Category Archives: Personal

Wisp says hello

As I said this morning, she showed up, climbed on top of the table (it shelters the heated house, which isn’t waterproof) and peered in at us. We were very relieved to know she was alright.

Another relatively quiet week. I got several Leaf articles done, the most interesting being 1800 words on “Job Duties of a Nun.” And that’s it until 2019; much as I enjoy the dinero, I’m happy to have added time for finishing up Southern Discomfort.

I made it over 50,000 words so I’m past the halfway mark. I think I’ll be done by New Year’s as planned. After all I have two work weeks, less Christmas, and nothing else on my plate. Fingers crossed.

I did run into one major plotting problem but I fixed it fast. First I realized Joan was breaking a promise to her father to stay at home much too casually — for good reasons, but I’d already established she feels duty bound to keep her word. Then I realized that the FBI would probably have a few questions for her, which makes getting out of the house mandatory. Problem solved!

Hopefully they’ll all be that easy.

Oh, and I received a copy of the October/November History Magazine with my story on the history of the Fordson, the first affordable tractor, and how it and its eventual replacement, the Farmall, changed agriculture.

And I spent Thursday while the dogs were out doing some major cleaning to ready the house for the writers’ group Christmas Party Saturday.

Below, Wisp’s tentative check if we were ready to feed her.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, give credit if you use them.

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Our house is ice station zebra!

So it snowed last Sunday. We got up and our skylight was now a snowlight.

Wisely I’d accomplished all my errands the day before, so I just sat in, read, watched Christmas movies and relaxed. It felt quite nice.

When the snow renewed its attack Monday it was less nice, particularly as it built up enough that I couldn’t make my writing group on Tuesday (more precisely, there was no group). A shame as we only have one meeting this month (the other would have fallen on Dec. 25) but at least I have the annual party at my house tomorrow.

As you can see, things got very wintery for a bit.

Plushie loved it.

My footprint, so you get a sense of the snow’s depth.

Trixie was OK with the snow, but she preferred doing her business in the shelter of our magnolia.To our disappointment, Wisp didn’t make use of our heated cat shelter. We don’t know where she stayed but she showed up Wednesday meowing for food so she found shelter somewhere.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, please credit me if you use them.

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Will my reach exceed my grasp? Stay tuned!

As of today, Southern Discomfort is at almost 44,000 words. That leaves me with roughly 50,000 more to get through by New Year’s Eve to finish. That’s doable, but not a slam dunk. If I run into problems with some of my later scenes, or I get sick for a couple of days, I may be SOL.

I added 11,000 words to the book this week, which is definitely not enough if I keep going at the same speed. However I have only one more week of Leaf articles; after that, I’ll be free to work on the novel and nothing else. And this week I was sidelined Tuesday by having an opthalmologist appointment with eye dilation. As a result, I wasn’t able to use the computer for two or three hours after getting home. We’d taken the dogs in for grooming the same morning so I figured I could do some cleaning and giftwrapping while they were gone, as that doesn’t require the same level of fine eye focus. Nope, they were ready much sooner than I’d expected, so I had to push the cleaning to later in the week.

So it’s still doable. I shall stretch like Plastic Man until I achieve my glorious triumph! Or so I hope.

As my writing this week was just the novel and Leaf articles, I don’t have much else to say. Although I did have some more entertaining Leaf articles than usual, such as “Duties of a NASA Mission Specialist.”

I must admit I’ll be glad when I’m done with Southern Discomfort but if it comes to a choice between “get it done” and “make it good,” I’ll go with option B. But I’ll spend the rest of this month trying to avoid that choice.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Cole, all rights remain with current holder. I picked it to fit the “reach” theme, but also because it’s just cool.

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The Ages of Our Lives

A couple of months back, one of my college friends mentioned she’s retiring from her law-enforcement job, having put twenty or thirty years in. Another friend, who retired some time back, is looking forward to touring the country with her husband now that her mother-in-law has passed and no longer needs them to care for her.

A number of other friends my age have retired and either started new careers or settled down to travel and visit the kids and grandkids a lot. All of which got me thinking about how the idea that we pass through clearly mapped out stages in life doesn’t have much relationship to actual life.

I remember an article some years back in which the writer said that when he was a kid in the 1950s (I think he must have been about ten years older than me), the stages had been clearly marked. First you were a kid, then a teenager, and that phase was all about fun. Then you became a man and put away childish things, and were serious. As the title put it, “Ozzie Nelson Never Owned a Dirt Bike” (Ozzie being the star and patriarch of hit sitcom Ozzie and Harriet). But the writer, even though he’d hit forty, still used his.

Even in my own youth, the sense was that when you got old — i.e., the age I am now — you stopped doing stuff. You retired sat in a rocking chair or a hammock, watched TV, lived quietly.You didn’t keep working. You didn’t start second careers.

I’m 60, but I’m still working. Even though my work isn’t physical it’s possible the deterioration of age will sideline me long before I want to be, but until that point, I’m happy to keep writing. And TYG is a good deal younger, which changes the calculus too. Even I hung up my spurs, we wouldn’t start traveling the world or anything like that (quite aside from not wanting to leave the dogs for too long). And of course, I don’t have kids, and didn’t marry until I was 53. My path has always been a little off the theoretical norm.

I’m not suggesting I’ve found the one true path to living as an old person. Some people, like my traveling friend, do just want to relax, and that’s cool (I know how hard she and her husband worked when they had jobs. She’s earned it). Lots of people don’t have the physical ability to keep doing what they’re doing; for them, sixty is the new sixty.

But even knowing that, noticing how my path deviates from the expected still gives me pause.

#SFWApro. All rights to Dissolution of Memory by Salvador Dali remain with current holder.

 

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33,000 and counting

I accomplished 57 percent of my November goals. That’s primarily because I underestimated the impact of my colonoscopy on my work Thanksgiving week (and for that matter my off-work activities). And yes, insomnia played a role. As I sleep great on weekends, I’d anticipated making up for lost time over the four day weekend. Instead interruptions from one source or another meant I only got one night of good sleep. Bleah!

The biggest fail on my goal list was not finishing Southern Discomfort. That one I can’t really blame on my colon, though the short work week certainly had an impact. So did the Leaf articles continuing longer than I’d expected.

But the main reason is, it’s been a long while since I read an entire novel aloud, and I’d forgotten how long it takes. Rewriting and changing the scenes is taking more work than I thought too. I’m rewriting the flow of conversation so it makes more sense, adding tension to some scenes (though some of them are simply going to be about setting and character, and that’ll have to be enough), checking formatting. Every decision then leads to more changes (well, not the formatting). Making Maria more skeptical about whether it’s really magic in one scene means she needs to be skeptical in the next scene, or I have to show her changing.

Still, when I counted up the completely finished wordage this week, I was pleased. As of today, I’m a little over 33,000 words done, out of a 92,000 word book. And next month this is my only writing goal besides the Leaf articles, which will wrap up before too long. So I should be done by New Year’s Eve. Well if the good lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say. Even if it rises, I can get it done in January, but I really want to start 2019 fresh.

And I wrote another Dr. Mabuse article for Atomic Junkshop. As I didn’t have time for even a half-hearted film review, I looked at two Dr. Mabuse songs, Dr. Mabuse by Propaganda and Dr. Mabuse by Blue System. Thanks to my friend Ross Bagby for alerting me they even existed. Below is the CD cover for one of the Propaganda versions (there are several of various lengths floating around).

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Films that made an impression: the second five posters

Following up on last week’s post about movies that made an impression, for various reasons:

There was nothing like Blazing Saddles (1974)when it came out and I was flabbergasted. A mainstream movie that had that much profanity? And dirty jokes? To say nothing of dealing with race, and in a comedy no less. Not to mention just nuts in so many ways. As if that wasn’t enough, I first saw it at a friend’s house on a cable channel that was — get this — devoted to showing nothing but current movies, all uncut. My god, what an amazing development in TV!

Like Star Wars in the previous post, Casablanca (1942) had me walking around in a daze after I saw it (a showing while I was in college). An amazing movie with an all-star cast, a great theme song, drama, Nazis and some incredible lines of dialog (“I came to Casablanca for the waters.” “We’re in the desert.” “I was misinformed.”). Still one of my all-time favorites; I have that poster on my wall.

I never saw any blacksploitation movies when they were showing on the big screen (they were at the drive-in, I didn’t have a car) but I caught the trailer for Friday Foster (1975) on TV and immediately crushed on Pam Grier. She was probably my first big-screen crush (I had quite a few from TV) and while the movie isn’t her best from that era (I think I’d pick Coffy), it is a lot of fun. And Grier, as a news photographer, is just as stunning as she looked in the trailer.

1968’s The Yellow Submarine was a mindblowing experience (again, one I didn’t go through until college). The absolutely wild pop art animation was stylistically unlike anything else I’d seen in animation, throwing in weird stuff purely for the sake of weird (this is a plus). The score is, of course, awesome, and I think those guys they had in the lead have some real potential as singers.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) was a movie that just left me glowing with its warmth and affection for humanity, and it’s belief that just being a good person matters. I remember after seeing it I went and found one of my friends and just hugging her and telling her how much I liked her because I was just overflowing with warmth for other people. It’s not one I can watch every Christmas the way I do some, but it’s a really charming movie.

#SFWApro. Rights to all images remain with current holder.

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Farting like a trombone orchestra

That’s how TYG described her experience the colonoscopy ward after I’d finished my procedure. To get a better view inside the colon, the team pumps gas in; after the probe is one, they massage the belly to empty the gas out. So when she went in to collect me, she was surrounded by flatulence on every side (they told TYG I did a great job vacating the gas. Go me!).

When last I wrote about this I was in the bland diet phase of colonoscopy prep, avoiding anything with fiber. Sunday I began the really fun part: nothing but clear liquid to drink (my caloric intake was entirely apple juice) then in the evening taking a laxative to void everything that might block the scan. I wasn’t consistently pooping, but I was up until after midnight. And they’re unpleasantly watery poops too.

After more voiding Monday morning, we went in. Triangle Endoscopy Center did a great job, and everything went smoothly, or as smoothly as possible. TYG says they were very pleased with how clear things were up in there, which makes me think some people follow the regimen more loosely than I did.

Because I use Ambien and drink wine, the doctor told me anesthetic might lose some of its effectiveness. He suggested benadryl for extra sleepiness but I’ve had experience with waking up from benadryl and I didn’t want to be that groggy. I made the right call, the anesthetic took me down and kept me out. Though I was less blank about the next couple of hours (when I was awake, that is) than the last time I went in so maybe it did lose some edge.

My biggest worry was that when they checked out my colon, they’d Find Something. Or I’d wake up with my entire digestive system removed — okay, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I did feel nervous. But nope, no cancer just a couple of possibly problematic polyps, which they snipped off. I don’t return for another colonoscopy for either ten years (the polyps were nonthreatening).

That’s why the inconvenience is worth it. I’d prefer not to die any sooner than I had to, and colon cancer kills. The pups and TYG would never forgive me if I died too soon from something I could have prevented.

After I woke up, I made up for lost time: blue cheese on the damper bread I made last week, followed by yogurt, hummus and hot tea (not mixed, in case you were wondering). To celebrate, here’s Trixie!

My expression looks grumpier than I felt; I was just worried that with Plush Dog hogging the lap, Trixie was feeling neglected. I can’t have that.

And I forgot to mention last week that I donated blood a fortnight ago. The double dose of red cells, so I’m good until March.

#SFWApro. Images are mine.

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It could all have gone horribly wrong

When I began thinking about posting something thankful, that’s the thought that leapt into my head.

Back when I met TYG slightly over a decade ago, we lived a thousand miles apart. Moving up here was a big, honking step, and it could easily have gone wrong. I’d never lived with someone I was involved with. TYG hadn’t had a roommate in a while. Like countless other long-distance couples we could have discovered that waking up next to each other was an entirely different experience from seeing each other every couple of months. A significantly worse experience.

I could have wound up not finding any sort of job, or a non-writing 9-to-5 job that didn’t bring in much.

We could simply have fallen out of love.

Despite the occasional rough spot when we’d been long distance, I felt surprisingly confident it would work out. Much more so than TYG, who was nervous about me giving up my job, my home, my friends to be with her. Even so, I knew perfectly well it might all go belly up.

But it didn’t. We’re still together, we love each other more than we did, and we have the pups. We’ve now had them longer than half their lives, which is cool.

So as always, much to be thankful for.

#SFWApro. I’d include a photo of TYG, but she’d rather I didn’t.

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Not a surreal week, just disorganized

But I’m using a surrealist art work (by Giorgio DiChirico, on exhibit at MOMA) as an illustration anyway. What can I say, I love his work.

