Dec 012016
 

ww63a-copyHope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – at least, those of you who celebrated it last week. My Canadian friends are likely looking down here to the US thinking, late to the party again, eh? (Heavy emphasis on the “eh”.)   Laugh  But for those of us here in the US, we just finished our Thanksgiving, and immediately began the after-party madness that is Christmas decorating.

Yep, MBH is a traditionalist. The day after Thanksgiving is always the day we put up Christmas decorations. Honestly, I would probably be a bit of a Scrooge if not for her, but I love seeing how happy it makes her to put up the tree, and garland, and the lights and all the admitted cheeriness that also is Christmas decorating. And she does a great job with it (and I’m not just saying that because I know she’ll read this later.)  Smile   I mean, just look at the tree!

ww63b-copyOf course, for the girls, the tree is just something new for them to sniff at and figure out.  Is it an intruder? A piece of furniture? A chew toy? And evidently, at least part of it fell into the latter category. I had to take MBH’s car into the dealership yesterday to address a recall on the rear suspension.  Five hours after they started the two and a half hour job, I finally got out of there, only to come home and find that some of the insides of the new tree skirt, had mysteriously migrated to the outside of the new tree skirt.

Yeah, see that puff of white in the bottom of the pic there?  And if you look closely, you’ll see a little more back behind the tree, and the little tear where the skirt spontaneously erupted, spewing its guts onto the floor. When I walked into the house and saw it, of course I wondered aloud what had happened.

ww63c-copyAnd for some strange reason, when I asked Cricket about it, she immediately rolled onto her back.  I could almost hear her telling me, “Really Dad!  It jumped up and attacked me!  It was all self-defense! Honest!”  It was all I could do not to laugh at her attempts to apologize.

As for writing news…

Y12 – Year 12 has gone through two rounds with the editor and it off to the final proofreader. After that, it comes back here, where I add the front and back matter (dedication, acknowledgements, etc.) and then send it off for formatting.  And at that point, it should be ready to publish.  Woot!

Oh! And speaking of Year 12, I let those of you on my mailing list get a sneak peek at the cover a couple of weeks ago.  For those of you who aren’t on the list, I guess I can finally let you take a look, as well.  Wink  Here are all three titles in the Half Past Midnight universe, so you can see them all together.all

 

Hat tip to Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics, for the outstanding cover work.  He did all three covers here, as well as much of the work on my Streets of Payne covers.

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is back on the front burner as my primary WIP.  I stumbled for a few days after being away from it while working on Y12 edits and then the holidays. When you’re gone from something like that for a while, you tend to forget the characters and plot twists that you’re trying to weave through the story.  So it took me a couple of days to regain the momentum.  But I’m back in, and the story is flowing well, once more.

CLCrazy Larry is a planned novella I’m working on.  It’s another HPM title – the story of what happened to Larry Troutman after Leeland left him on D-day. So far, I’m about 8000 words into it.  And while it’s planned as a novella, it’s beginning to feel as if it might just be a bit shorter.  I’ll just have to see where the story takes me.

And that’s it for now. Time to get back to work. So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  Bye

 

Aug 242016
 
WW53b

Children often have trouble when they’re learning to speak, and some of those troubles lead to fun little sayings that stick with your family for many years. Most of you have probably experienced this. A prime example in our family is when my oldest daughter was about nine. At that age, she used to occasionally mix up song lyrics, as we’ve all done from time to time. But some of hers were so memorable that they became ingrained in the family history. For instance, the chorus to the old song “When Smoky Sings” by ABC, begins with the line “when Smoky sings, I hear violins.” To this day, my wife and I can’t think of that song without remembering it as “when smokin’s a sin, I hear firemen…”   ROTFL

When my son was at that stage of his life, he had trouble with “yesterday”. For him, moving back in time consisted of going from today, to this morning, to last night, to “lasterday”, (which does have a kind of logic to it, right?)

For a great-niece, dogs were “goggers”. And for our youngest daughter, the color yellow was “lellow.”  (Ironically, she just got her BFA in painting, and depends quite a bit on the color palette.)

