Aug 302017
 

This week’s post has nothing to do with writing.  No reports of progress or lessons learned in the business. This week is about Hurricane Harvey.  It’s about the friends and family that MBH and I left behind in Houston when we moved to Oklahoma three years ago.  It’s about recognition of the way they, and Texas in general came together in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in recent history.

BTW, if any of you ever wondered why I’m such a strong proponent of prepping, look at the picture here.  That was taken the day before Harvey made its first landfall. This is typical of store shelves just before a disaster.  I’ve been through a few such events, and seen this repeated in most instances.

But moving on…  For the most part, our friends and family have come through without any serious damage.  My son & his family evacuated when things got close, but they got out before any water got in, while it was still safe to do so.  And as it turns out, they made it through without the water actually getting in (though like so many others in the Houston area, it came REALLY close to coming in.

My brother from another mother, James Husum, lives in The Woodlands, just north of Houston, and was house sitting when Harvey hit.  He was trapped away from his home, with several dogs, while the water rose and trapped them in.  But other than a leak in the roof, there was no water damage in either his home, or the one where he was staying.

Another friend posted on Facebook that he and his family had been forced to leave their home and had taken shelter in a local high school.  And my cousin Brenda Jackson, who is an awesome amateur photographer, has taken all sorts of pictures from the area where, until three years ago, MBH and I called home.

The picture to the right shows a strip center where we used to stop pretty often. The pic is taken from a freeway overpass through a rain-streaked window.  Just to the left of the frame of this pic, there is (or at least, there used to be) a Smoothie King where we would occasionally stop for a light dinner or lunch.  Now to be perfectly honest, this picture isn’t that much of a surprise.  The area has flooded several times in the last few years, a victim of all the construction that’s popped up around them.

This picture (to the left) hits a little closer to home, though.  It’s taken from hwy 249, and you can see the water is up onto the freeway.  If I’m not mistaken, this is near the exit for an HEB grocery store we used to shop at quite often.  It’s where we used to buy our buffalo flank steak for grilling.

By the way, you can always click any of these photos to see an enlarged version.

The picture below to the right shows a strip center near my sister and brother-in-law’s place.  We’ve eaten at that Gringo’s restaurant on a few occasions.  I honestly don’t recall it flooding before, but since it was a little farther from our home, I’m not as familiar with the area. I found this picture online.

Another picture from Brenda here (left).  She called this one, Boat on the Feeder.  Yes, that’s the feeder road to a freeway.

It’s a shame that it took a flood of such magnitude to wipe the previous flood of political crap from our news feeds.  But since the goal of our media “services” is to sensationalize everything, it takes something huge to refocus them.  The message I see repeatedly coming out of the news now is that people are helping one another.  Joe Everyman is grabbing his fishing boat, kayak, canoe, or fishing waders… if he’s high and dry, then he’s moving to where he’s needed.

I’ve read numerous accounts of people launching their boats and helping out wherever they can, and I’m proud to know so many of them.  To the right here, my cousin, once removed (Brenda’s son Jason) is helping a friend get a family and their dog out of danger.

One of my former martial arts instructors has been posting videos on Facebook as he has worked for the last few days, helping to get people and animals to dry land.  I know others who have worked (and are still working) at getting supplies from surrounding areas into the shelters where they’re needed.  As a matter of fact, the church where my parents went for years was just recently remodeled.  It’s been closed for months during the process.

But they’re open now, supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need.

This is the America I recognize.  We pull together, lift each other up, help those who need help.  It’s how I was raised, and I’m so glad to see that it is apparently also the way a lot of other Texans were raised.

 

RPotW – 

Let me wrap this up with a “not so” Random Pic of the Week. I don’t know who took this one, but it’s been running around the interwebs for the last day or so.  It’s a powerful image, and doesn’t really need any comment so I’ll just leave it right here for you.

Stay dry everyone.  Stay safe.  I’ll talk to you next time.

Aug 232017
 

Yep.  Lots going on.  And that’s a good thing.  There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from whittling down the old “to-do” list.  We’ve had friends and family in and out of the house for the last few weeks, gotten the bathroom remodel nearly completed, and are in the final stages of getting my mom’s cabin cleaned out and ready for the new tenants to move in.

On the writing front, you may be happy to know that I got the manuscript for Pangaea Exiles back from the publisher three days ago.  As of a few minutes ago, I finished the final revisions and sent them back.  That should be the last of the editing, and as far as I know, the manuscript is now ready for formatting.  Woohoo! 

CL – In the meantime, Crazy Larry has proven to be longer than I originally anticipated. In fact, it looks like it’s actually going to be a little longer than The Road to Rejas.  But I think I’m in the final stretch now. We’ll see how it finishes out.

Y12 – The audiobook for Year 12 is in production, and the chapters I’ve reviewed so far sound fantastic.  Corey Snow is an amazing talent.  I’m so lucky to have him as the voice of the Half Past Midnight universe.  If anyone needs a talented voice actor, Corey is one of the absolute best.

I think I’m actually going to make this one a short entry.  I know I always say that, but this time it’s true. So very quickly, here’s the RPotW.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but Baby Bird is a sushi fanatic.  I think she would eat the stuff for every meal if she could afford to.  We recently found a sushi restaurant in a nearby town that serves amazing rolls.  We’ve been able to take her there a few times, and she declared it the best she’s ever had.

Of course, that means that any time we get a chance to go, we have to send her a pic like this one and tease her with the fact that we’re there, while she’s back home eating the college student’s typical diet of Raman, or some similarly blasé meal.  Yeah, we’re mean that way.  But it serves to remind her that she has good food here anytime she comes to visit.  (Hint, hint!) 

And that’s it.  Time to get back to it.  Stay safe everyone, and I’ll talk to you next time!  

Jul 262017
 

Minor change in the blog here. It looks like part of the problem I had on the site had to do with a corrupted emoticon plugin.  I traced the last three corrupted files to the plugin and when I tried to go to the site to see if there was an available update, their site was also messed up.  As a result, I’ve removed that plugin and you will notice new emoticons here.  There is supposed to be a table of them that shows up when you go to make comments, but since I post from the admin dashboard, I have no way of knowing if that’s true.  If anyone tries to comment, please look for the table marked “wp-Monalisa”.  It will hopefully have a bunch of smileys and the accompanying text codes that will create them.  If not, I’ll try to figure out an easy way to let you see what they are, but for now, I’m more concerned with just getting the site running smoothly again.

Other news… last weekend was the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) competition.  Now, because of the terms of the competition, I still can’t talk publicly about any specifics.  But speaking in generalities, I can say that I ended up pitching a story idea in a genre that I NEVER thought I would write in.  But I would like to tell you a little about the experience. So let me give you an idea of how my weekend went.  We (the writers) were supposed to show up on location at 6PM.  I got there a little early because I wanted to know what kind of locations we would have access to.  After all, it wouldn’t do any good to write a script about a car race if the only set we had access to was going to be a church, right?  I also wanted to discuss what the other writers knew about the actors… skills, aptitudes, etc.

At roughly 6:45, we received the phone call letting us know our required genre, character name, line of dialogue, and prop.  Each of these things had to be written into the script.  Three teams of two writers (including yours truly) then began putting our ideas into pitch form.  A few hours later the director and his team met with all three writing teams to listen to the pitches.

The pitch my writing partner and I made was accepted, and we went to work on the full script.  Things went a little off course from where I thought they were going to go at that point.  It had been my understanding that all six writers would get together to knock out the completed script, but someone had decided that having six writers working on a seven minute script would likely be a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen.   That made sense, so my partner (a great guy named Aaron Stein) and I sat down and knocked out a collaborative effort, writing until about 2:30 AM.  Between the writing, printing out the copies, and getting everything ready for the crew setup later that morning, I ended up getting to sleep around 3:30.

My alarm got me up less than three hours later, because the crew was supposed to meet at 7AM.  Yeah, after less than three hours of sleep, I got to haul my tired old phatass back to work with them.  This time I got to learn about setting up lights, power, how to set a boom mic just out of frame so it won’t show up in the film, but will still be close enough to pick up dialogue… it was both exhilarating and intimidating, not to mention incredibly hot and exhausting.  We filmed at three different locations, and finished up once again at around 3AM.  By the time I got home, got showered (I did mention hot, didn’t I? I was drenched in sweat and soaked through four shirts) and finally got to bed, it was about 5AM.

