Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bow, Book, and Sword

I haven’t been posting… because I’ve been busy.

 

Book

I’ve been coming to terms with the setting of my current novel, and reworking things so that it feels alive to me. For instance, since I’m writing about a place very much like Ancient South China, I’ve been learning a lot about rice and paddies, and really focusing on experiencing this place on a visceral level.

I had gone down a path of too much book learning about the subject, which really means I wasted a lot of time taking notes about useless stuff. None of my notes make it real. I need to see it, smell it, taste it in the back of my throat — then I can make it feel real.

This means not a lot of forward progress, but what I do have is much more satisfying to me, personally.

 

Bow (for Amtgard, the swords and sorcery LARP that I play)

Drills every day last week. Speed-nocking, arrow gripping, speed pull, rapid target acquisition. I am in an apartment still, so no target practice; this means my accuracy is likely crap. But, by god, I will be able to nock, grab, pull, pick a target, and fire fast. 

I still only have one arrow, but hopefully that will be fixed soon.

 

Sword (also for Amtgard)

Lots of sparring and block/strike drills this week. 

The park held a mini-tournament this weekend. The format was “Ironman”, also known as “Bear Pit” — two people fight in a ring for 15 seconds. Whoever wins, stays in, and the next person in line goes in to fight. Wounds are not healed between bouts. Overall time limit was 30 minutes, I believe. 

I came in second, and I could’ve come in first if I hadn’t made a couple of stupid mistakes. My longest streak was 6 kills in a row, and I had 29 kills total. The winner had 34, which is closer than it sounds. I lost my place in line (and thus my turn at winning and staying in the bear pit) twice, and it would’ve been a lot closer if I had been paying attention. 

My left shoulder is now killing me, due to overwork.

—-

Also for sword:

Three top level Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) coaches from mainland China visited my Kung Fu school on Thursday. Really amazing to see 60 and 70 year olds move with lower stances, more fluidity, and more suppleness than me, someone 20-30 years their junior. 

I have lots of medals in Taiji from various national and international tournaments, but these people were much better than me. They were really doing Taiji. I don’t know quite what I’m doing, but it’s obviously not Taiji yet.

 

Recovering from the house fire: stage 1

Since there is a high likelihood of both us and our insurance suing (redacted), the house rebuild has been delayed for legal-related niceties.

We’ve finally started interviewing custom home builders, and it’s like a game of pick your poison. One guy is really expert on building techniques and city code, but has the bedside manner of an axe murderer. The other guy is nice, but everything he wants to build is against code.

The delay also means we are chewing through our housing allowance far too fast, especially since rebuild always go over time and over budget. The company that’s supposed to converge all of this for us is also overcharging. They’re only supposed to get 15 percent commission, but somehow this crazy overpriced $3000 per month hotel room is costing us an extra $1000. At this rate we’d be on the streets long before the build was done.  So now we have to find out own apartment and file manually for reimbursement.  Another headache we don’t need.

But still, it’s slowly coming together.

Feeling Old Today

Image 

Feeling a little worn out. Maybe the stress of the house post-fire is getting to me, the grind of listing every possession we owned and trying to figure out what it was worth; or perhaps it’s the slight,-pleasant-but-still-present pressure of getting the novel ready to sell that’s pushing me that little too far. 

I have not slept well since the house fire. Not well at all. I am not normally a bad sleeper, just a night-owl who burns the candle at both ends. But these days I have to be completely exhausted in order to sleep. And I’m a little snappier and grumpier than normal. I’m usually a laid back, meditative guy, so I weirds me out to be angry at all.

Still, it is an exciting adventure, too. The house fire has wiped our family’s life clean of accumulated junk, and the insurance has bent over backwards to help us, so we expect that we will have our house back soon, just a little newer and with a better floorplan than it had before.  And I’m learning things about how to sell a book I’ve never known much about before. 

Overall, I’m a little unsteady, a little unsure of myself. Inching along with all the insurance work and plans for my next novels. But hopefully soon I’ll be back to full throttle. 

Agents and House Fires and Such

As a general update, Tuesday, December 10, 2013 was a freaking crazy day:

At 11:00am, I receive an email from Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass agency offering to represent my novel. My first agent! This is something I’ve worked for years (decades) toward, a major milestone in my writing career. And she’s a great agent and a great person too. So exciting!

And then, at 5:00pm, my house burns down.

Everyone is fine, even the cats, and doing well. We have insurance, and likely will be fine. And we are holding up really well. The fire was so incredibly hungry and swift, 5 minutes either way on the timing of the fire (or, worse, if it had happened overnight) someone would be dead. From first smoke to inferno was just a couple of minutes. Six fire trucks worked for an hour to put it out, and two ambulances and just about every cop in the city were on site. We are very lucky.

The rest of it is just stuff: furniture, clothing, books, DVDs. It’s hard to get upset about that when things could’ve gone so wrong. 

Jennifer Jackson, who now represents me literarily, has a post about it here. 

Yes, we are sad about a lot of things: pictures, letters, and keepsakes, mostly. We also had my  mom’s collectibles (a vast collections of collections, uncountable reams of autographs from any science fiction movie or TV show you can imagine, rare science fiction memorabilia, records, stamps, boots, etc.), and the insurance will not come close to reimbursing us for that.

But, really, we’re looking at it as a new beginning, a chance to rise from the ashes (see what I did there?) better and stronger than ever.  

It’s strange, we’ve both had problems with depression in the past, but as long as we keep smiling and marching forward and looking for the positives in the situation, it doesn’t seem to drag us down.

Maybe that’s the real secret to happiness, huh? It couldn’t be THAT easy, could it?

Still, there are a lot of things up in the air. We’ve never been through this process before (and hopefully we never will go through it again!), so the sheer weight of the unknown is a stressor, a weight on the back, all by itself. But we are filled with hope rather than fear, and that is the important thing!

A lot of people out there feel compelled to help us because it’s such a terrifying story. Because death was close at hand. We think we will be fine, and we are not asking for help, but if you feel compelled to aid us for some reason, don’t buy us blankets or crackers or juice (please don’t!).

If we end up needing help, it will be for unexpected things, housing overruns, or build overruns near the end of the recovery process, months and months from now. 

Our YouCaring site is the best way to chip in.

And since I know everyone is curious to see what fire damage looks like, here is my shelf full of esoteric books on Kung Fu, Taiji, Qigong, and Languages (everything from Sumerian to Chinese to Sanskrit to Lakota Sioux Sign Language to Latin to Cherokee, and many in between).

 

Image

Evil plans and machinations

So… I have been implementing my newfound plot skills. I am about 13k into a new novel, and the one thing I have learned is this: Don’t be married to the outline.

For me, outline-wise, first thought = worst thought. I almost always come up with something better when I get to that point in the novel. But just to get there, it really helps to have a structure. Even if I know I’m going to throw it away.

So, yes… I’ve been coming up with evil plots to inflict upon my characters, and, when it comes time to pull the trigger, I find an even eviller one. And I think that’s the way it should be.

Wello Horld: Life Trifecta!

Hey, I’m back, kind of . It remains to be seen if this is a repeatable thing or not, but here’s what’s up with me. As of today:

Trifecta!
1) Martial Arts: I did the Yang Taijiquan 88 Long Form for the first time in forever. Felt good!

2) Writing: I wrote a 1,200 word flash piece, beginning to end. It’s a Sci Fi piece, and I normally don’t do techie stuff. But we shall see if it works or not.

3) Hot Hobby of the Month: Ancient Greek – Did 5 exercises in my Ancient Greek book.

Rock on! :)

Diary Entry, 17 Oct 2012, The Day of My Mother’s Death.

Yes, I actually have a diary AND a blog. Most of what goes up here is not personal, but I recently suffered a tragedy, the loss of my mother, and I think the only way to share that is to share the diary entry for the day. I have cleaned it up a little, given it some context, but it is generally unedited.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Up late, running behind in the morning. Come into work knowing I must get a report draft done at work for the Disaster Recovery Test that happened Sunday, so I have time to get it reviewed and edited before Friday.

Novel-wise, after reading and digesting some plot books last night, I really feel like Jesus and the Red Baron is about to come together. This causes a conflict in me, a need to do one thing and a feverish desire to do something else. Ah, the minor dramas life are founded on.

Immediately after writing the above lines, probably somewhere around 7:30am, during a break, my cell phone rings, caller ID saying it’s my mother. I open the cell phone and say, “Hi Mom, what’s up?” but a man’s voice responds. I think for a moment I’ve simply misread the caller ID, but then he says, “Sir, this is Officer (I don’t remember) from the Hawkins Police Department.” and I’m immediately chilled. When he continues and says, “I don’t know how to tell you this,” I know immediately that my mother is dead.

There is no other reason a police officer would call from my mother’s house and say those words. He continues to explain that she was found dead this morning and that they needs someone in the family to come down and release the body to the funeral home. I am not much use for several moments, all I can say is, “Oh god, oh god,” but I finally remember that her brother, Uncle Tim, lives nearby in Tyler. I then wonder how I forgot that I had an Uncle at all. I guess in shock/grief, the mind does some crazy stuff.

The second I am off the phone, I type up a careening 3-sentence email to my boss that mostly apologizes that the DR report will be late, and then I shut down my computer and call my wife. I am not thinking clearly, still, and tell her to take Sami to school. Just before I leave work, I tell my co-worker Nesbit what’s happened, and he asks over and over if I am able to drive or not. I must look shaky or staggery or something. I tell him I am NOT sure if I can drive, but I don’t really have a choice.

Nebit’s right, I drive like a madman — I’m just lucky not to hit anyone. At one point, I pull through a stop light like it was a stop sign. Future reference: Driving while crying, not safe.

When I get to my house, I call Uncle Tim, and he says he’s heading down and asks when will be there, and then I realize that yes, of course, I have to go down immediately. I should’ve know better than to put Sami in school, I should’ve known I would have to go out to mom’s house ASAP, but my brain is not working well. I tell Tim we will be there as soon as we can.

We pick up Sami Faye, throw some clothes in a paper bag, and head out for the two-hour road trip to Hawkins. On the way, I call Betty Brown, my mom’s best friend who lives near her, but Betty’s not in. Her husband answers instead and is terrified that it’s me. He thinks he will have to tell me that my mother is dead, and it’s tearing him up like a tiger from the inside. I manage to choke back my own emotions, and quickly tell him I already know what’s going on, and just have Betty call me when she gets back. Tim and Cheryl  call to tell me that they’ve left while the body is removed; Tim cannot stand to see dead bodies, and I think he should probably counted sane for that. They are at the only restaurant in town, having lunch. I ask them if they have a key, because we do not, and if the door is locked, we may be locked out. They don’t have a key, and they think the house may already be locked.

We get out there, though, and the house is not locked. Tim and Cheryl are inside, holding down the fort. The house is wrecked — not dirty — very few dirty dishes, actually, all in the sink, and a steak on the table she had intended to eat, yes — but the mess is primarily paper. Bills, statements, and junk mail going back twenty years, every prescription bottle or health supplement or medicine she bought in the past 10 years, many of them sealed in the wrapper in valuepaks but still expired. The pantries are the same: huge boxes of food and expensive teas, expired for years, but unopened and still sealed.

She was a collector, my mom, but unfortunately she collected a lot of things that were useless.

We spend most of the day cleaning the papers out of the kitchen — they’re stacked three feet high on the dining room table and most of the counters, shoved into shoeboxes, shoved into every drawer. One huge drawer overflows with phone books, all of them she’s ever received. And everywhere, everywhere, we find pictures of Sami Faye. My mom really loved her, I guess, even though she seemed so distant during visits. Like my  wife says, I don’t think Mom figured out how to be a Grandma, but she was happy to be one.

At some point during the day, my wife tells Sami Faye that Ma Jo is dead and gone away forever, and that her house is ours now. Lucky for us, Sami is too young to understand. She takes it very well, and is sure that Ma Jo will come back one day.

Sami, it turns out, loves Nick, Jr, and watches it for hours, especially this show called UmiZumi. We don’t have cable at home, so this is an unexpected blessing and really frees us up to work.

Call Steve D, mom’s retirement person, call a lot of relatives, but I don’t get to the bank before it closes. That will be for tomorrow.

The amount of trash is unbelievable. Near dark, there is an entire corner of the yard full of trashbags, all full of paper.

There’s a moment of panic in the evening as I remember there are guns in the house, and our daughter is loose. We go searching and find a BB rifle, and for a few minutes we think it’s real, so we call Uncle Tim. He tells us that if we find any guns, just lock them in the trunk of the car.

At the funeral home, earlier in the day, we sort out most of what will happen at the funeral. We will come back tomorrow to pick the urn and pay the bill. Mom always wanted to be cremated, and she owned a plot next to dad, so we know where to put her. Cremation, it turns out, is very inexpensive. Betty B doesn’t know that mom wanted to be cremated, and I am very concerned about this as she is my mom’s closest living friend. I am upset for a while, thinking maybe my mother didn’t tell anyone but me, and that I am going to be looked down on as a cheapskate and as a someone who has dishonored the memory of his parents, but Brother Bill, the pastor who lives next door to Mom, says Mom told lots of people about cremation, and to not worry about it.

We sleep at the house, bringing in the mattress of the daybed into the bedroom that was mine in my youth. We know for sure that we will stay mostly through the weekend, but we have to go back up briefly before Friday to ship an Etsy sale and get stuff for us. Still, it is hard to sleep with all the work left to do.

Book Recommendation: “Enchanted” by Alethea Kontis

Let me tip you off to the next big hit book. It’s called “Enchanted”, by a talented and enchanting new author, Alethea Kontis. Here’s the copy from Amazon:

“It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?”

This book is selling like mad, and that’s really cool because Althea is a really cool lady. I’ve only known her online, but it’s always nice seeing someone you knew from the old writer’s haunts launch into the stratosphere. Go, Althea, go!

This thing is hot, really hot, with kickass blurbs from top authors, and everything. My blog ain’t gonna make a dent in her sales, but I’ll do everything I can to help.