A big part of the disorganization was that TYG’s schedule has been crazy since last Friday. That inevitably affects my schedule — extra time spent with dogs, most obviously — and just as inevitably her stress bleeds over a little. Another part was that we had several days of drenching rain this week, which left me feeling on edge. And next week I have my every-ten-years colonoscopy, so I’m currently on a diet to ensure my colon is clean. Cereal has to be low fiber, bread has to be white, etc., etc. It’s nothing that awful, but it feels like I’m being starved. And worrying the colonoscopy might Find Something is unsettling too. Oh, and I made the mistake of buying white bread at the store, and it’s just as bland as I remember. Today I’m making Australian damper bread from one of my cookbooks instead.

Plus I lost a chunk of time Tuesday to my dental visit, and squeezing several errands into the same trip (part of the schedule disruptions). But my teeth, at least, are in good shape.

And while I’d been thinking Leaf was wrapped up for the year, it turns out we’ll be running until early/mid December. So that took about nine hours out of the week I’d planned to work on other things. When planning for next year, I really need to plan my time based on Leaf being a steady gig. It won’t be but it’ll be easier to fill the time during the periods Leaf dries up than have to cut out other stuff when Leaf sticks around.

Fiction wise, I got through several thousand more words on the last draft of Southern Discomfort and about halfway through the final draft of No One Can Slay Her. Not as much as I’d hoped; due to the schedule craziness, I wound up writing my Leafs much slower than usual. I also began flipping through Writer’s Market‘s 2018-19 edition for agents I can submit Southern Discomfort too when it’s done. Again, not quite as much.

I did another blog post on Atomic Junkshop in my ongoing series on what comic books are like in the DC and Marvel universe. This time I try to explain how if Earth-Two’s superheroes were comic book characters on Earth-One, nobody ever noticed that Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman looked exactly like the heroes in those old comic-book stories.

On the feral cat front, I had a minor scare Wednesday night when I heard some sort of snarling kerfuffle outside, peered through the back windows and thought I saw Wisp either being chased or chasing something (presumably another cat, but I couldn’t be sure) off the deck. Thursday morning we put out some food for her but she didn’t eat it, so naturally I started to worry … but then she turned up, dry as a bone and apparently uninjured. I’m guessing she wound up somewhere she could shelter from the rain and didn’t want to come for the food until it stopped.

I’ll close this post out with another deChirico. #SFWApro, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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I love books about bread

When I picked up 100 Great Breads from the library sale table, it became the ninth bread book I own.

The first time I baked bread, I used a recipe from Recipes For a Small Planet, an early vegetarian cookbook. I was very, very serious about it. Checked the kneading time down to the minute. The water on which I sprinkled the yeast was exactly the right temperature. It seemed so unbelievably complex, I didn’t want to take a chance.

That was close to forty years ago. I’m a lot more relaxed now. I know hot water from the tap will do for the yeast. And I stop kneading when the bread feels right. That’s part of the fun of baking bread; it’s much easier with practice but it’s never something I can do without thinking (and when I do, something bad happens, like forgetting to mix in salt.).

I acquired more bread recipes when I added a couple more vegetarian cookbooks. The first actual bread book I owned (a gift from my sister) was Beard on Bread by the chef James Beard. It covers a wide range of recipes, including a couple of basic white breads, potato breads, fruit breads, salt-rising bread (made that once. Not quite worth the effort), whole wheat and rye breads.

I could certainly have stopped there. I’ve been baking for myself most of my life, and I don’t bake bread every single week; it’s not like I’d grow bored if I just used Beard’s book. Really I’m still baking for myself, because TYG isn’t a bread person. And several of my general cookbooks include bread recipes. But I kept finding books that had enough different recipes (there’s invariably a lot of overlap) to be worth buying. Hollywood’s book above hooked me with a recipe for Stilton-Bacon Bread. I love Stilton cheese and I like veggie bacon, so that was a snap. I also made the book’s recipe for Irish soda bread; odd, more like a biscuit than other recipes I’ve tried, but a very nice, light biscuit. So what’s not to like?

That said, most of my books are actually inherited from my grandparents, my mum or TYG (one of her old roommates left an excellent bread book behind). I usually work through them all over the course of a year, looking for recipes for each in turn. Finding time is sometimes tricky, but the results are always good, unless I screw up. Trust me, lack of salt is a baaaad thing.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

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