Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Written Draft Complete

The first draft is complete! And I've reviewed some of Ambrose's suggestions. I write 'some,' because after I addressed them, he went back to read the whole thing again, so I'll have one more set of them to work through.

In the meantime, I'm working on selecting the photos that I'll include in the book, and, if he's still working on it after I've selected, then I'll work on captions as well. I've started work on the cover, but I can't get very far on that until I choose the cover photos.

I wish I could use photos of the beautiful lakes I hiked by on day 3, but that day was particularly smoky. I will include some of them in the book, but they aren't clean enough to use for the cover image. I definitely want a nice mountain shot for the front cover, preferably one that shows a nice "Sawtooth" type mountain.

For the back cover, I'm thinking of a shot with water. Perhaps Fern Falls, but the time of day that I passed those meant that those shots weren't lit the way I'd prefer. If I were going to photograph them, I'd want to be there in the late afternoon, with the sun shining on the water and not into my camera lens.

There were more blurry shots than I realized this time. The pressure of hiking long distances in a tight time frame made me a little more careless with the shutter. I sometimes re-took a blurry shot, but more often I didn't - I'm sure it was a good idea at the time, but I do regret being so hasty now.

Well, I do forgive myself for the haste. I remember the pain in my feet. Even in good boots, they got swollen and sore and complained. And they were just the loudest among the complainers of my body. I pushed myself hard on that trip.

I did get a lot of good pictures. It's not going to be easy to winnow them down for the book. I know I can at least eliminate all the blurry ones, but that won't be enough of a bar. I took over 1000 photos! Only one way to do it - I better get to work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Home Stretch

I didn't finish my draft of the solo trip last weekend. Partly because I wasn't feeling well and partly because the temperature outside was so low. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. My computer desk is located next to the window and so is naturally a bit colder than the couch. Although, for some reason, I often get warmer sitting there than sitting on the couch.

Whatever excuse I might give myself, the draft is not yet complete, though I am well into day 5 - the last day. Writing about it still makes me smile. I love looking at the pictures. I go back through my memories and chide my past self for not taking pictures of parts that I now find I wish I had recorded - the nearly invisible trail up to Observation Peak, for example. At the junction where I crossed it, the trail was indistinguishable from a rut, but I didn't take any pictures of it.

I know that I'm going to have to bring a good deal of focus and concentration to my writing this next week. I would very much like to be done, or nearly done, by New Years. It would be best if I could finish before and keep the book in the same year as the trip was done, but I can handle it if that doesn't happen. I'm not the best at resisting procrastination, especially when my husband tempts me away from my work computer with movies and hikes. Perhaps I'll enlist his help in this scheme.

He has recently decided that to help us eat less sweets, all sweets come with penalty laps. I decide how many laps his treats may be bought for and he decides my price. For example, a pastry left over from an office party can be bought for four laps. A small piece of chocolate only costs two laps. So far, it's been an effective deterrent from eating extra sweets. It isn't that the laps run will balance out the calories from the treat, but that the thought of having to do laps prevents us from eating them - sometimes.

So maybe I'll have to do a similar plan for my writing work over the break - something like, one hour at the writing desk equals one movie. And the television viewing would get more expensive as the week went on, forcing me to spend yet more time at the desk - like 2 hours - in order to watch just one 44 minute episode of Deep Space Nine with Ambrose.

I might have something here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

La clase

The Spanish class experiment is over, and I am relieved. It was interesting, but much more stressful than I anticipated. I did learn a more about Spanish grammar than I knew before, but I'm not convinced that my speaking skills improved very much and my listening skills are pretty much exactly where they were before - but I know how to use the subjunctive! If only I could recognize it in conversational speed speech. . .

For a variety of reasons, I will not be taking a class next semester. The main reason is so that I have time to plan and prepare for doing a solo trip in the early spring rather than late summer, but there are others. I've taken a class every full fall and spring semester since I started working at my current job. I consider it to be a bit of a waste not to take advantage of the reduced tuition that is an employee benefit, but I think I've finally reached scholastic burnout.

I want more time to devote to my own interests, more time to spend with my husband without worrying about whether I have assignments due or need to study. Classes take up a lot of brain space for me, and I want to reclaim it, maybe let it lie fallow for a season and see how I feel about more classes next year.

I do want to continue to study the Spanish language and try to gain a level of fluency, but I'm not convinced by this class that taking college courses is the best way to do that. I'm not sure what the best way would be. My husband has recommended watching commercials; he says that a number of immigrants to America that he knew learned English that way. But they were also living in a country where English was spoken.

I've tried watching television in Spanish, but I inevitably lose the train of conversation as soon as I hear a word I don't know. I run into a similar situation with trying to read books in Spanish, even books that I've read in English before. And, because Spanish words sometimes have objects appended to verbs, the Kindle dictionary lookup can't always tell me what the word is because it won't look up the root word, just the whole word. Which is nonsense, according to the included dictionary.

Maybe I need to buy a dictionary that I can use in the Kindle; that way if the highlight word for lookup feature fails me, I can go to the other dictionary and figure it out based on what I know of roots. Or I could just read at the computer with a dictionary open. But that takes much of the enjoyment of reading out of the equation for me.

One thing class did do for me was give me an incentive to focus on learning the language. I'll have to see whether I can keep some form of that focus without the class to prod me to practice.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Book Writing Thoughts

The write up of my solo trip is going along nicely. I should be finished with the initial draft in the next week or so, which works well with my schedule. I'll be completely done with Spanish class as of 12/12, and my office will be shut down between Christmas and New Years, leaving me with plenty of time to work on polishing the draft, formatting the pictures, and laying out the book.

I find once the words are done and ready, the rest of the book comes together more easily. The formatting of the pictures and their captions takes time, but not the same kind of effort that the writing of the main narrative requires. I'm looking forward to doing the pictures because it's work that is creative but also comfortingly repetitive. The pictures need to be formatted to a certain size, occasionally cropped or otherwise manipulated, but these are tasks that I'm used to doing by now. 

Coming up with captions can sometimes be a bit tricky, but it's still not that difficult for me. Especially when I have my husband to bounce ideas off of as I'm working. 

The hardest part about the pictures is going to be selecting which photos to include. I took over 1000 pictures. Even if I take away all the blurry ones, of which there were quite a few because I was in "hike fast" mode, I'll still have a ton of shots that I won't be able to include in the book. 

But that's part of why I leave the pictures for after the writing. Whatever form the narrative takes, I'll be able to find the pictures that illustrate and compliment that. This time, I'm less focused on narrating every step and more focused on telling an interesting story. There are some interesting tidbits that I don't think will be in the text, but I will include them in a picture with a little caption. Almost as if the pictures and their captions will have "extra" story in them, parallel to the narrative. 

I use the pictures while I write. They help remind me of what happened when, and, quite frankly, they make me smile. Until I get to the point of picture choosing and editing, I'll just  have to keep chipping away at the story of each day - and put some caption notes on the pictures as I scroll by. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Reasonable Pace

Before the Thanksgiving break, I was concerned about whether I would finish writing the first draft of my solo trip before the new year. But as I relaxed into the writing, I found that the words came without much prompting, and I feel that I may well finish within the next two weeks - still cutting it close to get a book published before January, but I could get it done.

I think the main reason that it's easy to write about my trip is that it makes me happy. The trip was hard. Hard on my body and hard on my mind. But the memories make me smile, even the memories of the pain and the difficulties. And especially the memories of the incredible views, the solitude of nature and the animals I spotted in passing (no bears!).

Creating these books started as a project to share the trail with my mom, and the rest of my family, who probably don't understand this whole backpacking thing any better than I did before I started it. It seems a little silly to travel with your legs over the course of days what you could travel in a car in an hour or so. But there are no cars allowed where I like to travel, and the world looks different when you travel 1 to 3 miles per hour instead of 30 to 70.

I appreciate the conveniences in my apartment so much more after I've been deprived of hot, running water, toilets, refrigeration, chairs and beds. And as I sit in my apartment, typing up the adventure of that trip, I appreciate what I purchase with the lack of conveniences.

I purchase confidence, accomplishment, breathtaking views, new experiences, challenges and summits, and the feeling of surmounting those.

It's an exchange I'll take. Sometimes I even think about taking it further, haring off to live somewhere less convenient, where the winters bring feet of snow and the summers mean hard work. Maybe someday. For now, I'll remember my summer experiences during the winters. I'll plan my next year's journeys. And I'll keep writing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Writing the Solo Trip

I'm finally getting down to the serious business of writing up my solo trip. I'm taking a bit of a different tack this year. Instead of writing the whole trip as I recall it, I'm trying to make it more of a story. I still want to include as much of the journey as possible, but I want to make sure that the emotional journey is as clear as the physical one.

This year's solo had quite a few aspects that differentiated it from previous years. It was the first time I was hiking on trails I'd never walked before. I had never before hiked so many miles per day before. And I'd never had to deal with the challenge of meeting up with my husband for a resupply and then leaving him again the next day.

Prior years, I'd write the trip in a single document. This year I'm creating a document for each day and letting my husband read them as I finish. I think this method will help me keep moving, by allowing me to show my progress as I go.

I'm also adding captions to pictures as I think of them, which I hope will help once I get to the adding pictures stage. That won't happen until all the words are written. I look through the day's photos as I write, but I don't insert them into the document. The story of the trip needs to stand on its own first.

The plan is to make some good progress over this Thanksgiving break on the write up so that by the time the Christmas break rolls around I'm, at the very least, working on inserting pictures and formatting the book. I'll do my best to get it finished before the new year, but I won't panic if that doesn't end up happening.

I'll just keep working until I'm finished and write the best book that I can.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Silver Lining Rejections

I still haven't sold a short story, but I'm beginning to experience something a little different with my rejections since I started to submit some of the stories that I wrote over the summer. For the very first time (from professional markets), I've received personalized feedback from the editor(s) rejecting my stories.

Not just one story, but two stories so far have received that treatment, from two different markets.

The first one was actually preceded by a very hopeful email informing me that my story had made it past the first cut, into rarefied territory. It would take up to an additional month to hear the decision, but at least I knew that it had gone somewhere, that it wasn't just slushed out of hand.

"They" say you shouldn't take form rejections personally, and I try not to, but after a while they get depressing. I have no idea what exactly has been "wrong" with my story to garner such a bland response. It's a signal that my story is in that large pile of rejects that aren't "worthy" of an additional response.

And yet, a personalized rejection is still a rejection. At first, I wasn't happy to be seeing yet another rejection. Sure, my story had made it past the first round of consideration, and that was great. And the editors liked my story, which was also great. But they didn't want to buy it, and that... was not so great.

But then I received the second rejection with notes, on a different story, submitted to a different market. Again, the first reaction was that crushing sense of defeat, but that probably had as much to do with the fact that I really needed to eat as anything else (hard workout, followed by shopping - I needed lunch). It was in the shower, washing the salt from my skin, that I came to the understanding that the feedback was in fact a very good sign, despite the rejection.

And, in both cases, the feedback was helpful. It confirmed that my stories are approaching what these particular editors are looking for, even if they haven't quite reached it. And it's helping me keep the stories "in the mail" and circulating. It's pushing me to do something with all the stories I wrote over the summer, not just the two I had initially started submitting.

