May 092018
 

We finally got a storm shelter!  Ever since our tornado scare two years ago, MBH and I have been trying to figure out how to fit a storm shelter into our household budget.  Luckily, the Choctaw Nation has a grant program for tribal members that covers the majority of the cost.  And of course, yours truly is a member.

Yep, if you didn’t already know, I’m a member of the Choctaw Nation, and very proud of my heritage.  Even more so, now that I’ve seen first hand what they do to help their constituents.  Yes, there’s a bit of paperwork, and several months of wait time before approval.  And it took several more weeks for us to be able to get the actual shelter… ironically, because of the weather.

For those of you who might not know, storm shelters are typically pre-manufactured, then transported in pieces before being assembled at the installation site.  In our case, the installation site was our back yard, and intermittent rain over several weeks kept the ground pretty wet.  Much too wet to support a heavy truck with a mini-crane and a the shelter on it.  It turns out that such a load typically runs over fifteen tons.  And if you tell them to install and they get stuck, guess who’s responsible for getting a heavy-duty wrecker out to get them un-stuck?

So we had to wait until we had several consecutive days of dry, sunshiny weather before we were able to finally get it in the ground. And that didn’t happen until last week.  But it’s here now, and just in time for tornado season.

Such a huge relief!

Writing news – 

Payne and Suffering – I mentioned in my last post that I was having trouble tracking the plot and motivations in the latest Amber Payne novel.  The story was threatening to stall for me, and I was really beginning to worry that I was on the wrong track.  Then I had a dream about it.  I’ve mentioned before that I actively try to think about my stories as I go to sleep when I’m having trouble… sort of guiding my subconscious in an attempt to get it to work the problem as I sleep.

Sometimes it works, sometimes not.  To be perfectly honest, it usually doesn’t.  But if it doesn’t work one night, and I don’t solve the problem during the following day, I simply try again the next night.  This time, after several days of minimal progress, and nights of… well nothing, I had my eureka dream.

I realized that I was trying to force the wrong antagonist into a plot that didn’t fit them.  Not only that, but I realized who my antagonist really was, and what their motivations were.  Suddenly, the story is flowing again.  Woot!! 

 

IMR – The sekrit projekt I mentioned last month in WW105 looks like it’s going to really happen.  It’s still in the early stages, so of course I can’t really talk much about it other than to say I’m really, REALLY excited about this one.  We’ve had preliminary discussions, and the contract is being drawn up, so technically, it isn’t a reality quite yet.  But we have verbal agreements in place, and things are looking really good.  As for the story itself, the more we talked about it, the more convinced I was that this was going to be an incredibly fun project.  It’s going to be a lot of work, and will of course impact my writing schedule for the foreseeable future, but I have to admit, I’m looking forward to it.

Watch for the new meter, (IMR) to begin moving when the final details are hammered out and the projekt begins in earnest.

Fringe News – 

This one isn’t really related to my current projects, but rather to a past one.  Streets of Payne was (I think) the first book I had produced in audio format.  It’s available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes and was narrated by the magnificent Joy Nash.  At the time, Joy was a “struggling actress” in Hollywood, having been in a few shows.  At that point, her most notable role was Simone on The Mindy Project.  Since then, she has gotten several other roles and seems to have finally hit it big with a starring role in AMC’s new series, Dietland (co-starring Julianna Margulies and Adam Rothenberg).

So while I’m incredibly happy for Joy and her success, it looks like I’ll probably have to find a new narrator for the next Amber Payne novels.  

 

And that’s it for now.  Time to get back to writing.  Take care, everyone, and stay safe.  :bye:

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 172017
 

WW82BShame on me.  Two weeks without a blog post.  But it’s been a busy two weeks.  We’ve had storm after storm here, one of which actually had me grabbing the dogs and ducking into a neighbor’s storm shelter.  You may have seen the news about the tornadoes in the Tulsa area.  This makes the second year that we’ve had to take shelter, although this year was admittedly much less dangerous.  We got plenty of rain, hail, and high winds, and I heard that a couple of small tornadoes touched down within a few miles of the house.  But it was nothing like the one last year, where we actually saw a tornado as it made its way past us.

Still, when those warning sirens started going off, I was considerably less inclined to wait until the last minute this time.  Even then, I got completely soaked going from the front door to the car… even more so going from the car to the storm shelter.  For the most part, the storm blew through pretty quickly, though. The picture here is of the mammatus cloud formation (see Suzanne? I remembered!) that was on the trailing edge of the system as it left our area to terrorize other parts of the country.

In other news…

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is pretty much done.  To be honest, I thought it was complete until I got these last few beta reads.  Some of the readers had some very cogent comments that I really have to address.  The biggest issue is going to require an additional scene that I hope to complete writing tomorrow.  I’ve spent the last few days clarifying other problems.  But the end is approaching rapidly.

Y12 – And I’m excited to announce that Corey Snow has tentatively agreed to put his voice talents back to work in the Half Past Midnight universe.  Corey is the voice actor who did the audiobooks for Half Past Midnight, and The Road to Rejas and his work was so fantastic that it was hard for me to imagine anyone else voicing Year 12.  So imagine how disappointed I was when I found that he no longer did royalty share jobs.  And after having taken so long between books, I was in no financial position to pay up front for him.  But after exchanging a few emails, he has agreed to make an exception.  If all goes according to plan, he will begin work on the audiobook version of Y12 next month, as well as Crazy Larry when it’s done.  Watch for future updates.   :)

That’s all for now.  Time to get back to writing. So stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you again soon.   :bye:

 

Oh!  RPotW – WW82C

For this week’s Random Pic of the Week, let’s go less random and more thematic.  Since I’ve already posted a picture from the back edge of the storm system from last week, let me post another from two days before that storm.  Details on the pic tell me it was 7:10 PM on May 9th.  MBH and I were walking the dogs, and we commented on how pretty the clouds were at the time.  Pretty, but also a bit unusual.  As you can see, the day was beautiful and I mentioned that the clouds ahead of us looked like a giant thunderbird.

Hmmm… in retrospect, maybe it was a giant thunderbird, and he was a warning of the storm to come.  Yep, there’s the old writer’s brain kicking in again.   :)

For a better look at the formation, click on the picture.

Take care.   :bye:

Apr 272016
 

WW41Personal –

We’re really getting a crash course in life within Tornado Alley.  For the second time in less than a month, we’ve had to deal with local tornadoes.  Having learned my lesson from our March 30th brush with disaster, as soon as reports started coming in on how bad the incoming storm might be, we began to take precautions. We brought in patio furniture and loose yard items (aka “body shredding missiles of death”), put the tree tubes back on the saplings to protect them against strong winds and/or hail, put the BOBs in the back of my car (in case we needed to bug out), pulled the car in the garage (making it easier to get in during bad weather, and to protect the car from potential hail damage), filled the tub with water (in case we had to bug in and lost water for a while), got the blackout kit out and had it ready (again, in case we had to bug in and lost power), made sure the weather apps on my phone were up to date (to monitor upcoming and ongoing weather situation)…

See? I CAN be taught!   :-D

All in all, we were much more prepared for this one than the last. And when our friends called offering room in their storm shelter, we didn’t hesitate long at all. When that system blew through our area, we were all nice and cozy below ground. It was my first time in a storm shelter like that, and I’m glad theirs isn’t a tiny, cramped one. There were five adults and three dogs inside, and I think we were in it for about an hour or so.

We left their company around 12:30 AM, I think, and came home to a house without power. But thanks to the blackout kit, we had plenty of light. And since the weather apps indicated the worst of the storm was past, we sank into our comfy bed to try to sleep through what was left of the night. Power came back on at a quarter after 1:00, and that was pretty much the end of our second severe weather adventure.

Of course, there’s supposed to be another system coming through in a few days.  (sigh)

 

Writing –

I found out yesterday that one of the publishers I submitted Chucklers to has just opened to new submissions. That implies that when I submitted the first time, they were NOT open to submissions.  :-/  So I’m working on a new cover letter and synopsis, and hope to resubmit the novel today. Wish me luck.

