Feb 102016

It’s been a relatively mild winter this year.  By this time last winter, we’d had a few weeks of snow and plenty of freezing days and nights.  This year?  I think we’ve had two days of snow, and even then the temperatures didn’t stay low enough for it to stick for more than a day or so. We still have freezing temps at night and the high during the days is still usually in the forties and fifties, but it looks like we’re going to get lucky this year and hopefully end up with an early spring and a good growing season.

For now though, it’s still cold and windy, and that’s led to some interesting times with the girls.  Our vet told us that Bella is a Catahoula, Husky mix.  She has some of the speckled undercoat of the Catahoula, as well as some of the herding instincts and other personality traits.  But she also has that thick coat of the various Husky breeds.  And she loves the cold weather!  It’s so much fun watching her run and play in the cold.  The down side is that with it as dry as it’s been, she also builds up a static charge.  For that matter, everything does.  It’s almost heartbreaking to see her as she comes up to me, wanting me to pet her, but laying her ears back and wincing as I reach down to do so because she’s learned that the affection comes at the price of the popping shock of static discharge.  It makes me feel almost guilty for wanting to pet her.

Cricket Cricket has other problems with the weather.  She’s a Corgi, Dachshund mix and she hates the cold weather. She would rather be lazing in the sun than playing in the cold.  So as the sun begins coming out more, like it has been lately, she goes out and finds a bright warm spot out of the wind where she can enjoy baking for a while.  But you know I wouldn’t be writing about it if there wasn’t a down side to this, too.

The cold weather and strong Oklahoma winds also do a number on the lawn.  Our nice green grass changes to a brown, prickly, yard full of dried straw.  And Cricket just loves to roll in it.  As a matter of fact, it’s gotten so bad that MBH suggested we might want to change her name to Grassy Grunt, or Haystack.  (I really like Haystack.)  ROTFL

Now, her rolling wouldn’t be that big a deal if it was just once in a while.  But she does this several times a day, and it seems to be getting more and more frequent.  And the end result of all this rolling?  A very dirty trail of dried grass throughout the house.20160204_150521-1-1

And it doesn’t matter how many times you come behind her and vacuum it up, you’re almost guaranteed to have another one just like it within the hour.  As a matter of fact, yesterday she came into my office while I was writing and put her paws up on my leg the way she does when she wants to get my attention.  I reached down absent mindedly to pet her and felt the fresh coating of grass on her back. So I took her out back and brushed the mess off of her on the patio. Of course, Bella had to have her bit of attention, too, so I reached out to her… slowly, as she both wagged her tail and laid back her ears.

Zap!  Pop!  Shock

And the more I petted her, the more static discharge there was, so every few strokes was accompanied by another pop of electricity, and another wince.  To make matters worse, as I was petting Bella, Cricket wandered off the patio and as I watched, rolled onto her back, wriggling back and forth in apparent ecstasy, gathering yet another coat of dried grass for me to clean.

I mean, I had just cleaned her thirty seconds before!  Sheesh!   Thinking

MBH and I talked about it, and we came to the conclusion that I may be inadvertently rewarding her for bringing all the grass inside.  I mean, think about it… she brings in a bunch of grass and what do I do?  I take her outside and rub her down, giving her all kinds of attention.  As far as she’s probably concerned, I’m basically petting her every time she rolls in the grass!

20160208_151042-1-1But while I joke about our trials with the girls (and it really is comical to a certain extent), there is a much more serious side to this dry and windy weather.  Two days ago, the farm just to our south lost a hay barn and some trees at the back of their property.  Luckily, they had sold the last of the hay out of the barn just the day before, so their loss was limited to the barn itself.  I feel funny even saying that… they “only” lost their hay barn.  Eek!

Things could have been much worse than they were.  It was a very windy day, with gusts hitting 40 mph.  If not for the quick action of the local fire department, that fire could have quickly raged across the field and into the next neighborhood.  As a matter of fact, the picture I show here was taken from my back yard.  If the wind had shifted, that fire could have easily been pushed in the direction of our neighborhood, and my emergency bug out plans might have been put to the test.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen, so i suppose things went pretty well.  I’ll be seeing the owners of the farm later today (we buy our eggs from them, and they’ve become friends), so I’ll see if they need help with anything.  Knowing them, they’re fine.  Seeing something like that though, makes you realize just how quickly things can turn bad.

So as I say it this time people, take it to heart.

Stay safe, everyone.  And I’ll do the same.  Bye


PS – Oh!  I forgot to mention it, but I’m featured in a YouTube “commercial” from the editing company I use.  Red Adept Editing is trying some new advertising and asked for some video testimonials.  They used mine as the first in their series.  Watch it here, and you’ll understand why I have the perfect face for writing.

Feb 032016

WW30AThis will be another short post, because we have a lot going on this week.  Friends are visiting from Houston… we’re making plans to visit our oldest daughter & granddaughter in a few weeks… making plans to see our youngest daughter’s first gallery showing in a few months, which will be followed by her graduating college.

And of course, there is always the writing.  Year 12 is now sitting at just over 95k words and still growing.  I’ve also had a possible idea on how to reconstruct Chucklers to minimize the timeline confusion that plagued the first draft, so I might be able to release that one sooner than I anticipated (here’s me, keeping my fingers crossed).

But today is especially important.  Today is my mom’s birthday.  Happy birthday Mom.  We love you!   Cake

It’s also my brother in law’s birthday, so here’s wishing him a happy birthday as well.  Hope you guys have a great day.   Party

And that’s about it for now.  Like I said, there’s a lot going on.  So stay safe everyone.  Bye

Jan 272016

WW29I almost forgot today was Wednesday.  It’s been a busy week and time got away from me.  See, I took a road trip to San Antonio last week to help Baby Bird move to a new apartment.  It’s a nice apartment, but it’s on the third floor.  Those of you who have moved into a third floor apartment know why this is significant.  For those of you who haven’t, well… just imagine hauling furniture up three flights of stairs and you’ll know how much fun we had.   Razz   Luckily, my son and nephew also came to help.  If they hadn’t, I don’t know how we would have gotten it done.

I got back on Sunday, and today (Wednesday) is the first day that my calves aren’t screaming at me.   Beat Up

In the meantime, MBH left on Monday for another road trip for work.  I pick her up tonight.   In Love

The writing is going well.  I’m spending quite a bit of time on the Year 12 rewrites, so the progress meter isn’t moving too much (it measures increases in word count, and when you rewrite, you’re removing just about as much as you write).  But in doing the rewrites I’ve had to re-read the novel from the beginning to make the corrections and changes I was after.  And to my utter shock, you know what I found?  I’ve actually enjoyed reading what I wrote!

You have to understand that most writers are a paranoid bunch.  We are often our own worst critics, and it takes many of us quite a bit of hand wringing and self-doubt before we can finally let go of a manuscript and turn it over to an editor.  It takes even more to finish those final edits and actually publish the thing.

You see, before we publish, it’s still a work in progress, and there is no one to tell us whether or not it’s any good.  But once you push that button that tells Amazon to put the thing out there, there’s no more hiding behind the “WIP” label.  It’s out where everyone can see it… read it… judge it.

And most of us are convinced that we’ve just made the biggest mistake of our lives… that no one will like what we’ve written… that we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that anyone could ever want to read our drivel… that it’s all a big steaming pile and the jig is up… that everyone will finally realize that we have no idea what we’re doing and that we’ve been faking it all this time.

At least that’s the way I feel.   IDK

But in reading what I’ve written on Y12, I had a bit of a surprise.  I actually felt that the first two sections of the book are pretty solid.  I haven’t finished the rewrites yet.  I haven’t gotten to the last section, and that’s where I was having the most trouble.  But the rewrites were designed to help with the plot holes I had in the last section anyway, so hopefully those issues will be resolved, and I’ll end up with a story that I’m happy with.

Does this mean that my writer’s anguish is a thing of the past?  Probably not.  But the more I do this, the better I should get.  Right?

Jeez, I hope so.  Big Smile

So back to writing.  Stay safe everyone.  Bye

Jan 202016

WW28This week, I figure I’ll give you a break from the writing report.  Instead, I think I’ll tell you a story about my website. Yeah, I think I’ll do just that.  So sit back and listen while Uncle Jeff tells you his tale of woe.  Thinking

Once upon a time I had a spam blocker on this site that worked incredibly well. It tied into various white lists and black lists, keyword and keyphrase databases, and unobtrusively blocked 99% of the spam that tried to comment on my posts without anyone ever knowing it was there. Life was good.