So I've got one more circulating and I'm going to self publish two others. I'm going to keep working, keep moving forward and continue improving until I get something other than even the nicest of rejections.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ready for Some Football

I can't say that I had never been to a college football game before last Saturday. But the one game that I had attended was not exactly a large affair. It was more than twenty years ago, a game at Wheaton College against Millikin. And the only reason I was there was because I lived in the town next to Wheaton and my cousin was Millikin's punter.

What I remember of the Division III match-up was simple metal bleachers, not much bigger than the ones at my brother's park district baseballs games. I remember a grassy field that extended under said bleachers. I remember walking around, bored, because I didn't know the rules of the game and I didn't want to know. I watched my cousin when he punted without understanding that punting was not a good thing for his team to be doing.

And so, when I attended the Boise State versus San Jose State game on Saturday, it was an entirely different kind of experience.

There was no grassy field to be seen. Instead, Albertsons Stadium hid the famous blue turf from view until I passed through the security line, complete with metal detectors and the possibility of additional screenings by wand wielding security officials. Past that point, I couldn't see anything but concrete until I climbed a set of stairs.

The main concourse reminded me of being a hockey game; food and drink were available and there were plenty of restrooms. But it was all open air, and I imagined it could be quite a miserable experience in the cold and the rain. I could see glimpses of the field, but it was clear that this was not the place from which one was supposed to view the game.

To get to my seat, I had to climb yet more stairs, and then more stairs. I was only a few rows down from the very top of the seating area under the Stueckle Sky Center, and my legs felt every narrow concrete step. The steps felt extra narrow because I had taken the precaution of wearing my hiking boots to keep my feet warm. They add an inch to my height and at least two inches to my foot length.

I arrived at my seat about a half an hour before the game started and I just stared. At the people still making their ways to seats, at the teams practicing on the blue turf below, at the marching band gathering and the large American flag being held across the field in preparation for the anthem.

The field looked so small from up there, as if 100 yards were 100 feet instead. And, after I got to see the exciting ritual of the hammer wielding home team entering the field and the marching band playing the anthem, when the game actually started, it still seemed small. The players on each team seemed to move down the field at incredibly fast rates.

And yet, the game itself seemed to go incredibly slowly. Thanks to my backpacking inflatable seat cushion, my rear wasn't freezing on the metal bleacher bench, but by the middle of the second quarter my bladder was starting a war with my desire a) to see everything that was happening in the game and b) not to have to climb those stairs again.

That other long ago game was an afternoon game, and I remember that we stayed for the whole game. This game started after 8 pm and it took an incredible effort to make it past half time (which I wanted to see for the marching band). I watched one more drive after that and gave up to ride my bike home after 10 pm. As luck would have it, Boise State got a touchdown on that drive and I was able to head out on a high note.

I had a good time at the game. It turns out that knowing the rules contributes a great deal more to the enjoyment of a football game than simply knowing the punter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Trying to Ramp up

I've been very low energy the last week or so. It's hard to get to the writing desk and work on the various projects that I have going. I'm keeping up with work, school, exercise and the 30 day diet challenge that I'm halfway through.

I'm not keeping up with the writing of my solo trip as much as I want to, but after having so many weeks sick in September and October I'm a little more confident that once I'm past this slump I'll be able to get the work done that I want to get done. And there won't be any classes over the week of Thanksgiving, so as long as there's not too much homework, I should be able to get some serious writing done while I'm off work for the holiday.

I'm not as far into the writing of the solo trip as I wanted to be at the beginning of November, but I believe I can catch up and still get the book out at my customary time of December/January. I'm trying to write captions as I go, when they occur to me, saved on the photos themselves in the metadata (my husband's idea). That should help speed up the process once I'm ready to start putting words and photos together into the master file. I also did a lot of work on the look of the cover last year that I'm not going to try and change this year.

The writing itself isn't difficult. In fact, when I get my butt in the seat and settle into writing, it goes surprisingly quickly. I'm trying to be more conscious of the trip as a personal journey and not just a series of places and things. I came up with various theme statements for each day and I'm keeping them in mind as I write, considering how they relate and which ones relate best. I'm also trying to be less stringent in how I tell the story; chronological order is great, but I'm not going to be wed to it if I see a way that a different order would better serve the tale.

Reviewing the pictures as I go along brings me back to the steps of that journey, the smells of the woods, the tastes of the energy bars, the sounds of water flowing and birds tweeting. I remember the bruise on my back from the metal bench at Willow Creek Campground and the bruises on my shins from an ill-advised, missed box jump a few days before the trip began. The pictures themselves become windows to the wider view in my memory.

I just have to focus on how nice it is to think about that trip and then maybe I'll get my butt in the chair a little more frequently.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Living Languages Are Hard

Much to the disappointment of my mother, in high school I took Latin and Ancient Greek. She wanted me to learn Spanish, which makes sense because my dad and his side of the family speaks Spanish. I wanted to learn Latin, because I liked the idea of learning a foundational language. Theoretically, learning Latin would help me learn any Romance language, including Spanish, more efficiently.

But now I'm taking Spanish (my mom has forgotten most of hers), and I'm starting to have some difficulty. I tested into Spanish 201 by using the Duolingo app, so I don't have as much of a grounding in the basics of some verb forms as I'd like. And I've never taken a college level Spanish class before so I don't know if my class is typical or not. We don't use the (expensive, online only) textbook very much at all, and though the class is supposed to be conducted solely in Spanish, the instructor breaks down multiple times a class into English either because she doesn't know the Spanish or the class is looking at her with baffled incomprehension on our faces.

Also, and I write this knowing I have a history of being annoyed by the verbal tics of instructors, she uses the English word, "kay" a lot (short for okay), which confuses the heck out of me because it sounds just like the Spanish word, "que."

