Saturday, November 30, 2013

Done.

I won't pretend it wasn't hard. I lost a good week and a half, almost two to unforeseen circumstances. What that amounted to was a three day run of marathon writing to finish up finally with 807 words over the 50K mark for NaNoWriMo.

I'll wait till later before I go back to see how bad it all is. Truth is I don't want to know yet. The story, while complete for the by the competition's standards, has a ways to go before it's actually complete and ready for me to back track over for revision.

But, it's done and I'll go back to my 2000 word per day count goals. Something more akin to a 10K run versus a marathon. And I'll be more attentive to the other things in my life. This blog for one, and cleaning up all those dog rugs my shedding pup has been leaving behind in my house.

Nice seeing you again, folks!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

December 1st.


  • Coffee overflowed onto stove-top from espresso pot.
    • Planned clean-up: Dec. 1st.
  • Dog poop piling up in the backyard.
    • Planned clean-up: Dec. 1st
  • Halloween decorations still on front lawn.
    • Planned pick-up: Dec. 1st
  • Dishes piling up in sink.
    • Planned clean-up: When I run out of clean ones.
  • Patches of dog hair appearing on carpet from a late-shedding dog.
    • Planned vacuum: Dec. 1st
The point of all this? Nothing gets done until NaNoWriMo is done.

  • Blog updates.
    • Dec…oh, bloody hell. What am I doing here?


Monday, November 4, 2013

Nano, 4 days on

Okay, so I'm definitely on the Nano journey. And, yes, I'm on it with a boat load of baggage in tow. But that's okay. I'm still determined to get this thing done and I fully expect to have the banner "NaNoWriMo Winner 2013" splat across this blog come December 1st.

I'm also excited to be doing my first Nanowrimo Write-In tomorrow with some fellow Gulf Coasters also competing in the event. We're heading over to a local coffee shop in Ocean Springs, MS, tomorrow afternoon. It'll be fun to meet some of the other crazies participating this year.

Off topic, I thought I should say something about my last couple posts. Truth be told, I don't know who comes by to read this blog. I expect more spam bots than real people, but you never know. That said, I can't say whether or not my ramblings of late over my dog, Candy (her name came with her and she was too old to change it), are appropriate for an "author blog", but here's my take...

For now, writing is my hobby. I'm not making a living at it (can barely even take my wife out for the occasional pizza, in fact, on my paltry writer's income), and my audience isn't such that I worry over making high-vis missteps when posting entries or comments. I just don't carry that kind of weight in the virtual world. So really this blog is also something of a hobby and I'll treat it as such and worry about giving it a 'professional' gleam if my stuff really ever takes off.

These days, though, I need the catharsis that comes with venting to the great unknown. It is - believe it or not - a little therapeutic. In another life I would never have considered such an act. So security minded and privacy focused was I that even the thought of letting go a magazine I'd gotten in the mail with my name and address labeled on it was a sin to burn in hell for (if you believe in such a thing). Actually, I still do rip off those labels, but you get the drift. I've loosened up a bit and am more willing to put things out there.

I've come to realize that no one really gives a shit about me enough to worry about a little whining over my woes. So there. Maybe if I had something in the bank worth stealing my identity over, or were famous enough to draw people in so much that they hung on my every syllable it'd be a different story. But until I win the lottery or sell a million books, here I am, World. Deal with it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What am I thinking?


What are you thinking? My wife asked me that downstairs as she watched my eyes drift off into Never-Never Land. I just learned an hour ago the results of Candy’s examinations and pathologies with the specialists in Louisiana. They’re pretty certain it’s cancer. A nasty, very aggressive variety. Her prognosis they think lies somewhere in the vague arena doctors like to give of “weeks” at best. It seemed strange to hear that given how mobile she still seems when she does decide to move.

So, what am I thinking?

I’m thinking about our Candy (Candy Bear, as we affectionately call her), our sweet little rescue puppy who I nursed back to health from a lifetime of previous hardships. I’m thinking about how I watched her turn from a scared aggressive little bear into a sweet, affectionate and even playful for her age little dog. I’m thinking about those perennial moments when she figured out how loved she was and finally decided that our house was indeed her home too. I remember when she claimed her bed for the first time in our bedroom, and the first time that she sat down beside me and just licked my arm non-stop for what must have been five or ten minutes. We’d never seen that kind of affection from her before. It was like her way of saying, Okay, guys. You’re all right. I’ve decided to adopt you as my family.

But I’m also thinking that when she looks at me with her sweet puppy dog eyes, she’s telling me she’s in pain and she’s looking to the only being in the world she thinks she can turn to to make the pains in her tummy go away. And I’m thinking that I know she’s sick and that she’s in pain, but I’m helpless to do anything about it. I should be able to do something. I’m her adoptive daddy, but I’m floundering and feel as if I’ve betrayed the trust she’s put in me to take care of her.

And then a little later she feels good because the steroid I gave her to stave off the inflammation of her organs has given her a temporary reprieve from the debilitating pain she’s been feeling. The pains in her body from her tumorous liver and spleen, not even considering the arthritic spine and four collapsed discs she’s been living with since before we even rescued her, are now an afterthought as she jumps around in the grass outside. To her this is sweet relief, and she looks at me with happy eyes and all I see is her saying Daddy, you did it! And I try to smile back but I can’t, because I know.

I know that it’s not for real. Her body is still eating itself alive. I know that she is still dying and there is nothing I can do.

But I take solace in the words I took in somewhere, sometime ago. I don’t know who spoke them or wrote them, but I do remember they came with a degree of authority and it does make me feel good at times like these to remember them. They said that dogs live more in the here and now than you or I. They exist in and respond to the present, whatever it may be.

And so on her good days, I must remember to be happy for Candy too. To share in her joy, because on those days, in those moments, that is what she knows – happiness and a pain-free existence (or at least a less painful one).

Sure, the pain will return and her lethargy too. But not that day in that moment. I can’t allow myself to think about the trying days ahead of us when she’s like this. I don’t want to rob her of her joy. I must push away those future days where she will eventually even reject the syringe feeding I’m presently doing for her because she won’t eat her food on her own. The ones when she will eventually lose control of her own bodily functions and have difficulty walking, let alone making it outside for a potty break.

I know this walk. I walked it before two years ago with our dog, Ewok, in his last days.

It will be in those moments, those future days, then that I will worry most for Candy, because just as her living in the present makes her good days that much better, it will also mean that on her bad days pain and misery will be all that she knows, as well.

The doctors tell me that when that time comes, she will inevitably have both better and worse days. Note that they didn’t say ‘good’ days. It is when the moving average of the days becomes more worse than better that I should consider the long goodbye.

It pains me to think of it even as I type these words. My eyes are watering up, but there is a catharsis in writing for me. Sometimes I find in the process a way to help organize my thoughts on difficult things, and to seek knowledge and strength from within.

I know that when the time comes I will be more prepared for having the experience of Ewok, and for that I (and Candy if she ever had the pleasure of knowing the little guy) should be thankful. I will plan to spend all that day with her, comforting her as best I can, talking to her and soothing her. Doing those little clicking noises in her ears that always make her calm and close her eyes as if in a trance. I will let her know that I love her and right up until the end I will be with her. And I will make damned sure that when she finally does let go of her earthly ties, her last visions will be of those she loved most in life. My wife and I have worked hard to make her two years with us better than any of the previous ten and a half she had in her other life before us.

When she goes, my precious Candy Bear will not be alone.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Distractions

Nanowrimo's right around the corner, and already distractions are setting in. And not the good kind.

Today, for instance, I should be refining my plot lines, zeroing in on my characters' voices, and thinking about the long game that'll get me to the end of November in style, but instead all my thoughts are with my pup, Candy. We're going to see an Internal Medicine specialist in Louisiana about some issues she's been having lately that the local vet cannot diagnose fully. That said, there's a pretty good chance the little girl has cancer.

It's a tough situation to deal with. My wife and I are suckers for the hard luck cases at the animal shelter, and Candy was just such a case. When we found her we were only going to visit to show one of the previous caretakers of another of our rescues, Mace, how far he'd come. And that's when Candy and my wife made eye contact.

Candy had been at the Humane Society for almost six months. That's a long time by their standards, as most dogs are not given the chance to adopt out over that period of time before space requirements mean they must be euthanized. Candy's a small dog, though, so perhaps the limited space requirements to store her helped...that and the fact that small dogs tend to adopt out better than larger breeds. But she had several strikes against her, beginning with her age. She was 10.5 years old, and hardly anyone wants to start off a new life with an animal nearing the end of theirs, especially when there were already several medical issues apparent. She was missing spots of fur, she has a collapsing trachea, and her entire lower vertebrae are essentially arthritically fused with a few of her discs already collapsed.

After managing to pull ourselves away from her that day, we went home and discussed the possibility of adding a third pup to our cadre. We'd recently lost our 16 year old dog, Ewok, a couple months prior and were set on not putting another into the fold for some time. Candy went home with us the following week.

Over the next few months we nursed her back to health and dealt with some of her personality quirks, the worst being her food aggressiveness. But when you invite someone in from the shelter as old as Candy was then, you have to understand that her first decade of life is an unknown to you. Was she abused? Were there other, bigger dogs who used to compete with her for her food? We didn't know, so patience and consistency became our guiding principles.

And they worked. Two years later, and Candy is not the dog she once was. She's more confident, and with a healthy diet and a course of Glucosamine and MSM she was moving almost like a puppy again. She was a happy dog.

But over the last couple months her appetite has waned. I've tried all variations of dog food, then began cooking food for her, and still she lost almost 30% of her body weight. I'm syringe feeding her now, and she's taking it well. Turns out she's severely anemic, and after an ultrasound and some blood panels, we've seen some disquieting things going on with her spleen and especially her liver.

So, today Candy and I are driving an hour and a half away to go see a specialist and (I hope) to see if her condition is treatable or at the very least manageable. Maybe it's not cancer, but we don't know. Nothing in her medical story so far is following the textbooks, my vet says, and usually that points to cancer since that particular disease tends to rock the boat when it comes to picking its own path.

And that's where my thoughts lay at the moment. Not with writing, or plotting or even Nanowrimo, which begins this Friday. But with a little black dog who has endeared herself to our family with a distinctive personality all her own.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I've committed myself, but not to the looney bin.

Okay, I've taken the initial plunge into NaNoWriMo and committed myself to a book I intend to knock out over the course of November. By 'committed', I mean that I've officially listed the title and a synopsis of what it is about on my Nano profile. But to save you folks some time I'll go ahead and post it here.

The book is called Hollowtown, and it is the first in a series I plan to write called The Lost Fleet. The series title will make more sense once the books are laid down, but I think it's going to be a fun one to do. It's science fiction, so the genre is not something I've published in before, but I am a big fan of it.

Good old Jolly Jack will have to wait a bit longer, I'm afraid, before his reappearance. I just can't do that kind of book for Nano. Too much historical research slows the writing process down.

So here's the synopsis:

A multi-generational fleet of ships launched almost three centuries ago nears its destination, a star system nearly sixty light years from Earth. But the ships and crew complements that presently make up the fleet hardly resemble those that set out on the journey generations ago. This was especially so after communications with Earth ceased some two hundred years prior. Since then the population has grown beyond what the fleet can support and rebellions have risen time and again, all within the confines of a nest of ships linked together out of a shared necessity to survive as they traverse the vast lonely voids of interstellar space. 

A history and culture all its own has taken shape in the Fleet, slowly developing into a rigid caste system made up of essential crew members at the top and all others at the bottom. They, those deemed non-essential, are the outliers living among the fringe ships of the fleet. And among them two brothers, orphans who against all odds have somehow managed to eke out an existence in a place called Hollowtown are about to embark on their own journeys of sorts. Ones that will eventually lead them on a collision course that may put the entire Fleet at risk.

I'll definitely need to work on a good tagline, but as a blurb this one gets the job done well enough for now. Believe it or not, book blurbs are almost as hard to come up with as the book itself is to write. (Yes, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point.) A good blurb -- usually that thing you read on the back cover of a book you're considering buying -- has a lot of responsibility riding on its shoulders.

Think about it. You may have the best damned story in the world written in between the front and back covers of your book, but if the cover art and blurb combination fail to grab a potential reader's attention enough to open it up the world will never know the truth.

So, yeah, I'll be revisiting the blurb again before publication.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

To Amazon Select, or Not To Amazon Select?

That is the question.

A little background first. I am all about the reader. I want to make it as easy as possible for readers to get hold of what I write, but at times I find myself perplexed by the options available to the indie author when it comes to putting my book in readers' hands (or more likely these days, on their tablets). There are a lot of platforms out there, from Amazon's Kindle, to Barnes and Noble's Nook, to iBooks on Apple and Kobo readers from Sony. But there's a big negative for me as an author to putting my title out to so many different platforms. That negative is the inability to list my title on Amazon's Select program, because when you sign on to distribute with Select you must agree to sell exclusively with Amazon.

To those not in the know, if you are an Amazon Prime member you are able to 'check' books out virtually on a loaner status without actually buying them. This is a fantastic option for readers, and not so bad for authors either. The more your book is 'checked out' the more of a stipend you get at the end of the month. The other benefit for authors is that it raises the visibility of their book(s) considerably. After all, free is a pretty enticing selling point, right?

And that's the major benefit for the reader. Free. Most Amazon Prime members sign-up for the free 2-day shipping that it offers, but learn about the Amazon Select loaner program soon thereafter and when they do they start devouring titles like a meth-head goes through a found stash of acid.

Here is my dilemma. About 99% of my sales come to me via Amazon e-book sales. The remaining 1% are split between physical book sales and the various other platforms out there. And those are paltry sales figures on a good day. From the perspective of putting more books in more readers' hands I think it is hard to deny then that signing up to Amazon Select is the best way forward. But what about that the few who actually do purchase through Apple or B&N? Am I screwing them over?

I won't deny that my meager business acumen says Amazon's the way to go. They've got the distribution model set, and it's awesome. Their book recommendations feature comes to mind as an example. "You like this book? Then we'd recommend you take a look at this one and that one over there too!"

Those other platforms don't even have something as simple as this. At least, not in an interface as attractive or user friendly as Amazon's.

I don't know. *shakes head*

I'm going to sit on it this week, but there's a pretty good chance I'm going to try it out for a few months just to see how it goes. If I do, I apologize in advance to all of you Nook/Kobo guys. If you've got an Apple product, fear not. You can still download a Kindle App to read titles from the Amazon library.

Updates to come.