Monday, December 30, 2013

I'm Not Announcing Anything

2014 is fast approaching and this is the time when I usually start talking about what I'm intending to do next year. No matter how reserved I am I always say I'm going to do something and it never quite happens.

I will ask you, if you don't mind too much, to head over to my author Facebook page and give it a like. That page is building up slow and sure and there's content there that's not anywhere else. Not a lot, but some. That's where I'll announce things (when they're for sure) sometimes before I announce them here. Thanks so much. Now on to the reason I'm not announcing anything.

The last year and a half has been a creative struggle. I've accomplished some things I set out to do and not others. I could blame it on having gotten sick - and that would be valid, I was far more sick for far longer than I ever thought - but that's a cheat. It wasn't anything really physical that I struggled with. It was more mental.  A lot more mental.

Self-doubt, convincing myself that I'm no good at this. That was more it than anything else. Some of that comes from the physical. I wasn't exercising and there were other factors that contributed. It sounds like an excuse but it's not. It was a recurrence of certain --- well, let's just say that while I don't struggle with depression on a regular basis I know from experience this was related. Some of it was external but most of it wasn't.

Regardless.

Coming back from the physical illness has rejuvenated the creative juices. I have plans but I shall keep them to myself. As they're ready to launch into the world, I'll let you know here.

The other reason behind my deciding to play things closer to the vest this year is that sometimes ideas just aren't good. They may seem so right now but in the execution it may be revealed that's it's not workable, for whatever reason. I've had several things just not pan out because I didn't have the experience or reference or whatever to follow through the way I wanted. That also is mental.

And maybe it's mental in the sense that it's mad, crazy, whacko. It might be.

Nah.

I'm not crazy. I'm in a slump. Was in a slump.

Well, working my way out of it. Doing the things that've worked in the past to pull me out of it. For the moment it's no longer a downward spiral. Now I'm looking for an updraft, a thermal that will carry me back up where I need to be.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Experts

Everyone who has an opinion is not an expert. There is a distinct difference between critique and review, most especially when it comes to talking about popular media, politics and just about everything.

This is important to remember.

Especially when one is reading commentary. Whether it's a blog post, a letter to the editor, comments on another post or even a GIF on Tumblr it's essential that we all know what is considered informed opinion and what is essentially thought vomit. Critique comes from an informed opinion. Sometimes review does, too but it tends to be much more personal. Commentary is pretty much thought vomit and intensely personal to the exclusion of informed opinion.

The other thing to remember is that an expert, no matter how informed or convincing she may be, doesn't have to reflect your own thinking. It seems that nowadays it's a lot easier to let others do our thinking rather than forming opinions based on a variety of sources. This is what hurts us as a society more than anything: being lazy.

Yes, I'm trying to influence my readers to think but not necessarily in a particular way. I'd much rather that you have your own ideas and discuss them rationally, civilly, with others (or me) and exchange information. That's how we'll progress. That's how we progressed to this point.

This time of year, 'best of' lists are everywhere and they're oftentimes just recycled bits of information from elsewhere on the Internet. It's rare that there's any real assessment of the items on said lists that's new since it came out. It turns out that 'best of' lists are really just 'what I like' lists. The ones I find useful are the ones that have actually experienced the things they're listing and where the lister can talk with authority on the subject.

Right?

And lists in general are really 'what I like' more than anything else despite labels like 'essential' or 'indispensable'. So it's up to us to be more discerning in reading/seeing/hearing and then relaying information.

Let's all be a bit more honest and communicate our personal tastes in more personal ways and sound more like regular folks rather than experts.

If we exchange our ideas we'll share more experience and be stronger as a whole. Anyone who rejects my experience because it's different than his own would be revealed to be closed-minded. Maybe not as an absolute, but in that case. Again, not an expert here, but that makes sense to me.

Then we could confront that problem head-on. Accept that everyone's experience is slightly different based on any number of factors. There are no absolutes in a world of diversity. While they're comforting, they're also limiting. If you think about it, you know this is true.

As you read and share 'best of' lists that appeal to you, be prepared to discuss them with others. Exchange your considered thoughts and opinions with others who have other experiences. Learn from them, add them into your frame of reference and hope that the other person will do the same.

That would be the greatest gift, wouldn't it? To expand one's horizon.

It doesn't take an expert to do that, either.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's the 25th

I wish each and every one of you the merriest of holidays. Please be good to one another, remembering that treating others as you wish to be treated is not just The Golden Rule but the best way to be happy.





Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Geek's Christmas Tree #3

Third in the series... 





Rex on the dark side.

From the Glad To Be Alive Department: End of the Year

Take that, Death. Next time you come for
me you better bring a lot more than massive
bilateral pulmonary embolism.
For those just joining us:  Back in August I was very close to checking out. Read the details here, and updates since I came home here, here and here. All caught up?

So last week I went in for an echocardiogram. It was a much different experience than when I was in the Emergency Room. The tech talked me through everything she was looking at. Watching the valves open and close was pretty cool.

Ten days later I met with the pulmonologist who took such good care of me. She told me right off the bat that my echo looked 'pretty darn normal'. She drew me a picture of what went on in my lungs when we met back in the ER, and - well, let's just say she didn't pul any punches. It was bad. The super clot buster stuff she gave me, the stuff they give stroke patients, was the best thing she could have given me. AND I'm the only patient she's ever prescribed it for. 

At the end of the appointment, she said I was doing so well (I've lost the five pounds a month, my blood pressure is great) that I don't need to see her any more. I'm okay with that. She's great, this doctor, and she explained everything to me so that I understood. From the start my whole case was a challenge and she made great decisions. If you need a pulmonologist, let me know. I can recommend a great one.

I'm still on the blood thinners, though. I go back for another round of testing in March at the behest of a hematologist who is every bit as good as the lady doctor I don't have to see any more. The blood doc is also youngish and has the same bedside manner as she does. He explained his testing of my blood in detail, not the boring stuff, but what he was looking for and why. Which means he's able to tell me that the reason the blood clots developed because of ulcerative colitis, a condition I had ignored for nearly two years.

All this happened because I was scared of a little colonoscopy and backed out of an appointment back then. Lesson learned, I guess. 

Don't follow my example. If you think something's wrong with you, get checked out. Don't wait. It may be expensive up front, but trust me that if you wait too long, it'll be waaaay more expensive. 

I will be on the blood thinners for the next nine months, at least. I'll have to be careful and continue eating sensibly and losing the weight. The downside is that just as I've developed a routine it's damn cold outside and walking is the best thing I can do for my knees and my weight. Still, I won't give up. I won't let down the people who kept me from dying. I won't leave my wife like that. 

This, then, is an ending of sorts. The blood clots are gone and I feel great. My biggest risk now is simply a recurrence of blood clots. There's nothing else I need to worry about. Except the colitis. But that's being managed. I've been told that sometimes parts of the body just quit for no reason. Like your warranty's run out or something. 

Finally, as this post is getting long and rambly, I must thank everyone who's sent positive thoughts or reached out in any way over the last three months. Your care and concern is meaningful. I have so many friends I almost can't believe it. I love you all. And my family, jeez, where would I be without them? There are too many thank-yous to list here. I've been working on those.

All right. that's it. This chapter is going to be closed. The next one is about getting better and staying on mission to lose the weight and avoid the recurrence of The Incident. I'll update you sometime in the spring on how that's going. In the meantime I'm staying focused on writing. I've got stuff to get down and turn in and see where it goes. 

Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Random Doctor Who Thought

Because it was on BBC America this morning, I'm thinking about the Doctor's Daughter, Jenny.

During the first half of the episode, the tenth Doctor dismisses her as 'only a soldier' a couple of times. He is distancing himself from her in a way that's reminiscent NOW of how the eleventh Doctor dismisses the War Doctor.

Wouldn't it be interesting to see her return (since she can) fairly early in the twelfth Doctor's run? Put her in the TARDIS and see how that would affect things? The dynamic would be energetic to say the least. Plus it would be cool to see Georgia Tennant (nee Moffett) return.

I imagine there's a fan fiction to this effect somewhere out in the world but I don't want to read that. I want to see it on screen.

Friday, December 06, 2013

NaNoWriMo #6 post-game report


So as the title suggests, I've written during November six times. Six time I've won, which means that I've written at least 50,000 words in 30 days. Of those six 'novels' four are finished. One of those is actually a rewrite of the novel started the year before. That's the one I'm writing this year.

The good news is that I'm still writing. It's December and I've only taken one day off from writing since the end of November. That was for martinis and relaxation which was sorely needed after the intensity of NaNoWriMo.

It feels a lot like the novel from two years ago, The Cold Distance, the one that's gone through four revisions, some beta readers and is now living in the 'submissions' folder on my laptop. It's collecting rejections from publishers and agents now and I expect that'll continue into the new year. (Actually I'm pretty excited to submit the book to one publisher in particular. I've been waiting for their open period and the book was finally ready when it happened this year. Fingers crossed!) But hey, that's what I should do with it. Keep sending it out until it finds a home.

It's been a lot of fun revisiting certain characters (and almost everyone from the first book has made an appearance this year) and situations. What I'll look forward to in rereading it will be seeing how I did in the first pass, how much I have to re-write and revise. I'll also be interested to see how many passive sentences in particular exist in the draft and then compare that to the number of those offending sentences in the first draft of The Cold Distance.

Ah, this book, the second in a planned trilogy in case I haven't been clear about that, is called The Silent Well. As I'm writing I am clearing out a lot of space in my head, which leaves space for new ideas to sprout and attract pollinators that will eventually be new stories. So whether or not this trilogy is published, it will be written. Eventually it'll publish, I'm confident of that much. It's good stuff. And the new ideas are intriguing, too. It may just be that when I do finally land a contract, someone will ask me "What have you got next?" That's a good recipe for a career if I think about it that way.

So in the end, NaNoWriMo is all about getting ideas down as fast as possible and then examining them to see what's good and what's not. It's about, as my friend Dave DeHetre said in the NaNo forums, "writing at the speed that readers read".

Yeah.

It's making next year look really, really interesting. I've got plans that need to be solidified, given form and priority. NaNo helped me see what I need to do. Again.






Monday, December 02, 2013

Dead Lights

"Hulk smash!" "Don't tell me the odds!"
"You all float down here."
I love the term 'dead lights' ever since I encountered it in Stephen King's IT. This isn't, however, a post about King or IT or even what you think 'dead lights' are based on that.

I've been out of my parents' house for over twenty years. That means I've had that many holiday seasons on my own. In that time I've collected lots and lots of Christmas Stuff: lights, ornaments, stockings and all kinds of assorted junk. Stuff. No, junk.

There are three rather large containers that live in the attic above the garage during the year that come down over Thanksgiving weekend to spill their guts into my living room. Last year I acquired enough lights to encircle the entire house. Nothing fancy, just some white lights along all the gutters. Something I always wanted to do and now I can. Achievement unlocked. Leveled up.

As much as I loved having real trees, they were a colossal pain in the ass. Getting over to the Breakfast Optimists, loading the tree onto the car, sawing off the bottom of the trunk and dunking it in the cast iron tree stand. The smell was always worth it.

But several years ago the wife and I decided to switch to an artificial tree. Now it can go up earlier and stay up longer. Sort of the holiday version of Viagra, I suppose. Still, it keeps the house cheery for quite a while and doesn't require water. It doesn't drop needles on the floor, either. And the cats don't climb this one. Plus I don't have to do any searching for just - the - right - tree.

This year I got all three containers down as usual, and broke out the lights that've been on the tree for the last seven or eight years. Maybe longer.

They didn't work.

Well, there were a couple empty sockets where the Millennium Falcon and a couple other ornaments plugged in, so I put some lights in to ensure the string worked. Dammit, it still didn't light up. Maybe it was a fuse.

Except the control box was held shut by four screws with triangle heads. What the hell? I've got Phillips head, flat head screwdrivers, I've got Allen wrenches (AKA hex wrenches) and other things in various socket sets but not one implement that will turn a screw with a triangle-shaped head.

So I tried the other string. Same luck. Okay, I've got other lights. Other strings even though they didn't do all the fancy patterns and dances. They were older. Some of them left over from my first marriage. Of course they were non-LED so they had some nostalgic value despite their energy inefficiency. Plugged in one string, only half of them lit up. Maybe it was the fuse.

These I could get to and swapped out the fuses. Still only half of them lit up. Same with the other string.

Dammit. Dammit. A total of five strings of lights that either didn't work at all or only partially worked. That's a lot of space in one of the boxes. They're now in a pile in the garage, waiting to go out to the trash.

When I acquired the lights to go around the house last year I also bought some new lights. Because it's an artificial tree, it needs to have a TON of lights. It ends up that the tree is just fine with three strings of lights - two brightly colored LED strings and one string of white lights. It looks pretty despite not being as animated as it's been in the past. I can live with that.

But the dead lights have to go. Not sure if they should be recycled or just trashed. In the old days I would probably think about how to use them for an art project that I would never do. Or I'd keep them for the bulbs to use in the other strings that were still viable.

As I overcome my hoarding instincts, it hurts to see them go. Surely they could be useful in some other way?

No, the dead lights are dead lights. I just can't leave them in the garage. They have to go.

Beep Beep.