and to work on after these books have been published. While I’ve got some things percolating, I’m not sure which one to brew next as they all sound good to me.
So, here’s to a great new year for everyone, even the dogs and cats out there!
Years ago (probably almost a decade ago), my mother-in-law gave my wife a sweater of the ugly variety. My wife decided it was better suited for our dog at the time, Rosco. So, then we got a laugh about it and went on with our lives.
A couple of weeks ago, the image of the dog in the sweater became my wife’s profile picture on Facebook. It had the hints of being festive while it was also a reminder of the dog. We then reminisced about the incident, but my mother-in-law had forgotten she was the origin of the ugly sweater until I reminded her. The conversation on the comical topic was made funnier by this revelation. So, years later, the gift was still giving.
Books are like that. When I find a good book, I tend to reread it over and over. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve read books like Jurassic Park by Michael Chrichton, A World out of Time by Larry Niven, Sphere by Michael Chrichton, and Cold as Ice by Charles Sheffield. My new repeater is The Martian by Andy Weir. Every time I read these books, I discover something new about them. Maybe it is an interplay I hadn’t noticed before or some foreshadowing so well done that you don’t notice it until you knew what was being foreshadowed.
In my own writing, I’ve got passages like this. On first read, the reader wonders what the heck the point of some passages were. As they move along, they forget all about it. Then something else comes up to tie in with the earlier bit and then things make since. The only problem is the reader has forgotten it. Thus, a second read would open their eyes to it. (Note: I’ve made the story enjoyable even if you forget about it.)
Lately, I’ve been working on a paranormal western series that has hidden information in the first book that isn’t revealed until the third book! To keep the information fresh, I’ve actually put more foreshadowing in the second book. I’m almost beating the reader over the head with it, but the reader doesn’t notice (at least my advance readers haven’t noticed it). In the first book, the information is taken as a quirk of the character. In the second, the source is a madman, so it almost feels like his ramblings or adds to his derangement. When the reveal happens in the third book, nobody is going to realize I’ve been hitting them over the head with it since book one. Then they’ll reread the series (because it is such a great series) and realize all the callbacks I’ve made to this huge revelation. (Start looking for it in Flaming Curse!)
Books and ugly sweaters are truly gifts that keep on giving! Merry Christmas, everybody.
Another event has made me think about the future and my desire to do more with my writing. A writer friend and mentor has been laid off from his primary source of income and he is going to use this opportunity to write for a living. He’s actually been thinking about doing this for a while, but now his hand has been forced. While I wouldn’t want to be forced into this situation, I do wonder what it would take for me to position myself to where he is.
One thing I think about is the “get rich quick” scenario. That was part of what drove me to write in the first place. Call me naive, but I thought I would write a novel and money would rain down on me. The reality is it has become another expensive hobby. Albeit very enjoyable, but still expensive. I do still think that maybe this next one (Whispers Within releasing 1/5/2021) will be my big breakthrough. Or maybe I’ll hit the casino and walk out with a truckload of cash. In any case, I would need a safety net before I can just walk away from my job.
Another thing I think about is to write part time until I retire and then write full time (which is what I’m doing). Again, I’m thinking of a safety net in having a 401k to fall back on in case I’m still scraping by with my writing. But that means my readers must wait a little longer for the sequels or even just the next collection of stories. Hopefully, you all are patient!
Notice that I’m working on having a safety net. I’ve been told that to become profitable in the business of writing, you need to cut the cord and venture out on your own. I have a friend doing this right now. Not sure if she is making enough to live on, but she is a bit more successful than I am with her sales. She also released a thirteen-book series in about five months, so she deserves the success. Check her out here.
Another problem I have is that I have some other expensive hobbies and I care for some expensive animals. Jynx, Milo, and Zailey are expensive. Between medicine, food, treats, and toys, I can’t afford these creatures! I don’t know how many times I’ve threatened to give one of them the boot at the slightest of irritations. I’ve told my wife that when one dies, hopefully at an old age and of natural causes, that we aren’t replacing them. After losing two and a proper grieving time, then we’ll talk about getting another animal.
Thus, this is the future I have planned out. What do you think?
A few weeks ago, was the opener to pheasant season. I made my annual trip home to engage in battle with these cunning beasts. As it happens, my armament wasn’t up to snuff. I even had several people ask me about my shotgun and I boasted about how reliable and accurate it had been since buying it about five years ago at a pawn shop. But, alas, it failed me this particular weekend. It is the gun on the cover of Gun Smuggler’s Tale.
The first time it failed, I was walking the edge of a tree row and had just gotten a bird a few dozen yards before a group of birds got up. I fired and after one shot, the next shell didn’t load (I have a semiautomatic). Try as I might, I couldn’t get the bolt to close. Since I was dinking with my gun, the other guys walked ahead of me. I stripped the gun and tried to get the gun apart but couldn’t. After finishing the walk, I caught up with someone and they also couldn’t get it apart. It took two of us together to get the gun apart and then the bolt closed. I thought that due to the dry conditions, I would oil the gun up some more (I had cleaned it and oiled it well not long before the trip) and continue to use it. It worked through the rest of the day.
The next morning, we were on our way through a field to a draw when I spotted a bird running in the field. I bailed out of the truck and ran after it, loading my gun along the way. We’d already hunted one spot and I’d had several shots and another kill to my count by this point. This bird got up well ahead of me running and I took a shot. I missed, but my gun, again, had the bolt stuck back. I couldn’t shoot a second time even if I wanted to. We tried everything to get the gun apart, but it was for not. I borrowed guns to get me through the rest of the weekend. The gunsmith I took the gun to the next week told me part of the bolt broke and fused in my gun. The bolt then was catching on that and was why it was getting stuck.
As kids, we’d clamor for the “shotgun” seat on travels. In my writing journeys, I’m always having stories trying to fight for attention in my head. It’s like no matter how good the current story I’m working on is, there is always one better just around the corner. I must keep them at bay so I can keep working on the current one. I just keep notes on those other ones and when the time comes, the “shotgun” story is the next one I work on. Between now and then, that choice may change a few times, but it is always the most interesting idea I have at the time.
Shotguns come and go, but I was sure attached to this one. Hopefully, the next one will be as good or interesting!
I went out to the family farm for our annual pheasant hunt a couple of weeks ago and arrived when no one else was home. Ever the opportunist, I got out my laptop and worked on a few writing projects. It was nice and quiet for my work. Out the large, picture window I saw movement from the corner of my eye. A big doe was making its way up the drive. I got my camera out to take pictures.
I was so fixated on the one doe that I didn’t see three others in front yard until they all were heading for the side of the house. I also made my way there and my car was parked next to a water bucket. The deer were more interested in the water than they were in me. Soon other does arrived. Then this massive buck comes sauntering over and the does moved away for the buck to drink. I thought the antlers (twelve points) were going to scrape my car as it dipped its head to drink, but it didn’t. Finally, a small buck (four point) also came in for his drink, putting the finally tally at seven does and two bucks. I creeped out the house for some of the pictures, so I was about ten yards from the closer ones at one point. Truly, an interesting commune with nature.
Recently, I’ve looked over my sales from the last year or so and came to a startling conclusion. With all the interest I have had in the shows I’ve attended this year, I’ve outsold my ebooks with print editions for the first time. Some of the shows I wanted to attend were canceled this year, so it makes me wonder how I would have fared if I could have gotten to do those as well. Then again, my luck may have been due to libraries being closed where people had a need for physical copies, and I was able to give them something of interest.
In any case, people were interested in me unlike the deer in the yard.
Imagine sitting down and finally relaxing after a hard day of work. Then a forty plus pound blue healer wants on your lap. Instead of laying comfortably, she sits there. Then imagine a ten plus pound jack russell coming in wanting attention as well. Except I now have no lap and the crook of my arm now must be used to support him there as well. And then my wife asks, “whose dog are you?” The above picture is their responses.
Isn’t it supposed to be that in any marriage, “what’s yours is mine?” Apparently, the dogs have their favorite parent. Maybe it is that they have their favorite parent TO CLIMB ON! They certainly give her loving and attention at times. It’s just that they like to cuddle up with me if I’m relaxing.
You can see the phone in my hand in the picture above as well. I was apparently gaming, looking at something on social media or google, or looking over one of my various lists of outstanding projects. In any case, the dogs interrupted me. We were watching TV, so I guess I allowed myself to get engrossed by whatever was on instead of whatever I was doing on my phone for a little while.
Anyway, my phone is my connection to all sorts of resources and a number are related to writing. Google Keep (synchs to the cloud, so accessible on my computer as well) is an app where I keep the various lists for what I would like to do next with my writing. I’ve almost got a schedule in there for the chapters to write and all the supplemental things that go with publishing and maintaining my website, including this blog. I’ve even got a list of stories I’d like to further develop as I get time and the order I’d like to tackle them in.
I’ve got several websites which I access by phone to help me. My newsletter website has a mobile interface that allows me to work on things. Not the best for writing full articles, but if I’ve got a little something to tweak, it works great. I’ve even been known to hop around various sites looking for the image for the next great book cover. I’ll save it to the cloud to work with later and develop into the cover on my laptop.
The reason I am talking about my phone is that the company that makes the software that I now write in, Scrivener, is thinking about making a mobile version. I’m not sure what to think about this. My words per minute would need to get much higher from the mobile for this to be remotely usable. Then again, for editing a piece after writing it, this might be useful.
In any case, the dogs may think they own me, but my mind is in my phone more than anywhere else!
The other day, I was sitting at the kitchen table working on publishing Whispers Within (more on that in a minute) when Jynx came over in between my wife’s two aloe plants. She thought he looked handsome and decided to snap some pictures. I had to move my laptop to accommodate her.
In one picture, it looks like Jynx is totally going “pbbt” with his tongue out like it was. We hadn’t noticed this live, so we laughed hard at seeing that picture. I mean, how could you not laugh at such a face.
So, back to publishing my novel. I certainly feel like this great weight has lifted finishing up the process for it to become public. I also feel a sense of accomplishment for publishing my eighth title. I enjoy writing, but my favorite part is reading the finished product. It’s also cool when a narrator reads the book to me (DW Draffin is on board to narrate this novel). I don’t know how many times I’ve done a double take and said, “I wrote that? That is so awesome!”
Anyway, my least favorite part of the process is marketing. I feel like I am boasting at times. Other times I feel like a sleezy con man or something. I guess I’m just not good at selling myself. While I have had some success this year, I still feel like I am just too shy to convince people that they will enjoy what I’ve written. I mean, I enjoyed reading it, shouldn’t everyone else?
So, “Pbbbt. I wrote an excellent book, now go buy it.” Jynx approves of this message! (Note: The ebook doesn’t drop until 1/5/2021, but you can preorder it now!)
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us. Every November, writers take up the challenge to write 50k words (supposedly a full novel) in less than a month. It works out to being 1,666 and 2/3rds words per day on average. For me, that is about a chapter or 3/4ths of a short story every single day. Some writers burn themselves out attempting this feat. I heard of one writer who tried for a double NaNoWriMo (100K words) and quit writing after they accomplished that. It is something that I am leery of doing given that I also work full time. Now if I didn’t work, I think I could do this. In fact, I could probably do the double with no problem. I would even throw in some editing time during the month and get things ready to publish as well. I would also make every month NaNoWriMo for me, not just November. This way I could publish twelve books a year or so. Or, if I’ve got the time, twenty-four if I can manage the double every single month.
I think the “kids” (Jynx, Milo, and Zailey) would love me being home all the time doing my NaNoWriMos. They’d get some extra attention from me, especially if I’m camped out on the couch doing something. I could even be sure to have my camera ready so I could blog every single funny thing they do. I’d love it, you’d love it, and they would love it!
So, what’s stopping me? A living wage from my books, for one. Another is that I do love what I am doing writing software and would miss it if I ever left it. Then again, writing fiction is far less stressful, I can’t help but dream about retirement and writing full time!
The other day, I was in the kitchen when I heard pleas for help. I was in the middle of something (cooking breakfast, if I recall correctly), so I couldn’t rush to my wife’s aid immediately. I instead asked what she needed, and she said something about coming quick, but no real details. There was a counter between her and me, so I couldn’t see her.
When I did come to her aid, I still didn’t help. Instead, I got out my camera and snapped the above picture and a couple more shots. Satisfied I had proof of the encounter, I grabbed Milo from her back and put him down. He had jumped up there, but I have no idea as to why. He does look a bit guilty at causing such a calamity, but he didn’t want to jump down, and my wife couldn’t reach him.
I woke up one morning after having a strange vivid dream. A P.O.W. comes back after escaping his captors to find his fiancé is about to marry another man. During the dinner party to celebrate the coming nuptials, guests go missing. Only the former P.O.W. is worried about this until eventually him and every single guest at that party are whisked away to an alternate dimension.
One night’s events cover the main track of the story, but the P.O.W.’s experiences of meeting the eventual fiancé, being captured, and then his escape are told as flashbacks. As I thought about how I would do this, I began to realize I had more than enough material for a novel (and I think a good one at that). Having plenty of other writing projects to work on (Whispers Within is about to be published, Infinite Horizons is getting critiqued, Death Curse is on the home stretch of having a draft finished, Desperados of Mars is still in the early chapters of being written, and Concussion is about to have its first story written) and having other writing projects I want to do as well (I want to do a third book in the Curses Series as well as a superhero novel called Freezing Heat, based on the short story with that same name), who knows when I’ll be able to write this book (tentatively titled No Escape). So, I knew I had to write a notes for this new novel in order to have any chance of remembering what I wanted it to be about between the day of having the dream and when I do write this sucker for real. Thus, I spent an evening doing just that.
Just like Milo is off my wife’s back, the story is off mine! That is until the novel is ready to be back in the forefront of my mind, then I’ll have to shoulder it again and get it done. I can’t wait!
I learn a lot from other people. My brother and some family friends were talking about dove hunting and using a decoy. I was intrigued as I had only ever walked around to flush them out. They were ranting and raving about how successful they were with a Mojo decoy. So, as a birthday present this year, I bought one.
A few folks around the Geary County Fish and Game were interested in going out dove hunting together. Since I hadn’t ever done a hunt with a decoy, I thought I better learn from the masters. I tagged along. We went to a field that was mowed for bailing. One guy had scouted the location and had seen birds heading for the milo field adjacent to this field. There was a row of trees and grass separating the fields. We took up locations in the trees and grasses with our decoys out in the mowed field. My first several shots were at dove that were going every which way except the direction we expected.
Finally, I had a dove above my decoy, and it was coming down on it, big time. I waited for it to get low enough where I would have a good shot. I shot when it was about 15 feet high. I missed. The bird wobbled at the near impact, which actually made me think I had hit it, but it soon recovered and set to fly away. It was now just a few feet above my decoy. I shot and missed again. The bird changed direction and turned on the afterburners. My third shot was in desperation and it missed.
After that, I only had a shot at one other bird, but it was way off. It was heading right for one of the other guys in my group, so I didn’t want to screw up the shot for them. They apparently didn’t even see the bird as it went right over them. He said he was too busy watching a pair of dove moving to his right, too far out to shoot. So, the easy shot for him was missed.
Getting sidetracked is something I must contend with a lot while writing. I get all these story ideas, but not enough time to work on them right then and there. Sometimes, I make a note of what my idea is. Lots of times, I think, “Oh, I’ll remember that,” but I don’t. Hence why I take notes more often than not.
Most of the time, my notes are vague. I do that on purpose. Call them my decoy, but what I’m really shooting for is for a good piece that feels fairly organic. To do that, I just give myself enough notes to say what my idea is and when I do have time to write the piece, I can go wild with my imagination and let the piece fully form then. Sometimes, I’ve thought of the piece so many times from the time I’ve had the initial idea to when I write it, that I’ve really written it all in my head. Sometimes, I just let the stuff come as comes and write it in the moment. Either way, the piece usually ends up better than what my initial idea. I then can edit over and over until it is just right.
I may have only gotten one bird to go after my decoy the first time I went dove hunting, but I get plenty of stories to succumb to my note decoys!
It began with peppers on Friday, a dove hunt on Saturday, and mowing on Monday. The perfect allergy storm was on. The poblanos that my wife and I were growing ended up being a little hotter than we expected. My mother-in-law and her husband were in town, so I thought stuffed peppers were a good thing to have. I used a dozen of our ripest and biggest peppers and started cutting them in half and deseeding them. I had a runny nose by the end of it. They were good, but the cost to my immune system was enormous.
For a long time now, I’ve been planning on going on a dove hunt with a couple of other guys. One of them ended up not making it, but another guy took his place. As we were BSing before the hunt, I was still feeling the effects of the peppers. I’d already taken an extra twenty-four-hour allergy pill in the morning (I take one every night as well), but I decided I’d take another. We all ended up without any birds, but the cane field we were in did not help my allergies.
My plan was to mow on Sunday. The way I was feeling, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I took three more twenty-four-hour allergy pills on Sunday. Then I got up on Monday, took another pill and went to work with mask, goggles, and gloves. I had to ditch the mask and goggles halfway through weed eating as I couldn’t see, and the mask was full of snot. I finished my chore doing the occasional snot rocket.
What sucks the most about allergies is that my brain turns to mush. My thought power runs low. I must take allergy pills to suffer through the day and between having the illness and the mind-numbing drugs, it is hard to write. My production suffers. Through this, I still have ideas for what to write.
One day, I’m sitting around being miserable. I can’t really remember what was going on around me, but I was bored. I opened up my Scrivener (the software I use to storyboard and write my novels now) just to read the notes of what the next chapter was going to be. Looking at those notes, I found I had a gap from where the previous chapter ended and where my notes for this chapter began. I started writing the chapter to fill in the gap. Soon I was writing the scene I had outlined in my notes. I even added connecting detail between the new stuff and the old stuff. It was working great. As I write this, I’m even thinking of other things I can add to the scene to make it that much better. It is one of those scenes where there are some hints of what is to come, not only in the rest of the book, but the rest of the series. It works really well. I think what had happened was that I was saving some fuel from somewhere just for this chapter. It also came together quickly; only an hour to write about 1400 words. Not my best, but considering how allergy addled my mind was, I was amazed.
Storms come along from time to time and you must either weather them or ride them out. You never know where one may take you!
Every day, I spend some time with the animals. Maybe not a lot and certainly not as much as I’d like, but some time. I try to pet or hold the animals in turn (they start pushing each other out if I hold more than one at a time). Or I may play with them. Whatever I do, I am connecting with them in one way or another.
The whole reason I have animals is for that connection. They depend on me to live, but I depend on them for support and affection. It’s expensive, but I guess it’s worth it.
A number of my chapters in Death Curse (the sequel to Flaming Curse) don’t seem to connect to the story. At least that is what my critique group keeps telling me as I share them. I know the reader will agree as they read them. The thing is, there are things that Marta (the main character) is learning in these chapters that will pay off in the end. There are also twists coming that will tie these chapters together and connect them. Since Marta isn’t aware of this, the reader isn’t aware either. So, the payoff will be there, eventually.
I’ve made sure that these chapters are fairly fast paced and exciting to read. I’d hate for things to drag while the reader is trying to figure out the connection to the rest of the story as that would make them not want to continue reading. I’m sure they will finish the book at the point of these chapters as they are all after the halfway point and are invested in the main plot. Plus, when they get to the end and realize it was really worth reading, they’ll want another book in the series (still working on a plot for Thunderbolt Curse). In other words, the reader will be able to connect with the book.
Connection is key wither with animal or reader!
I’m going to go to a dark place in this blog, but hopefully you’ll see the light here as well. I’m going to talk about suicide. More specifically, I’m going to talk about my mother’s dog Martha and the symbol she has become. To give you some background, my mother works for a short-term psychiatric care unit in Russellville, Arkansas. When my mother got Martha, she was trained to be a support animal. My mother did this so Martha could come to the hospital, visit not only psych patients, but all patients. Everyone loves Martha.
An event the hospital works with the local University is the annual Out of the Darkness Walk to Prevent Suicide. The hospital needed a mascot and since Arkansas Tech University is the Bulldogs, a dog from the hospital would be a good fit. So, Team Martha was born. I am a huge supporter of helping people with suicidal thoughts support families recovering from a loss. Hence, my mother sent me a Team Martha t-shirt and Jynx didn’t like his picture taken with me wearing the shirt (though, hopefully it was just him not wanting his picture taken and not the cause he was disgruntled with).
I helped someone one time get through a rough patch. Years later, I asked him about the anti-depressants he was taking then and if he’d ever switched up the medication like he and I had talked about. His response was that he no longer took anti-depressants because, “there’s nothing to be sad about”. A novel thought. It was something that still sticks with me and helps me when I’m feeling down.
I may write about suicide and dark themes, but I know the struggle and have seen people suffer. Talk to someone if you need help. I can help but am not a credentialed counselor. Call 800-273-TALK (8255), text 741741, or talk to someone about your depression. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
“No One Walks Alone,” Team Marta says. Thank you all for walking on this writing journey with me!
One cool evening, Jynx refused to come in. I couldn’t coax him away from laying out on the patio after sunset. Even reminding him of the stray cat who has attacked him twice didn’t sway him. I was in no mood to go get him, either. So, I left him out.
Not fifteen minutes later, the wind was howling as a thunderstorm moved in. With it came rain which fell in Nebraska and/or South Dakota but landing at our house. With the patio being on the north side of the house, the rain wasn’t falling there except with the occasional down draft. I opened the patio door and couldn’t see Jynx. Not that I was too concerned, I knew he would hide in the doghouse.
Finding the kitty was half the problem. Getting him to come out of his hiding place was another thing. He didn’t want to leave with the storm moving in and he thought he was safe from the wind and rain in there (which he probably was). Since the front window of the doghouse was long broken out by Zailey (and she kept breaking my attempts to repair it), I pushed the cat over to the breezeway (yes the house was designed to have an entry partition to keep the elements out, though the broken window messes that up). I then had to crawl into the breezeway and pick up the cat. Really, if I had been able to keep Zailey out of the cat’s face, I think it would have followed me at this point, but Jynx now feared the dogs were going to get him. Anyway, I got him and brought him inside as the storm wreaked havoc outside. (No damage at the Olson house, but I did have a worker get a limb to the windshield of their car.)
The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on my life. I won’t list all my woes, but I want to stress that I am stressed due to this stressor. With my life in chaos, it is hard for me to focus and write. I need to unwind.
One thing that has caught my interest is disc golf. I used to do it as a kid and have only tried it once as an adult before this month. I’ve decided to give it another go. A park near my house has a half mile long, 9-hole course. It is challenging and the terrain is uneven, giving me a great workout.
Another thing coming up is various hunting seasons. I’m already planning some group outings and will probably do solo outings as well. Besides the exercise, being out with nature and going head to head with a group of animals is a great distraction.
No matter how we do it, Jynx and I find that our stress is eased when we hide away.
My wife found a lovely little lakeside cabin about a half an hour from where we live. It was available for our anniversary, so she booked it. We went swimming, I did a little kayaking, and we fished until late into the night on the back deck. It was fantastic! I loved this cabin’s décor and coziness. It was a nicely needed vacation in the middle of all the insanity in the world.
Fishing in this lake had some restrictions. You could only keep catfish at a certain length. Knowing my target was catfish, I rigged up something they would like. My wife had a similarly rigged line. No catfish were caught, but I caught two largemouth bass. The first bass swallowed the damn hook, so I had to basically pull its stomach into its mouth to unhook him. I then pushed his stomach back in and threw him back. I think he/she will live. The other largemouth was a beaut and I wish I could have fileted that thing (pictured).
Capturing a story is about like capturing a fish. You think you are fishing/writing for one thing but end up catching something else. Most of the time it is something better, but not always.
One example was the other day I looked over my notes I had for a chapter and was dismayed by the lack of depth in them. There wasn’t much more than my character having a pity party because things are going horribly wrong for him. The thing is, the notes didn’t have anything new going wrong and it was rehashing things already presented. This was not going to work! I thought about scraping the chapter, but then I had an idea. It was a plot twist so subtle it fit into the plans I have for future chapters. This allowed for new problems and worse problems to come upon my main character. He still had his pity party, but they were about new things and not a rehash. I had saved the chapter!
Now on to more fishing adventures!
Milo loves when we refill the pool or water the flowers and plants on the patio. This is because he gets to play in the water. One of the things he does is try to bite the hose nozzle and the spray as close to the source as possible. Not sure if he likes to bite at the more concentrated flow of water or what.
He’ll do attempt after attempt of launching at the water source. In his frenzy, he’ll even do flips. There have been times where it looked like he was going to come down on his back and smack the ground hard, but he somehow manages to come down on his feet. I took a video of him playing in his pool with a basketball while getting hosed down. He would play in between attempts at chomping the water. It’s like his ADHD doesn’t let him just go nuts on one thing at a time and he must go nuts on a bunch of things. Today’s picture is a still from the video.
I go nuts from time to time. Sometimes, my imagination gets the better of me and I have some weird scenarios running through my mind. Some of them make for good stories, but most of the time I can’t even stomach this shit. I’ve heard somewhere that creative people aren’t the most stable. So, yeah, I’m nuts
Pro tip: if you have a nightmare, write it down, but change the ending to a good one. This changes the nightmare in your mind and prevents it from reoccurring. Sometimes just thinking of a different ending will get it to go away for me without writing it down.
Flipping out isn’t always fun for me, but usually it is for Milo. Maybe it is because he is more carefree than I am. Hmm, maybe I need to learn to be more like Milo.
The dogs like being hosed down on hot days. They even have a kiddie pool, but it is mainly used by Milo and he will immerse himself from time to time. Zailey drinks from the pool but absolutely loves drinks from the hose.
Since the pool becomes dirty, often (in Kansas, surely not!), we must dump it and refill it. Both dogs love to chomp the flowing water as if it were a snake they need to kill. It is entertaining as they get drenched in the process, Milo does flips for the water, and they both go nuts (though, Milo more than Zailey).
Recently, one of the hoses sprang a leak. It was right near their dog dish, so I thought it was perfect to refill the dog dish whenever we needed to water the garden. Thus, I set up my little system, even though the dog dish would overflow before the we were done watering the garden. Zailey loved having this little spray. She decided it was more fun to play with this spray than to allow her dog dish to get properly filled with clean water. She’s such a nut.
Speaking of nuts, time to talk about me and my writing. Some days my brain spews forth a firehose of coherent phrasing to make up a story or a chapter. Other days it is a trickle coming out. Usually, it is somewhere in between.
This last December, I had one of my firehose times, but it wasn’t in one sitting. It took a few goes, but I got a short story of 8,600 words (by comparison, most of my stories are between 2,000 and 2,750, with some even coming in shorter than that). I counted it up and the whole month I ended up writing around 12,000 words. Most months, I’m usually doing around about 6,000 to 7,000. So, this was almost a double month for me.
I attribute my success in that I wrote the skeleton for the short story, something I never do. I did this since I was purposely trying to get a longer short story and wanted to be sure I had everything I wanted for a good and proper story before I began. With a 2,000 word short story, I know the whole story before I begin and it sticks in my head. Really, I wanted to be sure for this one I had an extra few thoughts on the plot before I started writing.
By the way, the skeleton was like 500 words, nowhere near what I needed for a complete story. It was just some rough notes, but I was able to get all my research done ahead of time, so that also helped. By the way, I used to outline my novels, but am finding it harder to get through writing it in that form. For some reason, a skeleton works better for me.
Anyway, I like it when things flow like water from a hose for the kids.
Zailey and Milo will really go at it over a toy. Despite Zailey having a 4 to 1 weight advantage, she really doesn’t have much of an edge when fighting over a toy. She’s able to pull Milo around a little, but Milo has a jaw like a vise and is scrapy too. He can exploit even the littlest edge and had the mussel to hold his own, too.
The other day, the two were outside and they both went after one of their Jolly Balls. Zailey, being halfway smart, grabbed a rope on it. Rather than grab the other rope, Milo grabbed the ball in the middle, pinching it in his grip. The way he had the ball, his teeth were probably digging into the ball, especially his fangs. I had to take a picture (above).
I go back and forth a lot between projects. There are some projects which I share with my writing groups, but I work faster than my groups meet. So, I always have another project or two to keep me productive when I’m ahead of where I need to be.
Right now, my extra project is my space western, Desperados of Mars. Slipping back and forth between projects is fairly easy for me as I have outlines/skeletons for all of my projects. I do sometimes have to look up a name or two for minor characters, but that is rare. I’m just bad with names, especially made up ones.
And the winner is… the reader! Zailey and Milo usually split wins on their tugs of war. My productivity being up by utilizing my own tug of war, ensures more stuff gets published for you all to enjoy!
My wife hates spiders. She will scream in terror at seeing one and call for me to come kill it. Not sure why she is so irrationally afraid of spiders. She was bitten by a brown recluse when we vacationed in Branson and got one hell of an infection on her ear lobe, but she was afraid of spiders before that.
One thing we have quite a bit of around our house (and sometimes in) are various wolf spiders. Some are so big and hairy; I’ve mistaken them for tarantulas (see picture above for one I saw while mowing, index finger below for size comparison). The big ones haven’t made it inside as far as I know, but the smaller cousins tend to show up from time to time. My wife is always on me to spray for them, but that only kills them if they cross a boundary I’ve sprayed.
The other day, I had a thought for a book series I was writing that was interesting. The idea was for the third installment for the book series started in Flaming Curse. That idea made me shudder as I thought it would ruin the series if I put such an element in it. The element was aliens. While werewolves and vampires would make a little sense in the world I’m creating, aliens would not. Though, I really loathe the idea of having werewolves and vampires in my witch saga.
Where do these ideas come from? It is one thing to question where good ideas come from, but this was a very bad idea. Aliens? Come on! I need better ideas than that for this series.
Oh, and I need a damn name for the series. The first book is called Flaming Curse and the second is called Death Curse. The third book will probably be called Thunderbolt Curse, but I’m not completely sure yet since I don’t have that one figured out, yet. Calling the series Curses, just seems too easy, but it makes the most sense. I’ve thought of calling it Western Curses, Curses of the Old West, or even Marta’s Curses, but nothing stands out. Comment or email me your thoughts!
Anyway, some ideas, like spiders, are scary. Let’s kill those and get back to having good things all around us! Oh, and Happy Anniversary, Hon!
Last month was Zailey’s birthday. She turned 5 on 5/25. We were playing cards in the living room and Zailey was trying to sleep on her pillow. You could tell she wasn’t asleep as her eyes were forced closed and her body was tense. Apparently, the commotion from our card playing wasn’t allowing her to rest like she wanted to.
I’ve been having troubles sleeping, again. My allergies are making me constantly tired and my back is giving me fits. My back feels the best when I am laying down. My medication and supplements are at war with each other; some trying to make me sleep, others keeping me awake.
I’m fighting the best I can during the day to stay awake and be productive, but it has been hard. I’ve been able to more or less stay on track with my writing. Part of that has been one of my writing groups hadn’t been meeting due to COVID-19 and this means I don’t have to write anything for one of my books to stay on track (I was a few chapters ahead). We just recently started meeting again and so I need to work on this book again.
Another reason I am still on track is the extra time I’ve had due to not commuting every day there for a couple of months. This extra 70 minutes or more a day has been nice. I think that is one of the few things I’ll miss from my time sheltering in place. And like all good things, I’ve been doing more and more at work since the middle of May. I did one day a week for a couple of weeks and now I am doing four days at my workplace since 6/1. I’ll probably keep doing the same thing next month.
Hopefully soon I’ll be able to catch up on sleep. I can’t force my eyes closed and pretend nothing is going on around me like Zailey can.
I was in the backyard working while the cat was also out. One of the things the cat likes to do is slink through the flower garden back there. As he often does, he sat down and just watched what was going on in the yard (me and I believe the dogs were out). My wife clamored for me to take a picture.
With me taking his picture, it meant he changed his focus. He locked eyes on me and just looked at me with this indignant look. I didn’t care and just kept snapping pictures. Overall, I think Jynx enjoyed his time in the garden that day.
I’m trying to decide how import agriculture is to my Western set on Mars. I mean, it is important to the characters that they have food and air to breathe, but is it important enough to spend a significant amount of time talking about in the novel? I mean, in Andy Weir’s The Martian, farming potatoes is a plot point in the story and thus very important to talk about. In my novel, other than the most stringent of fans, nobody is going to care about the greenhouses unless there is some need to care. So, it needs to come up organically to answer a question at that point in the story.
Given that I’m only five chapters into writing this fifty-chapter story, I have plenty of time to work in the detail. The thing is, in chapter three, I have the point of view character see the habitat during a life and death struggle. Do I want to flesh in some details on what it looks like other than a bunch of interconnected domes? Plus, he has double vision from a rise in carbon dioxide in his suit. Might not be the best time to put in a lot of details. Plus, the reader doesn’t exactly care that some of these are greenhouses, at least not at this point.
It’ll probably be on the second draft that I really worry about this point, but it is something I’m keeping an eye on, just like Jynx keeping an eye on his yard.
In building a new raised garden for my wife and getting her a stock tank full of dirt as well, I unloaded 45 wheelbarrows full of dirt from my pickup (roughly, 2 cubic feet or more per wheelbarrow, an estimated 3 cubic yards plus, and each cubic yard weighing in at a ton). The animals were not happy with this venture. For one thing, I had to keep the gate open, so in trying to force them to stay inside, they went nuts. My wife and I set up some leashes to hold the dogs while I worked, but Jynx was left off the leash (and I had to chase him back inside the fence a couple of times). But it was the actual wheelbarrow that pissed the animals off the most – Zailey ran from it, Milo shied away, and poor Jynx decided he was going to stand his ground and hiss at the thing until I got right in his face with it.
After all the dirt was put in, the dogs and cat loved it. The dogs dug in the dirt, and the cat thought the raised garden was his new giant litter box. I was rather annoyed at this development as this wasn’t behavior conducive to growing plants. Then there was the rain that came before I could get all the dirt out of the pickup. I thought I would let it dry, but then it rained again. All that water didn’t have anywhere to go, so what didn’t evaporate off the top, just made mud. It made those last 13 or so wheelbarrow loads real heavy. Making this adventure real interesting.
K, I’ve alluded to the math a little bit in my aside, but there is more to consider. The dirt got into my pickup via tractor, so not much work there other than I had to shovel some around to get into the corners and not be a hump in the back. In unloading the pickup, I had to shovel the dirt into the wheelbarrow in my front yard, take the wheelbarrow into the back yard or my patio, and then dump it into the bed or stock tank (I was lazy and didn’t want to shovel it at this point). The raised bed is 18 inches high and the wheelbarrow was just a couple inches higher, so a fairly easy roll to the side (couldn’t dump forward as the wheel stuck out in front of the bucket). The stock tank is a different story. It is a full two feet high. I had to lift the wheelbarrow and then dump it to get the dirt in. And I was trying to keep the number of loads to a minimum, so I didn’t undercut any. The person who loaded my truck, thought each load was 2 tons each, and I got 2 loads. So, my estimate of 3 tons might be low. Plus, the mud seemed to way double, so the last ¾-1 ton turned into 1.5-2 tons (a total of 3.75 tons at minimum and 5 tons at maximum).
So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, whenever I work outdoors, I have allergies to contend with. Especially since I started having Spring and Summer allergies a couple of years ago in addition to the Fall allergies I’ve had since I was a kid. Then add the factor of being tired from all the heavy lifting, this has slowed my productivity down. Considering that I’ve been working a little ahead of where I want to be, I’m not behind, just a little disappointed. Especially when at the beginning of the COVID-19 Stay at Home orders I was getting even more stuff done due to not having to commute, its added to my frustration.
Well, the kids got over the wheelbarrow invasion in short order. Hopefully, I’ll recover soon as well!
Zailey is in the habit of whipping her toys about as hard as she can. I think she likes it hitting her body. She also enjoys whipping it up into the air so she can catch it. She sometimes will do this while my wife or I are trying to get her to play catch with us. So, she ends up playing catch by herself.
One of her toys is a nylon frisbee that could stretch. The center portion was cloth and was ripped out years ago. This left just the outer ring. Which was fine since it could still fly and was actually perfect for indoor tosses. This was one of the things she would use for playing catch and tug of war with. The problem with tug of war is that the frisbee couldn’t handle how rough she is with it and finally broke a few weeks ago. Now the toy is her favorite to whip as it really is a whip now. I’ve threatened to throw the damn thing away, but she loves playing with it so much. Now it doesn’t fly too well, but for a toss in the air for her to catch, it still isn’t bad.
Allergies have started to mess with me. Between working in the yard and outdoor activities, I’m dog tired all the time. I must whip myself into doing chores and my writing. Hell, sometimes I need extra motivation to do my regular work. Coffee isn’t doing it.
I’ve added a little something called Mt Dew Zero to my drink routine. So, after coffee (usually I finish my one cup of the day before lunch) and before tea (I drink Matcha Green Tea as it doesn’t stain my teeth and has an extra boost of caffeine), I drink a Dew. This gives me the energy I need to work (chore, writing, or paying job), especially in those dog hours after lunch. I’ve even taken to having an extra pop every once in a while.
In the immortal words of Devo, “When a problem comes along; You must whip it.” Zailey and I are both doing that.
The other day, I was vacuuming the entire downstairs and put the dogs outside as I did it so they weren’t going nuts. They don’t like the sounds the vacuum makes and will bark and cry at it. At one point, I stopped vacuuming to move some furniture so I could get behind it. My wife opened the door to let the dogs in even though I wasn’t done. The next time I started up the vacuum, Zailey attacked. It was a good thing the hose was metal or there would have been some issues. She was biting it as hard as she could to get the thing to stop.
To have some fun, I decided to get some pictures of the incident. So, I turned off the vacuum and got my camera ready. On again and I snapped some. I had to do this a few times and while they didn’t turn out the greatest (they blurred with her moving so fast), I still got a good memory out of it. I did finally turn on the vacuum one last time and finished up my chore.
Some of my stories are set in the vacuum of space or airless surface of a moon or planet. I like this type of setting as it adds another layer of challenge to things. Any conflict (in this case, man versus nature, or a lack of nature) adds more action to the story.
One of the things I am working on is a Western set on Mars. Having an airless environment isn’t in your typical Western, but that is one of the few things that will be in my updated Western. I’ll also have newer technology like rovers to replace horses as they are still kept in a barn. The guns I have in my Western are used for mining and have a safety to disallow others to be shot, but the safeties can be bypassed and I have one person making a homemade gun. The saloon of my Western is going to be one of the reoccurring settings for my characters to swap gossip, hang out, and keep an eye on the antagonist. The marshal in my Western is practically useless making my setting fairly lawless. Instead, the bankers tend to dictate law. There are going to be so many recognized elements of a traditional Western, this should be an extremely fun novel, both to write and read.
Zailey, why don’t you settle down there, little Missy, and let the vacuum do its thing?!?!
On a nice, April day with the haze of prairie fires hanging around and the promise of a beautiful sunset and beautiful pink full moon, my wife and I set sail on our little boat for an evening of fishing and site seeing. One of our favorite places on the lake is an eagle’s nest with a couple and their brood (I saw one eaglet in addition to the two parents). After a little bit of cruising, we put our poles in the water and started trolling. I don’t think my pole was in ten minutes before hooking in a 3.48lb, 19-inch striped bass. It fought me at first, grew tired and let me pull it almost to the boat where it then fought some more. My wife got the net under it to help me get it out of the water, but it hardly needed that. The sucker was mine.
We fished for quite a while before our next catch just before sunset. My wife caught a nice 13-inch striped bass. It barely fought and several times she quit reeling in thinking she’d lost it. I was adamant that she reel in to at least check. Good thing she did!
After sunset in the waning light, I caught our last fish of the day. It was rather small, around 7 inches, so it was thrown back. All in all, it was a fun night on the lake. Oh, and we got a ton of pictures while we were out, too, adding to the enjoyment of the evening.
Sometimes, stories come naturally to me. Other times I must fish for the story. I do several types of writing exercises to get the juices flowing. They’ll vary from a prompt, a title, a set of character attributes, a setting, first line, and others. I then write for 10-15 minutes to get something going. Not every snippet is a winner, but others at least have a shade of a good story to it if not the start or end of something. The good ones, I use nearly verbatim and expand it to about 10 times the original length. Even if I don’t use the story, it is fun to do.
Fishing is fun, especially when you have a good fish on the line!
My backyard has a significant slope leading up to the trees and fence marking the boundary between my yard and the utility easement behind. The slope is so significant that the ground at the back of the yard is taller than the fence up front. With the shade provided by the trees and the fence, this means someone at the back of the yard can look down on the front yard and on down the street for quite a way. This makes this the perfect spot for the animals to look over the neighborhood.
It began with Rosco, though I suspect he more liked the coolness of the shade. Now Milo, Zailey, and even Jynx all like this overlook. Sometimes, I can’t get the animals to come inside because they are enjoying their perch, especially in these nice cool temperatures we’ve been enjoying. This becomes frustrating at times.
Sometimes during lunch or after work when I have some time to kill (like before a writing group or Coin Club), I write on my work computer. I have dual 27-inch monitors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kansas issued a Stay at Home order. This meant I was reduced to using my little 14-inch laptop. For writing, I have no problem with it as it is a step up from what I used to have (an 8-inch laptop), but for work it is killing me. I complained to my wife and she said to go buy a monitor, but it is a convenience factor. (Though I do love her for being willing to let me beef up my circumstance.) Anyway, I’m a little less productive at work. My writing hasn’t suffered, I don’t think.
But this does make me think. Would I be more productive on a larger monitor? Going from my little laptop to this new one last fall has made things easier for me. The problem is, I can’t lug a huge monitor around with me everywhere I go. So, it would just be something for at home. Meaning when I need to work away from the home (at writing group, for instance), then I would have to readjust a few settings to make the document fit on my laptop screen. Sure, it takes a few seconds each time for that, but multiply that out, factor in all the other inconveniences, and I’m becoming less efficient. The only other option would be to get a portable monitor, but those are still expensive, especially if they are touchscreens.
As a compromise, I did get an adapter to plug in an old, small monitor. This has been extremely helpful in the short time I’ve had it. Hopefully, it will continue to work out. It is only for at home use and when I am working in my home office (I sometimes work downstairs on my writing), but as I mentioned before, I mainly just need it for work.
The animals still have their scenic overlook and soon I’ll be able to go back to mine at the office. For now, I’ll work the best I can and write like I have been.
Peonies are great to look at and a good fragrance. We have some in our little flower garden. While loving their beauty, I hate them because they tend to attract ants. Every spring, we have some ants getting into our home, usually in the kitchen. I have to set an ant trap and that ends up making a mess.
Another issue in the spring is the spiders in the house. While I don’t really mind them, my wife hates them. She freaks every time she finds one. I have to calm her while killing it for her. Jynx likes to trap and then maim them. One reason I like the spiders is that they kill the ants.
Speaking of killing, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get more feedback for my killer novel, Whispers Within. While I think it is awesome, I know it could be a little better. Thus, I need to workshop it. I’ve discovered Critters Writing Workshop online and am working with some writers through there.
Not all critters are bad. I think part of it is your perspective. What do you think about ants and spiders?
Milo had his annual teeth cleaning in February. We put it off as long as we could and probably waited too long. The vet said that one of his teeth had a minor crack going back to the xray from a year ago. Sometime in the last year, that crack worsened and caused the tooth to break. We knew Milo was in some pain, but didn’t know how much or what the cause was.
The tooth was extracted and Milo had to be babied for a while after his surgery. He couldn’t eat dry food or treats. While not really a liquid diet, there was a lot he couldn’t eat. He loved the wet food, though, but he was missing the chew sticks and other hard treats. He would swallow his soft treat and then look at me for more. I sometimes gave him an extra soft treat, especially if I had given Zailey a chew stick or something of that nature. I guess I cracked under those eyes looking up at me.
After he went back to the hard stuff, he still has some issues. He is eating his chew sticks very carefully and slowly. You could tell he is still in some pain. He is even get snappy with Zailey, Jynx, my wife, and I. It is no fun, but I really don’t want to take him to the vet again.
In my various writing groups, I would do these writing exercises. I have a notebook full of them and another partial one. The full one, I’ve earmarked certain ones (the stronger ones) to expand into full short stories and give them more life. The others, I largely ignore.
The other day I was looking through my notebook when I found a snippet that wasn’t earmarked for inclusion. This snippet was badly written for one thing, which is probably why I didn’t want to include it, but it had some aspects that were great. It was a pirate story about how a first mate was selected by a captain. I flipped the script and instead wanted to show the rise through the ranks for a pirate trying to become captain. While being part mystery, there were a bunch of politics involved. It was a much more thrilling aspect. So out of the dud, came this great story. I cracked it open by letting it go a different direction than the original snippet.
So, cracks aren’t always bad. What is bad for Milo can be a good thing for me.
The other day, I was carrying some things out to the garage (some trash, I think). I didn’t get the door closed all the way behind me as I had my hands full. Zailey was then able to follow me out into the garage. Even with the garage door closed, we try to keep the animals out of there. Mainly due to it not being child proofed. I wasn’t concerned until I saw Zailey next to one of the mousetraps.
My first thought was that I need to get Zailey away from that trap. My second thought was she needed to learn that she shouldn’t be messing around in the garage and a snap from the trap would cure that. I bait the traps with peanut butter and Zailey loves peanut butter. She loves it so much I hide her medicine in it. This led to my next thought that if the trap snapped on her nose, that would be the end of her loving peanut butter and my ability to hide medicine in it. By the time that I had this thought (about two seconds after the first one), Zailey had lost interest in the mousetrap and garage so she was heading inside.
I love creating traps for my characters. I put them into impossible situations that they shouldn’t be able to get out of. Then, they discover something about themselves that gets them out of it. What is better is if I can allude to the thing that saves them in a previous scene, then it even makes more sense and doesn’t come out of nowhere. This tension building and then release makes things more interesting. I love reading the result.
One of these situations happens in the very beginning of one of the novels I’m currently working on. The setting is the surface of Mars and my character gets a hole in his spacesuit. Warnings are going off and he does have an emergency tank but that isn’t any good without getting the hole plugged. He can’t plug the hole if he doesn’t know where it is. When it is found it is out of reach. He falls to the ground and is looking at the ground when he realizes the ground is his salvation. By rolling on his back, he makes an impression of himself. Then he puts an emergency sealing patch in the place where the hole would be when he rolled back in the exact same place.
In this case, I couldn’t allude to the lifesaving thing scenes ahead as this is the first scene. Instead, his description of the ground as he is dying is the only allusion I could make. It works, though. The hostile environment ends up being utilized to save him.
See, traps are fun. Zailey doesn’t know just how fun they are, but that is probably a good thing.
Jynx loves to get into small things like boxes, suitcases, and sacks. Not sure it is a comfort thing so he can feel enveloped (like some people need a heavy blanket in order to sleep, which I am one). This is the same cat that sleeps in a suitcase every night (we padded it with a blanket to make it a little more comfortable). It is kind of funny but also sad when we buy him a toy and he is more interested in the box the toy came in rather than the actual toy. He’s a nut, for sure.
About a month ago, my wife had left her laptop bag on the love seat after returning from a trip. It is a rather large bag as her laptop is a biggie anyway, but kind of narrow. Why she didn’t hang the bag up after emptying it, I don’t know. But Jynx loved that bag. He got in it and barely peeked his head out as he chilled in it. He became a little annoyed getting his picture taken, but otherwise loved his new bag. It was now his as he was taking ownership of it, but eventually, my wife put it away, so it was no longer his.
I’ve been thinking about a story for a while now. It is going to have a Western feel, but it is set on Mars in the future. The basic premise is that these miners are on Mars digging up diamonds and rubies. Luke finds an especially large one and the guy he is digging with is willing to kill for it. Luke kills the guy in self-defense but loses the diamond. Now he must find the diamond, navigate this world of ever-increasing debt, and survive his partner’s sister who is out for revenge. I call it Desperados of Mars. (Some of you may recognize part of my description from the tale “Live and Let Die” from Twisted. This is a continuation of that story.)
I struggled with what to name this. There were going to be several deaths, so I thought about calling it Martian Murders, but that kind of sound like an alien killing people. It also didn’t convey the Western feel I wanted. Then I thought about calling it Mars Pirates. This stemmed directly from Andy Weir’s The Martian where Mark Watney jokes that he is a pirate due to space being international waters and he was going to go steal a ship. I wanted to take that idea further, but it wasn’t working for me. Pirates were just not western.
After finally hitting my home run with Desperados of Mars, I then created a cover for the book. Still no outline, but I wanted a cover. There was also a brief time where I wanted to add “the” to the title, but The Desperados of Mars just didn’t sound quite right. I’ve still got covers for Mars Pirates and The Desperados of Mars, but they will be ignored. Oh, and at one point, I spelled desperados with an e, so it was deperadoes, which is still a correct spelling, but didn’t quite look right (or so my wife says).
So, I had an idea and a cover and the next thing to do was write an outline. I couldn’t help it as I had a song title from a James Bond movie and now an Eagles tune as part of the name for the book, each chapter had to be named after a James Bond theme or Eagles tune. I think that hindered my outlining a bit, but I had fun doing it. Also, the Eagles have a lot of Western sounding songs, so that fit my motif. While the chapters don’t really encompass the songs other than the title, it helped me stay in a set mood for this. Plus, the James Bond theme titles had a lot of death names, so that was a bonus. I’m currently at forty-nine chapters, though I’m not sure if some chapters need combined or if I need to add others. I’ll have to see as I tinker more with the outline and start writing.
So, this book is in the bag like Jynx is. Jynx had to get out of his bag and this book will eventually get released to the world. Currently, I’m thinking 2022, but you never know.
I was walking the dogs one night when we came across a dog being walked through a yard (as opposed to the sidewalk where we were). The dog was a massive, overweight bulldog that had to weigh at least 125lbs. At first, the dog ignored us as it had business to attend to. Zailey wanted to meet this dog and was chomping at the bit to get to this dog. Milo seemed to be indifferent.
Then the bulldog started to take offense to our presence on his property. I was trying to get Zailey to calm down, but she wasn’t having any of it. I couldn’t get her to move down the sidewalk away from this dog, so I picked her up. She calmed then. I think she was embarrassed to have her dad pick her up. As we were walking uphill and about 3/4ths of the way through our mile walk, I was struggling to carry the forty-something pound Zailey. I made it a dozen steps before asking her to mind me on the walk and let her down. She immediately switched back to crazy girl and we couldn’t proceed again. I picked her up but was a little more gruff with her to show my disappointment. This time, I went three steps before putting her down (not from the exertion, but to see if she was ready to walk, now). She took one last look at the bully and then she was on her way again. She heeled and minded me the rest of the way home.
Bullies are the worst. They’re abusive, mean, and just rude. The worst part is that bullies beget bullies by either getting other people to join in on the bullying or the people being bullied take their frustration out by bullying other people. I’ve spent some time studying bullies because if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m one (reread what I did to Zailey if you want proof).
Time is a bully on me. Just the other day I was commenting about something that happened “just a day or two ago.” I then looked on a calendar and realized that it happened about a month before that. I was ashamed because it was another project that I had started and then abandoned due to other, more pressing things going on. In this case, it was something to help clean up the house, but this seems to happen a lot with my writing.
Fiction tends to show a bully being stood up to and then the bully isn’t a bully anymore. Zailey can’t stand up to me like I can’t stand up to time. Maybe my outlook on this subject is bleak, but I can’t seem to find a way to escape time while I’m still alive. Anyone have any ideas for me?
On one of the nights I was out with the dogs on our mile long walk, we were passing a neighbor with no fence. I thought nothing of it at first and apparently neither did the dogs. It wasn’t until this long hair, tiny dog (like 5lbs, 20lbs dripping wet with all the fur holding a ton of water) was barking and running towards us with no leash.
My first reaction was to keep the dogs calm. I didn’t think this little dog would try to fight Zailey and Milo, but I wanted them to meet the dog calmly and not provoke anything. Milo got scared since the dog looked bigger than him even though it was smaller in body mass. Zailey thought the dog would be a nice toy to play with. She was half right since it was a toy breed.
That little dog got way too close to Zailey and she took a nip at the dog before it backed off. I pulled Zailey’s leash to keep her back, too, but she was still lunging as much as she could. I had thoughts of picking her up to calm her. I was also trying to talk to the toy and calm it down. Its owner finally caught up to it and picked it up. As the owner and toy were walking away, I noticed some fur hanging from Zailey’s mouth. I was concerned about the toy, but the owner didn’t find any blood. I pulled the fur from her mouth and found it to be about four inches long and about the width of a petite carrot. There had been no yip from it, so it wasn’t in any pain, so we continued on our way.
I hate it when I read fluff passages from other authors. Thus, I try to limit it as much as possible in my writing. I’m always leery when I get a critique of, “nice fluff” or “good job getting the reader to the next passage”. To me, these are backhanded complements. If they see it as fluff, then I haven’t done my job.
About a month or two ago, I realized something else. Someone paid me one of these complements and I was like, “this isn’t fluff to get the reader to the next passage!” That’s when I realized I had done my job a little too well. The chapter was setting up something coming up and would be reflected upon later as a turning point. It wouldn’t be until my critique partner read the later chapters would they realize the importance of the passage. I knew the importance, but the reader, in the moment of reading it, would not. Once they realized just why that passage was so crucial, the depth being added would be appreciated. Heck, it might not even be figured out until a second reading.
I then realized something else. Some books are worth reading a second time to find these hidden setups! I just hope mine are worth rereading.
Zailey and I both have chewed on some fluff. I think I’ve gained some new appreciation for it and I hope Zailey doesn’t have a taste for it.
It was a cold, foggy day and I needed to get a walk in for my exercise goal. Since the dogs also need exercise, I thought I would take them along. With the weather, I put jackets on them so they were a little protected. What I hadn’t realized was the fog I was seeing was actually mist. Even worse, the temperature was below freezing. I stepped outside and nearly fell on my ass on the first patch of black ice. Correction, there really was one huge patch of black ice over the entire county.
At first, I thought I could make a go of it. My driveway is on a steep incline, so I thought if I made it down that, I could make it anywhere. I couldn’t walk down the drive, so I jumped on the grass and walked across the frozen blades. The dogs were also having trouble, doing the splits and, in general, having a hard time staying upright. They saw me walking on the grass and followed suit.
There is a grass lot near my house, so I made it there. I figured if I did a bunch of circles on that lot, I’d get my mile in, which was my goal. We didn’t make it one complete circuit. For one thing, the crappy conditions were getting to all three of us, but to Milo more. Usually on our walks, he likes to lead. That day, he was behind me. Then, he just quit walking. He sat down and refused to move. I dragged him a couple of times and got him to walk some more, but then he quit even doing that. I had to pick him up and carry him the rest of the way home.
I was writing Whispers Within a couple of months ago and realized I had a huge plot hole. I had these serial robbers with this flimsy excuse to rob this bank multiple times. I was disappointed when I realized this, which was about three or four chapters from the end of the book. My first reaction was, “oh well, I’ll fix it in the rewrite.” I mean, I was so close to the end, why should I wreck things right then and there to fix them. Better to keep going, see where I’m at, and go from there.
So, I’m writing and then this question enters my brain. These robbers have just robbed the bank like a week and a half before this final scene. How does this bank even have money for these robbers to steal? This made me realize that I needed a security truck dropping off a load of cash. This simple idea became the arc to finish out the novel with. Not only that, but then I could make just a couple of changes earlier in the book, like the robber’s motivation, and this became entirely feasible. This idea “carried” the book to its conclusion (home) and saved me from doing a massive rewrite. I’m so happy with how this turned out!
Milo and my novel get carried home. Now I’m on to finding better days for dog walks and finding new ideas for my writing. Stay tuned!
A few weeks ago, we got a couple of bad ice storms two days apart. This made everything a skating rink (including the highways, so I stayed indoors a lot). Unfortunately, the dogs had business to do outside. The way it came down in the second storm, all the ice was black ice. And then there was the patio.
One occasion I threw open the patio doors, the dogs were going a little stir crazy. They wanted to run on ice (I keep thinking of Billy Joel’s song, Running on Ice as I type). Zailey did the splits, but stayed upright. Milo was a different story. I think he was trying to run past Zailey and the turn caused him to wipe out, big time. He slid a couple of feet before bouncing right back up and running again. This time, he didn’t have the same momentum as before, so he was just spinning his wheels. He finally got going and made it to the yard where he could grip the ice on the grass. It was hilarious to watch.
I finished the first draft of Whispers Within about a month ago which means I’ve been working on editing it ever since. I first started reading it and realized I used “that” way too much. I used it in situations which didn’t call for it or where “who” and “which” were much more appropriate. So, that took a couple of hours out of my life to work on.
Then I started reading again only to realize my dialog was dull and lacking depth. Most of it was the overuse of saying, “said”, but some was just poorly positioned. The dialog itself was fine, but not how it fit with everything. This meant I went through and looked at just the dialog, cutting said where I could (especially when obvious who was speaking) and repositioning the dialog to flow with the emotional cues given by the others in the scene. That took way more than a couple of hours.
Running through the document without actually reading it fully as I fixed these things made it feel like I was running on ice and not making any progress like Milo and Zailey. But I didn’t let it keep me down. Like Milo, I popped right back up and did my best to keep moving forward.
It was New Year’s Eve and the dogs were getting a little restless. Not sure if there were some fireworks going off or what, but they couldn’t sit still. The back door curtain was closed and for some reason they were dancing around it. The reason became obvious soon enough; the cat was peeking out from under it.
Something then happened that I barely caught. Jynx swatted at Zailey. It was as if he was trying to tell Zailey to knock her shit off. She didn’t. Instead, the unseen cat doing a sneak attack made her even more upset. She didn’t get within range of the Jynx’s claws after that. At least she was smart enough to do that.
When I get a spare hour or so, especially when I wasn’t planning on it, I take advantage of it to do something with my writing. I look at my checklist of things that need done and work on the one at the top. Sometimes, though, the item at the top may take longer than the time I have. For instance, if I need to write a chapter, I know I can’t usually do that in an hour. In those cases, I’ll move on to something else on the list, especially when I know I have enough time to complete it or it has a good stopping point.
The other day, I was putting off writing a chapter because I thought it would take 2 to 2.5 hours to complete as it was the pivotal point of the novel with a lot of dialogue to wrap up most of the plot of the book and needed some extra finesse. The thing is, I’ve been thinking of this chapter since well before I wrote page one (actually, that first page I wrote is now in chapter 2, but you get the point). So, by the time I wrote this chapter, there was little thought to what I was doing. I just pressed key after key for about an hour. 1,200 words later, I had what I needed. One more chapter to go to resolve all the plot points, but it is going to be another exciting one.
Now that I’m reflecting on this chapter, I realized that I may have left the door open for a sequel to the book. I had never thought about one prior to this as I thought the door would be closed for a sequel. Ideas are now flying through my head and I think I’m pretty excited to explore this some more.
I started this blog to show that I play peekaboo with my time like Jynx plays from the curtain. The thing is, inspiration can also play peekaboo, too. Double bonus!
The other day, Zailey for no good reason, indicated she wanted out by clawing at the back door. I mean, she had just been out there fifteen minutes before this, so she shouldn’t have needed to go to the bathroom again, already. But she was adamant that she wanted out and I figured she might have forgotten to do number 2 on her previous outing to do number 1. Either that, or she had an upset tummy and needed more frequent trips. Concerned, I watched her.
The moment I opened the door, a flock of swallows or some little bird took to the air. Zailey was already running for them, but now had to leap after these birds. They, of course, were well beyond reach. She then had to bark and run around the yard making sure these creatures were truly out of her yard. I shut the door to let her chase birds she was never going to catch.
I’ve been birdy lately, too. I see a flock of geese flying overhead and I yearn for my call and my shotgun to take one or two home to roast (or I’ve got plans to make one into jerky). The only problem is that hunting excursions mean that I’m not at home writing, but I have a plan for that. (By the way, I must confess that I am taking time out from my pheasant hunt today to post this blog!)
For a while now, I’ve been doing “market research” by reading popular books, especially if they interest me. Right now, I am reading Outlander which I am finding similarities between it and Flaming Curse in that they are both historical fantasy and romance. I’m not keen on the writing style of this author, but I can see why it is popular and why it was made into a television series. I figure in between calling of birds, I can do my “market research”.
Unlike Zailey, I plan on catching a few birds. Hell, Zailey won’t even know what to do with one when she catches one. I, on the other hand, do.
The morning routine has been the same for quite a while. I get the kids up and they groggily go downstairs going for the door. I have to carry Milo as he doesn’t want to go and will run away if I don’t carry him. Zailey gets to the back door first and she runs out as soon as I open the door. Jynx gets to the door second and waits for Milo to be put down before he runs out. So, Jynx goes out last. Normally, anyway.
A few weeks ago, we got a nasty cold front that came through. The first day, the temps dropped below freezing and the winds were howling. The second day, we got six inches of snow that stayed around for almost a week. That first morning, though, Jynx came to the door like he normally did. I opened the door and let the two dogs out. Jynx stepped up to follow and then stopped when that cold hit him. He quickly turned tail and ran for cover. Damn, pussy, anyway.
I seem to like the cold more than the heat. I’m just as likely to be outdoors in the extreme cold as the extreme heat (pleasant days tend to be the exception and I head out more often on those). For one thing, hunting can be done in the cold. I’ve been known to go out on days below 0 Fahrenheit without the wind-chill being considered (-20 with the wind-chill almost a year ago). This means that writing isn’t getting done.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every year. The goal is to write 50K words in the month. I keep being asked if I participate in it. I don’t because of all of the other things going on in my life. Pheasant Season opens (as do other seasons, but I mainly chase pheasants). Then late in the month is Thanksgiving and we (my wife, the dogs, the cat, and myself) host my mother-in-law and her husband. This tends to cut into writing time. Then there is the big factor of me wanting to go back and edit things right after I write them. With work, writing group, coin club, and my hunting activities (including Geary County Fish & Game meetings), I can’t seem to get my normal amount of writing done that month. (Now, I’m trying to figure out my normal amount of writing and am coming up with a figure of 6K a month on average, but I think I hit 12K in December, so I’m not sure if that is quite right. Though, I was working on a long short story for an anthology and the deadline was coming up, so it was an atypical month.)
Unlike Jynx, I say bring on the cold. I may not be working on my writing, but when I do, he can curl up with me and we can keep each other warm!
The other day, I was sitting on the couch resting and couldn’t find Milo. Usually, I would be sitting there and he would be there getting attention unless he was really tired, in which case he would sleep nearby. I did find Zailey and I thought she was on her way to get a drink of water. I was starting to get concerned about Milo, so I followed Zailey’s actions. She wasn’t on the way to get a drink, but to get behind the curtain so she could sun tan. That’s when I noticed another bump in the curtain. Despite it being a huge patio door, I expected fireworks as there usually wasn’t enough room for the two of them there (there actually is, but the two being so near each other doesn’t usually work out). I got ready to yell at Zailey as she was the intruder.
Zailey walked behind the curtain and found Milo. I’m not sure what exchange happened there, but Zailey laid right down where she was. They were both there, basking in the sun, together. I swear, angels sang somewhere for the peace going on here. I snapped a picture to commemorate the moment.
Being blue eyed, I’m quite sensitive to light. My phone and computer have the brightness turned way down for me to operate. This makes them harder to work with outside. I can turn them up some in bright conditions, but I also wear transitions, making things even harder on me. This means that I can’t bask in the sun when I write. When I am outside, there has to be a lot of shade on me, which defeats part of the purpose. I can only think of a handful of times where I had a successful writing experience outdoors and mainly it is when I am in Arizona. This makes 99.9% of the time I am indoors to write. And usually, it is in the living room as my computer room isn’t comfortable enough for me to be there a long time straight. (This is changing, though, as I’ve made great strides to reorganize it and put another chair in there. It also helps that it is my game room with my original Nintendo, N64, and Playstation 2, so there is some incentive to have that area for playing games.)
I think the one key ingredient to where I write is peace. If Milo and Zailey can find peace together sun tanning, then I would like to find something like that on a regular basis. All too often, my writing spaces have some distraction and Milo and Zailey are a part of that distraction at home. If only those two could sun tan for hours on end while I write!
Sometimes hunting is full of surprises. Sometimes, you go to a place knowing it is full of game unable to get one up. Other times, you happen across something that just pours out more game than what you were expecting. I could give story after story like this, but today I want to focus on another aspect: the dreaded rattlesnake.
We’re walking through this pastureland as there is a draw running through it before the draw turns and runs through a field (half of it is cut corn and the other half is recently drilled wheat). I’m walking well left of the draw with the only person further left being my brother, who is walking up a little ahead to shoot any pheasants that may peal out of the draw (if they peal ahead, we’ll get them back up and if they peal right, there are other hunters to shoot them). As we are going along, the terrain is working downhill at this point as the draw widens for a bit and then turns. I see a wash going toward the draw and this has made a bountiful amount of grass for pheasants to hide in. Since the birds have been sitting tight all weekend, I decide to walk through this washout to see if I can’t flush anything. Yep, I flushed something.
I’m walking along with the ground higher than my knees a few yards to either side of me. I’m about halfway down the wash to where the thick weeds are for the draw. I won’t make it clear to the draw as I would walk in front of the next hunter in from me, but I have ten yards or so before that happens. Anyway, I’m busting through this grass at a good pace to really scare any pheasants in my path, but I stop when I see movement out of the corner of my eye. It’s brown, so I’m excited and turn to the left ever so slightly in case it flushes. I look down and see the “V” head rising from the ground next to my leg. The movement I saw was the snake coiling. Then the rattle started.
“Shiiittt!” I yelled as I jumped. (My brother said it was the highest he’d ever seen me jump.) I didn’t jump straight up, but more to jump clear. I then high stepped a few more paces down the washout before I realized that I had a better tool to combat my foe. Plus, there were hunting dogs there that could come across this thing sooner or later. I pointed my shotgun in the middle of the coil and shot. The snake was severed in two and both ends flailed about. The rattle was still sounding, which made me think there was more than one, though I think there was just one. My gun had three more bullets in it, so I proceeded to use them. After the final shot, the rattlesnake quit giving its rattle warning (so its death throes must have concluded at that point). People keep asking me if I kept the rattles. I had no thought to return to the snake. For one thing, even a dead snake can inject venom. Also, I had no use for rattles if I did keep them. Also, I’ve been asked just how much danger I was in. I had some good, high boots to thwart fangs if they went there. I also had on jeans with hunting chaps over them, making it unlikely it could sink its teeth into my calf. Still, though, there was a chance it could have gotten me.
This is one time where life imitated fiction. And it was my own fiction to boot. In Flaming Curse, Bourne comes to a wash in the prairie while on his horse and the horse jumps it with ease, only to land in a nest of rattlesnakes. The horse bucks after it is bitten and bucks off Bourne in the process. He lands on one and gets bitten in the keester. He then rolls away through the wash before another one can bite. Both horse and Bourne are saved by the witch, Marta.
Since I didn’t have a Marta to save me, I’m glad I didn’t get into the same mess as Bourne. The parallel with the wash and the prairie grass is unnerving (can I predict the future?). Bourne wasn’t able to shoot his snakes, but I shot mine.
Last month was the beginning of pheasant season which is a pretty big deal in my family. It is practically a family reunion with some close family friends in the mix as well. When we get together, we have a really good time and it all centers around the hunt. To help facilitate the hunt, my father releases birds to add to the potential crop.
This year, I was there early enough to see the release up close and in person. I was able to take some good photos of the occasion as well as some video. I enjoyed this, but the best part is when two birds flew up at the same time straight up in the air. The one to the left wanted to go right and the one on the right wanted to go left. They ran into each other in midair. We laughed at the spectacle of this. I didn’t have my camera out for this, though.
There are all these moments in life I wished I’d had my camera for. It would have been priceless to capture. Some of these moments are too good not to share. I’ll write about it on a Facebook post (and usually cross post it to Twitter), on my blog (like this one), or it goes into a book.
When it does manage to go into a book, it adds realism to the story. It can also be a source of my humor. Rather than rely on my wit (which I do quite a bit), a natural scenario that is funny can add a chuckle for my readers. I would like to point out that I am usually not picking on someone by writing funny things that happened to them. The exception would be myself or my animals that don’t care about being made fun of.
So, if you cross paths with me and do something funny, I probably won’t write about it unless you are like the two pheasants I saw last month. Nobody gets hurt that way.
My trip home from Arizona last month was delayed by about twelve hours. Instead of landing at home around 10:30PM, I was forced to stay a night in Dallas due to mechanical problems with the craft leaving Phoenix. When I did finally make it home, the dogs met me with a ton of enthusiasm as they were beyond excited to see me. Jynx gave me a few mews and demanded some attention as well. I was willing to give them the attention as I missed them all!
Oh, and that mechanical problem turned my layover from being about two and a half hours into fifteen minutes (I was lucky to even have that as there was some time made up in the air). It took me five minutes to get off the plane. Those of you familiar with DFW, I had to go from gate C2 to E37A in ten minutes. I missed my plane by about five minutes. The airline already had me booked on a new flight the next morning. I spoke with a couple of attendants and got a hotel room and a meal voucher, so at least the extra day didn’t cost me anything but time Oh, and I couldn’t get my suitcase, so no toiletries or even change of clothes, not that I had anything clean.
Now to the one advantage of the overnight stay; I called in sick to work and had some extra time to work on writing projects. If you’ve been following me long, you must realize that I take advantage of any spare time to work on my writing. This was no different.
So, even though I missed my kids one extra day, I got some good out of it. Though, I would rather arrive home on the right damn day!
Milo is quite good about escaping. He’s escaped from the house, car, and backyard on a few occasions. Sometimes, Zailey also escapes, but comes right back. Milo is such a little shit; he is a little harder to catch.
The day I left for Arizona was also the same day my wife had to go to class in Hays and stay the night. I was tasked with taking the dogs to their hotel (the vet). When we got there, a big husky met us at the door. Zailey didn’t move an inch. It took Milo several attempts before working up the courage to sniff at this huge dog and say hello. I kept trying to drag Zailey inside the office, but she still wouldn’t budge. Somehow, she shook her head just right while I was tugging, and she slipped her collar. Luckily, she was still rooted in place, so I could just put the collar back on. The vet staff had me go in the cat side of the office so they could process the dogs’ admissions.
A few weeks ago, I was working on a chapter and found it wasn’t progressing quite how I wanted. I was covering what I wanted to cover, but just way too fast. Somehow, this little idea came into my mind for a bit of a twist (not a major plot twist, but a little something for this chapter) and I was off writing this new thread. It added about 500 or 600 words to the chapter, so about a third of it. It also fit nicely to give even another conflict to the story. It was a nice escape.
Another novel I was working on the very next day had a similar issue with the flow of a chapter. I was covering what I wanted much too quickly. The escape on this one was that I had one piece that I meant to just cover in dialogue, but then found that I could have it as a plot point of the whole chapter. I could show this as worry to the main character while the dialogue shows this as worry for the secondary character in the chapter. Showing this concern added about 250-300 words to the chapter and makes it much stronger (the characters are in danger here, so if they feel it, the reader feels it).
I find myself doing this quite a bit. I start with one thing in mind for a chapter, but then find I can strengthen the story by adding something else. Sometimes this results in changes to the story down the road, or I must make changes earlier, but that is okay since I am building a better story because of it. The plot twist I added even added a bit to the next chapter to resolve it (I’m close to the end, so things need resolving soon).
So, now you see that Milo and Zailey aren’t the only ones that know how to escape!
My trips to Arizona allow me some time to relax and enjoy the things around me. Family, friends, and meeting new people are a part of these trips. There is also the interesting desert wildlife. Some are even found around my grandmother’s pool. Hummingbirds, butterflies, quail, and lizards are the highlights. Sometimes I grab my camera, but more often I am living the moment from within the pool.
Now my pool time is usually my time to get in some exercise, stretch out my aching body, and to enjoy the cool waters. In general, try my best to turn off my brain, though at times we are conversing in the pool. The furthest from my mind is writing during this.
On the flip side, I do get quite a few writing projects done while in Arizona. Many times, it is on the poolside table where I comfortably sit and work on stuff. In fact, the first draft of this blog was written poolside. It truly is a wonderful, peaceful environment to work in.
I’ve been thinking about a short story and it is coming together in my mind. I’m wanting to submit this to an anthology that can help market me, especially my other short story collections. I’ll also be able to add this to one of my collections down the road as well (slated for Infinite Horizons). During my Arizona trip, I did think about this story and thought about the twists in the story. Mainly, I was trying to figure out how best to let them pan out.
In general, Arizona is where I can recharge, and I love my time down there. Sorry this isn’t about my babies whom I miss so much, but the next post is sure to see their return!
I don’t know what I was doing, but Jynx was on the counter and being extremely lovable. You know, the whole cooing purr, leaning into you, and begging for attention. The dogs were outside was part of the reason he was wanting attention since they weren’t causing him to be anxious. He often is on the counter to get food, so I thought that might have been the cause of his over-attentiveness. But he wasn’t yelling, “feed me, human,” so he didn’t want food. (I think I had given him a snack not long before this, which might partly account for his good mood.)
I looked up from giving Jynx his attention to find a pair of brown eyes staring at me through the patio door. These were sad eyes, screaming, “What about me?” She didn’t make a move, just stared at me with longing. At first, I stared back, but it made me feel bad. I broke off eye contact and moved on shortly after that. I gave her some attention when she came in.
I’ve been fortunate to have many interests and hobbies through the years. I’ve been quite entertained. Many of these interests take hold of me and really take over aspects of my life. I guess that is my addictive personality. I’m also a dreamer.
One thing I enjoy is poker. I’ve studied it and played fairly well in certain settings. The thing is, it takes money to play and that is something I don’t have at the moment (damn mortgage and student loans). I do dream about hitting the World Series of Poker and going deep in some tournaments. The thing is that with my dream, I do have this part of me saying, “What about me?” If you haven’t guessed, that part is writing. I know that if I did ever play the big games, I’d spend my down time writing. That’s just who I am. I can’t stop writing for anything.
Zailey and writing can’t be ignored, at least for me. Do you have things in your life like that?
The following incident happened a few weeks ago. The dogs and cat wanted out and it was late, well after dark. I didn’t think much of it at the time and let them do their business. I did a chore and was back at the door to let them in a few minutes later (if even that long). The dogs came right in, but Jynx was taking his sweet time, which wasn’t unusual. I hollered for him, but he seemed distracted. He was looking at the top of the fence right next to the house. I tried to coax him along, but whatever had his attention was stronger than I was. I think Jynx turned to come inside and it was the turning of his back that brought on the attack. From my point of view, the attack came from nowhere. Another cat jumped down on Jynx, rolling him.
The second cat looked like Jynx, except a little smaller. I was yelling, the cats were hissing and giving cries. The feet were flying and it looked like mouths were looking for purchase. I didn’t want to get in the middle of those claws and teeth, but I was scared for my kitty. I yelled for them to stop.
No cat ever listens. They didn’t stop. My wife later asked who won the fight, and I answered, “Zailey”. Just because I was afraid to get in the middle, didn’t mean Zailey wasn’t afraid. She ran full speed through my legs and out the door. One cat ran for the yard and the other cat ran inside. Luckily, Jynx was the one that ran inside. The other cat must have jumped the fence as Zailey ran circles in the yard making sure that it was clear of all cats other than her own. I found Jynx upstairs (he ran all the way there before stopping). He was tired and shaking. He warily eyed me as I approached. He let me pet him but hissed when I tried to assess him for injuries. I let him be for a minute before trying again. He wasn’t happy, but he let me look him over. He wasn’t bleeding was all that I could tell. His right, hind leg seemed sore, probably from the other cat landing on him. Jynx was very lethargic and wouldn’t eat much for days after the fight. Not sure if it was PTSD or if there was some internal injuries going on that took a little time to heal. He’s better now.
On to the next fight. I recently won a free license to a book writing program called Scrivener. It has all sorts of tools to help storyboard the story, write it, and publish it in varying formats. I started playing with it and found that it was useful to a point. The ability to edit the book with another person is lacking. But that is near the end of the book writing process. The thing is, once I export the document out of the program, it’ll be a lot more work to put it back in to actually have it help me produce in the varying formats. So, I’ve been going back and forth in my mind as to if this product is even going to be worth using in the long run.
Just like the cat fight on my back patio, the fight in my mind did not come out in favor of one or the other. I’ll continue to use Word for Whispers Within as I’m almost done with it and use Scrivener for Death Curse since I may need some of the story organization features as the story continues to unfold as I write it. If only I had a Zailey to come in and break up the fight for me. Stay tuned to see what happens next.
Jynx has diabetes and needs a shot of insulin twice a day. As I am the early riser in the family, it is my job to do the morning one. Often, I haven’t put on my glasses when I go downstairs to let the dogs and cat outside for their business. While they are all outside, I get Jynx’s breakfast ready. I also ready the shot.
The mornings have been getting longer and I hate turning on the light when I am just going to need it for a moment. I guess I’m just lazy. I’m also being a little frugal in not wanting to waste the little bit of electricity.
So, no glasses and no lights on when I go to inject Jynx. I’ve only managed to stick myself twice. Once was because I went in and then back out the other side of his skin tent, hitting me. The other time was he moved as I was going in and got my hand instead. The needle is so small, though, it didn’t faze me. I also didn’t depress the plunger into me during those incidents, so all is good. Except for the whole contamination of the needle thing.
At the Kansas Book Festival, I made a big play to get new subscribers on my newsletter. It seemed to go great and had a bunch of people wanting to be subscribers. Emails went out asking for the new people to confirm and then there was nothing. I was confused. Where were these seemingly energetic people jazzed about my stuff?
I tried to resend without a single acceptance. I then emailed them from outside the newsletter mailer software and got a few responses. Actually, I got several bounces (so the emails had typos), and then others saying they never got my emails. They checked their spam and only one person had an email in their spam. I’ve contacted the email senders and they suggested that my email address wasn’t a good one (this is my website one, firstname.lastname@example.org as they’ve complained about my gmail address from the very beginning), and gave me steps to fix it. I contacted my website people and they took care of things on their end. Sent another round of emails and still nothing. I then switched to my gmail and still haven’t gotten anything going. I’m so frustrated, I’ve switched my newsletter software going forward (actually starting with the October newsletter that went out on the first). Hopefully, nobody will be lost in this transition and I hope I don’t lose people in the future.
Sometimes a shot in the dark is warranted like with my newsletter. Most of the time, it’s just stupid, like with Jynx. To each their own.
I’m in love! And she’s not my wife! She is sooo cute (my wife is cute, but in a different way). I love it when she climbs up in my lap and showers me with kisses. I love running my fingers through her short hair. Her name is Zailey.
I try not to fall in love with animals as I hate when they pass. Also, don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, Jynx, and Milo, but not in the same way as I love Zailey. If she had some better manners, I don’t know what would happen to my heart, then.
Zailey came into my life via an old friend of my wife posting pictures of their new blue heeler pups online. My wife and I both like blue heelers, but we had never had one before. I think we now regret getting one, but we can’t get rid of our precious Zailey.
When I first started writing, it was because I wanted to see my story written on the page instead of just in my head. It took me years to write that first novel. Partly because I wrote some short stories along the way. Mainly because I didn’t have time. I had work and other things keeping my interest. When I was done, I loved what I had written. The best part of writing is reading something once it is done. I wanted that high again, so I dove right into another novel. This time, I was armed with a work ethic and I now kind of knew what I was doing (I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but I learn more as I go along).
I love creating something from nothing. I guess that is also why I like writing computer code. Interesting enough (at least to me), a computer must interpret the code I write, while human brains must interpret the words that I write. Sometimes, I feel like computers understand me more, but then again, not always. I love it!
I love what I do and love coming home to Zailey at the end of the day (and my wife, Jynx, and Milo). I hope you love my stuff, too!
Cue the Alfred Hitchcock music. Jynx has officially gone psycho. Due to more medical problems (namely a cracked tooth that had to be extracted), Jynx no longer tolerates solid food at all and will not eat pâté that much either. We now have him on a strictly gravy and meat chunk diet. This means that he will not eat his pill pocket with amitriptyline hidden inside. So, now he is bouncing off the walls.
It really pisses off Zailey. Jynx runs past her kennel while she is locked up and she must grumble her displeasure each and every time.
Also, my wife is pissed because Jynx is a night owl again. He’ll walk on her head and knock her phone off the nightstand to wake her up. He wants a snack and she is more likely to give him one than I am. Either that or I sleep deeper and can’t be wakened by his antics. Either way, I am spared his midnight shenanigans until I hear my wife yell at him.
I’ve gone a bit psycho myself, lately. Part of it is that I am not getting enough sleep. Between allergies, my back giving me fits, and a ton of weird nightmares, I just don’t sleep well. What’s worse is that the more that I don’t rest, the more my back and allergies affect me, feeding more into the cycle. My nightmares are due to my anxiety, so I just need to deal with that the best that I can. The thing is that I am currently traveling and that always increases my anxiety. No rest for the wicked.
So, back to my psycho-ness. I’ve actually gotten something good out of it. I wrote a killer short story about a psycho monster for an anthology. At least I hope it makes it into the anthology. I retain the rights to the story if it is published there, so I will be putting it into an upcoming collection of my own (Infinite Horizons is due out in 2021, but I’m not sure when the rights will revert to me).
Jynx and I are psychos. Watch out world, here we come!
As a precursor to this blog, I have to say that I love lizards. Until now, I haven’t lived in a place with a lot of lizards (I remember finding a salamander as a boy at the farm one summer). Usually, I’ve lived in places with snakes. I’ve lived in Junction City for 7 years now and have seen one horned lizard (commonly referred to as a horny toad), countless prairie skinks (black bodied with bluish tails and usually 3 to 9 inches in length), and countless great plains skinks (grey and usually 6 to 18 inches in length). The great plains skinks are kind of ugly and there are a ton burrowing under my driveway to the point where I am getting tired of them. I love seeing the prairie skinks as they are pretty and would like to see more of the horned lizards.
One evening, I am walking up the driveway to the garage. I spotted two prairie skinks about 6 inches long sitting on the driveway in between some vegetation and the front tire of my wife’s car. They spotted me and one dove for cover. The other was warily watching me as I stopped. I had hopes of getting my cell phone out to get a picture of it. A great plains skink that was about 12 inches long had other plans. It jumped out of the vegetation and attacked the prairie skink that remained. It got in a bite to the head before it noticed me. The great plains skink let go and the prairie skink ran for cover. Then the great plains skink slunk back to cover as well.
The other day, I saw an advertisement an author had put out. He was looking for donors for his kick starter campaign. That gave me pause. I mean, why would someone not advertise their work? I’ve read one of this guy’s books and enjoyed it enough that I’ve bought another one. It seems to me that this guy is looking for money to write his next book instead of selling what he has already written. To me, that seems backwards.
Now if anyone reading this would like to donate money, I won’t turn you down. To this author’s credit, he was offering a bunch of perks to funding him. You’d get swag as well as a pre-release copy of the book in question. So really, this was an extremely fancy preorder deal. As fast as he turns out a new book, you wouldn’t have too long to wait before getting the book. I’m just wondering if the pre-release version will be as edited and polished as the final release. By the way, the pre-release was only two weeks before the regular release, so I’m sure it would be nearly done with the polishing.
I guess this author thinks he is going to get more attention through this and rake in some extra dough. Me, I unsubscribed from the medium that sent the advertisement. I still plan to read the book that I’ve purchased, but it’ll have to be really good for me to want to purchase any more of his books.
I understand that in a lizard eat lizard world, sometimes you need to do things to survive. I just don’t think what this author will work and may even hurt his reputation/brand a little. I am going to do what I think is best for me and my brand. What do you all think?
One of Zailey’s nicknames is “b”. It stands for baby, brat, or bitch depending on what else is happening. She doesn’t respond to it; though she doesn’t really respond to her own name. I think if I use my dad voice (the gruff, short, and loud voice that belays that I’m upset), she knows when I say her name. I can’t really do my dad voice when I call her an initial.
My wife hates when I call Zailey a bitch. If I call her a “b” and she asks which meaning I meant, the answer better be, “brat” or I’m in trouble. I usually say, “baby” in full when I call her that. The only problem is that I am lying when I answer that she is a brat.
For various reasons, my stress level went through the roof this month. It has been a “b” and a half. I won’t complain about the issues I faced, but I will say that it has affected my writing. I’ve had to really work hard to get my life in order so that I could destress enough to write something competent. Usually writing has been a stress relief, but this month it hasn’t.
Several causes of the stress has become manageable or at least under control. Hopefully, this means that writing will also resume being the stress relieving activity it once was. Then again, I have a busy September coming up, so I really need my stress to stay low in order to keep up where I want to be with my writing.
So, here’s to the future and the hope that Zailey and my stress aren’t “b”s!
A few weeks ago, I was working in the garage. I had the door open so my sawdust went outside rather than keeping it in. I looked up at one point to find a basset hound walking up, inspecting what I was doing. This dog was ugly, like most bassets. It also had a few too many pounds of fat. When it walked, loose skin and fat jiggled.
Up the street, I heard a commotion. It sounded like there was a search party mounting. I asked if they were looking for a basset hound. They were, so I pointed to the dog that was now walking to my yard to water the grass, if you know what I mean. The dog owners were grateful to get their dog back and I was amused by this rotund ball of fur.
From time to time, I get an idea so good I must work on it right away. Sometimes it is in the middle of the night, but other times it is during the day. Often, it is during the night. This means that I get up, boot my computer, and start writing. Sometimes it is just notes for some other time when it is better. Most of the time, I write the full chapter or short story. This adds up to me losing sleep.
When I was preparing Twisted for publication, I decided that I wanted to next focus on Whispers Within since I have been working on it for years and still don’t have it done. This meant that I was going to *not* write any short stories. My mind had other plans. I came home one day with an idea that was too good not to write. A little over 2K words spewed forth onto the page in about an hour. Usually, I am good for about 1K or 1.5K an hour with the later being extremely rare occasions for me. I must really be booking it to get 1.5K let alone the 2K I got for this story.
Being hounded isn’t always good, but I generally find them to be positive. I don’t plan to publish that short story for years, yet. We’ll see how it is received after that.
The kids are all shedding, bad. Our house is a massive hairball at the moment, in part because I am behind on vacuuming (more on that in a minute), but mainly due to these animals losing a ton of hair.
Sure, we brush them from occasion. Actually, it is more my wife doing the brushing, but I do it as well from time to time. What irks me is that Zailey’s brushing yields a mess of black hair. That means she is showing (keeping) more of her white. I think she is prettier when she is darker rather than lighter. She’ll be darker again this winter, but for now, I have to put up with her being a light blue.
Back to the vacuum, or lack thereof. I have had summer allergies for the first time ever. Even worse is that I ended up getting bronchitis. It has slowed me down to where I can’t vacuum up the hair. That then makes the allergies worse. It is a cycle that has no end! I’ll hopefully be able to break the cycle soon.
My writing production has been down as I recover. I have gotten a few things done in a few spurts on the weekend, but not near as much as usual. While I’m not behind (because I was so far ahead before this stuff hit me), I’m not as far ahead as I would like to be. I’ll get there, though.
How I get there is going to take some patience and perseverance. That’s also how I’ll get my pretty dog back as well. I just have to get through the current cycle.
Jynx has been one sick cat. First, he was drinking a ton which made him piss a ton. He was even going outside of the litter box. The vet diagnosed him with diabetes and gave him an antibiotic since he had crystals in his urine. Jynx wasn’t getting much better, so they sent home some more antibiotics to give him. Then Jynx suddenly went to eating very little due to these antibiotics upsetting his tummy. For about a week, we had to try a bunch of different things in order to get him to eat the bare minimum. We had to quit giving the antibiotics.
Now he is back to eating his normal amount. Actually, he is a little more ravenous than usual. A couple of weeks ago, he even convinced my wife that I didn’t feed him, so he got some extra food.
Have you ever noticed that people in books rarely eat? It’s like that is such a mundane function that it is skipped over by the author. When I don’t eat, I get hangry. Shouldn’t characters in a book do the same?
In Flaming Curse, I have many of the meals mentioned, though some aren’t talked about. For one thing, I think it is interesting what food was available in the old west, which was fun to research. Besides seeing that, I do have one of my main characters miss breakfast and the ill effects he experiences because of that. It is yet another tiny detail that creates conflict to drive the story forward. In other words, I used not eating effectively.
Jynx continues to get better, especially with the insulin. My book is better with details like this. Check it out! Coming in just over a week and available for preorder now!
Zailey will run full out when we throw a toy. In the dining area, we have faux wood floors. She slips on those floors every time. Most of the time, this means she slides into the patio doors, headfirst. I think it is hilarious. My wife hates that I do it on purpose, but she laughs too.
Lately, we’ve found that the patio doors aren’t shutting properly. It would seem that Zailey has bonked her head one too many times and warped the door to the point where it isn’t fitting into the frame properly. Not sure what repairs are going to cost me, but this isn’t funny anymore.
Okay, not as funny, but still funny.
Not everyone gets my sense of humor. I understand that. One of the critiques of Dark Matter mentions my comedy story, “The Silent Perfect War”. While I thought the critique was overly critical (they should have realized that it wasn’t their cup of tea and said that), I know other people laugh their asses off reading it. (By the way, you can read that story for free on Goodreads.)
Zailey and I both love to be funny despite it not being pleasing to everyone we encounter. Let’s hope that the majority of people have the same sense of humor as us, though!
About a month ago, we were getting wave after wave of storms. One night I was on the phone with my dad shooting the shit. Zailey was suddenly going nuts like someone was in her backyard. The yard is locked, so knew that wasn’t true. I thought maybe there was a bird or something, so I let her outside even though it was starting to sprinkle. There were some gnarly clouds passing us to the south and that was the only thing I could think was bothering her. Milo just stayed back and looked at Zailey like she was dumb.
After the call, I checked the weather. On the south side of those gnarly clouds Zailey was so worried about was a tornado. It was heading away from me and was a good 15 miles away. There was also another tornado about 15 miles north. It made me start singing to the dogs, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you”!
I’ve had some close calls with tornados. I’ve had a tornado that wasn’t on the ground go over my house (I think that was 2002). A bunch of things from the yard was thrown into a neighboring pasture. One of my mom’s stock tanks (I lived next door to her) was even picked up and thrown a few hundred yards into the pasture. I wasn’t home at the time, so that was good. I didn’t see that one, but I did see one when I was plowing a field one summer afternoon (I think it was 1997). I was questioning it the entire time I was watching it since they weren’t talking about one on the radio. When it got close enough that I could tell that it was definitely a tornado on the ground and not some low hanging cloud, the Emergency Broadcast System finally broke into the radio broadcast to warn of it.
When I was putting together this last collection of stories, I knew that I had to call it Twisted so that I could put a tornado on the cover. It was this kind of thinking that partly inspired Slave in the Cloud and its inclusion in this collection. A boy in purgatory is commanded by God to create a tornado. The boy questions Him and the explanation is quite, “For the greater good.” I love that story as it is comforting to me to think that there are good things that could come from even the worst events. Check it out, if you haven’t.
So now I know that Zailey can sense twisters and I can write about them in a good light. How cool is that?
Milo hates thunder. It's almost as bad as fireworks popping. He’ll run to either my wife or I and curl up during a storm. Then he starts to shake and looks at me with those big, sad eyes. We had a huge stretch of storms from the middle of May to the beginning of June and they put him in constant fear.
I do my best to comfort him and let him know it is alright. I’m not sure he believes me or not since he keeps running back to me. Worse is that he is now growing afraid of going outside. He used to always beat Zailey outside and Zailey would have to get coaxed. Now it is the other way around. Its driving me up the wall.
The other day, I’m dinking around and thinking. I’m searching different stock photo sites for images of skulls to use for covers in my upcoming books in the series started in Flaming Curse. Even though it is just now available for preorder and the sequel, Death Curse, is barely started, I have some time before I have to worry about another book in the series. I think I am afraid that I’ll get stalled if I don’t have some plan for the future beyond the first two books.
As I’m looking through images, it hits me that I could take the image I am using for Death Curse, which looks very similar to the one on the cover of Flaming Curse, and flip it. Then I moved the skull and shrunk it a bit to give me more room for a lightning bolt. Then I put a cowboy hat on the skull. I’m thinking of calling this one Thunderbolt Curse.
I didn’t stop there, though. I mean, what good is a cover if I don’t have a story for it? I’ve got the basic idea of the plot in my head, though I’m not sure how this is going to end. I had some other ideas for the book like it opening at the wedding of the two main characters, Marta and Sheriff Bourne, but that might have to wait with this new idea coming into play. I’m going to work more on Death Curse before I stop and storyboard the plot for Thunderbolt Curse (if I do end up calling it that).
Thunderbolts are scary. Milo is tough and gets over his in a matter of minutes or maybe a couple of hours. My thunderbolts tend to take up years of my life before I get over them. Mine are also a lot more fun! (Yes, I think it is fun to be scared.)
I’m going to start this blog in the reverse of what I normally do and talking about my writing. Actually, I want to talk about my writing pen pal. We trade chapters and stories for each other to critique. We also discuss the trials and tribulations of writing and publishing in this day and age. I’d like to think that we are figuring this thing out together. You can check her stuff out here.
Jehree and I met at a writing group meeting years ago. I was reading her first novel and she was reading one of mine before she moved to Texas. We do chat sometimes about life in general, but most of the time it is just about business. She still hasn’t read the ending to that novel that I’m still working on and she has finished two. Brenda is my favorite if you want my opinion, though I may be a little biased.
The dogs and cat are also social via the interweb. My wife follows different dog and cat sites on Facebook. She’ll see a dog that she thinks is Zailey’s twin and show them to me. Or she finds Milo’s or Jynx’s twin to show. These pictures are never as cute as Zailey, as handsome as Milo, or as regal Jynx.
My wife also posts pictures of the dogs and cat to these channels. She’ll get a ton of likes from complete strangers enjoying our animals. She’ll also get excited to see a dog that could by Zailey’s boyfriend or find an animal that could by Milo’s or Jynx’s girlfriend. It’s fun to see this interaction.
Fun is the key word here. Getting something worked out with my pen pal or seeing Zailey, Milo, and Jynx be temporary internet celebrities is fun!
Jynx hates having his toes trimmed. Even though he has never had a toe overly cut back, he kicks and screams at some point during it. Usually, I end up with scratches and sometimes even blood is drawn. He is not a happy kitty.
The other day, I grabbed him to start trimming his nails. I laid him upside down and started going at it. My wife was drawn by the noise; not the noise of the cat who was purring, but the noise of the trimmer going snip. She was amazed that he wasn’t throwing a fit and she asked what was different. To answer, let me back up a bit.
For the last several years, to help him calm down and be happy with me again after a trimming, I would give Jynx a treat. It got to the point, that I would get out the bag of treats when I got out the clippers. He knows he is going to get treats soon and all he has to do is let me do this one thing. I’ve also been giving him more treats the better he does.
Now back to the other day. I hadn’t given his medicine to him, yet. So, I did that before starting the trimming. He gets the pill in a pill pocket, so he thinks this is another treat. From his point of view, he just got one treat and I have a whole bag of treats for him for when he is done with the trimming. He was on his best behavior those few minutes, I worked. He didn’t even kick out of my grasp and he most certainly didn’t scratch or scream. He got a ton of treats after that.
A little over five years ago, I hit my 100th rejection from agents on Alien Fear. I was also just starting to get my first rejections for Gun Smuggler’s Tale. This probably would have driven other people absolutely mad. I had a plan, though.
I had created several short stories over the years. One stood out to me and I rewrote it over and over until it was just right. I entered my short stories in contests and submitted them for inclusion in anthologies and magazines. I didn’t get any traction, but I wasn’t trying nearly as hard as I was for getting an agent for Alien Fear. That was my number one goal. I was trying to get my short stories to draw attention to my novels. After reading an article about authors who would self-publish something and then that would interest agents, I decided to take the stories I currently had, add more to get a dozen, and self-publish them all in my own anthology. It didn’t hurt that I had a good cover, but the idea took off. Plus, I had fun putting together the collection, so I decided to do another one. So, this was my plan.
Then the market turned on me. Agents quit asking me for additional materials when I queried them. Hell, they were rejecting me at an even higher rate. No matter how much I told them about my success with my first short story collection, agents weren’t interested. And still, I remained calm.
My plans evolved. They continued to evolve. If I ran into a roadblock, I just evolved the plan some more. Both Alien Fear and Gun Smuggler’s Tale are now published.
Jynx gets a reward for being good. Seeing my books published is a reward all in itself! All we’ve got to do is remain calm.
A few weeks ago, I was at my mother’s taking care of her horses while she rested up from having surgery (she’s fine, now). One of her horses is a Clydesdale named Iris. She weighs in at about 2100 pounds. One of the times we came home, the horse was eager to see us. She jumped and pranced around as we pulled into the drive. She looked like a big, overgrown puppy wanting to play with their best friend on coming home. Except that this puppy could squash you if you got under its huge feet.
My week at mom’s meant that I didn’t get much done with my writing. A lot of time was devoted to feeding horses, playing chauffer for my mom, and trying to get some sleep during the seemingly constant Arkansas thunderstorms. Oh, and my back didn’t like that bed I was sleeping on. My lack of nightly sleep meant some naps were in order. Plus, I had to do some of my own horsing around. My mom was pretty upset that I beat her at almost every single game that we played (sorry, not sorry)! She won one round of Phase 10. On top of all of that, this was a work week that I was away, so I did as much work as I could from the road. As you can see, there were some fairly important things going on that week away.
Now that I am done helping my mom out, it is time to quit horsing around. I’ll leave that for Iris to do! I’ve got a few books that need my attention.
It is impossible for Zailey to sit still. If something is going on around her, she needs to be right there in it. Hell, she practically sleeps with one eye open so she doesn’t miss anything. This makes it harder to get loving from her. You have to practically hold her hostage or make sure everything in the house is one hundred percent calm (like when Milo and Jynx are both asleep).
This bugs my wife to no end. She wakes up often to Zailey stirring in her kennel. Other times Zailey could be in the middle of licking my wife’s foot and suddenly be off after Milo because he went to get a drink. Not to mention the barking when someone passes our house. I get pretty peeved at that one, too.
When I am sitting still, my mind wanders. I may not be physically active like Zailey, but my mind is going a million miles an hour. The only problem is capturing my thoughts properly. For example, I will have a thought on changing something to one of my stories. Ten seconds later, I’ve forgotten the specifics of what I was wanting to change. Sometimes it comes back to me, but other times it doesn’t. Even though I keep saying I’ll take notes, I rarely do. Usually it is because I am driving or am otherwise engaged. Plus, it usually takes more than ten seconds to get somewhere to take a note and, I’ve already forgotten it by then.
Like Zailey’s hyperactivity, my wandering mind bugs my wife. She’ll ask me a question and I don’t answer because I am thinking. She then talks some more to fill the void. I have to stop thinking to listen or stop listening to keep thinking. Both options annoy her to no end. Sorry, honey!
Sitting still means very different things to Zailey and I, but we are both active while doing it. I think it helps my writing to think like I do and Zailey’s activity makes for good fodder. So, here’s to sitting still for the both of us!
The other day, Zailey was so excited when I got out her leash. She wouldn’t even sit still for me to put it on. She couldn’t help it even though she didn’t know where she was going.
When we got outside, she kept looking to me for a clue. She didn’t know if she was going for a walk or a car ride. I thought she wanted to go potty, so I was waiting for her. She never went potty, so I loaded her in the car with Milo.
They were all over the place as I drove. They still didn’t know their ultimate destination, but they were eager to find out.
In the parking lot of the vet clinic, Zailey was still excited. There were so many smells in the parking lot and around it. She pottied then.
It was time to take her and Milo inside. We got to that front door and then her excitement was gone. She did not want to go inside. She did not want to sit next to me as I talked to the desk clerk. She did not want to go with the technician. She just looked at me with her sad eyes that made me wish I wasn’t dropping her off for the weekend.
I get pretty excited about a lot of my writing adventures. Each book marks a new chapter in my life that I find fun. The problem is that after the book comes out, I run into this brick wall in the shape of the millions of other books out there already competing for attention. My excitement drops in the face of that.
Right now, I’m excited about Flaming Curse. It has the potential to fight through that competition and be a force out there. I think it is unique enough to be interesting to all sorts of people while at the same time having a tidbits of familiarity (the Flint Hills of Kansas, Wild Bill Hickok, battle of good versus evil, and so much more). This story is my favorite to tell and I hope it becomes the favorite of my fans.
Zailey was excited when I picked her up from the vet just like my fans will be when they pick up this book. Get ready as it is coming soon!
The other day, Zailey jumped on the side of the chair and put her front paws on the armrest. With her being a little out of reach, I started rubbing her chest. She liked it so much, she started putting more of her weight into the pet to make it more of a massage. I obliged and kept up the chest rub. Without meaning to, I was lifting her in the air. I looked down and found that neither of her front paws were on the armrest anymore. She was just balancing on her hind legs and my hand. I kept up the massage until she wanted let down.
One of the new additions to the Olson household is a massage chair. We needed a new chair as some of our other furniture was worn out. My wife picked this thing and the price was reasonable. I have enjoyed an almost daily massage for a while now. While I don’t think it has been helping my back issues, it has been pretty relaxing. A relaxed Matthew is a less stressed Matthew. Matthew can write better when he is less stressed. I realized the other day that I was typing a mile a minute. This chapter just seemed effortless and captured everything I needed it to. Well, almost everything. I still had to edit it the following day to iron out a few things. Still, a very fine first draft if I don’t say so myself.
Zailey and I love our massages. We are so much happier to get them!
My wife and I rearranged our living room a few weeks ago. During this, we had to decide where to put the dogs’ downstairs kennels where they get their meals and, in general, have a safe space from one another. They tend to fight over food. Also, when one of them is tired while the other wants to play, they get snippy with each other. So, those are times they go to their kennels. To save on space, we put one kennel on top of the other in the form of bunks. Milo has to be helped up to his (since his kennel is smaller, it is on top), but he jumps down with ease. I might have to build him a ramp one of these days, but for now he can get assistance.
In the short story version of Flaming Curse, I had my witches placed in a holding cell in the basement of a church with bunk beds.For the novel version of Flaming Curse, I had to think about where I wanted that church to be. I hate fictional settings, so I researched my butt off for this one. I used to drive by Bala Cemetery in Riley County on a daily basis when they were doing work on the main road from Junction City to Manhattan. So, this back-road cemetery stuck out in my mind. In researching Bala, I just couldn’t see my novel taking place there. For one thing, I never found any information on a church. Then I found St. Joseph’s church in Geary County and it was just perfect for what I wanted. Things started happening from there. The original church was built in 1870. I found a map from 1870 with a town named Kent not far from the church. So, now I had a year for my novel to take place and even a town. I couldn’t find much information about Kent, but the church was what I really needed (well that and the cemetery right next to it). I did find loads of information about 1870 Davis County (renamed Geary County later), Junction City, nearby Ashland (there was a ferry there that I use in the book), and Manhattan. I also researched Wild Bill Hickok and he makes an appearance. So, much fun stuff.
The church was rebuilt in 1910, but has been closed in 1989. In fact, the stain glass windows were sold at auction. There is currently a project to get the church windows replaced and the church restored to be a community building. I follow the Geary County Historical Society on Facebook and on April 10th they showed some of windows being installed and would be open soon. It would be neat if I could somehow coordinate with the Historical Society to have a book signing there or some other author event during some other event they host. To find out more about the church, go here.
You never know what makes a good connection until you try. For Zailey and Milo, their kennels make good bunks. Going from bunks in a church to having a full and rich setting for a novel makes it fun for me. It is coming soon, and when it does, I hope you have fun reading it too!
For his birthday this year, Jynx got a new bed. When he is downstairs, his favorite places to sleep are on the couch, on a blanket wherever it lay, or on the dogs’ bed. These are all places that the dogs can bother him. Besides, we removed one of the couches from our living room to give him even less room just for him. Hence the need for another spot of his own.
We still haven’t figured out a good spot for it. We don’t want it where the dogs can get him nor use it instead of him. At first, we have it parked in the middle of the dining room table. I think he liked being there in part because he can see everything going on in the living room and was just a hop away from his food on the bar counter (we just have pretties, a beta fish, and his food there). We ended up putting it down at the end of the loveseat and have it blocked by a coffee table. The dogs can’t get to it and he is using it there.
I mentioned that this is for when he is downstairs. He does like hanging out downstairs when we are down there. If we are upstairs or if he is wanting to get away from the dogs, he is sleeping on the bed or in his suitcase. That’s right, I said suitcase. He loves getting in suitcases and even laundry baskets or boxes. We have a small suitcase that almost never gets used, so he commandeered it after the last time we used it. We’ve since added a blanket to help him be comfortable. Oh, and we put it on top of the dresser so he can watch us sleep. Of course, he still comes cuddling up to me when he wants attention. He’ll step on my wife’s head on the way by, but he’ll find his way to me. If I’m not around (like after I’ve gone to work) and he wants attention, he’ll cuddle with my wife. I’m the preferred cuddler, though.
I haven’t been getting very good quality sleep lately. In part, I blame the time change, but really this has been going on even before that. Plus, it’s been almost a month since the time change, so I should be acclimated to it by now. Part of it is nightmares, but also other factors like Zailey or Milo waking me to let them out in the middle of the night. Nightmares I don’t mind too much as I can sometimes get a good short story or novel out of them. I’ve done some research into nightmares and I know it is anxiety in my waking life that is playing into the nightmares. The thing is, I tend to oversleep or am half asleep during the day and that adds to my anxiety. I’m in a cycle that won’t quit.
Being tired has made it tough for me to be motivated to sit down and write. I’m doing a lot of novel work at the moment where the idea for whatever I am working on was done previously, so I’m not doing a lot of hard thinking here. Just putting my outline or storyboard into fruition. I’ve got to flesh out the details and that isn’t too hard for me. I’m almost on autopilot doing this. The biggest issue is that I am usually lacking emotion and depth to my characters writing on autopilot. Those I can add later, but it is nice to have on the first pass rather than down the line.
Jynx’s anxiety has gone way down having his new bed. I wonder what will make mine go down? I’m thinking a vacation, but that costs money that I don’t have. So, I guess I just need money. And to get money, I just need to sell more books! Problem solved!
I was sick a few weeks ago and I needed a nap. Apparently, Zailey couldn’t make it through the whole nap time. She woke my wife and was put out with Milo. Then the baby gate was not put up at the bottom of the stairs, so the dogs had free reign of the entire house.
When I first felt a dog climbing on me, I thought it was Milo. In my sleep addled mind, I was coming to terms with the animal on me as he only weighed about ten pounds. I could go back to sleep with him on me. As the dog crawled to my chest, I was laboring to breath more than I expected. I pushed the dog down only to realize that the dog was bigger than I thought. It was Zailey on me.
I got her pushed down and got her to get of the bed. I rolled over to try to get back to sleep. Milo was on the bed, but in my wife’s spot that she just vacated and Jynx was sleeping in the far corner away from me. Zailey decided that if she couldn’t be on the bed, the cat shouldn’t either. Zailey tried to get in Jynx’s face a couple of times, but was rebuffed each time with a swift pop. The shrill Zailey barks alerted me to this. I had to yell to get her to quit. She then laid on the floor to nap there.
Jynx was now awake from his nap, so he needed some loving. I was the closest parent (and his preferable one anyway), so he climbed up on me. Milo got jealous and grumbled at the cat. The cat gave a warning back (something like an “ack-ack-ack") and walked right over me to my nightstand to look out the window. Having succeeded in keeping the cat away, Milo went back to sleep.
Getting sick always sucks. My housework time and writing time suffers from this. Since this was a weekend, I didn’t have to call in sick to work, so at least that didn’t suffer. Falling behind schedule is the most disappointing thing about something like this. I also found it hard to find time to get back on schedule this time around. I’ve been sucked back into doing a little more with coins the week I was sick. While the payoff sounds promising this time around, it still takes a lot of time from me, particularly in getting it off the ground.
With all of the commotion on my bed, I found that I had to get up despite being groggy. Time waits for no one, though. Zailey, Milo, Jynx, and I march on.
We were getting snow storm after snow storm last month. Usually, we get a warming period in between snow storms to where one snow melts before the next one comes down. Jynx hasn’t been happy about this. He used to go out from time to time to bask in the sunshine or to munch on grass (when it wasn’t dormant). Heck, he would go outside just to run around for a minute and watch birds. With snow on the ground, he does not want to be out there.
You can tell he misses the outdoors. He’ll run up to the sliding door like he wants to go out. He’ll longingly gaze through that glass at his yard. The moment I open that door, though, he’ll jump back.
I got him good a couple of times. Instead of opening the door to let him out on his own, I would first put my hand behind him so he couldn’t back away. Then I would open the door and push him out. I would have to close the door right away after that or he would probably run back in. If he did get cold, there was a heated dog house for him to hide in. But he usually just moseyed around the patio until I let him in. Either that, or he would sit at the door waiting for me.
The snow has played hell with my work schedule. I had days where I worked from home, had an early release, and had late starts. This meant that I’ve had more time to write. I’m zipping right through projects at home. The problem is getting home. My normal thirty-five minute commute has been as much as two hours. That eats into some of that time that I was gaining. Though the net has been in my favor and why so much stuff has gotten done.
Speaking of commutes, I feel bad about some thoughts I had on one. I was going about forty on ice and was really having issues going that fast. People were passing me going sixty or seventy. It got to the point where I started wishing they would learn to slow down. Sliding into the ditch would be one way. One such pickup made it another two miles past me before they spun out. The only thing saving them from hitting a guard rail was all of the snow the plows had deposited against it. The thing was, the joker got their vehicle going straight again and still kept going their dangerous pace, so they didn’t learn.
Anyway, despite my extra time of writing, I want this snow to go away. Spring is nearly upon us (it hit 60 this last weekend), so this hell is almost over for Jynx and I.
The other morning, I roused the dogs out of bed to put them outside. They had gotten up in the middle of the night, so it had been about five hours since they’d been out. Milo was being his usual self and didn’t even want to get out of his kennel. The floor of the kennel slides out, so I gave him a bit of a ride to get him to the edge. I then coaxed him to where I could pick him up. Zailey was a completely different story.
She did walk out of her kennel on her own. Maybe a little slow, but not unusual. For the first time ever, though, she just laid down in the hallway outside of the bedroom. She was telling me that she did not want to walk down the stairs. I was behind her at the time, so I had to stop to not step on her. I was stunned a moment before getting a little miffed. I kept calm and asked her nicely to get going. She didn’t and I couldn’t keep cool any longer. I nudged her hiney with my toe. That got her to move, but not the way that I wanted. True to Blue Healer form, she nipped at my ankle. Luckily, she only caught air, but I was pissed now. Also, lucky for her, she realized she was in trouble and she ran down those stairs.
I’m not the best salesperson. Heck, I’m not even the best marketer. Part of the reason why I think my books aren’t selling as much as I would like is that I hate it when someone tries to talk me into their products, so I don’t like to talk others into mine. Even though I know that there are a lot of people that I encounter that will enjoy my stuff, I can’t seem to talk them into it. I have a laid-back approach, most of the time.
With the release of Twisted last month, my normal approach has been transformed into more guerilla tactics. I’m not laying down here and am instead doing several ads, talking to my social groups, and, in general, talking to people under the flimsiest of pretenses about my books. I’m not just talking about Twisted, I’m talking about all six (and even a little about the ones coming down the pipe). I’m not really that interested in selling just one book. I want people following me on this journey that I am on.
So, in short, I’m running down those stairs unlike Zailey. If you are reading this, I hope that means you are following me down those stairs too!
One evening I was getting ready to feed the dogs. I had already fed Jynx, so the dogs knew I was coming around with food for them. Since the dogs have a history of fighting over food, I feed them in their kennels. As soon as I opened Milo’s kennel, he was in it. I was still working on getting food for him when Zailey also rushed into Milo’s kennel. The fight was on, then.
Milo’s kennel is pretty small since Milo is a small dog. With him in there, Zailey could only get in about half way. Since I was right there, I pulled on her hind section. Of course, with the fighting, I couldn’t get a good grip the first several times. I finally got her out. Milo tried to be all macho and standoff with her still, so I slammed the kennel door in his face. This meant, I lost the grip on Zailey. Of course, I was yelling at her during all of this, so she knew she was in deep shit. She ran away from me. I opened her kennel door and she ran in there to get away from me. Milo had no injuries and I didn’t bother checking Zailey. I fed them both and kept them kenneled up for a long while to cool off.
I enjoy a good fight sequence in books. Writing them can be fun as well. The fight at the end of Flaming Curse was thought out well before I began to write the novel. It was exciting to read when I finished it. I wish I could tell you all about it, but it would give away too many spoilers. I guess you’ll have to read it when it comes out! (Note: I hope to have it out this fall.)
The dogs fighting was scary to me just like I’m sure people reading my fight sequence will also be scared or at least at the edge of their seat. Now if only I could get these damn dogs to quit fighting. Sorry, but I won’t stop writing fun fight sequences. (Oh, and the one that I have planned for the sequel, Death Curse, is going to be bigger, deadlier, and even scarier. Fun!)
Jynx had been sick a while before we finally took him to the vet a few weeks ago. He hates leaving the house and tends to slice people up while out. He’ll even slice me. So, they left him in his pet carrier when he wasn’t sedated. Oh, and he was left in his carrier about two hours. And, the sedation makes his bladder control weak.
When I picked him up, I could tell right away that there was a problem. I didn’t know how big of one, so I took him directly to the sink when I got home. I’m glad that I did. His tail was drenched and there wasn’t much of him not a little wet. I took him out of the carrier and gave him his first bath in years. He hates baths, so was not happy. Lucky for me, he was more interested in trying to escape than slicing me. Either that or he realized that I was trying to clean him up. Once he was washed, I attempted to dry him, but that didn’t work so well. He finally escaped my grasp and I let him air dry from there.
Now that the rough draft of Flaming Curse is finished, I am beginning the process of cleaning it up. I was trying to set up a twist at the end that just didn’t work. My bad guy just wasn’t evil enough throughout much of the book, so I have to fix that. I’ll have to rewrite a few dozen things to accomplish this and even combine a few chapters. I’ve set up a lot of time to work solely on this project (and just when I was making some progress on Whispers Within again).
Once I am done with the rewrite, I’ll do another pass of just editing the book. Then, I’ll get an editor for this as well. I’ll look over the edits and do any other touch-ups before a final proofing session by the editor. So much cleaning ahead!
At least with Flaming Curse, I’m in no danger of being sliced up while cleaning it. But it is going to take a lot longer time than Jynx did!
The other day, I was putting the dogs to bed like normal. Zailey hesitated before going in her kennel. At the time, I didn’t think much of it other than it was a bit odd. Then my wife was wondering where the cat was. We hollered for Jynx to no avail. For some reason, Zailey’s hesitation came to mind, so I checked in her kennel. Sure enough, there was one dog and one cat in there. They just stood there looking at each other like, “What do we do now?” I let the cat out and didn’t pay much mind to it from there.
Then about a week later, the cat was missing. He wouldn’t come to our calls (though that isn’t too surprising). What was the weirdest was that the cat hadn’t come down for supper so his food was sitting there untouched. For whatever reason, I needed to go upstairs. I looked at all of his usual haunts - his bed, our bed, his litter box, and even where his grass and breakfast/lunch is kept. He couldn’t be found. I then looked in Zailey’s kennel out of desperation. Sure enough, he was there napping away. I told him he had supper to eat and that got him moving, though he should have been able to hear my wife and I tell him that from hollering for him.
One day I was getting the car worked on, so I walked to a nearby McDonald’s and got a bite to eat. I then worked on the outline to Flaming Curse. This was the day after I had written the rough draft to the outline, so I had a bunch of holes to plug and general improvements to make. Heck, I’d forgotten to complete one of the plot lines, so I closed that out. The story was fortified into something even better than what I had.
After thinking about it that evening, I got another idea for the story. It was a minor tweak, so I just thought I would go in and make it. Just so you know, any time I write these days, my work is backed up on the cloud in addition to being saved on my laptop. I’ve also got my work computer set to get another backup of my work. At that time, I also had a home desktop that would have gotten the backup as well. So, I should have had four copies of the changes that I made in McDonald’s and there were quite a few changes. Guess how many copies actually survived. If you said zero, then you would be correct. Looking at the logs of the document changes on the cloud, no changes were recorded that morning. I had to redo it all in addition to my tweak. I was a bit miffed.
I think the reason that no changes were saved was because the McDonald’s WIFI wasn’t as reliable as I thought. My laptop is set to download the file from the cloud, which then overwrote the copy that was on there. Since the document never made it to the cloud, the redundant copies on the other computers never got updated. So, what I now do is that every time I don’t have a connection or I think I’m on an unreliable connection, I make my phone into a hotspot and sync my laptop to the cloud before shutting it down.
When something goes missing whether cat or file, it can be aggravating to track down. But at the end of the day, the cat was found and files can be recreated. Everything was fine.
The other day, Milo climbed up on my lap to get attention. Zailey also wanted attention, so she laid down next to me. I had a drink in my right hand, so I only had one free hand to comply with the two dogs’ needs. I petted Milo a second and then petted Zailey. Milo was pissed that I didn’t keep petting him, so he turned to nip at his competition. Instead of nipping Zailey, he missed and bit me instead. Since it was just a nip, it didn’t break the skin or even really was that hard. I was pissed though.
Milo knew he did something wrong right away. He jumped down and cowered a few feet away. Zailey perked her ears up wondering what happened. I yelled at the little asshole, threatened to give him away to his grandpa, and put him in time out in his kennel. I then made sure to love Zailey well within eyesight of him to really let it sink in that he did something wrong while Zailey acted right.
One of my friends is retired and uses some of his free time writing. Another friend of mine is contemplating retiring soon so that he can focus on writing. It is my dream that I could become financially fit enough to retire early to focus on writing. I even have gone as far as to figure out what my schedule would be.
The first thing I would do every morning is edit the previous day’s work. Enough time will have passed between writing the stuff to where I can have a clear head to edit with. After editing is done, I would then dive into new projects. Writing chapters/short stories, blogging, researching, outlining, and marketing would be worked on a highest priority rate. The goals would be to still get a blog out every ten days, do something else marketing related the other nine days, and release a new book every forty-five to sixty days. And yes, I think I can sustain that rate.
Jealousy is a powerful emotion. Unlike Milo, I’ve kept my jealousy down, but it doesn’t mean I can’t still dream. My day is coming!
Jynx was hanging out on the back of the couch, minding his own business. The dogs wanted to play and of course Jynx was the target. Milo tried a few assaults from the front by jumping on the seat and then jumping Jynx from there. He would then jump back down to get out of range of claws and to entice a chase that didn’t happen. Since my wife and I were both on the couch, it was a bit hard for him to keep this up beyond a couple of tries. Zailey had a different approach.
As tall as she is, she could easily jump up on her hind legs and get at the cat in attempted love bites. Jynx was beyond prepared for this. Every time Zailey’s head came up, Jynx popped her on the head or nose. He didn’t have claws extended, thank goodness, but these weren’t little taps either. Zailey had no choice but to abandon her attack and try a different attack. What ensued was the best game of whack-a-mole (or is it whack-a-dog?) I’ve ever seen. No matter what angle Zailey took, Jynx was able to pop her. Jynx easily won as Zailey eventually gave up after a few minutes of this.
I have some plot issues with Flaming Curse at the moment. I’m so close to being done with the first draft that I can’t quit now for fear of losing momentum. I feel like that I’ve had these issues for a while now and I keep trying to whack them as they come up, but it has turned ugly. I’m losing the ending that I’ve been striving for. I’m going to have to fight through the ending for now before turning around and doing some major rewriting in the edit. It is going to take some hard work, but I think I can salvage much of the current draft and turn it into something really good. I mean, it is good now, just losing a bit near the end.
I am confident that the moles will all get whacked in the rewrite and I’ll emerge victorious like Jynx!
The other day I was home instead of at my writing workshop. The kids (Jynx, Zailey, and Milo) enjoyed having me home. We played some and got some extra loving (or maybe I got some extra loving) with the additional time. I think they were glad I was there.
The Junction City Writing Workshop had been in danger of me stopping it for a while. I was real close to shutting it down when I had a bunch of attendees come to a session. It was a great session, so decided to keep things going. The high attendance was apparently an isolated incident rather than the new norm. I also worked hard to market the group to get it to grow. I also put quite a bit of effort into doing new things and researching helpful topics for attendees. I guess part of the reason that I wanted to close shop was that it was taking too much of my time that I could have spent writing.
Quitting something like this was hard to do. I started this with every intention of doing it long term. I couldn’t foresee an end, especially after how good of a start it was and how appreciative people were for my advice. People even seemed to have a good time when they came. I think it is hard for people to get out and mingle in the ever-changing digital landscape. I was disappointed to close shop to say the least.
I may have been disappointed, but the kids weren’t. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to do a different version of this online someday. The dogs and cat can even keep me at home for that!
Zailey’s first Christmas was spent in Arkansas (actually, all of her Christmases have been in Arkansas) visiting my mother. That year was a bad one weather wise. There was a tornado nearby and so much rain that it flooded out a golf course. With the heavy rain, I wanted to start home later to hopefully hit the end of the storms. Also, there was snow forecasted the farther north we went, so that ruled out going home on a more northerly route through Kansas City (I usually go the south route anyway as it is much shorter). We did well for about half of the trip. In between Independence and El Dorado, Kansas, the fit hit the shan (or something like that).
At this point in the journey, the rain was lightly coming down. The road was wet, but not much standing water, so I didn’t fear hydroplaning. The temperature was getting just below forty degrees, but the wind was blowing. I didn’t account for the wind and that was my first mistake.
We came upon some slower traffic. I passed one vehicle and waited patiently to pass the rest. An SUV behind me wasn’t as patient. They decided to pass as we came up to a bridge. Oh, and they didn’t just pass me, but decided to pass the whole line of vehicles. Me not being worried about this was my second mistake.
Halfway over the bridge, the SUV hit ice. The windchill meant that the rain was freezing on the ground and this bridge was one of the first places to ice over. The SUV slid sideways, and the driver panicked. They hit the brakes which sent them into the left guardrail head on. They were going so fast that they bounced off it and across the two lanes of traffic.
I saw them slide and did not panic. I slowed (not slammed on the brakes) and edged over right, away from the crash. As I saw the SUV cross the highway, I turned left and hit the gas (to prevent fishtailing or spinning). I drove around the SUV as it hit the right guardrail and it spun back straight against it. Everyone in the SUV was okay. My wife, Zailey, and myself were all scared near death, but alive. The car was also unscathed.
After that, I slowed way down and tested the ice conditions every so often. About thirty minutes later, we crossed a valley with trucks stopped on both sides of the road since they couldn’t make it up the hills. I was also having troubles getting up the hill and was only going twenty at this point. At the top of the hill was a rest stop, so we stopped there. The ice was so thick and the wind was so bad, Zailey and I couldn’t go very far before we did our business (yes, I peed in a bush instead of going to the actual toilet). We then spent the night in the car. It sucked, but we got through it.
When traveling, my laptop usually makes the trip. Often, I don’t get a chance to get it out and work on things. Other times, I find lots of time to write (like in Arizona this last October). It all depends on what else is going on.
Unfortunately, I usually have to drive when we travel. When I fly or have someone else driving me, I get out my laptop and work on some things. Usually, it is a bit cramped to work for a long period, but I try to do a little something in these instances. Heck, anytime I can find a spare couple of hours to write, I’m going to grab it and do all that I can with it.
Traveling can sometimes suck, as Zailey can attest to. Most of the time she enjoys the ride and I also try to be that way!
It never fails that when there is something shiny, Milo goes nuts trying to get it. It doesn’t even matter that it is impossibly out of reach, he’ll still try to get it. It could be the most imperceptive thing in the world, like sunlight reflecting off my watch onto the bright patio pavement, and he’ll see it.
The other day, he was sitting there staring at the ceiling. We were sitting there wondering what he was looking at. Then when we found the tiny square of light, we had to figure out where it was coming from. We finally traced it to a cell phone sitting nearby and had to move it to see if it was indeed the source. Every time the light moved, he danced around hoping it would fall so that he could attack it.
What is worse is that sometimes he is so erratic that Zailey has to get in on it. She barks and dances around him. She wants to play with him even though he wants nothing to do with her and everything to do with that light. I hate Zailey’s barks, so the light source needs found and shut down asap.
When something shiny comes along, I can’t go nuts. Instead, I sit there and analyze it from every single possible angle making sure it is something good. This can be a story idea, a blog idea, or even just something I randomly encounter. Once I deem something good, then I’ll go nuts with it.
I was talking with a potential customer the other day. They asked what I liked to read and I started to respond with what I used to read. I haven’t done much reading lately, so that is what I replied with. I’ve been tied up with writing so much that I don’t have time to read. I least that is what I told her.
I’ve since realized that me saying that I don’t have enough time to read isn’t quite true. I spend a lot of time playing games on my phone. Time that I could spend reading (and even doing more writing). Since that realization, I’ve made a commitment to reading at least an hour a week. What will I read? I’ve been into a dark mystery series written by Linda Ladd. I’ve also been taking a look at some successful indies in just about any genre (Glass by Kate Kort is what I just finished and it almost lived up to the hype). I’ve had some recommendations from friends, mainly mysteries. I’ve been told some bad things about Andy Weir’s new novel, so I haven’t pulled the trigger on buying it, yet. Though I do plan to reread The Martian, which I now consider my favorite book of all time beating out Larry Niven’s A World Out of Time. I’m also going to read some classics that are considered the best all time. I feel like if anything else, surrounding myself with the greats may make me better. Many of these, I am looking forward to reading, but some I know are going to be a slogfest (like when I read Sir Arthur Cannon Doyle’s The Complete Sherlock Holmes).
My shiny object is reading and I hope to go as nuts over it as Milo does over his shiny lights. Hopefully, it’ll be good for me. At the very least it’ll give me a better response to a customer the next time they ask me this question.
It was a good plan to start with. Both Zailey and Milo’s kennels were bare while pillows and blankets were cleaned. Their dog dishes were sitting just outside of their kennels, so that is where I fed them. Milo quickly ate his, so I thought he was still hungry. I fed him a little more since he hadn’t eaten much the previous day and a half or so. That was a mistake.
My wife thinks it was a mistake that I fed them out of their kennels in the first place. It wasn’t like this was the first time it had happened. I didn’t think it was a big deal and it shouldn’t have been.
Milo was done eating and didn’t want the extra food I put in his dish. Zailey for some odd reason abandoned her food and was slowly heading for Milo’s bowl. I didn’t think much of it since I thought Milo wasn’t going to eat it, Zailey might as well have it. At that point, I didn’t know she had her own food left.
Jynx loves dog food. For some reason, he thought that Milo’s abandoned bowl made for a good meal. I think this was the main catalyst for what happened next.
Milo’s territoriality kicked in. He decided to tell the other two to leave his food alone. Zailey said, “I’m bigger than you and I can have it if I want.” The two started their wrestling. Snarls and barks went up before the yips of pain. My wife and I were yelling at them, but the two were in their own world. It was looking to be a fight to the death.
Somehow, my wife got hold of a spray bottle that we keep filled with water as their deterrent and was spraying Zailey, who was kicking ass in the fight. I kept trying to get in and separate the two. Finally, I got Zailey’s collar and drug her ass outside. She went out on two feet since I had the collar held up high enough that her front feet never touched the ground until she was outdoors.
Milo was cowering in a corner and shaking like a leaf. He held his right front paw up and out. The way he held the paw made me think his leg was broken. I gingerly felt the leg, but found nothing wrong. I picked him up and looked him over from nose to tail. I also felt his leg as he wouldn’t put pressure on it. The only time he seemed to be in pain was when I felt at his elbow, but only if I was trying to feel under it. He was using his leg to shield a small cut on his side. It was slowly oozing and looked to be his only injury.
I kenneled Milo and then got Zailey. I did the same injury inspection for her. The only thing that she shied away from was when I tried to touch her lip on the left side. I think Milo got her lip, but I couldn’t see an injury. If there was one, it was on the inside of the lip where it would heal well naturally anyway.
A couple of nights later, I woke up in the middle of the night with some stomach issues. Trying to get back to sleep, I was thinking about wind rustling through the prairie. I was trying to bring peace and tranquility to my mind so that I could sleep.
Thinking this over and over, I started to develop an inner monolog. It was pretty good with talk of peace and the imagery of the grasses. Then I thought about writing this down and the next thing that came to mind was that this was a good way to start my Flaming Curse novel (three witches and a living skeleton on the Kansas prairie). There is so much fighting and strife in the novel that starting off talking about peace and the wonderful landscape would bring a stark contrast to the novel. Especially after the reader looks at the image of a burning skeleton on the cover, I’m really making their head spin. By the end of the first chapter, peace is out the window.
I wrestled with this for a little while. All I really wanted to do was sleep, not rewrite the first paragraph of the novel. I figured this could wait until morning. But sleep was still elusive, so I brought up the document on my phone (my license of Word allows me to write documents via mobile). I really just wanted to see the current first line to see how good it was. It was a good line. I couldn’t throw it away. I thought about shutting down my thoughts on rewriting the beginning. Then I thought, well, let me write it and see how it is. I can always delete it if it is bad. The fight was on.
After writing the new beginning, I love it. The old first line is the first line of the second paragraph since it holds a little nugget of intrigue.
Did either dog win the fight? Did either beginning to my novel win? The food is still in the bowl and both beginnings still exist. Milo was a bit bloodied, but may learn from this (at least I hope so). My beginning is even stronger. We’ll see what happens from here.
On a hot August day a few years ago, my wife and I picked up a cute little blue heeler that we had named Zailey Rochelle Olson. She was nervous to be away from her mother and siblings for the first time. Also, there were two humans she didn’t know carrying her about and taking her away from the only thing she had known as home. It was a long drive home from northwest Kansas back to Junction City.
After that came the tedious process of potty training with more than a few messes to clean up along the way. We did some organized training at a nearby Pet Smart. There was this being that demanded a lot more attention than our previous dog or even the kitty that we currently had. My world was rocked.
That same year, I got an interesting idea for a short story. A witch living in the old west was captured and put with two other witches. Their powers were blocked so that they could be burned at the stake. The story was about their struggle to get free of the block. It was a metaphor for intolerance. I called it “Flaming Curse” and it came out that December in Dark Matter.
