Apr 052017
 

WW78AI’m going to keep the post short this week. See, it’s MBH’s birthday week, and she rightfully gets most of my attention.   Wink   So a quick synopsis of recent events…

We went to a local AKC dog show last Sunday, and I have to admit, it was a little disappointing.  Of course, I found out from a friend last night that we went the day after the main events had already taken place.  He said the big show and awards were on Saturday, and that his favorite breed (he raises dobies) had taken third in show.  Maybe we’ll go on Saturday, next year.

New Tech!  We recently switched our data plan.  Living out in the boonies means our internet options are limited to satellite, and… well, that’s pretty much it.  And for those of you who have had to deal with satellite internet limitations, it comes as no surprise that satellite internet means that you have what’s known as “metered” internet.  For us, it meant that we had a limit of 10GB of data available per month. Not only that, but at 5mb/s, it was pretty slow compared to what we were used to in Houston.  The only up side was that we had what was called a “Free Zone” of unlimited data transfers between the hours of midnight and 5AM.  That allowed me to schedule some of my data downloads (like podcasts, iTunes, or other regular downloads) for when they wouldn’t count against my data limit.

WW78BRecently, we changed plans to a newly available 12GB plan that gives us 12GB per month at twice the speed (10mb/s).  Not only that, but when/if we go through that initial 12GB, we are then only throttled back to the previous 5mb/s speeds.  So in essence, we now have unlimited data, albeit at still relatively slow speeds.

And since we now have a decent data plan, we decided to try again with a new wireless router.  Doing a little research, I found a nice little (affordable) router by a company called Securifi, called the Almond.  It’s a compact touchscreen router that sets up in just a few minutes.  It has allowed us to hook our Kindles back up to local wireless without having to tether them to our phones anytime we want to download something.  It will also allow me to move about the house with my laptop, and still remain connected. I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing, yet.  Wink

WW78CBut the biggest change has been that I have now been able to hook up the Echo that I bought over two years ago!  Yes, I was one of those who was in the pilot program for the Echo back in March of 2015, and got it at half price.  And when I realized it was going to very quickly chew through my 10GB data limit, I decided we would be better off leaving it in the box.  With the arrival of the new wireless and data plan, I just hooked up the Echo, and Alexa has been entertaining us for the last few days.  It’s really been nice.

Writing news –

EPP End Point Pangaea is beginning to wind up.  I haven’t gotten to do much writing this week, and I can’t talk about why just yet.  But once I get back on it, I anticipate less than a week before I finish the first draft.  After that, I’ll begin my self-edits, and depending on how they go, I may be putting out a call for beta readers around the end of this month.  So if you’re interested in reading my latest in its “warts and all” form, then watch for my call for betas. If you follow me on Facebook, that’s likely to be where you’ll see it first.  EPP promises to be a bit of a departure from my normal writing.

WW78DY12 -Speaking of my normal writing, (how’s that for a segue? Cool  ) I finally got around to buying some of the trade paperbacks of Year 12, so I can now send autographed copies out to those of you who have asked.  I bought ten, and am down to seven at the moment.  If you want one, let me know and I’ll try to make sure it happens.  Either PM me on Facebook, or email me at “jlb.author@gmail.com”.  Cost is $12, plus shipping.

Hmmm… I suppose I should put that as an option on the “My Books” page of this site, shouldn’t I?

One other note regarding Y12 – I was contacted by a very nice gentleman the other day regarding putting the book out in audio. He is a voice actor, and while his plate is pretty full for the next few months, he encouraged me to pursue the option of publishing the book in audio format.  I explained that it had been out for audition for almost two months now, and wasn’t getting much traction.  I think I’ve managed to scare off most of the actors by placing the most difficult dialogue in my audition file.  For those of you who have read the book , you remember the section where there is a short conversation in Cherokee?  It’s ten phrases, and it’s in the audition file I uploaded.  So far, only one person has tried to tackle it.

WW78EWhen I explained this to the gentleman who contacted me, he didn’t seem very concerned. I found out that he is practically a neighbor, lives here in Oklahoma, and said he should be able to find the proper pronunciations and inflections pretty easily.  In other books, he’s had to learn to pronounce Greek phrases.  So who knows?  Maybe the Year 12 audiobook will happen after all.

