Category Archives: Life

Two Dogs

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Both dogs, at separate times, walk into the same room. One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling. A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so mad. To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors. The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back at him. What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.*

Shorter: Perception is reality.

I had an epiphany at the Day Job a few years ago during a particularly miserable time when management and staff were not in sync. “Loggerheads” is both a reasonable description and an underused word. The circumstances are not as important as the question at the height of the darkness: why do I hate coming to work? Many of us, if not most of us, dread Monday as a culture. The epiphany came when I took a step back and made a list:

  • My job is very interesting. The constant stream of questions and situations challenge me to do my best every day.
  • Most of my colleagues have their heads on straight. There are always exceptions, but they usually have bosses who will listen to reason.
  • The people I’ve been lucky to supervise over the years are the best in business, and most left my team with a promotion. Equally cool: some still talk to me years later.
  • I’ve been blessed with above average bosses 80+% of the time. The mediocre ones never last long.

The list showed me that my perception was the problem about the “going to work” thing. And fortunately for me, my perception is also the solution. Implementing the “get over myself” solution took months, but I’m coming along. My blood pressure is down, there are more good nights of sleep than bad, and I don’t hate Mondays.

One surprise outcome is how this has affected my Night Job. I don’t know if I’m a better or worst writer, content or technique, but I don’t hate opening Word or Google Docs anymore. I do dread opening them up when I lack something to write about, but the “I totally suck at writing” feeling is gone. Confidence is a wonderful tool.

Maybe it’s human nature to seek complex solutions for hard problems, but I found this time that pouring the camel through the eye of the needle wasn’t necessary. I changed my perception of work and I changed my life. And it started when I recognized the problem was me.

(*The parable above is from the internet, as is the puppy picture. Neither were posted with their creator’s name. Please forward their names and I’ll be happy to recognize them. Thank you.) 

Keep Going

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This might be one of the “biking as writing” or “writing as biking” posts. More likely, it’s gonna more proof that you’re never too old to do stupid shit.

The end of November didn’t suck, though the potential for major suckage stank up the place. The Bride was bouncing back from not one, but two bouts of strep throat, and the day job had me pinging off the walls. The Saturday before Turkey Day had me 28+K words shy of the needed 50K words to win Nanowrimo. There was lots of Real Life going on inside and outside the house, yet somehow…

Maybe I was having a letdown this morning from the stress, but The Bride got me a Trek Marlin 7 as an early Christmas present, so time to boo-yah some trails. (Hey, I’m a veteran. We can use military slang without understanding the correct context. We’re cute that way.)

Here’s where the “stupid poo-poo” thing sneaks in. It snowed yesterday. The dirt trails were snowy and wet, so they were (follow the logic here) muddy as hell. To multiply the “stupid ca-ca” thing, my spiffy new bike does not have wheel guards or fenders, so (more logic follows) I got muddy from the spin of the wheels. Hey, Mom, I’m a mudder now!

No, I did not have to get muddy and, yes, my pretty new bike is not pretty now, but darn it, I can’t remember the last time that five miles of hard work felt so good. This morning’s ride could be a metaphor for that last week of Nanowrimo: the long, hard slog in the mud. But the followers of this blog (both of you) are the smartest readers in the world and you already figured it out.

While I have your attention, I will mention ASIN continues to be read and bought, making it my most successful book. “Success” is relative, as Mr. King sells more books in a second than I have in my life, but I’m pleased as punch. For those of you who use Goodreads, my profile is updated and I’m posting short reviews of the books in my life. More about GR in the next post.

Time to gird the old loins now and try to hit the daily writing goal while watching truly awful Raiders/49ers football. Y’all be good to each other. Mostly, be kind. And if you’re having any small or large crisis in faith or confidence, gimme a shout-out because I believe in you. Take care.

 

Electric Hearing

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Short story: Helen Keller reportedly said, “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.” While I can’t speak to the blindness, deafness is an emotional killer when you lose your hearing and you’re in a family of misfits with the patience of day flies. I’m not writing this as a martyr or a victim – I’m long past the days for feeling guilty or sorry for having a physical disability – but if you’re having hearing problems, today is the day to get help.

Long story: To avoid the martyr/victim thing, let’s skip my winding road to deafness other to say it was inevitable. Deafness is a genetic thing in my family, as two of my eight great grandparents wore boomboxes to aid their hearing. Folks in my generation remember the transistor-radio-sized devices folks wore before hearing aids (HA) became small. The one thing common from their days is the persistent perception that hearing-impaired folks are slow and dumb. (I was slow and dumb long before deafness, but I digress.)

I made the decision to get the cochlear implant (CI) when I realized the Bride was almost yelling at me to make herself understood, but I resisted even then. A bad CI operation has life-changing effects, ranging from tinnitus to vertigo, either or both possibly permanent. Even the best situation involves wearing a ~$10,000 external device that makes some people uncomfortable (see above: “slow and dumb”). There’s the possible loss of remaining natural hearing in the implanted ear, too, due to the process on placing the implant on the cochlear. The price tag for the operation and all the fun: $150,000 in this here United States. That’s not a typo.

The examination and interviews for the CI are a long series of “Are you sure you want to do this?”, which makes sense considering the list of potential outcomes. There was yet another hour in the testing booth, a first for The Bride but an old friend to me. Of the three mainstream CI devices, I picked Cochlear over Med-El and Advanced Bionics (AB) because Cochlear is the industry standard. The implant was inserted in my head in May and activated in June. Here’s a non-bloody computer simulation of the implantation if you’re so inclined.

Activation. A big deal. Serious. Watch this video. Joy, happiness, tears.

If you’re considering a CI, here’s advice that’s worth less than a cup of coffee. There is a very active CI group on Facebook where fellow wearers will patiently answer all CI-related questions. Get used to carrying CI gear if you’re away from the house for more than an hour because the device eats electricity. Cochlear (the company) will sell you rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries, which is good since you’ll be swapping out batteries once a day. Finally, take every opportunity to educate family and colleagues on the CI. And the hardest lesson: be patient. Electric hearing is a solution, not a problem, and like all life-changing events, it takes getting used to. Listen to your surgeon and audiologist.

I wish I had a conclusion but there’s none to be had because there’s no happily ever after yet. I will say every patient’s experience is unique, and I was fortunate to miss the negative outcomes. The hearing in my implanted (right) ear is vastly improved, though three months later, people still sound like the kitten at the end of The Emperor’s New Groove. My left ear has a hearing aid, which I forget to turn on some days, so there’s a good sign. All in all, things are working out, knock on wood. Thanks for reading.

 

(if you’re the owner of the above picture, please let me know so I can either credit you or remove it. thanks!)

Unpublished

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I unpublished a book today. I ain’t happy.

Literary history is rift with authors who burned their own works: Whitman, Kafka, Stevenson, Bacon, and so on. The angel who blessed these and others with literary artistry became the devil with a lit match and a fireplace. The reasons are varied: mental health issues, crippling self doubt, the desire to die in anonymity, and so on. I do not include myself with them, other than to say I understand how it feels when the magic disappears, and when a sense of reality finds a home in your gut.

The book in question was my second book, and in my lofty dreams, I wanted to accomplish so much: testify to the strength of love; hold the Church accountable for its sins; solve an ancient mystery; create a sort of James Bond with a collar. The outcome was a gobbled mess of editing errors, underdeveloped characters, and plot holes the size of an Edsel. Amateur Hour in 60,000 words.

Unlamented by most, the book is gone, or it will be once Amazon removes the link from my author page. If I’m going to be a professional writer, then I must have the strength to know when I’ve done wrong and fix my mistakes. Book Number Two was the biggest mistake of my nascent writing career. Through it, I learned a ton of lessons. The good outweighs the bad.

I still ain’t happy.

Out of My Groove

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You ever fall out of love with a work-in-progress, even after 60+K words? That’s my current rut after applying dozens of hours on The Sheriff of Jefferson County. Getting to this point was the usual pantser rodeo, the whirlwind of character and location development on the fly, but the energy is gone now. I’ve no real emotional desire to complete the book, though Maggie and crew will be a series. I’m more fascinated with the sequels than the first book.

It’s not that I didn’t try to get back in the groove: plotted out the previous chapters, did some on-the-fly editing, added the four S’s (sights, sounds, smells, sex), and rewrote a couple of chapters so they flowed better with the rest of the book. Yeah, no love, no luck.

Though they’re no excuse, Real World events jumped onto the dog pile, not the least of which were some health scares, a flooded basement, and the fact that my country’s leadership is bat-shit crazy. I hesitate to mention the RW because writers must be stronger than the distractions around them. I’ve published several books by overcoming reality, and I will publish again.

The best thing to do is to sit my wide butt down in front of the white box and finish the damn book without thinking about the damn book. A vacant brain can be both a good and bad thing in that the book’s destination is below the horizon, therefore I can’t be intimidated by something that doesn’t exist. I might wander off the reservation a little (that being the main plot), but, hey, that’s why we edit.

Have you been challenged by your incomplete works? What did you do to kick start your ass to the finish? Any and all words of wisdom welcomed!

Who Are My People?

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It’s said we cannot know where we are going unless we know where we’re coming from, yet I hesitated participating in a genetic study to learn more about my ancestors. Echoes of “Big Brother” holding my most intimate of data – my chromosomes – and I was worried they’d re-engineer them to create a conquering army (it’s been done, you know, a long time ago). The request came from our daughter, and our family’s most successful author (brag), as she is doing her own research on her/our backgrounds.  I spit in the tube and dropped it in the mail after remembering the amount of my blood that’s flowed in hospitals and donation sites.

Before the results, this is what I knew about the family tree: diddly squat. The Bride is our in-house ancestry researcher, and she found my family’s strong European roots, including a direct line to the American Revolution (hey, DAR, how you doin’?) and a Civil War doctor (Union, natch). Frankly, I’ve never been interested either way. Her work was interesting, but nothing changed the fact that I’m a tight-ass white guy.

Then the results rolled in. And they were a tad unexpected.

Here’s Generations One and Two from the 1900s. Nothing weird. Yet.

Generations Three, Four, and Five from the 1800s. Did not see that coming.

Recapping: when my ancestors weren’t trying to kill each other, they were having sex. There’s a thin line between love and hate, you know.

Then my ancestry went north, south, east, and west.

Jaw Dropper.

As you see below, the genetic percentages for some of these folks is fairly small, but, hey, let’s hear it for my randy great-grandparents.

The reality check here is not where my ancestors may have called home, but where they conceived and raised their descendants. It’s possible my ancestral lands are in Africa, Scandinavia, and Italy, but I think it’s more likely my ancestors were ashore in Europe and the Americas, and in tragic conditions (slavery and/or as indentured servants).

It’s likely they looked to the sky and prayed for a better life for their children and grandchildren, one of freedom and choice, and with less pain in their children’s lives than their own. If true, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, those of us in the 21st Century thank you for your strength, perseverance, and sacrifice. We thrive because of you, and now that I know you, you will never be forgotten. God bless.

Thirty

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For this one hundred and first blog post, I’m happy to announce the Kindle publication of my latest book, Saturday’s Child, the sequel to Hope Knocks Twice. This next book continues the adventures of Emma Parks, a new hire in a metropolitan Child Protective Services office. Unlike the first boo, SC tells us more about Emma’s turbulent past as she deals with a kidnapping and her family, who are not her advocates for the most part. Perhaps the lone string of sanity in her life is the support and passion from Devon Walsh, homicide detective and ardent lover.

For new followers, this book began back in 2015 as a Christmas present to my bride of thirty-five years, Cassidy Carson. It sat on the shelf for months while she convinced me to clean it up for publication. Fifteen months after my fingers first touched the keyboard, it is available to you for less than a slender dollar at Amazon Kindle. It’s free if you’re a Prime subscriber.

It takes a village to publish a book, and there are so many people to thank, beginning with The Bride, of course. There are those who believe me as a writer, like The Awesome Aunt (the book is dedicated to her) and Laurel at the City of the Trembling Leaves. Empowerment is an amazing motivator. There are the kind and patient editors at Red Adept Editing, and Jarmilla’s beautiful book cover.

Someone already requested the third book in the series, but that will wait until I finish my current work in progress. And it will wait until after a long winter’s nap. I’m weary but also very happy. While it may not be great literature, it’s a book I’m proud of and am pleased to present to you. Thank you for your kind support.