But in the meantime, I’ll continue reworking it, assuming that I never heard back from them because the novel simply wasn’t up to snuff for them, or maybe just wasn’t something they were interested in. We’ll see. I’m okay with it, whether they want it or not.  On the one hand, going through a small press would eliminate the cost of having to pay for a freelance editor, cover artist, and formatting, as well as possibly get me exposure to a larger audience. On the other, it also means I would split the income from the book.

Like I said, I’m okay either way.

And that’s it. Time to get back to it. So you guys stay safe, and I’ll try to do the same.   :bye:

Apr 202016
 

WW40cFirst of all, to my friends and family in Houston… I know some of you took some damage from the insane rains this week (Scott, Adam…). You have my sincerest sympathy. I know I whined about being scared by a tornado a few weeks back. You guys really didn’t have to do this just to show me up!  :-/

I lived most of my life in and around the Houston metroplex. One thing I learned is that, while it doesn’t happen often, those floods can be devastating. I remember being stuck in my neighborhood a time or two, and MBH recalls being flooded out of her house when she was a kid. I even lost a friend during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 when she was told to move her car from a flooding underground parking garage. She took the elevator down, where the rising water shorted it out, trapped her inside, and filled with water. Kristie and I were both members of the Woodlands Writers Guild, and had worked on some writing conferences together.

And I guess this post just took a rather maudlin turn, didn’t it?

Moving to a more upbeat tone… I spoke to my mom this morning, and she seems to be recovering from her knee surgery wonderfully. The staples were removed from the incision yesterday, and she has regained motion in the knee to the point of being able to bend to nearly 90 degrees (although she says bending that far is still painful). All in all, she’s doing great.  :-))

Chucklers is moving right along. Restructuring the book has led to some rewrites and character expansions. Otherwise, most of the first book would be from Charlie’s POV, but interspersed with occasional chapters from other characters. In short, it would be completely out of balance without the reworks. But like I said, the work progresses. At the current rate, I should know soon whether the existing manuscript is going to be one book or two.

WW40bA final note. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve begun researching and applying some herbal medicine skills. There are a lot of pieces to those skills. You have to learn what plants have what medicinal properties, how to make them into infusions, tinctures, infused oils, salves, and poultices. But none of that knowledge does you any good if you aren’t able to identify the plants accurately. Well today I learned to identify a new plant. I’d read about it in several herbal medicine books, and seen it on various websites, but Plantain has so many variants that it threw me. And seeing pictures of something just isn’t the same as being able to put your hands on it and see it in real life.

Today, while I was walking the girls, I noticed a plant in a neighbor’s yard that looked very much like the descriptions and pictures I’d researched. And after all the rain we’ve had here (no, nothing like Houston) they were pushing up an easily identifiable flower stalk. But I still wasn’t sure, so I took a picture and posted it to a wildcrafting site I follow asking if it was, indeed, plantain. Sure enough, several wildcrafters confirmed it for me.

WW40aBut I didn’t want to go into the neighbor’s yard and start digging up plants. Besides, I sure didn’t want to make an infused oil from a plant that could have pesticide or other chemicals in it. So I decided that since I was now able to accurately identify this handy little medicinal, I went into my own back yard, hoping to find it there. It wasn’t until I had walked all the way to the back that I found it, but once I did, I was happy to see that there’s quite a bit of it near the back of the property. (Most of the broad-leafed plants in the picture to the left are plantain.) Specifically, it looks like I have Kentucky Plantain growing in relative abundance in my back yard.

Plantain is one of the better antidotes for insect stings and bites, snakebite, poison ivy, rashes, burns, cuts, and other skin ailments. When heated, the leaves can be applied topically to swollen joints, sore muscles, sprains, etc. Studies have shown that it is rich in tannin (which draws tissue together to help stop bleeding), allantoin (which promotes the healing of injured skin cells), and is an anti-inflammatory. There are other reputed uses, but I’ll stick with the ones that have scientific studies behind them.

So that’s my little bit of excitement for the day. Now I get to experiment with trying to dehydrate it, and make some infused oil out of it. I’m curious about whether dehydrating it significantly lowers its potency in infusions and oils.

I guess I’ll find out.

And that’s it. Time to get back to work. Stay safe everyone. I’ll see you in a week.   :bye: