Weight

I’m sitting at my desk right now covered in a glossy glaze of my own perspiration. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve felt this way. Hungry, bordering on ravenous. Tired, a fatigue has set into my legs and arms. My chest still feels the burn of a prolonged struggle for air. And happy, a curious sensation that manages to exceed mere contentment. I just went for a “run.”

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My activity feed on Strava shows me that the last time I went and did this, with purpose, was early July of last year. In the intervening near-year, I’ve been seen at the ER a handful of times. Made near constant pilgrimage to a variety of doctors, including neurological specialists. Had my head scanned. My abdomen probed. My fat ass weighed. And from this, I’ve received a singular meaningful diagnosis. One that I could have probably figured out on my own had I just hit the trail.

“You don’t work well,” is a pretty good if somewhat broad summary of FND. Context being the missing component of that review. I don’t believe that I’m a particularly misanthropic person. In fact, I like most of you and even love a few of you. That said, when I’m around you all for too long there is this sensation of weight that sort of builds up on the back of my neck. I can’t shake it. Eventually, you’ll see me at the coffee shop and wanting to hang out with that nice guy you met once you’ll great me. I’ll trip all over myself, saturated in self-consciousness that makes my throat tighten and turns my words into an aphasic mess. Often, it feels like it gets worse as we chat. Eventually, I’ll slink off to my castle on this island where I can be alone.

Last night I got a call from my Cousin Chad who suggested that I just go for a walk. Chad, I did. And while I’m not cured I can feel some small fraction of the weight I’ve taken on lifting.

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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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Refactor

This morning has been productive. I did some work with the bees (corrected an issue with the installation I created … sorry girls), took Aral to school, spent some time at the coffee shop talking with friends, even made a decision regarding the usefulness of yet-another-EEG.

I think the most important takeaway from this morning are some rules I wrote for myself for my writing. Since last year’s river of rejection left me feeling all my attempts to write were worthless I’ve had a very hard time doing the necessary. Still, I’ve got ideas, whole worlds that are banging on the inside of my skull demanding to get out. But I haven’t done what I need to write any of this down and that’s a problem. I need to start writing again as a practice, but the rules I follow regarding this craft also necessarily must change. I can’t write and write only to feel like what I’ve written is a piss poor result for all that time.

New rules are written. They’re simple and the mean that my practice becomes a much more self-contained experience.

Rules to Live By:

  1. Stop seeking criticism from people with no skin IN YOUR GAME. The rule is to write what you want, what you know, and what you’ve planned as fast or slow as you can.
  2. Build the world for “Distance,” “Winter City,” and “Friend of Bees” and other stories methodically and from scratch. Share and talk about ideas only with people you trust.
  3. Begin each story by outlining its plot and understand how it fits into the timeline.
  4. Take your time, spend as much time reading/editing what you’ve written as you spend writing.
  5. Get good at editing your own work.
  6. Remember that publication is only a milestone along any story’s trajectory. It’s not a goal, nor is making money. Keep this in mind when it feels like you’re wasting your time. You’ve written books, and not a lot of people can say that.
  7. Love your stories.
  8. Stop caring so much about a world that doesn’t give two shits about you.

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.

 

Ginnungagap

This morning over tea my wife and I clicked through a new life insurance policy questionnaire. She has meant to increase her level of coverage because what her job offers wouldn’t be a flash in the pan if she left us. I’ve been avoiding the conversation for all the usual reasons.

I’m loathed to consider my own demise. I’m even more frightened at the thought of the death of people I love. I’m afraid enough that I’ve never really bothered to name these fears.

And so here we are. What this blog seems to be to me is a crossroads, a place of decisions.

“Fear not death for the hour of your doom is set and none may escape it.”

― Volunga Saga

I’ve been reading (with my ears) the Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. I’ve admired his protagonist Uhtred of Bebbanburg because of his unshakable belief in fate. Right now I’m on the second to the last book in the series, and even though Uhtred is an “old” man, by the standards of the time, he still feels the weavers’ hands on his thread. His faith in the Norns frees him to focus on whatever is before him. He is undistracted, always sharp, relentlessly moving through his own life with singular purpose.

“Destiny is all, Ravn liked to tell me, destiny is everything. He would even say it in English, “Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”
― Bernard CornwellThe Last Kingdom

I find myself wanting for that surety.

I also marvel at the Cornwell’s voice. How he deftly transports his reader into his Uhtred’s vision of the world. Past the moral ambiguity of his actions and into the faith that the Fates weave his future. Yes, I love his action scenes. Sure enough, I feel my heart pound and my fires are stoked when Uhtred stands in the shield wall or when he faces Ubba beyond the hazel bows I feel his singular focus and the accomplishment of his victory. Cornwell is a master of character. Even when Uhtred is beset by ambiguity, self-doubt, or worse remorse Cornwell finds the way back to certainty. “I touched Thor’s Hammer,” and suddenly we know that Ginnungagap will consume all, the only thing that matters is what lies before us. The enemy beyond the iron clad edge of an ash shield.

“I touched Thor’s hammer, then Serpent-Breath’s hilt, for death was stalking us. God help me, I thought, touching the hammer again, Thor help us all, for I did not think we could win.”
― Bernard CornwellThe Pale Horseman

My fears? They are nothing other than the usual. Helplessness, loss, grief, oblivion; add to this I lack faith, there is no eternal Hall waiting for me when I die. Despite this I know there is the Ginnungagap and so I narrow my gaze and touch the hilt of my sword.

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.