Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just Keep

I felt sorry for myself earlier this evening and drowned my sorrows for a while. This is normal.

Given that I boldly stated that I was essentially a happy person a couple of days ago,  it's time to resume that most fleeting and desired state of being. The event that caused the down feelings is gone, the feelings are past and hey - it's a new day tomorrow.

Sometimes it's easy to move forward and sometimes it's not. That slope is slippery and if it's been raining then the possibility of a terrible mudslide makes moving forward an adventure, doesn't it? It wasn't the two beers per se, but the time spent sipping them that allowed the feelings to pass. Time is the cure for the I don't wanna do this any more blues.

For me at least. In this case.

Still, frustration will dig its grubby little double-barbed, rusty hooks in if I let it. Can't do that. Gotta let it go like water off a duck's back.

Don't let the bastards grind you down. Punch back. Kick hard. Stab for all you're worth. Never give up. (Never surrender!)


Tomorrow before sunrise I stand, ready to be knocked down again. C'mon, who's with me?

The Pile

The desk is calling to me.
Good ol' Chuck Wendig popped into my head this morning on my daily walk:

Finish your shit.

But I have, I tell the ghostly voice in my head. I've got a novella, a novel, three or four short stories that are done. The drafts are finished. They're almost ready to go out to my trusted beta readers.

Fiiiiiniiiiishhh yoooooouuuuurrrrr shiiiiiit.


He's right. He caught the 'almost' I threw in there. I've got the write as fast as you can part down. I'm pretty good at that. I've even got editing my stuff into a readable draft covered. But actually 'finishing', meaning taking that story to a level where it's really ready to run naked out into the world, well - that I'm not so good at yet.

This requires a good deal of focus. What gets in the way are all the other ideas that have been waiting patiently in the green room of my head to get on stage. They're all clamoring for time in the light and time is the commodity I have little of. Of course, that's an excuse. I could find more time to write if I watched less TV, spent less time noodling around on Facebook and Twitter and playing Words With Friends.

All my excuses suck. I guess I haven't figured that part out yet.

Time to finish my shit.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


It seems to me that there's a larger disconnect in the Amazon v. Hachette brouhaha than just books. I may be delusional in the end, so bear that in mind.

The online world is so programmed to shop at Amazon first that it appears - and this is with only minimal research - that there are no successful self-publishers who have not used Amazon. Hybrid authors also offer direct from their websites DRM-free PDFs of their books but they are also listed on the online giant's books pages. In short, Amazon is the be-all, end-all online shopping experience no matter what anyone wants to believe.

This isn't Amazon's fault. It is one of their successes but it troubles me. With the demise of locally-owned video, record, and book stores over the last 15 years as well as the desire of people to shop without pants, we are heading for a scary future ala Wall-E with the online behemoth standing in for the Buy n Large Corporation.

A lot of control is in the hands of Amazon. It dominates in a way that has been forecast for decades, eating up small shops and sites and developers with impunity.

And I'm part of the problem, too. I acknowledge that I've bought a great deal of merchandise from Amazon because the discounts were too good to ignore. The convenience they offer is intoxicating and I've often bemoaned the loss of local book stores and music stores. I miss talking to the staffs at these places who would get to know me and my tastes a little. They were so much more fun than the "Other people who bought this also bought..." lines at the bottom of every page I visit on Amazon.

In the end, Amazon should just be one more retailer in a world filled with retailers. It shouldn't be the one-stop shopping experience that even grocery stores have tried to be. It's good for people to move about in the world. Yes, we're busy but to be honest we could probably spend less time watching streaming tv and film, right? Would it hurt to analyze how much screen time one spends each day?

Maybe priorities are skewed. Determine what's more important. It's up to the individual. For my own part, I don't want to be essentially confined to a moving chair on a star ship looking for a new planet to ruin. Maybe I'll spend more money on particular items and maybe it'll take longer to get to me if I buy online. That's okay. I don't mind.

Because I'll try to support creators I like as directly as possible. If someone chooses to self-publish and offer their stuff directly I'll try that first. Then I'll head to other online retailers than Amazon.

Or maybe I'll have to put on some pants and head out to a bricks and mortar store with real live people in it. What a concept.

Monday, August 18, 2014

From the Glad to Be Alive Dept.: One Year Later

(This post contains frank language that may offend some delicate, shell-like ears. That's your warning.)

This week last year I nearly died.

That's not an exaggeration. Every doctor I've talked to ever since has remarked at how close I was to dying. At first I was all "they're just saying that" to "holy shit it was way worse than I thought" to "how the hell do I avoid this happening again".

I'm not going to preach to you about taking care of yourself. You'll either do that or you won't and I don't judge you one way or the other. I will only point out that if you sit for more than an hour you need to get up and walk around. And that the 10,000 steps a day thing isn't bullshit.

The update is that I weigh less now than I did at this time last year. My blood pressure's good. The ulcerative colitis is very much under control. In short, I'm as healthy as I've ever been. I am still working on losing more weight just so I can keep feeling better and better. I am diligently monitoring everything I can, changing lifelong habits slowly but surely. I hope.

And the real point of this post is look back and note the things that were warning signs. For instance:

  • From about mid-March I'd had an occasional, often really painful, stitch in my left side, like I'd been running a quarter mile at top speed. Which is something I haven't done since junior high and would never dream of doing even now. That stitch was apparently a large clot on my left side. The doctors told me that the heaviest burden was on my left. It hurt like a bastard my first night in the hospital. 
  • There were other little pains that added up and added up in retrospect. In my legs, my shoulders, my chest. I went for a walk early in May and had a terrible time breathing. I hadn't been walking in a while back then so I figured I was just really, really out of shape. I was out of shape, but I didn't recognize that sucking for air on a brisk walk over even ground should have really shocked me.
  • The Sunday before I landed in the hospital, I mowed the yard. In increments. Normally it takes about an hour to mow the entire yard and I had to stop and catch my breath four times. I actually sat down for that. Still, I thought maybe it was something more to do with my heart than with my lungs. My chest hurt but I was going to get my heart tested in two days so I didn't worry too much. But I should have been terrified.
  • I went to my son's open house at school and made it through exactly two classes. I was out of breath, sluggish and sweating. No way was I going to go up stairs. Feeling awful for missing the chance to talk to his teachers and feeling bad physically are not a good combination. I was going to the heart test the next morning. I would tell them about that night.
  • After the heart test - 6 minutes on a 10% grade - I was completely incapacitated. The next morning would be when I would go down hard. I called in sick and spent the day on the couch and then in bed. I felt the worst I'd ever felt.
Until the next day, the worst day of my life.

So I'm watching everything, waiting for those little signs to amount to something less than half what I remember from the experience before. I can't go through that again. I won't.

And if you notice aches and pains that are out of the ordinary, go get 'em checked out. Don't wait for these things to add up. Really, don't.

All this applies to every aspect of your health. Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

Finally, I've been appreciative of you putting up with all these health updates. I've survived a year beyond nearly checking out, that's enough. Things are good, stable. So I expect this'll be the final update on my health. Unless something else happens we'll return to occasional posts here about writing, entertainments, politics, or whatever may be on my mind. Thanks for reading.

I'm glad you've been here, as much as I'm glad to still be here, too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Here's some really great writing advice courtesy of NYT bestselling author Alex Grecian:

Do not follow systems that tell you how to write a book. Just write a book. Write a book every day. Always write. That's the actual system.

It was good to see that as I was contemplating actually going ahead with a new novel. I really want to do it differently than the last two which I started on November 1 in 2011 and November 1, 2013, respectively. (The 2012 NaNoWriMo book is only about half baked. It is desperate need of a page one rewrite but that's neither here nor there for now. Suffice to say it's on my list to complete.)

Whisky, notes and music. I'm all set.
All writers have at least one shelf full of books on how to write, including a couple that promise to let you in on the 'secret' of writing. In my experience, the 'secret' in those books is that it was written well enough to sucker you into buying it with the hope that the particular system contained therein is one that will work for you.

Grecian's advice to "always write" is the real secret. The more you write the better you get. All it takes is practice, practice, practice. There's no easy way to write unless you discover it for yourself.

While it's true that some of the things in some of the books on my shelf of writing advice have helped me, I've adapted each of them to my specific needs of the moment. The same things do not work the same ways twice. The constant for me to this point has been NaNo. The support of my local group has been invaluable. It's possible that I'll still be writing this book as NaNo starts, in fact it's likely. But I don't know that I'll be an official participant this year. We'll see.

At this point, I have to get better as a writer and blasting out pure story without worry - which is the point of NaNo - means more work later on. Now I want to write with distinct purpose, editing as I go along, watching for the things that always trip me up when I start editing a completed NaNo book. I have a list of those things in the Scrivener file with the story so I have them close to hand if I want to check something or think I need a reminder. Dunno if it'll work or not, but I'm going to give it a try and see what happens.

I'm gonna use the actual system advocated by Grecian and write every day. No matter how long it takes to get to the end. (Which I know, by the way.)