Mar 152017
 

WW75AWell, as you can see, we got the fence back up, though it did take a few days longer than expected. I managed to get the old post out of the ground well enough.  See that big “log” on the ground in front of the fence?  If you click on the picture, you’ll see that it’s really not a log at all.  It’s the two feet of concrete that the old post was set into… two feet of concrete that I had to dig out of the ground before I could plant the new post.

I suppose I should be grateful, though.  The guy that put up our fence used an auger to plant the posts, so the holes are all nice and neat – smooth cylinders of concrete straight into the ground, and relatively easy to find and dig loose.  Not so easy to get out of the ground by yourself, though.  I mean, that much concrete is heavy!  Beat Up 

However, I managed it all right, though I had to go wide enough with the hole so that I could get enough leverage with the shovel to help lift it out.  And that meant that the nice, neat, round hole, was no longer nice, neat, or round.  Now I had an oblong, ragged, gaping hole in the ground, with considerably more volume to fill than I had bought concrete for.  But yours truly is nothing if not inventive. You see, I get buckets from the local bakery for use in my various gardening experiments.  They’re free, and give me considerable freedom to test out various ideas for planting, irrigation, or to just carry tools around.

In this case, I just sacrificed the bottoms of two of them, cutting them out so that I had a couple of empty plastic cylinders.  I poured a little concrete in the bottom of the hole, slid the first bottomless bucket around the new post, filled it with more concrete, and when it was full, repeated the process, stacking the second one on top of the first.   The end result was a post set within concrete filled buckets that were then easily surrounded with the fill dirt I had dug out in order to remove the old post.

So there I was, feeling quite clever… old post still propped up, holding the horizontal rails and fence in place so the dogs couldn’t get out and nothing else could get in. The new post was standing straight up in the ground (I knew it was straight, since I had repeatedly checked it with the level while placing it).  And that was when I realized that the horizontal posts from the old fence had to go into the new post before the concrete completely set.

And I still hadn’t even taken them off of the old post!   Eek!

The next several minutes were filled with me frantically struggling to remove the fencing staples that held the fence to the rails with a screwdriver and hammer, all the while hoping the “QuickCrete” I had bought, wasn’t so quick that I wouldn’t be able to move that post to get the rails into the holes on the new post.  And after considerable hammering and prying at the staples, (you know, those crazy “U”-shaped, double-headed nails?) and more than a little bit of cussing, I managed to get the rails loose from the fence itself, and then from the old, broken, post.

And the concrete hadn’t set so much that I wasn’t able to move the post.  So I shoved the new post out a bit, placed the horizontals in place, and shoved the new upright back into place, all with the concrete still pliable enough to fill back into the hole. Crisis averted.  Whew!  Struggle

At that point, the new post and rails were in place, but the concrete hadn’t set well enough to put any tension on them.  The QuickCrete bag said it would be four to six hours at a minimum, so I still had to prop the old fence back up again with old lumber (and a bit of wishful thinking) right up against the new post.

Saturday came, and as promised, brought with it more than enough rain to keep us from working on the fence any further. No big deal though, we still had Sunday, right? (sigh)

Unfortunately, Sunday brought its own set of issues… namely, me.  I’d been having problems with my asthma for the last few weeks, which let me know that I was probably getting ready to have a full-blown allergic reaction sometime soon.  “Soon” ended up being Sunday.

MBH and I got up and made cinnamon rolls.  It was another experiment for us, as we had never made them before.  They turned out pretty good, though as with most experiments, there was room for improvement and we’ve already decided how we’re going to change the recipe for next time.  After breakfast, we bundled up (Saturday’s rain brought more cold weather with it and the temperature was down into the upper 30s), and took the girls for a brisk morning walk.  That was all it took.

WW75BMany years ago, I was diagnosed with exercise induced allergies.  My first attack was when I was a teen.  I had just finished one of my karate classes, and was jogging home when I started noticing how much my feet were hurting. Within a few minutes, I was having trouble breathing, and by the time I made it home, I was in the midst of my first asthma attack, accompanied by my first experience with hives.  My mom freaked (understandably), and rushed me to the local emergency clinic, where the doctors also just about had a cow.  To be fair, I suppose I would have done the same.  I mean, you see a thirteen year old kid on the table, face so swollen that his eyes are barely able to open, and he’s wheezing like his throat is swollen shut.  My mom told me later that they were about ready to trache me.  Luckily, one of the docs recognized my symptoms, administered a dose of adrenaline, and within several minutes, I was breathing normally again and the swelling was going back down.

