Time for a Pity Party

I was introduced to the concept of a Pamper Party some years ago, when our daughter was a teenager, and decided to throw herself one. It was interesting to watch her

I was introduced to the concept of a Pamper Party some years ago, when our daughter was a teenager, and decided to throw herself one. it was interesting to watch her going through the activities. She felt good about herself afterwards.

I don’t expect that a Pity Party will produce the same results, but I’m ready to throw one for myself. What’s so bad that I’m ready to hold a pity party? Perhaps nothing, at least nothing of monumental significance. But it seems that too many things are not going right right now. Major projects aren’t getting done. Minor projects aren’t even getting started. And I have no desire to write right now. Haven’t written anything except this blog for over a month.

My latest publication, When Death Changes Life, doesn’t count as writing. That was just boxing up short stories that were already written and re-publishing them as a short book. Since it didn’t include any new writing, it wasn’t writing.

So, what’s so terrible that I need a pity party? I’ll just use the dishwasher as an example. That’s clearly a first world problem, but it’s a problem nevertheless. It started going out some months ago. I didn’t catch it before it started doing damage to the ceiling in the basement. Finally I had our plumber come to verify where the damage was, and he confirmed it was the dishwasher. That was in late August or early September. Back in 2012 we put in a new refrigerator that we got at Lowe’s. I looked, and saw they had a matching dishwasher. But it’s noise level is higher than what’s currently available. I could live with that, but I need buy-in from my wife. So far I don’t have it. So we need to go to Lowe’s to see what’s available. Or, any other place that sells dishwashers.

I told Lynda I wanted to get this done this weekend, that I wanted us to go together to Lowe’s either Saturday or Sunday to decide on what to get: the matching one or a quieter one. She said fine. Saturday morning was full of work inside and outside the house. Then came the Wal-Mart run, which I made alone. That brought us to sometime after 4, maybe closer to 5 p.m. I still had to study my lesson for Life Group, and I was dead tired, so I didn’t ask to go to Lowe’s. Sunday was Life Group and church (I went alone), followed by lunch and a quick nap. At lunch we learned that Lynda’s mom was totally out of her insulin. She took the last pen from the box in the fridge and didn’t tell us. Since we don’t normally go looking for her insulin, we didn’t know until she had to take it for her meal and found the problem.

So, I called the pharmacy. It turned out the prescription wasn’t refillable without a doctor’s consent, which of course we wouldn’t get on a Sunday. So I spoke to someone at the pharmacy about an emergency fill, and they said they would. It would be ready by 2:00. I decided to wait until 3:00 to go, after my nap. When I got there it wasn’t ready, them saying they were waiting on the doctor’s authorization. So, I went through the whole emergency thing again, and finally got the prescription. I looked for a new jar-opener pad (ours being close to disintegrated, and me not remembering to get one on my normal Wal-Mart trips) but couldn’t find one. So I bought a package of Reese’s cups and went home.

By then it was 4:00 p.m. I still had supper to fix, and had planned a meal with a lot of fixing. I started that at 4:45 p.m. and was on my feet till 6:45. During that time I washed a boatload of dishes (because, of course, we don’t have a working dishwasher), cleaned some dead stuff out of the fridge, and threw the garbage into the woods. We ate dinner. My new main dish turned out very nice.

By that time, I was more tired than I had been on Saturday. I decided not to bring up a visit to Lowe’s, and my wife didn’t bring it up. So we didn’t go. One of my main goals for the weekend was unfulfilled, and was no closer to fulfillment. The wife has headaches all the time. I’m not sure she will ever want to go, nor will she want to leave the decision up to me.

Well, the pity party should be over, except much more has happened of late.

  • Despite having 26 items for sale, with a new item added, I have zero book sales in October. Zero. Obviously I’m not writing the kind of things people want to buy. I can’t see my way clear to spend the time needed to learn the tasks necessary to place advertisements, so my writing sales seem to be at a standstill.
  • I can’t write with all these things hanging over me.
  • We are no closer to replacing either of our ancient vehicles than we were two months ago when we decided to do so.
  • Once the dishwasher is repaired, I’ll have to see about getting the ceiling in The Dungeon fixed.
  • I found it very difficult to prepare for the Life Group lesson I taught yesterday; hence I don’t believe I taught a good one. I don’t think I teach next week (though who knows, since I never hear from my co-teacher before Friday evening, sometimes not till Saturday evening, when I receive a text “whose week is it to teach).
  • For the last two weekends/weeks I guess I’ve way over eaten. My weight have ballooned, and six months (or more) of weight loss is wiped out. I don’t know if I have the strength to do it again.

Okay, pity party over. I probably shouldn’t have written any of this. I do so knowing almost no one will see it. Or maybe it really will be no one.

“When Death Changes Life” now published

This is the e-book cover.
This is the e-book cover.

Last Saturday afternoon, finding myself with an hour to spare in the evening (or maybe it was early afternoon), I decided to do the work necessary to publish my short story boxed-set, When Death Changes Life: The Danny Tompkins Stories. I’ve blogged about this before. I wrote the six stories to explore the idea of teen-age grief at the loss of a parent.

“Mom’s Letter”, the first in the series, was also the first item I self-published. I wrote it first for a writing contest, which I failed to win a prize in. Later I expanded it to longer than the word limit of the conference. Much later, I thought of and wrote a short story to follow it up, then another, and another, and, after six years I had six stories.

I already had the book formatted for Kindle. All I had to do on Saturday was find the interior and cover files, upload them, and fill out all the details. I did this, and published it to the Amazon Kindle Store Saturday afternoon. Monday I got it up at the Smashwords store. Wednesday I finished layout of the interior for the print book. Thursday I tried to start on the cover, but didn’t have everything I needed. Today I plan on getting started on the cover. Hopefully by Monday I’ll be ready to upload everything to CreateSpace, and soon thereafter be able to publish it as a small paperback.

So, it’s now 26 items published. Not sure how many I’ll get to.

Writing This As I Go

I don’t know if I wrote in this blog before that I’ve been sick of late. Sometime around September 20 I began coming down with a cold. It never hit me hard, and was never a head cold. It was a chest cold. I suppose it could have been bronchitis, but I never seemed to run a fever. While the cold was never deep, it sure lingered. All the coughing I did wore me out. We had the trip to Oklahoma City the last weekend in September to October 1, and the cold seemed better.

The next week, however, it came back again. I lost another day of work, worked some short days, and seemed to be better. However, the weekend of Oct 6-8 I was still coughing hard, and a little too much. I rested that weekend. Didn’t work around the house, didn’t go to church. I read and slept, slept and read, watched television. I did go to Wal-Mart for a grocery and medicine run, but that was about it. I didn’t even write a blog post for last Monday (which I normally do on Sunday), and so missed a blogging day for the first time in a while.

Monday I went to work, coughing much, much less than I had been. I got even better day by day as the week progressed. This past weekend I was able to follow a normal weekend schedule. I’m working on all eight cylinders.

So what am I up to, and what’s on my mind, and what will I do next? Yesterday I finally published When Death Changes Life to Amazon Kindle. Today I’ll try to add it to Smashwords, and tomorrow or Wednesday get the print book up. I’m feeling more confident with both interior formatting (which is 98% done) and cover creation, so I don’t think there will be a big lag with the print book.

Then, I need to work on one of three writing projects: either the prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, or the second Gutter Chronicles, or the next Sharon Williams stories. I wrote about that recently. Other plans have been running through my brain, and I may be changing up what I do after these three.

I’ve also been thinking about premonitions. I’ve had a fair number of them in my life, and almost all of them have come true. I don’t want to catalogue them here, but some of them have been amazing. One was recently, something concerning our church, which turned out to be almost 100% true. I’ve come to the point of wondering why I get these. Is God alerting me in advance of things that are yet to come? Or is something else going on.

I think I wrote some not to long ago about genealogy discoveries I’ve made recently, specifically finding/confirming who my maternal grandfather was, and making contact with other, previously-unknown family members. That took quite a bit of time in late-August and early-September. It’s still on-going. I’ve made contact with almost all my new half-first cousins. I’m not trying to figure out how we can all keep in contact with each other, and get to know each other better.

And, of course, that leads me to much work to do finding out more about ancestors I previously knew nothing about.

Meanwhile, it’s almost time to begin to prepare for the holidays. The kids will be coming for Christmas this year, not Thanksgiving. So we will have much work to do to get the house in shape and decorated. We’ve actually begun some of that, dealing with piles of clutter.

I have more random thoughts to write, but the workday is upon me. I’ll end this. On my to-do list this week is to develop a list of blog posts to facilitate being on-time and

4th Quarter Writing Plans

I may tweak this cover more, but I think it's close to what I'll use.
I may tweak this cover more, but I think it’s close to what I’ll use.

We are now in the ninth day of the fourth quarter. Time for me to lay out my writing plans for the next three months. Well, writing and publishing plans, that is. Without further introduction, here’s what’s definitely in my plans.

  • Publish When Death Changes Life, the boxed-set of the Danny Tompkins stories. I have the master file completed, the e-book cover completed, and just need to start the actual production. I hope that, one week from today, I can announce that it’s published.
  • Work on The Gutter Chronicles: Volume 2. As I’ve said before, I got through the fourth chapter of this (maybe two years ago), and just stopped to work on other things. This is something to do on my computer at work, in my morning me-time and on the noon hour. I believe I could complete the writing of this before 2017 comes to a close.
  • Work on Adam Of Jerusalem. The prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, I wrote the first chapter of this a month ago (or maybe more than that), but stopped. This is work to do at home, in the evenings.

These are the three things I will definitely work on during the next three months. However, a few other items are on my radar, and may—I emphasize, may—capture the time of a few of my gray cells and find themselves coming to be in tangible form.

  • The next short story in the Sharon Williams Fonseca CIA agent series. It’s tentatively titled Papa Delta Foxtrot. I have the plot somewhat roughed out. At between 3,000 and 6,000 words, I should be able to fit this in. I need to be a bit more inspired to do so.
  • Continued work on my two interrupted Thomas Carlyle projects. These are affectations for me, as they will never make any money. But, hey, none of my other writing makes any money, so why not work on these? The Chronological Composition Bibliography is something I pull out every now and then and get a little more done on. I’m actually at a point in his career where it would be easy to finish this. I should just do it. The book about his Chartism is also fairly fare along. I think a month of concentrated work would see it to completion. If I get bored or stuck working on other things, I may just spend time on these two.
  • Expand my research notes on the Stephen Cross and Elizabeth Cheney family into a small genealogy book. I actually pulled this out about two weeks ago to make a judgment on how much work this would require. I decided it’s more than I want to tackle right now, so I set it aside. However, if other things don’t pan out, maybe, just maybe, this will capture some of my time.

So that’s my plans as of right now. I have other things in the planning process, but I don’t expect to be working on them any time soon. Perhaps I’ll do a post on them in a week or so.

Book Sales – 3rd Quarter 2017

The third quarter is in the tank. Barring any late sales posted to Smashwords (which rarely happens, now that they have a faster reporting system), here are the totals.

2016…. 9……6…….10….17…..42
Total sales to date—524

The third quarter sales break down as follows.

Documenting America: Civil War Edition – 18

In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People – 2

Thomas Carlyle’s Edinburgh Encyclopedia Articles – 1

“Growing Up Too Fast” – 1

Of these sales, 17 were paperbacks, 5 e-books. Of the 17, 8 were books I sold personally. Of the 22 total sales, perhaps 16 or so were to people I know. A cousin bought four of DA:CWE. A coworker bought the short story. I knew all the people I sold books to. So my readership isn’t extending to more people, at least not in a big way.

I published one new item this quarter, the civil war book. That captured most of my sales, indicating my back list isn’t selling well. Still, I’m not unhappy about my 3rd quarter sales. More is always better, but I’m glad for what I have. The Thomas Carlyle book was a surprise. I haven’t sold one of those since January 2015, and this is the first paperback of that. I never figured on it being a big seller, so, again, I’m not unhappy about it.

So, here’s my table of sales for the year.

2017-3Q Book Sales



Returning to Carnage

This last weekend we were in Oklahoma City, to celebrate the first birthday of our youngest grandchild, and to babysit the four grandchildren (plus two others) one evening while their parents were at a fund-raiser for R.O.C. ministries. We did a four-day weekend instead of three. I intended to write a post this morning about our weekend.

Instead, I come to work, plug in the new laptop computer I have for my work station, and open some websites, all according to my routine. And I see the terrible news about the shooting in Las Vegas. As I finalize this post, 58 are dead and at least 515 are in area hospitals with injuries.

I simply don’t know what to say. How tragic that this should happen in our nation, that one individual, be he sick, deranged, hostile, angry, or whatever, should be able to take the lives of 50 people in a matter of minutes, and injure at least 200 more.

Oh God, I pray for our nation. Move upon us to come to our senses. Give us hope for the future, because hope will prevent us from doing things such as this shooting. May we turn to You to make it happen.

Book Review: All The King’s Men

This isn't the cover to the edition I read. Surprisingly, I couldn't find an on-line photo of that cover.
This isn’t the cover to the edition I read. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find an on-line photo of that cover.

It’s probably a dangerous act to review a Pulitzer Prize winning book. But that’s what I’m going to do. Some years ago my son gave me a copy of All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Published in 1946, it won the Pulitzer in 1947, and was made into a movie in 1949 and again in 2006. I haven’t seen either movie.

Alas, I didn’t like the book. I would almost say I hated it, but that would be too strong. If I were going to review it on Amazon, I’d rate it only 2-stars.

Sacrilege! This book was judged by a panel of experts to be the best novel in 1946. On the back cover of the copy I have, it says many judge it to be the best novel ever on American politics.

Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The book opens in a very complicated manner. Jack Burden, the protagonist, is working for someone called “Boss.” We learn Boss is the governor of the unnamed Southern state, Willie Stark. Willie was a small town lawyer who became governor. They are being driven by a driver called Sugar Boy, a stutterer who seems to be uneducated, but can drive fast and expertly. The present in the book is sometime during the Great Depression, when Willie is somewhere beyond his first term as governor. Those in know say Willie Stark is patterned after Huey Long, once governor of Louisiana. What I know about Long, I can see that in Stark.

Herein lies my biggest problem with the book. What is the time frame? It starts in one year, jumps back to some time I could never figure out, jumps forward but not to the time it started at, jumps back again but not to where it did the first time. By the end of the first chapter, which is at least 60 pages long (as are all the chapters in the 650 page book), I was so confused I set it aside, not sure if I would pick it up and read it or not.

In the author’s defense, I must say that I often read in distracting circumstances, and I did so for most of this book. The TV is on. The phone rings, and even if it doesn’t produce a conversation, it takes me out of the reading for a short while. People are wanting my time, I have a to-do list that’s so long I know I shouldn’t be reading, etc. But that first chapter…I felt as if I was on a rollercoaster, or the Wildcat back at Rocky Point Park, a ride I hated—and never rode it again after the first time. As an author, I understand how flashbacks are effective, and flash forwards are too. But backwards—half-forwards—half-backward—somewhere I don’t know where…well, this just leaves me with whiplash, and a queasy stomach.

This was especially so because of the long chapters. I can’t dedicate a large enough chunk of time to reading to read a 60 or 70 page chapter in one sitting. I’m lucky to get 10 pages done, and I usually set that as an evening’s goal. But with the first ten pages leaving me hopelessly confused, the next ten pages not clarifying anything, and the third ten leaving me wondering why I was reading it, it’s a wonder I kept on.

Often, when I finish a book, I go back and reread the first chapter. I’ve found that authors often have clues in the first chapter as to what will come. Or, something confusing in the first chapter will have been clarified later, and by re-reading it I have a better understanding of the book as a whole. I should probably do that with this one: if not the whole first chapter, at least the first twenty or thirty pages. But, I don’t think I have the strength.

I appreciate the gift of this book, but it’s not a keeper. Before I toss it into the garage sale pile, I’ll check with my son to see if he wants it back. If not, goodbye Willie and Jack. Goodbye Sugar Boy, and love interest Ann Stanton. I’d like to say it’s been good knowing you, that I was entertained and enlightened by your antics. But I wasn’t.

The Ecology on the Lot Next Door

We have a rock yard, with two maples and one oak, and with forest on three sides. Leaf removal is never-ending for two months in the fall.
We have a rock yard, with two maples and one oak, and with forest on three sides. Leaf removal is never-ending for two months in the fall.

We live in a mostly forested area. The hills of Bella Vista, they tell us, were once cleared to allow for cattle grazing. However, once the land was bought up for residential properties (seen as a retirement community), the forest came back. If a lot is vacant, the forest will soon take over.

The part of Bella Vista I live in is mostly unbuilt. The hills are steep; building is expensive; the space between lots, back to back, is enormous. Hence, even if every lot were built on, the forest would be in the gullies behind. From our back lot line to the back lot line on the other side of the gully is probably 800 feet. No one’s built on those lots yet, so we look out our back deck onto endless forest and hills.

That big oak has been down for around 10 years. Too big to saw for wood, it rots away in it's ecology.
That big oak has been down for around 10 years. Too big to saw for wood, it rots away in it’s ecology.

On our street, only four lots out of about 28 have been built on. South of us are three empty lots before the next house. North of us is one lot before another house. Across from us…well, there are no houses on the other side of the street at all. So we are surrounded by forest.

On the lot north of us, about 50 feet from our lot line, a large tree fell over about 10 years ago, a tree maybe 60 inches in caliper (20 inches diameter). I should say that the whole area has mostly second growth forests due to the prior clearing. Or, maybe it’s just how the soil is. It’s very thin topsoil due to the steepness of the slopes. Rocky. Not the type of soil you did in to plant a tree. So the trees grow easily, but never develop strong roots. The average life of a tree in these parts is probably 20 to 30 years. Then, a good windstorm will knock it over, and the saplings will grow and take it’s place. This is what happens all around us, and the woods are littered with deadfall, typically trees not even 8-inches diameter.

But, occasionally, a tree will be able to take root and live to a good age. We have a few older ones, especially along the route the old county road followed before the developer moved in. This old tree lived to well over 60 years, I reckon. But when it fell, it left a crater behind—not from the impact of falling, but from where the roots had been. A hole maybe four feet deep and eight feet across, on the slope, with the tree roots and soil between them up in the air.

The root crater is already hard to see, being filled with leaves—not naturally filled, but deliberately filled, by me.
The root crater is already hard to see, being filled with leaves—not naturally filled, but deliberately filled, by me.

So what will happen to this small tree crater in a world without human activity? Rainwater will collect in it, reducing the run-off down the slope, reducing erosion. Slowly the dirt will detach from the roots and fall to the ground, making a sort of dam on the downhill side, where the tree fell. This will further reduce run-off. Forest animals will have a source of water as the area dries between rains. The crater will be a leaf catcher, and slowly fill in. The tree trunk will rot away, giving habitat for snakes, bugs, even smaller bugs, and who knows what. With that large of a trunk, it will be around a long time. In the crater and near the downed trunk will be a good place for new trees to get their start.  One last thing: The hole in the leaf canopy left by the tree has resulted in more light getting through to the forest floor, and much more underbrush is growing in this area.

But, enter mankind—me. My first thought when the tree fell was: Firewood! However, sawing a 20-inch oak trunk is no fun, even if you had a chainsaw. Plus, I don’t have a wood fireplace and hence have no place to burn, except maybe in a fire pit, which I don’t have at present. So, I let the trunk stay. When a new neighbor moved to the house on the other side of the lot, several years after it had fallen, he asked me if I had any claim on the tree, because he would sure like to cut it up. I told him it was his, but he never has.

The thing I am doing, however, is disposing of leaves in the crater. We have two maples and one oak in our front yard, and thus have many leaves to take care of in the fall. I blow them downhill until the piles are too large to blow, at which time I pick them up and move them to the woods. A few years back my wife suggested we not just dump them right next to the yard, but move them aways into the woods to reduce the chance they’ll blow right back on us. This sounded like work to me, but not a bad idea, so the leaves go off into the woods: about 150 feet on the lot to the south, or 50 feet on the lot to the north, right to where the downed tree is.

For the last four years I’ve been taking the leaves to the crater and dumping them in it. One Saturday I’ll fill the crater to overflowing. The next Saturday they will have settled under their own weight, and I’ll fill it to overflowing again. Week after week, for two months, I fill the crater. Now, after four years of this, the crater is pretty much gone, filled in by man, accelerating the natural process. At the height of leaf removal season, the crater is so filled I dump lots of leaves right around it, on the underbrush. Once I started doing this, the underbrush doesn’t grow as much as it did for a few years, having less access to sunlight.

Obviously, I’m causing the crater to fill in faster than natural processes would. Those leaves are being converted to new soil, year after year. This year, or perhaps next, I will declare the crater filled. No more water catching. No more water source for forest critters between rains. Less underbrush creating root structure to hold the soil in place.

In other words, my leaf depositing is speeding up natural processes. It seems to me I’m not doing anything worse than that. The forest will be essentially unchanged years from now when I lay down my leaf blower and rake. A few critters may have to look elsewhere for water. Thus their contribution to the local ecology will be reduced. We’ll see less deer and chipmunks.

All in all, this aging environmentalist doesn’t really see a problem with his ecology-changing activities. I hope I’m not overlooking something. Maybe someday, I’ll figure out how to make a book or story about this.

Hard to get Blogivated

Yes, look at the title. I created a new word: blogivated. Here’s what I propose for a dictionary definition:

blogivated (n): anxious to write a blog post; full of ideas for blog posts; willing to use valuable time to write blog posts

Today, I’m not very blogivated. Actually, I should say tonight I’m not very blogivated, because I’m writing this on Thursday evening to post Friday morning.

This is how the final print cover came out. Better than the draft, I think.
This is how the final print cover came out. Better than the draft, I think.

Why not, you ask? I could say busyness is distracting me, and it would be true. As I’ve written recently, I’m super busy at home, and a bit busier than normal at the office. In situations like those, it’s hard to concentrate on blogging.

And yet, to some extent the dam has broken. I feel a number of things have broken free, and I’m able to see through to a less-busy time. Some of these have been writing related. As I reported before, I was able to pull together the print cover for Headshots. It was accepted by CreateSpace on the first submittal; I ordered my proof copy, which hopefully will be here Friday. Assuming it’s good, I could authorize publication tomorrow. That would be great.

First cut at the e-book cover. It's better than I expected for a first cut. I think I'm learning.
First cut at the e-book cover. It’s better than I expected for a first cut. I think I’m learning.

In trying to decide what to do next, I worked some on four different works over the last month. I wrote and typed a few pages in Adam Of Jerusalem, the prequel of Doctor Luke’s Assistant. I pulled together the Danny Tompkins stories together into one volume, edited them, and on Thursday even pulled together an e-book cover. It’s not final, but it’s actually ahead of schedule. I worked a little on a genealogy book, titled Stephen Cross of Ipswich. I’m sure I’ll publish it, and after the work I did this week on it, I have an idea of how much effort it’s going to take. I also worked a little more on Thomas Carlyle: Chronological Composition Bibliography. I have no immediate plans for this one, but will hopefully, someday, publish it, perhaps next year.

All of that is progress. I still have many things to do. Such as purchasing a newer van. Such as selling my pick-up. Such as replacing our dishwasher. Such as making trips to OKC and KC in the next month. Such as preparing to teach Life Group this week. Such as filing financial papers, on which I’m a bit behind (though checkbook and budget is up-to-date). Such as arranging for repairs in The Dungeon from the faulty dishwasher before we quit using it. Yes, plenty to do, still.

But the real answer as to why I can’t get blogivated right now is I feel like my blogging has been fragmented lately. I have had, or perhaps I should say I haven’t taken time, to plan out some posts. I try to stay three to four posts ahead in planning what to blog about. Right now, and for the last month or even longer, I’ve had no plan. The day before Monday and Friday comes, and I have to think about a blog post and write it. As you know, some days I’ve not done a real post, just a “sorry for not posting today.” I should have said, “Sorry for not being blogivated today.”

Tonight, when leave The Dungeon (remember, I’m writing this Thursday evening), I believe I’ll work on a blog schedule. Just knowing what I’ll be posting and when should help me to be blogivated more than I am now. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

Author | Engineer