Now we’re on the next generation. When my oldest granddaughter was younger, and still learning to talk, she loved penguins. But for whatever reason, the word “penguin” evaded her grasp. Instead, she called them “poogins”. My dad loved that so much, that he began calling her Poogin, and even though that was a good four or five years ago, she still remains “Poogin” to us.

Well, now she’s nine years old, just starting fourth grade. As a matter of fact, last week was her first week back in school after summer vacation. When we spoke to our “smokin’s a sin” daughter, we asked her how Poogin liked the fourth grade. She told us that she had asked the same question when she’d picked the little one up after her first day. And with all the drama that a nine-year-old can muster, she related the tragedy of her first day…

“It was absolutely horrible!”

“Why? What happened?”

“I lost my tooth!”

“Well, that’s all right. You’ve lost teeth before.”

“No mom, I lost my tooth… and then I lost my tooth!”

“Oh. You mean you lost it, lost it?”

Poogin nodded woefully. “Somewhere on the playground. I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find it.”

“Well that’s okay, baby.”

“No it’s not. How is the tooth fairy going to know I lost it, if I don’t have it to put under my pillow?”

Grin

You have to understand, Poogin is a very smart young lady who speaks with a vocabulary beyond her years. That conversation was a reminder that, while she might speak with the conviction and vocabulary of a teenager, she still has the beliefs of a nine-year-old. We got a good chuckle out of her mom relating that the tooth fairy was a lot like Santa Claus, and that she would know about the tooth, whether it was actually under the pillow or not.

WW53aBut the real kicker was when Poogin decided that just to be safe, she should leave a note for the tooth fairy…

Dear tooth<>fairy,

I have lost a tooth today, (literaly) but if you are still generous enouph, mabe you could still give me the money. (‘.

So does the mercenary nature of the note come from the child, or the adult struggling to come out?   Big Smile  Either way, I love the fact that she didn’t simply give up on the lost tooth, and that she turned to writing as a solution.  She’s a Poogin after my own heart.   Cool

And speaking of writing… (how’s that for a segue?) …another round of edits for the first Chucklers book is done.  Better yet, I received an email with a proposed new cover on it, and it’s looking really good, folks. I sent back a request for a few tweaks, but I think we’re quickly approaching a publishable product.  Woohoo!! Want a sneak peek?  Here you go….WW53b

How’s that for a tease?  Grin

My other big project, End Point Pangaea, is still moving well (you can see the progress meter at the top of the column to the far right), and though I did stall for a couple of days, I’m back on that horse and riding for all I’m worth.  I’m still waiting for that magical mental and emotional breakthrough where everything falls into place just right, and I’m suddenly consistently breaking the 2500 word a day mark.  So far, I haven’t seen that breakthrough.

And I can tell you that today isn’t very likely to be it, either.   Wink   But the progress is consistent, and I’m happy with it, as it is.  Of course, just like my Poogin, at the end of the day I just can’t help myself.  When it’s all said and done, I just really want to see that big payoff.   ROTFL

But that’s not going to happen if I don’t get back to writing.  So take care, and stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you again next week.  Bye

Jul 202016
 

Writing –

The last week has been a whirlwind of events and emotions around here. The first phase of editing on the first book of the Chucklers series is done. I’ll have to see where we go from here, but we’re getting closer to publication by the day. We’re still working on cover ideas, but that’s also progressing.

In the meantime, I’m back at work on the next Severed Press project, End Point Pangaea. As of this writing, I’m about 4000 words into it, and trying not to let the dark tone of Chucklers invade the new project too much. I had to completely delete a few scenes I had written when I decided they were simply too gruesome for EPP. But the project is ongoing, and I’ll be putting a new progress meter in the side column shortly.

 

Other stuff –

Back in March when all the nasty weather blew through here, our roof took some minor hail damage. We finally got around to getting someone out to give us an estimate, and now I’m in the middle of an argument between the roofer, who has an interest in getting the roof completely replaced (because, let’s face it, this is how roofers make money), and the insurance company, who has an interest in simply having it repaired (because, let’s face it, this is how the insurance company saves money).  So the insurance adjuster says the damage isn’t that bad, the roofer says it’s worse than the adjuster is admitting, and I’m standing between them, uncomfortably recalling little league baseball games where parents are yelling at the umpire (“What? Are you blind, ump?”).

And now, I have a check for what the insurance company says they’ll pay, and I’m waiting to see if the roofer can do the necessary repairs for that cost. And now that the deal has been done, they’re making me wish I’d never started the whole process.  Man, I hate dealing with stuff like this.   Struggle

 

Other other stuff –

Bella and Cricket

Bella and Cricket

You’ve seen me write about my dogs, Bella and Cricket, and you know how much I love them. A few years ago, the two of them got into their first fight. Cricket was clearly the instigator, evidently not realizing that she was only half the size of her pack mate. We broke them apart, and honestly, Bella seemed shocked that it had happened. She broke off as soon as MBH and I got involved, but Cricket kept re-engaging, going so far as to run all the way around a table to get back into the fray. She actually ended up biting me during the fight and I got a nasty infection on my arm. The final outcome was a few stitches for both of them, and a doctor’s visit and a vet bill for us.

Several months later, it happened again. Cricket triggered and attacked Bella, with even worse results. I suppose Bella, who had always been a marshmallow up to that point, realized that she had the upper hand in a fight, and she tore Cricket up pretty easily with very little damage to herself.

There were a few more fights over the next year, and things slowly shifted from Cricket being the aggressor, to Bella attacking instead.

We’ve tried repeatedly to figure out what causes the fights. For the longest time, we were convinced that it was simple jealousy over MBH’s affection. At first, it always seemed to happen when she was holding Cricket in her lap. Maybe that made Cricket feel especially brave or something, but after the first couple of times, we made it a point to make sure neither dog was allowed on the furniture.

Another time, it happened when I got down on the floor with them, between the couch and a pair of footstool/storage cubes we have. I don’t know if it was the enclosed area, or the fact that I was on the floor with them, but Bella went from happy and tail wagging to attack mode in less than a second. No growl or warning of any kind. Just a sudden attack.

Lately, it’s been happening more frequently. Last week, Bella was on her blanket behind my chair in the den. Cricket was laying in a little bed beside my chair. MBH and I were eating, and Bella got up, started to walk past Cricket, and next thing I knew, she was on Cricket, tearing into her for the fourth time in as many weeks.

At that point, I was becoming convinced there was something mentally wrong with Bella. The thought that she was becoming so dangerous that we were going to have to put her down was tearing me up, but I didn’t see anything else we could do. In my eyes, Bella had clearly become a loose cannon… a dangerously aggressive loose cannon.

Then MBH found some information on a website that described our situation perfectly. It was from an article on a book called “Dogs on the Couch” by Larry Lachman.  It said:

When it comes to fighting between dogs in the same household, there are four common characteristics:

* Dogs are of the same sex.
* Dogs fight only in the owner’s presence.
* Dogs are adult dogs, four years or older.
* Fights involve a struggle for which one will be the dominant dog in the family pack. And in these cases, the owners frequently choose to wrong dog as the dominant dog and begin treating him as such. Or the owners attempt to treat the dogs equally and democratically.

Well, that described our situation to a “T”. Both of our girls are… well, girls. The fights only happen around MBH or myself. Bella is seven years old, Cricket is five. And we’ve always tried to treat the girls as if they were equals.

I’m telling you, no matter how much Dog Whisperer you watch on TV, nothing prepares you for the fact that the reason your dogs are fighting… is you.   Frown

Dogs are not people, and have a hierarchical mentality. One dog MUST be superior to the other, or they will fight for dominance in the eyes of the human leaders of their pack. In trying to treat them equally, we had unwittingly created an unbalanced dynamic in our pack. We were basically telling the girls, “we don’t know which of you is dominant, so you have to figure it out.”

There were all sorts of recommendations as to how to “repair” our pack, but they are long-term solutions, involving weeks of training. And at the rate that they’ve been fighting, we don’t know if Cricket will survive long enough. As it is, she seems to be wondering why we’re suddenly showing preferential treatment to Bella. There’s no way she can understand that it’s pretty much to keep her from being killed. But she does seem to understand that she’s no longer being treated as the cute little girl who nudges our hands for affection. Now, instead of affection, she’s being corrected for horning in on Bella’s time.

So while we’re going through the exercises and adjustments, trying to correct the situation that we caused, we’re also trying to find Cricket a new home. She needs a home where she’s the only dog. Where she can get all the attention she craves, because she’s one that loves to cuddle up with her humans… loves to bump your hand with her nose so you’ll pet her. She really is a sweetie, and it’s not her fault that we didn’t create a proper pack environment.    Frown

I feel like such an idiot.

But an old friend from my old Woodlands Writers Guild days has said she might be able to take Cricket, if I can get her back down to the Houston area. And if that’s what it takes to ensure that Cricket doesn’t end up seriously injured or killed, then we’ll give her up. It will break our hearts, but we’ll do it.

Crap. It really hurts to say that.  Cry

We’ll see how it plays out, but it looks like there’s no happy ending. All we can do is try to avoid a bloody ending.

Stay safe, everyone. Bye

Jun 222016
 

WW45About twenty years ago, we lived in a small house in Spring, Texas (a northern suburb of Houston). In front of that house were some huge pine trees that towered overhead like giants. These trees were so big that the lowest branch was a good thirty feet in the air, if not higher, and we didn’t have much of a front yard because the branches blocked out so much light that the grass had trouble growing there.

At that time, we also had a neighbor who worked for the city’s largest electrical provider, and he had some pretty awesome flat-woven nylon cordage that was soft and pliable like cloth, but had something like a 5000 lb. tensile rating. I remember tying hand tools to a length of that cable, and after many, MANY tries, getting a length of it over that lower-most branch so that I could hang a swing for the kids.

Imagine a swing that is connected to a thirty-something foot length of cordage. Imagine you are a child and can swing from one side of the yard to the other in one thrilling and terrifying go.

Imagine you are the parent of that child, watching those memories being made. That you are the one who lifts your little one up so she can hang onto the swing, clenching her eyes closed, partly in fear, partly in anticipation of the thrill to come.

I didn’t even know there was a picture of any of this. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t really remember a time when there was only a little handle for them to grip. We had something called a “sky chair”WW45B (pictured on the right) that we hung from that nylon cord, and that’s what I recall being there. But knowing me and my impatience, I can easily see me hanging an improvised swing up there before I got around to hanging the sky chair.

Last week was a pretty eventful week, between my birthday, Father’s day, the Orlando shooting and the predictable ensuing political fallout. But we also had a more personal event here at the Brackett household.  Baby Bird came to visit for almost a week. And for my birthday she painted me a memory. Evidently she has a picture of a much younger me pushing a much younger her on that swing all those years ago, and she used it to paint one of the gouache pictures that she’s gotten so many requests for.

I have to admit, seeing that painting… well, I think there was some dust on it or some such, because I got something in my eyes when she gave it to me.

Yeah, MBH and I have some pretty amazing kids, and it’s things like this that constantly remind us of that little fact.

 

In other news…

Writing has been going well. I got some really positive comments from betas on the newest revisions to Chucklers. I was honestly beginning to worry about this one. Comments from the first round of betas were good, but not overly enthusiastic, and there were a few of them who had trouble with the complex timeline. This latest revision compresses the timeline, making it much easier to keep events together. And evidently it worked. I got a couple of those “I couldn’t put it down” comments that the writer always strives for, and have no complaints about following the sequence of events this time.

Also, I’ve had the first round of cover art from the publisher, but neither the editor I’m working with, nor I are really wild about the first attempts. That’s all right though.  After all I’ve been through in the past with cover art, and the lessons I’ve learned, I’m not going to stress over this first attempt at all.

The new project, “End Point Pangaea“, is now officially underway. This one is going to be different. In order to get to the main story, I have to build the back story for the reader. In doing so, I’m finding that the dark and macabre mood from Chucklers seems to be bleeding (no pun intended) over into this new project. It concerned me at first, but I decided it was too soon to worry about it for now. I’m going to write and see where it all takes me, and if the story ends up being too dark, I can make any necessary changes later.

