Tag: Writing (page 1 of 3)

Outside Looking In?

Tempe

Tempe

I was looking through CD’s this morning to find something to add to my iPhone. I wanted something mellow to listen to while walking or running. I came across Outside Looking In – The Best Of The Gin Blossoms. Sync completed and the music takes me back home to Arizona.

Outside looking in is how I feel sometimes as writer. Or how I felt as a musician. I suppose some of this feeling comes from feeling stuck along the fringe. The perpetual wallflower.

But how do we define being in or how do we define success? Success to me now means nothing more than enjoying myself along the way as I do the things I love. I would write for no one much the same as I would play guitar for no one. Anything beyond that is a plus.

Back to Arizona and the Gin Blossoms. I spent the majority of my life in the east valley area of Phoenix (Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale). There was a bar/grill in downtown Tempe called Long Wong’s where we used to walk or ride our bikes to at least once a week for cheap beer and chicken wings. Long Wong’s had a small area set up for live music in the bar section. For the better part of a year, it seemed the Gin Blossoms were playing there more than any other band.  I spent many Fridays and Saturdays enjoying their music at Long Wong’s and other local venues.

7th & Mill

7th & Mill

On New Year’s Eve, the Gin Blossoms were playing at a club around the corner from Long Wong’s (much larger venue and with two floors).  It was one of those New Year’s Eve specials where one buys a ticket in advance and the evening includes a concert, some sort of food, and cheap champagne to toast at midnight. There was a second band called August Red who should have been the headliner but oddly opened that evening, the reason unfolding later.

When it was time for the Gin Blossoms to go on stage, a local radio DJ came out to introduce the band. During that introduction, he announced the band had just been signed to a record label. Headliner explained and a few months later in the early 90s, the rest of the world got to enjoy a band from my neighborhood. Success.

I got to see them a few more times over the years. Surprisingly, one of those times was at a music festival in Racine Wisconsin. I wore an ASU sweatshirt but never got close enough for the band to notice. Or anyone else to make the connection for that matter. It’s alright. I knew the connection. I’d have worn a Long Wong’s shirt if I had one.

7th & Mill Today

7th & Mill Today

Maybe I’ll see them again. I just read they’ll be on my new side of the country in July and August. Twenty five years later and they are still making music. Yes, they’ve had their own tragedies over the years. Who hasn’t? No, they are not selling out venues they might have easily sold out in the early 90’s. Long Wong’s is long gone – a casualty of corporate greed. The Gin Blossoms are still around.

So am I.

Outside looking in? More like the inside looking out. I can relate to that.

Some bar on Broadway in Tempe

Some bar on Broadway in Tempe

Photos courtesy of me, NewTimes, & Google images

An Affair of Sorts

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Something Different This Way Comes

Two weeks ago started off like any other week. Off to work on Monday after a relaxing weekend that included checking out a vacant old farmhouse we’d noticed a few weeks earlier while out driving around country roads. There was information on one of the windows designating the home as a Fannie Mae property and gave contact information which I jotted down and followed up on once we got home. We made arrangements to see the home and property on Wednesday.

Although I saw the home and property as having potential for the cheap price, my wife was seeing the amount of work it would take to get the place up to code. She was right and we abandoned further thought on the house. That house anyway. We wondered what type of other homes were available in the county so we jumped online and started looking.

It’s not that we aren’t happy with our own place. We live out in the country along a mildly traveled county road about six miles out of town. We have a few neighbors nearby, almost an acre of land, and we have beautiful woods all around us. Sounds wonderful to most people and it really is. Our house just needs some minor upgrades and a little TLC on the normal wear and tear a house goes through. The lazy part of us thought there might be something better available. Something with more land and less things wrong.

We found a property online that was a similar distance out of town but on the northeast side. Not much different landscape than where we are now, which is mainly wooded hills, country roads and hollows, but the property had more land. A lot more land. My wife was off work on Friday so I took a half day off and we made arrangements with the same realtor from Wednesday night to view the property at 1:45.

That’s when our adventure began.

Almost Off the Grid

Fifty plus acres with a cabin and a pond the listing said. Not only a great hunting camp but a place to take the family for a getaway the listing said. Living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, sleeping loft, wired for a generator, and a wood burning stove the listing said. A covered front porch with a wonderful view of the pond and hills the listing said. Paradise.

