Wrap a wrap a wrap

A Friday Haiku

Another week gone

Where do they go? I don’t know

To join dryer socks?

Exercises come and go

If you’re anything like me (and if you are, I apologize), you tend to hate certain exercises and quickly get bored with others.

Running, I’m good to go, even if I sometimes take more days off between runs than I should; I still look forward to my runs and enjoy them (well, except for those first several minutes where you question your own sanity and wonder why you torture yourself so until the endorphins hit, the sun comes out, and the birds sing).

But other exercises I’ve always hated.

Stretching has always been my ultimate nemesis. I could neven touch my toes in grade school (and still can’t). So any stretching regimen I start ends quickly in pain and frustration. I don’t need such negativity in my life. I get it, I’m a failure at flexibility.

Push-ups are another. Loathe them. I don’t know what it is about them, but I really have to force myself to do them. Bench presses, on the other hand, I don’t mind and in fact, when I can feel the burn in my chest, shoulders, and triceps, I become motivated to do extra reps. But push-ups, I just collapse on the floor and give up.

Sit-ups and crunches I hate as well, and not because they sometimes hurt my back. I always need something to hook my feet under or I just sort of thrash away like a turtle on its back. In high school gym it was very embarrassing.

And that must be the reason for my dislike of certain exercises, there is some sort of psychological association with high school gym where all the other boys were towering over me, muscles rippling (think The Crusher from Bugs Bunny), and they could pound out dozens of push-ups, sit-ups, as well as the dreaded chin-up, and throw in an iron cross for good measure, while I’d struggle with my skinny spaghetti limbs trembling and flailing around, never accomplishing anything.

Now that I think about it, high school gym class was exactly like that for me.

Anyway, I meant to talk about how I start doing some exercises, but then quickly forget to do them, but I got off on a tangent on why I skipped gym all the time.

I was noticing a pain or weakness in my hamstrings and buttock the last few weeks when I step up onto something, like curbs or stairs.

Running was causing a strength imbalance and the stretches I attempted weren’t helping.

I realized I had gotten away from doing hamstring curls on my Weider Crossbow and doing rows on my CardioFit. I call them rows, but the machine is like the Tony Little Healthrider (see below).

These machines were all the rage back in the 80s, so I picked mine up at Sears after our stairstepper died (and Sears wouldn’t do anything so I wrote the CEO, then got a whiny letter from the store manager. “Why didn’t you contact me first?” Because I wanted you to squirm). The Healthrider seems more aerobic, with little resistance. My CardioFit has an adjustable piston to increase the resistence, making it more anerobic, although I’ve rarely dialed it past 2 (it goes up to a muscle- and joint-punishing 9).

Sorry, I did it again. The point is, after a week of this cross-training, my hamstrings feel much better.

And I apologize for taking forever to make that point.

Writing and editing and sex

I’d say I’m about 80 to 85% done with my first round of edits for my urban fantasy fairy tale.

This is the first time I’ve read it through. Strangely, I’m still very excited about it. That must mean it’s horrible.

Right now I’m editing for flow and continuity. I see where I called one character Bill, when his name is Benton. That’s what happens when you grab scenes from a trunk novel and don’t do a thorough read to catch things like that.

I’m back to a concern I mentioned several weeks or months ago about the relationship between two of the characters. They’ve known each other for less than a week and they’ve already fallen in love. Yes, I know such things happen in real life, if infrequently. And yes, I’ve read some urban fantasy romances and it seems the characters are jumping in the sack almost immediately. And therefore, I shouldn’t be that worried, but I am.

I’ve never written anything romantic before. I’ve never been concerned with the love lives of my characters. But beyond this being my first attempt at romance, its also my first attempt at writing a sex scene. To be honest, I haven’t even read very many sex scenes.

And this one has two so far. Scenes that, lacking any literary experience in the matter, I don’t know if they come off as hokie, or cliched, or downright boring.

I wonder if I should pass it to some beta readers to get outside reactions?

Weigh-In Friday

Despite only running on Monday, although I did do some weight training, and eating more than my fair share of my wife’s Dairy Queen ice cream birthday cake, my weight is down below 200 pounds at 199.7. Woot!

Designated Driver

For you couples out there, when you go somewhere together, who drives? The man or the woman?

I grew up in a time when men were the drivers and women were passengers.

Lately, I’ve been noticing more women driving with men as passengers and it still looks out of place to me.

Not for any sexist reasons; I certainly don’t believe gender innately makes someone a better or worse driver. Nor do I believe men are somehow ordained to rule over or control women.

In my case, I drive because for one thing, I get carsick as a passenger. For another, I drive my wife crazy because I don’t know what to do with myself as a passenger. I can’t read or play on my phone because of the motion sickness. So, I fidget, tap my feet, or drum my fingers, play with all the dials and switches, and constantly change the radio station. Being a passenger magnifies my ADHD.

So, very early in our relationship, my wife realized it was better for everyone all around if she let me drive.

Then she could read and play on her phone and ignore the fact that I wait until the very last second before applying the brakes.

Finally nearing the end

Since I spent most of this blog going off on attention deficit fueled tangents, I’ll spare you any political rants for the week.

TheRump is still an orange turd though. Never forget. Never normalize his hatred, bigotry, or incivility. Resist.

Enjoy your weekend. Here’s a song to send you off with:

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Friday is like Yeah!

A Friday Haiku

Friday is like Yeah!

A mix of Boo-yah & Boom!

Ready to explode!

Look to the skies

August is just hopping with big astronomical events.

On August 12th, we can expect the annual visit of the Perseid meteor shower. But this one is different! Astronomers say it will be the brightest shower in recorded history. Some might even be visible in the daytime.

If you miss it, you’ll be crying 96 years because the next one won’t come around for another 96 years.

The second event will be the coast-to-coast solar eclipse. Get your protective glasses now before they sell out.

It will sweep across the United States on August 21st. This is the first time the mainland has seen a total eclipse like this since 1979.

However, most of us will only see a partial eclipse. The lucky ones live along a narrow diagonal track that cuts from Columbia, SC up to Portland, OR.

So enjoy. Unless, of course, you don’t believe in science and think these are omens sent by the gods to warn of mankind’s impending doom. In which case, have fun with that.

Writing is like a drug

My current work in progress (WIP) is finally nearing its completion. For the most part, I’ve been very enthusiastic about writing it. When the ideas are flowing freely and I’m in the zone, writing becomes like a drug. A drug that fills me with happiness and excitement. The whole world seems a better place.

Too bad all those wonderful feels end when the editing starts.

Weigh-In Friday

No change. I didn’t lose weight, but then I didn’t gain either. For the kast few weeks, I’ve reached an unchanging plateau.

I’m beginning to think balony sandwiches aren’t the best lunch when trying to lose weight.

Nah! That’s silly talk.

Sad!

The approval ratings for the orange turd right now range from as low as 33% up to around 41%. If we go by the higher number, that means if you meet 10 people today, there’s a good chance 4 of them are idiots.

Currently Reading

Murder in Manhattan by Steve Allan.

Yes, that Steve Allan of TV comedy fame. I had no idea he had written a series of mysteries starring himself and his wife Jayne Meadows. I’ve always admired him. He seemed like a true Renaissance man.

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Writing and wediting Wednesday

Elmer Fudd would say he was “whiting my manuscwipt,” but would he say he was “wediting it,” too? Probably not, there isn’t an R in editing, but he would say he was editing with his “wed pencil.”

Sorry. I’m being silly, but I’m also whiting, er, writing and editing my manuscript.

Yes, the one I said was going to be done a few weeks (months?) ago.

Well, two things are going on. The ending is a little harder to write than I first thought it would be. I’m trying to fill it with action and suspense as well as a good pay off. I’m also having an internal debate if I should kill off one or more characters (and which ones).

The other issue I’m having is suddenly other scenes are popping into my head. Scenes that fit in throughout the story which add drama to the narrative and increase the tension.

They just came from nowhere, unbidden, and I started writing them down in a notebook hoping they’d just go away, but the more I wrote, the more detailed they became until I realized I needed to insert them.

And they’re fitting in perfectly. Unlike when I deliberately write scenes as filler because a story isn’t long enough or because it needs backstory or something to explain a later scene.

No. These belong here and fit in seamlessly.

So that’s why I’m not finished with this story. It wasn’t finished with me.

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Friday roundup

Another Friday Haiku

Another week gone

Time speeds past, where does it go?

Left with memories

Independence Day

Another 4th of July has passed, Happy Birthday, America, but can we please grow up and stop blowing shit up all night long, keeping people who have to work the next day awake, terrorizing pets, and traumatizing military veterans suffering from PTSD?

Not to mention maiming and killing ourselves and starting fires. For what? Because we think playing with explosives while drunk is fun and somehow our right as Americans?

In most communities, fireworks are illegal, (even sparklers!) and yet somehow people still get them and then blow them off right in the middle of residential areas without regard to anyone or anything around them.

I love fireworks. I admit it. The bigger the boom the more exciting it is. But I like watching from an established safe distance while professionals shoot them off.

Standing outside my house armed with a garden hose in case something lands on my house is not my idea of fun.

Grow up, America. 

Sparklers are fun and relatively safe unless you touch the burning part. I mean, it’s burning at a temperature of 1200°F and up. Show some restraint and they’re very beautiful.

10,000 Sparklers Lit Off At Once

Does anyone remember punks? It was a stick made of a slow burning material that gave off an odd smelling smoke. As kids we thought they were to keep away mosquitoes. They were a mild, safer alternative to sparklers. Turns out they were originally used to set off fireworks because they provided a longer reach than matches.

June Challenge and beyond!

June, I challenged myself to run a mile every day. I had been unhappy with my dedication, if you will, to the sport. I had lost my motivation to run and sometimes went a week or longer without running.

Thus the challenge. And I was very pleased with myself that I had stuck with it and faithfully ran every day for a mile.

And though I am not a morning person, I found running first thing gets it out of the way. It’s over and done with and I don’t have to worry if I’ll fit it into my schedule. Also, as I’ve said previously, I don’t have restless nights as I did running in the evening.

So now, I’ve made a new challenge, a Life Challenge, to continue to run every morning, slowly increasing my distance (because increasing speed, well, that takes far more effort to achieve and let’s face it, it’s still the fucking morning and it’s enough that I’m running). So far for July, I’ve increased my distance to 1-1/2 miles (3k?) and I only took the 4th off because I was very tired. Thanks, people who kept shooting off explosives nonstop throughout the night.

Weigh-In Friday

OK. OK. I gained 1.3 pounds. 

We took a six day vacation, four days of which we spent in the Wisconsin Dells celebrating my son’s birthday. So a lot of good food was eaten. (If you ever are in the Dells, have a meal at the House of Embers. You won’t be disappointed.)

One thing I’ve noticed, which has me puzzled. Last week I lost 2.1 pounds, yet my body fat average increased 2.3% and my muscle average decreased 1.5%. This week, again, my body fat average increased 1.3% while the muscle average decreased by 0.9%. Why is that? You’d think with a daily run my muscle average would increase, right? Right? Anyone? Bueller?

Speaking of the Wisconsin Dells

Dragon’s Tail at Mt. Olympus

See that? That waterslide? The orange one (no relation to TheRump)? That’s called the Dragon’s Tail and it’s at the waterpark we stayed at this year (and last year, and also several year’s ago). It is seven stories tall. I hate heights. But I finally screwed up my courage and took the plunge, so to speak. It was thrilling, exciting, and scary as Hell, especially when it felt like I became airborne for an instant on the second bump.

Next year, I’ll try the purple slide on the left of it. You can’t see it because it’s behind the Dragon’s Tail. They call it the Demon’s Drop and it has an 85-foot sheer drop that they claim is virtually straight down, putting you in “free fall” until the water and slide curve out to catch you.

Yeah. Ok. Maybe not.

Running outside

Since I returned to running last year, I have only run outside two, maybe three times. I ran on our treadmill the rest of the time for several reasons.

First, I felt a treadmill would be better for my joints. Our house is essentially concrete-locked. Meaning, there are only sidewalks and streets upon which to run. Nothing soft or giving like a high school track or a nature area with running paths cut into the dirt by the feet of thousands of previous runners. So I’ve treadmilled.

Second, although you don’t go anywhere on a treadmill (and many runners find that boring), it gives me the chance to either watch something on TV or to listen to music. (I’m aware you can listen to headphones running outside, but I don’t have a bluetooth set and when I did run outside with earbuds, the cords nearly strangled me and were painfully ripped from my ears several times.)

Well, last Friday morning, because we were in the Dells and our hotel did not have any indoor exercise area or equipment, I took the show on the road. And you know what? I enjoyed it. The pounding on my feet and joints wasn’t as bad as I feared and I was able to enjoy the scenery.

I ran outside three days while there, and when we returned home, I have continued running outside. No music or TV, sure (unless I get a decent bluetooth set of earphones), but the outside offers changing scenery. Especially since the weather is nice. Once the winter gloom, cold, and ice make an appearance, I’ll return to the treadmill, but for now outside running is working for me.

Currently Reading

I have a paperback copy from the 1960s of “The Time Machine and other stories” by H. G. Wells. I have never read the story before only having seen the 1960 movie adaptation with Rod Taylor (who I just now realized was portraying H. G. Wells himself! In the story, the main character was only ever refered to as “The Time Traveler”), and also starring my childhood crush, Yvette Mimieux as Weena. A classic, by the way. The movie, I mean, not neccessarily Ms. Mimieux.

The short story/novella is similar to the movie except where the movie decides to make the focus about the romance between Wells and Weena where he returns to her future time to rescue her from the Moorlocks. That doesn’t happen in the short story. Instead, the Time Traveler just goes off in time and leaves the narrator (portrayed by Wilbuuuur of Mr. Ed fame in the movie) to speculate where and when he went and if he died or not.

This book also contains “Empire of the Ants” (not to be confused with his other story “Food of the Gods”), “The Country of the Blind,” and “The Man Who Could Work Miracles.”

If you like Wells, you’ll enjoy these short stories. His writing is fluid and poetic, even if a few of the concepts and social mores are dated (“The Time Machine” was first published in 1894, for instance). If, on the other hand, you don’t enjoy Wells, what the Hell is wrong with you?

Go read Wells!

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Slow and steady writes the book

Slowly but surely, my novel is coming along. I’m in the final lap of the first draft. 

I began it on January 17, and I’ve worked on it a little bit each day. Some days I wrote a lot, maybe a few thousand words, other days I only wrote a few hundred, or I reread and edited what was already written. 

I don’t have exact word counts because I hand write everything with a fountain pen before I transcribe it to computer and incorporate it into the story.
It’s April, almost May, and as I said, the end is nigh, or the climax and denouement are nigh, yay verily.

Sorry.

I’m currently at about 71000 words and will probably be around 80000 when all is said and done. Not bad. I tend to write short and then have to go back and add more detail whereas some authors write long and then have to trim and cut.

This is an accomplishment for me. Usually it takes me many, many months to complete a novel. Years, in fact, and here I might have this WIP done in less than five months. Or is January to May only four months? See? This is why I’m a writer and not a mathematician. 

I think this version of my MC is better fleshed out than his predecessor from my trunk novel. That other one, I tried to give him a few human weaknesses so he seemed more real, vut i moght have gone overboard. I gave him a ton of flaws: he was shy, out of shape, ate poorly, seemed somewhat unaware of the feelings of those around him,  was a drinker and got drunk at least once, smoked cigars, was a wisecracker and never took things seriously, yet he was full of anger and had rage issues against his father, and so on.

The new version simply has ADHD. Period. Although that can cover a range of faults, I have tried not to be excessive about it and when he’s on his meds, he’s fine.
It’s when he’s off his meds that the trouble and fun happens. Imagine being a sorcerer who can’t focus long enough to create a spell, for instance. I hope it makes for some interesting situations. 

I also think the romantic angle where he runs (literally) into a faerie and they have a growing relationship has more depth and emotion than the previous story where that MC fell for a werewolf.

I’ve also eliminated werewolves and vampires from this story, since they’re overdone at the moment. Although I won’t rule them out in a future sequel.

Instead I have kraken and a troll, and of course, the antagonist, which is an ages old dragon. He was red before but I made him orange this time, because aren’t all tyrants who want to enslave mankind orange?

Have a good writing Wednesday.

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Writing about relationships

Welcome to another edition of Writing Wednesday! Last week I discussed my trunk novel and how I was disassembling it and using bits and pieces of it, including the main plot, in my current work-in-progess (WIP).

The new story, a blossoming relationship between the main character and a faerie is coming along nicely. I’ve almost completed the first draft.

My biggest problem is I’ve never written about romances or relationships. Not as the main focus of the story anyway. 

Snoopy knows

Most of what I’ve written, thrillers, action adventures, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, the main focus in on the main character surviving whatever the story has thrown at him. If there is a romantic relationship, it’s usually a very minor subplot hidden away in the main story’s focus.
And to be honest, I’ve never read a romance (closest l came was to start but not finish “Bridges of Madison County”) and in most of the stories I read, the relationship is also secondary, more like fill for the downtime between the action sequences. Something to simply make the MC seem a little human and vulnerable.

Take the romantic development in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” for example. John Carter meets Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful woman on two worlds, falls in love without really getting to know her, and spends the rest of the novel trying to rescue her from one predicament after another.

And considering I’m the nerdy bashful type, I don’t have a lot of personal romantic experiences to draw upon in writing this either.

So, its probably natural that I’m finding it difficult creating a believable relationship, a budding romance between two characters. It’s especially tough when the novel takes place over the period of only one week. 

I’m tasked with making the romance believable to the reader without them being pulled out of the story, “No one falls in love that deeply that fast!”

Sure, there’s a bit of Burroughsian boy meets princess, boy loses princess, boy fights to win back princess in it, but I don’t want to depend upon that cliche.

I want it to develop naturally into a believable romance that tugs at the reader’s heart strings. 

As I said, it’s hard. But then, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be able to do it.

Right?

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Unpacking my trunk novel

I set aside a novel several years ago. Not because it was a bad story, on the contrary, I really liked it, specifically the Main Character (MC) and a few other secondary characters. Plus, the main plot, I thought, was interesting.

I still do. But I became disillusioned after receiving some 60+ rejections from literary agents.

During the revision process,  which happened after each rejection — “Maybe they didn’t like this.” or “I bet they wanted a different beginning.” despite not receiving any feedback indicating any of those changes were needed — I had the novel Beta-read by several writers and editors. 

They all liked it, except the last one who said it was a good story but it was so poorly constructed only a complete rewrite from scratch could possibly help it. Yes, instead of listening to the majority, I keyed in on that last critique. At the time, I couldn’t see how I could rewrite it without rewriting it exactly as it was already written.

So I trunked it. I gave up.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This was a novel, in the urban fantasy genre, that had started germinating in my mind back in 1993 or so, before I even knew there was an urban fantasy genre. It was the 90th anniversary of Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee was filled with the sound of rolling thunder. The excitement influenced my creation of a character, a sheriff, who rode a white pearlescent Harley. He became involved in a situation where demons were released into our dimension. I also created a secondary character, based heavily upon an old time radio character Chandu the Magician as well as the Marvel comicbook character Doctor Strange, a sorcerer who becomes involved and together the two characters join forces to battle the demons. The problem was, I couldn’t think of enough personal story to flesh out the sheriff to make him a three-dimensional MC and I had yet to create any backstory for the sorcerer to make him one. So I set it aside.

Years later, the story idea morphed into something closer to the novel I ended up subbing. Now the MC was the magician, both stage and real, who is called in by his friend on the Police force (no Harley) simply to identify occult symbols at a crime scene and everything took off from that point. 

It took me two years to write the novel and a couple more to edit and polish it to where I thought it was submission-worthy. 

I liked the MC and other cast of characters so much, I even wrote a complete sequel to the first novel, and started writing a third.

Over the next five or so years, I subbed the novel to agents, rewriting and editing after each rejection whether I got feedback or not, until that fateful critique when I trunked it for several more years out of frustration.

Recently, I started writing a new idea completely unrelated to the trunk novel about an ordinary guy who runs into (literally) a fairy, injuring her, and takes her home to nurse her back to health. It is a romance, of sorts, and the story has slowly taken shape in my head and on paper. Then one day, I had an epiphany. 

I could combine the two stories using the main plot from the trunk novel and this fairy story as a subplot. I could resurrect the MC from the trunk, making a few changes in his backstory, keep him a widower with a daughter, keep his Police friend, and get rid of the rest. The demon plot would provide the action and suspense while the fairy story would provide character development. 

So I’m writing that story. I’m writing most of it from scratch, too, except on occasion, I’m snatching snippets of dialog or scenes from the trunk novel and with minor edits fitting them seamlessly into my new work-in-progress.

And I’m excited again. Even more excited than I was when I first wrote the trunk novel, because the subplot is providing the missing piece of the puzzle that I think the trunk novel was lacking — the human interest part.

I am writing and I’m actually enjoying it.

Write, Ferret, Write!

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