And a final bit of writing news… Year 12 (the sequel to Half Past Midnight) has been languishing in a drawer as a stalled project for a few months now. I got most of the novel written, but was unhappy with where the story was taking me and had absolutely no clue as to how to resolve the problems. This morning I had a bit of a breakthrough with it, and I think I know how to fix the issues. Keep your fingers crossed for me.   Smile

So that’s it for now. Time for me to get back to work. Hope you all have a wonderful week, and stay safe!  Bye

Jun 092016
 

ww44Sorry I’m late with this post. There was a lot going on in the “Personal” sector of my life yesterday, and I was so preoccupied with it that I honestly went all day thinking it was Tuesday. It wasn’t until MBH and I were taking the girls for their evening walk that I realized it was Wednesday. By then it was too late to do much about it.  And as it turns out, it was probably kismet that things turned out that way.  Why?

As those of you who frequent Facebook know, after you’ve been there a while, you begin getting notifications about “memories” each day.  These are reminders of things you posted on the same date, in years past.  By interesting coincidence, it was exactly one year ago today that I committed here on the blog to be more regular on my blog posts, AND to making the writing more of a priority. I guess I can count myself at least partly successful.  And it somehow seems fitting that I start the next steps of the journey on the anniversary of that promise to myself.

Next steps?  Yep.   Grin

As I’ve been hinting at for the last two weeks, I’ve been in communication with a small press about working with them on some books. Well, it’s finally done!  Mostly, that is.  As of today, the contracts are signed, witnessed, scanned, and emailed.  I suppose it’s technically not a done deal until they send back the copies with their signatures as well, but at this stage, that’s mostly just a formality (I hope).  So I think it’s safe to announce now that I’m now part of the Severed Press stable of authors.  I’ve signed two contracts, for two series of books – the Chucklers trilogy (which I’ve been working on -off and on- for a couple of years), and another project that will likely turn into a series that I’m just going to call EPP for now.

 

So, status reports –

Writing –

Chucklers – rewrites are about done (hopefully by tomorrow), and I think I’ve fixed the timeline problems I was having. It will go back out to betas either this weekend, or early next week.  Looks like the current draft is going to come in at just a bit over 120k words.  This novel has been so much more complicated to put together than I ever imagined.  Two contiguous timelines that have to intertwine, showing events happening in three different locations with six main POV characters, and a host of secondary POVs. There have been times when I’ve had to put it in the drawer for months at a time just to get a fresh perspective on it.  Confused

EPP – New project – This is the first of at least two novels set in mid-Triassic Pangaea, about 240 million years in our past.  It’s going to be quite a departure from anything else I’ve written, and is going to take a LOT of research.  But I’m a glutton for punishment, and I’m actually looking forward to working on it.  So wish me luck.   Thinking

Miscellany – I’ve had a recent streak of winning things over the last several weeks.  Nothing huge, but a book here, a door prize there. Most recently, I won a free book cover from author/artist Denise Lhamon.  I need to figure out what to use it on.  Maybe the EPP project?  Hmmm….

 

Personal –

I just found out that our eldest had to put her pug down this morning.  He was very old (I think fourteen years), was listless, had stopped eating and drinking, and had lost a lot  of weight, so it was time.  But as anyone who has been through this can attest to, knowing it’s the right thing to do doesn’t make it any easier. MBH & I had to put one of our dogs to sleep several years ago after he had a stroke.  I walked out of the vets office with water running down my face, and that dog didn’t even like me!

But there’s an undeniable connection between the pet and the pet-owned.  And it hurts like hell when that connection is lost.   Big Frown

WW44BOn a brighter note, Baby Bird is supposed to come for a visit in a few days. Things can still change, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s going to work out.  If you’ve read my past posts, you know that she recently graduated with her BFA, and she’s making the transition from college life to working to pay the bills.  She put the word out this morning on FB that she’s now able to do some commissioned paintings.  Before now, almost all of her time was spent doing work that was assigned to her for her classes.  Now that she’s graduated, she wants to start by doing some 9×12 inch gouache (it’s a type of opaque watercolor – I had to look it up Wink  ) human/animal morphing paintings similar to the one here.  If you’re interested, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with her.

As of now (about six hours after she made the post), she has six inquiries, with at least two of them sounding pretty serious. I hope this works out for her.  I know I’m the proud parent, but she really is incredibly talented.

 

So that’s it.  Sorry again for the late post.  And as always, stay safe everyone!  Bye