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

 

Jul 052013
 

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July.  Ours was pretty uneventful, other than the fireworks making the dogs nervous all evening and most of the night.  It wasn’t too bad on them, but they pretty much refused to leave my wife’s side from about eight or nine, until well after bedtime.  Smile

Now, truthfully, I started writing this entry a couple of days before the 4th, and at the time I started, I had book covers on the mind.  It was a topic that had been on my mind quite a bit, since I went gone through so much on the cover for Streets of Payne (read about some of it here).  Then I think back to the issues I had with the cover for Half Past Midnight.  HPM was my first venture into writing, so I suppose mistakes were to be expected.  But even taking that into account, there were plenty of problems.  And that gave me the idea that some of the rest of you might have encountered similar issues.  Or perhaps you’re coming up on that part of your work in progress and you’d like to see some of the pitfalls I went through so you can (hopefully) avoid making the same mistakes.  Or, maybe you just want a good chuckle at my expense.  ROTFL   Hey, I don’t blame you.  Looking back on some of what I did, I find it pretty amusing, too.

But let’s make this a lesson entry.  That’s what this blog is supposed to be about, right? Doesn’t it say so right at the top of my blog? “JL Brackett – Learning to Write“.   So here we go…

I’ll start by looking back at my first novel, Half Past Midnight.  I made several mistakes with that one, spending much more than was necessary to get it published.  But it was a learning experience, and it was fun.  Specifically addressing the topic of the cover, I have to shake my head.  I probably put that poor cover artist through hell before we finally got something acceptable.  I mean, all the poor guy knew about my book at the time was that it was something about a nuclear war, and it was post-apocalyptic.  And armed only with that limited amount of knowledge, here are some of the first cover samples he submitted to me:

Walk on a roof edgeWalk on a roof edgeWalk on a roof edgeWalk on a roof edgeNeedless to say, I was disappointed.  How could he miss the mark so completely? Didn’t he know what I was trying to accomplish here?  It was almost as if he hadn’t read the book at all!  And that was when I realized… he hadn’t.

It was a rookie mistake.  I assumed either the publisher or the cover artist had read my book and would know what artwork would work best.  That is NOT the case!  If you’re an indie, and you’re hiring freelancers to do your cover art and publishing, they will most likely never read your work.  That leads me to:

Cover art lesson #1 – Don’t be timid!  Get involved in every aspect of your book.  No one knows what you’re trying to accomplish better than you do.  It’s up to you to carry that vision forward from beginning, to end.  All the way to the end!

So I contacted the artist and we discussed why these proposed covers just weren’t going to work.  He was extremely understanding, and taught me how to go to various stock photo sites and create light boxes with pictures that I thought incorporated part of what I wanted on my cover.  I spent the next several days going over picture after picture, until I found something that I thought incorporated the “feel” that I wanted on my cover.  It was a picture of a young woman with an AK47 resting on her shoulder.  She stood in the middle of an empty field, and she looked dirty, bone weary, and down-trodden.  She reminded me of the character of Megan in my book.  I sent that to him and told him what I had in mind.  That was when I learned what a decent cover artist can do with photo manipulation.  I spoke to him about backgrounds, and the fact that in the book, Megan used a crossbow, and that a lot of the fighting took place under cover of darkness.  After a few conversations, and a couple of final tweaks, he finally created this outstanding cover.

In the meantime, though, the editing was complete, and the publishing files were done.  I had waited too long to have the cover art done, and now I had a book ready to publish, and had to wait for the cover.

Cover art lesson #2 – Learn to manage the timing of publication.  There are some tasks that are prerequisite to others.  For instance, the book must be written before it can be edited, and it must be edited before it can be formatted for publication.  However, the cover art can be done as soon as you know your novel’s theme, tone, setting, and characters.  Once you have a feel for what you want on the cover, I recommend that you begin working towards getting your cover done.  This will eliminate the frustration of having your novel written, edited, and files ready for publication while you have to wait on your cover.

Megan w crossbowSo I finally got the artist everything he needed and within a matter of days he sent me a preliminary cover.  A few tweaks, and we had a cover I was happy with.  Did I say happy?  I was thrilled.  It was awesome!  But I wanted to make sure other people agreed with me, so I posted a preview of it in a few writing forums.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  I had a winner of a cover.  I went to work, put it on a few print galleys, and started gearing up for the e-book distribution.

Then came the question that I should have headed off at the very beginning of my polls – What is your book about?

What’s it about?  Well, it’s a post-apocalyptic story about a small group of people who survive the nuclear aftermath of a war, only to find that there are still crazies in the world, and….

Wait, wait, wait!  You mean this isn’t a YA story about vampires?

Ummmm, what?

Well, you have a young girl, with a crossbow, at night…

Oh, crap!

I pulled that cover immediately.  As I recall, there are less than ten copies (I think there are six, actually) of the paperback version of HPM that have that cover.  If you have one, who knows?  Maybe it will be a collector’s item when I’m a world-renowned author!  LOL.

Cover art lesson #3 – Make sure your cover tells what your story is about.  It’s not enough for it to just look really good.  A potential reader needs to be able to look at the cover and get a pretty good idea what the story is about.  If I had gone with that original cover and people had begun buying my book thinking it was a YA vampire book, I can’t imagine how many folks I would have disappointed.

But now I had to come up with something quickly.  Something that told the reader immediately that this was not a YA vampire story, but an adult story set in a post-apocalyptic world.  I went hat in hand back to the artist, explaining my dilemma.  We went back to the drawing board, and finally came up with the cover that stayed on HPM for a year or more.  The mushroom cloud over the cityscape…

HPM final coverIt didn’t have all that much to do with the story, but someone looking at it definitely got the idea that this was a post-apocalyptic novel set after a nuclear war.  It worked well enough for about a year.  I did find out one minor problem with the cover during that time.  It turned out that the licensing for the stock photos used in that cover were only good for cover art.

Now, you may ask yourself, so what?  That’s all you should need it for anyway, right?  Well, as it turns out, no.  At least, not if you want to create promotional items like t-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, etc.  As a result, I have a drawer full of t-shirts and mouse pads that I can never give out.  So…

Cover art lesson #4– Make sure of your licensing for the artwork.  It may cost a little extra, but if you ever want to give away any promo items, you must make sure you can legally do so.

Now, while I was learning these lessons, I wasn’t idle.  During that time, I wrote a short story for the Explorers: Beyond the Horizon anthology, and a novella “companion piece” to HPM called The Road to Rejas.  It was the story of one of the minor characters in HPM, and how he came to be in the novel.  And when I went to publish R2R, that brought me to…

Cover art lesson #5 – If there is any possibility of your story becoming part of a series, you must remember to bear branding in mind.  If you have several written works up for sale, the reader should be able to look at the covers and immediately tell which ones are part of the same series.  Unfortunately, it was going to be difficult to do this with the HPM cover I had at that time.

So I spoke to another cover artist.  Now, I had nothing against the first artist, but he was attached to a company I had decided not to go with again due to monetary considerations.  I had found that much of what they did, I could do on my own, and what skills I didn’t have were available for hire at a much more reasonable cost.  So I contracted with Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics to do the cover for R2R, and to redo the cover on HPM, with the understanding that there would be another novel coming in the future.  Half-Past-Midnight-Print-Cover-6x9 The-Road-to-Rejas-6x9They came up with the fantastic covers that HPM and R2R have today, and there is already a preliminary for the upcoming sequel, Y12.  So look at these two covers.  Is there any doubt that the stories are related?

I don’t think so.  Color scheme, font style, symbols… all of these were used to great effect to link the stories in the reader’s mind.

So with all this history, you would think I would know what I was doing when it came time to get cover work for my next book, right?  Well… I’ll give myself a little credit.  At least I didn’t make the same mistakes I made the first time around.  No, this time I came up with completely new mistakes. Foot-In-Mouth

First of all, Streets of Payne was going to be completely different from HPM and R2R.  It was a different genre, different theme, targeted a different audience… it had a totally different feel.  So I knew I wanted it to look completely different from my other covers.  I also knew that I wanted a different kind of cover.  I was interested in getting some more expensive digital art.  Unfortunately, that was something that my previous cover artist didn’t do.  So I started the search back in July of 2012, when SoP was still a work in progress. I figured that would give me plenty of time.  I was determined that I wouldn’t be caught sitting on a practically finished manuscript, waiting on a cover before I could publish.

A fellow author put me on to an amazing digital artist she had found.  This woman didn’t stop at photo manipulation, she did digital art at another level.  I got contact information and told her what I had in mind.  She explained that there were several people ahead of me, and that it might take a while, but at that time, I anticipated that I wouldn’t likely be ready for the cover until the end of the year.  Since I had planned so far in advance, time was not an issue for me.  I told her that I didn’t anticipate completion of the novel until the end of the year, so that wouldn’t be a problem.  We exchanged a couple of emails, worked out details, and she sent me payment information.

Cover art lesson #6 – Never EVER pay in advance by Western Union.  If someone tells you that is the only way they will accept payment, find someone else.  There are other artists out there.  Payments via Western Union are non-refundable.  It is the equivalent of you handing cash to someone, without knowing them, or where they live, or what they will do with the cash once they get it.  You have absolutely no recourse if the deal goes south.

Now, you may ask, why did she need payment via Western Union?  Simple – she lived in Croatia, and it was the only way she could get money from the US.  Okay, maybe I was naïve, but I bought it.  I’m usually one to give people the benefit of the doubt.  And hey, I had plenty of time to work through any issues, right?  Question  So after a few months of not hearing from her, I caught wind that several other writers were having trouble getting her to respond to email.  Then rumors started that she had been involved in an accident, and was starting to get back on her feet.  There was a thread on Kindle Boards wherein several authors expressed their dissatisfaction with her lack of response to their queries.  Some had missed deadlines and had to find other artists.  And then she posted on the thread herself.  She apologized, said she had been in a motorcycle accident, and had been unable to work for several weeks.  But she assured everyone that it was all behind her, and she was getting back to it.

Of course, she was way behind, but if we would all just be patient with her, she would get caught up in a few weeks.  Again I waited.  After all, plenty of time, remember?  By the time October rolled around, I was starting to get concerned.  I sent her several emails, none of which were answered.  I finally decided to put a little pressure on her.  I posted on that same thread in Kindle Boards all that I had been through with her.  That did two things… it brought the problems everyone had had with her back to the top of the forum again, reminding others that she had been a problem, and showed that I was still trying to contact her.

It worked.  She responded with an apology, indicating that her old email service had been canceled and that she had a new email account.  She sent me a private email, and promised me

Streets of Payne 06DEC2012

Streets of Payne 06DEC2012

preliminary work within a week.  It was November 27 when she finally got me something, but when she sent me the work, I was amazed.  We went back and forth a few times with minor changes I wanted, until she finally sent this cover in early December.  There were a couple of minor changes that she still hadn’t gotten, so I asked her to make them, and send me the licensing agreement so I could use the cover.  That was the last I heard from her.

She never responded to any other emails or chat requests.  Ever.

Cover art lesson #7 – No matter how talented the artist may be, if they have no business ethic, you can’t work with them.

I was SO frustrated!  Here was this absolutely fantastic cover, and I couldn’t legally use it.  I asked around, and no one else was able to get a response from her either.  It was like she had dropped off the face of the earth.

Again.

I later found out that she had sold another cover to a friend, then someone else bought the exact same cover from her!  Someone told me that this is legal in many European countries, that the artwork remains the property of the artist, and can be sold as many times as they want.  I have no idea if this is true or not.  I’ve already determined that I’ll never work under those circumstances again, so it isn’t of enough concern to me that I would spend time looking it up.  However, if you are…

Cover art lesson #8 – Make sure you know the licensing laws and other legalities involved in using the cover art you contract.  If you hire an artist outside of your native country, check to see if there are any international laws regarding the use of the artist’s work that might impact your novel.

By this time, I was getting pretty concerned.  What had started as a six month cushion, had dwindled to a matter of a few weeks.  In the meantime, I began corresponding with another author whose acquaintance I had made on a forum.  He had recently published his first book, and had been taken to the cleaners on editing.  I contacted him, letting him know how much I liked the story, but recommended that he get it professionally edited.  I put him in touch with my editor, and when he mentioned he also wanted to explore getting a new cover and having the manuscript reformatted, I recommended Streetlight Graphics.  I made an introductory call for him to Glendon, and during the course of our conversation I mentioned the problems I’d been having with the SoP cover art.  Well, it turned out that the type of digital “painting” that I’d been looking at was something he was interested in learning.

I was back in business!  I knew that Streetlight Graphics was completely trustworthy.  I knew they valued their clients, and their reputation, and were doing everything in their power to SoP001grow that reputation.  And I knew the way their licensing worked.  I showed Glendon the cover I had commissioned before, and told him how much I liked it.  But I knew I couldn’t simply have him go out and replicate the same cover.  I didn’t want there to be any possibility of some sort of copyright infringement.  So we went through a few false starts, and finally came to what you see here to the left.

I was torn.  I liked it quite a bit.  But something just didn’t feel right about it.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Glendon made it simple.  He said if I couldn’t look at the cover and say, “that’s what I want on my book”, then he didn’t want me to accept it.  We kicked around a few more ideas, and he explained that he thought we might be focusing too much on a particular scene or character.  He suggested going more with a concept piece, and started asking some questions.  A few days later, he presented me with a cover that blew me away.

Cover art lesson #9Streets of Payne 800 Cover reveal and PromotionalTrust your gut.  If something doesn’t feel quite right, figure out why.  Or, if you can’t figure out why, step back and punt.  It may be that you’re so focused on a particular idea that you’ve got tunnel vision, and are missing a wonderful idea that’s waiting just around the corner.

I know I’ve already shown the cover, but this post would be incomplete without finishing the evolution.  So…. there it is – the stories and lessons I’ve learned (so far).  I hope some of this might just help some of you avoid similar mistakes as you travel your own road to success.

And in the meantime, I need to get back to work on the newest work in progress.  Watch for an upcoming collaborative novel by yours truly and Edward Lorn, wherein we will explore the world of post-apocalyptic horror.  Chucklers – coming to a nightmare near you.  Wink

Oct 012012
 

Let me apologize up front.  The last few weeks have presented several challenges that have led to late posting to the blog here.  I try to post once a week – usually on the weekend, or Monday.  And yes, sometimes I’m late, but usually only by a day or so.  This time, I pretty much missed the boat completely.  The fun started with our daughter’s accident in mid-September.  It’s taken this long for the insurance issues to straighten themselves out, but they’ve finally made it official that the car has been totaled.  On the positive side, it turns out that it was worth more than we had hoped, so we won’t have to get her a total clunker as a replacement vehicle.  I’m supposed to pick up a check tomorrow, and we begin shopping tonight.

And the big scare last weekend… Without going into too much detail (because it’s not my story to give out), my dad had some medical issues last weekend, so my sister and I took a trip to go visit and help out however we could.  He’s doing much better now, and I’m back home.  Not a huge deal, but it did cause me to re-prioritize some things on my plate, and all things considered, the blog post is a minor item on my regular to-do list.

But there are also writing things going on.  Streets of Payne is moving like frozen molasses.  I feel like I’ve hit a wall with it.  I think I’m probably trying to write too linearly (is that a word?).  In the past when something like this happened, I just dropped the section that was giving me so much trouble, moved beyond it to another section, and things eventually worked themselves out.  I suppose I need to try that with the latest problem.

The Road to Rejas is so close to publishing I can just about taste it.  The cover is done, and the manuscript is being formatted for publication.  If things go as I hope, R2R may publish as early as next week!  Additionally, I’ll hopefully be able to do a double cover reveal later this week.  Yes, a double cover reveal.

See, when I got with the fantastic folks of Streetlight Graphics, they suggested that it might be a good idea to revise the cover for HPM, aligning it with the look of the new R2R cover.  In essence, they have helped me create a “branded” look for the two, and have additionally left the door open to follow these two with a similar cover for the sequel coming out next year.  I’ve already seen the final cover for R2R, as well as the preliminary for HPM.  They look awesome, if I do say so myself.  Yes

So I’m getting a little excited for the R2R release.  I know it’s just a novella, but it’s part of the HPM story that I wanted to tell, and it will serve as a link between HPM and the sequel next year.  There will be crossover characters and back story that will flow into the sequel, and lions and tigers and bears…. oh my.  Well, maybe not lions or tigers.  I might have a bear though.

I’m just sayin’. Cool

That’s it for now.  Stay safe, everyone. Bye

Sep 192012
 

So how many of you watched Revolution Monday night?  I did.  Yeah, I know… of course I did.  Those of you who know me already know I’m a sucker for most sci-fi, and this show looks like too much fun to pass up.  Of course, if you’ve read my book, you already knew that Revolution was likely going to be of interest to me.  I mean, come on – an exploration of society after a cataclysmic event destroys our power grid?  How could I not like that?  Cool

The bad thing is that the writer in me kept picking things apart in the show.  Don’t get me wrong – I really, REALLY enjoyed it.  But climbing down into a crashed RV that has apparently been laying on its side for fifteen years, with broken windows, only to find that the white leather seats are still in pristine condition?  Sorry, that’s not gonna happen.  And clothing that looks new – colors still unfaded, complete with factory stitching – fifteen years after that sort of quality should be available for the common folks.  Not likely.

I mean, look at this picture.  Even the AC/DC t-shirt looks to be in pretty good condition.  Now, you can ask my wife – I am the world’s worst when it comes to giving up on a comfortable t-shirt.  If it fits, and it’s comfy, I don’t care how many holes it has, or how badly the collar is worn and frayed – I will hang onto that shirt until it’s not even fit for service as a dish rag.  But I don’t think I have any t-shirt that has lasted fifteen years, even with modern washers and dryers.  And we’re supposed to believe that a post apocalyptic world is easier on clothes than I am now?  Question

All that aside, I loved the basic premise (or at least, what of it has been revealed so far), and the action sequences were a lot of fun.  The show looks like it has a lot of promise, so I’ll continue to watch and see what they do with it.  Hopefully, the networks don’t pull their usual crapola and cancel it before it gets a chance to gain a loyal audience.

 

Other news:

Gardening – If you follow me on FaceBook, you know I started a small garden experiment.  I built a small 2′ x 4′ moveable square foot garden, and planted some Texas Cream Peas, Red Grape Tomatoes, Di Ciccio Broccoli, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Spacemaster 80 Cucumbers, and jalapeno peppers.  Yesterday, I checked on them when I got home from work and found twenty Cream pea seedlings, and one cucumber seedling!  I guess it’s silly, but I’m pretty excited!  It’s the beginning of the Brackett Texas Cream Pea empire!  (Insert evil laugh here.)

R2R – This is the week I start working with Streetlight Graphics on the final stages of The Road to Rejas.  I’m anxious to get going with this one.  The story has been done for several weeks now, and I’m ready to get it released.  Unfortunately, SLG seems to be running a little behind schedule, so I have to remain patient.  Based on a few email exchanges, I anticipate hearing from them today or tomorrow.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll have a cover reveal to do next week!  Wink  Even better, maybe an actual release in early October.  Anyone interested?  (Boy I hope so…)  Question

SoP – Work on Streets of Payne is moving along.  As always, you can track my progress in the meter over to the right.  No, it’s not going as quickly as I’d hoped, but that’s par for the course.  I’m just thankful that it’s moving, the story is flowing for me, and there is an end in sight. I heard that the cover artist I initially hired for this one is supposedly trying to get back on track with some of the jobs she dropped out on, but I’m not holding my breath.  She was supposed to contact me a week ago, and I still haven’t heard anything.  Yeah, I’m afraid that particular purchase is just going to be another expensive lesson along the path to becoming a professional writer.

Speaking of learning about becoming a writer, I’ve noticed something over the last couple of months.  Late summer months for sales seem pretty slim.  I know that the best way to keep sales going for your work is to get more work published for people to read.  But even with that in mind, the sudden plummet in sales was a little nerve-wracking.  I queried some of the writing groups I frequent and found that it isn’t just me.  Some of the old timers confirmed that August through October are consistently the worst months for them.  I guess that means I just need to tighten my belt and get ready for some leaner times.

 

On a personal note –

Last Friday, our Baby Bird returned home for a surprise visit.  My wife and I were at the top of the stairs talking about something when I saw our daughter slip in the front door.  I tried to keep a poker face, but my wife saw something in my expression and asked what was going on.  When I didn’t say anything, she started to get concerned.  After a few seconds, she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye and when she saw our daughter, she squealed like a little girl.  Smile  She told me afterward that my expression had at first led her to believe that one of the dogs had done something evil on the new carpet, and I wasn’t telling her about it.  LOL.

Unfortunately, the weekend ended on a less gleeful note when Baby Bird totalled her car while going to visit some friends.  She wasn’t hurt, other than a few bruises and a strained neck, but there was the emotional and mental stress that follows an event like that.  I wish she hadn’t had to go through it.  Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that happens to all to many of us.  We learn from them, and move on through our lives, grateful that it wasn’t worse than it was.

 

And a final bit of news on the personal front – anyone who knows me, knows that I’m overweight.  Well, it’s time to do something about it.  I’ve said this many a time int he past, and I get started, and then, for one reason or another, I backslide.  It’s time for some motivation, and nothing motivates quite so much as public humiliation.  So I have decided to publicly commit to a weight loss of fifty pounds.  Now, I’m going to cheat a little right off the bat, and state that I’m starting from my worst weight, where I first began working on it.  I won’t say what that weight is, since that’s a little more humiliation than I’m prepared to deal with.  However, I am going to put another meter in the side bar that will track my weight loss.  I weighed this morning, and am happy to say that I lost another pound this weekend, so am beginning the meter at an eleven pound loss.  As great as it sounds, that’s basically a wash, since I was down by twenty pounds a few months ago, and seem to see-saw somewhere around the ten pound mark.  This time, I’m determined to get the entire fifty off.  Of course, then the trick will be in keeping it off.

Wish me luck.  Smile

 

Well, that’s it for now.  Time to get back to work.  The day job beckons.  (sigh)

Stay safe, everyone.  Bye

Aug 222012
 

So have I been inconsistent lately, or what?  Three posts in four days (August 5th, 6th, and 8th), and now nothing until the 22nd?  What kind of slipshod operation is this Brackett guy running here, anyway?!?! Razz

Well truthfully, there’s been quite a bit going on for the last few weeks.  Firstly, I got the confirmation email and questionnaire from Streetlight Graphics for the cover art and formatting they will be doing for The Road to Rejas.  It looks like I’m on the schedule for cover artwork beginning September 17, and formatting for publication on September 24.  So yeah, it’s a month away still, but I’m looking forward to working with these folks.  Everything seems to be quite professional, and the pricing is still very reasonable.  So far, it’s looking good.  Smile

And there has been the office upgrade.  Over to the left here is the desk I was using until recently.  It was all right, but didn’t have any drawers or storage of any kind.  Now, I’m not exactly the neatest person in the world, a fact to which anyone who has been around me in a work environment will happily attest.  So imagine that desk covered with two full sized keyboards (I work on two different desktops), mice and other computer peripherals, papers, books, and other odds and ends.  The top shelf was pretty crowded with three twenty-inch wide-screen monitors, and the network equipment.  Note the size of the router still shown here on the top left.

You will notice that the room (what of it you can see in this picture) is pretty empty.  That’s because I took this picture as we were removing everything in preparation for the arrival of the new carpet and furniture.  Believe me, there were times you could barely see the carpet for the mess I had in there.

Now, however, the room looks more like this…

See the router on the left side of the credenza?  That gives you a sense of the scale.  The credenza alone has more surface area than the old desk.  The desk, credenza, and bridge combine to give me more than triple the work surface area.  And if that isn’t enough, there are drawers!  And file drawers!  And storage in the hutch above the credenza!  Woohoo!

And if that still isn’t enough room, I also have bookcases and a lateral file cabinet!  Ah, life is good.  Cool

That’s it for the home front, but definitely not all that’s been going on.

Last week, Baby Bird came back to the nest for a visit.  And since she had some time, and we were planning a trip to visit with my parents, we got to take her with us to surprise my folks.  Me, my wife, our daughter, and the two furry kids rolled up for the invasion of the parents’ cabin on Friday.

The dogs love it up there (my wife calls it “doggie heaven”), since there is so much room for them to run and play.  We were able to unplug and relax a bit as well.  Mom and Dad are learning about the pros and cons of rural living after having lived in Houston most of their lives.  When they first moved to Oklahoma, there was absolutely no cell service, and the only internet they could get was via satellite.  Now, a few years later, they can still only get internet via satellite, but they do have limited cellular service.  Limited means that if you stand out on the far southwest corner of the outside deck, and the weather isn’t too overcast, you can get a full bar of service.  On really good days, you might get two bars.  ROTFL

But the truth of the matter is that, when you’re trying to get away from it all, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  And they do have a land line, so it’s not like they’re completely cut off.  All in all, it’s a pretty nice little setup.  They’re working on growing some of their own veggies – not much, but a little spinach, some peppers and tomatoes, a few herbs, and other odds and ends – and are learning what grows there, and what doesn’t.

Speaking of what grows there, there is a mystery plant growing up the trellis under the deck that had us all stymied.  It started growing where my parents had started some morning glory, and at first they thought that was what it was.  It pretty quickly became evident that it wasn’t, but no one seems to know what it actually is.  Here are a couple of pictures, and if anyone can identify it, I’d be really grateful.  My curiosity just won’t let it go.

The first picture here is a shot of the plant from about ten feet away.  This will give you an idea of how the leaves look and how it grows up the trellis.

The second picture is a closeup of one of the odd seed pods that grows on the mystery plant.  As you can see, they’re pretty large.  My dad and wife cut one open to see what was in them.  I wasn’t there, but they said the pod was filled with long, silky fibers, each of which had a seed about the size of a fingernail attached to it.

I haven’t really researched it yet, but thought I would just ask if any of you have ever seen this before, and if so, what the heck is it? Question   Because I have never seen such a thing, and the writer in me is automatically wondering, will our next visit to see my parents begin with my folks at the door, or pod people?  Smile

All right, that’s enough for now.  I really need to get back to work.  So long for now, and stay safe.  Bye