But one day WordPress updated to a newer version, and the spam blocker was incompatible with the new version.  VERY incompatible.  So much so that it crashed my website.  Eek!

So with heavy heart, I had to get rid of the once wonderful spam blocker and move on to another product.  This next blocker worked well, too.  It blocked any and all spam without me ever having to do a thing.  It worked so well, that I didn’t have to do anything at all, and all spam disappeared… along with any legitimate comments that people left.  When comments dried up, it took me a while to realize it because, let’s face it, this isn’t a huge nexus of commentary.  I simply assumed that whatever I was writing about on my blog was of no interest to people, and they had moved on without saying anything.

It took several people on Facebook telling me that they had been unable to comment for me to realize there was a problem.  So I deleted that spam blocker as well.

For many months, I simply went without any spam protection, manually weeding through the fictitious comments telling me how much they loved my website and my writing, all the while trying to slip in links to sales sites that peddled watches, shoes, or mail order brides.  But it got so bad that I once again became determined to find a way to sort the real comments from the spam.

Last week I decided that the only way to do this was to install a “captcha” plugin.  I hated to do it, because it requires readers to go through an extra step before they can comment, but I’m afraid it is probably going to be the only way to assure that the comments I get are really from people, rather than spambots.  So I found a simple “math captcha” plugin that requires one to solve a basic math equation before being allowed to comment.

Since then, MBH tells me that she’s tried to post a comment twice and the “captcha” verification has blocked her.  It tells her that she needs to answer the captcha equation, but presents no equation for her to solve.  I don’t know if this is because she’s using an old version of IE (required for her job), or if there is truly a problem.  Am I able to post because of my admin privileges here?  I’ve been able to post with minimal problems (I initially had captcha set to show a combination of words, numbers, and pictures in its equations, but the pictures were difficult to make out, so I dropped them from the options), and assumed I had it resolved.  But MBH tells me she still cannot comment.

So now I’d like to ask you to help me figure this out.  Can you comment on this blog post?  If you can, please let me know what browser you’re using.  If you can’t, please either hit me up on Facebook, or drop me an email at “jlbDOTauthorATgmailDOTcom” to let me know what happened.  I know it’s not like there is a huge multitude reading my blog, but I’d like to be prepared for that day in the far future when someone is interested enough to want to say something here.  Big Smile

And now, back to writing.  Stay safe!  Bye

Jan 132016

WW27I mentioned that I was adopting some new writing habits based on suggestions in Rachel Aaron’s book (2,000 to 10,000…). Well, I’ve been using it off and on for about a week now and I have to admit, it seems to be working.  I’ll know more once I’ve fully adapted to the new habits, but so far I’m pretty impressed.  While I’m not writing 10k per day, I have noticed a gradual increase in my output.  My normal writing day usually consists of sitting in front of the laptop and letting the story “come to me”.  It sounds all Zen and existential, but that’s basically the way a “pantser” writes.  The thrill of writing is in the discovery of the story as it happens in your head.  It’s fun, but for me at least, it’s also slow and unsure.

Now, I start out the day with a pen and paper in a binder that I’ve put together… or sometimes typing notes on the laptop that I print out & put in the binder.  The point is, I spend anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour writing basic beat points for what I want to accomplish in my writing for the day, and then I sit down to actually write it.  Adopting this single habit has changed my daily average from a bit under two thousand words per day, to about four thousand words a day.

Needless to say, I’m a believer.

Since most of Year 12 is already written, I won’t have a true test of the new process until I begin a new story.  After all, much of my work with Y12 is going to be cleaning up the manuscript that’s already been written using my old method… or lack thereof.

I suppose this has been a lesson for me, not just in writing, but in life.  Actually, I suppose it’s not so much a new lesson as it is a “Gibbs slap” to the back of the head – a reminder of something I was supposed to already know.  Never stop learning.  Never stop looking for a new way.

After all, “because it’s how I’ve always done it” is just another way of saying, “I’ve plateaued”.  And I don’t plan on plateauing for a long, long time.

Stay safe, everyone.  Bye