Category Archives: Writing

Back to Editing

Tuesday evening I went back to editing on my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I finished the first round of edits about ten days ago, and decided to let it sit awhile, to give me a fresh perspective. That time passed, and so I decided it was time to edit. I have the book out with a beta reader, who I told not to hurry on it, as I wouldn’t be publishing it till sometime in July.

This isn't the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post.
This isn’t the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post.

As I looked at the book, I decided to take a slightly different approach to this round of edits. Each chapter is organized like this. It’s built around an historical document from the Civil War era. I write a lead-in paragraph, briefly setting the scene. The original document comes next, usually heavily edited down to a reasonable amount to read. After the document comes two pieces of my writing, which together are usually shorter than the document excerpt. In the first bit, I do a little explaining of the document or of the issues it is involved with. In the second bit I try to tie the document to an issue we are facing today. My purpose for that is to show that things may not have changed as much as we think they have.

During my first round of edits, I realized that the early chapters, which were written in 2014, and the later chapters, written in 2017, had significant differences between them. The 2014 chapters make reference to world events that were hot topics then, but which, to some extent, have faded from the front pages. The 2017 chapters make appropriate references to current world events.

But, does this not show a weakness in the book? If I refer to events that don’t seem as important now as they seemed in 2014, maybe they really aren’t worth mentioning at all. I need to think about this.

So, to bet back to my editing approach. I decided in this round of edits I would just read the words I wrote, not the documents I edited. That way I get through them a whole lot faster. In three days I read and edited my words in 17 chapters. Only 12 to go, so I should finish those by Sunday.

I’m hoping that reading these parts close together, and quickly, will give me greater insight into what changes I should make, if any. It may be that I’ll leave it about as is, and add some explanation in the Introduction about the times of writing.

Either way, I’ll finish it by Sunday, then do another read-through of the excerpted documents, and see if there’s anything else I can cut for readability while not destroying the integrity of what the document says.

A Whole Lot To Do

Well, I just finished the typical busy weekend. Yard work wasn’t too bad. I cleared the last of the leaves away from the backyard. With grandkids to visit soon, I wanted one less place for snakes to hide. Next weekend I’ll take the leaf blower and clear the stragglers out. In the front yard I sprayed for weeds, and picked up sticks. That’s a never-ending task, as the three large trees in the front yard like to keep me busy.

We made the usual shopping run. My wife came too this week, as she’s wanting to do some new things in the kitchen and wanted to make sure the grocery cart was properly filled. She also bought some herbs to plant, and some larger tomato plants. That will be work for this week.

The waterline in our street was leaking, we noticed when we came back from the store. I could see that it had already been reported (based on markings on the pavement). The repair crew was there in an hour or two, tried the simple repair, which didn’t work, so had to shut the water off. We were without it for five hours, as it turned out to be a very bad line break. It was around 9 in the evening when we got it back. I spent the afternoon doing a lot of filing of financial papers, including culling some old files. The evening was mainly straightening some things up inside, and reading. Thus ended a full day.

Sunday was Life Group (I didn’t have to teach) and church. After lunch I walked 5K, in just over an hour. I felt okay about that, given the hills in our area. That afternoon, Lynda and I went to a couple of stores for some clothes purchases ahead of vacation. I found what I needed, but she didn’t. In the evening I got the checkbook entries up to date (still have to add it), but otherwise mainly read. It was a good way to wind down.

So here it is, Monday morning. Rather than have a sense of accomplishment for what I got done this weekend, I have a feeling of dread of all I have to do today and over the next couple of days. Here’s a partial list:

  • Lab work at the doctor’s office this morning
  • Call in prescriptions
  • Pay company credit card bill
  • Call the IRS about the letter I received from them this weekend, a non-so-good letter
  • Pay the last bill from my procedure in January
  • Double-check on our reservations for Branson, since I’ve never received the confirming e-mail
  • Plant the herbs; figure out a place for the tomatoes
  • Begin the many little things in the house needed to be done before guests come next weekend
  • Get by the store (probably tomorrow) to pick up the prescriptions along with diabetic supplies
  • Order the one item I couldn’t find at the store, and hope it comes within a week, which is when I need it by

That’s enough on the to-do list. I need to get a few of them done before I think through everything that needs to be done. Needless to say, writing is on hold for a while. I’m ready to do the next round of edits in Documenting America: Civil War Edition, but will wait a couple of days to do that. Plus, it’s out with a beta reader, and I’ll want to incorporate his comments when I next work on it. I won’t be messing with stock trading much this week, and maybe not next week either. I won’t be working on much else, writing-wise. The main pages on my website are in desperate need of an overhaul, but I don’t see me getting to that for about a month.

Life is busy. I guess that’s good, though I’d go for a little less busy right now, if I could.

Thinking About Race Relations

At the spray park on Memorial Day, there was no black or white—only people having a good time.
At the spray park on Memorial Day, there was no black or white—only people having a good time.

This past weekend, a four-day weekend for me, we went to Oklahoma City to be with our daughter and her family. We had missed a birthday weekend for two grandchildren earlier in the month, so we sort of made up for it with this weekend. Our time was full of typical holiday weekend stuff. I even slept out in a tent in the backyard one night with the three older grandkids.

One bad things that happened: When I woke up from a Sunday afternoon nap, sitting in a chair on their patio, with my head back against a pillar, my knee was hurting really badly. No reason for it. I didn’t trip, didn’t wrench it. Within three days it was back to normal, which includes some underlying pain until I get it replaced. Very weird. That’s actually not part of the story, but I thought you might be interested.

The story is my observations at the local spray park on Memorial Day. This is a neat park, across the street from the grandkids elementary school. We got there around 10:30 in the morning. No other cars were there, and the water wasn’t going. I thought perhaps the park was closed. However, I soon found out you turn the water on by rubbing your hand over a sensor. The water runs on a timer, and must be restarted every five minutes or so. I thought that was nice, with no wasted water. That’s quite good.

Within 15 minutes, other cars began arriving. Within an hour, the parking lot was half full and the park was awash with kids, of all ages, having a great time with the different jets, with spray guns and water balloons. In the two hours we were there, I didn’t see anyone hurt. We left there with three happy, but tired, kids, and two tired adults.

That’s not much of a story, you say, not worthy of a blog post. No, but let me finish. On this weekend, for reading material, I brought the printed first-draft of my work-in-progress, Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I started reading/editing it Sunday afternoon. I made good progress despite my nap and my knee. I was reading chapters I’d written almost three years ago, chapters about the early days of the Civil War, when the Union and Confederacy were laying out their war aims. Soon I’ll be reading later chapters. In all of these, race is a factor.

Race, first as in slavery, then as in segregation, all with the belief that the black race was inferior to the white race, and thus bondage for them was the normal condition. Short of that, segregation was next best. As I wrote in the book, the source materials I had to go through to write this were painful to read, and painful to write about. We’ve sure come a long way as a nation. I’m not saying we’ve come as far as we should, or can, but I’m glad for what progress we have made.

Which brings me back to the spray park. We were the first family there that day. The second family was a black woman with four children. Later conversation revealed one was her child, three were nephews or nieces. The third and fourth families were black. The fifth family was white. After that I lost count, or rather didn’t bother to count, because I didn’t really care. I was so happy that the white and black race can mix like that. When the park was quite well populated, I’d say the races were pretty well balanced. No one seemed to care. Splash and play  feels about the same for whites as it does for blacks.

I thought of how fifty or sixty years ago, spray parks like this would have been segregated, and wouldn’t have been built in black neighborhoods at all. Yes, we have made progress.

I’ll get through this round of edits, print it again, and read it again. I’d say I’m a little more than a month away from having a finished book, ready for publication. The pain of reading the old, racist materials will pass. Hopefully the words I added to the source words will make a difference with someone, and will improve race relations just a little. That’s what I hope for.

Money and Creativity

I regularly read two publishing industry blogs to keep up with the news and opinions. One is Between The Lines, the blog of the Books & Such Literary Agency. This agency serves the Christian booksellers market, and could be considered closely aligned with the trade (sometimes called traditional) publishing model. Their five agents rotate through the week with a daily post. The other blog I read is The Passive Voice. This is by a lawyer who re-posts and sometimes comments on news from the publishing industry. This blog is closely aligned with the self-publishing model. Both blogs have a community of readers/commenters, and I comment at both blogs from time to time.

Creativity comes in many sizes. Sometimes it even comes inside the box.
Creativity comes in many sizes. Sometimes it even comes inside the box.

Being part of the self-publishing industry, I tend to be more in agreement with TPV than with BtL. I keep reading the latter, however, because I want to keep up with news and trends in the other side of the industry. I’ve tried other blogs, but find BtL as easy to read, and it provides an adequate sampling of what I’m looking for.

So, all that said, I recently read this on the BtL blog:

“The need for money is the bane of art. Oh for the days of good old-fashioned patrons of the arts. Writing for the paycheck is the fastest way to kill a career. Each book needs to be better than the last, if we’re to build over time.”

This irks me. “The need for money is the bane of art.” How? How is commercial viability a bad thing, but whatever is not commercially viable a good thing? Commercial viability (a.k.a. artists making money off their art) indicates people are willing to pay to own or use the art. This, in turn, is a reflection of what society believes is good art. The inability of an artist, by which I mean anyone who does artistic things as a career, which would include writing, to sell his art indicates that society doesn’t believe he’s producing good art. Who is a better judge of what art is good: society, or the artist who produces it?

The writer of that phrase is implying that the need to produce art that society will accept as good and pay for somehow compromises the artist’s creativity. Follow the supposed train of thought by the artist: I need to feed myself and my family. No one’s buying the art that I produce, even though I think it’s good. But they are buying that [genre of book; type of painting; method of sculpture; etc.]. So maybe I should just emulate that artist and produce art I don’t this is good so I can feed my family. I guess I won’t be able to produce the stuff that I think is good but which society apparently doesn’t think is good.

Kids know. Sometimes playing inside the box is better than all those toys outside the box.
Kids know. Sometimes playing inside the box is better than all those toys outside the box.

What’s the solution to this? The original poster said, “Oh for the good old-fashioned patrons of the arts.” Their solution: For the artist to find a source of Other Peoples’ Money, to allow them to produce art they believe is good, even though no one wants it. And this is supposed to free the artist to produce whatever they believe is good. This is supposed to advance the arts, to produce stuff that people think isn’t worth paying for?

I could go many ways with this. Is artistic creativity really stifled by having to produce art that people want to buy? Cannot an artist be creative while staying “inside the box” or “between the lines”, or within the range of commercial viability? I think they can. I’ve said often before that my favorite type of poetry is formal poetry. Give me a sonnet, a ballad, a haiku, or a cinquain any day. Give me those constraints, and I’ll produce something with artistic creativity. Inside-the-box creativity is equally creative as outside-the-box creativity.

It always amazes me that people want to pigeon-hole creativity by saying it can only happen outside the box, and that it can’t happen on the lines. It’s funny that, in wanting the maximum artistic freedom, they say creativity can only happen one way. Once again, I reject that. I believe my creativity is best released by being presented with boundaries, and, since my art is the written word, finding words that do something new and different within the boundaries.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Any comments?

Update on Writing and Publishing Plans

Back on January 16, I laid out my publishing plains for the year, with special emphasis on the first quarter. At the end of that post I said I’d come back after the first quarter to give you an idea on my progress. Well, we’re now half-way through the second quarter, and I just now remembered I’m supposed to do that. Sorry that I didn’t follow through.

Documenting America
The Civil War Edition of my “Documenting America” series is nearing completion.

I can give a report now, for sure. I listed nine bulleted items that I wanted to accomplish in the first quarter. I’ll repeat them here, and give the progress  report on each one.

  • Jan 1: Begin reading for research for Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I wrote then: I achieved this. I’m reading a little almost every day for this.
  • Jan: Complete the first draft of Preserve The Revelation. I wrote then: I actually did this Saturday, Jan 14, at 8:10 p.m.
  • Jan 31: Edit Doctor Luke’s Assistant and republish it. I re-read this in 2016 with an eye toward making edits in it. I’m ready to go with typing. This schedule should be doable. I achieved this. I don’t remember the exact day, but while letting Preserve The Revelation sit a while, I typed the DLA edits and republished it, both in e-book and print form.
  • Feb 15: Edit Preserve The Revelation once. I achieved this, I think by Feb 15.
  • Feb 28: Edit Preserve The Revelation again, which I hope will be the final edit. I achieved this, though it turned out to NOT be the final edit. I had to do one additional round.
  • It's published as an e-book at Amazon; print book and other e-book formats, though some editing for Apple remains.
    It’s published as an e-book at Amazon; print book and other e-book formats, though some editing for Apple remains.

    Mar 15: Publish Preserve The Revelation. Much must be done for this to happen, some of which I’ve already set in motion. I achieved this, though not quite by my target date. The e-book was published March 23, and the print book on April 5.

  • Apr 1: Publish Headshots as a print book. I’m unclear of where I stand with this. In 2016 I edited and re-published the e-book version of this. I don’t remember how I did my edits, whether to a master file or to the e-book file. I’ll know more when I get back to this, probably early to mid-March. No, didn’t achieve this. Instead, I switched my attention to the next item.
  • Apr 2: Resume writing on Documenting America: Civil War Edition. Actually, I hope to write some on this much sooner than that. But I’ll be satisfied with not doing so until early April. My guess is I’ll have two months of writing to do on it. I achieved this. In fact, I’ve been able to give it much more attention than I anticipated. I wrote about this a week ago. As of last night, I have only four chapters to go to finish the first draft.
  • Blog on a regular Monday and Friday schedule. I’ve already missed a couple of those. I’ll be satisfied if I have 40 to 50 blog posts for the year. I achieved this. Since my Jan 16 post, I don’t think I’ve missed a scheduled day of blogging. Or, if I did, I blogged a day late, but got it done.

As for my overall publishing plans for the year, here’s what I wrote before, along with the progress report.

  • Finish my novel-in-progress, Preserve The Revelation, and publish both as an e-book and in print. Done!
  • Finish my non-fiction book-in-progress, Documenting America: Civil War Edition, and publish both as an e-book and in print. I said I was 40% done in January, based on work of a couple of years ago. I’m now sitting at 95% done on the first draft.
  • Four chapters done in the next volume; hopefully it will be a 2017 publication.
    Four chapters done in the next volume; hopefully it will be a 2017 publication.

    Finish my workplace humor novella-in-progress, The Gutter Chronicles: Volume 2, and publish both as an e-book and in print. Nothing done on this yet. I haven’t given up on it.

  • Write a new story in the Danny Tompkins short story series. Done! I published this on March 16.
  • Write a new story in the Sharon Williams Fonseca series. Nothing done on this yet. The plot for the next story still hasn’t come to me; though, to be honest, I’ve had a few glimmers into the plot, but have pushed them aside to work on other things.
  • Finish Carlyle’s Chartism Through The Ages, a non-fiction work. Not even thinking about this at present.
  • Continue working on Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography. Not even thinking about this at present.

Two other items have come to mind, which I’m adding to the list. Call me foolish, but I’m doing it.

  • Publish the six Danny Tompkins stories as a box set, both in e-book and in print. This should be fairly simple, the hardest part being the cover. Together, they will be just long enough for a print book.
  • Publish my research into the Stephen Cross family of Newbury, Massachusetts. This was genealogy work into my wife’s family, Stephen’s wife being the sister of Lynda’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. I’m planning a much longer book on the whole family of ten siblings, but that’s going to have to wait a while. Meanwhile, I have this part done, needing only a little narrative and formatting. It will be 80 to 100 pages, I believe, which would be a nice little genealogy book.

So there you have it, new publishing plans for the year, but no specific publishing goals for the rest of the second quarter. I’ll be back with future writing/publishing goals and reports.

Trouble with the Curve

In his sermon yesterday, Pastor Mark Snodgrass started off with a baseball illustration. He said he once had an ambition to become a professional baseball player—until a coach convinced him he didn’t have the talent for that. Mark admitted he had trouble with the curve—and the slider, the knuckleball, the change-up. It was a good opening for his sermon.

I identified with that. I for sure didn’t have any skills for baseball, even at the junior high level. But more than that, I have trouble with the curve. Not the curveball the pitcher throws, but at the curves life throws up.

Last Thursday, I had a curveball thrown at me by life. Took my pick-up into the dealership for routine servicing, as well as to look at a developing problem. I had it there at 7:00 a.m. I was first in. Yet, they didn’t call me until the end of the day, saying they didn’t have it done and wouldn’t that day. Curveball.

Just yesterday, life threw another curve at me, though it was of my own making. I took a walk after lunch, going 2.77  miles at a pretty good clip. Just a minute before getting home I kicked at a stick in the road, to nudge it off the pavement. My foot hit the pavement too hard, refused to go forward, and, since I was kicking while walking, my body kept going when my foot stopped. I tumbled onto the asphalt pavement. I’m okay. A few scrapes, my right knee hurting a little, and minor trauma in my left ankle. Maybe a painful hip and lower back. So the kicking was my fault, but the inability to judge that, and to maintain better balance, was the curve life threw.

I don’t like curves thrown at me. They take me out of my comfort zone. I like routine best. Up at 6 every morning. Shower, shave, dress, grab my lunch and hit the road. Eat a simple breakfast at work. Have my quiet hour at my desk, begin work at 8. Five glorious days of routine every week. Yes, after 43 years it’s getting tiring, but I can do it a little longer.

Curves can be almost anything. A dinner fixed that doesn’t turn out as nice as you’d like. A book sale that turns into a return. A well-planned day that goes askew when a client asks for something you weren’t expecting. A shelf that starts to fall apart because it wasn’t well made in the first place. A plot line in a book that doesn’t seem to work out, and you have no idea how to finish it.

I need to learn to not let the curves get to me. Somehow. I’m not sure how, but somehow.

Writing is Like Ingredients in a Bowl

Battles, weapons, and bodies dominate when you write about war. It's been an eye-opener for me.
Battles, weapons, and bodies dominate when you write about war. It’s been an eye-opener for me.

I was planning on writing a fairly lengthy post tonight, but late this afternoon my equilibrium was upset by a company that is supposed to be providing me service, for which I’m paying top dollar, but which doesn’t give me service. I’m upset, and don’t really feel like writing a post. But it won’t be any easier in the morning, so I’d better do it now.

My current writing project is Documenting America: The Civil War Edition. I know I’ve written about it before. I had set it aside for a while, even after I finished Preserve The Revelation, while I was working on income taxes and home projects. I finally got back to it last weekend—that is, around April 22. It will be the second book written in my Documenting America series.

For each chapter in the book, I have the following items to do.

  • Identify the subject matter I want to cover;
  • identify the source document(s) for that chapter;
  • Load the source document(s) into my book file;
  • Excerpt the source document(s) down to a manageable length;
  • Write a historical summary about the document(s)/subject;
  • Write how the document(s) ties into an issue we deal with today, typically political or social; and
  • Format the chapter properly.

These are discrete tasks for each chapter, except some tasks have to wait on another. Obviously I have to identify the document I want to use before I can find it/load it/excerpt it. Writing the historical and political/social sections must follow from the documents. But, I have the choice of finishing all parts of a chapter, or work on like tasks regardless of the chapter, or a mixture of these. I’ve been proceeding along the latter path. Sometimes I work on finding a document. Sometimes I do the excerpts. Sometimes, instead, I write the perspectives for chapters I’ve already done the excerpts for.

As of Wednesday night, I had:

  • Identified all but one chapter subject;
  • Identified the documents for all but that chapter;
  • Loaded the documents into my Word file for all but that chapter;
  • Done the excerpting work for all but two chapters;
  • Written the perspectives for 20 of 30 chapters; and
  • Properly formatted about 15 chapters.

This tells me I’m somewhere beyond 50 percent done with the book, but it’s hard to tell, working on it as I am.

Documenting America
This will be the second book in my “Documenting America” series.

About a week ago, as I was proceeding along my hybrid path, I came to realize that what I had was just like ingredients, dumped in a bowl, according to some recipe. I’ve never done baking, and most of the things I cook are simple. Cut, chop, saute, mix in a few spices, fry or cook in the over till done. All nice and safe, nice and easy both to cook and look at.

A few years back, however, I watched my wife fix something—tortilla soup, I think, same as we had the last three nights. She followed the recipe, which she had memorized, and dumped everything in Dutch oven. Chicken breasts, frozen chopped spinach, frozen mixed vegetables, cans of diced tomatoes, cans of two different types of beans, can of green chilies, and a teaspoon each of chili powder and cumin. There they sat, in the pan, a non-homogenous jumble. How does this come out as soup, I wondered?

But I then saw an amazing thing. A little bit of mixing with a strong spoon, and the ingredients were soon a homogenous mixture, suitable for cooking as soup.

I also watched her do this with a cake, or something like that. The ingredients just sat there, in their un-mixed state, an ugly, impossible to understand mess. Then the mixing occurred; it went in the oven, and it came out a beautiful, calorie-laced confection, perfect for whatever the celebration was.

I hope my book turns out the same. Right now it feels like ingredients dumped in a bowl. Most of the research is done, with about 1/3 of the writing yet to go.  The ingredients are all just sitting there, waiting to be “mixed”, i.e. completed. It’s hard to see exactly where I stand in the writing, how the book will come together.

But come together it shall. Wednesday night I made the decision to delete the unstarted chapter. The other chapters seem to be running longer than I expected, so I’ll be okay as to length. I’ve typed all the excerpting edits, but still have the one chapter to go with excerpting, and it looks to be a hard one. I should finish that this weekend, and hopefully write the perspectives on three or four other chapters.

I’m at the point where I really, really want to get those ingredients mixed, get the thing finished, let it sit for a week or two, and then edit and publish it.


Taxes Almost Done

Yes, I’m very, very close to having my taxes done. Normally I do them much earlier than this, around the end of February and first of March. But, this year at that time I was working on Preserve The Revelation and “Growing Up Too Fast”, either editing, writing, or publishing. They were done toward the end of March. I needed a break, so didn’t begin them for a few days, maybe around April 3.

I won’t take a long time explaining this. Our taxes are complicated. Our stock trading partnership, my writing sole proprietorship, my work, Lynda’s social security. It makes for lots of forms, and worksheets from the instructions. I have Excel spreadsheets built to do the calculations. All I have to do is come with the W-2, the 1099s, and deductions statements. This year my paperwork was well organized. I also have to check my spreadsheets against the forms and instructions for the tax year, in case something has changed.

I had the Federal done, and began working on the State. My spreadsheet links the State to the Federal, and rounds the Federal amounts to 00 cents, as Arkansas requires. Everything flows quickly from the Federal to the State. But, at the last minute, the State wanted me to attach Federal form 8889. I scrambled, and found that form 8889 is REQUIRED if you have an active Health Savings Account, as I do. I’d never heard of this before, but apparently I should have filed it every year since I had the HSA, about six or seven years. Since my HSA is funded with pre-tax dollars, I have no tax consequences. However, I still have to file it. I had two stressful days learning about and then completing Form 8889. But it’s done.

The status is: My Federal and State forms are done, printed, signed, copies, and mailed. My partnership calcs are done, the forms printed, and signed. All except for one form that I forgot about printing. I couldn’t do it at work today, so I’ll do it at home this evening and mail it all Monday. I also do taxes for my mother-in-law. I did the calcs on them last night, concluded she didn’t owe any taxes, and so decided to set them aside for a couple of days and take a break.

During these last two weeks, engrossed in taxes as I’ve been, I’ve done almost nothing for writing. That should change this weekend.

A Jumbled Weekend

Perhaps I should have spent time cleaning my work area, which is en-route to non-functional.
Perhaps I should have spent time cleaning my work area, which is en-route to non-functional.

Weekends are almost busier for me than weekdays. Sure, on weekdays I have to drive 15.5 miles to the office, work a 40 hour week (plus some), fight evening traffic, and come home mentally exhausted. But somehow that seems more organized, more manageable, than do my weekends.

It started with ducking out of the office a little early Friday afternoon. I thought we needed milk, so I stopped by Braum’s on the way. When I pulled into their parking lot my phone rang. It was the wife, saying she was ordering pizza for supper from Papa John’s, and hoping I hadn’t left the office yet. I had, but Braum’s was less than a mile past Papa John’s, so I said I could easily backtrack a little. She placed the order on-line, something she’s tried a number of times before without success, as her computer always locked up at the last step. This time it worked, so I drove back south, and waited the 25 minutes for the pizza. Thus, I arrived home at my usual time.

Friday night I went to The Dungeon after supper. I had numerous tasks I could work on, from filing, budgeting, book research and publishing, and income taxes. I decided to use my time to fix the cover for the Smashwords edition of Preserve The Revelation. It was only 1340 pixels wide, and the minimum width is 1400 for inclusion in their premium catalog. That was graphics work I could do, so I did it. It’s now awaiting Smashwords’ manual check to see that it’s okay. I hope to get that on Monday. The premium catalog is important, because through that the book is pushed out to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and other vendors. Without that, it just sits at Smashwords, where nobody buys anything these days.

The Dungeon can be depressing, at times. I really, really, really need to spend time cleaning it.
The Dungeon can be depressing, at times. I really, really, really need to spend time cleaning it.

I was in The Dungeon only an hour. Went upstairs, and for the rest of the evening I divided my time between vegging out, a few minor tasks, and research/organization in Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I had printed the book that week, and so had a good copy of what I’ve done so far. I saw that I was farther along than I thought. I made a table of where each of the thirty chapters stand. That will help me to plan what to work on next.

Saturday, I slept in (till 8:00 a.m.). By 9 I was outside, doing yardwork; specifically, continuing to rake leaves in the back yard. It’s a gravel yard, and getting leaves off it is more difficult than off a lawn. I don’t want to rake the gravel off, so I have to be careful how I rake. I had only the lower, rear portion still to go, a strip about 20 feet wide by the width of the lot, which is 120 to 150 feet. I was able to do only a little more than half. The remainder will be an easy task for next Saturday.

Inside, my next task was helping my wife get on the road to Oklahoma City, where she’s to spend a week plus helping our daughter with the grandchildren during an especially busy time. But first I had to make the weekly Wal-Mart run, for groceries and prescriptions she needed for the trip. This included bringing some boxes of children’s clothes up from the basement and loading them into the van. We store quite a few boxes of those clothes. She got on the road around 4:00 p.m.

At that point I went to The Dungeon, and decided that the income taxes were the next thing I needed to do. I had made a good start a couple of weeks ago, so the work I had left was to fill in a few items from the tax forms we received, finish my writing business profit/loss, and hence Schedule C, and plug that into form 1040. I then moved on to our stock trading business taxes. Surprisingly, that went fast. I had those done by around 6:30 p.m. Well, not exactly done, because I’m not sure about one item. Figuring out whether what I plugged into the spreadsheet is correct or not will take a couple of hours, something I’ll probably do tonight. Then all that’s left are the State taxes, and I’m done for another year. Oh, yeah, and the mother-in-law’s taxes as well.

Saturday night I did some more reading and research for DA-CW Ed, profitable research into source documents, and went to bed at a decent time. It helped that I didn’t have to teach Life Group this Sunday.

Today was Life Group and church. I knew I needed to get some walking in, so after lunch walked about 1.5 miles. I didn’t push it. Although I walk a fair amount, I’m out of shape due to having not walked while I had a cold recently. But I got it in, and wasn’t too worn out afterwards. No more, that is, than a 45 minute nap wouldn’t cure.

So I was finally at my computer, in The Dungeon, for my prime couple of hours of writing work. I spent the time copying source documents into my Word file for DA-CW Ed. That might not sound like much, but I had to look for them on-line, to hopefully save typing them. I was able to do that, as well as find a couple of source documents for the Battle of Gettysburg, documents that had previously eluded me. I also modified the file for my most recent short story, “Growing Up Too Fast”, for Smashwords, and uploaded that. Smashwords accepted it, and it’s now awaiting the manual check for inclusion in the premium catalog.

That brings me to Sunday evening. After some light cleaning that’s been nagging at me, and leftovers for supper, I read in the source documents. The first step is deciding what to excerpt from them to keep in the book. Several of them are long, over 3,000 or even 4,000 words. I’d like the excerpt to be between 700-1200 words, but will go more words when I need to. I made good progress in that. I’m not ready to give a new estimate of how close I am to completion, but definitely got closer to that goal.

So, a busy weekend. With progress. With a fulfilling feeling. Now on to the workweek so I can rest a bit.

The Forest and the Trees

It’s St. Patrick’s Day. That’s not a day I normally celebrate, but since much of the world is, I figured I should mention it.

The real subject of this post, however, is one I touch on with some regularity: busyness. This is one of my frequent themes and complaints. Of course, I do it to myself. If I didn’t want to write and publish books and stories, I wouldn’t be near as busy as I am. If I didn’t insist on balancing my checkbook (as I believe most people aren’t doing these days), or keep up with a budget spreadsheet, or neatly file financial receipts and records, I’d have a lot less to do. So, yes, I realize that the way I want to live and conduct life contribute to that busyness, or maybe even create that busyness.

One metaphor frequently used to describe someone who is busy is to say “He can’t see the forest for the trees.” I suppose that doesn’t apply only to a busy person. It could apply to someone who focuses on individual tasks without being able to see the big picture.

My problem right now is just the opposite. I can’t see the trees for the forest. I have such a massive amount of items on my to-do list I can’t see my way clear which one to tackle first. I could do any one task, any two tasks, maybe even any five tasks, and see no less forest of tasks waiting for me.

When that happens, which has been frequently of late, I tend to back off and do nothing. Which isn’t good, since the tasks are still there and more are being added. That’s where I’ve been of late, backing off and doing nothing. That can’t happen for long, however, and I finally got back to my list and started looking for trees.

On the non-writing list, I tried to figure which were the time sensitive ones, and work on them. Income taxes, of course, are a big one. But before that came car registration. But before that came personal property assessment. All this can be done on-line these days. The last couple of years I waited too late to do it on-line and had to go to the DMV. This year, though, around March 1st I went on-line and did the assessment. Then around March 8th I went on-line and did the renewal. Yesterday the stickers for the license plates came in the mail. Today they got on the vehicles. One item down—or maybe I can count that as three items.

On the writing list, I have my novel, Preserve The Revelation, almost finished. It needs one final read and tweaking of chapter 1, then it’s publish. Then I have the next Danny Tompkins short story, then the civil war book, then another short story, then…the list gets really long. I took a stab at felling a couple of “maintenance” type trees: I re-did my biography on my Amazon author page and on my website. Neither ones were major tasks, but they were part of this huge, impenetrable forest in which I can’t see trees. Well, I saw those two, and they are gone, for now at least.

This Danny Tompkins short story is an odd thing on my list. I thought the series was over with the last story, but two circumstances in real life gave me the idea for one more. A couple of months ago I outlined it and wrote an opening paragraph, mainly to get it out of my mind. But the day I finished the first round of edits on PTR, I had an extra hour to find a tree to cut down, so I began typing on “Growing Up Too Fast”. By the end of that day I had the story complete save for a good ending. I finished that last weekend. Sent the story to three beta readers, getting comments back from two. Incorporated those comments into the story, fixed ALL the typos (I think), and, last night, I went through the steps to publish it on Amazon. It’s done, my 23rd publication there.

I’m going to wait a few days to announce the story, because it takes that long to get it added to your Amazon page and for it to sync up with your Amazon statistics. Most likely my Monday blog will be about that.

So some trees are gone from the forest. It’s still a forest, however. Still plenty of trees tightly packs, so much so it’s still hard to see them. But, I feel better. If I can get PTR published, at least in e-book, I can pull off writing all together to do my taxes. Once I get those done, I’ll feel like working in the forest again, finding one tree at a time and getting rid of it.