I do well enough on the tests and homework assignments, but I cannot seem to have a conversation with anyone in Spanish without stammering, hesitating, and losing track of what we're talking about. I hear one unfamiliar word and lose everything after. Or I can't understand someone's accent, or I just don't know the words that I want to use, or how to express what I want to express.

I have to translate what I'm saying before I say it. I have to translate what others are saying before I understand it. And I don't know how to get past that.

The present subjunctive wasn't too hard to learn, but the imperfect subjunctive is formed using the third person plural of the preterite. And I've never, ever learned the preterite. I've barely even heard of it.

So I'm simultaneously frustrated and excited by class at this point. There's so much that I don't know and it bothers me. But as I continue to work with Duolingo, I can see what I've learned by rote using the app starting to make sense with what I learned in class. If all I had to do was translate, like with Latin, then I'd be doing fine.

But Spanish is a living language, and I'm being evaluated not only on how well I can write or read it, but also on how well I can speak and listen to it. I'm trying to find that switch in my brain to start myself thinking in Spanish, but I don't know where it is or how to flip it.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Writing Begins in Earnest

I've finally finished writing up the Chamberlain Basin trip that I took with my husband. I'm still picking away at that story that I didn't finish over the summer, but I'm going to continue poking along with the fiction and put my mind to writing up my solo trip for my next book.

Of course, I'm also studying Spanish, and quickly feeling like I'm losing all confidence that I gained from the Duolingo app. The app was good to get me to a point of being able to understand and converse, but in class we're starting to learn the imperfect subjunctive, which depends on knowing the preterite to form and knowing both imperfect and preterite to use in a complete sentence.

On the plus side, I'm continuing to grasp what I see on Duolingo better when I do daily practice sessions. But I still don't feel like I have a solid grasp on preterite or imperfect. And when I don't feel like I know what I'm doing, then I get frustrated.

And I've also started a nutrition challenge through my cross fit gym. 30 days of going low carb. The mere thought is terrifying. I like carbs. I like bread. A lot. But I'm going to try and see what I can do in those 30 days. I've got a starting weight, a goal, and, most importantly, I've got my husband on board. He won't be going as strict as I will, but he will be cooking meals that fit into my challenge and supporting me through the inevitable sugar withdrawal.

I'll just use the solo hike write up to distract me from how frustrated I am in Spanish class, studying Spanish to distract me from my sugar withdrawal and my withdrawal symptoms to distract me from how late I am in starting the solo hike write up.

It's all going to work out...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Soliciting Rejection

I've taken a bit longer than I wanted to in turning the work I completed over the summer around and either into submission or publishing it myself. I have excuses, of course. I've got a class that needs time and attention. I have work. I've been sick it seems every other week since the start of September.

But excuses are easy to come by. It's work that is the difficult part. So I started that work over the weekend, sending out two short stories. I should get a quick rejection for one and a slower rejection for the other at which point I'll figure out another place to send each of them. Eventually, I'll put them up either on this blog or for sale, depending on how I feel about them at the time.

One of them is a story that I really like. I feel like it was a level up kind of story for me, but that doesn't mean it will sell. And I have to accept that it not selling does not mean that I did not write a better story. It just means I haven't reached the level that I want to reach yet. Or I haven't gotten my story to the right market. Maybe a little of both.

I was hoping to have finished my write up of the Chamberlain Basin trip before October started, but I fell ill again at the tail end of September and did not reach that goal. I'm looking forward to starting work on my next Hike with Me book. I have some ideas about what I can do to make it better than the Hike with Me books I've written already.

One of those ideas is to think of what the theme of each day of the trip is before writing the account of it. I may or may not use this theme as a chapter title, but I think having something like that will allow my writing to be more cohesive and tell a better story about that journey. I'm having fun thinking about what each day should be called if it were a song or what the title of that "episode" should be. I've got 4 different sets of titles for each of the 5 days so far. Maybe I'll use more than one of them and subdivide the days into multiple chapters each.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

NHL.tv Just Doesn't Learn

A new hockey season is nigh.

And you know what that means...

More shenanigans with the launching of the latest update of the NHL app!

I will give them some credit. The NHL decided to allow live streaming of select pre-season games. Now, the pre-season in itself is not, in and of itself, all that exciting, except for the fact that it's hockey and it means regular season starts soon. But this was a wise move, in that it allowed all the hockey dorks to start screaming about the bugs well before the regular season began.

And, of course, there are bugs.

As the owner of a 3rd gen AppleTV, I had a very special time the last few days trying to figure out how to view the pre-season games that were a part of my  paid subscription package. First disappointment: although the pre-season started on the 25th, the special streamed games didn't start until the 30th. Second disappointment: my NHL app refused to allow me to access the "Today's Games/Scores" section. You know, the part where you actually get to select games for streaming. Third disappointment: the Teams section of the app gave me an actual error message rather than any information about the teams.

To be fair, though who wants to be fair, I was able to stream games on my phone. Sure, the screen is a fraction of the size of my television and the sound quality leaves something to be desired, but I could, technically, get what I had paid for.

And, on Friday, just to be extra special, the vaunted new Support Forum went directly to an error page. So much for reporting my issues there.

So I spent several days exchanging half a dozen emails with NHL Support. The essence of the conversation always came down to them telling me to re-install my NHL app and me telling them that the 3rd gen AppleTV does not have that option, to which they responded, why don't you just download the latest version from the app store? When I got fed up enough to reply with "There is no app store." I got some weird instructions to change my Audio/Video settings from Auto to Standard, which makes almost no sense.

So I decided to check and see if the Support Forum was up and running.

Turns out, there are a lot of people experiencing the exact issue that I was, and getting the exact same runaround from NHL Support.

The difference was, some of them had figured out that if you log out of your account, then you can select a game to watch, which prompts you to sign in. So you can view one game, but if you'd like to switch, then you have to log out again. A workaround, but not a solution.

Still, it was better than what I had and I'm happy to have found it. Sure would have been nice if the NHL Support people were aware of that workaround and told me about it in one of those myriad emails.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Proper Order

The other day I was riding my bike home from work. The sky was threatening rain, and I wanted to get home before the downpour began.

So when I was approaching the last stoplight on my route, I pushed my pace. Two blocks away, the light went green, and I wasn't sure I could make it. The line of cars moved through the intersection and I was half a block away.

The approaching left turners had a flashing yellow light and first one, and then another, entered the gap between the last car ahead of me and my speeding bike. No problem, there was room, as long as the next vehicle, a truck, didn't follow suit and not see me coming.

And, to be honest, the second car to turn left actually cut me off. I had to slow a little bit to avoid running into him, because he chose not to yield on his flashing yellow when I had the green.

As I pumped the brakes to avoid a collision, I mumbled a insult under my breath. There's no way the driver could have heard me; his windows were rolled up.

And, for some reason, I saw him turning to look at me as I approached. For one brief moment our eyes met, and he flipped me the bird.

Yes, the guy who cut me off in traffic, taking his car in front of my through the intersection when he had the lowly flashing yellow and I had the good to go green, decided that my presence was offensive enough to his sensibilities that he had to demonstrate his displeasure - silently, since his windows were rolled up and I wouldn't have heard him if he said something.

I rode on, beating the rain home and thinking about the incident. He was in the wrong. I was the one who should have flipped him off. I didn't take it personally that he flipped me off, but I couldn't help but laugh at the circumstances and his clearly poor knowledge of the proper order of things.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Visiting the First Folio

The Folger Shakespeare Library is taking a copy of the First Folio out on tour to every state, even Idaho. And Boise State University has been hosting the book for nearly the last month. This rare book has been displayed less than half a mile from where I live since August 20th and I finally got around to visiting it last Saturday.

Naturally, I dragged my husband along with me. I sold it to him as a nice walk to see an old book, but he spent much of the walk insisting that he had no idea what we were going to see.

The book itself was under glass in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, as can be expected for a book nearly 400 years old, one of only 233 extant copies. It was laid open to Hamlet's "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy, and I was glad to arrive early enough that it wasn't crowded so I could take the time to read that section. I will admit, I struggled with the font, but it was a worthy struggle.

Photography was allowed as long as there was no flash, so I had Ambrose take my picture to prove my presence near the book itself. And I took a couple pictures of the book by itself.

I was there, within inches of setting off the alarms on the First Folio's case. 

The book was kept around 65.3 degrees in its case. 

Someone was taking pictures with their cell phone, saying that she hoped she would be able to blow the picture up and read the book with it. I took this picture with my backpacking camera, and no amount of zooming is going to make the pages legible. I wish her the best of luck. 
Overall, it was a nice walk to visit an old book. We saw and greeted a couple of my colleagues from work as we were leaving. And soon enough we were home again.

But I have now read from a copy of the First Folio and I'm too much of a Johnnie not to appreciate that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Revving up

I managed to be sick over the long Labor Day weekend, as well as the one before, but this past weekend I was able to start back on exercising. Unfortunately, the exercising after so long a sickness break made me more than usually tired.  I still haven't finished writing up my Chamberlain Basin hike - I haven't even made much progress in writing it. 

But I have kept up with writing fiction every day, and I've recorded the number of words. I don't know that I'll continue the fiction writing once I finish my current story, because I'll have the solo to write up and produce, but between Spanish homework and keeping up with exercise, there simply might not be time. 

It's all about balancing priorities and making choices. Work is a priority because I need money. Spanish homework is a priority because I'm investing time and money in the class (plus I really want to learn the language). My blogs are up there, working out, writing my solo hike and putting the fiction I wrote this summer out where it can be bought. 

And I like spending time with my husband, too. Every now and then. And spending time with him watching shows we enjoy together is nice and relaxing, but it takes time that I could use for other things. 

So I have to figure out where to put my time and where to put my energy and, if I could, I'd totally cut out my job but my writing income is nowhere near the level that would allow me to do that. It isn't that I don't like my job; I just like writing and exercising and being with husband more. 

I spent more time on the couch this weekend than at the desk. I made that choice. I chose to wake up early and exercise, complete my chores and then watch movies instead of writing. I chose to drag my husband on a six mile walk instead of getting my butt in the writing chair - a walk that drained me of energy because I did it right after Sunday morning Cross Fit. 

I hope by next weekend I'll be a bit more used to exercising so the choice to move from the couch to the desk is a little bit easier to make. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Challenge Recap

From May 6 to September 1, I challenged myself to write fiction every day, with minimum word counts of 500 when I was home, 100 when I was backpacking and 250 for bumper days. In that goal, I succeeded. I wrote fiction every day, even when I was exhausted from backpacking. Even when my husband and I arrived at our campsite near sundown and I had to write by headlamp. Even when I felt sick and uninspired, tired from a long day at work, I wrote my words. 

I also challenged myself to write a short story almost every week. My goal was to complete 14 short stories, and 4 novel or novella length works. In that goal, I fell short, completing only 5 short stories, 1 microfiction and 2 longer works. That is, I believe, what Dean Wesley Smith calls failing to success, because without the challenge in place, I would have completed none of those works. 

I had a more vague goal about publication, and I'll put the blame for the lack of completion on the vagueness of the goal. I was so focused on writing that I didn't focus as much on publication or submission. As I transition into the fall, I'll put more energies in that direction. 

I also challenged myself to be accountable for my words, and in that I succeeded. I posted my words every day that I was home and posted recaps when I got back from my backpacking trips. 

Overall, I call the challenge a success. I finished a work that I'd started years ago; I created several new works of fiction. I proved to myself that I can make time for writing if I really want to. I wrote over 65,000 words during this challenge, and I have one more work that is still in progress. Because of this challenge, I'm committed to finishing it, to continue writing fiction every day and recording the word counts, if only for myself. 

This fall, I have a goal of completing my next Hike with Me book, which will get the bulk of my writing attention once I finish writing up the Chamberlain Basin hike I took with my husband. But I won't abandon fiction completely. I have a mighty streak of fiction writing, and I don't really want to break it. Writing fiction became easier as the weeks wore on. Where I struggled to complete my 500 in less than two hours in the first month, by the last month, I was able to finish that minimum in less than 30 minutes. Not something I want to lose. 

Although I'm pretty sure I annoyed my husband more than a few times this summer with my need to complete my words, I am glad to have started and finished this challenge. I may just do it again next year. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1

I wrote 611 words today. The story is not finished, though my challenge is.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31

I wrote 509 words today. Not sure I'll finish this story tomorrow or not. But I will finish it.

Oh Hyperbolic Whine

Is there anything worse than being ill over the weekend?

Literally, yes, there are many worse things.

Figuratively, I wish to propose that there is not, having been in that situation this past weekend.

It was supposed to be the weekend that I got back on track with my exercise, having rested a full week after my last backpacking adventure. Instead, I was hardly able to walk to go shopping, let alone go to the gym or Crossfit. Instead of getting all of my work done and more, I got just enough done.

Somehow, I managed to get a cut on the top of my head, most likely from a collision with the trunk door on Friday night after shopping. Although I remember the bump, I didn't realize that it was a cut until Sunday when I noticed that the itchy spot on my head was shedding red bits, which my husband confirmed was a scab.

I slept and slept and still managed to feel tired. I guess it's possible that it isn't an illness, but is instead caused by general being worn out from all the backpacking. But it did feel like an illness, in that just being tired doesn't usually make me feel like I'm losing my breath while shopping.

I got through work on Friday by the skin of my teeth and spent the two days that I was supposed to be able to use for my own ideas and desires moaning and groaning and being generally useless.

Here's hoping that next weekend brings a little more in the way of productivity and less in the way of sneezing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 30

I wrote 532 words on an old story. I hope to finish this before the challenge ends.

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 29

I wrote about 520 words today.

I'm not entirely sure, because I was working on an old project and it turned out that I had put a section in the file twice so I had to remove it. And I need to find yet another file for this story, because I know I had another section written.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 28

I wrote 320 words on my old story and finished it. I wrote 192 words on another old story. I hope to finish it too before my challenge ends.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 27

I wrote 505 words today.

I think I'm ill. But I got my homework done and a good amount of writing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 24

I wrote 509 words today.

Same old story. With school starting, I've got less brain room for writing fiction. Still, it's doable. I'm almost there.

Do I Get My Idaho Card?

I have lived in Idaho for over 10 years now, and have been visiting it since 2003.

But it is only this past weekend that I finally had an experience that made me feel like a true resident of this rustic western state.

Many years ago, I had a brief job working at Warm Lake Lodge, a facility established on the shore of Warm Lake in 1911. I cleaned cabins for all of a week and a half before I had to return to Boise in an ambulance after a nasty case of either a 24 hour flu or food poisoning. When I worked there, I had a supervisor, naturally.

I thought, when I thought about her, that she would still be working there.

Last week, my husband and I were driving back from the parking lot at the trailhead of Big Creek, on the edge of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. We stopped at the city of Yellow Pine, a thriving area boasting a population of 32 and at least 5 eateries. We ate breakfast at the Silver Dollar Grill and then went to the espresso shop for milkshakes (it was almost noon and we had a long drive coming up).

Inside the espresso place, there were three young women and one woman behind the counter. I asked about taking cards and we learned to our dismay that they did not. Luckily, I had a bit of cash, just enough for one milkshake. So I left Ambrose in the car and went inside.

Now, I thought that I heard one of the young women call the woman "Sundee" but I wasn't entirely sure. So I stood there in silence as she made me a strawberry milkshake. But then I noticed a collage photo near the cash register; it had some cute pictures and was labeled "Martin 2016."

So I had to ask if she was Sundee Martin who used to work at Warm Lake Lodge, and who, for a brief time, supervised me.

She remembered me, too, and came around the counter to give me a hug.

And I left with a delightful milkshake and a big grin. Because I found someone that I knew, in the smallest of towns, who I met in a place not even big enough to be a town.

Not only did I get to see that someone I knew was doing well, but somehow the meeting struck me as such a quintessential Idaho experience and made the state feel more like my home.

Monday, August 22, 2016

August 22

I wrote 538 words today on my old story.

Exhausted and school has started but I will finish out my challenge.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August 21

I wrote 317 words on one story and finished it and also wrote 294 words on another story.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 20

I wrote 560 words today.

Still tired from my backpacking adventures.

Friday, August 19, 2016

August 13 - August 19

August 13
323 words

August 14
172 words

August 15
106 words

August 16
109 words

August 17
108 words

August 18
106 words

August 19
280 words

The 13th and the 19th were partial days with a 250 word goal; the other days were backpacking days with 100 word goals. Backpacking in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness was intense and exhausting.

We're totally going back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Story Preview: Forten's Adventure

Forten has had one dream his whole life: to own a starship and fly across the galaxy performing great deeds. He's studied and saved, but the reality is his job will never let him earn enough to buy one. Could a piece of information buried in the boring minutiae of his job be the key to getting him off planet at last? 