Since that first time, I’ve learned to deal with this as a normal part of my life.  I’ve also learned to recognize the symptoms leading up to an attack, and minimize their effect.  MBH has also learned to help me deal with them.  Because of the tightness of chest and trouble breathing I’d been experiencing for the last few weeks, we knew it was coming.  And since I had shut down the last few attacks before they’d really run their course, we suspected I was due for a relatively bad one.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as we had feared, though as you can see in the picture, I did end up with a few hives.

But the end result was that my Sunday was spent kicked back, trying not to scratch, while I tried to let the attack run its course.  A few hours of hives, with the accompanying itching, swelling, high blood pressure, and asthma, meant that I wasn’t about to be outside working on the fence.  Instead, I ended up sitting like a lump in the easy chair, waiting on the symptoms to peak so I could take a Benadryl and crash.

But Monday, I finally got to get outside to finish the freaking fence.  Yay!  It’s still not perfect.  It turns out that I set the pole a couple of inches higher than the original, and the gate is about an inch higher off the ground than it was.  And while there’s nothing I can do about the post being higher, there is enough adjustment in the gate itself to line it up properly.

So that’s it for my “Post about the Post”.

Other news…

End Point PangaeaEPP now sits at nearly 55k words, and is still moving.  This has been my main focus (other than visiting family, fence posts, and allergic reactions Wink ), so no other real writing news to report.

The Burning Land – “But wait,” you say. “I thought there wasn’t any other writing news.”  That’s true.  However, I’ve done a bit of recording, and am going to see about releasing TBL as audio via ACX and Audible.  We’ll have to see how that works out.  But with the changes that Amazon has made in terms since they bought out ACX, it’s very difficult to find voice actors who are willing to work for a royalty split.  These days, they want payment up front, and for anyone that does a decent job, the cost is usually at least $200 per finished hour.  Since ACX lists Year 12 as an estimated 12.8 finished hours, that means I would have to come up with roughly $2600 to have it produced.  And I just don’t have that kind of money.  So it occurred to me that perhaps I could do it myself.  But I need to start with something smaller… MUCH smaller.  Most sources agree that you can count on working about eight to ten hours per finished hour when you begin audio work.  Thus, this experiment with TBL.  I’ve already recorded the basic reading, and I already have the software, and know how to use it.  I’ve used it to record my promos for my other books.  Now it just remains to be seen if I can get a decent enough production level to put out something good enough to Audible.  That means editing out the miscellaneous train whistles from town, jet noises as they pass overhead, stomach gurgles from when I try to record just after eating (lesson learned there), wind whistling through the trees, laptop fan when it kicks on… I think you get the idea.  But IF I can get all that done, and manage to produce a decent audio file, then I might consider tackling the recording for Y12.

And that’s it for now.  Time to get back to writing.  So for now, stay safe everyone, and I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

Feb 152017
 

We had a great time last week with wonderful friends from the old stomping grounds in Houston.  Needless to say, after living in the Houston area for most of our lives, we ended up leaving a lot of folks behind when we moved up here to Oklahoma.  Luckily, Oklahoma isn’t so far that we never get to see them, and some (like our friends from last week) don’t mind driving up for visits.  We’re incredibly lucky in that respect.  For while we love where we live now, we do miss being able to see friends and family whenever we want to.

On the up side, I can honestly say I now live less than five miles from renowned author Mercedes Lackey.  How cool is that?  LOL.  Not that I’ve ever met her, but as an author myself, the thought that I might is pretty cool.

