Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Week in Words – 03/24/2010

I’ll start off with a very funny exchange between my wife and Reece, as mommy was changing a very poopy diaper last Friday.

“That’s a big poop, Reecie.”

“No mommy, it’s not.  It’s a Good Lord.”


“It’s a Good Lord, Mommy.  That’s what Daddy always says.”  He sits up just a bit, looks at the poop, shakes his head a bit, and says in a near perfect imitation of my inflection. “Good Lord!”

Who knew that potty training would become such a religious experience for him?

Moving on.

I finished the novella I was working on last week called “Izzy’s Story”, and merged it into ‘The Forgotten Road’.  It turned out to be about 9000 words long.  I then cut about 2000 back out of TFR, which is sitting right around 90000 now.  That’s a little higher than I want it to be.  There are probably some more places I can chop, but I still have to make sure I’ve wedged the scenes from the novella into the right places in the rest of the story, and then make sure it actually works done like this.   I’m still waiting on replies from two agents who have some parts of my books.  If I don’t hear from them by tax time, I’m thinking of trying out a book doctor (a freelance editor) to do a structural edit to see how far I am off target.  I think it will be a good investment, and I hope to learn a lot from it.

For now though, I’m probably not going to work on that book or that series for a bit.  Until all the aspects of that first book are nailed, I can’t really say book 2 is ready to be called done, and starting on book 3 seems a little premature.  Instead, I’ll explore a few other ideas I’ve been playing around with and see if any of them work out.

Work just got a whole lot busier this week as well, as we’re ramping up on a couple of big projects that will keep me busy through the end of the year.  I’m back to taking the first train in each day, which means waking up at 4:25 each morning.  Tonight I’ve got a 4:00 meeting on site with a client, which means I wont get home until 6:30.  Makes for a very long day.   But with this new project, we’ll be able to do some hiring to fill some open spots, and hopefully that will make my life easier in the long run.

Last weekend we had Lisa’s mom, dad and grandmother over for a day, and went out to a park in Tacoma with two of Lisa’s brothers and their families.  With that many kids running around, there wasn’t much time to sit down and talk to adults.  I don’t know why people say life isn’t always a picnic.  Sure seems that life is always like a picnic:  don’t touch that, don’t eat that, you have to share with your sister, stay away from the water, get out of the mud, don’t you dare throw that stick at her, stay where I can see you, that’s not a pine cone, damn it, does anyone have any antibacterial hand wipes?

Movie wise, we watched a great little movie on Sunday called ‘Saint Ralph’, a story about a 14 year old boy in 1957 at a Catholic school in Hamilton, Ontario who wants a miracle to save his mother who is in a coma and gets it into his head that winning the Boston Marathon is what God wants him to do.  Definitely worth the watch.

Reading wise, I’m slowly working my way out of my reading funk, and in the middle of Orson Scott Card’s ‘Shadow of the Hegemon’, a continuation of the “Ender’s Shadow'” series. 

There’s a bunch of new technology being released by Microsoft in April, and that means I’ll have a whole new slew of tech books to read.  I probably won’t get to read much for fun in the next few months, but maybe all this new stuff will be easy, and the books will be shorter than the last time.  Yeah, right.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Week in Words - 3/13/2010

I hit the wall last weekend.  I’d read myself into a stupor.  I tried to pick up a new book after finishing ‘The Motion of the Ocean’, but my give a damn index for reading had suddenly hit zero.  This happens to me every once in a while.  Sometimes it’s after a really good book that I don’t think any other can measure up to.  Sometimes I’ve just read so much in a short time that I’m just tired.  I believe this was a case of the latter.

In fact, I even had trouble reading a magazine for work this week, something I have to do for my job.  I just didn’t want to read.  I couldn’t concentrate.  My mind was blasé about reading, but it was spinning with something else.

Instead, I wrote.  New stuff.  We’ll, not exactly new.  It’s still in the Jake Clarke world, but it’s a short novella currently called Izzy’s Story.  One of the criticisms I’ve had with ‘The Forgotten Road’, is that not enough happens in the first 50 pages, and another is that the antagonist isn’t introduced until the third act.  I’ve resisted making changes to the story to fix this because there’s no easy way to do it.  I can’t just go and add two hundred words somewhere and call it good.

In order to do what needed to be done, I would have to shunt in a complete second story line into ‘The Forgotten Road’ without spoiling one of the plot points of the first story line.

What I decided to do was to write the second story as a novella unto itself.  I figure it’ll run somewhere between 8000-10000 words.  When it’s complete, I’m going to inject it into the appropriate places into the original story.  Of course I’ll have to chop out a few thousand words from the original story, and edit this one down a bit as well, but that’s pretty doable.  I know where I have to cut.

I do have a fear that the story will end up being too choppy and the dual story line will feel too separate.  But if I’m going to fix the issue, I need to start somewhere.

My worst fear is that people will like the second story better than the first.  That will completely screw up my vision for where the story is going.  I’ll try not to make the second story too good.

Anyway, progress on the second story is going well.  I should wrap it up in the next few days.  Then I’ll edit it down, figure out where to make the breaks, and insert them into TFR.  Then I’ll edit for length and flow.  I figure I should be done this revision by the end of March.

That’s the plan anyway.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bedtime Tally

Bedtimes for 3 year olds are a bit of a challenge.  Tonight was extraordinary.

  • # of Bathroom trips:  2
  • # of Poopy Diapers after bathroom trips:  1
  • # of shredded books:  1
  • # of broken closet shelves:  2
  • # of times door opened with one kid crying because he pushed me or she hit me: 2
  • # of times Daddy walked into bedroom to find kids hanging off the headboards of their cribs: 2
  • # of times Daddy went upstairs to tuck in / change diapers / pickup shredded books:  6+?
  • # of times Daddy yelled up the stairs to go to bed:  8+
  • Time between bedtime and last trip up:  1 hour 35 minutes, and they’re still jibber jabbering.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Music behind the… Man?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who ties certain songs to phases, days or people of my life.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what songs have are part of my personal history.  In some cases, it’s more than a song, its a whole album.  The albums tend to remind me of years.   SIngles remind me of people, or emotions.

The emergence of digital downloads will undoubtedly have a huge impact on this and the next generation’s view of the world.  My generation will probably be the last one to identify a summer with an album.  They might identify with a single song, or a one hit wonder, but how many will know about the conversation that the Eagles had with their fans on the Hell Freezes over album, or Eric Clapton saying ‘See if you can spot this one’ on the intro to Layla on his unplugged album, or the way the songs on U2’s Joshua Tree just flowed.  You don’t get that effect listening to the album on shuffle on your IPod.

So here are some of the songs / albums that just mean something to me.  Not that they are / are not my favorite songs, but I just tie them to a certain something (In no particular order)

U2 – Joshua Tree – High School Bus rides.  I listened to that over and over again on the commute from hell.

Mickey Mouse Disco – Our first Halloween Party as kids, and Paul Jensen splitting his pants on a dance move.

I’m Moving On – Rascal Flatts – Reminds me of my move to Seattle, even though I moved before this song was released.  It pretty much summed up what was going on in my life at that time

Old LA Tonight – Ozzie Osborne – My days working on the ASPEN project in Oshawa, Ontario for EDS in 1995.  Played that song over and over again.

Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet – Ninth Grade, riding the school bus, again, and having the bus driver pull over to tell someone to turn off the music, since we were having battle of the ghetto blasters in the back.

Fire Woman – The Cult – Playing pool at The Walrus, a bar near Pearl St in Boulder, Colorado

500 Miles – The Proclaimers – Dancing with a bunch of friends from college on a road trip north of Toronto either on a long weekend or the beginning of summer.  We were all doing this goofy dance, and it was pretty freaking hilarious.

Highway Junkie – Gary Allen – Dancing with my friend Brandy at McCabes in Tacoma.  We always lit it up with this song; that was until she caught me with an elbow to the chin on one of the spins and nearly knocked me out.

Zombie – The Cranberries – Living in a basement apartment in Oshawa, Ontario below a family where the husband and wife were always having screaming matches over money.  I always heard more than what I wanted to, and I felt really bad for their kids.

Van Halen’s Balance Album – Living in Detroit in the fall of 1995, cruising through town with the stereo on my black Pontiac Sunfire just screaming out Sammie Hagar

When You Need My Love – Darryl Worley – Reminds me of the last girl I dated before I met my wife.  That wasn’t such a healthy relationship.  I actually told her at one point that this song made me think of her, and she was upset.  She probably should have been, but it was accurate.

Half Way Up – Clint Black – This song stuck in my head when I used to ride my bike a lot. Easy to sing, and a good cadence on big climbs

Take Me away From Here – Tim McGraw - The early days of dating my wife

Fortunate Son – CCR – My First Novel.  Listened to this one a lot while writing it.

Jack and Diane – John Mellencamp – We had a foster kid for a while named Walter, and he played this, and Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now” a lot.  I don’t remember liking Walter a lot, but I remember the music he got me into

Gordon – Barenaked Ladies - My third year of university.

The Best Day of My Life – George Strait – Standing up with my friend Brandon at his wedding, and trying not to cry.

McClaren Furnace Room – The Watchmen – A guy named Randy Irwin who I knew only for a year or two back in 1994-96, who had a tremendous influence on my life.  I wish I hadn’t lost touch with him.

Everywhere – Tim McGraw – The first house I ever bought in Broomfield, Colorado

My Little Girl – Tim McGraw – Driving back and forth from home to the hospital after the twins were born and Reecie was in the NICU.  I remember rounding the curve on River Road in Puyallup with tears running down my face and worrying that I was going to have an accident.  It’s not like there is a place to pull over there.

Workin For a Living – Huey Lewis – Working the midnight shift at the Forest Golf and Country Club and getting in trouble for having the music too loud.

Fred Bear – Ted Nugent – See previous entry

Anyway, that’s all I have today.  I’m sure I’ll think of more later.  It’s probably easier to list the songs that don’t mean anything to me.

We came, we saw…

We did not ride.  The weather failed to cooperate, and the couch and the kids did. So instead of trying to ride two days in a row, I napped, and drank hot apple cider.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


As I said in my last blog entry, I just finished reading ‘The Motion of the Ocean’, and also mentioned that I used to have B-HAGs of my own, including my two or three years of long distance cycling. 

I was living in Colorado at the time, didn’t know a whole lot of people, and started riding my bike for exercise.  I then started getting more and more serious until I was riding organized rides with the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club, and in September of 1996, I completed my first metric century (100 kms) in a single ride.

In 1997, I got a lot more serious and started training for the Denver to Aspen Classic, a 200 miles in a day ride that is pretty damn hard, considering there are 4 10000 foot passes.  I rode over 2000 miles in training that year, but in the end, I dropped out of the ride that day at 112 miles due to stiff headwinds, an aching knee, and a bonk that I couldn’t fight through.

My body physically gave out after that summer of training, and I spent most of the fall and winter fighting a case of mono that kept me out of work for 3 months, confined to bed or the couch for days at a time.  It was, I believe, the lowest point of my entire life.  A walk to the end of my driveway would sap my energy for hours.  By spring 1998, I was healthy again, but I had lost so much weight and so much muscle mass, that I didn’t ride more than a few miles that year.

In 1999, I moved to Kent, WA, and never really got back on my bike.  I rode a few times, but I had a much busier life, and never felt the desire to ride.  Kent wasn’t the most friendly area for bicyclists either.  Partway through my first ride, I was nearly made a hood ornament on some redneck’s jacked up pickup truck.

Today, after spending the morning doing yard work and having a late lunch, I looked forward to having a nice nap on the couch.  I was actually on the couch, and asleep when two little ones who refused to take their naps woke me up.  They were sent back to their rooms, and I tried to get back to sleep, but it was no use.  I was awake.  And my mind was on.

I was thinking about riding.  The weather was beautiful today, the wind was light, and I still had some energy left in my legs.  I fought the idea for a few minutes, the decided to just do it.

Things didn’t start out so well.  Both tires were flat (expected), and the rubber nose piece fell off my Oakley riding sunglasses as I put them on.  The cycle computer was dead, so I’d get no feedback on my ride for length or speed.  It took me a few second to remember how to clip my feet into the pedals on my Bianchi, but after a few turns I was off and pedaling.  It was just like riding a bike, but not quite.

In the past few years, I’ve lost a great deal of function in my thumbs due to Charcot Marie Tooth disease.  I’ve tried physical therapy, stretching and acupuncture, but nothing seems to work.  Today, I discovered, that functioning thumbs are really critical for two things:  shifting gears, and braking.  I figured out how to do both with less orthodox grips on the handlebars, but for a second, I was really worried.

The greater worry was that as I pulled away from the first stop sign, I heard a clunk.  I looked behind me to see that part of my bike had fallen off.  Specifically, my pedal had fallen off.  I had taken the bike in to be tuned up last year, and apparently, they forgot to tighten it down.  It took a moment or two to get it back on, and for the rest of the ride, I was a little worried, but it held.

Back when I was a serious rider, I often rode in pelotons, those large groups of riders that you see in races and organized rides that achieve mythical speeds by literally sucking the riders along in a draft.  The rides in pelotons were some of the most awesome experiences I’ve ever had (on a bike). 

I remember one day, I was about to take my turn at the front of a pack.  It was early in the ride, and we were charging up a hill near Castle Rock, Colorado.   As I pulled into the lead, I slammed into a higher gear, and shouted with bravado, “Okay boy’s, let’s go.  It’s a big ring day.”  Which basically meant we were going to keep the bikes in top gear all the way up the hill.

And we did, as I recall.  I cranked with everything I had.  There was whooping and hollering as we got to the top, and I began to drift back into the pack.  One rider shouted at me “Thanks for the pull, buddy”, and the whole pack disappeared down the hill.  Without me.  I had spent everything I had on that climb trying to impress people with the hope that I could hang on to the tail long enough for the lactic acid to work its way out, but by the time it did, they were out of sight.  It think I had 71 miles left that day in an 83 mile ride, and I was doomed.

Anyway, today was not a big ring day.  It was barely a medium ring day.  On a day with no real wind, I was downshifting on the flats and couldn’t carry speed down the hills.  I got off the saddle only three or four times for short bursts of 4-8 pedals.  I used to be able to stand up for a quarter mile on a 15 degree grade at the top of an 18 mile climb (Left Hand Canyon, near Boulder, CO, my favorite ride of all time).

I struggled over what might have been 8 miles, to keep my cadence up, and prayed I’d hit green lights at the end of the ride so I wouldn’t collapse on my shaking legs.  I got back to the house, and parked the bike, and drank a lot of water.

But a few hours later, when the initial shakes had warn off, the euphoria of a good workout kicked in.  The runners high.  And I wondered if I could do it again tomorrow.

We’ll see.

The Week in Words

I finished a couple of books this week, despite a new addiction to the TV show Dexter, which is chewing up my evenings at an astonishing rate, and giving me weird dreams to boot. 

“The Motion of the Ocean” by Janna Cawrse Esarey is a true story of a Janna and her husband Graeme’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (B-HAG)to quit their jobs and take a two year honeymoon by sailing 17000 miles around the South Pacific, from Seattle to Hong Kong.  The opening lines of the book are two of the best I have ever come across: 

"Somewhere fifty miles off the coast of Oregon I realize the skipper of this very small ship is an asshole.

He also happens to be my husband."

This book is not chick-lit, at least not like the chick lit I ever, um, heard about, so guys shouldn’t fear that it’s all about PMS and the horrible consequences of mismatching nail polish to lip gloss.  While the book is definitely from Janna’s POV, being a guy allows me to guess exactly what Graeme is going through at the same time Janna is describing her reactions to certain events.  I think guys might get even more out of this book than they think.

My fear of deep water, along with my horrible sense of balance keeps me away from trying to sail around an ocean.  Okay, Lisa also keeps me from it, but I remember my days of having B-HAG’s (anyone remember my long distance cycling days?).  I know how those goals can change someone, and this book pretty much nails my experience as well.  Well worth the money.

I also finished reading “Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us” by Jessica Page Morrell, another local author (she teaches at Evergreen State College in Olympia).  It’s a non-fiction book, a writing guide from the point of view of an editor who has been called ‘The Angel of Death’ by her clients.  There’s a lot of good stuff in this one, especially what she calls her ‘Deal Breakers’.  I know there are a few of her deal breakers that apply to my writing, and at some point I’m going to have to tackle them.

It’s definitely good to read a few different writing books, because you begin to sense the general pattern, and sooner or later the ideas get drilled into your head, even if you don’t remember everything.  I still like Noah Lukeman’s “The First Five Pages” the best, but this one is in a close fight for number two with Steven King’s “On Writing”.

As far as movies go, last night we watched a documentary called ‘Helvetica’ about the development of fonts in the last half of the twentieth century.  (Don’t we know how to party on a Friday night.)  It was interesting, for about the first 40 minutes.  It was at least 20 minutes too long for my tastes, and I actually dozed off for at least ten minutes, but to be fair, I was exhausted when we sat down.  I would recommend it as one of those that you watch for half an hour while you are riding a stationary bike or something else, but definitely not while driving.