In 2016, the next year, I was thinking about what to do for my next novel as I was nearly finished with Tech Fear. At that point, Whispers Within was being worked on slowly, but steadily, but I was trying to do two projects at the same time in my quest to increase my productivity. I remember driving home and thinking about all the short stories I had worked on. I thought on “Flaming Curse” and how it would make a good television series. I started thinking about what that series would look like. The next day, I went to work on an outline with some slight changes to the story. It took a few hours, but I had over forty chapters set. The next few days, I reworked the outline, mainly because I forgot to close one of the plot lines. By the end of that period, I had fifty chapters. I’ve since made enough changes to the outline that I’ve had to extend it to fifty-one chapters.
This story continues to build momentum. After finishing the outline, I had a vague notion of doing a sequel. Some of the changes to the first book put a kibosh on the idea I had. Now that I am nearly finished with the novel, I realized that the ending I have in mind will lend itself to a different story with more witches, more bad guys, and more action, even though there is a lot of action in the first novel.
The world of “Flaming Curse”/Flaming Curse has consumed so much of my time that Whispers Within has been put on the back burner. That and I wanted to work on Twisted. So, my writing world has been rocked much like Zailey rocked my world.
I was given my first BB gun when I was around ten. I loved that gun. It was accurate and well built. It didn’t have a scope, but that didn’t bother me. I could hit a can at twenty-five yards well enough.
Besides shooting cans, I would shoot birds with it (mainly barn swallows and other nuisances). It got to be that when I went hunting, a trail of farm cats followed me as they knew they were about to get an easy meal.
I remember one particular day where I was going after a larger bird of some kind. I think I hit the thing square in the chest at least three times. The bird just sat there like, “is that the best you can do?” I wasn’t deterred in the slightest. I decided to aim a little higher my next shot, though. I nailed it in the eye and down it came. The cats all swarmed the bird and I had to shoo them away so that I could get a look at my kill (that was how I found out I got it in the eye). Once done, I let the cats have at it and continued my hunt. A fight ensued behind me.
Hunting has made it into my writing. In Gun Smuggler’s Tale, I describe a true pheasant hunt of my own that I pawn off as my main character’s. In Dark Matter, I have a short story centered around a pheasant hunter and his dog. Flaming Curse has more than a few shot rabbits and such. There aren’t any pheasants because the book takes place in 1870 and pheasants weren’t introduced to Kansas until 1906. In talking with another member of my hunting and fishing club, I’ve now been roped into doing a presentation on writing. This will give me a chance to talk about my passions: hunting and writing.
I’ve always heard that you should write what you know. I know a lot about hunting pheasants and am learning about turkeys and geese. I’m sure more and more will show up in my writing as I get more stories to tell. Maybe even the cats following me on the farm will show up somewhere someday.
About two weeks ago was Milo’s birthday. At the insistence of my wife, I bought the birthday boy a gift. She said to get something that he could destroy, but to also get something small for Zailey so she didn’t feel left out. I found a dragon toy that looked like it would get torn apart fairly easily despite the packaging saying it was tough to break. I then headed to the treat aisle where I got a pair of pig snouts which neither dog had ever had before. I didn’t want to get a treat for Zailey without also getting one for Milo. At $2.60 each, I thought it worth the shot at trying them.
When I got home, my wife removed the packaging from the new toy commenting on what it said. She then gave the toy to Milo. Zailey was playing with one of her favorite toys, so she didn’t mind.
Later, the two were tired of playing (or maybe they had just come in from outside), so I gave them the pig snouts. They both made fairly quick work of the treats. I think they liked them. I may have to remember this the next time I’m looking for a treat that is still reasonably priced but also good enough quality.
After their treats, I didn’t pay too much attention to the dogs. They were tired, so they weren’t making a scene to draw my attention. I’m not sure why I looked at Zailey, but I did. She had the new dragon toy and was chewing it. Maybe, the crinkle noise the toy makes drew my attention. In any case, Zailey had stolen the toy and Milo was too tired to care. So much for Milo’s birthday present being just for Milo.
A few days after Milo’s birthday, I flew out on vacation and for a programmer’s conference. On the plane ride, I was thinking about some of the scenes in Gun Smuggler’s Tale involving my main character, Clark, becoming a pilot. When he’s being tested, he’s asked to do a hammerhead turn. Clark doesn’t know what that is, so he thinks he’s about to fail. The tester tells him that it is also called a stall turn, and Clark knows this and is able to perform it. I took this directly from someone telling me about this happening to them. I liked the story so included it in my novel. While I did steal this, I did get permission for it. Many of the other things that happened in that novel were like this. I stole it from somewhere; usually from my own life.
Zailey and I are good thieves. Nobody noticed the thefts. We probably won’t get away with it forever, but isn’t that part of the fun?
The other morning, Milo didn’t want to come in. After letting the dogs out to do their business, I got their breakfasts ready. Once that was ready, I went to let the dogs in. Zailey was waiting for me and eagerly came in out of the wet and cold morning. Milo was nowhere to be found. I figured he needed an extra minute to do a number two, so I left the door open and waited for him. In the meantime, Jynx wanted out, so I had to ward him off with my foot. A minute of this and Milo finally made an appearance, but he sat down right in the middle of the patio.
I hollered for him to come in while still warding the cat off with my foot. I’m not sure if that my kicks near the doorway were thwarting him or what. He was cold, wet, and soon was shaking. I kept calling him and reassuring him that he could come in.
Finally, Jynx quit trying to escape. He must have figured that I was determined to stop him. Either that or he spotted the dog who may tackle him if he did go out. Either way, I wasn’t doing kicks right inside the door.
I was thinking about going out and grabbing Milo, so I opened the patio door wider. Milo either saw this as being more inviting or he knew I was about to come grab him. He stood up and slowly lumbered toward the door. He then stopped a moment at the step up to the house, but then jumped over the door frame and in. He then did a frenzied run around the living room before kenneling up for his breakfast.
A couple of days before this happened (about a week and a half ago), I was working on a chapter. It was a gun fight that wrapped up a secondary plot line. Both the good guy and the bad guy get shot and is told from the good guy’s point of view. The chapter ends with the good guy’s world fading to black. As I wrote that, I was excited to the point of shaking. The scene worked so well and we are getting close to resolving the main plot, so this is pretty well timed (I’d rather this chapter occurred at the same time as the main plot, but I can’t do that). This also serves as another complication for the ending of the book. To say that I was pleased with the outcome is an overstatement.
Shaking isn’t always a good thing as in Milo’s case, but there are good shakes. I hope my readers shake when they read this chapter!
At first I was going to call this blog "wet cat", but that was a little close to something a little sinister (think of a different name for cat). Not that I'm afraid to go there, but sometimes I like to refrain from being overly vulgar. But, damn, is it hard to keep my mind out of the gutter.
Let's get back to what I want to talk about. We have been getting a ton of rain lately. By reliable sources, we've gotten 4 inches in the last week and most of it has been a drizzle or a light rain. This has led to a general melancholy around my house. Jynx has been pissed that he hasn't been let out very much and the dogs are holding their piss as long as they can so they don't have to go out. (I said I wouldn't be overly vulgar not that I would completely avoid it!)
Last night, I went to let the dogs out and Jynx ended up sneaking by me. He had snuck out on Sunday and he didn't last long. So, I warned him that he'd want back in soon.
About five minutes later (probably less), I went to get the dogs. They came right in, but the cat was nowhere to be seen. I called for him over and over. My wife even called for him from the couch. That didn't help. I walked into the yard and looked around. I first looked in the dog house thinking he would use that as shelter. He was there or anywhere else that I could see. I finally spotted movement by the fence. I threatened to leave him out if he didn't come in. I went back in to make good on my threat.
I wanted to go to bed. This wasn't getting me any closer to bed as I didn't want the cat out in the rain all night. He needed to come in and he needed in now. I called for him some more. After a few minutes, he finally made a slow walk across the yard. Then he took his time crossing the patio. He sometimes is afraid to come in if it looks like he would get tackled by the dogs, so I made sure they were well back. Still, the cat just stood there. After what felt like an eternity, the cat came in. I closed the door, shut off the light, and took the dogs to bed. My wife hollered that I needed to towel off the cat. I thought it a fitting punishment that the cat just remain wet for not coming in when I called for him. I think my wife dried the cat.
Part of my story is that I released Shorts as a way to get my feet wet in the publication world. Alien Fear had been long done before this release. I liked writing Shorts so much that I wrote Dark Matter. I was hoping that by selling my short stories, this would entice agents to pick up and read my novels (Gun Smuggler's Tale was also complete by this point). This was at a time where agents were absolutely afraid to read new author's stuff. Before this, I had gotten a few agents to read the full novel of Alien Fear, but they ended up too scared to run it up to publishers. In frustration with these agents, I decided to quit getting my feet wet and to get all wet. It didn't hurt that Shorts was selling well.
Unlike agents, Jynx and I aren't afraid to get wet. Twisted and Flaming Curse are both looking to drop in 2019 with Twisted coming very early in the year. I call that a wet year!
The other morning, I slept in. The dogs were whining and scratching to be let out. I don't blame them for that as I was glad that they had held it as long as they did.
I almost always carry Milo as he tends to jump around and run ragged. This usually wakes up my wife, but also makes Zailey hyper as well. By carrying Milo, Zailey quickly runs downstairs, looks around a minute, and then heads for the back door. This morning was different.
Milo needed to go so bad, he ran through my arms. I let Zailey out and prepared for the two of them to jump on the bed. Neither did and they headed straight for the stairs. I followed. The three of us were met on the main floor by Jynx. He also wanted out, so he ran under the table next to the back door. The dogs also didn't go too far astray on the way to the door. I think Milo stopped to drink some water, but was otherwise a good dog. With everyone being so good, I decided I would let Jynx go out with the dogs (I try to restrict Jynx's outdoor time).
I slid open the door wide enough for the two dogs to go out since I was expecting Jynx to run out after the other two. I was surprised to see two dogs and a cat all trying to go out at the same time. Zailey was in the middle, so Milo and Jynx both got pushed against the door and doorframe, respectively. Despite Zailey having a longer frame, she made it out first with the other two being pinned. Milo was basically clawing at the ground, but not moving forward. Jynx just waited a second until he had room to go again. None, were any worse the wear and they all made it out. If only I had opened the door a little wider! Then again, I wouldn't have this humorous start to the day if I had opened the door wider.
Before my mind became Swiss cheese due to seasonal allergies, I had all these plans to get all of these writing projects done. Many were geared toward releasing Twisted and also getting ready to finish Flaming Curse. There was also a question of when I would return to writing Whispers Within which has been stalled for months now (it looks like I'll get back to it early next year). Some of my plans were contingent on other things happening, so I've already had to shuffle things around a bit. In this way, they were jockeying for position. Plus, if I start getting ahead again during my retreat next month, there will be some more jockeying.
My plans may not be fighting like the kids did the other day, but there is still fighting going on. It'll all resolve itself, but I'd like for my plans and the animals to become orderly. Is that too much to ask?
First, let me start with a disclaimer. This post is not based on any scientific study, just my own observations. So, let's talk about it. Can cats and dogs talk to each other?
I believe the answer is yes. The other night, Zailey was pitching a fit in her kennel at 1:50AM. I wasn't happy to have been woken up so early. I got up to let her and Milo out. Usually, I have to carry Milo as he is too groggy to walk on his own after being woken up in this manner. This night was different. He ran out so fast, I couldn't catch him. I let Zailey follow and she also ran. I knew something was up since Zailey usually jogs out when she needs to pee, not run. I loped behind to see what had them so wound up. On the second landing (we have a landing and then a step up to a second landing in the middle of the stairs), the two dogs were fighting over what they consider a treat. I consider it shit, cat shit to be exact, but they consider it a treat. They woofed down a majority of it before I could get to them and force them outside. I then cleaned up the rest of the shit.
Now, I know that you are thinking how do I consider this proof of dogs and cats communicating. There are several factors involved here, so let's start with motive. Jynx loves dog food. He is always trying to reach a paw in to any dog leftovers left in their kennels at the end of a meal. So, he wants dog food. The way to get it is to pay the dogs back with food. He doesn't want to give up his own food, so the only other thing he has is his poop, which the dogs love. It is a win, win.
The next thing to consider is how did the dogs know that Jynx had delivered his end of the bargain, in the middle of the night, with the dogs in their kennel in the master bedroom, with no visible access of the stairs? The answer is that Jynx told them that it was there ready for them. The next thing they did after being told it was ready for them was to wake me up by pretending they needed to go out and go potty. By the way, they can usually go seven hours or so before needing out. That night it was less than three. So, unless Zailey forgot to potty before bed, she was faking.
Also, this isn't the first time that something of this nature has taken place. Usually it is in the day time and the dogs want out of their kennels after Jynx has pooped on the floor. Oh, and the reason the dogs are in their kennels is because they are eating their supper, so you know Jynx really wants at that food right then and there.
I thought of a good solution to all of this. For a while, I removed any excess food from their bowls after breakfast. Then I found that Milo would hide his food and Jynx was finding it. So, that didn't work.
Lately, the critique about my dialog has been that it is too stilted and unnatural. This is really odd to me as I usually excel at writing dialog. What I do is imagine two characters or a group of characters and they talk in my head. Then I just write what they say as they say it. Easy, right? Apparently, my imaginary friends are failing me of late. I'm sure I'm just in a slump and will come out of it soon and it is better to find the problem now than when I'm getting ready to publish!
I'm at my wits end with all this chatter, whither the lack of it in my mind or between the dogs and cat!
Milo loves playing with a basketball. Zailey would sometimes play with it, but Milo does a lot of head kicks with it around the yard. Since there is a significant hill in their yard, he gets to use it to help the ball along as he chases it. Whenever Milo is playing with the basketball, Zailey also wants to play. She chases him around as he chases the ball around. Not to mention her insistent barking all the while.
Milo isn't silent during this. He is on a mission and he has a growl as he plays with the ball. It isn't a guttural growl, but more excited than anything else.
Since the two fought over the ball, my wife bought a second basketball. Milo still prefers to play with the old ball, but he sometimes plays with the new one especially when the old one is stuck. Zailey prefers to play with whatever ball Milo is playing with. So instead of ending the barking and chasing, it still continues. Well most of the time.
The other night, a miracle occurred (though my wife contends it has happened before). Milo played with one ball and Zailey was playing with the other. No barks or chasing each other. Milo was still doing his growl and Zailey was doing her best to headbutt her ball farther and faster than Milo. The balls were finally doing their job!
Lately, I've been getting into watching vloggers (video bloggers). These people have entertaining things to say and do it with such energy and enthusiasm that I can't help it. It has made me wonder if I should ditch my blog and take up vlogging.
I seriously considered this and what it would take to do this. The equipment these people use costs some dough (maybe not a lot, but I'd rather be spending my money elsewhere). Also, the amount of time these people put into editing and post production work must be enormous. One has a lot of picture in picture stuff and charts to help illustrate what they are talking about and that takes a time as well as a little skill. Then there is the consistent high quality of speaking that these people do. I'm always saying "uh" as I think of what I'm going to say next. These people don't have any of that (though they might be doing multiple takes or something which means even more time editing).
Then there is the content. I'm always talking about animals in my blog. Do I film my animals 24/7 waiting for them to do something interesting enough to vlog about? Ugh, I don't have the time for that!
So, doubling down on basketballs, good. Doubling down on blogging/vlogging, bad. Though, I do have a crazy notion to get a gopro and put it on my head when I go hunting. That might be interesting, but not for marketing my writing assuming I share the content. More of a fun for me to do type of thing.
Milo hasn't been wanting to go outside the last few days. It started right after Independence Day. When it was time to go outside, he would run the other direction. Usually, he would find a place and just sit there with one paw up in the air. He didn't want to go.
I have a couple of theories as to why he doesn't want to go outside. He was left outside with Zailey the evenings of the third and the fourth. I'm sure a few neighbors were lighting off more than a few fireworks. Milo hates the pops, bangs, and whistles. I think he is still afraid that he will be subjugated to more fireworks if he goes out.
The other theory I have is that it has been hot and humid lately. While he does have plenty of water, shade, and even a wading pool to climb in (which he does use unlike Zailey), he does not like to be out with it so hot. Even in the evenings, he is hiding because it is still warm out. Even the usual treat doesn't entice him.
Having the last nine days off from work has been great. I've been able to get a lot done with my writing. I'm hoping that I can keep the momentum rolling even after I return to work. Well, maybe not the same rapid pace that I had this last week, but at least getting something done every day. That should be doable.
I'm reluctant to go back to work as I'm afraid I'll fall back into my habit of putting off my writing. Milo has me to pick him up and set him outside. Who can keep me accountable?
Twice this week, I've had to clean up cat diarrhea and once a hairball. Worse is that both times it was all over the place and not just one spot. Zailey and Milo helped clean it up... by eating some of it. The stench was so bad, it made me gag to clean it up.
Last night, I was reading something I had written a few weeks ago. There were sentences that went nowhere and some awful grammar (like using peace instead of piece). For the most part, the piece worked, but it needed some clean up in the stinky parts. Worse is that I was reading this to my writing group to get feedback. They not only provided feedback on this chapter, but it led to a discussion on how "well" this chapter fit with the rest of the book. I felt sick by the end of the discussion as I am left with some huge decisions to make. Not what I want to do when I've written over 2/3rds of the novel (much better to have all the decisions made in the planning stage). At least these points are being made now instead of after the book is published.
Whither it is the cat or my writing, all I can do is clean the shit and move on.
Whenever we go out of town and have to board the dogs, we tell them that they are staying in a hotel. Really, they are going to their vet. This raises some anxiety from time to time. Milo had a bad experience at the vet getting some teeth extracted, so now he tries to hide in a ball when we go. This trip wasn't too bad for him though as I think he has forgotten that experience. Zailey had a tough time being dropped off, though.
When we arrived, Milo was bouncing around so much that I decided to pick him up and carry him in. Zailey walked in on her own accord. The first obstacle was the door. I think she could smell what was coming and was starting to clam up. She barely put her head in the door and was looking around. So I had to pull her a bit to get her to go in.
Once in, a big lab (about 150 lbs) went nuts at seeing Milo being carried. The dog was behind the counter and couldn't see Zailey. The tech working the desk said it was her personal dog and had to work to get the dog to settle down. Zailey was hiding behind me. Even with the counter already separating them, she needed my added protection.
With the dog settled, the tech was able to call another tech to get Milo and Zailey. This tech also carried Milo and took Zailey's leash. Zailey wouldn't have any of it, so she tried to head for the door. She didn't cry or bark. Instead, she used all of her energy to try to walk the tech out the door. The tech and I managed to assuage her fears and got her to go. Either that, or she realized that she wasn't going to make it out those doors and had to follow the technician. Either way, she was taken back to be boarded.
This wasn't the first time I've had to leave my babies this month. Last week I was in Atlanta working. I had some down time in the evenings. I was able to escape my customers long enough to put down a chapter. It was great sitting at my hotel room desk and having no distractions. I wish I had more down time during that week or I really could have gotten a lot done. There have been talks about me potentially going to Pendleton, SC and Orlando in the coming months. Plans are also underway for a trip to Tuscon/Phoenix in October. Plus, I have a stay-cation the week of Independence Day where I plan to ditch my distractions by heading to the library to work on stuff. I still will manage to get some stuff done during times where I am interrupted, but I hate those times. All-in-all, some great things are coming.
Hotels can be great as long as there isn't a big ass lab barking its head off at you as you come in. Even if there is one, you've got to soldier on and get past it to the great stuff. In Zailey's case, the great stuff is probably going to be when I go to pick her up tomorrow morning and then she'll shower me with kisses because she missed me so much!
The dogs and cat (and by extension, my wife and I) have lost someone. My wife's cousin and friend that I have known longer than my wife, Rob, has been living with us since February. He passed away unexpectedly in our home a couple of weeks ago. My wife, Zailey, Milo, Jynx and I miss him terribly. We've had a hard time dealing with the loss.
Every morning, Zailey sniffs at Rob's door. It used to be that she would knock on that door if he were there. Now she turns away and runs downstairs looking for him.
Milo has lost a couch pal. He has been looking out the window in hopes of seeing him again. Thus, he sees more strangers walking by and starts growling at them which causes Zailey to bark her high pitched shrill that I just love (not).
Jynx has had freedom these last few months to go outside without a leash under Rob's eye. He now has to rely on my wife and I to allow him out. We are home less and unable to comply as often as Rob would. Last week, Jynx was outside late at night and became scared for some reason. The dogs came out and a huge fight was started. Zailey got a scratch on her nose and Jynx was bleeding from his hind feet and tail. Now we don't let Jynx out after dark.
The other night, Zailey was messing around with the hallway desk. I thought she was playing with the string from a laundry bag laying on the desk. Instead, she managed to get a pair of Rob's glasses and brought them to the middle of the living room. My wife stopped her and took the glasses away before she made them into a chew toy. Zailey went back and grabbed something else off the desk.
I haven't felt like doing a lot lately. I was already behind on posting in my blog, but I still found more excuses to not write. And it hasn't just been my blog. I've been dragging my feet to write a new chapter or short story. Heck, I've even been putting off doing some of the rewrites that I need to do. My nightmares and dark places in my mind are my usual inspiration. It seems that the darkness of my loss has enveloped my creative sources. I've thought about fictionalizing my account of finding Rob and the ensuing things that happened. I doubt such a piece would make it into my next collection of short stories, but it might help me get over Rob's passing. Or it might just make me dwell on this unpleasant part of my life and push me further down the rabbit hole. That, I'll have to think about some more.
Eventually, things will get back to some semblance of normal. I'm not sure what that will look like, but Zailey, Milo, Jynx, my wife, and I will heal.
Rob's obit is posted here if you care to look.
These dogs have been running all over me. They aren't minding and are driving me up the walls. Milo will run around chasing shadows and Zailey will bark at him. I can't get them to settle down at times.