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We met the real estate agent at the bottom of a dirt road that would lead us up a hill. We followed her up the road through very thick woods. There were two small clearings along the rough dirt road, both with homes on them. The first one looked like squatters lived there and  the second, somewhat nicer, was near near the gate to the property we were going to see. The gate was guarded by a dog that must have belonged to the owners of the that house.The realtor got out, unlocked the gate, and we all drove through avoiding the dog that was still barking too loudly and acting as though he wanted to bite the tires. We drove forward about two hundred or so yards then hung a left and drove down a grass road canopied by trees to the cul-de-sac that might be ours someday. Actually, scratch that. Cul-de-sac is not a country property term.

Cabin

Let’s take a closer look.

Cabin 2

We gathered in front of the cabin and soaked in the surrounding area.  There was a pond directly in front of the cabin and I already had purchased a comfy chair in my mind for the front porch. Or maybe it was a porch swing. We noticed three deer peeking through some cover in the woods beyond the pond.  We continued our three hundred and sixty degree view from in front of the cabin. There were two small shed looking buildings about thirty yards away and an outdoor grill similar to what you might find at a park.

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The realtor had moved on to unlock the cabin door after we all stepped onto the porch. We walked into the cabin first and instantly fell in love. There were wooden walls everywhere and stained beams overhead. There was a small kitchen to the right with a breakfast bar. A living room to the left with a large wood burning stove in the corner. There were two very small bedrooms, and a ladder to a sleeping loft above the two bedrooms. Six hundred square feet. I’ve lived in apartments larger than that in my younger years. But, size didn’t matter here. Our current home is about eighteen hundred square feet and our bedroom is four hundred square feet with a covered porch off the back. And a deck. None of that mattered at the moment.  We had already built on additional footage in our minds and added another bedroom. We were now looking at this cabin like we were going to move into it. As in permanently. My wife and I were absolutely sold on the cabin as a home.

Well, almost.

We then started noticing little things.  There was no refrigerator. There was a stove, run off a propane tank outside of the cabin.  And the sink had no running water. That was because the barrel outside that collected rain water and runoff from the gutter happened to be empty and that is what supplied water to the cabin. No running water. Wait a minute. No running water. And where is the bathroom? Or refrigerator?

The two sheds outside? Yes, one was an outhouse. The other a shed was for wood and a generator. The generator was not a secondary option for power. It was the option. There was no septic system, no electricity, and no running water. Maybe not sold now.

We walked back outside and down passe our SUV and stared at the pond. A beautiful pond that had been stocked with fish.

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We walked back up to the porch and took it all in. My focus again back to the pond and the surrounding woods and the hills beyond that. And then the realtor spoke and mentioned something about envisioning a writer sitting here on the porch working on his or her next story. Wait, what? A writer? I’m a writer, and yes, I see it too and thankfully, or so I thought, so did my wife. Back to sold. We might even be able to enjoy the seventeen year cicada invasion from this porch.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Oh how I wish.

What happened next is somewhat of a blur, but I’ll do my best.

A Ride, Dinner, Home Depot, and More Wandering

We took some paperwork from the realtor, thanked her again, and with visions of our potential new home clouding our normal 20/20 vision, we got in our vehicle and slowly turned around glancing quickly to the pond on our right and quickly back over to our left to look at our cabin one last time. Our potential new home.

No septic system, no water, and no electricity. No problem.

We estimated the distance from the cabin down the grass road before we hung a right to head back down hill. Two hundred yards I guessed. Then another two hundred yards to the gate and the still barking dog and a pole with power I now noticed. So four hundred yards post to non-existing post near cabin and another fifty to get power to house. Four hundred fifty yards.

We had’t even made it down the dirt road to the county road when words started flying between my wife and I.  It was 2:45 and we had been at the property for an hour. We were discussing downsizing. All our stuff would not fit in a small cabin. We’d have to store some of it and get rid of some of it. Mental note to get a price on a storage unit. After our tires came into contact with pavement, my wife suggested a trip to Home Depot. To dream. Get prices. Why not I thought. We had no obligations the rest of the day with our youngest  at orchestra camp. Not band camp, orchestra camp. As for our eldest, he was at home reading and can fend for himself, you know, being a college boy and all.

We decided to head to a Home Depot in a small city about thirty miles away.

During the first few miles we decided we could live with a generator short term. We could do laundry in town at the laundromat. We could get by with an outhouse during the summer. And we could fill that large drum with water. This could work. We could even put up an outdoor shower. Who would see us anyway?

A septic system, water, and electricity. Alright, maybe a problem but workable. At least through summer and most of fall.

We’d have to build a bathroom and have room for a refrigerator. The bedroom adjacent to the kitchen could be a bathroom. The boys could just sleep in the loft. Our oldest is only here during the summer and breaks anyway right? We’d get a small refrigerator to start. A dorm style one. My wife added that to our list for Home Depot.

During the drive, she started searching for prices on her phone. First, was a septic system. She found prices varied from $2,500 to $7,500. She also searched for prices on putting in a well.  The realtor mentioned a couple of natural springs on the property, not that I would know how to tap water from there. But, there is a pond so there must be water. Well prices could be around $10,000. We also have friends who have had this done so it can’t be rocket science but we could assume the worst of course. You know, for budgetary purposes. We’ll figure $20,000 to be safe for septic and water.

We weren’t fifteen miles into our drive and we had tentatively solved two problems, or at least had an idea of a plan. Septic system and water would be the most important. Electric could wait provided we got a generator. We decided to have dinner first and I would get online and come up with an estimate for power. Both a short term plan and long term plan.

During the remainder of the drive we added on a larger bedroom and expanded the kitchen. We also changed the bathroom to a laundry room and added on a bathroom to that. This would expand the back of the cabin and the left side where there was already a deck. It’s only money right?

We reached Applebees, ordered our meals and drinks, and started looking into the long term plan for power. I found out quickly it’s done by feet and not yards so my four hundred fifty yards now became one thousand three hundred fifty feet. It also became anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 depending which site I wanted to believe. I wanted it to be the cheaper site of course.

Maybe power from the grid would have to wait until year two. 57a5f094-d358-46df-9266-6d33da0c0f69_1000After dinner, we went to Home Depot. We started on the far left side of the store that conveniently had generators. Perfect. I grabbed a worksheet that helped calculate how much generator we would need, started a new note on my phone, and entered a model, size, and price. We then found a mini frig somewhere between a dorm frig and a normal frig and entered a price. We continued this exercise on each aisle looking and writing down prices for: vanity combos, vanity mirrors, faucets, shower heads, shower stalls and tub, toilet, and an electric water heater. As we progressed along each aisle, I also noticed our tone was changing. We were not only pricing these items for the cabin but making comments regarding how nice our current bathroom would look with a new vanity combo and mirror, or how nice it would be to add a storm door with a slide down window revealing a screen to the door on our porch.

By the time we got through the doors, storm doors, building supplies, and deck material, we were now pricing things for current projects we have talked about doing to our home.  Quick math said the additional money we would have to spend to do all these things for a new property would be foolish. Fun but foolish, and not part of my ten plus years to retirement plan. I won’t even get to the discussion on how we only have two vehicles out of four that could have made it up the hill to the cabin. We’d have to get rid of the Fusion and small truck and get another 4WD. More money, more money.

Our ride home from home depot had a different tone than the ride there. What were we thinking? We talked about it and brought up the idea of looking at houses in town. Close to people. Real neighbors. After an orchestra performance for my youngest on Saturday, we spent the remainder of the day looking at houses. For this, we included the kids. We did the same thing on Sunday. There were some beautiful houses within walking distance to my youngest son’s school and downtown. Some nicer than ours and some about the same. But with each house, we were finding we’d have to add a deck, or a fence for our dogs, or this or that. Still, this exploring was both fun and emotionally draining at the same time.

Not surprisingly, by Sunday evening we ended up right back where we started: our home, with all her faults and beauty and familiarity. I think we’ll put some effort into her this summer. I still have a supply list and prices on my phone.

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Our Home

 Photos courtesy of me, Pixabay, and Home Depot

 

 

 

 

Told You So, The Cloud, and Faith

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Told You So

Last weekend I lost digital information. Thankfully, not a lot of digital information. I’ve had a new laptop for a few months now so the majority of information I had on it was copied over from a memory stick. New information consisted of downloaded images, some research information, and about two months’ worth of writing. It could have been much worse. The writing was a short story that was quickly approaching novella length. Had it remained a short story, I might not have been so upset but it had taken on a life of its own and grew. I lost it and for most of Sunday, I was devastated.

Over the last two months, I kept getting messages to upgrade to Windows 10. Last Sunday I decided to try it. The first change I noticed after I completed the update was the lack of information in my documents. My first thought was what an idiot I was for not having any of it backed up somewhere else. I then had a panic attack for about fifteen minutes while sitting at my desk staring at an empty directory on the screen all while hearing imaginary voices tell me “I told you so.” It was probably a good thing they were imaginary voices or I might have flung the nearest available object toward those voices. That very well could have been a lamp, my computer, a book…

After I calmed down (yeah, right), I found a few websites that told me the files should be stored under a certain user directory and that is where I found them. Evidently I was not the only idiot to lose files after upgrading to Windows 10. I then “moved” them back to the documents folder. I had been given a second chance! For some reason, I had to reboot one more time for the install to be complete and the first thing I noticed after rebooting was the document file was empty again. So was the original user directory where I had found the missing files. I guess I should have “copied” them there. Or quickly backed them up. Hindsight is… never mind. Idiot.

I’ve lost things before. Physical things. Although I might have been upset at the time, I moved on knowing whatever I lost might reappear someday. Physical matter just doesn’t disappear all by itself. Except socks and I think I covered that once before.  When it comes to technology, I thoroughly understand mechanical things, most likely because I work in a mechanical world. Things don’t disappear. The digital world is something completely beyond my comprehension despite the fact that I depend on it for so much both at a professional and personal level.  I bet we all do.

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So, most of the tech savvy people I know and especially the IT people I work with would be asking me why I didn’t back up the data somewhere, or more importantly, why I was not backing it up each time I updated something. At a minimum, my WIP and a budget spreadsheet, both files I actively write to throughout the week. Great question and I have no answer.  It’s not like I didn’t have an opportunity to back everything up. For a few years, my wife had been urging me to back up the digital pictures we have but I always felt safe having them on the computer and I had backed them up to discs once. One day I took a look at how many digital photographs we had stored and realized the majority of pictures we have of our kids were on our computer. About a month before I got the new laptop, I bought an external hard drive and backed up every picture we had along with all our pictures from our phones. I should have backed up every directory and not just pictures.

The Cloud

There are other options too. When I got the new laptop, I opted to get a new version of Office. I looked online and thought I might try Office 365 which would continually give me access to the latest and greatest version of Office. It also pointed me towards other features I have never used: OneDrive. This is one of the advantages of having this particular package. Access from anywhere. Files and working documents stored in the cloud. Or is it on the cloud? Whatever. I was not going to use that feature.

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What the hell is the cloud? I don’t understand where I store information now and I can see the computer or memory stick or external hard drive it is being stored on. I can’t see the cloud. Well, that’s not completely true. I see clouds all the time, I just don’t see storing information there. Maybe the nomenclature itself resonates a not-so-secure connotation. A cloud is open and airy, here one moment then gone the next. Who was the marketing genius that came up with that name?

Faith

Then I had a vision. I use a cell phone. Both my television programming and internet service in my home come from two satellite dishes on my roof because that is all that we have available out where I live.  No cable, no DSL, no physical or hard wired connection other than the cables running from the two dishes into my house. I have a modem, a router, a network booster for our cell phones, something called a genie DVR that lets me watch shows I record on multiple televisions throughout the house.  I’m typing on a laptop this very moment, using Wi-Fi. I text my wife and kids all the time. I see the physical devices but I don’t see or understand how the data travels from one place to the other. But it does, and I have faith in that despite the fact I don’t truly understand it or, see it.

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My connections to information

Now for my WIP. Thankfully it was not the novel and I had a version of it still stored on our desktop computer, albeit a few months old and thousands of words lighter. There are greater tragedies right? I copied it back over to my laptop and with everything still fresh enough in my mind, I’ll be able to recover and get back to where I was. I also copied everything to our external hard drive. Lastly, I copied it to the cloud. Faith.

Lesson learned.

B

images courtesy of Pixabay, Amazon (I bought that drive so … great deal), and from mentioned drive

It’s Been Awhile – Step 3

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Sitting at my desk at the top of the stairs, I’m enjoying my Sunday morning alone time, my quiet time, although it’s never completely quiet of course. There’s the sound of forced air from our heater, my fingertips knowingly finding letters on the keyboard, cats racing up and down the stairs, and lastly, a slight ringing in my left ear from either too many years in a factory or listening to music with the volume on ten. Still, a good sort of quiet.

And for the first time in over four months, I’m writing a post and happy to have some sort of presence here again after being invisible for a while. Maybe I just needed a break, some self-reflection time, time to rediscover what I love about writing, or… maybe something else. I don’t have a good reason most likely.

So why today? I tweeted an archive post yesterday. It was a post I wrote immediately after my uncle passed away. A year ago today. Re-reading it, it got me thinking about being more focused on writing. Finishing works I’ve started. My uncle would have encouraged me to do so. So here I am this morning and feeling somewhat rejuvenated. The new laptop my wife got me Friday helps too.

Presently I’m writing a novel and another short story. Other than some research for my novel, my focus has been on completing the short story. For reasons unclear to me, it took a different direction and I’m going with it. Conceptually, I think it’s the best writing I’ve done and I’m excited to finish it up, get it edited, and release it. Then back to the beast I’ve titled November Rain.