Other than that, (and the writing, of course), I don’t have a lot more to talk about.  However, I’ve decided to begin a quick section on the blog here based on random recent pictures from my phone.  (Yeah, I’m weird, but you should have figured that out by now.) So here’s today’s Random Pic of the Week, and a few words about it. This picture was taken last Saturday, February 11th.WW71a

During the spring, summer, and fall, we try to walk Bella and Cricket twice a day. But here in Oklahoma, we actually get all four seasons, and during the cold winter months, it’s simply too cold and dark in the mornings to walk them.  So when the weather is nice on the weekends, we like to make up some of the missed time with them by going to nearby Claremore Lake and taking extra long walks with them.  Endomondo tells me that our typical course takes us about 2.5 miles.  It’s not a huge gain for them, but they definitely seem to love the extra smells and activity.  And they get to see other people and animals, too.  They aren’t the most social of animals, and being able to expose them to joggers, walkers, and other people walking their dogs is definitely good for them.  They get to learn that strangers aren’t necessarily all out to murder their pack.   Heh  Who knows? Maybe someday soon, they won’t feel compelled to growl and bark at that murderous mailman that comes by every day.

Now on to writing news…

EPP – I’m having to split my time between writing projects.  The end result is that nothing is moving incredibly quickly, but everything is moving forward. End Point Pangaea is moving along, and I had a major plot point reveal itself to me last week. Yes, remember that I’m a pantser when it comes to my writing, so the story often unfolds for me as I write it.  Usually it’s just an organic evolution of the story as I flow from one scene to another.   But on occasion, there is a major “Ah hah!” moment, where some pivotal scene comes to me that opens all sorts of other ideas to me.  This was one of those occasions, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all unwinds.

CL – Not much to report on Crazy Larry this week.  Quite honestly, between having friends out, and playing catch up on the larger projects, CL didn’t get the love that it should have.  I’ll have to rectify that situation next week.

Y12 Year 12 is doing relatively well… six reviews so far, all five-stars.  And the sales are beginning to show signs of life.  Yay!   Grin

BoR – Yes, the Sekrit Projekt is back in play.  Cool  The first pass at this one was rejected.  Without revealing any details, they simply didn’t like the story line I proposed.  Luckily, they didn’t completely kick me to the curb, and suggested something else.  I worked up a few ideas on character and setting, but got stumped on the actual story.  Late last week, I received a query wanting to know how it was going, and I had to sheepishly admit that I had hit a brick wall.  Rather than being dumped, I was offered a brainstorming session.  After an hour and a half on the phone, I was full of inspiration… well, I was full of something.  I’ll know in a few days whether it was truly inspiration.  It was either that or gas.   ROTFL  At any rate, where just last week I was drawing a complete blank, I now have a full plot, characters, intrigue… I can truly say that I’m really excited about this one now.

And that’s it for today.  I hope you all have a wonderful week, and I’ll talk to you again soon. Stay safe!  Bye

Jan 182017
 

Yesterday started like most other days.  At 5:45 AM the alarm goes off.  MBH gets up, feeds the girls and grabs a bite for breakfast, while I lay in bed for another few minutes trying to get my mind reconnected to my body. MBH finishes her breakfast, showers, gets dressed for work, and heads out the door.  In the meantime, I’ve usually managed to motivate my lazy butt out of bed and in front of the computer to begin my writing.  It might be actual writing, or researching, or world building, character building, editing, or any of the many activities that goes into creating a book.

Yesterday was mostly about world building.  At any rate, after a couple of hours in front of the computer, I usually need a break. So I will grab a bite for breakfast and take a shower before getting back to it.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I noticed, in an abstract kind of way, that the shower wasn’t as hot as usual. But it wasn’t too bad, and I thought maybe it was because the weather’s been cold, and maybe MBH took a longer shower than usual.  In other words, it wasn’t anything more than an item of note in my morning.

Then later in the day I went to rinse some dishes in the kitchen and noticed the hot water was barely tepid.  That was when I realized something was wrong.  When I went into the garage (where the water heater is) I knew for certain there was a problem.  There was water pooled on the floor under the door to the water heater closet.  It wasn’t a huge amount, but it was enough to tell me that we had trouble.  I opened the door and found that the drip pan under the water heater was full, and draining onto the floor, and that the pilot light was out.

So after some fumbling around, I figured out how to get the pilot light re-lit.  I didn’t think that had anything to do with the leak, but it definitely accounted for the lack of hot water.  I was about to put the cover back over the pilot light when the flame flared from that pretty blue gas flame, to a bright yellow.  It was only for a second, but it was enough to get my attention.  A few seconds later, there was another flare… then another.  Kneeling down to peer into the hole, I could see that there was water dripping down from the actual tank of the water heater, directly into the flames.   Eek!  It was time to call a plumber.