To reign these terrors in, we've had to implement some more laws. Not that they mind since they get more treats. We've pulled out Zailey's old training manuals and we've been going through the tricks with the reward for the trick being a treat. Especially the tricks to get their attention. They are now the masters of sit and wait. They have known how to do this for quite a while, but we've been a little lax on asking them to do this.
This hasn't worked out 100 percent, but we are just getting started with this. We are also getting after them the moment they do their bad behaviors. Sometimes, we even anticipate the bad behaviors. Hopefully we are on track to get these guys settled down.
The other day, I was in the groove and writing a big courtroom drama scene. Not knowing what else to do, I ended up having the lawyer defending the bad guy giving platitudes to the good guy. I got a grip on the scene again and got back into the flow of writing. As I was writing, I had some thoughts that I would just force my way through and go back to fix the part where I struggled. Then the best thing happened.
As I was finishing the chapter, I came up with a twist so awesome, I couldn't sit still with my enthusiasm. Not only did my chapter carry the reader to where I wanted them to go, but I ended up incorporating the platitudes to get there. Suddenly, I didn't have to go back and fix anything because it was perfect the way it was. The reader may be like, "What the heck is this?" when they read it. Then they get to the ending, light bulbs will fire up and heads will spin. This chapter is that perfect.
Writing about crimes (even now) or the dogs committing crimes will result in punishment. The dogs will get theirs and my bad guy will get his. Though, this twist that I wrote will lead to a lesser punishment and some more fun down the road.
Jynx had to go the vet for his annual exam and blood workup. The ride to the vet was full of whiny mews and general displeasure. I felt guilty for taking him in, but it needed done.
I left him there for the day. After work, I went to pick him up, but found the devil instead. I have never seen a domesticated cat hiss and yowl so much before in my life. The vet and techs refused to get him out of the kennel and moved into the carrier. That is why they brought me in. Jynx even hissed at me!
I had the tech close the door to the kennel room so that if Jynx escaped me, he couldn't go very far. I tried to sooth him with my voice and even tried to pet him through the cage. He didn't want any of that and tried to slice my fingers off. Somehow, I managed to convince him that I was there to take him away from that hell. I slowly opened the kennel door and pushed the carrier into the cage. Jynx jumped in without complaint. He didn't even issue his normal whiny mews until we were almost home and I had even stopped for gas on the way.
It took a couple of days for him to really trust me again. I think it helped that I rescued him. It also helps that I feed him and give him treats.
My writing is screaming for attention much like Jynx in that cage. I give it my word that I'll free the beast, soon. I don't think it is soon enough, though. Eventually, that beast will be unleashed on the world!
Hellcats are hard to tame. Sometimes you just have to give them what they want and they get over their grudges.
Jynx turned 7 years old somewhere around March 14th. When we got him, he was 9 months old and didn't know his exact birthday, so we got to choose one for him. Since it was December, March was the logical choice. From there, we had a few ideas. Two thoughts came to me and/or my wife. One was that Pi Day was pretty cool (albeit, pretty nerdy) of a choice for his birthday. Then there was the sentimental reason of it being my Grandmother Joyce's birthday. I thought it was a cool tribute to her memory.
So, we celebrate Jynx's birthday on the 14th. To celebrate, he got two cans of his special food instead of just one. It also meant that he got a present. I was supposed to get the present and bring it home for him, but I was in the middle of hellacious week and it slipped my mind. Thus, my wife got him a brand new scratching post yesterday. Good thing that I forgot once again to get it or he might have had two new scratching posts.
Heck, I've been so busy and stressed out, I haven't blogged in over 5 weeks. Are you starting to see a little pattern here? I've forgotten some of the more important things in life. I'm sorry, Jynxy! I'm sorry, hon! I'm sorry, Flaming Curse and Twisted! I'll do better in the future.
Speaking of the future, I had some great ideas on what to do for the sequel to Flaming Curse. Usually, when I think about the sequel, I'm thinking in terms of having it be a true sequel with a number or roman numeral two behind it. Yesterday's ideas have made me rethink this title and am leaning toward Death Curse. My cast of characters are also a bit in flux as I've made some changes to the ending to Flaming Curse, which has yet to be written. I am just really excited to see this development.
I can't believe Jynx is 7. He has changed so much since we have gotten him much like my writing has. Here's to many more birthdays and changes!
Milo hates me! He had to spend the weekend at the vet and he has hated me ever since I picked him up on Monday. He's spent a bunch of weekends at the vet, so I'm not sure why this time was so different.
After getting him home, I had to retreat to my computer room as I was working from home. I heard some sniffing outside my room and opened the door to find him there even though the baby gate was up at the bottom of the stairs (he snuck under it, I guess). I picked him up only to have him squirm away. I regathered him and tried to hug and comfort him only to have him bite my face (lightly and didn't draw any blood). I thought I had touched a sore on him the way he acted, so I got hold of him again and tried to see if he had an injury. He wasn't physically injured.
After that, he stayed away from me. The only time he would come to me is if I had a treat. At one point when I was watching TV, he even acted like he wanted to lay on me. Instead, he just watched me and danced away if I tried to pet him.
He is slowly letting go of his grudge. He let me pet him for a minute last night before he remembered that he hated me. Hopefully tonight he'll be back to normal.
Since this is Valentine's Day, it is fitting to talk about my wife and her grudge of my writing. Writing takes time. She sees it as taking her time even though I mostly do it when she is asleep, at work, or busy doing something else. She also sees it as time I could be spending on chores, walks with the dogs, or exercising (because she worries about my health).
What she doesn't see (or maybe she has forgotten) are all the passages that are inspired by her or something she has said. I know she has forgotten about me sharing a dream and her response was that I should write it into a novel (it only made it as a short story so far, but it was published in Dark Matter). I love her, in part, because of her encouragement and the inspiration she has been. Heck, I love her despite her grudge on my writing time.
Milo will soon prove that grudges fade over time. To everyone, but most especially my wife, Happy Valentine's Day!
Last night I was accosted by a neighbor dog that was running loose in the neighborhood. I was finishing up shoveling the two inches of snow off my driveway and was putting out some salt when the dog came up to me. It was a red heeler and was barking its head off. It even charged at me every time I turned my back on him.
I wasn't scared of the little shit. It weighed forty pounds and I outweighed it by... well, let's just say by a lot. I was super annoyed, though. I was minding my own business and this dog was trying to get in mine. I waited at the end of my driveway for the owner to come out of their house across the street.
This wasn't the first time the dog was just set loose in the neighborhood. I've seen the dog going behind my backyard fence and the owner soon following. I don't like people going behind the fence because it drives Zailey and Milo nuts. It is bad enough if they walk the sidewalk going down the short side of the fence as the dogs usually just run to see what is going on and by the time they figure out someone is there, it is too late for them to bark. People and dogs going behind the fence are another matter. There is even an incline, so they don't walk as fast back there. It gives the dogs plenty of time to figure out what is going on and give their warning calls.
So, there has been a history of this dog being let loose. It is aggressive and noisy. As I said, I waited for the owner to come get the dog. She peeked her head out the door and called for the dog. I yelled across the street to her that she needed to keep the dog on a leash. All she said was, "Thank you." Judging from that response, I doubt this will be the end of the story. I may give one more bark and then I'm going to bite. Unfortunately, my bark is bigger than my bite.
I'm a big proponent of leaving people alone if they leave me alone. Once they do wrong by me, then watch out. The one political stance that I've taken to Facebook to fight for is related to bigotry and hate. Otherwise, I try to keep my opinions off social media. In part this is because I am trying to market myself and if I take a political stance, I am probably going to piss off over half of my marketable audience.
Last night, I was watching Grace and Frankie as Martin Sheen's character used his award speech to speak out against bigotry and hate (in this case, for the LGBT community). The award was for best newcomer in a local play or something like that. He was using his small bit of limelite for good. At first, I applauded him for doing so. And then I realized it was a fantasy world. In the real world, it wouldn't have worked. No matter how good intentioned, you are pissing off people that don't believe in your point of view. Humans are just too passionate.
The thing is, I'm human. I'm going to be passionate about certain things. I won't be able to shut up about everything. I can only try to be as marketable as I can be. Bark!
I came down with a cold a few days ago. With my lack of energy and coughing, I took a sick day Thursday. I then parked on the couch and binge watched Stranger Things. Zailey and Milo were glad that I stayed home as we had near blizzard conditions outside. They showed their appreciation by sleeping on me. I enjoyed the comfort and extra warmth they provided. I even got a little nap in.
Unfortunately, their efforts didn't fully heal me. I was well enough to go to work yesterday, but just barely. I'm still hacking things up and weak. My wife is on me to get things done, but I just want to go back to sleep. I did take a three hour nap, but it didn't help much.
My fatigue has spilled into my writing. Knowing that I would have a monumental editing task afterward, I haven't written any new stuff. Not that I need to as I am a chapter ahead of where I want to be. So, that leaves the backlog of editing notes that I need to get to. I haven't done much this week on that as I can't seem to focus on what needs done. My goal of getting caught up by the end of the month is now in jeopardy. Maybe I can drink an energy drink tomorrow and soldier through.
Speaking of soldier, Milo is now completely recovered from his surgery. Last night, he ripped one of his new toys and got stuffing all over the place. Today he ripped open another new toy to get the plastic squeaker out. So, he is back to his destructive self. He is even back to fighting with Zailey over bones, toys, and even ice. In other words, he is living up to his Little Shit nickname.
I'm glad Milo is back to 100% and I hope to be back soon. Who knows, maybe I'll get caught up by the end of the month, yet.
Milo had surgery last week. He had some foul breath, some swelling next to his nose, and would not let us clean his snaggletooth (he had a crooked canine tooth since we've had him that would trap gunk behind it and we would floss it from time to time). When I took him to the vet, they found that he had an infection going on with that tooth and gave me some antibiotic to fight that. The next day he was scheduled for surgery.
He ended up having three teeth pulled, the canine and two molars. They also cleaned his other teeth while he was out for the count. I spent the day doing as many tasks that took took my mind off of Milo being asleep and the remote possibility he may never wake up. They had said they would call me when he woke up at around two. After three p.m. and still no word, I really became scared. They finally called at four claiming to have been slammed and it was the first chance they had to call me.
I went and picked up my little buddy who was still a bit groggy. He seemed to be in a little pain, but was more excited to see me than anything else. I tried to get him to pee before taking him into the house, but he had only the goal of getting inside. He did leave a few drops of blood in the snow in his wake. He hasn't bled since.
That night, he was really out of it. He had a hard time staying asleep and an even harder time going to the bathroom (though, the below freezing temperatures might have had something to do with that). Zailey was nuts since her playmate was kept kenneled away from her.
The next day saw some improvement, especially after he got his pain pill. Each evening, though, he has returned to a state of being in pain and moping about as the pill wore off. Each evening, that is, except for last evening. Last night he seemed much, much better. I also checked his gums and they seemed nice and pink instead of the angry, inflamed red they have been. I think he's turned a corner and will be up to no good again by the end of the week.
I took the week off last week (good thing since Milo ended up getting surgery) in part to work on my novel. I got three chapters done and even did some editing (surgery). I had hopes to get a lot more editing done as I have notes for changes going back nearly a year now. While I have a busy week this week, I hope to get more done in the weeks ahead. I want to catch up on my notes by the end of the month. I am also hoping to write some short stories in the months ahead to get another collection of short stories out by the end of the year.
Goals are good to have, especially this time of year (resolutions). I hope Milo's goal is to keep his damn teeth clean. We certainly give him enough dental chews and bones for that purpose!
Last night, I was laying on the couch watching some TV. Zailey came up and half climbed on the couch next to me. By this, I mean that she had her front legs up on the couch and her hind legs still on the floor. She was sort of blocking my view, but I continued to watch TV around her. Since I was engrossed in the show, I mindlessly reached to pet her head. She was in a playful mood, so she mouthed my hand. I jerked my hand away, which made her want to play more, and I showed my palm to show that I was not playing. I was still engrossed in the show when I tried to pet her again. This time I got a BIT more than a mouthing.
At first, I couldn't believe it. I jerked my hand away and I think I pushed her down (I am too stunned to recall exactly). I know my wife saw the bite since she was asking what I did to get bit. I think I just wasn't paying attention enough to Zailey's signals and that got me more teeth than usual.
It wasn't like it was a hard bite. It certainly didn't draw blood or really injure me. It stung my pinky a little and I still felt it a half hour later.
Lately, I've been listening to my narrator act out Tech Fear. I've been more than impressed with what he has done with my words. The only problem is that I realized that I had made a mistake in the book. I don't know how many times I've read the book and two editors that were looking for content also didn't spot the mistake.
The mistake is this: in one scene, I have a thumbpad on my ship and in two other scenes, I have a keypad. I didn't mean for the ship to have both! The keypad is what I meant for the ship to have.
I had to ask myself, does this really matter? The book has been out for less than a month and I can change the ebook with a quick upload. I've also printed a bunch of copies and have even sold some of them. Then there is the audiobook. Do I really want the narrator going back and rerecording this scene?
I recently bought an autographed copy of my favorite book, Larry Niven's A World Out of Time. There is a note from Niven in the book about Ringworld and that fans should hang on to any first editions because the world spins the wrong way. Here he was acknowledging the mistake which I thought was big of him. I just wonder how many people noticed the mistake. Was it noticeable?
In my case, while not meaning to have both a thumbpad and a key pad, it certainly isn't a bad thing. The times that the characters access the keypad, they are wearing environmental suits and gloves. When they access the thumbpad, they don't have any gloves. The thumbpad is quicker, but not always feasible. Therefore, having both isn't that inconceivable, but I'm sure someone will notice and ask why there is both. If someone is paying that close of attention, then I'll be happy because it will mean someone is hanging on every single word I write. To me, that means I've succeeded.
If you are afraid that I would bite your head off for bringing something like this to my attention, you are sorely mistaken. I will laugh it off and be proud that you noticed. It's not like I'm Zailey or something where the only way I can communicate is by biting!
Jynx was laying in my suitcase before bed. While I did need to put the suitcase away from my trip this last weekend, I thought the cat was cute to use it as a bed. I decided to carry him with me to my own bed. As I was getting settled, I got a request from my wife to scratch her back. I had placed the cat between us in the crook of my arm to give him attention, so I relayed that to my wife. She didn't think that was a good excuse and took the cat from me so that I could focus on her back. A few minutes later, I was nearly done with scratching my wife's back and Jynx was beyond done with the attention my wife was giving him. With no warning, he yowled, hissed, and scratched my wife's forehead.
My wife was pissed. The cat ran away and she was asking me if Jynx had drawn blood. There was barely any blood, but I think my wife was more pissed at my laughter. Hey, just because it wasn't funny to her didn't mean that it wasn't funny to the rest of the world!
It wasn't the first time that I had drawn my wife's ire that day. The print proof copy of Tech Fear had arrived with a few mistakes. Instead of heading home (I get important items like my books sent to my workplace), I had stayed to make the corrections. They took a bit longer than I anticipated and ended up home after my wife. Since I had told her that I would be home on time, she was justified in her ire. Well at that time, at least.
Now back to those mistakes in my book. One was completely my fault. The page numbers were not the same font as the rest of the text. I had recently reinstalled Word on my laptop, so I had forgotten to put my default back in it.
The other mistake was with the cover. I had worked pretty hard to make sure it was the exact right dimensions, but apparently they were off a touch. Someone at Amazon decided to rework my cover rather than tell me what was wrong. The result was that the front was way off center and the "n" at the end of my last name was chopped. It was bad. I went back, reread the sizing information, and tried again. This time I hope to have it perfectly aligned. The thing is that I had used my cover for Gun Smuggler's Tale to work the cover for this one and the dimensions are nearly identical. I think that Amazon must have stretched that cover to be the right size, but didn't do that to this one. I'm not sure why, though.
At least this was for a proof and not for the real thing. I just scratched the current template, and put in place a corrected one. I just wonder what wrong was being corrected when Jynx scratched my wife. Someone was being an asshole in that bed and it wasn't me for once! (Okay, maybe I was a little bit of an asshole after the scratching occurred.)
Tonight Zailey was just staring across the room while laying on my lap. I watched her stare off into space for quite a while and wondered what she was thinking. Was she watching Jynx by his water bowl on the counter? Was she looking into the dining room light? What had her attention?
I watched her unmoving, unblinking eyes and tried to figure out what she was seeing. It couldn't have been the cat since the cat moved and her eyes didn't. She was looking too low to be staring into the light. She was really just looking at nothing.
Seeing her stare off into space made me think about my writing. Just today, I was composing an email and was interrupted by a coworker. They asked what I was doing and I said, "Thinking and typing." I was staring off into space to think about how I was going to say what I wanted to say in the email. I was carefully considering what implications would happen depending on what was said in this email.
This is where my imagination helped me. I was imagining the different consequences to how I worded my email. This is what I do when I stare off into space; carefully consider what to write next. It sometimes doesn't make me the fastest typist, but it sure does help me from not as many edits and rewrites. With email, it means that I am doing my job to the best of my abilities. I'm still not perfect, but I am my best self.
I wonder what Zailey imagines. Surely not three legged, four armed aliens hellbent on revenge (read Alien Fear if you don't know what I am talking about). I guess we both can't just stare off into space.
I left for the airport shortly before 3 AM last Friday. Jynx didn't want left behind, so as I was setting my luggage outside the front door, he took off like a shot. Luckily, he got about three feet into the grass before becoming uncomfortable with his decision to escape the safety of home. He froze in place making it easy for me to pick him up and take him back inside.
Now I am in Arizona and made the trek out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, yesterday. The place has a wide range of plants, animals, rocks, and other things found in the Sonora Desert. I was mainly interested in the birds and cats (though the snakes were also fun). The cats and other animals weren't happy with the 96 degree weather, so they mainly hid from view. Somehow, the ocelot was up and walking around when I arrived at its window. It didn't stay long and my aunt who was trailing not far behind me missed seeing the beautiful cat. I only got two pictures of the creature.
Other cats could only be found by their paws sticking out from their hiding places. The bobcats were in such a dark place, that my pictures didn't turn out. I was understanding of the cats seeking shelter from the heat, but was also disappointed. Didn't they know that they needed to pose for photographs? There were plenty of other animals that did pose, so it wasn't a completely wasted trip.
Cats weren't the only thing missing lately. I have been pretty frustrated with the editor I hired for Tech Fear. She has been pretty far off base with a lot of her comments. Comments like, "this doesn't work for me," isn't a good enough rationale. Why doesn't it work for her?
When I come across a comment like this, I have to stop and think about what could possibly be wrong. I have noticed that she has problems with certain plot points early on and then just harps on it throughout the rest of the book. Many times, I've come to the conclusion that it is another harping that she is on. Since I fixed the first issue when it came up, it is no longer an issue downstream and doesn't need harped on!
I don't know if it is her lack of professionalism in her comments (she tends to add unhelpful comments like, "really?" or "seriously?") or that her rationale is missing that gets to me more. Maybe it is the fact that she likes to separate complete sentences with commas. Really? Is she serious? Yuck (another word she likes).
Jynx was recovered, the cats at the museum are doing cat things, and my book is going to get released. The world continues to go on even though things go missing. You just have to make the best of it. (The editor found some problems that are good to fix, so it wasn't a complete bust hiring her. I certainly won't hire her again, though.)
I don't remember when this was, but it was probably a month or two ago. Jynx was making the face he usually made when he was ill. He even started making some coughing sounds like he was going to be ill. My wife got up from her chair to see if she couldn't help him out. This actually scared him and he ran up the stairs. He made it to the landing before he threw up.
When he got to the landing, he had gone to the corner and faced outward. It was like he was trying to get into a defensible position. As he threw up, he sidestepped into a quarter circle. He left an arc of puke in his wake.
My wife wasn't feeling well at the time and knew that she would puke if she cleaned it up. I wasn't feeling the greatest as I cleaned it up and almost added to the mess myself. I was not happy.
Jynx, though, was much better after this. He had exorcised his demons.
Speaking of demons, I find demon mythology fascinating. From time to time, I get a writing idea that involves one. I've come acrossed a couple of interesting demons for stories that appeared in Shorts. In one of the stories, I was finding it hard to figure out the ending. I was getting tired and pushing my mind to fight for some good idea. The story just came together so suddenly that I was taken aback by the result. This is the one and only time that my writing has scared me because it is almost like something supernatural whispered the ending to me. Not that I'm complaining. I thought the ending to Soul Harvest was great.
No matter how you exorcise your demons (especially for Friday the 13th), you feel better afterwards. Jynx and I can attest to that.
About two weeks ago, I came home a little early. My wife was away to a conference and so I had the house to myself. The cat is usually fed at about 6:00 which is the time I normally come home. Jynx equated me coming home as supper time and whined around begging for his food. I told him to wait while I did a couple of chores like changing his litter boxes. At about 5:30 I came downstairs to feed the cat and found a present in the form of a pile of crap right next to the clean litter box.
I was not happy with the cat. Instead of feeding him, I made sure that he waited until 6:00 while I cleaned his crap up. The whole time he didn't whine at me that he wanted fed.
A few days later, Jynx must have been missing his mom pretty bad. I came home to an odor as soon as I opened the door. I hit the entry hall light to find that he had pooped not just once, but twice next to his litter box. More fun for me!
Speaking of fun. I spent some time today trying to figure out how to add a blog to my website. I didn't finish over my lunch hour to get it all in place. I am currently waiting to hear back on an inquiry before I can finish a project at work. Hence why I have a minute to finish this up. Hopefully, this will be worth it in the end.
When crap happens, all you can do is clean it up and move on. Jynxy hasn't missed the litter box since my wife has been home, so he must have been traumatized by her leaving. I leave at the end of the month for a while, so I hope that he is good for her. Then again, payback wouldn't be bad either.
Prior to October of 2017, I wrote my blog on my Goodreads page. You can find it here.