–30–

Home Means Nevada

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Here in the Worldwide Headquarters, my thirty-five-year partner Cassidy Carson and I often joke about how hard we work on our “hobby,” that writing thing. I wager she works equally hard at her day job, and I know I certainly do. We’re always banging the keyboards, easily spending ten to fourteen hours a day working in one way or the other. This is by choice, as we are volunteers in our chosen professions and can quit at any time, though not without consequence.

Bellyaching is our birthright, and you can ignore our noise about writing. I find the act of literary creation to be a lot of fun, even though I get a tad grumpy around editing time. In the current WIP, I’m doubling the fun by dropping dozens of fun facts about my adopted state, Nevada. Though I was not born here (my parents had sex in Texas), I am a product of the Washoe County, Clark County, and Carson City School Districts, and received three of five degrees from the Nevada System of Higher Education. My favorite middle school class was Nevada History, with the textbook written by my grandfather’s colleague while they taught at the University of Nevada.

Plugging Nevada into my WIP is an opportunity to brag about the Silver State because we tend to hear about the dysfunction more often. Nevada receives a fair share of negative publicity as the Sin Center of the United States, deservedly so with the legal gambling and prostitution. The local economy is built around one industry vulnerable to recession and depression (gaming), while its most lucrative industry operates nearly in the dark and nearly tax-free (mining).

Having said that, I love Nevada. From the vast mountain ranges to Lake Tahoe, from the cantankerous veterans to the laughing kids, from the political games to the fact that hard work is always rewarded, there’s no place like the Battle Born State. The chance to express my feeling about this wonderful screwed-up state adds an extra layer of fun to the WIP, not to mention doing a Nevada-centric novel is a tribute to my teachers, in a way. They’ll probably be surprised someone was listening in class.

Blogging is a kind of procrastination for me, so back to work on the book. Let me know you’re contemplating a trip to the northern part of Nevada, or if you need some trivia or background information about Nevada gaming or something. Glad to help!

Chapter 16

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Saturday’s Child is winding down, and this particular chapter is poignant to me as it deals with the complex relationships between parents and children. If you sense any emotion within the words, it’s because they came from the heart. And we should always write what we know, right? In any case, I’ve been mulling a blog post on the gossamer strings that bind families. Maybe Monday.

On the writing front, I was fortunate enough to join my first Twitter-based authors chat tonight, and it was a positive experience. Writing can be a lonesome vocation, almost like a Texas lawman on a lone prairie. The days are long, the human interaction is minimal, and sometimes you wonder if anyone even notices what you’re doing out there. A little person-to-person interaction goes a long way. My gratitude to Tui Snider for the invitation.

I’ve blabbered on long enough. Head on over to my site and read the next one. Thanks!

Backwards Day

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On this “Backwards Day” in northern Nevada, we’re floating away on the rivers and streams full of rain and snow melt. Yes, we live in a desert, but “Nevada” literally means “snow covered.” Those with common sense are either safe and/or volunteering their energies stem the tides of liquid destiny. Others with less sense are fording the waterways simply because they can, forgetting that it’s possible to drown in two inches of bath water. There’s way more than two inches outside.

Here inside the World-Wide Headquarters, The Bride (Cassidy Carson) and I are dry by engaging in our separate literary efforts. She drafting romance and I editing/writing a draft, which is breaking a personal rule of mine: write straight through to the end. The problem is I’m stuck at twenty-seven chapters, so I’m going “backwards” to see if I can break through this wall. One way or another, this WIP will get finished this week.

As we’re on writing styles, I am a pantser, someone who writes from the gut without a road map to the finish. This style rewards spontaneous creativity, but the two problems is sometimes I get lost in the woods and I forget key points, like character names (as noted last week). The best solution for me is to combine the pantser and plotter philosophy with a Google spreadsheet that outlines these key points.

The column headers are basic and self-explanatory: “Chapter,” “Title,” “Who First,” “Who Last,” “Age,” “Call Sign,” “Role/Relation,” “What (Scene),” “Where,” “When,” and “Details.” I started yesterday and it’s saved me from embarrassing errors. Even better, I’m forced to look at character links and such, which I’d do anyway, but another flavor of editing certainly helps.

Maybe I’ve overcomplicated a simple task, and this idea won’t fit every writer’s style, but we’re all in a battle of wits with the English language. We should use every weapon at our disposal.

For those of you with a technological spin, here’s the Storify’d livetweet from Saturday. Hope it helps.