Other news? Back in early November I felt something was wrong with me. My wife is a nurse and confirmed what I felt and pushed me to bring it up when I went back to the doctor to discuss results of a routine fun filled adventure guys my age eventually must have done. I met with the doctor, discussed the earlier procedure from October, then brought it up. She examined me, and confirmed what both my wife and I already suspected. Not an emergency but I was going to need surgery. I’ve never had a surgery.

There was a catch though. Isn’t there always? The doctor said she would not do the surgery unless I quit smoking. She would not even schedule it until I had quit for at least eight weeks. Her terms or get someone else to do it. I live in a small town. Someone else only means the other doctor capable of doing it. Or head to the city.

Tonight at 9:00 will be exactly seven weeks since I have had a cigarette. I’m using the patch. I’m on Step 3 which means my nicotine intake for the day is one third of what it was when I smoked and technically, even less because I take it off when I sleep. I have one more week on the patch then I am done.  Nicotine free. Smoke free. It’s been awhile since I could say that.

One more week on the patch. One more week and I can call and make an appointment to schedule my surgery.

B

photo courtesy of Pixabay

Right, Wrong, and the Power of Influence

Sicario

Sicario

Friday night was date night for me. My wife and I did something we don’t do very often – we went out by ourselves. We decided on dinner and a movie in a city about twenty five miles away from us. Although our town has great places to eat, we only have one theater that shows two movies and neither really appealed to me. After a wonderful dinner, a large beer for me and disappointingly strong margarita for my wife, we went to a Movie Theater nearby that has eight theaters. After living here for eight years, it was our first time there. I wanted to see Sicario. If you are a fan of Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt, or Josh Brolin, I would highly recommend it. The story takes place in Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, and Juarez, all cities I am very familiar with and I found myself trying to find markers I recognized. Only the aerial view of Juarez stood out to me. I found out later that the majority of the movie was shot in Albuquerque and the Juarez street scenes were actually filmed in Mexico City. You have to love Hollywood.

Despite being an action movie, Sicario dealt with a deeper issue that prompted a conversation between my wife and I on the drive home that evening. We discussed the ethical behavior and decisions of the main characters during the movie. Some of this was to keep me attentive driving country roads in the dark but most of it had to do with questions raised by the actions of those in the movie. I enjoy when something I see makes me think. Usually, I read a book and comment that it would make a great movie. This movie would make a great book.

As a writer of fiction, I can create fictitious characters, cities, or worlds. I can bend some writing rules to suit my own needs to create my own style. I can explore morality and behavior, leading the reader to consequences or non-consequences. I can write the past, present, or future with a mixture of actions or customs that are either factual or made up yet plausible. I can borrow from tried and true formulas of other writers in specific genres: good guy gets the girl, reluctant hero coming to the aid of those that ask, good triumphs over evil, the pursuit ends in capture, sleuth solves the crime, true love prevails, and so on.  Or if I was creative enough, I could devise my own formula that defies the norm yet still attracts readers. For the most part, I can do whatever I want to do… within reason. It’s fiction. What I can’t do is plagiarize. Why? Because it’s wrong. Period. That would be cheating. Yet we see and are exposed to cheating on a daily basis.

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I had a poster I special ordered once. There is a photographer who covers Le Tour de France who takes the most amazing pictures of the riders and countryside that fill this epic race. I took the poster to Michaels and had it framed in a very expensive frame with no glare glass. It hung on my wall for years and was an inspiration to me on what was possible when someone has the drive and determination to succeed. To win against the odds. And then it all came crashing down and that expensive frame sits in a closet somewhere less the poster that I ripped up and tossed in the garbage. Some might argue that his winning served a greater good, benefiting the philanthropic efforts he is a part of for cancer. I would argue that it didn’t. More cheating was exposed throughout the sport and I haven’t watched it since despite religiously tuning in each July for over fifteen years, not missing but a few stages of the race.

“We are more likely to cheat if we see others doing so. We tend to conform to accepted norms of reasonable behavior, rather than adhere to strict rules.” – Evan Davis

I get an executive briefing each day from a professional engineering society I am a member of. There a number of briefs regarding inventions, innovations, and contracts that involve major manufacturers throughout the world. Recently it contained a brief regarding a major car manufacturer that had cheated on their emission testing. This bothered me not only because it’s a company I have always respected but because it took a substantially large group of engineers and decision makers to collaborate and pull this off. I won’t speculate as to why this decision was made because I can’t fathom the thought that it was even up for decision. There are rules in place because society deems them necessary. If you’ve ever driven in or near Los Angeles, it’s easy to understand why (and I’m only picking on LA because it was the first city I visited where I noticed smog for the first time). It was an abuse of power by some, it was cheating, and it was wrong.

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A private email server being used by a government official. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you know what I am talking about and this is the moment I might upset a few of you. That’s not my intent and it’s not political. This is also the time where I probably need to make a disclaimer and state “these thoughts are my own” although I feel my thoughts are in line with the code of conduct paperwork I sign off on each year. I am not a direct government employee but work in the government division of a very large company. My division builds key equipment and components found on aircraft carriers and submarines in addition to equipment used in nuclear plants. Because of this, there are strict rules I have to abide by. There are procedural rules regarding everything involved in acceptance or non-acceptance of component parts and/or finished assemblies. There are also strict procedural rules regarding how we conduct business, both general everyday business activities and how we communicate and work electronically. Is some of it inconvenient? Yes, but what is at stake overrides any inconvenience. There are lives that depend on the following of these rules. My job also depends on my following the rules. This is black and white to me with no grey area so I don’t buy into anyone at any level not following the rules.

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So where am I going with all this? Back to writing of course. As writers, we have a lot of freedom to write about anything and everything. This can be through works of fiction or non-fiction we intend to publish or simply through a blog post. We can draw on the events of the past, the present, and of probable or not so probable events of the future to create a story or simply to talk/rant about something. Those events can be feel good events or they can be events we deem morally wrong, subjective to the individual interpretations we all derive from them. Throughout this process, we can play with our own perceived ethical or moral behavior in a manner that might or might not influence at all. The potential for influence is there though and with that comes accountability and responsibility. I’m not suggesting tossing artistic creativity by the wayside. I’m only suggesting, that much like the examples I mentioned above, or the everyday influences of leaders, athletes, teachers, coaches, parents, and newscasters to name a few, we all have the potential to influence. Don’t abuse that power.

People have a choice of what they can and can’t live with, what they see as right or wrong, or what they are just indifferent to. Is it always black and white? No, sometimes it is grey. I can live with grey occasionally when the argument for it is compelling enough.

Now to go punish my main character for bad decisions…

images found on google images and Pixabay

If We Were Having Coffee #12 – The Write Place

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer you today. We have a breakfast blend, a donut shop blend, a dark roast, and a Kona blend. Since many of you don’t drink coffee, I also have tea. What kind of tea you ask? The kind you drop into a cup and pour steaming hot water over. I need to learn more about tea. As for me, I’ll have a dark roast with pumpkin spice creamer since it feels more like an October morning than it does a September morning.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we got to see my son last week for his birthday. We traveled to see him at his college, took him shopping, and then went out to dinner. We brought him home for the weekend since we had a three day weekend. Coming home with us was a last minute decision on his part but he wanted to get back to school on Sunday afternoon versus Monday so he’d have a day and a half to study. We also took his girlfriend with us. When he first got home and went upstairs to his bedroom, he came down and complained that his room was a mess. My wife reminded him that he left it that way but she still felt bad.

He got to spend a little time with us, time with his girlfriend, and time with some of his friends. We took him back Sunday afternoon, along with a few supplies he needed and got to see what his dorm room looked like after a few weeks on his own. His desk area looked academic, as did his dorm mate’s. The rest of the room was organized with the exception of their beds. Apparently college students don’t make beds. I helped unpack the few supplies we got him and my wife made his bed. He walked us downstairs and we played a quick game of pool, hugged goodbye and my wife and I were home by 5:30. I think that is the first time I have ever played pool with my son. I enjoyed it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last Monday was a lazy day for me. I wrote a post then read a book the remainder of the day. Not so for my wife. She also had Tuesday and Wednesday off and had decided she was going to clean upstairs. We have two bedrooms upstairs, one being my son’s and the other being used as my wife’s “woman cave” for scrap-booking and crafts. There is also a small landing outside the two bedroom doors that has been filled with junk for years it seems. I seldom go up there. Her mom came over to help and I graciously stayed out of their way (hid is more like it).

Although my youngest has hinted that he wanted to move upstairs, we want to leave things the way they are. I think it’s important that my oldest has his room to come home to on breaks and summers. He’s dealing with enough change.

When I got home from work Tuesday evening, my wife was very excited to show me upstairs. My son’s room was immaculate, her scrap-booking/craft room was organized, and the landing was clear with one exception – it had my son’s desk. Really it’s my desk that I gave him a few years ago to give him an area to do homework in his room. The right place. It helped him develop good study habits.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my family has been very supportive of my writing. I haven’t had a designated writing place or an office like I’ve had in other homes we’ve had over the years. I’ve been writing while sitting in a recliner, sitting at the kitchen table, sitting at the dining room table, or sitting outside on our deck.

My wife’s gift to me Tuesday evening was a spot to write. The right place. The write place.

I freaking love it!

B

My Desk

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week by Part Time Monster

Fact, Fiction, or Both?

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“There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing.”  –  David McCullough

I’ve ventured down that black hole we call research.  Although I’m not much of a betting man, I would bet that both new and established writers find themselves making the same journey.  Who can blame us? Many of us are perfectionists, many of us have set the bar too high based on our own perceived view of good writing, and many of us simply enjoy research.  Yes, yes, and yes. Regardless of the reason, and there are many, research can be just as much of a time suck as social media can be. But it’s so much fun.

So why am I lost in research? Maybe it’s because I work in a world of technical exacts. Deviations from those exacts can mean the difference between failure and success.  Design changes to current products or the introduction of new products go through rigorous evaluations and testing to ensure they meet the designed intent.  I could write with a level of authority when it comes to engineering or manufacturing and comfortably blend fact and fiction. Maybe I will at some point.

Maybe it’s because I am so impressed with authors I read, and the level of factual detail they present in their writing. More importantly, the level of factual detail they include that I know was researched.  The works of James Rollins might be a good example to use here with his Sigma Force series. Rollins was a veterinarian yet writes adventure/thriller novels blending historical mysteries and cutting edge science into fictional works. He writes with such authority. Maybe it’s his fault.

Maybe it’s simply because I’m writing a mystery/thriller and I want the law enforcement procedural parts of it to be accurate. I’ve had family members, now both deceased, who were in law enforcement. I could use their help now but all I have are personal memories involving stories they would tell and our family feelings about those stories. I can still use that but it doesn’t help with the procedural aspects. For that, I’ve enlisted the help of a friend of mine who is a detective with the State Police and another friend who is a local cop. I’ve also bought a few books on homicide investigation and have explored a number of websites that offer an overwhelming amount of information. All helpful and now I’ve become too detail oriented.  Maybe it is my fault.

The reality of it all is the procedural part of what I’m writing will probably amount to a small percentage of the whole. At some point, my research needs to be enough. I think I’ve done enough research and reached the point where I can now blend both fact and fiction harmoniously, and where there is doubt, I have enough resources available that I can improvise.  Just write…

For now, that’ll do.

 

What Does The Instrumental Say To Us?

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Back to serious writing this weekend so some quick thoughts on music and writing.

I have a lot of different music on my iPhone. Music for working out, music for driving, music for writing, and music for just chilling. This morning I am writing and listening to a playlist I’d titled – Mellow.  Songs by artists such as Van Morrison, Carol King, James Taylor, Toto, R.E.M., and Cat Stevens are included in that playlist. I also included a few songs by a guitar playing duo from Mexico probably because I didn’t know what other category to put them under.

I have a playlist called Workout/Road in which I have everyone from Creed to Iron Maiden. It’s mostly comprised of hard rock.  Power music. I do however have one instrumental on there: Orion by the group Metallica.  I liken the instrumental to art or poetry in that it says something different to all of us. This song for example, would be a great backdrop in a book trailer for a dark thriller. The beginning of it speaks of a determined pursuit while the complete shift in the middle speaks of some dark question answered in a not-so-climactic way. Maybe the finding of a body in a deserted cabin deep in the woods that only leads to more questions and/or pursuit? That’s my interpretation and it suits my current WIP.

There is another version of this song, performed by Rodrigo y Gabriella. If you love guitar music, these two are amazing. I happened to listen to their version of the song this morning and it said many of the same things to me although in a much softer, less powerful way and with a Latin twist. Maybe a dark thriller that takes place in South America or Spain? It could work.

Same song, yet two different feelings on interpretation when it comes to levels of darkness, pursuit, and scene setting.

How about you, do you use instrumental music for inspiration?  What can an instrumental say to you ?

 

 

 

Enjoy,

B

 

If We Were Having Coffee #7

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If we were having coffee, I would only have a breakfast blend to offer you today. I’m having coconut creamer in mine. I never knew coconut creamer existed until the other day when my wife brought some home. I think I like it.  I wish I could offer you a new coffee we have been drinking over the last week by Lavazzo. It was an Italian Blend and has to be the best coffee I’ve had yet in our Keurig. It’s gone now and our local market is already out of it.

It feels good to say hello this morning because I haven’t posted in a few weeks.  The week before last, I worked in Houston for the entire week and had a lot do there in a short amount of time.  I got there on Memorial Day and was there for all the big storms and flooding. I was fortunate that the only flooding I witnessed was an underpass near my hotel where two freeways intersected.  A slight detour for me the first morning of work was my only inconvenience.  So many others there weren’t so lucky.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I got back in time to see my youngest son play baseball on Saturday and a county scholarship event for my oldest son on Sunday. I’ve traveled enough to know I should leave a day buffer for important events.  There was a second scholarship event at my son’s high school on Tuesday night this week and between the county and local scholarships, my son did well.  He won three different scholarships. The one I was most proud of him for was the one awarded to the top two girls and top two boys of his graduating class.

We live in a small community in one of the less affluent counties in New York yet between the county and his local high school, we witnessed well over three hundred thousand dollars being awarded to kids. At just his high school, almost fifty percent of his graduating class received something. That is amazing and a continual reminder to me of how our community gives back. We are truly blessed.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I’ve been making time to read but haven’t been writing for the last month.  There’s just been too much going on. I’m OK with that. No self-imposed deadlines to stress me out.  I will make time in a few more weeks after my son’s graduation.  I have a short story to wrap up and send off to my editor than back to work on my novel.  I read a great article on the plane last week about outlining and decided to try a few of the author’s suggestions. Winging it has been somewhat of a departure from my technical training (day job) and I can see where a little more structure could save me time. Even with an outline, there’s always room for creative tangents.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I need to cut it short today because I really should mow our yard. I would put it off until tomorrow after work but the forecast is for rain. I love sitting on our back porch during the rain and there’s just something about a freshly cut lawn that enhances the experience. Everything is so green right now and the woods behind our house are full, leaving only little openings where we might catch a glimpse of a deer or two. Birds are another story and this time of year we see, and just as importantly, hear so many. I’m not a bird watcher but I am starting to become familiar with their chirps. I think I successfully talked back to one the other day. Well, at least in my mind it was a success.

I’m also taking the time today to sit down with one of my son’s classmates who is also a dear family friend to us.  Just a little guidance through the whole college application/financial process to help her see how it’s very doable. Thankfully I’ve learned quite a bit about this over the last seven or eight months and she still has time.

I hope you have had a wonderful weekend!

Until next time…

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week bPart Time Monster

Over 110 Million Copies in Print

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What writer wouldn’t want to see that blurb in their bio along with #1 New York Times Bestseller next to the title of their latest book? To the average writer, the reality check of this happening might rank up there with winning the lottery. But yet the writer continues to write.

I’m thinking about this because I just finished a book a few weeks ago by David Baldacci. On the back cover I happened to see the “over 110 million copies in print” comment.  Yet the following week, I found myself reading a book by a much lesser known author. There’s no mention of how many copies in print or #1 NYT Bestseller, yet I enjoyed it as much as Baldacci’s book.  Wait, did I say as much as?  To be honest, I enjoyed it more and left her a review that stated that.

For the last year, I have been reading a number of books by authors most people have never heard of. Some are indie authors while others are represented by smaller publishers. I have found most of these authors through social media and a few were found in the bargain books section at Barnes & Noble. In between reading popular authors such as Baldacci, Silva, Kellerman, Rollins, and Gardner, I have found authors like Dena Rogers, E.L. Wicker, Lori Lesko, J.S. Snow, Wendy Tyson, C.L. Pauwels, Mark Rubenstein, Brendan DuBoise, J.D. Ludwig, and the book I just finished reading last week by S.S. Lange.  As a reader, I’ve enjoyed reading every author I just mentioned. Famous or not.  As a writer, I am inspired by all. Famous or not.

I tend to use music, art, and sports analogies when trying to express my thoughts.  I might do that more than I should but those particular arenas are enjoyed by many and at some level, I would hope, familiar to most.  So my thoughts on music, art, and sports? Some of the best music I have ever listened to might have been in a bar or on a street corner. Some of the best art I have been privy to appreciate has only been seen by a few. Some of the greatest sports moments I have witnessed were at the amateur level or with participants just competing for the love of the sport.  To me, it’s always about passion and sincerity and that performance will always shine; a permanent marker in my mind.

I can say the same about the written word.  There are some amazing writers out there and I am grateful to have experienced their work whether they’ve sold 110 books or 110 million books.

So take in a good bar band, explore a starving artist fair, or watch an amateur sporting event. And while you are at it, discover a new author.

Congratulations to the following authors who have new releases out within the last few weeks:

  • Paige Randall (@ThePaigeRandall) who can be found HERE
  • Wendy Tyson (@WendyTyson) who can be found HERE
  • Lori Lesko (@LeskoLori) who can be found  HERE

Until next time…

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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