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


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.



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 222017

WW76ALast week we had another reminder that we no longer live in a major metropolitan area when we had our septic system pumped.  Whether or not you’ve ever lived off of a major sewer system, I’m sure you’re heard of a septic system. What you might not realize is that there are different types of septic systems. If you’ve never dealt with them, you may think (as I used to) that it’s basically just a big tank under the ground that your home’s wastewater runs into.  And you may even realize that eventually, whatever goes into it, must somehow come back out.

My first exposure to this fact of life came when I was eighteen or nineteen years old.  I was at an old girlfriend’s house and asked to use the restroom.  Her father pointed the way, and informed me that their septic system was full, and asked that I refrain from flushing “if possible”.  Bottom line, if I just needed to pee, don’t flush.  The rest went unsaid.  I later found out that they had let the system go too long without having it pumped, and it was overflowing into the yard.   Eek!

Now, it’s more than thirty years later.  MBH and I have lived in our current home for a bit over two years, and it has a septic system too.  Ours is something called an aerobic system, though, and at first we were under the impression that it never had to be pumped.  We were told by a contractor that an aerobic system was like a miniature water treatment plant for our home… that wastewater went in, and a combination of chemicals and bacteria broke everything down into harmless gray water that was then used to irrigate part of the property.  For more than a year, that was what we believed.

Then one of our neighbors had their system pumped.  That prompted me to ask them about it, and I found out that there is no such thing as a maintenance-free septic.  The helpful neighbor informed me that they had their system pumped about every two years.

Pop quiz… how long did I say we’ve lived in our home?  Yep.  A bit over two years.

So I called a local septic pumping company to get a quote.  That’s when the questions started.

What kind of system do you have?  An aerobic system.  (I was proud that I knew this.)

What size?  Er….

Concrete? Steel? Fiberglass?  Er….

How long since it has been pumped?  Well, we’ve lived in the house more than two years, and we’ve never had it done.

What about the previous owners?  When did they last have it pumped?  Er….

So after confessing my near complete ignorance on the matter, the very kind gentleman arranged to come out to take a look to see what we had.  And that was where the fun started.WW76B

An aerobic system usually consists of a tank that is partitioned into four different chambers, like the picture here.  Waste goes into one end, through the aerobic and clarifier chambers, and the resulting gray water is pumped out through a sprinkler system.  For our size home, with two people living in it, the entire system should be sized at about 500 to 600 gallons, divided up among the various chambers.

So the guy I called pulled up in his big pump truck… complete with the clever tagline “WHEN DOODIE CALLS.”  And when he began his inspection, he found a much larger tank than he was expecting.  Not only that, but it wasn’t a typical aerobic, multi-chambered system.  No, this was a single tank, and it wasn’t where he expected it to be.  It wasn’t part of the actual pump system.  It was several feet to the side of the main system, and had a much larger cap on it than he expected.  Yet the system had a pump, sprinklers, and all the other external equipment of an aerobic system. This prompted him to pull records from the county to see what the builder had installed.

We’ve been told that the original owner of our home was one of the builders in the neighborhood, and I have no trouble believing this.  There are doors that don’t quite fit right in the frame, valances over the windows that are made from baseboard (and held in place by velcro), and other items that give the impression that someone got a really good deal on some parts… as if they were rejects from a build site.  It’s nothing really bad.  But it’s enough to make you wonder.

So when the septic inspector came back with a record of issues from the county during the installation of the septic system, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise.  It seems that initially, the builder wanted to put in a standard septic system, and for whatever reason, installed a massive 1000 gallon tank.  Unfortunately, he neglected to inform the county before he put it in.  He was fined for doing so, and the county sent their inspectors out to see if it had been done properly.

Did you know that a property has to have its soil inspected before installation of a septic system?  Evidently, neither did the builder.  It’s to determine what kind of system is best for the land it’s placed on.  And guess what?  The builder put the wrong kind of system in.

But rather than digging up that giant tank, he simply built an aerobic system out of other tanks, in essence creating the same function that the compact little multi-chambered tank, by making each chamber an actual tank, and piping them all together.  When the septic guy was showing me the records, he was shaking his head.  There were records of two other fines related to the installation and inspections of the system before they finally passed inspection.  Our guy said he’d never seen anything quite like this, but he said it seemed to work, so yay for us. Confused  The up side is that we should only have to have our tank pumped about every six years or more, rather than every two to two and a half.  The down side is that when we do have it pumped, it costs quite a bit more than the normal maintenance call.

And that’s our adventure in rural living for the week.  LOL  Stay safe, everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

WW76CRPoTW – We found this little item in the local liquor store.  It’s a mix of horchata and rum.  For those who don’t know, horchata is a “rice milk” pretty popular in Mexico and South America.  I first had it by accident in Ciudad del Carmen several years ago when the company I was working for sent me to one of our offices there to help out with some network issues they were having.  On the second day there, they were ordering takeout for lunch, and asked me what I wanted to drink.  They told me that the place they were ordering from had two drinks for which they were well-known.  One was a kind of hibiscus tea, and the other was horchata.  They explained what horchata was, and I politely declined, asking for the hibiscus tea.

See, many years before, I had worked with a bunch of guys from Vietnam, and they had a rice dessert that they liked to share.  It was a mixture of rice, rice milk, and some spices.  It was also MUCH too sweet for my taste.  So when they mentioned rice milk, that was what came to mind.  Besides, I’d had hibiscus tea before, and liked it.

Unfortunately, (or maybe it was fortunately), they mixed up my drink order and I ended up with the horchata anyway.  After that, I couldn’t get enough of it.  But I had never thought of mixing it with rum!  So when we saw the little single shot sample bottles in the liquor store, I had to try it.  Yes, I liked it.  No, I probably won’t buy it again.  After all, I already have rum.  I just need to find some good horchata somewhere in the area, and I’m set.  Wink

 Posted by at 4:06 pm
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

Mar 082017

WW74AHere’s our project for Saturday.  It doesn’t look like much, does it?  Well, I guess the picture might be a little misleading. I guess what I should say is that this is a picture of the materials needed for our upcoming project for Saturday.

As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, we caught the trailing edge of a pretty severe storm system on Monday night.  Luckily, despite the thunderstorm warnings, and the tornado watch, we didn’t get much of the really bad stuff like a lot of folks north of us. But we did get some pretty strong gusts that made us wonder a few times if that was going to hold true.

But it did.  However, we didn’t come through completely unscathed.  When I went out with the dogs the next morning, Cricket let me know immediately that there was a disturbance in her Force. WW74BIt turned out that the severe gusts we’d heard the night before, had left their calling card for us, and now we get to deal with the aftermath. For the moment, I have it braced up with some spare wood.  Saturday, MBH and I will get to do the grunt work on digging up the old post, and putting the replacement in place.  Not a big deal, except that while we’re doing the repairs, we have to keep a closer eye than usual on the girls so they don’t wander off.  The quick-crete I bought says it should be strong enough for us to put the fence back in place in four to six hours, so it’s not all that bad.

Hmmm… I guess I should check the forecast for this weekend, shouldn’t I?   IDK

Well crap!  100% chance of rain for Saturday.  I guess I’ll be doing this on Friday, instead. (sigh)  All right, so be it.  If any of you hear about an out of shape old man in Oklahoma who dies in a tragic fence-post accident, you’ll know what happened to me.  Wink

Now, since I spent a good portion of the day yesterday trying to track down the right parts for this little project, and a couple more hours today on the road going to get them, I need to keep this post short and sweet today.  So that’s all I’m going to blog about today, so I can get back to writing.

Stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you later.  Bye

 Posted by at 4:53 pm