Apr 202017
 

WW80AYou may have noticed that my Wednesday post is being released this week on Thursday.  Believe it or not, this was an intentional decision.  There were a few different reasons… things that slowed production over the last week. There were more visits and obligations, putting together a self-defense presentation, recording some vocal work for another project… but none of that was really a good reason for postponing my “Website Wednesday” post.  Understand, I was still planning to write a small one until I received a text message letting me know that the painting Baby Bird did for MBH’s birthday was framed and ready for me to pick up.  You may recall that I teased a piece of a picture for my RPotW at the bottom of WW78. Well today you get to see the full thing.  And if I can play the part of a proud parent, I think she has an amazing talent.   :-)

There are only a few other little items worth mentioning this week, so this one really will be a short post (I promise, Matt. I really mean it this time! :rotfl: )

EPP – Because of the aforementioned slowdown in production last week, progress on the rewrites for End Point Pangaea has been slow.  I’m back on it, and about 3/4 of the way through, but there will be at least one more pass before I put out the call for beta readers. That final pass should be very quick, though.

Y12 – I mentioned earlier this month that I had ordered paperback copies of Year 12 so I could ship autographed copies out to those who might want them.  I’m down to four available copies now, so if you think you might want one, let me know.  You can either PM me on Facebook, or email me at “jlb.author@gmail.com”.  Cost is $12, plus shipping (which seems to run about $3 to $4 so far) so it’s actually cheaper than buying it on Amazon.  Yet, because of Amazon’s crazy pricing structure, I actually make a little more when you buy them directly from me.  Go figure.   :-?

RPotW

WW80BThis week’s random pic was almost a “Today’s Harvest” post on Facebook.  But it seemed a bit silly to show that we had gotten three spears of asparagus from the garden.  I don’t know why it excited me.  I don’t even like asparagus (though MBH loves it.)

Hmm…  You know what? Strike that. I DO know why it excited me.  We planted the asparagus crowns over two years ago, and as anyone who has grown it knows, this stuff is a long-term investment that usually takes at least two years to produce anything edible – even longer for more than just a few scattered spears here and there (like this).  We would have had more, but with the rains lately, I haven’t been able to get the garden going yet this year.  As a result, it took us completely by surprise when MBH and I were working in the yard and found that several of the plants had grown huge (three feet tall) stalks and already gone to seed.  I cut them back as I had been advised, and the next day found that ants were eating into the exposed core of the stalks.  I was honestly afraid I might have completely lost them.  But as you can see, it appears that we didn’t.  Yay!

So that’s it this week.  That’s all I’m going to post this week.  See Matt, I told you I could do it!  ;-)   So stay safe, everyone.  I’ll talk to you next week.   :bye:

Apr 122017
 

WW79AI usually start these posts with a bit about my personal life before I get to the writing news.  But tonight I’m going to just jump right in.  You see, as of a few hours ago, the first draft of End Point Pangaea is done! Of course, anyone who knows anything about writing understands that this doesn’t mean that the book is completed. But it is a huge first step.  I’ve already begun reading back through to find the most glaring mistakes, so I can at least present something to my beta readers that (hopefully) won’t make them want to gouge their eyes out.  The novel clocked in at a bit over 72K words, and I fully expect to have some changes in that very soon.  It’s by far, the shortest novel I’ve ever written, but adding more to it would be a disservice to the book.  It would end up being fluff, and I hate fluff.

I’ve finished the story, and it wanted to be 72K.  No need trying to force it into something that it isn’t.  Of course, there will still be some changes. For one thing, I’m not happy with the ending yet.  This seems to be a recurring theme for me, though.  I was unhappy with the endings in the first drafts of the last two novels I’ve done.  I’m not sure what it is, but things just have to percolate for a bit for me to find the right tone for the ends of my books.  Now that I think about it, when I wrote Half Past Midnight I ended up fretting over the ending for months before I was okay with it (or at least, happy enough to let it go).

There are other, minor issues that I anticipate changing within the next few days, but I think I’ve reached the point where I don’t feel the need to fret about it anymore. I’m comfortable enough with the process now that, between my re-reads, and my beta readers, I’m confident I’ll get the kinks worked out.

In other news, the first autographed copies of Year 12 went out today, and a few more are ready to go soon.  I was happy to find that the USPS gives a break in shipping “media” such as books.  It looks like I can ship just about anywhere in the continental US for about three or four dollars.  Believe me, that’s a HUGE break compared to the ten to eleven dollars that UPS wanted, or the original six to eight for regular shipping with USPS.  So if you want an autographed copy of Year 12 or Streets of Payne, email me at “jlb.author@gmail.com”.

Personal stuff

And now for what I couldn’t talk about last week.  Last week was MBH’s birthday, and Baby Bird decided to drop in to help us celebrate.  Those of you who’ve followed me for a while already know that I don’t like to mention when MBH and I are gone, or when any of the kids are visiting – at least not until everyone is back at home.  It’s a security thing.  Letting people know when you aren’t going to be at home just isn’t a good idea.

WW79BWhile she was here though, we had a great time, and she painted something new for her mom. It’s currently at a framing shop being, well… framed.  (Yes, that was the RPotW I posted last week.) But I’ll post a pic of it when we get it back.  And while she was here, we tried a new sushi place in Owasso.  For those of you who don’t already know, sushi is my new culinary obsession.  I could barely stand the stuff just a few years ago, but I found that having GOOD sushi is an amazing experience.  Since I found a good place in a nearby town, I’ve been obsessed.  I didn’t think it could get any better.

WW79CI was wrong.  We tried a new place while Baby Bird was here, and it was amazing.  In the picture here, you see (left to right) the Cowboy Bebop (Shrimp tempura, avocado, jalapeno, lemon, cilantro, Lemon, soy garlic. Topped with seared beef and mayo, hot sauce and scallions. Served with a side of ponzu sauce), the Brown Eyed Girl (Shrimp tempura, garlic cream cheese, habanero and avocado. Topped with roasted salmon, mango and, drizzled with eel sauce and a tangy berry reduction), and the Big Mama (Albacore tuna, avocado, crab, scallion, lemon slice and masago. Tempura fried and rolled in rice with sea-weed on the outside. Served with Eel sauce).  They were all… well, how many ways can I say amazing?  :-))

And that’s about it.  This week, I won’t post a Random Picture of the Week.  Instead, I’m posting a picture I took when we went to the park with Baby Bird.  MBH & Baby Bird on a beautiful day at the lake.  I’m a lucky man.

Now, back to edits.  Stay safe everyone.   :bye:

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.   ;-)   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.   ;)

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? 8-)  ) 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. ;-)

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.   :-/

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?   ;-)

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. :-?  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.   ;)

 Posted by at 4:06 pm