RPotW –

Here’s a confession.  This week’s “Random Picture of the Week” isn’t all that random.  Think of it as a clue as to why I’m not getting much writing done this week.  For those of you who know me, you’ll probably know immediately what’s going on.  You’ll also now probably know why I won’t talk about it just yet.  But rest assured, next week all will be explained.

For now, though, let’s end this post.  You fine folks stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

Mar 292017
 
WW77a

MOUNTAIN POSE

Yep, as the title of this week’s post will likely tell you, we’ve been doing a little yoga at the Brackett household.  It’s something that my wife has explored before, and it really helped some of the back issues she had a few years back.  And since I stopped my martial arts classes five years ago, I’ve begun to develop some serious tightening of my tendons and ligaments. To combat the problem, MBH talked me into doing some yoga with her.

WW77b

CHILD’S POSE

So three or four times a week, we set up in the living room, pop in a DVD (one that she has long since memorized and no longer has to look at, though it has me fumbling about trying to shift from one pose to another), and I embarrass myself by trying to look graceful as I lug my phatass through the most basic of exercises.  But don’t you worry about me.  I’m a quick learner. In fact, I’ve pretty much mastered two of the poses already… mountain pose, and child’s pose.  That means I can stand up straight with my hands held in front of my heart, and I can fall to my knees with my head on the floor with the best of them. Wink

As far as the sitting, squatting, stretching, shifting, and balancing that goes with moving from one pose to another… well, let’s just say I’m still working on that.   Thinking

All right, moving on to the writing news –

EPP End Point Pangaea is moving pretty well, sitting at a bit under 65K words. Some days the writing flows really well, with me knocking out 2500 to 3000 words, other days I spend fixing items that I messed up previously.  For instance, did you know that you can make cloth from bamboo?  Well sure, I guess many of you did, because unbeknownst to yours truly, this is evidently a big deal in linens.  Bamboo cloth sheets and pillowcases are a luxury item.  And it just so happens that I had been trying to figure out what people in my late Triassic setting could use as a cloth substitute, since during that time period none of the usual cloth sources had yet evolved… no mammals meant no hairs or wool, no flowering plants meant no cotton or other sources of blend-able fibers.  In short, I was about to call it quits on their ability to have much in the way of cloth until we went to the local home and garden show where one of the vendors was selling (yep, you guessed it) bamboo sheets and pillow cases.

And in my typical OCD manner, that meant I had to go back and find any references to anything in the book that could have been served better by having cloth instead of leather. But I’m caught back up now, and the numbers should begin to rise quickly again.

SoP – I recently read about a new promotional site for audiobooks called “Audiobook Boom“.  It’s basically a newsletter similar to those that have done so well for written and e-books, like Bookbub and the like, only it’s just for Audiobooks.  The rates were very affordable, so I figured I would give it a try.  Streets of Payne has always been one of my favorite books, but it never seemed to get the attention that I had hoped it would.  So that was the book I put in my ad.  I got some codes for free promotional copies of the audiobook for both US and UK readers, and so far, I’ve given away about twenty of them.  Hopefully they will result in some decent reviews.

WW77cAnd finally, Random Pic of the Week!

Set the picture gallery spinning and tap… and we get a picture of our chickenfoot dominoes. Um…. I’m not honestly sure why I have a picture of them on my phone, but here it is.  Some of our closest friends come to stay with us for a few days two or three times a year.  When they do, we often spend several hours in the evenings playing chickenfoot.  It’s a bit of a holdover from when we lived in Houston and used to have a monthly game night.  It was a pot-luck with the hosting household cooking a main dish, and everyone else bringing side dishes. We would eat and laugh and eventually begin breaking out various games to while away the hours.  We played Scattergories, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Taboo, or whatever other game lent itself to keeping us all amused until we had to go home.

Now that we’re in Oklahoma, it’s seldom that we get to have a regular game night anymore. So when we get visitors that we know enjoy such things, we break out chickenfoot.  I’m not entirely sure why we settled on this as our default game, but we all seem to enjoy it enough that we spend hours with friends, food, and fun.

What more can you ask for?   Wink

And that’s it for this week. Time to get back to writing. Stay safe everyone.  Bye

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