Nov 292017
 

Yes, Pangaea: Exiles was released last week.  It was a bit of a surprise, since I had turned in the final edits back in August.  I heard nothing back from them after that for the next few months.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  I know that working with a publisher is much different from publishing indie, and I am far from the only author they have in the stable, so I was okay sitting back and working on other projects in the meantime.

Then, out of the blue I got an email on the 11th.  It was pretty much, “Hey, you okay if we publish this thing next week?”  Obviously that wasn’t the exact wording, but that was the gist of it.

Well, hell yeah, I was okay with it.  

The only problem was that I was on the road when I got the email.  You remember me mentioning that Baby Bird has been accepted into a masters program?  Well, It involves her having to move from San Antonio, TX to Santa Fe, NM.  Yours truly was in Santa Fe with her, helping her find a place to live when she moves.  Needless to say, that made it a bit difficult for me to work on any of the normal release items.

So there was no newsletter, no cover release, no nothing.  Just a post on Facebook… “Hey everyone!  My book is out!”  And since I didn’t get home until a week later, by the time I was in a position to make an announcement, it was pretty much old news.  Still, I suppose I should go ahead and send out an announcement newsletter, since not everyone follows me on Facebook or on this blog.  

On another note, I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving (at least, those of you who celebrate the US Thanksgiving).  Ours was low-key, just MBH, myself, and my sister-in-law.  SIL, who knows of our love of buffalo meat, brought us a buffalo tenderloin to cook for our thanksgiving meal (we seldom do the whole turkey and dressing thing).  We cut it into individual serving sizes, put them in a marinade, and into a vacuum container to make sure the marinade got into every ounce.  On the traditional day of gluttony, we pulled the steaks out, put a nice searing rub on them, and tossed them into a scalding hot cast-iron skillet for a few minutes on each side.

That ended up being the absolute best bit of red meat I’ve ever had in my life!   Top it off with MBH’s crab stuffed portobellos, and fresh green beans roasted with bacon and pine nuts, and WOW, that was a fantastic meal.  Definitely something to be thankful for.

And that’s all I’ll bother you with this time around.  I have another topic I was going to talk about, but it’s a more serious discussion… back to the nuts and bolts of the writing world, and not necessarily something that fits with the tone of today’s post.  Besides, it gives me something to write about next time.

So that’s all for now.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you all later.  

 

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.

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)

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: