Have Photographs, but No Camera

Our house is piled high with photographs. Okay, that’s hyperbole, but sometimes it seems that way. In the basement, in an antique dresser in the downstairs bedroom, are boxes and envelopes stuffed with photos, along with many loose photos. Photos Lynda and I took. Photos my parents took. Photos their parents took. Photos with negatives. Photos without negatives. Negatives without photos.

Then in the basement storeroom are boxes of photos. Photos from our China trip, and other trips. Photo albums of ours from 1976 to 1986. Boxes of developed Photos Lynda’s parents took. Photos her grandparents took. Photos from even earlier generation.

And I’m not even close to the end. In the secretary in our bedroom, one drawer is all but stuffed with photos we look in later years. The number of these have waned over the years, especially when we had a digital camera. This drawer contains hundreds of photos. Together by the roll of film they came out of. But otherwise un-annotated.

And, one more batch. On our dining room table, and in boxes around it, are hundreds of photos that belong to Lynda’s mom, Esther. Over a year ago, before Esther moved to her current, small apartment, Lynda’s brother began the process of putting these in photo albums. He didn’t get very far. Lynda picked it up, and made good progress. However, not one album is put together; the photos are spread out on the table; others are in boxes next to the table; and the end is not yet.

Since the rise of digital photography, the era of printed photos has mostly come to an end. Today a shutterbug fills a card with bytes, rather than a box with prints. How those cards eventually get to easily viewable media is a question. And, how many of those become prints is another question. But for sure, future generations won’t be filling up antique dressers, storeroom shelves, and dining room tables with thousands of prints.

We have a monumental job to go through these photos. The oldest one I know of is from August 1877. We have lots that are from England that are unmarked. I know these are of either Hepburns or Todds, but beyond that I have no clue who they are. And no way of knowing.

I wanted to illustrate this blog with pictures of the piles of photos. Alas, I have no camera right now, except for the kind that require film. Our digital camera bit the dust almost a year ago. Lynda’s iPad-mini takes photos, but we haven’t figured out how to do it very well. And neither of us have a cell phone with a serviceable camera. So, irony upon irony, I can’t take a picture of the photo problem.

I suppose we’ll get through this. Since we are in good health and neither of us expects to assume room temperature any time soon, we have years to get the job done. If we can complete Esther’s photo albums in a month or two, clear away the boxes, and return excess photos to those who sent them, I’ll feel good about it. After that, I’ll check back in here and let you know where we stand. Or maybe I’ll wait a year or two, till I have something new to say about it.

Despite the Time Crunch, Writing Tasks Continue

What time I have for writing I have to steal from something else. That might be sleep, home chores, home business, day job, etc. Since around the first of October last year, the Time Crunch has been in effect. I first projected it would last until March this year, but right now I think it’s going to last longer.

However, having said that, I can actually see some light at the end of the tunnel. A few reasons for that are:

  • Family finances are up to date, as of the Saturday just past. This is usually a major headache for me, keeping up with the checkbook, filing receipts, and budgeting. But all of those are up to date, and have been almost since the first of the year. I still have a task or two to do in these responsibilities, but that compares to normally having dozens of tasks. It feels good.
  • Tax season is fast approaching, and for the first time in decades I’m actually ready for it. All receipts bearing on taxes are in a folder marked “2014 Taxes”. I have calculated profit and loss from our home business, which is stock trading. That’s subject to confirmation when the brokerage statement arrives, but normally I don’t get to that calculation till March. It feels good.
  • Household chores are mostly up to date: upstairs, downstairs, and outside. I have a few things to do in each area, but the amount on the to do list is way, way down from normal. Four hours on a Saturday and I will be able to declare everything caught up in this area. It feels good.
  • Miscellaneous writing chores not related to specific works, while not as caught up as other areas, are not in bad shape. The main thing I need to do is choose a new layout/theme for this blog and update it. I hesitate to do so for fear of doing something wrong and accidentally dumping the whole thing. Since I’ve never backed it up—because I don’t know how to back it up—that’s a concern. So my order of tasks are: learn how to back up my blog; back up my blog; search for a new layout/theme; install the new layout/theme; then consolidate my two blogs into one and say goodbye to An Arrow Through the Air. That will be hard, but it’s necessary. After that, I have some writing filing to do, and more culling/discarding. I did a bunch of that back in October, but I’m really not done yet.

So, what’s going on with writing? I have active three writing tasks in progress. I also have other writing tasks started, but I’m not working on them at present, so won’t list them here. What I’m working on are:

  • Editing A Harmony of the Gospels. I have 60 pages of discontinuous text to go, about 10-12 days of reading at my current place. Edits will follow, followed by printing two copies, one each to keep at home and at work. That might take another month.
  • Father Daughter Day for print publication. Actually, I’m on hold on this at present as I wait for the cover designer to do her thing. Once I get an acceptable cover, I’ll have a week of intense formatting/submitting to do.
  • Expanding a genealogy book I wrote, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. I self-published this using company facilities back in 2006 and 2008. In preparation for a summer family reunion, it’s time to make this into a proper book, and expand it to include things left out of the original and revision. Today I merged most of the files I have, and it comes to 113 letter-size pages. That would probably be almost double that for publication size pages. That’s a little longer than I thought, but not bad.

So that’s where I’m at. Despite having had to put most writing away for at least half a year, I can’t say I’m really unhappy about things.

 

I’ll Be Back Soon

The busyness of life constrains me. Holiday activities at the house, then travel to Oklahoma City, and coming home with a deep cold, then going back to work to a pile of stuff to do, and I’ve not been able to carve out time for either blog. No time for writing, either.

Hopefully by next week I’ll be back on a regular blogging schedule. That’s the plan, at least.

Working Through Discouragement

I rarely read the posts at The Kill Zone blog, but went to one today, by James Scott Bell. I met him in 2004 at the Write to Publish conference in Wheaton, Il, though I haven’t seen him since or corresponded with him. The gist of his post was: Yes, sales for self-published authors seem to have hit a wall, or even dropped; but, no, we can’t be sure this is due to the launch of Kindle Unlimited or saturation in the marketplace.

His post is good, though not necessarily convincing. He might be right that KU had nothing to do with the widely-reported, sudden, dramatic drop in self-publishing sales exactly corresponding with the launch of KU. Or he might be wrong. Publisher Mark Coker from Smashwords disagrees. Jim’s post is uplifting, encouraging self-publishers to power on through this, keep writing, keep publishing, don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, work for the long-tail effects of e-books.

I appreciate those sentiments. However, in the comments, I see this posted:

If someone even considers quitting, it’s time to hang it up. Your heart isn’t really in it for the long haul.

This hit me square in the face. If you are ever discouraged to the point of considering quitting, you don’t have what it takes to be a success. In response to her, Bell agrees:

Thanks, [XXXXX]. You’re right. The heart has to be on fire for writing because the publishing world can get awfully cold.

Based on these two, I don’t have what it takes, because I am often discouraged about writing. I don’t know, but that sounds like an awfully elitist attitude to me. I’m frequently discouraged and consider quitting, wondering if the little bit of precious time I spend on writing could be better spent elsewhere. So since I’ve considered quitting, it’s time for me to hang it up?

I know I have a couple of writers who read this. What about it? Do you agree? If you even consider quitting, is it a sign that you should hang it up? Or do you agree that this is an elitist attitude?

Barely Writing

Yes, this week I did even less writing than last week. After making a good start on that short story I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t written at all on it this week. It stands at around 400 words, waiting on me to come back to it.

One reason I backed off was I wasn’t sure that the woman whose name I’m using for the heroine, with her permission, still wanted me to continue using it. Changing the name would be difficult on the third story in. After waiting several days I finally contacted her, and she says it’s fine to keep using her name. So, as time allows, I shall be charging onward with “Sierra, Kilo, Bravo”.

The other main task I’m doing which could be considered a writing task is editing my A Harmony of the Gospels. I’ve mentioned this work in previous posts, but not for some time. I began this in 2002 (if memory serves me correctly), and finished it in typed form 2009; I finished it in manuscript somewhere around 2006 or 2007. It was always a project to be fit in, never a priority. After that I’ve been reading through it, mainly for devotional and study purposes, but catching typos along the way.

The Harmony is in three parts: the actual harmony of the four gospels; a section of passage notes that includes overlapping gospel passages side by side, with my notes on how I harmonized them; and appendixes that include lengthier discussions on some sections, passages, and events for which I wanted to clarify my approach.

Over the years since I finished everything I’ve read the Harmony part a half-dozen times. The last time through I didn’t catch many typos. A month ago I finished reading the parallel scripture portion of the Passage Notes for the second time. I caught more typos, but not as many as I expected. Currently I’m reading through the Appendixes. Here I’m catching a few typos, but more so edits needed to clarify what I’m trying to say.

I should finish reading the Appendixes by the end of the year, maybe before. I never did finish the last appendix, and one of the earlier ones is sort of left hanging, as if I meant to come back and add something, something of which I have no idea now. I’ll get through these, then do the typing, re-print a copy for work and a copy for home. Then, what?

My text for the Harmony is the NIV version of the Bible. This is a copyrighted work, with Zondervan owning the exclusive right to publish it. My putting it into a harmony didn’t change enough words to make this something I could publish myself. It could only be published through Zondervan. Given the very low chance of that ever happening, I don’t ever plan on submitting it.

No, this is for me only. I also gave copies to my current and previous pastors, with a warning that they are not to copy and distribute it. That should keep me out of trouble with copyright laws.

200 Words a Day

That’s what my current goal is: 200 words a day.

The Time Crunch continues, with activities sapping my energy and leaving me feeling very uncreative by the end of the day. The lack of sales in November (0 sales, despite doing some Facebook promos) doesn’t exactly encourage me to write more. Over Thanksgiving I mentioned the lack of sales to my family, and my daughter said, “Promote, promote, promote.” In my head I know that’s true. But free promotion seems to do no good, and I’m not ready to pay for advertisements.

Everyone who has tried it says an e-mail newsletter is an effective marketing tool. But those take time to put together, and assembling an e-mailing list is a huge task, a task I can’t commit to at this time. So that’s something in the future, if the future ever presents time for it.

CDD cover 2013-07-25Consequently, I’m not writing—or almost not writing. As I mentioned in my last post, I got to work on a new short story today. Typical for me, the story I received inspiration for is in my least popular area. The Sharon Williams Fonseca short stories just don’t sell. Spy stories must be out of favor now. Or I don’t know how to write them. Or my titles and/or covers aren’t engaging enough. I can understand the titles not working until maybe I have 5 to 10 of these published.

WZT cover - first draftBut given that this is where the inspiration came, I’ll run with it. But I’ll do so very slowly. Perhaps I should say I’ll walk with it, or stroll with it, or limp along with it. I worked on it two days last week, and had it up to about 150 words. I worked on it this morning before starting my workday, and now have it up to 428 words. It looks as if I can produce this type of story at about 200 words a day for a first draft. Since I hope this short story, and others in the series, will average about 6,000 words each, that means it will take a month to complete each first draft.

Throw in some editing time, e-book creation time, cover creation time, and it looks as if I’ll have my 5 to 10 book goal done in a year. That’s not great production, but I guess I’ll have to live with it.

Working on a Short Story—Sort Of

WZT cover - first draftThe Time Crunch continues. For at least another four months I expect to do very little writing. However, yesterday some ideas for a short story began to gel.

This will be the next in the Sharon Williams Fonseca, unconventional CIA agent, series. I’ve known for a long time which story would be next if I decided to continue the series. I had the main plot in my mind. It will take place in Europe, mainly on trains between Italy and Switzerland. Sharon will be suspected of committing a crime, though it’s a crime that her superiors at the CIA really aren’t upset about.

CDD cover 2013-07-25The title of the story is “Sierra Kilo Bravo. It will introduce a character who will become the CIA’s man to dog Sharon and figure out if she’s a legitimate agent or gone rogue. It was yesterday during the workday that I came up with a name for him: Carter Burns. I actually introduced him in the first one, “Whiskey, Zebra, Tango”, as “Mr. Clark,” a tip of the hat to Tom Clancy and his character by that name. In this book he will be a new member in the internal investigative branch of the CIA. While he’s green at the job, he’s fully trained.

His investigations will take him to Italy and Switzerland. He’s going to follow the route our family took in 1982 (which is the year the story is set in) from Florence to Lucerne, including an unintended twist in our trip that really happened. For us it was unintended; for Sharon it will appear to be intended, and provide her the means to commit this crime.

I have no time frame for writing this. Last night, after completing stock trading work and all other activities, I wrote a list of scenes in the story, though it isn’t yet complete. Ideas have become to pop up. Maybe today, during my noon hour, I’ll actually write something on it. If I do it will be my first writing in over two months.

 

A Chance to Write—or at Least Edit

 

As I’ve said in other posts, writing time isn’t just hard to come by: It’s non-existent right now.

Except, that is, for at work. I’m working on two or three essays based on past of future presentations I’ve made. More on those later. This week I’ve had the pleasure of working on a construction specification. The project is a tire shop in Oklahoma. The client is a major tire dealer that we developed the standard specs for. Actually, I’m the one who developed the standard specs for them, a year or so ago, maybe a little longer. They had seen our specs, saw what we did (I do) with internal notes to guide the spec writer, and wanted us to do it for them.

The project manager had already downloaded the specs needed from the client’s website and put them in a project folder on the network. I opened them one by one and saw the notes to specifier in bold red staring at me. On a real project situation I was able to read those notes and do what they suggested. Overall I found them to be pretty good. My attention was directed to where in the spec section it was most needed.

On the project I found four construction items for which we did not prepare a standard spec for this client, so I’m having to create them—not quite from scratch, though. Two of them are similar to sections we already have, so I’m able to pull them up, modify them as needed, and save them as new sections. I’ll do that for the project. Then, hopefully before the end of the year, I’ll expand them, first into a guide spec for our company; second as a standard spec for that client.

I have one new product added to an existing section, one of the new sections done, and a second new spec section started. Next will be the section from scratch. Actually, even that won’t be from scratch as they’re using a proprietary product on the project so I can take the manufacturer’s spec and modify them.

It’s not exactly creative writing, but it is writing. And I need to get back to is.

Nothing to Write About

Once again I missed my normal day to write a post for this blog, so, a day late, I’ll add something minor. I have nothing to write about as it concerns my writing career. I’m not writing anything at the moment, still, as the Time Crunch consumes me.

I haven’t heard back from the cover illustrator for Father Daughter Day, but I really don’t expect to for another week or so. We don’t have a deadline.

Otherwise, no little poems have come to mind, no ideas for new works. Every now and then I have an urge to write, but I purposely busy myself with other things, things I have to do, so that I don’t succumb to the writing temptation.

The good news is I actually see a little light in the future. Our stock trading training is going well. We are having modest success at implementing the things our mentor is teaching us. It’s all paper trading right now, but done in a way to simulate real market and trading day conditions. We are keeping up with the webinars, and have only a few more to attend (taking us not quite through December) before we can go to the website and do a few of the other things we’re supposed to do there. After that, we “graduate”, and the time crunch is over. Right now, as I look ahead, I think perhaps February will be when I’ll find some time to think again about writing.

Author | Engineer