I checked with my neighbors, and got a few recommendations for the same plumber.  I called, got a ballpark figure for a replacement water heater, and after nearly passing out from the sticker shock I made an appointment to get them out this morning.  When Mr. Plumber arrived, the whole thing turned into a bit of a good news / bad news morning.

WW69Good news…  It looks like the problem isn’t the water heater after all. Instead, it looks like the “T&P” valve (the temperature and pressure valve, in the picture here) is bad, and it will only cost a tenth of what the water heater would cost.

Bad news… Mr. Plumber doesn’t have the part.

Good news… he can get it in less than an hour.

Yay!!  Problem solved.  Less than an hour later, he was back, and had completely replaced the valve.  Additionally, he tells me that the dripping I saw was relatively common, just condensation from the tank in the cold weather.  So I text MBH to let her know we’re about done, and she asks if I could have him take a look at a minor problem we’ve been having in the kitchen.

See, the hot water in the kitchen only seems to be about half what the pressure is at any other faucet in th house.  Additionally, the dishwasher doesn’t really seem to clean very well.  So I ask Mr. Plumber if he would mind taking a look at the problem.  He clears everything out from under the kitchen sink, goes to shut off the water, and finds immediately that it won’t shut off all the way.  The shutoff valve is bad.  He explains that this might be the cause of the pressure problem, though there’s no way to know for sure.  But if it won’t shut all the way off, then it might not be opening all the way, either.  Sounds logical, right? So once again, it’s good news / bad news.

Good news – a possible easy fix is in sight.

Bad news… you guessed it, he doesn’t have the part.

Good news… the part will only cost another $60 plus labor (and since I had been braced for a MUCH higher water heater replacement cost, that didn’t sound all that bad.)

Once more, he drives off to get the part. Once more he returns.  Once more we play good news / bad news.

He goes to shut off the water at the water heater and notices that the brand new T&P valve is trickling water down the side of the water heater.  Not much, mind you… just a drop or two every few seconds.  But there is a very slight leak.  And this time, we’re starting the game with the bad news side going first.

Bad news… we still have a leaking water heater.

Good news… it isn’t the T&P valve.

Wait, that’s good news?  In a manner of speaking, yes.  Since the problem isn’t the T&P, it means that the water heater itself is defective. It means that Mr. Plumber runs the numbers on the water heater and can tell that there is a replacement warranty on it.

And good news… with the warranty, it’s only going to be about half the cost of what I was originally going to have to pay.

Bad news… it’s still going to be about half of what I was originally going to have to pay.

Good news… since the water heater is barely trickling, replacement can be put off until such time as we can be better prepared for it.  So while it’s not completely fixed, it is repaired enough to function for some indefinite amount of time.

So he shuts off the water, goes back to the kitchen, and replaces the defective shutoff valve under the sink.

Bad news… while it does give a slight increase in pressure to the hot water side, the hot water is still about half that of the cold water.

Good news… Mr. Plumber seems to see this as a bit of a personal challenge.  He tests the flexible line leading from the shutoff to the faucet.  It’s clear.  He tests the water pressure from the hot and cold side by side at the line and finds they’re both good. He tests everything he can, eliminating all possible problems south of the faucet itself.

Bad news… that means that the problem is the faucet itself.

So after about three hours with Mr. Plumber, we now have a better idea of what’s going on with our plumbing, and a plan for later, if the water heater gets worse.  I also have a faucet to replace in my future.  But I should be able to handle that on my own.  (Wait, isn’t that what Custer said just before Little Big Horn?)

All right.  Time for me to get back to writing.  So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next week.  Bye

 Posted by at 2:58 pm
Jan 052017
 

First of all, I hope you all had a fantastic New Year’s.  I’ve reached that point in my life where quiet is better, so no crazy parties for MBH and I.  Truth be told, we’ve never been much for the wild New Year’s Eve parties. For us, getting our wild on this year entailed fixing one of our favorite meals.  Now, in order to let you appreciate just how different this meal is for us, I have to let you in on a not-so-secret secret. I’m not a big fan of red meat. Sure, I’ll munch on a burger as much as the next guy, and I love sausage and bacon in the morning.  But I’ve never really developed the appreciation most people have of a fine steak or roast.  It’s just not my thing.

But a few years back, I sampled my first buffalo flank steak and fell in love.  I don’t know why, but buffalo just tastes GOOD to me. And luckily, there was a store that carried it near our house in Houston.  It’s a little pricier than regular beef, but both MBH and I liked it enough that it became a semi-regular treat for us.

When we moved to Oklahoma, one of the things on my mind was the idea that we had moved into buffalo country!  It’s true.  Driving around this part of the country, it’s relatively common to see small herds of buffalo, where ranchers raise them like other ranches raise cattle. I just knew we were going to have quick and easy access to more buffalo at better prices.

ww67-aUnfortunately, the truth was much different. I’ve only found a few stores here that carry any buffalo at all, and those stores typically only carry it ground.  I found one place in Tulsa that says they have buffalo sirloin in their frozen food section… sometimes.  But none of them carry flank steak.  Side Frown

We searched online and also found some sites that sell the cuts we’re after, and we ordered from one of them… once.  Don’t get me wrong, the meat was delicious, and the people at Wild Idea Buffalo were very knowledgeable.  As a matter of fact, we learned to try some other cuts from them, and loved their skirt steaks and their flat-iron steaks.  The problem with ordering from them was the shipping fees.  Buying half a dozen steaks cost us about $40 in shipping, and that is just something we can’t afford to keep doing.  But I get it.  Shipping meat across the country requires fast, refrigerated shipping.  And that isn’t cheap.

But it’s still outside of our budget.

ww67-bSo for the Christmas holiday this year, we asked our son to bring some buffalo flank up from that store in Houston, where we used to buy it.  It’s ironic that we’re here, in the heart of buffalo country, and the best way for us to get our favorite flank steak is to have it brought up from Houston.  But he brought us four absolutely gorgeous steaks, and one of those was our New Year’s Eve dinner.  (insert a sigh of contentment here)

And as you can see from the pictures, it didn’t go unappreciated.  Big Smile

On the writing front…

Chucklers, Volume 1 – Severed Press put CV1 on an Amazon countdown sale for 99¢ and advertised it in the Booksends newsletter. The sale ends at 2AM tomorrow morning (central time), or just about fifteen hours from the time of this posting.  So here’s me, crossing my fingers and hoping sales do well.

End Point PangaeaEPP moved slowly for a bit, but I’m back on it today.  Between the holidays, and other writing projects, EPP simply didn’t get the attention it deserved, so the progress meter on it barely moved over the holidays.  That changes now.

FSJ – The Sekrit Projekt went pretty well. For now, I’m waiting to see what happens with it, and that’s all I can say about it for now.

Year 12 – I got the file for the Y12 print interior and, after some quick back and forth changes, I’ve approved the result and we’re moving on to the e-book files and print cover.  I’m hopeful that the final product will be ready to publish VERY soon.   Grin

So that’s it in my world. Time to get back to writing.  So as always, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you more next week. Bye

Dec 282016
 

ww66-bI hope you had (or are having) a fantastic holiday this year. I know MBH and I did. Our youngest daughter, as well as our son, daughter-in-law, and youngest granddaughter came up to visit, and spend the holiday weekend with us.  So yeah, we got most of what we wanted for Christmas.

It’s true, you know… the saying about your wish list getting shorter as you get older.  At least for MBH and I, it’s true.  Just having part of the family here was more than we could ask for, especially with the youngest member visiting.  I mean, just look at that face.  How can you not be content around such a cutie? Big Smile

ww66-aWe got to spend time with the kids (even though our youngest “kid” now is a college grad – LOL), going to the movies, cooking, and playing “chicken feet” or just relaxing out on the patio in the evenings.  It was tough to see them head back home, but such is life when families begin to go their separate ways.

On the writing front, I honestly didn’t get much done.  As you can imagine, with the kids here, I had other things on my mind.  But that’s not to say nothing happened.  For one thing, I received the review files for the print version of Year 12, so that’s back underway.

fb-cb1Additionally, I got word early this morning that Chucklers, Volume 1 is about to go on sale, starting on December 30th, and will be featured in the Booksends mailing list on January 1st.  So if you haven’t been able to afford it up to now, this is your chance.

And that’s about it, for now. I’m just getting back into the swing of things, so I should have more to report next time.  For now, I hope you have a happy new year, so take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you in 2017.  Bye