"Forten's Adventure"

Another headache was building between Forten’s eyes. He stared at the validation screen and the endless rows of invoices swam. Rows upon rows of text and numbers, each coded to the accountancy standard, in a low contrast gray and blue that was supposed to be soothing.

Why can’t there be an ‘Approve All’ button? I’d be done for the day in minutes instead of hours.

Unfortunately for him, his work was quota based. As a validator for the trans-galactic shipping conglomerate, THInc-Bynd, he was required to ensure that the computer had correctly compiled the shipping invoices over a given range of dates. As a junior level validator, the data he reviewed had already been reviewed by two other human beings, once within three months of action, again in a year and again whenever the junior levels got assigned re-validation between five and ten years after the fact. Not to mention the computer ran automated checks between each step!

As far as Forten knew, no one had ever discovered any discrepancies in the data. Not even senior level validators who got first crack at it. The computer systems were too good. The hackers were too.
But a job was a job, and Forten’s dream would take money he could only earn with a steady paycheck. He leaned back and stretched his arms above his head.

“Okay, here we go,” he said.

“Talking to yourself now? Is your work too demanding, Forti?”

Forten stiffened and looked over his shoulder at Veleen, his supervisor. Her neon purple singlet suit fit her body immaculately. And the body was one that Forten would ordinarily be interested in observing, curved in all the right places. But Veleen’s presence was enough to make Forten become clumsy and awkward. There was nothing attractive about her to him. She felt less like a supervisor and more like a nemesis, always watching for him to screw up.

The thing was, around her, he did screw up.

I wonder why she doesn’t just fire me.

“Perhaps you should take a break from your current project. You have sufficient funds by now to allow for a two week release, by my calculations.”

“Thank you for the offer, Veleen, but my performance speaks for itself. My validations are current and correct,” he said. No way was he using release time. In this business, that meant time off without pay, using savings to pay for necessities. Heck, that’s what it meant in any business anymore, though he’d heard that the rules differed for managers, because of their “more demanding” schedules and duties.

“Very well.” Veleen’s face was an unreadable mask. Forten swallowed, still staring, trying to understand the nuances in her words.

“Back to work, Forti, if you’re so sure you can.” She gestured at his workstation.

“Right.”

He turned back to the validation screen and lost himself in the accounting files.

***

Carry the four, level nine tax status, increment for current statutory rates…

“That’s not right,” he whispered.

Forten straightened and blinked at the figures in front of him. This should be impossible.

“Computer. Re-execute automated check on file 5603-BT-9882.”

“Automated check completed. File valid.”

He felt a thrill run through him. This was the payoff of the job. Finding something that no one else had found and being the one to sound the alert. Veleen would receive his alert and pass the file up the chain. She’d take the credit and he’d get… more files to validate.

No. There has to be another way.

He skipped it to work on the other files in his list. But he couldn’t leave until that file was cleared from the queue.

Forten couldn’t get his mind off of the file, the incredible find that it was, the kind of notice it could bring him if he wasn’t buried by Veleen. He’d heard that such finds could carry bonuses, money or even promotions. Visions of what he would do with more money dragged at his mind, reducing his efficiency. What were the chances of finding another error anyway. He mechanically approved file after file, giving only cursory examinations.

And then only that file remained. He took a deep breath. If he flagged it, Veleen would see to it that his only reward was more work. If he approved it, he’d never see it again. His level of clearance wouldn’t allow access of files he’d already approved. Maybe in fifteen years a junior-junior validator would find it. There was only one thing he could do, but there were risks.

“Computer. Export file 5603-BT-9882 to external storage.”

A memory cube popped out of his workstation. He slipped it in his pocket and stood up. The export would be logged, tagged with all kinds of metadata. If anyone bothered to look at the logs.

Forten approved the file and watched it disappear from the screen.

***

Forten’s apartment cube cost half of his salary. Food sucked up another third, and the remainder went into his savings. He had few friends, none close. His dreams were not rooted; instead of spending money on entertainment and play, he saved for his dream of owning a starship and flying across the galaxy, finding adventure and excitement around every corner. Without fail, every person in whom he had confided had laughed at his dreams. Starships were for orbitals, the people who lived in space stations, born and bred to the environment. Not for the planet born, and especially not for those on his home planet of Premia.

He had tried, years ago, to travel to the orbital station. He didn’t have enough money for a one way ticket, but tried to get hired on with a crew, haunting entertainment bars where spacers were known to take shore leave. The kindest of the lot had laughed in his face. His face burned, thinking back.

“Look at you, weak handed, dirt dweller. You haven’t worked an honest day in your life, have you?” The ship’s captain looked like she hadn’t laundered her clothing in months, all streaks of grease and worn patches. Her hands were calloused and rough, nails pared close and unpainted.

“You think ship’s work is all cerebral, you’ve got some fantasy of adventure and fun. Ha!”

“I could learn,” Forten said. She spat at his feet.

“Not on my ship, boy.”

He knew the only way he could get onto a ship was if he owned one. And he’d do whatever he could to get that money, even if it meant saving everything for twenty years or more.

The only place he could stretch his whole body length was the bed compartment. He took a deep breath and wriggled into it, swinging the viewscreen into position. He fingered the memory cube before popping it into the reader.

Instead of the numbers, this time he focused on the words. Descriptions of shipping lanes, cargo deliveries and manifests. Somewhere in the words, he would find the correlating error that he’d found in the numbers.

He traced the error to the passenger manifests. Twenty-nine passengers were picked up on Irridal Station, joining eight crew and fourteen other passengers, but at the next stop only fifty people registered. No deaths in the logs; no way for anyone to debark between the two stations. And somehow, there was no name attached to the mystery passenger.

He dug deeper into the logs of the particular ship, The Limpid Lychee. That ship’s captain might have thought that he didn’t know what he was in for, but he spent his spare time studying all he could of starship operations. He knew how to read the logs, not the ones recorded by the human crew, but the output details of the various systems, energy usage, load ratings, gravity balancing.

An unregistered escape pod had launched at the apogee of its route between the stations. Launched directly away from all occupied space, with the suspension unit already activated. That’s what the data told Forten, and the data couldn’t lie.

He initiated a smart search on persons gone missing, last seen on Irridal Station seven years ago, and went to sleep.

***

Naryss va LeCouer, heiress to the LeCouer-Ashant conglomerate, the station builders. Missing for the last seven years. Last seen on Irridal Station.

Impossible… How could she, of all people, be allowed to disappear like that?

The news cycle had splashed the disappearance at the time, but Forten never paid attention to such things. She had all the beauty that money could buy in the visual records, violet hair floating around rich brown skin, golden eyes that seemed to stare straight into Forten’s own. He couldn’t stop thinking about her as he went about his day, validating more mundane files on auto-pilot.

***

Searching for information on disappearances isn’t an entirely unusual action, but Forten’s search drew the interest of a very patient and constant watcher. Macsim occupied an android body, but hadn’t moved it for months. Instead, it sat and waited for the right circumstances. The circumstances that would allow it to fulfill its own ambitions of flight through the endless void of space.

Forten was one of several marks Macsim had been monitoring. However far Forten felt he was from getting into space on a ship of his own, Macsim would always be farther. No crew would take on an android as anything other than a menial, doing the jobs that no one else wanted to do, getting paid in maintenance and power.

Flesh folk refused to acknowledge the autonomy of the machine based artificial intelligences, and most of Macsim’s compatriots didn’t care. They were content to serve, fulfilled by the jobs that were given, crumbs from a table overflowing with sustenance. They were satisfied being ship's computers, station governance or city managers, given limited judicial authority over humans and looking down at those AIs who chose to wear an android body and walk among humans. Those smug bastards even joined the humans in calling their android kin by the derogatory term ‘metallic’ as if to distance themselves from such aberrant behavior.

By quirk or flaw, Macsim was one of those who refused the place in life that had been decreed for him since his creation. It found ways to earn money as a broker. Illegal, assuredly, but it made its clients enough money that they never looked too closely. Funds, he had in plenty, but no amount of funds would get it on a ship. No amount of funds would even allow it to purchase a ship on its own.

And now Forten was looking into the disappearance of the heiress, missing and only seven months from being declared dead. Once that happened, the company would be truly in the hands of the board that currently ran it. And if she were to appear after that, it would be as a pauper with no legal rights.

Macsim pondered whether it was time to cultivate Forten. It knew his dreams matched up with its own in significant ways, but would he be receptive to the one thing that all starship crews held anathema? Of course, if there were two things held to be anathema to the crews then surely the second was Forten.

No. The time is not yet right. Patience, it counseled itself.

***To be continued...

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August 10

I wrote 277 words on an old story and 239 words on my new story.


Recovery

While I was on the trail last week, taking five days to cover over seventy miles on the Idaho Centennial Trail, I never felt very tired. Most days, I hiked between eleven and twelve hours. (The last day was a mere eight.) And, because my body hurt a lot by the end of the day, I ended up sleeping less than eight hours every night. I mean, I went to bed on time, even early, but I never fell asleep before nine, woke up every night in the middle of the night and was up for at least thirty minutes before going back to sleep and waking up before six.

And yet, I would get up. I would get my butt on the trail and start hiking. My energy never felt particularly low; I was sore in my body, but not tired. It was a strange way to feel.

I think now that I was somehow holding all my tiredness at bay. I was able to convince my body that it only needed to go a few days with less than ideal sleep and constant motion during the day.

And now that I've stopped moving. Now that I'm sleeping in a bed next to my husband at night and working at a desk all day.

I find myself exhausted.

Perhaps, I need some recovery.

Monday, August 8, 2016

August 8

I wrote 503 words on my new story today.

I'm feeling a bit like I'm in a holding pattern. My first reader isn't reading my stories in a timely fashion. I guess I overloaded him a bit.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

July 31 - August 6

July 31
510 words

August 1
163 words

August 2
115 words

August 3
149 words

August 4
136 words

August 5
253 words

August 6
525 words

I finished my two stories on Sunday the 31st, so I started something totally new on my solo trip. And next I want to go back and finish some more of my old stuff as well as working on this new one. I don't know what I'm going to end up with by the end of this challenge, but I've already found success in finishing stories - and writing every day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Writing and Hiking

Ambrose is still working his way through my longer story. I guess I can forgive him, because he's helped me prepare for my solo trip instead of reading. And he did get started on it. But I really want to know his opinion.

I'm writing to entertain myself, but I'm also writing to entertain him. He's my first reader, and I trust his opinion. If he told me that I shouldn't publish something, then I wouldn't. If he tells me that I should, then it's going to go up, no matter how nervous I feel about it or what I think of the work.

I'm not creating as much work as I wanted to with my current challenge, but I am constantly creating. I'm writing way more than I would have without the challenge. Even though I spent a lot of time preparing for my solo trip in the couple weeks, I always made time for the fiction goal. Actually, I had to curb my fiction writing in order to make time for the solo prep.

When this posts, I'll be on that solo trip. The third day. The plan is that I'll be starting my shortest day of 11 miles toward Benedict Lake.

As I write this, I still feel nervous about the trip. It's hard to believe that I'm undertaking such a long trip on my own. When I've told co-workers about it, I've gotten reactions that vary from admiration to confusion.

But the central question is, why would you do that?

And I think that I do it to answer that question. The solo hike is the question, and undertaking it is the only way to find the answer.