Sunday, May 31, 2009

sleep over over

Day 276 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Well the little one (well, she is actually getting to be medium sized now) had another girl over for a sleep over last night. I think they used to be called Pajama parties?

As you can well imagine, there was much giggling to be had.

I think they had a great time being together. They are still asleep as I write this. Playing with flashlights and Stuffies (their slang for stuffed animals) until midnight will have this effect on young girls.

I remember going to sleep overs myself when I was a kid. It was always great fun. That feeling of getting to play all day, and bonus night, at somebody else’s house.

And the food, and snacks, and treats and movies and everything taken care of just like magic.

What more could you want as a kid?

As adults, even though I feel like I’m still twelve or so, we have to regulate the activities and put our foot down when things get too out of control. Odd, being on the other end of this sort of thing.

I guess it’s what happens.

But for the rest of this morning, for them, it will be French toast, games and giggles.

Until tomorrow . . .

Saturday, May 30, 2009

d20 years ago

Day 275 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I just realized that the picture of me here at Twisted Mind, is actually 20 years old. Yup, I was a mere pup of 24 when that photo was snapped.

I really should update it so as not to mislead my readers too much. I don’t look a whole lot different, but I sure don’t look that young anymore.

It was the picture taken of me when I first started at General Motors, at the Battery Plant in 1989.

My career with the Motors always saw me jumping from one fire to another and somehow avoiding layoff or plant closures. The Battery Plant, where I started, has long since closed down and been bulldozed out of existence. Only a month ago I drove out to the site to have a look. The only things that remain are the access roads - the rest is, as they say, history.

I had another multi-year stint at the North Fab Plant, as it was called. That one burned down, fell over and sank into the swamp as well (okay, it sold, sold again, sold once more, closed and then was finally bulldozed and scrapped) - after I got out of course.

And now, permanently away from the Motors, I see that Monday they will be filing for Bankruptcy. I managed to make the leap just ahead of the flames again.

What a screwed up company, run into the ground by a bunch of overpaid, well, Screw-ups.

We had a few rain storms the past few days and guess what?

The sunroof in my GM product decided it was going to start leaking. The car isn’t even two years old yet. Oh, and last year it needed to have the fuel rail and injectors changed because of a design screw-up of the engine.

Yes, I can emphatically say this will be the last Motors product I ever own. It’s just not worth the screw-ups you have to deal with from their product line.

It’s freeing to know that come next car replacement time I can buy whatever the hell I want. Mazda, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, BMW - anything but GM.

What is GM’s ultimate future?

If they continue to be run as they have been run all the years I was there - they will, within ten years, cease to exist and fall into the swamps forever.

GM, I’m afraid, will go down in the annals of history as the prime example of how not to run a business.

Until tomorrow . . .

Friday, May 29, 2009

guilty secret

Day 274 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I have one little guilty secret - more of a pleasure actually.

As you know I write in the mornings, but when the afternoon comes I have some free time.

And what I’ve been doing in my free time is watching a DVD series.

Um, well, I’ve been watching, um . . . Roswell . . .

There, I’ve said it!

It is a total teen romance, but somehow I’ve been sucked in by it and the second season, which I’ve just finished, had a few really good episodes on the old emotional level. And did you know Jonathan Frakes co-produced the series and Ronald Moore (of BSG fame) also wrote for the show . . .

Yeah, I’m trying to make it sound less teeny-bopper like, aren’t I?

Fail.

Still, all I really ask for in a series is entertainment, and well, Roswell, teen romance that it surely is, has done that so far.

Two main characters exit in the second season though, so I’m not really sure how they are going to carry on in the third. One of the two I didn’t care for but the other had me saying: Noooooooo!

I really wonder if they are going to pull off an entertaining third season.

And, shhhhh, I’ll be finding out soon.

Until tomorrow . . .

Thursday, May 28, 2009

get your back up

Day 273 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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You need to back up your electronic stuff - if you don’t want to lose it.

I’ve been very lucky over the years. I’ve not had a single computer crap out on me and so I’ve not lost a single electronic file I’ve not wanted to lose.

Still, it can happen. And when it does, if you haven’t backed up your stuff - poof - it’s gone.

The power went out in the morning yesterday and I didn’t lose anything because of it. But it made me realize how dependant we are on electricity. And yes I use a desk top, and no I don’t have a power backup like I should.

So, on to what to do.

I don’t burn anything do discs. I’ve found (and maybe it’s just Windows XP) that burning is not a reliable process for storing data. The three or four attempts I’ve tried have always ended in corrupt files and crap - but I got some new coffee coasters out of it . . .

What do I do?

Use thumb drives.

I have two of them. I should maybe have more. One I use every day, maybe a few times, during my writing sessions. The other I use once a week to back up all of my writing files.

This way, if the unlikely happens, I have two copies of all my writing to plug into another machine.

Sounds logical - but you would be surprised at how many people just don’t do it.

Others have not been as lucky as me.

So, spend that five or ten bucks and get a thumb drive or two and back up your files.

You won’t be sorry the day you hear a strange crunch inside your computer and it works no more.

Until tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

lost tales

Day 272 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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This may sound funny to a lot of you, but when I first started writing stories (oh, so many years ago) there were no such things as personal computers, as such.

There was the Commodore Pet, and that was about it. I don’t even know if you could write a story using it, or only load games on it from a tape cassette.

If you remember that, you are as old as I, or are an historian.

Anyhow, what I would do is sit in my parent’s basement (I sit in my own now via computer) and write, using a pencil on graph paper.

Why graph paper?

Well, as a D&D geek (okay, still am), what other type of paper is there?

Very few fragments of these lost tales exists, probably a good thing, but I do find them once in a while when I do some cleaning of the filing cabinets.

Which gets me to thinking about my visit to the British Museum and looking through all the glass cases at other writer’s works from ages past. All hand written, and I dare say, much more neatly than my own penciled scratches.

With the advent and popularity of the PC writing is almost exclusively done now on the machine.

It’s a shame really since scratching lines on a piece of paper is quite something to do, slows down the writing process, and can give you an appreciation for how it was done before you were born.

Times change.

Sometimes for the better.

Until tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

instant gratisfaction

Day 271 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Admit it - we all crave it.

We like to do something and be immediately recognized for it. That’s why Twitter works pretty well at satisfying that type of craving.

You post something, and seconds later you get responses to it.

If you are well known that is.

Otherwise you post, and wait, and most likely never get any feedback of any sort, ever. I’ve been fairly lucky over at Twitter. I made Brent Spiner’s top ten tweet list, had some good banter with quite a few other writers, and even made a few people laugh on occasion.

And I know, ‘gratisfaction’ is not a real word. But it fits pretty much what I find a lot of our society runs on these days. Want it now - get it now - want something else right after.

Good for the Dow Jones - probably not so good for the soul.

And as usual, I have only a couple minutes left before I have to dash out the door for my daughter’s lesson.

So who from the Buffyverse is on Twitter these days?

Well, there is Alyson Hannigan, Ton Lenk, Clare Kramer, Juliet Landau, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and probably some more I’m forgetting in my rushed state.

So, if you are wanting some instant gratisfaction, pop over to Twitter and give it a go. If you are famous, you will attract hundreds or thousands of followers in a few days.

Until tomorrow . . .

Monday, May 25, 2009

the right stuffing

Day 270 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I don’t know about you, but, I know for me, finding the right pillow is one big pain in the neck - literally.

I’ve had I don’t know how many over my lifetime and have yet to find a satisfactory one.

Back when I was younger I could pretty much sleep on anything resembling a pillow and not wake up in too bad of shape. So, I would buy those bargain pillows - you know the ones that are full of lumps and after you drool on them and use them for a few weeks you might as well sleep on a sack of rocks.

After going through a lot of those, I wised up a bit and started buying more expensive pillows. But, what I found with those (which I got at department stores) was they were made HUGE to appear as though you were getting a good deal for your money. But you are not.

They were kind of like sleeping with your head on the belly of a polar bear, or some fur bearing creature of comparable size - talk about craning your neck upwards and they deformed horribly after a while so that if you didn’t get your head in just the right spot at night you were in for a soar neck.

I also had one of those goose down pillows - once. Maybe it’s just me, but I swear every night I tried to sleep on it, just as I was getting comfortable, I would get jabbed by the pointy end of a feather sticking through the pillow case. And talk about lumpy after a while. Might as well just stuff a load of wadded up socks into a pillow case - at least with the socks you would get no unintentional acupuncture.

Then the sleep gurus developed those formed pillows, which never fit a regular pillow case leaving wrinkles you would try in vain to smooth out with your hand. They looked great, especially the picture on the outside of the box showing a twenty-something female with perfect posture sleeping on one - and you got to look at her spine - literally - perfectly alighned for a perfect night’s rest on this wonder pillow.

These type of pillows are great, for about three nights. Then the rebounding, anti-deforming foam they are made from does not rebound anymore and takes on a permanent dent in the shape of your head. What you end up with then is a foam slot for your noggin, and the rest of the pillow is a waste - and you wake up with a pain in the neck. Again, money wasted.

My wife swears by a sack of buckwheat husks . . . I have not tried this so cannot comment. Do I need to comment?

My latest attempt is a lighter density foam formed pillow of regular size so the pillow case does not fit so badly and hence wrinkles are not a big issue.

Last night’s sleep went well, but this is only day one of the new head rest. I’m sure it will end up a pain in the neck after a time as well.

Maybe I should be like the monks and just use a carved out piece of wood for a pillow - or just sleep on a plank of wood with no pillow at all - or figure out the secret of never having to sleep ever again, which is the option I prefer. Just think of all the writing time that would free up!

Until tomorrow . . .

Sunday, May 24, 2009

rabbits needed

Day 269 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Our lawn looks just like the local parks in our town - full of dandelions and weeds, with a sprinkling of grass here and there.

If we could somehow import a large colony of rabbits, our dandelion infestation would be solved. We have never put down chemicals (like most of our neighbours) and plain don’t give two rat’s asses (which, strangely enough, we actually have) about what it looks like.

It does stick out like a soar thumb compared with most others though. We do have one lady so obsessed with her lawn that I’ve actually seen her on her hands and knees with a pair of scissors trimming the edges along the sidewalk - yeah, really.

I wish I could just cover the entire lawn with one of those anti-grow tarps and dump gravel on top of that and call it a day. Of course, this would just lead to water run-off problems for us.

And my clover trick only works so well. Patches have thrived but aren’t growing fast enough for my likes. I may need to buy about 100 pounds of seed and dump it on the lawn, then water it for a week non-stop to get the clover to completely take over the yard.

I really do hate lawns.

Maybe we should live in an apartment.

Until tomorrow . . .

Saturday, May 23, 2009

cosmic cubes

Day 268 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Cosmic Cubes - I know I never did - until I found a couple compilations at a local CD store with the title.

It’s a collection of different artists doing electronic trance non-vocal music, and I find it perfect for writing.

It’s sort of like Tangerine Dream on steroids; a mix between TD and electro-pop Dance music.

The only other music I absolutely love to write by is Haydn Symphonies. Yeah, eclectic may be the term you are thinking of for my writing music mix.

And yes, pretty much anything 80s as well.

So, I’m going to turn up the cubes, and get down to business.

Until tomorrow . . .

Friday, May 22, 2009

steel chalice

Day 267 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I looked for about fifteen minutes this morning for my insulated stainless steel coffee mug, the one I use religiously each morning for my coffee.

Where did I find it, eventually?

In my daughter’s bag for her Guide’s camp this weekend. If there is one thing I don’t like, it’s others messing with my holy relics - oh, and things that don’t work like they are supposed to.

Yes, there are many names for my personality type. The one starting with a capital “A” most likely comes to your mind.

And I’m all achy this morning too, helping to fuel the grouch within. You see, I played almost four hours of tennis yesterday - and I’m not 20 anymore.

And so the aches are pretty much all over my body sceaming out for attention every time I make a move. If I were to count each individual ache, I could deduce from this just how many muscles are in the human body.

It’s only 7:00 in the morning, but I feel the day is already going to be one big rush for me. I have about 30 domestic jobs that need to be done, plus my morning of writing, and it’s going to be a few degrees hotter than the Sun’s chromosphere as well.

Did I mention grouchy?

So, I’ll start at it so I might be able to actually get a few of the thirty things on my list accomplished.

Like, right now.

Until tomorrow . . .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

all she wrote

Day 266 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Well, it’s absolutely official now.

I’m out of the Motors, once and for all.

They paid me off two weeks earlier than I was expecting - which says to me they are getting ready to file for bankruptcy.

They are paying their vendors early as well, and shutting down almost half of their dealerships.

Oh yah, they are in good shape, so please rush out and by a GM product . . .

I have so much to say about the internal workings of GM, but I’m not going to say much. I’ll comment that, in a broad statement, the high paid help at the Motors should have seen this coming for, say, twenty years or so.

Instead they stuck their heads in the sand (and other places) and hoped their market share would improve.

It didn’t guys. You do know how to watch trend lines, don’t you? That was just one of way too many bad moves that compounded to the current screw up that is the Motors.

And that’s about all I’m going to say on the matter. The door is closed on that part of my life and I say - good riddance!

On the super positive up side - I’m completely free now to pursue my own goals and objectives.

So, I’ve moved from full time cube squatter to full time writer in just under two months.

And you, humble reader, are probably wondering when my first novel is going to hit the stores?

Um, well, if I get it in shape by this September, and it actually gets sold (about 12-24 months of shopping and accumulating rejects), and then gets edited and printed and distributed . . .

. . . you could see it on your bookstore by late 2013 or early 2014.

Hey, in the writing business, that is lightening speed.

Until tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

high traffic Tuesday

Day 265 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Seems like every activity our family does, outside the home, happens on, yup - Tuesdays.

I actually have three activities I would love to participate in and they all fall on Tuesday nights.

What are the odds?

Actually worse than one in seven, if you do the funky probability math, which I have long since forgotten how to do.

Let’s see. There is my league tennis (Tuesday night), there is my daughter’s baseball (Tuesday night) and the writer’s circle in our area which falls on (Tuesday night).

This is not to mention every course my wife has taken, and she is planning on taking more this year, fall on Tuesday night. If you guessed the night, you win a prize.

And my daughter’s cello practice falls very early on Tuesday, making me tired and cranky Tuesday night as it is . . .

Well, tired. Maybe not too cranky.

So it looks as though every Tuesday night I have to forsake two activities to participate in one.

Not fair . . .

Unless I can figure out how to clone myself, or get a funky charm like Hermione, which allows you to do more than one thing at the same time, I am just not going to be able to spread myself around and do them all as much as I would like.

I think if I ever organize anything for others, I’m not going to be trendy; I’ll set everything on Wednesday nights.

Until tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

hither and yawn

Day 264 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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You would think by now I could maybe write this blog post the night before the day when I’m in a big rush in the morning?

Sounds logical and practical, and I just never seem to get it done.

I ended up reading (there’s a shocker) until late last night and so this blog is being hastily put together mere minutes before I have to get out the door and take my daughter to her cello lesson.

And it actually feels like getting up too early now at 6:00 AM.

To think, I used to get up at 4:45 AM every day, for the first 5 years of my working life, and travel 45 minutes one way commute - and I handled that just fine.

Now, 6:00 AM and a ten minute drive seem, well, a lot.

I think it’s great though, as it gets me out of the house with a purpose and my daughter is getting quite good at the cello.

She could be in an orchestra (like a really good one) when she grows up. If she cares to.

Did any of us really know what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives when we were in grade school? Maybe one in a million - the other nine hundred and ninety nine million plus were too busy playing and had no clue about what the real world offered anyhow.

I sure know I didn’t.

It think I wanted to be a vet, or fireman.

Not an Engineer.

And never one though about being a writer . . .

My, how the time and tides can change a man.

Until tomorrow . . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

perilous pit of procrastination

Day 263 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I knew it would come to this.

I believe all writers reaches a point, during that long work in progress, when they start to look at it and feel the bile wanting to crawl up from their gullets, leap from their mouths and strangle that current long work in progress to death.

I’m not quite there yet, but it is getting harder to motivate myself to work on my novel re-writes these days - but I am doing it anyhow, despite the leaping bile.

There are many tales from well know authors of this phenomenon, so I’m not shocked to find myself getting bogged down a bit at this stage. Several authors I follow on Twitter are in this quagmire right now, searching for anything else to do, and cursing yet another day of re-working that latest novel for the ump-teenth time.

I think it’s part of human nature to avoid dwelling endlessly on the same thing, over and over and over again. We want new experiences, new adventures, a new something once in a while, or we stagnate.

That’s the reason, I suspect, that “Typhoon Rising”, the novel I’m currently re-writing, is starting to lose its appeal. I still like it, and think it’s good, and I know it needs to be finished soon, but the slogging is hard going now and . . . oh, look at the shiny object . . .

However, I will press on despite a lair full of distractions.

Ben Bova, or was is Greg Bear, called this moment the ‘slough of despair’ and is no stranger to writers.

Personally, I call it the ‘perilous pit of procrastination’. It’s the place you end up during a long project where you start thinking of a hundred other things you could do instead of work away, yet again, on that same old project.

I could go on and on about it, but I should stop this blog, get up my courage, take out the red pen and start re-writing my novel some more.

I am almost finished chapter nine of thirteen - and that is darn far along. Too far along to skip off and start doing something else . . . but it’s so shiny . . .

(Mental SLAP!)

Erm, so I will do just that - get back at it now.

Until tomorrow . . .

Sunday, May 17, 2009

rotten robin

Day 262 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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But not Batman’s boy wonder.

The other one, with the tights and bow.

We watched ‘Robin Hood’ starring Kevin Costner and I must report that I haven’t seen a movie this bad since, well, “Driving Miss Daisy”.

It was so bad we actually fast forwarded entire sections. What killed the movie was Costner’s total inability to act. He was absolutely awful. Even Morgan Freeman couldn’t save it though he did try, a bit.

I know I shouldn’t criticize somebody unless I can do better myself (like that ever stopped me?) but Costner was just so bad he was painful to watch.

And long. Like two and half hours of bad acting and nothing much going on. You can get away with long if it’s entertaining, but don’t try it with bad acting and dull directing.

So, don’t ever watch Costner’s version or Robin Hood unless you have insomnia bad and need to numb your brain into catatonia. If you want a fun, well acted and exciting version, go for the classic with Erol Flynn and Basil Rathbone.

Nuff said.

Until Tomorrow . . .

Saturday, May 16, 2009

that potter kid

Day 261 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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So, I’m finally reading ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’.

Yes, I’ve read the first four too. I read the first three in rapid succession back in the Harry Potter craze days - remember the Halloween when every little boy was Harry and every little girl was Hermione? Yeah, it was during that time.

Well, my daughter is reading through the books now, and I thought I would join her since she has made her way to Phoenix.

I recall my first impressions way back, after the first three. I found the first book very inventive and fun to read, then came the second, which was a repeat of the first, and the third was a repeat of the first two, and I gave up the series then.

Until now.

I’ve found that Rowling retains the humour of the first three starting with the fourth, but by the end of the fourth (Goblet of Fire) the whole series takes a sinister turn around a corner, morphing from a young adult series into an adult one.

At least that is my impression. I know Harry is growing older (one year for each book) and maybe that is the reason the tone gets darker and the plot gets thicker (with blood), but I must say I am enjoying it quite a lot.

I’m only a third of the way through ‘Phoenix’, but plan to polish the whole thing off pretty soon.

And what we have been doing is watching the movie right after we both finish a book. I think ‘Half-Blood Prince’ is already shot on film, no?

Well, lots to read and much to write.

Until tomorrow . . .

Friday, May 15, 2009

long weekend

Day 260 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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That’s what my wife is yelling for joy today, and I’m thinking (after consulting my wall calendar) hey, that’s right.

Funny that. I actually have more work to do this “long” weekend than she has.

But, make no mistake fellow practitioners of this exciting, though tortuous, art - writing is all about the writing in case you were delusional. It’s about doing it every day, day in, day out. And it is very hard mental work. Think of it as your brain cracking rocks in the prison yard . . . but the fun kind of rocks; candy rocks where you get to choose what type of candy . . .

Some writers write more than eight hours a day, every day, including holidays. I think that’s why you see them on the New York Times Bestseller lists - or the wards for mental patients. Not because they are brilliant (and some are) - but mostly because they are dogged and persistent like there is not going to be any tomorrow.

I may get to that stage - but I don’t know when.

I still think I will tap out somewhere around the four hour mark - but who knows, when I end up with a contract and a deadline, I may be working my butt off ten hours a day for weeks on end - including “long” weekends.

But during this “long” weekend, it’s time to enjoy some family time, as well as crack the candy rocks.

Well, I do want to finish up what needs doing early so we can head off and get my daughter some camping supplies for next weekend.

So, I’ll be off then.

Until tomorrow . . .

Thursday, May 14, 2009

three times a week

Day 259 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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That’s how much I’m playing tennis these days.

In fact, I can fit in Thursday morning tennis now.

No, I won’t crow on about why I can anymore.

My game is still pretty rusty, but I’m not trying to get so much better like I was before. I am getting older and don’t need to perform like a 20 year old these days.

I don’t feel that urge like I used to on the courts. I’m not even playing competitive league tennis this year. It was a lot of driving and I don’t feel like going at it like a crazy person once a week.

So I’ve gotten in the groove of leisure tennis, and it’s working fine. Less chance of hurting myself as well, and that is a good thing.

So, if the rain holds off this morning I’ll be out on the courts at 9:30 - if not I’ll still pick up my small weights and do a routine to keep in shape.

Until tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

almost there

Day 258 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I’m finding this blog a bit much, but am determined to finish this marathon despite the lack of entertaining topics lately.

Then, afterwards, I will likely post only once or twice a week - a much more sane schedule.

In the meantime, I’m trying hard not to devolve into what I ate for breakfast, or what the weather is like.

But, when you have to come up with something every day, it’s tempting.

Is talking about my lawn boring?

I’ve mentioned this before, but I hate them. Hate them with a passion; lawns that is.

My solution is to throw down more and more clover seed each year in the hopes that the entire yard with become nothing but one huge clover patch.

So far it’s about 20 percent clover, 10 percent grass, 30 percent dandelions, 10 percent dead earth, and 30 percent unknown botanical entities.

Another five years or so and it should hit the 50 percent clover mark.

That is the plan.

Today I should finish re-writing chapter 8 of 13 of Typhoon Rising.

I’m getting there.

I know what is wrong with me this early morning. I went for three multi-mile walks yesterday and played 2 hours of tennis - and my daughter is home sick today.

Puts me off my game.

Until tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

rush

Day 257 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Not only a great band, but also something I do every Tuesday morning now.

What is with these super-early cello practices for my daughter. With all my time off now (except when writing) I should see if we can change this practice time to something less ‘pre-dawn’.

Of course, it’s nothing like those swimming lessons kids have. Those may as well be evening practices for how early they start.

Still, I don’t want to complain because my daughter is progressing and getting so good at playing cello.

The things parents do for their kids.

And how their kids (yah, me too) forget when they get older.

Until tomorrow . . .

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jules jewels

Day 256 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I’m currently reading “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” by Jules Verne, and I have to say what an awesome creation it is.

It’s really old, but that does not in any way take away from the magic of this novel. Verne loves to throw in facts wherever he can (maybe a wee bit too much at times) but this adds a genuine realism to the tale.

I read my daughter “Journey to the Center of the Earth” last year and she loved it. Throw in “Around the World in 80 Days” and “From the Earth to the Moon” and we see here a writer that knew his business - the business of entertainment.

There seem to be a few things in “20,000 Leagues” that were just not discovered yet. This was written in the late 19th century after all. One thing not understood was deep sea divers getting nitrogen bubbles in the blood when rising to the surface too quickly after very deep dives. It was understood that bad things, even painful death, could occur if you rose too quickly, but the actual why this happened was not understood. And plate tectonics was as yet undiscovered, so Verne’s explanation of how the oceans and continents formed and then remained that way is kinda wrong.

But, those small things aside, Verne was a complete visionary and way ahead of his time when it came to adventure science fiction. Pure genius, and pure fun to boot.

So, if you haven’t done so, or (for shame) have never, read any Jules Verne, go and find one of the four books I mentioned and read one of them or, better yet, all four.

You will not be disappointed if you like a grand adventure tale.

Until Tomorrow . . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009

day of the moms

Day 255 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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We all came from them.

We all treated them badly at times.

But ultimately we love them, because they are our mothers.

If you do nothing else today for your mother, maybe just recall a special time you spent with her during your life.

If you are lucky enough to still have your mother around, pick up the phone and call, or go and visit.

Unless you are a mother yourself, it is pretty hard to imagine the care and work and love involved bringing up a child.

Today is payback time.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Until tomorrow . . .

Saturday, May 09, 2009

out of oblivion

Day 254 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I’m happy to report that mother daughter day went very well yesterday.

But I’m not happy to report that I’ve pretty much given up on Oblivion, the computer game.

I never knew how annoying the scaling up of the monsters and challenges were until I tried a quest at 8th level that I had previously finished in another game at 2nd level.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. When you are 8th level you get swarmed by many goblins (yah, the weak evil Weenies of fantasy lands everywhere) and they are sporting lethal weapons and nigh impenetrable armor rendering the quest pretty much impossible. Whereas at 2nd level you get fewer goblins in number and they are still tough, but not impossible to defeat and they are sporting appropriate goblin armor and weapons.

This type of scaling up makes gaining levels in Oblivion of absolutely no use because the entire world levels up right along with you. So, it’s possible to finish the game without ever leveling up and the challenges would remain much easier.

Does this just sound wrong in a computer game where you work hard to attain new levels and better abilities? Well, let me tell you - It is!

Now, Morrowind on the other hand, got it absolutely right. There is no scaling up. So, if you go into the wrong place at the wrong time your imaginary life is in mortal danger. And, once you attain levels and get stronger and better, you begin to whoop ass on those lesser creatures that once gave you a rough time. This provides a real sense of accomplishment, one where gaining new skills and getting better at what you do makes difference as it should.

So, Morrowind it is then when I finish my writing for the day.

Sorry, Oblivion, you may have the eye candy and interface to rival any game I’ve ever played - but what’s under the hood is just too damn broken.

Until tomorrow . . .

Friday, May 08, 2009

mother daughter

Day 253 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Today my wife is going to go and teach at my daughter’s school - in my daughter’s class!

It had to happen eventually.

I hope they both behave themselves.

I find the situation funny.

My daughter finds the situation exciting.

My wife is not so sure.

I think it’s going to work out fine though since my wife knows every kid in the class, and has known them for six years and, in some cases, more.

They will not be able to get away with too much. My wife also knows most of the kid’s parents as well, so the “I will tell your parents” threat will be a very real one for them.

It is actually quite nice that my wife and daughter can go off to school together and spend the day in each other's company. They are even going to be able to come home to a hot lunch which I am going to make for them.

Have I mentioned recently that this working-from-home thing is good for me?

Until tomorrow . . .

Thursday, May 07, 2009

day of the vacuum

Day 252 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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As part of my lair improvement project (wonder if it qualifies for a government grant?) today is going to be vacuum and dust day.

I have one of those small hepa filters running in my lair all the time and when the light comes on, indicating that it is in need of cleaning out, I know it’s time to vacuum and dust my work area.

And how so much dust can accumulate is a mystery. I know most dust is dried, flaked off skin - call me reptile for the amount that builds up where I work. I must do a lot of head scratching while I write.

In closing (you would think this is a speech, wouldn’t you.) I’m going to tell you how many hours it has taken me to re-write half of my novel so far. This means getting the first draft into a better second draft. Double the hours and it should be about right for the full thing.

Drumroll . . .

A total of 50 hours so far. Doubled then is 100 hours.

Doing a bit of math then and betting on 5 re-writes takes me to 500 hours.

Add in the first draft which took about 50 hours, plus the editing time for all re-writes of about 50 hours and you have a grand total of 600 hours.

So, at first swipe, it looks like it takes me about 600 hours to write one short length novel (80,000 to 100,000 words).

My next novel is going to be more ambitious.

I’m thinking then, that about 800 hours is not out of the ball park to do it all.

If I’m writing 2 hours a day this equates to a novel every year to year and a half.

And you thought writing was easy . . .

Until tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

the scouring of the mire

Day 251 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I’m thinking my lair needs a good cleaning out -slash- reorganizing.

It’s the place in the basement that houses my computer, all my books, dvds, games, models, miniatures, etc. And it’s getting to be quite a collection - some would call it a total cluttered mess.

Some would be right.

So far, in the last twenty five odd years of my life, I’ve not been able to dump a lot of the stuff I have collected. Oh, I’ve brought back the token 500 books or so to used bookstores, but I feel like I should really get rid of about 500 more, plus many of the other “things” I just seem to hang on to forever.

I think I’m going to designate May as my lair scouring month. A spring cleansing, if you will.

It is going to be a difficult process though. Every item needs to be scrutinized as to wether I really want to keep it or not. I think I’ve put it off because I’ve always thought, well, one day I’ll use this again.

One day has turned into months, then into years, and in some cases, decades.

And a nightmare occurs if you ever have to move. Suddenly you find yourself with so much stuff you need a much bigger truck and a lot more friends to help you shift it.

It is not necessary to have so much stuff.

So, I think starting today, I’m going to take 15 minutes out of each day remaining in May and do a scouring.

If nothing else, it will at least clean up my lair and make my writing space a bit neater.

Until tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

over load

Day 250 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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May and June are threatening to get out of control - busy wise.

My daughter and wife have eight, or is it nine, concerts this May and June. It is literally one each weekend, or Friday night, every week for almost two months straight.

And league tennis starts up this week as well with Baseball starting up in a couple more.

Something is going to fall apart.

There have already been some tears and grouchy home lessons. I’m trying to be the calming influence, but I don’t sing or play cello so don’t really know just how hard doing either of those things really is - especially under pressure of all these concerts which need preparing for.

So, I’ll go about the business of making nutritious meals, and try to keep my head while others go dangerously close to the edge fo insanity.

It’s funny how tranquil I am now, away from the cube.

But, because of all the lessons and practices, I’m already behind today with regards to my writing.

I’m off to novel re-writing time then, without further delay.

Until tomorrow . . .

Monday, May 04, 2009

coffee and cream

Day 249 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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I don’t know why, exactly, it tastes so good.

For weeks I’ve been without cream and using milk. It really is not the same thing, not the same thing at all.

And I don’t use sugar either.

I find sugar mucks up the taste of the coffee - and sugar is sweet while coffee is bitter.

I am what I eat?

Hard to believe when I was a wee boy I absolutely hated coffee. Hated it. Proof that as we grow older we can change our tastes, habits and especially important - one’s underwear.

Fresh ground coffee is also a bonus, though some pre-ground cans of coffee are tolerable.

I have a nice insulated 16 oz stainless steel coffee mug to enjoy my coffee in every morning too.

I like that my coffee stays nice and hot, even after twenty minutes of typing like crazy. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I forget that I have a coffee in front of me.

One thing I find glaringly missing in the Oblivion game? . . . coffee. You can get Mead, Wine, Beer . . . but no coffee. What the heck is up with that? For that reason alone, I say the game is incomplete.

Oh, as a treat I play some Oblivion after all my writing is done for the day - in case you were wondering.

Today, I think I’m going to have a second cup because I have cream.

Coffee and cream - making mornings great!

Going upstairs now to brew another.

Until tomorrow . . .

Sunday, May 03, 2009

separation complete

Day 248 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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No, not the Space Shuttle from the International Space Station - but me from the auto maker I was once a slave, er, employee of.

I received my last actual paycheck from them two days ago. All that is left is to get my lump at the end of this month.

Finally, I think it is beginning to sink in. This is no longer feeling like a holiday. Writing full time is my way of life and new career and it feels right.

Sounds funny. Sounds crazy. But mostly it sounds life an ocean surf at dusk on a Caribbean island shore . . .

And I’ve gotten so busy the last few days I once again skipped the month in review - so without tons of detail I’ll just get on with it from out of my mind, to your mind.

Book reading is coming along nicely. 18 novels read so far this year for well over 5,000 words. My goal is to read 10,000 words by year end. I’ll have this one nailed by August or sooner if another reading frenzy strikes me.

I have been writing every day this year (as was the plan) and my novel is smoking along nicely. Chapter’s one through six are now in second draft form and I’m part way through seven. The entire novel is 13 chapters long.

And on a side note, since I left the cube I’ve actually dropped around 5 pounds. I’ll likely drop another 5 in this month and get to a weight I’ve been trying to get to without success while I was doing the corporate shuffle.

Well, I’ve got to get my writing done early today because other things are needing doing this morning and afternoon - so, I’ll away then.

Until tomorrow . . .

Saturday, May 02, 2009

time to whack the fuzzy

Day 247 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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Today is the start of our Summer tennis season - and yah, I know it’s still Spring, but saying start of our Spring/Summer/Autumn season, well that just doesn’t roll of the tongue, now does it . . .

And I haven’t played in over 3 months, so my shots will likely be shaky, not to mention my legs, which will be weaker than I would like. I will try my best not to fall down and break a hip.

Remember my right hand was killing me? - my reason for cutting the winter season short? Well, I am happy to say that it hasn’t bothered me one bit the last month or so. And my not-quite-cracked wrist was the left one (used only for ball toss since I use a one handed backhand) and so it is not a factor.

And what way to start this tennis season off.

First up - tennis aerobics.

With a crazy tennis pro.

Our tennis pro takes great pleasure in torturing me in particular. Yes, I get singled out because I am fast on the court and can hit a decent ball. Tennis aerobics is a one hour long session with 8 participants - and one crazy pro.

One of the drills is having to hit 6 balls in a row. Sounds simple, but these 6 balls the crazy pro loves to toss into every corner after you have barely recovered from the last one. Since I am his a favourite torture victim, the balls I get tossed are usually next to impossible to get. If I don’t get them I get verbal abuse, if I get them and make a bad shot I get verbal abuse, if I get them and make a good shot I get told the toss was too easy.

It’s actually very entertaining and I don’t take it personally. And afterwards you know you have been working hard and burning off those calories.

Now as if that weren’t enough for the first day back at tennis - right after the tennis aerobics is our first tennis round robin tournament.

I will be dog tired from the aerobics and will be like a jelly donut rolling around the court for the tourney.

I actually can’t wait.

I do love me my tennis.

Until tomorrow . . .

Friday, May 01, 2009

plain awesome

Day 246 of 365 in the “Marathon of the Dope” . . .

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No really, it was.

My going into the high school classroom and talking about writing was a huge success and a whole bunch of fun. It went so well because the students and the teacher were just plain awesome.

They asked great questions, listened attentively while I read my story and told my tales of how publishing works.

Right from the start I wasn’t nervous at all like I thought I would be.

I think a few of the students were surprised that I was a Mechanical Engineer turned writer. I did explain that many, many writers do not have backgrounds or Degrees in English. I’m just one living example of that.

Another reason it went so well is because writing is a topic I find I really love to talk about. Call it a passion, I guess. Writing is a pretty solitary exercise so it’s exciting to talk to a group of people about it when you get the chance.

And yes, I would do it again for sure. I may have another opportunity to go and talk to a grade 12 Creative Writing class. If I do that would be fun.

I did, as expected, get the question of “where do you get your ideas?” That’s a tough one. It was the one time I sort of blundered around in the dark, not knowing quite what to say. Ideas can come from anywhere, strike you like lightening or ferment in your mind for years until they surface. You get them from reading books, watching shows and friends interacting - just anywhere, anytime.

But by far the biggest shock to me of this whole experience? - after the class was over, a lot of the students wanted me to sign my short story (of which they all had copies). I mark this day then as my first author signing. That was something I won’t forget.

And, also at the end of class, I was given a gift (chocolates = Yum!) for coming and talking to the students - now how cool is that!

I know some of the students I talked to yesterday, as well as the teacher, may come here and read this blog.

So to you students and Mrs. M. - thanks again for the opportunity and making me feel welcome. It was great fun, I hope I gave you a taste of what it’s like to be a writer, and I hope you enjoyed having me.

Until tomorrow . . .