Let me tell you folks, I’m just too old for that kind of schedule anymore.  I remember pulling all-nighters when I was in my twenties.  I even remember literally working around the clock on rare occasions in my thirties.  But I’m nearly twice that age now, and I paid hell for the excess the following day.  I woke up with a migraine so bad that I ended up puking, and I was pretty much useless to MBH.  To make things worse, she had strained her back while I was gone, and the two of us spent most of Sunday lying around the house, while Bella looked at us wondering what in the world was wrong with us.

Unfortunately, despite all the work everyone put into the project, the film didn’t get through editing soon enough to make the deadline, and we were disqualified from the competition.  It was still an amazing experience.  Hard, HARD, work, but amazing, nonetheless.  It was also one hell of a learning experience, and I learned a new respect for the names that go at the end of a film… all the “grips” and “best boys”, lighting crew, and boom operators… Their work is thankless, tiring, and all it gets them is a little footnote at the end of the credits.  Like writers, these are people who love their craft, work hard to advance it, and my hat is off to them.

I’ve already been asked if I would participate again next year, and I have to say… right now, I’m on the fence.  As I said, I really liked it.  I just can’t put in hours like that.  This year was REALLY hard on me.  Today is Wednesday, and I still had to take a short nap this morning.  I’m still working to get my schedule back on track.  I can’t afford that much of a disruption in my writing schedule.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there is a draw to the comradery of working so closely with a team of artists to make something you can be proud of… something you can point to and say, “I had a hand in creating that.”

So will I do it again next year?  I don’t know.  Part of me wants to.  But next year I’ll be even older, my body will likely be less forgiving to the abuse, and I simply don’t think I can handle working back-to-back, twenty-something hour days.  It’s been one hell of a learning experience though.  I’ve learned that I can write under extreme pressure.  I’ve learned a little about script writing.  And as I said, I learned quite a bit about the work that goes on behind the scenes (literally) of a movie.

Now back to the reality of my own writing…

Crazy Larry hasn’t moved all that much.  Between the prep for the 48 HFP, and recuperating afterwards, I’m sitting on just under 22k words, and I haven’t made any more progress on Payne and Suffering since last week, at all.  But I’m feeling more like my old self again, and am going to try working on multiple projects at once.  I’ve tried this in the past, but didn’t have the mental discipline to keep track of the various projects.  I want to see if I can do it now.  I need to make it work.  Working on one project at a time seems to be bogging me down.  I have a problem with focusing on a single plot problem and letting it bog me down.  If I can make myself stop when I hit one of those proverbial walls, and move over to another WIP, then maybe that will give my subconscious time to chip away at the wall while I remain productive on another title.  I’ll let you know how it works.

That’s it for now. Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  

 

 

Jul 132017
 

WW86AI tried to publish this one on time yesterday.  Really, I did!  But there was some sort of issue with my browser or the connectivity between this website and home.  I was able to hit other sites all right, but whenever I tried to get to this one, the browser repeatedly timed out.  But only when I tried it from my computer.  Other people were able to get to the site without any problem, and I was able to hit it from my phone.  But for whatever reason, any time I tried from my laptop, the freaking thing refused to connect.   :-?

Oh well, I’m in now… so on with the blog.  Below is the post I tried posting yesterday.  The only thing that has changed since then is that I just got back from my first Tai Chi class (more on that below.)

So read and comment.  I’ll talk to you later.

______________

Hope you had a wonderful 4th, at least those of you who celebrate it. Yes, I’ve been pretty lax lately about posting here on the blog, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t had that much to post about.  Yes, I’m still writing, but I don’t think people want to read a running count on my production numbers every week.  That would be boring, even for me.   ;)

But this week, there are some interesting things afoot.  For starters, I have been invited to participate in a 48-hour indie film competition as one of six writers on the team.  I have a friend who is a local actor & they lost one of their writers at the last minute, so he contacted me to see if I was interested.  Of course, I had no idea that such a thing as an indie film competition even existed, so I was understandably hesitant.  Like I told him, I’ve no idea whatsoever how to approach script writing, know next to nothing about film making, and I would hate to be the reason his team did poorly.

He explained some of the rules though.  The competition works something like this… the team lead has to be physically present at the beginning of the competition.  This is where they will receive the (for lack of a better word) variables for our team.  What this means is that the team lead will travel from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and will draw a genre from a hat. They will also be given a character name, a prop, and a line of dialogue – all of which MUST be incorporated into the film. At that point, the competition begins, and we have 48 hours to turn in a finished short (roughly ten minute) film.

From our perspective, what happens is that as soon as the team lead receives the information, they will immediately call the team back in Tulsa. They will pass the information on to the writers (yep, this is where yours truly comes in).  There are six writers (and thankfully, the others will have more experience with this and I do), and we will be divided into three teams of two writers. The writing teams will be given a short amount of time to come up with a story concept and the rest of the team votes on which of the three concepts will make a better film.  At that point, all six writers will work together, writing through the night to come up with a script based on the concept and the mandatory variables. Once the script is done (or while it is being written, for all I know), the actual acting and filming begins.  From what I’ve heard and read, this will basically be a sleepless day or two that ultimately culminates in the production of a film that is turned in for the competition.

I figure it will be an exposure to a new kind of writing, as well as the ultimate exercise in writing under pressure.  I mean, I’ve had deadlines before, but basically writing a script in a few hours is going to take the cake.   Wish me luck.   8-)  I mean, I may have some input into a script for an indie film.

Hope I survive it.   :struggle:

Another little item is that I am going to be starting a Tai Chi class.  It’s a short-term class… basically a starter class, just ten weeks.  It will allow me to get a better feel for one style of martial art that I’ve never studied.  Up to now, my studies have included all kinds of “hard” styles, but I’ve never taken time to learn anything at all about the so-called “soft” style martial arts (other than some peripheral study from books and observations).  And since the next book in the Chucklers series will involve a couple of Tai Chi experts, some hands-on experience can only be a good thing.  Right?

In other news, we found out a few weeks ago that we had a leaky shower pan in the master bathroom.  This means we’re going to be going through a bit of a bathroom overhaul… new shower, new pan, and we decided while we were at it, we might as well go for the trifecta and do new flooring, as well.  And you can’t do all that without also painting.  So by the end of the month, we’ll basically have a new bathroom.  It’s actually going to be a fun project.  No, we’re not doing it ourselves.  But we’ve picked out new tile for the shower, and new flooring, and new paint… we’ll be painting it ourselves, but the construction involved in replacing the shower pan, putting in new shower tile, and flooring is well beyond my nearly non-existent handyman skills (or lack thereof).  So is it strange that I’m viewing this as a fun project?

Well, “strange” and I are old friends.

And on the writing front…

Crazy Larry – Currently sitting at a bit over 18k words.  It’s moved slower than I wanted, but it’s moving.  It’s beginning to look like it might come in around 20k to 25k.

Pangaea Exiles – Just recently received an email from the publisher with a cover for it, so things are moving right along with this one, too.  Hopefully , the book will be out on Amazon shortly.

And that’s about it.  I’m going to try to publish this thing before something else goes wrong with my connection.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

WW86B

Oh!  RPotW! – 

I almost forgot.  Today’s Random Pic is some sort of fruiting vine that MBH saw on our last walk at the lake.  I haven’t looked into it to see if I can figure out what it is, so if one of you knows, drop me a comment.  I’m curious.

Thanks.   :-))

 Posted by at 9:56 am
May 242017
 

WW83We lost a good friend this weekend… a member of the family.  She was a pretty girl who was as loving as she was stubborn.  In the end, it was the stubborn that got her.  But I suppose we all have our faults, don’t we?

Cricket loved her family, of this I have no doubt.  She loved having her belly rubbed, as most dogs do, her ears were silky soft, and she had eyes that you couldn’t  help but smile at.  For those of you who have followed me for a while, you may recall that Bella and Cricket have had a long history of getting into dominance fights.  It got so bad last year that they had three bad fights in three months, and we were so afraid for Cricket’s safety that we actually tried to find another home for her.  The problem was that even though she was half Bella’s size, she was the one who kept pushing for dominance, which resulted in increasingly severe fights between the girls.

When MBH found a description of our problem in a book about dog behavior therapy, we found out that we had unwittingly been the cause of those fights.  We had two dogs of the same sex whom we treated equally.  We treated them like children.

Here’s a word of warning, people.  Dogs don’t think the same way we do.  Deep in our minds, we know that they are pack animals, and that they adopt us as members of the pack.  But all too often, we don’t know what this really means.  We call ourselves alphas, without understanding that this implies a ranking system.

The book explained that you can’t treat all dogs equally.  If you don’t establish which dog is dominant in the pack, they will often try to figure it out for themselves.  And the way they do that is by fighting.

We began a recommended training regimen, putting ourselves above them by not allowing them on the furniture, and not allowing ourselves to get on the floor with them.  Some of the fights had occurred when we were sitting on the floor with them, or when one of them was on the furniture with us.  According to the information we read, this encouraged them to think of themselves as our equals.  We refused to pet them when they nudged our hands (and this one was really tough) because it meant that they were initiating the affection, in essence telling us what to do.

We stopped petting them at all unless they first “earned” the affection by sitting, laying down, or in some other way doing as they were told.  This taught them that good behavior was rewarded.

And for the safety of the whole pack, we had to choose one dog to be dominant over the other.  Since it was painfully obvious that Bella could kill Cricket if it came down to it, we picked Bella as “top dog”.  We fed Bella first, let her go to bed first, walked her in front of Cricket… even showed Bella affection first.  It was hard not to think of the new regimen as “cold” or “mean”, but dogs are more comfortable with an established pecking order.  And while it was difficult not to love on the cute little girl when she looked up at you with those eyes, we had to realize that the reason we did it was to keep her from picking fights that she couldn’t win.

And it seemed to work.  Their last fight was almost a year ago… until this weekend.

We got complacent.  They had behaved so well for so long that we felt it was under control.  When Cricket got a “hot spot” on her tail and flank, we could tell she was hurting some, so we felt sorry for her.  When I saw her on the couch, instead of a stern scolding, I shooed her off with a voice that was almost apologetic.  When we doctored her hot spot, we once again treated her like we would a sick child, comforting her and showing her affection without always doing the same for Bella.

We weren’t in the room when the fight started this time, so we don’t know for sure which dog started it.  All we know is that it started on the furniture, where neither of them was supposed to be.  Even if we had seen it start, that doesn’t necessarily mean we would know what really happened.  There are unspoken cues between animals that we humans simply don’t have the capacity to understand.  At one point last year, I thought Bella was the one starting the fights.  I later realized that Bella was silently being challenged by Cricket, when the smaller dog would claim Bella’s bed as her own, or in some other subtle way try to assert dominance on her larger packmate.

So perhaps Cricket was on the couch, challenging Bella.  Or maybe Bella was trying to assert her dominance over Cricket, and so attacked Cricket.  What we do know is that Cricket has always been the more aggressive of the two.  Bella has always been our marshmallow with people, even refusing to bite either of us in the midst of their fighting when we’re trying to break them up.

Not so with Cricket.  When she started fighting, she would tear into anything or anyone within reach of her teeth, and I have the scars to prove it.  Like I said, we all have our faults.  Whatever the reason, they got into it again, and this time she was wounded too severely.  The vet told us she might live, but that she was unlikely to fully recover.  She also warned us that the fights were likely going to continue to get progressively worse.  In the end, we had to make the hard decision.

So we loved on her the way she always wanted, and we cried as she left us.  Hell, I’m crying now as I write this.  But we got several good years with her.  I’ll try to concentrate on that.

The irony now is that Bella keeps going through the house, as if looking for Cricket.  She’s still limping a little – she didn’t get out unscathed, by any means.  But she doesn’t give the impression that she’s stalking an enemy.  I’ve heard it said that dogs don’t hold grudges for most things, and I think for Bella that must be true.  I don’t know if I’m just putting my thoughts into her actions, but to me it looks like she’s wondering where her pack mate has gone.  She goes from room to room, and afterward she’ll come find me and lay down on the floor where she can keep an eye on me.

Yeah, we’re going through a rough patch here at the Brackett household.  So I mean this with all my heart… love your family, love your pack.  Not just in a way that makes you feel good, but in whatever way they actually need.

And stay safe.   :weep:

Here’s the way I’ll remember her.  (Our Girls Playing 20161016_091056)