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:

Jan 052017
 

First of all, I hope you all had a fantastic New Year’s.  I’ve reached that point in my life where quiet is better, so no crazy parties for MBH and I.  Truth be told, we’ve never been much for the wild New Year’s Eve parties. For us, getting our wild on this year entailed fixing one of our favorite meals.  Now, in order to let you appreciate just how different this meal is for us, I have to let you in on a not-so-secret secret. I’m not a big fan of red meat. Sure, I’ll munch on a burger as much as the next guy, and I love sausage and bacon in the morning.  But I’ve never really developed the appreciation most people have of a fine steak or roast.  It’s just not my thing.

But a few years back, I sampled my first buffalo flank steak and fell in love.  I don’t know why, but buffalo just tastes GOOD to me. And luckily, there was a store that carried it near our house in Houston.  It’s a little pricier than regular beef, but both MBH and I liked it enough that it became a semi-regular treat for us.

When we moved to Oklahoma, one of the things on my mind was the idea that we had moved into buffalo country!  It’s true.  Driving around this part of the country, it’s relatively common to see small herds of buffalo, where ranchers raise them like other ranches raise cattle. I just knew we were going to have quick and easy access to more buffalo at better prices.

ww67-aUnfortunately, the truth was much different. I’ve only found a few stores here that carry any buffalo at all, and those stores typically only carry it ground.  I found one place in Tulsa that says they have buffalo sirloin in their frozen food section… sometimes.  But none of them carry flank steak.  :sidefrown:

We searched online and also found some sites that sell the cuts we’re after, and we ordered from one of them… once.  Don’t get me wrong, the meat was delicious, and the people at Wild Idea Buffalo were very knowledgeable.  As a matter of fact, we learned to try some other cuts from them, and loved their skirt steaks and their flat-iron steaks.  The problem with ordering from them was the shipping fees.  Buying half a dozen steaks cost us about $40 in shipping, and that is just something we can’t afford to keep doing.  But I get it.  Shipping meat across the country requires fast, refrigerated shipping.  And that isn’t cheap.

But it’s still outside of our budget.

ww67-bSo for the Christmas holiday this year, we asked our son to bring some buffalo flank up from that store in Houston, where we used to buy it.  It’s ironic that we’re here, in the heart of buffalo country, and the best way for us to get our favorite flank steak is to have it brought up from Houston.  But he brought us four absolutely gorgeous steaks, and one of those was our New Year’s Eve dinner.  (insert a sigh of contentment here)

And as you can see from the pictures, it didn’t go unappreciated.  :-))

On the writing front…

Chucklers, Volume 1 – Severed Press put CV1 on an Amazon countdown sale for 99¢ and advertised it in the Booksends newsletter. The sale ends at 2AM tomorrow morning (central time), or just about fifteen hours from the time of this posting.  So here’s me, crossing my fingers and hoping sales do well.

End Point PangaeaEPP moved slowly for a bit, but I’m back on it today.  Between the holidays, and other writing projects, EPP simply didn’t get the attention it deserved, so the progress meter on it barely moved over the holidays.  That changes now.

FSJ – The Sekrit Projekt went pretty well. For now, I’m waiting to see what happens with it, and that’s all I can say about it for now.

Year 12 – I got the file for the Y12 print interior and, after some quick back and forth changes, I’ve approved the result and we’re moving on to the e-book files and print cover.  I’m hopeful that the final product will be ready to publish VERY soon.   :-D

So that’s it in my world. Time to get back to writing.  So as always, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you more next week. :bye:

Dec 282016
 

ww66-bI hope you had (or are having) a fantastic holiday this year. I know MBH and I did. Our youngest daughter, as well as our son, daughter-in-law, and youngest granddaughter came up to visit, and spend the holiday weekend with us.  So yeah, we got most of what we wanted for Christmas.

It’s true, you know… the saying about your wish list getting shorter as you get older.  At least for MBH and I, it’s true.  Just having part of the family here was more than we could ask for, especially with the youngest member visiting.  I mean, just look at that face.  How can you not be content around such a cutie? :-))

ww66-aWe got to spend time with the kids (even though our youngest “kid” now is a college grad – LOL), going to the movies, cooking, and playing “chicken feet” or just relaxing out on the patio in the evenings.  It was tough to see them head back home, but such is life when families begin to go their separate ways.

On the writing front, I honestly didn’t get much done.  As you can imagine, with the kids here, I had other things on my mind.  But that’s not to say nothing happened.  For one thing, I received the review files for the print version of Year 12, so that’s back underway.

fb-cb1Additionally, I got word early this morning that Chucklers, Volume 1 is about to go on sale, starting on December 30th, and will be featured in the Booksends mailing list on January 1st.  So if you haven’t been able to afford it up to now, this is your chance.

And that’s about it, for now. I’m just getting back into the swing of things, so I should have more to report next time.  For now, I hope you have a happy new year, so take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you in 2017.   :bye: