Hey There Spring and News

It has been a wet, wet, moisty wet first season so far, but today the sun is out, and there is a seasonably light breeze blowing over the island. I’ve spent so much time focusing on my house, my yard, and my head that my writing has necessarily taken a back burner.

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For a health status updates, you should know that I now, after years of searching, have a diagnosis that isn’t one of exclusion. Functional Neurological Disorder which is, in equal parts, both a blessing to know and an epic gut-punch to know about. I guess my dreams of becoming an internationally renowned opera singer are on pause, unless or until stuttering with a growl and facial tics ever comes back in vogue.

For somewhat obvious reasons I’ve yet again missed an opportunity to submit to Clarion West, but I will remain sanguine about it and hold onto all the work I did for submission until next year. C’est la vie n’est pas? At least I didn’t have a stroke.

What I’m working on:

Currently, I’m two chapters into a short-ish story about engineered genetic specialization as a sort of currency set in the caldera of Mount Olympus. The title eludes me at the moment, but I’m having lots of fun with it. I’ve also forged on with a couple of novel-length outlines which include “Friend of Bees,” “Winter City Above the Clouds,” and re-writes to “Distance.”  I’ll pick all of these up when I’ve got the short done or when I’m stuck on the short story.

What I’m reading:

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything review-y, but I should probably pick that back up again.

I’ve just finished the complete audio set of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Series. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate a copy of Sharpe’s Skirmish, but I have and have listened to all the other stories in that extensive series. Add to this, I’ve been entertained. It’s always a bit of a soap opera, but I guess I like that and Cornwell‘s action scenes are a study in the best way to write those sequences.

Also, I received a recommendation for “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell as a colonization space opera that’s going to make me think. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through the audible version of the story, and there have been a handful of reflective moments, but I’m not giving this work the whole can of beans.

Finally, after reading Tobias Buckell’s multi-nominated work “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” I decided to dust off my cover of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig. Both of these are worthy reads, but for different reasons. Although, it is my opinion that they’re improved in juxtaposition.

What’s next:

Bees, garage door, more painting and work on the van to name a few big projects. I’ll be headed over to Puget Sound Overland and Coffee at Mule Expedition Outfitters on the 28th of this month with my van to talk about overlanding and maybe find a full-length gear shelf for my roof. Also, I’m going to try to get to the coffee shop at least once a week for some writing time. Likely Wednesdays, but it will vary.

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Why so quiet?

Heyya friends,

This is a broad and potentially ranging post, but it should cover all our bases. At the end of last month, I experienced some sort of neurological event. I’ve been in and out of the ER now, probably more than met the annual deductible for our family, and, wow, still have no diagnosis.

Add to that heaping pile, I’m experiencing a problem with my speech. Aphasia, I can read, write and understand pretty much everything, but my mouth is having a difficult time making the words.

Yes, there are precursors of this issue in my writing. I’ve never been able to spell, and sometimes my mind sort of goes blank in the composition of a sentence or word and what comes out is a jumble of jibberish. Anyone who’s ever taken the time to edit for me knows this all too well. Thank the gods above for editors.

And yes, I’m way behind on my writing goals for the year. Go figure.

 

rePatreoned

 

Inspired by a couple of other artists who’ve used the new year as an excuse to put some polish on their Patreons I’ve done the same. It’s an imperfect system, sure, and there’s every possibility that the company will again pull the carpet from underneath creators, but it is also a direct line to readers. Add to this that there doesn’t seem to be any other similar platform my choice is easy.

Income from writing is excellent. However, that’s not really the point. This year what I’m much more focused on is finding people who are willing to give me some of their interest. Since leaving my comfortable salary position back in 2013, I’ve made about as much forward progress as I can manage on my own. I need some outside direction, someone standing in the audience who can tell me when I’m missing my marks. That’s why I’m going back to Patreon. I’d love to see 100 $1 supporters, all with strong opinions.

Over the past five years, I’ve been lucky. A handful of my stories have been published in some small press locations. Reviews, even the negative ones, have become a sort of ambrosia. By completing that feedback loop, they feed me.

In the same way that applying to Clarion West will allow me to leverage my desire for that validation while becoming a better writer, Patreon will be another avenue to reach readers. I’ve just got hustle a little harder to make it work.

“When the situation is hopeless”

“When the situation is hopeless, there’s nothing to worry about.” Perhaps, no finer more farseeing words exited the pen of Edward Abbey. Were he clairvoyant, I’d like to imagine that he was looking into his crystal and seeing the entirety of 2017. Four nuclear powers pointing missiles at the US, a cartoonishly ignorant power monger at the top, and who could forget his herd of self-serving oligarchs eagerly sniffing each and every pile he drops in the hopes of coprophagic satisfaction.

For me personally, things haven’t been much better. This year I struggled with universal rejection, hardware failure, and a double helping of pneumonia. In fact, we’re ending the old year pretty much as we began it, mild secondary infection threatening to take over.

But, I ran across this bit of wisdom this morning. Chuck Wendig’s twitter thread is worthy of eye time, but the gist of it is contained neatly in this bit below.

So, without further adieu, let us proceed into the new year without self-doubt.

A Summary

Writing

Not a great year for me, not even a good year, but let’s examine the better bits. First, all of the rights for short stories save LUMP that I’ve written for Samuel Peralta’s Chronicles series have now reverted. LUMP will never revert, as it’s part of a Kindle Worlds series, so don’t hold your breath if you think I’ll release this one as a sci-fi snack. Just belly up to the bar and plonk down your hard earned cash ($3.99 USD). The rest are mine and given the opportunity and some retooling may become part of an anthology. So yeah, right!

Word count wise 2017 was a box of rocks. Not including this gem, I’m standing tall on 40k and change. I know I’m not counting a bunch of things I have written this year, namely all that stuff I banged out on my phone during my summer long laptop free period, but honestly, there’s not an easy way to count those so they’re lost. Let’s move along.

I have spent some quality time retooling. I hired Crystal Watanabe to look at “Ser Pan Comido” from Galaxy Chronicles. I’ve got her notes and have been thinking about what to do with this story.

Finally, I’ve let my writing discipline become soft. This is my own damn fault and furthermore, I’m the only one who can fix it. Instead of writing every morning, I’ve gone weeks at a time without sitting down for some wordsmithing. The longer you don’t exercise that part of your brain, the harder it becomes to exercise that part of your brain. I can attempt to solve this with equal parts better sleep hygiene and consistent scheduling.

Reading

This year I have actually read a metric crap-tonne, although you wouldn’t know it if you followed my statistics on Goodreads. Lots of magazines (High Country Times, Mother Jones, and of course plenty of running and trail nosh), plus a fair amount of books from the library. Right now I’m creeping through the complete works of Colin Fletcher and earlier this year I focused on Jack London. Add to that stack new releases by a bunch of SFF authors who I follow and that pile of paper is starting to look substantial. I guess I’ve needed an outlet.

Health

Ouch! This year has been a struggle. Admittedly, I haven’t made it much better for myself. The big reveal happened this autumn when we determined, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am now allergic to wheat. While this has all but eliminated cookies from my diet, I am learning to live with it. My weight has stayed steady at about 190 lbs (86.5 kg to be exact), but relative to my goals going into the year that’s an unacceptable outcome. Okay, I can cut myself some slack here. Two pneumonia infections and a summer of smoke made breathing a challenge and that’s one of those necessary components of any exercise program. My diet isn’t … bad. It could be better, but there are plans.

Finances

Yep, I’m still making buttkiss for income. This year my expenditures will far exceed my income. I could take this as a reason to feel self-doubt, and in fact, I have felt this way, but today? I’m feeling like fuck that shit. On the positive side of things, I am rid of the Prius. The great soulless elephant of this modern age, an icon of my liberal guilt, has moved on to a new owner, someone I can hope commutes to and fro on a daily basis. I’m running bio-diesel and while the Delica isn’t nearly as fuel friendly it also won’t tie me to a tremendous debt. Next year I’ll be able to knock out much of what I owe to The Man while simultaneously going on trips into the Cascades and beyond. While I am still a grateful dependent, the bar to self-sufficiency had been lowered.

Family

My chief concern this year has been my ever-suffering wife Tess. Aral and Justin seem to be doing well, growing and exploring, seeking adventure, looking to the future, acting on civility and that means I’ve been a successful parent. But I worry that I’m not nearly as socko when it comes to supporting her. I need to sit down and think about what I can do to become a more effective partner. I know, I need to become healthier so that I can complete projects and general maintenance, but beyond that, I’m going to need to acknowledge my shortcomings.

What to Expect

Writing

  • I’m going to rewrite Fire Weather from scratch. Yep, the concept is sound, but the first draft is rough. Its edges are so sharp that every time I review the manuscript thinking I’m going to rework what’s there I come away bleeding. So, 70k words for the waste bin and do again
  • I’m going to apply to Clarion West. I’ve already assembled my application packet and the only thing preventing me from sending it away is that tiny bit of lingering self-doubt that it’s not good enough to get in. You throw the dice, you hope for the best
  • I’m going to write three new short stories in 2018. All three of these will be extensions of my GOAT character Murray Biyaal
  • I will investigate going back to school and potentially apply to University
  • I will hire an editor and develop a long-term relationship with the same
  • Write and publish five ultralight backpacking articles

Reading

  • Finish re-reading the Colin Fletcher bibliography
  • Re-read the Edward Abbey bibliography including the semi-autobiographical stuff
  • Re-read METAtropolis series of anthologies
  • Read Terry Tempts Williams’ longer works
  • Read the complete works of Wallace Stegner
  • Renew my commitment to the discipline of writing

Health

  • Two significant bicycle tours
  • Walk every day!
  • Backpack the Wonderland Trail
  • As much backpacking elsewhere as I can reasonably cram into my life, including overnighters.
  • Walk some more, much more!
  • Lose some weight
  • Continue not eating wheat despite feeling like an annoying cur each and every time I look at a menu

Family

  • Finish the projects which obscure my house
  • Figure out a way to take a vacation WITH JUST MY WIFE!
  • Find new and interesting ways to be involved in Aral and Justin’s educations
  • Play significantly less HOTS, use that surplus time to focus in on my family
  • Restart reading aloud at night ritual with my family
  • Disengage from social media that neither informs or improves me

Travel

  • Use my van for the reason I brought it to North American from Japan. Use it!
  • Rebuild my backpacking kit a skill set so that I can get out on the trail
  • Get permitted for Wonderland
  • Look at some PCT section hikes and both Lost and First Coast hikes
  • Fill up my Instagram account with lots of new images from all my travels

Okay, so I’ve raised the annual cairn. I’ve looked back down that path as it crossed a clearcut of a year as honestly as I dare. While not perfect, it’s a distance that’s been traversed. My head is clear and I’ve laid out where I intend to go next year. Whatever your plans for the new year, I wish you the best of luck.

Hallelujah

I can’t let this slide anymore, nope, not going to do it. Seriously, is the pantry of Xmas songs so picked over that we have no other choice? Since the season rolled over me like an elephant in bed and commercial establishments began playing themed music I’ve heard plenty of annoying stuff. Everything from that sparkly, jazz-hands rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite that gets more airtime from its grave than an extra crawling across a set on The Walking Dead to the creepier version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” featuring Michael Buble, I’ve grudgingly endured them all. But if I know anything, the one place Leonard Cohen’s classic existential crisis “Hallelujah” does not belong, it’s in anyone’s festive Xmas mix.

Apparently, the A cappella band Pentatonix coopted the song sometime last year, and some flunky of an audio engineer saw fit to slap lyrics “All I’ve ever learned from love/ Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you” rendered large and in a major key across everyone’s generic, seasonably mandated musical consciousness. What’s next? Black Flag sings “Jingle Bells” or maybe the holiday remix of Drowning Pool’s “Bodies?”

Invigorating

I just spent an hour wandering around one of the many island beaches we have here on Vashon taking pictures and wallowing in the autumn weather. Thick gray clouds, chilly air and the umami scent of big leaf maple detritus decomposing. Consequently, I’ve got sand in my shoes and a song in my heart.

 

My New Old Van

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed a number of strange vehicle pictures creeping into my feed. If you know me at all you know that my superpowers have a weakness. My dumb ass just can’t stay away from old vans. Vanagans, microbuses, pretty much anything that looks like it was designed to roll over Martian sands. Well, I’ve gone and bought another one. This time the king-daddy of vans (IMHO) a 1991 Mitsubishi Delica L300 Chamonix Space Gear.

Mine began its life in Kyoto, Japan where, apparently, it spent most of its early years sitting in someone’s garage. It’s 26 years old and has appreciably very few miles on the odometer (81,000 when it arrived). Most systems in the vehicle resemble their state when new, although since I received it I’ve uncovered some minor issues.

Right now the biggest outstanding problem comes from it transportation. After months making its way to the Pacific North West, on the last day it was inbound, the driver of the truck it was loaded on drove it into a low-ish overhanging tree in Bellevue.

The good-ish news is that I’ll have it in the body shop next week to see how much we can unfunk.